Friday, January 28, 2011

Foreigner Friday: The F-Word

I am going to make a very generalized statement:  Americans use a lot of profanity. Especially a certain four letter word that starts with ‘F’. I’m not saying that people in other countries cuss less- the Irish, British and Australians are quite capable in that area- but the Americans seem to be the masters. Germans really do not use profanity that often. If something bad happens, they usually will let out a “Scheisse!” (shit) for you, but that’s really as bad as it gets.
Please bear in mind that I am married to a man who has been in the Army for over 18 years. Before I moved to the States I actually believed that every American used the F-word about twenty times per sentence like my husband and his soldiers did. I was glad to find out that this was not the case. But an occasional “fuck” escapes almost every mouth in America every once in a while.
I actually don’t mind that at all. I’m quite fond of the word myself and have gotten accustomed to using it frequently- something I have to reverse now that I have children. So why do Americans not just embrace it and use it without shame? I’m not quite sure. Really, all you’re trying to say when you use this word as an expletive is that something is not going your way at all and you are displeased. It loses its original sexual meaning completely. (For those of you who would enjoy a good laugh, check out what Mirriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary tells foreigners trying to learn English about the use of this wonderful word[1])
And so, my wonderful friend the F-word is replaced by “frigging”, in hopes of cleaning up the language. I have heard teenagers and adults use it in place of the evil word, which is of course silly, since we all know what they really want to say. I’m sure you will be pleased to know that this word is not just an innocent replacement for “fuck”. The verb “to frig” actually means to masturbate or to copulate. I wonder how many of you will continue to use it now…
Of course, the F-word is not the only bad word people use. There’s so much more profanity out there, I don’t even want to attempt making a list for you. Let’s just say that I occasionally use other forms of frowned-upon language when something goes wrong for me. My daughter was running around our yard a few weeks ago and stepped in dog poop. I was very angry, but I kept my mouth in check, only an “Oh no!!!” escaped my lips. However, my baby was a little more outspoken, screaming: “God damn it! God damn it!”, about ten times. It made the situation hilarious for me, but I believe my husband and I have been watching our words a lot more closely since then. Such an incident has not been repeated, thankfully.
The confusing part about all the cussing is that even though almost everyone does it, nobody wants to acknowledge this fact and there is a lot of censorship in this country. Which is, of course, completely ridiculous if you take a moment to think about it. When you’re watching a show on TV and someone says: “Mother-bleeeep-“, I am certain that we all know exactly what that person was saying. Who are we fooling? Do you think our children won’t know these words because they’re bleeped out on television and in music? We all know that that is utopian. Our children are going to take just as much pleasure using foul language as we did. They will probably know the F-word by the time they are in elementary school.
So I say to you, my dear readers, fuck it! Cuss away and enjoy the fierceness of the F-word and all its friends. After all, as Jack Kerouac put it: “…, fuck being a dirty word that comes out clean.”

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sell Me the Booze, Already!

