Is it too much for your kid or simply a new challenge to overcome?

‘I don’t want to go to school,’ wails my eldest.  

‘I’m not going to school either,’ echoes my youngest.

‘Why not,’ I ask my eldest and try to tune out the barrage of whining that comes from my youngest, something about if her sister doesn’t go then she shouldn’t have to go because that’s not fair etc, etc.

‘I want to go to an English school,’ she says and then bursts into tears.  ‘I only have one teacher who speaks English, they all speak Dutch.’

‘Are you having trouble understanding what they are saying?’


‘Does it feel really hard?’

‘Yes,’ she wipes her face and then tightens her jaw.  ‘I’m staying home.’

‘You are both going to school.  I know it’s a hard thing.  I have my dutch school today, and it’s really hard.  I haven’t done my homework and I don’t want to go, but I need to.  Sometimes we have to do hard things.  Remember when you started kinder, you didn’t want to go, but after a while, you loved it.  And when you changed classes, you didn’t want to.  That was another hard thing, but you did it, and you know, after a while you loved that too.  And then when we came to Amsterdam, you started at a new school, and you didn’t want to do that either.  But you stuck with it, and now you miss it, that’s how much you grew to love it.  Let’s give this school a little more time, you know, you might grow to love this one too.’

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To Pixie or Not To Pixie

‘I need a haircut.’ I say complaining for the millionth time about my unruly locks. I’m still morning the loss of my fine, dead straight blond(ish) hair, the kid of hair I did not appreciate when I was letting it dry naturally straight from the shower and running a brush or my fingers or whatever I had handy before sauntering out into the world without a backwards glance at the mirror. Now the mirror just laughs at me, and I’ve tried all different cuts to figure out what to do with my now frizzy, slightly curly, thick, wiry mousy brown hair. Whose hair is this anyway? If some one had told me my hair would change this much with kids, I might have not gone into it so brazenly. Then again if someone had told me my life would no longer be my own, that it would almost kill my marriage and as a bonus I would be so tired I’d feel it in my bones, oh hang on, they did, I just thought It’d be different for me, somehow, I naievely/arrogantly thought I would figure out a way to be more resilient (I did not).

‘Why don’t you get a pixie cut?’ says my Mum.

I’m sure my eyes grow wide and my skin pales somewhat. ‘Maybe…’ I say attempting to find a polite way to say hell no. I’m still holding out hope that one day I will wake up to find my hair had miraculously returned to its former glory. I’m also hoping to sleep soundly through the night. Neither look good at this point.

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A Perrier Lifestyle…

‘Don’t drink that,’ says my husband shaking his head and screwing his forehead up in distaste at the generic silver and black can in my mum’s hand. ‘Soda Water pulls the minerals out of your body and leaves you more dehydrated. Drink this,’ he hands her a bottle of Perrier.

We are perched on stools in the business class lounge in Hong Kong. It seemed to be the least offensive place for us to perch, given that my girls’ ‘spirited cuteness’ tended to be viewed as a personal affront, in places like this.

Mum laughs and looks around at what has to be one of the largest business class lounges I’ve ever been in. It’s like a luxury hotel, chandeliers hang from the ceiling and people mill about in various states of activity – from those furiously tapping away on their laptops to those asleep on the chaise lounges. Staff stand at the ready behind four different buffet stations, offering a wonka-sized selection of doughnuts, ice cream, noodles, and antipasto.

‘This is my daughter’s life,’ says my mother, waving around the bottle of Perrier, ‘and this is mine,’ she says holding up a silver and black can of soda water.

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There were seven in the bed and the little one said…

‘Where are we staying?’ I ask my husband as the plane begins its descent into Hong Kong. Through the window, there is a dome of smog covering the city. I’m not sure I’m going to like it here despite everything I’ve read and heard.

‘We’re staying in an AirBnB,’ says my husband, still responding to emails.

‘Why aren’t we staying in a hotel?’

‘Because you wanted a kitchen to cook in.’

I don’t remember that conversation but it sounds like something I’d say. I must have figured it would be hard to get food that I could eat in Hong Kong, given that I still couldn’t eat rice, or spices, or sauces, or herbs for that matter. Oh, to be able to eat.

