4th Viennaversary

We arrived here in early April of 2011, amid the persistent wind and intermittent rain that characterize what is still early spring here.  I remember standing outside of the airport in a cold drizzle wondering what I had gotten myself into and feeling slightly mystified that I had truly moved my family to another continent.

That feeling of mystification returns every year when the anniversary of our arrival passes.  Each time I have to double check my math — we’ve been here HOW long?  And this year was the same.  The weeks leading up to our “Viennaversary” were spent stressing about whether Dan’s new contract would really be signed, so then, suddenly, it was the beginning of April and I was again counting years on my fingers to ensure I hadn’t fumbled the math.  We really have been here 4 years.

This year, our “anniversary” fell on the Monday after Easter, so Dan had the day off of work and the boys were out of school, so we were able to do something to mark the occasion.  The weather was a bit chilly and breezy with lots of big, fluffy springtime clouds, but the sun that was getting through was bright and we had recently had temperatures which were some of the warmest we’d seen since the fall, so we (I) decided we should mark the occasion with a hike in the Vienna Woods to a part of Vienna we had yet to visit.

We had done the first part of this hike last spring, so the plan was to catch up with the trail (by bus) where we had left off and to complete the rest of the route, which was largely downhill.  To get to our starting point, we had to take the bus up to the hills overlooking the northwest of Vienna, and it would take us nearly an hour to get out there.  The kids were less enthusiastic than Dan and I, (when I say “hike”, the whining usually starts right away), but they, too, were suffering from a bit of Vienna winter stir craziness and were complaining more out of habit, I think, than actual objection.  They packed a few toys and supplies (i.e., candy from their Easter baskets) and dutifully suited up for the day’s adventure.

I had made a slight miscalculation, however.  While it had been breezy, sunny and warmish in the heart of the city, it was windy, solidly overcast and quite cold at the top of the hill.  We had brought hats and gloves, but we were dressed for 50 degrees and breezy with sun, not 30 degrees and windy with no sun.  We were all pretty cold, but wanted to make the most of our trip.  On the plus side, we were able to sneak a few peaks through the leafless branches, views that would have been obscured by greenery later in the spring or summer.  We were looking for crocuses and daffodils among the leaves, and attempting to keep the kids interested, which worked relatively well.  But by the time we’d been walking for 20 minutes, it has begun to snow.


I love being outdoors, and I’m up for a hike in almost any weather, but even I had to admit that this wasn’t quite what I’d meant to sign us all up for (nor was it what we’d come prepared for).  We trekked on down the hill to Kahlenberg, with a beautiful 1377(though cloudy) view over the city, and made it about another 100 yards before Liam began stridently complaining about his frozen face, and we all decided that perhaps this battle would best be fought another day.

In all, we lasted only about 45 minutes and about 1.2 miles before we gave up and headed for home.  We had walked the distance between two adjacent bus stops.

But, it was, as so much of this adventure has been, at least memorable.  I learned my lesson that marginal hiking conditions at 500 feet above sea level do not necessarily reflect acceptable hiking conditions at 1600 feet.  And, though it was brief, we did, indeed, see a part of Vienna we had not seen before.

We all went home to thaw out, and I was undaunted in my wish to one day finish the hike.  As for our 4th Viennaversary, however, we finished the celebration cozy at home.

Another Easter

I love Easter time in Vienna.  They really celebrate it here, and not just with chocolate bunnies and going to church — not that I’m opposed to either of those things, but both of them have limited appeal in my life these days.  Easter is widely and truly celebrated in Vienna, and though its roots are religious, not all of the celebration is.  It is similar to (though of a different scale) than the wonderful Viennese Christmas celebrations.  In Vienna, there are Easter markets, several days off from work and school and a general feeling of festivity that flows through the city.  In the same way that Christmas feels very much like a celebration of having made it through darkest part of the winter, Easter feels like a victory celebration — spring has returned, with brighter days and (slightly) more warmth.

Easter is also our unofficial anniversary in Vienna.  We arrived just before Easter and visited an Easter market right after having found our apartment.  The best Easter market in all of Vienna (in my opinion) is that same one we first happened upon, and it is right across the street from our house.  So, as always, we visited that market several times in the weeks leading up to Easter.

