Monday, November 28, 2005

Going out, Falling in Love, and the Secret to a Happy Marriage

Here's a little summary of my night life in the recent years with relationship to childbearing:

Pre-children: party party party concert concert party wahoo!

Baby Number One: Temporary party pause. Baby sleeps in own bed, is weaned from breast, mama can party on, wahoo! She can't go out with her husband anymore because one always has to be at home looking after the nest, but she can party nevertheless. Come home from party, take two showers to get rid of awful smoky smell, and drink water with two aspirin in the morning. Everything good.

Baby number two: Indefinite party pause. Mama no party. Papa no party. Even if baby is weaned and in own bed, Mama too tired to go out. Smoky clubs no fun. Standing at concerts no fun. Small talk waste of very, very precious time. Need to do laundry anyways.

But this is no good really. We mamas need a break. We need to go out. We need time ALONE with our husbands (if we're ever gonna get more children...hee...hee...just kiddin'). But this is hard to do. You need time, babysitters, ambition. Because going out requires all this extra organization and build up, the event has to be really flippin' important to make a big nest escape worthwhile. We go out alone sometimes, but together, almost never. It has only happened once with a paid babysitter, and that was for a photoshoot=work.

BUT, tomorrow, our second official escape with a paid babysitter guarding our flock will take place. That will be to see Mark Kozelek (of Red House Painters fame) play at the Knaack Club. Boy am I excited. Since we have listened to his music since about 92 or something, we will feel like old farts hearing a retrospective, but that is okay. I don't mind. At least we'll be out. Together. Drinking beer. I'll let you know how it goes.

And speaking of wild youth and never going out with your husband, here is something interesting that came up in the news yesterday:

ROME (Reuters) - Your heartbeat accelerates, you have butterflies in the stomach, you feel euphoric and a bit silly. It's all part of falling passionately in love -- and scientists now tell us the feeling won't last more than a year.

The powerful emotions that bowl over new lovers are triggered by a molecule known as nerve growth factor (NGF), according to Pavia University researchers.

The Italian scientists found far higher levels of NGF in the blood of 58 people who had recently fallen madly in love than in that of a group of singles and people in long-term relationships.
But after a year with the same lover, the quantity of the 'love molecule' in their blood had fallen to the same level as that of the other groups.

The Italian researchers, publishing their study in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, said it was not clear how falling in love triggers higher levels of NGF, but the molecule clearly has an important role in the "social chemistry" between people at the start of a relationship.

So, now we know why a lot of people can't seem to make it past that point in a relationship when the obsessive love craze part starts to die down and transform itself into something a little more...well, shall we say...settled?

And speaking of settled, we rented In Good Company the other night, with Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, and Scarlett Johansonn. The best line of the film came from Quaid's character, when he was describing the secret of a happy marriage to the younger, Topher's character. "Pick the right person to be in the foxhole with you. Then, when you're out of the foxhole, keep your dick in your pants." That sounds about right.

Gotta go. There is a little baby fox sucking on my back.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Bugaboo Update, The Big Move, Closet Ambitions, and Friendly Omas

I can't find much time to do some old fashion blogging. Free time is very limited in Mama Jens' world. During the day when the baby naps or at night when both sleep, there are millions of things to do. My husband doesn't understand why I don't take a nap during the day...hmmm...I wish I could. I really should actually. My little one is awake so much at night these days. She cries, nurses, cries, nurses, nurses, nurses. And I feel (and look) like a train wreck when I wake up from all that. Its a good damn thing she's cute.

A little update on the Bugaboo, or lack thereof... I am pleased to report that we bought the Chicco London stroller over the weekend. I recommended this one way back in another post, and I can recommend it again. It is navy blue, very lightweight, has a reclining seat and a little footrest that goes up for when the baby falls asleep, and a basket on the bottom for your groceries, rejected pieces of apple, small carpets you find on the sidewalk, etc. Another perk is that it folds up small enough to fit in a car that is filled to the brim with a bunch of other shit, so that is quite nice too. That was kind of always a pain with the Bugaboo. And, it was only 84 euros (only 69 $ in the U.S.). It handles the Berlin obstacle-course style sidewalks well, and I enjoy carrying it up and down ubahn stairs, as it only makes my back hurt a little.

