Thursday, August 30

Points of Light

The brand new campus for the International School of the Hague is something of a monumental wonder. I cannot account for the years of planning and designing, I wasn't around for that. I was neither nearby at the groundbreaking nor at hand during the bulk of the construction. I was around for the finishing touches as the school opened in 2006, while construction was still underway for a good portion of the massive building. I also was there for the ultimate Grand Opening Celebration, which was attended by the Queen herself. That was a seriously cool moment. A glorious morning of pomp and circumstance, and a glimpse of Her Majesty Queen Beatrix.

Seriously cool.

I have attended various events over the last school year, and certainly have been in my daughter's classroom multiple times. (Not my son's though, a Mama cannot hover around a middle schooler's classes, no! That is seriously NOT cool.) Each time I am in the building or on the grounds I have discovered something new and unique to its architecture. Every time I see it, I am in awe.

This week has been no exception. It is an impressive place.


Without rival in my mind, the best bit is the massive amount of glass used in the design. Large windows let the light pass unabated through the corridors and classrooms. Offices are divided by glass walls, and even classrooms offer a streak-free peak inside through wide glass doors.


In the center is an area dubbed "The Glasshouse" where all-school assemblies are held. It is a perfect venue for activities and social events like school festivals, or science fairs. Quite often the area is used as the rainy-day playground so the children can move their big muscles on those days when outside play just isn't possible.

The Glasshouse is named such as it is nearly surrounded on all sides by windows--three stories worth--beckoning the sunlight to enter and play on the polished wood floors inside.

It is my favorite place to linger.

Especially just as the afternoon sun wanes toward the west and the light floods in and dances along the walls, over the staircases and splashes out over the ground.
Seriously cool.

I really think I am going to like this place.

That's My Name

My feet are tired.
My shoulders are a little sore.
My eyelids are on the heavy side.
I am ready to pull the covers to my chin and dance off to slumber.

But. My spirits are high.

I love my new job.

The week has been hectic and crazy busy. I have been sorting, filing, tossing, rummaging, painting, stapling, labeling, cutting, taping and LEARNING.

Learning, learning, learning. And I have to admit, a little bit of faking.


"Good afternoon, International School of the Hague, this is Jenn. May I help you?"

"Yesh. Hallo. It is Jan here. I must speak to KT."

"KT?"

"Yesh. I think my pronunciation is correct. KT."

"Um. Okay, I am looking at the extension list now. I am new here. Very new. And I admit I don't know everyone. Could you possibly spell the name of the person you need to speak with and I will find them for you?"

"Shure. KT is spelled K-A-T-H-Y."

"Oh! Yes! Kathy! Excuse me. KT! Absolutely! I will get her for you. NOW."

Ah, me.

The children will begin arriving at school next Wednesday. I have roughly a single week to get my act together to be ready to pull off this new role as OFFICE LADY EXTRAORDINAIRE! (You think I could get that on a t-shirt? ) I am looking forward to the chaos and the energy of the students in school.

In the meantime as I memorize the layout of the school building, learn how to operate the coffee machine, commit the teachers' names to a permanent place in my memory and prepare the mailbox/lockers for the staff, I have had the chance to meet a few new-to-the-country-kids as they have come to school to get a look around this week.

I don't know if I can express the ultimate joy of meeting an eager new face and after a few minutes conversation hearing the sound of absolute music to my ears. A small voice which says:

"Miss Jenn, can I show you something?"

Yeah, kiddo. Say my name, I will follow you anywhere.

Wednesday, August 29

From My Office Window


Looking Into Photo Blog

All wordless. All the time. All welcome.

Tuesday, August 28

We've Got the Goods

The potty seat shaped like a red bear stands waiting.


The filler seat for the toilet (looking something like an open-top Stetson) is ready.




The Scooby-Doo underpants are purchased, laundered and sitting in the drawer.



And this boy?


Wants nothing to do with any of it.

