Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Books - July 2007

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
How does he manage to make me so uncomfortable simply by using foreshadowing? A good story with an interesting twist.

My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'Homme
The perfect follow-up to Julie and Julia. What a sharp, funny, interesting woman she was.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

God Bless America, Part 1

I am in an air-conditioned Target, shopping for cheap cotton socks. I might buy some nacho chips and fake cheese before I leave.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Summer of My Drunken Popstar

What can I say about Britney, Lindsay, Nicole, and Paris that hasn't already been said? I find it interesting that, for a couple of them (if the tabloids are to be believed about Nicole), their arrests/rehab stints/head-shaving meltdowns have coincided with parenthood. I guess if the paparazzi were following me around a year ago, when I was hot and sick and pissed about being in a place where I couldn't communicate with anyone, I might have shaved my head too. But I couldn't have afforded multiple rounds of hair extensions during my grow-out, so it's a good thing I just sat around complaining instead.

This year, my American vacation will be very much the same (same destinations, same time of year, same plans for eating my way through the western United States) and so very different. Last year, I was trying to decide which hand sanitizer to place in my carefully-packed carry-on next to my specially purchased snacks. This year, I'm not allowed to bring hand sanitizer on the plane and I haven't even thought about whether I have any clean clothes to wear tomorrow, let along prepared snacks.

So if you see a woman wandering around the Frankfurt airport tomorrow wearing only a Baby Bjorn and a stained bathrobe, look away. And don't worry, I'm sure there's a rehab facility that specializes in my condition: frazzled traveling mommy disorder.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Status Report

Theo's latest accomplishments:

-Remaining totally bald. I don't really notice his lack of hair, but others have started commenting on it.

-Grabbing anything and everything, which reminds me of those people in the money cube on Name That Tune. You don't remember it? The money and the person were locked in a glass cube, the air jets started and the contestant grabbed anything and everything he could get his hands on. In Theo's case, that's meant a lot of my hair, the webcam cord, and a big handful of Thai noodles. Of course it all ends up in his mouth. Maybe that's where all his hair is? He's ripped it out and stuffed it in his chubby little cheeks.

-Or not-so-chubby cheeks, if you ask the growth charts. He's in the lowest quartile for both height and weight. Not surprising, considering his native gene pool. I'm secretly thankful that he will never be a linebacker. However, his veiny little head circumference is in the 95th percentile. Brainiac, that's him. Perhaps his scalp is just growing faster than the hair can cover it?

-Vocalizing. A lot. Sometimes jabbering and other time just shrieking. It's one of his trademarks. I hope the fine people on our transAtlantic flight appreciate his talent.

-Eating whatever his confused mother puts in his mouth. Thank heaven, because I am so confused about what to feed him when that I've just stopped thinking too hard about it. The German pediatrician told me to feed him a mixture of carrots and potatoes as a first food. The American books said rice cereal, followed by squash. One book told me avocado and my midwife said parsnips were the ideal first food. (Parsnips? Yes, parsnips.) So far he just seems happy to slurp down whatever we give him, which seems to have diminished the screeching. Do you think parsnips stunt the hair follicle?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Me in Ten Seconds (if you're a fast reader)

I'm opinionated, introverted, and a good dancer. I'm a TV snob, a book whore, and I try to be ladylike most of the time, except when I say the F word. I am supposed to wear glasses but sometimes I don't, especially when I want to look pretty, so if you wave at me from a distance and I don't wave back it's only because I prize my vanity more than personal connections. I'm not a dog person or a cat person, but I would keep Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a pet if I could.

I thought I would love being an expat but it turns out that moving to Germany from the States was harder than I thought it would be. Thanks to my funny husband, my adorable baby, the German public healthcare system, and Karamellgeback cookies, I'm surviving. It only took a couple of years.

I am an only child and I know how to brand a calf, make souffle, and keep my sorority password a secret. My friends think I'm a computer geek and the geeks think I'm a poser.

I would appreciate it if you could mail me some Nachos Bellegrande and a Coke Slurpee, please.

