Friday, April 30, 2010

And She's One

I'm finding it really hard to get my thoughts in order today. There are so many emotions rolling around in my head and heart and I'm not sure how to express myself without sounding pathetic or insane.

Rosie is one today.

My eyes are filling with tears as I write that.

I know that this is our last baby. She was an accidental gift and I can't begin to explain how much she means to us. The thought of all that she's done in just this one year, this year of wonders, makes my head spin. Her little giggle, her fuzzy hair, her love of music, those blue eyes, the way she says The Princess' name, it's all that is cute and right about a baby turning one. These are tears of joy, tears of gratitude, tears that make my heart swell with pride.

I know that this is our last baby. The thought of having another child, being pregnant, more sleepless nights, sore nipples, teething, and mountains of nappies makes me want to run naked through the village screaming au secours at the top of my lungs. I'm tired of being tired all the time. I'm ready to move past the baby things and just go play with my children.

I'm crying again because as much as I really know that I'm done having babies, the thought that I will never be pregnant again, never nurse a baby again, never snuggle a little head under my chin and breathe in the smell of us again, breaks my heart. There is so much joy in those moments and for the last 8 years, it's what's filled me.

I look at Rosie and I cry because we didn't plan on this fourth round of joy. We didn't expect her but, my God, am I glad we have her. I look at Rosie chasing her brothers on her hands and knees, I look at The Princess already trying to find ways to style those wisps of fuzz, I look at Rosie and I know that we are complete.

It's true what they say about loving your children. You always have room in your heart for more. I like knowing that. But I also like watching these four fill up all the space they can in there.

Our baby's one today. Just as it should be.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

'Tis The Season


As much as I enjoy all the beautiful flowers popping up all over, the pollen in the air is getting out of hand. We haven't had a decent spot of rain for at least two weeks so things are looking dry and crusted over. Kind of like my eyes in the morning.

At night, I find myself laying in bed listening for various and sundry coughing, snoring, wheezing, and the occasional refrain from Typhon. It really is amazing how noisy a night in the sticks can be.

For example, the other night I laid in bed and I thought I heard Typhon starting a midnight medley. I threw off the covers, high tailed it downstairs and got ready to sling the windows open and cut him off mid-chant. Only there was nothing. Not a note. So, I went back to bed, snuggled into my pillow and tried to fall back asleep.

About an hour or so later, I thought I heard the faint ringing of Typhon's baritone and once again, I jumped out of bed and scurried downstairs. By the time I reached the kitchen window, the prison was dead silent. I waited a few minutes just to be sure and then mumbled grumpy thoughts to myself as I headed back to bed.

I lay there wondering about nuclear physics and complicated algebra, as you do, until my ears picked up that faint howling sound once again. This time, I decided I didn't give a damn and the whole village could just enjoy a little bit of Typhon's happy voice at 3:38 am.

Funny thing was, it didn't get any louder. It stayed weak and faint, like the sound of a ghost who's given up the ghost. I sat up straight and strained my ears to try figure out just what the heck that dog was doing when I finally figured out that the sound wasn't coming from Typhon at all.

It was coming from Hubster.

Who knew that when he suffers from seasonal allergies, Hubster wheezes like a Malamute.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Well, Well, Well

Owning a house that is over 150 years old always offers up little fun surprises like wonky walls, spider nests in corners, an owl perch in the attic, ruins and stone galore and now, wells.

We've had a sneaking suspicion that underneath where the annex used to be, there was an old well. Seems the building had originally been the wash house and so it only made sense that a well would be at hand.

We've noticed over time that we've got some water drainage issues in the back field, coming from the area around the old annex and Hubster' wonderful brain wanted to see if figuring out what was up with that well would help us figure out what was up with the water.

Et alors! Talk about silt. Talk about muck. Talk about earth so dark and smelly that I'm convinced he and I have now contracted bubonic plague from touching it. (But since we both survived the sewer experience a few years back, I'm hoping 150 year bacteria won't be as deadly as 2 day old toddler poop.)

He and I scraped and scooped this stuff until, low and behold! We found water.

Oh, happiness and joy!

And it was in this wonderful euphoric state that Hubster remembered that we had another little metal ring thing poking out of the front garden. Screw the four blades of grass that had just come out to meet the sun, could it be....

