Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Candy buzz and countdown

Theo and I joined a group of moms and mums I met through Meetup to make (phew that's a lot of alliteration!) gingerbread houses this week.  I love this tradition, love it.  It's a very messy process, but that and lots of candy go great together!  I realized I didn't have the right sugar to make icing.  FYI sucre en poudre is NOT powdered sugar, it's more like superfine sugar.  I whipped out yet another defunct coffee related appliance, the coffee grinder, and viola!  Confectioner's sugar!

I told y'all I had some Martha in me.

This will be the 20th candy that went past the gingerbread house directly to my mouth.

I'm whipping myself into a frenzy over preparing to go back to the States for Christmas.  Between the thought of such a long flight with these two and all the packing and presenting, I'll be at a full-on level 10 by Thursday.  I may be MIA for the next week or so.

I'm tough, real tough.

Gratuitous white sock shot.

 Luke takes naps in our room whenever he is home after lunch which is Wednesday, Friday and the weekends. Well, we call it a nap but it's mostly just time when he sits on our bed and talks to himself or throws things.  The other day he was very quiet and almost had me fooled he was sleeping.  Now I know it just means he is up to something.  I caught him playing the ipad that I had foolishly left in our room one time.  This time he had found yet another gadget and photo bombed my camera.  There were some 50 shots of him making faces, his feet, and some, ahem, other body parts.  Can I tell you how it is difficult to discipline when you are trying to not to pee your pants laughing?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pick up is no pick me up

  Hop on son, let's ride on this extremely safe mode of transportation!

Luke's school has a lot of students. About sixty kids in his grade alone. The parents, grandparents, and nounous gather en masse outside this enormous gray metal gate everyday to pick up their brood. Some days you can hear the kids chanting different teachers' names as they line up outside, really adorable in their high-pitched tone with French accents. As the gate swings open, like cattle we funnel in, tripping over strollers, bobbing and weaving around those who like to stop mid stream oblivious to the fact they are causing flow issues.

                                  Bad angle, can't see how massive and gray those doors are.  Hey!  It's dress in              
                                  black day!

I've met a few English speaking moms but am usually a loner at pick up. I now can recognize certain French mom clicks but I can't say I really want to befriend them. One of the click moms, I'll call her shiny patent leather mom, yelled at Luke one day at the park for playing too rough with her younger son. I watched it all go down and although Luke was in the wrong, she overeacted, arms flailing and yelling at him. Then I had to go over and yell at him and act all incensed. I would love to befriend the international mom click. German mom and Finnish mom are pretty cool, and they speak English, bonus!

Today we waited a few extra minutes for the kids to come out and I started chatting with another mom. She too was not a native French speaker and I had no clue what she was saying! Here we are chatting and smiling at one another, she probably had no idea what I was saying either. Smoke signals would have probably worked better.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Common sense take two

I mentioned in a previous post that sometimes in my opinion the French lack common sense for certain things like picking up after their dog. Well, boy oh boy, that is not always the case! I was pleasantly surprised that at a little fete at Theo's school on Friday the head teacher popped some bubbly and cheerfully served to all interested parties. I said "voluntier, Madame!" It was just enough to savor and remind me that this, my friends, was tradition in France. It made my day seriously, maybe not the champagne itself but the fact that we could drink in this setting in moderation like responsible adults. If you tried to pull that at a day care in the states you would be sent to the slammer and outrage the community. This hypersensitivity to alcohol irks me as if we adults cannot control ourselves and need to be treated like children. Anyhoo, thank you Frenchies and your celebratory ways.

Take me to your leader, masterful tree.

We continued the weekend by decorating our little tree. Yes little because our apartment is tiny and because trees in these parts will run you the same price as an actual trip to see Santa at the North Pole. But I'm a traditional gal and there is no substitute for the real thing. I even bought ornaments to color coordinate with our rug, yet another sign of turning French, color coordinating. The other day I stepped out in a head to toe shades of brown ensemble, as opposed to my comfy black sport shoes, jeans, and patagonia. And people actually paid me some attention! Like, "your worth a glance, beige lady." Definitely no love in my jeans get up.

