Wednesday, October 31, 2012


in the end, a ninja ghost... 

so this morning i went to a class of 7th, 8th, and 9th graders to talk about my (american) perspective of u.s. elections.  i was invited by one of the teachers who is husband to one of my classmates.  the school was perhaps like a charter school in the u.s... private, with public funding.  the government provides the school with 75% of the per-child funding it would give to a public school and the parents make up the difference (plus some... which helps keep class sizes down to 18 students).  this school's 'theme' is community, so they do a lot of group work and activities and extra-curricular events outside of school. each morning they meet for a morning assembly where they sing religious hymns.  he told me this isn't really a religious school, but since there's not a strict separation of church and state here, they sing them.  i sat through the morning assembly, led by one of the students, and which was also a time for teachers to make brief announcements, and then gave my presentation to three of the classes-- about 54 kids.  you don't want to hear any more about the election, so i won't go into the details of my talk, but apparently the kids were curious enough about the political campaign ads i showed them, that they watched some more during their english class later in the day.  perhaps hard to believe for those living in swing states who are seeing nothing but these ads, but they don't get political commercials here.  they hardly have commercials at all, about anything.

then it was home.  greg was here today!  that was nice.  we planned for halloween, but in the end, didn't create the elaborate haunted house i think we both imagined somehow we'd be able to pull off.  we did buy more candy however... and bacon... because as you know, if you know danish william, he is a kid who loves bacon, ever since those early days of 'bagels 2 go.'  (is that what it's called?)


we picked the guys up from school.  watched and listened as william comprehended a paragraph's-long sentence from his teacher, just completely amazed that he gets it all, and made him wait an excruciatingly long time as we made and then ate dinner (bagels à la greg), before starting trick-or-treating.  

speaking of danish, henry's new favorite phrase is 'nej tak.'  ("no thank you." 'nej' rhymes with 'why')  oh, it's so cute, and so polite.  

"do you want to get into your pajamas?"  

"nej tak."  

"should we change your diaper?" 

"nej tak."  

so, trick-or-treating... it consisted of going around to all the doors in our house...

henry the farmer.

including the work shed out back... 

and then back again... about three times.  here he got a trick.  a dirty diaper.

he was a happy guy to be trick-or-treating.  it didn't matter that he picked from the same bowl of candy each time or saw the same mama at each door.  the important thing was, for him-- he got candy (and a couple fruit and nut bars, disguised as candy).  also, he learned, he will have another chance to trick-or-treat this friday.  so... the celebration lives on.  at least for a couple more days.

happy halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

rights and traditions

i'm a procrastinator.  how many times do i have to say that to make it not true anymore?  

well, anyway, tomorrow morning i go and talk to a class of high schoolers about my perspective as an american voter, and i'm preparing for it... now.  if you want to weigh in, go to facebook, or put a comment here, before i leave at 7:30 tomorrow morning.  

otherwise, while i am reflect on voting, you can check out these photos of our nearly last minute pumpkin carving from tonight.  in denmark, for those who do carve pumpkins, it begins as soon as october rolls around, so that most of the jack-o-lanterns i've seen around town (and there are not many), are in sad shape for halloween.  we never ended up carving pumpkins with william's friend because it turned out he'd already carved pumpkins earlier in the month... and really, they were busy playing.  

henry's keeping an eye on the insides...

william's pumpkin...

it needed some hair...

checking out the jack-o-lanterns...

all three...


