Thursday, December 15, 2011

German Zahnartzt = Terrifying

Imagine walking into an office, laying down onto your back, and someone covering your face with a thick green cloth with only one small slit. That slit is for your mouth. No one talks to you, except to say "Auflassen" (as in, "Keep your mouth open"). Then they spray your mouth with a strong smelling unidentified substance, and your gums, tongue, and lips go numb. Next comes the whizzing and whirring of various instruments that dive into and out of your mouth. Your lips are dry, but no closing your mouth, no rinsing until it's all over.

This was my first teeth cleaning in Germany, and it was as terrifying as you might imagine a German dentist to be. I should first clarify that I have never had a problem going to the dentist. Doesn't stress me out or make me uncomfortable, and I have had plenty of drilling down on my cavity-prone teeth. Now I am scarred for life.

When I was finally allowed to rinse there was obviously blood in my mouth. I floss - my gums don't normally bleed. They did not offer me a tissue to wipe off my face where water and toothpaste and whatever else had sprayed me (the slit moved a little - and there was stuff spraying everywhere). I really don't know exactly what they did, except clean my teeth German-style.

Hey Baby! What's your sign?

Simon has been talking up a storm lately. Especially animals. He loves his animals. When he stacks his blocks, he first find the side with the animal and tells me what it is.

So, he's not actually using his voice - but rather baby sign language to communicate. He knows over 40 words, at least half of which are animals. I remember the first time he did a sign back to me. He said "please" asking for more more crackers on a flight from Mozambique to Jo'berg. Once he realized that we could actually communicate this way, he picked up words pretty quickly. If I were a better teacher I am sure he would know double or triple the signs.

Sometimes we improvise . For example, I didn't know the sign for skunk - on one of his blocks - so we came up with one ourselves. (Pinch your nose and saw "ewwww.") Or when Uncle Ti came for Thanksgiving, he made a sign for himself. (Flex your muscles - that's Ti!). Whenever Simon sees the picture of Ti in the hallway, he flexes his muscles!

Signing has been fantastic for us. Simon is able to communicate most of his needs - more, milk, water, eat, help - along with learning good manners (please, thank you). It has definitely made life easier for both of us.

Interested in learning more. Here's the book we used, although  I am sure there are many great resources out there.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Par le vous...??

I just came back from a weekend away with 2 girlfriends. No babies, no boys, just us ladies and the lovely town of Antibes, France. It was simply dreamy! We ate fantastic food, including lamb that slid right off the bone and pastries that were sinfully divine. We made a great traveling trio, all moving at the same pace and interested in the same things (food!). We shopped, we ate, we ate, we shopped, we played games while sipping tea or absinthe.

It was a much needed break for all of us mamas. At one point my friend Maha asked if we were thinking about our little ones back home, and Barbara and I looked at other - "Nope!" was our immediate and unapologetic response. I needed this break, and for 48 hours I was happy not to worry about diapers or meals or naps or bedtimes. It's rare I get to take time for myself, so I took it!

And now I know I'm back in Germany as I walk by the bakery without a second glance. That could never happen in France.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Oh what a week!

A week ago tonight I was in turkey-induced coma, eating pumpkin cookies, and watching football. Now, on Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, I just returned from another turkey celebration, and indeed ate more pumpkin cookies. I feel so lucky to have so many people her to celebrate with so far from home. Better said, this place is starting to feel a lot like home...

Celebrating Thanksgiving at Maha's place.
But what I wanted to tell you about was this fantastic week I had, packed between 2 turkey-filled Sundays.

On Wednesday night I went to a concert in Eindhover, the Netherlands. Nevermind that the navi was on crack and I was essentially circling my destination in the fog, I rocked out to Katzenjammer with a few friends from Ddorf. These 4 Norwegian chics are fabulous musicians and gifted performers. They put on a great show.

Of course I got home a bit late and was soooo sleepy when I heard Simon the next morning. Here's where my week got even better. Farmor was there to take care of Simon! I got to sleep in and then meet friends in the city for breakfast. It was the first time my friend Eva and I hung out without our children in tow. Heavenly!

The next morning I slept in again - and so did Martin. He took the day off so we could head to Brussels for a night away from our beautiful bambino. (More here.)

And now we are back to today, Sunday, and my turkey-induced stupor. What a great week!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Romantic Brussels

I was giddy with excitement not only to see a new European city, but to do so without a child in tow. After our road trip to Italy in October, I have begun to realize that it's going to be tougher traveling with Simon for a while. He's no longer content to just sit back in the stroller and take in the sights. So, we left him at home with Farmor.

We stayed at X2Brussels, a gorgeous B&B centrally located in Brussels. We checked in, asked for a lunch recommendation, and were out the door. We cozied up at a little bistro and had an incredible meal of typical Flemish stew and local Belgian brews.

The only problem with our happy bellies is that we had eaten a late lunch, and were very much looking forward to an equally delicious dinner. That means we weren't in the snacking mood, which is a shame when every 2nd shop is selling chocolate and looks amazing. Of course I did not say no to free samples.

We wandered through the streets. For such a short trip we just wanted to experience the city, not worry about hitting any major tourist sites, etc. So we headed to Moeder Lambic to sample the local selection. We each had something that we had never heard of, and loved it.

We headed back out into the city where we discovered the most beautiful carousels I have ever seen. It was the only moment I wished Simon was with us - because I am too big to ride the carousel. They were incredibly artistic and imaginative. What really irked me though, is that they were the same price as the carousels at the Düsseldorf Christmas markets which are, simply said, sheiße. It just didn't same fair. I want those carousels. Maybe next year.

For dinner we headed to a typical Belgian cafe, Spinnekopke. This was one of the best meals I have ever head. Ever. It was the coq spinnekopke, chicken stewed in a beer sauce. It was perfect. I would go back just for that. Enough said.

It was a great time to visit Brussels, alive with Christmas spirit. It kept us plenty entertained for 24 hours and we ate way too much good food. But most of all it was nice to just hang out with my husband, have adult conversation, and not worry about anything other than ourselves. We knew Simon was in good hands with Farmor, so we really enjoyed out time alone together. Next week? Who wants to come watch Simon?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gobble, gobble!

When I walked in to get Simon after he woke up from his nap this afternoon, he did his usual flurry of signs, pointing out animals in the room. Then he flexed his big muscles and yelled "Ti!" and looked around for his uncle Ti. I hated to be the one to break the news that Ti and Lena were on a train headed back home. I think he was disappointed after such a great weekend.

This weekend has been a year in the making. After learning that my Dutch cousin Lena had never celebrated Thanksgiving (her mother is American!), I felt strongly that this had to be remedied. And so the wheels were set in motion...

