Tuesday, May 31, 2011


ALERT: This post contains talk of blood and nail beds and heated paperclips, so don't say I didn't warn you.

Anyway, yeaaaaah, yesterday afternoon I shut my own thumb in the car door. I still am not sure exactly how that happened, but clearly I am some sort of door-shutting-contortionist who was able to manage this feat one-handed. You can hire me for parties.

By the evening, it was starting to be really uncomfortable and swollen, with the nail turning purple, or as M put it, "Yucky." Like nature intended, I spent some time on Google/Facebook trying to figure out the best course of action and read about a common treatment that involves (ALERT ALERT ALERT) heating up a paperclip, piercing the nail to drain the underlying blood, and thereby relieving the pressure on the nail-bed and subsequent pain. (SORRY.)

Now, unless things are getting bad, this sounds like crazy talk. You want me to push a red-hot paperclip through my fingernail!? To STOP the pain? Excellent. Sign me up.  

I waited until the kids had gone to bed to give this a whirl (since there's nothing like a fear of paperclips to set you back in your career), but it turns out that you have to press REALLY HARD to get a paperclip to go through your nail. I quit after a few singe marks and opted for the Red Wine-Tylenol solution.

By this morning at 6 am, after approximately two hours of sleep, I couldn't take it anymore and woke Husband and kids up for a trip to Urgences (or French ER, which, honestly, functions slightly less urgently than it sounds.) We spent an hour and a half or so in the waiting room, and then I went in for Proper Medical Treatment.

Me: J'ai ferme le pouce dans la porte de la voiture. Je suis stupide. I slammed my finger in the car door. I'm an idiot.
Doc: Oui, ca se voit. Infirmiere, le trombone! I can see that. Nurse, the trombone! 
Me: Wait a sec, isn't "trombone" French for....
Doc: Oui. Paperclip. 

So they heated up the paperclip and stuck it in my nail.

And that is why I love Google. And Facebook.

PS - Special shout out to awesome real life Doctor Elizabeth who backed up the paperclip thing as Husband was saying helpful stuff like, "This is insanity, you might get an infection and die." And to which I can now reply, "Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyaaahhh."

Monday, May 30, 2011

Summer. Or, That Time of Year School is Closed

We are in Normandy this week, enjoying the half term holiday. Yes, another holiday! While the English summer break may be short (only six weeks) they make up for it with Half Terms and Inset Days. And apparently there are about 24 half terms holidays per year, and approximately 237 inset days, so pretty much M goes to school on September 16th, January 20th, May 7th and that's it.

Because I haven't been working this past year, I've been able to enjoy some extended time in France with the kids and often with Husband, who gets the standard European five weeks of vacation. But I get the feeling we won't all be able to take six weeks off this summer, so I'll have to come up with something else to keep M entertained. Art class? Check. Sports camp? Check? Take her to DC and get her grandparents to keep her occupied? CHECKITY CHECK.

It's funny how school vacations conjure up very different sentiments once you are a stay-at-home parent. As a kid, you look forward to that last day of school before a summer break, thinking of all the freedom you will have, the sunshine and lack of homework. Long, lazy days stretch ahead! As a parent, you also think about those long, lazy days, but it isn't quite as nice a feeling. So you say they aren't in school for six weeks? That's 42 days. 1008 hours. If I spend an hour a day at the playground *pulls at collar*, that only leaves me with 966 hours left to entertain her! *wipes sweat from brow.*  Is five too young for overnight camp?

And in thinking about going back to work (yes, please!) I sort of forgot about all the time off she gets. We have always gone the daycare route, and when both kids were preschool-aged this worked fine. Once you have a child in school (and one toddler), the schedule is harder to juggle unless you have a full time nanny, which is expensive. There are multiple drop-off points, and school days start at 9 am and end at 3:15 pm, so if you are commuting you will need to find both early morning and late afternoon childcare. We really want to keep O involved in some sort of day care/preschool, but the juggling act is overwhelming to think about. So I'm not! I'm putting it off! And since I don't have a 100% sure job yet, that's fine. Besides, there's still that long, lazy summer to panic about enjoy. 

In the meantime, it's Half Term, and today's Holiday Child Entertainment was a trip to the Parc Zoologique de Cleres. (If you are ever in Normandy, I highly recommend it. Not only is it a beautiful botanic garden, but they also have an interesting variety of animals, many of which are endangered and are being raised as part of a conservation program.) You can wander freely among flamingos, peacocks, wallabies, and deer.

Both kids had a great time, until the end of the visit when M realized that they only had "boring animals." Apparently, being 10 feet from a hopping wallaby is not enough of a thrill, and she was hoping for free-roaming tigers or lions or something. This does bode well for art camp. Maybe I can find an alligator wrestling class she'd enjoy.

