Living cable-free

Last night was the premiere of the Walking Dead (no spoilers, I promise!) and we absolutely wanted to watch it live. However, due in part to how bad/confusing the customer service for the internet was, we’ve decided to go without cable for awhile longer. We bought a digital antenna for 30 dollars that gets all the main networks, so that my husband can watch American Football. And we already had Hulu and Netflix, so it seemed like that would be enough for our entertainment needs.

Until October rolled around and we started freaking out about waiting to download TWD from iTunes in case people at work/on Facebook decided to spoil it. So when I saw that Playstation Vue offers a week free trial, it seemed like a good solution.

Except it took us over two hours to watch it, because it kept slowing down, buffering, and stopping completely. I assume it’s because so many people were trying to watch it at the same time. The other channels we tested while AMC was buffering were working fine. We ended up restarting at least five times, which took some of the suspense out of it. But we saw it! Live(ish)!

It was included in our cable package in France, just 24 hours after it aired in the states. Watching premieres was always a little stressful, since we had to avoid the internet until we could see it. It was pretty cool to watch it at (almost) the same time as everyone else.

We cancelled the free trial on Playstation Vue as soon as we were finally done with the episode. For the rest of the season we’ll just watch on iTunes the next day. There’s nothing else we really need to see live, so I don’t think we’d want something like Sling TV. Besides, having a small child does not really give you a lot of time for vegging out in front of the TV! With a newborn, TV vegging is essential. You’re tired, they just want to eat and sleep, and they don’t care what you’re looking at while they do either. It’s bing-watching heaven. A two-year old who can’t be near a screen without screaming for Elsa is not quite the same. So it stays off as much as possible. And in the hour or two between his bedtime and our bedtime, we can either do absolutely nothing while watching a few episodes of “The Office,” or we can try to have a life outside of parenting and work.

I’d definitely say that for now, we’re doing pretty well without cable. I encourage anyone thinking of “cutting the cord” to give it a try. Just not with Playstation Vue!

Bébé’s future royal wife

For a few days in July of 2013 I was glued to the television and live feeds online to catch the first glimpse of Prince George. My husband put up with it because a) he loves me and b) while waiting to find out the gender, I made both blue and pink cookies to take to work and he got to eat the pink ones. While my husband’s own birthday celebrations yesterday meant I couldn’t follow the coverage in the same way this year, I am currently in the middle of making pink cookies for work tomorrow.

I unashamedly love all things royal. Being at the right age that I could have theoretically married either English prince probably helps. You “grow up” with them, but in a different way than pop or movie stars. They didn’t spend high school on a tour bus, or in exotic locations filming movies. They actually went to high school. Sure, it was a private, expensive one, but you know their lives were probably much closer to “normal” than Justin Bieber or Britney Spears.

So as we all grow up, it’s fun to note when things in my life sometimes seem similar to William and Kate’s: I studied art history at college, my husband is a few months younger than me, we got married on the 29th of the month, our baby boy was born in July . . . Okay, so maybe that’s it! Though tere’s also the whole “outsider coming into a situation governed by rules that are hard to adapt to” that I could compare to being an expatriate, but I’m pretty sure Kate had to deal with slightly more complicated things than bises and apéros. (But still, the stress over behaving correctly at the first family dinner had to be similar, right?)

Having had my baby boy in the intervening year between royal babies, it was interesting to see how my reaction had changed this time around. In 2013, I remember thinking “Gahh, whyyy is this taking so long?? Why isn’t she coming out yet?? Where is he?!”

Yesterday afternoon, it was more along the lines of “Holy cow, the baby was born less than three hours after getting to the hospital? She must be relieved it didn’t last ages!” and “What?! They’re leaving today?? Doesn’t she want to rest with someone else to clean and cook and . . . oh, yeah, she already has that.” And while I am maybe a tiny bit jealous how good she looked, despite knowing she has a team of people to help, I do feel bad for her, that she had to face the world so soon. I remember being a little annoyed when my mother-in-law came by the hospital the same day bébé was born, because it meant having to look fairly presentable and not do anything too embarrassing that showed her I didn’t 100% have things under control. (Basically Sunday lunch at her house, but with a lot more pain in unmentionable places.) So I imagine Kate maybe felt like that, just multiplied by a thousand.

She does give the impression that giving birth is easy, and maybe it is for her. Mine was certainly far from horrible, though it’s not something I’d want to do every day. With all the tests and stuff new babies have to do, how much they sleep the first few days, and a helpful husband on hand, there totally would have been time for me to see a team of stylists, had one been available. Plus, this is her second time around so she knew what to expect, what to pack, which clothes would feel best . . . There are plenty of other people who will tell you the horror stories of birth, but sometimes things go really well and you feel great, and that’s fine too!