I always enjoy wandering through all of the markets.  I love seeing the intricate, painstakingly decorated eggs.  I enjoy the food and the shopping, and I always make a point to visit the bunnies in their market stall.  This year, the silver lining to the catastrophic mirror crash of last spring was that I actually got to shop for eggs — after our first few years, I had put myself on an “only one a year” plan, because we were collecting so many.  But, after about half of our collection met its end under a very heavy broken mirror last year, we “needed” some new ones.



We also enjoyed some fun Easter activities.  The boys painted eggs and played games at the markets, and we colored eggs at home (a process I’m finally getting the hang of here).  The boys did sweet arts and crafts at school, too.  I just love it.  I love being out in the city as the days begin to get noticeably longer, and as the sun begins to be ever slightly warmer.



1255As is our tradition, the boys celebrated Easter morning with a hunt for eggs, and we followed that with a trip outdoors.  For the first time, we actually visited an Easter market on Easter morning — I had no idea they were open on the big day!  But, it turns out that they are (or at least the one close to us is), and it was a fun way to observe the morning.  We visited the bunnies at the market again (closely scrutinized by the boys so they could attempt to discern which one was THE Easter Bunny), bought some flowers, and even stopped in to an ACTUAL church during Easter service — though just for a minute (which was actually really nice).


Then, in the afternoon, we were lucky enough to have been invited to join some friends and their family for Easter dinner, which was lovely.  Holidays are incredibly hard when you’re far from home, and getting to be with friends, rather than just celebrating with ourselves, was a nice change.  (Plus we got the added benefit of someone else preparing most of the meal — and it was someone who actually enjoyed doing it!)

All in all, we had another great Easter here in Vienna.  We had a lovely lead up to the day, enjoying the markets and the springtime weather.  And then, on Easter itself, we enjoyed the company of good friends, and the boys got to eat way more chocolate than they probably should have.  In short, a good time, and a happy Easter, was had by all.

Student-led conference

Though I’ve parented on two continents, I’ve only parented school-aged children on one, and so I don’t have much perspective on whether the things I see here which are different from my experience are different because I’m in another country, or just because times have changed.  (I get the feeling that it’s a little of both.)  I get the sense that some things, like less time spent sitting formally in rows at desks, are more of a universal change and that some other things, like having two recesses each day, are more unique to the schools that my boys go to.  And, they are currently at two different schools in two different school systems, so things are certainly not uniform even between their experiences.

Last fall, we had a fairly typical “back to school night” at B’s new school (though it wasn’t called that) which was comforting because it was something I expected and wanted from the school and from B’s teacher.  The school was new to all of us, and I desperately wanted to find out as much as I could about the philosophies and practices of both the school and B’s teacher.

Then, shortly after the beginning of the school year, we had a parent/teacher conference with B’s teacher.  And though I found the concept of a parent/teacher conference familiar, I found the timing strange — the kids had been in school only a month when we met for this conference, so I wondered exactly what we’d be talking about.  As it turns out, it was less a “report card” on how B was doing (although there was a little bit of that) and more of an interactive, let’s talk about how things are going and how we want them to go, let’s check up on if we’re on the same page in terms of his strengths and weaknesses, let’s talk about what we’re going to focus on, and let’s talk about how we can each support each other in these goals, meeting.  And though it wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I went into it, it was actually great.  I got a lot of peace of mind from seeing how well B’s teacher “got” him, and by having her help in sharing some ideas about how we could help him do even better.  That meeting was the beginning of me really trusting B’s teacher to guide him through his learning for the year, and I was able to finally relax about the whole thing because I understood exactly what was expected of him, and of us.  It was great.

Oddly, though, it was the only parent/teacher conference we had all year.  I expected that there would be more, as the year went along, so we could check up on his progress, but that’s not how they do things.

Instead, later on in the year (about 3/4 of the way through) the teachers and students put on a different kind of conference — a “student-led” conference.  From this, I really had no idea what to expect, except that we vaguely understood that B would be leading the whole thing.

