Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Work that shoulder

Here Juliette is doing her own music video to Cascada's Evacuate the Dancefloor. Note her use of props, such as her rocking horse and the sound effects by bumping on the door. Very sophisticated for seventeen months! Coming soon: the Blackeyed Peas Fan Club for under twos...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The day after

I think the most searched phrases on Google on Christmas night in France are “how to get red wine stains out of your tablecloth” (the answer is apparently salt but it didn’t work 100% for me) and “how to cure indigestion”. There was so much food, so much talk and catching up with my guests: Crystal (Canadian) and Caroline (Singaporean) and her French husband. It was a fun Christmas Eve dinner, but by the end of the evening the French husbands were still nursing the red wine bottles and the girls were resting on the couch watching pop videos and dreaming of their beds.

The next day was yet another Big French Meal with Remi’s parents. There the menu was slightly upgraded from my simple fare. There we ate escargots, a hot seafood mix cooked in brown ramekins, tender deer meat, potatoes, cooked apples, cherries, chestnuts and mushrooms. Followed (of course) by cheese and two desserts!
Then there are the presents from all those generous family members. Juliette doesn’t yet realize how very spoiled she was from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. So many wonderful, colorful books, toys, clothes! And we were equally spoiled, too.

So now we’re in that transition phase. The mountain of dishes is finally done. The wrapping paper that tempted us has now been ripped off and is waiting to be thrown out. We have enough chocolate to survive a nuclear war. Remi said we might need to move again to accommodate all of Juliette’s toys. The sun is shining and only a few spots still have snow on the ground. I don’t think I have any lessons next week, so I’m gonna try to catch up on some projects like finally getting Juliette’s baby pictures in albums! She is, by the way, doing better after her bout of bronchitis. When I see her throwing tantrums again I know she’s doing ok.

Merry after Christmas Day to you all!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sick Days

I’ve had so many conversations with the pediatrician’s secretary that I’m beginning to feel like we’re close personal friends. Ok, so most of our conversations go something like this:

Me: Can I leave a message for le docteur ?

Her: Yes, what’s it about? (this time, I’m sure she wants to add)

Me: Well, can you ask him if I’m supposed to give her the cortisone or not. He said if she had a really big coughing fit but in fact she’s ok, although now the fever’s been going on a while…

Her: Well, if she hasn’t had a coughing fit, then, I’d say, no (trumping me with her logic yet again)

Me: Yes, well, I didn’t tell him that I wasn’t giving it to her this morning when I came (for the second time this week)…

Her: Oui, (tiniest of pauses that means: am I really paid enough to answer the phone here?) we’ll ask him anyway…

Thanks to these enlightening interchanges I’ve learned that coughing fit is feminine in French “grosse quinte de toux”. That if I call at 8 in the morning I can try to get an appointment for that day. And other fun facts!

Yes, we’re dealing with a little sickie around here. Bronchitis it seems, though today the doctor asked if she’d been in contact with anyone with the flu. Negative. And how about an X-ray if she keeps up with this, he suggested? Now that’s more like the medical protocol I’d have expected, people. Only all the X-ray offices (because they’re not part of the pediatrician’s office which is just the renovated first floor of a bourgeois house) will be closed real soon what with Christmas coming. One’s closed Christmas Eve and it seemed like pulling teeth to get the other office to give us an appointment on Christmas Eve morning.

I kept her home Monday after a Sunday evening visit to the on-call pediatrician. I imagined all kinds of warm cozy mother-daughter moments for her sick day. There was still snow on the ground and even some flurries from time to time so aside from a quick trip to the pharmacy, we stayed in. In the morning she played rather normally, coughing off and on. But the appetite was non-existent. And she would pick this week to decide she didn’t like us feeding her with a spoon nor using it properly herself. And after docilely taking her medicine most of the times before, she instated a new and very strict head-turning and mouth-closing policy. I tried shooting it in her mouth with a plastic syringe but that sometimes turned back on us with nasty results. After all those incidents and a cat who, as usual, thinks every time I move to the kitchen he might get food, I was ready to call my first “sick day” as a mom an exhausting total disaster.

But there were some sweet moments after all. Like when I had her in her lap and asked her what a sheep said, etc. and realized she really has learned what we’ve been teaching her. And when she cozied up to Cat-ki as in this video. Poor thing was more tired Tuesday and kept wanting in our arms as her fever came back in the evening. I thought at first it was just her demanding streak to be picked up but felt guilty when I realized she was burning up. So it was more baby Tylenol and off to bed after a cuddle where she actually stayed still. And today has been more or less successful though the appetite is still very puny and she’s definitely not back up to speed. Playing nursemaid isn’t as easy as I thought, especially when the patient is your baby. Get well soon, little one.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas = childlike wonder...or does it?

