We – my husband, our two little boys and I – are on our way to The Hague for the next seven months so that I can research Dutch-Paris in the Netherlands and other relevant points.

As is so often the case, that sentence has been easier said than done. Apparently my request to spend seven months in the archives (rather than the automatic three months’ visit granted American citizens) was so unusual as to cause confusion if not consternation within more than one ministry. I continue to think of myself, as an historian, as unobjectionable and inoffensive, but I think I now have a better understanding of why there’s so little good Dutch history available in English.

We wouldn’t be going at all if not for the professionalism and courtesy of Els Smits-Wilmer of the Dutch Consulate in Chicago and William Arink of NIOD.  My most sincere thanks to them.  I almost feel that I should apologize for being the cause of so much paperwork and so many transatlantic communications.  Really, I had no idea.

But Ms Smits-Wilmer and Mr Arink have prevailed.  I have an official permit to reside in the Netherlands until 1 August 2010.  My husband and sons should get their permits once we’ve accomplished one or two other bureaucratic tasks involving official documentation of marriage and co-habitation and a form that I’m not exactly sure how to pronounce that one obtains at the town hall.

So off we go. We’ve found a place for our dog and winterized our house. We’ve found a school for the boys and an apartment to live in. We’ve figured out a way to get money from here to there and the most economical way to pay for health insurance in Europe and in the US (which scarcely merits being in the same sentence as the word “economical”). We’ve calmed at least one five-year-old anxiety by deciding to bring our own marshmallows, just in case. We’ve made some ruthless decisions about luggage, amply motivated by the absurd new idea that a suitcase is a luxury that deserves an extra fee.  We’ve even got a ride from Schipol airport to the new apartment in The Hague. Of course we haven’t managed all that on our own – our thanks to everyone who’s helped on these and other unofficial matters.

But I have one lingering dread in all this: that my kindergartener will have homework in Dutch. I can read academic Dutch and 1940’s bureaucratic Dutch and the public transportation website and parts of the newspaper, and I can order a meal and navigate the shops. But kindergarten homework, which is essentially a collaboration between literate grown-up and pre-literate child? In Dutch? I’m not that smart.