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Doing the dozens

Updated: 2018-03-06T11:41:39.670+01:00


Walking the planets


Today we did the solar system walk. Here's the thing. All those pictures and models and so on of the solar system give the impression that all the planets are right next to each other and about the same size other than Jupiter. They all line up nicely, too.

So last week Douwe's class did The Solar System and it was clear that he does think that. So, okay, the Solar system walk. It reduces the Solar System to scale, and it is really fun. It also keeps your kids busy and entertained on a vacation day which is more to the point.

The scale is 100,000 miles to 1 inch, as you can find out by googling "solar system walk". On this scale, the Sun is a soccer ball and the Earth is a peppercorn and Mercury is a pinhead. So I googled the thing, got a pedometer to measure, and I was done.

Oh, no. See, this scale involves inches, feet, and yards. And the nation of Holland (and more to the point, my pedometer) reads in centimeters. Also, the Solar System walk was invented back in the day when there were nine planets.* So I had to convert to metric and then I had to add in the two other dwarf planets. Here is how that went:

Scribble, scribble. So Ceres is this many meters further on from Mars and scribble, scribble Eris is....where? No way. Try again. Scribble scribble, it's....that's got to be wrong. Try again. Scribble, blot. Well, god damn it, that's three kilometers from Pluto. Which is almost exactly one kilometer from the Sun. I am not walking three extra kilometers with five boys aged two to nine (we did this with one of Douwe's buds from school and his brothers) to stick a pin in the ground and say "That's Eris", scientific integrity be damned.

Dwarf planets are a dumb idea. And much too far away.

So we set the soccer ball down and established that this was the Sun. Then we went ten meters on to Mercury which is a pin head, which we stuck through a bit of yellow paper into the ground. Then we went on to Venus and so on. The big boys ran on ahead counting the distance to the next planet, dodging through the woods and the meteor showers, I mean pine cones thrown up in the air. The asteroid belt turned into pelting one another with mulch and so on. We stopped now and again to turn around and look for the very tiny sun back there. By Pluto they were all truly awed by the distances involved and agreed unanimously that Eris is Very Far Away and let's not do that.

The we turned around and I talked to them about celestial navigation and suggested we needed to find the planets on the way back. Piece of cake they said; you just go back the way you came.

Of the eight planets we found exactly three on the way back. Happily I used planets which could be left. I had a feeling.

So then they decided that the planets had rotated to somewhere else and we lacked the navigational instruments to calculate their respective orbits.

Then we played soccer with the sun for a while and went home.

*In case you do not have a child who visits the NASA site and the Hubble site on a weekly basis: there are eight planets and three dwarf planets -- Ceres, Pluto, and Eris. Ceres is located between Mars and Jupiter, in the asteroid belt which is why we didn't see it for so long. Eris is located three times again as far from Pluto as Pluto is from the Sun. This becomes important in a moment

Last week


It has been a bit hectic around here. The first week of May the kids were off spring break, then they went to school last week, then they have this week off. Evidently I was not the only one annoyed, there is a note in last week's school newsletter promising that this schedule will not happen next year.

Last week was the 4 day march, which we did again. This year we walked the 5 kilometer per day route. Nel did it for three days and took the fourth day off to go to the theater with Ernest. But she did finish all three days. And Douwe walked/ran about 7 kilometers every day as he spent most of the time playing tag with his buddies. And Daan toughed it out and finished all four days and was pleased as punch with his medal. Though he still has trouble remaining on task, he wants to stop every four seconds and look at the ants or something:

On the last day, you may recall, half the town that is not walking turns out and lines the streets to cheer the finish. It is also usual for the Omas to bring flowers and give them to the kids as they finish -- they have special 4 day kid bouquets with toys and flags and candies tucked in.

So as we were approaching town, I could see my elder child doing a little thinking. Oma, he knew, was off with Ernest. Omas bring flowers. Therefore, he was.....not getting any flowers. So his face went from happy to partly cloudy to threats of thunderstorm and tornadoes as we approached town and he started to complain of being too tired to finish and so on. Unhappily for him, his mother has zero tolerance for this kind of entitlement issue so I serenely pointed out that he would be getting a medal which was quite enough(everybody who finishes all four days gets a medal if they sign up for it).

