Jimmy thinks snowballs can be caught – and Daniël gets showered…

his month we celebrated my (Tim) fortieth birthday. Because I am obviously much more mature and sensible than I was at 39 we decided to go out with a few close friends and have a civilized dinner party instead of our usual kind of party which involves hordes of people, children, dogs, food and drink. We had a very nice time and it was also nice not to have to worry about dishing up munchies or scraping cocktail sauce off the children.

The next week it was St Nicholas. Marjolein was helping out with the St Nicholas party at Matthijs’ playschool so he and Daniël went to the party together. Daniël was enchanted by a room full of toys and children and was difficult to tear loose at the end. The Saint came to visit in person with a coterie of Black Peters, so a good time was had by all.

That evening we gave the beasts their presents, which Marjolein had carefully labeled with “thumbnail” picture so that they would know which was which (yes, I think she is mad too). Naturally this worked well for a little while and then it turned into a mad paper-tearing contest. Since they play with each others toys interchangeably anyway it did not matter in the end.

We spent the next weekend in Brussels with my mother and brother and the monsters got yet another load of prezzos because it was the last visit before Christmas. Jimmy celebrated by locating an uprooted tree in the local park and carrying it around proudly. It is only a matter of time before we are arrested for tree-stealing…

Matthijs has developed enough to start asking difficult questions like “where is Granddad?”. When we told him that Granddad was dead he said that he would make him alive again… That kind of thing always makes me sad that his Granddad never got to meet him. They would have had fun together. Matthijs is starting to work out that there is a difference between us (alive) and the furniture (not). He wants to know if the chairs can say things and if the chimney can give him a sweetie. I suspect that the “friendly chimney” is linked to Saint Nicholas: the presents did come “from” the chimney.

Daniël is now sleeping upstairs in Matthijs’ room. He was climbing out of his own bed and we wanted to give them a chance to “bond” before they are old enough to want their own rooms and privacy. It is also just a lot of fun for them both.

Naturally, having a playmate on tap means that every night is party night and we regularly have to read the riot act to get them to get their heads down by midnight. The most awful threat we have, for when things get really raucous, is that Daniël will be taken back to his old room to sleep unless things quieten down… Nevertheless we have never yet found them sleeping anywhere other than in their own beds.

There were a few snowy days between St Nicholas and Christmas, which the creatures thoroughly enjoyed. Matthijs has a major snowball obsession and even Daniël managed to land a few when I was standing close enough.

Tesse, the daughter of one of our neighbors was kind enough to pull the boys around on the sled, which was tremendous fun for them both.

Matthijs is gradually becoming potty-trained. He is pretty reliable about peeing on the toilet but utterly unreliable when it comes to poop (our family word for it). Unfortunately that is about as inconvenient as can be: when you are out you have to look for toilets (quickly) when he is in need and you still end up changing smelly nappies. Sigh. I am afraid that nappies are so very comfortable and efficient now that neither of the boys is really very bothered by a dirty bottom until it has been there long enough to irritate the skin. We are now moving Matthijs over to ordinary knickers (with a stern warning that they are not the same as nappies) in the hope that after a few unpleasant experiences he will be more motivated to poop on the toilet.

Daniël is finally starting to talk a little. We have been blackmailing him into using a few words by withholding our labour until we get at least “iss plies”. He does know enough to point to his nose or eyes when we ask, but to use a crude British phrase he generally cannot be arsed to do so. As far as I know there is no help group or charity to aid parents of children suffering from massively stubborn and damn lazy syndrome (MSDLS). If we say something, even something complicated to him, and he is so inclined, he will act on it. He has a good vocabulary in both languages but apparently does nicely, in his opinion, with the few words he needs.

Daniël is also a fashion victim. We could not work out why he was squeaking at us until we realized that he absolutely had to wear the bodywarmer that was hanging on the chair. Boys today are not what they used to be…

For Christmas I reserved the right to do the traditional thing and inflict Turkey and Trifle on Marjolein’s family. I bought a humungous tree and even succeeded in decorating it with the “help” of two small boys and without smashing all the decorations. Being a family tree it was good taste and elegance above child height and bomb-proof plastic balls below. After I had berated Daniël about 1000000000 times for pulling the ornaments off and had restored everything to its place the dog walked over and swept the branches clean with enthusiastic tail-wagging. Never mind eh? Daniël also discovered that you can make ornaments fly all over the room if you bend the branches down and then let go. Merry, merry, jingle, jingle, crash.

Christmas Day went very well. I succeeded in stuffing our guests with the turkey I had stuffed in the wee small hours and put in the oven at sunrise (I exaggerate a little here). British cooking may not be haute cuisine, but we do know breakfast and Christmas. In the grand tradition of making a nana of yourself I put on the foolish chef’s hat and apron that I got in my Christmas Box from Mr BigBank while carving the bird.

We also inflicted crackers (suitably silly hat, bad joke, good bang, dud novelties) on the company. Marjolein’s family all got the glazed look of diplomats in Amazonia being handed a ceremonial dish of monkey brains. Good fun. It was however (I realized later) the first Christmas I have ever celebrated without a Christmas Pudding. Shock. Still, there is always next year… Matthijs and Daniël got another stack of prezzos of which Matthijs appreciated the bear-suit (seen above) the most. The Fierce Bear has been roaming our house ever since and no one is safe.

Matthijs is getting to be more of a challenge. He negotiates, is starting to reason and argue with us, but is still subject to strong emotions and powerful impulses. Though he undoubtedly loves his room, he has demolished so many book, toys and pictures that we have gradually removed everything that is “vulnerable”, leaving him with a rather bare environment. The nice books are locked up in a cupboard and the story book only comes out when we are there to read it with him. Though we are sure that this is a natural phase that will pass on its own with some patience and instruction it is rather sad when yet another object goes in the bin. On the other hand, he still makes us laugh. When I asked him at the dinner table “What is it going to take to get you to eat nicely Matthijs?” He replied “a long time Pappa?” Marjolein then bolstered my parental authority by dropping off her chair with tears in her eyes. Matthijs might have been fooled by the “coughing fit”… perhaps…

Finally, the New Year was welcomed in with Dutch “oil-ball” doughnuts, apple-fritters (Marjolein fried like crazy) and lots and lots of fireworks: other people’s – we just did sparklers. We pulled the kiddos out of bed beforehand so that they would not get woken up and perhaps panic. Matthijs still did not like the fireworks much, but her was much happier than last year and dared to watch some of them through the window. Daniël was completely unfased but went to bed happily enough when he had eaten all the oil-balls: for him, the main attraction. A good start for a year of which we have great hopes.

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