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?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Spring Shed - week 7

Woohoo, I'm posting my week 7 report on time! The full back story of this blog hop hosted by Kathy at Bereaved and Blessed can be found here.

To be honest, I just can't wait for these school holidays to be over so I can get things done again! Next week won't offer much respite though, because Wednesday and Thursday are public holidays. The sitter is taking Friday off so she'll have a very long weekend (and probably 90% of the country will do the same), but M. Sensible's school is open and boy am I going to take advantage of that (I wonder how many classmates will show up though)! My SIL from Holland will be visiting, so we'll probably take some outings around the city - no need to get into the traffic jams trying to go south.

To recap my goals for this Spring Shed: my only goal is to keep finding things to not fall into complete mommy mode again (because I do think the Winter Shed accountability helped me get out of mommy mode) and so my weekly report will be on what I did to make that happen (or what I didn't do and why I fell back into mommy mode), whether that be reading more, getting more paid work, blogging more frequently etc.

So here's how I did during week 7:

I read a lot! I actually only recently (like late last week) read Mel's "Life from Scratch" and had planned to ask my sister to bring "Measure of Love" with her but when I finished the first book I didn't want to wait that long to continue reading the second one! So I downloaded the Kindle app and bought the Kindle version on Amazon. Have been reading every single free minute since...

I got a request for a small project from the agency I did the web intelligence work for in November/December and March. I sent them a quote today (which should be accepted, more a formality) so I will start that on Monday when the kids are back at school/sitter (and finish it on Tuesday because it's really that small). So even though this and the translation jobs I did a few weeks ago are small (I won't really make more than about 100 bucks with it), it's nice that they are from repeat clients and that until now I still have gotten some project, however small, to work on.

However I find that this freelance, working from home thing is quite tough - it really still is more like moonlighting when I can get a few hours off from my mommy-duties, and when hubby's away on business (which is a lot) and especially if combined with school holidays (ie the kids home all day) it's really impossible to get into work-mode. I find it unprofessional telling clients that I can't respond right away because I have the kids at home etc, but it is the truth and I don't want to work too much at night either trying to give the impression that I can do everything for everyone. I have a separate post brewing in my head about this, so I won't delve much further into it now...

Other than the reading and getting the request for the project I was still mainly on mommy-duty this week and I'm longing to have some time to myself as of Monday (but at the same time looking forward to the weekend too - which should finally bring some respite from the rain we've been having).

Friday, April 26, 2013

Spring Shed - Week 4-6

Apparently I'm doing my Spring Shed reports in three-week increments... After the week 1-3 report, here's an update on how I did during week 4-6. The full back story of this blog hop hosted by Kathy at Bereaved and Blessed can be found here.

Edit: I wrote this post a bit to quickly yesterday so I forgot a few things. First of all my goals for this Spring Shed! Copied from my previous Spring Shed post: my only goal is to keep finding things to not fall into complete mommy mode again (because I do think the Winter Shed accountability helped me get out of mommy mode) and so my weekly report will be on what I did to make that happen (or what I didn't do and why I fell back into mommy mode), whether that be reading more, getting more paid work, blogging more frequently etc.

Week 4 was a relatively calm week. M. Gourmand's double ear infection got better once he was on antibiotics (although administering it was a twice-daily struggle, but we persevered for the full six days) - once when he was screaming because he didn't want to take his medicine I saw something white sticking out of his gums: turns out there were four molars emerging!! Poor baby...

With him doing better I had a chance to get out of full-on mommy mode again. I had a very small translation job to do and was waiting for another one (both from the same client I did the huge project for last month). I also went to a concert with a friend that week on Thursday evening, which was a nice break in the normal weekly routine.
Edit: I also wrote two blog posts: my second participation in Time Warp Tuesday and the second installment of my Cultural Differences series.

Week 5 was gearing up for and attending my dad's wedding, plus hubby was away on business for most part of the week (we met up in Holland the day before the wedding), so not much opportunity to get out of mommy-mode, but I did get a babysitter on the Saturday evening to be able to go out with two friends to celebrate the birthday of one of them.

The second translation job came in but unfortunately I couldn't complete it because the end-client didn't send all the texts (clauses and disclaimers) before I had to leave for Holland. I have no idea if they found another translator to do that or if it's still on hold. I'm hesitant to contact the agency as I currently hardly have time to work with the kids home during the school holidays...

