November 30, 2009

Wish I could help out

Liam appears to be dropping his nap (noooooo!), and now that I've said it out loud on the internet it'll probably be true (noooooo!), and it is causing all kids of wee angst and drama. At kindergarten he's got the option to lie down after lunch, but he's apparently not availing himself of the opportunity lately. By the time C or I picks him up after class/work, he's too tired to deal reasonably with the little injustices of life, like "yes, you have to put your shoes on" or "now it's time to get out of the tram". Poor kiddo, he seems so overwhelmed. Tonight, he fell asleep right after we got home, at 5:30, before dinner, and judging from the times he's done this before, he'll sleep right on through and be unbelievably cheerful, but ravenous, in the morning.

He had a maddening phase of passive-resistance protest last year about this time, where he'd sink to the sidewalk in a boneless pile if he didn't want to do whatever. Yes, even if it was snowing. Yes, even into a puddle. Yes, especially if there were concerned-looking strangers around to judge us. I have no idea why it ended: I'd think our concerted, united front of "that won't get you what you want" would have had quicker results. He's a persistent kid.

This is different, though, and I think the only way out is through: if he's really not napping at school, then he'll adjust (eventually?), with hopefully less of the public fit-throwing and being so tragic about things. The 13-hour nights of sleep are pretty impressive, though, and I'm more than a little jealous.

November 29, 2009

Change of seasons

One of the things I've liked about our new location has been the local-ness of the food. Although you can get apples from Chile or avocados from wherever they grow evil, rock-hard avocados, most of the produce is grown here, or in Italy, Spain, or Holland. The downside to that is that when something goes out of season here, it's pretty much gone from the store. The upside is the giddy overabundance when foods come into season. The first asparagus last spring was a cause for celebration, and I've been so happy to see squash in stores lately.

Local Christmas tradition brings its own food too: the Weihnachtsmarkt in town just opened this week, with little booths selling bratwurst, giant ginger cookies, and long-awaited gluehwein. I had accepted that summer was over (it ended like a light switch had been thrown - the humidity vanished, a breeze set in, and summer was done), but the transition from autumn to winter has been more gradual. I hadn't quite realized how many of the signs were there, but the Christmas market, along with the last of the apples falling out of our trees and the drearily early sunsets, has finally tipped me over the edge.

So bring on winter! I'll get out the big pot and make some soup, and knit up some new hats, and lay in a supply of new books for Liam for days when it's too cold to go play in the yard. The coziness of winter is one of the best parts of it, though the beginning of spring is even better.

November 28, 2009

Public transportation, private space

The first time I moved to Germany (in 1999), I was absolutely flattened by culture shock. I hadn't spent that long learning the language, and thought everyone sounded so angry all the time. I couldn't figure out why shopkeepers always had to say hello and goodbye to everyone who came in, and I could not imagine why people were content going to 13 different specialty shops every day instead of one big all-in-one store. What a crazy place! What a waste of time! And then I started doing it too, and when it was just the way things were instead of some weird new requirement, it was fine. Yeah, American grocery stores freaked me out a little when I moved back the next year.

My most persistent culture-shock issue this time around has been the lack of personal space afforded in public. People step right in front of you to get on the bus, they'll stand unbearably close in line, and (most maddeningly) they get up early on the tram, walk over to the door, and loooooom over you until you let them stand closer to the door, even though you're still two blocks before the stop. Where do they have to be that's important enough to climb over a stranger to get there?

Interestingly enough, though, nobody talks to strangers on the tram. I may get jostled when the tram fills up, but I've never been asked what I'm listening to, or what I'm reading, or what my phone number is. My personal-space bubble may be small, but apparently it's soundproof. Liam is the exception to this rule: he says hi to people, particularly old ladies and babies, and is actually pretty good at making conversation ("I'm going to kindergarten. My socks have pirates on them!"). He's the quickest way to draw attention in public, and is pretty charming about it.

November 27, 2009

Conflicted consumerism

I like the concept of Buy Nothing Day; I'm pretty anticonsumerist normally*, and I feel like reporting on Christmas shopping has taken this nasty turn, with stories built completely around companies needing to make half their yearly gross in December, and profits are down from this time last year, and you people need to go spend money or the economy will fall apart and it will be your fault!

