What the Fork?

1 Jul

what the fork

Whoa. I just realized that I haven’t written on this blog in MONTHS. Seriously, did I get sucked into some strange time-space continuum from April until now? I mean, I feel like I’ve been crazy busy, but I don’t really have anything to show for it, other than two tons of diapers and four thousand loads of laundry. But I guess that’s life when you have crawler and a toddler. A toddler who’s talking up a storm and wants to do everything you do, only 10 times slower and at least 5 times messier.

Yes, The Babe is my tiny little shadow these days, tracking my every move through the apartment and making sure she’s no less that 2 steps behind me. If I’m making dinner, she’s standing at the counter with a spoon and mixing bowl. If I’m brushing my teeth, she’s there squeezing toothpaste all over the floor. And if I accidentally say a curse word when I realize she’s finger painting with AquaFresh, she obviously follows suit.

Which is my only explanation for the following exchange that went down a few weeks ago. Husband had The Babe up on the changing table when out of the blue she smiled at him and said, “F*&%.”

He raised his eyebrows. “What did you say?”


Always quick on his feet, Husband replied, “You mean fork.”

“Um, F*&%.”


“F*&% ?”


“Yah. Fork.”

Now maybe she really was going for “fork.” Or perhaps “fox.” If not, I will allow myself to take solace in the fact that she wasn’t using the F word in any specific context. Just testing it out for future use, I guess. Which is pretty forking scary since she’s not even two yet. What the fork is she going to come up with next?

I’ll tell you: Heiny Cheese. That’s what she told me she found when she stuck her hand down her diaper the other day. Good lord we’re in trouble.

Dear people of Europe

11 Apr

Please for the love of god, stop making me bag my own groceries. I’m already stressed out by the language barrier, and worried that I forgot to weigh my produce, and feeling sheepish about my conspicuously large, undoubtably American-size haul of goods. Oh, and I’m probably not feeling too good about the toddler screaming in the cart and the infant strapped to my chest either. So is it too much to ask that you just slide my groceries into a bag (that I paid for) after you scan them?

Apparently, yes.

Here’s how shopping goes in Austria: you push your wayward cart through the tiny aisles, using all the strength you can muster to keep it from swerving into the giant barrel of serve-yourself sauerkraut. If you’re wondering a) why the cart is so wayward and b) what’s up with the barrel of sauerkraut, let me explain: every single cart here, no matter the store, has wheels that are on the swivel. So as you’re trying to make forward progress, it haphazardly glides sideways. Usually into old ladies or the aforementioned barrel of sauerkraut. Which is apparently so popular that it needs to be sold in bulk.

Anyway, once you have all your stuff, you glide sideways with your cart toward the dour-looking cashier. He/she sits and stares at you with dead eyes as you unload nearly everything in your cart onto the conveyor belt. Only then does he/she perk up, as it seems the cashier’s only joy in life comes from watching customers scramble to the other end of the belt, fumble with their reusable bags, and frantically try to keep up pace with the rapid scanning.

I usually get about 3 items into an actual bag, and then resort to throwing everything back into the cart. It’s during this process that the most damage occurs: in all the haste, I’ve dropped yogurt containers, smashed bananas, and seen others break jars of jam and bottles of juice. No one in the store seems alarmed by all these damaged goods. Casualties of war, I guess. Perhaps they’re saving so much money not bagging your groceries that they can afford to waste a few things.

Once you have about 2/3 of your goods back into the cart, the cashier is ready to ring you up and the other patrons in line start breathing down your neck. So you have to dig out your wallet and work the credit card machine one handed as you continue to chuck groceries blindly in the direction of your cart. If you have a toddler kicking in the front seat, that spot may have shifted 2 feet to the left, thanks to those swivel wheels.

Cart chaos.After everything is paid for, you move quickly to the bagging area. This is where you take all the items back out of your cart and try to sort through the madness and get everything evenly dispersed into bags before your children implode. Then, you guessed it, the bags go back in the cart, and you go out to your car, where the bags go into the trunk. Finally, after returning your cart and getting your euro back (oh, did I forget to mention the part where you have to pay for a grocery cart?), you drive home, and one last time, just for fun, you pull all the groceries out again and put them away.

Does that sound like a whole lot of extra steps to anyone else? Aren’t the Austrians supposed to be super efficient? Should I write a letter to the UN or something to see if we can get this situation fixed?

Caption contest!

27 Mar

no wordsDon’t even bother trying to translate. Just come up with your own caption for the giant billboard of (dog? human?) poop.

In case you were wondering

5 Mar

This is how you pronounce “meme”:


And just for my wine snob Husband, how you also pronounce “Chateauneuf-du-Pape”:

Out of the loop.

