I’m getting behind. The pictures from the last few months are full of all the things we’ve been doing, and I don’t have any time to write!
People say that as kids get older, life gets busier, and when Jake and Eli were babies I used to wonder how that would be possible. I think I used to equate being exhausted with being “busy.” Now I see the difference, that we are no longer exhausted, just busy! Maybe the difference is that now we fill our time with things of our own choosing, things we can do together. More like “fun busy.”
We make plans to play with friends and to go out for dinner, and we roam around Vienna seeing everything there is to see. Jake made a video for a class project, and worked on a show for the School News Network.
Eli’s new favorite food is ribs.
Saturday means croissants for breakfast.
There is a huge outdoor mirror in The Museum Quarter, where you can see me dragging Jake up the building.
Jake and Eli both love any excuse to put on their chef hats, so on Sundays we bake cookies and try new things. Eli is adding a drizzle to the gingerbread scones.
This is Jake and Eli, moving the world.
We’ve been in Vienna six months now. Our mornings at the bus stop are frosty and dark, a difference that makes the distance between December and those long days playing on the Danube last summer feel like years. The sun goes down by 4 o’clock, and it’s cold! We’re bundled up in hats and scarves every morning and I wonder why kids don’t feel cold like normal people. Even in temperatures below freezing, half the kids at the school are walking around without jackets. When their friends come for sleepovers I hear about everyone else’s rules, and it’s reassuring to know other mothers feel the same way I do about making them wear sweaters in the cold.
With the cold, however, comes the light.
The short winter days mean that we spend more time indoors, which is easy in Vienna where there are churches and candles everywhere. We’ve taken day trips to places like Graz, Rust, and Bratislava. There are churches and candles there too.
So what should a kid do when he walks into a cathedral that’s 1000 years old and sees soaring stone walls lit by candlelight?
Shadow puppets! Look, the Holy Communion has bunny ears!
Did we mention ice-skating yet?
Or huge donuts the size of a child’s head?
We’ve settled into our Austrian life, which hasn’t been that hard and even feels kind of familiar after the other places we’ve lived. There are unique traditions and an interesting culture, and also some other differences that stand out:
No shopping on Sundays.
Austrians hike with poles and dogs. They take their dogs everywhere, even sledding, and dress them in shoes and sweaters.
They love wine. Sweet, dry, sparkling, rose, gesprizt, young, old, whatever. They just drink it! All the time, in every season, inside and out. Perhaps that’s why they don’t do anything on Sundays.
Austrians are always on time (we are right next to Germany after all), but they also take their time to enjoy things. Unless you’re checking out at the grocery store, in which case there is no taking time or enjoying anything. It’s actually a little stressful!
They make the best pretzel rolls on earth. They even make pretzel roll garlic bread.
There is a lot of sausage. Leberkase is processed sausage, sold at every kiosk and in every grocery deli, and taken by Austrian kids to school for lunch. Baked in a loaf and served on a kaiser role, it’s sort of like a big, square hot dog.
Austrians recycle. They smoke. There’s a lot of Italian food here, made by real Italians, which means pizza and risotto is about as common as schnitzel. The McDonald’s is always packed just like it is everywhere, and you can get fried camembert cheese bites with cranberry relish along with your Big Mac and McNuggets.
The city is full of museums, art, and music. All second-graders are required to take a year of strings at school. When the boys started playing violin this year in third grade, they were considered “behind.”
Austrians appreciate grace and beauty, things intangible and things from the past.
One night each year, all the museums in Vienna are free for The Long Night Of The Museums. This year we dressed up and stayed out until almost midnight to visit museums of History, Science, Freud, and Modern Art. There were rooms full of dinosaurs and meteorites, every kind of rock that exists on earth, and special exhibits for children.
Jake and Eli each had a “passport” and were in good company with all the other kids running around Vienna, tying balloons to their wrists and collecting candy. Austrians don’t always act so fond of children, but things like this make you wonder if we are choosing to only see the bad.
There is good and bad everywhere, sure, but Austria to us is so much more good than bad!
We are busy but we are happy, and we are rolling along on the adventure hoping the busy doesn’t stop.