Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tag fascination

Chloé has a stuffed animal that looks kinda like a cat princess in pyjamas. It is also a hand puppet. It has everything a baby's stuffed animal should have to engage the baby: it's made of several different kinds of material, has ruffles on the arms and neck, a night cap (not a drink, a head covering), a cute kitty face and ears sticking out of the cap, even a tiny mirror attached to one hand by a piece of elastic. But more often than not, she plays with the little white tag (about 2x4 cm) attached to the side. She takes it between her forefinger and thumb, coos at it and then talks to it, turns it front to back. It's like this amazing discovery in the midst of a glut of infant provocation.
And it's like this with everything. Tags are just fascinating. You don't need any special toys, just something safe for the baby to play with - with a tag.
I read that this is an attention to detail that babies develop when they're around 7 months old. They notice smaller things and then inspect them. And most toys for babies are big and bold, to attract their attention, I guess.
Chloé also likes to tear up paper into tiny little tag-sized pieces and examine it. Unfortunately she's starting to eat those little pieces, so we may have to take away the fashion magazines that she so enthusiastically tears up.

Monday, February 25, 2008

It was all black and white at the Oscars

Or at least the clothes were...
Now I have to admit that I'm not officially a fashion expert: I'm not a fashion editor or a designer or an "It" girl being sent boxes of clothes to be worn and photographed leaving tomorrow's "It" club, but I have recently become something of a fashion magazine connoisseur (or at least compulsive buyer), and I'm wondering what (un-)inspired everyone to show up in black (or white, or if it absolutely HAD to be a color, then red) for the walk down the red carpet. I realize the films were dark, but that doesn't make the award ceremony a funeral! Where are the bright, bold colors that are supposed to be coming this season? I guess the stylists couldn't decide which theme would be most acceptable so they took the path of least resistance and recommended black and white to all of their clients.
I say: Resist! Go bold! Don't let a stylist tell you what your style is. And who cares if the newspapers write about your alleged fashion failure - at least they're writing about you (just in case any of you Readers are Hollywood stars...).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Working Mother

I know what you're thinking. You don't work, you stay home with your baby.
There's so much work here at home, I've become a champion multi-tasker since becoming a mom. For example, I'm typing this post for you, loyal Reader, while my daughter is on my lap nursing. When the computer started flashing that I'd better plug it in before the battery died and it forgot everything I'd input, I held the still-attached baby to my breast, leaned over the side of the couch and plugged in the power cord. When she falls asleep in a few minutes (the magic of breastfeeding), I can go do the dishes. Then I can paint a couple more drawers on the jewelry box I'm finishing for my sister-in-law. By then Chloé will probably be awake so I can lay on the floor with her and try to taunt her into scooting forward instead of pushing herself back. Then Gaetan will come home and I can downshift into my usual relaxed self, while he gives her a bath, feeds her and puts her to bed.
But still there's work to be done. I manage fairly well with laundry, the dishes, vacuuming, and Chloé (although she can't really be termed "work" she is extremely time-consuming). But the table's a mess with stuff I don't know what to do with (mail, magazines, receipts, plants) and crumbs from breakfast this morning. There are toys everywhere (but what's the point of cleaning them up when they're back on the floor again in about 10 minutes??). The pile of my half-clean clothes on a chair in the bedroom reminds me of the leaning tower of Pisa. My vanity is a dump for all things cosmetic. The dust on the commode is almost as high as the pile of clothes on the chair. That shelf in the hallway still hasn't been cleared of the painting utensils (but I can't put them away while I'm in the middle of painting projects). I have ten sewing projects in my head and five pieces of fabric waiting to be sewn. The "Lou the Wolf" story needs to be translated, the Cabo Verde article needs to be written. And the list goes on and on...
This morning I saw Gaetan was wearing a shirt usually reserved for weekends, which reminded me of the (yet another) pile of shirts waiting to be ironed. So what comes first, the ironing or the blog?
The blog.
But if I start now, I should be able to iron two shirts before she wakes up. The dishes will wait.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Current events

