As American as pumpkin pie

Living here is a constant adventure (as I think I may have mentioned once or twice).  We are trying new things, seeing new places, and challenging ourselves to learn and grow – constantly.  A lot of it is amazing and wonderful.  I’ve crossed a lifetime’s worth of experiences and travel destinations off of my wish list in the four years we’ve been here, and living in Europe is undeniably cool and enriching beyond what I could have imagined.  But, being far from home, away from our loved ones and outside of our familiar communities can also be intensely hard.  It’s usually worst around the holidays … and even more so when those holidays don’t exist here.  Christmas and Easter and beautiful, fun and festive here.  Thanksgiving and July 4th, not so much.  It causes us to bond strongly, and sometimes strangely, with our fellow Americans.

Anytime I meet an American here — tourist, ex-pat or immigrant — I feel immediately connected to them.  From the first moment, we have so much in common — language, social cues, cultural framework.  It’s just so easy to interact with another American.  We instantly “get” each other (in a way I always took for granted before).  When it’s someone I get to know a bit better, over time, the person is likely to feel like a friend, even if I only know them professionally.

With our pediatrician, who is not only American (and Austrian), but also roughly my age (she’s younger) and the mom to two small kids (her twins are nearly exactly between my boys in age), I have a particular tendency to accidentally sometimes treat her friend-ish, rather than doctor-ish.

But it’s not just down to me and my tendency to treat everyone I see a lot as a friend (which I do).  The nature of living abroad can sometimes change the situation and increase the blurriness between friends and professional acquaintances.  Which is how our pediatrician helped me make pumpkin cheesecake for Thanksgiving this year.

The boys and I were in her office in mid-November, because B had been having some asthma-like reactions to a nasty head cold that just wouldn’t go away (everything turned out fine, ultimately).  While I was paying the bill at the end of our visit (which, here, happens directly to the doctor, because most of them do not have receptionists, nurses, or office staff) we chatted about Thanksgiving, and lamented the difficulty of finding good Thanksgiving supplies so far from home.  Thanksgiving is so very American, and so many of the foods we eat for it are uncommon in Europe.  Sweet potatoes?  Good luck.  Turkey?  No way — besides, it won’t fit in the oven.  Graham cracker crust?  Better start smashing some graham crackers!  Pumpkin pie spice?  Ha ha ha ha — make your own.  And, in the course of chatting, I told her how I’d learned to roast my own pumpkin in order to make my own pumpkin purée for a pumpkin cheesecake I made for Halloween, but that it was kind of a pain, and that I was just going to skip it for Thanksgiving.  We both agreed (surprisingly enough, for Americans) that we weren’t really huge fans of pumpkin pie.  And then she remembered that she had, sitting on a shelf in her pantry, a can of pumpkin pie filling that she was not going to use.

And that’s how I ended up, the following Sunday evening, texting her to remember to bring it to the office, which she did, and B & I picked it up the next morning at his follow up appointment.  And so, our pediatrician helped us have the stuff to make pumpkin cheesecake for Thanksgiving — an Austrian Thanksgiving surprise.


I don’t remember the process of being told I needed glasses, so I have no idea how I reacted to it.  I know that since then, I’ve been frustrated by it — often.  I’m not lucky enough to only need them when I read, or just when I’m tired.  In theory, I ought to have worn them every waking moment since I was 4.  (I haven’t though — I never wore them while riding or dancing, and I took a nearly complete hiatus from them in middle school, high school and college.)  I don’t like wearing my glasses, but I do like being able to see.  Since becoming a mom, I’ve succumbed to the practicality and worn them daily, pretty much all the time.  I’m used to them now, but I’ve never enjoyed them.

Needless to say, I’d been holding out hope that my kids might escape that particular curse.  So far, I hadn’t seen anything to indicate any vision trouble in either of the boys — ever since they could talk, I’ve been asking them if they can see things at long distances away, with no trouble.  But a routine vision screening this fall turned up something I never expected — Benjamin is a little bit farsighted.  (I never thought to check for that, and it was unlikely to show up before he started reading, which also happened this fall.)

