Week 1 in verbs

I feel like trying a new thing. (Not a new concept in blogging, far from it, just new for me.) It may well not last, but I’m trying it. A nice, nerdy, brief list of the week’s stuff. More for me than for you, frankly, because isn’t blogging all about the narcissism?

This week I have been:

Reading Kate Atkinson’s Started Early, Took My Dog. A Jackson Brodie book. I love these, even though I’m not much of a crime fan. This one’s a bit of a slow burner so far (140 pages in) but enjoyable. (I recently read Life After Life, which was brilliant and miserable and compelling and unsatisfying and I’m really not quite sure how I feel about it. Hoping for a better/simpler result this time.)

Knitting Armin’s Christmas socks (not finished by Christmas, nor even by year-end, but at least by the end of the holidays) – Furlough, no pics yet – followed by a simple, boring knit for me: a loop to keep my head and neck and possibly chin warm when running. Finished last night, now making matching mitts. Pics and hopefully pattern to come.

Working on assorted personal/household organisey sort of things. I had a long list at the start of the hols, and frankly have done a bit better than expected, though obviously not nearly finished.

Visiting the zoo; Armin took some rather nice pics. None of which are of the famous penguin parade, which was cute but oversubscribed, or the very impressive rainforest (it was getting dark by then). Or the gorillas. I’m not sure why. The gorillas were great (babies playing!). We’re looking forward to going back, with more snacks next time so that Elfling doesn’t get fed up so quickly. Anyway, the zoo is awesome. Gorgeous location, gorgeous design, gorgeous animals.

Spending Christmas vouchers (the Glatt shopping centre issues them in the form of delightfully heavy gold coins in velvet bags!), on a soundplate for our TV/Bluray player (also our only source of music in the lounge). Nice!

Watching The last of Game of Thrones, Great Gatsby, Pacific Rim and the start of Breaking Bad. Which is almost more than the sum total of all the TV we’ve watched since moving to CH, and not likely to be maintained at anything like this level.

And today husky sledding! Surprise actual item of note at the end there. Just to test if you’re still awake. I set this up ages ago, for a planned article in the magazine that probably no longer exists. Went ahead and did it despite the imminent demise of said publication, because (a) might be able to sell it to another publication, and (b) some evidence exists of straws, for grasping at. Anyway. Huskies! Are awesome.

2013: that was the year that was

In his Christmas card, FIL congratulated us on a “fulminanten Start” to our life in Switzerland. It struck me as an interesting choice of words. However, auf Deutsch, fulminant apparently doesn’t quite mean what it does in English: think “tremendous” or “brilliant”, rather than explosive to the point of lethality.

I think I’ll keep it, though. It’s hard to think of an English word that fits. I’d have to go with: 2013 has been a hell of a year. Neither good nor bad, exactly; just… hard. I feel like I should be describing it as a fantastic year, because all the things in it were greatly to be desired and basically awesome… but hard. Let’s break it down, shall we?

Thing 1. New baby!
Shock factor: Very low. Nine months to get used to the idea, not counting previous preparations.
Desired? Very much.
Challenge factor: High. Have you met babies? High. Even though he’s remarkably unchallenging, as babies go (or was until we moved, which totally broke his sleep), that’s still high on any other scale.
Long-term outlook: Excellent. Espesh as he’s sleeping again.

Thing 2. Switzerland!
Shock factor: Moderate. Hoped for, but a long time coming, and not entirely expected to happen at last.
Desired? Very much, though with some ambivalence from at least one of the family (*ahem Armin ahem struggles with change ahem ahem*).
Challenge factor: Very, very, very high, certainly for the first few months (but getting easier). Mostly because of Thing 1, but also because language, and, well, stuff. Challenging.
Long-term outlook: Excellent, though still with some ambivalence, see above.

Thing 3. New job!
Shock factor: High. Absolutely did not expect to get a job so quickly, especially not such an interesting one.
Desired? Very much.
Challenge factor: Quite high. Childcare arrangements were complicated; steep on-the-job learning curve, also, but in the best way.
Long-term outlook: Well. See Thing 4.

