Saturday, January 30, 2010

Wearing It With Pride

I got the latest Vertbaudet catalog the other day and promtly filed it among the other magazines I hope to have at least 2 minutes to read at some point this month. That's right. It's in the bathroom.

As I finally flipped through the pages this morning, oohing and ahhing over the different styles and colours, I almost fell over.
Nah, it couldn't be.

A t-shirt in a hip and swanky French kids catalog talking about Margate? MARGATE? Are they serious?

Do they realize just what Margate is? Do they realize that one could argure that Margate is about as far away from cool as you can possibly get? Do they know that this once bustling sea side town, the town of Hubster and Mini-Hubster's birth, has been decimated by poor urban planning, no real economy, and overal apathy? I unkindly refer to it as "third world England."

I shouldn't be so harsh, maybe. There are some wonderful aspects of Margate besides just my in-laws and our friends there. The beach is lovely and back in the day, the area around it was great place to hang out. Now, it's just a few bars, boarded up shops, a lone chippy, and a burned out section where Dreamland used to be. Honestly, I find it a sad place, in urgent need of TLC and shit load of investment.

I have a hard time catagorizing Margate. It's not someplace I'd chose to go if I had the option but it is the home of my love, it's where I learned to be a mother, and it's where mountain dog, Luna, learned to like digging in the sand. As much as I hate to admit it, I like the place. A little bit.

So now, of course, I need to decide. Do I buy the kids each their own t-shirt or what?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

This'll Be Fun

I'm so not excited about this afternoon. Why? Well, Rosebud is sick. She's got a lovely fever and a cough that sounds like she's been a pack-a-day smoker since I was 15.

I took her down to see our généraliste this morning. He stuck his stethoscope on her little back, right under her natural tattoo, and announced, "Aië, aië, aië. C'est une bronchyolite."

Which in English means that little girl here has a lovely inflammation of the smallest air passages of the lungs. GREAT.

So what's the treatment you may ask?

The Inquisition. That's what.

You see, she's going to have the pleasure of meeting the super hot physical therapist with the Australian wife, who will then lay little almost 9-month old Rosebud down on her back and squeeze the living shit out of her lungs.

If it weren't for the fact that I'll be melting into a puddle of motherly tears, I'd say that the treatment is effective. Nothing like seeing a whacking great big loogey of phlegm come shooting out of your pride and joy.

I remember the first time I witnessed this. The Princess was only a few months old when her doctor told me in broken English that she needed, " 'elp to brive." Like Bambi caught in the headlights, I watched that little peanut scream bloody murder in both French and English while I stood in the corner of the therapy room crying. For months after, just laying her on her back to change her nappy would generate a chorus of baby expletives.

Yet another memory besides tree-lined streets that makes me shudder, twitch and climb into the dog house with Typhon.

Oh, and did I mention that this treatment isn't just a one off? Nope, the lucky little Rosebud gets to freak out for the next 5 days.

That's right. Five days.

Five days of lung squeezing. Five days of screaming 'til she matches the colour of her favourite hot pink pyjamas. Five days where, I promise you, I am going to drink wine until I can forget that it was me that drove her to that damn shrimp-on-the-barbie loving kinésithérapeute in the first place.

Someone either hold me or find the cork screw.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thoughts on the Veil

I'm about to bite off more than I can chew but with all the recent press about the French government's recommendation on a partial ban of Islamic face veils, I find myself confused over my own position and opinion about individual rights and the rights of society.

Hubster and I saw a program several months ago where this issue of the burka was discussed. One of the guests on the panel was a philosophe, about 40-45 years old, who commented that the problem with the burka wasn't the burka itself, but rather trying to understand how a person who is completely veiled could function and interact in society when society is dependant upon facial interaction for communication. He argued that the face and the eyes are how we share our humanity. Through our face and eyes, we make contact with a person, be it in a negative or positive sense. If the eyes and face are hidden, that contact, that communication isn't possible. Our humanity is negated.

I had never thought of it that way but as I've dwelled on this, I see his point. I personally have no issue with the burka if it is chosen freely by the woman wearing it, but I do see how it makes their participation in society difficult and uncomfortable for those who are on the other side of the veil.

