Friday, June 17, 2011

Prendre le large

My husband turned 40 this year, and I surprised him with a long solo weekend away at les Glénans sailing school in Brittany. A few years ago he started wishing he knew how to sail, and in his typical fashion spent hours selecting just the right books to buy on the subject. Then he didn't act on it. Instead he sighed, and said what-if-one-day to himself repeatedly on each family trip to the ocean. I believe that the very best gifts are the ones that someone longs for but doesn't dare get for themselves. So tonight, after work, my husband hopped the TGV high-speed train for Vannes, and tomorrow he'll take a ferry to the Ile d'Ars in the Gulf of Morbihan and spend three days learning to sail a dinghy.

I hope he enjoys it. I hope he doesn't get too cold. He applied his minimalist packing strategy (as opposed to my just-in-case packing strategy) and I'm not sure he has enough layers. I've told him not to worry about me and the kids, so I guess I'll stop worrying about him. I just hope he comes back dreaming, because to me that's what 40 birthdays are supposed to be about: dreaming about the next half(+) of your life.

Of course, as luck would have it, Mademoiselle has been dragging along a minor cold all week, and today le Petit came down with an unexplained low-grade fever. Both were in bed in good order tonight. I got them both fed, bathed, and asleep by 8:40, which I believe may be my personal best in the solo-parenting category. And we will as usual be largely aided by my in-laws, who are taking us all to Troyes tomorrow. Picture me riding in the back of the car tomorrow morning between two car seats, a nursing pillow on my lap and my knees somewhere folded in improbable angles.

Speaking of which, can someone please explain to me why it takes multiple reasonably intelligent adults a seemingly staggering amount of time to install a car seat in the back of a vehicle? Or is it just me? Or just my car seat? We have an Isofix system (that's LATCH to you all in the US) and I just bought the latest fancy-dancy Swedish extended rear facing model for Mademoiselle, which can be installed with or without the base, and with either the Isofix anchors or a normal shoulder belt. It took my father-in-law and me thirty minutes of puzzling over it and the Swedish manual to get it installed without the base in his car with no Isofix. I almost gave up, and then dropped the base on my foot when I went to get the base out of our car. That thing is heavy, as befits the Volvo of car seats. Nothing like feeling clumsy and stupid. It's worse than those child-proof caps that no one over 12 can manipulate properly.

Mademoiselle is still waking up several times a night. Most nights I don't feel I should complain, since she usually nurses for less than 10 minutes before falling peacefully back asleep. I just pop her back in her crib and slide back down onto the pillows in my bed without hardly opening my eyes. Then, at seven o'clock, she's up for the day, which is highly reasonable for an infant, really, as I was reminded this morning when she uncharacteristically was up at 5:30. But I've gotten reckless with my own bedtime, writing blog entries or even -- the audacity -- watching the occasional movie before going to bed, so I don't get more than three hours before the first wake up. Unless she wakes up for the first time at 11, as she often does, justifying my "waiting" for her. Ugh. And on bad nights, she'll wake up as many five times, if my weary brain is counting correctly at that point. She rarely wakes up less than three times.

Mademoiselle is otherwise the picture of a mature young lady for her 6 months.
She'd still like to crawl, I think, but sitting in one place is The New Big Thing. She spends her days sitting up, alert, fussing with indignation when she unexpectedly flops over to one side. She suffers the playpen with reasonable patience, if I can keep cycling in new toys quickly enough. She is fascinated by tags and tiny details, by the texture and pattern of the rug in the hallway or the smooth surface of the hardwood floor, which she runs her tiny fingers across in rapt observation. I can no longer read while nursing her unless she's mostly asleep because she'll simply turn around and try to grab the book from my hands.

She loves sitting with us at the table in her high chair. She's started eating solid foods, and has decided that while the spoon is far more interesting than the pureed baby food it contains, she's more than happy to serve herself baked sweet potato "fries" or steamed zucchini. Because, after all, if she can pick it up herself, it must be good. I remember worrying about what and when to feed le Petit at that age, and whether he was getting enough. Now I realize that at six months, the main purpose of solid food is to keep the baby occupied so you can eat in peace. With Mademoiselle expanding her palate and le Petit still conscientiously eating most things without a fork, I may soon have to call in a street sweeper after family meals, however.

The photos from my photo shoot with Mademoiselle are now available. Although I don't want to post the pictures here to preserve the relative anonymity of my blog, if anyone would like to see them, just e-mail me and I'll send you the link. I think I look radiant and maternal, and Mademoiselle looks her usual beautiful self, even in the picture taken when she was about to have a meltdown. I think they may have photoshopped away my dark circles, but that's quite all right by me.


Ksam said...

Oh, I'm sure he'll have a lovely time! Le golfe du Morbihan is a great place to learn how to sail. Hopefully he'll have good weather!

As you may or may not know, I lived in Vannes for five years and worked at the harbor office for quite some time, so I know Les Glénans quite well. And l'Ile d'Arz too - I used to go there a couple times a month just to walk around and escape the tourists.

Sweet Labyrinth said...

Love the pictures. You both look absolutely fabulous! Wishing A an amazing 40th!

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

@Ksam - My husband just came back last night from his experience, well, transformed. And exhausted and covered with bruises. Also knowing a hell of a lot more about sailing than he did four days ago. Les Glénans is serious, kind of a cross between the boy scouts and the army with a dash of monasticism, my husband reports. It turned out he was the only one there for his class so he had what amounted to private lessons. The wind was crazy and he fell out of the boat three times. I'd signed him up for a class in a "dériveur," which it turns out is NOT the easiest kind of boat to learn on... oops. I'm not sure he really wants to go back (I'm hoping, though), but he did (I think) enjoy the experience. As he put it, he may not remember what I gave him for his 38th or 39th birthdays, but he's not about to forget the 40th.

He'll have to take me to the golfe de Morbihan, however, which he says looks a lot like Puget Sound, and Vannes, which he said was quite lovely.

And Parisian that I am, I couldn't even manage to spell 'Ile d'Arz.' Oops!

hush said...

That sounds like such a perfect 40th bday present for your DG - you are so thoughtful!

I agree with your about the bizarre difficulty of carseat installation. Ugh!

caramama said...

What a fantastic birthday present! I think it's a way better idea to sign up for a class for many things instead of trying to learn on your own/by book. I am about to sign up for sewing classes to finally re-learn how to sew and actually do projects (since junior high home economics classes), even though years ago I bought a bunch of books and tried on my own.

Love hearing about Mademosielle! Six months is such a neat age! Just reading about what she's into and about learning solid foods is really making miss that age, even with all the wake ups!

Ksam said...

No worries, I doubt anyone outside of Morbihan could spell it either! It's hard enough to learn how to spell normal French towns, let alone Breton ones (Pleucadeuc, Plouguenast, Crac'h, etc).

And I would definitely recommend Vannes - with a side trip to Belle Ile if you've got an extra few days. It's like the Breton version of the Ile de Ré, except a little more sauvage.