Getting used to a new routine

It’s been 2 weeks now since my husband started his job, and almost two weeks since bébé started daycare. He got his first ear infection the weekend before he was supposed to start, so I was at home with him for two days. I was able to work a little from home, and was grateful for how flexible my job is to allow me to do so, though it was definitely a challenge. I think any future work from home days will be while he’s at daycare, so I can actually work!

Even this week wasn’t a full week, because of the snow on Monday (Massachusetts weather continues to mystify me) I picked him up a bit early. So we are getting used to a new routine little by little, and hopefully next week will be a full, normal week!

The new routine involves waking up a half hour earlier than we’d been doing previously. It doesn’t seem like much, but I am really feeling the difference today – I even had coffee for like, the third time in my entire life (result = no increased energy, only increased acid reflux, boo). It’s only a tiny bit of sleep debt, but it builds up day by day, so after two weeks, I’m rethinking my whole morning and evening beauty routine to be able to catch some extra Z’s.

Other than the sleep, we seem to be managing pretty well. We’re all up by 6:30 (though this week bébé has been waking at 5:30 so that is a major contributor to my exhaustion) and bébé and daddy are out the door around 7. I have a bit of time to finish getting ready or to tidy things up, which makes a big difference at night. My husband drops him off on the way to work (on the bus) and I walk the 2 miles after work to the daycare and we bus it back home. And twice this week my husband’s been on the same bus as us coming home! So that was nice, to have some extra time to chat about our days. One day I week I have a late meeting, so we switch, and it’s nice because the same teachers don’t work morning and evening, so this way we both get to talk to all of them. We’re all home by 5:30 or 5:45, and I made sure to meal prep a bit on weekends so we’re all eating around 6. Bébé is (usually) asleep by 7:30, and we have so much time in the evenings for ourselves, it’s great.

It’s so completely different than the schedule we had in France, but that really was due to the long commute we had, and the inflexible schedules at our jobs. And while we could have moved to Luxembourg to be closer to our jobs, or changed jobs to get better schedules, I know we never would have. Small changes are hard once you’re really settled into a certain way of life, but one big change can be the catalyst for lots of little changes.

Starting daycare after being at home with one or both of his parents for the past 5 months was definitely a big change for bébé, but he absolutely loves it. He is just so outgoing and curious, and interested in trying new things, that even the daycare workers are a little amazed at how quickly he’s adapted. I think having him with a nanny who had two older children must have really helped. We’re trying to do something new every weekend (past adventures have included Harvard Natural History Museum, a local diner for breakfast, and walking the trail along the river), so hopefully that will also help keep him excited and comfortable about new things and experiences. Or maybe he’s just naturally extra adaptable, which will come in handy in the bilingual, binational, bicultural life that awaits him as he grows up!

Getting used to Fahrenheit

It’s been two months now since we moved back, and I’m still getting used to Fahrenheit. I didn’t realize how much I’d adapted mentally to Celsius, since I never really totally understood it beyond “over 10 is ok, over 15 is nice, over 20 is warm, over 25 is hot.”

But really, that’s what you do in Fahrenheit too. “In the 30s and 40s” is cold, 50s ok, 60s nice, 70s warm, 80s hot. It took me awhile to remember this mental shorthand, so I kept all my weather apps in Celsius, and confused my colleagues by saying thing like “oh, 18 tomorrow, great!”

Adapting to pounds has been just as tricky, at least for food purchases. Ordering groceries online means I don’t get to see things first, and I’m always surprised how small 5 pounds of something actually is. Bébé just went to the doctor and he weighs 24 pounds and I’m like… so is that good? Though really, I have no idea what children are supposed to weigh in either pounds or kilos, so I just plugged it into the growth chart and was reassured that he’s following his normal curve. (At least he has managed to avoid bulking up on American food, unlike his parents!)