OK then! I've been trying to think of a good finish to this post, but I slammed my own thumb in the car door about a hour ago so I feel like I have a good excuse to just leave it at alligator wrestling. (Seriously, OW. The nail is PURPLE. Also, WTF? How did I even do that?) So yeah, the space bar is my enemy right now, and there is a large glass of wine in the kitchen with my name on it. It's medicinal.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Neat Freak

I'm a tidyer. (And also, apparently, a maker-upper of words.) I tidy a lot and frequently, finding something really satisfying about putting things in their rightful places. As I go from room to room, or upstairs to downstairs, I'm inevitably taking something with me to put away or clearing off surfaces.

While he might not realize it, Husband is a very lucky man (and frankly, somewhat of a tidyer himself.) Not only does he live in a clean house, but The Tidying has all kinds of useful consequences for him. Need to diet? No problem. Let me clear this plate away before you finish eating. How about a little exercise? Try sprinting around the house in the morning before work, looking for something you left on the counter but is no longer there. I tidied it! Isn't this a fun game?! Wheeee!

Full Disclosure: Despite my passion for order, we still have someone clean the house once a week. When the cleaning gets left to me, I tend to do it in stages: toilet one day, shower the next, stove never, so it isn't ALL clean, all at the same time. Which frankly, doesn't leave me with the same blissful, brand-spanking-clean-home feeling. It's a luxury, to be sure, but I'm also going to chalk it up as an entertainment cost. Some people go to movies. I prefer having my oven scrubbed.

I like to blame this freakishness on living in a relatively small house. If you don't pick up after yourself, you can find yourself knee-deep in misplaced junk pretty quickly. When the washer and dryer are in the kitchen (Yes, Americans, the KITCHEN. England does not do "basements." Or "laundry rooms." Sometimes, if I'm pressed for time, I like to throw the lettuce into a spin cycle) it doesn't take very many loads of laundry to make all of downstairs look like a closet. Our open-plan living/dining/kitchen area can quickly turn into a living/dining/laundry/dumping ground very fast.

If I'm really honest with myself, it's not about the small house but mostly about me being a Neat Freak. And probably having too much time on my hands to care about this nonsense.

I do hope that I won't pass this too much on to my kids. Because while I kind of want them to be tidy(ers), I also want them to be able to enjoy mud and muck and messy paints and a roomful of toys strewn everywhere. They should feel free to dig into a big basket of toys and just start chucking things out all over the place until they find that piece of plastic crap they were looking for. And then run downstairs with the plastic crap, and drop it in the middle of the living room, because it's snack time. And eat their crumbly snack while racing around the living room, grinding pieces of cracker into the carp...oh my God, I don't even think I can finish that sentence without taking the vacuum cleaner out.

*deep breaths*

But you get my point, and there's a happy medium in there somewhere. Childhood is best with mess and dirt and joy and then perhaps a massive clean-up at the end of the day. I'm promising myself to work on it.

In the meantime, I better run. I can see a raisin on the floor.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Whoa Woe

The other day I went to pick up M from school. The sun was shining, the birds were singing; it was a beautiful afternoon and everything seemed right with the world.

Then I walked out the school gate in front of her, and suddenly...WOE. How dare I go out before her because SHE WANTED TO GO FIRST and now her life is RUINED, RUINED, RUINED and I'M GOING TO STAND HERE AND SCREAM AND CRY UNTIL YOUR LIFE IS RUINED, RUINED, RUINED TOO!  (Only not in so many words. It was more like, "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!")


There was so much woe that people stopped to stare. Which was probably for the best, because when there is a screeching, irrational child in the vicinity, my instinct is to run. (I do not think this is the same instinct that got me pregnant. In fact, it is probably more closely tied to the one that allowed me to go to Chicago with my girlfriends for four days.) But no matter, because if people are staring at you, you can't ditch your kid. That is called Bad Parenting.

It took a good 10 minutes for her to calm down enough to get ourselves home and onto a quiet spot on the couch where we sat and read books and ate a snack and skipped our previously scheduled activity. But those were a seriously loooong 10 minutes, and during them, I tried everything I could think of to get her to calm down:

1) Reasoning -
Fatigue can do crazy, crazy things to a kid. Making them into a rational, receptive human being is not one of them.

2) Threatening -
Apparently it is almost impossible for threats to be heard over the sound of screeching. Also, don't forget about the watching bystanders!  

3) Begging -
Even if they are screaming, kids generally remember whatever treat it is you have promised them. So "OMG, please, please, please stop making that noise and I will buy you a pony!" is not advised.

4) Trying to enlist help -
What, fellow parent and neighbor? You don't want to have her over for a play date? Why not? Can't you see my beseeching eyes?! SHE'S LOVELY, PLEASE TAKE HER NOW!

4) Patience -
Hmm. This is not one of my strengths. Are you saying you want me to stand here and be patient and loving and accepting while my kid flips out and maybe even just hug her and wait quietly until she gets through it? Because that's pretty hard to do, and I'm not even sure that's gonna...hey! It works! Let's go home.

So we did.

On a totally unrelated side note: I went to the small local grocery store to pick up a few things for dinner and some cake mix for cupcakes for the class bake sale. But they didn't have any mix, and I had to make cup cakes FROM SCRATCH. It's like the dark ages around here.

