Thursday, January 31, 2008

Citron à la parisienne

Mom in France recently posted a beautiful photo of her mandarin and lemon harvest in Nice. Well, folks, here is the Parisian version:



Pathetic as our citronnier looks, we did get a few lemons earlier this year. Sometimes it even seems to have more lemons than leaves, but as you can see, that isn't difficult. Most fall off before they reach maturity. Yet our poor little tree is determined to hang on. Perhaps like so many other Parisian transplants, it is dreaming of a nice retirement at a house in the country somewhere?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mobility

Le Petit is all about learning to crawl. "Must... go... forward...!" he's saying to the world. I think he suspects the world is laughing back at him.

He's mastered getting up on his hands and knees, but what comes next is still somewhat of a mystery. At the moment, he either flattens out his legs behind him or drops his forehead to the floor, thus approximating yoga's upward-facing dog and downward-facing dog positions. He may learn lotus before he learns to walk.

Alas, all this does not mean he's found some sort of zen. Learning to crawl is not fun for him. It's an obsession, and it's eating at him day and night. Like the annoying colleague who talks of nothing but his golf game or kitchen remodel, he is stuck on the subject and it comes up in every possible context. Playpen time? Time to try and crawl. Crib time? Crawl. Story time? Time to wriggle and squirm off Mommy's lap and attempt to crawl on the couch. He flips over and tries to crawl off the changing table, turning diaper changes into wrestling matches we, his poor parents, seem destined to lose. When le Petit wakes up in the middle of the night I find him on all fours, head pushed up against the crib bars, crying in frustration.

All this plus teething, a growth spurt and the accompanying appetite boost makes for a very cranky baby and a very tired mom. The apartment is filled with half-finished projects that I got five or ten minutes into before rescuing a crying le Petit. I've started genuinely looking forward to a partial return to work.

But oh, how I don't want to miss the day that he finally gets it, and figures out how to put one hand and one foot in front of the other and move. I want to see him finally take off, and offer him a "hooray, kid, there's no stopping you now!"

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Definition du jour

While flipping through the Petit Larousse 2000 I came across this delicious definition:
SAINT-GLINGLIN (A LA) loc. adv. Fam. A une date indeterminée ; à un moment qui n'arrivera jamais.

My attempt at a translation:
SAINT GLINGLIN'S DAY (ON) Slang. At an undetermined date in the future; a moment that will never come.

How many times have I heard my husband say this, never knowing that it had been officially sanctioned by the Larousse as vrai français.

A la Saint-Glinglin is about when I'm expecting my ISP's terrible service to improve. Or le Petit to start taking regular naps. So, on that mythical date, what are you waiting for?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

B is for...

B is for... Babyproofing. Although le Petit is making slow progress on the mobility front and is still largely content to roll and scoot about his new playpen, the wider world awaits him soon. And Mom's gotta get herself moving on making it a safe place to play, so...

B is for... Bricolage. Alas, I've found no suitable translation for this fantastic French word. It's something close to do-it-yourself-ing, but with an element of improvisation. And isn't boutique de bricolage so much more poetic than "hardware store?"

B is for... BHV. You cannot mention bricolage in Paris without speaking of the venerable BHV. Part grand magasin, part cave of wonders with a dash of oriental street market thrown in, it is where you go to find just about anything. The prices are often higher than elsewhere, but it is the one stop you make if you have a home improvement project and do not want to run all over town. I'm not the first or the last American to go nuts about the BHV, and it's just short of a pilgrimage spot for my mother when she comes to visit. There's something we find magic about finding all manner of nails, bolts, and power tools, to say nothing of designer upholstery fabric, right in the heart of Paris. It appeals to the practical Yankee soul.

The famous BHV basement, previously an unnavigable maze of jumbled shelves of hardware, was recently renovated. Many were afraid it would be ruined forever, but I can assure you that although the signage is now clear (was there ever a floor plan before?), it has lost nothing of its charm. There's the same staff, as knowledgeable as they are gruff, and the same mind-boggling selection of tools. And, of course, there's still that special French touch: along with the plumbing and the electrical supplies, there's a section devoted to outfitting one's wine cellar -- with everything for sale but the wine, of course.

