Weeks 17-20/2022

End of April and most of May came and went in a blurr. I had so many work issues to deal with, some of them quite demanding, that all the time that was left was dedicated to activities with Toddler and finally crashing out at the end of the day when putting her to bed, especially due to this:

28 weeks

We’ve been hatching a second little one for a while now, and she’s due to arrive at the end of July. Everyone warned me, quite rightly, that a second pregnancy is much more tiring than a first, with a little one out and about. The peak of that, for me, was really after our holidays in Portugal and the whole month of May. Still, we did things.

May brought some sunshine with it, sometimes quite warm, sometimes a bit cold, but all around a great month for going to the park. Parks, plural! We met for a picnic with a friend at the park during Z’s day off and my lunch break at work. After crèche, we stop at the park very often and Toddler has been loving the skate park and improving her bike and scooter riding. She also loves playing in the sand from the beach volley court. We catsat our friend’s cat for a few days and discovered a new park next to their place. We had the first ice creams of the season.

Applauding daddy for the 20km de Lausanne. This is our favourite race: it goes from the lake to the Cathedral and back down to the lake in a really festive environment. Toddler felt it and was applauding the runners enthusiastically. On that day, we walked from home to the train, the metro, down to the lake, and back home again on the same route and she didn’t complain once, even though my watch was counting over 10’000 steps (so she probably did twice as much with her little legs)! The next day, she woke up walking a little weirdly and it took us a while to figure out that she, too, had walked her “20km de Lausanne”!

We went twice to the circus: one in Chaplin’s World, and the other was a show from the local circus school. Toddler spent the whole shows saying she wanted to go and play too. At the end of one of the shows, she went on her own to play on the equipment and the other children came along too.

Our house doesn’t have a balcony and, despite our love for it, has many, many other flaws which are incompatible with family life with two children. So, we have been looking for a new flat. In the meanwhile, we decided to make the most of the little garden space we have been assigned for as long as we’re here. Z cleaned it well, put a sandpit and we’ve had a few evening BBQ, sometimes just between us, sometimes with friends.

In an attempt to take it a little easier on some days, I worked from home. When Z is around, we sometimes go for lunch at our favorite neighbourhood restaurant. The food there is simple, but well cooked. Special mention to the magnificently grilled octopus with caponata, of which I didn’t get a good picture on my phone, but will definitely stay for a long time in my memory.

Speaking of food, a few things I cooked this month that are worth noting: rhubarb crumble pie – I love rhubarb and right now it’s rhubarb season so I’ve made this twice and will make it again – and Bacalhau à Zé do Pipo. This last one I made for the first time in my life, in order to present a portuguese menu with bacalhau to some friends who wanted to try but are not used to eating it. I find that in those situations, it is easier to start with some of these dishes where bacalhau ends up mixed with mashed potatoes, caramelized onions, olive oil all over – especially if children are involved. To go with it, I made Pudim Molotof, which I hadn’t eaten in years! I love this dessert, but it was always made by one of my cousins’ grandmother, whom I hadn’t seen for a long time before she passed away, so making this was also a first for me. It was delicious!

I went to a congress in Lyon for two days. The congress in itself was not as interesting as I’d hoped, but it was still nice to see something different. To walk to the location, we had to cross a beautiful park, which I preferred to public transport despite the heat, swollen legs and a lot of fatigue.

I came back just in time for the Fête des Voisins, and evening in which gatherings between neighbours are promoted all over Suisse Romande. We live in an attic apartment in an old manor house. The neighbours who organised the evening live in the main building, so we got to enjoy the beautiful evening in its court, with the last rays of light shining between the leaves of the ancient linden tree and the sound of the water in the fountain providing the sensory background to some great conversations. We also found that our new neighbours are lovely and one of them was a well known opera singer!

Weeks 15 & 16/2022

This was already such a long time ago, but mid-April we flew to Portugal for a little over a week at home. We had a very tight schedule, even more than usual. We started off with a few days in Lousã, a little town very near all the Aldeias de Xisto. There are beautiful villages to visit, but our main purpose was to meet my friends, for a reunion that hadn’t taken place in… nearly 10 years?

