Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Critical Mom and the Rains

It's poured.  As we located umbrellas and left for ballet class, I used an expression my German-American child had not heard:  "It's raining cats and dogs."
"Well, Mommy, it's actually more like cats and cows."  As the rain bounced off the road, as we got soaked from the thighs down, despite umbrellas, she added, "Make that cows and horses!"  I knew it was raining too hard not to stop, and sure enough, by the time we'd ridden eight minutes underground, shivering in our wet clothes cooled by the air conditioning that seems only to exist in tram stations in our part of the world. . . the sun was out.
Today I've danced the put-the-clothes-out-to-dry, haul-'em-back-in-again Schuhplattler a bit too much for my taste, but now it is only overcast, and the guinea pigs are out in the yard gorging themselves on recently-sprouted dandelion.  Our part of Germany is lush these days, partly because of all the rain and partly because we're in the merry month of May and I'm finally able to wear summer clothes to work most days.  When I drink from my Global Warming mug (filled with hot coffee, it shows receding coastlines) I'm happy to see that Germany will still be around even if New York sinks, and even though our Winter was all but snowless and felt more like Fall.  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Critical Mom and The Cracked Tooth

It's 6:30 p.m., time to break out the red wine and the four hundred milligrams of Ibuprofin.  I just got back from the dentist and surprise, surprise!  It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  Instead of twirling his mustachios (I always expect him to grow them and he never does) and sadistically chuckling while brandishing a mammoth drill, and clicking his Prussian Nazified boots, which of course he does not wear . . . he spoke kindly and extensively to me about what he was going to do, while wearing perfectly pleasant white Gore tex sneakers, just what you'd expect a nice suburban dentist to wear.
I was wondering, while undergoing the dread occasioned by sitting in a dentist's chair, whether he'd be doing the same stuff my New York dentist used to do, and whether it would be a good idea for him to do that stuff or not.  Naturally, I Googled "differences German American dental practices" but did not find much.   My hunch is that the American dentist--the last time I saw him, sometime in the nineties, he made a great show of sterilizing everything, since Kimberly Bergalis had gone on C-Span claiming to have acquired AIDS through contact with her HIV-positive dentist---would have prescribed an antibiotic.  They were always prescribing antibiotics.  The German dentist took X-Rays for which my health insurance will pay, and says that he can find no inflammation or sign of infection, and believes that most of the pain on my lower left side comes from the exposed bottom of the tooth, which somehow irritates the nerve . . .meanwhile, on the upper right side, I did crack a tooth.  And I know just when I did it:  I had purchased a cheese sandwich on a baguette to eat en route to Rome on Ryannair; I was determined to eat it and then close my eyes and ears for the rest of the flight in order to avoid being charged for somethingorother.  My plan succeeded, except that as I crunched down on the sandwich, I felt a sharp pain.  But it vanished within a few minutes and did not reappear until last week.  When I began to feel pressure while chewing somewhere around my lower left molar, next to which is one of those silver fillings I have, dating from the late sixties or seventies.
But that ole filling's going to stay right where it is!  So long as the cement that my dentist packed around the exposed lower part of the tooth fends off further irritation to the nerve.  And the upper right?  That's a bigger deal involving re-doing the filling, but apparently not one involving needles, Novocaine, or more than two hours.  There's an efficiency about German dentistry that I like, along with a pleasant failure to adhere to sadistic stereotypes
 . . . like the one I'm thinking of right now, the dentist in the Dustin Hoffman movie, oh, yeah, Marathon Man.  That's the one about which I am trying not to think.  High time I drag the kids away from the TV, read to them, and make dinner for my husband.   It'll be risotto tonight . . . I ought to be able to chew that on the less painful side.
 . . .  I did.  And all was hunky-dory until I suddenly awoke at 1:30 a.m.  Imagine excruciatingly bad menstrual cramps, or worser yet, labor pains, only in your gum right around the area of your molar.  I popped one more 200-miligrammer, wrote a few e-mails, and when the pain had subsided to a dull roar, went back to bed.  Breakfast included one more 200-miligrammer and the dentist says this may go on for three or four days, but I'm seeing him next Wednesday anyway, to take care of the cracked tooth on the other side.  Little-old-ladyhood never looked so near before . . . American dentists, please weigh in.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Critical Mom and Bedtime