I found the window blocking hardware I came in quest of, along with some plastic corners for babyproofing the coffee table and some other useful-looking miscellany. I could have spent the whole afternoon wandering the aisles, for the bricolage basement is just the beginning: the first floor is overflowing with art supplies, the third with kitchen gadgets and cleaning products, and the fourth with curtains and decorative hardware. And those are only the floors I know by heart. As much as I'd love to, I've never had time to check out the floors of clothing, cosmetics, or furniture.

Glamorous Paris shopping it is not, but maybe that's why I love it so much. Proof that even in this city of high heels and cobblestones and of shivering at sidewalk cafés in January, one is allowed to be practical sometimes.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Le Petit à table

"Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are." -- Brillat-Savarin, eighteenth-century French gastronome

Up until now it has been so easy. Six months of breast milk, who could ask for simpler? When le Petit would look longingly at my plate, we'd shake our heads and say, "No, not yet. Two teeth is not enough for that!" and we'd laugh and say to ourselves, proud, how he was surely just about ready for table food. But best to wait the recommended six months anyway, just to be sure.

Part of me dreaded the transition to solids. How much would end up on the floor? And that panoply of new stains to learn to get out of laundry, now that I've just about mastered poop stains? I've seen parents wage duels with coated spoons trying to get just one more bite of applesauce down the hatch. No thank you.

But le Petit would be different, I knew it. Just look at his parents, who eat everything but McDonalds and sugar cereals, what perfect role models! I thought frequently of the only other French-American child we know, a charming girl of six, who at one year old was practically stealing foie gras from her parents' plates. Her first food was real gruyère and at two, she was ready to sample sushi. She's still the antithesis of a picky eater, and all, I assumed, because her parents set a good example.

So despite my misgivings, I found myself more looking forward to solids than not. I studied the food introduction table in le Petit's government-issued health record, the carnet de santé, and started imagining the vegetables I'd carefully select, cook and mash up, the meats I'd mince in the blender, and the recipes I'd invent. What fun! No commercial baby foods for le Petit, I thought, he'll be a food snob from the beginning.

On le Petit's six month birthday, my mother-in-law cooked up some organic squash and with some fanfare, I scraped it out onto my plate and offered le Petit a spoonful. He opened his mouth wide, ready as always to chew on something new. At the first taste his mouth curved into comic frown, a caricature of disgust. He said something that sounded remarkably like "caca" as he spit it out.

Things have not gotten better. So far we've tried pear, avocado, homemade applesauce, crushed carrot, and sweet potato with nothing close to success. At best he'll reluctantly swallow whatever unpleasant substance I've proposed to get a chance to chew on the spoon. The only foods he seems to appreciate are the small quantities of dairy and fruit juices I've slipped him against my better judgment. A spoonful of yogurt, the juice from a mandarin orange segment or a tiny taste of the passion fruit mousse from his six-month birthday cake, that he doesn't turn his nose up at. Anything resembling the fruits or vegetables the pediatrician recommends is a much harder sell.

So much for following his lead. Since he's not giving me any clues, I've been combing books and web sites and quizzing my friends for advice. It turns out that there are as many theories on introducing solids as there are human cultures and parenting philosophies. Most Americans start with rice cereal gruel mixed with formula. Most French start with puréed carrots from a jar. Avant-garde parents on both sides of the Atlantic are starting to just give their kids steamed vegetable sticks or soft pear slices and letting them play with their food until some of it ends up in the mouth. What do I try? All of the above? So far, the only thing I've learned from le Petit is that what he's most interested on my plate is the plate: left to his own devices, he'll grab it with both hands and chomp on it like a giant porcelain teething ring. Ouch.

I don't know how much to encourage him right now. I don't want to rush him, but we learned at his six month visit to the pediatrician that his weight gain is slowing down and he's dropping below the 25th percentile. The doctor wasn't even slightly concerned, but I'm beginning to wonder, am I keeping him from getting important nourishment if I don't nudge him toward a variety of new foods? Then again, do I really want to spend the first year of his life hoping he'll fatten up only to wish for the decades that follow that he'll slim down?