During this time, we’ve lived in very different time zones, we’ve changed jobs several times, moved home, gone through major life changes, including having kids that hadn’t yet met. So, this was the time to meet up and just be together. We made cat tattoos and just hung out as if such a long time hadn’t passed, because despite the fact that we are all different in many ways, some things still remain the same.

We met baby E. for the first time, and Toddler was fascinated with her (especially when she was eating), as was the case with all the babies we met later in the week. The first few days were difficult for her, with several days of constipation which was challenging to manage. But she also had some highs, like developing a huge curiosity in letters and names, and asking anyone she felt comfortable with to write all sorts of things in her purple notebook.

After these precious days in Lousã, we dropped by at my aunt’s house, who has a fascinating garden, three dogs, three cats and a parakeet. She loves to feed us with our favourite foods and my uncle makes the best grills in the world, so we were spoiled rotten with farófias, very tender and succulent pork ribs that the Toddler devoured as if there was no tomorrow, and packed our bags with pineapple and ginger jam and geleia de marmelo.

Back North, we celebrated Z’s parents’ anniversary, my mother’s birthday, Easter… it was a long weekend full of celebrations, full of family and friends and being spoiled with food and attention. The weather was gorgeous most of the time, so we went to the park several times, we enjoyed the company of several dogs in the family, we had fun in all the gardens that our relatives have. We have always loved being outdoors, but now we appreciate more and more the preciousness of having an outdoor space at home.

I tried to help my mother cook the Easter lamb, but I definitely still need to work on my meat cooking skills. The meat was tender and falling off the bones, the taste was good, but I didn’t time the potatoes well, which means I had to crank up the oven in order to cook them in time, and ended up drying the meat more that I would’ve wanted. Cooking is always a learning process.

One of the highlights of going home is seeing my grandpa, who is well into his nineties. Despite his age, he still preserves a little of his sense of humour. He loves to play pranks with little children, and Toddler has a special admiration for him.

Our holidays at home never feel like real holidays, in the sense that we really do not get to relax and come back home (to the one in Switzerland, I mean – I’ve just realised I have no issues calling two places home) more exhausted than before. But it is the price to pay when being an emigrant, and we try to manage it as best we can, because it is definitely worth it.

Week 14/2022

After a glorious week, full of sunshine and blooming signs of Spring, the beginning of April hit us hard with a few days of snow and much, much cooooold.

There was a huge amount of work and few possibilities of doing outdoor activities, except for the usual runs to the park, where we have to go almost every day if we don’t to other things.

Even though it was the usual huff and puff, there is one huge highlight for this week. It was the week we helped Toddler separate from her pacifier.

We gave Toddler a pacifier when she was a baby for many reasons, the strongest ones being reducing the risk of SIDS and preventing her from sucking her thumb (my siblings and I sucked our thumbs and my parents severely struggled with getting us to stop it).

Initially, our goal was to get her to stop using the pacifier when she turned two. At the time, the terrible twos were in full blast. We didn’t feel that she was ready for that step, and neither were we, even though we had managed to reduce pacifier use mostly to the moments of falling asleep. So, when she turned 2.5 and we found that we had reached the end of the tunnel with the terrible twos, we decided on a date and we started preparing ourselves and her for it.

Here is what we did:

