Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Karpluses do Oxford

December 16! More than eight weeks since Col's birthday. While Col was turning two, we were hosting Oma and Opa for two long weekends in a row (they hopped over to Denmark for three days in between), an experience which yielded more pictures than I've had a chance to winnow down until now! So here you have it: the top 20 photographs (not to be confused with the top lived experiences) of the visit.

The simple joy of a plasma ball

Opa brought a whiffle ball and bat all the way from Oregon

Sitting on Opa while Opa sits for him

Post-Col-bedtime big kid activity

Rage punting

Punting destination: lunch at a pub accessible only by boat, foot, or bike

Curry, England's favourite food

Opa just before taking an unplanned dip into the Thames

This is what privileged childhood looks like

Off to school!

First ride of the day at Legoland Windsor

Yep, my dad is the dad who takes photos of the photos at theme parks

Lumberjack and Ninja enthroned

One of Col's 18 merry-go-round rides

About to go up the tower

"Let me get that camel for you, sir"

One of Col's 18 merry-go-round rides

Human dryer after a river ride

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Happy Birthday, Col!

Darling Col. We've come a long way, baby.

The face of croup

Last week we were home for a day together while you recovered from croup. I spent the night on the floor listening to you bark and wheeze and holding your hand. In the morning you were still in poor form, but after a few hours, you bounced right back to your sunshiny self. It was a treat to get some one-on-one time with you--now that DaDa is taking you to school, I miss our commute together but I'm glad you get that time with him.

You mimic everything we do. Scratch our heads? You scratch yours. Clear our throats? You clear yours. Sit on the toilet? You sit on yours (and sometimes even go!). Putting socks on, sweeping the floor, picking up toys, doing sit-ups, washing hands--all these are things you must do immediately when you see another person doing them.

You are spouting off all kinds of stuff that surprises me--putting together word combos ("No car, Mama, toast please," "Uh-oh, sock," "My turn, Brother"), counting up from one through ten while stacking blocks, remembering the titles of your favorite books and asking for them at bedtime.

At daycare, you get along with everyone. Though you very occasionally throw tantrums and toys, you are easily distracted and always up for reading a book, playing with Duplo, building a block tower, or painting. On the back of your recent move to the next class up, your new teachers seem enamored of you, although maybe they just act that way for all the kids.

You are all in for anything to do with water. You're a moth to a flame with the water tray at school. When I start the water running and say it's bathtime, you charge up the stairs chanting, "bathbathbathbathbath...."After going to the bathroom while watching you last week, I came downstairs to find you, a guilty thing surprised, in the half-bath washing your hands and the entire floor.

You love hanging out with your family, and particularly adore your big brother . . . and love to tease him. He is at a stage where he painstakingly sets up toys in a tableau of perfection and doesn't want anyone to touch them in a way that doesn't match his imagination. You have other ideas. A signature move is darting in, grabbing a toy, and just sitting there clutching it and looking at him out of the corner of your eye waiting for him to grab it.

"How do I put this, Big Brother? IT'S MY TIME NOW"

Happy birthday, sweet boy! You are an absolute delight and we are beyond grateful you're part of our family.

Friday, September 25, 2015


Tor's transition to "big school" has gone remarkably smoothly. He goes to breakfast club at 8:15, has kindergarten from 9 to 3:20, and then has after-school club until 5:15. Each of those groups has different kids, albeit with some overlap, and different teachers, and he's done an admirable job just going with it and making new friends. They also do "forest school" once a week, where they go outside for most of the day and pick berries, build a fire, drink hot chocolate, and build things out of sticks. He's tired and irritable some nights, but honestly that's nothing new.

One kid from his daycare also is in the kindergarten, and he told me that they're not friends anymore because "now I have new friends." So we talked about how you don't need to stop being friends with people when you meet new friends, and talked about all our friends in the places we've lived, and I taught him the song about "make new friends but keep the old." Hopefully that takes.

Tor is getting highly sensitive to people's emotions and will sometimes report to us when someone is sad, as well as telling us how he's feeling. Yesterday he told me that he and Dad were walking in the city center, and they saw a man selling magazines, and the man wanted Dad to buy one, but Dad said not now, and "I saw the man's face and i could see that he felt very sad." That was a tough one. I said we want to make everyone happy, and we have to do what we can, but we can't buy magazines from everybody (we see a lot of people selling magazines). But there are other ways we help people and everyone has to help in the way they can. I'm sure there are better answers, but that's what I came up with on the bike ride home. No judgement.

Tor has also begun using similes with noticeable frequency. "My leg looks like a bridge." "The camera sounds like bread crusts crunching." "The fresh-squeezed OJ tastes like cow poo." I pulled him up on that last one because 1) it's rude and 2) how does he know what cow poo tastes like? He explained, "I've seen a lot of cow poo and I know what it smells like, and the smell is what this juice tastes like." Touché, son, touché.

Finally, he's getting even more helpful (though, on the balance, he's also a complete basket case at least three times a week), so we try to reinforce that whenever possible. Today Col took a bath and while I was getting him dressed, Tor drained the tub, squeezed out all the toys, and put them back on the shelf. Massive fanfare! Gold star for Tor! As soon as I got Col dressed, Col barfed all over himself, me, and the rug. While I cleaned him up, I asked Tor to go to the drawer downstairs in the kitchen and get me a big tupperware. He came up with a glass bowl. I told him thanks but no, the drawer above that and it has to be plastic and big. He came back with exactly the right vessel for catching toddler puke. Celebration! Tor is great! (Now Col is in bed with the tupperware next to him--fingers crossed it's a 24-hour thing.)

