Wednesday, October 31

Tuesday, October 30

A Day Like Any Other

"Good Morning, International School of The Hague. This is Jenn, can I help you?"

"Hi. Yes, I have a question."


"Is the school closed on November 1st?"

"No, the first will be a regular school day."

"Oh, okay. I was just wondering if the school would be closed because in Belgium the schools close for All Saint's Day."

"Um. Right. Okay. But this is Holland."

"So it will be business as usual on the first?"


Monday, October 29

Every Last Bit

Back in the Spring of 2005, our family began preparations to move from Phoenix to Leiden. In hopes that the experience would be longer than the one-year academic course my husband would be attending, we divested ourselves of most of our possessions. We held garage sales and Internet sales (I sold my car by email). We donated goods to charity and gave goods to friends. When August, and our imminent departure, rolled around, we had reduced our mass to virtually what fit inside our 10 suitcases plus carry-ons. That we left a corner of our Arizona house stuffed with a few remaining--too precious-to-toss--items didn't deter us from believing that we had truly simplified. It was liberating to imagine that everything we needed or wanted could be carried with us (albeit with a luggage carrier).

The first year in The Netherlands we lived in the home of a Leiden University professor who was on sabbatical with his family in the U.S. It was an ideal living arrangement for us as they had left everything of household necessity behind and available to us. From dishes to bicycles we were covered and found ourselves wanting and needing nothing.

With the mentality following that we would be repacking for a possible return flight to the USA after that first year, we kept our accumulation in check.


I began to be suspicious of our collective ability to pull off the simple life when we moved from Leiden into our friend's home (we would house sit for the summer) in July 2006. That it took more than one van load to haul our things to her house was mildly disconcerting. Still, all in all, I figured we were still maintaining that idyllic reduced-possessions lifestyle I so wanted to keep.

From that moment onward, that hope in keeping it simple has been a lost dream. Part of it is understandable, really. When we moved to The Hague last summer it was into a home without furnishings. I adjusted my thinking to include the notion that it would be all right to once again own furniture. Surely, I could make my home comfortable without overdoing it in the accumulation department.

However, it just didn't stop there.

Admittedly, once our placement here in this country moved from temporary to exit-at-an-indefinite-date I allowed myself to think bigger and more permanent. We bought stuff. Stuff we needed sure. And stuff we wanted, most definitely. Hell, I even bought more shoes. And a computer. A file cabinet. A television.

And other stuff.

Trust me now when I tell you, my belongings no longer fit into 10 suitcases plus carry-ons.

Here then is the source of this diatribe. I spent the better part of my Sunday morning cleaning out my closet--removing summer gear and replacing it with heavy winter sweaters and long sleeved apparel. I also took the opportunity to throw out (meaning: ready for donation to charity) old clothes which I no longer wear for a variety of reasons. I filled 3 large plastic bin sacks full.

And yet?

Yet my closet is full. More things than I can possibly wear, more than I can definitively declare that I NEED.

And as I sit here at my brand new computer with my feet clad in my (just purchased yesterday) fuzzy pink slippers, I am suddenly loathe to consider just how I would live without it.

All of it.

Wednesday, October 24

Friday, October 19

It Can Be Done

An entire blog post
written only in haiku
bringing you the news.

Half-term break is here
which surely means vacation,
no work and no school!

Six will board the train
Our destination: Berlin.
(Germany, of course).

Just one week to play...
Post trip I'll share everything
Back here at the blog.

While you're missing me
You can visit everyday
The other blog I keep.

Allison and I both share
the photos we take.

I will miss you all
And I hope you'll miss me too
You can leave love notes.


Repaired now for Cynic's sake
I'll sign off: Love, Jenn

Thursday, October 18

Status Quo

"Hi Mom, how was your day at work?"

"Pretty good."

"So did anyone come into your office with so much blood gushing from their nose it soaked their shirt today?"

"Nope. Not today."

"Well, did anyone come by who fell on his back on the playground and really got more scared than hurt and just needed you to say 'you're okay' before you sent him back out to play?"


"Hmmm... Did a little girl come in to tell you that she had stabbed her own knee with a pencil?"

"Again, no."

"But for sure someone came limping in for an ice pack because she twisted her ankle at P.E.?"

"As a matter of fact, nope."

"No one came to your office to say that they had thrown up in the toilets and might need to do it again RIGHT NOW?"

