Monday, 30 June 2014

Smitten by Britain: 10 British Things I Have Never Done

My offering for June is over on the fabulous Smitten by Britain website. This time I've put together ten things that I consider to be quite British which I never actually got round to doing or seeing before I left Britain to move to the Netherlands. Of course it doesn't mean I will never get to do them.... they are on my list, well the ones I actually want to do that is. Some British things I really never need to do...
"Before I reached my teenage years I had already had my fair share of house moves, so I got to know quite a few parts of England well. I have holidayed in many places across the British Isles and visited many sights on any serious tourist’s list. The Roman Baths in Bath, museums in London, the Lake District, the lush scenery of Cornwall and Devon, the Blackpool Tower and the beauty of Kent’s countryside are just some of the list that spring to mind. 
I have seen things that are on any sane person’s bucket list. For example, I have seen Evil Knievel perform death defying stunts at Brands Hatch......"

To read the rest head on over to Smitten by Britain: 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Raising Happy Sensitive Kids

*My Happy Sensitive Kids blog is the place to find all new highly sensitive related posts* 
Regular visitors this this blog will know there are three main themes running through my posts: all things Dutch, all things British and the amazing topic of Highly Sensitive Children.

A year ago my family was wading through some dark, dark days trying to deal with a school that failed to acknowledge that some children are highly sensitive and that the constant noise and busyness around them in a classroom have real implications for how they feel - and once they are in the comfort of their own home - how they behave. Life was a daily battle. And one we were losing.

We had amazing support from various Dutch youth services (a blog post for another day now I think about it) and we found our way through in the end but it was hard. It was incredibly stressful and it put a lot of strain on my family and particularly my children.

My husband and I felt alone because it is often hard for friends and family to understand what being a highly sensitive child means for a child and their parents in day to day life. Some days we really felt like we were making it all up. I questioned whether highly sensitive really existed - that is how our son's former school made us feel. They made us feel, some days, like complete nut jobs - saying one thing to us, but acting another way entirely as soon as my son was in the classroom with them. They humoured us but never helped. We went through just about every emotion you could name. Until enough was enough and we switched schools. If only we had done it sooner. The Dutch have a saying "zit lekker in je vel" - to literally be comfortable in your own skin. And that is what we saw happen when our son started at a new school. He was suddenly comfortable in his own skin.

But, as with everything there is always a positive angle - every cloud has a silver lining and all that. Through our experience, I learned a lot. I will never go down the same road again.

How we felt a year ago is the reason why I set up a Facebook group for parents of highly sensitive children. It's the reason I started writing about the topic here on this blog. So that no other parent of a HSC feels alone when they face problems at school, or feels unsure when their child refuses to go to a friend's birthday party, or cries every morning at nursery drop off, or is pulling their hair out when their daughter refuses to wear new clothes that she says are scratchy, or refuses to eat anything but peanut butter and cheese. Because they all may seem like little things to the outside world, but day in day out, dealing with the sensitivities of a confused, overwhelmed child puts even the most patient of parents to the test. And when the world around you shows a complete lack of understanding for your child's needs parenting feels lonely.

The truth is, if you are parenting a HSC you are absolutely not the only one. You are not alone. And it is a topic that is gaining more and more ground (read this if you don't believe me: Why Some People are Genetically More Sensitive or Empathetic Than Others) and more and more parents are getting more of an understanding of their HSC. The latest generation of highly sensitive children have more chance of having parents that really get them, that understand them and what they need to grow into beautiful adults who not afraid of their sensitivity. That's the good news. And as parents the world wide web gives us the tools to support each other so that we can raise Happy Sensitive Kids.

I am thrilled to have been approached by two wonderful bloggers in the past few weeks to write a post on the very topic of highly sensitive children. It's a wonderful acknowledgement of what I have been trying to do over what turns out to be almost exactly a year.

Firstly, I wrote a post for Leila for her wonderful Sensitive and Extraordinary Kids blog on the topic of being a HS mother and how I struggled entering motherhood. I thought I wasn't cut out to be a mother. Turns out I just needed to empty my bucket every now and then.

And then I wrote a guest post for Annabelle for The Piri Piri Lexicon blog distinguishing between introverts and HSC. It's a fine line, and often a child is both.

