Sunday, December 23, 2018

Convinced by Jackie Cheung

I started listening to Jackie Cheung's songs in the 80s when Hong Kong pop songs were dominating the Chinese community. He was not my favorite, but he was famous enough to make people know him.

I had less opportunity listening to his new songs after I left Malaysia. When I saw friends posted news about his latest concert in Paris, I decided to go. He was called god of the songs, I knew he would give us the best performance. Beside, going to Paris with friends is always a nice getaway from the routine life.

There I went, on the 28th of November. My friend took care of the bookings, she almost missed the train though, got in two minutes before the train to Paris departed. The concert was simply awesome. He totally convinced me that he is the best. At 57 years old, he sang 3 hours, with 1 or 2 minutes break from time to time while his band took over, allowing him to change and take some drinks. His songs touched my heart, reminding me of those old days, while discovering many new songs that I checked later on YouTube.

His concert was very different from Eason Chan's that I attended one year ago. He brought over a music director with a band, orchestra, dancers and stage art performing team. I was especially impressed by the lighting system. The only regret I had was the fact that he had to speak in Mandarin instead of Cantonese. A lot of songs were sang in Mandarin even though there existed also Cantonese version. I guess he had to speak the language where majority of his audiences can understand.

Beside the concert, we also went to Miro's exhibition, and visited the gallery in Pompidou center. There were easy access to lots of Asian foods. We ended the trip by visiting the Chinese supermarket in Chinatown, where I got mangosteen, and other fruits that are more expensive in my town.

Arriving in my town train station, I quickly hopped inside a tramway as hubby was supposed to wait for me at one of the stops. When I finally sat down, I saw 7 missed calls from hubby. He wanted to give me a surprise, and was waiting with the little one around the train station. He was so mad that I didn't pick up the phone. My phone was in my backpack as I was holding two bags full of fruits and roasted porks from Paris. We finally managed to meet somewhere.

Now, I still have Jackie'q songs lingering in my head. Sometimes I couldn't concentrate at my work, a very bad timing as I had bunch of works to catch ip after absent for two days. Will definitely go buy his CDs when I have chance.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

New school year 2018

The school year starts in general in Sept in France. I always wonder why they would "start" something in Sept, the 9th month of the year, instead of in January. When I told my coworkers about this, they can't imagine that in Malaysia we start the school year in January, and, without a long summer holiday break! Anyway, the girls were eager to go back to school.

Sept 2017

Sept 2018

Every morning except Wednesday during the week, I have to prepare them for school. I usually wake up earlier to prepare myself, then wake them up to have breakfast together. It was a stressful moment, as either they complained about the breakfast, or they fought, or they took their time for everything. Especially the youngest, she would first lay down in sofa, refused to eat anything. Then by the time everyone was done, she came and requested breakfast. Of course I refused, I didn't care if she went to school with empty stomach, I had already warned her enough about the consequence. At one point, the eldest required a different hair style per day, and she had it listed on a paper. Some of them took me 10 minutes, and sometime she changed her mind last minute.

The school gates open at different time as one is in primary and one is in kindergarten. I have to send the little one to her class, sometimes she wanted me to stay to see her play a game, to show me something she has learnt. When I finally managed to walk out of school, there was traffic jams waiting, and I showed up always a bit late at work. 

A morning kiss to her sister before entering their school compound (primary school and kindergarten are separated by a gate).

Schools here will have 6 or 7 weeks of classes, then follows by a 2 week break. A lot of parents appreciate the break, including me. The girls usually go to their grandparents, that leaves me some personal time, and very relax mornings. It is amazing how having kids and without kids can change one's day. 

After the break de la Toussaint, we suddenly manage to have less stressful mornings. Hubby wakes them up before going to work, and the youngest stopped laying down on sofa, instead she comes directly having breakfast with us. And most importantly, the eldest prepares breakfast for me, and she is very proud about it. I still have to rush the little one to eat faster, as she can spend all her time talking or day dreaming. The eldest is less picky about her hairstyle as well. Sometimes they are done earlier so they read on sofa or play together while waiting for me to get ready. I always try to clean up the kitchen after breakfast.

