Friday, October 26, 2012

Links

It's Friday. It's the end of my first trimester. (Approximately, I mean, because everywhere defines 'trimester' a little differently.) After months of feeling really bad, I'm feeling good(ish) again. You know what helps? Avoiding all those newspaper articles reporting about violence to children - or adults. I have no stomach for it. None. Especially right now. Also, Fritz has been on his second business trip in three weeks, but he comes home tonight, and I am so happy about that.

How about some distraction material?

on Favoritism and Motherhood and how it persists into adulthood from Slate. Favoritism in families. Does anyone really care about favorites by adulthood? Or maybe it's not all about how it affects you - it might be about how it affects your mother.

Ludwigsburg's Pumpkin Regatta (racing giant pumpkins in water with oars!) captured the imagination of both Fritz and me. We've challenged our pumpkin-growing neighbor to a similar event for next year. I hope Fritz understands that he'll be doing the rowing. But really, how hard is it to grow a pumpkin that big? I suspect it may not be so easy! I think we need to devote an entire garden bed to it. More amazing personal photos at Kendra's blog.

This photo from Darmstadt, from the BBC from – what? Glamourlens? – I have no idea how to correctly credit it. It makes me think that you can TOTALLY take your fall family photos AFTER the leaves fall. OBVIOUSLY, leaves don't need to be on the trees to be amazing. Unless you live on the East Coast of United States, in which case, clean up those leaves before Hurricane Sandy hits, yikes!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Three Kid Minivan Dilemma

One of the things that's really bothering me about adding a third to child to the family is the upgrade. By that I mean: I think going from 1 child to 2 children was relatively painless financially. But adding a third child is going to require some additional investment for us. And I'm not looking forward to it.

Part One, The Auto

The first and most pressing concern for us is that of transportation. Since Fritz and I got married (actually since before we got married), we've managed to have only one car between us. On a regular day, Fritz bikes and I use the car. It wasn't always this divide; there were some times in the past where I biked/walked and Fritz took the car. And still, occasionally, Fritz needs the car and the boys and I manage to get around just fine on bikes. We've purposefully chosen to live in locations where this is an option. We've turned down living in a great many neighborhoods in the last 8 years based upon their lack of accessibility. We've chosen to use local retailers and services. And we've consciously attempted to put less money into transportation costs. This summer Fritz actually wore a hole through the tire on his favorite commuting bike, leaving the inner tube exposed, and we toasted how economical and devoted we are to this whole biking thing. Then I took a photo, lest we forget.


And forget we may. Because the flip side of owning a single car for a family of four is that – um, it's a pain. Somedays, even the studded bike tires fail to overcome the elements, and then I'm the chaffeur for everyone. With three people (one little) it was okay. It's been mostly okay (and not so often a problem) with four people, two of whom are LITTLE. But now, little people are getting bigger. They have more complicated schedules and (well, this is trite, isn't it?) I feel like I'm running everybody everywhere. Distributing the driving load ("Hey Fritz, can you drop Noah off at school?") starts to sound like a very desirable thing. Especially looking at child number three. Two cars for our family? Sounds like the time has come. But what to do? A bigger family car for all of us? Or a smaller car for just Fritz?

Tied up in all of this is the issue of car seats. OMG this car seat thing is annoying me like nothing else. Because, really, I want to keep driving our little Jetta station wagon. And I want to haul around all the children in it. But you know what? I can't. Not with our current carseats, anyway. This weekend, we spent about two hours at The Giggling Green Bean in Lakewood trying to fit three Diono Radian carseats into the back of our Jetta (because the Giggling Green Bean is totally cool about letting you try these things.)

So the good news: YES! Three Diono Radians fit in the back of our 2009 Jetta Sportswagen. And you know what? These Diono Radians are great car seats. I wish I had known about them before I purchased our current carseats. (Hint: just buy Diono Radians when your kid outgrows the infant carseat.) I'm not going to try to sell them to you, because if you google them and read about their features; it's already easy to get a sense of how great their features are and how high their safety rating are and who knows why they aren't better marketed, because we ALL should own them.

