Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Hedgehog Returns

They are cute aren't they?

All fuzzy in a prickly kinda way. Just the right size to squeeze under fences and doorways. Ever so cute when they waddle around the garden at night looking for milk or a mouse.

I like hedgehogs, really I do. Hubster and I could start an international group that goes around saving these poor little suckers from the jaws of certain death. That death coming in the form of a Malamute or a Siberian. We've helped little hedgehogs escape from Luna back in our postage stamp sized garden in England and we've even let one give up his night job as a football here in France.

It's just that at 3 a.m. when one these little guys start acting like our third child, I get a little miffed and start planning hedgehog souffle.

Last night, sauntering up to the gate of the dog yard, plunking himself down well out of biting range but yet just close enough to annoy the crap outta Anouk and Typhon, our latest hedgehog reminded me of when Bubba-Love takes one of Mini-Husband's precious Matchbox cars, puts it in his mouth and threatens to throw up on it.

Ah, what fun when the mayhem ensues!

My only option last night to get Anouk to stop barking at the non-moving Brillo pad was to either go outside and physically remove the creature or throw a pitcher of water on the dogs from the kitchen window.

I'm not proud to admit that I have really good aim with a pitcher of water.

This morning, or rather later this morning, there was no trace of the hedgehog. There's a couple of spots in the dog yard where it's obvious the gang tried to claw their way out to commit murder, but overall, no trace of that roving wanna-be porcupine.

So there you have it. In the run up to the Hedgehog World Cup this summer, both teams are going into the competition with a solid win under their belts. The reffing was a little bit one sided in this latest clash for sure and, surprisingly, it was the losing coach who got splashed with Gatorade, but overall a fine start to the season.

Let's just hope the cats and squirrels don't field teams as well...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I Got 5 Minutes

*It's normal that a 4 year old terrorizes the cafeteria lady, right?

*Is it possible that an 8 year old can be deaf? In both French and English? And for some strange reason, he can only hear me when I'm outside talking to the dogs?

*It will happen that The Princess will be really good at ice skating and therefore force me to use my sewing machine to make those sparkly costumes, 'cause I'm all over competition, aren't I?

*Rosie is 11 months old today. To mark this milestone, Hubster and I got her a nice new/used car. Amen for a bateau de route!

*Hubster may be forced to see a dentist after 20+ years of avoiding such people. You have no idea how it's killing me not to make jokes about European teeth.

*Watching grass grow really is as boring as it sounds.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Thoughts on Gardening in March

So it turns out that not only do my lovely French women know how to cook, iron, sew, and clean while staying immaculately dressed and thin, they also, it turns out, know how to garden. It's just so unfair.

Me, I head off to the garden store, buy some plants that look nice, stick them in the ground and hope that by some miracle, they'll still be there in a month's time. My neighboures here take a shoot off of a pre-existing plant in their garden, stick it in water, and it grows. And not only does it grow, it reproduces and grows. And gets beautiful. And it will still be there in 150 year's time when they then share 2/3 of said plant with the latest foreigner to the village. The foreigner's 2/3 will die in a month's time while the other 1/3 left will bloom and grow like mad.

It's just so unfair.

I'm trying to get the front garden back to a state of bliss this year. The dogs have been banished to their prison so now it's just the kids I have to fight with to leave the flowers alone. I've raked out the holes, picked out stones and wondered the origins of the odd bit of chewed up plastic. I've planted a forsythia and I'm plotting out a little path to the side of the house.

So far, so good.

Now, if only the grass will grow.

Trust me when I tell you that the grass really does look greener on the other side of our fence. Right now our side looks brown, miserable, and the only thing that seems to be growing is more rocks. Ah, the joys of living in a volcanic area! You have no idea how much I want to go and steal our neighbour's daffodils and pretend they came from our garden.

Me and my brown thumb must remember that it's only March. Patience. To everything there is a season and a husky to blame.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

On Winning. And Losing.

I had an interesting conversation with Hippy-Love Française last night. We were talking about the importance of our kids getting involved in an activity, a sport, to help encourage them to build their confidence and thus, be strong in mind and body. We both agreed it's important for our kids to be physically active and challenge themselves by learning to ride a bike, go skiing, or even head out for a run. But we disagreed dramatically on one aspect of this whole thing.


