Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Nicest People in France

Today I had some errands to run and was travelling through Paris via the Metro (public transport, like the Subway in NYC). If you've ever been to any major city and taken these types of underground trains, you know that to get down (and then back above ground, once at your destination) you will see lots and lots of stairs. We have friends here who have lived in NYC or Chicago and they agree that by far, Paris is the worst... more stairs and very few escalators. I would say on my average journey (like today, one stop and back), I encounter about 5 sets of stairs. What would you say if I asked how much I am usually helped up and down these stairs with my stroller? Maybe 40% (hopeful) or even 20% (realistic). Well, on average, it's about 0%. Yes, that's right, 5 sets of stairs and not a single person helps me. This goes right along with my experience of being pregnant last year... I rarely got a seat either. Of course, young, French men would be sitting in rows of seats, but no, me, 8 months pregnant, has to stand. And once, when I was pregnant, I gave a seat to an older nun, because no one else would. I know that many aren't practicing Catholics in this country, but who doesn't have respect for nuns? And as you see below, it was obvious that I was pregnant to everyone around me as I stood for her:




Sadly... I still had two months to go in this picture! And my face (I had given up on the rest of me) was already getting too wide to fit through the doors...





So, on with my story...

Today, I got out of the metro at my stop and was about to walk up two smaller flights of stairs and who jumps forward to help me after I give them a pitiful "help me" look? Two young, North African men. They were wearing baggy jeans and wild t-shirts. These are the same guys that were avoided on the metro and platform by most other people. But not me... fortunately, I know better. Most of the cities we lived in and schools I attended were very diverse, and I learned that you can never judge anyone by appearance, culture, religion, or even accent.

And let me tell you this... I knew they would probably help me. The only people who gave up their seats on the metro when I was pregnant were African men also. And please don't think I see a certain skin tone and assume anything (plus, who cares since I would be assuming something positive about them anyway?). Most people who aren't French are really obvious, because it's a hard country to fit into. You can tell by their accent, their dress, and their mannerisms... just like I probably look and sound obviously foreign to everyone too.

I wish my daughter was old enough to understand these things. I wish I could use moments like this to teach her that it's never right to treat somebody different (like avoiding them on the metro) because of how they look. If you treat everyone with respect, you'll be surprised. We've been all over the world and people are really very nice... just about everywhere you go...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Works-For-Me-Wednesday: Remembering Birthdays

It's easy to get so busy and buy horrible birthday cards for people because you forget. So, I came up with a better idea to make sure I always have good cards on hand and remember these special days. I have one of those great card organizers from Hall.mark, but really any bin or container with monthly dividers would work. I list every one's birthdays or anniversaries on the front and put cards for each person in the dividers. I often buy lots of cards at once and take a "bulk" trip to the card store to stock up on special cards for different family members. I also make sure to buy a few extra birthday cards for random parties or co-workers, etc.
On the 23rd or 24th of the month, I write on the calendar "send out birthday cards" for the next month. So I pull all the cards for that month out of the divider and put on stamps, address the card, and they're ready to go.
I use birthdayalarm com (which sends you multiple reminders for any birthday to your email) and set it to give me an alarm one week before (to send the card) and the day of (so I can call the person on their birthday). This way I never forget a birthday and people always feel really special on their special day!

Want some REALLY great ideas? Visit the host of Works-For-Me-Wednesdays at Rocks In My Dryer.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dad




Me and my Dad, two years ago...


Today would've been my Dad's 53rd birthday. I still can't believe he's been gone for 11 months. So much has changed, but I feel more and more confident that he's here with me all the time, looking after us. One thing I've noticed lately is that the stages of grief are very fluid. I thought I went through all of them and was okay, but lately I've been feeling a little disbelief again. Did it really happen to him... a virus that attacks the heart? Even in normal healthy people, which he was? He was one of the most active, healthy people I knew and I would've never believed a year ago if you told me he would be dead in a month.


I've been thinking about our life a year ago, on his birthday last year. He left that day to go home after visiting me. He and my Mom had come to the ultrasound that week and saw Love Bug. The doctor tried to see the sex, but didn't feel sure enough to say. But he knew; he told me afterwards that he was sure that she was a girl. That next weekend, after my brother arrived, we went to London as a family. It was great.


Here is a picture of all of us at a pub... Love Bug is still in Mommy's belly, obviously.













