Welcome to French Bureaucracy, Little Boy

Back in January we went down to an off-site embassy day in Bordeaux and successfully applied for Littlest’s American passport, despite not having exactly the documents they wanted. We were able to e-mail them directly to the embassy that night.

The day before I had also applied for his French ID card, which went even more smoothly.

We did all this with pictures taken at home using smartphone apps, and printed off on photo quality paper at our home printer.

Today J finally ran into a classic hiccup of French bureaucracy: the guichet blocker.

All in all it was a super fun experience for him. He packed up Littlest at 10, drove into down, parked at the parking garage, and ran into two elevators that were out of service. So first he wasted a few minutes crossing the parking garage with the stroller to find the one working elevator.

Then he got to their appointment and learned that the CERFA forms we had printed off and filled in online were of no use, because Poitiers doesn’t use that technology yet (what’s that about nationalized administration in France?). So he got to fill out the form again.

Once he’d finished filling out the form, the woman looked at the picture of Littlest and said it wouldn’t work because it was “digital” and we had taken it ourselves.

No amount of explaining would convince the woman that it would be accepted by the passport software (most notably because it had worked for the ID software two months before). She even asked her coworker who definitely gave the impression he would have been fine with it.

She told J he had to go to a professional photographer or a photo booth (LOL our baby can’t sit up) and if he could do that within his 30-minute appointment slot, she would accept it today.

Except of course she had already used up 10 minutes of his appointment making him fill out the form again, he was pushing a baby around in a stroller in a building that’s barely accessible on wheels, and oh yes, most business are closed on Monday mornings.

I’m not sure what world this woman lives in but I qualified her as a moron when J told me the whole story.

So we get to make another passport appointment, find a photographer, take a picture and pay for it, and drag Littlest back to the centre ville to do it all over again.

Which is really fine. It’s just the principle of the thing—how can someone with so little connection to reality get a job that requires a minimum of lucidity? I mean did she really think that professional photographers go to the trouble of “developing” ID photos?

Welcome to French red tape, baby boy.

Breastfeeding, 2

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Baby toes, or, as I call them, “toeses woeses”

I wrote about some aspects of my breastfeeding experience back in January before I had gone back to work. I feel like an update is in order.

Littlest is still breastfeeding like a champ at almost five months. I am so happy we didn’t quit at 2 months because it goes so smoothly now, and it gives us some nice cuddles that we wouldn’t otherwise necessarily get. (Littlest is so “tonique,” as the French say, that he’s not that easy to cuddle.) It’s a nice way to reconnect after the work day and it’s also really practical.

1 Formula

We stopped the nightly bottle of formula the week before we went to Spain, because it was finally ten times easier to nurse him. We also started putting him to bed earlier so I don’t mind “waiting up” to nurse him before bed (it’s a top-up feeding, not a full one, but he’s always ready for a cuddle feed before bed even if he’s not really hungry).

He gets a bottle of formula at the nanny’s sometimes when I haven’t given her enough milk (something I’m doing purposefully for now because I want to put a bag per day in the freezer for my trip to Ireland), and when I happen to be out and he wants to eat.

2 My pumping situation at work went downhill.

Turns out pumping in the infirmary wasn’t all that practical because, duh, there were often sick students in there! I was sort of okay with it when it was a girl, since there is a screen I pulled between us, but yesterday it was finally a male student so I went to my boss for help. (I also realized that in terms of hygiene, pumping around sick kids wasn’t the greatest.) My boss talked to her boss who has opened up an empty office for me. I pumped in there this afternoon and it’s WONDERFUL: sunlight, peace and quiet, near the teachers’ lounge… ahhh. I’ll have to use the teachers’ lounge fridge which will mean extra labeling (ie Do not touch) but I am way relieved I don’t have to share the room anymore.

In case anyone out there is wondering, here is the law on pumping at work. (That site is great, btw, I wish I’d found it before going back to work!) Oddly, your employer is required to furnish hot water, but not a fridge or guaranteed privacy.

3 Here are some comical things Littlest does when nursing now.

  • Be not hungry at all, then get set down in front of me on the nursing pillow and PANIC TO BE FED. It’s super cute because he wiggles his right leg back and forth when it becomes URGENT (though he was unaware of this need five seconds before…).
  • Wave his hand in the air while nursing, or grab my sweater or shirt. He was always a big arm-waver, but it’s gotten more targeted since he controls his movements better. He thinks it’s hilarious when I put his fingers in my open mouth.
  • Every once in a while, stop nursing and just look up at me, like he’s remembering that I’m there.

