Friday, March 21, 2014

Another day, another playdate

I was sitting at my friend's white wooden table, freshly covered with marker scribble scrabble. The mom in question didn't mind that our collective group of kids had created some modern art on her table.  With a casual wave of her hand she said don't worry about it.  As we moms moved our heads in closer to talk about something or another, our conversation was interrupted by the piercing screams of our under 6s as they pretended to flee the "dragon". 

It was a playdate, one of many I've had the privilege to attend or host in these past few years.  Sometimes there's an official reason, like Halloween, but it ends up being non-stop playing by the kids and tea and muffins with the moms and sometimes dads. 

Thank God that some mom somewhere thought up this concept.  Maybe it wasn't truly a concrete idea at first but more like two desperate moms who needed a cup of coffee and the toddlers were obliged to tag along.  And the moms winked at each other at some point as their kids wreaked havoc and they sort of had an adult conversation and said, we're on to something.

Not long ago I read an article in a French parenting magazine where they talked about this rather American/English concept of the playdate.  They just kept the word in English, leading me to wonder if this concept didn't quite exist in France. I think it does, and my French mom colleague agreed.  Maybe it's just not so defined here. 

At any rate I'd say that expat moms need playdates a wee bit more than ones living in their home country.  Because not only are we dealing with all the mom-fatigue but also those issues of parenting outside our native countries.  So in addition to conversatins about how our kindergarteners are giving us lip, we talk about how French schools are seemingly stricter than US ones.  Or maybe just different.  (What's with teaching cursive to five-year-olds?!)

That said I also have playdates with French coworkers and even coworkers who happen not to have kids but are extremely welcoming of little ones.  The most important ingredient is just being with friends and worrying a little less about your kids.  And don't forget the muffins!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Me vs. The Buggies

I'm on my 39th load of laundry this week (give or take).  My comforter and duvet cover and one fluffy seat cushion are drying on the balcony in the sort of warm sun.  Last weekend it was curtains and the other seat cushions and sheets.  And there's a host of other bed clothes and the couch's slipcover which are in garbage bags tucked away where I can find space and which are awaiting their turn in the spin cycle. 

And everything smells faintly of lavendar as apparently this is repulsive to head lice.

Head lice have become my number one enemy since Juliette has had a few mild cases of them this year. Strangely I never saw one bug or egg until this, her third year of pre-school.  (I will not gross you out with photos of head lice, but feel free to Google it if you're a masochist.)  And to make matters worse, the cat has fleas.  He's an inside cat!  But he had some scabs on his ear and when the vet used her special comb she found a few live fleas and plenty of flea poop (uh, sorry if you were eating).  And that was just from combing one small area of his fur. 

So that's why I have had to go into Extreme Cleaning Mode.  Again.  Thankfully my husband got us a kick-a** Hoover vacuum last summer (don't worry, I told him appliances are cool but not really romantic gifts).  But it was a wise choice considering how many surfaces need to be vacuumed with the double whammy of fleas and lice. 

I haven't even gotten around to mopping the floors or even completely combing poor Catki (but I did buy the brush). 

Meanwhile I'm becoming well-versed on anti-lice and anti-flea techniques.  It seems lice don't like lavendar or tea tree oil so spreading this on scarves and the backs of shirts can repel them from your child's head.  However, for kids under 12 avoid putting essential oils on their skin, since my pharmacist said this can have adverse effects on them if it gets in their bloodstream.  I've been putting it in the laundry though. 

White vinegar kills lice well but try spreading it on your kid's scalp and there will be crying!  The pediatrician said you can comb it in mesh by mesh to avoid the acid getting in their eyes.  But it does work well cleaning hairbrushes and combs.  I tried a lotion called EcoPrioderm that supposedly kills the lice by suffocation as it's very oily.  They say this prevents lice from becoming resistant as it's a physical and not chemical method.

As for fleas, I went ahead and treated the carpet, chair and couch with an anti-flea product that had to stay on 3 hours while we got out of the house.  But I've since read that spreading salt and baking soda on your carpet overnight and rubbing it in with the broom will kill fleas and eggs.  But don't let your cat or kid on the carpet during this time as the salt could get on them.

Meanwhile, I pray I won't see Juliette scratching her head again.  Or me for that matter.  And I am feeling very tired from all this EXTRA cleaning AND a lingering head cold AND a regular work week!  Is it too early to think about a vacation?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Work in progress

I have inherited my mother's dislike of clutter.  However I have a five and half year-old who has so many toys you'd think we actually have three kids instead of one.  I also have a husband who likes to leave things around and I myself am not very good at keeping up with my paperwork.  R├ęsultat: when I walk into my apartment there is a "pleasant" sense of disorder;  I try to look past it and see the cheerful colors, but I generally get absorbed by all those dust bunnies and suddenly I feel all yucky inside.  I'm not a perfectionist about housekeeping by any means.  But I keep wishing things were cleaner around here.

The problem with me is that it takes years (literally) for me to finish projects.  I think I mull things over a long time and I am also limited by time and help since Remi works a good part of the weekends or we spend maybe a third or closer to half of all Sundays at his greenhouse.   Excuses, excuses.  Maybe I just don't have the get up and go to throw things out and clear spaces.  Maybe I'd rather blog or make muffins or chill than get into radical clean mode.
But I finally decided to take action on at least one corner.  I'm 99% on the way to getting rid of my dinosaur computer from 2005 that I no longer use.  Gotta wipe the hardrive before I take it to the recycling center (any advice on that?) but I did manage to fit the old computer desk in my miniscule car and get it out of the apartment.  Good friend Caro and her obliging husband helped me get a new Ikea shelf box in my car.  Remi helped screw in the tough parts but I'm proud to say I did most of the constructing of my shelf (score for womankind).
BEFORE (Mega problems getting iPad photos in right position!)


And slowly but surely one corner is slightly more functional, which allows me to clear clutter in other areas.  I'm still so far from my dream world of storage space for everything.  Does anyone remember this Rubbermaid ad where the family organizes their house with storage tubs?  Check out the 90s hair!

I still find myself thinking my life would be perfect if only surfaces were cleaner.  That's just not true.  Sometimes I do have to remind myself, the dust and grime can wait, Juju doesn't care about a clean house but just having fun.  But part of me keeps thinking just one more storage unit might solve all my problems!  And that this would be a truly dreamy living room (minus the bear rug!).  Check out more cool ideas from their website: