Monday, April 30, 2012

Tape Paper Scissors

I've said before that Noah is not really into crafts. And to some degree, this is true. Hand him paper and crayons and he'll walk away. But give him paper, a scissors and some tape and he'll go nuts with projects.

Yesterday, he asked me if he could watch something. I said, "No, why don't you make something with this paper?" He promptly built himself a television monitor, which he and Mattias watched for 10 minutes. The program was quite funny to all three of us.

Today, Noah planted things in his garden.
[photo removed]
And the boys practiced walking OVER it, not ON IT. Hmmm...what do you think we've been doing lately?


Over the weekend there was a lemonade stand in the living room.

[photo removed]

Complete with pitcher and little (fallen over) glasses.


Shoes like Daddy's had to be made, because Mommy refuses to buy them. (But, in my defense, I DID help him make the flip flop on the left.) There were many, many tears when somebody tried to change into his pajamas without taking off the flip flops first.


This is an egg cooker that doesn't use water, I'm told. The white crumpled up papers are eggs, the green things are utensils.


The awesome news here is that we've got a really creative kid. The bad news? It's very difficult to make an impression by taking away real things as a consequence. I guess we're left with taking away his tape, paper, scissors.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pigeon Blue

Fritz is of the steadfast belief that leather furniture will last longer with children. I don't really know if this is true. I mean, maybe in the 1970s it was true, but today there are a lot of fancy woven and otherwise fabrics that repel stains. In my experience so far, it is not necessarily true that leather is better.

Our living room leather sofa and chairs were hand-me-downs from Fritz's relatives, who bought them in the 1980s in Germany. When Fritz's brother inherited the furniture, Fritz's whole family regarded them as rather well made and stylish in shape, but that color! They called it pigeon blue and put the furniture in storage under sheets for a decade. I believe the words of Fritz's brother were: "They would be smashing in black." I'm almost sure he said this to me in English, so I'm not mistranslating the 'smashing'. Much discussion was had about dying them black for...somebody at some unspecified time.

After Fritz and I got married, we had little money but big needs for seating, so an arrangement was reached. The sofa and chairs were moved to our first apartment in Munich. They were still pigeon blue, although now, much discussion was had about covering them with some sort of slipcover.

Back when I had time to do shit like set out china and light candles to photograph a pigeon blue sofa.

Then I got pregnant and I settled for throwing a blanket made-by-my-grandma-from-old-clothes-that-her-neighbors-gave-her over the sofa when I wanted to lay on it because - Hello! Leather is icy cold in an 1890s apartment building! Strangely, I didn't take any photos of that phase. Nobody talked about changing the color of the furniture anymore. The sofa was not very comfortable for my pregnant body. I politely began referring to the sofa as A Sofa for the Art of Proper Conversation. In other words, it was NOT for lounging around watching Verliebt in Berlin! (In Love in Berlin), a German soap opera that I watched ostensibly to improve my German throughout my pregnancy.

So, time passed, babies were born, babies burped on the furniture, and kids cruised along the furniture with sticky hands and climbed on the furniture and made deposits on the furniture from their sand-drenched clothes and scratched the furniture with fingernails that needed to be cut and left dripping-milk-sippy cups on the furniture. Our pigeon blue furniture was becoming smashing in an entirely different level.

AND several moves were made and a great many friends visited and endless photos of people holding babies and kids sitting on the furniture were taken. The pigeon blue furniture found a soft spot in my heart, and to this day I can't really bring myself to part with it. We recently purchased some new furniture. But I put that new furniture upstairs, where it's rarely seen.

Meanwhile, the pigeon blue furniture sat in our formal living room looking something like this:

Cracked, scratched, faded, pigeon blue leather.

(I forgot to mention that somebody duct taped the words LIVING ROOM to the furniture. Just in case the movers couldn't figure out where to put the only seating furniture we owned. The duct tape left the most noticeable mark dead-center on this seat.)

After several unsuccessful attempts to recondition and clean the leather, I finally decided we should try shoe polish. Fritz was less convinced - he was worried the polish would rub off on our butts. After a fair amount of debate, I finally decided to blindly purchase some shoe polish that sounded like approximately the right colors and give it a try.

In the end, I had to mix pigeon blue:



And then I had to convince the 2 year old to get off the chair between application and polishing. This is the way most projects go around here. Wouldn't want anyone to get the impression putting shoe polish on the leather furniture was easy, you know.

