28 February, 2007


B came home from kindergarten today wearing this handmade head accessory. He apparently came up with this all by himself-- says it reminds him of a cool soccer player he saw in a movie recently. That and he just thinks it makes his hair look nice...
Took this shot earlier this afternoon just before S did a faceplant off of a skateboard. Think he might have dislocated his jaw but that it popped back in immediately afterwards. (hmm- deja vu, anyone? *shudder*)

He still can't close it all the way, but is on the road back to health via ice, a dose of ibuprofen and TLC from Herr Doktor Gameboy M.D.

25 February, 2007

The best gift of all

Like many of their peers S and B are avid Game Boy players. I really resisted getting Game Boys at first but then reasoned that it's part of the pop culture for their generation. As long as they spend more time playing outside and reading than playing games I really have no problem with it.

For Christmas our family got a gift certificate to Amazon and, as "financial manager", I've been having fun deciding exactly how to spend it. It was easy to pick out a book for myself, but harder to decide what to get for the others.

S and B have been talking about a couple of games lately. Games which are fine for their age group, but which are just too expensive to save for with their measly, sporadic allowance. So I made an executive decision and ordered them, but it took up the rest of the certificate. There's really nothing that M wants right now and I figured he would agree to the purchase.

At dinner the kids were all excited about their games and I told them they should thank M because part of the money came from his portion of the gift certificate. They became quiet suddenly and looked at him with sad faces. He smiled and told them that he didn't mind.

But apparently it stuck with them. The the next day while M was working B crept up on silent feet and slipped him EUR 1.40 in coins from his piggy bank...

23 February, 2007

To the beat of his own drum... (III)

Last week B called out to me from another room and said cheerily: "Hey Mama, my finger sure is fat!"

So I started lecturing him about how your fingers can't gain weight, and how he's the perfect weight anyway, etc., until I got there and took a look-- the end of his finger was ballooned out to about twice its normal size and was topped by a huge puss-filled blister. I've never seen anything (not surgery-related) get that infected.

The infection seemed localized, however, and he wasn't in a lot of pain, so I just got an antiseptic liquid from the pharmacy to soak it in. Which was effective, but which also turned his finger an interesting shade of yellow.

While his body was busy fighting off the infection it was also busy growing. (5 year olds are the ultimate masters of multitasking.) B's feet grew about two sizes overnight, and he desperately needed new shoes.

I have to digress here to say that shopping for shoes for my kids is an exhausting experience; a fight against unrealistic expectations from both sides. I expect S & B to like the rugged, shock-absorbing, cool stuff I pick out for them. They want shoes that make them run faster than Lightning McQueen; preferably with lights and sparkly accents.

After an exhaustive search which probably caused the lady at the shoestore to rethink her choice of profession, we finally found our holy grail. B had picked out a pair of khaki-green and neon-yellow sports shoes and was cradling them lovingly to his chest.

The shoe-lady asked: "So, you like them, do you?"

And B looked up at her with one of his solemn expressions and said: "Oh yesssss. The colors match my infected finger..."

Epilogue: Finger is now completely healed. Sports shoes are still a hit. But I will probably have to wear a fake beard or other disguise the next time I shop in that store...

20 February, 2007

Rumble in the Jungle!

M and I went out on a date on Saturday evening, which is the first in a loooooooong time. I was asking neighbors if they'd tried any good restaurants lately and one piped up enthusiastically: Oh YES! We had the best Chinese food last weekend at a new place called Don King.

It was all I could do not to burst out laughing! I didn't want to go into the finer points of boxing promotion with her, but, really, it's hard to equate that name with "fine dining".

Maybe you get a free mouthguard with the heavyweight platter...

(image courtesy of knowledgerush)

19 February, 2007

Food, glorious food...

Oma and Opa are in town this weekend and stayed with the kids on Saturday so that M and I could go out.

When planning dinner Oma asked S what he would like to eat. He thought a bit and piped up excitedly:

How 'bout a big salad! With tuna and cucumbers. And carrots!

And with each new ingredient he named he got more excited. M shot me one of his usual "are you turning our children into space aliens?!" looks.

Maybe it's a good thing he doesn't know I told S and B last week that they would probably go blind if they drank undiluted apple juice...

15 February, 2007

Close call

Every evening just before bedtime we all cuddle up together and S and I take turns reading aloud. It's one of my favorite times of the day- warm, cozy and one of the few moments that the boys actually sit still at the same time.

