December 26, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays to all you wonderful bloggers who generously share my life while working, raising families and finding your way in the world. Together we are stronger.

Happy holidays to Renee, who has successfully lived without a roof over her head for years. I hope the new laptop will be useful in the new year and inspire you to new great things.

Happy holidays to my wonderful Grandma, who had such fun visiting Munich several Christmases ago and could still sing the Hansel and Gretal opera in German and (for some reason) the French national anthem.

Happy holidays to Laura, Emmanuelle and Abu, our three sponsored children in Africa and Bolivia. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas season and continue to do well in school next year.

Happy holidays to the amazing working moms I know and am proud to be friends with. (And all moms are working.)

Happy holidays to my two little girls, whose names mean 'Clarity of Purpose' and 'Enduring Light.' You are both perfectly named.

Happy holidays to my little man, who I can't wait to meet. Your name (after we considered hundreds of names, such as Dave, Gerhard, Logan, Hasso, etc.) means either 'Bringer of Peace' or 'Destroyer,' depending on whether one is feeling more Yiddish or Hebrew. I imagine there will be days when either name suits you, my darling boy.

Happy holidays to my fabulous husband, whose eyes light up with admiration and love when he looks at my perfectly round tummy and who makes up such amazing children's stories. He even liked his Land's End pajamas, although he fears the extreme softness of the flannel will make him weak.

(We finished our children's book and if anyone would like a copy leave a comment with an email address.)

Happy holidays!

December 13, 2010

No Dublin for Me This Year...

I'm fond of the Irish.  I mean, sure, I know some irritating Irish people but in general I like the way they talk, I like how they always bring a book of gloomy poetry as a housewarming gift and I appreciate the seriousness with which they regard breakfast.

I've liked people for far less.

That's why I'm rather bummed to miss the European office party in Dublin this year - I'm too big to fly - so Ralf will be partying, breakfasting, chatting up Rory and Fergus and touring the Guinness factory on his own this year.

It's not that I don't love having kids but next time I call dibs on being the dad...!

December 8, 2010

Homunculus Domesticus Americanus

Nothing says Christmas like online shopping so while Ralf was in California I ordered him some soft shearling slippers and a pair of monogrammed PJs from Land's End. 

Then I had a dilemma - you have 14 days to return items but it was more than 14 days to Christmas. 

I had no choice: I had to get him to try it all on.

First the PJs, which he stared at silently before observing glumly, 'It's monogrammed.  You can't send it back anyway.'

Good point.  I re-wrapped the PJs and pulled out the slippers, which he stared at even more silently.

'You don't like them?' I prompted.

'I, ah, wouldn't have picked them out for myself,' he admitted.  His eyes tracked longingly to his beloved tatty old house shoes.

'Why not?' I demanded.  'They're nice!'

'I'll look like a domesticated American man in those things,' he muttered. 

Well, he had a point.  A girl can dream, can't she?  I mean, if I can wear a Dirndl, he can suck it up and wear Land's End liesure wear.

But... long story short, I kept the PJs and sent the slippers back.  Baby steps.

While in California he received an iPad from our CEO in recognition of his hard work.  K and L were highly excited about this, since the iPad games include a farting cat.  They usually resent his long hours, but as soon as they understood that the iPad was his reward for said long hours L (5) shoved him toward his office and K (7) told him to try and earn us a Wii next time.

Oh, and a belated Happy Thanksgiving - heading into 9 months and my tummy's bigger than the turkey!

December 2, 2010

On Family

Sorry I've been quiet but what with being 8 months pregnant, working and getting ready for Christmas I've been kind of busy.  Oh, and being a single mom this week while Ralf's in California. 

I'm looking forward to a quiet family Christmas this year. I  have three stories to write up before the children's book I'm writing is finished and I have great plans for sewing extremely simple doll clothes over the next few weeks. 

Next weekend we'll procure and decorate the tree, listen to Nat King Cole and bake gingerbread cookies - and I can eat as many Christmas cookies as I want because let's face it, I'm not getting any thinner until at least February. 

I can even look out at the snow with a charitable eye because this morning my neighbor shoveled snow out of my driveway.  I tell you, once you've known them for about ten years, Germans turn into wonderful, loyal friends!

Little Beauregard is doing well, although I hope I'm not about to change that with the slightly past its prime chicken I'm baking right now.  Ralf read about how some woman had her baby at the Vienna Opera house and got a lifetime membership so now he wants me to start hanging at the Allianz arena.  Just in case.

K is acting in a Christmas production and needs an angel costume, a requirement that caused me some anxiety since the child has no white clothes except t-shirts.  And I'm not one of those moms that can sew a white dress and make glittery wings out of cardboard.

Yesterday she was absolutely frantic to knock next door and ask to borrow an angel dress.  When I asked her why she was in such a rush she turned haunted eyes to me and said: 'Last night I dreamed I had to perform in a white t-shirt and polka dot leggings!'

Which, to be fair, was an option I had been considering.  I congratulated her with a straight face on figuring out her own costume while chuckling to myself that she definitely knows her mum.

I guess family are the people who know you well and love you anyway.

November 17, 2010

Last Week's Search Key Words

Last week's search key words - I'm delighted to be a resource for questions on Israeli men, cleavage and having a stuffed nostril while pregnant.

November 11, 2010

This is what I've accomplished today

After a crazy work week - I haven't yet mentioned to my new boss that I'm part-time - I'm between projects, i.e., several big projects are either wrapped up, haven't started yet or are finished but awaiting input.

So... I'm working on a collection of short stories. The stories were invented by Ralf as bedtime stories. The girls each get to choose two story elements, which he then has to weave in. I apply my amazing writing skills and scan in pictures my girls have drawn that fit each story. In the end we will hopefully have a book, which the girls will get for Christmas.

