31 October 2007

Happy Halloween!

The beginning of the evening...

After trick-or-treating...

A good time was had by all...except maybe the pumpkins.

30 October 2007

This Is Why I Read Blogs

Katrina is not the easiest child to parent. She is not easy-going. She is not particularly flexible. Like Jon, she has clear, detailed expectations of how things should be. Like me, she is impatient and easily frustrated. Don't get me wrong, she's also got a lot of stellar qualities. When she's good, she's very, very good...but you know the rest.

But you know, sometimes I get impatient and frustrated (see above) that tears, whining, and even screaming ensue if some little detail does not live up to her expectations. In fact, managing Katrina's expectations is an essential part of parenting her effectively (or, really, of surviving the day without tearing out my hair).

Unfortunately, one cannot always predict the unpredictable. Last night, Jon made fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and gravy. One of Katrina's favorite meals (mine, too). The gravy didn't get as thick as usual, though. After Katrina took her first bite of mashed potatoes, the gravy spilled out of the little well in the middle of the potatoes. It spread across part of her plate. Mind you, it didn't actually flood adjoining food. It just escaped its bounds. The crying, it began. And the annoyance, it began. We had to talk her down so that she could eat HER FAVORITE DINNER.

The best part is, she ate everything on her plate and then asked for more potatoes and gravy. And when the gravy AGAIN did not remain where she wanted it? More tears. Followed by eating that helping and again asking for more.

And about that time, I flashed back to this post on Dooce's blog, which I read mere hours before the Great Gravy Flood of 2007. Skip the first few paragraphs if you're in a hurry, but do not miss the lollipop story. I laughed and laughed, because I have been there. I've felt the tension as I wondered if some small change of plans would be accepted or lamented with a wailing that would put professional mourners to shame.
You know the cliche...it's funny 'cause it's true. Not for every kid, but certainly for mine. And Dooce's. And THAT, ladies and gentleman, is why I read mommy blogs.

23 October 2007

Shifting Gears

Jon taught me how to drive a car with manual transmission when we were in college. We've owned manual transmissions ever since.

There's a moment when you shift from one gear to the next--clutch in, shift gears, let clutch out while pressing the gas pedal--when the car seems to pause. You can feel it in automatics, too. When the car isn't in one gear or the other. The engine is still going, of course, but the momentum is lost, just for a split second. You could be preparing to speed up or slow down, but you haven't done it yet.

That's about where I am right now. In the middle of shifting gears. In the space between.

When Katrina was born, everything else fell away. This hungry, demanding, squalling creature took over both day and night. I gladly let everything go except the imperative to love and care for her. Because of her nature and mine, I found the job all-consuming for a long time, perhaps longer than high-energy, highly organized moms would. For a while, I fit in editing and writing projects here and there, but my rose-colored vision of mommy writing on the computer while a quiet, contented child played at my feet never came to pass. (Go ahead and chuckle; I'll wait.)

When Katrina started preschool, I started to try to lose weight. I went to the gym at least three times a week, and that combined with the peace of doing various errands by myself (plus a little blog writing) filled up those three hours a day.

I'm still going to the gym, and all of those other things to keep the household running. And if I let it, I can fill even those additional hours with this and that. In my time-management-challenged world, tasks truly do expand to fill the time I have. I can take a long time to peruse labels in the commissary, take an extra half-hour during lunch to finish reading just one more page, and stay on the Internet long enough to read "just one more" thing. And then it is time to go pick up Katrina.

But I do not want my days to be aimless, idle. I now have the gift of time, and I want to use in purposefully. I've thought of re-starting my freelance business (which would be a bit more complicated to manage here in Germany than it was in the U.S.), or of trying to write a novel, or any of a dozen things. But what keeps coming to the top is a desire to help. I'm not sure with what, though. I have a few ideas, too many, really. There's a crisis pregnancy center here. There's Fisher House. There's a score of things I could start up at church.

I haven't made a decision yet. It feels more important than it should, I think. It has the feel of remaking my life...or even starting anew. My prior life fell away naturally, easily, while I held my daughter close to my heart for hours at a time. Not so easy is figuring out what to to with my hands--and time--now that they are free.

18 October 2007

"D" is for Disconcerting

Every week or so, Katrina brings home a bunch of papers from school, all of the worksheets she's completed. I was going through them this morning, and one of them reminded me of how, uh, unique my little girl is.

Oh. look, they worked on "D" last week.

Wait, what's that?

I wonder what the teacher said when Katrina came up with that. More importantly, I wonder what she thought. Or maybe I don't want to know.

Our conference in November might be interesting.

15 October 2007

Just Trippin'

I didn't mean for that Angry Whopper commercial to stand at the top so long, but life got in the way. The weather has been outstanding the past two weeks, and we have taken advantage of it.

The Friday before Columbus Day weekend, we decided on the spur of the moment to join some friends on their long-planned weekend trip to Disneyland Paris. Jon secured a hotel room for us at noon on Friday, I quickly packed, we picked Katrina up from school at 3, and drove off. It was a good decision. The weather was beautiful, much better than when we visited in July.

And the park was all decked out for Halloween.

As you can see above, we traveled with some seriously cute children. Katrina and three boys. They all got along well, for the most part, and the three families separated and came together as our interests crossed. The boys were all much more into the rides than Katrina was, but she managed to visit her old favorites and even try a few rides she refused last time.

And at Disney Studios, we found something that highlighted one of Katrina's true talents.

Yes, the "scream machine" from Monsters Inc. It kept both her and her friend M amused for about a half hour. She outscreamed the mild-mannered M, though. No one was surprised.

And, this past weekend, I went on a girls trip to Cheb, in the Czech Republic. Well, at least that was the original plan. One of us (not me, thanks to an early-morning reminder from Jon) forgot her passport. We tried to get her through with her military ID, but just got turned around for our troubles. The Czech border guard was very friendly, but matter-of-fact. "No passport, no come into Czech," he said sympathetically, before he motioned us to turn around.

The German border guard on the way back into Germany was not so friendly. "Passport into Czech is normal," he said. My friend, in the driver's seat, answered yes, she knew, we just forgot it. And we thought that was the end of it. But no, the guard apparently needed to bully three American women that day. "I could call the military police and make a report! You need your passport!" he ranted. Later, all of three of us agreed that at that point, we wanted to see him call the American MPs and make a report. Because all that happened was that someone forgot her passport. It's not like we made a run for it. We tried, on the off-chance that the military ID would suffice. When told it wouldn't, we just turned around. Ah, well, hopefully the guard relieved his power-trip needs and was more civil with the next car.

But the adventure didn't end there! No indeedy, when it rains, it pours. Our forgetful friend urged us to drop her off at the hotel and head back to Cheb to shop at the Asian Market there, as we had planned. We decided to do just that, if only to see if it was worth it to our friend to try to come back. After about an hour strolling through booths of near-identical knock-offs of various designer labels, we headed back. We pulled out our passports at the German border. My friend handed them to me, I took mine and handed hers back. And that's the last we saw of my friend's passport.

We spent Sunday morning searching the car and retracing our steps to find the missing passport. Now WE were the ones calling the MPs. But no luck. So we headed back home.

And I checked my purse about every hour to make sure my passport was still there.

01 October 2007

Because Someone Said I Was Getting "Too Literary"

For your viewing pleasure, the terribly high-brow use of English for a new product here in Germany.

You don't really need a translation, do you?