And that’s exactly what happened.  It was a chance for the kids to walk their parents through some of their own work.  There were 3 or 4 different stations around the room, and B took us from one to the next, demonstrating what he’d learned in different areas — writing, math(s), science.  And then, B took us around the school, to the gym and then to the music room, to show us what he’d been working on there.

And if I hadn’t been there to experience it, I’m not sure I would have grasped how absolutely BRILLIANT this was.

Of course, as his mom, I think B is clever and talented and brilliant and I love to hear him tell me about what he does at school (though that almost never happens — “What did you do at school today?”  “I don’t remember”).  And, as his mom, of course I loved hearing about his work.  And, I know that he loved having a few hours of our undivided attention.

But, more than that, there was an amazing amount of skill and learning demonstrated during the conference.  First, the kids were responsible for guiding their parents through the process (which is a big responsibility for a 6 year old, but B had a very supportive audience) which meant they had to have been paying decent attention when the teachers taught them how to do this whole thing.  (I imagine they practiced beforehand, too.)  B was in charge.  It was his job to explain how to do the whole thing and to make sure we did it relatively correctly.

In addition to that, he was basically giving a series of oral presentations/demonstrations, but again, to a very receptive audience.  There was nothing slick or overly polished about the presentations, it was very conversational.  But still, he had the responsibility to “present” each station to us, which he did, very comfortably.

And THEN (and this is the coolest part), he had to understand what he had learned well enough to explain it to us!  And that is HUGE.  Because anyone who has ever taught anyone anything will tell you that THAT is how you know they’ve really learned it.  If you understand something well enough to teach it to someone else, you have a truly useful level of knowledge.  I imagine tha the things he “showed” us during his presentation are concepts and skills that he will hold onto for a long time, because going through this process pretty well ensures that they’re stuck in his brain.

So though B thought he was just having us to his class to show us his work (which he was, and he did), he was really doing so much more.  He was leading, he was presenting, and he was teaching.  I know he thought it was pretty cool that we got to come to his class, and he got to tell us where to go and what to do, but I think what we got from him was way cooler.


An introvert’s great night out with friends

I am an introvert.  I like (most) people, and I love spending time with my friends, but, as an introvert, I typically find that spending time with people, no matter how much I like them, wears me out.  If a social occasion goes on a long time, I can get twitchy, uncomfortable and grouchy, regardless of how much I like the people I’m with.  So, when I find myself in a situation where I am hanging out with friends, and I am able to feel relaxed and happy throughout, it feels like magic to me.

It happens very rarely for me, but as I get older I do spend more time with people who are more likely to put me in this state.  That being said, it’s in no way the fault or a failing of my company when it gets to be too much for me.  It’s just how I am.  I have a good friend here who is also an introvert.  Though we’re both very fond of each other, if we see each other every few weeks to a month, it’s “a lot” to us.  As a natural introvert, the frequency or duration of my social interaction with someone is not a reflection of how much I like them.  If I make an effort to see you at all, it means you must be someone I REALLY like, because my natural state is at home by myself (immediate family counts as “by myself” — kind of).

I was lucky enough to spend a lovely evening with some friends this past spring.  We went out for pizza at my favorite spot in Vienna.  It wasn’t a “perfect” evening — the restaurant either lost or messed up our reservation, and we ended up having to switch tables partway through our meal (further evidence that “perfect” and “happy” do not actually share a causal relationship).  We enjoyed a tasty meal, and then decided to walk a bit to get gelato (this is the moment where I usually decide I need to go home to recuperate).  But I was still enjoying myself.  And, as an extra bonus, because it was an unseasonably warm evening for March, it was our first outdoor gelato of the year.  We sat, ate our gelato, chatted and enjoyed the evening.  Eventually, it really was time to say goodnight, and even then, I was sorry the evening had to end.  It was a great evening, and I feel so lucky to have had such a nice time out with my friends!


I think the most iconic experience I could have here in Vienna is going to the opera.  (One could argue that going to the ball or visiting a Christmas market might be pretty close, but I don’t think they rise to the level of the opera.)  It’s the thing I’m asked most about by friends back home, and, until this past spring, I had to constantly inform people that I hadn’t yet been.

