petite anglaise

June 2, 2009

party planner

Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaise @ 2:04 pm

Every time I think about Tadpole’s upcoming sixth birthday party I am filled with dread.

In previous years I’d always had a cast-iron excuse not to throw one. When she was three, for example, Tadpole hadn’t yet started pre-school and only knew the two other children our childminder cared for. Despite the fact that we’d been separated for over a year by this time, Mr Frog and I rallied around and took Tadpole on a day out to Disneyland Paris, with the help of a kind reader of this blog who worked at Disney head office and offered us free entry passes.

The following year, there was no question of throwing a children’s party in the minuscule flat Tadpole and I had, by then, moved into, and as mamie and papy happened to be in town staying with Mr Frog, all that was required of me was to head over to his place with cake to drink a glass of bubbly with them while Tadpole ripped open her presents.

Tadpole turned five two days after my wedding day and, as space was still a huge limiting factor, I simply invited over a couple of friends and their children for cake and wedding party leftovers, which we shared in my tiny living room cum bedroom. Dazed from the exertions of the weekend, I was inordinately proud of myself for having managed a return taxi trip to Pantin to retrieve Tadpole’s oversized birthday parcel (a wooden dolls’ house) from the postal sorting centre so that her gift would be awaiting her in her bedroom when she got home from school.

This year, however, I’ve finally run out of excuses. I now have the space necessary in order to invite seven of Tadpole’s favourite classmates over for the traditional 3pm to 6pm party slot. Tadpole is ecstatic at the prospect – and has been since approximately September last year. Meanwhile I’m at my wits’ end, wondering how on earth I’m supposed to entertain eight children for three whole hours, indoors. After all, blowing out the candles and eating a slice of cake (or two) will take all of ten minutes, won’t it? French children, you see, don’t eat dinner until at least 7pm. So the British birthday tea is replaced by a mere late afternoon snack.

“What did you play last weekend when you were at Milan’s party?” I enquire of Tadpole, trying to glean as much useful information as possible while concealing my rising tide of panic.

“We pinned the tail on a pig,” Tadpole replies, after a long pause, seemingly unable to recall any of the other activities which took place. “With a bandeau over our eyes… And then we went outside and played in the cour.” I sigh. Letting the children run around in our small communal courtyard was an option I’d been entertaining until construction workers begin to use it as a storage facility a week ago, due to structural work to be carried out on a neighbouring building.

When I discussed the impending party with Mr Frog – it’s actually taking place on one of his weekends – he graciously consented to bring Tadpole over in time for the party and said he would probably stay “for a little while”. Meanwhile, The Boy, who – quite understandably – has little desire to share his Saturday afternoon with a throng of shrieking, sugar-fuelled children and, what is more, doesn’t wish to trample on Mr Frog’s toes, is planning to make himself scarce.

Which just leaves me and my rapidly expanding waistline, armed with any suggestions my kind readers are able share in the comments box below…


It went really well! Thank you for all the suggestions. I cut the party down to two and a half hours, banished boys altogether (!) – aside from The Boy, who was brilliant. We alternated boisterous games with quieter activities (making bracelets, decorating iced shortbread biscuits). Successes included ‘pin the nose on the Hello Kitty’, a race involving smarties and drinking straws, a variation on musical bumps where the last one to sit each time had to put on an item from the dressing up bag of tricks until everyone had three hats and dissolved in a mass of giggles… And a kind fellow parent turned up a little before the end and made balloon animals. All in all, a resounding success!

April 7, 2009


Filed under: Tadpole rearing, Tadpole says — petiteanglaise @ 5:33 pm

I am shelling peas in the kitchen while listening to some vintage Aphex twin when I realise that Tadpole has gone disturbingly quiet.

‘Sweetie? What are you up to?’ I call, peering over the bar, from which vantage point I can see the whole of our open-plan apartment. Save the bathroom and toilet, that is. There is no sign of Tadpole, however, and I have a sudden, irrational vision of her drawing 3D pictures on the bathroom floor with a tube of toothpaste.

