rope. tree. fan. spear. snake. wall.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Okay, yesterday I met with the occupational therapist at Gus's kindergarten. Turned out to be a sort of general-information, get-acquainted thing. When he learned to walk and talk, is there any possibility of vision or hearing problems, allergies, whatever. Then she went up to meet him and he was very...himself. Little Mr. Sunshine has gotten progressively moodier and grouchier, but he may just be growing into his personality. When he's in a Mood he glowers at the floor and hunches his shoulders, and Robert says he can very clearly remember doing exactly the same thing at that age.

Interesting side note: one of the main reasons it took Kilian so long to get diagnosed is that I was always making excuses for him, the crowning one being: "Oh, it's not a problem, I did that when I was a kid too." So now it's apparently Robert's turn to say the same. Makes one wonder. Anyway, we are skeptical, but we're agreeing for the time being to work with the therapist, just in case. We made a mistake with Kilian, and we'd rather not repeat it.

Anyway. That was that. If Gus does see a therapist, it won't be what you're envisioning, lying on a couch and talking about the digger we wouldn't let him have when he was two and how it scarred him emotionally so now he doesn't think he can commit to a serious relationship with any plastic toy, ever. She'll have a group of kids, and they'll all troop off together for an hour or so on Wednesday mornings for some slightly-more-structured play. And it will happen within the kindergarten day, so it won't be Yet Another Thing I Have To Remember, which is good, because I'm already past capacity. So okay. We'll see.

I talked to Mom last night. She sounded much better, much more cheerful. She saw a doctor yesterday, and he thinks that the tumor in her back, while it's not growing, is pressing on her spinal cord, which is why she's losing some motor control in her legs. She's taking, um, Dexamethecin (sp?) 3x/day to shrink the tumor back and return some sensory-whatever. But she still has to get a wheelchair, which she is cheerful about because it's much easier than having Jerry half-carry her around all the time. And a hospital bed in the living-room, because she keeps scooching down on the couch and can't really get herself back up.

The methadone was knocking her out, but they've adjusted the dosage, so now it's controlling the pain but she's staying alert, so that's better. Her moods are evening out a bit, and she's getting physical therapy and occupational therapy. She probably won't get better enough to walk again, at least not to the point of not needing a wheelchair, but she is getting to a situation she can live with. That's a relief. And if she can avoid any kind of infection while she's still so weak, she probably won't die anytime soon. All good news.

But it does mean we have to start worrying about money. As I understand it, she has to spend down her assets before she can qualify for disability, and then she has to be on disability for a whole year before she can get medicare, which is getting slashed by the stupid government anyway. And disability doesn't have any kind of health insurance to it, and if you can afford health insurance you don't qualify for disability. So if you're too sick to work, you can't have medical care for a year. What the hell? She has something called "COBRA" under which she can get health insurance for $600/month for 18 months after she quits working, so if the disability paperwork gets done in time, she should qualify for medicare about when the COBRA thing runs out. But still, that's $10,800 she'll have to pay for health insurance over the next 18 months, and the way things are working now, she gets her prescription or therapy or whatever and then her insurance decides what it will cover and what it will not, so it's going to wind up costing quite a bit more. At the moment I don't know what to do about this, but I'm thinking about it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


I'm losing my English. In my conversations with CJ, half the words we use are German now, because we don't want to rummage around in our brains for an adequate phrase. Eltern means parents. Versammlung means assembly. Parent-assembly sounds like you bought a set of parents in a flatpack at Ikea and now have to put them together with nothing but an Allen wrench and a set of hieroglyphics.

Anyway. The parents of the new fifth graders all gathered in the assembly hall at the school and were talked at for three hours. Information on the tutors; a few charities the school is involved in; the school itself as a charity, i.e. please contribute money so we can buy instruments for the music classes and such; how gymnasium is different from elementary school and how to help the kids adjust; steps to take to resolve a problem between a child and a teacher; rules on choosing their second and third foreign languages - gack on this one. They are already taking English, next year they can add French or Latin, and the year after that they can add Italian or French if they already chose Latin, but if they already chose French they can't choose Latin, only Italian - who makes rules like this? It makes no sense at all. Anyway.

Then we all trooped to the homerooms of our respective children and met all their teachers, who seem quite nice, and heard about oh, the ALF program, which sounds like an equivalent of DARE, the school library, more study tips, what to do about absences, et-fucking-cetera.

