white to brown to green

It won’t be long now until we’re running around giddy with short sleeves.  The snow has melted.  Mud season is upon us.  Goodbye, snow.  Goodbye, winter!  Good riddance.

As soon as the mud is gone we can haul our new Wagen here.  Then the Franken-building can begin.  Oo la la.  I still get all drooly at the thought of not having to go outside to get to the kitchen, next winter.  And secretly, I have been coveting wood stoves.  For cooking and for heating water.  (If you’d like an eyeful, head over to my Pinterest board “our next tiny house: kitchen inspiration”.)  Kitchen porno.

In twelve days Baby Pickles will turn one.  Does it mean I should start calling her Toddler Pickles?  That doesn’t have a very nice ring to it, so I suppose just Pickles will have to do.  When I was pregnant I dreamt that she was born a raccoon, and she has now entered a raccoon stage—the mischievous look, getting into everything, being chased out of the garbage can with a hardened tortellini teetering in front of her mouth.

She loves playing with cards and putting caps onto bottles.  She gets angry when I take my cell phone away, but she also gets over it quickly.  She stands and siddles along the furniture—has even taken two (separate) steps on her own—but is not walking yet.  She eats everything with abandon—except for mustard and lettuce.  She signs milk (post on baby sign language coming soon) like a boss, but means milk, water, nursing, or food when she does it.  We can’t be sure, but she may have said mama, papa, and cat.  She loves cats and books and waving to the Beard and I from the window.

Wagenplatz is going to be an awesome place for her to grow up.


Thursday February 07th 2013, 9:00 am 4 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,gorilla parent (year one),wagenplatz

cloth diaper diary: eleven months

Finally. A black diaper. I had put them on the registry, but they were sold out. Most companies don’t even offer a black option.  Too metal?  Too goth?  Too morbid?  Apparently.  A lot of people have an aversion to putting babies in black.  But me, I like black.  It matches everything, and it doesn’t show stains.  I for one think that black-shod booty up there is absolutely adorable.

The diaper in the picture is our latest, ehem, booty from BabyKicks.  It is their Premium Pocket Diaper, with a velcro closure, and I was so relieved when it came in the mail.  Baby Pickles is going through a squirmy stage, and she won’t stay still for long enough to get a diaper on her lying down.  That means all her diapers need to be snuck on while she’s standing.  Prefolds are completely out of the picture.  Snap closures are good, but you have to be fast.  Velcro is the perfect solution for the squirms.  The downside is that Pickles can take off a velcro diaper herself when I’m not looking and pee all over the carpet, but as long as I remember to snap her onie closed at the crotch, it’s all good.

Though the FuzziBunz diapers are growing on me, now that the squirms have made them the most viable diapers in our collection, the diaper pictured above has become my favorite very quickly.  Besides loving the color and the velcro closure, it came with a hemp insert (have I raved enough about hemp inserts?  they are cloth miracles.  MIRACLES).  One hundred points for BabyKicks.  And another hundred points for the fact that they make all of their diapers with natural fibers.  This one has a Bamboo Velour lining.  It is the kind of thing you just want to rub all over your face.  When we first got it we may or may not have all wore it briefly on our heads.  Ehem.

This diaper in particular has one feature that I am still iffy about: the fleece leg gusset.  So instead of waterproof fabric along Pickles’ leg, there is breathable fleece.  This is lovely in theory, and, I imagine, very comfortable.  I bet it’s particularly good for babes who get diaper rash a lot.  Once the diaper is full, however, the wet starts to soak through the fleece.  But seeing as most diapers start to leak at the leg when they are totally full, it doesn’t phase me much.  I’d gladly trade a little extra comfort and air for a reason to remember to change her diaper before its full to flooding.

