June 28, 2009

Small Town Sunday

Again it's Small Town Sunday at Wendy's. And again I got nothin'. Lint in the navel of bupkis. So I'm going for Small World Sunday. Get it?
Thanksgiving 2007, Los Angeles, Home. . .

June 27, 2009

The Tipping Point

Can anyone guess what this is? It's a graph. At first glance it looks like something increased gradually for a while then suddenly increased a lot, right?
Interestingly enough, the rate of change used to generate this graph was completely constant. I used 5%, a modest increase, and I started with the number 1, a pretty small number. Until the x-axis reaches about 76 you don't really notice much change then suddently between 76 and 96 things get crazy.
Weird, huh? Who'da thunk increasing the number 1 by 5% a few times would do that? Besides trained statisticians, that is.
I leave it to your imagination what that 5% represents. Spread of AIDs? Population growth? Health insurance costs? In the context of green energy legislation, it could represent global warming or how much energy is required to maintain a certain standard of living for a fixed percentage of the world's growing population.
And that's just if you start with number 1. The results are even more dramatic if you start with a less lonely number.
The House passed the renewable energy bill yesterday. I am pleased about this. Of course, it still has to get through the Senate and then I think it has to go back to Committee or something (I'm trying to remember from that 'I'm Just a Bill' song in Schoolhouse Rock but it was never my favorite) and then we'll see. There are some valid objections to this bill, and other objections that are pure fabrication, but I look at this graph and know it's time to make a change.
If any of you made a call yesterday, or faxed, or emailed your Representatives, or even spent a moment in contemplative silence wondering about the future, thanks.
See you in the future.

June 26, 2009

Make the right call

I just called my representative and left a voicemail. I said that I'm a voter and want to urge support for sustainable green legislation. I added that it's not just about green or job creation, it's about how our entire economy and way of life is dependent on surplus energy. And oil as a cheap and readily available form of energy is running out.

Now's the time to break our complete dependence on an increasingly scarce resource. Consider calling today before the big vote. If they vote against investing in sustainable green energy we'll pay the price for it not that far down the road, probably in our lifetimes, definitely in our kids'.

If you don't believe me, do not call your Representative and we'll all just hope I'm wrong. If you do believe, even a little bit, please click here and make a phone call. It's your duty as an American, a voter, a parent, a global citizen and an adult.

(Not to lay it on too thick or anything.)

On Friendship and Facebook

I wrote a new post about Facebook relationships, feel free to check it out: http://ls-workgirl.blogspot.com/

Then purely by coincidence someone sent me this picture, which captures the essense of what I was trying to say.

June 25, 2009

Get a wife

Ralf is in Dublin for a few days, which means I don't have to cook. For dinner last night I ate 6 garlic stuffed olives, half an avocado, a bowl of blueberries and an Actimel. I thought about opening a bottle of wine but couldn't be bothered.
Clearly, I need a wife.

June 23, 2009

A good manager is hard to find

Feel free to check it out, unless it's not your thing: http://ls-workgirl.blogspot.com/

June 22, 2009

A busy day

Monday. Munich setting a poor example for global warming. Gray, cold, drizzly. Yoga in the morning, work through lunch, customer demo in the afternoon, pick up the kids from playdate, drive Ralf to the airport, drive home in the pouring rain and put the kids to bed.

The product demo went well although Ralf claims that at one point I banged the table and bellowed the German equivalent of, 'Dude, we can totally do that!'

I have no recollection of this. I think he's screwing with me.

The meeting ran an hour late so we were late picking up our kids. I was too chicken to phone the mommy who had collected our kids from Kindergarten, taken them to gymnastics and home again, and to whom I had solemnly sworn we would be there by 5:30.

I mean, sure, sometimes people get held up but with our two kids she looked after five kids for four hours and walked them from school to gymnastics and home again and we were, like, an hour late with no message.

Basically, I just couldn't face the music when I had a big chunk of German fall guy sitting right there next to me.

Er. What I mean is that male charm was clearly in order so I made Ralf call her to explain and appologize.