Enjoying a pint in Southwold, England, August 2006
I will be turning 32 in a little over two months. I had my first baby a month before my 30th birthday. So I wasn’t exactly a spring chicken when I started having kids. And yet, everyone thinks they need to give me advice and tell me their opinion on everything regarding my parenting. When I say everyone, I mean that literally- people at the grocery store, the playground, other moms I meet, etc. Why, you ask? I used to think that every mother had to put up with these types of well-meant insults. But as I told my friends about these encounters, they were shocked and let me know that they were never approached by anyone concerning their children. Then it dawned on me: I look like I’m about 18 years old!
I know what you’re thinking: That’s wonderful, I should be glad to look that much younger. If that is still the case in ten years, I’m sure I will be glad. However, now it is really not practical. Do you treat an 18 year old with the same respect as a 32 year old? Do you trust their opinions and decisions as much? I’m thinking your answer is probably ‘no’. So, you see, looking very young is highly impractical and can get very frustrating. People your own age or even younger look down on you and feel superior to you because they think they are far ahead of you in age when actually they are not. (Dear young readers, I am not implying that your opinions are worth less than older people’s. Please don’t write me nasty comments.)
Now, let’s go back in time a little. When I was younger, I always looked older than I was. I was the one that was chosen to buy alcohol and cigarettes before we were old enough. And I was never, ever carded! So, this must mean that over the years I have gone backwards in the ageing process. Because now I get carded for everything I try to buy. Here is a conversation I had at a gas station about three years ago (at age 29), when I was trying to buy cigarettes (No, I don’t smoke anymore, I quit when I first got pregnant, so please don’t write comments about this, either…):
Sales lady: “I’m going to have to see your ID for those”
Me: “Do you think I’m under 18???”
Sales lady: “Honestly, yes.”
I hand her my ID. She stares at it for a while.
Sales lady: “Well, I wasn’t expecting THAT. You look like a teenager!”
Hm… I guess I just don’t quite understand. I see teenagers around all over the place and to be honest, I don’t think I look anything like them. Not my clothes, my hair, anything. If I was a teenager I wouldn’t be a very hip one…
I had to take my son to the hospital for an ultrasound of his hips- standard procedure for breech babies, I was told. I’m having a rather pleasant conversation with the registration lady, when we talk about what line of work my husband is in. I tell her that he’s in the Army, but that he won’t be for too much longer, about another 1 ½ years. She looks concerned and says: “Oh, so he doesn’t want to retire?” I say: “That is him retiring.” She looks concerned again: “But he’s not doing the whole time?” I’m starting to get what she’s confused about: “That is him retiring after the whole time, twenty years.” So, instead of getting the hint and realizing that I’m older than she thought (we had already established the fact that I have two children), she asks: “So, is your husband much older than you, then?” I guess this is quite a rude question, but at the time I just responded: “Well, he’s five years older- not really too much.” And now she’s shocked. You can see the wheels spinning in her head, trying to do the math on my age. Ready for the finale? I ask: “How old did you think I am?” And she replies: “Well, I would have thought you were 21. But only because you have two children.”
What doesn’t help is that my husband also looks young. I never really thought about it until my friend mentioned that we looked like a teenage couple walking around together. I don’t get it because my husband has grey hair, but who knows…
The point I’m trying to make here: My husband and I don’t go out to a restaurant with our two children and order one beer for him because we’re trying to get drunk and party. If I am at the store with my two kids buying a six pack of Gluten free beer and you (about 18 years old) card me, you’re being ridiculous! What do you think I am about to do? Go home with my two children under two and get wasted by myself on a six pack of weird sorghum beer? Sell me the damn booze, already!!!!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Recipe Tuesday: Chicken Pizziola

As I have mentioned before, I am not a fan of working too much to get a nice meal on the table. The less prep time, the better.
Chicken Pizziola is one of my favorites. It is so versatile because you can change the sauce you use, the cheese you use, etc. to make the flavor different every time. Or you can stick to the same recipe each time and never tire of it- that’s up to you.
1 – 1 ½ lbs chicken breasts or tenders
1 jar (24 oz) pasta sauce
½ packet of pepperoni or turkey pepperoni
1 cup shredded Italian six cheeses
Grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450°F. Pour pasta sauce into a baking dish- I usually use a 2.2 qt one. If you have whole chicken breasts, cut them once or twice lengthwise to make tenders. Sprinkle tenders with salt, pepper, and coat with Parmesan cheese. Place tenders into the sauce (they can be right next to each other in the dish) and stick into the preheated oven. Cook uncovered for 35 minutes. Take out of the oven and cover the chicken with pepperoni slices. Sprinkle Italian cheese on top- you can use more or less cheese, depending on what you prefer. Cook another 10 minutes in the oven until the cheese is melted and starting to brown.

We usually eat our Chicken Pizziola with rice or pasta and green beans. Hope you enjoy!!!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Foreigner Friday: I'm European, Not Stupid

One of my great friends suggested I start writing about life in the US from the perspective of a foreigner. I think I'll give that a go, actually. Not sure whether it will turn out to be a funny bit or serious. Either way, please don't get offended.

