Enrolling an Australian Child in a French School

For anyone who has experienced French bureaucracy you will know the huge amount of paperwork and time it takes to get anything done. Those that haven’t experienced it let me tell you generally to do something simple it will involve 5 steps before you can do the actual thing you want to do. For example to enrol our daughter for lunch at her French school we had to call someone, to receive a code, so that we could then register, to get another code to actually register.

Enrolling our 3 year old Australian daughter into school was one of the easiest process we have ever encounter. We filled in the forms, then took them into the Hôtel de Ville, a lady there entered the information and voilà we were enrolled. The French are very proud, and rightly so, that they provide education to everyone. It is completely free for any child living in France to attend school.I know in Australia for a foreigner to even attend a public school it’s around $4,000.

 

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Fitness

A few weeks ago I decided to really get back into my fitness. My eldest daughter was about to turn 4 and I realised that in reality I only have about 8 more years to really set a good example to her on how to live her life. In this world of eating disorders, plastic sugary, and bad body image, I want my girls to see their bodies as beautiful and strong.

So I started Kayla Itsines  Bikini Body Guide BBG, again. The BBG is 12 weeks worth of 28 minutes of exercises.  You do it three times a week and each day consists of two sets of exercises which you do twice for a maximum of 7 minutes.  It seems easy enough but it is actually a killer work out. I got this guide over a year ago and started and stopped quite a few times, each time because i’d hurt my back, but this time I’m determined. I am now at week 6. I did hurt my back in week 3 or 4 and then took a week off for Christmas. But instead of giving up I have been taking it slow and easy if I feel I need it. I’m only a few months off turning 35 and this really is the time to get the body I have always wanted. Whilst I would love to say I am only interested in being strong and setting a good example for my girls, but I also want to be fit and look good.

I got immediate results with being a good example for my girls straight away. As I started day 1 both my girls started copying me. As I started doing squats with my temporary weights in hands, my eldest daughter ran around looking for something she could use as weights. She grabbed a couple of her My Little Pony’s and started squatting. She then looked at me and said “we are so strong aren’t we Mama?”, I hadn’t even said anything! Now when I exercise they both usually join in for a bit.

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Because I didn’t want to buy any equipment the above photo shows my current workout equipment. A couch, side table, and for weights old milk bottles filled with water and a couple of (surprisingly heavy)  doorstops. Sometimes I have to adapt the exercises a little bit, but I’m really determined to keep going no matter what.

Postpartum Hair Loss and a French Haircut

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I never have never been one of those women for whom pregnancy is a beautiful, glowing experience, except when it comes to my hair, pregnancy hair for me is a dream. My hair becomes thicker, has more lustre and, the best of all, only needs to be washed every 4-5 days. postpartum hair on the other hand is a disaster. Breastfeeding has not been kind to my hair. Pre-babies I had fine, dark blonde, slightly wavy, prone to getting oily, hair. It was never thick, but I didn’t have any problems with it other than it would only grow a little past my shoulders. Once I started breastfeeding my hair just becomes weak, damaged and oily. It doesn’t help that after having both my babies i’ve immediately lightened my hair in an attempt to look less drab after long nights breastfeeding.
I’m not sure if I lost so much hair after having my first baby, however 6 months after having my second baby I noticed millions of tiny hairs sticking out all over my head. I had had a huge amount of hairloss. I had read  many articles about women talking about this hairless, but I wasn’t prepared for it. When I went to a hairdresser in Australia she took one look at me and asked if I was breastfeeding. My hairdresser assured me that the new hairs would actually grow back faster than other hair grows. I’m not sure if this is true but it certainly made me feel better.
The process of it all growing back is actually worse than the loss of the hair. At the moment if I put my hair up it looks like I have a mullet. My hair texture has also changed. The new hair is growing back ever so slightly curlier. I will be really happy if this means I will have more curl in my hair, however, a mass of curlier short hairs growing through my straighter, damaged hair, is not a good look.
I got my hair cut to just above my shoulders before we left Australia and planned on letting it grow until we returned, because I was too nervous about getting my haircut when my French is not so good. But it was looking so terrible out, and since putting it up gave me a bogan mullet, I decided to bite the bullet and get a haircut. Not many people in our city speak much English so I armed myself with all the words I thought I would need, along with a photo of a haircut I liked. It turned out that the hairdresser could speak English. The haircutting technique was different to Australia. He semi dried it and then cut it freestyle looking at the movement in my hair. I got it cut into a longish bob above my shoulders and I really like it.
I am genuinely surprised how much this postpartum hair loss has affected me and my confidence in myself. I didn’t think I would care as much as I do. And getting my hair cut then brings with it all those fears of having the dreaded “mum hair”. But now I understand why so many mothers have short hair. Also after writing this blog post I searched #postpartumhairloss and I realised that it can be much worse. To any of you mothers out there suffering postpartum hairless I feel your pain and you are not alone.

Essential “Stuff” I need

After writing this blog post about living without stuff I started to think about what are single use “things” that I feel are necessary for me. Something I wish we had bought when we arrived is a vase. I love having fresh flowers, to me having fresh flowers makes a house feel like a home. I had thought I would find some old bottle to repurpose, but in reality a good vase really needs to be purpose made so that it can fit a bunch of flowers in it. Although having said that in Australia I have a water jug I was given for my wedding that I use as a vase. But I don’t every really use it as a water jug.

Coffee plunger! My husband and I are massive coffee lovers, and luckily we didn’t have to buy a plunger because there was already one from when my husband was here last.