This past week (week 6) was still mainly full-on mommy mode as both kids have been home the entire week - M. Sensible has school holidays (two weeks - this and next week) and M. Gourmand's sitter was also on vacation this week - plus hubby again away on business as of early Wednesday morning (until tomorrow afternoon). The kids missed a lot of naps during our four days in Holland and it was very tiring for me too, plus after the four molars M. Gourmand also had two emerging canines, which resulted one night being broken up by two 30-minute long screaming fits...  so all three of us took very long naps this week. We also worked and played in the garden - I have a whole project to start a small vegetable/herb garden in raised beds together with M. Sensible, so I hope the weather next week will not be as bad as is currently forecast and we can work on it together while M. Gourmand is at the sitter.

Overall the week went okay but I do miss having some time for myself and today I yelled at the kids (mainly M. Sensible) a few times for no real reason - so I can't wait for hubby to come back (although some real me-time will have to wait until the school holidays are over).

The wedding

Can you imagine being on the plane to attend the wedding and thinking "well, at least I can visit my mom's grave while I'm there"? Ever since they announced it I'd be yo-yoing between going and not-going. I missed my sister (for whom it was just an impossible date - yes, we were both frustrated that we got the message that they wanted us to be there, but they didn't consult the date with those who live far away, i.e. us). The ceremony at city hall was very surreal. Luckily I could pretend to make sure my kids weren't tearing down the place so I didn't have to look at the bride and groom. I still cringe when my dad calls her 'honey' (well, he doesn't call her honey because they don't speak English to each other, but you get the idea). The little party at their house afterward was nice though. But I was still too busy with the kids / too tired / not interested to strike up a conversation with her two daughters (who will remain 'her daughters' to me, I will never ever call them my step-sisters, nor will I call her my step-mom. Luckily no-one expects me to either). I do like her. My kids adore her. I'm glad my dad has found happiness again. But this was not easy.

I visited my mom's grave the next day. Mr. Sensible had fallen asleep in the car so hubby stayed with him and I took M. Gourmand with me. He loved the little stones on my mom's grave - and on the grave next to  hers, and oh, there was a little jar on that grave where you could put all those stones into - and why am I not allowed to climb on the big family tombstones...?! (We'll see what kind of phase he's in next time I get a chance to visit).

We visited my maternal grandmother two days later. I had asked my dad to call her beforehand, because I didn't want to be the person who had to tell her, not did I want to lie about my reason for being in Holland, nor did I want M. Sensible be the one to tell her (my dad first thought that would actually be very convenient, if the innocent (great)grandchild would give it away, but luckily he came to his senses and realized that it would still have to be him to make the call).

Of course my grandma didn't take it very well. My dad used to be her favorite son-in-law. Ever since he has a new relationship he has become an outcast. They both don't do well in trying to improve that situation. But for the first time since my mom died hubby and I had an honest conversation with her. She is suddenly bringing the stillborn child into the story (whom she never ever mentioned when my mom was still alive!), blaming my dad for not taking my mom to the grave, apparently looking for past flaws in my dad's behavior... I don't expect her to change, she is 95 and grieving her daughter, but it is such a shame. She has seen so much in her lifetime, but her judgments can be brutal.

This week I've been home with the kids (school holidays and the sitter is on vacation too). Emotions and missed naps during our stay in Holland have resulted in the theme of this staycation being sleep. So I have a lot of catching up to do in the blogging world. I'll get back into gear soon.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Cultural differences - at the doctor's

Welcome to the second installment of my Cultural Differences series, now with it's own real blog button (thanks Kathy)!

After last month's topic of meeting someone, this time we'll go to the doctor's office!

In Holland I didn't go to the doctor very often. I was hardly ever sick, so didn't make it much further than GP and dentist. It was pretty simple: there would be a receptionist and/or assistant and the physician him-/herself. No nurses or other staff. If you had to have a physical examination, you would undress (behind a screen) and then be completely naked so the doctor could examine you.

When watching US sitcoms or movies I always thought that all those blankets and other cover-ups were because we were not allowed to see the actors without their clothes on, but that in real life those covers wouldn't be there.

Until I moved to the US... First there was receptionist/admin person who dealt with the finances, then there was a nurses station, where I had to fill in forms with medical questions. Then a nurse called me and asked me to step on a scale - fully dressed, even with shoes on! She then brought me to a room, took my blood pressure, asked me to undress, gave me all kinds of covers and told me the doctor would be there in a few minutes. Wow, I hardly knew which cover to put where... How did it all work? So it wasn't just for the movies...? And what took the doctor so long?

My sister, also living in the US, told me that she never used the covers, but I somehow grew to appreciate them (and got a little less clumsy with them too). Because naked is really very naked...

