Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Shorter David Brooks

I hate kids.

But seriously, what with terrorist bombings in London and Sharm el Sheik, the resumption of six-party talks, and a Supreme Court nomination, I can see how the Times' op-ed columnist might have trouble thinking of something serious to write about.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The move, it is my New Year's Day

Does anybody else out there get less done in December than they could because you find yourself thinking, why start that project now when the new year is right around the corner? Or oh, I'll start doing that in the new year?

Well the move, it is my new year.

R. and I have fallen into a bad habbit of less cooking, more take-out. (It's usually Thai from the place that just started up the next village over - you have no idea how exciting this is in a small Swiss village to have actual Thai food cooked by an actual Thai woman. And by the way, last night's green chicken curry? Way spicy). We actually tell ourselves we'll start cooking more in the new apartment. (Yeah, sure, we'll cook more in the kitchen that's one-fourth the size of our current kitchen and where there are even more take-out options in the area. Right.) We've managed to tell ourselves we'll exercise more once we move to the city. (Because taking walks or jogging will be so much easier in the city compared to the Wanderweg-rich countryside, right?) Neither of us have tidied up our desks in weeks because we're just going to have to put all that stuff in a moving box anyway. (Okay, that one might actually make a bit of sense, but it doesn't make our desks look any better.) Ironing? Somehow that's going to be easier in the city too. Don't ask me how, but by the looks of my ironing pile, I have clearly decided ironing will be easier in the city. It will all be easier in the city! We'll eat more vegetables! We'll take more walks! We'll lose weight! Our desks will be tidy, and stay that way! Oh, we'll do all sorts of things once we move to the city.

And we all know how long New Years Resolutions last, don't we?

Monday, July 25, 2005

Lance Armstrong by the numbers

83 days in yellow
22 stage victories
7 consecutive Tours de France
Cancer survivor

Fare well, Lance. Live strong.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

American Mom, Swiss Mom

This post pointed me to this article about "Alpha Moms", which gave me the same feeling I got when this book and all the press surrounding it came out. Namely, that sometimes I'm really glad I'm raising Small Boy in Switzerland. I know there are plenty of parents out there who are just doing their thing, raising their kids, trusting their instincts and on balance having a good time with their kids (see, for example, Julie, who linked to and mocked the article before I did), but they don't get any of the press, of course, because they're - we're - boring. No, the parents getting the press are taking their kids to sixteen different Mommy and Me classes, flashing those cards, and buying them itty bitty cellos. Or something like that.

Let me say right up front that my sense of the atmosphere in which American parents have to parent - and particularly in which American mothers have to mother - is media-driven. I'm no longer there to experience the Zeitgeist myself, and I was never a parent in the States. In fact, we have yet to take Small Boy back for his first visit. So I pick things up from the media and from the comments my friends inside the computer make, but I'm over here in Switzerland doing my thing and watching the whole parenting in modern America thing from a distance. Maybe the distance distorts. I hope the distance distorts, because I have to tell you, from over here things sometimes look pretty weird back home. I know people who have been told by total strangers that they should be breast-feeding, but when you nurse in public people tell you to put that thing away. (The list of public places I've nursed Small Boy is approaching infinity, but includes the airport, the train station, a bench at the zoo, an outdoor restaurant, my local Starbucks, and the rental car company's parking lot, and I've never gotten a look let alone a comment. And oh lord help the first person to try.) Apparantly we're even supposed to sit in the back seat with the kids so as to be as close as possible to our children. (Okay, I confess, in the first couple of weeks of Small Boy's life I would climb in back with him while R. drove. But I'm over that. Really. Unless he's screaming his head off back there.) It's not good enough to take the kid to the park to dig for worms or feed the ducks, he's got to be in some program.