Monday, October 29, 2012

stranded at the drive-in

i won't complain about the weather today when millions of people are hours away from a hurricane.  indeed it seems that sandy is the talk of the nation right now, so it feels strange to be so far away from it, but maybe everyone west of ohio feels the same.

denmark is a country with almost no natural disasters or deadly animals.  we are most definitely bystanders living amongst bystanders.

and we are both tired with the new time change that says what is now 9:26 used to be 10:26, even if we did get up at what used to be 7:26 instead of 6:26.

so a short post tonight.  hoping people, relatives, friends, and critters, on the east coast, stay safe.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


you can imagine your day will go one way, but you never know for sure until you get there.  

we had plans to go to copenhagen today.  meet with the lawyer from this spring who i might help out, see juan and katie, perhaps a museum, and then tivoli for their halloween decorations.  but though william was feeling better today, i didn't know how a full day like that might set him back.  last night his breathing was quick and shallow as he slept and it's the kind of thing you stay up listening to until you finally drop off to sleep, thinking there are so many things you can worry over with your children,  even when they are otherwise healthy, but also so many easy parts of any given day to be grateful for.  that was today.  william was fever free and full of his normal energy, with just a cough and sniffles.  but still, we canceled plans, to keep things on the mend, which was just as well, because, as we soon found out, greg was obligated to do a day's work, to finish up... maybe... a project at work that has been consuming much of his time and thoughts for the past month or two. 

after he got home, we rode down to the fjord.  a cold late afternoon, but without much wind to make it unpleasant.  

the guys swung on the tire swings and we walked through a little patch of woods while the sun went down.  


the littlest of the little ones...

mom and son, bundled up...

 father, son, and son...

one of these is not a little berry on a tree...

the biggest of the little ones...



my teeth were chattering for the first part of the ride home.  my fingers stung.  william and his bike hitched a ride respectively in and on the burley.  the moon was full and the sky clear for us to see it.  greg made a shepherd's pie (not with lamb, so does that make it some other kind of pie?), and miraculously, i got the fire started (after two tries).  both boys are asleep now.  i still have a little danish homework to do before tomorrow... finishing up the novella... and then on to the week ahead.  the end of one month, the beginning of another.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


there was an empty square on our calendar for october 27th, luckily.  not tomorrow however.  but hopefully by then william will be past the worst of his illness, which began last night with lots of coughing and turned into a fever by mid-morning, which resulted in a nap by mid-afternoon, more coughing in the evening and a guy ready to crawl into bed and listen to stories by seven.  the fever hasn't gotten worse, the cough has subsided for now, so maybe it's a short-lived thing.  i assume (i hope) it's the same thing henry had a week ago.  (hope because henry was unstoppable when it came to sharing an apple with william and taking william's special-request straw off the floor and chewing on it.)

so it was a low-key day.  greg took henry for a run with the burley.  last night was a frost and my phone said -2 (celcius) in the morning.  next week our temperatures are on par with madison's, except there is much more sun and much less rain going on in madison.

one picture, from tonight, greg skyping with brother and niece while mixing batter...


Friday, October 26, 2012

icy boots, coffee omelet, sleep


this morning was cold, so that maybe other mornings i thought were cold, were just chilly.  this day's cold meant breathing into my mitten and trying to take that breath before it got cool and rubbing it underneath my helmet to make my forehead feel warmer.  and when i finally did warm up near the end of my ride, it was a feverish warmth, like you feel when you're sick, and the air temperature around you provides no excuse for being as warm as you are.  but that was the morning.  somewhere below freezing because there was an icy, slushy puddle on my way to class.

after class

i shopped for a few groceries.  ate.  and vacuumed.  then i rushed to get william and henry.  one of william's friends and his friend's mom were coming over to our house this afternoon for a play date and i didn't want them to be waiting on us.  it takes us a long time to get out of the school on any given day and today we were pulling out all the stops to show just how long it really can take us.  so that you might have watched henry digging up a potted plant in the hallway with a tin cup while william is telling me he can't get his other mitten because it is on top of the roof of an outdoor play structure, and i am standing there with two sets of winter boots, one fleece, one sweatshirt, a hat, and a pair of mittens in my hands.  fortunately his friend's mom didn't arrive at school until after another mother had climbed on two milk crates to get william's mitten off the roof and henry had gone around ringing the bell of every single bicycle before bitterly resisting my attempts to strap him into the burley.