This was often met with some level of incredulity — we’ve been here 4 years, how can we NOT have been to the opera (especially when most people make it their first priority when they come here)?!?  Well, it’s pretty simple.  The opera isn’t the most kid-friendly proposition, and we’ve opted to use our rare babysitter times on other things (like going to the ball).  Seriously, Dan and I probably go out on average twice a year without the kids — once for the ball, and once for our anniversary (though our first year, and this year, we didn’t go out for our anniversary at all, so maybe we don’t even quite average twice a year).  We really should have made it happen when Jo was here with us a few years ago, but we didn’t.  C’est la vie.

But I’ve finally been to the opera!  (Dan still hasn’t, though.)  This past March, a friend of mine had a birthday, and to celebrate, her husband bought her tickets for her and a friend to attend the opera.  I got to be that friend.


I know next to nothing about opera.  I like music, and I like theater, so it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch that I’d enjoy opera, but I’ve never really been exposed to it, so it remained a big question mark in my life experience.  That said, there was no way I was going to miss out on a chance to experience it!  And, we were lucky enough to go see La Traviata, which is one of the most famous operas of all.  And, frankly, even if I didn’t enjoy the show, I figured it would be a worthwhile experience to get fancied up and enjoy an evening out with a friend, at least!


It was great fun to have a reason to get dressed up, and we were so excited.  Just going inside the opera house and seeing the elaborate interior (the chandeliers!) was a treat.  It’s a beautiful building.  We had box seats, and just getting to find and explore the seating area was exciting, too.  We felt very fancy.



917We wandered around a bit, enjoyed a pre-show glass of champagne, and got ready for some opera.

It wasn’t quite what I expected, but it was wonderful.  I expected something closer to musical theater, where there are songs and spoken words intermixed throughout, but that was not the case.  With the exception of about a half dozen spoken words, the entire production was sung.  There was a small screen in front of me that provided a translation, and though I referred to it often, I didn’t really need it to get the broad strokes of the story.


Everyone was amazing.  My reaction was overwhelmingly, “Wow”.  The orchestra was fantastic, the actors/singers were stunning — at one point, the lead actress was lying on the floor, “dying”, and singing operatically in her full voice!  (How does THAT work????)  I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience.


I felt very fancy and grown up being at the opera.  And also very international — the performance was in Italian, set in Paris, and I was sitting in Vienna watching it.  It was a wonderful experience, and I’m so glad I got to do it.  And I got to check something else off of my “must-do” Vienna experience list.



Bailey1On March 3, we said goodbye to Bailey, our Welsh Corgi.  We’d had him since he was a tiny cute ball of puppy fluff, way back in the fall of 2000.  He was clever, patient, loving, forgiving, trusting, sweet, funny, fast, and, always, hungry.  He was Dan’s wedding gift to me.  He was our “kid” for a long time before we had kids — before we even knew we wanted to have kids.  He was with us through ups and downs, 3 homes, 8 jobs, 2 babies and 2 continents.  He was the best dog I have ever known.  He was a member of our family.  We all loved him very, very much.

Bailey Agility (jump)Corgi Fun Fair5/12/2001In his younger years, Bailey had a constant reserve of energy.  He would run around our apartment like crazy, snapping at imaginary butterflies and chasing his “tail”.  He would walk (and even sometimes run) with me all around the neighborhood.  In fact, he was my running companion when I first discovered running (we both have short legs, so it worked out).  He was an excellent student to everything I tried to teach him, and he let me think it was my talent as a dog trainer that was behind it all.  He chased sheep.  He slept on my feet.  He ate everything that didn’t move faster than he did.

BaileyPony Swim7/25/2001As he got older, he slowed down a bit, but it was gradual.  He still ran and played, but not for as long as he had before.  And then we brought one, and then another, baby home.  Bailey accepted them instantly.  We were worried, since he was nearly 8 when B was born, and had had us to himself for a long time, that he would be jealous or inflexible.  He was not.  He would follow us around when we walked with the boys, he would sleep under their swings while they slept, he would urge me along if I was too slow to respond to their cries.

