I spent the last 2 weeks in the US visiting family. It was a wonderful time spent playing with kids, hanging out with family and all around enjoying life. In the back of my mind I was always thinking how much I loved home. I have lived in The Netherlands for nearly 10 years and I love it. As I was visiting the US I was constantly contrasting the US VS The Netherlands and The Netherlands was always the victor.
No Play areas in restaurants? Where we live…….
Constantly chasing your kids with disinfectant? In The Netherlands……….
UUGGHH! all this traffic! Do you know about our……….
It goes on and on (and probably in the opinion of my family, on and on and on and on).
I love it here. It’s great. I have chosen to call this little country home forever and I felt a bit superior about it all.
Then we came home. I was standing in Schipol and everyone around me was speaking Dutch.
Honestly, the reality of my struggles hit me like a ton of bricks. My life is amazing and I love it, but I suppose I had grown accustomed to being outside. My Dutch is passable but I struggle. No matter what a Dutch person will tell you (because they are, on the whole, a very accepting and amazing people) the language is a problem. Surprise, right!?!
I had spent 2 weeks in a world where strangers would chit-chat with me. Not just realize that I didn’t speak Dutch, repeat themselves in English and then move on. While in the US I had communicating with people on a level that I was very unaccustomed to. And it was so nice. Random things like what I was drinking and where I bought my pants were possible. I guess it had been so long that I had forgotten, but as I was standing in the airport waiting on my bags, after having been gone for what felt like an eternity, I realized how different things were from the outside.
Fast forward about 36 hours.
This is the basic skills test for Fresh Meat.
Spoiler Alert: I failed.
I struggled. But in the whole I thought I did pretty well with the basic skating.
After it was all said and over I met with the RockCity Roller who was judging my performance and who would decide if I passed or failed. I failed.
The heart of what she told me was this: I am timid and looked to other people. I seemed unsure about what I was doing and needed to grow in confidence before I could proceed. There were skating issues in there as well but I felt all these were pretty minor. She said my balance was good, I was fast (26 laps in 5 minutes, baby!!) and that I was good on my skates but I looked unsure of myself all the time.
I was reminded of my sons judo instructor a few years ago. He said the same thing: he said a million positive things about my son and there was the but….. he looks to others before he does things, he is always one step behind, he is just a bit slower than the other kids, he is extra timid…. He felt like I should have him tested for all kinds of learning difficulties. My reaction was: of course he looks to the other kids, of course he is a step behind, of course he struggles, HE DOESN’T SPEAK DUTCH VERY WELL!!!
I can’t ask the people at Derby to speak English with me at practices, it’s their country and I am alone in my inability to speak the language.
I am jet lagged and haven’t slept in longer than I can remember.
So what do I take from all of this? my life would be easier in the US, but it is better here.
I struggle every day to fit in and I don’t see that ending any time soon.
I wrote this months ago but never published it. I don’t honestly know why. I think I was having such a hard time readjusting that I just couldn’t.
I am publishing it now because I feel like its important and worthwhile to share some of the struggles of being an expat.
I really love my life and I am working on my Dutch and making my voice heard. I have decided to speak up in derby and really ask when I don’t understand something. They have been very cool about this, like the totally awesome Dutchies they are.I have moved on to the next level of training (but that is a post for another day).
Since writing this I have also made a few more Dutch friends and have renewed my commitment to making a life here.
I read this now and feel the pain and the struggle that I felt in those first few days back. On one hand I’m sorry I didn’t publish it then but on the other I am very happy that I can add this at the end.
I learned a lot from this experience.
So I consider myself a pretty crunchy mom. Cloth diapering (mostly), vegan (mostly), cosleeping, breastfeeding, organic eating, totally non GMO, home made as much as possible, baltic amber wearing, daily yoga (mostly), oil cleansing method and I totally have a salt lamp in every room. Like I said pretty crunchy. On the scale from modern prepackaged living to unshaven Earth mother I feel like I have reached a happy (and maintainable) middle ground.
