Thursday, January 31

Hey! Hey!

First a conversation:

"Go back Mom. Go back to that picture."


"Which one, buddy? This one here?"

"Yeah, click on that one. I wanna go to that monkey store."

"Okay, let's see here."

Click... wait...load....


"Oh! I want to see that monkey."

"Do you like that monkey, son? "

"Yeah, I really, really like that monkey. We gotta get that monkey from the monkey store!"

"Which one do you like buddy?"

"That one. The red one."

"Do you like that monkey?"

"Yeah, I like that monkey. That monkey is really, really funny. We gotta get that monkey right now."

"Right now?"


"Yeah, we gotta get that monkey from the monkey store right now!"

*********************************

And then an invitation.


the writing game

Please pop round to this site today and plan to stay awhile. Jen of A2Eatwrite has created quite a game, she calls it The Writing Game and it's aim is a creative challenge to writers (or non-writers as the case may be). Several victims participants submitted ideas for stories, which were randomly shuffled among us. The task then was to write a piece of fiction based on that other person's ideas. As you know, I am not one to step away from a challenge issued, so I took on the task. My story is here. Other stories are there too. Fill your cup to the brim and settle in to read some exceptional writing. (No, not mine. The other guys'!)

***************************************************

And now, infatuation.

While you read today, take a commercial break and pop over to Leslie's place to order your own really, really funny monkey from the monkey store. You can find her delightful creations here, and you can order one right now.

But not this one:

This guy is all mine.

Wednesday, January 30

Tuesday, January 29

Nothing Has Changed; Yet Everything is Different

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slightly unbalanced
a single word rocks my world
that word: autism

Monday, January 28

So, What's Wrong With Making Mealtime a Joyous Occasion?*

SMID's Music Monday

I walked in the front door of our three story home and was greeted by a large box in the front hallway. Sent by my sister, it had arrived in the post earlier in the afternoon. I parked my bike, hung my coat and scarf and carried the box into the kitchen.

With the dinner hour approaching soon, I made a quick perusal of the stock in the pantry and freezer and selected a menu. I pulled a pot from the cupboard under the sink, measured the water and placed it on the stove top. Once I had lit the flame and set the rice water to boil, I turned my attention to the parcel sitting on the floor.

I must first preface this by saying that my sister, who lives in Salt Lake City, is very, very, good to us. It is not an uncommon practice for her to throw a care package together and send some bits of the U.S. to us via the post. It is always a treat, and it always, always brings rather large smiles to the faces of all residents in this house when an Aunt Mindy box arrives.

Cracking the top seal, I peeled back the flaps of cardboard and peeked inside. Then I snorted.

Literally.

It was a giggle, which rose so quickly from my belly, it flew through my chest and came barrelling out my nose in a definitive hmphahaacht! Great sound that.

Checking carefully to be certain I hadn't blown snot across the packing peanuts, I reached up behind me and turned off the heat on the stove. Dinner plans had just changed.

With speed and precision, I set the table, then carried the contents of the box to the dining room and placed it all on the table.

After that I called the kids to supper.

Emma was busy on the computer multi-tasking like only a pre-teen can with an IM screen open, her Ipod blasting and an episode of "Friends" playing in the background. Ian was upstairs, deeply engaged in the last of the Philip Pullman trilogy and he actually groaned when I called him down to dinner (he has loved this book series!) He continued to grumble as he sauntered down two flights of stairs, but immediately fell silent when he laid his eyes on the table.

First he saw this:

Then he grabbed the walls of the door frame and gasped.

And then?

Then he did a happy dance. (Snoopy's got nothin' on this kid, let me tell you.)

Before we sat down at the table we called my sister to shout a ginormous thanks through the phone line. Then we tucked into that massive sugar overload sent from across the pond. We laughed and talked, and sang a little thank you song as we ate.

Boy, do we ever love Suppertime!


Friday, January 25

affirmative

I work in an International School. Daily, I am surrounded by multiple languages. I communicate in two.

