Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bringing up bean sprout: more on motherhood

I recently finished reading Bringing Up Bebe, by Pamela Druckerman. The subtitle of the book is "One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting." Indeed. I was quite skeptical.
Well, I actually found the book very amusing, and would recommend it to anyone who is involved in the early days of parenting, as I am. It was a funny and thought-provoking antidote to the Dr. Sears (aka grandaddy of attachment parenting) books on my coffee table. For me it also shed a lot of light on the backstory to another publicity-grabbing headline out of France, Elisabeth Badinter's "The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women." I haven't read that one, though it's on the list (will report back).

The basic premise in Druckerman's book is essentially that French mothers seem to have things worked out. Their babies sleep through the night by four months at the very latest, they eat a healthy and varied diet of non-"kid" foods (including vegetables, fish, blue cheese etc.), are extremely polite and well behaved, obediently tolerating lingering meals a la the French. It all sounds too good to be true!

That is probably because it is too good to be true. Or at least, it comes at a certain price. The French parenting style tends more toward the disciplinarian, with strict rules enforced from an early age. In addition, French women rarely breastfeed longer than three months, and many don't do it at all, which is completely out of step with most international guidelines for breastfeeding. For those mothers who do choose to breastfeed, there is a strictly regimented schedule: French babies only eat four times a day, just like their parents. Sure, this is appealing for me in some ways. It certainly would be nice to know when and where Heiko was going to have his meals, and that he wouldn't require a snack to see him through the night (let's be honest, several snacks). But sometimes even I need a cracker with peanut butter to get me through the night, so why would I expect more of my tiny son with his tiny tummy?

Druckerman makes it seem like all these happy babies observing rules and respecting their parents' adult time is just a simple as implementing a few basic parenting techniques such as "the pause" (basically what it sounds like). I doubt that it is ci facile, and it would definitely be quite complicated to try these methods here, without the societal pressures and structures of France. It did open my thinking up a little, however, and as I struggle with my little non-sleeper I am considering some of the Frenchie sleep-training ideas that I would have formerly eschewed (or cast off as child brutality more likely). I am definitely inspired by her suggestions about getting children to eat a variety of foods, though it is still too soon for that here. It is my earnest hope that I can impart a love and appreciation for food to Heiko, something that is certainly central to French identity.

One thing that struck a deep chord with me was Druckerman's observation that French culture seems to have a different conception of motherhood than North America. Women in France are not seen to lose anything in their transition to motherhood, nor does being a mother particularly define them. That is, it seems that the French view a woman's identity as a mother as incidental to her identity as a woman, with little or no bearing on her personality or sexuality. If anything, becoming a mother is seen to add a certain "fullness" to a woman's identity. Not literally fullness though: Druckerman points out that the women of Paris face immense societal pressure to return to pre-baby physique by three months postpartum.

I am starkly aware of the contrast to the North American mindset as I join various "mommies" groups here in Fort Collins. When I gather with other "moms" in a park, most of us (them?) are wearing baggy hoodies and jeans, and the chatter is definitely about our children. Sometimes I wonder what happened to my pre-baby identity.

To sum up, I really enjoyed this book. More than anything else it was amusing, and on that basis alone I'm recommending it. But it also is nice to read about a truly different take on parenting from the attachment parenting model. As has happened so many times in my short personal adventure in parenting, I find myself reconsidering what I think I know, and revisiting past judgements. Just when I think I have things figured out, I realize that I really really don't, and, more importantly that it's OK. It is all part of the fun.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Nap-time pickles

Don't have much to say today, but Heiko is having an epic nap, so I thought I'd share a picture of these pre-pickles. It was a bit of a messy project, but hopefully they will be tasty. Next on the homestead agenda: sauerkraut! Fermentation, baby.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Bye-bye, bottles

One thing about using professional packers to pack up your belongings for a move is that they lack the this-is-ridiculous-don't-pack-this judgement. They just pack what is there. I have heard several stories of friends unpacking carefully boxed garbage cans full of garbage.
In our case we were able to avoid those sorts of glaring mishaps, but nevertheless there were a few things that really should have been screened out before arriving in Colorado. For example, here are two champagne bottles. The problem with these bottles is that they were each bought to celebrate something momentous. In the first case (the smaller bottle), we cracked this open when we moved into our house in Toronto (2006). The larger bottle was from the day that I submitted my PhD thesis (Friday May 13, 2011: I also still have the TTC transfer from the York "Rocket"). Patrick surprised me with champagne when I got home, and what a lovely surprise! So, I've been hanging on to these bottles for a while. But it is time for them to go. It isn't like I won't have lived in that house or finished a PhD without them.

Here is the gratuitous Heiko shot of the day... I'll be a cheeseball and caption it: boys and their toys.

