Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Why is it more fun to do other people's dishes?

I wash the gold-rimmed China in my mother-in-law’s kitchen. I’m careful not to break the delicate blue-flowered plates that she uses for our Sunday meals. I even dry them with the cotton dishtowel and stack them neatly on the dining room table. I know later she’ll put them up in the warm wood buffet. And I wonder why I never take so much care (or pride) in cleaning my own things.

I also have nothing better to do on this Sunday afternoon at the in-laws’. As I mentioned before, Remi’s been working seven days a week, and as a compromise, I follow him to work at least one day of the weekend. Which means all my own chores are either crammed into Saturday or not done at all. Never mind that we’ve had a good deal of long weekends and in theory I should have been able to catch up. My own dining room table generally has bread crumbs from breakfast, piles of supermarket mailings and paperwork I need to file. My own sink is probably full, unless I courageously did the dishes at 9 the night before (after dinner at 8).

Yes, I’m still having a lot of trouble keeping up with housework. Despite trying to be more organized (not going empty-handed to the other side of the house, thus minimizing all that walking), the laundry basket, sink and pile of clothes to be ironed are overflowing. Dust bunnies are evolving into wooly mammoths. Mildew is staking claim in the bathroom. Those photo albums for my wedding (from 2006!) and baby’s first months are still not done. And no, to answer your question, I don’t spend all my free time online, though I might be addicted to it in some form.

It's not that I want to be Martha Stewart perfect. But a minimum of cleanliness and organization would be nice. My aunt sent me a card before baby was born that said a clean house wasn’t as important as a happy baby. I sure hope baby’s happy, because the apartment surely ain’t clean.


I’m hands-down the world’s worst decision maker. This week I had to decide between two career counseling centers where I may do the famous “bilan de compétences”, a series of meetings with a counselor to talk about what my skills are and what I can do in this old life of mine. I asked myself if I was having this much trouble choosing a center, how the HECK was I going to later choose a new career path or training program. One bright spot though, in explaining what I consider a convoluted job situation to one of the administrative people this week, I was pleasantly surprised when she understood it right away.

Now there are smaller choices in life which can still be difficult in their own way. Should I choose the drive-through or go inside McDonald’s on this busy Wednesday before noon? I rarely treat myself to fast food these days, and seeing the parking lot full, I decide to do the “good” thing (in terms of my budget) and just eat at home.

At the supermarket I linger over the choice of a new trash can for the recyclables. With the step mechanism to open or the swing top? The smaller size or should I go ahead and buy bigger knowing that we’ll probably stuff it to the limit before getting off our duffs and emptying it? For the record I chose swing top and medium-size, but I'm going to return it as Remi said to go for the bigger size.

Then there’s the baby food aisle and the teething biscuits. Organic or regular thus risk of more pesticides? But wait, in fact upon reading the label I see that it’s only once your baby has teeth, and JuJu is still all gums. Ok, that decision’s made for me. No biscuits for now.

I’m honestly paralyzed by decision-making most of the time. I would gladly pay someone to make the decisions for me and then I’d just accept the consequences more willingly. But first I’d have to choose the person. Applications welcome!

Dogs and ducks and people-watching (baby’s eye view)

Last Friday mom took me to the park near us because it was sunny. She’s got this new favorite word “keepiton!” that she especially uses when I’ve got my sunglasses or cap on. But I say if my hands go up there, why not use them. We sat down on the grass and just watched folks go by. A girl rode by on her bike. And hey, there she was again and again. I think she was turning around just to see me. I touched the grass a bit and stared at the nice grandma type who stopped to look at me, too. Then mom took me to see the Ducks. I was in my stroller and this Boy came up to me and started talking. I couldn’t understand him though ‘cause he must speak another type of baby-talk. He had nice brown eyes and his mom called him Cyrille. So I started to tell him my name, ZjuZju, but I’m still working on the sound. Then this funny little dog tried to chase the ducks.

Speaking of dogs, every morning mom shows me my stuffed one and I practice that sound, “daw”. It seems to make her happy. She also likes it when I clap my hands. It’s some new thing she’s teaching me. She says “yeah!” and then I’m supposed to clap. I do it too for that little teapot song of hers. But there’s something about a handle and spout I’m supposed to do, too. We’re working on it.

