Being an American and travelling the world can be tough. As a people, we’re criticised a lot: we appear to believe that jeans and a t-shirt are appropriate for nearly all occasions, we travel abroad without speaking the language, and we make eye contact, smile, greet and make small talk with complete strangers.
There are plenty of things for which Americans can be fairly criticized, but I think these things are misunderstood. People around the world, and Europeans in particular, take our chosen attire as a sign that we’re lazy and completely without fashion consciousness. They think our lack of foriegn language training means that we’re rude and uneducated, and our friendliness to strangers means that we’re superficial and insincere. Although there may be bits of truth to parts of that, I think, as a nation and a culture, we have a cowboy mentality. We’re from a (relatively) young nation, used to pushing the frontier and surviving by our wits. We’re accustomed to making ourselves comfortable in nearly any environment, and we love to explore. We have a spirit of adventure, confidence and enthusiasm that we take out into the world.
Benjamin is a talker. He has vastly surpassed what is expected for a child his age — speaking to him is a lot like speaking to an adult. He’s even been quickly picking up words in German: he’s just the right age, he picks up language easily in general and, frankly, we watch a fair bit of Nick, Jr. in German. But, up until recently, he’s only spoken German when specifically prompted. He has added his first unsolicited word in German, and it is (of course): “Nein!”
For a lot of kids, their first word is “no” (or whatever is the appropriate variant for their native language) but for Benjamin, his first word was “down” and he didn’t really overuse “no” for his first couple of years of speaking. But, “nein” has become one of his most common utterances these days.
It’s fun to see him picking up the language without any particular effort on either of our parts. It’s as though he’s just absorbing it out of the air. And, honestly, hearing your three year old run around the house chanting “nein!” is a lot cuter and less irritating than “no!” (I think it fails to push the same emotional button.) Maybe we’ll get lucky and we’ll pass through the “terrible threes” in German — and I might not even understand enough of what he’s saying to be driven crazy by it.
After 27+ hours in transit, my mom arrived here in Vienna yesterday evening. (Yay!) I went to meet her at the airport, brought her home, she played with Benjamin and Liam (mostly Benjamin, because it was late and Liam fell asleep shortly after she arrived). We let Benjamin stay up late to play with Grandma — he was thrilled.
If all goes well, my mom will arrive here in Vienna in a few hours. I am so excited — this will be the first time I’ve seen her (or anyone in my family, aside from on Skype) since we came here in April. This is the longest I’ve ever been away from my mom (and my family in general).
Her trip kind of came together at the last minute (thanks to a wonderful aunt who helped her get here) so we didn’t know for sure that she was coming until she got on the plane yesterday afternoon.
I can’t wait to see her. I can’t wait to show her our place, my favorite things in Vienna, and to have her share in how wonderful Benjamin and Liam are right now. Especially Liam — she hasn’t seen him for 40% of his life, so he’s basically a completely different creature than he was the last time she saw him. She’s going to get to know him all over again. And, I can’t wait just to talk to her. I’ve missed her so much.
I’m so excited to have her visit! Yay!
I yelled at Benjamin today. Again. I feel awful. Again.
It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen from time to time — I’m stressed out, and one of the kids does something that is, legitimately, frustrating or anger-worthy, and I get upset. But, I get more upset than is warranted by whatever it is that they did.
The thing about the fear of success is that it doesn’t manifest in an obvious way. Very few people sit around and think, “Success? Oh, yeah, I don’t want that! That sounds awful! I’m afraid of it!” That isn’t how it goes — it’s much more insidious than that.
A few years ago (pre-kids) I was talking to a friend about what I wanted in my life that I didn’t have — I struggled to come up with the right word, and finally settled on “magic”. At which point she looked at me like I had, perhaps, lost track of reality. I wasn’t talking about magic like Harry Potter: wands and spells and potions (although, if there really is a Hogwarts out there somewhere, and I get my letter, I’m absolutely going). I didn’t, at the time, really know how to explain what I meant.
I do now. The kind of magic I wanted in my life is exactly what I have now — it’s the kind of magic you get watching your children play with a balloon or look at a ladybug or wake up Christmas morning. It’s the kind of magic that you feel when you do something pretty ordinary and your kids are just amazed by it: making cookies, drawing with chalk, fixing a favorite toy.
I get to have the privilege of discovering the wonder and magic of childhood all over again, by witnessing my children’s experiences. I absolutely love it. And there’s the feeling that I get when I look into their faces or hear them call for me or hold their hands. If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.
As an American, I find it very strange that I’ve learned so much about freedom since moving to Austria. Not in a “freedom of speech/religion/assembly/expression” kind of way, but freedom in the sense of personal liberation. I don’t actually think it was important that I be in Austria to make these discoveries — I think I’ve had to be out of my comfort zone and stressed to a point of actually letting go of unimportant things (which is so very hard to do). I think that could have happened almost anytime and almost anywhere, but for me, it happened to happen here.
I love going to the movies. Before kids, Dan & I went all the time. It was one of my favorite leisure activities — we went for birthdays, anniversaries, with friends, or just because it was too hot to do anything else. Sometimes we’d even stay and see a second movie after the first one ended (and that way, no one has to compromise — you both can see your first choice). Ah, the good old days. There aren’t a lot of things I really feel like I’m missing out on since becoming a parent, but the ease with which we used to go see movies is one of those things that I know we’ve lost for a while.
Today is my thirty-fifth birthday. It’s my first birthday living abroad, it’s my first birthday as a mom of two kids. It’s been a great year (at least in part because I consider both of those major changes to be positive). I’m really grateful to be here — to have this opportunity to live in Austria, to be the mom to two really wonderful kids, and to be alive in general. Life is good.