The Past Week

1. I successfully set up a desktop-computer-type area in my office last week and got a lot of work done during Littlest’s nap times, till I ran out of inspiration.

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I got a bluetooth keyboard and mouse to go with it—and the keyboard is AZERTY. Also since my laptop charger died last week, I got a new one… with a French plug. There’s no going back now.

Actually it’s better to have a French plug because there’s no adaptor for Littlest to shock his little fingers on.

2. J and I went out for his birthday. We left Littlest with his parents which was a tad nerve-wracking for me as usual, especially since he hasn’t had a bottle of formula in several months! But everything went fine and he even slept through the night, and had an adorable bath which they recorded for me on their phone.

J and I got dressed up and went to a restaurant + night club in Poitiers that’s reserved for people over 25. The food was delicious, though we were the only ones there eating at 8, and the only ones dancing at midnight. So we headed out at 12:30 since we also had a baby-less night and morning to take advantage of.

3. We ordered a lighter stroller. I know, maybe that’s not exciting for everyone, but it feels like a new toy! I did a lot of research and also found a good price on a collection from last year (the color we ordered is no longer available it seems) and I can’t wait for it to come. It folds up and can be carried on your shoulder. I probably won’t do much of that but it will fit into our car for vacations without taking up luggage space, and will go into a lot more stores than our current one (which we are otherwise quite happy with).

4. The past few days I’ve been following Facebook and Twitter voraciously for news out of Texas. National papers seem to be reporting with a little more precision but it seems so much more precise to watch what friends are posting. Everyone in Houston is okay for now.

5. I signed up a few months ago for an exercise subscription site called Momma Strong. I finally got back to doing a little bit of this month. Just to be safe I worked through the diastasis recti stuff and am now onto less rehabilitation and more exercise stuff. Hopefully I can keep it up.

A little bit of reading:

Esquire: Hillary Clinton’s Side of the Story Matters, Too

Slate: Parents, Don’t Let Your Girls Join the Boy Scouts: Why would you? The Girl Scouts are awesome. The Boy Scouts have so many issues with heteronormativity.

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What I packed in my airplane carry-on for flying with my baby

Intrigued as always with other people’s experiences of some of the things I’ve done with Littlest, I’ve been reading articles for a while about flying with a baby. And there seems to be one over-riding theme: pack SO MUCH STUFF OMG DON’T DARE FORGET ANY OF THIS.

Well, some of them aren’t so much like that. But still, when traveling alone, surely you want to be able to carry all your luggage yourself. I knew I was going to have to be able to traipse our carry-ons, pick up our luggage, and push the stroller through the Munich airport, so a gigantic carry-on for him and for me was not really in the program.

I found a deal on Amazon.com for a diaper back-pack before we left, though my original plan was to take my North Face backpack as my carry-on. The diaper back-pack is genius though and we’ve switched to it since for everyday use as well. (In full disclosure, I ordered it on Amazon.com and had my parents bring it—it doesn’t seem to be available on Amazon.fr.)

Here’s what went in it:

  • diaper changing pad (the one that comes with the bag)
  • baby towel (we usually put this on top of the pad to change him)
  • cotton pads (we buy the cheap ones sold in all French pharmacies)
  • wipes
  • 6 to 8 diapers (this was a long-haul flight, and I think we only used 4)
  • 2 pacifiers
  • small water bottle (we always wipe down with water after changes, but babies who don’t have sensitive skin probably don’t need this)
  • burp cloth
  • Sophie the giraffe (she bends up easily to pack in tight spaces)
  • Another fancy toy that could get strapped on the side of the bag
  • a very little board book
  • two clean onesies
  • a clean t-shirt for me just in case
  • all our passports, plane itinerary, and signed note from J in a special compact pocket
  • his lunch and snack (in those pouches made for bottles) with bibs and a spoon
  • a thin blanket we acquired on our first United flight (rolled up and strapped on the outside of the bag)
  • a tiny bottle of diaper rash cream (this took up no space but if you’re tight for space and your baby isn’t prone to rash, I’d leave it out)
  • plastic bag for dirty diapers (though we were almost always close to a trash can)

And in my purse:

  • normal purse stuff (wallet, glasses, contact stuff…)
  • my Kindle (not sure I read it though)
  • a crossword puzzle book (don’t think I used this either)
  • a bag of trail mix

It does look like a lot now that I’ve listed it all out, but it all fit in one diaper backpack and one normal-sized handbag.

