Wednesday, February 29, 2012


fluffy didn't make it here yesterday, but he's slated to arrive within the next couple of hours. other than our bikes (and toys for the guys) i'm wondering what on earth we felt we needed enough to send across the ocean, put on a "Handy" delivery service truck and bring into this wonderfully uncluttered house. yes, it's true, i've been recycling the same three shirts and two pairs of jeans for the past month and in all likelihood i will tire of that at some point-- or, knowing me, they will wear out first. i'm not exactly what you would describe as 'innovative' in the fashion department. but, i suppose a little variety, to give these duds a break, is alright. not necessary at this point, but alright.
also, we packed books. because i'm waiting until they stop printing them before i buy a kindle. other than a set of measuring cups and spoons, i'm not entirely sure what takes up the remaining space on the pallet. it will be interesting, if not rueful, to see.

would you like to hear some good news? henry slept until 2:30 last night before waking up! that hasn't happened in... maybe forever. and, he let greg walk him to sleep after i nursed him. that hasn't happened in about a week. so, maybe he's getting over his cold. he also ate a ton of dinner last night-- a tandoori spiced curry. oh that they could be healthy with ready appetites all the time.

in other news, this is my last weekday of job sharing. tomorrow greg (officially) begins work, so i officially begin doing my job solo once more. a job i often feel is better done with 3 or more employees. and since it's been sent overseas, i've really appreciated having an equal partner in the daily work of raising the guys, at least for these past couple of weeks. as i type this, greg is getting william a piece of bread with jam and explaining how the noise of a car in the parking lot can get through the front door. with henry napping, these are the lovely moments.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


henry and greg, in from outdoor adventuring.

this morning we're anxiously awaiting the arrival of "fluffy" the lego alligator. well, william is anxiously awaiting fluffy's arrival and i am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my bike. at 11 a.m. william is sounding more and more desperate-- when are my legos going to come???!!! good question. they will come. no need to panic. soon the necessity of running errands at a steady 3.1 mph and doing battles with one box of star wars legos will be a distant memory. what william needs more than legos is a playmate. we are alright substitutes but we're too tall to get lost in the maze of a three year old's imagination. though there are children in our little neighborhood, there are a couple of obstacles to instant friendship. first, their parents operate under the danish system of fast hellos-and-see-you-laters. a whirlwind of a meet-and-greet. over before you, the american, realize it's even begun. second is the language barrier-- kids william's age do not yet speak english and william does not yet speak danish. i don't know how much of a barrier this really is for kids, because surely toys and play translate into any language, but we haven't reached the crucial step of getting two kids into the same play space to know-- possibly because we haven't yet pushed through or seen the natural crumbling of the first obstacle.
but, yesterday we did take the first step to getting william enrolled in kindergarten so he can soak up danish and make some friends. danish kindergarten is different from u.s. kindergarten. here, children ages 3-6 can be enrolled into kindergarten. there is no free (i.e. government/taxpayer funded) schooling until age 6, but the government does subsidize education for the younger ages. if it costs 10,000 kroners per month to have william in school full days, we are paying only 2,600 of that. roughly $500/month. for full days, that's a good deal (and it may even be cheaper than that). about half of what we would pay in the u.s. (even if he only attends half-days, apparently we have to pay for full days.) on top of that, the government gives us a quarterly subsidy for being the lucky begetter and begetteress of these children. after age 6, the children start school. i kept throwing around the word "school" during the application process and the woman who was helping me kept correcting me-- kindergarten now. school later. to apply we walked to town to the rådhuset (town hall), through a steady, cold drizzle. the first day i have worn my winter coat. not necessarily because other days weren't worthy of it, but because this was the first time i was not carrying henry in the ergo on my back. the plan had been to put both boys in the burley, but as soon as henry realized we were going outside and it was not in order to let him meander about freely, he melted down. he is so young and with the unfortunate luck of having been born in february, and hence having learned to walk in the middle of winter in a northern state and then moving to another northerly climate, he has not walk outside on his own very many times in his life. quite simply-- he lacks the proper footwear. so william rode in the burley and greg put henry in the ergo where he he screamed for about two blocks and then gave up and slept the entire rest of the trip. once at the rådhuset, william did not want to get out of the burley, so i went inside while greg walked the kids around. i met with a woman from the pladsanvisningen. i have no idea the pronunciation, but i can guarantee you, it sounds nothing like plad-san-vee-nin-gen, as you might think. i don't totally understand the bureaucracy of it all, but this office manages the waiting lists for kindergartens and daycares. this office places children in their kindergarten or daycare sites and you must give them a one-month's notice should you wish to unenroll your child. so, william and henry are now both on a waiting list, which is guaranteed to be not more than 3 months long. she asked how many children i had and when i said two she went up and got another application. i told her a couple of times that i may not need henry to be placed anywhere as i don't yet have a job and it could take some time before i find one, but i kept getting the feeling that she felt like i should or might as well (or something) have henry in some sort of daycare setting... maybe because i could, because the state was subsidizing my ability to. so i filled out an application for him because... i could, because the state was subsidizing my ability to, but most importantly because this will give him some exposure to the danish language, which i so desperately (but not desperately enough to have danish radio playing in the background all day long) want him to have, because when i tell people apologetically that i will learn danish they smile and say, "good luck with that." they are so fluent in english that they are comfortable with our sarcastic terms and their language is so hard to learn (or maybe just speak intelligibly) that they are probably not exaggerating when they say this to me. henry is going to have to learn because i'm going to need him to translate what people at the next table are talking about. oh, put that out of your mind. i'm not interested in eavesdropping.