The process of having his eye exam done was absolutely horrible.  The first part was ok, when he just had to look through lenses to get a sense of what helped, but having his eyes dilated, followed by having a light shone into them, has to have been one of his least favorite experiences — EVER.  But, we got it done, got his prescription, and went to investigate purchasing glasses.

That was a bit of a challenge.  When I was a kid, and tried to pick out glasses, I vaguely remember having a tough time making a choice.  I couldn’t ever find something I really liked.  B was the opposite.  He knew EXACTLY what he wanted (maybe a positive by-product of having so many glasses-wearing family members), but most of the options they had in the style he wanted were too big for him, and the sales guy was really pushing for a different style altogether.  Finally, the sales guy walked off to help someone else, and B and I were left with some time to experiment on our own (again, I’m a little grateful for my decades of relevant experience).  Finally, he reached a decision, and I think it was a great choice.

475Even though he acknowledges that they’re cool (and I agree), he’s a lot like me — he doesn’t like his glasses, and it’s been tough getting him to wear them with any consistency.  He only needs them for “up close work”, but that’s a lot of what they do in elementary school — reading, writing, computer work, art.  He avoids using them, though — and because he doesn’t have to wear them all the time, he gets away with “forgetting” to put them on.  Given my history, I’m entirely sympathetic, and therefore I don’t push it as much as I probably should. He also says that they don’t really help him. It’s possible that’s really true — his farsightedness is minor, and it has to be tough to get a kid’s prescription right — but it’s also possible that he just doesn’t want to wear them, just like me.IMG_2741.JPG

Broken tooth

Ask any American expat to name the experiences they most dread having abroad, and I think “dealing with urgent dental problems” would make almost every list.  For starters, dental care in the US is absolutely fantastic.  Americans take good care of their teeth, in general, and our cultural emphasis on perfection in appearance means that we want our teeth to look great, which means they need to function well and last a long time.  Dentists tend to be very good at what they do, and very well trained.  Secondly, there’s always something vaguely intimidating about the dentist, and that’s even when you both speak the same language.  Plus, while most of us will accept that we’ll need some kind of routine medical and dental care while living abroad (everyone gets sick sometimes, plus we need annual flu shots, locally specific vaccines, and yearly check ups) I think most of us hope we can put off or postpone anything more significant until we return home to our regular, well known, English speaking doctors and dentists.

But, it doesn’t always go that way.

Last spring, I got a sudden stabbing pain in my mouth when I bit down on something (I think it was a pumpkin seed).  It hurt a lot, but went away immediately and didn’t come back, so I didn’t think much about it.  But then, about a week later it happened again.  And then again.  Every so often, it would happen — I’d bite down on something in just the wrong way and have some brief, but undeniable, pain.  My teeth are generally well behaved, so I knew something was wrong.  By the time I decided I needed to have it looked at, I was about 2 weeks out from my bi-annual dental cleaning and checkup, so I talked to my dentist here about it.  (I also emailed my dentist at home, to get a remote second opinion.)

Both agreed — I probably had a cracked tooth.  I was horrified.  A lot of people who know me know that I take particularly good care of my teeth.  I’m fastidious about oral hygiene, and I look after my teeth really carefully.  I was pretty upset that something might be wrong with one of them — especially something that might necessitate something as drastic as a crown, or worse.  My dentist here suggested a wait-and-see strategy, while my dentist at home advised that I treat it immediately, before it could get worse.  I waffled.  I didn’t want to do anything drastic, but I didn’t want to be chicken about it and cause myself more trouble down the road.

I decided that I’d wait until Christmas, when I’d be home in the US.  I’d go see my dentist from home, and get his actual, in person opinion, and then decide how to proceed.

Which was a fine plan, except that last Wednesday, my tooth broke.  A piece (I’m sure it was small, but it felt huge) broke off of one of my molars.  It was kind of traumatic.  (I’m very attached to my teeth.)  It didn’t hurt at all, but it forced me to stop procrastinating and get it fixed.  It turns out, too, that the pain wasn’t coming from the tooth that I thought it was, either (so in that way, I suppose it was good that I didn’t do anything drastic to a different, healthy tooth).