  • We decided on a story in which the Easter Bunny would come down through the chimney, take the pacifier for other babies who might need it and leave her a gift.
  • Around three weeks before the date, we started talking to her about what was going to happen and stuck to our story.
  • We told our friends and Toddler’s educators at the crèche and we made sure she overheard us telling people about it. On one hand, it consolidated the story and, on the other hand, we made sure we were holding ourselves accountable (because we knew it would be a challenge for us too).
  • On Friday, the day before the due date, we brought the crèche pacifiers home. That evening, we had decided the Easter Bunny would drop by and leave a gift too, before coming the following night and taking the home pacifier (the one she was attached to the most). Like this, we made sure she had a realistic idea of what was going to happen.
  • We left the crèche pacifiers in the fireplace with a little carrot for the Bunny. The next morning, she came downstairs to find a puzzle with a panda and a book. She spent the whole day playing proudly with her new puzzle.
  • On Saturday evening, I let her get into her pyjamas with the pacifier and told her that after that, just before her milk, we would go and put the pacifier in the fireplace. And so we did. She cried a bit, not wanting to let go, so I told her she could put it in the envelope I had set out when she was ready. A few seconds later, she took it, put it in the envelope and fell into my arms, crying. I might have been crying too.
  • I took her to have her milk bottle and to sleep, which was very hard for her. She cried for her pacifier for a long time before succumbing to fatigue and finally falling asleep. I was prepared for it, and stayed with her for the whole time she took to get to sleep.
  • The next day, she came down to the living room very excited to see what the Easter Bunny had left her and was over the moon to find a doctor’s briefcase. She liked it so much, she slept her nap with it and made everyone in the house her patient a few times.
  • The next two days, she still asked for the pacifier, but as time passed the questions were less emotional and more matter of fact. Now, a full month after the event, she barely mentions her own pacifier, but really enjoys giving her “babies” and other real babies theirs.

The takeaway from this experience is that, despite their young age, Toddlers embrace challenges quite bravely, as long as they are prepared and are accompanied with empathy and care in navigating their difficult emotions. Even though there are many challenges with which we struggle in raising a child, I am definitely proud of this particular challenge and of its outcome, I must say!

Week 13/2022

Mid-week 12 and beginning of week 13, the sun came out, the temperatures rose and we had a little whiff of Spring. With the sun, came my dear friend Jo to spend some days with us, and how good they were.

When our friends visit us, we get to dedicate some quality time to them, in a sharp contrast to our holidays at home, where we rush around visiting everyone in a very short period of time. A bonus for visits is getting to interact with a relaxed Todder in her natural environment, delighted with all the attention she gets, instead of a tired and shy one who just wants to stick to mummy for comfort.

In the first day, we took the train to Lutry to play in the playground next to the lake. The sunshine was glorious, we held a little picnic, followed by the first ice-cream of the season, which might or might not have been the main reason for choosing Lutry.

On the second day, I took the day off, we took Toddler to the crèche and headed off to a little hike in the surrounding mountains. Again, glorious day, great company and one of my favourite things on hikes: a cheese and ham sandwich with good ingredients. The best sandwiches I have eaten on hikes are with this lady, and this one went directly to the top of the best sandwich-memories. Even though it was sunny, it was still Winter season and we got to hike on a path that is not normally marked during the Summer. It was a small hike, but with nice views to the Dent de Vaulion and, theoretically, to a panoramic view of the Alps (which we couldn’t see because it was too bright).

For the weekend, we booked a little raccard in a very small village in Valais called Trétien. The initial idea was to go snowshoeing, but there was no snow in the valley anymore and Toddler was sick and needing her nap. So we did what we could: we explored the village, caught the train to the next village and hiked back for the nap. And then we read in the sun to warm ourselves up.

The day ended with a traditional raclette, with some very good cheese from a cheesemonger in Geneva. The next day, we tried to do some sledding, but Toddler turned out to be so sick that she didn’t want to sled or even eat… so we took her to the hospital and ended up staying there for the night!

So, for the rest of the week, there is little to talk about, except for everything to do with asthmatic bronchitis crises in toddlers and nursing them back to health.

However, the weekend was great up until that point, and Jo’s visit so very wonderful for all of us!

Weeks 11 & 12/2022

I am very much behind on my weekly reports, so these were already from a month ago.

First up, our tour of the Zoo de la Garenne on a weekend where we cancelled all our social plans because of hand foot and mouth disease. Zoo de la Garenne is much more than a zoo. It’s a park dedicated to the preservation of local wildlife (including endangered species), and educating the general public about Swiss and European species. We love going there, and this time around, Toddler took real interest in the animals for the first time. We heard the wolves howl, saw the European otter being fed, felt sorry for a limp fox who looked a bit sad and tried to spot the sleeping lynxes camouflaged in the bushes.