Centimeters never clicked for me anyway, so talking in feet and inches is at least one thing I’m totally fine with (besides with bébé for the same reason as weight). And I kept baking with American recipes in France, sometimes converting, sometimes using cups and spoons a friend sent over, so that’s been okay. Except milk and juice and things that come in pints and gallons. Bébé’s bottles are in milliliters, so I keep forgetting to do the math before going to the store and either get only enough to last two days, or waaaay too much. And since it isn’t the bricks of everlasting milk like in France, getting too much means we’re wasting quite a bit, which I hate.

Anyway, I just thought it was kind of funny how hard it was 8 years ago to get used to new measurements, and here I am going through the same thing again! An unexpected element of reverse culture shock.

Already two weeks in Massachusetts

… and I can almost spell it without looking it up! (Seriously, how are you supposed to know how to spell it without having grown up here??)

The move up to MA from MD went well. A wonderful and amazing friend drove up with us to help out the first few days. I’m not sure how we’d have done it otherwise, without either actually killing each other or filing for divorce. Moving states is apparently more stressful than moving countries for this family. So hopefully we’ll stick around in Massachusetts for awhile (yay! Didn’t look it up that time!)

We had a week to get settled before I started work, and my husband had an interview that week as well. And he got the job! In terms of timeline for his job hunt, it was a little quicker than mine, but still everything happened once we were physically in the States. So really, we could have spent those last few weeks in France drinking way more wine and sending a lot less applications…

I kept up my weekly DIY last week and made bread for the first time in 8 years (because who bothers to make homemade bread in France?). I made overnight oatmeal during the week, which I’m going to count because this weekend was absolutely gorgeous so I was out exploring rather than spending much time in the kitchen.

Since I can walk to work, my husband will be able to take the bus into Boston for work, and bébé with be at a daycare we can both get to on a bus to/from work, we don’t have a car (we only rented one for the week of the move). So we’ve mostly been exploring our new town on foot, which is just a few miles west of Boston. There’s a trail along the river that goes straight into Boston that I walk along to get to work, and we had a nice family stroll there this weekend. We also checked out a church in a very pretty 20th century building, the library, and a local park. We’ve been meeting lots of friendly people all over the place, so I’m feeling fairly pleased with our choice of town. I did just sign up for Zipcar though, since I know we’re going to want to explore further out in the coming weeks, especially if the weather stays so nice.

Getting used to a new state after being abroad for so long is hard because I can’t use the same references and landmarks. I don’t know what’s good, what’s bad, what’s dangerous, what’s acceptable, etc. But a big reason I took the job I was offered was how insanely nice everyone seemed, and how open and adaptable they were about work/life fit. Support is important when you’re abroad, but I think it’s even more important when you come back. And the support and understanding I’ve gotten after only a week at my new job has made such a huge difference in feeling more settled. Having never worked in the States (besides waitressing and the university computer lab), I can’t say if it’s like that everywhere. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s not like that at most places. So I feel super lucky that this is the kind of job I was able to find!

First experience with banks and doctors in the States

Less than two weeks into our new life, and we’ve experienced a few new things. Banks and doctors in the States are, of course, very different than in France, but it’s still a bit jarring to realize that I don’t really know how either work, despite having spent the first two decades of my life here.

 

Banking

I had maintained the savings account that I’ve had since college to pay my student loans, but closed my checking after a few years in France to avoid paying the fees. I opened a new one this summer, and transferred all of our money into it a few weeks before moving, expecting to be able to use the card sent a few months ago to my parents’ house upon arrival . . . Except they forget the “safe place” where they were keeping it!

No big deal, we had our French cards, and we could always go into an actual bank to withdraw money. Also, I had wanted to set up free online checking with another bank once we arrived, so I went ahead and did that. You don’t need a bank card to transfer money into a new account, just the routing and account numbers, which I had. While waiting for the new fee-free check card, I found the other one while cleaning my old room. (For anyone who has taken on the task of cleaning out your room at your parents’ house, you know how simultaneously fun and sad this can be.)

So hurray, I now have two bank cards, two accounts, and two ways to pay for all the things we’ll be needing to buy soon. But my poor husband still had nothing, since he was waiting on his social security number. It has been surprising to me how many things need this, at least coming from France, since they mainly use ID cards to identify people. But it showed up Friday, less than two weeks after arriving, and I went online to add him to my account.

