It's a lot of juggling when you run your own business and your household at the same time. I am lucky to have a wonderful husband who helps me a lot. Lately though he's been working late on an important project so that means the evening routine is all me. Evening routine consists of me leaving the tea house between 5:30pm and 6:30pm to pick up the kids from school. It makes for a long day for the kids but the after school program is fun and they get to play with their friends, Max espcially he spends the afternoon with his two very best friends. Anyway, I bike over to the school and pick up the kids. If I get them early around 5:30pm we usually head to the park and play for 30-45 minutes before heading home. Tonight, it was raining so we came straight home. The kids had time to destroy play in their room while I prepared dinner. Tonight's dinner was homemade pizza or as my kids afffectionately call "Jenny's Pizza". We had this pizza for the first while visiting our friends, Jenny & Olivier in Normandy this summer. Lucky for me, she is the one who taught me how to make bagels too. :) Tonight's pizza was thrown together with ingredients I had left over from last week's market run.
I didn't make my own crust. Remember this is an easy dinner so I use a premade pizza crust or pate à pizza. Herta is a really good brand. I like their pie crusts and their pizza crust is very tasty. I don't have a circular pan for circular crust so I buy their thick cut rectangular crust. I start by cooking the bacon bits or lardons. While the bacon is cooking I unroll the crusts onto cookie sheets. You don't need to grease your pans the crust comes rolled in parchement paper that you just unroll onto the cookie sheet. Easy! I let the crust sit while I prepare the fixins for the pizza. At this time I start to make the pizza sauce. This is probably the most labor intensive part of making the pizza. I cut half an onion and press two cloves of garlic and sauté it all together in olive oil until the onions are slightly translucent. Really hard work that smells awesome and at this point the kids always run to the kitchen and tell me over and over again how hungry they are. Your house will smell like bacon, onions and garlic. Three of my favorite smells.
Once the onions are translucent you will add the tomato sauce or coulis de tomates I really like the Panzani brand. It's really tasty and saves you time instead of reducing tomatoes down to make your own sauce. For two pizza you probably need 1/4 of a bottle. I used half a bottle because I make tomato sauce for another dinner later on this weekend. You let the coulis de tomates simmer with the onions, garlic and olive oil until it starts to reduce down. You will notice that it will get thicker and slightly lumpy. Season as you like. I use Knorr Secret d'arome which is a pretty handy mix of salt, pepper and herbs that taste lovely when mixed with tomato sauce. Again, remember this is easy tomato sauce. Easy is the name of the game here. I let it simmer for little while longer. Meanwhile, the bacon is probably done. I've been cooking for probably 15 minutes now. I turn off the heat off from the tomato sauce and remove the bacon from the burner. At this time I pre-heat the oven to 220° C.
Tonight I wanted to make cheezy crust with the pizza so I sprinkled a nice helping of gruyère on the crusts of the pizza. Then you spread the tomato sauce onto the crust. The key here is to only put enough on to thinly coat the crust. Two heaping soup spoons of sauce is enough. If you put too much sauce on there the pizza crust won't cook through in the middle. Then you add your fixins. Tonight I had on hand raw spinach and yellow tomatoes. I had left over grated mozzerella and I sprinkled that all over the place. Again, don't go too crazy on the cheese or else the middle of the pizza won't bake all the way through. Once done your pizza will look like this:
Bake the pizza for 13-15 minutes. My kitchen started to smell heavenly about five minutes in and the kids were back in the kitchen again asking when dinner was ready.
I think I baked my pizza about one minute too long but it still came out really well:
Check out that crust! It was amazing. Next time I will add more spinach! I wans't sure what the spinach was going to do in the oven as I had never baked spinach like this before. It baked beautifully and while I was eating dinner tonight I wished I had more spinach on the pizza. Alixe wasn't too keen on the spinach but Maximilien told me he wanted more spinach next time.
During the school week the kids need to be in bed by 8pm or else they are a wreck in the morning. Dinner needs to be done by 7:30pm so that we have enough time to brush our teeth, read a book or two and go to bed. Getting the kids to bed by 8pm leaves me the evening to finish tea house work or blog and watch a movie which is what I'm doing tonight. Yes!
If you live in France it will be easy for your find all ingredients at your local supermarket. What kind of easy pizza will you make?
