I keep forgetting that Annie is seven. In my mind, when I talk to people, sign her up for programs, she is still six. Seven sounds so old. So grown up.

Not that I don’t have reminders. “I’m 7 Mom…you don’t have to remind me to brush my teeth or brush my hair!” If only.

Annie’s birthday party was excellent. We decided to squeeze the last out of our Vancouver Aquarium membership and had the birthday there. Easy peasy for the parents and the kids had a blast. My favourite part was the back-of-house tour where the public is usually not allowed to go. We saw aquariums full of dozens of kinds of jelly fish, which is the current exhibit. Then the kids were allowed to hold and touch different sea creatures.



Annie’s favourite part was feeding the fish in the main tank, a privilege only for the birthday girl.

Getting ready to feed the fish
Getting ready to feed the fish

This was definitely a great party.

Learning about penguins
Learning about penguins
And the penguins
These penguins
Recently rescued seals
Recently rescued seals


They even provided the cake!
They even provided the cake!

Her actual birthday a couple of days later started out with breakfast in bed (Dad made the heart-shaped pancake), opening presents and then heading off to school with brownies to share with the class.

Birthday breakfast in bed has become a family tradition.
Birthday breakfast in bed has become a family tradition.

We had dinner with Rebecca, who gave Annie a yellow child-size ukelele. (Rebecca is focused on music right now and she plays several instruments well. She also writes scores for her orchestra…I’m so impressed!) Annie has asked to take ukelele lessons, which we’ll try to work into the busy schedule. With her constantly singing and making up songs, I think ukelele/guitar would be a good fit.

It was a fabulous birthday all around. Now I just have to get used to the fact that I have a funny, curious, beautiful 7-year-old…with more than a little bit of sass.

IMG 0578 from Across The Water on Vimeo.





New Year’s Day 2013

It was a gorgeous first day of the new year. Bright and crisp, with an all-too-rare sun shining strongly. We all spent some time outdoors walking, running and playing.

Nana and a toothless Annie

Near to home I snapped this shot:

January 1 and the magnolia trees are already trying to bloom. What sweetness.

There was also a great deal of lazing about, which always adds to a good day at this house.

I can’t believe how quickly the holidays have gone, with Mom/Nana and Grandpa Drew being here, Christmas and activities with my brother and his family, and a few good ski days. I guess that is always the way.

Tomorrow is the start of my four-month stint of very full workweeks. I’m actually quite excited about it. I look forward to getting to know the small company of new people, as well as learning from a woman entrepreneur who has run a successful web development company for 12 years. Impressive.

The new year also brought good news about my Dad, who has been in the hospital in Phoenix since before Christmas. He seems to be on the mend and we hope he is back home soon.

An excellent start to what I feel will be a great year ahead.



I wanted to write a post today, mainly because I value number geekery. (Plus my ‘woo woo’ side is getting increasingly stronger as I age….I did the master shift mediation earlier today and thought it was great.)

I had a few ideas of what I might write about. It is a long time between posts since returning to Canada, so there are a ton of stories, photos and videos to choose from.

But then I had one of those lovely days today when I just feel so great. When I was on mat leave with Annie I used to call it post-partem euphoria. A deep, fabulous feeling of joy and well being. I’ve been having lots of those days the last few months, or at least vast strings of days where I experience this feeling for at least for a portion of the day.

Just about the last thing anyone wants to hear when they are going through a rough time is, ‘the bad times make you appreciate the good times.’ (Seriously…who wants to be told that when they are down??) And yet, once you are through the worst of it, it is simply true. I’m so grateful for so many things in my life these days, and I know that this gratitude is highly driven by having come out of such a tough stage.

Things are starting to click into place for all of us. Annie’s school is fabulous, Markus and I both enjoy our jobs, and it is wonderful having Rebecca meld into the family again. The girls and dad spent a couple of evenings baking Christmas cookies, with one of the nights Markus and I going out while Rebecca hung out with Annie, and the other night Rebecca and I went to the final Twilight film together. Despite the monster commute, Markus is often home for dinner and it just feels like we have this beautiful little family.