I communicate well in only one.

As English is the working language of the school community, I conduct most business in person and by phone in my native tongue. Sometimes I forget that it is not the native tongue of everyone in my community.

Part of the variable every-day-is-a-new-adventure job I do is to coordinate the door to door mini bus service of the school. As applications arrive, I process the information and liaise with the taxi company that provides the vans for our "bus" system. Currently, we are in process of a new sort and so it has come to me to call the applicants who have moved up the queue and will be given a seat on the bus. The question/answer session generally consists of me telling them that their application has been processed and their place approved, and would they like to accept this spot in the service on this date specific? They then answer yes or no and we move forward from there. Or the application stops.

Simple.

Kind of.

As I spat out my speech today, reached the end and managed the perfunctory pause to hear the answer to my question, I was met by audible hesitation, and then a single word reply. YES. But the inflection on the statement was unmistakably a question: YES?

And in a moment it was all perfectly clear to me.

I know the sound of this YES.

This YES? that means 'I think I gathered about 25% of what you've just blathered at me, and I can tell from this pause in conversation that it is my turn to speak and the best response at this moment, just might be YES so I am going to throw it in there and hope that you won't start sputtering more rapid fire conversation at me before my brain can process what you've just said and what I have in essence agreed to since I have now uttered a positive pronouncement to your question, which I think was indeed a question, but I can't be certain since I actually, in truth and honesty, have absolutely no idea what you are saying.'

I have used it before.

The day to day reality of speaking Dutch is at best an exercise in futility. I have mentioned before the fact that the Dutch are incredible linguists and most speak not only fluent English, but also at least one or two (or three, four or five) other languages in addition to their own Mother Tongue. Because they are such excellent English speakers and because the accent of an English speaker on the Dutch is so obvious, the most likely scenario in conversation with a Dutchie is that s/he will switch to English to carry on the conversation with ease. I always, always let that happen, because, well, I am just that lazy. So, while I can speak Dutch I am far from fluent, and the bottom line here is I probably will never be. Simply because I don't have to be.

Lest you get the wrong impression of me, please rest assured that I do try mightily to speak the language of my host country and I do study it and engage in (albeit simple) conversation as often as I can. The payoff for my effort is that my receptive skills are strong, and while I cannot prattle with proficiency, I can listen with comfort. Most of the time.

My position however is unique in that I am an English speaker. And that alone makes my experience as an expat in this country entirely different from many who travel here; those for whom learning at least one if not both of the dominant languages of this country is imperative. Like some friends we had in Leiden, who came from Russia (they have since returned to their home country) for whom the negotiation of all things Dutch was next to impossible until they mastered a common language. And people like the woman on the phone today who is working hard, exponentially harder than I have to work, and grappling with a language that is not her own in order to communicate.

People like that impress me deeply.

The phone conversation today really taught me something. Perhaps the lesson is an obvious one, but that doesn't make it any less an epiphany for me. Knowing that I needed to repeat my message caused me to simplify my sentences, to pull back on the rapid fire delivery and in every way possible to SLOW DOWN. And slowing down in that single conversation, taking that breath as it were, made me step back and consider just what it is I do and am doing.

And just how much I like it all, my life.

And maybe, just maybe, how I sometimes rush through it all a little too fast.

I liked that moment of fresh air and deep breathing and I think I should very much like to find that same kind of moment tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that too. Because I don't know everything, and sometimes I only understand some things. But all of the time, I know I am alive, and here, and happy.

And that, friends, is worthy of affirmation.

Thursday, January 24

Show Me the Stretch Marks

******************************************
"Hey, Ian, can you come move this box a little so I can get my bike through?."

"Oh, yeah, sure."

"Just a little more please son, I need to park my bike right there by the radiator."

"Oh, yes, Right, because you're the only one privileged enough to park your bike in the house while the rest of us have to take ours all the way to the back!"

"Yep. You wanna fight about it, or d'you want to push out three babies?"

