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And We’re Off…

As always I am way behind on my blog posts.  Two weeks ago we left our cozy little apartment in Germany and started a two-and-a-half month long trip to visit our families in the US and Mexico.  My husband is taking two months of parental leave, and we figured it was a great chance to do this!

The first stop was Michigan, to visit my family for Christmas.  Then we flew down to Mexico on December 27th and we are now in Morelia visiting Oscar’s family.  I don’t have time to write much now, but I will make more detailed posts later, after I get a few of the pictures uploaded.  But I wanted to stop in and let all my faithful followers know what’s up!  (just in case you were actually wondering, which I know you probably weren’t. )

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and can’t wait to get started writing about what’s going on here!

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A Lumberjack’s Daughter

Great_grandpa_logs

My Great-Grandfather with some of the logs he cut in the UP.

Today I’d like to tell you about my Grandmother.  She had a fascinating life, growing up in the North woods of Michigan.   Her father was a lumberjack, and she spent most of her childhood moving from camp to camp. My Grandma wrote a book about her life, and I would like to give you a few excepts from that:

“The one-room shacks we lived in would make President Abe Lincoln’s Kentucky log cabin look luxurious.  The floor space measured about 100 or 150 square feet.  Usually there was one small window.  The slanted roofs and outside walls were usually covered with tar paper.  The roofs frequently leaked.  We caught the drips in pails or cooking utensils…. The floorboards had gaps so wide that we had to be careful not to drop small objects on the floor or they would be gone forever.

My Great-Grandmother in front of one of the homes they lived in.

My Great-Grandmother in front of one of the homes they lived in.

We coped with the bitter winters in Michigan’s UP by tacking cardboard between the wall studs.  We pasted magazine, catalogue, and newspaper pages to the cardboard and chinked up the cracks.  These pages offered better decor than just plain bare walls. We could read the writing on the wall.  Mama loved the pictures of flowers from seed catalogues.  I loved the Sunday newspaper comic strips.  When we got tired of the writing on the wall, we could just add more of the same type of insulation.  Papa banked up the outside walls by building retaining walls to hold dirt.  This added insulation and kept the wind out.  The dirt came up to the height of the window.  We didn’t worry about termites, we never stayed in these shacks long enough to see any damage. ”

In her book, my Grandma describes her life growing up – the games they played, the food they ate, the work they did.  She had a very sporadic education, since they weren’t always close enough to a school.  In one section, she writes about the school bus that they took at one point:

 

The firls from the Akrigg School, near Pickford, MI.  My grandma is second from the right.

The firls from the Akrigg School, near Pickford, MI. My grandma is second from the right.

“After one week of school in the Pickford area, I attended the Akrigg School, about four miles from camp. The men in camp made a school bus out of some kind of wooden camper. It had runners for the snow instead of wheels and a wood burning stove with a stovepipe. A horse pulled it. We went to school through the woods on an old logging trail. It creaked as it moved along. It went so slowly I could jump out the back door of the vehicle and run along behind it.”

At about 12 years old, my Grandma left her parents and went to live with more well-to-do families where she worked doing household chores.  (Her sisters had done the same thing at ages 9 and 11)  One family she really loved, and another she didn’t, feeling very much like an outcast.  She eventually ended up in Ann Arbor where she worked various jobs, and got married.  She had more adventures but I really don’t have room for all that in my blog.   She had four children in total, and my mother was the youngest.

grandma_grandpa

My Grandma and Grandpa during their retirement in Florida.

My Grandmother was very smart about money, and was very good at pinching pennies.  They made ends meet and eventually were able to invest in renting/buying/selling houses in Ann Arbor during the housing boom of the 50’s and 60’s.  They retired in a comfortable home and often spent their winters in Florida.

My Grandma’s book has been added to the curriculum in Michigan schools for the unit on State history, since she represents such a forgotten part of Michigan life.  (One which was hardly documented)  You can find it in quite a few libraries across the state, or you can buy it online here if you are interested.

My Grandmother lived a long and full life, but she unfortunately passed away on September 9th, at 92 years old.  She was not in the best of health, but she still had a sound mind and we weren’t really expecting her to pass away just yet.  I was fortunate that I happened to be visiting my family in Ann Arbor and got to see her for about a week before she got sick, and she also got to meet Olivia.   I loved my grandma very much, and so I have written a short tribute to her:

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Grandma.  What comes to mind when I think of you?  Old and frail, with skin like paper… but that was only near the end.  And at 92 years old, I think you have the right to be a bit frail.  But you were also strong and courageous.  Frugal; shaped by the tough times you lived through.  Sharp as a tack.  Your health may have declined, but not your mind.  At 92 you were still a card shark – I never met anyone who could beat you – not even my dad who has a PhD.

My grandma watching after us kids in the mid-80's

My grandma watching after us kids in the mid-80’s

I think about the times we spent overnight at your house; arguing over the blanket with my sister while we were supposed to be going to sleep.  I remember butter pecan ice cream, oatmeal with raisins and honey, and learning how to “save the best for last”.  I remember flooding your backyard with water so we could go ice skating there.  I remember moving all your plants around the living room to pretend I was in a jungle.  I remember rolling around on the floor as a kid and you telling me how agile I was.   I remember going to garage sales with you on Saturday mornings- I learned so much about the value of things from that!  I remember learning how to clean, how to turn a compost pile, how to make new plants grow from clippings, how to play Euchre – which, by the way, went on to become my favorite card game of all time.  I remember painting your garage floor.

