Thursday, March 26, 2009

Happy Birthday, Jason!

Yesterday we celebrated Jason's 29th birthday. It's crazy to think that the very first time Jason and I met was over ten years ago! In honor of the occasion, I thought I'd share 29 lesser-known facts about my darling hubby.

Yes, I robbed the cradle. Jason is eighteen months younger than I am. Fortunately for me, Jason was dating someone seven years older when we met, so his family thought I was a spring chicken. :)

Jason may be able to solve a rubik's cube, but he can't roll his tongue.

Jason secretly dreams of escaping the responsibilities of civilized life and becoming a pirate. He thinks it would be great to wear an eyepatch and bandana and say "argh" all day.

At night, Jason lets me use his shoulder as a pillow. Not only does he tolerate it, after nearly six years of marriage, I think he kind of likes it.

Having never really grown up, Jason still loves legos. Yesterday his eyes lit up completely as he told me about a new lego combine that he saw in the store window. Were I independently wealthy, he would have gotten both the combine and the pirate ship for his birthday.

Jason hates to change diapers. He has a very sensitive sniffer that make poopy diapers positively boorish. The really sweet thing is that even though he hates it, he changes them anyway--without being asked. It's his way of saying "I love you."

Jason drives a manual stick shift very well--at least now. Humorously enough, he learned on our honeymoon after we rented a car. Before leaving, I asked "You've driven a stick before, haven't you?"--assuming that his Cache Valley upbringing had provided plenty of opportunities. Not wanting to injure his manly pride, Jason responded "Yeah," but omitted the "once." It wasn't until he stalled the car three times driving out of Munich that I realized Jason hadn't had much practice. :)

Jason loves to ski. According to his brother Lance, Jason is possibly even more wild and crazy on the slopes than his other brother, Justin--a fact which positively terrifies me and causes me to constantly remind him of his responsibilities as a husband and father.

Jason is a marathon runner. Several months before we got engaged, I watched him finish the Top of Utah marathon with a huge smile on his face. Amazingly enough, he actually sweat in the form of a heart across his chest. We've got the pictures to prove it!

Many years ago, before Jason had fully decided on his undergraduate degree, he told me how he felt torn about what to do with his life--he loved to build and work with his hands, he loved to draw and design, and he loved to teach. So far he's done a pretty remarkable job of combining all three! With an undergraduate degree in construction management, a graduate degree in architecture, and lots of experience as a teaching assistant and Spanish instructor at the MTC, he often finds himself in all three roles.

Jason is the hair stylist in our family. Ever since my first experience cutting his hair ended in tears (mine, not his), he has cut his own hair, and even trims the girls' locks.

Jason is also the true chef in the family, famous his for specialty dishes of cheesecake, rice pudding, and chicken parmesan.

With Jason around, you never need a radio. He recently sang his way all the way from Lyon to Poitiers—a 6-12 hour drive, depending on the route you pick. A warning, however: the Jason Station is almost exclusively dedicated to country hits.

Jason has totally deformed pinky toes, yet extremely artistic hands.

Jason covers up his pinky toes by regularly wearing two pairs of socks.

Those artistic hands create amazing artwork when he has the time (which is almost never.) Here's a picture of the girls that he's currently working on:

Jason talks rampantly in his sleep when he is overtired. I wish that I had pulled out a tape recorder during the sleepless stage of our life otherwise known as Solar Decathlon--his monologues were quite entertaining!

Jason is rather particular about his deodorant. When his favorite brand ran out here in France, he borrowed mine for a week and a half until he had checked all of the major stores to make sure nobody sold Old Spice before finally purchasing a more manly replacement.

Up until the time we got married, Jason was very diligent about wearing his retainer. Ever since tying the knot, however, he has given it up. He says that it makes it too awkward to kiss. (Blush, blush.)

If Jason could be anywhere in the world at any moment, he would probably be backpacking in the Windrivers. Jason is spiritually filled and renewed by the beauty of nature, particularly the mountains.

A budding thespian from his elementary school days when he starred in “The Elephant Child,” Jason continues his acting career nightly by telling the girls original bedtime stories about Bearlemicus.