the play date

the play date and the coffee were good. no fighting.  many toys scattered throughout the house.


here is an idea (taken from this cookbook and tweaked)... beat some eggs, like you're going to scramble them or make an omelet.  slice some cheese.  heat up a pan with oil or butter.  pour the eggs into the pan (like you're making an omelet).  put the slices of cheese on top of the eggs.  put a tortilla on top of the egg and cheese and cook on medium heat until the egg is cooked and the cheese is melted.  then, flip it over and fill it with fried potatoes and yogurt, salsa, whatever you want.  mmm...


do the dishes, give your kids a bath, read stories with them, watch the daily show (after they've gone to bed) and go to sleep!

Thursday, October 25, 2012


my job search person emailed me a few days back.  our six month contractual relationship is coming to an end in a couple weeks (actually the contractual relationship between her and greg's employer) and is there anything else i want her to do to help me find a job?

it took me a few days to email her back.  see, i've passed the eight month mark now without a single day of boredom.  without, i feel, a single minute, of wondering what to do.  but i thought about her question, framing it in terms of what job would make me happy to leave this situation.  i imagine, unfortunately, one thing only... sitting at our dining room table, writing.  it's sort of the one thing i imagine and think, 'oh... that sounds so nice.'  but sort of like music and singing.  you can know good music when you hear it, but when you open up your own mouth to create it, to find some sort of tune, well, the result is less than record-deal, tour-worthy.  (at least that's how it is when i sing, but my kids and husband are still subjected to it on a daily basis... i'm seeing a parallel here with this blog for those daily readers...)

so i did a silly thing today.  well, first i emailed her to say that i was going to keep on keeping on with my danish and i was going to continue looking for editing work.  then i signed up to write a 50,000 word novel between the dates of november 1 and november 30.  for national novel writing month.  the website stresses it's all about quantity and not quality, which is the only thing that makes me feel like maybe i can do it.  but then again, i might give up on october 31st.

who wants to join me?  i promise not to give up if you don't!  click here for the link.

okay.  enough silliness.  now for two pictures from today...

time for sleep.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

picture cop out, today only!

hmm... i have a plate full of cinnamon rolls and the daily show on next to me.  this is going to be hard.  how about some pictures from this evening...

that last one, taken by william.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


"he asks 'why' a lot."

i can see it written on the page in front of her: "hvorfor? hvorfor? hvorfor?"

"why? why? why?  and i can tell he doesn't always accept my explanations, so i just continue to answer him.  is this something you recognize in him, from home?"

"oh yeah," greg and i both answer.

an excerpt from this morning's parent-teacher conference.  to clarify, his teacher was not criticizing, though i do think they've had to say to him at times, "this is just how we do it.  when it's lunch time, we all sit down and we eat together." for example.

otherwise, he is getting along with the children in his class.  the kids (though i assume it's mostly the boys who take advantage of this) are allowed to wrestle there (something i imagine to be off-limits in most preschools in the u.s.), and he does so frequently with his friends, but also, they climb trees and imagine up adventurous scenarios in the woods lining their playground.  and, she said, he speaks with only a small accent when he speaks danish.  given that i'm the worst offender when it comes to a bad accent, i was happy to hear this.  tomorrow he goes on another field trip.

after the conference, greg and i stood outside the school filling out our ballots for the presidential election.  mine arrived long ago at our former address, but his never did.  one simple email (well, two, because i first emailed the wrong clerk) was all it took to update our address and have them send him a new ballot, which arrived this morning.  wisconsin is good like that.

after class i rode to the post office-- one near the train station, which i never realized existed until today, which makes me so happy, because it's much easier to get to than the one we've visited in the past where the clerks were not so friendly.  i was so excited to get the ballots into the mail.  "do you know how long they should take to get there?" i asked her.  "about 3 or 4 days."  relief! it's done!  we voted and our ballots will arrive with time to spare.

the rest of the day seemed to flow like many before it, except greg got home a little earlier than lately's usual, henry was in a much finer mood and easy to get to bed, and, unprompted, william was a motivated helper ("i'll help you get those clothes mama, and then i'll come back and brush my teeth." "henry, you haven't brushed your teeth yet, have you? (offering him a banana before bed.))

and as william was brushing his teeth, he said to me with a mouth full of toothpaste, "we had such a good today, didn't we?"  it caught me off guard, i laughed.  your heart sort of fills up when you hear your child say something like that.  "yes, we really did," i answered.