Then four years later we moved to France. I was getting out of my denial phase regarding IF, so a gynecologist was one of the first doctors I saw. There was a receptionist, and the doctor herself. After a short chat it was time for an examination. Please get undressed. Please lie there. Wow... I was cold. No covers. Just like in Holland. What I used to think was normal. They call it "à poil" in French. But hey, this is the first time I see this doctor (it was also the last time, but that's a completely different story). Hmm... ok, get over it, this is a doctor, they're used to seeing people naked...

After two pregnancies in France I've gotten pretty used to it - undress in front of the OBGYN, step naked on the scale, be completely naked during the whole examination. Get dressed quickly once it's over. It's normal. It doesn't really bother me. But hey, I wouldn't mind a little cover...

What is the usual practice in your part of the world when you have to get a physical examination? Are covers involved? Would you be shocked if you would go to a different country and it would be completely different than what you're used to?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

April revisited

This is the second time I'm participating in Time Warp Tuesday, hosted by Kathy at Bereaved and Blessed and this month's topic is "April".  Kathy writes:
April represents the beginning of the second quarter of each New Year, it is filled with rainy days and all things blooming. Some years Easter and Passover fall in April, bringing forth important and special events in many faith traditions. Choose a post from your archives that you wrote during the month of April. It can be about any thing or topic that speaks to you. Then write a new post on your blog about why you chose the post that you did and what has happened in your life since.
I had several posts to choose from, but ultimately selected one from two years ago, called Random Thoughts, because it really has a connection with where I am now. It was about a month before the FET with our lonely frosty and I was a bit pessimistic about it all. I wrote:
We only have one embryo frozen, how big is the chance it won't thaw properly? It's the same Grade A excellent quality as one of the embies that was transferred for IVF#2 - which didn't make it. So why should I believe its frozen brother or sister will have a better chance?
Well, turns out our little frosty did have a better chance than his two fresh siblings! He thawed properly, he nested comfortably in my uterus and stayed there until he was fully finished and ready to see the world. M. Gourmand completes our little family and makes me look at the bright side of things - and if his hands are cold I sometimes joke that it is because he was frozen for his first three months...

Friday, April 5, 2013

Spring Shed - Week 1-3

After completing the 10 weeks of Winter Shed, I happily said yes to Kathy when she asked me if I wanted to continue on with a Spring Shed (the full back story of this blog hop hosted by Kathy at Bereaved and Blessed can be found here). Well, what a way to join a good resolutions series by being two weeks too late! You'd think that only a change of name wouldn't wreak so much havoc in the routine I had built up with the weekly Winter Shed posts, but apparently it did...

Anyway, it doesn't matter - I took a sprint and am back on the wagon (and actually, I didn't really fall off, I kept my resolutions, I just didn't report them here).

The reason I didn't post anything last Friday was because I went on a 2-day trip to Spain with my sister (who came over from California just to spend some time with me!). It was wonderful! Two days of quality time with my sister, without kids, without obligations. We went to see a concert of Bach's St Matthew's Passion by an ensemble we both admire. The work is very dear to our hearts as well for several reasons: in Holland it is a real tradition to perform this during Holy Week. From well-know professional ensembles to the local choir, every city will have at least one St Matthew's Passion performance the week before Easter. My mom used to sing in a Bach choir when we were kids, and my sister now does the same, and we listened to it often at home as well, so we basically all know it by heart. It was very special to attend the concert (and also a bit emotional - I had tears streaming down my face during my favorite aria (performed by my favorite Bach interpreter) "Mache dich mein Herze rein", as images of washing my mother's body after she died played in my head - if you don't know it, you can listen to it here). It was even more special being in this Spanish city during Holy Week, with the famous processions (we missed the ones at nighttime because we were at the concert hall, but the daytime ones were quite impressive too). The concert ended at midnight and we went out for tapas afterwards, yum (and yawn too)!

The next day we had a late flight back home, but it was delayed and we were afraid it would be cancelled because there were only five passengers... Then the captain told us there was thick fog at the destination and an airplane had veered off the runway so the airport was closed, but we would take off anyway, hoping it would be open again once we would be there... And oh sorry, there's a technical problem with our plane so we're going back to the gate. The technical problem was quickly solved but the fog was still there. If it wouldn't have lifted by the time we would ben there, we would turn around because all airports nearby had the same problem. I had a bit the feeling this was a bad April Fools joke, and just hoped it would be allright. It was. It was still quite foggy, but luckily there was enough visibility to land. When my head finally hit my pillow at home it was 3 am. The kids were overjoyed at 6:30 am to find out that I was back home...

