Saturday, 31 May 2008

Nightweaning (again)

I know it has to be done ...but I am so tired. This is a lot harder than it was 6 months ago as he has learned how to throw a really beaut tantrum in the meantime. I can only hope it works this time and he starts to sleep longer as I'm not sure how I can keep functioning if I have to get out of bed four to six times a night to stand up and rock and cuddle him back to sleep. God I am so tired (did I say that already?).

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Big Boy Bed

Look at the great new bed we got for Jasper. We bought it second hand from a woman who lives in Annecy. Its in great condition and it saved us half the price and most of the effort of buying it new from IKEA. Its the sort that lengthens as the child grows so it will last a while. And I rather like the idea of reusing something that someone else no longer needs rather than running out and buying a brand new one (even if I would have preferred white).

The funny thing was, when I got there, I realized they lived in one of the apartments we'd missed out on during our search last year. They arrived in Annecy around the same time as we did. I wondered how life would have been for us if we had moved in there. Would the charming old building and those gorgeous high-ceilinged rooms have compensated for the fact of living on a busy main road without the balcony that just about saves my sanity some days. Who knows? But they seem happy there, as we are (mostly) here so its all good.

Now if I can just get Jasper to sleep all night in his new bed...

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Bonne fête Maman

Bonne fête à toutes les mamans francaises aujourd'hui. Voici mon petit cadeaux que Lily a fabriqué à l'école. Elle a gardé son secret vraiment bien.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Fête du Jeu

I'm getting much better at the french way of doing things. Like going out late in the afternoon, instead of heading home at 430pm to start getting dinner ready. Today's outing was to a festival of games held in the Centre Bonlieu and a nice little park just behind it. We'd been watching them make and put up the amazing decorations inside for the last few days. Beautiful long purple curtains and moroccan style designs. On the floor, were dozens of games for kids - lego, meccano, and puzzles to name a few. Jasper and Lily had fun building houses out of some giant bricks.

Then we headed outside for more fun. There was a giant sand pit or rather, mountain with lots of toys to play with. Also a fishing game, quoits, climbing gym, boats to pull around in the fountain, ride on cars and some amazing musical acts. It was a great way to spend an afternoon.

And as if that wasn't enough, on the way home we popped into the final day of the Morbihan Tour 2008, a festival of the south coast of Bretagne (Brittany). I passed on the fresh oysters but we listened to some wonderful celtic music. Lily had a great time running, skipping and dancing around at the front with her friends. The music reminded me a lot of Ireland - well, if they hadnt been singing in french, that is.

My kids are always the grottiest!

Friday, 23 May 2008

Happy times are here again

I had such a nice morning today. Nothing special, just the usual. But I seem to have rediscovered the magic of living here. Jasper and I dropped Lily at school and headed down to the vielle ville for coffee and a croissant. Bypassing some of our usual haunts, we picked up a takeaway croissant at a favourite boulangerie and went to a bar with a nice leafy outdoor area that catches has a little bit of sun in the mornings. I love that about being here - that no one gets angry at you for bringing your own croissant to a bar and ordering a coffee to go with it.

After that we wandered along the canal to our music class, which today had an african theme. After a fun hour spent playing all types of amazing instruments, we finished off singing the french version of "We're going on bear hunt." Now, I'm very familiar with this book in english but the french do it as a little song with the best hand movements. I've never seen it done like this before, although I'm sure there is something similar in english. And this was the second time I'd heard it so the tune has stuck in my mind so I can show Lily. I think she'll really get into it. The best thing about it is, because you "cant go over it and you cant go under it" it really helps me distinguish the difference in au-dessus and au-dessous - a very tricky thing!

A quick trip to the park later and a nice chat in the sun with some new acquaintances and it was time to go back and pick up Lily for lunch. Not a bad way to spend a morning.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

I really must stop reading the Courier Mail

Look at these monstrous towers planned for Brisbane.

Apparently they are to go in Devine's "French Quarter". Yep, looks really french to me. One can only hope that some sort of sanity prevails when they apply for planning approval, but somehow I doubt it...

