Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Early Christmas Morning

Just in time for Christmas, my husband and I got very sick with colds. Any plans for celebration were cancelled. But that didn't stop Saint Nick from showing up and delivering gifts. So when Rafael walked into the living room this morning, there were packages tucked under the tree with care. I thought, it's a good thing he's still too young to care whether Christmas is a big deal or not, because Ramon and I are too sick to do anything special. But isn't every day we have each other special?

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas....I hope you are healthy, happy, and enjoying the festivities!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Only Corner of the Universe

"The only corner of the universe you can be certain of improving is yourself."

It's funny how, just after writing about not having time to think, I have to admit to my mind being full of thoughts these past couple of days. So much so that I at times feel disconnected to what is going on at home, with Rafael. Winter has always been a time of deep self-reflection for me, and I suppose that is the case even now with a busy toddler. I find myself staring into space, while Raffi chirps and runs around with his toys and plastic containers and books, thinking about the year ahead, about a sibling for Rafael, about how the dogs don't get enough exercise, about how I want to cook better dinners for my husband, about my sister who is expecting her first baby in March, and about how I feel a bit disconnected to my friends at the moment because we all switch off having sick husbands and babies and don't see one another regularly. 

I also think about how it has become increasingly difficult for me to express myself here in the written word. There are so many things I would like to share, but when I am tired at the end of the day, and my brain is scattered, I sit and wonder, What part of my life should I write about, and how can I write it? How will it be received? I never want to sound like I am complaining, but I know that I do. I am living the life of my dreams....all of you who have been reading this blog for a long time know that. So I am letting you know now: I am truly blessed, and know that I have been showered with good fortune. Is it still ok for me to be honest about exhaustion and worries? I always hope you understand.

The snow and ice are so beautiful. We are usually alone in the woods these days. Not many people appreciate the raw beauty of winter. As we walked this morning, me being extra careful not to slip on the icy way, I thought about the salamanders, curled up in the dark underground, and the squirrels, in their balls of leaves and moss up in the tree tops. Animals all around us, but invisible and sleeping. I found deer tracks in the snow, and made a note to bring apple cores and oats tomorrow.

'Til next time....


Monday, December 10, 2012

Life With Rafael Right Now

Words I can think of to describe life with Rafael right now are exhausting, funny, and affectionate. As we grow closer and get to know one another more and more, this boy becomes such a solid chunk of my existence and I can't imagine life without him. He rambles up to me multiple times a day to give me kisses or to plant his little face into my lap or chest or, if I'm standing, between my legs. He is more loving than I ever expected or hoped for!

I've always been a person who contemplates life, who constantly explores the meaning of what is going on in her life, and who weighs pros and cons again and again. But lately, days pass by so quickly, and moments are so full of responsibility and just trying my best to keep this little guy entertained, fed, clean, happy, and out of the bathroom cabinets, that I find myself incapable of doing much soul searching. Life is just action and doing at this point, without much of a chance for thinking about how I feel about what I am doing. Maybe it's a good thing...I'm not sure. I just know that it's still unfamiliar terrain for me.

Even in moments like this, sitting on the couch with a blanket draped around my shoulders, I find I can't fully relax or let my mind wander. Everything I do must have purpose; there's no room for day dreaming and deep contemplation. 

Actually that's not entirely true. When there are quiet moments on our walks in the forest....when Rafael is sitting calmly in the stroller and isn't demanding I sing to him, or stumbling along the icy path in his big snowsuit....then I look up at the lace of the naked tree branches, and the lemony winter sky, take deep breaths, and my mind wanders, and I day dream, and I even have some epiphanies or fresh ideas or answers to questions that have been plaguing my subconscious. So those walks in the cold mornings can be very fruitful and important to my well-being.

Rafael is learning at least one new word a day. He repeats so many words that we say, and is adamant about knowing what things are called, either in books or around the house. He recognizes people, his friends and family. If someone gives him a gift, he remembers, and tells me who gave him a toy when he hold it up. He gives the dogs their treats in the morning. He adores books that have little windows you can open. He hates having his teeth brushed and has four new choppers poking out of his gums. His favorite meal is basmati rice with steamed buttered broccoli and fish. He thinks bath time is awesome. And he still nurses at least once a day.

How am I doing as a mother? Oh gosh, who knows. Can any mother answer that? I have moments of intense impatience and frustration, especially when Rafael is whining while the dogs are barking, all while simultaneously tracking mud into the house. In those moments, I want to scream and disappear. But I keep cool. Sometimes I think mothers should get awards for the way they can act calm and loving, while inside they are ready to explode. 