[photo removed]

And finally? Success! Sort of. Pigeon Blue Leather furniture once more. I'd say, it now looks aged instead of destroyed.


And the pigeon blue color is not coming off on anyone's butt.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Red

How about something light for today?

After I completed the stairwell of red pots last summer, my mother and my aunt teased me for several months about the red spray paint. You know, I took it a bit to heart because I do really dislike half-baked solutions like, "Hey let's spray paint it!" It seems dishonest, it seems forced. It seems like not allowing something to be what it is. So, it actually DID pain me a little bit to paint those pots red.

But if you are looking for plant pots, it's really tough to find minimal shapes, the correct size, the right price point AND in primary colors. (Okay, fine, and in RED.) My aunt tells me that is because red and blue glazes are more expensive. (?)

However, I've recovered from the red-spray-paint-teasing. Or maybe all those years of architecture education indoctrination are finally unraveling. Or maybe I just care more about doing what I want than I care for guessing at what other people may or may not think.

So, I've painted more pots! Primary red! This time around, I've taken to simply painting pots that I otherwise find unpleasant. Below, I painted the large red pot in the back. It used to be sort of army green. You can see that there's some decorative design molded into the pot. This type of decoration is fussy-ness that I don't like.


ACK! ACK! Decoration! Quick, paint it primary red!

Those two pots in the front (little yellow and deeper red?) - see how nice and simple and lovely and bright and cheerful they are? Yeah, those pots came from Germany. Sorry, Ann. Can't buy them here. I specifically put those little pots in front so I wouldn't have to see the decoration on the newly painted, (ACK!) decorative pot in the back.

Alright, next up: a terra cotta pot (left) and a metal pot (right). The shape of both these pots is still a little too fussy for me. But, I can at least I can change the color. Spray paint it is!


The terra cotta pot (left) - which is only partially painted, was really ripped off inspired by these pots at Crate and Barrel. The shape of C&B's still looks better (to me) BUT it doesn't take Portuguese artisans to have some old, worn terra cora pots sitting around. Speaking from experience, erratic watering habits can create some lovely lime deposits on your terra cotta. I put painters tape over the top part of the planter, and sprayed the rest of the pot...bright red!

Although I'm pretty pleased with the terra cotta pot result, I predict the paint will flake off within a year. Terra cotta is one of those materials that really needs to breathe - not just air - but moisture, as well, right? That's the worst: spray-painting something that shouldn't even be spray painted.

Too late!

In the bigger picture, I'm still really struggling with how to incorporate houseplants into my house. If you spend a lot of time looking at the modern design magazines I look at, houseplants are doled out gingerly and sparingly. I'd like to be sparing with my furniture, but excessive with my plants. Do you have any recommendations on where to find inspiration?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Black and White

Noah has his feet solidly planted in the world of black and white, good and bad, right or wrong, either-or.  Noah tells you that the goods guys are police and fire fighters; the bad guys are robbers. He has elaborate plans on how he will catch the bad guys and what will happen to them. He is the age when kids discover superheroes, when they like to tell you the rules, when they think they've got everything all figured out. It's developmental, I tell myself.

And I'm really uncomfortable with it.

Both Noah and Mattias have a dual citizenship. They are both American and German. They have one parent of each nationality. Until, maybe, about ten years ago, one nationality was openly proud to be and the other nationality, not. When I moved to Germany, most Germans still didn't fly German flags, they certainly didn't salut anything, they avoided the (then-mandatory) military draft by doing 2 years of social service, the German army still refused to engage in active combat, and any Germans would be very wary of forming any group based on nationality. Cultural norms are different when you collectively did evil and are collectively held accountable for your actions.

Here in Denver, Noah has a neighborhood friend. The mother warned me when we moved in: "My husband plays a game - regularly.  It's based on WWII, so he (the neighbor's boy) hears a lot about WWII. He knows a lot of history."

Last summer, the friend was over. He and Noah were busy painting rocks and Fritz briefly interrupted, speaking to Noah in German, as he normally does. And normally, it's the type of thing that goes unnoticed by other children.

But, this time, the German-speaking was noticed and the friend called out,  "Hey! I don't speak Spanish!"

And I, either being still the obnoxious know-it-all I was at age 4, or/and being an over-correcting prideful mother, said, "Actually, that was German, Noah and his daddy speak German."