The visit to the Zoo was really the highlight of the weekend and also the week, which was so “normal” that I can’t even remember what I did, read or listened to. This defeats the purpose of my weekly roundups, so I will try to stick to them a bit more in the future. There were a few other things in the weekend after that:

A chocolate cake made for a friend’s 5-year-old, who is a fan of Pokémon. I made it using this recipe, which I had already used for Toddler’s first birthday. I had trouble remembering which recipe I’d used (I only found it in my messaging history because someone had asked me for the recipe!) and how I’d tweaked it. This led me to making a new resolution: printing or writing recipes, on which occasion I used them and which tweaks I made.

Because it was another slow weekend, I dedicated myself to cooking more elaborate meals. When I do that, life is easier during the week because we have leftovers to rely on during the busy beginning of the week. We don’t eat a lot of meat these days, and we have become mostly weekday vegetarians. Nonetheless, we still appreciate a good cut of meat, so we prefer to invest in less, but better. This weekend, I tried slow roasting a veal shoulder.

There is something about slow cooking and slow roasting that captivates me. I roasted the veal in a strong oven for a few minutes, before reducing the temperature and letting it cook in the oven for a few hours. The meat was tender and flavoursome, but I still have some room for improvement.

One of the weekdays, I homeworked for the first time in a long while. Because Z was also homeworking, we treated ourselves to lunch in our neighbourhood restaurant, which is a 2 minute walk from home. They cook with simple and local ingredients, but they do it with so much care that their lunch is affordable, but also beautifully cooked and presented! We are definitely redoing this.

Week 10/2022

Most plans for last weekend were cancelled because we suspected that Toddler had hand, foot and mouth disease. We then thought it was a false alarm and that she was having teething pain instead (and yes, toddlers still teethe at age 2), so on one of the days we still went sledding for half a day.

In the end, both diagnosis were true, but the most dramatic one was confirmed later in the week, with painful sores erupting all over her tongue and leaving the poor child unable to eat during two whole days. Ice cream, disgusting letter soup (the one that comes in a packed with powder) from the supermarket and cold yoghurt were the only things she was able to eat, and only two or three spoons at each meal. We tried everything. Even ice cream for breakfast. It was a tough one, this week. So when she finally swallowed a whole bowl of little pasta (massa pevide) with a big glug of olive oil during our picnic on the living room floor (another attempt to encourage her to try a few bites of this and that), you can bet it was the happiest moment of my week.

Earlier in the week, I made potato gratin with fridge leftovers (smoked salmon, spinach and leek). I sautéed the leek, roughly chopped the spinach, cooked slices of potatoes in 1L of milk. I used the cooking milk to make a béchamel (without the butter and with cornstarch). Then, layers: béchamel, potatoes, leek, spinach, salmon and dill, repeat once and finish with a layer of potatoes, béchamel and cheese on top (I use gruyère).

The picture isn’t great. I haven’t had much patience for photos lately, and this has been bugging me in the very back of my mind.

I also finished the Tucci book I was reading, and picked up Beautiful World, Where Are You, by Sally Rooney. This one shouldn’t take long to finish.

We are still keeping our routine of watching the news and accompanying the evolution of the ridiculous, heart-breaking war that is going on not so far from us.

Other than that… it was a busy week with some interesting challenges at work (been practising what I learned during the training week with some real patients). By the end of the week, however, I was wiped out.

Taste: My life through food [Stanley Tucci, 2021]

I picked up this book because I’m a real sucker for food memoirs. As I have a terrible face memory, I didn’t even really know who Tucci was, even if he stars in Julie & Julia. It was an easy read, and that’s probably why I got to the end of it. Despite my expectations and the raving reviews the book gets, I was quite disappointed. I found the stories were disconnected, the timeline is not at all clear, there is a lot of name dropping – even though he teases himself, assuming it – but still, it becomes annoying at some point. I felt there were also many gaps in the stories, which could have been explored in a deeper way (form example, his struggles to become to become an actor), but instead he fills up the stories with many details and side comments that make everything superfluous. Despite all that, it has some really funny passages, some interesting recipes, and it’s always a joy to read about how a person’s life and culture are intertwined with food.

