Monday, December 31, 2012

Time It Was, and What a Time It Was

A year to be remembered...

January came and we had no idea what we were in for...

February was relatively quiet, but we did take the girls to a movie.

In March we started really venturing out.  
Look how tiny they were.  

We went to a REAL football game too! 

 April was full of expectations.  

 Then it was May already!  
Annika turned 4 and we had visitors from the states.  
 We took a trip to Bremen to see friends. 
 Oh May was so great. 

We went to that super cool place with all the swimming.  
We had such a great time showing Andy's parents around too.  

Then came June.
 My Dad came to visit and I took him to Anna Blume for the best brunch in Berlin, among other adventures around the town and beyond. 

 We went on that hilariously awful trip to Luebeck. 

July was AMAZING as well.  

Mayzie turned 2

VENICE happened. 

I got a private tour of the Bundestag. 

Andy and I even hopped over to Prague for a weekend with just us 2.

 August came, and we went to Poland and made big decisions.  

 September arrived and so did Ruth.  
Andy flew home and Ruth kept me as sane as possible.  
She is an ANGEL! 

 She may have had a little bit of fun too. 

And Tali came too.  

 All of the sudden, it was October already and we were back in the USA.

 Then it was Movember. 

And December was over in a flash. 

And our girls are somehow already fitting into sizes 6 & 3 and tromping through the snow like we never left Cleveland.  

I am so amazingly thankful for 2012.  It could not have been any more exciting, and I owe so many people big thanks. 

Here is a short list of a few of the people who helped make this past year so great for us: 
Kim & Fred
Debbie & Alice
Dad & Val
Becky & James
Maggie & Jim
Emily & Brooke
Joel & Chris(t)
Mike & Djamila
Christian & Ivonne
Christine & Jake
Ruth & Tali
Nicole & Nicolas
Herbert & Saba & Juergen & Yonca and soo many others at my research site
Beate & Inken & Gabi & the whole team at Annika's Kita

I am sure I've forgotten someone and I'm very sorry if I have.  

In the beautifully simple phrase of Simon and Garfunkel: 
Time it was, and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, a time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Winter Holiday Travels 2012

So we went to Florida for Solstice and Christmas.  My Dad kept apologizing for it being so cold, and we had to keep reminding him that it was snowing in Indiana AND that we had lived in Cleveland and Berlin in the past 6 years.  We were just soo happy to see the sunshine. 
Don't worry, I went to the Dollar Tree and got some styling sunglasses for the rest of the trip.  I always forget to pack mine for some reason. 

We got to stay in this great condo that is owned by Andy's work, and this was our view from our bed every morning.  Yes, I know how lucky we are! 

 My aunt and uncle took us all to the light display at the botanical gardens.  

 It was quite lovely

Santa & the Mrs were there for pictures, but Mayzie was uninterested.  
Annika and Santa are TIGHT after this year; she got to see him at least 5 times.  

We had a hilariously imperfect dinner at my aunt and uncle's house, where my children didn't actually destroy too much.  
(You see that lady in the background?  She's the feistiest 94 year old I've ever met!  We LOVE her.)  

Mayzie tried to help the Grinch's heart grow a little bigger with her cuddles.  

Elwood (our elf on the shelf) made sure to let Santa know that we weren't going to be home in Indiana, so he would bring the girls' gifts to our home away from home.  

Annika would hardly take the dinosaur hat off.  

The girls went fishing with their Poppy on Christmas Day, but Annika was so not into the photo-op, despite looking ridiculously cute. 

Here are the girls before the present opening bonanza at Poppy & Noni's house.  
Those are their lovely Christmas dresses made by their Nana, and this was at least the 20th picture we took and only 1 of 4 where Mayzie wasn't putting her feet in the air.  

The flight home was MUCH better, probably because the Tampa airport seems to have predicted the fact that children under 10 might actually at some point need to play somewhere instead of driving everyone around them bananas.  
Seriously, get it together other airports! 

We made it home with plenty of time to play in the freshly fallen snow.  

