Thursday, December 31, 2009

Let it Rain, Let it Rain, Let it Rain

England. Oh, how I love you.

Curries, chips, lager, and cakes.

Funny marketing campaigns, rude humour, and the extra "u" in every other word.

Stores that sell clothes for my body shape, that shape being one that likes cakes, and curries, and chips.

Chatting with the man who runs our favourite curry house...he's been in England for 15 years but still speaks English with a faltering accent. Just as I do with my French. His kids tell him they are British and that here is home. Hubster and I get that. We laugh at how Mini-Husband tells everyone he's English in his American accented speech.

My family-in-law. Even though my brother-in-law likes Chelsea and my other brother-in-law is hooked on cricket, I still like them. My sister-in-law, who literally "kicks arse" and is only a few levels away from her black belt in karate. Not to forget my niece and nephew, who laugh and play with the tribe making me wish we lived just a teeny bit closer.

England. It gets dark here at 4:30pm and it lives up to it's reputation. It's been raining non-stop since Boxing Day.

England. It's history amazes me. All the more so since my own has a place here.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Griswold Christmas

There is nothing that strikes fear in a parents' heart like the sound of clattering in your house at 4:30am on Christmas morning. Especially when that sound isn't your darling cherubs, but your husband, who is in the process of vomiting all over the bathroom.

I wish I could blame his upset stomach on a little too much egg nog or whiskeys as we waited for Santa, but alas, that isn't the case. The man is sick and no amount of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" is going to help him today.

This, of course, means that I've become the chief toy constructor today. If I needed proof that I have no geometric knowledge or a mechanical bone in my body, today's the day. Somehow, Mini-Husband has been able to get his PlayMobil things all in the right places, The Princess' Barbie house has a working doorbell, and Bubba-Love's Wall-E toy still has it's legs on. It's only 10:30am, but can I break out the champagne now?

Besides Hubster being sick, Rosebud is horribly clingy and trying to pull off her right ear. I'm scared to take her temperature, but I have a feeling we'll be seeing the on-call doctor tomorrow. Did I mention that we are heading off to England tomorrow as well? Right. Yes. Please, dear God, do not let this trip be a repeat of the vomit comet trip we had a few years back...

Ahhh, the holidays.

The living room is a mess, the goose we got for dinner will have to wait to be cooked until tomorrow, and I'm out of white wine. I think I'll make some strong coffee and head up to check on my man. The kids are happy at the moment and, believe it or not, so am I.

So there we are this fine December 25, 2009. Happy Holidays to all of you from all of us at the Birth Control Bed & Breakfast. Typhon sends along a rousing chorus of "Gloria, in excelsis Deo" just to make sure you remember to sing this season with all your heart, with all your joy, and with the voice that God has given you. Even if it's horrible.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

He Was Right, Only A Week In Advance

Last week, Bubba-Love's teacher told me that his class had spent most of Friday afternoon singing Christmas Carols. At one point, she turned to him and asked if he knew any carols in English that he could help teach the class to sing.

She said he got a huge grin on his face and said, "YES! I know one" and started singing this:




Yes, Bubba-Love. I gotta feeling that tonight's gonna be a good night too.

Monday, December 21, 2009

On the Runners

I've forgotten how to drive a dog sled.

Granted, the last time I was on the runners of a dog sled, it was about 1997, when I went out for a night ride with my ex-boyfriend. We took two 6 dog teams and headed into a wilderness clearing to see the Hale-Bopp Comet out in all that darkness. I'll never forget how quiet it was, how happy the dogs were, how solid I felt behind that team.

Here I am about 11 years later, lost and bumbling behind a sprint sled with a team that consists of three huskies who lack serious formal training, prefer eating cats to playing in snow, and have no desire to pull up hills. But you know what? Saturday I got back on the runners. And it was wonderful.

Dog sledding has become something that is a constant for me. Where I live has changed, the people that matter most to me have different names than those I worried about most in 1997. Through Hubster, I've found a place of peace (that sure isn't quiet) that awes me as much if not more than that comet.

And through all this, there have been dogs. Silly, furry, crazy huskies. A type of dog that makes you want to tear your hair out and wonder what the heck you are doing trying to domesticate something that is related to a wolf. But when these free-spirited wonders get behind a sled and I see the happiness on their faces, feel their desire, my life is good.

And you know the craziest thing about all this? I nearly fell of that sprint sled a few times on Saturday. It was like being back on the bike, being dragged through cow shit, except this time, I held on. I kept my balance.


I've got a lot of relearning to do on the sled, that for sure. But that's how it should be. Life continues. Evolves. Dog, by dog. Comet, by comet.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

If You're A Psycho and You Know It, Come On Over and Say Hi

I swear, it's bad enough having the "stray cat" syndrome (the one where people like Eleanor Rigby and her priest all come hang around because they know you'll at least talk to them) but having "psycho magnetic attraction" syndrome as well sucks.

I should have known I was bound for trouble when I saw the random man in the grocery store, puttering around the bread aisle without a trolley or shopping basket to be seen. He shouted and danced down the aisle away from me at that point, heading to points unknown. Me, in my naivety, thought I was safe.

There I was with Rosebud, trying to find some applesauce and Nutella (once again proof Nutella is bad for you) when he came rolling around the corner. He stopped sharply at our trolley and stared at Rosebud.

"It's a little girl, isn't it?" he asked me.

"Yes," I replied with a nervous smile plastered on my face.

"Can I give her a bisou?"

He wants to give her a bisou? This man I've never seen before in my life wants to be physically close enough to my daughter, my 7.5 month old daughter, to kiss her?

HELL NO.

"I'd rather you didn't," I tell him.

"But, why? It's just a little bisou...."

At this point, enter panic and exit any capacity I have to speak French. I start going on about how I don't want him to give her a bisou, no. She was sick last week, she's better now, and I don't want someone I don't know giving her a bisou.

He tells me, but is she gonna die from a bisou? Is it fatal to give a bisou? How can you be like this? It's just a little affection? A bisou...

I tell him once again, sorry but no, I do not want him to kiss my baby.

He continues, "we're all going to die one day, why are you worried about a little bisou? She was sick? But who was that worse for? You or her? We're all going to get sick and die. Who is that worse for, her or you, maman?"

"ME! ME! It's worse for me! Now please. No bisous. Thank you very much and have a Happy New Year." (Why I wished him a Happy New Year, I haven't a freaking clue. )

I turned my back on him and pushed that little love of mine down the aisle, as far away from this man as I could get without breaking into a run and sprinting out of the store. I heard him shout from the next aisle over, "MERDE," and that was it. He was gone from my life as quickly as he entered it.

How that 5 minute conversation has completely razzled me since. One side of me is all mama bear, ready to take down anyone who I think might be the slightest risk to my little baby, bisous or no bisous. Who asks a random person in a grocery store if they can kiss your baby? GET AWAY FROM MY CHILD.

The other side of me wants to know why I can't just tell someone like him to fuck off and leave me alone. No, I wish him a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The French Elvis

The biggest story in the French news this week is actually one that's coming out of the US. And I'll send a baguette and a wheel of St Nectaire to anyone over there who actually knows what I'm talking about.

Ok, since Magali is probably going to sneak in here with the answer and get that wheel of cheese before anyone stateside does, I'll just go ahead and answer, Yes. It is the story about Johnny Hallyday who is currently in an induced coma at Cedars-Sini hospital in L.A.

It's been the headline story on TF1 for the last few nights and I think about 1/4 of the news is dedicated to all the details of his health, the surgery he had on his herniated disc, what his wife is doing, what's this means for the tour he's currently on, and the French doctor who may have possibly screwed up on the original surgery on Johnny's back last month.

Why is this news, you may wonder? Well, this is Johnny. THE Johnny. The French version of Elvis who is still alive and singing at 66 years old and not dead wearing a sequined one piece jumpsuit.

I'll admit that when we first arrived in France, this Johnny Hallyday guy seemed just another aging rocker to me. A French aging rocker. One that in my own rock and roll stereotypes, I wasn't prepared to take seriously. Sure, they call him "The French Elvis" but what the heck does that really mean?

Turns out, a lot.

Johnny started his rock n'roll career back in the 1960s, and has since performed over 400 tours and has produced 18 platinum albums. His fans in France, and other Francophone countries, are passionate, obsessive about this man. (I kid you not, since the story has broken about his health, the French doctor who may have or may not have screwed up the original surgery, has already been physically assaulted by Johnny fans.) Just mentioning of some of his biggest hits, like "Marie" or "Allumer Le Feu", will get all ages and generations singing along. His voice is powerful. His presence on stage is electric. And best of all, he's not just a performer. He actually can sing.

And I hate to admit it, but I've become a fan.