A day of firsts

So I went to my first french yoga class today and Jasper stayed for an hour at the MJC without me. All up, I think it went pretty well. He didn't cry when I left and apparently only cried a little on and off during most of the hour I was gone. Except for the last ten minutes. When another mum arrived, he thought it was all the mums coming back from yoga and was really upset when I didn't come in. When I did return, he was sitting on the teacher's lap, crying but having a cuddle and holding his doudou. He really could not have been in better hands. He was pretty distraught when he saw me, but calmed down after a while and I think it was a good first try. Even the teacher said she was very proud of him! I'll probably put him in the halte-garderie in September if I can get a spot.

As for the yoga, it was a really nice class. It took me a while to get into it as I was worried about Jasper at the start and I had to concentrate on what she was saying. I understood most of the instructions though and at least I listened during the relaxation at the end rather than just switching off and thinking about other things, like I normally do. And the best news, this instructor is starting a new course at the MJC closeby in September. I can't wait!

For those who'd like a bit of easy french practice, check out what Steph had to say about the class.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Wake up Brisbane!

It seems they are set to build yet another tunnel in Brisbane. How many does this make now? I've lost count. When are people going to wake up and realize that their devotion to their cars is simply not sustainable? For all the money, wasted on tunnels, Brisbane could probably have had a decent underground metro system by now. Its a vicious circle, people wont give up their cars and use the public transport systems available as they are underfunded and unreliable. And yet, if people continue with their slavish devotion to their cars, the traffic struggles they complain about will only get worse. It makes me very glad to be living in Europe where at least they attempt to battle these situations head on.

If you want to read more about car free lifestyles, check out Carfree USA blog, who discuss these issues far more eloquently than I do...

Monday, 19 May 2008

Four bits of good news, for a change

Later this week, I'm going to a one-off yoga class for mums, with child care provided. It will be the first time I've left Jasper with someone other than family. I think he will do ok as he knows the two women who will be looking after him and he also knows the centre and the kids who'll be there. I cant wait to see how he goes. And I could really do with the yoga.

I also found out that I owe a certain australian government department not nearly as much money as I had estimated due to a bit of a mis-understanding.

Also someone said to be today, "but you speak french fluently now". Whilst frankly, I dont and I think we might have a bit of a difference in opinion as to what constitutes fluency, it was very nice to hear anyway.

And finally in July, we can expect a visit (I hope) from one of my oldest friends Lisa, who currently lives in the Caribbean. If I write it, she will come...

Friday, 16 May 2008

Happy First Anniversary to us...

Well, one year down. Still feels like ten to some of us! I could go on and on about what we've achieved this year, what we haven't, what we like, what we don't, what we miss and what we've found. But, you've heard it all before. So instead, I will share something I said the other day and maybe you'll start your day with a laugh.

I am friends with an amazing group of women who I've never met. I've "known" them online for about 7 years now. Lately, a bunch of them have got into hooping for fitness. Now, given my inability to stick to new hobbies for long (yes, we all remember knitting and the flylady), I decided to see if I could buy a hoop here instead of ordering in a fancy one from the US or UK. For the record, these hoops are heavier than a kid's hoop, thereby making them a bit easier to keep up. Not to mention, they look a lot cooler.

So, having first looked up hoop on word reference, I went with the kids to Go Sport intending to ask them about cerceaux. We found some kid's hoops but there were clearly no adult ones so we went and looked at the rollerblades that I'm thinking of getting Lily for her birthday. While we were browsing, a very friendly shop assistant came up and asked if he could help. I was pretty sure they didn't have any but thought I'd ask anyway. So...

"Avez-vous des cerveaux pour les adultes, s'il vous plaît?"

How he kept a straight face, I dont know. I realized my mistake as soon as the word left my mouth

"Cerceaux, je veux dire, cerceaux!"

Needless to say they didn't have any, brains or hoops for that matter!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Around about this time

one year ago today we rather sadly and nervously shut the door on our very empty apartment and walked over to the train station, with two sleepy kids, to catch a train to the airport. Our long flight to France was quite eventful, thanks to you-know-who. We'll be celebrating our one year anniversary of being in France tomorrow. Time flies when you're having fun (sort of)...