What totally amazed me, and made me a little sad that I didn’t discover BabyKicks products until well into Pickles’ life, is that you can fold these diapers over and BAM they suddenly fit newborns.  I haven’t been able to try it myself, but I mean, shit, how smart right?  (If you have no idea what I mean, watch the video below.  I didn’t understand at first either.)  One of the main issues I have with FuzziBunz One Sizers is that they simply didn’t fit right for ages and ages (too big, mad leaky).  But this option makes the BabyKicks Pocket Diapers feel like they are truly one-size-for-life.

As for the rest of our cloth diaper collection, the squirms have really cut a number of favorites out of the running (and less diapers equals doing laundry more often meh). I always liked prefolds, but can only use one when I change Pickles while she is drinking a bottle. (Instead I’ve been using them as inserts for the other pocket diapers.)  The Kissaluvs, which also used to be a favorite and which I liked to use to keep things dry at night, no longer stay on.  I have no idea why.  I put them on, and they slip all crazy, and I end up sleeping in a puddle of pee (mothering is glamorous, eh?).  It could be a Snappi issue.  Maybe.  The GroVias finally fit well, but they need to be changed more quickly than most of our others.

Some information you should have: The folks at BabyKicks send me diapers I need in exchange for my writing reviews.  The opinions are my own, however.  Most of the links on this post will take you to amazon, where you can look at a picture of what I’m talking about.  If you happen to buy the item through my link, I get a little cut.  Also: if you are in Germany and want to buy BabyKicks or any other cloth diapers, this is the place.  Those people are not paying or trading me anything to say that, but a number of folks have asked about where to get this stuff in Germany.  Most cities have at least one nice hippy mama/papa store too, though they tend toward brands like Popolini and don’t have most of the diaper brands I’m always going on about.

Monday January 28th 2013, 9:00 am 3 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,daily life,gorilla parent (year one)

the walking dead (but not the show)

If you were to count all of the days of your life that you had spent sick in bed, how much would it add up to? I reckon at least a year. The Beard read an article claiming three. Either way it is a depressing thought. Not counting years spent in bed dying of things like cancer. Just counting the common colds. If you could get it all out of the way in one year, would you? I like to get unpleasant things out of the way all at once, but a year of the common cold, of stuffy noses and sneezes and coughs and restless nights might be more than I can take. There are only so many tissues in the world.

Every single time I get sick I lament the way I never remember to fully appreciate the times when I am healthy. “The next time you hear me complaining about something,” I told the Beard a few nights ago, “please just remind me that at least I can breath through my nose.”  So, despite the fact that I am still not feeling like I’m made of animated tissue, today I am at least happy to have the use of my nostrils.

Baby Pickles caught my cold after three days, which has certainly played a part in the creation of my undead flesh.  She is usually such a peaceful baby, such a “good sleeper” as the kids’ parents say.  Now we know what it would be like if she was not.  Now we know what it would be like if she woke up once an hour screaming and had to be walked around the room to get back to sleep.  Now we know how a whole lot of other parents feel for the first six plus months of their children’s lives.  Sometimes I wonder how it is possible that we humans came to have a population problem.

After three days of sniffling and very mild fever, we were expecting her to get better.  Instead her fever shot up through the roof on day four, chasing us off to the pediatrics emergency room at the hospital.  It didn’t feel like an emergency room emergency (which I usually imagine involving lost limbs and heart attacks and, you know, serious splatter shit), but after 1 pm on a Friday, there is no one else to call until Monday morning.  After a surprisingly pleasant visit (we only waited ten minutes!) we were told that, besides having a mean cold, there was nothing wrong with Pickles (whew), and that we just needed to keep giving her lots of fluids and waiting it out.

So we are, and it seems to be working, but the mornings are getting harder and harder, and if this lasts for much longer, Pickles is going to have to start changing her diapers and lighting the wood stove herself, while the Beard and I lay prostrate in bed, babbling and drooling and munching on brains.


