January 30, 2012

I made it home

to catch this across the street tonight.

January 29, 2012

Je me sens obligée de faire ma maline.

The beauty expert. J'adore. No, I generally do not ingest Allure or other such intercommunication; however, this month's issue is special. The first reason is that a photograph I took is there. Granted, it is a small photograph - a credit photograph of the real photographer: Chris Melton, the real reason this issue makes my headlines. Chris (one of my very best friends) shot a story for Allure this month and that is worth promulgation. His photographs are clearly galactic.

(This is a photo I took while hanging out with Chris in Provincetown this summer).

And now the really impressive part:

Bravo, Christopher Melton. Here is to the start of a substantive, celebrated and brilliant career...

And, ladies, remember: seduction starts now.

January 28, 2012


Xavier pulled out two expressions this week that really got me - the second one made me laugh like crazy:

1. "On peut rentrer comme dans un moulin." (We can get in like going into a windmill). Xavier said this about the hospital when we were recently there for a birthing class. It is an idiomatic expression that means anyone can get in - no security, no restrictions.

2. " Je n'ai pas envie de poireauter comme ça." (I don't want to leek [stand around and wait] like this). For the life of me, I could not pick out the verb he had just used in his phrase when he said this, so I asked him to review. He looked at me like it was obvious, told me it was poireauter and when I still looked confused (I did not know this verb), he said, "You know, it comes from - poireau - the one who stands tall, is white and green and has white hair coming out the bottom." At this point, it still wasn't clear he was referring to a vegetable, but when I realized it I had to cross my legs not to pee from laughing. Apparently, leeks (poireau) have a clear relationship with waiting in French, which is not at all clear to me. Furthermore, the full idiomatic expression is "poireauter 107 ans" (to leek for 107 years) - the time it took to build Notre Dame. (Even stranger is the relationship between leeks and Notre Dame).

Also, leeks are not the only idiomatic vegetable reference in French. Carrots have their phrase too: carotter is to steal something from someone in French. Again, the relationship between carrots and stealing is flustering.

Others include:

"Je n'ai plus un radis" (I don't have a radish left) - I am totally broke.

"C'est la fin des haricots !" (I'm out of beans) - I'm in deep trouble.

January 24, 2012

Raising children.

Last night, Xavier showed me a piece about the differences between French and American parents. An easily generalizable compare/contrast exercise. It goes something like this: French parents are authoritative. French parents don't allow their kids to...(long list). French parents' whole worlds do not revolve around their children. French parents often sound mean. American parents allow their kids too much freedom. American parents value creativity and expression. American parents are lax and lazy with their children. American parents allow their kids to throw food in restaurants (well, maybe not exactly that - but to that tune).

The conversation is not that simple. Individual parents act in individual ways, regardless of their cultural parameters and setting. That said, I do think that cultural differences in the way 'childhood' itself is dreamed up, conceived of and disciplined are real. I watch this close up in the way Marguerite is parented by her two French parents and in watching other French parents I know well - what is valued, what is emphasized, what is insisted on for a child.

Having lived in France for three years and watching French people raise children with whom I am close has given me exposure to real cultural differences. It is true that there is less tolerance for children in France in public spaces to behave like 'children' (as Americans might define the term). It is true that when a child in a public space behaves this way, there is quite a lot of judgement from passersby (none of which is silent). It is true that a French parent will tell a child directly that they are in the middle a conversation and will not tolerate interruption. It is also true that American parents often feel their children are incapable of 'behaving' in public spaces - that while eating, a child will be all over the place. It is also true that many American parents interrupt whatever they are doing to concentrate on a child.

While these differences may be observable, I think "good parenting" comes down to a question of what parents or a society value in their children. If the answer is compliance, how your child is perceived, or "good behavior" (however that is defined given the cultural context), then a more severe approach is useful. If the answer is something different (creativity, self-expression, liberty, etc.) that approach can be challenged.

My sister sent me this link recently on parenting - also fascinating in the context of this discussion (somewhat extreme on the other side of the spectrum).

I have thought a lot about this - being a quasi-parent already. Throughout Marguerite's life, I have had an indefinite role. I imagine many step-parents feel this way. My experience has been different than a lot of other step-parents in that Marguerite will never not remember me in her life - I've been here since she was a baby. She has two parents who have insisted heavily on the codification of parenthood - of being her "mom" and her "dad" - the nomencleture imports a lot of meaning here. This is probably largely due to the circumstances and the desire to have control over a tough situation. I have never wanted to be Marguerite's mom. It doesn't ever occur to me, but there has been a lot of insistence on the fact that I am not.

Mlle. has absorbed some of this insistence (although most of our interactions are pure and untainted by these dynamics). In Central Park recently, Marguerite made me laugh when she was eyeing cotton candy with wishful eyes and her dad was up ahead of us. I said, "Would you like some cotton candy, Marguerite." Her response, "Yes! But Papa may not be OK with that." I told her that I could approve such a purchase and snack. She said, "Yeah - I mean, you are a parent, but you are not a parent who made me - I could only come out of one belly." True. Very true. She reiterated the possession sentiment of many parents - that the child is theirs.