‘I’m doing a poo!’ shouts Tadpole. ‘Well… Actually, I’ve finished doing my poo, and now I’m reading the book about the bunny.’

The people who designed our apartment thoughtfully built in some shelf space above the toilet, and this hosts our extensive ‘toilet book’ collection. Highlights include our Larson collection, the foreign editions of ‘petite’, several tomes by Desproges and ‘the book about the bunny’, a.k.a. The Bumper Book of Bunny Suicides. Tadpole loves poring over this, even though I hope/feel sure that she doesn’t really understand a) why a bunny would want to commit suicide, and b) how he’s planning to go about it in many of the instances illustrated.

‘You don’t have to read that on the toilet, you know,’ I tell her, when she emerges, finally, a full ten minutes later. ‘You can borrow books from the toilet library. As long as you put them back afterwards…’

Which is why this morning, I found Tadpole with her head bent over a copy of fellow blogger Andre‘s If You’re Happy and You Know It‘ at the breakfast table. Indeed, not just looking at it, but reproducing several of the doodles herself with the help of a biro she’d pilfered from my handbag.


I do hope Andre approves.

March 25, 2009


Filed under: Tadpole rearing, Tadpole says — petiteanglaise @ 1:09 pm

I introduced the idea of a new addition to our family several months ago, long before I began taking folic acid or dispensed with taking ‘precautions’. Tadpole was predictably delighted at the prospect of having a little brother or sister to fuss over and urged me to ‘put a baby in my tummy’ as soon as possible.

‘Will Daddy come to live with us when we have a new baby?’ she asks me, between spoonfuls of cereal, a few days after our first discussion. ‘So he can help us to look after it?’

‘Um, no… I shouldn’t think so,’ I reply with a frown. I’m about to ask her why she would think such a thing, when realisation suddenly dawns. In Tadpole-logic, I realise, Mr Frog is the only possible daddy and therefore it stands to reason that he will father all my children. Hence the assumption that he will be sharing the responsibility for caring for the baby, which he can’t very well do if he is living 400m down the road.

I take a sip of coffee before embarking on my explanation. Best to test my theory first, I decide. So I begin with a tentative question. ‘When I have a baby,’ I begin, ‘who do you think the baby’s daddy will be?’

‘Daddy,’ Tadpole replies, her scornful tone making it abundantly clear that she considers my question a foolish one. I sigh and glance towards the bedroom, wondering whether The Boy can hear us. He could be awake – after all, he just snoozed the alarm not twice, but three times – but there is no way of knowing for sure, as he seems to be capable of banging his fist on the alarm clock in his sleep.

‘Honey,’ I say gently. ‘When Daddy and I made you, we were living in the same house. Now I’m living with Manuel. I’m married to Manuel. So this time it’s going to be different. The baby’s daddy won’t be your daddy. It will be Manuel.’

‘Oh,’ Tadpole replies. She falls silent, processing this new information, then gives me a smile and a nod, and spoons more cereal into her mouth.

‘So the baby will call Manuel ‘Daddy’, I continue, thinking it advisable to press the point home while I have Tadpole’s undivided attention. ‘But you’ll still call him Manuel. And you’ll call your daddy ‘Daddy’. Tadpole nods again, her mouth full.

A few weeks later, when the future baby has become less an abstract concept than a grape-sized mini-foetus swimming in nausea-inducing circles, we are discussing the Easter holidays, when Tadpole will stay with Mr Frog’s parents for a week, as per usual.

‘When the baby is born,’ Tadpole says, ‘It will come with me to stay at Mamie and Papy‘s house, won’t it? Because they will be the grandparents of the baby too.’

I smile and shake my head. This is going to be more complicated than I thought.

