My trip to Bielefeld was interesting also in another aspect. When I was about to get on the way back to Heidelberg, the car wouldn't start. After some cursing and fruitless attempts to decode the erratic blinking of the panel lights, I called the closest Renault dealer. (Actually, I first called my husband to yell at him, just because that was the first thing that came to my mind.) The Renault guy said, Guten Tag and tough luck, we'll have to tow the car, but it's five to five now so please call back tomorrow morning.
So I unexpectedly had to spend the night out of town, which I took as an excuse to buy really expensive underwear. They towed the car the next morning, figured out that the battery had died in a short-circuit that blew up some wiring, and I made it back home with 24 hours delay. The irony in this was that I had taken Stefan's car because I was afraid mine would break down and I'd get stranded in Bielefeld.
Tomorrow I'm giving a seminar in Aachen and I hope that this time the car won't break down... Later this month I will try to listen in at a black hole conference in Frankfurt. Unfortunately, this happens to be during the week when our daycare place has summer break, so the logistics is nontrivial. In September I'll be in Helsinki for another seminar. In October I'm on a conference in Vienna. In November I'm attending a workshop in the UK, which for all I can tell doesn't have a webpage and I'm not entirely sure what it is about either.
There's been some discussion in the blogosphere lately about the difficulty of combining the necessary travel to seminars and conferences with family demands. And yeah, what do you expect, it's not easy and it's not fun.
Sometime when I'm writing these Internas about work-family issues, I feel like a case study in the making.
The girls are doing fine and have adjusted well to the new daycare place. So far, we're very happy with it. It's a nice and fairly large place with a playground and much space to run around. They're very well organized and it's not exceedingly costly either.
Some weeks ago the kids were ill, and I called in at the daycare place to say we're not coming. When somebody picked up the phone and I heard a male voice, my first thought was that I must have dialed a wrong number. Needless to say, I then felt bad for my own stereotyping, and that I was apparently surprised the childcare business is not exclusively run by women. If you Google for the job description "Kindererzieher" in German, auto-complete gives you as first hit the female ending of the word.
To be fair to myself though, the guy hadn't been there previously. He was only there as a temporary replacement, and normally a woman called Stephanie would answer the phone. In any case, I later had an interesting conversation with him about gender imbalance in education. His explanation for why there are so few men in his profession was simply that it's badly paid. "You can't feed a family from this." I'm not sure that really explains much though.
Lara and Gloria's vocabulary has exponentially grown in the last month. No day passes without them trying out new words. At this point we actually have to be careful what we tell them because they'll go around and tell everybody who'll listen that the mommycar is broken and will shamelessly repeat my complaints that the neighbors don't separate their garbage. They have meanwhile pretty much taken over the whole apartment. There doesn't seem to be any place that's not occupied with toys or other child paraphernalia. And I, I spend a considerable amount of time collecting building blocks and lego pieces, a genuinely sisyphean activity.
In summary, life is busy.