Aug 12, 2011

Wear your Best.

If you had the sterotypical American mom, she told you to wear your best underwear in case you were in an accident.  Like it will really matter to the paramedic that you have the best undies.  Depending on the accident, they might have to cut them off of you and then where would you be.  Right one nice pair of skivvies short.
Well in France, you certainly need to wear your best.  Not because of the ever fear that disaster could strike at any moments, but it's the rule of the line.  The clothes drying line.  I am not sure about all French people, but my French relatives dry their clothes on a line (even in the winter) and only use the dry under emergency situations -- ie several days of rain.  Well if you live in Paris, this emergency situation could be more common.  So in order for your in-laws -- well mine anyway -- not to see your old cotton undies faded with time, I have to break out the nice pairs.  Last year I specifically went underwear shopping before my European departure, since I wasn't sure I wouldn't be laughed out of the country.  This year, so such luck, but that's ok.  I think I am doing ok.  There was that one close call though with my FIL insisting on helping me hang 'the kids' clothes.  While I am sure he was being nice, I had to quickly pick out anything that looked scandalous to hang myself.
Fashion standards are alive and well -- even for the unmentionables.

Aug 8, 2011

The Unsupportive Family

I am not sure when people lost all compassion, but I am finding family that are completely rude.  My Uncle H= recently passed away.  He was my dad's sister's husband, also the dad of my favorite cousin L.  L is 5 years older than me, but because our parents were close, we spent lots of our childhood together.  Lots of Xmases, Thanksgivings and  random sleep overs.  I used to think that her parents were really cool -- they had a pool table in their basement and she has a Garfield phone.  Well it was the 80s...  Anyway, Uncle H had cancer and had been battling it for almost 4 years -- the last few months had been really tough.  My sister, V, went to live with my cousin to help her to take care of her dad.  Because of this, there were some family strife, with my Uncle P, who is my dad's younger brother, who was letting my sister (19) live with him.  He needed his dog taken care of and my cousin needed someone to care for her dad.  When I asked Uncle P's wife, why couldn't they understand what L was going through, I was told flatly, well (a) he doesn't seem that sick to me and (b) he's not my dad anyway.  I guess a man who can't walk or feed himself is totally normal.  Wow, gotta love family.

About 3 weeks ago, Uncle H passed away and yesterday was the memorial service.  I had been pretty sad about the whole thing and somehow it came up with A's dad.  He said well was he your dad's brother, and I said that he was my dad's sister's husband.  His reaction -- why are you sad, he wasn't even your real Uncle.  A's mom asked me yesterday what Antoine was doing and I said going to my Uncle's funeral and she said, 'Oh, I didn't know that your Uncle died already'.  That was it.  Do people not get sad about death anymore.  I recently read a story about a little girl that died by suffocation because her family would put her in a "box" when she was bad, and I just was so sad about it.  I didn't even know the girl, but I had a tough time getting over it.  Maybe, I am just strange.  The first 10 times I saw the movie, 'Up', I cried each time the Ellie dies.  It's just too sad.

So maybe our society is just too bombarded by death, that there is no sense of sadness because of it.  That's a real shame. 

Aug 7, 2011

Winning the Propoganda War

Sometimes the message that is heard to loudest is the one that sticks.  Even if that message is (1) ridiculous and (2) wrong.  But it is the law of propaganda.  Without 50% of American might not support the war with Iraq or radical muslim would have have attacked the world trade center in the first place.  The problem with propaganda is that it is often exaggerated statements with 1% truth that are used to move the masses into a direction.  There has been an anti-me campaign going on the last week or so...  With my poor French, I am unable to fight the good fight and make my message stick.

Here is the story in brief.  A's dad hit our son (A's and mine) for touching his car with a toy.  A's dad knows that we don't do that, but I was annoyed that he didn't even tell the little boy (3 years old), what he had done wrong.  So when I asked him if he was going to explain to him what he did wrong, he went into a rage.  The boy had already been told before (doesn't matter that 3 year old don't retain information like adults) and anyway A and I were too soft on our kids and they have no discipline.  Then A's brother gets involved.  Well he already told my son about playing on the cars and didn't I know that scratches on car cost a lot of money to repair.  On a side note, I do in fact know.  My car was hit by another car in the parking lot of the store, and it had a huge dent, which cost about 1000 Euros to repair.  Surely the scratch would cost less...  However I didn't say that, they was no much yelling and I couldn't think.  The problem could have been quickly solved if A's dad would have just said -- 'No touching the car'  Takes one second.  Well I couldn't take it anymore, A's brother was bullying me and I called him a bad word -- not even a really bad one, well that was just too much for him.  He just explored.  I thought he was going to hit me, his eyes filled with rage.  It is like no one ever said a bad word in his presence.  I was really scared.  I am certainly not perfect, but not a Soprano either...

