fuck taboos, let’s talk about the darkness
I’ve been working on my club since before Pickles was born. It had to be big enough, intimidating enough. Because I was pretty sure that the postpartum depression was going to be lurking in the dark, dusty places—the sort of places you never have time to clean with a baby in the house—and I wanted to have a heavy blunt object ready to knock it with. It was there. It hit first. My club wasn’t big enough. I didn’t even get in a good swing.
Thing is, I have this annoying voice of reason in my head all the time. Even when I feel my worst it is in there telling me exactly how to make things good again, that things will be good again. It is a really fucking annoying voice. Sometimes you just need to wallow for a second, you know? At any rate, the voice is telling me that it isn’t that bad, that a certain string of actions will make it go away, that most people who deal with the ppd (I’m going to abbreviate postpartum depression that way from here on out, laziness has won out over my hatred for abbreviations today) have it much much worse.
All the same I am finding it incredibly hard, not to get out of bed, but to leave the Wagen at all. It feels the same way that it does, when you’re depressed, and you can’t leave the bed. It feels like paralysis and anxiety and echoing hollowness of the stomach and sometimes sharp pangs of pressure in the head. It doesn’t make any sense. I know that leaving the house will make me feel better, and yet I find myself incapable of leaving the house, unless shoved out the door and accompanied. Which is pretty much the opposite of how I am on a “normal” day. I don’t find myself resenting Baby Pickles at all—she is just way too fucking cute and heart melting and lovely–but I find myself short on patience and unable to cope. Sometimes I feel like I am about to split into thirty thousand tiny pieces, and all my energy goes into try to hold back the storm, to keep it together. I need to get the fuck out. I would say I desperately need a vacation, but there is no true vacation from motherhood. So what to do? What the fuck to do?!
I had been looking forward to the relief that returning to my normal office hours would bring. Two whole days out of the house, at the office, among adults, no baby to worry about. Me, actually excited about the prospect of going to an office! But even office time is time off from being the mother. I need it so badly and now my boss is talking like we hadn’t agreed that I would return to the two-day-a-week routine when Pickles was old enough for bottles and longer stretches of time alone. I have absolutely no idea what is going on and won’t for another week at least, and the not knowing makes it all the worse.
I would just say fuck it to the money and hire a babysitter, but without my regular job back that ain’t happening. (Chaching chaching!) Most of the friends who are willing to babysit out of the goodness of their hearts are back in Mainz, and to get to them I’d have to get to Mainz (chaching chaching!). The Beard does his fatherly part, but he works super long shifts and is sometimes gone for 48 or 24 hours. (At least those chachings are money coming in.) But one great thing happened today. A new Platz-mate offered to take Pickles for two hours next week, and it sounds like a super start.
Of course, insurance would also probably cover some sort of medical help, though I always have my doubts about that route. You’re a mess one day, and by the time your appointment finally rolls around you’re feeling fine. I’ve tried it before, and every doctor has told me that I don’t need to be there. Sounds good to me, not needing to be there, though it is incredibly irritating to hear when you could really use a few tips to help you cope. But there is always that. Support is never a bad thing at times like these.
Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. The voices have told me, and they are always right.
Any of you deal with any ppd issues after your babies? I’d love to hear some other experiences. Let’s refuse to make ppd a taboo topic.
dumpster find of the week: scavenging for the kids
Aaah, dumpster diving. There has been sadly little of it in my life lately, leaving me to live vicariously through the tales of others. Like this one. Frugal Vegan Mom wrote me recently to tell me about this crazy-ass toy that her Grandma-ma pulled out of the trash and that her baby loves. She saw the damn thing a few days later in a store for 45 dollars! Good job, Frugal Vegan Mom, good job.
the cat, the bathroom, and the robin phoenix
The grey tar paper on the rounded roof is speckled with tiny yellow leaves, and the cat is under the bed again. She is grey and black and striped, and I do not know her name.
Drinking malt “coffee” out of a brown metal cup, or, more accurately, not drinking it because the contents have made the metal too hot to touch, I try to sum up our experience in this new community so far. There will be a lot that I cannot say, questions I cannot answer. Legalization has yet to occur. I will have to be a lot more vague about the sort of things I usually write about in detail. Sorry.