Then there is Aunt Flo. Every month I would use horrible plastic pads (I have always hated tampons and refused to use them) and every month I lament the waste, the damage to the environment and the plastic and chemicals I am putting against my most sensitive of lady bits. About 2 years ago I decided that I needed to change my non crunchy period ways and go with something more sustainable.
Hello Diva Cup.
Everything I had read had been amazing. It was changing women’s lives! Everyone loves theirs. What could go wrong?
It sat in the box for 6 months. I finally tried it once, it leaked. Back to the box.
Then, one day, I was talking to a friend and Aunt Flo came up in conversation. Once again, this was the best thing ever! How am I not using it? It’s a total period deal changer.
Back out of the box. Perhaps I judged it to harshly the first time. We all have to get used to things. Maybe I needed to use it for a few days and get used to it. After all, everyone else on the planet loves theirs.
First day I was very impressed, actually. It did leak a little, but overall I felt very positive and optimistic about having a brighter future where being a chick doesn’t totally suck for a few days every month.
The next morning everything went wrong. THE DAMN THING WOULD NOT COME OUT. Slippery, weird angle, and that little tiny post with the little tiny ridges is simply impossible to grab hold of. So there I am, on the toilette trying to extract a little plastic shot glass out of my girly parts. My kids in the next room watching Peppa Pig or something equally mind numbing. All kinds of thoughts went through my mind at that moment. None of them were panicky, yet. I abandoned efforts for a moment to regroup and breath. At this moment I thought that maybe standing up and jumping up and down would help. It did not. I actually considered tweezers but I couldn’t find them. I have a small pair of needle nose pliers in the kitchen I use to debone fish, hmmmm. OK. Time to google.
I rejoined my children on the couch, phone in hand, and started to consult the greatest wealth of information in the history of the world. The advise ranged from worth a try to downright scary. Shower and squat down, have a partner go in for an extraction, crochet hook (yikes), masturbation in the hope that the contractions would help dislodge it, I went with the shower. The other advise seemed horrific and I needed a shower anyway.
I did what the good people in the internet said to do, because one should always do what the good people of the internet tells one to do. Squat and go in after it. Nope. Again, the little bastard would not come out. So I’m standing there in the shower regretting every life decision I have ever made because they had all led me to this point. How did I allow this to happen? So this was how I was going to spend my day? Random trips in to the bathroom in an attempt to remove this stupid thing from my girl bits all ending with a trip to the hospital (because that wouldn’t be uncomfortable at all). Great. Lovin life. Then I hear my daughter banging on the door screaming that she had to pee. Ok. What now?
Get dressed and start to panic. Message a friend who attempts to calm me down. Open a beer. So this is me at 10:00 am: sitting on the floor of the living room playing with my kids, trying hard not cry, and drinking a beer and having a texting conversation with my friend about my inability to remove my Diva Cup. I have an alien object wedged into my naughty bits and I had no clue how to proceed from here.
I finished my beer and decided to go in for another attempt. I gave myself a pre toilette pep talk in the mirror, did some deep breathing in an attempt to relax and went in.
Victory! Stupid plastic little thing! You will not win! I’m in charge here!
But because I never seem to learn a lesson the first time I let my very dear friend and total Diva Cup fan talk me into giving it another try. After all, I’m still learning. These things take time. Happens to everyone.
So I spent the rest of the day at home playing with my kids in total domestic bliss. Every now and then I would giggle a bit at my silliness of the morning. Pliers, really? What was I thinking? I can’t believe I panicked like that! Such, such silliness.
After all, these things happen. I went the rest of the day without incident.
Skip ahead to later that night. I’m still wearing the thing. I’m at a friends house, the same friend who had convinced me to keep trying. I stood up and noticed that the stupid little thing had leaked. a lot. Pants possible ruined.
Seriously. I’m done.
I love that people love their Diva Cup. I’m so happy for them. But, just no.
Back to the box.