Their visit was also perfectly timed with the opening of the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) here in Düsseldorf. So the first night we spent under the sparkling Christmas lights, taking in the aroma of bratwursts, reibekuchen, and glühwein. It's such a fun time of year here - it's festive and the food options seem to be limitless.

Sunday finally rolled around and we got to work with the turkey. I should say that I am usually simply a Thanksgiving consumer, not used to being involved in the preparation. So in some ways, it was my first Thanksgiving too! I wanted to keep it simple, so we did turkey drumsticks, mashed sweet potatoes, a goat cheese and pomegranate salad, and Martin did the stuffing. For dessert - pumpkin cookies, of course! Needless to say the meal was delicious. If we use Ti to measure the deliciousness, I think the fact that he had 4ths is a very good sign.

First Thanksgiving for all!
What we had been telling Lena and Ti about Thanksgiving, was that it's very relaxed and mostly involves eating and sitting on the couch watching football. In this relaxed spirit, we introduced out own tradition of wearing sweatpants! It was a huge success, and I think it should be a part of everyone's Turkey Day tradition.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Oops...ER Again!

Yup! Simon's 2nd ER visit in less than a month, 3rd for the family in just over a month. Simon was holding a glass measuring cup that he had dug out of the cupboards in his hands when he fell. Of course it shattered in his hands, with hangs landing in the shattered glass. Pretty soon his hands were covered in blood, and it was difficult to figure out where it was coming from (because it had multiple sources.)

I tend to be a pretty relaxed parent - and I was then, as well. But as I covered his biggest gash with a paper towel and noticed that it immediately soaked through the whole towel, I figured maybe it needed some medical attention. I called Pappa at work, who ran out of a meeting in a panic that his son's hands were completely sliced up.

With Pappa already on his way home, I finally got Simon to the sink where I could really clean him up. There were a number of small cuts, and one that definitely seemed a little deep. I wasn't sure that it needed stitches, but I also wasn't sure that there wasn't glass in there.

This all took place at 11:30am, lunch time followed by nap time in Simon's world. I was worried about taking him to the ER where there could be a wait if he was hungry, tired, and injured. So I put a bandaid on and fed him lunch while we waited for Pappa. Then we walked to the hospital that is 2 blocks away. Twenty minutes later we were seen by the doctor. Simon watched intently as the doctor pinched his cuts and dug into the big one with a tweezers, checking for glass. No glass, not stitche, and no tears either! He got a ridiculously large bandage, which I thought he deserved. The finger hasn't bothered him since and seems to be healing well.

We are hoping to take a long sabbatical from ERs for a while.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Last Stop - die Schweiz

I was very excited about our last destination before finally heading back to Germany. And not just because of Switzerland's magical landscape, breathtaking mountains, delicious chocolate, and abundance of cheese. We were going to visit the Bühlmann's, the family I stayed with for 3 months when I finished high school.

And I was not disappointed. Our drive in was beautiful. From Luzerne (where we had lunch) to Berne we took back roads through small villages, with the late afternoon sun reflecting off the luscious green hills, wet from a quick afternoon rain. And when we arrived at Willadingweg (great name!!) I was greeted by Swiss parents, and it all seemed so suddenly familiar. In true Swiss fashion, we feasted on fondue that night, gorging on bread and hot bubbly cheese. 
Eating fondue with Ueli and Trix.

The next day Martin, Simon and I headed out to explore. I wasn't sure how much I would remember about the city. Things were familiar, but in no way did I know my way around. Back in 1998, 3 months seemed like SO LONG, and now when I think about it, it was not long at all. Regardless, we enjoyed walking along Aare River, with it's clear blue waters inviting us to come back in warmer weather. We walked all the way to the city, enjoyed some hot chocolate, and gawked at the extremely high costs of everything in Switezerland. WOW!

Then we headed home to meet Ueli and head out for a drive in the hills. We drove to their beautiful summer lake house, through small villages, over covered bridges (well, under the cover), and had some amazing views of the Matterhorn and Jungfrau mountains. A light layer of clouds rested at their base, making it look like these majestical mountains were floating on air. (Managed not to take any pics.)

For dinner that night - raclette! More cheese - this time with potatoes. A great meal to go out on.

We headed out the next morning - destination Düsseldorf. Always sad when vacation ends, but it was different this time. Now, vacation doesn't just mean getting to check out cool places (like Italy!), but spending time together as a family. It's hard to fit it all in with busy work schedules and no family nearby to watch Simon for an hour here and there. Being on vacation felt good because we were a family - all day, every day. Can't wait for our next vacation!

All vacation pics here.


I won't lie. It was sad to say goodbye to Tuscany, but we left knowing we'd be back someday. And it was cloudy - that always helps. Onward to Milano! By Milan, I mean the Sheraton at the airport. Literally next to Terminal 1. Sounds unexciting, but Uncle Magnus was there - so REALLY exciting!

It was a work day, so we were only able to see Magnus and his girlfriend Olof for a few hours over dinner. But the stop was so worth it. Simon loves spending time with family whenever possible, which isn't all that often. So he took a nap before dinner so he was on his best behavior and ready for a late night (10:30!!).

I think they look happy to see each other. :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ciao Toscana!

The drive from Verona to Tuscany was beautiful. The hills between Bologna and Florence were a lush green, and my anticipation for arriving in Tuscany was growing. We were headed for Al Gelso Bianco, in the town of Barberino right between Florence and Siena. As we passed Florence and got closer to our destination, the hills rolled more gently, lined with olive trees and vineyards.

We finally arrived, got settled into our apartment, and checked out our new place for the next 5 days. It is a functioning vineyard that produces Chianti wine, in addition to grappa, and their own olive oil. The olive trees were gorgeous (now I understand the color olive green - duh!) and there were even olives on the tree. I had never seen that before. In just a few weeks they will start olive oil production, with wine season just ending a few weeks ago.

At dinner that night I ordered the full menu, 5 courses of traditional Tuscan food. Delicious! Including papardelle noodles with wild boar sauce and some kind of veal. Simon liked it too!

We spent the next days exploring new places - Siena, San Gimigiano, Montereggioni, Florence, Greve, Montefioralle, Panzano. Each place was unique and beautiful. And the food was outstanding. I loved the pici - a really fat spaghetti type noodle that is common in that region. I also loved the ribollita, a Tuscan bread and bean soup that is the perfect comfort food. For sweets - of course the gelato is fabulous. In San Gimigiano we even got to try some from the 2-time gelato World Champs - it warranted seconds. My other favorite sweets was the bakery - everything in it. They were so beautiful and full of beautiful and delicious snacks. I can't remember what my favorite one was called. Guess I'll have to go back and jog my memory.

