Friday, April 27, 2007

Bad blogger

I've been a bad blogger. I don't know where the time goes. Well, yes, I do. Let's see: mornings I stay in bed until two minutes before R has to leave for work; when Small Boy naps after lunch I sleep - not just a doze off on the couch with Eurosport humming in the background nap, no sir, a full on get-undressed-put-on-my-PJs-and-get-into-bed nap; afternoons Small Boy go outside in this wonderful weather (although he is not at all excited about the Return of the Sunscreen); and I go to bed at about 9pm. So, yes, I do know where the time goes: it goes to my bed.

I remembered this tiredness from the Small Boy pregnancy, but I didn't fully appreciate what it would mean to want to sleep 16 hours a day with a small child in the house. Let's just give the three cheers to the grandparents (again) who give me Wednesdays to recuperate. Of course, they don't know about the pregnancy yet so they don't know how much I really appreciate those days. They will soon, I suppose, those R and I will probably put off telling people about this pregnancy, like the last time, until they've all pretty much already guessed it.

I think we've found a Tagesmutter for Small Boy. Literally translated that would be a day-mother; a Tagesmutter is somebody who will take care of your child in their home one or two days a week. Usually they are women with a small child of their own at home, but sometimes they are grandmother types or younger women. The woman we've found has a daughter just a few months younger than Small Boy, lives 10 minutes away, would have Small Boy one full day a week, and is very sympathisch. Such a great German word, sympathisch: it translates as likeable or congenial, but it doesn't have the bland non-commital quality those words (for me) have in English. It's a pretty nice compliment, at least in Swiss German, to be sympathisch. Somebody you click with right away would be sympathisch; a neighborhood you want to move into the second you see it could be called sympathisch. Small Boy and her daughter seem to get along - what does that even mean when you're two? They don't fight or run away when they see the other one coming, they can share toys after a fashion (though she is much better at sharing than the Boy) and it seems like they'll enjoy the same things: parks, playgrounds, woods, toy cars. It seems like a good fit, though in typical Small Boy fashion he is more interesting in being friends with the adult than with the child. We've met three times now so that Small Boy can get to know them while I'm around. He's going to freak the first time I say "bye-bye now" but we'll burn that bridge when we come to it.

That's all the news from here. I'm tired. Mongo-tired. Oh, and low-level nauseated* all day. That's new. And it sucks. And I'm hoping it goes away soon because I'd kind of like to eat three squares, you know?

* Thanks, Strunk and White, for clearing up that whole nauseous/nauseated thing.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Exhaling a little more

We had the ultra-sound today and everything looks just great. Size is measuring on target with a nice 160 heartbeats per minute. There was a moment - a long, nervewracking, uncomfortable moment - when Dr. Fantabulous wasn't sure there was just one embryo. To make matters worse the ultrasound machine kept picking up both the fetal heartbeat and the pulse surging in the nascent umbillical cord and defaulting to the multiples program. R and I did everything possible short of not going forward with an FET at all (a thought that also crossed our minds) to reduce the chances of multiples (see here, here, and here; parents of multiples who might be reading this please don't take that the wrong way, I just seriously doubt my own ability to cope with caring for multiples on top of the Small Boy), so we were releived when Dr. Fantabulous was able to definitively declare Singleton. A perfect looking almost 7 weeks along singleton.

And I walked out of his office with a box of 100 prenatal vitamins.



Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wednesdays with Bah-dee

Small Boy loves his grandmother, whom he has decided to call Bah-dee. I think he's saying Buddy, actually; R and I call Small Boy "buddy" sometimes and I think he knows it's meant as a term of endearment. Since the boy isn't talking much (more on that in some other post) I'm glad he has a name for her at all; he still doesn't have a name for his grandfather. His face lights up when he sees his Bah-dee; once she met us at Gymboree - I was expecting her, Small Boy wasn't - and he was so excited to see her that he literally ran around in circles saying "Oooooh! Bah-dee! Bah-dee!" He loves her so.

He spends almost every Wednesday with his grandparents, who live on a farm just outside of the city; ten minutes with the fast train, fifteen minutes with the slow. (The fast train goes through a tunnel, which scares Small Boy, so we try to take the slow train.) Wednesday mornings Bah-dee takes the train into the city and we meet her in the train station; she and Small Boy get on the train back out to The Farm and off they go. I wave goodbye and starting at nine-twenty one a.m the day is mine until about 6:00 pm when they drop him back off with the car.