Except the social security number is so new, he couldn’t be added! He needed to call to verify his identity. Reassuring but also mildly frustrating. He handled it like a pro though, since his job at the bank involved talking on the phone with clients all day about banking things and verifying their identities! I’m not sure if this would be a problem for people going in person to set up an account, but it’s something to keep in mind with the current trend of banking moving towards all online and phone services.

 

Doctors

This is not the sexiest secret to share, but I’ve had my ear blocked by wax the past few months, and was managing it with drops the doctor in France gave me. I could have gotten her to do the removal procedure, but every time I went in, I was with bébé, who refuses to let me out of his clutches in the presence of the evil shot-giver. It wasn’t too bad, and in the days leading up to the flight, almost all better, so I figured it would be fine and left my drops in France, leaving precious packing room for more important, non-replacable things.

The first few days here were okay, but every morning it got harder and harder to get rid of the “sleep fuzz” as I call it, so I went and bought drops here, along with a little bulb syringe. It didn’t really help the way I needed, and messing around so much probably just made it worse. The travel health insurance we bought doesn’t cover preexisting conditions, and I wasn’t up for calling all the doctors in town to see who would take me without insurance.

When visiting a daycare here, they mentioned CVS minute clinic as a way to fill out the immunization paperwork, since we don’t have a pediatrician here yet. So when my ear became totally blocked Saturday morning and I could barely hear anymore, I decided to check them out. Of course the one I went to that opened at 9 was exceptionally closed until 11, but at least I was first in line! It took about 30 minutes once it opened to sign myself in on the computer, wait a few more minutes to be called, and get the procedure.

It cost 89 dollars, which would make most people in France gasp in horror, but if you’ve ever had a blocked ear, you know you’d gladly pay much more to be able to hear normally again! I feel silly for not finding the time to do it in France before I left, but at least this gave me an idea of the kind of medical care available here. I know one clinic is not indicative of everywhere, but for a consultation or vaccine or short procedure like “cerumen removal”, it’s good to know there’s something available 7 days a week that doesn’t cost hundreds of dollars. And if it is a sudden illness, the travel insurance does cover one doctor’s visit, so it might even be “free”.

A month of yoga

After my half marathon in September, I needed a rest from running. Also, the weather suddenly got COLD. Like, skipped autumn and went straight to winter cold. I hate running in the cold. It is zero fun for me.

Knowing October would also be the start of my part time and the beginning of the move craziness, I wanted something very chill. In my search for post-run stretching routines, I came across a YouTube channel, Yoga with Adriene, that had a 30 day challenge. As my willingness to run for hours on end probably hinted at, I love challenges!

I’ve been doing yoga on and off since college, and more frequently during different periods (like the few months before and after having a baby), so I know most of the poses and terminology. Though I missed a few days towards the end, I managed to do all 30 videos and finished today (instead of Friday). It’s pretty cool to feel the difference now. I can hold plank pose for many many minutes at at time, I attempted crow pose, and my legs are a bit less bent in certain poses.

It’s not magic; my old lady back still hurts in the morning, my heels don’t touch the ground in downward dog and probably never will, and as long as my work involve 8 hours in front of a computer, my shoulders will be hunched. But seeing little bits of progress, trying lots of new things, and being in a better mood on the days I managed to do it made October a tiny bit less stressful. It was still an insane month, but forcing myself to make that time everyday was a very good exercise in self-care that is becoming more of the rule rather than the exception.

Running makes me listen to my body in one way, and this was a new way to do that. I don’t know what my challenge will be this month (besides, you know, planning an international move!) but I will definitely be adding a little more yoga to my regular routine, rather than just an afterthought to my more strenuous workouts. So thanks Adriene for your great yoga challenge!

