June 27, 2008
As of Wednesday night, we are basically packed. There are a few slips of paper and other flotsam in disorganization (naturally, all mine). There are some toiletries, mostly perfume and cologne, which still need to be properly packed. And aside from that, only the food and cleaning need to be taken care of before we leave.
It’s very unlike me to be packed almost a week in advance. But there’s a logical reason. If we hadn’t already packed, we couldn’t know how much space we had left to fill with souvenirs from France! As it is, there isn’t much room. But Allen and I plan to purchase another French tablecloth and maybe some clothes. En plus, the twice-a-year sales just started this week! We’re in luck. However, we had also hoped to bring back some art, but our full luggage won’t allow it. Any bets on whether we’ll be charged for oversized luggage?
This week has been full of emotional confusion. Monday was a rare day off for me, and i worked on some of my graduate school research. I’m currently taking my last masters course; the first part is online (started in March) and the classroom portion will keep me wholy occupied from July 16 to July 25. (Who wants to celebrate on July 26? Alternately, that might be a good day for a nap.) So Monday I tackled some of the transcription I need to do as part of the data collection for my action research project. In the evening Allen and I continued our packing efforts for a while. Then we ran off to Fuxia, our Italian place, for what was probably our last dinner there. I had a glass of prosecco and the Scallopine Limone. Allen had his usual, the Lasagne Carne. We both finished with panna cottas, getting our own so that he could have a red fruits sauce, and I could have caramel.
Tuesday was the hottest day I’ve experienced in a long time. I don’t know what the temperature was, but I sweated from about noon to midnight. I got my haircut in the morning, and on the way I realized with horror that I’d left all the cash at home (and the salon doesn’t take credit cards). I decided to continue and just explain my problem, fearful of losing my appointment if I showed up too late. Vicky was very understanding and cut my hair anyway. (And it looks great. She has given me the two best dry-on-its-own haircuts of my life.) Then I took the metro straight home to pick up cash and straight back to pay the hairdresser. By the point, I was running late to babysitting. I babysat, tutored, the usual, and then metroed home to try to avoid the heat. I met up with Allen, changed into a dry shirt, and we walked to Mimi and Jack’s apartment. They’d hired a babysitter so that the four of us could go out to dinner together. We walked around for a while before we decided to eat at Le Bar a Huitres. The air was thick with fruit flies; I’ve never seen anything like it. The little flies looked like pollen or dust, but kept landing on us. Fortunately, though the windows at Le Bar a Huitres were open, very few flies actually joined us inside. Still, I fished a few out of my wine, and I think I ate a handful. Aside from the unintentional protein, the food was delicious! Jack and I both opted for the Menu Homard, choosing 9 oysters and a lobster each. Mimi and Allen both chose a grilled shrimp entree, followed by a tuna steak for Mimi and a crab for Allen. Dessert was ice cream all around – lemon sorbet with limoncello for Allen and I and chocolate and cafe liegeoise for Mimi and Jack respectively. The staff were all talkative and friendly, and I believe it was the owner who paid a visit to our table and ended up showing us how to get the meat out of a crab. The food was very enjoyable, and the company was better. Afterwards, we went to El Sur, an Argentinian restaurant across Blvd Saint Germain from Mimi and Jack’s apartment, and had a round of drinks. The owner (who knows Mimi and Jack) plugged the pisco sour, and for good reason. It’s probably a good thing that I won’t be here to drink many more of those. Afterwards, we made plans to see them again on Saturday, so we wouldn’t have to say goodbye quite yet.
Wednesday’s highlight was babysitting Rafaela because we went to the park to meet Kerry and her kids so that Rafaela and Liese could play together. Mimi came with the kids too, so we had a big jolly gathering. Katharine was walking all over the playground clutching a bag of lollipops, so all the bigger kids surrounded her to ask nicely for one, and she was blithely handing them out to anyone who lined up. She put three or four in my purse when I said no thank you. When I went home afterwards, Allen and I threw ourselves into a frenzy of packing and cleaning. Hooray!
