Monday, April 30, 2012


the long awaited day is here (and officially ends in 45 minutes).  

william and i played hooky from our respective institutions of play and learning to take a bus and a train to wait for an airplane from chicago.  

a little journey all in itself... waiting and watching

at the airport we shared a hotdog, read from 'ramona the pest,' and looked for familiar faces.  and they arrived! william and i shared a hot chocolate while we waited for a direct train back home.  (i felt 98% confident i could get us back by way of a stop at copenhagen's central station, but the wait allowed for some caffeine for the travelers (one of whom was weary) and gave us that additional 2% guarantee we'd make it to our destination.)  

good pals... together again... 

familiar faces...

and tonight as we sat reading to william before bed, a scene so familiar from visits past, and this house now so familiar to me... it seemed possible to forget it was all happening in denmark.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


spoiler alert: if you happen to be getting on a plane to denmark tonight to come visit us, i'm about to show pictures of your temporary guest room (a.k.a. place of respite from grandchildren, unless it's also being utilized as the play area when you happen to want that respite... in which case, alert me and i will try to corral the youth downstairs).

part of this week has been spent in preparation for the arrival of our first guests.  greg's parents are arriving tomorrow.  we are all excited... well, okay, henry's enthusiasm seems to come in random bursts and is also frequently accompanied by tremendous bouts of sadness, anger, or frustration.  but william-- for william, this visit is like christmas.

the other day, i did what i've been meaning to do since week two.  i washed the floor.  i would have added this surprise to the spoiler alert, except that since it's been cleaned we've spilled half a bowl of lentils and yogurt on it, as well as countless little bits of oatmeal, half-chewed apples, pears, spilled milk, etc.

things are getting back to normal, but here it was once upon a thursday...

today's project was our upstairs loft.  a place i initially envisioned would be a nice escape in the evenings to read or watch the occasional movie as the children slept peacefully downstairs.  instead it quickly became a place for building lego ships and jails and mounting battles between knights and pirates, good guys and bad guys... star wars characters... army guys... fluffy the aligator.  it did not exude "escape and relax" any longer, and, let's face, it... our guys are not exactly peaceful sleepers anyway-- though that situation seems to be improving nightly now.

but today, i reclaimed it.  not to enjoy, but to admire from a distance until the battles resume again tomorrow afternoon.

here is half of it... i failed to photograph the other half, which is just as well. it's not as photogenic with our blue bins and red suitcases lined up against the walls.

baby jail stayed put today.

and transformed into our best attempts at guest accommodations, sans pillowcases which were in the wash...

tomorrow, keep your fingers crossed that william and i maneuver the trains and buses like a couple of danes.

elephant onesie optimism

a boy who survived copenhagen and the bus ride! and enjoyed himself even! and refused to play games with the rest of the children. and stood behind a tree throwing sticks. and marveled at the elephants that could be seen from the zoo next door.  and didn't want to leave school when it was time to go home.  

yesterday, having ultimately turned out well and good as it pertained to the unforeseen field trip, even granted us a good night's sleep, for maybe the first time since we've been in denmark, who knows... but greg and i both felt like functioning... even thriving... human beans this morning.  it was a strange feeling to be sure-- where was that foggy, slightly aching brain in need of some coffee... and what about that sinus thing that's been plaguing me since recovering from that flu thing?  

better not to dwell on a good situation.  just let it be and hope that it lasts.  

the picture above was taken this afternoon, which means the sky did not start out blue this morning.  it was overcast. here, that's the weather sitting on the fence.  it's going to clear up or it's going to rain, and there's no telling which one is going to happen (even if it's your job to predict), but what is for sure is it's probably (with danish weather there's always going to be some sort of qualification) not going to just sit there all day long.  

today, it began to rain just as we were readying ourselves to go into town to purchase train tickets and sheets and towels for our very first visitors, arriving on monday!  this is not a problem.  it's rained the past two weekends in a row and we were stuck in it both times.  besides, this is mostly a drizzle.  it really doesn't stop anyone from going about their business here... 

the pedestrian street.
we buy our linens and also some rain gear for henry, and a couple of onesies.  i was done with onesies, had given them all away four or five months ago, but they suggested he wear them at his school, that even in the summer, little kids like him get cold when they are crawling around on the ground outside. i didn't really buy it.  i mean, sure, maybe they get cold, but i'm done with onesies.  i've given them all away.  i'm not going back.

yet... there's something...

there are other americans living in this country... and they talk (through social media of course... how else?)...

