Friday, July 31, 2009

Random Carter Quotes

A few random things that Carter has said recently.

"Mommy, you don't look so cute."
This was right after I had showered, dried my hair, and put on some makeup. I thought I looked pretty good...certainly as good as it gets for me.

"But I've had a really long day."
Said in a whiney voice when we suggested he get himself up off the floor and walk upstairs for bathtime. And by really long day, he must mean all the Lego building, car playing, ice cream eating, playing with friends day. Ah, it's so hard to be nearly 4.

"I don't like that lady as much as the lady yesterday."
In response to a women smiling at him on one of our bike tours in Berlin. Apparently he preferred a women from the previous day and didn't care if this new women heard him.

Carter is at a stage right now where he says pretty much whatever is on his mind ("why is that man brown?") and is getting quite sassy. I'm pretty nervous whenever he opens his mouth around strangers for fear that he's going to insult them. I have a feeling this will last until he's roughly 22.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Since Carter's school is closed for three weeks for their summer holiday and we didn't have a babysitter available for a couple of days, we decided to visit Berlin. Yes, we have lived in Germany for two years and only now just traveled to Berlin. What a cool city. So much history, so much of it quite recent (hmmm...recent history, if that's not an oxymoron...). The current Berlin mayor has described the city as "poor but sexy." And it's true. Berlin is a hip and happening city, but it's hugely in debt (somewhere along the lines of €60 billion in debt).

It should be no surprise to you that our first stop in Berlin was the Legoland Discovery Center. OK, granted it was raining and cold and so a good indoor activity was needed. This was no where near the size of the Legoland park that we have visited in southern Germany in the past. This was much smaller...maybe a Chuckie Cheese sized place. Actually, you can reserve rooms for birthday parties. Too bad Berlin is so far from us, both Carter and Ben would love to have their birthday celebrated there. I'm not sure who would like it more. Of special interest to Carter at the Discovery Center was the new Bob the Builder 3D movie. He absolutely loved it and the second it was over he asked if he could watch it again. Of course, we dropped many, many Euros at the Lego store on the way out. In fact, our purchase was so significant that the cashier said to us, "So you really liked it here, huh?"

Speaking of shopping, I fell in love with everything in the Ampelmännchen store. You may be asking what the heck is an Ampelmännchen...well it literally means "little traffic light man" and he is quite famous in the former East Germany. He's possibly the only hold over from the former GDR and communist Germany. After the German re-unification, there were attempts to standardize the traffic signals throughout the country; however, the (former) East Germans protested and rallied to keep their beloved Ampelmännchen. There is now an almost cult-like following, four stores (at least) selling Ampelmännchen paraphernalia, and even an Ampelmännchen restaurant in Berlin. We made a few purchases...mugs, key ring, t-shirts, etc...and did our part to help support the Berlin economy. Come on, don't you think he's cute?

On day 2 in Berlin, we were penniless from all of our shopping of the day before. Fortunately we had scheduled a city bike tour with Fat Tire Bike Tours. We did a bike tour last summer in Paris and it worked out great with Carter so we decided to repeat that in Berlin. Berlin is roughly 8 times the size of Paris (physical size, not population) and so there was no way were were going to be able to cover the whole city on foot, especially with a small child.

This "all-in-one city bike tour" lasted 5 hours, covered over 6 miles, and it included a stop at a beer garden for some lunch and refreshments. It would be nearly impossible for me to summarize what we saw and learned here on this blog so I'll just list the big sites we covered: Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate, Marienkirche, Rathaus, Mark & Engels Platz, Hitler's Bunker, Potsdamer Platz, Gendarmenmarkt, Checkpoint Charlie, Humboldt University, Babelplatz, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and the Reichstag. I've tried to capture most of these in the slide show below.

On our third day in Berlin, we took another bike tour but this one was focused on the The Wall and the Cold War. This was really a fabulous tour. Our tour guide explained how post WWII Berlin was divided up between Russia, France, England, and the US. He explained how and why the wall went up. A temporary wall literally went up over night. Families were separated. A story was told of one guy who went home with an East German girl after a night of partying for a one-night stand and was then trapped in East Germany for the next 28 years...simply because the wall went up while he was shagging some Fraulein. There were numerous anecdotes of escape attempts and techniques. There were shoot-to-kill orders for anyone caught in the "deathstrip," the dirt area between the two walls. We visited the East Side Gallery which is a kilometer long stretch of still-standing wall that is famous for it's graffiti.

