aryanhwy: (Default)
I was 4 or 5 when I decided that I was going to go to college at UW-Madison. Part of it was that was where both my parents, all my aunts and uncles, both of my grandfathers, and a few of my dad's cousins had gone to school. It hardly occurred to me to consider any other options (and when my senior year rolled around and came time to apply, I only applied to Madison. If I didn't get accepted there...well, maybe college wasn't for me. I was going to get a trucking license and drive cross-country. (I still love long highway driving.)). But the other part was that that was when we took our first family trip to Madison -- that I remember -- and mom showed me the libraries, Memorial Library in particular.

There were so many books. Even though we regularly visited the local public library, I had never imagined there existed places like this -- 9 floors of books, many of them with compact shelving because they wouldn't fit in normal shelving.

I needn't have worried, UW-Madison was pleased to accept me, and almost from the day I arrived, Memorial Library played a big role in my 6 years there. I was lucky enough to be friends with someone who had worked in Special Collections while a library-science student, and she passed my name along to the person in charge of hiring student assistants. I had an interview, was not found wanting, and started working the first week of classes my freshman year. I worked there all 6 years I was in Madison, 3 as an undergrad, 3 as a grad, starting with menial duties of fetching and reshelving books and by the end of my time there I was in charge of part of the maintenance of the Little Magazines collections and had gotten to work on some of the special donations that arrived during my time (including Aldo Leopold's archive, which was pretty cool). In summers, I was able to work 20 hours per week in a set schedule, either mornings or afternoons, which was awesome for a library job. During the semester, I often couldn't get as many hours as I'd like (in part because Spec Col was only open M-F, 9-5), so maybe a year in I applied for a position in circulation, and after I'd been there some time I was offered the Sunday slot at the card-issuing window. So I spent a lot of time at the library during those 6 years.

Not that I minded. All those books! Checking returned books back in was always dangerous, as was re-shelving books. I kept finding more neat books, and checking them out myself. I didn't realize until I left Madison how lucky I was: The loan limit was 250 items. And when I became a grad student, I got the grad student loan period: books were due either May 30 or Dec 30, and if no one else put a request on a book you had, you could renew it 6 times. Yup, I could have a book for three years before I had to return it. (And even then, I'll admit, I abused my position at circulation just a bit, by jotting down barcodes, and using them to 'return' a book and then check it back out to me right away by hand.) When we had to pack up all our things to move to Europe, returning those 250 library books took some time!

And life at the library got even better when in my senior year, when the library was looking to hire more people, and there was this new grad student in the philosophy dept. who was looking for a part-time job to supplement his TA salary, and I put in a good word for him and he started working at circulation too. I distinctly remember, summer 2002, he worked at circulation 9-1 on Wednesdays. I was doing the M-F 9-1 shift at Spec Col and if I used my 15 min. break to pick out a few books to check out, and then left work a minute or two early, I could slot myself into line so that I'd be at the front when his window next became available. He'd check my books out, his shift would be over, he'd clock out, and hey! he'd walk me home! (Joel was completely oblivious to all these machinations until years later.)

After we were married, he added more hours in different departments, often taking the evening shifts at the microfilms lab since no one wants to check out microfilms on Friday nights. He also joined me in Spec Coll for a few months when we were moving all the books out of the vaults in order to install compact shelving. This meant that a large percentage of our time together post-marriage, pre-Europe life was spent at the library -- more time, often, than we spent together at home, not asleep.

When I was an undergrad, I also had the opportunity to work as a student assistant for a professor in the English department, which mostly involved getting books from the library, photocopying things, sometimes doing a bit of research. I had a key to his carrel, so I could leave books there, and he didn't mind if I used it when he wasn't there (almost always), so again, more time spent in the library. I enjoyed being a research assistant, but never quite understood why anyone wouldn't want to do all this themselves. Who wouldn't want the excuse to spend time in the library? To browse shelves in hopes of finding something serendipitously? Who wouldn't have wanted a quiet private space away from all distractions and within just a few footsteps of all the books? I couldn't imagine it.

I was in for a bit of a library-surprise when we moved to Amsterdam. Loan periods were 4 weeks, and you could renew 3 times. And there was a loan limit of 25! 25! How on earth was I supposed to do my logic research with only 25 books, not to mention onomastic? And virtually all of the books were shelved in off-site storage, meaning you had to request them to be retrieved in advance for collection -- no more shelve browsing. I was pretty cranky, but after awhile realized that I had plenty of material to keep me busy even without serendipity, and I made friends with one of the librarians at the branch library I selected for my pick-up point, since it was closer to my office than the main library, and he silently removed the loan limit on my account so I could have a sensible 50-60 books out at a time.

When we moved to Tilburg, I got my library card/faculty card right away, but then felt guilty when I didn't actually physically go to the library -- or figure out how to activate my ILL account -- for a few months after we arrived. But first I was on maternity leave, then I was only out on campus 20 hours a week, I had enough other things to keep me busy, I didn't have the time. Nevertheless, I did eventually get there, and over time I also made friends with the acquisitions librarian who regularly purchased things for me. In fact, just the other day I got an email from her about a newly published book that she thought I'd be interested in -- even though I haven't been employed there for more than a year!

Which brings me to Heidelberg. The hauptbibliotheek is three or four blocks from our house, I bike past it regularly. It's in this huge old gorgeous 19th C building, and is, from the outside, everything an old university library should be. I quickly figured out what I needed to do to apply for a library card and then...didn't. Because I'm not an EU citizen, the form indicated that I needed a guarantor. I asked around, and eventually got a letter from the business director of the cluster which essentially said they'd guarantee me, and that letter sat in my bag for months. The problem was that when I was at home, where the library was conveniently located, I usually had Gwen with me; and when Gwen was at daycare, I was at the office, and the thought of breaking in to that work time to bike down to the library, get the card, and bike back was so off-putting. Besides, my project had money set aside for a 20-hour-week student assistant, of which roughly 6 were mine. At one point we all got an email from him reminding us of his services, and I started putting him to work. I didn't have a library card, so he couldn't pick up books for me, but he could photocopy/scan chapters from them when relevant.

Jonas left us the end of last month, and a new assistant started. I sent her off to photocopy a few articles, and when she stopped by the next day, she said "And I asked what I'd need to bring to apply for a card for you and..." ! It had never occurred to me that I could get a card without showing up in person. I had all the docs for her ready within 15 minutes, and Monday she obtained my card, and brought back a huge stack of books. Since then, every day I've had more for her to get, plus a few more articles, etc., to scan, and I'm sure it will be awhile before the rush slows to a trickle. In the meantime, here I am: 14 months at a new university and I've never stepped foot into the main library; and I'm enthusiastically making use of my student assistant to fetch and copy for me.

How things change.


Mar. 17th, 2014 01:52 pm
aryanhwy: (widget)
I had a pretty typical US childhood: We lived in the suburbs, we had a nice house with a big yard, with trees and gardens. No swingset, but I made friends with the kids two doors down (on the other side of Dave Do-Not-Touch-One-Blade-Of-Grass-On-My-Lawn Ambrose) who had an awesome one. Across the street from us, behind the row of houses on that block was nothing but huge empty stony fields. (In fact "Stony Field" was the proper name we gave to it). A few blocks away there was a huge forest with more fields. My sister and I spent a lot of time playing outside growing up. There were a lot of kids around -- kids my mom babysat for, neighbor kids -- but I remember that a lot of my most satisfy time was spent in the forest or the stony field by myself.

When we lived in Amsterdam, in front of our building (on the side not facing the canal) there was a big square, where on nice days we often say neighbor kids playing. I loved seeing them, because they were a wide range of ages and sexes and were always doing something that looked fun, and never once did I ever seen an adult supervising them. In the middle of a big European metropolis? Yeah, I was glad that if we were going to have kids, we were going to be doing it outside of the safety-crazed US.

I was very pleased after we'd moved in to our place in Heidelberg when I went out the back door instead of the front door one day and found that the entire block squared off a big courtyard that had a sand pit, a tree, and bouncy toy. I'd worried about living in an apartment, meaning we wouldn't have a yard, meaning Gwen wouldn't have a place to play outdoors. We do go and play out in the court yard moderately regularly, but we recently discovered an even better place to play: Right out on the Marktplatz out front. We blow bubbles, chase bubbles, and ride bikes down the wheelchair ramp out front of the Rathaus. The last few weekends that we've been home, it's been so nice that we'll go out 2-3 times per day to blow bubbles (arg, I just realized I forgot to pick up more bubbles at the grocery store when I ran there over lunch). Yesterday, we sat on the steps of the fountain and blue bubbles for half an hour, and then Gwen decided to run around the steps. I went the other direction, and for another 10-15 minutes we chased each other back and forth around it.