You have to understand that France is obsessed by this idea of society. It goes beyond the ideals of liberté, égalité, et fraternité. France, I do believe, wants it's citizens and residents to be French. Completely and wholly French. The problem with this is that it leaves no room for the nuances of Frenchness, it makes embracing diversity hard if it isn't in line with traditional expectations of being French.

In my own experiences, I've had to learn that I have chosen to live here. Hence, I need to realize that by doing so, I am choosing the culture, the rules, the expectations of this country. I needed to learn French. I needed to learn that going on strike is normal. I needed to learn that church and state are more separate than any American could ever imagine. I've had it easy in my integration. I chose to come here and my culture is really not that radically different. There are others who come to France without much choice and it is these people who tend to be marginalized and neglected. I can understand the desire of the French to make everyone French, but there needs to be a bigger effort in doing just that.

There are moments in my life here when I see very clearly that accepting differences is so difficult to the French because they are extremely concerned, worried, that all that is French will cease to exist. Be it the language, the culture, their façon d' être, there is fear that all this is threatened. There is fear that this society, this citizenship, can not stand when faced with diversity. Hence, the only solution is to ensure that everyone participates completely in this society, everyone has equal footing, everyone becomes French. Sounds simple, doesn't it?

I feel for the 2000 or so women who wear the burka in France. I feel that their choice, whether freely made or imposed upon them, has become a rallying point for something that is beyond just the burka. How will this all play out? Only time will tell. But I hope and pray with all my heart that this country that I call home will find a way to embrace all of it's citizens and residents. I hope that all of us will also find a way to cherish and treasure that which makes France French. Burka and all.

Monday, January 25, 2010

There's Space in There For Sure

I had a lovely photo taken of my brain last week. Now, if I understood how to use said brain, I would attempt to hook up the scanner and whip up a picture of my lovely head here for you. But as the x-ray and MRI confirmed, I have no such organ. All of it has disintegrated with each round of child birth and any conversation I've ever had with the secretary at the Mairie.

I'm really not surprised. After all, how much abuse can a poor brain take? Years of binge drinking Miller Lite followed by a near decade of cold hungover mornings skiing by Braille in the Rockies, something had to give. Add on marrying someone who's accent still throws me for a loop after 8 years together, several children who yell gros mots I don't understand, and a dog who is convinced that I like waking up at 7am on Sunday mornings, it's amazing I've actually gotten this far.

The reason for the x-ray/MRI deal was that I've been having lovely headaches right smack over my right eye. It feels like I've got a small grape stuck in my sinus and try as I might, it just won't ferment and go away. The scans revealed nothing serious. A sinus infection that I didn't know I had and a bone spur. Funny image that. A bone spur. I start thinking that I've got some little cowboy tucked up in there trying to kick start that grape with his boots.

I'm pretty sure the bone spur is a result of a car accident I had way back when. I had been driving for only a few months when, while trying to turn down the volume on this horrible song that haunts me to this day, a tree jumped out in front of me and smashed up my car, my collar bone, my nose, and my friends. Just putting that link in there has caused me to twitch and shudder. Which I do quite often over here. Why? Well, what's worse than living in this country where Napoléon liked lining all the roads with trees. Trees RIGHT NEXT TO THE ROAD. EVERYWHERE. But I digress...

Bone spur. Could be much, much worse. And it is kinda fun having these lovely photos of my skull. They confirm what I've always said, "I'll be skinny when I'm dead." Turns out, I have the most amazing cheekbones.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Stinky Breath And All

There there are. My three little fuzzy friends.

I've been neglecting them this week and I'm feeling a little bad about that. Today, I took some time to hang out with them in the prison while I cleaned up the crap. A solid chunk of quiet time to just scratch everyone really well behind each and every ear.

As I was getting ready to leave the pen, they took up these poses and I felt even more guilty. Look at those faces. Sure, Anouk is casting her gaze way out west, towards the snow covered Sancy (where I spent yesterday avoiding them by skiing with the kids) but they actually look hang dog.