As usual, our trip was much too short and we didn't get to see everyone that we wanted to or to spend as much time with everyone as we would like.  We spent a whole afternoon at our friends' house with 4 couples and 8 kids between us, and took exactly one picture.  You always know you've had a great time when you're too busy catching up to take any pictures.  We'll never forget the smack-down that went down in the bouncy house, when Alex learned not to pick on the bigger girls, or the annual closet clean out that turned into an episode of who wears it best.  I won't forget the hugs from some of my oldest friends, who've known me MUCH longer than I've known Andy and put up with my crazy shenanigans that my family probably doesn't need to know about.  I loved catching up with my Aunt and Uncle and skyping with my newly hairy cousin and his beautiful wife.  I don't want to forget all the laughs over so many bottles of wine that we lost count or the fabulously impromptu meals when I had to remind my step-mother that she wasn't feeding 20 people.  Holiday traveling is never an easy thing, but seeing all the faces and spending time with the ones we love is totally worth it.  

Friday, December 28, 2012

Ze Germans are Everywhere

Isn't traveling with kids fun?

Wait, you don't think it is either?  Whew, now I feel much better.

Certain parts of traveling cause me a GREAT amount of anxiety, and having children along for the ride only makes it worse.  I stress about packing.  I stress about getting everyone into the car.  I stress about making sure we arrive with plenty of time to park, haul all our gear into the airport, drop off our checked luggage, get through security, and get to the gate.  Once we are finally at the gate, my muscles begin to unclench and my nerves somewhat subside at the realization that we have done everything within our control to make sure we got here on time.  I figure the rest is in the hands of people who get paid for that kind of thing.

Naturally, on our way to the airport Andy's GPS decided to take us on a route that might have actually delivered us to the airport in 1987, but in 2012 only delivered us to a ROAD CLOSED sign.  By the time we actually parked, it was pouring down rain and I was very near nervous breakdown status.  The security line wasn't long and they very nicely waved us over to the quicker line with our double stroller, 2 car seats, 2 backpacks, 1 rolling suitcase, 1 purse, and two very squirmy girls.  The girls didn't even have to take their shoes off.  As I'm standing there explaining to Annika what was going on (in German) and how yes all of these people probably speak English but some of them might speak German, the gentleman in front of us turned around and started speaking German with us.  He had studied German in college and apologized profusely for his poor accent, which made me laugh, because I have a very serious American accent in German too that he apparently didn't notice.

Our flight from Louisville to Atlanta was delayed, for some reason I don't even remember.  We missed our connection, but ran through the airport to the gate of the next flight to Tampa to get put on standby.  The girls were seriously over the whole travel thing at this point.  They were restless and completely NOT understanding of all the snafus we were dealing with right then.  I was  letting them run around, within reason in my perspective, but a nice ATL employee driving one of those annoying golf carts through the airport didn't think so.  She yelled, "Lady, you need to get your children under control."  I wasn't having it.  I yelled back, "Lady, I can't make them sit for 12 hours straight.  They are 2 & 4 years old."  I then turned to the room full of strangers of whom half had given me the stink-eye since we had arrived at their gate 10 minutes prior, and said, yelled, "And if anyone else has any parenting advice they would like to give me or would like to volunteer to babysit, I'd be happy to hear it."  Andy was mortified and rolled his eyes to let me know when I looked at him, but he missed the 70+ lady standing in front of him who nodded her head and gave me a thumbs up.

2 minutes later after recounting the whole scene to my Dad on the phone using a few choice words of German so as not to offend any eavesdroppers, a 19 year old boy started playing football with Annika.  It was a dream!  I thanked him immediately, and noticed his accent.  He was GERMAN!  We chatted in German and I apologized for my swearing.  He laughed.  When he walked away, Annika told me, "I just fell in love with him Mommy."  She wouldn't stop waving at him as we boarded the plane on which he was already seated.  (Side note: Thank you to Chicago for cancelling so many flights.  I'm SURE that's how we all 4 got off standby and on the plane to Tampa!)

A couple days later, I went up to the exercise room in the building to hide from my kids run on the treadmill while looking at the Gulf of Mexico.  I had some trouble finding the on button (which probably surprises no one) and the nice lady next to me helped me.  I noticed she was reading smutty fiction auf Deutsch.  She was GERMAN.  We had a nice conversation and she left.  Her partner then came in and chatted me up auf Deutsch while I stretched after finishing.  (He had some very interesting views on gun control and housing standards.)  They made fun of Berliners, I made fun of all Germans, and we related how difficult it can be to be a foreigner living and trying to actually do things in both countries.

