Monday, September 30, 2013

For better or for worse

Yeah, so when I said it was a 12 hour drive yesterday.... I understated this undertaking big time. More like 2.5 day to 3 day expedition involving driving an oversized, crikkity old van from middle of nowhere Morocco to a ferry to Spain to then drive through Spain to France and finally arrive at his parent's house near Belfort, France. WORSE!

So, now Hicham is probably going to take a big boat. How cool is that? Instead of all the hulla-ballo mentioned above, he and his mama (and the old van) will take a berth (with a cabin) direct from Morocco to France (36 hours) and then drive 6 hours to the house. Nice, simple and relaxing. Lucky guy. BETTER!

Meanwhile, I will be left to my own devices where my mind will inevitably wonder HOW in the hell single mothers do it ... every day and every night for years!

Sabine and Grandpere on his DIY swing in the house in Morocco
So, his trip will be probably pretty darn close to what one might call a vacation. But not the first time he has done this trip, hardly. Hicham and his family (parents and 4 siblings) made this road trip every single summer he was growing up. I asked him what the kids did in the car for all that time. He started out idyllically saying they read books, played games and looked out the window. Then I asked, "and bicker"? Yeah, he admitted, lots of that too.

I find it absolutely incredible that we have such very, very different backgrounds and yet we found each other in North Carolina and have been together now for nearly eight years. Also, that experience for Hicham, back and forth Morocco/France enabled him to become the person he is today. But being from France (and his fervent studying) gave him the agency to go to Duke to eventually meet his future wife. But his parents have deep roots there and they have worked hard to maintain them. For me, coming from the USA, it is much easier. America is everywhere. My culture is the one to which others are compared (for better or for worse).

___________________________________Next topic___________________________

Today we visited the "alternative school" or "Ecole Nouvelle" called La Source in a suburb of Paris. This is perhaps best left to be discussed in another post since I have quite a bit to say about our search for a school for Sabine (and eventually Leo). I am relieved and excited to say that this school is absolutely exactly what I want for my children. The director said that there are lots of bi-cultural kids there :)

She cannot start for another 2 years until she is six so in the meantime, we will be looking for our new apartment in earnest and saving up the moula. So, we are now entering home limbo land but happily there is no rush. Updates on this will be forthcoming.

So, that's all for tonight. time for some down time with Downton Abby!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Before the Kale Party

Missed yesterday, but well - hell, Hicham's dad was here. He arrived in the afternoon exhausted and weary both from illness and his travels. Poor guy comes in the door and his number one fan, Sabine, was raring to play and talk his ear off. So, Hicham took her to the park and I put Leo down for a nap and he napped on the couch

Living in a (nearly!) 800 sq. ft apartment was quite luxurious when it was just Hicham and I - but then one kid and then another one... now it is quaint. When someone comes to visit, we now recommend a hotel. But, since it was H's sick dad, obviously that is out of the question. So, on the couch he slept. But he didn't mind, in fact he said it was like in Morocco.

Kale
Okay, cool.  Later, we had dinner and put the girls to bed. It was then I was planning to blog, but then I remembered that it was the Kale Party in Paris. I mentioned it to Hicham and he suggested I go. By now, it was already 8:30 and it ended at 11pm. It was tempting though. So, I did all the research regarding metro times/walking door to door. I determined it would take about an hour. By the time I got dressed and so on and left, I would arrive realistically about 10. Then we discussed me driving. Yeah, me driving alone in Paris on a Saturday night. If you have been following this blog, you would know that I have spent thousands of hours and euros on doing just this. BUT NO.... I'm too scared. Pathetic. I have hitchhiked in bumfucknowhere, Guatemala. I have driven motorcycles in Kathmandu. I have I have swum in hightide in Thailand, nearly drowning. But, driving in Paris makes me shit my pants.


I decide it is time to break out of my comfort zone and live a little (more). Then I research the parking situation. Write down the address of the parking garage and the walk from the garage to the wine bar. Now it is already 9pm. But, I am going. Then lightbulb and then, "Hey Hicham, maybe you can come with me since your dad is here and the girls are asleep"?

His lovely, kind father insists on it.

Hicham agrees because I pressure him. Of course, HE has to redo the research and look for the parking garage locations cuz that is the guy that I married. He says he found one closer and 10 minutes later, we are in the car and I am behind the wheel.

