My husband was watching Sandmann with Alpha one evening when he suddenly exclaimed, “What the hell is wrong with Germans? There’s a doll, smoking!” I looked over at the computer monitor, “What? No, that’s not a smoking  doll!” I felt dismayed by his reaction. “It’s a Rauchermännlein. It’s a Christmas decoration, you put potporri in it and the smoke comes out the mouth.

“Oh.” DH was placated. “For a moment there, I thought Germans were seriously nuts.”


I’ve been feeling very at odds with American culture lately. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent too long of a time in this country with no break, no different perspective to keep things fresh, but many days it’s all I can do to keep myself from booking three tickets to Europe for an indefinite stay.

I’m so tired of the American way of raising kids, which is hyperintense. The general idea around here is that the more you do the better! Every minute counts! If you yell at your kid for something you might not just make him cry then, you could be ruining his chances at a spot in a top university. It all makes a difference.

It’s slowly driving me nuts. Kids aren’t allowed out anywhere. We have two neighbor kids that I really like and the boy is only a few years older than Alpha and having them all play together would be really ideal. But I hardly see them. They rarely just pop over, even though I wouldn’t mind at all. I find myself wondering if they’re even allowed to come through the woods to visit us.

I miss so much seeing kids out by themselves, having a good time. How common it was to see Finnish kids out in the town, riding their bikes, playing at the park or just going shopping. Even riding the train from Helsinki to Turku on a Friday night.

I miss seeing 6 year-olds riding the subway alone in Berlin without anyone wondering about it. I miss my host family wondering at my parenting, which I admit was extremely intense with Alpha, but is much more relaxed with Beta. I was so judgmental then, too, thinking how sad it was they didn’t know how to parent better–and how my ‘attachment parenting’ was so much better than the parenting my host parents had practiced or my German friends are practicing. Ugh, arrogance!

Now I absolutely want to move there. I dread the thought of my kids growing up in a country where they can’t play with other kids unless it’s a pre-arranged playdate. Where diets of children must be strictly controlled because there are just too many sweet things in society today.

I read Alpha Conni Feiert Weihnachten (Conni Celebrates Christmas) around Christmastime. When we got to the part where she went to the Weihnachtsmarkt, I was astounded at how intensely the memories and smells came back to me. It’s been nearly 10 years since I’ve been to a Weihnachtsmarkt, but I can still smell the gebrannte Mandeln and Schmalzkuchen. I miss gathering around the tall tables, drinking Glühwein. And I need a new Pyramide. My small one was already a bit bent, but Alpha tried to adjust it once and accidentally ripped one of the figurines clear off.

In so many ways, I think another year abroad could do me, the children, and my husband some good (provided he had a job there, of course). We would all strengthen our linguistic skills and get new experiences. Or maybe it’s just me, tired of my usual surroundings and tired of the same old people who are tired of me.

Maybe I just need copious amounts of Glühwein and a smoking doll to set me right.