Sunday, August 29, 2010

8 months + 5 days

During the week after putting Aelig to sleep, I'm usually exhausted, thus didn't manage to post when Aelig turned 8 months. Trying to catch up here by summarizing her achievements and milestones from 7 to 8 months.


So far, she has tried:
Ham, sausage, potato, carrot, zucchini, leek, eggplant, melon, banana, strawberry, apple and plum. She accepted all of them even though sometimes her face expression showed that she didn't really enjoy them. This photo shows the strawberry banana combo hubby prepared for her.

Hubby brought her to pick some strawberry. She ate several, here is the proof!

Movements & positions

She could sit still without support now. This photo was taken during our day trip to Pont Aven. We were picnicking with friends and she was playing alone.

She loves playing in the garden. I can see that she is an outdoor girl.

We could now go shopping with her since she could sit well in the shopping cart.

Shortly after she managed to sit in a balance way, she discovered that she could turn to her stomach and raise both her hands and legs. Since then she has lost patient in sitting, as soon as we put her on the floor she moves on to the crawling positing.

And now she wants us to give her our hand to support her standing up. I love the moment when she takes my hands and looks at me anticipating me lifting her up.

This weekend she found her way to be on her knee in her crib. She is very happy with this new position. Now I'm worried, how long will it take before she figures out how to climb out from the crib and....fall?

Sleeping pattern
The first week we put her in her own room, she was sleeping well but still woke up around 4am for feeding. The second week I believed she was being disturbed by the new skills and positions she acquired, as she woke up frequently on her crawling position, crying. Last week, she slept through the night most of the time, woke up once at 5am and once at 6am, and went right back to sleep after feeding.

I'm proud and elated at all her achievements. I keep reminding myself that I need to treasure the time with her since she is growing so fast, very soon she will move around all over the place and we have not done anything to childproof our apartment yet. It is time for action!

Friday, August 27, 2010

A company farewell party

The last day I was with my company in Malaysia, my boss brought me and my coworker to a private club to enjoy a delectable buffet lunch.

One week before I left my company in the USA, my managers organized a farewell lunch with our team members. They also offered me a photo album with my name carved on the front page. All these were paid by the company.

Things are different in France. Most of the time the person who is quitting will organize a farewell party (pot de départ) in the company pantry or meeting room, he or she will bring in some drinks and snacks. The coworkers will then start "an envelope" to collect some money among themselves and use the money to buy something for the person leaving.

I had the opportunity to participate some of the farewell parties and contributed to the envelope. This time, it was for my manager's manager, someone with whom I worked directly with and someone whom I admired. Let's call her C here. I was heavyhearted to learn that I would no longer working with her. C decided to become a school teacher and, envisaging to have time for herself, for example taking adult piano lessons.

This time around, I was the one started the envelope. I sent an email to the mailing list (by first removing C) and informed them where they could contribute their part. I suggested everyone brings in a family photos but nobody replied. Later I found out from a coworker that a family photo is private and she didn't feel like giving it to a manager. Well, after talking with many people outside the team, I figured we could take a team photo as a sentimental souvenir. I felt that our team members were not motivated, so I shared this idea to another manager. With his support, I conveyed the message to everyone and I got one pitiful reply out of 100 people. To diverse C we asked a manager to set up a meeting with her during the time we were taking the photos. I was afraid we wouldn't have enough people showed up, but to my surprise, more than 40 people turned up. At right at that moment, C arrived with her car seeing all of us gathered in the parking lot. Well, there go the surprise!

Even though I worked with C for more than 2 years, I realized I do not know her well outside of the work context, thus having a hard time figure out what presents to buy for her. Eventually we talked to her husband and found out that she wanted a piano. Well, a piano was way out of our budget so we bought her a piano bench (tabouret piano in French, a new word I learnt). With everyone's contribution, besides the piano chair, we got her a Hello Kitty pencil box with some pens, two team photos and a Yves Rocher gift card (for facial, massage...).

C, all the best to your future endeavors. Bonne continuation!

I don't want to work because...

My coworker was so irritated today that she complained about the French social system in front of me. Apparently, she received an email from her husband saying that their house keeper is quitting. When asking her why, her reply:"I can not work over 15 hours a week else I will lose my stipend from RSA."

This coworker earns a good living and her husband works like crazy as he is holding an important position. Due to their above average household income, they need to pay the maximum prices for most of the services for children: canteen, childcare, extra-curriculum activities...and her housekeeper is only three years older than her. Her point is, they are in the high income group but they work hard and pay a lot of taxes, which end up helping these people who want to work minimum. These group of people will complain about their shrimpy retirement even though they are the one at fault since they prefer to work minimum when they are young.