Last night S was reading aloud from a book in which the teacher asks the class to name their favorite animal. One girl said "Dinosaurs" and a boy started laughing at her and said: "Boy, you're dumb! And I'll bet you believe in Santa Claus too!"

I think I stopped breathing for a second, because against all odds S still believes in Santa.

My mind was racing to try and think up an explanation. Or better yet, a diversion! I was just about to fake a seizure when S smiled thoughtfully and said:

"Well, actually he's the dumb one because dinosaurs died out a long time ago and Santa Claus is still alive!"


14 February, 2007

E I E I Oooooooooooooo!

Today was my day to teach English at the kindergarten. So I brought along a handful of little plastic animals and their very smug-looking owner, Herr MacDonald. Wasn't sure how many of the kids know the song, so I gave a little explanation beforehand.

I looked out at the sea of expectant little faces and asked in German: "Who can tell me an animal that Old MacDonald might have on his farm?"

No response. Which is weird, because usually they're just about splitting out of their skins to give me the answer. So I asked it again, louder this time, because you never know, sometimes that helps...


And the teacher, who was sitting in the back, smiled apologetically and said: "Sorry, Betsy, but you're saying Bahnhof, which is a railway station. I think you might mean Bauernhof..."


13 February, 2007

Bethany and Rufus

Sarah wrote a post asking for suggestions for folk music. Some folk music really speaks to me, especially if the artist gives traditional songs a new twist. I suggested that she do a search on NPR.org-- they do reviews on a lot of different kinds of music and provide sample clips. I've stumbled across some very interesting new artists by listening to pieces on "All Things Considered".

So I got curious, and decided to follow my own advice-- did a search on "folk music" on NPR just to see what it pulled up. And found an absolutely amazing group: Bethany and Rufus. She sings, he plays the cello-- and before you start snickering and writing me off as a looney you've got to have a listen. They are dark and gritty and I'm completely hooked.

Here's a video for 900 miles.

12 February, 2007

Easy like Sunday mornin'

Aaaaaaahhhhhhh. That's better. After having burned the candle at three ends the last few months I now have a two-week break. German classes will resume on the 27th, when I start a new module, which, mercifully, only meets 3 times a week. Which means more homework, but also more flexibility.

And in the meantime I'm enjoying my time off. Took a long walk with D this morning, and ran a few errands. Finally finished up the first phase of a webmastering project that I've been shamefully procrastinating.

Slogged my way through 15 pages of a German translation of Italian feminist fiction and used "language-training" as an excuse to lounge for a half-hour with a cup of coffee in front of a tawdry soap opera. (you couldn't find two more polar opposites if you tried!)

Have decided that I really want to learn how to play guitar. Maybe I'm inspired by our blues-playing neighbor. Maybe it's the ghost of Moscow memories and talented friends who serenaded us many evenings with after-dinner tunes.

Whatever the reason, I popped into a local music studio this morning to see what kind of classes they offer. And I start tomorrow!!! I was a little taken aback when he said he could fit me in so quickly, but hey, it's never too soon to start jamming! ;-)

S and B are wildly enthusiastic. They have already lined up a list of things for me to learn how to play, including the Arctic Monkeys' Mardy Bum* and Touché** from Godsmack. Somehow I don't think this is really what the teacher has planned for me. :-D

Oh, and I take comfort in this article from the BBC today and will make sure I re-read it next time I am feeling freakish....

*Thanks to Brooklyn Lad for the mp3!
**Found this clip on someone named Jessi's website.

10 February, 2007

To the beat of his own drum... (II)

Saturday morning, crack of dawn. I'm dragged up from the depths of sleep by a small person crawling under the covers and curling up next to me.

B: Mom, when did we get Monster, that cat we had?
Me: Mnnnnnnfffff. March 93.
B: Oh. And how old was he when he died?
Me: ....... 11.
B: Uh huh. It's too bad about his tail.
Me: ...
B: Mom?! I SAID it's too bad about his tail!
Me: B, what are you talking about?
B: Well, when the vet put him to sleep he chopped off his tail.
Me: (now completely awake) What??!! They didn't chop his tail off! Where did you hear that?
B: You told me they did! Why did you tell me that if it wasn't true? (leaves the bed in disgust)


What a surreal way to start off the weekend!

07 February, 2007

To the beat of his own drum...

This afternoon I was playing a haunting Luka Bloom song about an Algerian who escapes his homeland and wanders Europe searching for a place where he feels at home. I didn't realise it, but S and B had been sitting very quietly listening to the lyrics.