Sunday December 16th 2012, 1:41 pm 3 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,daily life,gorilla parent (year one)

cloth diaper diary: nine months

Baby Pickles has now been out of the pen longer than she was in it.  The period that some people think of as “out of womb gestation” is now complete.  I guess I can pack up her stuff and send her off to college then.  Don’t forget your cloth diapers, honey!  Oh.  Diapers.  Guess she’s going to be living here for another couple of years.

laundry be damned

Nine months of Baby Pickles, nine months of cloth diapers, and at least 60,000 bajillion million loads of laundry.  Roughly.  There was a brief period when I was fed up with the laundry.  It was just never fucking finished.  I did a load, I hung it up, and while it was hanging there drying in slow fucking motion, more diapers were being dirtied.  By the time I was ready to do the next load, the first load might even have been dry and ready to put away.  Yeah right.  But, despite some laundry burn out, my cloth-diaper verdict remains positive.

In part this is because of something that happened about a month ago: a new neighbor offered us the use of his dryer.  Usually I’m not down with dryers but we had two huge sacks of tiny wet bits of cloth and no where to hang them so I figured, why the hell not?  And, wow.  Suddenly, the laundry actually gets done, as in completely finished, all in one day.  Suddenly there are entire days, sometimes even two or three, when I don’t have to think about wash at all.  I never thought I would be so enamoured with an electricity waster like a dryer but I am so thankful for the opportunity to use one right now that I could weep.  I look forward to returning to my oh-so-green-fuck-dryers stance when Pickles is out of diapers, but until then I’ll be writing the dryer’s name on my notebook cover with pink swirly hearts.

With a dryer, the cloth diaper experience has changed completely.  Because diapers that have been washed can go directly back onto the shelf instead of hanging around wet and useless for a couple of days, we don’t need all of our extensive collection.  (We did when we were air drying, and we could use even more for travel, however.)  So, a word to buyers: consider your dryer situation when figuring out how many diapers to buy.  If you have a dryer, you will be able to get by with far less than you’ve ever dreamed.

meet the diapers

The last time I did a cloth diaper run down Baby Pickles was three weeks old.  I was still pretty enamoured with all our gear, despite the fact that we had a lot of leaks due to sizing.  I still love one-size-fits-all cloth, but with almost ten months of experience to analyze, I am now retrospectively a bit disappointed in their performance (due to fit) when Pickles was still pickle-sized.  They are all fitting a hell of a lot better these days, and distinct preferences have emerged.

It turns out that I kind of sort of don’t love FuzziBunz (which, strangely, are the Beard’s favorites in our collection), and I kind of really really totally love Happy Heinys (and not just because they were the company with the glow-in-the-dark-skull print, but also because I like their particular size changing snapping system).  The GrowVias finally fit and don’t immediately begin leaking all over the place, and are also incredibly cute (see picture above), though I wouldn’t buy them again, at least not with the expectation that they will work from birth on.  Prefolds are still awesome and the most flexible of all when it comes to fit (and Snappis the best cloth diaper invention fucking ever), though now that Pickles has entered an extremely squirmy stage, I find it damn near impossible to get one on her.  With the all-in-one-diapers (ie the cloth diapers that have snaps or velcro and work just like a disposable minus the environmental havoc) I can put one on her while she’s standing, which is often the only way to avoid a scream fest.  Oh, and I totally, totally heart Kissaluvs, though they don’t get around the squrim factor and require a diaper cover and whoops we now only have one and half because I accidentally set one on fire.

hemp, not just for insulating your home

I have also become totally obsessed with hemp.  Seriously.  Miracle fabric.  Could absorb a pitcher of beer.  (Though I haven’t actually tested this, someone should lift the idea for a hemp insert advertising campaign.)   Nighttime is the hardest test of a cloth diaper.  Even religious users of the cloth sometimes go disposable at night.  But I 1. refuse to purchase the fucking things and 2. refuse to get out of bed at night to change diapers, so I have instead found cloth with super powers.  I have a couple of hemp inserts from a company called BabyKicks, and they are kidney-shaped miracles.  KIDNEY-SHAPED MIRACLES.  And yes, I had to shout that.  What I used to do is put a hemp insert and two or three regular terry inserts in a pocket diaper.  Then I would top it off with a wool soaker (ie wool diaper-like pants).  No waking up in uncomfortable, gross puddles of pee.  No pee-related waking up at all.  Yes!  When you’re fighting for every hour of sleep, you take what you can get, you know?

