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January 27, 2012

Did I Say Big?

If I ever said before that Milo was becoming a big boy I was lying. Because he is a big boy now! I mean, look at this kid. He is not even 18 months old and totally keeping up with all his older buddies. He is running, climbing, jumping, doing forward rolls, singing, dancing, and talking non stop. While I am writing this I absolutely realize that it is pointless describing all of these cool things when I could just post some self-explanatory videos instead.

Unfortunately it isn’t quite that easy, cause that kid has a serious iPhone addiction and as soon as you pull the phone out to shoot a video Milo just drops whatever he is doing and there is no way captioning anything but a kid running towards the camera with both arms reaching for the magical device. Of course it is our fault that this mini person has the iPhone completely figured out by 17.5 months of age. It’s the curse of the clever telephone. Instead of reading a newspaper, we read the news on it. Instead of calling up friends at unsuitable times, we just post something on Facebook. Instead of getting a book at the library for advice, we google the heck out of the phone. So there we are – a really bad role model for Milo showing him that phones are the most desirable toy in the world.

Anyway, we still limit Milo’s phone usage to half an hour of videos and half an hour of games a day and so far it doesn’t seem to have any negative effects on him (except for his addiction problem). He is still developing ahead of his age group, has way more fun playing with older kids and talking the days away. Lately his words have become more defined. Instead of just doubling up the first syllable of every word (wa-wa for water, ba-ba for bath), he is now very clearly saying “water”, “juice”, “car”, etc. He understands pretty much everything we say in any of the three languages and communicates clearly what he wants. I gotta admit that I am guilty of letting him go through with things I should probably say no to, just because I find it so cute how he communicates them.

So, tomorrow I will attempt another video shoot of all those fun things he does and then hopefully update with some footage here.


January 15, 2012


So it looks like 2012 could be a pretty interesting year. Apparently there is a good chance that the world may drastically transform or even go down all together in December. While that sounds all exciting and is probably a once in your life time event to watch, it still leaves more than 11 months to make it one of the best years of our lives. And in case we survive the apocalypse, we can live happily ever after afterwards.

Interestingly enough, the United Nations declared 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives, highlighting the contribution of cooperatives to socio-economic development, in particular recognizing their impact on poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration. It has also been designated as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. Just another reason for me to work extra hard this year and help reducing Maryland’s carbon footprint.

Other than that 2012 is probably gonna be as busy and exciting as any other year. We will visit Germany in May, renovate our entire basement this spring (granted that I can find back into home renovation mode, I feel like last year’s efforts depleted my motivation completely), and Milo will start preschool in fall. We will be able to hire a house cleaner and pay off our car.  And of course, we will keep you in the loop about everything on this very blog. I am not sure if I will be able to keep up the weekly post, but might just check in with a few smaller reports here and there.

What is your plan for 2012?

December 25, 2011

So This Is Christmas

Christmas is almost over. It is the evening of the 25th and the adults of this household are chilling on the couch with their computers shining in unison with the tree while the child can be heard sucking on his peacemaker over the monitor. Oh, what nice silence! Finally we are getting to the heart of Christmas spirit. The last couple of weeks were crazy busy – as always before the holidays. And as always we didn’t manage to send out all mail on time, print personalized cards, nor finish all DIY gift projects that were planned even though I started in November this year.

But at least we did manage to send cards at all, hand-wrote every single one, and got all presents purchased two weeks before Christmas. Let’s just look at the improvements here. Of course all the craziness was well worth it to make it Milo’s first memorable Christmas experience. As far as I can tell, he had a blast. The whole advent thing we had going on was a hit on its own. Every morning he demanded opening his advent calendar right after breakfast. He learned how to blow out the candles of the advent wreath (all set for his second birthday next year), and gazed at all the lights around the house as if they were new every day.

We made gingerbread houses and cookies with friends and went to see an amazing train display at Brookside Botanical Gardens.

Then Christmas weekend came and at first it didn’t look like it was gonna be all fun and smiles. Milo’s incisors decided to push through his gums and mama got a cold. But luckily both of those mean things turned out much minor as expected and so the fun began. As a family we are pretty new to this Christmas thing and will see how Tran traditions will evolve and play out over the next few years, but so far so fun. It all took off on the 24th at 2pm when we met my German family on skype during their Christmas Eve celebration. (If you are not familiar with German traditions, the evening of 24th is the main Christmas deal in Germany, not the 25th.) Everybody was just happy to spend an hour of quality family time together and even the usually crappy internet connection held up pretty nicely.

We got to open their presents that were shipped over here and they opened ours. Milo got some German books and a potty seat. He immediately got the connection, grabbed one of the books, and sat down on the potty for a good 15 minutes. Hm, who did you learn that from?

