30 December 2006

Love Is... (holiday edition)

Love is...

  • your husband saying "Go back to bed, I'll get up with her," at 4 am the morning after a transatlantic flight.
  • visiting with a friend you haven't seen in a long time and picking up exactly where you left off.
  • two little girls shrieking and hugging each other. And then picking up exactly where they left off.
  • leaving the house by 7:30 am on your day off and taking the car to the tire-repair shop so your son and daughter-in-law can drive it for a few weeks.
  • buying a bunk bed in order to fit the maximum number of children and grandchildren into your house at one time.
  • 14 kinds of Christmas cookies.
  • saying "You two go to the movies. We'll make cookies with Katrina while you're gone."
  • no, wait, 15 kinds of Christmas cookies.
  • an 11-year-old girl spending over an hour crawling around on her hands and knees because her 4-year-old cousin wants to play "secret agent."
  • listening to your sister sing "I Will Survive" on her niece's karaoke machine and only pointing and laughing a wee little bit.
  • watching two blonde heads and one redhead huddled together around one microphone.
  • seeing pure wonder on your daughter's face as she carefully holds a candle at the end of the Christmas Eve service.
  • witnessing a couple quietly renewing their wedding vows after 40 years together, in the presence of the family their union created.
  • watching your daughter twirl and whirl in the sunshine after seeing "The Nutcracker."

and finally, love is...

  • gluten-free Chex Mix. Oh, yeah.

26 November 2006

Happy Thanksgiving? (or, the pros and cons of being sick in a hotel room)

Warning: This post contains strong (smelling) content. Proceed with caution. Wendy, this means you!

Pro: When your four-year-old daughter wakes up puking at midnight Thanksgiving night, there are only 3 steps from her bed to the bathroom.
Con: You are highly likely to bruise yourself (or her) on some wooden corner along the way. Every. Single. Time. (Oh, number of times? I stopped counting at five, but I think there was more. That's between midnight and about 6:30 am.)

Pro: You won't have to wash her soiled linen in the middle of the night.
Con: You won't have readily available clean linen in the middle of the night, so she will sleep with you. And by "sleep," I mean she falls asleep immediately after each, um, episode and you sit bolt upright every time she moves, in anticipation of another episode.

Pro: You can leave the soiled towels from cleaning up on the floor of the bathroom. And you don't have to wash those, either.
Con: You will worry about running out of toilet paper before the maids appear with more in the morning. (But you will make it.)

Pro: You don't have to clean the toilet or the bathroom floor.
Con: You will be washing out pajamas (yours and hers) with hotel shampoo in the sink in an attempt to cut down on the smell. You will fail and deposit said pajamas on the balcony. Plus, no clean pajamas.

Pro: You don't have to cook breakfast for self or others.
Con: The hotel doesn't serve lunch, so you will go out foraging late in the afternoon and end up with peanut butter and jelly on the GF bread you packed. Husband will make do with a soft pretzel. Daughter, now alternating between wonderfully chipper and pathetically whiny, will refuse to eat anything but bagged popcorn. Which you will dole out in handfuls of approximately 10 kernels every 10 minutes, no matter how pathetically she whines "I'm hungweeeee."

Pro: You return to your room after breakfast to find clean linens on daughter's bed, a sparkling bathroom, clean towels, and freshly made beds.
Con: With no good way to get cross-ventilation, a miasma of ...well, you can imagine the smell well enough yourself.

Pro: Since you're on vacation, you have nowhere you need to be.
Con: Three exhausted people sitting in a hotel room that's approximately the size of our bathroom at home. All day. Jon did take Katrina out for a few hours when it was clear she was feeling better enough to ransack the room. They even found a playground. I tried to sleep off a splitting headache that had begun around 2 am. And failed. Tylenol helped, though.

What I'm Thankful For This Thanksgiving
That we left Austria a day early, making the 6-hour drive yesterday and getting in about 7 pm. Katrina started eating again at lunchtime yesterday (half a McDonald's cheeseburger and a strawberry shake). At 3 am this morning, I was awakened by the most wretched sounds I had heard since...well, since Thanksgiving night. Jon had succumbed.

Two down, one to go. What does one do when it seems certain the dreaded Stomach Bug has you in its sights? Laundry. Lots of laundry. Oh, and a blog update.

15 November 2006

More Katrina-isms ('cause she's more entertaining anyway)

On the way to swim lessons
K: "Mama, every time Miss Angie makes us go to the deep part. I don't like the deep part."
Me: "Why don't you like the deep part?"
K (in a disgusted tone): "Because it's TOO DEEP."
Me (suitably chastened, asks no more questions)

After "Dinosaur Week" at school
K: "Mama, what comes after all the people die?"
Me: "Huh??"
K: "What happens when all the people die?"
Me: "Well, when you die you go to heaven to be with God."
K: "NO! After dinosaurs all died, people came. What comes after all the people die?"
Me: "Uh, I don't know, honey."
K (louder): "But what comes after the people die?"
Me: "Sweetie, I don't know!"
K (getting upset): "TELL ME!"
Me: "Honey, if I knew, I would tell you, but I don't know."
Me: (try to change the subject as quickly as possible)

Katrina's current favorite word
"Evenly" instead of "even"
She uses it so often, I evenly don't notice it anymore.

Her imaginary friend(s)
She has a recurring imaginary friend. It's a little monster who is pink and furry. But she used to have feathers when she was a baby. She fits in Katrina's pocket or in the palm of her hand. Her name? Little Monster, of course!

Last week we were eating dinner with friends in a restaurant, and Katrina told us that "BoBo" was sitting with us, too. Bobo is a girl. At various times since then she has mentioned scenarios with Bobo and also a boy named Bobo something else (the second name changes). One either doesn't like the other or doesn't want to play what the other one wants to play.

Her "friends" are not around all the time. I think they come out when she wants to liven things up.

And speaking of livening things up...the Tattooed Lady
Jon left on Saturday for a business trip. Sunday morning, getting ready for church. Katrina is in the family room supposedly watching cartoons while I take a shower. The bathroom door opens.

K: "Mama, loooook!" She holds up her fingers to the shower door. The tips of them are bright (!) pink. She has a pink spot on her face, too. Then she turns to reveal several pink spots on her legs and feet. She's very pleased with herself.