I couldn’t get in to see my dentist until yesterday.  I spent much of the weekend quietly agonizing about the trauma that I imagined awaited me in terms of getting it fixed.  As it turns out, it really was a small piece, and he just covered up the spot with the same stuff as for a dental filling, to prevent decay.  It took less than 20 minutes and didn’t hurt at all.  All my worry was for nothing.  And, best of all, the intermittent pain from last spring and summer seems to be entirely gone, which is wonderful.

So, much as I never would have volunteered to have something go wrong with my teeth EVER, much less while living abroad, it was no problem at all.  (And though I don’t know what the same procedure would have cost in the US, I imagine it would have been more than the €130 I paid here — and that’s before insurance reimburses us for most of it.)

And . . . we’re back!

We had a great vacation.  We saw some new (to us) places in Austria, had some amazing experiences (including one of the most fun things I’ve ever done — sommerrodelbahn) and actually got a chance to relax and recharge as a family, for maybe the first time.  (We’ve vacationed before, but I don’t think we’ve ever really achieved “relaxation” before as a family.)  It was truly a fantastic trip, and I’m going to write all about it, very, very soon (not like last year’s vacation, which I’m still working on writing about . . . and which I will also get back to soon).

But, for today, we’re back, we’re on a new schedule, and I suddenly feel like I don’t know how to be a stay-at-home parent anymore.

In retrospect, planning a pediatrician appointment for today, our first day “back to normal” (and it’s a new normal) was not the wisest plan.  But, we were gone the last two weeks, our pediatrician leaves on Friday for her vacation, and this is one of those things that we wanted to get done during the summer, so here we are.  (We also have a dentist appointment on Thursday, and at least 3 other doctor’s appointments to try to get in this summer.)  Besides the pediatrician appointment, though, I just feel like I don’t know what I’m doing.  I’m home, with the kids, just me & them all day.  And though I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for almost 6 years now, I suddenly feel like this is all very new again.  How does this all work?  How do I get things done?  How do I shower?  How do I go out for a run?  How do I get the groceries?  How do I manage both boys safely at the playground?  How do I fold the laundry, go to the bathroom, or prepare a meal without someone getting hurt?  I used to do this all the time — why don’t I remember how to make this happen???


But, of course, the challenge is that it’s not the same as it’s ever been before.  Liam was never in school before this year, so this is the first time I’ve had him at home full time since he’s gotten used to that schedule.  B isn’t napping anymore, so this is the first time I’ve tried to get Liam down for a nap while B is doing other things.  Both boys are bigger and more energetic.  They both have more need to expend their extra energy and more ability to injure each other while they’re playing.  While they’re old enough to reason with (more or less) they’re also old enough to require a bit more substantive mental stimulation.  And, for the first time, I’d gotten used to having some time on my own every day, so the loss of it is uncomfortable for me.

It’s fine, though.  We’ll figure it out — we always have before.  And I know that I’m not alone in this feeling.  Parents everywhere are suddenly faced with the same dilemma — “Why is my house suddenly overrun by these short, demanding people, and what am I supposed to do with them?!?”

Liam goes to the dentist

Today was Liam’s first ever dentist visit.  He was too young to have gone before we moved here to Austria, and I was kind of waiting until we had a visit home to visit our (much loved) dentist in Virginia.  But, a few weeks ago, I noticed a spot on one of his front teeth, and I’ve been freaked out ever since.  The pediatrician and I agreed that it needed to be seen by a dentist, and probably shouldn’t wait until our next visit home to the US (scheduled for December).

I’ve been worrying about it since.  I’ve been worried that it’s something dire, I’ve been worried he’ll be uncooperative at the appointment, or traumatized by it.  I’ve been worried that there was something that I’ve done (or didn’t do) to cause him some kind of horrible dental damage.  We had an appointment scheduled for 2 weeks ago, but he was sick with some kind of flu-like illness, and it just didn’t seem like a fair time to subject him to a first dental visit, so we put it off until today (and since then I’ve been worried about some awful consequence resulting from the delay).