And he became an excellent playmate.  Dan, who had a retriever as a child, tried unsuccessfully for years to teach Bailey to fetch.  Bailey let B teach him, when B was not yet 2.  Bailey endured over-enthusiastic petting, became the landing spot for a few early and awkward walking attempts, and learned to adeptly dodge poorly controlled tricycle, bicycle and scooter trajectories through the house.

1863He handled our transition here with ease.  As an old dog (he was already 10), it could have been hard on him, but he was just happy to be here with us (though he never learned to love public transportation).  He got to go with us more places than he had before, but not as much as we would have liked — he slowed down a lot and his health began to deteriorate after a few years here.  First there was a heart condition, but good medication let him bounce back from that (though it would never go away completely), but then, in his last year, he began to lose the use of his back legs, and the strain began to show on his front legs as well.  Eventually, though he never lost his kindness or patience, we knew he had been trying long enough.

Though we knew we were doing the best thing for him, the end was hard.  Dan and I made the decision, along with our vet, that we had done all we could and that it was time.  We waited for a few days to tell the kids, and I spent much of those days darting into the kitchen or hiding in the bathroom so they wouldn’t see me crying.  I knew it was right.  He was so, so tired.  But my heart was broken.

When it came time to tell the boys, I didn’t know what to say.  I had tried, but failed, to come up with a plan or script to work from.  My brain wouldn’t process or hold on to the words I wanted to use, so I just opened up my mouth and spoke.  I don’t know what I said.  I know that I cried.  And I know that I avoided the euphemisms that can scare kids — “put to sleep”, “going away”, “moving on”.  I know I was clear.  Bailey was going to die.

At first, B tried to come up with alternatives.  Maybe there was another medicine.  We could carry him everywhere.  We could take him to the vet again.  When he finally understood there were no more options, he broke down and sobbed.

And then the boys collected up all of their stuffed animals (starting with the dogs) and surrounded Bailey with them.


1725When Bailey had had enough of that (he was very patient) and wandered away, I heard a terrible scraping sound coming through the apartment.  The boys had gone to get Bailey’s huge, plastic, air travel crate, and were dragging it into the dining room for Bailey.  To protect him.  After coercing him into the crate, they covered it with stuffed animals and got out their foam swords, so they could stand guard over him.

Those moments were very sad, but also very sweet.  B told stories and memories of Bailey.  He commented on how Bailey was “the only person he knew who was never, ever angry”.  (He’s right.)

And then we finished up the emotional turmoil of the day with Liam bonking his head on a drawer knob and needing a trip to the ER.  (Never a dull moment.)


1835We told the boys on a Saturday, and over the next few days many of Bailey’s friends came to see him.  The boys decided that Bailey should have one last birthday party, and so they threw him one, complete with hats.  Though we were always strict with Bailey about his diet (which is why he is one of the only Corgis I’ve ever known who was not fat), in his last few days we relaxed the rules.  On his last evening, I shared a krapfen (like a doughnut) with him.


Though Bailey usually slept in his crate in our room (it was his preference), he spent his last few nights sleeping in with the boys, and on his last night, he slept in front of the boys’ door, all night.


105The last day was surreal.  We all knew what was happening, but I could not entirely accept it.  I spent as much time as I could with him that last day, but it passed by so quickly.

We all went together with him to the vet, and we were all there when he died (we gave the boys the option of being there, and they wanted to be).  It was awful, and it was crushingly sad, but it was peaceful.  The vet was very kind, and she gave us all the time we needed to be with him.

We went home (where I almost immediately got another piece of devastating news) and it was immediately strange that he was gone.  Over the days and weeks that followed, I gradually less often thought I heard or saw him.  Less often jumped up in a panic thinking I’d forgotten to take him out.  (Though, late at night, I still OFTEN think I hear him roll over in his crate.  Make of that what you will.)