My sister flew back to the US the next day and had to take a 5:50 am train to the airport. Only daylight savings time started last weekend here in Europe, so we had the feeling it was one our earlier. Hubby had to take the same train the next day to leave on a business trip. I was so tired I felt like I was stuck in a continuous jetlag. Then when I finally started feeling normal again, M. Gourmand came down with a fever. Two days between 39.2 and 39.6 degrees Celsius... Called our doctor but she was on vacation... Found another one who could see us this morning: poor baby has a double ear infection, so is now on antibiotics (and he hates it! - but it does make him feel better). He already had pink eye when I came back from Spain, and a severe nose cold, so the boy is one snotty mess. And of course I now have pink eye too...

It feels appropriate to end this post now by saying that because of all this I didn't get anything done regarding my Spring Shed resolutions and I'll see you all next week, but... after finishing the Winter Shed series I had decided that for the Spring Shed I wanted to do it a bit differently. The reason I joined the Winter Shed is because I wanted to get out of what I call "mommy mode", i.e. only doing stuff that is related to me being a mother. But then I started listing things like reading more novels, follow the news, get my website up etc, and that was good, but they were mainly tools in my effort to get out of "mommy mode". So for the Spring Shed, my only goal is to keep finding things to not falling into complete mommy mode again (because I do think the Winter Shed accountability helped me get out of mommy mode) and so my weekly report will be on what I did to make that happen (or what I didn't do and why I fell back into mommy mode), whether that be reading more, getting more paid work, blogging more frequently etc.

So without further ado, here's a recap of what I did during my Spring Shed Week 1 to 3 to stick to my goal to not falling back into complete mommy mode:

  1. I completed my translation assignment in the first half of week 1 and did some final proofreading the following week.
  2. I also completed my web intelligence assignment - I felt a bit awkward the way I reported during the last two days, because it was when I was in Spain and I didn't have internet access all the time - the client called me when I was watching the Holy Thursday Procession and I had to rush back to the hotel (where I had WiFi) to check something I had missed earlier that day, but I still got a very kind email from the client that they were very happy with me and wouldn't hesitate to work with me again, so that was nice.
  3. I also got a request to quote for another, pretty small, translation job from the first client, so new projects are already coming in, which is good! 
  4. The biggest getting out of mommy mode thing for the past three weeks was of course the trip with my sister, which was absolutely amazing!
  5. Mainly because of this trip (and of getting back into full mommy mode because of sick M. Gourmand) I didn't blog and read as much as I would have liked to (and I do want to write the next installment of my Cultural Differences series!), but that is what it is, and I'm sure I'll pick it up again.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Perfect Moment Monday: on the bike

Spring is cautiously starting here and I 'm taking advantage of the milder temperatures to bring the kids to school/sitter by bike again (to see what that looks like, go here - and then add a few centimeters and kilos for both kids).

One day during the recent school holidays I had to work, so M. Sensible was at day camp and M. Gourmand at the sitter. It was around 5 pm and I had just picked up M. Gourmand and we were on our way to pick up M. Sensible. I had made a bit of a judgement error with regard to the route to take, so instead of being on one of the quiet streets, we were biking on the main road through the area, which at that time of day is very busy with traffic.

disclaimer: I did not take this picture while cycling on the busy road,
but took it a few days later when he repeated the gesture on our way to the sitter
(and yes, I had come to a full stop when taking the shot).

Suddenly M. Gourmand's left hand shifted a bit towards my hand on the handlebar and he wrapped his fingers around one of mine. "Just like when he was a newborn" I thought and this feeling of utter happiness came over me. I gave him a kiss on his helmet as we cycled on, safe in our own little cocoon on the busy street. Our Perfect Moment.


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.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Today would have been my mother's 67th birthday. As I couldn't visit her grave - 900 km from where we live - I went on a little pilgrimage with hubby and kids in tow.

It was Valery, who asked in a comment one this post if there wasn't a special place nearby to remember her. I couldn't immediately think of anything, but I kept the comment in the back of my mind. Then a while ago I knew exactly what I wanted to do once my mom's birthday would come around: when I was pregnant with M. Sensible, my parents came over to visit and my mom asked me if I wanted to join her on a walk to the basilica, because she wanted to light a candle, to give thanks and ask for a blessing for this pregnancy. I happily obliged and we made a beautiful little pilgrimage together, first crossing the river to the old part of town, then climbing the hundreds of steps, up to the top of the hill where the basilica lies, overlooking the city.

Today, M. Sensible, our dapper 3.5 year old, walked those steps all by himself, holding his daddy's hand. M. Gourmand was on my back in the baby carrier, and my mother was there too, her spirit accompanying me to the top.

After the first long set of steps, we came across this writing on a wall. I thought it was quite fitting on a day like this.