The Past Week

The past week has been busy and stressful except for the welcome respite of this weekend. We took Littlest to a Kindermusik class and so will be signing up for a full month of them. It’s a nice opportunity to socialize him, to have him hear English and music, and to do something fun together. Otherwise the weekend was pretty boring, thankfully, allowing me to gear up for the coming week, except that now I have a sore throat.

I don’t think I’ve talked about this on the blog—maybe mentioned it—but I’ll be chaperoning a student trip to Ireland in a few weeks. I hadn’t planned on doing any trips this year, for obvious reasons, but when my colleague started telling me about this one, I knew I couldn’t NOT go. I’ve been dreaming of visiting Northern Ireland ever since I started teaching about it five years ago, and I think my feelings about Ireland in general are no secret (=it’s the most beautiful country in the world). But I’m ancestrally a bit biased. The trip also involves some of my favorite students ever, the ones I took to Slovenia last year.

So at J’s urging, I volunteered to go and also to teach an extra hour in my colleague’s class about my family tree. I’m excited about it but it is adding to my already heavy workload this week.

I also am not sure what it’ll mean for J and Littlest. J owes me lots of evenings free because of his rockclimbing habit, and I think things will go well, although I’m not sure how prepared he is for the mental fatigue of taking care of a baby alone 24-7 (single moms you are my heroes…). I’m trying to make up a stock of frozen milk for when I’m gone but it’s tough what with pumping already for the days at the nanny’s. I’ll be taking a hand pump in order to pump a few times a day and keep up my supply (I’ll be dumping the milk, since keeping it seems like too huge of a hassle). Originally I thought five and a half months would be okay for weaning if this trip provoked it, but I love nursing Littlest too much now to accept that easily.

So that’s on the docket in the coming weeks. This is the busiest time of the school year but also the part that typically flies by the fastest.

Reading:

For Brazil’s Zika Families, a Life of Struggle and Scares: This is heartwrenching, so only read it if you’re really interested. The thought of these parents who must love their babies so much, dealing with so much hardship for them, made this one a hard read for me. I almost had to go wake up Littlest and give him a hug. The article says that these one-year-olds are at the developmental state of a 3-month-old, but Littlest was doing so many things at 3 months that these babies aren’t doing.

He Swapped Email Signatures With a Female Co-Worker, and Learned a Valuable Lesson: Get past the click-bait title, and this one’s pretty interesting. I work in a very feminized profession so I always wonder how much of this stuff I’ve escaped. I know students respect male teachers more, and we just have to deal with that unfairness. But I don’t think the problem carries over to colleagues or principals, or even parents (most of them anyway). There may be a maternal aspect of teaching and caring about young people that’s involved here.

The Past Week

Vacation is definitely different when taking care of a baby instead of sleeping in at will and visiting friends whenever I want. It’s been nice though seeing Littlest again. Tomorrow he’s back to the nanny’s and I’ll be back at work.

Here’s how today went, as an example of our days together and as a souvenir for me when I’ll have forgotten exactly what it was like.

7:45 am Wake up. Chat to self for about thirty minutes, or maybe Daddy, until Mama finally gets out of bed.

8:15 am Out of bed, diaper changed. Still in pjs, watch Mama eat breakfast from my bouncer.

8:30 Nurse. Burp. Shploof.

8:45 Back to bed for first nap. Fall asleep around 9 (at least, Mama assumes it was 9, she was also back to bed for a nap).

10:30 Back up. Get lotioned and dressed. Watch Mama take her shower from the bouncer.

11:30 Nurse. Burp. Shploof.

11:45 Back to bed. Fall asleep around noon.

12:45 pm Wake up. Get packed into car seat with Pooh bear lovey (I haven’t chosen a lovey yet but I have a wealth of adorable choices). Drive to Mama’s colleague’s (who just had foot surgery) house. Be adorable for Mama’s colleague. Get diaper changed on Mama’s colleague’s couch. Then get cranky because Mama is putting me down too late.

2:30 Back to bed in portable crib in colleague’s guest room. Whine a bit before falling asleep at 2:45-ish.

3:20 Wake up.

3:30 Nurse. (Burp. Not much shploofing.)

3:45 Show Mama’s colleague how I can stand up if supported. Wait for Mama to pack up portable crib and get everything else in the car.

Car ride home. Nod off a little bit but not enough to call it a nap.

5 Back to bed for a nap.

5:30 Wake up, Mama is gone, drink 30 mL of formula with Daddy (in other words, hardly any).