Ready to conquer day one

Veg sesh after the first day of school

He's from Minnesota, what can I say

Modeling our friend Casey's hat and a smirk that's all Tor

"I spelled your name!"

Tor and Dad had a special outing to the lab where he got to use the electron microscope to look at a dead fly located specifically for this purpose. A few TorTales buffs may recall that the first-ever post on here featured Tor at an electron microscope--another place, another time.

Proud to be in the driver's seat

Wearing his lab camouflage
The Kafkaesque outcome

I'll write more about Col for his big oh-two next month, but to touch on where he's at, the kid likes being engaged in conversation at any given time and will nod and shake his head as if he understands exactly what you mean. This tactic allows him to slide by if you're using yes-or-no questions, but once you ask him why or how or when, or "What did you do at the playground," it breaks down. He's pretty good at who and where questions, though, and is particularly endearing in holding up his hands in an "I dunno" gesture when you ask him where something is.

Caster wheels? Check, Helmet? Absolute necessity.

Discovery at work (actually getting pretty good with the two-piece puzzle)


Napping, wringing hands post lab visit with Cousin Laura

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

See You In September

Today is Tor's last day of preschool. Tomorrow is his first day of kindergarten. Where is life going?

This makes me want to record more memories, but then I'm always torn between taking pictures and just enjoying the moment. Anyway, here are a few from the summer.

When we get to daycare in the morning, Col usually wants to hold Tor's hand and Tor usually doesn't want to hold Col's hand. The trek across the parking lot thus usually involves Tor running away from Col and Col running after him screeching, "Hanh? Hanh? Hanh?!" before usually falling down. The teachers must love seeing us coming. A few times Tor has been willing to hold hands, though.

"Come, brother, together we shall wreak much havoc upon this nursery."

Remove pants, gnaw banana 

Scotland with the Siglers was, in a word, as awesome as we expected. To be fair, with the company, we would have had a great time anywhere. Highlights for me were Stirling Castle, country walks, a particularly excellent pub, and a full spectrum of scotches yielded by Josh and April's foregoing distillery tours. The place we stayed had a river view, a playground in the yard, and twin beds for the kids.

It was Col's first time out of the crib. The first night, he seemed happy enough to go to sleep in the bed, especially with Tor there. A few hours later, we heard a THUMP. Lars raced upstairs to find Col on the floor with head and torso beneath the bed, still fast asleep. That got repeated a few times (though he didn't stay asleep for all of them).

With his big boy bed

Success: We all came away from this with all our fingers

The boldest knight of Stirling Castle


Then in mid-July the four of us spent a week in Hinterstoder, Austria, about 90 minutes east of Salzburg. In the winter it's a ski resort, and we wanted to see some mountains--as you may be aware, England is pretty flat.

Al fresco dining in 90-degree weather: that's vacation

Trails right by the place we stayed went along a river with good spots for snacks. Tor did some foot dragging, but for the most part was game to go a mile or two. Col rode in the backpack for his final hurrah--he is definitely waaaay too long and heavy for it.

In which I explain that if Tor keeps whining, the cows will charge
A rustic rest

And a gondola/chairlift combo a quarter mile from the house took us 4000 feet up the mountain. So though we couldn't hike particularly far, at least we did it at elevation.
First ride up

Leg two of the journey to the top
Another day, another ride

Wholeheartedly embracing Austrian mountain cuisine

Schnitzel, schnitzel, schnitzel, kartoffler

Fish-watching and keeping Col out of the water

Hot and sweaty and loving it

Lars's finger joins in the action

Other highlights included an alpine slide (just Lars and Tor), and a hike to a hut with no one but us, the proprietors, their cows, and bread, cheese, and beer. I realized how bad my German is and bought some comic books for motivational reading.

Final lap plane ride

We drove to Cornwall for the weekend to sneak in a mini-vacation while Lars did some field work. The kids loved the beach and Lars's colleague's three-year-old daughter. The caravan park where we stayed had a swimming pool, and Tor had just finished up a solid week of swimming lessons (facilitated by great self-sacrifice on the part of DaDa, who biked him there every morning), so we got him a Spiderman innertube and he was basically self-sufficient. He's signed up for weekend swim lessons starting in September, at which we have big hopes that he will progress to swimming without external support.
Tired AND hungry? Now there's no need to choose
Burning off some steam while waiting for dinner to arrive
"Look, kids, work is fun!"

Aside from Scotland, Austria, and Cornwall, we've spent most weekends at home. Tor joined the library's Summer Reading Challenge! and has surpassed my expectations at reading books all by himself (with a lot of cheerleading, of course). Lars has been particularly dedicated to this at bedtime.

Col has joined the legions of children in love with Elmo. And with coloring on themselves.

His name is Zachary and he's fabulous

"You'll need to pry these pouches from our cold dead hands"

At the playground
Tor: Col can be Peter Pan, you be the princess, and I'll be Wolverine.
Me: Why am I the princess?
Tor: Because you like princesses.
Me: Why do you think I like princesses?
Tor: Because I want you to like them.

Expression turned to disappointment upon realizing wine is not juice

On the way home after Col's classroom did fruit tasting
Me: Did you like the pears, Col?
Col: YEAH!
Me: Did you like the apples?
Col: YEAH!
Tor: I like apples and pears together. As a team.

No letters can spell the sound Col makes that means "CHEESE"
"Can I ride back here today?"