Archive for May, 2009

I Love Every Minute of You

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

My Sweet Girl,

I remember shortly after you were born, a poem started to form in my head, or my heart, or wherever poems begin.

I love every minute of you
I love every breath of you
I love every smile, cry, sigh of you

The poem hasn’t grown beyond that yet, maybe never will. Poems do that sometimes, as you may discover if your love of words and sounds and sense continues to grow at this breakneck pace. (Words and writing and reading have always been so important for me, shaping who I am and what I believe. I think that maybe we will share that.) But for some reason those poem’s words help me to express and understand the magnitude of change that I went through when you were born. A complete love that I have never felt before.


I have had a broken heart in my life. As you will have, undoubtedly, in yours. I think it is O.K. to have a broken heart once or twice in the span of a lifetime. It means you have loved and lived and tried. (Oh, the trying. That is the toughest part of all.) But I remember thinking, as your 3-line almost-poem ran through my head, that if anything ever happened to you, my heart wouldn’t break. It would shatter. Into a thousand million pieces that could never be put back together. Without you, I wouldn’t be me anymore. Not the me that was created the moment you came into this world 3 years ago. Not this me, the best me that I have ever known.

Back in your room in Victoria, I am floored by the scent. Just like I remember, like no other smell in the world. Because it is you. It brought back the flood of memories of nursing and rocking, changing and tickling. My beautiful baby. This room is no longer yours, but that smell will stay with me always.


And speaking of tickling. Never, no never, has there been a girl in the world who loves to be tickled more than you. “It’s tickle time!” is peeled out several times a day. We also have tickle games, games that developed over time, the origins of which are murky and irrelevant. You climb under a blanket and pretend you are asleep, snoring loudly like a 70-year old man. That is my cue to throw back the cover and madly tickle you. Or you tuck into the corner of the couch and say “You can’t reach me”, which I respond to by stretching out my arm, pretending like I can only…just…barely…grab your hand, and then pull you to me and tickle your side until you squiggle away. Your funny, sweet, surprisingly deep laugh will be in my ears always.

As will your voice. Much of your day is filled with music. Listening to music, strumming on your guitar, and singing. Always singing. You have brought music back into a more central part of my life. I try to think of music that we can listen to and dance to together. Or we just turn on the radio and boogie to whatever is playing. It doesn’t really matter. It all sounds and feels wonderful.


I hope you remember these fun times, the lovely times together. Because not every minute is perfect with us. I’m a different kind of mom…like I guess every mom is different in their own way. I don’t bake or cook much, I like/need to work and explore my own projects, I sometimes have a really, really short fuse, and the thing I pray the most for is patience. There are days I wish I could take back, and desperately hope that the better days somehow overpower the worse days in your memory.

But you are kind and confident and fiercely independent, so I think maybe in the end it will all turn out alright. Maybe even better than alright. The other day I caught you awkwardly shimming up on the big-girl toilet and showed you how to move your stool, which you cart around the apartment constantly to help you do whatever it is you want to do, to get up there more easily. Your eyes lit up like I had given you the best gift: a way to do yet one more thing without any help. Dad found you the next day happily perched up there, reading a book that you had hauled from your room. He forwarded me the photo immediately, so we could share the laugh together.


I can hardly believe 3 years have gone by, and also can barely comprehend how much you have changed and learned in such a short time. I’m fascinated by the way your mind works, and I think it will just keep getting better and better as we can talk and share more. I’ve always said that 3 was my favourite age for children. Innocent and daring, talking and roughhousing, growing independence while still needing lots of cuddles, a full and vibrant personality with just a hint of baby. I’m going to love every minute of it.

Pufferbelly from Hillary Samson on Vimeo.


Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

I’m sitting in the Calgary airport, enjoying their free Internet access. I had to laugh making my way through the airport security. Canadians really are friendly! It isn’t just a myth.

I had a momentary crisis of consciousness filling out my customs declaration form. (And not just because I couldn’t remember how many litres of wine I brought with me as gifts.) I actually had to think about whether I was a visitor or a resident of Canada for a few seconds. It seemed so strange. I still have a house in Victoria, but I live in Innsbruck. I’m a resident of Austria, but am only legally allowed to work in Canada. Of course I am a visitor, but it did feel very strange to tick off those boxes. And that mixed with the excitement of coming ‘home’ as well as already feeling very far away from Annie and Markus made it all that much harder.

Travelling to Canada, on the other hand, has (so far, please don’t let me jinx my last leg from Calgary to Victoria) been a breeze. When I was rowing we used to do ‘fartlek’ workouts, where we would try to row at 45+ strokes per minute. The concept was that when we then rowed at 37 strokes per minute during a race, it would feel easier, more in control. The last couple of years, I have found that this principle holds true throughout most of life.