While I was peacefully showering, Katrina was stamping herself with a pink butterfly stamp she "won" from the Chucky Cheese-like establishment on base. I didn't realize the thing was in the family room, much less that she could have worked off the shrink-wrapped packaging.

It was 10:30 am. She was in her nightgown, I was in my, er, altogether. We needed to leave for church by 11 am. I made her wash her hands (which dimmed the color just a bit), got the spot (mostly) off her face, and gave a few half-hearted scrubs to the large pink spot on her leg, which did no good. So, got dressed, went to church.

Home from church a few hours later, had lunch, etc. Katrina had to go potty. She still asks for help wiping when she poops. So I prepare to clean her up. And staring up at me from her little bottom is a perfect pink butterfly.

Did I mention that the ink apparently isn't the washable type? It's Wednesday. The butterflies are still fluttering.

And finally, a story in pictures: Sisyphus Cleans the Family Room
A few weeks ago, I was tidying up the way-cluttered family room in preparation for dinner guests. Meanwhile, Katrina was pretending to be a cat.

The lovely, clutter-free coffee table.

The rest of the room, aka Katrina's "cat place."

At least she waited until everything else was picked up off the floor. Hey, it was a rainy day. What else was the poor girl, er, kitty-cat, to do?

02 November 2006

Shiny Happy People

I have a thing about shiny, happy Christians. Now, I'm a Christian. Even a Lutheran, the denomination that emphasizes grace--God did it all for us--over works--we have to earn it. ("It" being salvation, heaven, all that good stuff. I'm such the theologian, aren't I?)


An innate suspiciousness overtakes me when people in general and Christians in particular want to wrap everything up in a neat little package. Because life isn't a neat little package. Christianity is not a neat little package, no matter what the "4 Spiritual Laws" or earnest young evangelicals tell you.

This little rant comes to you courtesy of a comment that one person made in a Bible Study over the weekend. What we were talking about reminded me of a Rich Mullins song, "Hard to Get." Unfortunately, when I tried to quote the lyrics, I couldn't remember the key ones, only the bridge, which is "I'm reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears./Words of shame and doubt, blame and regret./I can't see where you're leading me/Unless you've led me here"

And I tried to make the point that I thought the song (in its entirety) makes, which is that you can have faith and knowledge, but when you're going through bad times, what you really want is some assurance that God cares. Not just that God exists, but that God is "engaged and active" (terms mentioned in the study). I don't think I said it that well, actually, so perhaps the next comment was somewhat justified.

"But in the song, it turns out that it's okay, right?" I kind of said, yeah, it turns out okay. But something felt wrong about saying that. When I got home and checked the lyrics, I knew why. Because the song does not turn out okay, in the sense that the singer is shiny and happy at the end. A lot of Christian music does end that way. But not this one. The lyrics come through to an understanding, but you know that the pain is still there, the voices, the hurt.

So anyway, here is the whole lyric. Tell me what you think. Does everything turn out okay?

Hard to Get
(by Rich Mullins)

You who live in heaven
Hear the prayers of those of us who live on earth
Who are afraid of being left by those we love
And who get hardened by the hurt

Do you remember when you lived down here where we all scrape
To find the faith to ask for daily bread
Did you forget about us after you had flown away
Well I memorized every word you said
Still I'm so scared, I'm holding my breath
While you're up there just playing hard to get

You who live in radiance
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in skin
We have a love that's not as patient as yours was
Still we do love now and then

Did you ever know loneliness?
Did you ever know need?
Do you remember just how long a night can get
When you are barely holding on
And your friends fall asleep
And don't see the blood that's running in your sweat?
Will those who mourn be left uncomforted
While you're up there just playing hard to get?

And I know you bore our sorrows
And I know you feel our pain
And I know it would not hurt any less
Even if it could be explained
And I know that I am only lashing out
At the one who loves me most
And after I figured this, somehow
All I really need to know

Is if you who live in eternity
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in time
We can't see what's ahead
And we can not get free of what we've left behind
I'm reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears
All the words of shame and doubt, blame and regret
I can't see how you're leading me unless you've led me here
Where I'm lost enough to let myself be led
And so you've been here all along I guess
It's just your ways and you are just plain hard to get.

I want to say a little more about this, but I have to go pick up Katrina.

25 October 2006

Quick Update

Yes, I'm still here. Kinda. My computer is kaputt. I'm using Jon's until we get back to the States in December. The German computers have German keyboards, so I don't want one of those (on a desktop, I could switch out keyboards, of course, but you don't really have that option on a laptop). And the BX here has limited option at higher prices than you can get just ordering direct from HP or Dell or whatever. So Jon set up an account for me on his laptop so I can send and receive e-mail and get online.

I'm nearly recovered from what turned out to be two D&C's less than a week apart. Note to anyone seeing a new doctor: when you hand them your medical records, don't expect that they'll actually READ them or anything. Do remind them BEFORE you go into surgery that you have funky anatomy and they might want to PAY ATTENTION to anything unusual. 'Cause if you don't? You may have to go through it all again, after spending the weekend wondering if you've finally cracked and are having psychologically-induced pregnancy symptoms. The good part was that the second surgery was done by the head of the practice, who I found to be much more on the ball (well, she should be, since they basically already made a mistake with me); more fluent in English; and having reassuring, motherly bedside manner. I think I'll stick with her if I can (she's incredibly busy, and having met her, I know why).

Katrina has started swimming lessons and loves them. Funny how she'll let a relative stranger teach her to do something, yet balk when her own parents attempt to teach the exact same thing. Of course, we're not exactly qualified swim teachers, but Miss Angie got her to float on her back in 2 lessons. Something both Jon and I had attempted before, but K. resisted. Ah, the magic of perky, enthusiastic swim instructors!

That's it for now. Time to pick up Katrina from school.

