Saturday, September 15, 2012

Four is fickle

Nobody tells you that after the Terrible Twos and Troublesome Threes, that four is Far From Finished. Or maybe they did but I wasn't listening because I was too distracted by the challenges of young toddlerhood to worry about what was around the corner. Naively, I thought that once potty-training was finished and pre-school started that things would magically fall into place.

But as my high-school friend and fellow mom, Lauren, says, once you figure out the stage they're in, they change. How true.

Whereas four-year olds are definitely more verbal and can at least tell you what's wrong, more often than not, they don't want to tell you. At least mine doesn't. She'd rather whine and cry and roll up into a ball in her room than come out and say she's sorry for swatting one of us or going postal on us for asking her to eat dinner. I can say "use your words" till I'm blue in the face, but until she decides she wants to get out of her tantrum mode, not much will happen. Or I must trick her into easing back into a good mood by pretending nothing has happened or getting her to help me with a small chore.

All of this would be tough enough without the "outside world" giving me stares and/or unsolicited advice. I'm still a bit at odds with the in-laws and sometimes my husband as to how one should react when a child is screaming because they don't want anymore food. It's been tough lately. Once again (!) I've been reminded of my cultural differences in terms of child-rearing. Luckily I recently met a Canadian expat with two small kids and she's been a great comfort reminding me that I'm not some kind of slimy green alien with radical ideas.

The thing is, four is difficult. They are schizophrenic. They are becoming model citizens with their pleases and thank yous, but they are also primal beings wanting their way. All the time. A year or two shy of the age of reason but past the babbling baby stage when you could just blame their bad behavior on being babies.

And then there are those golden moments when she plays contentedly and tells me hilarious stories. She says funny things all the time and I really should write them down more. She tells me I'm her "snuggle puppy", from a book we like to read. And sings songs about "fascinating" cause it was the word on the day on Sesame Street. And tells me she's shy at school because her "volume isn't working." I can tell she's got a mind that's taking it all in and sometimes she is the sweetest thing. But sometimes she's a devil child.

So, I'll just have to hold tight and enjoy the good moments, like her holding my hand tightly as we walk (when she's willing to hold my hand, and when she's willing to walk...), her snuggles and her silly laughs. I love her despite the tantrums and I know she'll grow out of them (just like I did, right, mom and dad?).

So we'll end on a positive note, with her dancing away to that catchy Shakira song.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Italian food and Swedish dreams

Typical. As I try to get over my post-vacation hump, I find myself baking (to recreate flavors from home) and wanting to decorate (to "cozify" my place to remind me of the comfy d├ęcors of my family's places).

On the baking front, I made a recipe I'd tried in the US for calzones. We saw the recipe on a cooking show, Kelsey's Essentials, and as I love Italian food, I wanted to try it out. I simplify the filling recipe though, and you can add other things according to your tastes, like Italian sausage you've sauteed, mushrooms, spinach... In the US I used ready-made pizza dough, two packages. Here I tried an easy pizza dough recipe and rolled it out. Worked out pretty well.

Here you see the calzones ready to go in the oven. I just scooped the ricotta-cheese mixture in the dough and folded it over to get a half-moon shape. Don't forget to put slits in the calzone to let steam escape (Kelsey says so).

And here's the end result, served with some chunky tomato and basil sauce that I bought (chair de tomates). You can also just sautee chopped tomato and onion, etc.

In other baking adventures, I've made zucchini fritters (thanks Crystal), zucchini muffins and another charlotte aux framboises (raspberry and lady fingers dessert with whipped cream ). I guess when you like eating, you like cooking...

As for the decorating part, that's where the Swedish dreams come in. Nothing kinky, I swear. Though in a given day I sometimes think more about Ikea and decorating than my own husband. I've become a bit obsessed with thumbing through the catalog (last year's, haven't yet received next year's) and projecting myself into the cozy interior scenes. And thinking how I can make my place a bit comfier.

When I was in America I realized (again) that we like carpet and rugs. And with good reason. They are soft on your feet. And as we are more often than not on the floor playing with Juliette's toys, it's only logical for us to get a rug. So we did that and are now basking in post-rug-purchase glory. Saying things like, isn't it nice to walk on a rug?! To think I waited nearly four years to get a rug for our living room. Shameful.

Here's Juliette enjoying it with all (and I do mean ALL) her stuffed animals.

Even Catki seems to like it. Maybe he'll start exercising again...

The past two weeks have been a bit odd, with not so much work (and two days free this week since the summer day care was not open and I watched Juliette). But I've been trying to master the transition and remember to enjoy myself in no matter which country I'm in. Thanks for your comments and advice from my last post. Maybe the key to living abroad is not to forget the living part, even the daily living, the little things. They are what grounds us.

My British friend used to say, when you pick a flower, it wilts, as we bemoaned our situations in France and missing our own culture. Artist Mary Engelbreit says, "bloom where you're planted." To do that, you've got to set down roots, which is the hard part.

So I suppose I can love my home country but try to establish a good support system here and a home I consider just that. I'm coming up on ten years here this month, and there are some things I'm glad I never have to go through again in terms of adapting. But it's still an ongoing process. That changes as I change and grow myself.

So to all my friends and family, hope you're doing something you love today.