This morning, I had failed at BND by 9:30 AM, and spent the next little while enjoying my capitalist-consumerist-traitor chai and wondering if it mattered that much. I'm not in the US, and today is just another Friday here, not the shopping-pocalypse. I'm not making a Statement to the German public if I don't go all out with the Black Friday madness: nobody else here is going shopping at 4 AM either, because that's crazy. Incidentally, you really don't want to take me shopping with a gajillion other people at 4AM. I'm grumpy enough about crowds and shopping when I'm awake.

*I think of this as simple pragmatism, because I don't see any point in trying to join a game I can't really compete in. This is actually a big leap in maturity, and not just foot-stompiness, as previously I didn't see the point in playing a game I couldn't win. If status can be bought, but I'm never going to have enough money to be Important, why play? Why give other people's opinions of me that kind of power? Since the goalposts will always be moving, why sign up for a life of feeling inadequate?

November 25, 2009


There are a lot of birthdays this time of year (including mine), and I've always thought it was fun to have a bunch in a row. When I was a kid, my friend R's birthday was not too far from mine, and my second cousin (my mom's mom's brother's son) and a baby at church had the same birthday as me. My friend K and I had back-to-back birthdays all through grad school, and four of us in my current research group have birthdays within a couple of weeks.

There's a well-developed birthday ritual here: you bring cake, everyone else in the group surprises you with a present, everybody wins. We gave K a periodic-table shower curtain, K a toaster, and S enough limes and other things to keep her in caipirinhas for a while. They gave me a huge ball of this hilarious pompom yarn that's meant to be made into a garter-stitch scarf. I started it yesterday (and actually, S went out and got herself a ball and already made a scarf), and it is so poofy and fluffy and funny. I would not have bought novelty yarn for myself, so this is really fun.

November 24, 2009

New perspective

It took me most of a year to get around to calling the dentist my co-worker R suggested shortly after we moved here, mostly out of a lack of momentum. There's nothing wrong, so what's the rush? C's devotion to all things dental-hygiene got me moving eventually, though, and Liam really loved his turn as the center of attention in the big chair.

The dentist wanted to replace my (5-year-old) fillings, and that seemed like a fine plan. But. The tooth waaaaay in the back is not happy with the change. It's achy when I eat anything cold, and there's this amazing stabby pain if I chew with it. I called this morning, when I'd had enough, and went in at the end of the day. I got a good look at an x-ray, and the filling itself was solid, but it was kind of close to a nerve. The dentist thought she should take it out (which I was all for, because nothing that hurts like that can stay in my head), but when she did, she found out that it wasn't just close to a nerve - the nerve was exposed.

She poked it a couple of times, causing the weirdest feeling way down in my jaw, and when I made the eyes-bugged-out what was that? face, she got a mirror and started pointing things out to me. On the inside of my tooth. Which I didn't know had so much empty space in it, yikes. Apparently I would not make a good dentist.

So, to sum up:
  • Irritated nerve in my tooth=bad
  • New filling=hopefully a calmer nerve
  • Otherwise=root canal
  • My record of getting my money's worth out of dental insurance=unbroken

November 22, 2009

Looks like I picked the wrong day to stop sniffing glue

Or the wrong month to write something optional every day. I'm totally obsessed with my deadline (tomorrow!). On the bright side, starting tomorrow I'll have a different, still close, deadline. Woo?

November 21, 2009

International Thanksgiving!

That's right, I did a low-effort non-post and then skipped the next day. This is why I'm a terrible diarist: I get caught up in living my life and don't want to detach and write about it. That, and I'm tired at the end of the day.

I figured out what it was I was going to write about Thursday: private space in public transportation. I have opinions! I guard my personal space jealously! I'll pick this back up later this week.

What I could have written yesterday goes something like this:
For several years now, ever since we moved 2 states away from our families, C and I have done Thanksgiving with a group of friends. Everybody brings something that's special to them from their family's get-togethers, hosting rotates so nobody gets stuck hosting 25 people every year, and everyone rolls home with leftovers afterward. A word of advice: invite someone from New Mexico to Thanksgiving this year. Our friend KT's green-chile cornbread is great, and is a big reason I'm wishing we could be "home" this week.

