I Wish You Lived Next Door.

I am even more scattered than usual. I feel like I can’t sit still. But my fitbit says I’ve taken only 600 steps today. So now I feel like I’m not moving enough. I’m tired all the time – could be the pollen? But this beautiful spring weather makes me want to go do all the things I am not allowed to do during a pandemic.

And I really want a cookie. And a prosecco. Also, flat abs. And another episode of Ozark. Ruth Langmore says all the four-letter things I want to say.

See what I mean? Rambling. Here’s a smattering of more random thoughts:

  • Dutch winters suck. But the spring…? Holy crap. Totally makes up for it.

  • We spent all winter saying, “when the weather is nicer we will do _______.” Then the plague arrived and laughed in our general direction.

  • I love that I can hang laundry on the line on our tiny balcony. I can also see/chat with about 5 different neighbors from there. All of this makes me ridiculously happy.

  • We have a neighborhood bunny. He is enormous. And is probably tired of hearing me say, “BUNNY!!!!!!” whenever I see him.

  • We planned to go to Italy, England, and France this spring. Again, the plague laughed. Instead of traveling, I now spend my days pleading with airlines for refunds. It’s not the same.

  • Just as I was adjusting to the lower speed/stress of Dutch life, it is now even more so. I have no idea what day it is and it wouldn’t matter if I did. *sigh*

  • I am 4 weeks into my exciting new job teaching Dutch to my 6th grader. Also, I don’t speak Dutch.

  • My favorite word is winkelwagen. W’s are V’s. G’s are H’s. J’s are Y’s. I may never be able to say Gelukkige Verjaardag (happy birthday).

  • I am getting better at understanding Dutch. If it is spoken slowly. And at a Trumpian education level.

  • Speaking of the dystopian world of US politics, we feel incredibly grateful to be in the Netherlands. I just wish everyone I love could live next door.

That’s it. It’s the best I can do. I’m going to pour a glass of wine and watch Ozark after I write Thank You emails to my kid’s saints/teachers. Does that count as writing? Maybe?

Stay healthy, y’all. And wash your hands. And if the virus or Trump get you down, curse like Ruth. I think it will help.

 

 

HOME!

Y’all … we did it. After a year of planning and researching and selling everything and being apart for 4 months as the big kid and I stayed behind to graduate from high school (early!) (the kid, not  me) and Tony and kid #2 paved the way across the pond, we are finally together in our new home in Holland. It feels a bit surreal. 

Less than good news: It took hiring a realtor and offering a truckload of money as deposit to secure this place. Then Tony had to install flooring and light fixtures and scrub the place this is the job for the new tenant, not the landlord. Side note: Our new career goals = become Dutch landlords. 

Good news: We have a lovely home in the “suburbs” of south Haarlem – which means it is a whopping 15 minute bike ride to city center. 

We also have a microwave/oven combo and a washer/dryer combo. I am not going to try to figure out what makes these magical beasts work. I just know which buttons to push and which to avoid so as not to knock the earth off its axis by mixing things up.

I didn’t fully appreciate the deep, foot-sized stairs we had in the US. I apologize, stairs. Dutch stairs are very steep, narrow, and slippery. But my knight in shining armor added stair treads and if I move slowly, gripping the rail for dear life, a thousand years later… I make it to the ground floor. Then immediately remember what I left on the top floor and begin the climb once more. 

I am surprisingly comfortable with few/no curtains. This is a Dutch thing I thought I’d hate. I quickly realized I’m not that interesting. No one is looking. And as I write this, I can see windows light up one by one as our neighborhood wakes and that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Speaking of our neighbors, they are lovely and welcoming and worldly: Poland, Spain, Italy, Ireland, the US and, of course, The Netherlands. This, above all, makes me happy we’re here. I hope we get to stay for a very long time.

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Now That The Dust Has Settled…

… and Little Taco Truck is out in the wide, wide world, I’ve taken some time to recover from the book launch.  I have some thoughts.

  • I’m blown away by the support I was/am surrounded by at the launch: Friends from high school, friends from work, family, other writers I’d only seen at conferences, neighbors, and friends of my kids…. are you kidding me?!?!?!  TEENAGERS took time out of their weekend to drive to a kids’ bookstore to celebrate with me!?!?!?