In recent years, he's been spending more and more time in the United States. There, he's able to live in relative anonymity and go about his daily life without being hassled every two seconds as he is in France. He's a relative unknown over there. Just another aging rocker-type dude with a thing for Harley Davidsons, a hot young wife, and lots of cash. Throw a stone in L.A and you'll hit about 10 of those, right?

He may come across at first glance as cheesy or unreal with this American motorcycle man look as he belts out rock anthems in French, but there is something to him. He's got substance and, most shocking of all, he seems real.

Yes, you can add me to the list of people who has been watching the news, Googling for updates on him. I'm one of the millions hoping that he'll get better and finally enjoy some peace on his bike in the deserts of the American southwest.

Show us how a true rocker ages, Johnny. Take us with you.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bearnage

Look at these two. Ever so cute. Ever so innocent. Poor little sods don't stand a chance with Rosebud.


I don't know how she does it, but in her pitch dark room, in the wee hours of the day, she's able to wrangle these suckers around until she find that right ear, and I mean that RIGHT ear, stick it as far as she can in that little mouth, et voila.

I tried subbing out one of the three major bear suckers the other night with a dinosaur and nearly brought the house down with her screaming. Silly mommy. Dinosaurs don't have ears. Dinosaurs only have tails. NO EARS, MOM. THEY HAVE NO RIGHT EAR!! WHERE'S ONE OF MY BEARS?!?!?

Yes. She's got three. And counting.

Bear. It's what's for dinner.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Week That Was

Monday: Cold, foggy, and a tad miserable. Decided to let my mood match what was going on outside. Managed to at least haul Rosebud to the grocery store where I consoled myself with the purchase of Digestives and Oreos.

Tuesday: Hubster had the day off so we attacked the Christmas shopping. Highlights of the day: 1. Lunch at an American type burger place with a fantastic Belgian amber to wash it all down. 2. Hubster's company Christmas gift certificates made it possible for us to spoil the kids rotten and only have to pay out just over a euro. Vive le CE!

Wednesday: Everybody home for the day, including Hubster. His buddy from work came and fixed the extractor fan that has been broken for about 2 months. We celebrated by taking all the kids to Cora to stock up on wine.

Thursday: Appointment with my ob/gyn to make sure that I never have to see him again in his capacity as an ob. Celebrated by taking a run around Billom and waxed nostalgic for Miss Tennessee 1975 and her family.

Friday: Hubster home again so we sold Rosebud to French Me for the day. Lunch out just the two of us, followed by getting each other our Christmas presents. Nothing exciting, just some running gear for me, some clothes for Hubster and new dog collars for Abaka and Anouk.

Speaking of whom, the three furry residents are most displeased that I didn't train them this week. The forecast is for snow today so we'll see. Rumor has it that Musher Boy is wanting to try and take all three out on his own. I can smell the fur and blood already!

Saturday: It's 6:30am and I'm unable to sleep. Today my cousin, Mo, and her fabulous long time boyfriend, Chad, are getting married. It's such a awesome thing to watch our family grow by adding in such wonderful people like him. My thoughts (and liver) are with them and the whole nutty gang I'm related to over there. I hope everything goes as it should for them today... no major snafus and no drunk relatives falling over during the reception.

All things being caught up, I'm off to make more tea and enjoy the silence while I can. I've missed you, my readers! All 4 of you!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday

For the first weekend in I don't know how long, Hubster isn't motivated to get outside and mix cement, build walls, or even stock wood. He's tired. Down right tired.

And who can blame him? He works full time and then on his weekends, he's doing his best to become Bob The Builder. And unfortunately for him, I'm a lousy Wendy and the kids can only sing about as good as Roley.

It must drive him crazy, these busy weekends, to know that he's out there chucking cement around all because his wife has this thing for dogs that escape and eat chickens. I'm not even sure that Hubster likes the dogs, to tell you the truth.

He dreams of the day when we'll have a dog that will actually go for a walk with us, rather than having to hang on to dear life to a dog who is in the process of ripping your arms out of your sockets. He loves the idea of a simple Labrador or German Shepherd who will be regal and loving, a dog who will not have recreated the trenches of WWI in our front yard, a dog who will actually come back to you when you call it rather then giving you that husky look that basically translates in every language as, "F-you!"

The people in the village think I'm nuts because I love my huskies. But sometimes I wonder if they think Hubster is even more insane than I am because he actually finds ways to let me have these dogs. Perhaps he knows that this addiction is bigger than I am and somewhere in his heart, he's got a thing for all that fur as well.

I hear him outside now, sanding down a desk he's been wanting to redo for a while now. Working with his hands to take something that needs a little love and attention, putting it right, getting it clean and beautiful. He's good at focusing the minute details, my Hubster. And the end result is always proof that taking your time and doing something as it should be done beats my "can-we-just-duct-tape-it" approach every single time.

A Sunday with a project done. A simple pleasure in making something new.

The cement can wait.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Flowing

I have no rhythym. Absolutely none. Which makes it very hard to dance, and whirl, and feel like a free spirit when the music hits me. I was always one of those people who liked holding up a wall during a school dance. Or the one who was always happy to go and get the drinks when clubbing.

Once, I thought I could dance but that was because I was at a hippy-love music festival in Angel Fire, New Mexico where everyone was under some sort of drug or alcohol induced vibe and hence, rhythmic. You know the scene. All kinds of wacky people, spinning and twirling recklessly into each other, normally covered in mud and sporting some sort of bizarre variation of dreadlocks. Great fun if you could lose yourself completely. Unfortunately, I never managed to do just that and so, combined with the fact that I liked washing my hair, I never really achieved true hippiedom.

I dance in secret these days, when the kids are at school or Rosebud is napping. Nothing fast and furious, just swaying along to my daily rhythym. There are other times when I feel like I'm dancing as I'm meant to be: the days when I telemark down the mountain, or run through the trails, or when I sing and bounce along behind the dogs on the cart. The rhythym flows and I feel so good. Is that even really dancing? Maybe not, but it's got that same magic for me all the same.

There is one woman I've met in my life who can dance, and spin, and work magic with her rhythym. She may not know this, but I was beyond jealous of her a few years back. She's a beautiful soul and people are drawn to her, like hummingbirds to flowers. She's graceful and open. Things I felt I wasn't at the time. I know she's had her fair share of life in her life, but overall, she seems to radiate peace.

Even more so when she dances with her hoop.



Every time I watch her, I'm awed by the simplicity and beauty of movement.

Find your flow, your rhythym, your hoop, and dance.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

All Right, I Taste Mouse!

A short documentary about what happened at our house this morning.

Starring: The Princess, Bubba-Love, and Mini-Husband as "the mouse."


video

Those Stinking Liars!

Today being my national holiday that I love the best, I ran around to all and sundry in the village this morning wishing everyone a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

And you know what happened? A whole heck of a lot of those people, who for the past 6 years have denied ANY capacity to speak in English, responded to me in English.

What gives?!?!?

After a wee bit of reflection, I'm happy to be thankful for these neighbours and friends, who if they had spoken to me in English way back when, I wouldn't be able to speak French like I do now.

Merci mes amis et avoir une bonne fête!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Shots All Around

So we jumped off the indecision fence Friday and got the whole family vaccinated against this H1N1. Great fun abounds when you are trying to tell three young children that "really, it won't hurt" at the same time you are trying not to twist your intestines into some sort of balloon animal.

I hate shots. Let me rephrase that: I hate vaccines. Shots, if they consist of some sort of fruity alcohol are just fine. It's the kind that put dead or live diseases into my body that I don't like. First off, they hurt. I don't care how much I've lied to my kids, those shots hurt. And then your arm hurts for DAYS after.

Mini-Husband was scared to take off his band-aid last night because he was convinced the pain was being kept at bay by that little strip of plastic and cotton. He was sure that if we took that sucker off, the shot spot would explode and shower us all with H1N1.

So why did we vaccinate everyone in the end? I don't know. It just seems like the right decision to have made. Compounded by the fact that now my mother has had the H1N1 and it's lovely companion, pneumonia, I'm thinking we did the right thing.

People are starting to get sick over here. There are more and more people getting ill and even though a lot of them are trying to claim it's just the seasonal flu they have, watching a healthy 13 year old girl in the village nearly keel over from coughing isn't convincing me.

It was interesting to interact with the other people at the vaccination centre on Friday night ,other families, small children, older folks, and the few adults between 25-40. We all shared that same look about us: apprehension and concern, glad to see others making the same decision we had but still nervous about the outcome.

At this point, we are the only people in the village, to my knowledge, to have had the vaccine. Perhaps we are being too cautious and all this hype will have been for nothing. Only time will tell. Overall, I believe we've done the right thing but the stress of making this choice has been "worrying" at best.

Aren't the choices of modern medicine just so wonderful?