well, our walk yesterday was nice. it was cold and it was rainy, and it was something we never would have done in madison. because of how henry feels about being contained outdoors these days, because of the weather. one of us would have gotten into the car and driven the three miles and back. even if we had said something like, "let's not to drive our car anymore" i know we would have taken one look at the weather and listened to henry howl for about three seconds before we'd say, "forget it. not this time." but here, without that option, we set out, we did it, and it worked. so that was a good feeling. and the only saving grace for my having eaten two-thirds of the carrot cake in the last two days.

here are a few pictures of the cemetery we walked through yesterday to give you some visuals:

østre kirkegaard cemetery:

in an arc.

all in a row.

i liked the font on this one. and that it gave occupations (as did others), was interesting. (at least the last name, not sure about the top or third one down. føldt is 'born'.)

here it is, close-up:

Sunday, February 26, 2012


today was the kind of day where things either went right or they went wrong. there was not much in-between and at the same time, it wasn't a purely bad or a truly good day.

what went well: we had our first real guest over today. yesterday we had the electrician here, but he didn't sit down for a danish pastry and tea. the priest from the church next door rode her bike over today after the service. she is one of three priests at the church. this was a pre-arranged visit, so she could drop off a burley and high chair for us to use while we're here. she told us the super best was expensive (this too was good... validation... because yesterday the electrician had told us it was a good grocery store, and cheap too, so i was feeling pretty guilty complaining about decent food that we currently have enough money to buy-- can't i find anything better to complain about???). she gave us the name of some cheaper grocery stores. also a thrift store. said she would have us over to her place sometime soon and give us the grand tour of the church, which dates back to the 1100's.

what didn't go well: the subsequent walk to the park. well, it was going well until we realized the rocks william had been digging in for treasure actually contained cat poop instead. one little kid's magical land of buried treasure is another cat's litter box. shucks. then henry had a major fit about being returned to the burley, so we put him in the ergo, which he also screamed in until finally falling asleep about a block from home. but, his ensuing nap went well. during said nap, i decided to make a carrot cake, which had been my plan for a few days. carrots are one of the few things we have stored in our fridge right now and cake is one of the many sweet things i crave pretty much everyday, so it seemed like a perfect plan. but i do not enjoy baking. cooking, yes. baking, no. plus, i'm not very good at it. even when i think i'm following the recipe i feel like i'm always burning it or putting it in the wrong size pan, frosting it too soon or not adding enough cold water to the crust. and when i get it out there's either too little of it or too much, such that it gets gobbled up in a day or sits there for a week getting stale. today's cake, as most food prepared these days, was a joint venture, depending on the needs of the guys at the time something with the food needs to be done. i grated seven carrots, but because greg did most of the mixing, things were going well as it went into the oven. but of course, i burned it. i was in charge of getting it out, but the oven has no timer, and i was paying too much attention to mixing up the granulated sugar frosting (we had no confectioner's sugar or cream cheese) and trying not to burn that, that it took my brain a good 5-7 minutes to realize that because i was smelling a burning cake, i should probably take the initiative to remove it from the oven. at this point it's probably past six o'clock and we've done nothing about dinner. that's another problem with me and baking-- i can't seem to multi-task with it because i feel like i'm always stirring or mixing something. but, what did end up going well was the dinner. we did a bean salad-- a can of white beans, a can of chick peas, thinly sliced onion, grated carrots, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt, and the most successful part of the entire day-- raw kale. a couple of years ago, my sister, becki, told me about preparing kale in this fashion but we had never gotten around to trying it until tonight. so, it's not just: cut-up-kale-and-put-it-in-your-bean-salad. what you do is wash it, trim it, cut it up, however you're going to eat it. put it in a bowl with a few shakes of salt, maybe more... then rub the salt into the kale for about five minutes or so until the kale starts to get really green and lose its toughness. new texture, new flavor, and your kids are just a little more prone to eat it, which makes you feel a little less guilty about the fact that they were doing this while you were trying to break down the integrity of kale:

william scraping the sugar out of pot #1

and this:

william scraping the sugar out of pot #2

you can kind of see the cake in the background there. it wasn't a loss. just burned along the edges. i don't know that it exactly tastes like carrot cake, especially with the frosting, but we're eating it. greg doesn't like carrot cake and he says it's the best carrot cake he's ever had, though he admits that this is because it doesn't really taste like carrot cake. maybe it was the rye flour.