The little one was chosen as class representative. That was a surprise to me, but well three of them were chosen because there was a tied at vote for two of them. The election process was quit formal, they had to write the name of the person they chose on a paper and put it inside an envelope, and the teacher counted the vote by taking out the paper one by one. A democratic process at young age.

I always remind myself, that there is only less then 2 school years left that they will go to the same school together. At one point, the eldest will go to middle school, and they will each have their own circle of friends, and school life. Therefore, I should appreciate these mornings, when they are still eating and playing together.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Separation and Togetherness

These several months have been very hard for me. There were several coworkers leaving the company. People I had been happily working together for years, people who gave me a lot of autonomy in my works and who made me discovered what I was good at. I didn't know it could be so tough until I realized we would no longer having lunch together, nor bitching about something or someone anymore. Farewell parties one after another, and there is still one planned in November. I almost cried during a meeting yesterday, thinking that I would be hearing his voice and jokes for the last time during work environments. Thanks for being my coworker Céline, Patrice, Regis, Noëla, Vincent, Samuel and soon Nicolas.

The photos below warmed my heart. Separation at work, but I'm seeing my girls bonding everyday. Of course they fight, they yell at each other, but they also have fun together. 

The big sister reading to her little sister during her bath time.

The big sister fasten the bell for her little sister.

Reading together

Playing together

I felt so proud that day at this playground. The little one wanted to do this game, but I was tired having walking for several hours that day. I refused to go queue with her. The big sister, after playing somewhere else, came to her and proposed to queue with her. She did several rounds under the watch of her big sister. Not only that, the big sister stopped people from jumping queue in front of  her sister, and yelled away kids who tried to play several times without queuing. She didn't keep quiet if some kids didn't respecting the rules. She also brought her little sister to play swing. She started to show that she was capable to protect her sister.

But for how long? That's a question I often asked myself. For how long will they do stuffs together? In less than two years, the big one is going to secondary school, the little one to primary school. Will they still play together? Or will it be time they play separately? Will they seek out each other? Will their share their happiness and sadness? It is hard to tell. But in general, I notice, siblings are less close in France compare to Malaysia. When they have their own families, they see each other during Christmas, or weddings, or family gatherings. Some manage to travel together but it is rare. My sisters and nieces are traveling this Christmas and will stop by to pay me a visit. I'm eager to see them. I don't know if age matters, but I'm feeling even closer to them now despite the fact that we are living thousand kilometers away. Love has no distance I guess. 

Sunday, September 02, 2018

We are letting them go

I'm someone who throws unused stuffs easily. Except books, photos, some sentimental gifts, I can let go of anything. I enjoy cluster free environment. Beside, since I'm the one doing the housework, less things to handle mean less hassle.

My youngest is 4 so its time to let go of baby equipment. We have two cars it means 4 car seats for the kids. Plus it has infant car seat, baby cradle car seat, toddler car seat, ... it never ends until the kids turn 10. Car seats aren't cheap, so far we only invested in two. Someone lent us an infant car seat (for baby up to 6 month old), never used a baby cradle car seat, borrowed one toddler car seat + one given by someone. Currently, they are both on booster seat (one bought entirely new, two second handed and one given by someone). Now, its time go get rid of the first infant-toddler seat we bought (see photo). I was looking at how to install it in the car on YouTube, and it reminded me that baby from 0-6 months have to sit against the traffic flow. How we were eager that the baby grew faster so that we can finally switch the seat facing the direction just like the adult. It was also troublesome during winter, as with all the thick clothes it was difficult to fasten the seat-bell. It is so much better now, and I'm just waiting for the little one to be able to fasten and unfasten the seat-bell herself.

We bought the stroller when the eldest was almost 3 month old. Hubby carried her around with a baby carrier wrap. Both kids were not much in the stroller, they tend to walk like the adult. It has been over a year that the little one didn't ask for it. So, time to get rid of it.

Balance bikes has become quite popular in France. We got one from the leboncoin (French craigslist) for 20€. A new one could cost as much as 120€. The little one got a bike with stabilizers plus a real bike for her birthday. Well, hubby went with her to pick up the bike, but she saw the one with stabilizers, tried it and fell in love with it. She was crying so hard when she got home with the bike hubby planned to buy, that eventually we agreed to buy her the one with stabilizers as it was more adapted to her age.

