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Greetings from Vienna, #34

August 11th, 2004


In this issue:


Greetings from Vienna
Part the Thirty-Fourth: The Fun Begins

First, many, many thanks from Karin & I for the emails, telephone calls, and the visits at the hospital. Karin and I have read them all, and have even responded to some of them. :-) As many of you have asked the same questions, we'll try to get those answers into this issue, so lets go.

What's an a Name?
First, I would like to congratulate Andy Arenson for getting half of Tobias' Chinese name correct. He guessed "Xiao", which was in our choices for both a boy's and a girl's names, and he actually correctly guessed the girl's Chinese name we picked "Xiao-Ling". An appropriate prize will dispatched to Andy soon.

Now to the most frequently asked questions: What does "Xiao-Shan" mean? And how do you pronounce it? "Xiao" means "small". "Shan" means "coral", is a homonym for "mountain" (and has that implied meaning when used as a name), and is a part of my father's name. As to pronunciation, I direct you to no less an authority than Havard University, which has an online Chinese course with RealAudio sound clips of Chinese phrases. As they did not have enough foresight to actually have "Xiao-Shan" in their examples, you'll have to put up with the first halves of two separate clips, the first with "Xiao": "" and the second with "Shan": ""

Some of you have also asked where we got the name Tobias. It was actually out of a book of names that Karin owns. We agreed early on that the western names would not be a known repeat of names in the family. So then it was a matter of finding something that would not sound too USAvians to the Austrians, nor too Austrian/German to the USans. It turns out that Tobias is a very traditional German name, and has an old fashioned sound to it for English speakers. We'd like to note that the star of the latest Spiderman films was not a reason we chose Tobias. Just wanted to set the record straight. As for pronunciation, German speakers would say "toh-bee-us" and most Americans would say "to-bei-as".[1]

Birthdays This Week
Kelly Grove Rollefson, Becky Boosalis, and Brian Donnell (who I've known longer than any other United Statesian). Happy Birthday, one and all.

Karin and the Birth
Many of you wondered what happened to the water-birth idea. Well, things did not go as we'd planned. In fact, after sending out #32, where I foolishly made predictions about when the baby might come, I got several emails for some of you experienced parents warning me that it could be any time. They were right. Karin started having contractions on the afternoon of the 2nd. They were about six minutes apart when we left the apartment and down to three minutes by the time we got to the hospital an hour later. Why a hospital an hour away? It's the one our midwife worked with, and they have a reputation for saving cesarean sections as a last resort. The other issue we had to face was that Tobias hadn't turned by the thirty-fifth week, when we'd last went to see Karin's gynecologist. So between the early contractions, Tobias being a breach, (he didn't want to turn at all, and would've come out butt first), Tobias' heart-rate becoming dangerously high, we made the decision to deliver by cesarean section.

It's been tough on Karin, who doesn't like hospitals in general.[2] The operation and the overnight stay in the intensive care unit afterwards took quite a bit out of her, being quite weak when they returned her to the maternity ward where I was staying. She ended up having to get a transfusion of red blood cells to make up for what she'd lost during the operation, which really helped with her stamina and energy level. The doctors and nurses have also been quite strict in making her sit up to eat, walk around, and be more up and about in general. And while it still takes her longer to do everything (to quote Karin: "It's amazing that I need the whole morning to feed Tobias, eat my own breakfast, and go to the bathroom."), she is improving every day.

On the last night of Karin's hospital stay, we'd arranged to have a little private dinner.[3] As you can see:
Nothing fancy, as you can see, but we got the floor nurses to give us their nice plates and cloth napkins, and Karin even dressed up for the occasion. Unfortunately, there happened to be another cesarean section that night, which took the attention of the nurses in the nursery, and we were not able to leave Tobias with them. And as our luck would have it, Tobias wanted to eat at the same time as Mommy and Daddy:
So eventually, it was Daddy feeding Mommy while Mommy feeds Tobias:

In the, we all did get to eat, which is the important thing, especially for Tobias.

Tobias Update:
Well, after one week, he is less wrinkly, and his face has definitely filled out. We'll have an official weight update with the midwife next week, so there be more on that then. In the meantime, I've tried to get pictures of him when he is interacting with someone. For instance, here he is with his grandmother:
where you can see how small he is. (Pretty much all baby clothes are too big for him.) Here he is after feeding, but before falling asleep again:
We saw hints of blue in his iris in the first days after his birth, but it seems to be fading to a brown now. The next one is after a long nap, but before he starts to get fussy about eating again:
He still looks sleepy in that one. And here is one from a series of snapshots I took with my iSight, a web camera from Apple that I was able to clamp onto the side of his crib:
If you're reading this on the web, click on the picture to see an animation of all the pictures I took with the iSight. I had the idea that I could use it to monitor Tobias when we had his crib parked on the other side of the hospital room from Karin's bed, and I was sitting between them. However, Karin got a roommate (two in a row, actually), which meant that we ended up crowding Tobias' crib into our end of the room.

