Ever since I’ve known Rebecca, she wanted a surprise birthday party. She just loves the idea of being entirely caught off guard by something special, a project that took considerable preparation, all just for her. A few years ago she got just that—a surprise 30th birthday party that she had no clue about—but it came at a price that was so dear it practically spoiled it. I had told her white lies, even under feigned tears, to throw her off the trail. Ever since then, she’s been much more careful about what she wishes for, and I promised I’d never even tell white lies while crying. For this year’s birthday, I knew she really wanted to see “baby G” and to have a chance to visit Mom & Dad—it’s been over six months since she’s been home, and she could hardly bear waiting until next August to see the family. Yet, she was careful what she wished for out loud, and said only that she wanted a day where she wouldn’t have to cook and clean and get the kids dressed. So I got her it all—plane tickets to Philly!!!
So this week the kids and I have been solo, and though I thought it would be hard, I had no idea. Saturday started off fine. We dropped Rebecca off at the train station at around 6:45 am, then the kids and I went out shopping… we were on a quest for a fish bowl, a project all 3 kids were pooling their money to be able to afford. We headed up to Emmaus at Fort de Planoise (which provided us beautiful vistas of Friday’s snow, pictured above), and for 4€ found a tank that was much bigger than the 8€ bowl they’d picked in a magazine. Next we stopped at the store that had advertised the bowl, hoping to pick up goldfish—but they didn’t have any live animals! Frustrating, but luckily another store had some. Zander had his heart set on a catfish, but they didn’t have any cold-water catfish in this particular store.
We got home and the babysitter was showing up—I had previously planned to go play paint ball with my colleagues. It was great fun—no one seemed to be untouchable, and the games were short enough that even when someone got knocked out early they were back in the action soon afterwards. My favorite scenario was capture the flag, where people that got hit could revive themselves by returning to base. I started the game on Olivier’s team because I didn’t want to compete with him… but we won a couple times in a row and someone suggested we change teams. Until this point, we’d both knocked out other players, but never got hit ourselves. Bon, d’accord, and the games lasted longer. As soon as we were in the come-back-alive mode, though, I started getting hit when it seemed worth it, and I got a few nasty bruises. It was worth it for the fun, though!
Sunday morning I was exhausted, so I slept in until the kids got up. We had our traditional pancakes, a lazy morning with a bit of English homework, and then just played together on and off while I worked on the computer. We also stopped by Olivier’s to pick up another aquarium, since the one we picked up at the thrift store either had a leak or I broke it in the thawing process. We wrapped up the weekend with a new bathtime adventure—we used the ice from our trip to the Alps as a bath toy—it was a much bigger chunk of ice than we’d ever thrown in the bathtub before, though, and the kids ended up freezing by the end!
Monday morning I went for a quick run, but it was too slippery outside to get much of a workout. I did the best I could with the morning routine, but we still ended up late to school (Griffin was on time but Z & C were 10 minutes behind schedule). To complicate matters, I found out that I’d have to go downtown to the mayor’s office to get them enrolled in the after-school program, which only watches them for an extra 75 minutes a day anyway, but at least lets me stay at work until 5pm. For lunch, Griffin and I zipped over to the grocery store, then we played games and I prepped that night’s dinner (a crock pot full of beans). Dinner was easy, kids in bed on time, I did bills, and all is well… until midnight, when I wake up and puke up my entire meal. Then Callie wakes up around 1am, complaining about her stomach, and I know we’ve got some sort of food poisoning (alimentation toxique). The only thing weird that we ate was the beans, so I look them up online—and guess what? If you only crock pot beans, the proteins don’t get broken down, and they’re toxic! I called the night service of our doctor, and they say they’ll send out a doctor within the hour. (No ER visit? Nope! No horrid emergency-bag packing, dragging of puking kids into the car, just stay right here at home and wait… that’s the way they do it here in this state of socialized medicine! Total bill when it’s all done? I don’t know, because the €70 co-pay I forked out will be partially reimbursed when I mail in the paperwork.) Well, Zander puked next, and an hour came and went. Oh, how typical of emergency medicine! I called again, they said we were next in line, and around 4am I fell asleep. At 5am the doorbell rang, and the doctor stepped in, laughed at the kids lying on blankets around the door to the bathroom, and asked who he should look at first. He did a brief review of Griffin, said it wasn’t likely to be the beans—more likely to be bread or milk products, and said goodbye. Hmmph!
The next morning, with no avis d’arret de travail, I felt like I couldn’t skip out on work, and technically nobody was sick—so I sent them to school. I was tired, and so were they, but, well, I really wanted to try to manage this week of being a single parent. For lunch I didn’t have much of an appetite, but Griffin was in the mood to play by himself while I took a much-needed nap. Here’s his proud work of stickers that he traced. When it was time to go back to school, we were surprised to find an inch of new snow—and all the roads were incredibly slippery. I had a teleconference scheduled for 2pm, but with these road conditions, there was just no way I would make it. Freak snow storms??? Food poisoning??? This is just too much to be real. I called in to work and they rescheduled for 2:30pm. Tuesday night we had ramen noodles for dinner—an easy treat everybody likes. Around 10pm I woke up sick… some kind of gastro-intestinal bug, and I didn’t get to sleep until around 3am. By morning I had such a dehydration headache, I couldn’t will myself out of bed. The kids fetched me one of my sports drinks, and ate breakfast by themselves. I hydrated, slept 45 minutes, and was able to get them to Zander’s Wednesday morning appointment. We picked up bread (le petit mitron is still on vacation so had to use the artisan boulangerie up the road), stopped at the doctor’s to see what was up with me, and I got a stay-home-from-work note. Augustin showed up at 11am, I slept, and that finished our day. We ate dinner on the floor in the living room in front of the tv (bread and honey and nutella and yougurt), and we all went to bed early.
Thursday was the most “normal” day yet… everybody at school on time, I went to work (still exhaused from being sick), and a home-made dinner. We skipped out on stories, though, and watched an episode of Knight Rider instead (dubbed in French), since I discovered the night before that it airs from 6:45 to 7:30 with only one commercial break in the middle—great way to relax while still getting the kids to bed on time!
Well, my love, here’s a project that has taken considerable preparation, all for you—and this time without lying while crying. I hope you’re reading this blog from the US, that even though it’s hard to be away from us for your birthday (and we really miss you!), that you’ll remember to be careful what you wish for. It’s bittersweet—yet you definitely deserve it. Mr. Z will be 9 years old this summer, and so you get 9 days off—happy birthday!