Archive for December, 2009

Merry Christmas Everyone

Friday, December 25th, 2009

Wishing you a very wonderful Christmas day.

Lili and Rebecca

Lili and Rebecca

Lili and Annie

Lili and Annie

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These are a few of my favourite…photos

Friday, December 18th, 2009

As those following this blog know, I occasionally go through lapses in posting. Last fall when this was happening, I thought maybe I needed something concrete to motivate me. This thought came about the same time as I was trolling through not-so-recent photos (mostly of Annie) and realizing I’d love to share more of them. So put those two thoughts together, mix it with a little Sound of Music for inspiration, and there you have my new category.

I’ll try to post once a week.  There may or may not be much of a story to go with the picture(s), but at least I’ll get a post out of it, and you get to see some darn cute images.

So to begin, it was cold today. Not like Winnipeg cold, but still below -5. (I know, I know, but I’ve never claimed to be anything other than a weather wimp.) This had me looking for bright sunny photos, and thought that this from Annie’s second birthday was lovely.

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It was taken by Grandpa Ken, who is a professional photographer. He has always taken the most stunning pictures of Rebecca, and he seems to be holding true to form with Annie.

Here are a couple more closeups from, WOW!, almost a year and a half ago. (It seems both recent and so far away, as so much has happened since then. Time is the great trickster.) She still puts that dress on after school some days, and now it is a real fashion mini.

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What I love is how her personality is so strong in these photos, and really hasn’t changed that much since then; happy, mischievous, curious, independent. My girl.

Another Childhood Rite of Passage

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

Thursday afternoon, just as I’m finishing a coffee with a friend, Annie’s Kindergarten teacher calls my cell. She was speaking her hesitant English, I guess so that I would better understand the situation.

“Annie is crying a bit. She has put something up her nose and I can’t get it out.”

“Is she O.K.?”

“Yes, you can see it. I just can’t get it out.”

I could tell by her voice she was nervous…I guess not the favourite call to make to a parent…but not terribly worried about the sitiuation. Although I chuckled a bit filling in Nicole and Markus, I still left right away. I wasn’t sure what I would find. Screaming child? Pouring blood?

Obviously, there was no huge stress. Annie greeted me at the door with a smile on her face, ready to tell me about her predicament. Melanie tilted Annie’s head up and I could indeed see a small plastic bead from her favourite craft toy she plays with every day. I’m sure with the correct tool it would take 2 seconds to get out. But not having the correct tool, and not about to start shoving knitting needles up my child’s nose, we went to the hospital.

Annie was completely fine. I, however, got turned around and lost at the small city that is the Innsbruck hospital. This teaching hospital is one of the best in the world, in a country that has one of the best health care systems of any country. Part of that system is individual emergency areas for different problems: back, respiratory, even a separate emergency for the many skiers that are helicoptered daily to the hospital. All well and good, until you find yourself going to 4 of them in different buildings before you comprehend enough of the German to understand that there is a special ER for ears, nose and throat.

Once in the right place, everything went smoothly. There is never more than a few minutes wait at any of the ERs (I’ve been to the Innsbruck emergency, either for myself, Markus or Rebecca, several times over the last 10 years.) We were called in after two minutes of registering into an area filled with equipment attended by several doctors and nurses. A young female doctor helped us out, letting Annie sit in my lap. She was so lovely, speaking to Annie in a friendly voice, always showing her and explaining the instrument (light, suction, pokey thing) before using it. And she spoke perfect English, thank the dear lord. Annie was great, not fussing over anything. The doctor removed the bead and made sure there weren’t others to be found. She even gave Annie a sucker on the end of a tongue depression stick. Yellow, to match the extracted bead.

Rebecca did the same thing, I believe with a frozen pea, back when she was Annie’s age. And Melanie said one of the little boys put something up his nose last week, but she had been able to get it out herself. What is that tendency in children? Putting things in your mouth, I kind of get. But the nose? Where is the satisfaction?

But anyway, alls well that ends with nothing permenetly lodged in the brain. On to the next adventure…

Scaring the Crap outta Children Across Europe

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Last post I said that there wasn’t anything wrong with Christmas time in Austria. I’m snapping that comment back like a trout on a fly-fishing line. I forgot all about the Krampus. Sheesh.

