Being a Dictionary

dictionary

Not me

There’s this frustrating phenomenon with being an English-speaker in France, and even more so an English-speaking English teacher in France, where everyone assumes you can tell them what a word translates to or what an equivalent idiomatic expression is on the spot.

One of the reasons I disliked the translation exam on the teaching concours so much was because I just don’t think constantly learning equivalent words and expressions serves any purpose in speaking a foreign language. (And, importantly, neither do the official Education Nationale curricula—but when it comes to testing teachers, apparently they don’t care.) After ten years in France, like most people who speak a foreign language, I don’t translate words; in fact I think I’m particularly lazy when it comes to trying to nail down a precise meaning or a precise translation of a new word. I tend to re-use them without thinking about it once I’ve heard them enough times.

So, I only know the equivalent if it’s a word I’ve actually had to look up to understand, a word I learned in French class in the States, or a word I’ve studied or thought about for some reason or another. Same goes for idiomatic expressions, which are the worst questions. One of my colleagues texted me once to ask me how I’d say in French, “slow jam the news.” While I do really like my colleagues and appreciate that they use me as a resource, can you imagine a world in which I’d have figured that one out?

(In her defense, this particular colleague enjoys finding equivalences and actually likes the translation exam, so probably just assumed I did too.)

So I get pretty annoyed about these questions and often tell people, including sometimes students, “I’m not a dictionary.”

The catch is that sometimes I really do know the exact equivalent because I have spent time thinking about it, usually for some chapter or other I’m doing with my students. So it’s a crapshoot for my colleagues as to whether I’ll be annoyed and useless or in fact have the exact response on the tip of my tongue.

Cue frustration.

Anyone else have this type of problem? And do you ever snap at people or are you always a beacon of patience and reflection?

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The Past Week

Last Saturday I finally got down to the Apple retailer, on J’s urging, and got the new phone I’ve been planning to buy. I splurged for the 128gb model which will allow me to never have to delete any videos of Littlest, ever. So I don’t have many links for this week because I’ve actually been reading on my new phone. Not only is it shiny and new, it also doesn’t have a long cord that the baby is interested in, unlike the computer.

That’s probably the most eventful thing to have happened in our lives this week. Even though J has been home this week, I still feel like I have a case of mom brain and am not keeping track of everything very well and feel pretty scatterbrained sometimes even in class. This may just be a permanent state of affairs now.

I did chaperone a trip with my older students to the Marais Poitevin this past Tuesday, which was actually my first time. J has never been interested in going with me since he finds it boring. The day was full, with a stop at the Maison du Marais Poitevin in the morning to learn actual information about it (the Marais Poitevin is NOT a natural site, I mean marshes don’t naturally turn into a gigantic network of differently-sized canals what?), a tasting of local products including pâté de ragondin (what is a ragondin in English?), a boat ride, and a visit to a donkey farm which makes soap from donkey milk. It was a great day and I was happy to get to know these students a little better in a different context. I also hope to return some time with my family since I now have a better idea of what you can do there.

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floating on the marais

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floating on the marais

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four-month-old baudet du Poitou (he was very nice)

I think that’s all for now. In a week of bad news, here’s something nice to think about: Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize in literature.

The Past Week

Gosh I wish I had something interesting to talk about, but it’s really been all work and playing with the baby around here. J is away for work this week, and Littlest’s first night with the babysitter is this Friday when I’ll be playing a gig. I still haven’t gotten around to buying myself a new iPhone (SE), and may possibly do it this weekend.

So here’s a little bit of a link round-up.

Buzzfeed: Here’s What Sorority Recruitment Is Actually Like: I had no idea.

WHY BOJACK HORSEMAN’S EMOTIONAL PUNCHES LAND SO HARD: I loved this season.

How to Avoid the Freshman Fifteen: I wish this article had been around when I was a freshman in college.

BBC Three: Every Child Deserves the Right to Play: Video about children’s entertainers in refugee camps.

Best Multicultural Baby Books: I’ll take them all, thanks.

Lettre à la future maman que j’étais il y a deux ans: I actually don’t really mind the extra effort it takes to get out the door, but otherwise, this was pretty spot on.

And a couple of things I read/watched this week that made me feel France has let me down in terms of breastfeeding my baby and that it is just a constant struggle to push back in a bottle-feeding culture (even though we have been really successful in the end):

L’alimentation à la crèche après six mois

Global Health Media: Breastfeeding in the First Hours (Warning: There are babies and boobs.)

