Thursday, June 30, 2005

I'm. In. Shock.

Small Boy woke from nap. Crying. Found. Own. Thumb. Put self. Back. To sleep. Repeat. Put self. Back. To sleep.

Update: 12 minutes later. Oh yeah, that's more like it.


Some thoughts on Swiss politics

This article on Switzerland's efforts to replace the UN Human Rights Commission takes a rare look (for non-Swiss press) at what Switzerland has been doing since joining the UN in 2002. It's a pretty good piece, but I take issue with the final sentence.

Whenever the Swiss vote on "integration" issues such as joining the UN or forging closer ties with the EU, there is a split in the popular vote between the Western, French-speaking cantons and the Eastern, German-speaking cantons (the famous Röstigraben effect). It is not really as clear-cut as that, since the German-speaking cities of Zürich, Bern, and Basel often vote the "integrationist" position, and in the recent Schengen-Dublin vote it appeared to be more of a city-country side split than a French-German language split. But yes, there is a pretty significant chunk of the Swiss population that votes against more integration with the EU, easier requirements for foreigners to obtain citizenship, and UN membership. And most of this chunk is German-speaking. But to say that these people think Switzerland should "remain isolated," as the last sentence of the IHT piece declares, is simplistic. Most Swiss who vote against closer ties with the EU are not voting in favor of isolation, they are voting against subordinating their grass-roots democratic tradition to a supra-national legislature. Heck, many Swiss don't like subordinating themselves to their own Swiss legislature, why would they want to put the decision making power even further away? The Swiss take their initiative and referendum rights very seriously. It's not isolation that they're asserting in these votes, it's self-determination.

Edited Friday for clarity


T(dF) minus 2 days and counting

Lance's final Tour begins Saturday at 15:40 CET. (Lance himself goes off at 18.48) Not that I'm counting or anything....

And for a more informed cycling roundup than mine, check out Samuel Abt in the IHT. (Samuel Abt's cycling reporting is one of the best things in the IHT.) And for those of you looking for TV coverage, check here for a list of stations in various countries. Europeans can also always count on Eurosport.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005


In this post I mentioned the Mütterberaterin in passing and promised a full post, so here it is.

First of all, let me say that Small Boy is our only child and was born here in Switzerland, so I have no first-hand experience with pre- or post-natal care in the States. I hear things from friends who have had their children in the States, and while living there I sort of culturally absorbed stuff the way people do, but I have no direct experience. It's possible that somthing similar to the Mütterberaterin exists in the States, though I rather expect that it doesn't.

After we took Small Boy home from the hospital - where I stayed for five nights, which is fairly standard for a normal non-complicated vaginal delivery - we got a phone call from the Mütterberaterin (I'm going to start calling her the MB so I don't have to keep typing that! and, technically, she is the Mütter- und Väterberaterin). The hospital had notified her that somebody in her region of responsibility had given birth. She called us to set up an initial appointment, and visited us the first time at our home. She asked about my labor and delivery, checked on Small Boy, and answered any basic questions we might have had - though we didn't have so many questions because the midwives in the hospital showed/taught us most everything about Small Boy care, plus I had a midwife visiting me at home after we were discharged. (Swiss law requires insurance companies to fully fund 10 days of midwife care - in my case I had six days of care in the hospital - a day of guided labor and five days of rest - so I was entitled to have a midwife visit me at home four times. These visits can occur at any time - they do not have to be consecutive nor do they have to follow discharge immediately.) The MB opened a file on Small Boy - date of birth; birth weight, length, and head circumferance; weight, length and head circumferance at discharge; name of our pediatrician; whether we were breast- or formula-feeding; whether we had any concerns (I recall at the time wondering if the spots in his mouth were signs of thrush, or just "pearls" - they were "pearls").

Now comes the cool part. Five mornings a week the MB takes telephone consultations - I can call her with questions about something Small Boy is doing (say, spitting up a lot) or not doing (say, falling behind some developmental milestone like grasping objects) and twice a month she has open hours in the community church were we can take Small Boy and she'll weigh him, measure him, generally check him over, and answer any questions we might have. And this is free. All free. Technically, since the MB is a government sponsored position, we pay for it through our local taxes, but we can visit twice a month 12 months a year for years and never pull a franc out of our pockets. Regular use is in fact encouraged. When we were discharged from the hospital we received a little health notebook for Small Boy. There is basic care and developmental information inside, pages to keep track of developmental milestones acheived, pages for the pediatrician to record regular visits (there is space for 11 standard checks from 4 weeks to 14 years), an immunization schedule, and two pages for the MB to record weight, length, and comments. They clearly expect you to visit the MB. The MB also has her own files on which she records everything, so when I call her she can pull Small Boy's chart and see where he stood last time we talked/saw eachother.

