Thursday, April 28, 2005

Alive and not so well

Unfortunately, I'm suffering from a flu with symptoms of fever, congestion, and sore throat. Not too fun. But, we did come back from a fun trip to London! I'm quite exhausted now, but when I have more energy, I'll write!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The tool of procrastinators

I actually have a lot to do right now, but I thought I'd write a few things in my blog since I'm a bit overwhelmed by everything else. This blog is a great way to procrastinate in a somewhat productive manner.

I just finished walking Leo on this brisk, slightly misty morning. We walked past Maylin's favorite red choo-choo train at the public gardens and I heard the all too familiar happy screaming/yelping of roughly eight toddlers who were exulting in the presence of bubbles floating in the air. Now I know how to be the most popular mom on the block.

There's always a lot of activity in our neighborhood. On the corner is an appliances store where they've had a couple of guys work on removing years and years of layered paint from one of their walls, using chisels, torches, just about everything, rather unsuccessfully for several days. Today it looks like they just gave up and decided to cover the bad job of paint removal with a bad job of painting, in orange.

There are two green semi moving-trucks on Boulevard Pereire. They've been there since yesterday afternoon. The moving guys weren't able to start work until today because I think they were waiting for the all-important cherry picker contraption to move items from the ground outside the front of the building to the top floor through the window. Using elevators is often out of the question for most moving jobs. Elevators are tiny in Paris, and often, nonexistent. The elevator in our building is a pod with a floor area of roughly 1 foot by 2.5 feet. It fits two adults comfortably as long as they're both sucking in their guts. One time, I went to a rehearsal with a sleeping Maylin, and found I had to carry her up 6 flights of stairs. I certainly don't find the need to exercise in Paris. When we moved into our present apartment, I was thinking of taking ballet classes again to get into shape, but I've nearly got buns of steel from all the walking and stair-climbing.

Most Parisians look quite fit. It's nice to see so many ladies here with very trim thighs, which is so rare in the U.S. But they could also be taking diet medication, which is extremely popular and widely available in many different forms at any pharmacy (we have at least 3 pharmacies within 3 blocks of my place). I don't diet -- the amount I eat depends on what my body tells me to eat. This past week, I've eaten like a pig, but the previous weeks, I was doing quite well. If we have people over for dinner, I cook heavier foods and eat a little more because it's tastier than my lighter fare. As a result of my changing eating patterns, my waistline fluctuates quite a bit, but I think my weight stays pretty much the same.

I was doing some more procrastinating earlier this morning as I searched online for my favorite radio show on NPR (National Public Radio), "This American Life." It's highly entertaining. Check it out on http://www.thislife.org. It nearly brought tears to my eyes as I heard my beloved radio personality Ira Glass speak again, after a year-long separation.

I miss American radio and the nonexistence of cigarette smoke in restaurants. Smoke is alive and well in France. Some restaurants are smokier than others, but most restaurants do have a non-smoking section, which my friend's father compares to a hypothetical non-peeing section at the public pool.

Okay, time to fold laundry. The mundane life of a housewife. I'm glad I have my music and my friends to keep me sane.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Moi, je suis insomniac

It's 6:26 am, and I think I've been up since 3 or 3:30 am. This is becoming a bad habit. The previous night, I did go to bed early, but my allergies woke me up so I was sneezing and blowing my nose a good deal of that night. Maylin's sleeping great, at least.

Maylin is so cute. She wanted to sit on my lap to play the piano yesterday. I let her play a little bit, and then she requested that we sing "Little Lamb," otherwise known as "Mary Had a Little Lamb." I played as we sang together. She sang quite well, doing especially well at the end of phrases on repeated words. Perfect intonation. That's my girl. Note: this song is best in D major for little kids.

She was really happy when I showed her my pitch pipe and let her blow the same pitch after me.

It's so cool to hear her recount her day at school. She'll tell me about the chocolate cake she ate in celebration of someone's birthday, and what activities she did.

Yesterday, she ate like a maniac! From 10 am to 1 pm, she ate continuously. She had two servings of pasta, 3-4 bowls of cereal, and a bowl of strawberries. It was a little scary.

I'm a little too tired to think properly, so I think I'll stop now. If you don't hear from me for several days, don't be alarmed. I may be offline for a little while.

Have a good rest of the week and weekend!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Before I lay me down to sleep...

I'm determined to go to bed early! I was so exhausted today from a night of Maylin's restlessness. She had a stuffy nose, but she seems better today. I gave her a haircut right before bed and I think her screaming wore her out. It was another bad, too short haircut, but you can't be artistic when your subject is screaming and thrashing her head around.

We had a beautiful sunny, but cool, morning, which turned into a downpour around 3:30pm, which resulted in gorgeous sunshine for the early evening. Lots of people got stuck without umbrellas out on the street, so they all had to duck under store awnings. The lesson is to never leave the house without an umbrella -- even if there's not a cloud in the sky. The temperature's been quite brisk, and I regret having already sent my wool coat to the cleaners.

