Thursday, 6 October 2011



Sad confession: I started my first ride on the road bike half clipped-in, clinging to a light pole on Kendall's hill, refusing to move.

The problem was this: I was about to start my first road ride (speed, hills, cars) without ever having sat on a road bike before. Unless you count the night before, when I thought OH MY STARS I HAVE NEVER EVEN SAT ON A ROAD BIKE BEFORE and then spent about six white-knuckled minutes riding it on the flat.

Or I suppose the problem could be this: I'm really scared.

In any case, we'd just put our helmets on and Kendall was on his bike and I was straddling mine and explaining to him that I hadn't actually ever ever ridden a road bike and something about my concerns re: hills and what-about-cars and he just said– "You talk when you're nervous" and he rode off.

He rode off.

And did I do the sporting thing and follow?  Well, you know.

So Kendall is at the bottom of the hill (it's on a hill, his house... I'm supposed to start downhill??) shouting, Come on Helen and Let go of the pole Helen and Leetttt GO of the POLE Helennnn! for the whole village to hear, and I'm calling back various high-pitched lies like, Just a second! and I'm coming! and Wait wait I'm nearly okay! and vividly picturing myself dying in a bike-filled crash on Kendall's hill.

Eventually I pushed away, like jumping off a cliff (I thought) and although it took me a good block and a half to actually finish clipping in, we were away.

He had to shout at me a lot at first – mostly "Don't brake!" and "DON'T LET ME HEAR YOUR BRAKES" and "I'll know if you're braking" and "WHY ARE YOU BRAKING??".  But after a while I got the idea – don't brake on the corners, don't brake on the downhills, maybe don't brake ever, don't think on the climbs (what are you going to think about: somebody has set my legs on fire?) and you know, enjoy the spectacular German scenery when you're not visualising your own spectacular maiming.

We went far. We did long climbs. We went fast. Well, Kendall went fast (he loves danger, he asks danger out on dates) and I reached a max speed of 30mph on the downhill. Which is nothing to experienced cyclists. But – 30 miles per hour, people. Can you see me going 30 miles per hour without a car surrounding me??

Neither can I.

But it was amazing. And my handprints are still on the light pole.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Parenting skills

Pre-coffee, I hear myself disciplining my children: "Stop it, both of you! Watch some SportsCenter and BEHAVE!"

Feel free to tell me how I'm destroying America.
. . .

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Sticks and stones

Berry just said to Manshow, "Go away, Australian boy" as if it's an insult or something.
We'll need to Talk.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Sounds like serendipity

I think I'll be eternally grateful to the guy in the commissary queue in Mississippi who heard we were moving to Germany and told me, "You know where you should live? Queidersbach."


Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Lost in Translator

I tackled a my first cake recipe in German, with trusty Google Translator. 

I left out one letter, and a key step became "experimental cows".

Friday, 23 September 2011

Birthday girl

Berry: "Mommy, when I say I'm six, I feel all weird and a little bit scared of myself."

. . .

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Oh my

The little boy next door is calling Berry's name over and over, and lifting his backyard slide up over his head. Berry is standing on the other side of the fence twirling her hair and giggling.

I'm seeing flashes of a scary, scary future.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Language barrier

Any time you tell Manshow something he doesn't want to hear, or obey, he puts up his hand and says, "I only speak German."

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Like magic

Jules and I had two enraging days of failed espresso pulls and failed milk frothing on the Vibiemme. So at 8:30 this morning -- Saturday, no less! -- I left a message on the phone of the appointment-only espresso machine shop where I bought my set-up, asking for lessons and knowing I wouldn't even hear back until next week. Would you believe by 2:30pm we were in a specialist Kaffeerösterei in Landau, getting a one-on-one, hands-on education AND a tour of the roastery. What are the chances?

Tonight, I pulled a completely successful shot and frothed amazing microfoam. Like magic. My hat is off to the fine men of Espresso-Maschinenraum Landau and KFE Die Kaffeerösterei. They are great, generous people, and they REALLY know their craft.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


One of his main concerns about Germany was whether there would be machines. Happily for all of us, they are absolutely everywhere.

Berry is not so thrilled. To her way of thinking, it's grossly unfair that there aren't also princesses cruising down the hauptstrasse and hanging out in carparks.


Tuesday, 2 August 2011


Schokoladenseite : I learned this today from my new German hairdresser. It's the side of your hair that always looks fabulous and sits just right. We all have it, she says. The "chocolate side". I love it.

Thursday, 7 July 2011


I just realised I can say Kaffeerösterei and Espressomaschinen, and yet I still don't know the German for "Can you repeat that please?" or "I don't understand".

A rapid change in direction is needed.

. . .

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Not cutting it.

Berry:  I wish we went to a fireworks on fourth of July.

Me:  But you went to a castle!

Berry:  Yep.  Which was pretty dark and broken.

Monday, 4 July 2011


Happy 4th of July from Heidelberg Castle! 

Manshow has taken the theme too far, with noisy and hard-fought battles against sitting in the stroller, or holding hands, or staying within shouting distance.

Extra-special tactics include collapsing on the ground in various queues, collapsing on the floor of the cable-car, collapsing under the table in the restaurant, and wailing "ouchy ouchy ouchy mamaaaa!!!" any time I hold his hand. (Gently hold his hand -- but try asserting that to passers-by casting startled glances at the spectacle.) 

