Becoming my American self

If you work in HR, you’ve probably taken at least one personality test at some point in your career. And by “some point” I mean at least once a month, because seriously, we love that stuff.

Everyone has their favorites, and it’s usually the one that gives you the answer you like best. I’m a big fan of the Meyers-Briggs because I think INTJ is exactly me and it sounds awesome.

The other day, an OCEAN vs MBTI discussion led to me retaking a MBTI-ish test (the “real” ones are quite costly) and it gave me ENTJ. E!! As in Extrovert! Me, who has for so long known I am introverted, fully identified as an introvert, and revealed in my introverted status.

So it got me thinking. I took the test in France, where I was, no doubt about it, quite introverted. Has moving back to the states changed me so much that I’ve become an extrovert? Or was I always one and France was just not letting it come out? (As a hilarious side note, this chart has INTJ as Ayn Rand and ENTJ as Napoleon. So in America I’m more like Napoleon, ha)

Bilingual/binational/expats/etc often talk about the effect of language and culture on your personality. Felling like “yourself” in another language is a huge step. I know for my husband, being able to tell jokes in English is a big deal, since he loves making jokes in French.

I was never the funny one in France, and yet here, I am constantly cracking up (and with) my colleagues. I did kind of luck out with a boss that so totally gets me, we’re borderline telepathic. And the atmosphere of a non profit is very different than an audit and tax firm. But I know it wasn’t my French skills that were holding me back, since I spend lots of time laughing with my francophone colleague here.

One thing to note is that the MBTI personality types are not really accurate so I shouldn’t be that surprised that it changed (though anytime I took it while living in France, it was always INTJ or INFJ). And not only are the terms extrovert and introvert generally misunderstood and misapplied, almost everyone falls somewhere towards the middle of the extroversion-introversion spectrum. Very few people are extreme/pure introverts or extroverts.

So really, it’s about balance, and that’s something we’re achieving here. In both work/life and personality, I’m a lot more balanced here. While it was my initial reaction to do so, I don’t want to think of this as a France vs. USA thing, because so much depends on where you are in the countries, and what your work/personal situation is. However, at the same time, I can’t pretend the cultures are the same and that the way I act/feel isn’t influenced by where I’m living. It’s going to be very interesting to see how bébé’s personality develops, and to see if there’s a shift depending on what language/country he’s in.

Anyway, just wondering if this makes sense to anyone else. Or if you’ve taken a personality test and had it change over the course of your life, and had it totally freak you out the way it did to me!

A visit to Salem in the summer

My husband passed a financial exam last Saturday, after studying for the past six months. What better way to celebrate than with a trip to Salem, also known as Witch City? (There’s really no link between the two things, other than I am super proud of him for passing it so I wanted to mention it!)

I read there was a maritime festival happening last weekend, and since bébé loves boats, I thought it’d be a fun reason to check out Salem. It was a quick drive up 95, and as usual when traveling with bébé, we got there before 9 and there was tons of parking (frugal tip: street parking is often free on Sundays, so arriving early is always good!). We walked around the deserted streets, enjoying the old houses and pedestrian city center before getting (our second) breakfast.

Empty center
Empty center

I’m not sure what I expected, but it felt more European than I thought it would. I’ve heard people say Boston is a very European American city, but so far I don’t really see it. Parts of it are definitely old, and I like it, but it’s not the same feel. Maybe it’s just not like the parts of Europe I’ve been to.

Salem felt more like something familiar. There was a pedestrian center with shops and cafes on a square where you can sit outside. There are lots of old buildings, some are brick, others are First Period houses, and the newer ones blend in pretty well I think. I am not a fan of old mixed with new, I like when cities try to be harmonious. Think Paris, not London. Florence, not Rome. So I liked Salem a lot.

Salem architecture
Salem architecture

I’m not sure if I’ll like it as much in the fall, when the witches come out… There was a little taste of spookiness, which is easy to handle in the sunshine.