The following are the things we bought that I  felt we couldn’t live without:

  • Water filter
  • Spare towels and bedding. We went a couple of months without having doubles, but in the end having kids, and living in an apartment, means sometimes you just can’t get things washed and dried within a day. I miss my outdoor clothesline at home!
  • A pair of kid sized chairs from IKEA to go with a coffee table that was already here.  The girls love sitting at their own table and reading, drawing, eating, playing etc.
  • Christmas decorations for the tree. But we will take a few of these home and give the rest away to families we know.

Other things that I do miss and would buy if we were staying here longer are:

  • Magic bullet: this was a game changer for me and at home I use it at least once a day to make smoothies, dips, pasta sauce, even chopping up garlic.
  • Juicer: again I use this almost every day as well to make sure my girls get extra veggies into them. My dad bought me a juicer when I was teenager and I have owned one ever since.
  • And something that in Australia that is essential for me is a rotary clothes line. I just love how nice clothes and linen smell after being outside in the sunshine for a day. Did i mention how much I miss my clothes line?

 

A Very Minimal Christmas

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Our Christmas day itself is going to be a very relaxed affair as it is only the four of us. We will just eat lots of yummy, easy to prepare food, and spend the day with the girls, probably involving building cubby houses and adventuring at the local park. It is interesting that being so far away from family and friends, you really realise how how much about Christmas is about being with people. Especially where we live there is usually a steady stream of visitors for at least a week, with days playing with the growing broods of children and evenings spent in our backyard playing music and drinking cocktails. I am excited for our Christmas day this year because it is possibly the only year it will just be the four of us.

With our time in France drawing to an end, and lots of travel on the horizon, the last thing my husband and I want is to buy our children loads of presents for Christmas for the simple purpose of consumption. It’s actually really difficult for me to not buy them “big” gifts, but they are only 4 and 1 so actually have no preconceived ideas of what Christmas presents “should” be.

Our 4 year old told me Santa will bring her a yoyo, preferably with pink on it. So she will receive a yoyo and both girls will receive a beautiful French outfit. The 1 year old will receive a backpack (to be like her sister). I’ve also got some play dough and UNO cards for them to share.

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I  have with me a couple of dust bags from the designer Yannika, I use them for organising our suitcases, these will be the stockings this year. The stocking will have their presents in them and then will be rounded out by a few chocolate coins and a pomegranate. Years ago I read an article that said French children always receive pomegranates in the toes of their stockings. So far no French people have confirmed this tradition for me, but i’m going to pretend it is one anyway.

My husband and I are not going to give each other anything, but instead use the money to go on an extra trip somewhere. We are going to wrap up lots of our non refrigerator Christmas food for under the tree so that the girls learn to appreciate how lucky we are to be able to eat such yummy food.

 

Packing For Paris In August

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When they say that Paris is deserted in August and that most of the shops are shut, it’s true! We spent a wonderful week here in August. Although I was a little disappointed that some of the shops I wanted to go to were shut, the truth is when travelling with kids generally you have to let go of any plans and go with the flow. We stayed in the 10th Arrondissement in an adorable little apartment we found on Airbnb. And the lack of people in Paris was actually really enjoyable.

My husband met us in Paris. He had had to fly back to Australia for work, so i was travelling by train with the two girls. After my Bordeaux experience I decided to take our larger suitcase and pack some more just in case things. This time I did actually packed better.  I only added one dress knowing I would be walking a lot with the baby in the Ergo. I also made sure I packed a couple of pairs of jeans, which I ended up wearing a lot of the time. It ended up being perfect and I think there was only a couple of items of clothing that I didn’t wear.

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Did I curse using the bigger suitcase, many times, especially the moment in Lyon when I got on the wrong car of the train and amongst a packed train had to change cars with toddler, baby in Ergo, stroller and giant suitcase. However many of the other passengers on the train were really nice and helped me. And my eldest daughter was so good when we were in transit, she never let go of the suitcase whilst we walked between trains and taxis.

One mistake I did make was packing two pairs of sandals. Because the streets were so dirty I only wanted to wear closed in shoes everyday, so I ended up wearing my converse everyday. The same with my eldest daughter, bringing sandals for her was completely unnecessary.

It’s difficult to pack minimally with a baby and a preschooler. They might not get anything dirty for days, and then in one afternoon go through three or four outfits. It really helped that there was a washing machine in our airbnb apartment and I ended up doing one load of washing.

Bordeaux

We spent a week here in August. If you read my previous post you will know the first few days were absolutely freezing, but thankfully we managed to have a few glorious days of swimming

We were staying just outside of Bordeaux near a huge lake. As an Australian I’ve never really experienced lakes before, and this beautiful body of water made me wish I had a few more days of sunshine. I love how the French really enjoy their holiday time. People would come to the lake, set up and then spend the entire day there. I also love that there was elegant cafe looking over the lake. I loved swimming for a couple of hours and then going to drink coffee and eat icecream. Even when it was pouring with rain it was nice to sit and watch the view.
Some interesting things I noticed, we were the only ones on the beach before midday and the only ones with kids in hats and rashies. But in France, unlike Australia, it only really heats up at 2pm, instead of midday. So my Australian instincts were to rush out the door in the morning so we could leave by 10am, but sometimes it was still too cold to swim by ten even if the temperatures reached 30 degrees during the day.
I didn’t get to properly look around the city of Bordeaux because both times I tried my eldest daughter wasn’t feeling well. Traveling with kids generally means that sometimes you just have to let go of any plans. I hope to return one day and see it for all its beauty.