Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"You've Got to Kiss A Lot of Frogs..."

Eight years ago tonight, I went off to a pub in Oxted, Kent with my mom and dad, my neighbour, and one of his friends. Who knew that a couple of pints and some Bloody Mary's at 4 am would change my life forever.

As Hubster put it to Mini-Husband this morning,

"Mommy and I were just friends when this day started 8 years ago. But then we've been together ever since."

How can you explain to your kids that even though I thought at the time I had just royally messed up my nice neighbourly relations by getting drunk and kissing said neighbour, I really had found my frog.

Yes, I realize that I've just referred to Hubster as a frog.

But before you get all huffy in his defense, it must be said that I came across quiet a bit of frogs and toads in my travels. Some that seemed to have something special about them, only to turn into bullfrogs. Others seemed to be like those beautiful dart frogs, fabulous to look at but poisonous to the touch. Some just sat in the mud and expected me to do the same and others hopped off into oblivion before I really had a chance to wow them.

Hubster was different.

I had known him a few months as that nice neighbour who offered me whiskey and didn't mind a hike over the M25 and up steep hills. A neighbour who knew it was hard living abroad, who had a decent job, who fell in love with my Malamute in less than 2 minutes, and actually bought my mom a drink at the pub. I remember saying to my parents then, "he's just such a nice guy."

And he still is.

And he's my frog because all it took was one little kiss and the rest became our story. We may have been married in October, but it's each New Year's Eve that brings the memories flooding back to me. Us laughing at The George, a few pints with my parents and our friend, and then a cold rainy walk with Luna in the wee hours of New Year's Day.

I'm all emotional and goofy just sitting here remembering it all. It was the start of a new year and our new lives. I love that.

To all of you, I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year's Eve and that 2009 brings happiness, joy, and love to each and every one of your lilly pads.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Stop the Madness! Mon Dieu!

I am so sick of being sick. We've had colds, sore throats, sinus infections, headaches, and diarreah this vacation and I'm ready for it to be over.

Seriously, with all the gurgling going on in my tummy and the dance moves Whoopsie's pulling in my uterus, I feel like I'm at some throw-back John Travolta disco party.

What is it with holidays and getting ill? Or wait, really, what is it with holidays and the PARENTS getting ill and the kids staying on top form just to drive us nuts as we wallow on the sofa?

I know what's going to happen. I'll finally feel better next year, just in time to send them back to school and WHAMO. They'll all come down with the plague or hives. Just as I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, the darkness of the doctor's office and a bottle of cough medicine will block my view.

The joys of parenthood, raising germ catching aliens disguised as children. If only they shared their toys as well as they shared viruses.

Quick! Young child! Go fetch your mother the Kleenex!

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Birthday and A Cemetery

Well, the magical 38th birthday has come and gone. I feel no different than I did on Saturday except I've got a cold and I think I could sleep for weeks.

It was a most mellow of birthdays thanks to all the germs invading me and Hubster. I did manage to persuade The Princess and Mini-husband to head out on a ramble around the village which did me the world of good.

I let them decide which way we went, figuring that we had no time limit, no pressing destination, this was going to be a birthday wander, lead by two of my little angels.

So were did they want to go first? The village cemetery. One could look at that and find all kinds of things not to be excited about, especially on one's birthday, but I decided to ignore my inner-freaking out self, and go for it.

I must say, our cemetery is beautiful. The granite slabs gently sit on a small hill that is tucked into a hollow with a few large trees at one end. It's almost as if the cemetery is a little nest, cradling the past under it's branches. There are graves dating back to the late 1800s, marked with the same names as our neighbours and friends. Names I now know how to pronounce correctly, names that mark the different hamlets around the village. The village's history is there, resting quietly.

Mini-Husband and The Princess were fascinated by the mixing of names on the various tombs. A woman born with the name Labard but buried with her Calamy family. I explained to them how through marriage, the different families of the village all have connections and ties. Mini-Husband got excited about this and started talking about how if he married his girlfriend from school they could be buried together and then their kids could marry the kids of his other friends and be buried all together too. The joy in his eyes as he talked about his final resting place, crammed to the gills with all his buddies, made me want to smile.

We wandered a bit more through the cemetery and then finally decided it was time to say goodbye to the oldest residents of the village. On the way out, we stopped to say hello at the grave of someone we had known, just to check that her spot wasn't too covered with snow and that her pot of fake flowers were still standing.

And with that, we went looking for treasures.

The Princess found a half of a walnut shell, a leaf, and two stones to give me as birthday presents. The walnut shell for holding my earrings, the stones to hold down papers on a windy day, and the leaf just because I didn't have one already.

It was lovely spending time with just the two of them. And, I must admit, it was nice to have visited the cemetery. It reminded me that this life is worth living and I need to enjoy it while I've got it. There will be time enough for sleeping later on.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Quick Glimpse into What's Happening at The Birth Control Bed & Breakfast During The Holidays

It's sunny outside today and yet still cold enough for all the poop to have held on to their frozen shapes. I'm calling this a win-win type situation.

The kids have been playing non-stop with their Christmas toys which just makes me so freaking happy because this means they disappear for hours and I don't have to panic that they are flooding the bathroom or putting make-up on the dogs. No, they are actually playing. And with each other! There's sharing going on here! I could almost faint!

Bubba-Love's favourite thing right now is to walk up to each of us and say,

"Mom, I love you. Daddy, I love you. Princess, I love you. Mini-Husband, I love you."

He's just so darn cute when he says it and it makes my desire to thrash him when he then throws the TV remote across the room at this brother a little less intense.

Hubster is finally on the mend after having caught every single germ that's floating around right now. He's actually perky and looking forward to playing with his friend Roland this afternoon.

Roland is going to drive his big old tractor up to the barn and the two of them are going to pretend to be lumberjacks, or rather they'll cut the rest of our winter wood with Roland's buzz saw. Manly men, doing manly things. It's a beautiful sight.

As for me, I'm going to read and eat and rub my belly and try not to remind everyone that TOMORROW IS MY BIRTHDAY. No, I'm not going to say a thing about MY BIRTHDAY TOMORROW. I'm just going to take it easy and be happy that I've got it so peaceful today. That's gift enough.

Whoopsie just gave me a loving kick to remind me that it's lunchtime. A little cheese and bread, anyone?

Friday, December 26, 2008

There Is a Reason Dining Room Chairs Come with Springs

A friend of ours here has the best set of dining room chairs. They are full leather with a spring suspension system that keeps your butt from going completely numb during a four hour meal.

At first glance, I thought they were really just a touch too much to have in a dining room, but now after nearly 6 years of dinners at theirs that could, each in their own right, compete for the title of "Meal of the Year," my tookus is thankful.

I thought about their chairs yesterday as we sat for several hours on our wooden benches, ripping apart goose and diving into mashed chestnuts. Good chairs are a must for a meal like that. I think I know what I might be asking for next Christmas!

The other thing that dawned on me, is how much I love sitting at a dining room table. How it's wonderful to share glasses of wine over warm wonderful food, telling stories, and sharing. We are blessed to have this chance and even more blessed because we live in a country where meals like this don't just happen once or twice a year. Eating and sharing at table happens often in France.

There are times that the French get accused of being too quick to tumble into long and wordy diatribes over the simplest of subjects (a 2 hour meeting to decide when to have the real meeting, for example,) but this fits with a people that enjoy and allow discussion. Sharing your opinion is expected, disagreeing is normal, solving the world's problems over dinner might just happen one day. And that dinner might just be one on an average Tuesday night, with no special reason to gather around the table except that it's is there and that's what you should do with it.

This was our 5th Christmas in France and my God-only-knows-what-number marathon dinner at our table. We've got the next one planned for Sunday at another friends' house. I'm all excited to sit and eat and talk and enjoy once again until the wee hours of the morning, my butt growing numb on the benches at their farm house table.

Have I mentioned before how much I love living here?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Thoughts on the Morning of Christmas Eve

It's the morning before and all through the house,
There is laundry hanging off every available radiator,
A mountain range of dishes in the sink,
Hyper children fighting over the TV,
Frenzied dogs wrecking what's left of the garden,
A grumpy plump mother growing rounder and rounder with each Christmas cookie,
And a father who dreams of a long night's sleep, undisturbed and peaceful.

Hubster pointed out to me last night as I sat whimpering and crying over a story on the news about dog sledding in the Alps, that I traded all that for all this.

"You chose children," he said.

I swallowed hard and cried inside to myself, 'why do they have to be mutually exclusive?!?'

The only answer I'm coming up with is opposable thumbs. If only Anouk could do some dishes, Typhon hang out the underwear rather than eating it, and Abaka jump and spin only on the terrace...Wake up, Dig. Smell the decaf. Remember what you know to be true: life is chaos. Fun, fabulous, unexpected chaos.