Moments like that I can't help but step and and think "What a cool way to grow up". I know she's too young now, but as she gets older, I hope she forms lots of memories that she can look back on when she's grown and think "I was really lucky."
aryanhwy: (Default)
Yesterday was Joel's birthday so we both took the day off to celebrate. After I took Gwen out to daycare I came home, and after breakfast we headed out to the Kurpfälzisches Museum, which has until the beginning of March a satellite exhibit associated with an exhibit about the Wittelsbachs in one of the Mannheim museums. We've been talking about going to see this ever since the posters for it went up around town -- last fall!

The museum is an interesting eclection (a word I have just coined from "eclectic" and "collection"). In the basement and on the ground floor there is archaelogical material, from the pre-historic period to the Celtic era to the Roman era to the Frankish/Merovingian/Ottonian era to the medieval era (surprisingly little of that). Probably the neatest part of that section was a homo heidelbergensis jawbone. Yeah, that's probably the oldest thing I have ever been near to. The front part of the museum is in the old electoral residence, which neither of us had realized, and two floors of it have been preserved in the appropriate decorations from various eras. Then there was a wing with Italian landscape paintings, and another with a bunch of still lives by Dutch masters which were part of a donated collection, and a third wing with modern painters who either painted Heidelberg or who came from there or were otherwise associated. Down in the basement was the lapidarium with the Wittelsbacher gravestones, and assorted other pieces of stone, statuary, etc. Finally, the museum's special exhibit was on Marlene Dietrich, and had photographs of her as well as some of her clothing and costumes.

The nice part of it all was that since it's in various buildings which can be navigated without leaving, but which also you can short-cut by going outside, your ticket is good for the entire day. We got about 2/3 of the way through, and then left for lunch, stopping at a restaurant that was the first one we'd eaten together at our first visit to Heidelberg in May '11. After that we quickly ran over to Princess Cupcakes to pick up the requisite half-dozen carrot with butter cream frosting. :) Then we returned to the museum to finish up the remainder; it's not like we couldn't have done it another day, but on the other hand there also wasn't any reason for us not to!

When we finished it was about quarter to 5, so I sent Joel home and headed out to get Gwen by bus -- which always takes so long. When I bike, I can be out and back in about 35 minutes. By bus, it's about an hour, especially if, as happened both there and back, you just miss one bus and have to wait for another. Still, we managed to get home not too late, and we broke out the cupcakes, sang happy birthday, and then dove head first into enjoying the cupcakes.

My present to Joel, other than taking the day off and spending it to him, was to arrange a babysitter, the first babysitter we've had since Valentine's Day 2012. Since we'd met Jordan at the party on Saturday, and she and Gwen really hit it off, I wasn't worried about how Gwen would find being left at home without either parent. When I picked her up, I told her that after we went home and sang happy birthday and ate cupcakes, her friend Jordan was going to come over while Mom and Dad went out, and her response was "Jordan! Jordan! ... Gwennie's Jordan!" And when Jordan did arrive, she immediately went into "show off all the toys" mode. When we were ready to leave, she cheerfully said "bye-bye!" and was not bothered in the least (nor was she bothered while we were gone. Jordan said occasionally she asked after us, but upon being told that Mom and Dad were out and would be back in the morning, she was perfectly fine). It still remains weird being on the "parent" end of the parent-babysitter relationship, rather than the "babysitter" end! I have far more experience with the latter than the former.

We went to Vetter for supper, where happily it was Wednesday, which means the halbe haxe (half a pork knuckle) was on special, and I could eat more than I perhaps desired of delicious, delicious crackling, though our plan of lingering there for the rest of the night was upset by a large number of reservations for later in the evening, so instead after we ate we went over to the other brewpub nearby (I don't remember what it's called, but we went there for my birthday last year) for a second beer. After that, it was only 9:15 or so, and we were feeling a bit peckish for dessert. We both really wanted ice cream, but none of the places in the area that have it were open that late. We ended up at Cafe Vivo just down the street from Vetter for tea and cake, after which I started turning into a pumpkin as it was nearly 10:30. So we headed home, a nice end to a very nice day. I hope when my birthday comes around, we do something similar.
aryanhwy: (Default)
I think one just got formed last night.

Birgit had invited a bunch of people over for a "thank goodness January is over" party, partners and children included, and since it started in late afternoon we figured we'd be able to go for a few hours before having to get Gwen home to bed. (I also wanted to take the opportunity to meet her flat mate, whom she'd said would potentially be available for baby-sitting.) Incidentally, I have found having a child an immense crutch when it comes to social anxiety at settings like these. I always have something to pay attention to/occupy me when I don't have someone to talk to, and she often provides the topic of conversation, whether the person I'm talking to is also a parent or not. Hurrah! I haven't been to a party like this with so many people that I didn't know where I haven't felt nervous and stressed and non-desiring of going in years. There were a handful of other kids there -- a 6 month old, an almost 3 year old, a 1.5 year old, and one who was nearly 5. I'd brought Gwen's alphabet puzzle and a book along for her, and the other parents had brought assorted things, and as I sort of expected all the kids ended up playing with everything, which meant they were all happily entertained. I had the pleasure of realizing that Gwen is now old enough to be relatively unsupervised in situations like this -- I don't have to worry about her wantonly taking things off bookshelves, or chewing on cords, or going places she shouldn't. The people with kids were mostly in the livingroom, and Joel was quickly ensconced in a conversation with another programmer in the kitchen, and I was pleased to be able to say "Go find your father in the kitchen and ask him" and have her do so when she came to me asking for more juice or more cheese. And she being her usual gregarious extrovert self loved being at the party and was happy to stay awake and charming until nearly two hours after her normal bedtime.

I know that Joel likes it when we are able to get out and do these sort of things, it gives him a chance to talk to adults who are not me. It turned out that he's not the only one in this situation -- he found two other guys who are (a) spouses of cluster members, (b) working from home, (c) not German or very good German speakers, and from the snippets of conversation I overheard there was a flurry of exchange of emails and promises of "we should get together and drink beer! and talk! with people other than our spouses!" It sort of made me think that maybe the cluster should sponsor/organize some "meet the spouses/partners" events, so that all the people who are in Heidelberg only because their partners are can meet each other. Because heavens knows it's difficult otherwise -- especially for us with a small child to tie us at home. But we're hoping to change things this spring, and start inviting people over more often. Not big parties, just small dinner get togethers, but we like to cook, and we like to have people over, and if we know that there are other people out there who are in the same sort of social limbo as we are, we know that any invitations we send out to people we may not know that well will be well received. I'm actually looking forward to it.

The party was a "bring something to eat or drink if you want" sort of party, so in the afternoon, Gwen and I made a double batch of pretzels. I was really impressed. She wanted to help me roll them out, which previously was more "help" than help. I gave her a piece of dough to keep her occupied, and then was surprised a bit later when she said "mommy, here", and she'd pulled the dough into a narrow piece, and folded it over in a rough approximation of a pretzel! She actually ended up making nearly half of them. After that, she pointed to the spilled flour on the floor saying "clean, clean!" so I gave her a wet wash cloth and she wiped up nearly all of it on her own, and then we scrubbed at the table where we'd been working together until it was clean. For a not-quite-27-month-old, I was really quite impressed, her contribution to the effort was actually more helpful than not.

Today I'm trying a new recipe for honey buttermilk bread. It got started a bit later than planned since we all slept late, Gwen included (until past 10:00!). But it should be ready in another 15 min. to go into the oven, I hope. And hopefully I can keep Gwen going long enough to survive until it comes out of the oven, at which point we'll eat, give her a bath, and put her to bed. Because she slept so late, we tried to skip the afternoon nap -- which often works even when she wakes up earlier -- but about an hour or so ago I think she started getting pretty tired. Oh well.
aryanhwy: (widget)
Today really turned out to be a wonderful day. I didn't have any reason to think it would be particularly great -- or particularly awful -- and it could've started off more auspiciously (yesterday, Gwen slept until 8:10. I woke up on my own, fully rested, 10 minutes before. It was great. Today, she was up at 6:35).

