Monday, December 31, 2007

Junk Galore

John made it back from Chicago, none the worse for wear. I think he had a good time, but he wasn't able to meet up with as many people as he had originally hoped to, so he was a little lonely. That didn't stop him from eating at the same Mexican restaurant for four lunches in a row, though. *g*

He always brings us something back when he travels, and Hannah makes it a little easier to pick something for her because she always makes a list of American junk food she wants. For me, America is the land of the free and the home of the brave, but for Hannah it is the home of the Frito-Lay company and the land of MSG, as evidenced by the fruits of John's shopping labors.

To the Founder of the Feast!

We also got shirts, so his efforts won't have completely disappeared into a pile of empty wrappers and crumbs within a couple of days.

A girl I'm sort of friends with in the German department (it's complicated) gave me a music-mix CD a couple of Christmases ago, but I thought it was xmas music, and I didn't actually listen to it right away. While digging around for the software from our internet provider to load onto my new laptop, I found the CD and decided to give it a spin. She picked some really good music! And not xmas music, although I would have liked that, too. So I think I might load it onto my laptop for my listening enjoyment while working.

I really like my new laptop, but the keyboard action on it is stiffer than on John's laptop, so it is taking some getting used to, especially the buttons below the touchpad. My poor thumb is still sore from sewing button-holes into Hannah's pants (the zipper broke), so that might be part of my typing problem.

On Friday I took Hannah and her friend to see Alvin and the Chipmunks. *shudder* I got a little nostalgic when they sang their xmas song the first time, because it used to come on the radio when I was a little kid, but otherwise I concentrated on trying to crochet in the gloom. And then about 3/4 of the way through the movie, Hannah's friend started saying, "My tooth! My tooth!" I took her out in the lobby, and sure enough, her tooth had gotten knocked loose by a piece of popcorn. Hannah's lost baby teeth while eating ice cream and a hamburger (never did find that one), so it wasn't totally surprising, but she said it really hurt, so I ended up leaving the movie early to take her to meet her mom (thank the dwarfs for small favors). I met back up with Hannah afterwards and we went to Pizza Hut as planned. But I had to stop at the yarn store to buy this first:

All the Potholders You Can Eat

John asked me what I wanted for xmas, and I told him that book, and this apron:

He always suspects that I'm throwing him wishlist items underhand to make it easier and cheaper for him*, but always tell him what I would like but wouldn't buy for myself. Which is funny, because even though they are often small items, I really get a kick out of having them.

I totally should have bought this one while we were in Scotland:

So if he's not going to do it, I'll just pick them up myself the next time I see them.

* His stepmom always used to ask for refrigerator magnets when asked what she wanted for xmas.

We're going to spend New Year's Eve with another family, so I guess I'll spend the meanwhile finishing some straightening up I started this morning before I had to go pick John up from the train station. I can never manage to get every part of my house clean at the same time, but at least over the 2 week school break each part will have been clean at least once.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Musical Hannah

We received a really cute e-card from a dear relation for xmas, and after we had viewed it Hannah was humming the music from the card for a while. Then I realized that she had switched to "My Country Tis of Thee."

Where in the world had she learned that?

Turns out, she was humming the anthem* for the Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen from Ren and Stimpy.

That's my girl.

* (crammed into the tune of "My Country Tis of Thee")
Our country reeks of trees,
Our yaks are really large.
And they smell like rotting beef carcasses.
And we have to clean up after them
And our saddle sores are the best.
We proudly wear women's clothing
And searing sand blows up our skirts.
And our buzzards, they soar overhead
And poisonous snakes will devour us whole,
Our bones will bleach in the sun.
And we will probably go to hell.
And that is our great reward
For being the Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

On the Road Again

John made it to Chicago, but I haven’t gotten the full travel report yet because I didn’t get to the phone last night before voice mail picked up, and John’s call had gotten cut off when I checked the voice mail. Oi! The joys of modern technology. At least I was able to check on the status of his flight online and see that they didn’t crash. I will assume that there weren’t any problems with his hotel reservations and will try to call him there later today.

If you read this before 3 pm Central Time, remember to send a blast of good thoughts toward Chicago then. That’s when he is supposed to have his interview.

I had warned Hannah that we’d have to get up at 4:30 to drive her dad to the airport (for an 8 am flight), and I think that got her keyed up, because she hardly slept that night. It was after 10 when we sent her to bed, and then we stayed up until 11-ish to get John packed. She got up at 1 to pee, and she couldn’t get back to sleep. I’ve been a light sleeper since she was born, and every time she went in or out of her room in the wee hours, I heard the door close. *snick* *snick* *snicksnicksnicksnick* She told us the next morning that she spent the time getting dressed and watching infomercials on tv.

We got to the airport right at 2 hours before the flight, but we were at the wrong terminal. Whoops! It seems that no matter where I find a spot in the parking garage, we end up in BFE relative to the gate we need. Anyhoo, we found the right terminal, got John a place in line, and then Hannah and I braved the bowels of the Frankfurt airport to find McDonald’s and some breakfast for all of us. It is scary down there, all low ceilings and duct-work. Hannah has avowed—even before the visit to Fraport (what an asinine marketing ploy)—that she will never work in an airport restaurant, never never never.

Hannah ordered a Happy Meal—yes, she wanted a hamburger at 7 am. She has an amazing memory, especially where junk food is concerned, and she had recalled that I didn’t let her order a Happy Meal at the airport when we took her grandparents there in 2005(!) because it was breakfast time and I didn’t think they’d serve hamburgers that early, but then *12* kids walked past her with Happy Meals and weren’t they the luckiest kids in the whole world?! (It doesn’t sound quite so melodramatic until I write it down, somehow.)

After the coffee and breakfast food, I was awake enough to drive us home, but even in her sleep-deprived state, Hannah didn’t fall asleep until we were 30-minutes from home, and then she only slept for 20 minutes. I thought we’d both crash after that, but I couldn’t fall asleep; I ended up resting my poor little eyes for about 5 minutes and then re-reading part of Wee Free Men (grade-A Terry Pratchett—I’ll be re-reading it many times).

After a long and well-deserved night’s sleep, we’re going to try to go to the movies later today. Hannah wants to see Alvin and the Chipmunks. Please pray for me.

Ps. John had been hoping for a white Christmas, but he had to be satisfied with a hard frost. It started to snow a couple of hours after we dropped him off at the airport. Oh, well, there's probably plenty of snow in Chicago for him to enjoy.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


It is cold cold cold here. When I went to the store this morning shortly after eight to buy a couple of puffy down comforters (thanks, LMIL!), the car thermometer said -3.5C (25.7F) and the thermometer on the jewelry store said -5C (23F). Either way—brrrr! And since our study is very poorly insulated, we have to cut short our computer use when we can no longer feel our shins. So if I break off in mid-blog, you’ll know I can’t feel the bottom third of my body.

Remember how I mentioned all the work that just falls into our laps? I think I know how Tom Jones must now feel about panties—stop throwing so many at me! I was considering taking on another English-tutoring job, but it would have been too much, and I didn’t really feel qualified to teach business English. But then John told me that some of the students I had taught in his department a couple of semesters ago (wooo! nepotism!) were asking if I am planning to teach there again, because they really enjoyed my class. Yay! I wasn’t a total loser teacher!

In the mornings, I climb up on Hannah’s bed at the foot and put my legs under her covers as step one in the wake-up ritual. Also, it is cold in her room. Then I proceed to tickle her until she kicks and flops and generally wakes herself up with all her attempts to dislodge me from her bed. But this morning, she had the bright idea to use her pincers of doom, aka the toes she inherited from her dad and gwamma. John’s mom can raise a knot on a person with her lobster-claw toes, and Hannah is following in her glorious footsteps (ha ha!). Of course, we have watched Little Shop of Horrors a couple of times recently, so Hannah’s toe-pinching made me start singing, “She’ll be a den-tist! She has a knack for causing things pain!”

