Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Dear Saleslady Person,

I hope you can clear something up for me. I am wondering why, when I asked you a question in Hochdeutsch spoken so slowly and gramatically perfectly it practically screams "I learned this foreign language in a classroom!" you chose to reply not only in Schwiezerdutsch but to speak so quickly that had your words been objects they would have set off tiny sonic booms as they blew through the sound barrier?

What about this interaction led you to select Dialekt? Was it the extremely formal and excessively polite "Hätten Sie...?" Was it the way I constructed a tortured, yet gramatically correct, relative clause to get around the fact that I obviously did not know the specific word for the object I was seeking? Was it the way I soothed my son in English when he fussed during our transaction?

I really want to know, Saleslady Person, what led you to believe I was Swiss so that the next time I am trying to pass I can employ one of these clever ruses so obviously designed to conceal my true identity.




Monday, January 30, 2006


Don't know much about you
Don't know who you are
We've been doing fine without you
But we could only go so far
Don't know why you chose us
Were you watching from above
Is there someone there that knows us
Said we'd give you all our love

Will you laugh just like your mother
Will you sigh like your old man
Will some things skip a generation
Like I've heard they often can
Are you a poet or a dancer
A devil or a clown
Or a strange new combination of
The things we've handed down

I wonder who you'll look like
Will your hair fall down and curl
Will you be a mama's boy
Or daddy's little girl
Will you be a sad reminder
Of what's been lost along the way
Maybe you can help me find her
In the things you do and say

And these things that we have given you
They are not so easily found
But you can thank us later
For the things we've handed down

You may not always be so grateful
For the way that you were made
Maybe some feature of your father's
That you'd gladly sell or trade
And one day you may look at us
And say that you were cursed
But over time that line has been
Extremely well rehearsed
By our fathers, and their fathers
In some old and distant town
From places no one here remembers
Come the things we've handed down.

- Marc Cohen, The Things We've Handed Down

Never doubt how longed for you were. How cherished you are.I'd do it all again. Every appointment, every needle, every shot. Again and again and a thousand times again. For you, again, anything again.

Thank you for choosing us.Happy birthday, my wee small son.


Sunday, January 29, 2006

It's not easy being green

And so I'm not anymore.

R is helping me make some template changes that have been a long time coming. I still need to tweak the sidebar and the colors for my links - I'm trying to get away from the green, you see. Because it was very green around here. Very. Very. Green. As R bluntly but truthfully put it once, "You have a good blog but your layout is dragging you down." Yes, all that green did get a bit, well, green.

So check out the new layout. Mountains up top, wolf tracks down bottom. Now how could that possibly drag a girl down?

And I see I'm not the only one cleaning house.


In which I wave the Swiss flag (again)

Too. Good.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Duck! And cover!

These days the most dangerous place to be in our apartment is behind Small Boy. He's developed quite the little King Henry "away with you" over the shoulder toss. Blocks, sippy cups, stuffed toys, hard toys (not to mention carrots, cheese chunks, green beans, peas and pasta curls) go flying indescriminately backwards. It's an exuberant gesture, big and bold; not a tantrum or done in anger. Just a boy wildly tossing his blocks over his shoulder because he has learned that he can. He's taking up his space in the world. I want him to be bigger than I am in the world. Bold. The kind of man who people always think is 5 cm taller than he really is. I want him to make more noise than I did in my childhood, throw more toys, scuff more knees, rip more pants. Take chances. Throw blocks. See what happens.

I'm just going to stay out of range as he does it.


Friday, January 20, 2006

My grace is gone

I need to learn to handle days like this more gracefully. When I see where the day is headed, which was downhill faster than Bode "It's Miller Time" Miller, why can't I just accept it? Why do I insist on persisting in the hope that it will turn around somehow? It's so much more frustrating that way, to hold on to the delusion that I can somehow turn it around and salvage something out of the day, than simply to accept the day for what it is. A day when Small Boy is cutting two teeth. A day when Small Boy woke up too many times the night before (see teeth, cutting) and is tired and cranky. As am I. A day when the naps are illusions, mirages. A day in which he will grate on my every last nerve, when every glance at the clock produces the instant arithmatic of the hours, the minutes, the very seconds until his bedtime. A day in which it will be impossible to do anything but be with him and do what he wants. I need to learn to give in rather than fight these days. To be his mom more patiently, to sooth him with a more generous heart.