As for the Bugaboo, we were pretty convinced we caught the Big Ass Thief. We found a Bugaboo on Ebay that went up the same night ours got stolen and it didn't come with all the stuff it should have. We followed up and it turns out it wasn't ours. But, beware, Thief, we are checking every black Bugaboo that comes up on Ebay. We filed a police report too, which was a surprizingly easy and pleasant process. My husband just filled out this online form, and the next morning we got a follow-up call from the police, telling us they had our report and that Herr So and So was assigned to our case. Amazing, eh?

So, today, I started the excavation process on our closet. Holy freakin' hell. I learned a couple of things: First, we wear about 1% of our clothes. Two, my husband does not buy new clothes. And three, we're gonna need a dumpster for this project. We seriously have the same articles of clothing in there with which we came to Germany over 8 years ago. Some of the things even pre-date that move, meaning college, early 90's. Because of that fact, they have earned the respected title of "nostalgic retro items" and have been placed in the memorabilia pile.

And three more items of furniture have found new homes. Boy is this place gonna be empty soon. Yeehoo! Though we are doing this because we are moving in March, I would recommend it just for fun as well.

And I am starting to compile my list of "things I will miss and things I won't miss" list. It is a very strange feeling to be approaching this space of being inbetween lives. It has been so long since we lived in the U.S. and we are, in many ways, not too sure what life will be like there. We are very scared that we will get there and realize we have made a terrible, no good, very bad mistake. So, when we have those moments, we just go through the reasons why we are deciding to do this again, and conclude that it will all be fine. I think if we were going to a big city (NY, LA, SF), we would be a little more confident. But instead, we have opted for a smallish, very liberalish, university town, thinking that for the children it will be a better setting in which to grow up. The dirty, busy, loud, grey city setting is super when you're young and single and free and can actually go out at night. But with kids, its just sometimes plain stressful, and that is being said in a city that is actually pretty good when it comes to being child-friendly.

Man, is this random today or what?

On that note, I have to say that I have a few closet ambitions. Well, these aren't really ambitions as much as things I know I'd be pretty good at. One is to be a short-order cook. I am Speedy Mama Jens when it comes to whipping up meals in 0 to 60 seconds, and I think I'd be pretty good at something like that. It is a genetic thing, I think. Our family likes to cook, cook fast, and plan the next meal before the one being eaten is finished. The other thing I know I'd be good at is driving a taxi. (I bet that one threw you off), putting aside sense of direction of course. I am Racecar Mama Jens, zipping around the city like a flippin' bunny rabbit. I would love something like a Smart car. And then there is the Mama Jens Realtor Extraordinaire. I have this little obssession I have when it comes to real estate. It doesn't help that we are moving and will be looking at houses. I love houses, apartmnents, living spaces of all kinds. I could look at real estate until the cows come home. When I go to a foreign city, all I really want to do is hook up with a realtor and go looking at apartments. And then there is the whole Martha Stewart thing. Let's face it, Martha rocks. I think am her sometimes. We even have the same haircut. Big difference though is that when I burn something I say, "Fucking hell!" whereas she might say something like "Whoopsie Daisy!" Though now that I think about it, she probably says "fucking hell" too. She is a first rate criminal afterall, so there must be a little punk rock deep down in there.

And speaking of Martha Stewart, yesterday, my older daughter and I went to a hobby shop around the corner to gather supplies to make rubber stamps. The little one was all bundled, sleeping in her stroller. There was an older woman hovering around her, with a non-specific expression on her face. I thought, "Oh lordy, here we go. I'm gonna get a lecture from this Oma since I am doing something wrong, as usual." My mind started doing its Catholic thing. Oh no, she is too bundled. The snow suit, hat, scarf, blanket, and wool sack are too much. She is hot. She is overheating. Look, her cheeks are all red. Is she breathing? But then, I thought, "Oh, screw her (the old lady, I mean). She can make whatever comment she wants, bee-atch." So, I kept to my rubber stamping, and tried to ignore the hovering, the leaning close in, the peering under the glasses. After I paid, and was on my way to the door, she approached me. I got ready for my retort. She tapped me on the shoulder. She looked me straight in the eye. She held up her hand with that pointer and middle finger to thumb gesture, and she said, very dramatically, "Belllllisssssimaa!!!" I responded with a look of shock and confusion followed by a big proud smile. She said it again, loudly and whole heartedly, "Bellllissssimaaaa!!!!" I wanted to hug her and tell her my people were from Sicily and invite her over for pasta.