This morning while I was nursing Baby Pickles, the Beard lit the wood stove in the purple Wagen (I feel weird calling my Wagen, sweet little trash house, just “the kitchen,” so I think I will just revert to using colors) so it would be warm for me to write in now. I didn’t hear him scream. He had opened the wood stove door, he told me, and thought he saw a piece of unburnt wood inside. So he reached in to grab it and came out with a robin. Must have flown into the stove pipe and fallen in. He brought it outside, and it flew away. The robin phoenix! The image feels pleasantly metaphorical.
I am settling into the rhythm of life here. This group is far less cohesive, feels more like a coincidental neighborhood, though there are certain “lefty” principles still at work: consensus and solidarity and group meetings the like. We’ve been here over a month, and I still haven’t met everyone who lives here. I miss the group in Mainz, problems and all, but our space here has me smitten. Our Wägen aren’t just meters away from the next neighbor (actually the next inhabited Wagen is, relatively speaking, quite a ways away), and come spring we can plant a nice lush lawn where Pickles can play. And the best best best best bestest thing of all is that we no longer live near (practically on top of) an autonomous center where late, loud parties and concerts are happening several times a week. I don’t miss that at all.
There is a house on this property, and what a house it is, but the dynamic is different, and our Wägen are far, far away. This house also has concerts and a once-a-week vokü (volksküche or people’s kitchen, like a cafe version of Food Not Bombs), but people also live there and the entire space is in incredible shape. People clean up after themselves and fix what is broken and care about keeping the guest sleeping spaces comfortable and clean. It is a really pleasant change.
And the bathroom, oh the bathroom! No longer do we share a bathroom with a venue. See, in Mainz the bathroom for the Wagenplatz was (is) also the bathroom for the house, aka for the parties and the concerts and the vokü. It gets consistently ravaged during parties, but is very inconsistently cleaned. The shower, which was in a locked room on the upper level of the house (still talking about Mainz here), was functional, but in no way aesthetically enjoyable. There was a large hole in the wall that opened onto spider webs and broken plaster. The tiles were hideous. It didn’t really matter, but I am a sucker for a good looking room or a comfy shower.
Here, the Wagenplatz has a little four-meter bathroom Wagen. It is a bit of a hike to get there, but it is warm (heated with gas), with two bathroom stalls, a washing machine, and a really nice shower area. The shower head is amazing. There is warm water forever and ever, if you just want to sort of wastefully bask in it for a minute. There are working sinks (in the shower area there is one set at an adult height, one at a kid height, as well as one by the toilets), and the cleaning rotation plan really works. It’s the little things, you know?
music mama: touring with your baby
Seven day tour with a baby? Why the hell not? Then again, why? Why why why? When the Beard mentioned, way back when, that he wanted to plan a longish tour with our folk trio Battenkill Ramblers for this October I said sure. But secretly, I wasn’t very excited. I have very mixed feelings about touring, with or without getting a needy little human involved.
A few months before, we had been on a three-day trip with Baby Pickles—our first string of shows further than an evening’s train ride away—and it had been stressful. By and large it went ok, but the car rides were long and full of Pickles’ screams and tears. At that point we hadn’t started giving her bottles (supplementary feeding, which we have had to do because of some problems I had, I always did with this crazy gadget), and the van we used only had a car seat appropriate seat belt in the front. What that all meant was that she was pretty damn hard to console, and either the Beard or I had to be standing in order to even try. That was when I implemented the “at least one of us has to be buckled up at all times so that if we get in an accident she’ll at least still have one parent” rule. What a barrel of monkeys.
And so it was with a low level of dread that I watched our October tour dates approach on the calendar. I was excited too, but when I thought about the car rides with Baby Pickles, of the potentially horrendous sleeping situations, and of the late nights, I had to wonder if saying yes to the trip had been a good idea after all. I like the idea of being able to tour with a baby. I like playing music, and I like seeing new places and meeting new people. But what I like more than all of those things combined is sleep, something that can be hard to come by even on non-baby tours.
