Monday, October 29, 2012

Just like starting over!

I wrote the following entry a couple of weeks ago and have occasionally come back to it for editing and finishing.  Ah the life with a busy toddler and a tiny baby!  Well, it is true, my screen time has diminished vastly since I used to sit at the computer during naps.  Well, now when everyone is napping, I try to as well.  Well, at least the pictures are current!
 ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Leo!
Now that Leo is with us and we are getting to new this new little sprite and new ways of living.

6 weeks old already!
So, at the moment, I am motivated by the variety of (for lack of a better word) projects I am attempting to delve into.  Many of them are rediscovering and some of them are new and exciting.  And honestly, since it has been so long that I have been using or studying French, I would say that I am REdiscovering something NEW again.  I have really lost so much in the way of communication.  I have been told it will come back, but still I have taken one step forward and at least 10 steps back in the last few months.  I am disappointed in myself - all the hours trudging through cold and rain in Paris to get to classes, hours spent in classes, at home studying with software, reading French books in the car, listening to Coffee Break French on walks - etc etc.  The other day, I couldn't even remember how to ask someone what they did yesterday!  Pathetic.  I have been so focused on birth, babies, driving, toddler stuff (next entry on that!) and so on - that I just completely dropped French.  Completely.  So, gotta get back on that horse. (Cheval!)
Sabine wearing her baby like Mama.            









Beyond French, my other obsession is getting organized, writing schedules, planning toddler activities, creating week-long menus, exercise,  and using my time more effectively.

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I am happy to revisit the previous paragraphs (couple of weeks later) with a bit of optimism - as we are finding our rhythm a bit more.  I must cut this admittedly weird entry short, but damn it, I wanted to post it so I could cross it off my list!  (and quit thinking about it).

As I think things have settled a bit more, I should be able to blog more - something I really love doing.  I have much to share, particularly around toddlerdom and new ways of parenting a very expressive (a hem) 2.5 year old.  Book reviews coming soon!  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Leo's Birth Story

This will be the most anticipated blog entry (for me) ever written!  First because I LOVE blogging and missed doing it.  Since the last entry almost 2 MONTHS to the date, life has been a whirlwind of go, go, go!

What has been keeping me away for so long?  Well, first there was my on the road driving practice hours leading up to the big test (failed!).  Then there was the preparation for my cousin's 10 year old daughter coming ALL BY HERSELF! (awesome!) to visit us for 10 days.  Then she was here and even though I was more than 8 months pregnant, we sightsaw, meandered and roadtripped the entire time.  It was incredibly fun, but afterwards, I felt the full brunt of the exhaustion that had been building.  Around all of this were appointments with various midwives, laboratories, hospital visits and dentist.  AND, no day care for Sabine since it was August and most of the Paris population had left the city for their far flung vacays.  Finally, we were busy with our hypno-birthing sessions (more on that later), preparing for the birth, getting the apt ready to welcome our new daughter AND getting Sabine's big girl bed!  We thought it would be better to get her out of her crib before the new baby came so the changes were a bit more gradual. 

Okay so, whew!  It has been a busy last 2 months and since I haven't blogged, you know I haven't had much time to myself!  But well, things are now much more calm and settled especially with the birth of our new little girl!


Leonora Phoenix 

ended her birth journey on 

September 2, 2012 at 1:05pm


My ranting about the Medical Model of Birth (actual birth story below)

I am not gonna even try to lie, giving birth to Leo will be one of the highlights in my life.  Sadly, I cannot say the same for Sabine - but I know that wasn't entirely my fault and for this birth I was determined to make some improvements.  I will take some responsibility though as there were times when I should have spoken up before the birth, giving voice to my concerns.  And I most certainly should have ignored my midwife's suggestion to not read books.  He thought it better to have "my own experience" and besides he said he would be there to help on the big day.  Well, he was there ... physically ... sort-of :(

And I know "they" say, you cannot plan a birth nor can you predict how it will go on the day.  I call bullshit to that.  Nobody ever says that stuff for someone preparing for a marathon or a big test.  Imagine saying to an athlete, "I know that you run everyday, eat well, meditate, have  the right shoes etc - but hey, on the big day, forget your goals and aspirations and just see what happens!".

Well that is the nonsense that is told to women as they are about to give birth.  There are some who will have their birth plan and will do whatever it takes to defend that plan - even if it means becoming an inconvenience to a doctor who wants to go home and would just rather induce or c-section and get it over with.  There is a lot I could rant about at this moment - and particularly so here in France where there are even fewer options for women giving birth.  In fact, a good French friend of mine even recently asked me if they even allowed natural births in France!  While, it is true most most most french women go the epidural route, thereby inviting lots of other medical interventions to counteract the epidural consequences - natural births are certainly "allowed" - though not the norm.  I will add the necessary and politically correct thing which is to say, of course some women must utilize western medicine to birth their babies and I am very grateful that they exist when they are necessary.  Really I am!  I can think of

My concern is that we women have been manipulated to believe they cannot handle the pain or that birth is a medical procedure when it is usually not.  I mean, pooping doesn't require a doctor.  Having bad cramps isn't a call for intense numbing of your body.  These are both natural occurrences which we deal with on a regular basis.   And yet so often, we walk into the hospital and get swept away with the medical model of birth.  And THEN... when some medical issue arises the woman will say, thank god for the doctor because otherwise my baby would have died!  When in many cases, if it weren't for the doctor intervening in the first place, the birth would have occurred just fine.  Don't take my word for it, research the common consequences of each and every intervention that are typical during a Western woman's birth. 

For this birth, I did think about it and wanted to be informed and prepared.  Allow me to also give credit where credit is due.  Since my first birth (though natural) was a traumatizing fiasco at all levels, I wanted to be more prepared for this one.  To do so, I got informed on every level.  I read Ina May Gaskin books, watched an amazing natural birth video (and the Business of Being Born), read tons of natural birthing websites, and did Hypnobirthing as mentioned in other posts.  I basically brainwashed the screaming women in the hospitals out of my head and replaced these normalized fear mongering tales of woe to what birth can be: getting that baby out without terror, agony or drugs! 

Now you know I wanted to do a homebirth desperately, but try as I might I could not find an English speaking midwife who had availability in Sept.  This was due to 3 reasons. 1) There are few who fit this profile (like 5!). 2). Because they have to be available up to a month before the due date and since that is August when they are all on vacay... 3)The ones who were here were all booked up, apparently the holidays is a busy procreation time leading to Sept births ;)

Logistics:

And so, after a bunch of nonsense (understated for real), I finally found Anne-Severine Desmarais!  Phone: 06 60 86 40 02. I liked her immediately.  She is a new midwife to the Groupe Naissance, there are 2 groups who offer natural births and midwives to follow your entire pregnancy/birth.  The other group, CALM is amazing too but lacks English speakers.  Groupe Naissance is incredibly lucky to have Anne.  She is open-minded, warm and caring.  She is also an osteopath and does humanitarian volunteering in Africa.

