Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Laternenfest 2011

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

The Laternenfest at Annie’s kindergarten is always pretty much the same. So it is fun to compare the years: 2008, 2009 (which is just a brief mention and has no pictures, as Annie was having a total meltdown the entire time), and 2010. I can’t believe what a wee girl Annie was we we came to Innsbruck. Wow, what an adventure.

As I say, not much changes year to year. The kids gather around 4:00, close to sundown.

Annie and her good friend Emily. That is some height difference!

Annie favours the tight-lipped grin these days for photos…as you can see:

Then the teachers do their best to corral the children into a line with their assigned partner.

The kids sing their song (the same one Markus used to sing as a boy) and they all meet in the park pavilion. After a short speech, the children sing together in German and then in their other language (English, Italian or French). A brass band plays some pretty music and then we all have Lebkuchen and punch.

It always chokes me up a bit, maybe especially this year as it will likely  be Annie’s last Laternenfest. Nice memories to have of our time in Austria.


Friday, November 11th, 2011

Well, I can’t say that this was a great day…although the auto-generated title to this post is making me grin: 2011/11/11/11-11-11. I see why it is called corduroy day.

We are working on selling the cafe, and the negotiations aren’t going as smoothly as we hoped. All is not lost, but there will be a lot more backing and forthing than I had anticipated. NaBloPoMo suggests making three wishes this day. Right now I feel like wishing for stability, stability, and more stability.

Or maybe two times stability…and a third wish that my girl and I can always make each other smile.


Monday, November 7th, 2011

5-years-old is such a fun age for lots of reasons. But one of the main ones is that I get to witness the transition between little child and big girl.

Some days I find Annie practicing her super-model poses (not taught by me, I swear!)…

And other days she still likes to snuggle up in the laundry basket!

What a monkey! I think I’ll keep her.

A Good Hiker

Friday, November 4th, 2011

Well, I thought that we would be done with the sunnier weather a couple of weeks ago, but the last few days have been bright and clear. So on Sunday we decided to go for a hike.

Markus hadn’t been up this particular mountain before, and when he scouted it on the website, it said 60 minutes. That usually means 60 adult minutes, so often at least 80 kid minutes. Well, up we went. And up. And up. We didn’t check exactly when we left, but it was well over an hour and half hiking. And Annie made it almost the whole way, with only about 10 minutes on Dad’s shoulders. (She is heavy and that just doesn’t really work for a long time anymore!) I was super impressed. She talked, non-stop, for well over 2 hours. But Markus and I were there to spell each other off for the response part of the conversation and it got her up to the top.

There isn’t much Annie likes better than running down a hill. However, after 15 minutes of running and waiting and running and waiting, she did manage to get a blister. There was therefore some complaining back to the car, but I’ll take it for a good workout and a day in the fresh air.

I was so surprised that there were still baby sheep and goats on the hills….aren’t they supposed to be born in Spring? Anyway, they were super cute! As were Markus and Annie, of course.

The Tale of the Fork and the Spoon

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Annie has a great imagination. She can keep her and us entertained for quite some time with her tales. However, sometimes her imagination is just a wee bit too close to the truth and/or she is using her tales to get something she wants. (My mom said I could have chocolate for dinner!) One might even call it lying.

I’ve thought a lot about how to deal with this. I don’t want to squash her fantasy life, which I think is spectacular, but I do need to address the comments from her teacher and her friends that Annie can’t quite be trusted in what she says.

My current strategy is to let Annie tell any tale she wants, but when another person asks, either adult or child, if that is true Annie MUST then say if the story is made up or not. When Annie explains (on questioning) that the story is just in her imagination, I reinforce the behaviour with comments like, “What an interesting story and tell me more!”

I’ve filled the teacher in on my plan and she is going to give it a try at school. We’ll see how it goes.

I do want to be very careful with this, though, as sometimes made up stories are simply awesome.

Squeezing out the Last of the Summer Sunshine

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

On Wednesday the weather turned and it became rainy and cold here. I’m so glad that we made the most of the very warm Old Woman (Altweiber) Summer last weekend. (Would you say that is more or less politically incorrect than Indian Summer?) It started on Friday after a long, long week at work. I was very tempted to pick Annie up and then just throw her in front of the tv so both of us could flake out. Instead, I pulled up my mommy socks and called the mother of one of Annie’s friends to meet us at the wilderness playground after school. I love this playground, as it is spread out through the forest with  structures made of wood to blend in with the surroundings. There are swings and slides, miniature houses and a kid-friendly zip-line. A nature walk with balance beams and turny things and a quiz to test knowledge of the forest animals. My favourite part is the barefoot walk. Emily and Annie whipped off their shoes, socks and even pants (so they wouldn’t get wet) and went around and around the path that is laid with different textures for you to experience (wood shaving, rocks, pine cones, tree stumps and a knee-deep pool of cold water at the end.) Sara brought coffee for her and I which we enjoyed in the sunshine, so it was waaaaay better than hunkering down at home.