For me, competition is important to sport. It's important to learn that sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes you train really hard and still have a shitty race, sometimes you don't train at all and somehow you still manage to do it all as it should. Competition introduces you to other people and other ideas about a sport that you take personally. It's something that teaches you how to win strong and most importantly, how to learn that losing doesn't equal failure.

I've only won a competition once in my life and that was the day all the good skiers fell down because of ice. Me, freaking about wiping out in front of the hot guy from the University of Wisconsin, I snow plowed the whole first section of the course and managed not to fall. Low and behold, that got me a gold. Good old competition teaching me it's not always about speed.

More normally, I've finished last, near last, or in the bottom half of any race I've ever been in. I'm proud of that actually because learning how to lose has been worth every penny of every entry fee.

Hippy-Love told me a lot of her issues with competition come from the whole hassle of weekends being swamped by tournaments, games, and matches. Busy training schedules and life being organized around sport. It's just too much to ask. "Where is the time for family?" She asked. "Where is the time to just enjoy skiing or judo or tennis?"

I agree with her in theory. The thought of schlepping my kids around for this or that is not my number once choice for a Wednesday evening or at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Especially if all four of them actually get involved to that level. But, once again, getting to that level with a sport teaches you commitment and patience and determination. All things that I need as much help in teaching my kids as I can get.

I'm willing to load up the bateau de route and drive all over God's kingdom to get these people to their practices, their competitions, their 'thing,' because I know, in the end, it's going to help them learn to be gracious in winning, strong in losing, and solid in body and mind. It's through competition that we learn it's ok to not always be number one. Yes, sport is good for sport's sake, but it's through competition that we really learn about ourselves.

Mini-Husband asked me if I won my race on Sunday. The answer was easy.

"Yes. Yes, I did."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Blisters: The Best Badge of Courage

A little theme music is most definitely necessary today:

And yes, that's what I did yesterday. I ran. I ran so far away. Up hills and down hills. Over trees and under trees. I climbed a river and a lava flow. 15K on the trails around my village and through it's ruined hameaux. My legs carried me to places I love and places I fear. I am exhilaratingly exhausted today.

Yesterday's run reminded me of why I like rock climbing. You have to focus so much on where to put your feet, where to make that next hold, that you forget you are scaling a rock face, and then next thing you know, you are on top of the world.

As I ran along, I glanced at the amazing scenery around me, laughed with the fast woman I trailed for several kilometers (until she left me in the dust on the last downhill section) and just ran. So far away.

I'm not a good runner. I'm built like a top heavy pear so it's a challenge sometimes just getting these legs to keep moving. At least with a trail run, there's no shame in walking the step bits. Out there it's obvious who's going to win every time. Her name is Mother Nature and she takes it all in stride.

And what beautiful, beautiful strides.

The loser yesterday was my favourite road route. I don't think I'm going to be able to enjoy that quite like I used to.

So raise your ibuprofen with me today. Here's to a year ago being one fat, pregnant spectator to this year, a mother of four who can run. Run so far away.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Tying Up Loose Ends

Let's see...updates:

*Package from hell: finally arrived thanks to the father of one of Bubba-Love's classmates who just happened to have an appointment right next door to the shittiest delivery company in France. Thank you, Pasqual!

*Bateau de route: We've found one. Over 600 kilometers away. All said and done, we should be picking it up next weekend. Cross your fingers.

*Transcripts: Grade school ones are on the way. I'm still seething over this whole thing, by the way. I find it nuts that once you are an American citizen you have to prove that you lived in America. Don't we just give that citizenship to anyone born in the country? Why then do I have to prove anything else? Grumble, grumble...

*Weekend Plans: Big match, France vs England in the Six Nations Rugby Tournament. We're heading over to French Me's to watch the game and I'm just hoping Hubster and French Me's Husband remain calm, cool, and collected through out the evening. Right.

*Dog cart has finally been repaired (thank you Musher Boy) so I'm hoping to get the 'team' out for a bit on Saturday. Right after Hubster and I sand down all the beams in the attic. Thank God we are going to French Me's that night or the tribe would end up eating pasta and dust for dinner.

*Oh, and Sunday, I'm going to drag this corpse of mine out for a 15K trail race. What the hell am I thinking? Need to make sure I got enough bags of frozen peas in the freezer. My knees and hips are going to need them.

So, there you are. All the news that's fit to print.

