Posts Tagged 'family'

How to drop stuff

Did you know that dropping things is a skill that has to be learned? Just a few days ago I accidentally taught Olivia how to drop stuff…. I was playing with her and decided to make a game out of crumpling up newspaper and throwing it in the air. Naturally, she thought it was just hilarious, and starting trying to copy me. She would take a piece of paper and rumple it twice in her tiny hands and then open her hands to let it fall 5 inches to the floor. Then she would look up at me with the biggest, cutest smile in the world, and clap her hands!

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Ever since then, she has been purposely dropping everything she can get her hands on. Before, she often dropped stuff, but only if she was opening her hand to get something more interesting. It had always slightly surprised her that the old item she had been holding fell with a “clunk” to the floor. Now she does it as a game; and although sometimes it is annoying (like when she drops her food) mostly it is just cute.

Now it’s time to work on setting things down carefully!

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On the road from Morelia to Puebla

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This post is pretty old, but back in early January (I believe January 3rd…?) we drove from Oscar’s mother’s house in Morelia, to his brother’s house in Puebla. This drive used to be at least 6 hours or more, since you had to drive through Mexico City, which, with a population of more than 33 million is no fun task. And by through, I don’t mean on a highway going around the city as we normally would say in the US; that would be bad enough with lots of traffic. No, I mean THROUGH, as in through the middle. Down chaotic, 2-lane city streets full of traffic lights and speed bumps, people with carts and salesmen. People trying to park and blocking an entire lane, or just flat out parking right on the lane. With a general disregard for any rules, the traffic in Mexico city is more like one of those sliding-tile-puzzles than actual traffic. It used to be a nightmare of epic proportions.

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But fortunately in 2010, the government built a new highway which completely circumvents Mexico city! It cut the journey from six to only four hours. It’s like a dream come true! On top of that, the route is full of great scenery since this is the mountainous interior of Mexico we are going through.

Olivia slept almost the entire way, except for one pit stop. I may have slept as well…

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Atlixco

We have been “traveling” for more than a month already, and yet I am sad to say that we have hardly done anything touristy at all! Mostly we have been visiting family and taking care of various “work” that has to be done every time we visit our home countries. (Renewing driver’s licenses, paperwork, etc). I have to admit that I have been getting pretty bored being at the house with Olivia all day and hardly going out. But finally last week we got the chance to take an afternoon off and we went to the neighboring city of Atlixco.

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Atlixco Zocalo

Atlixco is on the other side of some mountains and has a nicer climate than Puebla, so it is famous for it’s farms and plants. Most of the flowers sold in Puebla are grown in Atlixco. It also has a beautiful Zocalo (town square) filled with palm trees and small vendors selling balloons and plants. But we wanted to get a little more exercise and see some nice views, so we decided to climb the mountain to the chapel of San Miguel.

There were no signs, so we asked several people for the best route to get to the top, since there were a lot of stairs going through winding neighborhoods. As always, everyone had a different opinion. This way will be longer but has better views, that way is easier to climb but “uglier”, the other way is difficult to climb (aka steps falling apart and lots of holes) but is shorter. We asked one person weather there were bathrooms at the top, and he said yes, but they are probably bad, so he actually offered to let me use the bathroom in his house! “Just close your eyes” he said. (Since he had dirty laundry everywhere) Even after marrying a Mexican and spending tons of time in Mexico, the hospitality of this country continues to amaze me.

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Outside of the Ex-Convent

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Inside the Ex-Convent

Halfway up the mountain there is an ex-convent, which we took the time to explore. Even though it is falling apart it has a certain mystical beauty about it, at least on the outside. The inside was beautiful too, but it had a lot of very graphic and gruesome statues and relics. The first thing to greet you when you walk in is this statue of Jesus carrying the cross.

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. There was also a life size statue of a saint lying in a coffin complete with very realistic looking hair. But if you can get past those things without feeling sick, the church is really very beautiful, especially the ceiling.

20130120-131641.jpgFrom here we continued up the winding pathways until we reached what appears to be government owned land, complete with signs telling us about the native plants on animals. The views from the mountain side are fantastic, and from here you can really see the volcano Popocatépetl. We made a pit stop near the top of the mountain to give Olivia some food (potato-vegitable patties and cereal). 20130120-131518.jpg

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The Volcano Popocatepatel

The chapel at the top is very cute and well kept.

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I also really liked the tree full of prayer flags.
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We decided to take a different route down the mountain, which we thought would be shorter. Everything went fine until we turned a corner and were suddenly met with this “staircase” of crumbling rocks and 50% incline:

20130120-132247.jpgBeing the adventurous people we are, we decided to pick our way down in, baby and all! On the way down we also had a nice view of the city as the sun was beginning to set.

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We had a great dinner at a restaurant in town – I had a Pueblan specialty called Pollo Huitlacoche which is chicken breast filled with the fungus which grows on ears of corn. It sounds strange but was soooo good, I highly recommend it. Even Olivia ate some!