She is not yet at the place where she is ready to do home births and so in order to have her as my midwife, I had to compromise on a few things.  Fortunately, none of them directly related to the big day except that we had to go to the clinique Jeanne D'Arc to welcome Leonora out. What I know is this, having Anne as my midwife was worth going to the clinic. 


Okay, so here is the birth story:


In the morning before going to the clinic
I woke up around 7 am because I felt some wetness "down-there" and while my waters had not broken, there was what is referred to as seepage. Even without the big splash, I felt pretty sure the baby was going to be born that day... even though it was 2 weeks before her French due date (and yes they are different).  Then the cramps started.  They were about 7-8 minutes apart.  Luckily, my bags were packed and we had 2 women Sabine knows and likes to take care of her ready.

The really cool thing was that Leo was kind enough to be born on a Sunday.  For both Sabine care and Paris traffic, this was incredibly thoughtful of her.  We had Sabine installed at Lexie's at around 8:30 and were at the clinic by 9:00 am.  Midwife Anne was already there and got straight to checking out my blood pressure and dilation.  I was at about a 3 out of 10 cm.  I was not very relaxed as we were talking, checking out my body and generally being very left brained.  I couldn't wait to start focusing on the birth.

We finally got ourselves set up in the room that we were to use for the birth.  One of the main reasons I wanted to deliver at home, but ultimately decided Jeanne D'Arc was an acceptable alternative was because they had a bathtub.  As a side note, for anyone considering this place, they will be (or already have) installing the large-enough-for-two round tubs for labor.  I think this will be the only public place in the city of Paris to offer this option.  You can rent them though for home births, email me for details.

Oddly, I didn't at any point wish to get into a bathtub.  This was something I obsessed over for months as D'Arc clinic didn't first have them when I met Anne because the previous clinic (where Groupe Naissance used to be and where Sabine was born) had closed due to bankruptcy- and GN moved to D'Arc, where the tubs were not installed for several months during my pregnancy.  Would they be installed in time for the birth???  But on the actual day, I had no desire to get wet.  This could have been my interest in making EVERYTHING about this birth different than the first, where I spent the entire labor languishing in the bathtub.  All that said, I never even went into the room where the bathtub was, but rather installed myself in a large bright space and got out my music, special stone, candles, water, health cookies and rice cakes.  I laid down on the ridiculous table bed.  How shitty are these contraptions? I cannot imagine how anyone thought it was clever to put a large stomached woman who already has an off sense of balance up high on a table the very width of her hips.  There was some thin padding so it could pretend to be comfortable, but it felt incredibly unstable and was of course, metal and cold.  I only used it at the beginning.

I laid there for about an hour doing my Hypnobirthing breaths and R-E-L-A-X-I-N-G that had been instilled in us with the most delightful woman you could ever invite into your pregnancy preparation.  I can be a bit of a jerk when it comes to be people, or should I say, I am pretty critical of experts as so often, they are not.  Or, if they are really experts, they forget also to relate humanely to people.  Elizabeth Echlin was the best of both worlds.  She knew her stuff but kept her heart in the process too.  Elizabeth helped us to move from a scared, negative space surrounding birth to one of tranquility and love.  Because the first birth did some damage to our relationship, Hicham and I worked on how this birth could bring us closer and how we would face this experience together.  We did deep meditations, discussed our visions, learned about the physiology of birth and how hypnobirthing techniques can help our bodies tap into and increase natural pain control.  And of course, there was just Elizabeth, who while is not a friend per say, but definitely brings that compassionate support to birth preparation.  She is also the one who introduced us to the "Orgasmic Birth" video - which was instrumental in re-envisioning birth as something we women were born to do.  I will admit that the title is a bit off-putting.  Not that I don't like orgasms and all, but it somehow cheapens the many and diverse messages and information it provides which really have nothing at all do with orgasms.  In fact, the first time I heard of "orgasmic birth" years ago, I thought in involved having an orgasm during labor.

Okay, anyway ....

So, as I was saying for about an hour from 9:30-10:30ish, I laid on the metal table and got in tune with my body.  I did hypno-birthing relaxation techniques and went deeper and deeper into a calm and relaxed state.  Allowing your body (arms, legs, neck, mouth, chin, hands, feet, everything) to stay loose and your mind NOT afraid - lets the muscles and the cervix have all the energy they need to get that baby moving.  Energy is not wasted (as my with my first) with tensing up the legs with each contraction (or wave or surge).  You just watch it come and go and stay cool.  I then began to worry that maybe I was TOO relaxed and I wanted this baby asap ... I didn't want to slow anything down by just "laying there!"

On the outside, it looked as though my contractions were mild and even short - and therefore, we wondered if little progress was being made because it seemed the contractions were short and mild, but in fact it was just that because I was handling the labor calmly and relaxed.  Even so, I decided to change up the music and put on something a bit more, well danceable.  And of course, then I had to get off that table and dance.  I put in some perfect labor room music: Zap Mama! 




"the knowledge of how to give birth without outside interventions lies deep within each woman. Successful childbirth depends on the acceptance of the process."
I danced for the entire cd.  It was hypnobirthing in motion.  Dancing definitely relaxes me and talk about soothing away stress with arms outstretched  and hips aswaying.  It was wonderful - when the contractions happened, I would swoop down to the floor, take in some air and let it out in deeeep long breaths.  At some point, Anne wanted to go and change into her scrubs for the birth.  She asked if I would like her to check the dilation, I said yes please!  I couldn't wait to hear the progress we had made.  She told me not to be disappointed if there wasn't much change.  Now it was about 11:45 am.  Imagine her surprise when I was at 8 cm.  She was visibly surprised - again because it appeared as though my contractions were mild, how could anything have been happening?  She hurried out to change.

Where was Hicham all this time?  He gave me water, smiled at me, reminded me to relax and was basically just a calm source of love.  When the contractions became more intense and I will admit more painful, I moved on over to the ball and moved my hips around in circles on the ball.  Not sure when it happened but some point Hicham sat behind me and cradled me in his arms.  How I wish there was a picture of this.  But I know how wonderful it felt and he kept whispering in my ear to breathe and relax.  This time it was harder as the surges were bombastic and it was really hard not to tense up in reaction to the contraction.  But he kept reminding me and I kept letting my arms relax.  