What you won't find (so much) in the reviews: I put the Radian car seats in the car and suddenly, THERE WAS ALL THIS SPACE IN THE BACKSEAT OF THE CAR. Children could climb in and out with a fraction of the assistance that is now required! There was leg room! Nobody was bumping their head on the door jamb getting in and out of the carseat! It was miraculous. I want to buy these car seats regardless of our car situation just because THEY'RE SO MUCH BETTER.

Then I turned one of the Radians around to make it rear-facing and that's when I saw a problem: We will not be able to have a rear-facing Radian and still sit two adults in the front seat. There's just not room for the Radian to recline sufficiently. However, we did manage to fit a rear facing infant seat with a base in there. So, there's that. We can get through the first 15-18 months of child number 3 with the Jetta. And as any parent of a toddler knows - that stage between 1-2 years old - where the child is suppose to be rear-facing - HIGHLY, HIGHLY PROBLEMATIC for a variety of reasons - until, I do believe, car seats go through some serious design revision - clearly the APA's recommendation is still quite ahead of the manufacturers - yadda, yadda discussion for another time.

You might think that having discovered the good news that I can keep the Jetta and fit three kids in the back of it would be the end of this story. But that would be misjudging the degree to which I have been swayed by the social pressure to just-get-a-minivan. There's some small (medium-size?) part of me that's doubting the longevity of the Jetta Plan. How much more fighting and nagging and tousling will we have when all three children are in such close proximity? Or maybe it's just a matter of my expectations? If I expect the children to behave, they will behave (betterish). Ie, expecting them to fight in a Jetta could become a self-fulfilling prophecy, right?

Maybe we just need more space. If we're buying another car ANYWAY, maybe now is the time to make the jump into (gulp) something bigger. We have more people. More people getting bigger all the time. More stuff to haul around. I hate to do this: I hate to become this person who needs more and more things with more and more space for things. I hate to feel like I'm living excessively (although I am...thank you, First World problems). And I don't even LIKE minivans. If we get one (at this point) it won't be because I love it or because I want it, it will be because society told me that a family with three kids NEEDED one. Maybe society is right. I mean, all the people I know who have minivans, they don't seem crazy. They seem normal. They seem like they did their research. Still. This is the type of peer pressure that I not only try to avoid, but I resist it in my contrarian bones like a teenager with a chip on her shoulder ... so why am I still agonizing over it? I should just keep our Jetta, buy new Diono Radian car seats, and be done.

And then (says my little voice), the internet can all have the last laugh when you're 6 months into child number three and going crazy squeezing everything and everyone into the Jetta.

Sigh.

So, we also went car shopping this weekend. If you go gentle, very easy, no commitment type car shopping with a 5 year old and a 2 year old, you quickly realize what a profoundly bad idea it was to bring them. If only it weren't for child labour laws, car dealerships would quickly hire children to sell minivans. While Fritz and I kept swaying in the direction of slightly 'cooler,' third row SUV type things, the boys were going nuts over the minivans' sliding doors! and the ability to walk from one end of the minivan to the other! and copilot seats in the back! and little knobs! and cup holders! and storage compartments! and

"Mommy! What's this stuff coming out of the ceiling!?"

I tell them.

Mattias, earnestly: "This good car, Mommy."

I don't have any answers yet, just a lot of anxiety.

This is Part 1
Part 2 is here.
Part 3 is here.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Weekend

Last weekend, my brother and his girlfriend flew into Denver to visit while Fritz was out of town on business.

Now, normally we don't go out much on the weekends. I'm not entirely sure how we manage this, other than to say that I can get a lot of practical errand running done during the week. Noah's only been in school (7 hours a day) for a couple of months now, so the reality of being forced to do FUN stuff on the weekends hasn't really hit us. In the past, we've managed to schedule ourselves around the weekend, and outside the busiest hours of the day. Until this weekend. We wanted to do fun stuff with our guests! And they were only here two weekend days! So we attempted to do multiple fun things with the multitudes of people also forced to do fun stuff on the weekends. Oh boy.

