Monday, January 31, 2011

No prescription? No problem!

So, to my horror, I discovered recently that I was out of my prescription medication to manage the pain I experience once a month...yes, cramps. I freaked out on the spot. My next appointment with my ob/gyn wasn't for several months and trying to get a message to her through her bitchy secretary was almost impossible. The only option I had was to drive out to the American Hospital and try and gain a personal audience with my ob/gyn by bugging the shit out of the aforementioned bitchy secretary. Or was it? On a whim, I decided to visit my pharmacie across the street and attempt to employ an American tactic: get the pharmacist to call my doctor's office and get the okay for a refill. I had never tried this before and wasn't sure what kind of reception the suggestion would receive. Turns out I needn't have worried. When I asked the pharmacist to call my doc to okay a refill, she did me one better. She refilled the prescription without getting authorization of any kind! That's right, you read that correctly. I had no refills left but seeing that I was 'in pain' she said she would be happy to 'dépanné' me some (dépanné-the French verb meaning 'to give temporary help' however a more accurate translation in this case would be to 'tide one over.) When I finally saw my ob/gyn (who is also an American) and told her what happened, she seemed unfazed. "What else would they give me here, without a prescription?" I asked incredulously. "You'd be surprised," she replied. I bet I would.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Stop Pissing in Public!

So, to continue along the same lines as the last post (why not?) I have to say one thing that I will never got used to in this city is the sight of individuals relieving themselves in public. While this type of behavior is to be expected of bums (either in Europe or Stateside) what is unexpected is the amount of well-dressed individuals I encounter urinating on public streets. If I had a Euro for every time I came across a well-dressed man standing with his Johnson in his hand, urinating into the gutter (in full view of my two young children), I’d be a rich woman today. I want to shout at him, “Sir, if you can afford that suit, you can afford to pay two Euros to use a public toilet!” Apparently, this type of behavior is illegal but rarely punished because it’s just not a big deal to the French.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Turkish Toilets

Also known as a Squat Toilet this type of toilet does not have an elevated seat and is essentially a hole in the ground. And while the city of Paris consistently uses elevated toilet seats in its public restrooms, the rest of France does not. Traveling in the French countryside during the weekend necessitates the use of roadside rest stops which are often equipped only with Turkish Toilets. As a mother I can think of no more disturbing conversation than having to explain to one’s three year old daughter how to use a Turkish Toilet. I mean, we are talking about the world’s fifth largest Economic Superpower here and a hole in the ground is the best they can do? We finally invested in an inflatable potty with biodegradable plastic bags you insert inside it and take it with us everywhere now.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Top Ten Reasons to Give Birth at the American Hospital in Paris

10. You are guaranteed a spacious, private room.
9. No one will kick you out mere hours after giving birth. You can stay as long as you'd like. Really.
8. A one to one nurses to newborn ratio is maintaned at all times.

7. They moisturize your baby's skin with the most amazing smelling cream ever invented.

6. They are very liberal with the drugs during labor. No need to wait until you are 4 cm dialated for pain relief. All you have to do is ask once for pain relief and you'll get it.
5. Every room comes equipped with satellite TV and WiFi.
4. You can order a bottle of champagne sent to your room. It will be delivered by a guy wearing a tuxedo.
3. Three gourmet meals are delivered daily. A sample menu: crab salad on green apple gelée, free range chicken with taragon sauce and pommes dauphinoise, bread, cheese and of course, mini pastries for dessert. I loved the food so much, I even took a picture of it (see above).