Monday, August 27

I Love it When a Plan Comes Together

Once upon a time there was
an old woman
a middle aged has been

*ahem*
A Young Girl who got a new job. It was a very exciting job at the International School of The Hague (That's in The Netherlands). While it was a thrill to land a full time job, the young girl suddenly found herself in need of a nanny. Someone who could come to help with her three children. Most especially, she needed a someone to give watchful daily care to her youngest child, a willful, headstrong beautiful and enthusiastic 4-year old boy.

Oh, I wish I may, I wish I might have the wish I wish tonight said the young girl one night when she saw the wishing star up in the sky. She closed her eyes and made her secret wish for a perfect person (someone she already had in mind) to come to her aid.

Meanwhile, across the big wide pond, there was an even younger girl who heard from a little blog bird that the young girl in Holland might be needing a nanny. And she wanted that job.

Through some faerie technological magic the young girl in Holland and the even younger girl in Arizona exchanged notes via the worldwide interweb and discussed all the particulars of the position.

(Now, it just so happens that the young girl and the even younger girl were already acquainted. In fact, they had known each other for many years already. When the even younger girl was even younger she was the babysitter/nanny for these children when they all lived in Arizona.)

So the young girl and the even younger girl decided that it would be the coolest thing ever if they could make this wish turn into something real.

And you know how it works in faerie tales...

The even younger girl contacted her college and put her scholarship on hold for one semester; then she packed her suitcases. This would be her second trip to visit the young girl and her family, but this time she would be staying for THREE MONTHS (which as it happens is exactly the amount of time her tourist visa allows her to stay). For the even younger girl this would be a rich and exciting opportunity to live overseas and experience life in Europe.

For her part, the young girl felt overjoyed that this whole little wouldn't it be nice if... wish had come to such splendiforous realization. Now indeed, she would be able to head off for her first day of work, and all the days thereafter (at least until the THREE MONTHS was over) assured that her children were in loving and capable hands at home.

Where they could all build happy memories together.

And that is how this story begins.



******************************************

Monday, 27 August 2007

Day ONE at the job!
(I am just a little nervous)

Sunday, August 26

Something for Sunday

Looking Into Photo Blog

Spend some time reflecting.

Click on over to the photo blog to see today's photo.

Friday, August 24

Imagine That

When the daily mail arrives at our house, the carrier places the post in an narrow opening just to the right of our front door. From there it falls into a side cabinet on the wall and waits for someone's curious retrieval.

I suppose I should clarify that the arrival of the mail is not a deeply anticipated event around here. Most often it is only bills, or a boring blah-blah-blah kind of general correspondence. There is a sticker on the outside of the house declaring NEE (no!) to advertisements or junk mail kinds of deliveries, so there isn't even the hope and joy of looking at the grocery store flyers or ads for the latest miracle wrinkle removing cream.


Nope, mail time is not so much a party time around here.

Except for the day when you get a postcard in the mail.

I shall repeat that.

A postcard! In the mail!

I got a postcard in the mail.

One day last week I casually opened the door to the mail cabinet and there sitting on the shelf was a postcard. Cool, I thought. I picked it up and turned it over in my hands.

On the front of the card: an Edward Hopper print. And on the back a handwritten note, but not in a handwriting I readily recognized. I scanned through the message quickly and then my eyes fell to the signature.

Allison.

My friend Allison.

Yeah, you know her too. Maybe you call her SMID, but you know her. The socially conscious, deeply passionate wife, mother, blogger, advocate, mentor and friend who speaks without a Boston accent.

She also sends postcards.

Isn't that the epitome of cool?

Seriously, I was so touched that she took the time out of her day to write a note on the back of a card, address it, stamp it and send it. To me. It made my day. Nay, it made my week.

And I have been thinking about it a lot ever since it arrived.

Think-think-think-think.