Some of you may recall The Adventures of Tom, Pin Pin and Suzi, which also appears in the collection.

Unfortunately, I have writer's block. This is what I've accomplished so far today:

November 5, 2010

Life Goes On

My Grandma died last week.  She was a splendid grandma who lived to a ripe old age and invariably impressed my friends meeting her for the first time by waving her cane around and being up for anything.  When I was young she read to me by the hour, baked with me, sewed for me, drew pictures with me, played endless games with me and taught me the chapters of the Bible, which I can still recite. 

She was one of the most live and let live people I have ever known and after living almost a century had an incredibly balanced view of life.  Although she wasn't much for talking about her own younger days, she would occassionally chime into a gloomy conversation about the state of the world with upbeat comments about how she grew up with coal ovens, asbestos, polio, etc., and lived through both world wars. 

Life goes on, she would say.

She loved nothing so much as conversation, which made her final stroke especially sad.  She was a talented musician and pianist and trained as an opera singer at Vasser before she married her father's top seminary student and started a family.  She kept her voice well into her late 80s and her mental faculties until the very end.

She donated money to environment organizations and charities around the world and was a deeply spiritual person, although she never criticized me for concluding that organized religion is a load of hooey.

She was a fine looking carrot top in her younger years and bequeathed me my redhead complexion, my robust peasant girl build and certain angles in my face.

She was so pleased about Gerhard.  Or Rocco.  Or James Tiberius.  I wish she could have met him. 

Here are my grandparents.  These pictures were taken when they were younger than Ralf and me, which kind of makes you go, hmmmn.  But you can see where I get my good looks.

Good bye, Grandma.  Thank you for taking such good care of me all my life.  I'll miss you and will never forget you.  Part of you will still be with us every day.


October 22, 2010

I'm NOT living through my children... exactly

K has been enrolled in gymnastics class since she was three years old so I was getting worried when she turned 7 and still couldn't do a cartwheel.

I'm a fairly easy going mother.  I mean, I'm strict about a few things, but I don't expect to live vicariously through my children. 

Except for one thing: the cartwheel.  I require that all of my children can do a perfect cartwheel by the age of 8. 

Why?  Because I never could, dammit.  I practiced all summer when I was 8 and I totally sucked.  I never got over it.

I reckon some people just aren't at their best when flying through the air. 

Recently we found a new hard core gymnastics class that meets 2 hours twice a week.  And after only 4 classes K can execute a flawless cartwheel.

She has now satisfied all of my vicarious ambitions for her.

Of course, I would also like see to see her happy, productive, self-confident and married to a good man with three kids and a satisfying career but I don't insist on it.  I'm just the mom here, not the puppet master.

Mind you, I'm not done yet messing with my children's lives.  L already do a fine handstand but we still have to nail that cartwheel.  And little Gerhard won't be able to do a cartwheel for quite a while.

October 15, 2010

You want to call him WHAT???

Me: Honey, I have the perfect name!

Ralf leans back in his chair and regards me warily across seven years of blissful matrimony.

Me: Gerhardt! Isn’t that a great name?

A pause during which several expressions cross his face, followed by no expression at all.

Ralf: You want to name our son Gerhard?

I nod.

Ralf: Gerhard Schroeder.

Me: Uh huh. I like that name.

Ralf: As in the former German Chancellor?

Me (frowning): Well…. yeah. Why not? He was a good Chancellor.

Ralf: Why don’t you just name him Elvis Presley?

Me (primly): It’s not at all the same thing. People have heard of Elvis.

Ralf: Or Barrack Obama?

Me (rolling my eyes): Way more people have heard of him, too.

Ralf: Yeah, in… He struggles to come up with a suitably obscure location. Texas! THIS IS GERMANY!!!

Me: Hey, what about Tex?

No response besides a slight widening of the nostrils.

Me (regrouping): Anyway, I want to spell it with a ‘t’ at the end, so it’s not even the same name.

Ralf: I refuse to discuss this.

That means he feels strongly about it.

Me (in a wheedling voice): We could call him Gary. Or Hardy. No one would need to know.

Ralf: Go now. Buy a fish. Name it Gerhard or Geronimo or whatever you need to get out of your system.

Me (parting shot): It’s not like I want to name him George Bush!

Sheesh. I guess we’ll have to call him Deke or Garbanzo after all.

October 12, 2010

My Big Man and My Little Man

My little man is growing and kicking up a storm but until my next doctor visit I probably won't have any news about him.  I'm growing, too, and people no longer tell me I look exactly like Kate Moss.

I miss that.

If the baby had been a girl I would have named her Annika but her surprise sex change has left us struggling for a male name that both Germans and Americans can pronounce and doesn't sound too Biblical.

For example, my favorite name Ethan is pronounced 'Ay-tan' here, which is stupid.  Ditto with other names I like: Justin = 'yoo-steen.'  Jason = 'ya-zon.'

My favorite German names have been overruled by Ralf, who assures me no self-respecting German would gives these names to a child: Markus, Dieter, Johann.

Cool international names such as Iago and Merrik have been overruled on similar grounds.

Other names we're I'm considering: Starbuck, Annikin, Meriadoc, Vlad, Iorich, Albus and Saturn.

But now a call out to my big man, who thinks I'm beautiful (or is at least wise enough to pretend he does) and says all the right things, for example:

When I was worried about cosmic radiation from flying: "The gummy bear needs to man up."

When I was worried about bringing another person into a crowded, depleted, irresponsible world: "Don't worry, this one will be the one who saves us all."

When I tied a jaunty ribbon around my middle: "That looks completely st... great!"

When I tried a new recipe: "Figs. With cheese." A pause. "Yum."

Isn't he wonderful? :-)

October 8, 2010

It's probably time to mention...

I recently posted a picture of me in my new dirndl. A few people correctly pointed out that you don't see much of the dirndl in the picture.