Yes, it is. Another well! And this one still had water in it. Which was all very, very exciting. Except that the old pump didn't want to work.

Hubster and Musher Boy, who had showed up to walk the dogs and ended up getting so enthralled by all this incredibly exciting water stuff, yanked the pump off the wall and managed to get it apart and clean out about a century's worth of dead snails and dirt in there.

Of course, the problem is now, we aren't really sure how it's all supposed to go back together.

Where are the freakin' Ikea instructions for something like this?

Especially to figure out what the heck that little do-hickey you see there on the grass is. Nothing like watching modern brains being completely clueless as to old technology.

In the end, we now have two very nice wells. And if all goes well, (snort, snort, nudge nudge) we may even get to use them. Heck, we may even have solved a major draining problem without having to call in a mini-digger. Well, (snort, snort) I am rather short so I guess you could say we already did that.

All in all, all's well that end's well. Except my puns. Wouldn't you agree?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Good Thing The Bathroom Was Already A Mess

Bubba Love carefully started pushing me out of the bathroom this morning telling me that I needed to leave him alone.

"Ok, I'm going," I said as I tried to grab the random socks and dirty nappies that were laying around. He stared at me, hand on hip, rolling those big brown eyes the colour of dark chocolate.

Obviously this was taking more time than he preferred.

"MOM, come on, " he started, "I need some piracy!"

Wiser words have never been said where Bubba Love is concerned.

This child is all about piracy.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Always Got Room for Tom and Huck at the Birth Control Bed & Breakfast

It is not pleasant to see an American thrusting his nationality forward obtrusively in a foreign land, but oh, it is pitiable to see him making of himself a thing that is neither male nor female, neither fish, flesh, nor fowl- a poor miserable, hermaphrodite Frenchman. - Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad.

This quote fits me like a "t." You see, when I first moved to France, I just wanted to fit in. I just wanted to sound French, look French, be French. I was scared of opening my mouth because people would know immediately that I wasn't from here. I was horrified of what to cook when friends came over because what if I didn't impress them. I put a pressure on myself to be something I wasn't because I was so scared of being something I was. And it sucked.

Seven years later and I think I've turned a corner.

Somewhere along the line, I stopped trying to yell at my kids in French in public. I'm much more effective (HA) in English so why even try letting those around me know what I'm yelling. I wear my shorts and running shoes to the grocery store and if I feel like buying strawberries in January, well I just go right on ahead and do so. Yes, my kids eat cereal for breakfast and peanut butter is considered a food group, but that's just how it goes chez nous.

What I've learned is that it really is ok to not be from here. It really is ok to be myself, this wacky American living in the sticks who has a tendency to ask, "vous êtes ca va?" I don't speak perfect French, but I appreciate that I get the chance to speak it every day, horrible accent and all.

Mark Twain died on this day 100 years ago and what is amazing to me as one of his fans, is that what he tried to learn about himself and about being an American is still so true to this day. His trip abroad, which he chronicled in The Innocents Abroad, was a turning point for his writing. A turning point for him in understanding what makes us, those zany Americans, who we are.

I'm not French. I love those around me who are and I'm ever so grateful to be amongst them, but I'm so much more comfortable in my Crocs than I am in heels. (And you know what, so is my neighbour but that's a whole 'nother post...)

God speed, toujours, Samuel. Thank you for your writing, your insights, and your wit. They've helped me embrace my Americanness well...a hundred years on.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

On Gardens and Doors

The tribe has been on vacation this past week and even though I'm going to jinx myself by saying it, they've been wonderful together. Granted, there are moments when Bubba-Love touches or, God forbid, LOOKS at one of Mini-Husband's toys, but overall, they seem to be getting along well.

The room they all share looks like a mine field. Legos everywhere. Barbies stuck in small PlayMobil houses. Teddy bears and dou dous hanging off the bunk bed. Clothes thrown around decorating the chaos like volcanic ash. A beautiful sight. Which is nicely hidden when I close their door.

If only I could do that for the rest of the house.

There are moments this week when I've felt completely over whelmed by my life. Too many people to worry about, too many rooms to clean, too many things I wish I could do or places I could go. I've found myself staring at the garden wondering how on earth I got myself into all this, this 'realness' that I'm responsible for. I find myself scared to think that I've failed in so many ways and that time is ticking away.

