I've just returned from a trip to Shetland with three of my best friends. We met 10 other new friends during our knitting week on the islands. Such a magical place with awe inspiring scenery and a calmness that is quite remarkable. I will take some time to sort through my photos this week and post a proper blog post about my trip. Pictured above is the Burrastow house where I stayed with 12 other ladies on my very first knit retreat. Just staying around the house was inspiring... you won't believe what the rest of the island looks like!
I opened my shop seven years ago last week. Maximilien was just over a year old. Here he fresh new eight year old Max standing in front of L'Oisivethé today. The days that I used to bring Max to the shop in his stroller and let him crawl around the floor. Today, he knows his way around the shop like it's home. He has his markers and papers stashed away. He knows where to get his favorite juice and has his own table at the shop.
Shortly after having the shop two years, I became pregnant with Alixe and she was born at the end of 2009. Honestly the two years after she was born were a blur of sleepless nights and working hard. I don't remember much of what was going on. Luckily, I was still blogging then and I can go back and re-read about my life. Today, Alixe is well known at L'OisiveThé. She comes in every week before her English lessons and asks for a cookie before heading off to her lesson. She organizes the toys and knows exactly which ones are hers and which ones belong to her brother.
Seeing Alixe today on the front stoop of the shop, I realized how fast time has passed since those sleepy years after she was born. She is five years old now. Maximilien is eight. I see time speeding towards me yet I still feel young.
No slowing down now so instead I am opening a new shop in a coupe weeks! As if I didn't have enough work on my plate I am hungry for more. I realized as my children keep hitting important milestones I have not been very good at taking notes. For the most things I have a good memory but there are the little things that I don't want to forget. I have decided to revive my blog again. I am sure no one is reading it anymore but that's alright with me... I will read it. I will be happy to have these entries to come back to later on.
So here's my cute little second shop.... we will soon be painting the facade. After posting a small vote online the outside of the shop will be a sunny yellow. You can see the swatches I made last week while it rained and the middle yellow is the color for my shop front. I want to have a happy, inviting color to catch people's attention. My beloved L'OisiveThé will not change. It will remain the cozy tea and yarn shop like it has been for the past seven years. This new shop which we are calling "L'Atelier" for now will be a knitting haberdashery shop and yarn shop. I will hold knitting and crochet classes here and there will be always time for you to come in and knit a few rows with me. I will be at this shop full time. The Atelier is only 300 meters from L'OisiveThé. We timed with with Alixe today and we can sing Do -Re-Mi from The sound of Music three times walked briskly from L'OisiveThé to the Atelier. :)
I'll post more progress photos as this week lots of things will be completed. Trips to Ikea and LeRoy Merlin are planned. We will starting building the inside of the shop so I can fill the shelves with yarn and neat knitterly thing. Once this shop is open, my orders of new haberdashy items will start to arrive. I can't tell you how excited I am to have little knitting notions to sell!
I can't tell you how many times a day I hear these words. Since the end of school my children have developed a true passion (obsession) for these cards. In June, Julien and I had picked up some used cards for Maximilien who had started talk about them pretty much everyday after school. As we are some of the youngest parents in the class the other kids have older siblings who have already passed down their wisdom of Pokemon cards to their younger siblings. Maximilien came home talking ot us about PV (HP), powers, strength, EX, X, evolution and so much more... my head started to spin as Alixe started to copy her brother and wanted her own set of cards as well. Luckily, I have a friend who had twin boys who are nearing the end of the Pokemon phase. They are 11 years old. Though she told me they still play sometimes and that I should never get rid of any cards until Maximilien decides it is time. I have been talking to other parents about this and some say the Pokemon card trend lasts a couple years starting at the end of grande section (kindergarden) and going all the way through the end of elementry school. Once the kids go off to collège (middle school), the Pokemon card trend ends. Sometimes...
My brother, William who was born in 1984 missed the trend of the Pokemon cards. I am not sure when it started though I do remember watching the Pokemon cartoon a few times at the University Kansas because some people were watching the cartoon on the floor's tv. I admit Pikachu is cute.
So, it's been les cartes pokémon this and les carte pokémon that... "Can I have my pokemon cards on the bus?" "Can I have my pokemon cards at the dinner table?" "Can you bring my pokemon cards when you pick me up from school?" Beause they have been forbidden from school because of kids getting too worked up over trading cards and who has this card and that card. Maximilien actually had a rare EX card and didn't realize the value of the card and had a classmate trick him out of it. We were able to get the card back eventually and then Max had some lessons about Pokemon cards from my friend's sons and now he knows if he has an EX card. They stay at home.
These cards have become an integral part of Max and Alixe's play lately. Maximilien and Alixe actually play pretty well together when they play Pokemon. Julien and I don't know the rules to the game as they change each time they play. I know alixe likes the cute cards like Pikachu which she has two cards and she is always looking at them and carrying them around with her. Maximilien is really into drawing the Pokemon characters which I love bcause I find that he is a very talented artist. He loves to draw and color and I prefer a millions time that he sit down to drawn than watch tv or play on his iPod. I do have to limit the card play because they will start fighting and we have periods of the day when the cards have to be put away. It is funny that I know so much about these cards but only other mothers of boys this age can relate.
With Max's discovery of Pokemon cards he has gotten back into drawing again. This makes me so happy beacuse I really think he is a talented artist. I am really looking forward to see how his drawing skills evolve over the coming school year. I have found him a comic book drawing class where over the school year they will work on comic book drawing skills and story writing. At the end of the year they will publish their own bande desinée (comic book).
My friend's sons gave Maximilien a huge stash of Korean Pokemon cards which Max is very proud to have because no one else at school has them. I've started to teach Max the Korean alphabet and as you can see he is starting to learn to write in Korean. It's going to be an interesting year language wise for us.
As many come to the city for their vacation this year we will be staying put. I'm a bit disapointed as things didn't work out as we had anticipated for our summer break. Lots of factors have played into the reason we are staying in Paris for the summer all of them not happy reasons to say the least but we are managing. We are all healthy and a summer in Paris won't drive us too crazy. As you know I grew up in Kansas and wide open spaces, nature and calmness were very common for me. I have always found city life intersting but I know my limits and I need a break. I wil try to find ways to find the calm I crave right here in the middle of this busy city I love.
Last weekend, on an improptu notion to get out of the apartment my brother, William and I packed the kids up on the bikes and took them out for a ride down to the Seine. I really didn't have any other ideas in mind just wanted to see how easy it would be for my six year old to ride down on his own bike. I was happy to see that it was very easy! In the 13th there are a lot of designated bike lanes so I rode with Maximilien on the inside of the lane while I rode next to him. When we came up to busy intersections we rode up on the sidewalk (children in France can ride on the sidewalk up to the age of 9 years old) and we'd cross at the crosswalk. We left from Place d'Italie and rode down Vincent Auriol towards the Seine. We arrived where the line 6 crosses the river and took the ramp down by the piscine Joséphine Baker onto the banks of the river. It is pretty bike friendly along this path all the way up to where we ended up stopping on the quai de Tournelle right across from Notre Dame.
I was thrilled to find once I mapped our bike ride in Google Maps in their bike map which is in Beta that we had biked nearly 23km. Maximilien biked from Place d'Italie (Point A (and G)) to the Quai de Tournelle (point C) and kept up with my brother and I.
We arrived and decided to hang out a bit. We had a lovely vantage point of Notre Dame and prime seating to wave to tourists on the all the bateaux that were out on the Seine that evening. Maximilien sketched a bit. He captured the police boats driving at high speed on the river. He was very impressed.
