October 2012


Everett has now entered the activity phase, meaning he is signed up for a variety of classes and activities. He is currently signed up for piano lessons with Mom, soccer class with Mom or Dad, kidnastics with Mom and swimming lessons with Dad. There were a few different motivations for this. One is to expose him to a variety of different things and see what he likes. Another is to help him get into the habit of practicing a skill to become proficient. So far he seems to enjoy all of them. Certainly a big reason is to burn off some extra energy. Often when Chris gets home from work it goes something like this:
“Helloooooo! I’m home!”
“Dada, I want to roughhouse!”
“Can we roughhouse?”
“Can we go upstairs and roughhouse?”
“Can we go up right now?”
“Can you roughhouse me?”
“Can I roughhouse you?”
So usually we will go upstairs for about 15 minutes and have some play time while Mom finishes getting dinner ready. During dinner we will try to persuade Everett to stop talking long enough to take a few bites of food, and by the end of dinner he will start asking questions like “Dada, can we go upstairs and do something that beings with Rrrrrr?”
“You mean read?”
We note that he recently started developing more of an appetite and that he is growing rapidly. After a recent and particularly intense roughhousing session Chris remarked “I feel like I’m training someone who is going to defeat me one day.” Melissa responded “I think you just summarized parenting in a nutshell.”

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Today we saw How to Train Your Dragon at the Bradley Center. The special effects were just incredible. Everett really seemed to enjoy it, even though he has been sick and was having a tough time sitting still during the show, though this was somewhat alleviated by giving him a box of popcorn (which he asked for repeatedly) during the second half. After the show we raced home for a nap, then Everett and Mom were off to Kelly’s birthday party, and finally tonight is trick or treat night in our neighborhood. It was a day packed with fun-filled activities!

Update: As our loyal readers may recall, Everett dressed as Darth Vader for Halloween this year. It turns out that the mask made it pretty difficult for him to see where he was going, judging from the fact that Chris caught him a couple times after he misjudged a few front porch steps. We walked up Kavanaugh and got more candy than a four year old could eat in a month. The entire way he was asking “Can we go to Molly’s house?”, and thankfully she was at her house when we got there. By this time Everett was almost done, so we walked around the corner to the Spice House, then back down Kavanaugh and finally home. Around this time we also watched the Monsters versus Aliens Halloween special, and Everett’s favorite part was when Seth Rogan’s character (some kind of blob) goes trick or treating but forgets what to say after he rings the doorbell and someone opens the door. Instead he stands there for a while in silence and then whispers “Um, what’s happening right now?” It’s pretty hilarious to hear Everett reenact this, especially because of his timing. He seems to be able to sense the right circumstances to whip out relevant movie quotes.

So this blog entry started out talking about dragons and then got off course. Getting back to the subject: Everett’s favorite dragon (we think) is Toothless from the show. And some of his favorite activities involve enactments of knights and kings and stolen rubies and slaying dragons with one of his many swords. We are soon going to sign him up for acting classes to see if he enjoys channeling this energy, and this is a great segue into the next blog entry.

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Hay Ride

Today we went on our annual trip to Jim’s Pumpkin Farm in Germantown for hay rides, pumpkin picking and other Halloween-related adventures. This is our third or fourth time there (we can’t recall if we went last year or not between Friday Harbor and Halloween). We arrived a few minutes after the hay rides started at 10am and there was already a big crowd! We think this was partly attributable to the lousy weather last weekend, when there was so much rain they couldn’t have hay rides because the fields were too muddy for the tractors, but clearly also the entire operation has grown over the last few years. There are now many more activities and attractions including a Corn Lane, a Corn Maze, a miniature maze made of hay bales and an oval track for pedal-tractors. We picked two pumpkins during the hay ride, and Everett hauled them back to the car for us. Next we checked out the scary signs, tombstones and skeletons that are scattered around the property. We also picked out three small pumpkins for Chris’ frontier-wife Melissa to make homemade pie and Kaddo Bourani. It was a beautiful day for the trip.

