Sunday, October 19, 2014

Swimming Lessons

Whether you live by water or not, learning to swim is a life skill we all need to know.  Whether it be in a pool, the ocean, the sea, a river or any other form of water, knowing how to survive in the face of danger is essential.

Here in the Netherlands, we are surrounded by water at every turn.  Not to mention that we live below sea level with the majority of the country having been reclaimed from the sea.  Literally the name Netherlands means "Low Country".  Only 50% of it's land is more than 1 meter above sea level.  There are canals at every turn and all cars come equipped with hammers for breaking windows - which leads me to assume there are enough water related accidents to warrant this need.

And so it is essential here that kids learn to swim at an early age.  In fact, it is pretty much mandatory. It's not technically law from what I understand, but it's expected and if you don't have your swim certificates you are unable to participate in certain school functions, you need to use swimmies in public pools (even if you technically know how to swim) and quite honestly, it just makes sense to have.

Neither of our kids were thrilled with the idea of having to take swim lessons since they already know how to swim.  But knowing how to swim for fun and learning how to swim to survive are two different things.  And of course, at 7 and 10 they don't get that.  It was a top priority for me to get them enrolled in swim class once we landed in the Netherlands.

The swim certificates are A, B and C.  They may go beyond that but I'm really just concerned with these three.  The A level is usually achieved by age 5.  So Aidan is a little behind as far as they are concerned.  We had both kids assessed to see what levels they should test at and Aidan was very disappointed to see that he still needed to go for his A instead of jumping to a B or C level.

We put Aidan in private swim lessons figuring that he would prefer not to be in a class with 5 year olds. They implied that he would need about 10-12 half hour lessons before he was ready to take his A.  It wasn't that he couldn't swim properly, he just needed to learn the Dutch way plus what was expected of him in his exam.  As you can imagine, he was less than thrilled about this.  But I told him to work hard and maybe, just maybe he could do it faster.  I think he was the most surprised of all of us to find that he actually enjoyed the swim classes :)

We enrolled Liam in a 4 hour intensive class for 14 weeks.  Yes, FOUR HOURS every Sunday.  On the plus side, it's now my productive work time to catch up on personal things like my blog, photo albums, etc since I'm essentially stuck here for 4 hours.  He started the first week in October and I had to pull him out of the pool after the four hours - he wanted to stay longer!!  I was amazed at what these kids were doing within the first week - jumping off the diving board, swimming on their backs and so much more.  They assume that by age 5 (as all the kids in class are pretty much age 5 except Liam - only the Dutch kids are so tall, I think he assumes they are all around his age anyways) that they have a certain skill set in the pool and are expanding upon that. After the 14 weeks they are guaranteed the A level certificate.  And if they don't pass, they are able to take classes until they pass at no extra cost.  Worth it to us.  It's a big commitment for every Sunday but really it's only until end of January (with a few weeks off for Christmas) and with Josh pretty much out of commission, we aren't doing much on the weekends anyways right now, so the timing is good.

As I write this, Liam is in his third week of 14 and he still seems enthused about going.  Aidan had his 5th lesson this week and was incredibly thrilled and surprised when they told him last week (week 4) to bring clothes to practice swimming in and if he does well then he can take his A exam the following week, after just 7 classes or about half the time they originally predicted it would take him. He claims after A he's done.  Josh and I are planning to make him do the B and C which are just extensions of the A (which is really starting from square 1).  He's not happy about that but with his safety involved, it's something we think is incredibly important.  So you'll be hearing from me again soon when Aidan takes his A to let you know how it all goes!!


Friday, October 17, 2014

2 Months

It's amazing how fast time can fly sometimes.  And also how slow.  There are days where I look back and feel like we've always lived here in the Netherlands.  It feels (almost) like home already.  We've got routines and we have become familiar with our neighborhood and our town.  We don't need the GPS as much as we used to. We're starting to feel settled.  And it's only been 2 months.

It's almost as though we never lived in Barcelona.  It's so strange because we have so many wonderful memories and friends there.  But it feels like so long ago and a bit surreal.  That's when I feel like we've been here forever.  And so it's so strange to look back and realize that in fact, we've been here a mere 8 weeks.

