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When I was younger, when my travel nerves combatted with my very deeply rooted cheapness, cheapness usually won, and you could find me anxiously navigating public transport all over Europe. I could tell I'd reached a transition point, recently, when I was finally earning enough money that if I was landing in a foreign airport after dark, my default went from public transport to taxi.

But for whatever reason, I didn't particularly want to do that coming in to Budapest tonight. I wasn't getting in that late (8:30pm). And I had no idea what sort of cost a taxi would be, and I didn't want to have to over or under estimate how much cash to get from the ATM immediately upon arrival. I also didn't want to display my shockingly rudimentary knowledge of Hungarian pronunciation either by trying to name the address of my hotel or by passing the driver a written note.

So in a return to younger form, I looked up the public transport info. Bus 200E to a main metro hub, then metro M3 to the city center, and from there it should be about two blocks to my hotel. And wouldn't you know, it went incredibly smoothly. The bus was waiting when I got out of the terminal, but not in so much of a hurry that I wasn't able to buy a ticket from the machine (it costs more on the bus). At the terminus, it wasn't immediately obvious where the metro was but my usual ploy of "walk purposefully in the same direction as the majority of the people" also worked. In 6 minutes, the metro arrived, and 20 minutes later it deposited me into an entry room that had a very nicely signed map that made it obvious which exit to take. From there, I basically walked straight to my hotel, and here I am!

Budapest is humider than I expected.
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It's not that I haven't been writing, it's that I've been writing A LOT, just elsewhere. Most of it here, but some of it here and here, plus academic writing, and trying to put in my 400 words regularly. Plus another writing thing, which will get another post. I had once made the decision not to fragment, that I would write everything here, but this eventually turned out to be unfeasible; first the C&I blog split off, and then I had dedicated/project-specific blogs, and then I re-invented Diary of Dr. Logic as a space in which I could right relatively public facing pieces about philosophy, logic, and academia (so if you're interested in any of those, head on over!), as opposed to this space which is moderately personally facing; it's all public, but I didn't feel the need to actively advertise my blathering about my child to unknown academic peers.

So, what's new? I survived another academic year; one of my thesis supervisees got the highest thesis mark of all the philosophers (v. proud), another one is headed to Stanford for his master's. Today is the two year anniversary of officially accepting the position in Durham; I'm still amazed at my good luck. Last week I got back from two weeks in Australia (conferences! Meeting SCAdian friends in person! logic! beer! echidnas! and -- as you can read in the most recent Dr. Logic post, some experiences the writing up of which has garnered me 1500+ post views, and two write-ups in big name philosophy blogs (Feminist Philosophers and Daily Nous), which is a very weird sort of fame. What academic piece will I ever write that will ever be read as much as that post?

Monday Gwen "graduated" from nursery, complete with caps and gowns. While I find this aping of the adult ceremony rather gauche, I have to admit, it is amazingly cute:


As they called each child forward to receive a certificate, the head teacher announced one thing that the child would be remembered for. Many will be remembered for being kind, a good friend, imaginative, etc. Gwen's friend D. will be remembered for spelling out her name to anyone who asked what her name was; her friend T. will be remembered for once explaining at group time that all of his blood had been removed from his body and hence he could not be expected to participate; and Gwen will be remembered as the child who when asked what she wanted to have to drink for lunch, replied, "I'll have wine".

(I see I haven't recounted that anecdote here. One evening when I picked Gwen up, her teacher pulled me aside with that look/tone of "she's had an accident/been exceptionally naughty". "I asked Gwen whether she wanted to have milk or water with lunch..." [and I started thinking, did she ask for milk? did it make her ill? what happened?] "...and she thought, and said, 'I'd like wine!'" Ah, my girl. :) )

Australia deserves a post of its own. We'll see if it gets one.
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Last year I joined twitter, and starting butting my head into other people's conversations (because that's what twitter appears to be). As a result of this, I received an invitation to come to Munich, give a talk, and be interviewed for the History of Philosophy Without Gaps podcast (the episode is not yet available). The talk I gave in Munich was on my growing research in women and logic in the Middle Ages, so the guy running HoPWG mentioned that there was going to be a women in the history of philosophy conference in Cambridge the next summer that I might be interested in. In fact, it went even further: He told the organizers about my research and they added me to the list of invited speakers.

So tomorrow there's this one day conference in Cambridge that I'll be talking at. But it starts early enough in the morning there's no way I could take the train down the same day. They agreed to pay two nights in college for me so I could come down the day before. Now, theoretically, I could've booked a late train, stayed in Durham long enough to pick Gwen up from nursery and get her home and fed, and possibly even late enough to put her to bed...but then it'd be late when I got into Cambridge, and then I'd be tired the next day, etc. So if I wasn't going to be around to pick Gwen up, there really wasn't any reason not to head down right after I dropped her off.

This morning I woke up, pleasantly, about half an hour earlier than usual, before Gwen woke up, and feeling nice and rested. We did our morning things without any rushing, and when I dropped her off I barely got my extra hugs and kisses for the two nights I'd be gone. I then had a leisurely walk to the station, and an uneventful train ride down where I actually got loads and loads of work done. (In terms of counting words, I'd added 20,000 to my draft textbook. This sounds way more impressive than it is, since at least 3/4 of this was cut and pasted from another draft textbook, and much of those words will be heavily re-written or omitted.) After a pleasant walk through the sun from the station to Newnham College, I dropped my bags, repacked my canvas bag with my embroidery and a book, and headed back to a pub I'd seen on my walk in, where I sat on the verandah overlooking the river, with a pint of ale and my book. After that, upon the suggestion of a friend I walked downriver about 1.5 miles through sunny meadows filled with cattle until I reached the Orchard Tea Garden, which is basically an orchard with extremely comfy canvas chairs scattered all over. I got myself a scone with clotted cream and raspberry jam and a bottle (a big one, because it was hot, and I also had the walk back!) of raspberry lemonade. Sat down in the sun to read and eat and drink...and fell asleep instead. Oh, not for very long, only about half an hour; I don't know, I wasn't really checking the time. I then read some more and leisurely walked back, where I planned to drop my things and then take my book out into the college gardens (which are beautiful) to read some more, but by the time I'd checked my email and done a few things, I didn't really have any desire to leave the room; besides, the gardens are encircled by tall enough buildings that the sun was just beginning to dip below them, even though it still won't be dark for another hour or so.

