Creeping In

When we first moved back, a lot of people were curious about our kids and how they identify themselves: do they feel more Dutch (after all they were born here and lived here the first 7, 5 and 2 years of their lives) or American? My answer was a resounding ‘American.’ Five years is a really long time in kid-terms. And they were still so little when we moved. Obviously my eldest was the most ‘Dutch’ of the three, and my daughter, starting kindergarten that fall, had the most adorable Dutch accent when she spoke English. My youngest had just started talking and quickly learned that people didn’t understand his Dutch words. For him, The Netherlands was where we went on vacation, where Oma and Opa lived, nothing more.

So yes, this move was hard for them, and a huge change. It didn’t feel like coming home; not in the least. I’ve talked about it here before. We’re a few months further in now and it’s still rough at times, but I see them settling, I see them finding their way, and that makes me happy. And in the same breath, a little sad. They are slowly, while still 100% completely themselves, becoming more Dutch, less American. I see it in how my youngest writes his cursive capitals. In how my eldest casually uses the word ‘chill’ while speaking Dutch. The silly songs they pick up from school and sing at the top of their lungs. The way they complain about the weather. The increased Chocolate Sprinkle consumption. The classic Dutch kid experiences that I cannot relate to at all, or don’t know anything about. What? Mama? You mean you don’t know about…..?? Nope.

I don’t think they are aware of it. Which is good. As parents we alone are privy to this view, from outside yet so very close by, of our children’s development. What a privilege, and how painful, to be so aware of each new phase they enter and the old ones left behind. It’s a constant state of rejoicing and mourning all mixed up in one. This is common to everyone, but a move like we have made brings extra change, more obvious change, based on a new cultural experience that they are adapting to.

I just recently wrote to a friend considering a potential move overseas with kids for her husband’s job and I encouraged her that we end up where we are supposed to be, or more precisely, WHO we are supposed to be no matter where we live. This was the realization, when I finally, after two years of struggling, learned to accept and trust this, that allowed me to feel okay about moving back to the Netherlands. Basically, I was giving myself way too much credit for my kids’ formation. We make the choices we make now, in their best interests and to the best of our ability, but really, as long as the basis is there for them (love, support, and then letting them go) they will thrive and becoming their own incredible people, no matter where we are. Dutch or American, they will become fully themselves, and I look forward to having front row seats as the show continues.

Posted in Dual Citizenship, Family, kids, Moving back to the Netherlands, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Winter’s Last Hurrah

The birds are starting to chirp at 6:30 and it is light when my eldest leaves on his bike at 7:30. These are things I have been anticipating eagerly for some time now. I am happy to be heading into spring; in my opinion the best season in the Netherlands.

But first The Russian Bear was let lose on us. This is a cold front that comes down from Siberia to the North East and brings unusually dry, cold air and the chance of ice skating with it. Sadly, this time around the wind that delivered the cold never abated, and it came so late in the season that the ice had difficulty forming and there were very few places – even in the North and East – where safe skating could be found.

But as luck would have it, a shallow lake near us froze over beautifully (well, part of it) and a short window of skating opened up for us from Thursday last week to early Sunday morning. The saying here goes als het kan dan moet het ‘if you can, you must’ and my love of Dutch ice skating is only slightly tainted by this pressure to get out and find the ice and then skate on it a lot until it leaves. Sometimes I get a little weary of it. But mostly not.


The day they found it!


The family that skates together…. (photo Fine Fischer-Maijers)


Lots of windsurfers on skates and ice sailors


Everyone tends to skate loops in the same direction, just like at the rink. But sometimes the wind direction means it’s nicer to go against the flow


The whole gang… except our family in England


Sam in his skating club outfit, the kids took lessons this year and it has been fun to watch their improvement. Sam has become quite the fanatic! (photo Fine Fischer-Maijers)


Mom trying to keep up. It’s the story of my life these days. (photo Fine Fischer-Maijers)


And when the kids are done skating there is always this…


…And this

We also enjoyed a few days of traditional ice fun on our villages ‘Polderbaan’, a flooded field that is organized by the local skating club. There was ‘Ringsteken’, where one skater pushes another holding a long stick and tries to get the stick through a ring as they skate under it, and ‘Priksleeen,’ races on wooden sleds with metal runners and two sticks with nails in them to push yourself with (surprisingly hard to control, but our years of expert driveway sledding at my parents’ house paid off for our family).

Posted in Culture, iceskating, Seasons/Weather, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Etsy Shop Re-opened!

It has taken me 6 months, but I can finally announce that my new, Dutch-based Etsy shop is now officially opened! There was all sorts of snafu with changing to a foreign bank account using my old shop based in the USA, and since I wasn’t quite at the point of making millions (or, um, hundreds for that matter…) and having a huge following, I decided to cut my losses and start fresh.