It's a nice school, I will say that. But boy do people like to talk. My German is less than perfect, but I am advanced enough to be able to tell when someone is saying in 50 words what they could say in ten. And when you have to concentrate fiercely on every word, only to find at the end of the sentence that it was filler, you get annoyed. Three hours of Wall-of-German, and I was exhausted. I had a headache all day today.

Anyway, sorry I wasted all your time on that, because the point is mainly that after all the other parents were gone, we talked to Kilian's main teacher, Mr. Lanzinger, who is a really nice guy, and yeah, he's already noticed the ADD. He says Kilian is well smart enough to survive gymnasium, so we don't have to worry about him flunking out (whew!), but that his behavior could well isolate him from the rest of the class and make him a target for bullying. Not whew. So of course we'll have to talk with Kilian, a lot, and help him organize his workspace, and supervise him closely and give him routines and make sure he follows them and so on. So of course I was full of resolve when we left, but also full of fatigue, which has carried over to today, and the thought of all the work I will have to do just wears me out before I even start.

I know it sounds easy, "just" set a routine, just "make" him stick to it. But if I have learned anything from my nearly eleven years as a mother, it is that I am uniquely unqualified for this particular task. Oh I know there's no one else to do it, so I just have to, but that's been true for eleven years, and I haven't succeeded yet.

I wish other people didn't make it look so easy.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

meander meander meander

Stream of consciousness blah blah blah, killing time until I can reasonably go to bed. I have recently gotten (yes, my British friends, gotten. It's a real word. Deal with it.) around to noticing that other Mamabloggers name their children in code: Busy Boy, Busy Girl, the Preschooler Formerly Known as Busy Baby (Busymom); Thing 1 and Thing 2 (Crouching mommy, hidden laundry); Bumblebee and Sweet Potato. This gets me wondering if I should be attempting to conceal the identity of the Demon Spawn, since I frequently name the town where we live, and anybody who lives around here knows about the American and her grouchy husband and weirdly-named offspring. But I can't possibly come up with anything as witty as the other Mamas have - can't even rely on their nicknames, as I use them interchangeably - they are both, by turns, Peanut, Boo-boo, Scooter, and whatever else pops into my head. One exception: Firstborn is exclusively Ignatz, and Secondbord is exclusively Sniglet, but you can't be expected to remember which is which, can you? The sainted husband would naturally be something like He Who Must Be Humored, but I bet that's already been used by someone else.

Why, oh why can't I come up with things that are still funny and apt after some time has passed? Other people do it.

By the way, Tony says there is no excuse for not writing every day. If I link his name, he will hear it, come read this, and realize that if this is the best I can come up with, well, there's my excuse.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Okay, they lost this time. To Straubing, the same team they beat so spectacularly last weekend. This time we were in Straubing, a 2-hour bus ride away. Nice town, incidentally. Anyway, last week's win was bigger than this week's loss, so I'm not too upset. The team is still doing pretty well.

I saw Pride and Prejudice yesterday (Friday). I can't decide whether I liked it or not - it's my favorite novel, so I was always going to be nitpicky about it, but I think the movie lacks the flair of Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility - well, there you go. This one wasn't directed by Ang Lee, that might be part of the problem. There are other directors I'd expect a good job from as well, but I've never heard of Joe Wright. Not to sure about Deborah Moggach's screenplay, I guess. The cinematography made me dizzy and the music was intrusive. But since it is my favorite novel ever, I will probably see the movie a couple-three more times, so I'll be able to give a more positive review later. Much later, actually, since I think this was a Special Preview and I won't be able to see it again until November.

I talked to Mom again tonight. She sounds better, more alert, less tired and weak. But the news is not good. She's off the Vicodin for pain, and onto Methadone, which seems to be controlling it better, but only controlling it. She's not healing. She seems to be losing motor control a bit, she can't pick her feet up when she wants to, so I guess a wheelchair is in her near future. She also can't tell when she's standing upright, so there's some loss of equilibrium as well - don't know how much of this is general deterioration and how much is a side effect of the Methadone and Neurontin. Anyway, she now has a local doctor, has seen him once and will see him again Tuesday afternoon. I guess I'd better talk to him when I'm there. She also says she wants me to pack up a lot of stuff and help her get rid of it. If I'd known that was in the cards I would probably have planned to stay longer, but I really do want to get back in time for Gus's fifth birthday.