From my end the conversation sounded like this:

Ralf: 'Katja, hi, it's Ralf. . . I know, I'm sorry. I'm really really sorry. What? I know, I'm sorry. I can't say sorry enough times. We just couldn't get out of our meeting, they nailed us to the. . . what? I know, I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. Yes, totally our bad. We're on our way now, we'll be there in. . . what? Yes, I know, I'm sorry. I know, you're right, we're really sorry. We'll be there in 20 minutes. Right. Right. Thanks. I know. Sorry. Bye!'

Hanging up the phone Ralf shrugged and made a vaguely Meditarranean hand gesture. 'See? No problem. She said it's totally fine.'

It must be so great to be a guy.

June 20, 2009

People of the Book

First the fun one: Outrageous Fortune, recommmended by LadyFi. I'll let you read her review, which has enough detail to tell you if this is the right book for you. Suffice it to say that I really enjoyed it and thought the writing was a cross between Douglas Adams and Haruki Murakami (who is kind of a Japanese Douglas Adams).

There isn't a German Douglas Adams that I'm aware of.

Now the other one, the one I had to force myself to read: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. It was excellent but heavy going, although she writes with a skilled light touch. I don't usually read books like this because they're gloomy, not to mention informative, but it was a book club book. So I exerted myself.

What a good but sad book. The heroine's difficult life didn't move me much as her personal challenges were microscopic in the face of the historical background of the book she restored (an exquisitely illustrated Jewish Haggadah). The writer did a very clever job describing clues in the Haggadah, such as salt or wine traces, then telling a story about how they got there. The reader gets a front row seat at particularly ugly episodes of human history: the bombing of Sarajevo, the coldly merciless Nazi hunt for both Jews and Jewish books, the Spanish Inquisition, the ancient wars between the Spanish Christians and the Moors.

People of the Book offers some fascinating insights into history, although I'm not a history buff and don't swear to have all my facts straight so please don't be too nit picky. For example, if the Jews hadn't bankrolled the ancient Christian war against the Moors, might the Jews and Muslims have avoided their age-long enmity? And would the Jews still have been expelled from Spain when Torquemada - evil, evil, evil, I didn't even like Googling him in case his evil spirit somehow lives on in the Internet - claimed that the victory made possible by Jewish gold came from God?

Plus I'm thinking Ferdinand and Isabella weren't so crazy about owing all that money with interest and were probably already pretty open to the idea of exiling the Jews in order to avoid paying it back. So I guess the lesson here is that it's never wise to put extremely powerful people too much in your debt, even if funding a brutal war doesn't give you any qualms.

And perhaps if this same victory hadn't put so much power into the fanatic and unscrupulous hands of the Christian church they wouldn't have gotten away with the Inquisition, which was a fascinating study in pure premeditated evil. Watching the priests calmly burning books - and people - that so much as hinted at the goodness or holiness of anything non-Christian and deliberately suppressing knowledge that conflicted with the silly mumbo jumbo taught by the Church in those days (like the earth is flat) was absolutely horrific. I needed a shower.

And you can actually witness the stage being set as early as the 14th century by the architects of the Spanish Inquisition for the later anti-Jewish sentiment in (disgusting, venereal disease-ridden) Vienna that was the warning bell for the horrors of WWII.

I finished the book feeling more repulsed than usual by the history of Christianity. But wait, the Christians weren't the only bad guys in People of the Book, although they do stand out a bit thanks to Torquemada and his disciples. Because everyone pretty much everyone else sucked, too.

The Jews are depicted as matter-of-factly mercenary when it came to looking out for their own interests, and one weak rabbi used the money he received to help his impoverished flock to feed his own gambling addiction, which was illegal and put his entire family at risk of horrible death. That was the hardest chapter for me - which is saying a lot - because I kept worrying about his children sleeping at home, unnecessarily put into deadly danger by his actions.

Tito callously abandons his underage army to their fate.

The Serbs are bloodthirsty murderers with no real agenda beyond killing their peaceful Muslim neighbors.

The UN peacekeeping force is a pathetic joke.

The rest of us are apathetic losers that won't lift a finger to help dying children.

Land developers destroy natural resources and historical works of art such as cave paintings with a greedy eye to personal profit.

The heroine's own mother, a WASP I believe, turns out to be unbelievably cold-blooded and self-centered.