But what we've accomplished in those 8 weeks makes me feel pretty good.  I feel like we are worlds ahead of where we were when we arrived in Barcelona.  I attribute that to both the language and that so many people speak English and to the fact that we've done this before and so we know what roadblocks and challenges are ahead so that we can be better prepared.  I know that there are going to be moments of such frustration that I just want to throw in the towel (and there have already been many).  And yes, there are those same moments when we lived at home but they are intensified 10 fold when you live in a foreign country and have to add the culture factor to the mix.

However, for 8 weeks, we've done a lot (in no particular order)...
  • The kids started school on our first full day.  They've already had their first school break (they are on a British system and start in August and finish in July but with breaks every 6-7 weeks).
  • We've moved not one but 2 shipments of goods here and with the exception of one or two boxes, are completely unpacked.
  • We've called 112 (Europe's version of 911) for an ambulance.
  • Josh has had surgery.
  • As a result of the 112 call and Josh needing surgery, we've already found our general practitioner, something I had planned to wait on since we all had physicals this summer, but hey check that off our list too.
  • We've found an eye doctor, had Aidan tested for allergies, and brought Liam in for a toe abscess.  Josh found a dermatologist and has started light treatments for his psoriasis.  Good times.
  • The kids have been enrolled in sports since September.  I think this took me close to a year to do in Barcelona. They are doing swimming and tennis.
  • We've been to a neighborhood block party.  And we have a neighborhood Halloween coming up in a few weeks, apparently the first one.  The kids are especially excited to have a traditional Halloween again where we can go door to door to get candy.  Given it's the first one this neighborhood has had, hopefully they won't be disappointed!
  • I've established a regular running route and it is beyond beautiful and peaceful.
  • We found a babysitter.
  • We've found the movie theater that plays VOS movies (though I hear that here they do all movies in VOS except cartoons).
  • Josh ordered our car - weeks ago... we should finally have it next week (til then we've had a rental).  
  • We no longer need our GPS for getting around town (for the most part).
  • Josh and I bought Dutch bicycles and while he can't use his right now, he will again in the future and I use mine at least a few times per week.  Even the kids are on board with riding their bikes regularly.
  • I found a hair stylist for myself and the kids (Josh has found his own).  This took me 6 months in Barcelona.  You can imagine how scrubby we looked after 6 months without haircuts!
  • We've figured out the grocery store and what we can and cannot get here - though like in Barcelona I'm sure there will be surprises over time when we go "you mean we could get that here all this time and just didn't know it??".  I really miss good chocolate.  With it's proximity to Belgium you'd think there would be better but at least it's curbing my chocolate habit a little bit.
  • However, I still need to work off the chocolate I've been eating and I joined a gym a few weeks ago.  I don't know that this is the gym I'm destined to stay at (I'm going to look at one by the kids' school soon) but it's good for the moment.  This took me 10 months to do in Barcelona (albeit Liam was home with me for the first 9 months and gyms in Barcelona do not have daycares in them).
  • We received our BSN numbers (like social security numbers - can't do anything without them).
  • I converted my hard gotten Spanish license over to a Dutch one.  Apparently being an EU license I didn't have to do this but since I think the Dutch one will be easier to renew in 10 years, I'm going with paying to renew now...
  • We have explored our local area (at least as much as we've been able given Josh's limited mobility) and aren't afraid to leave town.  It took us 3 months to leave the city when we lived in Barcelona.  
  • The kids have made friends and have had several playdates.
  • The kids help me grocery shop via bicycle (it's about a mile and a half / 3km each way) and actually enjoy it, though both have expressed they miss city life and being able to walk out the door and the grocery store is a block away.
  • We found the American store in Amsterdam... a little taste of home every now and again is warranted right?  
  • The kids and I made a trip to Amsterdam (it's only 30 mins by train) the other day - our first since we moved here since Josh can't really walk around with us on the weekends (yet) and navigated just fine on our own.  We also made a trip to Utrecht (there are 5 decent sized cities in the Netherlands, this is one of them) to go to Lego World.  
  • I stopped crying after just a few weeks - this took me 3 months in Barcelona.  Progress!!
I'm sure there are many more things that I have forgotten here that we've covered in 8 weeks, but I'm feeling pretty good about what I just re-read.  We still have our tough days and Aidan talks to me a lot about how much he misses Barcelona and how he's still trying to figure out how he fits in at his new school.  He's concerned about making good friends - he's made friends already but I know he's looking for more than just surface friendships and is trying to figure out who those people are going to be.  I've told him these things can't be rushed but he's at an age where he needs to figure it out for himself.

