Thursday, March 26, 2009

Full circle

Last weekend we took advantage of the finicky sun to take a walk in a small local wood. We were rewarded with a beautiful carpet of jonquils under the trees. Even though the temperature was still a bit frisky, the sights were lovely and it gave baby some fresh air and a chance to see the roosters and pigeons in their pens. This was the same place we visited about a year ago when the wild hyacinths were in bloom (that will be in a few weeks). So I couldn’t help thinking back to that time when I had my round belly and Remi and I were imagining our soon-to-be transformed life.

Lately I catch myself doing lots of retrospection and projection, thinking of where I was a year ago and where I will be a year from now. Maybe children do that to you, make you more conscious of how quickly things can change. This time next year she’ll be walking and saying more words. We’ll be chasing after her and making sure she doesn’t put everything in her mouth. But I realize that I maybe spend so much time thinking back or forward that I’m not fully living in the present. It’s like that saying about the past being finished, the future for tomorrow and the present is a gift. Or something like that. Or as the hippies would say, be here now. Live in the moment, carpe diem, seize the day. Maybe I should get it tattooed on myself ‘cause I never can seem to really follow that advice, no matter how many times I’ve heard it.

Anyhow, it was nice to spend time as a family after so many weekends when Remi was working hard on the machine. Unfortunately we’re about to come into the heat of it, the majorly busy month of May and the first half of June. So we won’t have too many free weekends together soon, and I may even help out some in the greenhouse with baby smeared with sunscreen in her playpen near me. Oh, there I go again, projecting into the future. So I’ll just have to concentrate on the time we can spend calmly now and that as long as baby’s with me and doing fine, all the rest is small stuff.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Have you hugged a government worker today?

Last week we had another “journée d’action” (day of action) here in France. Translation: the nation’s unions called on their members to get out in the streets and protest…something.

We have so many strikes here that after a while you don’t even ask why they’re on strike. You’re just so disgusted that they’re doing it again. This time it was apparently to make the president create some kind of stimulus package because folks are feeling the crunch of the financial crisis. Then maybe the whole world should go on strike? My company seems to have fewer lessons due to the crisis but it’s pointless for me to strike.

It seems France is divided into two types of people: those with cushy situations and job security (be it private or public) who go on strike at the drop of a hat if anyone dares to change a punctuation mark in their contract. And the rest of us, who probably secretly want a stable job with perks, but since we don’t have one, can smugly say we’d never go on strike.

The cashier at the supermarket last week fell into the latter category. She was telling anyone who would listen how crazy it was that the train strikes would affect other people’s ability to get to work. I have to agree with her on that one. Plus the school teachers that strike create a big mess for parents who need to take their kids to school and then themselves to work. And the cashier went on to complain about the folks who get so much government aid because they have four kids. All that to say even the French complain about their bloated system.

But to end on a positive note, my own city government came through for me last week. I’d called to ask about the sidewalk near our apartment which had no asphalt and thus after a decent rain always became a muddy mess or created huge puddles. And four days later I was pleased to see that red gravel had been put down, which is much nicer to roll the stroller over after a rainy day. So maybe I’ll have to take back a few of those things I said about civil servants.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Auntie Caro gets baby to smile

Here you see my friend Caroline, aka Lamb Chop, playing with baby and getting her to smile more than mom and dad can! And see how baby's pulling herself up so well. Strong back. As I write this she's giving me a shower with her "raspberry" practice. My hand is all wet...

Friday, March 13, 2009

A mom's life

I park my red hatchback Peugeot on Tata Marie’s busy residential street and ring the doorbell. Moments later I see my little muffin’s smiling face and her little white shoes kicking happily. I also get the progress report of the day, how she ate, how (little) she slept, if she was whimpery. And often my joy at seeing baby again after a (sort of) long day at work turns to worry about my parenting skills if I get a “bad” report. Today for example she was apparently rather demanding if she wasn’t being held. So automatically I wonder if I’ve been giving into her cries too much at home.

What’s wrong with holding your baby too much? My baby bible, Dr. Spock, said that you couldn’t really speak of spoiling a baby before six months. Now she’s seven and a half, and we do see a direct correlation with picking her up and those whimpers stopping cold in their tracks. Maybe I just have a low tolerance for crying, or maybe she’s just so very cuddly. But I also know that subconsciously or not, having a baby for me meant having another little companion here in France. Before she was born I would talk to myself as I made pies or quiches and imagine I was telling baby about the ingredients or that we were making papa a nice surprise. I know of course that I can’t lean on her to be my friend. That’s too much to ask of a child. On this matter Dr. Spock only warns that children need parents, not (just) friends. They do need limits.

