Thursday, December 30, 2010

Time, As It Flies...

The other day I turned 40.

Now, I think I'm supposed to have freaked out or had a major party or jumped off of some very high cliff or something like that to mark said occasion, but I didn't.

I turned 40 and all I wanted to do to celebrate this milestone was go run and jump in the woods with my best friend. Luckily, and beyond all comprehension with all that's happened, I still happen to be married to him.  

We left the tribe with French Me and headed out into the woods not too far from ours. We didn't have a map so we just drifted and guessed which trails to take. Sort of how our life together has been, The Man and I. At one point, we hit a dead end and the two of us looked at each other and at the same second, turned to our right and as we jumped fallen trees and frozen puddles, we blazed a new path through the woods, back to our original trail, screaming and giggling the whole way.

We ate lunch at a the most obscure and perfectly Auvergnate restaurant just the other side of the woods. The waitress was about 70 and wanted to know where we came from. She looked at us very suspiciously when we said just the other side of the forest. I think our accents must have given us away...

I turned 40 and I still feel like I'm 12. I turned 40 and the world didn't end. I turned 40 and I still snore at night and drink too much. I turned 40 and I still sleep with my baby blanket wrapped around my head.

All things said and done, I feel a little liberated once again. The expectations of every age change and isn't that how it should be?

Turning 20 made me feel that people would take me more seriously. Finally.

Turning 30 made me glad to be out of my twenties and more "honest," as it were.

Turning 40 has made me realize what it is that is important to me and, even more importantly, that this is my one and only life. I need to live it and enjoy it. I get the idea behind a mid-life crisis at this age. Everyone should. Perhaps the world would be a happier place if we all had one and then actually listened to our hearts  in the aftermath.

I turned 40 this week.

Perfect time for a little bit of a rebirth, wouldn't you agree?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Peace Amongst Us

It's getting late and the kids are cuddled around The Man in the guest bed, listening to him read aloud from The Magician's Nephew. Their tired eyes are holding steady after this big day of  presents in the morning, roasted goose for lunch, a wintery walk for MH with his snow mad mom, and more chocolates than chicken pox spots for everyone.

It's been just the six of us today. It's been good, but truth be told, I miss the rest of our families, especially my own and The Man's parents who should have been with us but thanks to snowy England and frozen airplanes, it just wasn't to be.

It was our 7th Christmas here and the first time I really wish we had been somewhere else.

Funny, but just as I wrote that, I heard The Princess in her softest voice, ask her dad to read just another chapter. God, how I love being tucked up together, our little Anglophone family in the heart of France. It has been good, so very good today, and as usual, as I try to count my blessings, I realize I haven't enough toes or fingers...

I hope all of you out there are enjoying the holidays with the ones who love you for who you are...warts and all.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Polka Dot Rosie

The spots are red and raw, the book is old and well loved, and Stinky's ears aren't naturally brown... 

Just thought you'd like to know.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

And Then The Second One Said to the Bartender...

For those of you who haven't been aware, we've had a chimney sweep stuck in our chimney for over two weeks now. No, not a chimney sweep of the Dick Van Dyke/Mary Poppins variety, but a a rather small round plastic brush thing that for some reason is called a hedgehog in French. Yes, it seems nous avons un hérisson coincé dans notre cheminée! Scary image, indeed!

We were finally able to beg and bribe a proper chimney sweep to come help us figure out just how to get said hérrisson out of the chimney. And since said hérisson is attached to a pole about 8-9 meters long, we knew that this whole supplication process would need a lot of coffee, perhaps some whiskey, and a huge piece of humble pie since it was our fault the damn thing was stuck in there in the first place. 

The chimney man came around yesterday morning, nice and early, and none of us heard him knocking on the door. Six people, three huskies and not a one of us noticed this small Santa look-a-like banging on the front door. When his wife called me about 10 minutes later to ask us let him in, I wasn't sure he really wanted to anymore.

Luckily, thanks to my charming smile and adorable accent, he came in and grumpily got to the job. He started shoving his chimney sticks up the pipe, trying to catch hold of that rascally hérisson with some sort of hook. He moved the pole up and down, side to side, catching hold for a split second until the hérisson would somehow become free again. He finally decided that we needed to shove that hérisson right out of the top of the chimney and hope that by doing so it would pop off the pipe cap and thus finally be free. Ok, it sounded like a good idea...

He managed to get the hérisson to stick out of the top of the pipe as planned but a split second later he realized that he had somehow caught his hook on the chimney cap. A quick scurry to the attic with The Man in tow, and the reality of the situation became clear. We not only had a hérisson stuck in our chimney, we now had Captain Hook's hand as well. Both of which were attached to their own 10-12 meter long poles.

The Man and The Sweep had a good long look at the snow and ice covered fake slate roof that was so gingerly placed by Gadot Roofing oh so long ago and wondered just when all that winter would melt so they could walk over to that chimney and cut both Hook and the hérisson free. A five minute job that will have to wait until there's a good bit of sunshine and a nice spring December. Please people, cross your fingers.

'Till then, I'll be playing connect the dots with the chicken pox spots Rosie decided to sport this morning,  The Man will be trying to fix some of the redecorating I did back in September, and the tribe will try to convince Pére Noel that really they have been super SUPER good this year. Comedy at it's best.

"LIVE from the Birth Control Bed & Breakfast, it's LIFE! With a hedgehog!"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Comfort Food

Yesterday, I had a "car crash day." Which means that everything and everyone, without intention, sent my thoughts screaming into that wall again. That stupid, ridiculous wall that is now built out of silly putty rather than brick, but it's still there at the moment and it still hurts when I hit it. At least with it now being made out of silly putty, I got to shape it into a nice glass of wine and a huge bowl of popcorn covered in Old Bay at the end of the day.

I've had this same can of Old Bay seasoning since I moved to England back in 2000. Scary, I know, that I'm still using these spices but there is something so very comforting to me about being able to shake out just the tiniest amount of flavour from that very same tin and feel my lips burning, my hang nails exploding, as if I was back in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, listening to the crabs we just caught in the bay get steamed in my grandmother's big black pot.

We'd haul up the crab traps right onto the grass in front of my grandparents' mobile home, tip out the captured crabs, and watch them scurry this way and that, pinchers at the ready. But they were never any match for my grandma and her silver tongs. She'd catch them and place them quickly into the already simmering pot, the Old Bay smell invading the air. We'd start getting the table ready, throwing down newspaper and finding the mallets, anxiously waiting for the crabs to be ready.

And then she'd come carrying that big pot and dump the crabs in a steaming pile on the table. Our eyes would water, our fingers burn, and we'd we would get comfortable, knowing that we would spend the next couple of hours picking those crabs, laughing, talking, and sharing. Comfort food from the sea. All of us grateful for that which was set before us and around us.

It may only be popcorn that we had last night, but as The Man and I would reach into that bowl, our hands bumping as we went for the same little kernel, we'd laugh. Our fingers burning from the spices, the taste of my youth and home being shared between us, piece by piece.

That wall is no match for my grandmother's silver tongs.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ho, Ho, Ho, It's Chucky!

My mother-in-law, Annie, gave us this really wonderful Christmas decoration several years ago:

He seems like a pretty mundane little fellow and for most of the recent Christmases, he's been nicely sitting on the stairs, waiting for a tap on the head as the tribe blots past him on the way to bed. This year, everything has changed and this otherwise calm decoration has now become an instant heart attack.

Rosie has decided that his guy is just the right size to tote around the house and leave in various and sundry places without telling her mother. Like in the bathroom. Or underneath the kitchen table. Or behind a closed door.

Imagine the delight I get to experience when I'm hauling up a laundry basket, wondering in my head where on earth all of The Man's socks have gone, when I round the corner and WHAMO, I get cracked in the knee by something the size of a ventriloquist dummy who just so happens to have that same sadistic smile on his face.