As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I was born and raised in Germany by an Irish mother and a German father. My mother couldn't speak much German, so English was the language that was spoken in our home, and therefore is my first. I can be considered completely bilingual, which is quite rare, but extremely useful. I also majored in American Studies at university, a mix of American literature, linguistics, history, etc. What I'm trying to say is: I know my English fairly well. Back in the day I actually thought I would like to be a linguist some day. Life got in the way of that plan, but I'll leave that story for another day.

So, in 2007 I married my super fabulous husband and we moved to the US. South Carolina, to be specific. I had lived in the US before in 2001/2002 (long story), but only briefly. I like it here. There are many things that are fabulous, some not so much, just like in almost any other country I've been. And when I'm asked where I'm from, I reply "Europe". Because it's much easier than explaining the whole German/ Irish thing. Most of the time, people are satisfied with that answer and move on. However, some people want further information. This is where I sometimes get annoyed.

Let's say I've been having a nice conversation with another mother at a play date. We get on the topic of where I'm from and she learns that I grew up in Germany. Even though she has obviously heard me speak English perfectly fine, she starts suddenly speaking v e r y  s l o w l y  to me, as if I'm an idiot. I try to explain that my mother made sure we spoke only English in our home, etc., but this information is completely lost on my conversation partner. Sometimes I can't help but make a snide remark about English actually originating in Europe. I usually do not become friends with these people...

Then there are the somewhat rare specimens who ask about Germany as if it were a place that never left the 19th century. "Do y'all have rollercoasters in Germany?", "These are what we call 'strawberries'. Have you eaten strawberries before?" As you can imagine, these conversations are actually quite amusing. The best question I was ever asked was by a man in Indiana, who honestly wanted to know if I had flown over or driven. I believe I was too stunned to speak. I'm sure he thought I couldn't speak English very well...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I Love My Husband

I just need a few minutes to rave about my hubby. Sure, he sucks sometimes. So do I. So does everybody. Most of the time, though, he's pretty awesome. I hear so many ladies complaining about their men. And I totally get that, we need to let off some steam every once in a while. But these ladies all sound so disenchanted with their husbands and it makes me feel bad for them because I am not.

My husband works hard every day to put food on our tables and a roof over our heads. He gets up when we are still asleep and has to go out into the cold when we are still snuggly. There is no resentment- he still kisses us good-bye and loves us just the same. And he doesn't stay at work any longer than he has to. Lots of men do that to avoid going home. My husband actually likes us, he enjoys our company.

My husband helps me around the house. Not always consistently, but the most that he can. He doesn't complain about it, just does what needs to be done. He repairs things. It's such a cliché for a man to be handy- I can't help it, he really is. He can even fix cars.

My husband loves his children. He doesn't always have patience for them, neither do I. However, he tries to be the best dad he can and that makes him exactly that. My husband respects me. Even when he is upset with me, even when I am getting on his last nerve, he treats me the way I would like to be treated.

Best of all, my husband loves me. Of course he could be more affectionate, maybe even more romantic. And, as every couple does, we have our issues. But I never get the feeling that he is sick of me or that I need to worry about him running off with someone else.

I am so glad I married this man. I am grateful that he is the father of my children. I hope you're as lucky as me!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Recipe Tuesday: Mexican Meat Loaf

I am not a big fan of cooking. But I love eating. And since I have Celiac Disease, it's either cook, pay bazillions of Dollars for frozen meals, or risk getting a hold of some Gluten. I mostly choose to cook. Plus, cooking is so much cheaper!

One of my favorite appliances is my crock pot. The only thing I want is for my recipes to be super simple- throw everything together in the morning and have a ready meal in the evening. This recipe is super easy and delicious! You can play with the ingredients, increasing or decreasing them to meet your family's taste.


2lbs ground beef
2 cups crushes corn or tortilla chips (there are lots of GF versions available in stores)
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2/3 cup salsa
2 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons taco seasoning (McCormick Original Taco Seasoning Mix contains no Gluten ingredients)

Mix all the ingredients very well- I usually knead with my hands. Shape the mixture into a loaf and put it in the crock pot. Cook on LOW setting 8 to 10 hours.

