Friday, September 21, 2012

...and we're back! ...toilet paper...

We apologize for the interruption but sometimes "life" needs to take precedence.  (L here)

My first post back is about toilet paper.  Really, you say?  Toilet paper?  You have been gone for a couple months and you are trying to satisfy me with a post about toilet paper???  Yes.  It has been on my mind as a blog post for about the past two months.  Yes, really, it has.  You see - I grew up with plain, white toilet paper.  I do recall in the 80s that there were scented toilet paper "holders" that had little beads in them...but beyond that it was plain, white toilet paper.  The only decisions that need to be made were soft, double ply, no know the important things!

Here - there are quite a few choices for toilet paper but just not the same choices...  little individual squares that go in a special holder (which actually came with our apartment) or regular roll - pink, white, purple, designs, and then my favorite - the kind that you can flush the toilet paper roll instead of recycling it.  I laughed when I first saw ALL of the different colored toilet paper and thought people don't really buy those, do they???  Yes, I have actually been to a few different toilet rooms here that have something other than "white".

We have occasionally ended up with pink toilet paper when we were ordering our groceries even though I "chose" the white with the flushable roll not the pink.  It happens.  About a month ago, the only "economical" choice was a variety pack with designs on them.  This is where it gets really interesting...  they were almost all different and not cutesy little flowers or stripes or other things you might think you would want to wipe your butt they had character.  Lots and lots of character.  I guess that is what I would call it...  Well, today, I opened a new roll and I had to do a double take...  Yes, this is my toilet paper.  Perhaps the most inappropriate toilet paper I have seen, yet.  No, we did not buy this at Spencer's.  We bought it at our tiny grocer down the street.


I will leave you with a few extra pictures of our toilet paper...we had a lot more but I have no idea where we put the rest of the pictures...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tour de France

So far, this year has been pretty good for sports spectating.  Rugby 6 nations tournament, Tour de France... and in less than two weeks, London Olympics!  Ok, so we don't technically have tickets for anything in London (yet... if anyone wants to hook us up... hint, hint), but F and I did get to go see the Tour on Sunday.  And it's free!

We are super fortunate that the final Stage of the Tour passes about 10km from our apartment, right on the train line from our place.  The Tour is a funny spectator sport, because you wait around for 3 hours or so, and the bikes literally pass by in about 90 seconds, total.  But no matter, there's lots to do on the sidelines.  About 90 minutes before the riders come through, the official Tour Caravan comes whizzing by.  Yes, whizzing - there's no slowing down here.  If this was in the States, I guarantee you there would be an injured kid and a lawsuit.  Here, the police drive by first and bark out over loudspeakers to keep your kids on the sidewalk.  And good thing, because the caravan trucks (Tour sponsor companies) pass by way faster than I would have expected, throwing stuff out the windows of the tricked-out trucks to the spectators.  Keychains, magnets, stickers, laundry soap, flags, hats.  We scored (or, rather F scored) some serious loot!

Pleeeease!  Give us free stuffffff!

What's funny is that in the States, cycling is a rather elite sport.  Here, it's the sport of the common people.  The sponsors are all of the major brands of working-class France.  Supermarket-brand dried sausages, cola-flavored syrups to add to your bottled water, Nesquik, even the official baguette (the Banette) of the Tour. 

So, F and I went, and waited.  And waited.  And since F slept for most of that time, I got to enjoy some adult company, an awesome picnic spread complete with hot coffee, and tasted my first steak tartare.  Nevermind that it was homemade, came out of a big mixing bowl, and I cannot guarantee that it had been properly refrigerated - the flavor was actually delicious.  The texture.... well, it may take some getting used to.

Wait... here come the cyclists!  Go!  Go!  Goooooo!

And then, in 90 seconds, it was over.  But the spare bikes that went by next were pretty sweet too.