***********************************




(he moved the box)

Tuesday, January 22

Hello, I Love You, Won't You Tell Me Your Name?

Andrew's (incredible, stupendous, amazing, fantastic) preschool classroom has a self-check-in system in place wherein the children find their name card on the door and by use of sticky back velcro attach it underneath a picture of themselves, thus enabling not only a register of who is in attendance on a given day, but also the added benefit of early letter and name recognition for the child. Cool, huh?

Standing above the child's name on each card is a greeting--hello, to be exact--customized to each according to the language which they speak. For the English speakers 'Hello' graces the tag, except for the tag of the Australian child, whose tag reads 'G'day' (Truth be told, I really wanted Andrew's card to say 'Hey, y'all' but couldn't convince his teachers that the southern vernacular was really his by right)
With new children arriving weekly to his class I sat down with the classroom teachers yesterday to create a list of the new names and the appropriate greetings.
Here then is a small sampling of the ways our class says hello. (Thank goodness for Google search with a task like this.)

Hungary: Szia

German: Guten Tag

Dutch: Dag

Marathi: Namaskar

Spanish: Hola

Mhroroi: Shona

French: Bonjour

So, lay it on me. Add to the knowledge base here. How do you say hello?

Monday, January 21

Just When You Least Expect It

SMID's Music Monday

In the early afternoon on Sunday, Don and I made our weekly excursion to the neighborhood grocery store. The Albert Heijn to be exact, which incidentally has, as you can see, the initials A and H. Pronounce those letters in Dutch and you have Ah and Hah. Run them together (C'mon say it with me now) and you have Ah-Hah!

That's what we call it around here, and I am thinking that the directors of this major grocery chain here in Holland should contact me to become part of the advertising team. Just think of the potential with a catch phrase like Ah-hah! Seriously, you could have a heyday with Ah-hah! I can just see it now.

These are the things I think about.

Somebody stop me.

So. Don and I went to the Ah-Hah, shopped for it, paid for it, loaded it up, slung it over our backs and schlepped it home. As we stepped into the garden Don made a comment along the lines that it might be time to pull the dead and decaying plants from the planter box. (insinuating perhaps that I embrace the notion that winter is actually here and the flowers just ain't gonna bloom no more) I concured. (and accepted the whole projected message as correct) Before I stepped in the front door with my grocery bags, I began to systematically pull the begonia plants out by the roots. No sooner did I start than I made an astounding discovery. The tulip and narcis bulbs which have lain dormant beneath the dirt for these many months have decided that now seems like a good time to send up shoots. Little sprouts of bright green peeking up from the surface of the soil beginning to look for the sunshine. Seems early by a long shot this year, but I have to admit to the surge of absolute joy at seeing the sight. Bright, determined, hopeful signs of the next season are already peeking through the dark days of winter.

My heart is singing just a little.

It sounds just like this:



More music at SMID's place

Thursday, January 17

You Send Me

I've got a golden ticket
I've got a golden twinkle in my eye

I never had a chance to shine
Never a happy song to sing
But suddenly half the world is mine
What an amazing thing

'Cause I've got a golden ticket
I've got a golden sun up in the sky

Okay, it's not a ticket exactly. It's a postcard.
And not a postcard exactly but a photo which really could be a postcard, mounted on a card.
And it's mine.
Jenn sent it.
I love it.

I love cards.

And mail.

How much do I love cards?
This year when the Christmas cards began rolling in from family and friends, including one from Allison and one from Leslie, I strung a line across my dining room wall, and hooked them on one by one with tiny clothespins. It gave me such a charge.
In spite of the fact that Christmas has been cleaned up for weeks now, I still have my cards prominently displayed. It will likely be March before I take them down.

That's how much.

I am going to take a stab at it here and guess that you are fond of cards too. Or at least of mail that isn't a bill, a reminder, or a sale flyer.

So, I've got an offer.