If you are raising a highly sensitive child join our Facebook Group, leave a comment here or just check back once in a while - just know you're not alone.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

My Expat Bucket List - 10 Dutch Things I Want to Do

AI mentioned last week, a new expat blogger's link up starts today and it will stay open for a month. This time it's all about the things you still want to see, do or experience in the country you currently call home.

I realised whilst writing my expat reverse bucket list that there are still some things I want to do whilst I am here in the Netherlands as an expat (not that we are planning on leaving anytime soon but I have a list). And here it is:

1. Write a book about life as an expat
I have started and thanks to NaNoWriMo last year I made some serious headway with my own musings on life as an expat in the Netherlands. But there is still a long way to go.

2. A Writing Afternoon at Kasteel De Haar 

We recently visited the beautiful Dutch castle of De Haar in Utrecht and I fell in love with the place. It conjured up images of sitting under one of the many majestic trees dressed in a long flowing white dress and a summer hat doing nothing but writing. And how I would love to do just that. If only I owned a long, flowing white dress.... Maybe if spend many afternoons doing just this I might achieve the first items of my wish list in the process.....

3. Visit Giethoorn
I first read about the Venice of the North in an Access magazine and it stuck with me. However, I still haven't quite chalked up an actual visit. Giethoorn is located in Overijssel in the Netherlands and the only way to get around is by boat or bike. Picturesque doesn't begin to describe how it looks.

4. Boerenspellen
This is maybe a strange one, but I keep seeing signs for 'boerenspellen' as we drive in through farming areas and rural landscapes and it sounds like a lot of fun. This is essentially traditional Dutch, outdoor games played in a farmer's field. Think along the lines of pole vaulting over water, chain gang clog walking, farmer's golf (picture big wooden clubs), wheelbarrow races, tyre rolling, tug 'o war.

5. Cycle like a Local
I'm more of a recreative cyclist. And that at a push. I'd like to think nothing of jumping on my bike and heading off out. The reality is clambering in the shed, checking none of the tyres have gone down since the last outing six months ago, cursing because I've caught my leg on a pedal of one of the kids' bikes, leave the shed in a foul mood and limp off to my destination. My husband has been busy clearing the shed up the last few weeks, give the bikes an overhaul and is regularly going off on jaunts on his bike - and I am going to follow suit......

This is what cars looked like when I was regularly driving -
I need to get back out there!
6. Drive
Following the transportation theme, I want to get out in the car. I wrote about my fear a while back, and it hasn't gone away. It is one of those stupid, irrational things that has grown and become the norm. And it's restricting. I even got behind the wheel with a driving instructor, got to the point where I felt confident enough to drive our car and then... I fell down the stairs and was out of action for a few months. And it all went to waste.

7. See Soldat van Oranje
Since having children going to the theatre hasn't been a regular occurrence. In fact, it may have happened once when I went to see Billy Elliot in London for a lovely weekend away with a friend. Once in more than seven years. So I don't really go out of my way to look at what is on in the way of plays or musicals but Soldat van Oranje has caught my eye. I have a thing for war time stories, particularly Dutch ones. In school, I learnt a lot about the second World War from the British perspective, and later taking French A-Level, from the French view. Living in the Netherlands now I am learning how the war was through Dutch eyes.

8. See the Dutch Football Team Live
I have only ever seen the boys in orange on the television and I would like to change that. I figure now would be great time to do that seeing as they are playing their matches in Brazil.
*Stumbles off to look for loose change down the back of the sofa*

9. See the Dutch Football Team Win a World Cup
This doesn't have to be live. I would settle for watching the Netherlands lift the World Cup on my screen in the comfort of my own home, as long as I got to see it. Four years ago Oranje made it to the World Cup final and fell at the last hurdle. It was devastating, even for an adopted Dutchie like me. So far this World Cup they have surprised everyone, and I hope it continues.....

10. See an Elfstedentocht
Oh, this seems like such a wonderful event to witness - a 200 kilometre ice skating tour/race through eleven cities in Friesland. Once the temperature drops below freezing in the Netherlands on more than three says in a row there is a rising national fever in anticipation of the possibility of an Elfstedntocht. Unfortunately, the reality is that it has been many years since the last tocht took place (namely 1997) and I really wonder if I will ever get to see one. There have been a few years since I came to the Netherlands where the rumblings reach epic levels, and it looks like it is a remote possibility and then comes a big thaw and the hopes melt as fast as the ice. One year maybe it will happen.