Julien joined us later and he brought along a picnic dinner. It was a lovely end of a moderately hot day in Paris. It seems we have broken away from the heatwave and returned to the low 20°C temperature. I am not complaining as I have highly enjoyed the evening thunderstorms we have had all this week. Reminds me of Kansas...
We were fortunate enough to catch one of those evening storms at the end of our picnic. We were lazing about trying to decide on what to do when big fat rain drops fell from the sky. We hurried under the trees that lined the Quai de Tournelle and watched the brief thunderstorm. The sky was a mix of pink and purple and a bit of gray. It smelled like rain and it was magical watching the raindrops hit the Seine.
It only rained for a few minutes just enough time to pull everyone away from the banks of the Seine. Just a couple teenagers left running around in the rain, I tried to spy a rainbow but captured this photo of Notre Dame instead.
We quickly biked to the Eiffel Tower after the rains stopped. We put Maximilien's bike in the basket of a Velib and we were off. We arrived at the Eiffel Tower just long enough to admire her in the golden hour of the day. The children started to yawn a bit so we knew it was time to head back. We rode straight back cutting through St. Germain, to Odeon to Boulevard de l'Hopital on our way back to Place d'Italie. One moment while riding past Les Deux Magots my brother turns back to me and says, "Look at the sky! It looks like Kansas!". And you know what? It really did...
Seeing my last blog post from February really hits me that I have no time to blog these days. I really miss it and want to get back to it. So many little life things that I want to remember and I know that my tired Mama brain won't be able to remember it all. I revamped the design of my blog. Taking down the sidebar and the blog her ads. I don't know what happened to them but theyr disappeared. Probably due to the fact that I haven't blogged in five months. Five months! So much has happened in the last five months... Maximilien turned six, L'OisiveThé turned five, the yarn portion of my business has really taken off and my kids have finished another school year.
Alixe will be starting Moyenne Section and Maximilien will be in CP (first grade) this fall. My first born in first grade already! Time is just getting away from me. How do we make it slow down?
It's been a super busy time at L'OisiveThé the last few months. Lots of yarn activities with the new classes that I started in the spring and collaborations with my friend, Cécile on crochet projects. I have started crocheting and find it very addicting.
The fact that there is only one stitch to manage at all times is very fun. I always find myself easily picking up where I left off where as in knitting it isn't always the case. My first project is The Babette Blanket by Kathryn Merrick. A twist on a classic granny square blanket. I never got tired of making the same square over and over again especially since I used 32 different colors of Koigu KPM and KPPPM.
The kids have expressed intersted in learning to knit. I started Maximilien off with a French knitting doll. He loves it. He puts it down and comes back to it regularly and just this morning before leaving for day camp he asked to do a few rows. I love seeing my children being fascinated by new things even if it makes us late in the mornings it's worth it.
I always seemed to try to not talk about work too much on my blog. I don't even really remember why... but since my life is pretty much all about working and taking care of the kids I might as well blog about both instead of just trying to filter it out. Things at the tea house are going well. We are getting ready to close for the summer holidays and that will be a nice break of the routine. We will be re-doing the floors next week and after that I will be able to spend a couple weeks without thinking too much about tea house business. Maybe just a week without thinking about tea house business... fall is knitting season and I have to get things lined up for the Marie Claire show in November. Time as I mentioned before is going by fast... in every aspect of my life.
I finished the first cycle of the 17 day diet yesterday. I had some good results after just five days of being on the diet. I lost 1.5kgs even cheating once on the fourth day which I warn anyone doing this diet is supposed to be the hard day because your body is really craving the sugar. I told myself I wouldn't weigh myself again until the end of the cycle which lasts 17 days. Right, the name of the diet... easy to follow along, right? I weighed myself this morning before eating breakfast and I was down 5kgs from my starting weight! 11 lbs... this is incredible weight loss for me considering I haven't done much to recover myself after having Maximilien and Alixe.
Most of the weight came off my thighs and hips. My belly area has a lot of work ahead of itself... sooner or later I may have to reconcile myself that I will have a flabby belly forever. Two ten pound babies will do that to you, I guess. But the extra puffin top on my hips is gone! My jeans are loose and I sinched my belt one notch smaller today.
To coincide with the beginning of Cycle 2, I decided to start the Couch to 5k program. A bunch of knitters I follow on Twitter are about two weeks ahead of me and it's been motivating to see their progress. Also some good friends of mine have been running for a while and I want to run with them too. But most importantly, I actually feel like I have enough energy to go out and run. The first cycle of this diet really help to energize my body. I have been sleeping better where as I would always wake up in the middle of the night for no reason and now I find myself sleeping all the way through the night. No more food coma feeling after dinner for the last two weeks either.
The first day of the couch to 5k program consists of a five minute warm up which I did by briskly walking around the park and pumping my arms to get the blood circulating and then 9 sets of running for 90 seconds and then walking for 60 seconds. When the time was up I felt like I could keep going. I thought I had a pretty decent pace of running 3.4kms in 7:34 seconds. Tomorrow is a rest day which is good because my legs are feeling pretty tired right now and I'll get out there Saturday morning for day two of C5K.
Also, I got my hair cut today and it feels great. I went back to short hair again... it's just a better style for me and it really fits in with my personality.
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 was up late night and caught an article come across on the Huffington Post about a sweet knitting related initative to make 600 monsters for the students at Sandy Hook elementary school. Since I couldn't sleep I jumped on Ravelry to search for the group that started this idea. I absolutely love the knitting community. Such great people. I found the guidelines for the monsers and cast on immediately...
She's not quite finished yet as you can see. I was able to get her stuffed, sewn up and legs attached tonight at TricoThé, my weekly knitting group at my tea house. Also, I have to decide on how to make her a mouth. :)
A few of the other knitters have joined in and we are going to send a small French army of monsters to show our support and love. Knitting has always been a big source of comfort for me in difficult time. I pretty much have been knitting nonstop for the last few weeks because of end of the year stress and now just to try to get my mind off things. It's been helpful to work on this monster knowing that it will find it's way to someone special very soon.
Alixe's birthday party last week was really fun. We kept it pretty low key and incorporated all the things she loves these days. Alixe is into princesses, trains and coloring. We had her party at L'OisiveThé on a saturday morning before the tea house opened for business. I prepared chocolate cupcakes for her with just a little bit of pink frosting as Alixe requested. She really isn't into frosting and it more into the the cake. We set up a coloring station, a train table, a little make shift grocery store so that she and her friends could play.
Every year since Maximilien's 2nd birthday I've made sure to have balloons. I personally love balloons and find them a whimsical addition to any special occasion. Give my kids a balloon and they are happy campers.
Here are a few of my favorite moment's from Alixe's birthday party:
To the sweetest three year old I know... Alixe, you bring joy into my life everyday. I love you, my (little) big girl.
Things were pretty hectic there for a while. Being pregnant with Alixe and juggling the tea house and then trying to get through the post partum depression after Alixe's birth, I sort of let go of my blog. I sort of let go of everything I liked to do just so that I could get through the to the next day. Next thing I knew, Alixe is two years old and the fog has lifted. I look back through my blog archives over the last couple years and there are just a handful of blog posts about random things happening in my life. I am grateful for those snippits and it reminds me of a hectic time. I look at my life today and feel better that I am in better place with more energy and motivation.
I see that a lot of my favorite bloggers have moved one to other projects but I don't feel ready to stop writing here. I've always enjoyed having an outlet to put down my thoughts and know that it will be important to me to share these thoughts with my kids someday.