English translation:
Don't ask anyone your way,
especially not those who know it.
You wouldn't be able to get lost anymore.

When we arrived at the basilica, mass was still in progress and it being Palm Sunday, the church was packed. We quietly stood in the back for a few minutes and then I lit a candle for my mum, before heading out again.

On the way back home (this time via public transport) we stopped by the bakery to buy a cake, which we'll eat later today.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Winter Shed: The Final Week

Winter is almost over, can you feel it...? We had lovely warm Spring-like weather at the beginning of the week, only to revert back to icy cold wind and the occasional snow flurries as of Wednesday. I can't wait for Spring (and warmer weather) to arrive!

The full back story of this blog hop hosted by Kathy at Bereaved and Blessed can be found here. She's planning to continue the series with a Spring Shed and I intend to follow along and, as Kathy suggest, I'll take a look at my goals for this Winter/New Year and adjust them as I want or feel the need to, in an effort to better represent where I want my focus to be during this next season.

But I'm getting ahead of myself... On to report on how I did during week ten:

1. Read more novels.
I didn't even open a book this week (except for a dictionary)! I don't really know why, I just didn't feel like reading much...

2. Follow the news more.
This is one of the topics I need to think hard about when continuing on in the Spring. Of course the news that a new pope was elected did reach me, but I think only people living under a rock would have missed that...

3. Pick up regular blogging again and start a series/hop on Cultural Differences.
The first installment of the Cultural Differences series went live on Monday! I might have hoped for a few more comments, but overall I think it was a good start. I also participated for the first time in Time Warp Tuesday (also hosted by Kathy), which was fun. 

4. Get my professional website up and running.
Again, no update this week, but I've been having some new ideas for it again, so once my translation job is done I will start working on it and hopefully will be able to turn those ideas into something concrete.

5. Find more clients / pursue more paid projects.
The third document is almost completely translated. The deadline is next Friday, but I should be able to finish it by Monday (I actually could have finished it today, but somehow knowing that I will easily be able to finish before the deadline makes me less productive), double check it and send it out on Tuesday.

The 007 assignment (web intelligence) is still as boring as last week. It's supposed to last until the end of the month, but there will be a meeting next week between the agency and the final client to see if it is really necessary to continue. So I'll await further orders. ;)

Other than that I've of course been too busy with the translation job to pursue anything else, so I have no paid projects lined up, but at least I can focus on getting my website online (and also finally get some more professional-looking business cards).

6. Start playing the cello again.
The instrument still rests in its case (which is gathering dusts). You probably won't see this one on my Spring list...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sunday Child lucky charm

I remember when Kathy introduced the Time Warp Tuesday blog hop for the first time, I commented on her post saying that I would definitely participate. I just checked on her blog, that was September 2011… Well, better late than never, so here's my first Time Warp Tuesday post! This month's topic is luck.

I wrote about luck in January 2009 when I was pregnant with M. Sensible, it's a pretty dark post, talking about the lost charm of being a "Sunday Child" and my frustration about not being able to find work here in France.

What I wrote about there can on occasion still frustrate me, but I've come a lot further. I stopped moaning about my lost career and have accepted that I'm just in a different place now, where I try to juggle being a mom and doing freelance work (there is a post about that brewing in my head too). Above all, that post is only talking about my professional life. Granted, even though I was pregnant when I wrote it I didn't have kids yet, so there didn't seem to be much else as important in life as a career. I now know that I'm happiest when I've found a good balance between taking care of my kids and doing work I like. This is not at all easy, but I've come to realize that I'm a lot more relaxed when I savor what I have than when I constantly strive for things that might stay out of my reach (wow, that Positive Psychology workshop I followed last year did help!).

Coming back to the other part of that post, of whether I've found my lucky charm again… Yes I have. That pregnancy resulted in a healthy baby and a now thriving preschooler, who also has a little brother who starts sharing (read: stealing) his toys. My professional life is still a bit "stay-at-home-mom doing some projects on the side" (as hubby labeled my activity recently) but that's okay. I've also had some luck with finding lost items again, the best story is this: my iPhone fell out of my pocket on a high way rest area last summer when we were on our way back from Holland - I noticed it about 40 km later… It was a toll road so we took the next exit and the people at the toll booth contacted the people near the rest area (which was at the entrance of the toll road) while hubby kept calling my number… After about 20 minutes the toll booth person picked up - a high schooler had found it, wanted to keep it but a trucker had told him/her to hand it in (so we turned around, paid a lot of toll that day and came home very late, but at least I didn't have to buy a new phone!).

