Apr 24, 2014

21 Reasons You Should Go to My Storytelling Night for Parents (if You're in Amsterdam)

One of the side effects of insomnia is getting crazy ideas at 2 AM, and then in the light of day, you're so sleep deprived that you actually think, hey I'm going to go ahead an follow through with that crazy idea. 

And then you tell this idea to another sleep deprived friend and while her eyes say I should have a good nap before giving any advice, her mouth says yes! Let's do this thing! 

And that's the birth story of a little event I'm hosting, along with my friend Catina, aka The Amsterdam Mama. We're proudly presenting The Witching Hour: a storytelling night for parents, and you're all invited.

Yes, even you, blog readers who I've never met. Please, actually. 

The format is simple: food, drinks, cozy venue, live music, a bunch of people who are willing to read or tell a true story about parenting, a bunch of other people who will cheer and be supportive, and absolutely no whining allowed.

It's simple. It's 100% natural.  It's on May 17th,  at The English Bookshop in Amsterdam. 

We made a logo.

Need some cajoling? Coaxing? Ego stroking?
Well, you should definitely come and tell a story, or just to listen, if:
  1. You're a parent and you just need to get out for a few hours. 
  2. You're a writer and you just have all these words that you need to share with other people. 
  3. You're a parent and a writer, and you just have all these words that you need to share with other people-- preferably with adult people who understand big words. 
  4. You're the type of person who likes to support local writers, bloggers, quirky people, and parents who may or may not be using this event as a form of therapy. 
  5. You have a good story, and it's selfish to keep it all to yourself.
  6. You've thought about trying stand-up, or an open mic night, or just talking to people who will actually listen to you.
  7. You like talking about yourself. 
  8. You've listened to every episode of The Moth and now what are you going to do? 
  9. You're a good listener. (It's true, you are.) 
  10. You need to work on being a better listener. (And that's OK.) 
  11. Because commiseration. 
  12. You're all about helping people fulfill their dreams. 
  13. You're generally pro-enjoyment, and anti-boredom. 
  14. You believe stories are powerful ways to connect people. 
  15. You enjoy hanging out in lovely independent bookshops. 
  16. You like food. And drinks. And folksy guitar music.
  17. You remember that time you sat around with friends, swapping stories about parenting, and you laughed and cried and loved it because thank god you're not alone. 
  18. You appreciate a good free event, though you're not opposed to chipping in a bit for some drinks and snacks.
  19. You're amazing and pretty incredible and you've learned that being cool isn't about the thickness of your mustache or the irony of your oversized eyeglasses, but about the degree to which you can go out in public with snot on your shirt and not care.
  20. You've memorized every word of every song from Frozen, and for the love, you need to fill your mind with something else.
  21. Because pretty please?? Come to my storytelling thing? 

RSVP to be a storyteller or listener here:
See you there? 

Apr 11, 2014

Dear Babysitter: We Definitely Know What We're Doing, But if You Have Any Helpful Tips Let Us Know

Thank you all for your advice and encouragement last week. We still haven't made The Big Decision yet, but (and get ready for the sappiest thing I might ever say on this blog) every comment  felt like a hug or high five from all the people I care so much about. It was very grounding, and made my heart swell and all that good stuff.


We are getting ready to go on an early anniversary/Mark's 40th Birthday trip to the Cinque Terre in Italy. Without the kids.


A young hipster couple we know will stay with the kids while we are gone, and I've been thinking of all the things I need to tell them about.

Which leads me to a bit of a conundrum: should I tell them about all our parenting strategies that don't work at all? And should I tell them about the ineffective strategies that we like to pretend are helping, but really just make things worse? Or should I just show them where my chocolate stash is?

This reminds me of a panel discussion I went to once, where one of the panelists gave a single suggestion, and then said to the audience I don't really know, do any of you have any ideas? 

I don't think she understood how panels work.

But I'm not judging because I don't think I really understand how parenting is supposed to work, and that's why I'm hoping the hipsters will come up with some solid parenting strategies to help us deal with our kids.