And finally, on day four, with no energy left for a bike tour, nor enough time...we went to the DDR museum. This is a hands on museum that is dedicated to every day life in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (East Germany or GDR to us). There was a Trabant, aka Trabi, on display. What is a Trabant? It's an East German car that was made between 1957-1991 and remained mostly unchanged during the 34 years of production. It was a terrible automobile but was one of the few vehicles available for purchase in East Germany. If you wanted to buy one, you were required to apply for permission and the waiting list was up to 14 years. Another especially interesting exhibit was about early childhood education and school. A picture from a day care center shows children lined up on a “potty bench,” where “everyone remained seated until the last one was done.” This was more than toilet training: “It also was the first step to social education.”

I would like to leave you with a quote from a NY Times article (the full text can be found here) that I think sums it all up pretty well:

It was as if some immense laboratory experiment had gone on for half a century according to rigorous principles: Take a single defeated society, weary with guilt, wounds and hatred, and divide it in two. Split apart families and friends; workplaces and factories; resources and opportunities. And see what kinds of worlds develop under very different visions of social and political order. The Wall was an attempt to enforce the experiment’s continuation; instead, its confession of the need for force anticipated the experiment’s conclusion.

OK, so maybe it's a little deep but it's something to think about as we come up on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall this November.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Carter and His Blankie

In the past couple of days, an interesting change has occurred. I am not the favorite anymore. Instead of mommy, mommy, mommy it's all daddy now. Carter only wants daddy and will get rather upset with me if I try to step in to help Ben out. It has been a somewhat refreshing twist on things here but has also made me just a little bit sad. The other night when I was putting Carter to bed, I gave him a hug and said, "Good night. I love you. You are my best friend." His response: "Yeah, well you're not my best friend." Ouch, that hurts.

Carter still sleeps with his favorite blankie at night. It's one that he has had since he was a tiny baby. Lately he has been making a strange request. He wants a cold blankie and wants us to put it in the fridge to cool it down. On several occasions I have opened the fridge for some food and have found Carter's blanket shoved in there and forgotten.

Tonight as I was putting Carter to bed, he wanted his blankie cooled off. So I obliged, hoping that he would fall asleep in the interim. Unfortunately he didn't but when I took the blankie back to him 15 minutes later it was nice and cold. Carter said, "You get the best mommy ever award." Ah, I am back in his good graces.

So what about your kids have any strange requests?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Woe is Me...

OK, I just got ditched by my husband and my son. A friend called and said he and his daughter were going to the Nurbergring (a famous racetrack) today and invited Ben and Carter along. They just left 10 minutes ago. I can't decide if I'm thrilled to have the house to myself or a little P.O.'ed that I wasn't invited along (I'm one of those weird girls who would find the race track cool).

What should I do with my time alone? If the weather wasn't so dismal, I would happily waste the time in the garden. But it's cold and rainy. Should I curl up on the couch with my book? I could easily spend the day surfing the web and reading various blogs. Should I attempt to make a dent in the laundry and ironing piles? Sigh...what should I do?

Hold on, the phone is ringing...

Carla - Hey Julie, what's up?
Julie (wife and mother of Ben's race track co-horts) - Did we get rid of them?
C - Huh?
J - Are the boys gone?
C - Yep. Just left.
J - Wanna go to lunch and do some shopping?
C - I'll be at your house in 30 minutes!

OK, now what was I saying?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Yet Another Trip

Just back from yet another trip. Can you believe it? We are traveling fools. The following is what I typed up during our flight last night.


This was a quick trip to the US for a couple of weddings. OK, I'm sure some of you are saying "what the heck, you didn't tell us you were coming to the US. How come you didn't visit us while you were here?" Because we were only in town for 10 days and we had to attend 2 weddings, go to work a couple of days, find a school/daycare for Carter for when we repatriate, and go to a bunch of doctor's appointments. Phew!

We arrived back in the US the afternoon of Friday, July 3. We were thrilled that my brother Kevin and his two kids (Declan and Maddie) drove in from Chicago so they could spend some time with us while we were in Michigan. My poor parents…they go from a quiet, peaceful existence to having 5 adults, 3 young kids in their condo. (I know they are secretly relieved when we all go home). Carter just thinks that his cousins are the greatest…especially Declan. They all had so much fun swimming at the pool near Nana and Grandpa's house. I'm very impressed at all of their swimming abilities.