I want to do something special for his birthday each year, especially for Love Bug. I have pictures of my Dad all over and I already have a photo album of about 40 pictures of him. It's in the pile with her books and I want her to look at it and carry it around, like any other book. But that's more of an everyday thing. What could I do each year for his birthday, so my kids "know" him? Any ideas that are positive? Maybe lighting a candle and looking at pictures and telling funny stories about him? Let me know what you think...

Monday, May 28, 2007

Art Show 2007

I haven't talked about this at all, but a big part of my life this Spring has been planning the Art Show, for my husbands' office here in Paris. The last few years I've been involved in the entertainment and directed the choir, but this year I decided to volunteer to be the chairperson. I know, I know... nuts with a new baby (well, she was "new" when we started planning in January), but no one else volunteered. It's a great event and artists display (with the option of selling) their work and we have catering, wine, and a great entertainment schedule. We also had a Silent Auction again, which raised a lot of money. It didn't go to where I wanted; I had another great charity picked out that provides clowns and toys for children's' hospitals in France. My idea was voted against and that's okay... maybe I can do something else myself for that charity.

Well, it was last week and I'm so glad it's done. I was happy to do the job, but I'm amazed by how few volunteers we had overall. Maybe I'm accustomed to people wanting to be involved, because of my volunteer background. In college, I was in a volunteer organization and did community service a lot. I routinely did 6-8 hours a week and the more than 100 other people in the organization were the same. We also had parties and had fun together, but everyone was very serious about helping others too. It was a great group of people who really cared, and I guess I shouldn't expect that elsewhere, but I do. I just want people to be less apathetic and be more interested in all the fun things we can do and still help others.
I'm done griping, and here are some pictures of the event:




One side of the displays...






The other side...





One of our musical entertainment groups...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Swimming

We took the Love Bug swimming today... and what fun! I have a feeling that we'll be spending a lot of time at the pool this summer...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Works-For-Me-Wednesdays: Sturdy Plastic Bags

Regular plastic bags can be so dangerous around kids, so I have saved all those sturdy plastic bags (with the zippers) from the Love Bug's toys, cloth books, Rob.eez shoes, even sheet sets, etc. Now I use those bags to organize things in my diaper bag or when we go on a trip.

Some of my favorite uses:
- for baby food, utensils, bibs, and extra burp cloths
- to compile one complete outfit with socks and shoes
- for toys, books or bath toys
- for bath supplies and diaper change supplies
- for bath towels or blankets...

It makes it so easy to just grab the bag, unzip, and everything you need for one task is right there. And with the different sizes, they can hold all different loads, from a few small jars of baby food and bibs, all the way to a big load of toys and books. It also helps when I arrive at anyplace I visit, so I can easily grab all the bags. I put the bath toys/towels in the bathroom and the feeding supplies in the kitchen.

One last use is as a place to store all items that you don't need anymore. Love Bug's tub came with a sling for a newborn. Now that she doesn't need it anymore, I cleaned it, and put it in one of the small bags. That way, when she's too big for the baby tub, we can tape the bag to the back of the tub (with the sling inside) and it won't get dirty or lost.

Want some REALLY great ideas? Visit the host of Works-For-Me-Wednesdays at Rocks In My Dryer.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Surprise- We Love Uncle J!

Yesterday, Love Bug and I were heading out to the mall to pick up a few things, although we forgot a birthday present for a friend's child... shoot!

Anyway, I was about to turn the corner and I heard someone behind me say, "A! (well, my name, but you get it...)"

It was...

my brother, J! He was visiting a friend who is studying in Dublin. I knew that they might come to Belgium for a few days this week since the flights there were so cheap. But, they decided to rent a car and drive down to Paris. I must say that I'm impressed that my brother knew how to find our house once he got into Paris... very good.

So, they saw a few things in the afternoon, had dinner with us and just talked until J fell asleep, since he still has bad jet lag. This morning, he got up, played with the Bug, and then they drove off, back to their crazy travels.

So, even though we always jokingly tell him, "I hate Uncle J! I hate Uncle J! I hate Uncle J!" (If you know this part in the movie, LOVE ACTUALLY, you can figure out his name).

But really, we love Uncle J. Thanks for driving way out of your way to see us... it was the best surprise and made our day!

Attack of the Brats (Part 2)

On Sunday we went to the 35th birthday party for a friend here in Paris. She doesn't have any children yet, though she is pregnant. Her house is not really prepared for children since it's early, but was gracious enough to allow us all to bring our children.

Most were babies like Love Bug, but one couple brought their two and a half year old daughter, let's call her "Cutie". She was very cute, playing, and generally not getting into any trouble... at first.