When it comes to three-year-old boys, independence is so overrated.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Thursday, 30 June 2011


Manshow, hearing Taio Cruz in the cafe: "Who's this? Is this Bob Dylan?"
. . .

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Little 'Strayan

 Manshow just said looked up at me and said, "G'day mama!" he will be getting extra treats today. 
Don't tell Berry.
. . .

Tuesday, 28 June 2011


 I just passed my US Forces (German) drivers license test! Unleash me all legal on the roads!
. . .

Monday, 27 June 2011

Walk the dinosaur

After promising Berry at least 38 times that the fibreglass dinosaurs weren't real, had never been real and couldn't become real, we headed to Gartenschau Kaiserslautern for a day in the sun after a week of rain.

Unlike their dinosaur-encyclopedia-reading cousins, our kids aren't real big on the nitty-gritty of prehistoric life, so there was a fair bit of joyous quadruped-climbing before we found the German sign that said (of course) Don't Ride The Dinosaurs.

The kids had their favourites – Triceratops and Seismosaurus – but mine by far and away was this guy:

Just, you know, stalking the rear carpark and the warehouse on his day off.

Urban dinosaurs. Now that's a park I'd like to see.

. . .

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

We've been in Germany 96 hours now, and Berry spins between acceptance and rejection. On Wednesday she wept bitterly and HATED GERMANY because the backerei had no muffins. Twenty minutes later she tried pain au chocolat for the first time and decided Germany was way better than America.

At the park in Queidersbach yesterday she again judged Germany "betterer" than America, but when she saw the local school she said "it makes me think of my school, and then I want to go home."

This morning something wasn't right with the bacon. It was American bacon, but she didn't know that. She burst into tears.

"German bacon!" she wailed.

"Everything here is German! GERMAN, GERMAN, GERMAN!"

. . .

Friday, 17 June 2011


 We found a house! The village is Queidersbach and it's absolutely lovely.

The landlord signed the papers this evening and after some processing by the military housing office next week (during which we'll vigorously cross our fingers and try not to think about it) we should get the keys next Friday.

We love everything about it, and there's a pear tree in the back yard.

It's Friday night and since we arrived on Tuesday we've managed to open a German bank account, get our temporary lodging fully set up, get German iPhones, start in-processing, join the gym, choose a village (we did choose the village first) and find a house, all with the kids in tow.

We're feeling very, very lucky and rather pleased with ourselves.

. . .

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Got coffee

Actually, I got many coffees.  Lattes, cappuccinos, whatever they'll give me and whenever.  And straight away the sun shines and the birds sing, and all of life can carry on with a spring in its step.
I'm not addicted. I'm not.

I'm not.

. . .

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

in Gerrrrrmany (that's how Berry says it)

We'll be starting to look at German houses tomorrow. This is one of those situations where there's such a vast and daunting list of things that need to be handled immediately, you get rabbit-brain. But probably a house is a good place to start.

Honestly though, if my lesser brain took over it would focus purely on finding espresso, a gym, an excellent grocery store and a new iPhone. I am deeply uncomfortable.

. . .

(This post is a complete cheat – I cut-and-pasted it from a rather despondent email I sent to my sister on... I think... Tuesday night. Sometimes you get that.)

. . .

Tuesday, 7 June 2011


Me: You understand? We don't open the door when Mummy's not around, because we just don't know what's outside.

Man-show: Maybe dinosaurs!

Berry: Dinosaurs are not alive. They lived in the 1980s. That's a long time. Before people were born.

. . .

Monday, 6 June 2011


We took a farewell trip to Texas to spend some great beach time with Nathan's side of the family and say our goodbyes before Germany. It really was terrific.

Although some of it was like this....

...and more of it was like this:

Do you even need to ask why?

. . .

Saturday, 28 May 2011


I found a full-page picture of Old Spice guy in GQ, so I tore it out. 

Now I'm not sure what to do with it, nor what to think of myself.

. . .

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Sticks & stones

Wailing from the back seat: "Mom! He said I'm stupid and I'm sandwichy and creamish and yoghurty! And he said princesses are potty!"

When the insults start flying around here, we really bring out the big guns.

. . .

Wednesday, 18 May 2011


It was only a matter of time before Man-show discovered the echo greatness of the empty, empty house...

. . .

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Mountains of things

Last time I moved to another country, I put everything I owned in two suitcases, one very big box and one giant hockey bag.

It really was easier that way.

. . .

Friday, 29 April 2011

Saturday, 16 April 2011


Berry explains her independent outfit choice:

"Mom. It's not just about looking pretty. It's about how it feels."
 . . .

Thursday, 17 March 2011


"I don't know what happened to Cinderella's stepmother and stepsisters," Berry says.  
"Maybe they died. Maybe they fell in a hole. Maybe they got hit by a car..." 
{thoughtful pause} 
"Maybe Cinderella cut them."
. . .

Saturday, 12 March 2011


I found Berry sobbing in the bathtub because "the German people don't know who Disney Princesses are."

Daddy told her this. 
I will be having stern words with Daddy.
. . .

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Krewe of Thoth 2011

On Sunday we went to Thoth in New Orleans. It was our one and only Mardi Gras parade this year, and it was everything we wanted.

A picture's worth a thousand words, so here we go....

(Berry had to regularly unload the beads; they weighed her down. Miss Sarah helped.)