Thursday, November 27, 2008

Little Bubbles of Happiness

It goes without saying that I am beyond grateful for the arrival of baby Emma in my life... In our lives, really. But I am ever so thankful also for moments like the one I just shared with my daughter, in which she quietly finished nursing and stretched out like a cat, that milk-drunk look on her face, and then smiled up at me. I smiled down at her and the feeling of connection was so strong, I knew this was a moment I would remember forever. Perhaps not in detail, but just that special feeling of bonding, that exchange of smiles, that warm strength that comes from knowing how very much I love her. I wanted that moment to last forever, to engrave it in my heart to be able to bring it out in moments of difficulty and sadness.

Oh, yes, I am grateful and thankful for the joy that Emma has brought to our lives, to both her daddy and me, and to my whole family... The past four months have been a roller-coaster of emotions, in more ways than one, and I know that there is so much more to come -- I just hope I'm up for the ride! I'm working on becoming better organized, but I'm also trying to treasure these little bubbles of happiness we share together, because I know they are finite and oh-so-ephemeral.

But yes, thank you dear Lord, thank you Universe for bringing Emma into our lives. The magic is only just beginning.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Up in Arms!

Okay, I don't know where to begin with this, so I'll just get straight to the point: I've been trying to book a plane ticket for Emma and me to travel to the U.S. over the past few days, and Friday night I thought I was set after having found a great fare on -- but no, it was too good to be true! The next day I get an e-mail and a phone call telling me that the flight can't be confirmed at the quoted price on-line because in fact the "class" for an infant has been changed, or something or other, and that in fact Emma's fare will be 210 AMERICAN DOLLARS MORE -- supposedly for fuel charges!!?? In essence, her ticket will cost nearly as much as MINE, and she doesn't even get a seat! She will be sitting on my lap and may very well get a bassinet, IF I'm lucky enough to get a bulkhead seat.

Folks, as you all know, my daughter will only be 5 months old in December, and I decided to travel with her in January, after the New Year, because I figured that by then the fares would be much cheaper than traveling over the holidays. It wasn't absolutely crucial that I be in the U.S. for Christmas this year, as Emma is still really little, and I figured we would celebrate Christmas here with my boyfriend's family, and then just celebrate things a bit later with my family back home. In the future, further down the road, I hope to take Emma back to the U.S. for an actual Christmas, when she's older and can really appreciate the Christmas carols, baking cookies, the atmosphere around the holidays -- the whole shebang, quoi. This is pretty much the ONLY time I'll have to be this flexible about my travel times, too, because I'm not working right now. Once I go back to work it will be much tougher to figure out the best times to travel. And this time around I don't need to fly over on a particular date, so I was open to many different possible options.

Basically I was looking at flying over around January 8th and staying nearly a month at my parents' place. But I am BEYOND SHOCKED by these new supposed fuel charges... Does anybody know anything about this? Have you heard anything about this before? Suppposedly the woman at USAir told my mother (who called for me as well, as she was helping me to try to book the tickets) that this was some sort of new international regulation for infant passengers -- but WTF?!?! I thought the whole benefit of traveling with a child under the age of 2 was that the cost was much lower, and this is because she doesn't even get a seat! She weighs less than 15 pounds for goodness sake! How can they say this is for FUEL charges, both ways? Is this some money-making scam, the way the airlines are trying to make up for their own financial losses? Has anyone encountered this? I know I basically have no recourse, but I just don't understand how these Internet companies can quote certain fares and then 24 hours later call you to tell you that no, in fact your fare is NOT what you thought it was going to be, as the airline you're traveling with has decided to add this extra charge...

With the extra taxes and fuel charges, Emma's fare will be pretty much as much as mine, and once again, she DOESN'T GET A SEAT! I'm trying not to get steamed over this, but it's definitely not working... I just got off the phone with my mother again, and we're both simply flummoxed by this whole situation. And they've got us good, these damn airlines, because we obviously can't do a thing! And here I was thinking that I wanted to be able to travel with my daughter while she was little, like everyone has told me, because it's financially beneficial, in addition to the obvious fact that it will be a nice way for us to spend time with my family back in the U.S. But NOW what are we supposed to do? Just bite the bullet? I have a feeling that we'll simply have to do exactly that, because we basically have no recourse. I'm just stunned that the international airlines can just UP and do something like this, out of the blue, and inform passengers about it in such a roundabout way, instead of doing it up-front.

Anyhoo, sorry for the rant. I usually don't get so up in arms and upset about things, but this is just extremely disappointing and unnerving for me, particularly since we're really trying to watch our pennies these days, with me deciding to take a few more months away from work with Emma at home. The last thing we need is to have to pay for an expensive airfare in JANUARY, pretty much the lowest season and what I would think would be one of the least expensive times of year to travel to the U.S. from France.

OK, I'm off to grumble some more to myself... And drag my butt to bed.

