Our only snow of the winter

20140311-133902.jpgIt isn’t impossible that we will still get a big snow storm (we got snow in May last year, and frankly, if posting this jinxes us, I’d welcome it).  But the birds are singing, the crocuses and paper whites have bloomed, and it’s light out when we wake up and when Dan gets home from work.  Spring has unofficially come early to Vienna, and winter never really brought us snow this year.

We had a two small snows of 1-2 inches or less, and many days with snow showers or flurries.  But the kids never got to go sledding, and the “Dachlawine!” signs never had to come out for the melting.  We had, as always, plenty of cold and lots of gray skies, but, disappointingly, very little snow.

20140311-133926.jpgThe only snow my boys really got to enjoy this year was a big snow we got in the US when we were home for Christmas (which inconveniently came the night before we were supposed to leave and resulted in an 8+ hour delay for our return flight home).  At the time, I debated whether to let the boys go out and play in the snow — I was worried by how much laundry and packing of wet clothes I would be required to do afterwards.  But I’m so glad I allowed the more fun part of my mind to rule.  I’m so glad that they got two days of digging and playing in the snow, of snow angels and of shoveling the walk “to help the neighbors”.  I’m glad they got to catch snowflakes on their tongues and toss snowballs at each other (and at us).  If it was to be their only opportunity to play and enjoy the snow this winter, I am so very grateful that I didn’t allow worries over damp socks and soggy hats get in the way.



For many years, we had the habit of foregoing the Christmas tree lot and heading out to rural Maryland to select and cut down our Christmas tree.  The habit started with my dad, who almost always gets his trees this way (you certainly can’t beat the freshness, but the hour or so home with the tree tied to the top of my little car — part of it on major highways — was always a bit of a harrowing adventure).

Benjamin PicturesI think the last year we did it was Benjamin’s first Christmas.  That particular year, instead of taking cute pictures of our little baby in front of his first Christmas tree at the tree farm, we ended up with a screaming, miserable wind-blown baby with whom I retreated to the cold car where then proceeded to accidentally bang his head on the car door (which wasn’t the fault of the location) and we spent a miserable hour waiting for Dan to choose and retrieve a tree on his own.  (Note, the tree in the picture is not “our” tree.  We posed this picture at the end so we would have something to show for our efforts . . . other than just the tree.)  That corrected my romantic notions about tree-felling with tiny children, and afterwards, while still in the States, we relied on the local tree lots for our trees.

I still really like the idea of cutting down our own tree, though, and, had we stayed in the US, it would only have been a matter of a few years until we had most likely returned to our yearly familial trek to the countryside for a tree.

In Vienna, though, that hasn’t been an option for us.  Without a car, finding a place to get a tree and (more importantly) getting it home would have required entirely too much 032effort.  (Although I did recently see someone transport their tree by city bus, and there was a lady who checked in a tree as luggage at the airport, so maybe I just didn’t think hard enough about a solution.)  So, since we’ve been in Vienna, we’ve satisfied ourselves with the super-convenient tree lot across the street from our apartment building.

This year, since we spent the holidays in Maryland, we didn’t get a tree for our apartment in Vienna at all.  It was strange not to have one.  Decorating, and then enjoying, a festive tree is one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season, and I don’t follow the Austrian tradition of getting one at the last minute.  I always want to have as much time photo34as possible to enjoy it before (and after) the holidays.  But I couldn’t think of a way to really make it practical to have one this year, since we were gone for 2 weeks, and Christmas trees aren’t even available here until mid-December.  So we didn’t get one of our own.

With our trip home this year including an arrival shortly before Christmas (late on Dec. 20), my mom had already gotten and beautifully decorated her tree.  It was like magic for the boys when they saw it (I get my high standards for tree decorating from my mom, but she’s had more practice).  They absolutely loved it — especially because it was their job to put the finishing touches on.  I think *not* having one ourselves this year 058made it even more special to arrive at Grandma’s and to have one so beautiful to enjoy.

The boys really got the best of both worlds this year, though, because the day after our arrival we headed out to cut down a tree with my dad.  Although Benjamin had technically been on such an adventure before, he had no memory of it, and Liam had never been.  We were so fortunate to have amazing (if not very Christmassy) weather for it — we didn’t even need our coats!

It was so much fun to watch the boys rush off to find and inspect trees.  Liam nominated the very first one that we saw.  They chose big ones and small ones, of several different 060types.  (They had a strong preference for “soft” ones that they could touch or hug without getting hurt.)  After a bit of dashing about, nominating trees, and befriending a little boy they met (they were simply FASCINATED that he could speak English!), with Grandpa’s, Sam’s, Margie’s and Adam’s help, we finally chose “the tree” for Grandpa’s house this year.  The kids were thrilled.

And then, to top it off, Benjamin actually got to get down on the ground and help Grandpa with the saw.  He cut down his very first tree!  And then, he was so proud that he pretty much pushed Uncle Adam aside when it was time to carry the tree back to the cashier.  Both 062boys were so proud to be able to help.

And so, the boys got to play lumberjack, and they got to take part in a piece of Christmas tradition I’d been wanting them to experience.  I suspect that in the years to come, whatever we decide to do in terms of acquiring our own tree, going and hunting down a tree with Grandpa is doing to remain high on their list of favorite Christmas traditions.  (I don’t think that true December weather will even dampen their enthusiasm at all!)



A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tomorrow we’re off to the States for two weeks to spend the holiday with family (and hopefully some friends, too, if the schedule allows).  I am beyond excited to see my family tomorrow — some of whom I haven’t seen in almost a year and a half.

My plan is to take a break from writing, from the Internet, from posting pictures until we return to Austria in the new year.  So I’ll say Merry Christmas now, and wish everyone a beautiful season full of wonder and a new year of hope and excitement.

See you in 2014 for more adventures!