We're keeping up with the theme this year, extending our family to people near us, though the ingredients will be different: some of C's classmates will be coming over Saturday. They're bringing foods that are typical from their families, but their families are in Japan, Taiwan, and Serbia (and maybe Brazil).

Today I made cranberry sauce (I found cranberries at the grocery store last month, at the grocery store I almost never go to, and I was so excited I bought three bags), and tonight we're making apple pie and pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie is a sticky point with non-Americans: if they haven't tried it, they tend to look at you like you're crazy for suggesting it. C's classmate whose spouse works for the US military here (and who therefore has PX access) surprised him with a can of pumpkin last week, so here's hoping the pie goes over well.

November 19, 2009

Ceci n'est pas un post

I'm not writing anything tonight. Nope. Nothing. I'm tired, and I'm going to sleep. I had a good idea for a post earlier, but I didn't write it down and now I've forgotten it.

I'm pretty sure this sort of thing is cheating at NaBloPoMo, but I don't mind - if the Internet Awesomeness Enforcers come to get me, I'm pretty sure I've got bigger problems than uncreative blogging.

November 18, 2009

Turn it around

I had a really frustrating time this morning, between the post office's short hours, some badly timed clumsiness, missing two trams and a bus all at the same time, and yet another trip to the store for yogurt. During my third attempt to get into the post office, when it was only 5 minutes until opening, it occurred to me that I could be feeling better just by being less outwardly grumpy. Instead of sighing and checking my watch four times and rolling my eyes, I smiled at the other people in line. Fake it until you make it, right?

I had a similar realization at work: in the proposal I'm writing, I've been stuck on the last section, trying to find the right way to say that the current state of the field I'd like to get involved in is not good enough, and that I'd do things differently, and ask the relevant questions, and get the more useful results. It kept coming across badly, though, and trying to read the section from a reviewer's perspective I was really put off by the negativity. I switched the perspective to "hey, some work has been done already, and I'll expand on it as follows:" and it got so much easier, both to write and to read.

November 17, 2009

Basically a placeholder

I was listening today to the episode "This American Life" recently devoted to health-care reform, and I got totally hung up on one thing in the last story. It is generally about the negotiations between insurance companies and hospitals, and the reporter and the economists he speaks to assert multiple times that the real problem with the current healthcare system in the US is that patients don't care what procedures cost; that we're all wasting insurance companies' money on unnecessary tests and treatments. Apparently, if we had to pay some fraction of the cost for every procedure, we wouldn't go frivolously having biopsies and taking maintenance medications.


I really don't have time to get into this tonight, but I am writing up some thoughts (including every Professional Scientist's favorite complaint, that a test that returns a negative result is not a waste of time, it is still valid data) and will say more another day. This is an area where I have a hard time staying removed from the issue: it feels so personal and immediate, what if I was in that situation?

November 16, 2009

It's my birthday!


I always loved my birthday as a kid; I've pretty much always been up for a party with happy people and snacks. I always used to wish that my birthday was during baseball season, but even if the M's had made the post-season back then (ahahahahahaha), it still would have been over by now. As a kid with a November birthday, you can't really go to the park or go swimming for your party, so what do you do? Some birthdays that stick out in my memory involved going to movies, hosting sleepovers (with movies), and staying inside, hula-ing around in fake grass skirts, and eating pineapple upside-down cake (still a great idea, mom!).

These days it's more of a re-evaluation kind of day: I don't really go for New Year's resolutions, but a birthday is a good reminder that I've been somewhere and done something in the past year. I'm not the same person I was last year at this time. So what have I learned this year?
  • Don't move via airplane. Didn't I already learn this one 10 years ago? Apparently not.
  • Stop editing so much and just do it already. This is more of a work-related lesson, but also speaks to my tendency to think everything to death, and then not do unexpected new things.
  • Brussels sprouts are good. Especially roasted with bacon and walnuts. This is something Chris has been trying to tell me for years: you have to try the new food before you decide you don't like it.
  • Be happy. When things are good, enjoy it! At the very least it'll build up your reserves of Zen for the next time everything unexpectedly catches fire right before a deadline.