At this point, I try to collect all of the clothes that had been ejected from the basket as I screamed and remind myself that this is just a jolly old man, one who will bring joy and Playmobil to my little cherubs in just a couple of weeks. If only I didn't have that hair-on-the-back-of-my-neck feeling that he had winked at me...

So far, Rosie hasn't demanded to take psycho Santa with her to bed and for that I am eternally grateful.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Why Everyone Needs Therapy

The Man and I had another counseling session last night and I think we both adore our therapist. There is just something about being able to talk about all the ugliness we've been through and have a person listen to you, seriously listen to you, and tell you that neither one of you is insane or a freak.

She had us nailed at our first appointment and since then, both The Man and I are impressed with how she's been able to guide us so well. Granted, we've both changed how we communicate with each other and that's the main difference, but it's just nice to have someone who's seen it all, in so many different marriages, tell us that we're good.

And we are good. We've still got a long way to go, but I can see how that wall we slammed into is actually helping me fall in love with The Man again. And as for him, if his actions are anything to go by, I think I just might get asked to the prom...

I like looking at my calendar knowing that every couple of weeks, The Man and I get to go somewhere safe and talk about us to someone who's got good advice and a boat load of "tools" to help us keep going in the right direction. I know some day were going to have to slow down the frequency of our visits, but I think it might be good for us to keep in contact. Not for the "just in case" but because as we continue to re-evolve as a couple and as parents, I think our therapist can help us keep the focus where it should be, at least until we reach the point where that "us" is solidly re-fixed in ourselves. Then, we'll show up for the last appointment, have a nice bottle of champagne, and laugh with her about it all. We might be 87 at that point, but who cares...

We're getting there. Day by day, appointment by appointment, holiday by holiday.

Who knew?

Heck, she did, didn't she?

Monday, November 29, 2010

All About Moderation and Kernels in Your Teeth

The kids are back on the Michael Jackson hit parade and as much as I myself was never a really big fan, I have to admit I kinda like watching Rosie start to dance when the rest of them start singing, "Black & White" rather loudly and off key.

Of course, this fascination with MJ's music is bringing up one of the most treasured conversations at our place: why all of our favourite singers are dead. And, more importantly, all the lovely aspects of their timely or untimely demises. Fun, fun, fun in the car, YOU BETCHA!

For example, heading home from the big city the other day, Bubba-Love was trying to understand just how Michael Jackson could have died from taking too much medicine. In his little mind, that children's pain reliever, with the fabulous strawberry simulated taste, just doesn't seem so méchant.

The Man and I decided to hammer the whole drug abuse, over dosing thing to the hilt so we went to town talking about how taking too much of anything can cause addiction and even death. We talked about how you have to be really careful to take the right dose and only let mom or dad give you medicine. And even then, you have to respect the right amount of medicine or you could end up like Michael.

"You know, Bubba, mommy and I have a big pot of headache medicine in the kitchen. We only take one little pill to help our heads when they hurt, not the whole pot or that would kill us."

Bubba stared back at his father's reflection in the rear view mirror and with a shocked look on his face asked, "But you can eat the whole pot of popcorn, right?"

Friday, November 19, 2010

Shall I Sign Her Up for German Next School Year Just For Fun?

The other night, The Princess starting thanking her big brother profusely for all that he and his people had ever done for her. Since this was a whole new conversation I had never heard before, I decided eavesdropping was definitely in order.

"You know, MH, I really thank you and daddy's grandparents for all they've done. Really, I mean, if it weren't for you guys and all those people mommy's related to, all of us French people would be speaking that language that sounds like strassagagha urghresha, halmgie, ichblaga right now."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Phoenix

When my aunt Mary Pat died, the sense of loss was beyond anything I had ever experienced before. The suddenness of that void her death caused still haunts me to this day. Everyone in the family misses her in their own way, each of us wishing for her in our own way. For me, I just wish I still had a chance to see her, to make plans for lunch, hug her, tell her that I love her. But as we know and suffer with death, those things can't happen. She's gone.

When things got shitty between me and The Man a couple of months ago, that void came back to me in a whole new way. An ugly, horrible, empty void caused by the death of our marriage. A death of who I had thought I was and who I thought we were. There is no question in my mind that I have been mourning so much, regretting so much, wishing things hadn't turned out like they did. There are moments when I feel the void swallowing me whole with doubt and worry, with fear, with the shadows of emptiness that chase me through the hallways of my mind.

But the funny thing with this void is that it isn't just mine. The Man is in it here with me. He feels the pain, he suffers, he regrets. We died as a couple over the last couple of years, of that I am certain. But the funny thing with this death is that he's not gone. Nor am I.

We meet for lunch, we tell jokes, he hugs me, we tell each other that we love each other. We talk about what happened to us and why. We mourn the good times we had and try to understand the bad. We talk about who we were and thank God for the chance to talk about who we can be. When he comes home at night, I tell him how glad I am that he's here. Here with me. Alive and moving on.

He's not gone. He's here in the ashes of our marriage, holding my hand.

We're not gone.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

There's A Blanket That's Been to Paris and L.A...

Every evening, when I pick up Rosie from the creche, she's got this rather large red plastic suitcase next to her. It's about the size of a small hand bag and tough enough to be thrown around, banged into walls, and even used as checked luggage on an Air France flight. Best part about this little red case: it's just the right size to stuff Stinky in.

The wonderful women of the creche have told us that Rosie goes for the suitcase almost immediately every morning. She grabs it, opens it up, and stuffs her teddy in there and the gets on with her day. She hauls the case to the climbing area, she puts it next to her when she paints. She tries to hit everyone and sundry with it when it's time to change her nappy and it now even has it's own chair next to her at lunch time. It's become "la valise de Rosie."

As I look at her standing next to her red suitcase, I wonder if the ideas of moving and travelling are already at work in her little 18 month old mind. It makes me wonder if our youngest miracle might just suffer from a good case of genetic wander lust. Is it possible that it'll be she who will tell her parents at the age of 18 that really it'll be fine if she goes to a university the other side of the planet? The one who will decide that she needs to go spend 2 years in Indonesia just because she can? Perhaps she'll be the one who's own children will carry more passports than she does.

I look at the little face, full of awe and wonder, full of joy as she frees Stinky from his case and gets her coat to go home.

I'm so glad to see her. So glad to love her. So excited to see where she and Stinky get to go.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The People in My Neighbourhood: The Parisians

There a quite a lot of second homes in the village, places people either have inherited from aunts, uncles, parents, and cousins or houses that by some strange twist of fate now belong to people from Holland, Germany, or *gasp* even Paris. Estrangers who have bought old places and fixed them up during their short and infrequent visits to the mole hill.

I like it when they are all here. They open their shutters and turn on the lights and the life of this village changes. There are more bisous to give, more stories to share, and more good excuses for a lengthy dinner by the wood stove. Not to forget, the best excuse for grabbing a bottle of wine from the reserve section on the wine rack. 

There's a couple from Paris, so to speak, who bought their house about the same time we bought ours. They had moved all over France with His job over the years and after spending time in the Auvergne, decided it was here, in the sticks, that they needed to find some quiet. I can recall numerous vacations and long weekends when She would be here, working late into the night, sanding and painting, just to get their old house looking as wonderful as it does now. I'd see her in her work clothes, smudged with dirt and dust and then on the day she'd be leaving, this beautiful woman would appear at my gate, wearing shoes fit for Paris, and say good bye till next time.

I didn't get to see much of them this year since He had been transferred to another job in Eastern Europe. A massive life change for them which meant changing everything about their lives. They left their apartment in Paris, had to figure out how to get their three not-quite independent children set in various schools and towns around the country, and then move themselves to a place where they had no contacts and needed to learn a language that most of us have forgotten exists.

