Feelings in France

We arrived in France Saturday after a 20 hour journey, and I am feeling much happier than I thought I would. I think a lot of my pre-departure emotions were tied up in worrying about Monkey on the flight. We flew with Iceland Air, leaving at 9:30 at night, and since he’s never wanted to sleep on planes, I had nightmares of wrangling a cranky, horrible toddler on very little sleep.

He ended up sleeping about 4 hours on the first leg, albeit fitfully (it was drier than normal on the plane), and then another 2 on the Iceland-Paris leg. I got maybe 3 hours on the first leg and 1 hour on the second. My husband barely sleep at all, but we were still all in pretty good moods by the time we arrived. I was also really worried that Monkey would pull his usual “I hate people for the first half hour of seeing them, even if I know them” routine with his mamie, but he was happy right away! The weekly Skype calls definitely helped, I think.

He didn’t seem confused at all when we got to the house, possibly because of the excitement about the “new” toys here. He did spend a lot of time here during the first 18 months of his life, including living here an entire month, so even though I don’t think he “remembers” the house, I wonder if a part of his brain senses how familiar it is.

He slept for 13 hours the first night, and around 11 last night, with a long nap today, so that’s been a relief. I’ve been having a harder time, but it’s only been 2 days. I’ve had more wine in the past two days than I have had in the past two months, which probably doesn’t help my restless nights!

So far in just two days we’ve seen three different sets of cousins/uncles/etc, and another two are planned for tonight. I drove a manual car again without any problems, which was a relief, especially since it was my mother-in-law’s new car! The weather has been surprisingly nice for Lorraine, almost hot, and I spent a nice afternoon reading in the sun while Monkey napped. I’m feeling very relaxed, and seeing how happy my husband is to be with his family makes me very happy too. Though he seems a bit stressed about finding time to see everyone, which is a familiar emotion for many expats when they visit home!

Monkey was initially less clingy, but I think seeing so many “new” people in such a short period of time is getting to him a bit. He insisted on sitting on my lap at lunch, which solicited some “advice”…Overall though, he’s been great, and has already picked up a few new words.

For now, I am luxuriating in that wonderful “beginning of vacation, we have lots of time” feeling, knowing that two weeks will be over before we know it!

 

2 year wedding anniversary

Today is our 2 year wedding anniversary, and we managed to get a little bit of time this weekend to celebrate. We dropped off bébé with my mother-in-law and headed to the thermal baths at Villa Pompéi for a massage and some relaxing (it’s only for adults, so it was nice and calm). Then we went for a fancy lunch, with wine! I have to be careful about timing drinks since I’m breastfeeding, so usually I just stick to water, but I had my pump in the car, so I went crazy and had 2 glasses! It was a little strange to be able to eat more than three bites of food without getting up to soothe a fussy baby, though I am reassured by friends that all babies seem to have that “mom and dad are eating” sensor and pick that exact moment to start crying.

In total, we had 6 hours of “us” time, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it felt like ages. I was a little surprised at myself for crying when we first left, and again randomly a bit later, but I relaxed as time went on. Bébé behaved very well for his mamie so I am less nervous about starting with the nanny this week. I have no idea yet what I’ll do for 6 hours on my own, but I have a feeling chocolate and Netflix will be involved . . .

Right around this time is also my 7 year anniversary of moving to France. I can never remember which day exactly without looking it up in my old blog, but it was sometime towards the end of September. I met my husband just a few weeks later, at a student party, when he stopped to say hello to a friend from class (my flatmate’s girlfriend) and introduced himself to the smiling blonde (me!) next to her.

We spent a lot of time Saturday playing the “what if” game: what if he hadn’t gone that night (he was mad at his friends and almost didn’t), what if he had walked along the side of the dace floor instead of the middle to get to the bar, what if I had left an hour earlier when some of my other friends had . . .

We laughed about how we both thought it would just be something fun for a few weeks. Obviously feelings changed pretty quickly, since here we are 7 years later, married for 2, with a little bébé and a largish cat.

I’ve lost a few computers since I’ve been here, so I don’t have many pictures from the very early days, but thanks to Facebook, I managed to find one from every year so far. There are three from the wedding since that’s what we’re celebrating today!

MeandHim

The central picture is the very first one I have of us from 2007. We look so much older in the picture next to it from our maternity shoot in May!

On the bottom (L to R): 2012 wedding, 2012 wedding, 2010 in Sarrebruck, 2011 in Berlin.

On the top (L to R): 2012 wedding, 2013 in London, 2008 in Metz, 2009 our PACS days in Metz.

(Both our wedding and maternity photos were shot by Aurélie who also did our gender reveal.)

Poitiers and Bretagne

We were able to both explore and relax during our little vacation on the other side of the country. So often when we visit new places, we feel the need to do and see everything we can as quickly as possible. This time, we really took it slow, in part due to my physical limits (hello third trimester!) but also because we knew we both needed to chill out as much as possible. Visiting  Poitiers and Bretagne in the same trip was maybe slightly too ambitious, since it involved a lot of driving, but I’m glad we saw both, since they offered totally different experiences of France. (It also allowed me to check off two more regions for my goal to visit all of them!)

Poitiers has lots of great medieval architecture, and is easy to visit on foot. Our hotel was right next to the Préfecture and Hôtel de Ville, so we were well placed to explore. The weather was sunny, if a bit cool, so perfect for walking around.