Perhaps the next time an epidemic shows up, I'll just ask for a shot of that tried and tested WWI medicine that is now served on draft at the Trap Bar, Grand Targhee: Jagermeister. I'm sure the taste is better than H1N1 and a sore head is something I'm a little more familiar with...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thoughts on Paris

*Fours hours there in the car with The Princess and Rosebud. I never knew The Princess could sing so sweetly.

*Passing the giant wind turbines next to the A-75 between Orleans and Paris reminded me of that fact that sometimes in my life I need to stop being like Don Quixote. Sometimes things are just windmills.

*Seeing the joy on The Princess' face when we arrived at her best friend's new house near Paris. I only hope she and Cordelia have each other in their lives just as I've had my friend, The A. These people who mean so much to us at 5 years old can still mean so much to us 30 plus years on.

*Who would have imagined that I would be confidently moving through the Paris Metro, fourth child strapped into her stroller, not worried about getting lost?

*I forgot how much I love the Rue de Rivoli. All the fancy shops right next to the touristy ones. The humanity you see and pass through is mind boggling.

*Why do English speaking tourists in Paris feel the need to look at the books in the English bookstore? And how smug am I to admit the pleasure I get when I use my French credit card to buy things there. "Yes. I live in France..."

*Nothing like leaving my hotel in one of the western suburbs early in the morning only to catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, hazy through the sunrise. Seeing it from a distance and from unexpected angles makes it even more amazing and beautiful.

*A market in the banlieue. Old men and women. People of all colours and races. Each pulling behind them their bag on wheels, filled with fresh fish, leeks, potatoes, and bread. Diversity as it should be.

*The sense of panic I had when I realized that I was driving straight towards the Arc de Triomphe, not knowing if my turning was before or after that dreaded etoile. The relief I had when I found my turning seconds later. Not a moment too soon.

*Four hours home with my girls through wind and rain with the occasional tear from The Princess who was sad to have left her best friend behind.

*Home. To my Hubster. To my beautiful boys. To my poop infested mud patch of a garden that lets me gaze for miles over the hills and mountains.

*Paris and this country amaze me. I count my blessings that all of this is part of my life. God, how lucky am I?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Because It's Wednesday

Last night, we swapped out The Princess for Hippy-Love Française's little guy, Annicet. He's a lovely little kid who doesn't seem to mind Mini-Husband dictating what they will play with so that makes everybody really, really happy.

My only issues with friends sleeping over is that this inherently means they (in which ever form, boy or girl) will be up at the crack of dawn ready to build a life size model of the Eiffel Tower out of teddy bears and Playmobile.

Someone please explain to me why on school days, I have to literally pull those grumpy bumkids out of bed, threaten them to within an inch of their lives to get dressed, and hope that they eat something before I wrangle them out the door, all the time yelling, "We're gonna be late for school!" Then on weekends and Wednesdays, they are up before the sun, smiling joyfully, singing and chatting away while I beg with every fiber of my body for just 5 more minutes.

The other problem with this early waking is that I get Bubba-Love next to me, begging to play NickJr. You see, dear readers, my blog is nothing compared to the latest Dora and Diego games. He could give a monkeys about what we think about vaccines, language issues, and dog poop. He needs to play Lazy Town NOW.

So with that in mind, I'm off to drink the rest of the coffee that Hubster made before he left for work. Bubba-Love can click happily away on the computer while Annicet and Mini-Husband create a beltway for their Matchbox cars around the kids' bedroom. I'll sip my coffee slowly as I sit next to Rosebud, who's taken to waking A LOT during the nights again. (Is there a Facebook group, "Teething Sucks?")

I'll hold my cup of nectar close, yawn, stare out our front windows and think how beautiful it is to watch the morning shadows as the sun rises behind the village church. Dare I admit that there is something to lazy early Wednesday mornings? The day is ahead of us. Let's catch it if we can!

Monday, November 16, 2009

This Controversial Shot

The French government started it's vaccination campaign against H1N1 last week. Since Rosebud is considered "at risk," we recieved our papers for the vaccine fairly early. Granted, Rosebud can't have the shot (too young) but the government is recommending that everyone who shares a household with a young baby should be vaccinated as soon as possible.

It's a funny thing, this whole H1N1 vaccine. I'm not sure either Hubster or I would be worried about getting it if it weren't for the children. But since there is a history of respiratory issues in his family and in our boys, we are trying to muddle through and decide what's the best thing to do for the kids and for us. Truth is, one minute, we're all for it, the next, we worry. Is it really the best thing to do?

So in true Dig waffling nature, I've been asking various and sundry neighbours and friends in the village what their take is on the whole situation. To my profound surprise, all of them, without exception, are against the vaccine.

"It won't do anything."

"The flu virus will mutate and the vaccine will be useless."

"The stuff in the vaccine could cause more harm than good."

"I don't see the point of vaccinations at all."

One friend is even convinced that it's all a conspiracy and that the Minister of Health, Roselyne Bachelot, was given a fake shot when posing for press pictures last week. And it turns out that of the 15 members of the volunteer fire service (who were all offered the vaccine earlier than the general population,) only 3 agreed to be vaccinated.

I can understand the hesitation about vaccinations. It's scary stuff. (Perhaps not as scary as H1N1 but only time will tell.) But what really boggles my mind is that the French are the most pill happy people in Europe. I kid you not, it's not uncommon to leave a doctor's appointment with a prescription that rivals a school shopping list. They love their medicine. So why are they so afraid of this one? A news piece about the opposition to the vaccine made it seem as though the general population thinks that Sarkozy and his group are out to get them and get them they will! With the H1N1 vaccine!

"AAAAHHAAA! We've tricked you! There is NO H1N1! We've injected you with rotten pickle juice and from now on you will all like peanut butter and wear track suits!"

All I ask is, why? Good lord, good French people. Why?

So far, we haven't seen very many cases of H1N1, if any, in my neck of the woods. That's not to say it isn't in France, but so far, where we are, things are calm. Will that change? Will this flu hit us as hard as it seems to have hit the US and the UK? Will the French conspiracy attitude change when all around them are coughing and sick?

Yes, I'm worried about this vaccine. It's new. It's untested. I'm also freaked out to think about Bubba-Love or Mini-Husband on life support when we had a chance to help them before hand. But what I am fairly sure of is that this is not a conspiracy by Sarkozy to turn the French into mindless mortally ill drones.

Talk to me. Tell me what you think about the vaccine. And while we're at it, mindless French drones.

Friday, November 13, 2009

But Will It Work on the Children?

Last Friday, at the end of Anouk and Abaka's great escape, our friend was trying to get those two nutty Siberians into her car, when Anouk started a fight with Abaka. Here, she had had all day to fight with Abaka out in the wilds and woods, BUT NOOOOO. She had to do it in Marie-Christine's car.

The small boo-boo over Abaka's eye seemed ok till yesterday when she scratched it with her paw and all kinds of fun smelling pus and blood poured out. So after school, me and tribe took the poor little thing on over to the vet. (Yes, 4 kids, one bleeding dog, all in the same car. How many ways can you spell F-U-N?) Luckily, the injury is nothing serious and after an antibiotic and some deep cleaning by the vet, Abaka's going to be fine.

As we were settling the bill, I started talking to the vet about how crazy Anouk gets about Abaka, how it's like she's an overzealous Catholic school principle, attacking Abaka for the slightest reproach. Not to mention straight out attacking her if Anouk thinks she's going way out of line. I get it now why people call mean women, "bitches."

The vet told me a story about a really aggressive stallion he treated not to long ago. He said they had tried all the mainstream medications but nothing did the trick. As a last resort, they tried a homeopathic remedy and LOW AND BEHOLD! The horse calmed.

I bought a small bottle of the stuff to try out on Anouk for the next two weeks. But if how she's acting today is any hope, we might be on to something.



Cross your fingers. Or paws if you've got 'em.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Here's What Going On In My Head

It's November. This drab time of year when all I want it to do is snow. The happy fall colours are starting to disappear, it's wet, it's cold, it's blah.

My brain seems to have decided to start a winter hibernation a wee bit earlier than planned. I can't think straight, I can't talk without fumbling into Franglais, I can't motivate myself to scrub out that dish I cooked dinner in two nights ago.

I want to sit and read but I have nothing to read. I want to go run but my back hurts and I hate having to go past the guys working on a building project down the street. Having to run with a "uniboob" is one thing, having people look at it bounce on by is another.

I want to clean out all the bedrooms and transform them into something you might see in the Ikea catalog. But the problem is, what do I do with all of our shit that's in there already? Minimalist is not our thing. Clutter, stacking, throwing on floor...that's our thing. And we are really, really good at that.

I need inspiration to write. My muse seems to have gone on vacation and left me here to wonder and pine for it's return. Just how does one make my mundane sound exciting, my mundane, important and consequential? Does it really matter what I say? I'm someone who's life has been blessed, someone who's life has flowed easily from one place to another. What do I know about anything? What have I to share?