But after breakfast she inspected my work as I did some cutting and ironing, and then while I sat on the couch and sewed, she was happy to play on her own in the livingroom -- color at her table and chair, feed and put her babies to bed, and occasionally be read a story to. I managed to get quite a bit of work done on the 14th-C-ish capelet I hope to have finished by coronet. By midmorning the sun was shining brightly through our windows, and it was so pleasant to sit bathed in the light. I managed to get Gwen down for her nap closer to 13:00 than 14:00, and Joel and I took advantage of the free time. :) Alas, she didn't sleep much more than 45 minutes, and woke up grumpy (this has become a pattern on weekends, I don't know what to do about it), but even though it had become somewhat overcast it was still nice enough that we decided to go outside for awhile. We brought her bike down to the platz, and she very quickly discovered the wheelchair ramp outside the Rathaus. This picture sums up pretty much everything I love about getting to raise Gwen here:


At one point, another little boy, slightly older than her, on a glidebike went by with his parents, and saw her, and decided he too needed to ride his bike down the ramp. The last time before his parents called him back, the two of them lined up together and I heard the little boy go "Ein, zwei, drei", and they had a race. :)

After that, two other ladies and the young daughter of one wandered by, and stood near the stairs chatting to each other while the girl sat near the stairs. Eventually we started talking to each other -- the standard opening question of "how old is she?" -- exchanging names (Mathilda), ages (17 months), familial resemblances (like their father's parents), etc., and Gwen kindly lent her bike to Mathilda (at our suggestion, but she offered generously, and when it came time that she wanted it back, she was able to ask "bitte" and say "danke" when Mathilda returned it.) It's funny how twice in the last few weeks strangers have chatted with us to find out how old Gwen is and -- consequently -- when they can expect their children to master the skills she has mastered (hopping on two feet, in the case of Mathilda; and in the case of someone at Hamburg train station on the way to coronation, the use of a fork). I am also surprised at how strangers say such incredibly complimentary things of Gwen, after having observed for awhile -- how happy she is, how strong she is, how ... it's actually hard for me to remember the compliments, because I find it so strange for other people to offer them. I guess I don't observe other people's children as closely, and if I did, would I see something worth complimenting? Would I say something if I did? Is Gwen really so remarkable that only casual acquaintance with her is sufficient for people to remark? Of course, I think she's incredible, but I'm also the most biased person out there. Anyway, it's strange...and, I'll admit, quite flattering and reassuring. :)

We spent nearly 45 minutes out; it was about 5 C/40 F, and since I wasn't the one running around I was cold! When we got back in, we started prep for supper, and split a bottle of beer while cooking together. A few days ago, Thorvaldr had shared a photo + recipe on FB for roasted cabbage steaks, and they sounded awesome. And they were:


The other item planned for today was a beef roast with the same spice mixture that we'd used for our Christmas lamb. It's, honestly, the first time we've bought a cut of beef from the butcher shop in our grocery store, and we really didn't have any idea of what we wanted other than -- heh -- cheap. What we ended up with was half a kilo of "braten keule", essentially frying beef. I wasn't sure exactly how to adjust cooking times for a 4 kg piece to a .5 kg piece, but somehow I managed to do so perfectly to get a gorgeous medium rare:


I had thought we'd eat only a small amount and then save the rest to put into other dishes this week, but then realized -- we spent 4.00EUR on this. If we eat even half of it, this is still an incredibly cheap meal. And so, so good. I have not heard Joel rave over my cooking like this in...ever.

Afterwards, we played for an hour before Gwen went to bed (which she did easily, not even getting out once as she lately often has), and I returned to my sewing. There's a bunch of embroidery, hems, and buttons and buttonholes left to do, but the copelet is coming along nicely!


And now that I've finished writing this post, I think I'm going to go take a bath. A lovely way to end the weekend.
aryanhwy: (Default)
- I did ALL the gilding. (Shiny!)

- Gwen and I made cinnamon bread:


- The sun came out for the first time in a week.

- Gwen and I walked up towards the Schloß, getting as far as the entrance to the back route, whereon she decided the thing to do was run down the really steep cobble-stone street, walk back up, and repeat a dozen times or so.


Dec. 9th, 2013 09:56 pm
aryanhwy: (Default)
One thing I have discovered that I love love love about having Gwen in daycare is how active they are about celebrating appropriate German holiday traditions. One thing about raising Gwen away from family and outside of the country of our holiday traditions is that it's not always easy for us to keep up the traditions we grew up with; e.g., there is no Thanksgiving here, so it would be more of an idiosyncracy than a family holiday tradition; we don't have big Easter dinner with the family, etc. And since we don't know the German traditions, we wouldn't be able to raise her with them instead. Enter daycare.

Gwen was born on Saint Martin's Day (Sint-Maartensdag, Martinstag), which is far more widely celebrated/commemorated in both the Netherlands and Germany than Armistice Day. Our first year in the Netherlands, we were rather bemused when our doorbell rang one evening around supper time, and we opened it to little kids bearing lanterns who began to sing. Luckily, traditions aren't that different from the US to Europe, and thus it was clear that the appropriate response was to give them candy. :) This year, in early November, I was asked if I could bring in a brie or camembert container so that Gwen could make a lantern out of it, and then on the evening of the 11th they had a lantern party after it got dark out, where they walked around with their lanterns, had snacks, and sang songs. Gwen still sings those songs that she learned, and occasionally, especially in the morning when the house is still semi-dark, asks for her lantern so she can parade around the livingroom with it.

My side of the family intermittently celebrated St. Nick's growing up; however, we could never remember if he came the morning of the 5th or the night of the 5th, and thus we never knew to hang up our stockings on the evening of 4th or the 5th. To be honest, the bulk of my childhood memories of St. Nick's were making various small handcrafts, or saving quarters and chocolates, so that I could fill my parents' stockings. They were always thrilled when St. Nick brought them, e.g., giraffes made out of twist-ties, or helicopters made out of old toothbrushes. Coincidentally enough, one of the things I look forward to about rummaging through my stocking (which still gets filled every year) is the toothbrush and travel toothpaste that's in it -- except this year, when Gwen got a new toothbrush, but neither Joel nor I did! I feel gypped.

Sinterklaas is an incredibly big thing in the Netherlands, and last year he came to Gwen's daycare in Tilburg and had presents for everyone, but she was too young to really take any of it in. On Friday, when Joel picked Gwen up from daycare early so we could head to the train station (roughly 20 hours of travel to get to Yule Ball: 7 hours on 4 trains, and then the overnight ferry, then another train), he found that St. Nick had visited daycare (curiously enough, he'd also visited my office, as this greeted me when I arrived in the morning:


), and Gwen had a small bag which he had left for her. We ended up not having time to open it until we were on the ferry, right before we put her to bed, but no amount of tiredness was going to prevent her from enjoying pulling out a piece of evergreen, a chocolate santa, an orange, and an apple. (And she was equally thrilled about each -- especially when we told her she'd be able to have the orange and the apple for breakfast the next day!) And as she pulled out each item, I revelled inside. Because isn't that what Saint Nick always traditionally brings in stories and things? An apple and an orange and a treat! I love it that she's getting to be a part of all of these traditions. Yay, daycare. For as rough as our start was with the one in Heidelberg, I've become really, really happy with them.
aryanhwy: (widget)
It's good to be home, after 16 days away. By some alignment of the stars, my flight was early (I went Chicago -> Stockholm -> Frankfurt) while Joel's was late (he and Gwen went Chicago -> Frankfurt), which means we ended up arriving at almost exactly the same time; I'm glad, otherwise he would've had to entertain Gwen and keep track of two suitcases, two carryons, a diaper bag, a stroller, and a carseat. (I joined with my suitcase, a carryon, and a large cardboard box which has a gaudy 60's lamp that first hung in my uncle's bedroom, then in mine, and will soon hang in Gwen's. It's awesome. I'll post pictures of it when it's hung.) We decided discretion was the better part of valor, and took a taxi home from the station, rather than trying to take a bus and then walk.

We came home to a fully-fledge Christmas market out on the marktplatz. We were both surprised, but apparently it starts the weekend before Advent. I'll have to look up how long it runs, because if it's there until Christmas I see a lot of sausages and gluhwein in the immediate future. If it only runs until Advent, then I think I'll have to spring for a ride on the carousel for Gwen. When we walked past, she pointed at it and went "Wow!" -- and there's a tractor on it.

It's so very festive and traditional and German and I love it. Will have to get pictures of it too.
aryanhwy: (Default)
When I look back on the 7 years we spent in the Netherlands, I'm rather embarrassed how little Dutch we learned. Oh, I knew numbers so I could pay and make change, I could ask for half a kilo of lean bacon from the butcher (probably the first sentence I mastered), and all the usual pleasantries, but we never really had any use for the language. We were almost never in a situation where Dutch would've been the preferred language for conversing over English -- even if all the other participants were Dutch. As for reading, well, recipes are easy; letters from Immigration and Naturalisation are not, and I don't feel bad that I never mastered reading them when the secretarial staff at the ILLC often found them unclear!

