Monday, July 21, 2014

Just a Little Hair

One of the things you may or may not notice when you first come to the Netherlands is how many barbershops and salons there are.  Most of these are mom-and-pop type places, one person owning a space with maybe two or three chairs, and offering a limited range of services.  Franchised hair cutters (Brain Wash) are a sight I've only ever seen in the city center.  I'm not knocking on you if you haven't noticed--they can be hard to spot and they can be in some pretty obscure places that you might not think to look.  Within a 1 km radius of our humble domicile I count five or six of these little places.  That's a lot of hair cutters.

Which is surprising, if you think about it--after all, being zuinig means cutting your own hair, doesn't it?  And with the plethora of how-to's online, it doesn't seem like it would be that hard. But apparently enough people lack enough faith in their own ability to handle a pair of scissors around their head that places like these, if not exactly flourish, make a decent amount of money from it.

And maybe it's just me, but it really isn't all that difficult to cut hair.  You just sort of shape it into the form that you want--Kidlet is now sporting a darling shag cut (well, I call it that--it's got layers), while my husband gets his head buzzed every six to eight weeks.  I don't know why it is, but for all the money Karel has spent at the barber's over the course of his life, he never manages to look any better than when I take a few snips at his head.  I cut Kidlet's hair in little snips, with Kidlet oblivious on Karel's lap playing with our iPad.  I even cut my own hair, using the 5-minute method shown below and then shortening the back to the length that I want.

It's just a little hair, after all.  It grows back.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Walk Away

I've only rarely needed to discipline Kidlet in public.  If he's screechy, it's usually because he's hungry/tired and simply incapable of being good any more, so discipline under these circumstances doesn't help and moreover, doesn't work.  But if we're out and about during his "golden hours" then he's a perfect little boy, who stays close to me and walks on the sidewalk, waving to strangers who remark upon how cute he is.

I don't really have any tricks up my sleeve for raising a well-behaved kidlet, other than "pray that your genes mix well and you've got a calm and quiet baby".   He's good because we expect him to be good, we expect him to be good because he is.  It's a positive-reinforcement circle that works in everybody's favor, and I'm under no delusions of having mad parenting skillz, beyond having the patience to systematically try things out and see what works.

And one of the things I've found to work surprisingly well:  I dare to walk away.

If Kidlet is playing with a toy in the store, I'll let him, provided that he's not breaking anything.  If he wants to have it, the looks are usually enough to tell me so.  But as we're usually broke, I tell him, "No, we're not going to buy that. Put it back."  And, after a minute or two, if it's clear that he really wants it, then I start walking away.

He may not set it back right away.  But I've never had him run after me with a stuffed animal (or packet of tortillas, or a handful of string beans) yet.  Walking away gives him the opportunity to end his interaction with the thing, whatever it is, on his own terms, rather than having me end them.  He knows what I mean when I say, "No" and "Put it back".  He knows what he's supposed to do.  He knows that if he doesn't there will be consequences.  So I let him exercise his own judgment in these matters.

They say that kids his age don't think logically, and that may be true.  It is equally probable that he sees me walking away and freaks out (though as I've said, I allow him to wander quite far if I am watching him).  I like to think that he understands my walking away as a sign that there will be no discussion on this matter, but only time and a psychologist will tell.

Monday, July 7, 2014

"To Dream the Impossible Dream"

I was going to start this by writing, "I do a lot of baking" but the truth is, I don't actually bake that much.  I make, on average, a batch of cookies a month, sometimes a cake, occasionally some bread, and pizza about twice a month (to use up leftovers).  So maybe I do more baking than most, but it's hardly an everyday, or even a weekly, thing.

But as a baker, however irregular, I am obssessed with the pursuit of lighter and fluffier.  My muffins, regardless of how tasty they are, are always more compact than I would have them; the bread is always great but never good enough for my inner Julia Child.  Things can always be lighter and fluffier.  And yeah, you can cheat by using potato flour, but besides being almost impossible to find in the Netherlands (outside of specialty shops that cater to the gluten-avoidant), cheating would imply that your skills as a baker aren't up to snuff.

I have, however, recently stumbled upon the One Weird Trick that gets my baked goods at least most of the way there, most of the time:  cutting my regular flour with patentbloem, using a 50:50 mix.  I usually just buy a 1 kg bag of both kinds of flour, pour them into the canister, and give it a good shake, and use that mix for just about everything I make.  It works great for bread and quick-breads, cakes and cookies, as it doesn't clump as much and is therefore easier to incorporate into a batter.  The bread dough feels softer, the cake batter is smoother.  And everything comes out just that much closer to what a professional would turn out.

The patentbloem, as far as I can tell, is a "soft" flour--if you're used to making bread with regular flour, you can feel the difference--meaning that it has less gluten and is therefore more prone to overkneading if you're using a machine.  But it is precisely the decrease in gluten that gives the stuff made with it the fluffy airieness of the pros.

So take from this what you will.  It makes baking at home a tad bit more expensive, but I think it's well worth the cost.  

Thursday, July 3, 2014

So we bought a leash for our kid...

Ever since Kidlet started walking, life has gotten easier and easier for me.  Where I once carried him up and down the stairs to our apartment--with a full bag of groceries, no less--I now merely assist him as he studiously takes on the stairs.  Where he once gazed blankly at me when I asked him to put the clothespins away, now the light of comprehension goes on in his eyes and he looks around for a clothespin and puts it into the bag.  Granted, he's 19 months--so it'll be a while before he'll be able to manage more than 3 or 4 minutes of this at a time--but I'm getting the impression that 90% of good parenting is making a habit out of as many things as you can, so that later, when he's an impossible little sh*t, he'll at least be an impossible little sh*t who picks up after himself.

But for now, he's a good kidlet, he really is. Going across the street to the C1000 is a normal thing for him these days.  He knows to stay on the sidewalk and not wander into the bike path.  He knows that when we get to the zebrapad he needs to hold my hand until we're on the other side--coming and going.  He knows that Mommy gets a shopping cart, and that he gets to ride in it, although sometimes he chooses not to and merely--without being told--holds onto the cart and walks next to it while I get the groceries.   If he wanders off, calling him is usually all I need to do to get him to come to me.

In other words, he's not the kind of kid that runs about screaming and making life hell for everybody in a 3-mile radius. So you might be wondering why, then, did I get him a leash?

Not for trips to the C1000, of course.  But one of his favorite things to do is to hold onto the back of the stroller and push it while I steer from above, which serves the double purpose of tiring him out so that he naps for two hours every day.  And something that's been happening a bit more frequently than I'd like to admit is that he'll let go of the stroller to pick a flower or something, and I won't notice because I'm scanning the sidewalk ahead of us for other people and dog poop.  He's surprisingly good at slipping away unnoticed, even when it's just the two of us--and sometimes I'll turn around and he'll be four or five steps behind me.  I'm not a paranoid parent--I'll let him wander quite far away from me if I'm watching him, but you can understand why Kidlet suddenly materializing a good 10 feet from where I thought he was can be a little disturbing, especially if we're in the city center and the demarcation between the pedestrian walkway and the "road" for the buses can be a little vague.

The ladybug is a little backpack, just right for storing a packet of baby biscuits and the leash.  It seems a little small for him, but he has yet to voice any discomfort and he seems to love the attention he gets from it.  A lot of elderly people stopped us when we were in town the other day, some of them laughing at the sight of a kid on a leash, others reminiscing of the time they were little and their mothers put them on leashes.  It does exactly what it purports to do--let you keep tabs on your kid without having to hold onto him every minute, which is exactly what I wanted when we bought a leash for our kid.