Sinterklaas & the traditions in our house!

This is our first year living in The Netherlands for Sinterklaas and Christmas…. so what do we do?  We certainly cannot stop celebrating Christmas – suddenly have the kids forget about Santas Claus and now believe in Sinterklaas and all story behind that.   Our youngest (age 8.5) “believes” in both Sinterklaas and the Kerstman, The Tooth Fairy, her Irish Fairy Fiona, and every other imaginary thing you tell her! Well – she knows the Easter Bunny is you know f@#e… but only because we never did that big basket of junk for the kids.  But they did attend a few egg hunts (which were staged and set up mainly from the grandparents) or a guy in a funny bunny suit. However, our oldest (nearly 11) told us this year in tears that “he knows”. Of course he does – it was only a matter of time. He was the one who told us (in front of his sister) that Fionas, the elves and my handwriting were all the SAME!  Which I had to offer a valid explanation to not crush her – clever guy…. but still keep it to yourself, don’t tell your sister.  Oh and for about two weeks this dragged on and on about how he now is ruined Christmas for life….I think a bit too much drama and it was used a crutch to avoid getting into trouble with things.   Sort of the white milk and cookie scenario when he was a kid but will give him a break 🙂 So how to do it??

Well, we’d maintain with our Christmas traditions (Elves (for now!), Santa, if possible cut down our Christmas tree, ice skating, Christmas Market) but we’d do a little bit for Sinterklaas too. Kids would receive three small gifts along with a letter from Sinterklaas telling them that this year they are new to the Netherlands and that he’d only be brining them a few things as they’d get more gifts at Christmas while other Dutch kids wouldn’t. They were TOTALLY fine with this!!  They loved that in his letter he gave some money with instructions to the movies and watch a holiday movie – which we did – we went out and watched the Grinch on Pakjesavond.

So our first annual Sintaklaas tradition is to go to the movies on his birthday!! 🙂 Also, we went to Vlieland for three nights and will hopefully continue to do that as a tradition of heading to one of the Wadden Islands with friends.

So …starting on Dec 17 and every few nights during the period when Sint was in The Netherlands the kids put their shoes out in front of the fireplace – sang a few songs and magically the next morning, they received a few treats and every now and then a tiny present which were all bought at the Wibra! The day after Thanksgiving (see another twist) Asteroid and Pixie, their mischievous elves showed up and got into their candy!

I won’t even discuss those elves – they took a break last year and visited another family who needed help as our kids were very good. This year the kids really hoped they’d return so they did… oh do I regret that. Each day I go to bed early, I forget to move them… so now they often just sit in the same place for two days in a row – or if I remember, they join the kids in bed – ohhh how adventurous. You’ll see – a few years ago, I was very good with them…. I had a whole 30 days on my facebook dedicated to them…. this might be their last year with our family…. might be time for them to ‘retire permanently’.

Oh yeah I nearly forgot – one of the best parts of the evening was that the next door neighbour banged on the door at 5:30 pm so during dinner, suddenly the widows and doors were being banged on and it was so loud it scared the crap out of me and M. Then  the kids ran to the door to find the presents laying there … typical how did Sinterklaas get those gifts inside questions begin….


Then there was a big surprise for me which was the “SINTERKLAAS SURPRISE” which happens at school. In case you are not familiar … it is a common Dutch practice for the older kids starting at upper primary school level (I think group 5 & above) to celebrate Sinterklaas in the classroom by opening a “SURPRISE”. Pronounced as “sur-pree-zuh”. It essentially mirrors a Secret Santa gift exchange yet with exaggeration and you must be super creative and put your present inside an over-the-top crafted gift which goes along with the receivers hobbies or interests.   Now from what I understand the KIDS are to MAKE the gift and write the poem, but after watching an episode of De Luizenmoeders and seeing first-hand – sorry but many of those sur-pree-zuhs were created by the PARENTS and not the kids. I helped my kids a bit but no way did I want to show up with a super duper crafted item which clearly I did.  For some parents, it is clearly a competition and it is the parents who do the work on these things.   Maybe next year, I’ll help a bit lot more than this! 🙂

I think the whole Surprise is so great and so original. I love it and not sure why it never made it’s way to to the US, UK or Ireland. Sure we have grabs, Kris Kringle and the poems, but never the creative aspect of putting your gift inside something made about the hobby or interest of the receiver.  I love it and look forward to next year! 🙂 

On the same day, Sint came to the kids’ school along with his Piets which delivered peppernoten to the classrooms. Each group sang songs, etc. The kids had a great time!

