Sunday, August 31, 2008

America's Next Top Model

I love that my politics posts are shaking things up. I love that I actually got comments during the weekend. My fellow Democratic brothers and sisters, if you decide to vote for McCain to protest the way the DNC behaved over the past year, then that is a decision I can support. Don't get me wrong, I wish you would not. But, that is the beauty of the democratic process. There are other options for a protest vote. I hear that Nader is running again.

Anyway, I wanted to put partisanship aside for a moment and turn to something that we can all agree upon; that the Dude is one freaking cute baby.

Yesterday I was going through a clothing catalogue and the German and I saw a picture that we thought looked exactly like Christopher. The German smirked, "Christopher is totally cuter than that." Yes, our little munchkin has many looks. He can have fun while accessorising.



He can look tired and beaten by life.



And this one we call Blue Steel.



**Yes, I totally quoted Zoolander and I stand by that.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Who?

That was my reaction when I saw CNN yesterday afternoon:

McCain Names Palin his VP Candidate

When she took the stage, my second reaction was, "Boy, she's young!"

The more I think about this choice, the more I think it is either pure genius or a dumb ass move that is going to blow up in his face.

First, picking Palin is a direct move to get the 16 million Clinton voters who still feel disgruntled. If you don't believe me, watch Palin's speech. She mentions it directly. While not a bad idea in theory. However, many Clinton supporters were behind her not because she was a woman, but because of what she stood for. To say that all of these people will now vote for Palin only because she is a woman is a bit insulting. Now, if my friends and Clinton supporters do vote McCain/Palin because of the gender factor, then I will be very disappointed as Palin could not be more different Clinton when it comes to policy.

This brings me to my second point, Palin is a NRA member committed to overturning Roe v. Wade and drilling in Alaska. For this alone she would not get my vote.

Third, once again, who? The Repubs have made SUCH a BIG deal out of Obama's lack of experience, that I am left speechless that they think that someone with 2 years experience as the governor of Alaska is qualified to be president. This should definitely take the the experience question off the table.

Finally, VP choices are made because there is a possibility that they might become president. And although 72 year-old McCain may never be sick in the 4 to 8 years that he could be president, should something happen, Palin would be president. As interesting and intelligent as she may be, not only do I think she is not ready, but she sure as hell does not represent me.

One of my friends called this a "Maverick move." I think it is a calculated political decision which panders to his conservative base while trying to steal some women's votes. There is nothing Maverick about that.

**Please note that I have not mentioned any of the criticism about her having a special needs child or her beauty pageant background. These are non-issues for me which do not influence whether she would make a good president. Besides, if the Repubs think that a beauty queen can be president, why couldn't a "celebrity?"

***But, dude, I really do like her glasses.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Making History

He sat on my lap pounding the desk. He had no idea that he was watching history. No, for him it is just a screen with blinking lights. But then he settled down. He focused, and, yes, he even listened. He may not know it now, but later I will tell him about the day that a man made history.

Despite my love of politics, I did not stay up last night to watch Obama's acceptance speech. A mother's need for sleep is just too powerful. However, I did get up this morning and download it. About 10 minutes into it, the Dude woke up. I hit pause and went upstairs. Christopher smiled and giggled and waved his arms to be picked up. After giving him his bottle and changing into clothes, I took him downstairs. Together we sat in front of my computer and watched the rest of the speech.

Now, I will have to agree that the stage was a bit over the top. It reminded me of a Greek temple, which I don't think is what Obama should have been going for. However, it did make him look "presidential." That said, it was a historical moment deserving of something special.

Germans often criticize the U.S. for not practicing what they preach. That is, we are not as democratic as we make ourselves out to be. This is true. Democracy took time to develop in the U.S. Under the U.S. constitution a black man was not even considered a whole person. But yesterday, an African-American became the first man of color nominated for president. That is an amazing thing, regardless of what party line you stand on.

"What of the speech?" you ask. I was impressed, but then again I am partisan. He inspired, outlined details and hit McCain; all the things that he had to do. On the other hand, I did think that some of his suggestions were a bit optimistic. I would love to think that the U.S. will end its dependence on foreign oil in 10 years, I am not sure that 10 years is realistic. Also, as I said before, I think that a tax increase is almost inevitable.

