Saturday, December 20, 2008

In One Piece

Yes, we did make it to the U.S. in one piece. Unfortunately, I left a little piece of myself all over United Airlines.

On Thursday morning the Dude woke up with no idea that the day would be filled with so much change and adventure. We left for the Bremen airport at 8am (German time). Even though I had called the airline twice over the past few months in order to reserve a bulkhead seat, they repeatedly told me that I could only do it when we checked in. In Bremen the Lufthansa representative could not access the United computer system and we had to take the seats that we could get. "Check in at the gate in Frankfurt. They will help you." Uh, huh. Sure they will.

Everything went really well with our Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt, but then it was pretty much down hill from there. At the Frankfurt airport we had no idea where our connection was and how to get there. We spent half an hour wandering aimlessly. Good thing that we had such a long lay over. The Dude slept for about an hour and we all had some lunch.

As I predicted, the gate only opened up an hour and half before departure time and I finally got an answer about the bulkhead seat. "Oh, no. Those are already reserved. You have to call in advance." "Really, that is not what they said the two times that I called." Economy plus was all they could do for us. When it was time to board the plane, there was no pre-boarding for people with small children. In fact, boarding was pretty much a free for all, with the German and the Dude getting trampled in the process.

The flight to DC was actually okay. I was surprised at how little turbulence there was. Unfortunately, the Dude could not figure out why everyone was awake and why we would not put him to bed. He fussed and cried and slept off and on for about three and a half hours before finally crashing somewhere over Greenland. And then I got sick.

I started vomiting over Greenland and continued to do so every 45 minutes for the rest of the flight. I felt TERRIBLE! The German looked at the baby and then looked at me and then looked at the baby. He could not figure out what to do.

When we landed in DC I managed to pull myself together to go through immigration and customs. Thankfully we had no problems. But I could feel the next wave of illness coming over me. The German, for some reason, was in good spirits. "Honey, how about a Mushroom Bacon Cheeseburger from Wendy's." Huh? I looked to my right and saw a picture that made my stomach turn for the 100th time that day. Seriously, who eats this stuff?

Even in lying in the DC airport transported on waves of nausea, I could still tell that something had changed in my homeland. Then I realized that it was the gate announcer that was bothering me.

"Now boarding all row. All seat. These flight are full." I turned to the German. "Sweetie, did the MLA do away with plural forms since we were here last?"

On the way to SC, the German and I had to sit in separate seats. Because he had an emergency row seat, I had to take the Dude on my lap. We both conked out from exhaustion on the runway. When we got in the air, I could feel the need for the bathroom. Luckily, I was sitting next to an angel in disguise. "Excuse me, ma'am, could you hold my baby for a minute so that I can go to the rest room." I passed over the Dude and went to do my business.

When I came back the Dude was still asleep in the woman's arms. She held him for about 40 minutes so that I could have a rest and we chatted. Turned out that she was on her way to visit her first grandchild. The Dude slept the entire time.

My mom was there to meet us in Charleston. She was more than happy to take the Dude so that I could go to the bathroom. Again. At home the Dude slept until 6am and is doing a good job of getting into a normal rhythm. I on the other hand spent entire first day at home lying on the sofa trying to keep water in my stomach.

Today everyone is doing a bit better and the weather here is WON-DER-FUL. But there are some changes around town which bother me a bit. But that I will blog about later. Right now, it is time for some pepto.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Buyer's Market

The German and I dream of one day buying a summer home in my home state of South Carolina. We would love to be able to spend 6 to 8 weeks a year relaxing in the sun, eating seafood and walking on the beach. When you are in your early 30's dreams like this are most definitely out of reach, but I am beginning to see a glimmer of hope.

Three years ago, the German and I saw the housing bubble bursting in Michigan. The development where my dad and Mom-squared bought a house stagnated. Nothing new was built. Houses stand empty and brand new (beautiful!) homes are losing value. As we drove around the mid-west, we saw this everywhere!

Now, bundling seems to be the least of our worries. Turns out that there are even more fishy loans out there. In the report below, the reporter projects that 8 million Americans may loose their homes in the next 4 years. Part of me feels sick about the thought of all those people on the street. But part of me is also salivating at the investment opportunities. Both of us have stable sources of income. The German is in no danger of loosing his job, and the demand for English teachers seem to be going up.

Is it so wrong for me to think that the opportunity to buy a second home is not too far fetched? It is wrong to want to get something while the getting is good? Don't worry. The German and I are not foolish people. In fact, the German is EXTREMELY cautious when it comes to money. I think he would only let me buy a home in the U.S. if we could put 50% down. Time to start saving my milk money.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Should have Known Better

By the time you reach the age of 30 you begin making a mental list of things you "know better." Rushing through the red light when in a hurry to get to work, for example. The police will stop you every time. In my case I know better than to trying to keep the pace with the German's Soccer Team. By keeping the pace, I mean alcohol. Last night was the annual Christmas party and true to form most of the team, and several wives, got very intoxicated. I know better than to try and drink that much, but I did it anyway.

