VACATION TIME

These are our last days of our school vacation.. What better reason is there to reflect upon holidays?

Dear Holiday,
I love you as an institution; I love you for what you stand for: A well deserved period of fun and relaxation after a period of hard work.

Memories of days long past come floating back; long, lazy days filled with sweet nothing. During our school holidays back in the days, when I was a young girl, we didn’t have a computer at home. My parents couldn’t afford to go away during each vacation. German TV at that time only had three channels, our kid’s entertainment started at 5.10pm, and ended at 7pm.

We had a big yard and my brother and I had enough willing neighbours to play with us. Time spent at home during school holidays is a pleasant blur. We read books, went on bike rides and later on a teenagers, we still went on bike rides, just a little bit further away.

imagesCAC106SE

Did we drive my mom crazy?  I don’t think so. This lady has a talent to keep herself – and others, busy. Always has been, always will be. Obviously, I asked her this question, several times even. And always the same response: “Oh, I really don’t remember, that is so long ago!” Our dad was mostly at work’; we definately didn’t drive him crazy.

Dear Holiday, as a working woman I cherish you to charge up replenished batteries –  we all need a rest once in a while.

Dear Holiday, in my current state and carreer as a mother of four, you are driving me crazy!

Holiday time at home is luxury and fun during the first three days. The luxury of staying up late, getting up even later and slouching in ones PJ’s can’t be stressed enough. Holiday time frees me up from a demanding taxi service four nights a week to bring any one of the boys to soccer practise. At least now I can design my own evening entertainment.

Any longer than three days and anarchy takes over!

Mrs. Holiday, I hold you responsible to turn our life upside down, to let our well rehearsed, well established routine fall into pieces. Nothing makes sense anymore. If I don’t offer our boys a list of activities ( e.g. ice-skating, movies, skiing, trail walking), they are more than happy to roll out of their bed straight onto the comfy couch in our men den to start on the xbox.

We are getting up way too late, we don’t know if we should eat breakfast or lunch, our dishes are pilling up in the sink. It’s driving me crazy!

Dearest holiday, I appreciate you as a wonderful opportunity to experience daily life in a more extra-ordinary fashion these days. But as you know, all good things have to come to an end. This is what happens to all good or bad things, they have to end. The good thing about bad things coming to an end is that we have the chance to start fresh again.

The good things, like holidays, need to come to an end too; otherwise we wouldn’t enjoy and appreciate them so much!

Therefore, on Monday my children will be sad that you are over, but I will be happy! Life as I know it will be upon us-again!

Advertisements

WHEN IN SEATTLE, EAT!

Here is my account of our road trip to Seattle. On our quest to take the children places, to widen their horizon and to appreciate city life, we discovered that it is the simple thing that kept our boys happy!

Here we go again: During the recent long weekend we took the opportunity to spice up our‘daily life’ and took our boys across the border to visit Seattle.  We like to describe ourselves as ‘cosmopolitan parents’: “It is our duty to take them places and to let them explore other cultures ( I am not sure if Seattle qualifies)”

If it wouldn’t be for the border control, Seattle is only a hop and skip away from Vancouver (i.e. a two hour car ride).

Seattle, the birthplace of our modern, coffee drinking civilization (i.e. Starbucks)!

The first ever Starbucks store!

The first ever store!

Seattle, the home of one of the richest man in the world. The man, who made sure computers are a household item (Microsoft)!

Thanks to the invention of TV shows (in this case I – Carly), our boys were familiar with the city and the Space Needle way before we arrived.

During this recent trip we took the Sumas border-crossing, followed by a beautiful ride through winding, picturesque countryside through rural Washington State. I always ‘make sure’ that our children appreciate the beautiful surroundings they find themselves in. During this trip it somewhat back fired on me: “You always tell us to look at mountains, they all look the same.” Or a better one is: “Everything is beautiful here!”

Can I blame them? Not really. We moved to B.C., one of the greenest, most beautiful places on earth.                                                                                                                                                                               For 15 years now we are in the parent business and we discovered it is much easier to go with the flow and the ever changing times than to bang our head against the wall – wishing the ‘good old times back’. Gone are the days when our –now- teenager was happy to draw for hours, play with his Lego blogs or stare out of the window to count cows during a car trip. Nowadays it is the screen in front of them instead of the screen ahead of them which holds their attention. It is the 21th Century and hand held devices rule when it comes to entertaining children during a car trip!

We arrived, fought for a parking spot and started our adventure!

