Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry Christmas, Prettige Kerstdagen, Joyeux Noel, etc.!

I started to write this on Christmas Day, about 10:00 p.m. when Joy and I had retreated to our room to enjoy just a little quiet time and to write about the past couple of days before we forget what happened!

Yesterday was Christmas Eve and this is the day we were heading to Friesland to a place called De Schaopedobbe, the name of the place we would be staying at for Christmas. As you can see, it is a bit difficult to pronounce, which is how it came to be nicknamed “De Scooby Dooby” by my brother! After asking my cousin what “schaopedobbe” means, it basically translates into “sheep pond.” Schaope means sheep and apparently “dobbe” is a word in a local dialect, meaning pond, and from what she said, they used to wash the sheep in the pond. Hmm, I kind of prefer “De Scooby Dooby” myself!

On Christmas Eve, we slept in again, not getting up until after 10 a.m. It has been like this since we arrived and I just know I will be paying for it the first time I have to wake up for work at 6 a.m. We spent the morning packing our things up for the weekend and were on the road by 2:30. We had a caravan of vehicles making the drive. I think there were about 5-6 vehicles It is only about an hour’s drive away so the drive wasn’t bad at all. We stopped along the way to take some pictures in the snow. I could tell as we made our way closer that there was much more snow on the ground.

Finally, we arrived at De Schaopedobbe, and got our things unpacked before it got dark. You can imagine just how much food we had to take to feed 30+ people for 3 meals a day for 4 days. Actually, it’s more like 6 meals. My Dutch family likes to eat. A lot. All the time. We will barely have finished a meal and they are on to planning the next. I’m not kidding. Since we have been getting up so late in the mornings we have been having brunch instead of breakfast but they will still be ready to eat not too long after. Or you may have just eaten two hours ago and they come out of nowhere with snacks. It’s crazy.

Once we got our things unpacked, we headed upstairs to lay claim to the rooms we would be sleeping in. Just like three years ago, this place reminds me of summer camp, only indoors or a dorm. There are several rooms in this place, sleeping anywhere from four to eleven people to a room. There are bunk beds as well as single beds set up. Bill and I ended up bunking with my brother Ed and his wife, which is nothing new because we have done this many times before when traveling. The first room we were going to sleep in was ice cold when we first walked in. My cousin Wendy’s husband Erik showed up how to turn the heat on in the room, so we left it figuring it would have time to warm up before we headed to bed. Soon we had all of our rooms picked out and on each of the chalkboards outside the room, we wrote who was where. Our room was called the AZ Crew, the littlest kids were kept together with their parents, there was another room called “The Kidzz” which had the older kids, ages 10 and up, then there was another room for “The Young Ones,” which was my niece and nephew and older cousins, 18 and up. Finally, the oldest aunts got the more luxurious, spacious rooms.

Once we were all settled in, we just hung out and then decided to wrap the gifts we brought for all of the kids. I brought one medium size suitcase that was filled with nothing but Christmas gifts for the kids. Joy and I wrapped those gifts and then hid them away so we could put them under the tree after the kids went to bed. Once that was finished, we headed back downstairs to just hang out with everyone. With so many of us here, everyone just disperses around the room, doing their own thing. Some of us are watching a movie, some are hanging out at the bar talking, and the kids will be hanging out playing somewhere. But more often than not, wherever the kids are, you can probably find Bill! He is like the pied piper, with kids following him everywhere. The funniest thing to watch was Bill with my little cousin, Pascale. Pascale will be 5 years old in January and she is a little pistol. You can’t let her looks fool you! She is adorable, with the cutest face and beautiful long, dark hair. While she is very much a “girly girl” who enjoys playing dress up, she is also very willful, stubborn and can just as easily karate chop you (just ask Bill!) as bat her eyelashes at you. Her favorite game to play with Bill was to make him lie down, take off his glasses and watch, then order him to go to sleep by yelling “Slapen!” which is Dutch for sleep. She would then cover him up with every sofa cushion. A minute later, she would make this cock-a-doodle-do sound and then yell “Opstaan!” which is Dutch for “wake up!” She would then uncover him, put his glasses back on and his watch and then he would have to be awake!

We have about 8 little cousins, ages 11 and under. The oldest is Quinten, 11 and Pascale is his younger sister, who I mentioned will be 5 next month. Their parents are my cousin Sandra and her husband, Wil. Then there is Noah who is 10 and her younger sister, Carmen, who is 7. Their parents are my cousin Wendy and her husband Erik. Kim is 9 years old and an only child and her parents are my cousin Donna and her husband, Jean-Pierre. Then there are sisters Inez, who is 5 and Anouk who is 4. Their parents are my cousin Shirley and her husband, Rudi. Finally, there is Tara, who is 3 years old and her father is my cousin, Fabian. All of these cousins are on my father’s side of the family. There are also the older cousins, Victor and Christian, who are in their early 20’s, and their parents are my cousin Theresa and her husband Ewald. Theresa, Donna and Wendy are sisters and their mother is my father’s younger sister. Sandra and Shirley are also sisters and their mother is another younger sister of my father. Fabian is 32 and his brother, Raymond is 30, are the sons of my father’s younger brother. Anyway, that is a quick rundown of the family. I am sure you have lost track already! We have a huge family, as my dad comes from a family of nine children. My mother’s side is even larger, as she comes from a family of 13. We will be seeing them very soon.

Anyway, as for the rest of Christmas Eve, we had dinner together and then all got together to play a game after the kids went to bed. My cousins had a huge pile of wrapped gifts that they put into a pile in the middle of the floor.

