more tiny house toys
The internet is full of Bauwagen toys. (And by full I mean “contains about five different kinds upon being googled.”) I found this one here. Steep price for a play house that you could easily, and perhaps more charmingly, build yourself for under 100 euro. Still, I like the idea. Peter Lustig is probably to blame.
My shoes are always full of toys. You know, that sounds like the beginning of a fantastical story about eternal Christmas, doesn’t it? The thought certainly puts a positive spin on Pickles’ rather annoying habit of filling my rubber boots aka my outdoor slippers with cars and otherwise sharp and pointy pieces of metal, wood, and plastic.
The weather has grown cold and lighting the wood stove is still fun, the way it can only be before it is so cold that your hands turn to dust while you are trying to make kindling. We didn’t even light the woodstove before we went to sleep last night. I need to appreciate this while it lasts. I am.
Pickles fell asleep on the floor last night trying to suck toothpaste out of the tube (don’t worry, it was empty). We were so happy to have her out of her bed that we left her there, bundled up beneath a blanket, for several hours. Could this be the beginning of the end of the night terrors that have been the weaning process? Oh dear cod please say it is so.
I am so excited about going to the World Fantasy Convention next week that I think about almost nothing else. Maybe I’ll fall into a time warp beforehand and manage to finish The Lies of Locke Lamora, Red Seas Under Red Skies, and Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch beforehand. Oh and, you know, fifteen other books by authors who are going to be there who I’d like to know more about before I commence to fanish drooling. When I can’t think another book-ish thought I start thinking about things like allowed luggage weight and what my couchsurfing host will be like. (Dude, she has been to Privet Drive. PRIVET DRIVE. *People who don’t like Harry Potter can just leave this parenthetical right now.* Us getting along is pretty much a given. PRIVET DRIVE.)
Pickles has invented a word. “Balla.” It means banana and belly button. Yesterday she went from calling books “boo” to saying “book.” My work here is done.
I proudly present to you: Our new shed.
We have been meaning to build this damn thing for over a year. Strike that. I have been meaning to build it (promising to build it) for over a year. And the Beard has been patiently waiting. But then he got tired of waiting, I accepted some help, and we built our firewood’s new house in a few days time. Almost entirely scavenged materials! For the win!
And, yes, those are candles hanging on the front. Because chopping wood by candlelight is pretty awesome, not to mention romantic (ummm, or something) and doesn’t involve running pesky power lines or remembering to put the solar lamp’s cell out in the sun during the day.
Some of those boards I scavenged in Mainz, with the intention of building a sweet shed out of them one day. (Frankenshed was nice, but this is a lot easier on the eye.) They’ve been sitting outside sort of under a tarp ever since. It’s a wonder that they weren’t all rotten. Other boards came from our red trailer’s ceiling, which we redid because the person who had put it in was apparently drunk—I can’t think of any other reason to just screw tongue and groove boards on top of each other like that without fitting them together. It certainly made the boards look like they were drunk. And now they are a shed wall.
We found the bigger beams we needed laying on the bonfire pile at the front of the property. There were a lot of nails in them, nails that I tried to rip out with a crowbar. When that barely worked, we hammered them all flat and got on with it. I put it together, and the Beard did all the sawing. At the time we only had a hand circle saw, which I—for no actual reason whatsoever—don’t like to use. (I’ve since bought myself a jigsaw. Love those things. Also love my “Japan” saws, as they are called in German. Fucking best saws ever.)
The roof is made of someone’s old terrace (we saved it from the bonfire pile as well) as well as some old flooring we found. We covered the roof boards with tarps made to create faux ponds in people’s backyards, which I got from freecycle. We did buy the paint, a second bit of tarp (my free bit wasn’t quite big enouhg), and a few three-meter boards to finish off the back wall when the firewood came before the scavenger gods had offered up any other solutions.
Having built this, I feel pretty confident that I could build a little house. I would do a number of things differently, more exactly, and with better materials, but it isn’t as hard as it looks. It never is.
Hey, look! There’s my Wagen!
Since the shed, our yard just makes me happy. (Of course, the weather has turned for the worse, which means things are getting rather straggley, but before that.) I wish I had done this months ago so that I could have spent all summer sitting outside and admiring our work, and our neat, tidey yard. Maybe then I would have been inspired to finally plant the herb garden or the forsythia that I’ve had planted in my head for months. But there’s always next year. Winter is coming, but so is spring.
whine whine whine, weaning is fucking hard and i miss cofffee
Dear cod has this been a bad time to give up coffee. (Is there ever a good time to give up coffee? No.) Not that I had a choice. Acid reflux forced my hand. Bah! Bah I say!