and they complain... they complain over and over and over. and i can't even quite figure out what it is they are complaining about specifically. just amorphous complaints about living in denmark as a foreigner... and, well, it makes me nervous... i don't want to become like them.  they seem too bitter.  i worry there's a honeymoon phase for an american living in denmark... or maybe a grace period... and then something changes.  but i don't know what exactly, so i'm just trying things like positive thinking (i like to complain only about the forgivable little things like the weather and the vowel sounds) and buying onesies for my 14 month old.  if i'm going to fall out of favor with his teachers because i didn't conform by putting a onesie on my son (and thereby break some unspoken danish code of conduct... or dress) after the grace period is over, then i'm going to suck it up and put a onesie under his outfit.

i know, i know, i am not being a good american in this sense. i should stand up for what i truly believe in-- that a 14 month old is too old for onesies (because his parents are tired of the extra buttons).  i should complain and make my voice heard.  but i just want to be happy here and i feel really happy here right now.  so i'm not going to go looking for all of denmark's flaws.  in fact, i'm going to narrowly focus on what makes me feel happy about living here... while still complaining here and there about those forgivable little things.  you're thinking pollyanna?  i shrug my shoulders.  until i'm faced with some sort of real injustice, i'm sticking with my optimism... and hoping that it lasts.

speaking of foreigners and optimism, here are a few lovely bits of the day...

gringo's... a restaurant more mexican than "nachos" (if you remember "nachos")... except that they were out of rice.  denmark really puts its own spin on mexican cuisine.  (see, that was positive right?)

and, despite the rain, the wind was kindly moderate, as shown here by the rather listless danish flag...

and then of course, as you know, the skies turned blue, and william and henry and greg went to "the obstacle course park." a park they've talked about going to for the past week.  i stayed back and sat outside and socialized with some of our wonderful neighbors, who, as far as i can tell, don't have us on any kind of trial period.

okay, it's late now.  pictures from the park and then goodnight!


Friday, April 27, 2012

stepping to the side

it didn't help that william didn't want to go to school today.

he doesn't want to go to school most days these days (but then he doesn't want to leave when it comes time to go home).  as we were talking about it this morning i asked, "do you have a good time while you're there?" 

"i don't. but you think i do." 

oh... my little guy.  i'm letting you down.  i don't know how to make it better for you.  this is only the beginning of the part where i feel inadequate and you ultimately have to find the answers... your inner strength to be a brave kid...  

i buy him a mini tour bus in the toy section of the grocery store.  not as a substitute for my guilt but because i want him to have a little symbol of his bravery this morning.  but i can already hear him saying, "i wasn't brave.  but you thought i was."  and how is a toy, no matter how small, going to help him find something within himself?  so maybe i do buy it to ameliorate my guilt.  

this is how it went.  we rode to school.  he sat outside the building.  he didn't want to go inside.  that is new.

"come inside so you can say goodbye to henry." 

he does.

henry's teacher tells me, "there is a trip planned to copenhagen today.  henry was going to stay here, but there are a lot of absent kids so now everyone will go."  

hey! that's exciting!  

"and i think you're going too william."  

hey! even better!  william seems okay with this.  we don't know... is he going?  we didn't hear about a trip to copenhagen.  as we walk to his classroom, all of the children are sitting, lined up against the wall, in coats and boots, with backpacks on.  it is loud and the teacher is taking count, matching up partners... generally preoccupied with getting 20 some children ready to take a bus to the biggest city in this small country.  

"i'm sorry," i say to her, when she sees us.  "i didn't know there was a field trip today (no signed permission slips here. no $10 contribution. and apparently, no build up).  i don't have his backpack or water bottle."  (something i'd learned from my initial meeting with them, to bring on days he has field trips.)  

a response something along of the lines of 'when i finish this, i will find something for him.'  

as the children start to line up, william is holding on to my hand now with both of his.  not a good sign for an easy goodbye.  

and now outside, william is not letting me go.  "how about i walk with you to the bus and we'll say goodbye there?"  okay, that works for everyone.  we walk a block to the waiting bus.  "wow! it's a fancy tour bus!" i say, trying to get him excited.  but he is not excited.  he is holding onto me now, saying "no, mama! no!" and then yelling it as i say, 'goodbye, i love you, and you will have so much fun' and his teacher is carrying him onto the bus, and as he's carried to his seat, he is yelling and crying and shaking his head no at me through the window, looking desperately at me, like maybe i'm putting him up for adoption... which i know i'm not.  and i know he knows i'm not.  still though, it hurts when that invisible tether between you and your child gets tugged so much.  but i smile and wave and nod my head yes, as though he were doing the same, and then walk away, wondering if he will ever forgive me and i buy him his little badge of bravery, or my little guilt reducer.  i come home.  take out 'the parent's tao te ching' to find some passage that will put it all right in my mind. 

i find this: 

to survive as a parent
you must empty yourself 
of your constant thinking, 
planning, and worrying.  

and this... 

