29 June 2011


When the music fades…

And we return from a fun filled week or weekend of late nights, running around all willy-nilly, and I am happy but more exhausted than when we left…

that's when I notice the kiddos haven't had a bath in *ahem* a few days and they haven't eaten yet and it's bedtime and there's school tomorrow.

And I still have to make lunches.  And the kitchen could use some attention.  And the suitcase is full of smelly dirty laundry.

And it always happens that the kids take a few days to transition back into reality.

And it always used to frustrate me.

But having moved into the realm of experienced travelers, I can now say that I'm prepared for transition mania.  I get it now.  I don't try to make everyone hop back onto the normal schedule train when they just got off the fun party train.  Not worth it.

Because they aren't capable of switching that quickly from one mode to the next.

Because it's physically impossible to take care of everything that needs to be taken care of the second I walk in the door.

Because I don't really want to squash the fantastic memories of our fun time underneath the stress of getting everything back to normal right now.

So I work the transition days into the plan.  It's now Wednesday, and I just unpacked our suitcase from Sunday.

We've been slowly moving the kids back into their regular bed times, little by little.

The clothes are being washed as we are able, and the kiddos have been helping with putting away the massive amounts of laundry as they come.

And the kitchen?  Well, it's partly open for business.  No drastic meal planning for this week, just simple meals with fruits, veggies, cheeses, and breads.

And a plan to go nowhere this weekend.

27 June 2011


Birthday Jubilee

Today is my 35th birthday.  I like my 30s...I'm much less impulsive and in general less stupid than I was a decade ago.

To celebrate my birthday jubilee week, here is what I have lined up:

  • a husband who is not traveling - Huzzah! 
  • time with family
  • two blocks of time to myself, one for projects that always get pushed aside and one for frivolous me time
  • summer-like weather in the Netherlands, finally
  • reading magazines
  • week 5 of marathon training
  • possible haircut and/or pedicure
  • planning for our upcoming Austrian camping adventure
Ok, so I probably didn't have a hand in planning all of those things, but I guess God knows how much I like summer and wanted to surprise me.  Thanks, God.  And some of those things would probably be happening even if it weren't my birthday, but now they're going to be done in a festive way.  With singing and dancing, preferably.

Thank you also to my amazing husband.  He gave me a foot massage last night and planned to work from home later this week so he could keep The Girl and let me do Whatever I Want.

I feel blessed to have another year of health, family, and fun.  Oh Happy Day!

24 June 2011


Eyes Full of Wonder

Another week has flown by and I'm trying to remember where it all went.  It scattered little bits of itself all over town, I think.

Time for Five Minute Friday, courtesy of Gypsy Mama, five minutes of pure, unedited, thoughtful writing on a word she provides.

This Week?  



When I look into the deep brown or crystal clear blue eyes of my gorgeous children, I see in them the wonder of taking in all the things this world has to offer.  They innocently look into the very center of the yellow gerber daisies I have on the dining room table, wondering how in the world the bee collects the pollen and takes it to the next place.

They watch the tomato plants go from just plant to tiny green bulbs and then turn red until they are just bursting, and then watch as I carefully pluck them from the plant and pop them into my mouth.  They wonder how in the world that tomato plant knows what it is supposed to do when it starts as a microscopic seed.

They watch the airplanes take off from the nearby airport and wonder how in the world someone ever invented wings and engines and cockpits clever enough to lift itself off the ground when it gets going fast enough.

They ask me all these questions, and I explain as best I can.  

And then I wonder how in the world some people cannot see the Wonder Of It All.  How it happens that we keep going day after day without stopping to wonder, without seeing Who is Behind all of this Creation?

And then I get busy with the laundry and the sweeping and the cooking and the blogging, and my wonder gets buried under all the tyranny of the URGENT.


Hmm.  Not sure if this made any sense at all.  But hey, Fridays are for writing, not second guessing.

Be sure to stop by The Gypsy Mama to read everyone's thoughts on Wonder.  I'm #12, and thanks to #11, Moonlight and Sunbeams for her post, including her "cheater" post that she wrote long ago.

23 June 2011

Just One Thing


Something big is gonna happen here in our house.  I don't know what it is, but it's coming.  This much I know.