When they were little, I got them to bed earlier.  I used all kinds of tricks.  
"First one to brush his or her teeth wins!!"
Yay!  Up the stairs they go.  This worked a whole lot better than It's-Time-To-Turn-Off-The-TV-Wait-A-Minute-Mom.
Scream, yell and the "I'm-Just-Saying-Goodnight-to-Daddy-and-then-to-my-older-brother-and-then-to-my-younger-brother-and-then-to-each-guinea-pig" routine.  (with an aggrieved air).
So now they're tweens and teens.  They don't fall for stuff like, "Here's a dab of Barbie lipsick, one teeny dab, and you'll feel great and be able to run all the way to the soccer field to pick up your brother!" (One smear of Mom's lipstick).
Or, "Here, you can have your tomato back!" (Child screaming; wants not another one, Mommy, but the one Daddy just swallowed).   At which point Daddy affects to vomit up a cherry tomato that he's concealed in his hand, and tantrum ends abruptly.  Child very impressed with Daddy.
Well, now it's more like this:

Me:  "Okay, Sweetie, turn it off at 8:15!"  8:20 and 8:30 roll around, I run down to switch off the set and it's "You did NOT say anything about turning it off then!"

Meanwhile, the nine-year-old pretends not to be able to get into bed without standing precariously on the mattress.  

"Just sit down!" says I, anticipating broken ankles or heads.  Three minutes go by before she does.  Endless goodnight kisses.  Back to brother.  Oh, he's finally upstairs but BRING ME MY RETAINER.

Then there's the fifteen-year-old.  We send him upstairs with strict instructions to be in bed, lights out, by ten . . . it's a school night.  Weekends he can go to bed when he wants.

So last night around 11:09 I knock on his door, because I'm hearing loud laughter and giggles from the computer.  And from him.  

"Waitasec!"  and he unlocks the door and just as I'm opening my mouth to say, "It's a school night and you're supposed to be in bed because you have to be up by 6:15," a very sweet girlish voice with an enchantingly unplaceable accent wafts out of the computer:  "What did your mother say?" she inquires.

I address the computer:  "His mother says it's a school night and it's bedtime!"

"My microphone is off!" yells the fifteen-year-old.

"Please!  Go to bed!"

"Leamealone.  I will."

And so I toddle off to bed, and my husband and I think it's nice the girl sounds so nice, and we fall asleep.  And it is possible to rouse the kid in time for school in the morning, so I guess everything ended happily after all.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Critical Mom's Mother's Day

Could not have been nicer, except for one little surprise:  "Visitors," as pediatricians' nurses coyly call them.  Yes, our youngest had been scratching. . . . but I'll get to that.

I came downstairs at 8:00 a.m., having been allowed to sleep two whole hours longer than usual, and found that our youngest . . . who hadn't slept that well . . . was still sleepy, but before I could make my way back to bed she decided she was hungry after all.  We all trooped downstairs, except for the eldest, who was still in Italy on a class trip uniting young members of the E.U.  And there were two vases, one filled with a gorgeous red-and-yellow bouquet of roses, tiger lilies, and marigolds, and the other with three long-stemmed marigolds, one for each child.

I made blueberry pancakes and we ate heartily; I got presents!  A couple of red lipsticks, my favorite bath salts, and a necklace made of blue-and-white delft bits that my husband and I had pieced together at our favorite jewelry store some time ago . . . 

But then our youngest started scratching.  Now, this actually began a week ago . .  . and though I looked with a magnifying glass and my husband did, too, we found nothing . . . and wrongly believed it was just that she'd washed her head with liquid soap.  The cleaning lady helped me hunt and nabbed one of the culprits.

We have decided to try the olive oil treatment.  You can use mayonnaise or Vaseline instead, but olive oil has two advantages:   it's good for the scalp, especially the itchy scalp, and it washes out easier (use vinegar!) than either of the others.  But all three deprive lice of air.  And, said our cleaning lady, "First it's like a guy who drank too much cognac . . . they stagger.  And then they sleep."  She let her head droop and closed her eyes.  But I was thinking of a Simpsons episode in which lice are represented as beleaguered, noble, struggling for survival . . . well, at least the part about struggling for survival is true.