This led to more pouting and carrying on. Which I firmly ignored. Pointedly ignored. And just as he was peaking in poutiness, we encountered the nice lady with whom I had arranged to bring their flowers. And the world was good again:

Spring Break


We went sailing, but you knew that. The problem with an extended sailing trip has been that the boat is a large boat and therefore has a tall mast. On both sides of us there are low bridges. So to get out of a fairly small area, we have to lower the mast, an operation which involves sort of tilting it backwards with a block and tackle apparatus.

Well, the setup on this boat is not really made to lower the mast very often. To wit, it involves feeding extra line into the main support cable for the mast by way of a pulley arrangement which is not actually fixed to anything. You have to hold it with your arms. Er. Dearly Beloved has to hold it with his arms, are you kidding? And Dearly Beloved had never done it before so was not keen on trying it for the first time as we passed under a low bridge in the middle of a shipping lane.

So originally we were going to stick close to home and just go into the woods with the boat. By Wednesday this was not working out all that well, as the boat is very deep and the woods are not. So there are only two places we can get close enough to shore to actually get on land. (Well, except by beaching the boat which has its own drawbacks.) And we don't have a little bitty boat, which is how everybody else seems to solve this problem.

So Wednesday while moored in the woods we decided to try the mast and it went okay. So Thursday off we went to go under the bridge. On the way under the first time all went well except for one small thing: a commercial boat passed us in just the right way as to cause a Very Large Swell which placed us in grave danger of clipping off the top part of the mast. I was in the back of the boat steering and it looked to me as though we were certainly going to clip the bridge. Dearly Beloved was looking on from the bow (holding onto the mast) and he says we were just barely not under the bridge when the wave hit, so the mast actually may have gone higher than the bridge and then dipped under on the downslope of the wave.

It made quite an impression on Eldest, who was next to me: he was whooping and hollering and that evening when he filled out the ship's log he drew a picture of a Ginormous commercial boat and our boat very tiny next to it and then many huge waves.

Youngest remained below for the trip under the bridge, reasoning that if the mast came off he would rather be inside when it did. He was quite certain the mast would either break off or fall down.

And then we went to Willemstad, a fairly small town which is mined, I mean mined with fortifications of various kinds dating from, oh, maybe 16th century to WWII. So the kids got to sit on the cannons:

And put thieves in the dock:

They also played for many hours in the underground bunkers which overlook the harbors. No pictures of that I am afraid, it's dark down there.

More and more footie


Well, the soccer season is over for the fellas. There was actually one more practice last Wednesday but they missed it because we went sailing instead. What will happen next year is anybody's guess, though almost certainly Douwe will go on to a bigger kids' team and Daan will stay on the same team.

They had a friendly match with another team within the same soccer club last week, so they even got to play a game. Our guys' team don't even all have uniforms yet, after all they have only been playing together for five weeks.

The uniform issue led to an Incident with Youngest. You see, my kids don't have uniforms yet. So knowing tht the team colors are blue and white, I put Eldest in a blue t shirt and Youngest in a white one (also, Youngest does not have a blue t-shirt that does not feature Mickey Mouse). Only it turned out this game was the Blues (or team) against the Whites (the other team). Daan persisted in playing with the Whites no matter how many times anybody told him he was on the Blue team. So finally they just let him play for the other team.


(image) Daan doing penalty kicks
(image) This is most of the team; there are abotu three kids missing, wandering around somewhere no doubt.

There are more (and better) pics on the team blog I sent you the link to, and also some other pictures of various other stuff the team has done.

I gather it was fun


I have gotten very little out of Douwe about camp other than that it was fun, that he was happy the whole time, that he ate spaghetti for dinner, that the best part was going into the woods and there wasn't any worst part. So he had a good time.

He came home filthy -- I mean, scrub that grime off your ankles and knees with a brush, turn the bath water an indeterminate shade of brown filthy -- and exhausted so the forensic evidence lines up with the testimony.

Tomorrow the kids who went to camp start school at 10:30, to let them sleep in (ha! Ha! I say. Kid'll be up at 7 am with the birds, he always is). So this plan means that I get to go to school at 8:30 to drop Daan off, go home, go back to school to drop Douwe off at 10:30, go home, then go back to school at 12: 30 to pick them up.

Or...I think I forgot about that Very Important Appointment tomorrow morning. I have to get groceries so I think the Very Important Appointment will be over by 10:30. Ahem.

It's midnight in Holland


And I have not had a telephone call from the camp. So evidently Eldest is having a good time. Or at least is not having a nervous breakdown. (If you do not know what I am talking about, scroll down three posts. It's there.)

I would make fun of myself except that all of the moms on the playground with first graders thought exactly the same thing: their kids would never make it through the night.

