Wordless Wednesday: Homeward bound edition

March 13th, 2013


January 10th, 2013

Not looking for any poetry comments, just sympathy – especially for the Boychen. The horse in this old poem of mine is going to the animal hospital tomorrow, and she won’t be coming home.

Of Apples and Autumn and Small Boys in Love With Horses
       for Boychen

I choke on the calendar like an apple
I tried to get down in one bite when

even the horse knows to break it
open, crush it to a juicy softness

before swallowing. We have brought
her orchards of apples autumn after

autumn. You used to roll them under
the fence, and when you press now

your fingers together and reach out
over the wire, apple balanced in your

outstretched palm like an offering,
I see how you have grown.

I try to count autumns, the apples
that have crossed this fence line.

The horse lips it from your palm,
cracks it open, drools saliva

and apple juice. You pat her muzzle,
she sniffs around for more.

Finding nothing, she returns to the grass.
You walk up the road towards home.

More new beginnings

September 14th, 2012

I should have started with this, of course, after a month-long hiatus: the Boychen started Kindergarten, and SB is in second grade. Second grade. I have a second grader. And a Kindergartener.

I’m curious how Kindergarten will go for Boychen. In some ways, he’s ahead of the game for a Kindergartner. He insists on doing what his brother is doing – when SB’s 7 and 8 year old friends come over to play, there’s Boychen right in the mix not even realizing that he’s small. When SB does his homework, Boychen has to have homework too. I started out by giving him coloring books, or simple “my first get ready for kindergarten” books but Boychen was having none of that. If SB was doing math, then Boychen wanted to do math too and as a result he can do first grade math. If SB had writing practice, then Boychen wanted writing practice too. Yeah, I know. Double-edged sword but you come over here and try telling the Boychen that he can’t do something because he’s too young or too small. No, really. I dare you.

But on the other hand, there are many ways in which Boychen is still clearly four and a half. He’s extremely impatient, and a sore loser (which is really fun when he plays hockey in the garage with his older more experienced brother), and easily frustrated. All pretty normal four and five year old stuff, and exactly the areas Swiss Kindergarten concentrates on. Kindergarten here is all about play and socialization. They don’t learn to read or write or do math. They do art projects, and play, and learn songs and rhymes and have stories read to them. But they are not, not in school. (I’ve written about Swiss Kindergarten and first grade in more detail here.) It’s all about social competence in Kindergarten, and that’s exactly what Boychen needs right about now.

SB started second grade, which means a musical instrument has been thrown into the mix one day a week. SB is playing the recorder (Flöte in German) and on top of school homework he now has to practice the Flöte, too. So far he’s been good about it, though I’ve learned that if we don’t do it right after he finishes his school work there will be a drama when I tell him to do it later. Basically, SB has to do his homework right after lunch before he can go do anything, and I’m drilling it into him now that homework must must MUST be finished before hockey practice. Because hockey practice is only going to get crazier as SB gets older, and I need to drill this rule into him but good.

Hockey. Yes, we’re back in hockey. SB has been in on-ice training since the first week of August and has already had his first games. For that it’s only September, he’s been spending (or is scheduled to spend) a lot of time in the goal. He was goalie for the first tournament – 3 games in one morning – and is scheduled to be in the goal on the 9th and the 16th. TrainerMan clearly has ideas about this kid. And who can blame him, look at my little goalie (in the black jersey in the near goal):

Nice butterfly position, no?

These boys. How they keep growing, finding their way.

Cotton candy

April 27th, 2012

I took the boys to the county fair today, and bought them some cotton candy. Blue cotton candy, big puffy clouds of blue cotton candy. The Boychen ate a tiny bit of his and then decided that he didn’t want anymore and gave it to me. So I ate most of it, one of the pitfalls of having small children and the reason I’m perpetually trying to lose two pounds. It’s also, however, one of the major bonuses of having small children. They give you an excuse to walk around the county fair eating big puffy clouds of blue cotton candy. An excuse to ride the Ferris wheel and pet the dwarf goats and the baby pigs.

They give you a reason to go to the fair at all.


September 17th, 2011

Both boys wake earlier than they do on a weekday. The Small Boy sneaks to the bathroom, I can feel him trying to be quiet, but Boychen knows he is up and calls to his brother. He always wants his brother to be the one to open the door to his room, help him get out of bed. Small Boy goes to get him and they stay in the Boychen’s room, with the door closed, playing – horses, I think, from the sound effects; later, cars. This, then, the sweetness.

* * *

I am making pancakes when they start squabbling with each other in the living room; I let it go, giving them the space and time to figure out how to deescalate things themselves, but it goes in the other direction. Boychen hits the Small Boy, and I give him a two-minute penalty for unnecessary roughness, and Boychen tells me he doesn’t like me. I don’t like you, Mama! I’m sorry to hear that, I say, I still like you. But it stings.