This year I’ve tried to rediscover Christmas from Juliette’s eyes. She’s still not totally aware of what Christmas means, but she’s certainly enchanted by the big thing with lights that has invaded the apartment. The first few times she whimpered at the sight of the “chee”. Now she looks at it curiously and asks to see the “baby,” the ornament which has a picture of her from last year. But she still walks closest to the wall when she must pass the tree.

She wasn’t too impressed by her meeting with Santa this year at the daycare Christmas program, as you can tell by the photo. Frankly we didn’t talk him up too much this year either. The biggest hit so far has been the Christmas toy catalog which is much worse the wear after two months of daily page-turning/tearing. Gift-wise we finally decided on a baby jumbo Lego-like system that has a table she can construct things on and a baby doll that you can give a bath to. I get a warm feeling thinking about her reaction to the baby doll, which I think she will quickly become attached to.

Then we have been treated (though sometimes I might say cursed) with some snow these past few days. As an Alabama girl who didn’t see white stuff very often, I’m always impressed by snowfall. I don’t particularly like driving in it though in my city they do a pretty good job of sanding the roads before-hand. It’s not perfect though and some small roads are still rather white. This morning we woke up to steady snow showers. Now the sun is making some of it melt and the drops sound like bells as they fall on the metal railing of the balcony.

But aside sharing these warm moments with baby and watching snow, I’ve realized that I’m unfortunately too grown-up to totally see the season in that wondrous child-like way anymore. I get too consumed by the little things. Like finding appropriate presents for the babysitter and ones light enough to ship to American family, despite their protests that they don’t need anything. There comes that point in the season when you start to panic, realizing there are only X days before the big day and you’ve still got hundreds of details to finalize. At least in France they don’t go overboard with presents so this does ease up the stress a little. However they totally make up for it by becoming obsessive about meals.

I remember my first year in France with my host family. I was amazed the mother was considering serving ostrich as the main meat. Apparently “normal” meats like chicken and roast beef are boring for Christmas meals. Appetizers seem to be fit for five-star restaurants: scallops and lobster bisque, truffles, oysters, special patés and of course, foie gras. And as I’ve decided to actually host a Christmas Eve meal this year, I started to wonder if I was “à la hauteur” or good enough to really do this. Lucky for me there are two expat girls who are coming, but it’s my husband and another French husband who may have higher expectations. Tant pis, too bad, I told Remi after barely catching myself from another panic attack. This will be an American Christmas style meal with some French touches. I’ll go French on the appetizer: with smoked salmon and some little vegetable sides. It’s no coincidence this is the easiest of all the French appetizers to prepare. Then the main meal will strangely resemble Thanksgiving, with turkey and potatoes, green beans, pumpkin pie and another dessert perhaps.

And I’ll try a little harder to just relax and enjoy this Christmas thing.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate

That has been the question for the last few months in most countries lucky enough to have supply of the precious Swine Flu vaccine. But for the French nothing is ever simple. Tell them something is black and they’ll immediately tell you it’s white without even having looked. After a while they will concede to shades of gray and if you’re lucky, one day, the darkest of grays. I’m only slightly exaggerating. The French are very independent thinkers and question everything.

In talking with my students I got lots of nay-sayers who felt the vaccine wasn’t safe or that the big drug companies were making a huge profit on all of this. Or others felt they should let their own immune system fight this thing off. On the pro-side, a few were concerned as they had children with asthma who were thus more vulnerable.

The pediatricians told us not to get Juliette vaccinated when I asked back in September. Hasn’t been tested enough and we just don’t this virus well, was his line back then. Imagine my surprise then when last week during our regular check-up he’d changed his story. Now there was a vaccine that didn’t have what they call here an “adjuvant”, an additive which stimulates the immune system’s reaction to the deactivated virus bits. Now it was more “adapted” to children, he said, and even though Juliette is (luckily) in good health, he highly recommended we get her vaccinated. Could it be that he’s also had a few months to see how the flu’s been spreading and that some cases were more severe than they’d anticipated? Just as we entered his office he had to take a call about a mom who had the flu and she and the baby were to be kept in isolation to make sure they didn’t contaminate others.