I might have kept my mouth shut...

"But Germans are The Bad Guys!"

Noah, who had been engaged his rock painting, looked up at me.

The friend was looking up at me, too. And I could see that he was processing information very quickly. He was frowning, words forming behind his furloughed brow...

"Germans did some very bad things..." I nodded slowly as I began.

"But that was a long time ago and now Germans are our friends!" the neighborhood boy interrupted. It made me smile because I could imagine his mother sighing in relief. As would I. I thought about saying more. But really, where was the conversation going to go? Do you intentionally frighten and confuse four-year-olds by trying to explain more to them? I decided to leave it at that, and let Noah and his friend continue to paint.

But Noah remembered and told me later, "I don't want to speak German anymore. I don't want to be A Bad Guy."

By all accounts, we don't have dramatic stories about World War II in our family. I write this disclaimer, because I feel the need to frame what I am about to share as simultaneously noteworthy for consideration today and, yet, unremarkable for it's time.

I have german ancestry. But my American great uncle was a bomber for the American army over the north of Germany. He dropped bombs on-the-cities by-the-villages by-the-farms where his grandparents still lived. For many of us, it might sound familiar. Most of us had grandparents or great parents who served the war effort somehow. But to this day, my grandmother refuses to talk about what he did.

Noah's German Oma, born in Germany in the midst of the Allied bombing campaign was chased by a small, low flying plane as Uroma (Great Grandmother) ran with Oma in a stroller across the fields near their hometown. The men in the town were gone. Uropa (Great Grandfather) was fighting in Russia with the German ground troops. Oma's uncle was already a prisoner of war, taken to Kentucky by the Americans.

Eight years ago, cleaning out Uroma's house after she passed away, we found Uropa's army hat, complete with the insignia that has come to stand for the most horrific side of humankind. I nearly threw up. It makes me feel sick to even type about it, and I thought long and hard before sharing this fact with you. I wanted to burn the hat immediately. But such decisions were not - and still are not - mine alone to make. Also, this IS  the history of almost all German nationals. Just like my army-serving great uncle is the history of many Americans.

I also hesitate to share these histories, because they seem insignificant relative to so many other histories. As an American, I grew up hearing and reading mostly the most dramatic and horrific recounts. Prior to meeting Fritz, most of the stories I knew about World War II revolved around whose great uncle/aunt/grandfather/ grandmother escaped from/died at/was sent to which concentration camp. But I think there are also many, many families who have small histories like ours, and often, in their relative insignificance they are not shared.  Nonetheless, each one has it's own heartbreak and shame, especially to those who were there, and I believe there are lessons even in these smaller memories.

The genocide of WWII was wrong. This is black and white.

But the blind eyes of ordinary Germans as to what was happening? The looking the other way? The mess of its accompanying war and sanctions? The denial? Complex. For those of us who were not there - which is most of us now - we can only wonder: were ordinary people so tired after years of recession that they chose to only see the positive in their government? Or were they simply too tired to pay attention to what was happening? Were they following thoughtlessly? Too complex for this blog post. But what I want to say is that: perhaps, today, our temporal distance from the events makes it easier for us to isolate, or simplify, or magnify those parts of the past which are most convenient. Perhaps today, it's easier to make things black and white.

I thought about all of this when I married a German. I thought about this before I got pregnant. There's always been - in my mind - some Highly Significant Very Important Conversations that we will have with the boys. Conversations in which we sit down and talk about all the details in Just The Right Way so that everyone understands the horribleness of the past and the extreme responsibility going forward.

But I forgot about how children go through developmental steps and how what they understand at 24 or 14 is beyond their grasp at 4. I didn't understand how soon this topic would arise, and I'm not very well prepared. Sometimes, I feel too trapped by my own upbringing (as the inherited victor) to see things very deeply.

"How did you talk about German history?" I've asked Fritz, more than once. And he has always given me a strange look. "Well, like, in what grade did you study World War II?" I've prompted, thinking perhaps I should be more specific.