On Saturday we met up with Chloe, Julian and Margriet and drove up about 30 minutes to a lake. Too cold to swim, we just had an über-relaxing day. The three kids played in the playground while we had a drink at the adjacent cafe. The playground was easy for us to watch, but just far enough away that the children had to think twice about running back to us to report on every little incident. Perfect.

We went for a short hike and then found a restaurant with outdoor seating and another small playground. The time flew by and we were outside for over 6 hours.

On Sunday Markus, Annie and I drove up to one of the mountain regions, Alpbach. It is a small ski area in the winter, but in the summer it is available for hiking (of course). I was a bit surprised at the price of the gondola (11 euros per adult), but when we got up top I realized why.

A 2km children’s walk (Juppi Zauberwald) had been created with, well, just about everything you can think of for a nature-focused kid’s hike. Two well-built-out playgrounds with tree houses and teepees and a wobbly bridge as well as the regular activities.

Wooden stilts

There were goats to pet and a witch’s hut and oversized witch’s spell book to look at.

Witch's House

Each child got a card to take with them and there were 10 questions scattered throughout the hike; finding the answers completed a crossword puzzle. The weather was amazing and we had a spectacular day. We took the gondola down after the hike and had a late lunch on the patio watching Annie play with other kids on the near-by trampoline.

Markus took a short video on his iPhone of Annie on one of the balance beams. It totally cracks me up, because she isn’t having much trouble crossing, but hams it up with the over-exaggerated nervous sounds and gives us a look at the end to make sure we were appreciating her performance.

As this was what we woke up to Sunday…

…I’m sure glad we took advantage of the beautiful weather when we could.

Summertime and the Livin’ is Fine

Monday, August 15th, 2011

I can’t believe we have been in Canada for almost a month already. It has gone by so fast. The trip has been, in a word, fantastic!

B.C. was a busy time of visiting friends and family, as expected, but we did enjoy it all. Annie and I had an amazing time in Victoria with Stacey, who is pregnant with twins. She has been following doctors recommendations to take things easy and rest most of the day, so I think she was as glad to have us around as I was thrilled to be spending time with her.  And I understand her husband, Andrew, also appreciated that Stacey had another adult to talk to.

Stacey, Annie and the twins

And after two years, Annie and I were able to spend some time with Rebecca. She graduated from highschool and is very much looking forward to university at SFU next year.

Rebecca and Annie with Grandma Susan and Grandpa Ken

Time in Vancouver was spent with family, as I hadn’t seen my brother, sister-in-law or their three children in over 2 years! Crazy. Annie was in absolute heaven, and my nephew and nieces were wonderful to her, not to mention very patient with her exuberance.

Hamming it up at Capilano Suspension Bridge

And I got to actually go to work for 2 days!! Those of you who daily go into an office for a living might question my sanity, but I was as excited as a schoolgirl to be meeting with live humans and exchanging ideas about interesting things.

The first week in Manitoba was a whirl of spending time with family and preparation for my Dad’s 80th birthday. At the last minute I, with the help of the family, put together a slide show of some photos. This is the first time I’ve tried to do this and I’m pretty pleased with the results. I could have smoothed out the music transitions more and certainly cut about 5 minutes from the grandkid section (hey, I love looking at pictures of my daughter, nieces and nephews…why wouldn’t you?), but overall a good first effort. I uploaded it to YouTube if you want to check it out. For now it is here, but could get pulled any time for unlicensed use of music, so act fast if you want to view. Sylvia and I went through great-aunt Edith’s photos and found some real treasures. My dad’s younger brother, Ross, died when he was in his 30’s, so there were a few tears in the audience remembering him and their time together.

Beyond that it has been a fantastic time of visiting with friends and family at the cottage, oodles of hours swimming and boating on the lake, and reconnecting with my good friends in Winnipeg.

Annie, and the VanSam cousins

The favourite "Hotdog" with Paige and Amie

Aunt Lorraine and Annie

Grandpa with Annie

A very rare photo of six cousins together

In Winnipeg Lori, her daughter, Matheson, and Annie and I had a delightful morning at the new Children’s Garden in Assiniboine Park. Three hours just flew by for all of us.

