Tuesday, May 29, 2007

New York, New York!

I can't believe I haven't mentioned this, but looking back over recents posts it appears I have not mentioned that I am going to NYC. Tomorrow. Sans Boy. Sans husband. For a week. I'll spend three days at a writing retreat and the rest of the time I'll play tourist, shop (affordable maternity clothes! cheap socks! combined deoderant/anti-persirant! an FDNY t-shirt for the Small Boy!), eat (Chinese food! a real hamburger! deli sandwiches! cheap tacos! Chinese food!)*, and see old friends (R&B! M! NYCS!).

I've been looking forward to this trip for a long time, but I have to confess the closer it gets the more I think about how much I will miss the Small Boy. I really need this time alone - oh how I am looking forward to an empty hotel room! - but I know I'm going to miss the Boy something fierce. I've never been away from him for more than a day and a half, and certainly never an ocean away.

I'm curious, if nothing else, about how it will go. For both of us.

* If this trip doesn't put on a few pounds for the pregnancy I can't imagine what will!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Yeah, I pretty much saw that coming...

We had the twelve-week ultrasound today (though I'm actually 11w4d) and everything looked beautiful. Arms and legs and hands and feet and little fingers we could count. The cranial bones are growing and fusing properly, the spinal cord looks good, there are arms where there should be arms and legs where there should be legs and a great big thumping hummingbird heartbeat. The nuchal transluscency measured at 0.9mm, which translates to a 1:875 likelihood of chromosomal abnormalities, and there was a discernable nasal bone (associated with a lower risk of chromosomal abnormalities). All the physical stuff checked out great although I appear to have gained no weight in the past six weeks, tortlis and full fat lattes notwithstanding. Not something we like to see, but Dr. Fantabulous wasn't overly concerned - yet. I think I've got four weeks to turn that around before he does get on my case. I even got the green light for a little more guilt-free caffeine consumption since the nightly 3:30 am to 5:30 am insomnia is, um, killing me.

And speaking of nightly 3:30 am to 5:30 am insomnia, I also got a referral to a therapist because Dr. Fantabulous thinks I'm at risk for Schwangerschaftsdepression (depression during the pregnancy) and eventual post-partum depression. I can't say I was surprised to hear this, and I was going to bring it up myself if he hadn't brough it up first. The fact that he did bring it up first is why he's still my OB/GYN after all these years, why I've referred four friends and acquaintances to him, and why his pseudonym is Dr. Fantabulous. Because he is.

So I appear to be at risk for PPD, though addressing it now and having it in my file for follow-up care is, I optimistically state without any benefit of statistical evidence whatsoever, half the battle. The crux of the matter, I believe, I hope, goes back to what I wrote about in this post. What if there is not enough of me to go around? I'm scared that somebody will be pushed into the shadows. I'm not my mother, but that's the model I grew up with, it's the pattern I grew used to: not enough left over for the second child. I say I hope that is the crux of the matter because if it is I believe I can repattern myself. I have faith in behavioral therapy - that very letter to my mother was the culmination of my behavioral therapy after her death. I have faith that voicing our fears is the first step to disempowering them. I have faith that asking for help is a good thing. I have faith that people - professionals, family, friends - will help if called upon.

And I have faith that this will happen with this baby too.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I blame the tortli

I've never quite returned to my pre-Small Boy weight. Actually, that is not strictly true. I've returned to what I weighed at the 6-week ultra-sound to confirm the pregnancy; I've never returned to the pre-blow-up-like-a-balloon-on-IVF-drugs weight. It's a small thing,actually, a matter of about five pounds that at a slowed-down 38 I can justify carrying around. If I had actually put some serious effort into it I'm sure I could have lost those pounds in 8 weeks. But in my limited pool of Small Boy free time, working out fell low on the list (even though I feel better when I work out, it's good for me, weight matters aside I could stand to be a little more fit because in about a year that little boy is going to be running me ragged) and luxuriating over a latte fell rather high on the list.

It's elementary: sedentary living + full fat lattes = superfluous five pounds.