On the way home we tried another popular local tradition. Generally speaking, the United States has not made a lot of contributions to the culinary world (important note: foods that were “invented” do not count), so we try to pay close attention when we do find a local contribution. In the past we have written about cheese curds, bratwurst and many different foods at the State Fair. We have also written about Friday Fish Fries that probably started exclusively during Lent for the large local Catholic population but are now offered year round. Today we tried hot ham and rolls. These are available from many different locations ranging from doughnut shops to gas stations to delis; we got ours from Fattoni’s on North Ave. Most culinary delights involve a secret recipe, or an exotic preparation method or some kind of unusual ingredient. Not so with hot ham and rolls – their defining characteristic is their simplicity. In fact, the entire recipe could be reproduced in a single sentence. The custom is to pick some up on the way home from church and then eat while watching Sunday afternoon football, which is exactly what we did. Everett ate his plain (which is probably the proper preparation method), while Chris and Melissa added Muenster cheese and estragon senf (tarragon mustard, brought home from Germany) followed by a minute in the toaster to make the cheese warm and bubbly. We ate while the Packers trounced the Rams in St. Louis. It was good, but it’s not what I would call particularly memorable. I’m going to wait for a restaurateur from New York City to discover it and dress it up a bit, similar to what has happened with foods as simple as peanut butter and jelly (but which are still much more complex than this Milwaukee tradition). In the meantime we have a variety of fall-related activities planned: raking leaves, carving pumpkins, roasting pumpkins seeds and preparing for Halloween.

Update: later in the day we carved pumpkins after taking advantage of some pumpkin design apps on the iPad.

Update II: Soon after we posted this blog entry the sandwich shop mentioned above was in a New York Times article about peanut butter and pickle sandwiches (aka the Pregnant Lady). Has anyone tried this?

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Everett has become aware of germs. He doesn’t want to get them, and he doesn’t want to give them to other people by sharing cups or food. This has created some conflicts for him. For example, we have mentioned before how much he loves Dada water (from Chris’ nightstand), but now he has realized that this requires sharing a cup with Dad, so he has started asking what part of the cup Chris drank from in order to put his mouth somewhere else. He has also started using germs as a convenient excuse why he can’t share with his parents. When asked to share something delicious (basically any kind of dessert) he will say “I have the croup!”, referring to the couple of times he has had it in the past, followed by a couple of forced coughs. We have asked him where the concern for germs is coming from and he told us that they are learning about it in school, which is good for us as parents because it reinforces habits like covering his mouth during a cough or sneeze. We remain appropriately skeptical when germs are an excuse why he can’t share chocolate but don’t seem relevant for foods like squash that he has less affinity for.

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When Everett was younger he played alongside other children, as opposed to playing with them. This is a common developmental phase with infants and toddlers. In the last couple years he has developed friendships, and since he started his new school it has been interesting to hear him come home and tell us who his new friends are, as well as how he became friends with them. One of his longest friendships has been with George. They got to know each other originally because both of their Dads work at MCW, then their Moms became friends, and then by coincidence they were at the same preschool together. One sign of their bond (and innocence) is that they still hug each other goodbye. During a recent visit to the playground there were some older boys on the slides who were making it difficult for Everett to get by on his way up the steps. George observed them and then admonished them to stay out of the way of his friend! George has Everett’s back, and the reverse is also true.

During a recent playdate at George’s house there was a lunch incident where a cup of milk spilled on the dining room table and piano (clearly the milk must have been moving at high velocity to reach the piano). This happened during a particularly rowdy meal in which the boys were repeatedly told to settle down and keep their hands to themselves. No adults saw the cup spill, and when Melissa came in the room both boys were quiet and looking down.
“George, did you spill the milk?”
“Everett, did you spill the milk?”
“George, did Everett spill the milk?”
“Everett, did George spill the milk?”
This is the first time that we are aware of when Everett’s allegiance to one of his friends is stronger than his desire to be honest with his parents. Melissa’s reaction was one of both exasperation that the boys made a mess after being disobedient, combined with pride that they had developed such a strong bond. The Moms then discussed the situation and felt that each boy was behaving in a way that suggested he did it. Later when Everett was telling Chris about it he said “One of us spilled the milk.” So this is now a secret between him and George.

Update: Later, the Moms put their heads together and independently confirmed that Everett was the culprit, despite the concerted effort by the boys.

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Traveling Home

We left about 8am for a long day of travel back home. Sadly we did not get to try the guest socks during this trip. Maybe next time.

