Saturday, June 28, 2008

On sale now

It's one of the two official sales periods in France. Though frankly there are many times of the year where you walk into a shop here and see little green stickers saying 20 or 30 or even 50% off, officially, shops can really only go hog-wild on sales in these periods starting in January and June. A typically French stick-to-the-rules kind of thing. I thought it was all kind of silly when I first got to France. But I sometimes happen upon some good deals, and having two X chromosomes, I do procure a little pleasure from that!

Of course this year it's not really worth it to buy stuff for me. May get the size totally wrong considering the bowling ball in front of me. But I can still find good deals for other people. As the husband was actually home yesterday (yeah!), we went to Kiabi (fairly nice mid-range clothes shop) to look for some pants for him. He goes through jeans like paper napkins considering his dirt-attracting job. Whoever said men don't like shopping didn't meet my husband. He can actually take MORE time than a woman. Not that he adores the activity, but when he sets his mind to do it (twice a year maybe) he takes his time. So after nearly snorting in laughter at the "young" jeans that have faded patches and weird zippers (he thinks he could get money by exchanging his old ones), he decided to try on six pairs of slacks that would be decent for working.

So we head for the dressing room area in the middle of the store which is for tout le monde- that is to say, everyone, women, men and kids, though with curtains, of course. He tried on pair after pair and dutifully bent over to make sure they weren't tight you-know-where. And after each pair he stepped up onto the little platform to let the shop assistant measure and pen for his hems. I swear we were in there about 25 minutes just for that.

I did check about for myself but saw nothing tempting. I have a vision of this blue summer dress which is as yet still elusive. It would be a blue between sky and navy, with a high-waist or sort of simple late 50s style. Mid-length and soft cotton. If I could sew I'd sew it myself.

Anyway, no dream dress this time, so I continued my vicarious pleasure by buying a few baby things. I'm still working on the list provided by the maternity department. This is a daunting task in French. At first I couldn't make heads or tails of it. Brassières en laine. No, it's not a bra. It's a wooly cardigan according to my British friend who has been there, done that with the French birthing process. Does bébé really need that in the middle of the summer? Apparently yes, considering she'll be coming from the nice body temperature swimming pool of my belly. So I got another one of those.

And little socks and what they call here a gigoteuse. After describing it to my mom, she thinks it's a sleeper. A blanket type material that fastens or zips around the baby and is "worn" on top a bit like a pair of overalls. Keeps the baby from moving about too much and maintains a constant temperature. I stopped another customer to get her advice on one. Turns out she was a mother of three, so I was in good hands. And another little sleeper that the husband picked out. His first time to shop for the baby, so I let him explore. A few other odds and ends and we then had to wait in the horrendous check-out.

I must admit I looked around a bit again today, but didn't see anything I can't live wihout. I really could get addicted to this, but my bank might have some issues with that.

If any of you are planning on shopping soon, I will leave you with this pearl of wisdom from Helen Fielding, author of the Bridget Jones books. Only buy clothes that make you want to do a little dance.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The baby-related blog entry

I finished that Ikea shelf system (all by myself!). Not without a few snafus which I’d like to blame on the sometimes too subtle pictograms that Ikea uses as instructions. Soon my husband and I will put together the crib (let’s see how smoothly that goes, he he). Physically we’re getting things prepared for bébé. But the fact that our baby has an American mom and a French papa adds some other things to our checklist.

This morning for instance I was looking online to see about getting our little croissan’wich a US passport. I think it will make things easier when we travel back to the US (for one thing she can stay with me in the line and probably get through more quickly when we land back there). I found out that she will automatically be a US citizen even without us lifting a finger, because of my citizenship. Of course, I’ll also speak English to the baby, so she can understand her Yankee relatives, while her papa will communicate in French.

But besides a passport and linguistic abilities, I feel that I must pass on some cultural heritage to our baby. I may live in France and speak some French every day, but I’ll always be American and never quite fit the French mold. Cue the Lee Greenwood music now. And I want to make sure that our baby has American values. By that I don’t mean Bush values, but more like an American side. That he or she knows that America is not just the land of McDonald’s (though I will take baby there, too!) or SUVs and the newest American starlet. That it’s her country, too, just as much as France will be. I’ll make sure she knows about Thanksgiving and pumpkin pie and the fourth of July and hot baked Tollhouse cookies. Yes, that about sums up the American experience, right?

Oh, it’s so much richer than that, I know. Those little things like a random airport worker calling you “darling” when she tells you how to get to gate 4. Or since I’m from the South, the joy of a nice cold homemade milkshake on a sweltering July day. The sound of a good summer thunderstorm. Chatting up the people in line at the Piggly Wiggly. I suppose it’s hard to define it.

What I definitely don’t want is for our child to turn up her nose at the US like some French do. To hear something like “All Americans are fat and want to rule the world” coming out of my child’s mouth would be a sure sign that I’ve failed to show her the real fiber of my country. And without living there a long time, it can be hard to get a real feel for a place and not reduce it to stereotypes. And I guess to be fair, I’ll have to limit my own sometimes negative comments about France in front of bébé. Because France is her country, too, and perhaps most of the time she’ll feel it’s more her homeland than the US. Hmm, bringing up a bicultural baby might be a bit more complicated than I thought.

Maybe my readers (all two of you!) can tell me what it means to you to be a (North) American…?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Calling Dr. House

Where was House when I needed him? Last week I really had an ARGGHHHH moment with the French health care system. There are times when I praise it, like when I see that I am reimbursed 100% for ANY medical care now that I'm more than 6 months along. And even if I didn't have French coverage, a run-of-the-mill check-up is 22 euros. Just a bit more than the average co-payment (which you aren't reimbursed for) in the US.