First stop: Pike Market at the Waterfront

A very crowded Saturday

It is Saturday and very crowded. We are six, only two of us have a mobile phone and we are all wearing dark jackets – in case of separation we will have a hard time relocation each other again! Needless to say, I love all this hassle and buzzing around me –  our boys couldn’t care less. 

If fish throwing, singing fish mongers can’t hold their attention, what can? And guess what? They didn’t appreciate some of the advertising either!

The simple solution to a complex dilemma?   An authentic Gyros Food stall:  Give the children food and they will be happy and contend!

Second stop: Space Needle

It is a 41 second elevator ride to the top of the Space Needle. Once at the top you are rewarded with a 360 – degree panoramic view. This trip alone set us back $120.00! I personally have no problem spending all day at the top to make sure I get enough ‘views for my money’. Unlike our boy. Money doesn’t mean anything to them. If this isn’t bad enough, five minutes upon arrival and a sprint around the platform we heard the first:”Can we go now?” Followed by a: “Are we done yet?”

Parents can only take so much nagging, so we followed our credo: Go with the flow and give the children what they really want: Food. This time we landed in the massive Food Hall next to the Children’s Museum:  It was MOD Pizza for four of us, Subway for our oldest and Big Food (aka a hot pork sandwich) for Dominic.

Third stop:

With a tummy full of food it is easy to enjoy The International Fountain. The fountain spouts  water to the backdrop of classical music and finishes with a grand finale.  It is simply put, Spectacular!

Fourth stop:

As young as our children are, the already know the universal truth: Goods in the USA are cheaper than in Canada and the choice you have here is much bigger! Therefore, it was enough sightseeing for the day and we headed for the next shopping mall and outlet stores! Let me rephrase this: A nirvana found for parents and kids alike. During the next few hours all we heard was the happy chatting of four happy boys comparing the newest Halo games while trying on Nike shirts or searching for the perfect winter sweat-shirt.

It doesn’t need to be complicated, educational or eye-opening: When it comes to children and being an extra-ordinary parent, we keep it simple: we offer them what they want! Food and outlet stores! Quite simple, really!

NO SEX IN THE SUBURBS

Written by  Miss Kitty, Suburbanville, BC, Canada

Here she is, my first guest contributor: Miss Kitty!

She is a self proclaimed expert in the field of cosmetics and beauty products! This is something I don’t know much about and therefore her assignment was simple: What are the hottest items on the market for both men and women at the moment?

But as you can read, Kitty had something else on her mind!

Happy reading!

Loss of libido is a common thing that happens to many women in long-term relationships.  Forty three percent of us have experienced this at some point in our lives. As you’re reading this right now, I’m willing to bet that the majority of you would prefer a nice glass of wine and a hot bath to a romp in the sack most nights.

Better than sex?

The question is: Why does this happen? I know that when I was in my twenties, (With far less of a hectic lifestyle) I couldn’t wait to play a game of “hide the sausage”. My sex drive was turbo charged. I thought about sex more often and was insatiable in my partner’s opinion. In fact in all of my relationships before I met my husband were like that.

So in spite of thinking that I know what has turned me off sex, why are so many other women in the same position?

Children, pre-imenopause, medication, and stress can transgress into a loss of libido while emotions are usually the culprit for younger women. When I was younger with my first real lover, he messed around with some bimbo in our parking lot. I was so angry and hurt that things were never quite the same after that. I kept analyzing all of the things about him that turned me off.

Moving forward ten years, my libido went into a complete funk after my son was born. I poured all of my emotion and affection onto him as I grew up in a very non- demonstrative family. Five years later when my daughter was born it became even worse, the thought of sex just seemed way too much of an effort and time consuming. Days were long and hectic with a full time job and having two young children. When I got home, I just wanted to relax and not have to think about pleasing another person.

When the physical side starts to fizzle in many relationships, the person who is wanting more activity in the bedroom, usually then will start lashing out, possibly having affairs, or think about leaving the relationship. Many of our couple friends in the last year split, a few had affairs, and some acquaintances even started swinging!

Not that I’m into that kind of thing, but I can only imagine that if I tried it, I’d end up with a balding guy with a ponytail and bad breath! Nope, not my bag, but it seems to work for some people! Honestly though I don’t really know the answer. Because so many women that I know in long term relationships feel the same way, I wonder if  mojo just fizzles out after seven years or so. The famous seven year itch…

Some women have had success with hormone therapy and have lit the sheets on fire once again, but am I on to something when I say that human beings just aren’t meant to be monogamous?

Signing off, Miss Kitty!