The year we spent in Tilburg did help my conversational Dutch some; fewer people spoke English there, or were comfortable speaking it even if they could, and when you travel pretty much every where with an adorable baby, you learn to recognize and respond properly to all the usual questions "It's a girl, her name is Gwendolyn, she's X month's old, etc., etc., etc." I also started reading Gwen kids books in Dutch, and that helped both my pronunciation (Martijn and Wendy could listen to me read them without laughing) and some of my syntax.

We fully intend to take German lessons here...but we've been here 10 months and that hasn't happened yet. Nevertheless, I am surprised at how much more quickly I've developed conversational German to a level similar to that it took me 6 years to get to in Dutch; part of it is the meager German I had as a kid, part of it is having done this relatively recently with another language, part of it is that the other language I've done this with is close to German. But more than that, I have found I really appreciate the German approach to people who don't speak their language well. In the Netherlands, people either switch to English or don't pursue conversation any further. Here, people when they recognize that we're not natives, take an effort to speak slowly, clearly, and with helpful hand gestures, which in restricted contexts (e.g., picking up a package from the post office, or mailing one, or going to the bank, or ordering lunch) contribute immensely to comprehension, and also give me the confidence to try to respond with my meager German. And the more opportunities I have to do that, the more naturally it comes. I was pleased yesterday this morning to realize that the first thing that came into my head, and thus off my lips, when I got to daycare yesterday morning was "haben sie eine kart?" rather than "do you have your key-card?" (Most days, the door is locked, and you need a key-card to get in. They issue one card per family. Before I left for Cambridge in September, I gave the card to Joel. He swears I didn't. We've been cardless since then, but it's OK, since we usually arrive at the same time as others and can slip in with them. Though occasionally a crowd of half a dozen of us will be hanging around outside the door, none of us with our cards).

Of course, I'm learning German through Gwen. It took us a day or two realize that she was trying to tell us "fertig" at the end of the meals (most of the time her diction is quite good for someone her age. She has two words where she swaps consonants. "Music" is "Mukis". "Fertig" is...well, it sounds awfully like "fuckit"). She'll sing snatches of song, and last weekend I looked one of them up on youtube and we ended up following links to watch a number of other German nursery rhymes -- complete with captions -- which I'm sure will be as educational for me as to her. But for the most part, she's done pretty well with bifurcation of the languages; I'm not sure how much English she speaks at daycare, but I know she knows a lot more German than she uses at home. Occasionally we'll get "hund" and "katze", but honestly, since we use both "puppy" and "dog" and "cat" and "kitten" in English, how can I blame her for thinking "hund" and "katze" are just two more synonyms?
aryanhwy: (widget)
I've just pulled out a dozen scrumptious-looking raspberry caramel muffins from the oven (recipe adapted from [ profile] madbaker). And what is Gwen continually returning to the counter to sneak surreptitious handfuls of?

Chopped celery, awaiting to be made into soup.

I've lost track of how many bowls-ful she's eaten.


What's the autumn correlated of spring cleaning? Whatever it is, it appears to have hit us lately. Last weekend, Joel hung up in the bathroom the medicine cabinet that we rescued from the trash in Amsterdam; it had been used in Gwen's bedroom in Tilburg to store miscellaneous things, but here it had just been sitting empty on top of one of her bookcases.

This weekend, he's installed two of the overhead ceiling lights in the hall (the third has wiring problems that he's still sorting out), plus the lights in one of the two nooks in the hall. We'd picked out the fixtures back in February or March, and then they just sat... It wasn't much of a big deal as the days grew longer and the light grew stronger, but lately, even with daylight savings, it's now just too dark in the morning for me to see into my wardrobe (our wardrobes are in the main hall) easily. So it's really, really nice to have the lights up finally, and it's also nice to have these particular lights: We discovered doing fixture-shopping in spring that we're quite picky when it comes to lights, and the vast majority of what's out there you couldn't pay us to have in our house. So the fact that we both agreed on these pretty quickly says something about them.

aryanhwy: (Default)
The last two weekends that I have been home both days, Sunday has been easier than Saturday.

I wouldn't necessarily have noticed the pattern or trend were it not so very distinctive. Saturdays have been long and stretched out and had me at one point during the day sitting in the bathroom thinking "the thing about patience is, you can't stop. You can't "be patient" and then be done, in order for it to be patience you have to keep going. That's the hard part about patience" and hot and dreading Sundays, but then Sunday has been not so bad. This is in part because the last couple of weekends, Sunday has been cooler than Saturday. In my quest to systematically watch all the old QI episodes (which I can get on youtube!) while doing C&I in the evenings, I came across this very fact in an episode in S3 or S4, namely, that since the advent of modern man, statistically, Saturdays are the hottest days of the week. Anyway...

This weekend was not quite as bipolar as the last one I wrote about, but I'm still glad it's over (where "over" means, Gwen is in bed and asleep, more than an hour before her usual bedtime). Both mornings she woke up around 6:00, but whereas yesterday morning this resulted in melt-down and nap 9:00-10:30, which then messed with her usual nap schedule resulting in a 45 min. afternoon nap, this morning I took her back to her room, told her "it's too early to get up", and latched the door behind me as I left, and though she cried for a bit, I ended up not having to get up with her until 7:00. Though afternoon nap was only 1.15, which I think contribute to the early bedtime tonight.

Yesterday had some perks. After she woke up we went to the post office and the grocery store, and then I decided cupcakes sounded like a fun treat; but the cupcake place didn't open for another 15 min., so we made a detour to the fresh fruit stand to buy strawberries and raspberries and took our groceries to the park and had a picnic before getting our cupcakes. When we got back, a few packages were waiting for us; earlier last week I'd used some of her birthday/Christmas money from last year to make good on a childhood woe of mine: Even when I knew I had outgrown duplos (in the sense that it was far more worthwhile for me to use my money to buy legos), I coveted the duplo zoo set. The animals, they were so cute! Plus, while we're still on the way to imaginative play with Gwen, the one thing that she does consistently pretend to do is feed things: herself, me, her babies, her stuffed animals, the little squirt-gun shaped like a hippo that she pulled out of someone else's bike cart as we left daycare one day (she shared her rice waffle with it, then gave it a few big smacky kisses, and put it back). So I scouted around and picked out some nice wooden food (my big-ticket item for her 2nd birthday is going to be a toy cupboard/kitchen). All of this arrived Friday and Saturday, and we have both had a lot of fun since then.

Still, since she was so tired yesterday afternoon, her attention span wasn't long, so duplo playing was interspersed with mom-willing-to-do-anything entertainment, i.e., we both stripped down to underclothes and go out the washable markers and colored on each other. It was bath night last night, and we got a good 45 min. of fun out of that.

After she went to bed, I put in my bid for a "neglectful parent of the year" award and made a quick dash to the market across the square for the rest of the groceries necessary to make it through a Sunday (which included ice cream bars. Necessary, I tell you.) However, I think my bid failed, since in the 10 minutes I was gone, the apartment failed to catch on fire.

Last night I discovered that all of the episodes of Lark Rise to Candleford are also available on youtube! I'd caught most of season 1, and some of season 2, when they originally aired, and had always wanted to go back and catch the ones I missed. So I had a glorious evening after she went to bad, watching four of them (one more than I should have knowing she'd be awake early), eating raspberries and ice cream.

This morning I was even able to keep her entertained for awhile watching another episode with me -- the first non youtube (i.e., videos of animals or music vids of classic rock songs, the latter of which we would watch in the afternoons during her fussy period when she was ~2-5 months) TV she's ever seen. She was moderately interested whenever there were animals but eventually wandered off.

In the afternoon, we made pretzels again, since it's been a few months and it wasn't so hot that turning the oven on was unthinkable. Late afternoon some musicians came and played in the square and she asked to go down and see them, so we did, and then we headed to the Neckar where I'd scouted out various boat trips yesterday. The Neckarsonne is 7EUR, and lasted about an hour, I thought that seemed a reasonable way to kill the time. I was mostly right; after being cool all morning and even into the early afternoon, it had turned rather hot which bumped her towards grumpy, and then she was getting awfully tired; but she enjoyed waving to people on other boats, and seeing geese and ducks, and regularly would point out off the side and gleefully inform me that there was "water!" Yes, honey, there generally is when you're on a boat.