At any rate I’m finding that I’m still in the training period for motherhood. Just when you’ve got one thing mastered, a new challenge comes along. Just when you think you’re starting to get ahead on laundry, those super diapers no longer hold out over night. And the contradictions still keep coming. Like groaning at midnight when baby wakes me up, but yearning to see her when she sleeps late (till 8 a.m.). Or being content to hold baby next to me after that day of work, but also wondering when I’ll get around to those million things I need to do, like clean the bathroom and check my email.

To be continued…

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

News (bad and good) from across the pond

Actually I’m talking about news from the US side. This morning my husband told me there was a story about Alabama in the headlines. As I held baby and heard the word “shooting”, my heart started beating faster. It wasn’t in my hometown, but these types of things are becoming all too common. Another deranged person has gone and taken the lives of innocents. Even if it’s not the first time it doesn’t make it any less shocking or tragic. I don’t know if gun control will ever work in the US, but I do know that there seem to be fewer of these incidents in France, where it’s much harder to get hold of weapons. That said, it can happen anywhere. My heart goes out to the poor families touched by this tragedy.

On a much lighter note, we’ve been catching up with the US news and culture on CNN. Now that we’ve got Internet, phone and TV service wrapped into one, we get a few English channels. Last Sunday we caught Larry King interviewing Dolly Parton (who, bless her heart, is starting to resemble an alien with all that plastic surgery). I learned that the press is beating up poor Jessica Simpson because she’s put on weight and that Dolly thinks that’s just awful.

Then there was a broadcast of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. So strange to see the show we’re used to watching back home. It made us feel like we’re there on the couch in Alabama again. Anyway, there were a lot of jokes about the financial crisis and how CNBC really blew it telling people things weren’t as bad as they seemed. And an interview with NBC anchor Brian Williams that was pretty funny.

Things like this remind me that I really am American. Yes, strange as it may seem, there are times I nearly forget. It’s not that I really blend in here. When I tell people I’m American, they smile a bit and say, well, we can hear by your accent. But trying to survive this French system sometimes gives me the impression I’m one of “them”. And then an expression or joke on CNN will bring me back and I remember who I am. The thing is, I have been away so long (nearly 7 years now), that there are quite a few references I wouldn’t get anymore.

Never mind. They can never take my passport away, even if I don’t know the original title of the latest Jennifer Anniston film.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The new sounds

Here baby is coaxed by papa into saying "bbbb", a sort of spitting sound she had been making gleefully right before the video. So it's mostly papa making this sound and in the middle a bit of her laugh, which is rather hard to get out! You will notice hubby's hair is radically different from the other video. Now he's more like Wentworth Miller in Prison Break season 3. Just to be clear, that's a compliment.

Spring in the air, spring in my step?

In the interest of not totally bringing down my readers (nobody’s on suicide watch that I know of), I’m gonna try to be a little bit more up about things. I can’t make any promises, but I’ll try to follow my friend Crystal’s advice and think positively. Besides, it’s finally March, which means spring’s around the corner. Although by today’s brisk temperatures, you wouldn’t believe it. Baby’s getting cuter and more interactive by the day, or more “interesting” as my father-in-law says in what I’m sure is meant a kind way. I’m going to see my family real soon, dad at the end of the month, many others in July. And I’ve got to hope that things will get better professionally or I’ll just have to dig a hole and put my head in the ground for a while.

This week with the gaping holes in my schedule I’m trying to make headway on baby’s passport application. I’ve filled out three separate forms just this morning, one of which was for her social security number application. Somehow it makes me a bit nostalgic filling out forms that ask for state and zip code and seeing Alabama in the drop-down list. I’m proud to give baby this piece of my heritage. Last week I got her passport photos taken, and it’s a good thing she’s started sitting up a bit to be upright for the photo. I still had to duck down under the chair to support her while the photographer attracted her attention to the camera. She’s got her eyes open and staring straight ahead and a little drop of drool on her chin. Ah, we’ll look at that photo in a few years and remember how little she was.

And I’ve found a way to silence the cat. I just gave him free access to his food bowl all day. Now he doesn’t meow me to death every time I go in the kitchen. The only problem will be when baby starts crawling and could try to sample his dry food. I thought about putting his bowl in the kitchen and then having a baby barrier into the kitchen, but that would get rather annoying to “hurdle” over every time I have to go back in. So, any suggestions would be welcome.

Wow, all that positive thinking has tired me out. I’ll get back to you on any other positive developments in my life.