Hello again, this is Christina writing!  With this note I like to say a big “Thank You” to Kitty for sharing her ‘dilema’with us! Here is my thought: Isn’t it sad that sex in a long term relationship is the (extra-ordinary)  exception and not the norm?  Having sex should be like ageing: The older we get the better we become!? Just a thought…

TOO MUCH TIME

 RANDOM & (EXTRA-) ORDIONARY THOUGHTS during a bus ride

From Coquitlam to Burnaby

                                                                                                                                                       To fully appreciate Justin Bieber you need to be a teenage girl! Our male dominated household is a “Bieber-Fever – Free Zone!”

Blame it on my ears:  Katie Perry, Kelly Clarkson & Carly Rae Jepsen sound like one to me!

The movie”JACKASS” should be renamed into ‘Dumb Asses”.  Honestly, who comes up with this dangerous, disgusting stuff? Men?                                                                        While I am thinking about movies:  I don’t see the attraction of ‘The Walking Dead” either

 On the other hand, I think Peter Griffin is cool!  “Family Guy” beats “South Park” any day!

 What is it with men and their obsession with black socks?

 Forget about reading “50 Shades of Grey”. See what 50 shades of black socks do to your libido when you try to match them back together!

Best invention in the sock department: The ones with the names of the week printed on.    Or buy hiking socks.   They make it even easier to get the right foot into the right sock: They have the letters written on them!  This is a wonderful no-brainer for early in the morning.

The best invention for homemakers who are in charge of the laundry: Colour catchers! These sheets of paper changed my life! They save so much time and deliver what they promise!

Is it too late to teach our boys home etiquette? They need some fine tuning! Why can’t they compliment me on a job well done when I present a new dish? Instead they are yelling: “Don’t like it”.

Joey’s mom in Korea, (he is our exchange student) you did something right here: Your son would NEVER, EVER say something like that to me.  If he doesn’t agree with the new dish he quietly reaches for the ketchup bottle! He is a clever one.

 Mom was right when she told me fewer, but thicker rolls of toilet paper last longer than single sheet rolls.

Please anti-wrinkle cream – manufacturers, tell the truth, are your creams really working? I have reached the age where I want to believe your promises!

What happened, can’t “multi-task” anymore!.  I was able to read an e-mail, respond to it, answer the phone, watch TV and talk to Dominic – all at the same time!  Now I need quiet and peace to do one or the other! BUT, I am still able to make yoghurt and crunchy flakes at the same time!

Blueberries and pumpkin spiced lattes are an acquired taste.

Why should you drive with 16 and drink with 19? The other way around makes so much more sense to me..                                                                                                                                                                            Drink when you are 16, get shit faced many times over, puke and get it over with. Then become a responsible driver with 18. You won’t have any desire to drink anymore (or at least not so much).

I wonder where I will find Cruz’s well hidden birthday present. Probably at my next spring cleaning.

It was brilliant how Brando cracked the combination lock of our new suitcase. He watched YouTube got on with it. Scarry what teenagers know and learn from their downloads. But in this case, very helpful indeed – and easier than you think!

Wouldn’t it be nice to become Penny’s roommate and hang out with Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj? Would love to meet Howard’s mother …

Don’t know whom I am talking about? It’s the Big Bang Theory!

Would you like to add to this random rambling?  Please let me know!

Olympic Glory VS White Trailer Trash

What do they both have in common?

They both represent the best and worse in their chosen field!           

olympic games

Olympic season is upon  us!

  First observation:

  What a perfect opportunity for everybody in the retail and hospitality industry to dress up their old offerings in the spirit of the games and to sell them with the title “excellent ” attached to it.       Further more, columnists at various publications are taking advantage of the event to add their pearls of wisdom.                                                                                                                                      Just like my favourite guy from our local Maple Ridge Weekly.                                                                                                                               On first sight it was funny when I read about “my new relationship with our new plasma TV”, or “leaving the house only to stock up on beer and necessary food items (i.e. tortilla chips and dips).”

    At second glance, not funny at all.                                                                                                                                            As a general rule, we (writers) have to relate to our readers – even if it means to put ourselves down at times.                                                                                                       Depending on the topic we are writing about this can be quite funny indeed.                                                                                                                            Let me get this straight: My favourite columnists sits on his butt for days on end, watches the best of the best the world has to offer and is happy and content to portray himself as a tortilla -chip- munching- couch potato? What is wrong with him? Why isn’t he inspired and motivated by the excellence he watches for hours every day? (or he is a very clever man indeed: he only pretends to behave like many of his readers).

