about a dream: September 2012

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Hohe Wand (again!)

Again because we were there in 2009, but who can remember that far ago? Nina and Maggie didn't remember, so back we went. Plus I was really craving a nice day of hiking. I'm a Maine woman remember, I need my outdoors fix! If I'm going to go a year without seeing the Atlantic Ocean, I at least need some woods.

Here's the big draw at Hohe Wand:
It's called the Sky Walk, and basically it's a big, metal walkway cantilevered out 30 feet over the edge of a cliff. It's about 300 feet straight down from the Sky Walk to the beautiful, jagged rocks below.

Here's a great photo of the sky walk that I stole from someone else's blog
This blog has a ton of amazing photos. Much better than mine. Go see them at if you want to be amazed. That person hiked up, we were less adventurous and drove to the top. We intended to do some hiking at the top, but, well, I'll get to that after I show you a few more pictures.

Right after we parked the car, we started in on our picnic lunch at this beautiful, grassy meadow, which happened to terminate in a deathly sheer drop-off. Don't worry, we're all safe and sound! No one ventured far from the pringles!

Then it was off on a short walk to the Sky Walk, where we ate some more of our food and took some more pictures.

They just don't do it justice, though.
Then we stopped at another spot, played a while there, and by then our provisions were dangerously low, so we stopped at a restaurant with a playground (a common combination here in Austria. I love it!), and had coffee and apple strudel. By the time we finished that a cold front had moved in, and it was getting late, so we just went back to the Sky Walk. The girls loved it there.
Not because of the view, though. They loved it because there were so many great rocks to play with! Really, only my kids. They played with those rocks for a good hour. I'm not sure that they even noticed the view.

Then it started to drizzle, so we headed back to the car. Nina fell asleep on the way home and Maggie whined "Are we there yet? This is so boring!" for the whole dreadful half-hour.

Ah, family outings!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Maggie loves school!!

Wow, I can't believe what a raging success today was! We followed the same morning routine as yesterday; some my little pony cartoons in the morning, then I walked her to school, we drew together there for about 10 minutes, then I helped her put her gym shoes on and she went to play in the gym. She was all smiles when I left and was still smiling when I picked her up. She said she had a very fun time, didn't cry at all, and can't wait to go back tomorrow! I'm thrilled for her!

Nina is still not as enthusiastic about school. Her class goes swimming on Friday mornings, and today she's said she doesn't want to do that. I'm not sure why, all she'll say is that she's nervous because she's not used to it. Usually she loves to swim, so I'm not sure exactly what's going on with that. Hopefully she'll be more excited about it in the morning. I was hoping that swimming would be something she'd get really excited about and would be a plus for the school, not a minus.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A good school day all around

Dare I hope we're through the worst parts of the transition? Nina was only slightly negative about going this morning. I try to up her motivation by packing fun snacks like potato chips. Hey, it makes her happy! She says that she had fun running outside today and singing happy birthday to two of her classmates. She also says that the whole day in general was enjoyable, so I'll take that.

Maggie was all smiles at drop off today. Hooray! I sat and colored with her for about 10 minutes when we first got there. It gives her a little time to get used to being there, and it makes her much happier. Then I helped her put her gym shoes on and she played in the gym. When I left, she was smiling and blowing me kisses. Success!

When I picked her up she was more morose. She told me that she'd drawn a picture of a pony and a rainbow, and a little boy scribbled on it. She cried when that happened, but her teacher gave her some hugs and she was ok. Still, she was ready to come home after that. I think she has a new hater now. So it goes.

Now it's hot, practically 80 degrees! I can get used to falls like this! Perhaps later today we'll go into Baden. Or maybe we'll just hang out here and play. We'll see.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pre-school drop-off today

Whew, it was a success! She cried when I first left, but her teacher says she stopped crying quickly and played legos. Then after about half an hour of that she cried again and this time wanted to stay close to her teacher, who is very very sweet.

I came back to get her about an hour later and the kids were all outside playing in the playground (or, as they say, the garden. Hence Kinder Garten I suppose).

She cried for a minute when I picked her up because she missed me, she said, but was also very pleased with herself. She was in a great mood most of today (except when I denied her something with sugar. She'd had enough).