Linking Up
So, that's 10 things I still want to see do or experience in the Netherlands, now's it's over to you. What do you still want to do in the country you currently call home? If you are not a blogger but have an expat bucket list (big or small) then leave a comment here and share it.

If you are a blogger then link up your post below. There aren't really any rules but I would ask that you please share the link up button below on your own post and it would be great if you visited the other linked posts and leave a comment, even if it is to say hello. I look forward to reading all your expat bucket lists!

Expat Life with a Double Buggy

Monday, 23 June 2014

The Ultimate Guide for Any Wannabe Brit

The Wimbledon Tennis Championships start today and so it is appropriate to share this once more:

This is the ultimate illustration for what it takes to be British. I mean, real, proper British. If you can't queue you're not in the British club. As a nation we pride ourselves on our queueing abilities and woe betide anyone who does not queue in the correct way. Should you fail to queue in the official manner you will be .........tutted at. A lot. And if looks could kill....... 

Lucky for inexperienced foreign queuers that we Brits are incredibly polite! We think menacing thoughts about queue jumpers, but we say nothing, leaving it at eye rolling and tutting. If you want to know more about queuing head over to Smitten by Britain for my article, The British Art of Queuing

Friday, 20 June 2014

When Travel Was Fun: The Aviodrome

If you haven't been to the Aviodrome in Lelystad and you like planes and all that then it is well worth a visit for sure. We've been a few times now and my sons have so much fun every time, with lots of new things added since we were last there. You can also make rondvluchten and get to see the Netherlands from a different angle (which I did for my 30th birthday).

But I digress.... what struck me the last time we visited was the fact that air travel once seemed exciting and fun. And that is certainly not how I have experienced my last few budget flights whilst being hoarded around in cattle class.

In fact, last time I flew the short trip from England to the Netherlands I, along with many of my fellow passengers, were using words not fit for a child's ears as we were shoved from one queue to the next waiting for a plane to appear long past it's fly by time. When it finally made an appearance passengers were then harassed to play a kind of reverse pass the parcel game where we all had to hide bags within bags because the flight was full. We were all given extra brownie points (actually meaning less scowls and less abrupt communication from staff) if we could make our baggage disappear completely. Standing at a boarding gate with hundreds of sweaty, angry, late passengers is seriously more fun that you could ever hope to have at 9pm on a Wednesday night. But this is flying 'now' and the Aviodrome shares the flying 'then' with visitors. A world of difference.

The Aviodrome offers visitors a historical look at flying, and the growth of KLM, the Dutch national air carrier. Admittedly some of the the earlier flights did make me question safety here and there, but the nostalgia behind the idea of flying as you walk around the museum pieces is phenomenal. I could feel the buzz that those early air travellers must have felt (and perhaps a little of the fear).

Flying has become so every day for us, especially for expats. It's all part of the process to get from A to B. Most of the time it's to get us from one familiar destination to another - host country to passport country. Sometimes, for a change, it's to go on holiday, but for me flying is a necessary evil to get somewhere. To be honest, I'd rather take the car - no worrying about baggage, entertaining bored kids when the flight is delayed or having strange people clamber over you every ten minutes to use the toilet.

But imagine how it must have felt when it was all so new and unknown: the packing, the boarding, the flying and then finally the destination. The question, "Will I make it home again?" raging in your mind. I'm kidding. Just a little.

There's a sign hanging in the Aviodrome, a kind of customer announcement if you like, letting passengers know they should dress warmly for their winter flight, and that extra blankets were available. And looking at the windows on those early planes, I am sure those extra blankets were frequently used.

Despite the fact that air travel for the general public was in an early phase, and comfort probably wasn't optimal, there was at least an element of excitement hanging in the air when passengers got onto a plane. It wasn't a huge commercial exercise, it wasn't about reducing leg room to fit more bums on seats and making passengers pay extra if they actually wanted to breath on the plane too.

In any case, my point is this: next time you are in a budget airline pre-pre-pre-boarding queue, attempting to squeeze your handbag, your child's comfort blanket, cuddly toy, and a nappy bag into a weekend bag so that the stern lady behind the budget airline desk (let's say she's wearing orange, just to help you with an image) doesn't shout at you when you reach her, and make you repack everything in front of the other 300 passengers waiting in line, remember it wasn't always like this. Aviation wasn't always about a 'cram as many people on as we physically can' mentality. Flying was once only about excitement, discovery, adventure and travel. Remember too that flying wasn't just about the destination - it was also about the journey.

