Friday, 26 December 2008

White Christmas

Back to Madison, Wisconsin. It feels as if it was only a few weeks ago that we were here last, but the total changeover of the landscape reminds us that this is not the case. We get another chance to enjoy the legendary extreme climate of the American midwest. On earlier occasion we experienced an extreme heat wave in October, last time we tried tornadoes, spectacular summer storms and flash floods, and this time we are wading through real deep snow - when it is not too cold to venture outside.

Madison is on track to match last year's record 101.4-inch snow accumulation. So far there have been 31 inches this season, and 10.3 of that fell on Friday 19 December, the day we arrived. Luckily, the authorities were well prepared, so there were no major hick ups, although schools had to be closed because of the arctic cold.

The low temperatures only allowed us once to take the kids sledging. It was a moderate success. Tristan did not seem to mind it too much, and may even have enjoyed it - in any case, he had the same laconic expression as last time in the zoo. His twin cousins, however, were much less impressed. But they will get a chance to get used to it, as there is new snow on the way.

Monday, 15 December 2008


Isn’t it unbelievable that it was already a year ago that Ane and I sat there in the hospital and looked at this little creature for the first time? He was totally helpless as he was dragged through the initial health checks - and now, as I write this, he’s crawling around in the sitting room at an astonishing pace, playing with the new toys he got at yesterday’s birthday party.

It is truly amazing how far has come in a year. He can’t quite walk yet, but took his first few independent steps during the party yesterday. Unfortunately I just happened to be out of the room. He can’t speak yet, either (it usually takes a bit longer when one has to master two languages) but his communication skills are excellent. He can express just about everything he wants to by pointing, hitting, biting and uttering various vocal calls. He has also started to attach words to their referents (he can point at a number of objects when we call out their names) but somehow he got the meaning of ‘no’ totally wrong. In other words, he is developing a very definite mind of his own.

In the middle of October he began in day care, which has been a mixed blessing so far. Socially it is definitely a success: Tristan adjusted quickly to the new setting and is happy to be there, apart from a 30-second ritual protest every morning when he gets dropped off. But unfortunately his attendance has been quite erratic, due to a series of various illnesses from the flu to ear infection. Hope his immune system will benefit from these in the long run.

Apart from looking at dogs and feeding birds, Tristan’s main interest is being together with other kids, especially his twin cousins Cecilie and Isabell who are only three weeks younger than him. He is also quite keen on books, although that interest is mostly gastronomical.

With his two extended trips abroad Tristan is already a very experienced traveller. Right now he’s getting ready for his third long journey; in a couple of day’s time we’re off to Wisconsin to celebrate Christmas with Ane’s “American” family. So this blog will go dark for a short while – but before that here are a few pictures from Tristan’s very first birthday party:

There were no fewer than three different types of birthday cakes: the official one by Ane (first picture), a super brunsviger kagemand ('cakeman') by Kristine (second picture), and the famous Hungarian Dobos torta by Orsi.

Of course Tristan took a very active part in the preparations and tasted everything, raw, half-baked and ready.

All in all we were 15 people, so we couldn't fit at one table. Here is the larger of the two tables.

Unfortunately only one of Tristan's three grandma's, Ing-Britt could be present, but she made a good job of trying to substitute for the others. Nevertheless, we were missing Inge and Ilona a lot, not to mention all other friends and family members abroad.

It looks good - but let me TASTE IT!

Orsi and Tristan - and, most important of all, Orsi's camera.

Checking out the presents.

Not only the kids had fun - Meile and Orsi in party mode.

Getting tired of opening all those boxes.

Finally, on behalf of the three of us, thank you to all for the many presents, cards and e-mails. They really made it a very special day.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

In the Zoo

Last Sunday we took Tristan to the local Zoo for the first time. It was an interesting experience for us from the point of view of child development. He got very quiet and contemplative, not showing any overt sign of interest or excitement, though he clearly soaked every impression in.

The thing with small kids is that one can never be sure what catches their attention. This time all the animals were in top form. Anna, the huge orangutan (picture) was doing her bits about a yard from us, the baby chimps were playing like crazy, the penguins were feeding noisily, but the only thing that got Tristan really agitated was a plain domestic cat walking by.

Another example of the same thing is from Saturday, when we went to a toy shop to get some new toys for Tristan. After what to me felt like several hours of careful searching we selected three pieces of the best and most educational pieces ever produced. On the way out, as kind of an afterthought, Ane threw a cheap plastic toy mobile phone into our cart. Well, try and guess which one of the four toys has enjoyed Tristan's undivided attention ever since we got home?

Back to the zoo: we also visited the petting zoo, where Tristan very nearly managed to tear off a baby goat's ear. He does the same to me from time to time (although, strangely, never to Ane) and it is really not much fun for the victim. At least the poor goat didn't wear glasses.

We finished the trip in the cafeteria. Much good can be said about Aalborg Zoo. It was the world's first ecological zoo, the animals have reasonably decent living conditions, their educational displays are first class - but the food is simply appalling. The worst kind of junk, without a trace of anything green and healthy. This did not trouble Tristan, though who really enjoyed eating Ane's French fries with a BIG fork.