This was intentional. The dirndl picture camoflaged something I haven't felt ready to announce until now:

I'm pregnant!

Yes, it is true. Sorry, Kristina, I know this will upset you.

Although I thought I was done having children - and in fact swore never to be pregnant again last time around - a passing moment of baby notalgia changed my mind for about 5 minutes and that was apparently enough.

There are numerous reasons not to have a baby but there are even more reasons to have one, such as:
  1. Maternity fashion has come a long way since I was pregnant with L. Back then you had a choice between a too-short baby doll top with unflattering stretch pants or a floral mu-mu dress. Today, long empire-waisted tunics are in, praise the Lord.
  2. I have absolute power. I can yell, 'GET ME SOME FOOD!' day or night and I will be obeyed by total strangers.
  3. I somehow never threw away any of our baby stuff. . . it felt too wasteful to give away stuff before it was worn to threads.
  4. Actually, scratch number three, because IT'S A BOY!!!
  5. I'd never had an amnio before and I was always curious.
An amnio is where they stick a needle through your stomach into your womb to gather genetic materia in order to screen for down's syndrome. It's about as much fun as it sounds.

I don't know how it is in the US but in Germany they give you a brochure with a graphical cartoon of a baby floating in a disembodied womb with a big needle sticking in from the outside.

I found the picture distressing but received a disapproving frown when I cheeped in dismay and inquired if it had to be so. . . graphic.
"That's what happens," I was informed sternly by the medical assistant. "What else would the picture show?"

Ohhhh kaaaaay.

The doctor who did the procedure (recommended because the baby's small intestine echoed funny and was 'too pale' in the ultrasound, whatever that means) patted my hand kindly and informed me that although the procedure isn't fun, at least in Germany they use 'thin' needles.

It felt a bit like being congratulated for not having my baby in a barbarian country like the US where they still use railroad spikes but I appreciated the thought.

I was warned I would feel a prick and some pressure but it was way more than pressure. It starts with a prick sure enough but right as you're thinking now would be a good time to stop the needle continues to punch through your stomach muscles.

I had sore muscles for two days but the procedure only lasted 40 second. And we had our results the next day so I really can't complain, especially since our baby has the normal number of chromosomes.

Let me mention here that my regular doctor was on summer vacation when I was refered for ultrasound because the baby's kidneys looked a bit irregular. When my doctor returned after all the excitement (ours, not his) he raised a perplexed eyebrow and inquired mildly why we did an amnio in the first place.

We told him the whole kidney ultrasound story, whereupon he informed us that swollen kidneys are pretty common in boys. Then he rolled his eyes. 'Geneticists!'

We're actually still waiting on one more test for cystic fibrosis, not because anyone thinks our baby will have it but because - according to my doctor - as long as they have all that nice genetic material they like to test it for stuff.

Or they could be cloning me to introduce more American genes into the German genepool, but somehow I don't they are.

So... I'm about 6 months pregnant and still trying to pretend my life isn't about to completely change. I even went to my kick boxing class about 3 weeks ago but decided to give it up when I saw how nervous my high kicks made everyone.

K and L are thrilled to have a baby brother. L drew me this picture showing the baby growing in my tummy:

September 19, 2010

September 12, 2010

Anatomy of a Birthday

  • A batch of pink cupcakes for K's birthday.
  • A batch of chocolate chip cupcakes and a chocolate cake to take to school.
  • A sour cream chocolate cake with chocolate icing and smarties and a batch of pink and blue cupcakes for the birthday party.
  • A cheesecake and chocolate chip cupcakes for Sunday coffee with friends.
  • A flourless chocolate cake for the parent's association.

That's pretty much been my week. Oh, and the birthday party itself, which was yesterday.

The invited kids were a mixed bunch of different ages and genders, so we needed a variety of program points.

Ralf was worried that the children would not follow the program.

I shrugged. 'So we'll crank up the music and toss in a bag of chips.'

I never worry about stuff like that. My worries are much more abstract.

We started with snacks and music, which the girls danced to on the table while the boys hid behind the book shelf.

Then, for the little ones we played 'bang the pot', which is where you blindfold a child, give them a spoon and send them tapping around on the floor while the other kids yell, 'Warm! Cold!' until they bang the pot. They get to eat the sweet that is under the pot.

The big girls sat in the corner during this, nonplussed, while the boys ran up and down the stairs.

Then we set up a 'beauty corner' and the big girls were roped in to put make up on the little girls. At the same time, we gave everyone a new t-shirt and invited the to decorate them with specially ordered iron on decals.

This won over big and small girls alike but the boys were still bored.

Next Ralf took all the kids outside for relay races and ran them mercilessly for about an hour while I ironed on the fiddly decals. I hated to miss the games but could hear how much fun they were having. Ralf may have missed his calling as a camp councilor or little league coach.

The girls kicked the boys' butts.

After this we had cake and presents and then the parents came to collect their worn out, t-shirt sporting offspring.

Whew - one birthday down, the next one in less than two months...

September 10, 2010

I'm the only man in Germany...

Recently Ralf and I had a minor argument about the division of household duties. We both work - although he works more - and we both have evening calls with California. He generally takes the kids to childcare and I pick them up, drive them to gymnastics, play with them, finish up any homework, feed them and put them to bed. I do all the shopping and most of the cooking and regular doctor's appointments.

I also supervise our maid, which Ralf never helps out with.

Ralf handles all 'projects', such as the garden, garage and bathroom fixtures, as well as interfacing with any Bavarian handymen. He also bathes the kids about once a week, files our taxes and insurance claims and plans our vacations.

Our kids aren't very clean.

Some of the things I used to do in the US now fall to him because they either require more boyish charm or knowledge of German bureacracy than I have or more patience than I can muster without my head exploding.

