So let's talk about the end of 2012 for a bit...
Besides I'm sick and there isn't really anything interesting happening right now. We had a pretty mellow evening with friends and our kids. Ate a lot and slept in the next day. The rest of 2013 has been spent in our PJs and hibernating during the last days of the vacances scolaires before going back to regular life next week.
In the midst of all the excitement for the end of 2012 I forgot to share Maximilien's letter to santa this year. He is particularly excited about Christmas this year. He truly believes in Santa and Julien and I are helping keep this belief alive. Who knows what will happen next year when he starts CP.
He is learning cursive writing this year in grande section. He loves writing and takes every opportunity to write and practice his penmanship. He is pretty proud that he has the longest name in his class this year but is finding it hard to fit his entire name on the small lines they give to write on when he has to write his name on his class work. He definitely goes by Maximilien these days only his family can call him Max.
We spent Christmas eve with Julien's mother in Nanterre. It was nice to see Julien's brothers again and the kids really enjoy their uncles though they are consistently mixing up their names, Benjamin and Lorin. After a while it was a huge joke and they were doing it on purpose.
It really struck me this year how big Alixe is getting. Last year at Christmas we had put her to bed early because she was too tired to stay up late to open presents on Christmas Eve. But this year she was partying with us all the way until midnight and beyond...
I am realizing that there aren't any babies in my house anymore. I sort of find myself fantisizing about having another baby. There aren't any other children in Julien's family for the moment and when they come Alixe and Maximilien will be much older. I am grateful for friends who have kids the same age as Max and Alixe. I hope we will be able to get together more often this year.
These two are so fun together and sometimes they are a real pain. They fight and they make up and in all honesty, I can't imagine it any other way. It's nice to hear from a friend that her kids act the same way. Alixe has really grown up a lot this year. She started talking up a storm once school started and it's really helped with her temperament. Maximilien is still my sweet boy. The after school assistants at school have told me that over the last three years they have seen a wonderful transistion from each school year and they think he's a joy to be around. Warms my heart.
After spending Christmas eve and Christmas day in Paris we piled into my brother in law's car and drove to Pontarlier to visit Julien's father. We had a feast of oysters (which I don't eat) and foie gras and I went to bed with a full stomach and then got up and took the train back to Paris to work on something fun with a friend visiting from Montréal. I was sad to leave Julien and the kids but glad to be off working on my own on something other than tea house business for once. It's nice to change it up a little...
Julien snapped this through the window of the TGV from Frasne to Paris. Now that I have longer hair I can wear hats again!
I've started compiling photos to make yearbooks for the kids. I plan to give them each a yearbook at Christmas this year with the activities we did over the year. Maximilien and Alixe absolutely love looking at photos of themselves. Seriously, if I want them to sit still for a little while I set up the slideshow on Flickr and I have peace and quiet while I make dinner. It's great. Tonight, I set up the slideshow to our summer vacation in Holland and Normandy.
This summer was the first summer vacation where we did not go to Belle Ile en Mer. Belle Ile is a small island off the coast of Brittany. If you find Quiberon on the map and go a little farther out you'll see Belle Ile. Julien has been going to this island with his family for over thirty years. When we started dating the first summer we spent together he took me to Belle Ile. It is a magical place. The island is sparsly inhabited though Julien's grandmother lived there permantly after her retirement. Photos of past trips to Belle Ile can be seen here and here and here. Last Christmas was Our last trip to Belle Ile. I absolutely love this place during "hors saison". You would think going to the ocean in the winter time wouldn't be very fun but it's an amazing place. The island is empty and it's isn't cold at all. We enjoyed the beach in a different way, wearing our boots and rain coats.
Since we didn't go to Belle Ile we decided we wanted to do something different. We rented an RV or in French it is called a camping car and decided to drive north! It was fairly easy to procure said camping car and I have to say that I didn't pack very well for the trip. We ended up forgetting a lot of essential things and didn't realize it until we were nearly to Belgium.
The kids loved that we had such a big "car" for our trip. The novelty of the RV never wore off for them though Julien and I were pretty much done with the RV at the end of our two week vacation. Luckily, we had good weather and found fun camp grounds to stay at so we tried to spend as much time outside of the camping car as possible. I loved that we could drive up to any random beach and stay for the entire day. Nap times were repected and meals were prepared so easily. And I have to say it's pretty handy to have a bed in your vehicule in case you felt like laying down to nap while say driving to Holland. After driving across Belgium we drove right up through Holland to Amsterdam to get my new cargo bike. Julien surprised me with a lovely gathering of my friends for my 35th birthday. They surprised me with a generous gift of a cargo bike!
I had been obsessively looking for a new bike to replace our La Poste bike. Alixe had out grown the mini Bobike seat we were using and La Poste bike just wasn't strong enough to hold a grown adult and two heavy kids. La Poste bike was a good introduction to cargo bikes for me. It really got me back into cycling and I loved riding it to the post office to drop of orders from my online store.
I had found the perfect family bike for us. The company that makes my bike is called Workcycles and they are located in Amsterdam. The owner is an American named Henry. He was super helpful over email answering my questions about the Fr8 and how it would work for us in Paris. He had cycled in Paris many times so he knew the restrictions we could encounter biking the narrow streets. I had intially thought about getting a bakfiets or box bike but after test driving one and talking to Henry about it I knew the Fr8 was the perfect bike for us. This bike is exactly what I wanted even down to the tire color and the orange racks. Instead of Alixe riding up front, she has now moved to the back to a Quibbel bike seat. It's very comfortable and she really likes it. It's so comfortable that several times on long bike rides she would just go to sleep. Maximilien moved up to the front saddle. The way the Fr8 is balanced I don't feel his weight at all. It's really great considering he weighs 25 kilos.
Our trip to Holland was really fun. We parked the RV and took the bike everywhere. The camp ground we were staying at was about 11km outside of Amsterdam and right next to a huge forest. We spent the better half of a week exploring the forest and biking all around. We visited the goat farm in the middle of the Amsterdam Bos (a must see with kids) and spent an entire day there. The forest was full of neat things to explore like a random wading pool we found in the middle of nowhere and spectacular bike trails that ran the entire length of the forest.
I think one day we biked just over 40km, each Julien and I with a child on the back of the bike. Needless to say, we slept like babies at night. The kids loved biking. Alixe took naps on the bike as did Maximilien. When we were tired we would stop and rest. We'd find lovely place to eat and picnic in the forest. Nothing stopped us as we knew the bike would be our only way to get around. Even biking in the rain was an adventure... We were prepared for the weather though we were lucky and it only rained two days while we were in Holland.
The ease of biking around Holland was really amazing. I was pleasently surprised at how the pedestrians gave way to the cyclists. Also the infrastructure for the bicycles all over Holland is really exceptional. The Dutch attitude towards cycling is commendable. Biking around Paris I often wish Paris was more bike friendly. The infrastructure could easily be set into place in many areas of the city. I am lucky that in the 13th where we live there are many bike lanes. We use the bike everyday to get the kids to school and back since they go to school over by the tea house. Around the Place d'Italie there are clearly marked bike lanes that are set apart from the sidewalks but still the Parisians walk in the bike lanes like they are sidewalks. It's frustrating and then they feel they have the right to yell at me when I ring my bell because they are in my way. Don't even get my started on what they say to me when they see me riding with both kids on the bike. They look at me like I have two heads... actaully if you looked at us as we ride by we look like a three headed cyclist. :) Oh well... it won't keep me from biking everywhere I go. One thing is for sure, biking is cheaper than the gym and my legs are looking great.
It was nice looking back at our vacation photos and also seeing how much the kids had changed since August! Alixe is so much taller. I've had to lower the leg gaurds on her bike seat twice since we got the Fr8. She has such a funny personality and it was really great (and tiring) spending 24/7 with the kids on vacation. Maximilien has lost a tooth since these photos were taking and grown an inch. The clothes he wore on vacation are way too small for him now.
I think the yearbooks will be great for them because they willl be able to get q better grasp of time. Alixe is convinced that her birthday is tomorrow though it's the 1st of December. Maximilien is better at understanding the passage of time. But seeing these photos he told me tonight that this trip was "SOOOOOO long ago". :)
As you can see from our photos it was rather chilly on our vacation which suited us just fine considering how much biking we did everyday. One thing this vacation did for me was define my love for biking. It's a lovely lifestyle that I hope that we can continue to do everyday.
This week when I went to go pick Maximilien up from tennis practice, his tennis coach asked me if Maximilien was left handed or right handed. I responded right handed because that is the hand he writes with now. He told me he wasn't sure because he hits the tennis ball from both sides and that he doesn't with much ease that he suspects he could be ambidextrous. He went on to tell me that he'd teach him to hit back hand and forehand to Max on both sides. Having played tennis for many years I know how this can be an advantage. I thought about it as we walked home and actually Max throws with both hands and doesn't really favor one over the other. I'm not sure when things like this iron themselves out for good. Maybe he's ambidextrous? :)
I also have witnessed him when he's in an intense coloring session he will switch hands when one hand gets tired and he colors pretty well with both hands. As we walked home he was so excited to tell me how he can hit the ball the same way with both hands and that he LOVES tennis. I am happy to see his tennis coach taking notice in him like this. I was afraid Max wasn't really having fun at tennis because he wouldn't really tell me much after his lessons last year except, "We ran. A LOT.". I'm glad I stuck with my choice for him to take tennis again this year. At least we will give it two years before we decide if he wants to do something else. Soccer has been a topic of conversation for a while but finding a team before the age of six can be hard.
Alixe has started "danse" as she calls it. It's really a motorskills and movement class but they can to dress up in ballet outfits so to her it's "danse". She says dance in english but with a cute little british accent. Not sure where she picked that up but it's cute all the same. Watching Alixe is very obvious she favors her right foot when doing movements and she uses her right hand almost exclusively for eating and coloring. Sometimes for fun we play let's swtich hands which whatever we are playing and she does it but then switches right back to using her right hand exclusively. This class has done wonders for her physically. Literally in the three weeks she has been going to class I have noticed she is much lighter on her feet as she walks. She recently learned how to walk on her toes and she does it all the time. So very cute.
Dance class and tennis make up our activities for Wednesday. The kids don't have school this day and I have to say I enjoy spending the entire day with them. We have a more relaxed schedule this year without too much running around. Even have time to get Alixe down for a nap (which she still needs) while Max and I relax (which he needs) because he's much more tired this year in Grande Section than he was in Moyenne Section. I hand the kids off to Julien at 6pm and then head to the tea house to host knitting night. At least one thing is for sure I am pretty right handed when it comes to kniting. I have tried to knit with my left hand it's a disaster.
This is the start of a new chapter in our lives. Maximilien and Alixe are both in school. I love the new routine as tiring as it is. I have to say when my head hits the pillow I am out like a light.
It's hard to believe that my two and half year old is in school already. In the US she would be in pre-school except here in France instead of going half days and only a few days a week, Alixe goes to school Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8:30am-6pm. There isn't school on Wednesdays in France. She also stays for the after school program because I need to bake in the afternoons. I thought it would be too much for her to stay at school that long but she gets a good two hour nap during the day from 12:30-2:30pm and honestly, she is just so happy to be at school.