Last Monday I was preparing Maximilien's birthday party when the Creche called Julien to tell him that Alixe was running a fever. They gave her doliprane (baby tylonol) and asked us to pick her up after her nap. I finished early and left a message with the director to call me as soon as she was awake because I was nearby and could come and get her. When I went to get her they gave me her daily report of Tres bien manger, Tres bien dormi, etc... except they thought she was a bit off. She fell off a chair from sitting position which they found strange but she didn't cry. I carried her over to the tea house to finish up the last minute decorations before Maximilien's party at 4:30pm. It was nearly 3pm when we arrived to the tea house. Alixe asked immediately to lay down. She told me she was tired. I made her a little area to lay on by the toys in the tea house. She layed on the floor playing and singing to herself. Obviously, she wasn't feeling good. I offered her water to drink which she took but only took very small sips each time. I had brought more Doliprane with me because I knew her next dose was coming up at 4:30pm. We blew up ballons together. She was too tired to get excited about them. It was about 4:10pm and I started to set up the table for gouter. She immediately told me she was hungry and wanted to have a snack. I set her up at the table and she started in on her pomme potes and she was singing to herself. I turned my back to fill gift bags when I noticed she wasn't singing anymore. I turned around to check on her and saw her hunched over with her chin on the table. I asked her what she was doing and went over to her then immediately realized she was having a seizure. Trying not to panick, I gently scooped her up and layed her down on the floor. I realized quickly what was happening and I tried to make her comfortable but then I saw her face turning blue. She was still seizing and now she was choking. I tried to open her mouth but it was nearly impossible because she was in mid seizure. I waited for the seizure to pass all the while watching the clock. One minute passed. Two minutes passed and I had to get her breathing again! I crammed my fingers into her mouth to get the bread out and turned her on her side and wacked her back and the rest of the bread came flying out of her mouth. She inhaled loudly and then went on seizing. It was a nightmare right before my eyes. She was drooling profusely and it was like some scene off of TV except right before my eyes. Now that she was breathing I picked her up, ran to the restaurant across the street and called for help. In that moment, I saw everyone on the packed terrasse take out their phones and call someone. Alixe by this time was still shaking. She had moments where her eyes were open but her eyes were rolled to the side and she was staring off into space. I called her name but she didn't respond. I was panicked and frantic. I could hear myself screaming.
The firemen were the first to arrive and swiftly took alixe from my arms and started to work on her. They reassured me that she was breathing and nothing was going to happen to her right now. I sobbed that my husband and son and his friends from school were arriving any minute and just as I finished my sentence I heard Maximilien's voice. Then I saw Julien and Max as they looked through the door way to see Alixe and I on the floor. Julien had to get Max and his friends to the tea house away from the commotion and I had to leave with Alixe in the ambulance. The separation was painful.
I felt the whole neighborhood stop in concern. These were the people who live and work around the tea house so they knew who I was. Shop owners from around the restaurant came over to see what was happening. Nanny and parents stood at the park gates right across the street from where the ambulance was parked. It was surreal.
We were rushed off to Necker, the children's specialized hospital in Paris. If you arrive to Necker in the ambulance you take priority over everyone else waiting to see a doctor. It was painful to see those parent's faces fall when they saw Alixe and I go ahead of them. I felt bad. I have been in that position where you're waiting and waiting to see a doctor.
Alixe was immediately stripped and given fluids to cool her down. The doctors came to check on her often and they throughly examned her to find out what had happened.
Alixe started to come around when we arrived to Necker. She started responding to m questions and looked me straight in the eye. This was a relief because I wasn't sure what had happened to her brain while she was out.
The doctor explained to me that Alixe had a convulsion hyperthermique or a febrile seizure. Her core body temperature had gotten too hot for her too fast and her body sort of shut down to deal with it. We have to be vigilant now when she gets fevers and continue fever treatments for a full 24 hours never waiting for her fever to manifest to giver her medication.
They ran tests on her to make sure she didn't have infections in her urine and did a blood sugar test to make sure she wasn't hyperglycemic. After it was all over, she was so tired she slept for 12 hours straight. I kept her home for nearly a week to keep her close to me.
The next day, we stopped at the park after picking up Maximilien from school and the nannies and parents came to see me. They were so nice asking about Alixe and saying that they were praying for us. Then a couple parents mentioned that the same thing happened to them recently as well! It seems it can be pretty common but I've never heard anyone mention it before. All I know is, I hope that it never happens again because it was the scariest moment of my life. I believe my gardian angel was there in the tea house in that moment when I thought I may lose Alixe. I can't even imagine what would have happened if we were at home and she had this seizure in her bedroom and I was in the kitchen! I would not have heard a thing.