Larry King is re-run here at 11, so the Dude and I watched that, too. The Republicans cannot seem to decide where to go. On the one hand they say that Obama has no experience, but on the other hand they say that his record does not support his suggestions. So . . . does he have a record or no experience? One talking head also said that if you make around $40,000 and have kids that you don't pay taxes. Hmm. I paid taxes when I was only making $20,000 and I KNOW that my parents pay taxes. Finally, on Repub said, "He was offering something to every interest group in the stadium." However, don't you think that children, working class families, the poor and the elderly deserve a better stake than what they are getting now? I support those interest groups.

I watched several other clips this morning. Al Gore's speech was pretty good, too. He reminded me about something I had forgotten. There once was one a man from Illinois who ran for president. He did not have much experience except a few terms in the state legislature and in the House of Representatives. He opposed a popular war that turned out to be unjust. Although known as a great orator, it was argued that he did not have the experience to lead the U.S. in difficult times.

That man was Abraham Lincoln.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

No News Is Good News

Oh sure there are things that I could blog about.

Joe Biden not being that surprising to me, for one. After all, Obama is being hit on lack of experience. Objective: find someone with experience. However, there has to be something a little more between no experience and a total Washington insider. The Republicans criticizing this though is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black. How long has McCain been in Washington? It may take me as long to count as the number of houses that he has. And did anybody REALLY expect Hillary to be the 2 spot? Obama and Clinton have Texas size egos. It's not just that Obama would not work with her, but she doesn't really want him either.

Also, Obama's venue tonight . . . cult of personality or being inclusive and bringing politics to the masses? Depends on what you want to believe.

Or I could talk about the Dude's 6 month check up, which went splendid. The ped was delighted with his progress and amazed at how curious the kid is. However, he hits himself in the head with his rattle all the time these days so I am not sure how smart he is.

I could also tell you about how I wrenched my back and raising my arm is pure agony. I actually have to get on my hands and knees to pick things off the floor. Bending is too painful.

There was also my Girl's Night with the Moms. We saw Mamma Mia. Cute, but seriously Pierce Brosnan, fire the person who told you that you can sing.

But I think the most important thing this week is that I bought plane tickets to go to South Carolina for Christmas. I have been a bit depressed and homesick and was convinced the trip wouldn't happen this year. However, we found a good deal and my mom offered to chip in. I am over the moon! Bad back and all.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Schalke Fans Suck

During this time of year, there is almost always a chance of rain in this part of Germany. Of course on the day when I excepted my fate and was about to attack the weeds, the heavens opened. Seriously, there was a steady downpour all day. With weather like that, there was only one thing to do . . . go shopping.

Actually I took the train into Bremen to scope out the hotel and restaurant situation for the upcoming Expat Bloggers Meet-up. The German stayed home with the Dude and I enjoyed a morning to myself.

Even though it was raining when I got to the train station, I bounced around looking for cafes and spots to chat and then headed into the city. Things were pretty quite. Never daunted by rain, the flower market was full and many old ladies walked their tiny dogs (why do old ladies have such small dogs??) while buying roses. Yes, I even took a minute to smell the roses.

Unfortunately not everyone was happy on this not so sunny Saturday morning. The woman at the tourist office was down right surly.

Claire: I am organizing a meeting for about 20 English speakers in September. I need to locate hotels rooms.

Bored Tourist Worker: Yeah, here's a pamphlet. If you call this number they can help you out.

Claire: Um . . . Okay. How about brochures and things in English? I want to put together a little welcome package.

Bored Tourist Worker: We've got this. (She pulls out a prospect.)

Claire: Sure, I'll take some of those. And how about that brochure on the Rathaus. That looks good.

Bored Tourist Worker: Yeah, I don't have any of those in English.

Fed-up Claire raises an eyebrow.

Bored Tourist Worker: (Sighing) Well, I could order some.

Fed-up Claire: Yes, why don't you do that.

Seriously, Bremen is having financial problems and they really need to boost tourism to increase cash flow. If I were a tourist, I would never want to go to that place again!