Moms. Jesus.

Testing, testing


Here we go again. The last "top to bottom" testing of Eldest was done when he was 6 and he will be turning 8 in October of course. The tests are good for two years at this age I gather. So in the Fall he will get to be tested again.

Possibly we will get something useful out of it this time because he can now, after all, actually answer the questions. And way back when, when we started this oddyessey of testing, the neuropsych in Atlanta told me that there was no point in even trying until he was 8 or 9 years old. Well, not exactly, what she said was more like that no diagnosis could be considered anything but tentative until then.

I have located a person nearby here who works at a teaching hospital whose specialty appears to be (ready?) literacy and language acquisition in bilingual children with language and communication disorders. Where the heck was he five years ago I would like to know? (Okay, probably in the same place. But you know what I mean). So I just fired him off an email to see if he could do the testing for us. Maybe he'll have something more illuminating to say than "My, what an interesting problem".

Still, I am not holding my breath.

Just in case you wanted to come see us


Go here and hit "get directions". Then type atlanta GA in the "from" box and our city in the "to" box.

Look out for step 21, it's a doozy.

Nel's new birthday


Nel has decided that her birthday is now April 14, as this was the day she was operated on last year. So we had a big party for her first birthday and she got lots of presents like teething rings and so on. It was fun. We booked a party at a restaurant near the Biesbos which is a nature preserve nearby so we had food and then a tour on a pony cart and another tour on an electric boat which makes no noise to visit the swamp. Okay, they don't call it a swamp. But you tell me:


Here is Nel with two of her sisters and her brother (and the ponies):

Obligatory kid pictures:

Hello Mudduh, Hello Fadduh


The kids in first, second, and third grade are off to camp today. Camp is not a summer event here; it's something organized by the school and takes place during school. For these little guys, it's one overnight -- they left today and we pick them up from school tomorrow at the end of the day.

Here is the campground they are going to.

We were a bit worried about Douwe, he refused to talk about it for about ten days and said he wasn't going. However, all the parents of the first graders were worried so I figured we would see what happened. Over the weekend we packed his bag together and looked at pictures of the campground. And this morning he leapt out of bed singing, "I'm going to the country, I'm going to the country, Lalala..." and so on. He sang all the way to school. He ran into the van to take him to the place and then stuck his head back out and said "Oh, yeah, I'll miss you, mom" and then pulled his head back in. Like, to comfort me or something. Thanks, kid.

I have no idea what will happen tonight; Douwe has always preferred to stay in his own bed and have his own food and so on. He has solved this handily in the States by deciding that his beds at various houses there are his own bed also. So that's not sleeping over in his mind. But every time I have asked if he wanted to sleep over a friend's house, he says "All you do at night is sleep, what's the big deal?" I assume in the case of disaster they will call us to pick him up; but both his own teachers are going so I don't expect a problem. Also, Douwe has recently been adopted by a little girl in the third grade so I expect if there are problems then she will look after him.

But speaking of looking after, I was watching through the window in his class this morning and one of the boys was obviously having his own doubts and was fighting tears. Ultimately the tears won out adn he started to cry. And I watched Douwe go over to him, pout his arm around him, lead him to a chair in an empty corner of the room, sit him down and (I assume) tell him that it was going to be all right, really. Or something similar. It was very sweet.

Actually, looking after somebody else would indeed make it easier for Douwe not to be nervous himself, now that I think about it.

Daan alternates between being wildly jealous and being terrified that we will make him go, too. We have had at least one very dramatic episode of Daan weeping that he doesn't want to go. When I told him he could not go because only kids in first grade could go, he insisted indignantly that he was big enough to go. With the tears still in his eyes from the formerly mentioned bout of weeping at the thought. *sigh*. That's Daan, all over. He doesn't want to until you tell him he can't. Then he has to.

Easter pictures


Easter was faily low key; we had baskets of course and then an egg hunt here in the house and then we went to the local petting zoo for their easter event. Which involved yet more easter egg hunting, a pony ride with a cart, and a scavenger hunt. And sweet bread of course.


One big surprise was that someone has taught Douwe to play chess, and we don't know who it was. Or at least, someone has taught him the moves for the pieces. We found this out because at the petting zoo they had a big chess board set up and he immediately began telling Daan how to play:

Ask me about mung dal


Go on, I dare you. It appears that the ayurvedic spa agreed with our Nel. It agreed with her so well that she wants to try out the ayurvedic diet.

