Day 81: Naarden

Today Jeff and I enjoyed the town of Naarden, sans kids. We enjoyed an unexpected date, exploring the city, walking by the the fort’s edge, shopping and an early dinner at Het Hart. I would definitely go back there as the ambiance had a rustic bar feel, but filled with couples and families with young kids. The food was delicious too. I liked the laid back feel and great, fast service.

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Star shaped fort and moat surrounded the town

Naarden is a town that was established in 1300. The Great Church is one of the oldest surviving churches in the Netherlands and is from the 15th century! The antique shop was a hoarder’s dream but made me feel claustrophobic. We found a cute clothing/gift shop called Leuk! I wanted to buy half the store, but instead picked up some cute coffee spoons!

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The Great Church, Naarden

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The fortress was built under the grass and there were tunnels and metal stairs surrounding the area.

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There was a man sitting in the store, looking over an old, paper card catalog type of filing system and there was so much stuff surrounding him, piled one on top of the other that I was afraid to walk, touch, or breathe! But he was eating an apple, so there was something fresh in there.

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Treasure hunting and bringing back the loot, Holland Style. A woman saw me taking Jeff’s picture and asked that she could take one too! She loved it.

Day 71: Beautiful Amsterdam

I have so many things to share, but what I loved most today was when the rain stopped and we were up on the rooftop at the Nemo museum.  The views were gorgeous and the air was crisp. I hope you enjoy the views of beautiful Amsterdam.

Gorgeous morning in Amsterdam – view from the roof top at Nemo

Amsterdam – Old and New

things that make you go wow!

What I’m realizing being in the Netherlands, is that even though I tend to highlight the differences between the NL and the USA, that life is very much the same here, as it is in the states. Even though there are several differences, my days are spent much the same way as they were in the States. There is a general busyness to the days here just as there was back home. I still have house chores, shopping, kids’ sports, dinners, kids’ homework, socializing, facebook and email to check, and exercising to do. There are beautiful places to visit and things to learn about and relationships to nurture. I’m inspired and intrigued and curious and am having fun exploring and learning in a new environment, and am enjoying the general busyness of it all. Life is good.  xo

 

 

Day 50: Transitioning

Lots is happening and I realized last night that it’s tiring! I fell asleep on the couch at 8:30 pm. You’d think running a household, meeting new friend’s, shopping, and working out would be easy, but it’s not, really. I have to think and concentrate and focus more intensely than usual on things I usually wouldn’t spend time on pondering – like where to but rain boots. It’s all good, though.

Christian left yesterday for a class trip overnight for two nights. Juliana left today with her class and was very excited to go with her new friend’s. They have been away to sleep away camps before, so it didn’t feel too bad to let them go, but then again we’re in a new country and it did create some stress for me to let go. They are becoming more independent, which I love and desire, but it causes me to change and let go and let them be responsible for themselves. Ying and ying. Good for them and good for me, yet another change and transition, and it’s still all good. I’m just mindful and aware of the transition is all, and did I mention, a bit tired?
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But my new expat friends say this feeling is very normal and that I should feel this way. It’s good to be “normal”!! Its nice to share stories with other like women. Today there was a gathering for the American Community from our school at one of the women’s home.
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I always enjoy meeting new friends and hearing their stories. There were new moms, working moms, moms with MBAs beginning to look for a job, moms preparing to move back home, and permanent moms who have lived here for 11 years. There were moms who are career expats considering meeting with child psychologists to determine the effects the expat life will have on their third culture kids. We talked about learning Dutch and not learning Dutch, and I found another friend who plays tennis. We talked about plans for Halloween and where to buy a turkey for Thanksgiving. It was a great day to network and to connect and to share knowledge, and to discover more about my new “normal”. I love hearing people’s stories and connecting with them. That was one of the things I loved about Stella and Dot – it gave me a reason to get out and meet new people and share stories and style. And so today I’m happy and tired and loved every minute of it.

I wasn’t too tired to play tennis before picking Char up from school. I think playing gives me more energy to keep going.