I continued my walk around the city and found a lot of cute restaurants. I got a large latte to go from Starbucks and headed towards the riverfront. It was difficult juggling my umbrella, purse, guide book and coffee, but I did not care. On the riverfront I spotted them . . . Schalke fans. Lots of them. Drunk. And singing stupid songs. CRAP! It was at that moment that I remembered that Werder Bremen's first home game was that day and that they were playing Schalke.

Around 12:45 I headed back to the train station. I had the information I needed and I, as well as my brand new brown loafers, had had enough of the rain. My mouth hung open as I looked across the street at the train station. There were dozens of police cars lined up and many more cops. Some of them had microphones in their ear and some had riot gear on. As I approached the doors, a swarm of Schalke fans came out. Police lined both sides of the path as if trying to funnel the fans towards the correct street car. I stood to the side, but it did not matter. A drunk Schalke fan spilled his beer in front of me and splashed my new shoes.

Normally I stop for another coffee before getting on the train, but I was so disgusted I went directly to my platform. As I sat down, I was exhausted but overall happy. I also learned a valuable lesson. Check the soccer schedule before heading into town.

PS If I offended any Schalke fans with this post . . . too bad. You spilled beer on my shoes.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Yankee Doodle Dandy

It is hard to believe but the Little Dude is 6 months old today. Boy, time really flies when you are being puked on by an infant. A few weeks ago we marked a significant chapter in his life by taking him to the consulate and getting his US citizenship.

While I was getting things together for a possible trip to Berlin, I called the US embassy just to double check my paperwork. The last thing on earth I wanted was to get all the way to Berlin and wait for hours only to be told I had forgotten something and to come back again. The man on the phone was very helpful and I checked everything off my list.

"Where are you calling from?"

"Wildeshausen. It's near Bremen."

"Oh, then go to the consulate there! You don't have to come to Berlin."

"Really?!?"

Just to be on the safe side, I sent an email to Bremen. Seriously, some of these bureaucratic offices have no idea what the other one is doing. Turns out that the guy in Berlin was correct. Now although I would have loved to meet Dr J and Snook for coffee, I was most definitely taking the easy way out.

On a Tuesday morning we packed up the Dude, climbed into the car and headed into the big city. Finding the consulate was no problem. The building was a bit of a labyrinth and when we reached the correct door, my heart started to race. An actual bit of America right here in Germany! Imagine my surprise when a police officer opened the door and told us where to wait.

Of course there should be police protection at the consulate. You never know what a target these things can be. However, I could not help but wonder if the US government pays for those Bremen city cops to sit there all day.

We had to wait about 2 hours before our turn. I did not mind so much. I chatted with a woman next to me and was very excited to find back issues of the New Yorker on the end table. When it was finally our turn, everything went smoothly. Despite my best efforts we did not have the correct paper work. We were missing the "Abstammungurkunde." Silly me, I thought that the birth certificate was enough. Luckily the very nice woman told us to just mail it in. After swearing that the Dude was indeed our child and that all the documentation was real, we signed the papers and paid 110 Euro. Now, in a few more weeks, the Dude will get his first documentation from the US government that he exists. I am so proud of my little boy.

I am headed to the garden this weekend. I hate it, but the weeds have taken over and I must face the inevitable. Before I go, a little more Baby Zen for the Weekend. As you can see below, the Dude is a budding blogger. Actually, when he gets fussy, I pull up old Muppet videos on Youtube.com and he calms down. Although an effective technique, the "Manamana Song" is now forever stuck in my head!



Thursday, August 21, 2008

4th Annual Meeting of the WEB

My lovely city (okay, not so much my city, as the one that is the closest to me), Bremen, is being invaded by the Whiny Expat Bloggers. On September 28 and September 29 those of us who complain about Germany, but love it dearly, will be meeting to talk, eat, drink, and talk some more. We may even walk around town a bit. Good thing that all the good stuff to see in Bremen is in walking distance.

I am especially excited because the Dude is spending Saturday evening with his grandparents, so I can hang out as long as I want.

If you would like to come, let me clarify:

1. You don't have to whine
2. You don't have to be an expat
3. You don't even have to be a blogger really

However, you must:

1. Have a high tolerance for loud expats (seriously, my laugh attracts attention)
2. Enjoy chatting
3. Not get offended easily

For more details, see J and get on the email list. I am the hostess with most-ess and am trying to pick a restaurant, so if you are coming, let me know what kind of food you like.

