Monday, December 15, 2008

More Company On The Way! (And Unrelated Photos To Add Interest.)

The second round of visitors takes off in about 28 hours! Our dear friends Tewlyn (comrade from days at the Pottery Barn, supermodel extraordinare and kick-ass chick) and Jesse (of, co-photo-nerd and target of all my Nikon-related jokes) are landing around 11:30 am our time on Wednesday, with Kathryn (Kip's older younger sister, Megan's twin separated at birth by 28 years, and also known as "Frieda Gilroy") arriving 24 hours later.

WE ARE SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Seriously- it's one thing to see family, but to have people who aren't even related to you say, "Sure! We'll come visit you!" is just so completely cool to me. I'm even going to clean the bathrooms, that's how honored I am to have them stay with us.

KNP Global, Trying To Fly

I had my first international family photo shoot last week with a sweet family from the ESCGH. Their 2-year-old son was such a riot! The shoot was a 2-parter, the first scheduled time on Thursday was abandoned due to my late arrival which was due to a total rookie error (forgot my camera battery and had to turn around and bike 2 km back to get it) and also because young son was MUCH more interested in playing and pushing buttons on my camera than posing. To try and get him to sit still I told him to push his nose so that the flash would go off. End result? Approximately 50% of the photos from that day AND the rescheduled shoot Sunday have him with his finger on his nose. He remembered the game 4 days later, little smarty!

So, as I type this and totally procrastinate editing round 2 of their session, I must mention that I have another gig on Wednesday - yes, the day my guests arrive, but a paid gig is a paid gig - to shoot photos with Santa at the ESCGH's Christmas party. Poor Megan is going to have to play lighting guinea pig for me, as usual, so I should have a ton of (really poorly lit) photos of Megan and Santa later this week. I just hope I don't bore everyone to death by being in the office to marathon-edit those shots so I can actually enjoy my company- the group gave me a 1 week timeline to get the photos out wich is totally do-able, but I may be moving the Mac downstairs so I can visit and edit at the same time!

Other Recent Mind-Boggling Events

Oh, by the way, my daughter is riding a 2-wheeled bike almost entirely by herself. I would have pictures, but my job is to first clutch the back of her jacket with such viciousness that she knows I'm there, then run like mad and shout "PEDAL! PEDAL PEDAL PEDAL! WATCH WHERE YOU'RE GOING! STEER AWAY FROM THE TREE! YOU'RE DOING GREAT, MEG!" and then let go and whoop and holler, and finally shout "USE YOUR BREAKS!" Needless to say, I am falling asleep writing this. When we started this adventure at around 3:30 pm she was reluctant to get on the bike- she has been using that little toddle bike for about 6-8 weeks and has been zooming around, balancing nicely, and wasn't looking to change, thankyouverymuch. I somehow convinced her to just TRY the bike, and we made it all the way around the block only stopping 5-6 times. By the time we rounded the 4th corner back on to our street, Megan only needed help balancing to get started- she would shout, "OK! LET GO, MAMA!" and I would run next to her with my hands way up in the air so she could see I had obeyed her command. The look of panic/excitement/freedom/horror/pride/exhilaration on her face was amazing- she was independent for just a moment, so thrilled by life, almost six instead of just five-and-a-half. One of the best afternoons of my entire life, that's for absolute sure.

Rounds of Local Crud

Kip and Megan have both been ill for the last 2 weeks at least- Megan is hacking and full of crud, and tummy troubles seem to get mixed in here and there for extra fun. We finally have her poor digestive tract under control, but had to bring her home early from a Christmas party Saturday (where I met some really lovely people that I will talk more about later) with an ear ache so painful it caused her to cry the entire hour and a half it took us to get home via tram then train then bus. She cried herself to sleep with sticky, grapey Children's Advil breath and nose-drops running back out of her nose, and woke up with painless ears the next day (thank heavens). She still sounds like she should switch to Menthols, though. It's kind of cute and I wish her voice could stay so gravely for a little while longer, but I'd rather have her well and not sobbing on late-night public transportation. So I have been boiling sheets, towels and clothes; disinfecting bathrooms and kitchens and I'm ready for everyone to feel well again. I've so far been lucky enough to skip these rounds of crud (knock on wood), and both hands are chapped from all the cleaning and hand-washing.

Really Lovely People From The Christmas Party

I realize that I said I would talk about them, but I am finding myself lacking anything really interesting to say about them. Maybe if they call and invite us for coffee like they said they would, then they'll make the blog. A girl's gotta have standards, I suppose.