I was surprised that in an hour trip, we only went from the Alt Br¨cke (just down the hill from where we live) to the bridge two bridges up (the one I cross to fetch Gwen from daycare every weekday). I thought the route would've been longer. But it was fun to see everything from the water, you get a different view that way. And the boat is entirely solar powered, which was pretty cool; it's absolutely silent as it runs, since there's no motors.

Less pleasant was carrying a 12.5kg screaming and thrashing toddler who wants absolutely nothing to do with anything from the boat back home, but once back, she declined food (we had a snack on the boat, plus the pretzels early afternoon so I'm not worried about her waking up hungry in the middle of the night), and we were able to sit and rock and read until she climbed down and headed off to bed of her own accord.

And now it's only 18:30; I could watch four episodes of LRtC and it'll be only a little past my bedtime!
aryanhwy: (widget)
Ad (1), a shoutout to Glumbunny, reading whose post makes me feel all justified in just how much I enjoyed my 3 days, 2 nights away in Geneva. There was poker Tuesday night! And awesome Lebanese food with [ profile] kirieldp Wednesday night, followed by a walk around Geneva and lounging in a park! And a trip to an epicerie just doors away from my hotel Thursday morning! And by then I was looking forward to getting on the train home and reaching Germany so I could connect to the internet and hence to Joel, missing Gwen lots and feeling much more well-disposed to her than I was Saturday (the missing actually kicked in Tuesday afternoon walking through the city, because it has become reflexive to point out every dog that I see to her, and I had to realize that there was no point, since there was no (mostly) adorable little toddler to wave and say "Helluuuuu!" and "Puppy! Puppy! Puppy!" to it), refreshed and recharged and much happier for a short break.

Ad (2), the CERN tour on Wednesday was really quite awesome. We got to visit two of the experiments (ATLAS and LHCb), getting to actually go down into the LHCb cavern and see the collider, as well as one of the staging areas where you can see accelerator parts waiting to be put together.

The ATLAS control room. Only manned by a single person 24/7 since the accelerator is off for maintenance until the end of next year

This is a copy of the original proposal for the WWW. I love the comment at the top.

A cross-section of the accelerator pipe. It was so much smaller than I expected. (Then again, it's not like a beam of photons needs that much space).

We all swapped around cameras to get pictures of ourselves in front of the LHCb collider. It was pretty cool.

This is the detector used in the Delphi experiments. This gives you a sense of the scale of things; small tube, but HUGE once you start putting on the sensors and magnets.

We were there for nearly 5 hours, which meant I got back to downtown Geneva rather later than planned, but plans with [ profile] kirieldp were flexible so she met up with me at the station and then we headed over to a favorite Lebanese place of hers. We ordered a bunch of appetizers, and they were all fantastic. And it was so nice out -- while Heidelberg has still be hitting 30+, Geneva was hovering around 28-29, and that plus the lovely lake breeze meant the entire visit was extremely pleasant. After the plenary talks Wednesday morning (I was a bit disappointed in the second one, it was on language acquisition as statistical inference, but he didn't actually talk much about human language acquisition which is, of course, what I'm interested in, given as I have a small human currently in the process of acquiring language), I didn't want to go for a sit-down lunch seeing as I had to get back to my hotel to change before heading out to CERN (the one thing they stressed, multiple times, was that you had to wear close-toed, no-heeled shoes), so I picked a random cafe/bakery on my way back, and got the quiche de maison, which turned out to be probably the best quiche I've ever had. Still hot from the oven, an amazingly flaky crust, really salty cheese in the filling, and sugar around the outside which contrasted perfectly. And eating that while walking meant I also had time to stop for ice cream while waiting for the tram. It was, to say the least, a good day.

Ad (3), got back to Heidelberg, and my office, about two hours before the general meeting, which I felt obliged to go to even though it'd been pushed back from it's normally time of 16:00 to 19:00 due to job talks earlier in the day, because there were elections. The elections and all the normal admin stuff went very quickly, but one of the three directors is leaving for a new directorship in Paris, and so the last half hour of the meeting (ugh) was devoted to saying nice things about him and thanking him. That part ended with one of the weirdest moments I've experienced in academia: song booklets were handed out, one of the other directors got out her guitar, and all ~90 of us then sang a song with lyrics in English, German, French, and Norwegian, and song many of us did not know. Sitting there listening to everyone mumble and stumble through the words reminded me eerily of sitting in some churches where no one knows the hymns, but sings anyway. Afterwards, I turned to the girl next to me and commented on the weirdness, and she asked "You've never had to sing in Norwegian before?" and I replied "I've never sung in any language in a departmental general meeting before", and the look she gave me was along the lines of "what type of department are you from where they don't sing at their general meetings??" Weird, I tell you. Weird.
aryanhwy: (Default)
Yesterday and today presented me with two very different pictures of parenthood.

We're now going on nearly a month straight of highs around 30 every day, without break. We've only been home for the last week and a half of it, but even with judicious window/shade-shutting during the day and window/shade-opening at night, our apartment is definitely on the warm side, and none of us are sleeping as well as we might.

Friday evening we had a complete meltdown (shrieking hysterics) when I informed her she'd had enough watermelon and that she had to eat something else before I'd give her more. We ended up curtailing dinner early and putting her down for bed soon after. Yesterday morning, I started hearing her make noises around 6:20, and not just noises but full-on crying much like we'd had the night before. I ignored her (as best as you can), and then eventually she petered out and the next I heard her it was after 7:00 and so I got up with her. But we both started off the day on the wrong foot. The morning wasn't too bad (in part because we had watermelon for breakfast), and then I took her out on errands with me which took up the better part of the rest of the morning. But then after we got home the rest of the day was just filled with whining and crying and me losing my temper, and there wasn't really any reason to it, she ate a good lunch at a normal time, went down for a nap and slept for a good 1.5 hours, even though I finally decided "she doesn't need pacifiers at daycare for naps, she doesn't need them at home", and didn't give her any -- she cried a bit, but no more than 5 min. or so (so, that was one big score!). I'd thought about taking her to a park in the afternoon, but when the afternoon came around, it was so hot, and I was so exhausted (shopping in this heat is just tedious, I couldn't summon up any gumption to leave the house, all I wanted was just 10 minutes of quiet where I could do something on my own without someone clinging to me, picking at me, flopping over on me, augh. This is one of the hard things about parenting that I hadn't been prepared for: How much I dislike the constant physical contact sometimes. It's just too much for me. And anytime I left the room, or tried to do something on the computer, she just howled and howled and howled and it was awful. I spent all afternoon thinking to myself "Really? You want to do this again? Wouldn't you rather have just one child because then at least you can go to bed tonight and think 'at least I don't ever have to live through this day again', no matter how awful it was, we're one day closer to growing up and being sane and having the emotional self-control to be able to stop crying, take a deep breath, and have a few seconds of patience?" Because it really was a pretty awful day, and I was a pretty awful parent at a number of points throughout it, and when she asked to take a bath around 6:00pm, I figured, what the heck, put her in the tub, let her play until she splashed too much water all over me, took her out, and bundled her up and put her into bed at 6:30pm, not even caring that this increased the likelihood that she'd be up early again the next morning.

I had thought about using yesterday as a day to introduce no pacifiers at night, too, but I ended up not. Instead, mid-afternoon we took the railing off her bed again, and since we were going to try sleeping all night with it off (something we've attempted a few times previously but never been successful in), I wanted to keep the pacifiers as a clear trigger "now it's time to sleep".

I think she was asleep before I even left the room. I got my 20 min. sitting on the couch and then we made supper and settled in for pizza and sci (having finished up everything we'd been working our way through, we're now starting in on Farscape, on the recommendation of both [ profile] badgersandjam and [ profile] goncalves). Around 8:15pm we heard a wail and padding feet, I went out into the livingroom, picked her up, hugged her, said it was bedtime, put her back in bed, and again, she was asleep before I left the room. I'm not even sure she was ever actually altogether awake.

Twice I woke in the night thinking I heard her, but I was wrong both times. I was curious whether she would come and find us right away when she woke up, or if she'd sit and play in her room for awhile. I have to say, I'm not sure which it was, because when I finally heard feet padding around 7:50, when I went to her room the light was on and I don't know if she'd been playing for awhile or if she'd come right out. In any case, she slept! All night long in an unbarricaded crib! And until nearly 8:00am!

The day was already starting off on a good foot.