Monday, October 22, 2012


as we were walking out the door this morning, greg said, "better put on your rain pants."  and just like that, it was the monday morning after efterårsferie.

not such a bad monday though.  both guys seemed happy, in their own way, to be back at school.  there's even a reported case of chicken pox, so keep your fingers crossed!

i made it to class on time.  our teacher was running late and then let us out an hour early because she was quite sick-- too sick to be teaching a class.  two classmates and i walked into town.  i sat with them while they drank coffee and then walked over to my translating/editing friend's office.  she'd mentioned stopping by her office sometime for coffee, but she wasn't there, so i went home, had lunch, and procrastinated over doing my danish homework some... trying to get back into the hang of a routine i put off for a week, and also enjoying a quiet house.  we have a new novella to read and i have exactly one week to read it.  which means i'm not going to sit obsessively with my danish-english dictionary this time, ensuring i know every single word on the page.

i got the guys from school.  henry refused to wear his coat.  greg came home and made chili with pumpkin (after a pumpkin soup last night).  all very seasonal and delicious.

now the guys are asleep and i feel ready to do the same.  i'll leave you with a picture of william and his passenger boat creation from school today...

Sunday, October 21, 2012


in the morning (after a decent night's sleep), we made a shopping list.  greg took the guys to the store while i got the house cleaned up.  then greg worked on spiffing up the front yard.  i wish i could say this motivation was purely intrinsic, but it really had more to do with the fact that william's friend (and possibly one or more of his parents) was coming over after lunch.

when they got here and before his dad walked out the door, i asked him, "do you think he'll be alright communicating with us?"  (by which i meant, will he be okay not really communicating with us.)  "we can do the basics," i said. "and i think william is pretty good."

"oh yeah," his dad said.  "he just ate lunch and went to the bathroom, so with those covered, i think he'll just play the entire time."

if he felt okay about it.  i felt okay about it.

they played with toys, had a sword/battle-ax fight, built a fort, and wrestled a bunch.  there was no way henry was going to miss out on any of that for a nap, so he didn't take one.

later william and his friend helped greg make cinnamon rolls...

and if you guessed it's impossible for little kids to work with butter, sugar, and cinnamon and not stick their fingers in it for a taste now and then, you would be right.

"jeg elsker smør!" his friend said.  ("i love butter!")  don't we all...

when his dad came back, he brought us some of william's friend's clothes that didn't fit him anymore, which was so cool!  he stayed for coffee and cinnamon rolls and told us if we ever needed a car to borrow, we could borrow theirs.  even if there's truth behind the stereotype that danes do not welcome you with open arms, the second half certainly holds true time and time again (for us at least)-- that once you get to know them, they are incredibly friendly and generous.

we sent them home with a container of cinnamon rolls.

guf, and other things about today and the night before

oh last night.

you get a healthy boy and you think, tonight will be the night we all get some much-needed sleep.  and maybe you do for a couple hours.  and so that's something to be grateful for.  but then your newly healthy guy is awake.  stuffy nosed.  can't sleep.  eventually you find yourself out in the living room, lights on, watching him play with toys, and it's not quite 5 a.m., but you don't know what else to do.  you've given up resisting wakefulness and somehow imagine that if you embrace it, he will resist it.  and it sort of works.  he's willing to reconsider the bed and the blankets and the darkness after five minutes of toys.  you begin to imagine the almost unimaginable scenario, that everyone will sleep in until 8:30.  because if there's anyway to guarantee it, it must be by playing with toys before five.  but he doesn't ever fully make up for those pre-dawn hours by sleeping deeply in those early morning hours.  instead he is up again at seven.  this time with his dad.  at eight o'clock you swap.  by 8:30, you're all up.  eating pancakes... a plus.  unknowingly about to embrace one of denmark's finer fall days.

