28 September, 2007

Oh to be young and carefree again. (NOT!)

I'd awoken that morning with a headache. The kind that makes you understand why patients in the middle ages agreed to let their doctors pierce their skulls with instruments which were probably better suited for gardening.

My first instinct was to burrow back under the covers, but we had a guest staying with us, so I had entertaining duties in addition to some unavoidable errands. I dragged myself out of bed and pulled on a pair of semi-clean jeans that were lying in a crumpled heap on the floor.

We stopped at a gas station on the way out of town. The headache had continued to amplify, so I remember being a bit slow to answer when our friend said: "Um Betsy, is that your underwear?"

I turned around to look in the direction he was pointing and saw a familiar-looking pair of bikini briefs lying on the ground behind me. My stomach turned.

My mother always taught me that honesty is the best policy, even if the truth is horrifically embarrassing. So I said:

"No! Of course not! Why would you think that?"

He looked very confused. "Well, because I just saw them fall out of your pants leg. Aren't you going to pick them up?"

I looked at him as if he were insufferably stupid and said: "You must be mistaken. I've got my own underwear, thanks." And showed him the waistband.

And I must have been pretty convincing because he became so confused that he stood rooted to the spot with his mouth open.

I herded him back to the car and drove off quickly, trying to divert his attention, trying to forget the fact that earlier that morning I'd picked up a pair of jeans off of the floor. A pair of jeans which I'd slipped off the night before with my underwear still inside. A pair of underwear which I left forlorn and betrayed on the ground at a gas station on the road to hell...

Now it's your turn. Tell me one of your most embarrassing moments! :-)

27 September, 2007

He plans to major in "Grime Management"

This morning I overheard B telling a classmate that he thought the school should replace Stützunterricht with Schmutzunterricht.

(So rather than remedial classes he'd like to be offered filth education.)

25 September, 2007

Aesthetic diversion

I haven't had a lot to say these last few days. My mind seems to be even more cluttered than my desk, which is no small feat!

All in all, though, things are going well. The boys are settling into school and we're all trying to find our groove with our newly crammed schedules.

And in the midst of all the chaos I lack words. I search for them in English and they elude me in German. And in acknowledgment of this rare occurrence I've pulled together a couple of photography links for your viewing pleasure.

Laura has posted some really gorgeous work on her blog Today on my Wanderings. She manages to convey a lot of emotion through her photography and I really enjoy her perspective of Germany!
Allison and Jenn are a well-known phenomenon in the expat blogging community. They joined forces to create Looking Into, which is a visual feast.
And no list of photography links would be complete without a nod to Chuck over at CRB Photography. He's a globetrotter, superhero, dad, and he's got a great eye to boot!

20 September, 2007

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but...

I was putting on makeup this morning when B strolled into the room.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm putting on eyeliner."


"Well, people think it makes women's eyes look prettier. Want to see it? Look-- I've got it on my left eye, but not on my right. Do you see the difference?"

"NO! All I see is a bunch of wrinkly lines next to your eyes!"

18 September, 2007

So hard to keep a straight face!

B ate his dessert yesterday evening with that fully-concentrated gusto only he can muster. And, as usual, when he finished he was a complete mess. There was chocolate on his hands, his cheeks, even his nose! So I sent him upstairs to clean up.

He came back downstairs within a minute and he was almost as dirty as he had been when he'd gone up!

"B, I thought I told you to wash your hands!"
"But I did!"
"Did you use soap?"

As this was obviously not the case I looked at him and raised my eyebrows.

"I did use soap!

...Just not this evening..."

17 September, 2007

Relieved and happy

Those of you who have been following this blog for a while know that my introduction to the German school system was not a positive experience. The principal was arrogant and inflexible, the teacher(s) screamed at the class and the situation on the playground was chaotic.

This was a double whammy-- we'd just left an excellent school in Flanders and on top of that S had a lot of catching up to do because of the new language. The school system here works fine as long as the students are of average ability, but as soon as they drift toward either end of the spectrum or need extra attention they fall through the cracks.

(Case in point: there's a boy this year who's repeating first grade for the third time. This kid is almost 10 years old and is expected to spend another year among 6 year olds! To me that seems inhumane and unjustifiable!)

In our elementary school status-quo seems to be the ultimate goal: Cookie cutter children who use uniform book covers and who are taught not to think outside of the box. Creativity is considered undesirable and is only encouraged within the very strict confines of a weekly art class.

Last year S's teacher was so aggressive that I was afraid that he might lose that spark that keeps him inquisitive about life around him.

But somehow he held on. Through sheer determination, hard work, and a god-given talent for languages, S not only caught up, but even excelled in this harsh atmosphere. The first few months were arduous, but we worked together and in the end he won a prize for reading more (German!) books than anyone else in his class.

This summer I tried in vain not to worry about who the boys would get as a teacher. This is doubly important since they keep the same teacher for two years-- I had to force myself to stop envisioning scenarios in which we repeated difficult experiences from last year!