Saturday night was my first girls night out in Paris, WAY overdue, mama likes her cocktails and dancing. Aside from the schizophrenic DJ, going from Madonna's Holiday to a really long Indian song (interestingly the French guys seemed to like this) and then to Gypsy Kings, it was a super fantastic evening. We moms were all giddy to have the night to cut loose. I don't have any pictures because when you smile really really big you get crazy eyes and double chins and no one needs to see that. We were really frickin' psyched to be out, 'kay? Of course when I got back at 2am Theo was puking and wide awake, what a welcome home!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Christmas spirit

Dude, is that a greenhouse out front!?

This person set up their tent a few months ago along the Place des Etats-Unis. He (I'm assuming) started to settle in by planting a little garden out front, charming! Now he is feeling the holiday spirit with some nice decorations, I love it! I imagine life for these folks is difficult and the fact that this individual has some cheer and a joie de vivre is very touching. At this point I hope he makes it through the cold winter.

The parents' association at Luke's school was selling these cute bags and towels with the names and drawings of the whole grand section. I proudly showed it to the Lukester and he says, "I'd didn't draw that," in a very nonchalant manner. Hmm, then who did? Luke says his teacher, suuuure buddy, and my name is Carla Bruni ;-)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Double fete weekend

Luke's school had their annual Christmas party on Saturday. It was a real feel good event. Packed with kids and their parents, there were games, food (huitres and wine anyone?), all sorts of goods to buy such as cashmere sweaters and books. All proceeds were for the school and the church. Everything was staffed by parent volunteers and the school administration, like I said a real feel good event. Luke got his hands on his first toy rifle. He got that mesmerized glassy look in his eyes, face void of expression, like when he saw the monster truck show back in Vermont. He nailed the target every time too. I'm not gun gal, but with two boys, I'm bracing myself for the inevitable fascination with them. We managed to leave with a new pet goldfish as well. He lives in our now defunct coffee pot.

Nice form, not than I condone it.

You're lucky we got that Nespresso machine, fishy.

On Sunday Luke went to his first birthday party in his new school. Apparently the whole class plus siblings plus siblings' friends were invited to the boy's apartment. We rolled up, along with a parade of other parents and kids, to one of the nicest addresses in Paris. I had a hard time keeping my mouth off the floor and my eyes in my head. There were a team of nannies and entertainers dressed up as all the Toy Story characters to greet us. Their entrance was as big as our living room, adorned with major works of art no less.

I'm Bahtmaan, Mommy.

Thanks for the balloon, bro!

I spotted who I thought was the dad and blurted out something like, "I'm the maman de Luke" as I vigorously shook his hand. He smiled politely and was off. I'm still not clear about how to handle meeting people/parents because it seems like no one really introduces themselves. No one else said hello besides one mom who did the bisoux. That means your tight when you do the double kisses, I've got that down. Parents were not invited to stay, however on returning to pick Luke up, the adults were drinking Cristal champagne, the kids were face painted and goody bagged. Very nice, very nice.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Flashbacks to the 70's and 80's not in a good way

To ring (pun intended) in the Christmas season, I took Luke and Theo for a stroll down the Champs late afternoon to see the lights and the rides by the holiday markets. I felt as if I'd been flung back into the 70's or some bad sci-fi movie. Au revoir traditional twinkling lights, bonjour or should I say bonsoir hula-hoop roller rink thingies (so bad I had to use the word thingies). I applaud the effort to save energy, from what I hear they are much more efficient. But please, to me Christmas means tradition and I don't like to mess with that too much. Bring back the pretty twinkling lights.

See that expression? Pretty crappy I agree Luke.

On the bright side, we found the giant slide and Luke was smiling ear to ear as he made his way down. He was practically halfway up before I finished paying the lady. Theo was pissed I couldn't take him this time but I know we'll be back in the coming weeks, we live a short walk away from all this fun.