Liam overall has adjusted great.  He has moments of sadness where he misses his friends in Barcelona but has this amazing ability to just move on to the next thing.  He doesn't dwell on it.  I wish I could do this.  He has jumped into the culture to the best of a 7 year old's ability, telling me that he's no longer American or Spanish but he is now Dutch.  He has also taken to saying "nay" (no) as much as possible - it's his only Dutch word that he says to me but it's something and if he wants to embrace his one word, so be it.  Given his first Spanish word was "culo" (bum), I feel like I'm coming out slightly ahead this time ;)

Josh as always adjusts beautifully.  He, like Liam, has this ability to just jump right in and succeed. However, he hasn't actually be here for 2 months but more like 11. But since he's only been in this house for 2, we'll call it even for the moment.  But even if it had been only 2 months, he has still done wonderfully especially given the circumstances with dislocating his knee, his surgery and his recovery. We still have a long road ahead I suspect with his recovery, but hopefully the worst is behind him and he can start enjoying his time here as I know that he has been a bit depressed (though he hasn't vocalized this of course) about the fact that he can't do very much these days.

As for myself, as I mentioned, I'm not crying any more which is a good thing.  It doesn't mean I'm not having some meltdowns or tough days, just not feeling the horrible depression I was consumed with in our first weeks.  I'm no longer struggling to get out of bed in the mornings and no longer feeling the deep sadness that I was suffering from on a daily basis.  I look at that as a good thing :)  It doesn't mean that I'm happy here - that will take time.  But I'm determined to progress in a forward motion knowing that often times there will be one step forward and two steps back but doing my best to keep on inching in a positive direction.

So I think that for just 2 months time, we are doing quite well.  And by far better than we were in Barcelona at this point in time.  I look forward to seeing what the rest of the year brings for us and closing out 2014, which has been by far a very rough year for us, on a positive note.  Overall, I think in time we can all be happy here and feel good about calling the Netherlands home.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Josh's Surgery

The day has finally come and gone for Josh's surgery.  It's been a long and tough 7 weeks while we've waited for this day.  Or I should say that he's waited for this day.  This is not the way any of us planned on starting our time in the Netherlands and I have no doubt in my mind that this has been not just physically difficult for Josh, but also emotionally.  I can't say that I've been much help with those emotional feelings since I've been struggling on my own.

But my hope is that the worst is behind us now.  I hope.  I really really hope that the worst is behind us. The frustrating part for him is that over the 7 weeks his leg was healing and now we've got to start again at square one.

But back to the surgery.  Neither of us has much experience with hospitals or surgeries.  For that, I'm extremely grateful.  So it's hard for me to compare what the experience was like here compared to what we had in Spain or in the US.  But I can say that it was frustrating.  I know that this was in part because of the language (even though most people speak English, you cannot expect it to be completely fluent or for your point to get across completely).  It was also in part because of the culture.  And finally it's just the way the medical system works here.  And that is different than the US and Spain.

Because the kids had to be at school at 8:20 and Josh was scheduled for surgery for around 10:15/10:30, he took a taxi to the hospital.  No, it was not our ideal.  But as we have no friends close to here that can take the kids to school, we weren't left with a whole lot of options since he was told to be there around 7:30.  And so I met him there.  It was a bit of a close call as my 20 minute drive from school to the hospital took 50 minutes with rush hour traffic.  I was in a bit of a panic thinking they may have taken him to pre-op and I would have missed him and not had the opportunity to wish him luck and let him know I'd be there waiting.  And since he wasn't allowed to take electronics with him, he didn't have his phone on him so I could say I was late.

In the end, I got there at 9:30 and they didn't end up taking him until 10:45.  So I panicked for nothing. It was all very odd.  They just came in, told him to put on his johnny and that he was heading out for surgery in a few minutes.  I think it was because he wasn't ill or anything, it was just kind of like, well this is how you do it and just get yourself prepped and then we'll take care of things from there.  Before I knew it he was off and I asked where I could wait.  The only wait area was in the lobby of the hospital (odd if you ask me and not very comfortable).  But Josh had forgotten his crutches (unlike the US, many hospitals in Europe make you pay for them and we already owned a pair from when he injured himself) so they asked me to go home and get them as he would need them after surgery.