They're five small pounds, maybe seven if I wanted to be ambitious, and if you didn't know me when I was 25 or 30 or, heavens, 20 when I was a cycling fool and clocked in at - wait for it - 4% body fat, you'd probably think I was maintaining a nice stable weight. Which I am, I guess. I've been the same 5 to 7 pounds overweight for two years. But I'm not used to this body. I'm not used to a little poof here and a little puff there. I spent a lot of years being überfit and überskinny and two years on I still haven't learned to settle into this softer 38 year old body. I'll admit to more than my share of vanity. It's my vice (what, just one?). I'm not used to this body, but I have gotten used to the lattes. At the end of the day, I find I lack the "energy of soul" to go full throttle the way I did back in the day. Given a free afternoon I am more likely to curl up with a latte and a book than put on my running shoes. Far, far more likely.

And then there is spring, when the Erdbeertortli come out.

That's what really does it, if I'm honest. Those little strawberry tarts that I can't resist. Five pounds? I blame the tortli.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

True confessions

Like Edie, I can't help but think of Madeleine McCann more often than is good for my peace of mothering mind. Partly because how can you not think of a little girl scared and away from her parents. Partly because I don't know what kind of media attention this is getting in the States, but her sweet young face is unavoidable in Europe unless you want to go into a self-imposed media blackout. Mostly, though, I can't stop thinking about this little girl taken from her hotel room while she slept as her parents ate dinner 100 meters away because R and I have done this.

When Small Boy was a little over four months old, R and I took him to Spain. Friends of our were getting married in a small town in central Spain; the reception and dinner after the wedding were held in a beautiful old castle that had been converted into a hotel. R and I made a long weekend out of it and stayed at the Parador the entire time although there would have been cheaper options in the town. With Small Boy in tow - this was our first overnight trip with him, in fact - we wanted the ease and practicality of staying in the place the dinner and reception would be held. We wanted to be in a hotel with nice common areas so that one of us could sip a coffee and read a book in the courtyard while the other stayed in the room during a Small Boy nap. We wanted good room service. Our room turned out to be right above the dining room - close enough so that from the dining hall we had baby monitor reception. On two separate evenings - our first night there and then again the evening of the wedding - we ate in the dining room, baby monitor in hand, while Small Boy slept alone in the room upstairs. Door locked, do not disturb sign on, baby monitor blinking away.

I don't remember if I was a nervous nelly the first evening. Did we pop up to check on him even though the monitor was functioning? I don't remember. I do remember that during the wedding dinner I went up to the room several times - often enough that it was remarked upon (in my absence and, I think, not kindly) by one of my table mates. (That's okay. I didn't like her anyway.) There was a storm coming in and now and then the monitor would throw out static. I must have crept upstairs to our room half a dozen times and in the end I turned in long before the festivities were over and left R downstairs to be our better social half.

What would we have done if we hadn't had a room close enough for baby-monitor reception? I suppose I would have worn him to the wedding dinner and when (if?) he fell asleep slipped him into the Dreamy and tucked him into a safe corner guarded by a few well-placed chairs. At four months Small Boy was an unreliable sleeper; leaving him in the room without a monitor would have been impossible for me. Not out of a safety concern - I don't think the thought of Small Boy being spirited out of our hotel room ever crossed my mind - but because the thought of him crying unheard, unresponded to, was - is - intolerable to me. I think I worried about him rolling on to his stomach - he had just started doing this - but I never thought somebody would sneak into the room and take him. It just never occurred to me. Should it have?

But we did have baby-monitor reception and we did leave him sleeping in the room alone while we ate downstairs. It's not uncommon in Europe. Back in Small Village our upstairs neighbors would go to the restaurant across the street after the kids went to sleep. Once at a wellness hotel R and I stayed at in Austria the family that ate next to us in the dining room brought down the baby monitor every evening. In a small village it's not uncommon to leave your baby sleeping in the stroller outside while you pop into the butcher for three minutes. Is it irresponsible? Well, hindsight colors your perspective on what's responsible, doesn't it? Nothing happened to Small Boy in Spain, nothing happened to the baby in Austria, nothing happens to the wee ones in their strollers outside the butcher. Nothing happens to the vast majority of young children left briefly on their own and if we're honest lots of small children are left briefly alone in circumstances the parents have judged to be safe. I've got no qualms with what we did in Spain because I went to Spain with my four month old son and five days later I returned from Spain with my four month old son. But if something had happened? Was it irresponsible? From a US perspective one would almost certainly say yes; of course, these days it seems to me that anything short of sheer perfection all the time is considered irresponsible in the US; every day events are suddenly lapses in judgement or mistakes.

