The End of our French Adventure

The Husband’s sojourn in France ended on a high note.
Even though he doesn’t exactly have a mop of hair to manage, he can’t go more than a week without getting a haircut. Our two weeks in France were no exception. And so, on our second last day (miraculously, a non-cycling day), we took a walk into the village of Fayence in search of a “coiffeur hommes”. This coiffeur hommes was not manned by an 80-something year old Frenchman with a pair of shearers and a shaving bowl. Instead, we were greeted by an attractive 40-something Frenchwoman with some sort of modern hair-cutting machine that The Husband approved of. The hairdresser couldn’t have been friendlier and The Husband even tried to practise his French on her but the real clincher was when she paused, looked at him in the mirror and said, “You know, you look a bit like Bruce Willis.”
Well, The Husband was in seventh heaven. The hot French hairdresser had made his day.
Buoyed up by his new-found mean man looks, his confidence in practising his French that evening was up too. He decided to practise a sentence on the waiter at our favourite Fayence restaurant. We were thinking of ordering the crayfish risotto and wanted to know whether the crayfish was served in its shell. I wasn’t entirely sure how to say this in French so I translated it literally from the English: “is the crayfish still in its shell?” It didn’t sound entirely right but I was at a loss as to how to phrase it any other way and so I taught The Husband this literal sentence in French. He, very bravely posed our question to the waiter. But the waiter beautifully finished his sentence because, you see, in French there is a wonderful word which means “out of its shell”. “Decortique”. Isn’t that just so neat and beautiful? Sigh… French is such a beautiful language.
After our last dinner under the stars on the terrace of our villa, we retired for our last night in France, before waking up the next morning to a 24 hour journey back to SA. We had to check out of the rented house by 10 in the morning, even though our flight from Nice was only at 4pm. When I say “our” flight, I mean myself, The Princess and her nanny, Charity. The Husband had found out a few weeks ago that he had to fly straight to London for work. I was terrified and decided I had nothing to lose by asking the French granny at the check-in desk whether there was any chance Charity could be up-graded to business class? Pretty please, with a swish of creme fraiche on top? Of course, there was not a frigging chance of that and so The Princess and I were going to be all alone sans daddy and sans nanny on the long haul flight from Paris to Jozi. Oi.
We had a six hour layover in Paris where The Princess fell asleep once only on Charity’s shoulder, lulled into slumber by the soothing music in Sephora. She promptly woke up 20 minutes later and was as wired as anything for the rest of the night which is precisely what I had been afraid of. Our flight was only leaving at 23:20 and I figured by then she’d be hysterical if she hadn’t slept. I was praying I’d have no-one next to me in the two-seater configuration but it was not to be. The flight was jam packed. Luckily, the guy next to me was a father of two kids under the age of five and was the most chilled neighbour you could wish for. A Brazilian engineer living in Maputo and building a mine somewhere in Mozambique, he kept on telling me that everything I apologised for was “no problem, no problem” in his thick Portuguese accent. And when I think back to my tolerance for babies on planes, I should be ashamed of myself. A tiny peep out of any kid on an aircraft in my former life and I would’ve shot the “pathetic” parent the blackest look ever… How the tables turn.
Fortunately, The Princess reserved her two hysterical screaming fits to nappy changing time in the bathroom. The first time, the well-meaning stewardess who was holding her while I mixed her bottle, told me she thought she’d heard some butt thunder. There was nothing but pee but The Princess was still outraged at being dragged into that tiny bathroom and placed under those bright lights and boy did she let me know it.
The next morning, just before breakfast we really did have a Code Brown on board. Of course, it would be one of those Code Browns that had smudged all the way up The Princess’ back and soiled her vest, so we had to do a full clothes removal and re-application. NOT a happy princess.
That aside, though, she really behaved well. I was too terrified to “abandon” her in her little bassinet as I was certain that would produce screaming, so she simply slept in various positions on my chest all night and I think the two of us actually got a fair amount of sleep. She must’ve sensed her mommy was panicked and that she needed to behave.
When we finally got our bags and met our transfer company, the idiots hadn’t sent a safe baby seat for The Princess, so we were off on our next adventure: The Princess’ first train journey aboard the Gautrain. The Princess is strictly a one-poo-a-day girl but on very, very special occasions she has been known to poo twice a day. Today was one of those occasions. With ten minutes to spare until the departure of the Gautrain, we had our second Code Brown on board. It was too bad, though. There was no time for a nappy change. We had a train to catch. And so it was that The Princess, Charity and I, boarded the Gautrain with a monumental whiff wafting about us, for the final leg of our two week adventure.
Twenty minutes later, we were home AT LAST. And what fine weather we have come home to! Summer is upon us. The Princess and I celebrated by taking a stroll to Tasha’s in all our summer finery. Long may it last!