It's been hard for them. 

The Man and I sat with them in the lounge last night and talked about how hard this year has been. How hard it is to be in your 40s (or almost) and realize that this isn't really where you want to be: full of stress, anxious for the future and worried that your children will resent you for choosing to do as you've done. We talked about how difficult it is to take risks and not lost sight of who you really are. We talked about how being together in our couples is so much more than one could have ever expected when we said those words, "I Do" ever so long ago. 

We pondered 'why.' We tried to understand how things have gotten to this point in our lives, not sure that we have any good answers to any of the big questions, knowing that we are basically fumbling blindly through this life. We talked about how when it comes right down to it, the thought of giving it all up and running away to a shack in Idaho sounds just about perfect...

It's been a shitty year for so many people.

I don't blame them for not opening their shutters this time.

Friday, October 29, 2010


It's been a nice week here at the B&B. Had time to enjoy some easy vacation days with the kids, the aforementioned doctors' appointments, a day schlepping the tribe along while on a work related buying spree with a co-worker, a good lunch with a good friend, and a home cooked meal made for us by people I can bitch to in English.

Makes dealing with strike action, new job stress, dog poop, and fighting children almost seem like nothing at all.

The nicest part of this week has been that I've had a bit of music stuck in my head that has made the sun shine a little brighter and the worries a little easier to deal with. The Man played it for me last weekend and somewhere along the way, all the memories I had of this song from years ago have now been wrapped up with an optimism for the future that I'm so glad to have in my hands and heart.

My plan is to play this song over and over again and enjoy the now to it's fullest. You do the same.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lost Miles

I can't run.

I stare at my shoes, both pairs that I bought this summer in the States, and I feel sorry for them. 

My trail shoes are lightly covered in mud from my last run, a 3 1/2 hour jaunt back in September through the fields and trails between the village on the hill and the ruins of a chateau about 8 kilometers from here. Since that day, they sit next to the front door, waiting.

My road shoes went with me when I went to Paris. I had loved the idea of running along the Seine or through the Jardin du Tuileries. But in the end, they only served to confirm my 'Americanness' as I walked around the city after my classes. 

I can't run.

And I'd be lying if I said I missed it. 

How that scares me. 

Here was something I did as a constant, something that I depended on to clear my head and keep me sane, and now...

I can't run.

Someone once asked me, "what are you running from?" I laughed and tried to explain. 

But now, I'm wondering exactly that. 

What was I running from?

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Last Day

The kids start their October break this afternoon and I have to admit, I'm looking forward to it. We've got some plans to play with friends, several necessary doctors appointments, and hopefully the chance to hang in our pjs till noon and eat popcorn while watching "Surf's Up," the latest and greatest tribe favourite.

It's also dawned on me this afternoon that I'm currently in the last couple of hours of my existence as a stay-at-home-mom.

Boy, that sounds weird.

I only pray that by some miracle my organizational skills become fabulous over this vacation because if not, the lack of matching socks is going to take a serious turn for the worse.

Oh my GOD. I'm going back to work.

Somebody, hold me.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


There have been other times in my life when I've felt as exhausted as I do now but usually that was due to some small person making their entrance into this world. I swear, I could lay down right now, rest my head on the keyboard and easily wake up hours later with a nice imprint of the letter "r" crushed into my cheek. "It's a freckle, I swear....."

I'm not sleeping well on one hand because Rosie has decided that sleeping through the night is just so yesterday's news. I don't know if it's her teeth or that she hates being stuffed into a sleeping bag to go night-nites, but she's taken to wailing in her sleep, loudly, several times a night. I've been bounding down the stairs in the dark, going into her and rubbing her little fuzzy head each time, and just as I'm about to leave & close the bedroom door, she starts howling again.

Last night, I took teeny tiny steps across the room to try and reach the door before she knew I was gone, but I got busted as I turned the handle. Once I finally did get her settled for good, I had the wonderful joy of hearing Typhon picking up right where she left off.

I'm also exhausted because I am stressing about going back to work after 10 years of being at home in sweatpants. All of the sudden, I'm needing to actually shower every morning and, not only that,  needing to find clothes that match AND that don't smell like huskies or poop. Not an easy task when I've decided to become completely French and go on a full fledged strike against the washing machine.

I'm exhausted because I'm still on an emotional roller coaster that started a month ago today. I see things clearer now than I did then. I feel better about most things now than I did then. I actually feel that I might be able to find some positives out of a really shitty situation.

But then, all of a sudden in the car, or at night when I'm on the dark stairs listening to Rosie, or when I get a text message from The Man, or when I'm just picking up toys, or putting dishes in the dishwasher, or reading something about the strikes, or I hear a name, or I get a hug from a friend, I go there. That place where my heart exploded into a million pieces and where my life, as I naively loved it, ended.

I'm exhausted because I love. Because I haven't stopped loving. Because I'm in a place where my heart is trying to glue itself back together and carry everyone with it. It's a hard choice The Man and I have made and happy as we both seem about things, it's going to take a long time before anything feels like normal again. This is now life as we live it. Cautiously, humbly, not taking anything for granted.

This life, made up of our lives, that are a whirlwind of shattered pieces, new jobs, children who need reassurances that everything is going to be ok, dog fur, and a teething baby, is exhausting.

And I'm not ready for it to naively end.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

And Just What Does One Say To That?

I dropped Bubba-Love and The Princess off at school today so I could head into town for a morning meeting with my co-workers. As we walked up the stairs to his classroom, I explained to Bubba-Love how someone else would be looking after him this morning since the teachers were on strike. Again.

He stopped on the last step and looked at me with that serious look only a 4.5 year old can give when confronted with the complexities of strike action in France...

"Mom," he said, "if she doesn't like teaching school that much, why doesn't she just get another job?"

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Week in Paris

I apologize for the silence. Seems the gods or God had found a way to move me out of the world I was swimming in and onto something else entirely.

I had a window open, as it were.

I got a job.

And the nicest part about this job is that I needed to get some training. In Paris. For a week.

It was good for my soul, my soles, and everyone. The tribe has missed me. The Man has missed me and, believe it or not, I missed me.

After the days' training sessions, I wandered Paris. Into museums, churches, stores, restaurants, and parts of that wonderful city I didn't know before. I got lost, I got found, I got blisters, I got my hair done, I got time.

I'm home now and I am beyond happy to be here. The children are crying, the floors need to be cleaned and my Man has made me coffee.

There's work to be done.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


It's a warning that's on every box of matches and every bottle of lighter fluid. A simple statement of fact that fails to nail down just how horrible the consequences can be.

Carelessness causes not just fire, but pain and destruction. Carelessness ruins things one takes for granted, like a solid structure of a home or the confidence of a loved one.

Carelessness causes fire in places where the ill fated winds decided to carry it. Even with it's warning so cleary written on the outside, people who decided not to read the label closely will be burned.

Carelessness causes fire. Only by smothering that lack of attention, that lack of thought, it's the only hope we have in not ruining everything around us.





Thursday, October 7, 2010


We talk, The Man and I, like we haven't in years. I hear him laugh right from his heart and I cry because I have no idea how long it's been since I last heard him do that. I cry because I can't believe I didn't realize how long he'd been gone.

He brought me coffee in bed this morning and we just sat next to each other in silence. I studied his face, his eye lashes, his nose...the familiarity and strangeness of him all at once. We've said so much already these last weeks that in this little bit of calm, we could almost hear our feelings echoing between us.

We finished our coffee slowly, neither one of us really wanting to get up and get on with the day. Both of us tired, clinging to just a few more minutes there, in that place, together.

There are so many hours till I can talk with him again and the battle between my head and heart is ugly.