Monday, March 11, 2013

Cultural Differences - La Bise

Welcome to the first installment of my Cultural Differences series!

Today's topic is La Bise - or how to greet someone.

In Holland, where I grew up, when you meet someone for the first time, you shake hands. If you know someone well (on a personal level) you give three kisses on the cheeks. If you go to school/college or work and you meet people you see on a daily basis, you just say 'good morning' or 'hello' and you join the group, or continue on.

When we moved to the US, it was quite similar, only the kisses were replaced by hugs (I like hugs, and I think they are friendlier for people wearing glasses than kisses).

But then we moved to France. The handshaking part was still the same. The kisses on the cheek at first seemed to be similar to those in Holland, but there were two instead of three - which then sometimes created awkward situations when we, used to giving three kisses, were aiming for the other person's right cheek again when he/she was already turning away - so not such a big deal. But then one day, shortly after we moved here, we were at the bank, it was around 9 am, so many employees were coming in (this was the head office). Each and every one of them stopped at the reception desk to give the receptionist two kisses. We thought this was a bit over the top, the poor woman was getting up from her desk to greet her colleagues about every 10 minutes! Couldn't they just say good morning and move on?

No, apparently not. When I got to work in an office, the ritual was the same. I know my husband doesn't do the rounds like that when he comes in, and I think some colleagues hold it against him (he, however, couldn't care less and prefers to have a few colds and stomach bugs less by just saying hello and going to his desk).

So it seemed clear: kisses are for friends and colleagues (male of female, it doesn't matter), if you meet someone for the first time, you shake hands.

No, no, that was all too easy! If you meet someone for the first time, but that person is family/friend/colleague of someone you know well and who is there with you (and you therefore greet with two kisses), you greet that person with two kisses as well!!

I met a client for the first time last week, but we'd had lots of contact by phone and email in the weeks prior to the meeting, so we greeted each other with... "la bise". And immediately after that I got to greet all her colleagues (OK, there were only three, and two of them I already knew) with two kisses as well.

Sometimes there is a little uncertainty on both ends - maybe with someone you have only met once when you were together with a mutual friend - and then one of you might say "on fait la bise, non ?", which you can then obviously only answer with a positive response!

So it seems I'm getting the hang of it, although there was a bit of an awkward moment a while ago when I opened the door to our babysitter. I just greeted her with a 'bonsoir' and let her in. But now that I think of it, she probably expected to 'faire la bise'.

We're probably seen by some people around us as the foreigners who just say hello, but I prefer it that way than making the faux-pas of kissing someone when it's not at all appropriate.

And of course, as there are exceptions in France to everything, there are exceptions to these greeting rules as well: this weekend we went away and stayed in a friend's apartment in a ski-resort. She was there too, in an another apartment in the same building, together with her parents. They invited us for a drink one day and - according to the things I just wrote - after greeting my friend with two kisses, I assumed we'd be greeted with 'la bise' from her parents too, but no, it was a handshake... (so now I'm confused again)!

How do you greet people in your part of the world? Is there a difference between men and women? Between personal and work contacts? Are you a reserved kisser/hugger too?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Winter Shed: Week Nine

Wow, already week nine, before we know it winter will be over! The full back story of this blog hop hosted by Kathy at Bereaved and Blessed can be found here.

This week I recuperated from all the work done on the translation job in the previous weeks. I had planned to start on the third document to translate, but since there is no fixed deadline yet for that one I'm procrastinating. Instead I filed admin stuff, did our finances (too many bank accounts in three different countries! I closed one of them this week), and went on a major grocery shopping trip (long live the French hypermarkets).

Now to report on how I did during week nine:

1. Read more novels.
Well I might have been a bit too optimistic about finishing that novel. I actually haven't read that much this week - we're now away for a long weekend in the mountains (where it's rainy and warm, but still some snow fun to be had of course) and I hope to finish it before we're back home.

2. Follow the news more.
Right… Well, I did get the news that Chavez died, that must count for something?

3. Pick up regular blogging again and start a series/hop on Cultural Differences.
My intro post on the Cultural Differences series is up and the first topic is written and scheduled for coming Monday! I've submitted it to the LFCA too so I hope I will get some response. I'm excited!

4. Get my professional website up and running.
No update this week.

5. Find more clients / pursue more paid projects.
I sent in the quote for the Dutch to French translation on Monday morning, got a response back the same evening saying that they needed it urgently (which they hadn't mentioned in their first email), so they had already found someone else. Oh well... even if I had given them a quote right away I couldn't have started before finishing the other translation, so this one was just not for me.