Although it's supposed to be about individual heroism and sacrifice to save a beautful book, this is not a book about nice people. Then again, I guess if it were, the Haggadah wouldn't have needed to be saved so many times.

Interestingly, the real heros of the book tend to be young girls of both Jewish and Muslim faith. And the Muslims also come out of it pretty well, risking their lives to save a young girl from Nazis, not to mention saving the Haggadah several times throughout history.

Anyway, although it was a very well-written book it was hard, hard going and I felt extremely sad about the human condition and all its victims by the end of it. This is going to sound trite, but can't we all just get along? And if we can't, could we at least leave the children out of it???

Now I'm reading Lily White by Susan Isaacs, recommended by Jessica. Way different genre. Very intelligent and witty. Plenty of insights but no uncomfortable soul searching. No gratuitous millionaire love interests. Just what the doctor ordered.

June 19, 2009

Torpedoes away!

Warning: This post is about poop! If you don't like poop, move along.
Yesterday my English playgroup met at the park instead of the stuffy room with no air conditioning in the community center where we usually meet.
It was a gorgeous day with fluffy white clouds and the lightest breeze.
The paltry supply of water and snacks I brought were quickly gone so we cadged from the better prepared mommies.
Since there was no bathroom L (who is three and a half) whizzed happily in the bushes.
Soon after she announced she that she had a caca. Now, I'm just fine with my kids peeing all over town like cats, it's natural, but I draw the line at leaving a big turd in the bushes for someone else to step in. I'm classy that way.
With bulging eyes L gave me to understand that if I didn't cough up a toilet she would be forced to take matters into her own hands. Or pants, as it were.
You don't need to tell me stuff like that twice. I was up like a shot and running toward the bushes with her. In a moment of dazzling inspiration I caught up a plastic bag mid-run with a still unformed plan churning in my head. Once we were somewhat hidden by the bushes, I spread out the plastic bag and professionally positioned her tushy over it. Happily, neither of my children has ever heard of shy kidneys and the deed was done in less than a minute.
Emerging from the bushes I threw away the bag and made a victory sign at the other moms, who clapped politely.
Re-joining them on the picnic blankets I remarked modestly, 'Well, that could have been worse.'
'Oh, totally,' said one of the other moms with feeling, looking off into the distance like you do when you're remembering something disturbing, 'she could have had diarrhea.' She shuddered slightly then shook it off.
'Or she could have been constipated,' offered another mom, nodding wisely. 'Kills your back.'
'Or she could have missed the bag!' excaimed the third mom, a leeetle over-enthusistically I thought. 'That really sucks because you have to pick it up like they do with dogs. Or it gets all over the bag. Believe me, you don't want that.'
Apparently poop in a bag is old hat.
I guess shit happens.

June 18, 2009

A trip down marketing lane

I recently renewed my passport, which needs a new German residence permit stamp so we drove out to the Muenchen Landskreisverwaltung (or maybe it was the Landratsamt) this morning to take care of this. On the way we saw this sign:
'Yes you can!' President Obama would be proud to know that his words are being used to sell jeeps in Europe. And clearly Germans will pay more for enormous American gas guzzlers if they are depicted in front of the White House.
This is my deoderant:Nice, huh? I snapped it up in a Rite Aid going out of business sale. It is 'Stylish and Trendy' so I make sure to insert my underarms into every conversation so people will know I'm using Teen Spirit. I've gotten a lot of compliments, believe me.

And this is my sunscreen:

It's not as stylish and trendy as my deoderant, but it does claim to protect my DNA. I love over the counter DNA alterning cosmetic products, don't you? I looked up the ingredients online but all it said was, 'contains active ingredients.' Which is good, because I wouldn't want the chemicals that change my DNA to be inactive, right? It just makes sense that they wouldn't work as well as active ingredients.

When I was in high school our social studies classroom had a poster of Mickey Mouse flipping the bird with the caption, 'Hey Iran!' I know that's unthinkable today but THAT was marketing. Simple, direct, compelling. With one simple captioned picture my adolescent brain registered the following message: 1) the US is mad at Iran; 2) the US has big cahonas; and 3) the US is the good guy because we have Mickey Mouse.

