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Delft mama of the week: Marie

I met Marie for first time last year when she started hosting the Delft MaMa playgroup. She is currently the playgroup coordinator and she’s taking part in several other DMM projects as well.

We sit down together on display on the window of Hummus in Delft and order hot beverages. It’s Saturday and she’s coming straight from mindfulness yoga. It fits the first impression I had of her: a calm mom oozing nothing but serenity, but Marie tells me laughing her yoga classes were a gift from her husband, who hopes she can find it easier to relax a bit. Marie has been called too serious all her life, because of her amazing drive and ambition, so she has made a conscious effort of finding ways to loosen up a bit. To her luck, becoming a mother has been one of the things that has helped her in her quest.

Marie has been calling the Netherlands home for a few years. She used to travel a lot first for her studies: a scholarship took her from her home in the US to Paris when she was only 16, and later during her undergraduate studies Marie spent a semester in Brazil, two summers in Russia and one summer in Paris, where she also completed her master’s degree. Later in life her project based work took her from Scotland to Singapore and everywhere in between. She loves Brazil and says Vietnam is one of her favorite countries. But the love of her life, a Chinese man Junzi, Marie met by coincidence in the Netherlands.

When Marie was expecting their son, now a 1-year-old William, the married couple decided to settle down in Delft. Earlier having spent her time visiting new countries and cities every two to three weeks, Marie was sure she’d go out of her mind in such a small place as Delft. She had good friends in The Hague and in Haarlem, but she was missing a closer safety net. “When I first had William, I wasn’t meeting others very much, but I knew about Delft MaMa. When he was 5-6 months old, I decided to come to the playgroup”, Marie says. Meeting other moms allowed her to create her own social circles in Delft and thanks to this simple plan followed by action she’s much more involved in the community and to her surprise has yet to feel bored in the beautiful medieval town.

Marie speaks several languages fluently (English, French, Portuguese, Russian) and is constantly pushing the envelope with useful things to learn. She is currently taking Dutch lessons and teaching herself Chinese and she’s soon traveling to China with William to stay with her in-laws for a month to get more immersed in the language. She has always been hard-working and extremely driven at school and at work. Before becoming a mother, she describes herself as having been “definitely workaholic”. As one might assume, it has been a big adjustment fitting in the stay-at-home-mom shoes.

Lately Marie has been increasingly thinking about returning to work. The original plan – to return to work when William was three months old – didn’t go through. She realized the plans she had made before the birth of her child weren’t what she wanted and she listened to her heart instead. “Outsiders often think I’m calm, but I feel it’s the opposite! The main struggle now is should I go back to work or should I stay with William,” Marie explains.

The struggle is familiar to if not all, to most mothers. Marie says she knows she shouldn’t compare her own situation to her friends who are working in very prestigious positions around the world, but she can’t help but think about the opportunities she had, the good schools she went to and the professional ambition she to this day has. Now that William is one year old, Marie started to apply to again. She has sent out tons of applications, but hasn’t gotten that much interesting feedback. “It’s always difficult when you’re used to having a job and now I have to think how much I want a certain job and how much I want to stay at home with William. He’ll never be young again, but maybe if I stay out of work too long, I might have more difficulties finding a good job”, Marie says.

She often thinks about why work is so important for people in general. In the more distant past people didn’t define themselves by their work, but now it seems to be one of the first questions people ask each other. Before Marie didn’t mind this question at all, but lately she noticed how defining this question sounds. “It makes you think why do we value work so much as the value of the individual, when it doesn’t represent much at all. Of course it can, but oftentimes it doesn’t,” Marie says and explains how these days a specific job isn’t always what someone chooses to do, as it depends a lot about circumstances one can’t control. “If I’m philosophical enough I’d say would it matter if I’m working or not? What I’m doing is probably more valuable than what a lot of work people do,” she rightfully says at the end of our talk.

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Bilingual parenting with a distance – and theories thereof

Note: this is me navigating clumsily in the realms of bilingual parenting. Not an advice whatsoever. If I’d like big words, I’d say don’t try this at home, but you’ll might have to. So let me know in the comments, theories, practice, shoot away!