I’ve been anxious about the visit for days.  I woke up early this morning and laid in bed, stressing about it.  How was it going to go?  This isn’t a children’s dentist — would they know how to handle a 2 year old?  What was the dentist going to say?  What would happen next?  Would I feel comfortable with any problem being solved here, or would I feel the need to have it taken care of at home?  How urgent would it be?  Would I have to make an extra trip home with Liam to get it taken care of?  (This is how I spent an hour of my early morning today.)

So, just before 9:00 this morning, I dragged an uncooperative Liam out of the house (not literally, but almost — he didn’t even have his shoes on).  The elevator was broken and he wouldn’t walk, so our trip began with me carrying him down the stairs from the 6th floor.  We’d been talking about this visit for weeks, and telling him what to expect.  We told him the dentist was going to look in his mouth and count his teeth.  We told him it would be ok, and that it would be quick and easy (Benjamin added his reassurances).  But apparently, he did not want to go.  I did not feel encouraged.

But, we made it.  I carried him the whole way to the strassenbahn, and the whole way to the office, but we made it (and only a few minutes late).  As we made our way to the office, he calmed down and regained some of his enthusiasm.  I reminded him that the dentist was going to look at his teeth (which he said was “ok”).  But as soon as we got into the reception area, he stopped looking at anyone, stopped talking, curled up against my chest and hid.

The dentist was great, though.  They told me I could fill out the paperwork afterwards, so he wouldn’t have to wait, and we went straight in.  I sat in the “big” chair, with Liam on my lap, and the dentist and I just talked for several minutes, about Liam, about his history, and about my concerns.  After a few minutes, Liam started peeking out for quick glances, and then started listening without hiding.  I told him the dentist wanted to count his teeth, and he tentatively opened his mouth a tiny bit.  The dentist gently checked out his teeth, and even got a mirror in to see the backs of them.  Liam did GREAT (although he did not speak a single word the entire time — it may be the quietest 10 waking minutes Liam has had since he started to talk).

003It turns out that the discoloration on his tooth is an early form of decay (pre-cavity) and that there’s nothing actionable about it for the moment.  We just need to keep an eye on it and be fastidious with our oral care for him.  (Which, apparently, we already are — the dentist was pretty impressed that we’re already flossing.)  Evidently the dentist’s son had the same thing, and it didn’t get worse or better, or need particular attention.  So, nothing catastrophic there.  (He suspected that pain medicine/fever reducer was to blame in his son’s case — it showed up shortly after they’d been using it a lot, and it’s one of those things that we routinely give after teeth brushing . . . and it contains a lot of sugar.  I’m guessing it might be the same thing here.)  The dentist was impressed with how well Liam behaved and how willing he was to have his teeth looked at by a stranger.  (I’m feeling pretty proud right now.)  And then, after the exam, Liam got to pick out a toy (a blue race car) and his smile and chatter came right back.

So, all that worry was pretty much for nothing.  I’m glad I got it looked at, but I’m even more glad that all is well for the moment.  I’m glad he doesn’t need any urgent dental care right now.  And I’m really proud of my brave little guy who trusted me so much today.

Delaying the dentist

I’m kind of an oral hygiene nut.  Actually, I’m not as bad as I used to be — in college, my friends used to make fun of (and also, I think, kind of marvel at) my level of fastidiousness about my teeth.  I really like to take care of my teeth.  I’m religious about brushing and flossing, and I don’t even mind my biannual dental cleanings.  I’m weird like that.

007I’ve tried to be careful with my kids’ teeth, too, but since I’m admittedly a bit overly enthusiastic, I’ve tried to temper my concern with age appropriate expectations.  It’s only been moderately successful — I still remember the time I woke up in a cold sweat worrying about Benjamin’s teeth and how he hadn’t yet been to the dentist.  (He was 18 months old at the time.)  Ever since my kids have had teeth, we’ve made sure they brushed regularly (maybe not EVERY day, but very nearly).  We even floss their teeth (although that’s been less consistent).  When B was little and we were in the US, we were sure to use the non-flouride toothpaste, and when he was old enough, we took him to the dentist in the US.  We had a fairly disastrous first experience with a pediatric dentist, and then we started taking him to our friendly, gentle and kind regular dentist, which went MUCH better.  After that first experience, I was worried B would be traumatized, but with the help of our great dentist, he gradually got over his trepidation and would accompany both Dan and I to our cleanings and have his teeth “counted” when we were done.  And all was well.