3 Germans and 1 fellow German-speaking American...other than the ones I already know in Florida.  Ze Germans really ARE everywhere, and are soo majorly happy when you speak their language.  I was amazed at how quickly I fell back into speaking German with other adults AND by how little vocabulary I have for things like architecture and guns.  I don't foresee that improving either way though.  All 3 times, it certainly was a welcome surprise to hear a very familiar language and to relate a little bit of our crazy experiences of the last year to people who can understand.  Moving back has been MUCH harder than I honestly ever expected, and I continue to struggle, but I wouldn't change any of our experiences thus far.    

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Solstice OR the End of the World?

Today is December 21st, 2012.  This will either be the last day that we will be on this planet OR merely the official beginning of winter.

According to some (very uneducated people who like to believe things that aren't actually true) the Mayan calendar predicts that today is the end of the world.  This is absolutely false according to all the people who actually study these things, and I'm not buying the BS.  If you still aren't sure, click here to find a little perspective on apocalyptic predictions.  You have to at least appreciate the cajones it takes to make that kind of prediction though.  I really WISH I had that kind of audacity and confidence.  Personally, I appreciate the way that our brother and sister-in-law are celebrating the possible end of the world doing exactly what they enjoy, though jam-bands, bikinis, and faux-Hippies are not really my thing.  I'm sure they're having a great time.

Today we will be celebrating the winter solstice, when the sun hits the furthest point south and we start the long journey of our planet tilting us closer to the light emitted by that seemingly gigantic fire ball.  Really in the grand scheme of things, our sun is pretty big but nowhere near the biggest out there.  It is all about perspective.

This year we will be sitting on the beach welcoming the sunrise in Florida while snuggling our toes into the sand.  We'll welcome back the light and be thankful for the entire year of amazing experiences we've had.  We'll hold hands and play Ring Around the Rosie to remind ourselves of the cyclical nature of all things.  We'll hold our faces to the light and soak up as much vitamin D as possible in the sunshine state before we return to the often cloud-covered midwest that we love.
We'll hug our Florida family and friends extra tight, because we don't get to see them nearly enough.

So welcome to a new cycle earth.  Welcome colder temperatures and maybe even some snow.  Welcome to a new season.  Welcome to a new perspective.  Welcome back light. 

Unless you happen to live in the southern hemisphere, as a few of my friends do.  For you today is summer solstice and the peak of the light days for you.  Thanks for taking care of the light for us.  You see, it is all about perspective. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Moving Forward

I don't believe in magic.
These lovely girls do.

I don't believe in Santa and elves, but they do.

I don't believe in many things anymore that I once did, but my children do because we let them keep those innocent adorable grins and lofty hopes as long as we can.

It is a constant struggle for me to want to tell them about the world and the horrible things that might happen to them and to keep their lovely innocence and fearlessness in tact.  I know my friend Jennifer also has the same trouble.     

As every parent in America right now, my heart is breaking for the soon to be unwrapped gifts under the trees of the parents of the kids (and adults) killed in Newtown, CT. The unimaginable heartache of losing a child to senseless violence is something you can never plan or prepare for in your life.

What can we do to ease their pain?
-Nothing really.

But the amazing Roo*, who also lives in Connecticut has a few ideas and plans to help if you feel so compelled.
*Her unofficial superhero name btw.

What can we do to make sure this never happens again?
-I'm not sure, but it will most certainly be a complicated multifaceted approach and not a band-aid solution agreed upon out of fear.

The blame game is fun to play and certainly gains clicks, but real action requires more than pointing fingers. I will not be involved in the shouting match of irrationals.

How has this changed me?
-My first reaction, after sobbing while clinging to my children, was to dream of how we could move back out of the country. It would be so much easier to just be gone. Maybe, Amy will let us move in with them in New Zealand?

-My second reaction was to look for solutions. Surely someone much smarter than me can come up with some.

-Lastly, I put on my anthropological hat and tried to put this all in perspective.
I read too many facts about and accounts of the events of that horrible day.

I found an interesting article in the Washington Post utilizing data to discuss some of the issues.