Shortly after losing Bailey, I read the phrase, “not all sacred moments are pleasant“.  That pretty much sums it all up.  This experience of saying goodbye to him was not pleasant.  It was heartbreaking and unbelievably sad, but it did feel sacred.  It was important, and heavy, and I think we did right by him.

His things are still where they were.  Dan put his water dish away at one point, to try to tidy up the bathroom, but B asked that we put it back.  A few months later, I heard about a dog that was up for adoption, and was surprised to find myself already excited about the idea of another dog.  Dan was up for it, but the boys said it was too soon for them.  (And I think they were right.)

From time to time, we still get sad.  We miss him, though it is getting easier.  At one point, when B and I were sharing a cry about it, L said, “I’m not sad.  I think about Bailey, and all I think about is loving him, so I’m not sad.”  I’m so glad that he feels that way, and as time goes on, I’m able to feel that way more and more.  It’s amazing to me how quickly my mind is deleting the memories of him near the end — tired, hurting, unable to get around.  I superimpose older memories, of him young, energetic, and enthusiastic onto more recent times.  I have to constantly remind myself of how hard he had it near the end.  But I’m glad that I remember him as happy and vibrant.

He would have been 15 years old today.  I miss him tremendously.  He is probably the best and most loved dog I will ever own.  I told him, before he died, that he had ruined me for all other dogs, and I think that’s probably true.  I do not regret a moment of the time I got to spend with him.  But our time together was too short.

Finally Faschings, more or less correctly

Faschingsfest is one of those things that was entirely new to us when we got here.  If you’re not from this part of the world, you most likely have no idea what Faschingsfest is (I even had one friend who thought, when she read it on my blog, that I was swearing particularly colorfully).  It is the German name for a Carnivale or Mardi Gras celebration.  It’s much more common and widespread here, but significantly less . . . rowdy . . . than a typical American Mardi Gras celebration.  In fact, a lot of the celebration of Faschings is for children.

Since it was new to us when we arrived, it took us a while to “get” it.  I really had no idea what was expected in terms of celebrating Faschings.  I was told that kids dressed up in costumes — that it is a lot like Halloween back at home, but without trick-or-treating, and then everyone ate krapfen.  Yeah . . . it’s not really like that.

I mean, it IS, in that kids DO dress up in costumes.  But Faschings costumes are happy and bright, and not at all scary.  Every Faschings costume I’ve ever seen is also store-bought, and usually directly based on a TV show or popular character.  Butterflies, Spider-Man, pirates and princesses are very big (pirates were very, very popular this year), but ghosts and skeletons are a no go.  Our first year, we had no idea what to do, but B solved that problem by being sick and missing his class party.  Our second year, B dressed as an Ewok, which I thought would be perfect — cute, cuddly, not scary, suitably commercial and store-bought — ta da!  Nope, it was a bit to esoteric for his school.  The fact that no one knew exactly what he was made them look at us very oddly.  The following year, L insisted on wearing B’s old Ewok costume (even though I knew it wouldn’t be quite right) but B dressed as a Brazilian soccer player, which had the advantage of being recognizable and very popular among kids his age, but the detriment of not being very costume-like.  Still, we were getting close.

557I think we got it this year.  B’s school, being an international school, and not an Austrian school, did not celebrate Faschings at all (nor did they celebrate Halloween, which was a bummer), but for his own class celebration, L dressed as a knight, and I think it was just right.  (He also brought a foam sword with him, and though we probably would have been severely chastised for bringing a “weapon” had we been in the US, it was not noteworthy here — when he got too enthusiastic with it, they simply put it away until it was time for him to go home.)

L was a charming and gallant knight for Faschings, and it seems that a good time was had by all.  It’s nice to not feel quite so much like a fish out of water when it comes to these things — it’s only taken us 4 years to catch on!

Missing tooth

B’s first grade teacher is notoriously less than thrilled about wobbly teeth.  Even less so when they actually fall out.  (An unfortunate issue for a first grade teacher to have!)  But, I imagine, that regardless of how much she doesn’t like it, it’s something she probably has to deal with fairly frequently.  We added to the problem when one of B’s front teeth fell out at school one day in February.  It was a surprise to pick up my little guy from school to find him looking significantly different than he had when I dropped him off!

