Friday, April 30, 2010

Ugh. Its been a Rough Day.

I went out last night with my French girlfriends for dinner at Cafe des Artistes in the 10th (lovely and definitely worth the hike over to that neighborhood) and had an awesome fun time. But I drank 3 glasses of wine which was just enough to make me cocky about getting home and into bed on time and so I didn't end up closing my eyes til 12:08. Which made Georgia's wake-up scream at 4:51 that much harder to take. Did you do that math? 4 hours and 43 minutes of sleep last night. Painful does not do justice to what I experienced this morning.

Of course, B (that ?ù%*?!) didn't go to bed before me and so he was even crankier about the noise which forced me to get up and deal with things for the entire hour that she sat in bed and groused about god knows what. Finally she had her bottle and squeaked only a tiny bit more before letting us sleep til 8:30 but then we had to jump from bed to get ready for our appointment at the Consulate at 10:30 to renew Ella's passport.

Did I mention that B was being cranky because he stayed up too late watching f-ing Cauet? And that, despite me mentioning this appointment several times over the past few weeks, he had FORGOTTEN about it? So this morning he had to leave early to run to work and sort out opening the shop. Which meant that rather than drive over, I was forced to carry Georgia (who is only adorably fat when she is walking on her own...) all the way there. AND I couldn't bring much in the way of entertainment for the girls because I was at my limit with the baby.

All of which made the 2 and a half hour wait that much more of a torture. Of course, it was easy to do all the documents and stuff but sitting there and amusing the girls for that long while horribly tired and slightly hungover was a true misery.

By the time I got home i knew that there was no way that little G and I were going to make it to our playdate. She needed a nap almost as desperately as me. So I cancelled, but I hate hate hate doing that, only today there was no choice.

I did manage to sleep for two hours before the screeching started again. A giant coffee helped get me through the rest of the afternoon but now I am drooping again and I have dinner and baths to do. I want to cry.

Luckily, my girls were totally worth it. Seriously, how many virgins do I have to kill to appease the gods and get a good nights' sleep?!!!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

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Beet juice

I had a bit of a fright the other day when I stepped on the scale the day after I was too lazy to cook dinner and had B bring home pizza. Apparently, pizza hates my skinny jeans. So, I freaked out and ran to Naturalia to stock up on healthy food. I even deigned to click on GOOP when my google search showed that there were lots of recipes on the site for detox juices. Desperate times, desperate measures, right?

SO this morning, I finally had all the ingredients in the fridge to make a mega healthy pitcher of goodness- Beet Apple Carrot Grenadine Juice. Looks gorgeous. Smells oddly like dirt. Tastes pretty good. Digestive track gave it 30 minutes and is currently in revolt. I feel like I am going to vomit. So I guess the detox part is right on the money.

Big question is, do I finish the pitcher or dump it? I am leaning towards drinking it, just because it cost so damn much to make.
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Ella's Big Girl Room

I've been busy this week trying to finish up Ella's new Big Girl Room. Obviously, the bed and the desk are the big changes but once they were in place, I realized that are are lots of little things that need tweaking to make the new room work. Of course, the girls already LOVE it- Ella spends hours sitting at her desk drawing and even Georgia has decided that she prefers playing in there to anywhere else in the house.

The things that I would still like to do are find a new chair that is a bit curvy and reuphulster it with the green fabric that I used on the window seat. I also need to paint the little set of drawers on the desk and do something with the cork frame before hanging it. In these pictures, you can't really see that the bit of wall at the end of Ella's bed is a blank space. Before I had a set of 9 framed Chinese flower prints (the crib bedding was an Asian flower design which I really liked and used as the theme in her nursery) hanging there. I am thinking that instead of hanging them back up, I would like to get a giant wall decal of a tree with birds, something like this. I have seen a few that I like and I think that they are adorable.

I love the raspberry linen duvet from Caravane. It cost a fortune but it is so soft and cuddly and the color! I knew that it would match the red in the green flower print on the window seat pillows. The big pillow that used to be in the rocker doesn't really work on the bed but I can't get rid of it! That print is what pulls everything together. i think that I might end up taking it apart and sewing some smaller throw pillows for the bed. Like I said, this is still a work in progress so I am still waiting for inspiration to strike.

On Ella's desk I got rid of the giant flower pot that I used to collect all her markers and crayons and scissors and bits and pieces and instead sorted them in three tea containers covered in origami paper that I found at Palace des Thes. I think that they are adorable and actually its been working great for keeping things organized. Rather than having to empty that giant pot to find something, ella just takes one of the containers at a time- markers or crayons or colored pencils.

The big vase of peonies looks so perfect sitting there that I wish I could have them all year round. I LOVE peonies. At my grandfather's hotel, there was an old, abandoned garden under some pine trees that no one took care of. The only thing that still grew was an old peony plant. Every spring, for a few weeks, it would be covered in giant white blossoms that smelled so strongly that I knew that plant was in blossom the moment I opened the car door. I used to fill the house with vases of those flowers- no one else seemed to notice them much at all, which I could never understand. I waited all year for those flowers. I have spent years trying to convince my mother to plant some in her garden and she refuses. She thinks that the plants are messy, since they end up all flopped over when the blooms get too heavy. I dream of the day when I have an actual yard of my own that I can fill with peonies. Until then, I guess I'll have to make do with bouquets like this one.