As always, traveling with Simon presented its challenges. While we traveled quite a bit this summer, months had passed and it's always a new game with kids at this age. From the very beginning we let go of any semblance of a routine and tried our best to feel out how he was doing and what he needed. We went out to dinner the first 6 nights of the trip - which meant eating late and staying up late - and he took it like a champ. He slept in the car, slept in the stroller, slept in the backpack - just slept when he could. And when he wasn't sleeping he was loving Italy. The food is perfect for a toddler - and the people love little bambinos. There was lots of cheek pinching, playing peekaboo, and just general goodwill towards Simon. He played on many restaurant floors (he loved the big baskets of corks that every restaurant seemed to have) and no one ever seemed to think he was in the way. This made meals with him a lot more enjoyable for Martin and I, as well. Overall he did great, but that doesn't mean that it was easy.

We were so sad to be leaving Tuscany. We actually stayed a day longer than initially planned, continuously shifting our itinerary around. As we left Tuscany, however, we really had something to look forward to - dinner with Farbror (Uncle) Magnus. He was working on an assignment in Milan - which was right on the way to Berne, Swizterland, where we needed to be by Thursday. Perfect timing!

Pics from the whole trip here.

Is this really Italy?

Next on our itinerary was Castelrotto, Italy in the Dolomites mountain range. This was my first time in Italy - so exciting! But not nearly as exciting as I had hoped.

Not long before our trip, I learned that this region of Italy is a German-speaking, formerly part of the Tirol region of Austria. Culinary inclinations follow the Germanic heritage as well. What?!? We were in Italy, still speaking German and looking menus with the same food as back home? Martin kept saying, "When we get to Italy..." and I had to remind him that we were already in Italy. It definitely didn't feel like it.

But the beautiful mountains made up for it. We got in 2 days of hiking. Day 1 we took the gondola up to hike on the Alpe di Siusi, Europe's largest high alpine meadow which offered gorgeous views and the hiking was reasonable for hiking with a kiddo strapped to your back. Day 2 we hiked at lower elevation, but still had great views and fabulous lunch at a Hütte just at the base of the mountains. We don't even know what one of the dishes we ate was called - we just pointed at someone else's plate. I just know that it was covered in powdered sugar and it was delicious!

Simon enjoying a snack.
After our days hiking in the Dolomites we headed toward Lago di Garda (real Italy), the region where Martin's grandfather was from. We visited the beautiful village of Sirmione at the southern tip of the lake. It was a great place to visit, but very touristy so we decided to move on rather than spend the night there. We were so happy we did! We spent the night in Verona and really enjoyed our evening and morning there. It was a beautiful city in which to simply walk the streets, we ate some delicious pizza, and after hitting a few of the sites (Juliet's balcony!) we were on the road headed to Tuscany!

Pics from the whole trip here

Neuschwanstein Castle

Our first destination for our trip was Füssen, Germany, home to the Neuschwanstein Castle. This castle is famous because Disney it was the inspiration for the castle in Sleeping Beauty, and later the Disney Castle itself.

We arrived on a beautiful Sunday afternoon and explored a bit, taking a walk down by the lake and taking in the magnificent mountain views. We could see the castle on the hill just outside town, and were excited to see it the next day.

Unfortunately, Monday morning we woke up to rain and clouds. No magical views, and not a great day for traipsing around, but we didn't really plan on coming back to Füssen any time soon. So we headed off.

Even if you take the bus to visit the castle, there's no way around lots of walking. So with Simon on Martin's back, we got out our umbrellas and braved the rain. We took a short tour of the castle, and checked out the view from the bridge behind the castle. Simon stayed dry and happy - reading his Goodnight Minnesota book that never left his side during the trip.

It was a really neat place to visit - and I am sure even more so when the weather is nice. It was not an easy place to visit - a great example of German inefficiency...but I won't bore you with all that.

Pics from the whole trip here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Das Krankenhaus

If you ever wake up in the middle of the night with stabbing pain in your chest and trouble breathing, go to the hospital. I learned this valuable bit of wisdom this past week after finally going to the ER after 24 hours of pain and discomfort. It started early Sunday morning, and on Monday morning, I knew I couldn't wait another day to visit my regular doctor - so off to the Krankenhaus.

We got to the ER where it was quiet and orderly, and we were seen right away. After multiple tests and xrays and poking and prodding, the doctor announced that I had pneumonia and I must be hospitalized. I really thought that hospitalization seemed drastic, as I was moving about ok, and pain had significantly subsised. But they finally convinced me that's where I needed to be - mostly because I wanted to recover quickly so we could head out on our vacation at the end of the week.

Simon visiting his mama in the hospital.
The first day I really felt bad, so I was ok being at the hospital and having some peace and quiet. But day 2 I felt pretty good, so it was just really annoying. But Martin came to visit, a friend brought me magazines and suduko, so I managed alright. When I talked to the doctor on Tuesday morning (day 2), he thought I would get out on Thursday. But that afternoon I asked to nurses to please ask if I could be released the following day. And after a heart ultrasound (so cool to see your own heart!) I was released on Wednesday.

With me being sick and Martin missing work, we decided to delay our trip until Sunday (supposed to leave Friday). We spent Saturday afternoon with some friends at a children's play cafe, and Simon fell on his chin, with one of his top teeth knocking a bottom tooth out of place. There was some crying and bleeding, but it looked ok. However, we didn't want to start out our vacation worrying about this loose tooth. So Sunday morning, we packed the car up for our vacation, and stopped by the ER (yup - 2 times in one week!) where they took a look at Simon's tooth. No big deal! They said it looked fine and we had nothing to worry about. we come!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Learning Deutsch

August 29, 2011
Last January, I discovered that they had Kinderbetreuung (childcare) for German classes at the Volkshochschule (VHS) (community college~ish). I was soooo excited. I called to register only to find out the kiddos have to be over 18 months. I then set my sights on Fall 2011 (yup - Simon is 18 months!). All summer I  have been anticipating finally delving into the language and doing something for myself. This is just what I need!

Yesterday was the first day of testing and registration at VHS. I entered and spoke to one of the instructors who gave me a placement exam to take. I struggled my way through it, as German grammar never stuck too well and I haven't really cared if I it should be ruhige or ruhigen. Same difference.

