Saturday, December 20, 2008

I Could Nibble These Toes All Day Long

William is now eight months old. EIGHT MONTHS. He's practically ancient. Then why is it that sometimes I'll look down at his crusty little pureed pear-laden cheeks and think, "Oh my god. I have a BABY!!! When did THIS happen?? And HOW??" And when will that feeling end? By the time he's twelve? Twenty-three? Never? He's just so wonderful, even when he spits nasty strawberry-flavored amoxycillin back at me. (I wouldn't want to touch that stuff either, kid.) His last weigh-in was two days ago, and he's 11 kilos (24.25 lbs) and 77 centimeters (30.3 inches) long. Big boy indeed. Sometimes he feels like a heavy, noisy purse. But much sweeter.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What a Day...

Oh, hello!

Yes, I'm still here. We're all doing very fine, just a little busy is all. Soooo... Yeah! I'm still blogging, although primarily in my head these days. I mental-blog about all kinds of things -- well worth the price of a subscription -- and I take the most fantastic mental-pictures you've ever seen. But, today something happened that I simply must share, and the story ends with a wonderful moral.

Here in Denmark, there is something called hygge. Hygge does not have a direct translation, but the closest to it is "cozyness." Kind of. Anyhow, it is the OFFICIAL passion, mindset and mode of all Danes. It is because of hygge that we have lit candles in banks, shops, bus stations and even schools during the dark months, to bring that certain happy cozyness to our Danish lives. And at Christmas, there is an even more intense level of hygge, and it is called julehygge. This means "Christmas cozyness," and today we were invited to our friend Rikke's parents' house for some scrumptious julehygge -- specifically æbleskiver (homemade fried dough balls with jam and powdered sugar) and gløg (mulled wine with almonds and raisins). Also, Rikke's dad has grown a nice little patch of Christmas trees to which we could help ourselves to the best darn tree our grabby little hands could saw down. As this is William's first Christmas, the yuletide thrill has been ratcheted up a bit, so today was to be very exciting.

And it was! Rikke and her husband Gert, Jorunn and Jeppe, and Bo and Randi and all of our assorted tykes piled into our cars and caravanned to Rikke's folks' place. It looked like a snow sky (but without the snow) and we sang Christmas songs as we talked about where to put the tree in our new apartment. 'Twas cozyness defined. We even threw Bella in the back of our car so she could taste a bit of the excitement.

Our motorcade arrived in the late afternoon, and we all popped out into the crisp air. Christmas! Yay! Good cheer! Love! Cinnamon! Pine needles! Yippee! As we congregated in the driveway, Don whispered to me, "Don't look over there. Just don't."

"Why not?"

"Just. Just don't. Okay?"

"Okay."

There was something under a big black garbage bag on the ground. I saw a hoof sticking out of one end, and when I got closed, I saw Bambi's nose. Aw. Rikke's dad must not be a fan of deer hopping around happily in fields. :( Oh well. Let's get a good tree!!!

Rikke, a huge dog lover, told Don it was okay to let Bella out of the back of the car.

"It's okay, Don -- she can't do anything. And she can't run away. It's all fenced in."

"Uh. Naw, it's okay. She likes sitting in the back of the car."

"Come on, let her out. It's okay!"

"Are you sure?"

"Yes! There's no problem! You can't let her stay back there!" Rikke was right -- Bella would be very uncozy all by herself.

While Don was having this conversation, William and I were over admiring the chickens in a nice big pen that Rikke's dad had made. Our tree party was making its way over to the thicket of hardy pines beyond the chickens, and Don came down the path with Bella.

The chickens started to FREAK OUT.

"Rikke, don't you think the birds will, uh, be uncomfortable with Bella around?"

Bella's jaws were a saliva waterfall as she squealed through the chicken wire.

"No, no -- they're fine! Bella's fine! Don't worry, Erin! You're too worried!"

Don, my sweet darling pot-stirrer, agreed.

"Yeah, she's fine!" Don was giggling. A bad sign.

"Don't let her spook them, Don. I'm serious. Look at her. She's going to put her paw through that wire..."

"Come on! Relax, Erin! Let's go get a tree!" Rikke called. "There's no problem!"

Bella was up on her hind legs,  front paws rattling the chicken coop. The birds were twittering and clucking frantically. Why was her leash off?

CRASH!!!!!!!!!

A blur of orange fur and feathers was all I saw. How that dog moved that fast I cannot figure out but she managed to corner about three chickens and a pheasant (yes, he kept pheasants in there, too) and with me screeching "DONDONDONDONDONDONDONDONDONDON!!!!!" and trying to get the stupid gate shut (how Don and I wound up in the pen I don't recall) so all of the chickens and pheasants wouldn't run out into the Christmas trees... It was terrible. And at the end of those two seconds, Mrs. Pheasant's neck wound up snapped in the jaws of the horrible wolf-monster from America.

And so Mrs. Pheasant died.

Ugh. Oh my god. Um...

I turned around to see Bo and Jeppe laughing, Rikke telling me it was okay (her dog did the same thing not too long ago), Don trying to shake a dead pheasant from Bella's smiling locked jaws while trying not to laugh too hard, and Jorunn, completely horrified, who was holding a sobbing William (probably from me completely freaking out and shouting at Don).

Mortification was I.

You have to understand that, except for bacon, I've spent many adult years not eating meat all that often, if at all. (Bacon is not murder. Bacon is heaven.) I just can't stand thinking about killing animals. Sadly, I am that much of a softy. I couldn't even make it across a parking lot of a slaughterhouse. So to see my little doggie cracking the neck of this beautiful bird in one sweeping lunge... Blech. Not good.