When I asked her if she played with any of the kids, she said no. But she did tell me that she hit "her hater." (That's what she calls tigger boy) A "hater" is the opposite of a friend, you see. I asked her why she hit him and she said "because he was too close to me. And I pushed him too." We talked about how hitting isn't allowed, and she said something along the lines of not knowing how to speak to the kids, so she hit and pushed. It makes sense, I've seen some of the kids get very close to her and touch her, and she hates that. I'm assuming she tried the evil eye first and that failed, so she moved on to a push. I told her she could say "geh weg," which means "go away," so hopefully that helps.

Then she told me that she also hit another boy, whose name she doesn't know. The reason this time was that he was "distracting" her. Apparently her teacher didn't see, and I'm sure she just gently swatted them, I don't think anyone was hurt. Still, I told her that's not allowed at preschool and she practiced saying "geh weg," so I think tomorrow will be ok.

Cross your fingers that it continues to go so well!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Nina went to a birthday party today

She wore her new dress!
It was available in Maggie's size too, but she didn't want one. Interestingly, we bought the dress at a small clothing shop in downtown Baden. We've been in there once or twice before, looking for a new pair of jeans for Nina or whatnot. When the shopkeeper asked if I wanted one in Maggie's size too, I told her,
"No, she won't wear anything except pajamas."
And she responded, "Ah, I've seen you guys before, I thought those were pajamas she was wearing."

So that solves that mystery; people in Austria have noticed that she wears pajamas everyhwere. But this is the first time anyone's said anything, so I don't think anyone really cares.

Tomorrow the local Catholic church celebrates its 25th anniversary and the Cardinal is coming to say mass. I will force her into a dress for that, but I'm sure I'll end up packing pajamas for her to wear when she jumps in the bounce house afterwards.

Anne's chorus is singing at the mass too. This'll be the first time the kids have gotten to see her sing, so they're actually ... not excited, but no dead set against going to church!

Not much else going on. Nina came home from school early on Thursday because she had a sore throat. I had it too, plus some sneeziness. So we kept her home on Friday because I thought the pool would probably give her too much of a chill. Plus her teacher said don't bring her back until Monday. I guess she's got strict rules against germs in class. Can't say that I blame her!

We're both totally fine today though, I guess it was a pretty mild bug.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Macabre play

Here's what's on the living room floor right now:
This says, "Enter Hear"

Next comes
It says, "Weird =-) boy and girls too eat"

"Put your money in hear" (English spelling regression! Or maybe not regression, she's only a second grader.) I presume the tape thing is for the money.

"Forks are hear" (Those are markers in a croc. Shoes always manage to figure into their play.)

HoHak is holding a sign that says, "Eat us!"

They're roasted, seasoned, and ready to be eaten. Just $105!

Strange children we have...

A busy week!

Whew, I'm not even sure which day of the week it is, my head is spinning!

The girls were both home on Monday because they seemed a little bit sick. Nina had been running a slight fever overnight in Prague, and then on Sunday her nose was running and she was sneezing nonstop. Interestingly, the runny nose began very suddenly when we were on the train, so I wasn't sure if it was allergies. Maybe someone had a cat? But Maggie was sneezing too. And, it's just impossible to tell allergies from sickness. So I had her take a shower when we got home, because that usually helps if it's allergies. In the morning they both still had runny noses so they stayed home, but by bedtime they were 100% fine. Either that was the quickest recovery in the history of the Halter household, or it was indeed allergies. We'll never know.

Regardless, it was back to school on Tuesday. The girls are still a bit reluctant to go to school, and Nina had to be heavily persuaded to go back. Maggie cried for the entire half hour I was gone. This was the beginning of her third week! I was hoping for more progress by now.

Well, I told them they'd both done a fantastic job that day, because even though they weren't excited to go to school, they'd done it, and that takes a lot of bravery. So we celebrated by meeting some friends in Vienna at Nina's favorite playground (the one with the really fast zip line). We had a blast and didn't get home until 7 pm. Late!

School went much, much better today. Nina's class took a field trip and Nick got to chaperone! They went on a hike at the Kurpark, the large park in central Baden. They had a fantastic time. Nina even discovered some (likely) snake's eggs in a tree! How exciting! And gross!