Things recently came to a head when it was time to buy K's school supplies. We got a list from the teacher and you know how the Eskimos have 13 words for snow? Well, those wacky seal-fur wearing nomads with their frozen water obsession don't have a patch on the Germans, who have about 51 words for 'notebook.'

To make a long story short, I delegated the procurement of school supplies to Ralf.

I suppose as a married man with a wife known not to be in a wheelchair or hospital, Ralf may have lost some face doing women's work like buying school supplies. Which he then grumbled about at home.

Ralf: I'm pretty sure I'm the only man in Germany who isn't divorced or widowed that has to go buy school supplies for their kids.

Me: Really? That's probably why most of the German men we know are divorced.

Actually, that's not fair. Although there are a number of single dads at our Kindergarten, two are widowed, and none of our married friends are divorced yet.

Then we had our recurring, 'You want me to buy school supplies, let's move back to California' discussion while I was making dinner.

Now, of course, I can make fun of Ralf for just about anything. For example:

"I'm the only man in Germany who has to put the toilet seat down!"

"I'm the only man in Germany who has to put dirty clothes in the laundry basket!"

"I'm the only man in Germany who has to carry his dishes to the kitchen!"

You get the idea.

September 9, 2010

Tracking Your Blog Stats

A few people asked me how I knew what keywords led to my site.

Blogger actually provides this service for free.  When you go to for your profile, there's a new 'Stats' tab:
If you click into 'Traffic Sources' you'll see where your visitors arrive from and the key words:

Google Analytics does a more thorough job but you need to add code on your blog to get it to work. 

If you don't use Blogger, try Googling 'track blog stats'.

September 8, 2010


I was just kidding yesterday when I said explanations are tedious.  I usually love explaining things but I spent hours on Blogger trying to upload more than one picture and gave up in disgust.  I'll try to circle about about our vacation, unless I get distracted by some other topic.

In the meantime, here are some recent searches that have enticed a global audience to my blog:

September 7, 2010

I've Been a Mom for 7 Years

Hello! We're back from vacation. I had some work to catch up on and it took a few days to download the pictures but now I have my ducks in a row.

But first, happy birthday to my wonderful 7-year-old daughter K. I felt deeply connected to her the minute she was born and she is exactly the child I expected to have with Ralf - tall, smart, competent, impatient and determined. She's all alpha and we couldn't be more proud.

Happy birthday, baby girl!

In contrast, the constant senseless joy and playfulness radiated by our youngest child raises certain genetic questions. We adore L heart and soul but neither of us is sure how we got her.

And now some vacation pictures from the Italian alps and Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.

August 15, 2010

On Vacation

We're off on vacation again.  It's school holiday, after all.  We'll be in Italy this week and the Canary Islands next week.

(It sounds more exotic than it is.  We're driving to Italy to meet old friends and Canary Islands was the very last family package available for last minute wafflers like us.)

I wish you happy summer days.  All it does is rain here, but if it's hot where you are and wasps are a problem try this great trick: put a wet penny or two on the table.  Wasps can't bear the smell of oxydized copper.  Try it, it really works!


August 12, 2010

There'll Be No Cake in Hell!

Ooops - I accidentally published my latest post on my other blog: There'll Be No Cake in Hell!

July 31, 2010

Not sure I'm raising my kids right...

On weekends Ralf and I try to sleep in.  A lot of preparation goes into this: The cat must be locked in the pantry for the night.  The morning cookies for the kids must be accessible.  The shades must be drawn.  The alarm clock must be turned off.  Friends and family must be under strict orders not to call before 9AM.

Yes, it's sad but true.  We consider sleeping in until 9AM an extravagent luxury.

Once the kids wake up it's more of a half sleep than a real sleep.  We hear them moving around and going downstairs in search of cookies and parental ears tune in automatically to make sure each child adheres to the rules about the quantity of cookies per child.  So, when we hear K going downstairs too many times, one of us usually wakes up enough to yell, 'One cookie!' 

For a while K would come in, gently kiss my face and softly whisper, "Mommy, can I get another cookie?"

'Mmmmph,' I would say, which K would happily interpret as, 'Whatever, honey, just get one for L, too, so she doesn't come wake us up!'

Finally we upped the ante to 2 cookies in order to skip this little scene, which worked pretty well.

Until yesterday - I had baked chocolate biscotti the day before and they were really yummy.  Adictive, even.  K found herself irresistably drawn to them and we heard her sneaking downstairs once, twice, a third time with 4-year-old L in tow.

Ralf stood up with a resigned groan and headed for the stair, intercepting our red-handed little ones on the way back up.  Everyone froze - I know this because I was listening from bed and the stairs stopped squeaking.

K (brightly): Papa, I brought you a cookie!

Ralf (dryly): Really?  That was thoughtful of you. 

In bed I smiled proudly to myself, reflecting that my oldest girl can totally think on her feet.

Ralf: What about L, did she bring me a cookie too?

L: Mmmph hmmph.

Ralf: What's that, L?  Your mouth seems to be full.  It isnt' full of cookie, is it?

L (after a slight pause): No.  No cookie.

In bed I smiled proudly to myself, reflecting that my youngest girl is bold as brass.

We'll, um, work on the lying and stealing later.  Confidence and quick-thinking are harder to teach than honesty and trustworthiness, right?


On a personal note, I'd like to give a special thanks to those of you who comment regularly.  I haven't had as much time for blogging and commenting lately as I would like but I really enjoy hearing from you.  I usually try to respond to comments by commenting on your blogs, but since the folks over at Content Writing India don't have a personal blog to comment on I just wanted to say thank you for reading and commenting.

July 28, 2010

I Can't Believe How Much I Rule

First of all, thank you for the kind birthday wishes.  Our American friends came later that afternoon and we had a great birthday dinner and several fun days exploring Munich with them.  Although last year's birthday party was hard to top, this year came really close.