This is exactly what I need, to do this drive with a supportive and loving husband at my side encouraging my every gear and lane change. HA! Regardless, it proves helpful as on occasion I am befuddled as to what the hell is going on around me. It all goes well and we drive to the garage. This turns out NOT to be close at all to the wine bar and we walk for what seems like forever up and down little cute streets, crossing giant 4 lane intersections, passing brasseries, bars and cafes. The breeze is light and the temp is fresh and we are two long legged people rushing down the street passing the cool, high heeled Parisiens smoking and strolling slowly. I am having the time of my life (no sarcasm either).

Yup, that is what having kids does to you. Just walking down the street without them feels like we are at a party. Listening to the environment around us seems as though we are in a strange, exotic land. Not carrying babies, carriers, bags, water, snacks, extra blankets, sun screen, toys, hats feels as though I am nearly naked.

We can't find the place .. almost. We arrive at the end of a loooong street at 10:45. Okay, so we have 15 minutes to have a glass of wine and eat something made with kale. That's cool. Our standards are so low now that taking turns at the beach to swim for 10 minutes each makes the entire packing hell worth it. Snippets of pleasure have become blog entry worth.

Of course, I had the wrong day. Yeah, place was closed and in fact it is next week. Hicham won't be here because he is going to Morocco to drive his mother back in his dad's car. That trip will involve a 6 hour ferry ride and 12 hour drive through Spain. I will be alone here with the girls. Not sure who is going to have a better time.

Anyhoot, after seeing the place was closed, Hicham suggested we stop and have a glass of wine somewhere else. Shoulda-coulda-woulda... but no, I said we better get home because Leo generally (YES STILL!) wakes up around midnight for a feeding (regardless of what I do, so don't think I am encouraging this).

For the return, we slow to Parisien pace and stroll back and enjoy the time, walking together just me and him. Him and me. It is really nice.


So, I didn't blog - I went for a 20 minute walk in Paris instead. Voila!


If, btw you are interested in going to the actual kale party on Oct 2, here is the link:

http://thekaleproject.com/2013/09/national-kale-day-verjus-giveaway/

Saturday, September 28, 2013

C'est la vie!

Oh me oh my did I drop the ball last night, or what?
Yup, a little self-love and compassion rolling in right about now...
Completely FORGOT about my blog last night.
There has been a bit of a whirl-wind lately.
Hicham's dad called Thursday morning (2 days ago) early in the morning.
Long story short he is coming here today from Morocco to go to the doctor.
He and Hicham's mother have been there for the last 4 months trying to deal with land disputes with siblings... a very complicated undertaking in any case, but in Morocco - well, even more complicated it would seem. But I don't know much about it and frankly, find the entire thing unfortunate.

Anyhoot ...

Sabine is now saying hello AND goodbye to her teacher now. The deal was made that if she did it, she could call the other parent not present and tell them about it. Yeah, that was the incentive, can you believe it? She loves talking on the phone that much.

Hey, whatever it takes, right? At least it wasn't candy!

So, this is not my official entry for today, this is to make up for last night. Yeah, second chances baby. And maybe at this point, you are finding these entries a bit, well um... how to put it? Mundane, boring, run of the mill, average, mediocre, what have you. Well, C'est la vie (literally).

For me, I am really enjoying this and as I had hoped, am getting some satisfaction from writing. But, if for you - it has become something of a unenlightening diary, feel free to unsubscribe - it won't hurt my feelings. If, however, you are enjoying my lil entries - please do subscribe.

 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

My quirky silent kid

So, my sweet Sabine is causing trouble in school.

First of all, she is not listening to the teacher today. She ignored the teacher when told to stop running in the bathroom and ignored her when told to stop playing around during the meal.  I could tell when the teacher was telling me about it, she was pretty pissed.  And I get it, Sabine is crafty and I don't mean in that embroidery kind of way.  She has a strong will and she is persistent in a way that I both fear and admire. I know that French schools are known to be strict, but I am wondering what they can do as a consequence that will even phase her? Clearly her teacher's unhappiness seemed to matter very little in this case.

Second of all, she won't respond when the teacher talks to her. This is the child who never, ever, ever shuts the hell up has not yet said one. single. word in class yet.

It has been three weeks. While she will indeed talk a great deal to the other children on the playground, she simply refuses to talk to her teacher or her assistant. She won't even say Au revoir - a very big deal for kids to greet adults in France. She seemed to enjoy the prodding and the attention the first week, so I stopped mentioning it. I thought perhaps she was "just being shy" or just taking advantage of being pushed to do something that no one could really, in fact MAKE HER DO - so, I stopped mentioning it altogether.

Thing is, it is continuing.