And what to say to Rikke's dad? I mean, was this a prize-winning bird? Was this his pet? And what of Mr. Pheasant? Such a lonely Christmas for him! I was so rattled by it all that I just kept apologizing to him over and over in Danish and English. Rikke's brother-in-law laughed and said, "ah, well, yes, but sheet heppens." Rikke's dad just laughed and shrugged his shoulders. Another day, another dead bird. Saved him rounding her up himself.

Soon thereafter, I saw the old gal hanging from a hook in the carport, next to the gutted deer and another bird of some sort. I tried to not be bothered by it all, but it felt a little odd being invited to this nice cozy house by these incredibly warm and kind people to come take one of their trees and eat yummy snacks with them around their table while my monster dog attacked their livestock. As I sat at the table, Don looked at me and laughed a few times. I felt terrible, like I had BIRD MURDERER scrawled across my forehead in pheasant blood.

But, we got an awesome tree. As I'm typing this right now, Bella is asleep at the foot of it, spread over her giant dog bed, dreaming of catching more skittery clucky things as she dozes.

And the moral of the story is a dead bird in the carport is worth a gorgeous Christmas tree in the living room. Sad, but true.

(With regrets to Mrs. Pheasant, wherever you are, for stealing your hygge...)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Paradise Found

I was born and raised on a little dot in the middle of the Pacific Ocean called Oahu, one of the Hawaiian Islands. You can be sure that Honolulu, Hawaii is about as different from ol' Sønderborg, Denmark in most every possible way, so imagine my delight when I found this beauty for sale in the grocery store for 6 bucks last week...


The hibiscus is the state flower of Hawaii, and bushes of them ringed my elementary school when I was a kid. Us gals -- keiki wahine -- tucked the blossoms behind our ears and threw the yucky dead flower buds at cute boys whom we hoped to marry someday. So how could I resist buying it? It transports me just about every time its catches my eye, perched on a window sill overlooking the Danish sea.

"Atticus says it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

I'm proud to announce that any of you Danish residents out there can now legally name your child (or yourself, for that matter) the fine name of Atticus. As of last week, we've made a little Danish history by getting that name on the books of the ol' Ministry of Names for Sir You Know Who, who has now officially added that to his collection of wonderful middle names. Yippee!!!

And as it's been embarrassingly long, here's the latest on the tyke: TWO teeth, bottom middle. (I am THRILLED that breast-feeding is a thing of the past.) They are SHARP, and dude has STRONG jaws. Put your finger in his mouth at your own risk. He's probably a few weeks away from crawling (yikes), and he spends quite a bit of time these days turning himself in circles on the ground. Sleep is still something of a far-away fantasy as he strongly requests bottles at around 2am, or 3am. Or 4am or later. Or sometimes all of the above. Also, he has very recently discovered the joys of random spine-jangling screaming. It's quite a treat. Still, he's quite a guy, so jolly and happy, and he's got the most expressive eyebrows ever.




Pureed peas? Yeah, um, not so much, Mommy.

video

Sunday, September 14, 2008

And They're Off...

I know this is all over the ol' interwebs, but I feel downright compelled to fry up my own tasty little slice of it here on Ye Olde Blog:



It's plain marvelous.

My Merry Mozartian Music Maker

This is Sunday morning at our house, when Daddy and Doggie are still asleep...

video

Thursday, September 04, 2008

How does he make it look so easy?

Because... Well... It is.

Brilliant, no matter what your political leaning is.



(I ♥ Jon Stewart!!! Glib smirks and all!!!!)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Vi Lær Dansk!

Every Tuesday and Thursday evening, Don and I dutifully pack ourselves off to Danish class. Largely sponsored by the Danish government, these courses are available to every new immigrant to the promised land (for a small fee). You have three years to take advantage of the language classes, and after that, you're on your own. I don't know why I'm always surprised by how many newcomers actually make the conscious decision to not learn Danish, but instead choose to just hobble along with English or German (something that isn't totally far-fetched, but still).

I used to loathe these classes, and Don would have to bribe me with chocolate or beer or the promise to fold an entire mountain of clean laundry. Now, I look forward to them, mainly because I've grown fascinated with the lives of my classmates. Living in a land where you don't understand anything on TV (except for the fifty-billionth episode of "Friends") makes you look elsewhere for dramatic characters.

Simply put, our class is fabulous. These people are so interesting, and their backgrounds and personalities blow Ross, Rachel and Chandler out of the water. Two weeks ago, I scanned the class and wrote down who was in attendance that night:

2 Mexican software engineers
1 Chinese engineer
3 Brazilian engineers
1 German technical designer
1 Afghan secretary
2 Polish machinists
1 American trombone player
1 American teacher
1 Chinese student/hotel housekeeper
1 Filipina au pair
2 Ukrainian engineers
1 New Zealander university lecturer
1 German slaughterhouse inspector
1 Lithuanian student

I mean, you can't make this up, right? Our class seems to be mutating, and last night we had even more people than before. Break time is the most fascinating time to me. Some folks dash outside to suck down cigarettes (including our teacher), but those who stay in the classroom tend to be chatterboxes who love to ask about each other's deals (like me). One night I egged on the two guys from Mexico to tell us what kind of Mexican food they cooked here, and they described it in mouth-watering, almost cruel detail. (Have I mentioned before 1. how much I miss Mexican food and 2. how bland and unremarkable Danish food is?) I was practically writhing in my seat when they told about making molé from scratch with chiles and chocolate carried over here from Mexico by one of their mothers. Aye yay yay caramba. The Lithuanian student was transfixed; I'm pretty sure she'd never heard about food like this before. The Afghan secretary (who works in Germany nearby) has a terrible gorgeous shoe addiction, and the Filipina nanny thinks the Chinese engineer should marry her Danish boyfriend right away and have children and WHAT is taking them so long? Last night a newcomer, a muscled Israeli dude with a shaved head, was flirting so amorously with the shy Brazilian engineer that her cheeks were like embers. (She did not seem one bit displeased.)

