Category Archives: Pictures

Those demanding sprouts

Ellen: the result of four and a half years of parenting

I didn’t put a great deal of thought into parenthood before having kids, but I knew what kind of parent I didn’t want to be. I would see mothers holding up lines while ordering because they were consulting their tired three-year-old about whether to get the cheeseburger or the chicken nugget happy meal. I didn’t want to be that parent, for a number of reasons.

June: a very compact and solid form of energy and mischief

Or the guy who, seeing his kid melt down in a grocery store, caves in to the kid’s every demand. That, I told myself, would never be me. And of course I didn’t want to be the parent that complains about their kids, reprimanding them in public so everyone knows what a good parent you are and how bad they are. I also didn’t want to be one of those parents who have trouble talking about anything other than their kids.

June, charging batteries in preparation for her next onslaught

I’ve managed to stick to some of these promise. I haven’t yet given into to the threat of the public tantrum (but plenty of opportunities await in the future.) And I’m not much for asking toddlers which menu options strike their fancy.

But in some ways I’ve failed. I often find myself talking at length about what Ellen said the other morning, or how June can already hot-wire a car…

Now that's how one eats melon

But what I didn’t know before I became a parent (and wouldn’t have known even if someone had tried to explain it) is that a kid is so time-consuming and demanding that they become a bigger part of your life than you expect. Naturally there is a parent’s love for his child — that I part I did anticipate — but there is also the fact that, to some degree, the life of a parent is one of either caring for kids or thinking about caring for kids.


And yet in the meanwhile, life goes on. Things like jobs don’t become optional because you’re a parent. And so to my surprise, because of the demands of being a parent, I’ve found that I’m more efficient and productive than I was before having kids. My life up until I was forty was one of almost constant procrastination. But now I do very little procrastination. Wasting time is a luxury I just don’t have anymore.


But, while I may be more efficient, my time is still very, very limited. So some things suffer. And one of those things is this blog. For a long time I wrote three or four entries a month, but now I’m pressed to write one a month.

And what are those entries generally about? My kids, naturally.

But ultimately there isn’t much to say.  They are, despite the mistakes I make and will continue to make, delightful, happy, healthy girls. Incredibly demanding, yes, but delightful.

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.


In early September, my aunts Donna and Kay took their respective husbands Clarance and Frank on a European river Cruise. Their point of embarkation was Budapest, so we flew down to meet them and see them off. We were joined by Lisbeth’s parents, which was fantastic, because yes, they’re fun to travel with, but also we had our hands full with our two girls and needed all the help we could get.

Ellen  rarely naps anymore, but she took a long one in baggage claim upon arrival even though it was only 3:00pm. June explored the entire baggage claim area while we waited for Frits and Karen to arrive. Our apartment, tiny but efficient.

I had very little idea what to expect. I knew that Hungary has been hit hard by the recession, and that wages are quite low, so I expected to see outward signs of poverty. I’d also heard from several people that it’s a great, clean, and afffordable city.

First meal in Budapest. The weather was perfect the whole time. We sat comfortably outside for most of our meals. Budapest of full of grand buildings, ranging from defunct to very well kept. The Hungarian Forint trades at about 230 per dollar, making shopping a weird experience.

We saw almost no evidence of hard economic times. Nothing like Porto, or Dublin, for example. We saw only a few people begging in four days, so that surprised me. And it is indeed a clean vibrant city, with lots to see. For some reason it feels like a bigger city than it is. It feels more like London than Copenhagen, even though it’s much closer to Copenhagen in size.

Just around the corner from our rooms Breakfast near the hotel. Looks worse than it was, but traffic in Budapest really moves along. Around the corner from where we stayed. The steel posts separating the sidewalk from traffic were much appreciated.

Budapest is also quite affordable. Not dirt cheap, but very reasonable, especially by European standards. I particularly enjoyed the restaurants. There are a lot of them to choose from, and the quality of the food and service was quite high given the price. Plus I had what might be the best steak I’ve ever had (I’m not a big steak fan, but wow) on Ráday Street — a must-see stretch of sidewalk cafes that goes on and on for blocks.

Lisbeth, leaving the hotel for a day of sight-seeing. According to Google Translate, 'pince' means 'basement', so this is the 'panic basement'?! There's a fair amount of English on signs and menus, but it isn't always coherent.

At first it’s tempting to assume that the Hungarians in Budapest speak English pretty well. In restaurants, for example, they seem pretty fluent. But this is an illusion that often goes away once you stray off the subject of the menu.

The buildings are, it turns out, a little more impressive to a guy that grew up in the American Southwest than they are to Europeans DSC_6121.JPG It's nothing like Copenhagen, but there are a fair number of cyclists in Budapest

Lisbeth found this out the hard way one night, on an urgent quest for diapers and baby-food. Read More →

City center, again

My new office could not be more central. Two blocks from Copenhagen Central Station, two blocks from Tivoli, and two blocks from Rådhusplasen (the town hall). It takes me fifteen minutes by bike to get to work, and that is ideal. It’s long enough so you get your blood moving, but not so long that you’re a sweaty mess when you get to work.

Mom and dad, on the street where my new office is located The new office is, in fact, an apartment that happens to have a living room big enough for six desks There are so many great old buildings in Copenhagen that after a while you stop noticing

The office itself is, in fact, a one-bedroom apartment with an oddly large living room, and a dining room that serves as a meeting room. It has a small kitchen, and a tiny bedroom, which is used for our servers and a printer. For lunch we order from any one of hundreds of places that deliver, so there’s little chance we’ll get stuck eating the same thing week after week.

If we hire one more employee, things will get a little cramped My desk Our meeting room was, no doubt, a dining room at one time.

I really like being so central. I like the fact that I can easily run errands when necessary, and meeting a friend for a beer or dinner after work is no problem.

If there is a downside, it’s the noise. The sounds of construction work, heavy trucks, and sirens is routine. This will be less on an issue now that summer is over though, both because because construction slows down in the old months, and because closing the office windows cuts down on the noise to a surprising degree.

Nikon woes

One of my lenses recently stopped working. (My Nikon 60mm AF-S Micro, if you’re into specifics). This is my micro/macro/close-up lens, and it’s fantastic. It’s incredibly sharp and surprisingly versatile. It was also my first professional grade lens.

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It’s always been a little problematic though: the auto-focus is often unpredictable, and sometimes fails altogether. This is a known issue with this lens. But that’s a forgivable flaw given that this lens can focus from infinity to about one inch from the front glass. Yes, I’ve missed some shots due to this flaw, but I’ve also gotten a lot of shots that I never could have otherwise.

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But, while I was on vacation in New Mexico this summer, I pulled this lens out to discover that it was no longer focusing at all. 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.

Isabelle and Ellen burn off some energy after eating ice cream DSC_2576.JPG DSC_2577.JPG

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 →

June at four months

It’s not like we didn’t think June was cute before. We did.  But… maybe we just didn’t notice how cute June is until now. But now — now that June is getting more responsive and her personality is starting to come into focus… now, we think she is cute. Extremely cute.

Lisbeth and I don't remember Ellen being quite as eager to smile as June seems to be. The June-bug, making the most of those blue eyes (while they remain blue) The June-bug

But I remember going through this with Ellen. Each month I’d say, “Wow she’s cute — she just can’t get any cuter than this.” And the next month I’d look at pictures from last month and shrug, and say, “Yeah, she was cute I guess. But now she’s really cute.”