It started with potty training and her peeing on the floor. This happens, but then "things" just kept happening. Cutie started playing with some of their decor. Her Mom asked her to stop multiple times, but didn't do anything about it. Finally, after many empty threats, Cutie broke something hanging by the front door, so her Mom was embarrassed and took her into the dining room where a bunch of us were gathered. Next, Cutie started picking sprinkles off the top of the birthday cake and eating them. I thought maybe Cutie's Mom didn't notice, but she just kept asking her to stop. Finally, she tried to pick up the cake and got sprinkles and glaze all over her fingers!

Now... please someone help me! Where does she get off allowing her daughter to touch foods that adults are about to eat? I can understand if she didn't catch her in time before she did it the first, or even second time, but we're talking 5 or more times! I don't condone playing with food obviously, but if Cutie wanted to do this, and Mom didn't want to stop her, then she could have just cut a piece for Cutie to play with and eat.

Finally, when enough adults gave disgusted looks, Cutie's Mom was embarrassed again and gave her a chocolate cookie so that she could "play with her own food". After she ate it and sat for a little longer, Cutie got up and there is was! To the host's dismay, she rubbed her fingers on the white seat cushion of one of the dining room chairs and got dark chocolate smudges all over it!

So, regarding my post from last Friday, I have something to add...

Yes, I repeat, if couples don't offer child care for their "adult only" weddings, then they cannot be upset when some people cannot come.
But at the same time, we as parents cannot be upset about "adult only" weddings, until things like I've written about above stop happening.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Yeah for Blogger

I won't lose anymore half-written posts, since they now have automatic save! It's wonderful... now if I could just it to actually spell-check more than 50% of the time. Any suggestions on that?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Attack of the Brats

I have been reading a few parenting magazines since the Love Bug was born. I recently read articles in 3 different places about "brats". Most articles discuss not only how many more "brats" can be found in society today, but also how to prevent this from happening.

I now find it very ironic that of all the summer wedding invitations we've gotten so far, over half have been adult only weddings... is this just a coincidence? Or is this perceived increase in badly behaved children causing many people to think twice about inviting them? This brings up a lot of issues...

I asked my Mom about this, because "adults only" isn't even something that registered on my radar when I got married, and this was only five years ago. Even if I knew about the concept, we couldn't have done it anyway. I was a teacher and love kids, and wanted them there. The two kids that I babysat for years were the flower girl and junior usher. A lot of my parents' friends are younger than they are and had young children when I was getting married. At the same time, even though B and I got married in our early 20s, we had some friends who were older and also had young kids. And besides, some of my favorite memories are watching the bridesmaids dance with all the kids at my wedding.

My Mom said she occasionally saw these types of weddings 5 or 10 years ago, but before that, 20 - 30 years ago, it was never done. Weddings were a family occasion and children, with all their quirks, were included. But over the last few years, "adult only" weddings have definitely become more common and it probably can be mostly attributed to, not "brats", but a lot more late evening, black tie weddings, in my opinion. Our wedding was this type, but we have fun friends (with fun children) and the 20 kids that were there were all up for dancing and having a good time, even if it was late. When people in our parents' generation got married, they had the reception in the basement of the church. My parents were particularly swanky and had it in the ballroom of a local hotel, but still only had cake and dancing. Now, with dinner being served, late nights, black tie, I can see how people might feel that they don't want children. I can also see how they might be concerned about their budget also and paying $30 a plate for a kid that barely eats could be frustrating. But shame on the caterers... we were so lucky to have our reception at my parents' country club. They provided very cheap "children's meals" for the kids under 12, but anyone near the cut-off, my Mom called to see what type of meal they preferred. If a kid likes fancier adult food at age 10, far be it from us to deter them from eating it! Good for them.

No matter why these are becoming more popular, they definitely strike certain feelings in anyone you ask. Some people really like the idea of it and wish it was used more often, but then others are so offended. They immediately ask if child care is being provided. Surprisingly, in most of the weddings my Mom and I've seen lately, child care for adult only weddings is not provided. I understand that the bride and groom don't want to pay for it, but it should at least be offered at a small cost to the parents. Especially for someone like me; I'm a breastfeeding mother and if I'm in an unfamiliar location, I don't exactly have a place to store breast milk for a babysitter (if I even can find a babysitter I trust in an unfamiliar locale). Since we are here for only four more months before our move to Italy, I don't plan to fly back for any of these weddings anyway, so it doesn't matter.

