Saturday, August 29, 2009

Job wanted

Mommy keeps saying the e-con-o-my is bad this year. So I think it's wise to start job-hunting now. Thirteen months isn't too early, is it?

And as I was born in the twenty-first century, I'll do this the modern way, by showing my skills on the Internet.

Firstly, I'm great at communication, as my phone skills in this video can show you. (Mommy says she doesn't know why this video's so fuzzy.)

And here you can see that I'm great at organizing things. These were those child protection thingeys. I think they're much more useful on the floor than on doors and drawers, personally.

Add to that that I can say sophisticated words like "cat-ki" and "me-now" (what a cat says, duh?!), and I think you'll see I'd be a great employee.

Did I mention I can bang on the keyboard and make emails and other quantities of text disappear? Contact "JuJu" if you want me to send my CV.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Men: Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em

Dear male readers, don’t be scared off by my title. I just thought it was time to let off a little steam about the joys and well, non-joys, of life with someone with a Y chromosome. It’s been a post I’ve had in my head for a while, but I was inspirited to flesh it out more since I discovered this blog thanks to my friend Caroline. I think the title says it all, Even if you’re not married, I think anyone can appreciate the absurdity of it all. I especially love how her husband seems to be the twin of Ben Stiller.

But back to my own moanings. Beyond those little things like leaving the toilet in a mighty fine state right after I’ve cleaned it or keeping empty cookie bags in the cupboard (do they think they will magically be refilled?), there are just some male characteristics that I alternately admire and find annoying:

1. That logic thing: Like when I spent way too much time trying to remove those plastic things from Juliette’s crib, and Remi just looked at them and saw they needed to be unscrewed. Or when I was afraid I’d messed up my computer by pushing in the start button too much, Remi simply slapped his hand on the CPU to make it pop out. I guess he inherited the MacGyver gene.

2. The ability to sleep through nuclear war: and more specifically babies crying or cats meowing for food at 4 a.m. As my friend Ilona said, perhaps we women are just more tuned to our environment and anticipating what might happen. We’re on alert mode. So the men don’t have to be…

3. Letting go of worry: Whereas I can spend a sleepless night worrying about a new possible life-threatening runny nose that baby has developed, Remi is able to put it in perspective. When I mentioned to the pediatrician that I worried so much and my husband so little, he said that’s what dads were for.

4. That heightened sense of confidence: that secure knowledge that they WILL find the right way even if they have to drive an extra hour. That the ten locals we pass by don’t have the right information to get us there anyway. Or the confidence that there is definitely something more interesting on the other channels, especially during commercial breaks.

So you see, I wasn’t too tough on you guys. It’s all in good fun. I know we women have our own annoying habits. Like always being right about everything. How you can live with that day in and day out, I’ll never know…

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sentimental hearts abstain

I like to see her bath toys hanging up in the shower. Or her sturdy books and stuffed animals strewn across her bedroom floor where she left them. The bright colors of her clothes and the cheerful pattern of her crib liner. This little universe for this little person. This is the good stuff in life, I try to remember. Despite my ever-doubting personality and the time I have to consecrate to changing things about myself professionally and personally, I try try try to appreciate all these precious moments that a one-year-old is offering. All for free. Or nearly free. Just the price of a bit less sleep in general and less time to spend on my own stuff. I won’t pretend it’s not an adjustment or that there aren’t days that she cries every time I move her or leave the room for a second. I must never forget what a gift she is. I’ll squeeze her every chance I get. Until she’s a “tween” and won’t let me! Already there are moments she flees my arms, literally shrugs her shoulders away from me as she picks up her toys.

Anyway, here’s one of those “precious moments”…

Summer’s last hurrah?

So we did indeed take that trip to the beach. Or should I say beaches, plural? We took advantage of a nice warm weekend and the fact that Remi didn’t need to work all weekend (was there a lunar eclipse in there too?) to give Juliette her first beach experience. So Saturday morning we set out at 7:30 a.m. to arrive at Quend at around 9:30. This is a lovely wide sandy beach in the Picardie region. Here Juliette discovered what fun it was to crawl on the sand and let the waves splash over her feet. She absolutely hated us taking her out of the water, but that may also have been because we prevented her from putting shells in her mouth. Though we were watching her closely, she managed to stuff some in there and thus followed emergency mouth prying-open operation. Luckily we got the shells out, but we’re both just wondering when the famous oral stage will end.

That night we stayed in a bed and breakfast (chambre d’hôte) further inland that was run by an English couple. They’re very hard-working folks and have done a great job on their place. I could tell they miss their homeland a bit too. It’s not easy even when you’re in closer proximity. They served us a huge real English breakfast with baked beans and delicious sausages.

Sunday morning it was off to Cayeux-sur-Mer, a beach that has more pebbles. It was a bit tougher to walk on but it has its own charm and beauty, too. There are rows of these beach cabins where people apparently store gear or change into their swimsuits or have tea parties with their cats!

And finally we hopped down to Mers-les-Bains, a beach which has cliffs nearby and lovely architecture. We ate a nice meal there and Juliette played in the water again.

