Happy New Year

I will be back in the new year with plans, posts, perhaps a 2015 in retrospect, and hopefully much more reading. For now, however, I wanted to wish you all a happy new year. I hope 2016 brings all of you joy and hope and anything else you may wish for.

Happy News, Again!

It has been 19 months since I made a similar announcement about “Happy News“. And here I am repeating the sentiment: Bas and I are very happy that I am pregnant again and that Pim will become a brother, probably sometime during the end of May:

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This also explains why I have been absent and have done very little reading since August. Aside from the general business of having one baby and trying to combine that with a full-time PhD, I have been suffering from nauseousness since September. This pregnancy, while still easy up to now, has been very different from when I was pregnant with Pim. Back then, I rarely felt nauseous and this time around I hardly functioned for the first 12 weeks. Luckily, I have had little complaints aside from that, and I feel rather wonderful right now (though admittedly a little bit more tired and more easily irritated — another difference: hormones are having much more effect this time around).

I am both incredibly happy and a tiny bit scared about having another child. We worry that it will be crazily busy, and I am sure it will be, but we are also very much looking forward to adding another member to our family.

More soon, but I just wanted to let you know since I have been struggling to keep quiet for quite some time now. (Also, just in case: facebook does not know yet, for those who are friends with me on there: please refrain from mentioning it on there a little while longer).

Happy Birthday, Pim!

I cannot quite believe I am writing that down, but if I look at the dates it is true: my little baby turned one year old on Monday.

We had a small celebration with his grandparents, aunt, and a few acquaintances on Monday, and expect a larger group of friends and family on Sunday (it will be so busy for out little one; we have our fingers crossed that he will actually catch some sleep..).

As always, I was busy trying to juggle work and decorations for the village festival (which seems to coincide with Pim’s birthday from now until who knows when) as well as preparing for his birthday. It wasn’t perfect, but I certainly tried:

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We decorated with lots of garlands and balloons (the picture doesn’t really capture it, since it only shows part of the room), that were all utterly fascinating to Pim. One of his current favourite pastimes is to point at objects, hear their name, and to be carried to them so he can briefly feel them — and so that is what he did with his birthday decorations. I also put up lots of pictures from the past year. Initially, I wanted to copy Michelle’s idea of putting up the number one in pictures, but I ended up simply putting a random collage of pictures on our glass doors in the living room and kitchen, because I couldn’t make a number work in our living room without damaging paint etc.. It still looks nice and really festive though, and I loved going through the pictures and revisiting some of these moments on the eve before Pim’s birthday, particularly as I haven’t been able to find the time to put together his actual photo book yet *blushes*.

I also made Pim a cake as well as a mock one for cake-smash purposes. The cake smash wasn’t a huge hit with Pim, but to be honest we had kind of expected it. He doesn’t really enjoy getting dirty and he is usually incredibly careful with things, and so instead of going for a full-on smash, he continued to carefully touch the cake with his fingertips, study his hands, and then frown a little as if he didn’t quite know what to make of this. Ah well, it made for some lovely pictures anyway. And it does capture his current personality remarkably well.

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And anyway, Pim did enjoy doing “Hip, Hip, Hooray” in front of the cake. Every time we use that line he looks around so happy and proud with his arms in the air. And it, of course, made us proud too. We hadn’t expected him to do it in front of a large “audience”, since he usually reserves his clapping, waving, hoorays, kisses, and cuddles (the words he seems to associate with actions) for a more intimate setting.

As seems to be the case for most babies, Pim had little interest in his gifts. We had a small slide wrapped in the living room when he entered, but he only wanted to point and stare at the decorations when he first entered the room. After a little while he also became interested in the slide (we thought), but it turned out he only wanted to touch the balloons we had taped to the present. The tearing noise of wrapping paper couldn’t even interest him, he was so overwhelmed by the general state of the room. However, once the present were unpacked, he loved them! We had puzzled over what to get Pim for weeks. He had already received the two things we were sure he would love a month prior from others: a wooden activity cube with Pim’s 3-month-favourite: a wire maze on top, and a ball track. Traditionally, babies receive a sandbox, but the summer is almost over and as I said, Pim doesn’t like to get dirty.. and so we hadn’t a clue what to get him until he suddenly became obsessed with the baby slide in the pool last week. Of course, he can’t really  use the slide as it is intended to be used yet but he loves it when we place him on top and let him mock-slide downwards. Also, it will be a nice addition to the still-being-renovated garden next year. Others also made quite a good judgement of toys Pim would enjoy, and we will continue to swap them up in the following months–year. He was particularly keen on the gift he received from my sister in America, which was extra nice given that she couldn’t be there.

