⪧ We left our life in New York City to make a new one in Provence ⪦

October 31, 2013

Halloween.



Halloween is fantastic at our house. Mostly because Marguerite is always here for the holiday, but also because we live in a festive neighborhood, where ghosts and goblins and witches don almost every door and the city closes off the block to let disguised children run the street for the night. Colette was, of course, immediately sold on the whole thing. "CAN-Y"! "CAN-Y"! shouted she, as she clomped around the house and down the street in her cowgirl boots and hat - wide-eyed at the variety of creatures roaming surrounding her. Marguerite has found some neighborhood friends who took her on a round of the block. When they arrived, she pronounced "Hold on a moment, I need to go find my magic wand," in perfect English. (Just this year her English has really taken hold. Up to this point, she has been hesitant and shy - a very different Marguerite in one language than the other. Now, American Marguerite is bold and her grammar mistakes don't deter her at all. She chatters to Colette in a mixture of the two languages - American accent thick! - and Colette chatters back mixing words in both (Colette's first full sentence was in French: Bateau sur l'eau. It will be fascinating to see where these little ladies land).







Then we had a little soirée chez nous - complete with black and white checkered mystery man in black and dancing skeletons.



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A little Madonna dancing for the girls. Training à l'Uncle Stephen.


Dreamy cowgirl.

Lung capacity.

I have been hiding. Not purposefully. Not literal avoidance, but most of my friends and family would probably agree that I am not easy to reach. Xavier went on a long trip and it made me think about single parents and their ceaseless sweat. It was a hard moment for me because I was studying for that investment banking exam I had to pass (and I was certain I would not pass…the results of the exam are immediately sent from FINRA to your company, so I was convinced that I would walk back to work to shamefaced) and I had some additional pressures generally, fielding many things at once. Now that a lot of that is behind me – that regulatory hurdle is over for work, Xavier is back (and treats parenting as half his) – I should be able to breathe easier. But I find my breath still short and not just because I am 7½ months pregnant and baby is a very large stow away, hoarding space where lungs should stretch.

I look around me at women who work at my firm and have small children and just sort of wonder. What turmoil is behind the window dressing? The place I work is really intense – a lot of type A sorts, perfectionists, Wall-Street investment bankers. And there are women here. Sometimes the firm sponsors events for the Women’s Network – discussions about work/life balance or the book “Lean In” (the conversation was ironically and somewhat hilariously dominated by male voices). It would be easy to think that these women are just birthing vehicles for their children, who then sort of leave them in other people’s hands, but I actually don’t think that is true. My conversations with them belie that version of the tale. They are obsessed with their babies like other mothers I know (like me) and their versions of motherhood feel much nobler than I ever gave them credit for in the past (sometimes a Mormon background gives one the tendency to pity children whose mothers aren’t omnipresent – I find myself pitying Colette in that way and have to stop myself when I realize how she is flourishing).

Motherhood guilt is gripping (I am sure fatherhood guilt as well, but I can only speak for my experience) – it strips me of vanity, of self-care, of so many things. I find it slipping in after me as the subway doors close - haunting me for the ride, as I look down at my phone during the day – wishing the screen would feed back more clues about Colette than just small green bubbled words when the text message reports come in, as I stand with my keys at the front door in the evening – waiting to open it until I take one deep deep breath – steadying myself for the “second shift” (the most vital one). The tricky thing about “motherhood” is that it is so gripping – small underperformances feel colossal and every other mother’s choices and arrangement feel like a ruling on your own (and yours on theirs). All heightened for a girl who comes from a culture where a very specific arrangement for motherhood is accepted as true/good/valuable/moral.

And then, the craziest part is that when I forget about the lung space situation, I actually forget that a little lady #2 will be here in early January!

October 30, 2013

October 27, 2013

Jack-O-Lanterns.



Pumpkin carving with some stellar uncles and friends.







I chose a white pumpkin this year. Tried for some art nouveau floral patterns - looked a bit more like flames in the end.

October 24, 2013

Pumpkin Patch.





The past week was intense. In every second of spare time (except this one outing to the pumpkin patch), I was studying. Studying for an exam I never dreamed I would take - the FINRA Series 79 Investment Banking exam. I started working at Blackstone with hardly any knowledge of stocks, equities or income statements, let alone valuations in private equity. Alas, here I am about 4 years later with certified knowledge! The exam was 5 hours long - and at the end of the 5 hours I pressed "finish" on the exam screen and scrunched up my whole face (my whole body, really - sorry baby - although I do hope all of that studying was absorbed in my uterus as well) in apprehension. (Recommended study time for this exam is 100 hours - pretty sure with everything going on I did not reach that threshold). When I saw "Result: Passed" I laughed out loud (in a very quiet exam room). Such a relief. Last weekend, I told Xavier that I had a small window of time for one non-exam related thing: pumpkin-patching. And it was such a glorious fall day for the occasion. These girls are so so so sweet. Colette romping around shouting "punkin" - it doesn't get better.



And just as exciting as my exam result is the fact that Marguerite is in town. She showed up and Colette has just been beaming, laughing, overflowing exhilaration. We all have.













October 20, 2013

Phone call.


Urgent call Totoro! Love his detached expression.
(Xavier caught little lady making calls on her red phone).

October 19, 2013

October 15, 2013

The Cloisters.



Xavier has been traveling so Colette and I have been on a few adventures of our own. On Sunday, we went to The Cloisters to hear the Janet Cardiff Forty Part Motet. It is sublime. Please do go. We stood in the twelfth-century apse (Fuentidueña Chapel) and listened with wide-eyes (Colette's wider than anyone else's) as each speaker's individual voice sounded. We moved around the room to hear the baritones, the basses, the altos, tenors, and child sopranos ebbing and flowing to the music (Spem in alium numquam habui by Tudor composer Thomas Tallis ca. 1505–1585). She was quiet with wonder. She kept spinning her head around the look for the people to whom the voices belonged. And, of course, The Cloisters are divine themselves and worth a romp. (A word of caution: hugging the medieval lions is strictly forbidden however, and lion roars are only slightly amusing to this crowd).

















October 12, 2013

Les délégués.



Voilà. The promotional poster Marguerite made for her class election this week. It says (and the phonetic spelling on this poster is as charming as it gets): "Vote for me. I have never been elected as a delegate and I would be a good delegate and represent the class well, Marguerite...and please, vote for me - this is me" (with an arrow pointing to her drawing).

This is an apprenticeship in democracy to which all French students get exposed from the very beginning of primary school up to the end of their education. Every class has two délégués, who address problems in the class and propose ideas to make life better for students. They act as representatives for the students and are the intermediary between the students and the professor (Xavier explained that there is a forum every year where teachers discuss all students one by one and determine who will be held back that year - in France, this is a chunk of students, unlike the US. The delegates are present to represent their peers. Hefty job!)

I love France for things like this. We were having a casual conversation the other night and Xavier made some comment about someone: "le mec qui n'achète pas son pain lui meme" (the guy who doesn't even buy his own bread). I smiled (the meaning of the statement really didn't reach me) and he insisted. This is a true measure of sincerity in France. Every year, députés (from the National Assembly) are asked, "Combien coute une baguette de pain aujourd'hui?" (How much does a baguette cost?) and those who can actually cite the correct amount, down the centime, are respected - the inability to do so gets discussed in re-election considerations.

I just hope Marguerite gets elected and keeps her feet on the ground and continues to buy bread in the boulangerie herself.

October 6, 2013

3 Cousins in NYC.


Cloister posing.


Ice cream cheers.


Telephone calls.


The world for the taking.
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