And if you haven't been to the Avidrome then put it on your bucket list - it's worth a trip!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Expat Bloggers Link Up: My Expat Bucket List

Following the fun of the last expat blogging link up I've been itching to do another one but with one thing and another I haven't quite got round to it. Until now. The last link up was a collection of brilliant blog posts from expat bloggers across the globe detailing all the wonderful things they have done because of their expat lives - aka our reverse expat bucket lists. If you missed it head on over and have a peek, we'll wait for you.....

So now, having given ourselves a blogging high five for all the things we have already done as an expat it's time to think about the things still on that expat bucket list. (Face it, it was an inevitable twist). As soon as I started thinking about the things I have already done, seen and experienced since becoming an expat my mind wandered to the things I haven't quite got round to doing yet in the Netherlands. And so over to you, thinking caps on:

What things do you still want to see, do or experience in the country that you currently call home?

My expat bucket list and the link up will go live in a week - so Wednesday 25th June. I hope you'll join me then and share your expat bucket lists. And of course it would be great if you would spread the word - the more the merrier!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Dutch Integration: Orange, the World Cup and Holland

Unless you are living under a rock you are probably aware that the World Cup has kicked off in Brazil - and the Netherlands has already played their first group game.

And what a game it was. The current world champions were catapulted off their pedestal. The image of bugs lying on their backs frantically moving legs and arms in the air came to mind watching the Spanish during the match on Friday night. It was tremendous. World Cup history in the making.

Five times. I could have tweeted this five times.

Out of nowhere the Dutch football squad made the world sit up and take notice. As my dad commented, now the World Cup has really started. It was mesmerising to see the boys in blue demolish the team that beat them in the World Cup final four years ago. And that is football - one moment there are tears and the next moment fans are back slapping each other and whooping for joy.

So with the victory of 5-1 under their belts the Netherlands is ready to take on Australia this Wednesday. Even if you are not a football fan, you'll know when it's happening because it will be noisy, and every Dutch person you know will be dressed in orange.
And this was my update Friday morning - before the match.
I expect this figure to rise to 97.3% for Wednesday's match.
Before the World Cup started you probably noticed a small build up of pockets of orange flag lines emerging in streets. It cannot have escaped your notice that orange flags with lions and Hup Holland Hup were slowly being hoisted up flag poles. By the time Brazil and Croatia had kicked off there were streets that were what can only be described as orange. Other streets had a more modest scattering of orange paraphernalia adorning them.

Orange - it's the exterior design colour of the moment in the Netherlands

Now that the first three points are in the bag in such a spectacular fashion you may have noticed that the orange is spreading. Almost overnight orange things have spread their tentacles over more houses, businesses and street furniture. And the further the Dutch team progress in the tournament, the more orange things become.

Monuments turn orange. Food and drink become orange. Cars and bikes become orange. Hair turns orange. You name it - it starts turning orange.

And if you want to fully integrate in to Dutch society there is nothing you can do but join in. Embrace the orange. Go and buy an orange shirt. If you want to achieve expert integration level then you'll need to go full hog and invest in a few metres of orange flag lines and a flag with "Holland" on it. This is the one time in two years (this happens every European Championship and World Cup)  foreigners can call the Netherlands Holland and not get chastised by the locals, so make the most of it. Wave that 'Holland' flag around like you just don't care.

The country will be partying until the Dutch World Cup is over, however long that may be. And let's hope that is right up until Sunday 13 July. HUP HOLLAND HUP!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Father's Day - From a Distance

One of the downsides about living overseas is days like today. It's a day I'd like to spend with my dad, take him out for lunch, see him opening a gift in person. Instead, we have to settle with presents through the post, a phone call and a thank you said over the miles. And that's the best case scenario.

It's not even like my brother can carry the baton for us both in my absence on Father's Day as he lives even further away.

So all in all, what I can do on Father's Day just doesn't seem enough. Not considering all that my father has done for me, the inspiration he has been, the motivating factor at so many important times in my life.

