Dog poop, “medical emergencies” and French lessons

Dog poop. It’s not what you think about, I’m guessing, when you think of Paris.  Yet, if you google, “dog poop in Paris”, there is no end to the amount of articles and blogs written about it.  Here’s an excerpt from, “Bonjour Paris” which is touted as, “THE Guide to Paris”.

Yes, it is shit.  Dog shit.  And it’s all over Paris.  It’s on sidewalks, in parks and, most stubbornly, on the sole of your shoes.  Take one moment to look up at Haussman’s 19th-century apartment architecture, and poof, you’ve mussed up a mutt’s chef d’oeuvre of the morning. One is as likely to fall prey to the sticky goo in the cobbled, winding chic streets of Le Marais as one is to succumb to its trap in the seedier suburbs of Seine Saint-Denis.  This crud knows no social class.  

We Americans scratch our heads at this stinky paradox.  How can Chanel and shit live harmoniously?  How can the French, who frown upon eating dessert with anything other than a dainty baby spoon, overlook plump, smelly piles of poo in their streets?  They may have ridded themselves of the monarchy with the storming of the Bastille, but the aristocracy lives on.  And it’s canines who are king. ~ from the post, “Oh, Poo!”

what baffles me is that people are walking around in incredibly expensive leather boots and stiletto heels stepping in it.  Then, it’s tracked down the sidewalk, maybe smeared is a better word.  For a week, at the entrance to our apt. building, right as you open the gate, was a clump of poop.  It was stepped in, tracked across, and tripped over.  As soon as we walk out of our gate, there is a minefield of poop to navigate, with usually the head of the group shouting statements like, “poop on the left, pile on the right, ”  and the last one in the group commenting, “you just stepped in poop!” “Where?” “Left shoe.  Go scrape it off” “Where?” “I don’t know.  Before you get back on the bus, in the apt., at school, etc.”  The kids now rate the piles of poo.

“Oh wow!  Look at that one!  It must have been a big dog!”  “Oh gross, that dog must have diarrhea!”  “Oh, that owner must have been in a hurry.  The dog pooped down the sidewalk for a half a block!  Cool!  Gross!  Nasty!  I wish we had a dog!”  Yeah.  Dog poop reminds my kids we don’t have a dog.

 Supposedly, they are cracking down on owners who let their dogs poop on the sidewalks.  They can be fined up to 400 euros.  Right.  Which is why, there are now hundreds of men employed with brushes, shovels, scrapers, and buckets that actually roam the sidewalks cleaning the poop off.  They will never have enough manpower, because right behind that guy in the lime green jump suit, accessorized of course, with his manscarf, is someone walking “Fifi” who is pooping 5 ft. behind “poop guy”.  They also have men driving water tanks with a high powered sprayer and a guy hosing down the  sidewalk as the other guy drives slowly along the street  The sole purpose for that vehicle is to spray dog poop off the sidewalks.  So chic, so charming, so Paris.  Yet, with all that cleaning, scraping, and brushing there are still piles and piles and piles of sh**.  And, really, it is shit.  It’s not poo, poop or droppings.  It’s shit.  I think that’s why “Merde” is probably the most heard curse word.  They are surrounded by it, daily reminded of it, can’t escape it, and yes, even chic French people often smell like it, because it’s probably on their expensive heels.


Two weeks ago, I committed a faux pas, well it was much more than that, but I like using french words. I turned off my cell phone while I was at the immigration office, being interrogated in my underwear. After that trauma, I somehow forgot to turn my phone back on.  So, the next day, while I was doing the dishes and baking muffins, I had no idea that my cell phone in my purse was ringing incessantly.  Let me preface this little story by saying that this was completely ALL MY FAULT.  This isn’t quite up there with the time I threw Nate on the kitchen floor in order to protect myself as I tripped and fell.   And it isn’t quite up there with the time I told my 3 small children to “run as fast as they can” when a vicious dog broke through a gate, and charged after us.  Back then, I could run much faster than they could, and I kept going, leaving them in the dust screaming, “mommy wait for us!”  So, don’t judge!

Anyway, NurseP.  was frantically trying to get a hold of me or Tim because she thought Abi was having a “medical emergency”.  NurseP. has a son who is diabetic.  NurseP. has been the school nurse for many, many years, but only had 1 or 2 diabetic children in her care.  NurseP. had never seen an insulin pump.  I know it’s daunting, but it’s not like a tv remote.  There are actually written instructions every time you push a button.  I had trained NurseP on how to use the pump.  Abi knows how to use it.  A diabetic rep came and gave Nurse P. a tutorial on how to use the pump.  NurseP. is still terrified of the pump. 

So, on this particular Thursday, I got a call on our guest cell phone from Tim saying, “NurseP. has called an ambulance because Abi is out of insulin, and if you don’t call her back immediately, they are putting Abi on an ambulance and taking her to the hospital!”    Wha????  Well, apparently, Abi’s pump was about out of insulin, only 3 units left.  Her blood sugar was high and it was lunch time.  NurseP called the doctor.  He told her to give the rest of the insulin and only let her eat protein, because you don’t need insulin for protein, only carbs   NurseP was in a panic.  It had been an hour and she still couldn’t get a hold of us.  Tim finally got out of his meeting and got the call.  She had called an ambulance to take Abi to the children’s hospital.  The entire staff at the school was alerted.  Tim was on the phone with her and she was on the other line talking with the SAMU (emergency personnel)  She wouldn’t let him speak with Abi.  She wouldn’t let Abi get off the bed.  Abi was freaking out, because NurseP was freaking out.  Tim got a hold of me, and I said I would get on a bus and be right there (in 20 min) to put insulin in the pump.  Nurse P told Tim to tell me I needed to take a taxi.  Well, our taxis are about 15 min. walk away, so I took the bus.  I figured there was still time to “save” Abi from impending doom.