This doesn't feel like a real day, and it reinforces my belief that Cambridge is not a real place, but some weird alternate reality. This is the first time its unreality has extended so far as the train ride down, though.
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I do love being able to say "Oh, I went down to London for the day." Of course, when you're already in England it isn't quite as impressive, but there is something very satisfying about getting on a train, sitting for three hours (in a relatively quiet car, with no one sitting next to you, and your headphones on, and no four-year-old always talking talking talking) and stepping out in London.

It's actually been quite awhile since I've been there (I'm thinking it may be Dec. '13!), but it was nice to be familiar with the foot paths leading from King's Cross. It used to be that when I came to London, I felt like I spent more time on the underground than above ground. So it's nice to realize I do know some of above-ground London.

I like London. It's a very nice place to visit. I'm very glad that at the end of the afternoon, I hopped back on another train, sat for three hours, and returned to my quiet, dark city where at 9:30 on a Friday night walking home through the middle of town, I passed hardly anyone.

I went for the meeting of the medieval philosophy network -- three of the speakers were friends, and three other people I know were going to be there, so I knew it would be a good day. What I didn't expect was how an incidental note scribbled on a sheet of paper and passed to me by the person sitting next to me would lead to a discussion during the Q&A of a paper which led to the "Oh, didn't you know? Googlebooks has that book" which led to downloading it, ... and then as I paged through it after getting settled on the train, I may have startled some of the fellow passengers by reading something aloud in Latin and then squeeing.

Because I think I may have found something, something really quite amazing. It's been hiding there all along and I'm not sure anyone has ever noticed it before.

So I had a very good day.
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Our trip to Bolzano (which was lots of fun and by now I probably won't get around to writing up) was bracketed with tedious travel -- we left the house at 6:45am on Saturday and got to our hotel at 9:30pm (factoring in a 1 hour time change); we then left the hotel around 10:45 Tuesday morning and got home Wednesday around 1:00pm. (We had Flight Issues (TM) coming home, but even if we hadn't, we wouldn't have gotten in to Edinburgh early enough to get the last train home, so we spent the night at a hotel near the train station). The two days in between, we were out late (for Gwen; early for Italy) for supper, so Gwen was running on systematically less sleep than usual and thus was, occasionally, a bit of a pill. It wasn't the finest traveling-with-preschooler trip we've had, but the only way she can learn how to handle herself when she's tired and bored and the adults are all doing adult-y type stuff is if we give her opportunities to do so, and everyone was understanding. (For example: It takes one four-year-old about 5 minutes to completely take over an entire office hallway. The people in the seminar next to the one that Joel and I were given were...amused to see what had happened when they came out of their room.)

Wednesday night, she went to bed around 7:00pm and then slept for 14 hours. Hurrah.

But, for whatever irritation she caused on our trip to Bolzano, she was an AMAZING traveler for our trip to Christmas, which, door-to-door, was almost exactly 23 hours. We took a taxi to Newcastle and flew from there to Amsterdam, then Amsterdam to Atlanta, had a few hours' layover, flew Atlanta to Des Moines, and then had about 1.75hr drive to Carroll. We left around 7:45am our time, and arrived at 12:50am Iowa time (6 hours time difference).

The flight to Atlanta was LONG. 10 hours, ugh. It was even longer given that the in-flight entertainment system DIDN'T WORK. Gwen slept for about 1.5-2 hours between the first snack and lunch (so, early into the flight), and then was up the entire rest of the time. We played A LOT of Justifiably Disgruntled Birds on my phone -- thankfully, the plane WAS equipped with USB chargers, so we didn't run my battery down.

By the time we got to Atlanta, it was already midnight UK time -- 5 hours past her bed time, and she was still basically cheerful. Tired, but still relatively pleasant. She fell asleep hard on the plane to Des Moines, and I was expecting tears and unhappiness at being woken up when we landed, but there were none. Her ability to wake up cheerful even when she still wants to be sleeping is amazing. (She also knew that after the third plane, we'd be getting a car, and on the car we'd have skittles, which she's never had before, so this was totally all the motivation she needed.) Joel carried her off the plane, but once we got all of our baggage, not only was she willing to walk, she even pulled her own carry-on.

Likewise she fell asleep almost immediately in the car, and I worried about the transition into the house, but she woke up happy, "Gramma! Grampa!", and was back in bed and asleep about 15 minutes later. (She then slept only until, adding everything from Atlanta to now up, that's about 10 hours, not really enough, but if we can keep her up until normal bedtime, she might sleep through her jet lag. So here's my advice for preventing jet-lag in pre-schoolers: Travel 24 hours so that changing 6 time zones seems nothing in comparison.)

So, A++ Would Travel With Again to Gwen for this trip, she was phenomenal. We made it through without any major meltdowns, from any of us.
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Friday evening Gwen and I went to the grocery store, and came back with a special treat for our long trip (a box of tictacs). She was relating about how she'd get to have them for second breakfast: "and I will have second breakfast on the bus, and second breakfast on the train, and second breakfast on the aeroplane." She paused and confided in me, "I'm very excited about tomorrow." Then she asked: "Are you excited about tomorrow?"

"Yes, I am!"

"Me too. I'm the most exciting child ever."