4 Mar

One of the little-known benefits of living abroad is that you are relatively cut off from American pop culture. It leaves more space in your brain, space you can hopefully designate for foreign language skills.

Unfortunately this also means that our current American cultural context is pretty much limited to a dusty mental time capsule from 2009. Hit TV shows have come and gone and movies have made it all the way to the Oscars without us even knowing they existed. Music that’s blaring out of every iPod back home sometimes shows up on the radio here, but is often sandwiched between German pop songs and Shania Twain, which is very disorienting. That new hit single from Fun? For months I thought  it was Freddie Mercury, and couldn’t for the life of me figure out why the Austrians were playing obscure Queen songs every time I got in the car.

Anything that’s gone wildly viral in the States is also often slow to reach us, simply because we’re just a bit more disconnected over here: no TV, limited time listening to the radio, barely a few minutes to check email. Any cultural commentary we could read in print is in German. Which is how Husband and I found ourselves doing internet research on the Harlem Shake the other night:

Me: I keep hearing about this Harlem Shake thing. What the hell is it?

Husband: I don’t know! Let’s check The Wikipedias.

Husband: Hmm. It says here it’s some kind of internet “meh meh.”

Me: ? 

Husband: See! “meh meh”

Me: Pull the screen closer! I can’t see the text!

Me: Dummy, that’s meme.

Husband: I don’t know what that is either.

(we keep reading and then proceed to watch about 30 Harlem Shake videos)

Husband: Dude! We could TOTALLY make one of those! We could put the kids in it!

Me: YES!!!! And you could wear your spedo! We’ll plan it out after nap time. 

(At which point we both stopped for a minute and looked at each other in horror)

Me: F*&%. We’re not clueless expats. WE’RE JUST CLUELESS OLD PEOPLE.

Because nothing says wellness like processed pork.

27 Feb

healthy pigRemember how I said the dairy aisle in Parisian grocery stores was ridiculously stocked with 1500 different kinds of yogurt and cream? Well in Vienna, the aisles are resplendent with every kind of processed meat you could imagine. There’s fresh wurst and salami and hotdogs galore. The deli counter is the most popular spot in the entire store. And if you want to go the pre-packaged route, you’ll find a dizzying ham selection, including this interesting “wellness schinken.” The next time I feel a cold coming on I guess I’ll have to pick some up.

Vocab Friday: Backpfeifengesicht

22 Feb

Whoa. Where am I? What day is it? Last thing I remember I was face to face with a giant cutout of some guy’s manjammies, and the next thing you know it’s been 2 months since I last wrote a blog post. I guess a larger than life cardboard penis has that kind of effect on people.

Really though, maybe I just got caught up in holiday celebrations. Or maybe The Babe decided to start making this noise from 5am until my head exploded every morning. It could have been that last minute emergency trip home to the States for a month and the ensuing jet lag. But I think the final straw was the last minute ski weekend while we were still recovering from the jet lag, and the ensuing stomach flu that greeted us when we finally got back to Vienna.

That’s all to say that ever since I saw that big naked guy, I’ve barely been able to catch my breath, let alone unscramble my brain long enough to write something semi-coherent here.

(In case you’re wondering, that’s what children do to you. They beat you down to a frayed wisp of your former self, and leave you striving for nothing more than semi-coherence. Good thing I love those little A-holes!)

But you know what? That’s no excuse. There are plenty of people in this world that have it waaaaaay tougher, who have way more demands and hurdles and expectations to juggle, who still manage to blog something fabulous every single day. There are bloggers with 5 kids and one leg who still find time to share a detailed recipe and photo spread of their homemade dinners each week. There are bloggers that work full time jobs and write award winning, book-deal garnering blogs for fun on the side.

I want to punch all of those bloggers in the face. But instead I’m going to try to use that jealous rage as fuel to get this blog motor running again. So I hereby promise to carve out a chunk of time each week to write semi-coherently about funny things in Austria, and the occasional funny story about my children. But not too much kid crap, because then you’ll want to punch me in the face.

*    *     *

Backfeifengesicht: (noun) literally, a face badly in need of a fist. As in, a person you just want to punch because they’re so annoying or obnoxious or, you know, just fist-worthy. Where has this word been all my life? Hear how to pronounce it.


Hey there big fella.