We had a small snack, since she was hungry and we never know when Joel will wake up to make waffles, read some books, I showered, she climbed up on the couch and gestured at my computer and asked for puppies, so we sat and looked at Cuteoverload for awhile, and Joel got up around 9:15. We had waffles with strawberries and raspberries, and then played in the livingroom; I got out her basket of stuffed toys and brought it there and dumped it out, and also gave her a pile of pillows from the couch and bedroom, and she played with blocks and dove on pillows and asked me to help her put clothes on and off her babies. Around 11:40 (somewhat early), she started flopping around on the couch and whining, so I asked if she wanted a nap, she nodded, we went into her room and I deposited her there with animals and pacifiers, turned her mobile on, and left. She slept for about 40 minutes (rather short!, but I was surprised she slept at all, since she'd slept late and it was earlier than normal for her nap), which despite being short was long enough to count as a successful nap, and again with bars.

After she got up, I got together a few things and we did what I'd been planning to do yesterday. One thing that happened during the 4th of July visit at my aunt and uncle's cottage was that Gwen discovered, you know, water isn't nearly so bad (she loves baths, but her one previous experience swimming was a scarring experience). One drawback about the lovely lake the cottage is on is that there isn't really any beach, and the water right by the shore is already awfully deep, in addition to being cold and rocky. But, hey! We live near a river! One which is clearly clean enough to swim in, at least judging by the number of people we've seen doing so once the weather turned nice. About 1.5k away, there's a tiny little sandy beach which we hit up:


The water was wonderfully warm, the sand squishy and soft, I took off my shoes and didn't even bother to have put any on her, and we waded. The drop off is so gradually we could go about 2.5 meters out and it was still barely at my ankles, heading up to her knees. She fetched up pieces of driftwood and dropped them to make a splash, pointed and shrieked at geese, chased fish, and eventually I decided "who cares" and that it wasn't worth the effort to be bothered if she sat down, while I enjoyed the sun, the warm water on my legs, her happiness, and the fact that I live in a city where I have such a wonderful sandy beach about a 5 min. bike ride away, and I can do such things with my kid. Maybe next time, I'll bring her swimsuit. Or sunscreen and just strip her down naked.

Afterwards, we went over to the frozen yoghurt stand and split a frozen yoghurt (the real kind! Tasting like yoghurt, all sour and stuff!) with watermelon on top.

We got home and had a bit of a snack -- radishes and peppers and some cheese, because no day is complete for Gwen without cheese -- and eventually I could tell that she was feeling that short nap (plus the extra activity), and I thought a second nap might happen. The first time I lay her down, she was up again in about 5 min., but not long after that I tried again and she slept. Only about half an hour, and then she was really unhappy about something, so we decided to head outside again, just to the sandpit in the courtyard. She happily dug in the sand, I sat and read, we walked around a bit together, and then it was time for supper, and after that bath ('cause she asked for one again) and bed. Again, she went down without any problem, and now, ~40 min. later, I'm sure she's asleep and while she might wake up again once like last night, I think we've figured out this "sleeping in the open crib" thing. Yay!

Two very different days. One was really the picture of some of the worst aspects of me as a parent, and of parenting as a whole, and it was not fun or pleasant for any of us. The other was not just a fine day, but an excellent one, one where you look back and feel not only happy but also smug because you were the mom who took her kid to the beach! and played in the water with her! and bought frozen yogurt! and then went outside again to play in the sand! And, hey, I'm willing to revel in some amount of smugness to make up for the disappointment in myself yesterday.
aryanhwy: (Default)
One thing I wished for in moving to Heidelberg was to get proper summers again (Joel, on the other hand, was hoping for proper winters). After an unusually cold and rainy spring that lasted a long time (it felt like the average day-time temperature all of June was 15), we suddenly had three days up near 30 right before and during coronation, and then while I don't know what happened the two weeks following that, since then it's been just glorious. Between 23-29 during the day, not much wind, not many clouds, with proper attention to shutters and windows our house doesn't get too hot so we can still sleep decently at night (especially since Gwen has by now gotten over her jetlag but is still sleeping until 8:00 instead of 7:00!). I have gotten more use out of my summer skirts and dresses this year so far than I feel like I got 7 years in the Netherlands combined.

We also had wonderful summer weather for the remainder of our trip in the US, including an absolutely perfect 4th of July celebration, my first one in 8 years. There's a lot I want to write up about it, and to post pictures about, (not to mention things that have happened since we got home), but to do it justice will be time-consuming, so for now I'll just leave you with this picture of a little girl who has transformed from one who would always force us past the pages with trucks and machinery in her picture books to one who has discovered the joys of airport carts, golf carts, tractors ("car-car!"), and other heavy equipment. They're doing some regrading at the park we bike past on the way to daycare every morning, and she was so excited today that we stopped and watched them for a few minutes.



May. 19th, 2013 05:07 pm
aryanhwy: (Default)
For the last, oh, I don't know how many weekends, we've haven't quite managed to come up with a day in which (a) the weather was nice, (b) we didn't have guests, (c) we weren't traveling, and (d) Joel wasn't ill, which meant that for quite some time now we've been saying things like "Oh, the next nice weekend we should go walking up Königstuhl", and then never being in a position of being able to do so.

Friday boded well: Gwen spent all day at daycare (and had to be chased across the room to be convinced to finally go home), I nearly finished my chapter draft and rounded up something like a dozen people on FB with little or no background in logic willing to read a chapter on the said topic in the Middle Ages, Joel finished up (at the remarkably sane hour of around 19:30) the brochure his partners took to a business convention today, and some of their other work-related stuff resolved itself nicely by the end of the evening, so we all rounded off the evening heading into the weekend sans responsibilities or guilt. This meant I was able to stress to Joel my desire to get up and do our errands (mostly grocery shopping) early, i.e., hopefully before Gwen's nap, because otherwise I spend my Saturday mornings at home fretting because I can't do anything until Joel wakes up, and he (lucky bastard) gets to sleep late on weekends and I still have to get up when Gwen does, and then we don't do our errands until the afternoon and by the time we're back the day is gone and I did nothing. It makes weekends rather unpleasant. But anyway, he promised to get up early so we could do our shopping early.

Unfortunately, yesterday Gwen also decided to wake up early, distressingly early (5:40), and though I stuck to my strategy of not getting her out of bed before 7:00, I'm pretty sure from the noises I kept overhearing as I was trying to fall back asleep that she didn't sleep much in the intervening time; so she was ready for her nap by about 9:30. It turned out OK; she napped until around 11:00 and then had lunch, and then we headed out. There are occasional times while grocery shopping that I think owning a car would be nice, and yesterday ended up being one; those 6-packs of orange juice are heavy! I suggested to Joel we take the bus home, but he manfully said it was OK; about two blocks later we stopped, took Gwen out of the stroller, put the plastic tub with all the groceries into the stroller, and then I sent Joel home while I tried to make forward progress with Gwen. She'd take about 6 steps and then sit down saying "shu-ah, shu-ah!" (shoe), trying to take them off. She'd refuse to stand back up, so I'd pick her up, and she's thrash and wail and arch her back and fling herself around. We'd go like this as far as I could before my arms would give out, I'd put her down, she's walk about 6 steps, and then this would repeat. It was a long walk home.

By the time we got home, the weather was turning out marvelously sunny and warm. We weighed the chances that it would remain that nice out today, and decided that it was probably 50/50 that it still be nice (there wasn't a cloud in the sky yesterday) and that it would return to the dreary rain we've been having a lot of lately. So a little bit before 3 o'clock we filled up the water bottle, got our hiking shoes on, bundled Gwen into the stroller, and headed up the mountain. Unlike the last time we walked up Königstuhl, this time we stuck more to the roads and the wider paths, the easier to wrangle the stroller. There's a WWII cemetery up on top of the hill somewhere, and we'd like to see it sometime, but we don't really know exactly where it is other than that it's west of where we started, so we took a lot of westerly routes whenever there was a fork. We then ended up nearish the top at a place where five paths came together, and upon consulting the path-map there, decided it was probably too far to continue to where we thought the cemetery was, and instead we should start angling back east towards where the funicular stops at the top. (Among other things, there's a little cafe up there, which I'm sure makes a killing on beer and ice cream sales in weather like this. I'd had this in mind all along, but the idea hadn't occurred to Joel until I mentioned it to him, and he brightened up considerably.) We started following signs pointing to Königstuhl, and at one point there was a sign pointing up for the footpath, though the road continued east. The footpath looked too narrow and steep to handle with the stroller (oh, I should note that by this point, Gwen had fallen asleep and she ended up sleeping probably around an hour in the stroller, yay!), so we continued on the road, figuring eventually it had to switch back. Well, it did, but I'm sure we ended up taking the long, scenic route! That beer was awfully tasty by the time we got to the cafe. Gwen was awake then and we'd planned to also get a snack of some sort -- apple cake, or maybe a pretzel, but turned out that between the two of us we had enough cash only for the two beers. So Gwen got the rest of the water bottle, and that's it.

