Wednesday, August 5, 2015

New Blog!

Hello friends.

After months of silence and a few weeks of self motivation, I have created a new blog! You can find me at

I hope you'll follow me there.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Working can be so bittersweet

Jude's daycare posts pictures on Instagram pretty much everyday, so I can see what he's up to. Look at that: he can sit on his own!

Why don't I know that? Because in the morning I see him for about an hour while we all run trying to get ready and at night I see him for about 30-45 minutes before he falls asleep and I tend to carry him.

And look at today's picture:

He's ok sleeping with a sleep sack! At home I still double swaddle him but the amazing ladies at daycare have helped with the transition to the sleep sack -just as they helped with the transition from an inclined bed (rock and play) to a flat crib. I love that about daycare: they help you with this type of transitions. In Jude's case, they really help with everything! Today Joe forgot Jude's bottles so I dropped them off and when I got there Jude was sitting up and crying because one of the caregivers was holding another baby. My little man was jealous. He started laughing when she came close to him. And then he cried again when she wasn't looking at him, and smiled when she gave him attention, and cried again when she looked at someone else, etc. What?? It was so great to see how much he loved his caregivers, but a bit bittersweet because I am missing so much -from his progress to his personality.

When Léo was Jude's age we had a nanny at the house 2 days a week. I feel I saw him grow until he went to daycare full time at 1 -I didn't feel I missed much. Not so with Jude. I love working. I love my work. And I love my paycheck. But sometimes that comes at a price. And right now I have a bit of a hard time with that.

Friday, February 13, 2015

10 years... 10 main differences between France and the US

This past Sunday marked the 10-year anniversary of my moving to the US. I cannot believe it's been that long already! So much has happened since. One of the big changes is that I feel I belong to two cultures. I don't feel quite French anymore, yet I don't feel American at all either. So I thought I'd tell you about the main differences I have noticed between my two countries -the one I was born and raised in and the one I now call home.

1) Toilets.
What? I know. Yet ALL French people are really weirded out when they use public toilets in the US because of the space between the door and the separation wall. In France, you have a closed door, period. Here, you can see people on the loo if you look -but who would look, right? It is weird. I'm used to it now -but I remember thinking it felt uncomfortable to go at first. Also here toilets are clean. In France they're usually a dirty, smelly mess.

2) Clothes
Second major difference: how people dress. I remember owning dresses, skirts, scarves, handbags, and different pants. Now I own yoga pants and comfy clothes. I know this is due to my own laziness, but also to the fact that no one judges you here if you dress like you just woke up. In French schools for instance, you will be in trouble if you wear sweat pants, a hat, or tennis shoes in the classroom. A big no-no is to wear tennis shoes as regular shoes. Even moms of newborns dress well. And the scarf is omnipresent. I miss dressing well. At the same time I am thankful I don't have to think too much about my clothes.

3) Schools
Apart from how you dress in the classroom, there are major differences between the two systems. For one, it seems that kids in the US are expected to know a lot -fast. Most kids know how to read by the time they're 4-5. As I have said in a previous post, in France you learn how to read and write in 1st grade. This morning I dropped by Leo's school to give him his stuffed animal for nap, and they were learning shapes and colors. He learnt all that last year. That being said, I also feel that high school students in France have a more rounded education than high school students here. We study philosophy, languages, world events. Our curriculum is rigorous. But a few years later, universities in the US do a better job at letting students choose their own path, while in France you choose your path in high school (math, economics, literature), and cannot easily deviate from that. You also decide on a major when you enter university, and if you want to change, you have to start all over again. It's frustrating. So there is good and bad in each system!

4) Jobs
I am so thankful I have only looked for jobs in the US. In France it seems that you can only find jobs if you have a degree that corresponds to the job you're applying for. Before moving to the US and while waiting for my fiancee visa to be approved, I applied for secretarial jobs, but was told I didn't qualify because I didn't have a degree in secretarial studies. Um, what? Here in the US there is freedom of movement and people can change careers a lot (I am aware of limitations depending on your level of education, poverty, or color of skin. I'm talking from my point of view).