I'm not trying to be flippant. I'm trying, perhaps badly, to make a point about the limits of reasonable responsibility and I'm trying, perhaps badly, to make a point about how we in the US especially seem to me to at times think we have somehow managed to transcend tragedy. To control it and to fence it off over there somewhere. Bon of Cribchronicles writes movingly of our shock upon realizing that we cannot always save our children. Of course the two scenarios could not be more different but the common thread of truth in Bon's story and the McCann's story is the deep belief almost imbedded now in our cultural DNA that we should have been able to do something, that we could have been able to do something, that we can save and protect our kids from everything. Of course the McCann's could have done something; they could have ordered room service. They didn't. Like, if we are honest, thousands of other parents. They, I'm sure, assessed the situation and assumed it would be safe. As I child I walked to and from school by myself. At some point I joined up with some girlfriends and we walked the rest of the way together, but I walked by myself, played by myself, went on bike rides through the forest preserve by myself. How, really, is it any different? Parents assess and decide all the time.

We make judgement calls every day, dozens of judgement calls every day. And here is the truth none of us want to face. No matter what decisions we make, what choices, what we do, we cannot keep tragedy over there. We can make tragedy less likely, perhaps, but we cannot keep it over there. When R and I bought Small Boy's front-facing car seat we bought the seat with the highest saftey ratings. We strap Small Boy in properly every single time. We drive carefully and thoughtfully. Most days when I drive to the Farm I take the Autobahn, but I always evaluate the weather and my level of alertness and some days, not many, but some, I take the secondary road and avoid the Autobahn because I think on that given day it's the safer call. But do you know the one time we were almost plowed into head-on by an idiot trying to pass five cars in a row was, of course, on the secondary road? Other than R's fast reaction time, there was nothing we could have done about that scenario other than not leave the house that day.

That is the truth none of us want to face, perhaps because facing it all the time would make it impossible to live: we do what we can, what we reasonably can, but we cannot control the world and we cannot, truly in the deepest meaning of the word, keep our children safe. We do what we reasonably can. But every day I have to trust that the world is not a fundamentally malevolent place. I trust that the driver waiting at the cross-walk won't suddenly step on the gas as Small Boy and I pass in front of her car. I trust that the person helping me lift Small Boy's stroller onto the tram won't forcefully yank the stroller away from me and run as the tram doors close and the tram pulls away with me on it. I trust the driver in the lane next to me is not drunk. I trust the man walking his dog won't let him off the leash just as Small Boy goes running by. One day I will trust Small Boy's teachers to be good and decent people. I will trust the fathers of his friends to have their military-issued firearms as well and safely stored as R. I do what I can, what I can reasonably be expected to do while still allowing Small Boy to experience the world and learn, slowly and safely, to recognize danger for himself. But I can't do everything and I can't be everywhere and in the end, I trust that the world is not a fundamentally malevolent place.

It seems, some days, like a fool's wish. But here's the point I'm trying, long-windedly, to make. If I believed, if I really believed that there in the middle of Alcaniz, Spain, someone lay waiting for the opportunity to steal a small child out of a hotel room, if I really operated as though that were my every day expectation of the world, I would never leave the house. If I truly believed people all around me were capable of such things my world would be small beyond measure; and I would be doing Small Boy a grave disservice. Soon I will teach Small Boy about Getting Lost and Policemen. I will teach him that if he needs to ask a stranger for help to look for a police officer and if he can't find one then he should try to find somebody with children to ask. I will teach him Not to Get Into Cars with Strangers. I will teach him it's okay - it's good, it's great, it's wonderful - to scream if somebody Tries to Touch Him Funny. But while doing all of this I will teach him, somehow, that most people are good and most people are kind and most people will help him. The world is not, in spite of how it seems some days, a fundamentally malevolent place. I don't want to armour myself as if it were; I don't want to teach Small Boy to armour himself as if it were.

