Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Training Time

I do love my Hubster.

Yesterday, he took the day off to stay at home with the sickies so that the kids wouldn't infect friends and playmates while I headed off to my class. I don't think he understands just how good that was. Knowing that the kids where with him rather than somewhere else, knowing they were safe at home with him, was a relief. I didn't have to stress about them. They were with the other half of me.

When I got home from class several hours later, he took one look at me and sensed the headache that was forming from the 2.5 hours of French grammar and sent me out to play with the dogs. Bless him. You do get what you need sometimes!

Typhon and Anouk take the hit when my time is short and I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off. They have space to play in the garden, but it's not the same as getting out for a decent run or walk. I know for me, if I don't get outside to walk or run or jump around, I go nuts. These dogs are of the same ilk. Sprinting around the garden furniture, dodging toys and swingsets just isn't the same as running the trails.

I've had some really good advice from the gang over at Sled Dog Central recently and I've been trying to work one on one with Anouk and Typhon. The hope is that by really giving time to focus on each dogs' specific needs, I'll be able to run them together better when we're ready. That may be in about 4 years time, but as Hubster likes to say, "Patience is a virture. Catch it if you can."

Anouk does well with the gee/haw commands. She hesitates a little before a turn but I'm sure that as we pratice this, she'll get confidence. She's a smart little cookie. Typhon needs a bit more practice and patience. He's not happy being out without Anouk. He'll follow me, but he won't lead. He's team player, a strong wheel dog. That being said, he knows the commands, even though I'm saying them in English! (How said is it that even my dog is bilingual before I am!)

Last night was a slow walk and the first time in while that I had both dogs out together. We focused on the commands "easy" and "on by." It was windy and blustery out there but such a pleasure to give some time and attention to the pups. They did really well. Hopefully, I'll get a chance sometime this week to get on the trails, sickies and school vacation permitting!

Did I forget mention that when the dogs and I got back home, Hubster had dinner ready? Did I forget to mention how awesome this man is who understands me and lets me do these things I love?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Let Me Rethink That

We've been fighting various and sundry viruses at our house for the last two weeks. Tummy bugs, bad colds, coughing. Mini-husband has been coughing so bad it sounds like he's a pack a day smoker. Bubba Love is clingy and gooey, with a nose running faster than I ever could. The Princess, bless her, is hardy stock (takes after me) and isn't unwell. Just annoyed with all the attention the boys are getting.

I finally was able to get them, with The Princess along for the ride, to doctor last night. One of my sisters once said to me that as soon as you get to the doctor's office, the sick kid is miraculously cured. Wiser words have never been spoken!

As we arrived around 5pm, it was obvious Chez Clark is not the only house in town that needs to be fumigated. In the waiting room, which is the size of a changing cubicle at the pool, there were 6 mothers and 9 children already wrecking the place.

Who were they kidding? None of these little people were ill! They were in top form! Running around, moving furniture, throwing magazines, screaming, laughing, hiding, and playing in the bathroom. Not a single runny nose, not a single cough, not a single wilted little love bug. Mine included!

When we finally did get to see the doctor, Bubba Love had had it. It was 6:30pm at this point and he was hungry, tired, and starting to actually look ill again. Mini-Husband went first and wonderfully answered all the doctor's questions while I held the melting baby and ever so politely asked The Princess to stop cleaning the windows of the office with a baby wipe.

After Bubba Love was examined from top to tail, I tried to gather up the kids, the coats, the prescriptions, pay the doctor and find the car keys. In this frazzled state, the doctor looked at me in the most aloof and pitiful way. I got the distinct impression that he would have liked to prescribed me a strong sedative.

So, here we are. Bubba Love with a mild double ear infection, Mini-Husband with a slight cause of bronchitis, and The Princess with her bells on, dancing through the living room.

Ah yes, the chaos continues. Toujours. La vie est belle!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Relfections on My Chaos

I just finished reading Water For Elephants and there is a point at which the main character, who is 90 or 93 (he's not sure) talks about how the days when the kids were little and the chaos was all around him were his "halcyon days." How scary. And yet how true.

Yes, my world is strange and busy and I can't remember what day of the week it is sometimes, but these really are good days. We're busy growing, playing, changing, and exploring. We're enjoying the nutsdom of our cluttered house and our dog fur covered clothes. The ritual demands from the tribe for walks or to eat or to watch "Cars" again for the 3045th time. It'll do your head in.

Yes. I'll admit it. I'm going insane with all that's going on.

It's wonderful.

Chaos is fun. Chaos is life. Chaos is bright yellow with toys all over the garden.