Of course, the non-stop fun must eventually come to an end. Those lazy days where the top thing on your to-do list is get an ice cream cone are lovely and relaxing, but I suppose if every day were that care-free, we wouldn’t appreciate it. At least that’s how I’m trying to justify it to myself as the back-to-school commercials keep reminding us that summer’s nearly over. At least school kids have new backpacks and notebooks to cheer them up. What can adults do to get back in the mood for work and waking up early? My solution: I’m going to try to have something fun to look forward to every week. Maybe it’s treating myself to a pastry or seeing a friend. Maybe it’s Desperate Housewives Season 5. I don’t know if it will work, but as I can’t really go on vacation every weekend, it’ll have to do for now!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Le mois d'août (The month of August)

For those of you practicing your French, that’s pronounced (approximately!) as so: luh mwah dewh.

I suppose that if you had to pick a month to come back to France, August is not so bad. It’s a bit like stepping into a slightly aged postcard. One where you see folks enjoying pizzas on café terraces and (if you’re lucky) the sky’s so blue that you think it must have been retouched. There’s also a sleepiness about everything, probably because half the city’s inhabitants are on vacation themselves. There are virtually no lines in the government offices, or then again, there might be if all the staff is on vacation. Numerous family-owned shops have lowered their exterior plastic blinds and posted their signs saying “fermeture annuelle”, or annual closing/holidays. This can be anywhere from one to three or maybe even four weeks.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not over my post-vacation blues, but I figure the best way to readapt to my adopted country is to act like the rest of them. And at this moment that means, continue to be on vacation. So simple, I wonder why I didn’t think of it sooner. So last Sunday we took Remi’s granddad, or Dédé, to a bay/beach town for a day trip. Of course, this was a day spent at grandpa/bébé speed, so not very fast. He gave Remi directions to take the Very Scenic Route (i.e. very windy roads but cute landscapes and villages) and of course there was the obligatory stop at the very quaint town of St. Riquier for a quick coffee. Remi took this cool 360° video of the main square. That’s an old abbey you see. Then another good stretch of driving to arrive at Le Crotoy. Most of our time was spent eating and sitting on a bench. No playing in the sand this time but it’s always nice to get out of your own surroundings and see some calming landscapes. We came back tired after all that driving, but our heads filled with all we’d seen.

If we can reserve a reasonably priced-hotel room we’re going to try and do a real beach trip this weekend. Let Juliette make use of her little shovel and sieve on the sand. We’re lucky since the beach is only about 2 hours from us.
So my advice to all of you still bummed after your vacation, don’t end it! Keep staying on vacation until the money runs out. It’s the only way to get every last drop out of summer and keep you warm with memories come September.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Post-vacation life

It’s now been a week since we returned from our lovely three weeks in America. They went by fast, of course, but it was a good amount of time to catch up on friends and family and remember why we love those folks so much. Which makes it all the harder to leave them. Those first few days back we experienced the old familiar symptoms of TBT and GH. The Total Body Tiredness (TBT) was normal considering the jet lag. But you have to add the Baby Factor this time. Juliette slept quite well on the plane (in this Apollo 11-era bassinet contraption; the stewardess told us to take her out if there was too much turbulence, as babies become “missiles” and just “pop out”; there was also this netting to keep her in… ).

She slept so well in fact that she was still on Alabama time and felt as if she’d just had a fairly normal night. She even slept just shy of two hours as we waited what seemed an eternity in the train station at the airport for our direct train back. So as we were exhausted by 9 pm French time, she was just ready for an afternoon nap and wouldn’t officially sleep her “night” until 3 am. This continued for the next three days; each night we succeeded in getting her to bed two hours earlier until she reached her French schedule.

The GH, or General Heaviness, is a natural return symptom, too. The suitcases were heavier, considering all the souvenirs we bought and gifts we received. Going back we’re never as light in spirit as when we start our trip. There’s no giddiness of seeing smiling faces to greet us at the airport and we know our big vacation time is over. Then for me there’s just the heaviness of heart from knowing how much I’ll be missing everyone. Three weeks is long enough to feel very much at home again and appreciate all those little things. To feel American again. Now I’m back and holding on to the experiences as if they were precious treasures. The dollars I’ve still got in my wallet, the receipts, food wrappers or simply a Wal-Mart bag, all remind me where I was and where I’m from and that I’m not there now. The first week back or so I feel my eyes smart with tears if I think of those faces back home. I love you guys! We’ll just have to think of the next trip and hope it’s not too far away…

We expatriates will always have mixed feelings. At the Atlanta airport we saw this American lady and her baby who live in Chile. She was on the internal tram as we went to our terminal. Someone asked her if she was happy to be going back to Chile, and I heard her reply, yes and no. I can definitely relate. I’ve been trying to make a mental inventory of what’s not so bad about my life here: a spacious apartment in walking distance to a beautiful town center, generally low humidity days, some great friends who love to commiserate with me, a husband who tries to understand how hard it is for me to be living here, and of course, my little crawling monster baby. France is not some poverty-stricken flea-infested ghetto, I know. But there are so many days I’d trade cobbled streets and old abbeys for an “ordinary” trip to Publix with the fam for a few avocados. Until I find a better solution, I guess I’ll have to live with these contradictions.