Today that same poster would probably be a website with links to related stories, articles, interviews, blogs, youtubes and advertisements and after wasting an hour or so I would come away with dozens of conflicting messages instead of just 3 simple ones. Which is good because people are easy to fool with simple, direct, compelling messages.

But it can also be paralyzing.

I don't really have a point.

Er. . . bye.

June 17, 2009

Not to worry

Domestically Challenged asked me to write about a conspiracy. As you know, I live to oblige so here it is. Er, sort of. It might be more of a rant.

In previous posts I have invited you to take action to save our environment, so you probably figure I’m some sort of tree hugger in it for the polar bears.

I like polar bears just fine and give money to organizations that try to save endangered species but that's about it. Frankly, I like chickens better. Even though Sara assures me they would immediately poop on our tracter seats if we had a tracter, I am strangely drawn to them.

But there’s another reason I’m so passionate about getting us off petroleum products and onto sustainable energy. A reason that may resonate more strongly with people who think polar bears and clean air and water suck.

Dum dum DUM!!! (That's supposed to be ominous music.)

Our way of life depends on it.

Consider this:

1. Each of us uses an incredible amount of energy in every aspect of our lives. We live like kings of old with the equivalent of thousands of servants that wash our clothes and dishes, light our homes, procure and prepare our food, entertain our children, convey us to our social engagements, and enable us to send and receive communications. Factories require unimaginable amounts of energy to produce cars, toys, household products and plastic water bottles, and then even more energy is used getting these things to places where we can buy them. Just think for a moment about how much ‘easy energy’ we all take for granted.

2. Most of our energy needs are met by oil and/or petroleum products. This both creates pollution (did you know it leaks into our groundwater?) and makes us vulnerable to oil rich countries that loathe and detest us but these are minor details. Here's the kicker: We’re running out of oil. Sure, there's still quite a bit there but within about a generation it’s going to require more energy to get at the remaining oil than we get back.

3. Now imagine a world where energy is not readily available. I don’t just mean that nothing happens when you flick a light switch and you have to hang your laundry to dry, that’s small potatoes. Think about the economic implications of scarce energy. No more rock concerts. No more enormous factories producing plastic junk. No more truck bringing the plastic junk to you and me. No more supermarkets. No more bottled water. OK, you say, we can live without rock concerts and plastic junk. But who's gonna pay you if you have some job like ‘rock concert organizer' or 'fund manager' or ‘HR Director’ for a big manufacturing company? And where will you buy food, water, clothes and plastic junk if easy energy goes away?

4. Then there's inflation. In order to solve the financial crisis and provide affordable health care to children (yay!) and overweight smokers (boo!) our government is planning to print a whopping pile of money that isn't backed by anything except debt. If energy becomes scarce or hideously expensive the production of goods will necessarily slow down a bit, because producing all the crap we buy eats up monstrous amounts of energy. So, we will either have more money in circulation trying to buy fewer goods (INFLATION) or we will revert to the equivalent of slave labor to replace the energy, which could mean less inflation but is much worse than inflation. Either way, expect inflation and possibly indentured servitude.

5. The good news is that there is more than enough solar power to meet our energy needs, not to mention create a lot of new jobs. But it will take a big, expensive, coordinated effort over many years and we need to start now to avoid the crisis later. To put the costs into perspective, Germany's planning a major solar project in Africa for about half of what Al Gore says it would cost the US to follow suit, so the money's there. And at the end of it, we would have something real that produces both energy and livelihoods, instead of just pumping it into toxic financial instruments, where it mysteriously vanishes, or oil companies, who will increasingly have a stranglehold over all our lives.

I'm just saying.

The situation's bad but there's hope if we take this opportunity to start acting like responsible global citizens. A few simple things you can do without a total lifestyle change: Consume less. Don't eat so much meat. Try to do with less energy. Don't buy bottled water - the FDA doesn't check it very carefully so it's a good idea for health reasons, too, unless you like cancer. Send $10 to Sierra Club and skim their excellent magazine, which is full of great information and tips. Register online at wecansolveit.org, which is Al Gore's organization, and sign the petition to repower America. Sign up with the Environmental Defense Fund and get notified about upcoming bills that impact clean energy and petitions you can sign to remind Congress that this matters. Buy some wind credits to help alternative energy providers out.