If you would like, you can glaze the loaf with a mix of 1/2 cup ketchup, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 1 teaspoon dry mustard. Spread over the meat loaf and cook it on HIGH for an additional 15 minutes.

DONE! It hardly gets any easier. I usually serve it with mashed potatoes or rice and corn. Enjoy!

Recipe taken from Rival Crock Pot Slow Cooker Recipes

Monday, January 17, 2011

Please, Treat Me Like Your Dog!

Again, I have been spending way too much of my time thinking about things. Sometimes I think my brain never stays still, not even when I'm asleep... I guess that's what blogs are for.

If you know me, you know that I love co-sleeping. It's something that I never wanted to do before I had children- I always thought I would want my privacy. Instinctually, however, I never wanted to be apart from my babies. I believe most mothers feel the same, which is why we spend so much money on fabulous baby monitors and still check on our children often to make sure that they're breathing.

The big problem is that women feel bad about this behavior. They beat themselves up over being too much of a worrier, being too attached, etc. Here's the kicker: nature never intended for us to have big houses with separate rooms. Or cribs. Or monitors. Nature intended for us to have our babies with us at all times and sleep in a large group for protection. I know, I know, times are different now. But our babies don't know that! They have no idea that they are safe away from us until they are old enough to understand it.

And so the torture of mummies and children continues. Our children want to sleep with us, most mummies want it, too. Yet, when it happens, there is a feeling of guilt. There is even secrecy- most mothers I know would never openly admit to sleeping with their children, but when you talk to them alone they confess with a bowed head. There is also a fear that the child will never again leave the parents' bedroom. Which is, of course, quite ridiculous. Or do you know of any kid who went to college and brought his mummy with him/her? Probably not.

When we got our dog, we learned about doggie sleep behavior. Amongst other things, it was emphasized that dogs do not like to sleep alone because they want to be with their pack. Most people I know let their dog into their bedrooms because it is better for them. Why not do the same for your child? People don't like to sleep by themselves, either. That's why we have spouses!

Not all children like cosleeping and not all parents can sleep with someone in their bed. My daughter used to sleep with us, but is now much happier to be in her own bed. It is not a must. But if all parties involved want to do it, then please don't feel bad about it. Embrace it as one of the wonderful things in life. Who doesn't want to cuddle? Unfortunately, our children will grow up and then we will be sleeping alone again. At least we will still have dogs...

In 2008, when I was pregnant :-)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

If My Toddler Was a Grownup

I have a sweet little girl who is 22 months old. She is in her terrible twos and sometimes life with her is challenging. When she started having her temper tantrums, I felt helpless and overwhelmed. I also felt guilty because I was the one who got pregnant and couldn't be there for her as much as she needed me to. Initially, we reacted to her tantrums and naughty behavior in a very negative way. They made us angry, frustrated, and just wore us out.
For the last few weeks, I have been trying a different approach. I have asked myself what it would be like if my toddler was not this small, weak being, but a grownup like myself. Would I still scold her as much? Put her in time-outs? Forcibly put her places she doesn't want to go, such as her highchair? We all know the answer- not only would I not physically be able to do it, I wouldn't treat a grownup like that.

I have been blessed with an extraordinarily good memory. I can recall several things from my early childhood, going back as far as the age of about 1 1/2. And one of the strongest emotions I remember is that of frustration and powerlessness. Over things that I now find unimportant, such as a toy I really wanted to play with, or not wanting to go to bed at night. At that time, though, they were everything that mattered to me. Not being taken seriously was very hurtful. I want to incorporate this into my parenting.

Of course, R is still a small child and she is developmentally far from being a grownup. The question is, does that make her wants and needs any less strong, any less important? The answer I found for myself was NO. This revelation is highly impractical, as you can imagine. If I consider her wishes to be just as important and valid as mine or my husband's, every day life will be chaos. Or will it?

