20 October 2010

An Amphibous Child

Max will not let the fact that he is the only non-German speaking child in his kindergarten hold him back  No, no he would figure a way around the language barrier.   When Paul dropped Max off at kindergarten yesterday, Max hopped into the classroom, and immediately transformed into a little amphibian.  "Rib-bit, rib-bit!" ia apparently an internationally recognized greeting amongst children ages three to six.  Followed by a few more croaks and zaps of the tongue, Max was soon the center of attention, provoking a few more amphibious lurkers to come out of hiding, as well making other giggle.  Apparently our little comedian has built a following at his kindergarten, because today when he arrived at school, his little fans swarmed him anxious to hear his newest animal impersonation.

It is amazing to think that I was ever worried about my child being intimidated by the language.  He is truly his father's child and would be able to make friends with a lamp post.

Picadillo is Cooking in My Kitchen

New favorite recipe is a traditional Cuban or Brazillian dish, Picadillo.  We can at least safely say it is Latin American.  I did not make many changes to this recipe, I  halved the hotter spices like chili and the paprika, thinking my kids might eat it if it wasn't too spicy.  I was wrong.  I also added rice and beans to the mix so that the rice would cook in the juices of the Picadillo. Mmm, mmm, mmm, muy muy delicioso!

16 June 2010

New Directions

Ask any stay-at-home mother of small children what she wants more than anything, and she will probably respond with some time to herself. Well, this Saturday, I am going to Paris for a writers retreat. For nine days, I will be alone without children or husband. I will submerse myself in the art and culture of the city, and I will focus on my writing.

When I return from Paris, I will be making some changes in my life, some subtle and some more drastic. These changes will be reflected in this blog. Raising Expats will be getting a makeover. It will have a new look and a new focus.

See you then.

13 June 2010

Identity Crisis

Living and raising a family in a foreign country has challenged me in new and unexpected ways. I am no longer in my comfort zone, where I am content with the status quo. I never realized how much I defined myself by the people around me. Now in this new context, I am free to re-define myself, and that is both terrifying and exhilarating.

When I graduated from high school, I wanted to be someone extraordinary. I wanted to be a journalist traveling the world telling its stories. I never saw myself as a house wife and mother. I love my family, but I don't love the example I am setting for my children.  My children need to learn that they are free to define themselves in anyway they want to, and I want to be an example to them.

05 May 2010

Productive Procrastination

Tonight before Max went to bed, he insisted on picking up all the stuffed toys off the floor.  This was 100% procrastination on his part, but who am I to complain?   I’m just relieved that they are up off the floor. 
After two attempts yesterday to put the stuffed toys on their shelves, only to have them knocked down almost immediately by Maggie and then Max, I surrendered to a play area with a plush floor.   So tonight, when Max was picking up the toys to avoid going to bed, I didn’t fight with him.  He stuffed and crammed them into all the available spots in the toy bins.  If they didn’t fit into the bins, he stuffed them on top of the books, and when there was no more room there, he piled them up on the toy kitchen.  Of course this means that he completely overlooked the four empty shelves where the stuffed animals normally sit. 
At one point this would have freaked me out.  Every toy has its proper space, and I’ve spent many hours sorting out the toys and separating the blocks into their appropriate bins.  I would dive under the furniture; pull up the couch cushions and search the corners until every last block, ball and car were accounted for.    Now, I’m just grateful for any help in trying to conquer the toys that have taken over our lives. 
It is definitely tempting to let him delay his bed time this way every night, even if a few toys end up in the kitchen sink.

04 May 2010


After living in Germany for almost three years, the novelty has worn off. Every once in awhile though, something surprises me. Like this, the surprise in the cereal box, or Müsli bag in this case:  A miniature wooden train car.

Unlike the typical surprises in the cereal box of plastic straw etc., this one actually encourages me to buy more of the Müsli.  The little train came inside of this red plastic egg that my children are modeling here,

and here.

Things like this make me smile and think, "Wow, this is pretty cool."


Today was my first day driving stick alone. I had finished my lessons at the driving school, and I had been practicing with Paul in the car. When we woke up this morning and it was raining, and with a little encouragement from Paul, I decided to be brave and drive Max to Spielgruppe (pre-school).

