Mina is here!

20130221-150201.jpgMina is here!

First thing this morning, before the boys were even up, I left the house and went to the airport to pick up Mina. She’s arrived! She’s here! She had a safe trans-Atlantic journey and now she’s here with us again in Vienna.

I am so happy to see her.  I am thrilled to have her here and to get to talk to her in person. It’s wonderful!

20130221-150325.jpgAnd the kids are so excited to be with her, too. Liam ran up, shouting, “Mina!” when she arrived, and Benjamin pretty much skipped the whole way home from school and made up a song in the elevator on the way upstairs because he was so excited.

Yay!!!!! Mina is here! We are so glad!

Accepting what is

One of the many things I’m working on in my life right now is accepting what is, instead of agonizing, worrying and stressing about why it isn’t something else or how to get it to be something else.  There are certainly times to work on changing things, but before I can act towards something I want, I need to truly understand and accept where I currently AM, regardless of whether or not I like it.

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Lost in Vienna

For most of the week that they’ve been here, Pam & Joshua have been treated, primarily, to a show of the Calle family collective stomach illness.  (Fun.)  Then, today, Pam decided to join us in the fun.  They fly home tomorrow.  I suspect they will be happier to see the jetway at the airport than they expected to be.  Continue reading

Riding the rails

Today was Pam & Joshua’s fifth day in Vienna.  Their trip has, unfortunately, been interrupted frequently by various members of our family getting ill.  Even though Liam is still sick (our pediatrician made a house call today to see him) and Dan & I are still not yet quite well (but we didn’t require house calls today), I decided to help poor Pam and Joshua beat cabin fever today, so Benjamin and I took them out.

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My favorite thing

My wonderful friend Pam arrived in Vienna today, along with her 4 year old son, Joshua.  I am so excited to see them — it’s almost surreal to have them visit us here.  We’ve had a lovely day so far of catching up and talking — she’s telling me what’s been going on at home, I’ve been sharing what it’s like to live in Vienna.  At one point, she asked me, “What’s your favorite thing about Vienna?”

An ironic question, but I gave it some thought.  At first, I thought of the Christmas markets, and then I mentioned that I love how safe it is here.  But I kept thinking about it, and realized that my absolute favorite thing about living in Vienna is the lifestyle.

I love that it’s not just accepted, but expected, that people will put time with their family ahead of their work.  The profession you practice doesn’t define you here — people have as their priority their leisure and family time, and they fit work into that, rather than the reverse.  The culture focuses on time spent together, rather than on the activity.  Life happens at a slower, less hurried pace, and people stop to help each other when they need it — it’s almost a social obligation.

This is exactly what I needed to witness in my life.  I needed to be exposed to a different way of doing things, to see how well it can work to focus first on what is truly most important.  I’m learning to adopt some of these lessons in my own life (at least, I hope I am) and I’m really grateful for it.  That’s my favorite thing about Vienna . . . so far.

Gute Reise, Grandma

My mom left today to go back home.  I miss her already.  And, I’m a worrier, so I won’t really feel relaxed until she gets home tomorrow.

I really, really, really liked having her here and wish she was still here.  I love watching her with my kids — playing with Benjamin and getting to know Liam.  I love her company.  It is so great to be able to talk to her all day, about big and small things.  I feel like we did too many chores, too much cleaning, and not enough talking, playing and sightseeing — it’s a lesson learned for next time.  She was a great help, and a great comfort to me.  I wish she could have been here twice as long . . . or more.

In the past, we’ve sometimes had trouble getting along after a few days staying together (this has been true since I was a teenager, and although we’ve had greater degrees of success with it as the years have gone on, I thought it would always be at least a little true).  We love each other, but get on each other’s nerves after a while.  We didn’t have that problem this time.  Maybe we’ve both just grown as people and gotten past some of our issues, but I don’t really think that’s it.  I know, for myself, I was so happy to have her here, so grateful for each day, that I didn’t want to waste my energy on being irritable or particular or exasperated — I just wanted to be with my mom.

I am really grateful to have this perspective now — I feel like it’s another important lesson I’ve learned by being on this adventure.  Those little things just aren’t important compared with the time we have to spend together.  I’m so glad she was here.  I can’t wait to see her again.

Perfect moments

010Every so often, I’m fortunate enough to have a moment where the people, the place, the circumstances all come together in just the right way.  I try to hold on to the way these feel — it’s my goal to live my life such that I experience them more and more.  (I don’t know if it’s “reality” or my perspective, but I do feel like I’m having them more often.)  Today was a great day — I had more than one of these.

This morning, I went to the “big park” with my mom and the boys.  We watched B play on the trampoline, took the train ride around the park, played at the playground and watched B ride on a variety of large mechanical animals.  We had a wonderful time.  The boys enjoyed themselves so much, the weather was lovely and I could not have asked for better company.  At one point, my mom and I, together, were 015pushing both boys together on the swings.  Benjamin had waited while another girl had her turn because he really wanted to swing with Liam.  Liam just laughed and laughed on the swings.  And, I got to be there with my mom.  The sun was shining, there was a nice breeze — I just wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Shortly after that, Benjamin was riding on a large mechanical polar bear with his Grandma walking alongside.  I was holding a fussy Liam and I sought refuge from the mid-day sun under the umbrella of an unused mechanical dinosaur.  (There’s a sentence I never could have guessed I’d write.)  While watching B and Grandma enjoy steering the polar bear around the park, Liam curled up in my arms and dozed off.  Pure happiness.


