My usual Christmas preparation schedule goes something like this: start thinking about Christmas gifts in August, start shopping in October, suspend shopping for a bit while I plan Halloween and help with Thanksgiving, set up the house in late November, get the tree in early December, finish decorating, wish I had sent Christmas cards, then begin a wild dash to get my shopping finished (starting around the 10th of December) and wrap everything starting about the 21st. Usually, pretty successful (except for Christmas cards, which I always seem to start on too late to actually accomplish).
Archive for November, 2011
Dan’s new job at the IAEA (he’s been there almost 8 months, so I don’t know if it counts as “new” anymore) has a lot of great benefits that we aren’t used to from home: more vacation time, more sick leave (actually a nearly infinite amount, if he goes in and gets declared “sick” or “injured” by the IAEA nursing staff), use of the UN commissary, a housing stipend and a higher salary (plus cool things like paid paternity leave, which we don’t plan to take advantage of, but which I really, really, REALLY wish we’d had when the boys were born). It also has “undocumented sick leave” which means taking sick time without going in to see the nurse — usually used when the spouse or children are sick. I am so grateful for this kind of sick leave.
‘Tis the season for many things — decorations, lights, music, holiday shopping (which means Christmas markets here in Vienna) and lots of festive foods and drinks. Punsch is particularly popular here (we’re not entirely sure what it is, and it seems to vary by vendor, but it appears to be rum or vodka and a little bit of fruit juice, served warm), as well as hot chocolate, mulled wine, cookies and gingerbread. Lots and lots of different kinds of gingerbread.
Thursday being Thanksgiving, Dan took Thursday and Friday off (like we used to do at home) so that we could take a long holiday weekend and enjoy the beginning of the Christmas season (even here in Vienna, today is the first Sunday of Advent, so Thanksgiving or no, it’s Christmastime now). It was a great idea, but, as often happens with these lofty and overly rosy images I have of time off as a family, we’re at the end of the weekend, exhausted, off our schedule and a little grumpy.
Advent calendars are big in Vienna — they’re in many shop windows: card shops, paper shops, toy stores, candy stores, book stores — even one tobacco shop seems to sell them. Everyone seems to sell Advent calendars this time of year. I’ve always loved them. I have very fond memories from when I was younger of sitting on the floor of the Cricket Book Shopin Ashton and selecting my very favorite. As I was about so many things (pumpkins, Christmas trees, Easter eggs) I was very particular (I always liked it best if the pictures in the windows told some sort of story, or were related to the exterior of the advent calendar — like opening up windows onto a scene inside of a house, rather than just random pictures of cute Christmas things) so the process of selecting one took a while, and I would secretly lament that I couldn’t bring home several. Now that I’m a mom, I get to do just that . . . one for Benjamin, one for Liam and one for me (and Dan can share, too)!
The Rathaus (city hall) here apparently decorates one of its actual windows every day of advent — I can’t wait to take the boys over to check that out each day. It’ll be like a real life advent calendar!
I sent my parents and siblings Advent calendar Christmas cards this year, so we could all open them together, even though we’re far apart. I’m really excited about this tradition — familiar for me, new for my boys, shared with my family, and different here in Vienna. It’s almost time, and we’re all looking forward to it.
Yesterday, our stroller died. Trying to lift it up into the restaurant where we went for dinner, the whole top section, including the handle and the place where the top of the canopy attaches, snapped off. As frustrating as it was for that to be the beginning of our “Thanksgiving” dinner, I was immensely grateful that it broke in such benign circumstances, not while crossing the street, getting onto or off of a train, or while being carried up or down stairs — all of which are daily occurrences here. We had that stroller for over 3 years, it carried both of our children on two continents, and it served us very well. I’m very sad to see it go. But, much as it’s too bad to be without our daily stroller (and it made getting home last night a little tricky) it really could have been much worse.