And now, if you are feeling blue for any reason, I invite you to watch the following short video. We can all learn a few things from Jessica:

July 17, 2010

Birthday Playlist

Today is my 37th birthday. Well, somewhere on the time continuum.

Last night Ralf and I had a date night, which has been months in the organizing given our (mainly his) work schedules. Unfortunately it was about 100 degrees in the restaurant but still good.

This morning my children woke me with about twenty rousing rounds of Happy Birthday while Ralf was out buying cake and flowers. Then we had my 2nd favorite breakfast, which is cake - my 1st favorite breakfast is chicken curry.

Then I got my presents: pictures from the girls, a check from my grandma and a spa gift certificate and CD from Ralf.

I get a home-burned CD every year for my birthday, which should tell you how easy to please and low maintenance I am. All year when I hear a song I like on the radio I write it down in an email to myself, then I send Ralf the list and he procurs the songs and burns them on a CD for me.

Sometimes he tries to put his foot down:

Ralf: Maneater? No way! That's Nelly Furtado's lamest song.

Me: It's her BEST song. I want it.

Ralf: OK, but I'm not listening to it in the car.


Ralf: If you really want The Unforgiven we should get the Metallica version. It's way better.

Me: No way, Jose - I want the chick version. Metallica's stupid.

Offended silence.

In the end I got everything I wanted except Lady Gaga, which I'm sure is an oversight.

Next we played the CD while spring cleaning in preparation for friends visiting from the US this week. One thing this family knows how to do is party!

Then Ralf took the girls to Baumarkt so I could catch up on my blogging.

A fine birthday.

Some favorite lines from my birthday playlist - see if you can name the song:

Control yourself, take only what you need.
This power needs some room to grow.
Believe me when I say, today's your lucky day.
If you like it why don't you put a ring on it?
You don't know anything 'bout me.
I'm bringing sexy back.
Viva Las Vegas!
Dance, F#!*er, dance!

And here's the playlist:

July 11, 2010

Paul the Psychic Octopus

It turns out that the world cup is not a real contest because the results are pre-ordained by Paul the Psychic Octopus:

Apparently he has never been wrong.

Anyway, don't cancel anything to watch the finale today because Spain's gonna win.

July 8, 2010

Soccer Mom - Not

Last night Ralf went to watch the big Spain-Germany game at a friend's house while I stayed home and watched Glee. He came home later looking pretty low.

Now let me just mention here that I haven't been following the World Cup at all. During the first week I had to keep asking which tournament it was again so Ralf took to sprinkling his public comments about the world cup with verbal cues for me so I wouldn't embarass him.

Eventually it sunk in. World Cup: check. Germany playing: check. German flags on cars everywhere: related to World Cup.

Generally speaking, I've been very supportive, even when Ralf watched some big game last Saturday instead of picking me up at the airport. And I bought trading cards for our daughters, who can name all the team captains.

Anyway, professional sports aren't really my thing but I wanted Germany to win. I mean, it's nice to see the Germans excited about something. Plus I like black uniforms.

So, as I was saying, Ralf came in looking pretty bummed and I'm very caring and empathic so I paused Glee and asked him who won.

Ralf (curtly): Spain.

Me: Well, they're nice. Who lost?

Ralf (in disgust): You're kidding, right?

Me: Um... Germany? Wait - does this mean Germany doesn't get to play in the final game?

No answer, just a head shake.

Me: Do you want to talk about it?

Ralf (struggling to find to find the right words): Not with you!

Me: What? I'm trying to be supportive.

Ralf (heading up the stairs): Don't try.

Me: You could have married a German, you know! Or a MAN!!

Ralf (morosely): I know. Good night.

July 4, 2010


Sorry I've been MIA. I've been to California and Oregon, for work and my college reunion. Unfortunately my wireless connection was so slow that whenever I tried to comment on blogs my connection hung. So I definitely owe some comments.

I loved college. And I love my college friends. Seeing them again, hanging with them, sharing a dorm with them, eating in the cafeteria again, all made for a very special weekend.

You never make friends like that again. At least, I haven't. There's something about living with people and staying up all night and saving the universe that makes for a special brand of friendship.

Just for the record, I love cafeteria food too. I guess seven years of boarding school followed by six years of higher education instills that into you.

OK, enough about me and my proletarian eating preferences.

Here are a few reunion pictures at my beautiful college with my dear old friends Sean, Zan and Kristin:

June 14, 2010

Serenity... not so much

I belong to an exclusive sports club. Actually, not that exclusive since they'll let anyone in who is willing to pay their exorbitant monthly fee, but it's where Boris Becker sometimes plays tennis.

They offer a friendly staff, child care, horses, an upscale restaurant, state-of-the-art machines and all sorts of classes. Plus the odd Boris Becker sighting.

It's my one luxury.

My favorite classes are Fighting Fit, which involves lots of kicking and punching to music, and Monday yoga. I've taken a fair number of yoga classes by now and I can tell you that Caroline, the instuctor at my gym, is unusually good. She pushes you just the right amount, does a good balance between stretching and muscle work and speaks in a well-modulated Kathleen Turner voice that every famale yoga instructor should be required to have.

The only false note is the Iron Man class next door. As we yogis slowly and serenely greet the sun, focusing on our breath, we can hear Iron Man screaming, 'EEEEIIIINSSSS!!! ZWEIIIIIIIIIII!!!!!!! DREIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!!!!! VIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRR!!!!!!!'

Iron Man is a little soft spoken guy but he really gets excited during his class, which is hugely popular with extremely fit women who like being yelled at.

The most jarring part is at the end when we do our relaxation. We lie on the floor exhausted and sweating while the harp music plays and Caroline softly takes us through several mediation phases. . .

Caroline: Close your eyes and breathe deeply.


Caroline: Feel the sensation of relaxation traveling up your bodies, starting with your toes.


