post

You Are Un-Be-Lie-Va-Ble!

What’s the difference between men and women? What sets us apart so much? What’s personality vs gender? Well, I’m not going to launch into a loooonng blog about how men might be physically stronger (debatable) but women are superior in every other way – no argument about that. Only kidding, this is not a feminist post. There is no need to burn your bra after reading it.

No, seriously, men are great. But there are things about them that we, ladies, just cannot get on the same page of. It’s not that they are right and we are wrong, because I am not writing a sic-fi post with a totally unrealistic plot. It’s just that we are not wired the same way. Let me illustrate with an example.

Whenever I do something to irritate my husband – which I can’t understand for the life of me when that would ever happen, but apparently I do (pffff), he goes, “You know, you are un-be-lie-va-ble”. Right after, I launch into this long, angry tirade. “What do you mean? I don’t think I’m being unreasonable. You are the one who doesn’t get it. Blablabla….” With a lot of gesture, some screaming and occasionally, some door slamming. I mean, it’s pretty theatrical, but I’m French and that’s what we do.

Conversely, whenever he does something to irritate me (too long a list to bother writing), I too go, “You are so UN-BE-LIE-VA-BLE” and get ready for Ze argument of the decade. But my husband just goes, “Thank you, hun. I’m glad you are realizing it” and walks off to do whatever he was annoying me with in the first place. So I follow him around and try super, super hard to pick an argument with him But no luck. All he does is smile at me.  Argghhhh, soooo annoying! What is wrong with this dude?

meditation-909299_1920

post

Plan vs Reality

This morning, I had a plan. A well, laid-out, proactive, no-nonsense plan that would fit all my tasks for the day. I normally don’t bother with organizing anything, but on occasions I have to. Like today. So here was my plan:

6.30: Wake up. See, realistic plan! No stupid impossible get-up-early-and-exercise ridiculous commitment that never happens. I am long done with that!

6.31: Wake up kid 1. Explain to him that yes, he has to go to school again, even though he already went yesterday.

6.50: Argue with kid 1 about putting clothes, shoes and jacket on.  As incredibly as it sounds, my child still doesn’t get why he needs to get dressed in the morning. . .

7.05: Put kid 1 in bus.

7.06: Shower and wash hair.

7.30: Wake up kid 2 and kid 3. Get them dressed.

7.45: Make lunch box while kid 2 and kid 3 have breakfast

8.00: Argue with kid 2 about going to school. It’s okay, it wouldn’t be a normal day if we didn’t . . .

8.05: Drop kid 2 at school

8.10: Finish homework with kid 3.  I admit, we do that in the morning. . .

8.30: Drop kid 3 at school

8.35: Be at my desk and finish my news article, prepare my speech for tomorrow, write a blog, post on social media, photocopy worksheets for French class, call lawyer in France. Estimated time for all this: six hours.

Now, here is what really happened:

6.27: Get up. Yay! A full three minutes earlier than plan. It’s gonna be a good day. . .

6.50: argue wit kid 1. Still good, all going according to plan.

7.05: Drop kid 1 to bus.

7.25: Still waiting for bus. Where’s the bus? Now I have to forego the shower and hair washing.

7.35: Bus has a flat tire. Bummer! Get kid 2 and kid 3 in the car, with no breakfast, some clothes on. Maybe shoes, if they are lucky…

7.40: Shlep all the way to kid 1 school, trying to make it for the 8.00 am bell. Can’t estimate what speed I would need to drive to achieve that, due to caffeine deprivation, but it’s a lot of miles and not enough minutes.

8.10: Spit out kid 1 from car, ten minutes late. Not too bad, considering I was driving without any coffee.

8.45: drop kid 2 fifteen minutes late. Oh, wait. Kid 2 has an urgent question to ask: why is there a pie sale? What is it for? When? And how?

8.50: Promise to buy all the pies in the bloody sale if only she could go to her classroom.