Well, I guess I'd better plan another trip in the spring. The last time I called her was Monday, to tell her I had my tickets, and that time she was talking about me coming in October, and I told her my brother's family was thinking about coming up for Christmas, and she mentioned that Kilian was the only person close to her that she was not going to get to see. Which sounds to me like she's rather planning on dying soon. If she'd said something before we bought the tickets, I would have arranged it, but I don't know if I can do that now, on such short notice. So I think it would be better to take him in the Spring, during his Easter holiday. I don't really know if she'll hold out that long.

Robert contends that there is a strong psychosomatic element in the pain she's suffering now. This is not at all helpful. Of course, he is being very nice in affording the ticket and assuring me that I can be gone and he won't be overwhelmed and generally not making me feel guilty about leaving for two weeks right in the middle of anything, so I must be grateful for that. Don't be shocked, it may sound like common courtesy but believe me, it's not all that common.

I spend a lot of time lately reminding myself not to worry. Worrying will not help. What will help is going out there, and I'm doing that. I'm writing packing lists and making plans and doing what I can, and worrying will just make me wrinkly and give me coldsores. So stop it.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Word of the Day

momtax n., The bite of my sons' sandwiches/candy bars/ice cream/whatever to which I am automatically and eternally entitled by virtue of the cooking, cleaning, monitoring and general support services I perform daily, not to mention the four hours of labor per child, ten and four years ago respectively.*

*yes, I know that constitutes an easy labor. If yours was worse, you may levy a correspondingly higher tax. Two bites, perhaps, or even three.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

la-la-la, dum-de-dum

Hey, I'm on a roll. Look at all these blog entries! So I sort of feel I should keep it up, and I've decided I will not be deterred by nothing much having happened in the last day or so. Today I did no homework at all, and precious little workwork, but I did fold six loads of laundry. Yeah. Six. Pretty much every towel and item of clothing in the house, yes. I do this, I do a laundry blitz and get all caught up, and then I don't need to check the status of the laundry for a few days, which somehow stretches to a few weeks - i.e., if I don't check every two days or so, I forget to check at all, until we all find ourselves borrowing socks from eachother and drying off with Kleenex after a shower, and then I think wait! I bet there's a bunch of stuff in the basement! And lo there is, and I have to do six loads of laundry in two days and then I feel all oppressed. But now my jobs are so stressful and keeping up with the kids' schedules is so demanding, that I feel really good when all I have to do is laundry. Never thought I'd be wishing I was Just a Housewife again, especially since I was such a crappy one.

I wrote to my teacher about, um, stuff that's going on, so he applied for an extension for my database course. He even said if I wanted to take a break for a few weeks that was okay, but I said no thanks, if I do that I'll forget everything I've learned so far.

Other news: in the last 24 hours, um, nope. Don't think so.

Monday, September 19, 2005

first soccer training

Gus had his first soccer practice today. Robert made a little video clip of it with the digital camera, and I will see if I can figure out how to make it accessible to you, either sticking it in here somewhere, or providing a link where you can download it. Robert says it shouldn't be too difficult (um, hello, who is the webmaster here?) but in fact he is probably right. But however easy it should be, I just don't have the brain space for a new thing right now.

But the training was good, and it was an excellent decision to put Gus in soccer in Buchbach instead of Dorfen. Robert's brother coaches the teenagers on the same pitch on the same day, so Gus gets to see him, and a cousin teaches the slightly-more-advanced little guys, so might be Gus's coach in a year or two, and the guy who coached Robert is still there, sort of supervising the coaches and helping out from time to time. And Oma and Opa are there, and it is an excellent arrangement. Gus is a really moody guy, increasingly so over the last few months, I don't know what's going on there. But apparently Bavarians are generally crabby, so no one seems fazed by it but me.

My brother Nate has gone South to help with the mess left by the hurricane. I talked to his wife last night, and she says his company asked for volunteers to go down there. They're covering his salary while he's gone, and paying him overtime because he'll be working 14-hour days, which is splendid of them. He's going to be helping to assess the damage and advise on reconstruction, I think she said. I am tremendously proud of him for helping out, glad the family is represented, and wishing I could do something similar, even without pay, since my salary here makes us more comfortable, but we don't really depend on it. I've tried to figure out a way to get down there, but it's just too much right now, too hard, too impractical at both ends - leaving my life here for however long, but also there - I don't know anybody, so I'd just be consuming resources and occupying space that is badly needed by other people. The people who are down there helping out are heroes, though.