Jason has a strange habit of picking fights and wrestling those many times his size--a habit that began when sharing close quarters with his 315-pound companion on his mission in New York.

While you don't notice it often on this blog since I usually beat him to the posting punch, Jason is actually a very witty writer. I confess that I first fell in love with him through his e-mails as we corresponded back and forth one summer. Ironically enough, even though I was living in Peru at the time, Jason was the one dodging llamas as he worked testing sprinkler systems at BYU's llama farm!

Jason is a fabulous photographer--a joy which is shared periodically through this blog. One of his biggest regrets, however, is that we lost our camera on the way home from our European honeymoon years ago. In a way, this year abroad is allowing us to recreate those memories--and we have the pictures to prove it!

After 6 1/2 months in France, Jason has come to the unbending conclusion that he prefers Spanish over French. While he used to greatly romanticize the French language (probably because he originally learned it to impress a girl he liked), he has decided that he prefers a language where you actually pronounce the letters that you see.

Jason is extremely generous and lets me borrow almost anything--even his toothbrush in case of dire emergency. However, he wisely draws the line at lending his favorite pen, as I have an uncanny talent for destroying writing utensils.

The extrovert of our partnership, Jason is the social butterfly who enjoys organizing dinners, get-togethers, and other social gatherings.

Even though Jason occasionally complains about being outnumbered in the family, he really likes his little girls. I don't think either of us will know what to do if this next little one turns out to be a boy.

Jason proposed twice to me. (I was kind of caught off guard and needed a bit more time to reflect the first time.) If I'd known ahead of time how much fun married life with him would be, I would have caught him off guard by proposing first instead!

Bon anniversaire, mon amour!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mousely Invasions

This past week, we have been delighted to have Jason's family come and visit. While we didn't stress too much about getting the house in perfect shape before they came, I did make a valiant effort to pick up and do some basic cleaning.

Imagine my horror, then, when I came home late after work on Thursday and learned that a mouse had run out from underneath the couch when Jason's Mom was making it into a bed. A less wonderful mother-in-law might never forgive such a horrific welcome. Fortunately, mine is very forgiving with a good sense of humor.

A note to any future guests: while up until this point we haven't had any troubles with animal invaders (we hardly ever see even a flea or a spider), we make no guarantees, as there is always a first time. Murphy's Law apparently dictates that the unfortunate victim just may happen to be you! :)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Happily Dressed

Our "announcement" blogpost has elicited some good questions that I thought I'd take a moment to answer.

1) Will our baby be born in France or the USA? Barring any unforeseen emergencies, this little one will be American. If calculations are correct, I will be about 31 weeks along when we fly back, so as long as I can convince the airlines that I'm not 41 weeks, we should be fine. :)

2) Did Brooklyn really notice that I was pregnant before I did?
Nope. Sorry, the last post was too vague. I've known since the beginning of January when the stick popped up with that little plus sign (some things don't change no matter where in the world you go.) Jason was in Paris at the time, so I e-mailed him a little movie to share the news. It's embarrassingly cheesy, but I'm feeling daring so I'll share anyway...
Back to Brooklyn, when she noticed my growing belly at six weeks, I was A) horrified to be big so soon, and B) not quite ready to share the news, knowing that she would immediately make it public knowledge. And so, I tried (rather unsuccessfully) to convince her that it was simply fat.

3) When is the expected due date? The ETA for this little one is September 12th when calculated with a French wheel, and September 10th when calculated American-style.

4) Are we having a boy or a girl? We don't know, and we probably won't find out. The ultrasound technician actually asked me last week if I wanted to know the gender. After a tough moment of deliberation, I said that no, we'd rather have a surprise. She smiled and said that it was "plus magique comme ├ža." (By the way, I was utterly shocked that she could even make a prediction at twelve weeks!)

