Thursday, January 29, 2009

comfort food

Tiny Town may feel like home, but I can hardly get everything my little heart desires here. In the four years and change I've been here now, I'm surprised by how many foreign foodstuffs have made it to our corner of France, even if I have to go to Troyes to find them. When I moved here, I asked the lady at the cheese counter in one of the grande surface stores if she had cheddar and she laughed and said I'd never find that here! It finally showed up in the other grande surface last year and you can guess who's getting my business! Ok, the other one is actually closer to Tiny Town, but I like to pretend I'm voting with my euros...

The point is, there are fewer and fewer things I pine for to the point that I'll ask someone in the States to send me something. Today I bought a nice big chunk (about a pound and a half) of cheddar, which I immediately shredded and put half in the freezer when I got home, and a couple of containers of fried onions, which aren't a perfect facsimile of French's fried onions, but I can still make a green bean casserole now and again (also thanks to the Campbell's condensed soups I bought at a grocery near Doc's house!). I was also very excited to find a source for dry pinto beans in Les Halles, an "open air" market (now enclosed) in Troyes, at a stall called Epicerie du monde. You can be sure that I'll be attempting to make some refried beans this weekend.

Of course the downside to all this (that is, if you're Stéph) is that I get to inflict my foreign tastes on my husband, who then tells me if he can be bothered to eat them again. Refried beans were not a big hit the first time around when they showed up at my door in cans, so I'll be making a nice lentil and sausage stew for Stéph, to eat while I eat my bean burritos. That suits me fine, since I'm not a fan of lentils and sausage anyway!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

discovering Tiny Town

snow, baby

Every day that the weather is nice enough, Fry and I go on a walk. These walks are usually between thirty and forty-five minutes, and I try to take a different route every time. In this manner, I've discovered neighborhoods I didn't know existed.

Stéph and I have decided that we want to eventually buy a home here in Tiny Town, so these walks give me the opportunity to daydream about where I'd like to live and what kind of home I'd want to live in. Plus, that means that Tiny Town will be Fry's hometown, so I imagine us throwing around the baseball as I push the stroller through the park, or imagine taking him to school as I pass the maternelle. Rumors are flying around that a public swimming pool is going to be built here, so I try to figure out where it's going to go.

In addition to my nearly daily walks, Stéph and I are taking advantage of having specialty stores within walking distance, not to mention an excellent restaurant or two, so that means I'm on smiling-and-waving terms with the butcher, the owner of the Moroccan restaurant and the woman that runs the garden shop (though she's the exception - I've been there once and she still says hello to me!).

I have resisted liking this place for so long, dreaming that we would eventually return to a larger city. The truth is, Stéph is very happy where he's teaching now, and the difference between now and our first year of marriage, when he had to commute forty-five minutes and had migraines three nights a week, are legion. But ever since Fry arrived, something just clicked. At last, after three years, Tiny Town is finally starting to feel like home.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The audacity of hope

Thanks to a live link on, Fry and I were able to watch the Inauguration yesterday. Fry was incredible - he seemed to be focused on the screen and was calm and interested. He especially loved the music.

I couldn't help but get emotional when Barack Obama stepped forward to take the Oath of Office. As he finished, I pointed to the screen and said to my son with tears in my eyes, "That man is the President of the United States!"

That's when I realized that Fry had fallen asleep.

Oh well, at least he'll be able to say, someday, that he watched history being made, even if he doesn't remember it!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

two months

Maaaaaaaan, I'm getting later and later with these....

So, we had Fry's two month checkup last week and it was Fry's first appointment with Dr. H (yep, we've successfully switched). This month he measured 59.5 cm (23.4 inches) and weighed in at a whopping 6.2 kilos (13.7 pounds)! Aside from dry skin, which is most likely because of the super dry and cold weather we've had lately, he's doing really well. Dr. H commented on his big feet, and I think his hands are going to be large too, thanks to his long fingers (which are now more pudgy than anything), but I don't necessarily think this means he'll be tall, as my Dad had enormous hands and large feet but was not exactly a giant.

We also had to order his first vaccinations, which we'll do next month. In France, the doctor gives you a prescription for the vaccinations, which you have to fill out at the pharmacy (and keep in the fridge!), and then take a dose with you to the doctor's office, where he'll do the injection. I can see the good and bad points for this method. Obviously it's a pain in the ass (ha ha!) for the patient to have to do the running around, but it also helps keep the doctor's costs down, as they don't have to stock a lot of medicines they may not always need. Case in point - Dr. H is a family doctor, not a pediatrician, so how many vaccinations do you reckon he does in a year? I'm guessing not a lot.