Shel and I also talked about Mom. Shel is generally pretty cheerful and optimistic, so I rather expected her to put a good face on it, but she says she thinks it's not going well, and she's worried. She had also just talked to Mom, and Mom told her to tell me to come in October and not wait for the birthday/Thanksgiving thing. As it is, Nate will be on the Gulf Coast then, or just newly returned home, so it's not a great time for them to have guests either. So I booked a flight for Seattle today. I'll be gone October 6th to the 21st, but I should still be blogging, I think. I have to take my computer and try to keep up with my database course, so I'll need to be online anyway, somehow. Not sure how Mom's internet connection will work, not sure if I can find a WLAN hotspot anyway. Now I rather wish I had a slightly better knowledge of how that works, since I won't be able to depend on Robert to figure it out for me. Well, something will have to work out, I suppose.

Last thing: it's COLD! Ack! Beautifully sunny today, but the wind was chilly. I haven't been able to get warm for days.

Proud. Angry.

I want to say this about the whole Katrina mess. I am deeply proud of my countrymen and how they are pulling together to help the victims. The money donated, the homes opened, the volunteers lining up to hand out soup and blankets and hugs, touches my heart and restores my faith in Americans. There are a lot of good people there, and I did need to be reminded of that.

But I also want to ask why it was necessary for so many homes to be opened, for so much money to be given, for so many ordinary people to step out of their daily lives and go to help. I love them for doing it, but the fact is, they only have to because the government has failed, and that makes me angry. Why does the richest nation in the world have to rely on private handouts to help its own citizens in a crisis? This is what federal government is for - even the limited-government advocates admit that. Americans sacrificed their civil liberties for safety, and the safety they got was an illusion. All this money has gone to the Department of Homeland Security and Americans are not secure. The money went to inept political cronies and the victims of Katrina were abandoned to their fate, and all across the country, people are rightly wondering if they'll be next.

I don't know anybody in the affected area. I don't know New Orleans, except as a cultural icon, and I loved it for that. I've been distraught at the suffering of the people there, and outraged at the way they are being treated - reconstruction contracts handed over to Halliburton, with permission to pay substandard wages and no guarantee that the displaced, who've lost everything, will even be hired for the project. How are they supposed to rebuild their lives? The government is already moving to shift blame and to profit from the disaster - to make a quick buck and stay in power. They don't care that people suffer, and we always knew that about them, but we elected them anyway. And we can't even ask ourselves how this could have happened, because all along we knew that they don't care.

We knew.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

A Very Long Post About Some Stuff


Okay, just kidding. No word yet on how the German government will look. The Purples refuse to have anything to do with the Reds, and nobody else wants anything to do with them, with the possible exception of the Greens. The Blacks are thinking about convincing the Greens to join them and the Yellows. Yeah, that'll happen (sarcasm). There was talk of a Red-Yellow-Green coalition, but the Yellows are saying no way will they hook up with the Reds, which is a bit of a surprise, as they have been the most scum-sucking, bottom-feeding political opportunists for the last 50 years. Guess they grew some principles, who'da thunk? Wrong ones, but oh well, at least they're sticking to something for once.

Not that I let Robert's opinion influence me, or anything.

A-ha. I think I may be figuring out why people keep more than one blog. There is no way I could maintain two, hell I can barely keep up with just the one. But things are happening, and they may turn out to be fairly major, and the blog is not just to keep the world posted but also to provide a sort of document of these times, because I forget everything as soon as it's over. Another function is to enable me to vent in a somewhat socially-acceptable way, since when I kept a pblog I did a lot of pointless, boring, maudlin navel-gazing, and the thought that someone might read this makes me want to keep it interesting.

The point? Oh! Right! The point is that my mother reads my regular blog, and a lot of What's Going On centers around her, and maybe she shouldn't be reading my take on the whole thing. She probably shouldn't know how worried and frustrated I am, because it can only upset her. And in fact, I have not written much at all about her progress because I wanted to keep her somewhat in the dark about my concern (you heard it here, folks - yes, this is why families lie to eachother), but it's starting to entangle my life, and things are looking like kind of a mess, and I really really have to put it somewhere. So this is going to stay hidden until it's safe to uncomment the text, though that may not be possible - I don't know how long blogspot leaves your posts available to edit.

Yes, this will be a long entry. Glad you asked. Um, we left off in May, more or less, with her cancer responding so well to the chemotherapy that the docs decided she didn't need the last session, yay! Not too long after that, she had a fall, and perhaps foggy on pain meds, failed to get her hands up on time, so she landed on her nose and broke it. Well, fractured, she said, and it was just before my brother's family was going to be in Port Townsend for a visit, so she was chagrined at them seeing her with her face all banged up, but didn't go to a doctor or anything. Not until it didn't seem to be healing for too long, anyway. Early July, I suppose, she went to get it checked out, and they scheduled her surgery for a month later. A month.