There's a LOT OF PEOPLE doing fun stuff on the weekends. Kind of makes it a little less fun. I don't do well with crowds, so I quickly designated myself as photographer, took a big step back, and let our guests be the responsible adults (forced to navigate the crazy crowds with 2 crazy children). I just followed.

They did well! Here they are at the museum. They're naturals!


Although, I confess, I had ulterior motives for letting them run point on this particular museum exhibit. I'm a complete wuss when it comes to insects. Therefore, another good project to leave in my brother's capable hands? Decorating the house for Halloween. Spiders and cobwebs, by request:


Okay, so my photos don't exactly tell the story of insanely-busy crowds. You'll have to trust me a little bit. Here's where we had a picnic with my aunt in front of a Walgreens because we couldn't seem to make it through traffic to the pumpkin patch:


And here we finally made it to the pumpkin patch and had to drive VERY, VERY slowly on bumpy dirt roads for what felt like miles. It was bumper to bumper traffic in a pumpkin patch. Argh:


The boys were very patient. And the pumpkin patch, for all the insane traffic felt relatively empty. That's what happens when you force everyone to drive to the far end to look for pumpkins:





Things that happened after I took these photos:

  • One boy got a very bloody noise. I'm guessing that one of these strange, tall pumpkin weeds (?) cut him. It was highly unpleasant, especially since I was without tissues. I debated using my hat or my sock to soak up the blood. The hat won because of easy access. I was completely panicked. Yuck. (Boy is fine, hat is not.)
  • Then, that same boy needed to GO. As you can see, there weren't any conveniently placed trees to water. So we crept back in the car in the direction of the port-a-potties at 1 mile an hour, until I was forced to frantically signal to my brother in the car behind us to Please-please-come-collect-your-nephew-and-run/carry-him-to-the-port-a-potties! It was a 200 meter sprint, and the boy lost his hat to the wind halfway there. But they made such a spectacle running across the field that they were kindly allowed to cut the line of other waiting people. Or was it the dried blood caked to the boy's face?
  • The other boy spilled an entire bag of goldfish all over his carseat. (My aunt gave him the goldfish, but I let him eat them in the car - because, look, we were sitting in pumpkin patch traffic for, like, two hours.)

By the end of the Sunday, I concluded that while the weekends might be more crowded and busy, they seem to generate much better stories to laugh about afterwards. Or maybe that's the specialty of uncles.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Eating More Chocolate

There's a rather funny article in the New England Journal of Medicine that finds a "significant linear correlation" between per capita consumption of chocolate and the density of Nobel Prize winners in 23 countries. Switzerland has both the highest density of Nobel Prize winners, as well as the most chocolate consumption per capita. (This study goes through 2011, I fear the findings might be much skewed by this year's Nobel Prizes.)

One of the really wonderful things about a "significant linear correlation" is that you can imagine all sorts of different cause-effect scenarios, none of which are likely to be true. But they're fun to think about! The article points out several possibilities (that's how an article in the 'serious' New England Journal of Medicine ends up 'funny'), I added one of my own below:

Chocolate makes you smart. Nobel prizes are for smart people. People who eat more chocolate win more Nobel Prizes.

OR people win Nobel Prizes which causes them to eat more chocolate.

OR people celebrate Nobel Prizes by eating lots of chocolate.

OR chocolate costs a lot of money. People who live in countries that can afford to eat a lot of chocolate have more resources to win Nobel Prizes.

OR the Nobel Prize Committee has a vested interest in chocolate consumption and thus, awards their Nobel Prizes (by country) accordingly.

Well, whatever the relationship may be, I'm happy to do my part with the chocolate consumption.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Morning Centric

Over the last two school years, we've fallen into a morning rhythm that works really well for us. It certainly wasn't planned to be this way. If you had told me last September that I would actually find myself liking the result, I would have been shocked.