Lots of fun.  Lots of sun.  Great way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

- E

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


E here.  I've been back in France for a whole three weeks now; L and the boys are still in Arizona and will be back this Sunday.  It's been strange being here without them, and strange but familiar being back in France after such an extended vacation back home. 


Where is home, exactly?  When we were making the decision to pull up our roots and move to France, we told ourselves that we'd be back home to visit once a year.  At the time it didn't occur to me that we have so many places to call home, that we would never be able to visit them all on a yearly basis. The geographic spread is impressive:

- L's family is in Arizona, Texas, and Kentucky, with a small contingent in Oklahoma

- My family is in Montreal and Virginia

- Our house and much of our hugely important family of incredible friends are in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington

- Add to that sizable friend contingents in the Washington, DC area, a dear group of my close friends in Durham, North Carolina, and a handful of L's childhood close friends in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

And that's just naming the places where we have lots of people we love - dense concentrations of people who have played a huge role in our pasts, our present, and who will without a doubt continue to be hugely important to us in the future.  

I haven't done the math on the mileage between these places, but in any case the spread is impressive.  We pretty much hit most corners of the continent.  On one hand, it is a testament to our travels, to our amazing family and friends, and to the rich and ever-changing lives L and I lived before we met.  On the other hand, it means that we will never, ever succeed in going "home" every year. 

And while France does not yet feel like home (and I am not sure if it ever truly will), there are some parts of our neighborhood that are becoming more familiar, more home-like.  A new butcher has opened up, even closer than the ones we already have, and while I have only been in there 4 or 5 times since coming back, the men who work the counter are starting to recognize me as a regular.  I even got free merguez sausages the other day with my chicken breast.  My morning walk with the dogs has become so familiar that I know where to look for the snails as they cross the sidewalk in the morning, and can predict which dog/owner combinations I will run into depending on how early I actually get out of bed.  My bike ride to work is almost ritual now in its familiarity, and I can pretty much time my arrival to the minute.  The thumbtack that has been sitting on the concrete floor of our building's basement is still there, and I reflexively steer my bike around it every morning and evening.  Why I don't just pick it up is beyond me.

When L arrives this Sunday, I am hoping that at least a handful of things will feel comforting and familiar to her, too, but I am also well aware that after spending the last two months surrounded by family and friends, she may not be all that thrilled to be back here.  The apartment will probably feel even smaller than it is, and the transition from constantly being surrounded by loved ones to our rather solitary life here will probably be challenging for all of us.  Shortly after we arrived, a colleague told me that the first couple months in a new country are always tough, but at least you expect them to be.  The bigger challenge, he said, was the second and third waves of hard times that hit only when you feel like you might finally be settling in.  These waves of longing for the familiar are almost worse, because they creep up when you no longer expect them.  The good news is that we have some short excursions planned for the next few months that will hopefully help to remind us all of the awesome parts about living abroad, like the fact that London is a mere 2.5 hours (and 88 Euros) away, and that the quality/price ratio of wine, bread, and produce here is so much higher than in the States or Canada.  Or that we can visit the Louvre or wander down the banks of Seine anytime we want.  Or that we don't have to pay for gas, ever, because we have no car. 

A few steps forward, a couple of steps back... but hopefully we are moving in the right direction.

- E

Thursday, May 31, 2012

North American Hiatus

Things that have happened in the past week:

- We failed to obtain B's mandatory French travel document (Titre d'Identité Républicain or TIR, the document for kids born in France but who are not French citizens) due to a computer glitch between the OFII (immigration office) and the prefecture.

- One of our dogs ate an entire bar of dark chocolate, got theobromine poisoning, was rescued by the 24-hour mobile veterinarian service in the Paris region (pumped full of fluids, activated charcoal, and paraffin oil at 3am, in our living room), 6 hours before our taxi was scheduled to take us to the airport.

- We watched from an airport café as 20 police clad with batons and riot shields stood around doing nothing while hundreds of loud angry men blew air horns, whistles, and vuvuzelas in the airport terminal, disrupting the ability to get through security and probably causing some hearing loss to themselves and us.