Thing 4. Job disappeared!
Shock factor: Moderate. Closure of the magazine was more or less expected from the start, but it still happened a bit more suddenly than we’d hoped (right before Christmas).
Desired? Not at all.
Challenge factor: Moderately low. It’s really disappointing, but doesn’t imply too much damage in practical terms (ie salary vs childcare costs; and Elf will of course be thrilled to have me home full-time again). But… really disappointing.
Long-term outlook: Well, I’m in a stronger position now than I was before taking the job, skills-wise etc. But potential employers are a small and shrinking pool. So, not great.

See: only the last one can be said to be at all badand even that hardly counts as a thing because of the shakiness of Thing 3 from the start. Overall it’s all bloody excellent. But… it’s been a remarkably exhausting year.

Still. Foundations and all that. From here on things can only get better (with the possible exception of my career, but I was never exactly ambitious anyway). We are where we want to be, in more ways than one, and ready to climb further.

Maybe we’ll just rest a little tiny bit first. I wouldn’t mind a chance just to catch my breath. 2014, do you think you could manage to be just a tiny bit… boring?

Awesome.

5 things (with shiny newness)

1. Elf started kindergarten last week. It’s been a long, long time coming; of course in London she went to preschool two (full) days a week, so since May she’s been cooling her heels at home with mommy and getting a bit stir crazy. Not to mention lonely. I was a bit worried that the start might be difficult none the less, what with language difficulties and all. I shouldn’t have worried.  Image

2. I bought a sewing machine. The impetus for this was that my old machine – formerly my MIL’s, and state of the art about 30 years ago – decided it couldn’t be bothered winding bobbins properly any more, and I have curtains to hem. Arguably, I could/should have just figured out how to fix the bobbin problem, but frankly? As nice as that machine is, I was itching to choose my very own.

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I have this fond notion that an up-to-date sewing machine might actually make it easier/more fun for me to sew. And since I have this lifelong love/hate thing with sewing (would love to, in theory, hate it in practice), well… got to give it a fair shot, right? At the very least I’ll have hemmed curtains.

3. Switzerland seems to be remarkably good for me in an unexpected way: I’ve been losing weight steadily. When we arrived I was back to my pre-Dude weight, but now I’m 10kg lighter than that – which is lighter than I’ve been in a loooong time, although still far from skinny (or even from what I once considered my “normal chubby” size). I don’t know what gets the credit; something in the water? Altitude? The natural effects of pushing a pram around bumpy farm and forest roads, plus a weekly run? Whatever it is, I feel great. (Got muscle tone, not just less pudge.) But I need new clothes. It’s a happy problem, but still a problem: apart from the lack of cash, I don’t know where to find the clothes I like (no Monsoon!), and I don’t have time to shop. Curses. (Not a lot of charity shops here, either.)

4. Nanny starts tomorrow, with a couple of settling in days before I start my job next week. We really like her. But it feels extremely strange (and impoverishing) to be a household with a nanny. No word of exaggeration: all my pay, after deductions, goes straight to her.* Whose idea was it to have two kids, anyway?!

5. We had a date on Friday. A date! We left the house and everything!** Such awesomeness. And get this: Elf wants to know when we’re going out again, because she’d really like Grosspapi to come babysit some more. 

That could maybe possibly be arranged. 

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* Luckily I’m pretty clear on my motivation for working (things like integrating better/faster in my new country, and oh yes I’m going completely nuts at home), so I can sort of almost reconcile myself to this state of affairs. There’s also the long term to consider. I keep reading about how important it is for mothers to get back to work because of the the huge impact of long career gaps on long-term earning potential etc etc, and frankly these articles always focus on terribly high-flying women who aren’t so easy to relate to. (And check out this great response that points out the obvious: these choices usually aren’t real choices. Amazingly enough, mine is.) I’m not that ambitious and am never going to save or run the world. My chances of a six-figure salary are similarly slight. But still: there’s going to be an impact on my future if I just stay home. 
** “Everything” meaning a very rushed supper and then Before Midnight. Which is excellent, though a bit on-the-nose for a couple slap bang in the middle of Die Beschissende Jahre.***
*** Somehow I like this phrase, from the subtitles, better than the rawer English one. It’s going to stay in my personal vocabulary. Incidentally: the verb “vögeln”? Does not mean birding as in birdwatching. Just so you know.

