Wednesday, February 24, 2010

2 months old

Aelig turns 2 months old today. Last several weeks, when she was in good mood,

she started to smile especially when she wakes up;

played with her tongue;

entertained herself with toy.

She also went to her grandparents house, first long distance trip in her life.

To help improve her sleeping habit, we introduced her the pacifier. It is still a misery how this pacifier ended up on her head.

In terms of sleeping, it is still hard to get her to sleep especially during the day. She seems to lack the skill to soothe herself to sleep. We had tried swaddling, pacifier, anti-reflux medicine, gripe water, but things seemed to work just for a while and then she was still fussy getting to sleep even though she was yawning continuously. Basically, we need to rock her on the arms then put her to sleep on her bed but she would wake up after 15 minutes. She still wakes up several times during the night for nursing.

In terms of breastfeeding, at one point she refused to suck on one breast, crying out loud after first suck, or sometimes she rejected both sides. In this kind of situation I always had to change several positions in order to get her to nurse.

The next few weeks would be another milestone and big challenging moments for 3 of us. My aunt will go back to Malaysia, I will go back to work, and Aelig will go to babysitter. Next week I will go to Paris with my aunt and she will be alone with hubby. At this point, I'm not sure whether I would continue breastfeeding after going back to work. I haven't think of a place at work that I could express milk comfortably and if I do find the place, I don't know how to transport them since I'm working far away from home. Well, wish us luck!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Celebrating Chinese New Year in France

I got pretty homesick this year during Chinese New Year. It is due to the fact that my aunt is here plus it would had been nice if Aelig could celebrate this festival with my family back in Malaysia. Well, sometimes life is tough and we can't always do what we want, so I decided to celebrate CNY with family (my in laws last week) and friends here. I would love to invite more friends but our apartment is too tiny to be able to include more people.

Hubby prepared his signature dish Guacamole as appetizer. We then presented this cheated version of Yu Shang. I said cheated because we couldn't get the real ingredients so we improvise by replacing them by green apple, green and red pepper, cucumber plus homemade sauce.

The Malaysian Chinese usually have Yu Shang during the 7th day of CNY, which is also known as "human day". Yu = Fish, Shang = life. This dish should have 7 colors plus raw fish, and before start eating it we use chopstick to stir all the items together, with the hands holding chopstick moving to the highest up the better as it signifies lively and prosperous year ahead. The height could mean climbing up the corporate ladder, the higher the better.

We had steamboat and grill chicken + seafood. I love having steamboat as it senses festival and conviviality. We omitted some ingredients such as different kind of fish balls (the French don't like it) and various soya bean products (except taufo as we couldn't find them in the Asian store nearby).

Aelig also joined in the party.

Aelig and her little friend R got their CNY ang pao.

How can we not have mandarin orange during CNY? We also had the fortune cookies, funny that the message we got in French is totally different from what was written in Chinese. Our friend prepared us some delicious mango muffin as dessert.

I called my family at Malaysia time 12.15am while they were celebrating the Tian Gong festival. We heard firecrackers loudly and continuously, it reminisced us the good moments we had in Malaysia during our visit in 2007. I can't help but compared Christmas here and CNY in Malaysia. Christmas is an family event and the cold keeps most of the people indoor whereas CNY is for family and friends and in Malaysia we get to celebrate it at warm and humid weather, thus having people staying outside whole night for chatting and firecrackers. One is peaceful, one is merit with loud voices.

360 diapers!

Before being a parent I had no idea how much a pack of diaper costs. At this point we are using Huggies size one for Aelig and it costs 17 cents each. On average we spend like 50 euros a month for diapers, which for me is still affordable, until hubby told me that the price of a diaper cost twice when we go for the later size. Holly shit, one size 2 diaper costs 37 cents and size 3 costs 47 cents. This freak me out a bit, considering that a kid will use diaper until he is 2 or 3 years old. I started looking for cheaper solution and that was when I saw an announce on a forum: Huggies diapers at 50% off at

I ordered from this site and the shipping is free if you buy over 59 euros. I bought size 2 and size 3 and on average each diaper costs 18 cents. I saved at least 50% for 360 diapers, but I have not tried it out yet so not sure if the quality is as good as the one we bought from the local supermarket.

Having a baby is not cheap that's all I'm saying. :-)

Friday, February 19, 2010

How much a pregnant woman costs the French social system

1. Monthly regular check-up
a. During the first five month, the system pays 70% of the medical fees minus 1€ participation fee each time you go see a doctor. In my case:
4 consultations with my family doctor = 22€ x 4 = 88€
1 session with a gynecologist (emergency) = 50€
French social system paid 70% x 138€ = 96.6€ - 4€ participation fee = 92.6€
My health insurance paid 30% x 138€ = 41.4€
I paid 4 euros participation fee

Note that my pregnancy was followed by my family doctor. If the pregnancy is followed by a specialist = gynecologist, the service fee = 46€

b. From the 6th month onwards the system pays 100% of all the medical fees, in my case:
4 doctor consultations = 22€ x 4 = 88€
2 check up with a gynecologist = 46 x 2 = 92€
1 session with an anesthetist = 28€
French social system paid 100% of these fees = 208€

Total regular check up fees paid by:
The French social system = 300.6€
My health insurance = 41.4€
Out of my pocket = 4€

2. Lab analysis
These included blood and urine test once a month and all kind of glucose tolerance tests, paid 100% by the French social system, in my case = 333.4€

3. Ultra-sound sessions:
a. Same as the regular check up, the French social system pays 70% of these sessions for the first 5 months minus 1€ participation fee.
First trimester = 48.35€
Extra session under doctor request = 33.44€
Second trimester = 81.92€
French social system paid = 111.6€
My health insurance paid = 49.11€
Out of my pocket = 3€

b. The ultra-sound session during the last trimester was paid 100% by the French social system = 73.99€

Total ultra-sound sessions paid by:
French social system = 185.59€
My health insurance = 49.11€
Out of my pocket = 3€

4. Childcare classes
I had 8 sessions of childcare classes all paid by the French social system = 8 x 30.74€ = 245.92€

5. Medicines
I didn't have any supplementary vitamins except some iron. Besides I had gotten some cream for some kind of infection. These totaled to 8.98€, all paid by the French social system.