There's snow on the mountains and my idle brain is full of winter. The smell of wet wool, burning wood, snowmobile engines, roast goose, steaming huskies curled into themselves. I crave clean snow, blinding me in the sun.

I'm impatient and tired, useless, and waiting.

I'm at a loss. For words and for November.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Closest My Father Has Ever Gotten to a Bad Batch of LSD

I suppose I should have known that my parents' visit would be slightly out of the ordinary when on the first or second day of their visit, BaPa came back from his daily walk only to tell me that he had been hit by a car.

It seems that a little white van had taken a corner just a wee bit too sharp and whacked BaPa on the arm with it's wing mirror as it drove past. Since neither the van nor my father were moving very fast at this particular moment, he was hardly any worse for the wear. He was happy to tell me that the driver did stop to check on him and, luckily for BaPa, the woman behind the wheel actually spoke some English, which of course meant that BaPa could tell said woman what he thought about her driving.

I'm still waiting to find out which neighbour caught the wrath of this man wearing a "Marquette Dad" sweatshirt, but so far no one has admitted being anywhere near the scene of the accident. I'm thinking that's a good thing.

BaPa was also ever so lucky to see that road rage manifest itself in 3 out of 4 of our little people. He got to witness Mini-Husband getting angry over his little brother stealing his toys, watch Bubba-Love having major conniption fits over DVDs and the lack of juice in the house, and the most magical tantrums of all, those from The Princess. I think my father has finally met a little girl whose stubborn streak can almost, almost, beat out her cute factor on any given day. I used to think Dad didn't like dealing with my boys and now I'm not so sure he really likes dealing with my daughter. Let's just hope by the time the littlest one starts her tantrum career, the others will have grown out of theirs.

And if screaming fits weren't enough for a fun filled two week vacation, there was also a massive dose of Catholic Guilt BaPa got to enjoy. Here we were on Friday morning at 7:30am: Kitty, BaPa, Rosebud and me ready to head off for a day at Oradour-Sur-Glane, one of the most tragic places in France, when by accident, BaPa let the dogs out. (CUE MUSIC..."Who let the dogs out? WOOF, WOOF, WOOF...")

Hubster and I took off in two cars, frantically searching the fields around the village. We were able to catch the aging lump, Typhon, rather quickly, but the two Siberian prima donnas decided they weren't done harassing cows, chickens, and sheep just yet. After two hours of frantic searching, Hubster told me to head off to Oradour all the same and he'd call me when he had found them.

So off we went. Me, convinced all small furry animals around the village would be toast by noon, my mom anxious about Hubster, and my dad, unable to do or say anything except feel guilty. We toured the site at Oradour, taking in all of the horrors that happened in that village over 60 years ago, awed and silenced by the fact that these atrocities continue in other places still. I'll admit, the whole time I couldn't stop thinking that this was happening in the form of furry huskies on innocent sheep. Not at all the same level of horror, I know, but horrifying to me all the same.

The return home was a quiet one with still no word from Hubster about the dogs. We got back about 7pm, to be greeted by a lonely Typhon and some very worried children. At that point, we had given up hope of finding Anouk and Abaka and BaPa was quietly beside himself.

"We've all let them escape at one point or another," Hubster told him. "It's just stinks that this would be the one time they haven't come back."

Can you feel how UGH that was? Really, seriously, UGH. No idea what to say to each other, no idea what to do. Just UGH. YIKES. BLAH. UGH.

And then a little miracle happened. Musher Boy's mom shows up. She's jumping up and down, ringing the front bell, and yelling,"I'VE GOT THEM!! I'VE GOT THEM!"

Thirteen hours later and at least 10k from our village, she found them wandering near a main road. There they were, Anouk and Abaka, tired, muddy and only slightly tainted pink. (So far, we've only had reports of 3 chickens taking a hit. At this point, I'm cautiously hoping that's all they killed.)

I don't think I've ever seen my father so relieved as he was when those dogs got back.

Well, until this morning when he knew that this insane holiday at the Birth Control Bed & Breakfast was coming to a close. I know he loves being with us and loves seeing us, but I think BaPa is going to be very happy to get back to chez lui, where he can walk on safe sidewalks, only fight with Kitty over the remote, and open his front door as wide as he wants.

Until next time.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Where I've Been

My folks have been here for about a week now and I have to admit, I'm loving the extra arms. I've been lucky that I have parents (and in-laws) who seem not to mind when I throw my children at them and run away.


This last week has been no exception. I've needed the outside alone time more than I realized. Who knew how lonely you could get when lost in the cacophony of 4 little people?

These runs with the dogs and my own traipsing through the trails with my friend have done me the world of good. I feel more like myself again, albeit myself with creaky bones and no endurance, but me all the same.

I look at all those beautiful trees, shaking off their summer clothes, with the only sounds being our breath as it rustles the leaves. I think about everything and nothing.

I'm reminded again how freaking lucky I am.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Six Months On


I'm amazed that Rosebud is already 6 months old. It seems like just yesterday I had The Princess, Bubba-Love and Mini-Husband having a field day with the adjustable bed at the hospital. I watched them moving that bed up and down and up and down as I held that tiny baby and thought, "Oh, my God. These are my children."

Parenthood is something that sneaks up on you. You can read all the books out there, talk to all the other moms and dads on the block, but nothing can prepare you for this insanity. And it is insanity. How else can you explain the ability to want to throttle and hug someone at the same time? How can you explain how flying never used to bother you until you had kids? Or how (like my sister) you spend HOURS wondering just how you'll get all those little people out of the car if the bridge you are driving over starts to collapse.

I still can't believe that I have four children. I still can't believe that Hubster and I have been so lucky to have these four healthy, smart, beautiful people in our lives. Who knew that each of them would make me feel more and more complete? I couldn't have imagined my life with them and now, I can't imagine life without them.

These past 6 months have flown by. Rosebud is truly blossoming. I can't get enough of watching her get all giddy when Mini-Husband smiles at her, or listening to her laugh when Bubba-Love screams "BOO" at the top of his lungs, or laughing to myself as I watch The Princess carry that baby, who seems half the size of her, around the house. The joy on Rosebud's face when her dad gets home from work makes me want to cry and shout, "FEEL THE LOVE, PEOPLE! FEEL THE LOVE!"

Not having planned a single one of them, I feel beyond humbled and blessed at all this 'accidental' joy in my life. It is true, there's always room in your heart for more.

That being said, there ain't no way I'm having another one. I think I've earned enough credits as it is for my Master's in Chaos Administration and the thought of having to write that thesis for my Ph.D. makes me want to pull out all my arm hairs one by one as I hide under the straw next to Typhon.

But life is nuts and so am I.

"Sometimes you just might find, You get what you need."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

They Know Me

Less then an hour before I need to head off and pick up my parents at the airport. I've been like a mad woman this morning, trying to finish off the massive cleaning I started yesterday. Trying to find homes for the odd shoes, Playmobil, and pencils laying around. It's incredible how fast plastic can reproduce.

Funny thing is, I'm not sure why I'm getting all stressed out about having things nickel, aka perfect, when these parents of mine know darn well that my idea of putting things away is opening a closet and chucking everything in there.

When I was little, I dreaded cleaning day. I'd leave my room in a state of fabulous disaster in the morning, only to return home to find a carpet I hadn't seen in three months and a mountain of shit all over my bed. I couldn't just throw all of it back into my walk-in closet...or could I?

I think I started getting a little more concerned about house cleanliness when I moved into my flat in England. I shared that place with a boy who liked growning pot in his bedroom and a certified MENSA member who liked keeping all sorts of trash bags with all sorts of trash in them scattered around her postage stamp size room. It was after seeing our tea cups turned into petri dishes that I decided to embrace bleach and the vacuum cleaner and keep Luna and I well and truly safe in my room.

Since living in this house, I've taken on all new battles. The never-ending war against Lego, spider web hunting, and (NEW THIS SEASON!) tracking mouse poop. Most of the time, I'm able to keep the place in a relative state of cleanliness. But, the truth be told, I'd rather have all my teeth pulled out without a general anaesthetic then clean. And boy, does that show.

My parents have told me not to worry. It's not the floors they are coming to see. I know that's true but I'm still freaking about getting this place looking good. Good God, why do I worry about this? Will I care when I go visit Rosebud many years from now if her toaster is all crummy, or if Bubba-Love's kids have taken to creating mud pies in the lounge? So what if The Princess' ponies all have free access to the kitchen?

I'm deliberately not going to mentioning Mini-Husband here because I have a sneaking suspicion, even though he likes leaving his pjs and shoes all over the place right now, his anal attentive nature will take over in his late 20s and his place will be so clean, you could eat off the shower taps.

Parents know their children and they love us all the same. Amazing, isn't it?