As for luggage, I packed soft things into a canvas duffel bag with a shoulder strap, and everything else in my big roller suitcase. So I was able to stack the duffel bag on top of the suitcase and roll it behind me while pushing the stroller in front. I was light as a feather. (Well not quite, but it worked pretty well.)

And I think the only thing I forgot was headphones.

The Past Week

Since we got home from our last trip, I’ve been mostly sitting around with Littlest and wondering how many different things in the house I’ll have to hide now that he’s mobile. However I have gotten some work done and even ordered some new computer equipment so that I can work on a “desktop” computer soon. I’m really excited about it. I’ll be using my trusty 8-year-old MacBook Pro, closed, with a little bluetooth keyboard (AZERTY) and mouse and a 22-inch monitor. I hope it arrives soon so that I can put two Word documents side by side and enjoy the work bliss.

We went into town today for professional family photos (they are too cute for words) and I stopped by Gibert Joseph for my yearly purchase of my Clairefontaine teaching planner.

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I’ve used this model every year since my second year of teaching and so far I’ve managed to buy a new color every year. When there are no new colors to buy, I’ll just have to quit teaching.

I also bought a notebook to use as a travel journal, and I’m not sure what form it’ll really take. I don’t want to write strict daily entries, but instead just keep track of details of our trips that I might otherwise forget.

Of course when in a bookstore I couldn’t keep myself from buying a book for Littlest so we got a touch version of the Three Little Pigs, and turns out I had forgotten how twisted it is.

Otherwise, I started watching Anne with an E on Netflix, and was enjoying it, until I read a review that pointed out how all the weird dark flashback stuff has nothing to do with the books, and how all that was going to get weirder in the coming episodes, so I stopped. Please note I devoured the entire Anne of Green Gables series (all the way up to when her kids are fighting in WWI) when I was 12 years old so this stuff is important to me.

So, I dunno, I might start watching Glow or something. It’s always hard to get motivated to start a new show.

Here are some articles I’ve bookmarked over the past weeks.

In reaction to the past week in the US:

How America Spreads the Disease that is Racism: The racism scale in this one was interesting

The Atlantic: The Myth of the Kindly General Lee: This is horrifying (well duh it’s about slavery).

Other:

French Moms Aren’t Superior Parents, They Just Have It Easier

Facebook Mama Groups Vex My Soul…But I Keep Reading Them Anyway: I have somehow not found any Facebook mama groups but I definitely still read my Glow app forums, which sounds like the same deal.

What you need to know about begging in Paris: This article is unclear in places but still interesting.

Dual National Identity

In 2014 I qualified to apply for French citizenship through five years of uninterrupted residence in France, dropped off my application and was decreed French 8 months later (I detailed that whole process here).

Becoming a French citizen was a moment of joy and accomplishment for me. I wanted to be French under the law not just because it made things simpler (and oh did it make things simpler) but more because I love this country and my life here. And I do consider myself French now.

However in casual conversation this can be a little difficult to reconcile. When people notice my accent, or when the conversation brings my Americanness into relevance, I don’t really know what to say about myself. “Je ne suis pas française à la base” has worked a few times. I typically do say “Je suis américaine” because I am, and I did grow up in and do come from US culture. But it’s a lie to say “Je ne suis pas française” even though it explains why I look at French culture from an outside perspective: why I have no experience as a French lycée student, why I don’t know many French cultural references including animated shows from French childhoods, why I know a lot more US indie music than French people, etc.

It’s not really easy to find a one-sentence way to explain that I am French and feel like I belong in this country but am not actually from France.

Living in a smallish town like Poitiers makes it a little more common to have this problem, I think. I asked J’s Mexican friend who lives in Berlin if he gets the typical questions for foreigners, and he said no—in Berlin, foreigners are so common that people are used to them and don’t feel so curious about their lives.

Another quirk of the situation is that many people don’t hear an accent when I speak, and so don’t learn right away that I’m American. That’s nice for a while, until my foreignness comes up at some point and we then have to have a whole conversation about how I speak, if my parents live here or there, etc. And I have to figure out what to call myself for them. Pas française à la base? Américaine?

Am I the only one with this problem? And has anyone else found a good way to talk about it?

August 15th weekend

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A street in Collioure

This past weekend J and I packed up Littlest and all of his many belongings and headed down south to the departement of Pyrénées-Orientales for a couple days on the beach.

Having just come back from Germany last Sunday, Littlest had only spent five nights in his own bed before we dragged him out again. He does seem to enjoy going places and discovering new things, though I think next time we do a four-day weekend with him, we’ll probably go someone a couple hours closer.