J will be there. Kim will be there. Jen will be there. Go on. You know you want to join us.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Seen and Heard

Summer vacation has come to an end. The German went back to school yesterday. We did not go anywhere, but it was great to spend some time as a family. We would take turns feeding the Dude and when he decided to get up at 7am we would put him in bed with us. While he rolled and chatted, we would try to get a few more minutes of shut eye. In the afternoons we would go for long walks and eat ice cream. All in all it was one of the best summers I have every had.

Besides the trip to the hospital, a few other things have been going on. Time for the round up . . .

__________

I did absolutely nothing for my birthday. Although in Germany you are expected to invite people over and provide just about everyone you know with cake and sweets, I did not cave into peer pressure. I took a stand and invited no one. After our big party last year and celebrating the German's birthday a few weeks before, I figured that I had the right to keep it calm this year.

I was touched by all of the phone calls and emails I got. Seriously, more people remembered this year than is normal. I also got some gorgeous flowers.

From the German

From Ch-ard


I also indulged in my blueberry muffins. Allrecipes had a fabulous recipe. The German chowed down on one and declared them "delicious." I already had my mouth stuffed with the third. Because of all the cake, ice cream and hamburgers I have ingested this summer, I am now on a diet. I do not diet, so it is pretty hard.




__________

I decided to follow Kim's advice and give Marc, of Sarah and Marc in Love, a break about his German. However, I suppose I was surprised about it because he has lived here for years and he is a musician. It shocked me because I thought he might have an ear for the language.

Two weeks ago on Sarah and Marc, Marc got upset with the terrible shop hours in Wildeshausen. He attempted to buy a video game but found everything closed. They made Wildeshausen seem like a total hole in the wall. I have two problems with this.

First, let me mention that the place he went to does not sell video games. In Wildeshausen, you have to go to the Eurotronics store for DVDs and video games. Everyone knows this, including Marc. The German has seen him there before.

Second, the shop hours in Wildeshausen are the same as in any city in Germany. However, I do have to side with Marc that they are sometimes annoying. Although I have lived here for over 4 years, I also sometimes get irritated when I have to get all my shopping done by noon Saturday.

__________

Last month the German and I celebrated our wedding anniversary with a romantic evening in Bremen. Yes, Bremen can be romantic. I reserved a table at the Bremer Ratskeller for a "candlelight dinner for two." It was expensive, but worth the money. With our four course meal we also had wine, sekt, coffee, and chocolate truffles. They even decorated the table with hearts and printed a special menu for the occasion.

However, I forgot that I am now a light weight when it comes to drinking. After our aperitif, I was a bit tipsy. After the fish and soup course and the excellent Riesling that was served with it, I was pretty hammered. I could not eat all of my beef, but the German took care of it for me.

Because of all the water I started drinking, I went looking for a bathroom. There was a little sign hanging on a pillar, which pointed towards the bathroom. As I watched a waitress walk out of the door, I assumed the room to be the kitchen and decided not to enter. I remembered seeing a bathroom near the entrance and headed in that direction. Not really paying attention to the men coming out of the door, I walked right into the men's room. I backed out. Even in my drunk haze I knew that it was wrong. A woman saw me, laughed and pointed in the right direction.

After nearly three hours of eating, drinking and chatting, the German was a little tipsy as well. We went back to our room at the Hilton, which is in the heart of the old city. We changed into some comfortable shoes and went for a nice walk along the river. Then we took a seat next to the cathedral square and had a night cap. The German had a cafe au lait, which I should have had as well. But I threw caution to the wind when I saw that they had cosmopolitans. It was my undoing. Why, oh why, do Germans put Grenadine in a cosmopolitans? The sugary confection turned my stomach sour.

To make a long story short, our "romantic" evening ended with me passed out and the German watching TV. The next morning I could barely enjoy the fantastic breakfast buffet. But then, I suppose that is what marriage becomes after four years and one baby.

Monday, August 18, 2008

In a New York Minute

Last week I learned the hard way that the Dude knows how to crawl backwards.