Totally Unrelated Photos To Add Interest

I realize I haven't uploaded any new photos in over a week, and may not have time to edit and upload the few batches I have from our recent excursions to Haarlem (Kip bought a bike!) and Sinterklaas morning.

So, here's one of the gifts that Zwarte Piet left for Megan the week leading up to Sinterklaas:


Those are knitting needles, some yarn and her initials in chocolate letters. Totally unrelated to everything here. I'll try to get some more interesting things up soon!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Winter(ish) Wonderland

Just a few quick shots of Megan in the snow this afternoon...





Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Visit With Sinterklaas

(Please continue to know that this is a Dutch holiday. I swear.)

Sooooo, with the fast approach of December 5th, Kip's office had a Sinterklaas party for all the families that work at BMC here in the Netherlands. It really was well done- the venue was "Chimpy Champ," a Dutch cousin of "Pump It Up" or "Monkey Buisiness" or name your local warehouse full of bounce houses here. It did follow what we expect when we go to local playgrounds - it had a giant, totally cool playscape that never would exist in America outside the 1980s. It was easily 2 stories high, had nets and tunnels, ladders, giant slides- total kid wonderland. Kip raced a co-worker to the top and beat her. Her. Way to go, dear!

There were trampolines, too, and we kicked off our shoes and tried to give Megan whiplash, or at least a concussion:



But, the highlight of the party was the visit from Sinterklaas and his helper, Zwarte Piet. Now, if you read this blog (or at least the last post) you know my mixed emotions about good old Piet. I get that it's a Dutch tradition. I get that they tried to make Piet different colors a few years back and NOBODY thought it was cool, they prefer the Dutchman in black face. Did I smile and laugh when he acted silly? Of course. Did I wink at him (because I knew who he was behind the giant afro-wig and brown face paint)? Of course. Would I bring this tradition home with us to the US? Of course not. But, when in Rome...


Sinterklaas was spectacular. He had the perfect Sinterklaas voice- loud and baritone, warm and reassuring (for those few nervous kids). Piet was just silly enough, but not scary, and had the kids laughing with his antics, and lead everyone in Sinterklaas songs. They gave out gifts to the children one at a time, which I thought was so wonderful- each child was called by name, then stood by Sinterklaas while he recounted a few tidbits on how the child had been a good boy/girl that year (he prints his emails from parents now instead of writing in his big book) and then gave them a nice gift, and a big bag of pepernoten cookies. Every kid. It was just priceless. He even spoke English for Megan (Piet, too).




Megan had such a blast- she made friends with Faye, who is 5 like her, and Tim, who is six. Kip has his eye on Tim- he's older, and likes American girls. Megan had Tim's complete attention from the moment they met, and I think Kip got a headache from giving him the evil eye for talking with HIS daughter. His BABY GIRL.


After the Sinterklaas party Spectacularrrr, we joined a few of Kip's co-workers and their families for an undefined meal at a family restaurant in Amsterdam (yes, they do exist). Tim and his family gave Megan and me a ride to the restaurant, and we listened to a children's music CD the entire trip over. Megan and Tim were singing and singing, joking and giggling. Then Megan put her head on his shoulder and he sat straight back in his seat and froze, eyes open REALLY wide. I thought I was going to choke holding back laughter. Then he said something along the lines of "you can stop that now." Ahhh, cooties.


The meal was excellent, as was the company, and the adults all sat around drinking beer at a giant table while the kids played on the playground outside. They ran in to eat, for dessert, and for other little things like paper airplanes and boo-boo reports, but mostly stayed outside. Megan had insisted that we bring in her Sinterklaas gift, so part of the time she stayed indoors playing with her Littlest Pet Shop and ignoring Tim, much to his chagrin.


Always keep them at arm's length, Meg. Even if they are blonde haired, blue eyed and taller than you.



Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I SWEAR This Is A Dutch Custom

The Dutch celebrate Sinterklaas every December 5th, and in mid-November Sinterklaas (not to be confused with Santa Claus, his cousin who lives at the North Pole) comes to the Netherlands from Spain on his big steam ship with his crew, the zwarte Piets (Black Peter). (I was going to pluralize the translation, but read it and busted up laughing, and decided against it. I digress.) Soooo, this time of year you see ads for everything with a Sinterklaas theme, complete with Zwarte Piet, who is 99.9% of the time a white person painted in black face with a black afro wig. It is so unnerving, being raised in America, and particularly in the South (I was born in Alabama, and lived in Texas for 29 years before moving to the Netherlands).