Hannah got some kind of gumball (of the tree-fruit variety, not chewing gum) stuck in her hair at school, so rather than asking a friend to help her untangle it, she just chopped it out with scissors. Now she has a bang-length section at the back of her head, but she refuses to let me take her to a barber, because she might actually get a *hair style*. The horror!

One evening, I had gone in to Hannah’s room to turn off her overhead light, and she started talking about how she had just noticed my freakishly large forehead. And of course, such a large forehead is a sure sign that I am a nerd. I had never heard that large forehead = nerd (and how nerdy is that, that I make a mathematical equation out of it), but maybe she has secretly been taking a distance education course in phrenology. Anyhoo, I pointed out that she looks just. like. me. And therefore she has a one-way ticket to Nerdsville. Her Nerdland passport was issued at birth. She is a native speaker of Nerdish. Ha!

I think that except for a couple of stocking stuffers, I have completed my xmas shopping. My amazon order from the UK won’t be here in time, but at least I made my choices. Hannah refuses to actually buy anything for us or her friends or anyone we ask her about, even if we offer to pay. She is getting to be quite a tight-wad, but I guess that is better than the alternative.

The glacier is creeping up over my ankles... must. stop. writing.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Rockin' around the xmas tree

I’ve been in a bit of a weird mood lately. I don’t know if it’s due to hormones (quite possible), weather (clear but freezing), holidays (barreling down upon us), or a mosh pit combination of all three, but obviously, my situation hasn’t been very conducive to blogging. Which is funny, because I’ve gotten into the habit of mentally narrating my life as if I’m concurrently blogging it. Sounds like a tv drama for teenagers. Unfortunately, all my brilliant narration is gone as soon as it’s thought; I am Twitter in meat form.

It has been slow going, getting into the xmas spirit. Decorations have been up in town since forever, but somehow, I’ve never gone into a shop in America in December and thought, “It must be Christmas-time, because they’re playing Wham.” Now I have “Last Christmas” as an ear-worm. Anyhoo, my favorite window display is over at Hell’s Kitchen: trees decorated with silver nets and silver lobsters (or perhaps giant crawdads—I don’t know crustaceans).

Here at home, John has been crazy busy all semester, thanks to a new colleague who is learning the ropes and the former colleague who left behind a big gaping hole where there used to be a curriculum. With the pile of grading that has been teetering over his head, he has been loathe to take time out for things like buying a tree and presents, because the pile might just topple over and smother him. But he finally broke down last Saturday and bought a tree. Hannah and I tried to put it up and decorate it, but it was unstable and John was picky about which side was the best, so next year he gets to do it all himself (see bad mood, above).

Hannah contributed to the decorations with the fruits of her art class (she got an A!):

angel and creator

This guy is now on top of our tree.

Then we went to Bad Wimpfen on Sunday (planned several weeks ago, so John couldn’t get out of it with such a feeble excuse as *work*) to their xmas market.


Don’t we look cute? That hat really itches, though. John bought it for me in Lappland during the year we lived in Sweden, and it is warm but itchy. I was scratching so hard by the end of the afternoon that people probably thought I had dandruff or lice or head-beavers.

But enyweys (as my Grammy would say), I am too lazy to put up more pictures, so you’ll just have to click on my Flickr link on the right to get the full array of xmas market and home decor photos (and a few self-portraits of Hannah that look very disturbing).

Note on the bus: The cold really brings out the ugly in people’s wardrobes. This woman is wearing a patchwork coat out of what appears to be the skins of several mangy hyenas. I know I’m not exactly a candidate for the cover of Vogue, but at least I don’t look like I rolled in something I found rotting on the savannah.

Weirdly enough, I saw another similar coat, but furry-ier, in town later.

Hannah still likes us enough that she tries to get brownie points by say outrageous stuff to entertain us. We were in the store, picking out xmas napkins, and she was helping me sort through the box. “What about that one over there?” *pulls it out* “Not tacky enough.” That’s my girl!

My crazy ranting was quite hilarious in my head yesterday, but now it is all gone. You should be glad. Poor John had to turn the other cheek while I tried to make a funny, but instead was an asshole and insulted him. I will have to make that up to him before his trip next week. Don’t forget to cross your various extremities for him and his interview!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Coming Up for Air

So let's see... I survived giving my presentation in German last week, but it was a close thing. I was so nervous that I think I might have burned out a fuse (specifically, the German-processing fuse) in my brain. I have totally mangled everything I've tried to say in German since last Thursday, and I would like to move under a rock now, thanks.

On Saturday we went to the mall to go grocery shopping, buy flowers, and hit the video store. We bought *8* DVDs, all but one of them American films. I told John and Hannah that I had been planning to do that as a family gift for xmas, so they'd just have to keep that in mind xmas morning. While we were there, we spotted a cluster of people dressed as Star Wars characters. I recognized Boba Fett, an Imperial guard, Darth Vader, a Storm Trooper... there were probably 8 or 9 people total. Hannah was disturbed to see them without their helmets later, rocking to the classic rock (Zepplin?) being piped in to the store. Geek on, brothers! When we left the store, we noticed someone was playing the Star Wars theme on a piano in the mall but couldn't spot where it was coming from. Star Wars as cool jazz--weird!

On Sunday, we went to the Lucia event for the Swedish club. We didn't take the camera this time, so I didn't get any shots of the Lucia coughing through her recitation, nor of one of the little xmas elves hiccoughing loudly whenever there was a lull in the singing, nor of John playing the Swedish Santa Claus. Hannah had been allowed to pick the paper towels at the grocery store the day before, so of course she picked the multi-pack that included a toy, so of course Pebbles Flintstone had to accompany us to the party and have her own seat on the bus. Alas, no photo again. Drat my shortsightedness! Hannah's dearest wish came true and we did *not* win any caviar in the door prize drawing, but John's dearest wish also came true and we *did* win a straw goat.


In addition to playing Santa, John was the announcer for the drawing. The straw goat was the very last item up for grabs, and John built up the suspense by saying how much he had always wanted one and how he really should break down and go to IKEA and get one, which the winner of said goat would thankfully be spared. And then the little girl drawing the numbers handed him Hannah's number. Crazy, eh?

John was there all day helping, but all I had done up to that point was bake three cakes to go with the coffee that was served, so I made it a point to help with straightening up afterwards. The tables and chairs all had to be cleared off and stacked away, and I commandeered a dolly to put the stacked chairs away. I had to lean the chairs back pretty far to keep them balanced, so they were riding against my shoulder as I pushed them into place. By the end of the night, I had a bruise on the top of each shoulder.

shoulder bruise

(And no, my clavicle doesn't normally stick out like that—it's just the angle of my arm holding the camera that's making it do that.)

Hannah lost her wallet on the bus on Tuesday, and she has been crying about it ever since. She only had about 2 bucks in there, but her bus pass and her library card were in there, too. I don't think either will be difficult to replace, but I know how she feels about losing things. If it happens to me, it preys on my mind until I find myself tearing apart the house or retracing my steps for days on end. I've called the bus company about 10 times since then, but it hasn't turned up yet.

After the wallet incident on Tuesday, Hannah's cold ramped up and she ended up staying home sick on Wednesday. It's her shortest day (7:45-12:20), so she didn't miss too much, and there wasn't any homework, so I guess if she had to miss, Wednesday was the day to do it. I plopped her in a hot tub and fed her chicken soup, and that seemed to help with the cold symptoms. And since I was home with her instead of going to class, I was able to get a big chunk of my xmas shopping done online while she slept in/lounged around. I finished shopping for our adult siblings and their children (=6 adults and 9 children), which feels like a huge accomplishment. I already know what the grandmothers are getting and just have to order the stuff, but I am still brainstorming on the parents and assorted teenagers. Any big hints would be appreciated.