Babytalk by Boys

The Husband has never quite grasped terminology that has traditionally been associated with more "feminine" things. For example, if I'm wearing a skirt he likes, he'll say, "Nice dress!" No matter how hard I try to explain the difference between a skirt and a dress, it just doesn't sink in – to him, a skirt is a dress and a dress is a dress.

I guess terminology for baby paraphenalia has also traditionally the realm of more "feminine" things, which is why he has the same difficulty retaining new baby vocabulary as he has remembering the word "skirt". So when I'm burping The Princess and I ask him for a towelling nappy, he can't fathom that anything besides Pampers or Huggies was ever used as a nappy and so he'll hand me a disposable nappy. Then he'll get annoyed when I throw it back at him and ask for a TOWELLING nappy. Just as I don't think he actually understands the word "towelling", so too has he been unable to learn the meaning of a "muslin", which I guess is a bit of a hard one for boys. In his defence, he picked up "compactum" pretty quickly, which I also had to learn when this whole baby adventure began. (A chest of drawers cum changing table for babys, for those of you who have no need to know what a compactum is). For the rest of the baby paraphenalia, he has simply decided to accept his weaknesses and has taken it upon himself to rename items so that they make sense to him.

For example, he was unaware that the word "Babygro" existed, so he proceeded to name all of The Princess' one-piece outfits a "uniform", as in: "That's such a pretty uniform!" Sometimes, there's a bit of variation on the term uniform and Babygro's are referred to as "suits" as in: "What a cute suit!"

The word "pram" is another one that just won't stick with The Husband, so we take The Princess for walks in her "trolley" instead. Like "uniform", "trolley" also has a synonym in The Husband's unique baby vocabulary. It's sometimes referred to as a "cart". I guess this is his American version – sometimes we push her around in her (shopping) trolley, sometimes in her (shopping) cart.

That's the babytalk for boys in our little family. If you have some amusing boy vocabulary of your own, please post a comment and share it. Happy Sunday!

Childbirth: Leave Your Dignity in the Car

“Leave your dignity in the car”.
That’s what Dr M said when I called childbirth “barbaric”. In my defence, when I said that, she was breaking my waters – technically, that is. In reality, she was destroying my dignity. Don’t ask me why, at that moment, all I could think about was dignity and pride, but that was how I felt at the time.
Granted, all this was self-induced. A full seven days after The Princess’ due date and she was showing absolutely no signs of arrival. In those seven days, I’d had someone rear-end me down Corlett Drive and I’d enacted all the B.S. tricks to get babies to be born: I’d eaten enough spicy food to send Mumbai running to the loo, I’d drunk potions and lotions and herbal teas, I’d gone for walks, I’d bounced on gym balls, I’d visualised my baby, talked to her, written her name on my birthday calendar for 26 March (five days after her due date) and still… NOTHING. And so, on Monday 28 March, at my one week post due date check up, I asked to be induced.
Had I known the kind of pain and indignity that went with induction, I may not have done so. But I didn’t and so it was that I found myself flat on my back in a hospital bed with medics trying to get this baby to make an appearance. After starting the induction process, Dr M told me she’d be back to check on me in two and a half hours.
When she walked in at midday, I could tell by her arched eye-brow that things weren’t progressing as planned.
“Oh,” she said, “You’re reading your book.”
I took that to mean that I was supposed to be writhing in pain with contractions, but at that point, I felt nothing. So yes, while The Husband was out foraging for food, rather than watch the splendid offerings of daytime TV on SABC 2, I was reading my book.
And that’s when she moved in for the kill: the breaking of the waters. Thank God The Husband was out finding food at that moment because I don’t think he would’ve recovered from watching the process. Afterwards, I was holed up in the loo when The Husband called to tell me he was on his way back. He wanted to know why I was crying. The only way I could think to explain the barbarism I’d just suffered was to sob, “I feel like a CAVE WOMAN!”
I also tried to explain my sobs to Dr M.
“It’s just so barbaric!!” SNIFF, SNIFF, HEAVE, HEAVE. “I feel like I’ve been stripped of all dignity!”
And that’s when she told me that when you check in to have a baby, you leave your dignity in the car.
“You’ll get it back when you go home,” she assured me…