Jerry says it was after the nose surgery that everything started to go wrong. I know I talked to her shortly afterward and she was crying and convinced that she was going to die really soon. So I hemmed and hawed and got in touch with Nate, figuring he needs to be kept apprised of all this. I didn't really believe she was dying, but I thought she believed it, so I was worried about her emotional state. Something else also happened that perhaps needs its own paragraph.

Now, I have the highest respect for medical personnel. They do a damn hard job, as well as they can, and I know I couldn't do it. However, this particular situation might could have been handled a tad differently. She had an MRI the week before her surgery, and someone called her at 6pm Friday to tell her they found two more "somethings" on her spine (remember, in addition to the lung tumor she had something in her spine that they couldn't chemo, so they radiated it and she had those burns in her throat, back in April or so?). It was too late to cancel her Monday morning nose surgery, so she went under the knife thinking about two new tumors, woke up with that on her mind, and the limited oxygen you can get through a damaged nose, plus the pain and the meds, was probably affecting her thought processes as well. I think anybody'd be freaked out, under the circumstances. So okay, she saw a doctor ten days after that dreadful phone call, and it turned out the shadows in the MRI were just arthritis, and while I am relieved, I have a small procedural quibble: we were scared as hell for ten days - couldn't they have phoned her as soon as they knew it was nothing to panic about? Why make her wait until the doctor appointment?

So I told Nate that Mom was kinda freakin', and how do we un-freak her, and he called her to tell her that he has a conference in Honolulu next July, and he's taking the family, including Mom, and the tickets were already booked, and rather implied that it would be a much better idea to get well so she could go to Hawaii! Seemed to work, and she cheered up some.

So that was August. Have we already established that The Master Plan was to move Mom down to Denver to live with or near the Nates once she got too old to take care of herself? Well, they are accelerating preparations for that, and that is more or less how things stand. Except that she has been talking of pain recently, in her right lower thorax where they cut her open in December to find that lung tumor. A lot of pain, and a lot of different meds, which have her feeling foggy and strange. When we found out the new things in her spine were only arthritis she started back to work again, but the pain was unbearable and the meds weren't controlling it, so she's given up her job. When she told her doctors this, they admitted that they were surprised she'd held on for so long. Yike. Well, once that was established she perked up a bit - she's never liked her job much, and I think she was somewhat relieved that the pressure to go back to work was gone.

Hmm, hmm, hmm. What to tell next? Her voice is increasingly weak in the phone calls, and each time I call she gets too tired to talk a little earlier than last time. I think we're down to about 7 minutes. She'll be 60 this November, so Robert suggested I should visit her then anyway, and her medical situation makes that an even better idea, so we've been looking at airfares. But I called her last night and she sounded really down, and said I might should come sooner. She's on new meds, and they seem to help, but not really enough...the doc's theory is that the nerve blocker they put in after her chest surgery has somehow failed, so the new medicine is supposed to calm those nerves down so they don't hurt so much while they're healing. Oh, and in this case the doc is (I think) Dr. Reimer, the oncologist (cancer-doctor) in Bremerton. She has no local GP anymore, because her local GP is on some kind of leave. Don't know what that's about, but it leaves Mom in a sticky place. She's also given up the Darvocet for pain, and switched to Vicodin. She has no appetite, is down to about 105 pounds, can't get up by herself, and hasn't been outside for ten days. So basically, the tumors are not growing anymore, so she technically doesn't have anything fatal, but she's so weak that if she gets pneumonia now she won't be able to fight it, and she'll die.

So I talked to Robert about it, and then I called Jerry. He agreed that it would be better to come sooner. I asked about getting her a local doc and he said he has a call in to Dr. Rotchford, a pain specialist in Port Townsend, but hasn't heard back yet. He'll go to Dr. Rotchford's office in person on Monday and find out if he can get her an appointment, and if not he'll ask around for another doctor. He confirmed most of what Mom said, and added that he has a lot of people coming to visit her to sort of force her to stay alert and sit up occasionally. I've also set something up with a friend there to either get her to the library once a week or at least bring her books and take them back when they're due. Also, Jerry never leaves my mom for more than two hours, because she can't get up by herself, and they both mentioned that she'd woken him up in the middle of the night, screaming because she needed her pain meds and couldn't move. No mention of whether this has happened several times or only once, but I gather that it happened relatively recently.