10 October 2006

There's bound to come some trouble to your life
But that ain't nothing to be afraid of
There's bound to come some trouble to your life
But that ain't no reason to fear
I know there's bound to come some trouble to your life
But reach out to Jesus, hold on tight
He's been there before and He knows what it's like
You'll find He's there

There's bound to come some tears up in your eyes
That ain't nothing to be ashamed of
I know there's bound to come some tears up in your eyes
That ain't no reason to fear
I know there's bound to come some tears up in your eyes
Reach out to Jesus, hold on tight
He's been there before and He knows what it's like
You'll find He's there

Now, people say maybe things will get better
People say maybe it won't be long
And people say maybe you'll wake up tomorrow
And it'll all be gone
Well I only know that maybes just ain't enough
When you need something to hold on
There's only one thing that's clear

I know there's bound to come some trouble to your life
But that ain't nothing to be afraid of
I know there's bound to come some tears up in your eyes
That ain't no reason to fear
I know there's bound to come some trouble to your life
Reach out to Jesus, hold on tight
He's been there before and He knows what it's like
You'll find He's there

(by Rich Mullins)

We went back to the doctor today. Everything looked healthy except where the baby should be. A blighted ovum, I think I've heard it called in English, though he didn't know that term. He said it just couldn't grow and develop properly. We scheduled a D&C for Thursday.

It wasn't anything to do with my rather complicated medical history, he said. It was just...fate. Not meant to be.

I'm actually okay. I've been very sad, but knowing is a relief. And you know? It's hard to concentrate on a good mope when you have the cutest little family already.

05 October 2006


I had a little boy once. We saw his heartbeat a few days before Christmas 2004, when we rushed to the hospital sure that he was already gone. But there he was, a beautiful smudge on the sonogram, with a winking little heart.

My doctor found this encouraging, and for a few hours, so did I. Then the cramps and bleeding renewed for a few days, and then faded away. It was the holidays. No one was available to do yet another sonogram. So we made an appointment for a few weeks hence, and we waited.

As a week or so went by, I began to hope again. Foolishly, maybe, but after all, we had seen a heartbeat.

In the early morning on the day of my appointment, bleeding began anew. And the hope died even before the kindly nurse practitioner searched in vain for a heartbeat, then called in a doctor just to make sure.

I already knew.

Jon and I both had a strong impression from the beginning that this baby was a boy. A few weeks later, I had one of those waves of sadness and prayed that God would take care of our lost little one. And a name was pressed into my mind: Evan. With it was a mental picture of a little toddler boy running through a meadow.

Sometimes I still think about him. I wonder if he's waiting for us.


Last Thursday, I had a positive pregnancy test. I made an appointment with a gynecologist for yesterday afternoon. Yesterday morning I started cramping and bleeding. The doctor was so nice and sympathetic. He did a sonogram. Look, he said, here's the sac. It's still there. It measures perfectly for five weeks. Be optimistic, he said. I've seen women with more serious symptoms than yours go on to have healthy babies. Wait a while, he said. Make an appointment for next week, and we'll check again. Be optimistic, he repeated, as he squeezed my hand.

But this is my third time. I already know. I'd like to be proven wrong. But I don't have it in me to be optimistic. Not about this.


Our next appointment is Tuesday afternoon. Please pray for us. Blogging isn't the best way to tell you what's happening, but I just couldn't face making phone calls right now.

Glory Baby lyrics by Watermark

22 September 2006

Everyday Writing

I'm a fool for office supplies. Sales on school supplies? Heaven. My fingers just itch to take home one more cute notebook or neat organizer. Unfortunately, I can't justify buying multiple spiral-bound notebooks, folders, or little plastic pencil holders any more. First grade for Katrina is just a few years away. Poor thing will have more paper and pencils than she'll know what to do with.

From my observations, the obsession with pens, paper, pencils, blank books, etc., is common among writers and editors. I once subscribed to a very large e-mail discussion group for copyeditors. There were serious discussions on which brands and colors of pencils were the best for hard-copy editing. Hey, when you use red pencils for hours on end, it's useful to know which brands keep a point and which ones just break off. And some pencils just don't show up well, which is important when you're sending pages and pages to an author or a typesetter.

Ahem, well, back to my point. A few years ago, I found the best pen for my repetitive-motion strained hands. The Dr. Grip gel ink pen is fatter than the standard pen, with a soft plastic coating where you hold it. And gel ink writes so much more smoothly than the older ballpoint pen ink. I had two of these pens but lost one recently, so I had a great excuse to buy the dark pink one. I was all excited to start using it in German class.

Yes, I AM a geek. Did you have any doubt?

11 September 2006

I Remember

I was at the doctor's office in Centreville, Virginia. We talked about my 6 months of gastrointestinal symptoms. At one point, he was called out of the exam room, and when he came back in, the conversation went on without a hitch. Later I wondered if he knew then. Finally, he said, "well, I think you may have irritable bowel syndrome, but let me do one more blood test. It's a long shot, but a few of my IBS patients have actually had celiac disease."

Blood draw over, I got in my car and turned on the radio. WMAL 1630 AM. The usual talk show was not on. It was a feed from CBS. Planes had hit the World Trade Center.

It was chilling. I drove to the ATM nearby. I had plans to go to a furniture store about 25 minutes away. We were looking for a couch for our new house, which was still being built. In the meantime, we were living with Jon's parents.

Then the national feed was interrupted by the local guy. The radio station was getting phone calls from people driving on the highway past the Pentagon. They put one of them on. The man said that he had seen a plane hit the Pentagon.

I felt frozen inside. What was happening? And what should I do? I tried to call Jon on my cell. He was working at Ft. Belvior, a military base in Alexandria. Was he okay? The call didn't go through.

The national feed was back on, with the Pentagon story as well. I was waiting at a traffic light on Rt. 29. The news folks were saying that there could be 10,000 people in the World Trade Center.

Then, the towers fell. My tears came. All I could think was "all those people! all those people!" I looked around at the people in the cars next to me. Had they heard? I didn't see anyone in obvious distress.

My cell rang. It was Jon. "Where are you?" he asked. I babbled something about where I was and that I couldn't decide to go on to the furniture store or not. "Go home," he said. When I kept talking, he became more forceful. "Just go home now." So I did. Later, Jon told me why he was so insistent: my car had military stickers on the windshield. At that point, who knew what target would be next?

Jon's dad was working from home that day. I had an editing project I needed to work on, too. But neither of us worked. We sat in their family room watching the news. Jon's mom was working in Georgetown. She called and said she didn't know when she'd be home because of the traffic. Jon also didn't know when he'd be home. The base was shut down for security. No one in or out. Jon's dad called his mother in Wisconsin. I tried to call my parents but kept getting fast busy signals. Either I or they got through eventually.