But slowly I'm beginning to understand how na├»ve my questions were. There's nothing specific about it. World War II is everywhere and in everything if you are a German national. There's not one or two or – even a series – of conversations that we will have. This is something we will talk about everyday in little ways. I think that some aspects of parenting strike me as more important than they might if my children did not carry this dual citizenship. For example: learning to think critically about our actions is very important to me. Also: learning to take care of other people, learning that Doing Nothing can be complicity, learning to (yes!) question authority, learning to admit fault, and learning that life is full of both shame and pride. These are teachings I can put off for the perfect words at the perfect time; and these are teachings that seem to defy the simple dichotomy of black and white.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Summer is What Happens in Your Head

I signed Noah up for summer camp and guess what? TOTAL RELIEF.

I had not realized how much stress it was causing me to always be thinking (as I have been for about 3 months now) about summer and summer camps.
[photo removed]
You know, I just feel like there's this balance to be achieved: I want the boys to get along well with each other. I want them to be friends. I think they need to spend time together for this to happen. I think they need to be bored together. Which means: they need to be pushed a bit. And I will be pushed as well.  There will probably be strife as they work through togetherness.

At the same time, I think they need time apart, they need space, they need their own activities and friends, they need to grow independently. The flow of behaviors and attitudes between them (and it goes both directions) is not always desirable.

I can't stop trying to anticipate the necessary intervention, even as their relationship ebbs and flows at its own rate.

So, in the end, the decision was all about me. I will need Noah to be in summer camp for a little bit here and there. And I feel much better now.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Long and Rambly Post That Never Had a Point

This weekend we celebrated our last birthday of the season.

Fritz insists that the German method of birthday celebrations is to have them in the morning, with cake for breakfast. Even after 8 years, I'm still not used to this. I secretly believe it might be a tradition unique to his family; because they LOVE eating cake for breakfast and they don't restrict cakes-at-breakfast to birthdays. As far as eating cake for breakfast goes, I can say a couple more things: 1) I DO like having my calories early in the day 2) Tiramisu cake makes a good cake for breakfasts 3) the Whole-Foods-Invented-In-Nearby-Aurora!-Tiramisu-Cake was not as good as the one that Fritz's mother makes. (And, no, she doesn't live in Aurora.) I'll give you her recipe someday.

I did, in fact, get a chance to spend some time alone this weekend. I cleaned the floors on my hands and knees. It was great. Really. It can be so frustrating to try to clean when the boys are around. When they are finally gone for a few hours, I have these tremendous bursts of energy and I am able and HAPPY to clean and clean and clean. I even pulled down our sheers/drapes/whatever-they-ares and washed them!

I have been quite busy starting little seedlings. The other day, Fritz asked me (seriously) if we should build a little greenhouse in the yard. I was flattered that he noticed my new hobby AND that he thought about supporting it. Not to be overly cynical, but I think the full window sills might be getting to him. In-the-Ground-Planting-Time in Denver is May 15th or Mother's Day, so there's still a month of full window sills. Speaking of mothers, my own mother is very curious about what I'm up to in the garden, so here we go. I understand how boring gardening can be, so feel free to bail out now.

This window sill actually looks orderly. They don't all look like this cute.
I have been working on the porch planters that my mother bought (and planted) for me last year. This planting business, never mind the shopping for the plants, is quite an investment! I'm very thankful for all her work last year. I'm learning a lot, and I suspect I will continue to learn a lot as the season progresses.

White Shasta Daisies (center, not blooming yet), Purple Verbena (filler, I think?, I hope?), Red Ranunculus, Vinca (vine)
These planters will spend some quality time in our living room if it looks frost in the next month. There are six planters altogether, I'm hoping to do one planter full of herbs, and one planter with Paris Market Carrots (just because the package says I can do that). I'm debating whether or not I'll stick some peppers in one or two. Seems like pepper plants are too big, but wouldn't it be cool to see some peppers in the middle of some flowers?


In the safe-to-plant-early category: we do have some sweet peas coming up. This is a new one for me. I was much inspired by Katie, who kindly gave me some of her heirloom golden peas.


Fritz has been awesome about rearranging all our drip lines to compensate for my garden tweaks from last year. I must confess, his enthusiasm and support have really given all my gardening efforts sticking power. Here's our list of veggies this year: Red Kuri Squash, Munchener Bier Radish, Carrots: Dragon and Paris Market, Oregon Sugar Pods, Golden Peas, Fennel, Sweet Salad Peppers, Tomatoes: Black Krim, Aunt Ruby's German Green, and Red and Yellow Pear Blend. Hmm. Now that I've written it all out, it sounds awfully ambitious.