B had already lost his two bottom front teeth last year, and it was vaguely traumatizing for both of us (for him because anytime part of you disconnects from your body, it’s a little weird; for me because how is it really possible that he’s big enough for that already?!?).  But him losing his top front tooth (followed very shortly afterwards by him losing the other one, creating a perfect storm of little boy cuteness which lasted most of the summer) made me again all too aware of how quickly time is rushing past.

And then, there’s the fact that now, just a few short months later, he has two big, grown-up front teeth, and it’s stopped being strange to me that he does.

I love that B is growing up.  I am so happy that he is strong and healthy and getting bigger every day, just as he should.  But it’s all just happening SO FAST.  I can’t believe how quickly my little guy is turning into a big guy.

Once again, to the ball

743This year was our fourth February here, and we got the chance to go to the IAEA ball for the third time (we missed last year because we had no one to watch the boys).  And, of all of our visits, this one was our best so far.  I think we’re finally figuring out how to make it work.  (I think the secret is a combination of good preparation, being there with great friends, and having reasonable expectations — it’s easy to get carried away when you’re going to a BALL at the PALACE.)

First, our favorite babysitter (and neighbor) came over to watch the boys.  She brought games and face paints, and I don’t think the kids were the slightest bit upset that we were going out.  For simplicity’s sake, I wore the same dress as last time, so there were no surprises there.  And so, amid fierce lions and dragons, we got ready to go and headed out to the ball.

774Once there, we knew better what to expect this time, too.  We met up with friends, chatted and relaxed, and danced a bit.  Then we chatted and danced some more, and then explored the palace with some of our friends.  We listened to a few different bands (at least one of which was great), and danced even more.

With good friends, lots of music, and a beautiful palace as a setting, it was a fantastic evening.  (This time with no dress drama or any other complications!)  All in all, it was another great night at the ball!



Monet in Vienna

I have very little aesthetic sense.  I studied Aesthetics as a Philosophy major in college, and I was pretty much terrified the entire time.  My professor once said that my aesthetic sense was only evolved as far as, “me likey; me no likey”.  She was absolutely right.  I enjoy art, but I don’t understand it.  I can’t explain why I like one piece and dislike another one — I just do.  I have no appreciation for technique or sophistication.  And I can’t even begin to differentiate “good” art from “bad” art, nor can I have a reasonable conversation about whether or not that’s even a valid distinction to make.  That being said, there are pieces of art that I enjoy, and artists whose work I admire.  As all art is well beyond my own ability, I can appreciate all of it as an impressive demonstration of a skill I will never have.

Like many of the uncultured art appreciators of the world, my “favorite” artists are the best known.  I like Monet, Van Gogh, Rembrandt and (some) Picasso.  Living in Vienna, and visiting some amazing places that truly appreciate great art (like Rome and Paris), I’ve had the opportunity to see a lot of art that I enjoy, and a lot of art that is relatively famous.  I’m grateful to have had that opportunity, and I’m trying to make a point of seeing more art when I get the chance.  I don’t get the chance all that often.  Between the boys’ school schedule, pickups, drop offs, errands, and everything else in life, I don’t often get to see a lot of art.

But, when the Belvedere hosted a Monet exhibit this past winter, I convinced a friend to join me and we went to see it.

I’ve always loved Monet.  The colors are beautiful, and his art just makes a lot of sense to me (my theory is that because my vision is pretty poor, his art looks how everything looks to me).  I know that his waterlilies are among his most famous paintings, but I’ve always been more enthusiastic about his London paintings (they were some of the first paintings I ever really loved).  We were lucky enough to get to see two of them in person, which was really fantastic.  The exhibit also showed some of his seascapes, and a bit of work by other artists who were inspired by Monet.  I thoroughly enjoyed (most) of it.

I’m still ignorant when it comes to art, but I’m really glad we went to see the exhibit.  (I feel very slightly less uncultured now.)  We finished up our morning with a stroll around the frozen gardens of the Belvedere Palace.  It was a great day, and an enriching experience, regardless of my lack of aesthetic.