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I know the photo is a little soft, but it is my favorite of Dane on his birthday this week.  It is just so him.  He finally, at age 7, has his first wiggly tooth and in this photo you can still see the precious baby teeth peeking out. His hair is poking out in his trademark flip, and his hands are still small on the box.  A photo doesn’t need to be perfect to be perfect.

Longtime readers of my Personal Notes know that Dane has had a hard time making friends in our new village.  Tomorrow we are going all out to fix this.  It is our last hurrah. Our last fight for acceptance, and we are going big.  We are going full American!

Dave & I rented a bouncy house, not just a bouncy house but the biggest one our Outdoor Rec department had. The Castle.  We have a piñata, and tons of American candy to stuff it with. I have every flavor of American chip, hot dogs, ribs, corn-on-the-cob and watermelon.  All these things are not very German, and the food is not readily available here.  If this doesn’t work, I’m out of tricks.

Dane has been beyond excited for over two weeks.  I filled out two packets of Birthday Invitations and tucked them in his Schulranze (backpack).  On the second day, he was out of invites.. but that was okay, he just invited them mündlich (verbally).  I think we are expecting the whole village.


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There is sunshine and light and laughter in every one of my days.  Even my dark days.  On the days when life has me down, things are not going my way, when I just need to cry. There are always my kids (and sometimes other peoples kids) and they always manage to put a smile on my face, even when my face does not want to smile.

Sunday was a very dark day.  You know when you answer the phone, and the other person says “hello” and you hear it?  In just that one word, you hear it.  I had that phone call on Sunday.  My mother called me, and I was expecting her call, even the news, and I heard the heartbreak in her voice with just that one word. Hello.

I never said Hello back.  I only asked what was wrong, knowing what was wrong, and she told me her sister had died.  I have been expecting this call.  My Tante Lia has valiantly fought breast cancer for 20 years and her body is done.  She is in hospice, and from what I hear making the most of her last days, so I was expecting this call. It is only after several minutes of crying that I realized it was not Lia, it was her sister Marianna.

Tante Marianne, the strong one, the rock, ever practical, rarely serious, funny, loving and suddenly, inexplicably gone.  I’m crying now.  I cried Sunday.  I didn’t expect it, it blew me away. I actually dropped to my knees and just cried hard and loud with my mom on the phone, thousands of miles away.

Her heart just stopped, the autopsy was yesterday but I don’t know the answer why.  My mom is on a plane, flying from North Carolina to Amsterdam even now.  My sister is flying up later this afternoon from France, with my beautiful niece & nephew.  I will drive up tomorrow with just Dane.  I can’t take all my kids out of school again.

I am dreading Friday.  Then it will be real. It will be a final goodbye to a woman who gave me so much joy, so much laughter, when I was young and later too, when I truly got her dry sense of humor, in a completely different way.  At the same time I am looking forward to seeing my mom, my sister, my Oma, my family.  I just so wish Marianne would be there too.  Really, really there.

Sunday my mom and I didn’t talk much, we just cried.  Over the last couple of days I called her frequently just to check in, to see how see she is, to plan our part for Friday, to cement travel plans.  In the middle of one of our more serious talks, Dane screamed for help.  The ‘Help’ that is like that ‘Hello’.  The Help where I know I needed to move.

I found Dane at the dining room table, panic on his face, both index fingers firmly lodged in a secret, stolen-from-Cole, soda can. Both. Index. Fingers. Why?!?!?!  I briefly panicked too, half-yelled in my mom’s ear (she was still on the phone, it’s a bummer it wasn’t Skype) and she just… laughed.  For the first time in two days, she laughed.  Because this is what kids do: they remind us of life, and happiness and joy.

Dane’s fingers were rescued with a little soap, patience, and minor cuts.  My mom and I had our hearts lightened just a little, and I knew what photo I wanted to share today.  This photo is taken around 1950, it is my mom and most of her siblings (Lia, the youngest, wasn’t born yet).  I can look at their faces and see the trouble & mischief they are going to get into that day.  I know so many of the stories from my mom, my aunts & uncles, and my Oma.  This is how I remember them, even though I only know them as adults, and it makes me smile.


Ton, Hans, Kitty, Annelies (my mother), Marianne & Marjo

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Yesterday was not poor Dane’s day.  All week long he looks forward to Tuesdays.  Soccer day.  The hours between school and soccer practice are almost unbearable, the boy has no concept of time.  Timers, clocks, stickers-on-clocks, nothing works.  He must ask me every 1-to-5 minutes;

“Is it time?”
“Can we go now?”
“How much longer?”  It drives me crazy, and makes me wish for more soccer days in a week.  Thankfully, as spring gets closer, more soccer days will be possible. I’m counting down the days, or would if I knew what day would be The Magic Day that soccer is more than one day a week.

Yesterday we got to soccer with barely a minute a spare, I kicked him out of the car to run into the school and get his sports clothes & shoes while I went to park the van.  I go to open my door and see a very sad little boy standing there staring at me:

“Run, Dane! Run!” I yell, but he keeps standing there looking utterly dejected. I slowly notice he has no turnbeutel (sportbag) in his hands.  No shoes. No shorts.

“Oh no, is the door locked?” and he nodded his head even sadder than before, if that was possible.  Here’s the thing, one of the hardest things for me to adapt to in Germany is the concept of a shoe for every occasion.  I mean this is fine for me, in fact, I strongly encourage this for me.  I loooooooove shoes.  But for a six-year-old growing boy?  It’s an exercise in futility and expense.  Still, we choose to live here, we must adapt.

Dane has a go-to-school shoe.  When he gets to school he changes to hausschuhe (house shoes, or slippers).  He also has rainboots at school for muddy/rainy days or snowboots for snowy days.  He also keeps turnschuhe (or sportshoes) at school for the 3-times a week sports class.  This caused some confusion at the beginning of this year, during the transition from warm & sunny to cold & rainy.  Because on cold & rainy days sport is in the gym, and then you must have indoor sportshoes. Shoes never worn outside and shoes with white soles.  So he had two different pairs of sportshoes at school, just in case. All of this is uber-logical but it really, really hurts the old pocketbook and challenges a mom with multiple kids with ever-growing feet.

Dane’s feet just grew.  He is down to one pair of sportshoes, snowboots, and one pair of hauschuhe.  That’s it.  No extra’s, no spares.  Its almost spring, I will stock up then.  It does mean his school sportshoes are also his after-school soccer shoes and they are kept at school.  We do not have an extra pair at home, or an extra pair only for soccer.  So when that door was locked unexpectedly yesterday, he had no sportshoes and playing soccer in snowboots is not okay.  Yesterday Dane missed out on soccer.  His favorite day of the week.  The day of the week he looks forward to all week.  My heart broke just a little.

Thankfully today is horseback riding day.  His new second favorite day of the week.  I am fervently trying to convince him to ride a pony.  He insists he is an awesome horse rider (he did it once!) and I just need to give him the reins and he will run & run with Carmen.  I am a little nervous about this afternoon and his overconfidence.  I did find out this morning what is wrong with the ponies:

“They are too hairy.”


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