Changing gears. There are some things you never forget such as, "if I touch that hot stove, I will get burnt." Well I learned a very important lesson the other day, "if you cut your hair after drinking wine, it will look f*%ked up." You would think I should have known this by now, or just known from common sense. I blame it on a, the wine, and, b, living in surroundings where common sense doesn't always dictate the way things are. For example common sense would mean that if your dog (especially a large breed dog) does their business in the middle of the sidewalk, you pick it up. If you are smoking a cigarette, you don't blow your smoke in the direction of children. You know, things like that.

Just right long bangs Hideous short puffy disobedient bangs

Luke circa 2009, those bangs nooot exactly straight

I have been cutting Luke and Theo's hair since they were very little with some good and bad results. Luckily no one has really noticed and I've gotten better with practice. I know my bangs will grow out in a few weeks, hopefully before Christmas. I'm debating whether or not I should tease them up and try to bring back 80's power bangs.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I'm turning Japanese, I think I'm turning Japanese I really think so

Signs you are turning FRENCH:

1. You think to yourself, "oh, I need to iron that before I put it away."
2. You open the windows and shutters for some "fresh air."
3. You say an obligatory "bonjour" before any questioning or conversation ensues.
4. You find yourself smiling less and less frequently.
5. You dole out chocolate bars and lollipops for snack time without batting an eye.

Still eating leftover turkey. Pot pie was a roaring success. I think it's going to be turkey with a Mexican twist tonight, ole!

Too much turrrrrkey, cannot stay awaaaake....

Monday, November 28, 2011

That's a big bird

On Saturday we survived celebrated our first Thanksgiving in Paris. First time without either of our families, first time with our French friends for their first Thanksgiving ever. Lots of firsts you can see. We rose early for a Saturday at 7:30am. There was A LOT to do and we weren't even cooking the bird.

In non-Thanksgiving news, we got a fancy Nespresso machine on Friday. Ever since I had a few cups with my friend Lorraine, I was hooked. Still figuring out how to make the perfect morning cup of coffee, but it is a major improvement from the crappy drip coffee we have been drinking for the last year.

The hubs ( I will refer to my husband as "hubs" from now on) went off to the marche to get the rest of the fixins' for the meal. He was determined to make creamed onions (barf) and I was determined to make brussel sprouts (yum). For the table setting, my inner Martha Stewart was on fire. I got crafty and painted little glass yogurt jars with everyone's name for the place settings. Hubs was a busy bee in the kitchen making his onions, stuffing, and mash potatoes. It quickly became clear that our kitchen could not hold all this Thanksgiving goodness. We had food all over the place. Stuffing? In Luke and Theo's room. Cranberry sauce? Living room, next to the stereo. Once hubs finished up, I had twenty minutes to make the hors d'oeuvres and a salad before our guests arrived, um scramble much? And of course they showed up right on time.

Ain't that purdy?

Made with my own two Martha hands.

Our French friends are fantastic. Very chill. They have two kids around the same age and everyone seems to get along great. Now that my French allows me to communicate more than spastically blurting out words like bien! oui! pourquoi pas! I don't feel like a total moron, I've upgraded to half moron status. If only they liked to drink large quantities of wine and champagne it would be a perfect match.

Hubs returned from the boucher with what looked like something the size of a small pterodactyl. I guess our pounds to kilos conversion was a taaaad bit off. We will be eating turkey until Christmas, but eh, I'd rather have too much turkey than too little. Turkey jerkey anyone?
I hope the buffet doesn't cave under the weight of that massive beast.

So we are finally sitting down to eat. They arrived at two and I think we started eating at four. Stomachs were grumbling. The kids are seated ready to dive in, and I offer them some milk to drink. *Record scratch*, silence...umm, non. Milk is for the morning only I learned. Otherwise water with lunch and dinner for kids. They were very gracious about it and everyone had a little milk and water, not together, gross. No biggie, but another interesting cultural difference.

Overall, I would give us a B+ for our first Thanksgiving in Paris. Great company, great food, next time we will have everything just a bit more pulled together, and more wine.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A guide on how to grocery shop avec les enfants in Paris

Step 1: Leave the children at home.