Sure, a jaunt through the mountains with a swiftly moving dog team is exhilarating, but it's got nothing on a Christmas morning surrounded by children who still believe.

Now go wrap those gifts hidden around the house and get ready for one of the most insane 24 hours on the planet. The magic is coming and it doesn't care how clean the house is.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Fourth Photo

So I got tagged by my friend, Kelly, to play this "Fourth Fourth" photo game. And since it's Sunday, very foggy outside, I have no desire to play in the mud of melting snow, and I always do what's asked of me IMMEDIATELY, here goes:

The object of the picture tag is to:

1) Choose the 4th folder where you store your pictures on your computer

2) Select the 4th picture in the folder

3) Explain the picture

NO CHEATING! (cropping, editing, etc!)

So here it is:

This a shot of me bringing out The Princess' birthday cake at her birthday party last May. The thing I find funny about this that it's actually a picture with me in it (albeit hidden by a wind chime) and I'm psyched at how small my boobs were looking!

With every pregnancy, I end up looking like I have two large zeppelins hanging off the front me, which is quite depressing. Plus, I always worry I'm going to suffocate the little one when I go to breastfeed them in the early days.

So it's nice to see this picture and remember that, yes, one day, though definitely not by The Princess' next birthday, I'll be able to shed the Dolly Parton look once and for all.

If only I could get rid of that Hulk Hogan posture I've got going on...

Friday, December 19, 2008

And Here She Is At 20 Weeks

My doctor rocks.

During my routine visit today, he had a little looksie at Whoopsie and bless him, he zoomed right on in on her little face and printed this out for us.

Check out that little nose. I'm trying to convince myself she's going to look like me, but since my nose was redesigned in 1987 by a Dodge Colt and a tree on West Running Brook Ave, I'll have to wait to see it in person to be sure.

He also took a few minutes to talk to me about what I can and can not eat over the holidays. (Remember, this is a country that loves foie gras and oysters at Christmas.) He explained that white might be better than red, don't eat anything that smells funny, and just basically enjoy the holidays. He also told me not to weigh myself.

Don't worry, I'm already Googling his credentials.

Have I mentioned how much I love being a pregnant woman in France?

Quick, pass the paté!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Little House on the Prairie Redux

Have you missed me?

Go on, you can admit it. You've been wondering where the heck I've gotten to and why the bloody heck haven't I updated this silly old blog.

Well, the reason my friends is ever so easy to explain. It's hard to use a computer when you've got no electricity. And it's even harder to use the Internet when you've got no phone.

We had a fabulous snowstorm on Sunday that covered the village (and all the dog poop) in a blanket of white. The flakes fell fast and fat, and the 5 of us sat at lunch and marveled at the beauty.

Then the power went out.

Bubba-Love had a meltdown about not being able to watch Ratatouille. And Cars. And Shrek.

This was going to get ugly.

That night, we all tucked up close to the wood stoves, boiled hot water for tea and hot chocolate, and Hubster and I screamed at the kids not to keep dancing around all the candles that were lit to give us a bit of light.

It's not just moths that are attracted to flame, it's anyone under 3 feet tall wearing slippy socks.

Luckily for us, we kept the house relatively warm and in one piece and thus we survived our first night without central heating or a hot bath. It sounds worse than it was, if I'm honest. Bundled up with sweaters, tucked under the duvet in a little cocoon, it's snug and warm. The kids looked like little Michelin Men in their beds but dressed like that, they really couldn't kick off their covers now could they?

Monday passed with Hubster and Hippy-Love Françise heading to town in the 4x4 for supplies, the kids drawing loads of pictures and playing with toys they had forgotten they had.

Hubster had a flash of brilliance while in town and picked up everything we needed to make fondue on the wood stove for dinner, so under candlelight on our second night, we laughed and giggled over stringy cheese, dressed in our best fleece and socks.

Luckily for us, we finally got the power back on Tuesday. (As I write, I think there are still several thousand homes in our departement who have not yet had theirs restored.) Three huge blue generators were propped up around the village and within a hour of their arrival, we were back to normal. Back to using the washing machine, the dishwasher, the computer, the TV.

How quickly we left Miss Ingalls and her world behind.

Truth be told, the only thing I think I really missed was not having hot water. Other than that, with the woodstoves and the candles, it wasn't really all that bad.

I liked playing shadow games with Mini-Husband and The Princess. It was good to sit and read with Bubba-Love. It was nice to stop the normal whirling and just be. Just sitting with Hubster, snuggling under a blanket. (Anyone else predicting a baby boom in the Puy-de-Dome in nine months time?)

The one lasting effect I've noticed is that the church bells seems to have been knocked for six. I'm not sure if the power cut did something to the electric timer for the hourly and half-hourly chime, but since Sunday at one, I haven't heard one single "ding" or "dong."

You know what that means, don't you? Typhon's career as a choir dog seems to be temporarily on hold.

A divine act of intervention, perhaps? Or maybe just a small oversight by the electric company?

Who cares! Let's hope that power cut lasts!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gratuitous Snow Shots

Unfortunately, do to the whiteness of the snow, I couldn't find Anouk to take her picture. I know she's out there somewhere. She's left her typical calling card on the terrace.
You have no idea how much I prefer frozen dog poop!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Doing the Snow Dance

There is nothing like watching three insane huskies go nuts playing in a snowstorm. Well, at least until your face and hands freeze while trying to take their picture and the icicles form in your eyelashes, but other than that, watching them jump and spin is good for the soul.

It was right that I was born in December. Winter is my favourite time of year. Everything crisp and cold and on good days like today, covered with inches of snow. That perfect blanket of white even makes our mud patch of a garden look regal and beautiful. Heck, it even makes the insane huskies look regal and beautiful!

Typhon's singing has been a little intense this morning, it must be said. He seems to be channeling some sort of inner dog in attempts to make contact with that Iditarod racer he knows he really is.

Perhaps we should have hooked the dogs up to Hubster's car for his commute today. I can see them now. Zipping down the roads, flying past the snowplows as Anouk responds to every "gee" and "haw" perfectly. And behind her strong and confident, Typhon and Abaka, giving it all they can to get Hubster to the factory on time.

Ah, a beautiful vision!

But, as we all know, Anouk and Typhon would probably smell out a boulangerie that specializes in cat croissants, bang a hard left, and leave Hubster and his little car stranded in a ditch.

Better that he's depending on his snow tires today.

As for me and the tribe, it's a hot chocolate kinda day. Well, it will be after I teach them the joys of pelting each other with snowballs.

Monday, December 8, 2008

When Going to France Becomes Normal

When my parents first started coming to visit us here, I tried so hard to make sure we went and did things, went and saw things, so they felt they had a full trip across the pond. What I've finally realized is that it isn't France that keeps bringing them back. It's us.

The highlights of their visit this time would be a super intense shopping experience at the Christmas market on a Saturday evening, the grocery store twice, dinner with friends that included 2 bottles of champagne and magret de canard, and hours spent listening to Bubba-Love and Mini-Husband fight over toys.

Definitely not the chateau filled vacation some might think of as obligatory when coming to France.

We sit in the lounge, next to the woodstove, Kitty reads and BaPa thinks about going for a walk. The kids play in the room next to us and pop by from time to time to tell us some odd tit-bit or tattle on a sibling. We chat about Maryland, the election, people we know and love until Hubster gets home and we sit down to dinner.

More conversation, more laughing, more time spent together.

Who needs a chateau?

Yes, I still suffer from the desire to make sure they don't get bored and that they get to enjoy their experience here as best they can, but as my dad said to me this morning as they left,

"It was only a week, but we are just so happy to get to see you."

Me too. Me too.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Brain Teaser Time!

So was this caused by:

1. A washing machine deciding it wanted to do a little 4x4ing

2. A large furry malamute who knows how to open unlocked basement doors


3. An example of what happens when a woman 17.5 weeks pregnant decides to go on a trail run?

Bonus Question:

Was this at any point in it's life a sports bra or merely a twisted psychotic contraption made to frustrate even the most die-hard of runners, especially when said runners are sweaty?

Rest in pieces. Off I go to Title Nine...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Psst...Pass the Pancakes

My suppliers arrived yesterday safe and sound, ready to hook me up.

The look so innocent these two. Rolling their three bags, two the size of Bubba-Love, along through the airport, smiling nicely at the customs agent.

If only he knew.

I know my dad always liked working in the trucking industry, I just had no idea how well he'd adapt to air cargo!