8.55: Try to ignore whaling cries from kid 3 who wants breakfast before he goes to school. Launch into a speech about how unreasonable his last minute demands are, but get an evil look from a mom eavesdropping. Tempted to be rude, but decide to cave in and drive kid 3 home for a speedy breakfast.

9.00: Shovel cereals in kid 3’s bowl while calling the school to advise of our impending arrival.

9.01: Try to think of a clever line to answer school lady question, “Why are you wasting five minutes calling me to say you will be here in two?” Nothing comes to mind. Decide that “clever” and “sensible” are off the agenda today. Yet again . . .

9.15: drive kid 3 to school, who’s supposed to start at 8.15 but guess what? Ain’t gonna happen.

9.20: Prepare a cup of coffee in order to start the day. NO MILK! What the . . . !!!!

9.30: Dash to supermarket, after crying uncontrollably about lack of milk

10.00: No more petrol so stop to refill tank.

10.15: Computer has rebooted automatically so lost newspaper article, photos I prepared for social media and blog outline.

10.16: Go back to bed, cursing that this day is sh..t.

1.15: Get a shower, wash my hair.

Some plans just need a little tweaking . . .

leave-839225_1920

post

Elsa Ruined My Life

If I ever have to answer the question, “What changed your life in the past few years, I definitely know what to say, “Elsa!” Followed by, “change is the understatement of the year”. Elsa and her gang have turned my life upside down. When I share my frustrated comment with other moms, some go, “Oh, yes, I know. My daughter likes Frozen too”

Likes? LIKES! No, ladies, this has nothing to do with liking, or loving. It has to do with complete, utter obsession.

So if your daughter gets addicted, recognize the signs, and get help before it’s too late, like it is for us. The advanced warnings of a HyperFrozenmadmaniatis (not even dramatic enough)  are:

1.  You’ve seen the movie so many times that you know all the lines by heart.

2. Point 1. in at least one foreign language.

3. You’ve seen Frozen on ice, on fire, under water and in space.

4. Your daughter owns three Elsa dresses, the shoes, the jewelry, the wig, the crown, and just put an offer on a castle.

elsa

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Your house is full of plastic Elsas of all sizes.

6. You’ve decorated your queen’s bedroom with Elsa’s posters, Elsa’s bed sheets, Elsa’s cushions, and a big, giant Olaf guarding the bedroom. And just so you know, Olaf looks very creepy in the middle of the night with his scary grin, like he’s going to swallow you. If I meet him in a dark alley, I won’t be giving him warm hugs.

olaf

Olaf at night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Your dog has been renamed Kristoff – must have to do with the smell.

8. You’ve intentionally scratched the CD, totally by accident! Because if you hear someone telling you to “Let It Go” once more, you’re gonna give them what they’re asking for.

9. You own more Elsa books than you can possibly imagine. Even Disney doesn’t know there are that many.

10. You’ve heard a rumor that there’s a sequel coming out, so you need to remortgage the house to get the new outfits, toys and houses.

Finally, if every single conversation in your house has turned into an excerpt of Frozen, you’re cursed. Like whenever there’s an argument brewing between two people, and your daughter mumbles, “Let the storm rage on”. Or if you ask her to put a jacket on to go to school and she blurts out, “The cold never bothered me anyway”, you’re doomed. The only option is to move to another planet. I’m seriously considering that plan.

 

 

 

post

Syria: The Faces Behind The Story

Syria? Never heard of that place! There isn’t a person who can say that nowadays. Try as you might to avoid news, this one has found you. In the endless debates about whether borders should be open or not, in the name-and-shame political game of who does too much, or not enough, in the tragic and heart-breaking stories of people dying in transit. It doesn’t matter what you know, understand or care for. You cannot shut yourself from the horrible crisis that Syrian people are going through right now.

 

holzfigur-980802_1920Recently, eight families from Syria were relocated in our community. People who left everything they owned behind, fled their country torn by war, and arrived here, with their kids, and a few suitcases. Now all they have left to do is start from scratch, with zero resource, not speaking the language and still, needing to provide for their children. That’s all!  (insert sarcastic looking emoji here).