We've been praying a lot about our future and where it will take us.  We've been trying to earnestly listen for His Voice.

And here is what I've heard:


Not exactly the answer I was hoping for, but clear and unmistakable. 

The thing I have been struggling with is differentiating my own thoughts from His Voice.

I've talked to my husband, I've emailed trusted friends.  And what I know to be true is that God speaks with Authority.  And what I know I've heard in an Authoritative Voice is


Maybe I haven't yet understood any more detail than that because I'm not ready.
But for now, I have my answer.

Up until now, my thoughts about the future have been mine and mine alone.  And then I want to know what will happen next, without giving anything up.  

In short, I want all the answers with none of the faith.

But that's not how it's going to work this time.  I've been given enough insight to know something is coming.  

And now I just need to work on that TRUST thing while I wait for the details to unfold.  

22 June 2011

Getting Paid

Our pay system for our boys is constantly evolving, not because it doesn't work but because as they get older, they are able to take on more responsibility.

The other day a very dear friend asked me what kind of system we use, so I thought it was a good opportunity to share what we use.

I'm sure there are many many ways to teach kids about money, and I advocate this one only because I've had experience with it.  We are big fans of Dave Ramsey...we used his advice to become debt free several years ago utilizing the debt snowball.  We find his teachings to be very sensible, solid, and in line with what we believe.

So, when it came time to introduce money to our boys, we used his idea of commission work.  I highly recommend checking into the basic principles here.

To summarize, we have three main categories of work, which we have labeled

1.  Family Jobs
Family jobs are those jobs that are not payable, jobs that should be completed because we are part of a family and we work together.  These jobs include things like picking up toys, setting the table, etc.  We don't list these jobs; rather, we just have a blanket statement that mom and dad determine which jobs fall into this category.

2.  Commission Jobs
Commission jobs are above and beyond family jobs.  These jobs get put on a chart, and when someone completes a job in this category they get a mark.  A mark corresponds to a certain amount of money, and at the end of the week the marks are totaled to determine how much money each boy has earned.  They are then expected to give at least 10% (we tithe, others make a charitable donation) and save at least 10%.  The rest can go into a spend category, which is for small purchases and can be spent on anything within reason.  Parents, of course, get the final say.  The saving category is for larger purchases.  When a boy sees something they want to have, we put a picture and price up by the job chart, to help motivate them to continue working.

3.  Fines
The last category, fines, is for daily tasks that are expected to be done.  If they are not done, they earn a fine, which is subtracted from the total earned at the end of the week.  We charge fines for things like shoes and backpacks left out, dirty clothes on the floor, and doors left open.

In addition, I've started giving each child a weekly chart to help remind him of our expectations.  I don't nag about commission work to be done or the possibility of fines...they just check the chart.  And, if they choose to not work, then they have clear consequences.

If they did every possible job all week, then their potential earnings is about 5 euro, which we feel is a lot of money for their age.  However, with all the playing they still do, their average is more like 2 euros, give or take.

It is amazing how quickly they figured out the cause and effect aspect.  I'm always interested to see how their personalities reflect how they choose to spend their money.

This system works well for us because it offers a clear link between work and money.  Even though they are only paid once a week, they can check the chart all week long to see how they are doing.  Our hope is that they are learning healthy and responsible financial habits that will carry into their adult years.

Anyone else have good suggestions for giving kids money or teaching them how to earn money?  I'm always open to new ideas, and I'm sure my friend would love to hear other suggestions as well.

17 June 2011


Where's HOME for YOU?

Another Friday already...time for Gypsy Mama's link up.  Five minutes of unedited writing...just thoughts written down with no second guessing for five minutes. 

Today's prompt?



"Where's home for you?"  I get that a lot living in this very international city.  We meet a lot of other English speakers, and it's invariably one of the first questions I get (for that matter, it's also one of the first questions from Dutch natives).  A question that over the years has gotten increasingly difficult to answer.

I could tell you where I grew up, where my family lives, where we got married.  I could tell you the places where I feel MORE at home, MORE comfortable.  I could tell you all the places we've lived over the years.

But my real answer?  Where's home for me?  


Wherever that may be.  Because I could put home in one spot.  But then I would miss it.  And I would spend my NOW TIME wishing I was there.  Wishing I was home.  And missing out on all the great things about BEING HOME.