I had a great French class today. Learned tons. Also heard a couple of funny things about early experiences with the French language. One student, upon first arriving in France, had no idea how to order less than a kilogram (1 kilo = 2.2 lbs.) of anything at the produce markets, so she had to order one kilo of everything -- made for a very heavy basket to carry home, I'm sure. Our teacher mentioned a former student who had to order two crepes, instead of one, because it was easier for her to say! The problem was this: every noun in the French language is masculine or feminine. A masculine crepe would be "un crepe" but a feminine one would be "une crepe." Two crepes is always "deux crepes" no matter the gender, so this perfectionist took the route of more crepes, which is fine because I can never eat just one crepe anyway. By the way, "crepe" is feminine. I'll discuss the subject of genders of nouns in a later posting. It's quite interesting.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Regarding your comments

Thank you all for your comments. If you are someone I know, and I don't e-mail you, this means I don't have your e-mail address! Please leave me your address in your comment, if you please. I do believe that there's a way to post a comment that will go directly to my e-mail account, so your address would be hidden from everyone else. Sorry, I don't know how to do it myself. I haven't had time to explore every facet of this blog phenomenon. But I'm trying to find all the friends who I may have lost after my move to Paris (my hotmail account died and took my whole address book with it).

If you haven't noticed already, I have left people's names out of my blog just in case they don't want to be mentioned. If you do want to be mentioned, let me know! Good night! I'm going to bed early for once!

Great news

I finally had a little talk on the phone with the director of the Mozart opera group with which I rehearse, and with some difficulty, I was able to finally figure out that I will definitely perform the roles of the First Lady and Papagena in Mozart's The Magic Flute in a June concert with her A group! And the director's going to coach me individually! I am so excited! Just had to tell ya.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Thank you, readers

Yes, it's another early morning posting, this time at 3:38 am. I woke up half an hour ago and know that I won't be able to fall asleep for awhile because my mind is just full of so many thoughts, so I might as well write.

I wanted to thank everyone for reading my blog, but especially the ones who are reading on a regular basis. You keep me going. You motivate me to keep writing and not stop. In the past, I have had trouble with following through on projects of mine, but this project is definitely going to have some longevity -- and hopefully, someday I'll have enough decent material to publish in a book. I've always had the dream of writing a book, and this blog is definitely the closest thing. Instant publication without rejection. As a child and teenager, I did a lot of writing -- some short stories, several poems, and numerous letters to penpals. I'm finally coming back to my roots, one of my earliest passions, and you have helped me get back on the right path again. Thank you.

Writing feels really good -- it's therapeutic. I would especially recommend it to anyone who's going through a tough time in their life. I've kept a journal for several years, and I have to say it's pulled me out of several depressed periods and has helped me find solutions to some of life's problems. When I get really down, I write down what I'd rather be doing -- basically, what would make me happy. Sometimes I go into detail, but sometimes it's just bullet points. And it's almost like magic. Once these little words appear on the page, they start becoming reality. When I remind myself I have control over my own life, I start doing a few things to make things better for myself, and before I know it, I'm a very happy Caroline again -- an improved Caroline. I hope you'll try it. You don't even have to write on a daily basis. Just get yourself a notebook and do it. If you want, buy a beautiful, expensive journal to inspire you or to guilt you into writing. Actually, guilt is not a good motivator, so if you feel guilty about spending a lot of money, don't do it.

Yesterday, Sunday, I asked John what he'd like to do and he immediately said he wanted to visit the Musee des Arts et Metiers which is mainly a museum of technological innovation with an emphasis on history, so there's a lot of old stuff from sundials to Foucault's pendulum to looms to an Apple II. We hadn't gone to a museum in awhile, but when we do have free time, it's the thing we like to do most, and Maylin loves it, too. Maylin was, as usual, the only toddler in the museum. At the beginning of the visit, she was satisfied looking at the displays of clocks and scales, but when we discovered the computers with the touch screens that dot the entire museum, she was hooked on finding all of them. They had a few hands-on displays for understanding pistons and hydraulics, so she had fun playing with those.

We happened upon the intimate Theatre des Automates in the museum and sat down with the gathering crowd, not knowing exactly what kind of presentation to expect. All around us were window displays of antique mechanical toys and artwork from the 17th and 18th centuries. A few of the windows had buttons to press that would start a recording of the music that the toy, or clock, or "painting" would make. Once the small theater was filled, the doors were closed. A man started collecting tickets and I got a little worried we would have to leave. But as this is France, rules are often broken, and he didn't seem to really care if we had tickets or not. Phew. I was kind of expecting the toys to start moving and making music one by one, but they didn't. Instead, it was a lecture, which was interesting for awhile when I could understand everything, but I started zoning out quickly as this guy was not the most dynamic speaker and had long, unbearable pauses between thoughts. It was exciting in those rare moments when he took out his key to open a display to wind up a clock (little tin figures danced while the music played), to take out a music box (on top of the box was a tiny, one-centimeter-long bird that sang while turning from side to side, its incredibly small beak moving the whole time), or to wind up a "painting" made of tin, I think, in a gilded frame (there was a scene of people walking across a bridge, a man fishing, and other characters, all moving). I don't think Maylin could see very well, but she seemed to be having a good time anyways. She sat her dou-dou by her side and I put my arm around the both of them. She was so good about being quiet. Maylin never talked out loud, but whispered to me in her cute, little whisper.

