Saturday, December 31, 2005

Babyfenster Switzerland

I find it quite troubling that if you Google "babyfenster" "switzerland", then my old post on babyfensters appears first on the list, well before any site that would actually point you to, you know, the location of a Babyfenster in Switzerland.

So if you're looking, the one lone babyfenster in Switzerland is located at

Regionalspital Einsiedeln
Spitalstrasse 28
8840 Einsiedeln.

You can find more information here.

And god bless.

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The curse of New Year's past

I spent Sylvester (New Year's Eve) 2001-2 in a hospital (that's my surgeon in the picture) in St. Moritz. I had torn my ACL skiing - well, strictly speaking I imagine I tore it falling - and for a variety of reasons that I no longer remember opted for the ACL reconstruction right there in St. Moritz. From my hospital bed I looked at the little bottle of champagne the hospital delivered and which I could not drink - why did they even bother to deliver the bottle to a patient on pain meds four times a day and sleeping pills at night? - and listened to the fireworks going off over the lake that I could not see from my window.

I spent New Year's Eve 2004-5 in a hospital in Big City, 34 weeks and 4 days pregnant, hoping very hard that those contractions would not turn into full blown Pre-Term Labor. The hospital had delivered a little bottle of champagne. Yes, I was on the maternity floor 34 weeks and 4 days pregnant and I received a little bottle of champagne on New Year's Eve. How very European. I set the bottle aside and said we'd drink it after the baby was born (we still haven't popped it) and listened to the fireworks, some of which I could see from my window. I was discharged on New Year's Day and Small Boy held on another four weeks.

The New Year's curse does not appear every year, but it snowed last night - beautiful light airy snow from a movie set - and then rained this morning so that our street, our sidewalk, our front walk is a sheet of ice. Perhaps I should not tempt fate and just spend the day inside?

I have never made a big deal out of New Year's Eve - it feels like a high pressure holiday that never measures up and I long ago stopped trying to make it the Best! Night! Ever! These days I consider the night a wild success if I don't spend it in a hospital bed. I have no doubt that I will be asleep at midnight, though I also have no doubt that local fireworks - and by local I mean, you know, our neighbor - will wake me up. I'll roll over and hug and kiss R. and say Happy New Year, and then go back to sleep. No muss, no fuss.

Besides, no New Year's Eve will ever be as good as the New Year's Eve Small Boy was not born.

Happy New Years, everybody, and take care. It's icy out there.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

What a difference two years makes. Merry Christmas, Small Boy.

R. and I spent Christmas 2003 in Washington, D.C. We had spent November of that year undergoing standard fertility testing and getting our results, which were, in a nutshell, "sans medical intervention you two will never have a biological child together." Well. Right then. Merry Christmas. We decided to spend the holidays in D.C and see some old friends and then go on to NYC for New Years. If you go to the right parts of those cities you can go for days on end without seeing a child. When you have been told you may never have your own child, not seeing other people's children for days on end is a good thing.

But at Christmas 2004 I was pregnant. Believe me when I tell you we did not expect our journey through IVF treatment to be so fast. So, well, easy. It's embarrassing, actually.

And now it is Small Boy's first Christmas.

Sometimes when I look at him tears prick my eyes. Who am I kidding? Often. The very idea of him, so improbable, so unlikely, takes my breath away. That he is even here at all. We have a photo of him as an embryo - he is either the two-celled or the four-celled embryo that was transferred into my uterus. One of those two held on, and turned into Small Boy.

I cannot believe my great good fortune. The grace that came into my life. The sheer stupid dumb luck of it all. This boy. This very boy and no other. There are no words for this, nothing in the world could have prepared me for this. After all of that, to end up here with him. To be mother to a Small Boy. To this precise Small Boy and no other, this Boy who hates carrots and loves Os and has six teeth and an outie belly button. To this Boy who points. Who calls the cat Eh-DAH. Who pulls my hair and grabs my glasses and who bangs on his high chair if I feed him his Kalbfleish-Kartoffeln too slowly. This Boy like no other.

This Small Boy. I look at him and my heart refracts like a kaleidoscope and I see his image everywhere. This wee Small Boy.