It's amazing how heavy a shipment of peanut butter, Aunt Jemima, Patton Originals, books in American, Crocs, and Christmas gifts can be. Somehow we managed to load it all into the back of my little station wagon and get the goods back to the village in one piece.

After a furious 10 minutes of sorting, filled with happy cries of joy from me as two precious jars of Peter Pan were placed in my mitts, Kitty and BaPa took their suitcases up to the guest room.

I kid you not, this is all that was left:

Look closely: that's about 7 pairs of undies for BaPa and a sweater for Kitty. Turns out they really can pack light after all.

The good news really is for those of you on the other side of the pond. Kitty and Bapa are thinking of filling up these suckers for the return journey. Now I know some of you have a fondness for European chocolate and French wine, so now's your chance.

A free husky will be added gratuit to the first three orders, so don't hesitate! ACT NOW!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Sing It With Me: AMEN!

"Tout va bien, Madame Clark. Tout va bien."

And with these words, My doctor earned his place on my Christmas gift list for life.

Yes, happy readers, Whoopsie is fine.

I don't think there is much more I can say except, one again, thank you for all the positive thoughts, good wishes, and prayers sent our way. I appreciate all of them and all of you.

The good news, besides that about Whoopise, is that I now have a huge void in my "stress planner" so if anyone would like to have me stress about something near and dear to you, I'd be happy to take up the cause! No job too big or too small!

Stressing over Christmas dinner? I've got your back.

Wondering why there is so much horribleness in the world? Shoot, I'm an old pro at that one.

Worried about where to send that daughter of yours to college? I'm your woman.

Not sure what you think about Hillary being Secretary of State? I'll ponder that one for you, no problem.

You see, I've learned these last two weeks that I can cry at the drop of a hat for both happy and sad things and I have a trememdous gift for insomnia. So please, feel free to call on my services.

It's the least I can do.

(Offer ends April 20, 2009 and not viable with any other offers or promotions from the Birth Control Bed & Breakfast. Only one stress per reader accepted. Other offers of 'things to stress over' will be handled by the wine department on a first come, first served basis till the cave is empty. More details available in person at the B&B.)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Big City Lights

I can't even being to tell you how much I walked this weekend.

See, this is the problem with Paris. It's just too easy, when in good company, to drift and meander without a care in the world.

You leave your hotel at 10am and the next thing you know, you've gone from one side of the Seine to the other at least twice, strolled through at least 3 distinct neighbourhoods, heard more languages then you could have imagined in one day, and finally, at 7pm, you realize now is a good time to stop and watch the world go by.

From the glare of the Christmas lights at Printemps and Galaries LaFayette, we weaved our way through the throngs of humanity (in all it's glorious colours, shapes, and smells) and found ourselves in front of Notre Dame.

For a few minutes, we stood enthralled by the nighttime majesty of this house of God. It was quiet there this late at night. Even with tourists like us milling about, the sense of calm and peace there was wonderful.

My good friend, who knows all my stories since I was five, sat there with me and in front of this relic we laughed and poured out our thoughts and worries. There is no one in this world quite like her. She made friends with every shop keeper and waiter during the weekend, her laugh daring the world to smile and laugh with her.

That afternoon, as we walked past a homeless man curled up in a blanket on the sidewalk, she pulled out the last of her secret stash of snacks, and gave it to him. I am sure he understood not an English word she said to him, but her smile and her gesture were enough.

She does this all the time. Everywhere she goes. To everyone. Myself included.

A weekend wandering through the most beautiful city with my most beautiful friend.

I needed that.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks Later

So we ended up not having salmon. Good old Dig here forgot to get 'em outta the freezer in time.

Normal for me, that. What wasn't normal was that I actually found Johnsonville Brats at my grocery store.


Can you stand it? I felt as if I had been teleported directly to Wisconsin! If only I had some cheese curds and a case of Miller Lite to round off the meal! Give thanks indeed!

Mini-Husband took to them like a fish outta water. (There is hope for his American side after all!) He smothered them in ketchup, sprinkled on some crushed tortilla chips, and then smashed them between two pieces of bread. God bless that boy.

I'm feeling full, happy, and extatic that here in my little corner of France, I got a slice of a part of America that I love so much. And on Thanksgiving of all things.

Yes, Miss Tennessee 1975, there is a God afterall. And I think he's a Packer fan.

Giving Thanks with Salmon

I love this holiday. It's this holiday that makes me miss my country and my people the most.

I have a lot to be thankful for this year, as I do every year.

I don't know why I was lucky enough to be born into a loving, stable family, get the chance to move around the world, find a man who supports me and let's me be me, and then have three (soon four) incredible children who make me laugh and sing with joy.

I don't deserve all this goodness, but I'm grateful for it and glad to have it.

Tonight, I going to make a family favourite to celebrate. Grilled salmon. Now, I know this brakes with my American upbringing but when living far from the home land one most adapt. And since turkeys are hard to come by before the middle of December, I'm going with fish.

Hubster will be grateful if I light some incense while cooking said fish because even though he loves eating salmon, he is not so grateful for the smell of cooking fish.

He is a good match with my sister, the swim coach, on this one. She can't swim in open water because of the fish factor and will not touch a fish for love or money before it's nicely sauteed and served on a plate. Good thing for her she's safely in Wisconsin, gearing up for a nice old turkey in the traditional manner.

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. Enjoy the day, count your blessings be you American, English, or other. Life is what you make it, so all I ask is that you find the goodness out there today and share the best of you.

I give thanks to all of you for doing just that.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Is He Dead Too?

It all started by us playing Grégory Lemarchal all the time in the car. Somewhere along the road between our nearest town and the village, sometime around the millionth time we played, "La Bas," Hubster or I explained the short and quite tragic story of this singer who died from cystic fibrosis at the tender age of 23.

The kids were fascinated and since then, each time they hear a new song, the first question is, "is this singer dead too, mommy?"

The horrible thing is that when your cd collection runs from the Grateful Dead to John Denver, the answer is often, "why, yes, honey. He is." Of course, the little people then follow on by wanting all the details of how and why said singer kicked the bucket.

Nothing like having to explain Jerry Garcia's life and times to a 6 and 5 year old.

Nothing like both The Princess and Mini-Husband wanting to know if all the Muppets on the album cover with John Denver died in the plane crash too.

Quick aside: there are probably thousands of skiers who will be marked forever by my incessent playing of John Denver and the Muppets Christmas album as they took the chair lift past the race arena in my days at Snowmass. My apologies to them, but there really is nothing like "The Twelve Days of Christmas" as sung by Miss Piggy and Fozzy Bear to get you in the mood for Christmas!

But back to dead singers...

We all watched a TV program about popular French singers not too long ago, only to end up watching the clip about Claude Francois, a singer who, wanting to check a faulty light bulb while bathing, accidentally electrocuted himself in the bathtub. Hence opening a whole 'nother discussion on dead singers and, of course, bathroom safety.

It has been nice that Hubster added a few new 'live' artists to our CD collection like Coldplay, Garou, and of course, Alicia Keys. I've guarded these CDs in the car so that my conversations with the kids will not tumble into those deep metaphysical subjects that tend to come from conversations about death and dying.

Why is it always on car rides that these little people start asking philosophical questions that are way too in depth for a mommy to be answering on the way to the grocery store?

I'm going to have to dig out that one kids' CD we bought ages ago which starts out with a song about Mademoiselle Prout and then goes on to a really good one about scaring witches out from under your bed.

That's a topic I think I can handle more comfortably on a daily basis.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Benefits of Rest

My Hubster rocks. Not only has he gone above and beyond for me, making sure I rest and not do anything stupid, he actually got it to snow.

You see, grey, cold, horrible weather where one needs to be sitting next to a fire all day while stew bubbles away on top of the woodstove, is my kind of weather.

Watching the snow flakes fall from the sky in a hurried frenzy, like they are late for a most important meeting, is my kind of rush hour.

Listening to Typhon sing along with the rhythm of the wind, his tune muffles by the gusts, is my kind of music.

And the fact that I've been enjoying all this from behind a book on the couch is even better.

There I sit, wrapped in a blanket, book perched on my knees, when Hubster arrives with a steaming cup of tea for each of us. He makes a place next to me and we sit, sipping that warmth, watching the snow.

I'm good.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'm Emotional, So Just Deal With Me, OK?

I love you.

Yes, you.

You, who's taking the time to read this post.

You, who took the time to send such warm and wonderful thoughts our way these last few days.

You, who knows what a complete stressed out wack-job I can become.

You, who knows that a few deep breaths and a good glass of red wine helps in times like these so you went ahead and opened that bottle and had a glass or two for Whoopsie.

You, who have over the years told me to take it one day at a time, don't jump to conclusions, and be patient.

You, who have only known me a short while, who still tell me that exact same thing.