S: Mom, why did he leave his home?
Me: Because his country has a lot of problems and he left everything behind so that he wouldn't have to go fight in the army.
S: But when he went to Europe why didn't he just take his family with him?
Me: Because he couldn't. Europe has a lot of rules which say who can come in and who can't.
B: (nodding sagely) Oh, I know all about that. It's just like when S goes over to a friend's house to play.
Me: (???)
B: ...I always want to go too but I'm not allowed because I haven't been invited.


We were running errands yesterday and the boys pointed out an empty paper cup that someone had left behind on a picnic table.

S: Mom! Look, someone left litter lying around for someone else to clean up!
B: Yeah, they should get a major time out!
Me: You're right, guys, and...
B: He probably left it there and then while he was walking away he kept falling down and crying. And since he wasn't cooperating his father had to carry him to the car.
Me: (???) Umm, B, are you thinking of someone specific?
B: No, just someone very lazy...

06 February, 2007

Yet another school-related rant

Yesterday I picked S up after school and we stayed a few minutes to chat with one of his classmates. Their language development teacher walked past, and S smiled, waved and said "Tschüss (Bye bye), Herr S!"


What the fuck is wrong with the teachers and principal at this school? There is something intrinsically wrong with a school system that has teachers so stressed out that they are aggressive with their students. I wouldn't speak to my dog that way!

S had just spent an hour in Herr S's class successfully memorizing and copying a poem in German. His behavior was fine. And rather than just returning the greeting Herr S chose to criticize S's handwriting!

It didn't seem to bother S at the time. We talked about it later and I told him that his progress in German is more important than his handwriting. That he should just do his best and that as long as it's legible that he shouldn't worry too much about it. And that Herr S must be a very unhappy person to react that way.

But inside I am still seething with anger. S is so malleable, so eager to please! Today he was really nervous while doing his homework, not because of verb conjugation or tricky declension, but because he was worried about his handwriting!

I had a parent-teacher conference last week. S's teacher seems to be finally accepting S as part of her class, albeit begrudgingly. Even so, she felt compelled to water down any praise she had with a little slice of negativity. "S is one of the best in the class in math BUT his desk is a mess." And although S had an almost perfect score for reading and high marks in dictation she chose to focus on the fact that he sometimes chats with his neighbor.

When I ask other (German) parents why, why, WHY are teachers here so hypercritical? Why does everyone silently condone this pervasive negativity? They just shrug their shoulders and say: "We don't know. That's just the way it is. Be happy with Frau K, because it could be so much worse!"

All of our other experiences in Germany so far have been extremely positive. But school is such an important part of our lives and there are so many challenges there I feel completely helpless.

There don't seem to be any viable alternatives out there, so we're stuck with what we've got for now. I guess the only thing I can do is keep hugging S and try to keep him positive. And hope that we all come out of this stronger...

05 February, 2007


Yesterday we drove down to Garmisch, a small ski-town in the mountains near the Austrian border. The snow has all melted away here, but down there you can still find some sleddable patches, especially on the shadowy sides of hills in Austrian villages nearby.

The area around Garmisch is gorgeous, with majestic mountains and picturesque little villages. Found lots of opportunities for pictures-- here's a small sample:

The boys, D and I stopped for an apres sled photo shoot. This is one of the few pictures from sledding that turned out at all. I'm sure it's because the rest of the time we were simply moving too fast to be caught on film.

Poor little bunny was so tired he kept falling asleep during dinner.
Small bistro in Garmisch. Whoever named the place must have had a grudge against the owner. WT(M)F???

04 February, 2007

Walk the Line

Last night we watched Walk the Line, the movie about Johnny Cash that's gotten a recent Oscar nomination. The acting was excellent and I really enjoyed the music!

Funny thing is that in my college days I used to follow a band around in Gainesville called "Aleka's Attic"--- I don't know if Joachim was in it because he's a lot younger than I am, but River and Rain, his brother and sister were the lead singers.

I love this video-- it never fails to bring tears to my eyes. And the movie last night was so powerful that I dug it out again just for your viewing pleasure.

01 February, 2007

Share the Love Blog Awards

Wow! Astrid has nominated my Blog Ness Monster for the Share the Love Blog Awards! And I swear, no coercion, pleas or threats were involved!

If you'd like, you (and your friends, colleagues, and relatives!) are welcome to vote for me here. (It's listed alphabetically in the first grouping, category 1, "Humor" and category 10, "Blogs you can't stop reading")

Votes will be tallied at the end of this week and finalists will be judged next week...