 A friend gave this to me, the little one has not paid much attention to it anymore, so time to let it go.

Lastly, hubby has invested in a scale that would send the result directly to his cellphone, so the traditional one should live a second life with a new owner.

Selling things on leboncoin is one way to get rid of stuffs, but I'm not sure if it is efficient though as the website is overflow with announcements. I saw people selling clothes for 2€ and they just uploaded tons of photos to the website. I participated in a garage sale, managed to sell some kids clothes. I also donated quite some clothes to the school (who get paid from the organisation who collects clothes). Anyway the five items above are on sale and I hope they get a new owner soon.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Summer holidays childcare options

8 weeks of summer holidays could be a headache for parents who work. In my case, we use a combination of solutions:

1. Taking time off and heading for vacation somewhere with the kids

A week vacationing in the Alps mountains. Hiking, swimming, sightseeing. We got a rental apartment with my CE with subsidized rate. Hubby was pushing us almost everyday to go hiking somewhere. The little ones walked better than me. Aelig was sicked almost the whole week, she got red eye and running nose. She had to wrap her nose every two seconds and that irritated the skin under her nose, which made her very uncomfortable. Even so, she continued walking with us. Awena enjoyed so much indoor swimming she urged us to bring her there everyday.

Another week in Provence. I had always wanted to go to Provence to see the famous lavender fields. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived, the lavenders were already cut off where we stayed. It was Awena's round to get sick, she had sunburn and refused to go to the swimming pool as it was outdoor. Aelig on the other hand enjoyed the children club. She chose to stay with the club instead of heading out visiting the villages around with us. The rental was with hubby's CE, including three meals per day. Hassle free holidays indeed.

2. Working from home

My company allows working from home so I took advantage of it. The kids stayed with me for a week. The other week Aelig went for the summer camp and Awena stayed with me. When both were with me, I organized play date so that they got to have fun with their friends. They knew they shouldn't disturb me when I work. When Awena was with me without her sister, she played quietly beside and knew to not make noise when I was over the phone with someone.

3. Sending the kids to grandparents

We are lucky to have grandparents who are willing to take care of the kids. I entrusted them 100%. They eat and play well there. Went to the beaches 8 times. My MIL even had Aelig doing summer school exercises. They also got to visit some relatives, a real bonding time with the big family. Not forgetting, it also means parenting holidays for us! No kids for several weeks, it was heaven for me.

4. Going to work with the kid

When Aelig was in the summer camp, Awena went to work with hubby for a day. She was curious to see her dad's office. She went to have lunch with hubby and a coworker, and managed to take a nap in the office.

5. Summer camp

Aelig has participated in summer camps since 4 years old. She really enjoyed it, so we sent her to a different camp every year. They sleep in a tent, and was trained to participate in cooking. The Town Hall organizes an information session around March, and parents have to fight for a spot for those popular camps. One Saturday morning after the information session, hubby would be on his computer at 9am sharp, and fill the online form as quick as he could to secure a spot. Luckily, we always got what she wanted.

These were options we chose to make sure the kids have a fulfilling summer holidays. In the past, when we still had a babysitter, we paid her to take care of the kids. We also sent Aelig to leisure center. These options were quite expensive, we can't afford to do this the whole summer. Overall, its best to have family nearby who are willing to help. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Durian : king of the fruit or shit

The durian season lasted longer this year. Prices dropped due to oversupply.
This is great news for durian lovers in Malaysia.
There is a Malay saying : "Durian runtuh, sarong jatuh", which means when durian falls, the sarong falls as well (as people would pawn their sarong in order to buy durian).

I for one is a big durian fan. It is definitely the king of fruits for me. Unfortunately, the prices soared and this fruit has become too pricey or you could even consider certain species (Musang King...) as luxury fruit.
Oh I miss savoring durian at those all you can eat buffet durian store with friends and family.

In France, we can buy frozen or whole durian but they are expensive and less tasty (imported from Thailand). I was watching Fort Boyard (French Amazing Race) the other day, they were at the "eating awful thing moment", it was then I wonder if they would put durian as awful thing to eat. And bingo! The chef introduced durian to the contestants and asked them to eat durian puree. I was like, let me eat all of them! Most of the contestants puked, they had to close their noise with their fingers before eating. 

