Friday, September 28, 2007

You say Almabtrieb, I say Alpabfahrt

R and I escaped for FOUR! WHOLE! DAYS! to a wellness hotel and spa in Austria (Austria - or at least the Tirol - seems to have cornered the market on wellness hotels; when you tell a Swiss person you're going to Austria chances are they'll say "Oh? Wellness?") while Small Boy vacationed at The Farm. It was pretty much heaven, though I missed the Boy a lot more than I expected - and I fully expected to miss him a lot. Small Boy had bouts of homesickness at bed-time, but otherwise he had a good time at The Farm. The grandparents kept the day packed with adventures so he didn't have much time to think about missing us.

I'd love to blog the vacation, but there's not much to it. In a nutshell we slept, ate (breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner were included, and the food was incredible), and spa-ed. Read in quiet rooms. Fell asleep on waterbeds with views of the mountains. Floated in the circular sea-water pool. We went for one leisurely "hike" one day, and on another day, by sheer coincidence, the village we were staying in celebrated their Alpabfahrt.

In Austria, or at least in this village, it's called the Almabtrieb. The other big difference is the head-dresses for the cows. In Switzerland the cows wear flowers and wreaths on top of their head (there are some pictures in the link above); in the Almabtrieb we saw the poor cows had the head gear on their foreheads and muzzles, covering their faces so that they couldn't see; some cows were rebelling and had to be led quite firmly.

The head-gear wasn't just right over the cows' faces, it was large and heavy as well - those pine boughs are mounted on wooden frames. I felt sorry for the poor Austrian cows and prefer the Swiss flowers.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

In which I rave about Dr. Fantabulous once again

I had an appointment with Dr. Fantabulous yesterday; everything is going great - from the baby's perspective, anyway. At 28 weeks 4 days, baby is measuring 28w6d and weighs 1350 grams (2.9 pounds)*, is nicely head down (Small Boy went head down early too), and has plenty of amniotic fluid to swim around in. We got a close-up of baby's face with the 4D ultrasound and if I had to guess based on the facial features of a 28 week old fetus as revealed by ultrasound - a sure bet if ever there was one, right? - I'd say this kid is a boy. It looks exactly like Small Boy. I think it's got hair already, which according to some "old-wives' tales" would account for the Mt. Etna-like heartburn I've been enduring since, oh I don't know, let's call it the dawn of time.

So baby's got it good. I, on the other hand, pretty much want to die every day between 8 pm and 2 am. Every pregnancy symptom in the book comes crashing down on me - heartburn that has me on my hands and knees gasping for air, headaches, backache, hot-flashes, Braxton-Hicks-a-palooza, and, as you can imagine, a resulting inability to sleep. All day long I'm fine - the baby rolls around a lot, now and then a lady-like little burp escapes me, maybe I'll get a little contraction now and then - but without fail night falls and Bam! Misery. There's nothing wrong; it's just a rough pregnancy. Dr. Fantabulous is not at all worried about me (he's obviously not pleased I'm so miserable, and is prescribing me any and every pregnancy-safe medication he can to alliviate my misery, but he's not concerned about my underlying health) or the baby or the health of the pregnancy. It's just rough going.

My next appointment is in four weeks and that doesn't seem like such a long time. Just four weeks until Dr. Fantabulous tells me again that everything is going great. I have to say, it's slightly embarrassing how reassuring I find Dr. Fantabulous's mere presence. Seriously, it's like he's doused in Stress-be-Gone or something. He walks back to the waiting room, calls my name and shakes my hand and whoosh go any worries I might have been harboring. I know how lucky I am to have stumbled upon him - to think, when I first started going to him his main qualification was that he speaks English! Now I can't imagine anybody else delivering my babies. As long as he's in the room, everything will be fine. He's my petronus.