On our prior three visits to Salzburg we took a train to Munich and flew home from there. This time we found tickets from Salzburg to Frankfurt to Chicago to Milwaukee. The middle flight is about 9 hours long. We are now about 7 hours into the flight and Everett is getting punchy. He hasn’t slept and hasn’t eaten much other than junk food. Still he has been amazingly well behaved so far. We aren’t sure how it’s going to go once we get into Chicago and have to go through customs and then hopefully make our connection to Milwaukee. Chris tried to explain to him the importance of sleeping during the flight, and the fact that when we got to Chicago there would be no place to sit down while we were getting off the plane, going through customs, getting our luggage, going through security and getting to our next flight. Everett replied “Oh, I know where there is a seat!” as he tapped Chris’ shoulder with his finger. The kid is pretty funny, and as a result he probably gets away with even more than he would otherwise.

Update: Everett finally fell asleep about 4 minutes before we landed in Chicago. His body was like a rag doll so Melissa carried him off the plane while Chris carried his rolling frog suitcase. However, he woke up a few minutes later and was able to walk on his own! We walked and walked and walked (someday I will look into how it’s possible to walk so far within an airport after an international flight) and finally arrived at customs. As many of you know, going through US customs is not a welcoming experience for anyone whether you are a US citizen or not. The line at customs appeared to be at least an hour long. As we reached customs Chris had an idea that we are not going to describe here except to say that it’s completely legal and allowed us to get through customs even faster than the flight crew. Otherwise we would have spent a long time in line with an exhausted four year old and would have missed our connecting flight home to Milwaukee.

Reflections from our trip:

During many trips overseas we come back with contraband, aka food and drinks that we can’t get in the US. As time goes on we are able to get more and more of these at home. Beers that we were once only able to get in certain parts of Europe are now available in the grocery store near our house. It’s great, but our list of specialties to bring home is getting shorter. Things that are still on the list are choucroute, cassoulet and certain kinds of chips and peanut snacks. This time we came back with a few Duplo bars and a back of Erdnuß Locken, the classic variety mit frisch gemahlenen Erdnüssen. A final note: the Hacker Schorr Octoberfest Märzen was very good! But we didn’t get a chance to bring any home.

One common experience in our trips to Europe is that both drinking water and bathrooms are difficult to find reliably. The best coping strategy for this seems clear: don’t drink and don’t pee. In an attempt to adopt this approach Chris started traveling with a 200ml water bottle instead of his usual 1L Nalgene. The smaller bottle fit perfectly in the side pocket of his new Royal Robbins travel pants that Melissa bought for him, and this worked ok after a couple days of dehydration headaches in the evenings. The only notable exception to this approach has been in tiny villages in Switzerland where Chris stopped at a tourist office during a bike ride to get his water bottles filled. The woman working there replied that she would be happy to fill them, but that it was the same water coming into the public fountain in front of the building and he could fill his bottles there.

Everett received a steady supply of treats on this trip. Most days we would give him a couple Euros to spend during the day, with which he bought an eraser, a combination fan/lollipop, a trolley car snow globe, etc. While we were at the Hohensalzburg he was building a castle with a Japanese girl. When they were finished the girl’s Mom handed Everett a small gift, which was some kind of stuffed animal keychain. Later we ran into them again in the castle and got a picture of them.

He received small gifts from virtually every Austrian airline employee we were in contact with: a foldable frisbee, a deck of airplane cards, a book. And he received a steady supply of chocolate and cakes from his parents and our hosts. Lastly, Melissa wrapped a bunch of small gifts for him to open during the long flight each way. So he probably associates travel with more treats than usual, but we really doubt this fully explains what a good traveler he is. As a result of this trip I have an even higher opinion of him, if that’s even possible. He is a better traveler than many adults I know. Beyond his ability to travel well, being with him at this age is one of the best experiences of my life. It’s difficult to imagine a better age than this. I want to tell everyone that I feel he is exceptional, but I don’t because it might be perceived as parental bragging.

Since we returned home Everett has adopted some behaviors from Anna, such as lying flat on the floor while doing artwork and doing elaborate dance routines.