Heading Home
On Tuesday, Karin was released from the hospital[4], and we went back to my in-laws' home in Wiener Neustadt. It was pretty clear to me that while her recovery is going great, going back to Vienna and facing the climb up to our third story apartment (that's the fourth floor to us Americans) was not going to happen immediately. So we packed up our stuff, put Tobias into his own clothes, and set him up in the MaxiCosi:
We have a hat for him, but it's something like a third bigger than his head and there is no strap to keep it on his head.[5] In any case, Tobias in a too-big hat makes Karin laugh, which would otherwise be a Good Thing, except that she'd just had surgery around her lower abdomen, so belly laughs hurts her more than it hurts the rest of us. Sigh.

We're only stay here for one night, and intend on returning to Vienna on Wednesday. In the meantime, we've converted my in-laws' living room into a nursery/bedroom. We've even set up the crib (really a baby bed) so Tobias can sleep somewhere other than in the MaxiCosi or on one of us, so here is a picture of him in the crib, though he's getting ready to be very fussy before dinner:

Tune in next week to find out how well we're coping with the baby in the apartment, and I'll have some comments about the baby support industry as it is expressed in Austria.

Miscellaneous Questions
Some of you have asked about the nifty gadget pictured with the midwife & and I from the last newsletter. It is a "Geburtsrad" or "Birthwheel", from a company named "Roma", based in Switzerland. I found a picture from their brochure:
And you can also check out their website at: "" They are looking for a US distributer. I sense a business opportunity for someone.

Another question was about baby showers and clothes for Tobias. While we didn't have a baby shower as most folks in the States know them—gathering of mostly women with the expectant mother, where many baby gifts are bestowed—we did get plenty of baby things from relatives, friends, and Karin's students, so don't worry about sending anything to Austria. [begin shameless appeal for baby stuff] However, we will certainly need those same things in California, so if you're of a mind to send something, think four to ten month old sizes, and please send it to the house in Emerald Hills. Gift certificates are conveniently size free, and saves on postage. [end of shameless appeal for baby stuff]

When are we coming to the States? At this point, it could be as early as late October, or as late as early December. Karin needs to schedule a jury, which she can't do until everybody is back from Summer holidays. I promise that as soon as we know, it will be in the newsletters.

When are we coming to visit [insert your local city/state/country name]? For the folks in southern California, it will probably be within two months of arrival in the US. For the people in Houston, it could be as early as Christmas time, depending one when we leave Austria. We'd like to see our friends in the Boston area, but it will not be on our way to California, as it is impractical to make several hops across the country while traveling with an infant. Perhaps we'll see folks for Newport 2005, or maybe sooner if Karin decides to attend the Amherst Early Music Festival in 2005.

House Update
With Tobias being early (and my father-in-law being gone on a hiking tour), there hasn't been much progress on the house in the last week. However, there was much progress from the week before, so I thought I'd at least get everyone caught up.

First, after the sheet rock work was completed, I got to level the whole floor with a semi-watery mixture (those of you who've had sushi with me know exactly what this consistency is like) of tile cement (I think that's what it is, it's called "Fliesenkleber" in German):
I just slosh some on a patch of ground and run run a long scree back and forth to fill in the low spot. I am rather proud of the fact that my father-in-law thought I did a good job, despite the fact that I've had no practical experience in this kind of work (unless you count spreading butter on sandwiches). I did this in anticipation of the tile setter, who is coming in next week to do the bathroom and kitchen, and the wooden floor in the living room, which was scheduled for next week. I might end up not working on the floor; it all depends on the logistics of getting all three of us down to Wiener Neustadt instead of just me. However, there is plenty of stuff to do in Vienna, on top of taking care of Tobias and Karin, as we have to finish moving out by the end of the month. So you might be getting packing updates next week instead of house updates. Watch this space.

The other thing that's happened in the house is that the painters have come and gone:
kitchen_painted_pano living_room_painted_pano
They were a pair of Hungarians, recommended by our heating installer. (Sorry, no pictures of them working.) They started on Thursday, two weeks ago, and finished on Saturday, doing all the spackeling and taping work themselves. The white paint has really helped to brighten up the kitchen, which was the one place I was worried about light. It's really starting to look like an actual place to live.


Well, that's it for now. We need to pack for our return to Vienna, and this newsletter is already late. So,


Bis Bald,
-Paul, Karin, and Tobias



[1] "Tow-be-us" vs. "to-bei-as": Note that I've used English phonemes for the German pronunciation and vice versa for the English pronunciation. In case you were wondering.

[2] "Karin and hospitals": Hospitals have never held much fear for me. My mother was a nurse, and I was brought up with nurses and doctors as family friends. If I had a question about what happens in a hospital setting, I could always asks her. It was very interesting to be able to get the gist of what doctors and nurses are telling her, without being able to understand all the German, just by knowing a little something about how hospitals worked.

[3] "Private dinner": Many thanks to Richard Payatt for this suggestion, which is a great idea, despite circumstances not quite letting us carrying it out exactly as we'd planned.

[4] "Released from hospital": Karin stayed in hospital for seven days, which is the standard here in Austria. Women giving birth naturally can stay up to four days. In either case, the woman might be sent home earlier if she shows a fast recovery. I am told that these are amazingly generous schedules as compared to what is considered "normal" in California. Karin has already decided that the next baby will also be born in Austria.

[5] "Hat for Tobias": When my mother-in-law first saw Tobias in the hat, she called him a "Schlumpf", which is the German name for a Smurf. Funny, he doesn't look blue-ish.



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