All of you were with us yesterday. We were all there together when the doctors performed that test that sounds so scary, "amniocentesis," yet really wasn't nearly as horrible as I had thought it would be.

You were sitting next to me on the couch all evening, telling Whoopsie to stay away from that little hole and not to kick quite so hard. (You can on Saturday, little bug, just not so hard today!)

You've been such a blessing and I have no way to really thank you as much as I would like to. Just know that all your thoughts, prayers, and kind words have meant the world to me and I really do feel good and optimistic that everything will be ok.

It's going to be a long two weeks, but I'm glad I've got you around to help me think about other things.

Now, you get on out there and do something nice for yourself today. Go do a cartwheel, or have an ice cream, get a puppy, turn up your stereo really loud, go for a swim, sign up for a race, finger paint, eat chocolate without guilt, ignore your laundry, or by golly, just laugh out loud.

When you've got someone like you in your life, there isn't anything else to do but celebrate.

Thank you. All of you for all you've done for me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Here's the Poop...

WARNING: This post is going to be about Whoopsie. If you are one of those readers who find that blogs, like sitcoms, go bad when they try to introduce a baby into the story line, this is your chance to go back and read about Typhon singing or Miss Snootie, my best friend at the Marie. If not, bear with me. I've got a lot going on in my head today...

At my first visit to see the doctor about Whoopsie, he mentioned to me that since I was going to be 38 during this pregnancy, he wanted me to consider having an amniocentesis to determine if there are any chromosomal issues with the baby, most specifically Down's Syndrome. Me being me, leery of tests and not so good with facing stressful situations, I told him I'd think about it and go from there.

The first scan went well and the doctor didn't see anything that looked worrying to him. I was relieved to hear this and hoped that the idea of the amnio would quietly go away. At that same appointment, I agreed to go ahead and have the blood test for Down's in hopes that this would alleviate all my worries.

Saturday, I had a message from the doctor that he wasn't happy with the results of the blood test and there is an elevated risk of Whoopsie having Down's Syndrome. That being the case, he has strongly recommended that I have an amniocentesis as soon as possible so we can find out what the heck is going on in there.

I'm ok with that. What I'm scared and worried about is that there is a risk of miscarriage from the amnio and since I've unfortunately had 3 of those before, I really don't want to have another one. And of course, the other thing, what do we do if Whoopsie does have Down's?

I've had some very good support from Hubster, Miss Tennessee 1975 and The Beautiful Version of Julia Child and thanks to their thoughts and comments, I've decided that having the test is the best option. I know that I can not handle worrying about Whoopsie for the next 5 months, wondering what really is going on. I wouldn't know how to help Mini-Husband and The Princess understand why Mommy was acting like a weeping basket case all winter.

I'm heading to the clinic dark and early tomorrow morning with Hubster in tow. The whole thing shouldn't take too long and then I've been ordered on bed-rest for the day. Hopefully, if all goes as it should, we will have the results in about 2 weeks time.

So, there you have it.

Now that I've actually written all that out, I'm going to go play with the muddy dogs and try not to worry. I have to trust that what will be, will be. Hubster and I have been blessed already so many times over. We need to be thankful for that.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Falling into Winter

The tree outside our kitchen window.
Lucky for me, yellow is my favourite colour.

View from the window by the computer, early morning.
Then again, orange isn't too bad either.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Matter of Interpretation

As I was unloading the groceries from the back of the car yesterday, I said to Mini-Husband that he couldn't do something.

"What did you say," he asked me?

"I said, 'You can't do that.'"

A look of consternation came across his face. I waited for the battle to start and tried to ready myself for a force of wills.

Instead he looked at me and asked,

"Mom, how does Daddy day 'can't'?"

"Well," I replied, taken slightly off guard, "he says it a little differently than I do because of his accent. Daddy says 'caughn't' whereas I say 'caan't'."

Mini-Husband paused for a second and then repeated the word in both accents.

"Caughn't. Yes, caughn't. You know, it sounds better in English, Mom."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Armistice Day

Yesterday was the 90th anniversary of the armistice that ended the first world war. In celebrating this event, the French media followed the memorial ceremony live from Verdun during the afternoon and then with an intense documentary covering the war in incredible detail last night.

As I sat with Hubster watching those thousands of soldiers digging the trenches, the same men then being slaughtered by the waves of bombs and bullets, others walking over the corpses of their comrades, vainfully trying not to fall into the vast puddles mud that seemed to be everywhere, it took everything in me not to rush upstairs, grab my boys, hug them tight and cry.

There is a memorial in our village, as in most French villages, that lists the names of the young men who died pour la France during WWI and WWII. Sometimes the ages are listed too: 18, 22, 24, 19. The only sons, brothers, uncles and cousins of a rural village. A village not unique in their loss.

I get chills when I read the names. These same family names that are now at school with my children.

It strikes me every time I see the monument that the family that originally built our house back in 1857 lost a son in WWI. I try to imagine him playing in these halls, slamming the front door, or getting warm by the huge fireplace in the dining room. I have no idea what he was really like but as I watch Mini-Husband and Bubba-Love play in this old house, I hope that he is pleased to see other boys playing where he probably played too.

Eight and half million people died during the four year war, leaving at least 4 million widows. President Sarkozy said yesterday at the ceremony:

"Imagine the infinite pain of each victim, the pain of the child standing by his father's grave; that of the father and mother learning of the death of their son; the pain of the wife receiving a last letter from her husband.

"Behind each destroyed house, each devastated village, there was a deep wound that will never fully heal."

Understanding this is crucial to understanding the French. It may have been 90 years ago that the "war to end all wars" was finally over. But as we well know, the horrors of war continue and through a nation's character, it's fears, and it's hopes for it's people, these wounds rest visible 90 years on.

Never forget.

Godspeed Jean-Francois.

Monday, November 10, 2008

This Monday Morning

Up early again. Bubba-Love decided at 5:30am he wanted a bottle. OK, it's a little early, but what's a mama to do?

Downstairs we came, to the magic TV couch, and got him happily tucked up. I tried to sneak a quick 5-10 minutes on the other sofa. Just as I'm ready to head back to the land of nod, there's a lovely gushing water noise. A cascading, gushing, eruption of noise coming from that sweet little man.

I'm trying to look at it this way: the sofa covers needed to be washed anyway and it's a lot easier to mop the floor when the other kids are still in bed and Bubba-Love is lying limply on said sofa.

It's at times like these that I remind myself, I wanted children. Sure, it would have been a lot easier if I didn't have to worry about them in my life. Go as I please, do as I please, just as I had before they came on the scene. No puke to clean up (except my own,) no potty training, no fighting and screaming to get them to clean their rooms, no constant challenges to my decisions.

Sounds like a dream.

But, as I sit here hugging this little man who now smells of sour milk, feeling his heart beating as I hug him to me, I think I'd be lost without all this. And, truth be told, I'm OK with the chaos.

What's a little bit of vomit at 6am between a toddler and his mom?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Building an Ark

This past week has seen record amounts of rain and for the last 4 days or so, our Département and several of those around us have been on Vigilance Orange ( level 3 on a 4 level scale of weather warnings) for the risk of possible flooding. Two Départements that border ours, the Allier and the Loire, had even been placed on Vigilance Rouge, level 4, for 2 days this past week.

The village of St Yorre, north and east of us in the Département of the Allier, has been hit particularly hard by the flooding.

The town's western side, closest to the river Allier, has become submerged and with the forecast for more rain in the days to come, I'm not sure the worst has past. Mini-Husband, The Princess and I had a quick tour of the river as it passes through our Département on it's way towards the northeast. The two main bridges over the river have become almost like "catchers in the rye," if you will. All sorts of trees, pieces of metal, and other debris has piled up against the bridge, held there by the force of the water and the strength of the concrete and stone holding the bridges steady.

Locally, we've seen the smaller streams and rivers burst their banks and block some of the lower lying roads, but since our area is rather hilly, we've been relatively unaffected.

At our house, the only major issue has been that the garden has permanently lost any grass it had hoped to grow. All three dogs are wet, muddy, and not at all convinced by this temps de chien. Most of the time, the three of them are holed up in the dog houses, nesting in the straw, staring out at the mud with a look of disdain on their faces. Who can blame them? It's cold, wet, and miserable.

The upside is that all three kids scored new wellies. For them, all this mud and water is good. A fabulous way to watch mom get really annoyed on the walk to school.

What I'd do just for a couple of days of sun! Not even warm, hot, sun. Just clear autumn light and the smallest chance for everyone to dry out and stop smelling like wet dog.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

On a Lighter Note

The cows are back.

They've been staring at our field since about 8am this morning.