Have a nice Wednesday!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Goodbye Bugaboo

If you've been following my get-rid-of-a-thon, you'll like this one: Theft. Yeah, that's right, theft. Someone stole our Bugaboo stroller 2 nights ago. Can you imagine that? Now what kind of jackass steals someone's stroller? There I was, yesterday morning, crazy and totally sleep-deprived as usual. Had on the same dang clothes as usual (since clothes go from body to table by the wash machine and back to body the next day...sometimes they actually get a little spin in the wash machine for a change, but they certainly never make it from the drying rack to the closet, especially not in folded format) with a nice snot stain on the upper left corner near my shoulder where my little pride and joy's sweet little face rests. I am carrying bags, birthday presents, helmets, sticks, whatever, and its like 8:30 or something. I walk downstairs and the stroller is gone. GONE.

When something has been stolen like that, there is this whole psychological drama that gets played out. Of course there is the phantom idea...that it is still around - somewhere - and will return somehow (i.e., drop from the sky or the Big Ass Thief decides he/she can't take the guilt and returns it). Then there is the violation thing. Someone took my property...there were things under it in the little basket. Did the Big Ass Thief look through it and find any personal items, conjure up an image of his/her victim, or feel any sense of remorse? Then there's the sense-of-safety-and-security-suddenly-getting-called-into-question thing. My husband went out last night (bowling) and I was all whacked out in the apartment. Scared. Heebeejeebees. I thought that the Big Ass Thief must be hiding behind the curtains or under the bed or something and was just waiting to make his/her next move. I hid valuable items in strange places. And then there is the suspect issue. Now, suddenly, everyone that lives in this house is a suspect. I look at them all a little differently now, searching for something in their eyes, smiles, gestures that might suggest that the Big Ass Thief is actually closer than we think.

And then there's the more practical issue. Someone took my fucking stroller! That means that I have to figure out another way to haul all these dang kids from Point A to Point B. No easy task, I tell you. This morning, I put little darling on the bike seat, all bundled and helmetted. And big darling got on her own bike, also all bundled and helmetted. Then we drove the couple of kms to the kindergarten at about no miles per hour. Sloooooooooowwwwwwwww. OWWW! My legs hurt! My hat is covering my eyes! Ugh! My sock is slipping down in my boot! MOOOOOOOOMMMMM!!! You're going too fast! Holy flippin' hell.

And then there's the very sweet charitable side of me. This part says, oh dear...some poor soul couldn't pay rent this month, so he had to go out and find him a Bugaboo to sell on Ebay. Or...oh my, some poor couple just found out they are gonna have a little tyke, and they can't afford a the woman sent her husband out in the middle of the night to get them a REALLY EXPENSIVE DESIGNER STROLLER. Someone must have been really desperate....

And then, there's the Mama Jens Classic...this is the side of me that feels lighter than air the moment any physical object leaves my space. This is the side of me my older one must know best, because she said, "That's great that someone took it, Mama, since we are moving and would have to get rid of it anyways." She got extra kisses for that one.

So, Bugaboo, wherever you are out there, I will miss you dearly. You drove like a cadillac. I will think about you this winter when I am clunking along on the ever-so-even Berlin sidewalks with your replacement. I hope you find a good home on Ebay. Love, Mama Jens

Friday, November 04, 2005

Gingerbread and Christmas Politics

Happy Friday! Thanks to a little encouragement from Berlinbound
I will try not to be so Lazy with a capital Z this time and let my blog go abandoned. Just kidding about the lazy part, though. It is not an issue of laziness. It is an issue of not-being-able-to-sit-stillness. I am a freakin' nutball and doing something as stationary as blogging is very difficult. I feel the same way about television. Unless it is the MTV Music Awards (like last night!) or something very funny like Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat or Ali G or Dave Chapelle.

So if you check my blog and wonder where I am, I am racing around my house moving things from point a to point b much like a pacing, neurotic lion in a zoo, scrubbing little things here and there, wiping noses and asses, etc.

Here's what's been baking:

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup sugar or brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup light molasses

1. grease baking pan. combine flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, and baking soda.
2. beat shortening. add sugar. beat until fluffy. add egg and molasses.
3. add dry mixture and 1/2 cup water alternately to beaten mixture. beat after each addition. pour into prepared pan.
4. bake at about 200 c (350f) for 30-40 min. or until toothpick comes out clean.
5. serve warm, with whipped cream of course.