From my distance, it seems stressful. And from my distance, it seems well set up for people to judge you and your parenting. I have this vague feeling that if R. and I were to wind up back in Large East Coast City where we met (which we almost did this year, and still might in the not-too-distant future) I would be dismissed by the working outside the home mothers as not interesting enough and disparaged by the stay at home ones as not good enough. Because believe me, when Small Boy is old enough to dig for worms, I plan on doing a lot of digging. And I plan on splashing in a lot of puddles. It's like Calvin said, "If your knees aren't green by the end of the day, you ought to seriously re-examine your life." In fact, if Small Boy turns out like Calvin I will 1) okay, tear my hair out on a regular basis but 2) be so thrilled and delighted my head would explode. I mean, if my kid one day makes a transmogrifier out of a moving box or makes snow sculptures like this, well then, my work here is done. But from my distance, it seems like splashing puddles and building transmogrifiers just isn't good enough. And from my distance, it seems like people sure would tell you that. Maybe I'm wrong. I hope I'm wrong. I hope my distance does distort and these profiles of Alpha Moms are the exception to the rule. I started this post by saying I'm watching from a distance, and my distance gives me a vague sense of things instead of a clear picture. Vague senses don't have to be wrong by definition, but they're more likely to be. I know that much.

It's pretty laid back here. There's a lot of unstructured time (and sometimes the American in me thinks there's a bit too much unstructured time, but that's another story) and unsupervised play. Kids in our village are always running around or riding their bikes, or sledding down the wee hill in the winter. Depending on their age they might be supervised by the sledding, but often they're just out there running around. Don't get me wrong, there are play groups and music programs, and for older kids there are sports programs, and you can find baby massage and baby yoga classes here, too, if you're looking for them, but that typical American competativeness is missing. The idea that if you just have the right toys, take your child to the right class, do the right program you can build a better baby is absent. It takes a lot of the pressure off.

Let me be very clear. I'm not saying Small Boy will "turn out" any better because we're raising him here. I'm not saying Swiss kids in general turn out better than American kids in general or that Swiss parents are doing a better job. All I'm saying is that it seems much more laid back here, and that makes my life as a stay at home mother easier. (Now in all all fairness I should add this caveat: it's certainly not all wine and roses over here, and I should expand on that some other time. But in a nutshell, child care spots are so hard to come by and the school opening hours are so insane that it's a rare Swiss woman who can even figure out how to work outside the home once she has children. And did I mention the Swiss approved a whole 12-week maternity leave only last year? So over here we have our own problems. They're just a whole different set of problems.)

I'm not an Alpha Mom, and never will be. Small Boy probably won't be the next go-getter. He'll be the one with the green knees and the moving box. And we're okay with that.


Thursday, July 21, 2005

Do it like they do it on the Discovery Channel

On Sunday George Hincapie became the first Discovery or US Postal rider not named Lance Armstrong to win an individual stage of the Tour de France in the seven years since Lance started winning. Yesterday, Paolo Savoldelli became the second.


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The move

We have a moving date. August 4. That's two weeks from tomorrow. That gives us two weeks to purge our belongings to the point where a 9-room farmhouse can fit into a 5.5-room apartment. And then to pack them. In the interst of saving some money we are packing ourselves, but we do have movers to do the heavy lifting. R. is going to take some time off work, and we are probably going to send Small Boy out on some walks with Grandma, but even so the next two weeks are going to be a bit stressful and a lot busy.

But then we will be in the city!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

He's got it, by George, I think he's got it!

This is good to see. After years of playing the loyal supporting role, George shines. Well done!


Saturday, July 16, 2005

Some thoughts on integration

In all fairness, this post probably should have been called something like "the trouble with being friends with a bunch of other expats and moving largely in expat circles" rather than the trouble with living abroad. I know people who are friends with a lot more locals than I am; there's nothing about the expat experience that inherently makes you have to be friends with other expats. That's just the way my personal experience is working out so far. To be honest, on the whole I find the Swiss to be a tough nut to crack (and I have a Swiss husband!). The Swiss I know are friendly and polite, but for the most part I find them fairly reserved. Breaking into their social circle can take some time - combine that with my own shy tendencies and you have the makings of a social disaster. For example, I've been attending the same yoga course with many of the same women for over two years (with the exception of the past six month baby break), and have yet to get past the friendly small talk before and after class stage with any of them. Again, in all fairness, I'm not the most outgoing person in the world, but "integration" has been more difficult than I would have expected.

