Out of the loop.

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.


Instead of Vocab…

I’m going to dig up old embarrassing photos of Husband. And once we all clean up the soda that shot out of our noses after seeing that winner above, I’ll tell you why he’s banned from the community pool in our neighborhood. Surprisingly it has nothing to do with risque European swimwear.

Right across the street from our temporary digs is a lovely little swimming pool that only costs 3 euros. We walk by it on the way to the grocery store (up and down that steeeeeeep freaking hill) and it’s always full of kids and parents having a good time. The Babe loves swimming, so I’ve taken her a few times to splash around and get a few good gulps of chlorinated water.

The pool itself is tiny, and definitely designed for kids- it never gets any deeper than waist high, and there seem to be very few rules regarding rafts, toys, and splashing other people in the face. Everyone is really friendly though, and The Babe enjoys it thoroughly.

I relayed all of this information to Husband one evening, and he said he’d actually like to go check it out. Husband is most certainly a creature built for land, not sea — so the kid pool would actually be just his speed. He figured some water aerobic conditioning might help work out a nagging muscle in his back.

So off he went one evening, just before closing time. And he was knocking on our front door just 20 minutes later, a sheepish grin on his face.

Apparently no one was sitting at the pool’s front desk to take his money when he walked in, so he just sauntered over to a bench, took off his flip flops and headed toward the water. As he did so the children in the deeper end took one look at him and scattered like minnows. All the remaining patrons cleared out as soon as he stepped in.

A little self conscious yet undaunted, Husband continued wading back and forth, checking around for sharks or floating poo or whatever else it was that scared everyone away. Within a few minutes the lifeguard came running out of the ladies locker room shouting in rapid-fire German.

Husband assumed she wanted him to pay, so he pulled a couple euros out of his swim trunks. But the lifeguard shook her head and motioned for him to get out of the pool. She continued talking in urgent German.  Husband shook his head to indicate that his Austrian dialect wasn’t quite up to par. She looked at him sternly and said,

“No man…no child…no swim!”

I guess men are not allowed to swim alone at the pool. So everyone thought Husband was some strange pervert trying to prey on Austrian kids at the local swimming hole. Which is 1) hilarious and 2) a very odd assumption to make at a public pool. Is there some rampant pedophile problem here that we don’t know about?

The lifeguard was understanding, but I don’t think Husband will be going swimming again. Even if he takes The Babe along as proof that he’s not a creep. In his words, “they’ll just think I rented a kid to get in!”

Dear Tom.

Husband (after watching Tom Brady break into tears talking about almost not getting drafted): Do you think Tom Brady could be our baby’s godfather?

Me: Um…

Husband: I mean, I wouldn’t be asking in a weird, serial killer stalker kind of way. I could write him a nice letter. Do you think he’d say yes?

Me: I’m sure he’d say yes to being the godparent of a total stranger’s child. That’s not weird at all.

Husband: Stranger?! I’ve known him intimately for the past 10 seasons!

Me: Right. So what religion would we be baptizing this child into?

Husband (thinking for a minute): Patriotism.

Me: Patriotism?

Husband: Yes, Patriotism. And Giselle would have to be the godmother.

Me: Of course.

Overheard in our apartment 2 nights ago.

Me: My belly is starting to stick out, huh?

Husband: Yep, totally.

Me: It’s so weird!

Husband: Yeah! (pause) So do you feel like your butt is getting bigger too?

Me: WHAT?!? I actually liked my butt until you said that?! What the….!(&&#!*$

Husband: (looking at me honestly) No, I mean, do you feel like the rest of your body is ballooning out? You know, like…(puffs his cheeks out and makes a growing motion with his arms)?

Me: Do you have a death wish or something? I think we should end this line of questioning.

Husband: Um, ok. I think you look cute anyway.

Me: (shooting death stares)

Husband: I love you?

Happy birthday Husband.

Husband turns thirty-something today. I say thirty-something because he’s feeling old (older than me!) and not spelling out the exact state of his aged-ness might soften the blow a bit. But just in case, I prepared him a chocolate peanut butter pie in which to drown all of his old-person sorrows.

And since his sorrows did indeed need drowning, and I can currently consume twice my body weight in food, we cut into that puppy last night. Sweet jesus in velvet pantalones. I think if I wasn’t married to my best friend in the whole wide world, I would have tried to elope with that peanut butter mousse. I mean, it’s made with with real Reeses peanut butter chips and about 4 gallons of fresh cream for cripes sake. At this stage in my life I’m not sure I need anything else.

But in the end I came to my senses. Because even though he clips his toenails in bed, Husband does wear plenty of funny outfits to make me laugh. He brings me pain au raisins when I need them most. And he doesn’t get mad when I ask to watch another episode of Law and Order. Husband makes me sane when things are crazy, happy when things are sad, and all lovey-dovey when he wears those tight French suit pants. So in my little slice of life, he’s pretty much the Master Bite.


Harnessing the Power of Pudding.

Husband and I just had a moment over a bowl of Jell-O chocolate pudding: We were spooning the velvety goodness into our craws, discussing the possible health merits of Jell-O pudding made with skim milk, when my dear husband took a particularly large spoonful and stopped dead in his tracks.

I thought it might be a sugar coma setting in. But before I could slap him out of it, I noticed the wheels of brilliance starting to spin in his head. That’s when he looked deep into the bowl of pudding and said,

“If we could just gather it somehow,” his hand grasping at the air, fist raised at the idea of it. “And then jam it into a buttery croissant…”

The air was electric with the sheer possibility of it. And for a moment I nodded, fully understanding his pudding croissant vision and believing in the power of this dream of dreams.

And then I laughed so hard that chocolate pudding nearly came out my nose.

Granny carts are the new black.

As you may have already heard, I have to haul my groceries around the city in a cart. A 2 wheeled, pull it behind you and try not to roll through the dog poo on the sidewalk granny cart, in fact. And it’s kind of embarrassing.

Part of that embarrassment stems from the fact that I refused to pay more than 30 euro for a stupid grocery cart, so I ended up with a crappy plastic neon yellow and orange version. And a year later, it pretty much looks like a family of rabid street dogs has been living out of it for the past 6 months.

One wheel is about to wobble off and there’s a class 4 blowout in the back left corner from a too heavy load of sparkling water and pasta sauce. There are shriveled up green beans inside and blueberry stains throughout. My 7 year old niece wouldn’t even take the thing out for a spin.

Despite this, I have been hesitant to spend more money on a new one. But the sorry state of my cart really worried Husband. He claimed I needed something more sturdy and fashionable. Maybe bigger, too, so I could bring home more stuff. Heck, I could even use 2 carts at the same time! You know, to make it easier to do all the grocery shopping by myself.

Of course I truly appreciated his concerns. So I promptly starting replying to his offers of bigger, better carts with WHY DON’T YOU GET YOUR OWN BLEEPITY BLEEP BLEEP CART TO PULL AROUND ALL AFTERNOON! AND FILL IT WITH PAIN AU RAISINS WHILE YOU’RE AT IT!

Which, in retrospect, was perhaps a bit inflammatory. He was just trying to help after all. And I did need a new stupid cart, however much I hated to admit it.

So here it is: The BMW of grocery carts. It’s got a sturdy metal frame, a very preppy non-neon canvas bag, real tires, and it cost a small fortune.

I actually kind of like it. The somber colors make it slightly less embarrassing, and it’s got a nice comfy grip pad on the handle bar. But I just can’t help thinking: This is what my life has come to, luxury granny carts.