So with now a half an hour to go, I've rechecked to see that I've got some tomato juice for BaPa and some Diet Coke for Kitty, not to mention a good supply of both red and white wine. I've got the simple needs covered so hopefully while they are being smothered with hugs from those little people they don't get to see enough of, they'll be happy to ignore all the dead plants and the multitude of candy wrappers that have set up camp in the couch.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Irony of La Vie

I've become a big fan of the blog Sweet Juniper. The author, JDG, stops us for a minute to think about aspects of our lives that go overlooked, or ignored, through his words and with his simple and striking photography.

He has a series of photos capturing the 'feral houses' of Detroit and I'm fascinated by them. The whole idea of just letting a house decay and waste away is incredibly foreign to me. I don't know if it's that I grew up in a country that ripped down abandoned places, creating space for something new, or if it's just that I can't live with the idea of abandoning things.

Over here in the wilds of France, feral houses exist in almost every nook and cranny, every little village, and most little hamlets. The inheritance laws being so complex, it's easier for people to let old family houses fall into ruin rather then trying to fix them or sell them. Nature wins the battles between sisters and brothers, uncles and nieces. Houses that had been built hundreds of years ago, are reduced to crumbling walls, held together by ivy and vine.

Down the hill from our village is a little hamlet called La Vie, which translates to "life." Whenever I pass through there, I think about Sweet Juniper's feral houses and just how much life must have happened here.




I find myself both in awe of the beauty in La Vie and profoundly depressed.

Oscar Wilde once said, "You are young. No hungry generations tread you down....The past does not mock you with the ruin of a beauty the secret of whose creation you have lost..."

Oh, but it does, it does.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Grandma Goes to the Loo"

Yesterday, the kids latched on to singing, "Skip to the Lou." We all had the tune down pat, but for the life of me, I couldn't remember the words. We fumbled along, clapping our hands, tapping our feet, when Mini-Husband declared that he remembered how the song went:

"Grandma's off to the loo.
Grandma's off to the loo.
Grandma's off to the loo.
Skip to the loo, my darling!"

Of course, that brought the house down.

Boy, that song sticks in your head. And I mean sticks. All night long, I lay in bed chanting that sucker over and over again, trying desperately to remember how the lyrics went. Nursing Rosebud at 3am, I thought I had it but then when I went to her at 6:30, the words were gone and all I was left with was something about losing a partner.

Lucky for me The Wiggles had fimed their own video of this song:


Gotta love an Australian group teaching English kids how to sing an American folk song in France. Yeah, Internet!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Just When I Needed Santa

The first of the 3,000 Christmas gift catalogs arrived chez nous yesterday and let me tell you, that's almost as exciting as Christmas itself. Mini-Husband and The Princess were quick to grab that thing and begin the endless chant of, "Oh, I want that!" All three of the big kids were out of bed a 7am this morning, not to watch cartoons or jump on my bed, but to look at those freaking catalogues.

I know it really is too early to start thinking about Christmas, but I have to admit that I'm glad to see this catalog. Not at 7am, granted, but seeing these suckers means my arsenal in the form of a "parental bag of punishment ticks" has been refilled when I really needed it to be.

The summer is long gone, the weather is quickly becoming too cold to play outside for long periods of time, and the house seems to have shrunk all of the sudden. There aren't enough rooms, Matchbox cars, or DVDs to keep them happy and away from each other. The constant fighting and yelling is a cacophony that makes me cringe, want to curl up into a ball, and cry. Or start drinking at 10am, which is nuts since most days they are at school and I'm only thinking of suicide between 4:30pm and bedtime.

Here's where the Christmas catalog saves me.

We normally get two catalogs in the mailbox and after I beg Grandma Française for her copy, each child gets a pair of scissors and an envelope. And off they go. Cutting, choosing, and dreaming about what Santa will bring this Christmas. The tattered carcasses of those catalogs, spread all over the dining room table and floor. A mess I'm happy to live with because after they've made that mess and stuffed their envelopes full of pictures of plastic, each of those magic envelopes becomes mine.

"Bubba-Love, stop hitting your sister or I take a toy out of the envelope."

"Mini-Husband, go take a shower or I take a toy out of the envelope."

"Princess, homework. Do it or I take a toy out of the envelope."

We start the season with about 20+ toys in there. But by the beginning of December, they might be lucky to have 5 left. At that point, hopefully the "fluff" toys have gone and Hubster and I can really figure out what to get them for Christmas.

This may be the last year that Mini-Husband still believes in Santa Claus so I'm going to try and use him as my trump card as best I can. It is incredible how an imaginary Santa seems to make getting in trouble less exciting. "Heck, if it's only mom getting mad, who cares! But don't piss of Santa!"

Now that I think of it, perhaps I ought to get Hubster to do the same thing with the power tool catalog from Gedimat. Every time he does something bad, I can take out a sander, a drill, or a buzz saw. He could do the same with me too. I'll clip out pictures of huskies from various dog books and every time I'm naughty, that's one less dog for my imaginary team.

It's a well known fact that the apples at the B&B don't fall too far from this tree. Hence no way I'll be that good either so the risk of actually getting more dogs is (for Hubster, fortunately) slight.

"Dig, You bought another pair of running shoes!?! Baff! There goes your Malamute puppy!"

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I've Been Unfaithful

A few weeks back, I finally got my arse into gear and got an appointment to get my hair cut. Months of the post-partum delights (aka me with sissors) had changed my normal happy go lucky look into something more from a zombie flick, as you all might remember, and people were noticing. Especially my children. There is something just not so fun about your 6 year old telling you your hair looks like crap.

I made the appointment with my coffier neighbor, Pierre, at his salon in the big city. I counted down the days till I would be there, safe in the hands of a professional and all his fabulous smelling shampoos. I couldn't wait for the head massage I knew I would be getting as he frothed out those odors of chien and I would sip on a hot tea. It would be calm! It would be relaxing! I'd be all new and pretty!

And you know what? It was just like that. And the best part about being someone who waits 10 years between salon visits? It was all the looks from the other coffiers at how amazing and beautiful I was now that Pierre had cut my hair. If only they had taken before and after shots just to prove to the world what miracles Pierre and his team could do!

The only trouble with such a wonderful life changing visit to the hairdresser is that you have to go home. And inevitably, you have to take a shower and wash your hair. I delayed it as long as possible, but it had to happen in the end. And ever since, I'm back to looking like that zombie.

It's as if I never had it cut. It's fuzzy, frizzy, and I keep having to tye it in a knot on my head. I've tried drying it, I've tried brushing it, but nothing I've done will get my crazy hair back to the sleek sophisticated look that Pierre achieved. Nothing.

Nothing, that is, until I went and saw Sophie at another salon today.

Yes. YES! I admit it!!! I cheated on Pierre with another woman!!! I couldn't take it any longer!!! The temptation was too much!!! It was so easy and my GOD, do I look GOOD again!! SOOOO GOOD!! I'm sleek, I'm beautiful! I'm not taking a shower till Sunday!!

Of course, I'm now a nervous wreck about running into Pierre this weekend. There's no way I can hide the new look in a knot on my head. I'm going to have to find a hat and run the dogs really fast past his place. (What's the penance on this kinda adultery, anyway? Four home colouring sessions and a dozen Hail Marys? An Act of Contrition and cheap shampoos till Christmas?) But if I do see Pierre, look at that! Yet another wonderful opportunity for me to forget how to speak French entirely!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Impluse Buying with a Twist

Mini-Husband bounced into the house yesterday after school and asked, "Can I have some of that cookie-doo?"

Cookie-doo? Here's a new one.

"You know. That ice cream you bought."

Ah, yes. Cookie Dough! Ben & Jerry's Cookie Dough.

And being the super mommy that I am, as well as trying to convince my people that lots of good things come from the United States besides pancakes, I indulged him.

I had forgotten how much I love this stuff. How fabulous that visit to the ice cream factory in Vermont was and how easy it is to stick your face in that container and just go for it. Look at that joy and rapture on his face as we polished off that pint! (Perhaps it is a good thing Ben & Jerry's is hard to find over here.)

I had been worried that the Chocolate Fudge Brownie and Phish Food wouldn't be as well loved as the tride and true Cookie Dough, but dinner at friends a few weeks back solved that little problem. The French know a good dessert when they eat one!

Every so often, when I'm wandering around in a daze the grocery store, I see something. Could be just a bottle of Head & Shoulders shampoo, Belgian made Skippy peanut butter or Old El Paso Salsa, but I start getting all giddy for something that reminds me of chez moi. Something I can share with the tribe in hopes of bribing them to admit they are American.

Mini-Husband is normally the worst of the lot. He's convinced he's more British than Grandma and Grand-dad. But, alas! I think I have found a very valuable American negotiating tool with this old Cookie Dough ice cream.

From the bottom of my star spangled heart, thank you, Ben and Jerry!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My Favourite Picture from My Favourite Day


I look at this picture and can't help but smile. We look so young. And Luna actually looks clean. And the one nice thing about having had to buy a tent as a wedding dress is at least I know I should always be able to fit in the thing.