Caroline: Feel the stress leaving your body through your fingertips...


Caroline: Feel how you are one with everything. Feel the entire universe around you. Don't focus on anything. Let yourself go.


Contradictions and conflicting directions. Part of life, I guess.

June 5, 2010

On Family

Some of you may recall that K got a couple of hermit crabs for her last birthday: Lily and Emma. Lily was the smaller, intrepid one, Emma mostly just sulked. And a few weeks later, Emma dropped dead out of her shell, which was kind of sad and icky.

Lily toughed it out alone for a couple of months, burying herself for longer and longer periods, no longer her usual cheerful self. K largely ignored her but I worried because hermit crabs are social creatures. Finally I badgered Ralf into ordering two new crabs, which K named Bruno and Manuel.

Don't ask, I have no idea where these names came from.

Manuel has a long, thin shell and we rarely see him. Bruno is the easiest to find because he's gigantic. In the beginning I feared he'd eaten Lily, although hermit crabs aren't supposed to be cannibals, but she re-appears from time to time.

Because Bruno is too big to hide and fairly active (he bangs on the glass with his big claw when he wants something) I have grown unexpectedly fond of him. Not quite love, more like active good will.

Which is why when I saw his shell-less body lying lifeless I nearly cried.

But wait! It wasn't his body, it was just his skin, which he'd somehow peeled off entirely, eye stalks and all. The rest of him had crawled back into his shell to grow new skin. Apparently they do this periodically.

Because we have a personal connection, I felt interested and proud instead of completely grossed out, a bit like when one's child blows it's nose properly for the first time.

You'll be happy to know he's doing quite well.

The crabs are not our only pets. We also have a cheesecake-eating cat and the neighbor's bunnies are bunking with us for a couple of weeks. And I discovered yesterday that both of my children possess an impressive fur collection, i.e., a pile of cast-off fur from our own and various neighbor's pets.

My aunt started the trend when we visited her last year. As a parting gift to the girls she presented them each with a small tuft of fur from her angora cat.

You should have Ralf's face. . . it was glorious. I took the proud lead in the strange family competition that day, mwa ha ha ha ha!!!

You can't buy memories like that.

So that's our little nuclear family: mama, papa, kids, crabs, cat, various visiting animals and a growing pile of fur that will one day destroy our vacuum cleaner.

May 25, 2010

MacGyver Mom

I was like MacGyver over the weekend.

It was hot, hot, hot and the kids wanted to swim. I dimly remembered an inflatable swimming pool in the bowels of the garage and after some looking found it under a pile of cobwebs and various gardening tools.

I tried blowing it up with a bike tire pump but it didn’t fit. Then I remembered we have an electric pump to pump up our air mattress and searched the house for it – even in Ralf’s lair, where he keeps his tools – and finally unearthed it in the guest room under a pile of clothes.

I triumphantly marched into the garden brandishing it and yelling, Who’s number 1?

Then I noticed it was an American plug. Bloody heck. So I went up to our bedroom and unplugged the heavy converter we use for our US-bought TV and lugged it downstairs.

Whereupon after hooking everything up I realized the pump didn’t have the right size adapter to blow up the swimming pool. There may have been some ladylike swearing at this point, you know, shucks, darn, that sort of thing. Then I got some duct tape and spliced it.

Perhaps you’ve seen Apollo 13? It was like that.

Ralf, who lives with me, at first didn't believe I spliced anything. And once he believed he laughed heartily about how annoyed it must have made me.

To finish my story, after about an hour the pool was finally blown up and filled with water. ‘It’s too cold!’ my dear ones complained, refusing to go in.

Envisioning all my hard work going to waste I found myself lugging buckets of warm water from the kitchen like Laura Ingalls.

That's kind of the end of the pool story.

Anyway, I thought you’d like to know.

May 23, 2010

On event horizons and being the last person in Munich

K: Mommy, where does the Earth end?

Me (sagely - this is an easy one): The earth is round, darling. It doesn't end.

K: Yes it does. I'll show you.

She fetches a small ball.

K: Now look, Mommy. (She finger walks around the ball.) If I go around the ball like this it never ends. But. (She holds up one finger to make sure I'm paying attention.) If I go this way it ends right where it begins. (Her fingers leave the surface of the ball in the direction of infinity.) See?

Wow. It's true - the Earth does end at its surface. I stare at my 6-year-old, thinking that she can already think in 3D and has just discovered event horizons. In a flash I picture presenting to the Acadamy of Physics, tall, blond, precise, wowing an audience of unkempt men in tweed suits. I feel a thrill of pride.

Although part of me would like my children to pursue useful careers like accounting or medicine (useful to me, I mean), another part would be thrilled to be the mother of this generation's Einstein.

Science camp here we come.

BTW, Ralf is gone.

No, not forever, just a long work week in California. It's vacation time and my girls and I are the last people in Munich. But we are not alone - we are feeding the neighbors' pets while they enjoy their family vacations.

K already gave the rabbits 2 week's worth of carrots, which they have consumed. They eye me hopefully when I go in the garden but I have nothing for them.

The shops won't be open until Tuesday, I tell them, showing them my empty hands.

They twitch their noses to tell me they understand perfectly and would I now please bring them some more carrots.

Yes, of course, on Tuesday, I answer.

I think the isolation is getting to me...

May 17, 2010

Technical acronyms and projectile vomiting

I've been a bit quiet lately, I know, but I've been writing a lot - just not here. I blog about compensation and talent management trends, I write FAQs, I write data sheets and value statements and white papers. I write little emails to various people.

This week I'm trying to explain why our SaaS/EIB/XML/SOA/LOL/LMOA is better than their SaaS/EIB/XML/SOA/LOL/LMOA.

To give you an idea, I considered calling this post, 'Technical acronyms flying out of my butt' but decided against it.