The bamboo we planted in the giant deck planter is looking about the worst that it has ever looked. This is typical for bamboo, because it stays green all winter and looses all its leaves in the spring. Kind of strange.


Bamboo has a once-a-year 60 day growth period that is, purportedly, proceeded by the arrival of the new leaves. Well, here are the new buds/leaves:

Left: buds. Right: old, windswept leaves. The old leaves should fall off.
And here are a few culms pushing out of the ground:

Left: new culm. Right: new leaf.
Fritz loves to talk about how bamboo was used to execute people in ancient China because it grew so fast it went right through them. (I have no idea if this is true.) If true, it certainly wasn't the variety of bamboos we bought. (Yellow Groove, Rubro, Spectablis, Bissetii) They don't seem to be growing particularly fast. Then again, just after I took this photos, the temperature fell from the 70s and 80s into the 50s. Well, now, this whole bamboo thing is a big experiment, and if it's a failure, I will have learned. The Denver Zoo has some good information on their experiences growing cold hardy bamboo in Colorado. They suggest to postpone the culms from emerging as long as possible because they are very susceptible to frost. I'm just crossing my fingers that it stays warm....

It will be really fun if I can show you some dramatic before and after photos in a few months. I mean, that is why one plants bamboo, right? Patience, Ann, patience.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Kidded Out

As this week draws to a close, I'm feeling in need of some time alone. This weekend is already pretty full with activities. It doesn't bode well for my wish, but we shall see.



Here's a thought provoking read from der Spiegel: The Busy Life of a Prolific Sperm Donor to fight the weekend blog drought.

Monday, April 9, 2012

the Stilt House

Every spring, I start thinking about building the boys a treehouse. I would really like to do this. But as I've mentioned, our yard is pretty treeless. The trees we do have are no where near big enough to support a play house. Which partially explains why I went crazy when I saw this Haba Stilt House in the German Jako-o catalogue last year:
Mattias is having so much fun.

I really, really adore this house. I adore it so much that I'm pretty sure I couldn't design something much better myself. I love the non-rectilinarity of it. I love the primary colors. I love the fact that it looks like it's for children, as opposed to being a mini-version of an adult house. I love the use of the canvas tarp roof. I love the fact that it's wood and not plastic. I love the rope ladder, the flags, the tie downs, the bell with a cord to ring, the funny little door. I'd love it sitting in the yard of my conservatively colored house. Heck, I'd even love to hear the neighbors complain about it.

Noah would love sitting on the little porch where he could holler at greet the neighbors walking past our fence.

(Apparently, it comes in natural unfinished wood, so you could paint it any color you'd like.)
Jako-o didn't want me to publish their photos,
so I made these ARTWORK COLLAGES to show you how cool it is.

No, we're not getting it. First, because Jako-o doesn't ship to the US. Second, because it costs an outrageous amount of 2,500 euro ($3,300). To be honest with you, I THINK I could copy it pretty well. I THINK I could make it myself if I had the time and money to invest. But I don't.

So instead, I'm just showing it to you. So you, too, may pine over it.

I'm going to give you the link to this Stilt House and lots more photos. But it is rather tricky to get onto the website (i.e., they have some website ISSUES) so I'm going to give you rather explicit instructions for when you click on the link below:

  • A (Flash?) dialog box will open and tell you that can only Browse but Not Buy from the US. 
  • If you click on their orange box you will get stuck in a vicious cycle and never get to see anything. 
  • SO INSTEAD, click on the icon at the bottom right corner that says "Worldwide (in English)." 
  • By that point, you will have lost the link to the playhouse.
  • So, come back to THIS BLOG and click on the link ONE MORE TIME. This time the link should link you directly to the product. This may depend a little on how your cookies are set... but I think this will work for most people.*
  • You can drool over the Stilt House and thousands of other amazing German Children's Products:
  • (Some of my favorite items are the 'Designed by Parents, Made for Parents' items. There's no good way to get a list of all of them, but if you surf around, you should start noticing some items have a red tag stating 'Designed by Parents, Made for Parents.')
Jako-o Haba Stilt House

If you see any stilt play houses that are this cool in the US, will you please let me know? Because I'm just not finding anything comparable.


Also, see? I'm practically an ad for Jako-o and they aren't compensating me anything - and they wouldn't even let me show you their photos! (Good thing I'm such an extremely talented Ar-Teeest.) You're welcome, Jako-o.