Of course there is no nirvana here; Markus and Annie can attest that my cranky side hasn’t, unfortunately, magically disappeared. We also have some major things to still figure out, first and foremost where we are going to end up living. But we aren’t going to make any changes on that front for at least a year, and I’m quite sure we’ll have a better sense of what we want then. And in the meantime our neighbourhood, Kitsilano, it ideal for me. It is a community of down-to-earth, kind-hearted folk, plus I’m able to walk everywhere from Annie’s school, to any store I need, to the local library, to the ocean. That is about all I need for the time being.

So I’ll leave the stories and photos and videos for another day and, on this unusual date, just record how grateful I am at this time in life. It is more than enough.



A fair number of my discussions these days are about community. How we don’t have it as a society, how to build it, how it is different in other parts of the world.

For me community starts with family. It has been 25 years since I have lived in the same city with so many of my family. I’m really enjoying it.

My brother and his family are in North Vancouver. We go through fits and spurts seeing them depending on how busy our various lives are, but it is so special to have them close.

And of course the biggest change is Rebecca living in the same city. It has been a few years since that has happened and we are all appreciating the time together. (Rebecca’s mom and her wife have also moved to Vancouver!)

I’m particularly appreciative of the effort Rebecca has made in the last year to connect with Annie. I don’t know if Rebecca always thought it was so great to have a younger sister, but right now she is amazing with Annie. A few weeks ago they went to a comic book convention together. Rebecca is very much into Anime, and there is a mad scientist character who is very short and has red hair and blue eyes. In the comic, the scientist creates a life-size doll with a windup key. Some paper mache and a few trips to Value Village resulted in this:

Don’t ask me about the cat ears. I have no idea…but they were pretty cute! They spent 9 hours together at the Vancouver Convention Center! That was one tired little scientist at the end of the day.

More recently…it was Rebecca’s 19th birthday on the 28th, so we had a small celebration complete with sparkling, as 19 is the drinking age in B.C. (Although Rebecca has been drinking legally since 16 back in Austria.)

Dad is sure glad to have his two girls nearby. He even let Rebecca dress him up for Halloween.

Who doesn’t have at least one zombie in their family?

I’m settling quite nicely into a more normal Canadian life. Things aren’t perfect, but having family around sure makes it seem like the right decision. At least for now…….


Halloweeeeeeen 2012

Annie had a fabulous first Halloween back in Canada. This is actually the first one she can remember, as they don’t really celebrate it in Austria. Or at least not the same way. They have Fasching (Carnival) of course, but the concept of going door-to-door and people giving you fistfuls of candy is something special to North America.

“I really love this candy!” said Annie. What a shocker.

The season started with the Lord Tennyson Halloween Howl. It is the 26th year that the school turned itself into a giant Halloween festival, complete with haunted house, games rooms, graveyard, incredible decorations, prizes and on and on.

Two floors of the school and all the main classrooms house jello eating contests, palm reading, storytelling, and pretty much everything you can imagine that is Halloween related.

Annie was Pippi Longstocking this year. I actually made her costumer (seriously never thought I’d say that in my life), including buying fabric ends for the patches and figuring out the hair. Here is the result:

I love the horse! (We didn’t have a monkey).

Over 800 people attended the Howl and it take about 200 volunteers from the school to set up and tear down. Annie’s new school rocks, let me tell you. We invited the cousins and all four of them had a great time.

Yesterday we all (Markus, Rebecca, Annie and I) went up to North Van to join the cousins.

(I can’t remember the name of Rebecca’s character. Shhh, don’t tell. I have pictures of Markus as well, who Rebecca dresses up like a zombie, but they are on the iPhone so I’ll have to upload them later. )

We started off in Edgemont Village, then had dinner, and then TWO HOURS of trick-or-treating in the pouring, pouring rain. But hey, it is only once a year.

This was very much a night to remember.

* Shout out to Lori, Matheson and Shawna. They gave us the Pippi Longstocking book, which we are enjoying immensely, and also one pair of the stockings that made it into the costume. Thanks!