These days, Pickles doesn’t fit into her wool soaker anymore, so I just put two of these hemp inserts in a prefold with a cover.  Seriously.  JoeyBunz hemp inserts are my cloth diaper super heroes.  If I had more than three and wasn’t rationing them out for nighttime use and could use them during the day, I reckon that I would almost never have to change Pickles’ diaper.  If you know anyone who is or is planning on using cloth diapers who you need to buy a present, get them these.  Right now.  Get them a crate.

Below: Pickles modelling the dubious FuzziBunz.  Though lately I have been warming up to the them a bit.  Maybe their time is coming.  They can look rather adorable, and if the Beard likes ‘em, then, well good.


So BabyKicks. Once upon a time last month we ran out of money. I had been making a list in my head of cloth diaper gear we might need to buy soonish, but oh well.  The list was short: 1. more hemp inserts (see my love letter to hemp inserts above) and 2. new covers for the prefolds (we were down to just one that still fit).  Then the universe stepped in, as it often does if you have your radar tuned accordingly, and I found two diaper covers at a flea market for 50 cents a piece (I think the seller must have gone mad, those things are not cheap) and a notice on facebook that BabyKicks was looking for “ambassadors.”

I followed the notice to an application form.  In exchange for writing about their products around the internet a little bit each month, they would give their so-called “ambassadors” cloth diaper paraphernalia.  That was when I discovered that my favorite hemp inserts were from BabyKicks (had never even noticed the label on them before), and that I happened to have a lot of very good things to say about them already.  I applied, assuming I’d have about as much luck as I do in the diaper contests constantly happening on the internet (leave a comment and like a million things on facebook to enter only to never ever win anything ever! bah!).  But I was wrong.  And soon there will be more hemp inserts on our shelf and new diapers to try out (all of BabyKicks products are full of hemp! nomnomdrool), all because I quite like rambling on about things like cloth diapers on the internet.  Huzzah!

And now, in conclusion, I will leave you in a hurry, robbed of the time to come up with a snappy ending by the fact that Pickles is teething and seems to have caught my cold.  Sigh.  At least we’ve got her backside covered.

Thursday December 13th 2012, 9:00 am 8 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,daily life,gorilla parent (year one)

the old woman and the sea (of paperwork) or, advanced parenting in germany

Every since Baby Pickles arrived I have felt like I’m being buried alive.  Letters, forms, papers, confirmations, more forms, more forms, and more fucking forms.  Welcome to parenthood in Germany.  Not so pleased to meet you, but thanks for the mad cash that you keep telling us we will someday get for working on your shrinking population problem.  (“Problem.”)

I suck at paperwork.  Though I vaguely enjoy filling out forms in a sort of obsessive compulsive way, I have trouble filling them out and getting them to the post office on time because at the end of the day I just don’t care.  Taxes, registering my address, getting visas—how do people manage to give enough fucks to get this shit done before the very last second?  At least some of Pickles’ paperwork will result in money in the bank, but still, paperwork is paperwork is hell, and I always procrastinate getting to the post office for as long as possible, and I am very, very good at forgetting things.

The paperstorm began immediately after Pickles’ was born.  Her birth certificates could be picked up at the Standesamt, we had been told.  We were supposed to pick them up right away, but I could barely walk because I’d just had fucking abdominal surgery you assholes, and duh, we were pretty fucking busy just trying to stay alive those first weeks.  When I finally made it there, they told me that I needed to “order” the birth certificates, and I could pick them up later.  Futile trip to the ugliest building in town!  Thanks Standesamt!

