Archive for October, 2009

A Few Firsts

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

[The last time I posted was Oct. 11th?!! Sorry about that. To make up for it, here is a post about everyone’s favourite subject. (grin) ]

There have been a few firsts in Annie’s life lately. A couple of weeks ago was an invitation to her first birthday party in Austria. I was so interested to see what parents did for their children to celebrate birthdays. Some of the regular blogs I read have been talking about Snow-white parties, fairy tea parties, planning for 3 months for a birthday, and one sad, teary video lament from a mother who, due to having lost all of their money in the Madoff scandal, can’t mount the birthday extravaganza that all of her daughter’s friends put on.

Unsurprisingly (as I have gotten to know these Austrian types a bit better), birthday parties here are decidedly lower key. We walked in and the birthday boy, Jacob, opened Annie’s present (and all subsequent presents) right away. There was a table set up for snacks and cake, there was a space for dancing, and then by the time I picked Annie up, they were all watching a DVD. Due to a mixture of things including my innate laziness and my hatred of the MTV show “Sweet 16”, I’m quite pleased with this discovery that birthday parties here are just easy and fun.

Here is the girl when I walked in. My little 3-year old ingenue.

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Last week was also Annie’s first time riding her bike to school. It took almost as long as when we walk together, so I’m not sure this will be a regular thing just yet. And of course, winter is coming and I’m not one of those crazy people who encourages bike riding in the snow. (Very common here.) Nevertheless, Annie was pretty stoked.

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And perhaps the biggest first, last week was Annie’s move to Kindergarten. Children start Kindergarten here at 3 1/2, not at age 5 like in Canada. It wasn’t that much of a transition, as she is just going across the hall to a new room. Annie knows the teacher well and is friends with half the kids. The transitional phase can be up to 2 weeks, but by day 3 Annie was spending her whole time with Melanie in her new classroom. At this particular school all of the children take a second language, with a choice of Italian, English or French. We stuck with English; this kid has had a lot thrown at her in terms of changes in her little life, so adding a third language seemed, well, just a wee bit pushy. The English teacher is in the classroom a couple of hours a day, which I’m sure Annie will enjoy.

I took the camera to school on her first day of Kindergarten and asked her to smile. This is what I got.

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Oh, Annie-girl, you are more fun than 10 barrels of monkeys. I hope that as you grow and go through hundreds of other firsts, the joy stays the same.

Thankful

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

A few of my Canadian friends reminded me that it was Thanksgiving this weekend. So not on my radar. In Tirol there are autumn community celebrations called Erntedankfest to give thanks for the harvest, but it revolves around drinking and eating outside in the village center, not an at-home family event. There is no set date; each community fits it in around the zillions of other drinking/eating (in that order) outdoor festivals.

So thanks for the reminder. And here is my list of some of the other things I am thankful for:

  • The first, of course, is family and friends. The close people in my life. Through the pain and problems, happiness and successes, laughter and tears, they are always there for me.  And, I  hope, I am there for them.
  • The kindness of strangers. Many times in my life I have been helped or cheered by a simple kindness of someone I do not know. Especially here when it is hard for me to communicate and when many people lose patience quickly, I appreciate these small acts of goodness.
  • Being Canadian. I really love that I grew up in Canada. I love coming home (it will always be home) and being around my own particular brand of humans. Our stereotypes tend to be true (friendly, overly apologetic, paternalistic) and they are good things. Far from perfect (of course I must say that, else I wouldn’t sound Canadian), but overall I think that Canada may be the best place in the world to grow up.
  • My European adventure. Speaking of far from perfect…. Nonetheless, I am deeply, deeply grateful for everything that this crazy time has brought into my life.  
  • The mountains. My first and always love is water, whether ocean or lake. But these mountains sure are giving that preference a run for its money. Every different light or shift in weather brings a new, beautiful scene for me to appreciate.
  • The Internet (Now there is a 21st Century girl for you…appreciating mountains and ocean and computers in the same breath.) Being able to communicate with my expanding network of friends around the world, discovering the most fascinating, inspirational people through their blogs, having access to any little thing I want to know more about, and having an outlet for my desire to write. All possible  for me with the push of a button and a click of the mouse. Magic.
  • And I couldn’t, of course, end this list without being thankful that I have the opportunity to be a mom. Annie is snuggled here beside me, wiped out in front of the  TV after a ridiculously active day with us and cousin Lilli.  I never really knew that I wanted this until she was here, and now it is the thing I am most thankful for.

I’m also thankful that you are reading this blog. The older I get the more I realize that creative persuits are an integral part of me being a whole and happy human. Thanks for sharing this with me. I really, really appreciate it.

A Little More Italia

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

Our last couple of days were more of the same as the first three…in other words, wonderful.

I think this holiday was so great because it was unexpected. Before Annie and I left for Canada we talked about going somewhere together as a family in September, but hasn’t defined our plans. And we didn’t book the hotel until about a week before we left, so I really hadn’t had time to form expectations or focus on an itinerary. It all just unfolded as a series of lovely events and surprises.

My favourite part of the trip was enjoying being with Annie and Markus so much. It is just so different being together as a family without having to rush around visiting relatives and friends (not that I don’t love and miss you all!) I think it was a good lesson in that we will have to balance our vacation time between connecting with all of the other people we love in the world, and connecting just with our little family. Even though we do spend a lot of time together every day, being on vacation isn’t the same as sitting around the dinner table with all of the daily life stresses hovering in the air.

Here are a few more highlights:

Flying fun in the salty sea.

Flying fun in the salty sea.

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Lacona, another beach on Elba, where we spent a blissful day

Lacona, another beach on Elba, where we spent a blissful day

One of the greatest times on this trip actually was on the drive home. I am so lucky to be experiencing Europe with someone who grew up here, because Markus has all kinds of ideas of how to enhance our travels.  He suggested that we take a bit of a longer drive home so we could detour to the town of San Gimignano, Tuscany. I fell in love. Markus suggested it would be a great place to get married, and I actually contemplated that for a few hours, temporarily abandoning my commitment to an NA ceremony so my friends and family could attend. I loved it that much.

It was raining when we arrived, so we decided to have lunch first and explore later. We found a place with a covered terrace (it wasn’t cold, even in the rain) and had an amazing meal. I started with garlicky bruschetta and then had broad noodles in a light saffron cream sauce with roasted yellow peppers.  Markus started with a salad of walnut, olives and lettuce topped with chucks of flavourful Parmesan, and then had spinach ravioli stuffed with artichokes and truffles. To. Die. For. Annie had…wait for it…plain pasta sprinkled with Parmesan. Shocker.

Here is the terrace with a couple shots of Annie standing in the garden beside the seating:

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*Note: I in no way influenced this pose. Pure Annie show(wo)manship.

Now am I ever, ever, ever going to have the nerve to cut that hair?

How am I ever, ever, ever going to have the nerve to cut that hair?

I’m swiping this shot of the centuries old San Gimignano town center, as mine didn’t turn out:

From www.aboutromania.com/tuscany28.html

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Detail of one of the buildings in the town center.

Narrow stone streets that are, thankfully, car-free.

Narrow stone streets that are, thankfully, car-free.

I wish I could truly capture the beauty of the Tuscan countryside, but neither my camera nor my photography skill seem to be up to it. Here are a few shots I took to at least give you an idea:

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Italy, oh how I will miss thee. We will, without a doubt, be back.