31 July 2005


OK, I just finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and...wow. It was incredible. I wasn't all that fond of the previous one, The Order of the Phoenix. It was all right, but kind of muddled.

The ending of Prince was shocking, but not because of the much-ballyhooed death. I saw that one coming--sometime in the series, anyway. No, like a particular episode of Babylon 5 that no one but Jon and my brother would remember, the identity of the killer was the surprise. To me, anyway.

Throughout the whole series, I have been sure that this character was unpleasant, but on the side of good. So his betrayal shocked me, even though it was foreshadowed from the very first chapter.

So for the next book, I'm not nearly as interested in what happens to Harry as I am in how this new/old nemesis turns out. Hopefully, Rowling will devote as much space to this person's background and motivations in the next book as she did to Voldemort's history in this one.

28 July 2005

Peer Pressure

One of the little girls at Katrina's preschool broke her arm over the weekend. She fell off a piece of playground equipment with her mom right there. Something-or-other was dislocated, it looked pretty bad, and an ambulance was called. I think that is the key, there.

This morning on the way to school, Katrina said, "Lauren breaked her arm. She went on an amboolance. It hurt a lot and a lot and a lot." I said something like, "Yes, it did, but it's healing now."

"I'm going to break my arm," she said.

27 July 2005

Something's Missing

We've been listening to a lot of "top 40" radio since we got here. I tend to listen to AFN (Armed Forces Network) because it's in English. Jon listens to German stations, the main one being "Big FM" (sound familiar? I didn't know the hokey radio names were worldwide). You hear the same songs...over and over...on both stations. The German stations play all the bad words, though. The Gwen Stefani song, Hollaback Girl? Has more words and fewer grunts on German radio. The disturbing thing is that Katrina loves that song and is singing along. It is catchy, and it's on practically every time we turn on the radio. But a 3-year-old singing "where's my sh**" is enough to switch the channel to the more sanitized AFN.

It's been a long time since I listened to top-40 music with any frequency. I listened mostly to talk radio and Christian music radio in the States. I've found no Christian radio channels in this area.

You know what? Today's top 40 music makes me sad...even the songs I actually like. It's all about love lost ("Incomplete"--a beautiful song, by the way). Or sex ("The Candy Shop"--rap is all over top 40 in Germany...and there are German rappers, too. I have a bit of cognitive dissonance hearing rap in German.). Or grrrrl power ("Hollaback Girl"). Much of it is without hope.

So I went looking for my CDs this morning. They were in a box marked "Books" so it took a while. Now I'm listening to Rich Mullins' last album, "The Jesus Record." Some songs on there make me sad, too, because I listened to this over and over after I had my first miscarriage. Rich Mullins wrote songs that did not deny that life is hard, but offered hope as well. One of the best songs I've ever heard about what happens to faith in hard times is "Hard to Get." Here are the lyrics. Yet the same CD also contains "Nothing is Beyond You" which uses many of the words from Psalm 139 about the love and mystery of God.

Maybe that's what I miss when I listen to popular music...the idea that there is something--Someone--beyond ourselves and our own concerns. Now, I do hear plenty of Christian contemporary music that consists of pious platitudes. And there is wonderful, thought-provoking popular music. (I just haven't heard much of it on the radio recently.) But really good Christian music reminds me of what I tend to forget in the busyness of life and in my natural self-centeredness: that this life is not all there is. That there is Someone who sacrificed his life out of love for me (and for the person who's tailgating me, too). That there is hope, and joy, and peace, no matter where I am or how hard life gets.

I ain't no hollaback girl. I'm a child of God. You are, too.

21 July 2005

Random Thoughts

It's disconcerting to be talking to someone and all of a sudden have trouble seeing them. This happened this morning when I took Katrina to preschool. I don't get migraines often, but when I do they begin with spots in my vision. I drove home (spots and all...not recommended) and took two Tylenol in the hope of staving off the worst of it. The vision problem is gone, and I'm trying to ignore the headache pain. The fact that I can look at the computer at all means (I hope) that the headache will be a minor one. I'll still be wiped out the rest of the day, though; for some reason, even a migraine that I medicate in time leaves me very fatigued. Compared to the suffering that some people go through with migraines, I get off easy. Yeah, if I just keep thinking that, it won't seem too bad, right?

Jon's parents left yesterday morning after visiting for about 5 days. It was great having them here, especially to celebrate Katrina's birthday. This morning Katrina, as she often does, asked
what we were going to do today. I told her the plans for the day. Then she said that she wanted to go to Grandma's and Grandpa's house. I told her that we couldn't today, that it was too far away. She sighed deeply and said, "Oookaaay." It made me sad.

We have screens! Jon and his dad went to Praktiker, a German equivalent of Home Depot, and got screen kits. Instead of screens in metal frames like you see in the States (and can buy here, too, for a higher price), the kits had big rolls of screen material. You cut the screen to size and fit it into the window by pushing strands of plastic cable into channels at the side of the window. It's a lot of work, but Jon and his dad got most of them into place over the weekend. Still some more work to do, but we can now open the main windows in each room without inviting all the bugs into the house. Yay!

