Thursday, January 31, 2008

Because things haven't sucked enough lately

I got my period. Ten-and-a-half weeks post partum. Yeeha.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Random bullets of updates

  • Boychen's daytime sleep situation is slowly getting better. Why, he's asleep right now. In the house. Stationary. (Well, sort of - I'm rocking his little chair with my foot. But hey. We're in the house.) I took a piece of advice out of Weissbluth and started instituting shorter periods of wakefulness between naps. Seems to help. The day naps are still short, but they exist. And did I mention we're in the house? Stationary?

  • Boychen is smiling more.

  • He rolled over onto his right side yesterday.

  • Small Boy showed some of the first signs of jealousy yesterday, invovling Bahdi (Grandma). She was, fairly enough, gaga-ing over Boychen smiles and Small Boy started getting all "look at me!" Also fairly enough.

  • We've taken Small Boy ice skating twice. He loves it. Post with pictures soon.

  • Saving the best for last, there seems to be a general concensus that I'm circling the drain of post-partum depression (PPD). I'm going back to see Dr. FeelGood and will probably keep a prescription for an SSRI in my back pocket.

UPDATE on the updates: That nap in the apartment lasted less than 30 minutes followed by 45 minutes pointless of rocking, swaddling, rolling, and heartbeat CDs followed by yet another expletive deleted walk. And even the walk was only mildly successful. What is wrong with this child?! Is he trying to kill me?


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bureaucracy American style part last, subsection one

Boychen's Social Security card arrived today so the whole matter is closed and I can claim him as a dependant on my 2007 taxes. Yay.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tea and sympathy

I'm all sharp edges, the broken glass of sleep deprivation and the shards of a crying baby. I can't even begin to fit the pieces back together; I try instead to at least smooth off all the dangerous cutting points, hoping to make sea-glass out of this broken bottle.

I'm a loner by nature, more mama bear alone with her cubs than she-wolf raising them in a pack. It worked well enough - it worked wonderfully - when I was single, when I was childless - I loved being a loner and filling the four walls of my own apartment with imaginary worlds. It worked okay when it was just Small Boy and me, but I'm finding that being a loner with two kids yields none of the advantages of being a loner and all of the downside. I'm starting to feel like a bear at the zoo, pacing back and forth, back and forth, rather than a bear in Yellowstone with my 400 square-mile prowling grounds.

The sleep deprivation doesn't help. I'm drowning in long days and short nights. I'm losing all perspective and any patience I might have had. It's such a jumbled mess of tangled yarn. It wasn't supposed to be like this. So today I do something completely out of character: I call a friend and throw myself on her mercy, inviting myself and my two boys over to play with her two girls. Fortunately they're at home, fortunately they have no plans, fortunately she's been there and says "C'mon over!"

Her 4-year old daughter distracts my 3-year old Small Boy. Her 1-year old is a delight. Boychen is less cranky than ususal, sleeps in the BabyBjorn, seems distracted by the chaos around him, and Australian Friend serves me tea and soup and good fresh bread for lunch. I complain, and she sympathizes, and states the obvious: "It's hard!" Yes, thank you, it is. The sympathy is good and hearty, like the bread, and more nourishing.

I leave feeling sane, for today at least, and drive the long way home when I see that my sons have fallen asleep in the back seat.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

While he was sleeping

You have to look at the second to last one closely - check out the sign on that cluster of rocks on the right hand side.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Boychen, sleeping


Thursday, January 17, 2008

A break in the storm

Today, perhaps sensing how close to the edge Mama is, Boychen pulls out all the stops to charm me. He falls back asleep after the 7 a.m. nusring session, allowing me to shower before noon. He gazes at me from his bouncy chair while I eat breakfast without having to wolf it down or eat standing up with a baby in the Tragetuch. He plays on the floor mat, swatting out at the dangling monkey and watching in awe as I pull down the elephant that dances back up on its retracting string.* He seeks out my face and locks on to my eyes on the changing table, pumping his fat little legs, trying to smile, making funny little noises and saying "Baaah!" and "Aoo." He cries, but normal baby crying, not Seventh Circle of Hell crying, and then falls asleep on my chest.

Is there anything sweeter than a baby falling asleep on your chest?

We go for a walk, because that's what we do, but a short one, because I am tired of walking and even though it's a lovely day all I really want to do is hang out at home, listen to NPR, and watch biathlon. So instead of walking along the river, I just curl briefly through the Old Town and come back to the quiet apartment.** And when we come home Boychen stays asleep in the stroller, letting me eat lunch and write this. He really is doing his best to charm me today, but I have to say: Boychen, you had me at "Baaah."

I know this is just a brief respite, a break in the storm, and that I'm still out in the snow a long way from my cozy hearth. But I'm grateful for this repreive and content to biouvac here and get some rest before heading back out into the snow and finding my way home.

UPDATE: When Boychen sets out to charm, he really sets out to charm. I have watched sunrise over the Grand Canyon, I have watched sunset on the Swiss Alps, but nothing beats a baby's first real smile.

