Saturday, June 19, 2010

What's up here

I've just taken my towels out of the dryer. Yes, you read that right, the dryer. He swears he doesn't read my blog, but Remi must have gotten tired of me complaining about constantly hanging up laundry. And then taking the crispy items down. Then getting up the courage to iron them in front of the TV. He must have picked up on those comments about how the towels in the US are so soft because they actually use dryers. So he plunked down an obscene amount of money to get us one that can be stacked on the Whirlpool washer. The dryer is also a Whirlpool, 'cause it's a US brand, he was quick to note.

And who better to celebrate my return to the modern technological world than my mom and sister. They shared my joy when we felt those very soft towels. Whirlpool should have added that to their brochure "Four good reasons to buy a dryer," which I hadn't noticed was included with my washer five years ago. In case you need to convince yourself, or your husband, here they are:

1. Quicker drying time (duh! if it were longer, it would be a rip-off): one to two hours versus 24 to 48 on the line.

2. Better drying for less ironing (amen!): Clothes are less wrinkled thus easier to iron (or not necessary at all, for some items). No need to iron the towels (like I ever did that).

3. Save space in your home: less room needed for the drying rack or lines.

4. Less time spent hanging up and collecting clothes: (Take note of this one...) Four loads a week means an hour and a half putting up and taking down your drying rack laundry. That's 12 days a year spent on this chore!

Hope this helps you all out.

And in between admiring the gleaming white appliance, mom and Jess have been busy bees helping us out with home projects. A new tile backsplash for behind the stove top (rather the two burner free-standing system). And as the dryer took up space I used for bathroom supplies we decided to get a real medicine cabinet. So yesterday morning Remi and the rest of us went to Ikea for some decision-making. I feel a bit weird suddenly spending money on stuff, but then again, most of the year I don't buy a thing. I put off little projects that would make my life easier in the end. I'll soon post pictures of the new and improved kitchen.

I've been working most days they were here but not always full days. They've been enjoying getting to know the nearly two-year old Juliette (who's not the same as the one-year old mom saw last year or even the sixteen-month old Jessy met again in November). She's been showing us her ever-increasing ability to throw tantrums at any moment. She's developed a high pitch way of saying "no" that merits time in the corner or her crib. Not an easy time, though she can have her sweet moments, too. Like looking at a video of herself with Jessy. And dancing around to the radio. Check her out in this video while I go fondle my towels again.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The eternal question

My English friend had just warned me the other day that French men (or is it all men?) have a way of asking “Where’s my belt?” that can be loaded with accusation. As in, “Where did you put my belt, you belt-hiding wench?” So I reacted with my firm voice when my own French man said he couldn’t find any clean jeans the other Sunday. I promptly showed him the pants that were clean and ironed by yours truly in the cabinet. But those were too heavy for Monsieur. Jeans were the texture he wanted/needed. Well, that’s all there is, so deal with it, was my approximate response. And something else like, it’s not my job (or fondest aspiration) to clean my husband’s jeans. Just something I do out of kindness as he works seven days a week at the moment and sometimes doesn’t come home till nine p.m.

In talking with my French girlfriend at work, we realized this is a very common sticking point between husbands and wives. The French guys (again, I wonder, is it all guys?) have this way of thinking clothes magically migrate to the washing machine from no matter where they drop them. E.g. corners, couches, tables. One day soon I’m gonna take Remi by the ear and get him to round up everything he wants washed and show him how to put it in the machine himself. And maybe even turn it on, too! I know, I’m being tough on the guy. He has done laundry a few times in our marriage. And for the most part I don’t mind doing it. I like getting clothes clean and smelling their fresh flowery sweetness when I take them out of the machine. But have I mentioned that we don’t have a dryer? So drying takes at least a day or more on the rack. Then the majority of the clothes is wrinkled and must be ironed. And Remi did warn me before we got married that ironing is not one of his “things”. Why didn’t we get that put in a pre-nup?

I recently saw a report on the TV news here about whether women really were more liberated now compared to the past. They actually asked French couples who did what in terms of chores. Some men did participate more, some even did laundry (can we clone them?). But they made the point that women often just have to work twice as hard. They have a day job, and they do most everything at home, too. And they take care of the kiddies, too. Sure, it’s nothing compared to the women in some parts of the world who must walk four miles to get water. But the “ideal” of totally shared chores is still quite far off for most couples. And until we get a bigger place, I don’t think my dream of having a dryer will become a reality either. One day, one day…

Meanwhile, please participate in my highly scientific survey to prove once and for all who’s doing the laundry. Respond for your household, and if there’s no man or you’re a man who lives alone, just respond, do it myself cause live alone. I can’t get blogger to do the survey in English, but I think you can figure out that “voter” is vote. Afficher les resultants means show results.

Tout ou rien

(Pronounced “toot ooh ree-(y)in. Now roll it all together and mumble a bit. Yes, that’s very Frenchy.) It means all or nothing. Feast or famine. No more is this true than my region of France, the North-Pas de Calais. You’ll often here locals (and complaining expats) use this expression about the weather here. As in, it’s either gray and cold and drizzly, or blazing hot with no breeze. That’s been the pattern of our spring here. We just never know if we can really put up those sweaters and coats and break out the summery stuff. Actually, most of this week has been pretty picture perfect, sunny, warm, but not too stifling.

This expression also describes the lulls and busy periods of my life. There are times of the year I complain about the lack of work. Then spring rolls around and things get busier. More classes means more prep and less time for cleaning and wasting time/blogging. I find myself experiencing what full-time working moms go through all year. The impression of not spending much time with my little one and having to cram chores and cooking into the evening hours.

It’s all made worse by Remi’s spring schedule. Whereas some winter days he piddles in the greenhouse and comes home at 5 p.m., lately he works all-day, often into the night. Sometimes Juliette doesn’t see him at all these days, and I see him very little. I’m not exaggerating when I say I feel like a single mom these days.

Spring sure brings out the best and worst in our family. I love all the flowers in bloom and making up my own window boxes. But I hate how much Remi and his family work. And frankly I can’t help out much at all chasing Miss I Put My Hands Everywhere. We spend every Sunday there so at least Juliette sees her dad a little.

The days are so long this time of year, still light at 10 p.m. and I feel kind of buzzy, watering my flowers or doing little chores later into the evening. I find it hard to fall asleep though I know I’m tired. What a change from winters here when it’s dark till 8 or 8:30 a.m. and then again at 4:30 p.m.

And whereas in January I was happy to stay inside after work and huddle up, now I put JuJu in her stroller and run errands until 7 p.m. Any excuse is good for getting out in the sunshine. And to end on another quote, this time by the Beatles, “tomorrow may rain, so I’ll follow the sun.”