By then Robert had found a flight from October 6th to the 20th, so I called Mom to ask if that was earlier enough. In this second call she sounded more alert, and said it would be better if I came in late November so we could both fly down to Denver and visit Nate for Thanksgiving. Um, huh? Now I'm confused, because in the first phone call she said she had an appointment with Dr. Reimer in early October, but she wasn't sure she could get to Bremerton because she'd have to sit upright in the car for a whole hour, plus she gets really carsick. So how is she going to make the three hours to the airport and then however long you spend on a plane?

Mom has a history of um, somewhat overambitious travel plans. Like our trip to Paris a few years ago, when she didn't want to join a tour group, she wanted us to plan it all ourselves, but then it turned out she couldn't really handle going down stairs, which there are a lot of in Paris, particularly down to the Métro stations, and she couldn't really walk long distances, which, if you can't take the Métro, you sort of have to do. So that was quite a stressful trip, but she seemed to forget the stress as soon as it was over. So I'm inclined to think the trip to Denver won't happen, but how to put that diplomatically to her?

I phoned Nate, got the answering machine, left a message and sent him a terse email that I need to call him. I got a reply from his wife, saying he's with FEMA training to go help out with the recovery work in the Gulf of Mexico - he'll finish the crash course in a few days and then go south somewhere, and should be gone a month. So I will talk to Shel about Thanksgiving plans, but I probably more or less have to figure this out myself.

So that is more or less where things stand. I'm sorry this entry has been so long, but this is three and a half months of things I haven't been able to put in the blog.

German elections

Not that I've been following them, really, because I'm a bit overwhelmed these days. My attitude thus far has been "Wake me when it's over". But I have to admit, it's been interesting. I wish I had time to outline the whole thing for you, because it's been crazy, but the upshot is that the main socially-liberal party has been leading Germany into economic neo-liberalism, which is basically the opposite of social liberalism (I know it's an oversimplification. I told you I was short on time), so Germans are feeling betrayed, but of course the conservatives are also pushing neo-liberalism, so who can they turn to? Bit like England in the last elections, eh? Anyway, the voting was today, and everybody's claiming victory, even though almost every party has lost ground except the Linkspartei ("Left-party") which only formed a few months ago. Neither of the two major parties has anything close to a majority, none of the three minor parties has enough to join with a major party in coalition, so either the two big ones will have to figure out how to get along, or one of them will have to form a coalition with two of the little ones.

I'm trying to find a pie chart for you (it's so cute, German political parties are color-coded)...okay, here's the Deutsche Welle site, with news about Germany in English, so you can read as much or as little as you like, and there's an election results pie-chart graphic on the right that you can click. Don't know if that will still be there when you read this, but you never know. And I can't link you to it because it's a popup. Anyway, briefly:
  • Black is the sort of stodgy conservatives - Helmut Kohl was one of those.
  • Red is the sort-of Socialists who've been in power since 1998 or so, and many Germans feel betrayed by their recent reforms, which have been a bit too business-friendly, and ordinary people are kinda starting to get screwed.
  • Yellow is the assholes, the so-called Free Democrats who advocate a totally free market and letting the poor starve. Republicans, basically.
  • Green is the Greens, the anti-war, pro-environment, pro-socialism party who believe in taxing the hell out of the filthy rich, but have lately become more friendly to business, and have therefore lost Robert's vote.
  • And purple is the newly-formed Left party, formed by disaffected former Red guys and what used to be the East German Communist party; more left than the greens.
Okay, but here is what I want you to notice: Essentially, Germany voted Left. About 52% voted for the three leftwing parties, and while this is a slim majority, it is still a majority, and it means that most Germans do not want to be like the United States, and this trend toward neo-liberalism will at least have to be slowed. And that is good news.

And one other thing: Germans are pretty smart. The press set themselves pretty heavily against the SPD (red) and consistently predicted that the CDU (black) would sweep this one - a clumsy attempt to swing the election, and it failed. Hah.

someone to pray for

I knew Christie when I lived in Port Townsend in 1998. We didn't keep in touch after I left, so I can't really say I know her now, but I remember being struck by how sensible and tough and hard-working she is - all qualities I seem to lack, especially lately. Her house was the first one built by Habitat for Humanity in Port Townsend, and I wish I'd helped her with it, more than just contributing money to Habitat for a couple years. I wish I'd picked up a hammer and actually made myself useful. She's a really smart, really strong woman, and I have always admired her. She's about to go to Iraq with her National Guard unit, leaving her two kids in the care of her mother and sisters. I wish she weren't going to Iraq, because it's dangerous there and I have questions about our involvement in the whole mess. But I have nothing but respect for the depth of her belief that this is the right thing to do, and the sacrifice she's willing to make for it. She's always been kind of a hero of mine. Now even more so.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

hockey today


That's right. They beat Straubing 10:1.