Salem

The maritime festival started later than I thought it would, so we didn’t see much. But we did get to see the boats in the harbor (does everyone in Salem get a boat when they buy a house?) and the canon. Bébé behaved beautifully, so we’re crossing out fingers that a slightly easier period is upon us after the screaming fits that plagued us last month.

There were a bunch of these near the museum all painted differently
There were a bunch of these near the museum all painted differently
Much calmer than in Salem's 18th century maritime heyday
Much calmer than in Salem’s 18th century maritime heyday
Sadly, they did not actually shoot the cannon
Sadly, they did not actually shoot the cannon

This weekend I was supposed to take bébé to Providence to visit a friend, to give my husband a break after all that studying. She was sick so we rescheduled, but I tried to at least give him Saturday morning free. So I took bébé to the same farm we visited a few months ago (Drumlin Farm) that’s only 2 dollars per person with a library pass. He liked it last time, but absolutely loved it this time, since he’s now completely obsessed with farm animals. I might have to look into a Mass Audubon membership so we can go as much as we want for free (and all the other wildlife sanctuaries in the state, plus other nifty benefits like member-only access to CSAs and campsites).

I wish I didn’t just post weekend updates, but we really don’t do much during the week! We did call the babysitter to go out for drinks one night last week, and my husband freaked out because he forgot his wallet and was worried about not being able to drink. But then we didn’t get carded, so I guess we’re officially old!

July wrap up

Well that month went by fast! I’ll see if I can remember everything that happened…

My first conference

We were in DC the weekend after bébé’s birthday to visit family, eat more birthday related pastries, and so that I could attend my first professional conference! We all flew down Saturday morning and I stayed on through Thursday while the boys went back Monday morning. Of course bébé slept the whole plane ride home, making me very jealous until it turned out it was because he had an ear infection. He tried daycare but ended up staying home with daddy the next day. And then the daycare called to say hand, foot, mouth disease was making its rounds, which he definitely got in addition to the ear infection. So while I had a great week learning and networking and feeling like a super successful professional lady, it was not a super fun week for my boys. But my husband did an amazing job! I’m not in a role where I need to travel a lot (or even that often – this was pretty much the one time per year), but knowing things at home, including the hard stuff, can be handled just fine without me is reassuring. Though hopefully next time bébé will not be suffering from multiple maladies and it will be a bit easier for them both!

Sun, sand, and water

The weather has been great all month, so bébé has been to the pool every weekend, sometimes just with daddy, sometimes with both of us. We also went to the Revere Beach Sand Sculpting festival, and were pleased to discover the beach is equally agreeable to bébé as the pool is. More so, perhaps, since he has much more room to run around.

I will probably repeat this several times over the next few months, but I really really love that we’re less than 30 minutes from the ocean. For someone growing up a good three hours away from the beach, this seems quite luxurious. My husband asked if we could go to the beach every weekend. I said we could go every night after work if he really wanted. It’s probably less of a novelty for him, since he spent elementary school on the island of Mayotte where his mother taught, but we’re still both excited about how much beach time bébé will get in the coming years. Though we are not set on Revere beach as “our” beach, since we still have many more beaches to explore in the area.

Art fail

It seems like bébé decided “hey, I’m two, time to get learnin’!” and his growth in all areas has exploded exponentially this month. To encourage this period of ever increasing curiosity, I thought I’d take him to the Institute of Contemporary Art. Always trying to keep things cheap if possible, we went on one of their Saturday Play Dates, when it’s free for up to 2 adults accompanying children (who are always free). I even found street parking that was only 2 dollars instead of the 15 dollar lot. So while we only spent about 20 minutes in the museum, it wasn’t too expensive of an outing.