Okay, I'll back up the truck. Ayurveda is a system of, er, looking at life, the universe and everything and also a way of approaching medical problems, with its origins in India. Here's a website which sort of sets it all out. But in this instance we are talking about a way of eating mostly, as Nel has to take care of all the other stuff herself. So here's what Nel is supposed to eat.

So the idea is, there are three types of, er, energies and in each person one or two are usually dominant. Which type you are determines what you are and are not supposed to eat and so on. For the curious, here's a dosha quiz so you can play along at home.

Good thing I did that vegetarian thing when I was with Bob, eh? No, seriously, the things we do for men. I have actually cooked in a way similar to this before so it isn't entirely alien. Still and all, I must say, it took me a couple years to figure out how to cook "south of holland" style and now I get to scrap much of it and start figuring out how to cook ayurvedic of all things. From smashing up endive in mashed potatoes with cheese to cooking rice and lentils in clarified butter is a bit of a stretch. But I feel certain I can do it, after all, I suppose that really dumb people all over India manage it every day.

I suppose doing it for your mother in law is more noble in some way than doing it for some guy. On the other hand, doing it for your mother in law means you don't get flowers, jewelry, or even regular sex out of it so that's a downside. *

No, the kids have not been converted or anything. Though it's only been a week or so, give them time and they'll be sucking down the rice and lentils with the best of them. And Dearly Beloved has no plans to become vegetarian so I expect chops will remain on offer.
Anyway, 'scuse me guys, I gotta go make some ghee.

* Oh. Right. That's why it's noble. Got it.

So, what did you do today?


Today I scrubbed a goddamn boat with various toxic substances mostly derived from bleach. My sister will be most pleased to learn that I did not mix the toxic substances and therefore did not burn my lungs even once.* Many buckets of rinse water later, the outside of the boat is clean once more. We have not started on the inside yet; the outside took the better part of today. Well, I suppose technically the outside isn't done either as we did not clean the part at the water line. Okay, the deck and the cabin and so on are clean. 'kay? It's amazing where algae can find a place to grow, really it is. It was sort of like cleaning mildew in Atlanta only it was green.Who needs a fitness club? Come on over here and I'll let you haul buckets of water all afternoon. Biceps, baby have I got biceps now. But my hands will never recover; when am I going to learn to use gloves when I should? Probably never. If the varnish poisoning incident didn't teach me I suppose nothing will. Really, I should give up all hobbies involving toxic chemicals. Or maybe I should just put Poison Control on my speed dial.Thursday we went to Utrecht as the kids have been off all week. We went to Utrecht because every day this winter we have seen bus 400 to Utrecht leave the station, nine minutes before our bus leaves. And so Douwe became consumed with a desire to know where it was going. So we took bus 400 to Utrecht. It takes about an hour.Here are the kids at the bus station:D'you know, they have a Dockers store in Utrecht? I have imported God knows how many pairs of Dockers for my husband, as he loves them and they cannot be gotten here. Or I thought they couldn't be gotten; we got off the bus and there it was, a real live Dockers store. They haven't got one in Atlanta that I have been able to find but there is one in Utrecht.Once we got there we had to do what all Americans do when they go to a foreign city:And then after that we had to walk all over the world to find the tourist information place. My own elaborate plan in going to Utrecht was to, you know, walk around. I mean, Douwe is 7 and Daan is 5; they are not demanding in terms of entertainment. However, some of us want to actually Do Something when we travel so we hunted up the tourist information place. Thus ensued a really funny conversation as Oma tried to find out how to get to the Botanical Gardens from the nice lady while my kids hollered "We want to go to a museum! Where is the museum!" and Daan went to get a map so she could show us the museum.I think that nice lady thinks my kids are very odd. She does not know that my kids think museum = dinosaur exhibit.Anyway, we settled on the canal boat tour as Nel wanted to do something out of doors and the kids wanted....well, you know what they wanted. Nel ended up getting her very own personal tour of the canals of Utrecht as we were the only people on the boat and I was occupied in keeping my kids from actually jumping out of the boat and answering many rapid fire questions like "are we there yet?".We found out in Utrecht that Daan has grown 4 centimeters in just under a month which is a lot for him. He walked under one of those "measure your child" signs in a store and I realized he was in the wrong size range -- I had measured him just before Carnaval. He was walking funny one day this week and I realized that his shoes were too small -- or actually, one shoe was too small. So I had to go get him new ones and there were many discussions about whether he will permanently have one foot bigger than the other. Happily, by the end of the week his other shoe was also too small, which was the only thing that got him to quit putting those shoes on -- he quite liked them.*Long story. My sister will never let me live my exp[...]