But there are some bugs in the system. I've been seeing these transparent green spots in front of my eyes from time-to-time. Sort of an inky halo around things. I told my OB/GYN this who said it wasn't related to the pregnancy but to try and get an appointment with the eye doctor all the same. As soon as she said this I knew it wasn't going to be easy. The ophthalmologists in the north of France are an endangered species. It's well known that the majority of them have set up practice in the sunny south of France. So if you live in the cool and often gray north, they will give you an appointment for, oh, next year.

And as I expected, when I called my "opthalmo" the cut and dry secretary said, one year. This despite my hurried explanation that I was pregnant, that it was important, etc. So then I called back the GYN office to get some advice. And got treated to a "Madame, you know this is the maternity department, it's not our fault there aren't enough opthalmos yada yada." Translation: why are you bugging us when it's clearly not our problem? I insisted a bit, saying, but my doctor said I should be seen quickly and I don't want to let this get out of hand. This led the secretary to give me the name of an opthalmo her daughter had seen who gave her a quick appointment. But I would need to call my GP first to get a prescription to see said opthalmo.

My GP, who is sometimes cut and dry herself, turned out to be quite helpful. She's 40ish with 4 kids and wears size 6 trendy city clothes. I always thought she was a bit too quick with her patients and maybe a tad superficial. But when I told her the story about waiting one year for an appointment, she sprang to action. She took her phone and called my original opthalmo and asked for an appointment. This same secretary who'd told me a year, told my doc next month. But super doctor persisted, saying, she's 7 and 1/2 months pregnant. Magically, they gave me an appointment for the next day!

Well, end of story, after waiting with all the other privileged people who had an appointment, my opthalmo thinks it's just eye spasms. Apparently nothing serious. But I'm gonna tell all the French people I know to make an appointment today, just in case there's the slightest possibility they'll need glasses soon. You can never do it too early.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Ikea, with you every step of the way

This is the new slogan I’ve created for Ikea. It may have already been used by another company before, but it sums up my experiences with them. I had never been to an Ikea in the US because the nearest one was in another state. But when I moved into my first apartment in France (a ridiculously tiny studio with a view of the courtyard, i.e. brick wall) my boyfriend (now husband) took us to that big blue building. And I discovered that feeling of entering a life-size Swedish dollhouse. Dollhouse because I had the impression I was looking in the windows at some idyllic interior scene and the perfect-in-every-way occupants would be coming back soon.

It was a precious little kitchen scene which enticed us to buy our first dining room table, a warm wood half circle with built in storage for plates and such. We took our time and sat at the displayed table in the bright apple-green walled space and imagined ourselves in this little world. My husband even insisted on getting the same cushions for the chair as those on display because it just didn’t seem right otherwise to him.

When I moved to a bigger apartment we bought the same table model to create a larger oval table, and two more chairs. The original cushions weren’t available, so we were forced to mix and match patterns! And when we married and moved to an apartment with a real bedroom, we decided to get a real bed, alllowing the sofa bed to live out its intended purpose in the living room. Again, we chose the same warm wood as the other pieces we have in a style that reminds my husband of Little House on the Prairie. I myself was highly influenced by the crisp white linen on the display bed (successfully resisted temptation to buy said bedding!).

Five years since my first encounter I’m still rather enchanted by observing and touching the little details in the carefully created kitchens and living rooms on display in my local Ikea. This time around it was for baby that I went. I looked around the miniature world for children, with the soft colored walls and rounded edges of the cribs and shelving. To enter this section there is the normal passage and also a child-sized door cut into the wall. There were some parents with their toddlers checking the area out and it was funny to see the kids make themselves immediately at home in the different scenes. I chose a basic white crib and book shelf, part of the Hensvik series if you are curious. The names I can never commit to memory are also part of the Ikea experience.

Now I’m putting together the shelf. Much easier said than done when you have a bowling ball permanently attached to you. It’s also the first Ikea piece I’m assembling myself since my husband usually quickly takes over these “shared projects”. And as he mistakes parts from time to time and gets irritated, it usually ends up being his project as I stomp off in pouts. So far it’s going ok, but we’ll see if I really understood those pictograms well once I have to attach the final pieces together.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

another week for a TV junkie

This week was a doozy. Thirty-one hours of teaching (counting those breaks when the students do an exercise, thank god!). Not sure if I will be able to physically carry on a few extra weeks as I'd wished to do. That would allow me to stay home longer with bébé, but I might just be too tired to keep working beyond the official maternity leave date.

On nights when I am beat (and, heck, just about any other night, for that matter), hubby and I are are likely to park ourselves in front of the TV. I know we should vary our evenings a bit more, plus try to disconnect from TV more often. But when we're both barely able to sit up after a long day, we don't feel like a game of Scrabble or a heavy political discussion. We feel like watching House (or Dr. House as the French have for some unknown reason dubbed it). After watching about two seasons of it, all dubbed in French, unfortunately, we've come to see that this show pretty much follows the same pattern. I'll give you an example:

Telegenic person presents with strange symptoms- passing out in the middle of public event is the most popular. He or she is admitted and diagnosed with common disease X at the same time as the staff tries to rule out cancer. They treat the patient which relieves then aggravates symptoms. They come up with a second more obscure diagnosis. But this new diagnosis will probably require said patient to reveal infidelity, homosexuality or put their unborn's child life in danger. Or the doctors go searching this person's house and just happen to find some tiny clue which leads them to the real cause of the symptoms, e.g. the fact that their toothpaste is too old.

All that said, I do like the show a lot, and along with my other télérendezvous of the week, it helps me get by. We'll soon be approaching the summer wasteland of TV programming, so I'd better get my fill in.