petite anglaise

April 15, 2005

right here right now

Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:49 pm

The first thing Tadpole has said to me every morning for the past two weeks – because she is nothing if not predictable – is:

“Bébé cats?”

It’s my own stupid fault. One Sunday morning, at the appointed hour for Maisy Mouse, a ritual whereby Mr Frog and I transfer our pyjama clad, half-slumbering bodies from bed to sofa, drifting in and out of a rodent-infested sleep while Tadpole squawks with delight at her video.

One of the episodes is entitled ‘cats’, and tells the story of a stray cat which makes itself at home in Maisy’s laundry basket. Maisy wakes up to a chorus of miaowing in the morning, only to find a litter of kittens in among her undergarments.

I don’t know quite what possessed me to mention to Tadpole a whole two weeks ago that one of mummy’s friends has a cat, which has baby cats, just like in Maisy. And that we would be going to see them. Soon.

Because of course Tadpole has not yet developed any notion of time. In Tadpole-time, everything is happening right now, in the present. Our conversations are limited to the subject of what she is in the process of doing, or what she wants to do, right now. There is no point whatsoever enquiring what she has been up to with the childminder on any given day (a pity, as I would like to know more), or what she ate for lunch. Words like ‘yesterday’, ‘tomorrow’ and ‘weekend’ hold no meaning.

So imagine the mess I have got myself into by mentioning the cats, when they were bald, blind and not very interesting at all, and would remain that way for at least a fortnight. At that stage, to all intents and purposes, they were unvisitable.

Hence our daily discussion along the following lines:

Tadpole, hesitantly: “Va voir bébé cats?”

Me, patiently: “Soon, darling, they are still too small”

Tadpole, more forcefully: “Go see BÉBÉCATS?”

Me, calmly but firmly : “Not yet. We’ll go at the weekend.”

Tadpole, stamping her feet and seemingly convinced that if she shouts it loud enough, it WILL happen: “VA. VOIR. BÉBÉ. CATS!”

Bidding my patience farewell and resorting to similar tactics in the (vain) hope of making myself understood “NOT. YET. NO. BABY. CATS.”


Tadpole frowns. I can almost see her thinking. Then,


Desperate measures are called for.

“Hey, shall we go in the kitchen and see if we can find some biscuits?”

I think it may be time for me to invest in the book ‘Toddler Taming: A Survival Guide for parents’, because my last line of resistance, although effective, is likely to contribute to rising levels of obesity in France.

Thankfully, baby cats are go for tomorrow. What worries me now, is that one visit will never be enough. Am I doomed never to hear the end of this?

With the benefit of hindsight, I realise I should have just gone to visit them in secret, unaccompanied. To be honest, I was only using Tadpole as a rather transparent pretext to go cuddle some cute little fluffy kitties myself.

Serves me right.


We went, we stroked, we managed to come home empty handed. But guess what Tadpole’s first words were the morning after?

April 14, 2005

‘hanged’ over

Filed under: good time girl — petiteanglaiseparis @ 11:36 am

My hair hurts. I used alcohol as an antidote to my habitual shyness at the ‘Paris blog-t-il?’ soirée held at the Entrepôt last night and am now feeling as if I may shatter into lots of small, dehydrated pieces if I move too quickly. I hope you will forgive me for the brevity of today’s post.

Over two hundred Parisian bloggers had signed up for the event, and the turnout was impressive. There were lots of MALES, which surprised me, as when I organised the expat blogmeet (remember that Eiffel tower poster which everyone thought I had doctored to look like a g-string on purpose?), it attracted an overwhelming majority of females. Mind you, some of the men were not wearing stickers showing the name of their blog and may just have been there hoping to seduce young bloggeuses.

I met lots of very nice people, caught up with a couple I already knew and had my picture taken with a very fetching and well-travelled teddy bear.

I only hope that the blogger who said he actually preferred seeing people’s avatars to meeting them in the flesh wasn’t referring specifically to me…

April 13, 2005

too much too soon

Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:36 pm

I tiptoe into Tadpole’s room and kneel by her new bed, where she is sleeping peacefully, surrounded by her favourite teddies. I can hear her slow, regular breathing (with a hint of snoring, caused by her blocked nose), and bend to smell the baby shampoo on her honey-coloured curls, noticing a flicker behind her eyelids, which I take to mean she is dreaming. Tears stream silently down my face.