What do I know?


Nothing, evidently. Douwe had his filling with zero novacain and also zero trauma. Go figure. He went with his father because he would not be able to miss my own nervousness and Dearly Bloved thinks it's just another thing and no big deal to get a filling without novacain. (!). So there was no danger of him passing on his nervousness, he hasn't got any.

I had to restrain myself from peppering Douwe with the kinds of questions which might just create a trauma after the fact but did manage to keep my mouth shut. I peppered Dearly Beloved but it was as usual unsatisfying, all he had to say was "What? Nothing happened. He sat in the chair and got a filling like everybody else".


Daan is now first in line for the mysterious virus train, he had two days of fever and then started crying about his ear hurting. Happily, though our doctor will not give antibiotics for anything short of sitting on death's door, he hands out the (here's an irony) painkiller ear drops like water. As some of you know, the ear drops are essentially, well, novacain. No, not really, they are a contact anaesthetic. But still. So about an hour after I gave him the ear drops he dropped off to sleep and is still there.

May I just say, he dislikes nose drops quite a lot. D'you know, they come out of the sofa very well.

Nel is going to a, um, an Aryuvedic spa thingie in Germany with Ernest this month. All the good spas are in Germany I understand. I might look for one in France, the weather is better and so is the wine, but what do I know? Nothing, we have established that.

She is looking forward to it very much. The doctor even gave her a referral so her insurance is going to cover it.

And my seeds are now in the ground, or at least the first wave. I never give up, I just add something different to my dirt and try again. Though if it doesn't work out this time I am going to give up and buy seedlings like a civilized person.

I did figure out why my stephanotis died; it had a ball of slugs around its roots. Ick.

Sunday, we went to the zoo


No, I have not forgotten you. Sunday, we went back to the local drive-through zoo and had a lovely time. Here is what that looked like:However, Eldest did stop quite a lot and wanted to sit down all the time. And he fell asleep in the car on the way which is anything but typical. So I looked around and discovered that he has gotten his molar on the one side but on the other side it's all swollen and sore so we decided he was just having pain from his tooth. Gave him a kids' motrin. He cheered up and the next day was happy and said he wanted to go to school.Luckily I work in the school librabry on Monday because by 9:30 he was crying and had the start of a fever. So we closed the school library and I took him home where he has been running a fever ever since. I took him to the doctor because he had no symptoms other than the fever which makes me nervous about infections in closed-up places, and because he quit eating and drinking anything but coke. The doctor says it's just a virus and had a very serious conversation with Douwe about how important it is to try to eat and drink even if you don't feel like it. And said he expected the coke thing from an american, which Douwe thought very funny.It seems to have helped, he did eat a plate of buttered noodles as soon as we got home. And drank two glasses of water beffore demanding another coke. Maybe I should have the doctor talk to him about his other bad habits.In other news, report cards have come and gone and both my kids got good reports for the first time ever, that was a novel experience. Douwe's teacher was most worried abotu telling me he is in language related things closer to early first grade than middle first grade and I didn't really know how to tell her that to a mom who has regularly heard that he is three and four years behind his chronological age a couple of months is trivial and he can make that up in a couple of weeks. They do not know exactly where he is in math; the standard test they use is all word problems and his teacher stopped the test about three questions in when it was clear to her that the language they were using was interfering with the result -- they don't ask what is 7 minus 4, they ask "If there are seven cows and four of them are in this field, how many of them are in the other field?" So he said there were seven cows and they should all be together or they would be lonely. And he said that seven cows have 28 legs. And he said that if there is an odd number of cows they should get one more to make it even. And he said any number of things but he did not say how many cows are in the other field. So they have gone off to find a non verbal standardized math test which seems to me ought not to be difficult but what do I know. And in the final news, Nel has bought a new car of which she is inordinately proud. And there is a painter coming tomorrow to paint the kitchen blue and white. And a handyman coming in a couple weeks to put in power so I can have one of my two heart's desires which is a standing freezer in the cellar. My other heart's desire is a bread machine which has been vetoed ostensibly because it takes up too much room on the counter but you know and I know that Nel just likes the idea of bread made by hand better. And who can blame her?Okay, it does take up a lot of room on the counter.Sorry about the no doubt ten million typos, I am stealing time from Mr. Sickly and he is starting to whimper again so I have to run without proofreading. More tomorrow, I have to go administer motrin and make soothing noises.[...]

