Advent Calendar

For me, Christmas is a time of traditions; food, cakes, decorations, things we do – lots of traditions small and not-so-small. I always liked these traditions, and I find that I enjoy passing them on to my kid. There’something about having the same decoration up, or throwing the same party, or making the same cookies, year after year, that feels good. And it’s fun to see how early kids start to recognize this and enjoy it – even (or maybe in particular?) in a household where few things are “by the book”.

One of the traditions that kicks off the season is the advent calendar. They can be really simple – a piece of decorated cardboard with cut-outs you can open and find a picture ore similar each day, or they can be really elaborate. with wrapped presents, one for each of the days 1-24 December.

This year, ours look like this:

Advendt calendar

As a kid, I had an advent calendar with presents. Small things – a couple of pens, a few Legos, etc – but the excitement from waking up each day and rushing to see what was there was more about the warm feeling of a present each day than what was actually there. I get the same with my kid, even if our presents are more elaborate than what I had then. The advent calendar has grown to be an important item in her Christmas.

Happily, it’s fun to make, and it’s fun to have the little ceremony of opening presens each morning. In not-so-many-years it will be of no interest to her anymore, so I’m going to enjoy as much as I can while I have the chance. Not that the advent calendars ever goes away entirely if I can help it; I one for my wife, too, but with a present for each of the four Sundays of Advent.

Pebernødder!

Pebernødder (pepper nuts) is a traditional Danish Christmas cookie. It’s a small, crunchy, light cookie, slightly spicy. Like most things traditional, there’s lots of variation, but they usually involve cinnamon, ginger and pepper. Some like to make them hard (like real nuts), mine are more crispy.

In my famlly, pebbernødder is always the first cookie we do. We make a huge batch as the season is getting started, ready for the first seasonal get-together. The batch is made so that pebernødder can be a steady ingredient of family and social life all through December.

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(pebernødder piled up for cooling)

Since pebernødder is the first cookie we do for the season, baking them is special. Baking is always fun, and a great way to spend time with kids. Baking Pebernødder involves a lot of simple, repeated tasks, easily done by kids – and the result is quick in coming, and tasty. In Denmark, winter is mostly dark and cold, and so we enjoy cozy, relaxed activities we can do together indoors – “hygge”, we call it. This is probably why we like the xmas season; it’s a chance to do a lot of things we like doing anyway.

Baking pebernødder is traditionally the first xmas thing we do, and it’s certainly fun and relaxed. You get to spend a lot of time together, talking, drinking tea, collaborating. And we get in the mood for all the other traditions coming up for the season. A nice time for the grownups, and kids love it.

Pebernødder (Danish Xmas cookies)

(Done: 2 kg pebernødder.  Xmas can begin)

(Update: recipe here)

Gender, sport, and TV ads

Fair warning: rant ahead. See, I have this hot button about gendering stuff, and in particular about how we build up images of what genders are and what a person of a given gender do. I always did, but let me just say that having a daughter has done nothing to lessen my sensibility in the area.

There’s so so many ways we tell our kids what girls are and do, and what boys are and do. And then when they come back and tell us what we’ve taught them, we say “see, boys and girls just have different aspirations right from the start”. Again and again we forget (or ignore, or whatever) that gender is a social construct.

This is so, so prevalent (all-pink girls section in the clothes store, anyone). What triggered me today was this little gem I found on YouTube (via Sociological Images):

Innocent, you say? Sure – except it tells little boys watching this they should strive to be heros and do stuff that will be admired, and it tells little girls that their role in spots is to admire the boys as they do their heroics. Which is not a good role model for girls who want to play ball themselves (did I mention that my daughter is really good at sports? No? Well, she is). In fact, it’s a model that tell girls that sports is not really for them, that their role is a passive one. With enough messages like this, active girls will go elsewhere – or learn to not be active. ’cause, you see, the message of “boys do, girls admire” is one of these patters that we (possibly unconsciously) teach our kids over and over, with TV adds being just one channel.

Messages that push women into a passive role (in sport or in society at large) are not good for our girls; as a father to a girl I’m annoyed by stuff like this. And frankly, messages that teach boys they should expect that a woman’s role is to admire them is not good for the boys either. These little boys in the ad may do good in basketball. But they will also grow up in a world where young women do better than young men in college, get better university degrees, and will get good jobs. These young women will not be looking for a boyfriend who expect them to sit passive and admire him (while he plays NBA2021 on his game console).

King Winter Arrives

This morning was a fall morning like so many others. I was first person up, spending a few minutes checking mail and calendars before getting stated on breakfast, lunch packs, checking school bags, and all the rest of the morning routine. I didn’t pay much attention to my surroundings – after all, it was dark out and I was the only person up.

The family started to rise as I was finishing most of the chores. I went into the living room looking for an missing school book, and something caught my eye. Not in the room, but outside. Not only was it no longer dark, there was snow all over the lawn! In fact, snow was pelting down, covering bushes and houses. My daughter came rushing down the stairs, all excited. Snow! Finally!

The talk was immediately about snow fights, snow men, tobogans, and so on.  Light in the kid’s eyes.  We also talked about how we have a long winter in front of us, but we might have to wait a bit before there’s enough snow for the fun to begin. “Sure”, the kid said, jumping up and down with excitement.  It’s one of the wonders of having kids about – you get to remember being excited about stuff and not think “oh, no – morning traffic in the snow”.

We walked to school in the snow – and, truly, it wasn’t much snow to speak of, melting and turning into slush as it hit the ground. Slush, slush, slush, walking to school.  But never mind that; King winter will rule the land, the traffic, and the playgrounds for 3 months or so. I just hope this is a year he can make up his mind – snow that stays, or no snow. The slush get old pretty fast. Here’s looking forward to pretty white mornings and days playing in the snow. With the help of the hearts of kids I will remember to look King Winter in the eye and enjoy it.

On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dogleather-clad biker

Nobody knows you're a dogPeter Steiner’s adage “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” is well known, but it got a new twist here (in Denmark) this week.

The host of a radio show for children and young people was apparently a little too interested in his audience. He went into chat-rooms, talking up young girls, letting on that he was a talent scout with a model agency. A 15-year old girl agreed to meet him. What the show host didn’t know, was that the girl’s father was a member of a biker gang. The result of all that was a severe punch in the nose and a trip to the hospital.

Just goes to show that the warning not to take identities on the net at face value goes for both sides in a conversation…