I let Small Boy sleep alone in a hotel room in a foreign country with only a baby monitor as my watchman. Perhaps I shouldn't have. But I did. I may never, now, after this, do it again, but I did it then. R and I made a decision we thought was reasonable and safe. And though the world isn't always a safe place, neither is it always a horrible one. Perhaps I am a fool wishing fools wishes, but I do what I reasonably can for the Small Boy and as for the rest of it, I can only believe that the world is not a fundamentally malevolent place. If that is a lapse in judgement, to assume if not the best of people than at least not the worst, then it is a lapse in judgement that allows me, most days, to look most of the human race in the eye.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

A chip off the old blockette

I turned on the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy bicycle race) the other day, and when Small Boy saw the peloton he pointed to the screen and said "ello doosey!" (yellow jersey) with a huge grin on his face.

I couldn't be more proud.

(I didn't have the heart to tell him that in the Giro the leader wears the Maglia Rosa [the pink jersey]. We'll cover that next year.)

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Sweet surrender

If I bought a chocolate bar every time a new flavor came out, a brand repackaged, the store had a sale, or something simply looked good I'd be a lot more than a mere 7 or 8 pounds overweight. Entire aisles of choclatey goodness cry out "buy me" and I have learned to turn a deaf ear. I briskly walk by those special displays at the entrance to the store that try to snare you before you've even collected your cart. I don't venture down the chocolate aisle - and yes, it has its own entire aisle: think cereal in the US. R buys the chocolate in this house. Usually. Today I passed a display for a new chocolate bar: 70% cacao (I'm all about the dark chocolate) with a cherry and chili filling. If I hadn't read this post I still probably would have managed to keep on walking, but my naturual curiosity combined with a good review proved too much for me.

And I have to say, it's quite yummy. I agree the chili could use a little more kick, but it's quite yummy.


If tomorrow's Thursday then today must be Saturday

Tomorrow is a holiday in Switzerland: Christi Himmelfahrt, or Ascension. Legal holidays in Switzerland are often called Sundays, because the restrictive Sunday shopping rules - which boil down to everything is closed - are in effect. That's not strictly true about the Sunday shopping. There is a complicated set of rules deliniating what is allowed to be open and who is allowed to work. Bakeries are always open on Sunday, because a Sunday without fresh bread is a horror, and restaurants are open. A limited number of Apotheks - pharmacies - are allowed to be open because even on Sundays people get sick (I think there is actually a rotating schedule of which Apothek gets the Sunday emergency hours that day). Restaurants and cafes are open, though some of them will restrict their hours by opening later than usual or closing a bit early. And stores located in Hauptbahnhofs (major train stations) are allowed to be open on Sundays. So the smart grocery chains open a grocery store in the Bahnhof - the Bern train station has a large Migros and a small Coop (the two major grocery store chains in Switzerland) and an Apothek in it, so we're covered in case of an emergency but I have to tell you, you do not want to be in a train station grocery store during Sunday hours. Chaos. Madness. Crowds. Long lines. Surely an indication that a lot of Swiss people would be more than happy to shop on a Sunday, but the unions are dead-set against it.

The Sunday shopping hours drive me crazy, but I've learned to live with them and I get it. I had a friend back in DC who worked retail, and his hours were quite a restriction on his social life - if your store is open until 10 pm working until closing means you'll get out of there at 10:30 or 11:00. I understand the unions wanting to protect free time and family life. But here's the crazy part that I've never gotten used to. Because tomorrow is a Sunday, today - Wednesday, according to my calendar - is a Saturday. That means that Saturday shopping hours are in effect, meaning the stores will close at 5 pm instead of the usual 7 pm.

Tomorrow is a holiday. We can't shop. I get it. I can live with that. But today is Wednesday, people, Wednesday.

UPDATE: Ms. Mac and Melanie are entirely right in the comments: it's called Auffahrt round these parts. Christi Himmelfahrt is the (very formal) German.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Uh-uh. Ang.