*Alternatively, find this on the Jako-o website under (you'll still need to click on "Worldwide(in English)"):
Practical Things  
>Playing in the garden
>House on Stilts

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Segue - with less flow

Fritz shaved his head this morning (something he started about 4 months ago) and it plugged the drain in the bathroom.

"How can my little, short hairs plug the drain?" he asked. "It must be the combination of your long hair and my little, short hairs." He holds his fingers apart to convince me how innocuous the length of his hairs are.

Huh.

"I'm going to the store to buy Drano!" he announced.

I checked the drain and found a random piece of plastic under all his (little, short) hairs.

(Sometimes I mistakenly blame him for stuff, too.)

Is tyrannosaurus still fearsome if he has feathers?
Are the rubbery-skinned dinosaur toys about to become a collector's item?

Why do they call it an egg hunt when the eggs don't run away?

I titled this image RestHard. Hahaha.
There's nothing like a 654 page Waste-of-Trees to make me NEVER shop at Restoration Hardware again. Especially since this is the second year we have received something like this from them.

Huh.

I need to go pull it out of the recycle bin and cross my fingers that there are unsubscribe directions SOMEWHERE in there.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Eighteen Months

A few months after arriving in Denver in March of 2009, my friends in other corners of the world started asking me, "And? Are you making friends?" It was kind of hard to answer this question, because, of course, I wanted to say yes. I'd think about the woman I ran into twice at the playground. Was she my friend? I'd think about our next door neighbors with whom we always made small talk AND then they had invited us over for dinner. Were they our friends? Maybe we better hurry up and return that dinner invite, and THEN I could call them friends?

A lot of things were still unsettled about our life, and making new friends always strikes me as, well, quite difficult, to be honest.

I haven't really been ready to make new friends until about a year ago. That might sound terrible - but it's true. If you've ever talked to the therapist Mean Jean, then you know that it takes 18 months after major life changes (Moving. A Marriage. A Birth. A New Job. A Death.) to really process those changes. Eighteen months. Eighteen months sounds like an eternity at the beginning of any major change. And more often than not, it seems like we are in a terrible hurry to get through it. At the park the other day, one of my neighbors confided to me, "It took me almost eight months to get used to this neighborhood!" I thought about Mean Jean and I wondered what kind of effects being in a rush might have.

When you think about how many of us go through ALL of those major life changes in quick succession during our 20s and 30s, it's amazing that we manage to function at all.

Our last major change was buying our house in November 2011. That means, we're only 1 months away from being - well, processed, I suppose. I've posted about how I want to be settled and stop moving and how I want to have roots. Homeownership has does wonders for my sense of place, my sense of wanting to be settled and my actually feelings of being settled. This is all true. But what is also true is that, as we approach 'processed,' I've started to get the moving itch.

Some little fact can throw me a curve ball of desire to hurry up and move. Like the other day, when I heard that the Fritz's old university in Germany has established a fund specifically to financially help young families when one parent is traveling on business. Or the fact that Germany is considering a law that would give grandparents official family leave to help with grandchildren. And just in case you were wondering, the years that a parent spends as a SAHP count towards the equivalent of social security pay-in time in Germany. (I don't think anyone in either country believes social security is a retirement fund anymore; but I do find this gesture to be a significant difference in attitude about the value of parents.) This is information that causes my mind to run for the border. Because I immediately feel frustrated that these support networks and considerations are not an option for us. Then I start feeling a little resentful. Is this response self-centered? ABSOLUTELY.

I start thinking about how last month, Fritz was gone on business for 5 days, and the boys and I flew to Rhode Island where my parents live. This situation was a win-win, because that week happened to be Winter Break for my mother, meaning that she wasn't working. And instead of being the single parent, I sewed some new pants and plucked my eyebrows while grandma stepped into the mommy-role. Still: it's not cheap to fly across the country. It's also not cheap to hire a babysitter and find childcare when it's not something that you normally have. But the benefits of traveling to Rhode Island, should grandparents be available, are significantly greater than any babysitter.

There's something so <sigh> comforting about a government that recognizes the financial value of a parent. And maybe someday, it will come in some form of grandparent assistance. That's so wonderful, I thought, geez, let's move back to Germany.