"Sadly, no, son."

"So, let me get this straight, none of these things happened today?"

"Nope, not a one."

"Wow, you had a really boring day today"

"Yep. You got it. Some days are like that I guess."

Wednesday, October 17

Monday, October 15

Taking Care of Business

Second only to feeding the goats at the neighborhood Kinderboederij, the favorite activity for a certain four-year-old in this house is the glass recycler just around the corner. Once each week, or perhaps not quite as often as that, we gather all the empty glass jars and bottles in the house and carry them down the street to the green metal bins. Marked carefully for white, green and brown glass, this receptacle is built partially in the ground and is the perfect height for our little man to heft the bottles into the slot and push them on their journey down-down-down into the deep cache of... what? Broken glass I guess.

Whoosh~CRASH! The bottles slide through the opening and land splat on top, shattering with a satisfactory cacophonous sound.

"Again!" Andrew cries. "Another one!" And we watch bottle after bottle disappear into the deep chasm.

It's always a little hard to wait until the next jar of peanut butter is empty so we can play the game again.

The truth is I have always been a lover of the recycling mantra--reduce, reuse, recycle--but never knew it could be so much fun to send glass on the first part of it's journey to become something new.

I find the double measure of entertainment while taking care of the earth to be extremely appealing.

Friday, October 12

And Everything In It's Place

There are exactly 422 students enrolled in the primary school at The International School of The Hague.

I know, because I have counted every one of them.

And then I counted them again.

The last few weeks at work we (meaning my colleagues and I) have had the pleasure of been documenting each and every child attending the primary school. This accounting which is crucial to the Dutch government includes knowing interesting information about each of them such as their name, birth date, address and phone number. Obscurely enough part of the required information is the nationality of each student's parents. Not so obscurely the way to find this information was to open each of those 422 paper files individually and find the information.


You are already picturing the painstaking fun.

Heads bent over paper we have employed multiple techniques to get the information fast. (Of course there was a deadline for this monumental project. What fun would an impossible task be without it?) We filled in temporary forms with information, we read aloud to one another the facts and figures, we deciphered the scrawls of international parents filling in English forms. And we input data as fast as our fingers could fly.

Trust me, it's been a real party.

Today we sat down with the class registers, the printed database and a highlighter pen, to count, recount, and account for all the children attending our school.

And you know what?

We. found. them. all.

Including the 7 children who we knew were attending school (according to class registers) but did not show up on the database. (Like computers know everything? Please.) Something akin to a needle-in-a-haystack search we compared name for name and counted them each and every one. To our delight the missing surfaced and our happy dance began as soon as those names were entered into the computer and the whole file was winging it's way electronically to those who had been breathing down our necks about it need it.

My new favorite number is 422.

And my favorite Dutch word this week?


Thursday, October 11

Have You Got Something to Say?

A big thank you to Paige over at 42 for bringing this to my attention and for keeping it at the forefront of my overwhelmed brain.

I am going to play. Will you join too? Check out all the details here.


A big thank you as well to Allison at Soccer Mom in Denial who gave me this:

Now, I tell you. That's nice.


Wednesday, October 10

Monday, October 8

One For the Road

"Okay, buddy, I am on my way. I will see you later after work, okay?"

"Wait, wait, wait! I got to tell you something at the door."

"Okay, pal. Sounds good. Are you going to tell me that you love me?"

"Uh... no."

"Are you going to say that you'll miss me?"

"Uh... no. But you got to miss me okay, Mom?"

"Yep buddy. I am going to miss you while I am at work."

"Yeah, but I got to tell you something at the door."

"All right. Come and tell me what you have to say 'cause I've got to get going."

"Do you got your bike Mom?"

"Yeppers. I've got my bike."

"Are you going to work Mom?"

"Yes, I am on my way to work."

"Okay. I got to tell you something at the door Mom."

"Right. I am waiting. What did you want to tell me at the door then?"


Friday, October 5

Shiny Pretty Things

In spite of the fact that I have been spending it now for two years running, I have never really come full circle to appreciate the Euro as money. Notwithstanding the harsh, bitter truth that my paltry and boring monotone green American dollar is weaker than weak against the Euro right now, I have yet to lose the sensation that the euros I carry around in my purse or my back pocket are something of a pretty plaything intended to entertain and delight as I gaze upon the happy colors, varied sizes, shiny bits and pretty pictures of each bill.