Last summer, Julie wrote about finding herself explaining Charlie's delay in walking in a way that felt like an apology. At the end of the post she asked, as Julie often does, what about you? If your child has a delay that other people notice, how do you handle it? Have you ever found yourself apologizing, and if so, how do you overcome it (the temptation to explain/apologize/justify)? I left this comment at the time:

At almost 18 months my son has a remarkably limited vocabulary (your recent post about all of Charlie's new words put me into a five-minute tail spin) and I have noticed recently that I'm pulling out the old "bi-ligual babies generally have a langauge delay" chestnut more often. (Anecdotal evidence often pegs the delay in terms of months; more scholarly literature suggests the delay is similar to the delay of boys relative to girls - 4 to 6 weeks) I think I do this not to protect myself lest anybody question my parenting, but to "protect" my son - I would hate for anybody to judge him, think he's not smart, etc, so I throw out there the idea that for a boy in his situation (bi-lingual household, sort of tri-lingual world at large) it's not so odd to have a limited vocabulary at 18 months. (We have had his hearing checked to make sure it's a language thing and not a hearing thing, so now it's a matter of patience.) I try not to worry about this, and most days I don't, but then a 20 month old boy at play group - who is also bilingual - says keys (rather, Schlussel) which is one of Boy's favorite things and he doesn't say keys yet (or Schlussel) and I worry a bit.

Mostly I wish he'd hurry up and talk because at the moment to tell me he's hungry he walks into the kitchen, points at the fridge, and yells; to tell me he wants to listen to music he points at the stereo and yells; to feed the cat, he points at her food dish and...you get the point. Words would cut down on my headache tablet bills enormously.
R and I tried not to worry about Small Boy's "delay." We kept an eye on it and brought it up with the pediatrician at the 18-month check. Dr. Norwegian asked if Small Boy used "Mama" and "Papa" properly, which he did at 18 months (well, he calls R "Dada," but same thing) and had a small handful of other words as well. A small handful, but they were there. That was enough for Dr. Norwegian to say everything is fine for now, we'll bring it up again when he's two. And most days I was able to let it lie. There were enough reasons not to worry: boys begin speaking later than girls; according to conventional wisdom many bi-lingual children experience a delay in the onset of speech (however, as I noted in my comment to Julie's post, the more scholarly literature suggests the bi-lingual delay is a matter of weeks rather than the assumed months; that I knew this going in served to seriously erode the comforting potential of this little mantra, yet I employed it regularly nonetheless); Small Boy's comprehension in both languages was, and remains, what I can only personally consider astounding; and I trust Dr. Norwegian. I tried to remember what Mausi said in this post: "Most parents tend to panic much too early."

Still, posts like this about all of Charlie's new words or the latest Baby Blue conversation would make me nervous and unsettled. (I'm linking back to year-old posts because I specifically remember reading these and getting that feeling at the time.) I'm a worrier, after all. (What? Me? Worry?) And I'm an over-educated upper-class American mother (yes I live in Switzerland now but I spent my first 30 years in the US - you can take the girl out of the US but you can't take the US out of the girl), meaning I have absorbed through my very pores the idea that every! facet! of! my! child's! development! is! my! responsibility! I do all the "Right Things": I talk to him constantly, read him stories, reinforce his speech, listen to him and respond when he communicates with me, and never tell him he's pronouncing something wrong but rather just say "Yes, that's a bus." And this kid just. wasn't. talking.

Then about a month ago* I was taking him for a walk and I saw a huge fat bumblebee. I said "Look! A bumblebee!" and Small Boy said "Bum-bum bee!" and he's never looked back. Bum-bum bee! Ant! Lay-ee-bug! Bee! Bee-tull! (Yeah, he's all about the bugs.) Mice! Grape! Leep (sleep)! Doo-eece (juice)! Home! Alloo (hello)! Bye-bye! Hand! Hep (help)! In! Out! And there's Swiss, too. Choeme (come)! Abe (down)! Auto! Klee (small)! Bisi (pee)! Wys (white)! Deku (blanket)! Mit (with)! Eis (one)! Every day there's something new, two, three, four new words.I have no idea what happened, what made him decide he was ready and willing to talk, but really from one day to the next he just exploded with new words. And I believe he decided. I remember when he started to walk - also maybe a little behind the curve. But one day he just walked. No cruising around the sofa first, no tentative three toddling steps before toppling over. One day that boy just up and walked. The first time he climbed a little ladder at the playgroup he did it when I wasn't even watching. After weeks of my trying to encourage him up the ladder, he just decided it was time to climb. And I think for whatever reason, about a month ago he decided to talk. He was ready.