Afterwards it was time for us to prepare Christmas dinner. We had Linc’s parents and siblings over for a Bieringer style Christmas Eve. That means, nicely set table, four course dinner, and gift exchange between the immediate family members.

We made traditional pumpkin soup with homemade butter croutons and bacon crumbs, then a pecan cranberry spinach salad, then thyme apple pork chops with roasted rosemary vegetables. And baked filled apples with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce as dessert. Sounds like a lot of work, but actually most of the stuff could be pre-prepared and then just baked itself in the oven while we had time to tend to our guests. We even busted out my real silver ware that I got almost twenty years ago and had never used before. Just to throw in a little bit of craft blog, see here our table setting:

The next morning of the 25th began relatively unspectacular. Probably because the American in the house was still asleep and the German was running all the Christmas action. So no stockings filled with Santa goodies this year. I did manage to sew the stockings in a time crunch right the night before, but didn’t really have anything small to fill them with, so we will work on improving this part next year. I don’t know, maybe it would also just get too much. Because the biggest party of the weekend hadn’t even started yet. The extended Tran family Christmas party at Lincoln’s parents house. It is the usual craziness (a regular house filled with 30 people, tons of food, and 20 children of all ages) times 4. At least. Every family gives every single child of the family a gift , so we had an estimated 100 presents piled up around the Christmas tree. It seriously was a wall 5 feet high and 3 feet deep of boxes that almost completely covered up the tree.

Then the traditional photo of all kids in front of the presents is supposed to happen. Of course the kids couldn’t care less and have their eyes on the prizes, not the cameras. Surprisingly Milo stayed seated for the photo shoot when I told him to. Maybe we can apply this good listening to sitting on the naughty step next time he needs a time out? See here how it played out:

But wait, it gets even better. Someone starts passing the presents to the child’s parents, everybody sets up their station on the living room floor, and opens presents as fast as possible in order to not get buried. Kids get lost under wrapping paper, parents paper-cut their fingers, trash bags get filled with everything that is not in a child’s hand, … seriously, that’s how crazy it felt. Milo got completely overwhelmed, so I sent him to another room with the first best toy and then took more than twice as long as everybody else to open his gifts.

Yeah, it was fun and we are happy that we are done with festivities for a little bit. This week I will have three days off of work and we will do our best to just relax and play and relax and play. And hopefully see some of you Columbians for a play date and some of you Germans for a Skype date so that Milo can show his new toys and do a private happy dance just for you. Cheers!

December 11, 2011


This weekend Lincoln and I had our first ever parents getaway with an overnight stay. So Milo had to stay with his grandparents for two days and one night and while I had no doubt that everything would go well and that we had to go on this trip, I was still nervous about it. This was the longest time I have been away from my little boy and of course I made sure to call and check in a few times. Needless to say that Milo didn’t miss us a bit, had a great time, and so did we.

My good old friend Johanna from Germany and her boyfriend Matthias had booked a spontaneous trip to New York and since we only see each other once a year or less it was pretty clear that we had to go up and see them. It was so weird being without Milo, not at work, and not in my own house, that at first I wasn’t really sure what to do myself. Noone to take care of, no work to get done, no house projects. What to do on a 4 hour bus ride? Do something that I haven’t had the time for since Milo was born. Crocheting a hat. Reading a book would have been another idea, but reading while in motion usually just gets me nauseous. Staring at a needle and yarn for hours doesn’t for some reason. And it’s sooo relaxing.

When we got to New York Johanna and Matthias picked us up at the bus stop and gave us an overview of what was planned for the next two days. Dude, when they travel it’s no joke. They do everything there is to do. But hey, that’s what you travel for, right? After lunch at Macy’s maze (you can get lost at that place) we headed over to Rockefeller Center where we spent most of our day. We were thinking about ice skating under the tree, but first the rink was rented out to a marriage proposal, then they had to refresh the ice and the lines were huge. So that didn’t work out. Instead we went up to the top of the rock for some nice Manhattan views. Afterwards we strolled up 5th Avenue to gaze at the famously decorated shop displays. It reminded me of the times of Mad Men, the TV show that I am watching right now.

Then off to visit Chinatown, and have an amazing dinner at L’ecole – the restaurant of the french culinary art institute. They serve a four course meal for $47, so not the cheapest we have ever eaten, but the very best. Every single dish was just perfect and worth every penny. At that point we had pretty much thrown our pennysaver attitude out the window. Usually when we travel we manage to save up just enough money for the trip itself and then don’t have any cash to do cool things at the location. But this time we just went with the flow and didn’t watch our dollars too closely. After all it’s a three paycheck month this month! What the heck, you gotta splurge on two days out of 365, right?