Upon completion, I went up to another instructor to review my exam. Reading comprehension - excellent! Grammar - not very good! Another grammar section - even worse! Writing section - excellent! "Das passt nicht - This doesn't fit," the instructor told. He said that I should go down a level so that I can focus on grammar, even though my comprehension and speaking seem to be a bit higher (not great - just higher). He got out the course book, and just as he made his recommendation I told him that I needed one of the courses that had childcare. That's when my world came crashing down.

OK. Yes. This may sound a little dramatic. And it was. For me. I watched as the instructor registered the disappointment on my face. And if it wasn't clear, I am pretty sure he got the picture when I kind of turned my head and loudly said "FUCK!!!" Sorry, it was necessary. He seemed to understand. I was devastated.

August 30, 2011
I was talking to my friend Maha about my extreme disappointment regarding the German class. There was so little time to try to figure out another arrangement for childcare - I didn't know what to do. Then she offered to take Simon during my classes. WOW! So great to have amazing friends. I felt bad - I know it's a lot to ask (but she offered!). Then I remember how they always tell moms never to say no to help. I get very little help - so saying no did not sound like a good option. I know that this is something I really need for myself - after living 15 months in a German-speaking country I feel like an idiot for not speaking better. I don't know how I'll pay her back - but I'll try!

September 5, 2011
Registered for class today. It's official - I start Monday!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Summer

It's not as hard to say goodbye to someone you don't know very well. You probably won't miss them, think about them longingly, remembering those good 'ol times. That's how I feel about this summer. This summer, I wore pants nearly every day, I had rain gear with me at all times, and I often found myself looking for a sweatshirt rather than pealing off the layers. And if I were German, I would have worn a scarf pretty much every day. It's sad, but true.

All bundled August!

Maybe I'm mistaken. Maybe I don't need to say goodbye at all. Maybe Summer simply forgot about us - passed us by, and was never here. Maybe he lingered over the US where he dropped a badass heatwave. It's not heat I'm looking for, and not necessarily all sunshine. It's an occasionally dry playground, a bit of warmth in the air, the chance to maybe go to the pool, and, well, yes a little bit of sunshine and warmth.

So Mr. Summer, could you please come next year and bring Mr. Sunshine with you? We are nice people and our kids really love the summer. I want to teach my son that the sky is blue - not gray. Is that too much to ask? I hope not.

P.S. If it's not too much to ask, could you ask Autumn to be extra gentle this year. Or maybe you could tag along and give us a little bit of a late summer - just for a week or so? That would be AWESOME! Thanks.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

And we're back...

The last 5 weeks have been jam packed - 3 trips to 4 different countries. Having just gotten back from Sweden on Sunday, it's hard to believe that I was in Cape Town only a month ago. And in between we squeezed in a trip to see friends in Austria.

Simon helping with the chores in Torsby.
All of the trips were fabulous - lots of time with family, friends, meeting new people. But it was also a lot of work! Traveling with a baby, especially on your own, is a lot of work (Martin was with only in Sweden). Simon is a great traveler and I can't really think of one time during all of this where he was fussy or difficult, but still, I had to take care of him. Even when other were there to help, his aunt and grandma couldn't get enough of him in South Africa, it's still a lot to keep track of.

That said, I highly recommend traveling with the kiddos. As much as Simon was a lot of work, he also wasn't at all. He's young enough that we were able to just bring him along on whatever we did, and not worry about if he was bored; kind of like a high maintenance accessory. The great part about Simon at this age is that he is really engaged in his world and absorbing all the time. So while he may not remember seeing lions and giraffes, I know these trips have had an impact on him. It has been so good for him to spend so much time with family, experience new environments, and meet new people.

As a new parent, I think being flexible has been one of the most important things to learn and remember. Life changes in all sorts of crazy ways - ways that no one can prepare you for until you become one. While your old life isn't over, you do have to navigate this new life of yours, that no longer seems to be yours alone. So you can still travel, you just have to be flexible and change your expectations of what it will be like. It's still pretty great! (Working on separate posts for each trip - coming soon!)

Ok. I did the posts and backdated them - so they are all previous to this post.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sweet, Sweet, Sweden

I am no longer the picky eater I was a child, but going to Sweden can sometimes make me feel like that kid again, begging for chicken fingers and fries. Gravad lax, herring, dill and cream – just not in tune with my palate. But the sweets? The treats? That’s another story. I have grown to love some delicious Swedish sweets that I overindulge in every time I visit.

Luckily, Swedes have built sweets into a formal part of their day. Fika, an afternoon tradition of coffee and cake, is a common practice for most Swedes. When I’m there, I tend to have fika morning noon and night, but I figure I’m making up for all those missed fikas when I’m not there. My favorites? Princess torta is my true obsession (you can get it at Wuollet’s in MN for those of you in the land of 10,000 lakes). A great morning treat – kanel bulle or kardumumma bulle (cinnamon or cardamom rolls). On a hot Swedish day (ok – oxymoron – more like just a great treat) - mjukglass. It’s just softserve ice cream, like Dairy Queen, but I have always had a soft spot for softserve (hehe), and there’s no DQ in Germany. I love it. For my official fika, I might take a choklad biskvi. I especially like the ones they sell at the COOP in Djursholm, but I can’t figure out why they are different. So delicious…Can’t wait to go back.

But enough about food. That’s not what this trip was about. In fact, we decided to go to Sweden this summer so that we could spend some time with Simon’s great grandfather (Nonno - Martin’s morfar) at their cabin in Torsby, Sweden. Nonno is 87 years old, and a truly amazing man, for many reasons. After turning 50, he competed in the Vasaloppet 12 times (90 km cross-country ski race). Every two weeks, he takes care of his wife (Nonna), who spends the other 2 weeks in a nursing home. He doesn’t like eating in restaurants because he doesn’t trust the food. But also, he’s 87, still drives himself 5+ hours to their cabin, and then works his butt off to keep the place up.

So Martin, Simon and I were there to help. Of course, with Simon there it was more like Martin was there to help. I laid in the grass with Simon and read a book in 2 days, which felt really good. It had been a LONG time since I had done that. 

I digress. Martin and Nonno spent the better part of 3 days mowing the lawn, raking, and mowing the lawn again, as it had been 2 months since anyone had been at the cabin. Nonno, who has a bum knee and walks with hand crutches, could also be seen climbing a ladder to the roof, crouching under the riding lawn mower, raking grass, or manning the trimmer (which he eventually forbade Martin to do). 

But it wasn’t all just work. Nonno got to play and bond with his great-grandson – and they both seemed to love every minute of it. They even shared a first experience – eating their first smore together.