[[It was a long trip: we got the first bus at 6:45am, and got into our hotel at 9:30pm (with a 1 hour time change), but we survived without any fights or major meltdowns, and we're in a pretty cushy hotel. Huge nice bed for Joel and I, and a completely separate room for Gwen, with a bed and a desk and an angel and a huge comforter. And luxury hotel towels are even more luxurious when you're four, and they're taller than you are.]]
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Tomorrow morning we're all getting up far earlier than we'd like to, to take a bus, a train, another bus, a plane, another plane, another bus, and another train to get from Durham to Bolzano, where we'll get two full days before doing the trip in reverse. Recently I obliquely mentioned that I scored a family invitation for all of us to Italy, and that's this. In early Nov. our friend Tarek, whom we've known since he did the logic year at Amsterdam and who is one of those people who is in the "friend" rather than "academic colleague" category (he's in the hug upon meeting category of people; he's crashed at our place in Tilburg) emailed me saying "Hey, we just discovered we have this budget to use up before the end of the year, want to come to Bolzano to give a Digital Humanities talk?", and since the only days that would work for everyone involved would have me gone for a weekend, meaning Joel wouldn't have been able to do any work on the house anyway, as he'd be in charge of Gwen, I figured I'd be a bit cheeky and say "Hey, if you've got all this budget to use up before the end of the year, why don't you invite BOTH of us, and we'll pay for Gwen?" It's not something I'd ordinarily do, but Tarek is a friend of both of us, AND he has, in the past, been quite accommodating about the whole "kids" issue: Nearly 4 years ago now he invited me to come to Osnabrueck (where he was at the time) to give a short course on medieval logic, and my reply was "I'd love to! I'll have a 5 month old baby that I'll (presumably) still be nursing. You organize childcare for her, and I'll come), and he did.

That trip was Gwen's first visit to Germany -- country number 4 -- and it was great fun to bring her with. So I'm thoroughly delighted about this trip -- I get to talk Joel to Italy! This will be Gwen's 19th country! Tarek will get to meet Gwen again! Our two talks together will be better than one alone! It should be much fun.
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Scrambling to find a hotel in Berlin at 11:00pm wasn't one of them.

I got a direct train from Munich, a nice 6 hour shot, scheduled to get me in around 21:15. Not too bad. But we hadn't even made it to Nurnberg when the delays started, and kept growing, until it was 22:30 when we arrived at the hauptbahnhof, at which point (esp. since it was raining) I was NOT interested in the 20 min. walk to the university guest house where I was being put up. So, yes -- ANOTHER taxi (my third of this trip!). Only to find that...reception for the uni guest house closed at 22:00, and while I have internet access to look up the phone number....I don't actually have a working phone connection overseas; I can't register on any of the networks.

I found a hostel (a nice posh one) three blocks away and have a bed there for the night, so I've got a place to sleep (and boy, do I need it!), but I didn't expect to be doing this tonight!
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Picture this...

...the sun is shining, the sky blue with puffy clouds, the summer you never got at home.

...your daughter is running through the sand digging for sea shells and playing on the swingset.

...the beer is plentiful and of the highest of quality, and endless. You've got all afternoon -- and then the next day!'re surrounded by your closest family and best friends...

...and hundreds of other people all gathered for the same purpose as you, and happy to share your table and share your beer and share their beer. In fact, one of them is the guy from Italy that you met here last year...and the year before.

Honestly, I'm not sure I can think of a better way to spend the weekend than at Borefts Bierfestival.

Totally worth the fact that it takes us ~24 hours door to door to get there!
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First we were in Amsterdam. Joel and Martijn went off one weekend to this beer festival, a short train ride away, and came back raving over it.

Next we were in Amsterdam. Joel and Martijn convinced their wife/girlfriend to come along, even though (a) I was 7 months pregnant and (b) Wendy wasn't really a beer drinker.

Next we were in Tilburg, and Martijn had moved in with Wendy. We came up to spend the weekend with them, and Joel, Gwen, and I ended up going to one of the days on our own. Gwen enjoyed sitting in the parking lot, eating hamburger buns with mustard and ketchup on them.

Next we were in Heidelberg. We packed up everything a not yet 2 year old would need to be entertained during a beer festival and headed out to Wilnis for a long weekend. This year, the festival made arrangements with a nearby kids play place, where kids of festival attendees could play at a reduced price. Gwen wasn't quite old enough to be left, so Joel and I swapped off.

Last year, we were in Heidelberg. Gwen and I bought a one-way ticket, and headed out, knowing we were never coming back. The play place was closed but we scored seats near the leftover swingset, and took turns pushing Gwen on the swing and drinking beer. After spending the weekend in Wilnis, we then headed to IJmuiden and the ferry to Newcastle.

A year later, we're packing up our things to catch the overnight ferry tonight, coming back on Sunday. We'll get to meet Tobias for the first time (Gwen is seriously looking forward to that). From the original two who went six years ago, there's now six of us. And I have little doubt that this weekend next year, we'll be making a similar trip, and the year after and the year after that, until Gwen, and then Toby, are old enough to properly join in with us, and we'll look back on a life time's tradition.
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Other than making a new undertunic for Joel and a coif for me (I'll do a separate post on that), my preparation for Raglan this year consisted in: Registering, booking a hotel (which we actually did last year), and buying train tickets. When we registered, I signed Joel and I up for gate duty or registration duty when needed, but other than that...I didn't volunteer to teach a class. We were going to run a heraldic table but then there wasn't any time that there would've been sufficient manpower to run one, so that didn't happen. I didn't even look at the event schedule, much less the class descriptions, before arriving on site. So often when I go to an event, I'm always thinking about what I can/should be doing -- should I teach a class, can I find time to help in the kitchen, what should I do to keep Gwen occupied, can I herald-wrangle sufficiently, etc. But I decided that this year, Raglan was going to be about being, rather than about doing. I was going to turn up at a castle, swan around in medieval cloth and simply live, to be rather than do.