It was a 6h20m drive according to Google maps, and of course it was a Saturday in August, so we encountered about 1h40m of traffic jams on the autoroute. Littlest has taken to taking very short naps in the car, so it’s not as easy as it used to be to take him long distances. At some point one of us has to move to the back and sit with him and hand him his toys back when he pushes them out of the carseat with his constantly moving legs.

One of the advantages of the autoroute over the routes nationales, in spite of the expense, is that the aires are always equipped with a microwave to warm up baby food. This wasn’t an issue when he was tiny but it’s a fairly important concern now since most baby food is gross cold. It’s encouraging to see how many other people are traveling with babies in these places.

Anyway we had found a rental back in June which was fairly last-minute. We felt lucky because most places rent from Saturday to Saturday in France and finding something for just four days felt pretty unlikely. This was an apartment attached to the owners’ house (presumably a garage before they redid it) so when we finally arrived at 5 pm on Saturday (after leaving Poitiers at 8:30 am), the lovely owners were there to greet us. It had a pretty spacious bedroom and bathroom upstairs as well as a fold-out couch downstairs, which is what J and I slept on since Littlest only sleeps well if he’s in his own room.

We took it pretty easy due to Littlest’s naps, letting him get his first one in in the morning before going anywhere, and coming back late afternoon for the second one. We made it to the beach twice in the evening, and the first time was lovely. Littlest mostly liked playing with the sand and running it through his fingers and happily did not put it in his mouth this time. The second evening the Mediterreanean wind was out in full force so we didn’t stay long.

Otherwise, there are some charming towns down there that we walked around (Collioure, Balnyus-sur-Mer) and we had great weather. We didn’t even taken Littlest’s stroller this time because it takes up so much space in the car. We trucked him around in our Ergobaby carrier instead which worked splendidly. We also did a tiny bit of wine tasting and bought a possibly overpriced bottle, but you know, memories.

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Typical southern France decor on a window in Collioure

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Balnyus-sur-Mer, I think

Yesterday on the drive back up we stopped in Dordogne to eat lunch (Littlest is surprisingly patient in restaurants and the owner/server was happy to heat up his food for us) and have a quick walk through Saint-Cirq-la-Popie which was beautiful. While the south of France was nice, it was slammed with people and I think Dordogne is prettier.

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Obviously I’m not alone in that opinion (Saint-Cirq-la-Popie on a cloudy day)

Now we have no outings planned for the remaining weeks of summer, and in fact I should get some work done especially now that Littlest’s naps are more predictable, but who knows if that’ll happen.

Transatlantic Air Travel with a Baby

So! Now that we’re back, I can describe with confidence what it was like to fly across the Atlantic with a nine-month-old baby. I do think this experience would have been very different with a three- or six-month-old, and will be different with a 14-month-old at Christmastime.

Here is a normal day for Littlest, to give some perspective: wake at 8, nap 10:30-12, lunch, nap 3-5, snack, bed at 7:30. (Ish, and also, there’s breastfeeding in there just sort of whenever.) His awake times are 2 1/2 hours in the morning and evening and three hours in the middle of the day. Obviously, this all had to go out the window when flying but he did actually keep his naps up pretty well.

We did this two ways: on the way to Boston, Littlest and I were accompanied by my parents. #WIN. Grandparents are the best. They are always happy to hold the baby and walk the baby and bounce the baby on their laps. On the way back, we had my mom with us for the first flight (Boston-Newark) and were alone for the long haul to Munich.

The short of it is that it was all really fine. But if I have any advice to give, it would be to spring for the direct flight and avoid connecting flights. My dad very generously got us these tickets on his frequent flyer miles, and there was no direct Boston-Paris flight on United. But though Littlest loved everything about the train to CDG; slept pretty well at the airport Sheraton; had a fine time in CDG being walked around; and adored watching Toy Story and “reading” Hemispheres magazine on the long haul on my parents’ laps, he had a meltdown when we got onto the second flight, from being overtired (he’d been awake at least 5 hours what with landing and customs) and overstimulated. I stuck him in his car seat, covered him and my head with the United blanket I had swiped on the long haul flight, and sang him John Prine until he fell asleep. The frustrating part was of course the endless announcements from the flight attendants and then the introduction from the captain that go on forever (I know that’s what endless means but it was INTERMINABLE). Littlest then slept through that 90-minute flight. After that, he was again fine for the taxi ride from Logan to our rental apartment.