A few weeks later I finally had the honor of taking home a handful of certificates claiming that the Beard and I were, in fact, Pickles’ parents.  (They do this at the hospital in the United States, don’t they?)  A few copies were free, the rest—and you need them for all the other paperwork you are going to have to fill out for your baby and they have to be originals—were ten euros a pop.  Why it costs ten euros to have someone print out and sign a sheet of paper that they were printing a few of at the moment anyway is beyond me.  And the system grinds on. Cha-ching!

Quadruplicates of the birth certificates in hand, we started filling out forms for the health insurance company, which went surprisingly smoothly and resulted in a little pickled insurance card and no further hassles.  Then I filled out the novel of pages of paperwork for her American citizenship, passport, and social security card applications. (None of which we have been able to afford to actually get yet, ho hum.)  The Kindergeld and Elterngeld paperwork, however, (which we really should have filled out months before and sent in the minute Pickles was born, and no I am not kidding) are still coming back to haunt us.

First, let me explain.  Kindergeld is money that the government gives everyone who has a German baby.  So if you have a German baby and live in Germany, you will receive 185 euros per month until said baby is 25 or graduates from college.  After you’ve had a couple kids (each of which will result in an additional 185-euro-per-month check), they raise the bar and you get 205 euros a month and on and on.  Elterngeld is money that the government gives people who are raising German babies so that staying home with a baby is a little less financially daunting.  There is a minimum of 300 euros per month, or you can fill out even more paperwork and get a percent of your previous salary for one year.

These would have been the forms to not procrastinate filling out. Cough cough, shuffle shuffle, blush.  Around month seven I finally got them all in the mail.  Done! I thought.  Soon we’ll have that financial help, I think.  Wohoo! I thought.  And so began the avalanche of letters and further paperwork that I am sitting in as I type this.

We made a few mistakes on the Elterngeld paperwork, only two of which were found initially (another one was found after we sent back the first round of corrections), but at least that only involved a few more checks and a few more signatures.  The Kindergeld people, however, have just written to tell me that I need something called a Haushaltsbescheinigung, aka a paper that has been stamped and signed by the people at the Bürgeramt.  What that means in plain English is that I have to go to an office in Mainz to have a stranger sign a paper saying that, yes, the Beard, Baby Pickles and I all live in the same house.  Couldn’t we just send them one of the other hundreds of pieces of paper we have had to fill out to prove that we live at the same address (which we had to provide for my visa after our marriage)?  Without the extra trip to one of their rings of hell?  Couldn’t the fucking German bureaucrats just pick up the fucking phone and communicate with each other—or better yet, have a computer system do it for them? As usual in my encounters with German public offices, I find myself tearing at my hair.*

The positive side of all this is that we might really be another few days closer to getting our monthly “thank you for breeding” money, which we could really use right now.  I really appreciate that the country tries to support parents, particularly since they changed the laws so that both mamas or papas could apply for Elterngeld for taking on the majority of the kid responsibility.  Still, I do wish it was all a little easier.  If everyone is entitled to Kindergeld, then why don’t they automate the process through the reports of birth, send parents something to sign in confirmation, and cut a bunch of people who are struggling with one of the busiest, most chaotic events in their lives a fucking break from all the forms?  Have you ever tried filling out paperwork with a baby on your lap?  I have.  And while I was annoyed at having to get a new set of forms, I have to admit that I understood why she wanted to rip them all to shreds.

*Yesterday I was informed that the reason that these offices don’t communicate is actually one of data protection.  It is illegal, for example, for the police to just go to all these offices and get all the info they have on you there without your permission.  Good call.  Though in this case I wish I could just sign something allowing them to do it in this situation.

Also: All the paperwork is done and sent in!  Now to wait and see what we’ve fucked up on it this time…

Thursday December 06th 2012, 9:00 am 9 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,expat life,germany,gorilla parent (year one)

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.

Thursday October 25th 2012, 12:35 pm 13 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,daily life,gorilla parent (year one)

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, ugh

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.