You know that phrase, "the grass is always greener on the other side?"

Well, it's true for them.

Let's see where this goes, shall we...

"Out of Many, We Are One." ~~ Barack Obama

I don't think I've ever been so emotional about an election. And I don't think I've ever been so excited to take my kids to school and hear the comments and questions from my French world.

I remember heading to school and being almost harassed when Bush beat Kerry in 2004.

"How can they elect him again?"

"Why did people vote for Bush again?"

I had no easy answers. How can you explain complex issues in 5 minutes before the bus comes?

Through this election, it has been said by several of my neighbours, that the United States wasn't ready to elect a black man to highest office, that America was still so caught up with it's segregated past, that we wouldn't have the ability to see past his colour.

This morning, that is a mute point.

My country, and I, have elected a good man, whose life is an incredible tapestry. He is so much more than just a "black" man. His colour wasn't the factor, his character was.

We may not agree that he is the best person for the job, but I, for one, can't wait to see what this change brings for the world.

Let's believe in him and guide him. He's one of us, from this mixed fabric that makes our nation who we are.

My relief this morning comes as tears. Today, I am so, so proud.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Time to Cast Your Vote

I think most of you know that today we are awaiting the results of one of the most important American elections in our history. I know that over the last 2 years we have heard loads of arguments and loads of promises about what each candidate could bring to the Oval Office, but not one of them, Hillary included, ever mentioned the most important element: Who would be their choice of First Dog.

The neglect of this issue is far reaching and I can not begin to tell you how stressed Typhon, Anouk and Abaka have been over this obvious lack of attention to their needs.

That being said, I've decided to take this upon myself and demand of you, dear citizens of the world, to cast your vote! All it takes is one paw!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present you the Canineidates, in no particular order:

Snoopy: Dedicated WWI flying ace who has an incredible ability to look "outside the doghouse." He speaks French and Serbo-Croatian and has played major league baseball. Snoopy already has a tight attachment with NASA and would love to be the first dog in space.

Scooby Doo: fearless companion through thick and thin. Has no problem facing down scary monsters, enjoys running, and even knows how to drive. His appreciation of "Scooby Snacks" could revolutionize the American diet. Though his neglect of peanut butter is a tad worrying.

Pluto: Cute as a button and nice as can be. May have a tendency to upset very formal state dinners, but one lick, and all is forgiven. His connections with Mickey Mouse could be very advantageous to the country, for example offering foreign leaders a chance to bypass boring Camp David and summit at lively Disney World instead.

And the last Canineidate isn't really a dog, but due to his love of cats with ketchup, he needs to be seriously considered.

Alf: What other furry friend can claim such extensive international and galactic experience? His acute understanding of the impacts of nuclear war and fighting for couch space are issues near and dear to the American people. His understanding of the world beyond our borders would be an asset to any administration as long as there aren't any cats invited. Granted, he wasn't born in the United States, but his application for resident alien status is awaiting approval.

So there you have it my friends. Four outstanding Canineidates for the office of First Dog. Other write-in Canineidates will be considered as long as they posses 4 paws, a wet nose, and are house trained.

Yes, I know Typhon should have been considered for the list, but he was too busy chanting with the church bell to submit his application.

So there you have it. Happy voting and may the best Canineidate win!

Monday, November 3, 2008

While Eating Homemade French Chinese on a Rainy Saturday Night

The debate started while sipping pastis.

A simple question about the American election and that was all that was needed to spur my British Hubster and French-Me's very French husband to delve into those fabulous topics like the British miners strike during Thatcher's government, the merits (or lack there-of depending on who was talking) of the 35 hour work week, and the absolutely absurdity of the electoral college.

It's was a busy night.

It has taken me a little while to get used to the fact that once most of our French friends are really comfortable with us, they go ahead and tell us exactly what they think about everything English and/or American. At first, I used to get extremely defensive and worried that they really hated everything Anglo, but I've since realized that this in depth analysis of us and our people is really a good thing. A compliment in a way. A sign showing that the friendship is real because you could never speak so frankly to someone you didn't know so well.

Sure, dinner at French-Me's house can last upwards of 4 hours because of that, but the debate is good. (As long as we don't talk about rugby!) Over the first bottle of wine, things start unravelling at a frightening pace. For example, French-Me's husband turning to me and saying,

"But, admit it. The electoral college is nul."

Thank God, I paid attention in my political science classes at Marquette.

By the second bottle, the debate turned closer to home, to one of his and Hubster's favourite topics, Nicolas Sarkozy. Thank goodness it was a nice rosé so the boys mellowed ever so slightly. Bear in mind, neither French-Me or I am drinking during this debate. We're too busy handling the very important English parliamentary tradition of heckling the speakers.

By the time coffee was served, the debate was back to trying to understand the true nature of universal suffrage and which democracy, the English, French, or American, is the best example of this lofty ideal.

Your heading spinning yet?

Things took one more scary turn as economics finally reared it's ugly head. At this point, being the woman that failed remedial math, I decided it was a good moment to start getting the kids ready to head home. French-Me and I left the boys to hash out bail-outs over a fine digestif or two and started praying that they could solve the world's problems before 2am.

It dawned on me as we drove home that we've had these discussions with most of our French friends at one point or another. (We tend to save the religious debates for Miss & Mr Tennessee 1975 but that's a whole 'nother post.)

For some of them, we are the only non-French people they have ever known. It's as if, finally they see a chance to really ask, to learn, to find out what it is to be American. To be English. And that goes for us, with them, as well.

I love that.

Of course, I would have loved it more if I had brought up the importance of the chocolate and peanut butter lobby and it's impact on American politics, but I think I'll wait till next time for that one.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Let's Talk Chocolate

For some strange reason, I've found myself eating a heck of a lot more chocolate than I normally do.

It's become an almost nightly ritual for me. I go find a bar that I've hidden away from the little people and then gorge myself on the closest thing to a Reece's that I can find in France. Luckily for me, Kitty brought a stash of Hershey's bars with her several trips ago so I've been able to rekindle my American love of all things covered in peanut butter.

Hubster isn't too convinced by my choice of chocolate. He thinks the Hershey's bars taste like plastic.

"Yeah, but covered in peanut butter, who cares," I reply!

I've decided to take it upon myself to find out the truth of the matter. Does European chocolate really taste that much better than American chocolate, as Hubster and others contend?

I remember the first time I had European chocolate. It was when I was about 10 and I was on vacation in Europe with my family. I think we were in Copenhagen airport when my sister and I bought one of those massive connection of triangles that make up a bar of Toblerone. She and I sat completely enthralled as we ate each triangle, slowly letting the chocolate melt in our mouths.

(It was at that point, though I didn't know it then, that I would start my life long endeavour to transport all kinds of bizarre food across the ocean, bringing joy and pleasure to my taste buds wherever I may reside.)

Chocolate. What's a woman to do?

Thinking only of the benefits of science and the world at large, I decided to retest my mock Reece's concoction with different kinds of chocolate. I started with a Milka bar. And then a Nestlé's. And then with another Hersey's.

And you know, it turns out they all taste good with peanut butter.

The most interesting thing I've discovered in my research is that Kit Kat is offered by both Hersey's and Nestlé. I guess I'm going to have to ask Kitty to bring a stash of those over so I can do a side by side comparison.

I'm currently searching for lab assistants for this test. The presumed side effects are possible weight gain, chocolate stains around mouth and fingers, and a bizarre addiction to milk. All interested parties can apply in person at the Birth Control Bed & Breakfast starting today.

All volunteers will be allowed to keep any unfinished chocolate unless I eat it first. And for the record, this test is "BYOPB." (Bring Your Own Peanut Butter.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

And The Oscar For Best Performance of an Iditarod Seld Dog Goes To...

Musher Boy was at it again and this time with music.

I am still amazed he can film these two and stay on his bike. If I tried to film this, I'd be in intensive care.

Monday, October 27, 2008

No, I'm Up! I'm Up!

I have always been just a tad bit annoying to those I love. Especially when they are trying to take a nap.

I love sneaking up behind them and then lightly tapping them on the shoulder and whispering their name.

"Hey, Big Sister, time to get up!"

I'd do this for about 10-15 minutes, the whole time said Sister would plead and demand for me to leave her in peace. Finally, she'd jump up from where she was napping, and chase me like hell on fire around the house. Good thing, we tended to be laughing at this point or I think she could've done me some serious physical harm.

Well, Sister, Karma has come round. And no, it's not the dog this time. It's Bubba-Love and his fleet of trucks and tractors.

It's been a sleepy morning for me. Hubster left for work around 5am (I think) and I was pretty much awake since he left. So after the tribe was finally up, watered and fed, I thought, "I'll just sneak a quick 10 minutes before I get dressed."