I’ve been struggling with the languages lately.

Well, with my mother language. My children do understand both, Dutch and Hungarian well, but since we live in The Netherlands, they don’t speak nearly as much Hungarian as Dutch. They don’t sound like other 5-6 year old Hungarian kids. It’s all very understandable and “no wonder” – to me – but I do have a hard time explaining it to grandparents, my parents.

A hard time.

And I’m sure a lot of us had the firm belief – before actually getting children – that we would take advantage of the bilingual parenting, and the thousand and one positive effects of it as well – when it came to that. Living in a different country than our own expands our minds to other cultures and solutions, so it’s highly recommended (if at least for a while).  Then you get kids, and you are still positive and enthusiastic – all the while you have a hard time keeping your eyes open. As those little feet start to run, not so subtle comments and advises might start to flow from “back home”. About remembering your roots, history of your nation, and gifting your beautiful mother language to the next generation.

Well, I for one, agree with them.

But why leave everything to one person? Let’s delegate here. I’d certainly would like to do all of the above, with the involvement of my parents and extended family – even friends with kids. It’s a big responsibility to be the sole language provider.

I say that, all the while I feel like I have been doing it all by the books (and will continue to do so):

  • Talking in the second language at all times with the children.
  • Reading in the second language every day.
  • Playing a round of Q&A in the second language every now and then.
  • Only watching TV-shows, movies in the second language.
  • Having other children around can who only communicate with the second language (that’s a tough one).
  • Taking trips and meeting with others who enjoy speaking that other language.
  • Sending letters with snail mail to other Hungarian children who live abroad, in other countries.

But all this is not enough, as they are not forced to speak Hungarian with everyone. I’m not making them answer me only in Hungarian, because I want to communicate with whatever means we have. I want to teach the LOVE of this, the feeling of being understood, without the pressure “you have to say it right”. Am I nuts? Most probably.

Creating is always way out there beyond understanding

But I also don’t like the idea being left alone in this quest, all by myself, while it’s apparent that in mixed families it’s harder to keep the minority language alive. So family “back home” needs to step up.

Big time!

But how, right? Distance is at play here, grandparents (at least my parents) find more than enough reasons not to travel, and with school being mandatory from age 5, we are also bound to dates.

Well, I’m not slowing down just because of some rocks on the road. Lately I’ve been asking around a number of Hungarian mothers living abroad as I felt the time has come for us to focus and try something new. They were big help – everyone had theories 🙂 We just throw ourselves in deep water, and we see how this will turn out – because so far there was only talk. Now comes action.

The first step is as follows:

  1. My parents do come to visit, and on a couple of days they take our daughters with them
  2. The kids and grandparents will be immersed into their little Hungarian bubble for a couple of days, and…
  3.  A very good friend of mine and her own daughter will come to our house – and we all spend a couple of days together.

This is how it’s going to go down in the spring holiday, and we are all psyched. It’s really exciting for me, my parents, my friend. The kids of course (!) are more than okay with this, it’s actually funny, we talked about it like it was the most normal thing in the world. Of course they know everyone well now, do fly like birds, and have been practicing sleepovers for two-three nights with oma and opa. So, it’s all good.

When this first tryout works, we’ll go for the longer immersions:

  • a week in the summer holidays, later two,
  • an exchange later on with my friends and their kids,
  • the focus here is on kids with whom the only mutual language is Hungarian. Those pen pals are in for a treat – they can be exchange students at our house, without all the usual bureaucracy.

All in the name of the second language.

Past experiences and the bright future

Myself, I remember I had relatives relatively far from home as a kid, so once (!) we’ve spent a week there with my sister without “papa-mama”. That was fun, although we were also older, maybe 8-10 years. And there were no language barriers, but it’s always exciting being without parents, isn’t it? It must have been fun for my parents too 😉

Being Hungarian means being restless and impatient for life, so (along with my parents) we can’t wait that long. My girls are now 5 and 6,5 years – and although they are super verbal (the older is speaking since she grew lips), and they do understand just about everything you throw at them in Hungarian, speaking is a different matter.