Grandma, I learned so much from you, and I love you – I will always miss you!  But I am also glad that now you can finally join Grandpa in Heaven.  Now that I am married myself, I cannot imagine being separated from my husband for so long.  So in a way, while sad for us, it really is a joyous occasion.  Thank you for bringing so much to my life, and all of our lives.  May you find peace with God.

Yes, we are still alive!

I can hardly believe it’s been two and a half months since my last post!  We have had a lot going on, and I never got the time to write or upload pictures.  We went on a week-long Tee-Pee camping trip near Berlin, then we flew to Michigan for a month to visit my parents.  After that we had visitors from California and Paderborn.  It has really been quite a lot!  And to top it all off, Olivia has started crawling just this week!  She does the “army crawl”, pulling herself forwards with her arms.  Now that she’s mobile she follows me around the house which is unbelievably cute.

So over the next month or so I will be playing catch-up and posting about our adventures from this summer.  Sorry to leave you all hanging for so long!

I read this today from a blogger I love. I am a Maryann in many senses of the word. Ok, I can’t smoke a goat, but I can paddle a canoe, solve rubik’s cube, and weld the exhaust pipe back onto your car.

fearfree living

the great debate heard in locker rooms on park benches water coolers bus rides to amusement parks and the back seats of surburbans maryann or ginger; sure ginger is hot she moves like jazz and somehow took enough hair spray on a three hour tour to last 3 years into a shipwreck; everybody wants to bed or be ginger with the auburn hair and legs that go into next week; ginger ginger ginger; well I AM A MARYANN and no i do not know how to apply eyeliner in the midst of hurricane and i refuse to wear strappy heel sandals i believe them contraptions fit only for my demise and i couldn’t give a rat’s ass about  perfectly coiffed hair or make up that gives my cheekbones just the right blush; no no no I AM A MARYANN i can climb a tree crack a coconut and start a fire without a match i can smoke a goat and  build a nest for two or three or whoever drops in; i’m comfortable…

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An excursion to the garden center

And here is yet another eons-old post which I never published due to not having any pictures uploaded. This one I originally wrote on June 4th. (Which means the actual trip to the garden center was in mid-May.) Enjoy!

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On Monday two weeks ago I finally made it to the garden store to buy flowers for the balcony. I know this is really nerdy and lame, but I LOVE visiting garden centers, even just to look. It was always one of my favorite activities to do with my mom, and sometimes back when I was living in Paderborn I would just ride my bike over to the closest garden center and explore all of their beautiful displays.

In our new apartment we also happen to have a wonderful long balcony which was woefully void of all plant life, and ever since January I have been longing for the day when I could fill that space with a million colors and green leaves spilling out every which way. I wasn’t sure if I would have any time to do it at all this year with a brand new baby, but I suppose it’s true that we choose our own priorities, and we can ALWAYS make time for something we really love to do. It was tough, but I managed to make time for my balcony.

After several cycles of nursing, pooping and sleeping, I finally had Olivia in a reasonably content state so that I could pack her in the car to drive the 5 minutes over to the local garden center. I normally would have walked that distance except that I needed the car to transport back the flowers. I also brought the stroller since Olivia generally seems happier in the stroller than in a wrap, but also because the flower stores always put so many things on the ground, and you have to keep bending down to get them. I had tried it several weeks earlier with Olivia in a wrap and she cried every time I bent down, so I had to give up on that and go home. So pushing the stroller in front of me and pulling a cart full of flowers behind me, I bumbled my way through the narrow aisles trying not to knock anything over.

I spent nearly 2 hours at the store, and even had to carry Olivia in one arm for a while since she was a bit restless (the infamous burping problem…) They have such a nice set-up… at the pond section I heard a whole variety of frog sounds, which I quickly wrote off as recorded to make the atmosphere seem complete. It still seemed pretty neat though. But as I approached, allt he frogs stopped! They didn’t start up again until much later, after I was nice and far away. I guess they had simply moved in from the surrounding bogs. And to think I used to paint Europe as totally urbanized, with only small pockets of nature left.

We made 2 trips to the car since the cart wasn’t big enough to hold everything I wanted to buy. A nice store employee helped me by pushing the cart on the second trip. And also I met a nice woman there who told me about a spanish-speaking friend of hers with 2 kids who wanted to start a play group – I gave her my contact info, so lets see what happens there.

I had to seriously stop myself from buying a banana tree for the balcony. It was pretty tempting… but you know we really only have so much room.

By the time we got home Olivia was pretty hungry so I left everything in the car and took her upstairs to eat. After that she played on the floor while I unloaded the car. It took me tons of trips to get everything upstairs, and I had to leave a bunch of plants on the front lawn of the apartment building for about an hour to take care of Olivia, but by the end of the afternoon I had everything on the balcony, which I’m quite proud of! Of course, nothing was actually *planted* yet, but hey, one thing at a time.