6:40  Finish nursing with Mama who has come home.

7 pm Back to sleep for final nap.

8 pm Wake up. Chat with Mama for ten minutes. Then get pjs on, nurse, song, bed by 8:30.

He’s been waking to nurse between 10:30 pm and 12:30 recently which is very strange since we know he can go up to 8 hours without eating at night. So we’ll see what he does tonight.

ETA: He slept through till 3 am and then followed that up with four nights with no interruption whatsoever. So I think we’re back to normal.

Otherwise, it’s been a pretty chill week. We did Littlest’s four month appointment where he got shots again which caused some crying but nothing too awful. I took him to see his Mamie last Wednesday and J took him to see his Mémé yesterday while I got in my first rehearsal with the band since Littlest was born. We made some progress on a new song and caught up on each other’s lives.

Here’s what I’ve been reading.

Science Friday video: Male pregnancy in seahorses and pipefish

NPR: The Purely Accidental Lessons of the First Black Bachelorette

I Wore Men’s Clothes for a Month, and It Changed My Life: Makes me want to wear suits.

Why Every Orange is the New Black Inmate Is in Prison (Click on single page view cuz it really does get everyone)

Traveling with Baby Trip 1: Spain at 4 months

Well we are back from our trip to Catalunia. It was fun but also a little stressful for me for a few reasons:

  1. The bungalow we rented was, as they often are, tiny, and had some important flaws in terms of baby naps: no outlets in the bedrooms for the white noise machine, and creaky doors. The heat also was only in the main room so we had to leave the bedroom doors open at night. Things would have been easier (and less fun) if it had only been the three of us, but we also had J’s sister, her boyfriend, and another friend over most nights so it was really cramped and the baby was napping so nearby that we had to whisper.
  2. I got hit with bad allergies about day five and had to actually leave the cliffside.

Otherwise things went swimmingly at the cliffside. The first day Littlest fell asleep almost immediately for about three hours.

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Exhibit A: Sleeping baby in baby suit and baby tent

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Exhibit B: Tent in context

Day two and day three he slept for over two hours.

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Exhibit C: Baby at another cliffside

In his brief moments of awake time, there was some silliness that went on between his Daddy and his auntie.

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I was responsible for none of this.

Otherwise he does seem to be going through some sort of sleep transition because he is back to waking up twice a night, at 11:30 and 3:30 (ish). We’re trying to move his bedtime earlier too. I don’t know if he’s teething or if it’s the infamous four-month sleep regression, but so far it’s not too bad—I’m just glad I’m on vacation. Then again, it may be because I’m on vacation that he’s off his rhythm.

In other developments, he turned himself over from back to tummy the first afternoon we were there. He hasn’t done it again but is often on his side.

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Improvised vacation play mat, with baby on his side.

He’s grabbing things all over the place and moving around a lot by pushing on his feet.

All in all, J seemed to enjoy the climbing and Littlest is none the worse for wear, though I’m happy to have him home and getting back into the normal swing of things. It was good to see J’s sister and her boyfriend before they move away next week (not far away, but just far enough), to drink a few beers, and even eat some spicy patatas bravas. All the Spanish-Italian-Frenchish languages are fascinating, and we drove through Andorra on the way home, where we ate lunch and bought some alcohol.

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Too interested in his surroundings to look at the camera

Papers Papers Papers

We got Littlest’s American passport in the mail a few weeks ago and I went and picked up his French ID card last Monday so we are free to travel in the EU with him, which is good because we’re going to Spain tomorrow! We still have to get his French passport before this summer, but that involves an appointment at Poitiers city hall.

So for the next ten years, Littlest will have an ID card that says he is 0.58 meters tall. He’s already 60 centimeters tall, so I find that hilarious. Also his picture is adorably straight-faced. I’ve enjoyed showing it to my colleagues this week.

Tomorrow after work we’ll put it to use as we drive down to Spain, stopping outside Toulouse to spend the night at friends’. This is our first vacation with him anywhere other than inside my belly (see: South Africa summer 2016), so it’s largely an experiment. We bought him a little baby tent for at the cliffside, and we’ll see if he sleeps there at all or if I have to go back to the campsite (we rented a little cabin) after three hours every day.

So I probably won’t write for a week, unless I get really bored in Spain—totally possible given that it’s a rockclimbing vacation.

Here’s one article, about sh*t gibbons:

LINGUISTS HAVE BEEN DISCUSSING “SHIT GIBBON.” I ARGUE IT’S NOT ENTIRELY ABOUT GIBBONS.