I stalled at every intersection, and I was honked at by numerous motorists. Max, to his delight, learned a new explicative on our way, and every time I stalled, he would say it in unison with me. I wonder if the teacher will notice... hmmmm.

I was shaking by the time we reached school, and though the drive home was much smoother, I can still feel my heart pounding. I need a little more practice before I do that again.

02 May 2010

Update on Kindergartens

I swore I would not be one of those moms, one of the moms who freaks out about what preschool her child goes too, but when I wrote this post, I was dangerously close to crossing the line.  We had only applied to three kindergartens for Max, Waldorf A, Waldorf B and the Waldkindergarten.  After receiving letters putting us on the wait lists of two of the three, Paul and I started to worry and wonder if we should start applying to other kindergartens.  Most kindergartens open their admission in February, but maybe we could get on some more waiting lists, increasing our odds of finding a spot for Max.  The biggest concern of course, was the gap in his language skills.   He was finally starting to make progress in the German language, and we were worried that any length of time not in school would set him back.
Needless to say, I was quite relieved when we received the acceptance letter to the local public kindergarten.   We had applied over a year ago, but after having an underwhelming experience at the information afternoon, we quickly forgot about it.  Once we were accepted to this kindergarten the pressure was off, and before we knew it, all of our ducks seemed to line up.  A couple weeks later, we were accepted into Waldorf B which is very close to where we live.  And at the beginning of this week, we received a call from Waldorf A where Max is currently attending a Spielegruppe.  They had a spot open up, and they offered it to us.  We declined, as we had already accepted the spot at Waldorf B.
Maggie is guaranteed a spot in the Spielgruppe at Waldorf B, and later in the Kindergarten class, so I can be sane once again, at least until we start looking at Grundschulen (elementary schools) in three years. 

01 March 2010

Sneak Peak into the Future

Paul: Maxi, how was school today?

Max:  (blank stare)

Paul:  Did you play with anyone?

Max:  Maxi played.

Me:  Did you play with Lena?  Daniel?  Isabella? Jonathon?

Max:  Maxi played.

Paul:  What did you play with?

Max:  Maxi played.

Me:  Did you play with Autos?  KugelbahnPuppenwagen?

Max:  Maxi played.

Me:  Did you sing? Dance? Cook?

Max:  (rolls eyes at his hopeless parents and sighs)

Me to Paul:  Wow, I didn't think it was supposed to be this hard to communicate until his teenage years.

Learning How to Drive, Once Again

For the better part of the last year, Paul and I have been debating about whether to buy a car or move closer into the city.  We loved the idea of having a small carbon blue print, not to mention minimal transportation costs.  Moving into the city has its additional benefits of being closer to things like restaurants and shopping.  However transporting two small children around the city via public transportation had become burdensome, an enormous time suck and incredibly stressful.  Finally the car won out.

However, I hate driving, I always have.  My first day of drivers education back when I was 15 1/2 years old, my instructor Mr. Norman screamed "JUMPING CATFISH, JUDAS PRIEST and JIMINY CRICKET" from the passenger's seat at regular intervals.  I went home that afternoon crying, and swore that I would never return to driving school.  Luckily my oldest and wiser sister dangled the carrot of freedom in front of me, persuading me to return with a new determination to learn. 

Sixteen years later, Paul and I bought a manual transmission car, and once again I am learning how to drive.  Luckily, my drivers license transferred from Virginia, so I did not have to pay for the very expensive German driving classes and tests.  However, to preserve our marriage, we decided it was best for me to learn how to drive stick with a professional.  Not only would we have been screaming at each other within a half-hour, but I am learning on a transmission that belongs to someone else.

This past Thursday was my first time driving. Overall, I'm doing much better than the first time I drove automatic.  The biggest problem I'm having is that I keep stalling at intersections.  Sixteen years of driving automatic, and my instinct is to ease up on the brake when the light turns on green.  This does not work with a manual transmission.  Luckily, my instructor is no Mr. Norman, and she was very calm and collected every time I stalled the car.