 

 

And just like that, the “Syrian crisis” has a face: forty one faces to be exact. Sixteen adults, and twenty five adorable children who have already suffered beyond any parent’ s worst nightmares and who, just like our children, deserve the best.

We might not agree with decisions from the people in power, heck, we might not even agree among ourselves. That’s okay, none of us are expected to know the solution for this crisis. It doesn’t mean we cannot be part of a solution.

A few of us embarked on this journey to land a helping hand. We didn’t quite know what to do, how to make an impact, who to turn to. So we talked. To anyone who would listen. Shop managers, friends, acquaintances, complete strangers. We thought that not many would listen, but one was better than none. How wrong were we? The response we have received so far has been unbelievable, tear-choking and so heart warming.

With this blog, we want to share our journey. It is one filled with compassion and empathy. No doubt there will be some frustration and setbacks. But for now, let us celebrate. The world can be an ugly place sometimes, but have faith that there is a lot more beautiful than ugly.

access-933120_1920

 

 

post

Parenting 101: Sarcasm Is A Bad Idea

Sarcasm is one of these things that divide the planet: is it useful? Efficient? Or should it simply not exist? Some people say that sarcasm is the lowest form of intelligence, while others think it’s the best tool ever to put a point across.

I, for one can see both sides of the argument. We don’t use sarcasm to convey something nice. Ever. So that speaks volume about its usage. However, sometimes, when you have exhausted all other options, there might genuinely be nothing left to do.

I don’t have a strong opinion on sarcasm. Sometimes I ditch it, sometimes I take it, and that’s fine. However, moms, be aware,  don’t ever be tempted to use it as a parenting tool. Because you might be in for a tough ride. One might say I’ve learned by experience and what an experience it has been! Here’s what happened.

My little girl is living on a planet of her own. She’s the absolute ruler of her universe. At home, she rarely bothers with “please” and “thank you”. You might be judging me as a bad parent for not teaching polite behavior to my kids. And I’ll be the first one to admit that I am no mother of the year. But as far as being polite goes, I am pretty firm. My daughter is just a tough nut to crack. So after repeating stuff a gazillion times, punishing, reasoning, and generally making zero progress on the topic, I resorted to sarcasm. If little miss rude doesn’t want to understand and play by the rules, then let’s turn the table a little and see if that gets me anywhere. And just so you know, it got me nowhere . . .

Before I was a sarcastic mom, when my daughter asked for something without being polite I would prompt her, “Haven’t you forgotten something?” and she would look straight at me, “No, what?”

“Well, what’s the magic word?”

“Abracadabra?” Smart butt. . . “No, the other magic word, the one that gets you things”

“I don’t want to do magic, I just want water”

So, yeah, I don’t think the lesson is sinking in. I need a new strategy. Now, when I give something to my little princess and she doesn’t say “Thank you”, I just go, “You’re welcome”, in the hope that it will remind her she forgot something important. Everybody in the house has adopted this behavior. It’s become the norm: we say “You’re welcome” and my daughter says “Thank you” It’s a little topsy turvy, but it works.

Except, the other day, my son was helping his sister to some water, but he wasn’t in a mood for sarcasm. Instead, he snapped,

“Hey, I don’t know why you’re so rude here. But I hope you say “Thank you” at school when the lunch lady gives you your food”

To which my daughter replied, “No, I don’t say “Thank you”, because they’re supposed to say “you’re welcome” first, but they never do. So that means I don’t have to say anything”

As we all picked up our jaws from the floor, not knowing whether to laugh or cry, she added, “Anyway, you’re not my father, so butt out” and went on to rule the rest of the world.

So beware, you can’t outsmart a six year old. Never. Don’t even bother trying.

scream

 

 

post

Lessons Learnt From The Summer

I don’t get tired of writing posts about summer. For starters, it makes me feel like it’s not over yet. Obviously, I’m gonna reach a point where reminiscing about summer while it’s snowing mountain-high outside will seem ridiculous. But my daughter has been reading Christmas books for the past two months and singing “Jingle Bells” every morning, so our house standards are pretty low when it comes to being sensible.