The timing of it all was really incredible but in the end if we had cancelled Max's party of I had gone home instead of being at the tea house, I think the outcome really would have been different. I really think I would have lost her that day.
Whatever higher power is working here I am grateful. I try to focus on the good in things but I can't help feeling absolutely helpless in a situation like this. I had no control and that is incredibly scary. I have to focus on moving forward all the while remembering what I learned here and I hope to God that it never happens again.
I spent the morning with the kids while Julien did the bi-monthly run to Metro for L'OisiveThé. Maximilien has painting class on Saturday morning so while he's making art Alixe and I hang out and play. Since the weather has been cold and raining lately we have been staying inside and we read a lot of books.
Alixe loves books. Even ones without pictures. She loves turning the pages and it fascinated with how they are held together. She has ripped out her fair share of pages and she is learning like every two year old does that one must take care of their books. Luckily, at the Centre d'Animation where Max's painting class is there's a whole load of books that are new to Alixe so they keep her busy.
She's really started to become a much more social toddler. She will go up to people and see what they are doing. Today, she went and sat next to another parent while they were reading so she could listen to the story too. She also spent a lot of time siting on my lap cuddling me. I love this. She recently figured out how to give kisses instead of these went open mouthed stamps she'd leave on your cheek. It's quite possible the cutest thing I've seen all year. And she loves to kiss her Mama. As we were walking home we admired the decorations that are up in our neighborhood for Chinese New Year. We haven't gone to the parade in past years because it's rather noisy/scary with all the firecrackers but I think this year we'll give it a go.
I worked this afternoon at the tea house. The routine is Julien gets home from Metro and I usually run out the door to start my shift at 1pm. Lately, I've had rather heavy loads to take back and forth from home to the tea house. We've learned that our current bicycle isn't cutting it especially since most time we have a child strapped to the back.
Julien surprised me today with a new to me bicycle:
It's a bicycle the postmen use here in France. Apparently they retire them once they become too used. This one looks like an older model though the gear shifter looks brand new. Compare her to one I saw last summer (also this one is electric):
My bike had been refurbished and Julien found it on Le Bon Coin. This is the kind of bike I need. Something that can transport my precious cargo plus the extra stuff I tend to truck back and forth everyday. I have to say, it was love at first sight and how fitting that she's yellow.
She matches the yellow tea canisters at the tea house...
and the yellow mail boxes here in France...
And my kid's yellow raincoats...
and my newly knitted cowl. I'm really into yellow right now.
Doesn't my new bike look perfect parked outside l'OisiveThé? Gosh, I love her. Thank you, my dear sweet husband.
Here's my last Instagram of the day:
This is my first photo in my #growingitout2012 series with my glasses on. Looking forward to wearing them with long hair. The bobby pin has started making an appearance as my bangs are starting to get long and heavy. The thickness is coming back as my hair grows. I had forgotten how thick my hair is. Julien started making remarks that he has found my hair all over the apt. Oh, just you wait, Julien...
Julien and I went to Ikea tonight. Got a babysitter and everything so we could go child free. Talk about an exciting date night. Actually, it was a work trip to Ikea because we are preparing for a huge tradeshow in February where I hope to sell lots of yummy yarn from my shop to French knitters.
We have to build our stand from scratch so off to Ikea we went to get inexpensive storage for the yarn.
Here my husband said I look like a Playmobil toy. I didn't take offense to that. Not really.
We started to worry as we were in line to pay because we own the smallest car (not counting The Smart car) in France, The Twingo. And we didn't have the foresight to take the car seats out of our tiny vehicle. So here Julien was faced with a pretty complicated task. I just stood by and watched because deep down I knew he'd make it work. He always makes it work when it comes to packing the car except that one time he crushed my Nikon D200 and cracked the LCD screen when he packed my bag but I'm trying to forget that so let's get back to the story, shall we?
He doesn't look worried at all, does he?
And 15 minutes later... the car was packed perfectly without forcing one single thing. Quite possibly the most impressive thing I've seen all year. Way to start the year off, huh? When we were in the elevator in our apartment Julien told me that my hair sorta looked like a helmet and that reminded me that I needed to post another #growingitout2012 photo.
I'm not upset about the helmet comment because it really does look helmet-y. My hair is so thick so I am not surprised at all. I know when you are growing it out from this short of a length that trims are inevitable unless I am willing to sport a mullet which I am not okay with this. I think I can hold out a little longer before that first trim to help me on my way to #growingitout2012.
I found this cute little image on Pinterest via some Tumblr blog:
I've got it on my lock screen on my iPhone and it's been a great motivator for me not to think about getting my hair cut. My ultimate goal is number 7. I am currently at number 1 but not nearly as cute. Sigh.