Overall, I think the birthday went really well. I was, of course, a bit overwhelmed and emotional by the end of the day. Honestly, I wasn’t quite ready for the day to arrive and I also wasn’t quite ready for it to be over. I wish we could have celebrated Pim’s birthday all week. To make it last. Or to make the growing up so fast stop, perhaps? In that sense, I am glad we’ll be able to repeat the experience on Sunday.

Reading, the blog, and everything else

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Ever since Pim was born, I do not get to read as much as I would like. It is not just taking care of him, but also organising ways of seeing each other as a couple, finding time for sports, or just having time to do nothing for a while. I think we can say that my life has changed since Pim. In incredibly good ways. But it also means reading fell a victim. And I do not think I can ever fully remedy that. So it is time for the blog to change. Little by little. If I ever want to be able to maintain a blog again.

The first step was changing my blog title a few days ago. It no longer reads “Iris on Books”, but has been changed to “Iris, Books, and More”. It is a minor change, and I do not think any of you would have noticed if I hadn’t written it down here. But it is important for me: it means I might find the breathing room to actually write posts again, without feeling trapped by my own restrictions.

Yes, I am sorry to say goodbye to bookblogging-as-bookblogging. But I think I may say that what I had managed to build years ago has faded away little by little over the past two years anyway. From a professional standpoint, my blog had not been a book blog for a long time. But from a personal one, it still was — and probably still is.

Here’s the thing: I could try to rebuild the blog to what it once was. But honestly? I think I might be lying to myself just a little every day. I just do not feel as free to write about books now — less than I used to anyway.

So what will change? Books will hopefully probably still be a large part of what I write about. I am still a reader — I just do not read as much as I used to. I would also like to share other things I care about: politics, PhD life, motherhood, household stuff, random thoughts, anything really.

I know that some of you might not want to bother with that sort of thing, and I understand. To those: thank you for reading my blog in the past, and for the interactions we shared.

To those who might stick around a little longer, I also want to extend a thank you. The blogging community has supported me through a lot, and I have made a number of friends through this outlet that I absolutely cherish. Hopefully, this -sort of- fresh beginning will be a way to reconnect.

There are still things I am unsure about: I would like to keep the backlog of Iris on Books, I would like for people to be able to find me on twitter through the name they know me by.. and so, I am as yet undecided on whether to start anew somewhere else, or to stay here. And what to do about the URL, and the like. Sometimes i feel the change should be more substantial than changing the blog title, at other times I don’t. So yeah.. this is an ongoing debate I am having with myself.

Recommendations Wanted: Books/Stories about Refugees and Migration

Would any of you know good books/stories/op-ed pieces on refugees and/or migration?

Because.. I cannot help but feel I should do *something*  in my own inadequate way, with all the news about refugees and the *ahem* not-so-friendly policies. And for me, doing something always begins with reading. I have already asked my colleagues about some more scholarly pieces, but would love to know if there is any fiction or perhaps also non-fiction that I should look into.

I feel — or rather, hope — it will be superfluous, but, honestly, no “there’s no room here”, “let’s leave them to drown” pieces, because I see enough of that going around on twitter and elsewhere, and I just do not agree, nor do I have any interest in reading about it.

Three years ago, I read Marie Ndiaye’s Three Strong Women, and as I noted back then, I did not like it as much as I knew I should. Nevertheless, the third story, the one about a woman named Khady, who tries to travel to Europe, still echoes through my mind from time to time. And I cannot help but recall it, whenever I see the news. It learned me to see so much more clearly something I unconsciously always knew: that migration is a difficult undertaking and that we in Europe are forever talking about it from a position of privilege. The circumstances and emotional reverberations were never quite brought home to me so vividly as it was in this story.

So, I am looking for more of these. Stories that bring the human, emotional, lived experience back in the picture — lest we forget that these are people and not news items or you know, all these crazy terms being used in media & politics.

If there’s more interest, I might even compose a list for others to browse.