5) Politics
Oh that's a BIG one! Politics are so different! When my brother and his girlfriend were here, we talked about our political affiliations. My brother's girlfriend is right wing. But she's atheist, anti death penalty, anti guns, pro choice, and pro gay marriage -and most right wing people in France share these beliefs. Here she would be Democrat. One other big difference is that we have a lot of parties in France. At any given presidential elections, 10-15 people are in contention for the job, compared to your 2 or 3. Something else: you guys have the nutso tea party. We have the National Front -the racist party. This party has tried to reinvent itself lately, but the founder made jokes about sending people in trains (reference to the Shoah) and wanted to re-install the death penalty and stop immigration. And this party consistently gets 20% of voters, which is scary and maddening. I would say that Americans are super afraid of everything they don't know, but the French are, well, pretty racist. Try applying for a job with a last name of N'-something or El-something and you probably won't get hired. It's pathetic.

6) Religion
Another huge difference between the two countries. 70% of French people are Catholic -whereas you guys are mainly Protestant and you have about 106 denominations! But the French are secular Catholics. Most people actually don't believe in anything -but they were baptized so they consider themselves Catholics. 12% of the population is Muslim. France is really secular and laic. If a president finished his speeches by "God bless France" people would be up in arms (oh, that's an American idiom for sure. We don't allow firearms in France). One thing we have in common is that it's very hard for the main line to allow others to live their religion openly (head scarves, construction of mosques, for instance). There is prevalence in both country of white privilege that is more than frustrating and has dire consequences.

7) Housing
To put it simply, most apartments or houses in the US are luxurious by French standards. Washer/driers, dish washers and ovens are not usually included in any sort of rental in France. I, for one, love this luxury -which comes with a price: rent in the US is so incredibly expensive compared to France. Also, some housing developments here have all the same type of houses, which is not that common in France, where people have all kinds of different houses. But I think the more modern the houses are, the more similar they look.

8) Service
Ah French service... not awesome. Servers don't get tips so being nice to you is not part of the job. Cashiers don't greet you with a "how are you?" Government agencies are open just a few hours per day and its employees are known for their, er, lack of velocity in dealing with issues. The US wins for service!

9) Friendships
Yes, friendships are different. Here (and by here I mean in California) people are warm and talk about private stuff even if they don't know you but they're terrible at following up -I'm super guilty of this. In France, people are slow to warm up but once you're friends, that's it, you are good to go. That was quite a stark realization for me when I moved to the US.

10) Food
BEST for last, right? Food. Quite different! For one, you can find good, healthy frozen meals in France whereas here you can't find anything unless you go to Trader Joe's.Pastries and bread are so much better in France. You can buy good wine in France for just a few euros. But bad food is so much better here -hmmm burgers! Also the French don't generally eat out, and I found out that I do love eating out -and I also don't like to cook, so yeah.

So... I am French in so many ways (education, politics, secularism) but appreciate the US for a lot (finding a job, housing, everyday luxuries like house stuff and eating out). I miss French culture, especially French movies and songs and being able to discuss very deep issues at the dinner table, but I am happy here. Still, I won't change my citizenship any time soon! I am French, for ever and always.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

You may say I'm a dreamer...

On Monday, I went to our first parent-teacher conference at Leo’s school. Leo is a bright student and he’s a big dreamer. Well, according to the teachers, he “doesn’t listen very well.” That doesn’t mean he’s defiant. That means they have to ask him to do something three times before he moves. That means he can stand in front of the toilet for 5 minutes and not get in or that he can sit at the lunch table and eat the cereal bar I gave him in his lunch box but not request the meal the school should give him (that has happened a couple of times). Maybe he’s too much of a rule follower, maybe he’s not autonomous enough, maybe he doesn’t care that much. I don’t know. He doesn’t tell us much. 

But I have noticed he does the same at home. If he watches TV, we have to yell at him for him to turn his head to us, hearing us call his name for the first time –when we have actually called him 5 times. You can tell he stops and thinks when we’re trying to get him to get dressed, brush his teeth, and overall get ready in the morning. 

