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.