Then I feel guilty. I think about everything that I have - everything that we are building and growing - slowly over time in Denver. I think how I should be happy and thankful for this opportunity. Optimistic, positive thoughts are not the first thoughts that come to my mind. I'm almost always a skeptic first and a rock of loyalty only with time.

The resulting problem with all the moving throughout my life is that there's always something to be improved - everywhere I've ever lived. The differences are tangible when you've experienced both sides. It's easy to dismiss those experiences that you've never had as insignificant or pie-in-the-sky. And it's not so easy when you have actually lived the difference.

On the other hand, I can finally say that I have friends here in Denver. I hadn't really processed the fact that I have friends until I found myself in Rhode Island. Their absence from my daily life made me sit up and take note. Well, hmm, I thought, I miss people! People who aren't my family! I guess I have friends!

And then Noah got an assignment for Kindergarten in the fall. I felt decidedly grounded when I saw his assignment letter. There it is. An elementary school for 6 years. If we stay in Denver just half of that time, it will be the longest I have ever lived anywhere.

Did I type 'grounded?' Or did I perhaps feel like a ball and chain was just attached to my foot? I folded up the letter and stuck it in the drawer. August is a long time away, I told myself.

Eighteen months. I always think that it takes about eighteen months to establish your traditions, too. The little things with all their particularity that carry momentum and accentuate everyday life: in Portland it was chocolate hazelnut scones at the Daily Cafe. You had to arrive before 7:30 am, or they were likely to be sold out. Unless you got the quarter-sized appetizers, delivered hot to your table with your early brunch. In Munich, it was 6 rolls from the Backspielhaus: thick crusted Sonnenblumesemmel (sunflower seed) and Kurbissemmel (pumpkin), with two chocolate croissants for dessert. After Noah was born, there were always Bretzln (pretzels) which we bought at the Biergarten, dragging the Kinderwagen over the crushed gravel, and carried to the playground with the water chutes and sand tables.

We have our own traditions developed here in Denver now, too. But perhaps I'll save them for another time.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Birthdays

Both the boys had birthdays this past week: Noah, 5, and Mattias, 2. We aren't big birthday celebrators. This year, in fact, was the first year that Noah had a party with his friends. It was also the first year that Noah did NOT celebrate with any of our extended family.

I don't know why it's been like this, but every year since Noah was born there have been other things happening at the same time. Things that have kept the peer interaction to a minimum. (My ACL and meniscus surgery (1), our cross atlantic move between Munich and Denver (2) , Mattias' birth (3), and a trip to Germany(4)). We've always managed to celebrate with some extended family, however.

This year, we really did miss our extended family.

In some sort of neurotic guilt trip for both the lack of family and all the years of peer-less parties, I began sewing 46 flag pennants to decorate with for the parties. Fritz calls them prayer flags. Which may be appropriate in this instance. Especially on our mind this year: prayers for our health. (Man, have we spent a lot of time sick this spring.) Prayers for the family we wouldn't be seeing. Mattias's birthday party was a small affair with just the four of us. Noah had 2 parties: a Home Birthday Party with friends (no photos, but he had a super time) and a party with the four of us (decidedly less exciting for him).

Monday, April 2, 2012

Alle Kochen mit Wasser (but there are still different results)

=Everybody Cooks with Water, German saying


A few weeks ago, one of my friends made these scones. I've gone through a lot of scone recipes over the years and this one is my favorite ever. I can not stop making these scones! (I, personally, like substituting chocolate chips and dried cranberry for the raisins. )

[photo removed]

I think what makes this recipe so great is NOT the ingredients, per se, but the instructions. Grating frozen butter? Really? Yes, it's fantastic! The dough is usually still quite cold when I stick it in the oven. Second, I'm a big fan of the wedge shaped scones and I think this recipe has the secret: use a sharp knife to cut the dough. Ah ha! Even my particular German in-laws were quite taken by these scones. We rewrote the recipe in grams so that they could take it home with them. (But again, I really think it's the instructions that make all the difference.)

Also, Simply Bike has been doing a really wonderful series on bilingual families. I've really enjoyed learning about how other families are raising their children with two (or more) languages. I've also appreciated some of the insights about their struggles. From my perspective, sometimes being a bilingual family can feel pretty lonely. The pressure to conform to the linguistic environment is immense. (I can certainly relate to being treated as an aggressor, even if we are both speaking our native language!) I suggest checking out the series, especially if this is something you are doing.