And yet, in many ways I consider myself well integrated. I speak and read German more or less fluently, and I understand (most of the time) the local Dialekt although I do not attempt to speak it. (I have taken Dialket courses, however.) At any rate, for most ordinary interactions I no longer have to ask people to speak high German, please. (I continue to request high German when dealing with health and medical issues, especially concerning the Small Boy - that's really not the time you want to wonder if you really understood what somebody just said!) I follow Swiss news and politics, read the local paper, cheer for Swiss athletes, and read Swiss authors. It never occurred to me to seek out an English-language yoga class - I did what all good Swiss do and signed up with a course at the Klubschule. I also took my pregnancy gymnastics course in Dialket and my childbirth preparation classes in German. If we were to leave Switzerland, I would continue reading this, and possibly this. I like it here, and I feel attached to here.

But I hardly have any Swiss friends. So am I integrated, or not?


It's finally here!

Yes, I confess. We're fans. So we were excited to pick up our Harry Potter today.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The trouble with living abroad

Last summer?
Friend 1 returned to the States
Friend 2 moved to Bangladesh
Acquaintance 1 returned to the States
Acquaintance 2 moved to Paris

This summer?
Friend 1 moving to France
Friend 2 moving to Berlin
Friend 3 returning to the States
Acquaintance returning to the States

Anticipated this coming winter/spring?
Acquaintance moving to Australia

Anticipated next summer?
Super good friend returning to the States



Sunday, July 10, 2005

Tour de France

Like Stringbean we went off to see the Tour de France over the weekend. On Sunday we headed out to the outskirts of Mulhouse. We had wanted to go to Morschwiller-Le-Bas, just a few kilometers away from where we wound up, but by the time we got there the road was closed off already. We got there two hours before the caravan was expected, three hours before the riders, but clearly that wasn't early enough. So we wound up in some anonymous suburbs/outskirts of Mulhouse, as best we can figure about 5 to 7 kilometers from the finish.

We had brought a little picnic lunch, but had kept it small since we expected to be in a little village and thought we could get something to eat there. So we were pretty happy when we saw a Quick (French fast food chain) sitting at the curve where we decided to stake out our spot on the side of the road. Yes, we ate fast food - but more importantly we got to use their bathroom and changing table. We like changing tables.

In the past I have, like ViVi, collected the free stuff, but after three Tours de France, three Tours de Suisse, and a few Tours de Romandie I'm pretty much over the hats. And I never noticed, until we were accompanied by Small Boy, just how loud those parade vehicles can be with the music and the horns and the revving motorcycle engines. We spent most of the pre-race show taking turns playing with Small Boy under a tree (okay, mostly R. played and I read the newspaper) several meters away from the road - much gentler on little ears. By now I know the secret to figuring out when the riders are approaching - watch for the first of the TV helicoptors!

The thing about watching the Tour on the side of the road is that unless you have TV or radio (and if you have a radio, you'd better have French language skills), you have no idea what's going on. For example, I knew nothing about this until this morning. I remember two years ago (Lance's fifth) sitting on the side of the road all day at L'Alpe d'Huez waiting for the first riders. We had no idea what was going on down below, how the stage was progressing, who was in the lead, who was attacking, who was chasing. We finally started getting updates from a Kiwi...whose mate was watching TV live back home and sending him SMS updates on his cell phone. So there we were at the Tour de France and some guy in New Zealand knew more about the race than we did. Crazy.

This year we had no such luck and were in the dark. When the action finally came by we were able to recognize the leader, Mickael Rasmussen (Rabobank), because he was wearing the polka dot jersey. Without that, I confess, I would have been at a total loss. When Moreau (Credit Agricole) and Voigt (CSC) came by about five minutes later I knew the CSC rider wasn't Basso but that was about the best I could do. Several minutes after that came the main chase group with Discovery out front setting the pace, protecting Lance, and restoring their reputation after all the bad press after Saturday's stage. What a cool sight, the Discovery train driving the charge, even though they didn't catch the escapees. I do think it's more appropriate to say Lance surrendered the yellow jersey than that he lost it, but still. I know the guy knows what he's doing, but I love to see Lance in yellow and I hate to see him let it go.


