Sewing skill

Marjolein has been struck down by Housewifey disease and got the sewing machine out for the first time in twenty years…

They boys spend lots of time on pretend-games these days and Marjolein, wanting to further inflame their already fertile imaginations, decided to make some dressing-up clothes. She wanted to start simple and made two kingly cloaks (trimmed in fake ermine!) and a bear-suit for them. The boys looked great in them and kings were soon shouting orders at knights (they already have swords and shields), friendly monsters, bears and the occasional cowboy. Having been sucked into the twilight world of sewing-people she ended up squandering ones of euros at a shop that sells ends of bolts of pretty much everything and coming home laden with all kinds of strange material: from fish-scales to leopard-skin.

The madness continued of course when we went down to Brussels to visit. My mother and sister are also needlework junkies and were delighted to welcome another victim. the result of some coaching and lots of very hard work on Marjolein’s part is the beautiful Wizard’s outfit on the left (my sister did the hat).

Not that we really felt that they were short of toys or imagination: the sofa has been a pirate ship, complete with Jolly Roger, for some months now. It was also the idea to provide an alternative to the new craze for computer games. Feeling a bit prissy for only allowing the kiddos educational software I installed “Jazz Jackrabbit”, a fairly innocent jump-all-over-the-place-and-shoot-things game and it was a tremendous hit with both of them. Surprisingly enough it did not entirely displace all the worthy educational stuff: the maths software is great fun and Matthijs loves it.

Falco had his second hearing test this month and unfortunately failed again. He picked up all the low tones but did not react to the high tones. That means he will need to be checked out thoroughly, but we are still not too worried. He reacts well to voices, chatters away in gibberish and focusses on you if you say his name.

Just to prove the point, Matthijs and Daniel are very pirate-y this month and spent a lot of time singing “Peter Pirate” (them from a Dutch childrens’ tv-series). After a while we noticed another small voice joining in with “‘eet, ‘raat” and he has been doing it ever since. He has also started clapping his hands and is learning to respond it “hip, hip” by waving his arms and squeaking “‘ooaay”. We teach him this stuff so he can cheer himself on his birthday next month and so we can embarass his girlfriends with the video when he is eighteen…

Standing is still a favourite thing and he is now motoring about on hands and kness as well as crawling. I do detect some moves to skirt the furniture but he is mainly interested in pulling himself up high enough to mangle the objects that were on the furniture in his massive fists. We have cruelly taken his dummy away during the day as it gets dragged across the floor a bit too much and he ends up with a mouthful of dog-hair… Mr Falco is also getting a bit of a temper: though he is still very jolly most of the time, occasionally the difference between what he wants to do (stride round the house taking everything apart and drive the car) and what he can do (crawl like lightning and stand like a small fat tree) gets on his nerves and he grouches at us. Nevertheless his sense of humour still dominates and we are often startled by him going into random fits of laughter. Falco has also learnt to drink through a straw, which doesn’t count for much in child development terms but is excellent for those of us that have spent the last year hand-feeding him.

It is perfect (sunny but not sweltering) weather and we are still on holiday at Costa del Haarlem: I took three weeks off as of end of July and we have been going to all kinds of places (mainly various flavours of playgrounds of course) with the monsters. It is a holiday for me mainly in the sense that I am not going (elsewhere ) to (paid) work, but is a holiday for Marjolein because she now has someone to share the kiddy-herding and can occasionally achieve five minutes of time for herself. She needed that because the little darlings have been out of school since June, which makes for a pretty intensive day of monster-minding. We keep seeing people out with their beasts and with the baby sleeping peacefully in the buggy. The Falco version of this is the baby still being tired (falls into a coma at bedtime) but peering eagerly out of the buggy as long as there are things to see. His curiosity is probably felling cats for miles around.

We discovered (tip from a parent) a little freshwater lake tucked away in the sanddunes near the sea. It is fifteen minutes bike-ride away and has lots of nice shallow, cordoned-off shallow water for the beasts to paddle in, sanddunes to come thundering/rolling down and sandy beaches to build fortifications on: an absolute his all round. It gets quite a few visitors, but living so close we can got there when everyone else is starting to trickle off home.

