Thursday, October 30, 2008

From Grandma Judi


Here is a note written to Caroline by my mother, "Grandma Judi".

Happy Birthday!!!!...and Halloween stories

My most dearest Caroline!!!Happy Birthday!!! Grandpa and I can hardly believe that you are now 8 years old!! It seems like yesterday that we were waiting at the hospital for you to be born. I was in the delivery room with your Mom and Grandpa was in the waiting room talking to your Dad who was in Australia.

Everyone was so happy when you arrived!! And I can tell you that you were the most beautiful baby in the hospital!!! I stayed with you from the moment you were born till they 'made' me leave you. And, without thinking, I gave you your first kiss on the forehead!! You were the sweetest baby...and you have grown into the smartest, sweetest, kindest, little lady that I know.

We are so proud to be your Grandpa and Grandma!!!

We hope you have a nice Halloween birthday party and trick or treating with your friend. I am glad that the Tinker Belle costume we sent you fit perfectly. I did not know that the wings lit up!! I would love to have a photo of you in [it].

Grandpa and I remember when your Mom, Brent and Jonathan were little and we all got dressed up and went trick or treating. You Mom was usually a gypsy, witch or 'punk rocker'. Brent was a skeleton or 'monster'. Jonathan was a pirate or clown. Of course, there were years that they were other things, but that is what we most remember. It was so much fun watching them dress up and go to parties and for candy!

When your Mom was really little, we would walk her and Brent around the neighborhood, holding their little hands. When we moved to different bases (England, Germany and Panama), the kids would go from house to house...still in 'our' neighborhood. The base security police were often standing around on the streets making sure that traffic was going slow and that kids were safe. Almost always, the squadron would have a party and everyone, including adults, would dress up and play games. That was a very fun time for everyone!!

When I was little, I remember Halloween was almost as exciting as Christmas. When I was about your age, my favorite costume was Sleeping Beauty. It came in a box. There was a long blue cloth dress that tied in the back at the neck. It had silver glitter all over the front. And it came with a plastic mask that had a black elastic band around the head to hold it on. I remember trying it on and thinking that I was so beautiful in my costume.

On Halloween night, we kids were very excited for my Dad to come home, we'd eat dinner and then get dressed to go out. Back then, even us 'little' kids would go all over the neighborhood by ourselves and no one thought a thing about it. We lived in the desert in Arizona. We were more concerned about running into a cactus or a snake than we were of 'bad' people.

Anyway, this one year that I remember well, my Dad came home and we sat down to eat dinner. We did not know that my Mom made BEANS that night!! We hated beans!! They were 'brown' beans (pinto?) and I hated them. So did my brother, Kevin and sister, Susan. But, the rule was we had to eat before we could go Trick or Treating. Somehow, Kevin and Susan ate theirs before I did. I just could hardly get them in my mouth! Kevin and Susan got to get dressed in their costumes. I was still sitting at the dinner table. I remember thinking that my Mom was being so mean to me to make me eat BEANS before Trick or Treating!! In looking back on it, I hardly had any beans at all on my plate...but at the time, it seemed like I had a mountain of them to eat. Then my Mom said that I could put some mustard on them. I had never heard of that before. But, anything was better than the taste of beans!! So, I tried a little mustard and it was better! The more I saw Kevin and Susan running around in their costumes, the better the mustard was with the beans! I ended up putting more and more mustard on my beans till all I could taste was mustard. Then it was gross!! By then, it was getting dark and my friend, Toni was going to be coming to get me. Finally, I made myself eat those nasty, mustardy, brown beans...even though I KNEW I was going to vomit!! But, I didn't.

When Toni came to my house, we got Kevin's red wagon and my Mom gave us pillow cases to hold our candy. The four of us went all around the neighborhood. Susan and Kevin sometimes rode in the wagon and Toni and I would pull. Sometimes, Kevin and Susan would walk and we would put the candy-filled pillow cases in the wagon. We would get LOTS of candy!...and sometimes, we would get a nickel or some pennies!! That was exciting!! Sometimes, old folks would invite us into their homes for hot apple cider and home-baked decorated sugar cookies. You sure can't do that anymore!!!

When we got home, my Dad would go thru all the candy we brought home and make sure that it all looked ok. If he found a piece that he thought we wouldn't like or that looked like it was 'bad', he would eat it for us so we wouldn't get sick from it!!

We loved Halloween when we were little. It was a fun time to be whoever we wanted to be for that one night a year. Our costumes could make us beautiful, scary or funny. And, we would have candy to last us a very long time!!

Caroline, I hope you have your own wonderful memories of Halloween this year. Your Halloween will be much different from mine or your Mom's. But, be sure you keep your own memories cause your's will be different from your own children's...and they will want to hear your stories of how it was in the 'old days'!!

Again, a most happy birthday! We love you so much!

Caroline (in her new Chinese pyjamas) and Calvin, carving the pumpkins together.


Happy Birthday, Beautiful Soul!

It's your 8th birthday today, Caroline, and we are celebrating!

I know I speak for more than myself when I say how grateful I am that you were born, that you are here with us today and that I get to be a part of your precious life. When you were born...when they handed your slimy kicking little body to me and you screamed in my face with the strength of a fog horn, I was yours. Right then, you simply ripped my heart out of my chest and made it your plaything, and I didn't care. I loved you that much, even though I'd only known you mere moments.

