29 November 2005

Update: In Which a Little Chicken Is Eaten, and Chicken Little is Dissected

Hi, yes, it's been a while. We celebrated Thanksgiving with ...uh, CHICKEN and all the trimmings. We have a teeny, tiny oven, small even by German standards. Only one rack, too, so only one thing can cook at a time. I looked at the small-ish turkeys in the commissary, but was not sure if one would fit. So we had roasted chicken. Gluten-free stuffing cooked in the Crock Pot (which tasted a lot better than it sounds). Mashed potatoes, corn. I had cranberry sauce. Katrina tried it and made a face, and Jon doesn't like it. Other traditional dishes were nixed because (1) of lack of space; or (2) I'm allergic; or (3) Jon doesn't like them. So no sweet potatoes and apples (my family) or five-cup salad (Jon's family) or green bean casserole (both families, but those french-fried onions are not gluten-free).

So, a simple Thanksgiving, then a matinee movie of Chicken Little. Which, eh. Not that great. And Katrina wanted to know where Chicken Little's mom was (dead). I wimped out, given that it was in the middle of the movie when she asked, and said that I didn't know. I could go on a long rant here about how parents--fathers in particular--are portrayed in children's stories and movies, but suffice it to say that (1) the mom was dead; and (2) the dad was a bumbling idiot who didn't support his son. Sad to say that this seems to be typical in the kids movies and fairy tales I've seen. The Disney princess movies that Katrina is so fond of...the mom is always dead or not seen. The Little Mermaid, Cinderella (we already know Cinderella is an orphan, but the Disney Prince? has only a--you guessed it--bumbling father played for comic effect), Beauty and the Beast (the dad is a bumbler, there, too), Aladdin (the dad gets hypnotized by the bad guy), Snow White. I suppose children who have two living, loving parents don't go on adventures? I haven't seen the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty yet, but that is the only fairy tale I've read to Katrina so far where the main character has two living parents. I know, at the time when most fairy tales were written, people died younger, more women died in childbirth, etc. Still...couldn't Chicken Little have a mom? Is it too much to ask of a movie who changes a simple little story into a movie complete with dodgeball, high school romance, and an alien invasion? Oh, wait, I said I wasn't going on a long rant. OK, just a medium-sized one.

Friday we drove to Middelburg in The Netherlands to visit Jon's "second mom," Jelly. (The family he stayed with as an exchange student in high school.) It was a good visit. It was the first time she had met Katrina, who called her Oma Jelly ("Oma" being "Grandma" in Dutch). The two of them got on well, too. Katrina was especially charmed with the PINK dollbaby that Jelly gave her. She's been sleeping with it. Jelly has not been in good health, so she was not sure until a week or two before whether she would be up for company. So we feel lucky that she felt well enough in time for our long weekend.

Today is picture day at preschool! But we won't get the pictures until Dec.15, a bit too late to put in Christmas cards. Well, in Christmas cards that would actually arrive before Christmas, which is not always a given for us, anyway. Christmas cards that arrive the week after Christmas: It's a small niche, but it's ours!

18 November 2005

Woe Is Me

Jon got back yesterday from a week-long business trip to the States. I tend to feel sorry for myself when he's gone. Woe is me! My husband is away--over a long weekend (Veteran's Day), no less! No help with Katrina, even though she and I are both sick with colds! And to top it all off, Jon gets to visit his parents AND our DC friends while we're stuck here, blowing our noses and quaffing decongestant!

Before we moved, I got a lot of sympathy when Jon traveled. Other moms would say, "I don't know how you do it!" (Of course, he was traveling way more often last year than he has since we moved.)

Not so much sympathy for me here, in the military community. One of the preschool moms moved here about the time we did. She has an adorable little boy about Katrina's age. Since they moved, her husband has been deployed more often than he's been home. He was in Angola for several weeks over the summer. He is in Pakistan right now, helping with relief efforts (has it been publicized in the U.S. media that the Army has sent a large MASH unit to Pakistan for earthquake relief?). They don't know when he'll be home, because they don't know how long they will be needed there. So this mom and young son are preparing for the holidays without dad. I think they are going back to the States to stay with family for awhile.

The last time I talked to her, she said something like, "Last time he was deployed over the holidays, we sent him a Christmas tree with ornaments that (her son) made. But this year I just don't have the energy to be that elaborate." Later, I realized that for her son to be old enough to make ornaments, it had to have been last Christmas. So she's looking at the second Christmas in a row--two out of three years in her son's life--without her husband.

You know what her son told her soon after his dad left? That he wanted to grow up and help people like his dad does.

Yeah, not feeling sorry for myself anymore.

13 November 2005

Taste of Home

For those of you from Pennsylvania, we have stumbled across a brand/flavor of potato chips that tastes exactly like Middleswarth BBQ chips (and, hey, if you hit that link, you go to a site that sells PA snacks by mail order. Shoo Fly Pie. Mmmmm. Been a long time.). Except maybe a little less greasy. Interesting thing is that the Funny-Frisch chips flavor is not BBQ but ungarisch, which translates to Hungarian. I can't buy them too often. Addictive.