I have no idea what they do out there. When we first started up with this arrangement I got detailed reports of what they did, exactly what and how much he ate, how long he slept, each of their activities; R's parents were (are, still, I guess) so grateful that we trusted them enough to send them the Boy for a whole day that they wanted to make sure that I knew everything they were doing, that they were taking care of him and feeding him well and making sure he got his nap and that he was having fun and that he didn't cry and and and.

Now? I have no idea what they do all day; all I know is that he comes home happy and is always eager to go back again. Sometimes he smells suspciously like chocoate when he comes home, and he always has dirt under his fingernails and all over his boots. Based on photographic evidence he: digs in the garden and fills his wagon with dirt; plays with the dog; walks in the woods; gets pulled on the sled (when there was snow, which wasn't often); climbs up into the real tractors and forklifts (it's a working farm, after all); plays in the sandbox; and plays on the slide. Sometimes they bake Zupfe (a traditional Swiss braided bread) together, and they dyed Easter eggs last week. Now that spring is coming, I can imagine he will help his Bah-dee in the garden. He brings home little art projects sometimes, and he often brings me a fistfull of wild flowers.

Honestly, when Small Boy first started spending one day a week at The Farm I was primarily focused on the fact that this gave me some much-needed breathing room; Small Boy is attached to me in the extreme. I knew it was a win-win-win situation, but as far as I was concerned I was the biggest winner; but as the months have gone by I've come to see that of course Small Boy is the biggest winner. He has a relationship with his grandparents that is completely independent of me and R; the three of them make their way together at The Farm, they do their own things at their own pace. They've had to negotiate their own rules and routines and in doing so they've gotten to know each other on their own. Small Boy loves and trusts his grandparents and he is comfortable and safe in their home. My in-laws, in turn, have been forced to learn to say no now and then and to enforce a few rules;* they've had to decipher his sign-language and his made-up words (my favorite example: I say toothpaste, R says Zahnpasta, and Small Boy calls it "Badong." Why? Your guess is as good as mine) and to be aware of his shifting moods. They've all gotten to know each other in a way that never would have happened if I'd been around.

I'm grateful for this relationship in so many ways. I'm grateful that Small Boy has people in his life who love him. I'm grateful he gets to spend part of his childhood on a farm, next to a wood with a pond and ducks and, if it is dusk and if you are quiet and if you are lucky, foxes. I'm grateful that he spends a day exposed soley to Dialekt. I'm grateful that his grandparents are slower and more patient than I and think spending an hour throwing sticks into the little creek is wildly exciting. I'm grateful R's mom bakes Zupfe with Small Boy and picks wildflowers. I'm grateful Small Boy's uncle shows him his horses. With my own parents dead and my brother far away, I'm grateful Small Boy has this family so close at hand, and I'm grateful that they love him so.

I'm also grateful that he loves them. From what I know, my mother-in-law's relationship with her own mother was complicated (aren't they all, but I mean complicated), and her relationship with her sister can be a bit prickly. R and his mother have a fine relationship, but they are very different people and at some point I think they can't quite understand one another across the chasm of their different personalities. But Small Boy loves his Bah-dee with the bottomless and straightforward love of a child, and I'm glad R's mom has this love, this simple and uncomplicated love. I'm grateful that Small Boy knows how to love different people, knows that different people can love him. Of course I'm glad for the free time and I'm glad knowing that R and I can leave Small Boy with the grandparents and take some time for ourselves. I'm glad that somebody else can put him to bed and get him to take a nap but these things I was so grateful for at the beginning - the free time, the chance for a night out - are almost afterthoughts now.

That he is loved, and that he loves. For this, I am most truly grateful.

* Though there was that time when everybody overslept and R dropped Small Boy off at The Farm in his pyjamas and ten hours later Small Boy came his pyjamas.


Monday, April 09, 2007

And a good time was had by all?

It was not what you would call a wildly successful little getaway.

It being April the sledding was sub-optimal, R got a sunburn that makes him glow in the dark (this is so uncharacteristic of R that I can only wonder what body snatcher took hold of my ever-prepared Swiss Army man), Small Boy got some weird as-yet-unidentified allergic (I presume) reaction that swelled up his face until his eyes looked like two raisins jammed into a dough ball, and I am more tired and far far crankier than I was before the weekend began. We came back a day early - mostly because Small Boy's face looked so strange and though he had no other symptoms or difficulty breathing or, really, any apparant discomfort we didn't want to be about an hour away from the closest hospital in case things took a turn for the serious.