November 15, 2009

I don't think that's how the song goes

We just got back from our first attempt to take Liam to a concert, and oy. It went pretty much like we expected, but how can sitting still be so hard to do? C's language school has a choir, directed by one of his instructors, and he's been meaning to go to one of their performances for a while now. Assuming we'd have to duck out early, but figuring it would be an adventure at least and a good time at best, we took off at 5 to get dinner and go to a 7:00 concert. We just missed the tram, naturally, but the walk into town was nice. We got to the train station just in time to rush for the bus, and the sight of C dodging through the crowd with Liam on his shoulders saying "wheeeeee" was great - I hope the other people around enjoyed it too.

We made it about half an hour into the concert itself, and then Liam got squirmy. We mostly kept him from flopping around like a fish on a dock until we could duck out at the next break, but I feel a little bad for the people behind us, who were having a hard time seeing the choir over the rising cloud of mutual frustration. Once we were out and headed home, Liam was under the impression that he had had a really good time. There was singing! People clapped! We have been informed that he will be playing us music, and we will need to sit still and listen, and then we can clap for him.

By the time we were in the tram headed back out to our neighborhood, he was singing. A...modified version of "Mary had a little lamb", because he gets stuck repeating the first two lines and can't make it to the end, and because he doesn't quite know the words. There tends to be a lot of "Everywhere Mary went, Mary went, everywhere Mary went, Mary went, everywhere...", but tonight's version was about me for some reason, and included the lyrics "Mama laughed and play, laughed and play, Mama laughed and play..." and "All the way, Mama went, Mama went, all the way - why you laughing?" Awesome.

Whoops, I missed one

I'm writing for a deadline, which is something I only do a few times a year, and it's got me a little wound up. I spent most of yesterday at work, and got a decent amount done. There's something about a totally empty building that helps disparate thoughts come together - maybe it's the opportunity to talk to yourself?

By the time I got home, it was time to make dinner, then time to put Liam to bed, then uuughghghghghghgh that was not how bedtime was supposed to go. Not a lot of interesting material for this space here, but I will try to make up for it with two posts today. First up: a list of things I want to bring back with me from my next trip to the States. In my last few trips I stocked up on lip balm, toothpaste and yarn, but there's always something else I wish was easier to find.
  • Baking soda (it's hard to find here)
  • Books (can't go anywhere without collecting books)
  • Tums (the fruit kind are like a food group for me)
  • Weird, it was a lot easier to come up with this list last time

November 13, 2009

Lucky timing

Lately, especially since the switch from standard to daylight savings time (or was the switch the other way around? I can never remember), I've been picking Liam up from kindergarten at dusk. We walk over to the train station to get our tram, and sit on a bench and wait. Often he wants to sit on my lap and just watch the world go by, and if we're lucky we'll see the big flocks of crows that swirl around above the city looking for a place to land for the night.

Last night we left a little later than usual (or maybe the birds cue off of sunset, which is getting earlier?), and the birds had made it over to the church where the kindergarten is. Liam got about two steps outside the door before pointing up and shouting "Look! Birds!" We watched them gradually settle onto the long ridge on the top of the building, and were turning to go when a treeful took off again and startled the rest back up into the air. It was really mesmerizing, and I'm glad we were there at just the right time.

November 12, 2009


I wrote about Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals the other day, and lo: the excerpt I wrote about, that I thought hadn't gotten enough attention in the reviews, is in a Writer's Block podcast I just downloaded. It's really moving to hear him read such personal stories in his own voice.

Yesterday's festivities were a lot of fun: the kids had all made paper lanterns, and were so excited to have the teachers put little tea lights inside. We went around the neighborhood and stopped every few blocks to sing a song. We didn't have an audience per se, but Liam has been learning the songs for weeks and singing them at home, and he had a great time. C and I talked to one of the teachers, who was surprised to hear that we don't do Martinstag in the US (though he seemed happy that we do caroling at Christmas).