After 25 minutes of her good behavior, sitting quietly for a somewhat dull presentation, I decided it would be a good time to leave (other people had left already -- so you know how boring it was). I was right -- she was about to throw a fit if we stayed there any longer. We walked out of the theater and found Daddy immediately, which was quite remarkable since it was decent-sized museum. We stayed there from 2:30 pm until closing at 6 pm. Yes, Maylin was an angel the whole time. We did spend about half an hour at the museum cafe eating the snacks I had brought. Moms, you all know that bringing food along on any outing is of utmost importance. This is more true in France than in the States because at the cafe, like many other cafes and restaurants in France, food is not served after 2 pm because the lunch hour is over.

I'm going to try going back to sleep, but I'll try to remember to tell you later about the cool building and old church in which the museum is housed. Good night!

My independent girl

We had friends over for dinner last night and Maylin was so funny. She was extremely shy with these people -- don't know why since she had seen them before, parents of one of her boyfriends. The whole dinner she tried to stay hidden but would pop in once in awhile to take a peek. Most of the time she stayed in her room and played or read. By 10 or 10:30, she started trying to put herself to bed. She turned off the lights, and climbed into bed, pulling the covers over her. I think we were too loud because the light went back on and I could hear her moving around. She came out for some fruit salad, but immediately afterwards, retreated back to her room, turned off the light, tucked herself in, and fell asleep! Does anyone know of any other two and a half year-olds who can put themselves to bed? John and I were so proud.

We're so lucky she's a cuddler. I just love it when she calls me from her bed after she awakens in the morning. She says, "Mommy, sleep," meaning, "get into bed with me." I go in and cuddle with her. She's always in the best of moods when she's laying in bed. We sing songs, read books, pretend we're in a "big tent." I created this chant which she loves to say with me when we're hiding under the covers, "We're in the big tent, we're in the big tent. Hooray. Hooray." We say it two times in a row. She's so adorable when she says it. Hey, she's so adorable all the time -- hmmmm...except for when she has her tantrums, which really isn't all that often. And she always has a reason when she has her tantrum. She's either tired or hungry. Maylin's a really good kid -- obedient, gentle, and sweet. Also, she can be quite polite, saying, "thank you." She likes to follow the "thank you" with a "you're welcome" before I get a chance to say it myself.

I might take her to the movies this week to see the new Winnie-the-Pooh film. It will be in French, but I think we'll both get the gist of it even if we don't know every single word. "Winnie" in French is "Winnie L'Ourson," which is like Winnie-the-Bear. I guess "Pooh" is hard to translate.

So, last night, I prepared a "Mexican" fajita/taco dinner for our guests, which is not an easy feat in Paris. Flour tortillas can usually be found in the larger supermarkets, but a packet of 8 taco-sized tortillas can cost 3-4 euros (with one euro worth $1.3 American, the tortillas probably cost 5-7 times as much as in the States). Don't even think about looking for corn tortillas, or anything close to fresh. These heavily-preserved flour tortillas can last for several months. I really should make my own, but who has the time. I've looked at all the gourmet food stores that carry international foods and have found cans of refried beans at only one place, and those cost three and half euros per can! Ouch! They can cost fifty cents in the States! France claims to have 365 different cheeses, one for every day of the year, but doesn't have Monterey Jack. I didn't find fresh jalapenos anywhere either. Thank goodness I found cilantro and green onions, but they're not readily available most of the time. There's only two brands of tortilla chips, too. I made my own salsa, but had to resort to buying expensive, mediocre guacamole when I couldn't find avocados that were ripe enough. All in all, it was a successful, tasty dinner, but I think I made enough food for at least two more people. I was very happy with the chicken breast pieces I cooked on my grill-pan. Beautiful grill-marks! And so delicious and moist! I marinated the chicken for about an hour and a half in some soy sauce, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, salt, olive oil, and a little lime juice. Yum! I imported the chili powder from the States.

Mexican restaurants in Paris? Don't make me laugh. They don't exist. There are places that say they are "Tex-Mex" but they don't know what they're talking about. I won't set foot in those places after the horror stories I've heard. Someone ordered a quesadilla with salsa verde, but the essential ingredient, tomatillos, were not present in the "salsa verde," nor was the required cheese in the "quesadilla"!!!

It's fun to look around the international section of the gourmet food stores. And it's funny to look at what they have that's "American." Next to the exotic Indian and Mexican foods, you'll usually find marshmallows, marshmallow creme, and peanut butter. Rather depressing. Is American food culture really that bland? I'll occasionally see Oreos, brownie mix, and pancake mix, too, but not much more. Next to the American foods, you'll see the one item they have from Canada -- maple syrup!

Have a great Sunday!

Friday, April 15, 2005

"Handle" with care

It's 3:32 am, and I'm having trouble falling back asleep. John and Maylin have swapped beds for the night somehow, and both of them have left little room for Mommy in either bed. I've been ousted to the desk chair by the computer.

Yesterday afternoon, I had tea with a friend in the cafe/bar/restaurant on the ground floor of our building. This place is frequented by most of the blue-collar guys working on the countless renovation projects in the neighborhood because of its cheap coffee and beer. The quality of the food and drink is quite good, and the prices are much more reasonable than in most places in the 17th arrondissement, this somewhat classy district which some people might compare to the Upper Westside in Manhattan (New Yorkers, please correct me if I'm wrong). As Maylin and I inhaled ten times our usual dosage of second-hand smoke, I witnessed something that I wouldn't expect to see in a cafe in broad daylight. There was a couple, in their early thirties, standing by the bar, smoking and drinking their beers. They were not the usual yuppie-types I would expect to see in the area. The dead give-away was the woman, who was not wearing the black wool coat mandated by the Parisian fashion police of all women who want to be considered stylish. Instead, she had on a nylon, calf-length, champagne-colored quilted coat. Eeewww (uh oh, I hope I'm not turning into a fashion snob). Anyways, her boyfriend was whacking her derriere with such gusto that we could all hear it. This made my friend turn around to look, and by that time, his hand was resting on her behind with no intention of moving. Will someone remind me if this happens in the States or not?