Here on my desk sits a stack of cards, of which I must admit I am quite proud. And I want to send one to you.

Yeah, you.

You might remember shades of this kind of offer before--last summer when I offered and sent postcards. That was seriously so much fun, I want to do it again.

You want to play? Here's the deal.

1. Comment on this post. It can be any length you choose--verbose or succinct.
2. Make it rhyme.
3. You heard me.
4. Rhyme.

Then leave me your email address (even if you think I have it) and I will contact you for your snail mail address. Then,

5. Wait.

You'll be singing soon.

'Cause I've got a golden ticket
I've got a golden chance to make my way
And with a golden ticket, it's a golden day*


*Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newly

Wednesday, January 16

Monday, January 14

Sorry, Jenn Can't Come to the Blog Right Now

Kies:

a. Jenn is een beetje ziek.

b. Jenn is een beetje moe.

c. Jenn is een beetje gek.

d. Alles.


Ik kom zo terug.

Choose:

a. Jenn isn't feeling well.

b. Jenn is a bit tired.

c. Jenn is slightly crazy.

d. All of the above.


Back soon.

Saturday, January 12

The Reason I Read

escape.


my own game
Day to Read book report below!
Hiding out with me today:
Jenn

Singular Saturday is for everyone and anyone who wants to play! The procedure is simple: Post your word, Link to me (use the graphic if you like--email me for the code), comment here that you've played and I will link you back.
Come on along.

Friday, January 11

With My Little Eye

The day: January 10th. The time: To read.

Completely swept up in the spirit of the campaign I snuggled in my bed in the evening hours to cuddle up with part 2 of the (controversial) Philip Pullman HIS DARK MATERIALS series. 14-year old Ian and I have been vying for position for the books of this trilogy. He won and I have waited somewhat patiently as he completes each book before I can snatch it and crack the cover under cover.

Delightfully paced in this second book, the prose immediately swept me into the story....
I can't review or report beyond that since I am only just in the beginning really of this epic adventure. I can join the ranks of others--who have read, contemplated, and reviewed the series--and recommend it. Very worthy of a night together, indeed.
In the interests of a book report however, I want to share the book 4-year old Andrew chose for Day to Read.

It was this one:

And. It. Is. Fabulous.

Written/compiled by Lucy Micklethwait and published by Harper Collins, it is just as the title describes, a typical I spy book where the reader is encouraged to find something on each page. However instead of spying a cartoon character in a chaotic cartoon background, the challenge is to find the item or individual inside a piece of fine art.

Find the lion

Ranging from the classic to the modern and spanning the centuries, the paintings include pieces by Picasso, Bosch, and Rousseau. Cool, huh?

find the mouse

Andrew and I cuddled up on the couch to share his book of choice early in the day. I really can't even begin to describe the joy for both of us as we turned each page and read the challenge on the left only to cast eyes to the right and begin to search. Some were simple as you can imagine, others took us several minutes to solve, but with each page turn we became more enthused for the game itself and more impressed by the art. Beyond the complete charge for a preschooler in being able to spot the sought after item, was the joy of sitting together and discussing what else we could see inside that picture. We didn't stop until we reached the end of the 20 paintings rich text.

And then we read it again.

find the lamb

Other titles in this concept and by this author:

I Spy--An Alphabet in Art
I Spy--Numbers in Art
I Spy--Transport in Art

All on order from Amazon.

We can't wait.

Thursday, January 10

Lending Time

If it seems quiet around here, it's because we've all got our noses buried in a book. Yep, we're celebrating Day to Read. Are you joining us?

Book reports due Friday.


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Tuesday, January 8

Make It So

"Oh, is it over Mom?"

"Yep, buddy, that's the end of the movie. Did you like it?"

"Yeah, that was a good Bee Movie."

"You bet."

"Yeah, that was a really, really funny Bee Movie. I liked that."

"I am so glad."

"Yeah, we need to get that Bee Movie off the screen and put it on a DVD so I can watch that at my TV, okay?"