What's amazing to me is that ALL of these people speak pretty dingdang perfect English. When a Danish word comes up that we can't figure out, it's always defined in English; any explanatory discussion happens in English. Just about all of them pack Danish-English dictionaries, which I suppose makes sense as I have yet to see a Danish-Tagalog version for sale. Right now, we're in module #2 of a six-module program, and an exam will greet us sometime soon, (hopefully) promoting us to module #3. I'll keep you posted on how things go...

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Who's a Sassy Jumper???

Yesterday evening...



And twenty minutes later...


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In the Navy

So, this afternoon, I washed about 98,429,713 bottles. By hand. On completion of the rather gargantuan task, I stepped back, looked at my work, and said, "Well, all right!"

And then, at that moment, a marching band started playing outside of my window.

But it wasn't for me.

video

Looks like the Danish navy has pulled in for a little Tuesday whoop-de-woo! Welcome to town, fellas! They're playing "Rock Around the Clock" as I type this.

(Nice August afternoon we're having, huh?)

Hello! My Name Is [UNAPPROVED]!

On my to-do list for today is, "Find form to change William's name." Yes, we have to legally get his name changed, because round about four months ago when I attempted to register him at our town hall, I was told no, sorry, you cannot name him those names which you and your husband have lovingly and effortfully searched the corners of your minds and memories for because, you see, one of them -- Atticus -- simply does not exist on the approved list of Danish names as per the Order of the Ministry of Names.

Ummmm... I see. What?

(And of course I immediately flashed back to Monty Python's Ministry of Funny Walks, not too far a leap.)

After doing the "ha, ha, you're joking...right?" laugh, I actually whipped out this line: "But, but -- I'm an American citizen! He's an American citizen! How... But...? It's a... But... from a very famous book! A classic! The character is... This can't... Uh?"

'Tis true. Here in the Land of Many Orderly Rules, you cannot name your kid whatever you want; it actually must be on the approved list of names. (I'm not joking, once again.) This is to prevent Danish residents from naming their child Badonkdonk or Frying Pan or Zqxrefff8dskil. (Because that would be disorderly.) I recall staring into the clerk's face very intently, waiting for her to tell me she was kidding, or at least to give me some advice or comprehension or even a tiny spoonful of solace. I must have made her the slightest bit uncomfortable as she hesitantly told me that I could, if I really wanted to, appeal my case to the Ministry of Names, explaining why we'd chosen this name and why it's actually not in the least bit ridiculous or offensive and perhaps William's wonderful middle name would be approved. In three to four months. Maybe. Good day.

This is an excerpt from an excellent article in the International Herald Tribune (http://www.iht.com/articles/2004/10/08/news/danes.php):

In Denmark, a country that embraces rules with the same gusto that Italy defies them, choosing a first and last name for a child is a serious, multitiered affair, governed by law and subject to the approval of the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs and the Ministry of Family and Consumer Affairs.

At its heart, the Law on Personal Names is designed to protect Denmark's innocents - the children who are undeservedly, some would say cruelly, burdened by preposterous or silly names. It is the state's view that children should not suffer ridicule and abuse because of their parents' lapses in judgment or their misguided attempts to be hip. Denmark, like much of Scandinavia, prizes sameness, not uniqueness, just as it values usefulness, not frivolousness.

"You shouldn't stand out from anyone else here; you shouldn't think you are better than anyone else," said Lan Tan, a 27-year-old Danish woman of Singaporean and Malaysian descent who is trying to win approval for her daughter's name, Frida Mei Tan-Farndsen. "It's very Scandinavian."

Greg Nagan, 39, and Trine Kammer, 32, thought it would be cute to name their new daughter Molli Malou. To their surprise, Malou was not a problem, but Molli with an i, which they had thought sounded Danish, had to be reviewed by the government.

The church told Kammer she needed to state in a letter the reason for choosing Molli. She did so, and said she told the clerk, "Here's your stupid letter: The reason for naming her Molli is because we like it."

"Isn't this silly?" Kammer said. "We love to make everything a rule here. They love to bureaucratize."


I guess this is a great example of taking intrinsic freedoms for granted. I grew up in a pretty free (sometimes too free) country, and now I live somewhere where I can't even call my child what I feel is best without running it past some harrumphy old Ministry. On the other hand, I also live in a country where virtually no one can own or carry a gun; I really like that. Give and take, I suppose. And so I'm off to our kommune (town hall) for a form to submit to get his name changed, a new birth certificate, and then we'll apply to have his passport amended. All for a hefty fee, of course.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Back to Work

This past week, I started my new job as a part-time teacher at the school where I subbed last year. It's a very small private school where all classes are taught in English. It shouldn't be such a big deal, but 1) I have a four-month-old baby whom I have to say goodbye to most mornings of the week, and 2) I haven't had a job in TWO WHOLE YEARS, something that hasn't been the case since I was 14. Oh, if I had a buck for everytime I fantasized about not having a job over the years... Frankly, it kinda sucked. I never had the "yay! it's FRIIIIIDAAAAAY!!!!" feeling, because everyday was a Friday, every morning was Sunday morning. Nebulous. Structure is a mighty good thing to have in your life, and I've sure missed it these past two years.

But now, it's back, in force. Not only do I have to organize my own structure, but I also must push and pull 20 middle-schoolers along with me for eight hours each week, in and around the magical kingdoms of English and History. Curiously, not many 13-year-olds are naturally and intrinsically overjoyed to do so, but I'm up for the challenge. I kicked off my classes by creating a charter of sorts, asking the kids to ponder for a few minutes what traits make for an effective teacher, and what makes for an effective student. Kind of big ideas for the pre-teen set, I know, but I wanted to see where it would go. The youngest kid in the class is 8, and the oldest is 14. (Yep, it's a multi-age, multi-level classroom. You can see how my mind boggles, right?)