Of course the situation is different now-- B's German is completely fluent and he is entering school with some other children from his kindergarten, which makes the transition easier.

But they are so small and vulnerable and I get a knot in my throat thinking about what it must be like to be screamed at by your teacher. To be humiliated in front of the class. S went through it and somehow came out stronger. B would probably survive as well, but really, is it normal for a parent to have to hope that her child will receive a humane introduction into the lifelong quest for learning?!

LUCKILY B's teacher seems great. She's young and motivated and warm. When she met B she asked if he was nervous, and when he admitted he was she said: "Me too."

And I've actually got a lump in my throat as I'm typing this, because isn't that what first graders need? A little bit of kindness? It's unfortunate that it seems to be such a rare occurrence, but that also makes it that much more precious...

16 September, 2007

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee(ski)...

I was working in the garden yesterday and turned around to find this lurking behind me...

13 September, 2007

How did this happen?!

Tomorrow B will be heading off to school for the first time. I'm spending this evening stuffing his Schultütte and trying not to think about the fact that my youngest child is now in elementary school!

I've always inwardly groaned when people say "Enjoy them while you can because it goes so fast!" But there's a reason that that's become a cliché. Where has the time gone?!

12 September, 2007

I'm a long way from enlightenment...

I have a horrible confession to make.

I downloaded the new 50 Cent album yesterday and and it's horrendous. Totally inappropriate, offensive, depraved, and... umm... I really like it.

09 September, 2007

Last hurrah before school starts tomorrow

We just got back from a long weekend camping with Oma and Opa at the Bodensee (Lake Constance). The weather here was crappy so we almost didn't go, but we took a chance anyway and got lucky: some sunshine and relatively warm weather! The kids even got to swim yesterday, although they came out of the lake covered in a double layer of goosebumps.

Since we hadn't really planned it beforehand this trip seemed like a bonus; a luxury we were able to squeeze in just before school starts back tomorrow.

This is not a joke. WTF?! I can't figure out if this is a line of beauty products made for or by evil little people...
This souvenir shop had the standard tacky personalized greeting cards. Betsy wasn't in there. As a kid I was always disappointed to have been excluded from this kind of merchandise, but back then I was passed over for names like "Amy", "Lisa" and "Tammy".

Bärbel, Boris, Brunhilda, Burkhard, Birgit and Beat? Are they kidding?

I've been thinking of trying out a new hair color. But not at this salon.
We walked to Austria for lunch one day. It sounds impressive until you realize that the border was only about 1 km further down the road. Here we are with one foot in Germany and the other in Austria...
This is one of my favorite family photos ever! We spent the afternoon at the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen and had just come out of a 3D movie about blimps. Which was actually more fun than it sounds...

06 September, 2007

Unexpected gift

I was up early this morning and took advantage of the quiet to catch up on blogs. S came shambling down the stairs, his hair and face tousled. Sleep still clung to him like a fine mist. He is almost eight years old, but in that instant he bore the expression of a winsome toddler. Something long-gone yet familiar; warm and fragrant as fresh baked bread.

He climbed unbidden into my lap and curled his lanky boy body around mine. And I savored the sweetness of this fleeting phenomenon. A pearl nestled in the middle of an otherwise slippery oyster; treasure glinting through the fog of a mundane Thursday morning...

04 September, 2007

At least it wasn't a FlowBee*...

M came home yesterday with an impish smile: "I've got a present for you."


"Ummmm. No. It's from my colleague, H."

Oh god.

H has become a regular around here, which is surprising if you consider that I flashed him the first time I met him. And that I fed him vomit-colored stew shortly thereafter.

Anyway, it appears that H has a strong stomach. That, and he's got my best interests at heart, because when he was at the grocery store the other day he saw a shirt-folder and for some reason he thought of me. (???)

"Wait-- WHAT???!!! A shirt-folder. You're kidding, right?"

M chuckled. "Um. No. It's just like the ones you see advertised on TV."

I was completely dumbfounded. As you can see from the breakfast crumbs still on the table when I took this picture at 2:30 pm, I don't exactly excel at home ec.

Is H trying to tell me something? That my husband is rumpled? Maybe that I need a hobby?

A younger version of Betsy would probably have had to be restrained to keep from burning this gift and pouring the ashes into the next pot of vomit-colored stew.

I've mellowed a lot over the years, though, luckily. Now all I can do is laugh. Me! A shirt-folder! Who'da thunk it?!!!

*I just checked, and the FlowBee is actually still around! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

03 September, 2007

Force of nature

Yesterday we made a day trip down to the Rheinfall (in Schaffhausen, Switzerland), the largest waterfall in Europe.

The weather was gorgeous and we hiked around the outer rim.

Here's a quick video of the first section of the waterfall in case you need a 17 second virtual field trip:

Not much else to say this morning. What are you up to today?