This is what I hit on. I want to pay that thrill forward. I want you, my friends and readers, my readers who are my friends, to receive a piece of cool mail in your letterbox. I can't make it a surprise like the arrival of my postcard was, since I am telling you about it now, but I do want to make it a little something to look forward to. C'mon, a postcard from Holland? That will be some fun, right?

Here's my plan.
(Pay attention, this is also the way I am coordinating this post to work for my Friday Fifteen for the week. Stay with me here, and applaud me for my creative thinking.)

1. If you want to play, meaning:you want a card, leave me a comment.
2. Your comment needs to be a 15 word reply.
3. Not fourteen.
4. Nor sixteen.
5. Just fifteen words in the comment box.
6. Be creative.
7. Be redundant.
8. Be enthusiastic.
9. Be brief.
10. Fifteen words. (That is words NOT syllables)
11. Sign off with your email address.
(which doesn't count as part of your 15 words)
12. Encrypt it anyway you like.
13. I will need that so I can contact you
to get your HOME ADDRESS.
14. Because I am going to send you a postcard.
15. In the mail.





Something to See

Looking Into Photo Blog


Consider this your personal invitation to visit the new blog.

Come on. Click the image. Enter and enjoy.

See you there.

Thursday, August 23

Something to Count On

It was a metal box.

I can still see it in my memory, sitting there on the front porch. The logo from the neighborhood dairy emblazoned upon the front panel. When the lid was lifted the thin metal would bow and wobble just the tiniest bit. And when the lid was dropped? There was a satisfactory clang as the top slapped the squared edges of the box and jangled back into place.

It was our milk box.

Lid open--little wobble.
An evening chore to place the empty glass bottles inside; the box's inner metal rack holding them tightly. Six bottles standing at attention.
Lid closed--clang.

Lid open--little wobble.
An early morning discovery of bottles full; foil tops pressed and sealed onto the narrow rim. A careful lift and carry to bring the newly delivered milk into the house, bottles nestled on the refrigerator's shelves.
Lid closed--clang.

Every week it was the same; empty bottles in the evening, full bottles next morning.

Fresh milk delivered.

To the top step of my porch.

In a metal box.

Wednesday, August 22

These Are a Few of His Favorite Things



Looking Into Photo Blog

All wordless. All the time. All welcome.

Tuesday, August 21

Ik ben Totaal Gestoord

I am a dork. A completely irresponsible girl.

When we first moved to The Netherlands and set up a bank account we did so under my husband's name. The bank in turn issued us a debit card.

A card. As in single. Only one card on the account.

To be honest, this wasn't really a problem. In the first place we were living a student-life schedule which meant that much of our day was spent together. Don was around every morning as well as most evenings so all outings to the grocery store or elsewhere were joint enterprises. Therefore, it certainly never mattered that I wasn't carrying a card of my own. I had a personal money-bags by my side and he doubled as a grocery sack carrier. No big deal.

The second part of this equation is the fact that we were self-financed during that first year, as in there was no income, and the easiest way to stay on budget was to live on a cash only basis. Withdrawing money at the beginning of the week, making it stretch and last to the end was an enjoyable challenge. I got a real kick out of making it to Saturday with a few euros still left in play. There is nothing like the rush of living within your means!

But that was the first year.

The second year of our international experience brought an income, a change in schedule, but alas, no additional debit card. The past 14 months or so have been a continual juggling between Don and I as we swap the single card back and forth, or make quick stops at an ATM, depending on our individual spending needs.

Finally, we decided that we needed to get a second debit card. It would mean the end of our little swap and exchange, but we figured it would be the best plan all around.

Yes, you can say it, we are a little slow on the uptake.

Don and I scheduled an appointment at the bank and then sat through the painfully long process of adding my name to the account (after all, I am soon to be a source of income in this family!) and applying for an additional card.

It arrived in the mail last week.