Officially five days to go until our firstborn is due to arrive. Along the journey, there have been signs that The Husband may be getting nervous. Common examples (once a week, at least) have been:

"Will you still love me once the baby is here?" and

"What are we going to do about my cycling after the baby comes?"

But the real evidence of his internal panic came last week at our final ante-natal class. The trainer was talking about the pros and cons of circumcision, when The Husband turned to me and said:

"What are we going to do?"

I paused for a while before responding. I figured he was either talking about something completely different, or he'd realise his mad mistake if I just gave him a chance. Many seconds passed and he kept looking at me with raised eyebrows.

"Er, what are we going to do about what?" I said.

"The circumcision!" he responded.

I had to literally take his hand, look him in the eyes and remind him that we were having a girl.

This obvious panic didn't stop him from excitedly telling me that he'd managed to get a ticket for the Argus this past Sunday or that he needed to go to Cape Town for meetings last week. Luckily, our gynae calls a spade a spade. Her response to his questions on how wise it is to undertake domestic travel after 38 weeks, was simply:

"Depends. Do you have a private jet?"

I'm not sure what pained The Husband more: the knowledge that he'd been officially grounded by our medical practitioner, instead of his paranoid wife, or admitting that no, he did not own a private jet.

The result is that we are in Jozi and wondering if this baba is going to take after her parents who struggle to be on time for scheduled events or if she'll decide to surprise us and come early. Maybe she'll be a Human Rights Day baby and come on her due date. I guess we'll soon find out…

Don’t Poo Poo Daddy’s Enthusiasm

Ever since I can remember, my biggest fear about becoming a parent has been poo. At eight years old, I remember my father literally begging me to go into the Ladies toilets with my three year old sister to wipe her bum. I don’t know whether my poor sister had to simply make a plan or whether my dad had to sneak into the Ladies, but I do recall that I flatly refused to get involved. I think I may even have locked myself in the car and told them to get on with it.

“Just say no,” has pretty much worked for me in this department ever since.

A couple of years ago my three year old nephew was left alone with my father-in-law and I for 45 minutes. No sooner had my mother-in-law’s car backed out of the complex, when these big blue eyes looked up at us and said, “I need a poo!”

As if in slow motion, my father-in-law and I turned to look at one another. What I saw in his eyes mirrored what was in my own – sheer, unadulterated terror. We froze and stared at one another for what seemed like forever. I was terrified that as the female in the equation he was going to expect me to do the honours. But he must have sensed my terror, because when he finally spoke, he said, “Maybe he’ll wait for his granny to get back?”

Miraculously, we managed to distract my nephew from his urge for the next hour, until Granny was safely back from the shops.

At the age of 29, I felt I’d successfully averted another poo crisis.

Naturally, I realize that when my little princess arrives in the next two months, I won’t always be able to outsource this function. And many an experienced parent has assured me that “when it’s your own” etc, etc. Whatever! I’m sure a poo smells kak no matter whose it is, but I do realize that I’ll just have to get over myself and deal with it for the sake of my child.

I was however, delighted, when The Husband announced over our romantic dinner last night, that he would help with nappy changing. (Clearly, if we are at the point where we can discuss poo over Canard de Cointreau, we have made progress). I was amazed by this about-turn in The Husband. I mean, we’ve actually had arguments which have involved him refusing to change future nappies and me, as a result, refusing to change my surname. So for him to announce that he’d be helping out in the poo department, like it was no big deal, got me really excited.

I wanted to support and encourage his change of heart, so I decided to tell him about a product I’d recently learned of: the Angelcare Nappy Bin. From what I can tell, it’s designed to compress and suction away smelly nappies as soon as you discard them. No tying up your used Pampers in Pick ’n Pay packets and having your dustbin exude odours of excrement for hours thereafter. It sure sounded good to me.

So, wanting to encourage The Husband, I said, “Well, the good news is that they’ve designed this great, new nappy bin!”