2. Wine served with every meal, of course.
1. A hairdresser and make-up artist on call to prep the you for your first photos after the birth of your bébé.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Nobody Smiles Here

Back when I was in graduate school, we were forced to read an article about a survey of three hundred French people who were shown a photo of then President François Mitterand smiling and less than 1% of them could identify who it was (the implication being that the French are so unaccustomed to seeing anyone smiling that even a very recognizeable public figure such as their President becomes unrecognizeable with a grin on his face). At the time I pretty much dismissed the article as crap, or containing some seriously flawed research. Since moving to Paris though, I've discovered that indeed the French do not smile. However, more surprising than this fact is the reason why they don't smile. Apart from the obvious reason (that you find something amusing), a smile in the United States can mean many things, among them: “thank you”, “hello neighbor” or even “I sympathize with your situation”. Not so in Paris. The French are very suspicious of random acts of kindness. Smiling can mean any or all of the following: 1) I know something about you 2) I’m after something you have 3) I'm selling something or 4) I've recently undergone a full frontal lobotomy. If you are a woman who smiles there is also the added implication that you are interested in a casual sexual encounter (I learned that one the hard way when I mistakenly smiled at a stranger who then proceeded to follow me around my arrondissement for twenty minutes while I completed my morning errands). I've had a really hard time with this simply because I’m a pretty happy person in general and having spent the last thirty plus years of my life smiling almost every day has made it difficult to quit cold turkey. I mean, how can you not walk around with a constant smile on your face when you live in one of the most beautiful cities on the planet, right? Well, I've had to develop some pretty hard core tactics to stop doing it because I can't have anymore strangers following me home.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Depression Era Orphan Clothing

I wanted to love the French children's clothing. Really, I did. I've looked long and hard to find a store that sold girls' dresses in a pretty pastel color or an airy floral print. Petit Bateau is good for some items, but their clothes tend to be more casual. I need more formal dresses that my daughters can wear to birthday parties and other special occasions. I've checked out all the big names: Bonpoint, Jacadi, Tartine et Chocolat but sadly (and surprisingly) all their clothes tend to look the same. Each season it seems that a color 'theme' is chosen for children's clothing and all the clothes in the store are made using only those colors; example: baby blue and beige. And while I could envision a boy wearing such an outfit, trying to get either of my daughters to wear a beige dress with a baby blue Peter Pan collar would be unlikely. I even checked out the Bonpoint store on the Rue Royale the week after Michelle Obama was spotted there shopping for her two girls. Looking around the store I could not for the life of me imagine what she purchased for them. All the dresses in the store were shades of brown. They were arranged in the window from dark brown to light beige with little Peter Pan collars that were either mauve or grey. Mauve? Grey? For little girl’s dresses? These children's clothes may be chic and hip by Paris standards, but I just think they're ugly. It seems like the designers are trying to make kids clothing look sophisticated, so the kids look like 'mini-adults'. I, however, think kids should dress, well, like kids. If you don't believe me, just take a look at the photo included in this post. I stole it directly from the Bonpoint website. It would look great on Tiny Tim or Oliver Twist but it looks rather somber to be worn by a 21st century kid. At this point I've pretty much given up shopping at Parisian boutiques because I don't want my daughter's looking like depression era orphans. Of course, this is the best news my husband has heard all year.