Besides his crib, there is a large queen size bed in his room. I usually put his baby bath on the bed and bathe him there because there is no room in our bathroom and the tub is so deep it kills my back. As I was preparing his bath, I put him down in the middle of the bed. Because he rolls from back to belly to back pretty good these days, I put some pillows on both sides so that he would not roll. He was on his tummy chewing on a toy when I left the room to get his blankie out of the living room. As I was walking back toward his room I heard a thud and then a shriek.

I have never ran so fast in my life. I ran into his room and there he was on the floor crying. I picked him up and rocked him. After a few minutes he calmed down but there was a red bump on his head.

Although he had stopped crying, I made the German take us to the hospital. On the way there Christopher laughed and smiled and chewed on his teething ring. By the time the doctor saw him, he was tired but content. She flashed a light in his eyes and felt his scull. The she asked if he had thrown up or lost consciousness. Negative to both. She smiled and said everything was okay and to take him home and call if his behavior changed at all. I had managed to keep it together during that first hour, but when the doctor told me he was okay, I sat down and started crying.

We were so lucky that nothing happened and that the bed is not that high. In fact the bump on his head is already gone. However, the Dude and I are not fast learners. The next day I left him on the living room floor to go to the kitchen and get his bottle. In two minutes he had rolled from his play area to underneath the chair, and was crying for me to get him out. Dude, I have a HUGE living room.

Now whenever I leave a room I put him in either his play pen or his bed. I would rather hear him cry to get out then bump his head again. He is repaying me by now rolling over in his sleep, getting stuck on his stomach and crying for me to come put him back in his proper sleeping position. Oy. The perfect beginning to the German's first day back to school after summer vacation.

Monday, August 11, 2008

They Say Its Your Birthday

The lovely Tatiana celebrated her birthday yesterday. Now Tatiana is a little bit more down to earth than I am. She did not want "stuff" for her birthday. Rather, she wanted her friends and family to look into themselves and share with her the things that they are thankful for. I think that is an excellent way to celebrate your birthday. Because today is my birthday (oy! the big 3-1), I thought that posting my list would be a way to celebrate the things in my life that make me happy.

1. My father’s cancer being in remission
2. A husband who tries to make me smile when I am not so happy sometimes; he brightens every single one of my days
3. A healthy baby boy who, even when he won’t let me sleep, makes me realize that the future is so full of possibilities
4. My driver’s license: I can get away and turn up the music and smile and be myself and completely alone, but I always have a wonderful place to go home
5. Homemade blueberry muffins: they remind me of being a kid and are my all time favorite; no matter how low I feel one bite puts me in a good mood
6. The wonderful women in my mommy-and-me groups. In those first difficult months of motherhood I had no idea what I was doing. However, these women helped me, made me laugh and were so supportive.

I am sure there is more, but these are the things that came to me quickly. Coincidentally, today is also the feast day of St. Clare of Assisi. No, I am not named after her; I am named after my grandmother. But is is a strange coincidence nonetheless. Out of curiosity, I looked her up and found out that St. Clare is the patron saint of embroiderers, eye disease, gilders, goldsmiths, good weather, laundry, and television. This made me giggle a bit. I have terrible eye sight, spend most of my time doing laundry and watch entirely too much television. Maybe St. Clare plays a role in my life after all.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Games Begin

The German and I are lovin' the start of the Olympic Games. We don't really discuss political backgrounds, drugs, or anything serious. We just love to watch really random sports. Seriously, if it wasn't the Olympics, I would not watch table tennis. But now I feel drawn in.

As I was surfing the net, I found this economist who predicted the medal rankings. As a grad school geek, I love stuff like this. However, I think there is a HUGE mistake in this little video. Can you find it?



Have a great weekend! And remember . . . mmmm . . . table tennis.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Time for a Little Laugh

When surfing the net, you never what you are going to find. Instead of heading to the political posts, I looked for something amusing. I used to watch Regis every morning with my coffee. When you go to ND, it is required. The German even got into it while staying with me in the States. He thought Kelly was cute. Anderson Cooper was co-hosting and makes fun of "The Lohans." It's sad because its true. However, I think Anderson should remember that he did host the "The Mole."



The German and I are taking an evening for ourselves. For his birthday I made reservations for a candlelight dinner at a nice restaurant in Bremen as well as arranged a hotel room and a baby sitter. See ya' later!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

You People Make my A*@ Twitch

Ugh! It did not take long but the Election of '08 is gearing up to be a bunch of the same ol' sh&%. (Aren't you impressed with my language? That's what 6 years of grad school gets you!)