You can also try praying but God gave us this beautiful world to shepherd, not ravage, and is probably pretty pissed at us right now.

Finally, the smart money's on doing things that make you less dependent on the system, like getting solar panels and starting a garden. You'll be pleased to hear that we'll be starting ours just as soon as we've resolved the duck question.

And our backup plan is to go live with Sara.

June 16, 2009

A Girl's Gotta Work

Some of you already know that I have two blogs, this one and another one called 'Working Girl', where I blog about things relevant to my chosen profession of Human Capital Management.

Today, although I have several burning topics to get off my chest (including cooking, economy, pediatricians and bedtime stories), I've already used up my alloted time on Working Girl.

Feel free to check it out.

June 15, 2009

Summertime and the men are stinky...

Sorry, that just popped into my head at the gym yesterday, where the unspoken rule is, Don't pick the stairmaster next to anyone with dark sweaty hair. Ah, summer. Time to answer tough, life-changing questions, like, 'Should I diet or buy long shirts?'

But it's small town Sunday again, courtesy of Wendy, and once again I'm digging out old vacation pictures. I actually lived in a Japanese small town for 2 years but that was before digital cameras. These picures are from our 2002 Japan vacation, when I was a gauche young girl with freckles, do-it-yourself bangs and one eyebrow.

Me and Takumi-chan

Japanese Barbeque

Mt. Fuji (Fuji-san)

Japanese Graveyard in Kyoto
Attack of the Deer in Nara
Shrine with a Symbol that Once Meant PeaceShibuya (or maybe Shinjuku) - Back to Civilization!

June 14, 2009

That's my girl

This morning as we sat in bed sipping coffee and munching cookies (respectively) Ralf was browsing through his new gardening book. Although our fairly large house has only a tiny patch of garden we've decided to try out hand with a few carrots or zuccinis. Just to see how it is.
Naturally the first thing we need (according to Ralf) is a Japanese duck, which eats slugs. However, the duck needs a pond, which will eat up at least a square meter of precious garden.
Note: We have maybe 5-6 square meters to work with and frankly, I'd rather have chickens. All the cool gardeners have chickens.
At this point in the conversation K made me very proud with her next words.
K: I have an idea. We'll each get a shovel. Except Mommy. Mommy can stay in the house and read her book. And the rest of us can dig the pond for the duck.
That's my girl.

June 13, 2009

The gift for someone who has everything

Conservation International is a highly ranked organization protecting species and habitats. In fact CI has been ranked as one of the 10 best charities anyone has ever heard of.
According to CI, every 4 hours an area the size of Manhattan is burned down for grazing animals, releasing more carbon than we all emit driving SUVs.
It reminds me of that horrible scene in Lord of the Rings where Saruman turns his gorgeous tree-lined grounds into a fiery pit from Hell so he can build a goblin factory. There's even a memorable quote: 'The old world will burn in the fires of industry.' Heavy. But at least he wanted to take over the world, we just do it so we can eat more hamburgers.
Clearing rainforests is responsible for about 20% of carbon emmissions. Funnily enough, with that uncanny symmetry you sometimes find with important numbers, the rain forests are also reponsible for producing 20% of our oxygen.
When I read stuff like this I fear that we are fated to go the way of the dodo bird, which was too stupid to survive. Actually that's not quite fair since there's some controversy about whether the dodo was stupid or just unlucky. When it comes to people, however, there's less controversy.
The good news is that we can all help protect a global resource that helps keep us alive by buying an acre or two of rainforest. If we own it, they can't burn it down and put cows on it.
You get a lovely certificate of purchase, which makes a great gift for that person who has everything. It also makes a fine hostess gift - for example, Ralf and I are taking one to a barbeque this afternoon.
(Yes I see the irony.)
PS I think all our friends can guess what they're getting for Christmas this year.

June 12, 2009


With a few exceptions I'm not a huge fan of using an avatar instead of a profile picture because I'm curious about people and want to make sure that the people whose blogs I follow are attractive. But I enjoy creating cartoons of myself as much as the next person.