Monday, January 7

Lullaby of Broadway

You don't need to spend altogether too much time around me before you determine that I am a fan of musicals. I wanted to say Broadway Buff for the cool alliteration, but that isn't exactly true. I am not an expert by any stretch, just a die hard fan of the belt and the beauty of all that can come from a good set of lungs.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda might have landed me on the stage at some point to make my career, but my choices took me elsewhere and now the Broadway Best of Jenn can be heard within the shower walls of my home. (Trust me, it's a stunning concert for an exclusive audience. Namely, me and anyone who happens to be haunting the halls whenever I feel a song coming on.)

The New Girl in Town
who just came on the scene
The new girl in town
[is slightly more than] sixteen *

A friend and loyal reader of my blog has recently opened a spot of her own in the neighborhood. I got her email invitation to come and see what she is creating and immediately thought that I should pass it on. You know, to promote her. Because what is this place if it's not an open-arms-hugs-all-around-welcome-wagon for a friend?

Her first post is here, but before you leap over and begin to connect with her, let me tell you just a little bit about her. I mean, beyond the obvious bits that she will tell you herself on her intro page.

The new girl in town
seems to dance on air
The new girl in town
has the greatest hair

I met her--seems like a million--years ago when she first moved to Phoenix. Our first connection was built through our children. She was the co-leader for Emma's Brownies troupe. Our second connection was established through our children. I taught both of her daughters in my dance program. Our third connection was through our children. She was the first person (and an expert at that) who really listened to my concerns about our youngest son, Andrew. She listened, she heard and she advised. She is probably not even aware just how much impact our conversation nearly a year ago has had. I know I told her thank you a million times for her time and her caring and her attention, but words are a little weak to really express to her my gratitude and appreciation.

She's hip.
So cool
[she's getting really smart in] school.

My connection to her runs deep and comes from the heart. She has been a great supporter at both this blog and the photo site. A lurker, maybe, but a supporter nonetheless.

What a hullabaloo girl
She ain't just passing through girl
She's sticking like glue girl
wo-oo,wo-oo,wo-oo,wo-oo

Won't you join me in welcoming her? Clear your throat, take a breath and sing it out with me:

Look out, Look out, Look out, Look out
She [is]....The New Girl in Town!



SMID's Music Monday

*THE NEW GIRL IN TOWN, from the musical HAIRSPRAY.

My apologies to Mr. Shaiman and Mr. Wittman for fussing with the lyrics. But really, it had to be done. Oh-oh-oh!

Saturday, January 5

The Best Thing About Winter

Citrus.

my own game

Puckering up with me today:

Wholly Burble

Flower Child

Jen in MI

Mariposa

Cablegirl (first time!)

Jenn

Jan

Give and Take

One of the more astounding discoveries in my life has everything to do with this blogging habit I picked up about 10 months ago. Specifically, that discovery is the rich friendships which develop with folks you only know by their written word. When I opened my blog page in March of 2007, it was with the sole intention of keeping in touch with my family and friends back in the U.S. You know, the ones we left behind when we moved to Holland more than 2 years ago. That is still the primary motivator behind what I choose to write and share here. BUT along the way this other thing happened. These OTHER PEOPLE began showing up here at this page and making comments, sharing stories, building relationships. I was swept away.

I have loads of very philosophical thought regarding why it works the way it does and why this blogging thing is happening in the first place and so successful in the second place, and I will happily share my theory with you sometime over a glass, while sitting by a cozy fire. Or, okay, it could be on a warm beach with ocean waves tickling our toes--I am not all that particular about the venue. But today I want to focus on the fun.

This kind of fun.

The kind of fun which consists of people you don't know who say the craziest, nicest, things about you on their own blog pages. Things that, when you read them sitting at your desk cause you to giggle endlessly, then cry out "NO WAY! SHE REALLY SAID THAT?" and then you just plain cry a little. Because in the run up of all things cool, blogging friends top the list. At least mine do. And they say the nicest things.