Our friend's father has been diagnosed with lung cancer and he's basically shut down. He's not interested in living any more and only communicates through his anger. It's understandable to a degree. He worked his whole life, saving and dreaming for his retirement, only to find out then that his life, his dreams, his plans, were done.

I stare at my garden and I worry the same thing will happen to us.

Perhaps this is why I'm letting the kids keep that room in such a state because...well, because they can. And because life is too quick and all too painful sometimes. Because the massiveness of it all is frightening. Just like those Legos.

I shut their door.

It's difficult to do that to my life. I can't. And truth be told, I don't think I want to.

I'm going to get some coffee and go have another round of staring at my garden. I really need to stop worrying so much about the forest. I should just enjoy the trees. One Lego at a time.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I Think He's Earned Himself a Happy Meal

We ran into The Princess and Mini-Husband's teacher, Martine, this weekend and she pulled me aside to tell me a little story about what happened at school last Friday.

She had invited her doctor friend to come to the class and talk about the importance of healthy eating and exercise. He started out by explaining how everyone needs to make an effort to eat balanced meals, have lots of fruits and veggies, and to make sure everyone gets some exercise every day.

He also explained how important it is to actually make meal times special, how it's important to actually stop, sit down, and eat. Not run around like crazy and eat on the go like the Americans do.

"The Americans don't eat well. They do things for convenience so they eat lots of junk food, don't exercise and because of that, they aren't healthy and they tend to be fat."

It's at this point that Martine told me Mini-Husband raised his hand and gave the doctor a scowl that George W would have been proud of.

"Um, Doctor?" He said. "My mom's American and she's not fat."

God, how I love that the poor doctor's diatribe was ruined thanks to an 8 year old boy in a village tucked way up and out of the way in this rural back hole of France. He tried to save himself by telling Mini-Husband that since I've obviously lived here for so long, I've adopted the ways of the French. Mini-Husband wasn't buying it.

"No. My cousins aren't fat either."

And with that, Martine explained, the doctor quickly ended his lecture.

So for those of you keeping score at home, it's now buerre du cacahuete: 1. Nutella: 0.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

La Cantonade

This morning, Hippy Love Français called and said we were going on a hike. All of us. Kids and husbands, everyone. Foggy morning be damned. Today was La Cantonade and we were going.

What I hadn't realized was that La Cantonade was a new thing and it was important for us, the residents of our hill top village, to get together and participate. Our canton, which is roughly the same idea as a county in the United States, was sponsoring a walk where all of the villages in the canton were invited to take a hike to the main town (the county seat as it were) and in the process raise a little money for the fight against cancer.

And since I'm particularly fond of finding ways to kick cancer's butt, a hike with Hubster and the tribe sounded just about right.

And it was.

The best part was when Hubster manged to get a lift back to our village and stock up for a picnic. Our buddies from our village had done the same and were happily sharing out bottles of  rosé and rouge with all and sundry from our neighbouring villages near and far when Hubster, bless his English socks, showed up with a 12 pack.

Take that cancer.

Friday, April 9, 2010

And With Postage That's A Net Gain Of $34

I finally got around to doing my taxes today. An experience I find both ridiculous and yet very gratifying because it reminds me that I actually make money somewhere on this planet.

I definitely don't make money in France. I've tried to find jobs on several occasions but I've learned that my degree doesn't really translate and my other basic skills don't qualify me for anything. Plus the fact that I can not write in French just goes to show I'm pretty much unhireable. Perhaps it was a good thing we kept having children...

Filling out the taxes forms usually doesn't take me too long. Fill in the one line about how much rental income I earned on my shitty lovely little house in Idaho, figure out how much tax I've paid on the interest and Bob's your uncle. This year I earned a whopping $39.

Yes, you read that right. $39. Luckily with all the tax credits I get for these children and for having a spouse of questionable foreign origin, I'm not obligated to pay anything this year. WHEW.

Truth be told, I feel really silly for even filling out the tax forms in the first place. I hate thinking that some poor schlep of a tax person, who's at their limit right about now, someone who hasn't seen their kids or had a shower in over two weeks, has to sit down with my papers and get all excited because this woman who lives in France made $39 on a shack in Idaho.

