27 May 2014

I (Unexpectedly) Miss Screens

You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone - and screens in the windows is one of those normal aspects of housing in America that you don't necessarily find in Europe. Most homes have no screens on their windows. They can be purchased, but most of the time you or someone else needs to custom-build for your window needs. Since we knew we had a temporary lease in this house, I decided that I'm too cheap to spend the time and money, but there have been a few instances I really wish that we had them.

It would keep the cats in. I can't prove it definitively because I didn't see it happen, but I am 99.99% sure that one of the cats jumped out of a window on the first floor (that's the second story for the North Americans) into the garden below. Tweedle-Dum (meaning Sebastian) has a tendency to perform amazing, yet extremely stupid and rather graceless acrobatic feats to get into high places or get outside. During this particular episode, I had left some bedding to air out in Little Man's window and went about my business. A little while later I heard a crash of some child-sized chairs falling over, then saw the cat outside. The backdoor was still locked and the downstairs windows shut, so leaping out the window seems the only likely scenario, though I had previously thought (and hoped) he wasn't dumb enough to try it. At least he didn't break himself in the process.

And then he had the gall to yell at me when I
wouldn't let him out as I left the house later that day.

It would keep Little Man in, or out. Occasionally, we have to remind the Little Man that while the cats may do it, it's not okay for people to crawl through the kitchen window when the backdoor is closed.

It would keep the critters out. One night last fall while Mark was out of town, I found a monster-sized spider I on the blinds in our bedroom just after finishing the bedtime routine with Little Man. I'm not exactly a huge fan of spiders to begin with, and I think this was the "big one" I've been worried about. I couldn't smack it without bending the blinds and/or missing and losing it and spending a sleepless night waiting for it to crawl over my face. Instead, I spent 15 minutes performing some sort of extended swatting action with a thick pamphlet, vigorously "encouraging" the spider to go out the wide-open window. About 2 minutes into the performance, Little Man came bounding out of bed and into the room to provide questions and commentary that didn't exactly calm my mania. (What's his name? His name is Charlie? He's REALLY big. Spiders lay eggs? Is Charlie a mama? Wow, that was a silly thing to do! - and when Charlie finally acquiesced to my repeated requests to rocket out the window - FLY, CHARLIE, FLY!!!!) This guy wasn't the first to crawl through the window, and he sure won't be the last, but I really just try not to think about it.

It's one more item to keep people out. I know that the Netherlands is one of the safest countries in the world, and maybe I was living in Chicago too long, but to me there's something about the psychological barrier provided by a screen in a window. Yes, one can easily get through a screen if they want to, but
it would be easier to just forget about it and move on. For now, we just close the windows when we're gone.

That being said, there are two situations that come to mind that I don't mind having screens. The first is if a child locks themselves in, and you out. This happened once during a playdate, but since the window was open, I just climbed in and unlocked the door from the inside. The other situation is any time we want to use the kitchen window like a McDonald's drive through - usually while we're grilling. These are all fine and good for a once-in-a-while-need, but I think I'd still prefer the screens.

Have you been surprised by a "normal" thing from your homeland that just isn't a thing in your new country?

25 May 2014

#SundayTraveler: Tilburg's Hasseltse Kapel

Tilburg is the sixth largest city in the Netherlands, but it doesn't draw many tourists as the travel guidebooks rarely mention anything outside of the area surrounding Amsterdam and The Hague. Since travelers aren't necessarily directed to Tilburg, I thought I would point out some of the great hidden gems that are worth exploring around the city. Recently, a friend of mine (a native of Tilburg with a real appreciation for the city's history), brought me to visit the Hasseltse Kapel - the oldest religious monument in Tilburg, and one that certainly deserves some recognition.

The Hasseltse Kapel was erected approximately in 1536, though the first document to mention the chapel is dated from 1540. Interestingly, the chapel wasn't used for worship between 1648 and 1796 - there were no priests specifically assigned to the chapel and for a time the chapel was used as a regular house, though the clock tower and the building itself were still used for public functions.

As worship services returned in 1796, a wooden Baroque style statue of Mary holding the Christ child was installed in the chapel. Though the years, benefactors of the chapel and donors have left elaborate clothing and jewels on the statue as a sign of their faith and devotion. In 1971 and 1972, the chapel and the statue were restored, fundraising for which was helped in a great part by schoolchildren selling commemorative decorative plates with an image of the chapel.

Today, the chapel holds some religious services and arrangements can be made for Catholic and non-Catholics that wish to hold their wedding and anniversary ceremonies in the chapel. In the month of May the chapel celebrates Mariamaand (Mary's Month) and Catholics make a pilgrimage to the chapel as an act of devotion. The chapel is easy to miss if you're not looking for it - it stands in the middle of a park in a small, quiet neighborhood. But the peace and quiet that surround the chapel and it's unique history make it a wonderful place to visit.