When I come to pick her up she is a whirlwind of stories. Today she told me she had blé (wheat germ) for lunch and that she sang at school and that she got to have chocolate and oranges at gouter. Also that she got to play with Lily (her friend from the creche) and she saw Maximilien at recess. All in that order and all that in one cute run on sentence. She has already grown up so much in the last two weeks. Her vobaulary in French has really blossomed. Where she used to baby talk a lot, she is speaking more clearly now.
Maximilien is the king of his school. Being in Grand section he is exactly that. Grand. BIG. His first day was as expected, he walked into his classroom to learn that his best friend, Sebastie was in his class. Those two walked off together and there was no looking back. Julien and I looked at each other, waved goodbye to Max who was engrossed in a book with Sebastie. He didn't even see us leave.
This year his teacher is Claude, le maitre. We had heard great things about Claude from other parents so we were thrilled to find out he was Max's teacher. I can tell that Max really likes him because everyday he tells me something new he's learned from his teacher and it's always Claude said this... and Claude said that... and Claude, Claude... Claude. This means Max is impressed if he's talking about his teacher this much. The interactions that I have witness between Claude and Max have been really sweet. Claude is firm with the children but gentle at the same time. I really appreciate that. It's just what Max's needs. I am looking forward to see how this school year unfolds.
Everyday I pick the kids up from the after school program and I try to sneak into the courtyard so I can spy on them a little. All this week, Maximilien and Alixe have been playing together so gently and sweetly that it takes my breath away. I have even seen some of Maximilien's classmates taking care of Alixe while they play.
As I walked up the hill today, Maximilien's best friend, Sebastie, ran to get Alixe when she saw me to tell her that I was there. I think I interest the other kids because I am always speaking in English with them. Last year I just stopped speaking in French to the other kids. I am always speaking in English with Max and Alixe and I found it tiring to swtich around to French. After a while, I just would talk to them in English. They don't really understand what I say but they copy me. They are fascinated and I know it makes me memorable.
Last year I would hear as I walked up the hill to the school, "Heeeeelllooooo Maman de Max !" "Maximilien, ta maman est là !" Now I hear, "Heeeeellloooo Maman de Max et Alixe !" "Max et Alixe, ta maman est LÀ !!!". I love it. It is something I look forward to everyday.
Maximilien if off on an adventure to Biarritz, France for 15 days in the sun with his grandmother. Five and half years old and already the seasoned traveler. He helped me pack his bag last night making sure to put his underwear and socks in their own little bags to keep them organized. Dou dous are packed, Transformer in hand and iPod charged up. He is good to go!
This will be the longest stretch he will spend away from us. I miss him already!
Can you believe it that Maximilien's second year in Maternelle has come and now is ending in a week's time. And get this... Alixe starts petit section this fall! My baby girl is going to school in Septmeber 2012.
Let me just think on this for a second....
So, we are wrapping up Moyenne section this year, I have to say that I am glad that this school year is over. I feel that Maximilien has learned a few pertinate things this year. The fundamentals for reading and writing. I have to admit that I don't think that Maximilien got enough play time in school. He technically is only in pre-school. He starts the equivilant of Kindergarten this fall.
I struggle being a foreign mother. I haven't written very much about it publically on my blog. It's hard for me because I get pretty worked up about things that I don't agree with. I feel like I have to walk on egg shells sometimes around his teacher because if I am too openly displeased with something she will take out her displeasure on Maximilien in class. We experienced this last year with his Petite Section teacher after meeting with the director about soemthing that had happened in class to Maximilien and that the teacher neglected to tell me about. The day after we started getting notes about Maximilien from the teacher about how violent he was and that we needed private meetings to discuss things. Meetings that never happened because the teacher never commited to meeting with us. Insane, right? The ways of the public French school system still escape me though I have learned a few tricks on finding out what my son does at school all day long it still is not enough for me. I wish there were more parent/teacher conferences. I wish there was more transparency vis à vis the parents and the school. Maximilien tells me a lot more this year what he's been up to. I don't press him and it seems to come out by itself. Overall, he enjoyed going to school this year unlike last year when it was heart breaking to take him to school. He cried almost everyday until Christmas break. The change in teachers helped but frankly anyone would have been better than his petite section teacher. He improved from what I considered a bad teacher to a mediocre first year teacher this year who lacks communication skills and favored the girls students over the boy students. Yes, I am serious... very lame and frustrating. But Max being the loving and joyful child that he is, he soldiered on. Made new friends and learned important life skills.
We got his grade card today. He has had a grade card starting from Petite Section. What do you grade children this young on? I asked myself this same question the first time we were given the Livret Scolaire. Lots of things that merit a seperate blog post, I'll post on that later... maybe.
Maximilien has acquired the required skills to move on to the next level. A few things like his zealous usage of glue have been permenantly noted in his preschool grade card and the fact that he has A LOT of energy that needs to be channelled. I agree that Maximilien has a lot of energy but he has yet to meet a teacher who can help him channel his energy. Instead the two teachers he has had take the route of punishing him and degrading him instead of helping him. And then in turn shaking their fingers at me everyday saying that I need to find a way for my son to channel his energy. But I stand there asking them you spend eight hours a day with my son what do you do to help him channel his energy? Because trust me lady, I help my kid channel his energy in the evenings and weekends.
This year my son learned the word Nul at school from his teacher. I will never forget the day earlier this year when he told me he felt nul. I asked him why he was saying that? He told him that the maitresse said he was nul. Nul means zero, nothing. He felt like he was a zero. Trust me meetings have been had with principal and nothing ever really happens afterwards. Very frustrating and disappointing.
I find solace in the fact that Julien and I are very hands on with our children's education. We feel confident that we will help Maximilien and Alixe through these years when they will have less than stellar teachers. It happens to us all. I remember the teachers that I had in junior high and high school that just plain sucked and my parents got me tutors to help through those difficult semseters. I remember my father and mother sitting down with me after dinner and going over my homework with me for those problem classes and I made it through. I hope and pray that next year Max will have a better teacher. We have heard good things about the Grande Section teachers and they are both very well loved by the parents and both have a good reputation. I am feeling confident that Maximilien will have a stellar Grande Section year.
As for Alixe starting school this fall I have no idea what to expect. She has been ready for school for four months now. Since she became fully potty trained she is ready to trade in her dou dou for her school bag. The second child does everything so much faster than the first and Alixe is no exception to this rule. Being the youngest in her class at the creche (some of the kids are a year older than she is) she was able to keep up just fine. Physically she is taller than some of the oldest kids in her class so it makes it look like on the outside she could easily be three or three and half years old. I know this can be problematic as well but one thing Alixe doesn't like is to be treated like a baby. I actually fear a little for the teacher she has this fall because she is so strong willed. It will be interesting to see who Alixe gets for Petite Section. There is a very good chance she will get the same teacher that Maximilien had. If that happens, that teacher has no idea what she is in for.
One more week and school will be out. I look forward to summer break with the kids, a bit of traveling and some much needed alone time with Alixe while Max is away on vacation with his grandmother. ID photos for next year have been taken and I have secured dance class and tennis lessons for the fall. Seems like everything is falling into place just need to get through July and we will be on vacation. And then I will have two kids in school! I can hardly believe it.
Maximilien was on break from school for two weeks in April. I worked one week and decided to close L'OisiveThé the second week so we could spend some quality time together. The creche doesn't close during the school breaks so Alixe was all business as usual. We kept her in the creche the two weeks because she was in the midst of full blown potty training! She sort of initiated her potty training phase herself. She came home one day from the Creche asking for a culotte. Being the youngest in her class, more than half of her class was already potty trained.
She is only two years and three months old so it really wasn't in my radar for her to start potty training right now. I figured we'd let her run around diaperless this summer and she'd figure it out before she starts petit section (!) this fall. I'm very happy to be coming out of this diaper phase because changing diapers is a pain as any parent will attest to but now it's abundantly clear that she's no longer a baby anymore. At the same time she started using the potty she started speaking in complete sentences! Double milestone. I am melancholy because we probably won't have any other children, so she's my last... typing that seems so final. May need to sit down and have another talk with Julien about this... I am on the fence.
Max is full fledge five year old now. Five is for sure different than four. He is learning hard lessons right now such as the consequences to lying. He is testing us and his limits to see where it will take him. He is starting to learn he doesn't like where lying takes him. We've had a lovely week so far even though the weather in Paris has been overcast and rainy for nearly two weeks. Earlier this week we put out rain gear on and went to the Jardin d'Acclimatation. It was the first time visiting the park for our family. Despite the rain, we had a really great time. Maximilien rode his first roller coaster:
Alixe even tagged along. I don't think she was as impressed with the roller coaster as Maximilien was. She hid in the crook of my arm the entire duration of the ride.
Since the school holidays the weather has been gray and rainy with random minutes during the day full of sunshine. A prolonged spring in Paris. The yellow rain coats have been getting a lot of use lately.It makes me reminescent of our last visit to Belle ile...
Photo from our last trip to Belle Ile, Dec 2011. My little dreamer.
Maximilien pulled a fast one on us today. We packed up this afternoon to head to the Jardin des Plantes pour the plant festival this weekend. We planned to ride over on our bikes so we headed directly over to the bike locker. Though we didn't verbally say we were taking the bikes we walked in the opposite direction of the entrance/exit of our residence to get our bikes. Maximilien ran ahead of us like he does every weekday because we use the bike to go to school/creche. Lately, he's been playing a game of hiding in the doorways of the other building in our residence. Assuming that this is what he was doing we went about getting the bikes ready for our ride. My mother's instinct started to tingle (sort of like spidey sense) and I started to look around for Max. Julien told me he was hiding somewhere and not to worry. Another few seconds went by and I wasn't convinced he was hiding so I started calling his name. No response.
I started to walk around our residence and I couldn't see him. I ran back to Julien to say that I couldn't see him. We started calling his name. No response.
I immediately ran to gated entrance of our residence and ran outside. I saw a man in the street and asked him if he has seen a little boy with a Spiderman backpack. He did not. Panicked, I ran across two streets to get to the Parc de Choisy and started calling out Max's name. The park was packed with families. There were children everywhere. I called his name again and didn't get a response. I ran up towards the play structures and then I heard him crying out my name. In that moment I felt so many emotions. Fear, relief, sadness and anger. Anger was the emotion that took over and I ran to Max and grabbed him hard. I could see he was upset. He was scared because he couldn't find us. I was confused to why he was acting like this only because I was so focused on my anger he had left our apt complex ALONE. The return was dramatic. Julien and I both lost our tempers. Poor Max. He scared the shit out of his parents and we couldn't control ourselves and lost our tempers. It was a nuclear meltdown of human emotions. We went straight back to the apt to talk about what had just happened.