November 11, 2009

Vacation day

Well, not really. I've got a looming deadline and a stifling case of detail-itis: I need to write a general introduction, a few overview paragraphs and some specific plans, but I am having a hard time backing up far enough to gain perspective. I wound up working from home today, and the change of scenery (and the ability to take a nap) made a big difference. I did bail on both my Wednesday meeting, though. Sorry, guys.

Tonight is Liam's kindergarten's St Martin's Day parade, and they've been getting ready for a while now. The kids all painted paper lanterns, and have been learning songs, and we'll go out at the end of the school day and walk around the neighborhood caroling. There are treats and gluehwein for afterward, and hopefully it will be a lot of fun.

November 10, 2009

Natural remedy

It's very thoughtful, when I've got a cough (and a sore throat after this morning's impromptu lecture), that the world has turned itself into a humidifier for me. With the appropriate application of caffeine and a little time to refocus my thoughts, I might even have my brain moving again by the end of the day.

November 9, 2009

Food and memory

Some (not totally connected) thoughts about food as personal history:
  • I have yogurt for breakfast every morning (except some weekend mornings, if C makes pancakes or eggs). We all do - Liam likes pretty much any kind (two kinds together if possible), with frozen raspberries and musli, C likes a lot of musli and apricot yogurt, and I like vanilla with a little musli. When I was a kid, vanilla yogurt with sliced banana was my mom's territory, something she didn't have all the time, but would have if she got the chance. I feel a connection to her in staking out the vanilla yogurt as "mine".
  • Shrimp casserole was also a rarity, and a big favorite of mine (all that cheese!), so I made a version of it last night: switch the rice for pasta, the cheddar for an emmental/gouda mix, the soup for heavy cream steeped with garlic and sauteed onions. Just like when I was a kid - but totally different. It turns out that Liam is a huge fan of shrimp; we may have to move closer to the ocean.
  • I've read reviews of Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals, and they all bill it as stark anti-factory farming, conscience-shocking reporting. Truth, in other words, and high moral principle, and would that we all had the time and resources to live by our principles all the time. The excerpt I've read from the book was hardly mentioned in the reviews: Foer's hesitation and guilt at moving away from family food traditions in pursuit of vegetarianism. He tells this story by writing about his grandmother, who fled the Holocaust, who lived miserably but escaped in the end, who spent his childhood feeding him as much as possible, sweeping him off his feet in hugs so she'd know he was gaining enough weight. This is no cliched "what will I bring to Thanksgiving?" whine, and his conclusion is hopeful, forward-looking and old-fashioned: in his family, he will do his best to do the right thing. Food memories and bonds formed depend less on what's for dinner, and more on the time spent and care taken.

November 8, 2009

Well, that's a new twist

For years I have had this recurring dream, where I'm in a totally empty high-rise building and I can't get away from a tyrannosaurus. Go up the stairs, duck around the corner, look up - and it's there. Through the door, up higher, stop to catch my breath - now it's closer. It never eats me; the futile cycle of panic & run -> think I'm safe -> see the tyrannosaurus again just repeats until I wake up and think "Wow, I must be anxious about something. Better figure out what to do tomorrow."

Last night brought a new version of the dream: the dinosaur and I were out in town, with a lot of people around, and I had Liam with me. Same rules as always, can't ever get away but don't ever get eaten, but a lot harder to shake when I woke up. Subconscious: what are you trying to tell me?

November 7, 2009

Is this a test?

Where in the kid contract does it say that they can only get sick on Saturday night? Seriously.

November 6, 2009


C and I started watching 6 Feet Under a while ago, and we raced through the first two seasons. What did that mean? What will she do? Why don't the people in this show ever just talk to each other? There isn't a clear narrator or protagonist among the characters; they're all partly understandable and partly awful, obviously still growing and still lost in some aspects. The characters seem like real people, albeit real people you don't want to be. (Aside: apparently this device works well on me. I like reading Margaret Atwood, but I can't think of a character in any of her books I've read that I'd want to be.) There were four seasons of the show on itunes, so we figured that the end of season 4, which is dark and unresolved and uncomfortable, though perfectly executed, was the end of the show.