(image courtesy of Downwind of Amsterdam )

In the holiday tradition, Megan's class put on a Sinterklaas program for the children in the school, and tonight for the families and friends of the students. It was adorable. And uncomfortable. But still adorable, in an "Are you sure this isn't racist?" kind of way.

I'd like to put some cute photos of it here, but I just can't bring myself to do it. I mean, what if she runs for president one day? But, if you have a Flickr account and you're in my "friends" or "family" group, you can see them here:

It really was cute. Honest. Just really, REALLY uncomfortable. For the Americans.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Little Downtime

Oh my goodness- the house feels so empty! The Nosers JUST left, about 5 minutes ago, and the silence is deafening. Well, save for the skittering of the neighbors on the other side of the wall behind me. That Michael- he is busy doing something fun, it sounds like.

The Visit: A Breif Essay, By Kari Noser (Grade 9)

To deliver a taste of Heemstede, nevermind the Netherlands in it's entirety, is a fairly complex undertaking. There were so many things we did not see that were on the agenda, but as the visit drew to an end we realized that we are all only human and cannot consume and digest everything in the area in just a few days. With Kip's family the guinea-pigs for our tour guide services, I hope that we accomplished our main objective- to instill the want to come back and visit, the sooner the better.

Of course, we dragged them to the woods- Heemstede would basically be another dot on the map if it weren't for the Wandelbos Groenendaal. It's current state, with leaves changing and falling, locals and their four-legged companions fogging the paths with warm breath in the crisp air, and the gentle smell of the earth, the ponds, and the decomposition of wood and leaves- the wandelbos IS autumn. We walked the woods twice- once with no real aim, just to see; the other with the pancake house as our layover until we could meander home with bulging stomachs in a pancake daze. Even if you were to fight, I think you still would not keep from becoming enchanted by these woods. I cannot wait to see how they transform in the next three seasons.


With only one bicycle to our name, we lead our guests about by foot a great deal, and the weather was very forgiving. There was only one day of rain, and that was this past Tuesday, and vacation-weary, we all decided to take a day of rest. What we deemed to far to walk we achieved by bus and rail, which expanded the visit outside the boundaries of Heemstede and into Haarlem and Amsterdam.

In Haarlem we took them to one of the grandest market days in the area and gorged ourselves on the fried deliciousness of oliebollen- a sphere of fried dough with something delicious in the middle, possibly rolled in sugar, and dusted with powdered sugar if you desire. Certainly messy. Absolutely lekker.

Ik ben een Berliner.


After oliebollen, we moved on to the marketplace and wandered for awhile amidst the vendors- marveling at the baker's variety, admiring the fashions available from the clothing vendors, gaping at the low price of lobster, shrugging our shoulders at the identity of several produce items, breaking down and getting some fresh and hot stroopwaffle to share, nibbling a wedge of cheese, and finally ordering a cone of fritijes (french fries, but better) to hold us over until dinner.



We hit a cute little tourist shop in search of Delft and souveniers, and then meandered back to the bus as the sun set at 4:30 pm.


In Amsterdam we meandered through the city and took in Anne Frank's house one afternoon, NEMO (a hands-on science museum aimed at the kid in all of us) the other. Anne Frank was heart-wrenchingly powerful and exquisitely presented, and I was able to take it in with two eyes- no photography allowed. I can't wait to go again and again with future visitors, to take in the subtle details and spend more time in the interactive computer-lab part of the museum.


NEMO was such a hit with all of us that we lamented only haivng 2 hours to play there, and not going there sooner- Megan's favorite was the bubble area, where you can put yourself in a bubble tube (with help from a friend) or blow a giant bubble from a window-pane of soap. So hard to describe, better with photos:




The jewel of the visit had to be Paris, in my opinion. I love Paris- understatement of the year, and cliche to boot- many people have a place where they walk taller, breathe easier, as if they had a belt about their ribcage that was released the moment they arrive. For me, that place is Paris. This being my fourth trip to the City of Lights, it was like the embrace of an old friend stepping out of the train station and into the night in Paris. Maybe because it was the first trip I ever made overseas, as myself on a class trip rather than with parents, or perhaps that I actually SPEAK THE LANGUAGE, that I hold the city with such fondness- I told Megan (one of the many times she was working through her excitement and anxiety of going to Paris the week of our trip) that because of who she is, when she is in Paris she will feel her heart open wide and the city will sneak in and take root; after she visits Paris, there will always be a part of her heart that belongs to the city, and she will feel whole when she goes back again and again. I hate to brag, but I was 100% right.