Today I went to the natural food store and bought organic carrots, sweet potatoes, and bananas, as well as a jar of (horrors!) commercial baby food, a prune applesauce. We'll see what he thinks.

All this says far more about me, my love of food and my maternal worries, than it says about le Petit. So I'd modify Brillat-Savarin's observation just a bit: tell me what you (try unsuccessfully to) feed your children, and I'll really tell what you are.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Baby Who Would Not Nap

One gray, Parisian morning at half past eight Baby woke up, rolled over, and started babbling at the ceiling.

"Da da da da," said Baby.

"Da da da da," said the baby monitor in the room next door.

"Ugh," said Mommy, who rolled over and pulled a pillow over her ear.

A few moments later, Mommy opened the shutters in Baby's room and let the patchy sunlight in.

"Today Grandma is going to look after you while Mommy goes into town," said Mommy cheerfully.

"Ba ba ba ba!" said Baby, just as excited.

Nursing, a diaper change, a shower and breakfast for Mommy, and soon Grandma was at the door.

"You be good," said Mommy, as she put on her long, black coat, her red scarf and big, floppy black hat and left with a smile and a wave. The morning passed, Baby played with Grandma. Early afternoon came and Baby started to yawn. And to tug his ears. And to make little tired cries. But stubborn he was, and sleep he would not, no matter the cuddling and rocking that Grandma tried.

And so she took Baby for a walk. Baby smiled at everyone he saw, he stared at the trees, and sucked his thumb. On the way back inside, a tired Grandma ran into a neighbor.

"This is the baby who will not nap!" said Grandma, exasperated.

"A baby who will not nap? C'est impossible!" said the neighbor, who, tut-tutting, snuck off to tell the concierge.

The concierge mentioned it in passing to the postman, who spread the news at the boulangerie. Once the boulangère knew, everyone in town had soon heard news of the baby who would not nap. In the afternoon Grandma heard a knock on the door as the mayor himself came to visit.

With a wide grin, a pressed suit, and perfectly combed hair, the mayor greeted Grandma and took Baby from her arms.

"I am the mayor. I've planted parks, built schools, and talked my way out of a political scandal or two. I solve problems. I can make a baby nap," he smiled and added, "You voted for me, right?"

He took Baby for another walk around town to admire all of the flowers he'd planted, hurrying quickly in front of the crèches without saying a word. Baby started to cry, but stubborn he was, and sleep he would not, no matter the smiling the mayor tried.

"I'm afraid there's nothing I can do, madame," he said as he handed Baby back to Grandma and fled.

The mayor, an influential man, was not used to failure, and soon word got out that his political clout had not impressed his youngest, and loudest, constituent. There was gossip at the Assemblée Nationale, and the press talked of nothing else.

The prime minister decided to intervene before the embarrassment made the evening news. He came to visit, and took Baby from Grandma who was looking more tired by the minute.

"I am the prime minister. I reform universities, I negotiate with unions, I shape policy. I will present to you a nap reform plan, which I assure is backed by an overwhelming mandate..." As he talked, he walked Baby around the room, droning into his ears using big words that Baby didn't understand. Grandma was ready to fall asleep listening to him herself, but Baby's eyelids didn't budge. Stubborn he was, and sleep he would not, no matter how many speeches the prime minister tried.

"Ga! Ga ga ga ga!" said baby as he tugged at the prime minister's hair.

"This petit is a dangerous adversary, a stubborn child who will surely grow up to be a trade union leader. Maybe the CGT or worse, the SUD," he thought to himself as he handed Baby back to Grandma and fled.

The prime minister did his research and learned that Baby was half-American. This was a shared burden, alors. Perhaps the American ambassador would have some special way of communicating on the issue.

The ambassador arrived in a big, black car with dark windows and flags stuck on each side of the hood. He knocked at the door and Grandma let him in, more than happy to have the now grumpy Baby taken off her hands.