our goal today was to find william a halloween costume and some pumpkins for carving.  and to return  to the library the danish kids' video that never worked because it was scratched up too badly.  and maybe go to the bakery, though the rationale behind that one has now escaped me.  

william wanted to ride his bike, and though the journey was longer than a trip to the library and back, and despite last week's fall, we put up no real resistance.

"it's going to be a long trip.  what should our plan be if you say you can't keep going?" i ask him.

"that 'you can keep going.'," he said.

and he did 'keep going' the entire trip.  which is what i thought.

we went to the library first and dropped off the video, where the librarian seemed completely at peace with the idea of putting a non-working dvd back into circulation.

next, down to the pedestrian street to the farmer's market.

we get brussels sprouts and three pumpkins.  william is having a friend over tomorrow.  the same friend he played with earlier in the week.  maybe he's never carved pumpkins before, we speculate.  halloween has only caught on in denmark within the last ten years, and the level of participation seems to vary.  there is no baseline indicating that every household in denmark carves pumpkins.  william picks out the two biggest pumpkins he can find and we get a small one for his friend to carve and take home.

then we walk over to a children's thrift store, off the pedestrian street, in hopes of finding a halloween costume for william.  they have some.  for the reasons above, i am sort of amazed that they do.  william has his pick between spiderman, batman, and a ninja.  he chooses the ninja and i am happy enough that he does not choose to advertise a commercial character.  i am also feeling a little bit like the least crafty mom ever.  until he saw the ninja costume, he'd wanted to be a ghost, which, seems like, basically cutting a couple of eye holes out of sheet and throwing it over his head.  going to the thrift store yesterday, was, in part, to find just such a sheet, but i didn't find one, and instead got on the idea of 'thrift store to find a costume'  and not to find a sheet, and well, now he's a store-made ninja (with a store-made battle ax).  it doesn't help that my own full-time working mother sewed most of our halloween costumes, so that the build-up to halloween was that much bigger, as we watched her sit at the sewing machine after dinner, or on the weekends, reinventing a pair of my step-father's pants, for example, so i could be a 'nerdy boy' in the third grade, or a witch in first, a clown in second, a girl going to the sock-hop in fifth, geez, the list just goes on.  and now me.  a mom.  on october 20th.  hopeless with a sewing machine (and without one, regardless).

but enough lamenting.  i will learn to use a sewing machine one day.  i can make halloween costumes for my grandchildren.

we head to a park.  a huge park right in the middle of roskilde, that somehow we have never stopped at before. and it is beautiful and you can see that it is fall here and you are not too cold to enjoy it, because today, somehow, it is almost warm enough that you don't need a jacket.  i tell greg i am glad to know there are at least a few fall days in denmark like this (yesterday was also one of them).

sort of like summer... it will be warm...  it will be sunny...  you just have to be patient and get through those rainy days.

past the domkirke...

and trees in their various colors...

down a tree-lined path...

to the park...

and i see these two women walking arm in arm.  presumably mother and daughter.  i watch as they take identical steps, up the entire hill.  stopping at various times, but never once, not even slightly, out of lockstep with one another.  

greg has had the foresight to pack lunch things for this journey, and so we eat under a tree; the only damper on the lunch bit occurring when a bird flies over and, well, poops, onto my hand, onto the handle of the knife i am using to make sandwiches, and yes, into the jar of peanut butter.  oh ve.  that's danish for oh woe.  okay, so let's skip the lunch part.

except for this...

and this...

the guys throw rice cakes to the ducks, and sticks and leaves into the stream leading to the duck pond.

they do this for a long time.