I’m combining 2 weeks again because I had to miss week 13’s practice. Super sad! A friend of mine and I always go to Amsterdam for International Pillow Fight Day and we have recently started spending that night away (since the kids have gotten bigger). I was planning on making it back for practice (I even had my bag packed and by the door) but I just didn’t make it. I was so tired after a very sleepless night and my kids would have never let me leave immediately after I had been gone over night. I could have snuck in and grabbed my bag and made it to practice but I knew that the next day when my son woke up and had to go to school it would be an issue. I’m not letting that missed practice bother me, much. I kinda anticipate have to retake Fresh Meat anyways.
Our homework was to watch a bout on youtube. I watched 2. I got so frustrated with the first that I found another one hoping it was better. They kept changing the damn camera angles. I couldn’t follow the game or keep up with the penalties. I got so frustrated I kinda gave up. I say kinda because I kept the bouts running in the background while I drank wine and chatted on the phone. Perhaps being in the same room as Derby counts for something!
Some good came out of that frustrating evening. I was told that the RockCity Rollers were having their first scrimmage of the year and that Fresh Meat and Smokey Bacon were welcome to come and watch. I was really excited to watch another bout in person.
The night started out a bit rocky. I sat in the stands and was completely alone. One of the players skated over and asked me who I was. I told her and she said ” Oh, OK. Welcome” then skated off and said to a teammate “I don’t know, she is English” (she said all of this in Dutch, of course). I wonder if she understood what I had said.
At this point I wished I had brought knitting. I felt very outside. I feel like this less and less now. But its a combination of not being Dutch, only passably speaking the language and being Fresh Meat that made me kinda wish I could blend into the bleachers. I wanted to be there, but not be “that weird English chick sitting alone in the corner” (and for those of you wondering: I am not, in fact English, I am American. But “English” is a generic term for anyone who speaks English).
Before the bout actually started one of the Fresh Meat trainers who was playing in the scrimmage skated over and told me that I was sitting in the wrong spot. I should be sitting with the other players and officials (and one random dog) in what is the Derby equivalent of a dugout. I was so grateful! I would have given her a hug if that wouldn’t have been weird, and she was on skates, and we were separated by a wall. You get the idea.
I changed locations and things immediately got better. People started talking to me! It was a shame I couldn’t stay till the end but I had Power Yoga at 9:00. Everyone was just starting to warm up a little to the “little English Girl”. I’m so glad I went. I was able to keep up with what was going on and the rules started to actually make sense.
I was surprised and a little sad that I was the only one from either Fresh Meat or Smokey Bacon to come. It would have been nice to have a group.
I spent a lovely Sunday afternoon studying the rules. I finally read the rule book from beginning to end. It a warm and sunny day and I was able to sit outside and read while the kids played. I have that scrimmage to thank for my ability to grasp the concepts finally. I was able to read the rules and the example situations and know what was going on. I’m very happy with that. I still don’t feel completely confident in my ability to pass the written test but I am getting much closer.
This was an extra practice. There was something going on that was preventing us from meeting but it got cancelled. I honestly didn’t really know any of that till a few days before. I am very glad we had a practice though, 2 weeks away would have been far to much!
This was a particularly fun one. The first half or so was like a boot camp. I love boot camp. I am a big fan of movement and pushing my body as far as I can and then a little further. I’m a bit nuts like that.
Instead of the normal fitness routine (boring) he just called out different things. All of them were the things we had been practicing like planking and squats but in a random order and repeatedly. It was so much more interesting.
Then we did some endurance training. This was seriously fun (in a deranged nut job way). We skated as fast as we could across half of the track then fell to a knee and spun around on our belly. In the end (if all goes well) we are laying on on our stomachs looking at the direction we came. When the whistle blew we jumped up and did it again. Back and forth for ages! Then we took a brake and didn’t it again.
At the water break I asked the trainer if we were doing more. He said “don’t hate me!” My response was “It’s like boot camp. I love boot camps. I do this style of thing a few times a week”. If they really want to learn how to make us cry they should check out Body Pump at the gym! Goodness, I can’t even imagine what would happen if my favourite instructor was given a room full of people on skates and told to wear them out!
After that we went over the things that would be on the basic skills test. I fell on my butt jumping over the obstacle. I was told that we have to be able to jump over the cones stacked 3 high, if i had to guess I would say about 6 inches. It took some doing but I finally managed. Now that I have done it a few time I’m confident that I will be able to the day of the test.