Friday, December 23, 2005

Say it ain't so!


Update: Yay!!


I heart Ramblin Dan

How do I describe Ramblin Dan? Short of a podcast, how do I do justice to this man singing Dylan and Lennon tunes to the accompaniment of this contraption? It dwarfs my poor powers of description.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Consecutive days with a morning nap exceeding 60 minutes:

2 3 5


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Meet the new boss, he's the same as the old boss?

** Warning - long potentially boring post about baby sleep habits and the effects of jetlag thereon.**

Baby jetlag is nothing to mess around with.

We returned from Chicagoland - a seven hour time difference - November 30th. It took eight full days for Small Boy to begin falling asleep at something approximating his pre-trip bedtime. Then for another week after that although he fell asleep at the old time he did not sleep like the old Boy. The pre-trip Boy slept close to 12 hours with one night waking - usually sleeping from about 6:30 p.m-ish to about 6:15 a.m-ish and the night waking...well, let's just say it came at three - dru in Swiss German. I say this because it just became our inside joke to call any time the Boy woke dru. Eleven-thirty pm? It's dru! One am? It's dru! Sometimes, he would actually wake at dru. The point is, he woke once and we could live with that, but after the trip he turned into a twice a night waker. That kicked my butt and only stopped about one week ago. So two weeks after returning to Switzerland, he still had some weird jetlaggy thing going on.

Then came week three. He was sleeping nights like the old Boy - 12ish hours and a single night nursing. Days? Naps? He used to nap. Not super long naps, and not every day, but after a lot of work and tinkering, we had turned Small Boy into a decent two seventy minute naps a day napper. Now? It seems somebody let Small Boy watch Treasure of the Sierra Madre while we were in Chicagoland because his new catch-phrase is "Naps? I don't need no stinking naps." (Yeah, I know, that's not exactly the line.) Twenty-five minutes, people. Twenty. Five. Minutes. He looks like a freshman during finals week - or, even worse, a professor during final grade preparation. Dark circles, red-rimmed eyes. Who ever heard of a baby with bags under his eyes? I'm waiting for social services to take one look at his sleep deprived little face and take him away, except we live in Switzerland and they don't do things like that here. Lucky for me.

So here we are, entering the fourth full week of what I can only assume are after-effects of jetlag.

And then something interesting happened. Remember I said pre-trip bedtime was around 6:30 pm, and that often meant a 6:15 am wake-up call? Well, we used the opportunity of jetlag to edge his bedtime back to about 7pm, and this has resulted in a 7 am or sometimes even, gasp, 7:15 am wake-up call. Wow. Heaven. Wow. Yesterday, however, Small Boy was wiped out. Desperate- mommy- I-am-so-tired-I'm-going-to-die wiped out, so he went to bed at 6:30 p.m, woke up at 6:40 a.m and guess what?

We just hit minute 76 of the morning nap.

Could it be that Small Boy is a naturally early riser, and the 45 minute shift in his wake-up time was wacking his whole day? Or is this just coincidence? Like Phantom, I am always looking for the magic bullet that will solve the sleep issues. Could this be it? Do we have to put up with early rising to have a well-rested Boy?

I don't know, but we just hit minute 83, and we are soooo trying this again tomorrow.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Click here to complete your order

I managed to get the Amazon order down to $400.00. That's not so much, right? Right?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

What's going on on my blogroll

I'm stealing this great idea from J.

An American Mama in Berlin is feeling some stress.

Vivi is looking for some advice on left luggage in Paris.

Expat Traveller is getting all random on us.

Berlinbound (who's actually in Koln now) is liking Koln more than he expected.

Germany Doesn't Suck is teaching Russian-Germans, and teaching the rest of us who Russian-Germans are.

Heissescheisse is airborn.

Sandra over at Here in Korea is smelling Korean smells and finding paper cranes.

How to Learn Swedish in 1000 Difficult Lessons is eating Comit and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen.

Mausi is worried about her dad. Send her some love.

Ms. Mac is making a list and checking it twice. Then she's blowing this popsicle stand.

Lillian is making Glühwein in Chiang Mai.

Petite Anglaise just wants her soup.