Three Kings Day

In Mexico, Three Kings Day (January 5th) is the day when kids get presents, rather than Christmas. We spent Three Kings Day in Puebla, with Oscar’s brother and his family. For Oscar, this was something extra special since it reminded him of his childhood, and seeing the joy on his niece and nephew’s faces on the morning of the 6th was something he was really looking forward to. For me, this was somthing totally new, since even though I had heard of Three Kings Day, I had never experienced it and really didn’t know any of the traditions that go along with it. So it was very interesting for me!

20130109-192056.jpg On the night of the 5th, each of the kids wrote a letter to the three kings (telling them that they had been good and which presents they wanted). Then we tied the letters to balloons and sent them off in the sky. Olivia’s letter was pretty difficult to read, but I guess the three kings must have understood, since along with a few other gifts, they also brought her three bendy straws!

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Us getting ready to let the balloons go (I am taking the picture)

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Olivia”s cousin letting his balloon go from on top of a jungle gym

Afterwards, we each put out a shoe in the living room, and went to bed. The next morning the shoes had been moved up on top of the couch, and by each shoe was a small pile of gifts. Appearantly the three kings don’t like wrapping paper, but that’s ok since it cuts down on the waiting time!

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Aside from her bendy straws, Olivia also recieved a shape sorter, some clothes and two books of Mexican stories complete with original Mexican art. I am especially excited about those books, since I have had a really difficult time finding any children’s books in Spanish which aren’t just translated versions of American books.

Olivia also enjoyed playing X-box which her cousin Emiliano received! I was pretty impressed that Emiliano not only tolerated her grabbing the controller, but actually even has been trying to incorporate her into his play. They have been playing X-box together peacefully for several days now without any problems even when the race-car gets run off the road by Olivia.

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Later in the day Olivia’s Abuelita (grandmother) came over and we had a “Rosca de Reyes” together, which is a special sweet bread made specifically for Three King’s Day.

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Rosca de Reyes (Wreath of the Kings)

Hidden inside the bread are 4 or 5 small plastic dolls, and if you get one in your piece, you are responsible for making Tamales for breakfast for everyone else on another day. Since we have quite a but of family and friends around here, we have already been part of three different “Roscas”, but so far I haven’t gotten a single doll, which is probably a good thing since I have no idea how to make Tamales…

Michigan

At the end of August, I took Olivia on her first trip to the US to see my family. This was her very first plane ride, and I managed to do it by myself, since Oscar had to work. (We are going to take another trip for Christmas, so he didn’t have enough vacation time to go twice.) I was a bit worried since the flight was nine-and-a-half hours, but Olivia did fantastic! She only cried once, and that was for less than a minute after waking up from a nap and not knowing where she was.

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Olivia on my lap in the airplane

I didn’t take a stroller – instead I had Olivia in the front pack carrier, so I had both hands free to pull luggage. That worked out really well, and also it made it easier for me to carry her around the plane for naps. Of course most of the time I had her on my lap, though, since she is pretty heavy. On the ride over, a nice woman helped me out by holding Olivia while I ate my meal. On the way back I somehow managed by myself, but I’m honestly not sure how. Even though I brought lots of toys, she occupied herself almost the entire flight with the crinkly bag of pretzels. Talk about easy to please!

I wasn’t too sure about taking Olivia potty on the plane, but actually it wasn’t that hard. They have a changing table over the toilet which folds down from the wall, so I just changed her on that, then flipped it back up (with the changing pad and her clothes still clamped inside it!) let her pee in the toilet, and then flipped the table back down to get her dressed again. The whole thing was really quick, and actually even easier than many public bathrooms which don’t have changing tables, or when the changing table is in a room without a toilet. The only problem was that there was often a line for the bathroom. But of course, since we use a diaper back-up, it wasn’t a big deal anyways.

We had a really nice time visiting my parents. We mostly just hung out at home, but we did do a few things, like go to the cider mill.

The cider mill in Dexter, MI

The cider mill in Dexter, MI

I also got to see one of my close friends from college, R, and her daughter, who is a few months older than Olivia.

But for me, the highlight of the trip was that we got to see my grandma, who was 92. We went out for breakfast the first Saturday after we arrived. Olivia played with the empty coffee creamers while my mom and Grandma and I talked. Four generations…. it was so wonderful!

Our four-generations photo, unfortunately we didn't think to take it while she was still healthy.

Our four-generations photo, unfortunately we didn’t think to take it while she was still healthy.

Unfortunately just a week later, my Grandmother suddenly came down with Pneumonia, and ended up in the hospital. From there everything went downhill, and just a few days before we were supposed to return to Germany, she passed away. In the week or so before she died, she was in a hospice, where they took really wonderful care of her, and we came to visit her there every day.