Week 9/2022

This picture is from twilight in the park. We spend a lot of time pushing swings. Sometimes, this repetitive motion becomes a bit… boring. Right now, I cannot appreciate enough how so little effort can allow for such a joyful moment with a child.

I am writing this while watching the news. We have done this every day for the last two weeks, with an increasingly heavy heart. So much, that it seems almost superfluous to write about my daily life, a meaningless issue in the face of all that is going on in this world.

But it’s not meaningless.

It’s really not lost on me that the most painful moments in all that we have been watching are precisely due to the loss of daily normalcy, seemingly meaningless when it’s unfolding, very precious when it ceases to exist: the loss of safety, of home, of childhood, of family and family life, of health, of very basic human needs. I’ve been hanging on dearly onto this notion: that our ordinary life needs to be cherished. We shouldn’t need a war to do that. But as long as it’s a reminder, I feel that honouring these people includes doing as much as possible to appreciate what we have. Of course, this is my personal reaction to all that has been going on, and almost everyone I know has struggled with coming to terms with all we have been getting in the news, and this struggle can take on many forms.

This past week, most of the things I read online were either updates on the war, or on how to help. Among these:

  • A new podcast that I added to my feed, and one of the episodes has a few simple tips on dealing with anxiety coming from watching the news.
  • I have a journalist acquaintance who also made a podcast episode (in French) on how to help, with an interviewee that is a specialist in humanitarian aid. In this podcast episode, the interviewee talks a lot about the risks of freelance humanitarian aid and recommends donating to trusted charities that have a vast experience in the terrain, starting from emergency response and relief, to the long-term issues related with sustainable accompaniment and reintegration of refugees and rebuilding communities after war.
  • To make sure that the charity you are donating to is legitimate and can be trusted, I heard of Charity Navigator. It’s based in the US, but it seems to be a good reference, even for Europeans.
  • I discovered the work of World Central Kitchen and found it admirable. Food is very dear to my heart, not only because of how much I enjoy cooking it, but also because it brings comfort and people come together around it. Providing access to cooked food in a humanitarian crises sounds to me like a beautiful act of help and humanity.

To come back to ordinary life, the weekend started off with the last day of training, which was the most practical and interesting. At lunchtime, I ate a veggie hamburger on a bench in Cemitière des Rois and appreciated the silence (not so much the cold wind).

And on Sunday, my first day off after six days of work and training in a row, we made pancakes for breakfast, mixed our bread for the week and then took Toddler to a new park. We enjoyed the sun, played on the swings, slid together very fast on a big slide, and found some sticks on our way home.

Monday I had the day off and, with Toddler in crèche, I used the day to relax organise a year of paperwork, clean the oven, the microwave, the disastrous cupboards, do the laundry… not exactly relaxing, but satisfying to cross off several items on my lagging to-do list. Being home alone (except for homeworking) is something that has not happened to me in… I can’t even remember!, and probably dating back to before Toddler was born. I had lunch in front of an episode of Succession, and may I recommend my very quick, healthy lunch? It consisted of a few pieces of toasted bread, with avocado smeared on top, and cottage cheese mixed with finely chopped spinach, some drops of lemon juice and pepper. Just perfect.

Someone else in this household is the specialist in relaxing when Toddler is at crèche.

While organising paper, I found a letter I wrote to myself in 2014. Five years later, it was sent to me by the keeper of the letters (it was an individual exercise in a team building weekend at Scouts, back in the time). It had this simple reminder, which is always a good reminder.

Week 8/2022

After a string of weekends in the snow, we finally spent a weekend at home with no big plans, except for a Sunday lunch with some friends. On Saturday, we did the usual chores: shopping, cooking, tidying up, and sort of Marie Kondo’ing Toddler’s clothes.

Also, what is it with Toddlers that when they get a chance to choose their clothes, they go for the cheesiest t-shirt in the closet – the one that sticks around so you can leave it in the change bag at crèche – with so much love that it’s impossible to refuse their choice?

At the end of the day (picture on top of this post), I went for a twilight walk in the forest and it felt so good I even jogged a little.