Stepping Stones seems to have snuck off to Canada.

Stringbean hearts Flammkuchen.

Swisslovebaby is rescuing overworked au pairs, teaching them to knit, and looking for a patron.

Swisstwist is looking forward to Christmas Eve and enjoying friendship while she waits.

In Favor of Thinking sees the light at the end of the tunnel.

Learning Curves is making travel plans.

New Kid on the Hallway has Teaching Carnival IV up, and Christmas trees. And a cat. And a squirt bottle.

Profgrrrrl has jetlag in Porto. Not a bad place to have jetlag!

Raining Cats and Dogma is blogging about academic blogging and why he does it.

Joseph Duemer is confronted with the instincts of Jack Russell Terriors.

Bitch PhD. is making gingerbread, even though it is the end of the semester. That's love!

Body and Soul is thinking about torture. That's why she's "The Conscience" - she's out there writing the posts that need to be written.

Respectful of Otters has been quiet lately - hopefully nothing's wrong and she's just working hard and spending the rest of the time enjoying motherhood.

The Whiskey Bar is taking another look at the Lincoln Group.

Always a Bridesmaid is having a gummi bear!

Barely Tenured is trying to get Baby T to drink from a bottle. Baby T, she's not so sure.

Baren Mare is grieving for her happy ending that doesn't seem to be coming. She's closed comments, but think a good thought.

CHEW is Dossier to China.

Herveryown has gotten a good progress report and hoping to pass the final test in two weeks.

In a Holding Pattern has gotten things moving in Korea.

Julia is thinking that email was a wee bit flirty, and looking for second opinions.

Over at A Little Pregnant they're doing it by the numbers and I think Charlie is winning.

The Naked Ovary is in a book, checking out new blogs and learning Chinese.

Pamplemousse is in a pit of grumpiness.

Dooce heck, how do you describe what dooce is doing?

My Topography is spreading some beauty around.

Nyarlathotep is applying to grad school and polishing the dreaded Statement of Purpose.

Phantom Scribbler is setting the record straight and it isn't looking good for Elmo.

Raising WEG is trying to pin the river to the banks.

Wanting to be... is awfully quiet these days.

And I'm skipping the politcal sites, even though there is an interesting discussion of income redistribution and net happiness over at Asymmetrical Information because, well they're political and you all can read your respective newspapers for that.


Friday, December 16, 2005

It's Christmas time in the city


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Coming soon to a Swiss fertility clinic near you?

Under the current regulations governing in-vitro fertilization in Switzerland Pre-Transfer Genetic Diagnosis (or in the German, Präimplantationsdiagnostik - PID) is forbidden. PID involves testing embryos for genetic abnormalities prior to transfer into the uterus, and is allowed in the US, Denmark, France, Norway and elsewhere. It is not permitted in Switzerland - or in Sweden, Austria, Germany, or Ireland.

Now the Swiss Parliament - first the Nationalrat (lower house) and then on Tuesday the Ständerat (upper house) - has voted to consider new regulations governing PID (link in English). It is now up to the Bundesrat - the seven member executive council - to formulate the specific regulations detailing exactly how and under what circumstances PID may be carried out. The Bundesrat's proposal will then be submitted to Parliament for a vote. (If you're following the institutional politics of this, yes, that means that essentially all that really happened is that the Swiss parliament voted to task the executive branch with making a proposal to place back before the parliament, which will then vote on - and could still reject - the particulars of the proposal. Swiss politics is nothing if not deliberative.)

The Bundesrat and an ethics commission have already indicated that they are in favor of PID under certain conditions, so assuming the Bundesrat can cobble together a narrowly defined proposal, it's safe to assume that sometime in the not-too-distant future Swiss regulations will change to permit PID in some circumstances. Swiss politics moves slowly, so "the not-too-distant future" is a relative term, of course. And use of PID will be narrowly circumscribed - at present it appears that the proposal will allow for PID in cases in which at least one of the prospective parents carries a known severe inheritable condition, and PID will be used to screen for that condition only.