I've decided to do something with this blog... I may need to find some help with the design of my blog as I am looking for something new and fresh for PutYourFlareOn. Perhaps I will change the name of my blog... I don't know. I am sure there is a process for all this... I'll figure it out. In the meantime, I've rediscovered my kitchen. We recently (last year) had it renovated and I love working in it again. Not really working, just messing around with new recipes. I've been pinning like crazy at Pinterest recipes that I'd like to try. Lately, it's been bagels. The kids love them. Julien loves them and they are surprisingly very easy to make.
Tonight we will have whole wheat bagels and lox for dinner. Looking forward to that! I love that I had my entire day today to spend with my brother, William who is visiting. We had time to go to lunch at my favorite pho restaurant in my neighborhood and then a little grocery shopping and housework and even time for baking before picking up the kids from school today.
Kids as in Maximilien and ALIXE (!) are in school now. Blog post with photos coming for sure. This is another reason why I feel like things are falling back into a healthier routine for me. We have fallen back into our daily routine that I have grown to love very much.
So, here's to la rentrée d'ecole for the kids and my own personal rentrée de vie where I find my way back to lost passions and the little things in life that make me smile.
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...
I recently friended a UK based American expat named Leigh who was visiting Paris on a extended trip. We hit it off from the start. She has a cute blog and an even cuter daugheter named Lois who Maximilien took a liking to immediately. Lois doesn't speak French but that didn't keep her from making fast friends with Max. You would never believe the conversations these two had a mismash of French and English and lots of laughing and wrestling. Lois can keep up with the boys for sure. No wonder Maximilien likes her so much. Leigh approached me about doing an article for a UK based magazine she contributes to. I was happy to let her come and snap photos of the shop and ask me a few questions about L'OisiveThé. This was weeks and weeks ago and I had forgotten about the photo shoot until right before Leigh's return to London she mentioned to me that her article about L'OisiveThé would be coming out in the May edition of Mollie Makes. I had no idea what to expect so when I was shocked when I received a tweet from a friend of a friend who lives in the UK about the article. Keris was so sweet and she scanned the FOUR page article about my shop!
Shortly after, I recieved an email from Mollie Makes with the hi res scans of the article and I'd liket o share with you now:
Thank you, Leigh for the wonderful write up and fabulous photos. The day the photos were taken it was a gray day and you would never believe it from the photos she took. Somehow she managed to get a good photo of me as well! I love all the little aspects of my shop she captured. I'm starting my fifth year owning L'OisiveThé and it's still as fun as it was the first day I opened. I love the new people I meet on a daily basis and am grateful that I am doing something I love.
March has been a busy month for us. Honestly, it's been non stop busy-ness for us since the beginning of February. Where I was so tired at the end of February, now I am used to all this non stop action I don't think I can sit down and do nothing when I have free time. I had my first weekend off last weekend. The kids went to visit their grandmother while Julien was away over the weekend. An entire weekend to myself! I didn't even know what to do with myself. I got motivated to buy some new running shoes to try to get back into running again and while I was walking around the Parc de Bercy I decided to go see a movie. I actually really enjoy going to the movies alone. Not that I have time to talk to anyone during the movie I do miss not having someone to talk to about the movie afterwards. I saw The Hunger Games. I have to say that I really, really enjoyed it. I felt like it was true to the book. They left out some of the side story details that really didn't change anything from the main story line but I felt like the actors they chose for the main characters were spot on. Yes, even Woody Harrelson. If you're intrested in seeing this movie I recommend reading the book first and then going to see it. It's a short read and I put it away in two days.
After having the weekend to myself, I spent some time cleaning the apt and trying to sleep in but I was unsuccessful. I woke up everyday at 8am. Where I was once a champion at sleeping in now I can rarely sleep past 8:30am. Kids will do that to you... it's not so bad, I get a lot done before noon now. :)
I had time to edit some photos that I had taken of Alixe from our previous Monday together. I love spending time with just her. I can tell she needs one on one time with Julien and/or I. We spent a lovely Monday together even if it did include getting a vaccination which she didn't even cry about. Such a big girl.
Maximilien turned five this month. I can hardly believe it. It was such a sweet day to remember becoming a mother. Holding Max for the first time in my arms and feeling the joy I felt when he finally arrived. He made me a mother.
Maximilien loves Transformers and BeyBlade tops right now. He is into Miyazaki films especially Totoro and Ponyo. He thinks his new tennis shoes make him run fast but not as fast as his Iron Man shoes he got from his Halahboji. He loves to ride on the back of my bicycle and he now insists climbing onto the bike himself. He loves to draw and write. He is learning to read. He tells me that he will always love me and that he won't stop giving me kisses until he's at least 35 years old. His words exact. He loves to race and play tag. He is a joy to be around. Oh, he is always singing...
We had a lovely visit from my brother and his girfriend, Lauren right before Max's birthday. Not to put the pressure on the rest of my family but Max has been asking when everyone else is going to come visit. He especially loves sharing his daily life with his extended family. Looking forward to seeing more Osbourns this year.
Something happened to Alixe last week which I plan to write about in another post. It was rather serious and scary. It will take me some time to put to words all that happened. She is alright. She is back to normal, sassy self.
I started writing this post in March and today it's April 1st. Tomorrow will mark four years since I opened L'OisiveThé for business. I have been refleting on that all weekend and hope to find some time to write down my thoughts and goals for the future of L'OisiveThé.
Today Julien and I have been married ten years. Ten. years. It's incredible how I didn't see this milestone coming. I feel like it came just as fast as our wedding day did back in 2002. Julien proposed and a month later we were married. We were tired of the long distant thing and knew that we wanted to be with each other. I ask my mother and father if they would be our witnesses. We decided to get married at the justice of the peace at the court house in Olathe, Kansas. My home town. I remember asking my parents to be our witness. Julien and I had just drove over to their house after I got off work. My father was sitting in the living room and my mother was milling around the kitchen doing several things at once. I asked them like I was asking them permission like a high schooler would for Friday night date. They accepted cheerfully. Julien and I decided on March 6th because it would be a date we would both remember easily. Tomorrow is Julien's birthday. See what I mean?
Since I didn't have a lot of time to plan things between the proposal and the big day I asked off for only a half day from work. I was in the middle of a huge project at work and didn't want to be away an entire day. I remember going into my boss's cubical to ask her if I could have the half day off. She said sure without looking up and asked what I was going to do? I told her that I was going to get married. I remember she dropped her pen and looked at me with her mouth wide open, "What?". I then explained that we were getting married quickly so that Julien and I could stop doing the long distant thing because we were tired of it. She knew what I had been going through the last few months because she could hear me talking on the phone to Julien at work. The Friday we planned to get married came around. I dressed normally for work. Brown slacks and a lovely brown cardigane my mother had given me for Christmas the year before. Heels. Make up done up nicely. My hair straightened. It was long back then. We met at the court house after noon and waited for our turn. I remember my parents looking nice. They dressed up for the occasion. I always remember my mother's perfume she wore when she dressed up. Lauren by Ralph Lauren. My father and mother hugged us when it was our turn to go in front of the judge. I held Julien's hand and remember feeling the warmth in my hand and knowing that this was the right choice. I was so very happy.