And when I stop and think about it, he's actually only got himself to blame for the fact that I am in the Netherlands and absent every Father's Day.

In 1999 he gave me an early Christmas present of a reconditioned computer so that I could complete the dissertation for my post-graduate degree. Instead I met my future husband online, who happened to be a Dutchman. And I never finished that dissertation....

That was certainly one of my father's most influential moves. Others were spurring me on to go to university, motivating me to get a good education under my belt. He was also responsible for me taking A-Level Economics. He wanted me to take A-Level Maths. After I finished laughing hysterically, we settled on a compromise of Economics so that I had something at least a little 'business' like. Looking back now it provided a good balance with the more creative A-Levels I took. He's always encouraged me to strive to do more than I thought I could.

He was by my side as I bought my first home. He helped me hang hung lights and pictures and candleholders on the walls in my new flat. When I announced I was contemplating moving to the Netherlands his response was "Carpe diem". He walked me down the aisle on my wedding day. He jumped on a plane to come see us just days after each of my three sons were born.

He's been a steadfast influence in my life and, despite the distance, has remained a father and revelled in his role as grandfather to my sons. He is a cornerstone in my little Dutch family - and all done from 560km away. He is the ultimate proof that it's not how far away you live from your family, but the effort you make to be a parent and grandparent that counts.

So, happy father's day Dad - thank you for all you do and all that you are in our lives. Hope your 'top up' lasts you past the summer....cheers!

And of course happy father's day to all those other fathers out there - including my children's very own super papa.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Parenting Around the Planet: Parenting Dutch Style

I was delighted to be asked by Bod for Tea to write about what it is like to raise children as a Brit in the Netherlands.

It is only by putting pen to paper that I realised just how lucky I am to be able to parent here amongst the Dutch and I am constantly learning from those around me - just as I would be if I were raising my children in Britain. However, my examples here are different to those I would have in England - that is for sure.

To see what I mean head over to Bod for Tea and read my take on parenting Dutch style. I would love to hear your thoughts on my thoughts!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

The World Cup 2014 Battle Lines

Is everyone ready for the football World Cup? The battle lines are once more drawn in our house. The orange camp on one side and the white and red on the other. Although in reality the battle lines are much closer together than they once were and during the last World Cup our house was pretty much an exclusively orange affair.

I'm more caught up in the Dutch media frenzy leading up to any major tournament than I am in the English media onslaught. I'm more familiar with the Dutch players than the English. So the battle lines have become hazy. We're a little more united than twelve years ago. My sons and husband will cheer for England - as long as their opponents are not wearing orange.

My only gripe so far is that England's first match kicks off at midnight Dutch time....

I think whatever happens this year we can safely say it won't be a repeat of the drama and tears in our house of the 2010 World Cup Final. My prediction is that neither England nor the Netherlands will get anywhere near the final......and so there will be peace in the van Mulligen household come July 13th when the final will be played.

Are you planning on watching the World Cup? Which team is your money on to reach the final? Which team will you be cheering on?

If you missed it, you can read my post on England's love of the beautiful game over on Smitten by Britain:

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Lest We Forget - 70 Year Commemoration of D-Day

The images on television over the last few days have been poignant - commemorating D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. Remembering all those that lost their lives at the beginning of the end of World War II. As images flash before me, I can see myself standing in those same places a few years ago when we visited Normandy. The feelings flooded back.

As Obama spoke of the American soldiers as he stood in the Normandy American Cemetery my mind automatically fluttered back to the feeling of horror mixed with serene reflection which overtook me surrounded by 9,387 white crosses marking lost American lives. It is one of the most amazing places I have visited and a site that truly brings home the scale of the loss of life of the D-Day landings and the battles that followed. So many in their final resting place so far from home.

The American War Cemetery in Normandy

The Commonwealth, British and German war cemeteries were no less poignant. 

The British war cemetery in Bayeux: a humbling place to be

So many of the German graves are unnamed soldiers

The German cemetery: the black crosses in contrast to the white
crosses in the American cemetery is striking

In Arromanches-Les-Bains, as Prince William made a speech about ensuring that our generation and the generations to come never forget the sacrifices made on these Normandy beaches, I remembered walking across the beach at low tide to take a closer look at what is left of the floating harbour which is linked to Sir Winston Churchill.