March 10, 2009


Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaise @ 7:43 pm


I’ve actually been back for ten days now, and it’s taken me this long to get my act together and upload my favourite photos, let alone open up the “write” tab in wordpress.

see the whole collection on flickr

The belated honeymoon holiday was sublime and I wanted to blog about it, really I did. But ever since I got home I’ve been fighting back waves of quasi-constant nausea and enduring more than my fair share of insidious, light-sensitive headaches, with the result that I’ve been pretty exhausted and have spent my days doing more sleeping than anything else.

And all because I found out, on the eve of our honeymoon, that The Boy and I are expecting a baby.

It’s early days to be making any sort of announcement, I realise, but I weighed up the pros and cons of coming clean and decided that if anything were to go wrong, god forbid, I’d want to be able to write about it here, so I see no real reason to hold back. I’m 7 weeks in – counting from the beginning of my last cycle, as there are, it transpires, different ways to count – and the automated email that popped into my inbox this morning tells me that the embryo currently resembles a very small Tadpole, which I thought rather fitting.

My five year-old Tadpole, who recently borrowed Babette Cole’s hilarious ‘Mummy laid an egg‘ from the school library, is convinced the baby was conceived while The Boy and I were balancing precariously atop a skateboard. I like the mental image this conjures up so much that, for the time being, I’m afraid I can’t bring myself to disabuse her…

image © Babette Cole

February 4, 2009


Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaise @ 10:57 am

It’s almost bedtime and having just popped a decidedly honeymoon bikini-unfriendly gratin into the oven, I’m putting my feet up for a moment. Tadpole pads out of the bathroom wearing a towel, her hair gathered up into a curly knot on top of her head.

For the past two months, the next part of our evening routine consisted of Tadpole lying on the sofa while I rasped away at the sole of her right foot with an emery board, applied an acid preparation and covered my handiwork in adhesive dressings. But, thankfully, the verruca cluster on her right heel is history now. So when Tadpole slides her bottom onto the sofa by my side, we can devote the last few minutes of her day to more pleasant activities, like reading stories together or just shooting the breeze.

‘How many sleeps is it until theatre class?’ says Tadpole innocently. ‘Is it two more, or is it three?’

‘Three,’ I reply, darting her an amused look. ‘Why do you ask? Are you looking forward to getting Leonardo all to yourself?’

Tadpole blushes. Leonardo is her playground crush. Jules, her amoureux of the first two years of maternelle had the misfortune to be allocated to a different class when they both moved up to the grande section in September. He’s only just a along the corridor nowadays, but this minor geographical shift has made a world of difference. I fully understand, never having been much good at long-distance relationships myself. Loin des yeux, loin du coeur as they say.

Leonardo, on the other hand, is not only in Tadpole’s class but also attends her Friday evening éveil théâtral activity, at a nearby centre d’animation. There they slither along the floor pretending to be snakes, stand immobile side by side with their arms stretched to the ceiling being trees and, according to the teacher, are pretty much joined at the hip.

‘Last time at theatre class,’ Tadpole confides, ‘Leonardo did give me a kiss on the cheek. He said that I have extremely very soft skin and he told me that I’m pretty when I take off my glasses…’ She frowns. ‘But Mummy,’ she adds, ‘when we’re at school, he says he loves Suzanne most of all. And in the cour de recréation today, he did hold her hand.’

‘But what about Nina?’ I say, puzzled. ‘I thought Nina was his school girlfriend, and you were his theatre class girlfriend.’ It is to be hoped that my apparent acceptance of this unusual situation is not paving the way for Tadpole to willingly participate in a ménage-à-trois when she is older.

Tadpole shakes her head. ‘He changed his mind about Nina,’ she explains. ‘Because she chose Raphaël to be her king when we ate the galette des rois.’

picture by Tadpole

I am reminded of when we cut into our own galette at home, just after the New Year. By devious means, I made sure Tadpole ate the slice containing the fève. When the time came to choose her king, however, she protested that she didn’t have a real choice, The Boy being the only male present and startled us all by choosing one of her soft toy frogs instead. The irony of this – although Tadpole has no idea I call her father Mr Frog on this blog – was not entirely lost on me.