Photo below: The first night we played in Karlsruhe and slept in a gallery. Up before everyone else, we did a little photo shoot. Pickles loves standing. Too bad she still can’t do it by herself.
in the car
So how did it all go? Surprisingly well. I got a lot of sleep, the car rides were short and (almost) painless, and I found myself having a better time than I have had touring in a long time. In part this was because the Beard had planned our route to involve the shortest possible drives. With only about an hour in the car each day (the longest drive was just short of three hours), there wasn’t much time for Pickles to get upset. When she did, I was able to unbuckle myself and tip myself into her car seat for a bit of nursing (uncomfortable, but better than listening to screaming). Or offer her a bottle. And a couple of times she just fell asleep all by herself. (Miracle!) With shoulder seat belts on all the van’s seats, the Beard and I could plant Pickles right between us, which meant no standing. Hallelujah. When she was awake she particularly enjoyed chewing on the laminated band pass for a festival we had played during our last three-day tour. Not too shabby.
Photo above: For the most part I got really awesome sleep this tour, but there was one total zombie day, and this was it. Obviously nobody told Pickles it was zombie day, huh?
the fight for enough shut eye
As for sleep, Baby Pickles has never had a problem sleeping where ever we happen to be. If I’m still out and about when she’s tired, she conks out in the Boba Wrap. Though recently there have been more and more nights during which she has fussed until I’ve gotten her horizontal. Either way, my wrap is essential. Every time I put the damn thing on I see the little label with their motto printed on it, “Freedom Together,” and I think to myself how fucking cheesy. Then I sigh inwardly and think, and how fucking true. Since you’re hanging out in all sorts of random places when you’re traveling with a baby, having a carrier, no matter what kind, where the babe can get comfortable while you have your hands free for eating and packing and sound checking is great. The fact that wrap carriers can be folded up into a small little bundle only adds to their essential-ness when traveling.
I had wondered if the “new bed every night” thing might upset Pickles’ sleep in some way, but as you can see from the photo above, she was generally in a rollicking good mood. My main concern when it came to sleep had been being able to get enough myself, sleep-grubbing monster that I am. Concerts have a way of always starting just when I’d usually be putting on sweatpants and falling into bed, but as we were the openers this time around, we always got to play first aka a tad earlier than usual. Score. The other problem with getting to bed early on tour is often that the sleeping quarters are somewhere far away from the venue, somewhere that needs to be driven to, somewhere that you can’t get to until every one else is finished playing and drinking and enjoying themselves. This worried me most of all. But! Oh sweet fate! This tour that was only the case once. So every night I watched the Froggy Mountain Boys play a few songs and then slipped off to bed.
Even though I was still getting much less sleep than usual and napping remained essential (aka baby juggling between the Beard and I needed to be planned around meeting times and car rides), I felt much better than I expected and much better than I have on any other tour. See, on tour without a baby you almost always end up drinking too much—the drinks are free after all. On tour with a baby you just don’t. I mean, you could, but I didn’t because I am breast feeding, and with a milk shortage problem, I am absolutely horrified at the thought of having to pump and dump. Some nights I drank two beers, some nights two Radler (that’s beer mixed with lemonade), and some nights nothing at all. Which is a really good way to never get a hangover. I sometimes vaguely miss the ruckus, but I sure don’t miss the headaches. And did I mention that I still can’t stand the taste of whiskey? Sigh. One step at a time.
Photo below: Baby Pickles outside of the Vrankrijk—apparently one of the (or THE) oldest squat in the Holland—before the last show of the tour. Not even a year old and she’s already been to more countries than I had been to at 20.
Packing for a baby is basically the biggest bitch of the whole baby-on-tour ordeal. I always end up packing too much clothing, but then again, with the potential for a baby to get covered with food/spit/pee/poop and cod knows what else, I would say that more is always, always more. Then you’ve got diapers, feeding gear, toys and before you know it, your baby has taken up all the space in your suitcase. Good thing that since having a baby you’ve gotten into the habit of forgetting everything you might need to bring along. (True story.) This trip we had the added challenge of starting in a van, but ending on a train. Because the Froggies would be driving back to Berlin from Amsterdam, they dropped us off at a train station rather than drive hours out of their way to drop us off. I packed with this in mind and still cursed myself for every extra gram on that last tired day. But as far as baby gear went, it was worth it. See, look at how happy all those toys made her (photo below, in our sleeping quarters in Solingen). It was good to have enough to keep rotating the baby distracting devices in the car or for a few minutes of peace before going onstage.