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

I call this soup...

my Dr C special. Looks tasty, doesnt it?

We went back to the doctor today as Jasper's latest blood tests showed his iron stores have dropped again. Fortunately, we caught it before it got too bad and he is not anemic. But, he needs to take iron supplements again. Realistically, he should have stayed on them longer and I am a bit annoyed I didn't follow my gut and keep him on them despite the doctor's advice. He also hasn't put on much weight and his weight is quite low. His height and head circumference are almost 50th percentile on the french charts, so they are fine. Although, they are a bit lower on the aussie charts which must be based on strapping young aussie kids, I guess!

So we will re-start the iron and go back in two months for a weight check. In the meantime, I've been advised to stop breastfeeding (yeah, I'm trying buddy!) and to keep on feeding him iron rich foods as I have been doing. Which brings us to the rather unattractive soup above. I knew Dr C was a particular fan of lentils, his having mentioned them to me last time. And I have started adding them to my minestrone soups. He asked me again today, if I knew which was the most iron rich food. No, not liver as I guessed. But lentils, he assured me. And he advised me to make lentil salads. Well, the fridge was a little bare tonight so I made a pot of veggie soup containing all the leftover vegetables I had, combined with a clove of garlic (I ran out of onions) and about a cup of lentils and a beef stock cube. Boiled it all up for as long as it took me to clean the house and then puréed it. And do you know, we all had seconds. It was very tasty, despite its appearance.

So, if anyone has a french husband, please feel free to share your mother-in-law's recipe for however the french make salade des lentilles!

How disappointing!

Walking along one of Annecy's main streets today, I was amazed to see a Subway being fitted out. What a shame to see this in the centre ville, which has until now been free from multi-national junk food outlets. Even the nearest McDonalds is a bus-ride away. And really, if they had to put in something, couldn't it have been a KFC!

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Un petit café crème, s'il vous plaît

After a cosy winter spent sampling the many and varied hot chocolates that Annecy has to offer, (the results of which will have to be reported another time), I have moved on to coffee. I've never been a huge coffee drinker, but I did enjoy escaping down to Fat Boys from time to time for a flat white. After watching David down many a petit café, the french equivalent of a short black, (which frankly has never appealed to me), I realized one could also order a petit café crème. In the best cafés, the milk or better still cream is served separately in a little jug, thereby adding the wonderful tactile pouring factor that so appeals to me about tea. In other establishments, you might get a little UHT pot of cream or milk on the side, or if you are really unlucky, its mixed in already, thereby taking all the fun out of it.

With my trusty sidekick, I've been exploring the cafés here for a quick coffee after dropping Lily at school. I have to drink it early in the morning or I can't sleep at night. We've found some good and some not-so-good. Some notables spots include:

Café Crescendo at Gallerie Lafeyette - there is nothing special about their petit café crème, but its a good spot for a break after shopping and it does have a ballpit to amuse the kids

L'Antidote - just around the corner from home. Its great for a rainy morning thanks to its cheery staff and its wonderful kid's corner with toys, books and colouring-in materials

Café des Ducs - right on the canal with a front row view of the Vielles Prisons, their coffee is Lavazza (yum), is served in a larger cup and tastes remarkably like a Fat Boys flat white. But beware the inflated prices for the tourists

L'Etage in rue Royale - one of my favourite streets. The coffee is good, not expensive and comes with a generous jug of real cream (not UHT). In the early morning, there is a steady stream of delivery trucks passing by, thereby keeping my assistant well occupied

But our favourite so far is at Les Roseaux du Lac - situated in rue du Lac, with its gorgeous old apartment buildings and conveniently opposite the smaller Monoprix which I frequent almost daily. If you sit at the corner outside table you get a lovely little view of the Chateau too. Accompanied by its own dainty white jug of cream, their coffee is yummy, but for the same price, if not less than elsewhere, you also get a delicious square of dark chocolate. Not to mention, their staff are friendly and their pâtisserie are devine.

So to finish up, here's my little helper giving me a hand with this morning's coffee and helping me eat that huge square of choccie!