Then Anne encouraged me to make the deep ooooooo sounds.  I didn't want to do it, but my goodness,  I tried and wow, did it feel right!  For about 30 minutes, we all worked together, keeping the rhythm, the breath, the deep oooo sound and I opened and opened some more.  When I started doing the sound at a higher pitch, Anne would make the sound at a low tone and I would too, that would instantly bring me back to groundedness and fearlessness.  I felt Hicham's arms around me and the love of our shared life and it was really a beloved experience.  Then the urge to poop, er push, started.

This was the moment when my last birth went from bad to hell.  This time was different, completely different.  When I said I wanted to push, I was encouraged to do so and then so at about 12:30ish, I began pushing and it hurt so good.  The baby was about ready but because I was sitting on the ball, it would have been tricky for her to come out, so I moved over to the birthing stool.  It is like a stool with a hole cut out in the middle.  ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!  It was like sitting on a low toilet - working with gravity and low and stable.  Within minutes of sitting, I pushed our little Leo out. This time, the sounds were loud and not low.  It was as high-pitched as could be, but I couldn't stop it.

Me, Leo and Anne
Anne told me to reach down and hold our little girl.  I will say that for both births, I found it difficult to hold a tiny infant just after having gone through something that intense.  I wanted to just collect myself for a bit before handling such a fragile, delicate thing.  But that is the thing with being a parent, isn't it?  Time to collect oneself is very rare after having kids!  She was very tiny, a mere 6.5 pounds (or 2.9 kilos).  And I held her close to me and said hello about 100 times.  I couldn't think of what else to say.  She remained attached by her umbilical cord for a good long time and Anne left to go do something.  Hicham helped me up off the stool and we scooted over to the stupid wobbly table so I could be horizontal.

Happy Birthday Leonora!
Little Leo nursed immediately and was in perfect condition.  Just to be clear, I did not wear any monitoring nonsense (though Anne did check the baby's heartbeat intermittently) , I nibbled snacks and drank water as I wished, had fresh air blowing in the room, turned the lights off.  After Leo was born, Hicham cut the cord and she was not touched by anyone else or taken anywhere for at least an hour (probably more).  When she was taken to be weighed, it was with Hicham and she was swiftly back in my arms.  We then went to my room, which was comfortable and private.  All the staff there were welcoming, warm and hospitable.  Everyone around me was smiling and friendly.  I almost forgot where I was!  Even the food was pretty darn good. 

Well, so, Leo was born and it was great.  I felt wonderful afterwards too.




Great websites to check out when you are pregnant:


http://talkbirth.me/posts/articlestop-posts/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1595112/
http://www.birthingnaturally.net/cn/position/dance.html#







Friday, July 27, 2012

Feeling summertime with cows and Paris parks

Again, it has been a while.  Last weekend though, we finally went somewhere interesting.  Previous to that, not much was really blog-worthy.  I studied constantly for my French Driving Theory test (aka the code) and crammed in the "required" driving lessons, bringing me to my devastating failure during my actual driving test.

The saddest thing about failing the driving test was that I wouldn't have failed had I understood more this bizarre intersection which confused me and therefore drove through a red line automatically disqualifying me.  There were about four stoplights visible at an intersection, using you go up to the front of the road rule and stop.  I kept going to go to the intersection.  I had every intention of stopping at the red light, but apparently didn't do it at the right one.  To be clear, there was no road between these two places to stop.  I still feel cheated in a way and the anger directed at myself was relentless for several days afterward.

Now, we are looking at HOW I will take the test again and when and where.  It is a very expensive, time consuming process from start to finish in any case and when you fail either parts of the test - there is only more time and money being spent.  Two of Hicham's good friends took THREE years to get their license.  Incredible.

Now, you would not be surprised to learn that there is such a thing as "license tourism" where French people go to other countries to get their license and then return to France and exchange it for a French one.  There are 14 US states which allow the exchange, NC was not one of them.  But anyway, driving here is so completely different and imo dangerous, that I would not have dared drive without knowing the rules anyway.  Not to say that I think spending hours upon hours studying FOR A TEST is really learning... but eventually some of it does soak in so I guess knowledge is transferred somehow.  But it is not a driving class as you might imagine.  Literally, you go to class and take practice tests over and over and over and over and over.  There are some explanations if you plead for the instructor to clarify, but the process is one where you WILL be made fun of for asking such a stupid question. 

Well, anyhoot, I also used the practive dvd tests everynight for hours and could barely sleep because I could only think about driving.  Well, the next step I take will be explored here next time, but I really have already reached my limit in discussing this topic at the moment. 

So, we finally had a weekend of fun last weekend.  I wanted to blog about it before this weekend started - and today is already Friday.

The Grignon Farm: The Positive Farm!
 On Saturday we went to an experimental, ecological dairy farm.  We were the only ones there until we left - when suddenly many cars arrived so that was really interesting.  And surprisingly, even though I am from Minnesota, I have never actually seen a cow being milked for real.  I have also never seen a dog herding a bunch of cows.  It reminded me of current day politics really.  The cows outnumbered the dog by many and could easily have crushed the barking furball with one step backwards, but they just kept with the herd with a nervous look in their eyes.

Note the herding dog moving um on out.
We bought some unpasteurized products for Hicham and Sabine to enjoy.  They are not recommended for pregnant women, though most French women do not heed this.  So, it probably isn't a big deal.  But well, anyway, I don't really care.  I miss booze more to be honest. 



They are actually free range cows, but they come in to be milked.

Well, that was Saturday.  Sunday we went to an outdoor jazz festival at the enormous Parc Floral of Paris.  It was my first time ever going there, now I ask myself why?  I have visited practically every single park, green space and forest in and around Paris.  This one turned out to be the best one yet!  Though I do love Bagatelle by our apt. 

Anyhoot, it was quite a discovery - both the friendliness of it, the variety of things to do, the easy-going vibe, the funky clothing, the energy of the place and well, the trees were huge and plentiful.  It was so great as well to hear such incredible percussion focused music and another funky jazz music group. 

Here are some of the highlights of the day.  The day included two firsts for Sabine too.







Xavier Desandre Navarre: a one man percussion wonder!


Sabine's first puppet show - a French childhood tradition.  It was a bit violent for my liking, so we left after about 10 minutes.  I mean, why on earth would the puppets need to assault each other? 
A drumming class for families in the trees.  Love that!


Perfect weather too.  Under that large awning was the incredibly diverse group Mulatu Astatke (below)

Eight wonderful musicians made up this band who rocked the park!
A zen garden and near by a bonsai house.

Sabine's first ice cream cone.  I only thought to take the picture as she was finishing it.  Ah well, I was enjoying my cone too:)


What people lounging on the grass?  And the grass remained green anyway?  Incredible discoveries here.

