Monthly Archives: November 2009

where’s the almost?

So I wandered over to the NaBloPoMo site, and I can have a badge! There’s one that says “I did it!” and one that says “I blew it!”. I don’t feel like I really earned the former, since I did miss two days this month, but the latter seems a tad harsh, I must say. Isn’t there a sort of silver medal option?

In any case, blogging every day hasn’t solved the problem I set out to solve, which was that I had lost the ability to write easily and fluently, and I thought a month of practice would help. These last posts feel just as awkward and pointless as the first few, so I guess the problem lies elsewhere – basically, in the fact that I am too scatterbrained to hold a coherent thought long enough to get it in writing. Note that I mean scatterbrained not as a permanent personality trait, but as a temporary response to a difficult situation, which is that I am holding too many unrelated threads together right now, and that means that 1) I don’t have space in my brain for blogging, and 2) I don’t have space in my day. Pretty much every night I’ve glanced at the clock, noticed it was 11:45, and thought “oop! Gotta blog,” even though what I really wanted was to go to sleep.

That’s the wrong reason for blogging. But I still think I should keep up with it, because I still write for my work, and I still need to be able to do it well. So this NaBloPoMo was my call to use my blog as the canary in the coal mine of my life – when I’m too scattered to blog, something has to change.

I wonder what that something should be…

Song du jour of the day: Word Up, by Cameo. With Geordi!

what have wii become…

So the kids and I went to the mall and bought a Wii today. The Playstation seems to be mainly driving games (boring) and shooting games (verboten), and the Wii ads seemed to show that there were a few more possibilities there – not least the opportunity to play together, and turn this into more of a family thing and less of a kids-fighting-on-the-couch thing. So we’re trying that. It came with Wii Sports, and so far I have learned that I’m better at bowling than I thought, and worse at baseball, and that there really is no way in hell to get me to appreciate boxing.

Meanwhile, Ignatz is at a Christmas party organized by his school. Can’t wait to hear all about it! Except I won’t, because, you know – he’s 14. He’ll say it was fine and that’ll be it. Oh well. It is very tempting to grab a do-over on my horrible, horrible teenage years by living vicariously through my son, but in fact he is right to resist that.

Song du jour of the day: The Gnu Song, by John Lithgow. Can’t find it on YouTube, but it makes me laugh.

three minutes to midnight

And I just remembered I haven’t blogged today! Because my computer is in the bedroom, and the bedroom was occupied for a large part of the day by Sick DrBob. Poor guy. Well okay no, I’ve warned him for ages that this would happen, he’s running himself ragged etc, and of course he didn’t listen, so my sympathy is mixed with a hefty dose of aggravation because, you know, he’s not the only one who suffers when he’s sick, I’m worrying and making chicken soup and emptying buckets of barf at 4 in the morning (oh, yes) and then catching up on my sleep during the day and it’s lucky my Dutch class was canceled because the teacher is also sick but you know, I really could have used that extra time to study instead of napping to make up for the three pre-dawn hours I spent wide awake and jittering and waiting for him to fill another bucket for me so really, the consequences of his unfortunate choice caught me as well.

Ah, marriage.

Song du jour of the day: I want to use “For Life“, which was Poland’s Eurovision entry um, last year? Or the year before, maybe, sung by a blonde from Seattle, but it’s a horrible song, and I do try to use music I actually like for this. On the other hand, it is a happy-wedding song with a title that sounds like a bad prison sentence, and that makes me laugh, and it’s not the worst Polish entry by a looooong stretch. So I’ll just cite it without linking it, and the more masochistic among you can go look it up if you really want to.

I’m just going to enjoy this while it lasts.

Parent evening at Ignatz’s school. Usually a depressing nightmare, and it started off pretty badly – his school has two branches, and we went to the wrong one, didn’t have a map handy, found the other one by sheer dumb luck, and were only about 15 minutes late. But we got there! We were only allowed to choose three teachers to speak to, so we chose Latin, History and Dutch.

And, um, they all said really nice things. He had some trouble at first, which they completely understood because he was in a difficult situation (wow, you guys sure aren’t Bavarian teachers!) and now it seems to be easier, he’s participating in class and getting along with other kids and learning Dutch faster than they expected. Mr History mentioned that this particular class is exceptionally… “busy” is the word he used, I think he was trying to say “hyperactive” and still be polite. But he thinks this is actually a good thing for Ig, and I must say, it is for me – I’m really glad my kid no longer draws attention by being the twitchiest.