Leslie, who runs the show over at My Mommy's Place was handed an award recently--a virtual internet/blogging award--which then she handed to me. It looks like this:

And she said this about me:

If this woman isn’t reading your blog, you’re missing out. Because Jenn doesn’t just read your blog, she becomes a fan of your blog. I imagine her sitting at her computer, wearing my t-shirt with a giant Leslie’s #1 foam finger, doing back flips and turning cartwheels in support of me. She gets excited about my ideas and efforts and celebrates my success with as much enthusiasm as she would her own. Don’t we all need a friend like that? The amazing thing is, she gives that much to every blog she visits. I guess that’s why, if you’re quiet, you can probably hear a chorus of us singing her praises right now. She leaves thoughtful and encouraging comments everywhere she goes. And I never feel as if she’s doing it just to promote herself. She’s genuine. I feel lucky to know her. Meeting Jenn in Holland face to face is on my list of things to do before I die. And meeting Jenn ranks higher on the list than meeting Oprah Winfrey. She’s that awesome.

You can read the full post here. And you should read it, and not that post only, but her whole blog. Every word. I promise, it's worth the time in her archives. Leslie is witty, honest, and completely hilarious. I have been a die hard fan of hers for, like months now, and I think everyone should join the club.

So, the point (and I do have one) to this post is motivated by my desire to hand some of that love and kindness back around to those who have been so very, very, very good to me in this bloggy world. My hope is that those who receive this award will pass it on to those who have been very, very, very good to them as well.

It's a big kiss, of the chaste platonic kind, from me to you with the underlying 'thanks' message implied. I really do appreciate your support and your friendship and yes, your comments. So I hand this out, presenting to these blogs in list form only, but if you want to hear me wax poetic as to the reasons behind my choices I can do that too. We can schedule that chat for a later date. Maybe in Jamaica?

The award looks like this:

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And it goes (in no particular order) to:

Jodifur
Formula Fed and Flexible Parenting
Soccer Mom in Denial
The Ambassador Returns
Fourier Analyst
The View From Here
Anno's Place
A2eatwrite
The Ice Box
Scribbit
Rocking Chair Ruminations
Not That Different
The Freelance Cynic
Blooming Idiot
Goofball's World
Virtual Sprite
My Mommy's Place
Wiping Up Snot
Don't Call Me Mummy
Have The T-Shirt
When I Finally Decided to Get It
The Road Lester Traveled
Blog Ness Monster
42
The Green Fingered Photographer
Return of the White Robin
Words from a Wordsmith
Dream Weavers Web
Anneke's Art
Loesjes Double Dutch (sadly, no longer blogging here)
Whee! All the Way Home
Quarter Rest
The Potty Diaries
The Verge
Mariposa's Tales
Adventures In Waitressing
Greeble Monkey
Rebecca James
'Twas Brillig

There you have it. I suppose this is my blogroll really (you know you were wondering who I read!) So, my friends, you can hand it on to a few, or a million, that's your choice as recipient. But I hope you understand from me to you it is heartfelt and sincere!

Mwah!

Thursday, January 3

...They Have a Different Word for Everything

Our Dutch lesson today begins with some simple vocabulary. Practice aloud please, as it's just oh-so-much-more-fun to actually PRONOUNCE the 'g' rather than trying to read the 'g'. Okay, really, it's just my joy in picturing your attempt to pronounce the 'g' over any other reason, but you don't want to deny me that pleasure, do you?

We shall start here:
Dag (dakh)= day
Dagen (dakh-en)=days

Now, try these:
Prettige (prett-ikh-ah)= nice or lovely or beautiful
Feest (fayst)=festival or party or celebration
Kerst (cares-t)=Christmas

And hold onto this one:
Lees (lace)=to read

I love clever advertising, and by this I mean those ads which capture a play on words to perfection. I do not mean those horrific attempts at mock-wit which change the spelling of a word to alliterate a phrase. For instance, something like Kitty Korner makes me groan in horror and don't even get me started on Kar Kare. This is travesty! Seriously. If neither word begins with that letter you don't get to just go changing it around. The blatant disregard for spelling rules just bugs. Think of the children! Think of the EAL students! Think of the spelling bees!