Long distance running is (kind of) like giving birth

Last weekend my husband and I ran a half marathon. It was his second, and my fourth. However, it was the first time we’ve run a race together. I usually manage to motivate myself pretty well, but I hadn’t run a half since 2009, and I knew I’d need a little extra encouragement. The half he did this summer went well (he finished just under 2 hours), so he  didn’t feel any pressure to push himself, and ran along with me for the whole 2 hours and 22 minutes it took me to finish. Which is actually my second best time, after the first one I ran in 2007 in 2:10. And just in case you’re interested, I did one in Germany in 2008 in 2:38 (I blame the hail), and another in Annecy in 2009 in 2:27.

Even if it was my second best race, this was a hard one for me, despite the gorgeous weather and totally flat route. While running long distance is really nothing like giving birth, in some ways, it kind of is . . .

  • I pictured it going a certain way, but it was different than I’d imagined
  • Breathing was very important
  • The food and water provided was not sufficient
  • At various moments I felt terribly sick
  • I said things like “This was a stupid idea,” “I can’t do this,” and “Ahhh everything hurts!”
  • My husband was wonderfully encouraging and said things like “You can do this!” “You’re doing great!” “I’m so proud of you!” “Just a little longer!”
  • After a certain point, words were impossible, and I communicated via grunts
  • It seemed endless, but actually went quicker than expected
  • Walking the day after was all sorts of painful
  • While it was happening, I was sure I would never do it again, yet once the pain faded, I started to think “Maybe another wouldn’t be so bad . . .”

It was my husband’s encouragement that first made me think of all the similarities, since he was saying, word for word, the exact same things as during labor. And just like last July, he saw how hard it was for me and helped me the best he could, but in the end, no one else could do it for me, I had to do it myself.

I’m not in any way an expert in running, or giving birth, but having someone there next to you the whole time rooting for you definitely makes a difference!

Three weeks of (almost) no spending

These first three weeks of No Spend September haven’t gone quite as well as I’d hoped, though I did manage to get in a few fun free things (yay European Heritage Days!). It’s been interesting to see what I justify as “needing” and will try to adjust my mindset accordingly.

So far, bringing my lunch to work has worked out really well. However, the intern we had all summer left, and someone new arrived in the team, and both events meant team lunches. I still had some lunch tickets left from August that I used, so I think I’ll still be able to save all of September’s for groceries.

I went out to bars twice this month, once for the departing intern, and once for my company’s monthly happy hour. I suppose I didn’t really need to go for the intern, since we had the team lunch, but I did order a cheaper option rather than my usual cocktail. The company happy hour has a deal with the bar that gets us 2 drinks “free” so in theory that was a no spend evening. Except I needed to use the bathroom in the train station before going home, and it cost 1.10€ which is a little ridiculous, to be honest. Most are 50 cents. So next time, definitely going at the bar, even if I don’t really need to.

I also bought a candy bar at the train station, since the happy hour snacks weren’t quite as hearty as I expected. I need to start keeping homemade snacks in my purse like when I was pregnant, since I also bought a few candy bars at the machines at work. I probably shouldn’t keep cash on me at all, since I’ll spend it if I have it, but it feels dangerous to have nothing at all, in case of an emergency. For example, once the trains were all canceled because of an accident, so I had to take the bus, and it’s 5 euros. What if I hadn’t had that money in my wallet? I would have stopped at an ATM, missed the first bus, gotten home even later, which is not exactly a disaster . . . But I can easily imagine a situation where it could be (usually involving bébé).

Speaking of bébé, he has cost the most this month, since I bought tons of clothes for him. Which is justifiable, but could definitely have been put off until next month. He’s growing, but not that fast! I was picking up groceries, and there’s a new store nearby, so I thought I’d just take a quick look, and suddenly it was 100+ euros later . . .  I got rid of what doesn’t fit anymore last weekend, so I guess it seemed like his drawers were a little empty and I panicked.