And finally here is the point of this post:

In the past seven days of my card ownership, I have lost the card three times. By lost I mean misplaced, and by misplaced I mean stuck in strange places. Like the bookshelf, the mantelpiece and the pocket of a pair of pants crumpled up inside the laundry hamper. Only one of these losses caused deep consternation and woe as I stood at the checkout of the grocery store with no means to pay for my already scanned groceries. But seriously, lost three times in seven days? Don't they make places to keep these kinds of things, like perhaps a wallet?

It just goes to show that I am really not the world's most responsible person. Who says that 41 years is in any way the age of an adult?

I suppose it's a good thing I don't have any car keys.

Monday, August 20

There is a Season

I believe in timing. I don't know that it's everything, but it certainly is, well, a lot. My life is a series of moves wherein the timing of events altered my course, leading me to new paths and in new directions. I have myriad examples to back up such a claim. From the moment I met my husband more than 20 years ago, to the way I just landed my new job, there is a strong pattern in my life that timing dictates my destiny.

I also want to mention that I believe in simultaneous epiphanies.

Indulge me and I will tell you why.

Recently, as in December 2006, my husband spoiled and surprised me with a gift. An insightful gift as it turns out. At Christmastime he presented me with a new camera--a digital SLR, Canon EOS 400D to be precise. I had never owned such a nice piece of equipment before. It is an incredible piece of technology and I immediately went to work to see just what it could do. Or what I could do with it as it were.

I fell instantly in love.

As I look back, I can see the timing of this was spot on.

With our move to The Netherlands in 2005, I left behind my teaching program which was just about as everything to me as a job could possibly be. I missed the creative outlet and the spontaneity of teaching the performing arts. I hadn't yet opened a blog to feign artistry in my writing. But I was longing for a form of expression. I didn't realize just how much until the shutter of my SLR opened and closed and I found something new.

Photography.

Oh, how I love photography.

The impetus to open this blog was two-fold for me. First I thought it would be the perfect way to keep in touch with my friends and family to keep them apprised on the happenings in our international life. (I didn't know there would be all of you wonderful, wonderful, WONDERFUL people who come by to read, comment, build me up and make me part of an an incredible community) But secondly, and possibly the most exciting part for me, was the idea that I could publish my photographs.

It's been a perfect venue to do just that.

But wait, there's more.

I mean to say, I wanted to do more.

It wasn't so much a conscious thought as a latent wish. You should know, I take photographs every day. Every. Day. And I have hundreds sitting on my hard drive. Just sitting, without a frame or a place to hang. I really wanted to do something with them, but what? Then, last week my blogging hero, Allison at Soccer Mom in Denial expressed the wish out loud. Not my wish but her own, to open a site where she could share her photographs. And if we're being technical here it was not so much that she said it, but rather e-mailed it; this thought she'd had about opening a photo blog. Without thinking hesitation I sent her a response with the query Couldn't I please be part of that? Could we do it together?

So we are.

A new photo blog launches today. It is our joint effort. Allison and me. And we intend it to be a joint effort between many. A venue for others to share in the art and expression of photography.

The site is called Looking Into, as based on a quote by Ansel Adams: A photograph is usually looked at--seldom looked into.

You can visit the new blog by clicking here.

Or here.

Or even here.

(I really don't want you to miss the launch.)

I am so pleased to be part of this project and I hope you will be pleased with what you see.
You are coming over to see, right?

I will see you there. And here.

There's time for everything.

Looking Into Photo Blog

Saturday, August 18

Complete Genius

Accepting the blame
Has never been so funny
Go read Leslie's blog!

Friday, August 17

Moments and Memory

The bags packed and ready to go. We hired a seven passenger van for the road trip to France. Now, lest you think a seven person van in Holland also has room for seven person's luggage, I must dissuade you of that notion immediately! Consider it a mini minivan.

mini
being the operative term.


Undaunted, we crammed every nook and stored items in every cranny, then strapped ourselves in for the ride.