Secondly, you have to admit: summer is a great learning time. During the year, you’re expected to learn stuff. You either go to school, or work, you meet people, you get all these experiences and for sure, some of them make you grow as a person. But in the summer, none of that nonsense applies. There’s no homework, no routine, no nothing. And yet, the learning never stops. It’s a different kind of learning. It feels more practical, more hands-on type of stuff that will stick with you for the rest of your life.

Take camp for example. What have you learnt this summer? That your kids need to go to camp! And how did you learn it? By not sending them. Will you make that mistake again? Nonononononono! In fact, we’re only in September and you’ve already booked a full ten weeks of fun for next year. Who said you were not organized? You finally understand  why parents don’t spend the summer “relaxing” with their kids. After spending three months hoping to make at least one of them semi-happy and failing miserably, you get it. There’s nothing relaxing about trying to entertain trolls whose sole ambition is to wind one another up, or gang together against you to obtain as much screen time as humanely possible. The thing is, you got that after day three, but you still had to suffer for three months. I guess you can say the lesson really sank in well. That’ll teach you.

Another thing you’ve learnt is that camping is rubbish. To be fair, you knew that already. But you were kinda hoping that with all the technology progress that the world is making, camping’s gonna follow the movement and soon, you’ll be sitting in your remotely operated indestructible and fully air-conditioned electronic tent, with your fully equipped kitchen, your five star bed, covered with fresh silk sheets, luxury bathroom with a hot tub, surfing the internet on your wifi, and watching all the sports channels. Honestly, if that’s really what you’re hoping for, why bother going camping in the first place?

Anyway, don’t answer that, because camping is still the same miserable, horrible experience. You still can’t pitch this insanely complicated tent, dinner is cold and consists of uncooked can food – provided you remembered the can opener. Otherwise, dinner is just looking at the bloody cans. You stink because you can’t shower. Speaking of things you can’t do, you can’t sleep either, the air mattress has a hole, it’s cold and nature is so noisy at night.

But why are you so surprised? Any activity that requires you to fit such a huge sleeping bag into such a tiny space, has got to be bad news . . .

camping

So yeah, camping is definitely off the list. As Dave Barry says, “Camping is nature’s way of promoting the motel business. ”

Armed with what you’ve learnt this summer, I suppose you won’t be trying camping with kids next year. If you are, please keep a diary and send me a daily mail. That would be my blog posts covered for a while . . .

 

post

My September Resolutions

I make New Year’s resolutions that I don’t keep, summer ones that don’t do any better. But I’m feeling good about September resolutions. It’s that time of the year where things get organized, routines come alive, so surely, it is the perfect season to make resolutions that will last!

This time, the difference is that I am not just making resolutions, I have also done a serious amount of research about why I need to make them, and how to stick with them? Kinda like a business case to convince myself that I’m not just wasting my time with my ridiculous ideas.

So what am I gonna do in September that’s gonna change my life? Well, first of all, I’m gonna get up early every morning. I know what you’re thinking, and you are not wrong, given that this has been on my New Year’s resolution list since 1984. But this time I’ve worked on a plan:

– Instead of depriving myself of 2 hours of sleep, I am going to go to bed 2 hours before my regular time. Which might be an issue because that would mean that my kids go to bed later than me. Obviously, I haven’t got all the final details sorted out yet . . .

– In case of extreme tiredness during the day, nap is always an option. An hour here, an hour there. This could affect my efficiency but thankfully, I am not making any resolutions about that, so now I am set for success.

I am also going to exercise four times a week. Are you done laughing? Things are very different now: we have a full length mirror in the house. I have become painfully aware of certain things that I don’t care to list here because this could take a while. So no more dragging my feet, using excuses and not finding the time.

OR, I could just get rid of the mirror, which means I won’t need to exercise, which means I can probably stay an extra hour in bed.