Ahh, if it were only that easy... Shopping with the kiddos is one of the things that I try avoid at all costs. It is chaos. This one is screaming because they want to drive the cart, that one is crashing into little old ladies. Mommy is acting like a frantic squirrel gathering nuts, trying to get outta there as fast as possible.

The thing that makes shopping with kids in Paris more intense is that the space is much more confined and it is usually more crowded. And don't think when you get to the caisse you are homefree. They do not help you bag your goods, they go right on to the next person in line creating more squirrel like activity from mom. While I'm frantically bagging les enfants are running out onto the sidewalk. Then you gotta haul that stuff back to your apartment. I have never appreciated driving to the grocery store more than I do now. Y'all don't know how good you have it!
Since we have been here about a year now, I have smartened up a bit. I use their delivery service, I try to go when I only have one kid in tow and when they are less crowded around 10-11am.

Happy Thanksgiving my fellow Americans! Just another day in Paris. We will be celebrating this weekend with our French friends. It will be their first Thanksgiving, our first one in Paris. I'll fill you in on that next week!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Time to run

From this morning's run.

Since Theo started l'halte garderie, I have had more time to run in the morning without having to wake up at the crack of dawn or limited to the weekends. It still amazes me that it is always dark when we wake up at 7/7:30am. We are on the first floor of our apartment building and don't get a ton of direct sunlight. The Champ de Mars is quickly becoming my running destination. It's about a ten minute jog from our place. I prefer it because I don't get held up at crosswalks, it is not very crowded, there are other runners and people to watch, AND of course the Eiffel Tower is gorgeous!
Cool and misty, perfect running conditions.

One morning I spotted a large group of buff and buzz cut fine looking French men running in my direction, my eyes were probably popping out of my head! As I finished up a lap I saw they were a fine group of Parisian firefighters!! Total Frenchie hotness. Maybe they will be back one of these mornings!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I could drink you up, Versailles

It doesn't get better than this, folks.

Visiting the Domaine de Marie-Antoinette and the Petit Trianon this weekend is probably one of my favorite things we have done in the area thus far. Seriously, I felt transformed having left the gritty streets of Paris, strolling the thousands of acres at Versailles. There were no lines, very few people, fresh air, beautiful gardens, beautiful buildings, the kids could zoom around on their bikes without me freaking out they are going to go into the road, I think I said "I want to stay here" about 20 times during our visit. You can actually rent a golf cart to get around the grounds, how fun! Poor Theo was so tired after all that biking and walking he passed out cold on the couch at 6:30pm!

That bike is the greatest thing we ever got you, Theo.

Ready, set, go!

In other news, I learned a very important French word this weekend. Couvert means place setting in French. Whenever I go pick up something to eat a emporter, they always ask est-ce que vous blah blah blah blah? To which I always respond, oui! And everytime I realize when I get home they are asking if I want plastic cutlery for my meal. Now I have a sh*tload of it and I can't bear to throw it out. It just feels wasteful. I guess that makes me a hoarder. It's worse, I will take it with me from a plane, anywhere. "I'll need it someday for a picnic," I convince myself. Now time to find ideas to repurpose it, for an art project or something.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Halloween Recap

Ready or not, here we come!

Halloween is one of those events I didn't think I'd really miss until we were here. The thought of not trick-or-treating in our Vermont neighborhood with all the other little kids and parents made me very nostalgic. I started planning early this year for costumes because I knew I would be making them, which I prefer to store bought anyways.

There better be candy people. I didn't dress like this for nuthin'.

All four of us went to the Message Halloween parade at the Jardin des Tuileries. The weather was great and the bonbons were plentiful. It was fun to see all the costumes and roam through the Tuileries in our full American costume glory.

Et moi? Et moi?

Theo was a French mime. I wasn't and still am not sure if it was funny "ha ha" or making fun of the French but it got some laughs. Luke got to choose his costume this year, sigh, a race car driver. In my opinion Halloween is an opportunity for parents to dress kids up in cute, funny, ridiculous get-ups for their own personal amusement. I'm going to push for one more year with Theo's costume, but after that I'm sure he will want to be a race car driver.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Great Mug Mystery

I don't like to make fun of peoples' accents in general, at least in a mean derogatory kind of way. I'm a big hypocrite because my French is so-so and anyone willing to talk to me in English is usually gratefully welcome.