Plans are now in place to for us to come back to the States for three weeks, from Sept. 17 to Oct. 8. That last week coincides with the Sandy Cove Christian Writer's Conference, which I had attended for a number of years before Katrina was born. It's just too long to attend the whole thing when we have so little time at home, but they've started a 24-hour writer's retreat after the conference that I think might be good. I can get away for a little while and really think and pray about what I might do with my writing. With Katrina getting more independent by the day, I'm starting to think about what comes next. It won't be that long before she's in school all day (sob).

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is calling to me. I bought it a few days ago, just after I borrowed several books from the library. I'm in the middle of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, and I want to write like her when I grow up...smooth and evocative and so clear you can hear the narrator (a dying preacher writing to his young son) talking in your head. Of course, when I read Harry Potter I'll want to write like J.K. Rowling...crisp and funny and full of adventure. I guess I'll have to settle for writing like myself and reading the others.

I think I'll just close my eyes and rest a bit before picking up Katrina. I was going to take her to the playground this afternoon, but I don't know if I'll be up to it. I hate headache days.

18 July 2005

Birthday Girl

Dear Katrina,

You're three years old now, and how those years have flown. Looking at you now, so capable and confident, it's hard to believe it's been such a short time since you were a tiny infant. At your birthday party yesterday, you wore a pink dress with embroidered butterflies and flowers. You put on the pink princess tiara from Grammy and Pap and wore it for hours. You were thrilled with the pink Barbie nightgown that your little friend Ryan gave you and, for once, couldn't wait for bedtime so that you could wear it.

The playhouse that Papa and Grandpa put together in the back yard was a big hit. You went in and out, carefully closing the doors behind you each time. We had to forbid you from climbing on the roof of the house. It was refreshing that you asked permission and then actually refrained from trying. I guess even your adventuresome heart recognized the danger of climbing too high.

I'm mystified with your affection for all things pink and with your abiding interest in princesses. But I hope that you will always retain the sense that you are a princess: beautiful inside and out, knowing in your heart that you are treasured. So many girls (and women) lose or forget those things along the way. And I pray that you will always see the world as a place of adventure, and other people as potential friends.

I love you, my "big-girl princess." I hope that as you take on the world, you'll know that you are surrounded by your family's love.

Happy birthday!

Love, Mama

11 July 2005


The first day of German 101, and we were learning how to introduce ourselves and say what our jobs were. In English, I would say I'm a stay-at-home mom. In German, the word is Hausfrau. The only time I have heard that word used in English is derisively. To me, the word is laden with condescension, and an image comes to mind of a woman in a frumpy housedress and apron, her identity consumed in cleaning and making '50s-style gelatin molds. In other words, the very worst stereotypes of a housewife. So I said I was a Hausfrau and a Redakteur (editor) because I didn't know the German for writer.

I think that I have such a negative reaction to hausfrau because it, and its English equivalent housewife, say nothing about my interests or my personality. I'm not really domestic. I don't sew or do crafts or even decorate at all well. I'm an okay cook, but not a creative one. I'm simply someone who believes that my child is best served by my being her primary caregiver.

So the stay-at-home mom moniker best fits this part of my life. But I see the primacy of child care as only one season of my life. As Katrina gets older and goes to school, I plan to go back to editing and writing on more of a full-time basis. Therefore, I continue to see myself as a writer...in fact, it feels closer to who I am than SAHM does, because it indicates at least some of my talent and personality.

Perhaps because it took so much time and pain before we had Katrina, or merely because I was older, I don't often think of being a mom as part of my core identity. I still look at her little face sometimes and just marvel that she's here (and at how beautiful she is, and how smart, and how friendly and fun, how she's just the best little kid anywhere. But I'm not biased or anything.). On the other hand, I don't know what I would be doing now or who I would be if she had not been born. Motherhood--and particularly mothering a little girl whose personality is so different from my own--has stretched me and shaped me in ways I could not have imagined.

Identity is a slippery thing. Here I am, having trouble labeling myself as "just" a mom--a hausfrau--and yet being a mother has had a profound effect on my personality, my way of thinking, and, yes, my identity.

Mein Name ist Jennifer. Ich bin eine Mutter.

06 July 2005

First Day of School

Katrina went to preschool for the first time today. The teacher said she did really well. I guess she had fun because...

The first thing my adoring child said to me when she saw me: "I don't want to leave!"

Aw, isn't that cute. She enjoyed her first day of school.

She ran away from me back into the classroom. C'mon, sweetie, time to go. We'll come back tomorrow.

"I don't want to go home!"

I managed to get her out to the car relatively quietly, and then, well, there was crying, screaming, jumping up and down. "I don't want to gooo home!"

We had to go back in to "go potty." And then we got into the car with crying but no piercing screams (I take what I can get).

It's about a 10 minute drive back to the house. She cried all the way there. And from the driveway into the house.

She stopped crying abruptly at the sight of a new box of Elmo fruit snacks among the groceries I brought in from the car. Thank goodness she's still a little bit distractable.

Didn't I hear somewhere about children having trouble separating from their moms on the first day of school?

Not our little adventurer!

01 July 2005

Minor correction

Jon says that I was mistaken (ahem, but I got my info from him) about there being no window screens available in Germany. You can buy them in a German hardware store; they are about 45 Euros (about $56 at today's exchange rate) per window. A bit of an investment...