Apparently, Maximilien didn't realize we were taking the bikes out though we had walked in the opposite direction of the door to the bike locker. He also thought that we had somehow run off ahead of him to the park and left him behind hence his panicked face when I found him at the park. Poor, poor Max. This was a scary situation for all of us. We talked about the importance of staying with Mommy and Daddy and that he should NEVER leave the residence without us. The residence where we live is gated and Maximilien can now reach the button to unlock the gate to the street. Inside the residence, he is safe to run around because there are no cars and only people who live in the residence and have the code can come and go.
I rack my brain trying to understand my five year old's reasoning. My first reaction to him was why did he cross the street ALONE? He knows that this is not allowed. We have been repeating this rule to him since he stopped using the stroller. He knows to hold or hand crossing the street and he systematically waits for us when he arrives to the crosswalk. I have to believe that he honestly believe we had left him behind for him to cross the street alone and to come looking for us at the park. I can't believe he went all the way to the park alone.
It took me two hours to calm down after we found Max. We layed in our bed talking about what happened, hugging each other and promising that we wouldn't never let this happen again. I reassured him to my best ability that I would never ever leave him behind. I can't believe he'd think that. He must have been so distracted in the moment.
While we were laying together I thought about a story that my parents used to repeat to me over and over again when I was kid. I was younger than Max and we were in Korea for the summer visiting family. Apprently, I got bored and left the family residence and walked a long distance (for a four year old) to go to the park and play. The way I remember my parents telling me the story they made it sound sort of funny. It was my Halahboji who knew exactly where I had run off to. I have to believe that my parents were probably feeling pretty panicked (me: hysterical) in the moment just like Julien and I were today. What a scare. Between Alixe with her recent seizure episode and Max disappearing too, these kids have really brought forth the extreames of parenting.
All this on Mother's day, as well. This will be a day I will never forget.
February is a very busy time for our family. Lots of BIG projects going on for Julien and I. Potential life changes for Maximilien and Alixe. All very exciting and all still very much in the preliminary stages...
I just finished a huge trade-show and am exhausted beyond belief. I'll post about that later once I catch up a bit on some rest but I did capture a couple videos of Maximilien and Alixe last week that I wanted to share. They are growing up so fast and I feel like I need a little more than my memory to grasp onto these years they are so young. It seems to me everyday Maximilien comes home and he's learned a new song at school. Singing has become a real passion for him. You will hear him singing all the time. I know that my mother would have loved this because one of the fondest memories I have of Omma is her singing in the kitchen while she worked.
I'm starting a short series of videos of songs that the kids sing. I will try to take one or two every week and post them here. Max's repertoire of songs is impressive. As an adult, I can't even remember the words to one song I love. Max can easily sing ten different songs and knows the words by heart. And he has a milk mustache in this video that is epic!
Alixe is following right along in her brother's footsteps. She's at that age where she wants to do what her brother is doing. Honestly, she's been like that every since she was born. Doing things way faster than I remember Maximilien doing them. Her baby years have disappeared right before my eyes and she's acting like such a big girls these days. Alixe is shy in front of the camera and she has the hiccups. So very cute.
Ladies and gentlemen... I present to you my little stars:
I'm finally starting to feel back to my tired self again. Jetlag was hard this time around. It didn't help that I had gastro twice in two weeks while on vacation. There is something about airplanes and me we just don't get along. It was a nice trip all the same. We spent the first leg of our trip landing in Philadelphia and then driving to to visit out friends in State College, PA. We met Ronica and Jeff while they were living in Paris while Jeff was working on his post doc. Ronica and I hit it off and Julien and Jeff became fast friends. We each continued on our paths along the way having kids at the same time. I wish that we lived closer but it's visit like this that remind us that the distance doesn't matter because we just pick right up where we left off. The kids had a wonderful time and I look forward to our next visit.
Remarkable how four year olds figure each other out fast. There were moments of Maximilien speaking in French to Rowan and she would respond in English without hesitation. She'd give Max a hard time about speaking French to her and I loved hearing my son make an effort to speak in English. It was hard for him to switch gears the first few days but by the time we were on our way to Washington DC he was almost speaking to us exclusively in English. They spent their days chasing each other, coloring, watching Dinosaur Train and messing up the entire house. Rowan was a very gracious guest letting Max play with all her toys. Max has already asked when we are going back to Rowan's house?
Only six months seperate Alixe and Anya. During our visit they followed each other around mostly parallel playing. They observed each other a lot and liked to play the same games. Not a lot of conversation between these two but they knew how to communicate with each other. I'd often find them looking at each other and though nothing was said they seemed to agree. Their favorite activity together? Pushing their babies in the strollers around the staircase.
Next up... Washington DC and Virginia.
I have moments when I look at Alixe and I hold my breath because my little baby girl is growing up so fast. She's in the stage where she copies everything everyone does. The good and the bad things. Keeps us on our toes because Alixe is watching. This is especially hard for Maximilien who is very much a four year old who is very curious and likes to get into trouble sometimes. Nothing Julien and I can't handle but when you add Alixe who isn't even two yet and she's trying to climb higher than she should at the park... every parent's fear.
This past weekend we were graced with beautiful weather. The last warm days of fall, it was magical. The sun was good for us. We stayed out late playing on Sunday to get in as much of the good weather as we could.
I enjoyed a rare weekend off and took advantage of the time to knit and almost finish Alixe's birthday present: a sweater. Maximilien and Alixe went to play at Mamoo's house and had fun catching up with their grandmother. We had a leisurely lunch and played into the late afternoon before heading home.
I hope to always find enough time to write down my thoughts even if they are just snippits of what is going on. I hope that my children someday will enjoy reading these blogs as much as I do today. I only have to go back to my archives and I often find myself laughing or crying over things I've written and I feel grateful that I have taken the time to remember.
It rained all day in Paris today. We were up early because Alixe is an early riser. At four, Maximilien already appreciates the art of sleeping in. Julien goes to yoga on Sunday mornings now which leaves me time to hang out with the kids without having to rush to get everyone ready for school. We had cereal and colored a bit before heading back to our bedroom to watch tv. Alixe brought in a stack of books she wanted to read.
We all hunkered in together and stayed au chaud. I knit a few centimeters on Alixe's Tiny Tea Leaves sweater.
Julien returned just before noon with lunch he picked up from the street market near Bastille. Poulet fermier avec pommes de terres, gratin de fruits de mer and organic yogurt and fruit for dessert. I had my yogurt with clover honey, a gift from a customer who visited the tea house last year. Delish.
I sense a Sunday routine settling in.
After lunch, we split up for naps and woke up in time for gouter all the while the skies remained grey and the rain unrelenting. I baked a nice airy chocolate cake for us. Nothing better than a warm chocolate cake and your family all around the table. All the while, we are all still in our PJs. Bliss.
Dinner has been ordered. A true lazy Sunday so we opted for sushi. The kids are playing in their bedroom, I can hear Maximilien singing the theme song from Cité d'Or while I blog and Julien is relaxing in the other room.
A lazy, perfect Sunday.
We've been back in Paris for almost two weeks now and I still can't get over that summer is almost over already. So, instead of thinking about all the things I need to be doing I am going to post my favorite photos from this our trip to Belle Ile before the tan lines fade and the sun induced highlights from my hair disappear. :)
Cleaning Max's face today I realized that the pox marks that are left on his face (and body) are turning into pits and they don't look like they are going away. I am not expert but I used to work in skin care back in the day and skin care is something I know a little bit about and to me it looks like my son has pitting on his face that isn't going to go away.
And here I am very, very upset about this. I am in the midst of dealing with Alixe who now has the chicken pox. Her case is seemingly worse than Max's too. I am stressed beyond belief and bottom line TIRED of all this crap.
Yet, I can't let go of these feelings. I am so angry. Angry that I couldn't have prevented this. Angry that maybe I could have prevented this? Angry that Max didn't obey his parents when we told him over and over again not to pick his scabs. He admitted to picking the four huge scabs on his forehead at day camp last week because he said they bothered him when the sun touched them. It took all my might to control myself because he told me he knew he shouldn't have done it but he did anyway. Listen, obey, whatever you call it... This defiance by Max makes me rage inside. It is THE example of hiM not listening (obeying his parents) and now he will have permanent marks on his face and body as a reminder.
I must be a vain person to care so much about this. It makes me feel like shit but I still feel like this. Why? I can not let it go. And now I have to prevent my 20 month old from scratching her pox marks (there are over 200' I stopped counting bc there were so much more) and she is a scratcher. And she is too young to be able to control her impulses.
I can't even express my frustration properly. I am probably opening myself up for off hand comments but at this moment in time, I need the distraction because all I can think about are my two beautiful children with scars all over their face and body. And I feel horrible because I care so much.
I'll give you a bit to back story here. Since Maximilien started school Julien and I noticed that he hasn't been a very good listener in the sense he doesn't obey or follow instructions from either of his parents. For things that are dangerous (ie. stopping at a cross walk, trying not to look out the window in our 6th floor apt, etc) he is pretty good about listening to us. But when it comes to the things at home like eating dinner, or playing with his food. Hitting or teasing his sister. BREAKING THINGS! It seems like he is incapable of listening to us. Or just defies us completely and does the opposite. Then outside of the home he doesn't listen to his teachers at school (a big problem he had this year) or his grandmother and he doesn't listen to Mama at the tea house.
The latter is what fueled this blog post because I am sort of at my wits end (doesn't happen often but it's that time of the month so I feel at my wits end) and need some perspective, advice, ideas, dialogue on this subject... something.
Today, I took Max with my to the tea house while I worked for two hours from noon to 2pm. Max is old enough now he can go to the bathroom alone and there are lots of fun things to do at the tea house to keep himself busy. I make sure he's got a lot of choices of things to do while I'm working. I like having him there, he loves being there and my customers really like seeing Max. And before someone says it because I know someone who doesn't really know me is going to say it, not bringing Max to the tea house is not an option. It's a part of our lives including his. Just wanted to clear that up before going into the today's story. So, I prepared Max before arriving to L'OisiveThé today by explaining to him that we were going to arrive to the tea house and have lunch together then he could have a dessert of his choice. I had brought lots of activities for him to play with including Legos, coloring books, movies on my iPad and not to mention all the books and toys that are already at L'OisiveThé. He agreed that he would play and understood that I had customers to take care of. That's how he sees me when I'm working, taking care of people. :) Upon arriving he did exactly THE OPPOSITE of what we had agreed on. He ran around yelling, did not eat his lunch, insisted on dessert, played loudly, bothered people and the list goes on... One rule I have set is he can't cross the gold line into the kitchen. There is a marker on the floor that designates the kitchen and the main room of the tea house. He has respected this rule since he was 18 months old. I have clear memories of him being Alixe's age pointing at the floor and not crossing into the kitchen showing me he understood the rule. But today it was like he didn't even care. And the two things that really got my upset was that I had told him at least 7 or 8 times not to push on the table with his feet. The tables at the tea house tip over if you push them a certain way. All the tables are like this, I can't get around it. Max has tipped the table over twice I can remember just buy pushing with his legs. I reminded him of this and he told me over and over again, "Ok, Mommy". But then within in seconds of telling me that I see him pushing the table again with his legs! Finally I pulled his chair out (mind you in the middle of lunch service) and turn it around and face him towards the window. I told him he is in time out (I hate this term) and he has to sit like this until he can explain to me why I am angry. Now, he is angry at me! He is pouting and he keeps turning around to see if I see he is pouting. After a minute or so I go to him and put my arm around him and we talk. I asked him why he is mad at me and he says he isn't mad at me but mad because he can't listen!