It’s still a work in progress; I have the goal this week to add one or two new listings each day, and I am sure there will be some logistical kinks to straighten out, so I appreciate your patience and understanding (and please feel free to contact me with any feedback/tips to make it a better experience for you). Click on the ‘My Shop’ on the menu above or on the ETSY badge to the right for a direct link.

ALSO… If you are on Instagram, you have until tonight at 9pm (Central European Time), to like my latest post and tag a friend in the comments to have a chance to win a set of the animal postcards. In this way you can help me build a bigger base for my small business, thanks for your support!

New designs now for sale:


A set of four woodland animal postcards


A set of 6 Spring blossom note cards … perfect to fight off the late winter blues!


Posted in Art, Etsy, New items in shop | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Skinny Jeans

Fashion has never been known to take into account all the glorious variety of women’s bodies. It takes us all and tries to cram us into, for example, skinny jeans, when maybe not everyone’s finest bits are highlighted by the style. I, for one, don’t have skinny jean legs. I have the magnificent, strong and sturdy Brubaker calves instead. Anyway, since we moved to the Netherlands I have desperately needed new jeans but I have yet to find ‘normal’ pants. As in not skinny, which apparently is the new normal. I did find some hopeful ‘boyfriend’ jeans but that ended up meaning baggy butt and tight calves. Weird, and again, not the best look for me.

I got so desperate that I finally caved and bought a pair of cheap skinny jeans at the Hema to help tide me over until I found some jeans I actually like. I wear them now and have somewhat come to terms with them. The problem is, though, that a lot, well, almost all, of my socks are not really skinny jean compatible. Sometimes, when I am just at home and don’t have ankle socks or I forget to put my socks on first, this happens:  7AF96908-FD15-4BE9-832D-B6EE93367973And then I chuckle every time I look down because all I can think of is 5th grade and all that folding and rolling of the pant legs to, well, make them skinny at the ankles. I remember debating…socks up over the jeans or slouched down below the roll. But with skinny jeans this is so much easier. The damn socks don’t even really fit under the jeans because they are so tight. We’ve come so far.BDBDE71E-5CDF-4587-847E-3049FCD52148Side bangs, baggy turtleneck sweatshirt, rolled baggy jeans, slouched socks and brown loafers. And don’t you dare think of wearing your backpack on both shoulders.

Posted in Day-to-day, fashion, My Childhood | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments


My table is shaking as I type. There is another ‘wind event’ of sorts today. Force 10, I heard, but judging from the spray that is flying off the lake and coming in through the cracks of our upstairs dormer window, some gusts feel even stronger. Also, my toilet shook while I was sitting on it this morning. I kid you not. They should put that on the Beaufort Wind Scale. Shaking toilets.

Earlier, Sam and his friend decided to try to ride their bikes to school anyway. The wind wasn’t at its peak yet, but I was glad Maarten offered to accompany them through the open polder section. It was a side wind, and Sam fell over once and his friend twice. They made it just fine. This is what is called Building Character.

At the peak of the storm the wind pushed huge waves up over the dike and water filled our yard. It was intimidating and impressive.

Now the worst has passed, and the sun even peaked through before the rain started, just to add a little more wetness to our already sopping wet situation. I heard after that gusts reached 70 mph.E92FAE64-45B5-49D4-B517-E041F9273AFA

Posted in Seasons/Weather | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Not a Fan

Amos, it turns out, really hates, I mean like abhors, the wind and wet. Which means, as he lets us know on a daily basis, that he is decidedly not a fan of Dutch fall and winter. Spring won’t be any better, but I haven’t mentioned that to him yet. If we let him snooze in his favorite chair all day he tends to get restless and meow a lot at night. So out he goes. It doesn’t mean he has to like it, though.AEC3214A-954B-400C-93EB-E4ABBDBEC868

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I’ve been feeling fragile for awhile now. A month or so.  I keep so busy navigating the needs and worries of my high-sensitive kids that I sometimes forget to attend to my own sensitivities. They came by it honestly, after all. So things have been kind of rough, with lots of over-thinking and worrying and doubting. I keep trying to unearth my adventurous youthful self that moved halfway around the world without a second thought. But age seems to have made me aware of so much more and I find myself having third, fourth, and fifth thoughts on a regular basis.

I recently started a new series that reflects this fragile feeling. I dropped all stark winter designs and even the joyful light in the darkness Christmas themes that I normally love. Now, as the leaves fall and are blown into sodden piles; with winter only just approaching, I chose the quiet hope and fragile beauty that spring brings. The impossible reality of new life growing from seemingly dead wood. Vulnerable blossoms bursting open after a long spell of cold, dark sleep and showering us for a moment with extravagant, frilly, bright beauty before getting down to the serious work of producing fruit. Those pinks, and that yellow, they have been a delight to work with and, most importantly, they make me happy. And in that tiny seed of happiness perspectives and expectations shift, making room for even more happiness.

