Monday, June 30, 2008

Kids Say the Funniest Things

Other than Germany's sad loss to Spain last night in the European Cup Soccer Finals, it was a pretty good weekend. Saturday we went over to the in-laws to grill and chat. Thankfully the weather cooperated and we were able to cook before the rain came. Because me 8 year old niece and my 7 year old nephew were also there, my in-laws were in good form surrounded by their grandchildren.

I get a kick out of how my niece and nephew adore the Dude. They fight over who gets to push him in his stroller and who can hold them first. My niece likes to hold his bottle when I am feeding him. On Saturday my nephew watched as my mom-in-law and I were standing at the changing table and putting a new diaper on the Dude.

Precocious 7 year old: Wow, he has a big penis.

Huh?! It took everything I had not to laugh out loud.

7 year old: No, really. I think mine is only a little bit bigger than that.

Gosh, who knew that boys started comparing so soon. My mom-in-law smiled at each other.

Claire: Oh, sweetie, I am sure are both average.

7 year old: Well my dad . . .

Claire: Whoa! Honey, there are somethings your Aunt Claire REALLY does not want to know about.

He shrugged and walked away and my mom-in-law went into the other room to laugh hysterically.

And how was your weekend?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Godfather

When we decided to have the Dude Baptized, we did it for several reasons. First, I thought that it was a nice, social situation in which everyone could come together and see the baby. Second, although the German and I are not very religious (we are the Easter and Christmas kind of church goers), we do want the Dude to grow up with some moral guidance which we think Christianity can provide. I had no idea however that the Church would make it so hard on us.

In Germany you must declare what religion you are when you move to a new city and register. When you declare your religion, church taxes are taken out of your pay check and go to the said church. I am Catholic, but do not feel that the Catholic church needs my tax dollars, so 4 years ago when I registered I declared that I have "no religion." When I did this, I knew that my children could not be baptized in the Catholic church. The German is a baptized and confirmed Protestant and still pays his church taxes. Therefore, we decided to have the Dude's baptism in the Protestant church.

There was a lot of paperwork to get in order. First, we had to get permission from the local church to have the baptism in the German's home town church. Second, we had to prove that the German was a member of the Church. There is some official letter that I had to get, but could never get to the church office when it was open. Therefore, we submitted our tax return which showed how much we paid in church taxes. Third, we had to provide documentation regarding the Godparents.

Now, we put a lot of thought into choosing the Dude's godparents. We wanted someone that we are close to and someone who would provide the Dude with a good example of a life well lived. Without hesitation we choose Ch-ard. Not only was he living with us when I got pregnant, but he also is one of the toughest and community oriented people we know. However, he is American so the documentation bit would be tricky.

Ch-ard is a baptized and confirmed Catholic. Up until a few years ago, he even went to church regularly (well, more than me). However, since going back to the U.S. last year, he has not really gone to a church. When the German's church asked for documentation that Ch-ard was "in the church," we sent them his confirmation certificate. How much more "in the church" do you have to be?

Apparently a lot. The certificate was not enough. We needed a letter from a church that he attends now in order to prove that he attended church regularly (even though we don't), and here is the kicker, that he donates.

When we had our meeting with the minister to discuss the baptism, I got a little hot under the collar. First, when I filled out the application, I wrote that I was Catholic; old habit and all. But when she found out that I don't pay church taxes, she erased it. In one swoop, my religion was gone. That hurt. Then she informed us that Ch-ard could participate in the ceremony, but the Church would not recognize him because he was not "in a church."

I got very upset. Theoretically, someone who is registered in Germany and pays church taxes but NEVER goes to church, could be the godfather, but an upstanding member of the community who is religious but just does not belong to a church at the moment cannot. To me, it seemed to come down to money.

I expressed this view to the minister. Of course, she did not agree. Then I thought to myself, "Jesus was a radical dude. He hung out with thieves and prostitutes. I am positive Jesus would not exclude Ch-ard as a godfather because he doesn't pay church taxes."

I said to the minister, "It does not seem like a Christian thing to exclude someone from a ceremony because of a problem with paperwork."

She stared at me in a stony silence.

Needless to say, the Dude was baptized and Ch-ard participated in the ceremony, but as predicted his name is not on the official church documents. In our hearts we could not have picked a better godfather, regardless of paperwork. But the entire process left a bad taste in our mouths. This is unfortunate because I believe that a church can play a good and important role in providing community in raising a child. We are going to let the Dude decide if he wants to be confirmed, but I am glad that we had him baptized.

The Dude, Ch-ard, and Mareike (the godmother)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The "New" Geography

The German has been in sports heaven for the past few weeks. Because I am more concerned about shut-eye rather than shut-outs, the German has been able to enjoy almost every game of The European Cup Soccer Championship. Watching soccer often puts me to sleep, so I have crashed on the sofa for a few games as well.