"is it because they're boys," greg asks, "that i completely understand their desire to get as dirty as possible... and you just don't have that same desire?" ...this after i grimace at henry digging his fingernails into the muddy, wet, gravel path, to throw tiny pebbles into the water.

later, we go to the harbor at the fjord for ice cream... the rationale (my rationale) being that it is still efterårsferie for a couple more days.  the harbor is packed with people.  we head to the ice cream stand where there is a long line.  we've never had ice cream at this particular stand, but seeing the line makes me think it must be worth waiting for.  we see william's friend, the play date friend, and his family, also waiting in line for ice cream.  his friend runs over and hugs him.  william is very excited to see a friend here, to the point where i have to suggest to him, "how about a little less crazy."

we get our ice cream-- two scoops of 'banana split' for william, a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of strawberry for me (because here, for some reason, you can mix and match your scoops... a foreign concept to me, but one i have wholeheartedly embraced).  (greg has opted out.  henry has fallen asleep.)  we also have them put guf on top.  because of this article my friend and (old) neighbor sent to me awhile back.  guf was the only thing i could remember from the article.  guf, like they say in the article, really is like a marshmallow fluff.  in this case, strawberry flavored, so that when william went up to his friend to tell him what flavors he got, he said, "jordbær, bananer, chokolade."  (strawberry, banana, chocolate.)  ah, to hear him say those three words to his friend.  i can't tell you how exciting it is to hear him begin to speak danish.  the other day when i picked him up from school and his teacher asked him a question in danish and he responded, "leverpostej" (ground pork liver and lard spread... very popular around these parts... but you know, peanut butter and jelly... not so popular) i was one proud mom.

note the guf.

getting plenty of smiles from strangers, this boy and his pumpkin...

william's friend's parents talked about the unusual weather.

"we cannot remember a day where it has been this nice in october."

"today is my birthday," the dad said, "last year it was absolutely freezing.  negative five. the year before that-- pouring down rain."

it will be warm... it will be sunny... you might just have to be patient... for years and years... 

we finish up our ice cream.  as william gets through his entire ice cream cone, guf and all, i can't help but telling him, "your grandpa (my dad) would be so proud of you."  he is, i think, the reason i get ice cream cones for my kids.

waiting... watching...

taking down the sails...

boats on the harbor...

we ride home.  up a big hill along the fjord.  i joke to william that it's not a big hill at all.  he laughs and doesn't believe me.  "why make big hills out of little hills?" i ask him.  he laughs again.

we get home and greg makes a chicken dinner with the last of our 'happy chicken', and the brussels sprouts from the farmers market.  we put henry up on the kitchen counter.  his favorite place to perch these days when we're making dinner.  i did it out of necessity during one of my single parent nights after remembering another friend and (old) neighbor telling me that's how her sister always cooks with her children, and i tell you, it works.  which is to say, he hasn't fallen or burned himself on the stove yet, and he is completely excited to be a part of things and make requests for cheese and crackers and water and nibble on the food that's being made.

later, we work to get him to bed.  switching off.  trying to figure out what it is that he needs.  it's a difficult process tonight, perhaps because he's over-tired from the previous night.  i eventually just stand in the middle of his room, holding him upright in the dark.  no singing. no swaying.  until he points to his crib.  he's ready.  he falls asleep quickly after that.  and william, working with whatever parent is not trying to get henry to bed, reconstructs the castle from the front of the castle blocks box.

and he later goes to bed too.  and greg, who was going to come out and hang out with me while i wrote this blog post, has also fallen asleep, presumably catching up on last night's (and the night before that, and the night before that's) sleep, leaving me, uninterrupted, to write a very long post, which you maybe read, or maybe skimmed over and said, 'oh that looks too long.'  and if you didn't read it, well, i hope you are catching up on your sleep instead, or making someone laugh, or eating ice cream, enjoying a spectacular fall day, perhaps walking arm in arm with a love, somewhere in the world.