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.

Things I Love About Austria

Here is a random list of things that I love about living in this part of Austria. Much of it isn’t new, but it is fun to put it all into one place.

  • The beautiful mountains. Hiking, alpine zoo, skiing, tobogganing, just watching them as they change day by day, season by season
  • The old city. The buildings are up to 800 years old and I find Innsbruck’s old town especially beautiful
  • Christkindlmarkt. I’ve written about my love of the Innsbruck Christmas markets several times on this blog. After experiencing it 5 times, it still is magic to me
  • Festivals. It seems like there is always some festival or another going on in Innsbruck or one of the near-by villages. From ringing out winter to driving the cows down from the mountain, there is always a reason for beer, pretzels and wurst
  • Hütten. Anywhere you can climb, hike or ski there is a rustic restaurant-in-the-hills waiting for you with hearty food, a warm fire and an amazing view
  • Erlebnisbad. It takes a combined effort from the city, citizens and sponsors to create these fantastic swimming complexes that are scattered throughout this part of the world. It is a fun and relaxing way to spend an hour or a whole day
  • Living so close to Italy. It is a breathtaking, incredible country that I’m glad I visited and hope that I get to explore more at some point in my life
  • Travelling. Given that we haven’t been rich either in time or money the last 3 1/2 years, we’ve managed to do alright in the travel area. This is because everything is so close and accessible by train or car. Of course I would have loved to have gone to more places, but I’m grateful for what we have been able to see and experience in our time here
  • The opportunity to learn more about people from other cultures. Of course, I could have done this in Canada, but I never really did much. My circumstances as an expat who didn’t speak German led me to meet and interact meaningfully with people from Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Afghanistan, the Congo, Serbia, Russia, Montenegro, England, Holland, Australia, France, Italy, South Africa, Slovakia, and on and on

This is just off the top of my head, and it is a long list already. Our time here has been difficult and has strayed far, far from our original plan. But I don’t regret coming here. I know I’m a different person, a better person for this experience.

Stille Nacht

I remember one of our first visits to Europe, probably close to 10 years ago. We were on a longer road-trip around Christmas time and to pass the time I asked Markus to try to teach me Stille Nacht. As long as I can remember “Silent Night” has been one of my favourite Christmas carols and I thought it would be a good way to pick up a few more words in German.

I think I managed to get about two lines down, and certainly wouldn’t have remembered them a few days later.

Now our choir is singing it for our Christmas performance. I know the song and understand all the words. I love the music and think the lyrics are beautiful. And it reminded me that last year we went skiing near the town where the lyrics were written in 1816. These are the kinds of lovely memories and connections that have been a gift from our time here. I will never forget them.

A Break

Earlier in the week I thought that I might struggle with having Annie by myself for the whole day, as Markus works on Saturdays. So I called in the grandparent cavalry, which I don’t do often.

They took Annie from 10:00 to 4:00, and I had a lovely, lovely day alone at home. I worked a bit, crafted a lot, and just chilled out. I finished a scrapbook page and then painted a bit in a new art journal. I’m just playing around with colours, not even attempting to paint anything real, but I still really enjoy it. Maybe I’ll try a painting class in the future.

When I picked up Annie I stayed and talked with Oma and Opa for almost two hours. It was good to connect with them again, as the relationship between the family has been strained. Ah well, such is life.

Tomorrow is our family day. It has been a long, stressful week for Markus, so I imagine we won’t do much. But a totally do-nothing weekend is fine with me once in a while.

I’ll go back to being busy and industrious on Monday.

A Nice Evening

The stress level at our house has been, to put it mildly, in the red. The first thing that happens when I’m anxious is I lose all patience with Annie. Poor duck.

So I’m grateful that we had a nice, easy evening together. I picked Annie up at 2:00 and we talked about making a domino set. She had cut one out of a kids magazine, but didn’t quite get the concept of a domino and so cut each square out individually instead of keeping two connected. She asked about taping them together, which we could have, but instead I suggested finding a printable one on the Internet. I love the Internet. It is absolutely magic, and especially for anything kid’s-craft related.

I found a zillion choices, so we picked one that had flower pictures and one that had the alphabet. There was an option to print them out black and white and colour them in ourselves (smart!) so that is what we did. Annie ran around with Dad for a bit on errands, and then when she got home we started colouring and cutting while listening to music. Between crafting and playing and dinner, over two hours flew by. Books and teeth and bed and it was an easy, easy evening that we both totally enjoyed.

I very much look forward to more of the same once things reach some level of normal again. I’m ready.

Not much today…

The writing part of my brain isn’t feeling very creative today. It was a good day, with some work projects completed, a nice walk to the store in crisp fall weather, and lots of snuggles with Annie.

But now I’m just ready to turn on Q and do some crafting.  More tomorrow.

Fluid IQ

I watched the Tedx video by Gabe Zichermann, one of the current leaders on gamification.

I don’t agree with everything he says…like the value of reading books!…but it is a thought-provoking perspective on how games can actually support a child’s education instead of working against it.

My favourite part is the five things that increase fluid intelligence (good for problem solving). They are:

  • Seek novelty
  • Challenge yourself
  • Think creatively
  • Do things the hard way
  • Network

I’m really an expert at number four! But actually, I do most of these five things frequently, and I’m a pretty good problem solver in a work context. Now if I could only use that super-power to figure out some of my other life challenges….

There is always next year….

Darn. I forgot to post yesterday. I’m surprisingly disappointed. I’ll keep going through the month, though, because I’m enjoying daily posting and I like the feedback from friends and family.

Annie and I were eating waffles for breakfast. She was talking, non-stop, as usual. She said something a bit odd and I asked, “Why did you say that?”

“It just popped out, Mom. Sometime I think something in my head and I try hard to hold it there (grunting face) but it just goes down into my mouth and pops out!”

I know that feeling well, honey, I know it well.