Monday, October 4, 2010

On Being Lost

We loaded the kids into the bateau de route yesterday and just drove. Both The Man and I needed to get away from these walls, this place, and all the emotions that we've been trying to deal with. So with a packet of biscuits and some bottles of water, the six of us ran away.

We took random turns, through random villages, amazed that in the 6 years we've lived in the little village on the hill, we had never gone those ways before. It was if our route was matching that of our souls: a little lost, a little confused, but with a rough idea of where we were.

Somehow we found ourselves at the start of a small trail with some picnic tables overlooking the plains below. We all piled out of car, had a snack and listened as the wind howled around us, cracking dry brittle tree limbs that were waving above us. We decided to follow the trail for a bit, the kids running ahead, The Man and I next to each other, walking wounded, as it were.

The trail split and without thinking, I recalled out loud a Robert Frost quote from my childhood, one that hung on a giant banner in the front hallway of my elementary school:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

So that's what we did.

We found ourselves tumbling out into a high meadow, just us and the wind. The Man and I lay down and as we held each other's hands, our love & our life, in the forms of our children, ran and climbed all over us.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Going Under

The ambiance at the pool yesterday was tense. I don't know if it was the kids or my own shattered brain, but nothing seemed to be going smoothly. None of the games in the water really seemed to work and we ended up just letting the group play jellyfish for most of  the time.

It wasn't just our group that was off, the maître-nageur also seemed to be having difficulty with his group. Granted, he has some of the most challenging boys with him, but yesterday, things seemed to escalate beyond the realms of normal 7 year old boy behavior.

At one point, the maître-nageur punished the entire group and left them sitting on the side of the pool until the three main trouble makers, Valentin, Alexi, and Tomai, understood how horrible they were being. He then made the whole group line up on one side of the deep end and, one by one, swim as fast as they could to the other side.

The only problem was that some of these kids aren't really psychologically ready to get across that pool. Sure, they know how to kick and pull with their arms, but they just don't know that they know how to swim.

I saw Valentin dive in with a huge grin on his face. He made it halfway across, close to where I was with my group, and then stopped. He  bobbed up and down for a minute, and then between moments of sheer panic, he began to frantically search around him for a wall or a kick board. I glanced at the maître-nageur who was standing on the side of the pool watching, all the while Valentin becoming more and more distressed.

Finally, my heart couldn't handle it anymore and I began to swim towards this boy I've known since he was 3 years old. I made two strong strokes, but by then the maître-nageur had already beaten me to him.

Later on in the changing rooms, Valentin looked at me with his large dark brown eyes now filled with fear and said,

"He was going to drown me. He was going to drown me."

"No, Valentin," I sobbed as the tears poured down my face and into the hole in my heart. "No, I wouldn't have let him. Never. Never."

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Do you hear that?

It's the sound of the silence that is screaming through my broken heart and I can not make it stop. No matter how much I've cried, no matter how much I've listened, it won't stop.

It's lashing at my hair, blowing the tears off my face and haunting me in every room of this house that is now no longer a home.

I take a deep breath, open my eyes and scream back with everything that I am.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Empty Your Attic

The village had it's annual vide grenier yesterday which meant pretty much everyone in town emptied out their basements, attics, and garages, set up stands around the square and then stood there for hours hoping someone would pay a heck of a lot of euros for old granny's hot water bottle.

At least it was a nice day.

MH and The Princess searched every single nook and cranny in our house for all the centimes they could find so they could buy all kinds of wonderful stuff. They are now the proud owners of a disco ball microphone and yet another marble game amongst other things like fridge magnets and more broken little cars. Yippy.

I got given a very nice version of Monopoly by some friends of mine. I'm still trying to understand the irony of finding something that reminds me of when I was footloose and fancy free while standing in the square of a village on top of a mole hill in the backwater of France, yelling at my children to stop asking for barb à papa.

Who knew that a game about the Chamonix of the Rockies would have been such a big hit here in the darkest Auvergne? I just wonder which one of my neighbours was friends with John Denver?

In the end, a nice day was had by all. Especially our buddy, Christophe, who knows how to make the day, and by coincidence his sales, just that much nicer.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The People in My Neighbourhood: Smahia

When I first started sending Bubba-Love to the creche, I had no idea what the heck I was doing. Not because I didn't get the whole leaving-your-kid-in-day-care thing, but because I didn't really understand the nuances of what going to a creche meant. Having not been raised in France and not speaking the 'real' language, there were lots of little things that seemed simple to understand that just went over my head. Like what was expected in his lunch, the fact that slippers were obligatory, and the whole gigoteuse thing. Sure, a lot of this would be similar for any parent beginning to use any day care, but when you're coming at something like this with a whole different cultural background, something so simple as slippers can become complicated. And frightening.

Thank God for Smahia. 

The first time I met her and bumbled my heavily accented hellos, she took my little man in her arms and with a simple smile, made me feel at ease. She spoke slowly and never seemed to try and guess at what I was saying until I got to the point where I just couldn't charade it any more. It was obvious in her manner that even though I was butchering her native tongue, she respected me and didn't make me feel like an idiot. I was a parent dropping off her son, just like all the other mothers that morning. I could have kissed her.

Thing is, as I've come to learn over the years, Smahia was the best person to understand. She remembered all too well when her own mother would have difficulty trying to get by in French many years ago. Her mom was like me. Not from here, but raising her family here. Raising children who's nursery rhymes are songs we'd never heard before.  Children who have the French manner of saying, "oh la, la, la, la" with the right hand gestures to go with it. Children who are French even though their parents are not. 

I forget now where exactly in the Maghreb Smahia's mother is from, but it really doesn't matter. There are things that a mother with a North African background and a mother with an American one do share when they live here. At times we are lost, confused, unsure of ourselves, and missing "home." We also share this incredibly wonderful thing of having worldly children who, at tender young ages, get what it means to be multicultural. 

It's a God send knowing Bubba-Love, and now little Rosie, get to be with someone like Smahia at the creche. She 'gets' them. And their mother. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Down Time

It's getting late and I'm waiting for Hubster to get home. All the members of the tribe have been fed and watered and hunkered down for the night. The four legged ones with a scratch behind each ear, the two legged ones with a hug and a kiss.

It's so quiet that I can hear my thoughts arguing with each other. Should I worry about why I exist or should I focus on how I'm going to get a weed wacker to the repair shop tomorrow while having to deal with two ricocheting toddlers?

Should I play on Facebook and see if I can find more of my past and wonder how it's possible that I've crossed paths with extreme skiers, insane runners, some simply wonderful French people, evangelistic Christians who I actually like to listen to, and those who may have just been witnesses to my life as a comet?

Perhaps I should read a book. Or maybe write a letter. Open some wine or take a bath. Or just sit here and watch the bat that lives in our stone wall do his nightly aerobatics past the window and marvel that he's as blind as I am in this world and yet.... He seems to be doing ok. Perhaps I am too.

The church bells are chiming out yet another hour. How grateful am I for that.

And for the sound of Hubster's car.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Coming Soon!

My apologies for not writing sooner. Between toddler wrestling, sibling rivalry and the basic nightmares of back-to-school meetings, I've found myself short of time and short of ideas. I already bore you with loads of random blah blah as it is, I didn't want to nail the coffin completely shut by talking about the September menu at the cantine. (Though, puree and tête de veau twice a month is quite exciting, isn't it?)

But, I do have good news. I've decided that I'm going to make an attempt to introduce you to some of the people in and around the mole hill that make our life here so interesting and good. There's the local healer, the insane woman who gets me lost in the woods, the very funny boulanger, the wonderful women at the creche, Grandma Francaise, and even the secretary at the Mairie, for starters.

Hell, you know us so well, why not get to know those here that we know well, right?  Now, I'm not promising this will be a regular feature, but I will try and do this at least once a month. Pinky-swear. And feel free to remind me. Especially if I start talking about really boring stuff like poop or children or French grocery stores too much.