Sigh.

The Past Week

Eek! Another Past Week post that is really the past ten days and almost two weeks. Such is the rentrée… what’s more this year the rhume de la rentrée (back to school cold) seems to have hit harder than usual and it has caught all three of us in its grips in different forms and at different times. I am current battling the resulting laryngitis and hoping to not miss another day of work tomorrow since I only teach two hours and have ten million photocopies to make (heure de vie de classe will *hopefully* be run by the students… I mean that is the idea… but we’ll see).

Littlest is in good form though in spite of his runny runny nose and the torture we make him suffer when we try to rinse it or just wipe it. He’s enjoying his friends back at the nanny’s to the point of sometimes not taking his morning nap, but if the nanny can deal with that level of exhaustion, it doesn’t actually make any difference to us since he catches up in the afternoon one.

Enough of nap talk. We have successfully found two babysitters which will hopefully allow us to get out a bit more though we do have to figure out exactly how chèques CESU work (anyone know?).

Otherwise it is solidly the train train quotidien here and should be up until vacation in a few weeks. I have another week before I have to single mom it up again and J managed to get his second week of déplacement reduced by complaining loudly about it in writing.

But I did manage to bookmark a few things these past few days that felt shareworthy.

HERE ARE THE TOP 17 MATERNITY BLOGS EVERY BADASS MOM SHOULD FOLLOW: I have not yet skimmed them all, though my favorite  (Pregnant Chicken) is on the list. I’m saving them for future down time.

Best Birthday Cake Recipe: I hope to make this for Littlest’s first birthday, though if I want to make the frosting I have to get my hands on some corn syrup.

American Girl Dolls Ranked By Betchiness: Good for some lols, I mean, I loved American Girl dolls, and this was pretty funny, though I couldn’t really get into the rest of the site.

A 300-Square Foot Tiny House in California: Not your typical tiny home. This house was all the pretties, though seemed completely impractical anywhere but California.

Hot Milk Magazine: A quarterly magazine (in French) about breastfeeding. I didn’t think I’d be a militant breastfeeder until I realized that in France, anything past 3 months is basically militant breastfeeding. I haven’t yet read through the latest issue of this so not sure if I’ll read it regularly or not.

That’s all. I’ll leave you with Littlest’s new favorite word: “BWAH.”

 

The Past Week

The past week has of course been absorbed by the rentrée, which seems to be the time of year (or one of them) that people think you can work past 5:30 no problem, like there aren’t any babies to go pick up or put to bed. But other than that, it’s been a good one, though I actually haven’t yet met all of my classes in the classroom—with one of them we went to the Futuroscope last week. I can’t complain.

Unfortunately J is going to be sent away for work for two (non-consecutive) weeks which had me wracking my brain for how to get to my after-five meetings. So far things look like they will be holding together though I do feel like I will be single momming it up. Not to mention we had already planned for him to be away rock-climbing this Saturday to Tuesday before we knew he’d be sent off three weeks later for work.

Otherwise, nothing major is going on. I’ve managed to keep going with Momma Strong which feels good and is definitely giving me some sore muscles in spite of it being only fifteen minutes every few days. I successfully found multi-view picture frames for the odd 15×23 cm prints the professional photographer made of us. Seriously what is with photographers making non-standard prints? Our wedding photographer also did this and some of them are still sitting in a stack waiting for frames. Anyway the frames in the hallway are Littlest favorite thing (I’m not kidding, he loves them) so hopefully soon there will be a few more up for him to tap his little hands on as we walk past. We have a few gigs and rehearsals with the band coming up. I’ve finished watching Glow (I think the Netflix preview image is totally unrepresentative of it) and am currently launching into the new season of BoJack Horseman because it might be lighter than the new season of Outlander. I mean, probably not though, but it is nominally comedy rather than drama. But I know Outlander will suck me in entirely and I’m not yet ready to be devoured.

No good reading for the rentrée. Too much other stuff going on.

Clean Homes

One of the times I was on leave from knee or foot surgery I started reading the blog Clean Mama, and it helped me get a bathroom cleaning routine in place and also make non-toxic cleaning mixes for the kitchen and bathroom.