Ready to go get his knee fixed!

I raced home (ok, I also stopped to grocery shop on the way as the surgery was going to be at least an hour plus the recovery time from the anesthesia), picked up his crutches and was back within 90 minutes.  When I asked where he was, I was told he was in recovery and could not see me yet.  This was at 12:30.  As far as they were aware, this was a day surgery and he would be coming home that same afternoon.  They said they would call me when he was ready.

By mid afternoon I had been waiting for quite some time and called up to the floor.  He was still in recovery.  Now I have no idea how long someone is supposed to be in recovery.  I imagine it varies and depends on the type of surgery, how they react to anesthesia and probably several other factors. But since they had told me he would be ready to come home in a few hours when they took him that morning, I was surprised that he was still in recovery.

By 4PM I was getting antsy and worried.  I called up again.  He was still in recovery.  Seriously?  And that he was in a lot of pain so they would be keeping him overnight.  By 4:30 I had elbowed my way up to see him.  And in fact, he said that he had just been given a room shortly before (with 4 other roommates) and he was incredibly groggy, in and out of sleep.  I asked how the surgery went and he had no idea.  He told me that he had seen the doctor that morning and was told he would not see the doctor again after the surgery.  I had trouble believing that.

And so I spoke to the nurse.  She said that the doctor does the rounds between 4:30-6:30PM.  So I stuck around until I had to be back for the kids (who were with the sitter).  I spoke to the nurses before I left and asked if I would be able to call for more information from the doctor.  They gave me a number to call in the morning and said to call after 8.

I called Wednesday morning at 8 and asked to be given more information on Josh's condition.  They transferred me to Josh.  This is the language issue.  Yes, they speak some English (way more than we had in Spain) but obviously there are still communication issues.  Josh said that there had been no one in to see him (at least as far as he was aware) but that the nurses suspected something was wrong with his cast that was causing all his pain.  He knew he was being discharged hopefully by lunchtime but knew no other information.

Around 10 he called and said that they would be changing his cast but he didn't know when.  As it was Wednesday I had to pick up the kids at 12 at school so it would be tight to get him home and situated before getting them.  But he said to just wait for the call and then come.  Wait, wait, wait.  Finally around 1:45 he called to say he was ready.  The nurses were supposed to call me when they took him to get the new cast but did not.  Aidan had swim lessons at 3 so we raced to get him.  He'd already been discharged and was waiting, very uncomfortably I might add and not in a wheelchair, at the entrance to the hospital.

You could see the pain and discomfort in his face.  It was like the first night all over again and it pained me to see him having to go through it again.  It just reminded me that there is still a bit of a long road ahead of us and that this is not yet over.  The recovery is really just beginning.  Here we are on Thursday, a little over a week since the surgery, and Josh is doing a lot better.  He hates having the cast and it's rubbing uncomfortably against his stitches.  But he's been walking on it a little bit, finds sitting to be uncomfortable because of the position of the cast on his thigh (it runs from upper thigh to his ankle) but overall is improving, definitely more so than I expected given how he was on last Wednesday.

We go back on the 20th to have the stitches and (hopefully) the cast removed.  We have no idea if he will need physical therapy or what happens after the 20th.  None of this has been discussed (not sure if this is because Josh didn't ask or the doctor didn't give him all the information) and so we don't know what's ahead.  We were told initially 2-4 weeks recovery after the surgery but is that 2-4 weeks to be back up and literally running or is that 2-4 weeks to be walking semi-normally again without a limp? How do they define recovery?

So only 5 more days to go until the cast comes off.  Given the 7+ weeks we've had, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  We just don't know what it's leading to.  But hopefully in 5 more day we'll have a little more insight and Josh will be well on the road to recovery.

