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On our relationship with our Roomba (or the search for a thrill)

I won’t get into the nonsense of letting this blog lie dormant for all these years. Instead, I’ll just dive right into our life today, in all its messy foreignness, the way a Roomba dives under the dining table. Never sure what it will suck up next. Always going at it with total eagerness. Sometimes getting stuck or tangled up and letting out a lonely cry before sitting quietly, waiting for its rescuer.

(I didn’t realize how much like a Roomba I am these days, exactly one year into our expat adventure in Switzerland.)

What I really wanted to write about when I sat down is my son’s evolving relationship with the robot vacuum. The pandemic baby, who was 3 months old and unaware when the world became a different place. Who doesn’t really play with other kids, except his 9- and 11-year-old siblings. Who was fascinated but also completely overwhelmed this past Christmas when he shared a house with his three Danish cousins, his aunt and uncles, his grandparents.

When he could point, he started pointing to the Roomba. When he could crawl, he crawled after it, and probably learned the backwards crawl trying to escape it. Now he’s walking, learning to pivot fast enough as it approaches. He panics as it nears his toes, and yet can’t keep himself from following it around the house, part thrill, part fear.

How strange we humans are. Accepting the fear and unpredictability (that random algorithm!) for the thrill of discovering something new. I watched him engage in the emotional tug-of-war with the machine as it picked up pine needles this morning. Perhaps I’ve been cooped up too long, or am gazing into my navel for lack of other things to gaze into, but I thought about the choices we’ve made. We could have stayed in the comfort of our Boston life, but we chose to move to Basel with three kids, one of them a newborn. To throw our kids, who’ve only really known one home, into a new city, new school (and then another), new home. And then the world threw in the new “new” we all know all too well.

Yet here we still are. We could stay home for the holidays, but we drive for 13 hours to get to Denmark to see my husband’s family. We quarantine. We welcome the swab up the nose, its 10 twists. We celebrate. We drive 13 hours back. The baby cries, I cry, there’s no place to stop to use the bathroom, it’s freezing, we eat KFC (it’s awful). We settle in back home in Basel. And days later, we’re at it again, driving up a mountain to see snow, not sure our car will make it, the baby crying again, the older kids sick of each other, of us.

But there, at the top, we witness the most extraordinary views. We’re above Lucerne, above the clouds. Mount Pilatus appears, disappears, reappears from the living room window. We learn to heat a house with a wood-burning stove. The kids try cross-country skiing, discover they’re great at it. Meanwhile, I sit in the car with the baby for two hours until I can’t feel my toes, the discomfort bone-deep.

The willingness to feel fear, sadness, isolation, pain, frustration – the whole lot, all for that sudden, unpromised thrill. The most fleeting of moments, and yet the most memorable. The discovery that overwhelms everything else along the way.

January 11, 2021 at 11:08 am Leave a comment

Little Oscars for little stars at the Little Gym

We just got back from our last class at The Lyttle Gym of Harlem. On the way home, Oliver passed out with his face smushed against the stroller bar. That’s never happened before – and it’s a testament to what a great morning it was. The gym organized “Show Day” to celebrate everything the kids had learned, set up an obstacle course for the “Little Beasts” to show off their skills – and actually awarded golden “Oscars” with the kids’ names on them. (I want an Oscar for hauling the stroller through feet of snow for months on end to get to class, but that’s another story.)

I’ll be the first to admit that, like with most mommy and me classes I’ve taken, I was initially skeptical about The Little Gym. I’m just not so into the cheesy stuff and baby voices. I snarkily laughed as I told my husband about the song (hum to London Bridge tune) “It’s time to put the balls [or other object to be cleaned up] away, the balls away, the balls away! It’s time to put the balls away at The Little Gym.” “Cheesy, much?” thought I.

But now we both sing it regularly because nothing else is as effective in getting even an opinionated 19-month-old with his own thoughts on how to spend his time to clean stuff up.

And then there are the after-class stamps on the hands and feet Oliver proudly shows us for days after the class. And his new ability to walk across a beam, do somersaults, flip over a bar…the list goes on. When he cries in the morning and we tell him we’re going to get stamps at the Little Gym, his mood instantly flips. It’s uncanny. And, I think, totally worth the price of the classes.

