Friday, November 11, 2011

Kiddo Anecdotes! (And lots of 'em!)

     Happy 11/11/11! Only eleven days into the month and I'm at Post #3--things are looking up this month! I halfheartedly wished at 11:11 this morning, only to be reminded that 11:11 tonight technically doesn't'll be 23:11 at that point. I'm going to wish anyone. Don't tell.

      As promised, this is a wholly child-orientated blog. Nothing whatsoever about dreary visits to concentration camps. I PROMISE.

      Yesterday was the festival day of St. Martin, which is a big holiday in Germany. Who is St. Martin? Good question. I had no idea. Read all about it here, if you're really interested!  Anyway, his feast day has evolved into traditions that spread through most of Europe. Also called Laternenfest, St. Martin's Day is celebrated really only by preschool kids. I've been hearing about this celebration for a couple weeks, but had really no idea what it was for, but last night I got to experience it myself!

      The kids were already at the kindergarten for the day, but around 4:30 the rest of us packed up and got into warm clothes and headed down there to meet them. The kindergarten was of course an utter madhouse. There are six groups with about twenty children in each, and add that to parents and siblings (and au pairs :) ), and that place was packed. The kids were packed into coats and hats and gloves, and then we all set off into the night.

      Where the lantern part of the festival comes from, I don't know, but on St. Martin's, the children all carry beautiful homemade (or in this case, kindergarten-made) lanterns. There were owl lanterns, pumpkins lanterns, ladybug lanterns, hedgehog lanterns, and others. The small children have them attached to electric lights, but the big kids had real candles lit inside theirs. With these lanterns, kids and parents go trooping through the neighborhood and woods and fields nearby, singing the traditional St. Martin's songs.

      This was really my first genuine German traditional holiday. (Unless you count Oktoberfest, which I don't really think I do.) I was utterly enchanted the entire time. Yes, it was about 33 degrees out and terribly foggy and wet, but it was so much fun. The kids with their lanterns singing their songs about St. Martin' much fun!

      After about ten minutes of walking, we came to a clearing where the Vorschulkinder (oldest of the kindergarten kids) performed their St. Martin's play for us.  A firetruck was there to provide the lighting for the play, and the kids all stood in a row and recited their lines. The main story of St. Martin's features the soldier St. Martin on his horse, encountering a poor, freezing beggar. St. Martin is moved by the beggar's plight and cuts his military cloak in half, giving it to the beggar. This is, of course, acted out by the kindergarten teachers (with an echtes Pferd! (a REAL HORSE!)) Kilian said his lines very well and we all cheered madly. Then we all sang a couple St. Martin's song along with the brass quintet playing.
Here's one:

Sankt Martin, Sankt Martin,
Sankt Martin ritt durch Schnee und Wind,
Sein Roß, das trüg ihn fort geschwind.
Sankt Martin ritt mit leichtem Mut,
sein Mantel deckt ihn warm und gut.

Im Schnee saß, im Schnee saß, 
im Schnee, das saß ein armer Mann,
hatt' Kleider nicht, hatt' Lumpen an.
"O helft mir doch in meiner Not,
sonst ist der bittre Frost mein Tod!"

(Saint Martin, Saint Martin,
Saint Martin rode through snow and wind,
His horse carried him very swiftly.
Saint Martin rode with easy bravery
his coat kept him warm and well.

In snow sat, In snow sat,
In snow, there sat a poor man.
Had no clothes, only rags.
"Oh but help mir in my need,
the bitter frost is my death!)

And my favorite one:  (listen here! --> Ich geh' mit meiner Laterne)

Ich geh mit meiner Laterne
und meine Laterne mit mir.
Dort oben leuchten die Sterne
und unten leuchten wir.
Mein licht ist schön, könnt ihr es sehn?
Rabimmel, rabammel, rabum. 

(I walk with my lantern,
and my lantern with me.
There over the stars shine,
and under we shine.
My light is beautiful, can't you see it?
Rabimmel, rabammel, rabum.)

      After the singing, we continued the walk around and ended up back at the kindergarten, where there was a big fire out in the back garden, and were served Sanktmartingänse (St. Martin's geese, goose-shaped cookies!) and Lebkuchen, accompanied by Kinderpunsch and, for the adults, Glühwein.