Sometime after Christmas, when the winter starts to wear us down and we wonder if it will ever end, these little beauties will come back from the printer and provide a glimpse of hope, a reassurance that Spring will come again. Until then I’m going to go ahead and keep them close, look at them often, and remember.


Posted in Art, Creativity, Homesick, Seasons/Weather | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments



I have written before about juggling two cultures and all the traditions and holidays that come with that. Fourteen years in I feel like I am starting to get the hang of it.

Halloween was the first big US holiday that we have been back in  the Netherlands for, and so I knew it would be an emotional one for the kids. Oh who am I kidding, it was emotional for all of us. We LOVED trick or treating in our little village of Somers with friends and neighbors. That very first year we were there the kids were over the moon to finally be able to experience real Halloween and the excitement never wore off.

Because of this I wanted to compensate more than I perhaps normally would. I have found that the best formula for combating homesickness is not always to try to imitate what we miss, what we had, but rather to honor and celebrate the occasion in a whole new way. It cuts out the pain of comparison and gives us the freedom to try something new that we might otherwise never experience.

And so instead of attempting trick or treating we stayed home and threw a spooktacular Halloween feast for our family. Spider webs, candles and flickering ghosts hung around the room went a long way towards creating the perfect atmosphere. Everyone was such good sports: they all crammed into our tiny living room for dinner (with a pretty complete representation of body parts) and enjoyed an outside fire and a game of nighttime tag as well.

We all went to bed feeling happy, content and exhausted. It was a huge success.

Thanks Fine Fischer for so many of the lovely photos!


Posted in Culture, Family, Holidays, Homesick, kids, Moving back to the Netherlands, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Bike Chronicles IV :: Wind


Wind. A calm day with no movement in the air is a rare thing here. It seems there is always at least a breeze, often a stiff breeze or light wind, and just as regularly a strong wind bordering on a light gale. Strong gales are not uncommon. And contrary to the fickle, gusty mountain winds, waking to wind here in the Netherlands generally means it will be a constant companion throughout the day. Never ceasing. And so we find ourselves just as often as not riding bikes with the wind. Gentle breezes that keep us cool and stir up the heavy, humid air. Light winds that trick us and make for an unexpectedly tiring ride. Side winds strong enough to buffet front tires and cause accidental swerving. Tail winds that push us in a hurry as we sit up tall, our backs acting as a sail. Head winds that bow us over our handlebars, hunkered down and grinding hard. Typical Dutch bikes don’t have gears, or three at most (for stiff breezes, strong winds and full-on gales, I suppose, as the only steep grades to be found in most parts of the country are dikes). And so we lean in, making ourselves small, and toil away. Legs burning, resigned to a slow, steady pace and a sweaty back upon arrival. Wind directions often shift throughout the day, so lucky folks might get a tailwind both ways. But that hardly ever happens. Double headwinds are much more common. A sort of Murphy’s Law for windy bike riding. This morning dawned with a heavy wind out of the West, which means today’s biking will be accompanied by a strong side wind. If I’m lucky it will shift just enough on the return ride to give me a little push in the back as I haul my groceries home. But it probably won’t.


Biking in the Netherlands. It may beat hagelslag, old city centers, museums and the sea in terms of what I love about living here. It ranks right up there with affordable universal health care. I have so many anecdotes related to bikes and bike riding in the Netherlands that I decided to start a weekly series:  The Bike Chronicles. Each week I will share a different aspect of this delightful part of Dutch life; sometimes just a photo that captures a moment, other times I might bite off a weightier, more thoroughly researched topic or share a longer story. Bikes will be at the center of each post, but really, through them, you will gain a much broader understanding of my daily life and Dutch culture in general. Enjoy!


Posted in Bikes, Day-to-day, Seasons/Weather, The Bike Chronicles | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Wat is dat?

Photo close-ups of typical Dutch things I come across that might be odd and unrecognizable to the foreign eye…stay tuned for the answer!


Living in a foreign country, even after years, increases ones observation skills. I find myself chuckling at odd things I notice while in line at the supermarket, riding my bike through busy city streets or the open countryside, waiting to pick up my kids at school, or looking out my front window. Things pop out at me that natives might see so often they simply stop noticing them. Occasionally, when I come across such things, I’ll post them here so that foreigners can take a stab at guessing exactly what they are looking at, or what it is used for, and natives can rediscover the beauty and uniqueness and – sometimes – hilarious absurdity of dutch life.

Posted in Architecture, Day-to-day, Wat is dat? | 9 Comments