This shows how much your environments shape your tastes.

A postcard to ourselves, from one year ago

Last summer we visited Busan in Korea. At Gamcheon Culture Village, it proposed a service : to send you a postcard you wrote one year after. We found it was a great idea, so we did it.

Naturally we forgot about it. This summer, when we got back from vacation, I suddenly thought about it. There were late to mail the postcard, I told myself. One day later, hubby came home and brought the postcard to me.

Here it goes : a postcard we sent to ourselves, one year ago.

I laughed at what my husband wrote : We were walking, and mom is going to complain again, that we should have taken the bus, etc. Yeap, a huge difference between us. Among the tourists, you can see Asians riding buses, cable cars, while the Europeans walk. It was an hot summer around 33°C, we were visiting Taejongdae Park. It was hilly and everyone else was queuing for sightseeing train. And because I was with a French, I had to walk (uphill, under hot sun).

Anyway, glad to receive the postcard, a little souvenir from our last trip.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The unworthy mom

One morning, we arrived at school to discover that some students were in sportswear, a bus was waiting at the entrance. My daughter immediately realized she missed something : she forgot it was sport's day for her class! There were so many activities going on that I completely forgot as well. She cried, urging me to explain to her teacher what was going on.

Shame on me, I still walked toward the teacher. She was disturbed as my daughter didn't wear sport shoes. As for lunch, other students can share with her. I didn't know what to do, I still had a young one to send to the class, and then had to rush to work. The teacher finally said she was going to find a pair of shoes for her, I handed over the snack box that I prepared for my younger daughter, and left.

On the way to work, guilt fell all over me. How can I forgot this? I'm supposed to be the secretary who handles all their activities until their are old enough to take over the responsibility. Ideas flashed through my mind to handle the situation.

As soon as I parked at my company's parking lot, I called two moms. The first one to ask if she was accompany the class to the stadium, but she was not. I kindly asked her to bring some snack for my younger daughter (her daughter was in the same class), as I had given the snack to the elder. The second one, I was sure she would be with the class, so I asked if she could bring some food for my daughter. Luckily she had some spared one and she gladly agreed to share them with my daughter.

The whole morning I was feeling guilty. I don't know how other parents handle things, it just doesn't work well with me that the school sends out emails about activities, put a note weeks before, and expecting me to remember everything. We need to put a calendar in a visible place to jot down all the ongoing stuffs.

When I got home, I saw a pair of sport shoes on the kitchen counter top. So the teacher did find a pair for her, thanks God! She was all happy and didn't at all blame me for anything. She was surprised to know that I called her classmate mom to share food with her, as it was done naturally. And, since she had enough food, she didn't eat the snack from her sister. They went to after school class and she handed back the snack box, but the teacher told her that her sister already had one (the mom I called did send a snack for my younger daughter).

This makes me realize how important to have some network among the parents. As an introvert, I don't usually go towards them. And I have a big problem : I do not recognize easily people I had talked too! I just don't know who's who's mother or dad. This is quite a drawback to socialize with the parents!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Where is Mona Lisa?

The school organizes a stage performance for the kids every year. This year, only students from elementary classes participated, whereas the kids from kindergarten stayed with the parents.

The theme was about the portrait of Mona Lisa, La Joconde in French. Students were acting as tourists visiting The Louvre Museum. They were looking for the Portrait, all the performance were mainly through singing. What struck me was, that some students were chose to sing solo from time to time, and they sang badly sometimes. I mean, some were out of tunes. Maybe the goal was to make students participate, it didn't have to be perfect. This is unthinkable during my times as elementary student. Teachers at that time always chose students with perfect voices. There were singing competitions for every grade, and the winners got to represent the school for a higher level competitions. French school do not organize singing competition apparently.

During the performance, I suddenly felt that my kids are so lucky to be in this country. All those paintings, monuments in Paris, are from their heritage, and they could just go see them. I mean, I'm not sure Malaysia has created any great arts for the human history.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Mom, we would like to go home for lunch

One day, my daughter asked me why can't I bring them home for lunch.

"Mom, all my friends go home for lunch at least once a week, why do we have to go all the times?"
"It is very unfair, I hate going to the canteen. Sometimes I have to sit alone because those boys won't 
want me to sit with them, and all my girlfriends went home."
"You are working from home anyway, why can't you pick us up for lunch just like other mothers?"

