30 March, 2007


I was about to log on yesterday to tell a funny story. Well, not exactly "ha ha" funny since it involved vomit and a shellshocked neighbor, but somewhat entertaining after the fact anyway.

But I was waylayed by a fresh email from my f*cking Internet provider. Saying that they were happy to inform me that they've booked a fresh 38 thousand minutes on my account and that they're debiting 550+ Euros from my bank account posthaste.

I called "customer service" and was informed that they will not give me any information about who has been accessing my account, when, for how long, etc. They can also not tell me if it is still being used. They did, however, tell me that my password change probably worked and that I should just sit tight until the next bill to see if the charges stop.

I can finally understand how it is possible that overwhelming anger can cause a stroke. I can't remember ever being that furious before. I explained that I didn't want to just wait around and let 1&1 plunder my bank account and that this solution was unacceptable.

Do you know what his advice was?

Well, why don't you just unplug your modem for a month and see if that helps. Certainly you can survive for a month without Internet, can't you?

Today I will be filing two complaints with the police. One against whoever is using my password and one against 1&1 for unjustly debiting money from my account.

27 March, 2007

Like a 3 Stooges sketch. But then more painful.

Yesterday was a black day. So cursed, so foul, that someone should have been merciful and put it out of its misery early on.

It was a day filled with mishaps that included iceballs thrown by treacherous second graders, fresh scratches on my bumper, stale sandwiches and forced small talk. Not a day to be taken lightly. And certainly not a day for straightening out billing problems with my nefarious internet provider, the three-headed guardian to the gates of hell.

The reason for my call was simple: I was charged an astronomical sum for 10,000+ minutes of Internet usage. We have broadband which is a flat rate anyway, so I assumed this would be an easy error to correct.

I called the billing department, entered in my client number numerous times and suffered various menus before I finally got to speak to a real, live person. But unfortunately she wasn't-- she was the undead. And she couldn't help me. This was a matter for the technical department. No, she couldn't switch me. Could I please just call back AT THE SAME NUMBER and choose "Technical problem" from the third menu.

So I called again. again the client number, again the menus. and again the undead. This time I was advised that someone else has apparently hacked into my modem and that I need to change my password. "OK, fine, how about the charge?" "Sorry, can't do anything about that-- I'm the technical guy. Call this number back again and choose "billing" from the fourth menu."

Dialed for a third time. entered in my client number (twice), 3 different menus, etc. (and I'm paying 14 cents a minute for the pleasure!) Finally I'm connected with yet another zombie in "Billing". A zombie whose brain has apparently been appropriated for another department.

After an exhausting conversation he informs me that they will be happy to refund me the money they've debited from my account. As soon as I've contacted the police and filled out a report with them. Because in the eyes of my internet provider this time has effectively been stolen.

On another day I might have laughed. "You're joking, right?" He wasn't. And he didn't appreciate me asking if he thought the police might have better things to do than spend their time sifting through my Internet records. (Never mind that the Internet provider has all the necessary information including IP address, times / dates accessed etc. I have no access to the details so I have nothing to pass on to the police!)

His retort: "Well maybe you don't care, but if it were my money and my account I'd probably make an effort to get it back." And with a cheery: "Have a nice day" he ended the conversation.

I'm not even going to try to describe my mood when I got off the phone. Let's just say it was dangerous and leave it at that.

Oh, and I called the police today and their reaction was: "You're kidding, right?" I actually have to go down to the station to file the report on Friday. This should be good...

26 March, 2007

Disorienting / Disconcerting

  • Starting the weekend with snow and ending with 15 degrees Celsius / sunny
  • Coming home to find the dogfood bag 1kg lighter and the dog 1kg heavier. (again. despite the "dogproof" cabinet in the laundry room)
  • Navigating a 1 hour obstacle course to get to the Museum of Natural History only to find that it isn't where I thought it was.
  • Serving butter to dinner guests only to discover cat tongue prints across the top
  • Discovering a mystery charge for 10 thousand minutes on our broadband Internet bill. after hours on a weekend, of course.
  • Hearing your 7 year old singing along with the radio from the back seat "I'm dirty baaaaaabe, you see these shackles baby, I'm your slaaaaaave. I'll let you whip me if I misbehaaaaaave!" (CC, if you're out there somewhere: please help us!)