We returned from Belle Ile and had a few days before getting back to work and Maximilien packing up to fly to visit his Grandpa to prolong our vacation and enjoy the emptiness of Paris.
We had lazy days of late breakfast at Breakfast in America and park play that took us right into naptime. It was bliss.
Then is was time for us to say goodbye to Max as he took the plane by himself for the first time to fly to Lyon to be picked up by his uncle and then a short road trip to his grandfather's house in Pontarlier.
Alixe and Max love each other. This is an undisputed fact. They also fight as many parents can relate to. Maximilien is patient and lets his sister play with almost all his toys but sometimes he is just plain tired of sharing which I can understand because his little sister is very demanding. When she doesn't get her way she screams. It's this stringent, high pitch sound that make your ears feel like they are bleeding. We love you, Alixe, but the screaming has got to stop! I think the screaming reached it's maximum level just before Maximilien left for grandpa's house. Julien and I were at our wits end. Then her brother left and se wasn't sure why she was screaming anymore. She screamed a lot the first day he was gone. I think it was just residual screaming she had built up and needed to let out. After 24 hours of only being with Mamma and Daddy. She started to talk! I would say that 75% of the words are Alixe speak we were just relieved the screaming had stopped.
Though, she was happy to have us all to herself, I know she missed Max especially at bedtime. She didn't like sleeping alone. We enjoyed taking Alixe out to dinner and realized one child at a restaurant is much easier than two. I give major respect to my parents who took all five of us out to dinner. That must have been crazy town. Alixe loved having all of our attention and I realize that it's very important she gets this kind of attention too.
We spent a quiet week at home. Going to the park everyday, twice a day. Taking naps together and Alixe discovered Sesame Street and she loves it!
I can't believe she is entering her last year at the Creche. She will be 21 months old tomorrow. I amazed at how fast these 20 months have gone by. I love this age. So much discovery. I can't wait to hear the stories she will tell me.
Here's a funny bit about Alixe. She's quiet the neat freak already. Her aunts Elizabeth and Erin will be thrilled to know she has the cleaning gene. She absolutely loves to clean. Pick up her toys. Do the dishes. Vaccum and mop. The apartment was exceptionally clean last week.
The return of Maximilien was dramatic. Alixe was so thrilled to see her brother that it was non stop hugs and kisses all evening. Alixe and Max even slept together in the same bed and for the first time in a week she slept until almost 9am when we had to wake her so she wouldn't be late for her first day back to the creche.
Alixe turned 18 months old yesterday. I can hardly believe it. I remember Maximilien turning 18 months old. I had just opened the tea house and was starting the wonderful adventure of owning my own business. But before I opened L'OisiveThé I was a stay at home mom. Everyday of my life was dedicated to Max. It seemed like ages between his first birthday and him turning 18 months old. With the birth of Alixe I was a full time working Mama. Juggling the tea house, Max, Alixe and everything else in-between I hardly have time to do anything else.
It's so hard not to have these feelings of missing out. I find that I fall into the same routine and before I know it it's weeks and weeks of the same 'ole same 'ole and my baby is no longer a baby but a toddler!
I look at baby photos of Alixe and luckily I remember so clearly those very early weeks.
I took the time tonight to really pay attention to details while I put the babes to bed. Switched off auto-mama-pilot and cherished every second. It's a hard time going to bed these days. Alixe is wanting a big girl bed but she isn't really ready for one. She isn't disciplined enough to stay in bed once we put her there. Ideally, I'd love for both kids to sleep together. And I know neither Max nor Alixe would be against the idea. Unfortunately, they play more than sleep. It keeps them up way past their bedtime.
Tonight, I took Max's mattress off his mini loft and heaved it to the floor. Immediately Alixe and Max crawled into bed together. The next hour and half was less fun for me. I listened over the baby monitor as Alixe proceeded to get up,several times and try to open the door. Then she started emptying toy chests and turning chairs over. All the while her brother laughing infectiously which encouraged her more. A few more visits from Mama and stern commands to go to bed. Tears shed by both children as they both protested sleep all the while I can hear them yawning loudly over the baby monitor.
The evening ended with Alixe calling to me, "Mamamamamamamamamama". I gravitate to their room as the call of my youngest is the a sure bet to get me come in. Alixe is holding her arms to me as I open the door. She lays down and pats the bed telling me so clearly that she wants me there. I lay half off the twin mattress on the floor while both my kids cuddled close to me. Both of them touching me while they drifted off to sleep.
