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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.

Writing a wedding toast to my sister whose wedding is tomorrow

September 6, 2014


The flower girl gets a special present at the rehearsal.

In between chasing a three year-old and nursing a five month-old I’ve had to find time to write a wedding toast to my number one cutiefiles fan and sister Diana Freeburg. 

As some of you oldtimers know, Diana was the first blogger in the family.  Luckily the blog has not been swallowed into the internet’s deep black belly of nothing and is still accessible to you and me.  It is before the time of links and photos and grams and hashtags, just one young 18 year-old writing to the world. 

It starts off very deep,

Nov 20 2003:

here’s my favorite joke.
why does a chicken coop only have 2 doors?
otherwise it would be a chicken sedan!!

On Sept. 15, 2003, we get a brilliant double post.

Dear Diary,

I ran my whale Spork through the washer and dryer, and look! he is as pristine as ever! Have you ever seen a beluga so happy and fresh?


Dear Diary,
My parents are going to be here in a matter of minutes bearing zucchini bread and my moose belt, i am so excited, my pants have been falling down for weeks.
Then on Oct. 4 2004, Diana foreshadows this very moment!

Dear Diary,

I can’t wait to be a 20 something. I have less than a year until I’m a 20 something. granted that something is a zero. isn’t that crazy!!? That means all sorts of things. Backpacking through Europe. Getting a real job. Wearing high heels. 10 year highschool reunion. Not being skinny anymore. Marrying the man of my dreams and living happily ever after…

Well Diana, that day is almost here!  You got the man of your dreams and you’re not even 30. At this very moment you are drinking champagne in a very cool bar with beautiful people while I am home with my sleepy head girls.  So have fun! Stay tuned for a wedding toast post.  Now its time for me to write the real speech for tomorrow’s big day.


Best rehearsal dinner ever.

Hot times summer in Seattle

August 28, 2014

IMG_6204Hello from Seattle! It’s Lucia’s first visit to cutiefiles homeland and we’re having a great time at Grandma’s house. There is no place better than Seattle in August. We sit on the deck in the evening as the sun sets and the air is delicious.

Elena spent two weeks learning some American customs at SportBall camp – a genius franchise that takes the best of drills for sports like Hockey, Volleyball, Soccer, Football, and Golf and combines them with story telling.

Golf: Did you get the little rabbit in the hole? (Putting) Did you make the ball fly like a bird? (Drive)

Volleyball: Something about Spike the dinosaur.

Jumping jacks: Put your hands out like a rocket, then in like a star.

Then there was one about flying donuts where they caught hoola hoops soaring through the air.


Twenty years later I am back at Hiawatha playing field.

It was genius. Everyday she gave Coach Sebastian a high five and then ran back and forth for three hours. They discussed the Seattle Seahawks and Richard Sherman. She came home and showed me how to “pop a squat”, then she asked me to “give a clap.” Go team America.

Lucia’s favorite sporting activity is to lie on the floor and kick, then she pulls her blankie over her head and kicks really fast and pants, then she pulls the blankie off. It’s quite a lot of cardio. She’s also just about sitting on her own.

As for me I’ve been happy to hit the yoga gym a few times where I have seen more tattoos in one class than I see in a year in Bonn.  And then of course there’s pushing the stroller up the big hill with one hand while pulling Elena up it with the other.

Snoqualmie Falls.

Snoqualmie Falls.

Freedom fries.

Freedom fries.

While we’ve adapted quickly to America there are still a few shocks.  We went dress shopping for me for the wedding and had to stop by Victoria Secret. Elena gasped when she walked through the door, “its a pink store!” While I was in the dressing room, she jumped on a pink couch shouting “I love pink!”

I gotta say, I really like the grocery store selection, being able to understand when people tell me I have a cute baby, random conversations with anyone I want.  Today I asked the daddy at the beach to help me get a giant spider out of Lucia’s stroller.  That was dramatic.


Astrid, so friendly!

Times are good but they are flying.  The day goes by in a blur, so its good to try to write things down.  My mom called this time the lost decade.  I can see why.  I can hardly remember what happened this morning.  Elena has enough energy to push you past your limit, but at night she sleeps in a Hello Kitty sleeping bag next to a bear wearing a dress also sleeping in a sleeping bag.  Who can stay mad?


Can’t beat the blur.

But I’m writing this as I am about to leave Seattle after four fun weeks.  We kicked it off with my cousin Ben’s wedding, and then partied a week later at Diana’s bachelorette.  Lucia and I flew down and had a girls weekend in Sonoma.  Fabulous.


What happens in Sonoma, stays in Sonoma.

Between the party weekends, I hit the coffee shops in the morning while Elena was at camp and did some work.  Now we are going to meet Papa in San Francisco and wait for Diana and Rafi’s big wedding day next week.  Believe me, he has been missed!


XX OO Grandma.

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