Kids cost money, but not always in the way you think. The need for abundance is much stronger now that he’s here. Before, if there was no food in the fridge, no big deal, we’d order pizza. Now, if there aren’t at least five extra containers of applesauce sitting on the counter, we’re convinced he’ll starve. The same idea for his clothes. He has more than enough, but he goes through at least two outfits a day, so the drawers are quickly empty and we start to worry he’ll go out in the cold in just his diaper. I know it’s a normal, if somewhat illogical, reaction, and while he’s young I don’t think it’s a huge deal. Once he starts wanting things and asking for things, hopefully I’ll be able to say no. So perhaps I need to try a little harder now, while he’s still young, to get into the habit. First step: just like grocery shopping, always go into a baby store with a list and stick to it!

Planning is really the key. Knowing how I acted this month should help me plan better for the next few months.

No spend September

After a great month that really felt like “summer” for the first time in many years (in part due to the excellent, un-Lorraine like weather) it’s now time to get serious as we head into Fall.

My obsession this summer has been budget/frugal blogs. We don’t have tons of debt, but we do have some projects in the works, and I love learning about techniques to save and spend that will help those projects along.

I decided to do a “no spend September” in order to detox a little from all the fun we had in August, and to jump start a big project that’s on the horizon (more details soon!!).

I semi-prepared, by buying a few things I’ll “need” this month (facewash! A girl’s gotta stay clean!), but I also already started a list of things that I want to buy in October. I’m sure I’ll be adding a lot more to that list as the days go by . . .

I told my husband I want to do this, and he doesn’t have to participate, but he’s not allowed to buy me something I tell him I want, since that would obviously be cheating. I have a tendency to buy Kindle books quite frequently, and I have plenty to reread this month. I haven’t really bought clothes since bébé was born, and I went through what I do have and donated a bunch during my time off, so now my closets seem empty . . . Even though I know I don’t really “need” anything, it’s hard to see my colleagues coming back from their lunch breaks with all sorts of cute things. I don’t wear tons of makeup, but I do like to try various facial masks/cleansers, so a Sephora-free month will definitely help keep my bank account happy.

We have a general food budget that I’m going to try to stick to a little better, and even trim if possible. I get lunch tickets from work but I really want to try and bring my lunch every day. It would mean 150 euros we could use for groceries and we could do something else with that money. I made a meal plan for the week, including breakfast and lunch, so that should help. Not going into town at lunch will also help me avoid the stores!

We’ve already been paying attention to our budget this year because of my husband’s part-time parental leave, but I figure trying just a little bit harder this month will get me into even better (no) spending habits that will help us save even more once he goes back full time in October. Wish me luck!

Bébé is one!

Already my 12th monthly letter to bébé, who, at one year old, is less of a baby and more a little boy!

 

Dear bébé,

You are one!

You can push/pull yourself up to standing very easily, and stand up for a few seconds on your own. Walking didn’t happen by your birthday, but you’re so very close!

You sleep through the night most nights (7pm to at least 5am, though momma and daddy prefer when you make it to 6am). Usually you get about 30 minutes of books, a bottle, and a few songs before bed and you drift off pretty easily.

You love to smile and show off your two teeth. You love to laugh and make fart noises with your mouth on your arm (daddy’s very proud of that). Peekaboo is guaranteed to get a smile or laugh out of you.

You get about 5 minutes of “screen time” per day (weekly Skype with grandma and grandaddy doesn’t count), and you just love “Hakuna Matata” and “Make a man out of you” from momma and daddy’s favorite Disney movies. Other than that, you don’t seem too interested in the computer or television, though remote controls are still a big favorite.

You like books a lot, and you insist on turning the pages yourself, and can recognize your favorite parts. You look at the same pages over and over, trying to figure things out, or maybe you just like the colors. There’s one book with a squirrel in it, and you always give the squirrel a kiss (well, put your mouth/tongue on it, so maybe you’re trying to eat it?). When we read the book when the seal claps his hands, you clap your hands. When the animals in Goodnight Gorilla al say “goodnight” together, it makes you laugh.

You really like your little “tut tut bolides” vehicles, and you got a cool airport set for your birthday, so you’ll have lots of fun with that. You like to put small objects into bigger ones, like your nesting cups, and shake them.