I lay there feeling so motherly. My presence alone was enough to comfort them. The importance of mother never ceases to amaze me.
Thinking that both of them had drifted to sleep, I slowly rose to leave. Max's little hand shoots out from under the blanket in his last half asleep attempt to keep me close. I smile weakly and lay back down. With his eyes closed he whispers, "calin, Mommy" and I fold him into my arms.
These everyday moments are the ones I treasure the most. There will come a time when they will nor longer need Mommy to fall asleep. I have long resolved with myself that time for Mama will come later. I don't want to miss these little moments like these because I am busy wishing I had more time to do other things. The time for me will come before I know it.
Got kids sharing a room? What are your tricks to getting them to bed together in a timely manner?
Living in France now I get to celebrate Mother's day twice. The date for Mother's Day in the US and France differ by two weeks. A few days ago a bunch of my friend's profile photos on Facebook started changing all of sudden to show photos of their mothers. I thought I'd play along too. It was comforting to dig into my hard drive on my computer and into my archives on Flickr to find photos of Omma. This fall will mark 6 years since she passed away. Needless to say, though I type it here... I miss her everyday. I started by posting this photo of us taken in 2000 when she and my father came to visit me in France. At the time I was living there as a teaching assistant. I loved my life in France. Little did I know at the time that I'd be making my life here and someday marrying a Frenchman and having kids. I met Julien two days after this photo was taken.
I love this photo of her. We were so happy on this trip. I loved showing her where I lived and her hearing me speak French. She was so proud of me and didn't stop telling me the entire time she was in France.
I had scanned some photos of my mother and I when I was a baby. I scanned these photos way before Alixe was even a dream of ours. I had just had Max and we had just brought him back to the US for the first time. I found old photos of me as a baby and wanted to scan them to do comparisons of Maximilien and I. But I found that he looked NOTHING like me. He is the spitting image of his father. I kept these scans with distant hopes that I may someday have a daughter. And then I did...
The next photo I posted on Facebook was this one:
This was at my first birthday party. Look at how beautiful my mother was! I know for a fact that I did not feel and look as fresh as she does in this photo. My mother wore motherhood like it was in style everyday. I admire her for that and it reminds me to work to keep myself in shape. And there I am... one years old! Alixe is nearly the spitting image of me. ME!! Why did I ever doubt that she may not look like me. Same pouty mouth, the cheeks that you want to smoosh, the same little nose. I love seeing that she looks like me. It brings me unexplainable joy when I see her. Picking her up from a long day at the Créche and she holds her arms out to me and says in her cute little baby voice, "Ma Ma". I can't run to her fast enough to sweep her up into my arms. She is me.
I looked around for a photo of myself near Alixe's age now. She's just turned 17 months old. The next photo I posted was this one:
Look at my head! HUGE. I took Alixe to a wellness visit a couple weeks ago and the doctor says she growing very well but her head is off the charts! Ha ha. She's got the big Osbourn head. My friend, Sarah, even pointed out that Alixe sits exactly the way I am sitting in this photo and it's so true! And the lens cap in the hand! So classic. I have so many photos of Maximilien and Alixe with the lens cap in hand.
I have such fond memories of this house. Everything stayed the same until we moved out I believe. I remember the couch changing and the carpets but that was just as we moved.
I love this photo of my mother. In my mind she remains unchanged. Forever young. It is incredibly epic how much I miss her but somehow I have learned to live with this feeling. Unsettling yet normal now...
Maximilien looks at this photo and says, "it's halmoni and Alixe!" it makes me smile as I am filled with bittersweet emotions as he knows her and yet will never have the chance to really know her. For now, Alixe and I look at these photos and she points and says, "bébé".
I love being a mother. I always knew it was to be one of my roles in my life. Perhaps the most important role in my life. I can't imagine my life any different as it is today. Maximilien made me a mother. He taught me that there is so much more to my life. Then Alixe came along and she taught me that the love a mother has can be multiplied exponentially. I didn't know I could love these two kids as much as I do. And I believe I finally realize (in portion) what my Omma, a mother to five children, felt raising us. The joys, the frustrations, the pride, the hardships and THE LOVE. The love is the one thing I didn't really understand until I became a mother myself.
I am proud to be a mama to these guys:
And I couldn't have gotten where I am today without the love and support of my husband, Julien. Behind this Mama is a great Papa or as we say in our house, Daddy.
Rounding out our family to a happy four:
Happy Mother's Day to all the great Mamas celebrating in the US!