Poitiers

 

We also visited the Futuroscope, a multimedia theme park, which is a short drive from the city. I couldn’t do everything, but my brother-in-law was with us, so he and my husband went off to do things while I enjoyed the sunshine and fairly reasonably priced snacks. And there were shows and films I could see, which were fun and interesting. The activities and films were pretty well timed I think to see everything in one day, but again, we weren’t trying to go at a crazy speed. Also, a lot of things were really more interesting for kids, in terms of theme and technology. So maybe in a few years we’ll go back when bébé is a little bigger!

After an Easter brunch in town, we spent Sunday with my husband’s uncle and his family, who he hadn’t seen in a very long time and I hadn’t met before. Even if they don’t celebrate the holiday, it was nice to spend Easter with family, chatting and eating and getting to know the little cousins. And since the previous day had involved lots of walking, it was definitely a good idea to just sit around all afternoon.

Then is was off to Bretagne! I say that like we visited the entire region, but we were only in a tiny part of the Côtes-d’Armor département. I kept calling it the “Côtes d’Amour” by accident, but I don’t think I’m the only one who makes that mistake . . . We stayed in Pléneuf-Val-André and visited the Côte de Granite Rose (Pink Granite Coast due to type of rock you find there). So this part of the trip was more about natural beauty than architecture, though there were a few megalithic structures to see as well. The weather was a little cooler and rainier, but still nice enough in general to enjoy being outside as much as possible.

Bretagne

 

Since we drove so much the previous days, and were looking at an eight hour drive home the next day, Wednesday we stayed in the hotel for most of the day. It was very rainy, so it wasn’t the best weather for exploring anyway. And as you can see in the top two pictures, our view was pretty great, so even if we were being lazy, at least it felt like we were being lazy somewhere special!

We drove home Thursday, which gave us another three days to relax at home, which we usually never have when coming back from a trip. It’s usually a Sunday return trip and then back to work Monday. Even coming back a Saturday is hard, because you have to try and cram grocery shopping and other things into one day. So this way, the easy pace continued through the end of my two-week break. I still feel like I got everything done I needed to, while not stressing myself out even more by trying to do everything in just a few days.

Now just 18 (!!) more days of work until my much longer, much more action-packed “break” . . .

Learning to relax

I am off work for the next two weeks and I’ve decided to treat it as preparation for my maternity leave. I like what I do and get a lot of satisfaction (=feel important) from doing it well.  Any stress at work really affects me and it’s definitely been stressful lately with tons of different projects. So it’s been really hard on me physically and mentally the past few weeks, and on top of that, the guilt/stress of knowing that soon I’ll be leaving for a few months which means more work for everyone else. But I’m learning to relax a little, let go of the stress, and trust that my colleagues are perfectly capable of doing things without me. (Though that didn’t stop me from leaving them my cell number, with instructions to call if they had even the tiniest question about something . . .)

So what does my “relaxing” schedule look like the next few weeks? My husband is off next week so we’re going on a little road trip to Poitiers, where his brother is doing an internship, and Bretagne, because I don’t care if it’s still a bit cold, I haven’t been on a beach in about 5 years and in June/July I will be too far along to go anywhere. But this week, I have a list a mile long of everything I want to get done.

It’s always like that, isn’t it? Even on weekends, you think “finally, I can relax,” but there are groceries to buy, errands to run, people to see, paperwork to fill out . . . And on vacation, you try to cram as much sightseeing in as possible, and end up even more tired than when you started your vacation! Whenever my husband has a few days off (he has tons, thanks to working in Luxembourg banking) I leave him a list of things to do. He did not leave a list for me, or rather, his list was “relax and sleep.” So I made my own list. Mostly to feel like I’m still “working” (why is it so hard to just be lazy??) but also because I do legitimately have a lot of things to get done.

Like start getting the nursery ready! We still haven’t bought a lot of things for bébé, but we’re turning the office into an office/nursery, which means a fair amount of reorganizing has to happen first. And I’ve decided it will happen this week! Besides, getting a space nice and neat and in order can be very relaxing in a way. Seeing stuff in its place just makes everything else easier.

Paperwork is another big thing this week. Papers for the doctor, papers for insurance, papers for France, papers for Luxembourg . . . Not to mention it’s that time of year when I need to start thinking about renewing my residency card in 2 months, which means getting together all the different papers for that. But this is also somehow relaxing, knowing that our (well, mostly my) papers are in order and I won’t have to worry about it later. This goal goes hand-in-hand with getting the office organized, since finding all the papers I need normally takes way longer than it really should . . .

I also hope to do lots of cooking and exercising. The pool is unfortunately closed this week, or I would have gone every day, so it will be lots of walking along the river, which should definitely be very relaxing. And cooking/baking has always been a super relaxing activity for me. Having the time to cook healthy stuff (and maybe some not-so-healthy goodies for the road trip) will be great.

There are a couple of slightly more stressful things on the schedule like doctors appointments and meeting with a few nannies. But since all of that will make what comes next easier, it’s a relief to have the time to do things properly, rather than trying to squeeze in everything after work and on weekends. So I think I should be okay this week, “relaxing” in a very personalized way.

What do you do when you’re off work to relax? To-do lists, total vegetation in from of the television, or somewhere in between?