As far as traveling with a baby alone, it was also fine, and he took a 1-hour nap and then later conked out for 3 hours on our long haul night flight back to Europe. The actual long haul flight part was pretty good, because he had enough time to look around and get tired and fall asleep and wake up on his own.

For the shorter flights, this was obviously more complicated, and going through security was a pain in the ass. They do let you take in baby food and often bottled water, but they scan everything inside and out while you’re standing there holding your baby, waiting for them to return your stroller so you can set him down and put your shoes and your belt back on. Thankfully I was always with at least one grandparent for this part so I could hand him off to collect my things.

So, things that helped us out:

  1. Grandparents
  2. A dark blanket to drape over the car seat (if you buy your baby a seated ticket which we did this time but won’t in December)
  3. Breastfeeding (no formula or bottles to pack, and immediate access on the plane)
  4. A couple good toys
  5. Toy Story on the individual movie players
  6. People finding him adorable

Things that were annoying:

  1. The really nice but really loud flight attendant on our Newark-Munich flight that just had to chat up another passenger really loud right while Littlest was switching through sleep cycles and thus woke him up. The most stressful part of flying with him was just that I couldn’t control what other people were doing in terms of noise around him, including intercom announcements on the flights.
  2. Going through security
  3. The lack of a microwave in the airport to warm up his baby food (on the flight this was fine since a flight attendant did it for us)
  4. Not being able to control when food was served on the flight in order to ensure I would be able to eat it—fortunately for Newark-Munich, Littlest was napping.

Otherwise, changing his diaper on the plane wasn’t ideal but it was fine, and his ears didn’t seem to hurt on take-off or landing.

I feel pretty confident about doing all this on a direct Air France Paris-Boston flight in December, and we won’t even have to spend a night in Paris beforehand. The unknown factor will of course be that we didn’t purchase a seat for Littlest, so will he be ready to nap on our laps? Fingers crossed he does, or that the gate agents get us an extra empty seat between us.

In fact, Littlest and I had some of my favorite moments just the two of us on that long haul flight back to Europe. The first was when I tried to get him to sleep for the first time by putting the airplane blanket over his car seat. He was still in a playful mood and I looked over from whatever I was doing to find a look of pure delight on his face as he hid and uncovered himself in fits of giggles that I quickly joined in on.

He woke up from that ensuing nap crying and as I settled him into my lap under the airplane blanket he was suddenly cuddlier than he ever is, leaning into me and relaxing in a way that he rarely does as I turned on Toy Story for us. I think we actually had the sweetest twenty minutes of our lives just cuddling and watching that movie.

Babies are full of surprises, I guess.

It will always be this way

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My little world traveler, in the woods in Germany

We are back from our périple and it is lovely to be home with Littlest in his own crib and room, but there is a feeling of let-down looking at my calendar and all the wonderful parts that are now over: mom’s visit, both parents’ visit, trip to Boston, trip to Germany. I will write soon about our flight experience with a nine-month-old (to sum up: fine, Littlest mostly loved it), but for now, I’m just feeling the feels.

So many memories were made during our ten days in Boston: Meeting my nephew Tiniest. Seeing him change before our eyes in the brief space of one week. Watching Littlest be fascinated by him, especially when he cried. Enjoying Grandpa and Nanna reading to Littlest and walking him around. Taking him on the subway in Boston. Going out with good friends while he napped at the apartment with his grandpa. Having him meet his great-uncle of the same name, and his great-aunt. Spilling all the baby stories to the aforementioned (newly expecting) good friends. Eating burritos, and ice cream, and buying new board books in English.

Littlest grew so much. He loved the train, the plane, the airport—really anything you put in front of him he was into. He started exploring—looking under rugs, going under tables, even pulling a CD off a bookshelf. He learned to crawl. On the airplane back with me, he was absolutely delighted to discover he could use the blanket to hide himself and play peekaboo. Our first day back in Europe with J, he pulled himself up to the couch. I feel like we’ve moved onto a new version of Littlest: I called him Littlest 3.0 when talking to my family about it (1.0 being the newborn stage and 2.0 being all the cuteness since then).

Saying goodbye to my family wasn’t too bad since I actually said goodbye to my mom just before boarding our Newark-Munich flight, and I didn’t have time to be sad. Now that we’re back, I’m reminded of the days they spent here before we headed to Boston, and I wonder if Littlest knows in any way that his grandparents aren’t just downstairs or next door. I guess there’s plenty of time for him to figure that out because this coming, going, cramming six months’ of memories into ten days, or twenty, is just the way it’s going to be.