Category Archives: Personal

I say this every year…

But really, spring in Denmark is a special experience. But how could it not be? If you make it through the long, dark winter, and manage to stay sane as the evidence mounts that summer is coming but yet somehow fails to arrive day after day and week after week… then suddenly you have a day where you can wear shorts and put your jacket and gloves away… it’s heavenly.

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This year we wasted no time, and went directly to a park after work for a picnic. We had a nice time, but the selection of the park is the subject of a _little_ tension between me and Lisbeth. I like the park we went to because we’ve yet to see anyone else picnic there. But to Lisbeth, that’s cause for suspicion — not a vote in its favor.

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This is because, generally speaking, Danes like to go where everyone else is going. They don’t try to find quiet spots that no one else knows about. I accept this as a preference, but it is hard for me to understand. It’s probably because I grew up in the American Southwest, but I feel much more at home if no one is around.

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I’ve become accustomed to city life, but it wasn’t a natural transition. It’s amusing to me now, but the first time I walked down the street by myself in a metropolitan area, it made me nervous that people were walking behind me. The first time I used an ATM on an urban street while someone was queued up behind me, I was sure I was going to get stabbed as soon as the cash popped out.

I’ve gotten used to sharing sidewalks with people and using cash machines in front of an impatient line of people… but for a picnic? For a picnic I’d prefer to have a whole park to myself.

Boy turns forty-four

Me, circa 1975When I was a kid I spent quite a bit of time thinking about not being a kid anymore. I didn’t like being a kid. I didn’t like that I had no authority. I didn’t like not having my own house and my own car. I didn’t like the sound of my pre-pubescent voice, and I pretty much despised my boyish face.

I couldn’t wait to be an adult. Not an adult in the sense that I’d be old enough to vote. I looked forward to being old enough and accomplished enough not to need to prove myself. And yet not so much an adult that my best years were behind me, and all I had to look forward to was telling people about the glory days.

After what seemed like quite a bit of internal debate, I settled on the age of forty-four. Forty-four, I figured, was old enough to be an established, stable, respected adult. A man. A man whose value was proven, but far from tapped out.

(Plus four was my favorite number, so forty-four simply had to be the optimal age.)

And so, here I am. I turn forty-four today. It was a big deal to me then, and it’s a big deal to me now. Much more so that turning thirty or forty. This is the birthday where my boyhood dreams have either come true, or they haven’t.

And luckily, they have. Or at least I think they have. It’s impossible to know what that boy, so many years ago, would have thought of my life now. But I think he’d be pleased, even if he couldn’t understand all the choices I’ve made. (I didn’t necessarily want to get married at that age, for example, but I think he’d be willing to make an exception on that account. I also remember wanting to have a good, manly beard, but genetics conspired against me on that issue.)

There’s no way to know what that boy would have thought about how things turned out. And of course it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’m a happy man. I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished with the time I’ve had, and I look forward to what’s to come.

Most of what’s to come anyway. I mean, forty-four is great, but forty-five sounds old!

Ellen turns four

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been four years since Lisbeth and I went to the hospital, entering as a recently married couple with few worries and responsibilities, and emerging as a proud family of three, and with all responsibility and worry that comes with becoming a parent.

My sweet, sweet girl On the way home from grocery shopping My sweet, sweet girl

And now here we are. Ellen is no longer the baby or toddler that she was. She’s the poised and confident older sister that June adores, and a capable and social girl who enjoys day-care so much that she sometimes asks us on Saturdays when she can go back.

Astrid, Ellen's best friend, and her parents Ulrik and Lotta attend Ellen's fourth birthday party Chris, Pernille, Ulrik, and Lotta chat (while June gets busy with eating) June, having long decided that high-chairs are for babies

Four years is a big deal. This is without question the first year that she’s been fully aware that her birthday is coming, and what it means, both in terms of chronology and in terms of gifts and cake. And so this is the first year when I’ve felt like it was really a party for her, and not merely an excuse for her parents to have a party.

A princess castle with chocolate cake bricks and raspberry creme mortar. Our friends Pernille, Leo, and Chris Finally, Ellen is no longer three (seemed like she was three for a _long_ time)

Last weekend we bought her her first pedal bike (which, due to apprehension on Ellen’s part and freezing temperatures,  has not been ridden yet), but she’s still at an age when getting a packet of stickers from her grandparents in the mail minutes before the party starts can eclipse all the other gifts she got.

Ellen and Leo brace themselves for a feast of chocolate cake A princess castle with chocolate cake bricks and raspberry creme mortar. June, playing peek-a-boo with the curtains

We had a great little party, with good friends, good food, lots of cake for the kids, and plenty of beer for the adults. It’s quite possible, in fact, that I had more fun than the kids did…

Christmas 2012

This was the second consecutive year that I’ve not been home for Christmas. I wished I could have been with my family in New Mexico. But as it turned out it’s a good thing we didn’t go this year. The end of the year was rough. I got the flu twice in span of three weeks, and I was still recovering at Christmas.

Hanne with Storm, Siv, and Freja June with Grandma Haren, or 'Bedstemor' June, Lisbeth, and Ellen Kaspar, Siv, Freja, and Hanne Ellen and Storm go about clearing snow. Or playing anyway. Storm

We had a nice time though. It snowed, which always makes Christmas just a little nicer. And this was definitely the first year that  Ellen was fully aware that Christmas was coming, and it was fun to see her so excited.