The route we planned toward Praz sur Arly would take us past Brussels into Luxembourg on our first night. Second day road tripping took us through bits of Germany where we lost track of the highway we needed to be on, then did some backtrack and took the road through France. Ultimate destination: The French Alps! Specifically, the village of Praz sur Arly tucked high in the hills.

And now, without adieu, I give you the memorable moments of our week in the hills.

1. Singing at the top of our lungs "We are a family, such a happy family..." as we started on our way. This song comes to us by way of our good friends in Arizona (thanks, M!) and includes a verse for everyone in the vehicle by descending age. Yeah, that's seven verses. One for Grandpa, one for Grandma, one for me--because I am older than Don, one for that cute boy I married, then for Ian, Emma, and Andrew in succession.

2. Playing with Andrew's new race car in the parking lot of the hotel as we waited for the check in. Toy cars go really fast down hills!

3. Sightseeing in Luxembourg.

4. Things like this:

5. And this:


6. And this too:

7. Starburst for breakfast.

8. McDonald's for lunch. (Okay, that's really not a highlight but I didn't want anyone thinking we were eating any such thing as fine french food on this road trip with kids.)

9. Stopping for groceries in Chamonoix. We discovered a big chain store there in France which feels something akin to walking into a Super Wal-mart. (Strange, the things that make you nostalgic). The best part of this particular stop was watching my Mom dig deep into her high school French of 45+ years ago and ask an employee where we could find toilet paper. En voila! The search was a stunning success.


10. The chalet style homes we rented for our stay. Two small apartments on the third floor, each with a tiny kitchen, a bedroom, a bathroom with a tub--no shower, a toilet and a set of bunkbeds in the hallway. Is there a word for something this cute? Quaint doesn't even cut it. There is just so much atmosphere and coziness there. Sleeping at the Caribou II chalet simply makes the experience. Makes it perfect.

11. Waking in the mornings to see goats grazing on the steep hillside. And stunning cloud cover breaking over the mountaintops.


12. Little walks into the village, long explores through the forest, throwing rocks into the stream.

13. Playing cards at night around the kitchen table. Laughing until I cried listening to my Dad's stories and anecdotes.

14. The train ride up the steep mountainside of Mount Blanc. The train pitched at so steep an angle you could lean into the ride and not lose balance on your feet. Like this:

And at the top of Mount Blanc? This (in August!):


15. A long car ride homeward replete with laughing, snoozing, car counting games and not-without-enthusiasm singing for Andrew's entertainment. Finally, a crash and burn kind of sleep in our own beds and the pleasant sensation of a thousand memories etched into our psyche.



Thursday, August 16

Remember This

My parents arrival to The Netherlands was not without fanfare and circumstance. They traveled from Dallas to London without a problem, but upon arrival on this side of the pond they found themselves trapped in that never ending loop of travelers' woes:

Delayed plane. Broken plane. Deplane. Replane. Take off quickly before the flight must be cancelled for personell time restriction regulations. Don't wait for the luggage to load on the new plane. Leave the baggage in London. All of it.

That kind of woe.

What should have been the easiest part of the journey--a one hour flight from London to Amsterdam--turned into the longest, most arduous hours we all had to pass. They, in the Gatwick airport being juggled from plane to plane, bad news continually being delivered in polite British tones. Me, in the Schipol airport pacing the corridors between arrival halls with three kids in tow, watching the update screens with horror as the flight arrival time clicked forward once, twice, thrice making the expected arrival time 3 hours past the printed schedule.

Once we were certain that their airplane had arrived we lined ourselves up at the announced gate and waited. We waited and waited and waited. At arrival gate 4.

They came into gate 3.

It was a great reunion in spite of the fact that it took hours longer to get our arms around one another than we had anticipated. After another hour given over to track down the office to leave an address for luggage delivery, we were finally on our way to our home in The Hague.

At least we were all together.

Saturday morning, after a night's sleep, Andrew insisted that the entire clan take a walk--carrots in hand--to the neighborhood farm where we could feed the goats, pet the chickens and chase the pigeons.