More info about this meme here.

Maybe I read too many blogs*

This post from defective yeti, imagining a political debate as it might unfold in blog comments, made me laugh out loud this morning.

Also, the whole LOL Cats thing goes straight over my head. It doesn't make me laugh. Am I uncool or stupid? I don't get it. Help. Me.

*(I've just read Jeff's mind. "MAYBE??" he says)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

In good time

Theo has been sleeping through the night - ten or eleven hours at a stretch - for almost two weeks. I almost didn't tell you. But the adage that every superstitious parent follows - don't talk about the good stuff or it's bound to go bad - doesn't apply because in a few days, we will travel halfway around the world and thoroughly screw up his sleep patterns anyway.

I share this information as part of my "parenting doesn't suck" blogging philosophy. I read a bunch of sleep books before Theo was born and laughed along with everyone who advised me to catch up on my sleep before the baby arrived to steal it all away. And those people were totally right, Jeff and I walked around for the first few weeks of Theo's life like zombies. We were all right during the daytime, but at night it felt like someone had sent a little alien into our bedroom to conduct an experiment on sleep-deprived human beings. His schedule was predictable but it was difficult for us to figure out our own day- and night-time patterns; since we were getting up every couple of hours, we had to finally say to ourselves, OK, it's dark, I'd better put on my pajamas, or OK, the sun is up, I think I'll eat some cereal. And, of course, in the time it took to put on the pajamas or eat the cereal, he would have slept for his usual forty minutes and would be starving and want to eat and then, especially at about 1:30am, want to be rocked and jiggled for an hour or so before going back to sleep. Of course, the zombie moments were immediately counteracted by marathon photo sessions and hours when he slept snuggled up on my chest while I watched FoodTV.

So it was wonderful and difficult and there were lots of tears (not just Theo's). But I realize now that my anxiety had a lot to do with the books and advice, and little to do with my concern for our tiny baby. I wasn't worried that Theo was sick, or too hungry, or underweight, or turning yellow. With either my naivete or my new-mom-intuition, I could tell that he was all right. But I was terrified of becoming one of the case studies in the books, or the friends-of-friends, the ones who co-slept and couldn't get their ten-year-old out of the bed; who had to wear the baby around the house in a sling until he was five; the ones who had broken their babies' spirits by letting them cry too long or who said, "If only we'd done it right at first, we wouldn't have to call the SuperNanny now." All the useful information had become jumbled up in my sleep-deprived brain and it added up to the idea that if I didn't teach him what he needed to know from his first hours at home, our whole family would pay in the months and years ahead.

And then, one day, instead of reading a baby book in the bathtub, I cracked open a novel. And I decided to put the books away for a while. And I started to notice that the things I had read that I was going to have to teach him how to do along with much crying and patting and gnashing of the toothless gums, he was learning to do on his own.

I know so many parents who, like me, just want to be informed and "do" parenthood the right way. We freak out about preventing nipple confusion and sleep training and eating tuna while we're pregnant. But the one piece of advice that no one told me - or I just didn't hear - is that Theo, like most babies, would have only handful of the hundreds of problems and issues that I'd read and heard about and prepared for. And the rest of the time, he would eat and sleep and grow and change and do what most babies do without anyone teaching him how. And even when I try to teach him, he usually does everything in his own time anyway.

We've had our moments (The Nap Wars) and I know we have a long road ahead (I don't even want to think about the day we take away the binky) but I've started to assume that he's doing what he needs to do, when he needs to do it. And when he doesn't, I have a library full of books with helpful strategies for coaxing him along. Now I'm going to go back to enjoying the fact that I got a full night's sleep last night, because since I've told you, it probably will never happen again.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Bullet Points