I got about 2 before Bubba-Love found me and decided that I made a great mock 4x4 course as I hid under my duvet. And trust me, there is nothing like having trucks roll over your head and a front loader dig out your ear wax to really get you moving!

Of course, he's a speedy little toddler and I wasn't able to catch him as he ran shrieking with laughter down the hall. He definitely takes after my side of the family.

Sleep will have to wait till later. I'll just fire up the coffee machine and hope for the best.

Did I mention that today is the first day of the kids' autumn school vacation? Might have to pull out the sleeper sofa and a really long movie.

Hope they'll like Doctor Zhivago.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

More Life at the Birth Control Bed & Breakfast

It's been a bit crazy here this last week. Lots of things going on and I've found myself well and truly swamped with life. In some ways, I like it like that. You go to bed on Monday night and then the next thing you know, it's Sunday and we're out of milk, toilet paper, and yogurt.

I had 3 extra kids in the house on Wednesday and I was beyond pleased with my ability to not yell at anyone in French or English for almost 12 hours. Thank goodness salt dough is a big hit with 6 kids between the ages of 2.5-7. Of course, I'm still finding lumps of it in strange places in the kitchen, but it's a small price to pay for guarding what's left of my sanity.

Which I have need of in the months and years to come. Trust Me.

Why? Well, let me introduce y'all to Whoopsie. Or "Bon Vacances, Chérie!":

Yes, we've been given a gift. Or rather, I was just before I left for my trip to the States in August. Who knew I had a little stowaway travelling with me, enjoying my cousin's wedding and the Orioles' game? I should have known something was up by the way I was craving seafood and chocolate in the same bite. One could only be sick or pregnant for that kinda combination.

We are expecting Whoopsie to check into the B & B sometime in early May. I can only imagine if we had such good success in scaring people out of having children before, now we'll be the place to stay.

One of my sisters already has four kids and she keeps trying to tell me how wonderful it is going to be. Of course, I'm getting this through snippets of conversation by telephone and on Facebook. She keeps promising to call when she's got a free moment to talk. That'll be about September of 2013, I'm thinking.

The dogs have taken the news rather well. I think they had hoped for a puppy (in truth, me too) but at least this means Anouk and Abaka will be able to get their beauty sleep from here on in.

I'm going to need a coma.

So here we go. On to the next adventure and whatever he or she may be like.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Being Cursed From Kansas

Over 2.5 years ago, our friend, Madame Home Depot, came and helped Hubster and I do some renovation work around the house. She spent hours stuffing insulation around the attic, caulking the shower in the bathroom, building shelves, and even changing the odd nappy or two.

All she ever wanted in return was for us to send her one of these:

Yes, it's a drying rack. And for some strange reason, she can't find one like it in the US.

Now, I should be super sensitive to that whole, "not finding what I really want" thing after living here for so long, so you'd think I'd be a bit more willing to help her get one. After all, she's hauled peanut butter, cake mix, cloth nappies, and chocolate across the ocean for me, the least I can do is get her a drying rack.

But the truth is, I'm lazy and the thought of trying to figure how on earth I'm gonna pack that sucker up and send it to Kansas leaves me shaking. If only there was a Mail Boxes Etc near by, but alas, this is France. And there's not. Just me, a roll of duct tape, and not enough cardboard. Hence, why she still hasn't gotten one.

But Madame Home Depot has friends in high places it seems. My very own clothes rack like this one gave up the ghost the other day. Just one gust of wind too many and a very curious husky has now reduced it to a strange pile of metal. Which means, I need to get another one.

Enter Catholic guilt.

I could just buy one for us and let it go at that, praying that she'll buy one for herself the next time we haul her tookus over here (hopefully this spring) or I could finally do the right thing and get one for her and actually send it over the pond.

I know, I know. I need to stop being so lazy and just get off my bum, buy her a drying rack, slap some tape on it, and send it.

There will be a little perverse joy for me in that whole scenario though. Can you just see Miss Snootie's face when I finally haul that thing into the post office?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Chilies Rock, Especially With a Nice Red from the South of France

We had a major success at the Birth Control Bed & Breakfast yesterday. We fed real live French people Mexican food and they survived!

I don't think it is possible to explain (but I'm gonna try anyway) how terrifying it is to know that you are having your French friends coming over for dinner. The question of what to feed them becomes all consuming. These are FRENCH people. People who actually LIKE eating a minimum of 4 courses at Sunday dinner. And have eaten INCREDIBLE STUFF since they were 2.5 years old!

The pressure is insane.

Sure, I can now make a mean boeuf bourguignon and even a gratin dauphinois that'll knock your sock off, but it just seems odd for me, the woman who grew up on seafood and spaghetti, to offer typical French cuisine to the French. (The exception being Magali, who helped me finish off a huge casserole of gratin dauphinois all by ourselves. God, that was good!)

Hubster and I finally decided that for this occasion, we were going to be different. We were going to offer a real taste of something not French and, most shocking of all, we weren't going to offer a cheese course.

We started off with a 5-layer dip and, thanks to a former ex-pat, I whipped up a recipe of chicken enchiladas while Hubster made his famous chili. Of course, the two of us sat there eating green chilies before cooking with them to be sure we didn't over due the spice factor. The French cook with exceptional flavour but rarely with spice so we were both very afraid of overdoing the "heat" factor. Not nice to accidentally kill your dinner guests, now is it?

Luckily for us, we picked the right guinea pigs. None of their heads turned bright red, no one broke out in a huge therapeutic sweat, and best of all, they even asked for seconds. Finishing off dinner with a bit of banana bread and fruit, Hubster and I were pretty darn pleased with ourselves.

It was so nice to eat Mexican food. Guacamole, re-fried beans, sour cream, salsa, chilies: happiness on a tortilla chip. My only concern is that I'm worried our friends might get a little Montezuma's revenge for their gastronomic straying. Too bad we didn't have any Beano to offer before we started eating!

It'll be Hubster who suffers though. These friends are his co-workers. And they share a very small office space.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

We Could've Payed Mini-Husband Less, I'm Sure

We got the bill from Godot Roofing the other day and much to our surprise and joy, the final bill is exactly what they had estimated ever so long ago. This is a minor miracle in my book and both Hubster and I were relieved that we only needed to cut off one arm and leg each rather than the two we feared might be the case.

I have to admit, I kind of miss having the guys from Godot around. They arrived each morning with a smile, played with the dogs, chatted with The Princess, explained their work to Mini-Husband, and didn't laugh at my French.

They also inspired Mini-Husband to start renovating his cabane in the garden. He's created a wish list of things to buy at Gedimat which include paint, nails, an electric screwdriver, a mirror, and a hammer. I'm not sure what Santa will make of this list, but it just goes to prove, he is definitely like his father.

Yesterday, Mini-Husband decided it was time to re-do the roof of the cabane. And so he did.

I was impressed with his work ethic and as he pointed out, it is nice to have the roof of the cabane match the roof of the house.

The Princess took a different view on things:

But in the end, the cabane has a new roof and all involved, including the four legged assistant, seemed pleased with a good day's work.

Of course, we still need to work on that 'cleaning-up-the-site-after-the-work-is-finished' thing, but we'll get there.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Her New Favourite Spot

There is a universal truth to huskies that they have a tendency to sit on top of things. Be it on their dog houses, steps, walls, etc etc.

Luna used to have a thing for sitting on the fire escape outside Hubster's apartment in England, happily watching the world go by as a cool breeze tickled her tummy.

Our latest crew hasn't seemed to have the same need, or rather, the same access to a fire escape. Anouk likes the wall. Typhon likes the steps. And Abaka, well, she's a fire escape kinda husky.

I've found her lately on the picnic table on the patio, up on top of the kids' playhouse peering into the neighbour's yard, and hanging out on the wall behind Anouk.

But she seems to have finally found a spot that gives her exactly what she's looking for. A little peace and quiet, with a cool breeze to tickle her tummy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

You Never Know Where You'll Find One

Several years ago, the summer after The Princess was born, I joined a women's online running forum. This group gave me a couple of things I desperately needed at the time, motivation to run and somewhere to speak in English.

The cast of character on the forum has changed and grown over the years and I really do feel as though I come to know a lot of these women, their stories, their worries, their lives. Of course, I was always well protected from any unpleasant realities of the group (like they were really all big fat smelly men who liked sitting in their underwear, drinking beers and watching marathon runners on TV) because I lived across a very big ocean.

That was, until Magali showed up.

All of the sudden, I had someone on the site who knew what was happening in my part of the world. Someone who was suffering roughly the same kind of weather and buying her running gear at Decathlon, just like me.

