28 August, 2006

The anti-Martha Stewart rears her ugly head

*sigh* We're back, the weather is crummy and I just got the biggest culture shock I've had in a looooooong time.

Apparently there's a hallowed tradition here in the area that children receive a cone filled with candy and presents, called a Schultütte, from their parents on their first day of elementary school.

These things are huge and impressive and S's eyes sparkle every time the word even gets mentioned. So I talked to the kindergarten teacher, who helped me order a kit so that I can assemble it at home.

And my idea of "assembling" was that I might whip out some scotch tape and stick on a couple of nice bows. Maybe I would even go over the top and curl the ends of the ribbon. You know, get a little krazy...

Maybe some little bells and whistles should have gone off when the teacher mentioned that she could lend me her glue gun. But I just glossed over it like I do with so many other German phrases that I cannot or simply do not want to understand.

The "kit" arrived today and I was in for the shock of my life. I don't know what I was expecting, but what I received was a bag full of random pieces. Most of it looks more like confetti than the sleek trophy it's supposed to morph into.

You even have to glue the separate little black segments onto the soccer balls!!!

If that glue gun had any bullets in it I'd probably be pointing it at my head right now!!!

I HATE crafts even on a good day and there's an ugly American side of me bubbling to the surface. A convenience junkie that's been hiding in some dark crevice and is now starting to hammer her fists on the table in revolt-- where the heck are prefabricated Schultütte(n?) when you need them!!!???

I'm thinking of throwing out all of the assorted foam and ribbon and just presenting S with his candy / presents in the plastic bag it all came in. You think he'd notice?

27 August, 2006

Vacation photos

We're back from a wonderful week away. Weather was fabulous and we really enjoyed getting back to basics. Have funny stories to tell later but will just posta few pictures for now...
B enjoying an ice cream in Sisteron
S and I hiking in the mountains near Colmars
S was fascinated by a remote control glider

Vacation photos 2

More pix. Am wiped out this evening but will try to write a real post tomorrow...
M and the boys clowning around near Digne les Bains
Happy camper!
A boy and his dog
Point de vue near the Gorges du Verdon

19 August, 2006

Almost finished packing!

Am off to the Provence for a week to see if I can manage to mangle French as badly as I am German. ;-)

Am looking forward to hanging out at our usual campground, playing in the river, taking some long hikes and devouring a couple of good books.

See you soon!

16 August, 2006

And the saga continues...

We were on our way to buy shoes for the kids yesterday when we passed the scene of our earlier cake-gobbling escapade. I was kind of sinking down in the passenger seat, trying to look inconspicuous when M looks out the window at the innocent coffee drinkers on the terrace and says:

"Hey! Isn't that the same customer who was there yesterday? Ha ha, he must not have anything better to do than bend the ear of every other customer out there!"

And then he laughed: "Hey, he must recognize us because he's waving! People are so friendly here!"

And M leans out the window and waves back cheerfully as we drive past.

It was only about 50 meters down the road that he realized that we were driving the wrong-way down a one-way street and that the chatty customer was trying to warn us and get us to turn around!


I don't think we'll be able to go back to that town for a while....

15 August, 2006

Like a bull in a china shop

Had another one of those humbling experiences yesterday. One of those moments when I had no idea what was expected of me and was completely handicapped by my lack of language skills.

We took a quick break from our biking adventure at a local coffee shop. I went inside and ordered-- they had a freshly-baked cake on the counter, so I ordered "eine Kaffee, eine Latte und Kuchen, bitte".

So he pours the coffee and they set a plate down in front of me at the bar and put 5 slices of cake on it! And then didn't charge me for it. ??!! (I'd seen them handing a piece to another customer so I think it was probably free with the coffee.) I was going to try to tell them that I didn't need so much but blanked out, panicked, and ended up taking the whole plate to our table.

Of course we couldn't finish it all, but I didn't want to be rude by bringing it back to be thrown out so I wrapped up the last piece and took it with me. And only realized with hindsight that that plate was probably meant for everyone and that I should have only taken one piece. They must have thought I was the biggest boor to come through in a long time!

Which is almost as embarrassing as the fact that the neighbors probably saw me yesterday afternoon having that race with an acquaintance out in front of our house. (we were on stilts...)

14 August, 2006

Aaaaaah, vacation!

Does this man look relaxed?! M is on vacation for a couple of weeks. And kindergarten is going so well for the kids that we decided to stay here this week and explore the area by bike in the mornings.

And of course it's raining. and 12 degrees celsius.

My face hurts. My sides hurt. Even my eyes hurt from laughing so hard today. (And I wasn't always laughing with him...)

We got back soaking wet and covered in mud and then picked up the kids-- after lunch we all played a marathon session of Aggravation. (Whoever thought up that name was a frigging GENIUS because it's got to be the most annoying boardgame on earth!) And again I laughed and laughed and laughed. His good-natured grumbling was hilarious!

M has now escaped with the excuse that he's returning some videos to the rental place but I'm wondering if that's like the old stories where the husband nips out for a pack of cigarettes and never returns... I hope not. I'm enjoying the comic relief!