As with all these holidays, it’s about being together as a family and we’re spending a few days together the the family here in The Netherlands. The family and kids from NYC will come in the summer, so we’re all be together then and will make up for this missed time then.   Last year my family came over so maybe next year we head back to the US?  

2018 was interesting to the say the least and I’m looking forward to 2019!

Kribkesroute Liempde, Netherlands

From mid- December to the first Sunday in January, the Kribkes route takes place in Liempde in Brabant.  This year there was about 230 nativity scenes along the Kribkes route  which is the largest Christmas stables route in the Netherlands. The Kribkes route consists of three walking routes and a special wheelchair-friendly and children’s route.

Following the route (green arrows) you’ll find different Nativity scenes some more creative than others.

There was a tractor which brought you around but the group said it would be “too cold“.  Then when we saw the train it was that the windows were covered with plastic to keep you warm, it became “impossible to see much”  Unless it stops and you get out walk a street and get back on but couldn’t convince anyone to take the tractor regardless of the windows in or out.

A few streets and to the pub for a drink was the agenda.

The route is mapped out here on the card.

Here are some photos.

Christmas Games: Kids Edition

Each year at Christmas, the family used to play game with small gifts.  You’d roll the dice and depending on the #, you would either open a present, take a present from someone, etc.  Of course, this is hard if you are very young – it’s hard to get a present taken away from you.

As the game has lost appeal to many of the adults, it was passed along to the kids.  We knew our kids would enjoy it.  In fact, Maebh asked if it can be played again at the Easter Break when their cousins are in from Los Angeles.

In the end they all ended up with a number of presents, some enjoyed their presents more than others. Though there was not a single toy which they all wanted so that was positive.  Our kids requested to play this game each year even if it was just with us four – as they find it super fun – so we agreed and it’s now part of our annual Christmas tradition!

Also each child received a couple gifts from Santa, as he delivered their gifts to Dublin. First our kids opened their stockings and found some small things.

Astroid & Pixie left…

Between courses they opened their gifts.

Big success with gifts Santa!  A drone, Feyernoord hat and Mercedes Benz model, 3d art, painting kit and some sewing kits.

Christmas Market: Aachen, Germany

Today we drove over to Aachen, Germany, to visit the Christmast Market (Kerstmarkt).  It is only about an hour from where we are staying in the Netherlands for our Christmas holidays.  It was a lovely atmosphere even with the added security of the armed officers whose cars blocked the entrance streets due to the Berlin Christmas terrorist event yesterday!  Thankfully once in, you don’t feel the added security  – yet I’m sure they were there.  Unlike in Antwerp, Belgium where you just feel totally creepy  the entire time – well, at least I did.

The kids enjoyed hot chocolate in little boots which they were able to take home from the Hexenhof (Witch farm). As all the 2016 cups were sold out so they requested 2017 instead of 2015.   ( Update – I ended up giving them away to the charity shop but people collect them over the years.  Imagine – two from every year – CLUTTER! 🙂


Curry worst – yucky!

We shared pomme fritte – yummy first the first few then way too much.

We stopped in a cute bar, Domkeller for a pint!  From outside it was really cute and had Erdinger Weiss bier on tap!  A score for me – especially this time of year. 

Maebh had a ride on the carousel but chose to ride on the bike!

As with all markets there are loads of cute things to buy, yet nothing you really need.




The streets were all lit up and very cute.  I love walking around taking photos of the buildings and things.

Not sure if we will visit any other Christmas Markets – perhaps today in Den Haag or Den Bosch. We will definitely go ice skating!

We popped by Eindhoven for a few minutes and had a lompia.