Those who advocated lifting the current ban pointed out that pre-natal diagnostics via amnio, and a possible resulting termination should a severe condition be discovered, is allowed in Switzerland and has been for many years. Why then forbid what is essentially the same procedure prior to transfer, when the physical and physcological consequences would be so much less severe? Those in favor of retaining the ban - vor allem the center-right Christian Democrats (CVP) - pulled out the slippery slope arguement. Today we're testing for serious illnesses, tomorrow we're selecting for hair color. Opponents of PID fear that once we open that door, one ethical boundary after another will fall away.

I don't buy this argument. I never have. In fact, I hate this type of argument. It completely disregards the ability of governments and societies - and individuals - to make and adhere to distinctions. If the majority of Swiss people think limited PID - let's say only in cases where one or both parents carries a serious inheritable condition - should be allowed but rejects whole-heartedly sex-selection, then the job of the Swiss parliament is to codify those distinctions. There is no reason to assume that simply because we say yes to situation A it has suddenly become impossible for us to say no to situations B through Z. The standard slippery slope argument is dismissive of both the power of government and the basic intelligence of individuals to choose among multiple options and to recognize distinctions.

More importantly, it turns its back on the moral complexity of our daily lives and at its heart demonstrates a complete lack of faith in the ability of real people to make complex moral choices. It assumes that if prospective parents were allowed to screen for serious genetic conditions we would suddenly lose all bearing, all reason, and run amok selecting for eye color and height.

It's insulting.

Let me tell you something. Couples who go through IVF - who go to the ends of the medical universe to give life to the "sons and daughters of life's longing for itself"- aren't worried about eye color. We have more prosaic concerns on our minds. We're just looking for a heartbeat.

I've written between the lines here and there for those of you who care to read between them, but here's what you need to know about me to understand why I'm saying all this, why I'm saying what I'm about to say and why I say it so vehemently. R. and I have one Small Boy and what we call the Hockey Team. The Hockey Team is made up of our remaining embryos from the IVF cycle that gifted us with the Small Boy. They hover in the deep freeze, in suspended animation, for the day we decide to try for a second child. And if we were allowed to PID them to screen for the conditions you can screen for via amnio, we would. Neither of us, thankfully, carries any particular gene, but neither do we understand why we can't test at the eight-cell stage what we're allowed to test for at 16 weeks. The proposal that will probably come out of the Bundesrat will in all likelihood be narrowly tailored and R. and I will fall outside the rules. That makes no sense to either of us. But nobody asked us.

I am not simply a bystander in this debate, this isn't just the vagaries of Swiss politics for me. This is my life. And I hate it when people make moral choices about my life without asking me what I think. And I really hate it when people who never have to consider the enormity of infertility in their own lives assume that they can make better choices about fertility treatment than actual fertility patients can. And I can't tell you how much I hate it when people feel the need to be my moral compass. I have a moral compass, thank you very much. I have a true north.

His name is Small Boy.

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

This post is full of garbage

The Swiss take their trash pretty seriously. Anybody who sends a 16-page pamphlet about trash and recycling procedures to every household in the city, and who also makes copies available in English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Serbian and Turkish, takes their trash and recylcing pretty seriously. We received our 2006 Abfallkalender (trash calendar) on Friday. We now know the dates for trash pickup, paper recycling pickups, Grünabfuhr (garden waste, dead plants and leaves, etc), and old metal for the entire year. We also know the date the city will take away our Christmas tree, the location of the Tierkörpersammelstelle (what to do with animals who have passed to the Great Beyond), and how to properly dispose of batteries, car batteries, printer cartrages and toner, CDs, old electric cabels, skis and snowboards and more. Like I said, the Swiss take their trash pretty seriously. The Swiss also recycle 91% of household aluminum (PDF, in German only), so they must be doing something right. You may laugh at the Abfallkalender, but Switzerland is a recycling powerhouse.