24 March, 2007

Need a laugh?

Unfortunately the audio is pretty badly synched, but the concept cracked me up...

"Despite what people think skipping is extreme. I mean, without the extreme there would be no skipping..."

23 March, 2007

Ze Germans and ze sidewalks

In class the other day we read a newspaper article about the increased number of tornadoes that are occurring in Germany. We got to a sentence which described a tornado that swept (fegte) through a small village and destroyed everything in its path. A student who was unfamiliar with the verb fegen raised her hand and asked the teacher to define it.

Fegen is metaphorical here but normally it's used to describe what you have to do in Baden Württemburg every Saturday.

She looked out at us with an expectant smile. We all stared back blankly.

"Oh come on. Surely you all know the rule about sweeping on Saturdays!?"

??? 34 eyebrows shot up with astonishment.

She started laughing and said "Your neighbors must be really happy with you-- there's a rule in Baden Württemburg that you're supposed to be sweeping the sidewalk and gutters in front of your house. every Saturday."

How German is that!? And how funny that some people in that class have been here for 10+ years and didn't know anything about it! I wonder how many other rules there are here of which I'm completely ignorant???

22 March, 2007

Nipped that rumor in the bud. (for now)

S and B were chatting amiably at dinner the other night. Somehow the subject turned to teeth and S suddenly interjected:

"The tooth fairy isn't real, you know. When we're asleep Mommy and Daddy come in and put that money under our pillows."

I called his bluff: "I'd be careful about saying things like that. She might think you don't believe in her and stop bringing you money."

His eyes got really big and he went silently back to his meal...

20 March, 2007

Would you like a sock of cream with that?

All in all I spent seven years in Belgium. Seven years in which I grew accustomed to inviting friends and acquaintances over for a chat and een tasje koffie. (cup of coffee)

Old linguistic habits are hard to shake, and I'm continuing to do that now that I'm here in Germany. The only difference is the reactions I keep getting when I ask them if they'd like to come over and have eine Tasche Kaffee. (a bag of coffee)

They may sound about the same, but once again the meanings (and reactions) are completely different... :-)

19 March, 2007

Mystery solved!

We are quite happy with our house. We like the big windows and the gorgeous view. The one thing we don't like, however, is the dishwasher which we had to buy from the previous tenants. Its less-than-stellar performance has been a constant, albeit small annoyance.

There are spots on our glasses. There is a film on our silverware. And then there's that god-awful smell that we just can't make go away, no matter how often M takes it apart and puts it back together again.

Lackadaisical hausfrau that I am, I have to admit that I haven't lost any sleep over it. As long as the dishes aren't swarming with big, hairy insects and have made it through the steam cycle I can live with it. But it has been annoying to have to hand scrub the residue buildup off of our glasses and silverware every month.

Today I was grocery shopping and the next item on the list was: Dishwasher Tabs.

So I walzed into the cleaning aisle, grabbed our normal tabs, the ones with the powerball. Was just tossing it into my cart when a small picture on the front caught my eye. A picture of a washing machine. For clothes.


I would not have been surprised if they had called security to aisle 6 to check out the crazy lady laughing maniacally to herself about laundry detergent...

18 March, 2007

Started the morning with a laugh

Sunday morning. (too) early. I become conscious of two small people slipping into bed with us.