I found all of the same articles that everyone seems to be posting on the book of face in the last few days about whichever issue they seem to think is the most important one in this panacea of collective cultural cluster whuckary we have going on right now. I won't link to them, because I think they are distractions. I do think that we need to think through any any all actions we might take, legislative or otherwise.
I think I most especially appreciated this blog post from my colleague Daniel Lende over at the Neuroanthropology blog. (I'm not sure I can call him my colleague since he's a REAL professor, but I've met him a few times, so I'm going with it.) He critiques several of the arguments and articles already circulating, and I mostly agree with what is there.

As always, I also really appreciated the Mom-In-A-Million's discussion of her reactions and how she plans to move 

Moving forward isn't easy and moving away isn't really an option.  So for now, I'll be content to keep squeezing my kids a little too much, quietly mulling over the issues in search of an intelligent solution, and pushing for change in this place that we call home.  I'll put my nose back to the grindstone of my dissertation and carry on in my own peaceful way.  I've always preferred to lead by example anyway.  

Friday, December 14, 2012

Birthday Freak: Part 2

 This is part 2 of the story of how the universe decided to test me on my birthday.  You can find part 1 here if you’d like to catch up. 

After my lovely morning freak out, we went home, ate some lunch, and put Mayzie down for her afternoon nap.  I put on a movie for Annika and set about calming myself.  Some days this is a herculean task, but Annika cuddles usually help. 

When Mayzie got up from her nap, I took the girls to Once Upon a Child in search of some clothes for our very quickly growing Annika.  (She’s 4 and ½ years old and wearing size 6 clothing from the girls’ section and about to burst into size 1 in kid’s shoes.)  I found a few things for her while the girls played in the kiddie corral that they have set up inside the store.  (Why doesn’t EVERY store have this?)  I paid for our things and wrestled the kids out to the car.  I buckled Annika into her seat, and started buckling Mayzie in her seat as she started throwing a fit about not wanting to be in the car.  All of the sudden, I hear a thud and the door closes on my legs and whacks me in the butt hard enough to push me in close enough to kiss Mayzie’s face.

I quickly assessed that the car next to ours had started pulling out and had hit my open car door.  I finished buckling the carseat as I saw in my peripheral vision that the car had stopped, and backed out slowly to feel out whether I was hurt or not.  I wasn’t.  I got out, and as my hand found the door to close and started to push, the car abruptly pulled away.  This all happened in the span of about 10 seconds.  I was flabbergasted.  Did that driver seriously just hit me, realize it, stop long enough to contemplate what to do, and then drive away without even checking on me? 

I reacted by laughing and letting out a fierce roar at the sky with my fists raised to the sky.  “RRROOOOOOAAAARRRR!!  IT IS MY BIIIRRTHDAAAY!!!!” 

No, I didn’t get her license plate number.  No, I didn’t call the police.  No, I have no idea if there was actually any damage to my very well dented and scratched 10+ year old car.  Probably not, but that wasn’t the point. I did see a giant yellow cross magnet on the back of her car as she drove away and thought, “That sure wasn’t very Christian of you lady!” 

I got in the car and laughed hysterically. Annika asked if I was ok.  I said yes and we drove to my MIL’s house where I recounted the story to her.  She didn’t think it was very funny.  She was pretty busy cooking us a fabulous birthday dinner of Fajitas and Flan, exactly as we requested.  (She’s pretty awesome like that.)

The results of the birthday challenge: Universe 1-Mama Melch 1
Alternatively you could say that I scored a 50% on the test, which is failing, but I’m choosing to take the more positive outlook this time.  If it is all about attitude, perhaps it is time I change mine. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Birthday Freak Part 1

As I have gotten older and busier, I have become aware that the entire world does not revolve around me just because it is my birthday.  This awareness is of course partially cultivated by the fact that the day before my birthday is Andy’s birthday, so I usually spend that whole day stressing to make sure he has the special birthday he deserves.  Typically this includes at least 2 major freak outs about whether his present is perfect enough or dinner will turn out or if he’ll even like the dinner I made or if it will be done in time to eat before the kids fall asleep etc. etc. etc.  AND at least two consoling moments when Andy has to assure me that he really DOES love the dinner and his present and that I am the best wife ever.  Unlike me, Andy is not prone to hyperbole, so these reassurances do not come easily.  I might be a little needy, but he’s stuck with me anyway.