My brain has turned into a giant sieve. I hate hate hate finding out that I totally spaced on doing something (like buying Hannah an atlas for school), when it should have been poking me in the brain all along. When all the important stuff has leaked out, what's left behind is roughly equivalent to insulation, and processing information becomes a big trial. Perfect for a student!

Everyone keep your fingers crossed: John has a job interview coming up after xmas. I don't want to go into too much detail here, but please keep him in your thoughts/prayers/voodoo rituals.

I'm sure much more has been going on—it's been 10 days since my last post—but see „sieve brain“ above.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Xmas is barreling down upon me

The xmas prep has started!
Hannah, House Decorator

The advent calendars were stood on the wood oven with care:
Advent Calendars

But a little mouse has already been at the gingerbread house:
A Little Mouse Nibbled on the House

Hannah had to go to bed the other night before the "Unfabulous" movie was over, so I thoughtfully stayed up and recorded the last 30 minutes. Hannah was just finishing her book when it was over, so I thoughtfully went in and told her how it ended (smooching!). "Thanks for telling me the juiciness!" My sarcasm detector was impaired that night, but I caught on the next morning.

It has taken Hannah a few tries to figure out how to use "BM" properly in conversation. Tonight at dinner, a little air bubble escaped her. I asked what was up, and she answered, "BM?" Not unless you've just filled up your pants, kid. "BG, then? For Big Gas." All right then.

John is always highly amused at my comments while I'm editing: "Serial commas are eating my lunch." Well, they were!

In an effort to get on top of my perilously teetering to-do pile, I'm foreswearing the Internet on all weekdays between now and xmas. I'm hoping to get the bulk of my xmas ordering done this weekend, but John is just as swamped as I am, so it may take the two of us a little longer this year to agree on our purchases. It doesn't mean we don't love you if your gift is late.

Anyhoo, the point is that if you desperately need to reach me, cc John on email or just call.

Sayonara for now!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Turkey Day Report

We had a belated Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday, just the 3 of us. John wanted to be more social, but it just didn't work out with our 2 invitees. Actually, it was much better that way for me. We weren't trying to clean and cook and beat the clock for the arrival of guests. Hell, we didn't even change out of our jammies that day. :-) John kept making little comments about how "most people" have Thanksgiving lunch, but I pointed out he was free to get up at 5 am to start the turkey so we could have everything done by noon, and he stopped bringing it up, eventually.

I made a turkey, my grandma's stuffing, baked sweet potatoes (1), giblet gravy, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, and rolls, and a pumpkin cheesecake. It was less than I would have made if we'd had guests, but still more than 3 people could possibly eat. Fortunately, it's now cold enough that I can store the cheesecake in the natural fridge, i.e., on our balcony. I was so un-rushed with the cooking that I could chop veggies to freeze; after dinner, John added some of the leftover turkey, and today we're going to have turkey soup with the pre-chopped ingredients.

(1) I couldn't find any mashing potatoes (2), and John won't eat instant mashed potatoes, but I did find sweet potatoes instead, so I baked them.

(2) I didn't know when we first moved here that there are different types of potatoes for different cooking purposes, and my first attempt at mashed potatoes (with the "wrong" potatoes) turned out like glop.

Mmmmm! Thanksgiving!

Hannah didn't say what she was thankful for, but I was thankful for tv. Yes, I will come right out and say it--I like tv. Also, this Thanksgiving cactus. Wooooo!

pink Thanksgiving cactus

Hannah had a headache last night and this morning, so a pre-made dinner is just what the doctor ordered for a mom that was home with her most of the day. She doesn't look sick, per say, but she is quiet enough that I can tell she still doesn't feel 100% yet. At least her cough is getting better. And no thanks to the doctor. He said to bring her back if she was still coughing after 4 weeks. At 3 weeks, I realized she wasn't stopping. I googled around and found where an American doctor had had success curing this type of cough with hypnosis. I didn't think our doctor would go along with that, since he doesn't even think it's a tic, but I thought the Am. doctor was on to something. So I figured that rather than training her through hypnosis, I'd try training her through bribery. I offered her five bucks if she went one whole day without coughing, and the amount she was coughing dropped immediately. If she concentrates on not coughing, or concentrates on something else, she doesn't cough. She still doesn't have the 5 bucks yet, but she's on her way.

We're up to our third snowfall as of today. It didn't stick, of course, but it was really coming down during the 3 or 4 times it snowed. I was glad to be home with the wood stove instead of running around in it in town.

Third snowfall of winter 2007/8

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I'm a Little Teapot, at least for today

More weird dreams, this time about incomplete coursework. I dreamed that I thought I had finished everything for a course, but when I got my grades, I had neglected to do half the projects assigned, and I hadn't even realized it. (Once, a girl in my class sat down to take a final and realized she had never turned in a paper for a class she had taken 2 semesters before. What a way to start a test!)

Usually my freak-out dreams are about being at band contest, but I can't find all the parts to my uniform, and I don't know the drill or the music, and I am a last-minute replacement for someone. I have that one a lot. I haven't been in a marching band since 1993, but you can't take the band (John would say the nerd) out of the girl.

I really want to walk to Rivendell, but I haven't been good about remembering to put on my pedometer each day. I'm not walking for exercise, like another Rivendell-er, but just getting from place to place in my daily routine. I walked over a mile on Monday, and that was just going to tutoring and meeting my friend for lunch. Maybe I'll try it again if I ever take up exercise (not bloody well likely).

In the German department, we're required to take a course in preparation for writing the master's thesis and taking our exams. The only class requirement is to give a presentation on our topic and the progress we are making. Judging by the first two presentations, it is a totally painful process. The professor's objections and comments were totally spot-on, but she is so brusque that I think I would rather be eaten slowly by a tiger than have her dissect my work. Fortunately, the class is over-full due to some scheduling problems this semester, so I am off the hook for presenting. BUT, this is the professor who still has one of my (late) papers moldering under a pile in her office, so I will eventually get to experience her brand of critique. *cringe*

Someone made a Christmas tree out of Mountain Dew cans, but the end result is actually very cool. (Thanks to Gael at Pop Culture Junk Mail for the link.)

Hannah has been bemoaning her lack of Ken dolls for a while now, so she finally took matters into her own hands. Her least favorite Barbies have had their hair chopped off and their pink lips covered with white nail polish to become transgendered dolls. Maybe she should call them Chris.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Nee, Queen of the Inappropriate

As a child, I had a bit of a chronic lying problem. Just a bit. I outgrew it, but then I discovered a new kick--saying the unexpected. I've spent a large part of my life looking like a 13-year-old kid, so I make sure to offset that by talking like a sailor.

The first time I met this person, Bill, in John's extended family, he asked me about my hometown. "What's there to do in [Hometown]?" That was my cue. "Not much but have sex." (1) People still talk about the night I met Bill.

Technically, I am telling the truth, but as Emily Dickinson said, "Tell the truth but tell it slant." I tell it in a way that exponentially increases the shock value. I can only manage this in English, so my poor family has to bear the brunt of my odd statements.

After dinner last night, Hannah had wandered off to play on the computer, and John was smiling at me across the table. I was resting after eating all that dip (see next entry) with my cheek on my hand. "You look so pretty," John told me. That was my cue. "I'm tired. And my ass burns."

(1) Since our county had the second-highest teen pregnancy rate in the state at the time, it had to be one of the top activities.

Hannah, Spice Girl

Hannah has been honing her cooking skills on the whetstone of my spice cabinet. She and her friend started with "spice soup" back in the day. Fortunately, they were satisfied at first with making very small quantities. One day they got a bit carried away, but with the help of a couple of eggs and some flour, we were able to transform the watery mess into some savoury crepes that even Hannah would eat.