Both the boys loved signing Josh's cast 
(he had a brace when he first dislocated it so this was new to them)


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Visit to Oostvaardersplassen

Don't ask me how to pronounce the location - I can't.  At least not yet.  But in our little guide on Almere (where we originally were thinking of living and where the kids go to school), there was information about this area known as Oosvaardersplassen.  Co-workers of Josh's had also mentioned it. It is a bird sanctuary and wildlife reserve.  In case you are interested, here is their website:

Anyways, we've been really lucky that after our first 2 weeks here where we had rain every single day, the last 5 or so had been really nice weather.  We have to get accustomed to seasons again and that it does make sense to be wearing a sweater in October (it did not make sense in August, however) but overall, the weather has been really nice.

We've been limited in our exploring because of Josh's knee.  Totally understandable.  And you know, given that we've only been here 7 weeks, we haven't done all that badly in the things we've accomplished.  But we knew that with Josh's surgery coming up that week that we would be back again at square one with how much walking he would be able to do over the next few weeks.

And since he had been able to walk a little bit more over the last 2 or 3 weeks, we decided to do a little exploring out in nature at Oosvaardersplassen.  The kids didn't want to go at first but once they got there, they loved it.  They loved running along the paths and trying to find animals (we think we spotted a deer in the distance) and birds. There were tons and tons of birds of all kinds.  We had hoped to see wild horses that we'd heard about but unfortunately no luck there.  But that's ok - there is always next time.

Finding sticks and anything else they can turn into weapons... typical boys in nature.

It's like a jungle!

My three boys

If you look straight out in the middle, I'm pretty sure that is a deer laying down not far from the water.

Brotherly "love"

Aidan found a toad... it then pooped in his hand.  He happened to think it was cool - I kept thinking how long it would be til we found a bathroom so he could wash his hands!

Too sunny in Holland???

Before leaving we bought a bird house and some bird seed.  We'd never had a bird house before and now that we live back in the surburbs again, we thought it was a fun thing to add to our new house. The kids have been fascinated watching the birds eat the food.  We've already been on pinterest on how to make our own bird feeders for once the ready made feeder we bought runs out.  They love watching the birds near the house and are curious as to when one will make a nest - I've told them it might not be until spring at this point since many will be flying south for the winter.  But that we'll have to check back regularly to see and maybe in the spring we'd even find some eggs - you never know!!

We did decide that this is a place best explored by bicycle.  It huge and there is only so much one can do on foot.  But for us, it was a good fit for that day.  We got outside in nature, enjoyed the beautiful weather and some exercise to boot.  Not to mention, it was a pretty place to explore!!  We will definitely go back in the future once Josh is recovered.  Maybe the next time we'll get to see those horses!


Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Mommy Guilt

All working mom's that I know have this and it's been a dilemma that we've faced since women started working outside the home.  The mommy guilt.  We call it a work - life balance but we all know that finding that balance is far more difficult than it should be.

For me, at least, there is this ongoing guilt of not being present enough.  Even though I work from home, I feel constantly torn in two directions - my children and my career.  No one ever wins.  And that's a very frustrating feeling all around.

Over the years, Josh's solution has been for me to quit work.  When times are stressful and I find that balance to be even more difficult than usual, this is when he thinks it would be a good choice to just not work.  I won't sugar coat it when I say that when he says this, it drives me insane.  Why should I have to quit my job?  But I understand where he is coming from.  There are things we cannot eliminate from our lives - the children for one... and so what is something that we can do that would eliminate or at least reduce some stress and that's the one factor that we can in fact change.  But as far as I'm concerned, it's not something we can change.

And I don't know why.  I don't know why I NEED to work.  I like my job, don't get me wrong.  But it's not what I want to do for the rest of my life.  It's not what I'm passionate about.  I once read that if you love what you do, it's not work.  And therefore there is no need for a work life balance because you've already got it.  But I feel that even though my financial contributions are small to our household, I'm doing something other than just being a parent and taking care of the home.

Where does this guilt come from that I feel like taking care of our children and our home isn't enough? It's certainly nothing that Josh has ever said.  Is it a preconceived notion of my generation that if you don't work then you aren't doing enough?  Or is it just a notion that I have in my head from god knows where that I just can't let go of?

Because there are days where I just want to stay home and focus 100% on the kids.  But I'll be honest... I'm afraid.  I'm afraid that once I give up that job, that I'll regret it.  My hope is that I wouldn't, but I'm afraid to take the risk.  Yes, this is coming from the person who has moved not just to one country but two.  Someone who takes risks everyday is afraid to take one that would benefit her family.