I go back into the living room, where Mr Frog is in his habitual evening position, lying on the chaise longue in front of the window watching TV.

“She looks too grown up!” I wail. “I feel like we’re forcing her to grow up too quickly. She’s not even two yet, and we’re already dismantling her cot…”

Mais non, n’importe quoi, bien sûr qu’elle est prête, elle s’est endormie ravie de son nouveau lit. We’re not forcing her into anything. And anyway, it was your idea, n’est-ce pas?”

I blow my nose loudly and start clearing up the toys and remnants of Tadpole’s dinner from her new mini table and chairs, which she is now using instead of her highchair. Provided, that is, that I sit on the other chair opposite her, which I suspect will not prolong the life of that particular piece of furniture, given I weigh five or six times more than your average infant.

One of the things I find hardest to judge as a parent is when Tadpole is ready for something new. So I end up measuring her against other children, which I know you are not really supposed to do. People I know with slightly older toddlers have bought beds, so I thought we should. Keeping up with the Jones’s. The fact that Tadpole could almost get her leg over the barrier, ballerina style, seemed to suggest that she was outgrowing her cot, but as she goes to bed wearing a straitjacket sleeping bag anyhow, once that is firmly fastened, she’d have to pull a Houdini-like stunt in order to make her escape. The sleeping bag, and the safety barrier on the side of the new bed, are cunningly designed to prevent her from deciding that she would rather play with her train set, or pay mummy and daddy a visit in the middle of the night. Nevertheless I don’t doubt it is only a matter of time before I am awoken by an almighty crash, whereupon I will find Tadpole standing on her head, cocooned legs in the air.

When I pause to think how far we’ve come, I simply cannot get my head around how quickly Tadpole is learning and changing. The progress is so gradual; it is only when I conjure up an image of her crawling in reverse gear this time last year, that I feel overwhelmed by the speed of it all. Back then, she babbled cheerful nonsense, devoid of any actual English or French words, but now she can recite ‘Mary Mary quite contrary’ (glossing over some of the words, like a French speaker doing an approximate rendition of an English pop song, parrot fashion, not fully understanding the meaning of the lyrics). This progress is bittersweet, like the joys and constraints of motherhood itself: on the one hand I look forward impatiently to the day when she will be potty trained, but on the other, I am nostalgic for the snuffly, terrifyingly needy baby animal she was, not so long ago.

And, if I’m honest, I feel slightly guilty for spending weekdays apart from her, unable to savour every minute to the full.

April 12, 2005

retail hell

Filed under: french touch — petiteanglaiseparis @ 4:05 pm

We are driving on the péripherique (translation: ring road of death) in a borrowed car and I am talking too much, as usual. Mr Frog rudely interrupts to enquire whether we needed to take the direction Charles de Gaulle exit which I can now see receding in the wing mirror. Clearly it was a mistake to assume that as we have already made this journey several times, my navigation skills would not be required. Never underestimate Mr Frog’s lack of a sense of direction. I remember one of our first dates, where he pointed at Notre Dame and asked me which church it was. He had been living in Paris for four months at the time, and lived nearby, a stone’s throw from the Jardins de Luxembourg. I hastily pull out the Ikea (French pronunciation: “ee kay ya”) catalogue and improvise. We’ll try to the one at Paris Est instead. For a change. Anything is better than having to retrace our steps.

Leaving the A4 at Champigny, as instructed, we drive around the roundabout four times before spotting a helpful Ikea advert on a bus shelter. I am very thankful for this, because even with my superior navigation skills I cannot make any sense of the relationship between Ikea’s map and the actual lay of the land in front of me. We find the right road, and sail past the carpark entrance, taking an impromptu tour of Villiers sur Marne. Finally, at 11.30 am, we pull into the carpark. Not at 10 am, as I had hoped.