As it turned out, both Jon and his mom made it home by late afternoon. I don't remember what happened the rest of the day. I think the TV was on the whole day and into the evening. I remember watching Congress sing "God Bless America" on the steps. A part of me thought it was just for show, but it was still moving. I wish they would remember now the solidarity they showed then.

Two days later, I saw my counselor for perhaps the second or third time. I had started with her because of my lingering depression from the loss of our first baby in an early miscarriage. I told her that my loss didn't seem so awful right now. That I felt self-indulgent even being sad about it, when such a terrible thing had just happened. She said that everyone she had seen in the past few days had said the same thing. But a loss is a loss, she said, and it's all right to feel sad about it, even if you don't think it's as bad as someone else's.

A week later, my doctor called. My blood test for celiac disease was positive. I could confirm it with an endoscopy, but why not just go on a gluten-free diet and see if it worked?

Three months later, I discovered I was pregnant.

My daughter is now four years old. September 11 will be to her like the moon landing is to me. History. Something that happened before she was born.

It will seem remote to her, something she reads about in a school book.

But I will remember. And I will pray--as perhaps my grandparents prayed during World War II--that her generation will never experience such darkness, such evil. But I know that it probably will.

07 September 2006

Impressions of Ireland

We arrived at the Dublin Airport late last Thursday night. The driver of the hotel shuttle jokes with us and the four young Irish passengers as he races through the night on the "wrong" side of the road. I understand about one word in three. The Dublin accent is strong, and they talk very fast.

Next morning, up and off to Galway. Our GPS system gets lost as soon as we leave the main city. We're on a brand-new road. The Tom-Tom shows us driving through a field.

Soon enough, though, the nice highway gives way to a two-lane road. Spoiled by the great roads in Germany, we forgot how an easy 2-hour trip on a highway can turn into a 5-hour trip on a road that goes through every little town.

But what towns they are. From Dublin onward, building projects abound. Road works, houses, whole housing developments. Mansions that would look right at home in the richer suburbs of DC.

We make it to Galway much later than we hoped. The city has grown enormously since I attended a semester abroad there in 1991; and it is even bigger and more congested than when Jon and I visited in the late 90s. The cow pasture I used to cut across when I walked from my house to the University College Galway campus is now the site of "luxury student apartments." In 1991, I read that Irish college students were the poorest students in the world. Evidently, that is no longer the case.

The pedestrian zone in Galway, however, is exactly as I remember it. The older, historical parts of cities in Europe don't change that much. Buildings change hands, but they are usually renovated rather than torn down and replaced. The American-style 50s diner has been replaced by a kebab restaurant, but the jewelry stores and gift shops are pretty much where I left them.

Up early for the trip to Cork, by way of the Cliffs of Moher and Blarney Castle. We and our traveling companions, who have never been to Ireland, repeat three comments as we wend our way down the west coast: (1) "I can't believe how bad these roads are"; (2) "Look at that house. It's beautiful! or It's huge!"; and (3) "Wow. I gotta take a picture. This is beautiful."

Even as we bounce along bumpy, narrow, winding roads (did I say bumpy?) through the wilds of the Burren, we saw new stately homes set in the middle of fields. I wondered where the inhabitants worked. It would be a long commute to Galway, but there seemed to be nothing but rocks, pastures, and in the distance the sea.

Even the Cliffs of Moher were under construction. The low, rickety wall to keep people from the edge of the cliff has been replaced by a high, slate wall backed by mounds of earth. And the hill before the Cliffs has been laid open to prepare for a new underground visitor's centre. There is a temporary centre and parking across the street. Many more people were visiting the Cliffs than I recall from past visits. The gift shop was so crowded that we don't even bother to browse. But the beauty of the Cliffs themselves are undimmed.

Katrina is less interested in the Cliffs than in the slate walls. She can't see over them anyway, unless we lift her up. Jon shows her the spiral-like raised lines on them and explains that they were made by worm trails. She is fascinated. She wants to know where the worms are.

A few hours later, Blarney Castle. The steps up are scarier than I remember. Maybe because I have an enthusiastic 4-year-old ahead of me--really, above me--who has no fear of the spiral staircase, whose feet drift closer and closer to the narrow portion of the stairs. She, of course, is the princess of the castle and all she surveys.

Our bed and breakfast that night is in Cobh, a small town on an island in the Cork harbor. It is not in the Tom-Tom...just like the Cliffs of Moher and pretty much anything outside of the cities. Our map is not great, and our directions to the hotel even worse. After an hour or so of confusion, we finally arrive. Curiously, the restaurant attached to the hotel is Chinese. I wonder how the Chinese wait staff and cooks found their way to a tiny little tourist town on the south edge of Ireland. They are very solicitious of my gluten intolerance, and I have my first dinner in a Chinese restaurant since I was diagnosed with celiac 5 years ago. It is amazingly good, even without soy sauce.

The next day, a short drive to Waterford. Katrina loves watching the glass-blowing at the Waterford Crystal Factory, but the rest of the tour bores her. As does the shopping. The same is true for M., the 11-year-old daughter of our traveling companions.

Later, we take a walk through Waterford's pedestrian zone. Then, the highlight of the trip for an 11-year-old girl: the discovery of a Claire's store. It's evening, so the store is closed. We're leaving the next morning to catch our flight out of Dublin. We plan to be in front of Claire's when it opens the next morning at 9:30 am and back to the hotel to check out by 10 am. Both girls are excited. Katrina can't wait to get some "jewels."

Sure enough, at 9:30 am, both moms and girls are standing outside the door. It takes only 15 minutes for Katrina and M. to pick out approximately 30 Euros worth of assorted gee-gaws. (I did add a bit to Katrina's basket by buying a headband that might not slide out of her hair, as well as a pair of leg warmers in case she continues her dresses-only policy into the dead of winter. Again.)

In the car again, we find that the roads improve the closer we get to Dublin. We make it to the Dublin airport early enough to consider going somewhere else first, but late enough to decide to play it safe. Much sitting around and then standing in lines ensues, which is much longer and more frustrating than the actual two-hour flight itself.

We arrive at Hahn airport a little before 10 pm. Katrina falls asleep in the car and makes a smooth transition to her own bed. We stumble into bed at 11:30 pm. A lovely trip, if a little too much driving. Next time, we'll take it slower.