This morning my body was not very forgiving. Mercifully the Dude was at Oma and Opa's house so he did not have to witness his mother trying to stuff a turkey at 7:45am while still possibly intoxicated. Oh, did I mention that I invited over the German's family for a pre-Christmas get together? Yes, getting drunk the night before throwing a dinner party is also something I know better. But I did it anyway.

We ate at 12:30 and by then I was a bit better and could keep down some food.

This week we are flying to the U.S. The Dude will get to spend his first Christmas in sunny SC. I probably know better, but I decided not to purchase him a seat. Children under 2 fly for free if you carry them on your lap. In an effort to save money, we went this route.

Any tips on travelling with an infant?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Natural Born Citizen

The Supreme Court turned down a NJ man's petition to throw out the 2008 election. Leo Donofrio argues that Obama cannot be president because he is not a "natural born citizen," which a requirement to be president. Because Obama was born to an American mother and a Kenyan father, he was a dual citizen and cannot be president.

The more that I read about this, the more absurd I found it. First, let's go to the primary source: the constitution. Article II Section 1 lists the requirements for the president:
No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States.
Note how ambiguous the language is. What the heck is a "natural born citizen?" This clause is often interpreted as meaning that only individuals born on U.S. soil can be president; naturalized citizens cannot (i.e. Arnold Schwarzenegger). However, it makes no mention of parentage. That is, does the individual born on American soil have to have two American parents?

If we turn to secondary literature, such as the Federalist papers, the founding fathers did not leave much evidence. Jay discusses the importance of the age requirement for the president but does not mention citizenship (Federalist 64). Hamilton, also an author of the federalist papers, surely would not have argued for two American parents. He was born out of wedlock in the British West Indies (the island of St. Nevis).

Given the ambiguity and the lack of guidance from the founders, most scholars would just stick with mainstream thought. Obama was born in Hawaii, a U.S. state, in 1961, which makes him a natural born citizen regardless of his parentage. Or was he . . .

The most ridiculous part of some of these lawsuits is that some conservative commentators argue that Obama was not born in Hawaii. His birth certificate is not real! No one is left alive to prove that he was born in Hawaii! Even though the state of Hawaii certifies his birth certificate and a birth announcement in a newspaper from that time was found, these rumors persist. It leaves me shaking my head.

No matter how you slice the pie, however, the Dude is not a natural born citizen. He was born in Germany. His father is German. Doh! I guess I will always have to tell him, "Sweetie, you can be anything you want in this world, but not president of the U.S. But who wants that job anyway?"

Stranger than Fiction (aka It's my Blog-a-versary)

You know what they say about how time flies when you're doing stuff? Well, they are not wrong. I had to work this past Saturday, but could not shake the feeling that I was forgetting something. Yes, it was St. Nicholas Day, but it was also my three year Blog-a-versary.

Many things have changed in three years: I quit academia, became a certified English teacher, started a company, dissolved a company, bought and renovated a house, moved, changed the blog's name and look, got pregnant, had a baby and I even baked a few things in between. I have written 343 posts and had about 54,000 visits to the site. Sure it sounds impressive, but realistically the vast majority of those visits were from my mom.

I get tired just thinking about it.

It all started with one little post three years ago. Back then my blog was called "My Euro-American Life." My quandary was what I would tell my child about the contradictory stories about Christmas that exist in Germany and the U.S. (You can read the original post here.) Three years ago I was thinking hypothetically. But now that I actually HAVE a kid . . .

The German and I talked about what we should start telling the Dude about Christmas. We know that it has to be a little logical because the Dude is not dumb. He often gives me this arched eyebrow look as if to say, "What are you talking about??" This is what we came up with.

Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the son of God, preached a long time ago about peace and love and the equality of men and women. There also exists a spirit of Christmas, St. Nicholas. A long time ago, he gave to poor children in what is now Turkey. Every Christmas hisspirit comes back to give toys to children. St. Nicholas cannot do it all at the same time so he has some helpers, such as Santa Claus. St. Nicholas visits children in Holland in the night on Dec. 5 and brings them presents. He comes to Germany, but only brings little things. Santa Clause goes to the U.S. on the evening of Dec. 24, as well as some other places. In Germany the Christmas Man and the Christ Child visit during the day. You, my little one are very special. You are German AND American. St. Nicolas will come visit and so will Santa Clause. However, they will only bring you gifts if you are a good little boy, kind and helpful.