The MB is neither a licensed doctor or registered nurse; it is a specific position here in Switzerland that requires its own Ausbildung (education and training). A MB will be responsible for a specific geographic area - say, several towns in the country side or a particular neighborhood in the city. So when we move to the new apartment, Small Boy will get a new MB. I assume our curent MB will forward his files, or give them to us to deliver to the new MB. Since they are paid from local taxes, once we leave here I'm pretty sure we can't keep coming back here for check-ups. That's too bad, because I like our MB. She is a no-nonsense, don't worry unnecessarily type and has many years of experience behind her.

It's a great set-up. You can keep track of weight and development without constanly running to the pediatrician, and nip any looming issues in the bud. Of course, for things outside the MB's area of expertise she will recommend seeing the peditrician, but a lot of what parents worry about fall within her training. Somebody with experience and a knowlege of child development - and first hand familiarity with the wide range of development that is still considered normal even if it doesn't follow the charts exactly - sees your child regularly and can pick up on anything that doesn't "seem right" and, possibly more importantly, reassure parents that something we think doesn't "seem right" is nothing to worry about. She can give advice on how to help baby sleep, what kinds of solids to introduce, what foods eaten by a nursing mother might upset a baby's stomach, what types of toys and games help develop particular skills and muscle groups, and so on. She's like a baby book that gets to see and touch your child. And I love it.

We are, in fact, going to the MB today after Small Boy wakes up from his nap.

Update: We're back. Looks like we're going to have to start calling Small Boy "Long Boy" - at 68 cm he jumped to the 90th percentile for length. Up until now he'd been tracking the 75th.

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Sunday, June 26, 2005


These two posts got me thinking about how much of parenting is a confidence game, even if you’re “just” parenting a singleton. The posts hit home particularly hard right now because I am suddenly suffering from a crisis of confidence regarding my milk supply. (I do think I took a hit brought about by an unconscionable lack of attention to my fluid intake combined with a sudden heat wave, and I’m fairly confident we’ll be fine after some serious attention to the matter.) Combine that suspicion with the fact that Small Boy is gaining weight slowly – though he’s always been more of a banana than a pear – and suddenly everything looks different. The cry that until a few days ago I knew with absolute certainty meant “Help me I’m so tired and I don’t know how to fall asleep!” …now I wonder, does it mean “I’m hungry?” The straining sound he makes that means “Mom, laying here is boring I want to sit up” …could it be he’s hungry? Do I have enough milk? Is he getting enough? Am I “starving” my baby? All the typical questions of a first time parent, and all of them having more to do with confidence than anything else. The confidence that I know and can read my baby. That I know and can read my body. That I’ve got good instincts. That I’ve been doing things right for the past five months. Two days ago, if you had asked, I would have told you not just that Small Boy is doing well, I would have said he’s thriving. So why am I suddenly confused now? Can this all be coming from a number on the scale?

Sadly, yes. One little number on the scale – which, for that matter is not even that bad, Small Boy still hovers around the 50th percentile on the growth chart which is just where he's always hovered – and suddenly I’m questioning myself, my baby, my body, and my choices. Damn scale. Damn growth charts.

So panic mode sets in. I called my Stillberaterin (lactation counselor) affiliated with the hospital where I delivered only to find she’s on vacation. I called my OB, but his office was closed until Monday (all this happened on Friday). I called the Mütterberaterin (roughly translated, the mother adviser, which is the coolest thing ever and deserving of a post of its own) and she agreed Small Boy is a bit on the small side. To up my milk supply she basically said drink, drink, drink, have a beer, try anything with malt like Ovomaltine. And she said if I need to supplement that’s nothing to feel bad about. I’ve breast-fed exclusively for five months, I’m doing a great job, and if I need to supplement that’s not the end of the world. Which is true. But. But. Now, I know the breast-feeding conversation can degenerate rapidly – I guess it’s a good thing I’ve got no traffic – and I’m reluctant to even dive into it but I don’t want to supplement. And I don’t think I need to. I just need to boost supply. Maybe. Heck, maybe my supply is fine and this is all paranoia. That’s the whole problem. This isn’t meant to be a post about breast feeding, it’s a post about confidence and about how much our parenting is affected when we lose confidence. It just so happens that my confidence has been affected by questions about my supply. It could just as easily be questions about if we’re using the right form of discipline, or if our baby should be sleeping more, or if the baby is “taking too long” to start talking. Whatever. Anything that causes us to start second guessing ourselves.