Following Sara's example I went to The Superhero Factory this morning and created superhero avatars for myself and Ralf. Not only can you design your own superhero but you also get assigned a superhero name! Like, Captain Sticky, or whatever.
Wouldn't you know it Ralf's The Admiral and I'm The Impossible. . .

June 10, 2009

Cause She's Got. . . Personality

. . . and naturally blond hair and a sweet disposition and lots of money and and legs that go on forever. . .

OK that's actually someone else but I DO have personality because Gracie said so. Thank you, Gracie!
So, here's how it goes. I tell you seven personality traits of mine then tag seven of you to be queen for a day. You also get this lovely banner.
If you've been reading this blog for any length of time you already know everything about me. You know where I stand on politics, economy, gay marriage, non-gay marriage, television, education, books and parenting.
But do these things actually characterize me?
Well, yeah, they kind of do but I like to think there's more to me than my passionate activism and effortless parenting. For example:
1. I am an introvert. I know, you didn't see that coming at all. This doesn't mean that I cringe in the corner when someone talks to me, it just means that I recharge when I'm alone and expend energy when I'm with others. I'm also rubbish at small talk so I almost never strike up an acquaintance in the park or at the grocery store. And I rarely pick up the telephone.
2. I can spot trends. Give me a few data points and I can tell you what the possible outcomes are, with relative probabilities. I'm not like Data on Star Trek NG but I have very good instincts about large trends. Unfortunately I can't predict things like who will win the World Cup or which average looking B actors People Magazine will try to market as the 100 Most Beautiful People but you'll have a better chance guessing correctly yourself if you distance yourself from my guess.
3. I worry about things. For example, if you send someone a really funny email and they laugh so hard they choke on their lunch and die, is that manslaughter?
4. I talk to myself. I often have imaginary conversations with people in my head. Ralf makes fun of me when he catches me arguing with a colleague who isn't actually in the room. I am the star of the show that is my life and I direct on all the roles, write the script, design the costumes, manage the lighting, produce the sound track and give myself all the good lines. And I always get the last word.
5. When I was small I had a huge crush on Christopher Robin. Yes, he's a cartoon, but even today I think he's pretty cute.
6. I believe that inspiration is all around us. In addition to the many conversations directed by me that go on in my head (see previous point), I also communicate with something outside myself when I need a second opinion. Something bigger than me with way better ideas.
7. I am very visual. When I design software I see a pattern, although 'see' might not be the right word. When the design is done the pattern is almost complete. It has integrity. Patterns also help me tell if things are true, although knowing something isn't true is not the same as knowing the truth so it's not the big life changer you'd think it would be. Interestingly they've done study on frozen water that has been impressed with concentrated feelings of love and hate and the loved water forms the most beautiful, intricate patterns. Hated water loses its pattern. For more information see The Secret of Water, it's a kids' book.
Now I have to tag some of you and believe me, it's not easy because all of us have personality. That's why we blog, right, to have an outlet for all that extra personality.
I've decided to tag some fresh faces this time around as a thank you for dropping by, following this blog and exposing yourselves to my excess personality.
Shawna - Shawna is a student at UC Davis getting ready for a year abroad in Turkey. She is curious, open minded and a good person.
Unworthy - Anyone who calls themselves Unworthy gets my personality vote. Unworthy is a new blogger with one post so far so hopefully this will give her more to blog about. Not sure if you're stopping by regularly but if you see this, consider yourself tagged.
Wendy - Wendy was recently listed on Blogs of Note but I FOUND HER FIRST. Well, with about 70 other people until the Blogs of Note gig and then it was. . . erm. . . more. Her blog bursts with red neck (her own words) personality and she conveys a deep love of small town life that is very captivating.
Jen Maclean - I like Jen's blog. It kind of reminds me of my own, although it looks completely different and has a totally different focus. But every time I visit I find a unique recipe or a useful tip or a really beautiful picture and think, 'I could have posted that.'
Patti - If anyone has a great personality it's Patti, who just lost her hair from chemo and is totally rolling with it. She will probably make medical history, proving the link between positive attitude and healing. Go, Patti!
PattyP - Patty and I work together so I not only get to enjoy her well-written blog, I also get to read her memos and company updates. She's a very good writer and unlike me, she only posts when she has something to say.
Fiona - Fiona is an expat living in Switzerland and. . . liking it. The dot dot dot was because the Germans think the Swiss are a bit odd.
Cee - Cee is another new blogger who is doing a great job and deserves some bloggie love.
OK that's 8 but I couldn't decide.
Congratulations and let the personality dissection begin!