* I find it a bit astounding - can something be just a bit astounding? - that it took baby 28 weeks (okay, 26) to gain 1300 grams - a nice healthy weight which puts it smack in the middle of the growth curve for 28 weeks - but it's supposed to gain another 2000-plus (that's 4.4 pounds) in just 10 to 12 weeks. Yikes.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Holistic medicine

You know, when you've had a rough day a Small Boy exclaiming "Oooh! Yum! Chinese!" at the dinner table has remarkable restorative powers.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Writing my own stories

My brother and I grew up with one foot out the door. It's not surprising, with our home life being what it was, that we were more than happy to play sports (all that practice time!) and get after-school jobs as soon as we could drive; in high school we took summer school classes and got summer jobs as soon as we were old enough. My brother took to the golf course. I let my bicycle take me miles from home. Home was where we did homework up in our rooms, ate dinner, and slept. We didn't have Family Game Night or bed-time routines or mother-daughter time. We weren't that kind of family. We were a family my default, we were a family because my parents got married- and believe me, the whys behind that are legion - and had children. I think they had children because that was what one did when one got married. I don't think they gave it a lot of thought; I don't think they even considered the possiblility of child-free living, though at the risk of writing myself - and thus Small Boy - out of existence it would have been the obvious choice for them. For my mother, certainly.

They belonged to a generation of hands-off and passive parenting, but they raised it to an art form. Why, exactly, would you have children only to proceed to have absolutely no interest in them or what they did or who they were and how they dreamed? One of my most vivid memories of my mother involves her telling me - me, the girl who started to write stories and poems the minute she could hold a pencil - that she didn't "give a shit" about writing. She couldn't seem to see us - my brother and me - as actual people with personalities. (Or perhaps she saw us all too clearly - she did have a nack for saying exactly the most hurtful thing. See above, writing, "don't give a shit.") She certainly didn't try to have a relationship with us. And so we grew up with one foot out the door and nobody should have been surprised that when the other foot was old enough to follow, follow it did. We did not, in the years before her death, have a relationship with her that surpassed obligation. When she died it had been six weeks since she and I had spoken and as last words go they leave a great deal to be desired.

My father, to his credit, did try, to the extent he was able, to forge something resembling a relationship with his children. Sports provided the bridge for him. He coached many of my brother's hockey teams and when I ran track in high school he came to every home meet. When I started cycling, we would watch TV coverage of the Tour de France (what little of it there was back then) and I would explain to him about team-work and drafting and strategy and why Greg LeMond wasn't going to waste his energy trying to win every day. I don't think he understood me, not really. But he could understand the cycling. He could learn the lingo. He could, approaching sixty and dying of cancer, become a fan of this strange new sport because his daughter was. I'm sure he found me a baffling girl and he must have watched in growing confusion as I grew into a baffling young woman. But he tried, in his clumsy born of a different generation ex-Marine quiet man way, to find at least one thing, a tenuous link between us.

Maybe that's one of the reasons I continue to believe in the transformative power of sports. It is surely one of the reasons I continue to hold a deep affection for the increasingly tarnished sport of professional cycling. As I went from a child to a young woman, something my father could only have watched with a growing sense of unease as the distance between us grew, there was always a new bike helmet to buy, a training session to hear about during the weekly call home from college, a race to look forward to. After he died, I met people at his memorial service - members of his AA group, people I had never met and would never see again - who knew all about me and my cycling and who to a person repeated how proud my father had been of me in the last race of mine he'd seen. He had, it seems, bragged about me. We might not have understood eachother across the distance of gender and years and personality, but he boasted. I was his daughter. I rode bikes. I was good. My father grasped at the one thing about me he could hope to understand - athletic endeavour - and he used it to cultivate something between us. He was quiet and clumsy in his love, as I think a lot of men of his generation can be, but he tried. Our relationship was limited and never touched on matters of the heart, I don't think he could have told his friends about the life I wanted for myself or the future I imagined for myself, but he could buy me a slice of pie and we'd be able to have a conversation while we ate.

I know my father loved me, and I'm pretty sure he liked me as well. I am far from certain I can say the same thing about my mother. And, in fairness, that was a two-way street. I didn't like her. I didn't want to spend time with her as a child, and I didn't care to spend time with her as an adult. It's not a pleasant truth, but there it is. But I have friends who like their parents, who in their thirties make time to go visit them on long weekends, who go out to dinner and Broadway shows with them. These friends of mine are like Martians to me, but they are also guide-posts along the way. They show me that there is another way, that I don't have to recreate the family I was so eager to get away from. When I'm able to step away from myself and look at the way R and I are living our lives with Small Boy I'm able to have a certain degree of confidence that we'll continue to have a good relationship with him as he grows, when he becomes an adult. But it's hard to step outside of your own narrative, and there are many days when I'm pierced by the thought that when he's grown he won't want to be our friend, that he won't want anything to do with us, that he'll always have one foot out the door. It's hard to step away from a narrative like that, so posts like this, that remind me of all the things that are possible with my children, are like little blessings.