Honestly, it’s just like Facebook, where new moms meticulously scrutinise which post-birth picture to post first. As silly/superficial/whatever people may find it, it’s actually a good thing to care so much, because it means everyone is healthy and you can focus on the superficial, silly stuff. (Whether or not it “should” matter is an entirely different conversation I am not in the mood to discuss while my pink princess cookies are baking!)

While I don’t intend to be a copy-Kate and give my husband a little princess anytime soon, it will be fun to see our kids “grow up together.” And who knows, maybe bébé’s future wife was born yesterday . . . After all, the Middletons didn’t start their business until Kate was a few years old, so we still have some time to work on getting a coat of arms!

Favorite Christmas movies

It’s that time of year again! The time when lists of favorite Christmas movies start appearing in your newsfeed. It seems silly that if you like a movie, you only watch it once a year, but then again, it does seem strange to look out at a bright sunny June day and think “I could go for a little Miracle on 34th Street right now.” (That movie is not actually on my list, because it freaked me out a lot when I was little for some reason. Or maybe I was just upset that Santa never brought me my dream house for Christmas.)

So let me share what actually is on my list:

Elf – I feel like this is kind of the most perfect Christmas movie. It has everything. Elves, a scroogey character who has a change of heart, cute animated characters, Bob Newhart, New York City, Christmas music. Also, we’ve taken to calling bébé “buddy” and I can’t wait until he’s old enough to watch with us.

The Muppet Christmas Carol – Only version I’ve ever known, only version I ever want to know. I started reading the novella this year but without Gonzo narrating and RIzzo commenting the narration, it just isn’t as interesting. I used to watch this every Christmas eve, but in France that time is spent eating, so I watched it earlier this month.

Love Actually – A more “chick flick” choice that I intend to enjoy tonight while my husband it at a soccer match. While I’m sure he wouldn’t mind watching with me, if I’m alone, I can unselfconsciously sing along at the end. And dance with Hugh Grant.

Serendipity – Not a classic choice, but I seem to only watch it around this time of year. American + foreigner falling in love movies always get me. And despite my love for Love Actually, I’m pretty sure everyone can agree that New York > London at Christmastime.

Home Alone – As a kid, it would come on TV Thanksgiving night, to kick of Christmas TV season (maybe it still does).  Now I actually will watch it anytime during the year, whenever I’m missing life in the states. I’m not from Chicago at all, but the big American houses and the little town stores remind me of what life in the states “feels like” if that makes sense. Christmas and life in New York seem great, but my childhood memories are much closer to Kevin’s.

 

Feel free to share your favorite Christmas movies! Still a few days left to try and watch them all . . .

Things that make life easier

I could have called this post “things that make life with a newborn easier” but most of them we’ve been using for a while, and make non-baby life easier as well.

I could also have called this “why I’m glad to have a baby now and not 100 years ago . . . or even 20 years ago.”

 

– On-demand TV

So many channels have replay options, that even without a DVR, we can usually find something we both enjoy to watch at night. And while I have had some issues with the phone/internet company Orange in the past, they recently included an on-demand movie channel in our package. Not just movies actually, series as well, and all without dubbing as an option! Since we probably won’t be going to the movie theatre anytime soon, it’s nice to be able to see some new(er) movies fairly inexpensively. And my long days and nights aren’t so bad when there are 4 seasons of True Blood to catch up on . . . (No spoilers please!)

 

-My husband’s billion vacation days

I have the standard 25 days for Luxembourg, which is already pretty awesome. In the banking sector, they get even more, so my husband can take off a morning or a whole day to get stuff done. Things like taking the car to the garage, getting paperwork from the city, waiting for the repairman . . . He was able to take off 10 days after the birth, which was both an incredible help for me and great for him to get more time with bébé.

 

-Online grocery shopping and drive through pick-up

We’ve been using Leclerc Drive since November, and it’s totally changed our lives. No, they don’t offer everything online (I have to go to the store to get peanut butter, but at least they have both smooth and crunchy!), but it’s so much easier for us to menu plan for the week by seeing everything laid out in pictures on a screen, rather than jumbled together in a cart. And the drive through is right next to our gym, so our Saturday routine used to be an hour or two there before picking up the groceries, instead of two hours spent going to the store, dealing with the crowds, then getting home. I know that Saturday routine will be possible again in a few months, but for now, I’m happy to give up peanut butter in exchange for a stress-free shopping experience with bébé.