Maylin had a playdate and lunch here at the apartment earlier the same day. I had invited our very helpful and friendly third floor, English-speaking French neighbor, her nearly three year-old son, and her linebacker five and a half month-old baby boy over to share some food and fun with us. Maylin's playmate, who will enter the same preschool in the fall, was having almost too good of a time at our place. Maylin was quite content with him when he was calm and rational (they hugged, held hands, watched French cartoons and a bit of an American Winnie-the-Pooh DVD together), but once he started tumbling on our couch and wanting everything she was holding in her hands at a given moment, Maylin got very frustrated. It was kind of a love-hate relationship. Maylin had gotten two serving spoons out of the kitchen drawer, and her playmate tried to wrench them out of her hands. She got very angry and wouldn't share, so I had to dig out two more serving spoons for our guest. But they were really cute eating lunch together at Maylin's kid-sized blue plastic IKEA table. They had their identical blue plastic IKEA cups and plates, and ate their identical meals of quiche and pineapple. They were very good eaters, both asking for seconds on the quiche.

Maylin has a new boyfriend at daycare. According to her teacher, this guy is the intellectual type (wears glasses) and is quite attractive, with blond hair and probably blue eyes (as is usually Maylin's preference). I was told that they were seen hugging and kissing. Yes, this is cute, but how old does she have to be when this gets dangerous?

My daughter thinks she's a dog

After rehearsal last night at my place, one of the singers told me that Maylin was exhibiting some very interesting behaviors while I was busy running things. Maylin was copying everything that our dog Leo was doing. Leo sat next to the seated singer and was enjoying some much-deserved attention and petting. Maylin sat on the other side and looked up pleadingly as if to say, "Pet me, too." My friend-singer gladly obliged, and when Leo lowered himself and received more petting, Maylin lowered herself, too. Her petting had stopped, so she looked up again with her big, dark eyes until she got what she wanted. Maylin followed Leo all over the house -- and if Leo went to lie down, Maylin did exactly the same thing, lying down on the floor, facing the same direction.

Maylin has some funny names for some of her favorite videos. "Charlotte's Web" has been retitled "Some Pig." "Toy Story 2" is now "Chicken Man." And, of course, "Kids' Favorite Songs 2" with Elmo from Sesame Street is called "Meatball," because of a running theme of a meandering meatball from the song, "On Top of Spaghetti."

Thursday, April 14, 2005

French kiss

In the U.S., people think of a French kiss as a very passionate gesture which should be avoided at all costs by teenagers wearing braces. But what a French "bisou" really is, in France, is a casual greeting or farewell shared between friends (female-female, female-male, male-male). So far, I've been keeping track of the several different permutations of this phenomenon. The most common type is the touching of right cheek to right cheek, followed by left cheek to left cheek, with a small, audible smacking sound each time. That's two kisses, right? Some people like three. Some people like four! Anything more than two usually throws me off a little. There's also the air kiss which I find really funny. The same motion is made as the previous "bisou," but the cheeks don't actually touch. The smacking sound is optional. The third type of kiss I encountered is one where you actually touch your lips to the other person's cheek, and he/she returns the favor. You wouldn't do this normally unless your friend put in a request earlier. The latest addition to my kiss list is the one where you are the recipient of two kisses, one on each side of the mouth. Not on the mouth, just near it. That's kind of nice if the guy is cute and you weren't expecting it. I'll let you know if I make any new discoveries in this arena.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Maylin update

After the concert on Sunday, one of my friends was kind enough to host a pizza dinner at her place for our families and our mutual friends. She has two boys, one of them being Maylin's "boyfriend." Maylin had a wonderful time, eating with the boys, running around with the boys -- all the while, not uttering one word! She was especially quiet that evening! I could hardly tell she was even there. But she was so happy with four boys to keep her company.

Monday was the most gorgeous day in a long time. Weather in Paris is so unpredictable. It was cold and overcast the previous weekend, but finally the sun broke through for a day and everyone was taking advantage of it during the two-hour customary French lunch break, 12-2 pm, by sitting on the benches in the park with their take-out lunches. Maylin and I bought lunch at a greasy Greek sandwich shop, which I now realize is only frequented by men for some strange reason. We got a lot of looks and I was eager to get out of there quick. We paid only four euros for a huge gyro with the greasiest fries ever on top and went to the park with the red train to eat and play. I let Maylin choose our spot by the grass. We sat down next to each other under the warm sun, I set up our food and drinks, and Maylin looked soooo happy. She fed herself fries and some meat from my sandwich, and drank from her Dora the Explorer sippy straw cup. She had a blast feeding the pigeons, too. Afterwards, she ran around on the grass, hugging all the little trees, and then went onto the playground train while I tried memorizing my music from the Magic Flute for the next rehearsal. She eventually found two other little girls about her age, and they seemed to hit it off instantly. They spent a good deal of the time in this tiny, mostly enclosed portion of the train engine. These three girls shared stickers with each other, and I actually saw and heard Maylin talking! What a remarkable thing! I don't know if the girls understood her English, but it didn't seem to matter. I know this must have been such a special moment for Maylin, so we stayed in the park as long as it lasted. Maylin came out briefly to retrieve her dou-dou, and then the three of them pretended to sleep on their dou-dous in their little cabin.

