Thursday, April 24, 2014

Toy Story

One Saturday when Juliette was recovering from a little illness, I thought I'd take her out to the toy store to browse and buy her a little toy to cheer her up. It's not something we do often though she will regularly request that we look at the toy aisle in the grocery store.  And she'll tell me all the toys she wants for her birthday or Christmas or that she really needs!

When we arrived at the toy store she urged me not to go too slow down the aisles.  But pretty soon it was me who was slowing her down because I found myself entranced by the modern child's toys and I had started snapping pictures on my phone.  I was sometimes amused and sometimes horrified by what is out there for today's girl especially.  So here's a visual rundown of the funniest and the scariest!

It makes sense that a French child's play kitchen would have a good variety of breads, and of course, a croissant!

Not to mention the French products they are used to like Knoor lasagne and the usual brands of detergent and Danone (the French version of Dannon) yogurt  Whiskas is international!

What French fake kitchen would be complete without a pressure cooker?  And even the real brand that dominates the market has gotten in on the action, Tefal.

But to really be like mommy and daddy, you need your own espresso machine. 

Moving out of the kitchen I was pleasantly surprised to see that Cinderella has had a makeover and is looking less doe eyed but rather sharp.  Don't think this Cinderella would take too much crap from her stepsisters.

Playmobil is a real classic in Europe but not quite sure what the German toy designers were thinking with this set?  That devil looks likes he's glowing red hot.  Theological debate not included.

Speaking of Playmobil, we saw an exhibit a few weeks ago in our town that featured some amazing scenes. Like the Civil War.  Cotton plants to boot!

And this German street scene.

A playmate for Juju!

I'm hoping Juliette will stay in the kind and gentle Playmobil world for a long time because frankly the next toy scared me to death.  If this is pre-teendom, I'm afraid, very afraid.

Bared midriffed dancers, fashion obsessed platinum blondes.  Childlike and womanly at the same time.  Yikes!  I don't want my little one to grow up too fast.

Reminds me a bit of a recent article talking about how boy and girl toys are more and more separate these days and how ads like this one from my childhood might not fly today.

The article points out, and rightly so, that nowadays Lego has its own girly line.  My sister and I never found Lego to be particularly limited to boys and that was before purple and pink Lego existed.

It all gives me pause about this next girl generation.  They've got way more to deal with in terms of sexualized images of girls, even from a young age.  Even if the girls on this box aren't sexy, they are definitely girly. 

So yet another reason to value every moment with my little one while she's still little and try to tell her that girls can be and do whatever they want.  Including thinking monster trucks are cool while prancing around as Tinkerbell.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Things I've learned while on sick leave

For the first time in a long time, maybe ever, I've taken a few days sick leave from work.  That chest cold I mentioned in the last post was taking a lot out of me.  I felt waves of guilt taking off more than a day from work (three in a row, to be precise) but part of me knew this is what my body needed.  After trying to soldier through a lung infection (sounds worse than it is, really, but the French word is pneumopathie) last week, the fatigue and windedness caught up with me this week. 

Sitting at home while my daughter was at school and husband at work was the only way I could get the rest I needed. And it has taught me a few things, some frivoulous, some fundamental.

1. My wall clock ticks rather loudly.  This is something I don't often realize with a buzzing five-year old in the room.  Or the TV in the evening.  I don't mind the metronomic ticking really.  I find it soothing and it sometimes helps me fall alseep.  My dad used to take it down and put it in the kitchen cabinet when he slept here during his visits though.

2. My cat does diddly sqat all day long.  I kind of suspected this already.  Now I have confirmation.  He naps in one place, eats, then naps in another.  He's been a good napping partner, I can say that!

3. Our fish is pretty much the same.  Juliette "won" a gold fish last week at the fair.  By win I mean Remi paid seven euros for her to fish out 20 plastic ducks from a little artificial canal which gave her the right to pick a goldfish.  Fishy came in one of those tiny plastic boxes they dare to call aquariums.  We got him a proper tank and filter and he swims around happily now.

4. I like reading but have so little time to do it.  The last time I read this much was probably when I was breastfeeding and had the time to spare while Juju nursed, oh, six or seven times a day.  Now on sick leave I've been forcing myself to rest and have been enjoying the chance to immerse myself in a book (The House of Sleep by Jonathan Coe).  It's a rare pleasure for a working mom.

5. There's so much I want to do and so little time to do it.  I have given myself strict orders not to overdo it these past few days.  Reading, napping, very light housework when necessary.  But I can think of so many unfinished art or home projects and organizing of closets, etc. that I wish I could get done.  It's a bit overwhelming when I think of all the things I want to do.  Day-to-day life gets in the way. 