Anyway, while it's great getting paid to write, at the end of the day I'm too shattered to sit down and write more. Y'know?

But don't worry, the Germans are bound to do something soon that I won't be able to help writing about. I can feel it, they're up to something.

In the meantime, I have something to share. A couple of weeks ago L (4 years old) had an impressive bout of projectile vomiting after I let her eat a large chocolate ice cream cone instead of lunch. I cuddled her while she hurled over and over again into a bucket without getting a drop on the walls or carpet. She's such a good girl.

K (6 years old) came in, frowned thoughtfully at her little sister, patted her on the head and announced that she was going to make her a present. Off she went for about ten minutes then returned with a drawing of L being sick surrounded by things to make her feel better (i.e., a princess, a unicorn, the planet Earth, etc.).

L felt better soon after K gave her the picture and was able to get up and start playing again.

Here's the picture with amazing healing properties:

May 8, 2010

Life-Changing Invention

I've had the greatest idea that I can't wait to patent: a cell phone that rings on command.

I am positive that my invention will change the world. It will help people escape boring meetings, wriggle out of awkward situations, or even flaunt one's newfound happiness at one's ex.

How many times have you prayed in vain for the phone to ring? For example, at work:

Boss: Do you have some time right now? I wanted to discuss how to convert our 6,529 escalation requests to a new format. I'm afraid it'll have to be done manually but the new format is much better. It has blue column headers, which are way nicer than orange, so we really need to do it and I'd like you to be in charge. I'll expect status reports every half hour and if you have any ideas about how to work more efficiently, run them by me first.

ring, ring

You (pretending to answer the phone): Hello? Grandma? Grandma!! Are you OK?? Oh my God! Don't try to get up, I'll be right there!!


Colleague: Hey, I was hoping to meet with you for a few hours today to discuss new naming conventions for effective dating. I've got some great ideas about this but we need to do a detailed impact analysis and of course survey all of our customers. We wouldn't want to just pick a name at random, ha ha. Do you have some time right now?

You: That sounds awesome, thanks for including me. Let me just...

ring, ring

You (pretending to look at the incoming number): I have to take this one. (pretending to answer the phone) Talk to me. What? When? That's not good. He did? You gotta be kidding me. The Big Guy wants me to handle it? OK, then I need you to forward me ALL the paperwork, yesterday. Great, thanks, I'll take care of it. (to your colleague) Sorry, I gotta run but let's definitely catch up about this later.

There are useful non-work applications as well. For example, what if you run into your ex on the street, the one you stalked for 6 months after he dumped you as an embarassing prelude to spending the next 6 months hiding out in your apartment eating Ben and Jerry's.

Him (embarassed): Uh, hi.

You (big smile, eyes wide, shoulders back, chest out, show those pearly whites... you know the drill): Well, hi! Fancy running into you here. You look, um, really great. I was just...

ring, ring

You (giggling self-consciously): Oh, excuse me just one second. Hello? (in a lowered voice) Hi, darling, I was just thinking about you. No, I'm not busy. Yes, I did, that was so thoughtful. They're my favorite. I didn't have enough vases so I had to donate some to the senior home. I hope you don't mind. What? Yes, of course I like jewelry, why? A surprise? When? Paris?? Oh, darling, that sounds wonderful. I can't wait. Me too. I love you more. No, I love you more. Bye bye lover, see you tonight. Mwa! mwa! mwa!

Am I a genius or what?

May 3, 2010

Man Up and Make a Plan

I know I've been a bit spotty lately on blogging but there are reasons. The main reason is that I just started a new job and at the same time I've been taking two classes: one in business German, which is fortunately over, and a certificate program in Talent Management at Cornell university.

Cool, huh? Soon I will have a piece of paper that says Cornell on it.

The German class was pretty easy, since my German is mind-blowingly good (just kidding- it's decent) but the whole thing with commute took about 8 hours a week. The Cornell program takes about 4 hours a week. And then, of course, I have a new job. And kids. And a house. And a cat. And three hermit crabs.

And of course I have to make all these new avatars of myself. So, I've been kind of busy.

Last year wasn't much fun, what with late night calls and a rough situation at work. I was feeling almost sorry for myself until Ralf told me to man up and make a plan.

Man up this, I said:

Ralf was intrigued by this response but didn't quite see the relevance.

So I made a fine plan to get a Ph.D. in organizational behavior or cognitive science while perfecting my roundhouse kick.

Ralf suggested I try to come up with a more practical and lucrative plan.

Feeling slightly aggrieved that he didn't want to move the entire family to the East Coast and pay for me to explore my inner Dr. Laura, I updated my resume and applied for various paid jobs.

I usually apply for one job at a time because I usually get the job and I hate saying no. This isn't quite as cocky as it sounds because I research and apply for jobs I have an excellent chance of getting.

That makes it sound easy but it's not. In fact, I'm glossing over months of hard work and a helping hand from some good friends.

And it's not like finding a job is a ticket to happiness. I've had tough work experiences: I've been fired and re-organized and offered jobs that disappeared after I accepted. I've worked very long hours for very little money. I've had bosses that didn't take me seriously or whose sole purpose in life was to grind me into dust. Etc., etc., etc.

(I've had good jobs, too.)

Plus, as a mom of two small kids living in Munich and working for Californian companies I'm. . . well, I tell people I'm the modern worker.

Anyway, over the last 6 months I applied for about ten jobs, just to see what fetched up.

In the end I had to choose between several offers, which meant figuring out trade offs, such as, Can I work from home? Do I have to wear a suit? Will I have to travel? Will I be on the phone every night? Is this a completely new role for me that will require 80 hour weeks for the first 6 months? Am I willilng to relocate? Is this a lateral move or a career step? Can I learn anything from my boss? Where do I want to be in 5 years?

Of course, for my ideal job, I'd relocate, wear a suit, commute, travel or eat mushy bananas but none of them was quite ideal.