Maggie did a great job too. I ended up staying the whole time, but I think it was worth it. I sat in the coat room and she came to me when she needed reassurance. At first she came every 2 minutes, than 5 minutes, then 20 minutes! Hopefully I'll be able to leave again tomorrow. I think she just needed to have a good day there to remember how much she likes it. She was beaming when we left! She played with the erector set practically the whole time.

Tonight Nina was talking again about not wanting to go to school, so we had a conversation about the importance of an education to prepare you for life. Nina's really upset about the existence of malaria (why did I think a book about parasites was a good idea for an anxious child??), so I told her that if she learns a lot and stuides hard, she can find a cure for malaria one day and save millions of children's lives. Then I thought better of talking about dying children right before bedtime (oops, should have thought of that about 5 seconds sooner. Well, live and learn), but it was all good, they moved on. Maggie decided that she wants to be an artist when she grows up, and make the world a better place by giving everyone art for their walls. She and Nina refer to their art as "Baby Famous Paintings," so her exact words were that she'd make a baby famous painting for everyone. Plan B is to be an astronaut and build a moon colony, in case something happens to the Earth (mutated malaria? Ha ha! No, sorry, not funny.)

It was a real tiger mom moment. I don't care if you like school, but you'd better be good at it! No, that's not what I said. Cross your fingers for tomorrow!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Day 74: Prague part II

We got up early Sunday morning and were greeted by the news that we have a brand new nephew/cousin! Hooray!! After ooohing and aaahing over the photos for a while, we went downstairs to have breakfast at our hotel (included!).

It was good, but not great. It was mostly a traditional European breakfast: an assortment of breads, cold meats, and cheeses. There were also scrambled eggs in a nod to the Americans I suppose, plus cold cereals (muesli and corn flakes). Oh, plus mini croissants, toast, and jelly. And coffee! The quality was fine, it's just that I'm starting to really miss french toast, pancakes, American bacon, sausage, muffins... sigh.

Well, after that we headed straight over to Castle Hill to see the Castle.
Castle Hill, as seen from Charles Bridge

It really is up on a hill, and there were about 15 flights of stairs to climb to get there
I think you would have passed on this one mom.

At the top is the castle! I'm not sure why it's called a castle instead of a palace, because it's not made of stone like a castle usually is. Maybe it's a castle because it's surrounded by a stone wall?

Here's what it looks like when you go through the main, wrought iron gate. See? Palatial. Ok I looked it up on wikipedia, and they alternately refer to it as a palace and a castle but don't explain why. I'll assume it has to do with the mixed elements of a wall surrounding the exterior, but wood-based buildings comprising the interior.

Regardless, the highlight of the castle is, in my opinion, St. Vitus Cathedral:

It's your classic Gothic-style cathedral, and it's just breathtaking.
That's a stained glass window above the altar, but the colors in the photo are pretty washed out. Of course, the pictures don't do the cathedral justice, but they're the best I can do. I switched the camera's setting to "sunset" and that helped the quality of the stained glass windows, but they're still a thousand times more impressive in real life.
The cathedral wasn't open to tourists until noon, but mass had begun at 9:30 and we'd gotten there at about 10:00, so we went to mass. That was the plan from the beginning. I've found that I enjoy going to mass at the churches more than just visiting them as a tourist. Plus, the churches that charge tourists don't charge for mass, so it's kind of like killing two birds with one stone while saving money.

After that we gave the girls the choice of doing a tour of the castle or spending some more time at the playground from the day before and they chose.... the playground! They don't really like tours, but they love the playgrounds here. Fair enough, I'm not sure we had enough time to do the whole tour anyway. Plus, the playground was right on the Vlatava River, and you can't beat the scenery. Here, see for yourself!

Then we bought the girls some nesting dolls, picked up our bags from the hotel and headed back to the train station.

I love this picture of Nina doing her homework on the train. She's doing such a great job here and is such a wonderful traveller. Sure, we spend more time chasing pigeons and playing at playgrounds than we do on tours and fancy dinners, but it's worth it!

Day 74: Prague

Finally, we made it to Prague! When I went to Europe in 1998, Prague was my favorite city. I couldn't wait to get back and see it again.

We left early Saturday morning to catch an 8:00 train out of Baden. We took that one three stops to one of Vienna's major train stations where we got on our train to Prague. It was a five hour ride, so it was important that we make ourselves comfortable!