After coming back home, Maylin had a screamfest, resisting naptime the best she could, but finally settled under the blanket, which she calls a "comfy-cozy," and fell asleep on my head.

Maylin loves typing on the computer. I open up a blank document in Word, select the biggest size for the font, and then ask her to find particular letters. I think she knows about six letters. She'll type her favorite letters over and over again. Maybe I'll cut and paste her work into my blog sometime.

She just woke up now after eleven and a half hours of sleep! She's in a real good mood. Maylin requested baguette for breakfast, and after I asked her if she wanted it buttered, she said, "Put the butter on the baguette." Wow. This from a girl who never talks at school.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Metro escapade

Two Tuesdays ago, after dropping Maylin off at school a little earlier than I normally do, I rushed off to the Porte de Champerret metro station with exactly thirty minutes to get to my first French group lesson in a long time. I hurriedly inserted my ticket into the turnstile and thought I saw the red light come up, which means you need to stop, not go through the turnstile, and visit the ticket agent at the counter to see what's wrong with your ticket. It was probably an old ticket that I used accidentally, but I didn't have time to stop for anything (I HAVE to be on time for class...for everything). I looked back quickly to see if the agent noticed anything and since he didn't glance my way, I just hurried down the stairs to the platform to wait for the next train.

The ride was uneventful. I had to get off at St. Lazare to transfer from line 3 to line 12. The station at St. Lazare is huge -- it's a major transfer point, and also has access to the big trains that take you outside of Paris to the rest of France and beyond. It always feels like a 10-15 minute walk to get to line 12, and with all the construction going on and the poor signage which is customary in France, a tourist would have gotten completely lost. There's a spot on the way where I'll often find some confused-looking people, spinning around slowly, looking for a sign that will help clear the confusion. Sometimes, it's hidden near the ceiling behind some pipes and electrical wiring, or it's hanging by a thin chain, or it's just not there and you have to flip a coin. But before you reach the Bermuda triangle, you have to take a detour through the platform of line 13 to get back on the path towards line 12. You're almost there when you reach the bottom of the stairs that wind down to the right. Boom -- surprise! There are three agents there with their handheld scanners to check to see if your ticket is valid. I ran into these guys before, but I had totally forgotten about them. I had actually thrown away my bad ticket at Porte de Champerret, but it wouldn't have helped anyway even if I had had it. The man who asked for my ticket didn't wait for me to produce one, but went on to the woman behind me, who had problems with her monthly pass. I made a poor effort to show I was trying to be helpful -- pretending to not know any French, "I threw my ticket away -- in the 'poubelle.'" He impatiently replied that he couldn't understand me, and continued to figure out the situation with the faulty pass. There was a female agent writing a citation to another woman. After the citation was completed, the woman walked away and the agent and I just blankly looked at each other for a moment. She looked like she didn't care what I did, or she didn't know that I was a ticketless passenger, so I just walked away quietly until I was out of their sight -- then I bolted, ran like the wind, until I reach my platform. Just in case they were following me, I walked down to the furthest point and tried to change my appearance the best I could (as I learned from a Pink Panther movie I watched the previous week) by taking off my red backpack and my hooded black jacket. I faced the opposite direction and, fortunately, some people made a little crowd near me, obscuring me further.

The train arrived, I got on, the doors closed. I was free.

Concert news

Maylin's in bed early! Yay! She fell asleep at around 10 pm -- that hasn't happened in awhile. Often, she can stay up until midnight without having a meltdown. It makes it rather convenient if we have people over for a late dinner.

Anyways, it's been ages since I've written, and I'm already feeling withdrawal symptoms. I apologize for the delay, but I've been completely wiped out from nearly a week's worth of very poor quality sleep due to Maylin's sickness (she's fine now) and then due to her own manipulation of Mommy. She would start waking up at 3 am, or 5 am, and would ask for water every hour or so. Most recently, two nights have involved requests of pre-daybreak toast. One night, I had to listen to, "Mommy, I want toast," in a whiney, crybaby voice repeatedly for almost 10 minutes straight. One time, she just said, "toastie, " which was cute, for awhile...

Friday, I was not feeling well. I thought I had caught Maylin's bug and was trying to take it easy -- I wanted to be 100% by concert Sunday. But I did have a dress rehearsal scheduled for that night. I called the director to ask what he'd prefer -- to have me stay home and keep the germs to myself, or to come anyway. It turned out that the cellist was definitely not coming, the one person who could've at least covered some of my part -- so, I had to cover for her. The director seemed eternally grateful that I was able to help him out despite my poor health.

I rested on Saturday, and cleaned on Sunday before the concert in preparation for the babysitter's arrival that afternoon. The concert was at 5 pm, and I knew Maylin could not make it through, like her usual angel self, during that very difficult hour, which was sometimes nap time, and sometimes dinner time. Anyways, she would've been either hungry or tired -- there was "disaster" written all over it, so I hired the sitter.

