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Happy New Year! and tales of a staycation

January 2, 2016

This year, New Year’s Eve felt like a social construct. My Mom and Steve had just left for Copenhagen after their nice long visit, and we were all home. Elena stayed up a bit later to see some early fireworks, so Lucia was not in bed until 11. I was too fried for revelry.  I took a bath. Then when it sounded like a war zone, I had to stop myself from running outside in my towel.  Germany loves its fireworks.

This Christmas we stayed home, and it was exactly what we needed.  It took me almost a week for the ache in my jaw to leave from work stress.  We hit the road with Mom and Steve exploring the local sites.  A staycation with visitor’s is the best because it still forces you to go out and about.  And then when they leave, laying around in your pjs feels extra sweet. We had plenty of time for making scones and coloring.

Getting cozy, guess who was asleep five minutes later?

Santa was here!

Even Obi is fun with Grandma

Luis was extra busy this year, with COP21 in Paris. We missed him, but for the first time, a meaningful climate deal was struck. It took a while for him to demobilize after the event. I hope being home is still exciting enough after a ‘regular day’ meant organizing joint events with the rapper Sean Paul and Ban Ki Moon.

Lucia has been difficult lately: not sleeping. If she can see my phone, she demands it. I was never a big believer in the terrible twos, but I could be convinced of the terrible 1.8s. She refuses to go to bed and can now catapult herself out of her crib. What can we do, tie her down? She regularly wakes up at 4am crying. It should be a comforting thought that next year at this time she should be sleeping much easier. Elena just marches her pajamas on, we read a book and voila, bedtime! A friend of mine threw a New Year’s party after her fellow 1.8 year-old went to bed.  If only.

At this time last year, Lucia was still crawling. I can hardly remember it. But I do remember that after Elena turned two, it was like I could finally lift my head up and look around. I guess it feels bittersweet, because this is our last year of Lucia as a baby.

Enjoying the view at the Zollverein in Essen, a repurposed coal processing plant

Modern art at the Zollverein

Eating an apple with Grandma in a tree trunk

Lucia’s favorite words:

  • apple juice, to be demanded at any time, mewed like a kitten
  • bus, as in the Wheels on the Bus, to be demanded at any time
  • TroTro a British cartoon about a donkey, 3 minute long.
  • and where would we be without: Mas and Nein!

Just this week she got: orange, donkey and Steve (sorry Grandma). Eleana’s new expression, when you ask her to wait for something: “but later is never ever over”.

While I would caution anyone with small children to save themselves from making resolutions, I cannot resist a small list:

  • Practice mindfulness
  • Help refugees in Germany
  • Open retirement account
  • Eat more sustainably
  • Run Hood to Coast
  • Color and play
  • Go to co-working space

The staycation has left the house a mess, but I feel at peace. I am incredibly grateful. These girls inspire me everyday. Wishing you love and happiness in 2016.

Too cute gotta go.


Happy New Year!


Hearts and flowers, and lots of cleaning

October 18, 2015

The house smells like cloves. I need to rethink my spice storage, as Lucia was able to remove a jar of cloves and sprinkle it across the living room carpet.  At least it was not chili pepper.

We seem to be living simultaneously inside a valentine and the eye of a small hurricane.  As she gets closer to FIVE, Elena’s ideas are getting bigger and better.

Last Saturday, while I was cleaning one of the preschool classrooms as part of our “parent hours”, Elena together with her partner in crime Zaira, closed themselves in the Ponies’ bathroom.  While I scrubbed down the cabinets, they proceeded to empty 15 tubes of toothpaste. It was one of those situations where I needed to be mad, but I was laughing too hard.  Elena blamed Zaira, though it seemed to me it was her idea. The fumes from the bubble gum toothpaste were dizzying. While I cleaned that up, the girls ran outside and smeared sand across the windows. Clearly two heads are better than one.

Three days later when we arrived at preschool and Elena went to put on her house shoes, they were no where to be found. Zaira had dunked them in the toilet the day before. Was their pee? Yes there was, according to Elena, whose version of events is not reliable.

Last night Elena asked me, Mama, when you sleep do you dream of two little girls?  Why yes I do.  I dream of hearts and flowers. Every day she cuts out paper hearts and Lucia helps her distribute them across the house.