S: Mom? Mom? Moooooo- hooooooom?
Me: Mmmmmf?
S: Have you ever noticed that when you peepee your penis gets bigger?
Me: .... Ummm. Yeah, that's because it's a flexible tube that stretches when it carries urine outside of your body from your bladder.
S: Yeah. Too bad about girls.
Me: wait, why?
S: Because they don't have bladders.
Me: ??!! But they do. We all have bladders. They're like balloons that fill up with urine until you're ready to peepee and get rid of it.
S: But girls don't have penises!
Me: No, they've just got an opening where the urine comes out. Bladders are inside your body.
Me: (totally awake now) Wait, no! Your bladder is here (pointing to his stomach) inside your body. Those balls are called testicles. They produce sperm that you might someday use to make a baby. But you don't have to worry about that for a long time.
B: Well that's good, because it's sure going to hurt when one of those balls has to come out of my penis...

17 March, 2007


S and I were walking to school this week when a friend of his ran up to join us. "Hallo S! Hasst du deinen Roller heute mit?" (Did you bring your scooter with you today?)

I was surprised since scooters have been outright banned for first and second grade children. So I chimed in: "Can you do that? I thought it wasn't allowed!?"

Which was met with wide-eyed alarm.

It was only after S took over and started chatting with the kid that I realized he'd said not Roller but Wolle (yarn) which they were supposed to bring in for art class...

B was savoring slices of icy cold watermelon for his snack. He cleared his plate and asked: "Mom, can I please have some more Bahtermelon?"
"What? You mean watermelon, right?"
"No, bahtermelon because it's bahtering my teeth!"

Har dee har har...

A smarmy salesman who had been recommended by M's colleague came by the other day and started his schtick as soon as he walked in the door. Smiled really big and then complimented me on the dog.

I ducked back into the kitchen to turn off the stove and S came downstairs. The guy apparently strode over, shook his hand and said: Was bist du groß! Und, ich höre dass du ein kleinen Bruder hasst? Verprügelst du deinen Bruder? (What a big boy! And I hear you've got a little brother-- do you beat up on him?)

S just stared at him with a questioning look. So the guy smiled and asked him again, but then louder:

Verprügelst du deinen Bruder?

I came back into the room, and, seeing the incredulous look on S's face, assumed that he hadn't understood something that the salesman had said in German. I redirected the guy's attention, let S escape and mentioned that although the kids speak fluently they might not always understand every word.

Later on that afternoon S came up and said: "Did you hear what that guy asked me? Why would he think that beat up on B???"

16 March, 2007

Primal fear

I made a trip to the dentist for a filling today. Was in a state all afternoon, completely wired from anxiety. My palms were sweaty and my heart was in my throat, and not even slow, mindful breaths could quell the fear that was building inside of me.

Two very painful trips to the dentist as a child have left their mark on my subconscious. I'm as afraid of the dentist as some people are of spiders or snakes-- to me he's just as dangerous and frightening. I realize, of course that it's completely irrational, but I just can't help it.

We got there and the dentist greeted us. I shook his hand and hoped he wouldn't notice my sweaty palm. "So!" he said cheerily, "Where's the patient?"

And I pointed to S.


S was completely nonchalant-- we'd discussed very calmly what to expect and have read a book about a boy getting a filling. He hopped up onto the table like it was routine.

Then they gave him laughing gas. I asked only half-jokingly if I could have some too. No one laughed. And by the way? It's apparently against the law for adults.

S relaxed and watched a film and enjoyed his high while they drilled and yanked and prodded and drilled some more.

And I faced my fear. Somehow I managed to stay in the room and listen to the drilling and reminded myself that this sound (*shudder*) in itself was completely harmless.

When the procedure was over S hopped off the table proud of his new stainless steel body part and excited about showing off his numb cheek to B. I staggered out of there just glad to have survived.

We have an appointment for the next filling in 5 days...

15 March, 2007

Physics and peanut butter

  1. One could hypothesize that a glass jar of peanut butter dropped onto a tile floor would implode, given the content's sticky properties.

  2. One would think that a glass jar of peanut butter, dropped onto a tile floor, could produce a radius of shattered glass that would be limited to the room in which it was dropped.