I'd love to argue that at least it's my taxes paying for the poor man's salary but, alas, that sure ain't the case. Maybe I'll stick some smiley stickers on the forms or let Bubba-Love draw some gribouillage all over in bright red marker so at least the tax agent gets a little smile or minute of joy this April. I'd put in some cheese, but I'm not sure that would send the right message.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

C or C+ With a 2 for Effort

The transcripts arrived from my grade school the other day and it seems that I have always sucked at math. No shock there really since, even now, trying to add multiple numbers makes my eyes glaze over and causes the Ride of Valkyries to repeat over and over in my head. Actually, it turns out I pretty much sucked at everything except art and physical education.

Starting in 1976, with Miss Apple's kindergarten class, right up to eighth grade, I carried a solid C+ in English. Seems I had a knack for reading comprehension and listening, but couldn't spell to save my life. I still remember trying to memorize how to spell "business" in the fourth grade. Took me forever to just come up with the idea that it was a bus "I" needed to "ness" up. Clever girl!

I am a little amazed at my overall solid B performance with modern languages. My memories of French class from those years is limited at best but since I can sing all of Alouette without missing a line, I'm thinking something must have stuck. Who knew that knowing that song would come in quite so handy, eh?

I wish I could say it's been a delight to see these transcripts but actually, it's rather depressing to see that I was such a slacker even when I was 7. Guess I'll just have to be happy with the fact that I get an A+ for being consistent.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Lack of Words

I'm having a hard time organizing my thoughts.

Blame it on the sunshine that's filling every room of this house like a gigantic glitter ball, dancing with the spider webs and making the dust bunnies do the tango across the hard wood floors.

Blame it on the fact that my washing machine died a slow and painful death on Friday. Add this to the little worry of the flat tire a few weeks back and now a rusted exhausted system on our dependable quatre quatre, it makes sense why I'm having such a wonderful time wasting time being nervous about something else mechanical going wrong.

Blame it on the fact that my father turned 70 Sunday and I'm still wondering how that happened. How is it possible that it's been 10 years since I was living with my parents wondering what on earth would become of me and of them in the years to come?

Blink. Here we are. Alive, well, and surrounded by people we never knew we would love so much. His life, our lives, passing along as they should.

Blame it on the fact that we spent yesterday outside on a glorious mountain, skiing through mashed potatoes disguised as snow, laughing, falling, learning, singing, being. Four of us look like a family of rabies infested raccoons today. From the neck up, that is. The confidence Mini-Husband has on that mountain makes me want to cry. He's so beautiful and strong that boy. If only he could see what I see.

Blame it on the fact that Rosie will be a year old later this month. This amazing year of wonders. When will it be that I get to hold and snuggle someone so little and so dear to me again?

Blame it on the grass that's starting to grow slowly, tiny blade by tiny blade, in the front garden. I've thrown the seeds and watched, wondering how it will all turn out in that patch of dust. Will it grow? Will it grow?

Blink. In a month's time, I'll be begging the big two to please, please, please, just go cut the grass.

How can one have organized thoughts when all this happening so slowly, so vividly, so intensely around you?


Friday, April 2, 2010

Taking Neighbourly Relations to a Whole New Level

Trevor, our lovely English friend who has a second home in the village, sent me an email the other night to say that he and his family would be arriving on Friday morning and was there was anything we might want or need from the Mother Land.

Off the top of my head I couldn't think of anything but I jokingly told him I'd love a bra from Marks & Spencer but perhaps I should talk to his wife about that.

"Right then," he said. "Give us the details..."

The vision of a simple bra, the right size and not costing a minor fortune shimmered before my eyes. So, in a white wine induced moment of insanity, I told this lovely friend, a man I am not related to in any way, a man who I see twice a year at best, my bra size.

This will be a whole new shopping experience for them I am sure. I can't even imagine trying to explain to a sales girl who or what said article of clothing is being bought for. More proof indeed that I am completely nuts. For not only am I now asking for people to bring me peanut butter from the United States, but underwear from the UK.

I got anther email from Trevor last night telling me he had his two 20 year old daughters on the case. They were both impressed and horrified at my size (just you wait, girls) but seemed ready to tackle the search for a scaffold. Bless 'em.

When I related this whole story to Hubster, he got that look on his face that I love. That look that says, "you-are-such-a-flid-why-on-earth-am-I-married-to-you?" To which, I smile, try to look cute and say, "well, at least I didn't ask them to buy me a puppy."