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Salzburg Day 4

Thursday night was a little rough. During this visit Everett slept in the same room with us on a special nest on the floor. Around 4am he had a nightmare and couldn’t get back to sleep because he imagined the posts on our bed were wolves that were coming after him. He needed a nightlight, so we turned on the bathroom light and left the door open a crack, but even that didn’t work. Finally he slept in bed with Chris and Melissa slept on his small mattress with her feet hanging off the end, which is yet another example of motherly love. Along the same lines, Chris recently mentioned that he has more patience for Everett than anyone else in the world, past and present included.

Friday morning we got up around 8am, had breakfast and then headed toward Anthering. The Moms dropped off Chris and Everett in a cow pasture about halfway down so that they could hike the Antheringer Schaukelweg to town and meet back up at 11:30 when Anna got out of school. There is a map for this trail, and perhaps because it is a German map Chris had very high expectations for precision and accuracy. However, there were a few key features on the map that were incorrect, so we spent the first hour tromping through the woods to find the trail and the second hour hiking into town. It was fantastic. Along the way we found a frog, a slug, pigs, sheep, cows and the mythical fire salamander. We say that it is mythical because even people who live here have never seen one and our family managed to see two on this trip. Also, Chris tried to photograph it but by the time he got his camera out it had seemingly disappeared, which is also strange because they don’t seem to move quickly. It was black, about eight inches long with a roundish head and yellow spots covering its body.

On Friday afternoon we went into Salzburg for Anna’s violin lesson. The plan was for Melissa, Carrie Everett to walk around the old town and go to a cafe for cake and coffee while Chris had some time to hike around the city. At the last moment Everett decided he wanted to go with Dad, so he and Chris hiked up the Kapuzinerburg to the Kirche. The stations of the cross are portrayed in alcoves on the way up to the church. As is the way in Catholic churches, the depictions are pretty graphic. So Everett naturally started asking who we were looking at, why they killed Jesus and finally for a synopsis of Jesus’ life. It’s the first time we have had this conversation.

We hiked around the church, collected more chestnuts and took the stairs down to the river where we met the Moms and Anna at the Steinterasse rooftop cafe for a much-anticipated piece of sachertorte. Chris couldn’t sit still and not even the promise of cake or beer could keep him so he left and hiked around the east end of the Kapuzinerburg to meet everyone at the car at 5:30pm. We went straight from there to the Gasthaus Mostheuriger in Anthering. This was an act of indulgence for Carrie and Armin who really wanted us to go to a restaurant in Mondsee. However, the guests prevailed for a couple reasons: the restaurant in Mondsee did not serve beer or wine; it was a half hour away, and we were worried about getting the kids home in time for bed. For us the Gasthaus was a great dinner. The Grillteller (Chris’ choice) consisted of meat piled on meat, with more meat hidden underneath the top two layers. Under that was french fries and vegetables. Melissa continued her schnitzel tour of the Salzburg region. Everett had frankfurters and fries. Several other people had mixed plates that were a visual and culinary delight consisting of sliced meats, cheeses and vegetables piled high on round cutting boards. Sophie couldn’t finish hers, and Chris couldn’t stand the thought of throwing away all that delicious food. They don’t generally have boxes or bags to take food home the way we do at home. Instead they brought us a roll of aluminum foil and Chris assembled a mound of meat and cheese that later created a ferocious stink in Carrie’s refrigerator. The rest of the night was spent packing and getting ready for our trip home the next morning.

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Salzburg Day 3

On Thursday morning we drove to Salzburg and parked underneath the Mönchsberg. As we walked outside and felt the sun on our faces Everett announced “I’m chocolate hungry.” So we crossed the street and went to one of Carrie’s favorite chocolate stores for some treats. It’s a very neat shop because of the variety of the variety of chocolate, the conveyor belt that brings by samples in small metal boxes, and the fountain at the front door. Afterward we walked around the city and picked out a new shirt for Everett from our favorite children’s clothing store in the world. Soon after that Carrie went home to meet Anna. The three of us walked to a market and had some meat treats, then to Stiftsbäckerei St. Peter, the oldest bakery in Salzburg (800 years), St. Peter’s church and cemetery (including the tour of the catacombs), and finally we hiked up the hill to the Hohensalzburg Castle. Our tentative plan was to see the castle and then hike across the Mönchsberg to the Augustiner by the time they opened about 3pm. But we spent so much time in town in the morning that this no longer seemed possible. So we decided to go to the castle and then see how the rest of the day worked out. The castle was even bigger inside than it appears from the outside. It feels like you could spend at least half a day exploring it. We managed to see most of it except for the final 30 minute tour to the parapet – everyone was too tired even after a rest stop for beer, milk and sachertorte. We had promised Everett a ride on the funicular so we left the castle and rode back to St. Peter’s, and then strolled through the city and along the river to the Augustiner while Everett collected chestnuts. Our readers may recall that Everett is a collector. On this trip he started collecting the chestnuts that are very plentiful this time of year. He filled his pockets with them, then filled Dad’s pockets and finally started filling bags of them. At the end of the trip we explained to him that it’s not legal to bring them back to the US, so we left them at Carrie’s house.