And yet, I did more this year than I have in many years (probably since 2011 when I was there 6 months pregnant). I attended the play. I went to [ profile] nusbacher's class on fealty and homage. I enjoyed [ profile] bend_gules's fascinating talk on peerage and what it is for and what it can do/has done. I heralded or organized heralds for much of the coronet tournament, and then calligraphed a scroll (on a blank I'd actually done two years previously!), complete with the recipient's arms free-hand drawn in. I sat and sewed, mending at least three torn seams, adding to the embroidery on Joel's brown tunic, and teaching Gwen how to embroider. My apron, now a couple of years old, came away from the event finally looking like it had been used, as I was around and available to wash dishes after nearly every meal (this is my contribution to the wonder that is the [ profile] jpgsawyer and [ profile] edith_hedingham meal plan, but it's been many years that I've been Gwen-free enough to be able to actually provide it). I got to watch part of the torchlight tourney (due to the wonderful wonderful wonderful loan of a wagon in the evenings, we were able to put Gwen to bed in it when she started getting tired/the sun started setting, and then she'd fall asleep and we could just wheel her back down to the town without having to worry about waking her. I haven't been able to stay out at the castle passed 7:30 or so for more than one night of the event in 4 years. It was amazing). I went to the gin tasting (in the midst of which I was heard to say "I have no idea where my child is, and I don't care!" which is not as irresponsible as it may sound as Gwen was drilled on the three ground rules -- (1) no climbing on the castle, (2) no going into people's tents without invitation, (3) no eating people's food without invitation -- and there were so many other kids of various ages, including Maria and Lily who both have experience with younger siblings and were exceedingly generous in taking it upon themselves to be the watchers of the younger ones. I knew that wherever she was, there was someone who was watching, and that everyone knew someone who knew she was mine. Raglan is the perfect event for this -- it's big enough to have enough children, but small enough that you can have children running around without designated direct adult supervision. No one fell in the moat. :) ). I sat and chatted with many friends. I discharged my duties as gate keeper and in the registration tent. And in between, I ate amazing food and simply lived in my favorite castle for five days.

It was a good holiday.

I'd post pictures here, but it can be a pain sometimes, so instead, I'll just link to this, which I whipped up this afternoon so Gwen could take some pictures in to nursery tomorrow to show off what she did on her vacation. (To wit: Helped me herald; turned the spit to roast a hare; ate plums; walked Gracie; walked Gracie again; ate cherries; received a beautiful hand-me-down dress and colored an elephant mask to match; danced to the singing that opened court; was thoroughly delighted by something; was thoroughly grumpy about something else; and walked Gracie yet again.) The ladies at nursery didn't believe her when she said she was going to go live at Raglan Castle for her holiday. Now maybe they will!
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I spent the day wandering Prague, writing fiction. Past me would be so jealous of present me if only she knew. Present me is merely tired, for it was a hot day and Prague is a very pedestrian city.

In the most literal sense of the term: In the old town, most streets are restricted in access for cars; and a good thing too, because there are so many tourists that it would be terrible to have to navigate a car through them. Prague differs from any other city I've been to in that the old town part seems to function solely as a place for tourists to congregate; I found very few places where you could imagine ordinary Czechs going about their daily lives (with one exception: various religious establishments are inhabited as of old, and men and women in habits seem perfectly at ease anywhere on the streets. In this, Prague reminds me of Krakow). One result of this is that you walk everywhere, and it's pleasant to wander down cobbled streets even with all the crowds of people because without any cars you only have people to contend with, and they are easy to avoid as they stop and gawk. (No judgement here: I did my fair share, as the nearly-empty-battery of my camera attests). It also means that people spend more time simply congregating rather than going from X to Y. Whether this is a correlative factor to the large number of -- quite talented -- buskers and busking groups that I saw, I don't know but do suspect. I essentially got three free concerts today, one on the Charles Bridge in the morning (I bought two CDs), one in the old town square in the afternoon (if they're there again tomorrow, I'm considering buying a CD; I was running low on cash at the time), and one again there in the evening (which I only caught the tail of, but was really nice -- the guy had a semi-circle of seated listeners surrounding him, it was very relaxed and cosy). And then I went to the ballet. (I never knew Swan Lake had a "folk dances of Europe" segment in it.)

It has been a truly lovely day.
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I made a decision, around the time we moved, to only go to conferences that I'd been invited to (it's not a hard and fast decision, since it doesn't cover either of the medievalist conferences I'm going to this summer) because I didn't have the time -- or the travel money -- to go to lots of conferences only tangentially related. And it's been a reasonable rule of thumb, as this year I've already gone to Manchester and to St. Andrews. But yesterday morning my alarm went off around 6:30 so I could catch the train to Newcastle airport for a flight to Amsterdam and thence to Frankfurt, where I was on the train for another two hours before joining a dozen or so people in a taxi for the last leg to Schloss Dagstuhl, a former castle/manor house in Saarbrucken which is now owned by a computer science institute and used to run week-long comp sci seminars, and while en route, I realized how much I enjoy doing this. I like striding through an airport with my compact suitcase with everything I need for a week, I like telling the immigration guard where I'm from, what I'm doing, that I'm traveling for work. I like the solitude of sitting on a train as it rushes silently through green hills, vineyards, and river valleys. I like watching the clouds roll out below me on the plane, where I always seek out a window seat if I can get it. I like landing in Schiphol, which still feels like coming home.

It's harder to make the effort to leave, when I know how exhausting it is being sole parent to Gwen and knowing I'm putting Joel in that position, when I know that every night she'll ask when I'm coming home, when she wakes up early too to ask for a hug before I go. But every time I make the effort, I'm glad it do. The time to decompress that travel allows me is restorative. Giving Gwen a good model of a working mom is important to me. I'm no longer going to places where I am awkward and unsure and know no one, but instead I know that when I step off that train, there will be friends, people I know and like well enough to greet with a hug, and there will be others who may not know me but know of me, and are interested to meet and talk with me. This is a community I'm a part of only adjacently, and yet I am surprised at how many connections I have in it. And it's always fun talking to the computer scientists, they find medieval logic absolutely fascinating, so I never lack for eager conversation in the coffee breaks.
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And since I’ve got an hour at Manchester Picadilly before our train back to Durham, let’s see how far I can get catching up on the last week.