Here we are. Eight years on.

Just more dog fur and plastic toys than we could have ever have imagined.

Still love this man, that dog who's in the stars, and this crazy life we live.

Thank you, Hubster.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ham

There is a myth that all French cooking is beyond anything human words can describe. That eating a meal in any little hovel in any little town might turn out to be a something your taste buds never quiet recover from. An experience of savors that sends shivers of joy down your spine. The menus offering a variety of things you'd never make yourself: rabbit, veal, or quail for example, café et vin compris.

Except where the kids are concerned. The poor little sods eat ham. Lots and lots of ham.

I don't think we've been to a restaurant yet that didn't have the standard kids menu consisting of chicken nuggets (pronounced "nuugaytes") or jambon blanc et frites, aka a slice of ham and fries. And the ham in question isn't your honey roasted type variety, it's the sliced stuff you find pre-packaged in plastic and perfect for luring your dog back after they've escaped from the garden.

Granted, kids don't really seem to understand the joys of vegetables or exotic grains cooked with a tarragon butter sauce, so the option of those chicken squares or that tantalizing piece of ham seems to work just fine to keep the little people happy while mommy and daddy go all ga-ga over Aligot.

I remember enjoying ham sandwiches as a kid but I don't think I ever took ham as seriously as the French do. I was happy for a slice or two on white bread with a little mustard and the obligatory piece of bright yellow processed cheese food. The idea of having it served on a fancy dinner plate with fries and a toy never occurred to me. Something so simple and easy! These restaurants are making a killing!

In a way, I'm seeing ham like what peanut butter used to be in the States, the "go-to" option for when you're in a hurry and need something to give to the roaring animals in your zoo. And as I mentioned before, it's also a wonderful tool for tricking the tricky husky in your life.

Abaka, aka Harry Houdini, has discovered that when she escapes and starts running insanely around the village, Hubster or I am bound to show up in the 4x4 with slices of ham flying out the windows. Now, every time we start the engine, she starts going berserk, twirling in circles, "The ham truck is coming! The ham truck is coming!"

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Blustery Day

Remember this?

I bet you never knew it could double as a kite.

Last time I looked, my knickers (and the drying rack) were doing their best impression of the tornado from the Wizard of Oz.

But at least everything will be really dry, right? That is, if I can find it all.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Franglais at It's Finest

From the Dictionary of French Slang and Colloquial Expressions, edited by Henry Strutz:

AFANAF, adv. Fifty-fifty (from Eng. "half and half"). Et si on faisait afanaf? "How about our going Dutch?"

(Did you read that one with your best French accent thrown in for good measure? Go on. Try again. You know you want to. You know you need to.)

Gotta love a word that doesn't exist in English, describing something possibly of Dutch origin and included in a French dictionary.

Of course, when I tried to use this in a real live conversation with Hippy-Love Française, she looked at me like I had seven heads.

"Quoi? Tu veux dire 'moitié-moitié', oui?" ("What? You mean 'half and half', right?")

And so yet another attempt by me to sound authentic is nipped quickly in the bud. I'll just add that one to my ever growning list of guffaws and bumbling idiot questions I've got going on here. It's getting quite impressive.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Round and Round We Go

The in-laws left yesterday so it was back to "normal'" at the B&B, thus screaming kids, screaming mom, singing dog, and mountains of dirty laundry. Ah, the joys of consistency!

By some bizarre freak of nature, I was able to get everyone up and out early enough to get to the English-speaking playgroup. This group has been meeting most Wednesday mornings for several years and I credit the various members that have come and gone with saving my sanity on many occasions.

There we were this morning, me and one other "old timer" with a couple of new moms and their kids. There at the same park that we've been destroying since before Mini-Husband was potty trained, experiencing the same joy at speaking English in really loud voices, the same joy at finding a mini-oasis of cultural similarities with women from various parts of the US and Britain. Once again, consistency.

We've had lots of people spending time with the group over the years. I miss so many of them that have already left. I also have to admit, I'm tired and not sure I can deal with the realities of making friends with the new ones. They all seem lovely and wonderful, but I hate the thought of them leaving already. (This before I've even invited them over for coffee.)

There are tons of books and stories out there about people who spend 3 or 5 years living abroad and then they go home but not a lot is said by those of us still here. Those of us who are living this "I'm-not-really-from-here-but-I-LIVE-here" thing all the time, by choice. Yes, it's wacky and annoying to live in a foreign language, a foreign land, but it does become "the norm," as far as norms can be.

There is a side of me that wonders if I'm just a wee bit jealous of these new folks. Everything is ahead of them here, all the frustrations, all the joys of being an expat. All of it is new to them. I know they won't believe me yet, but there is something wonderful about having an obvious enemy to focus on, that horrible inability to speak French. It makes your day to day living an adventure and your goal is clear: survive.

But six years, what's my goal now? What am I hoping to gain from this life in French? Six years and three kids later, where am I? What am I hoping to gain from this experience? What do I want to be when I grow up?

Just goes to show that the same questions in life can exist in all languages and in all places, regardless if you are from here or there or have been here a while or not.

Survive. Survive.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Which One Of You Wants to Call Social Services?

Grandma and Grand-dad arrived at our house last week and things have been on the go ever since. Between entertaining them and trying to keep the kids from jumping on their bed at 6 in the morning, hectic is just about the only word that fits.

This weekend we also had several special events that needed to be graced by our presence as well, one being the annual Back To School party and the other being a photography exposition about the American West.We got a note from one of the members of the town council that since I'm the only American living in the village, it was imperative that I come and join them for the official opening of the expo.

The fact that all the pictures were going to be of places where I had camped and acted like a crazy twenty year old oh so many years ago, made me worried that I would start bawling for my youth in front of not-so-total strangers (and total strangers) who already think I'm mad. Luckily for me, I held it together and manged to only whimper silently under my breath.

The opening toast was scheduled for 11:30am so between changing Rosebud's nappy and yelling at the rest of the tribe to find their shoes, it was about 11:38am when I yelled at Hubster that I was heading on over to the expo. He, at this point, was just getting out of the shower and his parents were meandering around the downstairs, waiting for their chance to use the potty.

When Hubster arrived at the expo about 15 minutes after me, the drinks had been served and the photographer had started his spiel about Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon. The kids were running around between the photos and Bubba-Love was cringing in fear from having just had a right telling off from Grandma Francaise over tearing pages in library books. I didn't see my in-laws arrive with Hubster, so I figured they had decided not to come in the end.

Who could blame them, really? Trying to carry on a conversation in a room full of French people, talking about places that for some reason cause their daughter-in-law to cry was enough to scare Hubster, I can't even imagine what it would have done to them. After about 45 minutes or so, I rounded up the tribe and headed back to the house, leaving Hubster to discuss the importance of good stone walls with two members of the village council.

I got back to the house only to realize that Hubster had locked the front door.

"ARGRAAAA. Why did he lock the door?!?"

And then it dawned on me.

Where were my in-laws?

If they hadn't come with Hubster, did they go out for a walk? How did they get past the dogs without a fight? Why did they lock the door?

Confused, I went to the basement door which, luckily, I had forgotten to lock. As I ran up the stairs and towards the front door, I saw my father-in-law fighting with the latch, trying to open the door.

"What are you doing there?" I asked.

"We were waiting for you," he replied.

"But, I thought you were coming with Hubster?"

"He's in the shower, isn't he?" piped up my mother-in-law from the lounge.

At this point, she joins us in the hallway, coat on and ready to go.

"But, the expo is over," I said sheepishly, realizing that they must have been sitting in the lounge, LOCKED IN, for the last 45 minutes.

With that, Hubster arrived back at the house.

"Where you been?" he asked his parents.

"Here. Waiting for you," they replied.

"But, I thought you were with Dig," he said. "She said she was going ahead with the kids."

"Kids, Hubster. I went with the kids."

"You know, I thought I saw him walking up the street," exclaimed my mother-in-law while pointing at Hubster.


As you can imagine, both Hubster and I are now being ever so careful about taking a full head count before leaving the house. We've also made sure to put a key in Grand-dad's pocket JUST IN CASE.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

She Hasn't Forgotten Me

It's been a while since I've had the chance to see Miss Snootie at the Marie. I haven't had a reason to head in there until this morning when I was running an errand for a friend.

"Did you get my message to come see me," she asked.

"Um, no," I replied. "Did you leave it on my voice mail?"

"No," she said as she started rummaging through the filing cabinet behind her. "I had told several people to tell you to come see me."

Instant flashback to those moments just before Sister Catherine would start yelling at me back in grade school and I would try not to throw up.

"You've made an error."

At this point she found the file she was looking for and heaved it onto the desk.

OH GOD. I thought. What did I do? Was it the dogs? The annex? Did we forget to pay our taxes?