Like I said, Georgia has decided that she would rather play in this room than her own, which is such a bother because that means making an inspection every morning to make sure that the room has been baby-proofed. But the real issue is why won't Georgia play in her own room? Personally, I think it is because of the orange colored walls. Its a perfectly nice color and it feels so warm in there in the wintertime especially, but it just doesn't work for a child's room. I put my foot down the other day and said to B that the wallpaper has got to go. He can choose whether he wants to replace it with another wallpaper or with paint but the decision to change the color has been made. Of course he refused to answer, as he thinks that it is a stupid project and he doesn't want to change anything. I don't care anymore. I like it best when we agree but in this case, I've made a real effort to make it work and it doesn't. Now it has to go; the only thing is, I'm not sure I am quite capable of doing it all on my own and if he gets stubborn about this, I won't have any choice. Yikes. Do I dare?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Picnic in the tuileries

Yesterday was so lovely out and by some stroke of luck, I had a playgroup picnic to go to- it seems like Murphy's Law that if there is a gorgeous day, we end up scrambling around for something fun to do but pick any miserable cold day, and I am bound to have scheduled an afternoon of freezing my ass off on a park bench. Even more lucky, B had the day off so I kept Ella home from Centre de Loisirs and we all went to the Tuileries for lunch.

Its definitely still springtime- we originally put our blanket under the shade of a tree to keep the babies out of the sun. But it was icy in the shade! I was practically shivering before I had the sense to move the blanket over a few feet into the sun and there we stayed, for four hours. That morning, I started getting another one of these weird ocular migraines- I'm going to have to see the doctor about it soon, its so annoying- and so I couldn't run around to the shops to pick up some lunch like I had planned. I scrounged around in the fridge and finally ended up with a pretty decent lunch. I made David Lebovitz's Roast Chicken , a carrot salade with lemon and tahini sauce (which Ella, Georgia and B refused to touch...), a couscous salade, and cut up some vegetables. When we got there, the Paul stand was just nearby, so we even managed to have coffee and dessert. A perfect picnic lunch!

I had the girls dressed up so that I could take some nice photos, you can see how well that worked out. Georgia is such a grouch, it is unbelievable. Finally, I asked B if he wanted to take her for a walk in the stroller and since he had some errands to do in the neighborhood, he took her for about an hour and the rest of us could enjoy a bit of peace. Ella eventually grabbed the camera and snapped a bunch of shots. I left out all the close-ups of her eye; her shoes; several shots of a dog's behind; and the dirt. On the otherhand, I think she takes great portraits but she seems far more fascinated by these weird close-up shots of things like tree bark. Very arty. I guess that must be her French side.

When we got home, the babysitter was already at the house so we just dumped our dirty, tired children and headed straight out of the house for the evening. So nice. Being alone without the kids during the day always feels very decadent, especially when we don't have anything planned. We sat on a terrasse and had a drink; we window-shopped; I finally managed to convince B to fill up the car with useless junk from our cave and drop it off at the Emmaus in Charenton. That place is so weird- its squeezed in between brand-new buildings, Credit Foncier offices are across the street and Natexis offices are kitty-corner and the Emmaus building is this sketchy dump, behind rusted iron gates. Its so out of place and kind of scary. We got of the car and B said, 'Very smart, Nicole, carrying your Chanel bag.' as if he thought I would get mugged on the 5 meters between the car and the drop off gate. I don't think its as bad as that, but it does look bad compared to the neighbors. Still, we'll be back. I saw that they take baby stuff and books and it looks like any weird shit you feel like giving them. I am on a mission to get my cupboards cleared out.

We could have just gone straight out to drinks and dinner but it was just SO nice yesterday evening, that I decided that I wanted to change into a dress and heels. All winter, I end up going out in the same uniform of head-to-toe black, and it hardly seems worth the bother of dressing up when it is all covered with long coats and scarves. Last night, I didn't even need a jacket! I loved it. I could get used to this. Of course, as I dressed last night, I realized that my wardrobe is in dire need of an intervention. I have about 1 outfit that is suitable for polite company, the rest is only good for wrangling babies in the park. I swore that until I was absolutely 100% back to my pre-pregnancy size, I wouldn't do any shopping and I am hovering on the edges, but am not quite there. I really thought that the ten days of no wine (due to antibiotics) would push me over the edge. Up until now, I've resisted giving up my nightly glass of wine, but this forced me to do it. You know what? Nothing. I don't loose an 1 inch or an ounce. On the otherhand, hurrah. Who wants to give up wine? So, I have to find another way to get there.

Damn you, Muffin Top, and your tenacious grip on my ass.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Big girl bed


This week, I've been out of the house running around Paris trying to find all the bits and pieces to finish off Ella's new room. We got rid of her toddler bed and now she is officially in a Big Girl Bed, with a roll out bed underneath for when her friends come to stay (I have been BESEIGED by little girls begging for an invite every night when I go to collect Ella at Centre de Loisirs. Talk about buyers' remorse...)

I took this photo the first night, when Ella was soooo excited to get into bed that she was practically shaking. She loves her new bed. Loves it! But when I tucked her in and saw how little she looked it just about made me cry. I couldn't help but think about the first night, when she was just brand-new, and we tried to lay her in her crib but she looked so tiny and lost in that great big crib. Its such a shock to see the time pass like that. And to remember how it felt that night, wondering if we were awful parents, 'abandoning' our little baby in that room, in that great big bed, leaving her all alone. I now, 5 years later, she was cuddling up to me, whispering to me about how much she loved her new bed. When I see her so happy I realize all those worries about doing the right thing were so silly. We did everything great and now we have this gorgeous, happy, sweet little girl. I don't think that I could even imagine making it to this point. Just getting through the night, at the point, seemed like an insurmountable hurdle.