Besides the art we (very briefly) saw, the location on the water is really pretty and the building is cool. Bébé liked the area out back with steps to climb up and down, and the walkways along the water. I think he’s still a few years from appreciating art (and not trying to destroy it) but I think I’ll keep taking him to museums when I can (=when it’s free). Getting used to the space, the atmosphere, and having special time with me will hopefully make it something we keep doing as years go by. And there are tons of museums in Boston to discover together!

 

August will hopefully be a little calmer, but still with weekend adventures. And I’ll try to write it down as it happens, rather than attempting to remember it all during the last few hours on the 31st…

Bébé is two!

It’s been a year since my monthly letters to bébé ended, and now that bébé is two, I thought I’d start doing yearly letters to make sure I keep some sort of record of all the cool (and not so cool!) stuff he gets up to.

Dear bébé,

You are two! And you can even say “two” and “deux” though never when someone actually asks how old you are. You do say it when you see the number. You also recognize the number eight, and can (mostly) count to ten in both French and English. You skip three in French, but make up for it by saying “onze” (11) and “douze” (12) once we get to ten.

Starting to count has impressed the people at daycare. You’re good with names too, say “bye-bye” to everyone, and blow them kisses when you leave. Everyone says what a bright, smiling, friendly guy you are, and you are fully aware that you’re everyone’s favorite. Unfortunately, you are going through another bout of separation anxiety, so at least one day a week you cry when momma drops you off.

But it could also just be that you are turning into a huge momma’s boy! Dinner is  complicated with you on momma’s lap, but it’s not so bad since you’re not too heavy yet. You’ll go to the doctor’s this week for a checkup, but you still seem to still be in that 50th percentile for height and 10th for weight. Though maybe weight will be lower than expected, since all you seem to eat is peanut butter and crackers.

However, we’re not too concerned about you being a “picky” eater, since you do usually try most things, or at least stick out your tongue and pretend to. A surprising thing you love is fried calamari. So hopefully that spirit of discovery and adventure continues! (And you eat fine at daycare, so we know you’re just testing our parental limits when you won’t eat at home.)

Sleep has gotten much more predictable in the past few months. You nap very well at home, usually 2 hours, though less at daycare, where there are more distractions. At night, you fall asleep between 7:30 and 8, and are up around 6:15 (pushing back bedtime by 15 minutes has drastically reduced the 5:30am wake ups). Your bedtime routine starts at 7 and is a half hour of books and about 5 ounces of milk (almond or cow, depending on what we have in the fridge). Sometimes you play games first, since recently you’ve gotten better at entertaining yourself, making towers and trains with duplos or playing with the colored peg game your mamie sent you. But you always come back to books; you love them so much! Your favorite books change weekly, but lately it’s been “Poisson un, poisson deux” by Doctor Seuss, and a pop-up book about Lola who goes swimming and meets lots of sea creatures. It’s pretty cute to hear you say “poulpe” (octopus) and “tartoo” (“tortue” – turtle).

Your vocabulary in both languages definitely focuses on animals. You can say all the farmyard animals like cow, pig, horse, sheep, and duck, and their noises. When you say “Oll Do” we know it means you want us to sing Old MacDonald. Other songs you request are “whee bus” (wheels on the bus) and “bababacsheep” (baa baa black sheep). These are all songs you learned at daycare, so sometimes you ask for something we can’t decipher, and you get frustrated.

You still use a pacifier for naps and at night, but almost never during the day. Once you see the dentist for the first time later this month, it may need to go away forever, to keep all your teeth in line. You have pretty much all of them, and you absolutely love to brush them! But you hate if momma brushes them, so we’re not sure how clean they’re actually getting.

Some funny things you do:

  • take off your socks so we can put them on your hands, then you try to eat and play with them like that
  • at the splash park, you do this little “fountain dance” where you move your fists up and down, imitating the way the water shoots up
  • you like to imitate a video of yourself at 13 months making lion noises
  • holding a phone (or any rectangular object) to your ear and have a very lengthly conversation on it, mostly saying “aloo?” a lot, but also some babbling

You don’t just babble though. In addition to animals and body party, you say “daddy,” “papa,” and “boubou” (momma’s name for daddy) but only “mama.” You say “peeese” (please), “si pait” (s’il te plait), “merci” and “tank oo” when prompted, and you’ve started using “terminé” instead of “all done” when you’re at home.