sleep-- william didn't get to bed until about 10. he's been back to his old tricks of not being able to fall asleep-- insisting that we read one more chapter (this time of 'stuart little') and then tossing around trying to get comfortable for half an hour before finally succumbing. and little pavlovian henry screams now at the sight of the blanket greg puts around him to walk him to sleep, so it's back to nursing to sleep-- one of the reasons i'm obsessed with food (have you noticed?)-- the little calorie thief. who will likely be up any second, so it's time to end this and hope for a steadier day tomorrow, but also be thankful that my complaints amount to not much more than burnt cake.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


henry playing around and me playing around with free photo editing software.

a low-key day. william suggested we might go back to copenhagen to see the rest of the city. we declined. there will surely be many days spent in copenhagen in the next few years. we decided last night that today would be a day devoted to spending some quality time with william. so this morning he and greg did lego battles upstairs-- his favorite thing to do these days, aside from having his dada tell him stories about star wars. later, they went to the grocery store-- with william riding his bike-- he carried the bread back, attached to his back bike rack. there has been so much consumption of bread in this house. bread and butter mainly. i'm not sure the extent to which we're clogging up our arteries, but it's been a fast and easy snack, and i'm not sure if it's not in the grocery store or what, but we're not buying sandwich bread, but rather either baguette-style loaves or the dense, grain-filled rye bread denmark is known for. and today william picked out an intense pickled herring. it translated into french onion herring, but the spices reminded me of a christmas punch. once again, the fish was really high quality. william put a slice of herring in between two slices of summer sausage (which was, unfortunately, not of the same quality as the fish) and two slices of bread. he ate all of the meat, leaving only some bread behind. i'm feeling thankful he's loving seafood right now. at least fish. i don't think he does so well with shrimp or oysters, etc... like his father. henry's also enjoyed the fish, though he probably doesn't have enough teeth for pickled herring.
after the grocery store, william and i sat down and watched "cars." his other favorite thing in life right now. it's not a movie i would ever watch if i didn't have a 3 year old son, but it was pretty good.

ah, now henry is waking up already. so, i will post a couple more pictures from dinner-making time and then post this. goodnight!

Friday, February 24, 2012

to copenhagen and back

william and greg waiting at the bus stop.

today we decided it was time to try out the train (and, incidentally, the bus), and that copenhagen would be a nice destination. so, we did it.

rather than walk the 2+ miles to the train station with the guys on our backs, we decided to take the bus there since greg still had some "clips" left on a bus pass from when he was here in november interviewing. we spent about an hour looking online trying to figure out bus and train schedules. there are a few buses that we can take to town and each come once an hour. the trains to copenhagen seem to leave every 10 minutes, so after arriving at the central bus station, we decided to take a short detour to the borgerservice (remember?) and check on the status of our CPR numbers. though the wait was not long, william still found time to bite his brother on the the finger (probably because we are spending so much time looking up train schedules and toting him around on our mundane, yet important, administrative errands, not to mention moving him to denmark). the good news was that they had our cpr numbers (although it will take many more weeks to get our actual cards in the mail). this means we can open a bank account and do things like obtain our bikes, now scheduled to arrive at our door on tuesday. after the borgerservice, we stopped at a free-standing "bagles-t0-g0" near the train station. sort of like a subway, only bagels instead of bread. then to the train station to buy our tickets. about $34 for us, one-way.
william enjoyed the 20 or so minute train ride, as did henry for about the first two minutes. then he was only happy if he was standing on top of the table in between our seats or banging the lid of our water bottle on it, or pulling down the shades to the window we shared with the woman behind us. i think it's going to be awhile before we take the overnight train anywhere.

on the train...
the central train station in copenhagen is nice-- you notice that it's very clean. one thing to mention-- bring 5 kroners (~$1) along with you if you want to use the bathrooms. unless you are a kid. i was able to change henry's diaper for free and i have to say, it was about the nicest changing area i've ever seen. i should have taken a picture of it, but with henry, you have to hang onto him for dear life with your one free hand if you don't want him ending up on the floor.

after leaving the train station, another truism about denmark materialized before our eyes (add this to the fact that people do really light candles in their windows and really do leave their children to sleep in prams as they go about their business in shops or their homes)--

bikes. everywhere. that is just some of them. i couldn't fit all of the bikes into the frame and didn't take pictures of all of the other bikes parked around the outside of the station (which we walked all around, not really knowing where we were going). we had a vague notion that tivoli gardens would be a fun place for kids, and that it was right across from the station, but it turns out to be closed until april. so, we picked a direction and walked. we passed by probably some really famous building that we know nothing about. i wondered if possibly it might be the queen's residence, but there wasn't enough pomp and circumstance surrounding it.

however, there was an unveiling of sorts, which got a bit of attention. i hesitated to take a picture and when i finally decided that i should, the subjects were on their way out. we had a much better view than this, but here you go:

william only asked, "what about their privates?"

after this we got to a pedestrian shopping street.