Till then, you guessed it, I'm off to clean up dog poop, take the kids to horse riding lessons, chase Bubba-Love around the grocery store, and then if I'm lucky, spend some time matching socks.

Jealous, aren't you?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Rentrée des Bisous

This whole going back to school thing has been incredibly stressful for me. Not because I'm sending my children off to spend their days with highly trained and strike happy teachers.  No, it's been this whole bisous thing.

A bisous, as some of you may be aware, is the way the French like to greet people. You say, "Bonjour" and then you cuddle up to them and press your cheek softly against theirs and make that gently puckering noise often associated with kissing babies. Sometimes someone might give you a full on the cheek kiss as they might  like to do and that's fine. Perhaps a bit wet, but fine all the same. Then, once you get one side done, you then have to do the same thing all over again on the other side.

Doesn't sound too complicated, now does it?

BUT, ALAS! Simple trickery once again! Just who does one give a bisous to? I've known the teacher for almost 8 years but the thought of giving her one has never crossed my mind. Then, there are the people I've known from school year to school year, who's children have caused all kinds of ruckus with mine for the last few years, and I'm scared I'll smack my nose against theirs as we say hello. Then, finally, there are our good friends, who's children I've feed and had sleep over. I'm almost sure I need to give them a bisous, but I feel so silly trying to kiss my good friend's husband.

To bisous or not to bisous, that is the question.

Good thing we got to school 15 minutes early yesterday so that I could bisous or not bisous the other parents and kids that were there. Luckily our Auvergne bisous is only one on each side. It must add a 1/2 hour to any group greeting in places where 4 is considered polite.

Yes, you see, because it is normal when you go somewhere where other people have also been invited (dinner parties, drinks etc) that you give a bisous to everyone who's there. Once again, I'm at a loss. Do introduce myself as I switch sides? What if I've got a cold? Do I have to bisous that man that smells like goat's cheese?

I will admit that this is where I flaunt my foreignness to the hilt. I show up behind my adorable cherubs and just smile like the village idiot. I wave at everyone, hug a few people, and then just yell "BONJOUR" to all and sundry standing there. There is a reason why I've cultivated this "airhead" thing as well as I have.

So at least I survived the dreaded rentrée bisous for this year. Now, I can go back to just kissing people that offer me wine.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Oh Happy Day

So 3/4 of the tribe trundled back to school today.

Mini-Husband got up at 6:45am to get ready for his 8am bus ride. The Princess was up at 7:15 and finally got her hair brushed with just 10 minutes to go. Bubba-Love "lost" his back pack somewhere in the house. We searched everywhere but only found it when he went to use the bathroom before walking up to school.

All things considered, not too bad a start to the school year.

And what did the other 1/4 and I do, you must be wondering? See if you can guess...

Nothing but happiness and joy. Happiness and joy!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I Bought Two Bottles in the End

It occurred to me yesterday that I have absolutely no need for a mobile phone. No one calls me, no one texts me, the only people who might need to reach me are the ones who can physically do so as they follow me around the house yelling about siblings.

I had finally recharged my phone after having forgotten about it for the month of August. All ready to roll, I decided perhaps it would be nice to catch up with some of my friends with a quick, "how was vacation?" text. Seven sent, zero replies. I'm hoping it's because their own phones are still snoozing somewhere and not because they had blocked anything from my number.

Later, standing in the booze section of the grocery store with three people high on barbe a papa (thank you Buffalo Grill,) I tried reaching Hubster for a little advice on just where in Scotland our whiskey should come from. He told me he'd call me right back.

I'm still waiting.

Thank God at least the sugar high has finally worn off.

I plugged the phone in again this morning just for kicks and giggles. It looks so cute all lit up and blinking, pas des messages. I feel kinda sorry for it, actually. Such a nice phone with all kids of lovely little features, stuck living in the back of a drawer next to four year old gum packets, dead batteries, and tick spray.

I lived without one for years and I'm thinking the time has come to do just that once more. Perhaps I'll rethink this whole thing in a few years when Mini-Husband is off learning how to drive cargo boats, but until then, back to the drawer with you! I prefer feeling insignificant all by myself, without you reminding me that I have pas des messages, thank you very much.

So if anyone needs me on this last day of summer holidays, I'll be wandering around the village, trying hard to enjoy the sunshine and the tribe. We'll be the ones yelling in English.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Don't Eat the Tomatoes

Bubba-Love went running through the front door yesterday afternoon, flashed me a big smile and shrieked with glee,

"I love being home. I get to pee on mommy's plants again!"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What I Learned on Summer Vacation

I think I should begin this by point out that now that I've been home for over a week, I can't really remember vacation so I'm not sure that I learned anything. But, since I promised all and sundry that I'd extrapolate a little, I'll do my best.

*When you stress about how well a 15 month old will handle a 7 hour flight, don't forget that the three other people related to her will find new and incredible ways to freak you out.

*I hate air conditioning. There, I've said it. Even when it was ridiculously hot and humid, I wanted to throw open the doors and windows and bask in the heat. Sure, it's nice to escape from the insanity by hiding in the mall, car or house, but I have come to realise that I actually like feeling the seasons. Sweat marks be damned.

*There is nothing like diners. Good old fashioned diners where at lunch time you can order pancakes for your 4 year old, a grilled cheese for your 8 year old, chicken noodle soup for a princess, mashed potatoes and meatloaf for the littlest one, and a nice big fat Reuben sandwich for yourself. All with a never ending glass of mixed ice tea and lemonade. This is what I call a happy meal.

*I'm secretly hoping that one day Hubster gets an expat deal to the US just so we can buy a Mustang convertible, an industrial style gas grill, more running shoes than I can dream of, and a Malamute puppy from one of my favourite breeders in Colorado.

*Family is tough because no matter what we think about each other, the problem is that we are all very, very much alike. There's a beauty in knowing that. And that's where this love is so amazing. I hope we continue fighting and forgiving for years to come.

*My high school friends are the people I have always hoped they'd be. Made even better by their spouses and their children.

*My college friends are the people I've always needed them to be. Thank God they still "get" me after all these years. I only hope I can return the favour.

*My kids have decided after an afternoon in Target, that America is the greatest place on earth.

*Jet lag sucks. In both directions.

*As much as I liked "Thriller" back in the day, it's killing me how often the tribe is singing 'Beat it.' Seven hours of Michael Jackson to the US and then 6 hours of Michael Jackson home. Who needs movies when you can air guitar to this morsel for hours on end? And the worst part? They still haven't figured out all the words. "Na-na-nana-na, na na na na. BEAT IT!" Someone shoot me.

*All the excitement, all the planning, all the stress for those fabulous three weeks and WHAMO. It's done. Here I sit, back at home, as if I'd never left. The memories are there and I loved it all, but wow. It's over. I only hope that when we die, it's a bit like this. We sit next The Big Guy/Gal and say, "Boy, that was fun."

*I got to run with my middle sister and hang with my parents. I ate steamed crabs with my fish fearing sister and drink Sam Adams Summer Ale with my brother-in-laws. I got to laugh with my nieces and nephews and get eaten alive by mosquitoes with the other important women in my life. I got to be reminded of who I was and where I'm from and see how that all meshes into where I'm going.

All things being said and done, I think Tim Vine, the winner of the Best Joke at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year, has the best thing to say about such a vacation en famille:

"I've just been on a once-in-a-lifetime-holiday, I'll tell you what, never again."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

And so we're back. And I'm having the worst time remembering where all the right keys are on this French keyboard so forgive me for any really wacko typos. Hard enough trying to use my mom's keyboard that had no "p" and now, I keep losing the "w" and the "a." Oh well. Tough price, this international life, eh?

