Sunday, May 23, 2010

Men's Day

I've been meaning to write this post for a while. A week ago from last Thursday was a holiday here in East Germany called "Men's Day." According to my friend, "Men's Day" came about during the East German times as a response to a religious holiday that is right around that time. Everyone in Germany celebrates it as "Father's Day," but here in East Germany it is celebrated with . . . Gusto!

On "Men's Day," all the men attach a wagon to the back of their bicycles and fill that wagon with beer. What are you going to do if you have a wagon full of booze attached to your bike? You're going to ride your bike around town drinking, of course. Which is exactly what they did. The city was full of men riding (falling, swerving...) bicycles all over town, drinking beer. AND THIS IS THE OFFICIAL WAY TO CELEBRATE THIS HOLIDAY!!! Its like a cross between St. Paddies Day and Bike to Work Day all in one.

I was warned to stay inside all day, which is what I did...although I did notice the group of 8-10 men sitting in my courtyard with a SHOPPING CART (I kid you not) FILLED with beer which they proceeded to drink beginning around 10am and ending sometime well into the evening.

The picture above is of my friend, Sebastian, who never even drinks wine when he comes over for dinner on Men's Day. In the woods. With his men friends. Drinking. He claims he wasn't drunk in this picture....

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ilya's Birthday Party

For Ilya's second birthday, we decided to throw her a surprise party (when you're two, its hard for things NOT to be a surprise).

Then we all sang her happy birthday over a strawberry shortcake.

Just in case you were wondering: this is what happens when you feed a two year old a lot of sugar.

Happy Birthday Ilya!

A Letter to My Daughter on her 2nd Birthday

Dearest Baby Girl,

I hope that you can look back on this when you are older and understand just how precious you are to me. Every day I watch you grow and learn, and I marvel at how incredible you are. You sing wonderful songs, making up your own lyrics and tunes, dance fun bouncy jigs to just about any music, and jump everywhere. You talk constantly, usually asking your dad or myself to do something for you. Sometimes these requests turn into songs. "Can you get the strawberries for me? Can you get the 'Strawberry Ice Cream, Chocolate ice cream, yum, yum, yum, yum, yum'"

You are so smart. You recognize many letters when we read and have all your books memorized. Your favorite books right now are Corduroy, Curious George, and Brown Bear. You speak in complete sentences and have just recently begun carrying on actual conversations with us. "Did you sleep well?" "I slept well. Would you get up with me?" You still like to parrot everything we say, but you also respond. You love to identify animals and count. You can count to 20 in English and 13 in German. Did I mention you can speak German? You are creative. You produce the most beautiful art, and you are always finding new ways to use ordinary objects.

You are sweet. Every time you hear a baby cry, you look at me with a pained looked and say, "mama, that baby is sad." I breaks my heart. When you see someone that is sad, you always try to give them a hug, even if it is a stranger. You learned to share somewhere and work hard to make sure that everyone has something (pretzel sticks, flowers...etc). When you wake up in the middle of the night, you like to curl up next to me for about five minutes before going back to your own bed, and you give the sweetest kisses. All the time.

I am telling you this so that you never doubt just how special and absolutely amazing you are. I am also telling you this so that you know that you are loved. Deeply and Forever.

Happy Birthday my little Illy Billy Boo.

Monday, May 3, 2010


I start work today, so this is going to be brief - just wanted to remind everyone to DANCE!

A Picture Post!

I have been accused (by my dear husband) of "hoarding" my pictures and videos. This is not intentional - I'm just lazy and it takes a remarkable amount of work to transfer the photos to my computer then upload them to the blog. Case in point: I have been working on this blog post for the past 4 hours.

Here we have it. In no particular order (because I think I mentioned - I'm lazy) - pictures and video of the past few months.

Here is my baby girl at a park collecting dandelions. She has made it her personal mission in life to pick every dandelion that she finds.

This is my favorite cherry tree in that same park right next to my work. We've been picnicking here every chance we get.

I took this picture from a park in the back of Alle Center. The older looking tower in the background is The Dom - the oldest and tallest cathedral in German. I don't know what the closer one is called but it made for a pretty picture.