It occurred to me that if I could rope Hannah into using her skillz for good instead of evil, she might be more likely to eat something resembling food. So last night she whipped up some dip, which her dad and I enjoyed with some raw veggies.

Dip! and Hannah

Hannah declared that she only likes making stuff for *us* to eat, but she deigned to eat 1/2 of a slice of cucumber with dip on it. Now I'm worried that her body will go into shock from that blast of vitamins.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Stew-Pot Post

In no particular order:

I suck at shopping. I don't like it, and I'm not good at it. We needed new sheets (due to my last shopping disaster), so I went to a place where I had previously gotten the wished-for sheets (before the cats sliced a hole in them). After diligently looking for 15 minutes, I found the right kind (not the t-shirt material, but linen) and bought them. When I got home, I found they were for larger matresses than ours. John is so sweet, he just tucked them in tighter and said "don't worry about it!"

Something similar happened at the hardware store. It took 2 trips, and I still don't have the right-sized screwdriver for my project.

And it almost broke my heart at the grocery store to pay over 20 bucks for 2 bottles of shampoo and a package of razor blades. I am not meant to shop; I should live in a cave and be a hunter and/or gatherer, although I'd probably screw that up, too, and starve to death.

You can tell when you're (too heavily?) invested in someone else's blog when you dream she's invited you to her sleepover *even though you've only ever commented twice* and you're all fangirl *squeeee!* about it.

I was tired and lazy Monday evening, so I bought a roasted chicken and fries on the way out of the grocery store. I heard Hannah humming in satisfaction in the back seat of the car on the way home and asked if she was eating the fries. "Noooo." Are you warming your hands on our dinner? "Mayyyy-be." What do you mean by that? "Jeez, Mom. Don't you get it? Hel-lo!" Oh--hel-lo! Why didn't you say so in the first place?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Flowers, Glorious Flowers!

If you do not weep with joy at the sight of these Thanksgiving cactus blooms, your heart is made of cold, black ice.

Thanksgiving cacti

Talkin' about the weather

John likes to give me a hard time because I have spent so much time talking about the weather; he says I'm all elderly. But I don't like to be cold or wet, and we are smack in the middle of cold, wet season, so there is a lot to talk about, i.e. complain about.

Check this out: 11 days ago, this was the view from the front of our house:

Fall colors

Nice, eh? I failed to get a photo of the tree-line up above this, but it was equally spectacular.

Then 4 days ago we got enough fine-grained hail, as evidenced by the residue on this car next door, that Hannah thought we'd had our first snow:


She had to wait 4 days until today to have her wish come true:

First Snow, Up Close

It is not quite cold enough to stick, but we've had occasional flurries all day, mixed with cold rain. Ick! So in 11 days, we've experienced the height of fall and the onslaught of winter. I need to get more sweaters!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Switched at Birth?

No one who has actually seen Hannah and me together would ever doubt that she's my child.

Hannah and Nee


But sometimes I wonder if there was some kind of switcheroo in the hospital nursery. To wit:

The child does not like gummy bears. Or cheese. Or pants. (I don't hold it against her for not liking licorice--not many people do.)

She (still) loves pink and sparkles, although not necessarily in the form of her own clothing anymore.

Given the choice, she only reads books about witches and ghosts. Of course, our library only has 2 basic options for her age group: ponies or witches/ghosts/vampires.

In short, she's definitely mine, but not my clone: she's her own person.

It still makes me sad, though, that she doesn't want to read the Little House on the Prairie series, or many of the other books I liked as a kid.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Blah to the nth

I have got to be the most boring person on the Internet. John and I spend a lot of time laughing and entertaining ourselves, but it just doesn't seem to translate to the blog page for some reason.

The highlights of the last week:
I told my class: "Don't ever depend on technology, because it will just crap all over you." This after the USB-stick cock-up, even though I had *a whole hour* to try to sort it out. I wonder if this little baby would be the answer to all my dreams (and it's Star Wars--win!). Only I can't decide between R2D2 and Darth Vader. (DV is out of stock. *pout*) Or maybe the Swiss Army Knife version? Oh, the possibilities!

Hannah had a friend come over, and the cats managed to escape into the stairwell. Missy is an old pro and meowed at the door when she wanted back in. When the friend left, I found Eliza frozen in abject terror two floors down. I had to peel her paws away from the edge of the stairs and carry her back up to the apartment. This is a cat that barely allows her favorite human in the world, John, to pick her up for a quick cuddle.

My Thanksgiving cacti are positively laden with blooms. I am waiting until the majority of them open before posting a photo, but it is gonna be good!

Now I must get back to the grind, etc.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

No, I’m not dead in a ditch

But thanks for asking. *g*

I haven’t even had the excuse of being ill. I’ve just been in a black funk that hasn’t been very conducive to blogging. (Not that anyone would want to read anything I might have written in that state.) Nothing in particular happened to set it off; it was just a perfect storm of hormones and autumn, I guess. Yesterday was the nadir, but as SJ over at I, Asshole was recently explaining, somehow once you’ve hit bottom, you find yourself back on top. So after gorging at the buffet of irrationality, I am back to snacking on the carrots of happiness. Or something.

At least now I can look back at the stupidity of it all and laugh. That’s a good sign that it’s over.

I finally took Hannah to the doctor about her cough. She has had that tic cough for a while now, but one evening she was coughing every 2 or 3 seconds, and I thought she was having a hard time getting any air. So the doctor checked her lung function, and it was perfect, which means she doesn’t have asthma. But he still wasn’t satisfied with labeling her cough a tic, so we are keeping a “cough diary” for the next 4 weeks. If she is still coughing then, she’ll have to go to a pulmonary specialist to have her larynx checked out. If she is still coughing then, I may have to be admitted to the funny farm. *g*

Hannah’s friend had a Halloween party, and the kids were allowed to trick or treat in their neighborhood. They got a pretty good haul, considering that Halloween isn’t a big holiday here. Hannah dressed up as a ghostbuster, complete with our vacuum cleaner’s hose. Unfortunately, I neglected to get a photo, but she did a good job on her costume.

I’m sure other things have been happening around here, but they are still hidden behind the gray veil of the last couple of weeks, so I’ll have to think on it and get back to you.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I'm back in black, er, blue

Most of the time, my life at the university rolls smoothly along. Then other times--like every time I try to use a departmental library--life hits a few bumps, flips a couple of times, and bursts into flames. That's an hour of my life I'm never going to get back.

I had pity on you all and spared you the diatribe I had scribbled after all that. Just so you are properly thankful.

The professors in my department are really very nice, but also very chatty. A two-hour office hour is just not enough for some people to get through a list of 7 people. I'm just saying. At least there was a little entertainment out in the hallway. The guy after me has a quack for a ring-tone. That is made of win!

One morning on the bus--isn't it always on the bus?--I saw a *ahem* well-built young woman wearing a bouffant hair-do and way too much eye shadow. She was a pair of platform shoes, false eyelashes, and a layer of cherry red lipstick away from being a drag queen.

After the bus, I passed a man on the bridge. Hey, Dude! Frankenstein says, "Shoulder pads--baaaad!"

Hannah whacked her head on the same lamp I gashed myself on last summer during the great clean-athon of 0-7. Of course she did this on a school night on her way to bed. (What she was doing crawling around behind her bed at bedtime, I'll never know.) She still has the scab, but I don't think it'll leave a bad scar.


Hannah and I have been crafting to the max recently. First, she made a house out of sugar cubes and egg-white + powdered-sugar glue.

Builder at work

Then I made a Halloween lantern.

Halloween lantern
(Hannah drew the face. The witch looks like she fears for her safety on that thing.)

Then Hannah made little confections out of baker's marzipan, dipping chocolate, and leftover butterscotch morsels.

