Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fry away home

So today we had some residency paperwork to attend to which entailed a visit to an office a little on the outskirts of town, in an area we only get to about once a year. An area with a huge toy store and a "fancy" McDo with a playground. After the paperwork-related-French-speaking was all done, we decided to celebrate with a couple of Happy Meals and some playground time for Bee.

As is typical with places that have outdoor seating, there were hoards of chirpy little sparrows hopping around and eyeing our fries. The family at the table next to us consisted of a mom, dad, and a little girl probably a year and a half or so older than Bee. The little girl was having a blast feeding the sparrows as Bee looked on. Bee took one of my fries and dropped it over the little fence and screeched with joy when the sparrows came for it. She tried several more times, each time managing to get the fry maybe eight inches away from her at the most. She would watch the other girl and then drop a fry. Watch. Drop.

Until she got the hang of it, just in time to launch a fry - and a sparrow - directly under the tires of a car heading into the drive-thru.


We looked on in horror. Bee went back to eating fries. The other little girl was looking at the bird's remains with pointed curiosity (and not horror or sadness, fortunately - both girls were still too little to understand) and pulling on her mom's arm.  As we were debating what to do, the other dad (clearly a veteran at this parenting thing) calmly took one more bite of his Big Mac, grabbed a Happy Meal box and the red box his fries had come in, stepped over the fence and scooped up the bird without a word, or grimace, or blink. The other little girl went right back to eating her lunch as the dad disposed of the bird. As far as the kids were concerned, everything was back to normal.

And so we learn a little more about this parenting thing. Bravo, other dad.

And to the sparrow who hopped back to the scene to retrieve the french fry? Well, you're just a jerk.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mo mo mo

Bee has been quite the little chatter box.  By our count, she's over twenty words but that changes by the day. As she collects new words, something interesting is happening - she's learning French. We speak a few words here and there with her but in general we talk to her in English.

Here's where it gets funny : because of her funny toddler-word-garbling, we often don't recognize a word until she's been saying it for days, if not weeks at a time. This happened earlier this year when we finally realized that the funny MANCH word she had been saying for weeks was actually mange - from the French word for "to eat."

Today we noticed a new one. We've been hearing it for a while but didn't realize it was a word. Bee refers to herself as je - the French word for I. I was drinking an iced tea and she was gesturing at my glass, repeating, "Je mo je mo mo mo mo je mo je mo" while making the baby-sign for "more" at the same time. Je mo. I want more. Je mange je mange je mo je mange. Who know show long she's been talking in these little sentences and we didn't even realize it.

I'm so relieved to see her picking it up so naturally, particularly as I'm fighting to figure it out.  In no time at all, she'll be correcting my grammar for me...

Sunday, January 1, 2012


By the time I complete and post this entry, I will have blogged 25% of last year's total...

I know you're impressed.

At this pace, I'm guessing no one reads this anymore and I'm totally okay with that. As a result, this is going to be a very ME-centric post.

Last year was probably the most difficult year I have ever gone through, but not in an unpleasant way. We took a couple memorable vacations, made some new friends, found some new music, and got to know our little MISS BEE very very well. Also, by the last two weeks of the year, we finally started getting some sleep again. Last year I didn't get a lot accomplished outside of the whole learning to be a mom thing, which I'm fine with but this year it's time to get to work.

So here we go. I want to post a quick resolution run down because I find that typing it up makes me think about my goals in greater depth and putting it "out there" makes me feel just a little bit more accountable. This year I have three big areas to focus on: health, French, and jiu jitsu.

Goal 1: Lose half a pound a week. I'm still carrying around a bit more of my baby weight than I would like to be, and since the baby is now a toddler, it's probably about time I stop using "baby weight" as an excuse. Half a pound per week feels like a healthy rate that won't make me feel too stressed or like I'm starving myself, especially with the results of Goal 3 factored in... More on that shortly. I've broken my pedometer back out and am aiming to log a minimum of 7000 steps per day except on Wednesday and Friday. I plan to increase my steps goal after a couple months, once the weather gets nicer here. To track everything, I'm using the website and iphone app.