Can you believe that?
I smile and told him I don't know what to say to that except I love you. I let him go back to coloring. He sat and colored for a good 15-20 minutes before he started to tip the table again with his feet.
I ask him to get up and go play on the floor because he can't listen to me about not tipping the table with his feet. He tells me that he will listen and that he wants to keep coloring. I let him stay in his seat and the tipping of the table stopped. Another ten minutes pass and I ask him if he wants a snack or something and he says he wants to watch Alice in Wonderland. I agree and let him use my iPad to watch the movie. I set up everything and told him not to touch the iPad on the table. He agrees. Five minutes into the movie he starts to tip the table AGAIN! I just looked at him from the kitchen (mind you I am like three feet away) and he sees that I see him tipping the table. He stops. (trying to get my attention? Totally) I go to serve the last customers their coffee. We are 5 minutes from leaving the tea house to go home and then I hear a crash. The table tips and my iPad and everything on the table goes flying onto the floor. There sits Max with a look of utter shame as everyone looks at him.
I am angry. I'm angry because he can't listen to me. He tells me that it's "plus fort que lui". It's stronger than he is.... what? The urge to not listen to me?
I can't talk to him in this moment. He sits still and watches as I pick up everything and pack our things to go. I tell him to put his boots on and get his coat. He does this without delay. We put the coat on and go outside. I ask him once we are away from the tea house if he knew why I was mad? He told me because he had dropped my iPad on the floor.
Then I feel rage. Rage because he doesn't understand at all. He doesn't understand that I am angry because he doesn't listen to me. I am not a material person things like breaking my iPad will make me mad but this anger I feel is different. It's like this hot, white frustration emanating from my core. I say nothing to him in this moment. Grab his hand and walk like a crazy mother dragging her kid behind her. Though I'm not dragging him he's just running a bit to keep up. I am not proud of this. I also happen to cross paths with three people I knew and they witnessed my crazy rage walk with Max. Gah, I feel ashamed.
After a few minutes he starts to talk to me and ask for ice cream (!). I look at him and tell him that I am angry and that he can't ask me for anything because the answer will be "NO!". He starts to sniffle a little and I stop and ask him if he knows why I am mad? He starts talking about the iPad again. I stop him and tell him that isn't the reason. I explain to him in a semi calm tone, stern but not yelling that I am angry because he doesn't listen to Mommy. I start to list the big points of the day where he hasn't listened namely THE TABLE. He shakes his head and says, "Je understand, Mommy". We walk in silence all the way home.
Once we arrive at home I tell him he is being punished for the rest of the afternoon. Grounding a four year old. Does that really work? I hate saying that he's in punishment but I don't know what other terms to use. Punishment in our house is quiet time in his bedroom. I told him he needed to go back to his room and think about why I was angry. I asked him yet again why and he responded because he didn't listen to Mommy. The point is across his brain now, I think. I told him no sleeping while you are in punishment because for me that isn't punishment and this kid LOVES sleeping. He told me he wouldn't sleep. I started this blog post and stopped mid way to check on him because it was WAY too quiet and he was asleep. Mean mommy woke him up and told him he can't sleep and that he has to stay out of his bed. I left him in the middle of his floor in his bedroom. I wonder if he's asleep...
So, I don't know where to go from here. The not listening is really starting to take a toll on Julien and I. We don't know what to do. Julien suggested making a chart where if he listens we make a mark or put a sticker up with a reward if he listens. The chart would be for a month with a rewards at the end of each week. If he was able to go four weeks with good listening points a big rewards at the end of the month. Will this work? It's in essence bribing Max to listen, no?
Any advice, ideas... please? And please don't recommend that I don't bring Max to the tea house. The tea house is MY business it's my home too. Just as he needs to listen at home he has to listen to me at the tea house. Voila. He's going back to the tea house again with me tomorrow so we'll see what happens again. I am hoping that the events of today will still be fresh in his memory and he will try to correct what he did wrong today.
Right now I am going to leave you with a photo of him walking to the tea house today in the rain with his cool umbrella and new red boots. Then I'm going to go back and hug my boy and try to lift our moods with a board game.
It's a rite of passage. Growing up I remember many of my friends getting the chicken pox. I remember getting the chicken pox.
I don't remember the chicken pox being like this.
Last Tuesday I was called by an assistant at Max's day camp to tell me that he had a temperature and asked if I could come and get him. I worked the lunch service at L'Oisivethé and ran over to get him in the early afternoon. Max was passed out in a feverish sleep in the dormitory. The assistant told me they found one spot on his belly that looked suspicious. I brought Max home and we hunkered down to rest.
The next day he was still feverish and two more spots appeared on his back. Small, blister like. I made an appointment to see the pediatrician that evening. She confirmed that Max did indeed have the chicken pox and she prescribed the usual creams and antibacterial wash to treat the chicken pox.
The next day we started the treatment. This was day 3 of the chicken pox:
From the beginning of day three to the end of day three, Maximilien's chicken pox progressed fast:
And then on to day four:
Max started having problems with his left eye. There was a pox that came out right on the edge of his eye lid that had opened up and infected his eye. We scrambled to find an eye specialist on the Friday after Bastille Day that would see Max. We called 12 doctors. Note to self, getting sick the weekend around Bastille day is not a good idea. All doctors are on vacation!
I couldn't bring myself to photograph day five and six. Looking at Max was painful for me because Max was so miserable and all he wanted to do was stay in bed all day. The pox stopped appearing around the fifth day and he has quickly started to heal. Our daily mantra now is don't pick your scabs, Max! He's been doing a very good job. No scabs picked. Pretty tough for a curious four year, if I say so myself.
This is what Max looks like today:
Today was the first we've ventured out of the apartment. It was nice to get out and stretch our legs. Now it's time to be careful not to get too much sun on his face and hope there aren't any scars. We stopped by the pharmacy to pick up some cream for Max's face and the pharmacist remarked, "dis donc, il était gâter votre fils". Max was spoiled by the chicken pox (ie. many spots on his face). The French always have a way of with words, don't they?
I had a scare today. We were out playing with friends and Maximilien disappeared from my line of sight. He and I have an agreement that when we are playing outside that he must stay within my line of sight. If he can't see me that means I can't see him. This is a constant stress for me living in a city where we often are in the midst of large crowds.
This afternoon Maximilien was playing with a friend and he went around the corner of the building to chase after his paper airplane but then he did not re-appear right away. I waited three heart beats before going after him. I turned the corner and he wasn't there. Then I turned the next corner and there he was him talking to a stranger. A man who was crouched down near Max with his hand on his shoulder. I can't explain the feelings I felt in that moment before I knew I was yelling his name louder than I ever had. Everyone who happened to be around me within a 100 foot radius turned to look right at me. Maximilien ran over to me leaving the man behind.
The moment he reached me I was upset. Angry. Scared. We quickly packed up our things and left our friends to go home. On the way, we stopped and sat on a bench and talked about what happened. I asked Max if he understood why I was upset? He said it was because I couldn't see him. True in part and then I explained to him about talking to the stranger. I told him I was upset because I found him taking to a man that neither of us knew. A stranger. He asked me what I stranger was not knowing what this word was in English. I know that I didn't explain it very well. I told him that a stranger is someone that we don't know and that they could possibly hurt you. He is four and I wanted to keep it simple. In this case I used the example that a stranger can start talking to you and take you away from Mommy and Daddy so that he would never see us again. Saying this, he started to cry. It broke my heart. He collapsed into my arms and I held him why he cried. He pulled away from him and said in a tear filled voice that the man was nice and that he was just explaining that he was picking up the chewing gum off the boardwalk. And that it was actually he who approached the man and asked him what he was doing. Thinking back now to the moment now that I am calm I can see that he was some sort of janitor and I now see off to the side his cleaning buckets and broom. But still... janitors can be bad people too.
Maximilien is not afraid of strangers. He has always had a certain ease talking to anyone. And I admit that when he's with me we will strike up conversations with people on the bus or on the street if he's curious about something. This is with me. I am okay with this. But him alone, I am not ok with this.
I don't think I explained very well the whole stranger danger concept to Maximilien. Julien and I agree that he now has experienced the fear that strangers can cause. This is definitely something that Maximilien has never really experienced. This is not enough for him to really understand. I want to be able to talk to him openly about this but I am at a loss at how to tackle this subject.
Growing up in Olathe, Kansas, I feel like I never really encountered many strangers. Paris is so big and there are so many people. The walk from our apartment to Maximilien's school alone we pass many busy streets full of people. So many potential dangers but I don't want to fill my kids with utter fear of people in general.
Explaining what to do I understand but explaining the concept of strangers and the danger they can cause is what I am at a loss at. Even the fact that nice strangers, even janitors or the nice guy who lives on the first floor can be the most dangerous ones of all. How would you explain to your kids about strangers?
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!
Friday night we had a train to catch! I took Maximilien to Pontarlier to his grandfather's house. This was Max's second time taking the TGV. The first time he was 6 months old. This time around the excitement that max felt was almost physically tangible. I could feel the happy energy radiating off him as I picked him up from the centre de loisir last Friday. His excitement made him a handful for the assistants taking care of him that day. They said to me with perplexed looks as we were leaving that Max was difficile and that he didn't listen very well the entire day. I told them that he was going to take a TGV tonight to go see his "Grandpa" and that he's been excited the entire day. And just saying that made them all smile and say, Bah, Voila! They wished us a happy weekend and we were on our way.
We played on the train as we waited for it to depart from the platform. Max was on his knees looking out the window anxiously waiting for the train to move. He wanted to send a photo to his Daddy:
We explored the train and visited the snack car and picked up a few goodies to enjoy. After a while it was nearing Max's bedtime and he wanted to relax and watch Toy Story.
And before we knew it we had arrived in Dijon and we watched half the train empty out onto the busy platform.
About 20 minutes later we arrived in Dole Ville where we needed to change trains. Max was really excited to see the small local train that would take us to Pontarlier. Just by looking at it he knew it wouldn't go very fast because he said the front of the train was not pointed like the TGV. After boarding the train, Max asked for his dou dou and I asked him if he was tired. It was nearly 10pm. He looked at me and said, "Même pas tired, Mommy!". "Not even a little bit?", I asked.
Two minutes later he looked like this:
We arrived in Pontarlier. Still asleep, I unloaded our bags to my father-in-law and carried a soundly sleeping Max to the car. He woke up enough to grumble about being tired and then articulated himself in perfect French to his Grandpa. I love how he speaks PERFECT french when he's in the sleepy gray area between being awake and asleep.
We woke up the next day and had breakfast.
and played under the table.
And cuddled while watching Raiponce (Tangled) all the while enjoying a lazy Saturday morning.