But would it benefit them?  Or would I resent them if I were home all day long?  I already feel as though there are days when I've lost who I am.  When I feel as though my world revolves around everyone but myself.  Could it be that that is who I am?  The caretaker?  Maybe that is my job?  Is that what I want to do?   This is when I have the most impact and I'm feel as though I'm fucking it up constantly. So do I give up my job and focus on them?  My fear is I do it and nothing changes and that I become spiteful for giving up a piece of who I am.

I don't know.  And so I continue on, being pulled in both directions.  Time moves quickly though and the kids are growing up fast.  I don't want regrets.  I don't want to miss out on this time with them.  I do my best to focus on them when they are with me.  But lately it's been a new challenge - their new shorter school day.  It's been both a blessing and a curse.  A blessing because I feel like our time together is less pressured - when we lived in Spain they got home at 5:45 and we had to cover dinner, homework, reading and family time before bed at 7:45/8.  That's not a whole lot of time.  And my guess it is similar in most households with 2 working parents.

But here they finish school at 3:15 most days and at 12 on Wednesdays.  We've had a lot more time together.  The curse is that means I'm getting a lot less work done.  And so the balance is becoming harder and harder and I've recognized recently that I'm losing my identity because my life has become focused solely on Josh and the kids and my needs aren't being met.  It feels selfish to say it, but let's be realistic, we all need something that is ours.

As far as my career goes, I feel that for years my career has taken a back burner and I'm in constant turmoil about prioritizing work and the kids.  And it affects me emotionally.  I haven't wanted to be "weak" and give up my time with the kids in order to focus on work because in my mind I should be able to balance it all.  But in reality I can't do it in the way that I would like to.

In the end, I've recognized that I'm juggling too many balls and they are starting to fall all around me.  I need to recognize when I need help and that we've also only been here just shy of 2 months.  I need to learn to cut myself some slack which is never easy for me.

Josh has found a solution that will hopefully work for the time being.  It will give me a little more balance and take some pressure off of me to get everything done in such a short period of time.  We've hired a babysitter 3 afternoons a week.  Aidan hates it.  He's angry about it.  And that makes me feel guilty that I'm choosing work over them.  But there are times when I need to do that.  Because my thoughts are that if I can get more done 3 afternoons per week, then on their short Wednesdays, I can completely (or so I hope and will try) focus on them as well as one other day during the work week.

We've only had the sitter 2 weeks so far.  I'm not totally sold yet.  It's not her, it's me.  I'm not feeling much more productive as a result of her being there.  I think it's in part because I've had so many appointments and meetings that I haven't actually had time to see what the result will be for work.  But as Josh said to me the other day, being productive doesn't necessarily mean that I need to work my job more - it's about being productive all around.  He's right.  

So we're going to see how things go.  I told the kids we need to give this a few months and see if this will work for us.  It may.  It may not.  But we need to find a balance that we are all happy with. Hopefully the kids will eventually understand that I'm doing this for them and for me.  If I can have something that is important to me, then I can be a better parent to them.  Or so that is my hope.  Only time will tell.

In the meantime, I'm trying to work through this "mommy guilt" and figure out why I feel the way I do about my career.  Why can't I focus on a hobby that may eventually transition into a second career? Why is it that this something for me has to be work and not pleasure?  Is it because Josh is working so hard for us that I feel guilt over not working hard enough?  I'm sure that's a piece of it.  But work comes in all different forms and I need to remember that as well.

I've been spending a lot of time reflecting on my life lately (more on that later) and this is one of those areas that I need to spend some time focusing on.  What will make me feel more complete as a person? Is it a career?  It is the kids?  Is there a way to find a balance that will make us all happy without these feelings of guilt?  If anyone has figured out the solution, I'm all ears!!


Monday, September 29, 2014

Pictures of our New House

Here we are, at our new house.  It's slightly bigger than our first apartment in Barcelona (though with the same lack of storage issues) but slightly smaller than our second apartment.  It's almost the same size as our house in Attleboro only with no closets, basement, attic or garage (so no storage.... seeing a theme here?).