They took the task quite seriously. After mulling over and jotting down what they thought were the most important attributes in teachers and students in order to make for a really great classroom, this is what they came up with (click on the photo to see a larger version):


How relieved am I to have just barely made that age cut-off. WHEW!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Catching All Y'all Up

We've been on the road for most of the past two months -- Seattle, Honolulu, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tucson, Portland -- and that's meant TEN flights for us and young William. I've been asked so many times, "How did he do flying?" which is usually accompanied by a somewhat nervous facial expression. Simply put, he did beautifully, far better than we'd expected. Part of the great thing about flying SAS is that when you tell them you're flying with a baby, they seat you in the bulkhead, and then two smiling flight attendants bring out a little baby bed that screws right into the wall in front of you. Voila -- fresh crib linens are whisked into place, baby toys and spare diapers are lovingly placed into your hands as your infant is fawned over by the flight crew. Pretty dang nice. And not having to hold a baby in your arms for nine hours is also a major treat. Flying to Seattle was a dream (he slept the entire trip), although our seat-mates flying back to Copenhagen were a rather jangled pair of parents and their even more jangled 9-month-old who shrieked the loudest, most eardrum-bleedingest shrieks from out of nowhere the entire journey (when not tumbling right out of the bed itself). This occurred about every 30-60 minutes, and poor little William did NOT care for it one bit, opting to demonstrate his displeasure by crying. And for any of you who have had the rare misfortune of seeing him cry, well, you know that that's some mighty sad business all right. It was definitely not the funnest time of our lives, but so it went. For nine hours...

It was such a fabulous summer all around, and now it's time to get serious and all worky again... BAH HUMBUG!






















Monday, August 04, 2008

Literally...

I've had a wonderfully literal summer. Not much figurative about it, just loads and loads of very tangible, real, in-your-face joy and relaxation. I've literally gained a few very real pounds (oooh...margaritas AND onion rings!), and I've ticked away innumerable hours laughing and gabbing with some of the best friends ever invented, and I really did cut off all my ratty long hair (which had somehow become a baby stabilizer... OW!). Perhaps the most literal moment of all came when I remembered (poolside in Honolulu) that we left our Danish apartment having forgotten one terribly important thing: To empty the diaper bucket. And, so it sat. Packed. Full. For seven weeks. It appeared that our Bella-sitters did not quite see fit to empty (go near?) it. Guess whose attending it fell upon returning home?

It. Was. Tremendous.

Literally.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

ARE YOU KIDDING ME??????

So... May. Like, LAST MAY. MAN. Like, WHAT IS UP WITH THE POKEY POSTS? Well, I'm sorry, everybody. I guess my mommy is all BUSY or something. Diapers and stuff, you know. Bottles. LOTS of bottles. And holding me, and talking to me, and smoothing my hair and nibbling my toes and purring in my ears to make me giggle and making weird cross-eyed googoo faces at me and stuff. Whatevs. She's a little nutsy about this mama business, so I guess she's not super into blogging these days. Apologies, guys, for reals. Clearly I have to do everything around here. But, here are some mad cute snaps of ME! ME! ME! to tide the frenzied masses over until she joins the living again... More soon!








Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Introducing...ME!!!!!

Um, hello, everyone. I'm here!


I'm still working on the open-eye thing -- takes practice -- but rest assured that I am SUPER, SUPER CUTE. I hear it ALL of the time, but it hasn't gotten totally old yet. Yeah, so, uh, I'm doing great! I'm really healthy, and other than being an oral stapler on my mommy's breasts, my hobbies are sleeping, eating, saying "nuh, nuh" and crossing my eyes. Crying is kind of a drag, but I'll do it when you-know-who is slow with the chow, know what I mean?

Speaking of the you-know-whos, they're doing great, too! Of course, I kind of tire them out, them being all old and stuff, not quite as rockin' and rollin' as me and all. Still, they are standing upright with their eyes (mostly) open, although Daddy is working some pretty funny hairstyles and Mommy hasn't worn make up in a very long time. They're not finishing many sentences these days, which is fine by me as that allows more airtime during which one can relax and enjoy my heavenly coos. (I am a beautiful singer, have I mentioned that?) Mormor ("mother's mother") just left after visiting and helping out for a couple of weeks. I sure miss her holding me and talking to me. She is a very good conversationalist, and she understands everything I tell her.

So, yeah -- to sum up, I'm shockingly adorable, uniquely talented, super fit, intellectually earnest AND I can kick and punch the air like nobody's business. Stay tuned for more info about me, and please forgive Mommy for not posting for so long. Gotta keep her running, you know.

Love,
William Atticus Kaser Immel
born April 16, 2008

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Eviction Notice



So.

Tomorrow, I'm going to meet my son. I haven't worked out yet what I'm going to say, but I plan to sing him "Happy Birthday" at some point. Feels appropriate, although I doubt I'll have a cupcake on me. (But I might.)

April 14th marks sixteen days of ghastly tardiness, something I hope my father-in-law will forgive someday. The kid's a pokey puppy, what can I say? I'm taking this as an indicator that my uterus is a uniquely comfortable and aesthetically pleasing place. Too bad he's getting the big eviction notice in the morning. I am, of course, beyond nervous, but after hauling around this 40-pound feedbag (yes, I said it, Shannon) for months, it's time to get the party started.