It took me months to understand that with a pocket full of coin I actually had A LOT of money to spend. Instead of the U.S. quarter or ten-cent dime occupying space in my wallet--or again, my back pocket--I now carry 1 and 2 euro coins in their place. And let me tell you, it doesn't take too many of those jingling together creating rhythmic accompaniment for my step before I have some serious buckaroos!

I remember a time during our first few months in Leiden when the weekly student budget was wearing thin. We really needed some basic grocery supplies and I was wondering just how I would make the 10 euro bill in my purse stretch to meet the expense. As I was walking to the neighborhood shops I peeked inside the coin holder of my bag and counted the euro coins within. Score! It was an additional 12 euros! In coin! That moment of realization still makes me grin and I remember the lightness of my step as I carried on toward the supermarket. Not only would I be bringing home milk, bread and bananas, but hey! With 12 extra euros in my pocket there would be cookies in the bag for sure!

It doesn't take much to please me.

With the first session of After School Activities at the International School now underway, I brought some work home with me tonight. I needed some space and quiet to finish my lists and sort the fees paid so I can in turn pay the teachers for the various classes they offer. Let me tantalize here and tell you that all the fees for the activities program comes in in cash. Yup. Cash money in all those fancy euro bills.

Look, I will show you.

Can you imagine the fun I have been having?

The best part of all of it is that all the money came out just right. In spite of the craziness that is my office at the Primary School, I managed to keep records straight, write accurate receipts, track ALL THAT CASH that dribbled in this week, and count it out into lovely little large piles of payment for the teachers. Whatever else it was, it certainly was fun rolling in the money tonight.

I can't quite decide now whether it was like one large Monopoly game where I win everything or perhaps something else. As I stuffed bills into unmarked envelopes and folded the seals over I couldn't help but imagine that I was in some sort of fantasy mafia world with the arranged pay-offs accumulated on my living room floor.

Yeah, I think from now on you can call me Jenny Soprano.

Thursday, October 4


Four year-old Andrew has finally acquiesced to be potty-trained.

I can only hand the success to THE NANNY here in our house who has boldly and brilliantly led the path to diaper freedom.

Andrew has the know how.

He has the skills.

And he has an unbelievable willpower.

We discovered recently that if he's in underpants, he goes to the toilet.

If he's in a pull-up, he doesn't.

Truly, he just doesn't want to.That lovely padded pull-up is just so cozy, who in his right-toddler-mind would worry about pulling that thing down to sit on a briskly cold and hard toilet seat?

I ask you.

So we challenge him, requiring that he step out of the nighttime pull-up as soon as he wakes. Thus, he lands squarely back in responsibility land; the land where he is fully capable and fully trained. He prefers the land of denial. But whatever, I am the mama.

Last week, he and I entered a discussion which went something like this:

"Hey Droopers, lets get that pull-up off and get some big boy pants on!"

"uh... no."

"Yep. It's time dude. Drop the drawers and let's get dressed."

"Mom. I'm just gonna wear this pull-up okay?"

"Nope, you are going to wear pants buddy."

Don had gone downstairs to retrieve a pair of big boy underwear from the school backpack (in case of accidents at playgroup) and I scurried Andrew along to find his dad and get his pants on.
He swish-thunked down the stairs on his bottom with his pull-up clad derriere striking each step to make a resounding thud, and he called out "Daddy. Daaaaady. Daaaaaady" as he made his way to the bottom. Reaching the destination (and the dreaded underpants) he explained to Don with much fervor and conviction (clearly, the wheels turning in his head):

"Dad, just put the pants OVER my pull-up. Okay?"

As if to say: I will comply with your must-wear-pants dictate, but let's do it this way which works out oh-so-much-more-comfortably-for-me.

As if kid. As if.

Wednesday, October 3

We Were Big Haired Once and Young

Yeah, that's me. 1991.

Tuesday, October 2

Finding My Voice

You probably heard.

I was under the weather last week, and as is standard for me anytime I catch a head cold, the virus descended from my sinuses to my voice box and I spent three days in the last seven, croaking like a frog. Handy only in the fact that such a voiceless condition elicits great sympathy from all whose ears were subject to my (lack of) melodious tones, to be sans melody is disquieting.

