Day 98: Volendam


Volendam is an old fishing village on the IJsselmeer. The village is built on a dike in North Holland and is known as a popular tourist attraction, for its old fishing boats and traditional clothing, and small houses in the village.

Today we visited with my mom and dad, enjoyed the sites and antique stores and tasted raw herring, which was not my favorite! Juliana and Christian didn’t have school today because of parent teacher conferences, so they came too. The sun was shining yet it was very cold. I realize how much I appreciate the sun shine when it came back today! I hope for a short winter here!!






Day 97: Halloween in Holland


Happy Halloween!

The PTA and the American Community hosted a Halloween event in our little city this evening. Anyone who wanted to participate was welcome and were asked to donate candy. Some families opened their doors and some families opened their trunks. The families had a map of the neighborhood and knew were to trunk or treat. It was so much fun for kids and adults alike. 


Happy Halloween!!

We decorated our minivan trunk area and sat in the back, handing out candy while scary music played loudly. Most kids said Happy Halloween, some said Trick or Treat, and some just stared and were scared. I think most had fun and we ran out of candy, so it must have been a success. I know my kids were really happy.

I just love Halloween and seeing everyone out socializing and playing together. I am glad that we got to experience Halloween in Holland, as it it not a popular tradition here (yet.) And the reason we celebrated tonight, instead of the 31st, is because the American Women of Amsterdam are hosting another Halloween event tomorrow night in Amsterdam.


For all our friends back home, Happy Halloween!  Hope you and your little goblins enjoy the magic of it all and stay safe and warm.



Parked near a canal, beginning to decorate our trunk.


Trick or Treaters. Luckily it didn’t rain while they were walking around the ‘hood, but it did get quite cold tonight!



Day 96: Being Home


It’s nice to travel but its even nicer to be home. I think we have to leave sometimes to appreciate the comforts and normalcy that home has to offer. I was happy that everyone was happy to be home in Amstelveen, and that this place actually felt like home, if that makes any sense. I enjoyed hearing and seeing their excitement, just walking through the front door and settling back in.

I enjoyed grocery shopping today, for the first time. I was happy to see my friends at school and to share stories together. And I was happy to go to Juliana’s volleyball game tonight.

I think by leaving you get a break from your routine which makes you actually appreciate it again once you return.

I am happy to be home.

*** Sending warm thoughts to family and friends on the East Coast, battling through hurricane Sandy. Stay dry and safe!!

Day 95: Last Day in Italy

20121028-171244.jpgWe got very lucky this morning and were able to see the Statue of David without having to wait in line. Maybe the rain helped, along with the time change and being in line at 9:15 am!!

You’re not allowed to take pictures in the museum, but I was able to take a photo from the bookstore of a modern, Andy Warhol-like, colorful version outside in the courtyard.
We marveled at the original 14 foot high version situated under a renaissance style dome. We noticed the size of his head and hands, his eyes, the veins in his hands, and his tight hiney! We noticed how smooth the marble was, especially when we compared this finished piece to the unfinished prisoner pieces leading up to David. We imagined being Michaelangelo and the amount of patience he must have had working on David for 3 years. The statue is 504 years old and is still stunning.

The weather turned cold and was very rainy! We found a great restaurant for our last lunch in Italy and everyone enjoyed their pasta, pizza, eggplant parmigiana, pork chop and potatoes!
We had a very busy few days and I think we’re all ready to head home…just in time for volleyball games and Halloween!!

Day 94: Florence


We are in Florence today, the place known for the Renaissance and rebirth and “humanism.” I didn’t even have to step off the train to feel “it.”

We took the train from Rome to Florence and had such a pleasant trip. We sat by a great family and shared snacks and toys and conversation. The mother was a Muslim woman, from London, who just relocated to Rome. She is an expat just like me. She was traveling with her two kids and two guinea pigs and husband. She had just celebrated Eid late into the evening last night and was tired. We talked about her holy celebration, helping our children to settle into new locations and finding ways to help them feel comfortable. We talked about religion and peer pressure and discrimination. Our families played together and switched seats to be near one another. We hugged each other when we departed and I think we both felt a connection, even though we didn’t even share our names. There was a human connection, and understanding of what it’s like to be a mother, to raise children with manners and respect and religion and kindness and love, and to show them the world.

Even though we practice different faiths, and dressed very differently, I felt the same way she did. I felt her spirit and kindness and wish more people were like her. And I wish I knew her name. Namaste.







Day 93: Yin and Yang


Ancient and New.

Joy and Sorrow.

Yin and Yang.


My mind is swirling today with happiness and sadness.

Happy to be in Rome with my family and experiencing this journey together.

Sad for our family friends who lost loved ones tragically this week and whose lives will forever be affected. My heart aches for you. Sending prayers of light and peace.



Day 92: Best Part of the Day

This morning I left Jeff back at the hotel with Christian and Juliana, as all three of them were still not feeling well. I had downloaded a TripAdvisor city guide for Rome on my phone and picked a destination to go see that wasn’t mentioned in the Rick Steve’s guide to Rome. I took my parents and Charlie out for a stroll and had such a great time wandering around Rome, and discovering new areas together.

