Ramona was a pro during her first professional photo shoot and managed to take what I can only describe as the most amazing passport picture ever.
We are obsessed with this picture. And do you see what I mean about the neck? After the picture was taken, we paid the photographer and started packing up our stuff while we waited for the image to be processed and printed. All of the sudden, we heard a very distinctive noise and the room started to smell very, very bad. I glanced over at Michael who was holding Ramona and he was red in the face from trying not to laugh. We had a blowout. A serious blowout on our hands. Like, literally, it was on his hands. Thank goodness we had Ramona's original onesie because she told us exactly what she thought of her new outfit. She shit all over it. We raced out of there and downstairs to the empty, private lobby where we proceeded to spend the next 15 minutes fumbling around with extra diapers, a million wipes, purell, and ziploc baggies (a huge thank you to my mother in law for telling us to keep some in the diaper bag!) while Ramona screamed her head off. And she didn't stop screaming the whole walk home. So after that delightful first step of getting the passport picture, we prepared to go to Marseille to make Ramona an official U.S. citizen. We had to get up early to make the drive out to Marseille before our 10:30am appointment, and Ramona decided to throw a little twist into this plan by basically staying up all night, something she hadn't done in weeks! So fueled on about 2 hours of sleep, Michael and I got up at 7am to shower, eat a quick breakfast, and get everything ready to go. Since Miss Ramona had been up all night, she wasn't very excited about being roused from her slumber for this little roadtrip. I had to wake her up from a deep sleep, change and feed her and strap her into the carseat for our 2 hour drive. She wailed and screamed for the first 25 minutes of the trip. I almost told Michael to pull over so that I could feed her and calm her down a little bit, but she finally fell asleep. With the cutest, grumpiest little look on her face. By the time we got to Marseille, her mood had not improved. We had to take her out of the carseat, waking her up again, and put her in the bassinet. I thought about feeding her in the car before the appointment, but we were running late (of course) and I figured I could just do it once we had checked in. By the time we found the Consulate office, which was a feat in and of itself, Ramona was crying. She was hungry, tired and not happy about being woken up again. We hurried up to the guard's booth at the entrance of the Consulate expecting to be let in quickly. But nothing is that easy! To get past the guard, he had to confirm that we had an appointment, collect and examine our IDs, and collect our cell phones. After a few minutes of searching around for these items, he led us through the booth to...stairs. A lot of very narrow stairs, down which we had to carry our very heavy stroller with the screaming baby inside. We did this as quickly as possible, and then we reached the second level of security that involved another guard and a metal detector. But this wasn't a dinky little metal detector like what you'd see at say, jury duty. This was like going through the airport. We had to take off our coats, our shoes, our belts, and remove all our electronic devices. Michael had brought his computer and jump drive just in case we needed to provide any additional documentation not specified on the Consulate website (a very common occurrence when doing things like applying for citizenship) and we had our DSLR with us because we were headed to Aix after the appointment and we didn't want to leave our expensive camera in the car. These items, along with our cell phones had to be cataloged While Ramona continued screaming. And it took f-o-r-e-v-e-r. I was holding Ramona at this point and bouncing with her, swaying back and forth, whispering in her ear, offering her a paci, but nothing would calm her. Well, there was one thing that would calm her, but I was not prepared to give it to her while walking through a metal detector. I'm not that smooth yet. I was feeling so flustered and close to tears myself as several people stared at us through the glass doors of the lobby. Finally, the cataloging was finished and we could walk through the metal detector and pass our bags through the scanner. The trip through the scanner revealed that we had left some prohibited and highly threatening items in our bags. We would have to find them, remove them, and send our bags back through. It took all my willpower to not roll my eyes and start freaking out like Ramona. Michael and I searched through our bags for these forbidden items, which turned out to be the Canon Powershot for me (forgot I had left it in the diaper bag) and some loose batteries for Michael (which elicited a big "what the hell?" from me. Who carries around loose batteries in their work bag? And why couldn't we bring them into the Consulate?) After those additional items had been recorded and stored for the duration of our appointment, we were finally allowed to pack everything back up and enter the lobby. We were going on about 20 minutes of Ramona wailing and I was desperately trying to calm her down by speaking in a soothing voice, but I'd been rendered deaf by her piercing screams and could no longer hear what I was saying. Michael and I passed her back and forth as we put on our coats and shoes and packed up our bags. We finally walked through the glass door to the lobby and were greeted by another mother with her 3 little girls who said to us, "Oh man, I'm just so glad it's you guys today and not us." Happy to take one for the team, lady. After that, I got myself into feeding mode as fast as I could and Ramona was instantly calmed. Michael started going through all the paperwork with our case agent, and by the time Ramona was done eating, she was red eyed, a little sniffly, but generally happy. She charmed all the ladies in the office who called her a perfect angel and were thrilled to see her smile and coo at them. Girl knows how to put on a show. The whole application process took about 30 minutes, didn't require any additional paperwork, and was done with a smile. They said we'd receive everything in 2-3 weeks, and we did. God, I have missed American bureaucracy. When the appointment was over, we took Ramona to the little playroom, complete with a changing station, to put her in a clean diaper for the next part of our trip. Because after a morning like that, there was only one thing this Nervous Nelly first time Mama wanted.
Hallelejah, Starbucks!! Can you believe it? My first Starbucks since this weird experience, 5 months earlier. This Starbucks in Marseille is the closest one to Montpellier and you can bet your bottom dollar I was going there, rain, shine, or screaming baby. I've had people say to me, "but you're in Europe! Why would you go to Starbucks when you are living in France?" And to them I say, shut your face, you have no idea what you're talking about. I would like to put them in a country where they have to drink teeny tiny cups of stale pod espresso for 2 years and see how fast they'd run to their nearest piping hot, 16 ounce, creamy latte. First world problems, people. I have them. So we walked the mile and a half from the Consulate and Michael and I enjoyed a very nice breakfast at Starbucks while our perfect angel slept. It was the first time that Michael and I had a meal alone together out of the house since Ramona was born and it was really, really nice. And we definitely deserved it.