And as we wandered around Normandy we were struck day after day by the scars that the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy left on the area. It is immersed in what happened along that coastline seventy years ago. I hope those scars will be an eternal reminder of the sacrifice and bravery of so many who gave their lives for the freedom with we live with today. Lest we forget.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Guest Post: A Garden Handprint Keepsake in 5 Easy Steps

Today I'm a guest blogger over at The Creative World of Varya, sharing a garden family keepsake we made last summer. A year later it is still standing proud in our garden.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Kirstie Allsopp and When to Have a Baby: Mission Completed

Kirstie Allsopp (a British TV presenter) has whipped up quite the storm in a tea cup with her comments urging women to get themselves settled in the family way before opting for a higher education. She states that many women end up with fertility issues because they are going to university and getting their career on track before thinking about babies. By the time they opt for motherhood their biological clock is no longer on their side.

Doing things the other way around, in her opinion, would be a better tactic. First a family and then university in your 40s or beyond. She's not saying don't get educated, just that there are other ways of doing it without sacrificing a family life and facing problems in your 30s getting pregnant.

She's had her fair share of negative press over her comments (headlines for the sake of headlines in many cases), as well as those who say she absolutely has a point. Whatever you think when you read her interview she has achieved something incredibly positive - a debate. She has people talking about fertility issues and age, discussing the right time to have a family.

And I think she has a valid opinion. There is no arguing against the medical facts; maternal health risks increase as a woman ages, not just for a mother to be, but for her baby too. Getting pregnant gets harder too.

I was 33 when I became pregnant the first time. The nuchal scan done at that time showed a minimal risk of having a baby with a chromosomal condition such as Down Syndrome. By the time those same tests were done during my third pregnancy when I was 38 the results produced a shockingly much higher risk ratio. In the space of those five years there was a huge, dramatic change.

And once I had a newborn at home for the third time it was also obvious that those five years made all the difference. In fact, the eighteen months that had passed since my second son was born already made a marked difference. I was much more tired; sleep deprivation had a huge effect on my own health. Being a new mother just got tougher as I got older. That's nature. That's a fact.

However, my personal circumstances were never such that I considered having a baby in my 20s. I met my now-husband when I was 27, not far from 28. I'd known him all of nine months when I moved to the Netherlands. That just wasn't the time to start a family. I found a job. We found a small house, one foot on the property ladder. We talked about children but we wanted to be more settled. We wanted a bigger house first, space for a family. We wanted our finances to be more secure. We didn't want to be worried about every euro and cent providing for our family.

In 2005 my partner and I went on a road trip across part of the western side of the United States. That was the result of a conscious decision to make a trip that we wouldn't necessarily do with children. At least not young children. That was a last blast, go with the flow holiday before consciously trying for a family. By May the following year we were expecting our first son.

And that is our story. And every single couple on this planet has their own story. We were ready in 2005 to commit to having a family. Once we felt we were in a good position financially, emotionally and physically to start a family. Others make less conscious decisions. Some couples become parents when they least expect it. Some couples have struggles to become parents that they could have never have imagined. It is always a personal journey into parenthood.

Do I wish we had started a family whilst we were a little younger? Sometimes yes. But at the end of the day I have three healthy little boys and I feel that I have more to offer them now as a mother than I would have done in my 20s when I was hardly more than a kid myself.

My parents were more than a decade younger than us when they became parents. My mum said once that she felt that she hadn't had a real youth - she was raising two children instead of going out and doing the things that a 20 year old does. Their reasons for having children young were very different and less conscious than our decision to wait until we were in our 30s. Their story is very different to ours. But our two different stories beg the question: is there ever a perfect time to enter parenthood? There are sacrifices whatever the age. There are pros and cons, whatever the age.

And that is just the point. Every story is different. Every couple is different. At the end of the day, whether you are a teenager, or in your 20s, 30s or 40s when you make that decision to have a baby, in whatever circumstances that may happen, you work with what you have. You take each step at a time and you grow as a person, and hopefully as a parent. But. There is a but. That but is that fertility decreases as we get older.

What Kirstie Allsopp has achieved is discussion, some of it less respectful than it could be, but she is right that the issues that women face when they decide to have a baby in their 30s or beyond should be talked about. Reality should be a topic of conversation. Women want it all and sometimes Mother Nature calls us out on that - the biological clock is a real thing and it is not something that a student in her early 20s even contemplates whilst enjoying cheap pints in the student union bar (I speak from experience). Perhaps now, thanks to Kirstie, she will.