I did, however, manage 90 minutes alone on a terrace in the sun facing the alps - and I think I prefer the Grissons to the Bernese Oberland, but that may just be R's childhood in Arosa rubbing off on me the way my childhood in Yellowstone has rubbed off on him - with a cappucino mit Schlagrahm (whipped creamed - I guess that's Schlagsahne in proper German but the Swiss say Schlagrahm), a piece of apple torte, and this book. So it wasn't a total loss. But it's a long way to go for a cup of coffee.

UPDATE: Further Googling suggests that the facial swelling was probably a reaction to the altitude (1800 meters in the village and higher when we went sledding), which makes more sense than an allergic reaction since he didn't eat any new foods, as far as we know, and has shown no tendency to food allergies of any kind so far. It also explains why he looked a lot worse Sunday afternoon when we went further up the mountain. He is looking better, but not totally back to normal, today.


Friday, April 06, 2007


We'll be away over the long weekend - see you Tuesday!


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Poetry Thursday - A poem to a poet

This week's Poetry Thursday challenge - to write a poem for a poet - was particularly challenging for me, for reasons I wrote about in this post. I have to confess it; at this point in my life I couldn't begin to pick out a poet for whom I'd write a poem. I'm still too far away from poetry. Rather an embarrassing admission to make in a Poetry Thursday post, but there it is.

But I do have a question for the author of this couplet, for I have always wondered:

So did the wind come heed your call
and send the blessed rain?
And did your love throw wide her arms
to draw you in again?

You can find links to more homages here.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A game of telephone, Swiss-style

I think many expats will agree that well after they've become proficient in the language of their new home, using it on the phone gives them the willies. Or maybe nobody will agree with this and it's just me, but I have to tell you that even after six years in Switzerland the phone remains my nemesis. Some of it has to do with the language but a lot of it has to do with Swiss phone etiquette.

Nothing brings home to me how much I continue to rely on context, facial expression and body language in my German-language interactions so much as receiving an unexpected phone call in the middle of the day. I'm yanked out of my English world - if I'm at home with the Small Boy I babble constantly with him in English, and if I'm lucky enough to be home alone I am probably reading or writing in English or listening to NPR, or all of the above simultaneously - and thrown into Dialektland. If I'm lucky it's a telemarketer and I just flat out lie and say I don't speak German; if I'm unlucky it's actually somebody who needs to speak with me or, worse, R and I have to take a message.

And nothing brings home to me how much I'm a foreigner as my inability - and to an extent my unwillingness - to get the Swiss phone etiquette right. In Switzerland you answer the phone with your last name. Period. At work or at home, when the phone rings you pick it up (but not on the first ring, please) and say your last name. I cannot do this. I just can't. I have reached the compromise of "Hello this is First Name" but this is not really an acceptable compromise because the caller still has to confirm if I'm Frau Lastname. Strike one. The person calling you will say "Good morning Frau Lastname (assuming you were socially adept enough to provide your last name upon answering the phone, which I'm not)." Then right away the caller says their last name. To the uninitiated it sounds something like this: "GütenmorgenFrauLastnamReallylongunpronouncableSwisssoudningname." To which you are expected to reply "Good morning Herr Lastname." The thing is, inevitably I fail to understand the last name, so I am forced to omit it, which is considered terribly rude. Strike two. Then at some point I will probably ask them to speak Hochdeutsch because although my understanding of Dialekt is growing by leaps and bounds my comprehension seems to consider the telephone a no-go zone. Strike three. If it's for R I will have to take a message which means asking them to repeat their name which they've already given me at the beginning of the conversation but I failed to understand it or forgot it instantly. Strike four (do I get four strikes?) If it's for me I bungle my way through the conversation somehow.

Then there is the making of phone calls in which the above script is reversed. This isn't a problem if I'm calling somebody I know, the in-laws or friends who answer the phone in proper Swiss fasion, because I know who I'm calling after all. But if I'm calling a business. Well, they will answer the phone "Güten morgen Name of Business Last Name." When I call Dr L's office it goes something like "Güten morgen Praxis Dr L Frau S." Now Dr L's office is easy because it's always Frau S who answers the phone so I can follow my end of the script and say "Good morning Frau S here is Frau Me" But Dr. Fantabulous, my OB/GYN who will do our ultrasound? Any one of four different women might answer the phone on any given day - I actually called up his website to double check all their names so that my ear would be primed to catch the right one. If I'm calling someplace random, a language school or a new doctor or a car repairman it is simply hopeless. Hopeless. Because without fail they will pick up the phone and I will hear: "GütenmorgenGeschäftReallylongunpronouncableSwisssoundingname" and I will have no choice but to start my conversation with this person without having addressed them by name, which is terribly rude.