After my first class, I was relieved that I had taken the class with a professional.  While, I realize that we might end up spending almost as much on lessons as we would have to buy an automatic, I feel like I am learning an invaluable skill.  I am hoping that with this new skill, I will feel like I have better control of the car, and maybe I will enjoy driving just a little more.

23 February 2010

Making the Rounds Again

Once again that time of year has arrived, where we are applying for kindergartens.  Last year we applied for the Spielgruppe (playgroup) for two-year-olds, and we were accepted into two Waldorf kindergartens, we'll call them A & B.    At the time we thought we were going to move, so we went with Waldorf A which would be closest to our new location.  It was a difficult choice to make because the Waldorf B was only ten minutes away and we liked both schools very much.  Well, we did not move, and since October we have been making an half-hour commute to drop-off and pick-up Max at Spielgruppe.

Being in Waldorf A's Spielgruppe did not guarantee us a spot in their kindergarten.  So, this year we once again are making the rounds, applying for the 3-6 year-old kindergarten classes.  In addition to Waldorf A, we applied to Waldorf B, hoping our decision not to send Max to their Spielgruppe wouldn't affect his ability to get in.  We also applied to a Waldkindergarten, which is an outdoor kindergarten.  Five days a week, for four hours a day, the children play outside in all, but the extremest of weathers.  On extreme weather days, the kindergarten has alternate activities planned in indoor venues like museums and librarys.

On Saturday we received a letter from Waldorf A, saying that Max would not be able to attend their kindergarten in September, which admittedly disappoints me.  I was sort of expecting this answer, as they had very limited space available.  However, I still feel a little bit slighted.

However, I am trying to look at the sweeter side of Waldorf A's answer.  The other two kindergartens are within easy walking distance to where we live, and it would not be difficult to get Max there in the mornings.  Waldorf B has a very nice facility, and the Waldkindergarten has a special appeal to me.  Paul grew up in the country, and from three to eight-years-old, I lived in the country.  Both of us spent hours and hours playing outdoors in all sorts of weather.  And we have very fond memories of that, and we think it would be a great experience for Max.

Now we wait to find out if Max was accepted into either of the other two kindergartens.  We are supposed to hear from the Waldkindergarten this week, and next week we have our interview with Waldorf A.  Hopefully, one of these will work out, or I will have to resort to Plan B.  I'm not exactly sure what Plan B is yet.

15 February 2010

Our Blue-Eyed Beauty

Beautiful almond shaped eyes. 

Rodel Schlitten

Every once in a while, there is something about living in Munich that I find very endearing.  Right now, it is seeing the parents pulling their children around on Rodelschlitten, what we in the States would consider an old fashioned wooden toboggan.  It looks like a snapshot of the past.  Only, the classic American Wooden Toboggan, as seen here is nothing like the Classic German Rodelschlitten here. 

Our former neighbor still has the two Rodelschlitten that she used as a child.  Last year she lent us one for Max.  After falling off of it once face first, it was hard to convince him to get back on.  The only way he would ride it is if I heaved my big pregnant body on it and rode behind him on the sled, poor Paul pulling both our weights.

This year, however has been a different story.  Over the weekend, I borrowed another neighbor's Rodelschlitten, outfitted it with Max's Fußsack, a heavily insulated sleeping bag type thing, that is usually in his stroller, and stuffed him in it for the morning.  We trekked through the local forest, and Max had a fabulous time, even though I was quite tired by the end of the two hour haul.

Sledding is taken much more seriously here. Growing up, I used a $5 roll-up sled to cruise down the hills.  Here, the average child Rodelschlitten starts at about €40, but I've seen some Rodelschlitten costing upwards of €300.  However, these sleds aren't just used for the kids to slide down hills.  People use their Rodelschlitten instead of strollers, to pulling their groceries home, and I'm getting the impression that sledding is treated as a serious sport.

14 February 2010

Sipping Tea After Coming in from the Cold

After stripping all of our layers and winter trappings, we usually just hang out in our long underwear around the house, looking like a mismatched troupe of acrobats.  Many a raised eyebrow I have received from a delivery man when I show up to the door in long underwear and a t-shirt. 