13 August, 2006

(Happy) babies make good accessories

Especially if their eyes match your outfit... (I and P let us borrow theirs during a recent dinner at their house in Steenokkerzeel!)

I love me some internet!

Was having a crummy day friday-- was really feeling the strain of being in transition; missing the comforts of established friendships and a language I can actually express myself in without people thinking I'm three cards short of a full deck.

And then I turned on my laptop. Funny how much a part of our lives the internet has become! It's snuck in quietly and has made itself comfortable-- technology is evolving so fast that sometimes I lose sight of the impact it's had on our lives.

So I was feeling discouraged and isolated when I logged on, but ended up having a fabulous afternoon / evening. Skyped with Chui Hsia, who is now on her way to China with Er to get their new adopted daughter Sanna. Exchanged e-mails with Carol, a new blogging friend. And am in the middle of a virtual reunion with Langdon, Lisa and Julius, friends from college who are peppering my inbox with pictures, emails and funny anecdotes.

These interactions would probably not have been possible 2 1/2 years ago during our last move. I'm so grateful for the internet; for its ubiquitous nature and the rich social tapestry it offers-- especially at a time in my life when I'm feeling isolated on a lot of different levels...

09 August, 2006

Two more reasons to love the view from our balcony

Stood outside the other day mesmerised after a sudden summer shower-- two rainbows appeared, so vivid and distinct that they might as well have arrived on a direct flight from Hollywood. The sky was dark and moody but the air smelled crisp and fresh and I relished my role as an awestruck spectator.

Broke out the cattle prod to nip this one in the bud!

Since they're switching back and forth between three languages it's inevitable that S and B have moments when they mix up vocabulary. Even so I had to shudder this evening when B referred to our friend's husband as her "owner".

Umm, yes! We all do this in America!

B pulled a frond out of a bouquet of flowers at home yesterday and tied it around his forehead a la Olivia Newton John circa 1982. (this was just before he busted some moves to show me his "cool dancing". Hilarious!)

And this morning he insisted on wearing his leafy headgear to school. I finally convinced him that sporting it pulled over his eyes was downright dangerous, but could not get him to actually take it off.

When I asked him why he was wearing it he whispered conspiratorially that it was a disguise and that he's been thinking about shaving his head as well so that no one will recognize him. (???!!!)

If he hadn't been so cheerful when he said it I might worry, but he seems to be pretty comfortable in his own skin lately so I'm going to let it slide.

I do wonder, though, how he explained his "costume" to the kindergarten teachers. As far as I know B and S are their only contact with American children and I can just imagine the kind of stories they must tell their families every evening: "Did you KNOW that Americans burp after every snack!? It's really gross, but I guess it's their way of saying that they enjoyed their meal! They really are a very strange folk!"

07 August, 2006

I'm baaaaaaaaaack!

Am loving our wireless connection-- am blogging from a lawnchair on the sidewalk in front of our house while the kids bicycle up and down the street. Have been getting some VERY strange looks from people driving by, but the boys are still too small to be out front alone and I am too comfortable to move. (Plus, I've got a reputation to keep up as the local eccentric / village idiot)....

We're back from our whirlwind tour of the Benelux. Spent a lot of time in the car but it was nice to see family and old friends. It hit me how much I miss being in a comfort zone / familiar environment. But I also realized how much I like it here so far, and it's good to be back!

Don't have a lot to say this afternoon so I've been mining funny video links. Davezilla posted a link to this horrific video from David Hasselhoff who is very popular here in Germany for some reason. Someone down the street even has his name in HUGE font across the rear window of her car! Very bizarre...

04 August, 2006

The Hostess with the Mostest

Here’s a new trick—blogging from the front seat of the 300C. We’re on the way to NL for the weekend and just passed Worms. Which is a funny name for a city but still sounds more appetizing than the beige dirt-encrusted salad I just tried to choke down at Burger King.

M brought a couple more new colleagues home for dinner yesterday. And, determined not to reenact the flashing incident I’ve officially removed gazpacho from my repertoire.

As usual we hit a time crunch just before ETA-- I got sucked into that black hole that strikes when one is taking care of dogs and small children.

I’d just finished vacuuming when D came in, exhaled and expelled a few dozen hairballs out onto the floor. Threw her and the boys outside and went back to making pesto.

Got about five minutes further when I heard screams and gagging noises from the yard. B had apparently driven his Flintstones car through a steaming pile of fresh dog poop and then continued across the porch leaving a fragrant trail behind him.

Cleanup was long and complicated. Left me wishing desperately for a one-way ticket to Hawaii a pair of tongs and a pressure hose.

We ended up eating takeout pizza.

We’ll be entertaining a new set of colleagues next week. What’s that saying about “third time’s the charm”? That or “bad luck comes in threes”….

03 August, 2006

Yeah, but without the paycheck...

Have been doing workbooks with the kids after school to keep their English up. S is now working through a section on homonyms and we got to the words made and maid.

So I explained that one is the past tense of the verb "to make" and the other one is a person who cleans rooms and makes beds.

When of course B piped up: HEY! That's exactly what you do!

Exploring Tübingen

01 August, 2006

This explains a lot

I know it's normal for things to get lost during a move, but this is ridiculous! Since we got here I seem to be missing a chromosome....