Saturday, February 27, 2010

Little Orphan Annie, Revisited

When I was a kid I wanted to be spunky little Orphan Annie.  Freckled face and smiling, wearing cute dresses and trying out the cool indoor swimming pool that Daddy Warbucks had.  I used to sing along with “It’s a Hard Knock of Life” on the record player (just to show you how long ago it was).   So now why do I identify more with the mean bedraggled woman who ran the orphanage?  Minus the bathtub gin and floozy aspect, of course.  I can’t pinpoint the exact moment of transformation, but I surely do see a rather weary and irritable lady in the mirror every morning.  The type who is so frustrated with the cat who meows at every opportunity, at the never-ending paperchase of French administration, at all the chores that should be done.
Last Saturday was a prime example.  I was supposed to be having a nice relaxing moment with Caro over hot chocolate and a cookie at Subway (pause gourmande only 2 euros).  After eating her cookie partially, little Miss JuJu decided to fidget in the high chair and when I told her not to she proceeded into full tantrum mode.  I tried to warn her that she’d have to go back in her stroller but this didn’t faze her.  I tried to sit her next to us in the booth to calm her down but she just started writhing and even bumped her head on the seat.  I warned her we’d have to leave if she didn’t calm down. And that’s just what happened.  Half finished cocoa in hand and a feeling of shame on my face, I left Subway with (very) understanding Caro and baby, much to the delight of the staff and other couple eating there, I’m sure.
Back at home she was still a bit difficult, but she eventually calmed down and was even cuddly.  But of course it was the cat’s turn.  On his new diet, he’s even hungrier and never misses an opportunity to remind me.  Constant meowing, trying to “trip” me as I go into the kitchen.  Scratching at the door where we keep his food and dangerously near the Ikea pine cabinets which already have a scratch.  I found myself using the same tactics on him as for Juliette.  “If you don’t quit you’re going on the balcony!”   (Rest assured, for Juliette it’s the corner, not the balcony.)  “That’s enough of that.”  I couldn’t even begin to count the number of times I said “no” last Saturday, between baby and cat.  And when I do put him on the balcony for some fresh air, he instantly wants back in and does this amusing/annoying dance to get my attention. (PS: I was trying to link the video but youtube is telling me to download Adope Flash Reader which Firefox doesn't accept.  Does anyone know a better way to link videos?  I just can't get the video screen on there like I used to with the old Blogger format.)
I know that at this of my life, moments to myself are rare.  And that when I finally do have more time to myself (i.e., when baby's grown up), I'll probably be reminiscing about the times I was busy.  My Saturday wasn’t as restful as I had wanted.  But it ended ok as I repaired Juliette’s favorite stuffed animal and she read her books quietly next to me or in my lap.  And I reminded myself for the umpteenth time to not sweat the small stuff.  But that small stuff can be so grating on the nerves. 

Friday, February 19, 2010

JuJu in the snow-snow

We had yet another Snow Event Monday. Big flakes fell until about one p.m. and it was enough to give us a nice white blanket on the ground. Luckily driving was ok as in my town they sand the roads pretty well. It's sometimes very calming to wake up and see white everywhere. Sounds are muffled and the messy aspects of my life seem, momentarily, cleaned up.

This has definitely been the snowiest winter I've had in France and possibly the most snow I've seen in my life. Not counting Alabama's blizzard of '93 with about 13 inches (don't you start laughing, Crystal). I let Juliette walk a bit in it Monday afternoon. Turn your head at about 15 seconds.

And though I don't mind the cold weather so much, spring is gonna be very welcome. We've just about had enough of barely going over 40°F these last two months. That might be the reason Juliette seems to have caught every bug around and these past two weeks have been trying. First it was a cold and fever that led to conjunctivits. Then the fever came back five days later with a vengeance. The doctor said the infection seemed to be in the lungs so it was time for antibiotics. Three days later she was screaming like she was the baby version of the Exorcist. She wouldn't let me console her at all and she was arching her back as she cried. I was desperately hoping this was not a new form of tantrums. We were off the the pediatrician's that evening and it was frankly a relief to hear it was a double ear infection. At least I knew what was going on and that I hadn't been imagining her strange behavior. Change of antibiotics and a cortisone treatment and now she's starting to get back to her normal whimpering and playing. I think we'll put a picture of Alexander Flemming (discoverer of penicillin) in her room to thank him for all the times he's saved us from nasty infections.