Let me just make one thing clear though. I support everyone's right to have it be THEIR DAY. It is their day and if that doesn't include kids, that's totally fine! I had certain things that I was really concerned about for my wedding and I'm glad people respected my wishes and my day enough to make sure it happened my way. So, I would always want to do the same for others. I just wish that they could have child-care either on-site or close by at the hotel, for those of us with breastfeeding babies, special needs children, or even kids who have a particularly hard time being away from Mom & Dad. If you don't offer it, you can be offended when people can't attend and share your special day.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Our very own "Baby Pac-Man"


The Love Bug has had so many new developments lately. My absolute favorite one is what I call "Baby Pac-Man". She likes to put everything in her mouth... toys, remote controls, adult food, her socks, etc. So whenever she sees something interesting (that she would like to chew on) she moves towards it, opening and closing her mouth. It is so funny and honestly looks so much like Pac-man that I can hear that chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp as she does it. That's why she's now our "Baby Pac-Man".

She loves her feet and toes and pulls them up to her face whenever she can. She even chews on her toes when she doesn't have footie pajamas, or socks, on her feet!

She sits up now with no help (this was 3 weeks ago with Nana) and I've even left her for 10 minutes while I stand nearby and fold clothes. I'm amazed how she has learned a skill so quickly and can stay that way so long!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Works-For-Me-Wednesday: Baby Calendar

I'm brand new to this "Works-For-Me-Wednesday" thing. so bear with me!

My idea is for any Mom who has a new baby- it's called the "Baby Calendar". You get a weekly planner to cover at least a significant portion of the first year, attach a pen somehow, and just start writing. I got one with Paris scenes since the Love Bug was born here. You can fill in things every day, or every few days, and it can be any variation of importance. It's an easy way to keep track of important things that happen in your baby's first year and will help you fill in gaps in your baby book, if you keep one. It also helps with organization of photos, because you look back to what day you went to the zoo, for example. Then you can find zoo pictures on your camera by date. Since most of us have cameras with more pictures than we can handle (that need to be downloaded), this makes it easier to find and then print those to add to the baby book/photo albums.

Some sample entries in mine:
"Grabbed a toy in the bath tub"
"When we sing to you, sometimes you 'sing' with us"
"Nana came to visit"
"Rolled over back to front"
"First time to visit Daddy at work"

Another bonus is keeping track of info for the doctor. When Love Bug got a rash, I wrote it in. So after our visit to Dr. McDreamy, I could look back and see that it had gone away in two weeks, so no need to call him with an update.

And as a side note, the idea comes from my mother and is one my Mother used for us. I can assure you that your children will love it. I loved looking at my calendar and seeing all the little and big things that happened. I could see just how much my Mom loved me and all that she did with me and for me that first year.

Want some REALLY great ideas, visit the host of "Works-For-Me-Wednesdays" at Rocks In My Dryer.

Monday, May 14, 2007

One good thing about shopping here... (after my last grumpy post)

With my husband's French-Canadian background (where they can actually trace their roots back to France), it is important to him that our children have a sense of French culture and language. And of course, they must be able to speak French fluently, like he does. In an effort to expose Love Bug to the language, he speaks to her all the time in French and we try to take her out as much as possible to hear the language.
The great thing about living here, especially since we'll live back in the US (at least once they complete grade school) is that it's the best place to buy French books, CDs, and DVDs. If we lived in the States, we could buy them, but the shipping and customs costs would be horrible, so we're stocking up now. We plan to keep them in French schools overseas and then switching them to American schools by Junior High, so they are exposed to both. We listen to her CDs all the time and buy American movies with French language tracks.
I don't even really care if they ever live in France (in fact, I hope they don't since I'd miss them living so far away), but knowing a second language opens so many doors and it will be a great transition into other languages like Spanish and Italian.
Well, now that we own all these things, I've been listening to a lot of French music with her, since she's obviously not ready for the movies and has little attention span for the books. My favorite CD is one of Dis.ney Songs in French- it's so much fun. My top 3 favorites are:
1. "Ce Reve Bleu" (This Blue Dream)... otherwise known as "A Whole New World"
2. "Je Suis Ton Ami" (I Am Your Friend)... or "You've Got a Friend in Me"
and the best... is
3. "Sous L'Ocean" (Under the Ocean)... with is "Under the Sea" (the voice of Sebastian is fantastic!)
Two bizarre things on the CD to note. First is the theme song for the Win.nie-the-Po.oh show, which is called "Mon Ami Win.nie" (My Friend Win.nie). It is a concern because the way the French pronounce the word Win.nie; it sounds like "weenie". I can't help but laugh. I'm afraid in 15 years my kids will all laugh at the word weenie, because I do.
Oh, and my other concern is the song "Le Belle Et Le Bete" (The Beauty and the Beast), which was originally sung in English by Celine Dion, who is French-Canadian. She is one of my favorites and actually sang her albums in French first. Well, in the French Disney version, it is sung by someone else. She is good, but really! Who could do it better than Celine Dion? The French tease her for her "charming" accent, but even they admit that when she sings, it sounds just fine. Anyway, my husband claims that it was probably a contractual issue with her record label. Even so, how silly...
By the way, I wanted to link these songs to the blog and this is the best I could do... here is a link to the Ama.zon France page for the album. Click on each song to hear a clip:
Dis.ney Songs in French