The Hasseltse Kapel (Hasseltplein 40, 5042 AC Tilburg) is open daily from 09:00 to 19:00, unless otherwise scheduled. Visit the website for additional information.

Today's post is part of the #SundayTraveler linkup hosted by Chasing the Donkey and friends. Please be sure to check out the other great blogs!

20 May 2014


We've got a few things going on around here - and I'm trying to plan but also not over plan and drive everyone nuts. And since it's never a good idea to keep all these things bottled up, you, my lucky readers, get a glimpse into my mind today.

Little Man and I are headed back to Boston in less than two weeks. My brother is graduating from high school, and we want to make sure we're there to celebrate. I've been planning visits with people while we're in the States and what we can do to help around the house for the celebrations - but I'm also planning on how to manage the Little Man by myself for the trip. Mark will be staying in Tilburg as the end of the academic year keeps him awfully busy, and while I've done air travel with the Little Man alone plenty of times (starting when he was 10 or 11 weeks old), I've never done such a long trip. Much of my preparation for this is a mental psych-up, and I'm going to cross my fingers that he continues his "good traveler" streak.

When we return, we dive right into plans to find a new home and move. Our current home is a rental, and the contract is up without the possibility to renew in August. We've already tried looking a bit, but the agencies I've talked to all say that it's too early to start. But once we get back, I'm starting up fresh and serious to find something - because I can't stand the idea of sitting in limbo.

I expect the next month or so will be interesting with all the travel and planning, but we'll be plodding through it since no one else is going to do it for us.

Do you have planning going on? Have you ever moved within a foreign country?

14 May 2014

The Book Hoarders

One of the things we did in order to prepare for our international move was donate/give away/sell a lot of things that we owned. This included a lot of our books. We had 3 full-size bookcases, a kid's bookcase, and several piles on the floor, and we cleared out approximately 1/3 of all the books. That's a big number, but it may surprise you more when you see the number of books that we still have around. Factor in the e-books we have on our respective e-readers and it's a good thing those are electronic - they'd take up more room than what we gave away.

Just a sampling

The main reason for all the books starts with the fact that we are nerds. That's number one, plain and simple. Mark and I have always read a lot, and as adults that has only increased with our interests. We're both what you would call "lifelong learners" - there's so many more things to find out about, and books are a wonderful way of starting.

Living in a country where English is not the main language has, I believe, only increased our love of books. You can get plenty of English-language books in the Netherlands, but books that are not on the best-seller lists are harder to come by, especially in Tilburg. They've become a cherished commodity, and a connection to our "normal."

Seriously, it's a good thing e-books don't weigh anything... This single e-book is 1712 pages.

Even Little Man's book collection continues to grow. Sure, there are plenty of board books left, but I'm hesitant to give any away. For one thing, I'm not sure where you give English language children's books around here, but I'm also thinking about Little Man's reading development since he is showing signs of pre-reading (in English). I know that Step-Into-Reading books will be hard to come by, so I keep the "baby books" around so that there is something for him to start reading on his own.

We will be moving this summer, and while I've started trying to de-clutter and toss things so we don't move them, I have no plans to touch the books - they're all coming with us. Ideally, we'd make more of an effort to limit the "stuff" we have, but I often keep books out of that category. The books are stories, experiences, knowledge, and so much more - the kinds of things you never want to let go. The kinds of things that are for keeps.

12 May 2014

School's in!

Do you hear that?

Me neither. It's the sound of quiet. And it's beautiful.

The last two weeks we've had Meivakantie, which means that Little Man and I were palling around for the weeks and finding new things to do. It was a great time with trips around Tilburg and visiting with friends and generally good bonding time. But it also meant that very little else got done... and there were very few moments of silence in the house.

But today, school's back in and I'm returning to my own routine. In the next week I plan to get back writing, Dutch homework, lesson planning, and returning the house to it's normal level of chaos. We'll get back into a routine and be more regular around here as well. So don't fret, we're going to get back to normal and start posting regularly again, but today I may take an extra few minute to enjoy the quiet. Maybe I'll even take a few minutes to savor my lunch.

Here's to your week!

What's the first thing you do when trying to get back into your normal routine?

03 May 2014


We're right in the middle of the Meivakantie here in Tilburg - which means we've been in entertainment mode since last Friday and not so able to make it to the computer.

The Meivakantie (May vacation) gives school 2 weeks off, covering some of the major holidays in the Netherlands - including Koningsdag (King's Day) and Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day). This is also a time when many families take vacation time since they have a full two weeks. We're staying at home during our Meivakantie but we've taken advantage of the extra time to see friends and relax.

What this non-post is trying to report is that we're keeping everyone busy during our vacation time, and there's really not much to report at the moment. But hopefully we'll be back in full swing soon.
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