Dining Out Auf Deutsch

The same scenario has repeated itself multiple times in multiple countries.  The Reitemeyer family goes out to eat at a German-speaking restaurant.  I’m in the front and I ask for a table for nine.  I speak in German, because I can.

“Is a menu in German ok?” the waiter asks, and I say it is.  And then I think to myself, “Oh.  I wonder if they have an English option?” But it’s too late.  I’ve committed to a German menu.

Now instead of one illiterate child, I have seven.  Only unlike George, to whom I can say: “chicken, spaghetti, or pizza,” these other kids know that there is lot more than that on those five pages.  So, I spend the next ten minutes translating “pickle,” “onion,” and saying things like, “this sandwich has some sort of meat and some sort of cheese…are you feeling adventurous?”  They never are.

Finally, everybody figures out something to eat, and we manage to order it with my kids opting to point more than attempting to pronounce the words.

Shortly thereafter, never before, somebody else walks in to the restaurant.  The same waiter, speaking in impeccable English, asks if they would like a menu in English.  And then all the kids who happened to overhear this turn and give me that look instinctive to all teenagers conveying shock and betrayal.  Yes, they suspected I was a cruel and evil person, but now they have proof!

Command Presence

Yesterday we went into Savannah to see the Privateer Lynx before it heads north.  If you are along it’s route, you may find it interesting.  Bill, who has just finished the Patrick O’Brian series set (mainly) during the War of 1812, and Billy, who has been reading about the same time period for history, found the tour especially interesting.

Bill was in the front of the boat, just past the galley.  I was in the middle near the entrance to an area below deck.  Mary was playing near the galley door where a crew member was working.  The kids were heading below deck, and I was going to follow them, so I attracted Bill’s attention to Mary.

“You need to keep your eyes on her!” I ordered.

He nodded.  I went below deck.

Later, he came up to me and said that the woman in the galley thought I was telling her to watch Mary.  When she saw Bill, she asked if she was relieved of that duty and could get back to her real job.

I did go and explain and apologize to her.

My husband’s comment: “I wish I had your command presence!”

Cookie Mobster

You might think that the Girl Scout cookie business is a pretty simple one. Some cutie in pigtails shows up on your doorstep, sweetly smiles, and the next thing you know, you’ve agreed to spend an exorbitant amount of money for more calories than your hips will know what to do with. Several weeks later, same girl comes back with a pile of boxes and walks away with enough money to feed the nation of Uganda for two weeks.

People order cookies, distributor fills the orders, little girls deliver the orders. Very straightforward.

And at the beginning, you would be right.


The distributor won’t give out boxes of cookies, they want to give out cases of 12. And then there are all those customers who don’t know any girl scouts. That’s where booth sales come in. The girl scouts know they can reach many many more people by selling cookies in front of stores.

So troops order some extra cases and round up their orders to the next case load, and then they take the extras and sell them off. Even that seems easy.


After a week or two of booth sales and parents with additional orders, the Troop Cookie Manager (or Cookie Momster, as I like to call myself) starts to panic because the supply of one or two types is dangerously low and the supply of other types is dangerously high.

And this is when the Cookie Momster turns into the Cookie Mobster and starts doing Cookie Drug Deals.

Last Thursday, just as I was beginning to feel the beginnings of the headache and fever that was to plague me for a week, fellow Mobster Rachel called me. Her sources had assured her that a local area cookie depot would be fully stocked and opening first thing Friday morning. Did I want anything?

She agreed to get me a case of Thin Mints and a case of Do-Si-Dos and would also give me 6 boxes of her own Do-Si-Do supply. In exchange, I would give her a case of Samoas. We worked out the details of the switch.

Rachel had also tipped me off about Betty who needed Samoas and Tagalongs. I had these a-plenty, so I called Betty and she agreed to take 3 cases off my hands.

The next morning, I realized I needed some Trefoils, but it was too late to have Rachel pick them up. Racked with fever (Friday was my worst day, I think), I loaded the kids up to work these exchanges and we headed out. At the last minute, I checked my email, and some woman named Colleen had Trefoils for the taking. A quick phone call secured me 7 boxes.