Oh, but I do wander. Forgive me, I will try to focus.

In Dutch, the common phrase around Christmastime is "Prettige Kerstdagen" or you might hear "Prettige Feestdagen" as the joyful wish of happy christmas days. So, keeping that phrase "Prettige Feestdagen" in mind (which can be taken to mean "have a lovely set of party days" or "Happy Celebration"), substitute the single word "Lees" (to read) in place of "Feest" and you have:


Do you see it for all the wit and glory? The simple trade of words in that phrase makes it "Happy Reading Days"

I discovered this sign--and ad campaign--at a local bookstore in The Hague's centrum while doing some Christmas shopping. I was delighted. Absolutely. Not only for the clever thought behind it, but because it is a perfect sentiment in anticipation of DAY TO READ, launched by Soccer Mom in Denial, which arrives for our mutual enjoyment and benefit next week. Jan 10th is the day friends. The day to cuddle up with a book and read, read, read.

At its heart this campaign is a call to awareness and a reminder that a good book has no equal.

Join us on the 10th and spend some time with your feet up and your mind engaged. Then, please take the time to report on your leesdag by writing about it either at your place or at one of ours.

Happy reading friends!

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Wednesday, January 2

Defining Awesome

Tradition and protocol for New Year's Eve in The Netherlands calls for complete mayhem. Chaos with a capital C you might say.

Me, I just call it crazy.

In a country which regulates just nearly everything which can be regulated it seems obvious come to Old Year's Night, that absolutely no rules apply. In the weeks preceding, fireworks are sold at the grocery stores, the plant nurseries and various other locations. Selections include the benign hand held sparklers and bottle rockets, but also include the kinds of things I do not know the names for and would hardly dare to guess the firepower behind. The fun (?) begins in the days prior to the 31st and it is not uncommon to have a firecracker thrown under your bike wheels as you cycle blithely down the lane. Nor is it odd to hear the rapid fire rhythm of hundreds of crackers set off together to reverberate off row house walls and narrow alleys.

Come the last day of the year proper, the fire play is random but constant throughout the day. It seems rather obvious to this onlooker that the stockpiles of explosives must be vast as players light the lines hours before the clock strikes midnight.

Midnight itself is a wonder, albeit a slightly-frightening-unbelievably-loud-wonder, to behold. After the initial shout: Gelukkig Nieuwjaar! and the standard three-kiss affectionate display for all in the room or at the party, the front doors of homes are thrown open wide and all pour into the streets where the name of the game seems to be DO IT FAST AND DO IT WILD. The fireworks are launched from the street, from the tops of trash cans, from the garden walls and they are launched with an energy which, unless witnessed, cannot be believed.

The result is a cacophonous nightmare which is simultaneously terrifying and totally stimulating.

All the while fire is exploding overhead and underfoot, neighbors call out Happy New Year and greet each other with the friendly three kisses--right cheek, left cheek, right cheek--for one and all. Everyone laughs and smiles. Everyone groans about the noise and the craziness. Everyone thrills over this very Dutch way to bring it in.

Lest you begin to think that it's all over in a moment I feel compelled to point out that noise and chaos is the lullaby still echoing in the streets well past 3:00 a.m.

Personally, I believe that makes it reasonable that the first resolution of the New Year is:
1. Stay in bed all day on the first.

I am happy to report that's a resolution fulfilled.

Happy New Year to all. Here's hoping 2008 is full of wonder.


video

(please pardon the *lack of* video skills here. I am a complete novice. you'll note the first part of the video is angled incorrectly. I fix it later, I am not a complete dork, just a slight one.)

Tuesday, January 1

Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!

2008 has arrived.