What's going on in your world?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Good Thing the Appointment is in May

Hubster and I are taking the tribe to the States this summer which fills me with more joy that I can actually describe. The thought of a shopping trip to Target, running shoes from the magic running store, and steamed crabs just has me all a twitter. The only downside to all this is that I have to sit for 7 hours in a small confined space with my four children. Amen for free cocktails on Air France.

In order to enjoy that lovely flight, I need to make sure all the little one's passports are ready to roll. Mini-Husband and The Princess both have expired U.S. passports and we still haven't gotten around to getting one for Rosie yet. Bubba-Love's is ok, but I think we may need to renew it next year. The mind numbing process of doing all this with the American Consulate just makes me want to curl up into the fetal position and beg Typhon to sing "Hallelujah" over and over again until my head explodes.

Getting the British passports involved filling out papers, attaching a photo that someone swears looks just like the person in question, and sending it off with a few documents to prove that Hubster and I really are married and that he's really British. Et voila, a couple of weeks later, the kids had their British passports.

To get the American passport, it's as if I need to give up my kidney and then donate 14 pints of blood. Even better is that things have changed in the last couple of years with the American requirements so we are now also required to sell them our oldest son. Not a bad deal this week, all things considered.

We've made the appointment for the beginning of May and for that appointment we will need the following:

*All previous passports, current and expired for the whole family
*Documents proving that Hubster and I are married
*New passport request forms
*Photos of each child for the new passports
*Photos of each child from each year they've been alive to prove that this is actually what they look like now.
*Birth certificates from birth country and U.S. Consular Reports of Birth Abroad for the big kids.
*Transcripts from every school I ever attended in the U.S. to prove that I actually was physically present in the United States for over 20 years.
*An envelope to send all this back to us with the new passports.
*An American credit card for payment because "we don't want no stinkin' Euros."

I'm not kidding. Transcripts from EVERY SCHOOL I ever attended. (Thank God Sarah Palin isn't having to do this, eh?)

I asked the nice woman at the consulate if she needed my American birth certificate as well.

"No, that won't be necessary. That document only proves that you were in the U.S. for one day."

And what a day that was, right Kitty? Who knew that when I splashed amniotic fluid all over the doctor's shoes that one day I would be having to create a paper trail just so my little half breeds can come back and see my blessed America for themselves.

Alas, I am what I am. How I wonder what they will be.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Selling My Soles for Doughnut Holes

The school kids all get to celebrate carnaval here in the village each spring. Not too dissimilar to the epic Mardi Gras party you see in New Orleans, except here the kids don't get incredibly drunk and do insane things that would shock their mothers for beads.

The little people dress up in fun costumes, get behind the man with the accordion and march off through the village to the maison de retraite to sing songs and drink punch with the folks that live there. Along the way, the group stops at various houses and shares out candy or treats with the locals, most often giving out bags of beignets made by various and sundry moms. At that point, the kids are starting to get really jazzed up on the extraordinary amounts of candy they've already eaten so they start to dance themselves silly in that post sugar haze we all know and love.

The first year Mini-Husband was in school, we followed along with the group, enjoying the atmosphere even though neither of us knew the lyrics to any of the songs. The second year, when The Princess had started school, we trundled off in a near blizzard, then suffocated in an overheated room at the maison de retraite, and then bumbled our way back to the village to burn a giant man made out of wood. Supposedly that was to chase away winter and bring on spring. Said blizzard continued for another two days.

The following year, Mini-Husband was still recovering from his winter of near death (Scarlet fever, pneumonia, and a few other ills thrown in for fun) so we waited and watched from the front windows for the crowds to pass. Everyone showed up in front of ours, waved to the little man and then gave us the biggest bag of beignets you've ever seen.

Such a shame that our kids don't like beignets.

But I do. Oh, yes I do.

My grandma, who was raised in New Orleans, had introduced me to the joys of beignets years ago and I remember my mother keeping a pack of beignet mix from Cafe du Monde tucked in the back of the pantry. Sprinkled with powered sugar, there was nothing like 'em. And there is still nothing like a big bag of them made by French women who actually make those suckers from scratch. I think I ate the whole bag that day and denied it's existence to anyone else who asked about them.

Since that lovely moment several springs ago, I have to admit to being just a little bit reluctant to head off for the carnaval parade. Sure, it's fun to dance and sing with all our friends, but if we aren't home, we don't get the beignets! Screw fruit juice and songs about chicken heads! THE BEIGNETS, PEOPLE! THE BEIGNETS!