12 February 2010

Put Everything Into It Dish

If you are anything like Paul and me, by the end of the week, you are looking at a half-empty fridge, with an assortment of things that are about to go bad if you don't use them right away. Well, I used to put these things into a soup or a quiche. However, over my last visit home, my sister introduced me to fritatta. It's almost like a quiche, but with none of the hassle of the crust. My latest fridge clean out special combined eggs, field greens, mushrooms, sheep cheese, sprinkling of Gouda, and my two trusty stand byes onions and garlic. I sauteed the onions and garlic in butter, added the mushrooms to the frying pan, mixed the whole lot together, poured into a glass pie pan and cooked at 200C for about 30 minutes. Scrumptious! I think adding cherry tomatoes would have added a nice touch as well.

02 February 2010

The Missing Piece

It is 4:30am in the morning, and our 2 1/2 year old, Maxi has been sleeping on a mattress on the floor of our bedroom while Maggie learns to sleep through the night. I immediately wake up, even the slightest whimper of one of my children is picked up by the mother antennae. Max wakes up coughing and crying. He climbs over to the edge of our bed.

He whimpers "Ma-Ma, Maxi hurts, Maxi wakes up."

"I know baby, you're sick, do you want to sleep with us?"

"Yes," he whimpers, and I scoop him up in a hug and pull him over my body in-between Paul and I.

This is unusual because Max has not slept in our bed since he started sleeping through the night. Even when he is ill, and I climb into his bed to comfort him, he'll respond with "Mommy, GO!" So, I savor this rare moment, his little body curled up against mine.

I hold on tight because I realize in the still of the morning, that times like these are fleeting. It will not be long before I will no longer be the center of his universe. Marni Jackson says it best in Double Lives, "[H]aving children transforms you. It keeps on transforming you. And the hardest thing to prepare for is this constant change."

My first born opened up my heart; I never knew that I was capable of loving someone so completely. Admittedly, I was worried about the second child, how could I possibly love someone as much as I loved Max? However, with Maggie I learned that there was even more room in my heart, and this astounded me. With my children I have found a completeness that I never realized I was missing.

Life before children dulls in comparison. Watching them grow and develop has colored my world. I marvel as my baby's brow furrows in concentration when she is mastering the art of picking up Cheerios with her thumb and forefinger . My heart swells the first time my son starts referring to himself as "I" instead of "Maxi," and when he climbs up next to me, slides his arm around my neck and whispers into my ear"I love you Mama," my heart just about bursts.

My children have taught me to appreciate the small things again. The smallest things give them joy like how Maggie's face lights up simply because I walk into the room. Or how Max thrills at the sight of a snowball. Their laughter and their smiles are contagious. I can't help, but be happy when they are, which is why discipline can be so difficult sometimes.

Nothing is impossible for them, and they are not scared of failure. At one time getting from one side of the room to the other once seemed impossible, but now Maggie can do it at lightning speed. Their determined spirits have rekindled mine. My children have taught me to live again. They've inspired me to pursue my dream of writing, and to stop worrying about failure.

I have not lost my self, I have simply transformed.

31 January 2010

Phone Conversation Between Paul and I Over the Christmas Holidays

ME: Maggie has been saying "Da-Da" all day.
PAUL: Her first word!
ME: No, it doesn't count unless she connects the meaning to it.

about a week later...

ME: I changed my mind, "Da-Da" was her first word.
PAUL: Why?
ME: Because she started saying "Ma-Ma" today.

30 January 2010

Getting Out of the House with Two Small Children

There are certain laws that seem to govern getting out of our house with two small children. The first being that it always takes at least an hour long to get out of our house than I think it’s going to take. If I am smart, I do as much of the preparation to get out of the house the night before, i.e. give baths, pick out clothes, pack diaper bag, fix drinks and snacks etc. This works well for planned trips, but doesn’t work so well for the more spontaneous trips like a walk to the park or running to the store because I ran out of saline solution three days ago, and forgot to pick it up the last two times I was out.

The second law is that once I have everything ready to go, and I am about to leave the house I realize that I forgot something, and I run back to get it, probably putting down whatever was in my hand, like my umbrella or pacifier on my way to retrieve it.