Anyway, French three-month clothes only go up to 60 cm (American ones are slightly larger, go figure) so I'm in the process of changing over his wardrobe. He's already been in six month onesies for about a week, thanks to the big ole butt his cloth diapers give him, but today it became obvious this his pajamas are really too small. It's so strange when I can remember that not so long ago he was swimming in the same pajamas! Tomorrow he'll start swimming in clothes again and I'll start packing up the old ones. *sigh*

Other than that, we're just rolling along. He's still eating more than is recommended by the formula folks and he's turning into a real butterball, but the doctor hasn't said anything about his weight and Stéph and I are keeping our worrying down to a dull roar. It's hard not to freak out when you hear about CHILD OBESITY all the damn time but you try telling a two month old that he can't have a bottle and good luck to you! Of course, according to the French clothing industry, my two month old is the size of a three month old, so I guess he's not doing so bad after all!

Friday, January 09, 2009

I told you she was hardcore

This week, French Minister of Justice (which is the equivalent to the American Attorney General) Rachida Dati came back from her maternity leave a little early. That's if you can call five days after the birth early.

Yes, let that sink in a minute - five days after the birth she was filmed walking through the courtyard of the Elysée in high heels and a form fitting black dress that showed that she has nearly gotten her figure back.

This is not the first time that Ms. Dati's pregnancy has made people talk. The 43 year old is not married and has not publicly acknowledged who the father of her daughter is. Now imagine Condoleeza Rice doing the same thing. You could make the argument that the French regard private lives to be just that, but you could certainly say she is pushing the envelope, even by French standards.

Now. My first reaction - no wait, my second reaction, because my first reaction required picking my jaw up off the floor - was that I felt an enormous amount of sympathy for her. I cannot begin to imagine the amount of political pressure the woman is under, especially since President Sarkozy has just announced some major changes to the French law system.

On the other hand, what message is this sending to women, French or otherwise? It's all very "passing off the baby to the nanny" super upper class, isn't it? Here I'm feeling guilty about being home with Fry after two months when most mothers back in the States would have been back to work by now (of course, I have no work to go back to but that's another story altogether). I am in no way suggesting that she should have quit her job, but in a world where the extremely high cost (and, especially in the France, the availability) of child care leaves many families trying to figure out if both parents working is even feasible, what kind of message is this sending?

I don't have the answers. As I said before, I'm sympathetic to her situation but I find it a bit shocking all the same. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Bonne année & bonne santé !

Happy New Year and Good Health, as the French say! I can't believe we're nearly a week into 2009 already!

We rang in the New Year with a friend of ours. She's a pretty heavy smoker, and before we quit we used to smoke like demons together, but visiting her was a real eye-opener. I was hesitant to go because I didn't feel comfortable telling her that she couldn't smoke in her own home (because of Fry's presence, of course), but she insisted that she would smoke in the kitchen with the door closed and I felt like that was enough of a compromise. Well, she announced upon arrival that she hadn't smoked in the living room all day and it still smelled like the inside of an ash tray! It's so funny that when you're a smoker, you sincerely think you've made such a huge improvement in such a short amount of time! Both Stéph and I indulged in a cigarette or two, but to be honest I don't miss smoking at all, especially when we got home and simply everything reeked of smoke, from the diaper bag to Fry's clothes! I think we'll visit this friend again in summer, when it's warm enough to sit outside...

Stéph went back to work yesterday and I had my first day completely alone with Fry since he was only four weeks old. I was totally worn out by the time Stéph came home in the evening! We woke up to a nice layer of snow as well, which freaked me out because we really had to go to the store yesterday for some essentials. We survived the snowy drive to the store and back and I spent the rest of the day trying to get a little housework done and keeping Fry happy. I tried to take a nap in the afternoon but I just seem to have some kind of mental block about sleeping during the day! The whole time I feel like a lazy bastard while I think about all the things I could be doing. I finally took a nap in the evening, which I guess I'll have to keep doing as long as I have night duty. Stéph and I have worked out that I'll do all the night feedings when he has to work the next day, which actually works out really well for us, as long as I can catch a nap during the day! You can see my dilemma.

Finally, I just got a really nice letter in the mail. When we sent out our birth announcements (in France, the American ones are still on their way over the ocean I think), we included both the OB/GYN that I saw for the first half of my pregnancy and the one I saw for the second half after the first one had a debilitating accident. They share an office so it was no problem to address the announcement to both doctors. The letter I received this morning was from the first doctor who not only thanked us for the announcement, but he apologized for being unavailable for the end of the pregnancy and birth! I just think that was a really nice gesture. I've still been seeing the second doctor since Fry was born because his hours are a bit more convenient for us, but now I feel like I want to try to get in to see him just to say hello!

Speaking of doctors, I think I've finally convinced Stéph that it would be better for us to switch over to Dr. H as our primary doctor. I need to make an appointment for Fry's second month (already!!!) so I'll have to make that call this week.

I hope you all had a great New Year's! I don't know about you, but I have a very good feeling about 2009!