Marjolein had said that I should book holiday days for the beginning of August because that is when the weather is best in the Netherlands and she was right. We had two absolutely blistering weeks that had everybody cowering in the shade with cold drinks. Unfortunately our favourite summer cool-off place, a little lake in the dunes near here, was infested with some kind of snail that gave people itchy skins, so we had to go elsewhere. In typically Dutch eco-engineering fashion a fish was being introduced to dine on the snails, but it would need all summer to make a dent, so we asked around for an alternative. Friends tipped us off that there was another nice lake and we went there with the monsters. It was not quite as pretty as the usual place, but they had fitted it out with a charming half-sunken pirate ship with swingable ropes and climbable sides and a water-slide. The monsters where perfectly happy.
It was Falco’s first real beach experience and it took him some time to get used to it. It proved to be a very short time and he was soon splashing about, rolling in the shallows, sitting in the water up to his neck, chucking sand about and generally having a good time. Daniel as usual grabbed the biggest rubber ring and went off to motor around in it like a determined little aquatic dodgem car. He and ring were utterly inseparable he even slid down the waterslide in it: he loves his ring.
Matthijs had fun on the pirate ship but he is nothing like as keen on water as the other two. He hared off to the swings instead. He is such a bag of bones that he feels the cold pretty quickly. We keep trying to fatten him up a little, but though he eats heartily he also has a great liking for salads and green vegetables, dislikes cream on things and prefers little to no butter on his bread. If it was not for his normal healthy interest in sweets and ice-cream we would be quite worried… He eats plenty of sandwiches and a big breakfast but then goes out and burns it all off at school.
Last year we stayed at home too, but Marjolein prepared it assiduously and had stacks of outings and trips planned. We did not do that this year and as a result did far less. We did have an outing to Seaworld in Schevenningen but it was not a great success. The aquariums were quite nice, but it was horribly crowded, had lots of buggy-unfriendly stairs and narrow corridors: I would hate to be there if there was a fire. The boys went in all directions and we spent a lot of time pushing though crowds of people chasing them.
Naturally we did an Artis trip and that was successful. The boys are much keener on crocodiles and spiders than lions and tigers. That is perhaps also down to overexposure and the fact that the lions are ALWAYS asleep. Marjolein gave the reptile house a miss, she hates hot stuffy places and it was a hot day already. We did get some nice pictures too.
Daniel has apparently picked up some macho tendencies at school: he spontaneously started singing songs about how girls are “soppy”. He picked the perfect moment to do so: Marjolein’s girlfriend was just saying that she did not want to send her son to a school in Amsterdam because he would pick up the wrong attitude to girls/women. Apparently Haarlem is no better…
We did manage to convince Matthijs that it is OK to like pink, that it is actually tough-guy stuff to decide for YOURSELF what colours you like, rather than listening to other people. Looking at the Olympics he started to ask about the (sporting) differences between men and women. I told him that men tend to be better at short bursts of effort and women tend to have more endurance. He immediately linked this to something I said a few weeks ago about how lions had to catch an antilope inside the first two minutes (lions sprint but have no endurance) and concluded that men were like lions and women were like antilopes. This triggered a chain of though with me (which I did not share) involving neaderthaler courtship: presumably he had to catch her in the first couple of minutes.
We went out to the “Safe Harbour” playground in Ijmuiden too. Falco is starting to really appreciate playgrounds: he goes trundling round all the rides in a methodical way, testing them out for fun-ness. Many of the slides and climbing things for older children had ladders with widely spaced rungs to discourage toddlers. Falco has the family monkey genes and cannot be stopped that way. Hee climbed lots of really high things and shouted “Helloah” at us from the top.
Falco really loves puzzles and books. He constantly thrusts books into our hands (faces, ankles etc.) and cries “’eed ‘ook”. We gave him three new puzzles (the 4 , 9 and 16bits kind) for his birthday and he has already solved all of them lots of times.
Daniel is starting to be a really good big brother to Falco. He is sometimes rather strict, but he also sticks up for his little bro’ and makes sure that Falco gets a share of whatever is going, shares his supper with him and even “reads” to him from books. Its part of a general flowering of social skills with Daniel. He has started to make play-dates with schoolfriends and actually plays the host rather nicely, asking what they want to eat or drink and making sure that they get it before thinking of himself. Specifically he had a girlfriend over and let her have first pick of the sweeties at sweety-time saying “You are the sweetest of all. You can go first”. If he keeps developing those skills we are going to have a busy time in twelve years.
Matthijs has got heavier and proved it by busting a branch of the tree in the front garden while climbing it and bouncing his nose off the pavement. It must have hurt a lot, because he cried like crazy. I alternated comfort with “I told you about standing on thin branches (nag, nag, nag).” Poor soul, perhaps he will be more careful now. Yeah, right…
He was very impressed by the Olympic Games and went out to bicycle as fast as he could to practice and win a gold medal. Who knows.
Falco turned two on the 22nd of August. We had got him a ride-on police motorcycle with pedals and that was a hit. We kept the party small and he had a wonderful time and did not want to go to bed at all. Once tucked in (forcibly) he fell asleep immediately and was dead to the world.
The next week he started at Playschool. The teachers said that he had a great time and were amazed at how good het is with jigsaws. It was no trouble leaving him there: he says “baai Mama” and trundles off to play.
We spent last weekend of August up in Drenthe with Marjolein’s aunt and uncle. We had a fine time and they have a huge and beautiful garden, so the toads ran around.till they were exhausted and were fascinated by the goldfish in the fishpond. We all went out for a walk in the woods and introduced them to the pleasures of picking (and of course eating) wild blackberrys. Purple fingers all round!