Even though my Grandma was mostly sleeping during the last few days of her life, she did wake up to see Olivia. It was so touching to watch the two of them – one just entering this world, and the other saying her goodbyes. It brings me to tears thinking about it 😦 but the good thing is, at least my Grandma got to see her.

I wrote about my grandma’s life yesterday – you can read it here if you missed it. She had such an interesting life!

Olivia playing on the floor of my Grandma's room at the Hospice (My Grandma made the pillow and blanket!)

Olivia playing on the floor of my Grandma’s room at the Hospice (My Grandma made the pillow and blanket!)

My Sister with Olivia

My Sister with Olivia

I delayed my return flight by a week, and all of my brothers and my sister flew in from all over the US for the funeral. So, if there can be a good side to all the sadness, at least it was that I got to be with all of my siblings for a few days. It was also the first time for them to meet Olivia!

All in all, the trip was really nice. I’m so glad I had the time to spend with my family, and most of all with my Grandma.

A Lumberjack’s Daughter

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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.

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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.

We have a climber…!

Oh how time flies!  Olivia has been getting quicker and quicker, scooting from place to place on her belly, and ending up in all sorts of unexpected situations.   A few weeks ago I found her under the bed.

Olivia under the bed

Olivia under the bed

Then she was starting to navigate minor obstacles.

Crawling over the leg of the computer table

Crawling over the leg of the computer table

Then just yesterday I turned around in the kitchen to see this:

Climbing onto the step stool in the kitchen

Climbing onto the step stool in the kitchen

She watched an older girl doing this just a few days ago, and then just copied her!  Incredible.

Time to start moving everything to the next higher shelf…

Camping

Back in August we went to the “Artgerecht” family camp at Umweltzentrum Drei Eichen.  The camp was in Buckow, which is about an hour east of Berlin, in the beautiful Märkische Schweiz (a nice mountainous area covered in forests and lakes.)   This wasn’t just any old camp… it was all about raising babies, and the whole idea was that we lived as a “clan”, where each family supported the others.  We had seminars every day on various baby-related topics, such as breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing, and of course… EC!  Most of the families at the camp practice EC, even with mulitple children.  One family had done it with all four of their kids!  I am secretly in awe of their mom, so I am really happy to learn that they will be moving close to us sometime next year!!  They also have thier own blog, which you can read here.

It was so cool to see so many babies and toddlers running around without diapers.  Some with no pants, some totally naked and covered head to toe in dirt…. it was just beautiful.  It was also nice to hear so many peoples’ stories and experiences.  It really made me feel better to see that a lot of EC-ing parents actually do use diaper back-ups most of the time.  From what I read on the internet I was feeling like we were the only ones not going “all in”.

The whole “clan” aspect of the camp was very cool, too.  We shared a tee-pee with two other families.  You would think that with three babies we would have been awake all night, but would you believe it: each of us only woke up for our own babies, but not the others?  Olivia and I woke up a few times to nurse every night, but the noise never bothered anyone else. And I never woke up for anyone else’s babies’ cries.  I guess mother nature really has our ears trained well.

It was nice to have so many people around to help each other out.  This is something which is really missing in our modern society, where families rarely live in the same house as their relatives, and neighbors stay our of each other’s business.  We really are very much alone and the burden is heavy.

The nature, the people, the babies… being able to relax and just go at our own pace… all in all it was a wonderful experience.  The only thing I would’ve changed is to have made it longer. Well, that and have more food available.  The kitchen seemed to be pretty skimpy and I often went away a bit hungry.   But that was ok, it was still worth it.

And here are the pictures!

Here is me airing out the sleeping bags before our trip. Olivia is helping me pack!

Since the drive up to Berlin was about 7 hours, we decided to spend the night in Berlin before continuing to the camp in Buckow. We didn’t bring a crib, so we just pushed the beds together up against the wall to make a family bed. Here is Olivia rolling around on the bed. And yes, she did discover that light-switch pretty quickly!

We took a whirlwind tour of Berlin on our way out to the camp in Buckow. This is the Brandenburg Gate from the car! 

This is the teepee village. Ours was the extra big one on the right-hand side. We shared it with two other families.

Olivia shared a sleeping bag with me, which was definately the best since the temperatures were in the single digits at night. It was so cold that I really couldn’t take her potty at night. But inside the down sleeping bag it was nice and cozy! She usually slept from about 10pm to 7am, waking up only once or twice to nurse. (basically the same as her schedule at home)

We gathered all our own firewood

I guess I must have a good “mom” vibe going… I even attracted other people’s kids! haha. It takes a village…

One evening we made “Stockbrot” (bread on a stick)

Oscar helping Johanna to make a bowl with burning coals

We did tons of diaper-free time, so we used quite a few pairs of underwear!

Olivia got to try out her teeth on lots of vegitables! She didn’t really eat anything the whole time, though.

Olivia really enjoyed having quality time with daddy.

 


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