And maybe spring will get the Chat moving a bit more on the balcony. He's got his new "light" cat food and the adjustment is not easy. I actually got him to play with a toy mouse last night, so there's hope that he'll slim down soon.

Just another month till spring so hang in there folks.

Monday, February 8, 2010

If my life had a soundtrack

One morning a few months ago after strapping Juliette into her car seat I got in myself and turned the ignition. The CD I’d been listening to the night before started playing. The first words were “he is trying to believe, that his life has a meaning.” The group Crowded House, Neil Finn’s graceful moan on Pour le monde. They seemed to be the exact words to describe my state of mind that day (and most days). I had spent a nuit blanche (literally a "white night" or sleepless night) pondering too many things. Like if my life here would ever be what I want or could have back home. If my husband, whom I was miffed at, could really understand how hard it is for me some days. Since that moment, I've felt better, then back down again. Seems to be a cycle with me.

I often wonder what my life would look like on the big screen. Of course they would edit out the boring parts of driving to work everyday and paying bills. Or they would put some funky music on (like that song from the Sliding Doors soundtrack) to do a montage sequence to make it seem fun. And as I made the big, difficult decisions in my life, there would be some upbeat piano music that would tell the audience everything was gonna be alright. But in reality our life has a lot of silent bits where we don’t know the outcome at all. Should there be somber jazzy music (Dire Straits, Your Latest Trick) to tell us we’re moving into a depressing time? There’s nothing to guide us in real life.

Sometimes I try to latch onto a song that could be mantra. It should be Gloria Gaynor’s I will survive. Or Gwen Stefani's What You Waiting For. Some days it’s something more melancholic and poetic. Like Muse’s Sing for Absolution (I know Jessy would approve!) I like to sing along in the car to this one, and sometimes it's as cleansing as a good cry.

But then there are those lighter moments when pop gems like Pixie Lott’s Momma Do lift me into an imaginary existence. The other day I nearly broke into a choreographed dance in the massive hall of the indoor mall when it came on. But lucky for the other mall-goers, I held back.

So readers, what are the songs to your life’s soundtrack?

Breaking the scales, breaking the budget

They say it’s normal to put on a bit of weight after a baby. Plus we’ve just had the holidays and those famous Christmas calories. But are those valid excuses for the family cat to have put on the pounds?

This week I finally admitted that my cat has an eating disorder. After trying to restrict him to two meals a day (bad idea ‘cause cats graze) and even switching to light kibble, we finally just gave in and left him a plate of normal kibble all day long. It was that or put up with high-pitched wailing every time we came home or looked as if we might head for the kitchen. Sometimes it was so bad I picked him up and “tossed” him into the other room. (Don't worry, no cats were harmed in the writing of this post.) Realizing this was a bad example to set for Juliette, and that Cat-ki definitely was pooching out where he should be lean, I made an appointment with the vet.

Of course, she saw right away that Chat-chat has put on a bit. In fact before Juliette was born and he made his famous leap off the balcony, he weighed about eleven pounds (five kilos). Eighteen months later it’s more like 17 and a half pounds (8 kilos). He’s not diabetic, thank goodness, just very hungry and overweight. As she had told me before, the only solution now, it seems, is the highly expensive diet cat food. Like 50 to 70 euros for an eleven-pound (or a five-kilo) bag. Remi doesn’t want to hear of it, but I think it’s the only way to get Cat-ki to start resembling his pre-baby self and be less pear-like.

Chat enjoying a sun-drenched nap in all his splendor.

So now we’re trying the new sample pack. He’s not too interested in the beige bits and follows me hungrily into the kitchen hoping for something better. He’s out on the balcony as I write this because his constant meowing for food was making me grind my teeth. I’m hoping he’ll come around to the new food because this brand is the cheapest of the three she told me about.

Speaking of eating a little too well, this Tuesday was the Chandeleur, a religious holiday that in France is now crêpe and Nutella day! Something about the crêpe representing the returning sun and some connection to the light of the church from what I could find on the Internet (or something like that). So I made the batter and let it sit in the fridge for an hour and when Remi got home he did the flipping. Finally a French tradition I can get behind! Juliette enjoyed sampling some too. Yes, that’s a belly poking out of those PJs. Let’s hope she won’t imitate Cat-ki in this area.