I guess you might have an idea as to what happened in the village this past weekend. We (OK, I) bagged the parade. In the end, Rosie needed to have her nap, the boys weren't interested and luckily The Princess was able to tag along with some friends.

So there I was, picture of all innocence, working out in the front garden when, just by chance, the parade passed by. "Oh joy and rapture! Quelle surprise! How very nice of you to give me such a lovely big bag of beignets!"

Saturday, March 13, 2010

In Which Dig Discovers Which Language It's More Fun to Be Angry In

I've been waiting for a package to be delivered for almost two weeks now. We ordered the items (baby gates to keep Rosie away from the all-you-can-eat-ashes buffet at the wood stove) online and the company kindly gave us a tracking number so I can play "Where in the World Are Those Gates" at all times of the day.

I followed the package from Austria, to France, to the big town near us, and finally to the warehouse. Where the gates sit. And wait. For Armageddon.

The messages on the site told me that there was one day several days ago that they actually tried to deliver the gates but due to a mauvaise adresse, they weren't able to. And here's where I get a little miffed. Our address is probably the most simple address in the world:

Wacky English Speaking Family with Howling Dogs
Tiny Village on the Hill
In the département everyone else thinks is a Shit Hole

We have no official street name or number, true enough, but finding us is like finding a Starbucks in D.C.

I called the company to discuss this little problem and after a convoluted experience that I can't even being to explain, I finally found myself talking to one of the receptionists and using very wonderful French phrases like, J'en ai marre, c'est ridicule, and vous êtes nuls in a very loud and angry voice, the woman switched to English.

Damn her. DAMN HER.

All the force and rhythm that I had built up in my tirade, got squashed. There was no way I was able to continue my rant now that she had changed the flow of my anger. My brain turned to mush and I struggled to remember what planet I was on and just what words I wanted to say. I tried for a nano-second to continue my diatribe in English, but would you believe it? I needed to go back to French.

I don't know who was more confused, me or the poor woman on the phone, to realize that for the first time in nearly 7 years, I found myself happier to be yelling and cussing in grammatically challenged French. You have no idea how strange that seems to me. Thank God, I think I'm still able to yell coherently in English at the tribe. Whether it's effective or not is a whole 'nother story.

Alas, after all this colère, the disputed package is due to arrive chez nous Monday, sometime between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Mon dieu.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's All About the Tires. Er, Tyres.

Imagine the scene: four kids in a little car, hyper after a day of school. One frazzled mom who's in a rush to sign up two of the four for after school activities at the same time that the teeniest one wants dinner.

Manage to sign everyone up without a hitch and find a package of baby biscuits under the car seat, untouched and uncrushed, to keep the little one happy. Load all and sundry back into the car and attempt to leave the parking lot. Notice that the car is limping on the right hand side. Get out of car to find that the tire is flat beyond chez flat. Cell phone? Safely plugged in at home.

Enter panic.

See, it's this whole, "Holy-shit, I've-got-to-figure-out-how-to-deal-with-this" and "oh-my-God, I'm-the-one-actually-responsible-for-all-these-people" that just makes me want to lock myself in a closet in some remote ruin of a house in the mountains.

I'd never changed a flat tire in my life. I had a rough idea of where the spare was thanks to another flat tire experience outside of Patrickswell, Ireland but I only had Kitty in that car that time. She was able to flag down a one-armed man who, with cigarette firmly between his lips, proceeded to change that tyre (we were in Ireland after all) faster than you can say, "Guinness."

This time, no one-armed man in sight, I started to freak out. Like Bambi caught in the headlights, I looked around the parking lot trying to figure out what to do when the voice of reason, aka Mini-Husband, pipes up,

"Mom! There's a garage just over there, remember?"

God, how I love that kid.

And God, how I love that man, who turned out to be the mechanic's cousin, who didn't laugh at my spare tire inadequacy, my accent, or the two boys who wanted to know everything about changing tires. He talked me through the process and I swear, if this happens again, I think I can do it myself. Third time's the charm, right?

I'm not sure who took greater joy in this story last night. Hubster when he heard it recounted to him 3 times or Mini-Husband when he talked how he saved us from the horrible winter wind and a long walk home by remembering that garage. The Princess swears she was going to suggest the garage as well, since she remembered seeing it once when she was three. Bubba-Love thought he could have changed the tire himself and has promised to do just that next time.

