We made it! Alive! Two 8 hour flights with two small people under the age of 3 and I am still coherent enough to write to you. If that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is. We touched down in New Delhi a week ago and so far, things are really not as crazy as I expected. Or maybe that’s the jetlag talking. It does help that we had a car already purchased and a nanny/housekeeper waiting to pitch in. And by day two we had a gardener and a driver. I might never leave India. Except for the hotness. The hot, sticky, sweat-through-your-clothes 3 times a day humidy horrow show that is monsoon season. Complete with swarms of Dengue fever-spreading mosquitoes. My beauty routine now solely consists of slathering on insect repellant and finding a tarp to tie down my hair. India is not kind to curly short hairstyles and I will probably avoid being photographed for the next 2 years. But aside from that, this place is exhilarating. We took the car out for the first time last weekend (sans driver) and braved the New Delhi roads with Husband behind the wheel, on the wrong side of the car, on the wrong side of the road. Here’s what that looked like: (Ok, so I let you see that photo of me, but only because you needed to see how driving here envokes the same kind of feelings most people get on old, rickety roller coasters) Anyway, we took the kids just up the street to India Gate, a Delhi version of the Arc de Triomphe (I guess we like to live near large, monumental arcs). Tucked in the surrounding park grounds we found a huge playground called Children’s Park. It was a Sunday afternoon, so the place was packed with families and kids and vendors selling everything from cotton candy to incense. We got a lot of stares, but the Babe and Cletus didn’t waste any time assimilating. Before long, strangers started grabbing my children for photo ops. Several different people just walked over and picked up Cletus for a group shot that most definitely got posted to FB later with a tagline like, “look at this weird blonde kid we found at the park!” Thankfully (?) Cletus has no sense of stranger-danger and would happily walk away with the first axe-wielding sociopath that growled at him, so these photo shoots were not a problem. He gamely jumped into each new Indian friend’s arms and shouted “CHEEEEEESE!” So if that’s any indication of things, I think we’re going to be alright here.
If there’s one thing Austrians know how to do, it’s playgrounds. Also hotdogs, but that’s a different post for a different day. Anyway, the playgrounds here are amazing – always meticulously cared-for spaces that include plenty of death defying action for kids of all ages. That’s right, I said “death defying.” I’m talking super steep slides, zip lines, crazy climbing structures, and indescribable fun stuff like this:
Yes, that kid is jumping from one tall pole to another, without any kind of helmet, safety net, or parent worrying. It’s not quite a free-for-all adventure playground, but it is definitely a far cry from the sad plastic padded playground equipment we find back home. Another big difference? There are actually kids playing on this one.
A few weeks ago, I went to pick up The Babe from preschool. I don’t usually stop to chat with the teachers because it’s always chaos at pickup time, but on this particular day the head teacher pulled me aside with a rather concerned look on her face.
“Your daughter was talking about seeing all the people on fire last night. All the people and a big fire and everyone was nice and cozy,” she said, looking at me like I had roped my child into some kind of satanic ritual over the weekend.
I blanked for a second, and then I remembered: Funkenfest. That traditional Vorarlberg festival that includes music, Funkaküachle donuts and, you know, a giant flaming pyre. We had gone to check out this cultural phenomenon over the weekend at Am Himmel, a beautiful park up in the hills overlooking Vienna. The Am Himmel newsletter had promised “sparks and wine heaven” (according to google translate), so it seemed like something we shouldn’t miss.
And of course after arriving to find this incredible tower of kindling waiting for us…
I forced my kids to stay up way past their bedtimes to watch the big show.
The Babe was absolutely terrified and kept asking if Krampus was coming. Cletus wanted to run directly into the flames. But mom and dad got donuts and beer, so all in all it was a successful family outing. And thankfully The Babe’s teacher knew exactly what I was talking about, so Austrian child services did not have to be called.
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.”
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.
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.
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!
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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.”