The train was divided into cabins that contain 6 seats and close off from the aisle with a glass door. The seats pull out flat kind and make a giant mattress when they're all extended. This was endlessly fun!

The good news is, the girls love travelling by train! It's more fun than car, easier than flying, and faster than boating. Works for us! We bought a family train pass this summer that allows the girls to travel for free within Austria, Nick and I to travel at a reduced rate (this varies from 25 to 55% off, depending on which kinds of trains we're using), and gives the four of us a reduced price out of the country too (how much varies. In the Czech Republic, Maggie travelled for free, Nina was half price, and Nick and I were 25% off).

So, yeah, the trip was a delight, plus we didn't have to pay full fare. What more could we ask for? In fact, the trip was so much fun that Paris is back in the cards! We're tentatively planning our trip for the week of Nina's Easter vacation. The girls are thrilled with the idea of getting a sleeper car.

Well, we got in to Prague at about 1 and made our way to our hotel. We were going to take a cab, and they quoted us 25 Euros to go the 1 or 2 km to our hotel room. We walked away. They guy came after us and offered to take us for 15. I told him that on the side of the cab it says 2 Euros to get in, 1 Euro per km. He walked away. Never assume in Eastern Europe that the rates on the side of the cab are anything but a total lie. Though to be fair, the streets in Prague are so twisty, narrow, and crowded (1,000 times worse than Boston. Really), I could see charging 10 or 15 Euros to get to our hotel. Just be honest on the side of the cab about it.

It turned out that the subway was probably faster anyway, because we were just 2 stops from the hotel. The only thing we don't like about taking the subway is that they seem to be much deeper underground here than in the US, and you end up taking these long, steep, fast escalators down and up. Maggie gets vertigo on them (don't tell her, but so do I. It's hard to not feel like you're just going to tumble over!). So, I have to hold Maggie and she has to keep her eyes closed, and it's a little scary for her.

We made it though, and immediately settled into and started to trash our lovely hotel room:

We'd gotten a triple, which contained one king-sized bed and one twin. The whole 2 double beds per room that you're treated to at no extra charge in the US doesn't happen in Europe, so we have to spend a little more to upgrade. It was a lovely room though, antique furnishings and all. I think the brochure said the building was built in the 1300s and hasn't changed much since then. I'm continually surprised at how nice buildings were in the 1300s and how little they've changed. I mean, I'm sure the walls have been re-plastered and whatnot, but still, it looked like it could have been built in the 1800s.

Our room had a large, lovely bathroom too. I'm sure all this wasn't there in 1300:
When the kids saw it one of them exclaimed, "Look, it has a kids' sink and a grown-ups sink!" We had a quick discussion about what a bidet is, but I still caught Nina trying to wash her hands in it. No one used it for its intended purpose.

Ok, on to the city! Well, the first thing I noticed was that it was packed with people. Packed. We're talking New Orleans about 2 weeks before Mardi Gras packed. I'm not kidding, I kept expecting to see people with beads carrying a hurricane. I was craving a cafe au lait and some beignets.
See? Throngs. That's Old Town Square and the Tyn Church in the background. Our hotel was right around the corner.

Here's Old Town Square, deserted on early Sunday morning. It's huge and dates from the 1300s, I think.

On that first day we got some Czech food in Old Town Square (potatoes, sauerkraut, and ham all mixed up. It was very good, probably the best thing we ate the entire weekend. Prague isn't famous for its food.)

Then we made our way down to the Charles Bridge. These are photos taken on Sunday morning when it was quieter. Our Saturday photos are so thronged with people that you can't even see the bridge.

The bridge is for pedestrians only and is lined with beautiful statues. There must be 2 or 3 dozen statues, here's one.
At the bottom are two bronze-colored leaves that, if memory serves me correctly, are good luck to touch.
Nina was excited to touch them, but Maggie declined. I'd explained that they were probably pretty germy from being touched by a thousand people, so if she touched them, she had to remember to not touch her face or pick her nose afterwards. So when I asked her if she wanted to, she said, "No thanks, I'd rather eat my boogers."

At least she has her priorities straight!

We got as far as the playground on the other side of the bridge on Saturday, then we crossed back onto our side and had a quick dinner next to the hotel. We were exhausted and conked out by 9!