Dental musings


Well, we all went to the dentist, and, well, Daan still has perfect teeth. Douwe has a cavity in one of his molars. It is to be filled a week from Monday. His father will be taking him for the appointment as he has to have something done to his teeth, too.

So I am once more faced with the conundrum of the novacain, as the assistant tells me they let the child decide whether he wants any. This was mentioned in an aside as the dentist spent much of his time trying to convince me that putting a filling in a baby tooth was worth the trouble. I don't know why he was trying to convince me, I mean it will be a couple of years before his molars come out if I recall correctly. No sense in letting his teeth rot out in the mean time. Oh, yes, and reassuring me that the filling won't be amalgam.

Well, my mouth is full of mercury and so are both my parents' mouths and we haven't gone mad, probably haven't gone mad for any reason related to the teeth anyway. But okay, I don't mind white fillings either.

The "let the child decide" policy appears to be the outside edge of liberality from a dentit around here.

Well, I chose this dentist because all the mommies are nuts about him. But on the other hand, what do they know, they probably have people go into their mouths with a Black & Decker without anasethetic also. Maybe there's a local gene for high pain tolerance, I dunno. They all look at me and say something like "Well, it's not like getting a shot or anything,". Like a shot is really bad but a filling,well, that's just a walk in the park.

Did I move to Holland or to Looking Glass Land?



There has been much discussion about team sport and individual sport and extracurricular activities around here just lately. I have maintained right along that until the boys are old enough to pick a sport and continue to want to do it for more than, oh, ten minutes, I will be happy to oblige and not until then.

Dearly Beloved, however, has taken matters into his own hands and has signed up both boys for football, er, soccer.

He did not of course ask any trivial questions while doing so, such as, When is practice or How competitive a team is this exactly or When are the games or Do they know anyone on this team. He was not even really clear on What's the age range for each team. He did ask What does it cost, he hasn't lost his passport just yet, but was not at all clear about whether signing up two at once made any difference in terms of the cost.

I don't expect the kids will care, they will just get to go kick the ball around twice a week and will have a good time, I have no doubt. But I do note certain, er, gender differences in approach.

Goody goody gumdrops


Ash Wednesday in the south of Holland is marked by a roaring sound. It is the sound of the industrial strength leaf blowers and street sweeping machines which move out in force to clean up all that confetti from the Carnaval parades.Well, and all the plastic cups everybody left all over. This year there was much talk of a resurgence of Carnaval, but I really think it was the result of the relatively pleasant weather we have been having. It's a lot more fun to go out and carouse when you don't have to dress up as the Michelin Man to prevent frostbite.I have deemed Douwe old enough to give Lent a whirl this year, despite the fact that he hasn't had first communion yet, and Daan is sort of playing along. So far they like it very much. This is of course because they think it's a game.I ran across this poem on the internet and it became the game:Red is for the blood He gave.Green is for the palm's cool shade.Yellow is for the sun so bright.Black is for the peace of night.Orange is for prayer at twilight.White is for the grace He gave.Purple is for His hour of sorrow.Pink is for our new tomorrow.Here's how the game goes: Each of them has a jar. They get a gumdrop for what they do, each time I catch them doing it. Color coded and all. (This game is supposed ot be played with jelly beans. But a thorough scouring of local shops resulted in no jellybeans. So gumdrops it became).Like this: Red gumdrops are for giving up something you want. Green ones are for helping out cheerfully. Yellow is for kindness to others. Black are for going to bed without fighting about it. * Orange gum drops are for prayers or reading the Bible. Purple you get for apologizing for doing something wrong. Pink you get for forgiving somebody else.White gumdrops cannot be earned, as grace cannot be earned; they just appear in your jar.I had planned to let them eat the candy at Easter (or maybe laetare sunday**), but Oma intervened and said that when she was young, they weren't allowed to have candy during Lent but instead they had to save up any sweets they got during the week and were allowed to eat them on Sundays. And, okay, forty days is a long payoff time to maintain a system of bribes, er, a learning system of this kind. So we settled on Sunday.I expect it will wear off. But I certainly am hip-deep in offers to set the table, carry my groceries, and empty the dishwasher. (Douwe likes yellow gumdrops, what can I tell you). Daan cleaned their room two nights in a row. (He likes green ones). So I think I will just enjoy it while it lasts. Hey, maybe I can get them really confused about exactly when Lent ends and...nah, then I'd have to go to confession again, wouldn't I?Daan has put together Carnaval and Ash Wednesday Mass in a sort of peculiar way. I bought him a cowboy hat today as he has been invited to a cowboy birthday party next week. That, it turns out, is the only costume they do not have. So I got him a hat and he explained to me most earnestly that he couldn't wear it. Because for Carnaval you dress up every day and then you go to church and the priest paints your face and then you can't dress up after that any more until next Carnaval.Well, there certainly is nothing subtle about the marking with ashes around here; they just about cover your whole forehead with that cross. So I understand his confusion. *Okay, that may not be a real virtue. But it's certainly restful for somebody. *ahem* Oh, dear, do I have to confess to being craven?.** This is the fourth Sunday in Lent, it means "joyful Sunday" or "mothering Sunday" and is a day of reprive from Lent. [...]