This year I became aware of an entirely new phenomenon that must just be a treat of growing older: the new annual testing of my nerves and sense of humor on my birthday.  On my 34th birthday, 2 major tests were thrown at me by the universe.  I’m pretty sure I failed one of them and nailed the other one.  You be the judge. 

Let me preface these stories with some facts: we are in the middle of a HUGE shift at our house, having just returned from a year in Berlin, living in a new/old town where 90% of the people we know we are related to, and money…well…let’s just say that being a SAHM and PhD student doesn’t pay that…wait…doesn’t pay at all.  We may be a little stressed and by we, I definitely mean ME.  Andy is super great at rolling with the punches and navigating in a murky sea of what-the-heck-are-we-doing.    

The first test came when it was time to pick up Annika from school.  Her preschool is really awesome, and I’m soo happy that she gets to go there.  She’s so happy that she gets to go to the same school as her cousin.  Everyone is happy about it.  I’ve FINALLY worked the schedule into a routine, so that picking her up isn’t as stressful as it once was.  (I might be a little OCD about the schedule.)  So Mayzie and I arrived to pick up Annika on my birthday.  We walked into her dark empty classroom.  I was confused.  I looked at my phone to check the time.  (Does anyone wear a watch anymore?)  I was 5 minutes early, but still a little confused. I walked across to the main building where I looked in the gathering room where they sometimes go for special meetings.  Nobody was there.  I walked back to her classroom, still nobody there, and the teacher across the hall didn’t know where they were either.  I walked back to the other building, the only other one I knew she ever went to, and her class wasn’t there either.  I asked one of the other teachers where their class was, she didn’t know, and neither did the other teacher in the same building.  Naturally, the principal, who is the nicest lady and probably would have very easily calmed me down by letting me know where they were and taking me to her, was gone that day.  By this point, it is 5 minutes after when I’m supposed to pick her up, and I’m starting to get angry.  Several other parents with kids in the same class are standing there waiting, and nobody knows anything.  Funny thing is, I am the only one freaking out.  I am now in full on panic angry freak out mode and just want my KID! 

“Why can’t anyone tell me where my kid is and why am I the only one worried about this?!?!  I mean, if I picked her up 10 minutes late, I would be charged a fee right?!?!  Is there some secret meeting or secret newsletter that I didn’t get explaining how things work here and where my kid is right at this moment?!?!”  I may or may not have yelled that exact thing at the two teachers who were unluckily standing there.  3 minutes later, her class marched around the corner and her teacher gave some explanation that I did not hear at all in my horrible rage of an anxiety-give-me-my-kid attack. 

In retrospect: I know that stuff happens.  Kids have to pee and the whole class has to wait.  Kids dawdle putting on their coats to walk back to the classroom building.  13 kids are not easy to wrangle and herding cats is no easy feat.  I was so TOTALLY in the wrong and really really really need to start a serious meditation practice to get my whole attitude in check.  I mean, seriously, that was ridiculous. 

Funny enough, the test that I passed was the one where I actually had cause to freak out about.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dear No Longer Our Doctor

So, we went back to the doctor.  Remember the one where we had the horrible experience the first time?  We decided to give them a second chance, mostly because we had already scheduled a follow-up for the girls' Flu vaccine boosters.  What follows, is the letter I wrote to said doctor after the second enraging visit to their office.  The names have been removed so I can't be sued for defamation or anything like that.


Dear Dr. ________,

I am writing this letter as a professional courtesy to let you know exactly why I will not be bringing my children back to your office ever again.  The first time I was in your office with my two daughters, we had a really bad experience.  My very first impression came at the check-in desk.  When I explained that I had not brought my children’s shot records with me, but could get most of the records faxed from their previous pediatrician here in the United States, the reply I received was both insulting and rude.  I paraphrase here, “Ma’am, I told your husband that the doctor cannot see your children without a complete shot record.  You have 10 minutes before your scheduled appointment.  If you can get the records here in that time, then you can see the doctor.  Otherwise, we can reschedule for after we get the full records.”  This was actually delivered soaked in condescension, with an eye roll, a glance at a watch, and then a prompt closing of the glass divider.  I was astounded, and almost walked out right then.  Instead, I called our pediatrician in Cleveland, where we haven’t lived in over a year, and the receptionist there was not only extremely glad to hear my voice and sad to hear that we weren’t coming back, but also remembered details about our lives including the names of my children.  She faxed the records from Cleveland to your office before I even hung up the phone, and so we were then allowed inside to see you for the first time. 