In fall of 2011,  Fritz started getting up around 6 am with the goal to be on his way to work by 7am and be home by 5pm. The plan was that the boys wouldn't (didn't, at the time,) wake up until Fritz was gone. Because Fritz would be home at 5pm, I would avoid handling the facetiously named Happy Hour by myself and the boys would have a 2 solid hours of playtime with Fritz before bed.

Well, the plan really didn't work like we hoped because the boys just moved to an earlier schedule as well. They jump out of bed between 5:30 and 6 am. And yes, I do mean jump. There's no sleepy morning bodies at our house, we wake up early, we wake up (mostly) together, and we are AWAKE. For a long time, I kept thinking that it would change - that the boys would creep back to a 7am wake up - eventually. And I kept thinking that I would have a precious hour of alone time in the morning. Oh, how I would love that hour! But it's been a year now and the creep to a later wake up? It never happened.

[photo removed]

The result is that the boys and I have about 2 hours and 15 minutes to get ready in the morning. But it's remarkably leisurely. And playful. And it's well-behaved! And it takes me an hour to clean up afterwards! But there are castles built and astronauts space visits before we even venture out the door. Fritz's return at 5pm is always welcomed, and Happy Hour is...well, still insane, but at least I no longer endure it as the sole parent. Bedtime begins at 7pm - and usually both boys are sleeping by 7:30.

[photo removed]

And sometimes, like this morning, one or both of the boys will sit quietly on the stairs, and watch the sun come up. Mostly, what I think is that I'm lucky; I'm lucky that I'm finally learning to love things ALSO the way they are. Maybe I'm even lucky that the boys value the same thing as me. Even though I still wouldn't mind an hour to myself in my our favorite early morning hours.

[photo removed]

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Decor that only a mother (or wife) could love

A Note from Fritz to the Boys. This has been hanging on their bathroom mirror for almost 6 months now. It reminds them to 1) Wash your Face, 2) Brush your Teeth, 3) Brush your Hair, 4) Flush the Toilet. Funny how Noah still needs reminders about this! Do you think writing it on the back of an envelope means that he takes it less seriously? Maybe something framed and stenciled would work better?

[photo removed]

Fritz's Brush Management System. Also in the boy's bathroom. It's a plastic test tube holder and test tubes. I have no idea why we (already) have THREE toothbrushes in it.


An Aquarium.


Not convinced? Let's look inside. Yup, fish.


Mission Control for the Spaceship Wyse. Noah was very worried that Mattias lacked proper operating skills. Thus, Noah located everything so high on the wall that even he himself needed to jump to operate. (Except for the foot pedal barely visible by his right foot.)

[photo removed]

Friday, October 5, 2012

Rhetoric

Last weekend, Fritz and I watched The Iron Lady with Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher. I was too young to pay much attention to politics (especially British politics) in the days of Margaret Thatcher. Most of the historical plot was new-to-me. I also can't really claim to be a Margaret Thatcher convert, nor can I advocate that we all run out and see the movie. HOWEVER, after watching the first Presidential debate this week, I did find myself feeling quite disappointed that United States politics don't have one iota of the rhetorical spark in British politics.

Fritz had to read Margaret Thatcher speeches when he was learning English in high school in Germany. (He's a little older than me.) He has a favorite Margaret Thatcher quote, which I like an awful lot, too:

"To borrow and to borrow and to borrow" is not Macbeth with a heavy cold. It is Labour Party policy. 
- Margaret Thatcher's Speech to the Conservative Party in Blackpool, 1985, according to this website.

My personal political position falls on the side of liberal - but really, I can't help but respect this kind of clever speaking, even if I disagree with the sentiment. I chuckle every time I think of it.

And chuckling is a strangely persuasive way to get an idea in your head, even one you think you probably would have disagreed with: if, you know, you were paying any attention to politics in the 1980s.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

neues iPad Magic

One of der Spiegel's American correspondents recently claimed that Americans love Germans like never before, but for all the wrong reasons. (Like Oktoberfest!)

Well, let's add one more wrong reason:


Does this make you love the Germans? I'm (at least) impressed. What do you think the "trick" is?