Yesterday was a nice day as well. The weather had become more temporate, and I met Leigh for coffee and to return some books she let me borrow. We’d met a couple of times before, but I wish we’d made more time to get together. We talked so much I ended up running late to babysitting again. I’m not proud of it. But babysitting went well – we spent the whole time drawing, and there were popsicles involved. Then I did my final lesson with Adrienne. I took it easy on her and we sang all the songs we’d learned, and I gave her a bit of an oral quiz. In the meantime, I gave her a French braid so she’d be ready for the concert at her school that night. I got to drop her off a bit early and said a warm goodbye to her and her parents. Then last night, Allen and I cooked dinner and then spent a few hours babysitting Kerry’s kids so she and her husband could have a night out in Paris.
And that brings us to today! Allen and I both have our last days of work today. I’ll have my last yoga class tonight (somehow I doubt I’m going tomorrow), and then the weekend will be filled with a picnic, shopping, cleaning, and saying goodbye to Paris.
June 20, 2008
“Yoy-yun?” Noah called me to the couch. His outstretched finger had something pale stuck to it. He made a gesture that I knew meant he wanted me to get it off him.
“What is that, Noah?”
“A big one.” Well, I could see that. I was pretty sure it was a booger. I tried another tack.
“Where did it come from?”
“From this nose.” He pointed to one nostril. I got a wipe and made the big one disappear.
This is my life. It’s kind of funny and sad at the same time.
March 23, 2008
Lest you think I actually have been corralled and deported – thus the reason for the radio silence on my blog – I am posting to dispel the rumors. I’m alive and well (except for the cold sores from our freakish weather) and in Paris. So why haven’t I been posting? Well, coming back from vacation completely overwhelmed me. I know. That’s silly. It’s even sillier when you’re mostly unemployed, let me tell you. But I felt like I needed to ramp up my to-do list and rediscover some sense of productivity. (I feel like this is a sign that I am truly an American – why can’t I stop working, even when I don’t have a job?) And part of that was that I needed to blog about my whole vacation in order. It’s been a little crippling. I know it’s ridiculous to talk about the pressures of blogging, but there it is.
My brother and his entourage are still here until Monday morning, but after that I plan to get back to work on my blog and the rest of my life. (I tend to sniff out the distraction. What? You’re going shopping? Oh, no, I’m not busy.) Unfortunately, I’ll have another major timesuck on my to-do list as well. One of my babysitting families just learned they’re moving to the States in three weeks. Bye, bye babysitting. So I’ll need to find something to replace that.
February 26, 2008
On Friday, Elizabeth and I got up “early” (that is, before 11 am) to go out to lunch and do some shopping. We arrived at La Nature a Paris at noon exactly, right when they opened. Elizabeth had wanted to try it after reading about Allen and my dinner there. She ordered the Grande Chevre (salade de chevre chaud as a plat). It was indeed grand, as it came with four slices of toast with entire mini wheels of goat cheese on each. I ordered an entree for my meal, having just the caviar d’algues. Both of our dishes came with a heaping amount of salad. Because I’d saved some cash by just getting an entree, I opted to try one of the fresh juices as well. I picked the “refreshing” banana apple lemon juice. (I considered the apple guava passion juice, but didn’t think a “general stimulant” would be a good idea for a walk and babysitting just in case it wasn’t just the energetically stimulating type.) It was very good, and between the juice and the salad, I think I got three servings of fruits and vegetables in that one meal. So of course I followed it up with the scrumptious chocolate mousse, and Elizabeth had a huge piece of tarte tatin.
While we were sitting in the restaurant, a horse went by, and then another and another until about 30 or 40 garde nationale horses and their riders had passed. Stupidly, we didn’t take any pictures. But it was quite a sight. And right behind them was a city bus.
After lunch, we walked over to Lush, so that Elizabeth could stock up on Karma perfume, and then we headed to Gudule (also on Rue de Buci) which sells silver jewelry by the pound. I never buy or wear enough jewelry. I found a pair of turquoise earrings and a hammered silver pair. I spent under 30 euros on the two. Elizabeth chose a pair of silver dangly earrings with balls and cubes. I’ll definitely be back there. I saw two gorgeous pendants with pictures of birds on them. I know that may sound strange, but I loved how unique they looked. But at 30 euros each, I wasn’t buying them Friday!