We actually fit quite a lot into this trip, as Torsby was not the only part. We met up with an old Mac friend at his family’s summer house in the Swedish archipelago, hung out with some of Martin’s old childhood friends, and got to see Martin’s siblings (and Simon’s cousins) in Stockholm. Even though we usually don’t have a lot of time to spend with people when we visit Stockholm, it means a lot to reconnect face-to-face for even just a couple of hours. It makes it seem like we don’t live so far away, like our lives aren’t so disconnected.

In so many ways, this was a really, really sweet trip. We hope to do it again next year.

Pics here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ignorance is bliss

Normally, I am not so sure I adhere to the notion that ignorance is bliss – but in this case it really worked to my advantage. When my friend Eva told me she and he daughter Ella (Simon’s buddy) were going to be staying with her in-laws in Austria for a month, we agreed that we needed to come up with a plan to see each other during that time. So Simon and I bought our tickets to Klagenfurt, Austria knowing it would be great to see Eva and Ella.

Sand and swim at the Worthersee
We had gotten back from South Africa only a week before, so things had been pretty busy and hectic. And when you are going to visit a friend, you don’t really worry about what you are going to do and all that. I knew there was a  lake, but I didn’t really know too much else about where we were going. This made for a fantastic surprise on my flight as I looked out the window to see beautiful jagged peaks, some still with snow. Eventually a long and blue-green lake appeared – the Worthersee. Home for the next 4 days – woohoo!

Klagenfurt is an outdoors person’s paradise. A beautiful, clean lake for swimming in the summer, surrounded by mountains for hiking and biking in the summer, and skiing in the winter. No wonder Eva was going for a month. I wish I could have stayed for 2!
A little the right...

We spent our days watching the Ironman (always inspirational), swimming at the beach, taking a boat ride the length of the Worthersee (17 km), and hanging out in the beautiful garden of her in-laws. (They keep bees!! Respect!) We were there on the 4th of July, so I honored the occasion by making smores, although we had to get creative. We had no fire, no gas stove, and no microwave. So we put them in the oven until they were big and puffy and then scraped them onto some crackers to make the smores. It was a great effort.

Now I am trying to figure out how I can make a living in Klagenfurt. Or maybe I will just reitre there.

Pics here.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Road Trip! - My Blended Family (Part 2)

aOne of the joys of not planning a trip, is that everything feels like a surprise. While Rebecca had diligently planned the trip and sent us great itineraries, I didn't really always know what to expect. I might know where we were going, but not what was there. Port Elizabeth was the beginning of our Road Trip, making our way (over 4 days) along the Garden Route to Cape Town! (I mapped it in google maps if you want to check it out!)

First stop: Schotia Safari Game Reserve. I was giddy! I was about to see real live giraffes and lions and warthogs! We got there at 3 in the afternoon on a chilly, overcast day. Given the weather we wisely chose the safari truck with windows, rather than totally open. Simon was snugly attached to my chest on the Ergo, where he couldn't move around but he could see everything that was going on, including the animals. Our drive started off a bit slow, although we didn't really know it. We saw a water buffalo (probably not a water buffalo, but that's what I'm calling it) and we all took tons of photos of this one single animal. We thought it was really cool. Gradually we saw big groups of different animals, antelope types, and that was more exciting. We saw some warthogs with their little warthog babies and they were so cute! Maybe it's the Lion King effect, but I really loved them. We saw some zebras - now it was starting to feel a bit more exotic! Then we stopped for dinner and had a great meal and warmed ourselves by the big, open fire.

Back into our safari truck for our night drive. Our driver had the beam flashing, and Mary with her incredible eye for animals spotted some giraffes in the dark. It was exciting, but of course in the dark we couldn't really see that much. Simon quickly fell asleep on my chest, so I was relieved not to have to worry about a screaming child disturbing everyone's safari - or the animals. Things quickly got exciting when we saw a lion lounging by the side of the road. It was soooo close, and just sat there, totally unphased by our huge beam light. We watched for a while, and then moved on to find mama lion with her 5 cubs chewing on a warthog head. It was AMAZING!! Totally unbelievable. The next morning got even better with clear blue skies and sunlight - we saw it all. A lion regally perched on a hillside roaring his morning roar. We found mama and the cubs still dragging around that poor warthog head. We saw lions and zebras hanging out. And we saw rhinos!! And by 10 o'clock the next morning, we were moving on.

We checked out elephants at Addo National Park, and then moved on to Storms River where we took a hike at Tsitsikamma National Park. We continued along the coast to the town of Wilderness, where we stayed at a beautiful B&B and wished we had longer to explore. However, Cape Town was next and we had a long drive ahead of us.

Our big stop on the way was passing through Oudtshoorn which is famous for its ostrich farms. I was not convinced that I was going to ride one, until I saw the look on Marie's face when the ostrich took off with her on its back. She was laughing so hard at the pure preposterousness of the situation that I knew I couldn't miss out. And it really was a highlight of the trip because it was so ridiculous and you felt so precarious with your legs tucked under their wings and it just running around in circles...You must try if you get the chance. (And Simon was really cute because he cried as soon as he saw me get on and stopped when I got off - he was worried about his mama!)

Yup. Riding an ostrich.

We arrived late in Cape Town to a beautiful house right on the water. We spent the next five days at Table Mountain, Cape Point, visiting the African Penguins in Simons Town, touring South African vineyards, and grilling LOTS of meat at our house. (If you know the Mazwi's, you get the idea.)

By the end of our trip, we really were a blended family. We have fantastic memories - and more importantly relationships - that will last a lifetime. Mike and Simon are even planning on grabbing a drink on Simon's 21st birthday (we won't mention how old Mike will be). We hope to make this into something we can do regularly all over the globe!

My Blended Family (Part 1)

You might be wondering, how did this great trip to Mozambique and South Africa come about? Well, it comes down to my blended family. My sister Marie's husband Khiza is originally from Zimbabwe. A close family friend from Zim was getting married in Mozambique, so the Mazwi clan decided to make into a big, blended family trip! All families were invited (i.e. - sister of sister-in-law) relational distinctions are unimportant - we're all family! I have tried to illustrate it below.

Simon was so excited to see his Aunt Marie and Uncle Khiza - whom he hadn't seen in just over a year - since he was just an itty bitty guy. We all reunited in the Jo'berg airport and managed to get everyone and all our luggage checked through to Mozambique. Let the adventures begin!

