We are now officially halfway through our adventure here in Maastricht. I talked with the kids this week about that fact, and they were surprised, feeling like it had come so quickly. Highlights for them include “some of the cool trips” and “spending New Year’s with Auntie Melissa”. Goals to still accomplish include taking the Chunnel to England, visiting friends in Scotland, staying in a windmill, entertaining some family coming to visit, visiting friends in Sweden, and plans to see my cousin and her family in Germany. Here’s hoping!
I’ve vented quite a bit here and on other social media about my frustrations with the Dutch, mainly in their handling of Covid vaccines etc. This time I’d like to focus on some positive things going on here:
- The days are slowly getting longer! It is still dark when we bike the kids to school and by 5ish but every day we get just a little more daylight!
- The boys got vaccinated! It took 2+ months after they were approved in US for our boys to get their first shot, but the relief is real. As I posted earlier this week, we know they can still get sick, but feel confident in our decision to further reduce the likelihood of them being hospitalized and also transmitting the virus to other, more vulnerable people. The process, once it was finally available, was very efficient and the kids were, for the first time in their lives, actually excited to get a jab. Yay science!
- Lockdown restrictions are easing! We started partial lockdown in early December, and then experienced a pretty severe lockdown here for about a month. During this time, restaurants were limited to delivery/take out and everything else was either closed or limited to order/pickup. At the same time, none of the neighboring countries went into lockdown (most did require Covid vaccines or negative tests in oder to enter stores/restaurants, though). The Netherlands did make primary kids returning to school a priority in January, though, and then they slowly reopened different parts of the economy with the restaurants being allowed to open again this week! We have been busy making reservations and planning some adult nights out in the coming weeks.
- School continues to go well. Despite some quarantine disruptions, the boys have enjoyed and look forward to school. We love that they have some of their learning outside (even in unfavorable weather) and continue to be amazed at the various countries represented by their classmates. Caleb, especially, has had some really interesting projects and continues to build some strong friendships with some of his classmates. Mason is known as the “helper” and is his teacher’s go-to when she feels she can’t answer everyone’s questions. I think he likes this role, and it is boosting his self-confidence. I’m not entirely sure where they stand academically versus where they would be if we’d stayed in Charleston, but I can tell you the school’s global perspective has had an impact. That alone is priceless.
- Some things keeping Josh and I busy during the week:
- Dutch lessons. Yep, we are still working on learning this language! I’m feeling more confident, thanks to our teacher Martina, but I won’t be passing for a native speaker any time soon.
- Half Marathon Training. Josh, Melissa, and I signed up for a half marathon that we’ll run in Utrecht the first weekend in April. Coach Anne has a plan and we’re excited to take the boys to another city at that time.
- Puzzles. We still spend quite a bit of time at home so use puzzles to pass the time, and even enjoy some late night “puzzling” with our neighbor, Tina. We’ve also exchanged some puzzles with another friend, Heather. We’re now on our 6th I think.
- Trip planning. With restrictions easing and some holidays coming, we are feeling better about booking some of our upcoming trips. Stay tuned!
- Family dinners with Melissa. We’re lucky that Meli makes time during the week to come spend some evenings with us. The boys always get excited to see her (it helps that her last visits have also included some desserts), and we can usually get a game of Uno or Phase10 in before they need to get ready for bed. We’ve also had some dinners with the Austrian neighbors, Tina, Georg and Natalie. They like that we grill often (even in the cold/rain) so we’ve enjoyed having them over a few times for grilled dinners.
- Walks with friends. This is more me than Josh. But I enjoy coffee walks with Tina and have found a handful of other friends in the area who like to go on walks from time to time. Especially when restrictions were in place, this always felt like a safe, sanity-saving activity.
One of the things I’d hoped for in coming here to the Netherlands was to build some independence/resiliency with the kids. Hoping that in letting them eventually bike alone to school, for example, or to a friend’s house, they would increase their self-reliance. Unfortunately, due to lockdowns and quarantines, we have not had quite that experience. It has been mostly lovely as a family to have a LOT of time together. And we are quite used to the four of us being ever present…but I’ve noticed a little more attachment from the kids due to this. Like the day I went to Amsterdam to replace my passport (update, it has been received yay!), both boys cried. And they were super stressed about my well-being until we met up the next day. This was never a thing pre-Covid, especially if they were with Josh, so it was a bit of a surprise to us. I don’t think this is due solely to our experience here in the Netherlands, but compounded on 1.5 years in the US where we also kept mostly to ourselves and nearby family members (i.e. only a couple of babysitters in that time). As things begin to reopen and Josh and I try to nurture new and old friendships (and our own relationship) with dinners out etc, it will be interesting to see how they adjust.
All in all, we’re halfway through and it feels both long and short. The last 2 months have stretched for an eternity as we waited not very patiently for boosters, kid vaccines and easing of restrictions. But when I look ahead to what is planned (keep those fingers crossed) and what we still want to do, the remaining time feels far too short. We’ve been asked many times if we are indeed returning home later this year. While I could see us in an alternate universe easing into this Dutch way of life or even moving somewhere else to experience something new…I can tell you the boys are currently holding us to our one year commitment. They have, in my view, been excellent partners in this adventure. They’ve not complained about being here, or school, or any of the big parts of this experience. In fact, they seem quite happy. They especially like their new friends and they look forward to the travels. But they’ve made it clear that they want to return in the summer to our family members back home. We’ll see if the improvement in weather, subsequent travels, and extra time here changes that desire, but I wouldn’t put money on it.
We’ve done a lot in 6 months despite the restrictions. We’ve visited several bucket list cities/countries, and even some places we didn’t know about. We’ve enjoyed a lot of quality time with Melissa and Flo. We’ve made new, wonderful friends. The boys are still practicing baseball and Caleb has run a few Parkrun 5Ks with Josh and me. We still cycle or walk most places. It makes me beyond happy to see how strong the boys are on their bikes and how confident they are in their navigation of Dutch streets. (I owe y’all a whole post on cycling here. It’s coming, I promise.) It wasn’t completely how we pictured it, but what adventure ever goes perfectly? I am looking forward to this second half and trying to soak up all the moments that I know I’ll miss in the future. Next up in our travel plans is another bucket list item – ski trip to the Alps in February!