“Really?” he looked genuinely excited by the news.

“Yes!” I confirmed, with gusto.

“Wow!” he said. “That’s cool! So what, then? You put the baby’s bum on top of the bin?”

I wish I could report that he said it with a twinkle in his eye…but alas, he really thought for a minute that I was introducing him to a nappy changing robot that would take care of our mutual poo fears.

Baby steps, I guess…                         

Fine Dining, Doggy Style

I believe I have a fine appreciation for most things French. I love their beautiful language, their sense of style, their magnificent gastronomic flair…but I have never understood their willingness to share all of this with their dogs. At a guest house in the Alps last year, I was horrified to find a rate card in our room for "nos amis a quatre pattes" (our four-legged friends).

As 2010 drew to a close, however, I learned that it is not just the Frenchies who treat their pooches like people. I learned this when I discovered we were sharing our Umhlanga hotel's fine dining restaurant with not one…not two…but THREE pampered pets. Since when do silver service and slobbering dogs go together? Admittedly, we probably would never have noticed the little mutts, had our waiter (the man has a sense of humour) not decided to quietly point them out to us. It wasn't so much their presence that he wanted to share with us, but the matter of their finely developed taste buds. Two of the coochy-coochy poochies apparently preferred still water, whilst the third had a penchant for sparkling, which our waiter had just served them in their silver-plated doggie bowls. Next up, the hounds were going for the Fillet Bearnaise, served with potato dauphinoise. This was straight from the menu ordinarily reserved for humans. For the more neglected pets out there, however, their owners have the option of a specially designed "pet menu" which the hotel offers. This menu doesn't offer Fillet Bearnaise, but instead Fluffy can feast on some delicious "Woof Waffles" – grilled waffles which are served with "a large boerewors sausage and gravy". Mmmm. Or if Fluffy has had a big night and wants a morning after fry-up, then he can have the "Full Doggy Breakfast" which consists of: scrambled eggs, pork sausage, bacon and hash browns. And all of this is on offer for the yummy price of 95 ZAR.

Who said pets were cheaper than kids?

Because it was New Year's Eve, this doggy-friendly fine dining establishment was offering a "dinner & dance" combo. When we saw the band, we suspected that the music may be a bit before our time – the average age of the musicians was about 75 squared. I guess it made sense since the average age of the guests was in that region as well. Which would have been fine, except that these people belong to an era when white men really could dance. Not so, for The Husband and I. Our little foray onto the dance floor went something like this:

The Husband: Okay, we can do this. We can show those old-timers. My mother sent me to some lessons for my matric dance and I know what I'm doing here.

Me: Great, because I have no idea what you're doing.

The Husband: It's easy. I lead, you follow.

Me: How am I supposed to follow when I have no idea what you're about to do next?

The Husband: You don't need to know because you're following me. That's the definition of following. Your problem is that you can't stand not being in charge.

Me: My problem is I can't read your mind.

The Husband: Just follow me, for Christ's sake. I'm in charge!

Me: I get it – you're in charge. You just don't seem to be in charge of your feet because you just crushed my baby toe with one of them.

During this spectacle we managed to collide with a Swiss couple a few times. They may have been in their twilight years but when they got moving on the dance floor, they did these one-legged jigs that would have put 16 year old gymnasts to shame. And they weren't the only ones who really knew how to shake a shoe or two. The rest of the couples were spinning one another around, looking like Strictly Coming Dancing for seniors.

Mercifully, we were put out of our misery by the ringing in of the New Year when everyone stood in a circle and did some kind of a folking dancing, can-can number in lieu of a countdown. Clearly, that's how they did things back then, before the war.

After the old Auld Lang Syne sing-along with the old folk, we discovered a venue upstairs with dancing and music from this decade. At least there we could steer clear of one another's two left feet. Only thing was, the floor was dominated by 21 year old girls in the highest of heels and the shortest of dresses. Not one to be up-staged after being shown up by the senior citizens downstairs, I was determined to get "low, low, low" with Flo-rida and the best of the twenty-somethings.

Not a good move at 29 weeks pregnant…Needless to say, I retired to bed soon afterwards, leaving the respective dance floors to the very old and the very young.

Happy New Year, everyone. Remember: never start a New Year's Resolution on a weekend!