Meanwhile, back in the Wagen…Pickles sucks at sleep. I mean, she always has. As a very little Little she couldn’t sleep without being held. You wanted to put her down?! Ha! Go ahead. Put her down. If you want her to wake up instantly and berate you with cries and probably start sucking on you again.
She has always slept decently nights, but I can only call it decently because we co-sleep, because I barely had to wake up to get her what she wanted (boob). I still don’t understand why anyone would choose to put their kid in a separate room to sleep, a place they have to actually move their bodies to get to when the baby inevitably wakes up in the wee hours. No, no, NO. I can handle being woken up briefly in the night, several times, for two years straight. I’ve passed that test. I can’t handle being woken up and asked to get out of bed. Fuck that.
And now here we are, in weaning land. Two of my closest parent friends, whose kids aren’t much older than Pickles, got tired of nursing and night weaned back in the day. They both reported four or five hellish nights. But their kids have slept through the night ever since. Sounds annoying, but doable. Sounds like fucking heaven, actually.
I decided to wean because I had developed a pretty harsh nursing aversion. I could cuddle Pickles all she wanted, but as soon as she started nursing I felt horrible–trapped and chlostrophobic and irritated and annoyed. I particularly hated the nights, how she would fall asleep nursing, but wake up as soon as I pried her mouth off of me, forcing me to start the process from the beginning, and how I would be stuck laying in bed while the Beard skipped around the Wagen doing whatever the fuck he wanted. (Yes, when trapped on a bed by a nursing baby, even seeing someone sweeping the floor can cause jealousy.) It was obviously time. Though we had planned to wean when I went to England for four days at the end of the month, I decided to start while the Beard was away for five days. Get that shit over with. Give her time to adjust before our epic journey to the U.S.ofA.
The first three nights were stressful, but not nearly as bad as I had imagined. On the fourth night she slept through the night. On the fifth night, the Beard came home, and she didn’t repeat the performance. Now she just wakes up two or three times a night screaming and rolling and gnashing her teeth. We’re fifteen fucking days in. She slept through the night again on day nine (once again when the Beard was away), and otherwise: welcome to hell.
The only way to get her back to sleep is to give her milk (which I generally refuse because the fucking point of this exercise is getting her used to NOT eating during the night) or to play First Aid Kit’s album The Big Black and the Blue on my phone, loud. The first is like shooting myself in the foot, and the second doesn’t help any of the rest of us get to sleep any faster. And if you want to know how to make yourself hate an album you previously enjoyed, this is the way to do it, tell you what. Oh and sometimes she just wakes up at 5 am and can’t get back to sleep. Because it isn’t depressing enough that it doesn’t get light here this time of year until almost 8 o’clock.
And oh, do people have advice! So much advice! If I have to listen to another person talk about how “they couldn’t survive” if their kid didn’t go to bed at 7 pm! Listen, I’ve tried it. In our house, a 7 pm bedtime means a 4 am wake up time. Pick your poison, because it’s all going to suck. Everyone has a theory about how to get Pickles to sleep. The problem is that kids aren’t Kids, they are just people, individuals, as weird and random as the rest of us. There are about ten trillion things we could try, but the truth is we’ll have probably just bludgened each other to death before we get around to trying everything that is supposed solve our problems. Blah blah blah, complain complain complain, my life is so hard, who cares, there are people being imprisoned for life for crimes they didn’t committ so shut the fuck up Stewart.
Did I mention I built Pickles her own bed? *Laughs maniacally.* I’m going to be finishing it tomorrow. (Then, pictures! It looks like a treehouse! It is so fucking awesome holy shit.) Putting her in there is the next experiment. Pray we live long enough to find out if it works.
There is so much to do. Don’t people usually start cleaning in spring? That’s all wrong. As soon as fall’s chilly little tendrils start to work their way into the air I start rearranging things, decluttering, nesting. Bunkering down for winter. When spring arrives I’m too busy sitting in the sun to care about what it looks like inside.
I have a list. We are leaving on an epic journey in one month. The things on the list are supposed to happen before we leave. It is a short list, but involved. Item one: build Pickles’ bed. Which, once I got started ripping out the bench that used to dominate that side of the trailer, turned into “finish Pickles’ room.” Once our kitchen trailer arrives our red trailer will be half our bedroom, half Pickles’ bedroom. (Putting her in a separate trailer would just mean maintaining another wood stove, being paranoid about the wood stove with her alone at night, and, even more likely, her refusing to sleep off alone in a separate trailer anyway.)
I have been planning this space in my head for months. Longer maybe. Had the colors picked out. Made sure all the little bits and bobs that are always rolling around on the floor would all have a place. It took four days to make it happen. Though to be fair, the bed isn’t quite finished.