This naming of who is a parent and who is not has made me think hard about the approach I want to take with my children. I have a strong connection with Marguerite and feel a bond with her that parallels other family bonds I have. She has a similar sense of connection with me. I understand the visceral feelings a parent might feel may not be present for me with this little girl, but my interests for her mirror what her parents (at least what her dad) want for her.

So, then I think about little fetus and what will happen when she comes out. I have rational thoughts about it - I never want to operate under the mentality that my children are literally 'mine.' I guess, just because I made the child does not signify something greater than a responsibility for her - not something she owes me (behaviorally or in her life choices or politics or philosophy). Easy to say. I hope I'll be able to remember it since a lot of parenting that I don't admire seems to stem from the inherent insistence on possession in the parent-child relationship. In lots of ways, I feel lucky having been able to parent Marguerite since ownership has been extracted and I still have to care and mind her in a similar role. I think I will use my relationship with her as a reference point quite often as a way to stay fair in my interactions with 'my own' kids.

I also fully intend to strap this child on my back or front and travel during my time off of work (paid!). I figure I would be crazy not to. People tell me I am delirious and all I will want to do is stay home near a crib. Nuts. Seems to me that a newborn is a pretty good travel companion.

Ooooh...and on another subject entirely (but equally fascinating when it comes to raising young humans), read this on my friend Aralena's blog.

January 23, 2012


Here is an idea: throw a raclette party. Our raclette party was both a throwback to my Swiss heritage and our days in Paris, where we had a raclette machine and would often buy a half a wheel of raclette cheese for such an occasion. Xavier recently bought a raclette machine - not with a huge wheel - but with small cooking trays, which you use to scrape off the melted cheese onto a plate of potatoes or prosciutto and ham. We couldn't find raclette at Eataly, but Whole Foods had chunks of it. And the cornichons - oh the cornichons.

January 21, 2012

January 16, 2012

Road Closed.



Three warnings...(Stephen and I were still pretty sure that they weren't really serious - that there had to be a passage through).

We were wrong.

These little boys playing cricket (in what had been the roadway) informed us that about a month or two ago a pipe had burst. Some Barbadian pipe. Driving adventures. One of my favorite details about Barbados was the bus stops. They were all named after women: Dawn, Sharon, Jessica, Shandra, Anita, Misha, Judy - a small, consistent sign hanging above the waiting bench. You could say to someone, "Meet me at Jessica and we'll go from there." Delightful.

January 15, 2012

The other side of the island.

We drove to the other side of the island - the remote, Atlantic side. Barbados is the easternmost island in the Caribbean - the next landmass sailing east is Cape Verde and the African continent. The resorts on Barbados are built on the westward facing side of the island - the calmer side of the water (and the currents here are still very powerful). The westward facing side of the island is built out - a lot of resorts and properties crowding the shore. The Atlantic side, however, is bare. It is wild. Surfers love the water here and swimmers avoid it entirely. The waves crash on layers of rock in many different places - creating horizontal stripes of parallel crashing waves - not a unified line of waves near the shore.

We hardly saw other tourists over here and driving along, we only saw locals. Everyone we passed waved good-naturedly at us with apple-cheek smiles. Barbadians are lovely folks. The beach we found on the Atlantic side is called Bathsheba.

Loved the formal-wear of these palms, swaying in the wind.

January 14, 2012


My brother Stephen and I have been talking about a getaway for a long time. We decided on Barbados and this weekend. Barbados because last year I traveled so much for work, I acquired enough Hilton points for many free Hilton nights and Barbados has a 5-star Hilton resort. (This is not generally the sort of place I'd choose to stay for a vacation spot, but it is hilarious and has its perks). This weekend because it is technically the last weekend some airlines are comfortable letting pregnant ladies fly (~32 weeks). So here we are (Xavier is also really cool). Enjoying karaoke performances near the cabana at night (we swore Miss Piggy was up there crooning Abba last night), floating in the multi-layered pools. During the day, we thankfully rented a car to get off the resort complex and explore the island. Stephen has been doing brilliantly driving on the other side of the road...

At a resort like this one, no one is in the ocean (except these surfers) and everyone is in the pools. People are scared. Stephen and I are more ocean-ers. The tidal pull here and the waves are really impressive. One of the skills I list on my CV is "negotiating large waves," because I am very adept, having spent my first 2 years of university in Hawaii. Even 8 months pregnant, pas de probleme. In fact, I have dreams all the time about waves. Big ones. Overpowering ones. Being in water like this is really soothing at the moment because I become weightless and I can work it - swim really hard - and not feel impeded by the belly I've grown. I also feel like labor will probably be like waves - I can come up for air in between - that sort of thing. The little fetus seems to like the water too. She moves all around and kicks when I get out. Enthusiasm. She is going to be like her mother. She better be a galactic swimmer from the start to fit in.