We met for the first time in "real life" when I ran the Paris Half Marathon. Magali and another woman from the site, who was living in Germany at the time, met me for dinner the Friday night before the race. I must admit, I was terrified to meet up with these two. I had no idea what to expect and no idea where I could go and hide in Paris if things went really awful.

I shouldn't have been worried. Magali is wonderful. (And so is our other friend, but this post is about Magali! I'll get to you another time, Sephora!)

Magali's a traveller, an artist, a runner, a sensitive soul. She is happiest comfortably ensconced in a couch, hot cup of tea in hand, writing or drawing whatever is inspiring her at that moment. Which is why it is so damn funny to us that she seems to like coming back to the Birth Control Bed & Breakfast so often.

This place is loud, this place is crazy, and here, Magali, ends up becoming a safety security officer. I can't vouch for how many near heart attacks she's had here, but I'm thinking it's good for her sprint training!

She also ends up having long, in depth conversations with Mini-Husband and The Princess about all kinds of matters of life and living. They'll be huddled around the dining room table, conversation flowing, using a level of French that gets reserved only for native speakers. All three of them, discussing, challenging, sharing. It's beautiful to see your kids interested and enthralled by your friend.

Magali is a wonderful find. She's become our good friend and the kids' tante.

I'm ever so glad she showed up on the running site. And I'm even more glad that she's not really a bald, 40 year old man wearing a sports bra on her head.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Lion and Tigers and Us

Seven years ago today, Hubster and I were married in a taxidermy museum.

Well, actually, it is a lovely old English manor house that just so happens to have a really impressive collection of dead animals from various parts of Africa, as you do in Southeast England.

It was a pretty unforgettable day. Hot and sunny, with most of our closest relatives and friends there to cheer us on.

I can still see them all looking at me and smiling as I walked down the huge wooden staircase in Quex House. I think many of them were in shock because I was actually wearing make-up but there were also a few who were impressed that I had found a dress big enough to hide the rather large bump that is now Mini-Husband.

Seven years Hubster and I have been married. That's seven years, 2 countries, 3 houses, 5 dogs, a few stressful events, roughly 10 cars, and 3 amazing kids who are "us" in all aspects.

Not a bad innings, eh?

Hubster and I have learned a lot in these seven years. The first being that marriage is not easy and if we didn't really love each other, this whole thing would've ended a long time ago. We also have learned that being married means really having to think about what the other needs, not just what we want.

We've also learned it's really fun to have all of our major fights in front of our family and friends. It just keeps with the tradition. We asked them to be there in the beginning to witness our marriage with an open bar and a DJ. Now we just offer lots of French wine, a few CDs, and our deepest gratitude for not taking sides. (Well, at least for not admitting to taking sides!)

Taking two very independent people and asking them to really share their lives was a challenge for both of us. We were both so stuck in our ways, so sure about what we thought were the right things to do, when in the end, we only knew one right thing to do and that was to be together. Even if this means our decorating styles will never match...we'll get there someday, I'm sure!

I don't think I could ever really imagined how happy I would be after these years with Hubster. I had no idea that this marriage thing, even though it's constantly changing so much over the years, could bring me such life. There is no doubt that I needed this man and his commitment to make me who I am becoming.

It's been a wonderful seven years.

Here's hoping we last at least as long as those animals at Quex House have.

Love you, Hubster.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Almost Blowing His Cover

Mini-Husband lost his fifth tooth yesterday and if some you remember, this mean a nocturnal visit from the tooth mouse.

You would think by now, on the fifth tooth, we'd have the gig on this all worked out. A simple sneak into Mini-Husband's room, steal the tooth, deposit the 2 euro coin, and sneak back outta there without waking anyone.

Easy, right?

Sure, as long as you don't forget.

I've been busy this morning trying to explain to Mini-Husband that there is only one tooth mouse for the whole of France and there must have been a serious rush of kids losing their teeth last night.

Mini-Husband thinks that the mouse needs to get an assistant, like a squirrel, to help so that all the teeth all over the country can get picked up as they should.

I agreed with him wholeheartedly then snuck back upstairs and did what we should have done last night.

I make a bad mouse, that's for sure. But, boy can I do squirrel!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

If I Haven't Screwed Him Up By Now

Mini-Husband has started that horrible trend that will follow him for years. Gashing evenings, weekends, and playtime from now until he's at least 18.

He's got homework.

Now, granted homework for a kid of 6 in CP (classe preparatoire) is not the same heady he'll have to tackle if he ever does become an architect, but at 6, it's HOMEWORK.

The biggest obstacle also comes from Mini-Husband's mother, who herself, was a right nightmare about getting her homework done. A trend that continued right until her senior year of college when she was writing her thesis the night or two before it was due.

Knowing this genetic stumbling block, I've tried to make sure that we attack Mini-Husband's homework first thing upon getting home after school. This means then, that about 45 minutes after we've gotten into the house and we've played with the dogs, found a snack, turned on the requisite movie for Bubba-Love, and found some sort of "homework" for The Princess, we are ready to begin.

Mini-Husband is currently working on phonics, spelling, and word recognition. Tuesday night it was the [u] sound as it's found in words like rouge, oui, and bonjour. He's got a little box of words that we use for sentences games, changing the subject and the object, learning how to use commas and conjunctions. His favourite sentence this week was, "Bonjour Agathe et petit poussin!"

Now, here's the funny part. I realized as I was telling my sister about all this yesterday, that we discuss all this homework stuff in English. I read the instructions in French, then talk it over with him in English, ask him to do the exercises (which he does in French,) and then if I need to, I correct him in English, all the time respecting the proper pronunciation and phonics of the French.

Thank goodness his brain is able to cope with all this. I'm not so sure I would have been as clever at his age. It is astonishing to watch his brain flip turn between the two languages without a ripple.

The upside is that I'm also getting a seriously good lesson in French phonics and spelling. I wonder if I could ask the maitresse for my own little box of words. I swear, this time, I'll promise to do my homework.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Chicken Nugget Relativity of Time

Scene: Dinner Last Night

Characters: Mini-Husband, The Princess, and a roaming Bubba-Love who wouldn't stay at the table.

Discussion: The Titanic and it's huge iceberg.

The characters then wanted to know if Grandma and Grand-dad existed when the Titanic sank.

"No, this was almost a hundred years ago that this happened."

The characters then ask if Bapa had been alive when the boat sank.

"Kids, no. This happened a long, long time ago. Before Bapa was born. Even Kitty's dad was only 3 years old. It was a long, long time ago."

"Why didn't they see the iceberg?"

"Because it was nighttime and the ship's crew didn't see it," I told them.

The characters reflected on this for a minute.

Mini-Husband wanted to know why the ship's captain didn't use night goggles to see the iceberg.

"They didn't exist then," I said.

The Princess pipes up, "Did McDonald's exist then?"

"No, sweetie. McDonald's didn't exist then."

The look of horror on their faces was priceless. Even Bubba-Love stopped to take notice of this ever so important news.

"NO MCDONALD'S! Oh my goodness! NO MCDONALD'S!"

And thus the scene ended with the shock and horror that previous generations haven't been graced with a happy meal before sinking into the Atlantic.

Monday, October 6, 2008

What a Lovely Time at What's Her Name's

Saturday night, Hubster and I (along with the tribe) got invited to dinner at a friend of Bubba-Love's from the creche. The friend's mom and I have had loads of passing conversations on a few occasions, quick chats about life in the area, kids, the usual, so I was touched that she wanted to invite us over.

Even more fun, was that she also invited Miss Tennessee 1975 and her people as all. (A lot of the courage there, I think, to invite 4 non-native French speakers and their 5 combined children over for dinner! Whoa.)

Hubster asked me what our new friend's name was as we were driving over there.

"You know, I'm not sure," I said. "I think it's something like, ummm...," Silence for a moment. "You know, I really don't know."

That bodes well, doesn't it? Getting invited somewhere and not knowing the name of the hostess.

This could be sticky.

When we arrived at their house, I introduced Hubster to my friend with the hopes that she would introduce herself as well.

"This is Hubster," I said as the bisous started flying.

"Hello, Hubster," our friend said without offering her name in return, "Nice to meet you."

A quick round of smiles and more bisous with her husband (who's name we got) and Miss and Mr Tennessee, and the evening was off to a nice start.

Of course, I was now on a mission to get her name. Someone was bound to use it, right?

Everytime she and her husband had an exchange, I listened carefully for the slightest clue as to what she is called. I found myself referring to Hubster by his proper name most of the evening in hopes that would cause them to do the same. I discreetly asked Miss Tennessee if she knew our hostess' name and was slightly relieved to know that she wasn't too sure either.