For the past few weeks, I have tried to actively avoid any meltdowns or tantrums by keeping R doing what she wants to do. And it has worked fabulously!!! She has been so much happier, more loving, better behaved. Which in turn has made me so much happier and more relaxed. I'm having fun with my child again and it is fantastic! What did I change? Every time there is something that she wants to have or do, I put myself in her shoes. I think about whether her request is reasonable and if it is, then why not? Just because I would like to check my Facebook page does not mean she should not be able to draw with her crayons. Sometimes, mummy doesn't need to get what she wants. If what she wants isn't doable, I explain it to her as best I can.

I know, a lot of you are going to say that she needs to learn that she can't always get what she wants, etc. To that I say true, but I, as a grownup, can tell you that not getting what I want still sucks most of the time. If my husband comes to me with a request for something, I respect him by having an open ear and at least considering his want. I vow to do the same for my children in the future, whenever possible. There will be lots of situations in which my kids will not be able to get their way- especially when it involves dangerous situations- but I will treat them like they are grownups, show them some respect, and at least listen to what they have to say.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Second Baby's Birth Story- Welcoming E

(I still have not written my first baby's birth story, but I promise to do so within the next few weeks...)
I knew I was pregnant with E even before it was detected by the home test. It finally showed up positive on the day after my daughter's first birthday. And I wasn't too pleased about it. The pregnancy was not unwanted, don't get me wrong. But it was unplanned and I felt completely overwhelmed. Maybe that is also the reason why I prepared myself so extensively for the birth. I did not want to feel out of control again, wanted certain things to be completely up to myself.

And so I read. Books and blog posts and expert websites and anything I could find. I watched birth stories and videos on birthing. I sopped up as much information as I felt I could.

At one of my doctor's visits, probably around 30 weeks, the ultrasound showed that E had not yet turned. Nobody seemed in the least concerned by this, but it worried me. I started paying close attention to the position of my baby in the womb and knew week after week that he had not budged. I hired a doula to assist me with my labor. Even though I feared a c-section, I wasn't ready to give up the hope of having a natural birth. I really wanted this birth to be perfect. I wanted to correct the mistakes I made when I gave birth to R.

After some research on getting a breech baby to turn, I visited a chiropractor who performed the Webster Maneuver on me. Still no turned baby. I swam, I walked, I made my husband talk to my crotch. We tried to coax E with a flashlight and all kinds of other fun things, but without success.

On October 29, one week before my due date, at 4 a.m. I awoke because my water had broken. What a weird feeling that is! I panicked. I was so terrified that I was shaking and my teeth were chattering. My water had broken and there was no way for my baby to turn himself anymore, no water for him to float around in. Inevitable c-section. I called my doula, who said to go back to bed unless I started having contractions. I called my OB's answering service, who told me to come to the hospital straight away. My husband helped calm me down and we decided to get back into bed. Right after he turned off the light, my contractions started. I remember thinking 'Oh no!' and paying close attention to what was going on. They started at around 4 1/2 minutes apart. And nothing was ready! I hadn't packed my bag yet, my birth plan wasn't finished, some of the things I wanted to take with me hadn't even been bought.

My husband and I took our time that morning. I took a shower, we packed the bag, organized a sitter for my daughter. It was actually quite nice. We breathed through the contractions and I felt more relaxed with them, as if I knew what I was doing. My friend came over as soon as she could to watch R and then we were off to the hospital. The drive wasn't too fun, but I don't think it ever is while you're in labor.

We arrived at the hospital around 7:30 a.m. My doula was already there to meet us and had prepared the entire staff for our arrival. It was nice not to have to explain everything and be able to walk straight into our room. I went to the bathroom and changed into the beautiful hospital gown. I remember asking whether I should leave my underwear on or not- I blame that on the pregnancy brain. But honestly, three and a half hours after my water broke I was still leaking lots of fluid, so maybe it was an attempt at making a slightly smaller mess. They hooked me up to all the equipment and swabbed me to make sure my water had really broken. (I had actually been to the hospital a few weeks prior, thinking I had sprung a leak, only to be told that I had peed in my pants...) My contractions were coming about every three minutes. It was great having my doula and my husband there. They were rubbing my feet and my back, they helped keep me focused and relaxed. I wasn't enjoying the contractions, but I feel as if I could have had a great birth experience. Unfortunately, the ultrasound confirmed that E was coming feet first. There was no way my doctor was going to let me even attempt to deliver vaginally. I think the risk of a broken hip for my baby was too big for me, too.