That's enough for now, I'll write about Sunday this evening.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Day 71: School

But first, Wow! It's been 10 weeks! What a milestone. It definitely feels like we're settled into regular life now, as opposed to just on a long vacation. So, cheers to that, it's nice to feel like we've got a routine going. I can't say that I feel at home, but maybe at home away from home.

This week has been a big adjustment for Nina regarding school. She went on Monday and Tuesday, but then on Wednesday we got a call around 9 saying Nina was looking a little green around the gills and to come pick her up. So, we did, and she spent some time lying on the couch and some time playing, and didn't seem too bad off.

The night before, though, she'd been talking about not wanting to go to school, and feeling bored there, and missing her school in Maine and her friends. So, we weren't sure if it was a sick stomach ache, or an anxiety stomach ache.

We tried school again on Thursday, but this time we got the call from the nurse's office about 30 seconds after Nick walked back through the door. Home again.

We talked with her some more about trying to have a positive outlook, enjoying the new friends she's making (because she is, everywhere we go, little kids I don't know are cheerfully calling out "Hallo Nina!!" and waving. It's adorable), and just relaxing and having fun.

She still wasn't sure this morning if she wanted to go, and she was also complaining off and on on Thursday afternoon about the same tummy ache, so we decided to let her skip swimming this morning and just go for 2 hours (in case there was a little bug she was fighting too, I thought maybe the chill wouldn't be good for her). Well actually, the plan when we left the door was to drop Maggie off at school and let her think that Nina was definitely going to school, even if she wasn't, because Maggie wouldn't go to school unless Nina did.

So, Nina and I dropped Maggie off, and Maggie was great about it, and Nina decided that if little Maggie could do preschool, then she could set a good example and go to school too. She was even pretty enthusiastic about it. And she had a wonderful day! I was so relieved! They painted, and her friends were so happy to see her back. Her teacher was very sympathetic and told me that if Nina is ever feeling homesick or overwhelmed, let her have a little holiday and stay home. "Not every day," she said, "but sometimes."

Right after dropping Nina off at school I doubled back to pick up Maggie. It's about 25 minutes round trip if I walk at a regular pace there and brisk pace back, and I wanted to get back before Maggie started freaking out. She hadn't gone on Wednesday because of the sub or on Thursday because Nina was home, and I wanted her back there today and have a positive experience before we lost all the progress she'd made last week and at the beginning of this week.

So, I got back, Maggie was happy (I didn't let her see me, she'd never let me leave again if she did), and I hid outside until they called me in 5 minutes later because she was freaking out.

I gave her a hug, she had her snack, and I asked her if she wanted to go play outside with the kids while I ran home to get our train money. She said no. I said, "well, we'll have to walk home then." She said, "I don't care." But when we were walking home, which took us like an hour, she decided that next time she'd play with her new friends while I ran home to get the train money. So, I think the week ended on a successful note. Baby steps....

And then, tomorrow is Prague! The girls are really excited. Hopefully I'll update tomorrow night from the hotel room!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Day 68: Preschool is 2 steps forward, 1 step back

Maggie hit a huge milestone on Monday: I dropped her off at preschool and went to the grocery store! She did great. Fantastic! I was gone for about 35 minutes ("about one episode of My Little Pony". That's how we tell time. 5 minutes is "a commercial break" and one hour is "a whole movie." We don't really watch that much TV I think, but it's the only thing I can think of that makes an objective measure of time).

Anyway, it was fantastic! She gave me a hug when I got back and then ran back inside to play. Then it was recess time, and I decided to stick around for a few minutes so she could play. She told me that she did cry for a few minutes, but that her teacher held her hand and picked her up, and she felt better.

What success! She was excited to go back today. She thought she might cry again for a minute after I left, but she knew her teacher would be there to pick her up and make her feel better, and she was actually ok with that. Way to go Maggie!

So, what happens today? You'll really never guess, because I didn't see this one coming. She had a substitute teacher today!