We got dressed after lunch and then went out for a walk through centre ville Pontarlier in search of
Could a Saturday afternoon get any better than that?
Max was pleased as you can see! We came home and watched Raiponce once again. Ordered in pizza and tried to go to bed early (9pm this time!) because I had a train to catch at 7:58am the next morning. Max and I cuddled in together and we talked about how I was leaving tomorrow. He told me that was okay because he was going to have fun at Grandpa's house.
Before I knew it my alarm was ringing at 7am. Max got up with me but wanted to lay on the couch in the tv room and watch Raiponce yet again. Though he was half asleep and mostly sleeping than watching... I cuddled him and told him goodbye. It was time to go... He stood on the balcony on the upper floor and waved goodbye to me as we drove out of the courtyard. Not sure if he was crying or not, my father-in-law sent me this photo to reassure me that he was just fine when he got back from the train station:
He snapped a shot of me on the Swiss train that would take me to Frasne where I'd get my TGV back to Paris.
And in return I snapped a shot of my father-in-law the iphoneographer:
He was busy emailing me the photo he just took of me on the train!
All these old memories of traveling through europe on a shoestring and a euro rail pass flooded back to me. This early morning shot of the TGV coming into the station reminded me of many early morning trains my friends and I hopped heading south to our next destination.
I was too taken aback by the beauty of the French countryside to sleep on the train.
I had forgotten how much I loved traveling by train. But the prices of the tickets keeps us using our car to get places (and the convenience, of course). I no longer had that coveted 12-25 card, la douze vingt-cing! I won't be able to get a discount card again until I'm 60 years old! My father-in-law bragged that he'd be able to get one this year! I wonder if he'll use the train more now?
Back in Paris... I arrived at the Gare de Lyon and jumped on the metro line 14 four stops to Olympiades and back to our apt. I was home in time to feed Alixe and put her down for her nap. A bit difficult getting her down until I realized she wanted to sleep with me. Freshly showered, I hunkered down with my little girl and napped for hours before I had to wake us up to go work the afternoon to close at L'OisiveThé.
Here's Alixe giving me a bit of attitude as we strolled down out street. Not sure she agreed with me on leaving the apt again.
It's good to be back after a weekend of traveling. I feel energized yet tired at the same time. And I'd do it all again in a heart beat.
My life is full. I am grateful to be able to type this and realize it at the same time. Last week, my husband's grandmother passed away after living a full life. I am grateful that my children were able to spend time with her in their way. Though Alixe will not remember her we will try our hardest to keep reminding Maximilien and Alixe about Mamé. It's nothing like losing someone you are close to to make you really stop and think about life. The same week that Mamé passed away a friend of Julien and I's was killed in car accident in Brazil. Hughes and his wife, Andrea, were lost in the accident and their 2 year old son is in serious condition and still in the hospital. A blog post was written about him by one of his photography friends. I've known Hughes almost as long as I have lived in Paris. I remember a conversation we had the last time I saw him at my tea house. We were talking about photography and how in the moment the photo is taken that memory will stay with us for a lifetime. It's so very true. I don't ask myself why I am taking all these photos all the time. The happiness I feel looking at them days, months, years after the fact is reason enough. I have these moments when I just need to grab my children, hold them close, nestle my nose into their necks and breathe them in. Remembering that moment. Trying my hardest to etch every emotion and feeling into my mind.
After all the loss we experienced then Maximilien's 4th birthday came. My baby is FOUR YEARS OLD. I still wonder how this has happened so fast. I can still feel him kicking me in my belly sometimes. Is that weird or normal? I look at baby photos of him...
Four years ago, he made me a mother. I remember it like it was just yesterday. And oh, how he has changed...
He's such an inquisitive little guy. Very funny too.
He makes up stories and songs. He's very, very good at drawing and coloring. Budding artist? Perhaps.
You can see that he is a happy, happy child. He has the joie de vivre for sure.
Max is sweet and caring. He holds the door open for people in our building. He says thank you to the cars that stop for him so he can cross the street. All the teachers and administrators at school know who he is. He hugs his teacher every morning.
Something new that Max has been thinking about is me as his Mommy. He realizes that I have friends and relationships with other people other than just Daddy and Alixe. He asks me if when I'm at the tea house if I am still his Mommy? Or if after we have a fight and then make up he asks if I am still his Mommy when I am mad. Happy, sad, mad... no matter what I tell him, I will always be his Mommy. Forever. "Foreva?" he asks. And I respond, "Yes, of course. FOREVER. He sticks out his pinky and asks me to pinky promise. We do and then he tells me that he loves me T H I S M U C H and he holds his arms out as wide as he can. My heart swells to epic proportions.
These are the moments I never want to forget.
As much as Maximilien loves his Mommy, I think that he may love his sister more and vice versa. Alixe adores her brother.
These two are a pure joy to see together.
Alixe started walking shortly after the beginning of her 14th month. She just decided to get up and walk and boy, did she! No stumbling around to cruising for her.
As much as I find parenting a girl different than parenting a boy, I never thought for a second that such a little girl could teach me so much about myself. Alixe on a daily basis is a constant exercise of patience for me. She has a very strong personality. My father says it's the Osbourn in her. Maximilien is a mini Julien. Alixe is a mini me.
My father said something to me that struck true. I asked him if I was like Alixe when I was her age. Temper tantrums. Very clear about what she wants. LOUD. My father said to me that if I was like that my mother would never have stood for it. I know what he meant because I don't stand for this behavior. Just tonight, Alixe and I had a face off, literally, I was in her face telling her to calm down and she just stopped, stared at me and wouldn't back down. And if anyone who knows me knows I can be stubborn, I wasn't going to give in to this little girl. We sat on the floor staring at each other until Alixe finally gave in, leaned in and fell into my arms for a hug. And in that moment all my frustrations melted away as my heart exploded with love.
I put my kids to bed tonight taking time to play and snuggle them. I hope that maybe they will remember these moments when they are older as I remember my mother coming in to check on me while I slept (or lay with my eyes closed). How she would cover me up and I would hear her say sleep well in Korean. Her voice very clear in my mind even today.
My flash wasn't calibrated correctly but whatever... sometimes I just don't have time to worry about things like that. I didn't want to miss this shot because it reminded so much of a shot I took of Max at this age. Either I have a good memory or my memory is shot because I only remember things by the photos I take?
And yes, that's orange crayon drool on Alixe's t-shirt. She smiled later and had it on her teeth like it was lipstick except bright orange! Made for interesting diapers later that day.
I've been thinking about what to do about this blog. I have had some sort of blog under the name of PutYourFlareOn for nearly 8 years now. EIGHT YEARS. This blog has seen me through my move to Paris, the first years of my marriage to Julien, my first job in France, my mother passing away, the birth of my first child, the opening of my own business & the birth of my second child. With each passing event in my life I found that I blogged less and less. Every time I think about stopping I feel a tinge in my heart as to say "don't do it". I get a lot of pleasure reading old entries and remembering moments long forgotten.
I intend to keep blogging. I'm just not sure in what capacity yet.
Alixe is one now. She had her birthday on December 1st. I can't even express the joy she brings to my life and how much she has made me realize how important a daughter is to a mother. Even at 12 months she teaches me things about myself that I didn't know. Through the good and bad I am grateful to have her in my life.
Part of the reason I haven't blogged much in 2010 is Alixe. The addition of the second child into our life wasn't as seamless as I thought it would be. I honestly didn't realize how difficult it would be juggling it all. Several things in my life were just put aside because it wasn't important. The first six months after Alixe was born I was in true survival mode. Surviving the waves of emotions I felt everyday, the depths of depression I felt every moment of the day while caring for a newborn and a toddler. I felt resentment, anger, sadness, grief and massive fatigue. Though I can't remember much of what went on the few months after Alixe was born I know that I wouldn't have been able to make it through unless Julien was there to help me. I reflect back to that time and it seems so long ago. The memories of that dark time are starting to fade and to be honest I am glad to let them go.
It is amazing to me still the difference between my children. First of all they look very different (which I love) and they act very different. Where Maximilien was brusing through toys, Alixe is gentle and very delicate in the way she plays. Alixe is already starting to talk when at this time Max was ready to walk. They eat differently. Alixe cries a lot more than Maximilien ever did. Max slept (and still does very well) and Alixe just doesn't sleep.
The weeks leading up to Alixe's birth I had insomnia and would stay up late reading blogs from other mother's about their experience adding a second child. Some were positive, some were negative... in the end they painted a picture for me of how things could be for me. And now looking back I should have been knitting more instead of reading those blogs.
Now that 2010 is over I feel a weight has been lifted. I feel excited for 2011 and the projects I have planned for our family and myself. This is going to be a different year for us. A new beginning. There are no new babies in our future instead lots of plans to nurture and play with our two lovely children. I have plans to expand the tea house business. I also have plans to travel this year. And finally I have plans to care for myself. I feel like I have been taking care of everyone else this past year and now its my turn to take care of myself.
Let's not forget about this guy. My little guy. Carrying him home last night at 4 am, he felt so big. I smelled his neck as he nuzzled in close to me. He smelled of baby lotion the same that I used when he was baby. Max will be 4 years old in March. FOUR. I look at this photo and still see his baby eyes looking at me. Maximilien is in the midst of new beginnings as well. He started school in the fall of 2010. He's testing his boundaries and learning patience around his little sister. He has never once shown any jealousy towards her and this is a true testament to his loving and joyous nature.
Here's to 2011, a year of new beginnings... I hope the new year brings much happiness to you.
Needless to say that having kids your life becomes one huge periode d'adaptation. With every age new milestones, behaviors, likes and dislikes rear themselves. One child may do things one way and another child inevitable does it completely different. This has been the story of my life with Maximilien and Alixe. I've come to terms months ago that Alixe will never cease to surprise me. Sure, I feel more comfortable with KNOWING what is going to happen. Aren't we all? With Max, he was a textbook baby. Like many of the parenting handbooks we find ourselves reading I felt like they had written that book about Max. Alixe broke the mold, so to speak. But it makes for not a dull moment in our lives. I love her just the same. I was saying to Julien the other night that I love both kids so much yet differently. Not in terms of loving one more than the other but when I think about each child the love I feel manifests itself differently inside me. I consider myself lucky to be able to feel these different shades of love.
Max left today for his third day at school today. A little difficult getting him out the door. If you can believe it at three and half he already knows how to procrastinate. But just got the call from my husband that there were tears and the dou dou came out of the bag but he willing went to his classroom. It's taking time for my social little guy to get used to school. I don't remember what I felt when i started Montessori at his age but I can only imagine how overwhelming it must be for him. But with each day he's adapting. And so am I... a friend gave me some advice that worked like a charm. Don't stress about the details of what they do all day at Maternelle. When he's ready he'll tell you all about it... and he did just that. About an hour after I picked him up on Friday, he stopped playing in the bac à sable and ran over to tell me that he drew a bonhomme and he had eyes and hands. Even Mama is learning to adapt...