cloth diapers on parade
But oh the diapers. On our three-day tour we brought cloth. I have a sweet Planet Wise wet/dry bag that I fucking love and that makes doing this pretty easy. (One pouch for the clean diapers, one water-tight pouch for all the used ones.) But this trip around we weren’t really on top of the laundry. We have a hell of a lot of cloth diapers (52 originally, minus the tinies that don’t fit anymore), but a hell of a lot of cloth diapers is roughly enough for three days. Which means that in order to have them all clean and dry (when you don’t have a dryer) takes some serius planning. Because we played a show in Frankfurt (aka home) on day two of our tour, we only needed enough for five days, but shit. 1. We don’t own enough cloth diapers for five days so we would need to get our asses to a laundromat sometime during tour and 2. Did I mention that we totally weren’t on top of the laundry situation? So we used cloth in Karlsruhe, and when we returned to Frankfurt for show number two, I did more wash. When it was time to leave for show number three, it wasn’t all dry. And so, boo hoo hoo hoo, we decided at the very last second to use disposables for the tour.
Photo below: Baby Pickles getting changed on a couch at a venue. She didn’t seem too fussed about the switch to disposables, even if I kind of was.
The Beard has suggested doing this for tour and shows a couple of times, and I’ve always been all NO FUCKING WAY! But with wet diapers hanging everywhere, and a serious need to bring as little stuff along as possible, I had to agree. Using disposables was an easy out, and since it was only this one package this once, I could afford to buy the biodegradables. My main beef with disposables—right after their price, environmental consequences, and the whole baby-skin-on-chemical-crap factor—is that I hate the way they look and feel. But as Baby Pickles didn’t seem to mind, we all ended up ahead. Except for that 8 euros I spent on the paper pants. Ah well.
Photo below: Pickles in Amsterdam with one of the Froggies. As we didn’t have room for an extra babysitter in the van this trip (our usual deal when playing shows), the Froggies took turns with Pickles when we played. This led to the discovery that she falls asleep quickly to early Motorhead. Heh.
in conclusion, fucking finally
What I figure is this. Touring with your baby can be total awesome! Plan a lot! Bring lots of extra clothes! Make compromises for the sake of convenience and sanity! Bring a babysitter if you can! Most important though, I think, is to not let the thought of the potential stress of it all scare you into not leaving the house. Yer baby will get to have a lot of awesome experiences because of it, and so will you.
NOTE: There are three affiliate links in here. I included them for sake of illustration in case you don’t know what the f I’m talking about, but if you like what you see and end up buying it through the link, then I get some hot cash. So you know, don’t feel dupped but do what you’ve gotta do.
ribbet ribbet: on tour with the froggy mountain boys
I have to chuckle when I think of it now: in the time it would take me to drive across New Jersey, I could be in Holland. Shit, in a plane, in about the time it takes to watch an episode of Dexter, I could be just about fucking anywhere. Well, not in Brazil, but, you know. There is so much to see within such a short distance these days, and, me, I barely go anywhere. Good thing there’s tour to kick my ass out of the house and into a few other cities (and countries).
Every time we are on tour—even when it is just for a couple of days—I am never quite certain. Do I love it? Do I hate it? You’d think those wouldn’t be two emotions that were so hard to tell apart. At the beginning the new rhythm is uncomfortable: Less sleep, constant newness and moving and resettling, mustering up lots of stage energy at exactly the time when I would usually be putting on sweatpants and falling into bed, little time to write or read. But after a few days the rhythm starts to feel familiar, and it starts to feel like we must have always been on the road, that there never was anything else except days in vans and people cooking you amazing dinners and breakfasts and venues and music and stages. For the first time since Baby Pickles was born, I haven’t done laundry in five days. Or cooked anything. How bad can it really be? Travel is awesome, right?