So, is the Archbishop of Canterbury Catholic?


Well, not yet. Though much ink has been devoted to the notion, it appears that reports that the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches will move from communion to unity are somewhat exagerated. A 42 page report has been generated which emphasizes the similarities between the faiths; and it has finally been spoken aloud that, if Anglicans are to have a pope, it will be the pope in Rome. Well, okay, John Paul II said the same thign some years ago. But Popes are always suggesting that they would be an excellent "sign and focus of unity", aren't they? I mean, last time I checked, official doctrine was that everybody baptised is really a catholic only some of them have soem very unusual theological notions.

Now it has been said aloud by an Anglican, too.

However, no official word is out from either Rome or Canterbury on the report. However, it does appear that -- at the very least -- Catholics are to start praying for the Archbishop of Canterbury during Mass and Anglicans are to start praying for the Pope in Rome. Which is a nice start.

Someone may have to explain to a number of Catholics what an Anglican is, exactly. I was surprised to discover that really very few people here have any idea. The Anglican presence in Holland is small.

However, it's likely to be pushed off the front pages of the Faith and Values section of the AJC by news that the bishops of the Anglican communion who are meeting this week have given the US Episcopal church 7 months to stop blessing gay marriages or get out.

Okay, they don't say get out. They say “This has consequences for the full participation of the church in the life of the communion.” Which sounds a lot like "or get out" to me.

Healing a schism on one side, opening one up on the other. Here I thought Anglicans were the "Frozen Chosen" but evidently things are getting right warmish in Tanzinia where the meeting is being held.

More parade pictures


This is really for my mother, the rest of you who are not addicted to parades may just want to scroll on down to the next posts.

But my mom really does love a parade. Maybe next year I will have the presence of mind to add a sound track.





More pictures



These are the official Carnaval costumes, though over the last three days there have been quite some costme changes.

Breaking Silence


Well, I suppose if there is any time to break a long silence it would be with Carnaval. If Carnaval is anything, it is loud. The kidlets decided to "go do Carnaval" tonight after dinner, so everybody got dressed up and off we went. I think Paul thought he was going to get to have a lovely evening in a pub. However, we took two steps into the door and both kids clapped their hands over their ears and went back outside. Carnaval indoors means VERY LOUD OOMPAH MUSIC.

So they ran about in the darkness in their Carnaval costumes -- Eldest as a magician and Youngest as Batman -- and played tag in the church square with all the other kids who couldn't take the noise.

Yesterday was the grownup's parade, which I watched mostly from the upstairs window. Well, it does come right beside the house. The kids and Paul and Nel stayed outside long enough to use up most of the confetti we bought and then came in too.

Here it is:


Well, there is more of it of course, about 42 more floats to be exact. We have a very nice turnout every year for the Carnaval parade.

Here is one of the merry onlookers:


And we had a good turnout for the kids' school carnaval parade on Friday also:


Eldest missed the school parade and party as he was still recovering from a week long bout of first the flu and then an ear infection. By Sunday he was up and around again and today he is pretty much his usual self.

If I get up the nerve to take them to the traditional bonfire at midnight tomorrow night which officially ends Carnaval and is the signal to quit partying and get ready for Lent, I will let you know. I am not sure either of them can stay awake until midnight -- and am even less sure that I can, as I have had the flu the whole week also. But I might.

News from Atlanta


I was pleased to see on the news tonight that my former abode continues to make headlines. From Atlanta we learn today that elephants are self aware.