Matheson and Annie racing down the slides

The girls enjoy the big chair

And now I’m off to jump in the lake! Hope you are enjoying your summer as much as Annie and I are.

Finally Five

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Dear Annie,

Yesterday you asked how old you would be in three weeks. Five, I said. Awwwwww, you moaned, deeply disappointed. You just turned five! Where’s the rush??

You were very, very excited about the party, of course, asking for weeks how many sleeps until you are five. You wanted a costume party, which was fine with me…as long as we just invited girls. (Costumes mean indoors, boys mean outdoors.) The day before we finished the unicorn cupcakes, (cupcakes with ice-cream cones covered in melted white chocolate and sprinkles, filled with gummy bears over a cupcake–everything coloured a very healthy pink, of course) blew up balloons, and created the photo corner.

The next morning started with a surprise…a new costume and fairy wings from the Vancouver Samsons left at the foot of your bed to wake up to. I heard your squeals of delight and then you came down the stairs, hair a mess, dresses up like Lillifee.

We opened presents from the family on the bed. So many great gifts and beautiful cards.

After breakfast we finished getting ready for the party. I managed to get your hair brushed, but no luck on the tights or shoes.

The party went quite well, despite the unfortunate weather. The guest started arriving right on time, decked out in lots of pink and glitter and fairy wings.

The party got off to a good start with crafting. Some children started by making beaded bracelets, while other decorated their butterflies. (I had bought cardboard butterflies instead of goodie bags, and painted them all white–2 coats!) With oodles of stickers, gel markers and glitter glue, the guests had fun decorating them.

Since it rained the whole time, sadly, we set up an indoor picnic to have lunch and the cupcakes.

Games were next. I had really planned on at least an hour outside on the trampoline (all the girls brought other clothes), so I kind of ran out of indoor games. Luckily one of the mom’s helped me out with suggestions and we made it through the three hours.

The last 15 minutes I just put on some music for dancing. Always a good standby with this group.

Annie 5th Birthday Party from Hillary Samson on Vimeo.

As the guests were leaving the sun finally came out, so parents stood around chatting as their girls bounced a few times on the trampoline. You had a great time and there were almost no tears, so I’m calling it a success!

Last year I really struggled to think of you as four, but this year five seems about right. You have made such a huge leap in your independence, skills, and confidence the last few months, it seemed so strange to say that you were only 4 years old when people asked.

Five is already starting out with lots of adventures. We went for four days to a family hotel (blog post to come), you are starting to really enjoy your new roller blades, and your class sang a song about Goldilocks and the Three Bears for the year-end performance…and you were Goldilocks! So confident walking across the stage, being just where you were suppose to be the whole time. Amazing, my love.

This next year, like every year of your life so far, is sure to be full of lots of adventures and lots of changes. I look forward to every minute of it.

Will You Be My Friend?

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

She comes home from playgrounds, the swimming pool, face bright and excited. “I made three friends today.” It is her measure of a successful day.

We are at one of the adventure pools, about 45 minutes outside of town. It is late, after work, over the dinner hour, and there aren’t many children around. I am sitting in a lounge chair, watching her climb up, up, up the spiral staircase to the big loopy slide. I watch her shadow through the blue plastic until she swoops out into the shallow water at the end. She loves it.

I need a friend, she says to me. We walk to the baby pool full of tots, mostly younger than her. She walks up to a couple of girls, “Are you my friend” she says, although I know this more from experience than hearing, as I hang back to let her make her own way. She comes back into the main pool area. “No one is my friend.” Oh well, I say. Let’s go back to the slide.

She waits at the end until a couple of older children tumble out the mouth of the slide. She has to tilt her head way, way, up to look at them. “Do you want to be my friend?” The oldest one, maybe 14, gives me a confused look out of the corner of her eye and then waves her hand as she good-naturedly says the German equivalent of “come on.” The teenager looks pleased, the way an older cousin feels generous to include a little one in her play. I give them a smile and then pretend to read my book. The big ones leave after only a few minutes.

She stands by my lounger as a mom and two girls walk towards some near-by chairs. I tell her to wait just a minute, let them get settled. But they pack up their things up and walk towards the showers.

Now she has found someone more her age, maybe a year or two older. They jump into the big pool and I hurry to bring her a noodle, as we are letting her go without water wings. The two play for a while, but then her new friend moves over to other older girls, kids obviously known. She tags along, trying to show off her skills in riding the noodle, laughs too loud, saying look at me. I offer to swim with her, but she says no, wants to only play with the children. I see her follow the group over to the the indoor/outdoor pool, and my throat starts to tighten, tears come to my eyes. This girl is going to get her heart broken a thousand times, a thousand ways. I dread it but know it can’t be avoided.