And of course, car rides are great places for conversation. Are mermaids shy? Um yes.  Are pegasus very shy?  Definitely.

Lucia also has a lot to add to the conversation. She keeps up a steady stream of baby talk and can sing little songs like “The Wheels on the Bus” and “Frere a Jacque”.  We can hear her repeating the rhythms of songs and conversation, she is just one stage before words. Her top words are shoes, coco (cookie), agua and Ana! (Elena). As I write this, she is  taking a nap while clutching a tiny orange pumpkin.

I find that it helps to think of housecleaning in a yoga-like fashion: do not get attached to where you are in the pose. In fact, this is a useful idea for much of my life right now.

In other words, just hold on and enjoy the ride.

IMG_0540 IMG_0536IMG_0512


Today at 35

August 7, 2015

It is very hot in Germany: 38 degrees or 87 F.

After a crazy morning of painting a secret present for Papa, we went to lunch with the abuelos at the biergarten. Elena has already told Luis what the surprise is three times even though I told her not to.

After arriving in Bonn after four weeks in the US, everyone except Lucia promptly got sick for one week. We are all still coughing.

We returned to find that caterpillars have eaten all the bushes in our garden. I bought a sunflower, and within two days they ate that too. There is a plague in my yard and I don’t know what to do.

My I-phone 6 was last seen by Elena on a plane from Seattle to Chicago. The true loss is two weeks of photos of my family on Whidbey island.

Because my doorbell does not work, I got two “we missed you” slips for a new phone and flowers from Katja. Then I cried.  Then two hours later, DHL came back. It was a birthday miracle.  But the phone is still not working yet so I don’t know if anyone called me for my birthday.

The girls have been out of childcare for six weeks. I’m questioning my sanity. At some point I will be googling “motherhood self-care”.

After sleeping with us for most of her life, I finally set-up Lucia’s bed in Elena’s room.  Now every night when I go to sleep, I feel a small aching hole next to me.  But it is usually filled between 5-7am again.

Lucia is getting 4 new molars. She carries a baby doll named Petrika everywhere. Sometimes Elena takes it and they fight for it. This is a key childhood milestone.

I got a massage today. This was a brilliant move and a weight has briefly been lifted from my shoulders.

Thanks to Lucia, we cannot find: the remote, my old I-phone, a brand new purple marker bought for the creation of Papa’s secret present and one of my shoes.

While I write this, the girls have free range with the hose in the yard and have dumped a carton of dirt into their kiddie pool.  Elena has given Lucia an involuntary shower and she is looking at me like what the hell happened?.

Luis and I have a date tonight.

Now I can run for president.


Thanks to Manuel for this great rare family pic.

Happy Birthday Lucia, you are one and Spring is here

March 23, 2015

Lucia is now one and she does not want me to blog. Or if I do, it must be only with one hand while I hold her. She got sick on Friday, and but we went and had the party anyway on Saturday. Her teething is the worst it has ever been, so I couldn’t put her down today and Elena took the opportunity to give herself a hair cut.

You did what?!

I think this was inspired by her theatre debut as a Spinnen in “Unter Guerillas,” a live, big band dance show in St. Augustin. We went to two dress rehearsals this week, and Elena even wore lipstick! (She was supposed to wear mascara, but that was not happening.)

Her costume was her black tutu and her hair in eight braids — she was a spider. No bangs allowed, they were pinned up quite ceremoniously. And this is what I think inspired the haircut. Since she did it at 7pm on a Sunday after Lucia had been crying for two hours, it was just too absurd to get mad about. Luis and I had to hide our faces so she couldn’t see us laughing. We will have plenty of time to discuss why this was not a good idea while her hair grows back.

The spider dance was so great that I just had to stop myself from crying, or I would miss it, since it was only about two minutes long. Elena looked so small compared to all those big girls. We think she is a natural, she looked totally comfortable up there in the front.

Kleine Spinnen. Proud Papa.