One of the options we considered involved moving back to the US, which was tempting. Munich's a nice city but it isn't home. The biggest problem is language, and I'm not just talking about embarassing mistakes like that time I said 'I will throw up on you soon,' instead of, 'Let's discuss this later.' It's a LOT of work to function as an adult in a second language.

But... it wasn't the right time.

So anyway, after all that marvelous self contemplation and a chance to do something completely different I opted for a similar type of job at the same company.

Also, I now devote 10 minutes a day to manning up.

April 23, 2010

What are you afraid of?

Although I try not to give my fears a front seat when it comes to living my life, I'm afraid of lots of things: I'm afraid for my kids. I'm afraid of cancer. I'm afraid of flying. I'm afraid of spiders. I'm afraid of car accidents. I'm afraid of what we're doing to the environment. I'm afraid of collapsing financial systems. I'm afraid my money will vanish mysteriously or be stolen. I'm afraid I'll someone will hide drugs in my luggage and I'll live out my life in a 3rd world prison. I'm afraid of wrinkles. I'm afraid of depending on other people. I'm afraid of losing my passport. I'm afraid I'll be the first person to get AIDS from a mosquito. I'm afraid of running out of coffee. I'm afraid of scary movies. I'm afraid of legal documents.

So, the usual things.

Just for the record, I'm NOT afraid of snakes, rodents, cockroaches, crazy deadlines, math, bitchy women, people who yell, being laughed at or standing up in front of hundreds of people. And I can drive a stick shift.

Ralf isn't afraid of too many things. Why should he be? He has a strong physical presence, a military haircut, loads of boyish charm and no shortage of self-confidence. He's also a rescue diver, which means he doesn't require immediate access to oxygen to survive under water and won't freak out if he temporarily doesn't have any. Plus he thinks people are basically good - even when they prove otherwise he assumes they're stupid rather than evil and would definitely do the right thing if they weren't handicapped by their inferior brains. Basically, even if Scheisse happens, he's not expecting the world to throw him any curve balls he can't handle.

It must be nice to live in his world.

There is one thing he does fear, however, one thing that causes him to pale and break out in a nervous sweat:

Legal documents that need to be countersigned by me.

Yup. I can't blame him, really. It can get pretty darn scary when I need to sign something.

What are you afraid of?

April 22, 2010

Kids Be Gone

As a grad student, Apple helped me generate countless spell-checked research papers. Years later they're still there for me, helping me be a better mom.

Thanks to iPhone, parents can now legally - secretly - torture their teens with an application that emits ultrasonic noise only they can hear.

It's called 'Kids Be Gone,' aka 'Mother's Little Helper.' I've also heard it referred to as 'Vex a Teen.'

(Tempting, I know, but please be careful not to use around small children.)

April 16, 2010

Bedouins, Camels and Viagra

As some of you know, Ralf and I just got back from a week in Egypt, specifically in Sharm el Sheikh, which is a small beach community near the Sinai national park that is inhabited largely by Bedouins.

Sadly, no one got my 'Bedouin Breakfast' pun about our hotel. I tell you, my wit feels wasted sometimes.

Our favorite pasttime during the week was to sit in what we referred to as the 'Hooka Shack', a quiet beachfront shisha bar where you can sip Bedouin tea (black tea with lots of sugar in a little pot) and smoke an enormous water bong while reading and watching the waves.

We also went diving, although I had to give it up after the first day due to ear problems. It's sad, really. I am a Padi certified advanced diver. I have done night dives, retrieval dives, navigation dives, wreck dives, shore dives, boat dives and deep dives. I can take all my gear off (mask, oxygen, the works) 20 meters under water, swim away from it, swim back and put it all back on without panicking (much) and dying a horrible oxygen deprived death.

I don't enjoy doing these things, you understand, but I can.

Nonetheless I have an ongoing battle with my ears and usually have to stop diving and go to the doctor before the end of each vacation. You may be wondering how I got certified in the first place, to which I can only respond, 'Sheer bloodymindedness.'

Still, I didn't mind skipping it this time. What with one thing and another, I was happy not to dress up in a rubber suit and lug around a heavy oxygen tank. I carefully divided my vacation time between lounging about, snorkling, sipping tea, staring at the horizon, reading and visiting my friend Barbara, who is lucky enough to call the desert her home.

And now two tableaus from our vacation involving Bedouins, camels and Viagra - I know you're gonna jump right to the Viagra one:

Tableau 1: The Father In Law
One of the dive instructors was a friendly Bedouin fellow named Nur, who's married to the boss's daughter. After Ralf's first dive on the second day (I was on the boat but not diving) Nur got a radio call from Umbi, the boss and his FIL, to bring our boat out to Umbi's yacht during the lunch break. Apparently, Umbi had dropped something in the water and wanted Nur to dive for it. Nur rolled his eyes and muttered, 'It's probably a coffee spoon,' then slouched off to get suited up again. When we reached the yacht, Umbi waved at us good-naturedly and Ralf asked him if he always makes his poor SIL do extra work for him. Umbi grinned and answered, 'Nur was supposed to pay me 5 camels for my daughter and I haven't seen a single camel yet. He owes me!'

Tableau 2: The Viagra
After I visited the doctor and was told I would be fine in a week but would have to take a break from diving, we stopped by the pharmacy to get some medicine to speed up the re-absorbtion of the blood that had pooled behind my traumatized eardrums. Uh... TMI? Anyway, we got the medicine (everything for about $2, it's SOOO cheap!) and the pharmacist looked at me, looked at Ralf, grinned suggestively and handed him a free packet of Viagra. Ralf, not to be outdone, grinned back even more suggestively and returned the packet. I didn't quite catch what the pharmacist said as we left but it sounded a bit like, 'Strong man!'

Pictures here and here.

April 15, 2010

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