Living abroad has complicated matters somewhat.  First of all, the water here is not fluoridated.  Some doctors recommend supplements, some advise against (reasoning that if you use a fluoridated toothpaste, which is pretty much the only thing you can find here, the kids will get enough incidentally).  We went without for the first 6-8 months we were here, and then I decided to go for it (I’m still not 100% sure of that decision, since over-fluoridating can cause problems, too).  Also dental care here is not, on average, up to American standards.  After some trying, we found a dentist that we’re reasonably happy with, but it’s not like it is at home.  There’s less focus on comfort with more focus on efficiency, less focus on aesthetics and more on finances.  I’m happy to go there for a cleaning, but we weren’t confident that the kids would have good experiences.  I took B along with me for the first time last fall, and he got his teeth “counted” again (all looked well) — but he’s used to the procedure now.  I wasn’t sure how Liam would take it, since he had no positive experiences to build on, so we haven’t taken him.  I’d just recently been thinking that I would probably try to make him an appointment when we next visited the States, most likely this winter.

And then, about 3 weeks ago, we noticed a spot on one of Liam’s front teeth (not the very front ones, the ones just next to those).  And, of course, being the dentally obsessed person that I am, I freaked out.  Does he have a cavity?  Did he damage his tooth?  Have I been over-fluoriding him?  Is it going to get worse?  Is it going to hurt him?  Will he lose his tooth?  Will this happen to his other teeth?  Will it happen to his permanent teeth?  (That was all in the first 2 minutes of discovering that it wasn’t a small piece of food and I couldn’t scrape it off with my fingernail.)

After calming down, and realizing he didn’t seem to be in any pain, I consulted with our pediatrician.  She wasn’t sure what it was, either, but recommended I have a dentist look at it.  She (also an American, and a parent) suggested that if we were visiting home anytime in the next two months that we just wait until we go home.  But we’re not, so I can’t.  But, I’m with her — I’d rather have it looked at in the US, too.

But, that’s not an option.  So, we made him an appointment with our dentist here.  I’m encouraged by the fact that they didn’t seem alarmed, concerned or overly urgent (nor did they refuse to see a 2 year old, so I’m desperately hoping that they do this all the time and will be shockingly impressive at comforting and reassuring him).  That appointment was supposed to be today.  But, since Liam is still recovering from his recent illness, including being so congested that he can’t breathe through his nose, I decided to postpone it another two weeks.  I just can’t imagine things going well if he’s sick on top of having a new (potentially scary) experience, and I want to set him up for success.  So, in two weeks, we’ll go in and get his tooth looked at.  It hasn’t gotten worse in the past 3 weeks, so here’s hoping it doesn’t get worse between now and then.  I’m worried about my guy.  And I’m really missing the excellent quality of dental care in the US.

If wishes were cars

It doesn’t happen often, but every so often I wish I had a car.  Today was one of those days.

After 2 days of Liam having a high fever (controlled only barely by regular medication) and general misery and sleeplessness (not controlled by anything) I got in touch with his pediatrician last night.  She suggested I bring him in this afternoon, mostly to rule out an ear infection, particularly in light of it being Friday and the pharmacies being mostly closed over the weekend.

Facing a half hour tram ride with a sick kid is daunting.  I could take the stroller, dealing with the hassle and inconvenience of it, especially in case I encountered an old style tram, and taking the major risk that he’d fall asleep and miss any chance of a good nap later.  Or, I could go without, possibly necessitating carrying him the entire way to and from the tram, and not giving me the chance to strap him down securely if he decided to throw a fit.  Either way, he was likely to be miserable and fussy, and I was almost guaranteed to arrive at the appointment (and then later at home) entirely worn out.

I fantasized about having a car.  About walking downstairs, strapping him safely into his car seat, climbing in the front and making the 15 minute drive in comfort and privacy.  About not having to worry if he screamed or fell asleep, or if the tram was crowded and I had to hold a limp, miserable, kicking and screaming Liam in my arms while holding a handrail and attempting not to lose my balance.