Goal 2: This is the year I am going to start speaking French. My reading and comprehension have gotten so much better in the past year, but I still find myself too uptight about sounding silly to actually try and speak to people. That has got to stop. Working together, the Mr and I have come up with a list of 52 topics. Our plan is to focus on one topic per week as a way of increasing our vocabulary while limiting our studies to keep us from getting overwhelmed. Additionally, I will be getting together with a neighbor for 1-2 hours every Friday afternoon and working on my French and her English. Since we don't know each other very well, I think it will be easier to start speaking French right away because I'm less concerned about embarrassing myself and all those "getting to know you" topics (what music do you like, what's your favorite food, nice weather we're having today) are great for beginning language practice. We're hoping to go for a better residence permit this year and that process included a fluency test, so this really is very important.

Goal 3: Jiu jitsu. I studied jiu jitsu for about a year and a half before I got pregnant, but in a very haphazard and, to be honest, half-assed manner. Now that I've been going back (16 months later - EEEEP), I've really thrown myself into it and I'm anxious to make some progress this year. I can already feel myself improving and I take a great deal of pride in not losing fights at practice right now. Where I train, I am typically the only female, on top of being 5-10 years older than most of the other students. And, ya know, completely out of shape. That's why not losing, right now, feels as good as I imagine winning will someday. My goals for jiu jitsu this year are to get my blue belt and to compete in one tournament. I go to class twice per week for two hours at a time. It's a great start but I probably need to add a bit more conditioning in on my own time. That's something I'm going to come back to in two months - for now I want to focus on attending regularly and giving a solid 100% when I'm there.

I have a few mini-goals as well: blog on occasion, break out the paints once more, craft a bit more, read a book a month but those all come in second to the big three.

And there you have it - 25%.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Book Project 2

Month: February

Book: "200 Crochet Blocks" by Jan Eaton

Experience: A little bit late, but better than never. My original goal was to complete a small blanket made from stash yarn and a few different blocks from this book. As I suppose should be expected (BEE BEE BEE BEE BEE), that didn't happen, but I did get the time to work several different blocks. I found the patterns to be well-written and easy to read. I loved the interesting color combination and patterns suggested by the book, covering a wide range from traditional to surprisingly modern looking. I found lots of projects I would love to tackle at some point when I have a little bit more free time.

Verdict: This one is a definite keeper.

My great-grandmother taught me to crochet when I was about eight years old. After I got the hang of making a basic chain, granny squares were the second thing I learned to make. For years, I made squares out of any little scraps of yarn I could get my hands on. My Barbies wore granny squares as ponchos and skirts. The beds in my Barbie house were covered in granny square blankets and topped with pillows made from granny squares folded in half. I made granny squares cat toys and granny square dog toys (not popular) but I have yet to complete a full-sized granny square blanket.

And I still haven't.

But one day, I will - and that's one reason I'm going to keep this book. Another reason this one is worth keeping is that I'm already looking forward to teaching Bee to crochet and I think granny squares are a great place to start. Once she gets the basics down, I think she'll really enjoy all the different variations in this book. I imagine us one day working on a blanket together, each adding our own squares to a giant pile and arguing over who has to weave in all those obnoxious ends.

I bet it will be me.

Next book: How to Write Funny

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Book Project 1

Month: January

Book: "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg

Experience: As of the middle of the month, I'm just 30 pages in and have only written about four pages of my own. Part of that is laziness and part of it is a lack of time, lack of energy, lack of being-into-this. The book is well-written and I've found one or two ideas in it I can grab onto and a couple quotes I really like, but I've not found the couple writing exercises I've tackled to be particularly thought-provoking. This could be because I'm just starting out or it could be because my brain's just not into it right now - at this point, I'm still fairly confident that the blame lies more with me than with the book.

Part of it, also, could be that two months after the birth of a baby isn't the best time to tackle a project that most people agree benefits from being done for a set amount of time, at the same time each day. Bee's schedule varies far too much for me to do that - unless I want to get up REALLY early and try to write, but the problem then is my brain won't be ready - I am not a morning person and never have been. Late at night isn't really an option either as Bee is a light sleeper and seems to know when I'm not in the room.