And as I drift off to sleep, I can't help but smile: with the new day begins a new school year for Katrina.

18 August 2006

Everyday Contentment

One of the blogs I read, Everyday Mommy, has a weekly feature called Everyday Things. Things that we take for granted, but shouldn't. Here's mine.

Waking up in the morning with my whole family under one roof. Jon returned this morning from a week-long business trip to the States. He doesn't travel as much as he used to, but I always miss him when he's gone and relieved when he comes home.

I don't complain (much!) about his traveling, not like I did before we moved. I'm surrounded by families whose husbands or wives are deployed to dangerous places. For months and months. They have to get to know their children again when they get back. So, I try not to complain about my husband spending a week in the States.

And I am even more thankful on Saturday mornings, when Katrina wakes up, calls for Papa, and he's here.

16 August 2006


When Jon's away, I generally supplement our "God is Great" prayer at dinner with a little prayer for Papa on his trip. The other night, Katrina insisted on praying. Here is what she said:

"Dear God, Thank you for princesses and queens and kings. Please keep Papa safe from bad guys. Seahorses are really pretty and I'd like to give you a present. Amen."

09 August 2006

Hi, There

Yes, we're still here. We've had a month of houseguests and are now in the second week of The Month With No Preschool (and No Doting Grandparents). Just introverted me and my extroverted daughter. All day. Every weekday.

Um, she's probably watching a leetle more TV and playing a just a little more on the computer than usual. Just a little. Hey, it's summer vacation.

Coincidentally, I'm not blogging much. My brain and any desire to, well, talk or communicate in any way shuts down about...now.

The good news is that the record-breaking heat wave has passed, at least for now. July was the hottest in Germany since 1994. The last week or so has been a breath of fresh air, or rather, of autumn air. Love it. Highs in the 60s to 70s, clouds and a few rainy days. The temps may be on their way up again, but we're enjoying the coolness for now.

Thank goodness. It was too hot to play outside at all there for awhile, unless you were swimming. This week has been playground week! Exercise for all! No unflattering swimsuits, just endless pleas of "Mama, chase me! Play tag, Mama! Be the evil monster! Be the evil queen and I'm the princess!"

For some reason, Katrina has stopped approaching random kids at the playground with the confidence and panache that I've come to expect and admire. I don't know if it's just that she's older and beginning to comprehend some risk of rejection, or if she's just wanting to stay closer to me than usual. If there are kids there that she knows, she's fine. But unless some other kid comes up to her, she's suddenly reluctant to approach them.

Now, I totally understand not initiating contact. It's not like that's something I ever did as a child. It's just a change in Katrina.

Tangentially related is an article I came across online. Please, if you worry that I (or anyone you know and love) am too quiet, spend too much time alone, don't talk to you enough, etc., read this.

Here's a few sentences to get the flavor. The author (Jonathan Rauch) writes:

Extroverts are easy for introverts to understand, because extroverts spend so much of their time working out who they are in voluble, and frequently inescapable, interaction with other people. They are as inscrutable as puppy dogs. But the street does not run both ways. Extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion. They assume that company, especially their own, is always welcome. They cannot imagine why someone would need to be alone; indeed, they often take umbrage at the suggestion. As often as I have tried to explain the matter to extroverts, I have never sensed that any of them really understood.

Also, check out Newsweek's Anna Quindlen: Live Alone and Like It.

And now, I am all communicated out. But before I go, I give you Katrina...songwriter and extemporaneous lyricist extraordinaire. This is what we heard from the back seat as we drove to church on Sunday:

"Jesus loves me this I know,
But he died
'Cause bad guys made him get dead...

Yes, Jesus died,
yes, Jesus died,
yes, Jesus died,
The Bible tells me so."

We DID tell her about, you know, the resurrection and all. Do you think she'd get the concept if I compared Easter to the Snow White or Sleeping Beauty stories? Or would lightning strike before I finished the explanation?

28 June 2006

What Katrina Learned at Dance Class

Yesterday was Katrina's second ballet/tap dance class. About eight little girls in pink leotards. Parents could watch the action on a closed-circuit televison outside the classroom, pictures but no sound. I watched on and off for the half-hour lesson, so I knew that the teacher had taught them a few ballet positions.

Later that afternoon, Katrina wanted to play dance class. She was the teacher, of course, and I was supposed to do what she did.

So what did Katrina the dance teacher do? Dance a few Katrina-invented steps, or twirl, then clap sharply two times and say "Listen!" in a stern voice. Step, step, clap, clap, "Listen!"

That's what my daughter learned in dance class yesterday. I'm so proud.

30 May 2006

Rain, Rain, Go Away (hack, cough)

We've had maybe 2 semi-nice days in the last two to three weeks. We milked the nice day on Sunday for all it was worth, going to Landstuhl where they had a little outdoor fair and Sunday opening of the stores. (Sunday store openings are a big thing. Everything shuts down on Sundays. Even grocery stores. And no 7-11s. If you're out of milk, you're out of milk. Unless you're American and have base privileges.)

Other than just being sick of rain and cold (it's about 45 degrees F right now, with a high today of 55), I really want it to warm up so that Katrina has a chance to get rid of her chronic cough. Last Saturday night, after a pretty normal day and a visit to the base equivalent of a Chuck E. Cheese, Katrina suddenly developed a fever of almost 103. Since she was on day 3 of her third course of antibiotics since January, we were a bit more concerned than if she hadn't been taking the meds. After a dose of Ibuprofen and a call to the nurse line, we took her to the ER at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. That's the big American hospital here. When you hear about soldiers being taken to Germany after being wounded on the battlefield? This is where they come.

Anyway, we saw in action how much more interventionist the American practice of medicine is over German practice. Of course, by the time the triage nurse looked at Katrina, the ibuprofen had brought her temperature back to normal. But the nurse was horrified that Katrina had been coughing since January and had not yet had a chest X-ray. So off we went to Radiology.

Katrina was absolutely calm and wonderfully cooperative through all of this, even though we had woken her and bundled her into the car after the nurse line put the fear of God into us. (The ER doc said that the nurse line should just have a recording saying "Please go directly to the emergency room." But when you tell a nurse your child's symptoms and that she's asleep in her bedroom, and the nurse tells you to go check that your child is still breathing, well, it freaks you out a little.)