Also, he just refuses to speak French. When we ask him if he speaks French he says “not all the words.” It’s a bit like it’s all or nothing. Either he knows ALL the words or he knows nothing at all.
Does he put too much pressure on himself? Maybe.

We’re left with a lot of questions. Nothing dramatic. He’s only 3. I just wonder what we’re doing to cause that. Maybe we rush him all the time. Maybe Jude’s arrival was more of a shock than we thought. Maybe school is not challenging enough for him, since he doesn’t really understand what is being said. It’s just hard not knowing how to help him. Then again, the teacher says he doesn’t seem to be bothered by any of this. He plays, he smiles, he talks. So maybe this is no issue? Maybe it’s just the way he is. I’m just anxious about his well-being and want to make sure he’s not afraid of trying, not afraid of asking for help and of sticking up for himself. So I’ll observe him more and see what he needs –and maybe see that yes, he’s a dreamer all right, and just let him be. We’ll see.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Mommy brain

Jude has been spiting up a bit more than usual lately. I was wondering if maybe it was the introduction of formula into his diet. And then I realized that I have been eating Haagen Dazs (yum!) like it's my job and ice cream is made with a ton of milk, and Jude doesn't do well with milk, and... What was I thinking? Well I was not thinking. Mommy brain!

Monday, January 19, 2015

School decisions

Last year we decided to enroll Léo in a French school. We moved a bit south (still too far from the school. Well, only 10 miles but round trip, picking him up takes me about an hour) and off he went, just 3 days after his little brother was born. Talk about transitions! Tomorrow we need to bring his re-enrollment paperwork to school. I think we're going to keep him in that school. The teachers are really nice and the philosophy of the school (students first) is definitely attractive. But two things have me wonder:

1- He still doesn't understand much French and is VERY frustrated. He doesn't listen during class because it's hard to focus when you don't understand what is being said. I am trying to talk to him in French more but he says "Mama, speak English (which sounds like "Enguh-lish!")". He cries almost every morning and finds new excuses not to go to class. He's really not liking this school too much. To be fair, he also had issues with his school last year, so it's not this particular school that he doesn't like, but the fact that he doesn't understand anything 3 hours per day is not helping.

2- The French system focuses a lot on play. I think it's great. Kids have plenty of time to focus on schooling. But if we decide to put Léo in public school when he's 6, I'm afraid he's going to be late. In France, you start learning to read and write at 6, in 1st grade. Here in the US, you start to read and write at 4 or 5. You arrive in 1st grade ready to learn math, pretty much. This year for instance, Léo's teacher told us students learn to recognize numbers from 1-3. Great. Except Léo had done that last year, from 1-10 pretty much. I see friends' kids the same age as Léo already adding numbers. And as much as I don't want to compare, I also don't want him to be late and made fun of when he arrives in public school.

So I think we're going to re-enroll him, because, well, it's too late now that the deadline is tomorrow (resolution for 2015: be more organized. No kidding. That's my resolution. Case in point!). I hope he's going to like his school, learn French, let me talk to him in French, watch cartoons in French, and learn as much as his American peers. The pressure. And he's only THREE!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Well that was a tough transition -and Happy 2015!

Happy new year!!

I went back to work a month and a half ago and man... that was tough. Organization-wise, we pretty much sucked. We had a nanny for a bit but she's so awesome she got a job and left (fortunately she's now a great friend), and the nanny who replaced her was not available all the time because of previous commitments or illness. So I had to take time off a few weeks after being back already, which was not the plan. Jude's daycare will open full time next week, so this right there should make our lives easier.

Work itself has been rough. I can't really focus or understand very deep conversations. My brain goes blank a few times a day. It's quite annoying. Also, one single project has now become my main priority -I'll spend 70% of my time managing it. Overall I still love my job and my team but my motivation is not quite back to what it was pre-Jude. I'm a bit over it right now.

Good news: my brother and his girlfriend have been here since Christmas Day. They're staying until January 12th, which gives us a lot of time to hang out and talk. I love this time together. Last time we saw each other was in May 2013. Too long without seeing my favorite person in the world -the 3 boys in my house excluded.

I'm enjoying the last days of vacation with everyone. I hope you had a great holiday season!