As a conclusion, all the medical care during my pregnancy had costed the French social system =300.6€ + 333.4€ + 185.59€ + 245.92€ + 8.98€
= 1074.49€

Note: This is just based on my personal experience as the medical cost for a pregnant woman can vary depending on each person's health condition and how the pregnancy goes.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A French Chinese New Year

We are heading to my in law's place for CNY reunion dinner. This is going to be the first long distance car trip for Aelig. Let's see if she is going to get her first ang pao (red envelope stuff with money). The reunion dinner will be French style, so it is going to be a different experience.

Gong Xi Fa Chai everyone.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pineapple tarts

The year of Tiger is just around the corner. To celebrate Chinese New Year my family usually prepares some tarts and cookies. One of my favorites is pineapple tarts. Well I'm not much into baking so usually it was my sister who made them and I was the one finishing them. This year I decided to bake some myself. However, since my daughter is so sticky, I showed my aunt how to do it and she was the one making these crumbly and addictive tarts.

Pineapple jam
1 pineapple + some sugar
Slide and grate pineapple. Dry the grated pineapple.
Simmer it until the juice dry out. Add sugar (to the sweet level you want) and stir till the jam is thickened. Store in the refrigerator overnight.

Note: You can add in some cinnamon or glove to have some taste but I prefer the fresh pineapple taste.

Dough (recipe altered from here):
340g flour
225g butter (I used salted butter)
2tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
5 tsp water
1 egg yolk

1 beaten egg for glazing

Put flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Pour in melted butter until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Beat in the egg yolk and add in cold water. Mix well to form a dough. Place in a plastic bag and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Roll pastry out to 3/8” thickness on a tabletop and cut out rounds with a tart cutter.

Fill each piece of cut-out pastry with pineapple jam filling.

Glaze the tarts with beaten egg.

Preheat oven to 180 degree. Bake for 20 minutes or until the tarts turn golden brown.

With these ingredients you can make about 100 pieces of pineapple tarts. With the salted butter it makes a nice combination of sweet (pineapple jam) and salty (pastry) taste. I planned to give some to my in laws but we finished them within two days. My aunt made some again today and she put about 50 pieces aside to avoid us finishing them again. Now I think about it, I'm not sure if my in laws will appreciate them. I have learnt that some French do not mix salty and sweet in one dish, meaning that once they finish eating something salty (main dish), they will pass to something sweet (dessert) and they will not take any salty food later. Since there is a clear cut between salty and sweet food, I'm not sure if they could appreciate sweet and salty cookies.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Could Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt enjoy the French social system

In 2008 Angelina Jolie gave birth to her twin son and daughter in France. There was rumor and report that they received social help from the French government, something around 1750 euros a month. I had seen an article in English implying that they are qualified for a lot of social help but I couldn't find back the article. I used to believe this kind of report, but the more I get involved with the system, the more I'm skeptical that this could be true.

Let's look at what kind of social benefits a resident in France gets when having a kid.
1. Birth bonus - 889.72€ (1779.43€ for adopted kid)
You get this one time bonus at the 7th month of the pregnancy in condition that you yearly income is inferior than 43363€.
Don't tell me Jolie and Pitt don't earn more than this amount? For Pete's sake they spent 45 million pounds transforming a castle to their home in south of France. That's how wealthy they are.

On the other hand, since they are so wealthy, they will probably get a huge birth bonus from their health insurance. In my case I got 1143€ from my company insurance. However, this is from the private sector so it doesn't count as social benefit.

2. Basic allowance - 177.95€ per month
Again, they need to earn less than 43363€ a year so they won't quality for this.

3. Allowance for extended maternity leaves - 552.11€ a month (in the case you do not quality for basic allowance)
After the 16 weeks paid maternity leaves, some women prefer to stay home by taking another 6 months unpaid maternity leaves.
Even if Angelina chooses to take this unpaid leaves, she won't be quality for this allowance as she would need to have work in France for 2 years before she could apply.

4. Childcare allowance
If this couple choose to hire babysitters to take care of their 6 children in France, they could enjoy some childcare allowance. Again I'm pretty sure they earn more than 43363€ a year, in this case they could get 167.07€ a month for their children who are less than 3 years old and 83.54€ a month for their kids who are more than 3 years old. Let say they have 3 kids less than 3 years old and 3 kids more than 3 years, the most they could get = 751.83€ per month.

So, they most they can get from the French social systems = 751.83€ per month.
However, to get childcare allowance, they first need to hire at least 2 baby sitters. This creates job for the local. If they pay their baby sitters minimum wages, this could total to 2400€ a month. These baby sitters would have to pay taxes to the French government which could easily surpass the 751.83€ the couple receive.

Besides, to apply for all these allowances, they need to have a valid French income tax return. If they declare their income in France, imagine how much taxes they could contribute to the systems.

As a conclusion, the French system could not be easily abused as believed by many people. In this case, even if Jolie and Pitt managed to "milk" some money out of the system, at the end of the day, France would gain more by collecting taxes from them than paying them.