We speak only French at home and when we’re out just the three of us, but we’ll read you books in English if that’s what you pick out. Your favorite videos are in English, but we managed to switch the one app you play into French. It’s Crayola Colorful Creatures, and you love to color and play with all the different animals. It’s hard to say how much screen time you get, because sometimes you go four or five days without anything, then other times it seems like you manage to charm us into a few minutes in the morning as well as the evening.

And you are definitely charming! Just insanely cute, with a mischievous grin that pops up whenever you know you’re doing something bad (which is more and more often). You know what you want and say “no” to almost everything, but almost never to kisses and cuddles. Which is lucky, because if how you spent your birthday is any indication of how this year will go, it won’t be just fun at the pool and running around parks. There’s also going to be lots of tears and tantrums. So kisses and cuddles will help to balance all of that out.

It’s getting both harder and more fun for momma and daddy, and we can’t wait to see what new things we’ll all learn this year.

Bisous & kisses

Your momma

Cars and cable: two things America does badly

Just to balance out the recent happy, sunny weather posts, I do think it’s important to say that not everything we’re discovering about our new city/life has been wonderful. I feel like the ranting about France started after a few months, so I’m right on schedule for annoyances popping up on this side of the ocean! It’s funny that the two things that have frustrated me the most are cars and cable, the two things America is supposed to do well, right? And also the two things I didn’t see as “essential” when we first moved. We made it over two months without a car, and nearly four without a television. Now I really wish we had gone a little longer without both!

Not only was buying a car not so fun, we’re still waiting for the title over a month later, which was supposed to arrive in the mail two weeks after we bought it. I can ask for a copy at the RMV, but that costs 25 dollars I already paid the dealership, since that’s part of the package when you buy a car from them. Every time I try to call to speak to somebody about it, I’m on hold for a long time, and I haven’t had the patience to wait more than 10 minutes for someone to pick up. I’ll keep trying, but I’m almost tempted to be super French and send a registered letter to them informing them of the situation, rather than waste more time on the phone.

Most of my time on the phone in the past weeks not on hold has been with Comcast. They’re the only cable provided who services our building, and I’ve never heard good things about them. So I shouldn’t be too surprised that the hour long phone conversation I had with them led to nowhere. The issue was very simple: I was not told my internet was the basic, super slow kind, when I thought I was paying for the faster speed.

It all started when we moved in and I got the bundled fast internet and cable, but when the guy came to install it and we didn’t have a TV, they didn’t leave the cable box. Everyone told me I could just watch on the app. Which we did for a few days, until it stopped working. When I called, they said they couldn’t sell me cable (even just through the app) if I didn’t have the box, and I couldn’t have a box without a TV. So I said whatever, just internet is fine, and it cost less, so that was nice. The past few months we’ve noticed it was slow, but again, since everyone I know complains about it, I thought that was normal.

There was an offer for cable through the internet without a box, so we finally bought a TV last weekend, but I decided to call first to complain about the speed. No sense getting the TV if the internet was just going to freeze the picture all the time. And that’s when they offered an “upgrade” to the speed I thought I’d been paying for these past 3 months! So my choices were to pay 30 more per month for the high speed internet to start immediately, or 20 dollars more for the cable bundle, but I’d have to wait a week for the box, since they couldn’t upgrade my internet until I installed the box. I picked option three, complain to customer service, since a) I thought I’d already been paying for the faster speed, and b) why is it 20 dollars more now for the same service that cost only 5 dollars more 3 months ago?