So, off we go. First, the exchange with Rachel. Then, the pick up with Colleen. Then I sat in a parking lot for a bit until a mom (not a Mobster, just a mom) picked up $140 worth of cookies. Then, off to Betty’s house for the final drop off of the day.

And the deals continued. Mobster Kelly sent her husband Jim to pick up a case of Tagalongs from me at our last booth sale on Sunday. After my final inventory, I sent out an email offering one last case of Samoas. Within seconds, a Mobster using her Blackberry put in a claim. That exchange will take place tonight.

And that will be my last cookie drug deal. This is no kind of life for a decent mom. I got lucky in that most of my extras were Samoas – one of the most popular brands. Next time I might be stuck with 4 cases of Sugar Free Chocolate Chips, and then what? No, much better to retire on this good note with a successful run.

And if I never see another Thin Mint again, I’m okay with that.

Snowball’s Chance

In case anyone was wondering, I did in fact apply for that Island Reef Job. I do not know if my application was received in good order. I did have to re-submit once, but then I never heard from them again. It was in those last few days before the application deadline, so I’m sure things were a bit crazy there in Australia.

The good news is that there were ONLY 34,000 people interested in the job. That makes the odds much better than a lottery win. They announce the 50 short-listed people on March 2nd, so if you hear any squealing on the East Coast on Monday, perhaps I made it to Round Two.

I couldn’t get the video to load via Blogger, and I couldn’t get it to load on Facebook. Photobucket took it, though, so I posted it to Blogger through that site.


Periodically, I have the kids attempt to copy some work of art. It’s a good exercise in attention to detail, as well as simply helping the kids remember artists and their works. So when I saw this post, and it just so happened that The Creation of Adam was in the art card set Billy was using (Step 5), it was natural for me to assign him that painting to copy.

Here is his result.

Katie also made her version, but I don’t know where it is offhand. Maybe another time I’ll post it. They’re both okay (better, probably, than I could do!).

Anyway, a neighbor girl is over here today, and Katie proudly displayed Billy’s drawing. It’s nice when the kids admire each other’s work, I think. Katie also filled in Neighbor Girl with all the facts about the painting that she knew (on a ceiling in some church somewhere, Adam being created by God, that Billy left out Eve and the angels around God, but that she included them in hers). Neighbor Girl’s comment?

“I think he should have put a fig leaf on him or something.”

Meanwhile, Peter, hovering nearby begins belting out his favorite beer drinking song. For the record, I am not proud that Peter knows any drinking songs, let alone has a repertoire. I’m even less happy that he prefers songs about beer to any other, and that he chooses to sing them loudly in public. But he’s three, and I keep hoping that if I just ignore him, he’ll quit on his own. Still hoping.

Neighbor Girl hears the boy’s song and makes a comment about its appropriateness.

Great, I think. Now I’ve got a 9 year old judging my mothering skills. What kind of a house are you running here, lady? Nudity…beer…just call Child Services on me already.

But what’s interesting to me is that this girl is the one who’s been telling my girls the “truth” about the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. This girl, is in fact, so much more worldly than any of my children, that I closely monitor their interaction and have had a number of conversations about how not all families are alike. It’s a delicate situation, with no easy answers, when the only child in the neighborhood is not the best suited for your children.

It reminds me of something I read somewhere (but have forgotten where, so if you know please tell me), that says that to the innocent, all things are innocent, but to those who are not innocent, nothing is innocent. Although my five older children are aware that it is unacceptable, in general, to run around without clothes on, and are also aware, in general, that drunkenness is sinful, their knowledge of such matters is more “book knowledge” than experiential. Adam was naked in the Garden, so of course, he would be naked in his Creation. No big deal. And singing about drinking? It’s just something that grownups do. They’ve never seen anyone drunk, and certainly never seen the ramifications of alcoholism or binge drinking. Nakedness and drinking are innocent things to their innocent eyes.

But Neighbor Girl lives in the Real World where sex and drugs have such a grip that parents and teachers feel they need to teach children from a young age to avoid them. And there is no way to do that without educating them about what they are in the first place. Eat the apple so you have knowledge, so you know what you shouldn’t know, you know? I don’t blame the system. That stuff is out there, and I see why parents want to teach their children what to avoid.

It’s just sad that we have to destroy their innocence in order to protect it.

