Friday, December 31, 2010
As we are about to welcome another year, I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on what is good in my life. These days, there is plenty, but, especially, there is you.
This mat leave, this new venture into parenthood is so different than the last one was. I don't feel so isolated, and so outside of the real world anymore. And this, thanks to two things mostly (of course my more relaxed and experienced self might also help): my iPhone and this blog.
It means the world to me to still keep in touch with funny, smart, helpful, caring, supportive people, even during this very peculiar time of my life. You're my lifeline. All you blog friends from near and far, I just wanted to say that somewhere along the way, you really became just as important to me as if we actually saw each other IRL all the time. And I love that, even though there's also a twinge of sadness that since we don't, it means I cannot really be there for you as much as I'd like to when you have something fantastic to celebrate, or, say, when your toddler suddenly suffers a frightening disease (thankfully short-lived), or you have twin babies and struggle a little with breastfeeding, or your dad has a stroke, or your job is absolute hell, or your grandmother passes away, or your Spanish boyfriend finds somebody else, or you'd like to get pregnant but it's not happening as quickly as you'd want, or your in-laws are insane and make your life miserable, or you've followed your husband to a new country and it's not always easy. But I wanted to say I'm still here, tucked away somewhere with a baby all wrapped up in my arms and a boob hanging out, sending all my love.
I know haven't been commenting much on your blogs, lately... I'm still reading most of them, but usually in stolen minutes here and there on my phone, while nursing or lying in bed with the baby... Twitter is currently much easier for me to handle, since it can be done in short bursts, without a lot of sustained focus, and without me having to sit at the computer for long periods of time. I'm still thinking of you, and hoping I can gradually resume my usual ways soon.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Read in a local women's magazine while waiting in the ob/gyn's office (hey, I've spent a lot of time there recently). It was a special issue reflecting on how the life of women has changed in the last 50 years.
In 1960 around here:
-Women were expected to quietly and politely resign from their job when they were getting married.
-If a child had a emergency that required immediate surgery, such as appendicitis, you better had to hope that daddy wasn't in a business trip, because a mother could not sign the authorization forms on her own.
-Women could not have a bank account on their own, much less borrow money, unless their husband provided a guarantee.
-Less than 15% of women worked, usually as nurses and teachers (over 80% do today).
-For a woman, being 30 was considered "the last age before definitive physical decline".
-It was strictly forbidden to discuss or even allude to any form of contraception...
Friday, December 24, 2010
I wish you all happy, happy Holidays! May they be filled with plenty of good cheer, good food, nice presents, great family time, love, health, peace, and joy.
We are hosting the Christmas Eve dinner tonight with M's family, and tomorrow we're going to my sister's for my (blended) family's celebration. If all goes well, we're then going to spend the New Year in Quebec City (I'm a little nervous about it, but I'm sure it will be fine). I'll try to post pictures a little later.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Since we now both have iPhones M and I gave my old nano to LP, and filled it with the songs he likes. I shamelessly think his taste in music is awesome (the other day, we heard a Willow Smith song and he said: "Hear mom, that's a funny little Japanese tune..."). Since I've always relied on music to get me through the tougher times, and especially in the winter, I thought I could post the content of "his iPod" here (plus, I haven't done it in a while). I have omitted a few more childish ones, like the theme from Clifford the Big Red Dog, but I don't think you're going to miss them.
The Black Eye Peas - I gotta feeling
Matt and Kim - Daylight
Coeur de Pirate - Des maisons
Paul Oakenfold - Ready, Steady, Go!
OK Go - This too shall pass
Goldfrapp - Ooh la la
Lady Gaga - Alejandro
Angels & Airwaves - Everything's Magic
Radio Radio - Jacuzzi
Pheonix - 1901
Kings of Leon - Radioactive
Sheryl Crow - Gone
The Go! Team - The power is on
Friday, December 17, 2010
Getting great presents to people is truly an art form. Some people have it, some people -OK probably most people-, don't. I suppose I am not a stellar gift giver myself. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes, usually when I wait until the last minute and don't put a lot of care into it, I fall totally flat. M is great when it comes to my and LP's presents, and then usually has no idea what to give everyone else. I have such admiration for fantastic gifters, and tend to gravitate towards them, probably in the hopes that they would rub on me a little.
I mean I know the basics: putting some thought into it ahead, not necessarily shopping ahead that much, although I think most great gifters do that. Just being attentive to the person you're choosing the gift for, and paying attention to hints they leave, things they're enthusiastic about, etc. Looking past the obvious. Trying to find things that the person could either really use, or that she doesn't "need' at all but that would make her happy, and that would give the right message ("I really care about you").
At the risk of appearing very picky (which is probably not entirely untrue, but I don't think being somewhat picky in life is a bad thing) and like an ungrateful beeatch, here is, also, what I think are no-nos.