      A comment about Glühwein: I've been looking forward to this traditional German Christmas drink basically since I've been here. Glühwein is what we'd probably call mulled wine; it's hot wine that's had fruit soaking in it, with cinnamon and cloves and vanilla and other yumminess, and it's the preferable hot drink that accompanies all Christmas functions. And after my first experience with it--NOM. SO GOOD. SO EXCITED FOR THIS ENTIRE CHRISTMAS SEASON.

      So, full and freezing and slightly inebriated, we headed home to put two grumpy, exhausted children to bed, and then Anne and I ate an entire pizza together at the coffee table in the living room. It was a great night.

Our St. Martin's procession!

Kilian with his Laterne 
Kids putting on their St. Martin's play
Cliona being distracted from her exhaustion with a pretzel..
Totally worked. Because I am hilarious.

      Other than that, all's ordinary. So some general kid knowledge, now!

      Kilian occasionally drives me utterly insane, but we've done really well the last couple of weeks. He's suuuuper smart for his age, really. He doesn't read yet (which seems so weird to me, but they don't teach kids to read in Germany until they're six, basically. Clearly they turn out all right in the end, but it still strikes me as odd.) For example, about a month ago, the kids and I were painting with watercolors. They're three and five, so clearly these were not incredible works of art, but kind au pair (and person) that I am, I of course told Kilian how pretty his painting was. My appreciation was greeted by a scathing look and the response, "Did you know, Laura, that parents just say that because they don't want to make their kids angry? Really they don't think it's pretty at all. They are only lying." Ouch. I try to make my compliments very sincere now.

      We're actually able to have conversations, which makes Kilian frequently a lot more entertaining to be around than Cliona. We learned last week all about how whales eat, which was fun. He also likes to teach me stuff, be it wrong or right. For instance, when cars open their doors on the freeway, they burn. I'm not sure where this idea comes from, but he's told me like ten times.

      He's also incredibly sensitive. Some of it is I'm sure the age, but more is just his personality. He hates being told multiple times to do something (what kid doesn't?) He also loathes nicknames--"Buddy" was a cool nickname when it came from Nate, but from me it is totally unacceptable, and I get in massive trouble if I ever use it. He started crying one morning because I told him to "get your coat on, Coughy." (He was coughing. Makes sense.)

      Kilian has a very strong sense of justice. Or so it seems, but I've discovered that the whole kids-want-things-to-be-just deal is more a sense of entitlement than anything else. Kilian will dissolve into furious tears if I do something unacceptable like 
                           --let Cliona sit on my lap before he has a chance to ask
                           --beat him at a game
                           --give Cliona a band-aid and not him
                           --pick him up from school when they're about to start something fun
 ...and et cetera. The immediate response is generally, "Laura, I find that unfair." He also has started to occasionally employ the "I hate you" card, which always breaks my heart a little, but I did score an "I love you" today, so I take that as a great win.  The other day Cliona wouldn't stop howling because she fell on her bike and scraped like a nanometer of skin on her pinkie, so she got a band-aid, and Kilian refused to stop pestering me until he got one too: which he placed smack in the center of his forehead, of course.

      Kilian's best friend, who I've maybe mentioned before, is a little curly blonde cutie named Ben. Kilian STILL cries every time I pick him up from Ben's, and today during football practice they ran around the whole time holding hands. Kilian also started howling when they got put on separate teams. It's super sweet. 

       The other day, he told me, very seriously, I needed to stop saying "Poifect." (You know, perfect, but in Boston. Bwaston. It's a habit.) His reasoning: it isn't a real word so it is stupid and I find it very stupid. My response to this was "Tough!" (Kind of me to omit the -shit, wasn't it?)

Kilian with his "rocketship."
Kilian trying to find something interesting in the Sueddeutsche Magazine.  
Distracted with more age-appropriate activities.
I told him this was for my friends back home, so he kindly put the apple all in his cheek so you could get the full effect.
Playing with his racetrack.

At football practice. He's the greenie. I have no idea what he's doing.