The girl was super nice, but after a half hour of back and forth, she couldn’t offer me anything else. She said she put in a ticket so I’d get a call back this week to see if someone higher up could do something. Unsurprisingly, I have had no call, and I’m not really in the mood to call them back quite yet. I can’t decide if I am being unreasonable or not, but I honestly cannot understand why the exact same thing costs so much more 3 months later, just because I’m not a “new” customer anymore. I know 20 dollars versus 5 dollars more per month is “only” a difference of 180 dollars a year, but I’m just so annoyed I feel like complaining anyway, even if it won’t change anything. And after 8 years in France, I can do some pretty good complaining!

In the end, the TV works fine plugged into the modem and isn’t as slow as watching on the computer can be. My husband is a little disappointed he can’t watch the Euro right now like we’d planned, but there are plenty of bars he can go to, so silver lining. Except the bar tabs may also cost 180 dollars or more by the end of the tournament, so maybe it will be cheaper to just suck it up and get the cable!

Boats around Boston

We live right by the train station, so bébé is naturally fascinated by the trains that pass by his window every hour or so (though thankfully not at night since it’s the commuter rail). However last weekend and this weekend we were around boats, so now we’ve added that to the list of things he loves.

My parents were visiting last weekend and the only thing they really wanted to see was the USS Constitution. We got there right as the museum opened and wandered around for a bit before we got in the line to explore the ship. Bébé liked the museum (they have a great kids area with games) but was just a bit too tired to wait in line to go on the “batoo” (bateau). My parents got in a bit later than planned Friday night and he was up much later than his regular bedtime so that we could go out to eat. So my husband took him home for a nap while my parents and I explored the ship.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was really cool. You can go down into it, and there are three lower levels you climb down little stairs to get to, so I felt very sailor-y. My husband didn’t realize it was free (as is the museum, though donations are suggested), so he definitely wants to go back with bébé another weekend and check it out. I think they’ll both love it.

This weekend we went to my colleague’s house on Cape Cod for the day, and he has a (much smaller) boat. There were motor troubles, so it was mostly sitting around on the water for an hour and a half, but it was such a sunny, beautiful day, nobody minded. (Except for my colleague, because he was obviously annoyed that his boat wasn’t working!) For the few minutes that the motor was working, bébé LOVED it. He was leaning over the edge looking at the waves, and giggling as the wind whipped through his hair. I made me think of Ariel in The Little Mermaid when she leans over the carriage to watch the horses legs move. (Bébé has also taken to looking under cars in the parking lot, so I think we may have a very mechanical child on our hands . . .)

Also like Ariel, bébé loves being in the water. He will run towards any large body of water at full speed, no matter the weather or what he’s wearing. We were at Pleasant Bay on Cape Cod, so very calm waters, and nothing scarier than a horseshoe crab. We’ll definitely be making another trip out there this summer, especially since I realized while driving down that there are no tolls! We packed a lunch and had breakfast at my colleague’s house, so we just paid for gas (which we didn’t even use that much of, as we happily discovered that our car gets amazing highway mileage.)

It’s been super sunny and nice lately, so I think we’ll be planning a cruise around Boston harbor to take advantage of the weather and encourage bébé’s love of all things boat and water related. Probably won’t be as cheap as the past few weekends, but his birthday is coming up, and how fun would a birthday boat cruise be?

Exploring Boston for free

We discussed getting out of town for Memorial Day weekend, but in the end, we decided on a staycation and explore Boston more. And as an added bonus, nearly everything was free!

Saturday we headed to Castle Island, to the south. Parking is free, but fills up fast. We ended up parking closer to the long path that curves around the bay (Google maps tells me it’s called the Head Island Causeway), rather than in the lot right at the park.

Castle Island 1

It turned into a hot day, but the morning walk along the water was really nice. I really love the sounds and smells of the sea, but I’m not a fan of sand. So while there were beaches around the bay, being on the island was nice, since it was grassy and you could be by the water without getting sandy.

