Monday, March 7, 2016

Ugly boots

 They're kind of like moon boots, but with less structure if that is possible. They're my "no one is out" dog-walking boots, for early mornings or late nights. I usually wear them barefoot, which is part of the whole problem of having to wear them at all during daylight hours.
Not much choice for the rest of the outfit when the footwear has already given up.

We're sort of at our limit, again, it seems. M is going for knee surgery soon because, remember that last post about the skiing? Well, he did, and then suddenly didn't and now blood thinner injections, crutches, braces, surgery, and 3 more months of recovery. Probably at least 2 months until he can walk around holding the little one. So, I'm tired right now. And that isn't going to stop anytime soon.

I go to sleep within 30 min. of the kids. the days of wanton TV watching until 10pm are gone. I have baby J every night now and he's got some illness or another every night now, so he's waking up a lot. If i get to bed when he does, I have a chance of getting the sleep I need. My husband and I don't see each other so very much these days.

And the times I try to do one thing for fun (or for moving), don't go all that well either. I went down to the basement a few days ago. Oh, yesterday. Whatever. Anyway, I went barefoot. Because I don't like socks on my feet at home and I didn't want to put them on. I went to get all the old kids' clothing that it is time to sell or donate. Lots of bags and boxes. Some baby bathtubs, some other stuff. And on my way back to the elevator, dragging various boxes through the firedoor way, guess what up and tried its best to close, over my pinky toe?

So, I'm wearing the ugliest footwear I own and pretending that I didn't break my toe even though it hurts like a swamprat. But I sort of don't have time for a broken toe this week. And it hurts only about half as much as the last time, 8 years ago, when I went to the emergency room to be told that I hadn't actually broken this same pinky toe. So I think my chances are pretty good. And if the weather can get a bit warmer, I can just switch to wearing flipflops in the cold spring days instead of these things.

Here's hoping!

I'm tired now. I'm going to go and stare at my computer screen some more.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

That funky ski-boots walk.

I'm jealous.

I'm surrounded by mountains and quaint chalets, huge flakes of snow falling on already fallen feet of snow, quiet, pine trees, and whisper-loud gondolas cross my field of view, one every 10 seconds, a few skiers in each. Skiers ski down to just where my son and I have stopped, to play with the holiday village's vast array of tractors and trucks, and do that funky ski boots walk past us. Or below us to store their skis in the garage under the building. Or fly up the mountain, ready to fly down it.

And I'm jealous. I'm sad that we arrived 6 years ago in Switzerland with my husband's bum knee and my just-about-to-herniate disk. That one of the best things about this country - the fact that even my 6 year old is excited and happy about skiing, confident, already wondering where we'll ski when we move back to America - is the ubiquitous downhill skiing, and we're ill-equipped to take part.

I've been skiing many times in my life, but I was younger then and had never had to lie in a bed for the better part of 2 months with nerve and muscle pain filling my days should I move from my one safe position. I could try to strengthen my core enough to try skiing but if it isn't enough, the risk is too great. Two small kids, a dog, a job. I can't risk more time off than I already have to take for daycare flu and cold season. My body just can't handle skiing anymore. And that makes me jealous of all those couples, singles, families funky-walking past me. The college students that leave my apartment building in the city with their ski boots on and go the 5 min. to the train station and up to a slope for the day. The sales on boots, skis, gloves, helmets, jackets. It makes me sad. I can't go down a slope with my daughter who has just learned to fall in love with doing so.

So while school ski holidays this year (two weeks for going off skiing with your kids, of course) found me in a mountain village, watching snow fall, it also found me longing to be having the argument with my spouse about who could go skiing that day with my daughter. Even he shouldn't have (he busted his bad knee again), but it was probably less of a risk for him than for me.

I wish I was younger and stronger and my daughter and I could enjoy this together. But we can't. I'm going to have to deal with that.

And hope for one day of good enough weather and snow that I can go cross-country. For an hour or two, just to be able to say I went skiing while I lived here.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

I suck at my job

I really do.

Sure, I have the gender equity and science education background to do my job. But I'm not an organizer, and I'm supposed to be. I work alone a lot. And although I'm an introvert, I get my energy and focus from interactions with a few key people in a job.