After our earring shopping, we had to book it to Agnes’ apartment so I wouldn’t be late for babysitting. I arrived just on time! Elizabeth did a little browsing in an English bookstore on the way home and met me later at Mimi and Jack’s for (guess what) more babysitting.
February 15, 2008
At about 6:30 pm, I realized that Wednesday was as close to a perfect day as I would find in Paris.
I had woken up early to start my new job. On the way there, I passed Jack in the street, with Michael on his shoulders. Michael sported a huge grin that seemed to say, “Look! This is a person I know and like!” I know how he feels. (Or, I know how I project him to feel. Surprise!) Running into people makes me feel like I actually live there. Pinch me! A couple of weeks ago when we had dinner at Mimi and Jack’s the first time, we exchanged waves through the metro window at the Sevres-Babylone station. Tuesday I ran into Eugenia (a college friend who’s studying at Sciences-Po) at the corner of Rue de Rennes and Rue de Sevres.
A few minutes later, I was in the third floor apartment above La Nature A Paris (the organic restaurant – of all places) drawing flowers and chatting in English with five-year-old Rafaela. We spent the next two hours coloring, and she spoke far more English than I expected on my first visit. Drawing flowers became drawing royal families and their castles and then cutting them out and creating a whole back story for a puppet show. Oh la. Two hours passed quickly, and Rafaela was disappointed to go to the centre de loisirs. (At which point, she engaged in some really frustrating behavior to annoy her father, who I felt bad for. Eek. It didn’t seem like normal behavior for her, though, based on how she’d acted with me and how her father reacted.)
So, despite a little discomfort for me at the end, I labelled my first day on the new job a success. Time for some shopping. I visited several stores on Boulevard Saint Michel and bought nothing. I crossed the square in front of the Sorbonne and found a panini shop on a side street. Then I wandered back towards home with a steaming goat cheese panini. Along the way I paused to take pictures or to warm myself in the sunlight. I stayed on roads behind Boulevard Saint Germain (my usual route) and found buildings and shops I didn’t know were just a block off my trail. I felt free and independent, as I stopped mid-sidewalk or squatted to take just the right picture without paying attention to the passers-by around me. Here is a dog’s eye view of a Velib’ bike station:
As I walked back onto the island, I stopped at Berthillon and got a double scoop of ice cream – pear and turron. (I always get two scoops so I can order pear and try something new.) The turron translated fabulously into an ice cream. Instead of emerging on Rue des Deux Ponts, I wandered down past the church and turned in front of the school. Someone had spray-painted a bench turquoise and purple. I wondered why and snapped a picture.
Around 2:20 pm, I left the house to walk to babysitting. The walk was as refreshing as my wandering earlier had been, and though I left myself only 40 minutes to get from my apartment to Agnes’ place, I felt that my pace had been slow and leisurely the whole way. The three hours with the babies passed quickly with minimal tears and plenty of baby giggles. Afterwards I did some more shopping on Rue de Rennes, picking up the black sweater I referred to in another post.
By the time I arrived home, I was ready for a big bowl of cereal. But my day wasn’t over yet. I left at 8:30 to meet Agnes, Ping, and some other international ex-pats for a late showing of P.S. I Love You (which was cute, made me cry a bit because I am a sap, and featured Denny from Gray’s Anatomy and Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer). We emerged near midnight, and I took the metro home via Cite. The elevator at Cite feels like teleportation to me, but this time I ruined the magic by timing its ascent through the silo and felt each of the 13 seconds. Still, I decided the day was a success. Thanks, Paris.
January 25, 2008
Lately, two of the women I babysit for have gone shopping on my watch and come back with new maternity pants – but they’re not pregnant. On my most recent visit, they sang the praises of maternity pants in an effort to convince me that I too should invest in a pair. Maternity pants are so comfortable! A woman’s body fluctuates so much within a given month. (Heck, within a given day!) The band of stretchy material across the stomach has a flattening effect.