Change: one voter at a time

Yesterday a repairman came to fix an appliance. We talked, because I talk to everybody. He is a Muslim immigrant from Afghanistan, one of seven children, his mother is now dead, all his siblings live in the US. His wife runs a daycare (God bless her – that is something I would never do).

Since he’d been here for a long time, I asked him if he had voted. “Of course,” he exclaimed with all the enthusiasm of one who relishes that freedom so many Americans disregard. “For Obama,” he added.

I nodded neutrally, but he sensed I was not a big fan of our new President and wondered why.

“I just can’t vote for somebody who thinks it’s OK to kill unborn babies.” This is my stock line. It’s the truth, it’s succinct, it’s not politely evasive. I’m tired of being polite.

The man’s jaw dropped. “Obama thinks this is OK?”

“Well, yes,” I said. It hadn’t occurred to me that people just didn’t know all the issues. I remembered when I was a foreigner in a country where I struggled to understand the nightly news, where my conversational German failed me over lunches where politics were discussed. I doubt that I could possibly have resembled an educated voter, had I the opportunity to participate in elections.

“That’s against my religion,” he said. Of course it is. “Unborn…born…it doesn’t matter…it’s the same…to kill that life…” And he struggled, his vocabulary unable to wrap itself around such weighty concepts. I don’t think they include words like sacred in ESL classes.

Soon he was done, and he left. But I think he might start looking up new vocabulary words. And I think he might start paying attention to other news. And I think, maybe, in four years, he may vote for somebody else.

Stiff Competition

The world is full of people with the freedom to drop everything and move to Australia for 6 months.

I was one of the many people who helped crash the one server set up to handle the gazillion hits this job application received.

My research shows so far that Australia permits homeschooling, that there is a ferry to the mainland where I could find a Catholic Church, and that I could take the kids along. I have to pay their way, but the $100,000 salary (for 6 months of non-labor) should cover that cost fairly quickly.

The job starts July 1st, and since I expect Bill to be gone during those 6 months, the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

Downsides: I would miss autumn. I think I’ll recover though (while lying on the beach). Also, the interview process includes some activities that sound vaguely Survivor-esque (lame, oh lame). And, most unfortunately, the interviews begin on May 3rd, and my daughter’s First Holy Communion is on May 2nd. That really throws a kink in the works, but Bill assures me that we would simply delay her FHC until I returned and that all my family who are planning on traveling from Alaska and Florida and Pennsylvania would happily change their itineraries at the last minute to accommodate my job prospects.

(I suspect he doesn’t think I’ll get that far. I don’t know why he would think that. They’re looking for people who like adventure. There are so many young, beautiful fools willing to eat bugs on national TV or perform other ridiculous acts in the name of entertainment that I think that sort of behavior is passé. How many people any more are bold enough to travel around the world with a half dozen little kids? You want to see knuckle-whitening tension? Keep track of a handful of non-swimmers at the pool or beach. Are any of these hard-bodied twenty-somethings capable of getting through an hour-long trip to the grocery store without losing a child or losing their mind? You want entertainment and adventure, come see how I live!)

Deadlines are February 22nd. I have to submit a 60 second video. I’ll let you know if they post it for viewing. Wish me luck.

life with many kids

On the way home from ballet yesterday afternoon, I stopped by the library. As we left, the older woman in front of me turned, smiling, and said that another woman had said I had left one at home. And then she was gone before I could figure out what she meant.

As I made my way to the van, I realized that Fritz, who was not with me, must have been the “one I left at home” (he was camping).

Which meant that somebody had seen me there before with all six kids. I think I’ve taken all six there twice in the last four months.

Holy cow, I thought, I can’t even keep track of how many kids my acquaintances have, let alone the offspring of a perfect stranger.

Somebody is always watching. And counting.


I finally put something in the car for me to read while sitting and waiting. Mary has gotten past the “hold me constantly” stage which made reading difficult. And she’s not yet at the “holy terror” stage which requires a delicate balance of freedom to roam and explore with vigilant supervision and loving restraint to prevent her from destroying property and injuring herself or others. (She’s almost there, but not quite.)

Several times in the last few weeks I’ve been left to amuse myself while Mary happily played with puzzles or books. And I’ve been reading the various parenting magazines that were in the waiting rooms.