there are certainly times when we should guide.
we naturally want to protect our children,
and teach them what we have learned.
but it is best when we let that guidance 
be as unobtrusive,
and gentle as possible.
forcing lessons on our children
may get the immediate results we want.
but our children may be left without discernment,
unable to build internal strength of character.
what are your children in the midst of learning
are you in the way? 

so, let's consider this me trying to empty myself of my constant worry.  stepping out of the way... or trying to.  i won't tell william he was brave this day because he probably didn't feel very brave, and if he did, he can tell me himself if he wants to.  i need to keep him fed, safe, and loved, and then i need to respect that even as a four year old, he knows how to get through a day. 

even as a 3 year old.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

sleep bug

this little monkey took a 3 hour and 15 minute nap today.  but tonight he is asleep.  in his bed by 9.  this is something of a feat, and there were more than a few two-minute intervals of crying to get us there-- something we have rarely resorted to in parenthood.  

we are feeling the exhaustion of a week of late nights and early mornings, and by 9:30 it's hard for me to put together a coherent post.   

as i write this, his big brother is doing whatever he can to prolong bedtime.  i marvel at how they can be anywhere in the vicinity of a bed and not feel compelled to get in it, pull the covers up, and fall soundly asleep.  these children will be the last to leave the party.  i'm sure of it. 

after dinner tonight, william collected a bunch of pill bugs from outside and brought them in to show me. which i am now showing to you.  i'm alright with bugs, but william is really alright with them.  as some of you may know, when we went camping last summer, a bug flew into william's mouth.  he took it out, looked at it, put it back in his mouth and ate it.  

and he is the sensible one of the two.  

 well, i'm going to go catch up on sleep now.  until tomorrow... enjoy your thursday.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

cat nap sugar snail

i hope a short post will suffice.  it's another late, late night with henry wilson.  it's amazing his stamina after he's had a little cat nap around 7 or 8.  not that it's supposed to be a nap.

william was home sick today, though not really all that sick once he woke up in the morning.  which is just as well.  we don't need anymore illnesses for at least another couple weeks.

we made this recipe and basmati rice for dinner, using a regular yellow onion, and cut way back on the sugar.  it would be much too sweet with 5 tablespoons of sugar!  i almost think that was a typographical error.  who's ever heard of 5 tablespoons of sugar in a meal like this?  maybe it's true, i just don't believe it.

then we went to possibly the highest (man-made natural (is that possible?)) point in roskilde in an effort to have two sleepers by the time we got home.  and well, it half-worked for a short period of time.

on our walk we pass the church next door, which you've seen before... this is what all small-town churches in denmark look like (at least from what we've seen so far).  some are painted white. not ours.

blue sky

pink flowers

our destination, with one visitor atop...

but as we get to the top, the sky has become much less dynamic, and as the camera's exposure increases to catch the last of the sun, there's really nothing of the sky left to see... but to give you an idea of what you can see from the hill, here is a picture of the fjord...

and william found a snail.  on a wet evening they are not difficult to find.  in fact, they are difficult to maneuver around, they are so abundant.  one rainy day i found one catching a ride on my bike helmet.

and finally...  here we are, from william's perspective in the burley...


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

flying lessons

william's teacher taught him a few phrases in danish today:

'i have to go to the bathroom.'

'wash your hands'  and

'clean up your toys.'

(self-serving? maybe.)

anyhow, when i got there, she demonstrated by saying these things to him in danish, which he was then able to translate to me in english.  an exciting moment! he even said to greg and me today, "jeg hedder regan" (my name is regan), which he hears me say everyday to teachers and parents, but mostly to his classmates.  they are honest in their puzzled looks, yet forgiving in that they keep coming back with smiles, asking me what my name is.  and henry is starting to make some strange babbling sounds, sticking his tongue out, which must be a learning-to-speak-danish thing, because i don't remember william ever making these noises, and because our teacher is always telling the class, "keep your tongues in your mouths!"  

so, it's starting for all of us.  but as greg and i struggle up the steep and craggy danish mountain (which i think we will), it's going to be satisfying the day we see william and henry flying overhead.

Monday, April 23, 2012


oh, henry.  

you are gracing us with your tricks tonight.  at 10:25 p.m. walking backwards.  that's a new one.  saying "more." that's also new.  being generally cute and making us laugh in spite of the fact that we so want you to be asleep right now.  

it's these nights that the posts are really short.  my mind is too distracted with a wakeful child.  

here was denmark today... for at least some part of the day.  on my way to class... 

a class, where, as greg put it, was like a door opening... a door into the abyss which is the remainder of the danish language we have not yet learned.  you start to feel good when you can tell people your name... and then you're reminded there's a bit more to communication, conversation, and integration than hello and thank you and bye bye.  

in leaving class we say, 'maybe we'll practice tonight.' but we both know it's very likely we will instead be up with a child.  and so it is.  maybe tomorrow night.  