We had a bunch of tests done last Friday, where they confirmed that he's a big boy -- almost ten blessed pounds. Eesh. Starting with an ultrasound given by a technician who could easily have second career as Reba McEntire's stand-in (EXACT TWIN, I'm telling you), we wrapped things up after a meeting with an obstetrician who not just looked like, but WAS Howard Stern. Like, down to the hair and glasses and Adam's apple. (He's a German doctor who practiced for years in Italy but now works in Denmark and is practicing his French for his Mediterranean vacation next week, speaking to us in rusty English. I'm pretty sure he was an obstetrician; he kept pointing to the most gigantic poster illustrating the birth canal when searching for just the right English word.)

It's standard practice in Denmark to induce after being two weeks overdue, so we're back for the big blast-off in the morning. Let's just hope we won't be too affected by the midwife/healthcare worker strike that's set to start Wednesday across Denmark. (No, I'm not joking.)

Saturday, April 05, 2008

NO BAYBAY YET


Although I hear that things get a lot noisier, smellier and tireder once Junior arrives, I'm still extremely impatient right now. He's technically not overdue, as due dates are just an estimate, but at one week past when were told that he'd be here, well... I'm learning patience. By the minute. I want to meet him so badly, to see him look at us for the first time and blink at the bright lights in confusion. Of course, having pizza, chips and apple juice delivered to him in his own room all of the time probably makes it pretty hard to leave. He'll be here soon, Don keeps telling me. "Enjoy this time (where you can't touch your feet or walk normally or sleep through the night or stand up without grunting) now!" So I'm trying to do that, to relish the quiet and the calm...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Leave

All this waiting business has made me downright feisty, and when I feel feisty, I can get political. Let's do a little comparison, shall we?

(General Disclaimer: I know, I know -- it's totally unfair to compare the U.S. and Denmark in many ways. The current U.S. population is just over 300 million, while Denmark clocks in at five and a half million. Still.)

One thing that continues to blow my mind on a second-to-second basis is how these two countries address parental leave. Of course it all comes down to money, but there just has to be more to it than that. There has to be. Our friends here ask us about the American practices all of the time, and I'm starting to think it's because they just can't believe it, so they keep asking, even though they can repeat what we're going to say along with us. From what I've researched, here is what each nation offers:

U.S.A.
Parental leave, while mandated (kind of) by the government, is administered by one's employer. Mothers are legally entitled to 6 weeks of paid leave at the birth (or adoption) of a child, and she is legally entitled to 6 more weeks of unpaid leave after the initial 6 weeks, should she choose it. If she opts to take more leave at this point, her employer is legally allowed to terminate her and open up the position for interviews. Fathers are legally entitled to no parental leave, although employers encourage fathers to save up and use vacation leave for such an event. Some employers opt to allow for some paternity leave, e.g. the day the child is born, or perhaps the first week. (This is elective, and fairly uncommon.)

Denmark
Parental leave is mandated by the government, and is broken down like this:
Maternity leave......90 days
Paternity leave.......10 days
Parental leave......160 days (to be divided by the parents as they see fit)
TOTAL.................260 days
(Incidentally, these are WORK DAYS, so not counting weekends, this cracks up to be a full year.) (And they are WITH pay.) Also, employers are not allowed to count already allotted vacation time and holidays as part of this leave time; in other words, it's completely separate from the good stuff.

As of April 1st, 2008, the Danish government is changing the paternity leave allotment from two weeks to six weeks. (Sometimes I think I'm going to wake up and find out that you'll also get a brand new car and a 20,000 kroner gift card to Ikea. And that is starting to be a not totally ridiculous idea.)

Isn't this a freaking trip?

At the moment, I'm too tired to start swimming in the ocean of "why is this so?" I'm off to take a nap, but will dream of the possibilities. And that Ikea gift card.

(Oh, yeah: And Don is reminding me that I'm supposed to tell you that I have to keep my legs tightly crossed until April 1st at 12:01am. SIGH. The things I do for this guy...)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Whack-a-Baby-Tootsie

One of my new evening activities that I've come to relish is sitting quietly on the sofa and waiting for Thud's foot to surface somewhere within my abdomen. It's usually on my right side, but these little pokers of his pop up anywhere. (Lately they've been exploring my rib cage. Like, inside of it.) I push down on the foot and -- BLOOP -- it's gone. And then, about five seconds later, it reappears somewhere else, like on my lower left side or right in the middle of my tummy. It's very quiet and lovely and has a wonderfully peaceful quality to it, and it also feels a little like tai chi whack-a-mole (my favorite arcade game for eons). Poke. Press. Submerge. Poke. Press. Submerge. I could do this for hours, I tell you...

Monday, March 24, 2008

MOOOOONNNSTERRRRRRR TRUUUUUCKSSSS!!!!!!!

Yep, we got 'em here, too! This deep-rooted attraction to big mechanical things that go vroom-vrooom and bang-smash knows no international borders. Don had told me a monster truck show was coming to town, but I didn't quite believe him. I mean...??? So, on Saturday, when I heard the revving motors and squealing tires in the morning (apparently rehearsing for the big show in the afternoon), I wanted to see for myself, so we walked Bella over to the "stadion," a big field that hosts things like the circus, rock concerts, summer festivals and, yes, MONNNNNNSTERRRR TRUUUCKSSSSSS!!!!!



It was VERY cold that day, and yet a good hundred twenty Danes crammed into some pretty small bleachers to watch the chainsaws zip up and down the circuit (which was about a hundred yards long), trucks AND motorcycles. There was mariachi music (DUH) blaring over the loudspeakers, a wicked throwback to my days in Nogales...



The security fella was none too happy about my picture-taking, and I think I was about to get the bum rush after another few seconds had I not scooted my large self away from the ticket booth right then and there. A hugely pregnant woman toddling around with her camera at the entrance to a monster truck show is immediate concern for a security breach, I've come to observe. Don did experience some initial worry that there might be some false advertising going on, as he could not immediately locate Freak Out or Iron Horse (note the poster in front), but was much assuaged to eventually spot both hulking vehicles, probably hidden away for the grand finale. I wish I could have really gotten in there to take some pictures of the audience, as they were the most sober and non-yeehaw lot I've ever seen. I wanted to lead them in a rousing chorus of "WOO HOOS!!!" and "HELL YEAHS!!" this town had ever seen, but it was not to be.

