February 16, 2011

In the blink of an eye

Posted in Firstborn, Working tagged , , , at 10:37 pm by Lauren

What just happened? I wrote my last post and ran my last (first) run (er, not good for training) on January 20? Where does the time go?

I’ve gone back to work, and it was easier than I expected. Expect the worst, I guess, and you’ll always get better. I don’t miss Stinkerton too much during the day because my job is insanely busy this month. The two biggest challenges both relate to timing: getting up an hour and a half earlier than I used to so I can get to work on time (nurse baby, change baby, pack pump supplies, restock diaper bag, shower and dress self, drive to and from daycare), and trying to leave work shortly after the workday ends at 3:30 so that I can have more waking hours with the baby. (I used to work regularly until at least 5 pm, but I set that as my daycare pick-up time, so those days are past! That means trying to be much more efficient during my workday.) If I had to choose a challenge to put into the third place slot, I’d go with pumping breast milk in a school bathroom. Unsavory.

So I’ve been back to work for 2.5 weeks, but it feels like I never left. As happens when you work at a school, I’ve been smacked with a pretty good cold. I hardly have a voice today. That’s my excuse for not running last weekend (and the weekend before was poor time management, which was fine for missing one weekend’s run, but which I regretting last weekend when I had to skip that one as well). I haven’t mentally committed to the idea that if I want to run during the week, I may have to do it after the Stinks goes to bed (thus on a lighted trail) or miss out on some time with him.

Stinkerton’s still a giant, and when we look at him, we can’t believe he’s only 3 months old. Seems like he’s been around forever. He smiles very readily now, from the first moment he sees us in the morning to the last look before he falls asleep. Last weekend, he started laughing out loud, but those moments are not yet regular. He sleeps from around 6:30 pm to about 6:30 am, waking once in the 2 am hour. (Our challenge is just going to bed early enough to take advantage of this.) In the past couple weeks, he’s started drooling heavily, chomping down on our fingers, and sticking his tongue out even further (he’s a big tongue-sticker-outer and has been, but he apparently has much more control now), so we’re looking forward to teething soon. (Of course I mean, “looking forward to.”) He’s over 26 inches tall and 16 pounds – we haven’t measured or weighed him in a couple of weeks though, but suffice it to say that he continues to hit the top of the growth chart percentiles. And there are signs that he may be growing a neck! (But I think he may have stolen it from some other baby, because where did this Chunky Cheekerton get a neck?!) Finally, in the litany of “things I should write down before I forget when they happened,” I think it’s safe to call the eye color as brown.

Caught up? Okay, good.

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June 27, 2008

The end is near

Posted in Babysitting, Daily life, Food, Working tagged , , , , , at 2:06 pm by Lauren

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.

May 9, 2008

Just over seven weeks

Posted in Daily life, Exploring, Working tagged , , , at 10:18 pm by Lauren

We have seven weeks and two days left in Paris. As would be expected, we are in a haze of disbelief that the year has passed so quickly. They always do. 

Allen and I are having incredibly schizophrenic conversations about returning to the US. Although it is already May, and technically we’re flying back next month (!), Allen still doesn’t know what his next work assignment will be. The most likely option seems that he’ll be working on an extension of his current project, but from the US. That would be in Westchester, PA, though there’s some possibility of us living in the DC area and him going up several days a week. (Actually I think that one’s a strong possibility, which would be very positive for my job situation. It would be difficult for me to live in Pennsylvania until the end of September, as far as teaching positions go.) But if this project does extend, there’s also a chance we could return to Paris in the near future (likely January 2009). There are so many other options, and it’s all so unsure, that I won’t go on at length here with all of the possibilities. Allen’s boss said that we should consider the Northern Virginia area our home base until he tells us otherwise. You can imagine how that amuses me.

So, as I said, we’re having these schizophrenic conversations. One minute we’ll be discussing where we’d like to live when we return. (We intend to continue renting out our house because of the potential that Allen will get assigned elsewhere, and we’d have to go through the renting process again.) If we find out that we’ll be staying in the DC area on a longer term basis, we’re planning on looking at houses/condos in Virginia (probably back in Arlington). So we’ll spend hours on Long & Foster or craigslist debating the possibilities. Then the next topic of conversation will be what we’ll require of our new Paris apartment when we move back (number one: a kitchen!!!). Our current apartment is quaint and oh-so-perfectly located, but it has some serious flaws that you’d never think of unless you tried to live here. Then we’ll turn the conversation again to moving and staying home, which involves me talking about how I want to adopt two cats, and maybe we should adopt black cats because they’re more difficult for rescues to adopt out, or how maybe we should foster kittens for a local shelter…I can go on and on. And then we’ll be back to what neighborhood of Paris we’d like to look at, enumerating the markets, parks, and attractions around a given area. It’s exhausting – and frankly, it’s pointless.

Besides the constant chatter – the what-if this and what-if that about all possible situations – I do try to be pretty zen about it. I cannot control it, so there’s no use getting frustrated that I can’t really apply for jobs (during the ideal window for interviewing for next school year) or that Allen and I may spend some time apart while I finish my grad school this summer. And here my mother thinks I’m not flexible.

What I can control is what we do with the remainder of our time here. So I made a list. So far I’ve ticked off a visit to the Musee National du Moyen Age, buying and trying bread from Poilane (good, but the dense sourdough was a little hard for me to get through), and seeing China’s terra cotta warriors (temporarily on exhibit in Paris). Remaining are visits to: Musee des Egouts (Paris’ sewer system – I think we’ll go with Antoine and Typhaine), the bio (organic) market at Boulevard Raspail, the photo exhibit Des Parisiens sous l’Occupation, the Musee Marmotten and Giverny (Monet havens), and the Marche Parisien de la Creation. Oh and finishing the City Walks. (We had 24 done heading into Thursday, but after some serious forced marches, Allen and I have completed 7 in the past two days, and now we’ve only got 19 to go!) Which leads us back to my original point, which is: we only have seven more weeks in Paris.