Saturday, July 09, 2005


Posts like this one make me jealous.

Then again, at 10 weeks Small Boy too was sleeping through the night. He spent four wonderful weeks going from about 7:30 pm to 7:30 am with a single night feeding (typically around 3:30am). Then he changed patterns, as abruptly and mysteriously as the long night pattern had developed in the first place. He started waking up twice. I didn't think much of it, I figured it was a growth spurt or the weather or just, you know, he's a baby and these things happen. Then my husband went on a business trip and to make life easier I took Small Boy to bed with me all that week. He woke up a lot - or, he nursed a lot. I'm not convinced he ever fully woke up half the time because all he had to do was roll over and there I was, the kitchen that never closes. Husband came back, Small Boy went back to Small Boy bed but the stage was set. He was waking up two or sometimes three times now. Some more time passed and we decided it was time to take matters into our own hands and institute a sleeping plan, but then realized we couldn't really start something until we got back from the wedding, since we fully expected the travel to disrupt him anyway. So we got back from the wedding and started the sleep plan, but then came the milk supply incident. We aborted the sleep plan in favor of Small Boy sleeping with me again to encourage frequent night-time nursing - we were having quite a heat wave at the time so Small Boy was sleeping in just diapers and underpants and we could have plenty of skin-to-skin contact. The milk issue cleared itself up - if it was ever an issue at all and not just paranoia - but by now I was in a hell of my own making. Small Boy wakes up every two hours.

We started the sleep plan again last night, and we'll see how it goes. It can't get any worse.


Why I didn't do so well at Language Week

For any new visitors, don't let this German post scare you off! This is an English-language blog, and this explains what I'm doing this week.

Ich schafte es nicht, täglich etwas auf Deutsch zu schreiben. Warum nicht? Ich könnte sagen, der Kleine Bueb, was die Wahrheit wäre, denn der Kleine Bueb viele Arbeit macht. (Ja, okay, auch viel Spass.) Ich könnte sagen, weil mein Mann in Militärsdient ging, das wäre auch die Wahrheit. Während dieser Zeit musste ich alles allein für den Kleinen Bueb tun, was ziemlich viel sein könnte. Aber ehrlich gesagt, ich schrieb nicht so viel auf Deutsch weil es ein bisschen depremierend ist. Mein schriftliches Deutsch, das nie so gut war, ist wesentlich schlecter geworden. Man würde nie wissen, wie viel Kurse ich besuchte! Ach! Ja, ziemlich depremierend.

I didn't manage to write something in German every day. Why not? I could say Small Boy, which would be true, because the Small Boy is a lot of work (Okay, a lot of fun, too.) I could say because my husband was in the military, which would also be true. During this time I had to do everything for the Small Boy myself, which can be quite lot. But, to be honest, I didn't write in German so much because it's a bit depressing. My written German, which was never so good to begin with, has clearly gotten worse. One would never know how many courses I've taken! Ugh! Yeah, a bit depressing.


Friday, July 08, 2005


I really don't know what to say about this. Sadly, it was inevitable, (and I mean really, how sad is that, that this sort of thing has become "inevitable") and yet it comes out of the clear blue all the same.

My thoughts are with the people of London.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

I blame the Swiss Army for light blogging

My husband has been doing military service since early Monday morning. He finishes up and gets home tonight, thank heavens, because Small Boy and I are getting very bored with one another and need a third party to spice things up. With the rainy weather we've been having all week we've only made it out for one walk, so we're both getting a little stir-crazy too. And since Small Boy does not sleep during the day, I've hand my hands full of Small Boy-ity goodness. Not a lot of time left over for blogging (or cooking, or bathing, or Tour de France watching...). It's a constant surprise to me how something so small can be so all-consuming. And exhausting.