and there was a toy store:

which makes william happy.

we walked along and down some side streets for an hour or two, until we decided our backs had had enough. we stopped at a bakery where william's treat was a hot chocolate and to share in the chocolate croissants we bought. as occasionally happens, something in this entire transaction upset william to the point where we needed to engage in multiple tactics to try to cheer him up. finally greg tickled him and this worked, but the poor guy also ended up peeing in his pants, so there we stood, behind a dumpster along a side street, changing him into dry clothes and that's when i decided that someday we are going to come back to europe without small children in tow. because i really think you must have a different experience traveling through europe with children and traveling through europe without.

we made our way back to the train station, bought our tickets and found our train. miraculously, or because he is a little sick, henry slept almost the entire time we were in copenhagen, the entire train ride back to roskilde, and the bus ride home. off the bus, we walked the remaining way to our place, rounding the corner to pass the now familiar church we live next door to--

sweet william was tired...

and we had our salmon for dinner...

all in all, a successful day.

the new nordic diet

In trying to discover more about what Danes eat with such high food prices and ho-hum, run-of-the-mill grocery stores, I found this article:

Thursday, February 23, 2012


this morning-- william and greg looking at william's star wars sticker book.

now it's 9:23 p.m. and both boys are asleep! well, henry's been up once and is now back down-- that's nothing too unusual. i could count on one hand the number of times he's slept through the night, if i could actually remember any of them. but the fact that william is not up anymore is the real breakthrough. this morning it worked to get him up around eight-- the lure of playing legos with his father was just too much to keep him sleeping.

our only real adventure out today was to the super best, our nearest grocery store. very much within walking distance and unless we're missing something nearer, the closest to us. this was my second venture to the store and it was much less crowded than that first afternoon of our arrival. this gave me time to peruse the aisles without feeling so rushed and like i was in everybody's way (reference #6 of the ever important cultural article). i'm trying not to dwell, but i'm a little bummed that this is bound to be our main source of food. for those who live in madison, it is like a more expensive version of pierce's, a not-so-great overpriced grocery store that i tried to avoid. okay, i'm going to stop complaining now and express my thankfulness that there is a store within walking distance. of course, you think of moving to europe and you imagine that life is structured around going to the marketplace everyday to pick things out for your dinner. and that does seem to be the way here, at least to some extent-- the fridges (at least ours) are not big, the packages of food are small, and when i told greg's boss that we tended to buy things "in bulk" back in wisconsin, i think he understood me to mean, "buy a whole lot at one time so we only have to go to the grocery store once a week" (which was also pretty much true, but i meant, buying a gallon's worth of oats and lentils and rice and a quart's worth of walnuts and cashews, etc. etc.) to which his response was something along the lines of they don't do that here. you buy little and often. and that is what i imagined, except i sort of wanted those outdoor markets with the fresh produce and the butcher shop situated next door to the boulangerie. i think i've got the wrong country. crumble. okay, i'm dwelling. can i tell you that we bought a few fillets of some sort of white fish today and fried it up in a pre-packaged breading the fish guy recommended and it was great! and william, who we've begun to believe exists mostly on air, ate the entire thing, plus 2 and half helpings of mashed potatoes, plus most of his carrots and broccoli. it was sort of amazing. tomorrow we're having salmon.

the white fish, at least, came from the baltic sea (or the eastern sea, as he (the fish guy) referred to it). in thinking about sources of protein here (chicken and beef are way expensive, not a lot of nuts, some beans, but nothing in excess at the super best), we decided to try fish, which is (comparatively speaking) moderately priced. if only we didn't have to worry about mercury. there's always something, is there not?

one cool thing that happened today was william trying out his bike. we wanted him to try riding it to the grocery store. he practiced in the parking lot first and was really nervous, not letting greg let go of the bike, steering (or rather not steering) into cars, putting his foot down to brake, as opposed to using the brakes that came with the bike.

nervous guy

but then, on the way to the store, greg decided to put his hands on the back of william's jacket instead of on the bike, probably to save his own back, and that seemed to be the trick-- william was steering and balancing in no time...

and by the time we arrived back home...

here he is, riding around a tree in the parking lot:

a proud bike rider...

later, greg, william and henry went out to the backyard to kick around a soccer ball and explore while i cleaned up, because this house, and possibly any house with scandinavian furniture, just politely demands neatness, and like a friend put up on facebook recently-- "cleaning house while the kids are home is like shoveling snow while it's still snowing." you'll do it because you don't want to have to shovel yourself out, but you will never get anything less than a light dusting over your nice work.

here they are playing...

and here, a gift to me from william... a hint of spring...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


well, resetting william's internal clock to GMT +1 this morning didn't really work, but tonight it's 10 and he's almost asleep. i think it's just going to happen one hour at a time. and that's fine.