The third law is that by the time I have retrieved that umbrella or pacifier or whatever it is that I put down when I went back to get whatever it was that I forgot, one of the children have messed their diaper, so I have to take both children back inside again. This has become even more complicated in the winter, when I have to strip off winter coat, boots, snow pants, mittens, hat and scarf to change the offending diaper. By the time I’ve changed the diaper and gotten winter gear back on, the other child has messed their diaper, and I have to go through the whole process of undressing and redressing again. Finally both children are ready to go and a bit fussy because they are so warm inside with all their gear on, and I am sweating buckets, because I didn’t bother to take off my winter gear during all the rushing around and changing of diapers. Sometimes I try to take short-cuts and leave mittens on, or only pull down the pants and snow-pants instead of completely removing them, but this is a mistake because inevitably I will end up with poop on one of these irreplaceable items, making the rest of my trip and therefore my day unpleasantly smelly.

The fourth law is that whatever the meteorologist posted on wetter.com about the weather, I can almost guarantee that when I get outside exactly the opposite is happening. So, once outside I am stripping the children and changing them into something more comfortable, or getting their coats, hats and gloves on. Being an experienced car-less mother who depends on stroller transportation, I keep all forms of gear for every curve ball Mother Nature can throw at me tucked into my stroller and diaper bag for just such an occasion.

The fifth law is really more of an addition to the fourth law, saying that whatever the weather looks like outside of my window or out on my balcony, by the time I get all the children and their gear down the elevator, down the front stairs and outside, the weather has changed.

The sixth law is that I will reach the bus stop just in time to see my bus whiz by. I probably saw this coming, but there was really nothing I could do about it because I was too far away to run with the heavily laden stroller and two small children strapped in. Luckily the bus comes every ten minutes, and if I am really lucky I will sit in the bus stop with some chain smoking old lady who feels it her duty to tell me 101 reasons why I shouldn’t have my children out in this weather. Being a non-German speaker, I smile pleasantly nodding my head, and say in heavily accented German, “Tut me leid. Mein Deutsch ist nicht sehr gut.“ At which point I usually receive a “Humph,” and a disdainful look meaning ‘When you live in Germany, you should speak German.’ If I am having an especially lucky day, the stranger recognizes my English accent and switches to English, and then I’m forced into yet another lengthy conversation about why it is so important for me, especially as a mother, to learn the language, as if I didn’t already know that. Please tell me when a mother of two children two and under has the time to learn more of the language than just what is needed to get by.

The seventh law is that because I missed my bus, I will miss my next transfer as well, spend at least thirty minutes of uncalculated time waiting on transportation, and finally arrive at my destination an hour later than planned, only to realize that the drinks and snacks I packed the night before are still sitting inside the fridge back at home.

27 January 2010

Überraschung (Surprise)!

Sunday night when I returned home from my knitting group, Paul was on the computer while talking to his brother. When I walked into the living room, this look of surprise went across his face. "I didn't expect you home so early," then he looked at the clock, "errr I didn't expect it to take me so long."

I looked at the computer and saw a blank Microsoft Word document. Huh? A big grin crossed his face, "Well, let me put it this way, you are not getting a laptop for your birthday."

Paul has never been good at keeping secrets from me, and every year he tries to surprise me for my birthday. It has become a fun game between the two of us. How long will Paul be abel to keep a secret?

I love surprises, but I also like to play detective to guess what my surprise is going to be, so Paul teased me with a couple hints.

The first hint: He has to let me in on the surprise before I actually get my birthday present because everything here is in German.

The second hint: I'm not actually getting my surprise until March.

The first two hints made me guess that the gift was an experience, which is Paul's favorite kind of gift.

The third hint: It is something I can wear, but I will need accessories, and I already have them.

The third hint really threw me, because something I could wear, doesn't fit in at all with an experience. He quickly revised his hint, and said it is one of the other meanings of the German verb "to wear," or "tragen." Well, after I went to see the verb tragen in LEO I skimmed the various meanings, and I wasn't any closer to guessing my surprise.

I decided to play fair, and I wasn't going to ask too many questions, and I wasn't going to sneak around our bank account or his email to figure out the gift. I was excited about the possibility of a real surprise that I wouldn't find out until my birthday, and three weeks isn't very long to wait.