One of the places Marjolein took the creatures while I was still working was Oud Valkeveen. Something of a nostalgia trip for her as she went there as a child. It is a fun-fair/playground hybrid with a toddler roller-coaster, a lake with water-bikes and paddling and big grassy fields to run and picknick in. There was also a show with a clown which Matthijs and Daniel loved and lots of ball-parks for them to dive into.

They also went to visit the in-laws in Noordwijkerhout and play in the Oostduinermeer lake there. On the way there Daniel pointed out some greenhouses to Matthijs, saying “Look Matthijs, prison!” Marjolein carefully explained that this was where plants were grown, Daniel: “Oh! Naughty flowers?”

As I mentioned already, we also imposed ourselved on the other grandmother this month. On the way back in the car I told Matthijs (Daniel was miles away) the story of Puss in Boots. When I said that the cat took the miller’s boots and his sword (popular word in our house these days) Daniel piped up with “cats don’t have swords Papa! They haven’t got hands!”

One of our trips was a ride on a steam tram. It took us from Hoorn to Medemblik and we then got an old ferry-boat down to Enkhuizen and a train from there to Hoorn again. It was rather a “worthy” (and pricy) outing: lots of cultural/historical content etc. but they had done their best to make it kid-friendly. Surpringly, the big hit with the boys was not the steam-tram itself (beautiful old thing covered in smoking valves and shining brass) but the lady demonstrating old-fashioned washing with two tubs and a mangle. Of course, they got to turn the mangle, not drive the train…

We enjoyed the boat ride too and the boys were no trouble: as soon as they were on board they formed a pirate gang with some other children and spent most of the time blowing other boats out of the water and hauling chests of invisible treasure back to their lair.

Daniel made a date with a friend from playschool and his mother and Marjolein went out to a playground in IJmuiden. This was a nice addition to the list of local outings and the big attracation for the boys was not the mass of modern climbing/swinging/bouncing frames but the (real) old boat in the middle of the playground: pirates again of course. Something about a real object is more interesting to them than even the most ingenious climbing frame.

Nice playground, with one disadvantage: no shade, so after a while everyone was very hot and dusty. The other mum (born and raised locally) had the perfect answer: a little paddling pool hidden in the woods nearby. We went there together later, when I was off work and it is charming and the boys had a ball.

It was excellent. Nice clean safe, shallow water, fence round the outside and shady benches for the minders. All you need is a waiter to bring you a gin and tonic (and maybe also take your kiddos home, wash them, put them to bed). Putting down Falco was a bit of a problem as there were, as there always are, cigarette-ends in the grass. Smokers, I suppose understandably, do not think about crawling babies who put everything in their mouths.

Daniel had a great time. He is a real water-rat: stole a rubber ring from some unsuspecting child and motored around the pool in it like a chubby little battleship.

We also went to Artis the Amsterdam zoo. This was another of Marjolein’s nostalgic childhood trips – all the more because most of the buildings have remained unchanged. They have however added lots of kiddo-enticing playgrounds, activities and general nonsense. We now have a subscription to Artis and have, after three visits, actually made a profit: not usual for Circus Noyce. Its is a guaranteed good day out, particularly when you have children that are wild about aligators, big spiders (bad luck Marjolein) and sea-lions.

The final foolishness this month was the Linneaushof, which claims to be the largest playground in Europe. Having been there my aching feet are quite convinced. It was also the most confoundedly busy playground in Europe the day we were there. Amazingly enough on a perfectly ordinary sunny day in the middle of the school holidays quite a few other people decided to take their monsters to the playground and let them lose themselves. Ours, and Hannah the girl next door, managed to vanish from sight three times but unfortunately we kept on getting them back because Marjolein had foolishly written our mobile number on their arms.

It is a fabulous park and we kept on walking down paths and finding whole new regions of it, including a pirate island, complete with treasure chest only accessible by scary (but utterly safe) rope bridge. There was also a special seperate toddler area, which would have been great if there had been any shade. As it was they children bounced and scampered everywhere, while I started feeling like Beau Geste.

Daniel’s dissappearing tooth (the one that got pushed all the way up) came down again this month. It has been steadily travelling out of his gums and Daniel finally announced to me with his customary accuracy “something broken in my mouth Papa”. Indeed the tooth was very waggly and it looked like the tooth fairy would have to pop down to the bank and get some hard currency. To be continued.

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