I sighed.
While we are advised to not compare our kids to others', we parents are being compared to.
I don't know how they do it, but there sure are a bunch of parents able to send and pick up their kids, without ever going to the after school classes or canteen.

Kids here have school in the morning, a long lunch break, then resume the class in the afternoon. (In Malaysia, kids go to school either in the morning or in the afternoon, not the whole day). For lunch, they could either go home, or go to the canteen. Kids who go home, get picked up around 11:35am, and go back to school at around 1:35pm. Yes! Two hours lunch break!

I do not have 2 hours lunch break + 20 minutes for the drive. So I immediately said no to her. She was so disappointed, she kept asking, once a week. I was so upset, and torn apart. 
Yes, sometimes I work from home, but I have made that extra efforts to go pick them up right after school so that they don't have to stay in the after school class waiting for us.
But, when they are at home, sometimes I can't 100% concentrate on works. They fight, they scream, they ask for things, they want to share things with me....even though I told them million times that I AM WORKING!!!  They should consider themselves lucky because they only stay late twice a week in school, but still, they want more.

I felt that I have done my best. My lunch time is for myself. I get to each whatever I want, at the time I want, even in front of the computer continuing working, it was purely my choice. I do not want to put an alert to go pick them up, cook for them, eat with them, clean the dishes, entertain their demands. I need a break from them, isn't it too much too ask??

But, I yielded, as always, guilt to disappoint my child, guilt that they don't get to eat lunch at home while many others can. We did it once, it went well, they were happy, they asked for more, and I said we shall see.

The kids just drained up my energy. I don't even have any time/energy left to blog.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Ice cream "man"

I have always wanted to find a group of moms to teach the young kids Chinese together. We started it several months ago, my goal was to expose her to some Chinese while playing and singing and laughing. 

My friend was more strict and she wanted the kids to learn the Chinese characters. She started with the word "人" (human in Chinese), and the kids tried to remember the character by putting stickers on it. I didn't know she remembers it until one day during bedtime story, she pointed at the character and told me it was "人".

Since then she was able to recognize it. One day, while eating ice cream, she pointed at the candies and told everyone that it has a human on it. I looked at it and understood that she referred to "人". It just made my day. It makes me feel that it worth sacrificing the Saturday sleeps in and sending her to classes, and she is progressing. Slowly, but still, progressing.


Steamboat, is a common name we use to refer to hot pot in Malaysia. We prepare some soup base, and add anything from meats to vegetables and share the meal together. It is very handy for gatherings as you can prepare most of the things in advance.

I like having steamboat with friends and families. It is convivial and we usually share a nice moment together. This month alone, I had 4 steamboat gatherings. One in my place with 10 kids running around, and the other three were held friends' house. Just so happy to find some friends to share this nice meal together.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Chicken Cheat

One day I saw some chickens on promotion in a supermarket. A whole chicken is usually sold at around 10€ (depending on the weight), so at 4.65€, it was considered a bargain. I sensed that there was a trap, so I checked the price closely, and I realized these were chicken expiring in two three days, so it made sense to have lower price to me.

I went to check out , and saw that they charged me 9.24€ instead of 4.65€. I immediately went to the reception area to inform them that there must be a mistake. I didn't have the promotion photo with me then, so they called the person responsible for meat products. They later told me that only chicken expiring in one day would have promotion. I couldn't accept this explanation, but I didn't have the courage to return the chicken. I had to leave to pick the girls, so I left feeling cheated.

Later on I informed a friend, she told me that I was such a newbie in grocery shopping. She said that shops always have these kind of promotions to catch your eyes, but if you read carefully, the price must be per/kilo and not per chicken.

I was so pissed at myself that I decided to go back to the store. It just happened that the swimming class was canceled so I brought the girls to MerryGoAround then went back to check out the promotion tag. Indeed, the tag has a small word saying that the price applied to chicken around 1.4kg.