Today, Alixe starts her adaptation week at the Creche. I'm nervous and happy for her. I see her at the park with other kids and she's just over the moon to be with them. I sense she is ready for collectivité. I hope I am ready too. As much as I want to go back to work and be at L'OisiveThé I feel a bit torn being away from my baby. Familiar feelings I had with Max started going to TaTa's and then the Creche. But I firmly believe that it takes a village to raise a child and that the more interactions a child has with his peers and adults the more ready he will be for the next step in life. But back to this torn feeling... I think that as Mothers we feel this feeling because we have a duty to raise our children. And as I take this duty very seriously I have to admit that I need help for my own sanity and the life of my family. I have fond memories of visiting relatives and spending significant time with them growing up and I know that time spent with other adults other than my parents helped to shape the person I am today.
9:20am and I gotta get moving... Alixe is in the middle of her morning nap. Gotta get her up and out to door to get to the Creche by 10am. No more lazy mornings for Mama... and I have to admit that I am looking forward to being a different kind of busy again.
Today is Max's first day of Maternelle. Comme d'hab, I was running late this morning after a long night with Alixe not sleeping well. I took some photos but as usual I was rushed and didn't take into consideration my own shadow in the photo. Oops. Maybe I'll post the photo later...
But like everyday when we leave the apt, Max loaded up his trusty trotinette and we were off!
Note the cartable that Max is sporting. I had intended to get him a classic backpack but he was against anything we found. He rejected 6 bags before we found this one he spotted in the window of Petite Bateau. Honestly, it's the perfect bag for him. Reflects his summer vacation a la mer and just enough room for his precious dou dou and a change of clothes.
We arrived just a little bit before 10h30 to meet a few of his other classmates. Happy coincidence one of his friends from the Crèche is in his class. We introduced ourselves to the Maitresse and went over to say our goodbyes. Maximilien immediate starting putting together puzzles and started talking to another boy in the class who he had just met. I bent over to tell him that I was leaving and he said to me, "Good bye, Mommy". Kissed me and ran off into the classroom without looking back.
My little boy is going to school. I called a friend and talking to her on the phone that it's always been harder on me the separation from Max than it has been for him. Even when he started the Crèche at 16 months he was toddling off on his own waving goodbye to me before we even entered the building.
Alixe starts the Crèche next week and it will be interesting to see how well she adapts. She's got a lot of separation anxiety going on right now but on verra... my kids never cease to amaze me.
The older Alixe gets the more fun it becomes for Max. He is smitten for his petite soeur and Alixe adores her grand frère.I am surprised that my little three and half year old has the attention span to play with his little sister. The last few weeks Max as said to me on several occasions that he'd rather play in his room with his sister than go out to the park or the library. Max builds intricate train tracks and let his sister rip them apart. He doesn't get upset instead he just starts again so she can come destroy it again. He's always giving his sister calin and bisous. Holding her hand while we walk and she rides in the pousette. He is anxious for her to walk and often asks when she will have her own trotinette and they can go to the park and ride together.
Soon, my son, soon... your sister will be chasing after you before you know it. Until then, these two find their own ways to have fun. While taking these photos they spent 10 minutes putting and pulling off a hat. Endless fun and giggles. They may not remember this moment in a few years from now but I know I will because it was here that I realized that our family is complete with the four of us.
And I have neglected you for so long.
I see that I still get lots of hits everyday. I thank those of you for visiting. I hope you are enjoying my archives. I know I do from time to time. About a month ago it was time to renew my subscription with Typepad and my credit card information had expired. Then I got bogged down in email land with my inbox over flowing at 200+ emails and the email from Typepad got lost. Until now... So, I've fixed the problem and hopefully my blog is back to it's boring self again. Though I am getting spam comments and have no idea how to stop those.
I last blogged in June. July has come and gone. I can't even tell you about all the things I've been doing because there's just so much. But I will tell you this my extended maternity leave will be ending in mid September. I will be back at the tea house full time once Alixe is full acclimated at the creche. I look forward to going back to work. Thought I still worked a lot from home being at the tea house all day instead at home will be a welcomed change.
Ah, Alixe... my sweet girl who doesn't sleep. And that means I am not sleeping all that well. It's better than it was the first two month after we brought her home but just barely better. Lots to write about Alixe and I intend on doing that. ON VACATION!! Yes, we leave for our favorite island off the coast of France, Belle Ile en Mer.
Here are some of my favorite photos from past trips:
26 weeks pregnant with Maximilien
Port Coton during a mild storm in February - I adore this island hors saison especially in February. It's practically deserted with only the locals living on the island. We're very lucky that the family house is on the island so we can go often.
Meeting his great grandmother for the first time.
I look so young in this photo. Having two kids ages you...
Julien, my love.
Max's second visit to the island. We took him when he was just two months old. But this visit was marvelous. Just watching him take his first steps on the beach will be forever etched in my memory.
And another favorite that is on our refrigerator. This is what a toddler looks like the first time he see the wide, open sea.
A little photo bombing there to make me feel better for my lack of posting. I hope you have enjoyed them too.
So, I have lists. My lists have lists. But on my list is my blog. I am going to work on the template and perhaps have a professionally made banner done for just lil' ole me. I think I deserve it. :) And here's a recent photo just taken TODAY by my brother in our kitchen as the light was perfect. Alixe is very concerned with her uncle's hair.
She's a serious one... I'll tell you all about her very soon. Love her striped shirt. She's ready for Belle Ile!
So, I'm pretty sure the house on Belle Ile hasn't been wired for internet so other than updating Twitter and Facebook via my iPhone that may be all the contact I may have with the outside world. And then again, I may not even do that much. Which sits pretty well with me because a good break from it all will be nice. I have knitting projects slated, books to read and am looking forward to taking my kids to the beach EVERYDAY.
And now it's after 1:30am. Finishing up some business correspondence with the US and now I can finally go to bed... Apparently, Alixe has been sleeping well while I was away at TricoThé tonight. Typical.
Yeah, June. huh?
As you can probably tell from my lack of blogs that life has pretty much taken over and much to my chagrin blogging and taking photos has waned. I think about my blog a lot these days. The feeling of an overhaul looms in my mind every time I look at my blog. It doesn't help that we are doing some major demenagement chez nous right now. The apt is in utter shambles but soon it will be a much better living space just in time for my personal organizer to come and help teach me how to keep my apt organized.
So, I got a new camera today. I know. I know... I have a perfectly good camera. My D200. I intend to keep using it, can't part with it. Love it too much but I don't love how heavy it is. And now that I carry 3 year old treasures in my purse along with 6 months old diapers and baby things there's unfortunately no room for my heavy DSLR. Looking at my photo stream on Flickr it's littered with photos from my iPhone. Fun, yes. Good to print and make memories out of? No. So, I bought myself an Olympus Pen E-P2. It's a perfect compromise between a DSLR and a point and shoot camera. I couldn't bring myself to purchase a point and shoot. They were just TOO small for my hands. I like the feeling of looking through a viewfinder and holding my palm under the lens of the camera. I scoured Flickr for a solution and that when I found the group dedicated to the Pen I had found the solution. It arrived today and I have already shot a few photos. My models were very obliging today.
Here's Alixe sitting in Max's Stokke chair for the first time:
Hits me like a ton of bricks at how big she looks here. 6 months old. Her head is ginormous! She just started sitting up last week. The bumbo is obsolete now so we needed to find another solution for her. I casually asked Max yesterday what he thought about Alixe sitting in his chair like he did when he was a baby. He said she could have his chair! And today while I was preparing dinner for Alixe he told me that the green chair is Alixe's char now. Sweet boy. Now I'm in search of a cool chair for Max. Something fun and colorful and not a Stokke. Any suggestions are welcome!
So, the sweet boy... not so sweet lately. It pains me to write this because he's always been such a sweet, compassionate boy but lately he's been testing his boundaries. It's been now twice in one week he's spat on or towards his assistants at the creche. And today he also stuck out his tongue when the assistant asked him to calm down at lunch. I am simply surprised at all this spitting and sticking out of tongues. I, personally, have never seen Max do this to anyone, child or adult. And even playing he's never stuck out his tongue at me or his father. The only place I can think he learned this is at the creche seeing another child do it. Remember the biting incident when he first started at the creche, Max bit a child because he was being bit by everyone else! I chalk this up to him testing his limits to see what happens. He's very cause and effect these days. He will tell me things like I scare the pigeons and they fly away! Or I push the button and the light turns red so I can cross the street. I assume this is normal three year old behavior but it makes me sad after he goes to bed because I am being hard on him by punishing him by taking away his movie rights, game rights, dinosaur rights and balloon rights. I see how sad he is but I hope he will understand that he can't go around spitting on people. We're getting Mamoo (Julien's mother) in on the loop this weekend. He's supposed to go visit her and at her house will have the same limitations as home. I hope that by Sunday he will have retained this lesson and we won't have any spitting incidents next week. Typing that makes me feel so bad...
So, a bit of an update. Don't be surprised if things change a bit here. I'd like to do more with my photos and baking recipes (just perfected my vanilla scone tonight) and recipes I am trying out like rhubarb syrup to make my own rhubarb soda! Also, I have had to put a bit of lock down on how people comment on my blog because I was getting bombarded by spam. So, if the logging in and using a secret code word turns you off from commenting I completely understand. :)
Aaaaaand like clockwork... it's almost midnight and Alixe is waking up for her midnight drink of milk that's my cue to click publish! Good night!
Look at these two faces! It's hard for me not to see the similarities because these are my children. But so many people have commented on how Alixe and Maximilien really look different from each other. In each of their faces I see my mother's nose, my father's nose, my husband's hair line, my hair line, my husband's mouth, my mouth. One has blues eyes. The other has brown. Chatting with my father recently over Skype he mentioned that Alixe's foot looks like mine. It really does! It looks just like my mother's...
Genetics is an awesome thing. Almost awesome enough for me to want to have a third. Almost.
I have been really enjoying looking back at Julien and I's baby photos to see who Alixe and Max look like the most. Maximilien is pretty much a mini Julien and Alixe is turning out to be a mini me. I admit that I am thrilled. It seems perfect that Julien and I have a little version of us. Our family of four feels so very right to me.
They make my life amazing. Needless to say that my life is so much fuller with my children in it. Not to say I didn't have a good life before Maximilien and Alixe. But now I truly understand how my mother felt raising the five of us. The love she had for each of us. Different yet the same. How each child must have brought a new dimension to her life. I now understand that because each of my children bring me a different outlook on life and love.
Maximilien brought back a breath of fresh air into my life at a time when I needed it the most. Alixe is showing me that motherhood is a challenge I enjoy and LOVE. Both of my children are very different and I am grateful for that. The difference in their personalities keep me on my toes and keep everyday fresh. At three years old and 5 months old these two are as thick as thieves. Everyday I look forward to seeing them interact and am amazed at how they bring comfort to each other.
I know it's not Mother's Day in France but in the US it was yesterday. Lucky me I get to celebrate it twice in one month. Mother's Day has obviously taken a new meaning for me since I became a mother but I still reflect upon the my Omma and how amazing she was in this role. I say it again as I say it to myself very often I appreciate my mother so much more now that I have little ones of my own. I wish I could have told her this but I know she's enjoying the show from a distance and speaking volumes to me through my very own children.