Mom and Leah flew into Manchester airport and then took the train over to Durham in the morning; it was a beautiful day and Gwen and I walked over to meet them there. In the afternoon, we took a long walk down through Pelaw Woods, walking by the walled gardens and also joining in a dog rescue – two dogs had ended up in the river at a place too deep for them to swim and too steep for them to climb back out, and between another passer-by and us we were able to get both of them out safely. We then headed back into town and had tea and scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam at a cafe. (This was the first time in England for both, so we wanted to make sure we hit ALL the traditional British things we could do.) In the evening, I made pizza and we watched “Frozen” – Joel’s first time.

We went to sung matins at Durham cathedral for Easter service. I’d never been to a sung matins before; there was a lot of singing, but unfortunately very little for us. Easter is one time that I miss going to my grandparent’s Lutheran church, because the Easter hymns are some of my favorite.

Our morning got off on the wrong foot when Gwen, Mom, Leah, and I headed out the door and started walking ahead of Joel because Gwen is slow and I wasn’t sure how long it would take her (she’s actually never been all the way up the bailey to the cathedral before), and then he comes pelting down the hill after us because he’s accidentally locked himself out and can he borrow my keys? Um, no. I have no pockets, so I didn’t bring mine because he always has his. Neither of us had our phones with us, either. Thankfully, we had left the window of the upper bathroom (which opens over our backyard) open a few inches to let it air out after showering, so we knew all we needed was a ladder. We know a few of our neighbors on our street, one of whom probably would have one and the other one whom probably wouldn’t. Unfortunately, it being Easter Sunday, the first neighbor wasn’t home. The second welcomed us in because Gwen needed to use the bathroom, and we hung out in her livingroom while we considered options. She suggested someone else further down the street, so Joel want to ask him; and he ended up suggesting someone else further down, and that person had a ladder. So then we had to walk down another neighbor’s driveway – where the barking of their big dog brought them out to see what was up – to climb over the fence into our back yard. Joel was wearing his nice three-piece suit, so mom, who had leggings on underneath, shucked off her skirt and did the honors of climbing in through the window.

The rest of the day was much more relaxed. It was the nicest day of the year so far – probably the nicest we’ll have until midsummer, hitting nearly 20C! We had a waffle picnic in the backyard, and an Easter egg hunt, and then the girls played outside the rest of the afternoon. We made a lamb leg for Easter dinner – Leah’s first time having lamb!

The plan was to go to Newcastle and get on a train to Carlisle, seeing the cathedral and castle there and then on the way home stop at Hexham to see their cathedral and then Corbridge to see the Roman fort and part of Hadrian’s wall. The timing worked out such that we ended up hitting Hexham first, so that we could do lunch there, and then after that only Carlisle. Leah is studying cathedrals in school this year, so we wanted to make sure she got to see a wide range of them! I particularly liked Carlisle cathedral; its ceiling has been restored so it’s painted all gorgeous blue and gold. Amazing.

We left Gwen at nursery for a few hours so that mom and Leah could go back to the cathedral for a proper visit, including a hike up the tower. I’d already been up the tower, so I sat in the sanctuary and graded essays. There are worse places to grade than in Durham cathedral!

After that we stopped in the SCR for tea before seeing the Norman chapel and then heading down to the covered market to shop. We picked up some salmon for supper, and then headed back to pick up Gwen early, because she didn’t want to miss any time playing with her cousin.

We walked down along the river around the Bailey, and then had lunch at the Dun Cow before doing some more shopping for souvenirs and gifts.

We hit a bunch of charity shops in the morning (I came away with some cotton brocade curtains, some linen curtains, and a truly ugly bedspread which one I cut away all the velour will leave me with some decent black and gold brocade (unsure of the fabric content, probably synthetic, but I can do some practice sewing with it). Joel will get a new undershirt and some breeches out of this, and possibly a doublet.

In the afternoon, Gwen and I made a birthday cake, blue with a dinosaur on it, and in the evening we belatedly celebrated Leah’s birthday. The week before, I’d picked up a couple of random books from the kids’ section of the library, and one – The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Boat of Her Own Making – was so good, I kept thinking “I bet Leah would like this.” So I ordered her a copy and it arrived that day.

Friday we packed and got everything ready in the morning, and then got a taxi to the station in the afternoon so that we could head across the Penines back to near Manchester (from which they’d be flying home on Monday) where Crown Tourney was going to be held. We got in around 17:30, and there was already a good crew of people there, and it was lovely to walk in and be greeted with enthusiastic applause (well, most of it was for Gwen: Baba Tam was there and glad to see her granddaughter again).

It was a lovely and relaxed evening; supper was ready not too much later, I fed Gwen and put her to sleep, and then simply hung out and chatted until Joel got in (he took a later train so as to not have to take any time off work) around 22:30.

It was a small event; or at least, there were very few people there I didn’t know, and by the end of the weekend I think almost none. The tourney ended up with only 5 entrants, two couples having had to withdraw due to illness, unfortunately. It went incredibly quickly; Her Highness Alessandra ran the list and I heralded the entire tourney, realizing, at one point, that the last time I heralded a Crown Tourney was a long time ago, so long that when I was crying the litany, I had to bite my tongue at one point to keep from saying “Give honor to the crown of the Middle Kingdom”! After the tourney was over, I was off duty for the rest of the day – their majesties’ chamberlain is also their herald, so I had no duties regarding court, etc. I got to inspect all the things in the A&S competition, watch a bit of the archery, hang out and talk some more with people, and...I think it’s actually a good thing that I can’t remember what else I did, because it means I was relaxed and enjoying myself! The Princess of Nordmark took all the young kids “treasure hunting” (i.e., geocaching), which Gwen apparently loved. She certainly came back all muddy!