Saturday afternoon included another trip to the airport to personally track down luggage and bring it home. (The delivery of said bags by the airline was woefully behind schedule) Then, the mad fest began as my Mom unloaded suitcases filled with U.S. goodies for us. Peanut Butter, Starburst, PB & Toast crackers, Reeses Peanut Butter cups (is there a theme here?), jeans for me, shoes for Andrew, shirts for Andrew, medicine, books for Don. The living room floor was soon heaped with treasures. It looked a little like a Christmas morning and felt like a holiday indeed.


Unbenownst to her, my Mom couriered over her own birthday present and I loved watching her open the gift, first giggling and then tearing-up over the mother's necklace we had designed for her.*


That evening we took a walk through the area ultimately headed for a stroll along the boardwalk at the beach. The weather was clear, the temperature warm, and the company perfect. As we strolled we talked. And laughed. And cajoled. And shared stories. We inspected the textile fine art currently on display. Then we watched a perfect sunset over the North Sea. Light danced on the water and blanketed the sky in vibrant color as Earth's star slowly dove into the ocean.


There is a Dutch word that takes in the all encompassing feeling of being comfortable, peaceful, settled and cozy. When a moment is all of those things you call it gezellig.


With my parents in town, teasing and laughing with my kids as we lingered in end of the day light and love I can definitively declare
gezellig is just the word.

*My Mom's Mother's Necklace designed and handcrafted

by the wonderful Crystal at Two Belles and a Bead.

Wednesday, August 15

Tuesday, August 14

The Blame Game

There is a first time for everything and today is absolutely no exception to that rule. This is the first time the Blame It On This Blog award has been given. And before I even explain the award I am going to dive in and present it to Leslie of My Mommy's Place. The Blame she receives is well deserved as she caused me and many others some serious haiku grief these past few weeks as we scribbled and scrawled through the blogosphere in 17 syllables. She knows what she started and she is rightfully proud of the onslaught in 5-7-5 rhythm which began with a challenge at her place.

Thanks a lot Leslie
Haiku has overtaken
my minuscule brain


BTB button

This button is for you baby!
Awarded jointly by the committee formed to award such things as this.

You know the ones we're talking about. Those bloggers with their memes, interviews, contests.

You can't stop thinking about it.

You keep on entering, or modifying your entry. You think about something else you want to say. You add to what you've written or submit another entry or find yourself tagged yet again for another meme.

Or maybe it's a quiz that you can't stop taking.
Or a post where the comments are fast and furious and you can't stop checking on what else someone else has said.

Suddenly, you find that this whole theme has taken over your thoughts while riding or driving, your quiet time when you should be working, your dreams at night, your blog!

We (a self-appointed committee of like-minded bloggers) decided it was time to give credit where it's due and have developed this very special "Blame It On THIS Blog!" Award.

The rules are simple.


1. Sometimes we all want to blame someone. If you know of a deserving blogger, please submit your nomination and reasons for placing the "Blame" to the Award committee:
Jenn in Holland, Soccer Mom In Denial, Not That Different and Fourier Analyst.

No one wants to be "Blamed" for everything, so please limit your reasons for nominating to specific and deserving instances where "Blame" should be given. Recipients of the "Blame" will receive the button to display on their blog along with their "Mea Culpa" at their own convenience.

The Award committee wants to remind all bloggers that they should not be discouraged if their nominee does not get an award the first time as there is plenty of "Blame" to go around and at any future time it may be deservedly placed!.

2. Anyone who has received the "Blame" is also free to pass it on to another blogger, once! We hope all recipients of the "Blame" award will accept it in the humorous spirit in which is has been conceived!