Tonight Germany faces Turkey in the first semi-final game. After a few lackluster performances, hopes are high for the German 11 (kind of like Ocean's 11, but not as cool). Tomorrow Russia plays Spain in the second semi-final. It dawned on me yesterday that there could be a Turkey-Russia final. Hmm . . . that does not sound very European to me.

I am pretty good with geography. In fact, I placed 7th in the National Geographic South Carolina State Geography Bee. Yes, I know that admitting this makes me a big fat dork, but let's all move on, shall we? When I was in grade school I remember coloring Turkey with the "Asia" countries, and the then Soviet Union was considered half-and-half (i.e. half-European and half-Asian). Did the books change, and I was not aware? I asked the German what he thought.

"Well, if Israel can win the EUROvision Song Contest, then I suppose everything is Europe."

"Wait, so Israel is a part of Europe? What about say, Lebanon?"

"Nope, Lebanon is definitely not Europe."

This has all got me thinking about geography and politics. By defining a country as "European," it (i.e. the country) gets a boost in its reputation. The European Union is pushing its boarders and there is talk of including countries like the Ukraine. But is there a limit to all of this inclusiveness? Is there a point when we say, "You know what, your country is definitely not on the European continent." The thing is, this is not just a question for geographers but it is also a political one. Saying who can belong to the "European club," can be a touchy subject around here.

Anyway, I have to go teach English now. Someone told me a month ago that "American English" is not real English. The same person also told me that the U.S. have 51 states. Hmm . . . maybe those books have been changed, too.

UPDATE: Germany beat Turkey 3 - 2. After two glasses of wine, I fell asleep and missed the second half, which was apparently the best part.

UPDATE: Spain beat Russia 3 - 0. That makes it a Germany - Spain final. I guess I got all worried for nothing!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

All's Well that Ends Well . . . Well, sort of

We took the Dude to the Urologist today . . . and everything turned out fine. Although there is a small part of ureter that is "too big," but there is no reflux back into his kidneys. We have to keep giving him low dose antibiotics for the next few weeks and then go back to the ultrasound specialist in four to six weeks. At that time, the doctor will probably take him off the antibiotics. Then we just have to keep checking it out every few months and as he grows his ureter will grow and that should eliminate all problems.

Whew! I am glad that there was no reflux. And even better, the Dude did not cry during the entire procedure. They numbed his penis before inserting the catheter and he just sort of looked around the whole time. He has also been in a pretty good mood all afternoon and ate a big lunch.

We only have one doctor's appointment left, which is next week. It is for his last set of shots until he turns one. Boy, am I relieved that we can put this behind us. I tell ya', I think it has all been worse for me than it was for him!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

He's Got Something to Say

This is my attempt to post a video

A Letter to the Dude

My dearest Christopher,

Today you are officially 4 months old. It is hard to believe how much my life has changed since February 22. It is even harder to believe how you have changed!

You can do many things now including roll over onto your side and roll over from your tummy to your back, but not the other way around. In fact you seem to get frustrated pretty easily when you cannot get all the way over or why crawling does not exactly seem to work. I pick you up to soothe you ,but your dad says that you need to be "tough." I suppose that you know I am a bit of a soft touch, which is why you like to bury your head into my breasts when I hold you.

You can hold your head really well and can sit when propped up. The world is a much more interesting place when you can see it and you love to sit up or lie on your tummy and lift your head up and look around. You have even discovered the television and turn to it when it is on and you are lying on the floor. Because I don't want you to be a couch potato, I have to turn it off. This is kind of a bummer for me as TV sort of kept me company during the long days since your birth. However, perhaps we can compromise and put on Baby Einstein instead of Sopranos re-runs.

When you feel like it, you can also sleep through the night from 8:30pm to 5:30am. This comes and goes and you still love to play the pacifier game, i.e. how many times can I get mommy to come into my room and give me my pacifier. You do seem to sense when you are pushing things too far. After two weeks of sleepless nights, you finally gave your mom a break this weekend and slept like an angle. Let's keep doing that.

Your non-stop babbling is a joy, especially for your father. Okay, so all you can say is "ging-ging," but you try out different octaves and stress to see which is the most fun. Your dad calls you "ging-ging," which your Oma does not like. I think it is a cute nickname. When you discovered the high notes which only the neighbor's dog could hear, I thought I would die (or at least buy some ear plugs). The non-stop screeching for no apparent reason (other than the fact that you can do it) was a little much. Thank God you got over that after a week.