I declared today, Charlie Day, that he could pick his favorite snack, and plan our afternoon, since I only had him to look after. I thought it would be a nice reward too, because he’s been trying harder to behave and to adapt and be happy. He chose a chocolate chip croissant and to play on the playground.
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Afterwards, we went to the toy store for him to spend his gift money that Jenny so graciously shared with him while we were on London last week. He picked two Play Mobil motorcycles with police characters. I think it funny that we gave away all our Play Mobil toys before we moved and those are the toys he is choosing to collect here. He reminded me that Tyler B. said he could come over anytime to play with them, so he’s not worried about having given them away. Phew!!

And to wrap-up the day, the three of us drove to Haarlem for dinner tonight. It was nice to get in a car and drive across town and to go on a date.

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We met up with Jeff’s friend from work, which really made life feel normal. I loved it! Afterwards, Charlie wanted to see his drum set so we walked over to his house, 2 blocks away. It’s so nice that things are so close.
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Haarlem is a beautiful city! Can’t wait to go back again.

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Tot ziens for now. xo

Day 48: Waiting

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This picture just makes me smile.  Jeff and I were just in the World Trade Center of Amsterdam today, collecting 2 out of 5 our Residence Cards. We had to go there to physically pick them up and present our passports once again. You’d think since we all went to fill out the paperwork at the same time, that they’d all be there for pickup at the same time. We asked and they told us not to worry and they would probably be ready next week. Hmfff… ok. So off to lunch we went and enjoyed sushi together – so nice to have a date with my husband.  After lunch, he took the tram into the city in one direction, and I took the same tram in the opposite direction to run more errands. I liked seeing him from across the platform and smiling through the rain at each other. It’s not often we really get to “see” each other!  He called me, maybe 30 minutes later when he got to his office and received an email that our residence cards were ready and that we could come pick them up. Nice. But their offices are only open from 9 -12 pm, and it was 1 pm. I just have to smile and laugh, because so many things are inefficient and weird, but it’s ok. I got a date with my husband, so it made it worth it. And it looks like we’ll have to plan another one this week or next. I hope he doesn’t get sick of me!! 😉

It’s strange to think that we were in the WTC (of Amsterdam) today on September 11th. We remember. We have our stories as to where we were 11 years ago, and felt the world change. We will never forget. And we pray for the families whose lives were seriously changed that day. Namaste.

 

 

Day 46: Going Home

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The London Eye

Tonight we flew home from London to Amsterdam. The idea of going home felt a little bit strange. When I asked the kids if they felt like they were going home, they said no. They said that home was back in Sunnyvale. And when I asked if they were excited to see their friends, they were hesitant. Juliana said her friends were in Sunnyvale and she missed those friends. Not that she doesn’t have friends in Amsterdam, but she doesn’t have a history with the new friends yet – the history that makes you long for the shared experiences and casual laughter that feels normal. We still have to create those. And when we do, I think Amsterdam will feel more like home. We’ll have more of a sense of attachment, that we don’t currently have and I think that’s probably normal.

For me, I felt ready to go home (to NL) because this is where I’m creating our new routines, establishing connections, and getting settled. I have work to do, and I like to be busy and I’m eager to build new structures.  But it doesn’t quite feel like that home feeling like Sunnyvale does either – and by that I mean, our home here in NL doesn’t give us the comfort of returning to a familiar place when returning from afar. We’re still learning and adapting. It still felt nice walking in the door, and actually seeing a neighbor walking up to her door at the same time as we arrived, but it definitely had a different feel. So I feel like we’re in the process of making this our home, but our hearts are still in California. Does that make sense? 

P.S.  I forgot Trinity’s birthday while we were away – forgot to look at my birthday calendar and to even think of birthdays! So a belated, happy birthday, to my niece and I’m so sorry we forgot to call you!!  I hope you enjoyed your special day!! xo

Day 44: TGIF!!

I’m so glad it’s Friday!!  We are beginning our European Vacation Series  (sounds like a cool class you’d want to take, huh?) today and are going to see Nate and Becky and their cat Winston, in London.  This will be the kids’ 7th country they’ve visited during their short lives. I hope we can quadruple that number!  

I’m not sure if I’ll have internet access, so in case I’m unwired, I’ll catch up with the daily blog when we return.  I hope you have plans for a fun-filled, learning adventure weekend!  

Tot siens!