- We left on vacation anyway. 

North American hiatus lasts until the end of June.  A bientôt!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


The presidential election has come and gone, and we are on to legislative elections here in France.  This is a big deal, because the president can get a whole lot more accomplished if he also has a majority in the legislative assembly.  That being said, campaigning is in full force, the first round of legislative elections is in a couple of weeks, and on nice weekend days at the market it's hard to make it through the entrance without 5 flyers being shoved in your face. A few days ago, at a particularly busy street corner, I decided to stop and have a chat with one of the guys handing out flyers for Nicolas Sarkozy's party, the UMP.  Until May, UMP controlled both the legislature and the presidency.  Now that the presidency has shifted to the socialist party, the UMP's new campaign strategy is to argue that in order for France to be balanced, there should be a split between the party of the president and the party controlling the assembly.  Predictably, when they controlled both the presidency and the assembly, they didn't think that one party holding all the power was such a bad thing.

Me: (smiling) "UMP, right?"
UMP Guy: (also smiling) "Yes!"
Me: "I have a message for you to bring back to your campaign."
(UMP Guy's smile fades a bit) 
"I am a lesbian, and this is my son."
(UMP Guy's smile disappears completely and he starts looking around uncomfortably)
"And your party thinks that I should have no legal right to be his parent."
UMP Guy: "No, that's not us, that was the far right --"
Me: "No way.  Your party was in power. Your party controlled government."
UMP Guy: "Well, it is not on our agenda."
Me: "Well, until my family is on your agenda, you will never, ever receive a UMP vote from me.  Have a nice day."

Nevermind that I have absolutely no right to vote here... but he doesn't need to know that.

- E 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

François Hollande, Président

For those of you in North America (who have more than likely not been following French politics) - the second (and deciding) round of the French presidential elections was held today.  The run-off pitted incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy against Socialist party candidate François Hollande.  It's been interesting following the politics here, as left and right are not nearly as clear-cut as in the States.  This election was fought along many lines, including but not limited to the economy, immigration, and social policies.  As we couldn't vote, we were only able to observe as the French citizens cast their ballots that would determine our future here alongside theirs.  Of primary interest to us was the impact that the next president would have on our lives in France: right to immigration, right to marriage, right to both legally parent our kids.  

And tonight, in our own quiet apartment, with little F's head resting on my shoulder, far from the parties in Paris and around the country, we celebrated.  A victory by François Hollande means, for us, the possibility of our marriage being recognized and of my parental rights being upheld.  For countless gay and lesbian French couples who did not have the privilege of marrying abroad, this victory may mean the right to marry, to seek reproductive assistance, and to build their own families.  Of course, time will tell - but as I sit here with my glass of cider, listening to Hollande give his victory speech, I am filled with a hope similar to what I felt on the night I watched Obama win the presidency.  While I feel that in the States we still have a long way to go, I am hopeful that relatively rapid social change can take place here.  In a pre-election document addressed to the LGBT wing of the Socialist party, Hollande lays out pretty straightforward answers to some questions that carry enormous weight for my family, and for other GLBT families and individuals:

(Note: these are my translations, and I have shortened the answers for clarity - the original text can be found at

Will you open civil marriage to all couples?  If yes, when? "Yes, in 2012."

Will you open second-parent adoption to same-sex couples? If yes, when? "Yes, in 2012."

Will you open assisted reproduction to all women - by anonymous donor or by known donor - without discrimination? If yes, when? "Yes, starting in 2012."

Will you align legislative and legal texts so that "gender identity" is equivalent to "sexual orientation" when it comes to discrimination or violence? If yes, when?  "Yes, in 2012."

Will you end the exclusion of gays from blood donation?  If yes, when? "Yes, starting in 2012, because it is a discrimination that has no scientific justification, and rests upon the confusion between 'sexual orientation' and 'sexual behavior'."

