Monday, September 15, 2014

#MicroblogMondays: to party or not to party

The other day in the park M. Sensible was a bit upset because one of his best kindergarten friends was going over (together with his parents and little sister) to M. Sensible's best friend/girlfriend that evening and of course M. Sensible wanted to go too. So I said I understood, but explained that we can't just all go join everyone without invitation, and I sure would talk to his mom so we could plan a playdate soon too. Well, ok, ok, but of course he still felt a bit left out. And funnily so did I - Why? Why do I always think that they don't like me as much as the others because they set up more dinner dates together? So I tried to kick myself in the ass and told me to get some self-confidence.
The next day we saw everyone again at a birthday party of yet another kindergarten friend. One of the two moms looked really tired and hungover. Turned out the dinner date had actually been a sleepover, lots of alcohol was consumed by the adults and of course they hadn't hit their pillow before 3 am and she was woken up by her baby at 5:30 am, with the other kids following at 7 am. I felt conflicted. There was the little jealous pang again for missing out on a fun evening but at the same time I know that even if I am invited or going out for a girls night, I always go home as one of the first ones because for me feeling like sh*t the day after (which then also means yelling at my kids etc) is too high a price to pay for just a fun night. That probably makes me boring, or at least sensible (a label I've been given my entire life already). I could add that the other two moms are at least 5 years younger than me but I don't think age has anything to do with it. Even when I was a teenager my parents wondered if I shouldn't be out dancing with friends on a Friday night...
Do you like going out late (and getting drunk) with friends even when you know you will not have the chance to sleep in and you might be grumpy and unpleasant to everyone around you the following day? Or are you so lucky to have a partner who would just take over the next day so you can recuperate (which is not the case for me)?

#MicroblogMondays is another great idea from Mel at Stirrup Queens. Join in!

Monday, September 8, 2014

#MicroblogMondays: La Rentrée

Is summer vacation for a mother of small children ever really relaxing? We had lots of fun, but I can't say I was rested upon return (especially since M. Gourmand thought it was too much trouble going to the bathroom on the campsite - so much easier to let mommy clean up the mess… I must admit I threw away a few undies…).

Today the second week of school started with both boys attending. Last week I immediately noticed how much easier life is for the younger child. School was already familiar to him, while his brother had again to navigate a new situation as his Kindergarten class is located in the building of the elementary school - so tears for M. Sensible, big smile for M. Gourmand (who has everybody's favorite teacher as well so how can you not smile).

I now have at least my mornings back (and who knows, maybe also my blog?) - and some part of the afternoon too as M. Sensible stays at school all day and M. Gourmand takes long enough naps for me to get some work done. If I get as far as to revive my Cultural Differences series, there will certainly be a post on the topic of "La Rentrée" too.

#MicroblogMondays is another great idea from Mel at Stirrup Queens. Join in!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cultural differences - summer break

Welcome to the fourth installment of my monthly cultural differences series! I've missed two months (oops) with no real excuse other than that I've had the kids 24/7 all summer and not much time to blog.

It's August. We're in France. which means...

If you want bread, you have to walk the extra mile to a bakery that's open. The market is half the size it usually is. Don't try to find a doctor or a dentist. But if you want to park your car in the streets, don't worry about not having enough change - it's free this month. The city is deserted, everyone is at the beach.

When we just moved here we went on vacation in September and were a bit surprised that we only met retired people. Turns out that even people with small children that aren't tied to a school schedule yet will be on vacation in August because daycare centers are closed for the entire month and many sitters will be away too (our sitter, who is Portuguese, spends the entire month in Portugal - and the first Saturday of her vacation in a traffic jam on the high way).

Of course, historically, this is probably due to harvest time - everyone had to go harvest the crops in August so everything else had to shut down. But if I ask friends or colleagues why the entire country still goes en masse on vacation in August, they look at me as if I'm crazy, say 'well, it's always been this way / we don't know any better' or 'well, the industry closes (but if I ask why they don't have an answer to it!), so I have less work in August, so I might as well take my vacation then). School is out in the entire country from the first Saturday in July until the first Tuesday in September (for other school holidays the country is divided into three zones to try to avoid overly crowded high ways and resorts - or to give the tourist industry a longer period of higher income, however you want to look at it), but the family vacation is always in August - kids of working parents will go to their grandparents or summer camp in July.