After leaving this delightful park, we walked back to the car.  I was in the picture taking mood so, here ya go:

I do enjoy Paris's tree lined streets.

http://en.chateau-vincennes.fr/     


And finally, we haven't taken a group shot in a while.  So, this one is taken in front of the Vincennes Castle as we were almost to the car. 

It really was one of the best weekends we have had in over a month.  Finally!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Midwife found! Code Test Results! Me, 7 months pregnant.

Well, Alright!  Hot damn!  The last few weeks have been a hazy stressful blur of dealing with the Frenchness of it all, but seems some hurdles have been overcome!  Sooo, since I last blogged, progress on the important stuff:


   We found a midwife!  At long last we have met a woman whom is cool and speaks English.  Sadly, she is not yet comfortable doing homebirths - which I am incredibly bummed about but I think it will still be fine.  Her name is Anne and she is new to the Groupe Naissance, the same people - who requested that I have the "debriefing" before being allowed to reuse their services.  Whatev.  I jumped through the hoop and after calling every single person mentioned to me from ANPA and other referrals through more phone calls and lots of dead ends, another midwife told me about Anne, who just happened to be at GN.  So, it turns out I was right to go to that meeting.

   I like her.  And that is all.

The French love medicine.
Oh, well of course not.  She seemed to like me too, which you might be astonished to learn that that feeling of being liked (appreciated, interested in) does not usually come across very well from folks in the health field.  You generally are made to feel like you are wasting their precious time and how dare you attempt to dig deeper and gain sacred information regarding your own health.  Just take the pill and shut the hell up - cuz they know things that you don't.  And they really, really don't like being questioned.

This contrasts the American experience, where you are advised to bring a list of questions to your medical checkups.  Of course, the caring and relationship based American experience can (and often does) put a person into financial crisis and can also result in many tests than are really needed.

So, the trick here is to keep up the search for someone you like and ALWAYS go back to them even if it takes a while to get an appointment.  We have a really cool family doctor guy who offers walk-ins several times a week (along with appointments and yes, house calls!) 

You can't let desperation guide health care provider decisions in France.  And so, I called as many midwives as I heard about, no matter what.  And finally, found Anne and *bonus* she is an ostheopath so that is really a great combo for me personally.  Another piece of great news is that the place where Sabine was born has closed (went bankrupt) and now the Groupe will be delivering babies in a different clinic (named Joan of Arc) which offers the same resources (bath tub, balls, etc). 

AND... we have started taking Hypnobirthing classes, with just about one of the loveliest humans I have even had the good fortune of meeting.  We already had one session with her and it was incredibly productive and interesting.  It also brought this pregnancy a bit more on our mental and emotional forefront.  As most of the pregnancy related attention has gone to logistics, this is a great step in the right direction.  Hey better late than never, right?  Anyway, we have our second session with Elizabeth on Tuesday.  I will provide more about that afterwards.


And for the horrific driving code (French driving theory and rules), which practically consumed my soul as I studied harder for it than any test in my life, I PASSED!!!!  Sadly, the school I went through are trying to sweep me away for a couple more months as they have overbooked themselves regarding on-road driving lessons (8 hours mandatory) which leads to the driving test itself.  They are expecting me to WAIT until Sept.  Now, I get it, I really do - they have no concept of what my life will be like in Sept.  Either: a) about to give birth or b) just having given birth and ergo being a on-demand feeding machine for several months.  I don't care.  So, we don't care about each other and I am going in on Monday to demand action.  I will keep you abreast with my progress (ha ha, punster!).
NOT Hicham on the left.

In the meantime, I am driving with Hicham to get more comfortable driving on the French roads.  This isn't going very well because he is constantly nagging  and stresses me out more than he should.  "Blinker!" "Watch out!" "You scraped the tire!" "Shift!" "You're sticking out too far!" Blah blah blah!  The reality is that French roads - or at least - Parisian roads have traffic coming from all directions all the time and so it is stressful enough without his yelling at me.  That, and with motorcycles zooming around you, the oddly placed stoplights, etc etc etc - driving here takes some getting used to.  Well, that is all it is, getting used to it.  Just more practice and handling of the merging lanes, rude drivers, small roads, etc. all will be well. 

And finally, per your request, here are some photos of me.  We took these yesterday, so they are current.  We also took them under the influence of Madonna.  Sabine and I were dancing and having some fun and I took the photos with my computer.  So, without further adieu, me seven months pregnant:



Monday, June 18, 2012

Location, locomotion, location

It has been 12 completely crazed and largely emotional days since I last posted.  Since this blog is largely a tool of creation for MY own happiness - and it has been neglected, well, that tells you something!

First, even though I will be giving birth in less than 3 months, I still do not know where or with whom.  This journey has been incredibly anxiety inducing.  It has now led me down the path of just doing it at home.  The more I sat with this, the more it made sense.   Then began finding a midwife who delivers at home search.  I was completely unsurprised to find out that my options were very few and far between.  This is both due to the lateness of my pregnancy and that the French system doesn't support homebirths ... at all.  Luckily I joined a really helpful group called ANPA, Anglophone Natural Parenting Association.  This community of mothers has been imperative to this journey and would highly recommend any natural-parent leaning person join.  ANPA link

Second, French driving school, is just a little slice of hell on earth.  Exhausting, confounding and completely setting you up to fail, partaking in this process now makes me wonder if I am a glutton for punishment.  Yesterday, however I did drive around with Hicham.  While the many bizarre intersections were just that and the road signs did confuse me on occasion, I handled most situations well.  It seems to take most people about 6 months to get their license in France, I feel it necessary to do within TWO (before the baby is born!)  I start driving with the instructor on Tuesday (have to do 8 hours).  More on that soon.

Third, we got sidetracked-once again in our housing situation.  Even though we have made the great use of our 800 sq ft apartment to make our lives fit into this box, we still get urges to move into something bigger.  Of course, it isn't only about size, it is also about wanting to have easier access to nature.  One reason we moved to this apartment was because we are near the forest of Boulogne, the enormous parc de Saint Cloud, the river and a variety of other green spaces but still opening the door to ones' own plot of Earth beckons me. 

Is this the right time to do be driving around looking at houses?  No.  Particularly when you consider that Sabine's education must be taken into consideration when we think about WHERE we will live.  So, then the house hunt becomes combo school research/city study.  I guess, in a sick way, it is an occassional form of leisure for us.  We look at the ads, the houses, google maps, carve out commutes, consider shopping etc.  I guess it is not much different from people who play simcity or other reality type video games.  Imagining your life being lived in a different setting than it really is. 