It sounds so cheesy, but it's true: the kisses, hugs, funny faces and laughter this boy shares with me totally make up for the difficult aspects. At the end of the day, there is nothing I would rather be than his mother.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012


Yesterday my friend Daniela came and visited with her little daughter. She said, "Nikolo stopped by our home and brought this for you." She handed me a package in brown paper. Inside, tucked in a can, was a glowing apple, a fragrant tangerine, a heart-shaped lebkuchen cookie, and some peanuts. Something about the simplicity of this gift touched me deeply. Many people these days give other gifts on Nikolo...toys, books, candy. But my friend filled that can with the things that Saint Nikolaus originally gave, and I promised myself then and there that Rafael will also receive this traditional mix each year on December sixth...in his little boot placed in front of the door the night before. 

Rafael ate that mandarin happily with sticky juice running down his chin and fingers. 

And I ate the cookie.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Winter's Approach

Our walk this morning began looking like a frosty autumn day, and ended with fluffy snow flakes. Rafael couldn't stop laughing as the snow fell on his face, hands, and apple. I was overcome with a feeling of childlike wonder, and I took a deep breath, savoring the first moment of light-heartedness that I have had in what feels like a very long time.

We've been having some dark days here in our home, but I am finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. And walking with my laughing child through that magical curtain of snow lifted a ton of burden and worry from my shoulders.

As you may have noticed, this blog, which started out as a way of sharing my daily life with my mother who lives very far away, was placed in the Top 100 list of Mom Blogs on Babble.com. It came as such a pleasant surprise, and refreshed my purpose here, motivating me to keep sharing photos, thoughts, and the things I love. I know that lately I don't post as often as I should, so I just want thank you, my loyal readers, and any new ones who may just be discovering this place now, for being so forgiving, and for leaving such lovely notes. It feels incredibly good to have been blessed with recognition for something that comes from the heart!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

His First Big Adventure

Today was the day: I put waterproof pants and boots on Rafael and set him loose to explore the woods on foot! 

He must have known something was different when I put the plastic overalls on him, and his new clunky winter boots. When I took him out of the stroller and set him on the forest path, he stood still for a moment, holding his apple, looking around him, wondering what he was supposed to do.

"Go on Rafael," I said, "Walk around!" He looked at me and then at the path. He took a first few wobbly steps...the boots were hard to walk in at first. But soon he was shrieking with delight, walking as fast as his little legs allowed, falling down every once in a while, rolling in the leaf piles, following the dogs into the ditches, thoroughly dirty and happy. 

This is truly the beginning of a new part of his life. He will no longer watch the woods pass him by, tucked into the wooly warmth of his stroller, merely a witness to the beauty around him. Now every walk will be an adventure! Full of discovery and messy exploration. It is such an awesome thing to watch. 

Thank you for your kind notes, I know it's been such a long time since I last posted. Everything is absolutely fine, I have just been too tired in the evenings to write or work on photos. 

I hope you are all doing very well, getting into the holiday spirit. I put up the very first Christmas decorations today, and am so much looking forward to December!


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Salamander Weather

When it's cold but not freezing...when it is damp with dew and mist....then we must watch every step we make in the woods, because it's what we call salamander weather, when they are out creeping over wet leaves and moss.

I love finding these shy, slow little creatures. There aren't many left, and they always seem so special, like a four leaf clover. I was very happy to capture that first photo, with the salamander's tiny smiling face. He could have clumsily crawled away, but instead, he stayed still, letting me take his picture. 

Mushrooms are soggy with rain and most of the leaves are down, carpeting the paths. Rafael drinks warm milk with breakfast now, and we turn on all the heaters in the evenings for his bath time. The days are so short, and winter is just around the corner. 

Happy November! Such an exciting month...


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Rafael Right Now, 13 1/2 Months

Guess where I am right now, while I'm writing this blog post? In bed! Alone! I know, I am as surprised as you are. I can't remember the last time I sat in bed, covered in a warm blanket, in the middle of a blustery day, with my computer on my lap. Ramon took Rafael on a walk, so I have some 'me time.' It won't last long, but hopefully long enough for me to write this post.

Rafael right now.....wow. He has grown so much, and is evolving every day. Besides the joy of him learning words, or learning how to walk, the most significant thing for me is watching his personality unfold. I am getting to know him, and at the same time, I am also one of the people molding him into the person he will one day be. 