  • Even if they are too crispy around the edges to bend or too gooey in the middle to stay together, taco cookies are kind of amazing and no one seemed to care or notice that they were wonky. I should not have stressed.

 

 

 

  • RSVPs are important. Having a general idea of  the number of attendees would have meant (1) the store staff didn’t have to scramble to add more chairs and (b) we would not have run out of books mid-way through the event. I’ll pay more attention to this next time. My bad.

  • Oh – and expect attendees to buy more than one copy! I did not see this coming.

  • But if you DO run out of books, shoppers can order more, ask the shop to have to sign them, and pick them up when they are ready. At least that’s what Little Shop Of Stories is doing. Genius.

  • Enlist help. The store staff was incredibly supportive and helpful and clearly wanted the launch to go well. But don’t forget to ask friends and family to help out too. My son manned the cookie table (with NO ulterior motives, I’m sure) and my husband took a billion pictures.

  • Have a GREAT time! The launch felt like any other huge, terrifying, exciting, long-awaited event – a wedding, the birth of a child, finally losing that last 10 lbs (I’ll throw a party when that happens). Do your best to breathe and take it all in. You will never have another First Book Launch.  This is a HUGE deal!

P.S. – It’s been nearly a month since the launch and I am finally finishing this post. But … this is a good thing because I have come to learn that the launch is more than that day. I didn’t quite get this. It felt so important that all social media and book sales and the hoopla happened on launch day. But there’s so much more to it. Since the launch:

      • Friends ordered and ship BOXES of books to my house for my signature.

      • Photos of adorable kids fwith Little Taco Truck arrived in my social media feed almost daily!

      • I have a radio interview scheduled. Want to be interviewed? Ask your publicist to make it happen. If I can get an interview, you can too.

      • For their Dia de los Ninos celebration, a library in Texas featured Little Taco Truck complete with a pinata!

So expect post-launch awesomeness and enjoy the ride.  Now get back to writing so you can make the magic happen again!

 

 

 

This Was No Small Feat

Everyone has their own way of navigating the labyrinth of moving abroad but the first step is probably paperwork.

Someone somewhere said we’d have three months to live there before our paperwork was due.  That we didn’t need to do it ahead of time.  It was probably a blogger.  Probably a carefree, single, childless blogger. Anyway, I did not listen to this mysterious idiot. Thank goodness.

I began requesting and submitting the following in December:

  • Birth Certificates x 4

  • Adoption Certificate

  • Name Change Judgement

  • Marriage License

Each of these 7 document needed to be ordered, notarized, certified, and/or exemplified by the state where they were created.  Each state had different hoops to jump through and often staff with DMV-style people skills.

Once I’d received the crisp new notarized, certified, and/or exemplified certificates, they had to be sent to their Secretary of State’s office for an Apostille stamp.

Today I feel like a champion. Today I sent the 7th certificate away for its Apostille stamp.

I won’t celebrate until the stamped certificate arrives at my doorstep but …. this feels like a win and I’ll take it!

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SCBWI is The Bomb

I took a day away from the office and my pre-move to-do list to attend SCBWI’s Springmingle Writer’s Intensive yesterday and I cannot express how incredibly supportive and informative this organization is for writers of kidlit.  Every now and then I’m asked for advice from people – okay…women. It’s always white women. 🙂 – who hope to publish children’s books. The first thing out of my mouth is JOIN SCBWI! And the second is GET OFF YOUR BUTT AND GO TO A CONFERENCE! The third thing I say is something like AND TELL ME WHAT YOU LEARN BECAUSE THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING TO LEARN AND I REALLY DON’T KNOW ALL THAT MUCH IN THE GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS!

After slogging through the rain and spending the day in a tiny room in the back of the Decatur Library, here’s what I learned:

  • Ellen Hopkins’ conversation about the author’s platform forced me to suck it up and attempt to figure out frigging Instagram.

  • Shanda McCoskey shared ideas about successful class visits and doing the robot with an auditorium of elementary school kids – which sounds AMAZING!

  • Sucheta Rawal encourage me to email Rose Scott and ask to be on NPR. It could actually happen. For reals.

  • Jen Swanson assured me that a crappy Kirkus review is nbd. Many brilliant and successful authors have been Kirkused. Wear it as a badge of honor. Nameless, not necessarily qualified reviewers who may be related to The Soup Nazi can suck it.