I think back to all that we have accomplished in the past ten years and I would never change a thing. Moving to Paris was a very hard thing to do. The choice was easy but once I arrived here life wasn't all that I had dreamed it would be. After a while, I learned that life in Paris as a newlywed, uneployeed and friendless it just as hard as it would have been in Kansas. This is what life was like for Julien when we lived in Kansas. But we had each other. I think back to that first year living together and how excited I would be when he'd come home from work and I'd talk his ear off for an hour straight because I hadn't talked to anyone the entire day. He would listen to be intently. Thinking back to that I realize he was such a good sport listening to me talk about silly stuff happening on the internet because that was all that I had back then. Over the years our couple grew from being young couple without kids in Paris to young parents trying to juggle it all in Paris. I am sitting in the middle of our kitchen which is pretty messy right now. There are toys on the floor, laundry that needs to be folded and put away. I did the dishes though and have prepared a special dinner for us.
I dusted off our crystal candlestick holders that still have the candles in them we recieved as a gift from my Aunt Judy for our wedding. We light these candles on our anniversary every year. I think we missed a few years there when Max and Alixe were first born and we were in a perpetual fog of sleep deprivation. But they still have a lot of wick left to them and I look forward to lighting them for many more anniversaries to come. I wonder what they will look like in 20 years from now?
I'm just sitting here waiting for Julien to get home from his early birthday present I set up for him tonight. I have to work tomorrow night so we are celebrating everything tonight. Dinner is almost ready, champagne is chilling and candles ready to be lit...
These last 10 years have been so great, I am looking forward to the next 10 and then the next 10. And the next 10. Lots of love to my dear husband. Looking forward to this next chapter in our lives. I hope it's full of lots of new adventures.
If you've ever come to our apartment you will quickly notice that it is the biggest room in the apartment. The phrase life revolves around the kitchen is so very true in our house. We've been living in this apartment for 8 years now. It was supposed to be a temporary stay that turned into a permanent one. With all it's imperfections we grew to love this place. The room, the floor, the plumbing and the electricity is sure in this apartment. It's a more modern apartment building dating between 60-80 years old according to Julien.
The French love doors to all their rooms. Everything in this apartment could be closed of by a door. The first thing we did when we moved in was take the door off the kitchen. Then we finally felt the necessity after 6 years of living in this apartment to knock the wall down. Our family grew from two to four and the time spent in the kitchen pretty much was multiplied by the same number.
Just to give you an idea of the kitchen wall and doorway:
Here's a shot from two years ago today. Baby Alixe! We were mighty cramped when we had people staying with us. Knocking down the wall we gained two meters in our kitchen. The flow of the room felt less congested and what was a dark and cold hallway now has natural light through out most of the day.
Here are few shots of the kitchen wall before it went down the summer of 2010:
As you will notice we did things in phases. We had to because it's expensive to renovate and we had to keep living in the apartment while we did it. We had the wall torn down while we were at Belle Ile on summer vacation two years ago. It was nerve racking to say the least but my brother was supervising while we were gone and everything went fairly well.
And our first view of the wall upon returning to Paris:
This was the beginning of our major renovations to the kitchen. Nothing happened from August 2010 until November 2011. We started to put money aside and planned carefully. We took our time planning because I am horrible at deciding on what I want. This worked out fine because we didn't have anymore vacation time to spend on working on the kitchen and we needed time to save up to make it happen.
I didn't take any photos of the kitchen right before we renovated in November 2011. Too bad. I dug through my Flickr archives and found some shots that will give you a good idea of what a poor lay out our kitchen was.
Here are a few views of the nook portion of our kitchen where our stove and our makeshift cabinets and majority of the storage was:
And this one from the nook towards where the laundry and the kitchen sink was. A total hike when working in the kitchen to go from one side to the other but not surprising in Parisian kitchen layouts. We suspect that when the building recieved their gas lines they pretty much took the easy way to install things along the defunct chimney conduits thus placing the stove on the opposite side of the sink which was installed next to the bathroom. Both of these photos are quite dated having been taken in April 2006 but you get the idea...
And a shot of my fabulous husband with the glimpse of the sink and laundry area behind him.
Our plan for the kitchen renovations that took place in November 2011 was to move the kitchen sink from far end of the kitchen over to the nook and place it right under the window by the water heater. Then move the heater (cutting if from the gas line and moving it two feet to the adjacent wall) out of the nook to make space for the dishwasher which means we had to bring an evacuation and a water source over to the kitchen nook. Confused?
Here's a photo of the heater and we moved it from where it was in the nook to where the kitty grass is in this photo:
In the place of the heater we installed the evacuation for the dishwasher and at the same time we had an Ikea kitchen installed. I have to say it was very easy to pick the kitchen perfect for our needs using the Ikea kitchen planning tool online. We were in desperate need of storage and having a U-shaped nook now it was imporant to utilize the corners to the max. As you could see in the previous photos we had random shelving and cabinets installed. Nothing going all the way to the corner and if anything a HUGE waste of space! But that is now over and done with and we are left with a wonderful, functional kitchen nook and I will share photos of that with you later this week...
It's been a busy time since the begining of the new year. I had complete turnover at the tea house that lasted from November to end of December. As you can image it's been a pretty stressful time for us. We decided to up my hours and only hire a part timer to replace my full time employee that left us at the end of December. It took me a couple weeks to get adjusted to the new hours and I feel like it's going to work for us. Before I had Wednesdays off to hang out with Max and take him to his various activities. In France for the younger children in school there isn't school on Wednesdays. It seems a little strange but it's a nice break for him and he is only four. Now on Wednesdays, I take Maximilien to his morning English class and he comes back to the tea house with me and hangs out while I prepare for the day. Usually I work the lunch service with someone so I have time to hang out, eat lunch with Max before getting to work at noon. Julien comes over on his lunch break to take Maximilien to his tennis lesson and he bikes over and hangs out at the tea house while Max is in class. For the moment this is working for us as long as Julien doeslun't have any nch meetings. Then in the afternoon, Max hangs out with me at the tea house while I work tea time. So far it's been pretty fun as the customers are used to seeing him at the tea house. He helps out by clearing tea cups and giving menus to customers once they have been seated. He even helps me dry dishes. He has his own reserved table where he can come and go as he pleases and often Max is striking up conversation with the people who happen to sit next to him. I love that he is at ease talking with my customers and they just love talking to him too.
Some days it's quiet like it was this week:
Maximilien and I had time to have a post tennis rooibos tea together. And before I could finish my second cup of tea L'OisiveThé was full and I was busy serving tea to weary shoppers. This is the first week of Les Soldes in France. I was left with this after they left:
Before I knew it was closing time and I needed to prepare to go get Alixe from the creche to make dinner for the kids.
Wednesday nights will be dinner night at the tea house. We are going to try this out through the end of the school year to see how it works for us. This week we had oeuf à la coque which the kids love.
I think this new weekly routine is going to work out well for us. I love having the kids at the tea house and now that Alixe is a bit older and more autonomous I know she will be alright if I have to serve a customer a tea while she plays in the toy corner.
Today was the first day of the weekend we were pretty much back to normal. We slept in late after a late night of getting everyone to sleep. Both kids are in the midst of vivid nightmares and wake up once or twice a night usually end up in our bed. Last night, we had both kids with us. When Alixe slept in until 10am this morning we were all very pleasently surprised and well rested. We got up and headed out to Breakfast in America for our regular late morning breakfast and park play.
It was quite cold today in Paris but the sun was out which made the day a crisp cold which I like. The light in Paris was gorgeous today. We were out at the park until after 5pm and the sun hadn't set yet. The days are getting longer...
I stopped in a couple times to the tea house today to make sure all was well. I can't imagine living far away from my business. I am lucky that I live and work all within a ten minute walk. A five minute bike ride. Even though I am not there my employees know they can call me and I can be there in five.