* * *

And here we are at the end of the month. I confess I only made it about two thirds of the way through the book. For me, it started to seem very repetitive and focused far more on the author's personal philosophy and experiences rather than on writing and how to improve your own. As it went on, it started to feel more like a memoir that just happened to be centered on writing.

Verdict: Obviously this book appeals to many people as it's considered one of the best books for writers and often used in workshops, however it was a bit too emotional, abstract, and philosophical for my taste, so I'll be looking for a new home for my copy.

Next book: 200 Crochet Blocks

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A shelf of books

And this is part two of "getting stuff done" this year. In general, I have no problem getting rid of things I don't use, with one exception - books. Shelves and boxes and stacks of books. Most I've read, several I've read repeatedly. Some I know I should read. Some someone else thought I should read. Several are completely mysteries - like strays, they appeared one day and made themselves at home.

When we were living in Virginia, Mr K and I used to go to the BIG BOOK STORE a couple times a month and find new books, typically art and craft related. We always planned to put these books to use, but what usually happened was a book would get read for a day or two and a technique might get tried out, but then the book would end up back on the shelf as we made another book store run. This pattern left us with a pretty big collection of books that are all in near-new condition. I know we need to unclutter, but it seems crazy to get rid of a book without knowing what's in it. The problem we run into is when you look at a whole shelf of these books, the size of the task kind of seems overwhelming.

On January 1, I went to the shelf and pulled down 12 under-utilized books. I plan to read and use one per month. After a month with the book, I'll decide if I want to keep the book or pass it along to someone who would get more use out of it than I will. My chosen books are a mix of writing instruction, crochet, sewing, lots of watercolor, and some drawing.

I know the whole pattern of buy-books-for-self-betterment-and-shelve-those-suckers-unread says a lot about something or the other, but I don't have time to get into that now. I have a book to read.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pick a Card

We're not exactly lazy, no.. we just don't like leaving the house.

Also, maybe we're a little bit lazy.

Our first year and a half or so of living in Switzerland, we were out every weekend, seeing things and doing things and socializing with friends. We had originally signed on for a two-year stint here and we felt that we had to get the most out of every weekend before we had to leave. Around the 18 month point, we decided to stay for much much longer and Mr K transferred. The good thing about this was - obviously - that we were staying in Switzerland. The bad news was the lack of a departure deadline gave us all the excuse we needed to kick into lazy mode. Our outings slid back to once a month or so. We spent more time wandering around Fribourg and just relaxing at home. A few months later, Fetus Miss Bee made her first ultrasound appearance and laziness gave way to exhaustion, but with much the same result. We were rarely leaving our town, but when we did, we usually only traveled as far as Bern. Many naps were taken. Many DVDs were watched. Not much else was seen.

This was okay in the short-term, but with Bee's arrival and my starting to feel more like myself, Mr K wanted to make sure the laziness habit didn't stick for good. On January 1, he grabbed a spare deck of playing cards (you do NOT even want to know how many decks we have in our home - trust me) and a Sharpie and started making plans. Mr K reasoned that, once you remove the jokers, there are roughly the same number of playing cards in a deck as there are weeks in a year. On each card, he wrote one activity : invite friends over for lunch, spend the day reading, internet-free weekend, go someplace new, and many others. Sometime between Monday and Wednesday of each week, Mr K shuffles the cards and I draw one: that's our activity for the weekend. We draw the card early enough in the week to give us time to make plans, alert friends, and gather supplies. If a card is not seasonally or weather-ly appropriate, we are allowed to put it back in the deck and reshuffle. The only other acceptable excuses are sickness or baby-breakdown (we are realists, after all...)

We also got a big green album with just over 50 pages. For each activity, we will take at least one photograph to put in the album, along with the card and any relevant receipts, tickets, or other souvenirs. After a year, we should have a nearly empty deck of cards and a nearly full book of memories.

Our first three cards have been:
  • Take a trip to Montreux
  • Invite friends for lunch
  • Read a book

All three have been completed, mostly successfully. The trip to Montreux was a bit baby-stressful, but we survived.

I can't wait to see what's in the cards for us next week...