My first impression of the office, beyond the rude check-in woman, was that it does not look like a place that kids come.  This was then further reinforced by the complete lack of any color in the office, lack of adequate changing tables and necessities for kids in diapers or potty training, and complete lack of kid proofing.  In the time I spent with the nurse from the waiting room to the exam room and then inside, she (the nurse) and I spent at least half of it wrangling my kids to not touch or climb on things that were quite obviously not designed with them in mind at all.  When the nurse left the room, I then wrangled my kids out of their clothing and into the required gowns, dreading all the while the 20 minutes it was going to take me to get them back in their own clothing.  I have not had to undress my children for a doctor since they were infants, and while I understand the thought behind wanting to examine them “completely,” I think you really should weigh the costs and benefits of this policy.  This is NOT standard policy by any of the pediatricians I am familiar with (both personally and professionally), and it is hugely time consuming and quite frankly unnecessarily exhausting as a parent to have to get my 2 year old and 4 year old dressed again afterward. 

My first interaction with you was completely tainted by everything that had come before it.  I am sure you are a great and very knowledgeable doctor.  I do not question your medical expertise at all.  I do however question your tact.  For example: my older daughter has a hemangioma.  She is 4 1/2 years old.  You could at least give me the courtesy of trying to feel out what we have done so far and what we know about it before offering to send her for a specialist consultation.  You do not know me, yet you assume that I know nothing about a condition that my daughter has had since the day she was born.  That was discourteous and laughable in my opinion.  You also expressed concern for my younger daughter’s runny nose.  Her snot was completely clear and we had just traveled from Europe, therefore I was not at all concerned and I found your over-concern disconcertingly disingenuous.  You also never spoke directly to either of my children, both of whom are perfectly capable of speaking in complete sentences and answering for and about themselves. 

When we left your office that day, I was infuriated.  I have never had such a bad interaction with a doctor’s office in my life.  Perhaps you should know that my mother worked as an office manager for doctor and dentist offices for most of my life.  Perhaps you should know that I hold a Masters and am a PhD Candidate in Medical Anthropology, a field that studies the effects of culture on health and illness.  Perhaps you should know that I have my Masters in Public Health.  Perhaps you should know that I waited tables for 10 years and am somewhat of an expert on customer service because of this experience.  Perhaps you should know that even though we are new in town, my husband’s entire family is from here and have all heard this story at least once.  Did you know that every person who has a bad experience typically tells that story to at least 5 other people?    

Despite our first experience, I chose to give you and your office the benefit of the doubt and to come back for my girls’ flu vaccine boosters as we had scheduled 4 weeks after the first appointment.  After all, I was a little jet-lagged and in the middle of a stressful international move the first time we met.  We arrived at the appointment early, a feat that you may not be able to appreciate as a mother of one baby, but trust me this is impressive and not easy.  We checked in and waited for about 5 minutes.  The very nice nurse then called me up to the front desk to tell me that after you had reviewed my daughters’ shot records, you had decided that they didn’t actually need the booster after all.  She did apologize, and we then hastily left the office.  I took the children to a playground, and called your office.  The lady on the other end of the line, the same rude check-in lady previously discussed, checked our records as I asked her.  She read me the phone number that you had on file, and it was my husband’s current and functioning cell phone number.  She then asked if I wanted to change the number to mine.  I said no.  I told her to go ahead and cancel my youngest daughter’s appointment that I had previously made for January 14th because we would not be coming back.  She then said, “Ok, I’ve taken her off the schedule,” and that was that. 

I understand that you are a very busy doctor who is pressed for time.  I want you to know that I completely respect your time, which is why I show up for appointments early whenever possible.  There were, however, 4 weeks between the time that we first came and our second appointment.  Even if you had only reviewed my children’s records that morning, you could have at least made sure that we got a phone call to not come in out of respect for our time as well.  Apologies are nice, but doing it right in the first place means that you don’t have to apologize. 