On the walk down, we ended up taking some of those steep paths full of rocks and roots that we'd discounted for the walk up, which make the route shorter but a bit trickier, though there was only one point where I had to pick up the front of the stroller so that we could carry it over some rocks. We are so totally impressed with our stroller (a BOB ironman), and even though we've hardly ever going running with it, it has proved worth its weight in gold in many other contexts. We're very happy with it. Eventually made it down, and the plan was to feed Gwen and give her a bath and then do our usual pizza + sci fi Saturday evening, but we got home and found it was nearly 19:00! This means Gwen had a small and early lunch, didn't have afternoon snack (which usually happens around 14:00-14:30, and sometimes at daycare she gets another small one around 17:00), and didn't have supper around 18:00 which is about the latest we can go at home before the real grizzling kicks in, and hadn't complained about it once! We quick fed her and decided to post-pone bath night a night, and put her straight to bed, where she then slept nearly 12 hours (so, waking up this morning post 7:00am!)

I even managed to get Joel to get up with her this morning when the fussing began in earnest -- around 7:30 -- and thus enjoyed one of the few lie-ins I've had since she was born that wasn't because I was sick or horribly sleep deprived from an earlier incident. And our decision to go out yesterday proved right; it started off nice in the morning, but then greyed over (and was rather chilly when I had to bike out to the train station to the only grocery store in the city open on Sundays to buy flour), and now it's spitty down foggy rain. So we've had a pleasant day in doors, I made another batch of pretzels, Joel is making rhubarb cake, and Gwen has been remarkably self-entertaining today, allowing me to do what weekends are for: lounge on the couch drinking tea and reading.

Tomorrow is yet another holiday (I've lived in a Catholic country for almost 8 years, and spring never fails to catch me by surprise with the number of religious holidays it has), which means no day care, stores are closed, etc., but either it will be nice out and we'll go to a park for awhile, or it won't be and we'll stay inside and maybe cook or bake, and since my chapter draft is going so well, I won't spend the day wishing that I could be at work to, you know, get work done.
aryanhwy: (widget)
Apparently, Germans think of cheerleaders, line dancing, and rock'n'roll.

Woke up this morning (at 7:45! Great Mother's Day gift, Gwen) to find the marktplatz set up with rows of picnic benches. Mid-morning I saw them decorating with red, white, and blue bunting and that crossed my mind as being a bit strange. Then I saw the American flag hanging up on the Rathaus across from a German one, and Joel mentioned he'd seen posters for some sort of American-German Friendship/Appreciation Day or something. It started off with a brass band parade in yellow and black Landsknecht (for the German side of things), and then there were speeches in English and German (I missed those, being in the kitchen making soup), and the rest of the afternoon has been peppered with various acts on the stage, including the aforementioned cheerleaders, line dancers, and rock'n'roll cover bands. The weather has alternated between being sunny and rather pleasant looking out, and absolutely dumping down rain, so we haven't actually gone down to fraternize with our fellow expats (to be honest, if cheerleaders and line dancing are what Germans think of Americans, I'm not sure I want to be identified as one. But rock'n'roll I'm down with), but Gwen has spent a lot of time standing on the window sill and watching. Unfortunately, since the sill is so high, we can't let her stand there without someone next to her in case she missteps, otherwise I think she'd stand there all day.

The rest of the day was rather up and down, Gwen napped for only an hour and definitely needed more than that, but I haven't been able to get her down for a second one. At this point, we'll just do an early bed time. But since we couldn't go out and walk up the mountain as planned (even if the weather had cooperated, Joel's still not feeling well), I made soup after Gwen woke up from her nap (not the greatest; I think a little less lemon juice would've been better), and then later in the afternoon we made soft pretzels. Gwen helped me roll them out:


They were extremely tasty, and so easy. I could totally be persuaded to make these every weekend.


Apr. 27th, 2013 11:38 am
aryanhwy: (Default)
Three times now, I've been up the Heiligenberg. Three times it has rained.

Sarah and Elliot, two friends of mine from Canada who'd spent the semester in Cambridge and then went on a tour of Europe (as Sarah put it, this was likely to be their last child-free chance to do such a thing), visited from Thursday afternoon until this morning, and as Thursday progressed into a gorgeous nearly summer-like day, I was sure that finally we'd have good weather for the mountain hike. And in fact, Friday morning it was nice. Gwen had a dr. appointment (for the last of her vaccinations until school-age; I had thought we were going in for the first of the chicken pox but it turns out we were there for the second, which means that the chances she'll contract them after having been exposed at Arts in April last weekend are low, yay!) in the morning, so we pointed them at the funicular and the castle and sent them off on their own. But by the time they got back after lunch, it was clouding over and turning darker and cooler. Nevertheless, we weren't going to let the forecast of a little rain stop us. I indoctrinated the two of them in my "not going to let having a kid prevent me from doing things I want to do" mentality, and between the three of us we were able to haul Gwen's stroller up the winding, cobblestone path interspersed with regular stairs part-way up the hill to the Philosophenweg. From there we took roads, so it wasn't so bad, but some of them are quite steep! And of course, just about when we reached the first of the monasteries, it started sprinkling. It rained the entire time we were at the top, beginning to clear up a bit as we heading back down.

However, it wasn't a downpour, so we didn't get soaked, just wet, and Gwen had a fantastic time climbing stairs, stomping in leaves, picking flowers, and just being in the rain -- this is, I think, the first time that we've ever played in the rain -- and I got some adorable pictures:

A Gwen-sized door into a Gwen-sized room in the St Mikaelskloster ruins
A performer in the making?
Stomping in the leaves at St Stefanskloster

After all that fun, she finally, finally fell asleep in the stroller, and napped for pretty much the entire hour walk down. We've been having sleep issues lately, she's waking up between 5:45 and 6:30 rather than 6:30 and 7:00, and the last two nights both nights twice she fussed enough that I had to get up and settle her. Yesterday she then napped after her dr.'s appointment, but then only for an hour and it was clearly not enough, so we really, really needed that second nap in order to be able to make it through having supper at the brewery around the corner from us. But I'm really hoping this ends soon, since I'd gotten accustomed to unbroken sleep until at least 6:30, and I'm beginning to drag.
aryanhwy: (widget)
I just realized I never wrote up the last day of Mom's visit last week. I decided Gwen probably really didn't want to be bundled into the stroller for another boring day of sight-seeing, so I took her off to daycare in the morning, and the three of us walked up to the castle. That was my third time through the apothecary museum, and I still find it fascinating -- though each time I go through quicker, whereas Joel still wants to stop and read everything!

There was a part of the castle open that hadn't been open the other two times I'd been there, one of the lower rooms which has been turned into a cafe/wine bar and also holds the Großes Fass, which was indeed very big:


It was intermittently raining and overcast, but still nice enough to get a few good pictures looking down on the city:


You can't quite see the building our apartment is in here, just as you can't quite see the castle from our livingroom, because the Rathaus is in the way.

We'd hope to have crepes for lunch, but the crepery wasn't open yet, so we returned home for a brief repast, and then headed out again to the other city of the river, to walk along the Philosophenweg, and then up to the top of the Heiligenberg to see the two monasteries and the ampitheatre. The weather turned progressively less nice as the air coalesced into miss and occasionally into rain. It wasn't particularly wet, just damp, and by the time we got to the top, very, very foggy. This is standing on the stage of the ampitheatre looking up:


And this is having gone up all the stairs and looking back down:


Quite a difference from this photo, taken two years earlier!

This means that I have now been up to the two monastery ruins twice, and both times it has been raining. Last time, we got a lovely view of a rainbow over the castle through one of the remaining windows. This time, it was too wet for me to get my camera out any more.

Someday I will climb to the top of the Heiligenberg when it's not raining. I hope that that day will be next week, when my friends Sarah and Elliott are visiting, and I take them up there.

Afterwards, we all walked to daycare together to get Gwen, and despite the rain, it was a really pleasant day.
aryanhwy: (widget)
It wasn't until Wednesday afternoon that it occurred to me that since Good Friday and Easter Monday are both holidays, daycare would be closed and we'd have Gwen the long weekend.