Seeing La Tour Eiffel For The First Time

In a whirlwind we saw the Pyramids of the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower (of course), the Arc de Triumph, meals at cafes, the fountains at Georges Pompidou, and Sacre Coeur. All too quickly and too breifly, like a meal of appetizers. Kip and I celebrated our 11th anniversary in the city we honeymooned in, walking through Paris for hours and hours until fatigue and abused feet forced us to return to the hotel. Megan was angry, disappointed and broken-hearted to leave just 43 hours after arriving, and declared that she wants to move to Paris and leave the Netherlands. Me too, kid.


As long as two weeks sounds, they were over far too soon. (Granted, part of their time was spent in France, so it didn't really seem like we saw them for two weeks.) Now off to start the renewal process- laundry, dusting, folding and putting things in place for the next round of visitors next month. Three weeks until the next arrivals- our dear friends the Yoburns and Auntie Kathryn (who's absence was felt so many times over the last 2 weeks- we would board a train or gather for a meal and someone would say, "Who's missing?" and we would realize it was Kathryn). Wait- only three weeks? I may never get my office clean in time!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Off To Paris...

Well, we're finally getting to enjoy the benefit of living in Europe- we're going to Paris this weekend to meet-up with Kip's family who have been getting the city ready for our arrival. Or sightseeing- I'm unclear on what they're doing there, apparently.

BUT- to tide you over, I uploaded a zillion photos to Flickr this afternoon from our visit over last week, here are a few of my favorites:




My mother-in-law is so cute that it's gross.




Ok, I've got to try and pack all my hair products for the weekend- I'll be back with tons of new shots on Monday! Bon weekend!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Big Picture Upload - Update Coming Soon

I just sat down and plugged the camera in to upload, and wowzas- 425 images in the last 4 days! I'm sure I'll surpass that in Paris next weekend, and thankfully I have all this week to go through and pick out the good shots from this batch.

We've had a fun visit so far- we went to the woods, the farm, Haarlem, the pancake house, and back to the woods and farm for good measure. Company is packing up for their 6am cab to the airport, they're catching the train for France tomorrow at an ungodly hour, and we have a short week this week, as Megan has no school on Friday. PARIS! We are all so breathless with excitement, it seems like a dream that we're getting to go again, and to show the Megster JUST how big that Eiffel Tower really is.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Company, Round 1!

Kip and Megan are off to work and school, respectively, and now I am bustling around the house getting those final things taken care of (like washing the bath mats and sweeping the stairs ONE more time) because family is coming to visit us! Wahoo!!!!! To say we are excited is an obvious understatement- Megan hopped all the way into class this morning and told her teacher "Oma and Opa and Auntie come today!"

Flickr Upload Overload
I decided last night to take care of the odds and ends that I had photographed and neglected to upload so that if I put-off uploading photos while we had guests I wouldn't be too far behind. So there are a few shots of moving day, our trip to Haarlem last weekned, and our celebration of Megan's 5 1/2th birthday now up on my photostream, the link is over in the sidebar called "Flickr Photo Site" or you can click on that crazy changing photo-box thing there and it will take you directly to a photo page. Enjoy!

Ok. I'm off to buy a floor lamp so that our guests won't be sitting in the dark this afternoon at 5pm- the days are getting to be so short! I can't imagine what December 21st is going to be like- 5 hours of daylight, maybe? Six? It should be interesting for us sun-loving Texans. Tot ziens for now!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What a Day!

Today was Tuesday, so I did my usual Tuesday morning bit and rode my bike the 6.5 kilometers into Overveen to go to the Mom's group weekly get together. I took my camera, as it was misty and foggy, and stopped a dozen times along the way to try and capture the stillness and mist that had settled over Noord-Holland.




Mom's group was relatively uneventful- I was adopted by a totally adorable 1-year-old named Sophie, who is a complete scoundrel and is quite mad, according to her mom. No wonder we got along just fine!

After the gathering had disbanded, I rode back through the little wooded area near the path that takes me back towards Heemstede- Megan was staying at school through lunch so I had some time to take time going home. I had a nice long walk, and surprised myself by finding a more beautiful way back to the main road than the way I had gone that morning.




After I had emerged from the woods and thought, "You know? Lunch might be nice." I headed towards home, stopping at the Albert Hein (grocery store) that is on the way to grab a bottle of water and some ground beef for dinner. When I opened my purse before I went inside, I discovered my wallet was missing, and decided to head back to the house to see if it was sitting next to my bottle of water that I had left on the stairs.

