Monsoon season

Summer DaysThe weather has not been the best here for the past few weeks. It seems we have returned to normal Dutch weather. “Typisch Nederlands” or typically Dutch: rain, some hail, some more light rain, followed by an intermittent drizzle with a few moments of sunshine scattered in between everything else. So, here’s to warmer, sunnier days.

Nature’s alarm clock

Outside our bedroom is a tree and the canopy is level with our window. At about 4:30 in the morning the birds star to sing. Well more like chirping and quacking (and pooping over everything in a three foot radius)than any sort of singing – it almost sounds like the grackles back home but not quite. This goes on and on and on until abut 5:30 and then it suddenly stops and they fly away. During the rest of the year there is a respite but for right now the birds enjoy themselves tremendously and we get our own early morning wake-up calls.

67 years

Today is the 67th anniversery of the Rotterdambombing of Rotterdam by the Germans. Rotterdam has a completely different feel to it than the rest of the Netherlands, especially Amsterdam. Rotterdam feels new and modern. Post-war renovation completely removed all traces of the destruction. Well, all except one, the absence of all buildings older than sixty years. Driving your car in the city is much easier and much less nerve-racking than driving in, say, Leiden – a much smaller city. When I was on my mission in Ohio I met an older Dutchman who emigrated to the United States after the war. He told me that Rotterdam was a beautiful city before the war and in a way quite similar to Amsterdam. He told me that he still remembered quite vividly the bombing after all of the years. That was 15 years ago when I last talked to him. This post is in loving memory, Deo Gratias.RotterdamDe Verwoeste Stad

Koninginnedag-Part Two

Monday was “Queen’s Day” here in the Netherlands. Queen’s day (and Queen’s Night [Koninginnenacht] – the night before) is more like a nation-wide festival van Oranje. We had the day off from work and school so we did what all of the Dutch do, go shopping. The holiday is nothing like your typical President’s Day holiday with sales on mattresses, computers and clothes. No, the traditional shopping experience is the vrijmarkt – free or open market, which means in actuality a garage/car boot sale. People line up on their shopping streets, place their blankets down and sell most anything – but usually junk. Whatever is left over from the sale is left in a pile for people to pick through before the city hauls it off. The kindervrijmarkten or the children’s open markets were what we were off for. Children sell their old toys and clothes and some have the hawkers patter down quite well – “Alles voor fijftig Euro-cents!” or “Een Euro Alstublieft!” This from kids as young as eight or nine. There were also kids selling “cookjes”, “snoepjes”, coffee, playing musical instruments (with the hat out for money) and all other sorts of things. There was a couple of kids in Voorschoten playing an accordion and an acoustic guitar that quite surprised me. It sounded nothing like Tejano, polka or Cajun music!

LittleN took a little time to get used to the crowds but soon was quite the little shopper. She had Mommy’s pockets bulging with coins she saved up from her allowance so she was able to get “My Little Ponies” to her heart’s content. She would walk by the blanket full of toys, take a look and either walk to the next one or would smile to the kid on the blanket and point to whatever she wanted. She also had an eye. She saw something on the other side of the street she wanted ( there are no cars allowed on the street ) , pulled on MrsS’s hand quite strongly until we were at the correct spot and started gesticulating at a snoopy toy. When you are three feet tall you can see things that others cannot.

Last year we only went to one vrijmarkt in Leiden. This time we went to two, Voorschoten and Wassenaar ( we met a family that goes to at least three a year – “This year it’s four we’re going to”, they tell us. ) Next year we might go to Amsterdam’s Vondelpark were the selling is officially reserved for children.

Koninginnedag-Part One

Young BrandoToday (Friday , 27 April) was the Koninginnedag celebration for all kindergarteners at my son’s school. (There are several Dutch in his grade and in the whole school in general. The Americans are first in percentages, then come the Scandinavians [lumped together of course] then come the Dutch with about 20% of the school’s national makeup) It is actually the 40th birthday of Prince Willem-Alexander, the crown prince, but since there is no school Monday, Friday is the day for the school’s celebration. Monday is the real Koninginnedag which is in actually the birthday of the mother of the current queen. Everyone was decked out in orange (oranje?) clothes, hair, ribbons, or what not- it was the World Cup all over again – Hup Holland! My son decided on his orange pants and an orange shirt, and his “fancy hat to make Queen Beatrix happy.” Here he is, Number One Son, trying his best to do a young Marlon Brando imitation. Johnny Strabler anyone?

“My dolly she can sing, sing. My dolly she can dance, dance!” 1

Boba_Da

LittleN for the past few weeks or so has been attached to a little baby doll that we have had lying around in the toy box for who knows how long. Thanks to the training of LittleE, the baby ended up with with the name of “Boba Da”: a mixture of Boba Fett and Baby Doll. I’m not sure how Number One Son got latched on to Boba Fett but his kindergarten class is a hotbed of Star Wars and Lego Star Wars activity (at least the boys, “all the girls” are into Winx - so he tells me.) So there you go, a cross between a little baby with a bottle and a giggle when you press its tummy and a Mandalorian bounty hunter who only had like six or so lines in all six movies – not including a scream of course. And the only one LittleE has seen is the one where Boba appears for two seconds and then disappears. It still amazes me how much they learn from each other.

 

1 The title comes from the song, “My Dolly “, from Woodie Guthrie’s Nursery Days album

Medical Advice

I had a doctor’s appointment today . Nothing serious, just a general, run-of-the-mill physical exam. So to get ready for the exam I made sure Number One Son and LittleN had playdates during the appointment. Waiting around in a Dutch doctor’s office is even less fun than waiting in an American one.

I told the mother of LittleE‘s friend (who is Dutch) that I might be a little late in picking him up because of the appointment. I was worried about any sort of delays from earlier in the day trickling down to me. She told me that she used to work in a doctor’s office like the one I went to and said, “You have nothing to worry about. On a Friday, with good weather (like there was today), there will be no one at the office. You will see.”

So I go to the office and the waiting room is empty. The receptionist’s office was closed: lights off and blinds closed. My first thought was that I had been stood-up by the doctor! However the door to the waiting room was open and the light on so I decide to wait around for a few minutes; just to say that I did. Right before I was getting ready to leave, a guy comes out of a side door into the waiting area and there on the other side was the doctor waiting for me to come in. She was there, seeing patients all by herself and the receptionist took the day off.

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