The Christmasy things
You know, like giving seasonal ornaments and decor at Christmas. Not only these are highly a matter of personal style, but there's also nothing like it to say: "hey, here's a gift you can't use now and immediately have to put away for a whole year."
The gift cards
I give gift cards, to LP's teachers, and things like that. In some situations, they are AWESOME. But I kind of hate the trend in which it's become acceptable to give gift cards to anyone and everyone. Like your spouse. Or your family. I mean, really? One can argue that they're a great way to ensure that the recipient gets exactly what they want. But when defenders tell me that, all I hear is: "because, you know, I couldn't bother to try and do exactly that myself."
Each year at Christmas my family does a draw, so we only have one present to give. We have a website that manages everything, including three present suggestions per person. And people, ALL that's in there are gift cards. Twelve or so people: thirty-three gift cards suggestions (the remaining three are mine, and last year I still got a gift card). What was supposed to be a fun thing (for once, you get to actually pick things you'd like to receive, with helpful details to the giver, etc.), has turned into the most anti-Christmas spirit celebration I've ever seen. I mean when done like this, what's the point?
The overtly commercial mementos
I am a little sentimental towards stuff. I do like to hold on to (a few, chosen) keepsakes from important occasions, trips, etc. But for these to be meaningful, they kind of have to be personal and actually associated with the event. That's why I see absolutely no value or purpose in Made in China "Baby's 1st Christmas" bibs, stuffed animals, and things like that. Sorry.
Say, hypothetically, that your husband is into golf. He's probably going to be thrilled to receive the newest golfing gadget you actually researched, and that might improve his game. Painted ceramic golf-themed book ends, or club-shaped BBQ utensils, however, are a much less safe bet.
The blatant disconnect
Let's say a woman definitely favors style over practicality, even if she's aware that this can be slightly ridiculous at times. Now let's say she receives plastic bag-wrapped pajamas that could only be described as, well, made especially for the possibly incontinent elderly. Mhhh. Yeah.
But here is the biggest lesson I learned: no matter how bad the present, you should smile and thank the giver profusely. And mean it. Because honestly, it *is* the thought that counts, and (usually, at least), people have good intentions. They don't do this on purpose, and simply have no clue on how to improve this too-rare skill (myself included). Which is why, when you meet an amazing gifter, you should hold on to them. And be reeeally nice to them, my friends.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Yes, in the past month and a half, M and I have been working on something else than taking care of our two kids. Very chaotically, I must say, but things have gone forward a little.
I am really happy to present you my brand new little wedding flower business: fleur bleue. And I am now officially accepting contracts for 2011 (I have a few booked already).
Meg from A Practical Wedding was awesome enough to get me a spot into the new Vendors and Venues section of one of my favorite wedding inspiration sites: 100 Layer Cake. So my portfolio is over there: step one completed. I do feel like the tiny fish among the (gorgeous) big ones over there, but it's a start.
We are still, however, working on building the site, which at least for now will be a Wordpress blog. I wish it would have been done already, but F arrived 3 weeks early, and frankly we're scrambling a little to find time to work on this right now. But once it's done, I'll transfer all my flower posts there and maintain it as an independent entity.
Do you like the name? I wanted something in French (the site will be bilingual -which poses a bit of a technical challenge, actually- but primarily in French, since it's targeted to the local market), but that could be understood in English as well. "Fleur bleue" is an expression that means to be a bit sentimental and naive, which you could use to describe a young girl, for instance, or a book. It's not negative, but it's a little old-fashioned and gently mocking. I wanted the logo and design to be very slick, simple and modern, thus creating a contrast with the meaning of the name. I also liked the color association, which we could play with, as well.
I will keep you posted!
Friday, December 10, 2010
Here are, finally, our fairly completed nursery and updated "big boy" room. Please be indulgent about the pictures: I took them, with the good camera, but also my lack of talent and skill. The monogram letters on the doors are mirror pieces; that's why they don't look so well in photos.
All the fabric was bought online, and lovingly sewn by my mom.
M made the crib for LP in 2006 with his (can I say talented) own hands. I still love both its style and sturdiness. The side facing the door is chalkboard paint, now covered with a drawing LP made to welcome his little sister.
I made this little pink blanket. See, no pink hater here!
The black-and-white photo is of me, circa 1979, with my baby sister.
The white furniture belonged to M's grandparents. The small rocking chair is LP's; he likes to come sit with me and "read" or chat while I nurse.
He wanted a "Cars" theme; we gave him a few details (a night lamp and stickers), but rather went for a "just cars" theme. Because we thought in the long run, we would all tire of it less quickly.
My mom made the bedspread, with fabric I bought, which has a (subtle) Hot Wheels pattern on it. We got him a replica of a garage red tool chest (toy storage!), and a vintage metal filing cabinet as a night stand (more small toy storage!)
