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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!

The secret lives of My Little Ponies

November 12, 2014

Time for my show.

Today when we were driving to preschool Elena told me that she was Twilight Sparkle and Lucia was Pinkie Pie.  I am Rainbow Dash (yes!) and Papa is Apple Jack.  In case you hadn’t guessed, she has been watching a lot of My Little Pony.  Grandma is Rarity.  Diana is Princess Celestia, and Alex is the King.  Ragan is Fluttershy.  So that’s sorted.

I figure there is only a small window of my life when I will know the names of all the My Little Ponies.  And I can actually appreciate Elena’s logic.


My little alpaca.

Since September, Elena has been going to a new preschool called Carousel that is in German and Spanish.  One mommy told me that her daughter said she wanted to play with Elena, but that she played in English.  I rarely hear her speak other languages, but yesterday when I picked her up, two of  her friends (sisters) were on the sidewalk waiting for their mommy and I witnessed a tiny girl German conversation.  (They each had gummy bears as a gift from a teacher who was leaving on maternity leave). It went something like this,

Abril:  Ich habe Gummibärchen!

Elena: Ich auch habe Gummibärchen!

Abril:  Das ist meine schwester.

Elena:  Meine schwester ist ein baby.

When I come to pick her up, she runs at the teachers and says,  Ich bin abgeholt!

So far I can keep up, not for long I am sure.

While were on the topic of foreign languages, Every night before eating, Elena makes sure we hold hands and say a kind of grace, it goes:

Pee Pee Pee, Guten Appetit.  Eche Eche Eche, La Conna Eche.

I’m not sure what they actually say at preschool before they eat, but we consistently say this.

Lucia is quite the little pony these days, roaming around the living room via commando crawling.  She has discovered her true mission, chewing on markers, electric cords, shoes and remote controls.

Papa is in Peru, so we are baking lots of cookies and going to bed early.



My sister’s wedding day

September 21, 2014

I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for two weeks.  And that is about how behind I am.  We came back from fiesta USA to rainy Bonn. We all had jetlag and now a cold for me and Elena. She started a new Spanish-German pre-school which means we are “settling in,” a.k.a 3 hour school day a.k.a I get nothing done. But Diana and Rafi’s wedding was every bit as glorious as expected.  We loved being in San Francisco, and I am still dreaming of Whole Foods.

IMG_6226But before the big wedding weekend, we reunited with Luis and headed south to a tiny beach house in Santa Cruz.  We shopped the main strip, ate at Betty Burger and Hawaiian fast food shacks and ran up and down the beach.  We drove up to the Redwoods, where my parents took me when I was eight, looking up, up and up at the trees that are what America has instead of Europe’s middle ages fortifications.


We walked out on the long pier and looked at all the sea lions jumping on and off the beams.  One hundred meters from the dock, whales were feasting on a bumper crop of anchovies.  Seeing whales is one of my favorite things in the world.  Then we drove back, discussing the great American donut, and got into full wedding mode joining in on the centerpiece making, and putting on our best for the rehearsal dinner at Le Colonial (I made Luis promise to take me back someday, it’s so romantic).

Then it was finally the BIG DAY.  I didn’t expect to feel as nervous as I did, it was almost as exciting as my own wedding.  And getting four dressed-up people somewhere on time is a big feat.  We took the official photos then drove in rush hour to the wedding venue with just 10 minutes before it was time to walk down the aisle. During this time, Elena -the flower girl- almost fell asleep in the back seat and woke up very grumpy and overwhelmed by the hundred-plus loud people.

Despite our numerous practice runs, she refused to walk down the aisle with her basket, so I had to rise to the occasion and live my unrealized fantasy of being a flower girl for the second time 30 years later.  (My advice to flower girl mommies, make sure to get to the venue 30 minutes ahead of time and sit quietly in a corner for at least 10, even if you have to start the pictures earlier).

photo 1

OK I’m coming down.

photo 2

Yes there’s a bird in my hair.


Just in case…

photo 4

Brother in-laws looking sharp.

photo 3

Ok let’s go to the wedding now.

Diana and Rafi wrote their own vows, and Rev. Peg Morgan did the ceremony, which felt perfect since we have known her so long. I don’t have tons of pics ’cause I was partying, but #unamascuevas will get you some more.


We’re married!

A wedding toast, to my sister

September 20, 2014


My sister has always been my champion.  In my early memories I remember not liking her that much because she was so cute that all my friends wanted to play with her instead of me.  But by the time I was about 15, I had gained hero status in her eyes and she would come in my room and organize my collections of art supplies and we would listen to Ani Di Franco.  I was always saving my Halloween candy, waiting for some unknown special occasion, and she would come in and eat it.

I can tell you that over the years things have changed a lot.

After Lucia was born last March she came to visit me in Bonn and organized my jewelry collection, which was in total chaos after years of shopping in foreign countries and moving houses without sorting.  Then we went to the Haribo shop and she bought 7 kilos of gummy bears.  She packed them all in her suitcase, but first she took a photo of Lucia laying on a pile of candy.

When I went to college I can still remember how she cried and cried.  When it was finally time for graduation, each student could choose who presented us with our diplomas and I picked her.  The person presenting the diploma gave a speech and she was by far the funniest one in the house.  I was so proud.

My sister has always supported me, I know she would do anything for me, and I have to say maybe I have even taken it for granted.  As the big sister, I have always been charging out into the world and she has followed me, whether it was hanging around annoying me while I played with my friends as a kid, coming into my teenage cave to mess with my stuff, or visiting me in college.  She has been there at every important moment; my own wedding, graduation from grad school, at the birth of my daughters.  When I had to move our house by myself to Germany because Luis had to be at a conference, she flew out to New York for a week to help me pack. Luis and I used to travel a lot for work so our house was full of change from different foreign countries.  She collected all the change from every corner and sorted it by currency.  Then she packed her suitcase full of all the best miniature shampoo bottles we had gotten from our trips.

I can think of all the not so fun things she has done for me and I wonder if I have ever done anything for her.  It’s possible that I am just a selfish person and she loves me anyway.  But the thing is, that when we are together, nothing is not fun.  We could be moving an entire messy apartment in 80 degree heat and sleeping on the floor, and it would still be fun.  And that makes me feel like the luckiest sister in the world.

Now it is finally her big day and I have to officially share her with Rafi.  Now Rafi gets to take her home and they can have fun doing all those things that really aren’t all that fun. Diana, you really are all grown up now.  Even though you have a candy bar at your wedding.  I am so happy for you and Rafi.  I hope you have lots of cute babies. I hope we’re still hanging out when we’re 70, and you can organize me while you eat candy in your dentures.

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