I asked her later (again), why she doesn't talk in class she tells me it is because she "doesn't have to if I don't want to". And, well of course she is right. Tonight I went to a book signing event and there was a woman there I didn't particularly wish to speak to and so I didn't. Why should Sabine have to? Because she is 3? Because it is her teacher? Because it is polite?

Her silent treatment can extend to non-school folks too. As we were coming home, the lovely woman at the hair salon came out AGAIN to try to get Sabine to say a word to her. I mean, she pulled out all the stops, asked her tons of questions, got down on her level, smiled - I mean, damn, this lady was over the top trying to get her to respond. Nothing. She mildly nodded when confirming that she ate lunch at school today.

 Then, I get the question, "well, doesn't she speak French?" HA HA ha aha hahhhhaaaaa! If they only knew how well she speaks French.

Do I even care? Should I care?

I am perplexed as to, what, if anything I should do.

A couple of weeks ago, a new babysitter came over and Sabine took a shine to her immediately and talked, danced, played and expressed herself in all her enthusiastic self. So, it is not like she can't if she wants to. 

 Tonight Hicham asked Sabine why she didn't talk in school. She confirmed while she didn't like to talk during class, preferring to talk outside during the breaks. When pressed on, she said it was because she was a wolf.

um, okay. Here I thought it might be that she was introverted or sensitive - but nah, that isn't it.

Then she added, "C'est comme ca." (It's just like that).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Blog Envy and warp speed toddler time (what?)

This entry is a mini-post mostly declaring my awe and wonder at bloggers who manage to blog daily with clever quips, stunning photos of their art projects they did with their multiple children, discussions of their home makeovers, social outings and very often outside the home (paid) jobs. This daily blogging is kicking my ass already and I am only on day 4-5 and I am exhausted!

Granted my little Leo is sick at present meaning that neither of us slept well last night thus I was scraping by energy wise today, but even still. Today, I didn't even get out of my pajamas,  my big project with Sabine today was making different textures with her toys in her play-dough and am about to go to bed with a dirty kitchen. The last thing I feel like doing is sitting here now, on my computer trying to sound literate.

So, this begs the question - HOW in the hell do these people do it? How does a person keep a garden, sew clothes, raise children, keep fit, make good meals, grocery shop, keep the right size clothes in the never ending shuffle of sizes, go out with friends, read books, stay current, have a sex life AND take stunning pics to go along with their blogs daily?

I am on a quest to find my time wasters. I rarely watch tv, haven't seen a full movie in a couple of years (though I do like watching trailers) and have a pile of books waiting to be read. Is it facebook? Is it the search for the new home? Is it naps? Is it huffpost? Where does all this precious, precious time GO? I am not tryingto be ambitious here, nor am I trying to be particularly busy. I know how to say no and I know when to take it easy.

You may remember, I  wrote an entry a while back saying I was taking a break from blogging to enjoy my baby. I am glad I did that, but I want to keep records of my children's life and I enjoy this medium. I also want to garden, read, do paper mache, go to bed with a clean kitchen and of course, spend as much time with my darling daughters as I can.

So, great segway here, today I was hearing Sabine in her room saying H, H, Q O, Q O, H, Q H, H, H etc etc. I peeked in to see what the heck and she was practicing her letters with an orange marker. She has already been" writing" for a very long time now - squiggles, lines, dots etc and then reading to me what they said. That was always interesting. But this time, she was actually writing the letters. I have no idea where she learned to do it, she said it was not in school. We have practiced her name, but Sabine does not contain H, O or Q so ...?

I was curious if she really knew what she was writing, so I asked her - what sound does an H make? She said, ha. I said was is a word that starts with H? She said, hot and hat. Well, I'll be! So, obviously, she didn't learn that in her French school. She was clearly proud of herself and kept on filling the page for about 20 more minutes. 

My girl has gone from a squiggle writer to a letter writer in a blink. I know that time is something we all reflect on at least occasionally, but when you have small children, you get to witness life in warp speed. As they are pulling you into their super-speed reality, you could wonder if you are stimulating enough as you try to do it all.

ON THE Other hand, Another way to look at my faux-self hate is to consider that had I been all up in her business doing projects or dragging her around outside the house, she wouldn't have had the space and quiet to work on her letters. So, I guess it all evens out in the end. But this weekend, we are going to be planting a garden while we do yoga while wearing handmade hemp overalls and I am gonna blog all about it!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Lovely day to see Buffalos

The Arc (from the website)
About a month ago we finally visited Thoiry Zoo and Park, after talking about going for 4 years. It is about 45 minutes from Paris. I really loved it. I liked it so much in fact, we bought Sabine and I an annual membership to go during the week. So, we went again today - and the weather was perfect.