We spent 5 days in Vilanculos at Archipelago Resort. It was winter there, so the days were short, and the weather was pleasant but not too warm. The Mazwi's reconnected with old friends from Zim, and the rest of us made new friends. The highlight was definitely the boat ride to some of the big, sandy islands in Bazaruto National Park. On board were 2 babies and no life jackets, but the waters inside the reef weren't too rough, and the rocking waters and humming motors lulled the little ones to sleep. Some opted for a snorkeling trip (including 5 month-old-Hanna), which turned out to be a bigger (and not so welcome) adventure. We headed out to large swells at 2 mile reef, and when the driver said "hop in," we did, but quickly realized this was not the safest situation. Marie and I agreed to just hold hands the whole time, if not we would lose each other within 10 seconds. We often couldn't find the boat among the large swells, and were relieved when they rounded us all up and headed back to the island.

So while the snorkel trip was a bit of a bust, the following picnic lunch was not. I would show you pics, but I lost my camera on the last day of the whole trip. :(

The day after the wedding (we were there for a wedding - Mazwi family friends) we headed back to the airport for a full day of travel to get to Port Elizabeth, where our South Africa adventures began. (See next post.)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Castles along the Rhein

One of the best things about living in Düsseldorf is its central location in Europe. Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Berlin - they're all just around the corner. This weekend we took advantage of a long weekend to explore a beautiful part of Germany known as the Mittelrhein, a UNESCO world heritage site covering 45 miles of the Rhein valley. Around each bend it seems another stunning castle appears, and below a quaint German village.

View from above Boppard.
We stayed in the small village of Boppard, and spent the first day hiking through the hills and taking a chair lift to a scenic overlook. Pappa was definitely more nervous on the chairlift than Simon. The next day we took a 2 hour boat ride along the Rhein, from Bacharach to Boppard, and got to see the castles from the river and enjoy some beautiful sunshine! Simon was sick the whole trip - but he didn't let that get in the way. We were home by 5:30 on Saturday - it was just an overnight trip, but it was perfect!

Family photo!
Pics here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

May 10th

May 10th was Simon's due date, so technically Simon just turned one again celebrating his adjusted age birthday. It was an excuse to bake chocolate chip cookies and share them with friends at our regular Tuesday meetup.

Now, let me be clear that it was not a shameless plot to get more attention for Simon and have another party, it's actually kind of a big deal. To me, that is. This first year, it definitely is another milestone. It feels like I can just let go and let Simon be his real age. But for me, his mother, May 10th will always be the date he missed by 11 weeks. My spring baby born in winter.

You look at Simon now, and there is nothing preemie about him. He is bigger than some kids his real age, and definitely looks like any other one-year-old out there. So in a sense - it's over. He doesn't need any special preemie care or doctor appointments any more, he's just like any other kid.

But the thing is, for me, it will never be over. I don't mean that in the sense of his development - I agree he's just like any kiddo his age. It's just that it was a big deal. It happened to me. It was my baby that came early, that couldn't stay in there any longer, that laid in a hospital for 45 days and spent EVERY NIGHT alone, without his mother. 

For me, May 10th will always be a day when I think of Simon and how lucky we are that things have turned out the way they have. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

In honor of Mother's Day yesterday, pappa and Simon prepared a little scavenger hunt around the house with a prize at the end. I was very surprised and excited, running around trying to figure out the clues - and get to the end of course. Nearly every clue included a picture of Simon. At the end - my long lost shoe! I had been missing one of my shoes but knew it was somewhere in the house, but Simon (pappa) found it! It was perfect - I was so happy!

Then we went out and watched the Ddorf marathon (always inspiring!), Simon took a nap, and we went to Auermühle for cake and a Krakauer (brat). A fabulous Mother's Day in the 11th best country to be a mother.

Save the Children put out its 12th Annual Mothers Index, which analyzes health, economic and educational conditions for women and children in 164 countries. Scandavia is a mother's haven, with all countries ranking in the top 10 - Norway (#1), Iceland (#3), Sweden (#4), Denmark (#5), and Finland (#7). And where is my good old motherland? Down there at #31, consistently coming in as one of the worst ranked developed countries. High infant and maternal mortality rates, poor early childhood education, and a maternity policy known as "the least generous of all wealthy nations" are major contributing factors to this low ranking.

And to be honest, it's something I have been thinking about since moving to Germany. Not where the US ranked on the Mothers Index (although let's be honest - no surprises there), but how these more generous maternity policies shape the experience of being a mother.

When I gave birth to Simon, the choice was easy for me. I was moving to a new country and didn't have a job - so I would stay at home. I was so happy and realized what a gift it was. But of course I am not getting paid, so it requires an adjustment of our expenses. And I don't have a job to go back to, so it does leave a gap in my resume and an uncertainty about my professional future.

On the other hand, for those in Europe that have one year of paid maternity, the stakes are quite different. Often they begin maternity leave 6 weeks before the due date, and stay at home until the baby turns one. All this time they are getting paid (not full salary - a percentage with a cap), but it's something. And then, when your baby turns one, your job is still there - you get to go back to work. And often times, now your hubby gets a chance to stay home with your kiddo for a while - maybe 2 months, or another year.

For me, that's the best of both worlds! You get to be a stay-at-home mom for a year, and then you have the opportunity to go back to work if you want. Not ready to go back to work? Many countries will hold your position for up to 3 years (unpaid after one) to give you more time at home. They also often have flexible hours upon return so that you are not thrown into full-time work right away.

Now, I am not advocating that the U.S. can simply adopt these same policies. They operate under entirely different systems and for different political reasons (low birth-rates among them). I just want people to see how different the experiences are, and understand that American women are not being bad mothers or making bad choices for their babies when they go back to work after 12 weeks. Most American women have to choose between staying at home and going back to work - they can't do both. Therein lies the difference....

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Boulangerie, Patissierie....Oui, oui!

Hard to believe it's May 1st today and April is already behind us. I was talking to my sister today (Marie) and we agreed it should be March, not May. How time flies!

Anywho, I wish it was March so I could do April all over again. It was that good. It started off with a weekend in Bussum, the Netherlands, where we did a pre-birthday celebration with my cousin whose birthday is a day after mine (April6, April 7). We were supposed to check out the famous tulips, but due to a cold spring they were blooming late. So instead we checked out the crazy Dutch bike culture (ie. Mama bikes) and ate pannekoeken.

Next we headed to Antibes, France (near Nice) to celebrate my mother-in-law's 60th birthday. This meant that we arrived on my birthday, in time to have lunch in the warm sun, eat some delicious French cake, and get some shopping in. :)

The next day was Antonietta's big day - and we celebrated as a family (minus Magnus who is living in NYC) and found a restaurant with 3 highchairs. Needless to say we went back there several times as a place that could guarantee we wouldn't have squirmy, messy kids on our laps and we could maybe even enjoy a glass of wine. The whole weekend was very relaxing, filled with good food and good family. We didn't really do anything, except walk around, make sure our kids napped, and stop at every other patisserie (that was just me though). I did discover a sugar covered donut stuffed with nutella - need I say more? (Pics here).