I want to say that this just gives me some perspective on things. But in fact, it doesn't really. That day feels like it was yesterday and I am in exactly the same spot, but at the same time, everything is so different and I feel a million miles from that moment. I can't believe that there was ever a time when we didn't have the girls taking up every minute of our day and every space in our heads.
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I scream, you scream, we all scream....


but not for ice cream. Just because.
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Sunny days


Lately, Georgia wakes up from her nap and by the time that I get in her room, she is already standing up and pointing to her coat. I give her her coat and with her eyes still half stuck shut, she stumbles to the front door, and bangs on it, calling out "Ma'am! Ma'am!" til I get my shoes and coat on, and we can go on a walk. I go in a different direction each afternoon, and we headed to the Jardins des Plantes yesterday. They don't have all the flowers in the ground yet, but the trees were all flowered out.

On the way home, I stopped on Ile St Louis to get Georgia her first ice cream cone. To say that she was underwhelmed would be overstating things. She wanted one, desperately, while we were in line. As each person walked past, licking their cone, she went crazy with the pointing and yelling. When I finally gave her a cone, she got this sort of confused look on her face. I tried to guide it to her lips but that just made her mad. So I snapped photos while she held the cone gingerly at arms distance, with a suspicious look on her face. So, not exactly frame-worthy. Then, while I put my camera back in my bag having admitted defeat, she turned the cone upside down and rubbed it on her coat. And this round goes to Georgia.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Cleaner

Georgia is currently in a 'cleaning' phase. How cute. She likes to pick up her toys and put them in the toybox. At dinner, when I ask her to wipe her face, her takes her napkin and sort of rubs it around her mouth. Very very sweet. If she gets her hands on a sponge, she walks around the house wiping things. And she likes to put things in the trashcan.

Things she has put in the trashcan this week, including but not limited to:

1. All of our coffee spoons.
2. My Carte Vitale
3. 7 euro in coins

I should be more clear. These are the things that I FOUND in the trash. I'm not quite sure how many missing items were deposited in the trash before I figured out her new game. Or how many things have sunk to the bottom of the bag and haven't been spotted.

She also has started 'tickling' us- she grabs your bare flesh with her two little paws and kneads it frantically, while giving this little machine-gun laugh. Thats your cue to laugh manically and yell 'Stop! Stop!'. It kind of hurts but its a much cheaper game than her other one.

And she maintains the fine balance between 'tear my hair out with frustration' and 'so cute I want to eat her up'. How does she do it?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bring me your tired, your hungry volcano refugees...

I've got my very own volcano refugee coming tonight! And it is none other than my partner in crime from my Parisian nanny year! So excited!! Am trying to quickly organize a brunch at mine for tomorrow with a bunch of our old school friends who live in Paris. I don't know if I can even get ahold of everyone, and between staying up late last night (honestly, what is with all the wild parties, Neighborhood?! I finally got the downstairs neighbors to fall into line and now its the kids who live in the building next door and install their DJ's speakers against our party wall. You know it was loud when two solid concrete walls are vibrating from the bass. I spent my remaining 4 hours of sleep dreaming of the quiet Wisconsin countryside.) and all the sickos in our house, its probably a terrible idea. BUT. But I haven't done anything but sit around and be miserable all week and I know it would be a great party and only I will really mind how absolutely filthy the house is. So I'm going for it. Knowing full well that I will be in panic mode from 11 til 12 tomorrow but hey! I am stocked up on steroids! Surely those athletes don't use them for nothing!

As an aside, I am so pumped up after I take one. I don't know if there is some sort of psychosymatic thing going on or if they are really giving me some very enjoyable side-effects. But I like it and I am using it.

Also find myself pondering the wisdom of taking two a day. Just as an experiment, of course...

You have to have heaps of sympathy for my little refugee, though. She was in Montenegro (she does consulting work for the UN and usually is in Kinshasa, so I can only imagine that this was supposed to be a quick stop before flying back to London) and just managed to sneak on a flight to Zurich before all the flights got cancelled. Her boyfriend, god bless him, got himself to Zurich and is driving her to Paris tonight and they will catch a ferry back to London tomorrow at 8 pm. They are missing out on a romantic night in London with dinner at a Michelin starred resto, so I am desperately phoning around trying to get her something similar in Paris, to make up for it, without much luck. Not quitting yet!

So wish me luck. Today, despite the lovely weather, is turning out to be hellish. The girls spent the morning discovering new ways to torment each other, and me. Lunch was worse than usual, between Georgia 'feeding herself' and Ella refusing to eat anything. For the third day in a row. I don't know what happened to get them playing so nicely for the last half hour so that I could write this and drink a nice (calming) cup of green tea, but I thank god for it. I was very much at my wits' end.

That is really one of the hard parts of parenthood- the erratic swings between complete and utter pleasure at the simple presence of your children and then 5 minutes later the exhausted scream of frustration as they push every single one of your buttons, in rapid succession.

Friday, April 16, 2010

So to recap yesterdays post- I thought that I was dying and was grateful that my lovely husband allowed me to wallow in my sickness in peace. But then! He quite wisely put his foot down and called SOS Medicines. When I am sick, I really only want to lay in bed and sleep. Sorting out a visit to the doctor is far and away the last thing on my mind. Thank goodness he was there to make the call. When the doctor showed up, he barely glanced in my throat before exclaiming, 'Good God! That must REALLY hurt!' and prescribed me a giant dose of Amoxicillin (sp? I'm too lazy to get up to go and look at the box... What? I'm still sick. I am) and a few days worth of steroids. My throat is still sore, but thank god for those steroid pills. Within a half hour of taking the first one, I was feeling human again. I slept like a baby and woke up full of energy. Which, thank goodness, because Ella is now home sick.