Court was short and sweet, feast was served promptly and tastily, about halfway through Gwen asked to go to bed so I took her off, and she was asleep almost before I left the room. I then turned up at the kitchen to find out what needed to be done, and Joel (the feast cook not the husband) gratefully put up his hands and said “I’ve cooked, I’m done, take over!” Leah and Alexander Kilianus turned up and were vaguely floating around, so I sent them to start clearing the hall while I started in on the dishes; later, mom, Lady Hilkke, and [ profile] gothwalk also came and got put to use. We got basically everything washed and put away except for the really nasty icky greasy dishes which needed to soak over night by about an hour after feast was over, meaning it wasn’t quite 22:00! Plenty of time to hang out, try Asbiorn’s lovely not-so-short mead, and chat before getting to bed at a decent time.

Since mom and Leah’s flight was out of Manchester on Monday, we decided to spend the night there with them so we could ensure they got onto the right train in the morning. So we had a day in Manchester, and when I was there for a workshop a few weeks ago I just missed (it opened the day after I left) a neat looking exhibit at the Manchester Museum, so I knew how we would spend our day. We went there, and got to see two Easter Island statue heads! They were smaller than I expected. The rest of the museum was a lot of fun too; they had a nature exhibit for younger kids, plus a T-rex skeleton, and a vivarium on the top floor. We all split and went our separate ways after lunch, though I did leave Gwen with mom long enough to go to see the money exhibit, which was really interesting. Then we spent an hour or so in the “Discovery Center” making sock puppets before we headed out to the apartment I’d booked through AirBnB, a nice two-bedroom place overlooking the docks and really close to the station. We ordered in pizza, I finally had time to give Gwen a bath (which she’d rather been in need of since Monday’s trip to Carlisle castle where she rolled down the grass into the moat a number of times). Joel headed back to Durham that night, and we all went to bed early.

Today we delivered Mom and Leah to the station bright and early, and then had an hour or so to hang out until our train. We’ll be back in a few hours and then Gwen will head to nursery and I’ll finishing grading essays today.
aryanhwy: (Default)
* BBC access, which means I can finally watch my snooker in the fashion it deserves to be watched (i.e., with the BBC commentary team. It just isn't the same without them.)

* The fact that Gwen, after we'd watched a few minutes to catch the end of a session after supper last night, tonight saw me sitting at my desk and asked to watch "that ball game again", and then happily sat on my lap while we finished off this afternoon's session. She was asking all sorts of perspicuous questions, like why they were hitting the balls they were hitting, and "why he have two of them?" (when a player got out the cue rest); and making hypotheses about which one the player was going for next. Dare I hope that I've got a convert on my hands?

* Last night Gwen had pulled her pants down inside off to take them off, and then got stuck around her ankles. As she wrestled with them, she called out, "Trouble. Trouble!" Just the way she said it made me laugh.

* A student came into my office hours today worried nearly to tears and by the end of our session, she was confidently constructing countermodels of a complexity that we haven't even started doing in class yet.

* The dehumidifier means that it isn't so horribly humid (we've gotten one of the upstairs bedrooms down below 60%!) and I slept so much better last night.

* First SCA event since Raglan (!) this weekend, and afterwards Marika comes back with us for a week. I have all sorts of cunning plans to escape the house leaving Gwen behind with her.

28 days

Sep. 1st, 2014 09:36 am
aryanhwy: (Default)
If all goes well, exactly four weeks from now Gwen and I will be arriving on British soil for the start of the next chapter of our lives.

The "all" in question being:

  • Have our visa applications accepted

  • Succeed in opening a bank account.

  • Find a place to rent.

  • Make travel arrangements.

  • Determine when Joel will join us.

  • Secure and schedule movers.

  • Obtain child care for Gwen.

We can't make any headway on any of this until at least the 11th, which is the earliest we could be informed that our passports are ready for pick-up in Düsseldorf. Joel refuses to rent a place sight unseen, so the plan is that once we receive notification of the (hopefully successful) outcome of our applications, he'll take the train to Düsseldorf, pick up all our passports, then continue on to Amsterdam, fly EasyJet to Newcastle, and then look at every single possible rental property until either (a) he finds one that is suitable or (b) he needs to make his way back to the Netherlands for Borefts. Even if he doesn't find us a place, if I have a valid work visa, Gwen and I will be taking the overnight ferry from Amsterdam to Newcastle after the festival, and we'll just impose upon the hospitality of our friends until we can find a place: Because classes start Oct. 6, and I'll be teaching Mondays and Thursdays.

I have been avoiding writing here because everything is so overwhelming and I'm compensating by simply ignoring as much of it as possible. I really can't wait for the next 4 weeks to be over.
aryanhwy: (Default)
It starts off with biking to work, with a bag of books and a computer slung on your bag.

It progresses when you add a baby in a bike seat in front of you and toss the diaper bag over your shoulder.

It begins when you don't buy a car because parking and insurance is expensive and you can't actually be bothered to buy one.

It progresses when you start carting home papasan chairs and huge pieces of plywood on the bus.

It begins when you realize public transport AND budget airlines in Europe are awesome, and you can get everywhere.

It progresses when you decide the smartest way to move house is to cart a chest of drawers 2.5 hours via a tram, a subway, two trains, and a bus.

It all begins so easy and simple. And you take these little steps, and it all makes so much sense and seems to be so sensible.

And then you realize that through all these little steps, you've ended up booking the following itinerary for two adults and a 2.5 year old:

- Sunday: Heidelberg, DE, -> Groningen, NL. 5 trains and a bus. Spend two nights with the parents of friends.
- Monday: conference in Groningen; Joel and I will tag team attending and watching Gwen.
- Tuesday: 2nd conference in Groningen: I give two talks (and radically unrelated topics). Then we catch the train (change once? I think) to Hoek van Holland, NL, and from there the ferry to Harwich, UK.
- Wednesday: Train from Harwich to Newport, Wales: three trains and the London tube.
- through Monday: SCA event in Raglan Castle.
- Monday morning: train from Newport, Wales to Durham: Two trains, plus London tube.
- Tuesday: 8 property viewings + an appointment with a mortgage consultant.
- Wednesday: 5 property viewings + an appointment with a mortgage consultant.
- Thursday: An unspecific number of viewings
- Friday: Morning, meet with one of my co-teachers in Durham in fall. Afternoon, train to Harwich: Three trains + London tube, but I splurged. We're going first class. Then overnight ferry to Hoek van Holland.
- Saturday: train from HvH back to HD: 5 trains.