Day 43: We’re Still Learning

6 weeks ago today we arrived in the Netherlands and we’ve learned a ton and still have a long way to go!

Charlie is learning to be a better reader and it’s hard. He doesn’t want to do it and is practicing every avoidance technique possible. He’s figuring out how to function with longer school days and substitute teachers.  He misses home the most and all his friend’s and he’s learning to adapt.

Christian is learning how to explain his thinking and thought processes as part of the International Baccalaureate  learning process, even for simple math problems and it’s harder than it sounds. And it is frustrating and rewarding and takes a lot of time.

Juliana is learning how to play volleyball and didn’t want to do it because she didn’t really think she was good at it.  She pushed through her fear and tried out for the team and made it!  Now she’s excited to practice and learn more.

Jeff is learning how to build a company in a new land where many things are not possible. There are forms and documents to translate and fill out. There are delays and differing instructions from agency to agency. And everything takes more time than usual.  It’s challenging to figure out the system.  But he’s doing it and figuring it out, despite the daily frustrations.

I’m learning how to cross the street, drive, and park a car, to navigate on a bike, and figuring out the tram system. Don’t laugh! It’s taken me awhile to know where to stand and where to look and who has the right of way and when. The parking spots are small and most people back in to their parking spot, in order to be able to get out. Wish me luck when my minivan arrives! I’m getting better, with less anxiety on a daily basis. Transportation is where it’s at for me today.

I guess what I’m learning is that we’re all learning and practicing and it takes work, lots of energy and patience.  There have been a few tears, a few yells, but no one has given up and everyone keeps trying. We have a lot to learn and I’m proud of my team!

What are you learning today?

Day 40: Happy Birthday to my Papa!

Today is my dad’s birthday! He’s having his friends over for a BBQ and my mom is making shish-kebobs!  He also went to pick up his trailer as he and my mom are taking a road trip in a couple days. I love how adventurous they are and how they keep on moving. Hmm… I wonder where I get it from?

Actually, I get a lot from my dad – and I’ve learned a lot from him as well. He’s always playful and loving. He always makes time for his friends. He always has smiling eyes when he greets his friends and family, where the people he is sharing time with know deep in their soul that he loves them. I love this about him.

He’s taught me to always look on the bright side, and to stay positive. And if any of us ever get discouraged, he just reminds us that in 10 years, will it all really matter?  Will we really remember THIS moment? Good advice to keep calm and carry on.

He taught me to only loan something to someone if I didn’t expect to get it back – it’s better that way to keep your friends when you don’t have high expectations. I like that.

My dad is adventurous and athletic and always tries new sports. He plays handball, rides motorcycles, rides mountain bikes, kayaks, fishes, and plays tennis to name a few of his recent hobbies.  If he’s ever hurt, he’ll just say, “You can’t hurt steel!” and laughs.  I love that.

My dad is stil supporting his family and is encouraging and loves his grandkids. My kids are always excited when Opa comes to town, because he’ll actually go outside and play with them, play hide and seek, tease them and tickle them, and take them to the park to run around and take them for ice cream and donuts for breakfast.

My dad genuinely loves my mom and his family and would do anything for all of us. He is very protective and loving – great qualities in a man. 

I love you Pops! Happy birthday, and many many more!! Today, we celebrate wonderful YOU!

xo Adriana

 

 

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Jeff and I sat outside on this gorgeous day at a restaurant at the Ouderkerk an de Amstel.

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Family bike ride, after dinner. So much fun!

 

 

 

Day 39: Exploring North Holland and the Zuiderzee Museum

We spent the day together on a road trip up to Northern Holland to explore the Zuiderzee Museum.  If you haven’t been there, it’s a great place to take the family as there are a ton of hands on activities and different things to see and do. The Zuiderzee Museum recreates what life might have been like in 19th Century Dutch life. Some of the buildings are recreated and some were moved from other locations to sit and be part of the Zuiderzee village. I’ll post several pictures to share a bit about what it’s like, in case you might like to also see it.

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Cheese making

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A clog boat floating on a canal

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Making a clog boat

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Dressing Down

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Dressing up!

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A water view of the village. So pretty, right?