And yet, music-making travel is vastly different from any other kind of traveling I have ever done. In the usual sense, travel is a way of expanding your world. You meet new people, wander foreign streets, eat things you’ve never even heard of before. You absorb the life of the world around you, and you become bigger for all the newness forcing its way inside your head. Band touring has its elements of expansion as well—new people and food and places are still a part of the deal—and yet you find your world shrinking. Instead of digesting new worlds, you find yourself in a microcosm. There is the inside of the van, the venue, and the place where you will sleep. There are cities outside of the van window, and you might even take a walk around the neighborhood where you will be playing. But more often you don’t, more often you lay down on a couch in the venue so that you can keep it together on less sleep later, and you find that your world has shrunk to the size of the venue, the space around your seat in the car, and the stage you find yourself on each night.
With a world the size of a van seat and a music venue, the atmosphere in each becomes hugely important. Though I can’t recall ever playing a venue I hated, there have been nights that felt less comfortable than others. But this trip around I felt good at every stop we made. Of course, I also left early every night to get the babe and I into bed in time to avoid complete sleep-deprivation-zombie-melt-down, but besides a very small turn out in Karlsruhe, every night went pretty damn well.
In Frankfurt we played Cafe ExZess, a versatile autonomous space with an infoladen/lending library, bar, and theater with a tap dancing trio. In Mainz we played an on-campus restaurant called Baron with some very fine pizza and my favorite alcohol-free beer (Erdinger! Mmmm). In Solingen—another city I had never visited before and that was absolutely gorgeous with slate-sided houses in the middle of a lot of forest—we played a tiny, adorable Irish pub called Tom Bombadil. Not only did they serve Guinness (oh sweet sweet victory), but I got to meet Moonwaves! Wohoo! In Holland we met up with old friends at Baklust in the Hague (organic, vegetarian cafe that I demand you visit immediately if you are in town) and Vrankrijk in Amsterdam (one of the oldest squats in Holland, rumor has it).
This tour was one of the smoothest we’ve been on yet. The venues were all pleasant, the drives were all short, the sleeping arrangements were all fantastic (people take really good care of you when you are traveling with a baby), and the food was all fucking amazing. During our last tour, I was newly pregnant and dealing with a fuck-all case of morning sickness. I was constantly hungry, but could barely eat. Not that it mattered much, since all but one show organizer had served us chili, the last thing you want to eat when your stomach is a wreck and you’re going to be spending all day in an enclosed space with four other people who’ve got a pile of tomatoes and beans in their digestive tracks too. When I did manage to eat, I would jokingly tell my food, “I’ll see you again later.” Though I am still too traumatized to ever want chili again, the lack of both puking and chili made me really fucking happy this time around.
And of course, The Froggy Mountain Boys. Being on tour with another band, particularly a band who are really fucking good, is loads of fun. Spending seven days with five people who you’ve never met, well, that sounded like a potential disaster. But we all got along just fine, and a few of the Froggies were really good with Baby Pickles, which was helpful since we didn’t have any room in the van for an extra babysitter. (I’m going to go on about touring with a baby in more detail on Monday.) We tend to get put on a lot of punk bills (not that our music remotely fits in that context, but our attitude and message do) or play with local singer/songwriters. It was fucking brilliant to know that every night would end with a swinging Froggy performance. I have woken up with a song of theirs stuck in my head every night since we left. Encore encore!
All of the pictures in this post were taken in Baklust in the Hague, Holland. The first two are © Bertus Gerssen fotografie 2012, the second two (cc) Click Clack Gorilla. The art visible on the wall in the final picture is Unfinished Business. I’m thinking about getting one of the pictures on the left there tattooed on my arm. Huzzah!
holy crap, we’re in the hague and it is walrus day
If everything has gone according to plan, we’ve just arrived in the Hague, and tonight we’re going to play a cute (and delicious) little cafe called Baklust. My dear friend made these invitations/flyers for the show, and I was so taken with them that I had to share. Oo la la!
As for Walrus Day: Happy Walrus Day! From what I know, Walrus Day is a holiday invented by a friend of a friend. It is supposed to be a day on which you do all the things you’ve been wanting to do for forever, and just haven’t. So if you’ve been dying to screen print some Walrus Day patches, that’s what you do. (That’s what they did a while back, and I have the evidence in my sock drawer.) We’re in luck that we get to play a show at an awesome cafe with delicious food and even more delicious friends in one of my favorite Dutch cities.