6. I need to take care of myself more.  This is probably the most important lesson this sick leave has taught me but the hardest one to put into practice.  If I stayed sick as long as I did it was in part because of a busy work and home schedule.  I've got to make a concerted effort to take it easy while still keeping the essential stuff running smoothly.  It's a balancing act we all face. 

7. I need to watch the clouds more.  My south-facing balcony is perched just high enough to give me a fairly unobstructed view of the passing clouds.  I get a lot of comfort from this view and I need to keep looking up and out. 

So, there is still an occasional tenderness when I breathe in deeply, but I'm much better today than I was this time last week.  That'll teach me to slow down a little and prioritize more.  One breath at a time.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Five reasons I'm screaming

Now you know I'm all about anger management.  More assertive than aggressive (with a side of passive pouting now and then).  But sometimes a girl's gotta scream.  Literally or figuratively.  Because when you push this girl a little too far, things happen.  Screams happen.  Find out why:

1. Because French doctors need to get a clue

Recent real conversation between me and the on call doc on the phone:

Me: When I spit it's green.
Le docteur: You mean when you expectorate it's green.
Me: Yeah, when I expectorate... I'm not French, I don't know all the technical words.
Le docteur: So can you cough for me now?
Me: Well, normally it's a hacky cough.
Le docteur: That's not a very hacky cough.
Me: Yeah, well, normally it is...

After three doctors I finally got the treatment I think I need.  Did it really need to take this long?

Recommended scream: Silent scream. I'm sick, remember?

2.  Because "communication" and "work" generally don't go in the same sentence.
Unless that sentence is, "Geez, communication at work is kinda crappy."  Now, I'm not targeting my company.  Just all companies.  Cause there always comes a point when you shake your hands in the air and wonder why you wasted your breath making a suggestion.  Only to receive a "yeah, thanks, but no thanks."

Or you think you've found a way to make things a bit easier but receive a "we'll see..." which means "around, oh, say, never." (Source)
"Yeah, if you could keep all comments and suggestions to yourself, that'd be great."

Recommended scream: Permanent sigh and head bang against cubicle wall.

3. Because my husband has a problem with his computer.  Again.
My husband is a really smart guy.  He can tell you exactly how much fertilizer you need for a thousand geraniums.  Or calculate the profit margin in his head in two seconds.  He's not bad with computers.  But I'm his go to girl when something goes wrong.  Because if there's one thing he's not, it's patient.

If I had a euro (cause it's stronger than the dollar today) for everytime he's said, "come here, my printer's not working," I'd be richer than Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs combined.  And let's throw Ashton Kutscher in there since he portrayed Jobs in the movie.  And he's cute.

Real conversation with my husband:

Him: Come here a second (after banging his fist on desk in frustration with technology)
Me: Er, you got a problem there?
Him: Computer won't print and it's urgent (note from me: it's always urgent.)
Me: Did you try turning everything on and off again?
Him: Yeah.
Me: Did you try reinitializing the wifi?
Him: No.
Me: Let's do that.
Him: Still not working.
Me: Ok, try printing off my tablet.
Him:  Ok, it's working.
Me: And what do you say after someone helps you?
Him: Uh, merci.

Recommended scream: Audible sigh and heavy eye-rolling.

4. Because I have to repeat "get dressed/let's go/eat your toast" about a million times.

She is precious and a half.  She is smart and sweet.  She's also a slowpoke or purposefully stubborn.    Maybe some parents at this point would pop their kids.  I don't think it helps much in these cases.  Maybe I'm losing my credibility with her.  But sometimes nearly six year olds take their own sweet time and choose not to listen one bit to their well-meaning parents.  So as I stand at the sink saying for the ninth time that it's time to brush your teeth, I think I'm gonna lose it. And sometimes I do.

Recommended scream: well, you shouldn't really scream.  But it happens.  So, gritted teeth scream followed by "Mommies get frustrated sometimes" speech.

5. Because I don't even know why I bother to clean this place.
It is so typical.  I come home around 5:30 or 6 and have to think about dinner, maybe a load of laundry, playing with Juju, hearing about her day, oh, and I need some chocolate, and...WHAT is that smell?  The cat has graced us with some powerful stuff in his litterbox.  Hubby won't be home till 7:30 or 8.  So it once again falls to me to do the scooping.  Plus grains of litter on the floor, again.  My next house pet will be a robo-fish.

Recommended scream: Charley Brown-like Aaarrrrggghh and zen breathing.

There, I feel better having gotten that off my chest.  Now if I could get rid of this chest cold.  And get a maid.  And start telling people to "talk to the hand" cause the Milam ain't listening (if people even still say that).

What makes you scream?!  And what is your best way to deal with it?