But it wasn't! The last season is for whatever reason not available on itunes, but I got a copy while on a work trip to the States, and it is depressing. Grindingly hopeless. I feel reluctant to watch more episodes because the characters all feel so doomed. If the show turned around at this point and headed for a happy ending, it would feel dishonest, but I am so disappointed that characters who started out on such hopeful trajectories have gone into these short-sighted self-absorbed spirals. The characters who have made progress from their neurotic beginnings feel like they're in a holding pattern right now, too - one, being stuck with a big, rash, decision she made, is resentfully right back where she started, and the other, though he is immeasurably more honest and happy than ever before, is still under a cloud of tension and uncertainty. Effective storytelling, because these aren't real people, but I feel so invested in their fictional lives.

November 5, 2009

What do I read?

My online reading habits drift, partly as I find new sites I like, and partly because I'm one of those people who gets overwhelmed by bad news. I used to read some of the big-name feminist blogs (Feministe, Feministing, Pandagon) all the time, but stopped when it started to get me down that they were all reporting the same frustrating, sad stories. I'm at about that place with Shakesville, which is a real shame because the community there is very tightly knit, but the focus of the site is maybe too honest for me. A frank look at the world, from the perspective that people deserve to be treated fairly, gets to be too much when society refuses to play by the rules. I have picked up good habits from reading there, and at Shapely Prose - I can't even read the body-snarking comments at Project Rungay or the "I'm so fat" contests in some of the Jezebel threads, because they're so obviously wrong after just a little time in body-shame-free environments.

I can be a real news junkie at times - I was completely addicted to 538 in the month before the last presidential election, and the level of detail in FireDogLake's coverage of congressional hearings and debates is a great antidote for me to the hopeless superficiality of TV news. Lately, though, I'm getting that feeling again, where opening up a lefty news aggregator like Crooks & Liars creates this heavy feeling in my chest, where I wonder what's gone wrong since the last time I checked the US news.

Fortunately, news isn't the only thing on the internet: although I do research in physical science, I like to read about literature, history and philosophy. Maybe I'm making up for the time I didn't spend learning those things in college? Edge of the American West and Crooked Timber discuss a lot of subjects I don't know a lot about, usually with a good amount of backstory and nuance, and while I don't know what Michael Berube is talking about in his "Theory Thursday" posts, the thread about the Golden Compass series gave me a sci-fi/religious philosophy reading list that would take months to get through. I also used to read Language Log regularly, but quit when the "grumpy old man who doesn't allow comments on his posts" contributor started getting more airtime than the computational linguists.

I also read very little about my field, or those related to it, online. I don't think the blog environment works well for real science education: there isn't the time, or the possibility of real-time interaction, that make science education work. The surface-skimming of popular science reporting grates on me a bit, too: when I write for and read journals, it is with great care and precision, and blog-format writing doesn't have the time for all that. For me, the details are the interesting bits. There is also a little professional jealousy in action here, I should admit, because my subfield is only a little bit cool, and doesn't get the kind of attention or money that follow the sexier specialties.

November 4, 2009

Very creative

I was on my way home from work last week, walking the 4 or so blocks from the tram stop to our house, when I saw a man riding a bike with one of those child trailers attached. My first thought was the same as it always is when I see one of those contraptions: Kids at car-wheel-height! Those things terrify me! I was enormously relieved to look closer and realize that the trailer was completely full of cases of beer. When it's socially normal to go to the store without a car, and also normal to buy water and beer 20 liters at a time, people sure do get creative.

November 3, 2009


I have a deadline tomorrow, and really ought to be working on that instead of reading, but this article at Jezebel is so resonant for me, for a lot of reasons. It makes me wonder if I should go back to the used bookstore I was at on Saturday and buy that 100-Euro 1929 edition of A Room of One's Own. It reminds me of a story my friend L tells, about deciding she'd rather teach than do high-profile research, but being afraid to break the news to her internationally-famous research-powerhouse graduate advisor. The advisor, a woman who has been extremely dedicated to her research for many years, and who is very shrewd and direct, looked straight at my friend and told her "Well, we should make sure you're the best teacher you can be, then."