It has something for everyone. Botanical gardens, a ch√Ęteau, a labyrinth, African safari, kid's playground, petting zoo and of course tons of different animals in a huge, natural outdoor setting that you walk through.  They also offer "shows", which are more like college lectures (but hey this is France).

 The diversity of the animals is just breathtaking. For a bit of a glimpse, click here.
Thoiry Chateau and giggles


 The grounds: the trees, flowers, ponds, gardens - just gorgeous. I cannot wait to visit next spring when everything is in bloom.

Thoiry does something that I thought was incredibly unique, though maybe it isn't, but I had never seen this done before. For a few of the animals, they put the people in the cage (so to speak) and the lions were free to roam. There was a long (very thick) glass covered corridor which people walk through. The lions were laying on top of them when we were there. Their heads are enormous! (no pics this time, sorry).

The drive-through Safari is also cool. Animals strutting down the main road next to the car, very cool. I may have seen buffalo before, but have no recollection of their enormity. They really are beasts.


Here are just a few pics I took with my phone today of the Safari part. I was alone with Sabine and Leo, therefore couldn't really get into picture taking during the animal park part. That is one thing about being with small children, they really demand ALL of your attention (and some!). But in the car, they were strapped in their car seats...




bonus pic of my sweet Sabine <3
For more info on Thoiry Zoo and Park, check out their very nice website here:  http://www.thoiry.net/fr

Monday, September 23, 2013

a fishy tale

This post well, is not going to be written as I had imagined when I was cleaning the kitchen racking my brain for a topic for tonight's entry.

It is my goldfish tale.

About 2 months ago, a neighbor of mine threw away a goldfish bowl. Well, I was beyond delighted. It took about a month to get to the store and get a fish. We went on a Saturday, it was of course beyond chaotic and rushed. Not what I wanted for my girl's first pet experience. But well anyway... the guy at the store said that a goldfish needs an aquarium and a big one at that.

I guffawed. The hell they do - why when I was a kid, I had a bowl and my fish was fine. Of course, he was right. A one second glance at google and one learns quite quickly that indeed goldfish need space.

It seemed like a heck of a lot of work to get an aquarium. I always admired people who kept them, but I myself never thought of having one. I was a "dog person" and a "cat person", not an aquarium person. After getting the fish and learning the next time and money expense coming our way, Hicham suggested "getting rid of it". Of course, I said no. I was destined to become an aquarium person.

But, the fish would have to wait until I could get back to the store. Well, finally about a week ago, the girls and I went back. Leo wasn't really into it, she was discontent during most of the excursion. Sabine was, who knows where looking at who knows what, but kept checking back in while I got the low down on fish 101.

After spending a small fortune, with the aquarium in the stroller and the baby in my arms, we went home and I set up the fish's new home.

It was so fun to watch the fish swimming around happily. Sometimes it would hide behind the live plant. I realized just how much I loved having any pet. For me, animals in the home just make the home more cozy, more nurturing and more well homey.

Here is where my story was supposed to end. But about an hour ago, I went over to take a picture of the fish to share with you dear reader. Yes, riveting stuff here. And I noticed the fish seemed stuck at the bottom of the tank, I rushed to get a spoon to help it and it helplessly floated around. I wondered was it dead? Alas no, a quick google search would tell me it had "swim bladder" a condition caused by a variety of possible things.

I rushed to do all the advice given on the Internet, with much optimism as most said it wasn't that serious. During that time, the poor fish died.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

My little coquine

We know our children are growing as their shoes start getting tighter and as they can reach things they couldn't before. But seeing that they are growing emotionally is not as obvious... usually.

Today Sabine had drawn all over her arms with her markers while putting Leo down for her morning nap. I was not impressed. She knew she was about to hear all about it, but acted preemptively. Here is what she told me, seemingly all in one breath:

"It's okay mama, it's no big deal. It will wash off. I can go right now into the bathtub and it will come right off with soap. Don't be mad with me. Go sit in the calming chair and take 3 deep breaths. You will feel better."

Um, yeah, okay. Thanks, THREE year old! 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Dodged a Bullet and a farm visit

Here we go, day 2 of the 21 day challenge.

So, long story short - there are some shady people on the planet. We have been off and on looking at new places to live for the last few years. We quite like our apartment, the location and the people who live in our community. And the simple fact that we have a neighborly community is something of a rarity in the Paris area.

