Monday, August 13


An anniversary.

Two years.

That's 24 months.

104 weeks.

730 days.

Give or take.

We have been in The Netherlands for two years.

Which isn't bad considering this adventure was scheduled as a one year experience.
I guess you could say we have extended our stay.

Where did it all begin? I don't know if there is a cut and dried answer to that question but I will pick the point in our past where it all began to come together and tell the story from there.

Summer 2003. We had just recently become a family of five, had moved to a new house, but had not yet purchased a minivan--the seemingly compulsory vehicle of a family passing the two-child mark. The summer was a whirl of activity. In spite of the fact I was on maternity leave from my full-time teaching job, I spent that summer in the same way I spent the summers previously--as Performing Arts Director of a summer camp for children ages 4-13. With three-week-old Andrew in tow (or in sling as the case may be) and my big kids enrolled in the Arts Academy, the eight weeks of summer were filled with dance classes, art classes, tumbling practice and performances.

Somewhere in the midst of that frenzy, my husband Don jetted over to Europe (The Hague, specifically) to attend a conference in International Criminal Law. If ever there was a beginning place which ended with landing us here in The Netherlands, it would have to be that moment in time. When he returned from that conference it was with a head full of thoughts and plans for how to change it up and take on a new challenge both personal and professional in nature.

Though, it was never as simple as a single conversation I like to tell people that he just might have snookered me into this experience thusly:

"Hey Jenn, I'd like to do something really different with my life and career and was thinking we could strike out with the kids to parts unknown."

"uh-huh Like what babe?"

"Well, you know there is a criminal tribunal in Africa."


"Yeah, Africa."

"With the kids? In Africa? Where in Africa? How safe is Africa?"

"I don't really know. We would have to do some research. Of course there are all the courts in The Hague. We could move there and I could work in International Law."

"In Holland? You're on. We can move to Holland."

What began that summer as a dream took roughly two years to bring to fruition. If I tried, I don't think I could really trace the myriad discussions, brainstorming sessions and back to the drawing board moments of our life in the following months. Ultimately, by spring of 2005 we held in our hot little hands an acceptance letter from Leiden University for entrance into the LL.M. program in International Criminal Law, and a Fulbright Scholarship which would help make a dent in financing the year abroad for a family of five.

From that moment, it was just a matter of divesting ourselves of well, everything we possibly could, and packing the rest of it into our suitcases. We had managed to find the perfect rental home for the student year. We would be living in the home of a Leiden University professor who would be on a year's sabbatical with his family.

The goodbyes were tough. Arizona had been our home for twelve years, we were established and grounded there. In fact, the children had known no other home in their young lives. As we made the rounds to say farewell, there were those among our friends and family who were suspicious about that "year" we kept talking about. Many voiced their opinion that we wouldn't be back anytime soon. But we demurred and assured that the graduate degree would be achieved by the following summer.

However, life has a way of keeping things exciting doesn't it?

Just as the program was wrapping up coursework and Don was working in earnest on his thesis*
an opportunity to work for the very International organization which had captured his interest years earlier arose. He jumped. That temporary contract extended immediately into a second short term contract, which was followed up by a third short-term-temporary-but-long-enough-we-could-announce-we-were-staying-in-Holland-for-another-year contract with the courts. We moved to The Hague.

The last piece of this linear telling is this. Spring 2005 Don was offered a permanent position in the organization.

He accepted.

We celebrated.

The truth is if I had told the story backwards from the end result to the beginning you would see just how perfectly it all came together for him and for us, which is just how you want a story to be. Even if it all sounds too good to be true.

*you will note that I discuss this going back to school thing in "we" terms, right up until the time there are courses to attend or a thesis to write, then I hand all credit to my husband whose job it really was to do all those things. I make no claim to be the actual brains in this marriage. He was a stellar student and deserves all due kudos for a job well done.


A Note for my fellow bloggers:

If you haven't entered Scribbit's Write Away contest yet, consider it. I am judging the entries this month. My blog hopping will be scarce until the judging is done next week so I can be open, fair and un-biased. I am not ignoring you, I am being impartial. If you didn't enter and are not planning to enter (and I ask you why not?) leave me a note saying so and I will haunt your blog and plague you with my comments.

It's good to be back.


  1. SHE'S BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Hey look EVERYBODY Jenn is BAAACCCKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!