Most of the time things are fine and dandy, but I need to show her the rules of the game sometimes. Like when she tries to put me back in my playpen I need to cry out and kick my legs for a while so she knows who’s boss. Or just whenever I feel like it lately, a little crying and I arch my back a bit. She usually starts saying something like “no, ma’am, I don’t think so” or “little girl, you can catch more flies with honey.” I don’t want to catch any flies though, so that’s silly.

That’s ok, though. I know that raising a parent takes time and patience. I’ll keep you posted.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A full body "yes"

She's sort of practicing the nod here. At the beginning that little clicking sound is the milk sloshing around in her stomach. And the high-pitched squealing in the middle is from me, not her. I think I squeal more than her these days.

Chez le pédiatre (at the pediatrician’s)

Before I launch into the theme of this post, I'd like to thank fellow bloggers and family for their kind words of encouragement. I know I complain a lot. Thanks for putting up with it again.

They say when a baby is born, so is a mom. I’d add to that that as a baby grows, her mom does too. I saw how much we’ve both changed again when I took Juliette to the pediatrician this week for her check-up. This time I noticed that she looked around more and interacted a little with the other children. As my own mom says, she seemed to recognize those small faces and big eyes around her as the same “species” and babbled a bit. A fifteen-month-old babbled back at her as he scooted by on a little plastic car. It’s hard for me to believe that in five months (or less), Juliette could be walking unsteadily and that I’ll be holding her hand and making sure she doesn’t bump into things.

At every visit the pediatrician takes her weight and length, of course, but that’s certainly not the only way to measure her/our progress. At three weeks she was a tiny red-faced creature and I was worried about her getting hungry during our visit and me having to nurse in the doctor’s office. I was also peeved that this outing might prevent meant from napping as, of course, she fell asleep on the stroller-ride there but I had to stay awake to talk with the doctor. My questions then were about how to get her to nurse “properly”, how often to do it, and was she eating enough. Nine months later, she and I are old pros at this doctor thing.

This time she didn’t cry right away upon seeing her bearded doctor. My own heart nearly skipped a beat when he seemed to be spending more time than usual listening to her with the stethoscope. But all seemed ok. He asked me if she recognized her own name, and I had to say I wasn’t sure as I seem to still call her “baby” quite a lot. No, not all the time! Does she point to things? Well, she gives us her toys. That seemed to be a satisfactory answer for him. Then I went through my list of questions, about the next car seat to buy, which milk she can use when we’re in America. If it’s normal that she still has no teeth at ten months. I held her in my lap and tried to jot down his answers while preventing her from playing with the pen. Now I’m at ease holding this squirming little body, whereas before I worried about the right way to carry her.

As he’d forgotten to note something on the prescription we stayed in the waiting room after the visit. I gave her her morning bottle, something she wouldn’t take from me until about the age of six months. A curly-headed girl who must have been about three looked longingly at the bottle and her mom reminded her she had one at home, but not as “modern” as mine. I see another mom with reddish hair and a ruddy complexion giving her pink-clad toddler kisses on her head. I don’t have to tell her that my baby is like a (soft) drug to me. Having her warmth next to me can calm me more than modern medication. I can’t help but stroke her silky little head and give her exaggerated noisy kisses in the folds of her neck. And I don’t have to tell that other mom that the mere idea of something happening to my little one brings tears to my eyes. She no doubt feels the same way.

The doctor completed the prescription and we headed back home. Our next appointment’s in July, and I can only imagine how we’ll have changed by then.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

She's gonna start asking us for a dog

I have a theory that she thinks the dog is real. This is about the same reaction she has with Chat-chat.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Your new favorite song

Ok, so no matter what key you hit it plays the notes in order, but, hey, she couldn't do that a few months ago. You can thank me later for getting "It's a Small World" stuck in your head.

Misery loves company

We had a three-day weekend last week (the second of many this month), but two of those days were spent at the in-laws’. Not working but being present as otherwise Juliette and I wouldn’t see Remi at all this month of May. Spring is the “saison noire”, or black season, for us as Remi’s business is all-consuming. But I stood my ground to stay home Saturday for a bit of housecleaning (what fun!) and to go and visit my Latvian friend.

There are a series of coincidences that connect this girl and me together. We were born just a few days apart (albeit on different continents). We met in 2002 while both doing our training programs in France. I stayed on because of Remi. She went back to Latvia. But then she met a Frenchman who was in her country on business and voilà, she’s back in France living about an hour away from me.