It hasn't changed today. I'm still yours, and today I find myself reminiscing about the years in between that first day and today. I marvel at how you've grown physically, of course, but the main wonder is how your soul has got so big and how it fits in such a tiny little package. You have one of the best hearts I've ever had the privilege of being near. Your compassion for those around you is unbounded. You have genuine concern for people. One prime example is that homeless guy we saw outside the walls of the Vatican. He had a huge tumor growing on the top of his head and he was crippled and sitting on the sidewalk, not even able to actively beg, but just staring. You had a bag of snacks you were about to eat yourself, but you insisted on giving him both those and the change you had in your pocket. And you didn't just let it go at that---you still ask and talk about him even today, over a year later. "Mommy, do you think that man at the Vatican is ok now? Do you think someone gave him a place to live?" Most people would have given him nothing and pretended not to see him, and those who did condescend to help would have forgotten him right away afterwards. Not you. And he's not the only one, either---just an example.

Caring for our world is also forefront in your mind---you have started protests at school about the trees being cut down behind your playground, and you have been very enthusiastic about recycling here at home. You are very aware of what is going on around you and you are concerned. This, to me, speaks volumes about the kind of person you are. Aren't 8 year olds supposed to be concerned with video games, Hannah Montana and Tamagatchi? Perhaps so, but then you don't care much for the restraints of "supposed to". Your curiosity is just on fire. You are never satisfied with "Because." or "That's the way it's always been done." You want logic and reasons. You want solutions and results. You question everything, and that is something I will never discourage, even if it means being questioned myself. Respect for authority is necessary sometimes, but some of us were raised with an unhealthy amount of it and we never thought to question the way things were. I vow to never do that to you, because I'm proud of your inner fire. It's what makes you YOU and I never want to see it die.

And, lest you begin to think you're perfect, let's keep this truthful and remind you that along with a free spirit and active mind comes a sharp wit--translated into an attitude problem. You are very smart, and yes, you are very quick, but as of yet you haven't learned when to curb your tongue and when not to. That attitude that usually comes with teenage-hood instead came to you at four. You are excellent at sarcasm and you don't miss or forget a detail. There is no getting by you or attempting to put you off--you know exactly what's going on and you feel absolutely free to say when you don't like it. This all can be a very good thing if channeled properly, but channeling is not going to be easy and I know my work is cut out for me. I'll try to teach you when to soften your response a bit and when it's ok to let it be as sharp as you like, but learning and teaching such a subtle skill is never easy. Indeed, more adults than not have never mastered that, methinks. Perhaps I'll leave that lesson to your dad, the master. Your dad? He's one of those people who can be right up front about telling a person they're wrong, but make them happy to hear it AND make them wholeheartedly agree with him at the same time. The man never ceases to amaze me with his lion-taming skills. Yep, I think I'll leave it up to him to polish you. ;o)

In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy you for your good-heart, your delicious imagination, your active brains and your biting humor. You are an amazing person, and I am so glad you were born. Happy Birthday, my beautiful daughter. I love you.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Kontanz and Klaus

So yesterday we went to Lake Constance, several hours south of here. You know, just to putter around, see what was there and enjoy the nice weather that wasn't.

Despite the gloom though, we had a great time. I was pleased to see some appreciation for some of the most underappreciated and most villainized women that ever lived: the courtesans. In this town, they not only appreciate the important past that the courtesans share with the city, but they revered them by erecting this large statue....

...which looks out over the lake and celebrates the courtesan. It spells out pretty clearly exactly the kind of power she held, as not only the epitomy of physical pleasure, but also as a respected advisor to the influential. Courtesans were known to be the most highly educated women in the world and at a time when "ladies" weren't allowed to go to school or learn to read anything beyond what they must for the running of the household. This was a great honor (albeit an honor long overdue) and most did not take it for granted.

In this statue, the courtesan holds a pope in her hands as well as a king. I guess there's no mistaking the message.

Other various views of Kostanz (Constance):

All in all it was a great trip. Too short, but at least next time we'll know to make more room for exploration. Apparently they have a great fishmarket. That'll be on the list for sure.

In other news, our litle sprout was really on the ball this week, and last night, unsolicited, she handed us her Christmas list (!!) and asked us to mail it to Santa. Here it is, copied exactly:

Dear Santa Claus,

I do want alot this year. Here is what I wish for this year.

1. a DS (Or Nintendo DS) with games.

2. A Happy Family.

3. stuffed animal My Little Pony that walks and talks.

4. A real Puppy

5. A baby doll stroller and crib

6. Robots and a Robot tech dragonfly.

7. Puppy Pals.

And that's all!!!

P.S. You do not have to send all of this. Just the happy family.

And it's followed by her own rendering of an elf in a stripey hat.

Well, I got news for ya! That happy family part? NO WAY. I'm happy to say we'll continue to lock you in the basement and feed you bugs and brackish water. With an occasional orange so you don't get scurvy, because I'm caring like that.

I don't know what Puppy Pals are. Guess I've got my homework cut out for me, huh?


Monday, October 6, 2008

Pumpkins, Alarm Clocks, and Smurf Explosion

Our Pumpkinhead does not like mornings. At all.
Nor does she make any effort to hide the fact. Mornings are always a struggle here, as both she and Calvin find waking up akin to swallowing raw liver.

A few mornings ago:

"Carolinebabygirl, good morning! It's time to get up and get moving!"

... from under the covers, without even a pause...

"I'd rather grow hair all over my body."

Sometimes though, she's just too incoherent to say anything of sense. One morning when I went to wake her up, she sort of sat up, blinked a few times, looked at me with squinty eyes and said:

"It's just as I suspected!"

"What? What's just as you suspected?"

"It's as I suspected" she said again, "You DO have real feathers!" which point she fell unceremoniously back onto her pillow and began snoring.

Once she's up though, she's great, whereas I feel I need a nap after only being up for 3 hours.

Caroline observing all the sights at the anual Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Fest.

This is what happens when I say "Yes" to a Smurfberry Gelato after school.