"We'll go for a ride in my car," said the ambassador. I'll show you Paris, and we'll follow some nice people with motorcycles and sirens. We won't even have to stop for traffic lights!"

Baby liked this new person, for he spoke Mommy's language. Baby was soon bundled up in his car seat next to Grandma, and he craned his neck to see the bright lights as they sped down the Champs-Elysées. They drove from right bank to left, over bridges and through tunnels, but Baby was too busy looking around to close his eyes. Stubborn he was, and sleep he would not, no matter how much driving around the ambassador tried.

He abandoned Baby and Grandma on the curb in front of the apartment and drove away, shaking his head, as reporters and photographers surrounded them. Presidents were called. A NATO meeting was scheduled. The Baby Who Would Not Nap was a matter of international importance, a diplomatic incident in the making. Baby, quite tired by now, started to howl.

In the midst of the hubbub, a short figure in a long black coat with a red scarf and a big, floppy black hat arrived.

"Mommy!" thought Baby. "Ga ga ga ga ga!" he exclaimed, and grinned a wide grin that showed off his three teeth.

"Have you been good to Grandma today?" she asked as she scooped him into her arms. "And who are all these people?"

"No nap all day," "Total nap refusal," "pas de sieste de tout," whispered the reporters into their tape recorders. A few pushed forward to ask questions. Mommy dismissed them with a shrug and a smile as she planted a kiss on Baby's forehead.

"Baby's just like that, I guess. And now anyway it's time for bed."

Nursing, a diaper change, a lullaby and soon Baby was sound asleep.

"ZZzzzzzzzzzz," said Baby.

"ZZzzzzzzzzzz," said the baby monitor in the room next door.

"Whew!" said Grandma.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Best Friend

I've long become used to seeing Parisian dogs everywhere. I no longer stare when I see a poodle skittering under a table in a restaurant, or a yappy terrier following their owner into a boulangerie. I'm used to seeing silky ears pop out of shopping caddies, or a dark wet nose and a couple of black eyes stare at me from under an arm in a Métro car. I may never get used to dog poop everywhere but I no longer notice the dogs themselves, even the most ridiculous ones that strut around town with plaid blankets strapped to their backs or are carried tucked into handbags and wrapped with scarves like just another fashion accessory.

And yet, I'll admit that I did do a double take when I ran into a dog in my physical therapist's waiting room the other day. Which was the patient, the tired, bespectacled woman reading Gala or her scruffy companion?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Rat de tapis

I'm keeping an eye on le Petit as he makes his way around an improvised play mat I constructed for him on the floor of the living room. The throw blanket from the couch is spread out on a layer of beach towels, and I've covered the more dangerous corners of the adjacent furniture with pillows. For someone who still hasn't figured out crawling, he gets around with amazing speed and I periodically have to move him back to the middle of the blanket lest he roll under the couch. He's just found one of his toys, a Halloween pumpkin rattle, and he's shaking his arms and kicking the floor with glee.

Crawling may not be far off. He's figured out that the Next Big Thing has something to do with being on his hands and knees. He spends a lot of time on all fours swaying forward and back as if he wants to launch himself somewhere but doesn't quite dare. From time to time he'll propel his legs forward together like an inchworm, but he never looks too satisfied with the result. Too much effort for so little terrain covered, I can see him thinking to himself, definitely not an efficient mode of transportation.

Today I thought he took some tentative tries at advancing his legs independently, but it may have been accidental. When I cheered him on with an excited, high-pitched "Good job!" and applause, he smiled at me as if I were harmlessly nuts.

This weekend I translated the term "rug rat" for my in-laws. It seems we'll soon have a little rat de tapis on our hands. He's now content to play for a long time on the floor by himself while I watch. As soon as he starts really getting around, however, our relative serenity will end, and I'll have to finish babyproofing pronto.

As le Petit becomes more independent, I'm feeling the pull to go back to work. Now I can imagine and indeed am starting to crave spending a few days a week away from him. The days we spend in our apartment and our neighborhood are beginning to feel less like a pleasant cocoon and more like a fishbowl. I suddenly feel like I'm on the outside of the world looking in.