The only complaint Katrina had through the whole ER visit was that she didn't get to see the X-ray of her chest. I think that girl is going to be in the medical field. There was a poster of the anatomy of the ear in the exam room, which fascinated Katrina. We had to tell her what every part was called and how it all worked (if we knew, that is). Then she wanted to know what all of the medical intruments/equipment was and what it was used for.

The doctor on duty said that the X-ray didn't show anything. But he also said he was going to get a colleague to look at it to make sure, so I wonder whether maybe there was a little something there. So he gave us a bottle of Tylenol and a bottle of Ibuprofen for the fever, and Zyrtec to try to dry up any drainage that could make her cough. He told us to overlap the Tylenol and the ibuprofen for 48 hours, which, truthfully, I thought was a bit of overkill. So I gave her ibuprofen at night and checked her temp throughout the day before giving her yet more medicine. But maybe the doc was right, since the fever did recur (though only to about 100).

So that was Saturday night a week ago. That Tuesday, when Katrina was still running a low-level fever off and on, I took her back to the pediatrician. This would be the third visit in three weeks, not counting the ER. You know you're in trouble when the doc comes in, looks at her record and info on the computer screen, and then sighs, rakes his hands through his hair, and mumbles to himself. Really, this doesn't inspire confidence.

"Obviously," the doc says, "her current antibiotic is not working." Um, yeah.

He examines Katrina and then starts talking in German to his nurse, who is at the computer typing in notes. What I hear, because of my woeful lack of anything approaching German comprehension is "blah, blah, blah, blah, chest X-ray, blah, blah." I pipe up to say that she got an X-ray at the ER but they said it didn't show anything. He explains something to me about what an X-ray might or might not show that I cannot recall at the moment.

Then, more notes to the nurse: "blah, blah, blah, pneumonia, blah, blah, blah."

Wha?! "She has pneumonia?!" I say.

"Yeah, I think so," says the doctor matter-of-factly. "What I'm going to do is give you a different antibiotic that is more broad spectrum than the one she's on right now."

Apparently, pneumonia is not the cause for concern I thought it was, because the visit ended exactly the way it did when she had "just a cold," and when she had "bronchitis," and when she had "some sort of viral infection like bronchitis that is going around." We got a prescription for yet another antibiotic and were sent on our way. Granted, the dosage seems to be a bit more aggressive.

About Wednesday afternoon, Katrina perked up and seemed to regain her energy. The fever's been gone since then, and she's been bopping around as usual. She has one more week to go on this, her fourth antibiotic. She's still coughing.

20 May 2006

Why the Seven Dwarves Always Look so Happy

OK, so I didn't make Katrina clean up the mess in the bathroom yesterday, since I figured she'd want to play there this morning, too (reason #42 I'm a fun mom but a terrible housekeeper). So, last night as we were brushing teeth, etc., we saw this little guy.

And then, just a little to the left, Dopey looked like he was having fun, too.

It was 11:30 pm after a long, rainy day. Jon and I laughed and laughed. And laughed. I thought it was just the late hour, but I find it just as amusing today. I have such a sophisticated sense of humor.

19 May 2006

This is what happens...

when on a rainy afternoon Mama says, "No playing with water in the family room! But if you want to give your dolls a bath, you can do it in the bathroom"

10 May 2006

Short and ...well, short

I write blog posts in my head. In the car, while I'm doing dishes, while I'm standing at the playground. But when I actually have time to write, those scintillating posts turn out to be...well, not as substantive as they were when I was sitting in the car waiting on road work traffic. Or, I forget what exactly that great idea was. So, here I am, starting another bulleted list. Hey, maybe the next post will be literary, profound, and touching. And not a list. For now, though, here are some recent happenings and observations.
  • A piece of filling fell out of my tooth Saturday night. So, Monday I had to get the whole filling drilled out and re-done. The dentist was great. I've had some not-so-great experiences in the dentist office, so I'm always wound pretty tight when I get there. But there was no pain, not even with the shot.

  • Tuesday I took Katrina to the pediatrician for her persistant cough. He was as convinced as I that she had some sort of environmental allergies. So they did a prick test for about 10 different things, and she came out clean on all of them. By the way, Katrina was amazingly calm for the whole thing, from the little lancet pricks to the 20 minutes of holding her arm still. Since the allergy test was negative, the doc thought she might have a viral infection. Anyway, we came home with another cough syrup and a 7-day supply of Singulair, an asthma treatment. If these don't work in a week, I'm supposed to bring her back to get some inhalant treatment.

  • I've been trying to lose some weight. I've lost about 10 pounds in the last few months. Mostly because I started exercising again and am keeping a bit of an eye on what I'm eating. One of the perks of being a Dept. of Defense ID holder here is that the on-base gyms are free, including a number of classes. Two or three days a week, I drop Katrina off at school and go to a step aerobics class. So this morning, I noticed that the songs were pretty cheesy 80s songs set to a dance beat....and even as I thought how cheesy they were, I was be-bopping along with them. "Let's Get Physical," "Billy Jean," "Fame," "Mamma Mia," "I Will Survive" (OK, not all 80s), and ..."It's Raining Men!" The cool-down was a slow song from Grease that I can't remember right now. Two songs by Olivia Newton John in one hour. And I was totally into the music. How uncool am I? Don't answer that.

  • Why I'm a fun mom but a terrible housekeeper. Last week was gorgeous weather. Sunny and 75 degrees pretty much from the moment my sister and brother-in-law left (sorry, guys). So for three days in a row, I packed a lunch and took Katrina to the park for, like, the whole afternoon. We barely got home in time to start dinner, and every day, she wanted to stay longer. And honestly? So did I.

All right, I promised Katrina I'd put together a puzzle with her, so I'm off. Unfortunately, it's cloudy and 50 today, so not a prime playground day. Puzzles it is.

28 April 2006

Weekend Update

Reading: The Art of Being and The Happiest Toddler on the Block. (According to the latter, Katrina's personality falls into the "spirited" category...what a shocker. Supposedly only ten percent of kids are "spirited.")

Watched: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe DVD. We also saw it in the theater over Christmas.