-I'm pretty sure the high chair I ordered (because I had to have a particular fabric pattern since I'm sure Theo would go on a hunger strike if we'd bought the floor model, he's got a real design sensibility) will arrive the day before we leave town. Thus, we've been feeding him in his swing. This means that sometimes he gets so excited about the mushed bananas that he kicks his legs and the whole contraption swings away from the outstretched spoon. This frustrates him.
-Why can I never find broccoli in the grocery store? Is it a North American native plant that won't grow in Europe?
-Analyzing television shows is more interesting/productive (if that's even possible) when they're actually airing. Analyzing them five years later just bores my readers. So I'm not going to ask you what you thought of Evil Demon Willow. But dude, when she was surfing on that semi truck, I think Buffy might have jumped the shark.
-Am I supposed to blog while I'm on vacation? Because I might not. I'm just warning you.
-But I promise to post every day until my vacation starts. Consider yourself warned.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Blog Story

A few months ago, I emailed my friend Katie (who doesn't have a blog but if she would ever start one I would totally link to it) with a link to Nothing But Bonfires. (I won't mention that it was a link to a specific post about a specific reality show featuring a man choosing his future wife from a bevy of vapid beauties.) She, of course, became addicted because Holly, the author of NBB, has the coolest life ever including the talent to write a compelling blog.

Then, a few weeks ago, I told my friend Abby about NBB because she is a graduate student and what else does she have to do with her time besides read blogs and envy talented San Franciscans with English accents and hot boyfriends?

Then, last week, Katie and I were discussing these calendars and their awesomeness but we were sad that we couldn't find them here in Deutschland or even online.

I swear, this story gets a little more interesting. But honestly, not that much more interesting but you're reading a blog so what else do you have going on right now? Just stick with me, it will be fun.

SO, a couple of days ago, Holly posted about small things that have changed her life, including a specific brand of lipgloss. And I know what you're thinking but, no, the awesome calendars did not change her life.

HOWEVER, I commented that Trader Joe's roolz, and later Katie commented that she would willingly make an infomercial for her SoniCare, and immediately afterward Abby said that THOSE VERY SAME CALENDARS changed her life. And she linked to the website where we can buy them!

Which means that while the interweb is huge and overwhelming, it is also small and friendly and everyone I know lives there and wants to help me. And I should probably shut down this blog and just post comments at NBB and wait for my friends to reply.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I wish I had a real post for you today, but since we spent the past five days exploring Berlin, hanging out with bloggers, and entertaining family members, all I've got is a picture of the famous Knut. You probably saw this polar bear cub's appearance on the cover of Vanity Fair, next to Leonardo diCaprio a couple of months ago. Knut is bigger now and seems to be surviving just fine, despite the temperatures that reduced me to a little puddle of sweat and breast milk as I stood in the shade while Jeff took this photo.

Berlin was beautiful, houseguests were fun, and now I'm off to turn up the fan and throw another load of laundry in the wash.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hilarious It Is

It's nice to know I'm not the only one who thinks Yoda was speaking German in translation.

The following link is especially for anyone who has ever tried to learn German. You should not go there if you are offended by salty language or sentences like this:
It is important to note zat zere is only one korrekt vay to phrase a sentence.

Uncyclopeida entry on German grammar (via Gin and Teutonic)

Am I the last person on the internet to discover Uncyclopedia? Because I think it's my new favorite site.

I'm With Stupid

Last week I met my hospital roommate for lunch. She is Scottish and had just given birth to her third child when I moved into the bed across from hers in the maternity ward after Theo was born. I was so grateful to be rooming with an English-speaker that I almost wept when I met her. She cheered me on and said nice things about Theo and was an all-around pleasure to be around, which was a good thing because with all the breast pumping and follow-up exams and nurses kindly asking about our bowel movements in a game attempt at German/English, we are now more intimately acquainted in some areas than I am with my family members (thank heaven).