I actually find my confidence growing more and more. Perhaps I can pass basic skills on the first go! I’m not pinning all my hoped and dreams on it, though. After all, I haven’t been on skates since I was a little kid. It would be unreasonable to expect me to master this level of skating in only 15 weeks at 2 hours a day. Still, would be nice!
We didn’t attempt our 27 in 5. I was told that this was because it was an “extra practice”. I was very sad! I was kinda using that as my way to judge progress.
I was traveling back home in Dallas visiting family and we decided to go out to eat. I asked if the restaurant was kid friendly, because I have kids and I am not going to take them somewhere were they are going to be miserable and make everyone else miserable as a result. I was guaranteed that it was, in fact, kid friendly so off we went for a dinner out. Apparently, “kid friendly” means a colouring sheet and 3 crayons.
I live in the Netherlands where kid friendly really means “the kids will be well entertained so you can enjoy your meal with minimal stress.” Restaurants like this are everywhere and they make my world a nicer place, but you kinda have to know where to look.
Bij de Neut in Westerhoven is pretty amazing. Great for the kids but the atmosphere is very “grown up”, meaning that the play areas are well hidden but easily accessible. The feel of the place is really fun. The Dutch word is “gezellig” and it is a wonderful word. It doesn’t have an exact English equivalent, it means. “cozy”, and “warm” and “welcoming”. A place or a situation can be gezellig. It’s a fun word. Give it a whirl sometime.
There are three main rooms. 2 with play areas and 1 without.
Walking in and to the right you find the biggest of the rooms. It is loosely seperated into two sections. Directly around the play area there are small bistro style tables, perfect for a coffee or wine while the kids burn some energy. The other part has more traditional square tables.
There is a padded area for little kids.
And beautifully hidden is the big soft play.
yep. Thats a soft play. Amazing! I never would have believed there was so much fun hidden away back there!
There are stairs in there that lead to a little cinema. There was nothing playing on the afternoon we were there but it was really slow that day.
There is a new addition since the last time I was there. A whole room in the back with yet another play area! It has the feel of a beach vacation complete with a boat ( with a soft play inside)!
The play area is so fun!
To the left of the entrance there is also a big room with more seating. There is no play areas inside and it has a much more “adult restaurant” feel.
What about the food, right?
I was also very impressed with the food. My daughter ordered the “kid pancake” and I ordered the “margarita pizza” . Her pancake came with fruit, 2 kinds of sweets, whipped cream and syrup. She nearly lost it when the waitress put it in front of her. I really think her brain was overloaded with joy, she literally just stared at it.
MY pizza was HUGE! I’m not ashamed to say that I very nearly finished it. Just in case you are wondering, that is a ramekin of mayonnaise on top of my pizza. I just put it aside and pretended not to notice it. It must be a Dutch thing.
What really impresses me about this place is the little touches that make the atmosphere interesting and yet very mature at the same time. It doesn’t feel like a kids playground but the level of whimsy is so high that my 2.5 year old daughter found the atmosphere delightful as well.
And I almost forgot about the ice cream.
There is a patio but it doesn’t have any play equipment.
Put this place on your list. I can’t wait to go back with both of my kids. My son would love it (in fact I felt a little guilty about going while he was at school). Bij de Neut could also be enjoyed by people without small kids. I would take visiting family or kidless friends here for a dinner out with the family and I know everyone would have a really nice time.
Cheers! To eating out with the kids and actually having a relaxing time!
Some Practical Information:
I was able to get some skate time apart from derby practice this week. Someone also participating in either Fresh Meat or Smoky Bacon posted a link in out FB group about a 70’s roller skating disco night. I thought is sounded like a great way to spend an evening. Practicing skating, getting to know some of the other freshies and listening to some cool music. What could be better, right?
Well, some of that happened.