Maybe one day we’ll live in NL and could enjoy these Christmas markets more but for now, they are super special for us as we live in Ireland and it’s a real treat to be able to be in Germany and visit them.


World Book Day: Obligatory Photo

For the past couple of years, World Book Day somehow snuck up on us quickly and the kids do not participate. This year, however, they asked to participate (well at least Maebh did) and said she wanted to go as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.  So when we were in the UK at the end of January, we stumbled upon a beautiful Dorothy dress in a charity shop for 4.00 we couldn’t pass it up.  Maebh looked at it all the time and kept talking about World Book Day where she can wear it – alongside her beautiful and perfectly-matching shiny red shoes.

Soren on the other hand didn’t have a character picked out so I thought hard about what costumes we already had in the house – a pirate!  So Maebh and I picked him up a book which he happens to LOVE!  So today he went to school as a pirate.  Unfortunately, he told me he had a bit of a confidence issue at the start of the day and didn’t want to take his coat off, but as there was a catwalk, he got into it.

and after swimming lessons, Maebh dressed up as a pirate!

20 Questions to ask kids At The Start Of A new Year – on Video

At the kids’ birthdays, I write out their favorite items on a photo, but wanted to start something new. Each New Year’s Eve, I’m going to try and remember (and video as long as they allow it).   I’m going to ask the kids 20 questions and write down their replies.  Of course, my biggest problem is hate my voice on the video but as they love seeing themselves as little kids (for now) – so I know it is important to do.

Maebh:  Age 5 Senior Infants – Dublin, Ireland

Best Friend in School:  Nessa

Favorite Colour: Pink 
Favorite Toy :  Teddy
Favorite Fruit: Orange
Favorite TV Show:  Sophia The First
Favorite Movie: Frozen
Favorite Cartoon Character:  Elsa 
Favorite Favorite Lunch : Apple
Favorite Board Game: Monopoly
Favorite PS3 game: Little Big Planet 
Favorite Snack: Pringles
Favorite Animal: Unicorn
Favorite Song:  Let It Go
Favorite Book: Room on The Broom
Favorite Subject at school Maths
Take to bed: Teddy
Favorite Vacation :Spain
Holiday: Birthday
Dinner: Pasta
Favorite Sport to Play: Football
Favorite Sport to Watch: Ice Skating
Favorite Breakfast: Pancakes
Favorite Drink: Apple Juice
Favorite Playground: Malahide Castle 
Favorite Pub: O’Connells Howth 
Favorite Family Activity: Monopoly

Favorite When I get older I want to be: Nothing at first but during Soren’s video says Professional Football player in America.

Soren:  Age 7.11 Second Class  – Dublin, Ireland

Best Friend in School:  Jacob or Cael

Favorite Colour: Illumines Pink 
Favorite Toy :  Play Station 3
Favorite Fruit: Pineapple
Favorite TV Show:  Transformer Rescue Bots or Top Gear
Favorite Cartoon Character:  Spongebob
Favorite Favorite Lunch : Wrap with ham and cheese and whoegrain mustard with mayo
Favorite Board Game: Chess or Monopoly or Logo Billionaire
Favorite PS3 Game: Fifa Mindcraft 
Favorite Snack: Ice Pops
Favorite Animal: Paragon Falcon
Favorite Song:  Not in this order – U2, Guns and Roses, Right Direction, Johnny Cash & Gorillas
Favorite Book: Mindcraft Secrets & Cheats or a coloring book 
Favorite Subject at school: Golden time, art and Irish
Take to Bed: Yellow Blanket 
Favorite Vacation: Spain or the Caribbean 
Holiday: Birthday & Christmas
Dinner: Pasta
Favorite Sport to Play: Soccer
Favorite Sport to Watch: Soccer
Favorite Breakfast: Pancakes
Favorite Drink: Coca Cola 
Favorite Playground: Baldyole – next to fields to play soccer
Favorite Pub: Abbey Tavern, Howth 
Favorite Family Activity: Monopoly

Favorite When I get older I want to be: Professional Soccer Player

Anyway, no matter how horrible my voice, they can look back on it much like they look back on videos of themselves and crack up laughing.