 

-Smartphones

I know I spent the first half of my life getting by just fine without cellphones, but seriously, how great is all the stuff we can do with them these days? I am pretty good about not using it during meals and when with friends, and in general I prefer reading on public transport. But since getting a new phone this year, I’ve been finding all sorts of fun things to do with it.

I try not to use it too much while feeding bébé. But sometimes, it’s the only quiet moment during the day to send an email or look up my most recent burning question about him (“Is my baby’s head bigger than normal?”). Also, the TV remote control app on it is super useful when he’s sleeping/eating and I don’t dare reach for the actual remote.

 

I’m sure I’ll think of others as time go by. But just these few things have made the first three weeks much easier than I’d anticipated. Not “easy,” just “easier” . . . And while I know people got along just fine without stuff like this, when things are frustrating or hard, I like to think about some of the more positive aspects of my modern life.

What kind of things make you happy to live in the 21st century and not the 19th?

Going to a concert at 35 weeks pregnant

During our little road trip in Western France, we would alternate who chose the music, and the following conversation happened in the car:

Husband: What band is this?

Me: Flogging Molly. I’ve never played them for you before?

Husband: No. But I like it. It’s good bar fightin’ music.

Me: They were one of my favorite bands in high school. I went to see them whenever they were in town. It’s been like, 8 or 10 years at least since I last saw them. I wonder if they’re still touring . . .

(a few seconds of googling)

Me: Oh wow they’re coming to Luxembourg in June! Do you want to go?

Husband: Sure, but won’t you be like, super pregnant?

Me: I’ll ask the doctor.

 

When I first asked him in April, he didn’t say yes or no, rather he wanted to wait until the date was closer and we saw what condition I was in. My totally boring and normal pregnancy has continued to be boring and normal, so when I saw him the day before the concert, he said it would be fine, as long as I didn’t get too dehydrated or tired (it’s been in the upper 20s C / low 80s F here the past few days and super humid). He didn’t say anything about it being too loud, and from what I read on my own, one or two concerts in 40 weeks will not cause any hearing damage (things like working every day on a construction site might). If he’d had even the slightest hesitation or worry, even if I felt okay, I would not have gone.

The evening was already a little cooler than it has been lately, with a nice breeze, so things were off to a good start. I met my husband in Luxembourg after work for dinner, then we walked over to the venue, Den Atelier, which is very close to the train station. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there’s no smoking allowed inside, since you can still smoke in bars in Luxembourg. And though of course the one person who ignored this rule happened to be right next to me, he only smoked one cigarette and then came over and apologized at the end, saying he didn’t see that I was pregnant! (Understandable since it was dark and I was in a dark tank top.) After dealing throughout my pregnancy with people smoking next to me at bus stops and train stations and never being brave enough to say anything, it kind of made my month.

There’s a balcony level, with wide benches against the wall for sitting/standing, so it was perfect for me. I could stand up and dance (well, sway my belly from side to side) when I wanted and didn’t have to sit down on the floor when I got tired. There’s also a small bar on the balcony level, which was very convenient. The venue is small, around 1000 people I think, and since most people like to be downstairs, upstairs there was plenty of room and you still had a really good view of the stage.

They’re an awesome group to see live, and watching the crowd below dance like crazy was almost as much fun as when I was younger and would be in the middle of it. The energy was really great, and something I’ve missed at other concerts we’ve been to. If it had been any other group, I don’t think I would have bothered, but I knew it would be well worth an extra bit of tiredness and achy feet. I’m so happy the timing worked out, and the doctor okayed it. We got to have a last late night out just us two, and I got to share some of my favorite music with my husband and bébé. We’ll have to wait and see if the experience means he’ll only fall asleep to “bar fightin’ music”!

Flogging Molly concert at 35 weeks
Flogging Molly concert at 35 weeks

Funny French music

One thing that’s fun in a “bicultural” relationship is sharing your culture’s music, movies, books, etc. I know this probably happens in other relationships too, since everyone has their personal taste, but I love that when I show something to my husband, I can be almost sure he’s never heard/seen it before. And having a more personalized knowledge of French/American culture makes it seem like we’re creating our own little subculture between the two of us, blending what we both bring into it.

Discovering French music has been particularly fun for me, since my husband has . . . eclectic taste. He’s made sure I know all the words to the Noir Desir, Les Inconnus, and Michel Sardou songs that make an appearance at every soirée. Indochine or Téléphone are just as likely to come up on his playlist as Marilyn Manson or Slipknot.