June 7, 2009

Small Town Sunday

It is again Small Town Sunday at Wendy's and as usual I have been a bit loose in my interpretation of the rules because I am not from a small town and don't spend much time in the Bavarian countryside.

So here is this week's offering:

Sleeping Kitty:

Baking Bread:

Old Friends:
Time Flies

The first picture is of me and Max (remember Max?), the second is of me and the girls.

June 6, 2009

Who's the mom here, anyway??

When we were living in California last year, our daughters (K - 5 and L - 3) attended a Montessori school. They would come home chock full of random pieces of information about waterfalls in Africa and the breeding habits of frogs. K even learned to belly dance and painted a portrait of Frieda Kahlo during art appreciation week.
And every day they would recite the days of the week, months of the year and sing hello in about 50 languages.
German Kindergarten is a bit different. The focus is more on social interaction and motor skills than, um, actual learning. I liked the Montessori better but we're in Munich now and all the Germans I know personally seem knowledgable and well-educated so I'm doing my best every day to withhold judgement.
However. About six weeks ago I discovered that K didn't know the days of the week any more. Not that we'd been actively practicing them or anything but they do get mentioned daily and this strikes me as something a Kindergarten could be teaching.
So I started ramping it up a bit after Kindergarten. I wolld say things like, 'Today's Monday, so we have gymnastics.'
Wednesday is ice cream day, a routine I introduced to cut down on daily bids for ice cream. The kids ask if it's ice cream day and the answer is either yes or no. No exceptions. No whining.
Stepping up the pace, I started asking, 'I don't know if it's ice cream day. What day is it today?'
K couldn't tell me.
OK too much pressure. I eased up a bit and only wanted to know what day we get ice cream. Wednesday right? Always Wednesday. How can she not know the most important day of the week?
She couldn't tell me this either.
We practiced it every day for a week. We repeated it. This is how I used to learn with my grandma, repeating things in the car, and it worked really well. For me, that is. But not for K.
At one point I lost patience.
If you don't try harder I'm not buying you an ice cream.
On Wednesday I said, 'It's ice cream day, K. Tell me what day it is and you can have an ice cream.'
L could do it. But not K.
I bought them the ice cream but I was deeply disturbed.
Ralf is a man of action. He wrote down the names of the week on a piece of paper and worked with K to draw little pictures next to each day to help her remember the name. They practiced until she could say them all, then pasted the paper onto cardboard and put in a thumb tack next to today. K's own little calendar. I watched with interest and pride as she mastered the days of the week and graduated to reciting them from memory with no visual cues.
We discussed it after the fact with the Kindergarten teacher and she said of course they talk about days of the week every day during circle time. K used to be the star of the show but for about two weeks she'd been refusing to open her mouth.
I felt awful. 'Yep,' said Ralf to me, not unkindly, 'you suck.'
After Kindergarten I sat down with K to apologize. I explained that I was mad because I thought she wasn't trying. But I didn't want to take the fun out of learning. I just want to be a good mommy and help her learn things. And I sometimes make mistakes.
When I was finished K smiled and said, 'Papa did better than you did. He showed me how to do it. You just told me I couldn't have ice cream.'
Pretty mature stuff, huh? She'll probably be a better mom than I am.
Me: 'Thanks, baby, that's useful feedback. I can work with that.'
Didn't I tell you I always admit when I'm wrong?
Me: 'One more thing, Lovebug. I still expect you to try things and I will still get mad sometimes if I think you aren't trying. But even when I'm mad, I'm ALWAYS proud of you and I ALWAYS. . . '
She rolled her eyes dramatically and interrupted, 'I know, Mommy, you always love me!'
Cheeky monkey!
Me: 'I don't know if little girls who talk to their mommies like that still get ice cream.'
She stared at me, horrified, until I burst out laughing.
Me: 'Just kidding, sweetness.'
Giggles reigned for several minutes, followed by a magic show that required me to close my eyes while she put things in a silk bag, then dramatically 'materialized' them from the bag.
Me: 'Wow. Great magic trick, baby! What day is it today?'