During a quick stop at Rockefeller we were invited to join a raffle at the newly opened Brookstone. While waiting for the drawing of the prize, I volunteered to test their full service massage chair and had my legs adjusted back to full functionality after this long day of walking. Then Matthias won the grand prize and us tired fellows were back in the game. So we did some more walking and picked up a toy for Milo at FAO Schwartz.

The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel and then headed back to Manhattan to go to the MOMA. We had planned to meet my friend Fati there, but unfortunately the poor girl got sick. Usually the hotel has a shuttle bus to the metro station, but not on Saturdays, so we had to call a cab. Instead we were picked up by a run down limo for the same price. Not a bad way to start the day.

And definitely a motivator to get some more walking done. On Broadway past Times Square and up to MOMA we went. At that point we had only 1.5 hours before we had to get to our bus, but it was just enough to see some of my favorite pieces of art in real. I loove Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

By the way, Boltbus is the way to go to New York. Not the crappy Chinatown busses. Boltbus just takes their customers a little more seriously, provides good service, Wi-Fi, power plugs, and supposedly you can even get fares for $1 if you book far enough in advance.

On the way back I made another hat, and got really antsy on my butt, ready to see my little Milo again. As much as we enjoyed ourselves and didn’t think about him all the time, all of a sudden there was no holding me back anymore. Milo just acted like on any other day when we pick him up from his grandparent’s house. Happy as always, but definitely not dropping whatever he is playing with at the moment. Jeez, it’s just my parents!

Later he performed this happy dance for us and all of us went to bed happy and content to be back together as a family.

October 28, 2011

Done with Being Sick!

Do you remember the first time you got sick after moving out from home? How much it sucked not to have mama around anymore who could bring you tea to the bed, rub your back, cook some soup? Just when you don’t feel like doing anything at all, you have to lift your own butt out of bed and take care of your miserable sick self. Now this kind of misery gets taken to a whole other level when you add a young toddler to the equation. When not only you have to take care of yourself, but also make sure that kid’s diapers still get changed, he is fed, and somewhat entertained.

After a minor scare when Milo couldn’t breathe well through his swollen throat last Friday, had his highest fever so far, and had to be taken to the urgent care clinic at night (diagnosed with strep throat and croup and a cold), he recovered really quickly and left it to his parents to fight the virus for the rest of the week. Pretty much as soon as his temperature went down to normal two days later, the kid was up and about and happily chatting with his hoarse voice. Believe me, it was a big relief to see him happy and getting better again. But then my throat started to feel like sandpaper, my sinuses were swollen shut, and that overall body ache made me feel like more like crap than a functional human being.

At first I was still trying to go to work and at least make money with half of the brain function that I had left, but after two days I had to give up that idea as well. And I also had to give up the idea of being a fully functional mom for a few days. Usually I like to read books to my son, take him for walks, explain the world, sing songs, come up with games played with household items just to make sure that he learns as much as he possibly can. Only when my voice almost completely left me, I finally gave up that ideal for a day. Milo watched as much TV in a day as he could stand. He had to come up with games himself, find things to play with, while I was just passively watching him. He ate the same chicken noodle soup for lunch and dinner two days in a row. And guess what, he was fine with it.

One thing we are all looking forward to is getting out of the house again. I never knew how isolating it is to have a sick child / friends with children who you don’t want to get sick as well. We miss our friends, play dates, and the fresh air outside. Thanks to everyone who sent us well wishes.

Oh, and since Milo’s nose-blowing-rate went down to once per hour and mine down to every 30 minutes, I think that we can declare this virus to be defeated now! Weekend, here we come!

October 18, 2011


Who knew that parenthood could be so much fun? Just when you thought that your baby smiling, laughing, crawling, babbling is sooo awesome, it gets even better. It’s just so much fun seeing this little guy growing up that I still can’t get over it and catch myself frequently staring at him in awe or laughing out loud over one of the funny things that he does.

As we all know, Milo is not so much of a sit-n-looker, but a hyperactive doer. He still barely ever sits still. Now that he is walking probably less than ever. He just started walking at 11 months and now he is already running and chasing us through the house. He climbs up and down the couch, dances, jumps without lifting the feet, and would walk/fall down the stairs forward if we let him.

If I had to take a wild guess at what Milo could do as a job later, I would probably say something handy. His fine motor skills are super precise. The morning cereal gets scooped up with the spoon and into the mouth almost without spills. The screws in the play work bench get unscrewed with the play screw driver like no big deal. And have I mentioned before that my 14 month old boy knows how to use the iPhone to a point where it gets dangerously close to sending emails to work contacts?