He's learning to crawl, and I'll soon be learning to tread water as a working mom. I can already predict that he'll get the hang of it first.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Enchantment of Food

My husband is on a business trip this week and le Petit and I are fending for ourselves. Not entirely fending for ourselves, of course, as my in-laws who live two blocks away are looking after us. When they found out I would be alone, my mother-in-law announced matter-of-factly, "Tu viens manger à la maison." You'll come over to eat. Not a question or an order, just a statement; an invitation they found natural to extend and that I was happy to accept. The cure for loneliness is a family meal.

As we gathered round the table on Sunday, my father-in-law mentioned an interview he'd heard on the radio that morning. The sociologist Claude Fischler talked about his new book, entitled Manger (to eat), which describes how eating habits and attitudes toward food differ within Europe and across the Atlantic. I was fascinated, so I dug up a recording of the interview on the web today.

Fischler's book is the result of a survey he conducted in France, Italy, Germany, the UK, and the United States. He began the interview with one of the questions he had posed: If you had the choice between an ice cream parlor that served fifty flavors and one that served ten, which would you choose? Americans overwhelmingly chose fifty. The French and other continental Europeans chose ten. That much was unsurprising to me, but the conclusion drawn from the survey was something I'd intuitively suspected but never been able to articulate. The French see eating as a collective activity, where conviviality and tradition trump variety. Americans see eating as a matter of individual freedom and choice, and the more choices there are, the better.

Once upon a time I would have gone for fifty flavors, but now I'd choose ten. Why? An ice cream maker who narrows down his selection is more likely to carefully craft his product. A limited menu speaks of tradition, of artisan quality, while too many choices means they necessarily can't all be done well.

When you go to a restaurant in France, more often than not the menu is limited. If you want a good deal, you gravitate to the prix fixe menu with no more than two or three options for each course. Even if you aren't worried about the price, you're instinctively inclined to trust the chef to have already selected his best dishes for you. If everyone at the table eats the same thing, no big deal; the choice was already made by the confidence you placed in the restaurant and the chef.

Fischler contends that the French trade choice for quality and conviviality. Eating is not something done alone, and sharing a meal is more than just sitting around a table and eating at the same time. This is why you will rarely find any option B for vegetarians at a dinner party, and why friends tend to all order -- or not -- a dessert when dining together at a restaurant. It is also why one rarely rocks the boat by tallying individually when splitting the bill.

Can it be inflexible and annoying? Sure. I imagine it isn't easy to be a vegetarian in France, and in fact, the survey revealed that 22% of French find it unacceptable for a vegetarian guest to expect a special meal. And sometimes you just want to have a snack at your desk in the middle of the afternoon without attracting quizzical looks and amused comments from your colleagues. But I do admire how meals are elevated to almost a form of conversation: an exchange between diner and chef, between chef and farmer, between those sitting around a table breaking bread together.

Fischler regards this collective approach to eating as the reason the French are so much leaner than Americans. There have been so many theories advanced on that subject, I'm afraid we'll keep speculating until the French become as obese as the rest of us. Yet there is something about this new theory that rings true, to me at least. If you eat purposefully, surrounded by friends and family, eating something that was meant to be shared and enjoyed and not just absorbed as nutrition, you're less likely to overeat than if you shovel down something quickly that you scavenged in the refrigerator. In France, you never eat in your car or in front of the television. The family table is sacred.

Fischler noted that Continental Europeans and Americans have very different views of GMOs and pesticide use. The European approach is to ban such technology as often as possible while Americans are generally more open, and Fischler believes that this is because Americans are already so overwhelmed with making individual choices about food that they have no energy left to worry about poisoning themselves. That doesn't make sense to me at all, since I know more Americans who are concerned about buying organic than French. I think that Americans trust the market to sort out good food from bad, and don't expect the government to make choices for them.

He ended the interview with a call for the "reenchantment" of food. Food shouldn't be boring or everyday, and it shouldn't be taken for granted. As eating in France becomes a question of optimizing cost and minimizing wasted time, he feared that the magic of food would be lost and the French would become overweight just like Americans.