How to encourage manners in your child.
Why you should give your child every vaccination possible.
Healthy things to pack your child for lunch.

I am so beyond these magazines.

I’d like to see articles geared toward life with more than 2.2 children.

Bilocation: how to get four kids to four different activities at once.
Paying for piano: thrifty ideas from thrifty moms.
Orthodonture: does your child really need braces or can he wait until you’re done paying for his sister’s?

One article I saw was about disciplining other people’s children. Years ago, I was uncomfortable stepping in when another parent was lacking. Gee, lady, can’t you keep your tot from whacking my son with the sand shovel? Nowadays, I’m not so uncomfortable, I just don’t want to. Look, lady, I’ve got six to watch, you have one. Pick up the slack!

One section in the article was about What to Do if You Lose Your Cool. Situation: mom drops off kid. An hour later, you find her kid and your kid climbing on the roof of the shed. You yell at them to get down. The article suggested that, at pickup time, you tell the other mom that you yelled so that she doesn’t just get his side of the story and think you’re a bad mom for yelling.


This is a public service announcement. If your kid is doing something dangerous at my house (and I don’t care if you’re there or not), I’m going to yell. And I won’t tell you about it later, because I will have forgotten all about it.

U Can’t Do It

Awwww! I missed my turn!” It’s only the second time going to fencing. I got in the next left turn lane.

“Mom, you can’t do a U-turn here.” The kid noticed the sign at the same time I did.

We moms work so hard to establish a sense of “other” worldness: recognizing that you are not the center of the universe, being aware of how your actions affect others, noticing things happening farther away than the TV screen, and, of course, understanding that if everybody obeyed the rules, we would have a much nicer world in which to live.

But, by golly, why do they have to take these great leaps forward in their social development when you are late and wishing to make a U-turn where it clearly says not to?

I listened to the kids talking about what I should do. A U-turn here was clearly out of the question. Perhaps that road to the left connected to the road we needed? Or maybe we could make a legal U-turn over there.

As I listened, waiting for the light, I myself wondered the best course of action. What message does it send to children to break the law? Would I not scar them for life or certainly teach them that rules are optional? How could I expect obedience when I myself did not demonstrate it?

What would you have done? What do you guess I did?

If you can’t say something nice, don’t answer the phone

I am a bad woman.

For the last week, we’ve been getting phone calls all.day.long from some NCO Financial. We didn’t answer, hoping maybe they would just go away. But the phone kept ringing (15 times in 4 days) and driving me crazy. I knew it was a collection agency. No telemarketer is that persistant.

Finally, I started answering it. Of course, they were not looking for a Bill or a Michelle. They wanted Andrea. Patiently and politely I explained that there was no Andrea here. They would brusquely and rudely hang up the phone.

And the phone kept ringing.

This morning, I had had enough. I answered. I said that I was, in fact, Andrea. I said that I would be more than happy to mail a check today for my credit card which has been in default since April for more than $900.

This did not satisfy them. They wanted my bank account number.

“Are you crazy?” I exclaimed. “You called me. I’m not going to give out my bank account information to you.”

I was passed over to a manager. We had the exact same conversation, including the indignation over them asking me for confidential information. The man assured me it was perfectly legitimate. I told him that all the scammers say that. He said he had all my information, so they must really work for the credit card company.

“Really?” I asked. “And what is my address?”

He named a town in Maryland.

“You realize you’re calling a Virginia phone number, right?” He didn’t seem to think that was relevant. I persisted in explaining that if they were so smart and “had all the right information” why did they keep calling a phone number where no Andrea lived.

“You mean, you’re not Andrea?” he asked.

“No”, I confessed, “but you people keep calling me all day long even though I keep telling you there is no Andrea here.”

He was…um…annoyed.

Now I know it’s easy to think that he deserved it. After all, the company was harrassing me. But bill collectors are people too. There are other ways to stop annoying phone calls, and I didn’t even have to pick up. I really can’t justify lying, especially when I knew it would make somebody angry.

I wonder if he called his wife and complained about that obnoxious woman who was playing games at 9 am.

I just hope I live through Tuesday night. My church has confession during CCD and that will give me time to think of a good plenary indulgence. No point in spending any time in purgatory for a stupid prank.