Throughout the appetizers and drinks, I hoped for a moment where this difficult and embarrassing situation could be rectified, but alas, that moment didn't come. And by the time dinner was actually served, I felt it was way too late to finally ask what the heck her name was.

Touch rude at that point, right?

It was such a nice evening, learning a lot about her and her husband's lives, how they met, how long they've lived in the area, and how much our friend adores her native Paris. We ate a wonderful meal, enjoyed some excellent wines, laughed over language gaffs, and just had a great time.

And I still don't know what her name is.

You have no idea how this is killing me.

Friday, October 3, 2008

It's Too Dark To See

This morning is being brought to you by a very awake toddler. One who at 6:15 this morning was quite wide awake and yelling, "BOTTLE" at the top of his very healthy lungs.

This would be the same child that at 2:30 am, also woke and yelled, "BOTTLE OF MILK, MOM!"

So here we are. Sitting in a dimly lit room, watching his favourite DVDs while I try and keep my eyes open.

I guess the good thing is that we will actually get a chance to say goodbye to Hubster before he heads off to work. And I won't have to come flying down the stairs to yell at Typhon when he starts yodeling at 7am.

It's really dark outside. I mean really dark. I don't see a single star and not a neighbour seems to be up and about.

I think I'll sit with some coffee and wait for the light. It should come peeping over the church sometime soon, giving me a chance to see Typhon before hearing him, I hope.

Ah, no. There he goes. Sending his love to all you, one "whooooo-wooooo" at a time.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I'll Have a Royal with Cheese, If You Please

I just want to debunk a rumour right now.

The French eat fast food. Regardless of what you may have read or learned about gourmet cuisine in France, there is a dark side that thrives on fast food. It's called children and their harassed, exhausted mothers.

Especially on Wednesdays. And especially if that fast food place has a play area.

Have a I whined before about how Wednesdays really are the worst day of the week? How it's the day that mothers or grandparents around this beautiful country are stuck, er I mean, lucky enough to have their children all to themselves for the day?

When the weather starts to change, as it does in the beginning of October, the outdoor options become limited. Hence why the indoor play area at the local fast food joint is beyond packed on a Wednesday.

There you'll find the most perfectly dressed and manicured mothers, carrying trays of Happy Meals and ice cream to the screaming hoards of disheveled children who are flinging and hurling themselves around the play area. The poetry of chaos in motion.

I still remember how when I first went to the local McDonald's, I tried, in my best French, to order a Happy Meal and chicken nuggets.

"un 'Appy Meeel avec nougats, s'il vous plait."

The woman at the counter looked at me like I had seven heads.

Who was I kidding? I was trying to French-ify a very American item. Why didn't they understand me?!? I tried again.

"Haappy Meal avec le chiekan, s'il vous plait."

Again, the blank stare.

Finally, after a few tries a very kind, very well dressed, French mother helped me to order my son his precious box of gold.

That very kind mother knew how important it was for me to get that Happy Meal. How important it was to my sanity and that far reaching goal of peace on earth. One mother, one Happy Meal at a time.

It's a nightmare in there on Wednesdays, there is no doubt, but it's worth every bit of the mayhem.

The universal truth behind being able to let your kids go nuts somewhere other than your house.

Viva Mac Do!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Enough Doom and Gloom, Let's Talk Food

I think I could start spouting about both the economic situation in my native land as well as the upcoming election and debate between the VP candidates, but I've decided not to do that. There are enough political blogs out there and definitely not enough blogs about wackos like me living in France!

I've been trying to remember that it's the little things in life that really count. For example, finding peanut butter filled pretzel bites in the international section of Cora. And not just peanut butter filled bites, but real AMERICAN MADE peanut butter pretzel filled bites!

Oh, the joy! Oh, the rapture! Oh, how quickly I ate the whole bag!

But there was a moment of intense despair this week when, after recovering from the dreaded vomiting bug, Hubster and I both lost our desire for coffee. Now, this is a serious issue. You are talking about two people who could single handily support 5-6 reasonable sized coffee farms in Columbia with our daily intake.

So imagine the ecstasy when I found the ginormous bag of Dunkin' Donuts coffee I had bought back in the US in August. Our faith in caffeine has been restored! Our joy at being wired has been re-fused! We're back to being the insane people we love so much!

So, yes, there are things out there that are worrying, things beyond our control and sometimes beyond our capacity to understand. But by focusing on the simple things, there is a way to smile and be happy with our lot as the wacky foreigners in France.

The wacky foreigners with a beautiful new roof. Ah yes, had I not mentioned? We are waiting for Godot no more. And if y'all behave yourselves, I might even post some pictures.

Oh, the joy! Oh, the rapture! We can drink coffee and eat peanut butter filled pretzels in our now non-leaky attic!

Isn't life great?!?

Well, at least it is until we get the bill...

Friday, September 26, 2008

He Really Is Thoughtful, Isn't He?

Seems Hubster and I were knocked for 6 by some sort of stomach bug yesterday. I, at first, thought we were under attack from my courgette lasagna the other night, but Hubster disagreed. He's not sure courgettes are that smart or that organized to stage such an assault on our stomachs.

I managed to make it through the day without losing it all over various and sundry residents of our village, but once I got home with the kids after school, all bets were off. Nothing like heaving over the toilet with your 6 year old stroking your back, eh?

Somehow, between bouts, I managed to get Abaka to the vet to have her stitches from being spayed removed. (I'm proud of myself for that. From hanging over the toilet to the vet's office in less that 30 minutes!)

Before Hubster got home a couple of hours later, the kids had fed themselves a lovely dinner of tortilla chips and Digestive Biscuits while I whithered and whimpered on the couch. After begging them to get their pajamas on and brush their teeth, I managed to get them upstairs for bed. The moment the kids' door was shut, Hubster and I went straight to bed.

Around 5am this morning, Bubba-Love started calling for a bottle so Hubster headed off to help him out. It was at that point that he realized one of the boys had been sick. On went the lights so we could see the true extent of the vomit.

And did we ever.

Mini-Husband, it seems, had been sick in the night. And not just sick, but projectile sick from the top bunk of the boys' bunk bed. Somehow he managed to keep most of the vomit out of his bed, but the large collection of toys and stuffed animals down below weren't as lucky.

Both Mini-Husband and The Princess slept on till about 8am this morning. At that point, Mini-Husband came into our room and gave me a big hug. I quickly asked him how I was feeling.

"Well, Mom," he started, "I felt kinda rough in the night, but since I knew you were really sick I didn't want to bother you. So I just leaned over my bed and threw up on the floor, that way you wouldn't have to clean it up right away and I could go back to sleep, no problem! And now I feel fine."

And so do I after six loads of laundry and a case of Coke.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

But Not A Pancake To Be Found

I was in one of the larger grocery stores with Hippy-Love Francaise earlier this week, picking up my usual haul of milk and provisions for the Birth Control Bed and Breakfast when I noticed something strange.

The entire store was decorated in American flags. Everywhere. Along the checkouts, around the reception desk, across aisles, and around a huge display of cars made by Jeep, Dodge, and Chrysler. Big pictures of men playing American football and the Grand Canyon with the text written in that old western style that reminds me of the old time photo places you find in tourist spots like Gatlinburg, Tennessee or Ocean City, Maryland.

When I went to pay for my stuff, I asked the checkout lady what the heck was going on.

"It's America Week," she said.

"Oh, that's nice," I replied. "I just didn't understand why there were so many of my flags all over that place."

"YOUR flags," she asked with her eyes and smile growing bigger, "Are you AMERICAN?."

Before I could even nod my head, she was yelling across the checkout to the store manager and pointing at me nearly screaming, "SHE'S AMERICAN! We have an AMERICAN in the store!"

The manager came sprinting over and started gushing all over about how funny it was to have an actual live American in the store during America week. At this point, I started bagging a my groceries just a teeny bit faster than normal and politely laughed along with her.

"You know," she said, " We're going to have country dancing in the store on Friday. Isn't that so American to have country dancing!"

"Yes," I replied with a smile, "Yes it is."

"We've also got some Harley Davidsons over there and all these great American cars! Isn't it just like being in America?!?"

"Yes, yes it is." I had no desire to burst her bubble. She seemed an awfully nice, and motivated, store manager.

I finally managed to get my things packed up and with a quick explanation of why I was an American living in France, Hippy-Love Francaise and I headed for the exits. It was Hippy-Love herself who made the best commentary on the whole situation.

"You know, Dig, if they had really wanted it to be 'America Week' they should have had a special offer on peanut butter, chocolate chip cookies, Cheerios, zucchini bread, pancakes, and DVDs of 'Desperate Housewives' and 'Dr House.' Country dancing! My God!"

I could have hugged her for that.