I think it is a valid fear. And yet I've observed that in the US, on the contrary, more and more quality food is breaking through a culture of McDonalds-inspired indifference. If loving choice is our downfall, what of the Americans who are choosing to eat better and more purposefully? What of the spectacular selection of products from all over the world found in even most average supermarkets, of farmers markets and small, organic producers and all of the imaginative things that are coming out of our kitchens? I'm biased, sure. I still find it easier to eat well in France than in the US, and that is part of the reason I moved here. And yet, some of that food magic has traveled, and seems fresher, perhaps, upon reaching other side of the Atlantic.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Six months

It's past my bedtime, but I had to write a quick entry in honor of le Petit's six month birthday. So it's been six months since the journey began. I see it more as three sleepless weeks that lasted a year, followed by five more panic-filled weeks that lasted six months, followed by four months of joy that went by in a heartbeat. He's growing up so quickly now, I feel like I'm running as fast I can not to miss a moment. If I have this much trouble keeping up with him now, what will it be when his only method of self-propulsion is no longer simply rolling himself sideways across the floor?

As you would expect, he's working on crawling with all of his stubborn determination we've learned to love. He's figured out that he needs to push up on his hands and on his knees at the same time but isn't sure what to do next, so he usually just collapses into a neat roll onto his back. Alternating arms and legs are a conceptual leap he has yet to make, and I haven't finished babyproofing the house, so I'm not hurrying him. For now, I spread out a large beach towel on the floor in his room for him to practice and lie down next to him to cheer him on.

I, for one, am feeling much better today. On my pediatrician's advice I called a lactation specialist at the hospital and got some advice on treating my plugged duct, and also talked to a breastfeeding geek friend of mine. The lactation specialist, a children's nurse who I'd gone to before for advice and trust, was reassuring and told me I could come in for a visit if I needed to on Monday. I'm relieved, because now I know where to get professional breastfeeding support should I need it.

One of the self-treatment measures is, you guessed it, rest. So what am I doing awake, you ask, in direct violation of my new year's resolution? Okay, okay, T-O B-E-D it is for me.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Cup of tea

It's a blustery, gray day outside and I'm at home nursing a painful plugged milk duct and a bad attitude. It's the kind of day that before le Petit arrived I would have spent curled up on the couch under a thick blanket with a cup of tea and a good book.

Alas, when I make myself a cup of tea these days it tends to go cold before I finish it. Either le Petit decides he wants to be in my arms grabbing at any hot beverages in reach, or there's an urgent diaper to change. Books are thankfully a bit easier, because they can be read with my free arm while he's nursing.

Le Petit is in a six-month fussy-teething-I-just-discovered-that-the-world-is-very-big-
and-I'm-very-small-and-can't-even-crawl-yet funk now, and he's got an extraordinary appetite to boot. He's waking up earlier and more often, and I'm tired and feeling unjustly sorry for myself.

We're going to the pediatrician today, and I'm hoping he can give me some advice on the plugged duct. I'm beginning to tread into uncharted territory, since in France, it seems to be rare to nurse past two or three months. My gynecologist doesn't seem well-informed about breastfeeding. I decided to quit asking him questions about it after he seemed surprised that I hadn't gotten my period back at four months postpartum. My pediatrician is very supportive of breastfeeding, but I don't know if he'll be able to give me much advice about my health.

I don't only have things to gripe about today, however. Last night my husband and I went to see Jordi Savall at the Cité de la Musique, and it was one of the best concerts I've been to in some time. So, I'll go put on the concert recording, throw a kettle on the stove, and try to stop feeling so crappy.

But I'll go change a diaper first.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Nounou Part II

Although the papers are not yet signed and I should probably keep my fingers crossed, it appears we have found a nanny.

In December we found a family to share a nanny in a garde partagée. They have a six-year-old daughter, in school most of the day, and a three-month-old son. From the first visit with them we seemed to click, and I felt especially comfortable with the other mother. I'd found someone with a familiar parenting style and similar criteria for a nanny, and I felt that even if the riddle wasn't solved, progress was made.