We returned to a typical French welcome which meant that after having to zoom around Charles de Gaulle airport in various buses after that festive 7 hour flight, we arrived at the little terminal for our domestic flight only to be told that security wasn't open till 6 am. So we, and the bus load of other air weary passengers, would just have to wait. Two minutes to be exact. It was only 5:58 am you see, God FORBID they work over time.

Ah, la France. I've missed you.

Once back home, we were informed by Grandma Francaise that we and our dogs had created un scandale during our absence. According to her and our neighbour, they had howled and cried and caused all kinds of mayhem for the last TWO MONTHS and that EVERYONE in the village was pissed off and ready to send them to Alaska.

Cue my favourite emotion: Catholic Guilt.

I drowned my sorrows with a bottle of rosé on the terrace with Hubster, determined that this morning I'd make amends. Off I went in search of all and sundry in town to apologize for not having chosen to kennel them for these two weeks we all were gone. Apologize that poor Musher Boy had done his best to take them out everyday and make sure that they were alright. Apologize for the noise and disruption and promise that this wouldn't happen again.

And you know what? Everyone I apologized to told me they hadn't heard the dogs at all. Maybe once, but they weren't nearly as bad as so-and-so's dogs on the square...

Cue: Catholic Confusion.

Now, I'm sure that Typhon sang and Anouk acted like a state trooper, but overall, I'm wanting to believe that it wasn't as bad as I'm fearing. Musher Boy is a good, responsible kid and I don't regret leaving the fuzzy bumpkins at home rather than in a kennel. I hate to think that they did really upset everyone and I can only hope that the truth is out there somewhere.

Since then, I've been busy kicking the spiders out of the various summer camp locations around our house and hoping that this jet lag thing wears off soon. I'll try to give a little rundown on the highlights of the trip and What I Learned on Summer Vacation but that's going to have to wait for now.

All scandales considered, it's good to be home.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


This week has been a blur. I see sand all over the floor of the bathtub and some mangled, wet swimsuits thrown into a corner and I'm vaguely aware that we've been to the beach. The kids are brown and Rosie has taken to cleaning out her digestive system by taking the "Sand Diet" to heart.

It's beautiful here.

We've been eating and drinking and eating and laughing and drinking and eating some more until thunderstorms roll in and we find the need to drink a little something else and just sit on the decks and watch the lightening as it rolls out to sea.

It's not at all like home. It's louder, newer, and in English all the time.

The tribe has learned how to boogie board and jump the waves. They've decided Speedo swimsuits are for Europeans, pizza is awesome for breakfast and cousins can be just as painful as siblings. They can now swim across the pool and jump in without fear. They can't remember the boulangerie and they point blank refuse to speak in French.

I'm with my people and laughing as Hubster tries to understand Americans, seafood, and peanut butter creme pie.

It's good. I'm getting my fill and starting to be homesick. Four more days. Four more days.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

OBX and Rocky Mount, North Carolina

You know, it's really hard trying to blog when you see all 7 of your readers making bacon in the kitchen next to you. It's just a reminder that what I write really is a load of hog swallop that only people who share some genetic connection to me through birth or marriage might actually be interested in reading.

That being said, I'll talk to myself here and note how much I'm in love with Rocky Mount, NC. A small town that seems to have little going for it, with the nicest people and the coolest park where everything costs a dollar. Who knew that when we randomly picked to meet up there with Miss Tennessee 1975 and her family yesterday, how awesome that would turn out to be.

We found a spot for all 6 kids to run and splash in a water park where the risk of drowning was non-existent. We found a spot where we could ride around on a miniature train, just like the one Mini-Husband has in his room, and laugh as it  whisked us through a most welcomed shady tunnel of wisteria. Sno-Cones and ice cream, a carousel, and the people who actually debunked my theory about the shallowness of the American, "how you doin'?"

A picnic next to shady trees with a cool Riesling and good friends who I miss more than I can admit. I love that place, that day, those memories. Thank you Rocky Mount and thank you Middle Sister for letting us escape the family so we could be with friends.

Now on to a week sequestered with the family on the Outer Banks. If we survive the bacon rush each morning, we might be able to deal with the beer run in the afternoons. Amen for a pool at the rental house and teenage nieces. I could get used to this.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Can't You See I'm Trying to Ignore You Here?

It's been over a week that we've now been in the United States of Casual and I have to say, I'm still suffering from culture shock.

People are so darn nice here. So very, very, freakishly nice. They ask how your day is going, they smile and say hi when you pass them running, they even come and refill your never-ending cup of soda at the fast food joints. I'm so out of practice at this chit-chat thing, it's killing me. And the guilt I'm feeling at the grocery store when I see that poor man STANDING there, bagging my groceries! Quelle horreur!

The only exception to this whole killing-me-with-kindness-thing was the other night when I screwed up going  through a toll booth and rather than going through the automatic lanes, I ended up going through the one where a very bored and determined young man wasn't about to let me out of the toll without giving him a dollar.

"But the car has an Easy-Pass," I said.

"Didn't work," he replied without shifting his gaze from his iPhone.Who was this woman interrupting him like this?

"It's supposed to pay automatically, right?"

"Look, it didn't," he grunted, still not looking me. "You need to give me a dollar or you can't go through."

I'm not sure he wound have understood the compliment I wanted to bestow on him if I had actually said out loud what was passing through my head. If only he knew that across that great big ocean, he's got a fabulous community of toll booth workers who love doing what he was doing and even liked to make life more fun by going on strike from time to time.

I have to admit that I was kind of happy to meet this atypical American. Someone who obviously didn't give a shit about what was going on and didn't have a problem showing that. It restored my faith that you can find helpful people outside of Paris and obnoxious people in Virginia.

Even though our languages may be different, people are people no matter what size the toll booth. I just wonder what app he bought with the dollar.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Four A.M. Again

It's just not fun, this whole jet lag thing. Feeling like you've been beaten around the head by a used gym towel, then left out in the sun to bake for several hours, really isn't all it's cracked up to be. I know, I know. It's my own damn fault that I have to deal with this. I should have stayed safely on the east coast of the United States after college, but nooooooo, I had this thing that I needed to travel, explore, search. I just didn't realize how much coffee I was going to need when I finally did come home.

The tribe has been consistent with the jet lag joys by waking up each day at about 4 a.m. I try to keep them quiet so as to not wake Kitty and BaPa but unfortunately, where they come from, opening your front door early in the morning doesn't set off alarms notifying all and sundry that one of  the inmates is trying to escape. (I'm sure there's a market out there for these type of wake ups since both Kitty and BaPa were up and dressed in about two minutes after that little experience. Snooze alarms be warned! Your days are numbered!)

I'm trying to look at the positives about being up so early... and I'm not really finding any. I'm just going to have to hold it together till Rosie goes down for a nap so I can crawl back into the closet I've decided is my bedroom. Yes, you read that right. I'm sleeping in a closet. A huge walk in closet that has it's own door, it's own air conditioning vent, and is far enough away that I don't hear snoring or teeth gnashing in the night. I think it was intended to be used as an office or a play room, but as I doze near my parents winter clothes and shoes, I'm thinking it's true calling is a hiding place. If only I could really do just that for a little bit longer at night.

I'm going to stop whining now, go make some more coffee and watch the tribe play with my old toys that have somehow lasted the test of time and 7 other grandchildren.

This, this being here, jet lag and all, is worth it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Thoughts on Flying Sardine Cans

Somehow, by the grace of God and some good pilot training, me and the tribe have arrived safely on the other side of the pond. I don't think I could even begin to explain the level of stress I was harbouring over this trip. The panic attacks involving various scenarios of us either dying in a ball of flames or having Rosie alternatively screaming or throwing while sitting on my lap for 8 hours must have been some of the best panic attacks I've produced to date. Luckily, as is usually the case, the attacks were for nothing.