We were on the train from Paris to Toulouse. Anyone who has been on the train knows that your conversation is for everyone else to hear. Especially when you are yelling and pacing the aisles. French grandma with her two grandsons were sitting a few aisles away when she gets on her cell and starts talking about her MUUUGs, like Uggs but lots of oomph on the "u." Back and forth and several phone calls about the status of her MUUUGS, "where are my muugs? why don't you know where my muugs are? I don't understand why I don't have my muugs." She was growing increasingly agitated, this went on for a good half hour. She got off at the first stop. We will never know if French grandma actually got her mugs or what she does with mugs. Who doesn't enjoy a good mug?

Every now and then one of us will say, "muuuugs!" and we have a little chuckle. It even has us contemplating our future pet dog "mugs." By future I mean five years from now. We like to plan ahead. Not really.

Toddler time = Mommy free time

Our youngest son Theo started L'Halte Garderie at the end of September and Mama is impressed. The facility is clean, lots of new (wooden to boot!) toys, an outdoor playground, and most importantly les educatrices are caring and professional. They have been able to accomodate extra mornings when the days he is supposed to go fall on a holiday. After the week of l'adaptation Theo is happy to go and play. They have said that he likes to fight with the other little boys, but that's just Theo. I swear he is going to be a linebacker one day. One interesting/odd thing, they are not allowed to call him by his nickname, Theo. They must call him by his full name Theoden. Anyhoo, this has been a great experience so far.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Starting school in Paris

Our oldest son Luke started school in February at the local Ecole Maternelle. As a mom and a natural born worrier, there were many things that I wasn't sure about. He came home the first few weeks not having understood much and not having any playmates. However he looked forward to going everyday and seemed happy in general. It only took a month or so before he started picking up the language and soon after making some friends.

On Monday he started a new school! We missed la rentree due to a wedding over the Labor Day weekend in the states. One down, one to go. Theo starts L'Halte Guarderie at the end of the month two mornings a week. More on that later.

I was a bit surprised by the full page of school supplies. He's five years old people. He needs brand name glue and tissues de bonne qualite. Hoping these folks aren't too high maintenance, they just know what works best. I did send him off with Casino brand tissues just to see if they would say anything. Yes, kind of lame I think this is funny.

Friday, August 5, 2011

On a plane tomorrow!

We are heading back to the states for August! Luke, Theo, and I are visiting family and going to the BEACH. I am just a little excited. I'm not even concerned about the fact I will be flying solo with these balls of energy across the Atlantic. We have been in Paris for ten months now and although we are feeling settled, there's no place like home. We've got soaps and sweets and foie gras for our friends and family. Too bad the macaroons don't stay fresh long enough for the trip.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Da Park

Living in an apartment we really depend on going to parks for our outdoor time. Coming from rural Vermont this has been one of the biggest adjustments. Today we went to the park at the Champ de Mars. It is always fun to go see the Eiffel Tower and more fun to people watch! The playset is all in the shade which is nice on a sunny and warm day like today. Our local hang, Place des Etats-Unis is also a great park, although it is smaller and can be really crowded during the school year. Plus we go there all the time, variety is a beautiful thing!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Paris Bucket List: One Bottle of GOOD Champagne a Month

In order to make sure we are tasting all the delicious bubbly while we are here in Paris, I thought it would be fun to make it a monthly goal. Every month we will make a delicious dinner and drink a new-to-us bottle of Champagne. There are so many distractions, actually just two of them named Luke and Theo :-), it has been difficult to get around to see and do all Paris has to offer, this should be a piece of cake! Tempus fugit! Cheers!

Madrid Train Station

I will start my blog about living in Paris with a post about the Madrid train station! There are so many things here that don't make a whole lot of sense to me, so maybe this is just right, hun hun? I used to have pet turtles and finding this in the Madrid train station was a real treat. They need a live turtle cam! I could have stayed for hours.