When Small Boy was a newborn, I called him my wee small boy. Sometimes I still do, but these days when I do he shakes his head and says "Uh-uh. Ang." (Ang is his way of adorably mispronouncing his own name.) No, he's saying, I am not a generic little boy. I am Ang. Yes. Yes he is, and the more often I remember that, the more often I exhale and remind myself that he's going to do his thing when he is ready to do it (and isn't that what I want for him anyway?) and not when a chart tells him to, the better off we're both going to be. For he is Ang and nobody else.

(But at night, when I peek at him sleeping, he is my wee small boy. When he is tall enough to look me in the eye, he will still be my wee small son.)

* And by "about a month ago" I mean April 6 at about 14:30, because of course I'm going to remember that bum-bum bee for the rest of my life.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Eurovision. Vote for the drag queen!

In my world, Eurovision is all about the snark. If you can't make fun of people's costumes, songs, dance moves and hair styles, what's the point? So I'm watching Eurovision - Boy is asleep and R is in the Army again - snarking to myself. Just thought I'd share. Though I guess for any of this to make any sense you had to be there. I doubt I'll be able to stay awake for all 28 contestants , but we'll see how far I get.

Bulgaria - Just because you can hit that note, doesn't mean you should. Points for singing in what I can only assume was Bulgarian, though.

Israel - Political controversy aside this has to be the oddest looking rag tag motley crew you could possibly put together.

Cyprus - Hm, I must be off my game because I really should be able to snark silver lame.

Belarus - You just know his line in a bar would be: "Hellooooo, ladies. How you doin'?" And dude, just because you want to hit that note, doesn't mean you can.

Iceland - Oh yeah, the rock ballad. Excellent.

Georgia - Your dancers got a little Lord of the Dance thing going on there. Oh, now there's swordplay. And flames. It's getting a little frentic back there.

Montenegro - I wish I understood Montenegran.

Brief interlude for the two really good looking commentators to try to parlay this Eurovision gig into Fame and Fortune.

Switzerland - I never understood the whole DJ Bobo thing. I still don't. But that blond chick has got a voice on her. By the way, 50,000 Swiss, mostly associated with the Evangelical Volkspartei, signed a petition protesting the use of this song to represent Switzerland because of the whole Vampire thing (vampires being not very Godly and all).

Moldova - I'm waiting for her to whip that hip wrap thing off somehow. Huh. It stayed on. Didn't see that coming.

Another brief interlude. Twirl, Finnish boy, twirl!

The Netherlands - Good voice, powerful stage presence, good looking, a touch of the diva. Honey, what are you doing in the Netherlands?

Albania - Albania, you border on the Adriatic. Your shores are mostly mountainous and your main export is...oh, wait, sorry. Wrong show. Okay. Albania. Melo, meet drama.

Denmark - Oh, three snaps for you honey! Love you! If I stay awake to the end, I'm totally voting for you, you big drag queen!

Croatia - Please please please sing in Croatian. Then I can close my eyes and pretend it's Goran Visnjic. And one would have to close one's eyes.

Poland - If the singing thing doens't work out there's always porn. (They're actually pretty good but the boots and the cage are really distracting.)

Serbia - Damn it's hard to snark when they're actually good. Can I make fun of her white shoes with black pants?

The Czech Republic - Hey, isn't that the Icelandic guy? (But hard rock in Czech is totally cool.)

Portugal - Remember Strictly Ballroom?

FYR Macedonia - I got nothin'

Norway - Could that skirt be any shorter? Huh? Costume change? Ah, she needed to change into that longer dress so the dancer could rip her skirt off.