Permission to succeed. Just when you think you've gotten beyond working for gold stars on a chart, for proud looks from your parents and good grades, that little phrase blows it all away. I definitely want other people to think the work I do is interesting. It doesn't make it any more interesting for me, but the external approval tells me I don't have to prove that my work matters: smart people think I'm interesting! The sociology of research science, especially in my little specialized corner, is very complicated, and is strongly skewed by insecurity. Senior people who take the time to give serious advice, who think to ask junior people about subjects they're knowledgable in (as though they're already experts!), can make a big difference. Here's to good mentors, and good influences.

November 2, 2009

Local customs

I wasn't sure whether people did Halloween here, so I wasn't really sure what we should do - get Liam all excited, only to discover that none of our neighbors is expecting trick-or-treaters? Keep it quiet, and then feel like the boringest parents ever when all the other kids at Kindergarten have costumes? There weren't a lot of pumpkins in the grocery stores, so when we saw a good-looking one we grabbed it. Liam did not want to help scoop out the inside, but he was pretty excited to draw a face on the pumpkin and pop out the little pieces after I cut them.

We've dressed Liam up for Halloween before, first in a little pirate costume we bought (and then used as pajamas for months - arr, sleepy pirate), and the next year I made him a hooded sweater with ears and a tail and called it a puppy costume, and he wore that for a long time too. In early October I was trying to think of something I could make in time, and I had a short list together: we have doctor dress-up stuff, or I could buy a black hoodie and fuzzy white fabric and make a skunk costume, or maybe I could make a spider costume? On a whim, I asked Liam what he wanted to dress up as, and he immediately said "a Christmas tree!" It's a great idea, easy to make from stuff we have, visually clear, and potentially confusing for the kids at Kindergarten who weren't expecting Christmas to start for a while yet.

We put our pumpkin outside with a candle in it, opened our front gate, set out a few more candles (since we can't figure out how to make our porch light stay on), and lo and behold, we got trick-or-treaters! They were mostly groups of little kids with a couple of adults, and they'd crowd up our steps and shout "Suesses, sonst gib'ts Saures" (basically "treat or trick"), then happily bounce off with their candy to the next house. Once I knew there were kids going around our neighborhood in costumes, I took Liam out, and it turned out that we'd done exactly the right thing in putting our pumpkin and candles outside: every other house in our neighborhood was either buttoned up tight or had put out a pumpkin and candles as an invitation. People were really nice, and though Liam was initially a little shy about knocking on people's doors and then talking to them, once he got the idea that they would give him candy, he was all for it.

Even though we've been here a full year, there are always new surprises, things we expect but don't happen, or things that are so obvious to the locals that they aren't mentioned, and then we're left to scramble. We've been surprised by Reunification Day (at the beginning of October) two years in a row now, because everyone knows about that (so nobody needs to remind you it's coming up). We've gotten better at improvising on unexpected holidays (when every shop in town is closed), but I still feel the American calendar more strongly than the German calendar. Anyone want to come over for Thanksgiving?

November 1, 2009

New project!

I saw it mentioned somewhere that November is "NaBloPoMo" now, so that all of the people who make themselves crazy during NaNoWriMo or NaKniSweMoDo can keep the crazy going by posting every day. It sounded interesting, since (as we have previously noted) I am a terrible correspondent and a worse diarist: converting blog posting into a new project and a challenge instead of a reminder of how looooong it had been since I wrote a post about how looooong it had been since I wrote a post. What could go wrong?
So I logged in to the old blog and went to make a list of things that would make good posts, and...what are these ads? Where's all the stuff I wrote in the last year? Oh, hey, we forgot to re-register the domain names (in, like, September. I guess it has been a while since I posted anything), and some company grabbed both our domains in the hopes that we'll pay them lots of money to get them back.
Good luck with that, jerks.
So hopefully this will be fun, and not just a series of notes about what I had for breakfast (though, for the record: it's yogurt. It's always yogurt. Actually, that would make a good post, because I have a few things to say about yogurt). Coming up: German ingenuity, office finches, yogurt and memory, and my birthday!