Friday, May 30, 2008

Photo Friday

Dyrehave (Deer Park), originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

And now that I'm finally getting it, it's time to leave

I am a little surprised by how profoundly sad I am at the prospect of leaving Copenhagen. We're going back to a wonderful community near my family in a few weeks, but we're also leaving a wonderful community with people who became our family. Copenhagen and I were finally getting to know each other too. I've figured out how to most economically shop in her stores. I know how to signal with the bus driver to figure out if there is room for the stroller on the bus. I can get anywhere on public transportation with ease and (almost) don't flinch at the prospect of a 18 mile bike ride. I've gotten over seeing 16-year-olds buying beer, people sunbathing in their underwear and children left in their prams to nap on the sidewalk. I've come to have a feel for the rhythms of the city; the church bells that peal out the hours, the scores of religious holidays in a largely secular nation, the harsh darkness of winter and the piercing rays of the summer sun. And I roll my eyes along with the rest of the Danes at the tourist who take pictures of me out with the kids in the Christiania bike.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Oh crap. There is a cartoon character on my blog.

James is at that great age where he is beginning to find his voice. Lots of "ahgoo" and "looo" and something else that I can only describe as talking whale, which is strikingly like the character Dory in Finding Nemo.

"Maaaamaaaa.... Iiiieeeee aaammmmmmmmmm a-waaaaaaK.... feeeeeeeeeed meeeeeeeee???? oooooooohhhhh....... iiiieeee poooooooood......."

Monday, May 26, 2008

Assistens Kirkegård

Early Saturday morning we hopped on the bikes and went off in search of the grave of the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard's one-time fiancée, Regina Olsen. The Danish cemeteries are absolutely beautiful. They are popular public green spaces - we saw a number of people jogging around the gravel paths, walking their dogs, and laying out reading books. They are so full of life that it's hard to remember they are a memorial to the dead. We picked up danishes and coffee on the way, and had a picnic breakfast. And also managed to take our first halfway decent family picture.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Photo Friday Saturday

Regina Olsen, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Regina was Kierkegaard's fiancée at one point in his life until he decided he didn't want to (basically) subject her to a life with him. Kierkegaard wrote The Seducer's Diary to help Regina recover from the affair in hopes that it would prompt her to despise him. Just some more good ol' nineteenth century drama.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

These Choices

This generally tends to be a transitional time of year for our family since we seem to be forever wed to the academic calendar. I've been thinking a lot about choices lately; choosing to support a partner through grad school, choosing to have a child, choosing the hope of future successes doing what you love over short term security, choosing to leave a wonderful job to run off and live in Europe, choosing to have another child and, oh, have him in another country. I've often thought we never seem to do life the easy way but I honestly wouldn't change anything if I had it to do over again (other than leaving for the hospital about 23 minutes earlier).

The Big Fear about coming here to Denmark was that the philosophy job market would fail Michael and we'd be stuck on the exit end of the Fulbright without anything to go home to. Looking for work in academe is a cold, soul-crushing process that defies all other norms in real world job searches. Suffice it to say that it hasn't been an easy year in that respect. But there is a job waiting for us when we go back and it just so happens that we somehow managed to end up one small town over from the city we left last August in a job market were you go where the job is and hope you don't end up in the one place you swore you'd never live.

We have a plane ticket home and a place to go. Our adventure here ends June 10.

Monday, May 19, 2008

First Hair Cut

You may have noticed from some of our Flickr pictures that John finally received his first hair cut. He was pretty much a baldy when we got here, but as of the end of April had developed a head full of pretty blond ringlets. Those pretty blond ringlets generally looked dirty and ratty unless they were within 30 minutes of being shampooed so I finally made the decision to trim them.

I have friends who talked about how hard it was to cut their kid's hair for the first time and how much they cried. But they also tend to be the kind of people who cry over almost all of their children's "first" - first time they rollover, crawl, walk. I remember being sad when John grew out of his newborn onesies and stopped nursing, but other than that I was leading the cheerleading section on all of his other firsts. So I calmly and rationally made this decision to chop off his hair and thought it wouldn't be a problem.

I made the first snip and immediately regretted it. Unfortunately cutting a toddlers hair is like deciding to ride on a roller coaster. It is wild and fast and there is no getting off. I had about 7.8 seconds to complete his first hair cut before he jumped off the chair so there was little time for pausing and tearfully reflecting on John's babyhood as I grabbed fingerfulls of hair and quickly whacked them off. And the rest of the afternoon and evening was spent in a fragile emotional state unbecoming of a woman of my self-perceived maturity and "it's just hair!" good sense. Serves me right.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Probably the Best Beer in Town

As I'm sure you've gathered from the subject of this past week’s Photo Friday, I finally made it out to the Carlsberg Brewery for their tour. Michael isn’t a fan of beer so he volunteered to stay back with the boys while Joel and Robyn, Adam, Joel’s father and I made the trip out to the brewery. The tour is only 50 kr (about $10) and includes a visit to the Guinness Book of World Records largest collection of beer bottles, a history of Carlsberg beer gallery, a walk through the Carlsberg Brewery stables and a two glass sample of various Carlsberg beers. We had to rush a bit through the tour so we could make it to the end before the bar closed at 4:00p, but not before we learned how beer is a part of a well-rounded Danish breakfast, how back in the day Carlsberg workers were given a four liter daily allowance of beer, and Abraham Lincoln quotes can be found everywhere – including Denmark.