The other mother was planning to go back to work at the end of February, and had already started interviewing nannies. After meeting four she'd narrowed it down to one, and we were to meet the candidate ourselves the 3rd of January.

A middle-aged woman from Côte d'Ivoire, she seemed confident, competent, and genuinely interested in children. She also has a great deal of training, and is qualified to work in municipal day care centers. When I asked her about the children she'd taken care of in the past, her face brightened as she explained how she took them to the park or played with them in the sandbox. "They still want me to visit," she bragged.

I nervously explained to le Petit before we went to the interview that he should let me know what he thought of the new nanny. His verdict wasn't clear. Every time the nanny held him he cried, probably picking up on my stress. He was happy to smile at her from my arms, however. Just typical six-month-old stranger anxiety, I hope.

When I asked the all-important question of how she deals with a child who refuses to nap, she said that if he fussed and wouldn't quiet down, she'd wrap him up and carry him on her back, "like we do back home." I assured her that would suit le Petit just fine.

Our first impression was good, but we left the interview questioning our choice nonetheless. We'd only met one candidate so we couldn't compare, yet the other mother, whose judgment I trust, had chosen her from several. Should we insist on seeing others, knowing that the other family had a close deadline and that we risked losing someone good?

We turned the problem over in our heads all weekend. On Monday, we were finally able to get in touch with her references, and they were glowing in all the categories that mattered. We were assured that she is joyful, caring and affectionate, and that she knows babies.

It is still a leap of faith, and I still have three months to get used to the idea of leaving le Petit with someone else, but I'm reassured. For the rest, I'll just keep listening to le Petit and to my heart, and see how it goes.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Splurge!

Ca y est, le Petit and I are now all bundled up for the rest of the winter. I did splurge, not on the Mamajacket, but on its sister product, the Mamaponcho. The Mamajacket ended up being oddly sized for me and was not nearly as cute in real life as it is on the web. The Mamaponcho, however, is adorable; close-fitting enough to be feminine, and knit in a high-quality wool that is both soft and warm. It just so happened that the only model the boutique had was just my size and in claret, my favorite clothing color, so there was no way I could resist.

Now, we'll have to spend a whole lot of time outdoors in the next few months to justify the expense, but that is hardly a problem for me. I'm happy that now le Petit will largely be spared the winter jacket he's grown to hate. Instead of being stuffed into a heavy quilted parka that suspends his arms out like a scarecrow, he'll be able to snuggle as he likes next to Mommy. Much better.

If you're in Paris and looking for cute, bobo-certified baby supplies, check out Natbé.

It's past my bedtime so I'm signing off for now, but stay tuned for an update on the Great Nanny Search.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Resolution

Voilà, what the Internet has been waiting for for days, my new years resolutions for 2008:

1. To get to bed early. It's been true all my life, if I get a good night's sleep I am a more productive and pleasant person. I do not want to subject my husband and le Petit to the surly smart ass I become when I don't get a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night. I don't want to sit listless in front of my computer at work, trying to tease a bug out of lines of code that I'm not alert enough to see clearly. Most of all, I want to have the energy I need to be a good mom. I can't rely on le Petit to let me sleep in or even to always let me sleep most of the night, and once I go back to work, sleep will become even more precious.

So, whatever I'm doing with my free time in the evenings, it will no longer keep me up past eleven, and I will aim for a ten-thirty bedtime on most nights. Sure, there will be exceptions, but I will keep them rare.

2. Grace, gratitude, patience. I wish to bring these to everything I do, pleasant tasks as well as the tedious and difficult ones, whether I do them successfully or not.

3. Remember that I am already an example for le Petit in everything I do. Try hard to remind myself of this when I'm whiny, lazy, or pessimistic. I will try to be respectful and kind even when I'm more inclined to be curt and grumpy. (Hopefully, if I follow my first resolution, this will be easier.) Most importantly, I want to remain as calm as I can whenever I'm with him, since the calmer I am, the more secure he feels.

Sure, I also want to organize the apartment more efficiently, get out for a long walk daily, keep up better with my e-mail correspondence, and the like. But these are The Big Ones for this year. I'll let you know how I do.