Yesterday, Max and I were talking about dinosaurs and dragons. We talk about these things a lot lately and a new thing that Max is into is looking up photos of dinosaurs and dragons on the computer. We open up Google and I type in "Dinosaur", click images. Max navigates the computer using the finger pad and clicking on the photo he wants to look at. From an early age we've used the computer with Max. The television? Very rarely. We have a TV and I can count on one hand how many times I've turned it on since the beginning of the year. We do use the computer to watch videos on You Tube, lots of great Sesame Street clips and if you want to see trains of all sizes and from all over the world. I do let Maximilien watch some TV. I have downloaded from iTunes episodes of The Little Einstiens, Word World, Max and Ruby, Curious George (loves this show!), Madeline and Martha the talking dog. He picks an chooses which show to watch. I save movies for him to watch with me on weekends. Lately, he's really been into Dinosaur (of course!) and Up. So, yes we do watch "tv".
The iPhone has been a neat learning tool for Max. The educational apps that are coming out these days are plentiful. Some are not as good as other. But some are just excellent and for .99 cts for the majority of them I have no problem investing in a few apps for Max.
My poor blog. I've neglected you so long. It isn't anything you did. It's me no, no... it's actually Alixe. We're still in the midst of poor sleep at our house. Going on nearly 5 months of it I have started to get used to the disoriented feeling I have every morning I wake up and the sort of hazy feeling I have all day long. That being said, life is kinda hard right now because we're supposed to sleep at night and as much as I try to get used to the idea of forgoing this my silly brain can't let go. So these days, I focus on three things: Alixe, Max and my business. Sorry, my dear husband... you're in a close fourth. I know, I KNOW.... what a sucky wife I have been lately.
It's really HORRIBLE what sleep deprivation does to one's life. I feel for those people who suffer from insomnia and wonder how anyone could function so long like this. Example of the fragmented sleep we get, last night Alixe went to bed at 8pm. I *should* have gone to bed but had some baking and sewing that HAD to get done. I went to bed at 11pm and she woke up. Baby radar? You betcha. I nursed her and put her back to bed. ONE HOUR LATER, she woke up again. Julien is a DEEP sleeper and did not stir at all. I waited 3 minutes just to see if he'd go to her but nothing happened so I got up. I can't handle Maximilien waking up too at midnight. I nursed her and put her back to bed. She woke up again at 2am, 4am and 6am. The 2, 4, 6 hours of the night must be her magic numbers because she does this ALL THE TIME. Drives me bonkers. I can't let her cry because she's in our room and it DRIVE ME BONKERS. Julien sleeps through it. Bless his heart, I have no idea how he does but can he teach me?? Then on top of all this, I am sick. So, sleep deprivation + sick + nerves raw = disaster. I woke up Julien at 6am and said, "HELP!". He took her into the kitchen and I got a whole 15 minutes of uninterrupted sleep until Max woke up and came for cuddles. As tired and cranky as I am I can't say no to my three year old's cuddles. He likes to draw pictures on my face with his finger when I am trying to sleep. I can't sleep when he does this but it makes me feel so loved so I sacrifice sleep to let him draw on my face.
Then this morning Ooshop delivered at 7:45am. I had to be up for that. I came out of the bedroom to crying baby, my three year old asking me, "Why, mommy? why is the door ringing" and my husband dashing around getting ready to leave for the day. I stood and watched the scene and thought, "wow, this is my life".
So, things like my blog have been put off to the back burner so to speak... just no time. I had good intention to post a photo a day for a 365 photo book for 2010. Ah, there are a few days forgotten but some how I still manage to take at least one photo a day. *hugs her iPhone*
But in the midst of this sleepless madness at our house, Maximilien turned three, Alixe was baptized, we had lots of family come and visit, I got my hair cut (finally!) and ordered I some new exciting yarn for the tea house.
And during the time I typed this blog entry I have gotten up two times to sooth Alixe back to sleep again. She's been asleep a total of 30 minutes. Whoo. It's the little victories that count, right? *sigh*
Something that is hard for me to do but very essential to be Alixe's Mama. I have to let go of my expectations of her and go at her pace. I have to let go of my control issues and just be. Letting go means that I stay up until 2 am most nights and just be with my daughter. It means that the laundry sits in the dryer an extra day or two. The dishes don't get washed and I miss a shower. Letting go means I let Maximilien come and sleep with me because he needs to feel reassurance from his Mama. Letting go means forgetting the little things your husband does that annoy you because you know what? It's just not worth getting into it.
I've been feeling better the last couple weeks because I've decided to let go of all these notions of what kind of mother I should be and instead just be me.
The assistants at the creche told me today they are so impressed with how Max has evolved lately. Potty trained quickly. He's calmed down a lot and is much more focused. I have been paying more attention to him lately and I notice he is much calmer. It really proves to me that if Mama isn't doing well then how can her children be well? The month of December was a hard one for us. I was in such a bad place. I am so glad to be out of that and moving forward.
I hold Alixe now and feel adoration for her. I say, now I feel adoration for her because just a month ago I did not. I felt resentment and anger. It was because I was holding on to too many expectations that I had set myself up for failure. Today at the mother's meeting I host, we were talking about how no one talks about how sometimes being a new mom isn't all roses and perfection. And it was refreshing to meet some Mamas who like me felt the same dark feelings I felt the first month of Alixe's life.
If I were to give advice to a new Mama I would say let go of any expectations you may have of your new baby. Just take each day, hour, minute as it comes. Forget the dishes, the laundry and putting make up on and instead just be with your baby.
I am okay with staying up until 2am. This past week I have woken up in the morning more refreshed after a few hours of sleep because I know I have nothing expected of me, especially from myself.
Max's third birthday. I can hardly believe it.
Tonight after dinner we made invitations for his friends from the creche that he'd like to invite to his party. He decided on inviting four boys and two girls.
I can hardly believe how big Maximilien seems to me these days. In the early days of Alixe's arrival he seemed like a giant next to little Alixe. It made the melancholy I felt in the early days magnify because it became so obvious to me that my first born wasn't really a baby anymore.
Next month he will turn three. THREE. I can't believe three years ago I gave birth to my little stinker that I adore. I mean, I honestly am shocked at how fast time flies. Having children really accentuates how fast it really does pass. Ferris Bueller said it best, "Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it" My maternity leave ends this month and as much as I really want to go back to work I am realizing that maybe I'm not all that ready to do so. I have the opportunity and the means to stay home a bit longer and I am going to try to do that. Because it's such a short amount of time my kids are little like this and I don't want to miss it. I don't want 5 years to pass and for me to feel like I've missed out anything. I don't want to miss even the littlest things. Max has taken to singing a lot these days. Mostly Christmas carols he learned at the Creche and a few tunes he makes up on his own. His language improves everyday and more more he is losing his baby ways of talking. I know in just a few months time he will have made leaps and bounds of progress but I love trying to decipher his toodlerese for now.
So, as I write this I am STILL amazed that in just over two weeks time Max is completely potty trained.
Wearing underwear. Refusing the diaper.
Propre as they say in French.
Not sure how it all happened. We had been trying to interest him in the potty by buying him one of those bells and whistle potties that sing and play music when you go poo or pee. Well, he played with it more than actually using it. Then Alixe came home and there was a click. She's a little baby. She wears a diaper. She poops and pees in her diaper. I'm a big boy and why am I still wearing a diaper? This is what I imagined Max thinking when he'd look at Alixe.
One day he came home from the Creche and said to me, "Mommy, je veux une culotte". I want undies. I broke out his Thomas undies that had been long piled under his PJs and off he went. That first week we had a few accidents because of timing on his part, busy playing and forgot he has to go pee. And then one day about three days into wearing his culotte at home he just started telling us on his own that he needed to go.
And boy did he go! All the time. All hours of the day. Middle of the night trips to the potty were hard but sometimes I was up with Alixe so it worked out alright. And then starting this week he started sleeping through the night without a drop of pee in his pull up.
Last week, the assistants kept telling us that Max was peeing in his diaper at nap time. Which I found weird because on the weekends when he'd nap for me I put him in his culotte and he'd either wake up int he middle of his nap to go pee or he'd wake up dry and go afterwards. Finally, Julien was able to get it out of one of the younger assistants that they were NOT LETTING HIM GO TO THE POTTY DURING NAP TIME. And they would tell him to go pee in his diaper! Coincidentally, that week they were doing this he took HORRIBLE naps at the creche and we had the hardest time getting him to sleep at bedtime because he was overtired. I mean, yeah... if I was told to pee my pants and then go take a nap I'd not sleep. And then at the end of the day report time when Julien would pick him up, Max always had notes in file saying that he was agitated in the afternoons. Hmmm... I wonder why?
So, I flipped out a bit. How completely counterproductive, right? Well, I was ready to take Max to the Creche the next day and let the assistant hear me out. But Julien calmed me down and said he'd deal with it. He's good at smoothing things out when it comes to Max. My mama bear-ness just comes out and it's a bit hard to control sometimes. Julien talked the assistants into letting Max go to the bathroom BY HIMSELF since apparently he's one of the few kids in the class that can actually flush the toilet. And since last week he's been getting up from his nap, going to the bathroom and coming back to sleep again all by himself. He even washes his hands by himself.
One of the assistants asked how we got Max potty trained so fast I just told her that we really didn't do anything but provide cute undies (Thomas the Tank Engine - which helped a lot to motivate him to wear them) and ask him periodically like when he's watching TV or playing intensely if he needed to go. And somewhere along the way he figured it out.
As a reward, we took him to see the dinosaur exhibit at Le Palais de la Decouverte as his reward. We went out all day without a diaper on him (Julien being the risk taker did not pack a change of clothes in case of accident) and Max used a public potty on his own. Apparently, it impressed him so much that he now uses our toilet without the toilet seat adapter. Not to humiliate my son later on in life I will not post a picture of him on the big potty but it's pretty funny. He's pretty much falling in but he makes it work.
All I gotta say is having one kid in diapers. Yes, yes, yes. thank you very much.
It still amazes me when I refer to Maximilien and Alixe as my children. Hearing myself say it in conversation makes me smile immediately.
I love love LOVE watching my children together. I love watching their simple interactions. Alixe is completely fascinated by Max as he is of his sister.
Today it was just the three of us and it was the first day where I didn't feel any anxiety taking care of both of my children. We lazily woke up this morning and stayed in our pjs all day long. Had pancakes and pizza for breakfast (since we woke up late). I played with Max and waited for Alixe to show me signs of a nap. I immediately put her down so that Max and I could curled up together in our bed for a nap. Unfortunately, Max work up after only an hour of sleeping (usually he naps for three hours!) and wanted to watch Toy Story. Since Alixe was still asleep and I wasn't ready to get up from my nap, I cuddled Max close and whispered stories in his ear until he fell asleep again. We snoozed for another hour until Alixe woke Max and I with her bleating goat sounds. We laughed so hard at how funny it sounded and I layed there in that moment cherishing it.