After striking out with the Stillberaterin and my OB, I called La Leche Liga to get the number of somebody in my area. I haven’t been in contact with them until now because one, Small Boy and I have had an embarrassingly easy time of breast feeding; two, my insurance entitles me to three visits with the hospital’s Stillberaterin (I think by law this is required of all insurance companies); and three, there is also the Mütterberaterin. But I needed to talk to somebody, and I needed to do it fast.

So I got the phone numbers and screwed up my courage to have this whole conversation in German. (Topic for another post – Small Boy is the best thing that ever happened to my German. Oh, sure, I don’t go to class anymore and I don’t have time to study or practice or read novels in German and in some ways my German has deteriorated since his birth, but as far as conversation goes, well! – where Small Boy is involved I know no fear of failure, no inhibition, no worrying about making mistakes. If I need something for him, and it has to happen in German, then I sally forth and don’t give a damn if I make the occasional grammatical error. He forces me to speak, and that has done wonders for my conversational German.) At some point during the conversation she asked me if I think Small Boy is healthy. I said yes, to look at him I’d have to say he’s a healthy and happy little boy and if I didn’t know that number on the scale I wouldn’t be worried at all. I’d say he’s doing great. At which point she gave me the best piece of advice ever: so stop looking at the scale and watch your boy. Brilliant. And obvious. And, of course, only possible when you’ve got that confidence in yourself and your instincts.

It’s shocking how fragile my confidence in my parenting is. I wouldn’t have guessed it, because in my saner moments I know I’m good at this. It’s shocking and upsetting how suddenly my confidence that I know what’s good for Small Boy, what’s working for us, can be undermined. Suddenly I'm wondering what that cry means, when I know perfectly well - I should know perfectly well - it means he's tired. I wonder what it means when he pops off the breast when I know it means - I should know it means - he's done. But now I'm second guessing everything, and I hate it.

I know how to feed the Boy, dress the Boy, play with the Boy, put the Boy to sleep. What I don't know is how to restore my confidence in my parenting. How unsettling. And how sad.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

As punctual as a Swiss, or something

Well. That's something you don't see very often.

More information here (in English) and here (auf Deutsch).


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

What could possibly top that?

Today Small Boy acheived his greatest dream, his burning desire, the focus of all his considerable Small Boy determination, the distant star that has kept him awake at night and tormented him by hovering ever just out of reach.

Yes, that's right. Today Small Boy put his toe in his mouth.


Monday, June 20, 2005

Is he sleeping? Is he dead? What to do??

Small Boy has been napping for 90 minutes. Small Boy never naps for 90 minutes when not in a moving vehicle, and sometimes not even then. Do I go in and make sure he's breathing and risk waking him up out of this blissful nap during which I'm actually getting stuff done? Or do I assume he's alive because really, what are the odds that something's actually wrong, and keep getting stuff done? He's fine, right? Right?

Edited to add: You know I went and checked. Small Boy lives. And sleeps.


Color me surprised

Well. Aitor Gonzalez won the Tour de Suisse by attacking on the final day. Just goes to show you have to watch those Euskaltel boys in the mountains.


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Cycling Roundup

The pre-Tour form fine tuning races are heating up, and things are looking interesting.

In the Dauphine Libere, which finished up Sunday, Lance Armstrong finished fourth overall (he won the Libere in 2002 and 2003). He had a fourth place going up his nemesis, Mont Ventoux, and a third in the time trial (47K). Alexandre Vinokourov, who finished third in the 2003 Tour de France, won the Mont Ventoux stage and took fifth in the time trial and is looking like he is going to threaten again this year after missing out on last year's Tour due to injury. He's having a good spring.

Here in Switzerland, Jan Ullrich is leading the Tour de Suisse after putting in the best time in the 36K time trial. I'm still trying to find Armstrong and Ullrich's actual speeds in these two time trials, and a bit about the courses, to put together some kind of comparison*. But it's worth remembering that Lance didn't win his tune up race last year and Ullrich did - and Lance went on to have one of his more dominant Tours and Ullrich finished off the podium.