17 Dec
Imagine walking through the magical streets of Vienna at Christmastime, finishing a little shopping in the busy museum quarter. Intricate lights hang across every block,  snow has dusted every tree, and there are chestnuts roasting on every corner. The spicy sweet smell of mulled wine drifts from the little wooden sheds where shoppers take a break and huddle around the soft glow of lanterns with gluhwein in hand. You might start to think this holiday setting couldn’t get more perfect, more picturesque.
And then you turn the corner and run into this guy:

oh myHEYYYY-OOHHHH! That’s a whole lotta man. Sitting in the middle of a city that otherwise looks like Santa’s North Pole holiday paradise. But I am going to resist the very strong urge to make jokes about Christmas balls because this is art, people. This fella was parked outside the Leopold Museum, where there’s currently a slightly controversial exhibition about the depiction of male nudity. It’s aptly titled “Naked Men.” I haven’t seen it, but please watch this video on it from the BBC, if only to hear the elderly Austrian lady say “I’m not scared of a penis at all.”

And then, there was light…

12 Dec

Radiating from my television screen! HALLELUJAH! HALLELUJAH! HAL-LEYYYYYYYYYYY-LU-JAH! Yes, I have been TV-less for more than 4 months now. Which is not such a bad thing, unless you’re cooped up with 2 small children while the alpine winds whip through your city and it only hits a balmy 25 degrees outside at noon before it gets dark for another 17 hours. Then you need some TV, even really crappy TV, just so you don’t go absolutely batshit crazy reading Hokey Pokey Elmo to your one year old for the 500th time that day.

Side note: I wish a pox upon the house of whoever wrote Hokey Pokey Elmo.

Anyway, we did two major things this past weekend: first, we put up a Christmas tree. Then we installed Apple TV. When The Babe woke up, we ushered her into the living room, waiting with a camera to capture the glee on her face when she saw that a giant tinseled evergreen had sprouted where her favorite chair used to be.

But The Babe was unimpressed. In fact, she barely noticed the tree because she was too busy shrieking with joy at the screen saver images floating across the 42 inch Panasonic in the corner. And when we put on Sesame Street? She almost passed out.

I just hope she knows that Momma gets first dibs on the remote. And I am not above playing all the really scary scenes from Game of Thrones as payback for all that Hokey Pokey Elmo.

Vocab Friday: Geburtshilfe

16 Nov

Cletus, in hospital issued jammies

Hello world. I’m writing to you from that strange other universe where parents of newborns exist in a hazy half comatose state of consciousness, unable to perform anything other than the most basic of life-sustaining tasks with any real precision or competence. I have passed the land of spontaneous crying and moved on to the realm of magical thinking, a place where chronic sleep deprivation sets in and you actually think you feel OK but really you just boiled a cup of milk and stuck a box of rice in the microwave for 30 seconds.

Needless to say, I have neglected the blog. And I am a huge wuss when it comes to not sleeping. I don’t know how doctors do it. I can barely operate a can opener on less than 6 hours of sleep, so I cannot fathom how medical professionals are expected to pull all-nighters AND perform life-saving surgeries. Or, you know, roll up to the hospital at 2am to deliver a baby.

Which brings me to Ulli. Ulli was hands down the most awesome part about giving birth a second time. Where my first birth experience was full of feisty French nurses and a lot of hilarious miscommunication, Ulli made sure this time around was nothing more than calm, soothing words (in English!) and bubble baths with lavender oil. Seriously. She drew me a bath and brought me snacks. And her soft blue gaze never registered anything other than confident encouragement, reassuring me through the whole labor process that I was going to be fine.

Lest you think I’ve gone all hippy earth mother on you, let me explain that here in Austria it’s customary for midwives to handle the labor and delivery process, while the doctors just kind of hang out in case there’s an emergency. That goes for the hospital staff midwives or the private ones, like Ulli. She came highly recommended from my obstetrician, and has been delivering babies for 23 years. Her office is covered in photos of all the little nuggets she’s helped into this world. And she promised to deliver my baby while leaving my hoo-hah largely intact. Which means if she had asked me to hang upside down from my toes while singing Kumbaya through my contractions, I would have done it.

But she didn’t. When it was go time, she instead greeted me at the geburtshilfe wing of the hospital with a reassuring smile, while Husband searched for parking and some poor woman down the hall shrieked and moaned in an almost comic fashion. I mean, I’m not one to judge what kind of noise someone makes during birth. I think I shouted lengthy strings of curse words, Exorcist style. But this was like something out of a movie, too exaggerated to be real and too loud to just ignore.

I kind of giggled and said that whoever was in the room next door didn’t sound so good. Ulli looked up from the heart monitor and shrugged. “Eh, first baby.”

She’s a tough one, Ulli. But the best in Austria, I’m sure of it. Danke Ulli!

*     *     *

geburtshilfe: midwifery or obstetrics. As in “Hopefully if you come to visit me in Vienna you will not have any reason to visit the geburtshilfe floor at the hospital. Although I can highly recommend their fruit and cheese plate.” 




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