  3. If the product of this explosion somehow exceeded said radius, one could safely assume that it would be impossible for it to spread out into more than three rooms and two stairways.

The results of yesterday's study show that one would be completely wrong on all three hypotheses.

11 March, 2007

Convincing argument FOR Euthanasia

I have had Fergalicious stuck in my head for two days now.

Somebody please put me out of my misery because I'm losing the will to live...

10 March, 2007

I am Betsy, hear me ROAR!

M has started taking Tae Kwan Do lessons with the boys. S tried it with a friend but felt completely overwhelmed, so M offered to do it with him. Which is fantastic on so many different levels-- not the least of which is that it gets M out of the office on time twice a week and ensures that he gets some real exercise outside of our weekend hikes.

Over the last couple of years, however, time and sedentary office lifestyle have taken their toll. M was feeling a bit dismayed at how few pushups he could do during the warmup.

This morning we were getting dressed and he suddenly turned to me and said: "How many pushups can you do?"

"You mean women's pushups with bent knees or standard men's pushups?"

He rolled his eyes so far back into his head that I heard them knock against his brain. "Real pushups, of course." he said disdainfully.

So I dropped and gave him 20 right there on the spot. (which was quite a few more than what he'd been able to do in front of the kids yesterday evening...)

I was going to offer to wrestle live crocodiles afterwards, but figured he'd been sufficiently humbled for the week...

09 March, 2007

Me speak pretty one day

I've just finished up the second week of my newest German class and I'm really enjoying it. Learning this language contunues to be a worthwhile and challenging process.

We're starting to branch out into more difficult material including newspaper articles and poetry. We read and write a lot more, which really helps. I've had a lot of pieces suddenly fall into place over the past few days and am flexing my language skills like a new muscle.

With language, as in nature, however, there are always checks and balances. I am in no danger of becoming cocky because I regularly get hit with the humble stick, and that keeps me in line.

Yesterday I was feeling confident because I'd made some very good points in a debate on climate change earlier in class. B was over at a classmate's house and when I went by to pick him up I stayed to chat with the mother.

At one point she picked him up and tickled him, which elicited a delighted giggle.

"So you're ticklish!" she asked him with a smile.

"Oh yes" I said brightly. "Don't dare only arrive him and he laughs."

06 March, 2007

Need a laugh?

Laid Off Dad wrote a fabulous Ode to being 5 today... He's so spot-on he could have been describing B! :-)

Innocent bystander

and cleanup crew...

05 March, 2007

How is it possible

for two small boys to take a 10km hike in the morning, wrestle and play tag in the afternoon and still dance their way into bed that same evening?

I'll have whatever they're having...

04 March, 2007

Time to break out the thumbscrews

B is in a cocky phase at the moment. Pushes every limit there is, but does it in a way that makes it hard to actually pin anything on him or punish him for anything specific. So we're trying to gloss over it as best we can, hoping that it blows over before we have to do something drastic. Like sell him to a band of travelling gypsies.

A couple of times in the last week he's gone too far and we've punished him by taking away his dessert. (which I realize is ill-advised in some parenting circles, but it's usually quite effective.)

Now comes the rub: As soon as we do this S splits his dessert in half and passes it over to B. In itself this is, of course, a wonderful thing since he's demonstrating a level of compassion I didn't even know was possible for a 7 year old.

But on the other hand it's very annoying, because it completely undermines any effect our punishment might have otherwise had.

It's time to think up some new tricks. Something new that even Saint Martin couldn't foil....

02 March, 2007


It doesn't matter how seasoned a mother one thinks one is. Nothing can ever really prepare you for the moment when you're entertaining dinner guests and your 5 year old shouts down the stairs:

"Mooooo--ooooom!? I was peepee-ing, and, well, you know that thing on the potty seat that doesn't have a hole in it? That lid thing? Well, it was closed...."