Consider these pictures a preview of the finished product. The bed is lofted, and still needs all the “don’t fall out and die” fixtures.” Maybe this weekend. But so far Pickles loves it. I love it. The Beard loves it. The trailer suddenly feels bigger, more practical, more homey. It is almost magical, the way a little change can completely renew the feel of a space.
And the space isn’t the only thing that is changing. We are on day seven of operation no more breastfeeding. It is going well. The nights are hard, but all in all, not any harder than they always have been. They are harder for the Beard though because now instead of her waking me up and me quieting her with some boob, she wakes up and makes noise and wakes everybody up and only goes back to sleep if you play First Aid Kit really loud on my telephone right next to her head.
And we built a shed.
And the firewood came.
And I stopped drinking coffee.
And Pickles slept through the night. (Once.)
I’ll be back with more pictures and words tomorrow then, huh?
i’ve got nothing but time
Time, right? It’s fucking crazy. Speeding up and slowing down on a whim (and never when it is particulary convenient). Since I never do this sort of shit at the actual new year, I’ll say it now: *cue slowing swelling orchestral soundtrack* in the past year I have learned to really appreciate time. Cod, imagine if your job paid you in time instead of money!? Now there’s a science fiction story waiting to be written. Forget I said that writers looking for ideas to steal. We never had this conversation. Ehem.
But, time! I used to be all “I’m going to sit here in the sun all frickin afternoon long even though I have things, really interesting and productive and useful things, that I could be doing. Nope, I’m just going to have another cup of cofee. Mmmmmm.” Now I’m all “What’s that you say? Ten minutes to myself? Let me go finish another short story!”
Thinking about this whole strange situation yesterday, I realized I don’t want any more time than I have right now. Scarcity has made my time worth more. I get shit done. I get writing done. I am more likely to actually start and finish a book now than I ever was. Isn’t that fucking crazy? I think its fucking crazy. Maybe there really is something to the idea of getting to life your life backwards, getting to learn all the hard lessons, and then enjoy your youth with adult perspective. (Or would youth no longer be possible to enjoy with that perspective?)
We are a trying out a one-morning-a-week day care situation with Baby Pickles. If it works I will have four hours every week that I am, damn it, going to spend writing. The settling in process hasn’t been the funnest, especially when I drop her off and, upon realizing that I’m leaving her there, she looks at me with the most seethingly angry look of betrayal I have ever had pointed in my direction. But then she gets over it and has fun (allegedly), and the group serves double duty: we get one free morning a week, and she gets exposure to a bunch of other English speakers. (Right now German is winning the language race.)
What’s going on with you?
i got a new camera
So I’ve been doing a lot of playing. When you have a decent camera, taking pictures is a lot more fun. I never would have guessed it. Photography was never really my thing. Good thing they make really good cameras that camera idiots can wield without too much havoc. As a result, some pictures:
Pickles’ tricycle. Her legs remain to short to ride it, so we push her around. She is already kind of bike obsessed. I take this as a good omen.
MyZeil is basically a big fucking mall. I would hate it if it weren’t for its dizzying Borgesian architecture.
The Römerberg. The heart of historical Frankfurt. Except it is all reconstruction as everything that was actually old was flattened during WWII.
Are any of you into photography? What kind of camera do you use? (Now that I’ve been forced to do research on these things I actually have half a clue…I have a Canon EOS 600D…)
collective living (and equality in relationships)
After writing about how much I hate doing the dishes and how the Beard and I have been splitting the housework and how gender equality can be hard to establish post-kid (and reading all of your very interesting comments), I realized how much there still was to say on the subject. When it comes to gender equality in relationships, I could probably write an encyclopedia. Not that it would contain any answers or definitive facts. But it would contain a lot of anecdotes, complaints, and questions. It isn’t a topic that deserves to get lost in the comments. This deserves a whole post. (And another and another and another, all things told.)
Last time, a handful of you told me about how you and your live-in partners divide up chores. Most of you, it seems, divide things up based on who prefers to do what. One person likes drying dishes and the other doesn’t (for the record, I too see hand drying dishes as a complete waste of time, who’s with me?!). One person is really good at the taxes and the other is awesome at building shit. Then one person mentioned cleaning the bathroom. And I froze. The Beard and I don’t have to discuss bathroom duty because it is a chore that we share with the entire collective. Epiphany! Collective living can make finding equality in relationships easier. Holy shit.
I don’t know how I never noticed that before.