* Thanks to Australian Friend for the loan. This floor mat is much better than the one we have from Small Boy. It even plays Mozart!

** Small Boy is at The Farm, and for the millionth time I have to say, Let us all praise retired grandparents who live on a farm 20 minutes away and who love to host their grandson.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008


The Boychen cries.

The Boychen cries and cries and cries until I feel like I'm lost in a snowstorm and can't see my way out of it and all I can think about, as the snow swirls around me, is how nice and cozy I was before I set out into this storm. Warm and safe at home by the fire with my little family of three, and I set out into this snowstorm by choice, ripping up all my comforts on an icicle wind.

He cries until I cry and think that we did, in fact, make a mistake; that all my ambivalence was well founded; that I've shredded my happy little family and tossed the pieces out into the winter wind; that we will never find a way to mend these four pieces; that we will never be happy again. He cries until I can't see through it anymore, until I can't remember if I love him.

He cries until I put him in the stroller and walk and walk and walk. I walk the streets of the most beautiful city in the world and see nothing. Without even looking up I walk past vistas that once made poetry pour out of me as easily as snow falling from the sky. I walk without thinking, I walk without direction, I walk without seeing. I walk until the Boychen sleeps.

When the Boychen sleeps I keep walking. I walk along the river, I walk past the embassy, I walk through the Old Town, I walk until I can hear something besides the sound of his cries. I walk until I look up. I look up until I see something. The M√ľnsterturm keeping watch over the Old Town. A cherry-red tram reflected in the waters of the Aare. The slope of the Rosengarten. The cobblestones of the Old Town. The statue of Gerechtigkeit. I walk until I can see these things. I walk until I can breathe. I walk until I remember that I love him. Until this. Until this. I walk until this.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bureaucracy American style, part last

Boychen is officially a US citizen and able to travel! Just one week after signing the forms, Boychen's Consular Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States of America and passport arrived in the mail. One week. I'm astounded, actually. The Social Security card will come in a separate post from the US; it took about a month, I think, with Small Boy so we're still waiting on that.

Boychen's passport is one of the new electronic passports with the data chip embedded in it, which frankly I'm not all too happy about. I'm one of those crazy privacy advocates who think it's a security concern and will be the person in line in front of you at immigration unwrapping her son's passport from its packaging of tin-foil.

My appologies in advance for any delay this might cause.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The morning after

Waking up the morning after a colicky night - and yes, it's official, the Boychen is colicky - I have to scrape away the night before like a clean-up crew shovelling away the sludge that stays behind and fouls the house after a flood. Close my eyes. Breathe. Scrape. I walk Boychen to the hospital for his hip ultrasound and the cold morning air and fine drizzle help clear my mind. Breathe. Get the alpine air into my lungs. Let go of the night before.

In the waiting room Boychen is awake and content, pulling the entire room into his blue eyes. I murmur to him, play with his soft hair as long as a one year old's and as pretty as a girl's. The night before is gone now, left behind on the side of the road, and it's just the Boychen and me and I can see through the colic, past the colic, to the soft place that is my Boychen.

Getting ready for the ultrasound Boychen charms the nurse, holding her hostage with his eyes, his funny crooked little mouth - oh God I am dying for my first kiss from that crooked little mouth! - and his ernest expression. Waiting for the technician he is patient, staring around, waving his arms, accepting my kisses as his due. During the ultrasound he is skeptical, then suspicious, then alarmed and finally cries during the imaging of his left hip.

Then it is over. I quickly dress him - as quickly as one can dress a distressed seven-week old - and comfort-nurse him in the waiting room. I watch his eyes for the moment they flutter, roll back into his head milk-drunk, and then bundle him back into the snowsuit, the hat, the blanket, the stroller bag, and walk home again by a different tangle of streets than the ones that took me here. One tiny step of intention today, walking a new way, choosing a street rather than letting my feet mindlessly follow the same old path like migrating herds. At home Boychen sleeps in the stroller and I write by the dull grey daylight with a Mandelgipfeli - a croissant filled with sticky sweet almost paste - and a cup of coffee at my elbow.

It will pass it will pass it will pass. Every morning scrape away the night before and find my way back to the Boychen, the sticky sweet center of my Mandelgipfeli days.

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Monday, January 07, 2008


So I see some people are making their New Year's resolutions. I tried it myself last year and, as predicted, failed miserably; unless you count the conception, gestation and delivery of the Boychen as the physical challenge I waxed poetic about craving, in which case I succeeded beyond my wildest expectations.* But for the most part, the first two sentences of last year's New Years post summed me and my year up nicely: I am a resolution-maker in spite of my better judgment, and I am a resolution-breaker. And yet. And yet the new year rolls around and the empty pages of a new calendar carry me off like white wings. I am ever turning over a blank page and covering it with my scrawls. It is either hopeful or pathetic, I can never decide, how I continue to believe in the blank page of tomorrow.