So the only thing that made leaving Antibes easier was knowing that in just another week and a half we would be heading back to the land of patisseries to join the Stirling Palm's (is there a hyphen or what?) for a long weekend in Reims, the champagne region of France. We really managed to have the perfect weekend, with the SP's arriving early and able to kick the jetlag straight away, perfect weather, amazing food, and a great place to stay (La Parenthese). We toured champagne houses, drove through the vineyard-filled countryside of Champagne country, ate a lot, and had Easter lunch at a chateau with a MOAT! Pretty cool. (Pics here).

Simon enjoyed the late nights, where dinner started at his bed time, and he got to sample seafood risotto, pigeon, chocolate mousse, lamb - or whatever we were eating. He was so smitten with the French lifestyle that he forgot to be cranky - for which we were very greatful!

(Trooper award goes to Hanna - 20 weeks pregnant and she flew all the way over to France for 4 nights. Given her dedication to her friends, she will be a fabulous mother.)

And yes, I know what you're thinking. We are living large over here on the other side of the pond (well - depending where you are reading this from). And I am not going to argue with you on that one. But here's the thing. We don't know what the future holds for us - if we will stay in Europe or end up back in the U.S. I would have to leave a in few years and realize I didn't take advantage of all that is right at my doorstep here (4 hours to Reims, 1.5 hour flight to Nice). And for now, we only have one kiddo, and it's manageable (but not always easy) to travel with him. (Did I mention the 6 weeks of vacation - that helps too!) So we are working hard to see the sights while we can. There's lots more on our list - so stay tuned to see where we end up next. :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Friends & Happiness

Any time you move, you have to worry about how you are going to make friends. I've moved to enough new cities where we knew no one to know how important this part of making a new city your home is.

In our case, I knew that Simon was my ticket! I just wasn't sure where to enter. How do I find all these mommies and daddies out there? I found out quickly enough - Stalking! A few days after moving into our new neighborhood (July) I overheard a couple with a small baby (about one) speaking English (and not just English, American English.) I immediately panicked as they passed me and started crossing the street. Should I follow them? What will I say? Ah, worry later, I decided and started following. Halfway down the next block they stopped at a restaurant and I hovered until the "appropriate" moment and just blurted out, "Hi, you guys speak English? Do you live around here?" That conversation got me connected with a huge group of ex-pat parents (mostly, bus some Germans too!) that meet-up regularly at parks, cafes, swimming pools, zoos, etc. with the kiddos.

But we don't just do stuff with our kids. We are friends. We support each other. We provide resources to each other. And (most of us) share the common experience of being a foreigner here. We even try to meet up for drinks without the kids, and do occasional weekend brunches so our spouses get to meet as well.

I have also made friends through courses we (Simon and I) have done here, such as PEKIP and Babyschwimmen. Through this I have made close friends - as well as more acquaintances that I continue to speak German to. (I think being close friends and speaking German only are rather mutually exclusive at this point - but I'm working on it.) We have also made friends at the Spielcafe near our flat and at a Stilltreffen (breastfeeding group). I give Simon all the credit - he's so damn cute!

We already know more people here than any other place we have lived. At the park, in the Altstadt, or walking around our neighborhood I often run into people I know. We really feel like we are part of a community here. We have it all - FRIENDS & HAPPINESS!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, Simon!

We just returned from a 3 1/2 week trip to the US where we celebrated Simon's birthday (twice, actually!). It was great to spend it with friends and family that we don't often get to see. It was especially great to meet my little nephew Dylan in Charleston. Although I should clarify, he's not little at all. He does not want to be left out of anything so he is catching up to Simon as fast as he can - he's amazing!

Our first stop was Charleston, SC, where Simon got to spend his actual birthday. He tried his first cupcake (it was ok, nothing special) and opened gifts. His parents watched in amazement as their little baby turned into a boy. It kind of felt like that. Somehow, in turning into a one-year-old, it seems like you are moving on, leaving a little baby behind. It doesn't matter if they walk or talk - it's all in the numbers, or at least that's how it feels to me. I could never have anticipated that I was so excited for his birthday - and I really was! (Although not excited enough to coordinate the cupcakes with the invite to his birthday party. Seriously - who does that?!?). We enjoyed the sunshine, went to some parks, saw the gators, and attended Folly Gras - check out this cute pic!

Due to some seriously poor planning, we left sunny and 80 degree Charleston for record snows and frigid temperatures in MN. (I want to talk to our travel agent!) But it was sooooo worth it. First of all, I cannot believe that there are people with children who live in the same place as their parents (the grandparents). What a goldmine! We had help! It was AMAZING! Grandpa and Grandma jumped at every opportunity to watch Simon, bathe Simon, take Simon swimming, etc. That gave parents (especially mama!) some much needed rest. I did YOGA! (I still can't get over it. Today is the first weekday back in Germany and I am feeling it - where's the help?)

Simon also had his second birthday party in MN with lots and lots of family! We even had friends from Dusseldorf who recently moved back - what a small world! Simon and I also took a quick road trip to Madison, WI to visit friends and filled up on plenty of good 'ol midwestern pie!

All in all, it feels great to be back home (Dusseldorf!). It feels great that I can call it home and that in the short time that we have been here we have managed to build the relationships that make it feel like home. It may be foreign - but it's home for now!

(I will add pics soon!)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Picture book

I am currently working on a picture book for Simon, documenting his first 6 weeks of life in the hospital. I wanted him to have a separate book for this experience because it was a big deal - and I want to have the whole story in one place. (I'll make him another one for his first year that won't focus so much on those early days.)

It brings up a lot of memories to look back at these picture, to reread my blog as we lived through it. I remember while it was all happening, how so many people were impressed by how positive and composed I remained. But there just wasn't any other way to be - that's what I remember. This was not what I wanted (of course it could have been much worse) - but it was what it was, and there was nothing I could do to change it. All I could do was focus on Simon, and I knew that he needed positive energy full of love and caring and compassion. I believe in that stuff - that energy heals, mind over matter, that I could make a difference.

But when I look back at our blog and all of the picture from Simon's first weeks, I also see how naive we were, and that, in some ways, it was to our advantage. Simon is our first, and I think this made it easier. Think about it. First time parents, we didn't know what to expect from a fullterm birth, much less a premature one. Like so many other new parents, we had to just take what we got and go with it. We didn't know what we were missing, or how things could or should be different.