Monday, 12 May 2008

The hard work begins

Warning: Anyone not interested in the trials and tribulations of weaning a 2 year old should just move on to the next blog in their blog roll!

I have started weaning Jasper. I'm not in a great rush but he is 2 now and I would like him to be finished before he is 2 1/2. Its a funny thing breastfeeding. You work so bloody hard at the beginning to get them going, and then you just cruise for a while (well, a couple of years in my case) and then you've got to work just as hard even harder perhaps to get them off the boob at the end.

With Lily, I was a lot further along the way to weaning by the age of 2. I had nightweaned her easily at 22 months and just before her second birthday, I stopped feeding her on demand and put her on a schedule. So, by the time she was 2 she was only having 4 feeds a day and nothing at night. I slowly decreased her feeds until she dropped her last one when I went into hospital, 13 weeks pregnant with Jasper, when she was almost 2 years 5 months.

Jasper is a very different child. My attempt at nightweaning when he was 19 months old was a dismal failure. Instead of calmly accepting it and starting to sleep through the night like his sister, he screamed every hour or two, every single night for three months until I gave up and gave in. So at his second birthday he was still breastfeeding on and off all night and on demand during the day too. A friend here told me she was advised to get them on a schedule during the day, before attempting to nightwean so I've decided to give it a go - he is pretty much the opposite of Lily, so why not try the opposite of what I did with her?

So this week, I created a nice excel spreadsheet, with all the possible day feeds he was demanding - yep, all TEN of them! And I'm amazed to report that after a week of attempting to discourage frequent feeds but giving in if he was really upset, he is down to two or three feeds a day (plus however many he's having at night - I'm barely awake so I don't know!). The plan now is to convince him that he only needs 2 a day - to go down for his nap and to go to bed at night (plus the nighttime feeds - they don't count at the moment). He did this today - he just had a feed before his nap and before bed so I'll be trying to keep that up tomorrow.

I'm really pleased with how he has gone, given that my plan was to drop one of the 10 feeds a week so he's basically saved me 8 weeks of slow weaning. He obviously just needed a bit of a push. And if I haven't been motivated to do anything before hand, I have to perfect opportunity to try and nightwean again in July as the neighbours downstairs are going to be away for a couple of weeks. I hope all he needs for the nightweaning is a bit more of a push too. We'll see.

Not in the mood to blog much lately....

So here are some photos of the kids instead.

Off to Pole Nord

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Bravo Lily!

Today was report card day. I had no idea we would get them so early but at lunchtime Lily brought home a little folder with lists of all the competencies required in the three sections of the maternelle. Of course, only the moyenne section was completed for her. We were thrilled to see lots of green boxes checked showing that she could do all the things they want kids who are finishing the moyenne year to be able to do. The teacher wrote that she had adapted really well to the school system. And there was a letter from the Directrice for us to sign confirming that she should advance to the grande section at the rentrée in September. All very normal things, I know. But we were all very proud that she'd done so well in her first year of school here, especially when you consider that this time last year she could barely speak any french.

I had to have a little giggle at the physical activity section. There was a box to be checked for "daring to take risks." It was checked like all the others. She certainly has changed from the toddler who was so cautious she would not even crawl under the dining table!

Monday, 5 May 2008

Spring cleaning!

Well, really it was spring tidying, as anyone who knows me can tell you, I'm not really the cleaning kind of person. But I did go through ALL the kid's clothes today and sorted out what can be worn this summer, what can be put away for next winter and what can be given to charity. I even rang Secours Populaire to find out when they are open so I don't lug my 4 bags of old clothes over there, only to find out they are closed. So with nice clean organized shelves, all we need are a few new summer clothes for Lily and we're set. Jasper still has lots of hand-me-downs to get him through. I miss all the hand-me-downs we used to get. Now, I've just got to get the 4 bags off to Secours Populaire before Lily the bower-bird starts going through them and putting them back in the cupboard.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Joyeux anniversaire Papa!

We had a lovely picnic at the Pâquier today with lots of expat friends (new and old!). It was also David's birthday, so we celebrated with a chocolate cake that tasted pretty good despite the fact that I forgot the levure chimique!

levure chimique - baking powder