In another life, I think my husband would have been BFFs with Weird Al Yankovic, since he just loves making up funny words to songs. Though he tends to worry less about things like rhythm or tune and more about making the words as ridiculous as possible. And it was interesting for me to see that as his English progressed, so did his enthusiasm for including English words and songs in his repertoire. He sings while he’s getting ready in the morning, when we’re in the car, or when we eating dinner. He plays a few instruments and has been in different bands over the years, some more serious, some with the sole purpose of making funny music.

So when he started singing about a “beau lavabo” (beautiful sink) the other day, I thought it was just another one of his silly songs. But it turns out, it’s an actual song. One he was so excited to have remembered after all these years (it came out in 1989, when he was pretty young), he made a special request that I share it on my blog, so that even more people could be exposed to this weird craziness.

Your tidbit of French culture for the day, Lagaf’s “Bo le lavabo”:

Super Bowl in France

Though we don’t get ESPN anymore, the Super Bowl is shown live in France on a regular channel, so my husband still got to have some fun on Super Bowl Sunday (though with the time difference, it’s more like Super Bowl very-early-Monday). He spent the afternoon making a few recipes from the NFL cookbooks my dad sent him for Christmas. Then we had a few friends over to eat and play Madden while waiting for the midnight kickoff. I say “we,” but I was in bed at 10:30 and have very little real interest in football, since my family was more into baseball. My husband definitely knows way more about the game than I do. The first game he ever saw six years ago (on TV) was between Seattle and San Francisco, and since Seattle won, it’s been his team ever since. So he was even more into watching the Super Bowl than previous years, and actually took Monday off work to recuperate.

While it wasn’t quite the same as a lazy Sunday afternoon hanging out with people and watching the game in primetime with all the commercials, it’s nice that he was able to watch it here and that our friends are interested as well. I’m sure in big cities there are bars that show it and large American expat communities that get together to have all sorts of Super Bowl fun. And if next year we happen to be in one of those cities, we’ll definitely try and experience it that way.

I like creating our own mix of French/American traditions surrounding these types of events. Despite time differences and language barriers, I’m happy my husband is able to experience a tiny bit of the American lifestyle. (I hesitate to say “American culture” when talking about football, would you say watching the World Cup be a part of “French culture”?) The plan is still for us to live in the states at some point, and given how really into certain American things he is, like football, sometimes I think he’ll have less culture shock than me!

Weekly American TV nights

While I have all sorts of amour for my cher husband, sometimes I don’t really mind when he works late. It depends on his schedule for the week, but usually he has two days when he can go in later (and sleep later!), then he stays until everything is finished. As silly as it may sound, I look forward to these evenings because it means I can watch whatever I want on TV.

We pay 5€ extra per month to get a few English language channels like E!, Style, and the Travel Channel. There used to be ESPN (my husband is really into American football) but not anymore, so these channels are all “mine” now. But I feel bad watching my celebrity news and trashy reality shows when he’s home and we could be watching something we both enjoy or doing any number of productive things like play with our cat.

He does have a surprising fondness for “How do I look?” on Style, which I take full advantage of whenever it’s on. The wedding shows however, he’s not so into. He likes to ask me why I need to watch them, since we’re already married. But it doesn’t stop being fun and pretty and fascinating just because you’re not planning your own! A football game only has one possible outcome: one team wins, the other loses. With wedding shows, who knows how it could end! The matron-of-honor could give birth at the ceremony! The dress could get lost or ripped or stained! The flowers could show up dead! The anticipation! The stress! The emotions! Way better than professional sports, right?

The Travel Channel shows “House Hunters International” which I consider research for our future, because who knows where we could end up living one day. 10 years ago I never thought I’d be living in France, and his job could, in theory, send us somewhere else. Also, it’s kind of hilarious that every single American on the show will say, at least five times, “this is much smaller than I’m used to” and “oh, that’s kind of strange.” So while part of my love for my TV nights is to feel a connection to American culture, I do like to be reminded that I have all these life experiences that make tiny bathrooms and rentals that come without stoves not seem so weird.

I have no such “logic” for my love of Tia and Tamara. Well, I have a sister who is close so people used to think we were twins. But mostly, I just kind of wish I could hang out with them and live in LA/Napa Valley.

Of course, all the American TV in the world can’t replace my cher husband. Once or twice a week is fine, but more than that, like when the rest of the week is unplanned lateness, I get grumpy and sad. We usually make up for it with a super introverted weekend where we just hang out in the apartment and read and watch movies and don’t see anyone else for two days straight.

And watch as much “How do I look?” and he can stand.