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.