On Sunday, we made a Toddler very happy by going to our lunch with friends on train, bus and funiculaire, up to the top of Mont Pélerin.

The week started off with a huge meltdown from Toddler when she woke up, which I managed to diffuse in time for a big cuddle before leaving for work. I must say that, after all the tantrums from the previous week, the questioning, troubleshooting and reflection that came with them, diffusing this particular tantrum felt like a really big win and I went to work feeling proud of the three of us. The workday started off with a different walk than my usual commute-walk, taking me through another part of Lausanne and passing in front of the city library, which is in a building that fascinates me. I had a meeting, which ended up being a very interesting conversation with a fellow psychologist.

For the last half of the week, I went to Geneva for some training. I love learning, and haven’t been inside a classroom for a really long time. Learning something new for four days, and in Geneva, a city very dear to my heart, was a real treat for me. It was sunny and I bought myself special lunches every day, to eat in the park or in front of a museum, by myself. Something rare these days, and very appreciated!

The end of the week was tainted by the news of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Even if my training allowed me to focus on something else during the day, on the commutes and evenings, we were glued to the news and updates of the war. We feel quite helpless and shocked, but luckily fellow Europeans have been sharing a lot of information on how to help. It’s reassuring to see how the world is responding with solidarity and humanitarian help to the Ukrainian people, who have been displaying an admirable toughness and resilience. I’m a nullity on what concerns geopolitics, but I am quite attentive to patterns of human behaviour and the ones coming from the-one-who-must-not-be-mentioned have me worried sick about how this situation is going to pan out. I sincerely hope things will resolve soon, but it’s heartbreaking to see all the damage that has already been done and is irreparable.

Week 7/22

I’m playing catch with my weekly posts, but these last few weeks have been… whew! I’ve just realised that these pictures are from three weekends ago and asking myself what happened with time! This is why I am also sticking to the posts, because tracking them with memories makes me feel less out of control of how fast it flies.

The snowy pictures are from our weekend in Kandersteg, this time with the friends who were sick with covid last time and couldn’t come. They also have a Toddler, over a year older than ours, but they get along really well. Their mother is one of my oldest friends, which is a precious thing when you are an immigrant and sometimes worn out by the effort it takes to build a network of relationships in your new home and life. It felt like a weekend long playdate for everyone: the kids played together, the adults caught up on conversation, both Toddlers tried skiing for the first time, there were sled hikes and a very, very sunny picnic.

Mid-week, Toddler had some tummy troubles which took us for a paediatrician visit and an afternoon working from home. It was raining outside, so Toddler was all dressed up for her doctor’s visit. In the afternoon, I made pancakes.

With our pancake streak still going strong, I’ve been testing some pancake mixes. The favourite one, at the moment, is a recipe I’ve tweaked from oatmeal pancake recipes found on the internet. Here is the recipe, so that I don’t forget, but also in case anyone wants to try it. Warning: the pancakes are dense and moist, much to our liking. If you are aiming for a fluffy, light pancake, this might not be the recipe to try.

2 cups oats
2 eggs
1 cup natural yoghurt
1 cup almond milk
3 tbsp maple syrup
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking soda
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. I use a blender to break down the oats a little before cooking. I use the crêpe party, but of course the pancakes can be made on a regular skillet. If you can stand up for that long without eating, of course.

A sick, tired, sleep deprived Toddler is a recipe for disaster. And this week was a great highlight in that matter. Toddler tantrums can be quite challenging for even the most patient parent. Not just one tantrum, which is easily bearable, but the accumulation of days, with long and frequent tantrums, where anything seems to be a spark for another meltdown – that can really wear you down. It’s tiring, frustrating, puzzling and you are often confronted with your own emotions and your own reactions, which are not always exemplary. However, when you give yourself time to ask questions, to troubleshoot, to try solutions, it can become an interesting exercice, in which you find out many things about yourself, but also about how to communicate and deal with other people. This was the theme of a podcast episode that R sent me, and that really resonated with me and the phase we are going through right now. I also get a lot of ideas from this book.