Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Well, that's over

There was shopping, baking, wrapping, snow, partying, and playing.  The week before Christmas, I went across the street to a friends' Wrapping Party, which is a fun way to get some wrapping done.  I made cookies for a cookie swap at work, and then took the assorted cookies to the Clapps' Christmas Eve party.  We made a Gingerbread house that didn't turn out too great, but the cookies tasted good.  We opened presents at home on Xmas morning, and then drove to Maine for the day, where we ate a big lunch and opened more presents.  The next 3 days we spent hanging around, relaxing, and playing with our new toys.  The Hyperdash game is fun, and Troy likes the spelling game "What's Gnu".  Teddy likes his CD player and his sock monkey.  They both look super cute in their new PJs and white, fluffy robes.  

But Troy said it best: "the best thing about Christmas isn't the presents; the best thing is spending time with my family!"

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Photo of the Day


Oma's Story

My  mother is now mostly known as Oma, the German word for Grandma.  Here is a bit of her story.  I hope there will be more to come.

Oma was born in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1941, the youngest of three children. I get the sense that she admired her older brother and sister, but also that she enjoyed the indulgent attention she received as the baby of the family. At a time when little German girls wore knee socks and flowered dresses with matching aprons, Oma preferred Lederhosen. She exasperated her mother by balancing on the high wall that separated their courtyard from the schoolyard next door, and shocked her aunts by whistling "like a boy."

Heidelberg is an ancient city built of red sandstone nestled in the crook where the vast, flat stretches of the Rhine River valley meet the thickly forested hills of the Odenwald. Roads that were first cleared by the Romans are still in use today, and a medieval stone castle stands on the side of a hill overlooking the city (photo). The house where Oma grew up, on the Fahrtgasse, was a stone building on a narrow street in the center of the town (kind of like this one).  Ingrid's father, Paul, was a cobbler, and his shop was on the ground floor, facing the street. A sally-port led to the small courtyard in the back of the shop, surrounded on three sides by houses and on the fourth by the wall of the schoolyard next door.  A staircase led from the courtyard with its small, raised garden area, to the second floor apartment.  The residents had to leave the apartment and cross an exterior balcony to reach the tiny bathroom with its pull-chain, raised-tank toilet.

It's fitting, in a way, that the house on the Fahrtgasse was eventually torn down to make way for a municipal swimming pool because water and swimming weave through the story of Oma's childhood.  In those days, the Neckar river, which cuts a sharp valley through the Odenwald and also cuts through the city of Heidelberg, was an integral part of life in the city, a major conduit of commerce and a source of livelihood, recreation, and danger -- the high-water marks of the Neckar are still visible on the oldest buildings.  As a child, Oma followed the older children down the street to swim in the Neckar.  Her older brother, Klaus, would swim with her on his back.  When she was five, she swam across the Neckar by herself the first time.  The Neckar is as wide as a football field is long, and deep and swift enough to carry barges laden with timber.  Later, she joined in the games of daring the children played: grabbing the side of a low-lying barge to get towed upstream, swimming under a barge, underwater from one side to the other, or climbing over the high railing of the bridge to jump the 20 feet or so into the river. 


Monday, December 8, 2008

First snow

The boys went to get a tree on Saturday.  I was hesitating to put it up, because our living room is so small.  Now that it's up, it looks nice a cozy, though.  

We woke up on Sunday morning to the first snow fall.  It was the really pretty kind that sticks to all the branches of the trees.  Annakin and Luke put on their boots and coats over their pajamas and went outside to play (it was just after 7 in the morning).  I stood in the doorway in my slippers and shushed them when they got too loud so they wouldn't wake the neighbors.  Then we had hot chocolate and Lebkuchen for breakfast.  It fun to spoil them sometimes!

Sunday, December 7, 2008


How was your Thanksgiving?  Ours was pleasant and relaxing -- definitely the effect of going to someone else's house for the holiday.  Some people say Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday, and I can understand that.  It hides in the shadow of its splendidly shining older siblings, Christmas and Hanukkah, just as warm if not as glamorous.  It has the good food, but without the shopping, consumerism and stress.  
For the past several years, we have been invited to my sister, K's.  For those of you who don't know us in real life (IRL), my sister and I married two brothers.  I highly recommend marrying your sister's husband's brother, for a couple of reasons: first, when you complain about your in-laws to your sister, she REALLY can sympathize.  JUST KIDDING, in-laws!!  Seriously, it's great to go to my sister's for Thanksgiving and have my husband's family there.  Even better is spending Christmas with my husband's family, and having my sister there, too.  

So, as has become the tradition, we picked up C's sister, Samantha, and drove down to K and J's.  The drive is always more fun with Sammy Jo along.  I'll be disappointed if she ever makes good on the threat to get a driver's license.  When we arrived, around noon, Annakin and Luke disappeared with their four cousins, and reappeared only occasionally (*big, relaxed sigh*). Grampa and Tracy arrived a little while later, in time to break open the wine and help prepare the meal.  We had a late lunch, with all the trimmings (other than Samantha's Tofurkey, accidentally left home alone).  Then, Samantha and I took most of the kids and three of the dogs for a walk to the beach.

We got back in time for dessert in front of the fireplace. C made his sought-after chocolate chip cookies from his secret recipe (here's a hint: it's on the back of the chocolate chip bag), and K made a pumpkin pie and a pecan pie.  Completely stuffed, we put the boys in their pjs, and headed back home. I always regret having to leave, but it sure feels good to collapse into my own bed to sleep!

I hope you all enjoyed good company and good food, too.  Love always.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I have a confession:  I got a puppy from a pet store. No, not recently (I just gave everyone in my family a heart attack -- sorry). It was 1992, and I was young and stupid. I dragged C into a pet store with me after an afternoon at the mall, "just to look," and I fell in love with a Boston Terrier puppy. We left that evening, but after hours of badgering, C gave in and agreed to getting the puppy.  We went back the next day. It was November 1st, a beautiful fall New England day. I was wearing a multi-colored, plaid, wool shirt from the Gap. We walked home from the pet store, and when we got to the bridge, I carried Max in the crook of my arm.

I never regretted getting Max (as you can probably tell from the fact that I remember everything about that day, including what I was wearing).  I do, however, regret giving money to the pet store industry.  Pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills that crank out dogs like sausages, and treat the "breeders" like machines -- think chicken farm with dogs piled in cages instead of birds. Then, the pet stores keep the puppies isolated in cages during their critical socialization period, teaching them to go to the bathroom where they sleep, and otherwise creating dogs that make poor family pets, while millions of healthy dogs are abandoned and euthanized at shelters every year.  

Max turned out to be a great dog, but we were lucky. Don't do what I did. If you're going to get a dog, go to the shelter or a reputable breeder.  Sorry for the preaching.  I guess I needed to get that off my chest.