The layout of Ikea Paris Est is cunning. Arriving at the top of the stairs, a delectable food smell greets your nostrils as you pass the restaurant. After visiting the vast showroom level, flagging somewhat and thirsty from the dry, air-conditioned atmosphere, there it is again, as welcome as an oasis in the desert. I resolve to stop there for a Tadpole lunch break before the lunchtime rush starts. We only need to buy a Tadpole bed, a Tadpole-sized bookcase and a mini table and chairs (also for Tadpole), but somehow we end up looking at everything, as usual. I release Tadpole from the confines of her pushchair in the children’s section, so that she can test her new bed for size. At first it is fun, watching her try out rocking chairs, a small wooden tractor and a wendy house, all the while clutching a large plastic piggy bank. I give other, equally powerless, parents a conspiratorial wink when Tadpole finally puts the pig down, attention caught by a wooden train set, and spirit piggy away, hiding him in a bin full of plastic plates. It soon becomes clear that there will be no way of getting her out of there which doesn’t involve kicking, wailing and a runny nose wiped on my clothing. Her flaming cheeks have teething pain written all over them, and when she starts crying on red-cheek days, she sometimes forgets to stop.

We arrive at the café. There are approximately fifty people in each queue. Tadpole is incapable of standing still, so this is a Very Big Problem. Mr Frog storms off back to the children’s section with her, leaving me to queue and make important lunch decisions alone. He motions to me that I should phone him, but when I do, I get his voicemail. I look around me and realise with a sinking feeling that I have missed my chance to grab a special tray-carrying trolley, resigning myself to either not eating very much, or pioneering precarious new methods of plate stacking. I pray that my credit card payment will be accepted at the till (in France there is often a minimum amount, usually € 15 – approx £ 10.00), as I have precisely 24 centimes in my purse. Some time later, I make my way unsteadily towards a table carrying a couple of salads, some bread rolls, a plate of heart shaped chocolate covered biscuits and some D’aim bars (Dime bars in every other language). Luckily Mr Frog chooses this moment to haul the still protesting Tadpole over. I ease her chubby thighs into the snugly fitting high chair, which has the advantage of immobilising her legs altogether, then stuff a piece of bread in her mouth, for some temporary respite from the howling. I sit back with my cup of tea, priding myself on my parenting skills, but wishing that this could all be over.

Lunchtime in Ikea is odd. I suspect some people must make the journey just to eat there. I see a suspiciously large number of unaccompanied adults carrying 2 euro kiddie meals off to remote corners of the dining area. Someone (who probably doesn’t have to spend the whole day in there) has had the bright idea of placing a piano in the middle of the dining area. I dread to think how much decomposing food is trapped between the keys. Lunch is eaten to a soundtrack of ‘chopsticks’ and random plinkety plonking as every greasy-fingered youngster takes their turn. Mr Frog and I snap at each other, toddler-stress getting the better of us. Tadpole, on fine form, refuses to eat everything but a breadroll and two chocolate biscuits.

After queuing for the (one) baby changing area, we descend wearily to the lower level, bracing ourselves for the moment of truth. Will they actually have Tadople’s lit évolutif and table and chairs in stock? I fear that if they do not, I may have to be dragged out of Ikea kicking and screaming. And foaming at the mouth. Luckily all is where it should be, and we unload our bounty at the checkout. Somehow along the way we have also amassed one wooden train set, two flower cushions for Tadpole’s chairs, plastic beakers, plastic plates, a throw for the sofa and a picture frame for my vitriolica thumbnail poster. It could have been worse: to our credit we have resisted both the scented candles and the ‘fun’ ice cube trays for the first time.

I giggle at a family struggling to stuff a king-size matress into the back of their small hatchback car. I feel a little less smug when we attempt to load the Tadpole bed into our borrowed Yaris verso. The front of the box arrives at gearstick level. I secure some rope around the seat headrests and across the front of the carton in a pathetic attempt to make the car less of a potential deathtrap.

FOUR WHOLE HOURS from door to door. I give thanks to the Lord that this bed can be extended to a maximum length of two metres, and may even see Tadpole into adulthood.

I don’t plan to repeat that experience again in a hurry.

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