Friday, August 24, 2012

More on minimalizing

P and I are currently digging out under a mountain of cardboard boxes, packing paper and most of all, stuff. Yes, our things arrived here in Colorado last week, together with a sinking feeling. I know, I know; of all the problems to have, this one is really not too bad. But basically we have too much stuff.

Part of the issue of course is that we were moving a fully furnished house (with a basement) worth of furniture into a half furnished house with no basement. The result is too many chairs, duplicates of many kitchen items, and altogether too much furniture.

This is easy enough to deal with. I have already sold a few furniture items on craigslist, and certainly some new CSU student will be happy to take many of the household goods off our hands. But it does nothing about all the stuff that we brought with us. These are our belongings: the useful things, the technical things, the sentimental things, the pretty things, the mountains of paper, the books (the books!), and a few terrible boxes of unsortable odds and ends. There are garden things, sewing things, knitting things, art things, camera things, bike things, camping things. There are climbing shoes and there is ballet wear. There is artwork (both mine and that of others -- the blessing and problem of having creative friends and family). And of course there is baby stuff, from phases past present and future.

In confronting the wall of cardboard boxes in the garage, and as their contents spill out into our little bungalow, I keep wishing for less. And yet, it is hard for me to figure our exactly less of what. As a stuff-mass, it is overwhelming in its too-muchness, but each individual article seems full of utility, beauty, memory or (this is the worst one) promise. There are some difficult crossover items, for example I have several pieces of fabric (representing promise) which I inherited from my grandmother ("I should do something with this"). However, seeing all of our things packed up crystallizes in my mind the need to pare down a little. OK, a lot.

Part of my great dismay here is that I thought I did pare down before we left Toronto! On the wardrobe front, even though I got rid of about 5 giant ikea bags of clothes before leaving Toronto, I've packed one more big bag of give-aways since arriving here. The good news in this though, is that clothing-wise there isn't much shopping on the horizon here in Fort Collins. I think most of my shopping will be by mail order (hello Versalette!) or trips home to Canada (in a backward currency value minimization kind of way).

So. It's time to get to work. I have just taken "The Joy of Less" out of the library, and I continue my reading of minimalist bloggers.  There is something funny about minimalist bloggers though. Many of them seem to be of the category of folks (guys, usually) who made lots of money "climbing the corporate ladder" only to discover in their early thirties a growing malaise and sense of dissatisfaction with their large homes full of expensive gadgets. They respond by shunning their consumerist lifestyles, and go on to write books and tour the world (with only a small backpack) as inspirational speakers to talk about minimalism. Don't worry, I'm not going to become a career minimalist.

Then there is another category of minimalists. They are perhaps a bit more like me: ordinary people trying to figure out how to get rid of some things.  But I also feel somewhat different from some of these other minimalizers. I find myself making value judgements ("it must be easy to get rid of your stuff and become a minimalist when you count a gift-wrap station and a electric jewelry cleaner among your possessions. Obviously those can go." (no but really....)). In other words, my stuff is better than their stuff. This is clearly false.

Whatever the content of the stuff-mass, most of us North Americans have it. This is the nature of our position in the global super-wealthy. I guess that moving to a minimalist lifestyle is the ultimate luxury. "I have so much stuff, I am now post-stuff." Well, I'll never be post-stuff. I love stuff. And while we're on the topic, I'll never have a capsule wardrobe either, much as I like the idea. But there are a lot of things in this little bungalow that I don't need, and don't want. Hopefully I'll be able to capitalize on this reaction to seeing my thing-life in boxes to simplify a tad.

I'm amused that this post is so long. I hope this isn't some kind of indication of what is to come: such a terrible minimalist that she can't even write a minimal post about minimalism. Ughh. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Four months late, finally a FO

Over the last few months I have been looking guiltily at my knitting bag. I think I started knitting a blanket for proto-Heiko back in October, but I only just finished it today. Tip: don't knit a blanket with sock yarn. What was I thinking? Tip 2: try really hard to finish knitting projects for baby before baby arrives.  I have been watching Heiko grow, and watching my blanket.... stay the same size. That is, until we arrived in Fort Collins, where, thanks to our MI-5 addiction, I have been getting lots of knitting time. I suppose this is also the result of Heiko's schedule becoming much more predictable (8 or 9pm ish bedtimes), which is noteworthy because it has let me do other things. Anyway, here it is! The zig-zagulous:

After all that knitting, I'm reasonably pleased with the way it turned out. It may be the largest thing I have ever made, which I guess it appropriate since I made it for Heiko who is the best thing I've ever made. He seems to like it, I think he likes the colours. Like everything else these days, big fistfuls of blanket go into his mouth. 