Hanne pulls Siv and Freja Siv and Freja go for a ride The farm DSC_7448.JPG Freja stoically enjoys the snow Siv and June stoically endure a ride

There were eleven of us, five of which were under four, so it was not the quiet and relaxing break one might hope for, but it is easy to see how, as they get older, the demands will be reduced. Read More →

June turns one

It’s hard to believe that she’s the same creature that squirted out into our bathtub a year ago. Probably because she isn’t. That creature slept a lot and had a feeble cry. This creature, on the other hand, regularly needs be be coaxed back to sleep a dozen times a night, and her cry is anything but feeble.

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Lisbeth and I spend a fair amount of time marvelling at how different two kids with similar genes can be. Ellen was cautious, but June is fearless. Ellen didn’t gather the courage to walk until months after she turned one, but June has been walking for months. Ellen lost most of the hair she was born with, June didn’t lose a strand. Ellen slept like a rock, but June wakes up at the slightest noise. And so on.

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Having a one-year old is a handfull, and it’s easy to get frustrated and look forward to when she’s older and can be left alone for more than ten seconds without tempting fate. But on the other hand one year is an incredibly cute age.

And an amazing age. June hasn’t uttered a single discernable word yet, but she can express herself just fine. She knows what she wants, and she’s plenty capable of telling us what it is.

And, of course, punishing us when we don’t comply.

Not long ago I was talking to an ex-colleague who has one child, and I asked if he and his girlfriend planned to have another. “No way,” he said, “I love my son so much — there’s no way I’d have anything left for a second kid.”

His logic would have made sense to me before June came along. But now I know better.

Violet Velma Coppock (1921-2012)

I was lucky, for such a long, long time. I had all four of my grandparents until I was almost thirty. It wasn’t until August that my last grandparent passed away.

With all four grandparents, there was nothing sudden or unexpected about their deaths. They each lived long lives, and their deaths were followed by the illnesses and declines that one expects. After all, all four of them made it into their nineties.

But, despite their advanced ages, and despite the illnesses and hospital visits that proceeded their deaths, when each one passed away, it was somehow shocking. Despite the fact you can see it coming for years in advance, nothing prepares you for their actually being gone.

Each time I’ve been left with the feeling that I could have known them better. Each time I’ve felt that there were conversations that we could have had but didn’t. With each loss, I felt that I’ve squandered the time I had with them. Read More →

It goes on

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.
– Robert Frost

It’s been a month since we’ve returned from New Mexico, but I wanted to write an entry dedicated specifically to our time at the ranch in Springer, where my last surviving grandparent still lives.

Ellen at the ranch (Credit: Arthur Trujillo) A quiet moment with great grandmother Coppock An old manure spreader (which for many years served as the foundation for the pier at the pond)

I spent many a happy day with my grandparents at their ranch. I can’t imagine my childhood without them or the ranch. There were barns we could explore, irrigation ditches we could swim in, a  pond where we could fish, and a thicket of trees in which we could build forts. Read More →

Vacation 2012

This year we did something we’d been meaning to do for a while: on the way to New Mexico we stayed in Annapolis for a few days, where my cousin Desmond and his wife live.

At the marina in Annapolis Isabelle and her mother Irma Lunch in town with Irma and IsabelleDSC_2665.JPG At the mall in Annapolis Isabelle at the mall in Annapolis

Unfortunately Desmond was called away for work prior to our arrival, but we had a great time anyway. Irma is a great hostess (and an amazing cook — she made us Indonesian, Thai, and Japanese dishes, each one delicious) but she’s also just a lot of fun. It was great to have  a chance to get to know her better. Our visit was made even better because Isabelle and Ellen had a great time playing together. Long after we left, Ellen kept asking when we were going back to Isabelle’s house.

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Desmond and Irma live in Annapolis because it’s near to Washington DC, where Desmond works. So we naturally felt like we had to go into DC and see the sights. And so we did. But there is no way to compare what we saw with what we would have seen had we not had two hot and sticky kids with us. We managed to see the World War II memorial and get a glimpse of the White House, and then we were more than ready to call it a day.

Dragging two kids into DC during 'Rolling Thunder' has a way of melting your brain Ellen at the National World War II Memorial At The White House

So, after a few days on the East Coast, we were ready to take the relatively short flight (four hours) to New Mexico, where we spent the rest of the vacation. Read More →

Milestone 2012

I’ve fallen behind on updating this blog.

One of the reasons is that, when I started this blog, I’d just moved to Denmark. Everything was new, and for a long time I could have written a blog entry every day. (And might have, had I not been having so much fun.) But now I’ve been living here for over six years. In that time I’ve become accustomed to many of the things that struck me initially, so I don’t even think about them much less write about them.

Another reason is that many blog entries were thinly disguised excuses to post pictures I’ve taken. But more and more, with a demanding job and two young kids at home, my photographic subjects have become almost exclusively my kids. And even though I don’t get tired of looking at pictures of them, I don’t want the blog to become solely a record of Ellen and June. Read More →

Ellen turns three

Ellen turns three today. We celebrated her birthday on Sunday, and, despite the fact that she looks a little sad in some of the pictures, she had a good day. Ellen’s cousin Marie also has a birthday in February (she turned 16 on the 9th), so there was plenty to celebrate.

 DSC_1071.JPG The table is set, the guests are on their way... and where are the gifts!? DSC_1119.JPG

This was the first birthday where she understood the concept. She talked about it for weeks in advance. She knew she was going from two to three, and she knew that gifts were going to be part of the deal.

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She also understood (due to the diligent repetition by her parents) Read More →