She glared at me and said, "you've overpaid the cantine. Twice. Don't do it again."

Like a puppy with it's tail between my legs, I grabbed the cancelled check and meekly said thank you and quickly left, glad not to have been sent the corner for the rest of the morning.

Amazing how this woman can make all my hair stand on end. Who needs to run a marathon when just a conversation with her has the same cardio-vascular effect on my body?

The beauty of time passing and yet some things never change.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Power of a Word

And so I'll try to explain...

It was a couple of years ago when I bought that painting in a local consignment shop. I was browsing through the pictures when it caught my eye. The colours in the landscape were a perfect fit with the shades I had just painted in the TV room. I think I paid about 5 or 10 euros for it, took it home and sat it on the floor by the fireplace.

Several weeks later, I finally got around to hanging it up. Clumsily I nailed a hook to the wall and then grabbed the painting. As I fumbled with the cord on the back, I realized there was something written up in the corner. A small word, written in capital letters.

HITLER.

Suddenly, this landscape painting that I liked became almost toxic to touch. The plumes that I took for trees, I now saw as bomb blasts. The white clouds were really smoke from the canons. The reds, blood and earth. And the faces, I see two now, watching from behind it all.

That one small little word changed everything about the picture.


I asked you what you thought about this painting because I, myself, am not sure what to do with it.

It scares me to look at it for too long. I start hearing the sounds of war and when I think about the people who have lost their lives in battles like these and unlike these, my heart aches and I feel that there will be no end to any tears I shed.

Living where we are, it's possible this was painted by someone who actually lived through the bombings of WWII. Perhaps even someone who saw first hand the combat, the death, the pain that that war caused. It's possible they used this canvas to get those images out of their head, to release the chaos going on in there. For this reason alone, perhaps I should keep it hanging up.

So tell me, I need to know, is it still beautiful, this painting?

Friday, September 11, 2009

What Do You See?

Today, my lovely readers, I want you to stop and think. I want you to open your artistic side and tell me in words what a picture tells you.

Go on, take a good look at this painting. How does it make you feel? Do you like it? Do you not like it? Does it do anything for you? What do you think it's about?


Now, hit the comment button and tell me what you are thinking. I promise to explain.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Don't Panic! I Speak English!

I have to admit I have a really horrible addiction. It's accosting people in public places, just because they speak English. I've got to find a way to stop doing this. Go cold turkey, find a 12-step program, something before I get put on to some list published by the local police department.

It's just so hard not to accost a stranger when there I am, comparing prices on undershirts, when low and behold I hear a word said almost as I would say it. A magical lyrical cadence of phrases that I understand without having to think about it. Words that dance into my head and I just get it.

The joy of understanding conversation without having to think about it is almost like when you smell something baking that reminds you of home or your grandma's house or your favourite meal. The memories and the sensations fill you and you can't help but get all nostalgic as you inhale the aromas that you love. I'm like this with English.

Hence why I was shaking like I had just downed four lattes when I heard the little lady in front of me talking about Derbyshire. I've never been to Derbyshire (I don't think) but I wanted to pretend that I had just so I could talk to her. All I could think of was Tess of the d'Ubervilles and wondered if maybe this woman had read the book too. It's set in Derbyshire, isn't it? I didn't care. I just wanted to talk to her. To tell her I was one of them too. Tell her that I spoke English! Look at me! Talk to me! In English!

Finally, I blurted out in a voice much louder than I would have liked to use, "ARE YOU ENGLISH? I'M AMERICAN."

Now, saying this in any other English speaking country would have seen said English lady high tailing her tookus away from me as far as her sensible shoes could carry her. Here, she practically hugged me.

In the 10 minutes we chatted, I learned that she's from Lancashire originally (like my father-in-law) and her children live in London. They've been living in the Auvergne for several years and she thinks Rosebud is beautiful. She's also told me that she meets up with some other Anglo-Francophones on Tuesday mornings and if I want to join them, I'm more than welcome.

I could smell the scones as we stood there.

I speak French now after our 6 years here and I have friends around me that I enjoy being with. They forgive me my grammatical errors and find my accent adorable. I'm good with that. It's part of the expat experience and my daily life. For this woman who always danced to the beat of her own drummer, living abroad gives me a rhythm I thrive on.


But I'll admit, that as much as I love being one of the odd ones out in a foreign land, I'll never stop being so happy as I am when I stumble on other people for my 12-step program.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Newest Olympic Sport

There is a reason I only wash the cushion covers once a season.

I know, that sounds down right disgusting, but you know what? It's about all I can handle with these suckers.

First, you pull them off and feathers go everywhere. Everywhere into all the other crap that has been calling the back of the sofa home since the last time you tried to do this.

Then you drag them down to the basement and wrestle them into the machine and pray like Mother Theresa that they won't break the washer while going through the spin cycle.

You then have to haul these massive wet things that cling to you like wet sail cloth out of that teeny tiny machine and find a place to hang them to dry.

There in comes the moment of truth that you well and truly failed geometry because trying to find a way for all the corners and parts of that multi-layered chair shaped cover to dry is near impossible. Who chose these things?!?

Finally, after carefully removing the covers from whatever scaffold you've hung them on, you need to then dodge the dog-poop mined garden to get them back in the house with out a smudge.

And then you have to put them back on.

Feathers going everywhere as you do some sort of bizarre European yoga with each cushion, pushing and pulling knowing GOSH DARN WELL that these cushions came out of these covers JUST THIS MORNING.

Finally, you get them back as they should be only to realize that you've gotten blood all over them from where you banged your finger on the zipper. At this point, ready to kill the next child that asks you what are doing and can you stop and get me some juice, you thank GOD that these covers have two sides.

There's no way I'll be doing this again before Christmas unless someone throws up all over them. And I mean ALL OVER THEM.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Sweet FA

I have to admit that these last 48 hours I have done absolutely nothing.

Nothing.

Except unload the dish washer. Once.

I don't know if it's the lack of noise in the house or just that I don't have any witnesses to the slothdom I'm living, but these last two days have been near bliss for an inherently lazy person like me.

Granted, I did have the most horrible of nuit blanche last night courtesy of Rosebud who decided that eating every two hours is a wonderful thing. Hence why today, I'm feeling like I'm back on Love Boat. (Ted's drinks are still crap, by the way.) Typhon decided to help out a bit and ran up to the boulangerie for me between his Gregorian chanting lessons.

What a good dog.

The only real contact I've had with the outside world was a good long conversation with my friend from kindergarten, The A, who lives in London.

The parallels in our lives are beoynd anything that we could have imagined back when we were sporting pig tails in Miss Apple's class in Maryland. The ultimate irony being that she too has an English husband and therefore is the best person to commiserate when I want to bitch about Hubster. Yesterday, for example, we were trying to understand just what exactly it means when our spouses respond to any of our long involved questions with the word, "quite." Perhaps this is really why my head is spinning today.

This morning I did manage to chat with a few moms at school in a blundering version of Franglais before stumbling back home and into bed. Snuggling with Rosebud and walking through the hallways of my mind has eased the rocking ship just a wee bit.

There's a parent's meeting at school tonight so I suppose I should go shower and put on some clean clothes before heading up to get the tribe. Wonder if the kids will recognize me...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

And They're Off

And so another school year starts. This time for Bubba-Love as well. He walked right into the classroom, pushed past the teacher and staked out his spot on the playmat. Don't think I even got a kiss off the kid before I left.

Amazing how fast they grow. And how quiet the house is today.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Flotsam and Jetsam

I dreamt I shaved my head last night. I was bald as a cue ball and looking ever so glamorous and rockstar like. This morning, I realized that even though the idea is tempting, since I'm shedding out the equivalent of two full heads of hair each day, I'm not sure the Sinead O'Conner look is for me. I've gone radical before but shaving my head might actually give people the proof that I've gone over the edge.

Not that going over the edge is a bad thing. I think I actually fell off of it about 2 weeks ago. I was in the grocery store with all four of the tribe when I just decided to leap. I saw a gleam of light in the gise of a free give-away over by the nappies and figured if I could just jump over the display of baby soaps and hide amongst the wipes, I'd be good to go. Unfortunately, I only cleared the bottom part of the display and was soon trounced upon by three people who looked exactly like Hubster. Not to mention being pummeled by store security as well. But I got my free trial pack of dry toast crackers all the same. Go Dig!

Since that little episode, I've been trying to reassure myself that going over the edge is really a lot more common than most people think. And I have found proof of this. It's called "Other People's Blogs."

There are some really wacked out people out there. More wacked than I am and more creative in dealing with the insanities of life. For example, one blogger I found is gearing up for what seems to be a yearly festival of critters created from vegetables and baked goods. She also talks a lot about drinking gin so I think I may have found a soul mate but since I don't speak Belgian, I'm not sure yet.