Seriously, Typhon looks like he's either about to start crying or singing and Abaka isn't blitzing around trying to eat Anouk's legs. She's there trying to get that floppy ear to stand up all by itself.

I love these dogs. As much as they drive us bat crazy when they escape or the neighbour calls at 1am to complain about Typhon's drunken bar behavior, I love these dogs. They demand my time, my energy, and my patience. Even when I'm thinking horrible thoughts about how much of a pain in the ass it is to have to go outside and deal with them during horrific weather or late at night when I've forgotten them earlier, they do something that always amazes me...they get excited to see me.

Pets do this. They remind you that there are creatures in this world who need you and love you no matter what a shit you might be in real life. Multiply that by three and you'll understand why I need to hang out in the pen more often. I think I've missed them this week too.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Day of Sounds and Smells

*6 kids in a little car. One of them farted about two minutes after we headed out on a 1/2 drive. There is no such thing as "fresh air" in January in farm country.

*Did you know that the carnival music in Dumbo is just as annoying in French as it is in English?

*It's a good thing that that nice man is here to do the plaster in the attic again. I just wish he didn't need to use a hammer and a buzz saw right above Rosebud's room.

*Who knew a boy of 3 and a boy of almost 4 could sound like a herd of elephants chasing a parrot through an airport on a set of stairs?

*Typhon only sings when he thinks no one is looking.

*The sound of my head exploding is roughly similar to the sound a wine bottle makes when you pull the cork out.

*Sitting in wet hay, petting three furry prisoners in lock down smells like victory. Dog shit all over your shoes doesn't.

*We really need to get rid of that piano.

Monday, January 18, 2010


There was a moment yesterday when I had to decide as a parent if I should hide the terrible truth about life and the miseries that go with it or actually give The Princess and Mini-Husband a crash course in the unexplainable horrors of this world.

I went with the horrors.

We stood at the computer, the three of us, looking at photo after photo on the CNN and BBC news sites. Images of all those people, all those buildings, all that loss, and we talked.

They wanted to know why people put sheets and blankets over the dead, why weren't people digging out the rubble, what happened to the electricity, why did everything fall down?

Here we were in our house, safe and warm, while we looked at those people who've just lost everything.

The Princess said it first, quietly under her breath.

"We're lucky."

And you who are reading this, are too. Remember that.

Médecins sans Frontières

The International Red Cross

Friday, January 15, 2010

Now Offering Sociology Courses at the Birth Control Bed & Breakfast!

I understand mob mentality now.

I see now how it is possible to like and love people as individuals, but when they team up with other individuals and go nuts in your living room and then your bathroom and then your hallway, how you wish each and every one of them was at boarding school in Siberia.

What amazes me most is how the mob actually forms. How a quiet group of people can be involved in something as harmless as eating cereal when all of the sudden, some magical word or look is launched, and everything goes to shit in about 2 seconds. There's cereal flying, someone running, and usually the instigator yelling at anyone in authority to make it stop.

The person in authority is at this point, waving their arms in useless directions and wondering where back up is. Person in authority is also looking for a place to hide and possibly wondering where s/he stashed that bottle of vodka. Person in authority has now become person non grata and is quickly forgotten by what once were nice, simple young children. Person in authority knows it's time to either deal with the mob or surrender.

And I have to admit, surrender looks like such a nice option sometimes.

Luckily for me and those seeking a Ph.D. in Sociology with us, the mob we've been studying did at some point fall asleep last night. And when they woke up, I sent them to school. And, if all goes well, two of the mob will happily be reunited with their parents when school lets out.

I never thought I'd say this, but I can't wait for tonight when it's just four kids I have to deal with.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Quick Post

My friend, French Me, lost her dad to cancer this past week. He had been diagnosed with the disease over a year ago, but even then the end came suddenly and all too fast. Cancer sucks in every form, every shape, and every way you look at it. Especially when those you know and love are struggling to find hope and courage to continue against the odds. I'm digressing here a bit, but I just hate this disease.

That being said, French Me headed off to Paris late last night in a blinding snowstorm to be with her mom for today's funeral. She left me her two little guys, ages 5 and 3, and so far everything on this end has been just fine. We've had a gloriously mild and sunny day, perfect for throwing all 5 of the big kids outside while I sat and cuddled a teething Rosebud.