When I sew, I do it at the 75% level - all the seams inside are left raw. Sometimes the edges that you don't see aren't matched. If I can wear it out of the house (the house that is also done at about the 75% level), I consider it done.

And so, I make a kind of crap coordinator. I make a great ideas person. But please don't trust me with your budget or your meeting schedule. I'm easily distracted.

So I feel kind of bad about my job, too. And I wonder what kind of job I should look for next time, so that I don't spend so much of my time being bad at it.

Maybe I can take a quiz for that.

I get that I can't have a job I love all the hours I work it, but honestly, I'd probably pitch myself more at filing or delivering mail (closed ended tasks that don't involve phone calls) for that part. It is boring but I can do it. And now that I have small kids, I'd probably actually find it meditative - like I do with dishes (I get it now...a break from thinking and a feeling of completion without having to send the dishes into time-out).

Still, I have good ideas for the ideas part of my job. So for now I'll stay doing it, and do my best to swallow my pride every time I'm failing at all the little organizational stuff. And send off my missives about power and abuse of power. And forget to file my travel receipts. And what this week's meeting was supposed to be about.

My dog on the other hand, does not suck at her job. Actually she more licks at it. Ahem.

Monday, December 14, 2015

A whole lotta trees this year

How is it already 3 months since I've written anything new here? They have been a busy 3 months, I guess. Those are my trees. All, um, 10 of them, which means I'm behind on my paper trees advent calendar. But since it is supposed to be for fun and relaxation, that's okay.

The far right - those are many of the NYTimes I did and didn't read this year. Some crosswords worked, others just left completely ignored. On the far left - the Economist tree.

I've been out of touch with many friends these last three months, too, and am finally catching up. And remembering how good it is to talk with friends. About parenting struggles, about relationships, about life. I've been reminded that sometimes a TV show for both kids makes you a BETTER mother, and that other people struggle with their kids, too. I've been shown just acceptance and understanding. It is a huge gift to get, when you're struggling with all the supposed "best" things you can do for your kids. And I've looked forward to every single visit, coffee, and spa night. Because they are not about telling each other what we could be doing better, or should be doing. They are about listening and commiserating. They fill my empty mothering gas tank with ideas to try but also with the knowledge that I'm engaged in a difficult activity and not just falling flat on my face because I'm worse at it than others. There has never been a "God loves you" or "may Jesus bless you" or "I'm praying for you" that has helped me as much as 15 min with an understanding friend. No "we at least you have..." that has given me the renewed energy to try again to find compassion and kindness with kranky children.

Merry Christmas, you all.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Judgement day...

is every day! At least on Facebook. Let me be the first to admit that I am probably about to judge a whole mess of people in what follows.

Judgement has come up in a number of places this week - from The Mother Dance (a great little read about stories of motherhood from a woman therapist whose other books I've been through), to a new group I just joined on Facebook - the Grumpy Expat. What took me so long?! That group is my tribe. A place where you are supposed to complain about expat life instead of being eternally grateful and in awe of this wonderful place. All places suck at some level (and excel at other levels), so go ahead and bitch about it.

What is odd (but not really, because this happens in specialty groups all the time, right?) is that there are people who judge the grumping on that group because refugees from Syria and because it's not a problem of racism, it's an opportunity to open your own store! Really? First of all, it is a group called Grumpy Expat. Don't join if you love it here and have no bad days you want to share. Second, it's called Grumpy Expat stop judging people who are being grumpy and start stepping up with those stories of little things that make you swear under your breath. There was even a healthy dose of "white not grumpy expat man giving someone grief for interpreting her not white grumpy woman's experiences differently than his." Dude, you're behind even the old, white, astronomy dudes in how clueless you are about your privilege. That's embarrassing.

Back to the book. And another book that is on our parental reading list (I read, mark where I stop, transfer to M, he reads, marks where he stops....), Scream-Free Parenting. Both have been mentioning how heavily judged parents (especially mothers) are. And how damaging it is to feel responsible for your kids' behavior - they are individuals. You can't force them to do anything, if you're not willing to kill their spirit, so stop using their behavior as something that says anything about you. They throw a tantrum - that's them, not some embarrassment to your parenting. And anyone who says otherwise can just get over themselves. Guilt, says the Mother Dance book, is a great way for society to get you to spend all your emotional energy worrying about making mistakes and trying harder to be a good mother (or a good father), instead of having the waking moment available to question societal norms about what a "good" mother is anyway.