For dinner at the Augustiner we got two steins of beer and an assortment of meats and snacks. Everett had two wieners with ketchup and what appeared to be a small pile of shredded cheese, but in fact was horseradish. He put a handful of it in his mouth and immediately had a look of concern, followed by alarm. “Get it out of my mouth!” He spit it out and settled down, and then we told him funny stories about the time Dad almost passed out from eating too much wasabi. After dinner we took the bus to the Salzburg Hauptbanhof, and then the train to Anthering where Armin picked us up on his way home from work. When we got on the train Everett and Chris each had a Duplo chocolate bar. Before our first bites we touched them and said cheers. An Austrian man on the train saw this and started talking to us. Once he realized we didn’t understand him he switched to English and said “In Austria we have a saying that happiness is for the parents and the children,” a reference to the Haribo slogan.

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Salzburg Day 2

Wednesday was a work holiday in Germany, which meant that Armin was off, but his girls still had to attend school because they live in Austria. Armin and Carrie stayed at the house while Chris, Melissa and Everett took the minivan and drove to Hellbrunn. It was fantastic. We went on the water tour, the audio tour of the palace, walked through several secret passages in the walls and had a picnic at the playground. The weather was unbelievably nice. We drove there on local streets, an adventure in itself, but returned home on the A10/A1 in the afternoon. With regard to the water tour: the bishop who built Hellbrun had a sense of humor, and put numerous water spouts throughout the grounds that were designed to spray unsuspecting visitors. One set of of spouts are in the middle of the stools  at the outdoor dining table. You can imagine what it might be like to on one of these. Anyway, our tour guide had the same sense of humor despite the fact that many people were wearing nice clothing and had expensive cameras. At one point he asked Chris where he was from, and then asked him to go stand in a certain spot. Chris declined, so he turned his attention to others who were more compliant. Sensibilities aside, the tour was truly impressive, especially the animatronic medieval city scene powered solely by water.

That night we went to the Gasthof Schlößl for dinner. This was a great experience for us! It had a spectacular view of Bavaria and the sunset. The good was also great. Chris couldn’t help but remark how fun it would be to tour the area by bike, especially with places like this to stop, eat and camp (assuming that’s allowed). Toward the end of dinner the kids went outside to manhandle an especially patient cat who lives there.

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Salzburg Day 1

On Tuesday morning I (Chris) had to leave about 5am for a 7:15am flight to Salzburg via Vienna. I was met at the airport by Everett, Melissa and Carrie – it was great to see all of them! We went to a nearby shopping mall for a particular store that Melissa and Carrie wanted to visit, during which Chris and Everett walked around and went to a small cafe for coffee. Chris asked in German if they spoke English and then continued in English. Everett commanded “Dad, speak German!” I would if I could, but I don’t yet know how.

Next we stopped at the butcher in Bergheim, and then went to Carrie’s house for lunch. Chris took a shower, unpacked and got cleaned up. Everett went down for a nap, and while he was sleeping Carried told us we could take the car and go have some time to ourselves, including dinner. He is so adaptable that we didn’t feel too concerned about leaving without telling him, and in any case we could have returned home quickly if necessary. So we went to the Stadler bike shop in Ainring and then to the Globus in Freilassing. It’s a lot of fun for both of us to go to grocery stores in foreign countries to see what is available. Among other things we got some good German beer, meat, cheese and chocolate. Next we went to Laufen for dinner at the Kapuzinerhof. It was a treat! We returned home in time to put Everett to bed (thanks Carried for watching him!). That night we played Qwirkle and then went to sleep.

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