They tried to hurry everything. It wasn't going to be an emergency c-section, but they wanted to do it as quickly as possible, since I was dilated three centimeters and was having contractions every three minutes. They pumped one liter of fluid into my veins- after blowing the vein in my left hand; just what you need during labor pains- and then it was off to the OR. I was so scared. I remember feeling like they were wheeling me to my grave. In the OR they were all super kind to me. Those bright lights were very intimidating, though, and I wasn't able to calm myself. They got the spinal in me and I anxiously waited not to feel the contractions anymore. Let's face it, if I wasn't having a natural birth, I didn't really want to have the pain anymore, either. I lay on the table and felt myself slowly getting numb. And then they started pinching me! I screamed 'Ow!!!' because I wasn't expecting to be pinched. Of course they were just trying to make sure that the anesthesia was working. It took longer than expected for me to finally be numb, but once I was, they brought in my doula and husband. I was so glad to see their faces! I started feeling a lot calmer because I knew that I was about to finally meet my little man. The doctor had told me that it would take around five minutes until they had the baby out, which seemed like a reasonable amount of time. And then they started. I had read earlier that the sensation is similar to what it might feel like if you were being zipped open. I found this to be very accurate. Not painful, not even uncomfortable, just strange. Then the tugging and pulling and pushing and maneuvering started. I did not enjoy it. It didn't hurt, but it was definitely not pleasant. Being told 'There's going to be lots of pressure' really didn't help any. But then, at 9:52 a.m., there he was, my beautiful new baby boy! He was swollen and squishy looking, but very cute. He weighed 7lbs 14oz and was 20 Inches long. My husband accompanied him to the nursery while my doula stayed with me. All the king's horses and all the king's men were trying to put me back together again. It took another 35 minutes or so. Again, not painful, but very uncomfortable. I started feeling nauseous from all the pushing on my tummy. Throwing up was my biggest fear at that moment. Thankfully, they gave me something in my IV and I managed not to vomit. And then it was all over.

I was rolled back into the room. Waiting for me there were my wonderful husband and beautiful little boy. E was alert and ready for his mummy. Of course, I was still unable to move anything below my waste. I was hooked up to several machines monitoring me, as well as these awesome (not!) inflating cuffs on my legs to prevent blood clots. Yet, I was able to finally hold my baby and I was so happy! I had made it through my worst nightmare alive and well. It was time to feed my little one and it went great- he latched on practically unassisted and happily sucked down his first meal.

It was no fun being helpless the first day, not being able to get out of bed at all. The next day, not even 24 hours later, I was up to go to the bathroom. It was not as bad as I had feared. From then on, the healing process went great. I was pleasantly surprised by my recovery. The hardest part of it was not being able to pick up my daughter, but we figured out other ways to cuddle and be together.

Over all, it was much better than I had expected and feared. It was major surgery and the recovery process was very different. However, I really made myself take it easy, which I probably would not have done after a vaginal delivery. And it was very nice not to have torn again. It almost made the healing seem easier than after my first delivery.

I am still sad, though. It was not the birth I wanted to have. I make myself see all the positives- I went into labor on my own, the baby was ready, my breech delivery would have been very dangerous, etc.- yet I somehow feel like I failed. Rationally, I know that I did not. I tried lots of different things to get him to turn, he just wouldn't. Yet, the feeling is there. Especially since I know that this was my last chance to have the birth I wanted. We don't plan on having any more children. I just wish I could give it one more try.

Then I look at my beautiful boy- who is the most even tempered, sweetest little baby ever- and I have no regrets about anything.