That is all fine and good. Lord knows I could use a flattening effect across the middle. But it just seems like a letterpress invitation to speculation if I start buying and wearing maternity pants. Oh, probably no one would ever know – until I raised my hands over my head to reach something on a high shelf or wore a shirt that was too short.
Now, some speculation about whether I’m pregnant or not (I’m not, and don’t hold your breath just yet) is natural, I suppose. I mean, I’ve been married for a couple of years, and it appears that I adore children. I probably like “other people’s children” more than a whole lot of other people (parents or otherwise). (Right, Mom?) But the fact of the matter is, nobody would be speculating if I were a size 8. So until I’m so trim I don’t need to wear maternity pants, or until I’m actually pregnant, there will be no maternity pants for me.
(By the way, I do think about babies a lot. I mean, I’m around them at least three days a week. But I do the baby check pretty often: “So, does this make you feel like you want to have a baby?” The baby check has never yet come back positive. Anybody else do the baby check? I can’t help it. Like I said, I’m around babies a lot.)
January 12, 2008
Oops! I really thought that one of the mothers had told me she’d be on vacation until February 1. That is how I found myself very surprised at 1 pm on Monday to hear that she and her friend (the two moms with one-year-olds) wanted me to come by at 3 pm, our regular time. So, here I am, back to work already.
I can’t say it’s a bad thing. For one thing, Allen’s out of the country (in the States) until the 17th. For another thing, my original plans for today including saying goodbye to Elizabeth (check) and then sitting around all day in my pajamas without a shower so that my skin could rebuild some of its natural oils. I’ve been feeling very dry lately, if you must know.
Thursday I tutored Adrienne, and tomorrow I’m back to my regular schedule of English lessons with both girls. So, my two main jobs are back already. On the up side, I still don’t need to get up before 2 pm in the foreseeable future.
I also have a new opportunity. Natsumi’s mother recommended me to a friend who’d like to learn English. I agreed to talk to her, to at least find out what her goals would be and what her current level is. I’m a little terrified at the idea of teaching an adult though.
I expect to get back to babysitting in the evenings as soon as Mimi and Jack recover from New Year’s (just kidding!) and get the kids back in school and the creche. Then Noah and his mom come back around January 21, and then I’ll be a busy lady again.
Until then, feel free not to wake me before 2.
December 6, 2007
I thought I was unemployed, but this week has left me heartily confused. Between Sunday, November 16 and Friday, November 23, I worked no fewer than 37 hours between babysitting and English lessons. The difficult part was that more than half of those hours were on two days, Wednesday and Friday. Friday, with 14 hours and 6.5 miles of walking, just about ruined me. (Yes, on each of the weekdays, I also walked at least 4.5 miles in addition to the babysitting.)
I haven’t updated my babysitting situation on this blog since I lost the other job, so I suppose you’ll all now see that it worked out just fine. I have four jobs that are fairly regular now, and between them, I’m sure to work at least 20 hours a week. That works for me!
The first job is the delightful evening position with a one- and three-year-old. Michael, the three-year-old, has really warmed up to us, and particularly to Allen. He’s a crack-up because he’s going to a French school now so his English and French are getting all mixed up to the point of incomprehensibility sometimes. When his parents left last Friday night to go out, Michael pointed at Allen and said to his parents something like, “You go, I stay with ca?” (“Ca” means “that” in French!) Katharine, the 1-year-old, has started toddling all over the place and loves playing with grown-ups, so I fly her around the room “attacking” Michael, Allen, and her parents. (This is probably unwise since I see her right after her dinner. As long as her face isn’t pointed at me though!)
The other job that I’ve been doing since the beginning of October is the English lessons. Adrienne and Natsumi are both 7, French, and full of mischief. Most of the time, I like it! We’ve had our ups and downs as I try to discipline them only in English (while they speak no English but what I’ve taught them), but they are definitely learning and retaining everything I’m bringing to the table, which makes me proud. Allen and I also had the pleasure of joining Adrienne and her family for dinner Friday before last, and that was really nice. (It also gave me an opportunity to speak with Adrienne in French, and I teased her a little for not asking more questions of me the one time I could answer in French!) For dessert, Adrienne decorated the cake with a chocolate drizzle that spelled out, “Hello.”