We've gone from house (Attleboro) to apartments (Barcelona) and back to being in a house again. Though it's more of a duplex style type of house - the entire street is lined with them.  Very traditional style housing here in the Netherlands.  Our street only has houses on one side which is really nice.  So we've got views both in the front and in the back of the house.

To the front there is a field where Liam can watch for bunnies.  To the back is our small garden and shed, behind which is a smaller field and some woods.  Not far behind is the highway which we don't love but the house is soundproofed enough that we don't hear much (at least now while there are still leaves on the trees, we'll see come winter).  The kids are not allowed to go beyond the first bike path (there are 2 behind our house) since it will bring them too close to the highway.  But it's incredibly peaceful and quiet overall and the kids love walking along the nature trail.

Just 1/4 mile to the left of our house along the bike path is the water.  This inlet / pond actually leads out to the Baltic Sea.  You can see sailboats on it regularly, many of which likely come from our neighborhood which has it's own marina.  Even coming from the Cape, this is the closest Josh (or I) have lived to the water.  It's absolutely beautiful.

In the other direction there is another bike path that takes us into the Vesting (you saw more about that in another entry about our town), the town center.  Along this path we must ride by fields of sheep.  Not too bad. And we are definitely not in Barcelona any more!  I run along this path most mornings as the loop around the Vesting and back gives me an almost exact 4 mile run.

And in yet another direction you can walk by the marina and down to our beach.  A 5 minute bike ride away.  The beach is nothing to write home about (and yet here I write) but it's still a beach within 5 minutes of our house.  Not too bad.

I'm digressing from the house though.  It's small, it's cute, it's modern and overall it's comfortable and is starting to feel like home.  For the first time, Josh and I are on a separate floor from the kids as there are only 2 bedrooms upstairs.  The room we are using for our bedroom was the family room for the previous family (but they only had one small child) but given it has a door, etc, it works as a bedroom as well.  So the kids and the main bathroom are upstairs (a very steep staircase, very Dutch).  And the modern kitchen, living room, our bedroom and half bath are downstairs.

As with in Barcelona, we are without a dryer.  But we're used to that.  Only it was sunny there 300 days a year.  So we'll see how that goes long term.  But so far it's ok.  And we've got a whole laundry/storage type of room off the entry for shoes, jackets, cleaning supplies and the washing machine.

The kitchen is my favorite room I think.  I actually can't stand the granite as no matter how much I clean it with the appropriate cleaner, it streaks and it's hard to keep clean.  But I love having the island with the breakfast bar.  As do the kids.  When I'm making meals, they are hanging out chatting with me and I love having that time with them.  And we're eating together more often as a result.  New house, new rules.  No more eating in front of the tv no matter how much easier it is to succumb after a long day.  And so far, we're sticking with that rule.

My other favorite thing is the amazing amount of natural light this house gets.  There are skylights where you don't expect them (ask Josh about trying to turn off the lights in the hall his first night) and tons of big windows letting in the light even when the weather is bad.  Actually in not one of these photos was there a light on in the house.

So without further ado... here is our new house!  (still minus pictures on the walls but we'll get there in time).

Aidan on his first morning in the new house before getting ready for school

Master bedroom with a door out to the back yard

The room is quite large with room for all our furniture from the US plus my desk and the former owner's expedit bookcase (which doesn't match but functions nicely for an office bookcase)

Slightly different angle - there are two doors to this room - this one leads towards the stairs and main entrance to the house

And this one goes into the kitchen

Really no cabinets but making do with the space we have (plus our "American" cabinet) but very sleek and modern

That bookcase in the background - yup, that's all our American hoarding ;) 

Our small but functional backyard and by Dutch standards, I'm finding, quite decent sized.

View from outside thru the kitchen and into the living room - nice big open space

Kitchen island

Living room - we didn't bring our American sofas since we already had this one (a la IKEA)

Our non working (but hopefully will be soon if they ever get back to me) fireplace - excited to have a fireplace after 5 years, even if it is gas.

Kids homework table and more bookcases

View from living room to kitchen and outside

Main entry

Laundry room with my "dryer"

Very steep staircase 
(imagine the EMTs having to carry Josh down those stairs when he dislocated his knee!)

Aidan's room complete with his big American bed - he's sooooo happy!