Among other possible contenders, Basso had a great Giro d'Italia and CSC is looking good - it's quite possible that the one day he lost to a stomach virus is the only thing that kept him from a Giro victory. Bobby Jullich is looking good as well. Phonak's Santiago Botero won the Tour de Romandie and took fourth place in the Libere time trial. Phonak seems to have put the chaos of the past year behind them and looks ready to back him. Beloki has been awfully quiet this spring; Simoni had a good but not great Giro. Some of the Euskaltel boys will surely threaten for individual mountain stages, especially in the Pyrénées, but I don't think they're in the mix for the yellow jersey.

The interesting team to watch will be Ullrich and Vinokourov's Telkom**. Once again, it seems that they might have to put together a strategy that keeps two riders within striking distance. It worked for them last year, when Klöden finished second and Ullrich fourth, but it's always tricky and burns up more energy - physical and mental - than focusing on a single rider. In that regard, Armstrong always has an advantage - whatever goes on the rest of the season it's clear that at the Tour de France Discovery (formerly Postal) works for Lance. I'll be interested to see how Discovery looks this Tour - they're sharing the wealth a lot this spring (Savoldelli in the Giro, Hincapie taking some stages in the Libere).

Among the sprinters you have to go with McEwen for the green jersey, but Petacchi will surely be there to make things hard for him. Zabel*** might grab a stage, though I think his green jersey days are behind him.

Young riders? I never know.

Let the racing begin!

* I do know the Libere course had at least one incline, and the riders faced a considerable headwind.

** I meant T-Mobile. Some habits die hard.

*** Edited Thursday to add: I just heard that Zabel will not be riding the Tour de France. Seems that Ullrich wants all the Telkom - sorry!! T-Mobile - riders to be able to serve as helpers in the mountains. Which Zabel certainly never could do. So Ullrich is playing the heavy. I wonder what that means for Vinokourov.


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

I'm Back

I bet you didn't even know I was gone, since I'm pretty sure I'm not getting any traffic at all at this point. But trust me, I was away. And now I'm back.

We went to a wedding in Alcaniz, Spain. The bride was American, the groom was German, and the ceremony was in Spanish, except for the vows which were in English and German. The guests came from Europe, the States, Indonesia, Singapore. A true expat wedding. Or just a cosmopolitan one? (Except for the location, which was rural.) The ceremony was in the local cathedral. The reception and dinner were here.

Small Boy traveled well. He clearly inherited the travel gene from my side of the family - the people who drove from Chicago to Sun Valley, Idaho in 2.5 days. That's 1,650 miles/2650 kilometers in 2.5 days. On the flight down to Barcelona he didn't cry at all; on the flight back he cried after we had boarded and before it had started moving. He was tired - it was nap time and he didn't understand why he was stuck in his car seat and Mommy or Daddy wouldn't pick him up and hold him. But once the plane started moving he settled down and he was asleep before the wheels lifted. While in Spain he did about as well as we could expect a four month old to do on his first trip away from home. I did miss about half of the ceremony (but I caught the most important part - the vows) because it coincided with the just-before-bedtime-meltdown, but really, Small Boy did a great job. However, we have decided that it's not worth traveling again until he's a bit older. Honestly, he did as well as a Small Boy could do, but it's a bit much for us still at this age.

So today the two of us are hanging out at home relaxing and letting Small Boy get back into his rhythm. No cars, no car seats, no dragging him out to a restaurant. Just Small Boy doing Small Boy things.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Downtown, things'll be great when you're downtown

I can't believe I forgot to mention that we were accepted for the apartment. City living here we come!


Monday, June 06, 2005

2 x Ja

Briefly: Swiss voters approved joining Schengen-Dublin Sunday. And 58% of voters approved the registration of same-sex relationships (see same article) at the national level (gays and lesbians already have this right in some cantons), creating legal rights for these couples in financial matters, although same sex couples still will not be allowed to adopt or to avail themselves of fertility treatment (grrr).

Something less brief to come after the Small Boy goes to sleep.


Saturday, June 04, 2005

I've got nothing to add to this except

Oh please. What they said. And by the way, it's a petrie dish, people. Oh, for the love of god, it's a petrie dish. If you don't know that littlest of little things about ivf - and don't even get me started on the transfer/implantation distinction - you deserve neither to write an article about ivf nor to have an opinion on it. Punkt.

Whadya know. Turns out I did have something to add after all.

Edited to add: What she said, too!