Too many bags of greasy nibbles mixed with  liquor leads me to my second observation:                                                                                                                            My first encounter (in our new home country ) with the less desirable face of modern civilization – the opposite end of excellence: trailer trash!

    Yes, we spotted and experienced them first hand right here at the local swimming hole!                                                                                                                                    I am born and bred European – I can testify we (Europeans)are quite open minded and tolerant towards certain topics. I.e.  I am no stranger to the concept of e.g.the legal use of  marijuana, gay marriage, nude beaches, a low drinking age (16 is the common age to drink beer in most European countries) or pornographic publications.                                                                                                                     Under normal circumstances pierced body parts or excessively tattooed body sections leave me stone cold.      A dress too tight or too small squeezed over too much body flubber may get a second look from me at the most- but no more.                                                                              Cheap wine straight from the bottle can be fun or even romantic.                                      Loud conversations are annoying but could be entertaining – sometimes.                                                                                                                                            A kiss among lovers is not worth mentioning.                                                            Tolerance turns into raised eybrows  when I have to witness                                        excessive french kissing in a public place.  I get embarrassed when obscene, very suggestive, sexual moves are added to the french kiss (still in front of my eyes – and I couldn’t leave. The exit was blocked).                                                                                                                                    I I can’t take it when cheap wine is the reason for loud, vulgar, rude conversation and I get severely pissed when fat, loud and vulgar mixes together!

Dear visitors to the swimming hole: “Behave like this at home but not in front of me and my children!”    In this instance I wished these folks had read the column of my favourite columnist and followed his example: stay at home with your cheap wine, do your french thing on the couch and leave the TV on for some Olympic highlights. You might catch a glimpse of excellence and inspiration!                                                                                             I sincerely hope there is  extra-ordinary in all us!                                                                                                                                  Oh, I nearly forgot: I prefer to get inspired- and I try to live my life to prove it!

P.S. abdominals are getting better by the day! Upper arms are still shaping up and the book? I will tell you next time!

The Move

(Warning, this is a long one, but it is the introduction for everything that will follow…)

Our whole family recently moved from The Netherlands to Maple Ridge, BC, Canada.

Our family includes the American husband, our teenage son (15 years of age) our pre-teen (12 years) the youngest one (9) plus my German self. Reason for the change in scenery was our search for adventure, more space, wild nature and the language. And frankly speaking, after 12 years in the Flatlands of Europe, we just learned everything there is to know about the Dutch-Way-of-Life. Prior to our departure we both operated successful businesses- my husband as a self employed business coach and trainer, me as the proud owner of Strawberry Lounge.

What you are about to read is not an account of the vast differences in Dutch vs. Canadian attitudes or culture. Far from it- I am going to de-mystify the belief that

“You can only move countries, (or continents in this matter) prior to the arrival of your children or when your children are younger than elementary school age”.

We heard about this as well. Unconvinced about this wives tale we were more worried about the following two scenarios.  First, love would strike any of the boys and second, our own increased age would label us “unsuitable to be of any valid contribution to the country”. If we wanted to make the move, we had to move now.  We didn’t have any family, friends or business connections to rely on. It was up to us to make it happen!

On arrival to Canada we explained to our children they had one of two choices to make. To either live in the past or to give it an honest shot here in Maple Ridge. The Netherlands was the past, Canada is the present and will be our future.

Six months down the road we figured it out.

Our kids are happily settled in their Elementary or High School respectively. Each of them took their time to adjust to their new life. Unsurprisingly, our youngest son had the least trouble. Only two days after arrival he found his soul mate just two doors down the road. The middle son took his time and spent a couple of weeks on facebook, posting openly his mistrust and hate about his new home.  But let me tell you, after spending a birthday party with his new class mates it is all easy going with him. He happily mingles with his new mates on his way home, turned into an enthusiastic street hockey player and entertains the whole street in our den. And our teenager? God knows- he is a young man of few words.  But what we can gather from his tidbits, he thinks it is cool here. He also joined the neighbourhood street hockey team. To earn some money he scored himself a baby – sitting job, earned himself a cool mountain-trail bike doing chores for an elderly gentleman and made friends with other like minded souls.  He is good! When our boys talk about their previous life and their friends left behind, they sound fine. We can’t hear regret or sadness in their voices.