There are other blogs that try to give a nice spin on things, some that try and make us stay-at-home types feel less alone, blogs that rip into politics and policy with angry teeth and foaming mouths, blogs that say a multitude of things with no words, and then there are the blogs of those who've upped sticks and left town without really knowing why.

With all these people writing about their lives, it's as though blogs are those messages in bottles that The Police sang about years ago:

Walked out this morning,
don't believe what I saw
Hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore
Seems I'm not alone at being alone
Hundred billion castaways, looking for a home


All in all, reading other people's words have made me appreciate my own. My story is not unique. There are other expats in France, there are other Anglo/American families living in strange places, other stay-at-home moms that write better than I do, and *gasp* even other people with nutty sled dogs like our own.

But when I put my message, covered with dog fur and peanut butter, into an empty bottle of Badoulin and cast out there, I'm seeing it floating over the seas and into the hands of those who need to know that this crazy Birth Control Bed & Breakfast is a safe shore. Yes, I've gone over the edge, but I'm not alone and all the other jumpers are welcome here.

Writing about this life as I live it makes it all easier to laugh at. Without having to shave my head.

Monday, August 31, 2009

What's Ringing In My Head at the End of 6 Weeks of Summer Vacation

Purple haze all in my brain
Lately things just don't seem the same
Actin' funny, but I don't know why
'Scuse me while I kiss the sky

Purple haze all around
Don't know if I'm comin' up or down
Am I happy or in misery?
Whatever it is that girl put a spell on me

Purple haze all in my eyes
Don't know if it's day or night
You got me blowin', blowin' my mind
Is it tomorrow, or just the end of time?


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Can One Get Calgon in France?

It's only about 11am here and I think I've already punished the tribe through till school starts next week.

They've bickered, fought, talked back, thrown things, and cried since waking up at 8am. All three of them seem on a mission to see which one will succeed in getting mommy to jump out the kitchen window.

I love them. I love them. I know they are the joy and light of my life. I know I made them with the help of my fabulous Hubster, who, the lucky bastard, is safe at work.

I just want them to go back to school so I can drink my coffee before it gets cold, actually keep a room clean, and take a shower. Simple things, eh?

I can't imagine being one of those mothers who have had loads of children. Good Catholic mothers who somehow birthed, raised, and set free 12 or 14. I'm struggling with 4.

I need to clone myself. This way there is one of me for each of them and then Hubster and the real me can head out for a few weeks were all we do is sit on a beach, drink fruity cocktails and watch Typhon try out a surfboard while Anouk and Abaka look for small creatures they can kill. Bliss.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I Never Realized Just How Busy She Was

"Once, when I was three, I got into the fridge and shut the door."

"Once, when I was three, I threw up and the dogs ate it."

"Once, when I was three, I watched a cartoon about Barbie, but I didn't like it."

"Once, when I was three, we went on vacation and I sat in the car. THE WHOLE TIME."

"Once, when I was three, I ate shrimp. I did! I really did!"

"Once, when I was three, I spoke Spanish for a whole day!"

"Once, when I was three, Valentin and Jeremie asked me to be their girlfriend. I didn't like them but I said 'yes' anyway."

"Once, when I was three, I blinked my eyes. I swear it's true! The assistant teacher saw me!"

"Once, when I was three, I did lots and lots of stuff."

There she stands. Hand on hip, beauty and conviction in her eyes. Conquer the world, Princess, you can do it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The World Series of Dust

Hubster was extremely excited last night because it seems his beloved England has won some sort of urn that might or might not be the final resting place of a bit of dust. It's a big deal, I was told.

"Don't you remember how exciting it was when we won back The Ashes in 2005 after over 20 years of them being in Australia?"

Um. No.

A little Wiki research later and I've come to understand that England and Australia have been having cricket matches over this soot carrying urn since the 1880s. Roughly every 2 years the two teams get together for a 5 day test match that includes lunch and tea (it should for 5 days,) bright white uniforms with strange red stains on them, and fabulous hats. Now, I've been warned by a reliable source that Wikipedia is not a reliable source so I'll take the comment about cricket being more amazing than baseball with a grain of salt.

Come on. Cricket? Better than baseball? In this Ashes thing, England is playing for an imaginary urn of cinders against the same team every single time. Whereas with baseball, all the teams in the US are playing for the WORLD series! In my book, being the best team in the world (even if the competition only comes from your country) is miles more exciting than dust.

Ok, yes. There's more to these games than just the prize, bien entendu. Hence why slugging warm beers in the bleacher seats next to some guy named Paul, who keeps yelling, "GO O's" in a strong, strong, strong, "Bawlmer" accent, really is like being part of poetry in motion. I haven't had the luck to partake of a proper cricket match, but the idea of sitting in the sun sipping Pimm's singing "God Save the Queen" while jeering the Ozzies does have an element of class that, I must admit, appeals to me in the same way.

Even if what I'm hoping they win is a pile of stuff that looks like it came out of my vaccum cleaner.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Do The Dishes, You Get a Pair of Diamond Earrings!

I think Hubster has become addicted to the FarmVille game on Facebook. He's figured out the all the angles on what crops to plant, and when, so he can earn enough to expand the farm and buy a barn. It's impressive his virtual spread. Enough strawberries and rice to keep the tribe well fed for years. He's got cows that give chocolate milk, rabbits that donate their fur for angora sweaters, and ducks to make down pillows. A happy place, right next to my spot where I'm growing the same stuff. We can harvest all this in minutes and then sit in the rest tent and dream of pink fencing.

I so wish this was reality.

Instead, we've got large, live cows that escape into our garden, courgettes that you could use as a baseball bat, neighbours that don't help rake the leaves, and rabbits that you don't want to get to know because they're what's for dinner around here.

Perhaps I should ask the creators of FarmVille to come up with a game that has really nice kids who clean their room, dogs that sleep when they should and not sing at all hours of the night, a magic oven that produces a four course meal with one click, and the avatar I choose is what I actually come to look like. That being cute, clean, and skinny.

We could call it MomVille and every time you get a child to do something you asked them to do, you earn points towards necessary things like a chauffer driven mini-van. Every time you get the laundry washed and dried within the time limit, you'd lose 10 pounds. Manage to walk the dog and take a shower, you'd earn a day's solitude with a good book. And the bonus level would be if your character was able to make it through the day without yelling, you would earn a spa vacation all by yourself for 50 weeks.

I guess until this game hits Facebook, I'll have to be content with life on the farm. At least there I know I'm not going to have to pick up dog poop.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Seedless Grape Dilemma

I have to admit to being some what of a convert to the whole eating non-genetically modified food. I think it's living in France that's done it to me. Food is serious here and knowing the whos, whats, and whys of your produce is important. I wish I could be as hardcore as Barbara Kingsolver, who decided only to eat what she could find locally for a year but as BVJC pointed out, "it's a good goal, but what do you mean NO BANANAS?"

I do like being able to eating vegetables straight from my or my friends' gardens. I like getting meat at the butcher shop that has the huge sign about where the side of beef I'm buying was grazing last week. I like eating things "in season." I like buying local. I like feeling like I'm part of a natural process. Heck, I even liked it when after our sewer pipe backed up, we all of the sudden had cherry tomatoes growing all over the place. Bearing in mind that said sewer pipe combines both the kitchen outflow as well as what's flushed, we didn't eat those little lovelies. I like to think I can go all organic but even that's just a touch too close to home for me.

But there is something that I can not get past. Grape seeds. Those annoying, bitter tasting seeds that take all the pleasure out of popping a round, bright green gem into your mouth on a hot summer's day. Bummer for me then that finding grapes over here without seeds has been like the constant search for the Holy Grail.

Luckily for me, the American contingent to the expat crowd has been working on this quest for years. And low and behold! There are seedless grapes to be found in the wacking great big supermarket in the city! Oh, rapture! Oh, joy! Who knew such a thing could bring such bliss!

Yes, I will admit to having bought loads. And as I happily shoved these genetically modified beauties into my mouth as fast as I could, I tried to reassure myself that I wasn't selling out, that I could still be the crunchy hippy mama that I've been aspiring to be, that I could still eat tomatoes that were nurtured with shit from my neighbour's cow as well as enjoying these little miracles of science.

Easier said then done.

We are lucky in this day and age to eat what we want, when we want, and how we want. Need a tomato that can sit on your shelf for months? No problem. Milk that doesn't go bad in a week? Here you go! How about a Twinkie that can last till Mini-Husband graduates from college? It's amazing and just a little bit scary what science can do to food.

I'm going to stick to hugging my hippy tree and try and really think about the choices I'm making with our food. Take on the French attitude of wanting to know as much about what I'm putting in our mouths as I can. I want to try and learn as Kingslover and her family learned, that we can rediscover the joy of eating locally and growing our own food.

In the meantime, to ease my conscience and keep my motivation, the least I can do is only buy the seedless grapes when they are in season, right?