At 3 pm that Sunday, John and Maylin helped me set up my digital piano, which can go from harpsichord to Baroque organ with the press of a button (thank goodness I didn't sell this great instrument when I bought my baby grand in the States -- this was before we knew we were going to move to Paris). The concert venue was at a church, but was not in the chapel, visible from the street at ground level. We were actually performing in a much larger worship space under the chapel (another "thank goodness": I suggested that we put up signs saying that the concert was down below -- I later found that these signs were very helpful, otherwise my friends might have left in confusion!). Things were a bit disorganized, especially since we didn't actually have our dress rehearsal at the church!!! I see it as a requirement to have your final big, big rehearsal before a concert at the actual concert venue to look for ideal places to set up, to get used to the different acoustic, etc.

The concert went well, as a whole. The audience really enjoyed it. Some people gave us a standing ovation -- crazy people (just kidding). I had about 17 friends show up, with four of them under the age of 6. The youngest ones had to leave during intermission, but they were great during the first half.

Yes, I'm a perfectionist, so I have all these criticisms. I'm sorry, but you'll have to hear them. The first thing that happened out of the ordinary was the director taking one of the soprano-bass duets super-fast! I almost broke into a sweat, and the singers probably nearly collapsed. Okay, I'm exaggerating, but this director likes to take things super-slow normally, so we were in a bit of a shock. I think he was a little excited. The other thing, that I've seen happen with other conductors, was a wrong cue. During one bass aria, after a period of rest for the singer, the director cued the bass to come in a measure too early and, unfortunately, the bass, who knew better, fell for it. While this disaster was happening, I was thinking, "Please let this be as painless as possible. Let the agony end soon." Fortunately for all of us, it was a short phrase that ended within 8 bars or so. I think we all let out a big, communal sigh of relief. Following the intermission was one of the Vivaldi guitar concertos. It would have been quite nice if the second violin didn't happen to be out of tune for the fast movements. She was perfect during the slow movements. In another usually very beautiful soprano-bass duet, the oboes completely lost control -- I would have much rather preferred having geese honk instead of having the oboes there. Yeah, that's too harsh. I don't think it was really all their fault. They didn't get a chance to warm up their instruments properly beforehand. Come to think of it, I don't think they warmed up at all. They should've been allotted some time to warm up in that very cold church (much of the audience remained in their coats for the entire concert -- how I envied them).

Enough of my gripe session. The singers were really great -- I'm proud of them. And the concertmaster was flawless. During the final bows, the director motioned to have me come to the front and stand with the singers. I thought that was rather unconventional but I was flattered just the same. Even though I had my complaints, I enjoyed doing the whole concert immensely. I'd do it again, even with all its flaws. I thought the music chosen was really exquisite. Most of it was Bach cantata material, and you know, I'm such a fan of that guy.

ADDED Wednesday, April 13
[I did forget to say that I was a little insecure of my entire performance, only because I could not hear myself at all! When I had the organ setting, the sound went into the church but never came back to me, or it did, but I couldn't hear myself over the orchestra and singers. So that was a little scary. I had to put all my trust into my fingers.]

I almost forgot to mention the strangest thing that happened during the concert. Okay, imagine this very live acoustic in this underground church. Any sound you make is amplified 5 times maybe. Or the sound is at least carried for a longer time. So, right before one of the pieces started, some person lets out the biggest fart ever from the back of the audience. We were all so incredulous that no one laughed! To me, it sounded fake -- like a whoopie cushion or something -- but later reports confirmed that it was the real thing. It was said that the event occurred in the more elderly section of the audience. Great, something I get to look forward to during the golden years. Oh wait, I remember what that's like. Anyone who's ever been pregnant, or has been in constant, close company with a pregnant woman, is familiar with this.

I'm running out of steam now, so I think I'll go to bed. Look forward to reading about my metro escapade soon. Boy, I love the metro. I could write a whole book just about the metro.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Doctor's visit

Maylin wasn't feeling too well today, and I was completely exhausted from three nights of hardly any sleep, so we had a quiet day together. No school for Maylin, no rehearsal for Mommy. For two nights, she's had a fever that's made it difficult for her to sleep. Once we got some Tylenol into her, she settled down and was able to rest. During the day, strangely, she's been fine. We went to the pediatrician yesterday, but Maylin checked out completely normal. She's 28 lbs. and 35.4 inches long.

It was kind of funny when we were called to step into the doctor's office. Maylin was having a good time in the waiting room with all the cool toys, including an antique kid-sized 1950's car, and then when she saw the office, the desk, the doctor behind the desk, she started whimpering. I tried to soothe her, but it only made it worse. Then it was full-on screaming for the rest of the visit. It was hardly embarrassing for me -- I'm getting used to her strong reaction towards doctors. But it was tough, real tough, to hold her down to get examined. She's so big and strong, with her hands all over the place, trying to push the doctor's hands away. How come I don't hear other kids screaming and struggling at the doctor's offices here?