You love watching daddy play bass, and always try to play a little too. At mamie’s house, you also love play the piano. Everyone is always singing to you, in French, in English, in German, in Gibberish. You got a xylophone and tambourine for your birthday, to encourage this love of music to continue.

You are working hard on your first word – “cat” ! You love our cat, though you seem a hesitant to touch him. Maybe you realize he isn’t too keen on you, or maybe you’re picking up on momma and daddy’s nervousness whenever you get near. So far, no scratches and no tail pulling . . .

Your other noises are sounding more and more like words. It changed very suddenly, going from “noises” to syllable-ish sounds and sentence-like babbling in the space of a few days.

You are fully weaned from breastfeeding. It went very smoothly, and probably could have happened a while ago, but momma liked having that closeness.

But there’s a new kind of closeness because you’re starting to cuddle and hug a lot. You can really cling now with your arms and legs, which is nice now, but will probably be troublesome later on as you get bigger and heavier!

You’ll go to the doctor’s this week for weight and height, but you seem to be following your pattern of average height and slightly lower than average weight. Tall and lean, rather than a little chubby baby. Your hair is so long now, it’s got a definite Beatles vibe, and seems to have decided to stay a light brown/dark blond. Your beautiful blue eyes are still what everyone talks about. You are seriously cute, in a handsome little man way, rather than a bald and chubby baby way.

You did very well at your birthday party, despite the 35c/95f degree heat. There were lots of people, and lots of presents, and while you mostly kind of hung out by yourself playing with the grass, you didn’t seem afraid, just chill. You only cried when the hose was brought out and the combination of cold water plus people shrieking understandably freaked you out. Your favorite present so far seems to be the SmarTrike from your uncle, which you didn’t want to get out of.

You definitely already know what you want and are vocal about it! But in general, you’re still a pretty chill baby, who deals well with new situations, is easy to smile, is easy to laugh, and who loves to play. This year has gone by so fast, but momma isn’t that sad, because the next year is sure to be even more fun! Now that you’re mobile, communicating, and interacting, everything is going to be an adventure. This summer will be so different from last year, full of visits to the pool, and the zoo, and riding bikes down the river for picnics . . .

This time last year it was two people with a new little baby. Now it feels like a family, exploring the world together!

Bisous & kisses,

your momma

Fair-weather blogging

It always seems easier to find things to write about when life is hard. The need to vent and the need for sympathy make blogging during hard times easy. But fair-weather blogging is harder. Especially when the weather actually is very fair and Sunday afternoons are spent in the park rather than inside in front of the computer.

Bébé has been sleeping much better, between 10 and 11 hours straight every night the past few weeks. The first few nights he did it, I woke automatically at 2am like usual. And then my allergies were horrible and I was up most nights sneezing and coughing. But I can already feel the difference this weekend, having nearly a full week of almost 7 solid hours. I am crossing my fingers that this is his new pattern and waking up at night (like last night, ugh) will be the exception now instead of the rule!

I’m finishing up 2 online courses, and am on schedule to finish the whole certificate by the end of August, which is exciting. I also started running again regularly this month, so that takes up my evenings when I’m not studying. And while I’m able to go to bed a little later than I have been the past year (around 9:30 instead of 8:30 . . .), summer evenings mean apéros along the river, so I seem to have even less time to get everything done in the one or two nights a week I’m not running or studying. Finally, my husband has gotten very involved in his political party and even started a blog of his own, so there is a nightly discussion of who gets to use the computer after dinner.

So we’ll see what happens to the blog over the summer. Looking back, I’m glad I made the effort  to post the monthly letters to bébé (and there’s another one coming for his birthday next week!) because there are so many little things I’ve already forgotten about his first year. But I’m not sure if I’ll do it another year or not. I’m reading a lot of different types of blogs right now, and trying to figure out in which direction I want to take mine. It will be fun to experiment a little this summer, maybe try writing about some new subjects, or writing about old ones in new ways.

But if it’s another few weeks before I post, it’s probably just because everything is fine, the weather is great, and life is too busy being lived to be written about :-)