P.S. ~ On a brighter sidenote, Emma was adorable today -- gurgling away like crazy and being just the sweetest thing. She even took a 3-hour nap from noon to 3:00! It's her smile that makes everything else fade away into insignificance.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Progress... in More Ways Than One!

Right now I'm feeling the need to write about Emma and all that we're experiencing together these days: her discoveries, her reactions to everything around her, our exchanges... And I'm realizing that if I don't get some of this down, NOW, that I'll regret it later. I'm trying to recall now some of the things that she has done over the last couple of weeks that have really made me laugh or smile, thinking to myself how important it is that I remember that particular moment. For example, when I was lacing up my tennis shoes a few days ago, she looked up at me from her transat chair and just started giggling -- I haven't the slightest idea what made her laugh (maybe it was how big her mommy's feet are?), but it was of course contagious, and I started laughing too... She's been giggling more and more like that, but often for completely inexplicable reasons. She'll also laugh a lot when I'm playing with her little feet or goofing around with her before her bathtime. Sometimes she seems like she's outsmarting me, even now, and she blows my mind with her intuitiveness... Just last week I took her to the pediatrician for her 3-month check-up (which involved a second set of vaccination shots -- UGH!), and as I started getting her out of her winter coat in her stroller, she looked up at me as if to say, "What are we doing back HERE, Mommy?" Her lower lip trembled and she started crying. At the time, I couldn't figure out for the life of me what had provoked this reaction, and it was only later when I told my boy about it that he said, "Well, maybe she recognized the place where she was given the shots last month..."

I couldn't believe it! Granted, we're only surmising, and maybe she simply had a bellyache, but she doesn't usually get that trembly lip thing going on unless she's really upset about something. I'm always talking to her, just chit-chatting away, and my boyfriend commented to his father that I basically have a constant "monologue" going on -- and while he thinks this is hilarious, he also felt like it must be good for Emma. I hope so anyway! But the thing is, I'm almost always either being silly or talking in what I think is a positive tone of voice, so she has really come to sense when something is wrong. After nursing her early on Tuesday morning this week, we fell back asleep, as it was a national holiday here in France and Daddy was home with us as well... When Emma woke up around 9:00, Daddy brought her into the bed and we spent some time together before he took her to change her diaper. I joined them in the living room a few minutes later, but I was still trying to drag myself up out of sleep. As I looked down at Emma, I noticed that she had scratched her face again in several spots -- she hasn't done this in a while, and I've been trying to be vigilant about trimming her fingernails on a regular basis. But since she started sucking her thumb, she puts her fingers up around her nose like a claw, often in the middle of the night, trying to get her thumb in just the right position... And hence the dragging away at her nose and the scratches.

A bit dismayed, I said out loud, "Oh no, you've scratched yourself again!" And of course my tone of voice was a wee bit negative... Poor Emma took one look at me and the trembling lip came back! She burst out crying, little sweetheart, and I felt terrible. I reassured her that of course it wasn't her fault, and started talking to her as usual, and she calmed down. But it was just incredible how she sensed immediately that I wasn't talking like I usually do! And she felt like she had done something wrong and I was yelling at her...

Other times her understanding of things impresses me as well, like at bedtime. After nursing her, usually she'll fall asleep on my shoulder when I'm trying to get that last little burp. And I'll gently put her in bed for the night. But once this week she woke up with a start and looked bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I thought, oh man, now she's really awake! But I told her quietly that it was bedtime, and that she needed to sleep now; I laid her in bed, and she looked up at me with a big smile. Ten minutes later, when I came in to check on her, she was sound asleep. Again, incredible! At least I felt like it was... In any case, her personality is really beginning to shine, and it's really exciting to see how much she's changing all the time.

Last weekend was really nice as we spent a couple days up in Le Havre again, at my father-in-law's house, where I was finally able to cook for the first time in months. I cracked out a new recipe I had wanted to try for a canette aux figues. I'm crazy about figs and hadn't had a chance to cook with them at all this year, and as the season is coming to an end, I didn't want to miss out. I didn't know whether I'd pull off this particular recipe, but it turned out really well, even better than I had hoped. Definitely one to try again, maybe even before the end of the month! Here's hoping the figs will hang in there for a couple more weeks at the local market... I'd also like to bake my fig tart again, the one I first made last year, with an almond cream.

So I'm gradually adding some other nice things into my days and I'm working on finding a better balance of my time -- although I still need some major improvement in the housecleaning department! Ugh. At least Emma's laundry gets done in a jiffy -- I can spend a good half-hour scrubbing away at her poopoo stains, and it's looking like I'll need a new bar of Octagon soap when I head over to the U.S. in January -- at least if all goes well! I still need to book our plane tickets, but I'm hoping that because it will be low season and after the holidays that I'll be able to find a decent fare. Next Monday we're heading off to the American Embassy to put through Emma's paperwork for her passport, so that will be a step in the right direction!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Emma in the morning...

Emma in the morning...
Originally uploaded by alwaysace
What can I say? She entertains me. And makes me smile, all the time! It's just a shame that her funny little sneezes got cut off the end here...