On Saturday night, Ben and I attended Cheryl Machovec & Dave Dehn's wedding. Actually, we skipped the ceremony so that we could spend time with my brother, niece, and nephew. Sorry Cheryl and Dave! But we did go to the reception and had a ton of fun…until 10pm when we hit the wall (the jet lag wall – it was 4am to us). It was so great to see old friends again. Wonderful to catch up with everyone and all in one place. It was such a good reminder that we have wonderful friends with whom we can rekindle friendships upon moving back to the US.

Between the jet lag and a couple glasses of wine and the general mood of a wedding, I was feeling especially schmoopy and emotional. I was really moved by the toasts made by Cheryl's dad and Lara, matron of honor. I did a lot of reminiscing back to our own wedding. I think for the first time in the nearly 6 years that we've been married, I was a little sad that we don't have any video from the rehearsal dinner toasts or from the reception.

On the drive home from the wedding, we passed a spot where someone was setting off some amazing fireworks. Ben parked the car and we got out and watched for nearly 30 minutes. Though we were standing on a highway overpass, dressed in formal attire, it was really romantic. It was like our own private fireworks show. I gotta say, there's something great about being back in the good ol' USA for the 4th of July.

Sunday through Wednesday, we kept ourselves busy visiting with friends and family, going to work and doctors appointments. I'm not going to bore you with all the details (not to imply that family and friends are boring! We loved every minute of it).

On Wednesday afternoon, Ben went into the office and Mom, Carter and I headed out to Twelve Oaks (the mall) to run some errands. While I am driving us to the mall, my mother casually mentions that she might have splashed bleach in her eye in the minutes before we left the house. Oh, great! She couldn't tell me this BEFORE we left the house? Regardless, she tells me to continue on as her eye doesn't feel "that bad." To make a long story just a little bit shorter, in the end I take her to her ophthalmologist who flushes her eye with sterile water for a good 15 minutes which makes her more uncomfortable than she was to start with.

I tell you all of this because she's going to use it as her defense and I want you to be prepared for it. Defense of what you may ask? The following day my mother tried to pay for a new purse at a store with her Blue Cross Insurance card. Either she has incredible medical benefits that support "retail therapy" or she's starting to lose it. Now my mother will probably try to tell you her vision was compromised which is why she made the mistake. I think that it's jut the second sign in as many days that she should not be unsupervised!

(Sorry Mom! I just wanted to make sure Aunt Connie got the full, true story)

Over the weekend, Carter went to stay with Grandpa Mel and Ben went to a friend's wedding in Savannah, GA. Since my mother clearly can't be left alone, I dragged her around with me looking at schools for Carter (for when we repatriate) and looking at homes. I feel like we saw every house for sale in the city and township of Northville. There's a ton of boring out there. And there are countless homes not being maintained. It's rather depressing.

We did find the cutest house in downtown Northville, close enough to walk into town. It's a brand new house but styled to look like a 1920's Craftsman home. It has the charm of a one-of-a-kind, older home, but all the amenities of a new home. On a whim, we decided to call the builder for a tour. It was incredible. I would say this was as close to being my dream house as I've ever seen. It's a fabulous house for entertaining. I was already envisioning how our furniture would fit and thinking of the great dinner parties we could have. After the end of the showing, I scheduled an appointment for Monday morning when Ben can see it with me. I called Ben and told him that I've found our next house, that it's our "Dream House." We get excited and talk about actually buying a house before moving home and all the crazy logistics that go with it.

But alas, on Monday morning the builder/seller called to tell us that he got an offer and has a signed purchase agreement. So quickly the dreams are crushed. But phew...what a relief to know that we are not buying a house from overseas. We can only hope this deal doesn't go through and the house is on the market when we return home in December or that a similar house becomes available.

Our trip to the US is over and we have boarded the plane. As we are sitting in our seats we are watching the other passengers try to find their seats. One of the passengers is a Muslim woman wearing a back burqa. All that you can see of this woman are her eyes. Carter sees her and his own eyes go wide. He leans over to Ben and says, "Daddy, I just saw Darth Vader." Ben and I both nearly died then and there trying to suppress our laughter (and relief that no one else heard it). Ben explained that it wasn't Darth Vader but that it was a woman who likes to cover her head and face. Carter just couldn't grasp why someone would choose to do that and kept asking why. Hey, I'm with you buddy…it doesn't make sense to me either.