We will be doing this with:
- two suitcases (with wheels), one of which will have a heavy box of feastgear in it
- our new big back-pack bag.
- all our garb and accessories, including things to keep Gwen entertaining, in those bags.
- Gwen's big stroller.
- Gwen's car seat
- a bottle of wine.
- a garbage bag stuff full of baby clothes that we're passing on.
- a bag of onion skins.
- everything I need to dress professionally for the conference.
- Gwen's travel bed.
- Possibly Gwen's collapsible tent.
- My computer bag + scroll stuff
- Joel's computer bag.
- Another carry-on with my crown.
- Any further amount of baby stuff to pass onto ANOTHER baby that we can take with (these is not so urgent, because we can pass it on in Sept. before we move.)

I can't help but think that somewhere, we've slid down the sorital hill and ended up at the bottom.
aryanhwy: (widget)
I'm headed to Amsterdam, but only for a few days, I'll be back early enough on Friday to pick Gwen up from daycare. And I get to spend three nights with Martijn and Wendy!

Since I firmly believe that it's better for me to tell Gwen in advance when I am going, rather than dropping her off at daycare and then have her find out when, hey, Daddy's come to pick her up, and Mommy's gone! Besides, she, like the cats, knows what the suitcase means, although she, unlike the cats, doesn't try to sit in it. Last night as I was packing and I told her I was going to go to Amsterdam for a few days, she came up, put her arms around me, and looked up with this enormous eyes and said "Mommy, please stay home, mommy. Please. Nein go to Amsterdam. Please stay home."

Augh. Tug at the heart strings now, why don't you? I know I've been gone quite a lot lately, but this is a short trip and afterwards the only trip we have planned between now and September is one she's coming along on, so I hope a good couple months at home will help make up for how much I've been away.
aryanhwy: (Default)
I got home Tuesday afternoon after a (very busy, terribly exhausting, at times awfully frustrating and at times exactly wonderfully what I needed) week in England. That makes three weeks out of the last five that I have been gone. Last Thursday night Benedikt and I went out for supper after the reception at John's, and I got to catch him up on all the interesting numeracy and literacy facts about Gwen, and between that and being gone so much, I've spent quite a bit of time reflecting on those matters and figure now, just past 2.5 years, is a good time to take stock of things again.

Gwen can count to 10 in both English and German, and in English can recite numbers up to 20, though she tends to miss a few in between. She likes to climb up on the ledge next to the sand pit, count to 20, and then jump into the sand.

One time when mom was visiting and the three of us were walking home, we each had one of her hands and were counting a certain number of steps and then swinging. We'd ask Gwen to name a number, and if she cried "1" or "2" or "3", I kept asking her for a bigger number, because walking 1 or 2, or even 3 steps isn't quite enough to get momentum going for a good swing. She kept deflecting the question, and that's when I realized that though she'd developed a concept of ordinal number, and of 1-1 correlation, she hadn't any concept of cardinality, so I had to explain to her that the longer you count, the bigger the number gets. And eventually she started asking for "8" or "9" or "10".

She knows many letter tokens very well -- she can identify every letter in her alphabet puzzle -- but still struggles with letter types; if I present her with a new token that she hasn't seen before, even if she's seen the type, she doesn't always recognize it. And I can't blame her: majuscules vs. miniscules, different fonts, it's actually really hard to extrapolate away from tokens to types. But of the tokens she does know, she has a lot of associations between them and words, particularly the ones in her alphabet puzzle. She also knows which sound goes with which letter when they are spoken, thanks to numerous repetitions of phonics songs on the bike ride to and from daycare. She has one book picture book, of animals, where what she wants me to do is name each letter as she points to it. I noticed it took her awhile to learn that they need to be pointed to in a certain order, or I won't read them, or I'll correct her. I found it even more fascinating when she put a name to the action: She asked me one night, "count, mommy, count!" Which totally makes sense since that's the only other context where you point to things, in succession, and say something.

One early connection that she made was between her name, herself, and written tokens of her name; this is in part because her name always gets put on to pictures that she's drawn. It was around January or February that she started pointing that string out to me, saying "name, name!", and maybe a month later when she would start asking me to put her name on things. Now, she can recognize it in many different modalities, and this morning while coloring she did a very fine, very small grouping of scribbles in one corner, very different from her usual mode of drawing, and then told me "dat's my name!" Only recently, though, has she begun to extrapolate from this. There are three round cylinders outside of daycare that she has to climb up and jump off, each one, once, every afternoon when we leave. The other day, she pointed at the raised letters molded in to one of them, and said "name!"

Her personal pronouns came in in the last three weeks or so. For a long time, she simply referred to herself as "Gwennie" (we never got "you" as a general word for "I"; that switch occured only in very particular contexts, specifically, two-place relations such as "behind you" and "beside you"); then, I suddenly realized that she was saying "Ich". About a week later, it had become "I" when speaking English. We still occasionally get "Gwennie", but now, "Ich" only shows up in the context of two German phrases that she uses to the exclusion of their English counterparts: "Ich muss" ("I must", usually "I muss peepee") and "Ich will" ("I want", used with everything. She confused the waitress at Vetter the other night when she said "Ich will food!" when ordering).

She still doesn't really have any concept of age or how old she is, even though she liberally celebrates birthdays on a near daily basis.

