Sunday, February 26, 2012

Helau! & Cousins

This year was our first Karneval in Düsseldorf (last year we were in the US). We didn't really know what to expect, but were very excited to be experiencing it with my sister Kate and my nephew Dylan. They arrived on the Friday of Karneval, and were quickly swept into the festivities.

Matching Mario and Luigi costumes for the cousins - so cute! Of course they wouldn't wear their mustaches (why even bother including a stick on mustache for a 1-2 year old?), but they were adorable!

We went to our friend Dre's house for a Karneval brunch, and then headed down to Königsallee for the children's parade. Dylan dozed while Simon jammed to the marching bands. A big thing during Karneval here, besides costumes, is the candy. They throw loads of candy out at the spectators, and sharpest elbows win. We were next a group of 8-9 year old boys who had no shame in stealing candy from a baby (literally) and their parents looked on (approvingly, I would say). Gotta love the German way. (But no worries - we still took home some good stuff!)

On Sunday Kate and I headed down to Königsallee again while the kiddos slept at home with Uncle Martin. For this day, Königsallee turns into a street festival, with food and beer stands and loads of people dressed up in fantastic costumes. Many people had group themes and pulled their own wagons loaded with beer to keep them well supplied for the day. We hit it early enough that it wasn't just a bunch of sloppy drunks, but I can imagine that that was the direction it was headed.

On Rosenmontag, which is a regional holiday here in North Rhein-Westphalia, we went to the big parade that involved a lot more candy and much larger floats. Again, we left the kiddos at home and enjoyed some time on our own (also left the camera at home, unfortunately).

Unfortunately, just as Dylan and Kate were adjusting to life in Düsseldorf, Simon got a high fever which he couldn't kick, and eventually resulted in an ear infection. This meant that Kate and Dylan took a solo adventure to Bobolinos along with my friends here for their own little play date. Dylan loved it - and Simon got some rest.

On Herwig Sister's Day, we even got a babysitter and had a nice afternoon out on the town. We went to Flingern, a cute little neighborhood with some small shops that just aren't that conducive to browsing with strollers. So it was pretty much new to both us. (Sisters Day started 2 years ago when on February 22, 2010 I went into premature labor with Simon, Kate found out she was pregnant with Dylan, and Marie got officially married at the court house in LA before their big wedding in Mexico.)

It was so great to be able to spend so much time with my sweet little nephew (16 months). You would hardly know that he and Simon are cousins - as they couldn't be more different. Dylan's hair is as straight as Simon's is curly; Dylan picks through his food as Simon shovels it in his mouth; and Dylan is constantly on the move, as Simon quietly reads his book or play with legos. But differences aside, they had fun together. Neither had spent this much time around another kid before, and it was really fun to watch them pick up each other's habits and language. By the end Dylan was whispering Pappa (as Simon inexplicably likes to do) and Simon had picked up Dylan's fish noise, which is kind of like a bubble popping.

On our last day together we went to Maastricht, a cute town in the very south of the Netherlands. We met up with an old German Macalester friend, and Kate and Dylan enjoyed their first trip to the Netherlands.

We were sad to see them go this morning, but excited that we will see them in June in Charleston. I am so grateful that they made the trip over. I know it's hard traveling alone with kids, and it's not really a vacation. It's exhausting, and it's really hard to get a break, especially with time zone changes. But it means to much to be able to spend time with my sister and our little boys all together. No doubt they won't remember it, but I will never forget it!

Check out the pics here.

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