Malta - Hellllloooooo, bare chested violin player. How you doin'? Was there a song? I missed it. Did I mention there was a bare-chested violin player?

Andorra - I am totally going to get up and pogo to this. It's kind of like Fountains of Wayne meets Chumbawumba. I pogo-ed to Chumbawumba at my wedding. There's a picture.

Hungary - The blues. Ballsy move, for a Hungarian chick. Though I guess if anybody can sing the blues, it would be a Hungarian.

Five more countries. I can do it. Must. stay. awake. Vote. for. drag queen.

Estonia - The wind machine's going a little strong, I'm afraid she's going to topple over.

Belgium - Oh. My. Circa 1979? Oh dear. I'm waiting for the squares on the floor to light up when he taps them. I'm feeling something, but I don't think it's the Love Power. Nope. Nope, definitely not the Love Power.

Slovenia - What is she wearing? What is she doing? No, no, no. Stop. Just stop, dear. That light thing is wierd. Stop it.

Turkey - It's a Turkish Ricky Martin!

Just two more. Try. to. stay. awake.

Austria - Dude, did you borrow that shirt from the Cypriot chick?

Latvia - Are the Latvians singing in Italian?

And. It's. OVER! Fourteen finalists will perform on Saturday for the Eurovision championship. I'm not staying up to find out who they are, I'll read about it tomorrow. But I voted for Denmark.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Other People's Children

Remember Rock Boy? He's moved on to less destructive projectiles - handfuls of wet sand - but apparantly he's still got a thing for throwing stuff at my windows. What's with that? I honestly cannot think of anything I've done to give the kid reason for having it in for me and my windows - aside from yelling at him the first time he threw stuff at my windows - but he's drawn to our floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the play area like the proverbial moth. Granted, they do present an almost irresistable target for a bored seven-year-old, and Rock Boy seems to me to be a test-his-limits-and-see-what-he-can-get-away-with type, but you'd think he'd have learned the first time that I, as it happens, am a walk-over-to-your-apartment-and-rat-you-out-to-your-parents type. Which I did, and his mom made him come over here and wash the windows. He also apologized and shook my hand. Go Neighbor Mom!

I'm uncomfortable discussing another child's behavior with their parents, especially because it means I have to cross the language and cultural barrier in an area - Other People's Children (OPC) - that is ripe for opportunities for misunderstanding and offense taken, but I do it. For eggregious breaches of conduct like throwing things at my windows, I do it. I've seen him doing other things that I wouldn't necessarily want to see Small Boy doing, things that I've simply observed from our balcony but that didn't affect me or mine (putting rocks in the neighbors' fountain, picking a flower from their beautiful garden), and not said anything; but when it comes to my home and my kid, I'll absolutely go to the parents about it. If there are no parents around, I will under a limited set of circumstances discipline OPC. Limited meaning if I think they're messing unduly - I know kids rough-house and I'm learning to stand back and watch for a lot longer than I used to - with Small Boy or if it looks like somebody, anybody, is actually getting hurt or is about to do something dangerous. (A different neighbor boy used to sneak out of our backyard play area and cut through the yard behind us which led him to a street. If I ever saw him starting to make a break for it I'd call his name and tell him to stop, and he usually did - or my calling his name made his mom come running.)

I actually don't know the cultural standard on stepping in with OPC here - or in the US, for that matter. I'm not sure what's expected or accepted. (Neighbor Mom - a Swiss - was glad I came over and said something. She was inside with the younger child, the older boy was playing outside, and you just can't see everything and she said it's good for Rock Boy to know other people are watching him too.) I try to do what I'd like to see done if the situation were reversed- if Small Boy ever threw rocks at somebody's apartment I'd want to hear about it and have the opportunity to make Alex apologize, do the responsible thing (clean up, pay for or work off damages), and learn something. So I go by instinct, even when it means I have to go over to Neighbor Mom and say "Um, I need Rock Boy for about five minutes. He needs to clean my windows."

What do you do when you see OPC crossing the line?