I may have to work on B a bit more re: the quickie vacation to the beach to celebrate the fact that his safe deposit box was, in fact, still safe.

Funny story. He went yesterday morning to the bank to check his box, having made an appointment with them last week. He took my little Canon Powershot with him and had spent the morning practicing taking sneaky photos, because he REALLY wanted photographic evidence (probably to drag out, along with the musty old story, at every bloody dinner party for the next 30 years...) of the fire. Imagine his dismay to arrive at the bank and see a brand-spanking-new vault. The paint was fresh, the carpet had just been installed, the lighting was high-voltage fluorescent. Even the boxes looked totally new, except for one which had been half-opened with some sort of torch and they apparently couldn't find a way to 'fix' before the visitors started arriving. He opened the box, in the presence of the bank employee, a huissier, a guard, a cleaning lady (huh?) and his father. As he stared to put it all the stuff in his briefcase, the bank employee started giving him the hard sell 'Oh, you aren't leaving your things? You know, you can leave your things. Its perfectly safe now! We've repaired everything.' etc etc. He told them that he would think about it. How different from two weeks ago when he went in to speak with them and they refused to even acknowledge that there had been a break-in. Not so chatty then, huh, little weasly bank man?

In a very small gesture of celebration, he gave me the money to go and buy the ballet tickets that I had looked at for next year. I kept warning him that it was very expensive (the exact figure changes based on a dozen different factors, like how many shows you are getting tickets for, which category, which 'bundle' you choose, things like that) and so when he asked for a figure I told him 'well, for one person, it would be around x amount.' He was a bit shocked and said, 'oh thats more expensive than I thought. Well, here's x+ 30 amount of euro.' And I had to point out that I would be buying tickets for me AND Ella, so he would need to give me twice as much. He took a big gulp of air, but he handed it over.

Well, of course he did. This poor daddy can deny his daughters nothing. Lord help us all, the day that they discover this!

OK- that was a rough 15 minutes. Georgia started banging on the door to go out to play. So I picked her up, only to discover that a poopy explosion had occurred. So I took her to the bedroom to change her. While I tried to maneuver the offending diaper into the trash, she wiped her hand across her still filthy ass. As I wiped off her hands, she kicked the paper towels off the table and they completely unrolled across the room. I finished wiping her butt to discover it was quite red. So I let her off the table to walk around a minute to dry the skin, while I rolled up the paper towels. When I turned back around, I saw that she had peed on the floor. So I UNrolled the paper towels and mopped it up. I put her on the table, got the tube of diaper cream and put some on her skin, then a diaper, then I looked in her cupboard for some new pants. When I turned back around, I saw that she had grabbed the diaper cream, taken off the lid, and wiped it across her shirt. So I got a new shirt as well. Just then my phone rang. The babysitter was ill and would not be coming today.

This kid. I am not going to detail the horrific torture that is mealtime, now that Mademoiselle has decided that she only wants to eat if she can feed herself. And even then, its 'Non!' for about 90% of what I offer. It is a lesson in perseverance and patience, let me tell you. I find myself spending my free moments fantasizing about these Wile E. Coyote scenarios wherein I drop an anvil on her head, or knock her out with a giant mallet. In my version, after the stars disappear, she sees the error of her screechy ways and starts to eat like a little angel, from a spoon that I have offered her filled with lovely nutritious food that will NOT give her fire butt.

People, a few years ago, I had a normal fantasy life like all of you. I am constantly reminding myself that these are 'the good ole days'. Enjoy them.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sick day(s)

I have not been this sick in years, quite honestly. It started with a sore throat a few days ago and by Tuesday night, I could barely lay still in bed because my entire body felt like it was covered in bruises, my joints ached, I was ice cold and couldn't stop shaking, and when I did manage to I drift off, I had crazy fever dreams. I woke up on Wednesday morning soaked with sweat but still shaking and told B that he was going to have deal with the kids on his own. There was no possible way for me to get out of bed. He is such a star. He took Ella to centre de loisirs and arranged for Georgia to spend the day at garderie. He went back and forth from work to fetch them and drop them off. Then he took them to park to give me some extra quiet time and fed them and put them to bed. All of this on top of getting up with Georgia all night long (for two nights). She was either sick as well or going through some sleep issue AGAIN so he was probably in there every hour.
I know that this is part of the job of being a parent, whether you are the mother or the father, but I just am so so grateful for everything that he did. Its hard being sick, but when I feel something coming on, I immediately stress out, thinking about how impossible it is to deal with the kids when I am not on top form. Its nice to be reminded that I'm not actually doing this on my own. Big gold star for B.
Also, the sad truth is that the only time that I manage to lose weight is when I am ill. I suppose it gives me a silver lining to look for when I am lying in bed, writhing in pain. On the other hand, maybe this is an indication that I have zero willpower and I might want to try working on that rather than having to lick My Little Petri Dishes every time my jeans get tight.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I spent yesterday burning through my To-Do list- although a last minute cancellation by the cleaner/babysitter sort of threw a spanner in the works. When will I learn- life with small children means that nothing, not even cleaning out a closet, goes smoothly. I really am baffled as to how someone who works full-time is able to keep on top of things. I'm here all day and school holidays are always sorted out about a week in advance, all my tickets are last minute, my closets are stuffed with clothes that fit no one, I have boxes of stuff for Emmaus stacked up next to the door for weeks at time, there are currently 452 unread messages in my Inbox (most of which seem to from JCrew offering me free shipping...) and I haven't filed away my Important Papers (instead they are stuffed unopened in a drawer) in over a year. Granted, I waste a lot of time over the course of the day, but not enough to fit in a job. I know, I know. The busier you are, the more you get done. One of life's great mysteries.