He's asleep now.

The apartment is quiet, R. is still in miltary service.

I'm going to go find my grace.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

60 minutes

60 minutes. I'm missing about 1 hour of sleep a day while R. is in Dienst (military service), and it's amazing how much it matters. I just spent an hour reviewing back issues of a magazine I'm considering submitting to, to see if their style fits my style, and I can't remember a thing I looked at. In the next room I can hear Small Boy and Grossmütti (R's mom) playing. It's their regular Thursday gig. Grossmütti walks in the door and Small Boy takes one look at her and smiles and points to the stereo - she plays a lot of Baby Mozart for him. The theory is I'm getting some work done while they play, but my eyes are glazing over and I should probably just take a nap.

60 minutes. Who knew?

R. usually takes Small Boy, who's an early-to-bed-early-to-rise kind of boy, in the mornings. When Small Boy wakes, R. goes and gets him and brings him back to bed where I nurse him; when he's done, R. takes him out of the bedroom and spends the morning with him until it's time to leave for work. R. does the first diaper change of the day, feeds him his Morgenbrei (morning cereal) (because although I'm still nursing him my supply low and he needs additional food in the morning), plays with him. Depending on when Small Boy wakes and what R's schedule is that morning, this can give me anywhere from 45 to 75 additional minutes in bed. Let's say an hour. It's only been two mornings and I'm wiped out. I miss my hour!

It makes me wonder, how wiped out is R. all the time? Yet he keeps taking the morning shift, letting me roll over and burrow back under the covers. Yeah, he's a keeper.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Care package love, or shameless product placement

There are a lot of little things I miss here in Switzerland, stupid little things like Grape Nuts and Triscuits and Annie's Shells and Cheddar. Peanut Butter Cups. Vita brand herring packed in sour cream with onions. Oh how I miss Vita brand herring packed in sour cream with onions. But I've never gone to great lengths - hardly gone to any lengths - to keep these silly little loves in my life. I decided when I moved here that I was moving here - it's hard enough living with one foot on each shore without making it worse by refusing to accept the fact that I live in Switzerland and things are just different here. If I can't adapt to these little things - Grape Nuts, this is really not a big deal, they're Grape Nuts - what chance do I stand? Adapt and overcome, as my father the former Marine would say.

There are four exceptions, things that are either impossible to get here or just too difficult and then expensive on top of that, that I refuse to live without, and whenever R. and/or I travel to the States we fill up our suitcases with:

1. Cream of Tartar. No Cream of Tartar, no Snickerdoodles.
2. Domino's Light Brown Sugar.
3. Fleischman's Yeast packages. Not because there is no yeast in Switzerland, of course there is yeast in Switzerland, but the packages are different sizes and we have a lot of American recipe books that call for "a package of yeast."
4. Nestle Choocolate Chips. Why yes, Nestle is a gigando Swiss company and yes, yes I do live in Switzerland, and yet they are not available here, so we truck them in by the suitcase full. Rather like carting coal to Newcastle, but what are you going to do?

Other than that, if I can't find it here I don't need it. No Macaroni and Cheese? Good grief, Alpenmacaroni is better anyway. No Grape Nuts? Try the Museli. No Peanut Butter Cups? I live in Switzerland, the Valhalla of chocolate, do I really need Peanut Butter Cups? No, no desperate longing for the random foods of home for me (except, perhaps, my one true love The Dysfunctional Family Sundae; scroll about half way down the menu).

Then for Christmas by brother and sister-in-law sent me a care package with lots of little foodie treats - Grape Nuts and Triscuits and Peanut Butter Cups and the like. I think it is the first care package I have gotten since I moved to Switzerland. I made it a point of pride to adapt, perhaps to the extent of face, cutting off nose to spite. So I got this care package for Christmas and I resisted opening the intruiging-sounding Rosemary and Olive Oil Triscuits until today.

That list of four things worth sticking in the suitcase? Make it five.


Me. Want.



The quiet side of the mountain where the cross-country and snowshoe areas are.

The Bergkirchli (little mountain church) under a three-quarters moon.