January 10, 2012


Such a tricky issue. Naming. Even trickier when a lot of the people who will be pronouncing your baby's name speak one language and not the other, or the other and not the other (and even trickier still when your naming partner is Xavier - you'll see what I mean as I continue). We have gone through lists of names and decided on a few, only to overturn them (maybe). Most parents probably do this. Were this child a boy, he would be Louis (likely) - a family name and a good French one, obviously. Loo-eee. Easy pronunciation. She is girl though, and I have my heart set on one name and Xavier hums and haws about it and won't agree. Before we go to sleep at night he nudges alternatives in my direction: "What do you think of Lucie?" "Madeleine?"

Associations attached to names are often forceful. Especially with a guy like Xavier. One example:

Me: "Laurence - do you like it?"
Xavier: "C'est un prénom de grosses. Tu imagines? En France, en plus?"

(Translation: "It is a fat girl's name - can you imagine? And in France on top of it!"
Please note: If your name is Laurence, don't take offense. This is clearly an arbitrary and unstable analysis of a very nice name. Jocose nonetheless.)

Some of you know Marguerite's full name:
Marguerite Kelly Maya Hätsveda
(ask to see her passport if you're dubious)

Xavier had a formula for such a creation:
First name - a nice, traditional choice.
Second name - a favorite American TV show character.
Third name - a favorite cartoon character.
Fourth name - an IKEA product.
The breakdown: Marguerite (lovely), Kelly (90210), Maya (the bee), Hätsveda (wicker chair)
(Our child, were this system to be applied, will be even luckier because she will also have a double barreled last name).

To give you an idea (because I think Xavier will forgive me for giving this away) - Xavier's choices for the second, third and fourth names of the little baby soon to be born are: _________ Shannon Joanne Shruvsta (J J). That does not reveal the first name choice, but it does reveal just how weird our children will inevitably become. (For context, Joanne is a lady heroine in Capitaine Flam - French cartoon - and Shruvsta is an IKEA swivel chair).

In France, people often have two middle names. Xavier's full name, for example, is Xavier Nicolas Michel. Howbeit, in France, people do not often have IKEA product or extra cartoon character names. Xavier is proud of his naming conception because there will be two important events in his children's lives where their ridiculous names will be read aloud in front of many people in an official setting: 1. The day they take their Baccalauréat 2. The day they get married. I do hope the official at these events speaks some Nordic language so that pronunciation of the various products will not be a bother.

We have seriously considered Marie-Antoinette for the first name. And then Louis-Philippe for the first boy. Royal.

January 8, 2012

A very warm January day in Central Park.

January 7. A very warm day - 60 degrees in New York City. It felt like a drunk, early spring day who had landed on the wrong square of the calendar. I will take it - anytime. It was also Marguerite's last day in New York with us this round (don't worry - she will be back in February - in no time at all) and the day was a celebration of her brightness too. Here she is doing her favorite poses of the moment - her ballet salutes - she holds these for a long time:

I think we can safely decree that it is from her father that she has learned to take these dramatic poses.

8 months this next week. So, in theory the baby could come at the end of February while Mlle. is here next time...she is hoping for that. I'm open. The baby makes me smile when my belly becomes a punching bag with a small fervid thing trapped inside. Maybe she is already trying to imitate Marguerite's attitudinizing. This week I forced Xavier to watch a documentary about Russian women who give birth in the Black sea to these little dolphin babies who swim immediately and look wholly peaceful from the moment they exit the womb. I want to do that next (a trip to the Black Sea, yes please!). He was leery.

January 7, 2012


He grew this mustache over Christmas break and looked like a movie star (the grade of the film might be disputable, but the mustache looks terrific).

January 4, 2012

La mousse à raser.

We thought of a great Christmas gift for Marguerite this year - a razor and shaving cream kit for the bath. It was, of course, marketed for boys to model their dads' rituals...but Marguerite showed off how much fun it was for all when she covered every inch of her body and shaved all the cream off. She was giggling the whole time.

I sat down cross-legged right in front of the bath, ready to play a bit and then wash and rinse. The bit turned into an hour and in the time that passed, Marguerite spouted story after story and made up game after game (they largely involved bossing me around in ways that guaranteed I would get wet). One of the games was something only a French child would invent - it went something like this (translation): "OK, Mimi. You know the game where you have several silver balls and then there is a little ball you try to get the other balls as close to as possible? It is called boules. Yeah, well we are going to play that game, except this time with sponge animals and water. You are red and I'm orange." In these games, I generally lose.

She asks a lot of questions about her "petite soeur," who is starting to take up a lot of space (my stomach feels like it is underneath my ribs, maybe some of my intestines too). This time she asked how a baby actually gets inside of a person like me, anyway. Good question. I explained that all girls have human eggs inside of them and all boys have swimming seeds to awaken the eggs. I said that you have to have both parts to grow a human.

Mlle: "Well, in that case, I can have a baby very young because I have a lover at school."
Me: "Oh, really? What is he like?"
Mlle: "He looks like an eggplant. Every time I see him, I want to hug him and I don't even know why!"
** Chutes of laughter **
Me: "What is his name?"
Mlle: "Gustave"
Mlle: "Plus, even when I change schools and Gustave stays at the school further away, we are going to keep his phone number so that I can make a baby with him."
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