Unfortunately, yesterday when I picked up the mail, I saw an envelope for Paul from the Bavarian State Opera House. At this point, it all clicked, "tragen" to carry, I can carry tickets. I left the mail on the desk for Paul, and did not say anything to him. I still didn't know what he was taking me to see at the Opera, and I didn't want to spoil the fun we were having in our little cat and mouse game.

When he saw the mail, he asked me if any of it meant anything to me. For a split second I considered playing dumb. I wanted to keep the game going longer. However, I told him the truth, that I had figured out what we were doing, but I still didn't know what he was taking me to see. About one minute later he told me. We're going to see the Barber of Seville. It's in Italian, but the subtitles are in German, so we have to read the story ahead of time, and maybe find a DVD of it with English subtitles.

While I think both of us were a little disappointed that the game was over, it doesn't take away from the excitement about going to the Opera. Not just any Opera, but the opera buffa of all opere buffe. It's supposedly one of the greatest comedic Operas of all time. And, we are going to the Opera in a real European Opera House. Now, I just have to figure out what to wear.

23 January 2010

Arriving in Dulles with Porter

Home again, home again, jiggedy jig...

Mistakenly, I though the return trip would be easier. It's an overnight flight, so the kids would sleep, right? Wrong. Though they are both exhausted, they are too keyed up to actually sleep. And since everyone else on the flight is sleeping there is no one to help me when Maggie has another blow out diaper. I drag a now, barefoot Max to the airplane bathroom, trying not to think about what he is probably stepping in, as I lock all three of us in the cramped space. While I strip Maggie of her clothes, and wash off the poop that has traveled up her back, Max entertains himself by pulling the toilet paper off the roll and throwing it into the sink.

When we finally clear up our mess and try to awkwardly exit the bathroom through the accordion door, Max takes off running again. Luckily this time, he runs to the back of the plane, and the one grandmother on the plane wakes up and tries to grab him. When she misses, I unceremoniously dump Maggie in her lap and take off after Max, before he can make it around the back of the plane and up the aisle on the other side into first class again. Once I safely buckle him back into his seat belt which is no match for a two year old escape artist, I make him a
nest with his pillow and blanket, and out of pure exhaustion he finally passes out. I retrieve Maggie from the grandmother across the aisle, and nurse her back to sleep. For the remaining two hours of the flight, I watch the documentary This Is It about Michael Jackson.

When we finally land in Munich, a very nice flight attendant helps me bundle the kids up and exit the plane. Of course no one had bothered to unlock the elevator, so I had to back the stroller up three escalators with Maggie dangling out of the Ergo, a diaper bag hanging over one shoulder, Max's pillow in the bottom of the stroller, and the bag of toys in the other hand.

When we got to the baggage claim, I practically begged the security agent to let me deliver the children to their father on the other side before I picked up my baggage, but he instead in his best pissed off voice told me that it was absolutely impossible, because I was in a secure area. So, another father took pity on me, and sent his teenage daughter back with me to retrieve my five suitcases. It turned out that because the plane had arrived half an hour early, Paul wasn't there yet anyways, so the very tired kids and I waited patiently for Paul to show up twenty minutes later. And after a very harrowing drive home with an insane taxi driver, we finally arrived home and I promptly passed out.

21 January 2010

A One Way Ticket to Crazy

The kids and I just returned from a seven week visit to the States. Long visits like this were a promise we made to our parents to try to assuage our guilt about moving to Germany. Paul's German contract promised him six weeks of vacation along with a slew of holidays. A long trip back home would give us more quality time with our families than the occasional weekend visit.

The only way Paul agreed to letting the kids and I go that long was if I was willing to split the difference. So Paul came three weeks in the middle, meaning that I did both flights alone with the kids. I had flown alone with Max once before, and while it was not easy, it was not impossible. When I agreed to doing it with two children, I must have had a momentary lapse of sanity. But what was done, was done, and since we purchased the economy non-refundable, non-changeable tickets, there was no backing out.