No president has been, is, or ever will be a perfect candidate.  But tonight, when it comes to my family, Hollande comes pretty damn close.  And tonight, pretty damn close is good enough for me.

- E

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Adventures at the U.S. Embassy

I know, I know, it's been a good two weeks since we have managed to post here.  It's been a bit busy here the past two weeks.  My (E's)  "paternity leave" ended and it was time to head back to work, which also means it was time for L to fly solo at home with the two littles.  Needless to say, it's been an adjustment.  Add to this two solid weeks of rainy weather and it's been a challenge just keeping up with the house (wishful thinking).  And, in all honesty, though I thought many times about posting an update, there just wasn't much to write about.  Days with an infant are at the same time unpredictable and routine, and other than a couple of trips into Paris we've just been laying low.

Our biggest adventure lately was heading to the U.S. Embassy to register B's birth.  Children born to Americans abroad must be registered at the Embassy in order to get a Consular Report of Birth Abroad.  This allows us to apply for his passport (necessary for our upcoming trip to Canada and the U.S.) as well as his social security number.  The process is pretty straightforward: after the birth, you make an appointment with the Embassy (be warned that appointments for the U.S. Embassy in Paris fill up about a month in advance!), fill out the requisite applications, and show up at the Embassy with the French birth certificate as well as proof of the parents' citizenship.  If you are in a hurry to get a passport, it is worth your while to keep checking the appointment website even after making an initial appointment, because canceled appointment slots re-open often.  We were able to shave a week off our initial appointment date by checking regularly - and it's a good thing we did...

We got to the Embassy about 30 minutes before our appointment with our carefully-prepared documents.  L and I had both checked over everything twice to ensure that we had filled everything out properly.  After waiting an hour or so at the Embassy, but before our number was called, I suddenly realized that ohmygodweforgothisbirthcertificate!  Yes, really.  Despite our careful checking and double checking, B's birth certificate was sitting in our apartment, an hour away from the Embassy.  My heart fell into my stomach.  Since our flight to Canada is in less than 4 weeks, and it takes 14 days to get the passport, and about a month to reschedule an appointment, we decided that our only option to play dumb.  We headed to the counter when our number was called, handed over all of our forms, and then reenacted our panicked moment 10 minutes before, when we actually realized his birth certificate was missing.  And score!  The agent helping us was sympathetic, took our application materials, and told us to just mail the certificate in the next day.

Yeah!  We were home free!

... or were we?

About 20 minutes later we got called back to a second window, where L was to be sworn in as the final formality.  Since L is the only parent on the French birth certificate, and is therefore officially a single mother, she also needed to prove physical presence in the U.S. for at least a year prior to B's birth.  Incidentally, married women do not need to provide this documentation - nevermind that we are married!  Fortunately we had come armed with utility bills and tax documents that should provide the necessary documentation.  We figured that was the last hurdle.  The agent helping us, however, asked to swear me in as well.  He then explained to us that he wanted to see if there was any way to put my name on the Consular Report of Birth Abroad as well as on B's passport application.  If we ever move back to the U.S., the CRBA essentially becomes B's defacto birth certificate, so having both of our names on it would be a really, really big deal.  Because we are Registered Domestic Partners in Oregon, had B been born in Oregon we both would be on his birth certificate, so being on the CRBA would essentially be the same thing.  The agent told us that he wanted to seek some guidance from the head office in Washington D.C. on how to proceed with our paperwork, and to see if there was any legal reasoning that would allow my name to appear.  We may need to make another appearance at the Embassy, and it means we are cutting it waaaay too close for comfort to our departure date, but globally this is actually really great news.  I will post updates on this as we get more news from the Embassy, as this could have important ramifications for other same-sex families who have children abroad.

On another note, B is officially one month old today (already!).  To celebrate... I am heading to bed.  Nights are sporadic these days, and this mommy needs all the sleep she can get.

- E