Georgia continues to tormet us with sleep issues. We had a great week of quiet nights when she would lay down at 8 pm and wake at 6 am for a bottle, giving us another hour and a half of calm before waking with Ella at 7:30. I would LOVE to be able to sleep til 8 in the morning but I have come to grips with the idea that it will never happen. Besides, don't they always say that you can accomplish so much more when you get up early in the morning? I am stll waiting for that miracle to happen. In the meantime, I'm sort of like the commercial for the chicory cafe that is running on TV right now where the bear gets out of bed and only turns human once he has had his steaming cup of coffee. I'm getting to the point where I can deal. But THEN we went to the country and Georgia couldn't sleep in the cot that she had and woke us up hourly. Thank god for my dear husband who sent me into the other bedroom to sleep, knowing that there was no way that I would survive the weekend with his family if I had a sleep deficit as well. Things seem sorted out once we got home and then the night Sunday to Monday was just like old times. A shout out at midnight, a squeak at 1 am and then hourly wake-up calls at 4, 5, and 6 with a final hysterical meltdown at 6:50 (the meltdown was me and B, just to be clear...) But when Ella came home from school crying about a sore ear, it all sort of made sense. Georgia must have been suffering from the same thing. With everyone doped up on Doliprane and decongestants, we had a full night's sleep last night. Lets hope thats the end of it. Earaches are the worst.

One of the things I managed to cross off my list yesterday was 'Buy tickets to the US for summer vacay.' I hadn't really decided what to do for the summer. B and I tossed around the idea of me coming back to France the beginning of August so that we could fly together which would have been convenient. BUT, he will be working non-stop in August and no one else will be around and I just dreaded the amount of organization it would take to keep the girls occupied. Finally, I just typed in two dates, randomly, and there were seats available on the direct flight so the decision was made. We'll be coming back on the 15th of August, which gives us a week or so to go to the country to see B's family and plenty of time to get sorted for school, but it cuts our summer in WI down to 7 weeks, from 10 weeks last year. The time goes so fast that I hope I don't regret this.

As I was filling in the info to book the tickets I realized with a horrible panic that Ella's passport has expired. Thank god that they make you put the info with the purchase or I might not have remembered until we were literally checking in at the airport. I immediately went to the US Embassy website and sorted out a rdv for renewing it. Now I have to try and remember to get proper photos done. I don't know where or how B did the photos for her French passport, but Ella looks like the Littlest Prisoner on Death Row, complete with hopeless, lifeless stare, knotted hair sticking up on oneside, dirty sweater buttoned wrong, I think she might also have food on her face. Honestly, I have to scan it for you it is just so horribly bad (I pasted the extra copies in her photo album. This is something that will definitely come in handy some point down the road). I don't need a glamour shot (although suddenly, I'm thinking that it would be a little awesome to have her wearing mascara, lipstick and a bouffant in her passport photo!!), I do want something a little less mug shot. By the way, when did passports go up in price to 83 USD?! It seems like between me and the girls, I am ordering new passports every couple years and its always a new, and higher, price. When your passport costs more than any ticket on the Ryanair website, it seems like it might be too expensive.

And I probably lost 30 minutes yesterday searching for her social security card, since I never noted down the number ANYWHERE. Smart, Nicole. My dad is always telling me to destroy my card! before it gets stolen! and used for evil!! But I feel like that is a bit, I don't know, tempting Fate? I KNOW that I will suffer permenant brain damage the day after I burn it and will never ever again know what my number is. Further evidence that I have been living out of the US for too long, I don't ever remember my number and I don't what to do if I loose it. I don't actually know what I am supposed to be using it for, although I am always reading about when you should refuse to give out your number. Oh, my head hurts.

Despite lacking my sitter, I decided that I would make a cake with Ella and Georgia. I mean, the house couldn't possibly get any dirtier so why not just roll with it. I put Georgia up in her high chair right next to us and Ella and I made a Strawberry Rhubarb Cake that turned out fantastic! Rhubarb tastes like spring, to me. And its pink! I don't know what is going on- I let Ella talk me into buying three bouquets of pink roses this weekend and then cooing over the compote. Maybe there is to much estrogen in this house?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Eat your greens

I am on my eternal quest to discover the secret to the juice recipe at the Spa at George V. On Thursday, I tried out 5 kiwis + 1 cucumber (minus what the girls begged off me first) + 3 Granny Smith + a bowl of seedless green grapes. Close, but not quite. I think I need less kiwi and just a bit of mint. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get my juicer to effectivly juice a bunch of leaves- I end up with about 2 spoons of liquid for 3 euro worth of mint and 40 minutes of clean-up. Not what I would call a great return on investment. I'm thinking of throwing in the towel on this one and just buying a bottle of mint syrup. Even a sub-par juice is still excellent, though. I could live on this stuff.