Now, really. What are they trying to do to us? I played it cool though, I was like, "Oh, neat, a sub! Let's go say hi, I'll bet she's really nice!" But Maggie clammed right up and was not comfortable. I stayed with her while she did a drawing in case she just needed a minute to adjust, and then it was outside time, so we both went out. The school has a great playground, and I told Maggie that I really didn't want to hang out all day, but that it wasn't too long until it was time to pick up Nina, and if she wanted I could dash home and get money for the Badener Bahn and we could go together to pick up Nina after that.

She agreed! Buuuut, that didn't last long, she was starting to cry and run after me before I'd taken 5 steps.

So, I didn't push it. It's only her second week, and I was so excited that she understands that she might miss me for a few minutes but then she'll be fine that I don't want to mess that up. Her teacher will be out tomorrow too, and back on Thursday. So I told Maggie she can stay home tomorrow and go back when her teacher is there. She was fine with that. It's not like she has to go 5 days a week or anything.

School for Nina is kind of going similarly. She has a good time for the most part when she's there, loves when they go to the playground or swim, but also feels a little overwhelmed this week. It's a big transition! And it's a lot of work for her; her teacher repeats the important things in English for Nina, but she's still trying to take in a lot of German, and that's just tiring. Fortunately the days are short, and we still have plenty of time to go to the playground and just hang out around the house after school.

I also think this week and next will be the hardest for her, just because the excitement of the first week is wearing off, and now the reality of another year, another school, all new kids and a new language is settling in. But knowing Nina, she'll start adjusting next week, and it will just keep getting better from there. Besides, the kids in her class are all very sweet, and there's the one girl who speaks English fluently and another who speaks it very well, so that's a nice change of pace. There's also a girl who lives in our apartment complex in her class, and she's a total sweetie pie and really likes Nina. So there are a lot of positives too.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Day 66: Maggie is learning German!

The other day in the car on the way home from Bratislava the girls were asking for stories about Nick's childhood, Oma's childhood, and Oma's mother's childhood. This lead to Nina asking what's the German word for great-grandmother, and Nick said uroma, with ur, pronounced "uhr" and being a prefix that approximately means "pre," and oma obviously meaning grandmother.

Maggie heard "uroma" and said, "Clock grandma?!!" and laughed riotously.

But I was impressed, because that's perfect translation of "uhr oma," because "uhr" means "clock" or "time." Go little Maggie!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Day 65: Bratislava!

I don't think I've mentioned this, but I've declared that a family goal (or should I say, Family Goal) for this year is to visit all of the countries bordering Austria. There are, shockingly, eight of them. Click here if you don't believe me. (Liechtenstein is the eighth. It's very small, you have to zoom in to see it, but its right there between Austria and Switzerland.) Now, I'm not sure that we're going to make it to Switzerland or Liechtenstein, because they're pretty far away. But, like I said, it's a goal.

Anyway, today we visited Slovakia, which crosses country number two off our list (Hungary being the first). Yay! We drove there with Anne and Fritz this morning, and seeing how it's close, were there by 11:00. Some pictures!

The old center of the city is surrounded by the city wall, which is still intact in a few places. Here's one of the gates through it.

Doesn't really look like a gate, but it is

Right next to the gate is Europe's narrowest house. Wow! Narrow! I think the internet said it's 130 cm wide, which is just a little wider than Nina is tall. It would be neat to see the inside, but I guess now they sell tacos there or something. Oh well.

After getting through the gate, it was time to eat! Fortunately, drinking a beer (and maybe having a snack to go with it) seems to be the Slovakian national passtime, and there were restaurants everywhere. So, trying to really get the authentic local experience, we plopped right down and had ourselves some lunch. It was so, so good.

I think you can see our tables there in the middle of the street, but this could be any restaurant really. They all looked the same.

I even took pictures of our food, which is totally the in thing to do these days, but when you've eaten most of the food before you get around to taking the picture, well, the effect is pretty much ruined.

Or is it? You tell me.

After that we walked around a bit more and took in the architecture and hustle-bustle of the city.

Architecture. Nina took this, it's good!
Hustle bustle.
Maggie got tired an got a ride on Opa's lap. How cute is that?!!

Then we climbed like 45 flights of stairs to Bratislava Castle, but we didn't go inside because Anne and Fritz were waiting at a cafe, and anyway, we were just too tired. And it was hot!

It was nowhere near as cloudy all day as it was in this picture. I wish.