So armed with her basic directions and my GPS, I strapped baby into her car seat and off we went under a hazy blue sky. At first I tried to follow my friend’s directions but the GPS kept telling me otherwise. Finally doubt overcame me and I caved into the GPS’s commands. And as baby nodded off to sleep I drove through little villages with white-stone houses, places that would be perfectly lovely if not so far from jobs and shops. I maneuvered winding roads lined by those brilliant yellow-green oilseed rape plants and cows grazing on steep farmland. That new Franz Ferdinand song was cackling on the radio (Murphy’s Law: when a good song finally comes on, the station is too faint). I was enjoying my little adventure and realizing a solo ride in the French countryside would have been unthinkable three years ago (sans French driving license).

After about 50 minutes of non-stop driving, I arrived at my friend’s house. She made us lunch and we caught up with each other while half-watching a make-over show on TV. Anyway, she’s about in the same situation as me, unstable job-wise and far from her family and old friends. It all started making me wonder (again) if I’ll ever consider France as a home in the cozy, warm sense of the word. Dealing with limited job prospects and homesickness is really getting to me. If I don’t stop frowning my face is gonna stick this way (your parents weren’t making that up).

I think I’m at a turning point where I could become the unhappy foreigner or I could try and make the best of things. But how? I’ve vowed so many times to turn things around that I should be dizzy by now.

But back to the title of this post. Reaching out to others in the same situation could help a bit. Maybe some kind of virtual or real Expat Wives’ and Girlfriends’ Club. I came across this website once, perhaps it’s a start. They even talk about expat writing. The truth of the matter is, living in a foreign country is not always the daydream it might have seemed during high school French class (or in my case, German). But maybe with a little help from my friends, I can carve out my own little world.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Babble girl

We've noticed she's really been putting sounds together lately. More like baby sentences. If anyone knows what she's saying, please let us know. And of course she's discovered how to shake her head. But does she know what it means yet? Funnily, when I showed her this video she started smiling and making soft sounds and she shook her head again!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ode to spring- part deux

Before I forget and it's already summer or something, here are some more pictures to get you in the spring spirit. I agree with Crystal that the sun and warmer temperatures do make me feel a lot better (though they don't work miracles!). I think I'll sign up for that light therapy come November. Anyway, here's a glimpse of a field of oilseed rape plants (what's used to make canola oil) coming into bloom.

Then the same place where all the jonquils were blooming before was covered with wild hyacinths a few weeks ago.

Have a blue sky day!

Bébé et son jardin secret

The other day I made it my mission to make my baby laugh. Apparently I’m just not as funny as the sitter and the kids there. I’ve caught her belly laughing with them as I come to pick her up. With my husband and me her laughs seem caught in her throat, difficult to release. Or is she just giving us the equivalent of a baby chuckle to say, yeah, guys, that’s funny, but what I really like is when the other kids play with my feet. Even those famous raspberries you do on babies’ tummies just leave a puzzled look on her cherubic face. What am I doing wrong? Remi says it’s because I’m not a big smiler/laugher myself.

When I see her interact with the other kids, I realize she’s already got her own “jardin secret” or secret garden. That place she knows and enjoys and that mom and dad don’t invade. At nine months?! She even seems to have a boyfriend. Ugo, the nearly two-year-old, who has virtually no hair, is apparently wild about her and talks all about “JuJu” (her nickname at the sitter’s) when he’s at home. Tata Marie gets all the kids to say hello to each other when they arrive. Sometimes they touch each other’s cheeks. And it’s true that Ugo sometimes goes into a slurred repetition of “ZJuZJu” when she arrives.

I realized pretty early on that this little creature we’ve been given is programmed to grow. She won’t stay tiny that long. Already I see her little body lengthening, becoming more child than baby. We don’t own our children. That’s what they said in the pre-baptism meeting. We never do. We’re just meant to take care of them the best we can. And hopefully they’ll like us enough to hang around with us when we’re even older and more boring than now.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?

This video is actually kind of old now, a month or more. JuJu's discovering how to open the cookie tin where great-grandad stores his crispy waffle cookies. Under papa's watchful eye, of course. I'll let you guess as to what's going on at the end of the video...