What are your practices, dear fellow mothers of the bilingual realm? Let me know in the comments! Talk about theories, your practices, experiences – I’d love to read your wisdom.

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International Cooking Club of Delft Mamas —Mom friendship bounded through cooking exchange

As I wrote a couple of months before, cooking/recipe exchange is a method of making friends. While having Taiwanese food is soothing for my homesickness wherever I am abroad, discovering international food is always a fun way to explore different cultures and meeting new friends.

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Chilean empanadas coming right up!

DMM playgroup is such a wonderful place for both kids and moms to begin a new life with meeting many international families from all over the world. I had great fortune to have met an amazing Delft mama who was so kind and generous with open arms to invite us not long after we arrived in Delft in 2014.

Tarja is amazingly dynamic mom with connection and creative ideas. With her Finnish background and living in The Netherlands for nearly ten years, she has accumulated incredible amount of life stories and experiences to share. Despite the fact that she has three kids to take care of, Tarja has been helping other new moms to orient in Delft. I was one of them.

Two years ago, starting from a small ingredient—fresh yeast, that Tarja bought in a local shop, she came up with an idea to invite some mom friends to explore cooking together. She initiated the “international cooking club”. We were 4 moms with all different nationalities to share our own home recipes from the USA, Chile, Finland and Taiwan.

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I’ve always been fascinated by different spices and ingredients, cooking styles, tools and so on so forth that you can apply in the kitchen. Learning cooking different cuisine was so much fun for me, as well as spending quality time with those lovely ladies. We have developed a very special bound with one another by sharing our foods, rotating in each mom’s kitchen. Visiting kitchens with international ingredients and tools is part of the cooking adventure!

It was more than just cooking. We always started with morning coffee since the cooking club took place on one weekend morning. Our kids sometimes played together in the garden while moms worked in the kitchen. And after two hours of teaching and cooking, we always put the food on the table to share a simple lunch together. I’m now having a big grin on my face just writing and thinking about it. This was indeed one of the highlights of my Delft mama life!

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Our cooking group remained small and private. It became our own friendly gathering. Our recipes brought our taste buds traveling from Finnish cinnamon buns, to Chilean empanadas, to Chinese stews, to American pumpkin pie and chocolate chip cookies and to Spanish omelet and cold vegetable soup, etc.

I have developed great interest in exploring international cuisines since. I found through cooking, my social circle expanded and I saw more nice charismata in each one of the moms that participated.

In Chinese we have a saying goes, “there is no feast that doesn’t end”. It means that we have to say goodbye from time to time to friends and families. Especially with international backgrounds, sometimes families have to move to places wherever the jobs relocate. It’s sad to leave. However, I have saved up so many sweet memories from the feast that I have enjoyed so much within our own little “international cooking club”.

Just two months ago, my family had to leave Delft, our dear lovely home for more than two years. It was not easy for me, especially for our son who has lived the majority of his life in Delft and built his friendship connection, including with Tarja’s kids. We are now only three weeks newly settled in Shenzhen, China. I’m waiting for the new kitchen to be set up according to my needs and I can’t wait to try some of the recipes that I have learned with those dear mom friends from Delft. When there’s a special occasion, we are going to open the peach jam that we made in one of my last cooking lessons.

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We couldn’t bring Delft to another country nor transfer our friends to a new city with us, but we have kept memories and friendship. I believe our Delft experiences will last as well as precious friendship. I know we will make new friends where our new home is. But the old friends remain in the depth of our hearts. We don’t just think of them, fortunately we can also have a taste of the good old times of Delft next time when I cook something that I have learned from my Delft mama friends.