Yes, I like that better, so let me summarize my fall resolutions: I will go to bed two hours earlier, let the kids fend for themselves while I snore my head off, do zero work during the day and nap once or twice. It won’t be easy, but I think I can make that work . . .

sleep-330869_1280

post

Too much choice kills choice

Oh yeah? No kidding. . .

Of course, choice is great. It means we live in a free country and we are the masters of our own destiny. Who doesn’t want that? From outfits to jobs, to presidents, we can pick whatever suits us best – or worst, because that too, is our choice. It’s just that sometimes, I wish there weren’t that wide an array of possibilities for one simple thing.

Take coffee, for example. A life line for most of us out there. Whenever I go to a coffee shop, I don’t want to have to decide anything, because I have not had caffeine yet, so my brain is still on standby mode. I don’t want to exercise my free will, I am not trying to make a point about freedom of choice. No, all I want is a coffee. You think that’s obvious? Well, think again:

As soon as it’s my turn at the counter, the “interrogation” begins:

“What flavor would you like?

– Er, I don’t know. Something strong.

– (Coffee lady rolling her eyes) Would you like a blend from South America? Africa,? Pure Arabica? Fine ground beans? Roasted?

– (Me, closing my eyes, realizing I need to run now but unable to move) Wh . . . Whatever is the first one you can put your hands on.

– (Another roll of the eyes . . . Geez that coffee lady acts like a teenager!) Oookaaay. what type of coffee would you like?

– Didn’t I just answer that question?” My head is starting to hurt, but coffee lady is having none of my exasperated attitude. I’m thinking she’s starting to enjoy herself. And I have a funny feeling she’s nowhere near done with me. . .

” No, you chose a flavor. . . Well, I chose one for you. I want to know what type of coffee you want: drip?  French pressed? Filtered?”

– Huh? Erm, french pressed” There! I can make an executive decision on the spot, I’m not intimidated by coffee lady, or by the fact that I have no idea what I just chose – let’s just hope it doesn’t mean the coffee is filtered through cat pee – with those French, you never know. . .

“No problem, how about the kind?

– What’s a kind?” Should I tell her that I can see her eyes rolling?

” Espresso, Americano, Capuccino, Latte, Antoccino, Breve, Machiatto . . .

– STOP!!! This is insane. I just want a coffee with milk.

– Oh, so why don’t you say so? It’s called a cafe au lait” Ironically, I, French and all, come all the way to live in America so I can fail to order a cafe au lait, because I don’t even know the name for it. By now, I want to cry. But I’m not done yet.

“What milk would you like? Skimmed? Semi skimmed? Full fat? Soy? Cream?”

– How about a cafe au lait without the milk. That’s what I’ll have.

– oookayyy. What size?

– Large, please.

– Oh, we don’t have that size. We have minute, intermezzo, or jumbo.

– I’ll have a jumbo bucket. Or I’ll drink it straight from the tap if that makes things easier” My anger is palatable.

– ooookaaayyy. Would you like any flavoring?

– Huh? Are you for real?

– (Smirk on her face) Just asking . . . Your total is $2.55. How will you be paying?

– Cash.

– You sure?

– Why?

– Because if you pay with our store card, you get twenty espresso points to redeem on your next purchase.

– All right then, I’ll pay with the card.

– Sorry, the minimum purchase for the card is $5.

– Why did you make me change then?

– Oh, I didn’t make you change. I just gave you the choice”

It’s no wonder that after a few of these experiences, I have decided that I would be much better off brewing my own coffee and avoid the trauma of having to make so many decisions. So I bought a machine and the coffee that goes with it. Oh there was a lot of choices for coffee. But I just needed to make my mind once, and then order a full truck load of it. And that’s exactly what I did.

But then,  the coffee company sent me this as a welcome present, and now I’m all confused again . . .

coffee

 

 

post

Freedom: Back To Basics

The US Supreme Court has ruled in favor of same sex marriage across the country. Banning gay marriages is now illegal and all fifty states in America must allow them. As I was reading about this decision, I couldn’t help but thinking that our society seems to be very confused about freedom. In a world where many give their time, money and even their life to defend it, how about we pose for a moment to try and remember what freedom is, exactly.