* * *

Five minutes later they are happily putting together a puzzle of the United States. They finish it themselves, then come eat pancakes. Small Boy eats four. My mother used to joke that my brother, the hockey player, had a hollow leg. Yes, it would seem so. Boychen, the child who survives somehow on air and goldfish crackers, eats a respectable two. They drink their milk, ask if they are allowed to watch TV. The yelling, the hit, the penalty: forgotten

* * *

What will they remember from these teeter-totter childhood days? The horses and the puzzle, or the squabble?

Diving and driving

July 27th, 2011

I finally enrolled Small Boy in swim classes last week. We’ve always gone “swimming” – when he was a toddler he splashed around in the baby pool and when the Boychen was old enough to go into the baby pool the Small Boy was happy enough to stay in the little kids’ pool with his brother. Small Boy tolerates water, but I wouldn’t say he takes to it (the Boychen, now, he takes to it – I think swimming will be his thing the way hockey is the Small Boy’s thing), but he’s six and a half now and has already been to his first swimming pool party (the infamous party he left early in order to make hockey training on time) and couldn’t keep up with the other kids, who were jumping off the diving board and going into the pool without water wings. Strictly speaking, Small Boy doesn’t know how to swim – because I never put him in lessons.

Until last Monday, when I enrolled him in a vacation swim course for total beginners (and am very very grateful that there was another boy his age in the group so that he wasn’t the only almost first-grader in a class full of four year olds). He had classes every day for a week and at the end of the week he earned his first level badge, which basically means he jumps off the side of the pool into the water and puts his head under water – he’s still far from swimming. But he did it, and slowly came to enjoy it, and today he was retrieving objects from the bottom of the pool. Okay, it’s only one meter down but this is a pretty big step for a boy who tries to keep his head dry in the shower.

Unfortunately I signed him up for the summer vacation lessons so late that the next level classes are full for the rest of vacation; I’ll have to find something that meets once a week after school. Part of the reason I haven’t gotten him into lessons before now is that I try not to over-schedule him; he’s got hockey twice a week and I think that’s already rather a lot for a six year old boy. There is school, and there are playdates, and there is kid-time: I think there is a great deal to be learned from the throwing of rocks, the burying of mice, and the observing of frog eggs, to say nothing of the pure enjoyment factor, and I don’t want him to spend his days getting shuttled from one lesson to another. (Nor, to be honest, do I want to do that much shuttling.) But there are things besides hockey that he needs to learn, like swimming (he doesn’t need to be great at it but he needs to be competent enough that I can send him to a swim party without worrying) and things that he wants to learn, like tennis (I’m not sure where that came from, but he’s suddenly very interested in tennis), and these things are going to have to fit into the schedule somewhere. All while letting him take an hour to walk home from school, picking up every rock, feather, and flower that captures his imagination.

And the Boychen will have his own interests – he already enjoys the water more than Small Boy and is more comfortable in it, and I want to keep going with that while the enthusiasm is there. He wants to ride a proper bicycle. He likes music and would probably enjoy a music class. He also likes riding in the tractor with Grossvati, and walking in the woods with his Grossmutti, and puttering in the garden – he is a wonderful putterer – and doing anything with the Small Boy and I genuinely believe in not over-scheduling them because yesterday we walked in the woods and we spied a bird’s nest and when I held my camera-phone at just the right angle and took a picture we discovered that there was an egg in there and now there is the daily visiting of the nest to listen for the sound of a hatchling.

And I would hate to not have time for that in our day.

Why cycling is a metaphor for parenting

July 19th, 2011

You teach them a few fundamentals and let go. They head off down the road without you.

Thirteen minutes

June 7th, 2011

That’s how long it took to renew the Boychen’s Swiss passport and Swiss national identity card yesterday. Well, that’s how long we spent in the offices of the Amt für Migration und Personenstand des Kantons Bern Pass- und Identitätskartendienst. I spent some time last week on-line filling out the forms in advance and securing an appointment via email, so that when Boychen and I arrived at the offices for our appointment all they had to do was type a few things into the computer, take his picture, punch holes in his expired documents, and give me the bill, which I then paid at the cashier. Thirteen minutes, spit-spot, in and out.

It takes a good couple of hours to renew the US documents. It’s not possible to make an appointment at the Embassy here in Bern, though I have recently learned from Cosmopolitan Friend that such a thing is possible in US Embassies located in other lands; we just seem to have a crappy system here: first come, first served. It is possible to fill out some forms in advance, but that hardly saves any time – it’s not filling out the forms that takes the time, it’s then waiting to have them looked at. If we could fill out the forms on-line, the way I can for the Swiss documents, then they could also be reviewed prior to my arrival at the Embassy. Imagine that.

Renewing the Boychen’s Swiss documents was lovely. It went so quickly that we had time to pop over to Starbucks for a coffee (me) and heisse Schoggi (him) and still be back before Small Boy finished morning Kindergarten.

Americans living abroad outside of Switzerland, I’m curious: what’s your experience with the US Embassy where you live? If you have minor children, are you allowed to make appointments to get or renew their passports?

Anatomy according to a three-year-old

May 27th, 2011

The Boychen, on explaining to me why it’s not dark inside his stomach: “The light comes in through my eyes, then goes in my head, then goes down the tube where the eaten things go and into my stomach!”