Sunday, April 24, 2016

On this day

She's 18 years old today. As of today my daughter is officially an adult.

Like almost every mother I know I wonder where the time has gone. It doesn't feel like 18 years that on this day she was lying in my arms for the very first time, with her eyes firmly shut, refusing to look at this bright and noisy new world. She opened them a bit later - at that time they were deep blue and still hadn't the two slightly different colors they have now. I remember that back then everybody told me time would pass quickly, but I had no idea that it would actually fly and suddenly my baby was all grown up.

Those 18 years were mainly good years and when I look at Kaefer today I feel blessed to be the mom to this amazing young woman she has become. Since last summer when she went to Germany all on her own for the first time she has matured very much. The entire process of checking out colleges, applying to and finally deciding for one was a further step that resulted in more maturity. She certainly has gained more independence over the past 12 months.

Still, she is a teenager with a lot of goofiness which I hope she will never completely loose. It's her sense of humor that will help her along her way through life. She is self confident without being arrogant and has a very healthy self image that is aware of her own faults. She is smart and hard working, creative, witty and kind. I've never heard her gossip or talk about someone behind their back.

She deserved a colorful bouquet from my garden. Here I am gathering flowers for her.

Yesterday was prom at her school - well, it wasn't actually at the school but in the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Before she met with her friends for the pre-prom we took a few pictures in the front garden.

The Geek had the honor to put the corsage on her wrist. Against all odds the red ribbon matched the color of her dress perfectly.

This is my favorite image from yesterday's photos.

(The three top photos were among the shots I took for her senior picture.)

Friday, April 22, 2016

A Surgery And A Decision

Last week I had surgery - one of the reasons why I haven't been here for quite a while. It was nothing life-threatening - one of the glands of my parathyroid was playing havoc with the calcium in my blood which is not a good thing and, if untreated, can cause bone density loss and kidney stones. Since I didn't want neither of these I decided to get the responsible gland removed which was finally done last week. I was there as an outpatient and back home in the evening. This time the general anesthesia didn't bother me very much. Usually I tend to feel dizzy and even almost pass out in the first few days after general anesthesia, but this time I felt fine. However, I didn't do very well with the pain medication and I was happy when I was able to stop it. Since then, I've been on the mend, and every day seems to be better than the day before.

There also has been a big decision in our house.

After visiting UC Berkeley and Cal Poly the week before my surgery, we ended the entire "which college should I go to" journey with another short visit to UC Davis. Then the girl made her decision - she will be going to UC Davis. Her major is Sustainable Environmental Design, and I can't imagine a better place for that than Davis.

We visited the campus on a rather grey day, but even then I got the impression of a happy, cheerful and lively environment. Look at the colors of the residence halls!

As a student in the university's Honors Program Kaefer will be living in one of these for her freshman year. They are right on campus, but somehow also in the countryside - this is the view from some of the rooms:

UC Davis is big in agricultural studies and the only university in California for veterinary medicine. Even though Kaefer's major is quite different from that, I feel she's stepping into her grandfather's (my Dad's) footsteps who was a veterinary. He would have been so proud of her!

The artwork on some of the residence halls displays another big part of UC Davis and its town:

It is THE bike town. Davis is completely FLAT - ideal for commuting by bike. There are bike trails on campus with their own roundabouts etc., and in town there are bike lanes everywhere. It's a biker's paradise. When I was a student at the University of Tübingen I always rode my bike and I'm happy that Kaefer will do the same during her years in college.

There are some nice buildings like the Lab with its giant green house on top.

The Library with one of the Eggheads in front of it.

There are several of those Eggheads on campus. They are bronze sculptures created by artist and UC Davis Professor Robert Arneson specifically for this campus. This one is called Bookhead and students kiss it for good luck, especially before finals.

UC Davis is a very green and sustainable campus - in 2012 it was voted the Greenest University. I think Kaefer chose her major and her college wisely! So did the squirrels...

The decision has brought relief to all of us. At the beginning I was still thinking that Cal Poly would have been a great fit for her, but talking with and listening to her I understand that UC Davis offers her more flexibility. She also loves the diversity of Davis whereas Cal Poly has a predominantly white population. Kaefer looks forward to meet and connect with students from other countries. In this regard she's totally my girl.

To the new Aggie!

Saturday, April 9, 2016


Some cool art at Cal Poly

After having looked at UC Berkeley last Sunday, we drove down to San Luis Obispo - or SLO - on the Central Coast to look at Cal Poly (California Polytechnic State University) one more time. We had visited the campus before during college trip to Colorado in the winter. At that time the campus was mostly empty since most of the students had left for winter break.