So after talking it over with Remi, we decided to follow the doctor’s advice. The next day I went down to the national health insurance office, or “sécu,” for our “bon”, the little paper saying Juliette could be vaccinated. I got one for Remi as well since he has asthma and the pediatrician recommended it for him. That afternoon I took Juliette to the middle school gym which had been transformed into a vaccination center. I kept doubting my decision though. Was the fact that she was fussy getting out of the car a sign not to do this? And was the stroller being tough to move another indication? I’d heard so much talk about this vaccine that it was still hard to be 100% for it now.

At any rate, there were no huge lines out the door as we saw on TV. Just plenty of friendly folks wearing fluorescent vests getting us to fill out forms. I had to sign papers that certified that I knew the possible side-effects of the vaccine, like fever, back aches (hey, wasn’t it supposed to prevent all that?) and that I knew I could say no to the vaccine, too. They asked me if I wanted to be vaccinated myself. I don’t have a specific health condition that puts me at risk, but I figured if I were trusting this vaccine for my baby and husband, I should trust it for myself, too.

A doctor asked us a few routine questions and then we went into the make-shift cubicle where Juliette got her “sans additive” vaccine. Of course, she cried. The kind where she let out a first cry then took a big gulp of air to cry even harder. After a minute or two she was fine and offering her stuffed bunny to the nurses. Then it was my turn. So I wheeled the stroller to the cubicle next door for my vaccine with the additive. I’m not a big fan of needles and felt a bit woozy after. But I just concentrated on what the doctor was telling me and gathered up our things for the last table of paperwork. There I was rewarded with little candies in a basket. I checked on the dates to come back for Juliette’s second dose. Yes, a second dose. For some reason kids have two rounds of the vaccine here, perhaps due to it being without that additive.

As the little paper had warned me, the next day after lunch I could have sworn I was getting the flu I was supposed to be protecting myself from. Flushed cheeks, headache, chills. I took some aspirin and a power nap and felt ok. Remi got his vaccine Saturday and just had a sore arm for a while. Now we’ll just have to hope for the best and keep taking vitamin C and washing our hands like mad.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Rules of the road for toddlers

Don't drink and drive, even if it is just water. It can seriously impair your ability to concentrate. Yes, I know I need to break her of the habit of walking with something in her mouth, too. Bad mommy. Then after my way cool special effect transition (ha, Jessy is laughing now) you can see rule number two: when you encounter obstacles just move around them. Happy driving.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Thou Shalt Not Covet They Neighbor’s Volvo SUV

I watched the black SUV park in the middle of two parking spaces at the supermarket. I got a glimpse of the driver- a thirty-something woman with longish brown hair, and I instantly disliked her. For her disregard for the lines and mostly because she had a smooth ride and I didn’t. There I was in my Peugeot 106, a car most Americans have never even heard of. A two-door hatchback model at that. It’s the type of car I would have smiled condescendingly at 7 years ago. Or at least called a toy car. Here's a picture of a model quite like mine for those of you who've never seen one.

Two spaces away from the Volvo was an Audi SUV, also black. This woman was loading her groceries in the spacious trunk. I started imagining how much room Juliette would have in the back of such a car, kicking her legs about in her car seat. But it would be tough to parallel park one of those mammoths, and didn’t that environmental type on TV just say that smaller cars were the way to go to save the planet? But my logic went out the window thinking of those plush seats.

Little did I know that later in the week I’d be happy just to be able to drive my “toy car” and see out the windshield. That’s because some punk smashed in the right passenger side back window. While I was sitting cozily in my student’s office discussing brands and value for your money, said punk was probably thinking I had a GPS in the car. In fact, it was with me in my bag. That’ll teach me not to leave the plastic support thing on the windshield. And in the vandal’s code of conduct, he smashed a window that would still allow me to drive home. But he totally disregarded the fact that there was a baby car seat on that side and that glass pieces would be littering the seat and area around it. Shame on him.

Luckily my student covered the window with yellow plastic bags and packing tape, which prevented some of the bitter cold air from entering the car on the ride home. I had to drop by the apartment and vacuum up the car seat before picking baby up of course. Remi called the company that always advertizes on TV here about window repair (Carglass répare, Carglass remplace = Carglass repairs, Carglass replaces), and just as in their ads, they took care of things quickly and efficiently. Now I’ve got a replacement window and they vacuumed up the major glass bits from the seat and floor area. I still found a few tiny pieces so I’ve got to watch out. And clean off the adhesive tape remnants from the temporary patching my student did.

And I’ll try not to complain too much about driving around in a “baby car”.