Lordy is that gingerbread ever good. Make sure you bake it for company or something, otherwise you'll eat the whole dang pan yourself. :)

So, on my way back from Kaiser's this morning, after having beamed at how close I am to getting that free frying pan with my collected hearts, and before hearing that flippin' song "Beautiful" for the upteenth time flowing out of a bakery as I passed by, I started to think about Christmas.

Every year I grapple with the same issue: Feed the commercial Christmas Frenzy or not. This is a hard one, and I'd love to hear your thoughts. I can just imagine that the pressure in the U.S. is about 50 times worse than here when it comes to buying buying buying at Christmas time. Christmas shopping has always struck me as a horribly hollow event. Of course, it can be exciting in one way, especially if you've found the "perfect" gift for someone. But generally, it can feel like just buying to have something to give to someone who might (probably) either recycle it and give it to Aunt So and So for her birthday next year, or put it into one of those closets or drawers of miscellaneous objects...and this is where I can't cope. This isn't to mention the time (wandering aimlessly through flourescent lit stores...headache...panic attack) and expense (so many relatives and so many friends, so little money) involved. So I offer the following solution...or at least this is how I subvert and/or deal with the Frenzy: Homemade presents, but good ones! The key is to start early.

One year we actually succeeded. We made a video, "The Day in the Life of 'FirstBorn'." It was all fancy filmed and edited with music and the family loved it. Being so far away, everyone really enjoyed seeing what our typical day was like, especially the layers and layers and LAYERS we had to put on her to ride her to kindergarten on the back of the bike during the winter. The best part, in a way, was that we weren't contributing to the Frenzy.

2 Years ago, for all my friends, I went to Ikea and bought these big, open-mouthed vases and filled them with all different kinds of cookies (baked of course...this is fun for the kids to watch and participate in too...having bajillions of cookies in your kitchen can only be an awesome experience.) Wrapped really nicely in clear wrapping paper and tied with ribbon, they were pretty, yummy, inexpensive, homemade, and didn't contribute to the Frenzy.

This year, I have another idea up my sleeve...nothing new, just we are going to actually do it, instead of talking about it like we do every year!! I will have to tell you after Christmas though!

But when it comes to the children, is there a way to avoid the Frenzy? I guess my feeling here is that I just don't think its necessary to overdo it. Our older one has never been too wired out at Christmas, and I am very happy about that. She always takes her time opening presents and often gets distracted playing for awhile and forgets the rest of the pile. We have to stop ourselves from saying, "okay, moving right along...there are still 87 presents over here..." Just kidding about the 87 part. One year, it took 3 days for her to open her presents. You are probably thinking...that is actually something to be concerned about rather than proud of! I think she just likes to savor things. When she wakes up on Easter or Christmas, for example, she likes to take a bath, have breakfast, get dressed, read some books, etc. before going out to check if Fictional Character so and so has eaten his carrots and left her some presents. She enjoys the excitment. She does this with a lot of things, mail she receives, for example. So much so, that she often forgets to open the letter.

And here's another thing: the idea of Santa Claus. Just call me a big ole freakazoid, but I have never been comfortable with the idea of lying to my child about the idea of Santa Claus or Easter Bunny, and soon, the Tooth Fairy. I thought this one out long ago, when our little one was actually still little. We discussed and discussed, but came to the conclusion that we would spoil it for others if we were to let our daughter in on the Big Lie. We'd get calls from other parents saying, can't you damn Communists just play along? Just kidding about the Communist part. So, here it is, five years of lying, and I have to say, I feel just awful about it.

I remember distinctly being 6 years old, living in Georgia, and one day at school hearing that Santa Claus didn't exist and that actually the parents were the ones that left the presents under the tree. I remember first being in denial, then feeling devastated. Could it be fun anymore? I called a conference with my mom in the bathroom. I wanted to know the truth. She gave it to me. It was one of those milestones of growing up, like losing your first tooth, or getting your period. There is this mixture of excitement, sadness, fear, disappointment. But every big event is like that (I am thinking about moving now) do we create these little scenarios as much for the fun as for the easing the children into the harder things in life? Its a little like all those damn scary Disney movies. I am always shocked at how scary these movies are. But my husband defends them (not Disney of course, but the archetypes and the darker sides of the story).

Okay, enough on Christmas for now. Have a great Friday.