Monday, December 22, 2008

66.6% of our parenthood + 25% of my aunthood = over the cute quotient

Although the circumstances of our presence in the States aren't the happiest, it's great to get to see everyone and introduce Avery to people who we thought wouldn't see her for months or years. While most of the kinfolk are happy to see the baby, I have to say that Avery's cousin, Miranda, has taken the excitement to entirely new levels. At lunch yesterday I was inundated with questions interspersed with exclamations over the baby's cuteness and wistful comments about how great it'd be to have a baby in her house. She was clearly arming herself with information for the full court press on her own parents...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I am well aware that baby slings aren't necessarily the norm, but I think they're even rarer here than in the States. In my neighborhood and that of the kids' school, to carry my baby around in some piece of fabric instead of a €500 strol-- pardon me, pram, well, clearly I'm some sort of hippie. But doesn't she look cozy in there (in her little Dutch flag hat that Jenny crocheted for her)?

Aunt Meg got Avery a little snowsuit with teddy bear ears that's not only adorable, but very warm. The other day she was wearing it whilst facing inward in the sling, only her head sticking out although her face was buried in my chest. As I walked the couple of blocks to pick up Dylan from school, I first got the full head swivel from two old people walking past me. I then passed three Dutch kids of about junior high age getting into a car who unabashedly stared as I walked by. I heard one of the girls say to their mom (in Dutch), "Mom, was that lady carrying a stuffed bear?" After I stopped being all proud of myself for understanding enough Dutch to get what she was talking about, I now regularly crack up thinking about all these people who think I'm some crazy lady who can't stand to leave home without my dear stuffed animals strapped to my chest.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Big siblinghood

Both Aisie and Dylan are getting into this whole big sibling thing, and now that Avery's getting a little head control it's a little easier for them to get to pitch in. Dylan loves to hold her as long as I'll let him:

...and Aislin is educating her in song and dance. She's an excellent babysitter while we're making dinner.

Friday, December 5, 2008

It's Sinterklaas time again...

The whole Sinterklaas phenomenon has been a different beast this year now that the kids are surrounded by peers who know how this whole thing works. Dylan's singing Sinterklaas liedjes in Dutch (although he's not singing these by Fifty Sint and Snoep Pietje Piet), Aislin's making a surprise (pronounced "surpreeze") for a buddy at school which involves some really complicated wrapping of a very small gift in something like a pinata, and there are generally some expectations of the old Sint this year.

Just as a refresher for anyone who might not have experienced this Dutch holiday tradition, Sinterklaas rides his steamboat from Spain up into Amsterdam each November and then wanders the countryside making sure the kids are behaving and putting candy in the shoes of good little girls and boys. With him are his horse Americo and dozens of Zwarte Pieten ("Black Petes"), Dutchmen in blackface makeup who perform acrobatic feats -- including slipping through mail slots to deliver candy to shoes -- and hurl tiny gingerbread cookies at the crowds awaiting Sint. (Avery is officially a Dutch baby now, having been clocked in the head by one of these pepernoten when energetic Piets flung them into the crowd at Dylan's school celebration... although I suspect a Dutch mom would've had better pepernoten reflexes than mine.) They're generally mischievous -- one of the Piets who showed up at Dylan's school actually broke a window in their classroom, although we're told this really was an accident -- and are warned when they misbehave that they will be reported to Sinterklaas. We are repeatedly assured that there are absolutely positively no racist or slavery overtones to this beloved tradition; I rather like this recent article from Expatica:

When it comes to discussing the Dutch phenomenon of Sint Nicolaas and his feast day, Sinterklaas, on 5 December, many expats go straight for the jugular: his black "helpers", (Zwarte Pieten, singular Zwarte Piet) are really a caricature of black slaves.

A libel, say Dutch traditionalists. To them, Zwarte Piet is Sint's valued companion; his black hue may owe more to his clambering up and down chimneys than his ethnic origin. (Although it is unclear how soot can bring about frizzy Afro hair and big red lips.)
Indeed. Lots of little Dutch children dress up (eek) in their Zwarte Piet costumes for school in the days preceding the December 5 holiday. Well, if the kids are doing it...

And speaking of, they made little Zwarte Piet hats as crafts in Dylan's class this year. They got to bring them home after Sint brought their gifts on December 5. Here's Dylan surrounded by his booty and proudly wearing his hat backwards.

Ach, any holiday that involves consumption of as much sugar as this one can't be all bad. Aisie and Dylan liked getting the huge chocolate initials that are de rigeur for Pakjesavond, the evening of December 5 when Sinterklaas brings gifts for everyone. Note the traditional bottle of wine for each child as well. Yes, that's a joke.

Monday, December 1, 2008

She's figured out how to keep us feeding her.

Grandpa (aka Bongo) got these great pictures of four-week-old Avery smiling today.

He may have had to take about 30 to get these perfect 2, but who's counting?