I wanted a car.  I wanted it more in that moment than I have in the 2 years I’ve lived in Vienna.  I could completely imagine making the journey and not arriving sweaty, frazzled and exhausted.  I imagined air conditioning and a cd changer.  I imagined leaving the diaper bag in the car and only taking in the necessities.  I imagined saying, “Sure! Bring whatever toys you want!” and not having to retrieve said items from under the seat behind me at every stop.  I imagined drive-through pharmacies and drive-through Starbucks and drive-through places that make lunch.  I imagined simplicity and peace.

But, alas, no car.  I opted to go without the stroller, because our new one is just too big to work on the old style trams, and that’s not a challenge (or a delay) I felt like taking on today.  We had a peaceful trip to the doctor (no ear infection!), and our trip home was less hellish than I had feared (although I did up standing, with a tired, cranky boy, part of the way home — thank you, citizens of Vienna).  We did it.  We made it.  We really did ok.  But a car would have been nice today.


Mommy takes a break

This weekend was a long weekend for us — Dan had today off of work. So, naturally, by about 10:00 this morning, we still had a ton of things on our “to do” list, and I was already exhausted.  When we have long weekends, I have a bad habit of trying to cram too much stuff in — that extra day seems to stretch on eternally in my mind’s eye when I’m planning, but I find it usually just leaves me more exhausted than I am in a regular weekend, and frustrated, too, because I had this fanciful idea of what would be accomplished that didn’t come to pass.

First thing this morning, we had a doctor’s appointment for a heart screening for Liam . . . which was a bit of a fiasco because the hospital had lost our appointment, which no one actually told us, so we had to wait in the emergency room for 45 minutes while they figured things out, only to be sent to the cardiology department to be lectured on the fact that we needed an appointment (which is when we figured out what must have happened).  This is one of those things that is infinitely more challenging about living in a country where you don’t speak the language:  these missed connections happen much more often, and when they do, they’re less likely to be resolved easily.  Chances our, the incorrect appointment might well have been our misunderstanding in the first place, but we find that rather than explain the problem to us (that they have no record of our appointment) everyone passes the problem of explaining along to the next person, leaving us irritated (why are we waiting in the ER for 45 minutes when we had an appointment?) and confused (why is everyone being so weird?).  We did finally get to see the cardiologist, and Liam’s heart is just fine (good to know) but after starting and our day, bright and early, with a heaping dose of confusion and frustration, I just did not have it in me to go forward with our plans for the day.

So, I gave up.  We were supposed to take the kids to the zoo to meet a friend, but I just could not get excited about it.  I was feeling really tired, and already daunted by the big week we have ahead of us.  All I wanted to do was sit, read and have a cup of tea.  So, that’s what I did. Benjamin was already excited about going to the zoo, so Dan took the boys.  It seemed like a crazy idea when we first thought of it, and I felt preemptively guilty (could I *really* bring myself to skip a fun day at the zoo with my kids?) but it was GREAT.  I got to relax and take a little time for myself, and the boys had a great time at the zoo with Dan.  They don’t seem scarred by it, and, surprisingly, neither am I.

We still didn’t get a lot of stuff on our list done this weekend, and I’m still pretty worn out.  But tomorrow, when I’m exhausted and trying to get my week back on track, I’ll feel a little better knowing I at least took a stab at being rested for the week.  And the flamingos will be there next time.

Der Zahnarzt

I haven’t been to the dentist since January.  I’m a bit of a nut about oral hygene, and my teeth were starting to feel icky, so I just couldn’t leave it any longer — it was starting to get to me.  So I found a dentist, and today, I went.

This is another one of those experiences you just won’t have as just a tourist or a visitor to another country — even going somewhere as a foreign exchange student, for an entire school year, you could probably manage to do routine dental (and any other) visits during school vacations, or to go just before you left and then wait to go again until you get back.  Visiting the dentist is one of those things you only do in a foreign country if you live there (or have some kind of dental emergency).