The older girls swim under the plastic curtain to play in the outdoor pool with a ball, but it is cold out today, the water not heated enough because of the warm weather the day before. She hangs back, staying indoors.

I walk over, seeing her floating in the water, staring after the other girls. By the time I start to walk down the steps into the pool she turns around and comes to me, devastated. Her tears overflow and her face crumples. “No one wants to be my friend” she sobs. I know love. It’s just that they are older. It happens. I go to get Dad and they play together for a while. They walk back towards me and she still has red eyes, is sucking on a finger. And my girl who always looks so grown up to me these days seems tiny, fragile, hardly more than a toddler.

We go to the pool-side restaurant and let her order ice cream and french fries. I don’t know what to say or what the lesson is here. I was never like this, this fearless child whose adventures aren’t complete unless they are spent laughing with friends. I say, “some days you will meet lots of friends, some days none. That is just the way it is. Next time maybe we can bring a friend.” She nods, already feeling better from the treats.

We go back to the big slide. She pushes off first and then I follow her, chasing her and trying to catch up. We are laughing, our voices echoing in the covered tube. She waits for me at the bottom and we both have trouble catching our breath. One more time, I say, but that turns into three more trips until we are both shivering.

We shower and dry hair and head out to the car. She is awake most of the trip home, staring out the window as we wind through the mountains, falling asleep just at the end. Dad carries her in, tucks her into our bed, brings her water. Not much later I too am tired and lie down beside her. I stroke her hair, listen to her steady deep-sleep breathing, whisper in her ear how much I love her.

I never knew that being a parent meant going through the pain and heartache of childhood all over again. I thought I would be more of an observer, more of a shoulder to lean on, someone stronger who would always be there with words of wisdom. I was wrong.

A Lovely Week

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

The last week and a bit has been really, well, nice. Not thrilling or exciting or eventful. (Actually, I’m kind of done with eventful for a while), but just lovely.

My birthday on the 20th was so sweet. Annie and Markus brought me coffee and presents in bed, singing me a rousing chorus of the Happy Birthday. I had a relaxing day at home, mostly crafting birthday and Mother’s Day cards. After Kindergarten I brought home a friend for Annie to play with. I actually made the play date last week, totally forgetting it was my birthday…clearly this is not a big event in my life anymore. But these days it is usually easier with 2 than 1, so it all worked out.

We then dropped Annie off for an overnight with Chloe (Margriet’s present to me) and Markus and I went out for one of the best dinner’s I’ve had in Innsbruck.

Heading out for a birthday dinner.

Markus was taking pictures of me so Annie, of course, had to do some posing on her own.

The restaurant is called Chez Nico, and the owner is a French chef living in Innsbruck with his Austrian wife. There are only 12 seats in the whole restaurant. About a year ago he changed his menu to be vegetarian. I’m usually up for a good vegetarian meal anyway, but this was seriously fantastic. I even got a bit drunk on the wine course pairings, which doesn’t happen often these days. A great meal, time with Markus and Annie, and many phone calls, cards, emails and Facebook posts from friends and family made it a special day.

On Saturday I took Annie up to a family meet-up with the Innsbruck expat group. I’m starting to really enjoy their company. Such interesting stories about how people ended up here! The Easter bunny showed up and there was a big egg hunt. They actually hide colored boiled eggs here, but Annie just finds them and then passes them along to someone else; she sticks to the chocolate and gummy bears as keepers. It was beautiful weather and a great way to start the Easter weekend.

Sunday was our Easter egg hunt, of course.

After the chocolate-eating fest we went for a long bike ride. Markus kept me to flat ground, which my knees and lungs appreciated. We sat on a restaurant patio and had a light lunch while Annie played in the playground.

Markus had to pop into the cafe on Monday for something, so brought home the chocolate egg a friend brought from Italy. Apparently, so Markus claims, this is standard fare for Italian kids.

Ridiculous! Thank goodness it wasn’t filled with anything. At least the chocolate is decent so we are all pitching in to finish it off before…I don’t know…next Easter?

Besides that we have been enjoying our yard and the sunny warm weather this last week.

Markus is crazy busy in May with a bunch of catering (thank goodness) and hopefully a hopping cafe (at least on sunny days), so this was very nice that we got to spend some longer periods of time together…eating lots and lots of chocolate.