Vocab Friday: Backpfeifengesicht

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.

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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.



Vocab Friday: Geburtshilfe

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!

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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.” 



Vocab Friday: Sauerrahm

definitely not yogurt (but close)One of the first challenges of moving to a foreign country is figuring out the food. Where do you get it? Why are all the cuts of meat completely different from the last place you lived? Why do you have to weigh all your fruits and veggies and bag everything yourself? Not to mention the sheer mass of vocabulary needed to navigate the market or grocery store aisles. In France there were at least 5 different kinds of cream, so even if you knew the word crème you were still screwed.

Here things are in German, so I am pretty much screwed all the time, especially if there’s no picture on the label to help clue me in. Shopping is a big fun mystery game, and when everything gets opened back home I’m never quite sure if I’m going to be a winner (gourmet sweet mustard!) or a loser (sugar with added gelatin. Wah waaaaahhh).

But with each trip I’m learning. Husband, on the other hand, still has a ways to go when it comes to food vocabulary. That’s perhaps why I heard the Babe making distress calls the other night while Husband was dutifully trying to feed her some yogurt that she usually loves.

“Does she want her own spoon?” I called from the kitchen.

“Maybe? I don’t know what’s wrong!”

“Huh, what flavor is it?”

“Uh, sauerrahm. I don’t think she likes it.”

That’s right when I came around the corner to see the poor Babe gagging and pawing at her tongue while Husband sat helpless with a spoon full of white stuff. White stuff that was not, despite the deceiving dairy qualities and similar packaging, yogurt, but SOUR CREAM.

Husband had been spoon feeding our child straight sour cream for at least 5 minutes. And being the true champ that she is, my girl actually took down the first few bites without complaint, all the while looking at Husband like “this tastes like shit, but I’ll do it for you dad.” At least it was organic?

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sauerrahm (zower ruhm): sour cream

As in, “The Babe probably has a few more sauerrahm dinners in store while mom’s at the hospital and dad’s in charge of meals.”

Vocab Friday: It certainly does suck.

Welcome, friends, to the wonderful world of weisswurst! It is possibly the best breakfast food this side of the Atlantic (aside from pain au raisins, of course). These weird looking sausages seem to be pretty popular here in Vienna, but we were first introduced to them in Munich, where they are served with weissbier, sweet mustard, and fresh baked pretzels as part of a traditional Bavarian breakfast.

As a Jimmy Dean traditionalist myself, I was a admittedly a bit wary of eating slippery white tubes stuffed with veal and parsley first thing in the morning. They look a bit grayish and sad when they come out of the simmering pot, and not necessarily something you want to dive into after a long night of Bavarian beer drinking. But most disconcerting is that instead of eating them with a knife and fork or wedged between a bagel and fried egg, purists insist that you’re supposed to pick them up and suck the meat out of the casing.

When our German hosts enthusiastically encouraged us to try it, I balked. It sounded like a pretty awesome trick to play on the dumb Americans, and I had a sneaking suspicion the next “Bavarian tradition” would involve running naked down the street with a Hitler mustache painted under my nose. So I daintily cut into my sausage and peeled the lemon and herb scented innards from the skin, washing it all back with a big swig of beer. Husband wasn’t so skeptical, however, and he successfully sucked on several sausages that morning, much to everyone’s amusement.

(That may have been one of the more disturbing sentences I’ve ever written. I’m sorry.)

Understandably, that image has haunted me for a while now, and I never quite got over the feeling that we’d been had, no matter how delicious those sausages were. But it turns out that sucking weisswurst is actually a real thing. Wikipedia says so. And so does our good friend Justin, who suggested I expand your vocabulary to include the fabulous verb zuzeln.

That’s pronounced tsu-tslen (as far as I can tell). It means “to suck.” It also means “to lisp” according to the German dictionary, which has nothing to do with weisswurst but is kind of funny. I would use it in a sentence, but I’m about 0% sure of the conjugation. All you need to know is that if you find yourself below the Weisswurstaquator, in the area of southeast Germany (and I guess Austria?) where weisswurst is popular, don’t be alarmed if someone suggests you zuzeln a white sausage.

Unless they’re not wearing pants. Then they probably mean something else.

Bad-um ching! Just couldn’t help myself with that one. Happy Friday!

Vocab Friday: 21

This morning I had 4 hours all to myself, without The Babe tugging at my pant leg to read “Hokey Pokey Elmo” for the 500th time or smacking me upside the head with her sippy cup (yes, that really happened). Unfortunately, those 4 hours were spent at the lab, getting A LOT of blood drawn, peeing into cups, and drinking one big mug of glucose-spiking tea. All on an empty stomach.

Not quite the break I was looking for, but I guess the wretched gestational diabetes test had to be done for the sake of Cletus (the Fetus). So off I went this morning to a lab recommended by some of Husband’s colleagues. Now let me remind you that doing this kind of stuff in France was scary enough with the language barrier, and I spoke French. I don’t speak one single word of German. I can’t even remember half the vocab I’m promoting here.