Wednesday Wisdom for Expats

I love this quote. No matter what obstacles stand in your way, even if it seems impossible - do it anyway.

Olga of The European Mama made a great point that I should share: this quote is a great quote, but is completely untrue. The idea that the bumble bee shouldn't be able to fly comes from 'folklore' and if the story is to be believed originates from a drunken aerodynamicist. If an aeroplane was built like a bee, it would indeed not fly as the wings are too small. However, a bee works more like a helicopter hence why the fabulous busy buzzy bumblebee does in fact fly!

Now, don't say you haven't learnt anything today......

Monday, 2 June 2014

10 Reasons My Dutch Family Holidays in Cornwall

For the last two summers, and a Christmas in between, my little family has made the trip from the west of the Netherlands over to the south west tip of England. This year will be our third year. Here are ten reasons why.

Cornwall is eye candy for holiday makers
1. Cornwall is a Beautiful County
Do we need any other reason aside from the fact that Cornwall is arguably the most beautiful county in England? I know, I know, there are lots of beautiful counties in England. But we love Cornwall. It has rugged coastlines, perfect sandy beaches, hidden coves, history and tons of things to do when holidaying with children. In fact, if a recent poll is to be believed Cornwall is the most family friendly place in the .... WORLD!

From zoos, amusement parks, beaches and nature to the Eden Project -
Cornwall has something for everyone
2. Parent's Paradise on Earth
We found a children's paradise where even mama and papa get to chill. This summer will be the third year running staying at Glynn Barton Cottages and it is a place where we feel like we have actually had a holiday too, and for those of you with young children you know that's a huge thing to say. Glynn Barton is nestled in rolling green hills, in rural bliss with the kind of on site entertainment that my three sons talk about all year round: animal feeding and egg collecting each week day morning; nature workshops; indoor games room and a soft play centre; swimming pool; tennis court; table tennis; toddler ride ons; maze and a trampoline. It's the only time of the year my husband actually paints his masterpieces and I love the writing time I get there. And best of all mama and papa have space to relax and sip wine in the evenings with a wonderful view.

Wine and a view - a parent's paradise at Glynn Barton Cottages
3. English Language 
For three weeks my three Dutch boys are fully immersed in the English language. It's an annual crash course for them. The vocabulary they pick up on their Cornish holiday is priceless.

4. British Culinary Adventure
My sons get to explore the British culinary delights that they generally miss out on the rest of the year. I'm talking cream teas, fish and chips, crumpets and cheddar cheese.

5. Socialising British Style
The boys get to play and interact with British boys and girls - playing very typical games out on the lawn.

6. History Lesson English Style
My Dutch family learn about life in Cornwall as it was. Historically, mining was Cornwall's lifeline and the Cornish landscape is littered with remnants of the mining industry. Last year we visited Heartlands which was a fabulous day out - entertaining and educative for all of us! We plan to visit more mining sites this year.

What was it like to go down the Cornish Mines? 

7. Cornish Coastline
The coastline around Cornwall is special. There is something for everyone but what particularly mesmerises my little Dutch family are the rock pools and cliffs. You see neither on the Dutch shoreline.

Boys, beach and rock pools - how much fun do you need?

8. The Little Differences
They sit in a car whilst we drive on the left hand side of the road. They notice when there are two separate taps over the bathroom sink (instead of one mixer tap which is more common in the Netherlands). They handle coins which are unfamiliar to them. They experience the little British differences first hand.

9. Hills
From the car they see rolling green hills, no matter which direction we drive in. The biggest hill they see at home is invariably the speed bumps on the road leading to our house. The difference is huge. They constantly utter 'wow' whilst we are out and about in Cornwall.

10. Nostalgia
As a child I holidayed in Cornwall with my parents and my brother. There is an element of nostalgia to our holidays, at least there was the first year we went. To think I now visit the same part of England with three munchkins of my own is an amazing thought that makes me smile from ear to ear.

Land's End

*This post marks the Family Travel Twitter Party which takes places tomorrow at 8.30pm (NL time). Come on over and join in using the tag #mkbtravel and check out the Travel with Kids Pinterest Board for great ideas on family travel.*