Homemade confections

Finally, I made a card/table decoration that sits in front of a candle.

Christmas craft

Now I just need to come up with a Halloween design for my card, and I'll be set!

I was bragging to Kee that I am first! to buy xmas gifts this year. Some of them are even in the mail as we speak. (Mainly because they got packed with some birthday presents for October/November.) I realized while doing some of the xmas/bday shopping that now is the perfect time. The shops haven't yet turned up their heating to "hell", and no one else has started shopping, so there are no crowds. Hannah has already given us a list of demands wishes, so I could get hopping on that. Maybe after I start, write, and turn in my paper. :-(

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Semester Has Begun

Today was the first day of the class I am teaching, and I was a bit nervous this morning leading up to it. Between that and it being the first day of Aunt Flo's visit, I had to pee about twice an hour from the time I got up before 6:30 and when class started at 11:15. But I didn't go down in flames, so that was good. I went to campus early in case there was a problem with traffic or the bus--Hannah's school bus has broken down *twice* in the last two weeks--so I was sitting around for 20 minutes needing to pee and having nothing better to do than go back over my notes for class. What better time to start a lame-ish blog post? So here it is (you've been warned!):

I've been using the little 3x3 pages from our telephone notepad for my listmaking because such a tiny piece of paper doesn't seem quite as threatening as a full sheet. I just tuck it into my Miss Piggy notebook (thanks, Family Jooge!) and add or cross off items as needed. Only now that I'm up to 3 tiny pages filled front and back, it's starting to feel like a pile, and people suffocate under piles. Fortunately, I still manage to get a lot done, even if the 3 long-term items keep getting shuffled from list to list, so I have the satisfaction of being able to crumple up at least one little list each day before having to start a new one.

I can see that I'm going to be busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest this semester, but I am finding it invigorating instead of terrifying. That should prove what many of you have thought about me for a while. :-) Anyhoo, here's what I have on my weekly plate:
2 hours of tutoring in English
2 hours of teaching presentation skills
1 office hour for my student job
4 hours of attending pedagogy classes
2 hours of attending a language use class (presenting in German!)
2 hours of attending a master's thesis class
+ doing whatever the faculty need help with for up to 30 hours per month

This may not sound like much for my friends who are working full time, but John and I are also splitting the after-school care of our not-so-little munchkin, so I have to be home 2 or 3 afternoons a week for munchkin wrangling.

Oh, yeah... remember how I said work just falls into our laps? I might end up teaching a second course (although I initially turned them down). I'll just have to wait and see how that turns out.

Hannah hates sports so much that she has renamed P.E. "sporture". So we were very proud that she was able to overcome her distaste and run/walk *7 kilometers* in a school fundraiser for UNICEF. Yay, Hannah!

I bought some pumpkins a couple of weekends ago to use as fall decorations, and Hannah just couldn't rest until she had mutilated a couple of them.

Tiny carver

I tried out something I saw in a book about pumpkins, scraping a pattern into the rind, but not all the way into the flesh. It worked out well on the small green gourd. For the bumply pumpkin, I just drew a face with a black marker; unfortunately, I am no artist, so it didn't turn out "one-eyed goblin" so much as "industrial accident victim".

Fall decorations

We were a bit too early with our carving, and now it looks like Night of the Living Dead around here.

Zombie Pumpkins Unite!

This one was supposed to be our jack-o-lantern, but I think I'll pass on the oozing and just toss it in the compost bin. Besides, the farmers still have their stand up, so I can get another one this weekend.


Now it's time for me to get back to work!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Scotland: The End

I FINALLY finished blogging our Scotland trip. Just to make it easy on you, I am including a link for each day's post, plus a link for the full photo album for each day on Flickr. Don't forget to put on your reading Depends, and enjoy!

Day 1 (only one photo, so no album)
Day 2 and album
Day 3 and album
Day 4 and album
Day 5 and album
Day 6 and album
Day 7 and album
Day 8 and album
Day 9 and album

Friday, October 12, 2007

Don't look at meeeee!

I really like Indian food, but I almost always have the same reaction: I eat a small portion of some seemingly harmless chicken over rice with sauce (mmm... chicken korma...), and while I’m at the table, I feel like I could just go on eating. But as soon as I get up, that innocuous dish turns into a medicine ball in my stomach. About the time I feel my pregnant-hippo sized body must be obvious to the rest of the world, my brain is attacked. It feels like it is being smothered by down pillows. The safest thing to do at that point is to hold down some furniture and hope no one asks me anything important.

Have you ever noticed that when you see someone being an asshole (like pushing to the front of the line for the bus), that person is indelibly marked as an asshole in your mind, even if someone else is an asshole to the original asshole. And even more oddly, if you are like me, you might kind of admire the second asshole, even if his assholish ways would have gotten him original asshole status if viewed in the absence of the first asshole.

It’s getting cold enough at night that I’ve started bringing my plants in. The sunroom is filling up right quick with the mouse cage, patio table and two chairs, chilis, cherry tomatoes, citrus, two Thanksgiving cacti, and the plant stand full of ivy. The azalea only made it as far as the front hall before I realized I need a drainage dish for it before I can take it upstairs.

After I bragged about my azalea green thumb, I noticed that the local florists all have blooming azaleas out. oof! Guess it was just preprogrammed to happen.

My chilis are finally turning red, and two are almost ready to pick. I told John to get his mouth all ready. But when I went in to check/admire them today, I realized that some of the plants were dripping sap because they were infested with *aphids*. grrrr... The green specks that showed up on my black cardigan after I was messing with the chili plants were a bit of a giveaway. I chopped off the affected plants, none of which had chilis on them, and John is going to smoke his pipe at the survivors later.

After the first battle for the chilis, I felt itchy all over. Of course I realize that to an aphid, my skin would be the equivalent of Death Valley, but I still had the itchies.

Just when I thought the tomato plant was about done for the year and I could chuck it to make some space in the sunroom, it has gone crazy putting out new branches and new blooms. For some reason, we haven’t even managed to eat up the last batch of tomatoes, and now we’re faced with a barrage of new ones.

But I am quite excited that both of my Thanksgiving cacti are about to bloom. Teensy weensy buds are coming out. Yay! If only the aphids will keep their pokey little proboscises to themselves.

Sadly, the other main annoyance in our household right now is Hannah, but don’t tell her I said that. She has had this non-productive, throat-clearing cough for a while, and there are times when it drives me straight up the wall to hear “a-HEM... a-HEM”, repeat a million times a day. I know it is just a tic because she doesn’t do it in her sleep, and she didn’t do it on our trip to Trier, when she was among friends, until after she walked into that pole and was angry, and cough drops seem to have no affect on the tickle that she says causes it. Some nights, when I am trying to fall asleep and she is still reading in bed downstairs—coughing—I just have to yell at her to go get a drink of water or a cough drop or SOMETHING. *GAH!*

I have used the cell phone a total of two times now to make outgoing calls, and I felt like a total tool both times. The first time, I was walking up the pedestrian street to the store to pick up some milk and ketchup, and I wanted to see if John had any other items for me to buy. I waited until the street was fairly clear before I started dialing, but I was totally slow, and when I looked up—still not done dialing—I was 2 steps away from walking into another cell phone user, probably texting. I felt like a total jackass, which doubled while I was walking and talking to John.

The second time, I was at the bus stop after being out later than I had thought, and I was checking in with John about starting dinner. The bus stop is on a very busy street, and it was loud, so I found myself talking loudly to be heard over the car noise. With my phone conversation, I managed to scare away two little bunnies eating down near the river. I’m a monster!

Thursday, October 11, 2007


I've been neglecting my poor little blog, but it has been for a strange mix of reasons. First, I had nothing to say, then we went out of town for 2 days, and there was almost too much to say, but I wanted to say it on my travel blog, and then I went crazy and spent a whole day (yesterday) writing. Everything is topsy-turvy!