Kilian's on the Dorfen team now, though still the smallest one - his jersey hangs to his knees, you can't even see if he's wearing any pants, it's so cute - and they're playing real hockey now, using the whole ice instead of a third of it, with the offside rule (which Kilian has yet to understand) and penalties and everything. It was actually an exciting game, not just something you have to watch because it's your kid down there. Oh yeah, and we cleared up the Monday thing, he doesn't have to go to practice on Mondays. Turns out there are a few other kids on the team with the same problem. Whew.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

small news

Dang! (Sorry for the mildness of the profanity, y'all, but my Mom reads this.) Firefox ate my blog entry! I shall try to reconstruct it, but of course it will lack the extemporaneous flair, the bright-eyed insouciance, of the halcyon times of five minutes ago before firefox crashed on me. Twice.

So I was saying I'd nearly decided to give up ifzijax and return to blogging by hand, as the cave-men did, because the comments, my reason for doing this in the first place, weren't really getting used a lot. But Tony Pierce left a comment on my blog! Ooo, fangirl flutter. He recommended Metafilter, which recommendation I will pass on to anyone who wants to keep up with what the blogosphere thinks of Katrina (nowish) and stuff in general (later, when Katrina's off the front pages). I'm so pleased. I read a lot of writing by brilliant, funny people, and when they're also nice enough to take the time to drop by, well that's just fabulous. Cass Brown sent me an email once (he of cancergiggles - buy his book, okay?), also a really nice guy. Rather restores my faith in humanity, to find that smart, funny people can also be kind, helpful people - I'm not sure why I think there should be a conflict. Some bizarre sense of balance?

Anyway. General stuff-going-on on the Folger homestead. Umm, Kilian started gymnasium on tuesday, seems to like his teachers and has nothing bad to report, other than his whole "school sucks" schtick, which we have told him is getting pretty moldy. There's an Irish girl in his class, who must have moved here fairly recently because her German isn't quite up to par yet. Kilian says she lives in Buchbach. Also it looks like about a third of his class are kids he went to elementary school with, though none of his friends made it into gymnasium. We'll see how this develops.

Kilian also met his um, therapist today. He says she's a psychotherapist. I was (perhaps more wishfully than accurately) thinking of her as a behavior therapist. Robert still seems to be operating on the assumption that Kilian's forgetfulness and poor social skills and all of it are the result of some buried inner conflict, and once we can dig up and identify the source of this inner turmoil, both turmoil and behavior will magically disappear. This is, um, not my take on ADD, but as Robert makes the appointments and has the therapist for a best friend and is on a first-name basis with our regular doctor, and has also been through therapy himself, he is well convinced that I cannot possibly know anything about any of it, so we are doing this his way. I'm not real happy about this, but I am altogether without support here, so right now a solution is not leaping to mind. If one does, I'll be sure to let you know.

Gus has started morning kindergarten. Today I had a conference with his teacher, Monika. She says he seems to be um, not very friendly and not very cheerful and only wants to play with Jonas and then only when Jonas does what Gus tells him. She asked permission to have an "occupational therapist" (um, that's what Leo says an Ergotherapeutin is, but that's not really what I was thinking of) take a look at Gus. It is probably nothing serious, just the adjustment to a new group and having to get up early, but she said that if we wait a few months, and then decide there might be a problem, we'll never get an appointment. So there's that.

And there's soccer. When I called, the guy said "just bring him down to the field Wednesday at 5:30". So we did, and the guy there told Robert there was no more space (in a group for 4-year-olds?), and we should get on the waiting list and maybe next year he could get in. I do think that if it were full, the guy on the phone should have said something. Anyway, it occurred to us rather belatedly that Gus should probably not play for Dorfen anyway, but for Buchbach, because Robert and his brother and his father all played for Buchbach when they were young. And family traditions are nice. And Robert said he would take Gus to training in Buchbach, it's only a 15-minute drive, no problem etc., but it turns out that the Bambini training is on Monday, the one day in the week that Robert really really has to be in Munich. Isn't that always the way?