Getting less than 6 or 7 hours of sleep used to set me up for a very tired day, until I had a baby and didn’t see a 7-hour stretch of sleep for over 9 months. It felt like I could go days on 7 hours of sleep after that. Parenting on weekends now with Markus seems so much less stressful after this year’s long stretches of single-motherhood (in a foreign country, not speaking the language, with no friends or family). And travelling, even on long-haul flights half way across the world, is a dream after travelling to Europe with a small child. I watched 3 movies, had a short nap and am now easily filling a 3-hour layover in Calgary by emailing, Facebooking and blogging.

And most of all, I can’t tell you how easy it is going to be to arrange things when the people at the other end of the phone speak the same language as I do. Before I set out for even the most mundane errand these past 10 months (going to the dry-cleaners, drugstore, doctors, etc.), I’d try to practice and look up the German words that I might need to make myself understood. A couple of times I caught myself doing that with tasks I have to complete here in Canada. But no need!!!  Movers arranged? Phone lines disconnected? Bank transactions? Easy peasy lemon squeezy compared to trying to do all of those things with my poor German and the other person’s broken English. Of course, all of those tasks are generally irritating, but I just know it will seem easier after this last year’s experience. I guess that is what is meant by the quip that you can’t appreciated the good times without some difficult times. Now if I can just remember this lesson the next time a difficult day hits.

Hannibal Over the Alps: Who Said History Was Boring?

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

Markus was catching up on my blog and commented that I hadn’t posted about the Hannibal show yet. Not sure how I let that one pass by, as it was one of the most impressive experiences of the year. Since we spent the whole day today baking ourselves in the city’s ginormous outdoor swimming complex, it seems a bit strange to be talking about partying in the snow. But I guess we Canadians are used to it, given that the hockey playoffs spill into June.

As part of my birthday present (because Paris wasn’t enough, lucky girl that I am), Markus bought tickets for the year-end show at the Sölden ski mountain. Each year a few of the main ski resort villages put on major performances to celebrate the end of the winter ski season.

For the last few years, Sölden has put on an amazing performance which focuses on the story of Hannibal, the Carthaginian military commander (about 200 BC), during the period he marched over the Alps into Italy.

There were over 5,000 people watching…and eating and drinking and buying stuff of course. (I know I’ve said it before, but except for the bank’s refusal to lend us money, I have seen very few examples of the effect of the financial crisis on this part of the world.) The event was incredibly efficiently run, starting with a couple of dozen buses providing non-stop transportation from the lower village to the mountain top. (I just closed my eyes and imagined good things as we teetered on the edge of the mountain switchbacks for the 15 minute journey.)

At the chalet we ate and drank and found our place at the base of the glacier to watch the action. Even before the main event there was a huge video screen and blaring music to accompany the dare-devil stunts of the fighter jets and B52 bombers zooming through the sky.

The event itself was a contemporary retelling of the Hannibal story, with a deep-voiced narrator and an English-speaking talk-show host moving the story along. The performance was incredible. We figure it took hundreds of thousands of Euros to put on this thing. There were dozens of performance skiers, helicopters, para-gliders, dancers and actors. 15 snowplows represented the elephants that Hannibal drove over the mountains, while a giant crane transported the overseeing goddesses and Hannibal to the scene. An ice pyramid provided a platform for the dancers as well as a real bed with some hot action.

After the stunt motorcycles and snowmobiles jumped over ice ramps, I thought we had hit the highlight of the show. That was when a real live avalanche was triggered. CA.RAY.ZY! To be followed by about a dozen parachuters carrying glowing lights jumping from planes. And of course, the whole thing ended with a spectacular fireworks display.

I decided to take my video camera, thinking that that would be a better way of capturing the performance. On review of the footage, I have discovered that, although I’m not a great photographer, my video taking skills are truly scheiße. Luckily, between the magic of YouTube and the existence of promotional videos, you get to see 3 incredible minutes of this stunning hour-and-a-half extravaganza. Enjoy.

Blogs Really Can Save A Marriage!

Friday, May 15th, 2009

I’ve had a bad day. Well, really only a bad afternoon. Due to my inability to read German, coupled with a very poorly laid out invitation (address in microscopic print at bottom), I missed an event that Annie’s daycare was putting on. (I thought it was at the daycare, silly me). We finally figured it out, but by the time we arrived the concert was over and I was completely and totally embarrassed at not being able to manage to get my child to where she needed to be on time. (Yes, I know she is going to be in 5,000 other events in her life and at 35-months old she couldn’t possibly care about the 90 seconds she wasn’t on stage. But still.)

So I stewed. About how tough it is to live somewhere where you don’t speak the language. About how the daycare teacher KNOWS I can barely speak German, never mind read it, and could/should have taken 45 second to walk me through the invitation. About how this year has, at times, been so difficult that sometimes I think maybe I made a very, very…very…bad mistake in coming here.

And what happens when I stew? Well, snap at Markus about something totally unrelated and not his fault, of course. To which he gets completely pissed off and doesn’t talk to me.