I think this is due in large part to the fact that you have to pay for each bag of trash you put out at the kerb. Trash stickers (Gebührenmarke) are available at the grocery stores and larger Kiosks. Prices range from 70 Rappen (100 Rappen to a Swiss Franc) for a 17-liter bag to 4Francs40 for a 110-liter bag. We put out two 35-liter bags a week at 1Franc40 per bag. If you don't put Gebührenmarke on your trash bags, or if you try to pass off a 35-liter bag with a 17-liter sticker, the trash collectors simply won't pick it up. (You may, however, cut a 35-liter sticker in half on the diagonal and put half a 35-liter sticker on a 17-liter bag.) There are trash inspectors who go through Gebührenlos bags (bags without trash stickers) to find anything that might identify the "owner," who is then sent a stiff fine. It's also illegal to dump your household trash in city trash bins, in the park for example, and you can get a fine for this as well.

Personally, I think this is a great system, so long as you pay attention to when you are running out of trash stickers and go buy more on time! It encourages recycling and puts more of the burden of the cost of trash collection on the people who generate the most trash. We recycle as much as possible - toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, envelops that don't have the plastic windows in them (not acceptable), and cereal and pasta boxes, as shown in this picture.

Ten points to the person who can guess why they did not, however, pick up this particular parcel. You Swissies out there should know this. Paper and carton recycling is picked up at the kerb (in our neighborhood they come twice a month) but we have to bring glass, plastic and aluminium products to a depot ourselves. In our case there is a collection point for all of this at our neighborhood grocery store five minutes away. We can also bring old batteries there.

Doing trash right in Switzerland takes a bit of organization and storage space, and you have to remember to keep a stock of trash stickers on hand, but it really works. Trash stickers - one of the little things I love about Switzerland, and something I wish the US would import.

And the reason they didn't pick up that recycling bundle is...

I didn't collapse the big box on the bottom!


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Swiss distressed!

...over the proposed new banknote series. No wonder. Compared to the current banknotes (you can view the back side by holding your pointer over the image), they are rather ugly (though I sort of like the 1000 Franc note).

Though I wonder how distressed, when I had to find out about this in the IHT? Maybe it's a Zürich thing.


No surprises here

Considering the fact that I tried to teach Small Boy "What do we want? UNION! When do we want it? NOW!" this does not really come as much of a surprise.

Activist Mama

You're an agitator! Your kids have grown up on the
front lines of rallies and pickets, and chances
are that you boycott at least one company for
its bad business practices. Your kids are
learning what matters to you and how they can
change what matters to them.

What kind of a freaky mother are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

As seen at Swisslovebaby

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Stop me before I click again

I now have $549.23 worth of books in my Amazon cart (and that's without the shipping). I guess I should move some of those to "Save for later," huh?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Today is St. Nikolas' Day, when Samichlaus comes to visit. Traditionally, Swiss children memorize and recite a poem for Samiclaus (R. no longer remembers the words, unfortunately), who then asks if they have been good children or bad. Good children are treated with tangerines, peanuts, Lebkucken (sort of like gingerbread, but not quite) and sweets. Naughty children, as in Germany, get a switch. Samiclaus is accompanied by Schmutzli ("the dirty one"), who threatens to throw the bad children into his sack and steal them away.

Gritibänz - bread shaped like a gingerbread man - are sold on St. Nikolas' Day.

Tangerines and peanuts are commonly eaten all during the Christmas period - I've never seen so many tangerines and peanuts, also called "spanische Nüssli" (Spanish nuts), in my life as in Switzerland during Advent.


I guess humor is in the eye of the beholder

I must be humor impaired, because I never thought it was funny.

Thanks to Karen for the tip.

And for the last time, it's a petri dish, people, not a test tube. A petri dish. Repeat after me. Petri. Dish.

Thank you, that is all.

Monday, December 05, 2005


Before we went to Chicagoland, I emailed an old friend, who now lives in the Northeast but who still has family in Chicagoland, asking if she was going to be in that neck of the woods over Thanksgiving. We went to college together, lost touch, found eachother again, and have kept in touch since. She has a son two weeks older than Small Boy. Her husband is also a college friend of mine. I haven't seen them in fifteen years. It would have been so nice to see them again and to meet their son.

She didn't get my email until Monday. She was in the town next door to my brother's town over Thanksgiving. She was ten minutes away. Ten minutes. I live four thousand miles away, and she was in the town next door, and I missed her.