Of course there was a lot disappointment. I had a plan. I was giving birth naturally (no meds) at a birthing center, away from all the meddling doctors, with just my midwife and my husband. I was going to try a water birth, and bring Simon to my chest immediately after giving birth. Rest for a while, then go home a few hours later with our new baby. I had a plan!

So I was disappointed, but I hadn't gone through it before to really know what I missing. What it feels like to hold your baby (or even touch your baby - really see your baby) after going through labor. Those first days of bonding and recovering - the ups and the downs. It was different for us. Now that I have experienced the love of my own child though - that unyielding all-powerful love - I look back in awe of our own experience and our own composure through it all. Now that I know, I think it would be so much harder.

It's funny to look back at all the pictures, because our perspective has changed so much. I remember how we sent pictures to our families every day, and commented on how cute he looked with his little hand or a little smile, how he had grown so much (ie. gained an ounce). We didn't see the tubes and the machines and the sterile hospital atmosphere. But I am sure most others couldn't help but see it - it's hard not to. And looking back I can see those tubes now, just for a moment, but then I see my little Simon, the sweet little love of my life. I am so glad this book has a happy ending.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


We have been here for almost 8 months now, so you might be wondering how we are getting along with that language they speak here...Deutsch. It depends on the day you ask really. Before moving to Germany I had studied German for a year in high school, spent 3 months in Switzerland, and studied one year in college. But if you don't use it, you lose it. And lose it I did!

When we arrived in Germany in June I could hardly form a sentence or remember the most basic words. I couldn't count, and when I tried to say something it often came out in Spanish. With Simon, it hasn't been possible to take a course - so I have been learning on the fly.

But I am happy to say that I get by - and that I enjoy the challenge, and deal with the frustrations. I can have basic conversations, go to the grocery store, market, or post office and get it done in German. If all else fails - most people understand English, but I try my best to speak German when possible.

One of the things that has been most helpful in learning German has been taking Simon to courses with other German moms. Of course the courses (PEKIP and Babyschwimmen) are in German, and I get a chance to speak German with new people and learn German baby songs. It has helped me tremendously, and I have found Germans to be very patient and willing to put up with my crappy German. (I also believe that they would rather hear my crappy German than speak English.)

Martin, whose German is clearly better than mine, does not have nearly the opportunities that I do to speak German. They speak English in his office (because of him), but he doesn't have time to work on German at work when he so much actual work to get done. He did a one week intensive German course in January, but again - he's not out and about the way I am to really use it on a daily basis.

We both hope that we continue to improve our German. In the fall, I will be able to take a German course that provides childcare, so I am really looking forward to that.

Kindercafe! - Spielen und Spaß

Yesterday Simon and I met up with some of our friends at the new Kindercafe (Kids' Cafe), Pantakea, just around the corner. It has a big sandbox on one side for the kids to play in, and soft mats cover the other end of the cozy space, with toys, books, and swings strewn about.

They also sell coffee, tea and snacks for both adults and little ones - but no pressure to buy. You pay an entrance fee to come and play, and can stay as long as you like. This is perfect for the Drizzledorf winter weather. Simon played nonstop for 3.5 hours (well, he ate) and loved watching other kiddos and playing with new toys. And, also important, Mama had a great time too! We both made new friends, and know that we will make many more there. I envision many a cozy afternoons played out here....looking forward to it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


So, I thought we were having professional pictures taken of Simon today. Apparently we are not. Not sure what date they were supposed to be, but not today. That's what happens when you make appointments in German. Oops!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Adjusted Age

Simon kind of has two ages. One is based on his birthday, let's call that his real age. The other is based on his due date, which is his adjusted age. From the day he was born we talked about his age differently. First we referred to his gestational age - how many weeks he would be if he were still in my belly. We were also told over and over by doctors and nurses that going forward, for at least the first two years, all developmental milestones and should be based on his adjusted age. Makes sense. It's not like he got a head start - he just spent his 3rd trimester outside rather than inside.

Simon on his due date, May 10, 2010

But when we were finally out in the real world, it became a little complicated. Of course you naturally think of your child's age based on their birth date. But when they're small, 2 1/2 months make a big difference. I did finally start telling strangers his adjusted age - it made it easier than having to explain why he was so small (especially in German).

Because Simon was our first, and he seemed big to us, we didn't really have the perspective of how me must have looked to others. Like when we took him to a Mavericks playoff game when he was only 37 weeks gestational age (that's 3 weeks before his due date).

Now Simon isn't really all that different from a 10 1/2 month old, even though his adjusted age is 8 months. But somehow, I still feel all mixed up about his age. I feel like I'm always going back and forth. Yes, he can start to eat yogurt at 9 months, but he's only 8 months but he's 10 1/2 months.

Also, we have been playing with a lot of babies his age lately, with swim classes and PEKIP, and I see how much he is more like an 8 month old than a 10 1/2 month old. It's not his size, but more subtle developmental phases, like crawling and body control.

Last month he had a check up with a specialist to evaluate his development as a preemie. She was very impressed and said that he was spot on for his (adjusted) age. Our PEKIP instructor has also been impressed by his size and development. These little things help me - the little reassurances. Every mom likes to hear how well their kid is doing. But if you kid wasn't doing well at the start - and is now - it means even more. He's been a fighter from the start.

Check out our Caring Bridge blog we kept while Simon was in the hospital.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

With the start of the new year we are all busy making resolutions on how we are going to make our lives better. I'm not big on New Years resolutions, as it seems silly to not always be working to improve our lives. Why wait until January 1st?

But ifI were into New Years resolutions, I would say that I am going to try to be more consistent about writing in my blog. What better way to start than with Simon's first Christmas!

We spent Christmas with the Oppenheimers in Stockholm. For the first time EVER everyone was there - all the siblings with their spouses and the 3 little cousins. We spent Christmas Eve opening gifts and feasting on herring (definitely an acquired taste). Santa even stopped by! (Click here for video.)

Unfortunately, a stomach bug hit the house during our week, although Martin and I and the kids were spared. During the week we relaxed around the house, Simon ventured into the city for the first time (although he slept the whole time), and we met friends and had Peking duck for the first time. This trip also marked Simon's introduction to sledding - an important sport growing up in my family. He wasn't thrilled with it, but not totally unimpressed either. He didn't flinch when we pushed the limits on speed - I am optimistic he will be an excellent sledder!

Who needs a stroller? We used a sled instead when visiting a friend in the neighborhood.

We are very excited to the year ahead of us. I am especially excited to celebrate Simon's first birthday (with his cousin in Charleston!) and try to use all of Martin's 6 weeks of vacation. It's going to be a great year!

See more pics of our holiday trip here.