Grade One…….seriously. Seriously?

My little lovely Annie had her first day of Grade One. I can hardly believe that my baby is so grown up. Makes my heart sing and break at the same time. We had extra big morning snuggles on the couch when we woke up, mostly to make mama feel better.

Of course, school was only for one hour, so not exactly traumatic for anyone. Tomorrow will be a big day, with the first day of after-school care. I know she will love it, especially as it is at the community center which she knows well, and adores, due to last year’s classes and summer camp.

Annie remembered some of the kids from her very short stint at Lord Tennyson last June, and we met some new families today. I feel so grateful that Annie is such a social girl and makes friends easily. I can only hope that these transitions are always this easy.

And now, here are the pics.

Leaving for school…

Why just stand there when you can pose?

Or dance

At the school

And eating cupcakes as a first day treat.

Annie insisted on taking a picture of mom, too. Don’t I look like I’m actually holding it together?

I want to remember this day forever. It feels like a huge step towards an adult life and I’m so blessed to be able to share this experience with Annie. Amazing.




I Adore You

I’ve learned that there is an ebb and flow to every relationship. As my years of motherhood carry on, I know that this is perhaps even more pronounced with a child, sometimes feeling totally connected, other times letting the frustrations of life get in the way.

For the past weeks I’m in a place where I completely adore being with Annie. I know a large part of it is that Markus is around as we get ready to return to Canada, and that gives both Annie and I space to focus less on the daily routine and more on enjoying each other’s company. I’m back to baby-gazing at her several times a day. “Why are you looking at me?” “Because I love you so much.” So far that is received with a smile or an “I love you too”…I expect the eye-rolling to being any day now.

It is just so much fun right now! And interesting. Her brain is working non-stop and I love hearing the latest thing she comes up with.  We are not very strict about monitoring her tv watching, so she often comes up with gems like, “You are only dead when no one remembers you.” O…..K. There is lots of singing and dancing around the house and oddles of laughter every day.

Annie is into miming/charades right now. A few days ago we were treated to a silent, 1-minute run down of her whole day. (Stretch to wake up, eat, get dressed, go to school, dance, sing, dance, go to sleep.) The funniest part was when we were guessing what she was acting out. Some were easy. Some were quite literal. (“What am I doing?” “Um, dancing?” “No, pointing my foot”, she says as she stands there pointing her foot. Of course!) But then she started shaking her hips. “Dancing?”, I ask with my go-to answer. “No! I’m Jello!” I had tears.

Earlier in the week was this:

First when I was invisible I chose you and Daddy, because I wanted to see how that goes. I saw that you wanted a baby. (Very much my girl”) Then I was born and was zero, then one, then two, then three, then four and now I’m five and a half. First I was invisible with all the other invisible kids. Then I chose you and it started all over again.

Now, this is exactly my belief, so I’m sure I’ve planted some of those ideas in her little brain. But I also know for certain that I haven’t articulated this in such a coherent or detailed way. And since we live in the deep heart of Catholic land, it isn’t like anyone else is saying these things to her. So, do you think that means it is true?? Ah well, we’ll never know, will we?…at least not in this life. (“I wanted to see how that goes”….priceless!!)

I’m even appreciating the less jolly times these days. With some coaching from a psychologist friend, we are very big into acknowledging feelings in this house. It is amazing both how much it helps in really any situation, but also how much it allows me to bond with Annie. “You are really frustrated!” “That must have hurt your feelings.” “Were you embarrassed when they said that?” No dismissing, or distractions, or helpful suggestions. At least, not until the emotions have been  talked about. It is such a great way to start dealing with any situation. (When I’m not losing it myself, which of course still happens.)

Our lives are so turbulently emotional right now. It is amazing to me that amidst all this chaos I’ve found a time of deep connection with Annie. I am thankful.



Plans 2012

Just pretend I wrote a great post about how relaxing and pleasant our holidays were, with lots of sweet pictures of family laughing around the tree, baking cookies and frolicking in the snow.

Now, onto the real news.