And now the show has pulled out of town until next spring, just in time for Thud's first birthday. Rev on, Iron Horse. Freak on, Freak Out. O, but we hardly knew ye.

HAPPY EASTER!!!


Though the Easter Bunny did not bring us a baby in our basket, everything is still just duckie around here...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Pretty Nails

We are, as I like to say, locked and loaded. The countdown-o-meter shows EIGHT! MORE! DAYS!, but I'll believe it when I see it. I keep warning The Kid that he should really be packing his bags because eviction is no walk in the park for anybody, and to not get too terribly cozy in there. He kicks, and I presume it's a foot, and not a fervently raised middle finger.

In an effort to keep myself off of the pregnancy troll side of things, I've been planning for days now to paint my toenails a festive shade of "Hot Stuff!" or "Berry Gorgeous!" or "Indian Sunrise" or some such nail lacquer poetic nonsense. I say "planning" because, folks, this act takes preparation. I had to actually think my way through it for a bit. What would my positioning be? On the floor? Foot on the ottoman? Coffee table? Two chairs? How would I file these nasty buggers first? (The clipping had taken place last week. With long-handled tree trimmers. There were sparks and perhaps a bit of lingering smoke.) The coordination was endless, but today, Good Friday, seemed as good a day as any.

Filing was a little rough; I noticed an uptick in my breath, but the job was humanly doable. (And without an electric sander, thank you.) I chose a nice generic shade of red, shaking the bottle for a few minutes as I pondered my next step. For those of the female (or pedicure-positive) persuasion, you know the size of the brushes which reside in these bottles. I believe they qualify as officially "teensy." As I measured up what appeared to be a toothpick with some eyelashes stuck to the end, I knew my goal was lofty, but I dug in. Big toes are the easiest, the most approachable target on the whole row. Bullseye! Twisted so as my belly contorted to the left, I made a shaky series of scarlett stripes, holding my breath as I finished my first toe. Hooray! The successive toenails proved far more elusive, each one getting smaller that the one before. I changed positions often, grunting every other toe or so, until I hit on the fantastic idea that I should just do my best to paint AROUND the whole nail, then fill in the middle. This method, while wasteful (using 2-3 times more polish than the nail actually requires), exceeded all of my prior attempts to paint the whole nail within the edges, knowing I could go back later and sponge up the excess. It truly felt like I was dunking a string mop into a bucket of red paint and dabbing the drippy thing relatively close to the intended location. Still, it worked. They are now exactly as I imagine Mrs. Bozo the Clown's feet look -- cheery AND cherry.

I am pregnant woman. Hear me paint my toenails.

(Sorry no photo -- they are still rather Hobbitish all around...)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Labor & Delivery Pain Management

I can't believe my luck. I've had the very thing, the actual antidote to birth pain under my nose in my desk drawer this whole time!!!

BEHOLD! THE AVENGING UNICORN PLAY SET!


Not only are there three distinct figures to impale with the unicorn horn of my own choosing, but the packaging comes with a copy of the Unicorn Code to guide me through rough and uncertain seas:


(My belief is that #5 has a missing addendum of "...unless they are in labor and then epidurals administered by board-certified and practicing anaesthesiologists are deemed appropriate as needed but NOT STREET DRUGS.")

But what really soothed my worries was remembering what the spiral horn's (#2) unique and magical powers will do for me when screwed on to Brad's righteous forehead...

"2) Spiral: illusion casting, super healing (i.e. turns blood into rose petals)."


EXACTLY!! Blood into rose petals! Could there possibly be anything more perfect? No, indeed not. Brad the Unicorn will sit in a very special place in the delivery room, turning all of that yucky blood into a glistening ocean of rose petals. If it all gets to be too much for me, I will whip out the chrome horn, which specializes in electromagnetism, speed reading and teleportation, and I'll teleport myself somewhere right cozy.

Special thanks to Krista, who knew I'd need Brad's protection and powers way over here and saw fit to provide me with his guardianship.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Facing the Music

I'm about to have a very big problem on my hands.

Twenty days away from the big arrival, and I just had a supremely major come-to-Jesus. Our brunch time with Jorunn and Jeppe this morning has been pushed back an hour, so with a nice chunk of free time, I had a little lie-down with Thud. I love taking ten or twenty minutes here and there to just close my eyes and put my hands on my belly and confer with this little ducky. We talk about all kinds of stuff, but it's usually me calling the agenda. Today, it was him. He started things out by drawing my attention to this incredible book I'm reading, "Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year" by Anne Lamott (recently sent to me by my wonderful, wonderful friend Shannon). Lamott, a single mom, documented every day of her son Sam's new life, and last night I read about what seemed like an eternity of colic. Frankly, colic is freaking me out something terrible -- the thought of a baby screaming at top volume for hours and hours and quite literally more hours with no end in sight makes me feel a little, um, edgy. She details Sam's frightful crying and her own horrifying dark thoughts of throwing him down the stairs or just giving him one big whack. (Really, this book is actually very funny.) Of course, she never acts on any of these miserable fantasies, but the thoughts alone sure give one pause. (As Don’s very wise friend Phil advised him not too long ago, “there will be times at two, three, four in the morning when you will be holding the devil himself in your arms, and you will have some very, very dark thoughts. But they are normal, and they will always pass.”)