Three cheers for collective living. Hip hip…
Other couples have to fight about who is going to clean the bathroom. One of them does it more and resents the other. One of them likes it sparkling, and the other doesn’t mind a little grime, and everybody is annoyed. But not us! We share a bathroom with 10 or so other people, and we negotiate that cleaning territory with them. It never enters into our relationship. We are each on the cleaning schedule, but it isn’t something just between the two of us. Holy shit. I am so glad. Tra la la!
Your comments and my realization got me thinking. How do we divide up all the chores I didn’t include? Does collective living make anything else easier? Well. Let’s see.
We both take out the trash. Whenever its full, whoever happens to be going that way. We share a trash bin with the entire group, so anything revolving around that gets cleared up during meetings. Plus one for the collective.
I mow the lawn (the Beard couldn’t care less about the length of the grass, and I like it neat and prim and worry that I may be channeling my lawn-obsessed grandfather) aruond our trailers, and other folks do the bits around theirs. This means that for the price of taking care of a tiny lawn, I have an enormous lawn. It also means that I don’t need to buy my own lawn mower because I use one of the community mowers. (This goes for a number of really handy tools as well.) Another point for collective living.
I do most of the renovation work (by choice, because I like it and I’m a picky bastard) to our house. Though the Beard does stuff like paiting and hanging shit from time to time too, and especially lately as I seem to have no time to do fucking anything. But again, we have access to far more space that we don’t need to care for all-by-our-lonesome. Go collective living go.
The Beard sweeps and generally cleans shit up about a hundred times more than I do inside the trailer. He does all the dishes (and just about all of the cooking), and I do all of the laundry. We splitt grocery shopping. We both barely manage to muddle through all the paperwork that life requires. And so on. These are things that no collective can save you from.
The one area where it doesn’t change much is child care. When we lived in Mainz, with several very close friends, there were lots of oppurtunites to let Pickles hang out with someone else for a while, to get some time alone, even if it was just five minutes. Not so much with the new group, but it’s not something I am willing to ask of people I still barely know. So we share child care about evenly between the two of us, though I do almost all of the nighttime parenting. I get all of Pickles’ clothes and things, and we splitt up paperwork and doctor’s visits and the like. And STILL if there is an emergency/I am about to go postal there is always someone around that I can ask to look after Pickles for a second. They aren’t areas collective living could help with much, and yet the collective’s presence provides a sort of safety net that makes it all just a little easier.
Looks like its collective living for the win.
i don’t want to do the fucking dishes (equality in relationships)
The Beard and I have made a deal. I can hardly believe my luck.
I am in charge of the laundry. I wash it all, I dry it all, and I put it all (excepting the Beard’s clothes) away. In exchange, he does all of the dishes.
I haven’t washed a dish in 16 months.
Once you (you being, in this case, a member of a hetero man/lady couple) have a child it is so easy to slip into traditional gender roles. Duder goes to work, lady stays home mothering. Fuck that. Our jobs—both being incredibly flexible—have kept us out of that trap from the beginning. These days I work two days a week while the Beard is at home with Pickles, and he works 24- and 48-hour shifts several times a month while I stay home with Pickles. I feel really lucky to have figured out a job/home situation that works so well for us.
And. Have you ever heard this story? Duder is at work all day and is SO ANNOYED at how his wifey is always telling him about this boring and gross baby stuff (and side note: how come this is always a hetero story? how come I never read this story in the context of a same-sex couple? Are they way better at equality or are they just not getting media time?). I read about this situation sometimes on the internets, and I worried that it would become my story. I even sometimes felt like we were already there when I was pregnant and just wanted to talk babybabybabybaby, and the Beard didn’t seem particularly interested.
Well. Besides the fact that actually meeting Pickles has made him incredibly interested in all of it, there is now the fact that we both spend an equal amount of time parenting her alone. Which means that questions of sleep and poop and meals and teething and every teeny tiny developmental milestones are equally interesting to both of us.
Maybe that duder who is bored hearing about his kids doesn’t even really exist (I mean how could you not find your own personal genetic experiment totally fascinating? I can’t imagine it). But even so, I am happy to not be married to one of them, and I think that splitting child care in this way contributes to the fact.
But the dishes. Household chores were getting stupid around here. They were getting done, but there was only one of us doing them. And that person was the Beard. (I still revel in the fact that this happening was even possible. At least gender roles in hetero relationships have come that far.) At first it was because I could barely even walk after the c-section. Then it was because Baby Pickles spent most of her waking hours nursing, and most of her sleeping hours on top of me. (She was one of those babies who you could never put down. It woke her up immediately. This never really bothered me, but damn. It doesn’t leave you with a lot of time to do housework. Or anything at all. Besides reading. Good thing I’m into that.)