Well, I need to get some sleep if I want to keep all these bad bugs away. I know two friends who are sick now. The viruses are out again, having a blast.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Music, food, and yoga

Monday night I went to my rehearsal for the Sunday concert, and it was quite an ego-booster for me. I got a lot of kudos for my playing, but I think I only really stood out from the crowd because the concertmaster was absent and, therefore, couldn't lead the string section, and the oboes were really out of it -- out of tune, playing their own tempos, etc. The cellist was great, though. In Baroque music, the cello and the keyboard make up the basso continuo, which is the backbone of the music, consisting of bass line and harmony, and we were totally in sync.

At this rehearsal, I saw the other two singers for the first time, the soprano and bass. The soprano, who has a lovely voice that sounds perfect for Baroque music, was "plus petite" (smaller) than me! I was in awe (and staring with my mouth wide open) as I saw this tiny person produce a voice that boomed out of her very thin frame. The bass had an equally beautiful voice, but he also had an incredible physique and stunning visage. He looked like he stepped out of a razor commercial. Actually, he was unshaven, but had the perfect face to show off any shaving product. I told my friend Sophie, who showed up to turn pages for me, that I would set her up with him if he was "celibataire" (single).

Yesterday, I had my first group French lessons in a long time. Only two students, including myself, were present at a given time, so it was nice to get all my questions answered and not feel self-conscious. We amused ourselves quite a bit with the final exercise which took half an hour. The other student and I took turns reading descriptions of yoga poses in French while the other person demonstrated the poses. The first pose made me look like a Buddha, with my hands joined above my head, and one knee bent so that the bottom of my foot was touching the inside of my thigh. I was balancing on my other leg for quite a long time, which wouldn't have been possible if I hadn't studied ballet in Berkeley with a rigorous teacher for about four months before moving to Paris. My fellow student, a Brit who was in semi-retirement and had been living in a suburb between Paris and Versaille for fourteen months, had the bad luck of getting all the poses that required him to lie on the floor, either on belly or back. We didn't actually make him do them, though.

I cooked dinner for some lovely friends of ours last night. We started out with a cheese plate (which, in France, is normally served as the dessert course -- and you must also serve your cheeses in odd numbers, so we had three cheeses) and baguette, moved onto a chowder with prawns, had a simple salad of baby greens dressed with my balsamic vinaigrette, followed that with the main course of roast pork loin and green beans sauteed in garlic and butter, and finished it all off with a very chocolatey-moussey dessert which our friends brought. All this food was accompanied with some beautiful red wine. Throughout this entire dinner, Maylin was sleeping on the floor in the hallway, some of the time sleeping with her knees and head on the ground and her butt in the air. We assume she was hiding from our dinner guests and had just konked out. I didn't move her because I didn't want to wake her and risk missing out on half the dinner, and plus, it was really funny to see her in these strange positions. Maylin also has a history of sleeping standing up, bent over the couch or a chair.

Bonne journee!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Her room smells yummy

During the day, my daughter's room can smell like roast chicken, garlic, and occasionally, something burnt to a crisp. Maylin has the luck of living above the kitchen of a cafe-restaurant. No other room in our apartment has the same luxury of smelling like "le plat de jour" (today's special). Today, it smells really garlicky. I'm tempted to go down for lunch, but I have plenty of groceries to cook today.

Maylin has a little boyfriend. He is the eldest son of one of my friends. This past weekend, John took Maylin and our dog, Leo, to have a playdate in the Bois de Boulogne with my friend's husband and their two young sons, ages 2 1/2 and 5. The kids played with rocks and sticks, and Maylin copied everything her special friend was doing. I heard they also did a lot of hand-holding. Maybe they're a little young to be getting so involved with each other, but they were chaperoned, so I'm okay with it.

On Saturday, Maylin surprised us during a walk by saying, "Look at that doggie!" Usually, she'd say, "doggie, look," or "look, doggie," so I was a bit blown away.

She's also opening doors now which is a little dangerous since we don't have any locks on the bedroom doors. I can just imagine her coming in for a surprise visit during an intimate moment.

Ever since Maylin started going to daycare-school, I've been able to have a bit of sanity during my grocery shopping, without her. I remember the nightmares of chasing her around the store, stopping her from poking her finger into all the cheeses, and sweating profusely during her embarrassing tantrums. She's much more mature now, and I've learned to never leave home without her cup and something to eat, like a baguette.

Getting groceries in France for the first time can be a frustrating experience. First of all, you sometimes have to weigh your own produce on a scale which prints out a little sticker you put on your bagged fruit or vegetables. If you forget to do this when you're checking out, you're in trouble. If you don't know much French, then you really have no idea what's going on as the cashier loses patience with you and the people in line start fuming. Eventually, you figure it out and go back to weigh everything, or the cashier does it for you, reluctantly, thinking, "stupid Americans." After all that, you have to also bag your own groceries. I don't mind it so much now, but I just hate making people wait behind me, so I put everything in my backpack as fast as I can, put my bank card in the machine, and punch in my pin code. When I'm multi-tasking like this, I feel like an octopus with eight tentacles reaching out for my wallet, the fish, the fruit -- all at the same time. An alternative to this circus is ordering your groceries online and having them delivered. Many Parisians shop for their produce and seafood at the outdoor or covered markets, which can be very convenient, but you're not allowed to touch the food. I prefer to pick my own produce at the supermarket.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Out and About in Paris

While John took Maylin to the public pool yesterday, I went to return some music scores to two libraries near the Eiffel Tower. I probably could have walked all the way (half an hour walk?), but I had to get back by 4 pm so John could go to the gym to workout before our dinner with a friend. I walked quickly to the Charles de Gaulle Etoile metro station, where the Arc de Triomphe is located, and was enjoying seeing so many people out and about. People young and old, walking everywhere to shop, eat lunch, get some exercise. In our neighborhood, there is an abundance of young families with babies and toddlers. So there are poussettes (strollers) everywhere. I even saw a couple on roller blades, pushing their poussette across a busy intersection.