Rarely does this exploration lead us beyond the computer, but once and a while, we do go through the hassle of going and looking at a place.  This is always because there is something so incredibly unique about the property, that even if we don't buy it, we will have still gotten to see it with our own eyes.  I guess you could call it "House Hunters, Foreign Edition Live". 

For example, once we went to see a house that had so many cool things going on, I was sure it was "the one".  Giant stone fire place, built in timber lofts in the bedrooms with cool ladders creating cozy nooks, a round stone wall kitchen, an extra underground stone room, bay windows, enormous trees, hello?  When we went to see the house, it was incredibly unique.  Sadly, it was in front of a really busy road and more importantly, the cool kitchen was below the house.  Can you imagine having to carry dinner for four people upstairs every single night?  AND, they were slippery, steep, well worn stone step!  Embarrassingly, it actually took me until we got to the last upstairs bedroom to really see the ramifications of that!   

This weekend, we went to see a house that was located on an island... with no car access.  I was thrilled!  Living on an island that didn't allow cars is like a dream to me.  Even though I want to be able to drive in France, the chance of not having to listen to the constant stream of cars sounds really heavenly.  The island is accessible by a small foot bridge which people use all kinds of contraptions to get their groceries over with.  Electric golf carts (small French versions) with trailers attached would fit.  Across the bridge you will find rows of garages where the residents keep their cars.  The entire island was incredibly lush and natural, with one large path going down the length of it and houses on each side.  The house that we looked at was asking 465,000 euros.  Their asking price a year ago was nearly double that.

The property was large, with several extra small buildings, a studio, an above ground pool, patios, a 1400 sq ft house, a woodshop, underground storage room, tons of trees and of course all of this enclosed in bushes, greenery and the gorgeous river.  A nature lovers paradise, right near Paris.  I think we were really interested, for real, until we saw the upstairs of the house.  The downstairs left some stuff to be desired, but it was the upstairs that made me almost retch.    Every square inch of the upstairs was so irritating that the amount of money, time and energy to change it simply made me want to run away fast.  The house was built in three stages, much to my surprise (and yet not) the upstairs was the most recent.  And it was done on the cheapy, cheap.  Carpet on the creaking (1995!) floor, weird shaped rooms with odd angles making me dizzy, a giant mirrored closet IN the bathroom, no closets in two of the 80's wallpapered pastel rooms, the master bedroom barely fitting our bed but with an attached bathroom with both a shower and a tub all tiled in dark blue and bright white.  Need I go on?  Okay, they not only closed the wonderful fireplace from down stairs, but removed it because they couldn't make it work with the "new" upstairs, the oven in the kitchen was mini, the counters were sized for hobbits, the living room was lime green and as is the norm for the French, the dining area was far from the kitchen.  Why?

We told the agent, lovely man from Argentina, to please let us know if another house goes up for sale on the island, because we are interested in living there - but that house?  At that price?  Yeah, no thanks.

So, there are just two more places we will look at in the coming week and then we will have itched that scratch for a while.  It usually comes up about every 6 months.  Not to say that we aren't content in our cozy apt, it is just that we have been here for over three years!  I have never lived anywhere for this long, ever!  It is also ironic, that it was only recently that I painted the living room....

But well, sometimes you just gotta look at what else is out there to realize how good you got it, am I right?  

To end this entry on a cute note, here is Sabine washing carrots:



















Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Update on the midwife meeting (dun dun dun dun!)

Aaah, life in France.  What magic, what wonder!  By that I mean: I wonder what they will pull out of bag of tricks next.  By "they" I mean, ALL French people, all the time.  No, just kidding.  But since I have just returned from the states, the contrast in culture is all that much more stark.  Soon, probably, as the memories fade - and as I grow again accustomed to just how difficult life can be made at nearly turn - I will become comfortably numb to it all.

But til then, allow me to update you with the result of my  previously mentioned "debriefing" with my former midwife, the midwife who broke confidentiality with me as I shared with her my previous birth experience during an interview and the psychologist who was to determine if I was still very upset by Sabine's birth and therefore not acceptable to return to their services.  Funnily, when I had told midwife #2 whom we will call by her name, Muriel, that I wanted something different than I had will midwife #1, Willy, she strongly urged me to find somewhere else to go.

What continues to amaze me is that there appear to be about five or so midwives in this giant city who actually speak English.  Okay, there are probably some in the American Hospital or the British Hospital, but they are both incredibly expensive and you are not "followed" by the midwife, meaning that the person who is in the room with you as the baby is born could be a complete stranger.  They also don't take Social Medical card soooo, not an option anyway.  I told Muriel, that there really was NO where else for me to go that would provide a less-medical model style of birth.  They don't have cozy birthing centers like in the states.  There is ONE that is close, but still the birthing is done usually in the hospital after laboring in a lovely room.  I mentioned it in a previous blog and while it is great, no speaka the English.

Anyhoot, the meeting went well.  Even though, it was held against my wishes and if I didn't go then I was out,  the meeting did go well. Nor would I say it was worth MY time, per say, as the rendezvous was done at the urging of "the team" to ensure that there was peace between myself and Willy.  But to put the team's mind at rest that there wasn't a raging (and ranting) woman dragging Groupe Naissance name through the mud, I went.  And I found that I felt much more understood at the end (always feels good to be understood) and I felt more compassion towards Willy. 

I highlighted how I felt completely under-prepared for the birth, though I was led to believe that I was prepared.  How Willy's style of complete non-nonchalance when I didn't know what to do but was scared was incompatible with what I want for the next time.  We talked about how tense my muscles became and basically left the meeting with the clear understanding that for the next birth, I intend to get to the bottom of these issues and hopefully not repeat them.  I was reading in my "HypnoBirthing" book that "fear is the cause of tension within the body, in particular the uterus" p4.

For Sabine's birth, at Willy's strong urging, we did not read or become informed about birthing, breathing, techniques or even how to use the birthing ball.  He was of the mind that the body just knows what to do.  I actually totally agree with him, that the body was designed to birth a baby without medical intervention (in most cases) and that given the time, space and respect the mother can deliver a baby without her having a medical degree.

But, for me, what was missing was the basic idea of what was happening and what was going to happen.  I was also not told that things that were worrisome were normal and fine.  Being that vulnerable and frightened just made everything tense up.  I am not even talking about the labor, which I got through fine with music and my breath.  That part, I had a handle on.  But when the urge to poop was overwhelming, I had no knowledge that that was the push the baby out urge and so, not wanting to poop on the floor, I resisted.  No one told me at that time.   

I am only now learning about HOW to give birth.  Because hot-damn, there are helpful tips out there!  As of yet, however, I still do not know where I will give birth nor who my midwife will be.  But even if we do end up going to the nearby hospital, I will be more equipped to extract our daughter confidently and without fear.  (Who knew breathing like blowing a balloon helps?)