So that’s good news. Surprisingly good. So good, I feel like I may have wandered into a sort of parallel universe. If I have, I feel real sorry for the other alala. But I’m not trading back, not without a fight.

Song du jour of the day: Man, when was the last time I got new music? Ages, it’s been. Bones. By the Killers.

four and a half

One is my purple mountain bike that DrBob found for me on ebay several years ago. Both of our houses in OurTown were on a hill, so I didn’t ride it very much – starting a journey in panicked free-fall, and finishing it walking the bike + groceries or whatever up the hill just… never seemed like a very good idea at the time. So DrBob took it up to Utrecht and used it while he was living here without us. Until one day he rode it to a meeting, and on arrival he noticed that the lock was broken, but since he was running late he decided just to stuff it in the middle of the herd and hope no one would steal it.

Someone stole it. Two hours later he came out and it was gone. I can’t imagine why he was surprised by this, but he was.

A half is Ignatz’s mountain bike. We didn’t have time to get him a lock on that first hectic day, so on the second day of school Ig headed out with a lockless bike and DrBob said hey, maybe no one will steal it – clearly he had forgotten the lesson of the purple bike. Anyway, at the end of the school day Ig came out and the bike was gone. It’s only a half because apparently it wasn’t stolen, the school spotted it and took it inside to keep it “safe.” In a locked classroom that Ignatz can’t get to, and I’ve repeatedly told him to ask if he can have the bike back, but he hasn’t yet. So it’s there, we just… don’t have it.

Whatever, it was too small for him anyway. Two is the bike DrBob and Ig bought that same day, September 2nd. We store all our bikes in the front yard, and Ig figured nobody would come into our front yard unless they had legitimate business there, so as long as the bike was there, it didn’t need locking.

That? Turned out to be not so true.

Three is DrBob’s cool Dutch “Opafiets” – “grandpa-bike” – that he really liked. He came home late one evening, figured he’d just change quickly and then go to the gym, so he didn’t lock it. Then he got derailed by email, didn’t make it to the gym, forgot to go out and lock the bike, and in the morning it was gone.

And four is Ignatz’s spiffy replacement bike. I told them not to get a new one, I said a cheap old beater would be less attractive to thieves, but apparently I don’t know anything about this – ahem, I still have the bike I brought up from Germany. So does the Sniglet. Anybody else? Anyone?


Yeah, we got him a really expensive ring-lock, which is the easiest kind to use, but he forgot to lock it just once, and, you know. They know about this house now, they probably check it every night, so you really can’t give them even the slightest chance.

So that’s four and a half bikes, in two and a half months. Welcome to the Netherlands!

Song du jour of the day: Bicycle Race, by Queen. Now that I actually listen to it, this is a really weird song.

in which I missed all the excitement

I was nearly asleep last night – or maybe already asleep – and then halfway awakened by an almighty crash from Somewhere Downstairs (everything is downstairs from our bedroom). I heard DrBob out in the garden, calling Lilu, but I didn’t get up – usually, cat + crash = major clean-up, and after so many years as a wife and mother I’m less keen to volunteer for cleaning duty. I wait to be asked. Besides, I was all comfy.

Well this morning I got up, and there were coffee splatters in the kitchen and the cat-flap was Gone. The frame was still there, but the little flappy-thing was distinctly Not There. In its place was a hole, letting the November morning air into my kitchen, ack. I found the cat-flap out in the still-dark garden, in two pieces, and reassembled it with scotch tape and super glue, and then all I could do was go about my morning, and wait for DrBob to wake up and tell me what the HECK had happened.

It seems that DrBob surprised someone else’s cat in our kitchen – on the tiny sliver of counter that holds our cooking utensils and oils and vinegar and such, a sliver which has absolutely no place for a cat to stand. And instead of bolting out the back door, the furry imbecile bolted toward the front of the house, then up the stairs, and then all over the house before finding the kitchen again and blasting through the cat-flap so fast that he broke it in two pieces and knocked it out of its frame.

Drat it. DrBob has all the fun. Apparently even Lilu missed out, sound asleep on Ignatz’s bed.

Also, what on earth are we going to do about this stupid invader cat?

Song du jour of the day: Era Stupendo, by Paolo Meneguzzi


Present-evening! Umm, here’s what I’ve been able to gather. Sinterklaas arrives sometime in November, everybody does the macarena, and then, according to a brief sidewalk conversation with a neighbor-mama, kids get little presents every night (if they’ve been good) until Pakjesavond. My Dutch textbook says that a recent study showed that the Dutch consider Pakjesavond their most important tradition, so I should probably get this right, except that, er, I haven’t given my kids a present every night since the 14th, oops. I did buy kruidnoten (don’t try to pronounce it), which turned out to be a lot like tiny ginger-snaps, but we ate them all in a couple days.

