When Moving Forwards into the Unknown is too Challenging

‘Higher, Mama,’ she says, her tone tight and sharp. My eldest’s frustration levels are maxed out with the amount of Dutch spoken at her school. She feels confused and misunderstood, I imagine it is like her world feels as though it is spinning wildly out of her control. Some days she cries. Most days she is angry.

‘Not like that,’ she snaps.

‘Please don’t talk to me like that,’ I say biting my tongue to stop the sharp retort that wants to be let free into the world. I breathe in and out slowly and keep pushing the swing. 

Read More

Finding the right school when you don’t speak dutch is like finding a needle in a haystack.

My daughters are now enrolled in four schools and on the waiting list for another six. To be fair it’s across two different countries, but still, it’s a lot of paperwork, a stupid amount of money, and a whole lot of stress.

I thought I was done with the school issue. My husband and I have been having the same debate (read argument) for the last four years. Private school versus Waldorf education. I’m pro Steiner, but my husband has equally strong views, both about that ‘hippy school’, and about the superiority of private education. Of course I am the one doing the reading, filling out the paperwork and dealing with the school meetings, so his opinion has very few time constraints, mine keeps encroaching on my day, filling the hours I am supposed to be spending writing.

In Melbourne, we had time to luxuriate about our different opinions, my eldest has been enrolled in both his and my preferred schools since she was a year old. We’ve been more lax with our youngest, because once one is in, it’s much easier to get the other in. Having just moved to Amsterdam, and then deciding we like it here and might actually like to stay, has really made life difficult. Our eldest turns five in September. That’s only four months away, as each school likes to remind me. And each of the schools we want has at least 10 other kids ahead of her. Of course, it’s made all the more difficult because 1) she doesn’t speak dutch and so cannot go to a dutch school and 2) I am really fussy about schools. I eliminate half of them because I don’t believe in their philosophies – where as my husband is inclined to just ‘apply everywhere and we’ll see where the chips fall.’ Of course, I’m the one filling in the paperwork, so it’s very easy for him to say that!

We have success at one school, but they want an immediate payment. It’s not our first choice, it’s not actually in our top 5. We decide to gamble her place, and take another spin on the education wheel. But we are already paying for two different kinder programs, the one she was attending in Melbourne because you have to give a full terms notice and we didn’t know if we were going to need to come back, and the one she is attending now, here in Amsterdam. I’m sure we could have bought first class ticket to anywhere in the world with the amount of money we’ve spent on school application and acceptance fees.

At this point it looks like I’ll be homeschooling, and my sanity is not sure this is a viable option. I call my husband, who has been chasing our number one school option.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More