I've finally gone wireless! Now I can sit in the warm living room and type my blog posts on the laptop. I'm completely firewalled and anti-virused as well. How 21st century.
This lovely Sunday (it's uncharacteristically sunny) we're listening to the American Country Countdown on AFN (American Forces Network) Europe to quell (or perhaps to enhance) that nagging homesickness that comes on about once a year. And country (and western) you generally can't get outside of the USA, so it has that American...charm.
Later we're going to clean the car interior. We're trading it (a VW Polo, something I don't think we have in the US - a little smaller than the Golf) in for another VW that can hold two adults, a small child in a car seat, a stroller, a portable baby bed, and all the rest of the baby paraphernalia that you can even imagine before having a baby.
Now Monday and our appointment with the car dealer have come and gone and we bought the car! Gaetan was a bit surprised that he'd signed for a big car (and a big loan) without even a "Congratulations!" from the salesman. It's true, his "all business" attitude was a bit weird. He was very friendly and talkative, as usual, but didn't show any real empathy for a young car buyer who's just bought a car worth twice as much as his trade-in. But he seems like a good guy - he just didn't know his customer needed a calming smile and a pat on the back. Does that make him a bad salesman..?
Chloé's getting obnoxious over there on the floor so I'd better go entertain her a little.
Talk to you soon.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Life in Germany, Teil Eins

One thing you should know about Germany is that many stores, shops, and other businesses traditionally close for lunch. This tradition was perhaps, in origin, consistent, but now it means said businesses could be closed between 12 and 2 or 12:30 and 2:30 or 1 and 3, or basically anything between the two extremes, you never really know. Of course this variance is from store to store, not day to day (not quite clear from the preceding sentence). Or they may not close at all, since the tradition is apparently slowly giving way to capitalistic demands.
Only recently were stores given permission (yes, there was a law not allowing it) to remain open in the evenings. And Sundays are closed. In theory you're not even supposed to work in your garden, clean your car, or hang your laundry out on your balcony on Sunday. Sunday is reserved for worship. Of course restaurant or gas station employees apparently don't have definite worship rights. Bummer.
Besides that many stores (even restaurants) which are open Saturday also close on one day during the week.
Now I can appreciate the circumstances of the (very) small business where there's only one guy manning the shop and he can't spend 24/7 there - he's got to go shopping himself, not to mention eat, sleep, etc...But how many of those shops are even out there today?? That's exactly the point here in socialized Germany. It's not fair to that sole proprietor that other shops are open longer - he'll miss out on all those customers that come in the not-so-wee-hours of the ... afternoon and evening.
So clearly I'm a disgruntled American who is used to everything being open, if not 24/7, 9-9 Monday through Saturday and at least 12-6 on Sunday. Okay, taking a walk around a nearby lake with all the other Germans (seriously, they're ALL there) is healthier and more enriching for anyone's life, but the most relaxing Sunday activity has to be shopping (and at least your credit card gets to work out...but we'll save the credit card theme for another blog entry).
So now that I've made a short story long, this morning I had a frustrating experience of a similar nature. I've been needing to go to the library to take back my books (which I was quite proud of myself for at least thinking about, since 9 times out of 10 I don't think and get to pay the late fees). I couldn't go on Monday (when I usually remember) because it's, what a surprise, closed. So I waited until Wednesday morning between 10 and 12 when I knew they would be open. Chloe and I got ourselves ready and since I saw that it had been raining (although wasn't raining at the moment) I brought the rain cover for the stroller. Five minutes into our walk it started to rain. Quick! The plastic cover! And the umbrella for me! But damn, it's really windy, and the spokes of the umbrella were nearly hyperextended. But then I got things more or less under control, and we continued our expedition to the library (with constant vigilance regarding the wind-umbrella interaction).
When we got there it was closed. Although it wasn't Monday or Sunday or lunchtime or evening, it was closed. For training. And I ask: Why don't they do their training on Monday!?
This is one of the frustrating aspects of living in Germany. I know you're thinking that it's not a terribly significant thing, surely something that can be overlooked. Yes, I say, but it's an everyday thing, a not at all abstract thing, that happens all the time. And perhaps most importantly: when you've known something else, it's hard not to compare.