Isn't it great?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Christmas List

The first of the Christmas toy catalogs arrived at our house this week. A nice little booklet with loads of wonderful toys from what seems to be every Disney movie under the sun. The Princess and Mini-Husband were adorable, sharing a chair, reading the catalog together. Every time they saw something that they liked, I told them "to put it on your list." 3500 toys later, the lists are very long and distinguished.

I tried to remind the kids that there are millions of children who don't get any presents at Christmas. I tried to really drive the point home that Christmas isn't about getting loads of stuff but giving things to the people we love to show how much we appreciate and care about them. It's about the giving not the receiving, that's what Christmas is all about.

The Princess reflected for about 30 seconds on what I said. She blinked her big brown eyes and tossed her head onto her shoulder, "That's nice, Mom. But I want these toys for my birthday."

Any suggestions on what I should say now?!?!?!!?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

England vs South Africa

Because I am beyond excited about this match tonight and because we are having loads of friends over to watch, I have not been able to sit still today. It's so bad that I've even cleaned the bathrooms. So bad, I've even vacuumed up all the spiderwebs flying around. So bad, that the oven is sparkling. So bad, that I'm twitching.

Good thing I was able to escape with Typhon for a little training run. Anouk had already headed out with her friend, Musher Boy, for a seriously long adventure. Typhon was a little blue about being left behind, so it was great to be able to get him running on his own.

I do really love it when the two are out running together. He's a powerful dog and really comes into his own when he's following the pack or just Anouk. He's a typical wheel dog. He's not a puller by himself. He's not sure how fast to go, he's scared of the cows, and he would rather smell the flowers. But that was ok today. It was just us plodding along. He's learning, and so I am, that sometimes the best pack is us, one on one.

Unless you are England getting ready for a ruck, but that's another story..!!!


Friday, October 19, 2007

Strike Season

Yesterday was a lovely fall day here in the Auvergne. Cool temps and sunshine. Perfect for a hike or bike ride. Or if you we're like my friends, Hippy-Love Francais and her husband, a perfect day for manifestations!

Yes, it's October and that means it's time for the French to participate in their favourite hobby, organized walkouts and strikes. A large majority of the unions went on strike yesterday over proposed pension reform issues. It's a hot topic over here and something that could get ugly. Reform needs to happen, but I'm not sure the French are ready to deal with the pain and struggle that will come from that.

That being said, as my friends dropped off their kids at school, Hippy Love beamingly told me how they were heading into town for the protest. They both had the air of high school kids heading off to a football game, eager to participate, eager to be there. It was refreshing, I must admit. I don't think I'll ever really understand this incredible commitment to social justice and leftist politics that the French have, but I'm glad to have the chance to watch it in action.

I was inspired after seeing my friends and decided that yesterday would be my own strike action day. I decided not to do the laundry, not to clean the bathrooms, not to pick up poop in the garden, and not to do the dishes until my own pension reform plans were met. (Simple demands really: new dog sled, more dogs, bigger garden, etc etc.)

I took Bubba-Love out in the jogger for a little run to see the manifestations in our village. The manifestations of the leaves changing colours, the herds of cows grazing in the fields, the farmers turning the soil, and the hawks flying about in the sky.

For what it's worth, my demands have not yet been agreed too. And the worst part is that today I've got a hell of a lot to do. Sigh.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It's Important to Look Before You Leap

I come from a swimming family. I have one sister who swam competitively in college and now coaches triathletes, aiding them to become more efficient in the pool/swimming portion of their sport. My other sister is one of those swimmers who glides through the water, like a sting ray who moves so effortlessly through the currents. She has qualified for the National Masters Championships and has always been a force in the water. She's competitive like a rip tide, sneaking up on you when you aren't looking and then acting as if she really wasn't that fussed.

I, on the other hand, swim like a school of fish during a feeding frenzy. Thrashing about, water going everywhere, no sense of direction or purpose. Good thing for me, the lanes are clearly marked at an indoor pool. There is no direction except straight.

Tuesday mornings, when I'm free of all of my children and I've got time before class, I'm thrashing about in the pool in town. (It's good for me to cross-train my niggles from running and soak the boo-boos from my dog/bike accidents.) The first time I went, I was a nervous wreck. There were so many people and I was desperate to find a lane that didn't look too crowded or full of bobbers. (Bobbers (n): People who move up and down the lane without using any of the four major recognized swimming strokes.)

In my haste to actually get to the pool, I had forgotten to bring some goggles but at least I had my swim cap. As I wrestled that rubber thing on my head, I saw an opening in lane #2.

There is nothing like the first fluid strokes of freestyle. You feel strong, light, and just as the name says, free. Of course, I was swimming free and blind since I didn't have my goggles, but what was I worried about! I was at the pool! I was swimming! I was free! I was cruising! I was strong! I was getting tired! Goodness me!! Where was the wall?!?!!?