It all started while I was surfing the net and came across the McCain ad which compares Obama to Paris Hilton. I have to say, the spot actually made me giggle as I thought to myself, "No one is actually going to take this seriously, are they?" Well some people have. Obama found it in "pour taste," and the Hilton's weren't happy either. I found it much ado about nothing.

Then McCain accused Obama of wanting to raise our taxes. Obama accused McCain of the same thing. McCain denied and it said, "I will not raise your taxes." Ouch. John those could be your famous last words. Mostly because I think there is a reality that no one wants to hear. Are you all ready . . .

No matter who becomes president, your taxes are probably going to go up.

Why is that? Because the US is TRILLIONS of dollars in debt. Dude, I am not speaking figuratively. Literally the US is TRILLIONS of dollars in debt. Do you know how many zeros that is? 12!?! In high school business class I learned that you cannot spend more money than you make. However, this basic business lesson seems to have escaped our representatives in DC.

How can the government get out of this hole? Cutting spending would be a start. I would not want to make those cuts: education, medicare, defense budget, roads and bridges. Where would you start? Bush obviously thinks he should spend more because he gave everyone $300. Way to go, fiscal responsibility. Another option might be to raise taxes, which is also not a very popular idea, especially with the country in a recession.

This is quite the pickle, eh? This is also why I don't run for public office and I cannot understand why we are talking about Obama and Paris Hilton.

There is a new movie coming out. It looks like it could be good. I.O.U.S.A.



PS Can you spot the movie references in this title? Also there was an 80's movie reference in the gardening post. If you figure it out, well, there is no prize, but I will be impressed!

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Pride of Wildeshausen?

Since having the baby, there are many nights when I like awake staring at the ceiling hoping, to no avail, that sleep will come. The only explanation for this insomnia is that I simply cannot turn my brain "off." I worry about the baby and if he is sleeping and when he will wake up. I worry about the laundry that I left in the washer. I worry that I worry too much. You get the picture.

In order to calm down in the evenings, I have started looking for distractions. Trashy novels were my mother's recommendation. Nothing by the Dali Lama or political tomes. Nope, the trashier the better. "Chick lit" if you will. (Boy do I hate that expression!) So I have been "dining" on meals of Marian Keyes with a side of Lauren Weisberger and just a bit of Plum Sykes. This might not be Dickens, but these ladies have helped me smile, relax and sleep a bit better.

Television is another distraction. My secret sin is good bad reality TV. Unfortunately, there is no good bad television here. It is all just plain bad. I have gone in search of something like the first few seasons of the U.S. versions of the Apprentice, Big Brother, or even Survivor. All I have found is Sarah and Marc in Love.

Sarah Connor, a local girl from Delmenhorst, is something of a celebrity here in Germany. She is a pop singer and has had several successful albums. Her music is okay, but I cannot forgive her version of "Son of a Preacher Man." That is my favorite song and I am a bit of a purist. Her husband, Marc, is American and also a singer. However, I have never heard of his music. They live here in Wildeshausen. Their reality show follows the ups and downs of love and life for these two kooky kids. What could go wrong?

Yuck. What could go right? First, all of the scenes of my lovely town have been deleted. Even though they have been seen filming around town, nothing has been featured on TV. In fact, Marc had the wall of a local parking garage spray painted in honor of his wife. Because nothing says love like vandalizing public property. Anyway, the day of the "unveiling," the MAYOR came by, posed for pictures and gave Sara a lovely bouquet. None of this made the final cut.

The second big problem is that the people featured in the show are BORING! Because Sara and Marc don't really do much, we get lots of shots of Sarah's sister Lulu, as she tries to follow in her sister's footsteps and become a professional singer. Sadly Lulu does not have much of a voice and the personality of warmed meatloaf. Marc and Sara's staged love declarations are also a bit lame. Finally, Marc's German is bad. No, REALLY bad. He makes me sound like a German professor. After a few attempts, I just had to turn the crap off. Instead of relaxing me, it just got me wound up.

When I first moved to Wildeshausen, friends made jokes about me becoming neighbors with these "Promis." Let me just set the record straight, they were not a factor in our decision to move here.