We had our annual daycare parent teacher conference this afternoon. I arrived 30 minutes late because 14.00h is not the same as 4:00pm. It is two hours earlier. Oops. My husband had been there for the first 30 min, and we tag team switched when I arrived. And now that this is kid number two, who is also doing great at daycare, and behaving much better (less throwing of food, dish, anything on the table items; less whining; less baby bottle using) than at home, I'm ready to learn from our first child. He is able to do all sorts of stuff at daycare, but not at home? Great. He's learning that somewhere and hopefully that translates to behavior in public. At home, I'm just going to have to get over the baby bottle thing and remember that A took a long time to give away her pacifier and is still a great kid. Who can eat without food falling out between her upper and lower teeth because THE PACIFIER DIDN'T LEAVE HER MOUTH HELPLESSLY DISFIGURED after all. Go figure.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Maybe she's born with it, maybe it's....totally not what I think.

She's probably my age. Over 40. She is heavily pregnant, on the hottest week of the last 6 years here in Zurich, and she's walking along the sidewalk holding hands with a 3 1/2 year old on one side and a 2 year old on the other. She's sort of smiling. No one is screaming. She's wearing skinny pregnancy jeans.

And suddenly all the little props I've given myself this last week, for keeping two kids basically hydrated and safe from sunburn, and a dog away from heat exhaustion, kind of seem little. Small. Ridiculous. How does she do it? How does anyone with more than 2 kids do it? How am I so lost with my paltry two children and measly 25% work?

Luckily, the next thing that comes to mind is the conversation from the other day with a mom of two from our daycare. And her story of one preemie and both kids being born within an hour (one, single, 60 minute hour) of the start of her contractions. Her good memories of birth. Her story that once again brought to mind how silly words are. She's given birth and I've given birth. To two kids each, roughly at the same time in history, and in the same place. Yet there are oceans and mountains of difference between our experiences. To the point where you almost shouldn't call them by the same term. Or at least we should start inventing a multitude of terms for "birth", to distinguish all the varieties it takes on - varieties of happy and sad, joyous and disappointing or scary, long or short, easy or hard. Why do we use just that one word?

And this brings me to remember comments I've gotten about birth and pregnancy and motherhood. The women who sound upset that my second child is so young and yet I've got no extra weight to speak of. I know that tone - it takes up a lot of time in my head, that "how come you got that and I didn't?" feeling. And if we don't have much time to talk, they don't know that I'm on antidepressants, on part time work, that I didn't eat milk products or onions or garlic for 4 months after my second was born. They don't know that the choices I've made are mostly due to fear - of not sleeping because my baby's tummy is upset, of being desolate and depressed, of having back pain. So I should be assuming that behind every smiling parent pushing a twin stroller is a story as well, instead of berating myself for being less than because I've seen the perfect moment by chance.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Because the bare minimum is actually good enough

Oh the vaccum cleaner. I've posted before how it is said to have damned all future generations of people who have a space that could be vacuumed. Before its invention, that level of clean would not have been sane.

I've had long lists in my life these last few weeks. In my head, on my phone, on scraps of paper. And although no one is ill, and I'm getting enough sleep and even enough me time (meaning, some each day), I've barely made a scratch. I'm not overworked. My house is most often a mess. My husband has pretty much taken over doing the dishes. But I keep choosing to rest or read or sit, instead of checking just one more thing of my list.

The things I actually check off, I've realized, are the only things that need to be on my list. And that is what I get done - I make sure Baby J has enough milk for an evening and morning bottle. I make sure we have something for dinner (we can discuss the quality of dinners one is starving, but we all get by with an extra yogurt to make up for some of what I've been cooking). I make sure the dog is covered for walks and food. I do the things on my work list. I pay the bills.

All else is non-essential. The clothes to recycle. The shoes and books to give away. The dress for my daughter to make out of my husband's Star Wars t-shirt. Picking up after pretty much anyone in the house (including myself) except on cleaning woman day.

And at the end of the day, no one has fallen ill because of a book I haven't sent to a friend, or that broken pane of glass that has sat there for over a month now. It will get done. It is out of kid reach, and it will get done.

So enough with all the shoulds. Bare minimum, plus an extra ice cream after kindergarten, is more than enough.