  • Alexandra Penfold reminded us that stories are all around us just waiting to be told. Also our kids are goofy, loveable book characters waiting to be put on the page. We are also Food Truck Book sisters. ❤

  • Aubrey Poole’s enthusiasm and joy reinforced what I already knew: Kidlit authors, agents, and editors rock.

  • Heather Montgomery, Cathy Hall & TK Read are just a few examples of SCBWI friends I am thankful to call on for help, encouragement, and support when I am wondering why I think I can do this writing thing anyway.

It was a great day.  Now… back to my to-do list.

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April is Coming!

In four short weeks, (April 2nd!) Little Taco Truck will be in stores! Target, even! Now when I go there to hide from my family and drink a Starbucks, I can linger in the book section and swoon.

In five short weeks, (April 7th!) the book launch/story time happens at Little Shop of Stories. This is HUGE, people! Not only is the store amazing and incredibly supportive of local authors but I will be signing books at my FIRST launch. And, we will have a “taco bar” which means I will spend April 6th up to my eyeballs in sugar cookies and green-dyed coconut. Not so bad really.

AND, as my husband had to point out because my head is elsewhere, it is our 18th wedding anniversary the day of the launch. I wonder if he’ll take me out for tacos?

In six short weeks, the hubs heads to Holland to chat with realtors and our immigration attorney, explore neighborhoods, visit schools, schmooze business folks, and catch up with friends. I’d hoped to have our documents apostilled by then but … that’s a rant for another post.

And in seven short weeks we need to have the house close to ready for market.

April will be an exhausting, amazing, crazy month. Please send coffee (or wine).

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An (overly analyzed, well researched, cautiously approached) Adventure!

What I didn’t expect when we made the decision to move to The Netherlands was the sense of dismay and worry that washed over our family’s faces.  Our friends thought it was an amazing idea they wished they’d had the nerve to do. Which doesn’t make it sound like the best plan (needing a lot of nerve and all) but at least their brows didn’t wrinkle when we talked about packing up.

After much thought, I wrote our family a letter of explanation to help ease their worries. It went a little something like this:

As we wrap our minds around our upcoming move, I wanted to share some information to help you understand why we’ve decided to take this leap. We spent months investigating opportunities and life in Holland before visiting 5 different cities there. 

Here’s what we’ve learned:

  • Although Dutch is the first language, English is widely spoken.

  • Expat kids can attend Dutch Language Immersion schools (for free) to prepare them for public school.

  • Because of DAFT (Dutch American Friendship Treaty), it is very easy and relatively inexpensive to move MightyPants there.

  • It is also possible to work as freelancers for a Dutch company.

  • Universities in The Netherlands offer degrees in English. European undergrad degrees are only 3 years long and will cost us (for public schools) substantially less than US universities. 

  • Although housing is more expensive, we will save THOUSANDS of dollars a year on health insurance/medical costs each year and will not have to worry about going bankrupt if we get sick.

  • No car payments/car insurance.  Everyone bikes/walks/takes public transportation. The country is very small and it takes very little time to get from one end to the other.

  • For “hippy/liberals” like us, The Netherlands will be a place with very little-to-no racism/sexism/religion-based laws (with the exception of Zwarte Piet, of course).

  • All of Europe is at our doorstep.

  • The main crime in the Netherlands is theft (watch this!

  • It’s easier and cheaper to qualify and apply for Visas, less cold, and closer to Italy than Canada. 

Being away from family will, of course, be difficult. But giving the kids (and ourselves) this adventure means the world to us. 

P.S. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll come home… and bring stroopwafels!

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365 Days …. But Who’s Counting?

My current situation is much like trying write a publishable book. It’s a daunting,  terrifying, one-in-a-million, unlikely sort of thing until…  you walk into a bookstore and see shelf after shelf lined with gazillions of books by people just like you who were brave enough to take the leap.

This is how I feel about my next adventure. It’s an insane, overwhelming, what-the-hell-are-we-doing sort of thing. But then I see how many have succeeded in making it work and how happy they are with their choices and I think Why can’t we?

So here we go. We are doing the thing.

365 days from now my husband, two kids, the cat, and I will be living in the Netherlands.