Let me share with you what helped make our transition so easy:

All of us speak English. Due to our back grounds we brought up the children tri-lingual. Daily life is easy with the same lingo. Watching TV, reading books or mingling doesn’t cause a problem. The school system is fabulous: The Canadians don’t believe in holding a child back. If any problems are encountered they get help along the way as much as possible. Both younger boys get extra help twice a week with their writing and grammar skills. Brando, the oldest, actually excels in every given subject! If you decide to move countries, make sure you are familiar with the new language.

Find a house and neighbourhood for the whole family.

Our original plan was to live in isolation, to live with as much space as possible. We lived like sardines in The Netherlands. Canada is the second biggest country in the world. Why should we cramp our style here? For some strange leap of faith we decided to buy a house along a totally different spectrum. We both fell in love with our new residency, situated in the heart of a neighbourhood.  Honestly, this is the best thing we have ever done!  Our new neighbourhood swarms with children and their parents are extremely nice and entertaining too. Thankfullywe have more boys than girls on top of our ridge and the ages range from seven to 14 years of age.  Each of our boys found the right match.

Our street is a cul-de-sac.  In the afternoon and early evening hockey nets are spread across the street to slow any traffic down. During hot afternoons our yards are transformed into battle grounds for water gun fights, they serve as backdrops for movie making, for hide and seek games or any other creative gimmick to pop into the heads of the boys. If the weather god plays tricks on us we have Plan B. All the houses have an entertainment system in their basements.

All parents have an unspoken agreement: We feed whomever we find in our house. Due to this arrangement our kids discovered KRAFT DINNERS and fell in love with MACCARONI & CHEESE. Because all our neighbours are so nice we often find ourselves sitting on someone else’s terrace having margaritas or drinking beer. Or, everybody else finds themselves on our deck outside. Quite often we throw our goods together for an impromptu BBQ. To make good things even better, one of the neighbours owns a swimming pool with the sign “open to all” attached to it!

Just a short, but very steep bike ride down the hill you can find the HOT ROCKS, three big rocks in the middle of a river.  This local swimming hole is ideal when it gets hot and for anybody brave enough to brace glacier water. Brrr, it is freezing, but refreshing.

Talk and talk some more! 

Find out where to find the deals!  Moving is expensive, especially when you make the plunge across the big ocean. All big electronic household items are rendered useless coming from Europe.  We could save cash by simply asking what item to buy from which shop. On a food related basis, I interviewed every female I came in contact with to share her secret shop for purchasing fresh produce and general survival items.  Everybody pointed me to the Superstore and the Farmers Market. Acting upon their recommendations I got a free savers card from each store to take advantage of their weekly specials.

 Watch what you are buying

North American food tastes different than Dutch and German food. God knows what they put in their bread, canned soups or drinks. Actually, I don’t want to know. All I know is that it takes time to adjust to the new cuisine. Bottom line is, adapt or start spending BIG for the flavours you are used to from Europe.

But, as I just mentioned, every EU import is very expensive. The Knorr and Maggi sachets have to wait for a special day, e.g. Canada Day.  A cheaper option would be to send a stress call to family or friends in the old country and ask for a care package.

Instead of spending big money on food one can opt to split the budget and shop big for clothes instead.  All the famous US labels like Ralph Lauren, T.Hilfiger, The Gap, Lands End or Banana Republic have Outlet stores – everything can be purchased for a fraction of the Euro. These shops also offer discount coupons on line when you purchase for the first time in their store.              Another good money saver is a Garage Sale. Dominic ( my husband) found us a “Broiler King” state of the art BBQ, a sturdy oak outdoor garden set, various chairs for our terraces, hockey equipment and a Nerf gun- all this for the tiny fraction of the retail price.

As a recap, these are our tried and tested recipes for establishing ourselves in the new country:

Talk and talk some more.  Let everybody know you have arrived. Open up your house for visitors. Canadians take their volunteer work seriously. I joined the ranks. So far I volunteered for school projects and for a two day community event. Both occasions are fabulous to meet and mingle with mothers, get to know the school and make new local acquaintances. Dominic and myself network at various events to get to know the movers and shakers of the business world and we visit lots of free social events to get to know as many individuals as possible.

We obviously have to put in the effort.  But we are more than happy and willing to do so.  You have to make the first step, the first commitment and the rest will follow automatically. The Canadians make it surely easy for everybody. They are welcoming, friendly, open minded, honest and easy going. Step by step we are building our new circle of friends and acquaintances here. It is effortless, fun and rewarding.

Somebody said: ‘”Home is where the heart is”.

Dominic and myself believe this. Accordingly, we pass the following message on to the boys:                      We are happy wherever we are, because we want to be!