In other words, it may take more than one olive oil treatment before we go the the chemical-laden shampoo, which, here in Deutschland, is called Goldgeist  ("gold spirit") and has on the label a picture of a big black bubbling cauldron (bubbles actually rise from its surface) standing on claw legged posts.  A rather violent fire blazes beneath, and the active ingredient is Pyrethrumestrakt, and here are some of the side effects that popped up when I Googled the chemical: coughing, wheezing shortness of breath, runny or stuffy nose, chest pain, difficulty breathing.  Rash, itching, blisters.  Long term effects: distrupts the endocrine system by mimicking the female hormone, estrogen, thus causing excessive estrogen levels in females.  In males, the estrogen feminizes, leading to abnormal growth of breast tissues, development of breasts in males and cancerous breast tissues in all sexes.  Carcinogenic.  And I could go on . . . I think we'll stick with olive oil, no matter how many times I have to apply it, even if I have to wash her sheets three times in as many nights . . . her mattress has been in a plastic bag for at least six hours; is that enough?  Happy Mother's Day:  I'm still young enough to have a kid in grade school, although, confidently, I am old enough to be the other moms' grandma.

P.S. Now we've got an innovation in Lice treatment.  After the olive oil and the vinegar and three shampoos, I wanted another layer of olive oil overnight.  My daughter didn't like that idea and we compromised:  yes, garbage bags . . . four of them--tightly tied over her scalp, twisted into odd shapes and held in place with hair elastics.  

But then we woke up at midnight and panicked that it would cover her mouth or nose or both.  And I discovered, as I took it off, that it was on so very tight that I pulled her hair getting it off . . .  and then, since the olive oil treatment takes at least three days and the kid wanted to go to school, we resorted to The Evil Chemical Shampoo.  But wrote the obligatory note to the school lying that she'd felt nauseous . . . otherwise, you have to go to the pediatrician to get a note declaring you lice-free, which is a big waste of everyone's time.  But we hadn't counted on one problem:  no sooner had my daughter, who is exceedingly popular, arrived and said, "Don't hug me because I've had a cold," than they all hugged, and one of the little mean things said, "I smell that lice shampoo on your head!  Did you have lice?" Her face crumpled as she told me, "I had to tell her, but you and Daddy said to say I had a cold . . . . " It hadn't occurred to her that the kid who sniffed out the shampoo had to have had quite a few encounters with the stuff herself. . . . ."But don't worry , Mommy, my friends won't tell."
So she's lice-free, and the school is getting the "Our Daughter Had a Cold and Tummyache" letter.  Stay tuned. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Critical Mom's Budget Tuna Casserole

Nostalgic for Betty Crocker?  Or Betty Draper's cookbook?  This'll bring you right back, raise your cholesterol along with your nostalgia, but not break the bank.  You'll need two 5-oz. cans of tuna (remember when they were 7-oz?  Well, you can always cheat and add another).  7 oz. is around 200 grams of canned tuna, Europeans.

So drain those, and set aside.

Slice and boil some potatoes--at least a cup, but more if you like.  They shouldn't be squishy--just soft.

While those are boiling, get out your large frying pan and some olive oil (if you use plant or corn oil, I won't tell) and chop into it the following:

Two yellow peppers (or green, or red, if that's all you have)

One small zucchini

One red onion

A cup of frozen peas.

Sautée all until they look nicely done.  Haul out a big baking pan.  Drain the potatoes and pour them in.  Add the veggies.  Stir all.  Add tuna and mix in.

Crack two eggs into  a big bowl, beat them with a whisk, and add two small containers of cream.  Beat a little more.  Yes, heavy cream, the kind with massive amounts of fat. 

Stir all into the potato-veggie-tuna mix.

Now, chop up several slices of Gouda and add.  Or if you've only got Cheddar or Gorgonzola, that'll do, too.  Or a soft Danish cheese. Something yellow.  The Gorgonzola may not appeal to children, but it will taste good.

 Mix all.

Grate a big chunk of Parmesan over the whole shabang.  Toss on a little garlic salt.  Bake for an hour at about 190ºc or 375ºf.  You can put on the whirling heat at the very end for a few minutes if you like. 

Remove from oven and serve with chilled white wine or a good red.  Salad on the side is nice, too.