Monday, January 10, 2011

French Bummery

Before we get started, I need to clear something up. This post is not about perfect Parisian posteriors. Nope. This post is about the other French Bummery (the smelly, unwashed kind). I'm talking of course about the Parisian homeless population (known in French as les sans-abri). Unlike their American counterparts (who are content to stand around waiting for you to come up to them and drop a few coins in their cup) French bums are interactive. They actively solicit money by walking up to you on the street, standing in front of you (effectively blocking your escape) and asking, “Have you got any money?” If you walk away, or even if you politely say ‘non,’ they will chase you down the street, all the while shouting obscenities at you because you did not pony up the cash.
Bums in Paris also work harder for their money than any other bums I’ve encountered in my entire life. They sing. They dance. They play musical instruments. All in an attempt to separate you from your cash. If you have ever been on the Paris metro you’ve probably run into a few of them. Some prefer to keep it simple by reciting a soliloquy of their life story which they tell while standing in the front of the car as it rolls between stations. I've noticed though, that their stories are suspiciously similar: they are all young men named Christophe, they are all twenty one years old and they all had wretched parents who took off when they were twelve leaving them to fend for themselves on the street. They conclude their plea by asking for a few coins, a metro ticket or even a ‘ticket restaurant’ (a ticket employers give to their employees to help pay for their lunch).
I'm not a fan of been chased or sworn at so anyone who does that is not getting a centime from me. But I will reward original and entertaining behaviors, like this one guy who does a puppet show. He runs into the car, sets up his cardboard 'theater' and proceeds to do a little puppet show which is perfectly timed to end with just enough time for him to pack up, walk through the car collecting donations, and exit the car when it stops at the next station. It is all executed with such mastery its obvious he's been doing it for years. I always give this guy a euro or two because I am usually travelling on the metro with my children and his show keeps them from whining for an entire ninety seconds (which may not sound like a long time, but in Mommy Time it's like a decade). The only other guy I regularly give money to is an older gentlemen who plays a guitar and has an amazing voice! I'm convinced he is some famous French musician who has simply fallen on hard times (he voice is that good). Sadly, these two characters are the exception and not the rule. Most of the bums soliciting money on the metro are obnoxious, rude individuals who play loud instruments badly. So, here is some simple advice that will (theoretically) keep them from hitting you up: Do not, under any circumstances, make eye contact with these people. Because if you do, guess who they will come right over to with their hat out once they finish their 'act'? Look out the window or spend the time searching through your purse for something you will never find. Oh, and if you run into Christophe, tell him I said 'salut.'

About Me

My name is Alison Ryan (Madame Ryan pour les français). In my former life I was a French teacher who taught pre-kindergarteners all the way up to college students. Three months after my first child was born we moved to Paris and I’ve been a SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) ever since. I’m originally from New Hampshire but left New England as soon as I realized there was really nothing keeping me there (other than the crappy weather and my crazy ass family members). Me and my wicked tall husband are the parents of two Mini Mes (one that looks like him and one that looks like me). We live rent free in Paris’s eighth arrondissement courtesy of the US Government (that’s your tax dollars at work).

Not enough for ya? Well, here is some random info about me:

~ I hate spiders, but love snakes.
~I love my daughters to pieces and can’t wait for them to get the hell out of my house.
~I once stopped dating a guy because he had a weird last name.
~I speak to my children exclusively in French. My husband speaks to them in Iowan English.
~I am a clothes horse which makes living in the City of Lights very expensive.
~I think Dave Barry is the funniest man in the history of the world and when I read his columns I laugh so hard I cry.
~When I was seven months pregnant with my first child, I shared an elevator with that blonde guy from Thirtysomething and (for a laugh) asked him to bless my baby. He quickly (and wordlessly) exited the elevator on the very next floor.
~I never forget a face, but I can never remember a name.
~Living in Paris has made me a chocolate and pastry snob. Suzy Q’s and Hershey bars will no longer cut it. My sugar fixes can only be satisfied by mille feuilles and Godiva.
~I secretly wish I was a mermaid.
~ Amy Alkon is my personal hero.
~I truly believe you should live every day as if it is your last on this earth.


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Welcome to An American Mommy in Paris

As a lifelong Francophile and now resident of the City of Lights I’m fed up with all the books on life in Paris that give a starry eyed account of living here. I also noticed that no one has ever written about life in Paris from a stay at home mom’s point of view. So, because I spend a lot of time at home (and thus have access to my computer all day-albeit sometimes while breastfeeding a baby) I decided to start a blog about my experiences. This is not a tourist blog written by some moron who spent a few weeks in Paris in the summer and thus decides they are an expert. This is a blog written by someone who has lived here more than five years, whose kids go to the local school and who speaks and understands French fluently enough to know when the Parisians are insulting her (which is quite often). On this blog you will find everything from ranting about stuff that bugs me to ravings about stuff that thrills me and everything in between. I am neither a tour guide, nor an expert on France, nor do I claim to be. I’m just an American Mommy in Paris and here’s how I see things.