Kaefer wanted to check it out during the semester, and the cousin of one of her friends had offered to give her a private tour.

Kaefer's major at Cal Poly would be architecture. The approach here is very hands-on and practical, it's an accredited program that takes five years.

One of the projects of first year architecture students

While Kaefer went on her private tour, the Geek and I explored SLO.

It has a historic city center with a beautiful mission, founded in 1772.

I liked the bear fountain in front of the mission that represents the Native Americans who lived here (the Chumash) and the grizzlies which used to be abundant in this area.

The mission has three bells of which I don't know whether they're still in use.

What fascinated me most about the Mission was the roof.

It is built of crooked terracotta shingles, some of them being clearly older than others. I took some close-ups - have a look:

Like every mission, this one had some lovely nooks and corner.

And right across from the Mission I discovered this porch of a restaurant with those colorful sunshades and a lovely terracotta roof as well.

Downtown SLO is lively with lots of local businesses, restaurants, tons of trash bins (no one has any reason here to throw trash on the street as there is a trash bin every few yards). Beautiful trees are lining the streets and give good shade on hot and sunny days. Lots of traffic as well, but it is easy to get around as a pedestrian.

I liked this special kind of "meters" - here you can donate money for the homeless. I thought the idea was pretty nifty. I don't know whether they collect much money here, but since I saw a few of them I guess that they have some success with them. Maybe this is something my city should try.

So - will Kaefer go to Cal Poly? She definitely liked it. But does she like it enough to actually commit to it?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Where California Bears go to study

entrance gate to the campus of UC Berkeley

These days are quite exciting in our home - perhaps "exciting" is not the super accurate term as it is also tense, filled with doubts, and many times the question "what should I do?" is asked. Kaefer is going through the process of choosing a college. She got accepted in all but one of the colleges she applied to - Colorado University in Boulder, University of Oregon in Eugene, University of Washington in Seattle, Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, UC Davis and UC Berkeley. The only college she is on a waiting list (because she applied on the very last possible day...) is the School of Mines in Golden, CO.

checking out the campus map on her cell phone

What does a girl do? Parental advice is not always welcome, but in the end she has to at least listen to it and contemplate what the "oldies" have to say.

We started the decision process by eliminating. Out-of-state tuition is hideously high, so all colleges outside of California were dropped from the list. This leaves Cal Poly, UC Davis and UC Berkeley as the only contenders. Still too many...

Berkeley School of Law

She went to Davis again a couple weeks ago and liked it, found it lively in a nice college town where she can ride her bicycle everywhere (it's super flat). Since Berkeley is a mere hour's drive away from our home we went there last Sunday. She had visited the campus twice before, but that was before she even started to think seriously about where to study. However, it's a complete different story to walk a campus and look at the different schools when you know you got admitted and might actually end up there.

She looked at the School of Environmental Design which houses the architecture department (this would be her major at UC Berkeley). Probably the ugliest building on campus (during our visits to colleges over the past 5 months we found that the architecture building often is the least attractive building with the exception of the University of Washington). We walked the campus which in some parts is quite nice and others... not so much.

Of course there's the famous Campanile which you can see from far away (the campus stretches up a hill).

The Campanile is open at certain times and I guess that the view over the Bay from up there must be stunning. It rings its bell every full hour and we also heard some wonderful chimes at 2:00 playing beautiful little melodies. That was quite charming.

And somehow this was the only charming thing about the UC Berkeley campus. Oh, and of course these guys:

They weren't shy at all and very used to people. I wonder whether the students feed them...

There were lots of trees on the campus, some nice buildings,

and a great stadium hidden behind older houses, home of the Golden Bears.

We even discovered some goofiness.

Apparently it's a tobacco-free campus...

The mascot is Oski the bear (yeah, Cal Bears), whom you could even find as a door opener.

But still...

While Kaefer kind of liked the campus and could see herself here, the Geek and I had our doubts. We thought the atmosphere rather tense and highly competitive. Even on a bright sunny and warm Sunday we didn't see many happy faces. There wasn't any laughter or cheerfulness. We were wondering whether these young people ever have fun. I just can't see my goofball daughter thrive here.

In the end SHE has to decide. Of course UC Berkeley is a name with a high level of recognition. It certainly is an excellent school. I don't lie - we were all thrilled when she got accepted because we know how difficult that is. But she also has to feel comfortable. We will go down to San Luis Obispo again and take another look at Cal Poly - and then she finally has to make her choice.

Whatever she decides - it will be a good school. She can't really go wrong with any of these three colleges.