I picked up the next job after my firing in early November. I work for two mothers who need time to work and do other things during the day a few days a week. They both have one-year-olds, so I’m in charge of two one-year-old girls, Roxanne and Sunniva. They are really fun to watch play with each other. I watch them three hours at a time on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons. The girls are full of funny surprises, always want to play with each other’s toys, and the one who’s eating always has to have the other in her sight. It can be tiring to watch two babies at once, but the three hours are broken up by feeding schedules, which makes it a little easier.
My newest job is only two weeks old now. This American mother needed someone to watch her two-year-old during the strike when her normal babysitter couldn’t come. Though the strike is over, she’s still calling on me, which is fine because her little boy Noah is adorable. I make no secret of the fact that I love two-year-olds. What a great age! (The mothers in the audience are probably shaking their heads at me right now, but I assure you that I have dealt with more than my share, as a childless woman, of vomit, diapers, and tantrums. I still think two-year-olds can be quite charming.) I don’t have a set schedule for watching Noah, which is okay with me at this point.
So, there’s the full update of an unemployed American in Paris. Now, back to twiddling my thumbs.
November 11, 2007
After weeks of waiting, I was slated to begin my new job on Monday, October 29. The family had hired me for the five weeks between the end of October and the end of November, and I’d taken the job and put off finding anything else for the past three weeks. Now it was time to work! I plotted my route the night before to figure out how early I’d need to leave if I walked, and I slipped my cross stitch into my bag in hopes that the baby would have a nap during my watch. I’d be working mornings four days a week. I was excited about the schedule because it would allow me to wake early (having a purpose to my day), work early, and then enjoy the afternoon. (Of course two days a week, I’d go to my English lessons afterwards, but I’d have Wednesday completely off!) The little girl (a year and a half old) had seemed bubbly and personable when I met the family. The parents too had seemed very nice, and the mother had seemed very low-key, which is a quality I enjoy in mothers I babysit for.
I was allowed a later start than usual this particular Monday because the family had just returned from a trip and were all jet-lagged. It was the weekend after daylight savings time in France, and I was concerned that the mother wouldn’t realize it (and would think I was an hour late). But how much of a worrywort can you be? I arrived right on time, ready to start. (At some point during the day, we did find out that she didn’t realize the time had changed, and I had to specify that I had indeed been on time.)
It was immediately obvious that the little girl was going to cling to her mom, and her mom explained that between the jet lag and the recent trip where the baby’d been left with nannies all day, the baby was really feeling separation anxiety. The mom said she’d be hanging around to show me the ropes.
It’s not worth divulging all the details of the day, but suffice it to say that I spent a long, awkward day with the baby and her mom. The baby was fussy, jet-lagged, and hyper-aware of where her mother was at all times. And that was the easy part. I have come to some sort of zen with babies – they are going to cry, they are not going to like being in your company all of the time (especially when you’re new with them), and if you pay attention, you can figure out how to make them happy most of the time. And that’s fine. The mother on the other hand seemed stressed that the baby was fussy, stressed that I was there (I sensed she didn’t really want to leave me alone with her child), and stressed that I wasn’t taking more charge. Meanwhile, with the mom there all day, the baby didn’t know who was in charge, and I don’t blame her because it was difficult for me to figure out too!