R. sledding with Small Boy.

The Pferdschneerennen (horse races on snow) held on the frozen lake.

Most of these pictures were taken on different days. See what I mean about postcard skies?


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I'm back, he's gone, there's work to be done

Arosa. Arosa was delightful. While the rest of Switzerland was living under a cloud of fog and smog (link auf Deutsch, click here for the English), we were above it all at 1800 meters under a cloudless blue sky fit only for postcards and travel magazines. That alone was wonderful. The mountains were breathtaking and because we were two weeks after the holidays, the crowds were small and the pistes were all but empty.

I left by train Saturday morning and spent the three and a half hour journey listening to my nano, writing in my workbook and, once the fog lifted about 40 minutes outside of Zürich, staring out the window as we rode further and further into Kanton Graubunden. Saturday night I went to dinner (pizza and a beer followed by a caffe coretto - espresso with a shot of grappa; I was going to have to pump and dump anyway, so I figured I might as well go for broke) and then, for the first time since I was about 6 and a half months pregnant - Small Boy's got a birthday coming up, so that's 18 months ago people - went to a movie. In a movie theatre. (It was Broken Flowers, by the way, but I would have gone if it had been Dumb and Dumber meet Starsky and Hutch.) Sunday I took the hiking trail to the Tschuggenhutte where I stopped, rented a sun chair, ordered lunch, and promptly laid back and read this for three hours. I made my way back down to the village, sat on a terrace with a stunning view of the mountains right up in my face, and drank a cappuccino.

R. and Small Boy arrived at about 5 Sunday afternoon. Small Boy took one look at me, started to cry, and reached out for me so that he practically fell out of R's arms. Mamamamamama. My day alone in the mountains was wonderful and much needed, but did not come without some blowback. Apparantly Small Boy really missed me. I mean really. Missed me. Saturday night he had woken in the night - he's just started to sleep through, and we figured we had about a 70 percent chance he'd sleep throught the night I was gone. We were on the wrong side of the odds. He woke in the night and for the first time in his life I wasn't there. It took R. about an hour to settle him back down. The rest of the week in Arosa he was much more clingy than usual, at times refusing to sleep anywhere but on my chest. This from a boy who generally refuses to sleep on my chest. He's an affectionate boy, but he's not a snuggler. Not a chest sleeper. Not usually. Last week he was. My disappearing act really unsettled him, then he was in a strange place, and then, on Friday the 13th of all days, Tooth Number Seven broke through. It was not an easy week for Small Boy, and as a result it was not an easy week for me. I feel a bit like I need a vacation.

And now R is off for three days and three nights of military service. In a way, it's good timing. I need a few quiet evenings alone where I can do my thing, whatever my thing is - right now it's writing this post, watching figure skating on Eurosport , and drinking a glass of wine - without feeling like I'm ignoring R. (Eurosport, by the way, is one of the absolute greatest things about living in Europe and has ruined me for all other sports coverage.) I need to be able to eat instant pasta and go to bed at 7:30 if I feel like it. And a friend of mine, whose husband is an accountant and working out of town for what seems like weeks on end by now, is coming over tomorrow night for a sleepover. Bad movies! Popcorn! PJs! More wine! Whee!

And then Thursday it's time to do some work. Time to look through this and plot out my deadlines. And then get to work. One good essay. One good story. I don't need to be Cheryl Strayed and I don't need to be Edward P. Jones. But one essay that's really fine. One story that says something true. One thing that lives up to the best of what I can do. I've done it once. Now it's time to prove it wasn't a fluke.

Just one fine thing.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


I don't know how to explain the lack of blogging (and blog reading) over the past two weeks - holiday doldrums, perhaps - but I do know how to explain the lack of blogging that will occur in the coming week. I am leaving for Arosa on Saturday morning. I'll be taking the train, and the Boys - Small and Big - will come with the car on Sunday afternoon. You read that right. A day. And a night.



Will I ski downhill? Cross-country? Perhaps I'll snowshoe? Or just take a hike?

Knowing me, I'll just end up at the Carmennahütte drinking Schumli-Pflumlis - coffee with a generous shot of plum spirits - Pflaumen, or Pflumli in Swiss - , a spoon of sugar, and topped off with a cloud of whipped cream - Schaum, or Schumli. Yum!