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Shopping in France

I realized that I never talk much about life in France and I really should. It's something that my "readers" (okay, three people have commented so far- I don't have a big head yet) might be interested in hearing more about.
Life in France is amazingly different, but it's become such a part of my reality that I forget how hard it is until I go back to the States for a visit. Life is so simple when you can just pull out of your driveway, drive to Meij.er, Tar.get, or Wal.mart and park, buy whatever you might need inside, and then just go home. The prices are good and it's easy to transport everything to and from your home.
Shopping for groceries in France is a major production. Some people just go to local markets, but they are so time consuming (first the butcher, then the bakery, then the convenience store, etc) and expensive to boot. So many people go to big grocery stores, but they are so crowded that it's hard to get out of there in less than two or three hours either. Our regular shopping takes around five hours total, with driving time. And if you need anything bigger... like a desk chair, or a new wall print... you can forget five hours- try eight! By the time you leave, check multiple stores and finally find something you like (having found parking at each store too), you catch your credit card on fire buying it (since everything here is twice as expensive), and then, once you're home, you have to get a huge cart from the back of your apartment building to take everything up the elevator to your place in one trip or have someone help you take the over-sized items up the stairs (because French elevators are- no joke- the size of a phone booth). Otherwise, you'll go up and down for a half hour taking everything you have bought up the stairs. We really just need a pulley on our balcony.
I know, I know... I shouldn't complain, shopping in France is wonderful and charming, but boy does it take a long time and I miss the quick, CHEAP options in the US.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Oooo... a comment....

I just noticed that I got a comment a few posts ago. How exciting! I wonder if I have many other readers? Maybe I should start blogging more, just in case?

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Food, Glorious Food!

We have started the Love Bug on solids. She has been eating Rice Cereal for about two weeks and yesterday we added Carrots. She really loves food and just gobbles it up! The Bug opens her mouth and pulls the spoon towards her- she is definitely part of our family for how much she loves food.

We are being strict and introducing rice cereal first and then adding vegetables. We'll add meat, breads, and fruits later. This is recommended so that the Love Bug doesn't crave sweets. As my Mom said, "ohhh... that's where I went wrong with you!" I do love sweets and if I didn't get it from eating fruit too soon, it's directly inherited from my Mom!

Friday, May 4, 2007

We're back!

We're back from our two week trip to the US. It was wonderful! B and I are exhausted, but the Bug is doing so well! She handled the 7-hour time change like a champ, and two days later is already back on her normal bedtime schedule. Here are some highlights:

- The Spring Football Game for NU was fun and the day was sunny- everyone but the Bug got a tan!

- The Charity Auction raised a lot of money and was super swanky... a nice date night for us while Adrienne babysat.

- My Dad's induction to the Hall of Fame was really nice. They showed the video from his Memorial Service and while it made me sad, I also smiled at all the good times. My Mom (Nana) accepted the award and gave a moving speech.

- Love Bug's Christening was beautiful! She looked so pretty in her dress and that party afterwards was wonderful!

- The Love Bug got to see lots of family and met so many people for the first time, including her cousins.

And the question that everyone asks?
The flights went so well! Nine hours is long, but Love Bug barely cried on either flight.
Going there... she was so good and didn't cry until the last half hour, probably due to ear pressure on the descent. Everyone around us praised us for how good she was and when I apologized for the crying at the end, one woman said, "after 9 hours, that's how we all felt!"
Coming home... she cried a little going up, but fell asleep after about 2 hours and slept until we got home... to our house! That's the good news...
... and the bad news? The other baby two rows in front of us cried almost the whole flight and Mommy got no sleep! Oh well...