Sunday, April 22, 2012


persille and jon, if you will remember, the family our landlord set us up with, who greg runs with on saturdays, invited us to visit the boserup skov (the boserup forest), occupying a rather large area of the southern part of the roskilde fjord.  

because at this moment the flowers are in bloom.  anemone, to be exact... carpeting the skov floor... 

as soon as we got on our bikes to meet them at their house, it began to drizzle.  as we left their house for the forest, it began to rain harder, until finally we had to stop under a bus stop shelter and wait for it to subside.  but by the time we got there it had stopped and we were able to walk along a path above the fjord (without getting wet).

in the distance (below), there is an island with a lake in the middle.  the salinity is lower than in the fjord.  one theory is that it is a glacial lake... that as a dirt-covered glacier melted, the dirt ran down the sides packing down the dirt below it, to form a ring around the glacier water.
ring of earth

showing its roots

at this point it began to drizzle again, so we made our way to a shelter area...

where william explored the small camping shelter...

and then it started to pour, so we all took refuge inside it.
the view from the shelter

except for henny, who had just finished his nap...

william snapped this photo of his dad and brother...

after half an hour we walked back to our bikes in the rain.  there wasn't a good break and henry was not content to sit and stay warm.  it was a cold rain and both he and greg were wet in their coats.  

finally, as we got back to our bikes, the rain stopped and we had a cold, but beautiful, but picture-less, ride home.  

and two little well-rested boys with late bedtimes, which always means two tired parents with even later bedtimes.  so goodnight! 

lunch plans

do you know what i learned today?  you cannot be a timid eater if you are going to sit down to a traditional danish meal and expect to put something in your mouth.  

this afternoon greg's boss picked us up and drove us about 40 kilometers to the home of some friends.  danish doctors practicing medicine a ferry's ride away in sweden. living in a beautiful, old farmhouse near helsignør, denmark, in northeast zealand (the island we, and all of copenhagen, live on).  they treated us and other friends to a traditional danish meal. something i have been looking forward to since arriving.  and now that i've had it... i'm going to let it all just digest for awhile... and not judge the danes for saving their culinary traditions for special occasions.  

since it's getting late and my stomach is telling me to sleep on it, let's do this mostly in pictures...   

first... the ride.  for all you parents out there who might feel like you make poor parenting choices... i'm guessing your children are in five point harnesses... facing backward... anchored in.... 

but we arrived safely and we are greeted with a table full of food, beer, and schnapps... and good company of course... 

what is there to eat?  and how do you eat it?  well, first, a cheers-- skol! with your schnapps.  then you have pickled herring and onions.  you eat this on a half-slice of dark rye bread (rugbrød), which you first spread with butter, or, more traditionally, lard.  i went with the lard.  so, rugbrød, lard, pickled herring, onions.  it was good.  i am, admittedly, a pickled herring fan.  the lard was undetectable to me.

then skol!

our next course.  bøf tartar.

we enjoyed a patty of raw beef, topped with a raw onion, a raw egg, salt, pepper, fresh horseradish, and capers.  this was good.  the onion especially gave it a good flavor.  and for those same parents i consoled above... i'm sure your 14 month old did not eat raw meat and a raw egg today.  so, maybe you can rest assured, knowing there are parents like me out there...


next course...

pork tenderloin, with a crispy skin, and pickles.


then chicken salad with bacon, on rugbrød.

then shrimp salad

then rugbrød and lard, topped with smoked salmon and a kind of dill mustard (i can't say for certain that it was mustard).


finally, in order to graduate from danish cuisine 101, you must eat the very, very old cheese.  of course, served on rugbrød with some lard or butter, then the very, very old cheese, a mushroom gelatin made from cattle, and diced red onions...
can you smell it?

the cheese was difficult to get through.  it's just so very stinky.  one piece was sufficient for me.  but i did it.  i graduated. 

after lunch, we went outside, where william climbed trees...  

and henry climbed stairs...

and did littlest things... 

then we walked just across the street to the (excavated and 3x renovated) remains of a castle from 14th-century king Valdemar IV, which william loved, being very into knights and castles and battles and having just read an adapted version of a connecticut yankee in king arthur's court...

their house, from the castle's perspective... 

stream by the ruins, leading to a lake... our next destination.

on the path to the lake...

on the way to the lake, william hatched an idea to catch a fish with a stick.  he would find a worm and attach it to the end of the stick and be quiet for 11 minutes and wait for a fish to bite.


fishing boats...

greg and william and a real photographer... capturing the seagulls nesting on a small island close to the dock... 

and that's where the pictures end.  we went back, had dessert and coffee and were on our way about 7 p.m., back to roskilde.

a fine day. an adventurous meal. now on to bed.