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Something I probably won't be blogging

Not because I don't think this is important. Just because everybody else will do a better job of it.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

All I have time to post in any language

Schlaf, Kindlein, schlaf. Ganz ruhig, ich bin da. Ganz ruhig. Schlaf, Kindlein, schlaf.

Sleep, little child, sleep. Hush, I'm here. Hush. Sleep, little child, sleep.


McEwen penalized

Could this jury decision cost McEwen the green jersey come Paris?


Monday, July 04, 2005

Deutsch in der Schweiz zu lernen ist gar nicht so einfach!

For any new visitors, don't let this German post scare you off! This is an English-language blog, and this explains what I'm doing this week.

Hier schrieb ich über die Deutsch-sprachige Schweiz und die Französich-sprachige Schweiz. Aber man wissen muss, dass in der Schweiz “deutsch” eigentlich Schwiezerdeutsch bedeutet und dass es mehr oder weniger 100 verschiedene Schwiezerdeutsch Dialekts gibt. Man nennt die Sprache, die man in Deutschland spricht, "Hochdeutsch." Es ist sicher möglich dass eine Berlinerin eine Schweizerin nicht verstehen würde. Ich kenne solche Leute, die sagen dass es sechs Monaten oder länger dauerte bis sie dialekt wirklich gut verstehen könnten hatte. Wenn jemand Deutsch in der Schweiz lernen wollte, würde sie dafür mehr Zeit als in Berlin brauchen. Warum? Weil die Schweizer kein richtiges Deutsch sprechen. Man lernt etwas im Kurs aber hort etwas ganz anders auf der Strasse. Man hat in der Schweiz weniger Gelegenheiten Hochdeutsch zu üben.

In this post I wrote about German-speaking Switzerland and French-speaking Switzerland. But you have to understand that in Switzerland German actually means Swiss-German and that there 100 different dialects, more or less. One calls the German spoken in Germany "high German." It is certainly possible that a Berliner would not understand a Swiss. I know such people, who say it can take six months or more before they can really understand the dialect well. When somebody wants to learn German in Switzerland it will take longer than learning it in Berlin. Why? Because the Swiss don’t speak German. You learn something in class but hear something totally different on the street. You have fewer opportunities to practice "high German."


Probiere ich deutsch zu schreiben

Saw this over at Mausi's place. I'm game. But I warn written German is sub-par, to say the least.


In which I wave the Swiss flag

And then there were three.


Sunday, July 03, 2005


It would be pointless for me to post updates, since the best information, including live internet updates, can be found here. Just click on your language and you'll go straight to the updates.

Reactions, I'll post.

For Ullrich to have lost 1'06" to Armstrong on a stage Armstrong didn't even win (albeit by only 2") says more about Ullrich's form than Armstrong's. (But man! Armstrong sure looked good passing Ullrich). It's possible that Ullrich was still feeling the effects of Friday's crash, and that he'll shake it off over the next couple of days, but that still leaves him with a bigger deficit than you'd ever want after just one 19km stage. That Armstrong caught Ullrich on the road after's just shocking, really.


Saturday, July 02, 2005

Tour de France predictions

For what they're worth (very little) here are my predictions.

If anybody other than Armstrong, Ullrich, Basso, or Vinokourov win (I rank them in about that order) I'll be surprised. Even though I think Vinokourov's got a Tour in him, I'd be pretty surprised if he wins this year, in part due to the wierd dynamics of being on the same team as Ullrich. I'll be very surprised if Basso does not finish at least on the podium.

Barring accident or illness, Robbie McEwen for the green jersey.

Is Axel Merckx going for the polka dot jersey?

Thomas Voeckler's not eligible for the white (youth) jersey anymore, and I'm always at a loss in this category. Cancellara? I don't think he can tough it out in the mountains. I do figure him to perform well in today's prolouge, which they're actually calling Stage 1 this year. And it's long, too. What's with that?

CSC for the team classification.


Friday, July 01, 2005

I am Swissmiss

Just figured out how to change my "posted by" name to swissmiss, which has always been my on-line identity. For those of you who notice the little things, all those posts that were written by ketteschuss and now seem to have been written by swissmiss? We're one and the same.