And he learns processes so quickly. These days you can’t do anything without fearing that Milo will copy it immediately. Yes, fearing. Like don’t let him see how to turn on the gas stove. Or how to push buttons on the dishwasher. But yes, let him see how we swipe the floor and how to wipe the table with a rag. The broom is his best friend right now. The other day we went to the animal farm where I put a quarter in the food machine, got some grains out on the bottom, and held them up in my hand for the sheep to eat. After watching this whole process just once, guess what Milo was doing for the next half hour: Feeding imaginary food to the sheep.

With all this alertness going on I shouldn’t be surprised that Milo is already using a bunch of “words” consistently and understands a lot of what we say. I just didn’t expect it to happen so soon. Considering that he has to process 3 languages on a daily basis. My brain has a 2 language maximum at any given time.

Milo understands the words for daily activities like eat, brush teeth, change diaper, put on shoes, turn off light, etc. in both english and german. And sometimes he will even follow those requests. The language coming out of his mouth is still mostly gibberish except for a few words that he uses consistently in the correct context in one or the other language. His first word was “Hi!” and he still uses it very frequently. Another favorite is “Ja” – German for yes. He will answer it to almost any question you ask him that he is okay with. If he doesn’t want he will not give any answer. If he doesn’t want something at all, he will say “no, no, no”! He also says “maaa” which means more/mehr and works in both languages. His latest word is short, but very useful for Mister Engineer: “A!” – short for “an” (means on) which he uses whenever he wants something that makes sounds, lights, etc. turned on.

See for yourself:

September 7, 2011

Dreams are my reality

Oh my god this title is totally taken from the song from that movie – La Boom. Does anybody remember those french movies from the 80s about how teenies find their first love? Soo kitschy and actually too embarrassing to admit to having seen them. Although I am pretty sure almost any European person of my generation has watched them. Which doesn’t make it any better.

Anyway, this is totally out of context. I was gonna tell you about the crazy dream I had this morning after I woke up at 6:30 with Milo still asleep and decided to doze off some more. It’s that evil kind of half sleep that’s not really fully relaxing and makes you dream all sorts of crazy stuff. In the end you wake up all exhausted and emotionally disturbed and wish you had just freaking gotten up when you had the chance.

“I’m exhausted, I have to wake up” is also my favorite quote from my real favorite movie “Science of Sleep”. If you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading now and go watch it. Go! It’s a must see. Apart from it being a very artsy and creative movie, it also holds a lot of truth to me and has parallels to my boring little life. I have always been a passionate dreamer. As long as I can remember vivid dreams have been part of my night life. Often times I had better stories to tell in the morning when waking up than about what happens during awake time.

The science of dreaming really explains everything and boils down to a person being a crappy sleeper or not. I am. Very light sleep here. A house mouse farting could easily wake me up any time of the night. Therefore I have lots of light sleep. Therefore many REM sleep phases in which dreams happen. In those sleep phases only certain areas of the brain are active: Exactly the ones that are responsible for memories, emotions, and visuals. The logical cortex is deeply asleep at that point, so it is not surprising that dreams often don’t make much sense, are highly emotional, visual, and often contain random elements of what we experienced the previous day.

Us humans like to make sense of all the random elements and tie them together as a story. Or even start interpreting them to find a higher meaning. Myself included. I swear I tried to stay away from it. No way I was gonna believe in that bogus when it all makes perfect scientific sense. But then I had those healing dreams. Here is a fun fact about little Nicola that not many of you might know: As a kid I was literally afraid of being late to an appointment. I had ways to drive my parents nuts urging them to hurry so that we could be 30 minutes early that are unheard of. It must not have been fun. But then I started having those recurring dreams where I had to be some place, but getting there on time was impossible. Either my legs were made of stone, they wouldn’t move, the staircase became endless, the elevator never arrived, or all of the above. So my dreams forced me to be late and learn that nothing bad happens. Ever since then I am still trying to be 5 minutes early, but don’t freak out anymore if I am 5 minutes late.

There was also a period in my life where I kept dreaming of dead people. Not very nice dreams, let me tell you that. Basically there was always one or more than one body in my house and I had to get rid of it somehow. I had to roll it away, drag it away, and nobody ever helped me. So I looked up the meaning of dead bodies in a dream book and it said that dreaming of bodies or dead means that one is in a relationship or situation in life that is not good for one and should be ended. Sure enough, a few months later the relationship ended and so did the dead people dreams.

Before I go to dream land, just real quick the dream from this morning: Linc and I had another(!!) wedding. This time it was supposed to be real fun so we made sure to hire comedians as the officiators and all sorts of clowns to entertain the crowd. For some reason we also thought that it was funny to top off the whole show with a McDonalds theme. The rings were presented in a sweet and sour dip container that still had the sauce in it and nobody was really paying attention to the wedding because there was too much clowning going on.

End of story. Now while I go to bed, why don’t you figure out what this dream could possibly mean?