The roller disco was happening on 2 nights. I knew that some people were going on Friday and the rest of us were going on Saturday. It was a shame I couldn’t go on Friday but I already had plans (I personally knew some of the ladies going on that night). I really didn’t let this worry me, though. I’m social and always game to make new friends. I posted a week before that I had bought my tickets. I also wrote that I was going to be driving and would be happy to drive the group. CRICKETS.
I started to get a sinking feeling that I would be there alone. Luckily for me, a friend of mine was able to join me at the last minute. We ended up having a really great time. I got to skate just for the fun of it, something I haven’t done since I was a kid. I realised how much I enjoy skating. It was really nice. There was a girl, probably aged 8, there tearing it up. She was so amazing. Spinning around and doing tricks. I had serious skate envy.
As you have probably guessed, no one from Roller Derby showed up. I would have felt a little rejected but luckily I really don’t care that much. My self worth has never been tied up in other people and I’m not about to let that kind of thing start now. It did seriously burst my “roller derby community” happy bubble and I am going to be very hesitant to make plans with anyone I don’t know personally in the future. It’s fine that things come up and I know that everyone is busy but it would have been nice if the people that were supposed to be meeting me there would have at least let me know they couldn’t come. That’s kinda common courtesy. In situations like this I really start to feel like an outsider. Not only new to derby but in The Netherlands.
Oh well. I am awesome, my friend and I had a great time and they missed out (for whatever reason) on a load of fun.
Yep, I’m wearing my Derby skates, because they are awesome and I love them.
More of the same form last week, really. Pack skating with Smokey Bacon and skating in a line handing off a ball. The last nearly half of practice 2 instructors asked us what we were having trouble with specifically and we got some one on one help. That was really helpful. I focused on transitions, skating forward and then turning so that you are skating backwards and then back the other way.
my 27 in 5?
25 BABY!!!!!!! I skated 25 laps in 5 minutes. I’m continuing to do better each time and I’m really pleased with that.
I am starting to get a little nervous about the skills test. I came to the conclusion that I enjoy going to the practices so even if I don’t move forward, I’m fine. I realised that I will miss the practice test and the final practice because I will be traveling and that’s a shame. Couple that with my injury a while ago and I am going to cut myself some serious slack.
This was the first practice that the weather was really nice. I was so sweaty. I kid you not, I had knee sweat. First time that has ever happened to me. I can only imagine how stinky our gear will be by summer!!
After practice we had another rules class. Oh my, I suck. Every time I we have one I say that I will buckle down and learn the rules. But then 2 weeks go by and I have done nothing! I have about 2 hours after the kids go to bed to get everything done and I guess this has always just been pushed to the bottom of the list. I need to get better about that.
So thats it for this week. I’m out of town again next weekend. I plan on going to practice but I will have to see how my kids do when I get home.
Either way I am almost done at this point with Fresh Meat (at least possibly the first round). I look forward to much more Derby in my future!
I haven’t let the kids help me cook in ages. Well, they help me cook all the time but I haven’t made it an organised event with kid friendly food in ages. I need to start that again. Sheer laziness is probably the reason I stopped. I mean, it’s so much faster to send them outside to play and do it myself. Less mess as well. But they will never learn that way so it’s time to make more of an effort again.
Tonight we made Tofu Spring Rolls
First I cut the tofu into strips and roasted it in a hot oven until it was crispy on the outside, around 20 minutes. In the meantime I gathered and prepped any vegetables that I thought would be good. I chose cucumber, bell pepper, carrots and spinach. I’m sure you can use any vegetables you want.
I got these rice paper wraps. Man they are tricky! The instructions say to soak the sheets in warm water for 30 seconds and then put them on a tea towel. I followed the instructions the first time but it went horribly wrong. They stuck to the towel and I couldn’t get it off! I learned that it’s better to use a plate but it needs to be kept dry.
I let the kids fill them and then I wrapped them (to the best of my ability). They had a great time. My son decided that he loved all the individual ingredients all of a sudden. The kids ate more during the process of making them than they ate the finished product. Including the roasted tofu.
I mixed soy sauce and sweet chilli for a quick sauce.
I thought they were really good (especially for my first attempt). My son decided that he loved them and ate a respectable amount. This was a huge result because I haven’t been able to convince him to touch a vegetable in ages.