And so this brings you up to date, to this very moment that I'm typing. Kids and babies are screaming and keeping me (among many other passengers) awake. And I am saying my little thanks to whoever listens to the thoughts in my head that my perfect little angel is sleeping soundly.

So believe it or not, that's the cliff notes version of our trip to the US. Though we were sad to leave the US, we are happy to be back in our own home, sleeping in our own beds. There's something about knowing our time here in Germany is nearing the end that really makes us pine for home.
Now if only we can find that dream house we can call "Home."

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Baby Store

Conversation at dinner tonight...

Carter - "I want a boy one."
Ben - "A boy one what?"
C - "A boy baby."
B - "Well, you know Carter, that Mommy and Daddy don't get to pick if it's a boy or a girl."
C - "Can we ask the baby store if they have any boys?"
B - "You can't buy a baby at the store. Mommy and Daddy have to make one."
C - (strange look)
B - "Mommy needs to grow one in her belly."
C - (looks at my rather squishy belly) "Do you have a baby in there now?"

So first off, NO I'm not pregnant. Secondly, does this remind you of the penis store conversation? It cracks me up. But then I got to thinking...what if you could buy a baby at the store?

Would they advertise them like wine? Golden, rich honey in appearance. Aged for 3 years in a cool cellar and is full-bodied with rich vibrant aromas.

Would it be like pedigreed puppies? This one comes with papers, shots, and a written guarantee for all major inherited and congenital problems.

Would there be discounts available on last year's models? Could you buy an extended warranty like an appliance? Money back guarantees?

Some interesting things to think about tonight since it's too hot to sleep.

Army of Women

Following up to my "feel your boobies" posting from last week, I am inviting all you women out there to join the Love/Avon Army of Women.

Here's a little info that I've taken from their website:

Like many women, Dr. Susan Love was becoming increasingly frustrated by our not having made more progress in figuring out what causes breast cancer and how to prevent it. Scientists told her that they did not know how to find the women who would be interested in taking part in the studies that were needed to end this disease. Dr. Love realized the problem wasn’t that women didn’t want to participate in these studies, but that they didn’t know that they were needed. In short order, the idea was born of an Army of Women ready to serve science.

The Love/Avon Army of Women is looking for volunteers to take part in the clinical research that will help us understand what causes breast cancer — and how to stop it. Because scientists have a hard time finding women to volunteer for their studies, they typically study cell lines that have been developed in their labs, samples from tissue banks, or conduct research on animals, like mice. But what happens in cell lines or mice is not the same as what happens in women. And that’s why we need YOU to take part in this revolutionary innovative research initiative.

The Army of Women is dedicated to representing all women in research so that the research results will apply to all women. This means we need you to help us recruit women of all ages, ethnicities, sizes, and shapes. We need women who have had breast cancer and women who have not. We need African American women, Asian women, Caucasian women, and Latinas of every age and lifestyle to be involved.

How does the Army of Women work?

Women who are interested register on the Love/Avon Army of Women website, providing very basic information such as name, age, city, and state of residence. Army of Women members will receive email updates from the Love/Avon Army of Women announcing new research studies looking for volunteers just like you. The email will detail the research project and who and what the researchers need. If you fit the criteria and you’d like to participate, all you need to do is reply to the email and let us know you’ve accepted our “Call to Action.” If you accept the Call to Action, you will be contacted by an Army of Women staff member, who will make sure you meet the study criteria and answer any questions you might have about study participation. You will never be pressured to take part in any study. The decision to take part is yours — and yours alone. If you meet the study criteria and are interested in taking part, the Army of Women staff member will let you know what you need to do next.

Some examples of their research are:

  • Weight loss and biological parameters in breast cancer survivors
  • The Milk Study: Using Breast Milk to Screen for Breast Cancer and Assess Breast-Cancer Risk
  • The development of an inexpensive and easy to use band-aid-like test strip that can assess whether a premenopausal woman is at risk of developing breast cancer
  • Exploring the effect of previous pregnancy on the physiology of the breast ducts
  • Investigating whether pregnancy causes permanent molecular changes in breast tissue that reduces breast cancer risk.

You don't need to have breast cancer, it doesn't even have to run in your family. Any old (or young) pair of ta-ta's will do. It takes a just a minute to join. But the impact we will have will last a lifetime.

Please Join Me in Being One in a Million! Click here to register.

PS - thanks, Mom, for introducing me to this.