The first Saturday in August is called "black Saturday" on traffic reports. It means everyone is standing still on the highways going south. (This year we thought we could go south the Friday before to celebrate my dad's birthday - it took us 6 hours instead of 3.5 - and that day was only classed as "orange").

Since we have kids and are more or less tied to the sitter's vacation schedule, we have been taking vacations in August, but still trying to avoid the huge crowds (so you won't find us at the Mediterranean beach then). This year we have a bit of a hap-snap vacation but will be going to the mountains next week, when the rest of the country is going back home to stock up on school supplies for "la rentrée des classes" (which will be the topic of my next Cultural Differences installment).

Is there a specific summer period when most of the people in your country take vacation or is it more spread out? Any other specifics to summer vacation time you know of?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Today marks the 44th birthday of my still born brother. When my mom was still alive my sister and I would have made sure to send a bouquet of white flowers to my parents (if we weren't with them at the time). We didn't have many other rituals to mark the day - when we were little my sister and I knew about the brother we never had, my mom sometimes  told us little snippets, but that was about it.

Only later did I understand why she reacted to things the way she did. She thought it was ridiculous when in films / TV shows women in labor would be screaming (my dad had asked her not to scream when she went in to the L&D room to deliver her son while he had to wait in the hallway - she didn't scream when she had me or my sister either and delivered all three children without epidural or other pain medication. I had M. Gourmand without epidural too and I think my screams were heard on the entire L&D floor and I don't know how I would have managed without...); when she hurt herself she would say "I've faced  bigger fires before" and wouldn't complain about it;  she would tell us to 'enjoy life' before getting pregnant - feeling she and my dad had been too young (they were in their early twenties) and to 'green' to face those doctors with their horrible bedside manners that first time around (and probably even a feeling of mother's guilt that she might have been able to change the outcome had she been more assertive).

Since she died, don't really know how to celebrate this day with my dad. Anything that refers to the time with my mom expressed in the presence of his new wife still seems to make him nervous, as if she wouldn't be able to deal with his past (or he just doesn't know yet how to fit everything into his head and heart yet). I just sent him a text message to let him know I haven't forgotten. I thought that would be it, but now that I'm writing this I've decided to ask my sister (who is with them in their house in the South of France this week) to buy a small white bouquet (or gather some white wildflowers if that's easier) for my dad to remember his son.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Summer - part 1

I don't want to start each blog post with an apology for my absence, but truth be told I can't believe it's been almost two months since my last post!

School has been out since July 6th - and there was no better way to celebrate it than with M. Sensible's 4th birthday! We had seven of his friends over and they were having lots of fun in the garden, especially with the water hose. Around 6 pm the parents  came back and stayed for a BBQ and we all had lots of fun. The house was a mess afterward (almost more grass inside than outside) and we battled mosquitoes all night because we had left the screen doors (well, they're not really doors, they're screen frames, attached to the window/door frames with velcro) open, a small price to pay for such a good time.

Two days later we went to my dad's second home in the South of France for a week-long vacation. It was blistering hot, but thankfully the house has a pool. M. Gourmand came down with a fever the next day and in the evening we got a call from a doctor from some regional health agency informing us that a classmate of M. Sensible had been hospitalized with meningitis so we had to make a doctor's appointment for the next day to get a prescription for a preventive antibiotics treatment for M. Sensible. Of course I flipped a little bit with M. Gourmand having a fever and not knowing if the little boy had been at M. Sensible's birthday party... (the doctor wasn't allowed to say the boy's name - I found out via another mom who had heard from the teacher, and no, the boy hadn't been at the party). Luckily M. Gourmand was fine again the next morning, both boys were in great shape, so we weren't too concerned when we went in for the appointment. The doctor first started to lecture us about various forms of meningitis, viral and bacterial, and then the different bacterial types - as if we were all overreacting - but he quickly changed his tone when he had talked to the agency's physician on the phone. So he gave M. Sensible a quick check-up (but M. Sensible still managed to kick and scream...), wrote out the prescription and off we went. The rest of the week was pretty uneventful and relaxing.

I'd tried to contact the little boy's mother a few times but she wouldn't answer the phone so we had no idea how the boy was doing but luckily yesterday and other mom had crossed her with her kids at the market and the boy is fine! It turned out to be viral after all (although in the beginning they thought it was bacterial and of the meningococcal variety and he had spent one day in quarantine).