Well, it wasn't. It wasn't anywhere in the house. So, after running around and swearing and muttering, "Ohhhh, this is NOT good" about a thousand times, I saw that the answering machine was blinking, and sure enough- there was a message in Dutch, with the very recognizable "Kah-ree Eee-lee-zabet Nosher", so even though I had no idea what the gentleman was saying, I knew he had my wallet.

Then, as I was standing there, the phone rang. "Do you know where your wallet is?" said Kip. "Uh, I'm guessing some man has it, from the message on the machine," I replied. We both chuckled at the fact that the message was completely in Dutch, even the phone number, and I had tried several times to extract the number from the message, but never came out with enough digits. Kip said he asked the gentleman to email me, and when I ran upstairs, he in fact had done so.

Dear ms noser,

A visitor of our estate reported your wallet, found without any money, but plenty of creditcards still in it.

You can collect the wallet at the address in my signature untill 18:30 hours today.


Met vriendelijke groet,

Tom van Spanje
Opzichter Kennemerland c.a

Beheer Noord-Holland zuid van Noordzeekanaal t/m Muiderberg.

Elswoutslaan 12a
2051 AE Overveen
T 023-5240360
F 023-5440128
M 06-51365964

Well, I quickly Google-Mapped the address and replied to the email that I would be there by 2pm. I downed a half-bag of Maltesers and chugged some water, grabbed an apple and hit the bike again. I then rode another 6.5 kilometers back to Overveen and found the most magnificent location I have seen in the Netherlands to date.





Every Family Has One.



For those of you who were wondering, I had about 4 Euros in change in my wallet, and it was all there when I retrieved it. I think there may have been a little divine intervention at play- I had ridden past this estate 5 times at LEAST and never knew, nor would I have any reason to know, that it was open to the public, and was one of the most popular locations for weddings and bridal portraiture near Haarlem. Was I panicked that I lost my wallet? Maybe for a few minutes. But the treasure at the end of that adventure was worth it 100%.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Upswing Sunday

You know, after that total downer of a post yesterday I felt better. Not 100%, but it helped to get all of that out and decide to just move past it. Thank you to my wonderful friends and family- you all are what pulls me through junky times like that!

A Little Structure

There are so many things that I want to blog about, and then don't because of the sheer size of the idea - like, for example, what is different here in the Netherlands compared to Texas - that I shy away from it and think of it as a feat that can never be accomplished. Well, it dawned on me that if I break it down into smaller parts it's not that big of a deal. (You'll never guess who I was talking to when I came up with this revelation. Funny how coloring a big picture and tackling weirdo blog hang-ups can be SUCH parallels.)

SO! My aim is to pick from the following gargantuan topics and try to take a chunk out of them, say, once a week or so:

What's different here in NL compared to back home (didn't see that one coming, did ya?)
Things I LOVE about Holland
Food we've tried here
Things I miss about home
Wish list of the week
Cute Megan-isms of the week

As I think of more, I'll add them here (mostly so I don't forget). So, without further adieu, here are your Cute Megan-isms of the Week:


Be Sure To Laugh If You Think This Is Funny, OK?
Megan is really trying on her comedy wings lately. When she gets a laugh, say for something along the lines of, "There's this lady who's on the 'How It's Made' show? She has curly black hair and she sings really, really, really, REALLY pretty? Actually, I've never heard her sing." which catches Kip and I off-guard and we snort at how grown-up and yet how very five she sounds saying this. She was surprised by the laughter, naturally, as she wasn't aiming for comedy gold at the time, but she says it about 11 more times in the same conversation, trying to figure out what about it was so funny the first time. She got her first lesson on "Funny the First Time. Only."

So she hits me up with her best material when I'm working- at the computer, in the kitchen, when I'm a captive audience.

Megan: Mama. Knock knock.
Me: Who's there?
Megan: Dewayne.
Me: Dewayne who?
Megan: Dewayne the bathtub. I'm dwowning! It's like "Drain the bathtub I'm drowning," but in lisp! Get it?
Me: (slightly forced) Ha! Ha ha ha ha!

*repeat 5-6 times*

Megan: Knock knock.
Me: Who's there?
Megan: Dewayne.
Me: Dewayne who?
Megan: Little baby poops in diapers!

It's like the improv around here, folks. Don't forget to tip your waitress.

She Said, "Pretend You're A Monster That's Going To Eat Me."