Looking up the definition in a dictionary, feedom is “the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action “.

In France, I learned as a kid that “one’s freedom stops where someone else’s freedom begins”. I think it’s a great way to look at it. You are free to think, act and be whoever you want to be, as long as you are neither imposing, nor restricting or infringing on others’ lives.

So with that in mind, why was allowing gay marriage ever a question? Gay people getting married doesn’t infringe on anybody’s life. Plain and simple. It doesn’t matter whether one agrees with same sex marriages or not, it’s none of anyone’s business. Gay people are not imposing being gay, or being married for that matter, on anyone. They just want the right, well, actually, no, not the right, they want to exercise their rightful freedom to commit to one another, to love and support, for better or for worse. What does that have to do with anyone other than the two parties involved?

Nobody’s asking anyone to agree, endorse or think in a certain way. But however two people decide to commit to one another is for them to choose and society doesn’t have a say in who can and cannot. In fact, Banning gay marriage would be a slippery slope to allowing subjective lifestyle judgments in law-making. What’s next? Banning marriages of two people with an age difference bigger than 15? 20 years? Banning two people from different religions to get married? Banning a good looking girl from marrying an ugly guy? A rich guy from marrying a poor girl? If we are going to start judging, where should we draw the line?

If you don’t want to marry someone who’s younger or older, richer or poorer, from the same gender than you, nobody’s making you. And if gay marriage doesn’t agree with your family, or religious values, then that’s your prerogative and you certainly don’t have to become gay, or married.

But in the land of freedom, questioning the right to gay marriage in an oxymoron. It is time we call same sex or bisexual marriage what it truly is: marriage.

rainow

post

Too Much Freedom

Vacation time is about to start. Hooray!!! One can only love it, love it, love it! No routine, no need to get up, no pressure to be anywhere at a certain time. Just a fun filled 13 weeks of complete, utter freedom.

Except, I am not too sure that it’s so lovely. I think it’s fair to say that there’s such thing as too much freedom when it comes to vacation and kids.

For starters, when on vacation, everybody thinks it’s okay to be a slob. No need to tidy up, no obligation to look sharp, or just clean. Apparently, even toothbrushes and hair combs are allowed some time off. Socks enjoy lying on the floor until a pile of them touches the ceiling. As for showers, who needs one? Isn’t it to replace showers that pools, oceans and water fights have been invented?

Everybody also expects to get their food delivered on their lap. Whether falling from the sky, or prepared by the cooking fairy, no one cares, as long as it lands neatly in front of them. After all, it really wouldn’t be fair to ask anyone to lend a helping hand for lunch or dinner, because, well, they are on vacation!

Also, instead of just arguing about getting ready for school, on vacation we argue about everything: what to do, when to do it, why and how. I mean, the whole day is just a blur of arguments following conflicts following disagreements. It makes the school routine look like a… what’s the word… VACATION!

Finally, when my kids are off school, doing nothing with their vacation, I achieve nothing. they rely on me to fill their day. I don’t know what with, given that they refuse to go anywhere, do anything and all their friends are at camp.

I do enjoy spending time with my kids, when we do things together,  go somewhere (implying I don’t have to drag them), play a game., or just sit down and chat. But that’s not the kind of human interactions I am talking about here.  No, I am talking bugging me just because it’s so much fun. Like, ‘Mom, can you wash my soccer cleats? I just tried and I have put mud everywhere. Maybe I should have done it outside?” AARRRGGGHHHH.

So this summer, if you only see one or two posts from me, it’s not because I am sipping gigantic cocktails, lying on a chaise on a white sand beach, somewhere nice and hot; it’s not that I am visiting amazing historical sites in a remote place and enjoying to learn about a new culture. No, I have simply lost my “free time” which is 8 to 11pm, because, “It’s the vacation, mom, can we stay up later, please, please, please???”

Hopefully, the toothbrush and hair comb enjoy their summer break in their leisure resort…

pool