So I’m sitting in bed thinking about how we probably are going to be pissy mad with each other for a day or two. And how I am leaving for Victoria in a couple of days and if the plane crashes, boy, will we be sorry that we had a fight. (Also when I stew, my mind goes to dark places.)

So as a hopeful diversion, I start to troll through the blogs I follow, even though due to the time difference there really isn’t much hope of them having been updated since I last looked at them this morning. Since there is nothing new to de-stew me, I start clicking on banner ads. This finally gets me to this blog, called Cake Wrecks, that is entirely devoted to pictures and captions of professionally created cakes gone horribly wrong (talk about niche content!)

One post took me to an Amazon pre-order for the blogger’s book, with this image as the cover:

Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong

I had to look at it for quite a while before I understood what was happening, so that when I did get it I laughed so hard I had tears running down my face.

Markus finished his loooong bath (a passive-aggressive avoidance technique that we both employ), and I just couldn’t stop myself from sharing this with him. And of course, it also took him a few seconds to figure it out but when he did, he laughed so hard he had tears running down his face.

So in effect we made up and went to/are going to bed without being mad at each other (without really discussing the issue or resolving anything, but you take what you can get at the end of a bad day.) Just one more reason that I firmly believe that the Internet really is magic. Hocus Pocus. Marriage saved for one more day. Thank You.

And A Little Bit More About Annie

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Of course a visit from my mom wouldn’t be complete without unsolicited advice well-meaning suggestions. She was watching Annie chat in German with Claudia, the wonderful woman who has taken care of the hotel housekeeping for years, and suggested that I track the events in Annie’s life. ?? I feel like this blog is basically a idolatrous shrine to Annie, but I guess at least one reader feels that it is time to record some more of the events in my young daughter’s life. So here goes.

First of all, she had a riotous time with Nana and Grandpa Drew during their European visit. Annie would make her way down one flight of stairs and hang out in her grandparents’ room, well, pretty much constantly. They were her first words in the morning: “Are Nana and Grandpa sleeping?” Well, honey, as it is 6:30 in the morning, I’m pretty sure they are.

Going off to Paris was easy knowing that Annie was so happy to have some alone time with them. Although the language thing did throw my mom occasionally, they figured it out. Usually Annie can translate on request, but sometimes she only knows the word in German. But she didn’t starve, run around naked (outside) or, so the report goes, even really cry (hmmmph!), so they must have worked it out.

Here are some of the photos (You get a sense of the crazy weather in Innsbruck over this 3-week period. One week it was snowing, and the next week it was 20°C. Life in the mountains):

Much, much time was spent at the playground.

Much, much time was spent at the playground.


Build another sandcastle Grandpa!

Build another sandcastle Grandpa!

Grandpa Drew with Annie and her "cheese" smile

Grandpa Drew with Annie and her "cheese" smile

Nana bought Annie the sweetest Easter dress.

Nana bought Annie the sweetest Easter dress.

One thing that I’m very happy about is that Annie is so independent. (O.K., sometimes when I am in a hurry it makes me mental, but still…) She wants to feed herself, pour her milk, get dressed, have a bath, etc. etc. by herself. I can lay out her clothes on the bed and probably 80% of the time it all goes on, facing the right way, without much help. On that theme, she also stands up for herself, which I’m quite positive I never did. Her cousin Lili, also an only child, likes to direct the action and can be quite specific. Annie often goes along with the fun, as she idolizes Lili, but then if she really doesn’t want to do something, she is very adamant and does not back down. You go girl!

Annie does certainly love her cousin and sister Rebecca. I could go on and on about the fun times they have together, but I think this picture sums up Annie’s adoration for these two older girls in her life.

A great example of how a pictures says a thousand words.

A great example of how a pictures says a thousand words.

The other thing that cracks me, and also gives me hope of Annie’s ability to make her way in the world, is how she approaches new activities. It happened with skating this winter and then, this weekend, on the trampoline. We went to Nutterer See (a nearby lake), which will be a great place to swim once it gets a bit warmer. But they also have a good playground with a trampoline. This was Annie’s first time on a trampoline and her reaction was so interesting to observe. At first she was scared, crying, whining, and flopping off to the side to stop the bouncing. But she kept trying it, even while crying and obviously totally frightened. She would look at me beseechingly, but when I offered to help she rejected my hand. By the end of the half hour she was giggling while bouncing around and getting irritated when Lili took too long on her turn (bouncing together was too much, but that will come I’m sure.) I’m glad Annie doesn’t give up on new things, but it is also pretty clear that my little girl is going to be a total drama queen about life’s events. Oh well…it’s not like we haven’t seen that one before.

And to finish off, a couple of my current favourite photos of Annie. The first one suggests that maybe she will be a dog lover, like her sister and unlike her mother and father. And I just love the one of her running, as it captures how she is most of the time these days: happy and in motion.

Annie and Diego

Annie and Diego

Run far my girl, but always come back to me.

Run far my girl, but always come back to me.