************************************************************************
While we are on the subject of blame, I would like to share a little with the amazing Crystal who blogs at The Song of My Soul and creates amazing handcrafted jewelry at Two Belles and a Bead. I contacted Crystal with a request for a mother's necklace I could present to my Mom on her birthday. Crystal came through with flying colors, or with flying-colored-swarvoski-crystals to be precise. This is what she created for me my Mom:

The beads you see hanging from the center are the birthstones of her children. And the stones threaded into the chain are the birthstones of her 19 grandchildren. The blame I am sharing with Crystal? That's for the tears in my Mom's eyes as she opened her gift.


Thanks Crystal. From the bottom of my heart.

*********************************************************************************
Further on the discussion of buttons I would like to thank Tori who writes When I Finally Decided to Get It for sharing the Rockin' Girl Award with me. If you are not a regular reader of Tori's, I encourage you to venture in. She is a deep thought, honest emotion writer who shares her journey to grow with grace and elegance. I love Tori's work and get swept away in her writing.



Also, a thanks to Mousey of Say Cheese for the award of Rockin' Girl as well. Mousey's photos are always a delight and her comments heartfelt. I love a photographer and any blogger with Cheese in the blog title!

******************************************************************

Before I go, one more thing about me! The results are in and while the big congratulations for the WIN go to Jami , I was awarded an honorable mention in the Haiku Buckaroo contest at My Mommy's Place. Thanks again to Leslie for hosting the fun. You can be sure you'll be seeing the button on my sidebar soon.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging.

Monday, August 13

Journey

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."


"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.




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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.

Friday, August 3

15 Consolations

We have counted it down, crossed off the days on the calendar, torn the rings from the paper chain, and finally it is here! My Mom and Dad arrive today!
It is impossible to sum up the excitement we are feeling about the touchdown of that airplane they are aboard.

Ecstatic?
Thrilled?
Eager?
Keyed Up?

Yep. All of that.

We will give them exactly one night to adjust themselves to the European clock and tomorrow morning the seven of us will be piling into a rented van to take a road trip through Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. Our ultimate destination is the village of Praz sur Arly where we spent Christmas 2006. We have rented two chalet style flats for our stay and plan to spend our time exploring the area, taking in the countryside by foot, and enjoying the week away together.

When I say away, I mean that in a very literal sense. There will be no television, no phone and no wireless hookup where we are going. Obviously, I will be out of touch.


For your pleasure while I am away, and ultimately mine when I return, I leave you with this list of links to ME.



  • Things maybe you haven't read because you weren't here yet.

  • Photos you might not have seen.

  • Posts which are crying out for your feedback, your opinions, your comments.
Even if you've read them before, tell me you stopped by. It will make me feel all tingly inside. Really. Just share a little love won't you?

It may look like a long list, but take it in just like you'd face an elephant on your dinner plate: One bite at a time friends.

First the posts:

Then, the photos:

It's something to do right? You'll visit every day while I am gone, yes?

I can't wait to see what you have to say.



Friday Fifteen

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*quickly! an update before I leave for the airport*

Still shameless self-promotion here. Scribbit's Write-Away contest for August has been posted. I get to judge the entries. You should give it a go! Come on, you know you want to.

And now, because Fourier Analyst asked, and because I said I would, here is another Haiku. It will be my last entry to Leslie's Haiku Buckaroo contest. (Really, Leslie, I am done inundating the inbox with entries!) If you haven't entered YET--and I know you will--you have until Friday, August 10 to get it done.

speaking the sublime
in complete coherent thought
is pure poetry

Thursday, August 2

Surfacing

I got a late start this morning, due to a late night. Don and I were in Leiden last night for a results meeting on this latest round of genetic tests on our growth and development delayed youngest son, Andrew. It was a meeting which is best summed up with the phrase "no news is good news" as we have come to call these visits with the geneticist. Nothing obvious showing. No known cause at the root of his issues. However, instead of leading to more questions or uneasiness, this particular meeting left me with a unwavering form of peace.

For the moment anyway, I am breathing easy about the prospects and future of this little man.

