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
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Black for John and me
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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!