I end this post with the first photo I took today which was a photo of me right straight out of bed.
And my last photo today:
I have set the goal for my self to grow my hair out this year. I have a some twitter friends playing along and we are using the hashtag #growingitout2012. Feel free to join us in the fun! Growing it out will be a difficult task for me as I am addicted to getting my hair cut and I love my fabulous hair stylist, Stephane. I'm going on nearly two months without a hair cut...shaggy? Not yet.
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.
A too short haircut turned into this:
It is not my style but I am making it work and am starting to love it. Makes mornings easy as my hair is already pretty much looking like this anyways.
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.
Pregnancy did amazing things for my skin. It changed drastically and seemed to not age. I completely stopped using all skin care products because they didn't work. Sadly after 9 months of not being used I had to throw out my beloved skin care products. They had expired. Miraculously, my skin maintained itself between pregnancies. I picked up a basic 1-2-3 skin care regime from Clinique and that was it. Now Alixe is almost two years old and I've noticed I've got a new face now. I see a few spots on my face that were once cute little freckles that have now turned to more suspiciously (slightly) dark spots. I also noticed more wrinkles around the eyes though those don't bother me much I have noticed that I am getting pimples again! Ack.
So, I'm back to using products again. I was honestly hesitant at first. It felt liberating to stop using all the product. Don't get me wrong, I love taking care of my skin but it was just that. The fact that I stopped using the skin care products, I actually stopped taking care of my skin. More often then I'd like to admit I went ot bed without washing my face. Granted I don't wear makeup, I still have Paris city on my face that wasn't washed off until the next morning. So here I am easing myself back into it because the market has changed so much in the last 4 years that I don't know what is the new technology these days.
Surfing around the net I found a few French bloggers talking about Jolie Box. Every month you are sent generous samples of new and up coming products in skin care and body care. The concept interested me immediately and I signed up for my year of Jolie boxes. One box a month for twelve months.
I got my first one today:
Already the packaging is amazingly pretty. I love all things pretty so this made a huge impression on me. Everything was delicately wrapped up inside. Upon opening the box I found that this months products were all from Kiehl's. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this brand It's crazy expensive in France but when I go home I always pick up a few comfort products like their lip balm that I love and their body lotion. And guess what goodies I received this month?
Two of my favorite Kiehl's products! Also one that I am very interested in trying out, Midnight Recovery Concentrate. Included in the Jolie Box is a very large sampling of Kiehl's Amino Acid Shampoo and Ultra Face cream. Two products that I have never tried before.
I'll check back in with my thoughts on these goodies. Looking forward to next month's Jolie Box. †
I did not even see last week go by with all the activities going on at the tea house. I clocked a 60 hour work week. It's been a couple years since I've done that. I'm way out of practice and my body reminded me of this around the 50 hour mark. Thank goodness my husband was able to help me out with the evenings and picking up the kids from school/creche. Why so busy? We had several things going on last week, I hosted Ysolda Teague for two days as she did a book signing for her new book, Little Red in the City and stayed for knitting night on Wednesday night. Then Thursday she was back again to teach her masterclass on how to make the perfect sweater. If you ever have a chance to attend this class I recommend it. It really taught me a lot about yarn selection, the importance of swatching and how to measure oneself correctly to knit the right size!
All incredibly fun and rewarding days at the tea house but before we go to the fun stuff we had to deal with some no so fun stuff like my toilets breaking or to be more precise someone breaking my toilet! On Sunday two weeks ago, someone broke my toilet. Talk about a major pain, we had a plumber come in pretty quickly. He tried to fix the toilet without replacing the whole thing but after an hour of working on the toilet he realized it had to be replaced. We had already gone two days without a toilet. Yeah, fun times explaining that one to my customers. Most were understanding and some were not. Ah, c'est la vie. Something I've learned owning my own business is that when one thing breaks two other things follow right along and do the same thing. The next thing to go was my coffee machine. Out of the blue it made all the fuses in the tea house blow in the middle of brunch service ON A SUNDAY. If you have ever been to the tea house on Sunday at brunch you know what I'm talking about. Tea house full with people waiting for their coffee, obviously. After 15 minutes of trying to figure out what the heck was the matter we realized the coffee machine plugged in AND turned off was still making the fuses blow. Bad sign. Coffee machine is off being repaired. We have been coffee-less for four days now. It's very sad because the coffee at the tea house is excellent and I can't bring myself to drink coffee anywhere else. So, what is next to break? Something important, right? My oven! The confection fan has decided to be a diva and will not turn when needed. Sometimes it turns and sometimes it doesn't. I don't know how to make cakes without the confection portion of my oven. Baking our savory tarts and puff pastry is okay without the confection fan but not the same. Looks like I will have to shell out some euros for a new oven soon. Something I just hadn't counted on... and it's the end of the trimester for us. if you own a small business you know what this means? Time to PAY! Taxes, rent, salaries, every thing the government likes to tax us on all falls at the same time in October. Why not add a new toilet, oven and espresso machine on top of it? And I have two beloved employees leaving us and must fine replacements... when it rains, it pours.
I still love being my own boss, though. :) 60 hours, a new toilet, coffee machine, oven, etc.. It's all for me to deal with but you tend to forget the tedious stuff like this when you get to have good days of making people happy. The two days Ysolda visited I was thrilled to have her. Not only because she's an inspiration to me but that I was able to bring this opportunity to my customers: the knitters. They were so pleased to have a chance to talk to her and ask her questions and just knit with her. The feeling is addicting. I love making people happy. I am so grateful that I get to do this everyday in my job.
So, instead of dwelling on the back office stuff going on at the tea house I'm going to share some photos from Ysolda's book signing and knitting night. Such a fun night to be able to spend time with someone who has really changed the face of knitting. Ysolda has accomplished so much at her young age and really is an expert. Listening to her talk about the importance of swatching and knitting maths, as she says, really changed my views about these two aspects of knitting that I sort of shy away from. And one more thing, Ysolda is the nicest person I've met in a long time!
See more photos form Ysolda's visit here.
My kids are just like me. They loves shoes and they love having matching shoes. New shoes for back to school and Converse are an all time favorite of ours. Now we just need to get Julien a new pair...
Back to school. Back to the routine that I grew to love because I had every minute of my day laid out in front of me. I guess as a Mama I thrive on routine just as much as my kids do. Vive La Rentrée!
We returned from Belle Ile and had a few days before getting back to work and Maximilien packing up to fly to visit his Grandpa to prolong our vacation and enjoy the emptiness of Paris.
Then is was time for us to say goodbye to Max as he took the plane by himself for the first time to fly to Lyon to be picked up by his uncle and then a short road trip to his grandfather's house in Pontarlier.
Alixe and Max love each other. This is an undisputed fact. They also fight as many parents can relate to. Maximilien is patient and lets his sister play with almost all his toys but sometimes he is just plain tired of sharing which I can understand because his little sister is very demanding. When she doesn't get her way she screams. It's this stringent, high pitch sound that make your ears feel like they are bleeding. We love you, Alixe, but the screaming has got to stop! I think the screaming reached it's maximum level just before Maximilien left for grandpa's house. Julien and I were at our wits end. Then her brother left and se wasn't sure why she was screaming anymore. She screamed a lot the first day he was gone. I think it was just residual screaming she had built up and needed to let out. After 24 hours of only being with Mamma and Daddy. She started to talk! I would say that 75% of the words are Alixe speak we were just relieved the screaming had stopped.