It all goes to quick in this life. One minute, your changing some one's teeny tiny bottom and the next they are accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature. (One can dream, right? Sure as heck won't be the Peace Prize...) One day, you are a little person, asking tons of questions of your all knowing father, the next it's you who are helping them cross the street and double checking that they've taken their medication.

It all goes to quick.

It's nuts downstairs right now as I hide upstairs and post this. I can hear them all running, screaming, playing, living. As much as I dreaming of that whacking great big glass/bottle of wine I'm going to drink later, I'm just trying to enjoy these noises, this life right now.

Bubba-Love and his buddy are playing Connect-Four by just shoving the checkers in that thing, opening the bottom and laughing their heads off. The Princess is throwing teddy bears around the hallway while her friend, Sylvan, tries to catch them. Mini-Husband is pretending to be me: i.e completely oblivious to all of it while he plays his train game on the computer. Rosebud is, miraculously, sleeping.

I'm about to be invaded so I'll need to end this quick. But how can I? Today has been like being inside a snow globe.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The 8 Year Old The Size of a Grandma

Mini-Husband is 8 today.

Holy shit, those years have flown by. Seriously, flown by.

I still remember the weekend he was born. It's a nightmare that, even though I've since had 3 other children, I get the shakes and start to whimper when I think about it. It's one of those fabulous nightmare stories of just how long something the size of a large packet of tortilla chips can take to be eaten at a foie gras party. I should have known that if he was so stubborn about being born, he'd be stubborn about a hell of a lot of other things through out his life.

He's grown so tall this last year, that when I got to hug him now, he can bang his head into my chin. He's grown so strong that he has started to ask if he can carry Rosebud in the backpack when we head up to school. He's grown so smart that he can read in French and English and even his teacher compliments him on his beautiful writing. He's just grown so much, in every way.

We still fight with him about his room, about his shoes in the hallway, about taking way too long in the shower, about not focusing on the task at hand, about not helping. It's obvious when he tries to argue his side of things just how much that brain has become turned on in the last year. The explosion of personhood is fast upon him and us.

He is wonderful. He is busy. He is difficult. He is beautiful. He is what changed our lives forever. The love I feel when I see him, hug him, argue with him, watch him laugh and smile. All that is worth every second of that birthing nightmare. How can it only be 8 years when I feel like I've loved him for thousands?

Happy Birthday, Mini-Husband. Godspeed for you in everything you dream...

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Weather in Our Part of the Universe

It's cold out there. So cold all three dogs are shacking up together. If I could only get the camera to work outside, I'd take a picture.

It's so cold that the only way I can describe it is with a phrase one of my hippy snow buddies from out west used to say: "Colder that a witch's tit in a cast iron bra." And yup. That about sums it up.

My toes are starting to dethaw from the walk to school. I have good boots but those May/June months I spent rafting the snow melt in Colorado didn't do them any favours. They go from warm to cube in about 2 seconds. It's a great party trick I like to use on Hubster late at night. He'll be all snuggled up warm under the duvet and then ZAP I touch him with my big blue toe.


Who needs electric shock therapy when you've got orteils like that.

If the forecast is correct, there's a really good chance I'm getting the sled out tomorrow. Of course, I'm going to have to bundle myself up to the point that I won't be able to move my arms in any functional manner, but at least if I fall off, I won't hurt myself all
that much. It'll look something like this:

(Photo courtesy of BIBimage)

Bear in mind, Typhon's ears aren't quite that big and the last time I had a cigar involved my lunatic high school friends and a possible Turkey Bowl at a now demolished stadium. But I digress...

The snow is blowing in 7 different directions now. The tree limbs are frozen into elaborate delicate glass ornaments, the neighbouring houses pulling their white blankets tighter around their chimneys. It's cold out there.

I'm grinning like the Cheshire cat.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Box of Divorce

It's been over 6 years since we bought this house and in that time, I have promised Hubster that I would get rid of a gigantic box of old books and magazines about 2 million times. I know we really have no need for 40 odd issues of Paris Match and Vue Images that date from the 1940-1960s, nor do we need the 25 odd books about Catholic Catechism of the early 1900s, but I have a hard time getting past the idea of "just getting rid of them."