I would've appreciated more than a day or so to accustom myself to this idea. I love Gwen and all, but four days straight with her is long and tiring, and being at home with her changed my work plans for Thursday.

Friday turned out to be a really great day; Gwen took a really awesome nap, and during it I was able not only to work on a scroll assignment for Crown Tourney next weekend, but to finish it! Here is a sneak preview:


This is the second scroll I've used [ profile] badgersandjam's cheater-gilding techniques (though it'll be the first to be given out), and I'm having so much fun with it. My technique is still pretty ragged, but with each piece I do I'm learning, and it will get better.

In the afternoon, I pulled out one of the boxes of toys from Gwen's room into the livingroom, and curled up on the couch while she dug through it and played. She'd regularly come over to me and I'd have to inspect something, or make a fuss over her, or the like, and sometimes she wanted to be hauled up onto the couch next to me to read a book too, but even so, for nearly an hour I got to sit on the couch and read a book (A Man of Property, by John Galsworthy, a book my mom loved when she read it when I was in high school, and which I've owned a copy of since then but have never read myself. Enjoying it so far). I got a glimpse of what things will be like, as Gwen gets older and more self-sufficient in her play. I loved it.

Right about the time when Gwen starts fussing for dinner but before we want to be feeding her, Joel suggested we take a short walk, so we headed out east; there's really only about 750m before the city stops because the mountain extends down to the river, but we'd never been more than ~2 blocks east before. We found a brauhaus which we'll have to try soon, and also an antiques store, where we hope to find an end table for next to the couch so there's some place to put tea, and maybe if we're really lucky, we might find a bed! Wednesday we went out to IKEA again (hopefully the last time for a long time), and briefly poked our heads into another furniture store there to look at beds, and we've come to the pretty firm conclusion that contemporary bed-frame fashion is simply ugly, and we'd rather continue sleeping on a mattress on the floor than buy any of what's available in modern stores.

Saturday started off a bit rocking; Gwen slept straight through until 6:45, which is quite decent (we aim for 7:00), but I was in the midst of a very deep dream when she woke me, so I was groggy and out of it for most of the day. We ran some errands in the afternoon, stopping at Altes Hallenbad for lunch (he had fried noodles, I had fried rice, Gwen sat on my lap with her own fork and shared mine, and amazed me that at 16 months, she's proficient enough to do that without making a huge mess or -- a good thing since we hadn't brought the diaper bag -- needing a bib, or wipes to clean up with afterwards. Teaching a child to use silverware was one of those semi-opaque things, I knew we had to do it, and I knew roughly when, but I didn't really have any idea of how. She seems to have picked it up on her own quite well! On the way home, I steered us past the cupcake shop, and suggested that holidays were good reasons for having cupcakes. Their carrot cake ones are so delicious.

Gwen has learned that if we're out in the stroller doing errands, there will often be snacks. (Usually because we've gone grocery shopping and I've been hungry while we do so. She displays this knowledge by thrusting up an open hand and going "numnumnum" to indicate that she's reading for a snack now, thank you. Luckily she doesn't get too peeved when you don't give her anything.

She had a short nap before lunch, so when we got home I figured I'd try putting her down again, and amazingly she slept for about an hour. But by this point I was so tired that I curled up on the couch to read some more, hoping for some time like Friday afternoon, and ended up actually falling asleep myself for an hour, complete with Slinky-cat curled up with me. Joel kept Gwen occupied and still managed to hang up one of the curtains in the livingroom, I'm amazed that I slept through all of that! It was blissful. I woke up refreshed enough to be able to enjoy our usual Saturday night routine (we'd finished up season three of Downton Abbey last week, so last night we had the 2012 Christmas special. Well then. We also watched the last B5-related thing we hadn't yet seen, and the best I can say about it is that now we can say that we've seen it).

Not sure how the second half of the weekend is going to be. Gwen slept until 7:00 (yay!), which is 8:00 because of daylight savings, but I'm not going to try to get her too adjusted since Tuesday morning we fly to Lisbon, which is an hour behind anyway. But I've been sitting at my new desk (still need to post pictures of all our new furniture here!) looking out the window while typing this entry, and the falling snow just gets thicker and thicker.

16 months

Mar. 13th, 2013 10:30 pm
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Gwen turned 16 months on Monday. At first I thought I wouldn't write up a monthly post, since not much has happened in the last month, but tonight I figured, I've done it every month so far, why stop now?

It's been a rather quiet, even month. The routine I wrote about a few weeks ago is still mostly in place, routine enough to count on, but still flexible so when, e.g., Gwen has a cold and doesn't sleep well at night an so is cranky in the morning, I can put her down for a nap at 8:30 instead of getting ready to take her to daycare, and let her sleep for ~2.5 hours, and then not take her out until after lunch (as happened yesterday). For about two weeks now she's been going full days at daycare, and even though she still cries when I drop her off, each morning it's less and less the cry of "my world is falling apart" and more and more the cry of "my desires are being thwarted", and those cries don't bother me. They especially don't bother me when I come to pick her up in the evening and she's too busy with whatever she's doing to even acknowledge me. It always takes a few minutes before she quits whatever she's doing and she comes over for a hug. So I know she's happy there, finally. Apparently she sleeps well there, too; I'm not sure what that means in terms of time, but whatever it is, it's enough that one nap per day is sufficient and she's not cranky by midafternoon. And they're able to get her to nap without a pacifier; I simply never told them that she still takes one at night and at naps at home, and thus they never knew. I keep thinking I should try taking them away at home again, but I do like how they're currently a signal "it's sleeping time now", and I think that part of the routine helps. Eh. I guess I'm not bothered enough about it to do anything yet.

Gwen still loves to read, and in all her picture books she'll flip through and point out all the things she knows -- kitties, puppies, bananas, teddy bears, and real bears. She'll linger over the pages that have animals on them, and we've both noticed that she pretty much always flips right past the ones that have nothing but machines (cars, bikes, trains, tractors, etc.) on them. They simply don't interest her. One evening after her bath she found the page that had all the bathroom pictures on it, and excitedly pointed to the rubber ducky and the kid in the bathtub.

She hasn't picked up any new words, and the ones she does have she uses less regularly (a few weeks ago I thought that "ma" was "milk", but then it apparently drifted away), with the exception of "nay", which gets used a lot. :) The slowing down of her word acquisition/use corresponds almost exactly with the sharp increase in the amount of time she's at daycare, where they speak exclusively German, so I'm not surprised. I bet right now she's using up all her mental space for linguistics learning German, and sorting and filing German vs. English, and that's quite a lot to take on without adding in to it trying to speak. It makes me curious as to when the dam will break, because I'm sure it will and she will start and won't ever stop. She still "talks" quite a lot at home, and it's fascinating listening to her idiolect, because it simply doesn't sound like an ordinary natural language. I remember at Christmas Andrea commenting at how different Gwen's babble sounded from Rinnah's; I don't have many other kids to compare Gwen to right now, but even so her babble doesn't sound like the babble I'm used to in kids, it's so very breathy (which it has been all the way back to when "thee-tah-dah" was her favorite description of her day at daycare in Tilburg last fall). She also has quite the repertoire of grunts which come out when she's hauling toys or furniture from one place to another. Joel and I are both looking forward to getting to find out what exactly it is that she's trying to tell us when she talks so much.

A week or so she discovered how to get out of her high chair (since I took it apart to use the lower part as my interim desk, the upper part sitting on the floor is only about a foot off the ground), and then she discovered how to get back in, and now it's one of her favorite places -- partly because she associates it with food, and so she thinks she'll get food whenever she sits in it, but also partly just because it's fun. She'll happily sit in there with some books and read when I'm working in the kitchen. But soon we'll be putting the two pieces of the high chair back together, because our furniture is being delivered next Tuesday! The original delivery date was actually going to be Friday, but we head out to England tomorrow for a long weekend in London and Oxford, and don't get back until Monday night. I'm looking forward to Tuesday. No more eating our meals on the kitchen floor! No more childsized desk and stool! A couch to curl up and read on -- really looking forward to doing that with Gwen! And hopefully finally we can get the last remaining boxes in the livingroom and unpacked into the chest of alphabet drawers. On Tuesday Joel finished putting together our two wardrobes, and once we figure out what's screwed up with the electricity in Gwen's room and the hall so we can put up lights in both, we'll finally be all moved in and settled. All told, 2.5 months isn't that bad for an international move from a furnished apt. into an unfurnished one; and the next time we move it won't be nearly so bad, since we won't have to buy all this furniture and then assemble it/wait for it to be delivered!


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