Because it may be hard to step away from a narrative, but it is just a narrative. I can write it however I want. It's what I learned to hold the pencil for.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Ooops, he did it again

R has a pesky habit of having military service in the days right before my due date. Small Boy's due date was February 9; R was in the military January 24th to February 4. For the average Swiss, "in the military" means at a site someplace in Switzerland (you're expected to remain there overnight during the week but are generally allowed to go home over the weekends) so this is not, in the grand scheme of things, a giant tragedy. It's not as if he was off in Iraq while I was giving birth to a child he wouldn't see for months. I'm well aware of that. It's annoying at worst. Nevertheless, it is annoying to be home alone in your 39th week. We were still in Small Village back then, and although we have a car and a good train connection to the city, it can feel fairly isolated when you're speeding towards your due date. I had a friend stay over several nights while R was away, and he came home over the weekend. And he wasn't scheduled for military service in the week of my actual due date, so we were pretty well covered.

Need I say Small Boy arrived early? At least he had the great good sense to jump start my labor on the middle Sunday of R's service, meaning R was at home with me when my water broke in the middle of the night. Small Boy was born Sunday night, and R was graciously granted leave on Monday, but Tuesday he had to go back into service. He was stationed about 2 hours away and was allowed to leave overnight for the remainder of the week, so he drove two hours home in the evenings, saw us in the hospital late at night and then early the next morning before the two hour drive back. It wasn't ideal, but it worked out okay since I stayed in the hospital all that week anyway. If we'd been in the States, where they send you home after a day or two, it would have been awful to go home to an empty house with a newborn. As it was, I stayed my standard five days and we all went home together on the following Saturday.

The one thing that went awry was that we didn't have enough baby clothes at home. At some point we stopped shopping because Small Boy was starting to get a bit huge in utero and the size 50's (for 50 cm long) were starting to look a wee bit small. We figured we'd wait until the baby was born, see how big it was, and R could finish shopping while I was still in the hospital. Since as it turned out R was in the military while I was in the hospital that didn't happen and he had to buy some panic onesies on Saturday afternoon. They were overpriced, but remain among the cuter onesies Small Boy ever had.

Well. This baby is due December 10 and R has military service December 3 through December 7. And during weeks 36 and 37 he'll be attending courses in Zurich where he will, in all likelihood, stay overnight during the week. Okay, Zurich is only an hour or so away, but still. That's an awful lot of away time in the final four weeks. Needless to say this time the plan is to have all of our rubber duckies in a row before that Zurich course begins.

And the cab company's phone number on speed dial.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Why we moved

It's not much - 67 square meters (don't ask me to convert that). You US suburban types are probably wondering what all the fuss is about, but private green space in the middle of a thriving urban neighborhood is quite a coup. (Oh, and we don't have to take care of it - the management company does that!)

Here it is, the reason we switched apartments:


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Pay day

As if he had been listening in at the door of my heart, Small Boy settled into his nap on Tuesday by giving me an unsolicited kiss and whispering (in English, no less) "Good night. I love you."


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Settling in

We're in the new apartment. Three rooms (Small Boy's bedroom, the office and the kitchen) are completely unpacked and organized, two rooms are quite livable but there are still some boxes neatly stacked out of the way (our bedroom and the living area), and one room (the one that will eventually be the baby's) is a total disaster zone. We just keep that door closed for now.

Even if you have movers do all the heavy lifting, moving at 26 weeks pregnant is not fun - all the bending and standing and bending again to pack and unpack boxes got really old really fast. And I'm not sure moving from one-storey living to two-storey living at 26 weeks was the most brilliant move in the world but there we have it.

The little garden is worth the trouble though. I had a few pictures but somewhere between the digital camera and the computer they vanished (first time that has ever happened).

Oh, and we have a Cupboard Under the Stairs! Small Boy has already figured out how to open it and has decided that it is the perfect garage for his riding tractor.