Sometimes the stress of trying to play football gets a bit much for him. He's more of a stand-and-think kind of kid.
Cliona alternates between the bane of my existence and the love of my life. She is the cutest freaking thing. But oh oh oh, how she can scream and holler and carry on! Case in point: in a hurry to get home for her dancing today, we were walking very quickly. It was super cold, so I told Cliona to put on her mittens. She can't do it herself. I attempt to help. She doesn't understand the concept of the thumb going in the hole by itself, and it is super hard to do for her. I hurriedly just told her to put her whole hand in the mitten to keep it warm (she's riding in the pram, afterall; she doesn't NEED her thumb to be in the right place). Mean Laura. She screamed the whole way home.

      She's also having a lot of fun lately testing her limits. Fortunately it isn't just with me, or I'd think I was doing something wrong.  She will occasionally refuse to eat any of her dinner, or sit down, or do anything. She used to be afraid of getting yelled at, but now I think she almost enjoys it. She was kicked out to the stairs for most of our family dinner tonight for refusing to eat. She thought it was hilarious. Little attention whore.

      She really is the most adorable thing though. After she howls and yells, she'll look at me endearingly and croon, "Meine Laura" (my Laura), and pat the seat next to her so I'll come sit. She also screams with excitement every time I come to pick her up from kindergarten. Her third birthday was about a month ago, and I bought her a little cheapy set of plastic jewelry from the toystore: clip-on earrings, bracelet, crown, necklace. She has faithfully worn it nearly every day since, and when she gets home from school she'll insist we go up and get her bracelet to wear. "Du hast's zu mir gegeben!" (You gave it to me!) It's so sweet.

      Cliona speaks English but she definitely prefers German at this point. Her English is decidedly German-flavored as well: "I want not that!" "I love not apples." Her most frequent comment to something is "very silly!" Her word of the week is always entertaining: last week it was "Angst haben" (be afraid of, have angst), and let me tell you, sie hat Angst of everything. The living room, the kitchen, the pasta...This week it's Quatsch! (Very mild expletive along the lines of Baloney! Balderdash! Hogwash! I've been a Quatschkopf a few times.)

      The highest insult in this family is to call someone a Blödmann (kind of like a dumbass, stupidhead, imbecile.) Blödmann Cliona! and Blödmann Kilian! are frequently yelled. I think I'm supposed to be discouraging it. All was okay until Cliona pulled out Blödmann Mommy last week...Anne lectured her angrily, having to turn the other way to laugh every now and then.

      They also call things "baby" a lot. When I tell Kilian to clean things up, he'll say "Okay baby" in a rather rude tone. It's funny? But rather irritating.

      Every time we read a book, the kids pick who they want to be. On every page. I usually get stuck with a dwarf or a frog or a flower. But when it's just me and Cliona, she lets me be the princess with her.

      Cliona is the girliest of all girly-girls. She LOVES pink, LOVES princesses, LOVES everything girly. Today she wore her tutu home from dancing, and one of the men working out front at the neighboring house said,  "Look, there's a princess!" It was the highlight of her day.  

Most terrifying moment of my week was when Cliona and Kilian decided to do some horseplay in the kitchen. I knew as I watched it that I should tell them to go play in the living room, because it was too dangerous to play in there, and even as I thought it, Kilian yanked Cliona's leg and she slammed her head into the handle of the drawer, a huge lump immediately coming up. Like half of her forehead is still blue. We iced it for a while with a frozen stick of butter. Fortunately I have an awesome au pair family who is fully aware that their children are utter klutzes and would never think to blame me. Kilian has been known to ride his bike off of the curb and into cars because he's looking at a Porsche or a passing skateboarder. I felt awful regardless. But she handled it well.

I could honestly go on and on, but you probably get the idea by about now! I'm off to bed. Tomorrow morning I take off to Salzburg for a couple of days, then Thursday morning at the crack of dawn is my flight back to LA for Katie Ascani's wedding! Busy week coming up! 


  1. GREAT kiddie anecdotes! Lots of fun to hear your tales of life with the little ones.

  2. Dad here: St. Martins Day sounds delightful. I have an overwhelming urge to tear off half my coat for a freezing winter stranger.

    I'm thinking I would like your two little charges, despite their foibles.

    I want to carry a colored lantern and drink mulled wine!