I like a lot of her advice but some it is unattainable in France, since I don’t think the French have the same affinity for containers as Americans do (mason jars anyone?). Also I don’t have as much to manage what with only having a baby and a husband and not a gaggle of people whose belongings have to be wrangled.

Anyway she wrote this article the other day: 10 Things People with Clean Homes Do Every Day

Some of these I of course do: we make our bed every morning, though unfortunately I usually make it better than J does. Again, baby beds require no making, so that makes things easier. We definitely don’t let the dishes pile up, and I try to give the kitchen a wipe down after dinner though our wooden counters sneakily hide a lot of crumbs. We wipe up spills when they happen though I have to wonder, besides college students, who doesn’t? And I do sort our mail and throw it into one of three places immediately: 1) a blue stand-up sorter with things we’ll need to take care of or refer to soon, 2) the recycling, and 3) my desk, or if we’re really on top of it, the filing cabinet.

The rest of it is where it gets complicated. Clutter happens all over our house and I am the only one struggling against it. Trying to find places for things on your own is a little tricky, when someone else is spreading things around and then looking for them later. So I wish we were better at this, and relatedly, having a place for everything.

Yesterday we also had a hiccup with “planning ahead.” J thinks he told me that he was heading to work early yesterday and so I had to drop Littlest off at the nanny’s, but I have no recollection of this and freaked out yesterday at 6:45 am when I realized he was on his way out the door. I had to quick text message the nanny and ask if I could drop Littlest off fifteen minutes early, and I hate asking her things at the last minute, because I feel she should be able to, ahem, plan ahead.

So we need to figure out some sort of written system for when we aren’t really listening to each other. Hey, it happens—we talk to each other a lot and some of the stuff he tells me I am only sort of intersted in (Ligue 1 football, for example) so I tune some stuff out. I’m thinking a dry erase board on the fridge could do the trick.

And here’s the kicker: number 10 Be methodical about cleaning and organizing. This is all well and good when I’m on vacation but once I get into a work routine my brain is just fried in the evenings. Not to mention these days I really want to hang out with Littlest until his bedtime and then relax.

So, here’s my question: how does everyone else out there manage having a clean home, whatever that means to them? How do you not feel guilty about it not being cleaner? How do you handle a partner who has different (=lower) standards? What shortcuts do you have that make it all easier?

And on that note, I’m off to deal with some laundry and put more in because I just broke a bottle of olive oil on the floor. It was … not my happiest moment.

Summer’s Over

We had such an ambitious summer and so many memories were made! I’m feeling mostly eager about going back to work tomorrow, since spending your day with a baby can get monotonous, but it’s still a little bittersweet to think that all of our plans have come to fruition and my days of just Littlest and me are once again over for a time.

We started out the summer with my birthday and J’s first Father’s Day. Littlest was mostly rolling around on the floor smiling at us, but once my mom arrived, and he got over hand foot and mouth disease, he started hardcore working on crawling. My parents took care of him to free us up for a pretty wonderful second wedding anniversary. All throughout our time in Boston Littlest inched around the room, touching things and lifting his butt off the floor as high as possible. I’m still impressed with how successful this trip was and am grateful I didn’t chicken out of such an undertaking, so that we got to meet Tiniest when he was still tiny. As soon as we got to Germany, Littlest was crawling at high speed and even pulled up on the couch the first day we were there. He spent a few days at the cliffside and hiked around a little with me in the carrier, then road tripped it home with us and hit the road again the following weekend for our first trip just the three of us. These past weeks since returning from that have mostly consisted of brief outings with him, a few visits from passing friends, and lots of watching him pull up onto basically every item in our house. Nothing knee level is safe anymore.

Back to work tomorrow, and we stopped by the nanny’s with him this evening to rework our contract according to my new schedule. He seemed very happy to be there and excited to explore the place with his new mobility, so that was comforting. I prepared all my pumping equipment and all of his things for the nanny’s, so we’re ready as can be.

I’m excited, but still a little wistful. We’ve had some special summers these past few years (my brother’s wedding, our wedding, trip to South Africa), and this one will be counted among them.

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J’s first Father’s Day present from the nanny’s

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Rolling aroud on the floor

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First time in the pool (or maybe second)

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Bathtime with Nanna

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Floor time with Mama

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Getting ready to go

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Fun airport time on the way back

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One morning outside our German apartment

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Cliffside

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Sightseeing on Daddy