So despite my initial eye rolls at the music, the times I thought the activities were too scary (self-inflating, huge mat so loud it honestly frightens me a little), I’d stay it’s been a pretty developmentally cool experience.

And then there’s the fact that Oliver’s first word, bubbles, was said at the Little Gym as the teacher blew thousands of tiny little bubbles at him.

After that, I’d have to say that this Little Gym concept is pretty great. Dare I say I’ll actually miss the weekend morning trek? I dare. Fortunately, I’m pretty sure you can find a Little Gym just about everywhere, even in our soon-to-be-new-home of Boston. Hooray for that.

February 6, 2011 at 5:55 pm Leave a comment

The boat has landed in Copenhagen again.

A message to the happiest country on Earth.

After a little over a year away (a year spent joyously exploring Manhattan with baby in tow), we’ve come back to spend the summer in Copenhagen. And things seem quite different this time around. First of all, we’ve upgraded from southwest CPH (Sluseholmen), where only birds came to visit, to just east of the lakes. And this means the city is suddenly at our feet, almost like in New York! Haha. Not really – Gothersgade doesn’t quite have the edge Broadway does, but the lack of sirens, crazy homeless Alleluja man, and the jazz player who blows the same five tunes into his sax every evening at 7 pm – well, it’s all kind of refreshing, in a dull sort of way.

But the biggest transformation is among the Danes. They have changed dramatically in the past year. And it’s all because of our baby. Equipped with Oliver, I am suddenly seeing a side so much softer, I don’t know how to respond. People smile at me (us) on the street. They hold doors. They stand aside. And, most astoundingly: they start conversations with me. Everyone’s been doing it, and I – having prepared to not smile excessively at strangers and certainly not to strike up random conversations, which according to some Denmark Happiness experts scares the Danes – I’m the one that’s caught off guard and confused.

I was, to be honest, a bit scared to come back after a year back in the US. But I think I’m starting to see why everyone told me it would be different with kids. And so far, I kinda like it.

As for the orange poster I spotted in Norreport on one of my endless stroller-pushing outings: it still made me laugh. I can still relate. Contemplating going back with 50dkk to buy that thing.

May 8, 2010 at 12:47 pm Leave a comment

Feeding baby in style

I got the Bebe au Lait nursing cover in black and thought it was the epitome of motherhood style. But I forgot to bring it on the Amtrak, and realiZed that my own wardrobe offers an even more chic option. Because my DKNY Cozy sweater wrap – the one you can wear in 12 ways, actually has a 13th for nursing moms! The super long fabric is, it turns out, awesome for privacy – but also for keeping baby cozy and warm (one end for each!). And it’s totally breathable. And it means one less thing to carry in my totally overstuffed bag. Hurray. Now I’m just worried I won’t wear anything else for months but no matter: I’m feeling super clever (not to mention trendy) right now!

November 8, 2009 at 4:56 pm Leave a comment

Shopping at BuyBuyBaby + family-friendly sushi

Just visited BuyBuyBaby‘s store (at 270 Seventh Ave. Between 25th and 26th) with a couple friends – we couldn’t leave! We were hungry and thirsty and a bit worn out and still kept wandering the aisles. Moms in a baby store – like kids in a candy shop. It was nearly empty at 11:30 on a Tuesday morning and there was a free salesperson on every corner. Two decent nursing rooms. A huge inventory. Great place to shop.

Afterwards, we grabbed a $14.95 Bento Box lunch special and (delicious) red bean ice cream at Monster Sushi on West 23rd between 7th and 6th Avenues. The restaurant was very baby friendly – with high chairs and endless patience for our newly acquired musical toys.

October 20, 2009 at 11:51 pm Leave a comment

It’s been two months – it’s time to share.

Hello! My husband, baby and I moved to NYC in August 2009. And it’s taken a while to get our bearings, but now it’s time to start sharing all the info I’ve gathered as a new mom in a new city. It takes some leg (and web, and phone) work to learn about great shops, docs, restaurants, walks etc. – and while I’m discovering it all with Oliver in tow, I hope I can help some other moms with little people feel at home in the Big Apple! For now, I’m not working and my husband’s fairly busy with business school, so I’ve got plenty of opportunities to explore, talk to other moms – and (I hope) blog about it. If you’re interested in learning more about me, feel free to check out the About section.

October 20, 2009 at 11:01 pm Leave a comment


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