we learned today that our shipment is delayed a few days and that we don't need to go to copenhagen for it because apparently it has already cleared customs. i don't really understand how all of this works, but i think it will make our lives easier not to have to make our way to some dock somewhere in copenhagen and do whatever paperwork we'd need to do to release our things. which isn't to say we won't still go to copenhagen, hopefully sometime soon. greg, fairly officially, has no more unofficial days of work until his first official day of work (next thursday), so we may try to plan a little trip sometime between now and then. just walking to the train station is a small journey in itself. maybe we will have a burley by then, but i don't know what we'd do with it-- could we take it on the train? we are slated to borrow a burley (and a high chair) from a friend of the woman whose home we're renting. that friend is away for the week as this is a/the "winter holiday", so until we can get in touch with her, and until our bikes arrive, we are getting much exercise carrying the guys around.

this afternoon, greg put henry in the ergo and they and william walked to the bicycle store, which is next to the grocery store not far from our house. this was a surprise for william. he'd been riding a neighbor's bicycle back at home, so we figured we'd get him a new bicycle once we got here. so today, they walked over while i got the house cleaned up. the guys at the bike shop showed william a gray bike and then a white bike of the same model. he wanted, and got, the white one. he calls it a racing bike. he also got a new helmet so that henry can use his old one on burley bike rides.

so here it is-- possibly the world's fanciest kid's bike ever:

i'm hoping this bike gets a lot of use. it was a bit of an investment. henry seems ready though. unfortunately this bike puts william at a different angle than he's used to and so he needs to learn how to ride it. greg pretty much had a hand on it the entire trip back home. also, ever since william had a huge wipe-out going down a big dirt hill this summer he's been a lot more timid on a bike. that may have been my fault for letting a three year old ride a two-wheeler down the side of a large hill, but at the time i thought, 'if he falls, he'll see that it's not that big of a deal-- you fall off your bike and you get back on, and then he'll never be scared to fall.' (and he did make it down once with no wipe-out.) but, it seemed to have taught him just the opposite. crud. hopefully that memory will start to fade and he'll be a fearless (yet careful) rider once more, and he will learn how to position his body on this new bike.

in other news, it was chili and cornbread tonight. i wonder if we were the only people in denmark making cornbread tonight. or, the only americans making cornbread with rye flour.

it sounds like rye is incredibly popular here and it was cheaper than wheat. so, we've had rye pancakes and now rye (and cornmeal) cornbread. aside from the color, i could detect no difference in the taste, and you can see that we enjoyed it well enough:

well, 10:45. time for bed. goodnight.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


today (tuesday), greg had his 2nd unofficial half-day of work. william was up before 11 a.m., just as henry was going down for his morning nap. so before william woke up and henry went down, henry and i had some familiar time to ourselves in the morning. we listened to danish radio for awhile until i felt good enough about our danish immersion for the day and switched over to the computer for some BBC. i have been streaming wisconsin public radio and in the morning here, which is overnight in wisconsin, it's the BBC, which has always given me a sort of lonely feeling up until this week, because whenever i've heard it previously it's meant that i'm up when i should be asleep. the middle-of-the-night darkness with the lone british voice coming over the radio has been just too despairing. but now, hearing it for the last couple of days in the morning, i'm really enjoying it (especially "outlook"). i also thought i would feel sort of lonesome knowing that everyone i know is asleep while i'm starting the day, but that knowledge has been fun these past few days. it's like i've got a jumpstart on everyone! and, because we have no phone right now, and knowing that the danes would probably be the last people on earth to knock on my door for any reason, it's like this wonderful down time. i have responsibilities of course to william and henry, but... until we become a mite more integrated in this new land, no one is really expecting anything of me in the morning. it's freeing! i sometimes pick out the sound of my cell phone vibrating from other white noise in the house and glance around at it for a split second before remembering that no one is calling me. i'm sure i'll be weeping over that fact in next week's post, but this week, it is so very nice. which is not to say you shouldn't skype us after you wake up and i've had my little morning reprieve. we like to skype and i am not a total hermit.

after greg got home we quick got the guys ready and set off for the borgerservice-- as far as i can tell, sort of like the DMV. it was a couple of miles away, by the big roskilde domkirke (cathedral). (i write these danish words not because i know them so well and happen to slip into danish, but because i hope that by writing them i'll commit them to memory. i had to look up "big roskilde church" to get domkirke and ask greg where it was again that we went today to get borgerservice.)

anywho, we embarked on this walk along the fjord. that was nice.

look 'roskilde' up on google maps and you will see that we are on a fjord that eventually empties out into the north sea. there are big, fancy houses along it, which made me realize that not everyone in denmark lives in a small, quaint house. the space-saving mechanisms are pretty miraculous here such that having a large house seems way overdoing it. but i guess that's sort of the way in the u.s. too. not the space-saving but the space.