Afterwards we headed back to the hotel to collect the rest of the family, as we scheduled a private tour of the colosseum, Palatine hill and the Roman Forum. The tour was absolutely amazing! Thanks to Michelle and Greg for sharing their contact with us. If you’re ever in Italy, look up Bruno! He’s worth every penny… So smart and passionate and knowledgable and great with the kids! He kept us interested and entertained for 3 hours! Thank goodness everyone survived (with a few potty breaks and complaints, but hey… We’re in ROME!!)

Afterwards, we went to dinner across the river at Roma Sparita in Trastavere. We had read about it and were able to decipher the place from an Anthony Bourdain episode. Bruno also mentioned it as one of his top restaurants. They are known for a simple pasta dish made from Sheeps milk and pepper, served in a Parmesan crisp bowl, called Cassio & pepe.

It was delicious! Pino was a friendly server. The “only” way to get a table was to have a reservation or to be Italian!! When tourists showed up, they were sent away. When the pretty Italian girl showed up, they found a way to seat her party in 30 minutes!!

Jeff asked me what the best part of my day was, and actually my favorite part was people watching, and especially watching my own kids and family. For some reason I like to watch their reactions to what we see, eat, and do!

Charlie has been especially cute and fun and funny this trip and I really enjoyed watching his excitement and making friends with the tour guide and racing after his brother. I liked hearing what he thought of Italy. I liked watching all three kids sit on the subway together. I liked watching my mom walk 20 feet in front of us because she’s fast like that! And my dad was usually 20 feet behind someplace. And I was in the middle, making sure everyone stayed connected. I liked watching Jeff take pictures with our new Lytro camera and Juliana being a trooper even though she was sick. I also loved listening to Christian answer so many trivia questions correctly on our tour. He just amazed me!

So yes, I enjoyed the Ancient Ruins, but I really just enjoyed sharing the experience with everyone.



Day 91: In Sickness and In Rome


3 out of our 7 family members were sick today, which made traveling and exploring a bit exhausting and slightly disappointing. We still managed to see quite a bit, but with several interruptions and complaints and a few tears. My favorite part of the morning was just wandering through the alley ways and into shops and looking up at all the architecture and colors and textures.

We were standing right outside the Pantheon when several didn’t even want to go inside. I insisted that we go anyway, which made me feel like a bad mom, but if I didn’t make them at least see it, that would have been even worse. Turning back took 90 minutes too, so no choices seemed like good choices today. Everyone was at least well enough to leave the hotel room in the morning, but by 1:30, the sick ones were done.

The rest of us wandered back to see Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps by day. We also meandered and strolled through town until we arrived at the Piazza de Popolo. People watching from the steps was enjoyable and relaxing. Maybe it was that the endless chatter and complaints weren’t ringing in my ears anymore that made me so happy!

Splitting up was the best option for today. Although one of the highlights of the evening, was when we were all together again in our hotel rooms. I went into my parents’ room and watched Charlie and Oma laughing and playing cards together on the bed. All the way to Rome to play together, with Oma’s new Rome cards and Charlie calling out what he saw on the cards. Priceless.

Hopefully tomorrow all will be well enough to enjoy the magnificent Colosseum.







Day 90: Rome

It’s been 90 days since we became Expats, and gained this new title. Along with being expats, comes the expectation that we will travel every chance we get… because everybody’s doing it (and because we want to, too)!! And in Holland there is a lot more time off for vacation than in the States, so we’re going Dutch again.

Our first big vacation is to Italy. I have always wanted to see Italy, because my grandma was born in Sicily and I’m half Italian. My dad has never been either, so I wanted to share this with him too. So we are all here for a big, family, European vacation. That’s the good news. Want to hear the bad news?? There has been a stomach virus going around, that lasts for 2-4 days. First Char had it, then Christian had it and last night Juliana got it right in time for our trip. We were debating whether to go or not, but we didn’t buy travelers insurance and we were all filled with anticipation and excitement that we didn’t want to stay home. So we came anyway, and Juliana has been sick all day!! Stuck in the hotel room, waiting to get better. We have taken turns watching her and staying with her but it sure has changed our journey.

The lesson for me (because I’m always trying to learn something new) is that we don’t get to write our own story the way we want it to be. We might have a script and can have expectations and dreams but really, life is out of our control. And when the script changes, can we adapt? I feel like life is constantly about adaptations – some easier than others… Right, girls?

And as for our family story, being sick in Rome really is a high class problem, or let’s be real – it’s not a problem at all,
just an inconvenience and change in plans. I’ll just be thankful for the journey today and for my Mama and Jeff who watched Juliana in shifts, so we all got to see a piece of history and culture. And for Juliana, who has been resting and trying to feel better! I hope the night is good for her, and the rest of us, and that she feels better in the morning.






Day 89: Fall in Amstelveen

Here I Am…
appreciating the fall weather in the Netherlands.


I went for a run with my dad this morning and the sun was shining. That’s a big deal here, and it set the tone for the rest of the day, inspiring us to Be outside.

As you look at the pictures, I hope you’ll take a moment to appreciate what surrounds you and to say a prayer or think a positive thought for those who are struggling right now. I love you…and wish you peace and strength.