Note to self: Might be a good idea to actually check out the length of the pool before you start swimming in it. Yes, it's amazing how far 50m really is when you didn't notice the distance in the first place.

Ah yes, I'm the ultimate of bobber. A bobber who looks like she knows what she's doing when in reality, she's clueless. Free and clueless, but clueless all the same.

I went back this week. This time I had some goggles and I knew where the wall was. Still had to dodge the bobbers, but at least I knew I could. I felt good and strong. Almost like my sisters.

Just The Two of Us, And a Couple of Other English Speakers

Ah, a moment to sit and post. It's been a little hectic since our night away in
Salers. This beautiful little town has been voted one of France's most beautiful villages for several years and it's easy to understand why. It's location in the Monts du Cantal makes for spectacular scenery. It was so nice being there....

The highlight of the weekend had to be our evening in the local bar watching England beat France! There we were, in a bar the size of my parent's bedroom, chatting away with an American couple from Michigan (and hence CLUELESS as to what rugby was. But GO LIONS!), a couple from Ireland who spoke not a word of French (so I ended up translating agricultural terms all night for them, kindly being paid in beer), and a young aspiring politician from Salers who works for the Assembly National. (I had no idea he had a blog till I googled "Salers," but hey, as my cousin says, "Everyone's got a story to tell!") Hubster enjoyed a evening of rivalry with his favourite team to hate, but in the end made friends with three lovely French girls who actually invited us to go nightclubbing with them at 1am!Yup, we're getting old, but we're not out, just yet!

And with a thud (in the shape of fevers and tantrums) Sunday evening, it was back to the 5 of us. (Opps, 7!)

At least we've got Saturday to look forward to: England vs South Africa in the final. Yes, South Africa. Yet another country where Hubster has friends and connections. We're waiting for the phone calls and teasing to start about 9pm. I think the only team England could've played that wouldn't have caused huge amounts of rivalry would have been the US.

What? You didn't realize the US rugby team had made the World Cup?!?!?!

Wait. Right, sorry...Go Ravens! Go Chiefs! Go Packers!

Friday, October 12, 2007

This Time 6 Years Ago

I was hanging out with my family getting ready to be made honest.

Time flies when you're enjoying it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Sneaky 36 Kilo Dog

I just caught Typhon licking out the rest of the soup from lunch.

Amazing how agile this massive great, size of a cow, dog really is.

The soup was in the pot, on the stove, pushed way back on the burner the furthest from the edge. He manged to lick the damn thing completely clean and not break a thing in the kitchen. Nice to know he at least appreciated my homemade pumpkin soup. (Unlike The Princess and Bubba Love!)

He's ever so quiet when he sneaks around in there. Wondering if he's actually in there on two feet, hence why I can't hear him.

Gonna have to put a bell on this dog. Maybe one like this.

Ahhhhh, this Malamute!!!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Good Sign or Bad Omen

It's our wedding anniversary this weekend. Pretty amazing we haven't killed each other or filed for divorce in 6 years!

We've decided to celebrate by leaving our children with friends and then driving as fast and as far away as we can before THE BIG MATCH starts on Saturday night. You remember, England vs France in the Rugby World Cup semi-final, right? We're ever so romantic.

I will admit to being slightly worried about heading into strange French territory when such an event is looming, but as parents of small children, we need to take the chance to run away when and if it ever presents itself. Rugby war or no rugby war.

I made some calls this afternoon to track down a room in a picturesque village even more remote that our own. Hubster had seen a nice hotel online so I called to see if they had availability. Just so happens the hotel in question is closing tomorrow for their "vacances annuelles." They recommended I call the chateau hotel next door.

A very kind voice answered my call there. A kind voice with an accent I recognized. Imagine my joy and happiness when I was then able to ask the man,

"Vous parlez Anglais?"

"You had to ask me in French, didn't you?" he English.

Yes, it seems I've found us a safe house, or rather a safe chateau, for Saturday night. A chateau with a bar and England rugby fans.

God Save our Gracious Queen!


So after 4.5 years of learning French from the neighbours, the delivery people, the doctor, the check out lady at Atac, the repairmen, the boulanger, and a few cows on occasion, I've started formal classes.

Yes, that's right. I'm back at school.

And my head hurts.

The classes are part of French program for foreign students at the local university. Most of the students are between the ages of 18-22, coming from all over the globe. There are a few Russians, Polish, British and Americans but the overwhelming majority of the students are from China and their level of written French is impressive. It puts me to shame.

I can talk up a storm in French. (As I do in English.) I have no fear of making mistakes or asking for clarification when I'm speaking, but tackling this written aspect of the language has me, in the truest sense of the word, dumbfounded.

I'm taking two classes this semester. One is reading comprehension and the other is grammar. I enjoy the reading comprehension class. I can follow the articles and I can understand the context. But how is it possible that I can read and understand French but yet have absolutely no clue as to the proper grammar for writing this insane, intense, and beautiful language?