I'm imagining we'll have an email conversation like this, about 24 hours in:

Mrs. Hipster: Hi! So, what do you normally do when Sam and Nate make kissing noises just to bother Mia, and she starts screaming, and then they do it more, and then she screams louder, and nobody will stop, and now they're all trying to kill each other? 

Me: Well, what would you normally do in a situation like this?  

Mrs. Hipster: What do you normally do in a situation like this? 

Me:  Ummm, I personally believe that Super Nanny because Love and Logic and the uh, attachment parenting out there, such as, uh, Talking and uh, the Feelings, everywhere like such as, and it should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up a future, for us. 

Mrs. Hipster: That's not really helpful, or even a coherent sentence. 

Me: Oh, you want a solution that works? Yeah, I don't have any of those, but there's a large amount of chocolate hidden behind the sauce pans in the kitchen. 

This is why we need to get away.

Apr 2, 2014

Stay or Go?

Definitely two years, three years at most. 

That's how long we said we would live here. Two years for sure, no more than three. It's funny how, at the time, three years seemed like an eternity. I never would have thought that it wouldn't be nearly long enough.

We've been in Amsterdam for two years and eight months, and now it's decision time: stay in Amsterdam for one more year, or move back to the US (mostly likely right back into our old house). The good news is that it is almost entirely up to us. The bad news is that it is almost entirely up to us.

Making quick, good decisions is not a life skill I've mastered yet.

For months this has been weighing on my mind, and I've been jotting down little reasons to stay or go as they come to me, hoping to stumble upon The Magic Thing that will decide everything so I can get some sleep at night. Or at least so I can lie awake worrying about other decisions.

Here's what I've come up with so far, in no particular order.

Reasons to stay in Amsterdam:

  • 5 weeks paid vacation 
  • travel opportunities 
  • wonderful friends we've made here
  • cousins in England
  • neighborhood shopping (the nearest store takes me 90 seconds to walk to)
  • good Dutch schools
  • Hema, my little European Target
  • 1 more year of Dutch for kids (since they will probably never speak it again)
  • children are statistically happiest in The Netherlands (US ranks 26 out of 29 countries by the way)
  • Belgian waffles at the grocery store for .79 cents
  • boating on the canals
  • Dutch cheese shops
  • best playgrounds ever
  • The Nine Streets, Spui, Tuschinsky Theater, Vondelpark, Van Gogh Museum
  • tipping is more or less optional
  • stupid US politics
  • fresh mint tea
  • fries with mayo (it's just better here)
  • there are opportunities for me that are just starting to open up (writing, possibly starting travel blog...)
  • could be advantageous to have one more year with Mark's current company
  • we might never be able to do anything like this again

Reasons to go back to the US:

  • Craigslist 
  • family close by
  • wonderful friends we miss there
  • curbside recycling
  • free public libraries, all in English (with the tax rate here, it is a CRIME that anyone has to pay for library memberships)
  • Costco Mango Salsa (without which my life is incomplete)
  • Target
  • solid deodorant 
  • Lake Washington, Burke-Gilman Trail, Mt. Rainier, ferry rides on Puget Sound
  • having a yard for the kids (and they're old enough to do yard work now)
  • education in English for kids (so I don't have to play Grammar teacher each Summer)
  • TV: Parks and Recreation, Community, Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live
  • Reeses Peanut Butter Cups
  • my slow cooker 
  • 40 minute wash cycles
  • root beer
  • national parks/wilderness
  • camping/ hiking
  • mail and paperwork in English
  • being able to understand people talking around me
  • financially responsible thing to do
  • time to move on to whatever is next?

Of course, it's more complicated than all that, and the decision will probably be determined by important things like "logic" and "money" and "Cafe Rio." But because I can't handle complexities and nuance, I like to imagine that it all comes down to fresh mint tea vs root beer.

People who are good at making decisions would probably say that imagination and sugary beverages shouldn't have much weight in major life decisions. To those people I say, so Reeses Peanut Butter Cups vs Belgian waffles then?

This is why I'm terrible at decisions.