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.