Assuming you’ve only just heard of it, I imagine you haven’t had time to plan. But there’s no time like now. What are you going to do!?
one tiny wagen house
Isn’t she purdy? Just wanted to share in my Mainz Wagenplatz I-miss-you nostalgia.
battenkill ramblers, froggy mountain boys: germany taken by fiddle
Today it begins. Our tour with The Froggy Mountain Boys, our first long(ish) tour with Baby Pickles. I jump for joy for my ears, and I fear for my sleep. Being on tour with a baby is fun, but usually means even less sleep than usual. I go to bed late, Pickles wakes up early as usual. But The Froggy Mountain Boys! Yohoo! Yip yip! Yihaw! These folks are excellent musicians—western swing is what they do—and I am excited that every night for the next seven days, I will have the honor of playing music, exploring, and sitting in cramped buses with these five fine gentlemen. Did I mention that none of us have actually ever met? Shabam! Tour, here we come.
As you have probably already noticed, The Froggy Mountain Boys are fronted by Another Beard. We can only hope that no duels will result over issues of bushiness. Whose fiddle disappears under the most hair during a show? How many have already been lost in that other black forest? When Baby Pickles gets testy, the Beard can just tuck her up in his luscious red locks for a little nap while I dosey doe. A bearded union. But enough with the beards already.
If you’re around Germany or Holland, you can catch us live at these wheres on these whens:
October 3 // Halle 14, Karlsruhe, Germany (show starts at 6 pm sharp)
October 4 // Cafe ExZess, Frankfurt, Germany
October 5 // Baron, Mainz, Germany
October 6 // Der Bock, Mannheim, Germany
October 7 // Pub Tom Bombadil, Solingen, Germany
October 8 // Baklust, Den Haag, Holland
October 9 // Vrankrijk, Amsterdam, Holland
And speaking of catching us live, if you do, we now have fan-fucking-tastic baby merch. Every piece is different, so as of now it is only available at shows. If you desperately want to order a baby onie over the internet though, drop me a line and we’ll figure it out. But first, look! “Born to folk!” HardeeharharHAR!
gorilla parent: the bilingual baby experiment
So we live in Germany. I am American. The Beard is German. Watching a little person learn two languages at once is one of the things I have looked most forward to when it comes to baby making and raising. And here we are.
From the very beginning, from Baby Pickles’ very first minute outside of my belly, I spoke English with (to) her. The Beard speaks German with (to) her. This is what linguists call the one parent, one language style of bilingualism. Some people do one language at home, one language outside. Some people do one language in one country, one language in another. There are about as many styles to bilingual parenting as there is sugar in Willy Wonka’s candy landscape.
However, the Beard and I speak German to each other, and we will continue to do so. Theoretically, when Baby Pickles joins in and speaks German in these conversations, I will answer in English. Then again, some folks propose a “whoever starts the conversation choses the language used” principle, but as I don’t really like speaking English with the Beard I can’t imagine implementing that. It all sounds very complicated, not to mention the fact that I am not very good at constant language switching (though I am a bit better at it already, after seven months of practice). Who knows. I think the key, like everything else when it comes to parenting, is to remain flexible.
As the only person in Pickles’ direct surroundings who speaks English, I’m figuring on having a lot of work to do to make the language interesting. I don’t want it to someday just be some stupid language that mommy speaks. So I’m looking for English-speaking play groups, and you don’t even want to know how many kids books we already have (in part because I love to collect beautiful kids books, which I of course do in English). Not to mention the fact that we almost only watch movies in English. I figure the more people she meets who speak English, the more situations in which it is useful to her, the more the language will come to mean to her. If she has English-speaking friends, then the language’s value to her will become more acute. And of course there will be trips to the States. What I really, really don’t want is for us to visit and for her to be incapable of communicating with any of her American family.
I’m already bracing myself for the fact that Pickles’ strongest language is not going to be English. I mean, maybe she’ll be great at it, but with the resounding influences in her life in German, with German schools and German neighbors and, well, Germany everywhere around her, I expect that she’ll excel in that language more so than in English. And it totally blows my mind. How could I create a child that doesn’t even speak my native language? Immigrant parenting is a whole new mine field of wonder.
Are any of your raising bilingual kids? What has it been like for you so far?