The most awkward part came at the end of the day. I was supposed to be working until 2, so I thought the child needed to be at the daycare by then. It was her first day of daycare (just a little detail to add to the upheaval). The mom went to take a nap at 12:45 once the baby was down for a nap. She said to me, “I shouldn’t sleep more than an hour.” But when an hour had gone by, she was still sleeping, the baby was still sleeping, and I wasn’t really sure what to do. I waited, a little, to see if somebody would wake. Then at 2 pm, I woke the mom, apologizing for waking her, but explaining that it was 2 o’clock, and the baby was still sleeping. The mom springs into frantic action, saying we’ll be late for the daycare, and how is the little girl going to have time to eat, and what time did I go to sleep. It becomes clear from her indirect statements that her earlier (also indirect) statement about how long she should sleep meant she had wanted me to wake her after an hour. We throw the little girl into the stroller, bring some food with us, and race to the daycare in a frenzy. (Actually, for the record, neither the child nor I were frenzied.) The mom didn’t know what bus stop we were supposed to take, so we carried the stroller down the subway stairs. Once there, she got lost at the other end, and we finally arrived at the daycare at 2:40. It turns out we were supposed to be there at 2:30 (which I thought was curious, since she’d told me I’d be working until 2), and she was glad we weren’t that late. Inside, we found out that the woman who was supposed to orient us to the daycare would be there at 3. We sat inside with the little girl for a few minutes, and around 2:45-2:50, the mom offered to pay me and let me go home. She calculated, “10 am to 2:30 pm, that’s 4 and a half hours, so 45 euros.” I wondered if she was leaving off the last 20 minutes I had been there (because she knew full well it wasn’t 2:30 because we’d been late to the daycare!) to punish me for not waking her. I have been fortunate in the past to work for people who round in my favor, not theirs, but I kept my mouth shut. She said she needed to make a large cash purchase that day and could she only give me 40 euros for now. I said that was fine; what else would I say? (I was again slightly annoyed though; we had gone to the ATM for her to get out cash earlier that day!)
I left at the end of the day thinking that it was very likely that it would go better once the mother started leaving me alone with the child. That, and it’s only five weeks. I like to tell myself that I can do anything if it’s for a set time period. I can make it through the school year because I know when it ends. I can force myself to work through stressful situations (graduate school papers, for example) because I know what my deadlines are. So, it would only be five weeks, and the first week would only be Monday and Tuesday, and I’d already made it through Monday!
October 8, 2007
I’m posting posts a bit out of order because what I’ve started to do is save drafts so I’ll remember to write about a thing.
I mentioned already that I have a once a week evening babysitting job. Now I want to basically just outline how awesome it is.
First of all, it is 5 minutes away walking, 10 minutes or less if you time it door to door. This proximity is all that much greater when you think about it in terms of evening babysitting, where the parents may come home around or after midnight. I like being close enough to get home without reliance on public transportation and with reduced chances of harrassment.
The kids are really adorable. Michael is three, and so far he has announced to his mom each time that he is tired and wants to go to bed – before she leaves. I know this is a function of meeting a new babysitter and being shy at first, but I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts. I also get some time to play with him before he goes to bed, which means convincing him to eat his food (or I’ll eat it first), and talking him into asking his mom to put his pajamas on. (I’m that good. Either that or he’s three and incredibly predictable.) His little sister Katharine not only shares a name with my niece, but is fewer than two weeks younger. She is a mover! The first time I met them, their mom showed me all around the apartment, and Katharine crawled behind us from room to room. As soon as she’d make her way to one room and pull herself up on a piece of furniture, we’d be off across the apartment again, and she’d have to get back in gear. She sleeps with a little plush rabbit toy, which she holds up to her nose and sniffs to soothe herself.
The parents are really nice too, from letting me bring Allen to babysitting jobs to sharing with us their monstrous collection of American DVDs. (The first week I watched The Devil Wears Prada, and last week Allen and I watched The Last King of Scotland and part of Napoleon Dynamite. The movies are alphabetized and take up some 7-8 CD cases.) We usually talk a bit when they get home; last week they sat down with us and we all fast-forwarded to the part where Napoleon Dynamite does his dancing. They’ve been here for six years, leaving the country briefly every three months to keep their tourist visas fresh. They keep up a running commentary about their kids that really makes me laugh, from referring to Michael’s term “sugar squares” (meaning Golden Grahams) and then scolding the other for encouraging him, to wondering whether all difficult babies are cute so you won’t beat them and whether if you get an ugly baby that means he’ll be perfectly behaved, to reinacting pretending to sit on Michael’s potty to overwhelm him with jealousy and convince him to use it. If there’s one thing I enjoy, it’s a family with an irreverant attitude towards their own children.
And that! is why this is a great babysitting job for me!