Rosie was her adorable little self, smiling and giggling, making the most of Paris-Charles de Gaulle's vast terminal 2E to run laps around other passengers from around the world. I know I should be nervous about that guy waiting for the Beijing flight who snapped a couple of pictures of her with his iPhone, but I'm just not going to go there right now...

Much to Mini-Husband's delight, the entire THRILLER album by Michael Jackson was available on the plane. I'm going to kill French Me for introducing the tribe to this because sitting next to an 8 year old while he plays air guitar to "Beat It" for 5 hours is enough to make anyone start looking like a zombie. Not that I needed any more help in the zombie department.

I need to give up the dream of arriving off the plane looking wonderful and good. It's not possible when you travel in cattle class with 5 children: four of whom like to yell, three of whom like to fight, and one who somehow always manages to find chocolate which is then rubbed into my hair and clothes. I think my nephew was psyched when he realized that other people actually spoke English so he could pretend like he didn't know us anymore. Lucky kid.

In end, we made it. A huge thanks is due to all the kind flight attendants, the other weary long-haul passengers who didn't glare, the lovely U.S. customs people who I lied to about wine, and that aforementioned family who took my tired, weary children away from their post-traumatic stressed out mother and brought us "home." 

The cars are huge and the people way too friendly but I think we'll suffer through just fine. Mini-Husband told me this morning that he likes it here in America. According to him, it's way better than France and almost as cool as England.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

All the Hippies Go Berserk

Two of the blogs I read regularly both posted about tents recently. Yes, tents. Those nylon wonders that protect and serve in such a simple manner.  What's not to love about something that gives you the freedom to sleep where you want, when you want?

How many trips and summers living in the mountains did I get to appreciate the whole fabulousness of setting the damn things up after 4 beers in the rain? Or of finally laying down to sleep only to realize that I set the thing up on an ant hill? There were many times I got to go camping and had never been so grateful for that trusty tent, ready to grant me shelter when the skies opened and the lightening cracked.

But I think my most favourite memories of tents has to be those tents that the dreadlocked hippies would sleep in during the summer music festivals where I used to work.

I don't know how they did it, but there must have been some sort of dreadlock telepathy or microchip grown into all that hair that notified everyone with a dread within a 200 miles radius to find their tents, load up their beat up old VWs, and head to our mountain for a weekend music festival of either rock or bluegrass.

There would be about a hundred of them sporting the most amazing locks in all shades and shapes and all I ever wanted to know was, where on earth had these people been hiding when there wasn't a music festival to go to? I never saw a dreadlock working at McDonalds, nor Target, not even the health food store in town. And then WHAMO. One crazy weekend in August, there they all were.

The dreads would stake out their tents around the resort's parking lot and start signing and dancing, just being happy and free. I felt like I had been transported back to the legendary world of the Grateful Dead when they were on tour. Tents of every colour, tents of every smell, tents pitched on the top of vans, tents pitched in the woods. Just like little mushrooms growing their happy hippies inside.

Usually on these weekends the weather would turn and the poor little tent village would get inundated by the mountain run-off as it went screaming through the parking lot to the ponds just below the resort. And inevitably, regardless of how many signs we put up or how often we told them not to, at about 1:30 in the morning we'd get reports of the dreads swimming in the cess pool.

Thank God most of them were too "happy" to realize just what they were swimming in.

And then WHAMO just like that, the tents and the dreads would be gone. Back to their normal lives where they would roll up their raw sewage smelling tents, stuff them way in the back of their parent's basement, then tuck those fabulous dreads up out of sight and go back to work at Starbucks, happy in the memories of another wonderful weekend of being free, being sheltered, regardless of the rain.

(You know, even now, 10 years later, the camping section of a sporting good store makes me start to hum Alison Krauss and a little bit of The String Cheese Incident. But I digress...)

We bought a massive great big tent two summers ago before Rosie got on the scene. It's literally a 3 room tent with a small lounge as well. The thing is so heavy that I can't even lift it. It mocks me from it's corner in the basement, begging me to find a music festival so that Mini-Husband, Bubba-Love, The Princess and Rosie can spin around in muddy circles next to a camp fire while Hubster dreams of all those 5 star hotels he stayed in back in the good old days before children and dogs.

But, my friends, I know it's there. I know it's waiting...

Come on, let's grow some dreads.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Truth About the Birth Control Bed & Breakfast Summer Camp

I think I need to come clean here and purge myself of a little bit more of that old Catholic guilt. Amazing how, once again, I'm feeling the need to track down a priest and cry out,

"Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. I have been using my nephew and nieces as unpaid labour and I LIKED IT. Ok, that's a lie. I LOVED IT and I want to do it again! And again!"

Seriously, my poor young relations. Their wonderful parents give them this opportunity to come stay with us, learn a bit about France, and get to know a little bit more about this wayward branch of the family. And what really comes to pass? I get them running around fetching nappies, babysitting Bubba and Rosie, cleaning up dog poop, folding laundry, and stacking firewood. Not to mention running up to the boulangerie when the poor kids don't even know how to speak French.

But it's just so nice having these kids around who are willing or just too scared not to help. We play with the dogs and talk about America, what sports they love, what music. They complain about being bored here since they don't have 15 different swim meets or lacrosse tournaments to get to on a weekend. They can't understand the shows on TV and the thought of making friends with the boy in the village who likes medieval swords is just a non-starter.

Culture shock in a bilingual manual labour camp. Summer at the Birth Control B&B.

Take poor Michael for example. Just yesterday he helped Hubster cut and stack enough wood to fill the basement while at the same time having to fight with Mini-Husband over just who was in charge when it came to the correct stacking method. He hasn't touched his lacrosse stick since it came out of his suitcase and the big day trips we had talked about doing have lacked the right "wow" factor. Overall, it's not quite the experience I think he imagined having in this land of Lance Armstrong and Le Tour.

I apologized to him over dinner how boring this experience must be, how France wasn't living up to it's exotic reputation. He gazed out over the view from our back terrace, his T-shirt discoloured by the hundreds of logs he'd helped carry all afternoon, and said,

"You know, I like France. You work hard and then you get to look at all this."

Perhaps it's been a good experience all the same.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

They're Faster Than You Think. I Think.

This summer I've been really trying to make our front garden look a little bit more attractive than it has the last few years. It's amazing what three huskies can do to grass. Not to mention flowers and shrubs. The lavender bush is just starting to come out of it's dog-pee induced shock and actually even bloomed for the first time in two years. Bless it's little purple flowers.

I bought a couple of nice plants at the local market just before my mom got here with the hope that there would be a nice mix of blooming flowers in the garden. I planted them all with care and watered them tenderly each night. Everything looked great until about 4 days before she got here. Then, I discovered the awesome power of THE SNAILS.

Sure, I knew those little house huggers liked to nibble away on some of my mauvaises herbes but I had no idea how much they loved pink and yellow flowers. It was as if I had planted a Denny's or "an all-you-can-eat-fish-n-chips" right there for them.

Common sense and most of our neighbours told me that I needed to kill the little guys or give them to the local restaurant. Eradicate them completely was what one neighbour told me. "Be vigilant, Dig. Try salt. It shrivels them up just like that."

If only I could. I look at their little antenna wiggling so innocently at me as they poke their heads out of those little shells and what can I do? It's not their fault I planted flowers in their bathroom.

I could see only one option in all this: a snail relocation program.

So hence, each evening, I've gotten in the habit of waiting for them to start slithering around the flowers when I can pick them up, with all their relatives and houses stuck together, and move them way across the garden, over by the composter. There's lots of great eating over there, what's a snail not to love?