And yet I regularly fail at the big ticket Resolution with a capital R. Partly it's human nature, I suppose - many people fail at the capital R resolution - and partly it's my own particular failing. Over the years I seem to have lost the ability to keep my eye on a long-term goal. I was good at it back in the day; I trained all year for a single bicycle race; I would grind my way up Firehouse Hill in October all the while thinking of the track in April. But somewhere along the line the distant goal on the far horizon became less compelling to me. Hence the zero marathons I've run in all my years of resolving to run a marathon. And with a new baby in the house I think this is a year I need to be particularly gentle with myself in the resolutions department. This year I'm leaving the Resolutions with a capital R on the side of the road.

I do, however, like the idea of having a theme for the year (as seen at Profgrrrrl). A theme for the year seems like a good way of inviting a particular quality into my life, a quality I feel to be lacking while leaving open the specific ways that might happen. Rather than detailed resolutions I'm thinking of more broad-brush intentions for the year (as seen at Scrivenings). In fact, my intention for the year is Intention. I don't know what my year is going to look like; I still can't see what kind of baby the Boychen is going to turn into - he's covered both easy and colicky in the first seven weeks of his life and right now is at the peak of his disorganized needy early infancy. He could go either way; he's evolving so fast that every morning I wake up to a different person. But I do know enough to know that life with a baby in the house means stiching stolen blocks of time together like a patchwork quilt. There is never enough of any one material to cover the bed; the best I can hope for is fitting the scraps together into a sunburst. Knowing that, I also know that I can't take on a project that requires large consolideated blocks of time. Not yet anyway. I'm not even sure I can take on a project that involves counting on the same block of time every week. Not yet anyway. I do know I am going to have scraps of time, yellow and orange and solid and patterned scraps of time to stitch together.

What can I do with such crazy quilt pieces of time? I don't think I can plan big. I know enough to know that this new small person will take the carefully constructed jigsaw puzzle of my day and sweep it to the floor. I know that he'll scribble on my blank calender days, dribble paint on my journal leaving only a tiny blank corner for me. I know enough to know that for months I won't know what any given day will look like other than that it will have sunrise and a sunset. So I know that I cannot plan big. But I can plan deep. I don't know how many minutes a day I will get and I don't know how I want to spend them - writing poetry? catching up on sleep? photography? playing with my sons? - but I know if I spend them with intention I'll be spending them well.

I don't know if I want to run a marathon or publish a poem or play with my children this year. I just know I want to be present in my life. Those minutes I get here and there, I want to live them with intention. That's all.

That's everything.

* At the end of my labor - maybe 9 centimeters dialated, unmedicated, and battered by waves of contractions like so much flotsam and jetsam on the open sea - I managed to grunt out to R: "It takes a guy like Lance Armstrong 47 minutes to climb L'Alp d'Huez. I can do this for another 20." Yes, in labor. Seriously. Lance Armstrong. I know. I am such a dork.


Friday, January 04, 2008

A new favorite building

I found this building on a walk this afternoon. Boychen was being a crankypants so I didn't have a lot of time to stop and take pictures but I'll definitely be going back here with my camera.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Bureaucracy American style, part three

You can find parts one and two here and here.

R and I took the Boychen and my stack of original documents to the embassy today to complete the application process for Boychen's registration of birth, passport, and social security number. Because I had mailed the application materials for advance review, all we had to do was sign the forms in the presense of a consular official and pay.

It took two hours.

US Citizen Services works on a first come first serve basis; we were number 14. Somehow, I was under the impression that because I had taken advantage of the opportunity to have everything reviewed and approved in advance that our application would be expedited, that since all we had to do was sign and pay we'd be in a different line. Basically, I thought that since we had made their jobs easier and shortened the wait time for everybody by sending in the forms in advance that we'd get preferential treatment. In fairness, nothing on the embassy website said this but the phone call I got on Friday certainly left me with this mistaken impression. Or maybe I was just kidding myself. It would certainly make sense: to encourage people to send in the forms in for review so all the problems are solved in advance and you're not wasting everybody's time at the counter not knowing your husband's social security number, not knowing if your daughter has a social security number, and not having your daughter's birth certificate with you (yes, I'm talking about you Number 10) send those of us who used the mail preview option to the front of the line. Over time, more and more people would do this, wait times would go down, embassy employee's jobs would be easier, and there would be fewer complaints and grumbling people in the waiting room. But that's not the way it works, and we had to wait a very long time just to pay and sign.

But pay and sign we finally did. The registration of birth and passport will arrive in the mail in a couple of weeks - in the envelope that I had to pre-stamp. How cheap is that? Seriously. If you want to charge me for the postage just add it to the cost of the application but don't make me stamp my own envelope, that's just insulting. As an American living abroad I'm required to file income taxes and depending on income pay taxes and males are required by law to register for the draft even if they've lived their entire lives abroad (but cannot automatically pass on their citizenship). The least they could do in return is buy me a freaking stamp.