That night, I was clearly energized by the jug of green juice that I had inhaled earlier in the day and I whipped up one of my favorite dinners from my Joel Rebouchon cookbook, Saumon au Choux Poelé. The cabbage is blanched and then sauteed in butter with a bit of cream. I actually prefer to poach the salmon since I can't stand how the smell of fried salmon lingers for days, so I deviate slightly from the recipe. All of it is served with a generous drizzle of beurre blanc. I follow the instructions to the letter when it says 8 tbsp of butter in the sauce. Very naughty but so worth it. Georgia loved this so much that she was trying to swat me in the head whenever I got distracted between serving her bites and she had to wait. Ella, naturally, moaned like a dying walrus when I said that she had to eat the 'salade' but did actually clean her plate which is a rare occurance. I'll take that as her stamp of approval. Poor B had to eat his cold but he said it was still good.

This is not a meal to get me ready for bikini season, but then I have time. We had good news from the bank regarding the break-in (to be confirmed...) but rather than celebrate with a vacation to the Spanish coast like I had been suggesting, we are probably going to use our savings for an investment. Yawn.

This business about being old and responsible is such a bore.

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Wisconsin Town Elects 19-Year-Old Mayor!

Wisconsin Town Elects 19-Year-Old Mayor!

Just when B was starting to warm up to the idea of moving back to Wisconsin, we stumble across this on the internet. I'm not sure he considers this a reassuring sign. I don't know- I think it is kind of cool.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Life List

Last night I had a hard time falling to sleep- I blame it all on those f*&é"' Kardashians. I was so much better off when we didn't get the E! Channel but French tv is so bad that it makes this stuff look entertaining and suddenly it is 11 pm and I am up past my bedtime wondering if Khloe Kardashian was actually born with a cleft palate and if Scott Disick is the gayest baby daddy I've ever seen. Seriously, sitting through a thirty minute show will lower my IQ by atleast 50 points. Anyways- so I started trying to pull together my Life List, which is much better use of brain space.

Before I forget all the good ideas that I had, I want to post them here. This is definitely a rough draft of The Life List, but its a good start, I think. In no particular order:

1. Plant a flower garden.
2. Hike to Machu Picchu
3. Sail to the Galapagos Islands
4. Go on a shark dive
5. Dive in the Komodo Reserve in Indonesia
6. Frame and hang on my wall a photo that I took
7. Throw an enormous surprise party for someone I love
8. Make an impact (either through my actions or a large financial endowment) on a charity
9. Go in the thermal baths in Iceland
10. Take a surfing lesson
11. Do a zipline in the jungle
12. Do a real safari
13. Make a batch of jam
14. Knit myself a sweater
15. Write a book about my childhood
16. Give a speech at a conference
17. Learn to speak Italian
18. Audit the art history class at the Louvre
19. Do a cooking class with Cordon Bleu
20 Go on a yoga retreat in India
21. See a glacier
22. Scan all the old family photos and give a CD to each of my family members
23. Be up-to-date on all my doctor visits
24. Have my wardrobe sorted out by a professional
25. Embroider my monogram on something
26. Find or have someone take a photo of me that I LOVE
27. Have a library of all the books that I truly love in hard cover
28. Organize a vacation with all my best girlfriends
29. Teach my daughters to cook my signature recipes
30. Make a real difference and improvement in a child's life
31. Go skiing in Switzerland
32. Swim with dolphins
33. See the pyramids in Eygpt
34. Go on a gondola ride in Venice
35. Drive a really fast car
36. Walk on the Great Wall of China
37. Take a road trip across the US
38. Do a silent retreat at convent or monastary
39. Buy a stock on my own with my own money
40. Ride a camel in the desert
41.Visit Tokyo
41. Make ice cream with my kids
42. Rent a helium tank use it to fill hundreds of balloons for a party and the rest for making our voices squeaky
43. Climb one of the major mountains in the world
44. Ride a parade float
45. Take piano lessons again until I can play a song that I love
46. Drink a glass of local wine in each of the top 10 winemaking countries of the world. The countries are Italy, France, Spain, Australia, Chile, United States, Germany, Argentina, Portugal and South Africa
47. Learn how to juggle
48. Build a house with Habitat for Humanity
49. Take a trapeze lesson
50. Eat caviar
51. Take the girls to Disney Land and get a photo of their faces (pure joy) as the characters go to hug them.
52. Surprise someone with the gift that they always dreamed of
53. Volunteer at a soup kitchen on Christmas or another special holiday
54. Try glass blowing
55. Visit Murano
56. Buy a piece by Toso & Barovier
57. Dive at the Great Barrier Reef
58. Host an exchange student
59. Buy a piece of vintage clothing that I look great in and that my daughters lust after.
60. Dance the merengue in Venezuela
61. Take a ride in a helicopter
62. Organize a candlelit party in the park, overlooking the Seine

I would love to have a list of 100 things, so I'm going to keep thinking. Maybe the best part so far about making the list is that I realize how much living I've already done. I've been going through other people's lists, for inspiration, and I'm shocked at how many items I've already done and it does remind me that while I might often feel like I do nothing but sit home and take care of babies, its far from the truth. I've travelled to places that I've dreamed about like Rome and Rio. I've mastered lots of skills like knitting and sewing since I am at home. I've pushed myself to do things like host Thanksgiving or learn a foreigh language. I've made the effort to find time to do things that are important to me, like put together photo albums for my family and throw parties so that I can invite everyone I love.