Visiting any type of doctor here is a little weird.  At home, I’m used to a dentist (or any kind of doctor) having their office in an office park or some kind of medical center.  Here, the doctor’s and dentist’s offices are mixed right in to residential buildings.  Not, as you might see in the States, on the ground floor of a residential building, but in just any building, on any random floor, next door to regular apartments.  As such, you have to get buzzed in to the building, and then again to the office unit . . . and you ride up in the elevator along with the building’s residents.  This afternoon, on the way to the dentist, for example, I rode up in an elevator full of young women, laden with beer, having a party, I presume.  There was just something odd about getting off on the same floor, and going in to the neighboring apartment . . . to have my teeth cleaned.  (I should be used to this by now, really, since there is a doctor who has her office downstairs from our apartment, and she appears to ALSO live there, which I also find strange.)

Going in to it, you don’t know what to expect.  Do they do things the same way here?  Will my teeth be taken care of?  Do these people know what they’re doing?  Will I be able to communicate with them?  Have I rotted my teeth out on coffee and pastries over the past 6 months?!?  For all the strangeness of the office location, and the nervousness and anticipation, the actual experience of getting my teeth cleaned was pretty much the same.  The dentist was nice, the hygienist was nice.  The dentist is originally from California, so there’s no language barrier there (although living in Vienna for 10+ years gives him a very strange accent) and the hygienist, who is Austrian, spoke English very well, and got assistance from the receptionist when she got stuck (she told me she was going to “shower” my teeth, but knew that wasn’t right . . . the receptionist looked it up for her, laughing — the word she was looking for was “rinse”).

It was a fine experience, and my teeth are clean.  I admit I miss my dentist and hygienist from home, though.  But this is definitely one of those things that I kind of took for granted at home that I’m not sure I will again.  And it’s another one of those moments that reminds me that I’m not just visiting.

On the mend

What a day.  Woke up this morning to discover that Liam had apparently scratched his eye — his left eye was red and had a semi-visible scratch on it — on the eye ball.  (And yes, this is a remarkably similar injury, down to being in the same eye, as my horse was discovered to have yesterday.)

So, we proceeded (as parents do) to discuss taking him to the doctor, versus seeing if he improved on his own, and the logistics of each plan.  Dan went to work, and called from the office to talk to our new pediatrician, who, it turns out, doesn’t have office hours on Thursdays, so he called her cell and left a message.  Hours passed, and I stared at his eye all morning (he seemed to really enjoy all the “face” time with mommy) and tried to figure out whether I should leave him alone, take him to the emergency room or call another doctor.

Dan finally got a hold of our pediatrician, and after some debate back and forth (always made easier by language barriers) we decided to have him seen by a pediatric opthamologist who, conveniently enough, works out of the same office as our pediatrician (across the street) . . . but who is also out of the office on Thursdays.  I’m a mom — I said I wanted to see the specialist, and after a few more phone calls, she decided to come in (on her day off) and meet us.

Meanwhile, I’d had existing plans to meet with a potential primary care doctor for myself today.  Her office is on the next block from here, so I went ahead and went to that appointment while the pediatric ophthalmologist came in to meet us.  My new doctor (who is amazing, and, weirdly enough, has the same name as my childhood pediatrician) took a look at Liam’s eye, too, and wasn’t worried.  But, as I am a mom, that didn’t do it for me.  (I did find out that my new doctor does *house calls*.  How great will that be in January when I have the flu and don’t have to tote both kids out in the snow to get a diagnosis?)

So, after that, we headed to the pediatric ophthalmologist — who was also wonderful.  She had, in fact, come in on her day off, with both of her children (one of whom is 4 months old) just to see us . . . and tell us that Liam is completely fine.  We got some drops for his eye as a precaution, but she’s not worried about him.

Benjamin, Liam and I then headed off for the pharmacy, to get the eye drops . . . and then I get a text from Dan.  He has (because some part of him still thinks he’s 12) jumped down half a flight of stairs at worked and pulled a muscle in his leg and is in the infirmary.  (Yes, really — and he’s going to be fine.)  They set him up with an ice pack and he took a nap while resting his leg.  Then he got a note from the nurse excusing him from the rest of the day at work, and tomorrow as well.

So, today, we met two great doctors (one of which came in on her day off to see us) and got a day off of work.  (Granted, Dan is in some pain, but perhaps there is some education in there for him, as well.)  Good work, Austrian health care system!