Nothing like having several witnesses to the moments in your life when you feel like a complete sausage. Those who will love to repeat said story, over and over again until you die.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Siren

When we first moved to the village, I thought it was kinda quaint and cute that the volunteer firemen had a big siren perched on top of the school house. Sure, when it went off it would scare the pants off the kids if school was in session, but overall, it didn't seem like a major alarm, if you know what I mean.

Reality hit a few years back when one night the siren went off about 11-11:30 p.m. I didn't think too much of it, except that I needed to sprint downstairs and try and stop Typhon from howling along.

The next morning, as I took the kids to school, I was greeted by tears. Turned out, the alarm had been for a lovely neighbour, an older grandma type who always took the time to chat to me and ask about the tribe. She was someone who was a big part of the village tapestry, someone who had been here forever and had made me feel welcome right from the start. She had suffered a major heart attack that night and, unfortunately, she didn't survive.

Since then, whenever I hear the siren, the hair at the back of neck rises and I cringe. I know so many more people here now and each time the siren sounds, I worry about who might be needing help. There are so many older folks living on their own around here, so many young families, so many people driving too fast on tight country lanes. Last month alone, the siren cried out it's sad sound as a house was engulfed in flames and the man who called that place home lost his life.

The siren scares me now.

Sometimes, luckily, it's for nothing. Or relatively nothing. A car stuck in a ditch, a flooded kitchen, someone who's fallen, those type of things. But the mystery when that siren pierces the darkness and cries out at 2 a.m. is horrible.

I understand why the women gossip in the village, why the old ladies network works so well. This needed to know, to be sure that everyone is ok, to find out what happened... I get that now. Family histories and clan conflicts aside, there is something about that siren that scares us all.

Monday, March 8, 2010

It's What Day Again?

Holy cats, I feel like it's Wednesday and it's only Monday. Time is sprinting away from me! No fair!

Here I haven't even had time to post about my crazy fabulous sister turning a year older this weekend and, hence, a year wiser than me...

I haven't had a chance to talk about how skiing in a blizzard is just what makes Mini-Husband the happiest boy on the block...

How the tribe has started waking at 6:30am and yet I still find myself having to yell the house down because we're going to be late for school...

I haven't talk about how Hubster and I are on the verge of buying yet another bateau de route...

I haven't talked about the lovely boo-boo on Typhon's elbow that scared the crap outta me and made the vet laugh...

I haven't talked about how I'm failing CE1...

And I haven't even told you all about just how much fun it is to have a child throw a trantrum in two languages at the base of a ski area... (Bonus points if you figure out which one. Child that is.)

Deep breath, Dig. I promise I'll try and write something witty and wonderful tomorrow. Right after I get that coffee drip hooked up and working...

Friday, March 5, 2010

I am Your Father And Hence I Can Say It Like I Want

Last night, I commented on Facebook that I was watching Return of the Jedi dubbed in French.

My cousin, bless him, replied, "Luke, je suis votre père."

Unfortunately Chris, that's not exactly what Darth Vader said. He actually says, "Luke, je suis ton père." And this little difference has me wondering...

What on earth gives that man, who left his children so he could go off and act like a complete asshole, the right to tutoyer another man (granted his son) who he's never really met? If I did that in village, I'd be considered rude and horribly obnoxious since you only tutoie people you know really, really well.

Sure, Darth Vader was his dad and hence, could say anything he wanted to Luke, but still! In French, it's a question of good manners and to tutoyer somebody without being properly introduced, well that's just not on. It's a fine balancing act who you vouvoies and who you tutoies. Old Darthy should have known better.

Though, perhaps he was taking the easy route, like I do. I just tutoyer everyone and hope they'll forgive this quirky foreigner since in her language there's just "you" and not this distinction between "oh, you" and "oh, YOU."

Plus, Darthy had that old Death Star on his side and I'm not sure Luke really would've have wanted to argue about good grammar when the sake of the universe was in question. I imagine it'll be something they discuss in more detail over a few beers at the next Ewok barbecue.

French grammar, semantics, beer, and furry creatures.

Sounds like a night chez nous.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Culpabilité Catholique et Un Pauvres Dou Dou

Last week I ordered a back up dou dou for Rosie. Her teddy bear ear sucking addiction had transformed to a new level and I found myself powerless in any attempt to wash the poor little guy. A little spit on a stuffed animal might be socially acceptable, but two ears mangled and smelling of a combination of fruit puree and vomit is not.