Now I can't even remember the few things I wanted to post before we went off on our wild adventures. Or not so wild. This is us we're talking about here. Last Friday, we headed for the Spessart to check out a moated castle John wanted to see and to enjoy the fall foliage. Then on Saturday we got up early-ish and headed to Trier with another family we have befriended. Hannah is taking Latin, and Trier is chock-full of Roman stuff--the baths, the Porta Nigra, an amphitheater--so we thought she might be interested, but alas, the best we were able to get was that she and her friend found a place to flop themselves each time our tour group stopped to view something, so at least they weren't disruptive. She walked right into a sign post just before the tour started, so with her subsequent bad mood, it could have gone really badly.

We walked about 5 miles in Trier, so with my own errands in town, that brings me up to 26.15 miles since I started the trek to Rivendell. I am very sad to see that I am still only on day 2, where the "road rolls up and down." *sigh* Classes start back next week, so I will be getting out of the house every single day and racking up the miles.

Ok, I realize this post is completely made of LAME, but I will start paying more attention and taking notes so I can get back to boring you at a much lower level.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Something from something

While I am waiting for some video footage to upload from our Scotland trip (I’ll be done with the write-up some day, I swear!), I thought I would clean out my “to be blogged” file for your entertainment and edification.

A while back, the universe was steering me toward all things Star Wars on the Internet. I just realized that a large portion of my recent “to blog” bookmarks are for things made of different things.

First, I would like to present Jennifer Maestre’s sculptures made out of pencils. This imp is my favorite.

Next, Brian Dettmer takes illustrated books and carves them to reveal the artwork within, making a totally new work of book-art in the process. I particularly like the piece made out of the Webster’s Dictionary.

Pete Goldlust carves crayons, and I cannot convey how cool they are with that simple description.

The artists aren’t named at this site, but everybody loves art made from veggies, right? (If you’re having a hard time figuring out what some of the veggies are, think bell pepper...)

Okay, this isn’t really making something out of something else, unless you consider making something knitted out of yarn to fall under that heading, but it was too cool to leave out: a knitted teratoma.

And finally, a picture of the cornucopia that is currently our fruit dish. I am planning to make the smaller winter squashes in the window into some sort of fall decoration, maybe make the littlest ones into heads for the medium ones.

Cornucopia of delights

Saturday, September 29, 2007

We clean more messes before breakfast than most people do all year

We were discussing maple syrup over a pancake breakfast this morning, and I asked Hannah if she knew about the stuff in trees that carries nutrients. "Pus?"

Before we even got to breakfast, I had to clean up cat puke. The cats polish off their food overnight, then when we refill their bowl in the morning, they gorge themselves, frequently leading to barfing. As a matter of fact, John is cleaning up another pile upstairs as I write. (And why is it that they always have to puke on carpet when 2/3 of the floors are tiled?!) Anyhoo, I was particularly put out with Missy this morning because I found her lying on the couch barfing on to the carpet below. As I told John, I much prefer her crouching on the floor, hurling in abject misery, to her lounging around and barfing at her leisure.

Missy joined us at the breakfast table, and John pointed out that she's basically a digestive tract with claws. It occurred to me that there is probably some alien species out there that considers us digestive tracts with thumbs.

Hannah found this Bratz *shudder* Fish Tank game, and she's been happily breeding and selling these weird Franken-fish. I'm pretty sure you can't cross a fish with a crab, but that doesn't stop her (or the game). She's not merely selling the fish, she is gouging her customers: "These guys'll buy anything! I could sell them a plastic fish!" At least she invests her proceeds back into fish-care products, but she is starting to scare us a little.

I ran out to do our grocery shopping, and while we were carrying the groceries in, Hannah told me she and John had been killing something. She was 1 floor above me on the stairs, so I couldn't hear her, and I pictured the two of them stomping bugs, not that they would normally do that. "Yeah--it's really fun!" I finally found out it was another video game, against other online players represented by cannons (no people-alikes). John and I were just saying how much we hate shooting games, so it took me a second to catch on.

While we were putting away the groceries, I said "enything" in conversation, and John had to be silly and say, "My sweet Texas girl!" To which I had to answer, "Kiss my sweet Texas can!" It's how I say, 'I love you'.

And now I am off to finish cooking about 2 of the 22 pounds of potatoes (see last entry) for dinner.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Camp Fun and Games

I went to the meet-the-teachers night at Hannah’s school last night, but I didn’t really get much out of it. The parents assembled downstairs, where the principal said something something something (I was standing at the back of a crowd consisting of the parents of over 130 fifth-graders), and then the band played “Linus and Lucy” and the theme from “Pirates of the Caribbean.” My enjoyment of the music—and you know I love me some sixth-grade band music—was marred by the smell of CO2 (lungy!) and cigarettes coming off the man next to me.

Afterwards we all trooped upstairs to our kids’ respective classrooms to meet the teachers. They all wore nametags, minus the subjects they taught, but they seemed to have skipped the part we were all waiting for, where they took turns standing at the front of the room and introduced themselves: “I’m Mr. So-and-So and teach This-and-That.” I recognized Hannah’s homeroom teacher from the first day of school, and the biology teacher actually made the rounds to meet those of us who were not so forward as our counterparts, but otherwise the teaching staff stood at the front of the room and waited for us to come to them. In theory, not a bad idea, but they ended up being monopolized by a certain sub-set of the parents. I’m not confident enough in a German-only setting to jump right in there and put myself forward, so I didn’t manage to introduce myself.

When I got home, Hannah had my glasses on the desk. I asked why she had them out. To look through. “You can’t see through my glasses!” (Not without incurring brain damage, I’m told.) She has explained that when she looked at things close up, they looked little but smudgy, which means she doesn’t need glasses. Who needs an optometrist when you have logic?

I am still waiting for my cayenne peppers to ripen, but they are staying firmly green. A bit of googling tells me it takes 80 days. 80 days! The first ones were already full-sized when we left for Scotland, so that was about 60 days ago, but really, you can get baby mice faster than that!

There are very few shows I make a point of watching, but I am addicted to Avatar: The Last Airbender on Nickelodeon. They started playing Season 2 episodes back in March, and we *still* haven’t seen the very last episode. As a matter of fact, they hadn’t even started the last 7 episodes until about 2 weeks ago, so we’ve been watching the first 33 episodes of Seasons 1 and 2 over and over and over for about 6 months. I couldn’t stand the wait, though, and read all the Season 2 synopses at the Nick site and on Wikipedia. Season 3 has just started in the US, but there’s no telling how long it will take for the episodes to get translated into German, so it’s back to haunting Wikipedia for my Season 3 fix.

And I know I shouldn’t admit this, but I am also looking forward to Season 3 of Winx starting in October. John teases me about it, but I point out I am not running out and buying the full set of DVDs; I am enjoying it for the low-low price of 5 cents or so an episode, if viewed as a percentage of our cable bill. The shame of watching is the only thing he can pin on me.

John and I take turns doing the weekly shopping, and I can always count on him not knowing what is currently in our cabinets and buying duplicates of at least one item (last week it was raisins, almonds, and something else). I can also be sure he will buy a fresh fruit or vegetable he thinks we should eat, without planning a way of preparing it or adding it to the meal plan. Last week he bought 4 giant leeks at the store. Then he passed a farmer’s stand on the way home; this means he came home with 20+ pounds of potatoes. “What am I going to do with 4 leeks and 20 pounds of potatoes?!” “But they’re German potatoes!” There is no such thing as a direct conversation when this happens. Fortunately, I found a recipe for a leek and potato casserole, but how much casserole can one family eat before the potatoes start going bad?