One of the things that I thought about after my grandfather died in February is how he had such an inspiring way of doing and not talking. He was a great example of someone who just tried things. People talked about him being an eternal student- his whole life, he never stopped trying to learn- but I think that part about him doing things was even more importaint. I remember when I was about 12 and I wanted to help in the kitchen. He would tell me to just do it, stop looking at cookbooks and asking questions, and make something. When I made a TERRIBLE lemon meringue pie one day, he just laughed and threw it in the trash and asked me what I would be trying out the next day. I'm sure he never realized what a huge lesson he was teaching me that day, but its something that has stuck with me ever since. Its so important to go through life with an adventurous attitude and just try things out without worrying what might go wrong. I'm just starting to realize how important that is.

I was thinking that I should be an item on my list 'Teach my children to be adventurers' but it would be redundant. If I do everything on my list, they will learn that automatically.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

We just got back from the Opera Bastille and I wanted to quickly post on the spectacle that we saw. It was called and it was a dance spectacle just as much fun as the last show that we saw. I bumped into a friend of mine with her son, as we were searching for a seat. Last time, we arrived early and they didn't open the doors until the exact time of the show, so naturally, rather than stand around in the drafty lobby for 30 minutes, Ella and I went shopping (at a shop on rue Turenne called Troizenfants, so I think that we have E's spring wardrobe sorted. Everything there is soooo cute.) and popped in at 5 to. When all the seats were all ready taken. Oops. Luckily, my girlfriend managed to make room for us right in the front in the middle of the auditorium so it worked out.

It was a show that was described as 'Hip-hop' in the program, but was really eclectic as far as music- there was a bit of rap, there was quite a bit of classical music, a few jazzy old-timey things (I am a real music afficionado, if you can't tell). The dancing was more just modern dance than strictly hip-hop although there was a lot of street-style and it was really cool. The dancers were all young guys and they did stunts and tumbling, that were super impressive. It was very very poetic and some parts were just funny, so that you could little giggles bursting out all over the auditorium. It was a show listed as appropriate for 8 years and older, but I don't know that the younger kids missed out on much. It was slightly long for them at an hour and a half, and Ella got a bit antsy for the last few bits. There was also a bit of commentary that was a sort of difficult to understand due to the music and I think that I even missed out on exactly what political message that they were trying to get across (again, I am not French enough for alot of this high culture...). I am really impressed by whoever organizes the Jeune Public shows. They strike the perfect balance between fun and accessible and educational. I love it. I will absolutely be taking my kids to everything that I can get tickets to- which I ought to do, since it is practically on our doorstep.

The Egg Hunt

We dashed outside in between the rain clouds and had 30 perfect minutes of Spring weather for the girls to hunt for chocolates in the flower beds.
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And if at first you don't succeed

try, try again.

I always tend to like the rejected photos better than the 'final shot'. (Yes, the middle photo is a shot of Georgia throwing her boiled decorated Easter egg on the tile floor. No, I am afraid to say that the egg did not survive...)
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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Family time

Good lord. What a weekend. I think that the girls had a great time, atleast. B and I, on the otherhand, are ready for the sanatorium. The traffic was horrific, for a start, and Georgia is no good in the car which makes for a hellish voyage, no matter what. The weather kept us more or less trapped in the house, because if you dared skip out into the sunshine, the rain was sure to appear 30 seconds later. We missed ¾ of Easter Mass because not only did no one actually check the church schedule, pretty much assuring us problems, but both the time AND the locale was different from normal. Oh well, atleast that meant no wiggly kids to deal with. Church ended before we got to that point. There was no internet at the country house, which was a shock to my system. I really could have used an escape mechanism over the last few days. I suppose it really isn’t any wonder that I got into rather shouty discussions (OK, one of them was an out and out fight) with two members of the stepfamily. I was still having stress dreams about it all last night. Hmm. The only good thing to come out of it all? I will no longer be even a teensy tiny bit guilty about spending every Christmas in the States. Its one thing to have a rather miserable Easter holiday but I will not let these lunatics wreck Christmas.

But there were good things too, so let me make a list to remind myself to not be so whiny:

1. I downloaded The Blind Side on to my laptop and we LOVED it. It was a good film and it made you think and it made me grateful for what I’ve got. I suppose more to the point, it made me feel that rather than worrying about my ‘career’ I should be more worried about what exactly I’m doing to make the world a better place.

2. The girls looked adorable in their Easter dresses and I got some great shots.

3. The Easter egg hunt was a big hit and so were the baskets.

4. My MIL liked the coffee cups! (but she sent the mugs home with me. I’ll never figure this woman out.)

5. It was nice to be out of the city and the apartment to enjoy a bit of space and fresh air.

6. We ate one fantastic meal after another and I didn’t have to cook a single one. Heaven.

And actually, if I’m honest, it does feel good to finally stand up and tell off someone who has been asking for it for ages because he finally steps so far over the line. I would love to tell the whole story here, but I am going to give it a bit more of a think first. I appreciate family harmony as much as the next guy- hey, probably even more because I have a huge family that spends lots and lots of time together. I will never understand people who find it easier to go out of their way to be jerks, rather than just be nice. I’m always telling the girls, ‘Just, be nice.’ Maybe that’s not such a trite thing to say. Its actually great advice. You don’t have to knock yourself out doing amazing things or being brilliantly entertaining. Just, be nice and people will like to have you around. It is that simple.
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Friday, April 02, 2010

Last minute

So, B announced rather late last night that I should probably cancel our dinner reservation for Friday night. Why? I asked, confused. Because, he answered me, it will probably be better to leave Friday night since they said on the news that the traffic was predicted to be Rouge on Saturday (rouge=red=hours sitting in standstill traffic to try and leave Paris=screamy babies for many more hours than I can handle).