Although I think they are sort of overstating. It could as easily be the case that he elephant was not self-aware until that moment, which then triggered an existential crisis of, well, elephantine proporations. I mean, there was that poor elephant, munching on some hay, looking at that New Elephant while peacefully contemplating the Reimann Hypothesis (or possibly remembering dreamily the time she stomped that hapless keeper to death) and idly wondering what that thing was on its forehead, when the reality slowly dawned...why, that was, not another elephant. That was, hmmm, poke about with trunk a bit, Zeta(z) = SUMk, look, that other elephant is poking about also...=1 to infinity, hey, that itches, (1/kz) ohmygoodness, that's me! Trivially zero at the negative even integers, but where are all the other zeroes? And oh, dear, the other two elephants here are wearing the exact same thing as I am, The only other zeroes known all lie on the line in the complex plane with real part equal to 1/2. I could just sink into the floor. Maybe if I take it off nobody will notice....

I mean I suppose this is one up on "damn, it's cold out here" which was I think the conscious thought most of us had first, but still.

Or maybe this is simply the only self aware elephant in the world and they just lucked up on the first go. Right out of the box they got the Da Vinci of elephants. Wel, it could happen and it isn't reported whether this elephant had any unusual habits, like taking notes or bemoaning the absence of opposable thumbs.

Of course half the chimpanzees fail the self awareness test; I wonder how many people do?

Travel Plans


Okay, the tickets are bought, we are coming for Christmas. The bad news is, we are indeed going to be flying on Christmas Day itself and flying back the Friday before Daan's birthday. * Hopefully next year the holiday schedule works out better, what can I tell you.

This should be interesting.

Eh. what's so horrible about flying on Christmas Day?** Over the ocean and through passport control, to grandmother's house we go....

*Mom for god's sake don't fight with me, I promise you if there had been any other realistic option I would have taken it. Quickly.

** Don't answer that.

Party season has begun


As most of you know, party season starts around here in October with The First Birthday and ends in January with The Last Birthday. With St. Nicholas, Christmas, and one more birthday squeezed in between. This year we started one day early because the bowling alley doesn't do parties on Thursdays so it was either Wednesday or Friday.So today was the Kid Party with the pals from school and tomorrow is the real birthday.It was fun. When you sign up for a bowling party you think that an hour of bowling* is not very long. But in fact when it is Disco Magic Bowling, wherein the room is darkish and strobe lights and flicker lights and mirrored balls in the ceiling and black lights and glowing flourescent colored bowling pins and bowling balls give the only illumination; when some kind of smoke pours down from the ceiling every now and again (in time to the music no less) and there are animated dancing things on the screens which in the olden days only showed the actual game score, well, then an hour is about as much as they can handle.+It's more than the fours can handle actually, we had our two four year olds and one of the young fives in tears at least once each for no reason other than the top blowing off their personal central nervous systems. Though each of them went right back to bowling after being gently removed to a quieter venue and petted for a few minutes.Douwe demanded a "Mars Cake" for his birthday. A "Mars Cake" has nothing to do with the planet. A Mars Cake it turns out is a cake which is just like a Mars Bar. An American Mars cake no less. Well, he did not demand it; he requested it. Firmly. So I said that there was no such thing. He said there certainly was: you make a chocolate cake, then you put the white fluffy stuff on the bottom, caramel on top of that, then you put chocolate all over it and that's a Mars Cake. He then cut a Mars Bar in half with a knife to demonstrate the layers. (Like I have never seen a Mars Bar). Oh, and it has to be a rectangle.Let no one say I do not play requests. One package of Duncan Hines Chocolate cake mix, one jar of Marshmallow Fluff**, one bag of caramels later, here is a Mars Cake:Okay, and some whipped cream. It isn't a cake in Holland without whipped cream. It's a dairy country, they don't do frosting.I was assured that no self respecting Dutch child would ever eat such a thing, which was greeted with horrible shudders all round by the rest of my family. So I also made the same cake I have made for Douwe every year since we got here, which is really a cheesecake but they call it something else:We invited eight kids and six came, which is pretty good for us. Since The First Birthday falls in a vacation period, we always lose a couple to travel and other vacation plans.We had only one girl, who was in fact the first child I met at the Montessori School. She walked up to me and announced that she was going to marry my son. Quite seriously. So I congratulated her on her taste and said I was pleased to meet her. (Well, what was I supposed to say?) She went on to say that I should keep this nugget to myself as she had not told the groom yet. Oh, I said, well, you should probably mention it at some point. She said, "Oh, yes, but he can be so difficult, so I will tell him at the very last moment. Then he'll just go along".Since I regularly use the same technique on him, I could find nothing to quarrel with about this and promised to sa[...]