Because it wasn't the labor pain, which was without excess pain.  I found the pain tolerable with Libana's singing lulling the pain like the ocean washing up on the shore- and gushing back and washing up and gushing back.  It was invigorating and cosmic .... right upon until the harsh change of room, hallway, elevator, medical bed, fear, confusion, tension, variety of ineffective change of positions each one more painful than the last (the change of position), the incorrect breathing, no more music, no more candles, just commands to PUSH for three hours.



Ah well, I am thrilled that I get a do-over on this one.  Worth mentioning that this HypnoBirthing book by Marie F Mongan is really great and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is pregnant.  In about three months, I will let you know how it worked!

Pictures of our incredible journey coming up, really, I promise!  I have been busy unpacking and organizing.  Don't believe me? Take a look at how Sabine's (+new baby) room has transformed:

Those drawers on the left will hold Sabine's clothes soon.

This changing table will start being used again, heavy sigh.

We needed new book shelves (left) thanks to all the wonderful new books!  Thanks to Joan for some of the really special ones :)

Got more vertical storage, got rid of some clutter and decided how to resolve the bed situation.  When the new baby is ready for her own bed, she will take Sabine's crib and Sabine will sleep on a trundle mattress kept under the crib.  I pondered the idea of getting an elevated bed, but decided to keep it simple for the moment.  Who knows, we will hopefully be moving next summer. 

So, almost entirely ready for the baby!  Now, focus on the French driver's license!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Post Vacation Entry. What a trip!

Alright well!  Home again, home again la tee dee dah!  We are back from our whirl-wind 5-state, 6 week tour of the USA and what a trip it was.

Coming home and the resulting peculiar feeling also deserves mention.  When I walked in the door and saw our apt, I felt like I was walking through a dream that I had awakened from.  Like,"this place still exists?"  Strange but true.  Unlike any other "homecoming" than I have ever experienced.  You know, the kind where you just are eager to sit on your own couch again, drink coffee in your own cup again, water your plants and settle back in?  Yeah, not so much.

I guess because I felt so much more globally at home in the States.  Not just the language either, but a real sense of comfortable anywhere I was.  The return to our apt was as if we had been away for so long that while it did seem familiar somehow, it also didn't.

Also, my mind is yet clinging to all the wonderful visits, experiences, sights, tastes, encounters, deals and connections all that made up the last six weeks of life .... I am still mentally "there" - in the land of friendly smiles, clean streets and Whole Food's salad bars.  

Yet, in any case, I am physically back in Paris and I am rejuvenated, fulfilled and inspired.  Wonder how long it will take for the French disposition to smear that smile off my face.  Probably in a matter of days when a group of local midwives and their psychologist analyze my mental health state - which has become a requirement due to my honest assessment of one of their team members: my former midwife who did a shitty job two years ago.   

More on that sooner than later (meeting in about 5 days).... and  I have enough juicy stuff to blog about that occurred in the last six weeks for some riveting reading or at least photo gazing.  I am thrilled and excited to revisit them too.  A preview: Renting an RV in Colorado, Children's new & improved (and incredible) playgrounds now in every corner of the country, My beautiful friends and my wonderful family, Utah!, Sabine!, Food and sights pictures, and so much more. 

Much more to come, check back soon! 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

You (don't) need to get off facebook, or do/don't you?

I was watching the BBC the other day and they showed a very brief clip of a young guy flipping poster board messages Bob Dylan or Micheal Hutchens style with a six minute message about facebook.  I was intrigued even though I only saw about 4 seconds of it.  I couldn't stop thinking about it and finally googled as many variations of: facebook video guy placcards anti-facebook cute guy on street.  I don't remember how I finally found it, but I did.  I got myself a nice hot bowl of blueberry oatmeal with yogurt and sat down to watch.  It is called, "You need to get off Facebook".

Here it is:





I really liked what the message here.  I also really liked him.  Thought provoking stuff, to a point.  I nodded, yes yes! during the video.  Then I saw a video response, also 6 minutes.

And it is called, "You DON'T need to get off facebook" which has an entirely different take on it.

Here it is:






I really liked what the message here.  I also really liked him.  More thoughtful than thought provoking.  I nodded, yes yes! during the video.

I enjoyed watching both videos and surprisingly agreed with both of them 100%.  Even though they were in complete contradiction with each other, they both fit soundly into the Hell yes box.


Two men standing outside, flipping pieces of paper with cool music in the background expressing their points of view on facebook.  Sounds stupid, I know.  But trust me, these videos are creative and worth your time. They are clever societal statements, expressing cynicism and celebration of how we humans connect in these modern times.  A job well done and fun to watch (anyway, they are both real easy on the eyes).

I would love to hear your comments on what you think, how you felt or generally if you agreed/disagreed or both!  Thanks. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

And the baby is a ...

#1 profile view #2 face forward and her hand
Alright ... well, this will probably be the shortest entry in my blog ever. 


We had the second sonogram/echography and the baby looks healthy and moves a lot!  Ten fingers, ten toes, nice round head etc.  And....
These 3-D images freak me out.

It's another girl!




Saturday, April 7, 2012

Blog update ... at last!

At long last, I am back.  Oh, and how.

I really didn't mean for my hiatus to last as long as it did.  But, as it is, this blog is supposed to be fun to do.  And for the reasons I am about to share, writing in the last couple of months wouldn't have been enjoyable.

What?
See, I was sick.  First, it was for a good cause sick: being pregnant. Then, once the constant nausea, debilitating exhaustion and crabbiness wore away, I became ill with a cold which turned into a relentless sinus infection.  In any case, my ability to concentrate was minimal and the bits of energy that I could muster were kept for things like trudging across the apt to see what my poor little neglected toddler was getting herself into.  Beyond that, I have been busy getting our upcoming 6-week trip to the states organized, settling some birthing situations and more, much more! 

The good news is that while I am not yet 100% better, I am damn sure close enough and have so very much that I want to share!

17 weeks
For starters, again I am pregnant.   And couldn't be more thrilled.  I really didn't want Sabine to be an only child like I was (am) and am just delighted that she will have a sibling to grow with.   I am a little nervous about having two since I don't really know what that will be like.  I had a pretty good notion of how it would be to have one daughter, since I was one daughter.  But two?  It really is foreign to me... and what if it is a boy?  We will know on Friday!  And, you, my dear reader will not be left in the dark.