so we had to go to the borgerservice today so that we would officially exist in denmark. we will get a "cpr number" (analogous to a SSN?) and a yellow-colored health care card with our doctor's name on it. we got to pick between a male or a female family doctor (we chose the latter) and i suppose we will all have that same doctor. we will have to pay for our prescriptions so we are not allowed to get any illnesses requiring medicine and we can pick any dentist we want out of the phone book-- and pay for that service out of pocket-- so no cavities allowed either. that is a brief outline of how the health care system works in denmark. until we have our cpr numbers we cannot open a bank account, and until we open a bank account we cannot pick up our pallet's-worth of items we shipped over here, which, i believe, arrives tomorrow. the earliest we'll get our cpr numbers are on friday. our shipment comes into cophenhagen and greg's lab will arrange for it to get to our door, however we must be there in person to get it cleared through customs, so we will likely be making a trip to copenhagen early next week. that will be an adventure. bigger than the grocery store.

after the borgerservice we headed to the pedestrian street which is full of fancy shops. we stopped into a pastry shop and got some fancy looking pastries. they were good, but hard to describe. nothing bready about them and not really chocolaty, but looking chocolate-like. i think mostly sugar paste wrapped in a sugar coating. we ate them outside while henry, who'd been strapped in the ergo thus far, walked around. despite #5 from the important cultural article i read before coming here, henry got a number of smiles and even had two people stop to talk to him. we then went to the toy store to buy william and henry a couple of toys. greg had really been wanting to do this since the guys don't have many toys here right now and did give up at least half of the toys they owned back home. apparently on william's last day of school he told his class that his parents gave away all his toys. so today he got a small star wars lego kit and a playmobil guy with a cannon. henry got a huge tractor trailer that doubles as a toolbox and work bench, complete with tools. once again, greg strapped the loot to his backpack and i strapped henry to my back and we walked the two+ miles home.
to make the new toys doubly fun we ventured up the spiral stairs-- something that had been virtually off-limits since our arrival to dissuade henry from sure injury. upstairs is just my cup of tea. i will take a picture of it at some point and show you. it's a big loft area with a couple of scandinavian couches and chairs and plenty of skylights. i would like to spend more time up there, but the staircase is just too treacherous and henry too much of a danger mouse that i'm sure i will not ever find myself relaxing up there. nonetheless, william has embraced it as his own. after playing up there tonight, he told me that he never wants to leave this house because it is so neat. i sort of feel the same way.
dinner was brown rice and green lentils mixed with sauteed kale and a can of diced tomatoes, topped with sliced hard-boiled egg, carmelized onion, and greek yogurt (pretty much the way yogurt comes at the "super best" grocery store down the street). it was delicious! a combination of a couple of deborah madison, vegetarian cooking for everyone recipes. i think we are mainly going to be vegetarians here-- at least assuming greg's boss does not continue to buy us lox and spanish meats. the food is just so expensive, meat being no exception. an organic chicken was something like $30-- probably what it should cost, and a non-organic was about $15.
and now it's 11:35 and william is still awake. we tried and he could not fall asleep so we let him stay up. a mistake, but i'm determined that tomorrow i will get him up early and he will adapt to his new time zone.
for now-- a couple more pictures and goodnight--

greg and william by the domkirke

henry and me by it too. henry is sleeping.

Monday, February 20, 2012


i'm not sure i want to write about hygge quite yet, because i'm not sure i completely "get" hygge (pronounced, i think, HYOU-geh). actually, i feel like i sort of do get it, but every article I read about it (maybe two-- and i've now blogged about the extent of what I read about denmark before moving here) gave it this "can't-quite-put-your-finger-on-it" quality, so i feel like i'll probably learn more about it and then feel sheepish that i felt so confident to write about it on day three. or i'll learn that you can never really "get" it unless you were born in denmark and grew up with it... sort of like... the danish accent. but maybe it's more that it's just difficult to describe in english because there is no easy translation. it's like, "feeling cozy inside your warm house on a cold, rainy evening" or "that feeling you get at christmas time-- not the stress feeling, but the other feeling." here, let me find a description online that will probably do it more justice.

here you go:
Gather the family and invite over a couple of good friends. Push the sofas and chairs up close to the coffee table. Douse the electricity and light some candles. Better yet, light a fire in the hearth.
Serve plenty of food and drink. Raise a toast or two, or three, and feel the warmth flow around the table. Look at each other until you see the candlelight shimmering in each other’s eyes. You've got hygge!
read on here if you'd like.
in any event, i write about it ever so briefly here because i want to encourage everybody to try a little aspect of hygge-- because why should i have to spend three years learning more about it before i pass it on to american culture? so, what i want everybody to do is to dig through your junk drawers and take out those tea candles you bought about ten years ago when they became inexplicably popular in the u.s. then, put them in a couple of candle holders and light them. do this especially at dinner time. but clear off your table first and make a good dinner, or at least make your dinner look appealing. turn off your bright overhead florescent lights that you use to cook with (and while you're at it, turn off your t.v. and npr (that last one's my own admonition to myself)) and turn on a lamp with some warmer light. now, sit down and enjoy your dinner and a little bit of hygge. do this for one week and see if you're not hooked on how much nicer it makes dinner feel-- and relaxing! then, put the candles by your window so that all of the people walking past will sense the hygge in your house and be inspired to make some hygge of their own. that's what it's like in denmark. you really see candles lit in the windows of many homes. and it really does make everything feel quaint-- in such a good way!