Another view with all his legos on display

Other side of his room - 2 sets of windows in his bedroom and Liam's

Desk and budda bag chair

View out Aidan's window to the back yard

Hallway to Liam's room - door on the left is the bathroom, door on the right is the hot water heater, door next to that is the toilet (yes, separate from shower, very typical Dutch).

Liam's room, again 2 sets of windows to make it very light

We need to get rid of the sofa in Liam's room but haven't found any takers and he doesn't seem to mind it so it's there for now... 

Liam was so excited to have his US furniture and new Star Wars (and Captain America) sheets!

Liam has the only closet upstairs so all of Aidan's shirts also live here - not so convenient but we've dealt with worse in our time in Europe.

View out Liam's window

I took a step outside for some better shots of the area - this is the same view from Liam's room - there are no houses on the opposite side of the street, just a field.

Front of our house - we only have one side (the left), deliniated by the rooftop.

Our side

So that's it... our house.  Anyone who wants to come to visit is always welcome!!  Hope to see you soon in Naarden, the Netherlands!


Welkom bij Naarden (Welcome to Naarden)

Well, we are here.  And as you've seen from my other posts, it's been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for the last month.  But we're on our way and overall feeling pretty settled given the circumstances.  I do think having lived abroad before is helping, significantly.  It also helps that most people here speak English.  If only we'd had that in Barcelona.  Although, I don't think I would have changed a thing about the experience in Barcelona either.

Now that we are getting settled a little bit, I thought I'd share a little bit about the town we've moved to, Naarden.  In Spain, we lived right in the city of Barcelona which was a great experience.  Neither Josh nor I had ever lived in a city proper and we loved it more than we had ever expected.  And the kids took to it quite well too.

However, given that their new school is about 30 minutes from Amsterdam and there is no school bus, we decided that the time had come to move back to suburban life.  We weren't 100% sold on it given that we really enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the city and walking everywhere, we also thought it would be good for the boys to have a yard and grass again.

And so when we started our house hunt, we focused entirely outside of Amsterdam, primarily in the Almere area which is where the school is located.  But we found we didn't love Almere as much as we had hoped, or at least we didn't fall in love with any of the neighborhoods that we were shown or the houses.  But when we got to Naarden, there was just something special about it.  It's cute, it's quaint, it's upscale and the neighborhood we looked in seemed perfect to us.

While the house we are in is slightly small... actually the size itself is fine, it's lack of storage (typical European which we are used to but still not crazy about)... anyways, while it's on the smaller side, we really really love our neighborhood and this cute little town.  There will be pictures of the house in a later entry once I've got pictures on the walls, etc to make it look like home, but for now I thought I'd share a little bit about the town we've moved to.

The town of Naarden (map here) is adorable.  The center, or Vesting, is a star fort complete with fortified walls and a moat - on the map you can actually see the outline of the star, it's pretty cool.  Yes, a genuine moat.  I actually run around the vesting almost every day and it's the most tranquil place you can imagine to start your day.  On my way to get to the Vesting though, I must run along some fields complete with sheep and cows.  With bike paths all around, this is an easy trip with no cars nearby - just beautiful fields filled with farm life.  It's strange not having to jump out of the way of cars when running or sidewalks filled with people!

Along the route of the Vesting, there is a petting zoo type of area where the kids can feed chicken, sheep and goats.  We can also buy fresh eggs if we are so inclined.

Truly my favorite view as I run each morning...

Biking thru the field on the way to the Vesting (you can kind of see the top of the church in the distance) - ignore my handlebars in the picture, it was a shot on the go ;).  This is actually a bike path - don't be confused by the width of the pavement... bikes and people only!

Liam and his buddies the sheep :)

Trying to get close to the sheep only there is a canal behind the tall grass... 

Originally founded in around 900 AD, Naarden became an official town around the year 1300.  The original city was located even closer to the coast than it is today but was mostly destroyed by a war as well as water (literally the land has been swallowed up by the sea) in the mid 1300s.  The town as we know it today was built in the mid 1300s.  The Great Church (as you'll see in a lot of my pictures just because it's so photogenic) was built in the late 1300s.  The Church is considered to be gothic in design.

So that's our little town in a nutshell.  But pictures are what really sells it...