I framed some prints from a beautiful Alfa Romeo leaflet we got in Milan (there was a big outdoors exhibit of their new model, the Guilietta). This is my childhood globe, which has countries like East Germany, the USSR, Yugoslavia, etc. (How quickly the world has changed).
The road signs are real and were found in M's parents shed. Please don't come and arrest us!
I asked M to install a magnetic board, so it would be easier to organize all the drawings and crafts, cards and seasonal items, etc.
Yes, they both have fish tanks. I find them very relaxing. LP's even had minuscule baby fishies the other day! (The parents then ate them. We felt bad but that's apparently quite normal).
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
What do you find the hardest about being a parent? We're not talking really deep, emotional stuff here, just day-to-day "I'm going nuts"-ness. For me, it's not what could be seen as the obvious: getting up at night, changing diapers or even dealing with LP's occasional flare-ups of intensity (although it does annoy me a little more now, since 1-it's just plain overreacting -or even acting- sometimes, and 2- he's perfectly able to comprehend that this behavior is not always appropriate or acceptable these days). Here is what rather gets me:
You would think that I would be used to it by now, but the chaos he creates just. drives. me. berserk. How many toy cars can a child have? (We don't buy them anymore, but he actually coaxes certain family members to do it when we're not around). And how is it humanely possible that he gets them everywhere in record time? How can he get the most random objects sprawled out on the floor, on every surface possible, in the staircase, hidden under the couch cushions, in the kitchen cupboards, in DVD cases, in the bathroom sink, etc., when we leave him alone for 10 minutes? And this over and over again, despite making him tidy up (and us pitching in as well) all the time. I know with two kids I need to learn to let go to some extend, but it drives me insane! I think that I'm growing into my neat freak grandmother a bit as I'm getting older. But the bigger picture, for me, is that while you should let kids play and be relaxed, I don't think you should let the chaos invade your home either. While I absolutely hate the damn Sisyphean task of cleaning up all the time, I hate the prospect of a completely cluttered-up-and-overtaken-by-kids'-stuff house much, much more.
Here is an example of what he'll do: take out all the tires from his cars and trucks, then put them in one of his little play kitchen pots, place the pot in a plastic bin normally used to store Legos, add a few tiny Lego pieces and plastic figurines, then his dirty socks for good measure. Then the next day he whines that he can't play with his trucks because "the tires have disappeared". So we look for them to no avail, until three days later I'm finally finding this in the downstairs laundry basket.
One of the corollaries of this, which also brings me down a bit, is the fact that this is at least partly due to us buying into the over-consumerism trend to some extend. We try not to, and have the best intentions, but then Christmas comes and we realize we have bought him 7 different presents, not to mention everything else he's getting from our families. And despite us loathing all this plastic junk he ends up breaking within a few days, we still often give in and get it for him, because it's inexpensive or we're having a good week or it makes him happy for a minute. Which of course only leads to lots of stuff and him getting a completely screwed message about the meaning and specialness of what he receives.
The table manners
Yes, LP eats, quite well for a kid his age. But that's just part of the picture. The whole mealtime setting is often a bit of a awkward physical comedy, actually. It's really tough to make him sit in place for more than 7 minutes. He won't sit down on his chair properly, usually only placing half of his bum and one leg on it, as if to make sure he can escape as quickly as possible, so I find myself constantly repeating the gesture of gently pushing him onto it. While we always ask him if he needs to go to the bathroom before and he always says no, 70% of the time he suddenly needs to go really quickly three minutes after our meal has started, causing a bit of a commotion to drop everything, rapidly take off his bib, rush there, unbutton his pants, make sure he washes his hands, etc. Then we can all come back and finally eat our lukewarm food.
And, he's sloppy. Very sloppy. I thought all the kids his age were, until I once picked him up at daycare during the afternoon snack, and all the others were sitting in front of a quite clean place mat, while his was completely covered in food bits, not to mention himself, his chair and the floor. We always give him big portions, but then that's partly because even now, a third of it will end up somewhere else than his mouth. And even though he knows how to use utensils very well, the minute we look away we can be assured that he'll drop them and start using his hands instead, while not even realizing it. So we have to remind him to pick up his fork. Over and over and over again.
The lack of focus
Are all nearly four year-olds like this? You know what I mean... I send him to his room after his bath to dress himself (having laid out his clothes on his bed for him already), so I can tidy up a bit or change his sister. Then I come to find him sitting on the floor in the buff, drawing pictures or looking at a book. So I tell him that he needs to dress himself up again, and leave for a minute because I really want him to be able to do this on his own more easily. When I come back, he has his boxer shorts on at knee-level, as well as one arm into his PJ sleeve, and he's working on building a railroad track.