It's enough to make me avoid placing a phone call for days on end, which is how I've managed to wait until today - a whole week after our positive beta - to call Dr. Fantabulous for an ultrasound. And of course the Praxis is closed for the Easter holidays and I have to call back Tuesday.

As they say in German, selberschuld. (Roughly translatable as it's my own stupid fault.)

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Bilingual baby - UPDATED with translations

This new addition to Small Boy's slowly growing collection of words may be my favorite so far: "grün bean!"

Update: In comments Junebee pointed out this isn't necessarily self-explanatory (and nowhere near as funny) if you don't know German. Small Boy says "grün bean." In English it would be green bean and in German it would be grüne Bohne, but Small Boy splits the difference and says "grün bean." Which I think is hysterical.

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The toddler made me do it

I love purses. I love purses and wallets and handbags and shoulder bags of all varieties and I have an embarrassing quantity of them and am always looking to buy more. I will spend an absurd sum on a simply smashing handbag. When I was still teaching English I allowed myself to be talked into a Monday morning teaching schedule that was sooo not what we agreed to when I was hired; to compensate for my extreme grumpiness over this turn of events I decided that I would spend my "Monday money" on purses. I almost always found something to spend it on. I have a shelf full of purses. I tend to use the same three over and over, but I like knowing that I have just the right purse for the occaison. Several of them were impractical when I bought them and have become absurdly impractical since Small Boy was born; I have one bag I can't even fit a cell-phone in. And although nothing that requires my attention has ever happened to Small Boy when I go out with my girlfriends, I simply cannot leave the house without a cell-phone.

My personal style, such as it ever was, has taken a serious hit since Small Boy was born. Nothing fits, I'm between sizes everywhere I go, clothes in Switzerland cost a king's ransom, and it's awfully hard to shop with the Small Boy. Ever since my knee surgery I've taken to wearing flats, which makes all those too-long jeans that drag on the ground and which I hate look even worse. But a purse always fits, and a purse is always comfortable. Because the rest of my look has been, um, downgraded, my bags are all the more dear to me. I have one of these and several purses and a wallet by him (and I've got my eye on a new one right now); even my practical Timbuk2 messenger bag has a personal flair to it, covered as it is with old black-and-whites of cyclists. I have a military green canvass bag adorned with a wild pink bird and a to-die-for orange leather shoulder bag that R bought me one Christmas after I drooled over it in the shop window seventeen dozen times. My clothes may be ordinary, but that there handing over my shoulder, that has something. It might not be style, necessarily, but it's personality at least.

I have been able to keep using my little purses and slim shoulder bags because I'm lazy and use the stroller a lot and can throw all the assorted things that come with Small Boy - and he requires a surprising array of things every time we go out - into the under carriage of the stroller. The sippy cup full of water and the three types of emergency snacks; the tissues and extra spoon; the travel diaper bag; the cars oh lord the cars and firetrucks and ambulances; the notebook and colored pencils; in the summer add the sunscreen and primitive first-aid kit and it adds up to a lot of stuff every time we leave the apartment. Stuff that I have always been able to toss in the undercarriage of the stroller, leaving me free to have my wallet, keys and cellphone in my stylish purse.

These days are coming to an end. Small Boy wants to walk. And it's appropriate and good that he wants to walk, and if I were more focused on him and less focused on doing it the way that's easiest for me he would have been walking more often and longer distances already by now, but there's all this stuff you see. Stuff that has to go somewhere and that fits so well in the undercarriage. But Small Boy wants to walk, and it's not especially fun pushing with one hand the stroller that winds up empty because he wants to walk (one of the arrows in his small quiver of words is WALK!) while trying with the other to keep him under a modicum of control. We are approaching the end of the stroller days, I fear, at least for shorter outings, but we are not approaching the end of the Small Boy needs a million accessories days.

There's only one solution: a packpack. I bought the cutest one I could find, but let's face it, it's still a backpack. And so after years of adorbale purses and simply smashing handbags, I have become that which I always swore I never would: an American in Europe with a backpack.

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