I was worried that I might not recognize her, since it's been six months and many pounds ago for both of us, but we had no problems, possibly because once you have a baby you can practically track the scent of other children the same age as your child. Since her son is just two days older than Theo, we homed in immediately. The four of us had a delightful time discussing scintillating topics like naps and those tiny fingernail clippers and what's grosser: strained carrots or pureed peas. I came away realizing how totally clueless I really am about babies and what to expect from them. I've read a bunch of books and websites but there's nothing like a real live mom to remind me that sometimes walking around and around and around the block with the stroller is just what you have to do to get the baby to nap, so stop worrying about it. Her baby was in the middle of teething, in fact, so she gave me a bunch of friendly tips and I thanked her and filed them away for the day, far far in the future, when Theo might cut a tooth, because I kept feeling his gums and there were no bumps or lumps or white spots, but thanks very much anyway. <---FORESHADOWING

Theo has been screechier than usual lately. He doesn't cry so much as let out high-pitched screams periodically. I came up with a thousand theories - He's a prodigy and trying to talk already! He has a hair wrapped around his toe! He is starving! Jeff said, "I think we just got a loud one." And then we sat around listening to the screeches while plunging further into denial about our upcoming transAtlantic flight and how the screeching might be handled at that time.

I'm sure you know exactly what happened this morning. Theo, who must have been bemoaning, once again, the idiocy of his parents, finally grabbed my finger, shoved it into his mouth, and all but said, "HERE IS MY TOOTH. WOULDN'T YOU SCREAM TOO?" And sure enough, I practically sliced my index finger open on that sharp little chomper. So, the good news is that we know why he's screeching now. The bad news (especially for others on our plane, you might want to avoid flying Lufthansa for the next few weeks) is that it hasn't stopped yet. And the even worse news (for Theo) is that this probably isn't the last time I will mis-read his cues. But by the time he's in junior high, he will probably be used to it and will just roll his eyes when I ask him to kiss me on the lips before I drop him off for school.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Finish her off

Through some cruel twist of fate (fate being related to Rupert Murdoch), we receive the American Fox News channel via our British satellite television. And right now, as I type on my laptop in our living room, I am watching an unidentified woman driving down a deserted Los Angeles freeway, below the speed limit, without so much as changing lanes. And three men are grasping at straws for play-by-play commentary. I'm quite sure they realize she isn't O.J., and yet they're still talking. One of them just said, "Is there a reason they didn't jump in there and finish her off? Maybe she is mentally unstable."

I think they might be talking about me. Because I've been watching for twenty minutes can't seem to turn the channel.

(The announcer just said that I-5 is straight and boring and people tend to nod off while driving on it. Did it occur to them how boring it might be to WATCH someone drive on I-5?)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

See Biscuit

As we approach the most American holidays (Sorry, Pilgrim, Thanksgiving is #2), I have the urge to bake chocolate chip cookies. And if the weather stays cool, I'll probably give in and whip up a batch. But lately I've concluded that (GASP) America really isn't the cookie capitol of the world. Sure, we have the Toll House, but we just can't compete with the Europeans. They've allowed us our pride as we parade around saying Cookies! We are the only place in the world to find decent Cookies! as we gnaw on stale Chips Ahoy. And then they slyly break out the packet of biscuits and brew a cup of tea.

Besides the health care system, I will one day be very sorry to also say goodbye to the biscuit section of my local German supermarket, and the biscuits I've collected on my travels through Europe. Some people buy postcards and t-shirts, I make a trip through Tesco and cram tubes of milk chocolate digestives into my shopping bag in London, and make one last stop before crossing the Italian border to pick up some Grancereale. And when I discovered the Karamellgeback, I decided I'd better start paying closer attention in German class because I might decide to stay a while.

I'm so sorry I can't have a nice cup of tea and a sit down with each of you to share my discoveries. But next time you're looking for a way to feel at home in a place where it seems like you don't belong, I highly recommend a visit to the biscuit aisle at the nearest grocery store. Let me know what you find.

Monday, July 02, 2007

I'm Not Sick But I'm Not Well

If I were still working in an actual office with real live coworkers, be assured that I would force ALL of them to participate in this awesome video lip-synch project. But we wouldn't use hip songs by edgy bands. We would undoubtedly rock out to a Journey classic. Or possibly something by Def Leppard. Or Boston (More than a Feeling, anyone?).

Former coworkers, here's one more reason to thank your lucky stars I quit my job.