(Further) Proof I Am a Geek: I'm watching a movie that includes talking animals, a magical land accessed through a coat closet, and a witch that causes winter to last 100 years. And I think: "Look at all that sword-fighting, and you don't see a drop of blood. That's just not realistic!"

Petty Annoyance: Potatoes that look good until after you peel them. If they have bad spots, I want to know before I go to the effort of peeling them!

Looking for: Glitter. For a craft I'll be doing with the kids for "Children's Church" on Sunday. Have I mentioned I'm craft-impaired? It apparently includes actually finding the ingredients. The craft store on base is closed on Fridays. I'll have to go tomorrow.

Grateful for: Beautiful spring days, airplanes, houseguests, Crock-Pots, the cancellation of Jon's 6-7 pm conference call tonight.

Katrina Quote of the Week: "I used to love Uncle Bain. Then he got married to Aunt Wendy." Interpret it however you wish.

19 April 2006

Jet Lag

Our bodies hold on to the past. Flying west, we lengthen our day, a step ahead of the sun. We're tired, but still wake early, because our body has not been fooled. It knows that the day is already well begun in the place we just left.

Flying east, we overtake the sunrise, changing night into day. Tired is such a pallid word. Now sleep seduces, a dark lover that swoops in without warning if we sit still too long. We try to fight him off, but our own bodies betray us. They cling to the night, no matter how bright the day. We struggle to shed our dreams, squint through the fuzzy darkness that blankets us even at noon on a sunny spring day. Life takes on a sense of unreality; daytime is something to survive until the comforting darkness lets us finally surrender to sleep.

Our bodies cling to the past. They don't appreciate the modern "convenience" of air travel. They know we are not made to race the sun.

24 March 2006

Little Things I Love About Germany

Tile Floors. Tile is the preferred flooring in most houses here. We have carpet only in the family room and the master bedroom. All other rooms, including stairs and hallways, are tile. At first, it seemed cold and echo-y. It's still cold, but ease of clean-up has sold me. With various and sundry 3-year-olds in and out, accidents happen. One morning a few months ago confirmed my love of tile. Katrina woke up early and made her way upstairs without stopping at the bathroom (which is usual for her). At the top of the stairs, she started coughing (she's had 2 bouts of bronchitis). By the time I got to her, she was looking down and saying "What happened?" A positive river rippled down behind her, all the way down the spiral staircase and puddling at the bottom. Thank goodness for nice, hard, cold, cleanable tile. Carpet would have been a nightmare.

I can't even tell you the turnaround of my attitude on this. Jon wanted to put way more tile into our house in Virginia than we did. Now I'm ready to take up the hardwood and maybe even some of the carpet if we go back to that house.

Runny Yogurt. Much of the yogurt in the German grocery stores is a little more liquid than we're used to in the U.S. It's nearly pourable. But the plain "mild" yogurt is soooo good. It has less of the yogurt bite and is very creamy. Just a little honey or fruit in it...mmm.

Traffic Circles. Love, love, love traffic circles. The signage is always very good... a little diagram of the circle with each road labeled with whatever town it leads to. And it beats waiting for red lights to change!

Movable Shower Heads. You can move them up or down a pole or take them out of their holders completely. Great for cleaning shower doors and walls, and for rinsing squirming children's sudsy hair.

German Restaurants. OK, so I can't eat wienerschnitzel, gravy, croquettes, pizza, pasta, etc., because of my celiac disease. The nice thing about most German restaurants is that they are small and often family-run. There is actually a chef in the kitchen who makes dishes from scratch and knows what goes in them. Contrast this to some of the chain restaurants in the U.S., where pre-marinated frozen meat and pre-made, microwaved food are common. I've been in places where even the kitchen staff couldn't tell me if something had wheat or not. Not so here. You may wait longer for your meal, but that's because it's being cooked fresh in the kitchen.

Plus, every restaurant I've been in so far has rumpsteak with fried onions on the menu (even the Italian places). My back-up plan.

12 March 2006

Girl Talk

It was a girls-night-out type of thing, and talk turned to having--or, rather, not having--more children. And for the first time during the evening, I felt totally out of sync.

One woman told of her and her husband making sure they wouldn't have more than one child. She was 23 at the time.

Another woman told a story of her friend, who had a Depo-Provera shot (which she said lasts two years) against the wishes of her husband. (Again, after the birth of their first child.) The way the story was told, the husband was just being foolish by balking at making a two-year commitment to birth control.

Then someone being a little miffed when she got pregnant because she had lost a lot of weight; and pregnancy, of course, would put it all back on and more.

It made me feel sad. Not for myself, really, but for the attitudes expressed. I know these women love their children deeply. And it's not like I'm against birth control. But maybe spending so many years on the other side of the reproductive dilemma gives me a different perspective.

For one, I don't take getting pregnant or keeping a pregnancy for granted. Life is fragile, and not just as you get older. Life is fragile at the beginning, as well. So many things can go wrong, and so many things must go right before you even know you're pregnant. Getting even a little annoyed that my weight would go up if I got pregnant is incomprehensible to me.

And babies...it is a cliche to say they're miracles. Overused. But I do feel a sense of wonder when I interact with babies and young children.

You might think I was envious of their good fortune, that they could worry about preventing pregnancy while we went through medical intervention and losses before having our miracle girl. But I wasn't. At least, not too much. It felt more like my heart knows something that even these loving mothers have not (yet?) learned. And that is, that the gift of life is to be cherished, not to be taken lightly. And that thinking you can control it is an illusion.

Maybe that's what made me sad. That so many women whom I genuinely like and think are exceptional people could take the gift of conception and birth so lightly. Not so much the decision itself to have no more children, but that that decision could be portrayed to others as such an easy one.

I suppose I could have shut the conversation right down if I chimed in with either my opinion or experiences. But why ruin a lovely evening?

06 March 2006

Poor Old Michael Finnegan

We listened to kiddie songs in the car on the way home from preschool. When I opened her car door, Katrina said in very solemn tones: "Michael Finnegan got fat and thin, and then he got dead."



03 March 2006

Snow Days

Today the snowstorm hit full force. It's been snowing steadily since about 10:30 a.m. (after it snowed a few more inches overnight). The base essentially shut down and sent everyone home around 2:30 pm. Never have I been more thankful that Jon got home early from work.