All in all, pregnancy in France has been quite the cultural initiation. After having two kids, you'd think that I would know how it's done, but in many ways, everything is shockingly different in a new system. The French are notorious for their copious paperwork--well, apparently even a pregnancy isn't official without it! Your first pre-natal visit culminates in a formal "declaration de grossesse" that consists of several colored copies of this form that must subsequently be mailed off to the respective government offices before the end of month three. Heaven forbid you forget to mail in your forms, as your baby might never be born! (The actuality is even worse--you might have to pay for your pre-natal care, labor, and delivery...) By the way, does anybody else find it rather ironic that the word for pregnancy in French is "grossesse?" It sums up in a nutshell what pregnancy feels like at week 38.

Moving on, as soon as you learn the news, you need to call the hospital and register for the "accouchement" right away because the spaces fill quickly. ("Accouchement" refers to your labor and delivery, although a literal translation would be a "lying-in." This usage to me reflects an overall cultural mentality where birth suggests that you settle in and stay a while. Life really slows down its pace for those who are nesting. Were I staying in France, I would get at least eight weeks of paid maternity leave before the birth, and another ten after!)

Of course there is the standard course of bloodwork and lab tests to be carried out. The main difference is that these labs are generally unconnected with the medical offices--you must bring in a doctor's order and set up appointments separately. Coming from the States, I unfortunately have to get blood drawn every month because I have not been immunized for taxoplasmosis. While fairly uncommon in the US, it's a big problem in Europe. Women are cautioned to be particularly vigilant in avoiding raw meat and carefully washing all of their fruits and veggies. I find it quite ironic that in the US I can't eat soft cheese (not considered much of a problem here in France), but here in France I have to be careful eating salad.

The last shocker (and let me tell you, it was a SHOCKER) was my actual visit to the gynecologist. The initial interview was pretty standard, but after the talking was over, she pointed to a chair in the corner and told me to take off my clothes--all of my clothes. Horrifically, she then stood and watched while I undressed. Without the dignity of even a paper towel to cover myself, I then had to parade across the entire room buck naked in order to get to the exam table. Jason, all the while, is still sitting in the room, trying his hardest not to laugh at my positively horrified expression.

I can't even begin to describe the indignities of my drapeless exam. It was seriously one of the most awful experiences of my life. When it comes to personal space, I am extremely reserved. While the gynecologist may have been exasperated with my Puritan prudishness, stating that in France it's much simpler, this was one place where "French-style" will never fly with me.

But wait, it gets worse! After parading across the entire room again in my birthday suit so that I could recover my modesty, the doctor stopped me with my underwear half on and half off. Apparently I hadn't weighed myself yet--she wanted to see this moment of reckoning as well without even a scrap of fabric to hide behind.

The whole ordeal was hideous. It's one of those things that I really wanted to laugh about, but it was so embarrassing that it was hard not to cry instead. To add insult to injury, I then discovered when the bill came that this lady was setting her own prices instead of using the standard pay scale reimbursed by the French government.

Needless to say, I switched doctors. Today I met for the first time with a wonderful midwife. Not only did this kind woman allow me to keep my pants on, but she talked to me like a whole person. Interested in my thoughts and feelings, she addressed my real concerns and offered good advice. Thanks to our positive encounter, I now feel like perhaps I can handle pregnancy in France after all.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The High Price of Ketchup

In teaching the girls about salvation and how it is freely available to all, Jason posed the following question, hoping to illustrate the contrast :

Jason : « What’s something that’s really expensive ? »
Brooklyn : « Ketchup. »
Jason and Kara : Stunned silence, followed by chuckles and snorts.

Recently Brooklyn and Talia have decided to make ketchup one of the major food groups. In a recent lecture about how it is not appropriate to get up first thing in the morning and pour yourself a bowl of ketchup, I really went off on the girls about how ketchup costs a lot of money and should only be used as condiment. Apparently the lesson must have stuck, as this sticky red paste now trumps computers and cars for the highest price tag.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Announcements, Announcements

So about five weeks ago, I was reading stories with Brooklyn when she suddenly interrupted and said, "Mommy, I think you have a baby in your belly." Rather taken aback, I responded, "Maybe I just ate too much food," to which Brooklyn retorted, "But Mom, your belly's huge!

Well, judging by the pictures I had taken yesterday, Brooklyn was right. Our family is quite excited to welcome a new addition this September.