Then we went home! What fun. Nina, Nick, and I loved Bratislava, and Maggie says she "hated" it. But really, I think she even kind of liked it.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Day 64: School update

It's going well!

Nina loves it. How could she not? She's been out every day at 11:15 (school starts at 7:30, so we're talking 3 hours and 45 minutes). On Tuesday and Wednesday they spent, by Nina's account, 2 hours at the playground. I'm guessing it was actually less than that, but I'm sure it was at least 45 minutes. I'm sure because Maggie and I walked by the playground on our way to pick her up, and since we're always early, we passed by it at about 10:55. Perfect though, Maggie got to play with the kids for about 15 minutes!

On Friday, Nina's class has swimming. There's a pool IN the school, but they don't do swimming lessons, it's just free play! Such fun for the kids!

Her teacher says her German is coming along very quickly, which we knew, but that's nice to hear. And she's of course getting along great with her classmates, who all seem to be very sweet kids. So, yay! A success!

Even Maggie had a good week! I dropped her off on Friday and took a walk around the neighborhood. She was happy! Then I came back, they ask parents never to sneak off without letting the kids know they're leaving. It's very different from the US. So I came back inside, but she was happily playing, so I just waited in the lobby and read my book (I've gotten quite a lot of reading done this week!), and maybe 15 minutes later she came running out in a panic looking for me. But she said hi, showed me a flag she made, and went back to playing. She came out a few times after that, but she was fine. We'd gotten there a little later of Friday, so before long the kids were playing outside.

Next week I'll have her go for an hour or two, and work up from there.

So, a funny. I mentioned that Maggie's classmates are an especially diverse bunch, no? There's a Turkish kid, a Romanian, a Serbian, an Albanian, of course Maggie, then the remaining 5 or so are Austrian.

Alright, well Maggie was saying that she doesn't know how to ask the girls if they want to play with her, so I said, "I'm not sure either, let's ask Nina."

And Nina responded, "Here's the thing: if they don't speak German, I can't help you."

Ha ha! What a crack-up!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Day 60: Second day of school

And wow, 60 days! Two months! One sixth of the way through the year! Such a milestone, I should think of a way to celebrate. Well, we're having sausage and sauerkraut for dinner, does that count?

I also need to come up with a plan for the weekend. I think Bratislava is still a possibility, having been rescheduled from last weekend, but failing that I could use some time in the woods. Maybe a hike up Hohe Wand is in order. (We've been there before, here's a link to the last time

Anyway, today was another successful school day. Nina really likes her school, and really likes getting out at 11:15. Two or three days per week will be a 12:10 dismissal, but not bad. I hear that there are German lessons for non-German-speaking kids on Mondays after school too, so I think we'll sign Nina up for that. Excellent.

Maggie had another day like yesterday. She was less inclined to let me read in the lobby and wanted me closer, but for a bit there she was playing by herself. Then, wouldn't you know, tigger boy found her again and the whole scene repeated itself from yesterday (including the evil eye). Here, Maggie wants you to see the evil eye:

It's actually angrier looking when she's really annoyed, but you get the gist. Interestingly, he wasn't wearing the tigger costume at first, then he was, then he wasn't again. Maybe they have costumes at school? Either way, she's not impressed and wants nothing to do with the kid.

Here's her majesty happy to get out the door:

She played with an erector set, drew pictures, painted pictures, had her snack, and played outside. She was having so much fun on the playground that she didn't want to leave. So I told her if she wanted, she could stay while I picked up Nina from school, and she said yes! Don't get excited though, she was crying before I even reached the gate. So she came with me. Maybe I'll be able to leave next week.

Here, totally random picture, but check out what Nina drew the other day:

It's the characters from the movie Madagascar. She's so good! There's Gloria the hippo, Melman the giraffe, Alex the lion, and the tiny one (he's off in the distance says Nina) is Marty the zebra. They're each holding what they like to eat, too (note that Melman has medicine. He's a hypochondriac).

And finally, also unrelated to the rest of the post, is some Nick commentary. Now, we all know that it's a running joke in the family about how Nick likes his comfort. He refuses to wear jeans or other real pants during the day, and instead wears exclusively either lounge or pajama pants. He won't sit up at his desk, but instead prefers the lounge chair in the living room.

Well, he's taken it to new heights here in Austria. Check out his new "office."