Though, she was happy to have us all to herself, I know she missed Max especially at bedtime. She didn't like sleeping alone. We enjoyed taking Alixe out to dinner and realized one child at a restaurant is much easier than two. I give major respect to my parents who took all five of us out to dinner. That must have been crazy town. Alixe loved having all of our attention and I realize that it's very important she gets this kind of attention too.
We spent a quiet week at home. Going to the park everyday, twice a day. Taking naps together and Alixe discovered Sesame Street and she loves it!
I can't believe she is entering her last year at the Creche. She will be 21 months old tomorrow. I amazed at how fast these 20 months have gone by. I love this age. So much discovery. I can't wait to hear the stories she will tell me.
Here's a funny bit about Alixe. She's quiet the neat freak already. Her aunts Elizabeth and Erin will be thrilled to know she has the cleaning gene. She absolutely loves to clean. Pick up her toys. Do the dishes. Vaccum and mop. The apartment was exceptionally clean last week.
The return of Maximilien was dramatic. Alixe was so thrilled to see her brother that it was non stop hugs and kisses all evening. Alixe and Max even slept together in the same bed and for the first time in a week she slept until almost 9am when we had to wake her so she wouldn't be late for her first day back to the creche.
Two peas in a pod...
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. :)
Max is has almost completely recovered from the chicken pox. He is back to his cheery self. Alixe is as sassy as ever now with more words. She has added to her vocabulary, Encore, Merci, Shoe, Baby, Couche, Banane, and More. And she refers to her self as "Ali" when she sees herself in photos or pointing out things that belong to her.
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?
The last seven shots on my series of 12 shots of Alixe. Each one is so very Alixe. Her personality shines in every one of these shots. These were taken with my D200 with my 50mm f1.8 lens and my SB-600 lens. They are straight out of the camera.
My girl and her many faces...
12 faces of Alixe. 12 faces I adore.
I took twelve shots of Alixe as part of my 12 Shot photo challenge. I used my D200 with my 50mm f1.8 lens and my SB-600 speed light. I did not edit these photos once I pulled them from the memory card. The only changes made to the image are the settings I had long ago set in my D200 for portraits. And you know what? I can't really remember what tweaks I made to my D200. I remember thinking that the images were a bit warm for my taste so I changed the temperature settings of the photos a bit.
Here are shots my shots two through five:
The last photo is my favorite one out of this bunch. Such a genuine smile from Alixe. I remember I called out to her to get her attention. She was climbing down from her chair and I had stuck a photo sticker of herself to my speed light. As you can tell she was happy to see herself.
A photo challenge has been set forth by a photographer I admire with the goal for us to be mindful photographers. The challenge is take photos as if you are limited to only two rolls of film. Easy right? In this age of digital photography we have a tendency to snap away and before we know we have 200 photos to sort through. I have been there and never want to be there again.
I remember shooting film back in college. It was expensive to get film developed so when I was eligible to take the fine arts photography class I jumped at the opportunity. We were never taught to be mindful of the photos we took, per se, but I suppose it was understood that we would mindful all the same. Usually we only had enough time in a class to develop one roll of film.
I chose Alixe as my first subject for my tweaked version of this photo challenge. I'm calling it my 12 Shot Challenge. I am limiting myself to only twelve shots. Remember those rolls of film with 12 photos on them? Well, as busy as I am these days I don't have time to take more than twelve photos at a time. Alixe is at a hard age to photograph. Unable to sit still for more than a few seconds and she wants to grab the camera from my hands ALL THE TIME. Anyone who has tried to photograph an 18 month old knows what I'm talking about. And anyone who knows me knows I love a good challenge...
Here is shot number one:
After dinner, bib still on. Window light + flash. No editing. SOOC. I used my D200 with my 50mm f1.8 lens and SB-600 speed light.
I'll post my next eleven shots in a few days. Anyone else want to play along?
I always remember the last day of school being a big deal. Less so when I was in university but up until high school the excitement of being on summer break was incredible. Today was Maximilien's last day of petit section of maternelle. Bittersweet? Not really. More sweet than bitter. His first year was disappointing. Perhaps less for Max who at four rarely experiences disappointment except when his play mobil breaks or he has to go down the long slide when we play Chutes and ladders. But as for me a parent of my child starting his first year of school in France, I am disappointed. Without going into great detail about his teacher, I will tell you that seems that she may not be teaching next year and that she made this year feel like it was her year to just get through it. I learned this pretty quickly after the beginning of the year. I chose not to blog about it because I didn't want to perpetuate my disappointment. Instead, I talked to my father, who was a teacher, and asked him for advice. I decided where I felt Maximilien's teacher was lacking I would pick up the slack and then some. And to make it more interesting I only teach Maximilien in English. Apparently by the end of the petit section a child is supposed to be able to draw a detailed stick man. This is what we were told during the parent's meeting at the beginning of the year. Max could already draw a pretty detailed stick man at the BEGINNING of the school year. Last week, Maximilien's Friday teacher mentioned to me that Max really couldn't draw a stick man. I asked her if that meant he failed petit section? She laughed and said oh they don't grade the children at this age. But she did mention that he would need to work on it over the summer. We came home that night and I took out a piece of paper and asked Max to draw me a stick man and he drew a butterfly instead:
I found this pretty impressive. The butterfly has a face and is multi-colored and it looks like a butterfly. But then I asked him why he drew a butterfly instead of a stickman. He told me that he doesn't like being told what to draw. Then he took another piece of paper and drew me a stick man in three seconds flat with eyes, ears, shoes, shirt, hands and hair.
What Maximilien needs to work on over the summer is listening. Not drawing a stick man. His teacher telling me that he needs to work on drawing a stick man annoys me.
Talking about this with Julien he told me that he has the exact same problem at his age. The only teachers he excelled with were the ones who had "serrer la vise" (tighten the screws) with him. Maximilien needs an teacher who exudes authority. His two teachers this year did not do that.
So, moving on... Last day of school today! Yeah! Max was excited this morning. He wanted to wear all green to school:
Check him out at the beginning of the school year:
Today, I asked him what he did at school just like I did every other day of and he said the same response, "I don't know". I smiled at him and said, "ok". A good friend told me at the beginning of the school year that I shouldn't stress Max about the details of what he does at school all day. I don't know why I have this very strong urge to KNOW what he is doing at school. I guess growing up with parents who were teachers made me curious about this. Growing up we always talked about what we did at school. It was a dinner time ritual to go around the table and talk about out day. I really liked that. Where in the US things are very transparent between the teachers and parents, in France it's all very closed door and hard to get any details about anything. This has been our experience so far. It's only the first year and next year is a new year and I am looking forward to it.
Meanwhile, Alixe is enjoying her days at the creche. She is the youngest in her class but you would think she was one of the oldest. She's taller than most of the kids in her class. What sets her apart is that she isn't talking yet. Just a few key words here and there. She says Mama, Ma (Max), Pee Pee, Lo Lo (for water and milk) and Julien confirms that she does not say Dada yet. And the key words she used a lot are "ça" (pronounced sa) and "la". This and that.
Can you guess what she's saying here?
I've got another school year to go before Alixe starts school. At La Rentrée 2012 she sill be just over 2.5 years old. I am confident she will be ready for school by then. Every morning, she goes with Julien to drop Maximilien off at school. She walks Max into his classroom and sits right down and start to color with the other kids. Apparently, it's a battle every morning getting her to leave to go next door to the creche. This summer, we will start working on potty training for little miss. She already tells us when she needs to go pee pee on the potty and she's pretty good at doing that. Potty trained by two. I am READY for this. :)
We just need to get through the month of July and then we'll be on vacation. We will be heading to our beloved island, Belle ile en Mer. I wish we could leave tomorrow...