Even more, I am rather thrilled that Brooklyn's prayer was granted when she prayed yesterday that there would only be one baby in Mommy's belly. (With both of my previous pregnancies I felt great during the first trimester, but this time around has been tougher, making me a bit nervous that I was in for a double dose of fun.)

While her prayer may have been answered, I think Brooklyn's probably still in for a bit of disappointment. She explained that she only wanted one baby so that my belly wouldn't get too huge. If past experience serves as any predictor, she's likely to think there's a whole army in there before this ordeal is over... I may have to hire a crane to hoist me up to the third floor, lift me out of our tub, and get me out of our 6 inch bed in the morning. :)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Things Not Missed (At least not much)

As promised in the last post, here are a few things that, surprisingly enough, I don't miss here in France--well, at least not much.

1) Our mini-van! This is a complete shocker to me. Before leaving, I really worried about surviving carless for an entire year. Surprisingly, I hardly miss it at all. Because Lyon has such great mass transportation, I can get just about anywhere I need to go, often in less time than it would take to drive. I enjoy the exercise walking to and from the metro station, and find that the walk home helps me decompress a bit from work so I can better focus on my family by the time I get home. I thought that grocery shopping would be impossible without a trunk to fill, but I've learned that you can dangle an impressive number of plastic bags from a double stroller. On the few occasions that we've rented a car, I've felt liberated upon returning it--no more gas, tolls, parking meters, traffic jams, crazy roundabouts, etc. Most of all, I definitely don't miss wrestling the girls into their car seats on a regular basis.

If you'd asked me before coming if I could survive without a vehicle, I definitely would have said "no" (I'm still not sure that I could in Illinois). It's taken a change this drastic to break the addiction and open my mind a little bit more to some alternative options. Will I be happy to have our Honda Odyssey back when we return? Absolutely. However, hopefully I will be a little more willing to ride the MTD bus occasionally as well.

2) Walmart. No, this is not going to turn into a bash-the-big-box-store post. I've done far too much business with Wal-Mart to hop on that bandwagon without being a complete hypocrite. Even so, I've become partial to shopping at a small grocery store. The selection may not be quite as large, but I really enjoy getting my exercise walking to the store, not parading through it.

3) Our dryer. I thought that hanging up all of the laundry would be an impossible challenge for a family of four. Admittedly, it is sometimes a pain, but it's not nearly as inconvenient as I thought it would be. Even better, folding laundry is much easier when you can see all of the laundry hanging from a glance instead of rooting through the whole laundry basket for the other pink sock.

4) All of our kitchen gadgets. In packing up to come, I had to leave behind so many fun kitchen toys--our waffle maker, George Foreman (i.e. panini griller), cookie press, Kitchen Aid mixer, fondue pot, electric skillet, toaster, potato masher, juice press, garlic press, cake platter, mini-muffin mold, popcorn popper, etc., etc. The amazing thing to me is that not only do I rarely miss these things, I hardly even think about them! It's amazing how much you can do with a few simple pots, a skillet, a cookie sheet, a 9x13" pan, a mixing bowl, and a hand blender. (Of course, we did have to purchase a springform pan as well after arriving--there was no way I could survive an entire year without one of Jason's cheesecakes.) The one possible exception to this rule is our microwave--consuming leftovers isn't nearly as fun without it.

5) The kid's toys. As I packed up our entire Little People village, I felt certain that my daughters would be traumatized without their beloved play things. In truth, quite the opposite is true. They never seem to think about them. Even more, they don't even play much with the toys that we did bring with us. What they want is someone to play with, not something. Building a fort with a friend is ten times better than building a train track alone. I think that's why anytime you ask Brooklyn what she wants to do, she invariably says "a craft"--for a craft is much more than a creation--as a child, it's creation that happens together.

6) Our clothes. We packed away a lot of our wardrobe. I fussed and fretted over what to bring and felt certain that we wouldn't have enough to get by. In all actuality, our modest wardrobes are plenty sufficient, even when the laundry gets backed up and you have to wait a couple days for things to dry. Even more surprisingly, I've noticed that I still have some clothes that I never wear! I've realized that our wardrobes don't need much in terms of quantity--just a few "staples" that we enjoy wearing and help us feel good about ourselves.

