Tag Archives: NL

Friday Check-In

Littles at the Dam Square, Amsterdam

As I’ve gotten more serious about my writing and my work, I feel a need to be more accountable for maintaining balance in my life and for working on long-term projects. In order to do that, I’ve decided to transform my Friday Moment into a Friday Check-in. Here’s the plan. Every Friday, I’ll post a picture and answer five questions. They will be about my work, my home, myself, my project or goal, and the picture. I’ll try it for a season and see how things go!


1. How are you moving forward at work?

A get together with a friend to work on making shirts from our boys (she has awesome fabric, I have a great pattern) turned into a mini-workshop experience for me as a teacher. Not so much in the sense that I felt I was teaching. Going through the motions of getting ready for our work session felt like the kind of preparation I would want to do for workshops in my home. Pumpkin joined us. We were able to get quite a bit done with her around and the whole experience inspires me to reconsider giving workshops at home.


2. How did you improve your home?

Things were looking a bit helpless for a while there, but the house is back to tidy today. Yesterday, I found my perfect birthday calendar while we were out running errands. I’ve been wanting to replace ours (great for poop jokes, not so nice for kids) but resolved not to get one until I found one I was over the moon about. Waiting was worth it and it reinforces all the principles I’m trying to learn and follow about careful acquisition.


3. How did you take care of yourself?

This week, someone else took care of me. Rather, six ladies surprised me with the sweetest dinner I can remember. They gave me the gift of letting me know how they see me. They said some incredibly nice things. It was moving and an evening I’ll never forget.


4. How are things going with the daily writing project?

I missed another day. What is going on with me?! On the upside, it was a day I felt so low I barely made it out of bed. Wait, that’s not an upside. I missed a day. Better next time. Sigh.


5. Talk about the picture.

The kids and I spent a couple hours wandering around downtown Amsterdam this afternoon. It was crazy busy. I’ve forgotten how many people are wandering down the Damrak, say, any time of the day. The masses of people, the different languages everywhere, the traffic, and then doing it all on my own with two littles for the first time. It was an experience. They did great. We “looked our eyes out” as they’d say in Dutch.

Summer Camping: France

The beach in Brittany

Happy dancer

House and fence

Haystack

Bench for little girls

Crafting at the campground

We had six weeks of summer vacation this year, meaning no school for six weeks. It’s a bit shorter here than in the States. Instead of getting ten weeks in the summer, we get six weeks and the extra vacation time comes during the school year. It makes for a more relaxed year. We like being able to plan a few smaller trips throughout the year.

Our big trip was two weeks of camping in France. I think of it as my last right of passage for living in the Netherlands. The summer camping trip in France is a typical Dutch family vacation. It goes so far that the ANWB (the Dutch Triple-A) and the newspapers publish traffic alarms for when the roads in France will be especially busy with mainly Dutch vacation traffic. School is out on Friday and on Saturday, everyone from that region of the Netherlands (there are three) hits the road for France. They broke a record this year with over 800km of traffic jams on one Saturday. It’s a shocking phenomenon.

We went to Brittany. It’s the part that sticks out way into the Atlantic and it’s farther away than you’d think! The first week was in a pretty little town called in Locronan close to the coast. We were with three other families and had a wonderful time. The kids were out of the tent and off to play with friends as soon as they were up. We went to the pool, we went to the beach, we went to a fantastic Celtic music festival in Quimper. Those kids danced so hard and so long and so joyfully, it was beautiful. I can’t remember seeing them look so happy and free. Loved it.

The next week we went inland towards an area called the Perche. It was quiet. We got hopelessly lost on a little walk behind the campground and spent 45 minutes fighting our way through big stands of blackberries and stinging nettle. The way out involved sending Papa out to scout a route, climbing up onto big old hay bales, jumping down, and then getting through the stinging nettle before finding the road again. What did the kids say after that little adventure? “That was the best! I want to do it again!”

I really enjoyed the quiet of this vacation. There weren’t a lot of touristy things to do or check off a list. We went by Carnac to see the Asterix and Obelix monoliths, a must for any boy who has access to the box set, right? We spent an afternoon in Chartres eating pizza for lunch and checking out the cathedral. Other than that, there wasn’t much to do. We hung out at the campsite. We made good use of the drawing and crafting time. The kids wanted to draw together and I (re)discovered how relaxing I find time with paper and pencil. It’s not that I can draw at all, it was just nice to lose myself in something that wasn’t an obligation.

Now we’re back to school, back to work, back to routines and schedules. There’s goodness there, too, but it was really a break to have those days of nothingness and sitting outside. I just might be converted to a camping vacation after all!

Enjoying Museums with (young) Kids

Paleis Het Loo

Paleis Het Loo

Paleis Het Loo

I have to confess that I don’t enjoy most “kids” activities. Playgrounds drive me a bit nuts. Indoor playgrounds seem like they were invented by the same people who invented the asylums and then led tours through them. I love culture and history and books in a bad way! My kids have plenty of art supplies and I’m working on a killer library, but amusement parks? No thank you. With summer vacation coming soon, how do you do museum or “cultural” outings with little kids? Mine are 3 and 5 and I think we’ve got it figured out. Today, we left the house at 9:30, drove an hour, spent an hour in a thrift store, spent about three hours at Paleis Het Loo (one of the Dutch royal palaces), and then they opted in for a second thrift store before we drove home, arriving at 6pm. We had a great time, all three of us. Read on and I’ll tell you how we make it work!

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Biking to market

View from the cargo bike

Cargo bike

I was prepared for lots of new experiences when I started this business, but never did I think biking myself and all my gear to the market would be one of them! Luckily, the fates intervened an on Sunday morning I pedaled myself up from our house to downtown Nijmegen with a full load. Getting started on the bike was a bit shakey, in part because of the size but also because this bike required handlebar steering. Leaning to the side would probably only have landed me on the pavement (which didn’t happen, thank you very much). It was, in fact, a pretty awesome experience. Cargo bikes are very popular in the Netherlands and often function the way Americans would have a second, smaller car. Between the good biking infrastructure, the price of gas (currently around 8.40 USD a gallon), and the social norm of biking, it’s a choice that makes a lot of sense!

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Perspective

Plasmolen walk

Last week we went to Plasmolen, a little spot in Limburg quite near our house, and went for a walk. Just 3 kilometers of sometimes muddy trails, a few walkers, a few dogs, a few bikers, a great little stream along the path on the last kilometer (great for kids who probably would have been starting to get bored), an ingenious fountain built into the crack of a fallen tree, and a whole lot of geese to honk at from a distance. Every month or so we remember to take a Sunday for a family walk in the woods. I spend half the walk talking about how great it is and the fact that we have to remember to do it every month. He laughs at me because we live in the furthest corner of our little city with forest across the street on both sides. But there’s something special about going to a different forest. And if you’re living in the Netherlands, something very very special about going anywhere with a hill. Seriously – hills are a huge deal for our family. Makes sense if you live in a mostly flat country. Hills give the landscape perspective, they get me thinking about change and challenges in the landscape and in my life.

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