Anyhow, back to the birthday girl.  March 21 has come and gone.  A first birthday for a mommy is a special celebration. After just one year, I can still easily remember exactly what I was doing the day she was born. I was not resting, as one really should be doing. I had worked in the morning and then went to a spouse luncheon where everyone teased me that I was going to give birth right then. Then I went to get the keys for the apartment rental for Luis’ parents, and had to run so I didn’t get a parking ticket. I made Desirae come with me. Then I got home at 4pm and the contractions started. By 10:50pm, Lucia had arrived and I could not believe that it was already over, since it was so much easier than Elena’s 33 hour marathon. I remember leaving the house for the first few times with her, walking out into the first sunny days of Spring.

It’s amazing what happens in a year. Now she is standing, playing with her sister, calling Mama, and eating grapes and arepas.  I have been part of a baby group this past year, and I have really appreciated having these women in my life going through the same thing.  Having a baby is a unique time in your life: difficult, profound, joyful, boring, tiring. Everything should slow down (not that I am very good at that), and going through this journey, intentionally, with other women has been very special.  Even after a day like today, which has actually been one of Lucia’s worst days ever, my arms and boobs are aching, and she is finally sleeping, and will probably wake up soon again… I just want to look at pictures of her.

We had a great party, and I planned a mini-Easter egg hunt despite the rain for the little kids. They were such girls about it, it was very funny, they were totally slow and cooperating and helping each other find eggs. No one raced around.

Do you need help finding eggs?

Lucia slept half her party, but everyone else kept it going, making sure just about every toy we own was played with and every Frozen sticker stuck.

Between the party, the dancing and the chocolate eggs lying around, Elena has been flying high. She has entered the phase where she doesn’t stop talking, and based on the family history I expect this to last for some time.

We love you Lucia. Keep Growing.

The days are long but the years are short

March 3, 2015

Saturday morning random thoughts:

This is sleeping in.  I awake at 8am to someone hovering over me breathing loudly. “Elena, go get the I-pad”. One hour more of sleep, then banana waffles, dance party, and by 12:37 the house is thoroughly trashed.  This weekend we have to do volunteer hours for Carousel, Elena’s preschool, so I will spend four of my “free” hours cleaning the gymnasium.

Lucia is a “kleine crabbler” and she is fast. Her favorite thing is to stand up in her high chair which is totally death-defying.

Lucia in the basket with Ella.

Elena likes to write letters to her friend Isini that we never send. We made at least 40 Valentines and sent them around the world. The cats in Seattle were especially pleased to get some mail.

I read a very complex article in the New Yorker about the brain science of psychedelic drugs.  They have studied which parts of the brain are active when you are tripping on LSD, and basically it is the same part of the brain that children use the most.  The point of the article was that when used in safe and controlled environment, psychedelics can help cancer patients find the big picture and make peace with their lives. But I keep thinking about what it means that children are always on this level. But that was only a small part of the article.

Even fairies need naps now and then.

Something I would never post on Facebook : You know you are parent when you get puked on and go back to bed.

We are still a totally Pony household.

What’s for lunch?

Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas

December 29, 2014

Birthday! Christmas! Abuelos! Crawling! How many exclamation points can one blog handle?  And, I must say, it is a lot for one mama to handle as well.  I just learned that the U.S. Ambassador to the Security Council, one of my personal heroes, Samantha Power, has two small children.  When she was confirmed by the Senate, she had a 14-month old.  Talk about having it all: can you imagine negotiating a ceasefire in Syria after a long night of teething? Absolutely not.

I can’t say the last two months have been easy. Luis was in Peru for COP20 for most of December, and before that he was super busy getting ready for the meeting.  We seem to be passing the same cold back and forth going on six weeks now, and though there is lots of crying, there is not a tooth in sight. I was prepared to spend the long holiday season at the christmasmarkts, but they flew by and I only ate 12 poffertjes.  Anyhow, enough of that: Elena is Four.


Luis came back on Elena’s birthday, bearing gifts of llamas and wool hats, and we had a birthday party the following Saturday.  We had kids from her old school (English) and her new school (Spanish and German), so it was quite a multilingual fiesta.  I caught myself struggling to translate instructions for Red Light Green light in the muddy yard.

We had an amazing custom made Twilight Sparkle cake and we sang Happy Birthday in three languages, which gave Elena plenty of time to try to blow out the candles (maybe next year). Later I caught her on the phone speaking German.  She said she was calling Santa.