And I am still from the inside out.

Perhaps that is resignation to the obvious. I like to think of it as acceptance of the present.


At any rate, when we stepped out of the hospital corridors, we stepped into a serene summer evening. The sky was clear, the sun just waning toward sunset, and the air was dry and warm. Rather than clamber aboard train and tram toward home we decided to linger in Leiden for a few hours. When it was time to return home, it was quite late, and as a matter of fact--with Don picking up his bike at Central Station to ride home--I was the lone rider on the #3 tram for the last few stops before reaching my neighborhood.

It doesn't often happen that I am out this late, or on my own at all, but each time I am I like to breathe a little deeper, notice a little more. Last night I once again acknowledged to myself just what a gem of a life I lead. As I took the short walk from the tram stop to my home, I listened to my new boots strike the footpath with a steady clapping rhythm.

I gazed up toward the flat building which towers over the houses of my neighborhood and smiled at the sight of lamp-lit windows with unique displays on each ledge.

I admired my neighbors' gardens filled with summer flowers, red gardenia spilling out of containers displayed in nearly every yard or hanging in baskets from balconies.

Holland is such a lovely place, so quaint in so many ways. So safe, and so secure. I can't remember a time in the US when I felt perfectly content to stroll darkened streets alone in the wee hours of morning; yet this is common here in The Netherlands. It is a country which boasts virtually no violent crime. I feel confident sending my children off to errands at the local shops without me. Our two oldest have far more freedom to wander here than was granted to them in Phoenix.

I am grateful that we are in a place I can offer that to them. And give that to myself as well.

This morning when I woke I was so pleased to note the feelings of the night had not faded in sleep. As I rolled out my yoga mat to practice alongside my husband this morning I was filled with that same sense of peace and contentment. This sense that everything, everything, is going to be okay.

What a way to start the day.

sun salutation
breathe deep. inhale the new day
exhale the nights' sleep*

*You knew there would be a haiku!
This is going to
Leslie's contest too.

Wednesday, August 1

Gifts and Honors

Today is the day. The first day of the month. The day to award this:

Original Perfect Post Awards – July 2007

A Perfect Post for the month of July.

I proudly present it to Allison, who writes Soccer Mom in Denial, for Ceremony.

This piece centers on the core concept of embracing diversity. A philosophy I seek to fully implement in my life; a concept I strive to teach to my children; an issue which, yes, calls me to my soapbox. Truly, this is an idea I simply couldn't be MORE FOR.

I applaud this post and I applaud this writer. Well done, friend.

Thanks to Momma K and Lindsay for hosting the Perfect Post awards. Check their sites for more Perfect Posts.


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In other news, I got a couple of somethings from some someones myself. I want to thank these bloggers friends for the kindness shown. I really am deeply honored.

From Brillig I received this:

And she said this about me:

It goes to
Jenn in Holland–I don’t know Jenn “in person,” but she has become a dear, eternal friend. She always leaves comments here, and she always replies to the comments I leave at her site. She’s even been known to drop me an email just to tell me that she’s thinking of me. I know! Could there be a cooler e-buddy? She’s the most thoughtful blogger I know. I love you, Jenn.

Thank you Brillig. I love you too.


Karen, who writes Author Mom with Dogs bestowed this:

and this:


And I thank her kindly.

She also gave my daughter this:


Awarded for her stories told at her own site, About A Girl.
When I saw this button and read Karen's words about Em, the Mama pride in me welled up and the gratitude fell down my cheeks in tender tears. Karen, thanks for thinking of my baby. That alone gets you a rockin' friend award.

I just need to figure out how to make the button.

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And finally a Haiku for Leslie's Haiku Buckaroo contest. (Did you enter yet?)

Four-year-old kisses
sticky with peanut butter
all sweetness to me

Garden Shoes



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Shopping day for me
New shoes, five shirts, one blazer
I am off to work*


*For Leslie's Haiku Buckaroo contest