Thank God they were direct flights, so I did not have to make a connecting flight by myself. Just like any other day when I am managing the kids by myself, the key to success is organization. So, first I tried to minimize the amount of luggage I was taking with me, which ended up being a car seat and four suitcases, two of which were filled with Christmas presents and other things for friends and family. On the way back, we left the car seat behind, because as it turns out it was only approved for use in the United States anyway, but we picked up a fifth suitcase because the obscene amount of Christmas presents we received for the kids.

Carrying on the flight, I brought only the bare essentials: one diaper bag, one bag of toys, winter coats and trappings for all three of us, as well as necessary restraining devices like the Ergo and the stroller.

The last time Paul and I flew back from the States, we fed Max so much to drink that by the time we reached security his diaper had leaked, and we had no spare set of clothes in our carry on. We ended up running around the airport to try and find him some clothes, and ended up purchasing a tourist sweatshirt four sizes to big, and stuffing him in his sleep sack for the flight.

This time I was careful to monitor both kids liquid intake, check their diapers regularly and bring extra clothes in the diaper bag, just in case. And, it's a good thing considering Maggie had a blow out mid-flight. Getting through security and walking to our connecting flight went fairly well. Max only ran away from me when we were waiting to board the plane.

Another mother looked on sympathetically, and pointing to her teenage son saying, "He use to run away from me all the time." If there is one thing I have learned about trans-Atlantic flights is to depend on the kindness of strangers. I immediately befriended this mother and her children. She had been there before me, and no one can relate to me like another mother. Besides that, her eleven old daughter loves children and babies and could not wait to play with my kids. There were also a slew of other grandmothers on the flight that quickly offered to help me by holding the baby while I rushed to the cramped bathroom to change Max's diaper. I also quickly enlisted the help of a college kid who was sitting next to me to keep an eye on Max when I needed to change Max's diaper.

Max was great for the most part. Yes there was some whining, crying and general disobedience, but it wasn't anything out of the ordinary, or anything I couldn't handle. The only time things got hairy was when Max peeled off, running gleefully up the aisle through business class and straight into first class. I didn't think it was the right thing to yell at him and wake up all the passengers in business and first class, so I followed along as quietly and quickly as I could with Maggie dangling from one arm, using the other arm to try and grab a weaving and dodging Max. It wasn't until we reached the glut of first class flight attendants, that someone intervened, "Ma'am, Ma'am, you can't be up here." As apologetically as I could manage in my somewhat exasperated state, "I know, I'm sorry, he got away from me." The very nice flight attendant grabbed Max's hand and cho-cho trained him back to our seat.

It was on this journey to and back from first class that I noticed that there was a kids movie on one of the channels. When I got Max back into his seat, I tried to find the movie, and when I realized that the channel wasn't working for either my seat or Max's seat, I called for the flight attendant. I should have realized from past experience this call button is completely useless. Either the flight attendants pay absolutely no attention to it, or they just assume that Max is playing with one of the buttons.

So I finally flag down one of the flight attendants, and she tells me that they can't do anything about it until they reset the movies for the next run. The next run comes, and nothing has changed, so I flagged down another attendant. This one tells me, that she can't do anything until they reset the movies for the third run. This time, the desperation starts to creep into my voice, "But I already told one of the other flight attendants this was a problem, it is the only movie appropriate for him."

So, she tells me she will see what she can do, and she comes back to me five minutes later apologizing, saying that she is going to try and reset the movie to another channel for the third run, but she can't do anything until then, because it would disrupt the rest of the passengers movies, and there aren't and other free seats in the airplane. As a conciliation she gives me a postcard of appreciation for my understanding. Great, meantime what am I supposed to do? I know, I'll let Max play with the post card, I'm sure it will entertain him for all of three seconds.

At this point the eleven year old girl comes up and offers to play with the kids in the aisle, and I have a moment of calm. Finally we land, and I know it is only an hour or two before we get through immigration, baggage claim and customs. Max is a champ, the eleven year old girl entertains him while I hunt down a United Airlines porter in the mess of what is Dulles international baggage claim. The porter helps me with my luggage, and gets us through customs quickly to the waiting and very expectant hugs and kisses of grandparents.

Weeks later that postcard of appreciation for my understanding resurfaces, and I visit the United website to claim whatever the voucher is for. Oh fabulous, it is for 10% off any international flight originating in the United States. Too bad, I live in Germany.