A year ago, Alixe was just 8 months old and Maximilien was three.
I wish we could leave tomorrow...
Alixe turned 18 months old yesterday. I can hardly believe it. I remember Maximilien turning 18 months old. I had just opened the tea house and was starting the wonderful adventure of owning my own business. But before I opened L'OisiveThé I was a stay at home mom. Everyday of my life was dedicated to Max. It seemed like ages between his first birthday and him turning 18 months old. With the birth of Alixe I was a full time working Mama. Juggling the tea house, Max, Alixe and everything else in-between I hardly have time to do anything else.
It's so hard not to have these feelings of missing out. I find that I fall into the same routine and before I know it it's weeks and weeks of the same 'ole same 'ole and my baby is no longer a baby but a toddler!
I look at baby photos of Alixe and luckily I remember so clearly those very early weeks.
I took the time tonight to really pay attention to details while I put the babes to bed. Switched off auto-mama-pilot and cherished every second. It's a hard time going to bed these days. Alixe is wanting a big girl bed but she isn't really ready for one. She isn't disciplined enough to stay in bed once we put her there. Ideally, I'd love for both kids to sleep together. And I know neither Max nor Alixe would be against the idea. Unfortunately, they play more than sleep. It keeps them up way past their bedtime.
Tonight, I took Max's mattress off his mini loft and heaved it to the floor. Immediately Alixe and Max crawled into bed together. The next hour and half was less fun for me. I listened over the baby monitor as Alixe proceeded to get up,several times and try to open the door. Then she started emptying toy chests and turning chairs over. All the while her brother laughing infectiously which encouraged her more. A few more visits from Mama and stern commands to go to bed. Tears shed by both children as they both protested sleep all the while I can hear them yawning loudly over the baby monitor.
The evening ended with Alixe calling to me, "Mamamamamamamamamama". I gravitate to their room as the call of my youngest is the a sure bet to get me come in. Alixe is holding her arms to me as I open the door. She lays down and pats the bed telling me so clearly that she wants me there. I lay half off the twin mattress on the floor while both my kids cuddled close to me. Both of them touching me while they drifted off to sleep.
I lay there feeling so motherly. My presence alone was enough to comfort them. The importance of mother never ceases to amaze me.
Thinking that both of them had drifted to sleep, I slowly rose to leave. Max's little hand shoots out from under the blanket in his last half asleep attempt to keep me close. I smile weakly and lay back down. With his eyes closed he whispers, "calin, Mommy" and I fold him into my arms.
These everyday moments are the ones I treasure the most. There will come a time when they will nor longer need Mommy to fall asleep. I have long resolved with myself that time for Mama will come later. I don't want to miss these little moments like these because I am busy wishing I had more time to do other things. The time for me will come before I know it.
Got kids sharing a room? What are your tricks to getting them to bed together in a timely manner?
Living in France now I get to celebrate Mother's day twice. The date for Mother's Day in the US and France differ by two weeks. A few days ago a bunch of my friend's profile photos on Facebook started changing all of sudden to show photos of their mothers. I thought I'd play along too. It was comforting to dig into my hard drive on my computer and into my archives on Flickr to find photos of Omma. This fall will mark 6 years since she passed away. Needless to say, though I type it here... I miss her everyday. I started by posting this photo of us taken in 2000 when she and my father came to visit me in France. At the time I was living there as a teaching assistant. I loved my life in France. Little did I know at the time that I'd be making my life here and someday marrying a Frenchman and having kids. I met Julien two days after this photo was taken.
I love this photo of her. We were so happy on this trip. I loved showing her where I lived and her hearing me speak French. She was so proud of me and didn't stop telling me the entire time she was in France.
I had scanned some photos of my mother and I when I was a baby. I scanned these photos way before Alixe was even a dream of ours. I had just had Max and we had just brought him back to the US for the first time. I found old photos of me as a baby and wanted to scan them to do comparisons of Maximilien and I. But I found that he looked NOTHING like me. He is the spitting image of his father. I kept these scans with distant hopes that I may someday have a daughter. And then I did...
The next photo I posted on Facebook was this one:
This was at my first birthday party. Look at how beautiful my mother was! I know for a fact that I did not feel and look as fresh as she does in this photo. My mother wore motherhood like it was in style everyday. I admire her for that and it reminds me to work to keep myself in shape. And there I am... one years old! Alixe is nearly the spitting image of me. ME!! Why did I ever doubt that she may not look like me. Same pouty mouth, the cheeks that you want to smoosh, the same little nose. I love seeing that she looks like me. It brings me unexplainable joy when I see her. Picking her up from a long day at the Créche and she holds her arms out to me and says in her cute little baby voice, "Ma Ma". I can't run to her fast enough to sweep her up into my arms. She is me.
I looked around for a photo of myself near Alixe's age now. She's just turned 17 months old. The next photo I posted was this one:
Look at my head! HUGE. I took Alixe to a wellness visit a couple weeks ago and the doctor says she growing very well but her head is off the charts! Ha ha. She's got the big Osbourn head. My friend, Sarah, even pointed out that Alixe sits exactly the way I am sitting in this photo and it's so true! And the lens cap in the hand! So classic. I have so many photos of Maximilien and Alixe with the lens cap in hand.
I have such fond memories of this house. Everything stayed the same until we moved out I believe. I remember the couch changing and the carpets but that was just as we moved.
I love this photo of my mother. In my mind she remains unchanged. Forever young. It is incredibly epic how much I miss her but somehow I have learned to live with this feeling. Unsettling yet normal now...
Maximilien looks at this photo and says, "it's halmoni and Alixe!" it makes me smile as I am filled with bittersweet emotions as he knows her and yet will never have the chance to really know her. For now, Alixe and I look at these photos and she points and says, "bébé".
I love being a mother. I always knew it was to be one of my roles in my life. Perhaps the most important role in my life. I can't imagine my life any different as it is today. Maximilien made me a mother. He taught me that there is so much more to my life. Then Alixe came along and she taught me that the love a mother has can be multiplied exponentially. I didn't know I could love these two kids as much as I do. And I believe I finally realize (in portion) what my Omma, a mother to five children, felt raising us. The joys, the frustrations, the pride, the hardships and THE LOVE. The love is the one thing I didn't really understand until I became a mother myself.
I am proud to be a mama to these guys:
And I couldn't have gotten where I am today without the love and support of my husband, Julien. Behind this Mama is a great Papa or as we say in our house, Daddy.
Rounding out our family to a happy four:
Happy Mother's Day to all the great Mamas celebrating in the US!
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.
Out and about today. Business meeting then a bit of walking in search of running shoes on sale. I hardly leave my neighborhood anymore. Very Parisian to stay in one's neighborhood. Everything I need is with in a 4 block radius of my apartment. I enjoyed my outing today reminded me of times when I was younger before I had kids. I walked in front of a familiar cafe we used to frequent as a young married couple and hanging around Chatelet I was reminded of the very first knitting group I was apart of us. Seems like a dream ago but all the memories are still fresh in my mind. I've always liked this building. I know it was a sort of a controversy when it was first built. Some called it an eye sore. I don't agree. The Tour de Montparnasse is an eye sore and out of place. I like the juxtaposition of this modern building (though built 33 years ago!) amongst the classic Parisian architecture. I will never forget the first time I saw it, I was in high school on my very first trip to France. My French teacher compared the building to a public bathroom with it's plumbing on the outside of the building. Obvious, he did not like the building. It was a strange thing to say...but I remember clearly disagreeing with him (in my mind) and thinking the building was pretty amazing. Photo from my 365 photo project over on Tumblr.