However, since Sabine's actual birth left something to be desired... I wanted this one to be different.  And the truth is that, on paper, Sabine's birth looks pretty standard and the results were stellar.  Totally natural, no episiotomy, no tearing, breastfed easily, went home same day she was born and lost most the baby fat within 2 weeks.  Sounds pretty good, right?  Well, yes and no.  My midwife, while a warm and lovely person before the birth for our monthly meetings and haptonomy sessions, did not bring his expertise to the birthing experience at all.  To make a long story very short, I had no idea what the hell I was doing and all he could say was 'push'.  Obviously there is more to the story, but by the end of it, not being supported, guided or helped left me traumatize me.

One thing you must understand, MOST (99%) of FRENCH WOMEN HAVE NO IDEA WHO IS GOING TO BE DELIVERING THEIR BABY AT THE HOSPITAL.  It is just whomever is working that night.  This doesn't seem to bother any of them.  Whereas, in America, one of the most important decisions a woman will make is who will be there during one of the most vulnerable, intimate moments in our lives: giving birth. 

Luckily, there are a few - and for a city the size of Paris - I mean, very few midwives who are called "Sage Femme Global" or something like that, who will follow you during pregnancy and will be there for the birth.  They are not found in MOST hospitals though.   I learned about them during my first pregnancy.  But I was even more limited in choices by the language barrier.  I could choose from about 4 (that I knew of)!

I also needed to find someone who was really on board with my anti-medicalized approach.  Given the choice, I would have done it at home.  Or at least, I think so, but we do live in an apt building so ... hmmmmm.  But anyway, my husband was dead-set against it "just in case".  What can I say, I watched the Business of Being Born and read Ina May's books.  I knew exactly what I wanted and it didn't involve being on my back in a sterile white room.

Beyond that, I personally wanted to experience what most women all around the world do.  Was it painful?  As they say, you forget.  And I really have. I do remember the most painful and nonsensical experience (that I wasn't AT ALL prepared for) was after being in labor for more than 6 hours, I had to walk down a hallway, wait for a fucking elevato r to take me nine floors down and go to a different room to deliver than the one I was in all cozy with my music and candles.  That was some serious bullshit. 

Alright well, anyway, this time around simply had to be different.  I began scouring the internet looking for info.  In one of the ex-pat parent's groups I am a member of, someone told me about CALM - a natural birthing center. Slogan is: CALM "like at home"  Calm Website link It is non-profit and totally fit the bill for what I was looking for ... except the language.  Hicham, Sabine and I went to an info meeting to learn more about it with about 25 other couples.  I was so bored.  Blah blah blah in French for more than 2 hours.  Luckily Sabine was there for me to play with or I probably would have left.  It reminded me of my former life when I would sit in some long ass meetings and wonder how much more could be said? Hicham told me later that much of it was repeating  the same info over and over.  That too, sounded familiar.

Sabine at museum with daycare.
Still, I loved the birthing rooms and loved the ambiance of the place.  The philosophy was beautiful and they are working hard to change French mentality about birth and the system too (good luck!)  But it was the Indian tapestries on the wall pretty much sold me on the place to tell the truth.  We signed up, met with the midwife about a month later and crossed our fingers to get accepted.  As with most things in Paris, everything is a competition.  Just because you sign up for daycare before your baby is born, does not mean that 3 years later, they will get in.  Luckily, we live on the edge of Paris and getting Sabine into her pt daycare was a breeze.  Anyhoot ... we got accepted and started the process with Jacqueline.  She spoke clearly and slowly and with Hicham's translations, it went alright.

Until one day last week, I got real with myself.  The appointments were exhausting.  The concentration required was draining.  There were things I thought I understood that I would find out later, I didn't.  Appointments that didn't really require Hicham being there, actually did because I was afraid to go alone.  (Just like the early days!).  I mean, I can get by well enough with my 3 year-old sounding French and can (I thought) understand pretty well if I am not nervous or tired or or or.  But I got honest and realized that I was signing up for the same madness as last time.  And c'mon, concentrating on French while being in touch with one's body?!?!?

Back to the internet.  Discovered there are in fact, TWO other mid-wives (working at the same place as my first midwife) who speak English.  However, knowing the difficulty in securing a place when I am already 16 weeks along, I didn't hold my breath.  But imagine my utter disbelief and shock when both of them responded happy to meet me and available for the September birth!!!!  So, I am going to meet with both of them and decide which one I have a better rapport with and get back on the excited to have a baby horse!   What a relief.  Of course, I will keep you posted on how the meetings went.

Because, I have a feeling this blog is going to morph into a "What it's like to have a baby in France story". 

But it will also morph into, "What it's like to get your driver's license in France tale" as well.  The title is obvious why.  Interestingly, I am pretty damn sure that having a natural birth will be less painful than enduring the nonsense that awaits me for the privilege of driving in France.  I just signed up at the special foreigner's "school" (more like hot, crowded, stinky room) and paid the 1500.00 euros to make it happen.  That is almost $2000.00 for those counting.  It is a bit more expensive than what the average French person pays, but not by much!  Insane!

But, I really, really, really need more mobility.  Particularly with two small children.  And, Sabine will be starting school soonish.  They start at age three here.  She will not be going to a French public school - another post for another day.  And well, damn I want to go more places!  It is weird, I was actually not bothered for three years not driving and just taking public transit.  And then suddenly, one day, I wanted to drive and bad.  In fact, the urge was so bad, I almost just did it.  I have a driver's license and have been safely driving for more than 15 years.  But common sense prevailed and I didn't do it ... but woman!  that put a flame under my ass and so here we go.  The goal is to do it in a record two months after we get back from the states... basically June and July and get the license by August, one month before baby.  And see, the thing is, I tend to thrive under pressure.  Knowing the stakes and knowing time is totally against me, I have been studying that driver's ed book like I have never done with my French books.  It is shameful really.  Imagine if I had done that with French book, told myself that learning French would be my ticket to REAL transportation ... gliding effortlessly through the French world.  Linguistically cruising past all the red lights of stupidity.  Not needing my dictionary/gps to guide me through new terrain.

Oh, wait, I did all that.  I know it, I knew it and I am reminded of it every day of every week that I leave the house and talk to anyone, ever.  Truth is, I study when I feel like it - that it is.  Chop wood, carry water.  Besides, I can understand a heck of a lot more than the first day I got here and so this rate, I should be at a 6 year old level in about three years!  Ha!  

Well, I hope this entry has itched the scratch of where the hell did I go?  And believe me, tI have missed blogging.  It is fulfilling, can't say why exactly, surely someone else can though.

A warning though, soon the blog will evolve into Vacation Mode and that will be really fun.  You can look forward to pictures and entries about North Carolina, Colorado, Utah, Minnesota and Boston.  We leave for the USA in a mind-blowing 11 days and wow, am I ever excited.  It will also be great practice for me, getting behind a wheel again too.  Of course, our roads are wider and there aren't motorcycles zooming around you constantly, but eh, who cares, I get to drive!