Anyway. Pakjesavond is december 5th, the night before St. Nicholas day, and it is celebrated by… giving the kids presents!

Um, whoa. I asked her, so then what about Christmas, like the 24th? and she said oh well of course we celebrate that too, because my husband is German and that’s the tradition he grew up with. So now I’m imagining… well, a constant shower of presents for three weeks, starting in mid-november, followed by a dry spell of lengthening nights and jonesing junior present-junkies, then one final bonanza, and then – January. Sounds like a total nightmare. I wonder if I should ask a few more people, get some more information on this, because, you know… really?

We’re still deciding what to do – drive down to Jagenau sometime before Christmas, leave the kids in Oompa-land while we spend a few days in Barcelona, do fireworks with our old neighbors in OurTown, and then home in time to get back to school on the 3rd, yes, but what about presents? Cart them down to Germany for the kids to open? And then cart them back up here? My big idea for this year was beanbag chairs – that’d be challenging.

Song du jour of the day: Stormy Weather, by Dinah Washington. We had some today, the trees were all whippy. Very exciting.

Smiling through the gritted teeth, not so much, lately

Sez Amy:

I should probably just figure out a way to be pleasant while in crisis mode.

Actually, when we were closing the deal on the house and it started raining in the kitchen, everybody – the plumber, the real estate agents, the insurance guys, the sellers – they all remarked on how cheerful I managed to stay during what was undoubtedly a setback (euphemism, much?). But that only lasted a week or so. We’re in month 3 of Overworked Husband mode now, and I just… my fake-smile muscles are wearing out.

It’s probably also partly SAD, only not SAD, because I’m not disordered. Is there a SAGB, Seasonal Affective General Bitchiness? That’s what I’ve got.

Song du jour of the day: I Hate Myself for Loving You, by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Apropos of nothing, I just already used The Bitch is Back this year.


about blogless yesterday, I was having internet problems (again). Put me in a really foul mood, so if I had blogged it would mostly have been GRAAAARGH! DARRGH YARRGH SNARGLE FYAAAAARGH! and you’re really better off without that.

I don’t know, though, that’s really about all I have to say lately, and that’s bad. DrBob is kind of overburdened at work right now. There’s a lot for him to do, and I try to convince him to rest and take care of himself, but he’s one of those freakishly conscientious people who puts 110% into everything he does. He can’t ease the pressure on himself by just blowing something off (and actually, I’d respect him less if he could), so he is constantly, constantly working. Barely sleeping, sick all the time, exhausted.

I’m worried about him, and what I can do to help is minimal: keep the household running smoothly and the children under control, basically. And I’m actually not very good at that, but I’ve been doing it without help since we moved here, and it’s starting to wear me down – especially since I have this job that’s really hard to do when I keep getting interrupted, so there’s also this constant lurking thought of the work I’m not getting done.

I haven’t gotten to the point of resenting DrBob yet, thank God, because this really isn’t his fault. But I’m starting to get forgetful and snippy with the boys and more prone to blurting out stupid stuff as I forget to think before I speak. I feel really bad about this. He’s a good guy having a rough time, and he deserves whatever support I can give him.

Next quarter should be better, but that’s late January. And before then the weather’s going to get worse and the nights are going to get longer and the holidays are coming and augh. No idea what to do except keep plugging along, but also no real confidence in my ability to do that. Bleck.

So yeah. I’m sorry, but I can’t bother DrBob with this, so I have to vent all over you. You’re welcome!

Song du jour of the day: Smooth, by Lina.

ETA: This cheered me up tremendously.


Got my residence permit today! Actually the letter telling me to pick it up came last week, but this was the first day that I really had time to do it. I went straight from school, across the south part of Utrecht to the Burgerzaken (citizens’ stuff) office, and then up north to the mall to get a baby-gift for a colleague of DrBob’s who has recently spawned, and then further north to fetch the Sniglet from school, and then east to the bank to find out why I still don’t have my bank card, and then home. The four corners of Utrecht! My home, for at least the next five years.

Yeah, it’s a five-year permit, and then I apply for a permanent one. Which actually raises the question, what about my permanent German residence permit? The temporary German one is for two years (or is it three?) and then you get the permanent one and I just thought it was… you know, permanent. Because I wasn’t really expecting to leave. But now that I have, will the whole process start over again when I go back? Hmm, a puzzle.

Song du jour of the day: Once in a Lifetime, by the Talking Heads.