I sit in fear in the grammar class that the professor will call on me. In fear that these young students, who think I speak so well, will realize that I have no base of grammar, I have no clue how to form the written French, no clue as to how to spell. That I am almost illiterate. It's soul destroying at 36 to feel so inept.

Miss Tennessee 1975 told me yesterday, "It's when you get into the classes that you realize just how much you don't know."

Wiser words have never been spoken.

It's going to be a hard semester for me. I might actually have to work and learn. I might actually have to do my homework. Something I managed to escape from all the other times I was at school.


Saturday, October 6, 2007

Rugby Hangover

I'm sleepy still. Stayed up too late watching the end of the second big match of the Rugby World Cup last night.

The first match, England vs Australia, had been incredible during the afternoon. England, and the beautiful Jonny Wilkinson, pulled off a stunning upset that caused Hubster and I to dance around the lounge and Typhon to start singing without his usual church bell accompaniment.

The second match between France and New Zealand was more than I ever imagined. New Zealand was the tournament favourite and the attitude here was that France just needed to play a good game. Winning it would be another thing.

Well, they did.

(And the strangest thing is, they seemed to have my friend as their head coach. Funny that, I never knew Paul could speak French! I think he did play rugby at one point in his life, but that was more for the free beer than the glory of victory...)

So this now means that the battle lines will be drawn once again. It's England vs France in the semi-final next weekend. Hubster vs the Village. " Le Roast Beef" vs "The Frogs."

I'm going to have to practice God Save the Queen with the kids this week.

And I have a sneaking suspicion that Typhon isn't just howling with the bells. He's actually singing La Marseillaise. Might have to hide the dog during the match next weekend.

This could get ugly.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Princess Speaks

Yesterday, while the kids were having dinner, we started discussing things they'd like for Christmas. Mini-Husband said that he would like to go see the Eiffel Tower. The Princess said she'd like to go see the magic place where Mini-Husband got to go when she was still in my tummy. (That would be Walt Disney World)

I said, "Hey, you know what? There's a Disney World near Paris. What we could do is maybe ask Daddy to take us there at Christmas and at the same time go see the Eiffel Tower."

The Princess was beyond excited. Beaming all over her face, she replies, "Yes! Yes! I'll ask for that for Christmas. I'll ask to go to the Magic Place, Mini-Husband can ask to go to the Eiffel Tower, and Bubba-Love can ask for ca-ca smeertz!"

Ca-ca smeertz?

"Ok, sweetie, why is Bubba Love asking for ca-ca smeertz?"

"I don't know," she bubbles, arms gesturing from her little shoulders and pointing to the little guy. "He can't talk!"

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

I think I'm the New Britney

Sing it with me, "Opps, I did it again..."

Yes, that's right. I'm 36 years old and I still fall off my bike on a regular basis.

Here I was, Sunday afternoon, all ready to head out with the dogs for a little jaunt. I figured I needed to get over my cow poop incident and take the bull by the horns, or rather in this case, the dogs by the harnesses.

I hooked up my very excited "team" and off we went. We made it up the little street towards the centre of the village, made the right hand corner towards the boulangerie, and then I saw the cat.

Now, I know how my dogs feel about cat. Cat on stick, cat sushi roll, cat burger, cat sauteed with onions, cat soup, even cat just with ketchup is good for them. So, I being the nice animal lover that I am, figured now would be a good time to hit the brakes and make sure none of those aforementioned items appeared on the dogs' menu for Sunday dinner.

Hit the brakes I did. Hard. And only the front one. That's right. The brake that me, the lefty, squeezed within an inch of it's life.

Imagine if you will, an ever so adorable woman of 36 years, going full force, head first, in a tremendous display of acrobatics and tumbling, over the front handlebars and onto the road. Smack in front of the boulangerie. Good thing it's closed on Sunday afternoons. Bad thing, the boulanger's daughter was hanging out her window. Talk about embarrassed.

The bleeding mess formerly known as Dig did continue her little adventure with her two dogs that day. No further incidents were reported though there is blood all over the handles. That, thank GOD, is the only damage sustained by my bike.

So here we are 3 days later and my knee is healing nicely even though the palms of my hands still look a little bit like cat burger.

I made a point of getting back out on the bike today with the Musher Lady who lives near by. She's got two Sibs who needed a little trail adventure. So Anouk and I took them on an awesome ride. I couldn't face the possibility of sustaining even more injuries today with this already weakened body, so Typhon was asked to guard the couch. Bless him.

So here we go again. Doing it dog by dog. Fall by fall. Bike repair by bike repair. Off to find the antiseptic cream. Think that lampshade Typhon wore could fit me too?