But the chicken I bought was only around 1.2 kg so it should be cheaper than 4,65€! Later I checked the promotion photo, all of the chicken I can see the price tag indicated 4.65€/Kg instead of 4.65€ for around 1.4 kg. It was clearly a trap for the consumers. During the night I was going to report this to a consumer association, but couldn't find any that I could just send an email or call. I decided to rest the case, but I did learn a lesson. Next time, return the item if the price doesn't meet my interpretation! Stores are really full of traps these days.

When in Rome, the Romans are doing things differently?

When I have to make a decision on something that involves my children, I usually try to follow the principal : when in Rome, do as the Romans do. My children live here and thus have to practice the French culture.

But sometimes, even French are doing things differently.

Over the years, I have had disagreements with hubby regarding Christmas, more specifically the lying part of the Santa Claus. I do not like to lie to my kids. I don't think it was necessary to buy gifts for them just for the sake of buying. Hubby told me that this was part of the culture. After talking to people around, I reluctantly go with the flow, seeing how happy my kids were when they see Santa Claus or when they received many gifts.

Regarding Santa Claus, when Aelig was two years old, my FIL dressed as Santa, rang the bell, entered the house with a bunch of presents. She kind of recognized him, so the following years, we asked someone else to do the job. Last Christmas, since the celebration was held in our house, I asked around my neighborhood. I was hoping to find a neighbor to be Santa for our kids, and in return hubby would do the same for the neighbor's kids. It sounded perfect until I contacted my neighbors.

"Oh, our kids don't believe in Santa Claus!" We could do it for your kids, but that's not necessary for our kids. I was stunt. Their kids were 6 and 4. Most French kids at this age still believe in Santa. Later I found out that the neighbor's father was so disappointed to discover that there was no Santa, that he decided to stop the Santa fantasy for his kids. So my neighbor was not grown up expecting Santa like most of the kids.

"Oh, our kids don't believe in Santa anymore!" Claimed the other neighbor. Their kids were 6, 4, and 2 years old. I was overwhelmed. Are we the only family still let our kids dream about Santa? 

I asked another family, they were going to be away, so not possible to be our Santa. I had no choice but to ask the neighbor who had not believed in Santa all his life, to be Santa for our kids on Christmas Eve.

And why on Christmas Eve? Awena came home one day saying that in school, her teacher told the class that they would go to sleep on Christmas Eve, and the next morning,  they will discover the presents delivered by Santa the night before. This was never the case in our family.

All these details don't matter anymore. I did it for the sake of my three year old. The eight year old told her little sister one day that Santa doesn't exist. I bite my tongue and say nothing. Her little sister insisting that Santa exists, that she got this and that from him last year. 

Anyway, it comes down to me that it was more of a family culture on the way things are done. Every family defines or shapes their own traditions. Breaking family traditions need a lot of courage though.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Christmas 2017 : My man and his dishes

This year we hosted the Christmas celebration in our place. We had 6 people joining us. It meant a lot of cooking, and sleeping arrangement.

Hubby's mind was concentrated on fine cuisine in early December. During the weekends, he browsed through websites to get ideas, and tried out dishes and desserts. 

On Christmas Eve, he spent almost the whole day in the kitchen. Here he was preparing the first dish.

 The first dish was served : puff pastry topping with apples and foie-gras.

 The first type of verrine : beet mousse

 Dressing the second dish : salmon with crab meats and cream cheese

 Second dish served.

 The second type of verrine : Shrimps with avocado mousse

 Dressing the third dish : scallop & leek on puff pastry

 Third dish served with two type of sauces 

At this point our guests complained that they were too full for more. We then switched to cheese.

By the time the desserts were served, it was already passed mid might. I was so tired that I went to sleep. Hubby prepared two type of Christmas cakes. One was with chocolate favor.

The second dessert with caramel favor.

During the weekends before Christmas, he tried out several site dishes. The results were disappointing so he abandoned them.

One weekend he prepared these five verrines for us. They were scrumptious so he served some of them during Christmas Eve, some on Christmas day. 

He wanted it to be perfect for the Christmas cake. So he did twice before Christmas. It looked and tasted good, unfortunately I was not a dessert person, and my girls didn't like it. So imagine, the chef had to eat every evening a slice of cake by himself, in order to finish it, before he tried again.

He got my total admiration on his determination and persistence on presenting the best dishes he could to serve our guests. There were a lot of stress as he had to prepare every dish until all the guests were gone. He did a very good job.