Listening to her, I could only smile. This is one of the fundamental problems of the social systems. Every helps start with a good purpose, but it couldn't prevent people from abusing it. A good control is necessary, but how to distinguish someone who couldn't find a job (thus should get minimum help) from someone who prefer to work the least possible to be able to receive help?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The name confusion

Some coworkers were working with some Chinese and some Indians and they were talking about how their names confused all of them. Here went the hilarious conversations:

A: You know it is very tough to work with the Chinese.
B: Why?
A: You don't know what their name actually are.
B: How's that?
A: There is this guy who's name is Zi Zhang, how am I supposed to know whether Zi is the first name or last name.
B: So what did you call him?
A: I called him Zhang and he replied, but later I found out Zhang is actually his last name.
B: Ops.
A: There is simply no way to guess which one is the first name.
B: You know same things happened to me when I was working with the Indians.
A: What happened?
B: We were in a conference call and I kept asking questions to this Indian guy but he never replied.
A: Why?
B: Each time I asked a question, I said "so Siddiqui could you please confirm this and that" and nobody answered, but I recognized his voice, he was there. Then I realized his first name was actually Apurv, since I was calling him with his last name with a French pronunciation, he didn't know I was talking to him.
A: Ops

I was sitting next to their office and their conversation made me smile. While it is confusing for the French to distinguish the first from the last name for the Chinese and Indians, it was confusing for me as well to identify the first name from the French's. Sometimes a common first name could be used as the family name, for example Thomas, Vivien. There are regional names that I had never heard of and some of them do not follow the usual French pronunciation. For example, most of the time you do not pronounce the S when it is situated at the end of a word, but there is always exception to the rule: for Mme Le Pous you need to pronounce the S because it is from the Brittany regional.

Well, life is a continuous learning experience.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Aelig has her own passport!
The application process was so fast and efficient. It was probably done in 5 days but we went to take it 10 days later. I thought it was going to take 5-6 weeks so was happy to discover the speedy processing time. Now we could bring her anywhere outside France. Plan in process: Switzerland in Sept and Malaysia next year!

Here are the papers that you need to gather to apply for passport for a minor:
1. Application form (could get it from the Town Hall or their website)
2. 2 photos (could take it from any photographer or directly with the Town Hall)
3. Application fee (in stamp form) = 17 euros with photos, 20 euros if the photos are to be taken in the Town Hall
4. The livret de famille (French family book listing the married couple + kids)
5. Any document that could prove the French nationality from any of the parents
6. Any paper that could prove your current address

When filling the form, we didn't know what to put for her eyes' color. Sometimes her eyes are blue, sometimes they are brown, sometimes they are mixed color. The officer approached Aelig and had a close look, she said we might want to put "other". Eventually she entered a color that we predict to be the right one in two years. We shall see in two years if our prediction is right!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The end of breastfeeding

Aelig was with her grandparents for a week. I use this opportunity to totally stop breastfeeding. I had some engorgement at some point but it went away quickly. When we went to pick up Aelig, she emptied the last milk stocked and since then I do not sense any milk coming. Well, it is time to stop.

The weaning process took around 3 months. I went back to work when Aelig was about 3 months old. I intended to continue breastfeeding as long as I could, but it was too tiresome to have to wake up early in the morning to pump and handling the storage in the fridge. I provided milk to the sitter but it only lasted for one month then my milk supply dwiddled. Since then, I breastfed every morning and evening.

Here is the electric breast pump set I used. I rented the machine from the Pharmacy and I paid 0 for it. The French government paid for the rental which costed around 12 euros per week. :-) Thanks S & A for lending me the equipment & accessories, I was braver to try out the electric pump since I had these handy, and the manual one didn't work on me.

It took me so long to wean as emotionally I was not ready to let go the precious moments I had with Aelig, then she refused to drink from a bottle during the evening. She expected me to breastfeed her. Thing took a turn when my coworker introduced me to one type of bottles with the teat imitating the teat from a breast. Gradually, she get used to drinking from a bottle at home. Since then, I only fed her to put her to sleep, and now she could go to sleep without breastfeeding.

What a journey! I was afraid I won't have enough milk at the beginning but I did. Expressing using an electric device + storing were totally foreign to me, but little by little I got familiarized with it. The first time I pumped, I got the pitiful 10oz. With perseverance my inflow doubled. I thought I would never be able to go through the weaning process, but mentally I was ready and so did Aelig. I'm elated with the result. The only big inconvenience I encountered was when I had to be away: I still remembered having engorgement when I was watching the Moulin Rouge show in Paris. I had to press my breasts from time to time to release the pain. Here was the result when you do not breastfeed for one day: 6oz of milk expressed in one go for the first time!