Each of the three weeks away, I came home to a child I hardly recognized; the first week, when we were both gone and she was staying with mom, was the most stark difference. Mom emailed at one point during the week and said "I've figured out what 'stas' means!" I hadn't even realized that that was a phrases Gwen used all the time, because I automatically knew it was a shortening of "Was ist das". But once she pointed that out, a few other phrases fell in to place: "Schwardes" is "Ich hört es" = "I hear it". I knew from context that "Schwardes" was a question "What is that noise?" but for the life of me I hadn't been able to figure out what she was trying to say. And "Willies", or even sometimes "Das willies", was "Ich will es" = "I want it". And funnily, as soon as I noticed that constant use of "Stas", she started moving towards "Was dis called?" instead.

Her ability to distinguish between German and English at the conceptual, rather than vocabularic, level continues. The other day, she came up to me with a flower and asked "Was dis called?" but followed that up with "in English!" and then proceeded to tell me that Renate at daycare had told her what the flower was called in German (though she didn't tell ME what the German name was). I thought that that showed a pretty high-level of reflection about language for a 2.5 year old.

Joel says that she asks every me every night and every morning when I'm away. But her happiness upon my return seems to be dwindling. When we got back from Scotland, it was late at night and she was asleep. She only discovered we were home when she woke up and came into our room and found us, instead of grandma, in bed. She flung herself between us and kept turning from one to the other, putting out a hand and saying "Dis my daddy" or "dis my mommy", as if she was trying to reassure herself that we were there and hers. I got home from Sweden one evening during supper time, and she heard my key in the door and I could hear "mommy, mommy, mommy!" and she raced out to fling herself at me in a hug. Tuesday, though, I went straight to daycare from the train station, arriving about half an hour earlier than I normally pick her up, and I thought I'd get a happy, excited hug, but instead, she barely nodded acknowledgement and continued playing. She eventually left happily enough, but I had to coax a hug out of her. The next day when I picked her up as usual, she saw me coming from across the yard, and shouted "Nein!" Sure makes me glad to come home...

But today was (yet another) holiday, so I was off work and daycare was closed, and we went to the park in the morning and played outside in the sandpit in the afternoon, and then came home and baked a cake. Even though I have lots of work to do, it was nice having a day off to reconnect with her.
aryanhwy: (Default)
Tuesday, May 13

I have convinced Joel that we will not try to walk the remaining 6 miles to Aviemore. We wake lazily, and do some packing before breakfast. During breakfast, we chat with our hostess, who was a physicist before retiring to Scotland to run a B&B. We commiserate about the academic climate for women, and I must confess to her that in many disciplines, things are not much better than they were in the 60's and 70's.

Our bus is at 10 minutes to 10:00. It's always a gamble guessing which side of the road is the correct side to wait at, but there is someone waiting near the one we think is right, so we ask her if this is the bus to Aviemore. It turns out, she's unsure herself; she and her husband have a summer cottage in Boat of Garten, and she's been up repainting it for the last week and is taking a day off to go to Aviemore. Still, there is safety in numbers, and we're pretty sure we're on the right side of the street.

It is only 6 miles; by bus, it takes barely 10 minutes. Sitting on the bus and watching the scenery whiz by is disorienting: 10 minutes, and we have covered the distance that we would've spent half the day doing otherwise. 10 minutes: How on earth do you have the time to notice anything when you are going so fast?

We have about an hour before our train, so we wander up and down the High Street, ducking into souvenir shops. I want to get something for Gwen; something for mom; something for dad. We inspect whisky selections to see if we can find a bottle of the ones we particularly liked. I find the perfect gift for mom, a cute little plaid hat. We pick out a book with owls in it for Gwen. We hope that the whisky selection will be better at the airport.

We settle into our seats on the train. It's a couple hours to Perth, and then a few more to Glasgow. I alternate between staring out the window, watching the Cairngorms flash past, and looking at a map on my phone, watching the little blue dot that is us hurtle south. We cover more distance in these few hours than we have the entire past week. It is such a strange feeling to be caught up again in the ordinary every day rush of life. I see little whispers of things, echos and hints of places to explore, cute little towns, rippling rivers, the still snow-covered mountains. I feel like we've hardly done the area justice, that we have spent too little time and covered too small an area. I am already thinking of when we can come back, and see more, and spend more time.

The selection of whisky at the airport is not larger but different, and we find a bottle of Joel's preferred; I also pick out a small taster of the one we had in Dufftown, which we both enjoyed, for dad. We have plenty of time, and haven't had lunch, so we find a restaurant, one with outlets so Joel can charge his laptop, and get a bit of work done. We hang out until our gate is announced, and then pack everything back up and head down the hall. We haven't gotten far when someone comes running up to us -- one of the business men who had been sitting at the table next to us for the same period, and who realized that we'd left our duty free bag (all the whisky!) behind. Thank goodness they overheard us saying which gate we were going to, and thus knew which direction to seek us out!

On the plane, we sit and wait at the gate, and eventually our captain comes on to apologize. He begins to tell us that there will be a delay because on the flight over from Amsterdam, our plane had hit another plane -- !!! -- which he then quickly corrects to "hit a bird". A mechanic must come and inspect things before we can take off, and the mechanic has been held up in traffic. We wait. I doze.

The delay is short but it means that again we have a quick run through the airport in Amsterdam to make our connection. It is late when we finally land in Frankfurt; while we wait for our bags, I check the train schedules and realize that we'd have to wait an hour to get one, and then not get home until 1:30am. Instead, we make our way to the shuttle stop, which comes in 20 minutes and will take only an hour to get home.

Walking home from where the shuttle dropped us off, there are so many people. It is nearly midnight, but Haupstrasse is streaming with people. I comment to Joel how we are seeing more people in this short space of time than we'd seen nearly the entire previous week. It is weird to be back in the bustle of society. I am glad to get home, briefly say hello to mom, peak in on Gwen sound asleep in her bed, and go to bed myself.

Our seven days are over. We are home.


aryanhwy: (Default)

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