I always walk by this laundromat on my way home from work on Sunday nights. It’s usually always empty and I always walk slowly looking at the bubbles on the windows and the yellow machines in a row in the background. A distinct memory of my mother always appears in my mind. It’s a memory of my mother and I in the laundromat in centre ville in Besançon, France. I was a working as a teacher and my parents had come to visit me for two weeks. We headed to the laundromat to do some washing. I was busy putting clothes in the washer while a French woman was muttering to herself in French and literally scratching her head because she didn’t know how to work the machine. My mother observed her for a few minutes. Then she got up, walked across the room to the woman and stood next to her. They did not speak but the woman made a gesture towards the machine like, “how do you make it work?”. My mother reached out and pushed the button to make the machine go. The button was marked “ON”. The French woman smiled and thanked her in French. My mother smiled and came back to sit next to me. She looked at me and smiled and said, “The machine is in English”. I looked at all the machines and they were ALL marked in English. It hadn’t occurred to me that they were not in French. I smiled at my mother as I could see she was so pleased she could help someone even doing something as simple as pushing the “on” button on the washing machine. This was the way she was. Always helping people out whenever and wherever she’d go.
I feel like sometimes I am forgetting her. It’s sometimes that feeling you have when you try to remember a dream you just had. Fleeting moments that come to me when I’m sleeping when I wake up I am so desperate to keep them close all the while my mind is pushing them away. I don’t know why this happens to me.
I am realizing that it is the little memories that tend to be the most precious to me. Sure there are the milestones and birthdays and firsts to remember. There will probably be photos of those moments for sure. I want to remember the moments in between hence my reason for doing a 365 photo project this year. And who knows… maybe I’ll just do it every year from now on…
I started a 365 photo project and instead of posting them here everyday I thought I'd just do a recap of the week every Friday. I'm going to post my favorite photo of the week and link back to my other photos if you're interested in seeing them. I'm using Tumblr to post my 365s and having a lot of fun blogging over there. It's a very young vibe but I prefer to keep my personal blog here on Typepad.
My favorite shot from this week is Thursday's photo 6/365:
When Max hears the familiar sounds of Skype he always pipes up, "Is it Halahboji?" or "Nam nam?" or "Hession?" or "Emo?" or "Kun Emo?". Yes, he goes through the list of my family members until Skype picks up and he sees who is calling. Tonight we Skyped with William aka. Nam Nam. Max misses his uncle. It was good to "hang out" with his uncle a bit.
And he got his hair cut super short! It's very cute. He looks so grown up.
I also really like today's photo:
Over the vacation I was lucky to have a lot of one on one time with Alixe. Max spent time with his uncles and his Mamou. When schools back in session it's a lot of sharing time with Mama between Alixe and Max. I can see it's hard for Max because it's a lot of him waiting for me to feed Alixe or waiting for me to bathe her and get her to bed, etc... I love our Wednesdays because we have the entire day together and I really let him do whatever he wants. He has English class in the morning (which he loves!) followed by intro to martial arts class which was hard for him in the beginning because he was the youngest and standing still and listening was a new concept for him to learn but now he's been going to class for a few months and his teacher tells me he's has really good coordination for a child of his age and he has become a very good listener. The reason why I love this photo is because on Friday nights we have a routine. I pick up the kids from school/creche we stroll home and make dinner. This is movie night for us so by the end of the week Max has been looking forward to this night of the week AND he gets to stay up an extra hour because there's no school the next day.
Tonight, we watched Wall-E. I put the movie on while I feed, bathed and put Alixe to bed. Usually takes me about 45 minutes to get it all done. In the meantime, Max is with us watching a movie on my laptop. By the time I am ready to take Alixe back I have served Max his dinner. When I come back, his goal is to have half his dinner eaten. He does most of the time. :) I have to say I feel like super mom on this night of the week because it's goes so much soother with the extra buffer hour before he has to go to bed. But what is even better is that we are hanging out together doing what we want to do. He loves to color and watch a movie. I love to knit and watch a movie. A typical Friday night at our house.
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.
It's been a busy, busy time for us the last month and half. Maximilien started school. Alixe started going to the creche. And Mama went back to work. It's been a booming time at the tea house I feel that my customers are happy that I am back. En tout cas, I am super happy to be back. My body was sore and achy the first two weeks of working the lunch service again but I got my groove back pretty quickly. The yarn business has been on semi-hold the last year I've been on maternity leave. But now that I am back I threw a bit of elbow into the renovations at the tea house (of course with big help from Julien and my brother, William) and things are starting to take form.
I've started hosting a Saturday morning knitting group at the tea house. A very good time slot for me since a) I'm already up! b) the tea house is closed in the mornings so it makes it a private time for JUST THE KNITTERS c) having two knitting sessions during the week is AWESOME.
Today was a special edition of Tricot Matin to celebrate the launch of the Yarn On Stage yarn program. Knitters got up early this morning to come to be the first to get their hands on the 10 limited editions yarns from ten of today's most popular indie dyers. I had kept the box closed for three days, I have to say that I was pretty excited putting out the yarn this morning. Though I didn't have time to knit one stich for myself today (which is just fine by me because I have my Weds nights) I was so happy to serve breakfast to happy knitters and help them choose the right colors for their projects in mind. I can't tell you how happy it makes to sell yarn to happy knitters.
Hopefully you can get a feel for the cozy Tricot Matin we had today and if you're in Paris and you're looking for a place to knit come and join us!
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.
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.
It's been a just over a week now since we returned from our summer vacation at Belle Il en Mer. Julien was off another three days before he had to go back to his office job so we we remained lazy another few days. Suitcases were not unpacked and instead we went out and enjoyed our empty city. Now seven days since we've come home the bag is still in the middle of the livingroom (ugh), I've been taking care of Max and Alixe for three full days worked a Saturday shift at the tea house (which kicked my butt) and I have to admit that I am exhausted. So much to write about too! Our first vacation as a family of four, Max's beach adventures, Alixe's commando weaning tactics WHILE ON VACATION, and so much more...
But until I can find some time to put all my thoughts into blogs I'm slowly but surely uploading my photos of our trip to Flickr. I've given up getting them all in order as hard as it is for me. But if you have been following along the fun pictures will be uploaded hopefully this week.
As tired and wrecked as I feel after our vacation I have to admit that I trying to see the good side to it all that I get to spend all this time with both of my kids before they embark on their own adventrues this fall. Maximilien will be starting preschool next Thursday and Alixe will be starting the creche. And once they have both gotten acclimated to school and daycare I will be going back to work full time. It will be almost to the day one year that I have been on extended maternity leave. I can't believe how fast time has gotten away from me. Reminds me that I haven't blogged nearly as much as I wanted to.
So, here is a little snippit of the now: while typing this blog my son has been standing on the back of my chair peeling my skin from my epic sun burn I got two days before we left Belle Ile. (totally gross, I KNOW) I should have learned my lesson years ago when I was canoeing in the Grand Canyon without a hat on but I forgot... but my son probably won't forget the lesson as he repeats to me everyday that we have to wear sunscreen when we go out in the sun and as he finds a "good one" to peel off he announces "beurk!!!!!" (Ewwwwwww). I don't think I'll EVER FORGET to put on suncreen again. Way to be mortified by a 3.5 year old.