With my last 2 outings, I’m up to 16.26 miles on the road to Rivendell. That means I haven’t even finished Day 1 yet. *sigh*

We played the Simpsons version of Clue after Hannah finished her math homework this afternoon. What does it say about me that I always play Mr. Smithers/Mrs. White?

I am Mrs. White

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Word Rich, Photo Rich

At my job back in Austin, I told my pregnant boss, J, “You shouldn’t make your baby out of chili dogs!” She had a lifelong habit of eating by whim—you can imagine how much of her budget take-out comprised—and her food choices were eclectic, to say the least, but she continued in this headlong fashion all the time I knew her, budget and nutrition be damned.

Sometimes I feel like I am following in J’s glorious footsteps. It would have been better for her and her baby if she had eaten something that fell squarely into one or another of the food groups, but chili dogs were often on the menu. It would really be better for my college career and my mental health if I would just sit down and write the paper that is due soon, but instead I am blogging and working on my short stories. The German IRS might prefer me to finish and send in last year’s tax return, but again, I am working my way through my German grammar book. It’s not like I am doing absolutely nothing—except yesterday, heh—but somehow I find myself doing stuff that is so far back on the burner that it is in the living room. Why?!

My new motto should be “Doing the Insignificant with Gusto!” Speaking of which, I crocheted us cell phone cozies to prevent the buttons being pushed while jostled about in a bag (I’m looking at you, John).

Purple sparkle for Hannah
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Black for John and me
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And I made a scrapbook* of Hannah’s artwork scrounged out of her “paper drawer”, directly under the “coloring implement drawer”, in her room. Now I see how previously unknown works by Beethoven or Shakespeare turn up—someone’s mom cleans out a drawer!

*In the original sense of gluing things on blank pages, not the artistic stuff WesTexGirl does.

Now that the daily introspection and beating myself up is over, I would like to give props to my hubby for carving this walking stick.

Walking stick, front

In case you are Germanic mythology-impaired, that is Odin. John’s interest in carving started back when we were still in Austin, thanks to the work of Rod Johnson, but this is his first completed object made using real tools and not a sharpened butter knife (don’t ask). A lot of people in our families have crafty hobbies, as opposed to John’s “hobby” of learning languages, so we’re glad to welcome him to the fold. Join us! It’s blisssss!

He’s going to carve me a witch out of this stick next. Can’t you just see the witch in it?

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I think I mentioned this before in relation to Hannah’s elementary school, but even her new school seems to have no reliable system in place for providing substitute teachers. Yesterday, her last class was cancelled, so she came home 1-1/2 hours earlier than scheduled. This morning she called to say PE was cancelled and her class was going to have to just sit around for 1-1/2 hours. She called back at the end of that period to say that someone had played a trick on them; the PE teacher came looking for them when no one showed up for class, but not before 2 girls went home. I think we’ll want to bring this up at the meet-the-teacher event this afternoon. Also—yay us! for getting cell phones! If this is going to keep happening all school year, it will be good to have a way to find out that Hannah’s on the loose early.

I am probably going to jinx us by saying this, but John and I seem to have the most amazing luck in certain areas. Work just falls into our laps. For instance, John got a line on his current Swedish-tutoring gig through the German-Swedish club. He has also picked up translating work from people contacting him through the university (including the university administration!). I have also picked up a few proofreading/translating/teaching jobs through his department (I should write an Ode to Nepotism), but not recently. My student employee job in the English Department, which I applied for myself, led to a temporary instructor job this semester.

Here’s the best one of all: John was approached by a guy who lives just down the street to help him brush up his English (his company is owned by an American). A coworker also wanted tutoring, so John put me forward, and I’ve been doing that for about 2 years now. Recently, yet another coworker expressed interest in tutoring. So at 10:30 this morning, John was working on a translation for this company (arranged by me and the original tutee while I was there for tutoring), and I was on the phone with the university about my teaching contract, and someone from the company left a voicemail about the new tutee. I tell you, we can’t swing a dead cat around here without hitting a job.

And to wrap up, a picture of our cat, who we probably couldn’t swing even if we wanted to. As Hannah’s friend said (but in German), “She’s GI-ANT!”


Monday, September 24, 2007

Ps. Flower Love

My azalea, a salmon-pink Christine Matton, is in bloom!

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generic title here

John had pity on Hannah and bought a frozen cake for our 4-year anniversary. It took us 3 days to eat it, and I am afraid my digestion and my figure will never be the same. I asked him to just buy 3 slices of something from the bakery next time.

I think she has always been this way, but maybe had been improving lately, but recently, Hannah has been doing things without thinking her way through to the end, and it is making me slightly cranky. She talked her dad and I into allowing her to de-hair her legs. She is very self-conscious about them and won’t even wear clam-diggers. As the origin of her hair-problem (she is a natural, hairy brunette, just like yours truly), I could see where she was coming from, even though I thought she was a bit young to be starting. So Saturday I helped her put the depilatory cream on her legs, then I told her, “Sit right here on the stool where you can see the tv for 5 or 10 minutes, and DO NOT TOUCH THE CREAM.” Then I stood behind her folding some laundry. When I finished, I looked over to find her RUBBING THE CREAM OVER HER ARMS AND THIGHS. I could have strangled her. I rushed her to the bathtub and got her cleaned up without any weird hair-loss on her arms or head (a couple of smudges ended up in her head-hair). The cream worked fine on the original site, but she was surprised and disappointed the next day to find there was a little stubble. Welcome to a lifelong grooming habit, Sisyphus!

After the depilatory mess, Hannah went to her friend’s house for a birthday sleepover. At 12:30, we get a call that we should come pick her up. Unfortunately for her, John didn’t make it downstairs in time to catch the call, so we got her message via voice-mail. He thought she sounded cheerful enough, so we left her there, although neither of us could get back to sleep after that. I was worried that maybe she was sick or had another nose-bleed, and every car that passed our house made me wonder if it was the friend’s dad bringing Hannah home. Unfortunately, we live on the main street through our village, and for some reason there was a car going by every 10 seconds after 1 am on a Saturday night/Sunday morning, so that didn’t help the sleep thing. It turns out that Hannah was perfectly fine; she had started brooding over a perceived slight earlier in the party and decided that she was upset enough to come home, several hours after the fact. By the time I picked her up the next morning, she was totally over it. I told her straight up that if she had called a second time, her dad would have picked her up, but then she would never, ever be allowed to go to a sleepover ever again. Did I mention never?

The fabulous fall weather has been holding out, so we went on a walk through the woods yesterday. The birthday party Hannah had been to on Saturday included a scavenger hunt in the woods, but I misunderstood and thought they had been in the woods to the west of us. It turns out that we took the exact path through the woods to the east of us that she had just been on the day before. That explained part of her disinclination to go with us, but not her bad attitude. She threw herself on the ground at the end of someone’s driveway and refused to get up until I came back and threatened her. That’s when we found out about the repeat, but it was too late then. John really wanted to find a particular stream that we hadn’t been to before, so we jollied her into joining us, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to try striking again.

intransigent Hannah

You must remember that John’s “short outings” often end up being “death marches”. For the most part, Hannah and I managed to keep him to actual paths, as opposed to just tromping off through the woods in what he thought was the correct general direction, but it wasn’t easy.


We finally got where we could hear the stream running, so we climbed down toward the water, but at first, all we could see was this.

fish hatchery

Yes, some sort of concrete fish tank. The stream flowed out of it a little farther down, though.

Bear Stream

While trying to climb back up the other side of the ravine, I managed to step firmly in some muck that smelled a bit like sewage. I haven’t gotten that far in my Scotland vacation blog, but John also dragged us across a swampy mountain covered in sheep poop on the Isle of Skye, and this was basically a repeat of that. We were right at the end of our hike, and my shoes were befouled. aargh!