As much fun as this time is, with him making me laugh throughout the day, it is also the most challenging age so far. He is mobile, quick, and curious. He understands so much, but chooses to ignore 'NO' most of the time. My approach to authority is to keep a loud and strict 'no' for the things that are dangerous. I don't want to over-use the word, and make it into something he hears all the time, therefore making him more likely to ignore it. But of course a 'no' also comes out when he is throwing rice in fistfuls from the highchair after I just vacuumed, or when he is poking the dogs while they are trying to eat. The hardest part for me is when my 'no' causes him to cry and throw a fit. This usually only happens nearing the end of the day, when he is tired. But I never really know what to do in this situation. He won't let me hug him, and usually points at my chest, demanding I comfort him by nursing. This leads me to say 'no' again, but it's a somewhat bewildered 'no,' because I am torn between going the easy way and giving him what he wants, or showing him that breastfeeding isn't something he demands from me when he is angry. In other words, I don't want to be bullied into breastfeeding him every time he doesn't get his way with something else. To me, this feels like our first bout of 'power struggle.' I try to avoid this situation at all costs, because it's very uncomfortable to me. It breaks my heart when he is crying his eyes out, pointing at my chest, wanting to be comforted, knowing I could give him that comfort very easily. But it just feels wrong.

Besides those tantrums, and my personal struggle with finding my voice and stance as a mother, I must say that Rafael is the most loving and hilarious little person I have ever encountered. This guy really has a sense of humor! We crack each other up so much, and there is nothing like hearing and seeing him laugh really hard. 

Another thing that impresses me is his incredible eye for detail. He will make car noises, pointing at a soda bottle, and I'll think, 'What is he talking about?' Then I turn the bottle to see what he's looking at, and there's a small red sports car on the label. 

Today he was looking at a book about winter, and there was an illustration of birds picking at the snowy ground. He pointed at them and then threw his arms wide and to the back, like wings. I have never shown him this move; in Baby Signing we learned to show a bird by using the thumb and index finger, up and down, like a beak opening and closing. He came up with this sign on his own, by observing the birds flying on our walks, and I thought, 'His sign makes so much more sense!' 

His eyes are definitely brown now. He has eight lovely little teeth. His hair grows at an alarming rate, it's been cut three times already and he'll need to go to the hair salon again soon! Feeding him is a bit difficult at the moment, as he seems to be getting very picky, and I'm never quite sure what to cook for him. It's pretty frustrating to cook him a meal and have the majority of it land on the floor!

One of the funnest things we do lately is go to the Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna. We bought year-cards, so we can go as often as we like. Rafael especially loves the fish in the indoor aquarium, the seals, the flamingos, and the red pandas. 

My little boy....living with him is such an adventure. I love him so incredibly much. I thought about his birth the other day, while running errands and pushing him in the stroller, and was so overwhelmed by my love for him, by the bond we share. I had to stop the stroller and nuzzle his nose and shower his tiny smiling face with kisses.


Happy Halloween!

Having friends with babies gave us the perfect excuse to throw a Halloween party...who doesn't want to see their little one in an adorable costume? 

Rafael was a perfectly round Jack-O-Lantern, Ramon was a cowboy, and I was a black cat. In our group of friends there was a Doctor in scrubs, Mary Poppins, and a Vampire couple. Raffi's little friends consisted of a frog princess, Superman, and Count Dracula.

Today, the perfect thick mist was curled all around the village, so fitting to Halloween! I baked a chocolate cake, covered it in cream cheese frosting, and topped it with little marshmallow ghosts. It was already getting dark when I took the photo of the cake at 4 o'clock, and it was so dark when guests arrived that the photos didn't turn out. So, we will have to keep this Halloween saved by memory. And make a note for next year: take photos while it's still light out!

It's crazy to think that, next Halloween, Rafael will be able to tell me what he wants to dress up as. This is all going so incredibly fast. (Have I mentioned that he's walking now?!)

I hope you and yours enjoyed a fun and festive Halloween! 


Monday, October 29, 2012

The Second Snow: Lots Of It!

We were surprised to wake up to so much snow this morning. It's an interesting sight, branches with leaves still on them, heavy with snow. All the roof tops were white, and the snow was so thick that I couldn't take the stroller into the woods, so I walked the dogs around town. 

Rafael refused to wear his mittens, and could only be soothed with an apple. He looked so curiously at the snow; I can't wait to see him play in it for the first time!

I have such great readers....I love coming here and reading the notes you leave me, feeling connected to wonderful women around the world. 



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