So home is here, or there, or wherever we may be.  And someday that place might stay the same forever and ever.  But right now it changes.  And I like it that way, most of the time.  

Part truth, part coping mechanism, part teaching the kids about the diversity of the world, we've made this great big planet our home.  Now, even when we are on holiday, the children ask "when are we going home?"  And all they mean is, when are we going back to our apartment/hotel/cabin?  Because they now have grown up making everywhere home.  


Well, that was fun, wasn't it?  Go check out all the other links for Five Minute Friday.  I'm number 36, and a big WAY TO GO, KEEP IT UP! to #35, Beauty For Ashes, where she talks about all the places she can call home.

15 June 2011


Bits and Pieces

When oh when does the To-Do list end?  

Will I be free, ever again?

Alas, it seems not, til my kids are grown

And all have To-Do lists of their own

How do I cope?  What do I do?

Especially since Husband is gone (boo hoo hoo)

I break it down bit by bit

Enough to swallow, enough to fit

Into my day filled with running and toys

And cooking and cleaning and and a girl and two boys

I try to have no more than three or four

To-Do items each day (but sometimes it's more)

So beginning each week I sort it all out

I list and then move the items about

Until all the things fit and deadlines are met

And then I feel like I am all set

It's not overwhelming a step at a time

And now I'm done with this silly old rhyme.

13 June 2011


My Favorite Things



Fresh fruit
Corn on the cob
Bare Feet
Humidity (weird I know)
Long Days
Riding Bikes
Less cooking
Warm rain

And my newest summer favorite:  harvesting our own food.

We've been eating some awfully good lettuce and spinach.  Tomatoes and peppers are on their way.

And we have no grass!  Here is the awfully (un)complicated process my kids helped me complete to grow these veggies:
1.  Pour soil in container
2.  Sprinkle in seeds
3.  Cover with one thin layer of soil
4.  Water and place in sun

The seeds started coming up in about 2 days.  Great (nearly) instant gratification for the kids, and peace of mind for me, living so close to all of the e-coli cases in Germany.

Why have I never done this before?

10 June 2011

Five Minute Friday


Once again, I'm participating in Gypsy Mama's Five Minute Friday.  Five minutes of pure, unedited writing.  No worrying about perfection.  Just writing on a word provided by Gypsy Mama.  I then link my blog to hers.  So head on over to read everyone's thoughts on...


When I was little, backwards was cool.  I sometimes wore shirts backwards, walked backwards, and talked in backwards sentences.  My kids went through a phase where they would only wear their shirts backwards and inside out.  I suppose it was a way to express individuality.

But at some point in my life, backwards has taken on a quite different meaning.  I no longer use it to express something cool or fun.  Now, backwards means things didn't go as planned.  Upside down and backwards.  Yuck.

When did that happen?  And why?  I guess when I started desiring more order, more planning.  My childhood didn't need that.  It was just simple fun.  And now I want that simplicity back.  Now I want some days to be backwards and upside down and all willy nilly.  And I want to love every minute of it.  

So I plan to be simpler,  I cut things out, and I point out the simple pleasures to my children.  I stop moving forward, turn around, and start moving backwards.  And I enjoy it for what it is:  (simply fun).

Stop (words in parenthesis are the finishing thought after time's up)

If you want in on the action, hop on over to www.thegypsymama.com to link your own Five Minutes.

Also, kudos to the blogger before me in the link, Linda, for her thought provoking five minute look at moving forward.

08 June 2011


Spell It Out

Morning rush is hard with school aged kids, especially with a toddler underfoot.  I found myself constantly nagging the boys to hurry, brush teeth, shoes on, etc.  On the days when The Girl was still sleeping (she loves to sleep, thankfully), it was almost worse, because in addition to my constant nagging, I was also yelling whispering at them to be quiet.

And then one day I read this awesome post over at steady mom, and I was inspired.

Things changed after that.  I made a routine chart, as well as reminders of daily jobs (and the consequences of neglecting them).  And you know what?  It worked.  It still works, actually.  Now in the mornings I simply periodically ask how the list is coming.  I also give a 10 minute warning so the boys have a gauge of how fast they are moving.  It is amazing.  