This is the first time since she was born that we have been in our own house for Christmas, and it has been nice to be home.  It is also the first year Elena really got excited about Santa, though she is already sharp: she asked me if Santa borrowed my wrapping paper.


All for me!


Someone help me move this so I can get to the tree!

In the process, we have gone from owning one princess to possessing an entire Playmobil empire.  We gave Elena the dollhouse for her birthday (only three hours of assembly required), and the kitchen set for Christmas (they are setting your expectations here early about the kitchen being sold separately).  She also received the toy store set and we enjoyed 24 days of Playmobil in an Advent calender.  The house is so cool that you’re gonna find me playing with it when they’re in bed (just kidding, they are never in bed).

In other news, today I saw the most important painting in breastfeeding history at the local bundeskunsthalle.  All the way from the National Gallery in London,

The Origin of the Milky Way (Tintoretto)

The Origin of the Milky Way, by Joseph Tintoretto.  It’s hard to see the milk shooting in the picture, but it looks great in person.

According to myth, the infant Heracles was brought to Hera by his half-sister Athena, who later played an important role as a goddess of protection. Hera nursed Heracles out of pity, but he suckled so strongly that he caused Hera pain, and she pushed him away. Her milk sprayed across the heavens and there formed the Milky Way. With divine milk, Heracles acquired supernatural powers.

Now that’s Breastfeeding power!

Happy New Year everyone.  Catch you in 2015.


Happy Thanksgiving!

December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving!  A great holiday, and one that for the last six years has been challenged by the climate change convention.  It always is the case that the Friday after T-day, Luis has to fly across the world to work his butt off with a bunch of governments who can’t agree on the future of our planet.  Grand bargain aside, it messes up a perfectly good holiday.   We threw a party anyway, and now that I am on my own for almost three weeks with the girls, my turkey leftovers seem limitless. I am going on three days now and still am not tired of them.

Take me with you!

Take me with you!

So, on the big day, I picked up Elena from school, who excitedly told her teachers, “Meine freundin commen.  Felix!  Meinie freundin mit gelbe haar.”  They looked at her quizzically.  I repeated the sentence to the teachers in German, grammer be darned, it was true: Felix was coming over, and he indeed has yellow hair.


We had a small but very loud Thanksgiving with Felix, Desirae, David and Donald.  Desirae made super yummy marshmellow sweet potatoes and innovative cranberry sauce out of simmering dried cranberries in cherry juice for several hours.  We made the turkey, Venezuelan pork stuffing and a chocolate walunt pie (this is my proud invention as there is nary a pecan in Germany).

It was a party.  For the first third, I hid in the kitchen munching Desirae’s cheese plate pretending not to know that Elena and Felix were trashing the living room by building a giant mountain of pillows and diving off the couch into them.  It was the first time I had ever fantasized about having a two story house so that the kids could be a full floor below. Later in the evening, Felix came up to me in his underwear and asked a question, prompted by his mother.  He wanted to know if it was OK if he took off his pants.  Well, I do want my guests to be comfortable, so we convinced him to wear a pair of Elena’s purple sweatpants.  All the men assured him that purple was  a very masculine color.

Just thinking about the past year we have so many things to be thankful for,  but our biggest blessing is Lucia, who is growing fast and already trying to keep up with her sister.

I’m not sure Elena has the hang of Thanksgiving quite yet, though we did color one picture where we traced our hands and made them into turkeys. The next day, we told my mom about our dinner, and Elena said, “We made a turkey for Felix!”  Close, but not quite.

Luis is off in Lima now, but I am looking forward to having Christmas at home.  It’s hardly December but somehow I have most of my shopping done, still the Christmas markets are calling.  Stay tuned for the big FOUR, I’m super excited.

Guess who we ran into already? He was hanging with the girl scouts.

Guess who we ran into already? He was hanging with the girl scouts. Elena was super excited to see him and ask him for Princess Celestia, but she did not understand why he did not give her to her immediately.

Lucia shops for Christmas presents.

Lucia shops for Christmas presents.

We miss you Papa. Come home soon!

We miss you Papa. Come home soon!

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