Thankfully, we live in a place where we have a choice in pediatric offices.  I sincerely hope that you use this opportunity to learn and grow in your new practice.  I took the time to write this letter to you because I know I would want to know why someone never came back to see me again.  Our family will no longer require your medical services.  I would highly recommend checking out our former pediatric office in Cleveland, as they are incomparably amazing in so many ways.  Our children actually asked to go play in their office and we NEVER had a single bad interaction with anyone in their entire office.  Additionally, I want to let you know that I am sending a copy of this letter to the _________ Human Resources Department in the hopes that they might be able to help you iron out some of the details of better service.  I know that I have come to expect a very high quality of care and service based on our outstanding experiences with physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, and other health professionals in the Cleveland area, but I see no reason why moving should force us to lower our expectations.  Perhaps your office should raise theirs. 

Mama Melch


Monday, while cooking dinner, I got a phone call from the manager of Dr. ____'s office.  She was very apologetic and a little perplexed as to why she had received a copy of the letter from the HR department that day and NOT from the doctor to whom it was addressed and who had received it at least a week ago.  I thanked her for taking the time to call.

Now we're on the hunt for a new pediatrician.

P.S. It is so nice to be back in the USA where I'm allowed to expect service and know how to exact retribution when I feel it necessary.  Those were two things I assuredly missed when we were in Berlin!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Family Day Hike

December came but forgot to bring the cold temperatures with it.  Coat-less days call for crunching leaves and wood wandering in search of acorns, squirrels, and elves.  

The crisp air fills my lungs and it feels like fall is lingering long enough for me to get my feet back underneath me and my head more properly situated on my strong slouching shoulders.

The tangled upended roots of the tree make beautiful frames for far too fleeting moments together.

But the joy on their faces from such simple pleasures as being together, taking a walk, and holding hands down a path is the most hopeful and restorative thing in the universe to me.

I treasure our family days together! 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Ask Annika Part 4: This one is gonna be EPIC!

The 4th installment of Ask Annika comes courtesy of our friend Marianne at We Band of Mothers.  Marianne is a hilarious writer full of sass and great stories of south Chicago style parenting failures and successes.  Most impressive of all, besides all her amazing blog writing and article writing that she does over at Chicago Parent, she also has a new book out just in time to fill in that last name on your shopping list.  


Here are her questions for Annika and Annika's answers: 

Marianne: So kid...whatchya think of the cover?  Good?  Bad?  Upsetting?  Don't hold back.

Annika: Ummm, BAD!  

Me: Bad?  Why is it bad?  Is it upsetting?  Why is it bad? 

Annika: Because it's upsetting.  

Me: It's upsetting.  What's upsetting about it? 

Annika: of the kids. 

Me: What are the kids doing? 

Annika: They are running over her. 

Me: Who's that? 

Annika: I don't know. 

Me: You don't know who that is?  The kids are running over this lady.  

Annika: Yeah. 

Me: Do you think maybe it's their mommy?  

Annika: Yeah. 

Marianne: Do you think you can make better clay people than this?  

Mayzie (in the background): I want some juice.  I want some juice. I want some juice.  

Annika: Yeah. 

Me: You do? 

Annika: Yeah. 

Marianne: What would you add?  

Annika: Ahhh, maybe some doughnuts. 

Me: Ok, yeah, good job, good call.  

Marianne: If you had to pick between this book and one about vegetables, what are you going with?  Explain.

Annika: Ahhhh, Dora!  

Me: Dora?  Between this book and a book about vegetables you pick Dora?  

Annika: Yeah. 

Me: Ok. Why? 

Annika: Because. 

Me: Because you like Dora?  

Mayzie (in the background): Mommy mommy I want some juice!!  (Starting to have a total juice meltdown!)  

Marianne: What would it cost me to have you tell people to go "Like" the book on Facebook (Epic Mom Book--CLICK IT).  A puppy?  Candy?  Email me your demands.  

Annika: Oooo, CANDY!  A PUPPY A PUPPY!! 

Me: Candy and a puppy.  What kind of puppy?  