What do you think? I am not too worried. We have a few years to get our story straight, but I want to be prepared for the assault of questions that I am sure to get.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Keeping up with Christopher

We hit another milestone here at Cheeseburgers and Sauerkraut. Over the past three weeks, the Dude has learned to pull himself to a standing position as well as open drawers and doors. Oh Joy.

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I am very proud. "Look what my Little One can do!" On the other hand, I am completely terrified. You can no longer leave the Dude in a room alone for a minute. I run around behind him with open arms going, "Don't eat that! Don't open that! Don't throw that! NOO!" I feel like a mean mommy, but I am trying to protect both him and my furniture. Somehow I think I might be losing the battle.

On Monday the Dude had a check-up. He clocked in at 30 inches and 21 pounds. Of course, he was a complete angel during the exam. The doctor was very kind. "He is definitely growing into a big boy!"

At this point they try to test his mental development by giving him blocks and having him up small objects. At first he would not take the blocks. He kept batting his lashes and smiling at the doctor. "Dude! It is not time to flirt! Pick up the blocks or she is going to write bad things."

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I (heart) Jon Stewart

One of the great things about the election was that I discovered tons of nifty stuff on the internet. Unlike ABC and NBC, you can actually access current episodes from the Comedy Channel while living in Europe (damn you server blocker!). The German and I took to watching Jon Stewart while eating lunch. For 2 weeks Jon was on vacation, and we went through a bit of withdrawal.

He is back now, and one reason that I love him, is that he can laugh at everybody. Bill O'Reilly tried to argue with his lack of balance, but Jon just laughed. "Dude, this ain't a news show!"

Monday, December 01, 2008

When it rains . . . throw a shower

Yesterday I hosted a Bridal Shower for the New Yorker. My friend and ex-business partner is getting married in just 3 short weeks. Although I do not talk about her much here (mainly out of respect for her privacy), she has been an important part of my life the past few years. In fact as unlikely as her story is, it is absolutely true.

Like many an ex-pat, the New Yorker came to Germany for love. After having enough of the rat race in NYC she decided to take a tour of Europe in 2000. During that trip she met a man. A German man. Itching for something new, she took him up on his offer to hang out in Germany for awhile. 3 months quickly turned into 4 years and she went from being an accountant to an English teacher.

We met 4 years ago at that "other" language school. I was supposed to observe her teach and she was to my supervisor in C-burg. When we met we instantly bonded. We were both American! And women! And the same age! And in Germany for the same reason! Trust me, at that time I did not meet many women in a similar place in life as me.

Unfortunately, the New Yorker's life hit a bumpy patch. Work was frustrating and unfulfilling and the relationship that had brought her to Germany was coming to an end. She did not know what to do next. I spent many hours listening, wishing that I could help.

I was also looking for something. Giving up academia left a hole in my life and as much as I like teaching English, I needed something more. Through our mutual frustrations, our language school was born. And it was great. Despite the work, it was a joy to go to the office and watch something grow.

And then I got pregnant. The New Yorker took the news a bit harder than I expected, but now I understand why. She had moved to C-burg for our little company, and she was very alone. For the first time she lived on her own. Work was great, but she did not have much of a private life. Let's also say that C-burg does not offer many opportunities for the young, American professional. During that time she even contemplated moving back to the U.S.

Enter the Doctor. As part of our "public relations" boost, we held a monthly English stammtisch at the local Irish Pub. That's right, there in an Irish Pub in C-burg. The Doctor had seen the advertisement and in June 2007 dragged a friend of his with him. He was born in Africa (to German parents) and speaks fluent English. Turns out that he was also frustrated with the limited social scene.

The New Yorker was hesitant. The Doctor was persistant. After a while I was consouling her on writing the best emails. By January 2008 they were living together, and now they are getting married.

For awhile she was the best bride. As with many professional women in their 30s, the New Yorker had given up hope of a husband and a family. I don't think she believed that it was all truely happening. However, her better judgement finally kicked in and she got everything planned. They are getting married in Florida, but we will not be able to attend. After spending 24 hours getting to the U.S., packing the Dude into a car and driving 9 hours just does not seem like a good idea.

The Bridal Shower was my way of sparking her bridal energy and participating. I feel terrible that I cannot go. The New Yorker was my boss and then my partner and now she is my boss again. When we ended the partnership, things were bad between us for awhile. But like good friends do, we found our way back to each other.

The shower was hysterical. The German women in attendance ate up all of the Americana, including the classic bridal shower game, "Toilet Paper Wedding Dress." I was pretty impressed by what they came up with. There were tears and smiles and it was a complete success, just as I am sure her wedding will be.