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Maps? I don't need no stinkin' maps

I decided to drag Small Boy off to see a stage of the Tour de Romandie today. (The Romandie is the French-speaking part of Switzerland.) I don't ride much anymore, but I'm a bit of a fanatic about watching cycling; if a race is within a few hundred kilometers of me, I try to see a stage. I've seen six stages of various Tours de France reaching back to the reign of Indurain; seven stages of various Tours de Suisse; three Tour de Romandie stages; a handful of day races back in the States; surely others I'm forgetting. I guess it could seem pretty boring but if the weather is nice (or even if it isn't) and you're in good company, it's a really good way to pass a day. You find a pretty stretch of road; stake out your spot in the sun or shade as you prefer; pull out the picnic, playing cards and books; and just hang until some professional cyclists go grinding (ascent), zipping (flat stretch) or blazing (descent) by. It is not, however, necessarily something an energetic Small Boy is going to stand for, so today was a bit of an experiment. After examining the route I decided to watch the race as it passed through the small town of Saint-Blaise. It seemed the perfect choice: I could get there either by train or car, the riders were expected to arrive there at a time that would allow Small Boy to nap on the way there, it's on the lake so if Small Boy decided waiting along the side of the road for 45 minutes just to see a peloton fly by at about 38 kilometers an hour was the most boring thing ever we could bail and head for the lake, and best of all it gave me the perfect opportunity to meet Jessica.

I drove; taking the train would have involved two transfers during what would ideally be Small Boy's nap whereas in the car he'd sleep the whole time for sure.* I headed off into new territory - it's not an area R and I visit often, and when we do he's generally doing the driving - with my faithful GPS to guide me. After leading me three-quarters of the way there, however, my faithful GPS decided to abandon me in the Romande countryside outside the small town of Ins without so much as a fare-thee-well. One minute she's** all like "leave the traffice circle at the third exit" and the next minute she's gone mute and my display panel reads "No Route." What, no route? There's a road, right? It keeps going, right? And off there in the distance there are...why, could those be more roads? So of course there is a route. It might be indirect and sub-optimal, but unless I'm about to drive off the edge of the world there is without a doubt a route. So route me.*** But she stubbornly refused. She didn't even tell me to "make a u-turn," which is invariably her advice when she thinks we're headed off into the wild. Nothing. Nada. Just silence. Fortunately I had also printed out a map and directions; unfortunately the directions I'd printed differed from the route my feckless GPS had selected and she'd abandoned me someplace I couldn't quite find on my other directions; fortunatley road signage in Switzerland is excellent- at every intersection of any import each direction is marked with signs telling you the names of the towns off in that direction; not just the big cities but little villages, too. So after driving around aimlessly some sophisticated orienteering I arrived someplace where my actual location on the planet Earth corresponded to something on the map I'd printed out.**** Just a few kilometers later I started seeing the police detail for the Tour de Romandie and I just followed the trail of flourescent green vested men into Saint-Blaise. And as I was pulling into a parking lot in Saint-Blaise, the GPS suddenly pipes up to inform me, "you have arrived at your destination!" I might have said "F--- you" "Thank you," I can't remember.

The stage went more or less as these things go: wait on the side of the road for a while, then try to recognize a single cyclist as the peloton passes by, then it's over. Afterwards Jessica and I went to her favorite local cafe where Small Boy behaved like a prince and let us have a conversation for forty-five minutes while he tried to recreate Carhenge and generally amused himself for far longer than I would have expected given the long car ride and then the sitting in the stroller on the side of the road and then the request for "restaurant behavior".***** And I'm not going to blog the conversation, because what's chatted over cappucino stays over cappucino and all that, but like I said at the beginning, if you're in good company a bike race a great way to pass a day.

* Strangely enough, he woke up about half-way there and didn't go back to sleep, but neither did he cry or even fuss.

** Our GPS has a female voice, so I refer to it as she.

*** When we lose contact with a satellite our display says "seeking satellite," so I don't think that was the problem. She just up and abandoned me.

**** We do also have an atlas in the car but I didn't feel like pulling over and unfolding it and breaking the Small Boy spell of good car behavior if I didn't have to.

***** Thanks, Small Boy for letting me pass such a pleasant afternoon with Jessica!


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Over before it started

Remember this "match made in heaven?" Didn't last long.