Mayzie: I want some juice!!! 

Annika: I don't know.  

Me: You don't know...ok.  

Go buy Marianne & Julie's book: Epic Mom and like the book on Facebook.  You'll laugh yourself silly and feel better about your parenting.  

P.S. It seems like Mayzie wants to get in on the action.  Perhaps she should get her own feature too.  Suggestions?  

Friday, December 7, 2012

Turkey Day 5K

For Thanksgiving this year, my sister-in-law and I decided to start the day with a race.  I was really excited to do it, until I remembered that my awesome-sauce super-mom SIL ran in the Chicago MARATHON only one month prior.  Then I started to panic a little, since I hadn't even been on the treadmill since coming home.  I trained for exactly 3 weeks, at the start of which I could barely run three whole miles.  My goals: stay with Lindsey for most of the race and finish under 30 minutes.  

I started out chatty.  
I got much less chatty around the one mile mark.  

At the 1.5 mile mark, I was oh soooo happy that Andy, Annika, & Mayzie were there cheering. 
Around the 2 mile mark, I huffed out, "Go ahead, I'll be fine."  

Near a turn, a very svelt handsome rested teenager wearing his finisher medal yelled at us to keep going, "only 600 meters left."  

I rounded the corner and could see the finish line down the long straightaway.  A local radio station was there at the end and just then they put on Van Halen's "Jump."  I turned to the lady running next to me and barely said, "I sure don't feel like jumping."  She smiled, and we plodded ahead.  

I actually mustered up a tiny sprint to the finish, which I didn't think I had in me.  

I crossed the finish line and headed straight for the grass, sure that I was gonna hurl and having a cross-country flashback.   I didn't hurl.  I did get tackled by 2 adorable girls who were still cheering for me.  

Here I am, not even attempting to look pretty and still nauseous, with my outstanding and inspiring SIL Lindsey.  (Apologies to her for THIS picture being the first one of her on the blog.)  I'm actually thankful for the crappy lighting so you can't see how red my face is here.  

Aren't our matching shirts cute?  Thanx Pinterest! 

Our outstanding cheering section! 

I did achieve both of my goals, though I'm pretty sure that aiming low was helpful AND that Lindsey purposefully stayed with me in the beginning.  She's so nice that she'd probably never admit it, but I know and it makes me smile on the inside to have a sweet SIL like her.  

Things I was thankful for in that moment: 
1. Not barfing  
2. An awesome SIL to run with me
3. A great cheering section
4. A well organized event
5. That I had remembered to bring ibuprofen in my purse.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ride on the River

I'm a little behind on posting some of our adventures, for many many many reasons that I may or may not get into here.  Suffice it to say, that life has gotten a little more complicated since our return to the United States.  

Our new/old hometown is on the banks of the Ohio River.  We can actually run to the river and look at Kentucky from our apartment, though I've been assured that we are above the flood plane. We've been discovering fun things to do all over town since arriving, and one of the best suggestions we got from my MIL was to check out the Pigeon Creek Greenway.  They have this amazing paved path all along the riverfront and back around behind the warehouse district and it just keeps going.  So far there are about 6 miles of paved trail, but eventually it will be an entire loop around the city.  

We chose to check it out on an especially warm fall family day.  We didn't think Mayzie would be able to ride her Laufrad long enough for the rest of us to actually get any exercise, so she got to ride on the back in her super cool seat.  The seat won't fit on my 1950s cruiser bike, so we put it on Andy's extra bike and I tried not to hurt us both while I attempted to mount the thing.  

Annika got to ride her own bike and was soo very proud to do it.  We accidentally ran into the parade downtown, mostly because we stopped to check out the GIGANTIC American flag that was flying from this crane.

Mayzie was pretty excited about the parade.  

We rode a full 1.5 miles on the trail, turned around, and rode back to where our car was.  For you math people, that was 3 miles of bike riding: not much for Andy and I but PLENTY for Annika.  By the end of it she was getting tired and asking to stop.  Naturally, when we actually got to the place where our car was, she didn't want to get off her bike.  She was finally persuaded with the promise of a snack.

While Andy loaded up the other bikes, Mayzie finally got a turn.  

It was another lovely family day out exploring our new town. 


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