The 007 assignment continues, but there is nothing to report just yet (to the client I mean, as a real spy I'm not allowed to tell you people anything!), so it's a bit boring. I'm not complaining though because I still earn money, even if there is no news!

I did do something for the third document that still needs translating and that is organizing it and putting it into a word document (they provided me with a PDF, which isn't the handiest format to work with for translations). So I'm good to go on Monday morning. I've more or less agreed with the client that it will be finished by the end of the week of March 18, so I can't procrastinate much longer (but yes, it is true, I work better when there is a real deadline).

6. Start playing the cello again.
No updates.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cultural differences – the start of a new blog series

This blog was started to document my IVF journey and after the birth of our second child last year, I wanted to find a way forward with it without giving up its original identity. I love the small community I’ve found through my blog and didn’t want to lose that. I also want to thank Mel, Lori and Kathy for making me think this through.

I was born and raised in the Netherlands, where I lived until I was 27. I then followed hubby (also Dutch) to the US, where we lived the (unintentional) DINK life for almost five years, before moving to France, where we’ve now been for over seven years already, which included a professional depression turned into reinvention, getting on the ART rollercoaster, being pregnant twice and now parenting two beautiful IVF boys.

One of the great things about reading (ALI) blogs from women around the world is that not only do we get to share similar experiences, but I also notice how things are done differently than I am used to here. It keeps my mind open for other options and sometimes also helps to keep things in perspective (especially when it comes to parenting, where everyone seems to have an opinion). Besides, there are of course the general cultural differences between France, Holland and the US that I’m experiencing on an almost daily basis.

With my name lostintranslation and my blog title also hinting to these differences (even if it is very focused on IVF), starting a blog series on Cultural Differences seemed almost a natural thing to do. Yes, after all, my blog still fits me!

I would love to make this a regular series (I still have to decide on the interval though) – I will try to vary the topics but, especially in the beginning, they will mainly include things that I experienced / am experiencing myself and noticed cultural discrepancies with - so infertility treatments, pregnancy and parenting (which still form the core of this blog) will be often featured.

I hope you will like it and will share how things work in your corner of the world by leaving comments on my posts. If you have ideas for certain topics, I would love to hear about them too! 

Check back for the first post in this new series on Monday, March 11 – the topic will be “La Bise” (yes, I’m referring to kissing, but as a greeting, not to the so-called French kiss!)
Update: you can find it here!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Winter Shed: Week Eight

Another week has passed and I'm finally able to post my Winter Shed update on Friday again! The full back story of this blog hop hosted by Kathy at Bereaved and Blessed can be found here

This week was a mixed week in terms of workload. Until Tuesday I was still busy with the translation job, as the laid-out text needed to be proofread one more time before it went to the printer. It's amazing how many small errors we still found! I hope they were all incorporated because I didn't see the final corrected version before it was sent to the printer. Then on Wednesday I had some lovely quality time with M. Sensible (good for a Perfect Moment Monday post!), Thursday I had lunch with a friend and on the way back stopped by the communication agency's office (i.e. my client for the translation job) to finally meet my contact in person and talk a bit about the third document and the financial compensation. Today was a lazy day spent at home with my two boys. We all took very long naps!

Now to report on how I did during week eight:

1. Read more novels.
I started reading the new French novel and made it to page 26, so there is some progress there. I think with next week being more relaxed I should be able to finish it (it's only 103 pages thick and a pretty easy read).

2. Follow the news more.
Hmmm.... this is still not going well. Hopefully by next week I will have found a way to incorporate this into my daily routine again.

3. Pick up regular blogging again and start a series/hop on Cultural Differences.
After visiting the client yesterday I got another idea for a topic for the Cultural Differences series, so now I really want to start it! I think I will try to get the first post up next week, even if I won't be able to submit it to LFCA until the following Monday. I just have to jump!

4. Get my professional website up and running.
I didn't do anything yet with the ideas I had last week. However I found a few more funny automatic translations online that I like to use on my website as a reason for using professional translation services (one was at a Spanish website where I got this as a confirmation message after having ordered concert tickets: "Congratulations! Youtube hav made the parchase of imput correctly, Youtube wil shortly recibe email with tour ticket"), so at least the ideas keep coming. 

5. Find more clients / pursue more paid projects.
I completed last week's translation by proofreading it in it's final layout and went to see the client yesterday. I now have the text for the translation of the third document, which doesn't have a fixed deadline yet (my client's client is too busy preparing for the trade show in mid-March for which they needed the other brochure) but we're aiming for the third week of March. Is half the size of the previous document, so should be doable. She thanked me for not throwing in the towel halfway (hey, I would never do that!). We also talked a bit about finances. They're OK with the initial price I quoted (I didn't even have to try to convince them) and I can also bill them for the extra hours spent on proofreading and getting the two translations streamlined into one final document. So I'm really happy that they've seen the value of my work and didn't try to cut costs.

