Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I'm getting the hang of this vacation thing. Sleeping late (when baby allows me to), little home projects (though I never get as much done as I plan), starting breakfast off with chocolate or a cookie ('cause they're around!). Yes, it will be tough to go back to work, but I need to earn a living anyway.

Last night I tried something quite dangerous- inviting people over to eat while a five-month old tried to go to sleep. I had done this before a while back and it worked fine, but at that time baby went to sleep like clockwork at 8. Now she has a rolling bedtime but it's usually before nine. Perhaps it was because one of my guests brought her own two little ones and our girl was a bit riled up/disturbed by these new faces in her territory. Luckily my husband played host while I fed or soothed baby. My meal, a chicken casserole recipe using Campbell's soup (yes, I found some at Monoprix) and the equivalent of Ritz crackers and sour cream that one can find in France, turned out ok. But with all my tending to baby, the meal got kind of cold for the guests, even though I told them to start without me. But being the kind guests that they are, they didn't complain. So lesson learned, I won't be doing big entertaining for a while.

Meanwhile my husband and I have found another way to waste time on the Internet: looking up music videos and old TV shows on YouTube. Yes, we're the last people to make use of it, as usual. He's been catching up on ALF, one of his old favorites, and I find it funnier than I remember. Does anybody know who did Alf's voice? So familiar. Anyway, I like to use YouTube to play music, like this clip that was stuck in my head a few weeks ago. Is it played in the US?

And I've been browsing this lovely book on nature journaling, with great drawings that are really simple and cleansing. Makes me want to go out and start sketching right away. But when to find the time? Perhaps I'll make it one of my resolutions for 2009?! Happy New Year to all!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

‘Tis the Season

Home may be where the heart is, but Christmas is still where you grew up. At least it feels that way to me. Perhaps because it’s just a time of year that’s full of rich, sensorial experiences that mark us. The anticipation of catching a glimpse of Santa that keeps little kids waking up every hour on Christmas morning. All those good smells and tastes of Christmas goodies. The tree filled with ornaments you made in third grade and the metallic balls that somehow survived all these years.

But this year will be another one away from home, my third if memory serves. The first Christmas here I cried quite a lot and frankly just wanted the holiday season to finish quickly. The second time my husband’s grandmother had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer, so the season understandably wasn’t the same. Now for Christmas 2008 we’ve got our new addition to the family and we need to create our own little memories. Baby’s a bit too little to drag on a plane anyway (though I know other moms have done it), and I suppose we do need a quiet Christmas this year. (See our eclectic Christmas tree with huge Ikea balls.)

Even if I’m not going back this year, my mind retraces the memories of my past trips back to the US for Christmas since I’ve been in France. Arriving at that first US airport, usually Detroit or Philadelphia and the euphoria of hearing English all around me. Browsing the celebrity mags and realizing I don’t recognize half of the starlets. Indulging in a Taco Bell soft shell taco as we wait four hours for our connecting flight. Finally seeing the family as we arrive in my hometown late at night. The house lit up with those delicate white lights. Trips to the CVS drug store and Wal-Mart for stocking stuffers, listening to all my shows in English and realizing the French voices are way off! Driving around the winter landscapes of Alabama listening to cool tunes in my sister’s car…

I’ll just have to keep those memories nice and warm for the next time. And wherever you all are for Christmas, I hope you have a lovely one.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Angst and accountants and sandwiches

A week of angst here. Mostly self-induced (nearly always is). Silly misunderstandings with work situations that I will not bore you with (lucky you). I just wish that I had a radar system that alerted me when I was about to miss important details. It could save me such a lot of time and more importantly- worry. I see again that I’m not cut out for a job like doctor or pharmacist, having someone’s life in my hands. If I make mistakes and doubt myself this much in my little profession of teaching English, I’d be a nervous wreck as a surgeon. Not too mention that tiny problem of fainting at the sight of blood.

Which brings me to my second subject: accountants. I have some as students, and frankly I admire their cool, calm, analytical lives. I know I’m oversimplifying things, but I envy their neat and organized ways, their notebooks, their good penmanship. I imagine that they are this orderly in their personal lives, though it probably isn’t so. I suppose I’m just craving some order in my own life, and I’m projecting onto theirs. Maybe we always think that the other folks have it together. Maybe we need to think that someone out there has figured it all out.

Update on the obsessively clean landlady: they’ve charged us for 16 hours of cleaning and repairs. So we only got about a third of our deposit back with that and the cost of repairing what evil Chat did to the linoleum plus the humidity problem from the bathroom which crept into the bedroom. Live and learn and buy lots of cleaning products.

So I’ll end on a lighter note. The other day I’d prepared my Tupperware container of spiral pasta and a slice of ham for lunch. But come lunch time I couldn’t find it at work and so decided to go to my favorite American sandwich place which has happily franchised in the north of France. And as I’m such a good customer, the manager recognized me and gave me a discount. Plus he said he might be interested in taking English lessons with us. Wouldn’t it be funny if my sweet tooth for cookies brought in a new client? Well, I’ve got to find something to be positive about…

Saturday, December 6, 2008

In a year's time

I've been up since 6:15 on this wintry Saturday. Baby still doesn't understand the concept of sleeping in. She fed and I put her gently back to sleep in her crib in her own little room. After making some happy sounds for a while, her little cries started intensifying and the magical pacifier didn't help. So around 7 I gave up and brought her in the living room while I ate my breakfast. I'm generously letting my husband snooze. Now it's 8:15 and I've organized my birth announcements for Europe, packaged up a file to send to my employer and spot cleaned the stroller where Chat-chat left us a small smear of something with a plant leaf in it. Great, gonna have to throw that cover in the wash now. Baby's got her hands on the keyboard or my hands as I type this.

And to think a year ago I had just found out I was pregnant. I called baby petit pois, little pea, since the books said she was about that size. She already had a strong pulsing heartbeat we could see on the ultrasound, but of course we didn't know she was a she yet. I still had a hard time believing I was expecting, considering there were no outward signs. I was mostly giddy and amazed at my new condition.

Even now I'm still pretty amazed that I've got a four and a half month baby who gurgles and screeches happily. Needless to say my life has changed. Besides being excited if I sleep till 7, I often refer to myself in the third person: Mommy's gonna be right back, Mommy's just a little tired, don't mind me. I've become an expert in singing silly improvised songs for bath time. I've done so much laundry that I'm probably responsible for any water shortages in the next decade. I've learned a great technique for removing cradle's cap (Vaseline then rinse then use business card to scrape off gently).

And since baby's been here, I've been seeing a lot of my old friends, Guilt and Worry. The latter because there are simply so many things to worry and fret over when you're responsible for someone's little life. Is she eating enough? Is she spitting up too much? Did she have that spot on her head yesterday? And worry even beyond today's issues. An episode of Medium where someone's little boy strays in a store and meets a tragic end haunts me for days. And then there's the guilt. Because sometimes I need a break from whimpering like anybody else. I can be a bit nostalgic for the days when I could nap when I wanted or work till 8 p.m. and not worry that baby wouldn't see me for her bedtime.

But despite any "complaints" or the anxiety, baby is still one of the best things to happen to me. All in all it's a change for the better.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Baby talks

In this exclusive interview, Baby Girl, or JT, to her fans, gives an account of one of her fun-filled days.