Maximilien was in a very melancholic mood tonight. He came back from spending the night at his Mamoo's house asleep in his stroller. That was a sign to me that he had not slept well at nap time today.
I transferred him from the stroller to our bed knowing very well that he'd wake up and want to be somewhere he felt safe. "Mommy et Daddy's lit" is probably one of the safest places for a little boy his age. He woke up in tears and clutched on to me for dear life. I just sat and held my baby and waited until he felt better.
Well, better didn't come and he started to cry and hold on to me. I decided that it was PJ and ice cream in bed time with Toy Story to keep us company. I fed Alixe put her in the swing and she fell asleep (for once!). And I had the rest of the evening to devote to my boy.
I've been transitioning myself into this role of mama to two. Frankly, I've been afraid to take care of both kids alone. Fatigue causing a lot of the fears inside me but tonight I just decided no rules, forget dinner and I asked myself what do we need? We needed ice cream, pjs, movies and hugs. Though, we did eat some broccoli before ice cream because Max loves broccoli like it's candy.
Taken from my Year in Photos at Flickr.
Maximilien is obsessed with holding my hand. I admit that I love it. I loving holding my son's hand as we walk together. He grasps my hand when we cross the street. In the apt, when he wants me to come and play with him, he grabs my hand and says, "Come Mommy, come with me...". When we sit together and read or watch tv he is always holding my hand. Since Alixe's arrival he's been having a hard sleeping at night. I think this maybe his way of saying to us that he needs a little more attention. Usually in the middle of the night he crawls into our bed and comes and cuddles close to me. He always takes my hands into his and says, "petite carresse, Mommy?". A little cuddle? I say yes and he gently caresses my hands and rubs them against his cheek like it's his favorite dou dou.
The funny thing is, I used to do this to my own mother's hand when I was little (and as a teenager and young adult, I admit). My mother's hands were the softest things in the world and always brought me comfort. When I'd lay with my mom, I'd always hold her hand and like Max, rub the back of her hand against my cheek.
I couldn't believe how quickly the emotions welled up last night. As Max fell asleep, I quietly weeped missing my mother. I miss her immensely but I especially miss the simple gestures like hugging her or holding her hand. Holding her hand was one of my most favorite things. And for this to be one of my son's favorite things to do brings me so much happiness and sadness at the same time.
Well, if having a baby next week on Tuesday wasn't big enough news in our lives Max went off and scared the crap out of us a couple days ago by getting very, very sick. Two mornings ago, we sent him to the Creche, a happy, bouncing boy. That same evening, my husband went to go pick him up and I mean literally off the floor because for the 30 minutes before we arrived he had been sprawled out on the floor with his dou dou staring off into space. He was feverish and then vomited on himself just as we were getting his coat on.
There has been two confirmed cases of Grippe A (N1H1) at his creche.
We high tailed it to this pediatrician's office which happens to be right across the street from our apt and then turned us away (!) saying it was gastro. I know gastro and when Max has it and this wasn't gastro. But then again, I didn't know what the flu would do to him since he's never had it. We walked across the street with the instructions of if he had a fever of 39°C for more than 24 hours we were supposed to take him to the hospital because our Ped's office isn't equipped to deal with Grippe A. I watched Max's temperature rise over the next 24 hours from 38.5 to 39.9°C. He would go from HOT to less HOT and just pant and stare off into space. Every once in a while letting me cajole him into drinking some water. And wouldn't let me out of his sight. He grasped my hand with his little, burning hand wanting me to stay with him. We called SOS Medecin to come to our apt at 2am because he had a 104°F temperature that wasn't breaking. Thank goodness they came fast and the doctor took his time examining Max. Everything seemed to say Flu except he was missing the cough which was typical of the Grippe A. He advised us to watch him another 24 hours and see how things.
Then this morning, Max woke up NORMAL. I laid in bed sleep deprived because I kept waking up all night long checking on him and to see my happy, bouncing boy sitting right in front of me waiting for me to wake up so we go have breakfast threw me for a loop this morning.
I laid in bed for a few my head spinning at how quickly things changed. Thank goodness for the better and not worse because we all know next week is going to be a big week for our family. But still... talk about complete calamity of the last 24 hours.
Since Max was sick it threw off my schedule and my to-do lists which included making massive batches of cookie dough for the tea house. But in a fit of despair and stress my husband asked if he could learn to make the cookies. I was skeptical but he had never offered to learn to make the cookies before and I thought, why not. These cookies are hard to make right because there isn't a written recipe (it's my mom's and I learned it by watching her make it through out my childhood) and every person I've tried to teach to make these cookies can't seem to grasp the ratios. Yes, my recipe has ratios and logic in them. The only person who can do it is my brother but then again he has the advantage of eating these cookies ALL of his life, practically.
So, last night while I was in tears and stressing out, Julien set out to make cookies while I directed him and he did a really good job. And I feel better today knowing that he can do it... then again, thinking about it this morning, he's eaten the original cookies made by mother many times so he has that to fall back on. My little brother can attest to this because Julien once ate an entire jar of my mom's cookies leaving only one for my brother as an after school snack. That was a big turning point in their relationship but I think they've recovered from it.
So, here's to staying healthy until BB gets here. That's the new mantra for the rest of this weekend. 2 days to go and she'll be here. Tuesday morning is the big day, let's hope for an uneventful weekend until then.
Not until I had Max did my life have so much routine in it. Sure, I had a job before I became a mother and the routine that came with that. Metro, Boulot, Dodo. It was pretty boring and I'm glad I don't do that anymore. My routine as a Mama is much more fun. No more alarm clocks I have a walking and talking one that comes and wakes me up almost at the same time everyday. And when he doesn't, it's a nice break because it's he who sets my routine for the day not some man behind a desk.
The last couple months I've been having a very hard time getting up in the mornings. Julien has taken over morning routine of feeding Max breakfast, changing his diaper and clothes and getting out the door all by 9 am. In the hour that they are up and having breakfast I slowly wake up and get out of bed to kiss my boys goodbye and wait to see them off from our 6th floor kitchen window. If you could hear Max, you'd would hear him yelling at the top of his lungs, "Goooooodbye, Mommy! I love you!!!" as he waves to me. I watch them walk around the corner and thus starts my day.
One key thing I learned about being a mother to newborn Maximilien was that he needed routine. He always wanted to nap at the same time and eat at the same time. And in turn I craved this routine too. And I find myself in these final days of pregnancy thinking about the routine that I will start again with BB and as crazy as this will sound to you I`m really looking forward to it.
I can foresee that Max is going to be my big helper once BB arrives. Nearly every night for the last two weeks I've been baking in the last week or so he's shown interest in helping Mommy out. He pulls over his green Stokke chair and climbs up it like a ladder and asks what he can do "aide Mommy". His official job is to raise and lower the bowl to my mixer and he holds to it for dear life as it mixes and he alerts me when he thinks its done. I keep having these moments where I catch myself staring at Max and can't believe my eyes at how big he seems. His legs are so long. His face is looking less like a baby. How big his hands are. He articulates himself so well using new words everyday. It's impossible to grasp at all these moments but I'm trying my to do my best to get some of the good ones in photos in words.
There's going to be so much change coming into this little boy's life very soon. We're preparing as much as we can but as much as we wish we could plan it all out, I think we'll just have to take each day at a time. As we approach BB's birthday, Maximilien continues to grow and change everyday. He's such a chatter box. Speaking up phrases in French and English. Mixing the two languages to the delight of both of his parents.
This morning we went and got Max his haircut at the salon across the street from the tea house. This is Stephane, my coiffieur extraordinaire, cutting my big boy's hair. It's funny how after each haircut Max seems so grown up yet I still see my little baby in his face. I know that when BB arrives there will be a moment when it hits me that Max really is a big boy. But I still have a few weeks to hang on to these special moments together. Just us. Me and my first born baby.
It really doesn't exist. Halloween is as my friend puts it "Good 'ole American fun" that the French really don't understand. Thought in the last few years I've seen more and more kids dressing up but have yet to have a trick or treater come to my door. I had big intentions this year to throw some kind of Halloween fete at the tea house but being at the end of of pregnancy my energy level has disappeared. Oh well, there's always next year...
The Creche let us know that they would be doing some activities for Halloween this year and told us that dressing up for the occasion would be encouraged. I quickly made some tiger legs and tail for Max to go with his Tigger hoodie et voila! Tigrou!
His Tigger tail was a big hit with all the kids. They took turns pulling it. And seeing Maximilien dressed up the other kids wanted to dress up too. The Creche had a costume box that they use at Carnival every year so quickly after Max's arrival the room was full of pirates and gypsies. It was all very cute.
Luckily, I have a small group of expat friends here in Paris and our kids are nearly the same age. So, Max was invited to his first ever halloween party yesterday afternoon. After having a yummy gouter, my friend, Libby, had arranged with her neighbors and friends for a small trick or treating adventure for the kids. Needless to say that Maximilien caught on quickly. Knock on door, growl and get candy. He loved it.
Even though Halloween isn't a mainstream holiday here in France I'll always look forward to celebrating it with my kids. I have fond memories of carving pumpkins with my parents and anxiously waiting for our dad to get home from work so we could go out and trick or treat. Hauling home pillow cases full of candy and pigging out until our tummies hurt. My brother and I were talking about the homemade costumes we had growing up and it made me smile because I'm doing the same thing my mom and dad did for us.
As hard as it is to relive the minutes and hours after Maximilien's birth this little boy reminds me that it's all worth it. I thought that if I didn't think about the experience it would just go away. And it did for a while I actually had forgotten but sitting in the doctor's office in the moment of dejavu finding out that BB was going to be a big girl all those emotions rushed back to me. But today for the first time in 2.5 years I actually feel okay about my birth experience. And I know I can type this and mean it because I am not crying uncontrollably but instead I feel excitement for BB birth in 4 weeks time.
I wonder in today's medical age of technology why it's so hard for us as women to get the birth that we want? There is a small part of me that wonders if I had decided to try to have Max naturally would it have gone alright? Would it have ended up in a cesarean anyways? I know women birth babies as big as Max naturally all the time. Heck, one of my readers did and I totally admire her for that! But I feel like when it was time to make the decision for Max I was slightly psyched out but all the technology and terms and medical jargon thrown at me that I was pretty much scared into choosing the cesarean. And now for BB, listening to the doctors explain to me the risks of induction with a baby so big and my uterus so stretched out and the scar and abnormally strong contractions and this and that... it makes my head spin and I just say, enough. Please, get me my baby and leave me the hell alone.
Dozing in and out of consciousness this morning I wondered if I could change things with BB's birth. Part of me is like change doctors! get more opinions! But I like my doctor and I wouldn't change doctors for the world because I. trust. him. And then all of a sudden I feel tired. And in this moment as the fatigue washes over me, there is Max standing by my side of the bed waiting to give me my morning kiss and I am reminded that everything ends well. Here's my 2.5 year old who's in perfect health who is happy and excited about the imminent arrival of his petite soeur. And I realize that I have made my choice. And I am alright with it.