The worst was not the argument.  It is the propaganda that follows.  The He Said/She Said game to make everyone in the family take sides.  But actually (1) I am not really part of the family and (2) I can't speak French that well.  So I lose.  Now I am the wild crazy mother who went to a rage at my father-in-law and my brother-in-law, had to defend his father for fear that I might kill him or something -- because I am a crazy American.

So now I have 3 weeks in France where everyone thinks that I am a she-devil. Oh Joy.

Jul 30, 2011

My New Favorite Airplane...

I had the chance to take the new A380 from Washington to Paris.  I was really excited when I learned that DC would be on of the cities in the US, where AirFrance would first have 1 flight a day using the A380 and I made sure I booked that one flight.  Don't get me wrong.  I hate flying and I am not all that into airplanes -- but I have been in some old crappy planes before and something shiny and new was just what I wanted for 8 hours of crying and not sleeping.
This plane actually has USB charging station at your seat, the biggest seat TVs I have ever seen on an airplane and so on and so forth.  It is not like I thought I was in first-class while it coach or anything. But when you are in an airplane for 8 hours, I think that little things can make a big difference.  For example, I usually spend a fair bit of time waiting for an available restroom, well not this time.  Are there more towelettes on the A380?  I don't know.  Maybe.  I didn't take a tour of the "up-stairs", but I did hear that it was very nice.  Another "fun" feature was that we got to see ourselves taking off and landing.  There was plenty of room for my luggage and the kids could easily sleep with their seat belts fastened.

If you fly out or into IAD or San Francisco, while going to Paris, check out the A380.

My Month in France

Well readers, I have taken a hiatus from writing in my blog because I am so busy writing for work.  I have been writing manuscripts to be in scientific journals and all of that technical writing means that I had to put my creative juices on hold for a while.

I have taken my children to France again for the month of August.  In the hopes that last year was just a fluke and this year will be much much better, since the kids are older and we have done this before, I thought that I could do it right this time.  I could create the formula for a great summer...  So read on.
Adventures in Augusting in France.

Jun 15, 2011

Julia Child, my Hero

I recently bought Julia Child's book, 'My Life in France', which describes the nearly 4 years that she lived in Paris and Marseille and the nearly 30 or years that she spent a month or so in France at her French country house.  Julia had it right, I think.  Why spend your time traveling, staying in hotels, eating out when you can just go to Chez Vous, with your own stuff, where you know that the sheets will be clean, the food will be delicious and the expense is just for travel.  I often wonder if this is how I can reconcile my relationship with my lover, France.  Could I find a country house in France and spend the rest of my vacations, going there?  Being an expat for just a month a year?  Getting my fill of yummy food and culture on a part-time basis?  Are France and I meant to be "long-distance" lovers who simply see each other on vacation, b/c we have far too important "regular" lives to move to the other one's city?  Hmm, it is an interesting though.  Julia, who didn't move to France until after she was 35, did it.  She even became fluent in French.  I was thinking that I was too old and that my little brain would never get it.  But I guess if Julia can do it so can I, no?  And maybe in a few years (when I am over 35), I too could get a little country house, to fix up and just be for 1 month a year?  Not that I don't do that now, but it is my father-in-law house in my husband childhood room.  There is not even a place for me to hang my clothes -- the room is filled with old junk, I just feel like redecorating the whole time I am there.  It's will never be "mine" and certainly not the place where I can go to relax. hmm the possibilities....and if you get a chance, you should read Julia's book, it is brilliant.

Jun 12, 2011

SOLD for $4000 -- 4 weeks in France

So I had been monitoring ticket prices to France for about 2 months now.   For the last month I was checking every day or so.  For a long while, I thought it would cost me $5000 for me and the 2 boys to fly to France to see Bonne Maman and Grandpere.  $723 each way plus tax times 3 people.  No discount for kids.  Zut.  I was about the cave in and buy the ticket, but then a friend told me that actually ticket prices would be dropping in a couple of days.  "Wait until Wednesday morning", she said.  So I waited.  Wednesday came and the prices were the same.  Thursday morning though, magic.  Now it was only $562 each way.  How did that happen?  It was still pretty expensive considering with taxes that was still $1300 per person -- but was much cheaper than $1620 per person.  It's seems to be all about perspective.  Sort of like gas prices -- paying $3.80 at the gas station seems cheap, compared to the $4.10 I was paying a few months ago...  So we are going for most of August, 4 weeks total leaving the last week of July.  Our new au pair arrives from Grenoble arrives the day after we return.  Kids start school the following week....  However the belle familie isn't exactly content....  Pourquoi?  Well turns out the kids and I are missing the baptism of the boy's little cousin.  Well we can't do everything.  We didn't know the au pair could only arrive the last week of Aug or 2 weeks later, we didn't know that it would cost $500 more for the 3 of us to leave 4 days later, we didn't know that school would start that early...  We just didn't know.  Besides, 1 hour in a church and 3 hours of eating, what little 2 and 4 year old boys would be happy with that? Zut again.
I guess it doesn't matter, can't make everyone happy...