Chairs were all arranged in a circle around the gifts and we sat down in the chairs. There was a huge pair of dice and the premise of the game was that if you rolled a six or numbers that added up to six, then you got to choose a gift. If you were lucky enough to roll two sixes, then you got to choose two gifts. The rest of the numbers also had some kind of instructions to them. For example, if a five came up, then everyone had to move over one seat to the right. If you had accumulated gifts by then, you just left them there and moved on. If you rolled a two, you might have to pick two people and swap one of their gifts with the other person. Or if you rolled a one, you might be able to pick one of your gifts to swap out with someone else’s. Some of the gifts were gag gifts, like a silly looking bug light and a pair of red, lacy panties. My brother Andrew was the first to get the bug light and upon seeing what it was, made the mistake of making sarcastic comments about it, such as how great it was and how nice that it would only work in Holland, (due to the different voltage and type of plug it has!) Well, after that, the rest of the family made sure the gift stuck with Andy! If the gift ended up out of his hands because we had to trade seats, then somehow they made sure it always got back to him! As for the pair of red, lacy panties, they first ended up with Rudi, my cousin Shirley’s husband.

It soon made the rounds and ended up with my nephew Geoff. The other gifts were little Dutch souvenirs, or tea, chocolate, etc. It was a lot of fun. Once all of the gifts had been handed out, my cousin Theresa announced that there was a little catch to the game. First we all had to move over one seat and then whatever gifts were there, we had to keep on our lap to show what we had. And then the final announcement and final “catch” to the game was that all of the gifts were to be given to the “American family!” So everyone divided their gifts among my brothers and I and the rest of our family! It was a lot of fun and I got some great gifts out of it! We of course ended up staying up late watching a movie. This is where the never ending eating comes in. At 1 a.m., my cousins are bringing out a platter of croquettes! I haven’t eaten these since the last time we were in Holland 3 years ago and that is probably a good thing because they are sooo good, but also so bad for you. They are these little breaded snacks with this meat filling, like chicken or pork, only the filling has a very creamy texture. I LOVE them. But at 1 a.m.? Everyone kind of moaned and said “What? Croquettes at 1 a.m?” But by the time we went to bed, there wasn’t one left! I’m telling you, if you are visiting here, it is like a 24 hour fat fest!

We finally headed to bed around 3 a.m. Well, this “compound” where we are staying has bathrooms and showers on the first floor. The second floor has all of the sleeping rooms and also has a big sink and a couple of toilets but the sink upstairs only has cold water, not hot. I was not about to wash my face in ice cold water because then I’d be awake the rest of the night! So I made Bill trudge back downstairs with me so I could wash my face where there was some hot water as well. When we got back upstairs and went in our room, holy cow, it was like a freezer! The heater/radiator thing wasn’t working in there, so we ended up moving to the room next door where it was warmer. By the time we got all of our beds made, it was nearly 4 a.m. Of course I was the last one to fall asleep, which meant I had to listen to Bill, my brother Ed and Ed’s wife Joy snore! Now Joy had taken a muscle relaxer so that was her excuse for snoring, but Bill and Ed just snore all the time! It wasn’t fun or easy getting to sleep, but somehow I managed it. We didn’t even get up until 10:45! But it was wonderful to be able to sleep in and then come downstairs and look outside to seeing it snow on Christmas morning! It was just beautiful outside and very excited after only experiencing Christmases in Phoenix!

Now while it’s great being able to sleep in that late, the problem is that it sure makes the days go by really fast. First of all, the sun doesn’t even rise until about 8:30 and then it’s 4:30 when the sun goes down! It makes the days seem like they go by twice as fast here compared to back home. But I suspect that is also because we are at work and work always makes the hours seem like they are crawling by!

Anyway, we took our showers after breakfast, which brings me to another thing I was not thrilled about. While this “compound” was great, I didn’t care for the showers. First of all, you could not control the temperature of the water. There was just one button you pushed to turn it on and that water never got warm enough to my liking and the water pressure wasn’t the greatest so it took me forever to rinse shampoo out of my hair! Also, once you pushed the button, the water would only stay on for a certain amount of time, then it would shut off and you had to push it again! It was frustrating! Once showers were done, it was just hanging out again downstairs until we were all ready. We had put our gifts under the tree after the kids went to bed so that they would be there when they got up Christmas morning. And boy were they excited when they got up and saw them. They were crawling around the floor all around the tree, trying to see which gifts were theirs! They were so excited and of course, impatient. We finally had them sit down on the floor while Bill played Santa and handed out the gifts. The kids were ripping them open as fast as they could and had a great time. I loved being able to see the excitement on their faces. I got some great photos. They were too cute!

After opening gifts, I went around the inside of the compound and made a video tour with my new little Kodak video camera. I hope to get it posted soon as well as the many, many photos I took over the past few days.

Update! (1/16/10) I finally am posting the video tour of "De Scooby Dooby!" Check it out!

Soon we were on to Christmas dinner, which was quite different from our usual American Christmas dinner. My cousins decorated the tables beautifully and we had what seemed like a five or six course dinner topped off by a very yummy dessert which was assorted mixed fruit in a waffle cone bowl topped with whipped cream.

So again, we stuffed ourselves! In between courses, my cousin Theresa played the guitar while our little cousins, Quinten, Noah, Carmen, Inez, Anouk and Pascale sang Christmas carols. They stood on the spiral staircase and sang Jingle Bells and some other Christmas carols. What is the funniest thing to me is that the little cousins do not speak English, except for a few phrases and little Anouk can even count to ten in English, yet they sang these Christmas carols in English! The rest of us accompanied them, but we didn’t do that great of a job I’m afraid to say. But the kids were just too cute and definitely made up for our lack of talent! I have a couple of videos of the kids singing which I also need to post. (Here it is! 1/16/10)

We finished up our dinner, cleaned up, and then hung out as usual until Joy and I headed to the room early for a change, which is where I started this entry into the blog.

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