At the Irish Folk Festival with our Hungarian couch surfers, Emrey and Age
e (I know I just butchered the spelling of their names - hopefully they are not reading this). A really nice pair and our first introduction to couch surfing.

Playing football in the park with our friends...

Until Ilya got the ball and refused to give it back :)

In front of some of the few remaining sections of the Berlin wall on a weekend trip to Berlin we took with our friend, Emily, who, despite being American, gave us an amazing tour of the city.

Jewish Memorial in Berlin - a vast landscape of rectangular blocks o
f all shapes and sizes meant to symbolize the uniqueness of each Jewish person hurt during the war.

My new bike and Ilya's new bike! I LOVE my bike and want to figure out a way to get it back home for less than $100. Any ideas?

Daddy and Illy playing in the sand together. Such a beautiful father/daughter moment.

This is the outdoor library. You can just walk up and take any book you want. You can also leave any books you don't want. What a great idea.

This is a picture of a toilet inside the Hundertwasserhause (One of the last buildings build by Hundertwasser). They charge you 1 euro just to use it, so save your money and enjoy this picture instead :) The picture below is the actual Hundertwasserhouse - I didn't take that one - I got it here.

View from the top of Johanaschurcha (I'm so not spelling that right, but I looked and couldn't even find the correct spelling on the internet) - That lit up round building is the largest structure built entirely out of wood - or something like that. Inside it is a science museum showcasing scientific advances throughout time.
Adam, Ilya, and our friend, Robert on our way to the top of Johanaschurcha - I made it to the top then promptly turned around and ran back down. Stupid fear of heights.

Silly Illy

At the zoo - I gotta say: not my favorite zoo. The elephants were kept in an enclosure much too small for them as were many other animals. There was a wonderful playground section, though right inside the petting zoo. Adam summed it up, "Its a zoo built for humans not for animals." You could actually reach out and touch the elephants they were so close.

From left to right: Amelie (Stina's sister), Stina, Brendan, Dinosaur Dave, Ilya, and Adam at the zoo.

We visited this wonderful little town called Wernigerode‎ (prounced: vinager rhoda). Adam will be your tour guide.

Gratuitous adorable picture of my daughter and a video that it too cute for words.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


First, I'm sorry that I have not been as diligent at updating this blog as I wanted to be. Its actually a good thing. I tend to write when I'm feeling down and lonely. When I'm happy, I forget to update.

We have been having a wonderful time. The sun is shining (most days) bright and warm. There are so many amazing parks I never noticed when they were covered in snow that are now covered in all sorts of flowers. Its like the city has come alive. There are children everywhere (yes, most of them are without parents, but its a German thing), and bikers have taken over the city.

When we first got our bikes, I seriously considered turning around and giving them away. Biking around with Ilya attached to the back is REALLY hard - kinda like dragging a 40 pound boulder everywhere you go (yes, I did just compare my child to a rock, but in a good way). I took four or five biking trips to the city center and nearly died each time, all the while dreading the expiration of our tram pass (the countdown to when I would be forced to use my bike as my sole means of transportation). The pass ran out Friday and Saturday, we jumped on our bikes to see if I would even be able to bike all the way to work with Ilya. I don't know what happened. It was like my body suddenly decided that it was a BIKING GOD because I hardly broke a sweat going from my house all the way at the other end of town (at least twice the distance to the city center). Going home was no problem at all and we even rode to the park for good measure to play ultimate frisbee with our friends.

That is the other thing that I love here. My friends. I have the greatest group of friends ever, and they all love Ilya.

I am carrying on conversations in German - I probably have about a 40 word vocabulary but I understand quite a bit more. I ask people to help me all the time with Ilya's stroller and THEY UNDERSTAND ME! Its really thrilling. Ilya's teachers only speak German, but I still managed to understand them gushing to me about how brilliant she is (Ilya currently speaks more German than the other kids in her class who are all native Germans). I start work on Tuesday where I will have 20 first graders all speaking to me very fast in German. At once. Fun!

See how boring happy, positive posts are. Maybe thats why all the best writers are always depressed. I still hate all the smoking that takes place here... :)