    I missed you. Alot.

    And now I know "the rest of the story". Thanks for putting the pieces together. What an exciting gang of 5 you all are. And good-looking too!

    I'm not entering the Scribbit contest. Not because of the judge. I LOVE the judge.

  2. It's about time!
    Things that seem to good to be true are those that we let happen, I think. My life looks like that right now, anyway.
    I missed you!

  3. woohoo 2 years!!! Get the orange flags out and put on an orange wig and have a great party! :)

    oh...and I am not in scribbit's writing contest either, so don't worry, there is not risk to visit my blog. Haahaha.

  4. Good to see you again! I missed you, too -- and I love this story!

    No contests for me this month, either; just the way things are working out. Stop by and say hi, anytime.

  5. Jenn, this is such an amazing story. It's wonderful how well things came together, but I suspect that's because you all worked very hard, were willing to be very flexible and had a whole lot of faith. You have a lovely family. Your children could never deny you or your husband as parents; they are such a beautiful blend of the two of you.

    I'm so glad you're back. I've missed you so much!

  6. This story sounds very much like ours, except that we did it B4 kids, and we went to the middle east.

    We've been home nearly a decade now, and we're thinking about going back out. The thought of doing all the packing/etc with kids freaks me out a bit. Nice to know it's possible!

  7. P.S. Not entering the writing contest (this time, maybe the next one), so please come plague me.

  8. Happy anniversary!! Spain was scheduled for 3-5 years for us...almost 14 years ago!
    welcome back :)

  9. Glad you're back! Beautiful family photo!

    *Teri kisses your feet*

  10. Jami - who "did something" about being aroused before but is now getting warm again watching Teri kiss your feet - is wondering why Jami is referring to herself in the third person.

    I'm SO GLAD you're back!!! Oh, I'm not the first to tell you that? Well, that doesn't mean that I didn't miss you more than anybody else!

  11. I'm glad you're back too. What a gorgeous family you have!

  12. Already knew this story, especially as I helped with part II!! But it is still a fun read, especially the part about Africa. I could so totally seeing you do that (NOT!!!).

    I did NOT enter the Scribbit contest and it was totally BECAUSE of the JUDGE! I just knew how much you love me and love my writing and it just would not be fair to all the other entrants, nor to you because you would be so torn trying to pretend to be fair to everyone. So I made it easy on you! Besides, you have enough to read just catching up on my blog!! Glad you're back!

  13. Such a massive change. Brilliant that's it turning out ok for you.

  14. YEAH!!!! How'd I miss you yesterday??? Welcome back! You were MISSED.

    And this is a great tale. And that was a lovely photo, too.

    I hope you had a wonderful vacation.

  15. SHE LIVES!!!!!!!

    Your story is hilarious--and that husband of yours is very tricky. I should try something like that on my hubby...

    And hello!!!! Could you be any more gorgeous? And your kids are beautiful too--but of course they are, because look at their parents!!!

  16. Oh, and, um...
    Stalk me! Stalk me!!!

    I just have a little too much going on right this second to enter anything, even though it sounds like a fun idea. But... yeah... not gonna happen this time. So, stalk me!

    (as if you hadn't been already, you saucy little minx.)

  17. I am so glad to read this story and to see the photo of your beautiful family. I missed reading your blog while I was busy entertaining. Jim and I celebrated our 2 years in Portland on July 28th!

  18. Wow! What an honor for your husband. And as an attorney also working in public interest law, I always grateful for other attorneys who give lawyers a good name

  19. Wonderful story. Isn't it amazing where opportunities take us? Hubby and I expected to be here in AZ maybe 2-4 years; this November it will be 17 years.

  20. So, yes - you have a new reader. I apologize that I have not fully hopped on the blogging band wagon yet to make the step from reader/lurker to full participant so I have no blog yet to invite you to. I am not much of a writer myself.

    I am curious if you and any of your family spoke Dutch before moving and if not at what point you began to commit to learning the language? Some friends of ours lived in Leiden for 3 years and she found it hard to convince people to let her practice Dutch on them. I find it funny that the Dutch have such a hard time understanding non-native Dutch speakers who try to speak Dutch or pronounce Dutch words. They don't seem to have much ability to understand their language spoken with a foreign accent. No matter how well I think I am saying the word "Rijsttafel" no Dutch person can ever comprehend what I am trying to say!