One night in the very wee hours, out of sheer desperation (she's sobbing herself), Lamott calls a hotline for jangled parents of inconsolable newborns. She's counseled by a woman who orders her, starting right now, to stop eating all wheat and all dairy. Desperate, she follows this direction and... Sam has no more colic on Day Two of the new diet. He's an angel. He chokes out one small whinny to nurse, but that's it. It is a miracle.

Thud ran me through this scenario today, pausing for effect in all the right spots. And then he folded his arms, cocked one brow, and said, "So, what's it gonna be, lady? You know what's coming. You know it, I know it, and pretty damn soon your whole building is going to know it." I sighed and gripped my belly with both hands, but he kept on. "It's time, mama."

He's right. I have a problem. It's The Coffee.

For anyone who knows me, I'm a pretty easy-going gal. You may have noticed that at any dwelling I've maintained has always had a neatly defined coffee station set apart from everything else -- coffee maker, sugar bowl, glass coffee jar full of CAFFEINATED coffee, a little stack of coffee filters at the ready. It's always clean and well stocked, like a shrine. Along with the premium coffee, there is ALWAYS 2% milk in my refrigerator. Not skim, not cream, not Mocha Mix. TWO. PERCENT. MILK. Also, I am never without even a little bit of sugar (not artificial sweetener, not maple syrup, not brown sugar). I usually have a couple of restaurant C&H sugar packets on reserve in my silverware drawer, just for emergencies. All of this organization helps things run smoothly in my universe. Coffee in the morning makes my eyes sparkle and my hair bounce. It happifies me, and those around me. For the few of you who have had the awful misfortune of witnessing a hiccup in my morning coffee service, you understand the fury, the sturm und the drang. I can get downright irrational. During my ugliest episode, I mentally made my way through several Mikasa place settings until Don got back from the corner 7-11 with the 2% (TWO PERCENT) milk. It's my cross to bear. (And his, too.)

And so, I have a little somebody knocking on my belly, forcing me to look at this whole nasty picture. Sure, there were those three days in August when I gave it up, but after the cracking headaches, my doctor assured me that one to two cups per day was absolutely fine and for the love of all things great and small, please go ahead and keep drinking coffee. Yes, there was possibly a link to miscarriage and low birth weight, but the correlation was actually fairly questionable and that was really attributed to excessive coffee drinkers (four cups or more per day). I stuck to one big mug and nobody seemed to be bothered by it.

Now, with colic as a result of nursing a very real looming issue, I fear that the time has come. I mean, it's REALLY come. It's here. I have to stop. I may need help. If this baby has six-hour screaming jags for weeks and weeks – months – on end, I’m liable to hand him to Don and walk out the door and go pay a solo visit to Portugal for a while. And so, I know in my heart that caffeine, something essentially intolerable for babies, is off the menu, starting very soon. All I have to do now is decide whether to ween myself or go cold-turkey, and then set the date. I’ll probably ween, as the thought of cutting myself off in one cruel sweep sounds so violent, so inhumane, so foolhardy. We’ll see. Maybe it will start with some kind of ceremonial farewell, like cleaning every crevice of my Tefal Prima Vera Arom Express, remembering all our good times together, all our mornings of shared drips and sighs. I’ll replace my sacred coffee jar with a dainty tray of herbal teas, set out my prettiest teacup and saucer and perhaps a lovely scalloped silver spoon. I just don’t know. I hope I can fool myself. I hope I can go along with this tsunami of change and learn to enjoy that coffee-free lifestyle. Tea actually tastes quite nice, I think. Especially with lots and lots of sugar.

And so it begins – this sacrificing for the kid thing. SIGH. It’s a pretty big love that’s swelling in my chest, and anything I can do now to offset meltdowns, tummy pains and sleeplessness must be addressed. Wish us luck. And let’s not talk about that wheat-and-dairy-free diet just yet.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Ummm... Come Again?

NOBODY TOLD ME ABOUT THE SOFT POO.



(From a pack of Norwegian Pampers.)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Sygehus = Sickhouse = Hospital

Today we had our long-anticipated hospital tour. Every Wednesday at 2:00pm, a cluster of heavily pregnant women and their entourages forms at the main entrance of the hospital, which, as I keep hearing, boasts a really state-of-the-art birthing center. We'd been told by friends to not dawdle in our waddle as the group tour departs at 14:00, no later, so we showed up a little early and watched all the other preggos lean against walls and vie for the few chairs in the hallway. I was, of course, the biggest bellied one there, but, sadly, no prizes were given.

Can you believe the WHOLE TOUR WAS IN DANISH? I'm all... WHATEVS. Still, it was interesting to see all of the rooms and call buttons and blinking lights and smiling midwives who look like a platoon of warm welcoming angels and the little tiny water pitchers and the huge shelf of vases available to the new mums to use in their rooms during their stay. There's this area with a sign out front called "Køkken" ("Kitchen") where you can just go and help yourself to whatever snacks or drinks you want. The giant fridge had a see-through door, and I noted apple juice, milk, bottled water, butter, cheese, fruit...and beer!!!!! Yes! Bottles of beer! I can drink beer while I'm delivering! Talk about state-of-the-art! (I hope all you American hospital administrators who are reading this are making a big ol' mental note, okay?) (And, no, Brenda, I did not see a Margarator™, but I didn't have time to look behind all of the curtains. Will keep you posted for sure.)