The island is a great place for kids, with a big playground and lots of green space for kids to run around. The tours of Fort Independence are only in the afternoon, so we didn’t stick around to do it. We have learned it’s just best for everyone to not skip nap time.

Castle Island 2

We brought some food to snack on, but will definitely try out Sullivan’s on our next trip. We also skipped the toll roads, and got a great view of the Boston skyline when driving back along 93.

View of Boston

 

So overall cost for the day was just gas, which, at about 15 miles away, probably comes to about a dollar and a half. Not to bad for a little morning trip to the sea.

On the drive back, we passed a park with a spray deck. I have no idea if these exist in France, or even in other cities. Probably. Hopefully. Because they are awesome. It’s literally just a bunch of sprinklers and shoots of water on a flat area for kids to run around in. Since it got up in the 90s on Saturday afternoon, I thought this would be a fun thing for bébé to try. And he definitely loved it. There are a bunch around that I can’t wait to try out this summer.

Sunday we checked out the Arnold Arboretum, in Jamaica Plain. I feel like pictures really don’t do it justice. It’s like, a very pretty, manicured forest, with super wide paths. Bébé went crazy running all over the place, and laying in the grass, and smelling flowers. Arnold Arboretum

Parking is also free, and harder to find as the day goes on, so at least there’s one advantage to having a toddler who wakes up before 6 most days! Again, gas was probably less than two dollars, maybe even less than one, since it’s only about 10 miles away.

Sunday afternoon I headed to Cambridge to pick up a dining room table I found on Craigslist. It was a new area of Cambridge for me, so that was fun to drive around looking at everything.

I found some chairs on Craigslist as well, and picked them up this morning down the street from the Museum of Fine Arts, which was free today. So bébé and I checked it out while my husband took the chairs home, thus saving me the 25 dollars in parking (though paying tolls twice, so 5 dollars plus gas). The museum was not quite as fun as the island or the arboretum, since bébé could’t touch anything. Still, there were a few pieces you could interact with, and he seemed interested in a few paintings and stained glass windows. Mostly though, he liked climbing on the benches and stairs.

And finally, this afternoon I went to a movie for the first time since Christmas. It was in Lexington, a super cute (and historically important) town only 5 miles away that I’m sure we’ll go visit again and again. There’s a bike trail and ice cream shop and all sorts of stuff for kids this summer. I totally have a crush on this town.  Of course the houses start at like, 1.2 million dollars, so it will have to stay a crush, sigh.

Overall, it was a great weekend getting to know the area a little better. Our exploring actually started last weekend with a visit to Walden Pond (free parking with a library pass!), which will be another nice place for bébé to play in the water this summer. The walk around the pond got us thinking about longer hikes we might try, now that he’s slowly getting used to being in the baby carrier on our backs. A good system seems to be to let him run around for a good half hour before putting him in it, so that he’s tired and doesn’t mind being carried.

I didn’t set out to make this a “no-spend” weekend, but having bought the car a little earlier than planned, it’s interesting to see that it’s actually easier to get to cool free stuff than before. So to help offset the higher transportation costs, I like the idea of sticking to cheap and free family activities on the weekends. And honestly, with bébé’s attention span the way it is, there’s no sense in dropping tons of money on doing something he’ll like for about three minutes.

Right now, what he most seems to enjoy is being outside, running around, chatting up strangers, and if possible, getting wet. There are plenty of cool places to do that for free in the area, and I’m happy we got to visit a few this weekend. At work when people mention things, I can finally start to say “Oh yeah, we’ve been there!” and begin adding things to my list of recommendations for visitors. First up is my parents in a few weeks!

 

 

The importance of music

I was going to write a whole post about our awful experience buying a car. However, everyone I’ve spoken to has said it wasn’t fun for them either, so perhaps it’s just an accepted thing that car buying sucks. I did want to mention that this experience included the salesman showing me a video of his son while I was driving, and him asking me to (quite illegally) sign the title for my husband, presumably because he didn’t want to drive out to my husband’s office downtown.