One of the specialists I’d seen had told me it ‘probably’ wouldn’t do me any damage if I kept eating these foods, I really appreciated his conviction, and that I might just have to suffer for a bit until my body became used to these things again. But my stomach felt like it was on fire whenever I ate anything that wasn’t ridiculously plain and slow cooked. It was as if my body had completely forgotten the art of digestion, so that food just wandered around like lumps of lead while my body panicked, trying to figure out what it was supposed to be doing.

Inside the apartment, my husband tried very hard not to let his head explode, and I tried very hard not to laugh hysterically.

‘We can’t stay here,’ he insisted, ranting at the tiny matchbox that would sleep all seven of us.

‘It’ll be fine,’ said my Mum, ‘an adventure.’

Our nanny and her fiancé, chose the double mattress wedged into the cupboard to the right. Their very own little burrow.

Traversing the kitchen/loungeroom/diningroom in three steps, that was tiled so that it could be hosed down, we ignored the shower/toilet combo which we would learn should only ever be used in one order, into what was ambitiously calling itself the second bedroom. Really, it was the end of the loungeroom cordoned off behind glass sliding doors that were just waiting for one of my children to run face first into.

The girls picked their bunks, and my husband and I drew straws for who we would sleep with. I drew the short straw, and ended up with my youngest’s feet in my face for two long nights.

Mum slept in the only room that looked as though it was originally designed as a bedroom. And if you stood on your right foot, with your head tilted wildly, and your eyes squinting you could just make out a rainbow of neon.

Yes, this will do nicely to pass the time until our flight to Amsterdam.

On the plus side, the house my husband picked for us to live in, in Amsterdam, was bound to be better than this… wasn’t it?

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How do you feel about living in Amsterdam?

‘So… how do you feel about living in Amsterdam for 12 months,’ says my husband, somewhat sheepishly.

Sure we’d talked about living in Europe for a year, Italy specifically, you know given that he is Italian. But doesn’t everyone talk about living abroad somewhere fabulous? At some point though, we know it’s just a fantasy, a tasty and delightful dream to live inside your own head, you know when the weather is bad, or you’re kids are marathon tantrumming. It’s not real, because then you have to deal with the cold realities of living in a country where you do not understand the customs, or why they have a chemist that is not actually a chemist, or why no one seems to accept credit cards.

‘Umm, what?’ I ask, trying to stall.

‘I’ve been working on a deal for the last six months. We put in a bid to buy a company in Amsterdam, and they just accepted our offer,’ he looks just above my head, as if the way out of this conversation were up there.

He keeps talking and I recognise words like ‘not definite’ and ‘pending due diligence’ through my flaming white rage/panic. I mean seriously, who works on a project that could completely change their family’s life for 6 months(!) without discussing it with their wife?? Special ops maybe, but my husband is no Arnie Swarzenegger in True Lies.

I yell a lot inside my own head, mostly the word No, repeatedly, I yell it a lot at him too. I feel a little better, not great, but definitely more satisfied. I’d spent less than 24 hours in Amsterdam. I knew people went there to get stoned. I knew they had great museums that were impossible to get into without planning, I knew they loved Miffy, because when I was there, decorated statues of the little bunny were everywhere.

‘You can’t get good food there,’ my effortlessly chic French friend, who always looks impeccable at school pick up tells me. ‘But it’s a good lifestyle, you’ll love it.’

‘It’s like the best bits of Melbourne and Byron Bay,’ says my husband, you’re not going to want to come back.

I read a book by an Australian woman who lived on a houseboat for two years.

‘Can we live on a houseboat?’ I ask my husband, looking up from the book. He glances at our 2 and 4 year old and raises his eyebrows.

Fast forward several months through the yelling and the ranting, the indecision and the panic attacks, and there we were, my husband and I, our four-year-old, our 2-year-old, our 10 bags, our Australian nanny, her fiancé (sure, we did not really know him, but she loved him, so he had to be pretty great, right?) and my mother, (because our nanny had injured her back 2 weeks before we were scheduled to fly out and was deemed unfit for work for at least 4 weeks), all of us, blinking in the garish fluorescent lighting at the check in counter at Tullamarine at stupid o’clock in the morning. All of us, embarking on this wild european adventure, together. How bad could it be?

‘It’s just an experiment’, I say to my husband, ignoring the buzzing feeling in my head and trying to remember how to breathe.

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