I am so thankful for my darling children — I love that I get to be their mom. I am thankful for all of my wonderful family. I am thankful for my friends, old and new, here and at home. I am thankful for technology — for being able to stay in touch so easily with everyone at home. I am thankful that we have a warm, safe place to bring our kids home to, food to feed them, and enough money to have all the things that we need, and many, many things that we want. I am thankful for modern medicine and its practitioners, especially those who helped Liam get through his first difficult days. I am thankful for all of the people in my life: past, present and future — for everyone who has been in my life at just the right moment so that I could learn or see something that I needed to (even if it wasn’t a pleasant experience at the time). I am thankful for my own growth, for learning to let go of things, to enjoy life more, to be more flexible. I am thankful for this opportunity to be abroad, to experience so many new things and gain so much appreciation for the “old” things. I am thankful for the kindness I experience in the world — this journey is made so much easier with it. I am thankful for naps, either when my kids take them or when I get to. I am thankful for flannel sheets. I am thankful for our sturdy old stroller that served us faithfully for over 3 years and which chose to fail tonight, in relative safety, outside of a restaurant, instead of in the middle of a busy street, getting off of a train or riding on an escalator. I am so grateful for my wonderful, abundant life, and for how truly fortunate I am.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
My iPhone suffered a tragedy last month at the hands of Liam (in the form of a very cracked screen). It actually had handled dozens of worrying tumbles, onto restaurant floors, out of the stroller, and even once onto a cobbled stone pathway, with little to no damage. The one that finally got it didn’t seem worse than the others — in fact, I was shocked to find, after recovering it from the floor, that the screen had been shattered. Liam had batted it out of my hand onto our hardwood floor, and I had expected it to survive, but it didn’t.
Well, after a month of “refurbishing” (which actually came out in our favor, they either couldn’t or didn’t actually refurbish it, apparently I got an all new one) and the addition of a new, expensive and very tough case, I have it back.
I don’t think I’ve ever become so dependent on any kind of technology so quickly. I had already become accustomed to being able to check my email while holding a sleeping baby, check the weather on my way out the door, navigate anywhere from anywhere else, translate anything I needed to and always have a camera in my pocket. It’s a miracle I survived the month without it.
I am so glad to have it back.
Walking to pick Benjamin up from school today, I got to experience my first snow in Vienna. It wasn’t much — just enough to put a thin coating on the grassy areas and fallen leaves, but I got excited anyway. I love the snow. I love how it covers everything over with a sparkling white blanket, making even familiar landscapes magical. I love how sounds change when there’s snow on the ground, or when it’s falling — everything is a little more quiet. And I guess I still associate snow with getting to have an unexpected break in my normal routine — even though I haven’t had a real “snow day” in years, I tend to treat very snowy days a little differently, as days to play more than I work, to drink hot chocolate and read a book, to not worry about whether everything gets done.
I thought sick kids were supposed to be sleepy? Not mine, at least not today. Both of my boys are a little under the weather — Liam much more so than Benjamin (who has the sniffles but still went to school today). After a morning of wrestling with a fussy, snotty Liam and an afternoon that started similarly but with the addition of a slightly-more-whiny-than-usual Benjamin, I was really, really ready for nap time.
But, no luck. B went into his room without complaint, but asked me if it was time to get up every 10 minutes. Liam didn’t even pretend — he didn’t close his eyes, nor did he cease in flailing and crying. After about an hour, I gave up and let them get up. We Skyped with Grandma, and then (per Benjamin’s request) we watched the first part of Cars.
Other than ending the day completely worn out, we all really had a pretty good day. We watched a movie, we cuddled, we played trucks. Which is all pretty impressive. When I think back to the limits I’ve been stretched to, mentally and emotionally, since we’ve been here, I realize it’s a big accomplishment to have a day like this, where the boys are sick, no one naps, and I don’t freak out — not even a little.
I’m hoping tomorrow goes a little more smoothly, that the kids are feeling better (or, if they’re not, that they sleep, at least) but today I’m appreciating being able to handle it, however it goes.