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?

Tuesday October 02nd 2012, 12:39 pm 13 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,germany,gorilla parent (year one)

to breed or not to breed

To reproduce or not to reproduce, that is the question.  Many decide for and many decide against and many have the decision taken out of their hands entirely, one way or another, and somehow it manages to be difficult no matter which road you’re on.  Since bringing Baby Pickles into the world, a number of friends have asked me questions about what it’s really like living with a baby to help them with their own decisions.  In writing an email on the subject recently, it occured to me that many of the thoughts were ones I would like to share here.  So I’ve taken some of my emails on the subject and edited them for your eyes.  I would love to hear if any of you with kids experience any of this in the same way or what those thinking about having or not having them are taking into account.


Babies! Having kids is a totally insane/amazing mixture of the absolute best of times and the absolute worst of times. It’s absolutely awesome—and the good times make the bad times totally irrelevant and forgotten—but still. I don’t like to gloss over the fact that it’s not all rainbows and kittens and lollipops. That being said I think just about everybody can handle way more than they ever imagined, and that is another of the fantastic amazing fuck-yeah parts about having kids. You get to find out what a superhero you secretly were all along.

So. To have ‘em or not to have ‘em?  I know part of my own wanting kids is this sad twinge I get when I think about growing old without kids directly in my life.  On my dad’s side we have this awesome family group, not too big and not too small, and I really just love the whole family dynamic and family thing. Living so far away from them all, I figured that if I wanted a family thing in my life, I would have to make my own.  DIY!  Hahaha.

What I fucking love, and what takes up the majority of the baby time now is just how frickin fascinating this little person is. Yesterday I had one of those moments—and I have them quite often—when I look at her and just can’t believe that she could possibly be real.  And I said to her, “Hey look Pickle, you’re a little person! How did you do that?” Kids just fill your life with constant magic. I’m convinced that they are still capable of the magic that we all could do if civilization wasn’t filling us up with other thoughts and aspirations, with computer skills and insurance bills and retirement plans, and it is so wonderful and beautiful and fulfilling to be allowed to spend just about every minute of every day in the presence of that magic.  I feel like it brings some of my own magic back to me.

I would love to tell you its totally easy and all, and it has been mostly with Pickles, and it totally can be. But I don’t want to say that, not really, since everything will depend on who your baby is. Mine happens to be pretty low key, and she fits easily into our lives.  But I have friends with high-needs babies who are a lot different than Pickles, so I don’t want to be all like all babies are easy! Some babies are easy, and I think babies in general aren’t hard in the way that mainstream culture likes to act like they are—as if they ruin your life and trap you and make you boring or all the sitcom stereotypes.  Babies who are “hard” just tend to need a lot, and as the fulfiller of those needs, you need more too.  And then you discover that your well of patience actually goes way deeper than you ever imagined, or you hand your baby off to a partner or friend and are warmly, happily reminded of the beauty and neccessity of community.

The day to day taking care of a baby (though I can only speak up to six months) isn’t hard at all, just a new pattern to get used to.  Diaper changes, feedings, and always planning for your tiny and constant companion.  I personally felt really ready for kids in that I felt like my life had already come round to a place where the things I wanted to do were all things that were possible with a baby and the things that I didn’t want to do were the things that don’t fit so well with having a baby. But traveling and making art and music? Perfect kid stuff.  All the stuff that isn’t so easy with kids is kind of lame anyway. Like drinking a lot all the time and then being hungover the next day. Fuck that.

Right now I’m sitting on one side of the Wagen typing, and the Beard and Baby Pickles are on the bed playing banjo.  We trade Pickles back in forth in rhythm with each of our creativities. The Beard plays the babe music while I sit and type and so on.  I do find it really hard to get time to write however, so far, and I think (hope) this will change with age.  You just become so interruptible, particularly when you are still exclusively breast feeding, and I tend to need time to get into the flow of the words.  A lot of times I will sit down to write and get interrupted before I find that flow or just after.