I think I'll tackle smaller Heiko projects in the future. But next on the tricot agenda is something for me anyway, the lavender jacket, by pickles!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It's a binos-in-the-window kind of place

We unearthed our binoculars from their cardboard enclosures in the garage.  We're lucky to have lots of birds visiting our front and back gardens. This morning we saw chickadees, nuthatches, house finches, flickers, a downy woodpecker, a goldfinch, and some mourning doves. It is nice to see and hear these little birdies in the morning, it is quite different from our garden in Toronto, where we were lucky to get sparrows. It is lovely! The other day I also saw an escaped budgie, which just made me sad.

In other news, Heiko is starting to take an interest in books.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cozy in the morning, and other thoughts

Hey there.
I seem to be working on an epic post about minimalizing. Oh fine, minimizing. It isn't finished yet, because it is just that huge. (Hint: too much stuff. Must get rid of it.) Until then, I thought I'd share a few more random shots of Foco life.

The mornings are chilly here! Last night the low was just 10 degrees. And, with highs in the 30s during the day, we were sleeping with the windows wide open (also to let in the sleep-inducing sounds of crickets and far away freight trains). This morning it gave us a reason to try out this lovely sweater that P knit for little Heiko. When H was born, this seems comically large. Now it is just the coziest little thing in the world! Sheepskin rugs/playmats help too.
Did you know that if you mix kitty litter into cans of paint, that they dry right out and then you can put them in the trash? This picture also gives you some idea about what the previous owners thought were good paint colours. Actually, the colours are kind of pretty, but only in the can. On the wall, there is only one colour.

The beer here is good. And we are stockpiling bottles for our own foray into beer making later this fall. Can't wait for that, and a good excuse to sample the local brews in the meantime.

And I don't love laundry, but I do love our laundry line.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Three dogs, no wait...

Dogs seem to be very popular here. Big dogs, mostly. Lots and lots of big dogs.

The other day we were out for a walk in the neighborhood, and we passed a house with several dogs on the porch. I turned to P and said something witty and insightful, like "dogs.", at which point the three dogs seemed to rally off the porch to come bark at us a little. One dog stayed behind, which is when I realized that it wasn't a dog at all, but rather a dog-sized goat. I love him!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Peach jam: the 'after' edition

The jam turned out pretty well. Especially nice, and deliciously unhealthy of course, on a croissant.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A special day

Happy anniversary to me and P! Two years ago we were marriaged! Friday August 13, 2010 was a special day indeed.

And exactly one year ago today, somewhere in the middle of the prairies...

...we found out about the existence of this guy:

Our little bean! He is so much more than a bean now.

Today we are also doing something special. We're trying to catch hold of the amazing summer flavour of Colorado peaches by making some peach jam.

(Patrick: "they were peeling so nicely before you started taking pictures.")

 Here is an extra bonus shot of a delicious breakfast: homemade yogurt with homemade granola and the aforementioned Colorado peaches.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Turning off city-self

Things work differently around here.  I'm still getting used to strangers saying hello (yelling hello from bikes more likely), and making idle chit chat. I need to learn how to turn off my keep-to-myself city habits.

 If you are carrying a beautiful bouquet of flowers from the farm stand, people will tell you so.

And of course, everyone is curious about the baby.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

H4: the housewife visa

We crossed over the border a few days ago, and I am now the official owner of a H4 visa (so is baby H.). I was pretty excited when the border guard handed us our paperwork and told us that we were all set and that we were able to work. I had a quick and puzzling vision of Heiko in a factory, but then I realized what he was saying: we could work? Of course he was wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. I'm not presently able to work in this country. If I want to do so, I'll need to find an employer who is willing to sponsor me through the visa application process.

All this is not unexpected. I have been preparing for this for a while now, and I wasn't planning on working before Heiko's first birthday. Still, that little piece of paper stapled inside my passport eats away at me a little. Combined with the fact that the year-long maternity leave is something of a Canadian invention, and I'm feeling more like a housewife, a homemaker, a SAHM ("stay at home mom," an acronym that I like because it looks like WHAM).

I don't want to sound like I'm complaining, and there is certainly nothing wrong with this role, however it is labeled. I want nothing more than to spend this time with the little H-man while he is this little. But it does represent a big change for me, and there are several questions looming on the horizon. This is only an unofficial maternity leave, since technically I'm unemployed. So it isn't really a leave from anything except the career track I was on. Should I try to find an academic position? Should I think about re-training (the one thing the H4 visa does permit, though I'm kind of maxed out on "training" at this point)? Should I become (somehow) a WAHM (even more like WHAM!)?
(CSU trial gardens)

So you can see that I have lots of questions. The good news is that I also have lots of time to think through these matters, and ease into my role here. And lots of time to stop worrying about it all and hang with this little fellow.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Home sweet new home

Well, we've arrived. I have a lot to say, but unfortunately little Heiko's new immune system was no match for our epic day of airport living and air travel. So I am doing a lot of holding and walking and shhh-ing and all the rest. More soon, but until then, here are some shots from my late-to-the-party entry into the world of instagram.