Til next time.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Transition Kitchen Hibernation

I feel bad.  More on that later. 

I have not forgotten about my dear blog, nor my readers.

Hibernating is what is going on here.  Soon, though, I will emerge!

Just thought you deserved to know.  I will (of course) explain more in my next post.

Thank you!  Merci!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Just a week ... sigh

Well, let's see.  Oh, yeah, right.  Update .... as promised by 10 pm Sunday if not written before.  And since this week has come and gone with nothing interesting to report on (really, I am not kidding!) - we have arrived on Sunday (yawn) and here is what is going on around here:

My little Moon, Sabine
Sabine is potty trained now. 

The weather here is gray and depressing.

We all need haircuts.

This entry, sorry to say, is just not that inspired.  Though, it is surrounded by an inspired upcoming trip!  We were planning this summer, but some new things have come up and so, decided to make it sooner.

As in, 3 months!   So much to do - but airline tickets bought and paid for - so no turning back now.  It will be, as last time, a whirlwind of a trip checking all the boxes of a trip "back home" combined with a real vacation.

The trip will go like this:

Paris-North Carolina-Colorado-Utah-Minnesota-Boston-Paris

Highlights: music-mountains-landscapes-family-friends.

Much more planning to do and more details to be revealed.

More soon,

-Nicole-

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Strange morning (true story)

Today was a very odd day.  I should really say, morning since the bizarreness was put to an end when we finally (!) returned through the doorway at 12:30pm.   I woke up exhausted having slept like shit and could just tell that things are going to be off-kilter. 

That is also one of the interesting things of life in a big unpredictable city.  You gotta be firing on all cylinders to maneuver through the metropolitan landscape -particularly a foreign one .  If not, strangeness can ensue.  Some of the strangeness is self-imposed and some of it is unexpected/uncontrollable.  Today, I had self-imposed some minor agony on myself when I agreed to loan our pac-n-play to a fellow French student whose daughter was coming for a visit, with a baby.  Today was delivery day.

Before leaving, I  realize that I cannot bring Sabine to her play place AND carry the pnp with me.  It is much heavier and cumbersome than I anticipated.  I will have to return home to get it to bring it to class.  I drop Sabine off, go home get the damn thing and head to the bus stop.

After a while, I see the bus (happy me) and it is coming fast down the street.  So fast, in fact, that the driver chose not to slow down and pick me up (enraged me)!  Under a normal, non pnp-carrying day, I would have walked to the metro.  At a steady clip it takes about 8 minutes.  But today, I barely had the energy to make the decision to continue waiting.

So, I keep waiting.  Then a woman shows up to wait for the bus.  I always use this quality one-on-one time to practice my french.  I mean, they are stuck there - and have nothing better to do either ... we talk about random stuff, buses, drivers, the moon, pronunciation, etc.  The bus comes - bringing me to the metro and as soon as I hit the bottom step of the platform, the metro doors shut and off it goes.  I miss it by about .005 of a second.  I get on the next one which brings me to my class and then I walk the 5 blocks to the class carrying this heavy, huge thing dodging the obstacle course that is the Paris street.  I arrive 30 minutes late.  The teacher, whom I LOVE beyond measure, laughs and says, well at least you arrived after me this time!

Sadly, as I had not slept well the night before, I could barely comprehend what was going on around me.  The words coming out of my mouth were all garbled.  I knew this class was going to be a wash.  After the class, I do my marathon rush back to pick up the kid.  I am supposed to pick her up at noon, but the journey can take up to 40 minutes even when the stars aline and I get all the metros and buses I need immediately.  This has happened, and let me tell you, there is a little rush of victory when you show up at a bus stop and the bus pulls up within a minute.

This brings us to self-imposed strangeness #2.  Because today after class, I decide to very quickly stop into the bakery and get a chunk of raisin bread for Sabine.  On Thursdays when I pick her up, she acts as though she is starving and I didn't feed her breakfast.  She will repeat, "mange" (eat) "pomme" (apple) "banane" (banana) and any other kind of food word that she knows at a faster and more fevered pitch until the tears come and she has a total melt-down.  So, even though I fill her up before leaving and only about 3 hours has passed, she simply must eat almost immediately upon pick-up.  But don't you know, Hicham has taken all the cash out of my wallet and left me with his credit card (I lost mine last week) and there is a minimum of 10 euros to use your card!  So, as the line behind me begins to grow, I have to quickly decide what else to buy at lightening speed.

If you ever go into a French bakery, you will see the French at their most efficient.  They do not think about what they are going to buy.  They are not at all like they are in the cheese shops where they taste, discuss and ponder their purchase.  They say their order (not having even glanced at the offerings, because they KNOW), the lady gets it (and it is ALWAYS a lady), they have the correct change usually, and they are out the door in 10 seconds.  See, me even being there was putting a cramp in their style as I looked for something healthy for Sabine and then (gasp) didn't have the cash to pay for it and then had to peruse the glass, shelved counter to as fast as I could find enough stuff to buy at a bakery that would cost 10 euros.  Why didn't I just say, oh pardon me, and leave instead?  I have no idea.

So, carrying a giant bag of bread with nuts, a piece of quiche, a raisin bun and a chocolate bread, I left the bakery.  Wouldn't you know that by the time I got to the cross walk, the guy BEHIND me in the bakery was already in front of me?  Oh la la - all he bought was a baguette.

So, I get to the metro and again, just miss it!  I, inevitably start eating whatever I touch in the bag of carbs and butter.  When I metro arrives, I get on - but at some point it stops and we are all directed to get off and wait for the next train.  Everyone is pissed and grumbling.  This takes another 5.4 minutes.  I am starting to really panic now.  I still have to get out of the metro, get on a bus, walk to the play place and get Sabine and it is already 10 after!  Well, at least I am not hauling that damn pac-n-play anymore.

Amazingly, at the bus stop, the bus I want actually arrives within 2 minutes and within 7 minutes I am walking up to door of the play place.  After I walk in, I hear Sabine tell one of the ladies that she has to pee-pee.  I step back so she can't see me.  She pees, and I hear her say, "wow! super!" in her most Frenchie accents (wah-ow soup-air).  The lady says, there is someone here.  I wish I could say she runs over to me all smiles, but no - that is rarely what she does.  She gets out her biggest sad face, starts to pretend cry and shuffles over to me and says, "mange?"


Ripped up paintings on sidewalk

Example of unexpected strangeness.

Why would someone do this?  I know there is an artist who sells his paintings like this, not sure why though.