A break from normal

Now that things have pretty much returned to normal since our France visit, it’s time to shake things up again!

We went to Boston Calling last weekend to see Mumford and Sons. We knew it was going to be a late night, and Monkey hasn’t been napping, so we weren’t sure if we should take him. But when the regular sitter said she couldn’t come, we figured we might as well just go for it. He loves Mumford and Sons (this kid is so much cooler than his parents) and it was free to bring him. If the worst thing was that we were all tired the next day (which we were), well, that’s pretty much every day for us!

He ended up taking a short nap around 3, and we got to the Harvard Athletic Field around 5. There was lots of space for him to run around, and people handing out free bubble stuff, so basically, it was kid heaven.

He was one of the only kids I saw, at least initially. I saw maybe two or three crawling babies, and a few kids in the 7-10 year range (free for under 10). Their website said it’s a “family friendly” festival, and while there was the expected flagrant ignoring of the no smoking rule, it did seem a bit calmer than other festivals I have been to. I was worried about being “those parents” who bring their kid, but Monkey’s cuteness charms most people, and we got lots of comments on what cool parents we are. I said later to a friend that it’s funny how much I complained about the negative comments on our parenting in France, but don’t mind comments when they’re positive! A few more kids showed up when Mumford and Sons started playing. We passed a couple with a baby in a carrier, plus two under-5 running around, so I was very happy to just have the one to deal with!

Another recent adventure (this weekend actually) was a trip to Cape Cod.

Last year we went “down the Cape” for just a half-day, to visit a colleague at his beach house. This year, he offered up one of his rental houses to the whole team for a weekend. Initially two other families were coming, but they ended up having other commitments. So we had the whole (giant) house to ourselves!

It was not warm enough to go in the water, but we put our feet in (or, in Monkey’s case, his whole clothed body!) and it was nice weather to walk around. We visited Provincetown and had a lovely early dinner at a restaurant right on the beach. Sunday morning we walked up and down the very calm and lovely road where the house is. Very chill weekend overall, and while the activities are nothing we don’t do on a typical weekend (walking around outside, visiting stores), being in a new place made it feel like a special weekend. The first of what will hopefully many longer visits to the beach that he will have during his childhood!

Traveling around in the area with Monkey has gotten both easier and harder as he gets older. He is more willing to walk, so we don’t always need the stroller (=I usually realize we forget it once we’re an hour away from home). He is getting better as restaurants, and the early dinner thing was a good idea – less people to worry about if he gets loud/crazy.

He listens better, but not always. With him starting to nap less, it means we have to be extra careful about planning too much into afternoons, so he doesn’t get too tired and cranky. The other option is to just put him to bed earlier, which means less time for fun things when we’re out and about.

Despite how tired we’ve all been, overall, the past two weekends have been really fun. We’re excited about what new fun things we’ll be able to do this summer with our (almost) 3-year-old.

A different country

Like everyone else, yesterday’s election has left me with lots of thoughts and feelings. Despite my many years of blogging, I’m not very good at expressing myself about very complicated and emotionally-charged things like this.

So I’ll use someone else’s words. It was one of the first songs I heard on the radio this morning, and for some reason it really helped. (It’s also a way to answer the question I’ve been asked countless times today: “Does this mean you’re moving back to France?”)

I Won’t Give Up – Jason Mraz

I won’t give up on us, even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love, I’m still looking up
‘Cause even the stars they burn
Some even fall to the earth
We’ve got a lot to learn
God knows we’re worth it
No, I won’t give up
I don’t wanna be someone who walks away so easily
I’m here to stay and make the difference that I can make
Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use
The tools and gifts we got yeah, we got a lot at stake
And in the end, you’re still my friend at least we did intend
For us to work we didn’t break, we didn’t burn
We had to learn how to bend without the world caving in
I had to learn what I’ve got, and what I’m not and who I am
I won’t give up on us, even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up, still looking up.
I won’t give up on us (no I’m not giving up)
God knows I’m tough enough (I am tough, I am loved)
We’ve got a lot to learn (we’re alive, we are loved)
God knows we’re worth it (and we’re worth it)
I won’t give up on us, even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love, I’m still looking up

 

I don’t think this blog has more than a dozen or so readers, but maybe this might help you work through your own thoughts and feelings.

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.

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”:

Getting motivated to play music again

While I wouldn’t call it a “New Year’s resolution” necessarily, I have made it one of my goals to play more music this year, specifically my flute. Actually, only my flute, since I don’t really play anything else, besides a verrrry basic piano. And I’m the type who likes to do one thing well, rather than try and do eighteen different things at once pretty well. So I’ll see how the flute goes and I’ll look into the piano later in the year.

I’ve been playing since I was eight and played all through high school at a very high level. Since that was ten years ago (omg ten!! Nothing so far in my life has made me feel older than talk of ten-year high school reunions) I am naturally no longer at that high level. I don’t want to start with lessons again, at least not right away. France uses a different solfège method than I was taught (because switching between fahrenheit/celsius, pounds/kilos, inches/centimeters isn’t complicated enough already), and I want to work back up to a level where I am comfortable with my playing before adding the confusion of a teacher talking about “sol mineur.”

So I was looking around youtube for some ideas of pieces to try on my own, when I came across a video of the Sleepy Man Banjo Boys. Um, amazing. (Also, their bedroom decor is super fun and I kind of wish my whole apartment was decorated like that.) And rather than depress me, since I’ve been playing longer than they have been alive and they are incredible, it really motivated me. It reminded me of playing when I was younger and I would rather practice than watch TV or go outside, because playing music was my fun. And they look like they’re having a lot of fun.

And that’s what I want the flute to be for me again, a source of fun. So rather than giving myself the unrealistic (and therefore demotivating) goal of playing everyday, I’m going to try for once a week. I think for any goal, once a week is always a good place to start. (Except flossing. That’s a non-negociable daily task.) Hopefully it’ll be so fun, I’ll be motivated to play more often without even thinking about it.