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Help Delft MaMa help to keep our community as strong as always

“When I first set foot in Delft, second thing after visiting the real state agency to sign the contract for our apartment in the Market square, was visiting the midwifery practice.
Right there, pinned on the wall, among all the other leaflets in a language back then illegible for me, I found THE one in English. It was shining brighter than the others. Maybe because it was written in English? Maybe because it read: “Your community in Delft” and I so much needed a “community in Delft”? Whatever the reason, I was very grateful to find such welcoming and inviting piece of paper with a purple teddy on the front page.
Three years have passed since this initial experience, but I still treasure this moment.
After almost two years of involvement with Delft MaMa, I want nothing else for all the newcomers in town to come across one of the leaflets of our institution and make their hearts jump with joy. They, like us back in the day, deserve to be and feel truly welcomed, because this is the very reason why founder Lucie Cunningham created this community 9 years ago.
To me there is nothing as rewarding as helping back.”
Read more

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Lola’s Bedroom Tour

Hello MaMa’s! I am thrilled to be sharing some inspiration with you today. As an interior stylist, my own home is naturally my style playground and my little girl’s bedroom is no exception. Over the summer we completed her room and I shared the results over on my blog Avenue Lifestyle. For those of you looking for ideas for your own little ones’ rooms, I sincerely hope you find some here today. Let’s peek inside! Read more

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Delft Mama of the week: Shadi

Having lived in Delft only for a few months makes our mom of the week, Shadi, one of our newest members. She’s a mother of two boys: Parsa who is 12 and a 6-year-old Samia. Funnily enough, having been a part of an expat family ever since he was only a few months old makes the youngest member of the family also the most experienced. Read more

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Delft Mama of the week: Oriana

After the fall of the Berlin wall at the brink of her teenage years, Oriana and her parents moved to the Netherlands. Things weren’t changing in their native land of Romania as much as they had hoped and the family decided to look to the west for future. Before settling in Delft Oriana moved around the country from Drenthe to Limburg and from Nijmegen to Amsterdam. Now Oriana lives in the center with her husband Wim and their 12-year-old daughter Maud. Read more

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Dutch traits

“Zuinig zijn” and other Dutch traits

Many of you have younger children. Being a mom of a just turned 12 year old, it’s another story in the book of parenthood. That is not only because my now officially teenager is getting sometimes fussy and hormonal, but also because you start again seeing your life and surrounding through the eyes and comments of such a teenager. Kids these age not only see and analyse a lot, but they also verbalize their findings very well. Well, at least mine is. And they act also upon their findings, feelings and situations. Trying to find their way through and bled in. And sometimes the way they express themselves puts things into cultural perspectives that you were not very aware off until you have heard them said by your own child. Read more

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How Delft MaMa saved my sanity

I think we can all agree that living abroad is often crazy and messy. But so is motherhood. And when you combine these two, you have a recipe for disaster. Turns out, culture shock and sleep deprivation don’t really go hand in hand.

I arrived in the Netherlands when my eldest daughter was 6 weeks old. To be honest, moving abroad was fairly easy. I’d lived abroad in multiple places, including Germany, Canada and France. A piece of cake, really.

Moving to the land of motherhood, however, was another matter altogether. I walked in a sense of constant mental fog. I didn’t know my name. I forgot who I was. And when I finally began to feel somewhat better, I did a crazy thing and had another baby. Read more

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Delft MaMa of the week, Sandra

Delft Mama of the week: Sandra

Sandra and her husband Nicola met over seven years ago when they were both fresh international students at the TU Delft. With a background in Computer Science, she made her masters in Management of Technology and is currently fully embracing motherhood with their three-year-old son Gerardo and a nine-month-old daughter Minerva. Sandra joined the Delft MaMa community when Gerardo was about half a year old but she wishes she had joined earlier. “The first few months of being a mom were really overwhelming. All the time I saw mothers on the streets with ‘omas’ around and thought I couldn’t have that being away from both families. When I joined Delft MaMa it made things easier”, Sandra says. The community made her feel welcome, but it also helped to get to know individual mothers who previously had been in the same exact position. Once she met with mothers who have gone through different phases with their children, it dissipated Sandra’s fears. She tells how her sister is about to become a mother for the second time in a city of five million people, but hasn’t managed to find a community of mothers where she would feel like home. “With DMM community you are sure you share the fact that you are an expat and you are raising children here, or maybe you are Dutch, but you are raising your children in an international way. It makes it easier for you to find people with the same ideals and goals”, Sandra joyfully says. Read more

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