Our plans are almost all set for moving back to Canada. Flights are booked for January 31st.  That is right…only about three weeks left to go for our Euro-adventure.

After spending hours (days really) scouring Craigslist and every other housing-related website, we decided on where to live. We have sublet a furnished apartment for six months about a 15 minute bus-ride away from downtown Vancouver. (We don’t know when we will get a car, so far afield wasn’t an option.) It is in a great neighborhood (so my Vancouver friends assure me) that is good for families.

As soon as the ink was signed on the contract, I contacted the local school. After a friendly but non-committal run-around by the admin person, I very plainly asked, “Is there anyone in the school who might actually know if there is space for a Kindergarten child?” I was transferred to the principal. Principal was lovely and, indeed, they have a spot for a child at this moment, with no expectation that it will be filled before February. Yeah! The closest school (by quite a margin) is a French Immersion elementary. I’ve always wanted to have Annie in French Immersion, although part of me feels like one of those über-pushy parents making my child learn three languages. But I also believe, especially after my experience here, that one of the greatest gifts to give a child of this beautiful, interconnected world is the opportunity to learn another language.

It is possibly only for Kindergarten in any case, as we have no idea what area we will live in for the long(ish) term. But I’ll deal with that later. “One step at a time” is my new universe-forced motto.

I’m so, so (so!) excited about returning to more regular work. One contract is all lined up and I’ll know about the other one in the next week or so. I’m enjoying working for small, young companies owned by truly great people. I’m learning a lot and love not getting caught up in corporate culture. I may have to return to that someday, and do miss the stability and, you know, a benefits plan, but for now I’m enjoying the excitement and craziness and humanity of it all.

And of course, I just can’t wait to see my friends and family. Every time I send an email telling another friend when I’ll be back, I’m just so overwhelmed with the warmth and welcoming sentiments. (Remind me…why did I leave??) On the other side, it will mean saying goodbye to good friends here. But I’m sure my adventures in Europe aren’t over, so I’ll be seeing them again.

Although it has been a life-changing adventure the last three years, I’m ready to come home.


Endings…and Endings

Well, fitting that the last day of my blogging month also is the last day of us running the cafe.  It has only been a year and a half but it feels much, much longer. We found someone to take over the business, and they want to start Dec. 1st. This was a long, exhausting, expensive project for us. But certainly lots of learning and personal growth opportunities! Sigh.

Markus will have some catering events in December and then we’ll make our way back to Canada. I’m actually feeling mostly overwhelmed at everything there is to do to leave here and get us settled again. Hopefully as the weeks click by and items get ticked off the to-do list I’ll feel more upbeat. There are already moments I’m very excited to be returning to friends and family and more regular work; I’ll just have to build on those.

And the most important question: should I rename my blog?

Praise, Praise Go Away

I bumped into a few articles over the years that have suggested praising your children too much can turn them into praise junkies, always seeking external motivation.

This never sounded right to me and I was all “I ain’t buying what your selling!”, continuing to tell Annie everyday how amazing and smart and beautiful I think she is.

Yesterday, however, I came across this Harvard Business Review post that talked about praising children’s efforts instead of their attributes. The author sites a study that showed children praised for their efforts did better after a failure (were willing to try hard again) vs. children praised for their ability. (I must just not be good at this thing.)

The author’s argument is that all abilities are not innate and unchangeable, so it is important to let kids know that their efforts can make a difference. This makes sense to me. I remember always thinking I couldn’t draw, so therefore I was no good at art. Well, guess what? I’m great at artistic things, just not drawing, but I didn’t figure that out until I was well into adulthood. I don’t know where the original belief came from, but it has been there as long as I can remember. And maybe with a few classes I could be decent at drawing too. Who knows! So I’ve seen this limiting reinforcement in action.

Although I’m sure I’ll keep telling Annie how brilliant and beautiful I think she is (changing that behaviour may be beyond me!), I am going to pay more attention and make sure that I also talk about effort, and trying, and failing. Because one thing I know for sure is that humans have an enormous capacity for growth and change, and it is my job to make sure Annie knows that too.