Eventually it just became habit as Pickles has become more and more independent, and the Beard and I were slowly able to start dividing up the child care responsibilities more evenly. But we didn’t renegotiate the rest of the household chores until about a month ago, when after spending a couple of weeks feeling guiltly about all the things he was doing that were making my life easier, I suggested the deal. He was into it. He doesn’t like doing laundry. I do. (Sort of.)
I still can’t believe my luck.
Did the balance between you and your partner change after having a child?
a life in the day
Repetition becomes habit becomes tapestry. I remember a life without Pickles in the vague sort of way that one remembers a dream. It is vivid at first, weird, meaningful, maybe even interesting, but slowly fades into obscurity. Must not have been that interesting after all.
Definition Morgenmuffel: Not a morning person. Definition Morgenmuffel: Baby Pickles. Her roving hand keeps me half awake for the hour she she spends after 6 am, eyes closed, nursing and rolling and feeling around, nursing and rolling and feeling around. When she does wake up, sun shines from her face. One of the sweetest parts of co-sleeping with kids is waking up next to that sort of smile. (Also: The part where you never have to get up and move from the bed in order to get a woken baby back to sleep. That part may or may not be even better. The jury is still out on my priorities there.)
I stay horizontal for as long as I can while she toddles around the bed. She nurses. If the Beard is home she would throw herself onto his chest and he would pull her beneath the blanket to spoon for the moment’s patience she still has for laying down. He was not home this morning, so after 20 minutes I rolled myself out of bed to get Pickles some milk and me some coffee. Mmm coffee. She hops around on the bed and floor while I click around the internet for a few minutes. Then we both slip into rubber boots for the walk to the bathroom where I have to hide all the toilet brushes before setting her down to play semi-attended for the few minutes we’ll spend there. I always forget to bring along the laundry that I should be shoving into the washer.
After the usual morning dance (getting dressed, new diaper, teeth, hair, face), I load up the bike trailer (snacks, water, rain coats, tools for fixing flats, baby, toys) and pedaled north. I want to go for a ride—with the Beard at work staying home alone with Pickles can get a bit dull—and so pick a friend’s house as a destination. Wandering no longer suits me. Time has become too precious. A bike ride always means time just for me, with Pickles in the back playing notes on a tiny plastic keyboard, time for long naps (hers), and it makes up for the time I might have spent at the gym had the Beard been home to watch her himself. But a destination is necessary to get me out the door.
We arrive after almost two hours on the road, and my friend’s dog is barking, her son in tears. One of those mornings. But eventually our kids settle into entertaining each other, running back and forth across the apartment, passing toy cars back and forth, and we can sit and chat, almost uninterrupted. Add a social element to child care, and it is immediately, infinitely easier. This is where the village comes in. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a village to keep a parent. I will never understand why our culture promotes the isolation of the nuclear family. It’s not making anything easier on anybody.
After lunch I rush back to my bike, hoping to make it home in time for a neighbor to take Pickles for a walk. But it is only my second time riding this route (the first being that very morning), and I still have to stop and look at the map, still make a few wrong turns. I miss my neighbor, and we get home in an hour, too late. Pickles opens her eyes just as we are rounding the path before our Wagen. It is almost 3 pm.
It rains, and I am relieved to have a reason to stay inside. We sing songs (me: singing, Pickles: starting to muddily mimic the movements that go with the words of Twinkle Twinkle and Wind the Bobbin Up), and when Pickles becomes absorbed in removing and inserting a handful of objects into a cup, I read (Unnatural Creatures edited by Neil Gaiman). When she needs my full attention, I put on an audio book (Sabriel by Garth Nix). If I don’t keep something playing, keep my brain somehow stimulated, I get bored of play time faster than you can say Abhorsen. I occasionally flit back to my computer, set up on the dresser, for a quick click around the internet.
Hunger follows, and dinner, which I cook in the kitchen Wagen with Pickles doing laps up and down the room. We eat in the red Wagen after I mop down the rain-wet high chair. We usually eat outside. Pickles eats attentively, her breath even and audible as it always is when she is concentrating. Bratwurst and mashed sweet potatoes (you know you live in Germany when…) disappear into her mouth, and I think of my parents asking me if I had a hollow leg the way I used to put away food as a kid.
Back into rubber boots we walk in circles around the property, following cats, stomping in puddles, going up and down a ramp, until suddenly Pickles is whiny and surly. I sweep her off to home, slip her into a thick diaper and pajamas, and within four minutes of laying down to nurse, she is asleep. I read until I can hold my eyes open no longer, and then I join her, her arm draped across my ribs, pressed together beneath two blankets.