A couple of the books have notes scribbles in the margins and the owner's name and address marked carefully inside the cover. It's an address I know and love well. These books and mags were here before us, I feel like they come with the place.

I've tried to convince Hubster that we should sell them or keep them but he's not going for it. The monetary value of the magazines and books are only one of sentiment for someone. If we kept them, where on earth would we store them? Next to Mini-Husband's collection of train pieces? Down with the dogs' stuff in the basement? Heck, we don't even know who half the people are in the Paris Match magazines, except for the ones about Queen Elizabeth's coronation.

The attic is currently in the process of being plastered and made ready for it's transformation from dusty storage space to rooms for the tribe. (Right on French timing too since it's only been just over a year since the roof got done.) The box needs to go. As much as it pains me, Husbter is right on this one.

All the same, I'm going to pick a couple of issues and a couple of books and keep them safe. A little souvenir stash of history. I'm hoping one day, I'll be able to put some old text books of Bubba-Love and Rosebud's next to them and keep the story going, as it were.

So, House, tell me more. Through those dusty battered books, tell me more of your wonderfully cluttered, spider webbed, history filled silence. I promise to share the story by giving everyone else a 1954 copy of Paris Match for their birthday...

Monday, January 4, 2010

And another thing...

What gives with socks? Either I can't find the match or all the toes are blown out on one only or they shrink in the heal and thus become impossible to fit over a pork chop shaped child's foot or they get stained some odd colour of brown that hasn't been seen before on this side of the planet or they all up and disappear. Socks. AGGHGHAAAAAAA.

As I was wasting time typing out this little gem, Rosebud disappeared. Like a left foot sock. Yes, people. The worst has happened. She's wiggled her way across the lounge on her tummy, sideways spinning and grunting, right up under the couch.

Yes, She's mobile. AGHGHGAAAAA.


The holidays are over. Everyone is back to school and I'm frightened of the amount of stuff I need to do in the house today. Piles of clothes to put away, new toys to find places for, a Christmas tree to take down, a kitchen that looks like a tornado hit it.

And it snowed last night. A lot.

Which means, I so am not motivated to do anything in the house today. I want to go take those silly huskies and go fall of the back of my sled. I want to go get a cold red nose as I cover myself in dog fur and icicles...

But at the moment, Rosebud is crying and my house waits.

Wait for me, snow. Wait for me!

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Annual "Do-Over"

New Year's Day. The day that we wake with aching heads and vow to start things over, do things differently for the next 365 days. We resolve to be nicer, to eat less, the share more, and not worry about the little things. We make plans, we start lists, we dream. And then 365 days later, we do it again.

"Whoops! I sure screwed all that up last year. Can I try this again?"

The whole idea of resolutions makes me think about when I played board games with my friends in grade school. Inevitably, during a rousing round of Candyland, someone would always cheat and take two cards rather than one from the pile, quickly glance at them, and then take the best colour option of the two. Immediately, all hell would break loose and we 5 and 6 year old kids would shout and holler and yell CHEATER and the like until someone was crying into their Hawaiian Punch. At which point, said card taker would beg for mercy and demand the all powerful "do-over." The rest of us would continue to squabble until finally giving in and letting the cheater do just that.

"Fine. Do it again. BUT JUST ONE CARD THIS TIME, got it?"

My own resolutions are like that. I jump into the game of starting over with both feet. Possessed to do it right, to win. Crazed good intent paves the way for the growing insanity I call "myself," and sometime in July, I'm usually dreaming of a "do-over." I beg myself for a little slack, a little forgiveness, "I only meant to take one card, I swear."

For 2010, I've pulled out roughly the same list I've had for the past 4 years: be nicer to Hubster, run more, play with the dogs more, yell less, and stop worrying about what other people think. Stop comparing myself to other people who I find funnier, prettier, taller, and the like. Just be, Dig. Just be.

It's New Year's Day. Do-over. Try again. Take another card. Here's your chance.