Such fun to watch the look on the faces of the women at the creche when I would hand over the precious stinky dou dou and quickly run outta there before they could ask when was the last time I washed it. Hence, the need for a back up.

The doppelganger arrived last week and much to my delight, I was able to swap the new dou dou in without a worry. Stinky dou dou finally had a much needed bath at 95°C, followed by a cut and blow dry in our very nice "salon." Since then, the two of them have been happily taking turns being chewed and slobbered on.

Thing is, I'm feeling so guilty about all this. Every time I put Stinky in the laundry basket, I feel these pangs that I'm selling him out or that I've given Rosie permission to cheat on him with this other bear. It's like he stares at me from the basket, trying to escape the smell of Hubster's dirty socks, whimpering, "Rosie! Rosie!" I just feel horrible.

I'm sure this manifestation of Catholic guilt towards a stuffed animal has got to go back to watching too much Toy Story and reading The Velveteen Rabbit when I was young. I'm so convinced all these stuffed animals come alive at night and rearrange the furniture in the kids' room because, really, can three kids make that much of a mess in just a few hours?

Wait. Don't answer that.

Let's get back to feeling guilty over inanimate objects...

I decided to have a "man to man" with the dou dous yesterday and set things straight. They had a good look at each other's war wounds, discussed the pleasures of the spin cycle, and decided that what matters most is that Rosie isn't ever without one of them.

Lucky girl.

Take that, Catholic guilt.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What I Miss Most from the USA on This Tuesday Morning

Today, I find I'm pining for something ever so simple and ever so lovely. Something that you, my fellow Americans, are perhaps neglecting to appreciate just as much as you should.

I'm missing that lovely man or woman who works at the local Giant or Piggly Wiggly, who greats you with a "how's it going" and then scans your stuff and *gasp* puts into bags for you. The bliss!

You have no idea how much I miss this luxury. I swear, my heart starts racing every time I line up to pay for my groceries. I start scheming how to unload the cart in just the right way so that I don't cause a huge bottle neck at the bagging area, and the 4-5 people now lined up behind me won't need to roll their eyes and mutter, "mon Dieu."

Yesterday alone was a prime example of just how that whole 5 minutes of paying for your strawberry jam and baby wipes can cause convulsions. I had done a big shop. I mean BIG. It was the first time in over two weeks I was able to actually think while getting the groceries since the only small person there to share the experience was Rosie. She spent the time trolling the aisles happily gnawing on the end of a baguette. (Thirty centimes of peace right there.) I got trash bags, yogurts, nappies, fruit, popcorn, toilet cleaner, 6 bottles of milk, cereal, you name it.

Loaded to the gills, I rolled the cart up to the checkout and started with my rhythmic yoga breathing. Half way through emptying that sucker, Rosie drops her bread and starts screaming. I continue unloading one handed as I try and find the baguette with the other. Meanwhile, the checkout lady has acknowledged my presence and is now scanning things faster than Amy Williams' gold medal performance in the skeleton at the Olympics. Cue 4 people to immediately get in line behind me.

Bags on the floor, baby whimpering in the trolley seat, and bottles of milk being flung with care into the cart, the woman at the register holds up a sack of clementines and shows me that I had forgotten to weigh my fruits and vegetables.


Yes, yet another thing I miss from American grocery stores. Those lovely checkout people who also carefully weigh your fruits and veggies at the moment you pay for them.

Baby on hip, clementines and other items in hand, I run back to the scales miles from where I'm checking out and weigh everything I forgot to weigh. Baby now on other hip, hands holding fast to freshly tagged produce, I run back to the checkout, pushing past the now 6 people in line behind me, and apologize profusely to all and sundry.

At this moment Rosie decides to laugh.

God bless that baby because when that baby laughed, the world (well, at least 6 other people and a checkout woman at Auchan) laughed with us. My produce sins had been forgiven. I was still nervously close to a cardiac arrest, but at least we were all laughing about it.

So hear me, follow Americans! Avoid those self-checkouts! Pick the line where that nice lady is. Say "hi" to her. Smile at her. Thank her, as best you can, as she bags your groceries, placing your eggs carefully on top and making sure nothing get squished. Thank her, from the bottom of my heart.