Incidentally, Carlsberg beer’s slogan is "Probably the Best Beer in Town" (mentioned forever ago here.) Which to someone with a marketing background sounded like the worst slogan ever. Probably the best beer? I finally figured out that this was more of a tongue-in-cheek jab at Danish culture that really looks down on any one who claims to be better than anyone else. In Danish culture you strive to be normal and non-unique as possible. It explains a lot; the standardized names for children and the modest marketing slogans.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Photo Friday

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Charlottenlund Beach

Somewhere along the way I remember reading a statistic about how much of Denmark is coastal. It was some significant amount - we'll say 60 percent. We currently live less than two miles away from a beach. The thing is I keep forgetting it's there. I'm an inland girl. I was 21 the first time I laid eyes on an ocean. I grew up water skiing on lakes and rivers instead. My parents were never beach people. Or camping people. For that matter they were barely even vacation people other than the trips we'd make to DC which were more about the educational experience than for the purpose of relaxing. When we first got to Copenhagen we took John out to our local beach and then it got cold and dark three days later and we never went back.

We've been having absolutely fantastic weather here in Copenhagen for the past two weeks. Sunny, mid-70s and everything is in bloom. This is largely why you haven't heard much from me this week as we've been trying to live as much as possible outside soaking in the sunshine after the long, dark winter. We finally made it out to a beach again this past weekend with our friends Robyn and Joel. This time we went up to the Charlottenlund Beach north of us. Being a freckle face, just the word "beach" makes me sunburn so I wasn't expecting to do much other than spend the majority of the trip slathering SPF 85 on my kiddies and myself. But the Charlottenlund Beach was primarily grassy park with a number of large shade trees and a beach at the end of it. On one end was the earthen remands of the Charlottenlund Fort and across the street was a lovely Danish cafe. And the grounds of the Charlottenlund Slot to walk through on your way to and from the train station. Lovely. Picturesque. This is a beach my lily white skin and general dislike of sand can get behind.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

The question is which one will be John and which one will be James?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Photo Friday

Three Months, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


He's an old soul this husband of mine. Today his body took another step toward catching up with himself.

Happy birthday. I love you, babe.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Stick'em Up

There are a lot of things I didn't know were controversial until I became a mother. Things like breastfeeding in public, letting your baby cry themselves to sleep and circumcision. Another something that falls in that category is vaccinating your children.

James just had his first round of shots today (they start later in Denmark than in the States) and I've been reading up on the issue a little more lately. The best recent article I've read on the subject that seems to go beyond both extremes in the vaccination debate is The Needle and the Studies Done published recently in Brain, Child. It seemed to give a fair hearing to both sides of the argument and offers a middle ground (complete with the necessary Dr. Sears endorsement).

I've never had a good grasp on why some parents choose not to vaccinate their children but I tended to take a "live and let live" attitude toward the whole thing. Largely because I thought that not vaccinating a child was only risking infection in the nonvaccinated child. But then I was reading in passing about the measles outbreak in the States. Measles is still an active disease that effects 20 million people each year. In this case it was brought in by travelers and picked up by nonvaccinated children who in some cases passed it along to infants who haven't yet had their MMR vaccine. Infants like James.

To me this goes a little beyond live and let live.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

May 4

May 4 is the anniversary of the end of the German occupation of Denmark during World War II. There is a tradition in Denmark where people place candles in their windows on this day to commemorate the end of the Five Dark Years of occupation by showing off that black-out curtains were no longer needed.

If you're looking for a short synopsis of the Danish World War II experience, check out the Newbery Award winning children's book Number the Starsby Lois Lowry. It tells the story of how the Danes were able to save the majority of their Jewish population by smuggling them to Sweden in fishing boats.

I've also always liked the story of the Danish King Christian X who stayed in Denmark during the occupation - unlike the monarchs of other occupied countries - and would ride his horse unarmed through the streets of Copenhagen every morning, a symbol of national solidarity and his ongoing battle to reclaim national sovereignty.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Photo Friday

Rainy Days Suck, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Friends Like These

On Monday I got to tag along with Michael and the rest of his Fulbright colleagues for a tour of the Danish Parliament by a top member of the Danish Social Democratic party and a dinner later that evening. As a former Political Science undergrad, I ate up getting an inside look at the Danish parliamentarian government. And the dinner afterward with a side of great conversation with a collection of Fulbright scholars and American embassy diplomats was a real treat. All of this was made possible by our friends Robyn and Joel who spent a huge chunk of a busy Monday workday playing with, chasing after and changing the many diapers of my two little people.

One thing I've really come to appreciate about expat living is how quickly and how strongly connections between people who sometimes share little besides their nationality develop. People are naturally drawn toward those who are like themselves - single, married, married with kid, married with multiple kids all in middle school, single parent with high school kid who doesn't take school seriously, married parents with kid in college who has troublesome boyfriend, etc. - though we miss out when we segregate ourselves like this.

Within the next 18 months or so it's likely that we'll move into a completely new American community where we have no ties to family or friends. I tend to think it's unlikely that I'll find another working, childless couple who will take time off work to volunteer their babysitting services so a stay-at-home mom can spend time out with her husband and his colleagues. Sadly the thought never crossed my mind when I was in a similar position before we started popping out the kiddies.

Thanks Robyn and Joel!