055After a morning of fun at the park, we headed home and got on with our afternoon.  Then, this evening, Dan & I went out to a movie, just the two of us.  It was really nice to be out, as a couple, and we enjoyed our time.  Coming home, it was raining and chilly.  We walked cozily together under the umbrella and talked about the movie.  Vienna is so beautiful, and the rain and the mist and the evening light, along with the company of my husband, combined to make another perfect moment.

Then, I got to come home, snuggle my kids, and visit with my mom for one last evening before she heads home.  It was a good day.


Adventure at the Belvedere


We went out and had a lovely dinner this evening in honor of Dan’s birthday at his favorite Viennese restaurant.  (Turns out it’s also now my mom’s favorite restaurant in Vienna so far.)  Good food and good company.

037Afterwards, we decided to go (literally) next door to walk around the grounds of the Belvedere Palace for a few minutes before it closed.  It was a beautiful evening.  There’s something about summer evenings at dusk — the warm, moist air, with just a hint of the coolness of the coming fall — it really gets to me.  There’s something . . . exciting, expectant, about it.  Tonight was one of those evenings.  The moon was up, the sun had set, but it wasn’t quite dark yet.  We walked around a bit, showed my mom the gardens and the fountains, let Benjamin run around a bit, and then started to head out.

On our way in, we had noticed that we only had about 15 minutes until the posted closing time of 9:00.  We’d been in longer than 15 minutes, although not by a whole lot.  As we finished our mildly long walk back to the gate, though, we noticed that the gate up ahead looked like it might be closed, and we watched the couple who had been walking ahead of us to see if they were able to exit.  They weren’t.  (Another example of Austrian thinking — I could just imagine the groundskeeper saying, “Well, what did you expect?  The sign said 9:00!”)

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Luckily, we’ve been to the Belvedere twice before and knew there was another gate . . . on the entirely opposite end of the grounds.  We encountered a man (who may actually have been the groundskeeper — not sure, but he had a bike and more information than we did) who told us the other gate was the only way out.  So, we set off.


It was a lovely walk on a lovely night in a lovely place.  It was truly dark now, and I was glad we were in such a safe place (as Vienna is).  But we enjoyed a pleasant evening walk together.  It was a little longer than we’d intended to be out (we asked Benjamin if he was having fun, and he told us “no”, and Liam got fed up with the stroller and needed to be carried most of the way) and uphill, but really, very nice.  We made it out of the far away gate, eventually found the right bus, then the right tram, and made it home.

It was a long evening, with an unexpected, but beautiful, adventure.  Neither of the boys got a bath before bed.  We are all tired.  But, it was certainly an adventure, and not one we could have had anywhere else.

Enjoying Sachertorte

After a relatively quiet day and a disastrous encounter between a glass Snapple bottle and our kitchen floor, we decided we had spent enough time in our kitchen and opted to eat dinner out.  We went to one of our favorite restaurants, which is in the next building over from ours and has a nice outside patio area, and enjoyed a lovely meal.

At the end, I decided to splurge on a dessert I’ve been eyeing for about a month and my mom wanted to try Austrian apple strudel.  Benjamin asked if they had chocolate cake — repeatedly.  He asked me, he asked my mom, he asked the waitress twice (although she didn’t hear him either time, but he was so very cute trying to ask).  When we looked at the menu, we saw that they did indeed have chocolate cake — Sachertorte, which is a famous Viennese treat.  We tried to get him to order it himself, but when the moment was upon him, he smiled and batted his eyelashes at the waitress and we ordered for him.  (Dan, who is on his strict, self-imposed diet, didn’t order anything.)

047Our desserts arrived, all lovely and delicious looking.  Benjamin’s was the most impressive — a slab of dark chocolate cake and a pile of whipped cream.  He took one look at it, picked up the cake in both hands, and started eating.  I tried to get him to use a fork, but gave up once he was about a third of the way through it.  Once I got over being mortified, it was really fun to watch him eat.  He was so enthusiastic about it — he paused only to take bites of the other desserts or to take the time to dunk his entire piece of cake into the whipped cream.  Even though he was obviously loving his chocolate cake, he shared with all of us — even Liam had a little whipped cream.

Benjamin is fully enjoying the experience of being in Vienna.  I am fully enjoying his experience.

Dance Party Osterreich

019On a whim this afternoon, my mom and I packed the boys into the double stroller and set out for a walk with no particular destination in mind.  We got a couple of eiskaffees and started walking down the Ringstrasse to look at some of Vienna’s sights:  the Rathaus, Parliament, the Volksgarten, the Hofburg.  We came upon a place I’d seen before but not visited:  the Burggarten behind the Hofburg.  Dan joined us there when he got off of work.

It was lovely, as most of the gardens in Vienna are, if a little less . . . orderly.  I have not yet seen a place where so many people disregard the “keep off the grass” signs.  But, it was beautiful, verdant and very popular.  Benjamin made friends with a little girl his own age by a fountain — they played chase and flirted until she ran off for an older, badder boy.  (He seems to have gotten over it.)  We really enjoyed it, and it was fun to make another discovery of a nice place to walk and enjoy Vienna.

033Then, on our way out, we joined into an impromptu swing dance party.  Right behind the Hofburg, at the base of the stone steps, on the wide marble walkway, people were dancing enthusiastic, American style triple swing and Lindy Hop.  Dan and I joined in, and Benjamin quickly added himself to the mix.  We all took turns — Liam and my mom danced, too.  It was great to dance again — it’s been a while.  We danced ourselves to exhaustion — even Benjamin just wanted to watch by the end.  And then, when we were done, Dan got up the courage to talk to the assembled dancers and ask whether they get together often (they apparently do, and we got their information).

We had a great day.  I am worn out.  Now I remember why I was in such great shape when I was dancing.