Another day, another medieval village

In the incredibly fat file of “things we never quite get round to”, Going Places is really high on the list. Really high. It’s partly for real, practical reasons like lack of time, but mostly because we’ve never formed the habit (and that in turn has a lot to do with real, practical reasons like lack of time/money – we tend to have one or other, but never both – but mostly disorganisation compounded by hermit tendencies). And yet we always say how much we want to Go Places and Do Stuff. Weird.

Anyway so this weekend we actually did. Yesterday we headed up to a medieval village on the Rhine (and right on the German border) which was having a medieval festival – prime excuse for Elfling to wear her fancy dress, which was excuse enough for me to put it on the calendar. And today, with my dad’s partner visiting, we checked out another medieval village on the Rhine (but not the border, though we did briefly pass through Germany en route).

Not actually Kaiserstuhl, but just opposite it across the Rhine.
Not actually Kaiserstuhl, but just opposite it across the Rhine.

Kaiserstuhl, the lesser known of the two, totally wins. Small and simple as it is, it has charm and landscape and good looks in abundance. Stein am Rhein however… well. In general I’m quite okay with being a tourist among tourists. I’m not proud. If there are fun or pretty or cool things to check out, I will check them out, and naturally I expect to encounter others doing the same. But here, somehow, I found it cloying; I could only really enjoy little corners and details.

Yes yes very lovely ugh.
Yes yes very lovely ugh.

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Maybe it’s just too Disney perfect to start with?

Funny how very picturesque places tend to translate to very boring photos (in my hands at least).
Funny how very picturesque places tend to translate to very boring photos (in my hands at least).

Or maybe it’s just that we didn’t get to go for a swim today… and ending yesterday with a splash at the badi was definitely a highlight. Dude agrees. His swimming lesson put him in an AWESOME mood.

"Yes. I am brilliant. Good of you to notice."
“Yes. I am brilliant. Good of you to notice.”

Anyway. It was a lovely weekend, regardless. Incidentally a highlight of the medifest was this band – check out Armin’s video. Especially if you appreciate hot shirtless men in skirts. (As ever, he has better pics of everything else, too.)

Bagpipes! Drums! Hot shirtless men! Fun for the whole family.
Bagpipes! Drums! Hot shirtless men! Fun for the whole family.

5 things (the late edition)

1. Sleep, knitting, reading, blogging. These, in no particular order, are the things I consider essential to being me. Too much time spent without any of these makes me feel, well, not just not myself – but less than a real person. Just a zombie, a mombot, going through the motions. Of course, time does not allow for me to actually get all of these on a regular basis, so apparently, without planning it, I’ve been rotating. Recently has been the reading+knitting cycle. Sleeping and blogging, not so much. But the reading and knitting were really overdue, and I feel much better now.

2. Elfling starts kindergarten on Monday. Which means WE SURVIVED THE SUMMER. Which is beyond amazing.

3. Two weeks later, I start my new job. There have been some twists in that tale, but for now, the salient points are that (a) I get to be Editor-in-chief, a job title I really didn’t expect (and not what I applied for, insofar as I applied for anything in particular) and am not quite qualified for, but it’s rather a nice thing to put on my CV; and (b) owing to certain uncertainties in the general state of wossname (nothing to do with me personally), the job may not exist for very long, at all – which kind of means I can’t fail. All in all this is the least pressure I can imagine having in starting any job, ever (can’t fail; can’t lose anything because not working to start with; can only learn and have fun), and it’s pretty great that I get to enjoy this absence of pressure when trying out as The Editor. Fancypants title, that.

4. Going into town, which I do rarely but with great enjoyment, is always a little bit bittersweet. On one hand: I really love this city, and getting out there is pure joy. On the other: being in town with pram and Elfling in tow is not exactly the same as being there unencumbered. It fills me with thoughts of how much I’d love to be working in the city (Job is, alas, in Schlieren; not Zurich, and not remotely pretty or interesting), or hanging out there with Armin but without chilluns. Turns out, moving to a new city with small kids is sort of a little bit HUGELY FRUSTRATING. I mean, today quite by accident I stumbled across the hip, up-and-coming, organic-coffee-drinking type quarter of Zurich, which I had no idea was there (or anywhere). It’s so very happening, so now, that (as I later heard) Swiss TV devoted a whole 12-HOUR LIVE FEED to one night there.* Ooh! So happening! So fun! So hard to enjoy when you have two rugrats and an accordingly tight budget!