By Friday I was squeaking out low level decibels in my speech. Nearly audible, I was able to once again take my share of the incoming phone calls at work. A day at work was about all that my voice could take and by the afternoon I was once again sapped of sound. When a co-worker stepped in to the office to receive well wishes and a bottle of wine for her birthday, I gave it my all to join in singing "Lang zal ze leven" but couldn't make sound form through the chords.

The true test of laryngitis came Friday evening when, just as I was sitting down on my couch to watch some television with Ian and Elise, I spied several young boys inside the gate of my front garden. I hesitate only briefly before I label this gaggle as a bunch of punks. It was obvious they were up to no good. Emboldened by the numbers in their group they were measuring up the bikes standing in the front yard to quickly determine which would be easiest to make off with. What they were not counting on was the fact that all of our bikes are locked, but further and more to the point as you are about to see, they were not counting on being spotted.

But they were.

By me.

I am certain it was without grace, but confident that the speed with which I flew from the living room, through the hallway and out the front door surprised not just me, but all those brats boys gathered in my yard.

They quickly hoofed it down the road.

I suppose someone else may have left it at that, but this had awakened something in me and I shouted at them with all the strength in my lungs:

Hoi Jongens! Wat doen jullie daar? (Hey boys! What are you doing?)

As you are correct to imagine there was very little response and absolutely no complicity from the group who had stationed themselves down the street under a lamp post. I suppose they felt secure in their numbers and proud of their antics.

Of course, my shouts aroused the curiosity of my husband who was upstairs in our bedroom and he called out to me from the balcony. I quickly filled him in on the events of the past 2 minutes and fast as lightning he joined me in the front yard.

I continued to yell that they needed to answer for themselves and that I would call the police. This decree got the only en masse response which was a collective giggle.

That's when I got pissed.

And my husband started to run.

What could I do but give chase as well?

In my stocking feet I joined pace for pace with Don as we chased the hooligans from the street; the boys split immediately as each turned tail and took off, dashing around corners, across canals and running down parallel streets.

The pace of the chase and the heat of the moment served to completely unglue me. As we turned the corner to chase the last of them off, Don called out something decidedly derisive and I echoed in turn.

I have to admit, it was not attractive.

And there was no stopping me.

Obscenities flying, (ENGLISH ONLY--no language can match what we've got!) I tossed off as many insults as I could muster in rapid fire succession, and only ceased when my calm and caring husband put his hand on my shoulder and said "Jenn. We live on this street."

I clammed up, but I didn't calm down.

Don and I walked back to our home and sat down in the front garden to talk.

To be fair, he talked while I fumed. And then he listened while I decompressed.

I don't lose my temper very often. In fact, you could almost say never. But I did on this night and it has taken me days to settle down about it all.

Curiously, the entire scream fest did not call a single neighbor out of their houses to assist or watch. This fact, along with the belligerence of these wayward-going-nowhere boys was high on the topic list as I ranted about the event, and by association life in Holland.

But it's more than that isn't it? Though it seems commonplace, I know this culture has no exclusive hold on delinquent youth nor apathetic adults. I am lucky I think, that in my two years here that there haven't been more unfortunate events befall us. To be fair, Holland is a safe country by comparison and there is little violent crime here. But crime does happen. Specifically and commonly that crime is bike theft, general theft and vandalism. Most unfortunately for the populace it is standard and I dare say, accepted as just the way it is. This disregard for people, for property, for privacy, is rampant and universal.

It came to my door Friday night, and it sent me over the edge.

I am mad. I want to keep shouting. I want to do something about it.

Misery loves company I suppose. Please read what Fourier Analyst has to say on this subject. She's got a point.

Monday, October 1

It's Like A Song

Jenn in Holland caught a cold

And with this cold there was some SNOT

With a drip-drip here and a drip-drip there
Here a drip, there a drip
Everywhere a drip-drip!

Jenn in Holland caught a cold

Now with this cold there was a COUGH

With a hack-hack here and a hack-hack there
Here a hack, there a hack
Everywhere a hack-hack!

Jenn in Holland caught a cold

Then with this cold there was a FEVER

With delirium here and delirium there
Here a deli, there a rium
Everywhere delirium!

Jenn in Holland caught a cold


Jenn in Holland feels better now.
Thank you all for your concern, your well wishes, and your support.

I'm back.