I post the routine schedule where they eat breakfast.  I hang signs for daily tasks wherever they are completed, as well as a clear reminder of the result of neglecting that task.  For us, the boys earn money for special jobs outside of family chores, and they are fined for neglecting the family chores.  It works well.  People come to visit and ask if they will be fined for not putting their shoes in the shoe box.  My response?  Absolutely.  You can leave your $.05 in the bowl on your way out.

But when I think about it, I feel a little silly that I never thought of this before.  I mean, I work with kids. I know that developmentally they don't have the foresight or sense of time that adults -hopefully- have.  They need to know what is expected of them, but once they know, they are able to sprout their wings and fly.

Of course, my kids are readers, so a list was easy.  But digital photos work great too.  When I set up home and school programs for kids with autism, we used this trick all the time.  We simply photographed and printed a picture of the location or tools needed for a task, and then hung them in the order required.  They usually figured out pretty quickly how to follow the routine.

I'm thankful that I have access to so many resources to help me remember the parts of childhood that I buried deep in the recesses of my memory.  I think my kids are grateful too that my nagging has drastically reduced.  Leaves more time for making good memories, laughing, and general silliness.

05 June 2011


I've got nothing to get on my soapbox today, so I'm trying something new.  I'm participating in a link up to a blog I've recently started reading.  At The Gypsy Mama, she does Five Minute Fridays, where she introduces a topic and invites readers to write for five solid minutes on that topic, no editing.  Just pure unadulterated thoughts.  This week's is entitled Every Day.  So, ok, I'm also a couple days late, but that's just the way it is.  So here goes:

Every Day I wake up intending to see my day and my world for what it is.  I intend to cherish my moments with my children, I intend to get a couple things done, I intend to create wholesome food for my family.

Sometimes the intentions change slightly, if I have to go to work or to Dutch class or fit in a long run.  But mostly they stay pretty similar.

But Every Day I have the threat of forgetting my intentions following me.  And sometimes catch up with me.  My couple minutes on the computer turns into a half hour, and the book I was going to read to my sons is still sitting on the bookshelf where they brought it to me.  Then I look at it and wonder how did that happen?  Again?

But Every Day I get to try again.  Every Day I wake up with the intentions of living a full life all over again.  For appreciating this adventure we get to have of living in a new country and having new experiences every day.

And because of those Every Day intentions happening Every Day, sometimes, sometimes, I get the chance of seeing them through.

And that makes Every New Day wonderfully, blissfully, hopeful.

Every Day.


01 June 2011


Eat Your Greens

I have 2 boys very close in age.  They have grown up together, and the oldest doesn't remember life before #2.  So tell me, if they were raised eating all the same stuff, why oh why will one eat anything (his favorite sushi is ikura-salmon roe) and one would be happy getting all his sustenance from cereal, bread, and cheese?  And seaweed.  But that's just odd - it's from his days at Japanese kindergarten, and I will be eternally grateful to the school and teachers for expanding his culinary horizons, if only a little.  But I digress.

I read all the books.  I put foods in front of him multiple times, I've modeled good eating behaviors with a rainbow of fruits and veggies, we have been growing food from seeds and cooking together so he has a hand in what he eats.  Nothing has worked.

Except...being sneaky.  In a moment of desperation inspiration, I pureed some spinach into marinara sauce.

No complaints.

Emboldened, I chopped spinach small and sprinkled it on homemade pizza as if it were oregano.

"This is yummy!"

And so it began.  I have been pureeing veggies into sauces for a very long time, and it still works.  Sometimes I make a chili with all kinds of different veggies.  I puree the whole thing and pour it over rice.  It's one of his favorite meals.

And then recently, a miracle occurred.  I openly admitted to him that I put veggies in a lot of what he eats, and he didn't freak out.  In fact, he was totally cool with it.  I think with him it's more of a texture issue than a taste issue, which I myself can relate to.  To this day I don't like my food to touch on my plate.  I'm the only person at a potluck eating only 3 items at a time.  But we're not talking about me.

So I'm just going to keep on keeping on, doing what I gotta do, to make sure he gets the nutrition he needs.  And praying that someday my blender won't get the workout it's getting right now.

Although, with my daughter's penchant for fruit smoothies, that blender has a lot more work to do.