So it was decided. I thought we would leave when he got home from work at 7:30 but he cleared that up this morning when he asked me to get Ella from school at noon so that we could leave at 3. This means that I have about 4 hours to squeeze in a full day's worth of preparations. So clearly blogging is the best use of my time... I know I know, stupid. But I think I am in denial.

I am just trying to pretend that there is no stress. Georgia spent the last hour bringing me books and sitting on my lap, making me read them over and over again (hence the photo. Ella took that the other day. I asked her to get a shot of me and Georgia and I ended up with a bunch of lovely photos of the book cover. Oh well. You get the idea.)

She has just laid down for a nap. I have an hour and half to perform miracles. I guess since it is Easter weekend, that is sort of the theme, right?

Happy Easter, everyone. May you get lots of chocolate and not be required by the resident 5 year-old sceptic to explain exactly how a rabbit managed to get it all to your house. Google to the rescue?
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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Easter's on its way

So, I think I finally have the finish line in site, regarding all my Easter projects. A quick rundown:

1. I finished decorating the girls' Easter baskets. I had to make one from scratch for Georgia, since last year I didn't bother to do anything. I found the basket at the quincallerie on rue des Ecoles last week and popped up to Rougier et Plé on Monday to pick up some crepe paper to make the flowers. I spread everything out on the dining room table( crepe paper, wire, florist tape, yarn, beads, and my green Happy Tape) and have been knocking out a few flowers every time I get a few quiet moments. I think that they turned out so well! I made daisies, lilies, clematis, forget-me-nots, a sort of hyacinth/lilac thing, and tulips plus some regular generic sort of flowers. After I got Ella's basket out of the cave, I thought it looked a bit scruffy next to Georgia's so I spruced it up a bit with some new things. Now, the next big hurdle will be transporting them to the country this weekend (and back again) without having them completely destroyed. It was hard to get everything well attached to the baskets without a glue gun. I guess that is the next item on my craft shopping list. Just when I think that I have every possible tool any crafter could ever need or use, up pops something like this and I wonder how I managed for so long without getting one. Yeah, so I may have to confiscate this basket from Georgia the Hun as soon as she finds it on Easter morning so that I can keep it safe til I can do it right.

2. We dyed Easter Eggs. I think that they turned out beautifully despite the fact that I had to improvise with gel food coloring, which wasn't all that easy to do. On Tuesday, I had to walk up Blvd Beaumarchais on my way to the craft store and I passed in front of a Franprix. I remembered that I was completely out of diapers and so I took advantage and popped in to pick some up. While wandering around I stumbled upon a stack of white eggs! Now, you non-Parisians will think that this is no big deal but here in Paris all the eggs for sale in 99% of the shops are brown eggs, which are not fun to try and dye. There are years when I have gone into a dozen different grocery stores and chased up leads from all my girlfriends only to come up empty handed. So really, this was a stroke of luck. I was also excited about doing them since my friend Hestor brought us an egg decorating kit from Holland. If only I had read the directions BEFORE starting the job. To get the plastic bands to shrink to teh egg, you dip them in boiling water. Ella had already dyed the eggs but most of the color came off in the boiling water, as you'd expect. I was all ready to drag out the dyes a second time, but then I had a lightbulb moment. I realized that Ella was happy; no one else cared the least little bit how brightly our eggs were colore; maybe, just maybe, I could let it go? And I did. People, this is huge.

3. I have a basket ready for to be planted with spring flowers to give to my mother-in-law as a sort of centerpiece. I also stumbled across a store in the 11th called Le Fiacre which had a ton of stuff for Easter- baskets, stickers, cards, gift bags, towels, etc. I bought some stickers for Ella to put in her basket as stickers are always always always a winner with her. A also managed to find some really nice little English coffee cups for my MIL. Last time we were at her house, she broke nearly everyone she had in some freak dishwashing accident. I also got some mugs as I hate having espresso in the morning and I HATE drinking cafe au lait from a bowl. I will never be that French. I am hoping that the present of something that she needs will win her over and she will accept the mugs (under normal circumstances, she would just open the box and then hand it back to me, saying, 'Keep them, I don't like them.' She is nothing if not blunt.) We shall see.

4.The girls have matching yellow dresses. Georgia will be wearing the one Ella had when she was 1 and Ella will be wearing a really pretty little sun dress from Chloe that I found at Fifi de Vem. How funny that the last three items of clothing that I bought Ella have all been Chloe. I never thought that it would be my go-to brand for dressing my kids but what can you do? The children's line of clothing is To Die For.

5. I have my closet packed with chocolate treats for the girls but I am a bit miffed at Georgia. The other day I popped into one of my fav chocolate shops, just off the Place des Vosges and bought a few bags of friture for me and B. As we left the shop, it started to rain and so I ran home, not paying very close attention to Georgia in teh stroller. I should learn my lesson. I got in the door and she was missing a shoe (she is the middle of a stage of taking them off and then immediately screaming for them to be put back on. We can do this a hundred times in a row and she does not get bored.) So I had to grab and umbrella and go back out to find her damn shoe. Then I went back into the apartment and unloaded all my bags from the pousette, only to find that the bag from the chocolate shop? It was empty. The sales girl had given Georgia a sample - which she inhaled- and then she kept pointing to the sack and saying 'Num-num? Num-num?' which is her word for 'feed me!'. I didn't think she needed another piece and obviously I should have learned by now that if there is one thing that will motivate Georgia, it is food. By the time I discovered the empty bag it was pouring rain outside and I was done. So I may go and get something else or I may just call it Fate's way of reminding me that I am on a diet.