so, are you going to do this or not? vaer sød do.

hello, from denmark!

it is monday morning. 10:45 a.m. greg left to go to work at 8:30. henry is down for his morning nap-- perhaps he's getting adjusted to the time change as this would be about the same time he'd sleep in wisconsin. william is also asleep, not having woken up yet-- not really-- he did tell me around 9:30 to tell his dada goodbye for him, and that he loves him, not having realized that he'd already left, but being temporarily awake enough to remember that greg was going to work this morning. william is either slowly adjusting to the time change or rapidly turning into a teenager. i wanted to give you a nice summary of our events of the last few days. then i found an email that greg wrote to his brother which, i felt, sums it up rather nicely. i've decided to post his rendition and add to it as i see fit (in italics). here it is:

alright alright alright. two cups of instant coffee and I am a human
bean again. so, where to begin? Like I said, it is cold despite being
40 degrees, probably due to the wind and humidity. It is the kind of
damp that permeates the bones. (I wouldn't have described it that way, but I have a very nice, purple rain/wind jacket, that stops the dampness from getting into my bones.) Sunny yesterday but with the sun came
the wind and cold. Interestingly it was about 38, but the top of the
ground was beginning to freeze so that it would crunch under our steps
(maybe the thermometer was confused). (I don't mean to complain,
because it really is nice here- we went to a playground in Feb. so I
can't be upset about that). I just assumed their grass was more "crunchy" sounding. We did find a playground yesterday (Sunday), not far from our house. That was nice because as we walked around on Saturday I didn't see any that weren't attached to a school or housing complex.

the plane was tough, H was cranky. but he fell asleep when the lights
went out ~1.5 hours in, and woke up when the lights came on (somewhere
over northern Scotland). W was awesome, and watched "Cars" at least
once then slept until I picked him up to deplane. It was difficult to sleep on the plane. In the airport, William said to me, "I'm feeling anxious." I said, "I'm feeling anxious too!" Before leaving for the airport, I had coffee with a friend near my old (from high school) house. As I checked the time and realized I'd better be leaving so we could get to the airport on time, I started feeling physically anxious. This whole idea of moving to Denmark had been so big and difficult for me to comprehend that I'd had, relatively speaking to its largeness, little in the way of cerebral thought about it. We're moving to Denmark. Yay! What does that mean? I have no idea! But finally an hour before leaving for the airport, my body knew to be nervous, even as my mind sat idle. As I arrived back at Greg's cousin's house and did a few last minute things-- shoveling in some food, brushing teeth, packing up the toothbrush, it was that hand shaking, palm sweating, fumbling around nervousness that is played out in movies by the soon-to-be father rushing around to get his laboring wife to the hospital. As we sat in traffic on the way to the airport I realized how utterly unprepared I was for such a big move. I had prepared of course. We had sold our house, our car, said goodbye to our pets, shipped a pallet's worth of items, packed six checked bags and six carry-ons, etc. etc. etc. Mentally, I faced no major hurdles about uprooting myself and my family and planting ourselves in another country for a few years-- that idea was, and always had been, exciting, and in the airport terminal I realized (or rather felt), for perhaps the first time, that I was living in the world-- not simply in the U.S. How easy it is to forget when you're living in the U.S. that you are part of a larger world. Sort of like how living in California makes you sometimes forget you are living in a larger country. But I knew no Danish-- how many times had I asked Greg how to say "hi"? (It's hej-- pronounced "hi" (I had to look the spelling up on google translate just now)). I only roughly knew how to mentally change a Kroner into a Dollar to figure out the cost of something (multiply by 2, divide by 10), hardly knew a thing about the history of the country or the culture of the people-- I felt utterly unprepared. And I realized, isn't this just so typical of me? Anytime something big is about to happen, I assume it will be fine and then don't prepare. For example-- law school-- I could have read a book, a blog, pried one of my many relatives who'd gone before me, even watched "Paper Chase" for goodness sakes, to figure out a little bit about what to expect, how to make it easier, and I think a lot of my class mates did these things and had an easier time, but for me, it was a steep learning curve. Giving birth-- another example. With William, I went in thinking, sure it will be hard, but I'll manage. And in the end, I did manage, but it was harder than hard and with Henry, I prepared at least a little bit more, and it was at least a little bit easier. So now, here we are with Denmark. I expect another steep learning curve, that I expect, I could have graded out a bit. I think that (along with the seats and a lap child) made sleeping on the plane nearly impossible. Fortunately they put us in seats with no one in front of us. So we weren't as squished as we might have been. I watched the movie, "Juno", which I'd been interested in seeing, but could never quite catch the very beginning of it (movies were not 'on demand' but rather on loops). The food was not so bad. No one gave us mean looks when Henry wailed. So, I guess it was tough, but it could have been tougher. I think the mean looks would have made it so. Anyway, back to Greg's email:

Mikael (my new advisor) picked us up from the airport and took us to
our new house. The kids were in child seats, which are not carseats
like we parents of younger kids are used to. They were both boosted
up, facing forward, with the adult seat belts across their laps and
necks. All of the excitement and dizziness caused Henry to throw up all
over the place, but then he slept soundly. Mikael patiently helped us
get into our house, turn on the heat and fridge, and then took us to
the grocery store.