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Me, a little frightened!  Actually, a Gaper, that was typically found outside a pharmacy building. Isn’t this funny? There were several different ones and they all made me smile and creeped me out a bit.

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A hungry fish, we gave our last bits of cheese too.

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Hanging out on the bridge

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Good, ol’ fashioned fun

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Making a jump rope together.

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My little mermaid!

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Playing old-fashioned games togetherImage

Even I got to laugh and cry from all the fun on this old fashioned see saw!Image

My silly angel!

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Windmill in the sunshine – I love this image.  Such a great day.  Namaste.

 

 

Day 28: The Good and The Bad

Which do you want first?  The good or the bad?

Ok, I’ll give you the good first – We had our third day of orientation today, but today was for the lower school kids. C was so happy seeing his new classroom, meeting his sweet, new teacher and making new friends immediately. I love how kids can just do that. They just run after each other, and say, come on let’s go and the fun begins. By the time we finished our BBQ lunch, I couldn’t get him off the playground without demands for a play date right away and whose house it was gonna be at.  The coolest part was that his new friend is originally from Los Altos, which is the next town over from our home town. Charlie said he was so happy that he could keep his friend forever and that when we’re done in Holland he can still see his friend back home. How sweet is that?  I’m so happy for him, and for me too! Loved his new best friend’s mom, and if she didn’t have company and I didn’t have to run errands again we’d be at each other’s houses already. Ok, maybe tomorrow.

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And CJ stayed home while we were at orientation, hanging out with his new friend that lives a couple doors down. He was happy to have someone to watch movies with and play games, and just be a teenager with.

One last part of good news, before the bad… JJ and I went shopping on our bikes to the market place while Jeff waited for another IKEA delivery that we’ve been waiting for, for weeks. I’ll get to that in a minute. Can you see where this leading?  Anyway, it was fun to go on a date with my soon to be middle school daughter, just her and I – trying on new clothes and looking for a new backpack, and shopping for dinner together. We gathered everything in our reusable bags and rode home. It was really fun, and we saw geese and ducks on the canals along the ride home. The air was cooler and it was so pleasant.  When we arrived back home, we were happy to see that the IKEA delivery items arrived and were on the floor of the kitchen.

The bad news is that the IKEA table we ordered on August 8th, was missing parts. We tried to fix the problem, but customer service in the Netherlands isn’t their strong quality. And when you call customer service, it’s a 900 number you have to dial and they charge .15 cents per minute. And they put you on hold. And they don’t give you a reference number. And they don’t solve the problem, but tell you something different than what is reality. So basically, you’re screwed. And we were. And we waited. And we called. And we got the run around. They said they couldn’t redeliver our table for another 3 weeks. And I cried FOUL!  And they said that was the best they could do. And I said BS.  And so yesterday, we drove back to IKEA and ordered a new table (while we wait for them to come pick up the defective table) and scheduled delivery for today (after orientation) – imagine that it could be delivered in less than 3 weeks. AMAZING what happens when you don’t accept no for an answer. But anyway, the table that arrived tonight – you won’t believe this… was missing the same exact parts. 12 of them to be exact!  OMG – can you imagine the frustration?  It’s really not fun not having a table “forever”. So we printed off the crazy letters explaining our case, and highlighted the missing parts on the assembly instructions and went back to IKEA again!  Now we swore we’d never go to IKEA again – yet there we were.  And the guy in customer service looked at us like this couldn’t be possible. And he hadn’t heard of this, and blah blah blah.  But basically, he sent us to another warehouse a half mile away, where we opened up the boxes of the same table and took the missing parts, hoping we could put our table together.

So all that was bad is now almost good. Jeff and I worked for a little over an hour, after putting the kids to bed and we now have a table. And one dead table sitting on the floor, that somehow has to get back to IKEA so that we can get our money back since we’ve paid for two tables. The guy wouldn’t give me credit without the delivery company picking up the old table and having me sign some receipt – that I then have to take back to IKEA again!!  He says that the pickup is scheduled in the system, but I don’t believe it. I think I’ll call a 900 number again tomorrow and pay another 15 cents a minute to help them run their operations. Wish me luck!  Oh, and he threw in two free lunches. Wow – wasn’t that nice? I bet they have a lot of working tables in the lunch room. Anyone want to join me??

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