The midwife who gave us the tour, Randi, was a pert, red-cheeked gal who took, I think, maybe two breaths in the span of an hour. She had A LOT of information to share with us. I'm sure it was all very important. I actually found myself intently listening as she talked, hoping that if I ESPed her hard enough that she would spontaneously burst into English. She didn't. But, I tried to listen for words that I understood, so this is what it sounded like to me:

"Hkuhsfih BABY klhskifh skdjhsdkhf hiefhieoighh BIRTH hkfhigoeakh irhg jkhsekifh hjsfyghbjksl hngiklisuh BABY fhilfoiukh YOU sjkdhfikhgjdk jbksjhf TELEVISION hjljifihigh bskjloijfnjmsruiow bjksdhfilhbk MIDWIFE. Jkjsehu hksfhukh kjbf kjnf jbd JUST ASK! Bjklsjhfgh njksdjhfugb BIRTH jkbsdjbkjhivh hbjkshf jg BABY jknbdksfnkjn BLOOD jnshf h BLOOD njksdfhkuh bjbd BLOOD khnfkhkuhtua nmfdklj BLOODY knfkhn BLOOD jkwsiutn BLOOD njakehfuy EPIDURAL nkjlsyhfiuyh kjdhshjgj PAIN guwegr fjugsdfjbn BLOODY bjskhfkuhsn mkalrfhukghsa bkjhsdfhk BABY AND MOTHER. Ojkerhukgsf BIG HELP! Pjsgdfugkjbjfih PAIN njksdhfuguks VERY PAINFUL bjkshdfuhkepogj BABY..."

I also understood about the magical pull-cords, which seem to be everywhere -- tub room, next to the birthing bed, next to the recovery bed, next to the toilet, at the window seat, in each corner. I like that. My beer will always be cold and fresh. Also, at some point, I am just completely certain that I heard her say "DIM SUM" very quickly, and I think Don did, too, so maybe we're in some major luck here. Let's just hope herring dim sum is off the menu during our stay.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

"You Gotta Baby In There?"

When I was three, I met my grandmother's new husband, Fred, the fellow who would come to be known as "Freddie Boy," a retired four-star Army colonel who didn't take no guff, especially from nosy three-year-olds. Somehow Fred and I became fast friends, despite the fact that the first time I was introduced to him, I patted his impressively rotund stomach and inquired whether or not there was perhaps a baby in there.


I think I am starting to resemble Freddie Boy in more ways than one.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Showered with Love and Good Wishes

It's been a busy couple of weeks, including a five-day bout with stomach flu (not terribly enjoyable at 8 months of gestation). After losing five pounds and reminding myself over and over that I was (very likely) NOT going to barf the baby ("okay, so...those tubes and wires are not at all connected...impossible...right?"), I'm back to normal! (Normal being a waddly, smiling whale with swollen ankles.)

First off, I'd like to inform everyone that by marrying into this family last year, I have acquired the most loving, warm, funny, genuine and supportive in-laws ever, in addition to my own wonderful family. They're a pretty darned tootin' good bunch of folks, and I am unusually lucky. My magnificent sister-in-law, Deanna, who just last November brought her very own little tyke, Jack, into the world, somehow found the time and energy (did I mention she just had a baby?) to organize an international-postage baby shower for me, and so four sizeable boxes plus a suitcase full of prezzies made their way to our fourth-floor apartment door over the past few weeks (much to the chagrin of our postman). I was instructed by Don (who was also in on this shower of gifts) that under no uncertain circumstances was I to touch, look at or even share air with these boxes. (This warning to someone who mastered flawless scotch-tape removal and perfect reapplication on Christmas presents under the tree by age 6.) (Sue me.) And so, after ignoring this leaning tower of baby things, I made it to March 1st, the day where I'd get to Skype with Deanna and rip everything open with Don. Yay!

When the doorbell rang at 5:30pm, the jig was up: Don had secretly invited five very dear Danish ladyfriends -- Jorunn, Annette, Susannah, Ulrika and Randi (all moms) -- over for a surprise shower for me. Out came platters of tuna salad, egg salad and cucumber-and-cream-cheese tea sandwiches (crusts cut off, each variety in a different shape), champagne, fresh fruit, a cream cake, a cheese board -- Don did it all. (He specifically asked the cheese shop lady in our village what cheeses would be good for a party of ladies, and she immediately recommended Emmenthaler, a basil gouda and this lump of unknown French creamy heaven.) There were vases of daffodils and roses everywhere. Can you believe this guy? I mean... COME ON. (I'd been out running errands for much of the day, so he was doing all of this while I was gone and stashing everything in cupboards and drawers.) I still almost can't even stand it.



We even had Deanna and baby Jack join us all the way from California via Skype! The ladies took a real interest in Jack's sling that Deanna was wearing, and that they were live from the Bay Area.



All of these ladies were unfamiliar with the idea of a "shower" -- is it for cleaning the pregnant person? Do all American pregnant women smell that bad? There was quite a bit of curiosity among them, and they wanted to see what the Americans were going to do for this shower, but I also think that perhaps there was a teeny tiny worry of bad luck, as they told me that the practice here is for people to come visit you right after the baby is born, bearing gifts then, not before. But, as my friend Jorunn said, it's actually quite nice to rally around the mom at a time preceding a huge, potentially frightening, life-changing event, and at a time when she may not feel the most, shall we say, lithe and dainty.

Don took photos the whole time, and while I'll curb my desire to post all 73 shots, here are some highlights:









I have never seen so many onesies in my entire life. We're off the charts on the Onesie-a-Tron. And the blankets... I think I've developed a thing for baby blankets. This little boy is going to be the most elegantly swaddled chap in western Europe, I have no doubt, and I have so many of you to thank for it. The "real" thank yous are in production, but for now, I am so, so very grateful to everyone who sent a gift, a card, or advice for this novice mom, along with the oceans of good energy and oodles of love.

Three and a half weeks and counting. I'm fairly surprised by how calm I am about it all -- the fears of birth have kind of melted away into clouds of relaxed deep cleansing breaths. I have no idea why or how, but I'm glad it did. Susannah swears by the big ol' tub of warm water in every delivery room in our hospital for killer contractions, which I'm all about, but to me, the shower will always be a uniquely treasured event.