Flowers waiting to be planted

Flowers waiting to be planted – they sat for a whole week like this.

It took me an entire week before I actually got the time to plant the flowers. But I did it! here is the end result:

Flowers on LH side of balconyFlowers on RH side of balcony

Tough Days

Well, I almost deleted my blog because I decided it was too much work.  It’s so tough taking care of a baby sometimes, and I barely find time to get anything done, let alone writing in a blog.  But… well I guess the bug bit me again, and so here I am to update on the past couple of weeks. Olivia is really starting to explore her voice now.  She has a very interesting way of “screaming” which she mostly uses to express glee, and I’m starting to think that she is trying to imitate me singing.   She adds all kinds of cooing and ga-ga’s into the mix, too, and it’s just overall super cute.  Oscar and I love to “talk” with her. Olivia laughing and singing Although she has really learned a lot with her voice and it is super fun to watch her, we are fighting with another old enemy, burping.  She seems to have regressed a bit with burping…  and I often find myself putting her to bed only to have her wake up again within 10 minutes screaming because some air bubble is still in her tummy.  Then we spend a good hour or so cycling between the different possibilities of what could be wrong, (maybe shes actually hungry?  Maybe she needs to poop?  Maybe she’s just mad because we put her to bed?  Maybe she’s overly tired and can’t sleep because of that…?)  It almost always turns out to be a burp lurking around in there, and yet it sometimes takes so long for it to come out that I give up and try other stuff instead, only to find out in the end that it was a burp all along.  Fortunately she hasn’t had any colic in more than a month, except for a couple of isolated episodes, both while visiting friends out of town.  The burping is really nothing compared to colic, so I’m happy to have come this far even if it is still pretty tough and I am totally exhausted.

I also should note that that “early morning” I wrote about in my last post wasn’t really the great idea I’d thought it would be.  By the time 5pm rolled around I was so exhausted I could no longer function.  So I guess all that extra “time” I’d thought I’d gained by getting up early while Olivia was still asleep wasn’t actually time gained after all. Funny how you just can’t beat time.

An Early Morning

Today, I actually am on top of things!  It always helps to get up early.  Of course, I’ve realized by now that if I go back to sleep after Olivia’s morning feed then the day is basically lost.  Once she’s up for the day, I hav3e no time left to do anything for myself.  Her morning nap is spent taking a shower and eating breakfast.  Her afternoon nap is spent doing dishes and laundry.  And wait a minute, often there IS no afternoon nap, and sometimes there’s no morning one either.  

 

But today, glory of glories, after feeding Olivia from 4:30-5:15am, I decided to just stay up.  I put her back to sleep (which she does pretty easily in the mornings) and ate breakfast.  I showered.  I cleaned up all the laundry.  I finished the dishes from last night.  It was GLORIOUS having more than a 45 minute chunk of time to myself.  She didn’t wake up again until 7:15!   I even ironed one of my husband’s shirts.  And that is somthing I *never* do, just ask him. 

 On a side note, I’d like to praise my husband for being so wonderful.  He has always ironed his own shirts for as long as I’ve known him.  He doesn’t ever make a big deal out of it either, even when it makes him late for work.  Sometimes he even ironed MY shirts for me!  I think I only ironed his shirts for him maybe once?  He is such a loving, selfless guy, I would never trade him for anything.

 

So anyways, after Olivia woke up, I fed her, and for some reason she vomited twice… sometimes she spits up a little, but this was really a lot, and it came gushing out all over the place.  It soaked right through my jeans all the way down to my underwear.  Poor girl.  But she is such a happy, easy-going baby, right after vomiting she started smiling at me!  She squealed and trilled and looked as if nothing had ever happened.  It was so cute, I didn’t mind the vomit at all.  

 

Well, now it is 9:00 am and Olivia is back down for her morning nap.  It was so easy to get her to sleep, I couldn’t believe it.  Maybe the string of tough days is finally over?  I sure hope so!   

Me, starting a blog?!

I only got 4 hours of sleep last night, my arms and legs are about to fall off, I have an ear infection and am walking around like a zombie.  Little 3-month-old Olivia is finally sleeping, so I should probably get some sleep too.  Or do the laundry.  Or the dishes.  Or clean up the huge mess on the kitchen table.  Or start dinner.

So because I am responsible and know how to prioritize, I am starting a blog instead.  (wait, what…?)

It kind of reminds me of the time as a freshman in college when I stayed up all night making a website about how to do the Rubik’s cube the night before my calculus exam.  Yeah, that wasn’t the wisest choice of timing.  And neither is this.  But I’m going to do it anyways!

After all, as moms, we need to do something for ourselves once in a while or we would go crazy!

I have to admit, I’m a little scared to start a blog.  What am I doing trying to enter the blogosphere?  I studied mechanical engineering.  I haven’t written anything creative since the 7th grade.  Although to be fair, Mrs. Bricka DID say my stories were really good.

This blog is going to be about motherhood, and my perspectives on life as an American living in Germany.   I guess we’ll see how this goes!

 


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