With snow falling faster than you could shovel it, Katrina and I were not going anywhere. We watched TV, shoveled snow from the driveway (about 2 inches at 11 am--when Jon shoveled it again at 4 pm, there were at least 4 inches), and took a sled ride around the block. Then painting. That plus lunch brought us to about 2 pm.

Here's what happens when a high-energy three-year-old is stuck at home for the second snow day in a row:

What you can't tell from the pictures is that Katrina was "dancing" to the demo songs from the roll-up electronic keyboard she got for Christmas. At full volume. Thanks, Grandma and Grandpa!

Actually, it was pretty cute. Especially when a song came on that she thought was sad, so she rubbed her eyes, pretended to cry, and fell dramatically on the couch. When the next song came on, she was up and running again.

Tomorrow should be fun. They're predicting 2-4 more inches overnight. Time to build a gargantuan snowman!

Confidential to Mom: Happy Birthday! I'd call, but I'm not sure where you are today.

02 March 2006

In Like a Lion

It's the first snow day of the year (for the U.S. schools, anyway). It started snowing yesterday evening, while Jon was at the U.S.-Poland soccer game. This morning, the Department of Defense schools in this area announced a 2-hour delay. The preschool policy is that school still starts at 9 when DoD schools have a delay (before-school care is canceled); but the preschool closes when the DoD schools close. So on the way to school, at 8:45 am on merely wet main roads, I hear the announcement that the DoDs schools are now closed for the day.

But of course, the preschool teachers and kids were already at the school, so they went ahead and let the kids stay 'til noon. From what I heard on the radio, we were the only American school in the area to have any type of classes today.

Of course, on the way to school, we pass the German elementary school. As far as I could tell, all was going as usual. There were boys running laps around the playground, in the snow. The German folks seem to be a bit more hardy than us Americans. (Although, to be fair, the DoDs schools serve a much wider geographic area than does the Kindsbach elementary school. Often there can be significantly more snow just 10 or 15 minutes away, up the mountain.)

All day, there have been snow showers like I've never seen. Right now I see blue sky with fluffy white clouds. Just 15 minutes ago, this was the scene outside our window.

Anyway, Katrina is bugging me to go out and make snow angels, so it's time to go. She's recovering from another? the same? bout of bronchitis, but the antibiotics she started on Friday are finally helping. She still can't run around too much or she has a coughing fit. Perhaps the snow boats and snow pants will force her to move slowly.

I'm ready for spring.

28 February 2006


Once upon a time, poor Cinderella lived with her mean family. They made her work hard, doing cleaning, washing, cooking, and chores of every kind. But beautiful Cinderella remained cheerful and kind.

She even made friends with the animals who shared her house.

One day, Cinderella's fairy godmother appeared. She turned a pumpkin into a chariot and even supplied a strong man to pull it.

But most of all, Cinderella wanted to dress up and go to the ball with her friends. Well, not the ball so much as the Fasching Parade. (Germany's version of Mardi Gras.)

And of course, she lived happily ever after...

A princess at heart, no matter what she wore.

02 February 2006

High Places

I re-read Hinds' Feet on High Places a few weeks ago and just finished Mountains of Spices, its follow-up. Hinds' Feet is an allegory similar to Pilgrim's Progress; the main character's name is Much-Afraid, and all of the characters have names representing their, well, character (Craven Fear, Bitterness, Pride, etc.).

Usually, this would be a bit...obvious? corny? preachy?...for me. I tried to read Pilgrim's Progress some years ago and didn't even make it halfway. But something about Hinds' Feet draws me in. I identify with Much-Afraid and her duelling desires to follow the Shepherd wherever he leads and, at the same time, to stay safe and avoid risk and pain.

One interesting point is that this book is not a conversion story. Much-Afraid is already "in service to the Shepherd" at the start of the book. The book tells the story of Much-Afraid's journey to the High Places, where the Shepherd has promised to change her twisted, crippling feet into "hinds' feet." Anyway, Much-Afraid learns many things about the nature of life, her own nature, and following the Shepherd, and eventually makes it to the High Places. So. It sounds pretty predictable, but there's a lot of wisdom packed into this allegory.

After reading it a few weeks ago (and reading several other books since then), a phrase, a concept, keeps coming back to me: "Behold your little handmaiden, Acceptance-with-Joy!" Nearly the first lesson that Much-Afraid learns is to accept hardship, suffering, and sorrow with joy, trusting that the Shepherd has a purpose for it. And her very acceptance changes the trials into something beautiful.

Acceptance with Joy. I've had to accept a few hard things in my life. Hard for me, anyway. Plenty of people (probably most people) have harder lives than I do. But still. I have not accepted any hard thing with joy and trust. More like acceptance-with-complaining or acceptance-with-self-pity. For example, I struggled so hard with the possibility that I might not be able to have children. I remember thinking, "I'm sure I'm supposed to learn and grow through this, but I don't want to grow if it causes this much (emotional) pain!"

But we already know that a person who bears their hardships with joy and grace turns them into something beautiful. Or, more precisely, the person him/herself becomes beautiful in spirit. Christians often pray that God will heal those we know who are sick or even dying. We think, what a miracle it would be if God stepped in and healed this person. But I think that the real miracles occur when people of faith go through the most terrible suffering, through sickness or injury or (in some places) persecution or war, and yet retain their faith, and even their hope. That is a miracle from God.

So, what do I need to accept-with-joy? Not just big things, I know. Little things, too, like a day that starts way too early because my little morning-glory bounds out of bed before 7. Like the umpteenth time I pick up the same toys or say, "Do you have to go potty? Are you sure?" Some days it seems that I have a lot to do, but none of it is very important. Just little tasks. Just the same-old, same-old.

But this acceptance-with-joy thing haunts me a bit. Do I accept with joy that my role right now is to do the small things that keep my husband and daughter happy, secure, peaceful? Do I think how tired I am as I kneel at the feet of my little one to help her put on her shoes--or do I connect that posture with Jesus washing the feet of his disciples? Do I think of repetitious chores or activities as boring, or as a routine to give me and my family a sense of security and orderliness?

And can I approach the big changes in my life the same way? I've settled in here, but I still miss a lot about living in the United States. It's easy to nurse a bad attitude when I'm feeling a bit homesick. But acceptance-with-joy says that God has a purpose in this, as in everything else. Am I willing to look for that purpose?