June 4, 2009

Moonlighting at MOG

I'm still around and have even done some laundry but today I posted at My Other Blog, which I fondly refer to as MOG. Technically I guess it should be 'MOB' but I like the sound of 'MOG' better, don't you?

If you're interested you can see what I wrote here.


June 2, 2009

Tengelmann Challenge Part Deux

Still here, still pondering the laundry, doing my launderponder.

Soon after we moved back to Germany from California I blogged about the challenges of grocery shopping here v. there. Nearly a year later I continue to admire the Germans for perfecting the art of the unpleasant shopping experience but at least in my own little town I enjoy a 'regular' status at the local Tengelmann and occassionally someone smiles at me.

I take the kids shopping when I just need a couple of things and on a good day nothing too horrible or embarassing occurs. But last week L completely disappeared at the check out counter!

I had asked her to put some Tic Tacs back on the shelf next to the check out stand but she went running back through the store instead. I looked away for maybe a minute and she was gone. I called, no answer.

I looked around at the other shoppers - I mean, someone must have seen her, she was right there a minute ago - but they were all too busy acting out their respective demographic behavioral stereotypes to offer any clue as to my child's whereabouts:

Older men: stern demeaner, no eye contact

Women of all ages: glaring at me for losing my child but uninterested in helping me find her

One younger guy doing his own shopping: a cheery smile (German men under 30 tend to be fairly sunny)

Leaving my stuff on the belt I raced through the store with K calling my child's name.

No worries, she was in fact in the back of the store and all was well. We trooped back to the teenage cashier, who was nice enough about our sudden egress and only sighed once.

The other shoppers looked a bit put out but my kid had wandered off so I wasn't feeling too bad about making them wait. Actually, I was feeling kind of self-righteous about making them wait since I had been worried and they were all so unhelpful.

But there was more to come. I was handing over my cash card when K (who had not yet embarassed me and was ticking like a bomb) suddenly pointed at the cashier and halloood, 'MOMMY WHY DOES SHE HAVE SO MANY RED SPOTS ON HER FACE? ARE THEY PIMPLES???'. It was like she was trying to be heard across a vast chasm.

The poor spotty cashier had done nothing deserve that. Why couldn't K yell something like, 'Why does that woman behind us look like she just ate a lemon???' That's what I would have yelled. But we mustn't live vicariously through our children.

Moral highground lost, I paid, said thank you and escaped with my tactless offspring.

June 1, 2009

The Quantum of Laundry

Today is a German bank holiday. The occassion is 'Pfingsten', or 'Pentacost.' One of our colleagues described it over lunch as the day the Holy Spirit descends from Heaven to hang in the Vatican for a day. Big holy summit, I guess. Or maybe they just watch soccer and talk smack about the Heathens.
We celebrated Pfingsten Monday with an agnostic trip to the Schwimmbad, where the pools are heated and the light blue Speedos are woefully plentiful. Alas.
Now we are home and I am pondering the laundry, wondering if quantum physics is of any use at all in daily life. If I don't go downstairs and observe it, how do I know if it's clean or dirty? Maybe it no longer exists when I'm not looking at it, in which case I won't need to wash it as long as I never go down to the laundry room again. But then what will we wear? Quantum physics is stubbornly silent about that.
The burst of housewifely energy I had last week has dissipated in the general exhaustion of a three-day weekend. This morning I was proud just to get my hair into a ponytail and put on shoes. But in a single day not so long ago I shopped, did laundry, made fresh organic fruit popsicles and home made chicken nuggets, baked a cake, brushed the cat and even ironed
When Ralf came home I struck a pose and announced: 'I am a capable woman.'
He agreed completely as he helped himself to a cold beer. 'Absolutely.'
Then, with an evil grin, he added, ' Capable of anything.'
Har, har. But not today. . . today I'd rather be......
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