Anyway, now we have the car, and while I wish I could feel excited rather than completely emotionally exhausted, I am looking forward to listening to more music. The importance of music in my identity has become very evident in the past few months. On my walks to/from work/daycare, I either listen to a French podcast on France Culture or to the radio using the iHeartRadio app on my phone. And there’s just something about walking down the street to a really good song that gives me all sorts of energy. This morning there was Weezer, Sublime, and the Bloodhound Gang all in a row. How is that not a super fun way start to your morning?

Music is so closely tied to memories and emotions, I think that’s why it was always hard for me to get into French music. Driving along, listening to it, I didn’t feel any particular attachment to the songs I heard. There were a few that came to mean something in the history of me and my husband, some great 80s classics that were fun to belt out at parties with everyone, and one or two artists I I fell in love with. But 90% of what was on the radio did nothing for me. Living close to the German border meant we heard a little more older American music, but I was never like “That’s my jam!” the way I have been pretty much every single time I turn on the radio here.

I’m waiting to bring this up with my husband, since I have a theory that because American music is played so much in France, that he may not feel quite as strongly that “his” music is missing from the radio here. But then maybe on our first trip back to France (sometime next year hopefully!) he’ll get excited to hear a song he hasn’t heard in ages, and the feeling of truly belonging somewhere will come over him. For me at least, it seems like the language the people around me speak doesn’t matter so much as the music they’re singing, to make me feel like I fit in.

Bébé’s adaptation to the States

So I’ve talked a bit about our adjustment to our jobs, and a new routine, but what about bébé? I’ve mentioned how much he likes daycare, but there are other things I started noticing almost as soon as we arrived in January that I wanted to be sure to get down before I forget. While I know so much of this is just related to his age (the 18-24 month period is full of new milestones), it’s hard for me to disassociate all the progress from the move. I know he would have done all of the same things in France, but I’ve convinced myself he is doing them sooner/better because the environment in the States is “better” somehow (just rereading that made me think “You’re crazy” but at least I know that I am!)

-When we were living with my parents, he was so great with my dad. He’s retired, and not that active, but bébé managed to get him up and running around (well, ambling quickly) every day. I’m pretty sure bébé thought he was a bear, because of his size, and it was amazing to see a connection develop so quickly. Bébé also enjoyed stealing grandaddy’s food, so that was a good way to get both of them to eat more vegetables.

-Speaking of food, baby food is very different here. I guess I thought since diapers were the same, food would be. The big thing I’ve noticed is the applesauce. There are tons of flavors of natural, sugar-free applesauce in France, but here it seems like everything designed for kids has sugar in it. It’s making me a little crazy. And there seem to be less brands of baby food and less “meal” options in general. Like his favorite had been couscous, but definitely not able to find that here. People said not to waste suitcase space on bringing his favorite things, but the first week I really regretted not bringing at least a few!

One difference that is nice are the squeeze packs of  fruit that include veggies. He gobbled those up at first, so at least he was getting some veggies.  Now of course he will only eat certain colors, and insists on using a spoon for everything, and only eating from my plate, so the struggle begins again. He is a very American kid and likes macaroni and cheese, but only sometimes chicken nuggets. He prefers sweet potato fries to normal fries, which I consider a huge mom-win.

I did bring enough formula for one week, thinking we’d buy more here. Also surprised to discover it’s very different here! So the switch to whole milk (probably a bit overdue anyway) was made, and frankly, he didn’t seem to notice a difference. I’ve been putting in almond milk too now, to see if we can stop buying milk altogether, and he also likes that. So hurray for his non-pickiness in certain areas!

-The past few weeks in particular he has been going through a language explosion. This is the area I try to remind myself would have happened anywhere in the world at this age. But it’s still so incredibly cool to witness.