‘Well,’ I say to Tadpole, casting around for something wise-sounding to say. ‘If Leonardo doesn’t appreciate you all the time, it’s his loss. One day, when you are much older, you’ll have a real boyfriend. Someone who only wants to hold your hand.’

‘But Mummy,’ Tadpole protests. ‘I am grown up. I’m five years old! And Leonardo is REAL.’

Oh, he’s real alright, I think to myself. And he’s well on his way to becoming a Real Player.

January 6, 2009

words of wisdom

Filed under: Tadpole rearing, Tadpole says — petiteanglaise @ 10:32 am

Tadpole and I hurry along the cobbled street, hand in hand, trying to avoid the patches of black ice that have formed overnight. An anxious glance at my watch reveals that it is 8.28, and I quicken my pace.

Tadpole is chattering nineteen to the dozen about the coming day at school. ‘We’re going to do a travail que j’aDORE,’ she says, making me rather nostalgic for a time when I could feel such simple, strong emotions (and also for a time when ‘work’ consisted of doing a spot of colouring in without straying over the lines). ‘The maîtresse has made some sheets with a 2009 on,’ Tadpole continues, ‘and inside every number there’s the beginning of a pattern. And we have to take a different coloured pen for each number, and continue the pattern, and then at the bottom it’s written ‘Bonne Année!’ with a big point d’exclamation, and we have to copy it, to practise how to do writing on a line, and then…’

Meanwhile, I am making a to-do list in my head. I need to edit at least three chapters before dinnertime. I must pop by the pharmacy to pick up my folic acid. It’s market day on boulevard de Belleville, and I compile a mental shopping list (peppers, mushrooms, clementines, kiwi fruit (Tadpole’s favourite), bananas and broccoli). I ought to try and finalise some tentative plans for our coming weekend in Yorkshire, assuming the black ice and minus double figure temperatures expected in Paris later this week don’t ground our plane and scupper our plans altogether. I need to fix the dodgy starter sparky thing on the gas hobs and get a battery for the torch so that if I manage to trip the fusebox again, like I did yesterday, I don’t end up running around in the dark looking for matches while Tadpole attempts to eat her dinner in the dark, with predictably messy results. I need to give UK bank details to my agents, because if they take it into their heads to send any advance money over to me in France at the current exchange rate, I think I will cry.

‘MUMMY!’ shouts Tadpole, her eyes flashing with anger. ‘You’re not LIST-EN-ING to me, are you?’

‘I am!’ I protest, untruthfully. ‘You were saying how much you were looking forward to working on your 2009 picture! It sounded great. I was listening and thinking at the same time.’

‘No you weren’t,’ says Tadpole firmly. ‘You only listened to the beginning. You’re not IN-TER-EST-ED Mummy. You don’t really CARE about my 2009…’

I curse the day Tadpole became so scarily perceptive. There’s no pulling the wool over her eyes any more. Whereas I can still fool The Boy – punctuating his lengthy, blow by blow accounts of poker games with a few strategic ‘mmm’s’ or the occasional ‘mouais‘ without him seeming any the wiser – Tadpole has an uncanny talent for knowing precisely when and why my attention has strayed and pulls me up on it, every single time.

And that’s not all. ‘When you say “Mmm” it doesn’t mean “no” or “yes” or anything,’ she explained to me the other day. ‘It just means you’re not really listening. And when you say “we’ll see”, you really mean “no”.’

‘And how about when I say we’ll do something later?’ I enquire, wondering if my arsenal is now completely empty.

‘Well,’ says Tadpole, furrowing her brow. ‘Later is more difficult. It can means lots of things. Sometimes it means “in a little while”. Sometimes it means “the day after the next day”.’ She pauses, and for a moment I think I may just have got away with this one.

‘But usually,’ she adds sagely, ‘if you say we’ll do something later, you mean never.’

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