I had planned to send in the quote for the Dutch to French translation request, but haven't done so yet, which I'm not very happy about because I think it's not very professional to keep a potential client waiting too long. I did calculate how much time I think I would need for it, so all the basic information is ready, I just need to formulate it into a decent quote (but after all the stress of the last two weeks I couldn't put my mind to it when the other project was finally done).

Today was the first day of my '007' assignment. It was a good thing I had set a reminder on my phone (even if there is no news I have to send the client an email at 5 pm) because otherwise I would have completely forgotten it! I must admit that I didn't do an active search, but relied on my Google Alerts and there were none. I'll get more serious about it starting Monday! ;-)

6. Start playing the cello again.
I'm strongly contemplating removing this from my list, even though I'd like to start playing again, but I have no idea how to add it to my weekly schedule at the moment.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Perfect Moment Monday (on Tuesday): mission impossible

If you've been reading my two most recent Winter Shed posts, you know that the last few weeks have been absolutely crazy work-wise. Last week Monday I had to start a project that was way too big, with a deadline way too close - a real mission impossible. I had a commitment to the client, so I jumped and started swimming, but I had no idea if I would reach the shore or drown.

Two days later, at the end of a long workday (allowed by my dad and his girlfriend who took care of M. Sensible all day and picked up M. Gourmand from the sitter at 5 pm), I knew that I would reach the shore, and that it would be in time (luckily the deadline had been extended too). Suddenly the utter chaos that marked this project in the beginning was gone, and despite still having a lot of work, it had become manageable, and from that point on was even enjoyable. As I closed my laptop and gathered my stuff to go home, I was happy. It was a small perfect moment, and I'm glad I noticed it.


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.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Winter Shed: Week Seven

No, I didn't fall off the Winter Shed bandwagon! I was just too busy trying to meet my work deadline that there was absolutely no time to write this post on Friday, or even on the weekend. However, the translation has been emailed to the client, M. Sensible is at day camp and M. Gourmand at the sitter, the house desperately needs cleaning, but I allow myself to write a blog post first. The full back story of this blog hop hosted by Kathy at Bereaved and Blessed can be found here

Now to report on how I did during week seven:

1. Read more novels.
The book I had picked out stayed on my night table for the entire week. I only picked it up to read this weekend, which is officially no longer in week seven, so not much progress here this week. 

2. Follow the news more.
My work took up all my time and energy this week, so apart from some news snippets hubby shared with me I have no idea what went on in the world this week.

3. Pick up regular blogging again and start a series/hop on Cultural Differences.
Again I am glad for committing to do this blog hop, even though I'm again late in writing this post. I intend to write a Perfect Moment Monday post today as well.

4. Get my professional website up and running.
No time and energy for that this week, but I did get some new ideas for what to put on my website, mainly by things that came up during the translation job.

5. Find more clients / pursue more paid projects.
This week was taken up entirely by the second document that needed to be translated for the same client as last week. My father and his girlfriend arrived here on Monday evening and stayed until Friday morning and they were a huge help taking care of the kids so I could work. It was four times as much text, in about the same amount of time, so the job was split between me and another translator. I was very hesitant about this in the beginning, afraid that the two styles would be too different and we wouldn't have time to make one coherent piece out of it, but in the end it worked out fine. It clicked really well with the other woman - we kept in touch via Skype chat to quickly check translation of certain words / technical terms and then once we both had finished translating our parts, met up on Friday and Saturday to go through the texts together. We did some final tweaking last night and I emailed both files to the client yesterday evening. 

There is a third document in the pipeline, but I have no idea yet when I will get that and what the deadline is. I will not bother my client with that question today, as she is busy finalizing the layout of the other document so it can be printed ASAP.

Then I got two other requests for work this week! 
The first one is from a client I already did a project for in December. I call it my 007 assignment: it's a daily internet watch I have to do for news in Dutch about a certain company. If I find anything I have to mail the URL and a summary (in French) about the news, and also check if there are tweets, FB shares, etc.
The other request is for a translation from Dutch to French of a workshop manual. I'm a little hesitant about this one since I usually only translate the other way around, but I will respond to it anyway and ask a French friend to be on standby for proofreading if I do get the job. It's a lot of text so if they don't have a crazy deadline like my current client it would be a nice way of keeping me busy for the coming weeks or even months.

6. Start playing the cello again.
Again, just no time right now.