This morning I spied a little bit of light peeking around the houses & the trees as we left the house. I couldn’t capture it in my early morning photo, but it is there! I promise. The shortest day of the year is almost a month past, and it finally is showing up in our daily lives. I think there’s something very wrong when the kids leave for school before the sun is up. Plus, when it’s snowy and dark, it just feels extra cold to me. Luckily my kids love the snow, and thankfully school, so much it’s not a big deal for them.
Dane is finally on his “normal” school schedule. We’ve got our routine down and he seems well-acclimated to the new school. The only sad part is the leaving at oh-dark-thirty (ahem, 7:30). Because we leave so early the roosters are still sleeping. And the roosters are the very best part of our new little village. It’s possible every other house has a chicken coop, and a rooster. When the sun rises, and I think for a good hour after, the roosters are crowing up a storm. Dane loves this!
Our second day of school, this was still a short day, with mommy staying, we walked home shortly after sunrise. Hand-in-hand, through the snow, talking about the school, when he realized the roosters were crowing. He stopped, crowed a little himself, and jumped with joy when a rooster crowed right back at him. The really funny part is, Dane crowed in German. Yes, that is really a thing. Animals make different noises in different countries.
I grew up in Holland, and our roosters say: “Kukelku!”. In America its: “Cock-a-doodle-do” and in Germany it’s “Kikeriki!” Now, it could just be the words each country uses to define the same sound across the board. Maybe all roosters speak the same language. I really don’t know. I do know that when Dane crowed:
“Kikeriki!” that rooster crowed: “Kikeriki!” right back at him. For 5 minutes. While my toes slowly froze in the snow.
We celebrated St. Nicholas day (aka Sinterklaas in Dutch) on Sunday with the Dutch/German club here in Stuttgart. It was a very international affair with not just Dutch & German folks, but also Greek, American & Turkish people. Despite all our differences, we were there to really celebrate Sinterklaas and have a fabulous time. Dutch people love to sing, every visit I’m amazed that all my cousins know all the old folk songs and happily, loudly, sing along. The same is true for Sinterklaas.
We started off the afternoon practicing the old favorites, and then welcomed Sinterklaas in song. Of course, the best part of Sinterklaas is the presents. Ask any 5-year-old, or Dane. He’ll tell you! Sinterklaas gives the best presents. He gave all the kids there a present, and they told him what they wanted. Much to my kids delight, Sinterklaas spoke not just Dutch, but German and English as well. They were uber-impressed. I told them he spoke every language, and understood every child. Even Tess, who at 11 (and a half) is starting to doubt the existence of Santa Claus & Sinterklaas, had her faith firmly reaffirmed when Sinterklaas fluently spoke all three languages. Just like I said.
Halfway through gift-giving, Sinterklaas needed a break and we were again led in song. Several of the smaller kids sang solo’s, but when it was Dane’s turn he became suddenly, uncharacteristically, shy. She even offered to let him sing in German, or English, both languages he speaks much better than Dutch. He still refused, and then she was looking at me. She wanted me to lead the crowd in song. Um. I’m completely, totally, tone-deaf. I sing worse than nails-on-a-chalkboard sound. That, she said, made it even better.
She was not to be swayed, and with Dane’s big eyes pleading at me to do this for him, I went up and led the crowd in a rowdy verson of Jingle Bells. It was, after all, a very international affair.
We squeezed in a trip to Holland before the snows gets deep. I’m not a fan of zooming down the autobahn at 80-90 miles an hour with ice so I mostly skip winter visits. I needed some St. Nicholas supplies (chocolate letters are much loved here) and I missed my family. Especially my Oma. It is always bittersweet visiting her. Her hair, though now snow white, is still totally her hair. And when our eyes meet, I see her in there, but she is no longer the same woman. So much is still there, but with the loss of intelligible speech comes a loss of who she is. It hurts. And I see it hurts her. I want to reach deep inside and just pull her back out. Instead I hug her, and love her, and talk her ears off.
Mostly she ignores me. What she really loves is to cuddle with Dane. The second she spots him her face literally lights up. A huge grin spreads across her face and she always looks me right in the eye. I can see “thank you” as clearly as her saying it. I plop him on her tray (she’s in a wheelchair now) and she grabs tight. She doesn’t let go until the very last second. Dane is an amazing sport. He lets her cuddle, and kiss, and fuss with his clothes. It does get a little boring, just sitting, and being fussed with, and loved, so this time I let him play his gamegirl (his is Tess’ old one, and pink, so… gamegirl).
Oma was fascinated by the gameboy & the little moving pictures on his screen. She “helped” him play Mario. Normally if you mess with Dane’s gameboy he has a fit, but this time he just stopped and waited patiently for her to touch the screen and push all the buttons. I’m pretty sure she cost him a game. He never squawked once.