But, once and a while I freak out and crave a yard or more space or more storage or a quieter area or or or whatever and we start looking at the internet for the ads for houses or apartments. Here in France, of course, things are done differently than in the USA. Buying a new residence brings those cultural differences up to a whole new level. More on that later, but suffice it to say we had been really close to me writing a blog entitled, "We are Moving!"

Alas, that is not what this entry will be titled. It will be "We dodged a bullet". The quick version is: we found a quaint apt with needed some work, but it bordered a lovely forest, a 7 min walk to the school I want Sabine to go to and seemed like a pleasant place to live. We had visited the apt four times, met people who were moving out, met people who were living there, went for a hike in the forest, took lots of pics of the apt, had 2 contractors visit, read all the apartment diagnostics, read the meeting minutes of the co-prop owners, did a trial walk to the school. We really were getting invested in this place.

We went again last night with a different contractor to talk again about the work that needed to be done. The evil agents had to leave after about 15 minutes, so we were left to stand and discuss the work in the hallway. A woman was returning home and my bold and fantastic friend who  also joined to give us her opinion on the place asked the woman something in French. Fast forward 15 minutes and we had heard enough from this woman who chose US to tell the real deal to exit the process. And there was some real shady shit going on. The entire group of co-property owners colluded to not include in the minutes of their meetings the major upcoming and very expensive repairs needed on the apt as they all quietly sold their apartments. Also, blatantly lied about the ability to (hard to believe I know) USE the lawn directly in front of the apartment. This was one of the most appealing things about the apt. It is very common, more common than not, that the grass in forbidden to walk, play or lay on all around France. But, we had been told by the agents that the lawn was ours to use.

The helpful neighbor of course asked that we not say anything. She included a lot of other tid-bits about the dramas and conflicts between the neighbors. But for me it was the grass. She said it was really not allowed.  To have a living room with 2 beautiful doors opening out to a large grassy area but never be allowed to walk on it, well fuck that.

Like my many other major life projects, getting a driver's license in France, having a baby in France,  - buying a new home will be highlighted here. And no doubt, the stories coming will be head shakers, eye brow raising and fist poundingly frustrating - but so it is in the land not known for efficiency or customer service!
Breastfeeding at the farm

Beyond that 2 very heartbreaking situations recently came to my attention. I include online petitions to sign to show your support for two very different aspects of being in touch with nature.  Even if you don't live in France, your name will make an impact.

The first one relates to a family's decision to have their baby at home, which France is trying to eliminate by making it nearly impossible for mid-wives to get insurance. Here is that petition:

 https://www.change.org/fr/p%C3%A9titions/au-gouvernement-fran%C3%A7ais-ne-rendez-pas-l-accouchement-%C3%A0-domicile-impossible



The second one is to protest the closing of an incredible resource here in France. A teaching farm which is really second to none in it's awesomeness. We happened to go there today and cannot believe that this is the first time we ever did as it is so close to our home. Here are just a couple of not-that-great pics taken with Hicham's phone. But the petition follows. Why they want to close it, is unclear to me. I hope to find out more.


Here is the petition:
http://www.mesopinions.com/petition/nature-environnement/sos-ferme-piqueur/9930

Please sign! :)

Friday, September 20, 2013

I am BACK and my standards have lowered

Hi y'all.
So, they say it takes 21 days to start making a new habit into a way of life. I am going to challenge myself to blog EVERYDAY for the next 21 days. And yup, gonna make a statement of my intention to do so.

It isn't that I haven't been blogging because there isn't much to write, au contraire, there is so much going on that I am neglecting to make time for it. This is a shame because this is where I keep many of my memories.

As I have stated before, I am keeping my blog "public" but I ultimately write the blog for myself. I do so enjoy reading old posts and remembering that time or that phase or that joy or that frustration.


Leonora

So, my little baby girl just turned ONE and I think it was 2 entries ago, I was sharing her birth story. That is pathetic.

Okay, well, she just woke up from her nap. So, I gotta go now. But I am posting this now and no, it isn't necessarily interesting or even thought-provoking. If you are looking for that on a consistent basis, you might want to unsubscribe now cuz it's getting real up in here.  Yeah, I am bringing in the nitty-gritty daily grind kinda updates. And more complaining. And more pictures. And more opinions that could change within a day or 2.

I will be writing when I am tired, I will be writing when I don't feel like it and I will be writing (as I am now) with a baby breastfeeding.  


So - now you know. I am back. And my standards are lower, ha!