So I'll take him. I do want him to play, and I love the idea of him being the third generation on the same team, and Mondays are fairly clear for me.

Ooog, that reminds me of one other thing: Kilian has school from 8-1 every day, but he also has to go in from 2:30-4 on Mondays, for art class. This causes a serious conflict with hockey, which was already becoming a problem. The training schedule says training is from 4:15 to 5:15, three days a week, but they have to show up 1/2 hour early for warm-up, and stay 1/2 later for cool-down - peel off 30 pounds of hockey gear, run around the stadium five times, take a shower - so that's two hours, three times a week, for kids whose school workload is just about to increase fairly dramatically. We have been getting increasingly alarmed at the kind of time commitment they want from a bunch of 10-year-olds (although, I gotta say, last Saturday was their first game and it was really exciting - they are getting a lot better), and now we'll have to tell them that Monday simply doesn't work. Not only would he arrive when practice was half over, but it leaves him no time for homework or anything else.

Conflicted. Sports are good for kids. Especially for teenagers, as they tend to get obsessive, and there are a lot of things you could be obsessed about that are worse than hockey. It's been really good for him, overall, but I think six hours a week is going too far. I think we would be okay with skipping Monday practice, but that's not really very good for the team as a community. What to do, what to do?

Let me just take a moment to offer a small prayer of thanks that my problems are this trivial. Still, any advice or opinions appreciated.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

insert title here

So I've mostly been following the New Orleans thing, and I can't keep up. I can't read everything and still find time to write about it, can't write anything more than has been written already. I'm reading Jeneane, and Tony, and Jason, and they link to other blogs with more about Katrina, and I'm building up a fine sense of outrage and then not really doing anything with it. I wrote to my congresspeople, and need to respond to their responses, but it's hard to be persuasive and articulate when you're overwhelmed. But so far, the grades for my elected reps are as follows:
Patty - A- (great questions, but just a little more righteous indignation, please);
Maria - C- (more money to FEMA, after they botched everything so badly? What the hell?);
Norm - Norm? Hey, Norm! Anybody home?

Elsewhere, Gus is in kindergarten in the mornings now, and Kilian starts gymnasium on tuesday; the hockey season is in full swing, he has practice Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; Gus will be starting soccer on Wednesdays; Kilian has his first appointment with the ADD therapist-lady this Wednesday evening; I've switched my Day In Munich to Friday, because Wednesdays are too full for me to be gone; The kids need all kinds of clothes, but stuff here sucks unbelievably - the fashion is apparently to take a perfectly reasonable flannel shirt or rugby shirt and ruin it by splattering nonsense words on it, so shopping for clothes is unnecessarily time-consuming, to put it mildly; Mom's cancer doesn't seem to be getting any worse, but she's still in a lot of pain that the doctors can't seem to do anything about, and she's had to give up her job; I really need to get my database course done by November 4th or so, but for some reason, I can't seem to concentrate.

I think that's about it, for now.

Saturday, September 03, 2005


Here's a transcript of the Nagin interview, if you'd rather read it than hear it, or if you want to quote from it.

I really like this guy.


Right, well I haven't done much blogging lately, partly because I'm very busy with the school year about to start and all, and partly because I'm following the news on Katrina and New Orleans and I'm feeling speechless and angry and helpless. I'm particularly ticked off with people who claim that this isn't the time for politics and finger-pointing, because it is exactly the time. Because this is what happens when you put a bad government in power, and because we all need to understand whose fault this is. Nobody could have prevented the hurricane, but the disaster that came after was foreseen by many, and people in power consciously chose to do nothing, and people without power were simply left to die.

People in Europe are aghast at the neglect on display. The US has the money, the infrastructure, to minimize the damage done by natural disasters, as poorer countries don't. (Note, however, that even Cuba and Venezuela offered help.) That they simply decided not to use it is criminal. NOLA mayor Ray Nagin, in a radio interview, was asked what we ordinary people can do. He didn't ask for money - there is money, it's just not getting there. He didn't ask for helping hands, either - they also exist, they're just not where they're needed. What he wants from us is to write to our lawmakers and hold them accountable. He wants us to make sure that they know that we know how preventable this was, and we want to know why it wasn't prevented. I'll be contacting my senators, but I would really appreciate if those of you who have Republican senators and representatives would take the time to ask a few pointed questions.

Here's the Nagin interview.