10 November 2005

So, Are You Having Another?

Katrina is three years old now, and since she's been about a year old, random people have been asking me if we're going to have another child. By random, I mean moms on the playground or other child-friendly place. Never men, by the way. Women I'm chatting with, whom I've just met. "So, are you planning to have another child?"

It is a natural curiosity, I know. I've been tempted to ask such questions myself. But I usually don't.

I never quite know how to answer the question, because I no longer believe that I have any control as to whether we'll have another child. I find it rather quaint--even naive--that people think they can plan when and how many children they will have. I suppose people who have never experienced problems with conceiving or hanging on to a pregnancy are also never proved wrong in their belief that they control the process. But Jon and I know differently. Like many others with fertility challenges, we know that conceiving and bearing a child can be precarious, fragile, and fraught with pain as well as joy.

To give you a thumbnail: We "decided" to have kids about 5 years before Katrina was born. After a few years, we got checked out. I had rare anatomic abnormalities that were partially fixed with surgery. A year later, miscarriage at 5 weeks. Broke our hearts. About 10 months later, I got pregnant again. I was a wreck the whole pregnancy, knowing way too much about what could go wrong. Katrina was born, and our whole lives changed. We truly feel that she is our miracle child.

A little before Christmas 2004, I was pregnant again. By the second week of January, our baby had died. The weeks that followed were the worst kind of deja vu.

I had extensive blood work about a month later, which found that I have a (you guessed it) rare genetic anomaly that can affect blood flow/clotting to the womb (as well as some other effects unrelated to fertility). I'm now taking mega-doses of folic acid, which is the treatment for this condition.

So, are we having another child? I usually stutter around and say that we want one, but we had some trouble having Katrina, so we don't know. Even that sounds like too much information to lay on a relative stranger (but of course, they did ask). Sometimes I want to tell them the whole saga, so that they will stop asking that kind of question. Sometimes I just say "I don't know."

That's the real truth--I don't know. But not because of any decision we have or have not made. It sounds a bit saccharine to say it's in God's hands. But it is.

03 November 2005

Deep Thoughts ... or not

We've been listening to the local German radio station, basically a mix/adult contemporary station. Maybe 1 in 10 songs are actually in German. The rest are in English, the same ones you're probably hearing in the States. They do play a greater proportion of older songs than we're used to. What's a little odd is that "It's Raining Men" seems to be in heavy rotation. We hear it at least once a day. I think I've heard that song more times in the last few weeks than I have my whole life. Ditto with "Flashdance." If this says something about the mood or culture in the Rheinland-Pfalz area of Germany, someone more perceptive than I will have to analyze it.

I'm reading Prep, a novel about a girl at a prestigious boarding school. It's good. It also makes me 1) profoundly grateful that I'm no longer a teenager and 2) a bit apprehensive on Katrina's behalf. The book is not shocking or anything (at least not yet), but the emotional intensity and angst and confusion of adolescence is so vivid and familiar. Ugh. I really like being an adult.

Getting to know the moms at preschool has been enlightening. I'm so far behind the domestic curve. Everyone I've met so far is scrapbooking, doing crafts, sewing, etc. They're starting a craft group, meeting once a month. I'll go for the social aspect, but I've told them that I'm craft-challenged. A few of us got together this morning and made little stuffed pumpkins. Mine came out pretty good. It's cute. I have no idea what to do with it now.

Thankfully, the moms are also starting a book club. Perhaps I'll redeem myself there.

Note to anyone planning to buy clothes for Katrina: Since we've returned from the States, Katrina has worn jeans/corduroys maybe three times, and only after much cajoling. She wants to wear only skirts and dresses. I believe the reason is not the skirts per se but the tights. She is obsessed with tights. Especially a certain pair of pink tights with flowers and hearts on them (see pictures in previous entry--that's her favorite outfit). But plain white tights will do if those are in the laundry.

OK, we had conferences at preschool last week. The teacher sent home a note asking us to jot down our goals for the year (along with any questions we had). Goals for the year? I thought. She's three. I just want her to have fun and make friends. Which is what I said to the teacher. Except the teacher showed us her evaluation, a page with maybe 30 different tasks, marked with what Katrina is "competent" in and where she was "making progress." My academically achieving/perfectionistic self immediately thought, oh, no, I have to work with her on these things. She only recognizes 6 letters of the alphabet by sight! She holds scissors the wrong way! She can't count to twenty! (She counts to ten, then says the "teens" in random order, including "eleventeen," which greatly amused the teacher.)

Then I reminded myself. She's THREE. She's asking approximately 65 questions per minute. She loves school, and she loves learning. She's memorizing little poems, singing new songs, and counting in German as well as English. (She skips the teens in German, too.) So I'm squelching the perfectionist and taking my amazing daughter to the playground after school tomorrow.