I got to the school.  The guards were so worried.  I took Abi’s blood sugar.  It was 218.  That is pretty close to a normal range for her 70-180.  I changed the insulin and told Abi to go back to class. NurseP. thought she should lie down, or be taken home.  Her blood sugar was lower than it is most days.  It Abi would have gone to the hospital, they would have checked her blood sugar and tried to give her maybe a unit of insulin, but her pump wouldn’t allow it, because it tells us that she still has insulin working in her body from what was put in before, so we can’t overdose her on insulin   Again, it was all my fault for not being reachable.  I have asked our diabetes rep if he can once again try to explain how the pump is safe and more accurate than injections.  As I left, the guards asked if the ambulance was coming.  I told them Abi was okay and already back in class.  They were confused.  I told them I would be back in two hours to pick her up at the end of the day.

NurseP, I promise to always check the amount of insulin in her pump to make sure she has enough in a day, and I promise to never ever, turn my phone off, even if I’m being interrogated in my underwear.


Well, I have finally found a French teacher.  I gave up the idea of taking classes at the various schools around Paris, because they required you to take several days of classes a week and it wouldn’t fit in with the kids’ school schedule.  Plus, you have to register in French to learn French, and that’s scary.

I got a recommendation from another mom I met on the bus who had a private lesson at her home.  I called up, and voila!  I now have a french teacher who comes to my apt. once a week for two hours.  Her name is Beatrice, and she is fantastic!  One thing I love about her is that she lived in CA for 4 years.  The French who have lived in the US, even for a short time, understand why we go crazy over here.  I asked her what she liked about CA.  “The people are so nice!  There is no dog poop!  The sun shines!”  She said that when her daughters came back to Paris, they were disgusted by the poop.  They couldn’t believe how mean their teachers at the French schools were.  They couldn’t believe kids were so mean and violent on the playground (more about that in another post)   

Beatrice is a keeper.  She is helpful, funny, and thinks I am smart!  I like her for that very reason.  Thank you Mlle Higley for 4 years of excellent high school French 35 yrs. ago.  I am not confidant to speak it, and I can only understand preschoolers and very old people, but I can read it pretty well, especially after 5 months.  Beatrice put me in the intermediate level workbook!  Tres bien!

We meet again on Friday, next.  I think we are going out for lunch to practice some ordering.  I love that I can ask Beatrice any “why do you say it like this…, why do the French do this…” and she will laugh and answer, “yes, it makes no sense, but that is how we do it”  That pretty much sums up most of life here.







Do Over Please!

Welcome!  I decided to begin a blog so that I can keep a journal of our life in Neuilly-sur-Seine-just across the river from Paris, in the “Oh So Posh  suburb of Paris”, as it is described-they left out a few details about snooty people and dog poop littered sidewalks.

This is going to be real, raw and not sugar coated.Some of it will be a chronicle of what I am learning or what I have seen.  It may not be deep.  I may rant and I may not use correct grammar or punctuation.  I am not a writer and don’t pretend to be one.  If you want to read beautifully written, thoughtful, deeply spiritual blogs, I can suggest some for you.  You won’t find it here.  What you will find are the honest struggles of a woman who is often (okay, always) self-centered, seeks comfort, ease, spontaneity and fun and who has been forced into a life, for the next few years at least, for her own good, that is way out of her comfort zone ,by the One who loves her more than anything and knows her deepest need.  My God.  He brought not just me here, but our diminishing family of four (the other 3 have flown the coop)  We know without a doubt that it was God’s plan for us to move to France, but what He will do in our lives remains to be seen.  I hope I can be faithful to record the good, the bad and the ugly over the next few years.

The first four and a half months have not afforded me much time to journal about our lives, much less reflect.  It has been filled with excitement, sadness, awe, naivete, fun, tears, frustration, wonder, exploring, frustration, loneliness, new friends, day trips, getting lost,  turmoil, frustration, fear, anger, chaos, tears, frustration, joy, mishaps, despair, more tears, and hope-mostly in that order.  I have  experienced emotions that I don’t think I have ever encountered before, if that’s possible.  We have experienced lows in our marriage and with our children that I never, ever thought possible for two people who have shared life for 28 years.  I think I have cried more since August 19th, when we moved, than I did when both my parents died.

It hasn’t all been horrible.  We have had fun on the weekends, seeing and doing new things.  But, it has mostly been hard.  Hard, like I have never experienced.  If I could leave, I would-right now.  That’s why this first post is titled:  Do Over.  I would like a Do Over of our last 4 1/2 months, please.  Actually, maybe the post should be titled, “Starting Over”  I would like to start over fresh, no bad experiences, no repeats of this past semester of 5th grade, no bus fights, flunked tests, multiple visits to the school counselor’s office, discouraging teacher conferences, tears, tantrums, lying, stealing, fighting, hating.  It has truly been the worst school experience in my 24 years of parenting.  So, we are starting over, but not really, because the scars are there.  The experiences have already happened.  There are consequences to many poor choices.  There needs to be time.  It will take time for this do over.  I can’t do it.  I am so poorly equipped to help my children through this impossibly difficult time.  I need God’s help more than I ever have before, and guess what? I have it.  He’s got my back.  He always has and He always will.  I will put my Hope in Him, but life still sucks big time.