At least there was canned frosting. Phew.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ah, Buh, Kuh, Duh, Eh

Today is M's Reading Day at school. Once a week, each child sits down with a parent volunteer (or lacking that, whoever they can snag in the hallway) and works on reading the weekly book assignment and learning their "key words." It's a way for the school to give each child some extra one-on-one attention as well as measure their progress with a list of words they are supposed to recognize on sight.

I happily volunteered to help out once a week. Unfortunately, this was before I realized that the kids were learning to read with phonics. (Every American reading this just thought "Hooked on Phonics worked for me!" Advertising totally works.)

Whenever I'm doing reading with the kids, I always get slightly panicky. Because while phonics are straightforward when it comes to single letters (except soft "c") once you get into the various letter combinations, I am never sure how to explain things. Is it "ea" like "sea" or like "measure"? How about "oo"? "Soon" or "book"? And do not even get me started on "ough". Also, can I talk about letters? Is that confusing? Are we allowed to use that word or do we just refer to "sounds"? Is there still spelling? Hey kid, just give me that book and I'll read it for you! Won't that be fun?!

The school is lucky to have me.

At home, we have started reading longer chapter books aloud to M, things like Mary Poppins and The BFG. (Side note: Wow, the book Mary Poppins is super cranky; Julie Andrews did not adequately prepare me for her.)  This is a vast improvement on endless re-readings of short stories, many of which are lovely, but any story is boring after 42 times. In one day.  

O will listen in occasionally, but his attention span is nowhere near long enough to sit through a book without pictures. He prefers books with animal photos, so you can stop on each page to make the associated noises. So cute, right? Also, annoying! There is nothing like moo-ing every sentence to break up a good narrative.

"'The runaway train choo-chooed down the tracks.' Yes, O, that's a cow. Moo. Good job. 'Duffy Driver raced after...' Yep, the sheep says baaa. Excellent. 'raced after the runaway tr...' Quack."

At least he isn't asking me about fahniks.

Overall, it's a lot of fun to watch as your kid starts learning to read, knowing it's going to open up a whole new world for them. The difficulty at this age is getting them to concentrate on homework (usually one book per week) when they've had a long day and would much prefer to be zoning out with some television coloring. To which I say, fair enough. If I came back from a long day at work and someone handed me a calculus book and forced me to start doing whatever it is you do with calculus (calculate?), I'd probably have to club them over the head with the text, before grabbing my wine glass and running away.

Tonight we'll take a break from the homework stuff and carry on with our own reading, M and O curled up on the couch together, listening to what that cranky Mary Poppins has done now. Also, moo.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Smells Like Guilt

Man, it's been a whole week since I last wrote a post. I would like to tell you that I had a great excuse, but it's mostly inertia. I even had about 3 hours to myself this morning, and instead I find myself posting now, with M on my lap and O yanking at my arm. I have excellent timing.

Oh ha ha ha ha...I wrote that about a week ago without ever finishing it. So now it's been TWO weeks. Who knew that the guilt of motherhood also filters through to blogs about motherhood?!

It hasn't been too eventful around here. The past week or so has been about getting back into the routine after vacation and chicken pox. M is as pleased to be back at school as I am (guiltily) to have her there. There is really only so much I can do to keep her entertained at home, and with the conservatory going up at the back of the house, the kids haven't been able to enjoy the garden. We, on the other hand, are VERY excited to have an extra room added on to the house. OK, fine, in US terms, it's pretty much the size of a walk-in closet, but in England it's A WHOLE NEW ROOM. This passes for excitement in my life.

So I have New Closet Room excitement and THE GUILT. Someone should warn you about that. Or maybe they do but it doesn't really sink in until you go ahead and make babies and then realize that you will feel guilty about pretty much everything for the rest of your life. Work? Guilt. Stay at home? Guilt for not working. Frozen fish fingers? Guilt. Frozen fish fingers AND you're not working? Forget it. You-are-probably-going-to-hell Guilt. A friend once told that if motherhood had a perfume, that's what they'd call it. My guess is that it would smell a little bit like stale milk and vomit, with a hint of laundry detergent.

Later this week, I'm headed back home to visit with close friends. I'd like to say that I'm going guilt-free but that is never true these days. I'm so excited for the trip; I can't wait to see my friends; but in the back of my mind is the inevitable sensation that I am Abandoning My Children. (Sorry, Husband, but the guilt for Spousal Abandonment has a much higher threshold.) I know it's not a rational sensation (it is only a weekend trip after all), but it's hard to immerse yourself fully in the joy of it when you know you are ultimately taking a selfish moment (or weekend. OK, fine, four days. Whatever.)

I think this feeling is probably compounded by the fact that I've been talking to someone about a possible part-time job. It seems like a perfect solution for me, though it's not yet set in stone. I'd be in the office for three days, working from home for one and off for one. It could be a great balance, but after all this time at home, I know the transition back wouldn't be easy.

This is where you shake me by the shoulders and tell me to Shut Up Already! Go ahead. Electronically or whatever. I need it.

But if you see a woman in the airport, drinking champagne and looking guilty, don't get too close. She probably smells a little like stale milk, vomit and laundry detergent.