October 12, 2007

No such thing as a free lunch?

Posted in Working at 10:51 am by Lauren

Now that I’m no longer working with Allen, there is one thing I am really missing. (Eh hem, that is, besides you, Allen.) What I am really having a hard time living without these days are those free lunches in the office cafeteria. Right now, at 12:30 on a Friday, I am pouring myself a bowl of Fitness cereal (a health cereal with actual flakes dipped/covered in actual chocolate…but that’s another story). If I were at work with Allen, I’d instead by lining up in the cafeteria, taking a tray and a roll, choosing three items with difficulty among the many desserts and sides, then choosing the main dish which also included one or two sides. To finish it off, cold, sweet, cold water, which is a luxury to me these days.

For the sake of making myself drool into my cereal, I will give you a few examples of delicious meals I have had at the hands of the French cafeteria workers.

Some desserts I have enjoyed: fresh pineapple (a quarter of the pineapple, still in the rind), fresh mango, various yogurts and puddings, pain perdu (leftover rolls cut in half and cooked in a simple syrup with a smattering of sugar on top), Paris-Brest pastries, chocolate eclairs, hazelnut cream with a pirouette.

The small side dishes defy explanation because I just don’t know what to call them or what they are. Some identifiable ones have included some kind of cold soup (cucumber?) with smoked salmon, various pates with toast, dry salami, pickled beets (beeeeeeets!!!), a whole tomato with mozzarella slices wedged into slices in the tomato (!), and various salads.

Lastly, the entree bar, where it was quite common to see salmon (and many other fishes), lamb, and veal mixed in with the chicken, beef, and pork. Allen and I really liked a lamb and couscous dish. A stuffed veal entree was pretty good as well (until I got sick about looking at the meat because I’d been listening to Peter, Bjorn, and John who sing, “flesh is flesh, flesh is flesh is flesh,” and sometimes I just can’t think about “flesh” while I’m eating it). One day I enjoyed a salmon stuffed crepe. Probably my favorite two dishes were a pork tenderloin dish with a wine sauce (similar to a pork dish that my brother-in-law Ryan makes), and a moist orange-infused chicken breast.

 And now, to the weight loss in France update. Not! So, back to my Fitness cereal. 😉  

Au boulot – on the job with Allen

Posted in Working at 10:27 am by Lauren

Part of the reason I’ve been a little incommunicado since arriving in France is that before coming over, Allen’s boss secured me a job for three weeks at Allen’s office. They needed someone to help do their dirty (more accurately, dusty) work up in the archives, and my situation was perfect for it for a couple of reasons. I speak French well enough that Allen doesn’t have to translate instructions (which is what he had to do when some English-speaking employees were visiting), and I’m a lot cheaper to employ (as an old boss of mine would say) because they wouldn’t have to pay for my airfare, lodging, and per diem. So I got the job!

It wasn’t glamorous work (but it’s not as if I thought I was signing on to draft a peace accord in the Middle East or anything). Put on a white “bluse” or lab coat, go upstairs to the dusty, dusty archives, and pour through boxes that are improperly archived. The most interesting work was doing inventories with Allen because in those cases I had somebody to talk to. But a full week of my time was spent “reconditioning” files. 

“Reconditioning” just means taking improperly archived files and properly archiving them. How, you ask, does one properly archive a file? Well, you go through every last solitary paper in the box, remove all paperclips and other metal (hallelujah, we got to leave the staples in), take papers out of plastic or colored paper folders, replace folders with folded white pieces of paper, label those new “folders” in pencil (not pen!), and label the box. The “best” part was taking the papers out of plastic folders. Apparently if you leave plastic and paper in a box long enough, the ink from the paper will fuse to the plastic. I’m not a chemist, in case this precise scientific explanation confuses you to think otherwise. Not only will the plastic affect the first page, but the second, third, fourth, and twentieth pages will all stick to the one before them in the pile. It makes a lovely noise when you pull them apart, trying to make sure everything’s still readable. Sadly, for all of the boxes that I archived, there are probably ten that won’t be addressed because of time constraints, and in ten years all of the paper will be inextricably stuck together. Fortunately, part of Allen’s team’s job this year is teaching people how to archive properly from the start.

Another task I took on at Allen’s job was copying the number and date of memos onto paper folders. (Note: we do have archival folders in the United States, yes? Why do they not use folders here? Personally folding the paper actually takes some time. And then there’s no tab, so you have to pull out everything in the box to find what you’re looking for.) So, I’d take the 11 X 17 equivalent paper, fold it in half, and then put a memo into it, copying the number and date onto the paper folder. Doing this meant scanning the memo itself for information, which is where I learned the French word for guinea pig (cobaye). I also got to scan memo after memo about precisely how much of a specific chemical compound would give a mouse/rat/beagle/rabbit/guinea pig seizures/foaming at the mouth/lethargy/spontaneous death. (PS to the chemists out there: giving an animal a drug until it dies does not count as “spontaneous” death.)

So, now you know where I’ve been. The upside to all of this is, 1) I got paid (actually, come to think of it, I haven’t gotten paid yet; maybe this week?), 2) I got to spend every waking moment with Allen (no really, every last waking moment – and we didn’t kill each other!), and 3) the free lunches. Oh yes, and I got to practice my French: Apres administration de 50ml, on a observe la mort spontanee chez le cobaye.