Since we speak only French at home, and mamie recently sent him tons of French books, some things he says in French only, like colors, and body parts. I can see him working out certain things like green/gris(grey), but that’s production. Comprehension is fine in both languages.

He’s well into his mimic phase, and will repeat random things we say or that he sees in videos. Animal sounds are obviously the cutest. And he’s got some food words like “ju” which works in both languages, though he still says “lait” and “l’eau” in French. He also started saying “yucky” the other day (daycare thought he was saying “lucky”), and he knows the names of the other kids at daycare. Well, he says “Ana” which, since he also loves Frozen, he was already saying before he started.

-He is interacting more with other kids outside of daycare as well. And he seems to be getting over his wariness of men and has stopped hiding his face from strangers on the street. He’s been giving high fives (or “ha fah” as he says) and spent 10 minutes on the bus last week playing high five with a young guy sitting behind us.

The playground near our house has a basketball court as well, so there’s always people there. Last week there was a man with his two sons, one was about 8, and the other the exact same size as bébé (though when I asked, he was actually 5 months younger, so either he was big, or bébé is small!). They were tossing around a football, and of course bébé wanted to play with theirs, rather than the one we had brought. They were so nice about it, and the older one was obviously used to playing with his little brother, and was very gentle about passing it and chasing him. Bébé does seem to be more interested in older kids, and it’s nice to have so many things so close where he can interact with kids of all ages, which is definitely really helping his development.

 

In less than 2 months he will be 2, which is insane. He’s right on track with everything (even the tiny bit of language “delay” that I notice is totally normal for bilingual children) , and this is definitely a super cute age, when he’s starting to seek out cuddles and kisses, and interact with us and the world in totally new and interesting ways.

Exploring Boston and meeting my twin

This week’s adventures included a friend visiting, which was a great excuse to explore Boston. I also met my name twin, which is probably not a big deal if your name is Sara Smith, but mine is a little more unusual. Only around 600 people born in the States in the past 35 years have my first name, according to Social Security data. For comparison, over 20,000 girls were named Emma in 2014. So this was kind of a big deal for me. Also, our last names are super similar, like Smith and Smithson. Add to that a few other weird similarities, like the fact she also just moved to Boston, and I made the joke that I shouldn’t bring bébé, lest he get confused about which of us is his real momma.

In the end, I didn’t bring him in order to have a girls-only afternoon, which included my first ever Thai food (yes I know it’s weird I’ve never had it before) and a walk along Newbury Street, the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, and the Boston Public Garden.

Newbury Street

The afternoon started off a bit dreary, but it ended up being just beautiful weather, perfect for strolling around a new city.

Commonwealth Avenue Mall

It probably seemed like I was super excited about moving Boston, and I was, but now that the initial move is over and things are starting to settle down, I have been feeling a bit more blah about it. Since we do live a bus/train ride away from the center, it’s not like we can get to everything really easily, and with a toddler, long bus rides aren’t that fun. While I am still happy to be mostly car-free for now, working around nap times and train schedules doesn’t make for the most spontaneous weekends. And it really is very different from the environment I’ve been in for the past 8 years, so being back in an American urban aesthetic will take some getting used to.
Boston Public Garden

But making the trip in this weekend and walking around in the sunshine definitely helped me start to like it a lot more. I kept thinking “this will be great to show my mother-in-law” when she visits this fall, since I want her to approve of where we live now more than I’ve ever wanted her approval on anything! I missed out on some of my husband’s initial explorations those few weeks I was working and he wasn’t, so it was nice to discover a few things he hadn’t seen yet and tell him about it (since Boston is small and he’s seen a lot, just Newbury and Thai food).Boston Public Garden

We still had time to explore together, mainly new restaurants in our town, since having friends visit is also a great excuse for exploring local dining options. Walking around with her also helped me feel like this is “my” town now. She’s visited us in every single one of our apartments, so now we just need to plan a trip out West to see her and start exploring the States with bébé!