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Although this particular hip quarter is hip enough to have a very family-friendly little park, with playground, splash pool and overpriced organic cafe. So there’s that.

5. Speaking of fun things found in Zurich: somewhere a fish has lost its bicycle.

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Awww.

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* One has to admit that this does nothing to fight the image of Zurich as a boring city. I mean. A little regeneration and suddenly there’s a 12-hour live feed? Of… some people going to a few bars in a quite nice viaduct? Um, yay Zurich?

5 things (in which Craft is perpetrated)

1. You know how the one bit of advice everybody gives new moms is to sleep whenever baby sleeps and basically ignore everything else… “the housework can wait”? What a piece of crap. I mean yes, sort of. You have to sleep. You can only do it during naps. Having a spotless home is obviously not top priority. But. Well, firstly, some housework can’t wait (unless you quickly want to be forced through good old Mother Necessity to be really creative in the matter of clothing, and for that matter eating). And secondly, a clean house is good for the soul.

I was thinking about that recently because, while we’re still under some stress here and Dude has been giving me hell in the sleep department and all that, we have been absolutely rigid about cleaning the flat thoroughly every weekend. It’s obviously never what we want to be doing with our precious time, and usually it’s pretty hard carving out an opportunity to get it done. But it does get done, and seeing the flat all sparkly and fresh and orderly, ready for another week, enjoying both the sense of peace a tidy home gives and the sense of accomplishment we gain from seeing the proof that we CAN keep things under control despite everything… 

It’s worth more than another hour of sleep. And believe me: an hour of sleep is worth a LOT. But this is worth more.

2. Similarly, every weekend, no matter what, I go for a run. I’d dearly love to be going more than once a week, but getting up early midweek to run before Armin goes to work – well, that’s crazy talk. Once a week, though, I can sacrifice nap time to get out there and jog gently through some beautiful forests.*

Even when I’m falling down tired, I still go. And even though I spend the rest of the day even more shattered than I started, it refreshes me in a way that sleep never could. Being alone is good. Enjoying the scenery is good. Feeling like I’m doing something for myself, something to make me stronger and happier, feeling my muscles do something other than lift children…

Worth it.

3. I should point out that my “running” is slow enough that I could be mistaken for an unusually upright, lycra-clad sloth. Similarly, our flat is small, and there are two of us to clean it. Neither of these things is an amazing accomplishment. But small accomplishments are where it’s at right now. 

4. In that vein, I was unreasonably pleased recently by stringing together a few beads from a beginner’s kit to make this.

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It’s really pretty, but the actual making of it was so low-effort as to be almost disappointing. It doesn’t count as “creativity” in any sense whatsoever. But the mere fact that I was able to sit for five minutes and actually finish something… that was pretty amazing.  

Plus, that kit had been sitting around gathering dust for like five years (I bought it while pregnant with Elfling), so actually using it basically counts as tidying up. Go me! So productive.

5. And then in a fit of wossname I perpetrated Craft on unsuspecting furniture.

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(Pic isn’t clear, so: the flowers and butterflies were the attack in question. The photos on those drawers are just stuck up by Elf request.)

I may not be getting much knitting done (oh, except a dress for Barbie)** but I seem to be having an attack of Craft. This is surprising and a little suspicious. But, small accomplishments: just getting them done, regardless of eptitude, makes me feel good.

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*Back in London, I usually ran for around 4.5km – the distance to Osterley Park, around, and back again. I could add some twists to up the distance, but usually didn’t. Unless I was in training for a race, there was no motivation. Here, my average distance is 7-8km, because that’s about what I need to explore the places I want to go. Last week it was over 10km. There’s somewhere I’m keen to go that will probably take me close to 20km. Living here seems to be pretty good for my fitness.
** Hot tip: making something for Barbie gets you out of all kinds of parenting duty. “Sorry Elf, I have to finish Barbie’s dress.” “Okay mommy. Knit! Go knit! Go knit NOW!”

Perks

Once upon a time I thought that being a grown-up would mean doing anything I wanted; watching TV all night long, eating seconds of ice cream, that sort of thing. Of course, turns out that being the parent flavour of grown-up means most of the time, I literally can’t do anything I want, and anyway what I mostly want is to go to bed early.

I did, however, have two bowls of ice cream tonight.

Because I’m a grown-up.

Sometimes I sits and knits, and sometimes I just sits.