When I don't have Maylin tagging along, I'm able to see Paris with open eyes and notice so many interesting things. I saw a well-dressed woman in her late-sixties, with a horrible wig on her head and big, dark-rimmed glasses, do a bad job of trying to hide an open, upright wine bottle in her handbag. Outside of the library, walking behind me, was a father and his son having a bilingual conversation, with dad speaking only in American English and junior speaking in beautiful, perfect French. There were other interesting things which I totally forgot. I'm going to start keeping a little notebook with me at all times -- you never know when you'll see something bizarre or when you'll think of something brilliant that will sound totally stupid a few hours later.

Oops, I've got to go. On Sundays, it's hard to scrounge up groceries in the afternoon because everything closes up! More later!

Friday, April 01, 2005

A few memories of my alma mater

Many of you know that I attended an all-girls' school for the last half of my high school career. I was there as a boarding student, of my own free will. As it was an expensive private school, I was only able to attend at the time due to the generosity of my grandfather. I jumped at the offer, thinking that going to an elite college prep school would probably prepare me better for college than a regular public high school. I certainly obtained the study skills and the writing ability, but I did have some excellent teachers at my first high school and I know they would have nurtured me to the best of their ability.

In the fall of 1990, I crossed the threshold of my new environment, ready to face the fact that there would be no boys...whatsoever. It's hard to believe that this 16 year-old girl was willing to exchange any possibility of male companionship for a two-year relationship with books. But as was normal for a teenage girl deprived of the presence of boys, I had crushes on virtually every testerone-laden being in sight on campus. So if you were a male teacher under the age of 40, most likely you had at least 30, maybe 50, girls in short uniform skirts adoring you in the most secretive manner possible. How embarrassing would that be if your friends found out you had a crush on your physics teacher! My best friend confessed and I don't think we stopped teasing her until after graduation. But, of course, our group of friends eventually discovered my crush, too.

My first quarter (or was it semester?) was pretty demoralizing. I came in as a straight-A student, and was quickly coming to realize that I was way behind academically. My rare encounter with a D- was in my English class, where I discovered I was writing at junior high level, not college level. The teacher, who was a very tough Hillary Clinton-type, was on the AP English review board, so of course, she had very high expectations for our writing. After some help, I received a C+ on my next essay. By some stroke of luck, my GPA was saved when a substitute teacher was called in after Mrs. Clinton left, to score AP English exams, I suppose.

As you can probably imagine, I was involved in every possible musical activity on campus. I was in the orchestra, string club, honors choir, an a cappella group, the school musical, and every music class offered. I also took piano lessons on campus, and made futile attempts to keep up my independent violin studies. Composing music became a great passion of mine as I chose to write a dramatic/musical piece for my senior project. I had dreams of becoming a film score composer. I also had the opportunities to student-direct the choir and run one of the orchestra rehearsals when our teacher was indisposed -- both activities coming quite naturally to me. I didn't really take advantage of this gift of directing music groups until my trip to Taiwan after graduating college.

That's another story.

Hot Chocolate at Angelina's

Yesterday, the women of the expat wives club I helped organize met at Angelina's to chat over divine hot chocolate and quiche. The famous Angelina's, located near the Louvre (but, more precisely, across from the Jardin des Tuileries), is a lavishly decorated tea room that serves the best hot chocolate in the world, according to many of its frequent visitors. "Le chocolat Africain" is nothing like Nestle, or even Ghiradelli, hot chocolate. It tastes like a melted gourmet chocolate bar, and it's served with lovely whipped cream on the side. I'm glad eight of us were able to show up to share stories about living in Paris and to share information valuable in making life easier here. Of course, when you get eight ladies together, you're going to hear some husband complaints, too. It's interesting to be able to have a yardstick to measure your husband against, and I think John is way ahead (lucky me).

I took the metro over to Angelina's and had a strange encounter with a man who was probably in his late 60's. He was eyeing me before I boarded the train, and when I sat down, he sat down next to me, giving me hardly any breathing room. When we reached my stop, I stood up quickly to move past him towards the opening doors. I thought I had cleared him, but his foot somehow got in the way and I bumped up against it. He said, "pardon," and grabbed my waist with one hand as if to prevent me from falling, but I wasn't about to fall. I don't like to stereotype, but here are some observations. French men look, but usually don't touch. I've found by experience that it's often the Italians who are touchy-feely. The Middle Eastern men are the least reserved verbally and some will ask you for your number even after you've told them that you're married and have a kid! I still feel very safe moving about Paris despite the unwanted advances. I don't feel any danger, only disgust sometimes.

I have lost touch with some of my dear friends after many moves over the years. If you want to get in touch with me, post a comment and leave your e-mail address (I think you will have to register as a blog user, but it's easy to do). If I know you, I will most likely respond. If I don't know you, I'll think about it.

I know it's April Fool's Day today, but everything in my journal is true today. Have a good one!