The store was unbelievably busy for a Friday at 3pm. This weekend was
a holiday "Fastelavn" which is Danish Mardi Gras, but celebrated on
Sunday instead of Tuesday, and more like Halloween according to
Wikipedia. Maybe everybody was buying party food for the weekend?
Anyhow Regan managed to figure out what we might need to eat for the
weekend and got us through the store. But I didn't weigh the grapes that William wanted. Apparently, you have to weigh the pre-packaged grapes. Interestingly, you must buy
your grocery bags ahead of time (at the front of the checkout
counter),(which we didn't know until after we'd started checking out and there were five people lined up behind us-- and if you don't know anything about Danes and their lines-- read here-- one of the few, troubling, cultural papers I'd read before arriving) and svinefedt is packaged like butter but is not butter
(pronouncing it gives you a clue). I thought maybe it was butter. Fortunately, Greg figured it out and we found real butter (smør). Mikael had also shopped for us, unbeknownst to us,
and got us spanish food (cheese and cured meat), lox, bread, wine,
beer, instant coffee, and coca-cola classic. The instant coffee is
surprisingly good, and I drink it a lot. The cured meats and cheese
were fantastic, as are the lox.

So, then we went on a ten minute car tour of Roskilde. It was the
same as I left it a few months ago, but Mikael pointed out a good
butcher shop. It also made us realize we wanted nothing to do with driving cars here-- at least not for the time being-- because we would probably quickly get into an accident trying to figure out what the street signs meant. Back at our home we made dinner (eggs and potatoes and onions) and probably tried to
go to bed. I really don't remember now because I was quite worn out.
But everything must have been fine because we are all still alive. Well, Henry was up a bunch and William wet the bed (or... as he said, and seemed to believe, sweat so much that his pajamas and blankets got all wet-- sweet boy. And I'm not going to take credit for that-- Greg took care of it all.)

Saturday was fun, we slept in until noon. It was rainy ~40F, grey, so
we went for a long walk to downtown. (We live in the next closest
'village' (Himmelev is the name) which is more like a neighborhood of the city ~2mi to
downtown). W peed on a hedgerow because we couldn't find any stores
along the way (that's my boy!). We found that all of the downtown
stores are closed by about three on Saturdays excepting the
grocery/department store. At the store we bought cleaning supplies, a
bucket, and bath towels. By the time we left, both Regan and I were
pretty tired of walking as H was on Regan's back and W was on mine. We
tied the bucket to the backpack, picked up the kids and walked home.
Halfway there I gave up the bucket to Regan for fear of losing my
back, and told W that he had better walk for himself. This was more
fun because there were puddles everywhere and W was wearing his froggy
rainboots (a brithday present from you (Greg's brother and sis-in-law), I might add).

Regan made burritos when we got back. yumbo jumbo. we figured out the
laundry, kind of. There are symbols on the machine, supposedly to
make it easier to use, but they don't make sense. The best results
for the dryer occur using the snowflake symbol. I found the best result to be the full, as opposed to half, sun symbol. W. was a tired man,
and fell asleep easily. H. decided that we were still in Wisconsin and
stayed up until ~2:30AM. Well, he'd gone to bed around 9ish, but didn't stay asleep. I tricked him though, and got him up at 9AM
Sunday to reset his clock.

Sunday was the sunniest. H. and I went for a walk in the morning to buy
diapers (we brought the re-useables, but without a utility sink they
are terrible). And not having a good place to keep them until they're washed. We finally put them outside on the little patio. Also, they don't seem to sell big boxes of baking soda here-- something we relied on to wash them back at home. The grocery store was closed, and always is on
Sundays, but the bakery aisle was open. The baked goods were holiday
themed: Mardi gras colored frosting on donuts. It didn't look
appetizing, and H. was asleep, so we went home. W. slept until about
12:30. (And is on track to do so again today-- I just don't have the heart to force him into complying with this new time zone yet.) He played and then watched movies and then played until we
finally got him outside for a walk to the park. The park is
surrounding a Dolmen, which is an ancient burial site. This one is
partially excavated so you can see that it is a mound of stacked
stones. I'll show you when you visit!. W enjoyed the new playground
set, and the sticks and the mud. Lentil soup for supper, then bed.

Today I got up at ~6:30 and was tired. Mikael is taking me to work at
8:30, so we'll see how that goes. His start date isn't until March 1st, but Mikael said he'd pick him up at 8:30 on Monday-- we sort of went along with it. We'll see what happens.

That is the chronicle of your brother in Denmark. Life as usual.
Eating, sleeping, being tired.

Best wishes to you and T and Alex.


for now.