But oddly enough I don’t have nearly as much paralyzing fear about communicating here as I did in France. So I walked right into that lab and figured out that I was supposed to take a number and wait. See! No German? No problem! Except that my number was “21.” And I can’t count past 3.

No bother. I approached the desk and asked the receptionist  how the number system worked. I told her I didn’t have an appointment. She reassured me that all I had to do was listen for my number to be called. Then I leaned in closer, brandishing my little blue slip of paper with “21” on it. “And how exactly do you say this number in German?”

She looked at me like I had six heads and then laughed. “Einundzwanzig.

Einundzwanzig! I said danke and took a seat in the waiting area, chanting einundzwanzig einundzwanzig einundzwanzig so I could remember how it sounded. Then I got distracted by an odd magazine sitting next to me called “Shoe Manic,” which you’d think would be all about shoes but didn’t have one single piece of footwear on the cover. And then I panicked because in the 4 seconds that I wasn’t chanting “21” in German I forgot how to say my number. Zweiundeinzig? Einzigzwanund? Einenzaftig? Wiener Schnitzel?

About that time the nice lady next to me nudged my elbow and pointed to the paper number sitting on my knee. And then I heard the nurse actually saying Frau Villson. I was up.

Thankfully the nurse spoke English once we were inside the exam room. But I had to sit there for two more hours, and get called in to have blood taken twice more, all while hopped up on an evil concoction that makes you feel like you just mainlined chocolate syrup. So please for a minute imagine me sitting there, too cracked out to even read my book, slouched over in a chair quietly chanting einundzwanzig so I wouldn’t miss my turn again.

I wish I could say that was my lowest point in Vienna, but there’s still a baby to be born here. Which pretty much guarantees that I will sink to even lower levels of idiocy. Maybe I should start studying up on my numbers? And perhaps the names of my nether region parts?

Vocab Friday: First Geburtstag

Happy Monday! I forgot to hit “publish” on Friday, so you get your weekly Vocab a few days late. Which is OK, because it means I had a few extra days to rifle through the German/English dictionary to make sure I got this right:
Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag!”
That’s what I said to The Babe on Friday morning. She looked at me from her port-a-crib with sleepy, confused eyes, and then clapped hesitantly. Which is appropriate, because getting that phrase out at 6:30am was nothing short of a miracle.
Do not ask me how to pronounce it. I would only butcher it into some unrecognizable form – ha! more unrecognizable than it already looks! My version probably sounds like I’m choking on a bite of schnitzel instead of wishing someone a happy birthday.
Yep, that phrase up there means something like “best wishes for your birthday!” Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue like “joyeux anniversaire” but I do like saying “geburtstag.” That one makes me giggle for some reason.
Anyway, more important than this vocab lesson is the fact that I kept a child alive for a year. A whole year! And she’s only got a few minor dings and I don’t think she totally hates me yet! This is a major accomplishment, worthy of a celebration, so I did a lot of research on Austrian baking ingredients and whipped up a cake for myself. I mean, for The Babe. Right. For The Babe. Not for the pregnant lady with a sweet tooth. *brushes cake crumbs off the keyboard*
Anyway, it was a big hit, and a great way to ring in one whole year of survival, for parents and child. I’m already looking forward to next year when we can hopefully celebrate making it through another twelve months without succumbing to the urge to leave our spirited toddler with some kindly Austrian nuns way up in the mountains. Fingers crossed!

Vocab Friday: Goodbyes and Hellos


It’s time. Time for my third international move in 3 years. Time to sort through all my personal belongings and see if I can remember what’s in storage, what’s in my dad’s basement, and what needs to go in my suitcase. Time to mentally prepare for a 9+ hour flight with an almost one-year old. Which means it might also be time for me to start experimenting with children’s Benadryl and exploring the legal ramifications of child abandonment in open air space. I feel like there might be some helpful loopholes there.

But most of all it’s time to say goodbye. And that, my friends, is the absolute worst part. I hate it. I actually hate big life changes in general. I cling to the familiar routine, grasp desperately for the comforts of home. But at the same time, I know deep down I have to change, I have to go. And once I power my way through the stress and upheaval and deep, nostalgia-tinted sadness, I’ll be fine. In fact, I’ll come out on the other side relatively unscathed and probably even happy. Because while I hate the prospect and process of change, I really do enjoy the end results. I get to see the world with Husband and the Babe, after all. And if I’m really lucky, I’ll get some very stern Austrian nurses yelling at me to pooooosh in a few months. It’s hard to not get excited about that!

I just wish I could wrap all my friends and family and maybe a few of the really nice Whole Foods cashiers in bubble wrap and have them expedited to Vienna immediately. But since I can’t, I’m doing my best to see everyone and say goodbye and remain positive about the amount of schnitzel in my future. To help, added one very important saying to my  limited repertoire: auf wiedersehen. That means “goodbye.” For pronunciation, channel your best Heidi Klum and pretend like you just kicked someone off the runway. At least that’s what I’m going to do.

So, until next time dear readers…when I’ll be writing from the other side of the Atlantic again! And I’ll have a lot more material to work with. Namely, all the comedy that comes with cultural faux pas and baby induced sleep deprivation. See you soon!