The biggest step in the past week has been your move to solid foods. At first carrots were not your thing but you have gotten more fond of them now. In fact you can put away half a jar. The spoon is your new favorite toy and you love to make me laugh by making bubbles with your food. I think I introduced you to fruit too soon. You love the sweet stuff and I only let you have a few bites after lunch. Today you actually cried when I took away "dessert."

After writing all this, I realize now the most important thing, how much I have come to love you. At first you were this blob that did not do much and it was hard to connect. But now you smile and laugh when you see me in the morning (even after keeping me up half the night). That makes it all worth while.

I am still afraid that I have no idea what I am doing. But you are growing and laughing and happy, so I must not be doing to many things wrong. I guess we will just keep making it up as we go along.

Your Mom

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Ch-ard returned to the U.S. on Friday and B-Dad is leaving in the morning. Although I feared this past week, the Dude did okay and time has just flown by. I miss Ch-ard already and it has been fun having B-Dad around. The Dude has loved all of the attention and has been held a lot. I just hope he can put up with just boring old mom next week.

We marked another milestone here this morning. The Dude is now over 16 weeks old so we tried out some solid food today. He took his first bites of carrots. He saw the spoon and opened his mouth. I put a little bit in. He gummed it for a bit and screwed up his face. I do not blame him. I am not a big fan of carrots myself. But he ate 3 spoonfuls before crying and turning his head away. However he swallowed everything and did not spit it out. Impressive. I guess he is on his way to being a big boy now.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Have Baby. Will Travel. But not too far . . .

My Big Dad did make it to town! After not getting a standby seat, my B-Dad just decided to purchase a ticket. Talk about 'spensive! Unfortunately he landed at 9:55am and the baptism was at 11am. I thought he would miss the whole thing but my brother-in-law saved the day by swooping in and collecting my B-Dad and getting him to the church on time.

The Dude was an angel during the service. However, he did not sleep the entire day (only 3 30 minute naps) and was very cranky by bedtime. Yesterday was a bit more relaxing and we spent the day hanging around Wildeshausen.

Today we took the Dude, B-Dad, and Ch-ard on a road trip to Bergen-Belsen. Although a concentration camp might not be a "happy" choice for baby's first trip, it was interesting for the adults and provided the opportunity for lots of outdoor walking. The Dude slept the entire time. The memorial was very moving but slightly creepy as there was the sound of tank fire in the background from the near by army base.

I was so anxious about traveling with the baby, but it was okay. I am now a champion diaper bag packer. He slept in the car and was awake and ate for a few hours in the memorial. Makes me want to take on the world . . . with a two hour driving distance that is.

In that spirit, I am anxious for the next Ex-Pat Blogger meet up, which might take place in Bremen! The Dude will surely have stories of his crazy mom and I can show people around a place that I know. See J for details.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

My Left Ureter

We took the Dude to the ultrasound specialist at the Children's Hospital in Oldenburg. After many pictures and lots of "Hmm's" the doctor turned to use with his verdict. Apparently the Dude's ureter, which connects his kidney to his bladder, is enlarged at the part that attaches to the bladder. This could be nothing, however there is a possibility that reflux is occurring. That is, urine is being pushed back into the kidneys. I did not need the doctor to tell me that that is a bad thing. In fact I get a whole different kind of reflux when I think about it.

In order to determine if reflux is occurring we now must go to the urologist in a few weeks. They will stick a catheter in the Dude's little part and push contrast fluid to check it out. In the mean time we have to give the Dude low dose antibiotics in order to prevent possible infection. If there is no reflux then we can discontinue the antibiotics and continue to monitor the situation with ultrasounds. If there is reflux, then we will continue and antibiotics and monitor the situation with ultrasound. Are you as confused as I am?

As if I have not been on edge enough, my Big Dad did not arrive this morning. In fact, I am not even sure where he is at the moment. He was flying standby and did not get on the plane yesterday afternoon. The last email I received said, "I am scrambling and checking other airlines. I will let you know." I know nothing at this point.

Furthermore, the Church may not let Ch-ard participate in the Christening tomorrow as the Dude's Godfather. Something about missing paperwork. This is a WHOLE other post which I will get into next week.

Gosh, I am so looking forward to the weekend.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Keep the Change

As I was playing with the Dude on the floor this morning, I had CNN on for background noise. I saw that Obama clinched the Democratic nomination last night. Then on the bar underneath the following was scrolled, "McCain says that he is the 'right change.'"

Hmm . . . is there such a thing a right change and wrong change? How about change for changes sake? I looked down at the Dude.

"If you buy a pair of shoes for $79 and you give the woman $100, then $21 is the right change and $31 dollars is the wrong change."

The Dude responded, "Ging-Ging!" Such an attentive audience.