Sunday, December 04, 2005

Impressions from my trip

I tried to call this post impressions from home, but I found that I couldn't type that. Not honestly. This is home now, this beautiful city, this new apartment, this place where R. and I are building our life and where Small Boy is discovering the world. (Have I mentioned that he's starting to "cruise?" He can walk along the couch now, holding on for dear life, stumbling over his little feet, but he can do it. He's starting to eat finger foods, and he's got a little vocabulary going. I'm very clearly "Ma-ma" and R. is "Da-da" and Cat is "eh-DAH." He's turning into a little boy before my eyes.)

When we got back after our trip it was so nice to open the door and come home to our apartment. To come home. So if here is home, which it definitely is, what is there? The place I come from? It's more than just that, but it's less than home. I don't know what that means. I don't what to say about that. I'm still thinking about it.

Our trip was mostly a trip to see family, to introduce Small Boy to his Uncle and Aunt and his two young cousins, my niece and nephew. We spent time with my sister-in-law's parents F. and H. , who - since my mother died just weeks after my brother married and my father had died four years before that - have in many ways been parents to me as well. I have spent many Thanksgivings and Christmases at their lovely home with the fire always glowing in the fireplace. They came to our wedding and F. played the role of host to R's parents. F. has recently been diagnosed with ALS, and parting was especially difficult. The future is so uncertain, and I am so far away.

I was surprised by how much my niece and nephew enjoyed playing with Small Boy, once they discovered that he was interactive. Once they realized that if you build a tower, he will knock it down, they were off to the races, building ever more elaborate contraptions and then getting Small Boy to destroy them. They taught him how to turn the floor lamp on and off (and I'm still wondering about the wisdom of that but as they say, water. bridge. under.), indulged his love of flashlights, and tried to help him learn to eat O's. It was wonderful watching them all play together.

Other than seeing family, however, the trip was somehow not what I expected. I'm not sure what exectly I expected, perhaps some epiphany, but whatever I expected did not come to pass. Something about the trip felt flat. I'm still thinking about that, too.

Superficial differences stood out immediately. The grocery store almost made my head explode. Huge, sprawling, too much choice. The baby food aisle - four brands and 72 flavors - almost did me in until a woman with a baby in the shopping cart seat happened by and heard me mumbling "Second foods? What are second foods?" (the baby food in Switzerland is labled with age ranges, "after 4 months", "after 6 months," that sort of thing) and helped me out. I bumped into her again in the dairy section as I desperately searched for real coffee cream, fat and all, and she had to ask "So where are you from, then?" "Switzerland. Home of the full fat dairy products. Do you know where they shelve the cream?" (By the way. Fat free half-and-half? If it's fat free, it's not half-and-half anymore.) I thought US-Americans were supposed to be suffering from an epidemic of obesity, but I practically needed a map and a Sherpa to find dairy products with fat in them. Then again, when we went out to brunch the portions were stereotypically huge.

Mostly I realized I've been away for a long time and that this is really home now, warts and all. I'm far more comfortable here than I give myself credit for being, and I guess it took a trip away for me to see that I really have created a life here - a life I'm still working on, still building, but a life nonetheless.

That feels good. It feels good here.

It feels good to be home.

Oh, and by the way, if you're ever tempted to cross 14 time zones in 11 days with a 10-month old baby, don't. Oh for the love of god and everything sacred, don't.


Friday, December 02, 2005


I'm still trying to catch up on sleep and blogging, but I wanted to do the grateful meme before this post gets even less timely than it already is.

So...10 shallow things I am grateful for

1. Baby tylenol
2. Caffeine
3. Carry out/delivery restaurants
4. Amazon - both .com and .de
5. Radio stations that provide on-line streaming
6. My iPod nano
7. The internets
8. Spa treatments
9. Nap time
10. A good stroller

And the ten things for which I am truly, profoundly grateful

1. The Small Boy
2. R.
3. Dr. L
4. Science geeks, lab techs, and biology nerds everywhere. Every medical researcher who ever said, "I wonder what would happen if we tried this..."
5. Friends both near and far
6. That Small Boy, R. and I are healthy and financially secure
7. The forty-five words that make me free
8. My education
9. My late parents, and...
10. The things they handed down