We'll take some more vacation in August (like real French people! - a good topic for a next Cultural Differences post) but unfortunately one of hubby's projects has changed its schedule (obviously this project is not in France...) and he now probably has to work exactly at the same time as our vacation. This really sucks for several reasons but mostly because it means that he won't really have time off and he's close to a burn out, so he really really needs some time off...

Monday, May 27, 2013

Perfect Moment Monday: big boy

M. Sensible, now almost 4 years old, sometimes doesn't seem to want to be a big boy. It probably has to do with having a little brother around and the feeling that the baby gets more cuddles and attention than he does. It took him forever to want to drink his morning chocolate milk from a mug instead of a bottle (he finally agreed when I bought him a special mug that said "chocolate" on the side and he can choose which color straw to use). He even wanted to sleep in a baby sleep sack one time (it still fit, although really snugly and after that one nap he never asked for it again, so it must not have been too comfortable). His most persistent trick to get mommy's attention regression - that started about two months ago, around the time M. Gourmand learned to walk - is to flat-out refuse to go to the toilet when we ask him to and to wet his pants numerous times a day (only with us, not at preschool). So I'm trying not to let my frustration show, just change him into something clean, do laundry non-stop, and praise him for everything he does well in order to try to change this behavior (not much luck so far though).
Another thing he refused was trying to bike without his training wheels. He already was a pro on his balance bike (without pedals) and on the other one the training wheels seemed to get in the way (he sometimes almost tipped over because of them) but any suggestion to remove them was returned with a "no". But then, two weeks ago, we went to the park and there was a classmate from preschool, riding his bike without training wheels! M. Sensible wanted to try, and once he figured out that he needed to keep pedaling if he didn't want to fall, he took up speed and made one turn around the park after the other. Hubby and I took turns running next to / behind him and both cheered and cheered. The look of pride and freedom on his face was priceless. A true perfect moment for both him and me.

A few days later we took his own bike out of the shed. He initially refused to let us take off the training wheels, but after one round he came back to us and asked if we could please take them off. The bike is still a bit big, so getting on and off it by himself is still a challenge, but once he's gotten the little push he's off like a rocket. Even M. Gourmand is impressed and applauds him from his stroller. M. Sensible is still beaming with pride and tells everyone he meets that he can now ride his bike without the training wheels, just like a big boy!

Perfect Moment Monday is hosted by Lori at It is about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Perfect moments can be momentous or ordinary or somewhere in between.
On the last Monday of each month we engage in mindfulness about something that is right with our world. Everyone is welcome to join.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Cultural Differences - May Day

Welcome to the third installment of my monthly cultural differences series! I'm running almost two weeks late with this one but that's because I've adapted/resigned myself to the fact that in May nothing much gets done here in France (it's not yet as bad as August, but getting close!).

The reason why not much gets done in May is the sheer amount of public holidays this month, and the French custom to "faire le pont", which means you take one or two extra day off between the holiday and the weekend, so you now have a nice long break without having to take up too many vacation days (not that we lack those here - 25/year is about the minimum). It all starts on May 1st - May Day, a BIG public holiday in this socialist country. On this day everything (except the fresh market) is closed. And most astounding, in the city where I live, there is no public transport at all on May 1st. Power to the workers!

Many people might think that Holland is a socialist country too, and in some ways it is, but May 1st is no public holiday there and (obviously) it's not celebrated in the US either, so this was a whole new experience for me when we moved here (and I still can't get over the fact that there is no public transport service!).

Then May 8th is also a public holiday (WWII Liberation Day) and this year Ascension Day fell on May 9th, so obviously no one was working on May 10 (oh, yes, my hubby was - and actually the public schools were open too, but half of M. Sensible's classmates were absent) and many actually took that entire week off. And then last Monday was Whit Monday, so another short week. This all following on the 2-week Spring break and kids have no way of getting back into a normal rhythm (and there are only six weeks of school left before the summer holidays).

On the other public holidays in May many stores are "exceptionellement ouvert", so you can spend your free day with hundreds of others at the giant blue and yellow home furnishing store if you'd feel so inclined (or in my case, you can just go to the grocery store and don't have to think what's for dinner two days in advance).

Before we moved here I thought July 14th (Bastille Day) would be the biggest public holiday in France, but no, the post office will be closed that day but almost everything else will be open. May 1st though, is the sacred day in this laic country.

Which public holiday is most widely observed in your country? How much is closed/non-operational on that day?