He says the couch is just not comfortable enough! Fortunately, the girls are doing everything they can to make it a little less comfortable. We don't want him getting too spoiled here.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Day 59: First day of School!

Here's little Nina, off to second grade. SECOND GRADE!!!

She picked that outfit out herself. Such a big kid!

And here is Maggie, off to her first day of preschool!!

She wasn't too excited to have her picture taken ("Why??" she moaned. "You already know what I look like.")

I really wanted one of them together, but Maggie wasn't in the mood, and I didn't want to push it on the first day. Maybe tomorrow.

Well, the days were a success! Nina's was only one hour long (?? Why bother, says the American? Such strange ways here), but she had fun. She met the kids in her class, including the girl who went to school in America for a few years. She told me too that she understood most of what the teacher was saying (she was of course speaking German). Relief! Nina's day goes until 11:15 tomorrow, and the only thing she's not excited about is that it includes going to church. Church! In the US, if you ask the kids to recite the pledge of allegiance and include the words "under God," there are lawsuits. In Austria they ship them off to church! I think Americans have an idea that European socialism looks just like American liberalism, but that's absolutely not true.

Anyway, I digress. Maggie's day was equally successful. I stayed by her side for the first hour or so, then I told her I was going to sit in the lobby and read my book. We'd talked about me bringing a book to read in the lobby, and she loved this idea. I was there if she needed me, which was reassuring, but mostly she was free to do her own thing. She came out to visit me a few times, but mostly just played in the classroom.

The only incident that approached trouble was when Maggie was playing by herself (she really, really prefers to play by herself. She loves to play with Nina, and her friend Hattie back in Maine, but if they're not around, she likes to play alone.) Well, there was a little boy wearing a tigger costume, and he kept following Maggie. She was getting pretty irritated (her word), and I tried telling her that she couldn't force him to leave the play kitchen area because all the kids have to share. She settled for giving him the evil eye, and eventually he went into the other classroom. (There are two, the green room and the pink room. Maggie is in the pink room and tigger boy is in the green room). I was tempted to explain that when you wear your pajamas to school, the kid in the costume might view you as some kind of kindred spirit and try to become friends, but I don't think the time is right for that. It might only make her angrier.

We left at about 9:15, because Nina was done and Maggie was hungry. Plus the teacher recommended leaving early today (sure she did, less work for her!), so that Maggie could adjust slowly. Ideally she'll be going from about 7:30 or 8:00 until noon, but I expect it'll be at least October until she's worked up to that. We'll add a half hour or an hour per week, and I think she'll do just fine. She wants me reading in the lobby again tomorrow, which is fine, I don't mind that at all.

Cross your fingers for continued success!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Also Day 57: Yesterday I took the girls to Bogi Park again

What a fantastic place that is. It's an enormous indoor playground, I can't remember if I described it before. They have a ton of stuff: trampolines, bounce houses, big slides, ball pit, and a ginormous play structure that's almost like something you'd see at a McDonald's playplace times 100. We had a blast.

Nick stayed home to work, so it was just me and the girls. We take the train when we go places like that still; we have a family pass that makes them free and me and Nick 55% off. I'm totally comfortable going around by train, but this is about 40 minutes away and I'm not ready to try by car yet. And with the train being so cheap, I have no reason to.

If you heard a rumour about Nick cooking dinner on Friday, rest assured that all is right with the universe and he did not. He did, however, cook tonight. I'm trying to prepare him for my return to work next year, when he's going to have to take on some more household responsibilities. Tonight he did fish sticks, french fries, and zucchini. It was a success! Go Nick!

Day 57: School jitters

School here starts on Monday, and tonight before bed poor little Nina was feeling nervous about going. She's afraid she doesn't speak enough German and afraid that she won't be able to talk to the other kids or understand what they're saying.

I tried to reassure her, telling her that she's learned a lot of German, and will keep learning even more when she's in school.

The Maggie chimed in on the pep talk.

"That's right Nina," she encouraged. "You'll keep on learning more and more German until you're 100, then you'll die."

Thanks for the perspective Maggie! Nothing like mortality to put it all in perspective. Sweet dreams!

Fortunately, Nina cracked up. "That Maggie!" she said.

Never a dull moment around here I tell you...