At the same time i feel like having Baby Pickles has just made my priorities so much easier to sort out, which in turn creates more space for my art.  When I have time I really get shit done, and when she needs me I just ignore everything else and enjoy being with her. Whenever things feel hard I just think about how short this time of her life is and how fucking cute she is even when she’s inconsolable (though that happens rarely with her, luckily). Making music is a lot easier, and I envy the Beard a bit for being able to do his passion with Pickles.  It is pretty boring to sit and watch someone type.

You asked if it changed our relationship: Oh hell yeah, but in all sorts of really good ways. Also totally not like the stereotype of mainstream kidness you hear about.  We have been way more lovey dove since. It is really fucking amazing to watch your partner be a parent, and it totally makes you all crush on each other all over again.  Bringing a baby into the world feels like doing magic, and casting a spell that complex and amazing can bind you together tighter than you ever imagined was possible.

Tuesday September 04th 2012, 2:17 pm 6 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,daily life,gorilla parent (year one)

internet faux pas, moving, dumpster diving, and archery

The weather is perfect.  I love the start of fall.  The outdoors are a’calling (as are a bajillion things that I need to do to my Wagen before winter), and I find little time for blogging.  Perhaps I should take a page from the speed dating book.  A few updates in fifteen minutes or less…

Umm, sorry about that hiccup where the website was suddenly gone.  Whoops. If you tried to come by Click Clack Gorilla the past two days and found scary ugly nothingness, I apologize.  I was a day late paying the renewal fees for my domain name.  This is the second time I have let this happen (though the first time I was traveling, and it took me a long time to notice and an even longer time to get things fixed), and thank frickin cod that nobody seems to be lurking around waiting to scoop up www.clickclackgorilla.com because I renewed and now things are working again.  Having to give that up would be incredibly sad.  Anyway.

We are finally fucking moving.  Like maybe tomorrow.  I had become completely unmotivated again, in all things related to the move.  Then this morning the Beard gets this text message: “We could move both Wägen tomorrow, the baby Wagen Thursday.”  Holy shit!  I felt like springing into action.  “Let’s do it!”  That was me.  “No frickin’ way!”  That was the Beard.  We are hoping to be able to settle on this weekend, if our moving guy can do it then too.  Could be that the next time I write to you, our wheels are settled firmly on Hessen soil.  Fucking finally.  This waiting and preparing has dragged on far too long already for my taste.

Baby Pickles just discovered that she has hair.  Now she is no longer limited to pulling on my hair or the Beard’s beard.  Stroke, grab, pull, stroke, grab, pull.  However, she doesn’t seem to mind when she pulls her own hair out, so I guess this won’t be a lesson in why not to pull my hair.  She also can sit pretty well.  And eat like eating is the same as sloppily putting on make-up.  Peach face! Peaches are by far her favorite.  Soon we’re going to need to get another sack of clothes.  Banana baby!

I did my first dumpster dive with baby!  I felt so proud.  On a walk to get Pickles settled one evening I happened upon a pile of wood that would be lovely for some trim I need to do on my Wagen exterior, and for building stairs.  The following evening I strapped Pickles on, put a little seat for her in a bike trailer, and walked over to get it.  While I pulled useful boards out of the pile, Pickles sat in her chair in the shade and watched.  The boards were a bit long for the trailer, which prevented me from taking as many as I could have used, but damn was I happy to get some decent scavenging done with the baby in tow. I’m going to be even happier to put them to use.

I finally read Dies the Fire. Which other PA (that’s “post-apocalypse” folks) lit fans have been recommending all over the internet for ages. While it is not literature, not even close, it is a great story, and I am obsessed.  Maybe even OBSESSED.  Good thing S.M. Stirling made it a trilogy, and then wrote a six book series in the same world that takes place a generation later. It is making me both want to write a really long review (coming once I finish the trilogy) and to take up archery. Oh my.

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