Except that each night, I keep finding at least 3 or 4 more of the little stickers who need a lift back over to the other side of the garden. There's something oddly familiar about a couple of their condos which leads me to believe that snails may be even better about finding their way home than Lassie ever was. I've become convinced that each night there's a parade of snails, lugging their 2 bedroom/ 2 bath shells from one sleepy side of the the garden to the other, giggling as they arrive back at the buffet.

The crazy side of me wants to start marking off the recently moved with a nice big red magic marker so I can keep track of just who's going where out there. I'll start my own little scientific experiment in the daily life of French Gastropoda. Maps, charts, and colour coordinated stickers telling me if the big ones are actually slower than the small ones and just how far a snail can go in 8 hours. It'll be a summer long project that will fill me with intense delight and encourage my children to explore a small corner of the magical world of science.

Well, it's either that or a really good recipe, right?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words


The joys of just hanging around, trying to figure out how to keep all and sundry happy.

Vacation. That time of year when it's obvious just how well your children don't get along.

See this bear:

He looks like I feel. A little worn out, very dirty behind the ears, and ready for someone to throw him in the washing machine. Only difference is that I try like mad to hang on to a glass of wine while in the spin cycle.

Thank God I have had Kitty here to help remind me that loads of other mothers out there have all survived the school aged years and some of them have even successfully mastered the high school years because, let me tell you, after the last couple of days, I'm not so sure I'm sending anyone to high school.

If a 7 year old girl can have a tantrum that would give a runner-up prom queen a run for her money now, can you imagine how she'll be in 9 years?

Boarding school. I'm dreaming of boarding school.

Cousin Michael, who's been visiting with us for the last two weeks, is starting to realize how much easier it is to fight with relatives you do know than ones that yell back in French. But at least he's learning some French, right?

Two weeks till me and tribe become the visiting team. Let's just hope I can hold it together until then. Stinky, the bear pictured above, at least has a Doppleganger. Me, I've just got Hubster. And he gets to go to work. Lucky bastard.

Friday, July 9, 2010


It's late and I'm sipping white wine alone.

I've had an evening full of memories and life while watching the sun set.

My friend from high school is here. Funny how I never expected to know him this long, but knowing him now and knowing this beautiful woman he calls his wife, how wonderful. How we were then and how we are now....nothing and everything has changed.

It's hot and I doubt I can sleep. Too many thoughts in my head and I don't want to disturb Hubster. Beautiful man who is all I need. Sleep and dream, of us, of this world, of all that you love. Cradled in our bed, sleep while I wonder, while I ponder, while I worry about what will be.

Here I sit in the breeze of the wee early hours, drinking my wine, remembering the times when I didn't have what we have now. Scared to lose it all. Scared to make mistakes. Scared to not get it. Scared that we will take the blame.

I hear the neighbours opening their shutters to take advantage of the wind. They, like me, know how it cleanses the mind, the soul, the body. They know, like me, that the wind blows and we are in awe. We look to the star filled sky and know that all we want, all we need,  is here.

 A cool wind. A soft bed. Sleeping children.

Blow, wind, blow. Remind me how short this life is. How blessed I am. How blessed I've been.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Careful, He Might Think He's Actually French

"Dig! I have to tell you how cute Bubba-Love was the other day," one of the neighbours said to me.

"He was chatting away to me and correctly used the vouvoyer with me. I'm so impressed with how well he's learned French." 

"Wow. I don't even understand that whole "vous-tu" thing myself," I laughingly replied.

"He's so at ease in the language," they continued. "It's good to see how well he's integrated."

I had to try not to laugh out loud at that point. Yes. How well a four year old boy who happens to have been born in France and has lived his whole life in this tiny village on the hill has 'integrated.'

I guess that's easy to do when it's all you know.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Myth of "Vacation"

So the tribe is out of school for the summer holidays and I'm wondering why we didn't sell them all to the travelling circus when we had the chance.

Our people are loud. I mean LOUD. They are completely incapable of not screaming for something.





My head hurts from the noise.

Poor Nephew Michael, who only arrived here on Thursday for the month, is already missing the quiet and normal fights he has with his siblings.

"The screaming," he bemoaned, "Jeeeez. I prefer normal fights where people at least hit."

The white wine stock is quickly diminishing and I think Hubster might actually be working long hours just because he can, not because he has too. Who can blame him though? This place is a nut house.

Vacation. A stay at home mom's worst nightmare.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Letter from Prison

Dear Dig,

Thanks for coming to see us today. Nothing like a nice fresh bowl of water first thing in the morning. And getting rid of Anouk's poop, well, I don't quite know how to thank you. Not sure what she's been eating, but WHOA.

We were wondering though if it would be possible to bring back those really nice cold temps we had last week? It's not that we don't like the sun, it's just since we can't possibly shed any more this summer, it could get hard to cope. I know that the old outhouse makes a really nice cool spot to sleep but Anouk, damn her, decided to reinstate it's old use and so now laying in there just isn't possible. I've tried digging out a nice new hole right in front of the gate, but Abaka thinks it's for her. Sisters, I swear.

Please tell Musher Boy that even though I may seem very excited to see him, I'm really not. I don't care if it's a nice night, pulling that damn cart when I could be howling with the 10pm church bells really ticks me off. Why can't he just take Anouk so Abaka and I can have a couple of minutes peace? You do know that she's insane, that Anouk, don't you?

Thanks also for the little bit of chicken liver you threw to us yesterday. A nice treat and tasted just like the one we had back in November. Ahhh, the memories...

Well, my paws are getting a little tired and the hole is free, so I'm off to curl up and dream of living next to a nice tall mountain where it snows all year long and it's legal to chase cats.

'Till tonight's choir practice,


Monday, June 28, 2010

Nuit des Piqueurs

Have I ever mentioned how much the French like to walk? How serious these people are about any excuse to organize a randonnée and head out into the woods? Have I ever mentioned how they also find a way to combine this love of walking with the love of eating and drinking? Have I ever mentioned how much I love that?

Take Saturday night for example. Full moon, over forty happy people, an easy walk from one course to another in some of the hamlets around the village. Every once in a while, we'd stop and have a good laugh at some really raunchy street theatre. The final climatic stop being that at the statue of Mary, way up on our highest hill, where a man dressed as a monk juggled fire before doing his best impersonation of a dragon. 

The wine was good, the evening lovely, I wandered easily at the back of the group while Mini-Husband and Princess Boo lead the way with their friends from school. Have I ever mentioned how much I like living in a place where everyone knows my children and you really do get the feeling that it takes a village? 

We finished with desert back in the church square. It was 1am and the little hikers were beat. Sure, our town council likes to get in fights, sure the neighbours may fight over an inch of land, sure sometimes everyone knowing everything about you gets a little hard to live with, but when you walk through the woods and fields of this old place on a full moon in the end of June, you really know it doesn't get any better than this.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"Hubster, You are My Father."

No. Not mine. Although, there are moments when I wonder about that. But that's a deep psychological question I'm not sure I want to explore on a Thursday morning when I have all the kids in the house and Typhon woke me up at 2am with his singing. I might draw conclusions that would scare me, Hubster and my father and since I love them very, very much, we're not going to go there right now. Perhaps over lots of whiskeys later this summer but till then, let's just be happy that Husber and BaPa at least have one thing in common, me.

Where we are going to go right now is the local fire station, i.e. a garage behind the school where the truck is parked.

Mini-Husband got to have a tour the other day with Musher Boy. It lasted all of 15 minutes but M-H was psyched. Here's a shot of him wearing the helmet:

Truth be told, I think I'm a little concerned that our local pompiers wouldn't be able to see out of that Darth Vader thing. And fireman who can't actually see a fire really doesn't bode well for a fire call, now does it?

Overall, M-H had a great time climbing all over the truck, wearing the jackets and even getting to help roll up the fire hose.

And no. He's not getting one for Christmas. If he did, I'm sure he'd want to run that riot control drill way too often on his brother.