On Saturday Markus, Annie, my mom, cousin Lilli and I set out for the Krampus celebrations in Igls, about 15 minutes out side of Innsbruck. We were there a bit early so had time for a foot-long sausage and a piping glühwein. Annie and Lilli ran around in the snow and played with other kids. There was one round of Krampus’ going by, but Annie held it together pretty well.

For those who missed the post last year, a Krampus is a demon-like creature who accompanies St. Nicholas. Parents call on the Krampus to terrorize their children into behaving. As in, “If you aren’t good the Krampus will come and steal you away and eat you.” Seriously. I shouldn’t be that surprised, given that this is the land of fairy tales like Cinderella (Aschenputtel), where the ugly step-sisters cut off their toes and heels to make the glass slipper fit. The tell-tale gush of blood is what gives them away to the prince.

And don’t get any ideas that I’m exaggerating on the scariness part; Krampus is this

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And this

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And these dudes

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Once dusk hit the gathering was in full swing. Several wooden-masked creatures with giant cow bells and rope switches wandered through the packed crowd growling and pushing people and whipping them. There were literally dozens of toddlers screaming and crying and pleading to their parents to protect them. All they got was a toss of the head and a “you’d better be good then” comment.

Amidst this comes St. Nicholas, whose costume is a cross between a Bishop and Santa Claus. He comes with a host of children dressed as angels and hands out hundreds of sacks filled with chocolate, nuts and oranges.

I appreciate that the whole concept of elves accompanying Santa Claus is odd, but these German-speaking people are whacked, I tell you.

Last year during these “festivities” Annie was in a stroller and it was easy to divert her attention from the scarier beasts. This year she was sitting on top of Markus’ shoulders, with a bird’s eye view of the hell-dwelling monsters. She, of course, wanted to get a present. But, just to ensure no sadistic stone is left unturned, there are two Krampus’ on the stage amongst St. Nic and the angels. So Annie stands in line with Lilli, then starts screaming to go home as she nears the stage and sees the Krampus up close. Good. Let’s get out of here. Then she is wailing because she doesn’t have a present. So we go back and I tell her to close her eyes until we can snatch a sack and make a run for it.

As Markus was happy to point out, she didn’t seem worse for wear, stopping to build a snowman with Lilli on the way back to the car. But I have no doubt that there will be some nightmares over this in the days to come.

Next year, should we be in Europe, I’m not forgetting this craziness. No more Krampus for you, Annie-girl. You’ll just have to learn to sleep in longer without the threat of a terrifying and painful death.

A Grand Grandparent Day

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

One set of grandparents, Nana (my mom) and Grandpa Drew (my stepfather) are visiting from Canada. Well, Drew has already returned home but Mom is staying for a few more days.

Last weekend we tackled the requisite visitor activity, a hike up a mountain. As my mom has had two hip replacements and has a stent in her heart, this needed to be planned carefully. Markus scouted out an easy-ish trek and off we (Drew, Mom, Markus, Annie and I) went. I became much more worried once we got a bit higher and realized that there was snow and ice on the ground. Mom didn’t have hiking boots on, so it was quite slippery. With the help of a few strong arms, my hiking poles and a midway rest (a hide-and-go-seek break for Annie and Drew) we made it up.

As a reward, we came to a restaurant with a particularly lovely view as well as a 5 euro schnitzel special. Delicious.

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After our hike we headed straight for a Christmas celebration in Rattenberg, a small medieval village about 45 minutes outside of Innsbruck. The city has put up hundreds of candles in all of the windows and set up a stage for performers. There were Christmas stalls and every store was open and decorated for the season. The town is known for its glass blowing, and many stores had beautiful hand-blown ornaments, glassware and vases. Mom bought some Christmas tree angels and a pretty blown-glass flower.

After some glüwein and wurst, we moved to the main stage area. There were children’s choirs and musicians and choral singers. A rope was strung across the square, and for a finale a woman was lifted up on a swing. Swinging above the crowd she proceeded to sing a beautiful Ave Maria that completely enchanted Annie. Very pretty.

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As I keep saying, there is just nothing wrong with Christmas time in Austria. It is the best time for a visit without a doubt. Absolutely beautiful.