My daughter was less impressed. I think she found them difficult to eat.
I will say that they were quit bland. This was perfect for my kids because they tend to prefer their food more on the bland side but I could have done with more seasoning. I tried to drip some soy sauce inside of one before I rolled it but it was a disaster! Next time I will plan ahead better and marinate the tofu overnight.
I’m happy we cooked dinner together. It was fun!
Highlight of this week was a mother and son trip to Den Haag. There was a double header that I really wanted to go to and I decided to take my son. Because it started a little late in the evening (5:30! GASP) I decided that we should get a hotel and make a weekend of it. You see, I try to spend a day one on one with my son every few months. We generally do a fun outing, this is the first time has been an overnight. I loved that I could share my new found excitement of Roller Derby with him and he loved that he did a “grown up” thing with mommy.
We checked into the hotel and eventually made our way to the sport hall. I say eventually because Logan was so excited to be in a hotel room that he didn’t want to leave it “but mommy! You can watch TV while in bed! How great is that!” We walked to the venue and found some seats. He was enthralled for the first 10 minutes or so, then he asked for his tablet. It was actually very cute. He would watch and pay attention until the bout stopped and his head would go back down to his game, as soon as they started skating again his head would pop back up again and he would watch. I told him what was going on and how the ladies scored. He was fascinated by the penalty bench. I told him that it was like at home, when he was fighting with his sister they had to sit on the stairs until they were ready to apologise. He lasted until about 5 minutes till the end before he started to say that he was bored and wanted to go back to the hotel.
I found the bout very interesting. One team completely dominated but the other team kept going. I was able to keep up with the scoring but the penalties threw me off. They happened so fast! I can see why so many officials are needed. I realised how much work I need to do to understand the rules. I have been a total slacker!
Welcome back, workout! I thought that we were past the basic fitness tests but they are back with a vengeance. I learned that we will need to pass a set of fitness tests to move on to the next level.
This test consists of:
All of this looks pretty standard and won’t be a problem. EXCEPT: Yep, 50 sit ups. I had a total “WHAT THE HELL!” moment. I thought he said 15 at first. This will be a problem. Why do I suck at sit-ups so badly?
We skated more with the “Smokies” (the awesome ladies who have advanced to the next level of training) than we have in past practices. We all skated in a line with no more than an arm length in between us and handed a ball to the person in front of us. Then when the ball reaches the front of the line the person holding it has to skate around the track to the back of the line and the precess starts over. Believe me, this is more tricky than it sounds. As I was looking over my shoulder waiting on the ball, then reaching to my side with both hands to grab it, while I’m trying not to fall or skate into the person in front of me.
Then, in typical Derby fashion, the crazy level went up a notch.
We practices “pack skating”. There were around 12 of us and we all skated together in a group with no more than an arms length in between. Fine, right? But everyone was assigned a number 1, 2 or 3. So the drill would go something like this: “number 1 drop to all 4s” (so everyone who was assigned to be a “number 1” must fall to the ground on their knees and elbows and curl up in a little ball). All while everyone else must skate around the little heap on the floor while maintaining the “pack”. It continued in this fashion for a while . “Number 2 go to the front” “number 3 stop” and such.
As far as Im concerned this is crazy X10. Important, crucial stuff in training but still crazy. I played basketball and soccer in school and we never had this level of nuts. I never once stopped and thought “I’m sorry, you want me to do what now? Well, that just seems crazy”
Don’t get me wrong, after watching more and more bouts I understand the importance of all of these training drills. I may find them nuts but they all make up critical parts of game play and we need to be ready for them.
Maybe thats why I am enjoying this so much. I’m a big fan of pushing things a bit farther than I really need to.
27 in 5:
I skated 24. WHOOHOO!!!
I’m still getting better every time! After I was done I wanted to do a little dance! But I sat down and panted instead. It just felt right .
Our final skills test is quickly approaching. I am still unsure on my skates and at this moment I don’t feel ready to move on. We have some time, but I would rather be safe than in a hurry.
Don’t mind the manic smile.