On the way out of the woods, we spotted some interesting carvings.

stump man
Old man stumpy! (in my head, to the tune of “Old Man River”)

Aack! Woods shark! (and some lumpy something that could be a duck or a witch, depending on the angle)

Finally, 2.4 miles later, we made it to the Italian restaurant for some ice cream and R&R.

mmmm... Pluto’s brains are surprisingly cold and sweet.

From there it was a pleasant walk along the river, a shortcut through the village, and a bus ride back up the hill to our house.

Neckar view

With the hiking and the running of errands last week—I found the vacuum cleaner bags at a large grocery store across town! Thank you, Baby Jesus and the 7 Dwarfs!—I have made some progress toward Rivendell:

Look back at lights of Hobbiton from first slopes of the Green Hill Country.
Hobbiton hidden as slopes rise and fall.
Stop in a birch grove. Eat a frugal supper (ca. 10 p.m.).
Reach Stock Road.

Only 440 miles to go!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Year 4 wrap-up

Hannah pointed out this week that Monday the 17th was the anniversary of our move here to Germany. She was positive it was the third anniversary, but it has actually been four years since we arrived. It’s hard to believe it has been that long.

When we got here, we had no idea we’d still be here 4 years later. We figured we’d already be back in the US by now, but the academic job market sneers at the attempts of puny mortals to predict their place in its future. John hasn’t let the whims of the American hiring committee system get him down, though. He is working hard at his job and on writing some articles and a textbook, and he’s even been taking on the odd job here and there. Plus he’s the president of his club, and people like him. (Sorry, slipping into Stuart Smalley mode there.)

When we came, we said to ourselves, we’ll stay long enough for Hannah to get through elementary school; then she’ll be changing schools and getting new classmates, and it’ll be the perfect time for a transition back to the US. Instead she has made the transition to German junior high school (it's actually a comprehensive 5-12 school). Four years ago, she didn’t speak a word of German, just some made-up gibberish she tortured her father with, and now she is fluent enough to attend a college-track school, where she is learning Latin via German and is taking *English* as a foreign language. Oddly enough, we all expected that Hannah would be leaving her best friend Sinya behind in Germany, but Sinya moved to Romania this summer, a complete reversal.

When we came, I thought four years would be more than enough to finish my master’s degree, but here I am with one semester of coursework and at least one semester of exams and thesis-writing before I’ll be done. I will have three mini-jobs during the upcoming semester, so that and my coursework will keep me out of trouble for a while.

But as much as we would like to be back in the US, Hannah summed it up nicely when she said life would be perfect if we could just get our family to move over here. I haven’t written about how much we enjoy living here, because I worried that it would cause our loved ones pain to hear it, but if we could transplant everything about our current lives back to the US, we’d do it in a heartbeat. Our apartment might be on the small side, but we live in a gorgeous area that you’d be hard-pressed to equal anyplace in the US I’ve ever been. We spend more time together than we’d ever be able to manage back home. We get by comfortably without having to work ourselves to death, and one of us is home with Hannah every afternoon after school (right now we’re both home). We don’t have a big circle of friends here, which is something we miss, but we make up for it with the time we can spend together at home and taking little trips, even a few big trips.

I had already planned to do a write-up of our first four years after we got back from Scotland, but it turned out harder to do than I had expected. But the last few days have been identical to the “Golden Autumn” we experienced when we first arrived, and that has helped put me in the right frame of mind for this little essay.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

All shopping and no play makes Nee CRAZY!

Hannah made it through the first week of fifth grade unscathed. (She will tell you that she’s been a fifth grader since July since she was promoted at the *end* of fourth grade.) I think she even mostly enjoyed it. She’s pretty sketchy on some of the details, but it seems there might be another Texan in her class. What a small world!

Unlike in elementary school, Hannah didn’t get a master list of school supplies, so I’ve been running around all week picking things up after she found out each day what she needed. After the third day, though, I threatened to chop off Hannah’s hand if her list was written on it again. I didn’t buy all of that paper for nothing!

Also this past week, we have gone from being a zero-cell-phone family to being a two-cell-phone family.

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With Hannah being more independent this year, and with John and I having irregular schedules, we thought it was time to get a little more connected. John and I have mixed feelings about giving up our anti-cell-phone self-righteousness, but since we bought the most basic phone we could find (and cheap!), we are looking forward to a new kind of self-righteousness. *tongue in cheek*

In addition to the frantic cell-phone and school-supply shopping, John and I had other household-y chores and errands to take care of. I am afraid that by the end of it, I was teetering on the edge of madness. All I needed to buy was some vacuum cleaner bags and curtain hooks, regular old everyday items in every household. Not live fairies clothed in gold. Not the last Chinese river dolphin. Just vacuum cleaner bags and curtain hooks.

It took me 4 tries to find the hooks. Actually, that’s not completely true, because the first shop had three empty racks where there should have been the kind of hooks I needed, but that did not help me.

In a town of about 150,000, in one of the most industrialized nations in the world, I still have not been able to put my hands on the goddamned vacuum cleaner bags, after a week of trying and *6* separate attempts. I have tried 2 department stores, and 2 electronics stores, one of them where we bought the damn vacuum cleaner in the first place, and the other the place where I regularly buy bags. To add insult to injury, the second place has a wall that is completely covered with bags, top to bottom, but guess whose bag was represented by a giant gaping hole where it was completely sold out? Their Friday shipment was not in as of 10 am or 2 pm, so I guess I either have to cram some more dirt in the current bag, or live in filth until Monday. I am considering ordering a case of them online.

It occurred to me on Wednesday that I should put my pedometer on. Over three days, I walked slightly over 7 miles. So if I translate that into the trek for Rivendell, I am still on Day 1 and I’ve managed this much:

Leave Bag End at full dark (ca. 7 p.m.). Go around (W) end, jump hedge.
Go through gate into a lane. Head west.
Leave lane, follow hedgerows south.
Cross The Water on a plank bridge.
Cross The Great Road from the Brandywine Bridge. Enter Tookland.

And I am almost here:

Look back at lights of Hobbiton from first slopes of the Green Hill Country.

So that was my errands. John hauled a cubic meter of wood in for our tile oven.

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Of course it warmed up again and the clouds cleared off right after that, which means that you need a heavy jacket in the morning but not in the afternoon. It won’t be too long before we’ll want to start using it, though.

John moved the mice from Hannah’s room into the sunroom while he carried in the wood, and Hannah was so pleased at the lack of nightly noises that the move is permanent, at least for the foreseeable future. (Depending on how well-sealed our chimney is in the corner of the sunroom; we haven’t used the fireplace since they finished the sunroom, and I don’t want to asphyxiate our little rodent friends.)

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The mice have been carefully locked away from the cats since Hannah got them, so now having them just the other side of a sliding glass door is like kitty TV for our two fuzzballs. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen scaredy-cat Eliza so animated. I was afraid that the poor mice would have a heart attack the first night with the cats prowling on the other side of the glass, but they eat and run on their wheel and otherwise act oblivious of them. They must be nearsighted, because the cats look like that Far Side comic with the cat splayed against the front window, staring at the collision between delivery vans for Bob’s Small, Flightless Birds and Al’s Rodents.

The mice are currently sharing the sunroom with the last of the cherry tomatoes.

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Once the nights starting getting even colder (we’re down to about 50F at night right now), some of the balcony plants will join them. Like the citrus I am inordinately proud of (did I mention I grew them from seeds?).

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And the cayenne peppers.

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With actual (not quite ripe) peppers!

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And last but not least, my azalea, which is actually trying to bloom again.

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I’m not sure what to think of that. The web site listed on its tag makes it sound relatively easy to get it to bloom again, but the University of Minnesota extension service makes it sound quite a bit more challenging. Whatever I haven’t been doing, I guess it’s worked!