All in all, being geographically separated from my "stuff" has definitely helped me identify where my treasure really lies--here with my family. In contemplating the unenviable task of getting the four of us back home with all of our loot, I've been tempted to leave everything and come back empty-handed with just Jason and the kids..... (plus the cameras and the laptops and the DVDs and our books and some chocolate---I guess I'm not near as anti-materialistic as I'd like to think!)

As much as I don't miss most things very much, I miss people all the time. Our kids have taught us how quickly stuff can break--I just feel grateful that given a bit of care and attention, relationships can last.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Things I Miss

While our cute little Lyonnaise apartment is great, there are still some comforts from home that I miss. Here are a few that come to mind.

1. A dishwasher! Here in Lyon we only have a small, undivided sink with poor lighting. Since we don't have a lot of bowls, plates, utensils, etc., we have to rewash after every meal. On some days it feels like I spend half my life in that dark corner up to my elbows in soap suds!

2. A bed. Upon arriving in Lyon, we purchased the cheapest mattress that we could find, put it down on the floor, and thought we'd be fine for ten months. Unfortunately, after about two months it lost all of its "squoosh," making for some rather uncomfortable nights. On the positive side, someone from church randomly gave us an old couch that folds out into a bed. Despite being right on the floor, it's actually reasonably comfortable. Even so, it's pretty small, especially when the girls climb in with us early in the morning. It's also a bit of a pain to have to collapse the bed into a couch every day and remake it every night. Once we're back in the States, I will definitely be happy to have an actual bed again!

3. Our couch. While I feel really lucky that we have a couch here (two in fact, if you count our couch "bed"), I miss our Illinois couch. Trying to keep a solid black and rust colored couch clean with little kids has been practically impossible. The couch shows every sticky little finger print, and even gets water stains to boot when you try to clean it. While our patterned couch in Illinois may not be tremendously stylish, it definitely handles dirt and stains much better!

4. Cupboards, shelves, and towel hooks that I can reach. While I am extremely grateful that our apartment here has abundant amounts of storage space, all of the storage space is really high for someone who fudges slightly to claim five feet. I am definitely tired of having to constantly move chairs and step stools to function. To hang up my towel in the morning, I literally have to jump to reach the hook! While this may be humorous for anyone observing, it's definitely embarrassing if you're me.

5. A shower. Here in Lyon, we have a very deep tub with a handheld shower head, but no actual shower. While I enjoy baths, I can't wait to actually stand up and take a long, hot shower. Letting the water run down over you is so much nicer when your arm isn't getting cramped from being the shower head.

6. Someone who bags my groceries for me. Here in France, there seems to be a general attitude that emphasizes the rights of employees over those of consumers. When you enter a shop, you are considered a guest who ought to greet the shop owner and have a general attitude of gratitude for the services they provide you by being open and generally existing. While I'm very much in favor of clerks receiving better pay and treatment, it's kind of frustrating when they sit and watch you struggle to bag your food, rather than helping out. Worse yet is when they start checking out the next person in line, so all the food starts piling up! While I'm getting much better at bagging my own food quickly, it can still be inconvenient, especially if you're shopping with kids.

7. Last but not least, I miss having a "noise-approved home." Apartment living has been really challenging, especially in an older place that isn't very soundproof. We have one grumpy neighbor who doesn't seem to understand that kids just make noise. Sometimes I feel like a broken record who does nothing but tell the girls to walk, use their inside voices, and whisper on the stairs. Yesterday I had to chuckle when I told the girls that if they wanted to jump, they needed to do it on the bed/mattress (after all, they can't make it worse) instead of the floor so that they wouldn't make so much noise. Anyway, I can't wait to be back in the States where it is okay to jump, dance, laugh, squeal, and heaven forbid, run in the hallway!

I guess the moral of the story is that no matter where you are and what you have, there will always be a few things that you wish were slightly different. I think the key is to learn to be happy in the moment and delight in the many things you have instead of the few things you don't. So thanks for reading about the things I miss, and stay tuned for the next installment of the things I don't.