Friday, May 28, 2010

I Miss Her

I'm sick today. Some sort of crud that's giving me the chills, a bum tummy, and a headache that no amount of Advil will get rid off. I've spent the early morning hours praying for 9 o'clock to arrive so I could get the tribe to school and Rosie down for a nap so I could do the same.

As I lay curled up under the duvet, I started playing hopscotch with my memories. Memories of a day at the beach in the 80s, graduation from college, shopping for something to wear to a high school mixer, and various and sundry moments of my aunt, Mary Pat, who died 25 years ago today.

The funny thing is, as much as I am thinking about my aunt being gone for so long now, I'm reminded that my constant in all these memories is my mother. She shares this date with Mary Pat because in the whole wackiness of life and it's cruel jokes, it's also her birthday. And my mom, bless her, has been here for the last 25 years and for that I am eternally grateful.

I can wonder and dream about what Mary Pat's life could have been like had she had the chance to live longer than she did, but today I'm focusing on the fact that I know what my mom's life has been and is. One of love, one of respect, one of letting her children and her children's children live their lives as best as they can. She's taught me over these last 25 years how to learn to let other people just be, how not to take myself too seriously and most importantly, how to accept things as they are.

I know she doesn't like sharing this day with Mary Pat at all. I know that if my mom had her choice, she would have given all the stars in the sky to have had Mary Pat with her for these last 25 years. Her love for her sister is constant. Just as mine is for her.

I miss my aunt but I miss my mother more. Especially on days when I just want her to come lay me down on the couch, put a Coke next to me, and help me rest. I am so damn lucky for all the simple things she's done for me. How glad am I that she's still here, even though she thousands of miles away.

It's Kitty's birthday today. I hope she knows just how thankful I am that she's graced this world with her presence.

I'm proud of you and I love you to the moon and back.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I Think There's a Grudge Here Somewhere

Hubster and I were pretty excited a few months back when we found a really good rate for car insurance on the bateau de route. We filled out the online forms and got provisional approval immediately. All that needed to be done for the final contract was send in the signed forms and photo copies of our drivers licences. Not a problem.

It dawned on me after the fun little breakdown experience on the way home from England, that I should make sure everything was as it should be with the final contract, which we still hadn't received.  I called the company and was told that everything was in order, all the documents were there and I could expect our status to be updated on their web site. Fine. Sounded great.

I checked the site yesterday, just for kicks, only to see that we were still lingering in provisional insurance land. According to them, they still hadn't received the copies of the drivers licences. Funny, that's not what that guy had told me almost two weeks ago.

A phone call later and I was speaking to a very nice young woman who informed me that, yes, all the documents had been received but that there was a problem with our licenses.

"I'm sorry, Mrs Dig, but your licences aren't valid in France."

"Excuse me?" I said.

"Yes, it seems that you do not have French drivers licenses so therefore we can not insure you."

"But wait. This is like the 5 or 6 car we've owned in France and we've never had an issue with our licenses before. Why is this a problem now?"

"Can you hold, please?"

Two minutes later, the lovely young lady comes back.

"Mrs. Dig, I'm sorry but your English drivers licences aren't valid in France."

"I'm sorry nice young lady, but I beg to differ."

"Well, Mrs Dig, English driving licenses don't work for us because they aren't European."

"Excuse me? EXCUSE ME? Since when isn't England part of Europe?"

At this point, the conversation with the lovely young lady became pretty much useless and our provisional contract with her company expired right there and then. Which, I'm thinking is a good thing.

Hubster's all up in arms about discrimination and the fact the he, as a red blooded Englishman, has the same rights as any other European and this is all just nonsense.


Fortunately for us, we were able to get a contract for the bateau de route with our original insurance company. This being the one that actually likes Europeans even if they come from England.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Daughter

When I was pregnant with The Princess, it never even seemed like a possibility that she would be a she. Perhaps it was because I was so wrapped up in little boy things at the time that imagining a world of pink and purple just didn't seem possible. And then one muggy Auvergnate morning, she was there. Delicately pink and tiny. The sweetest little girl I'd ever seen.

And today, she's 7. Seven.

I look at her now, wearing every shade of pink that she can find in her closet, and I just breathe a sigh of good fortune for having this wonder in our lives. I know these days of fairies and sparkles and shiny dresses won't last forever so I'm trying to let her (and me) enjoy it as much as we can.

She's serious this one. Rational like her father and yet when she laughs, it's her whole being that's free. She's social and smart, sporty as hell, and charmingly reserved. She'll let you in when she's ready to let you in. And not a second sooner.

She's helpful and loving even though sometimes when she whips Rosie around like a doll, I have a minor coronary. It's that determined nature, that "I can do it, MOM" attitude I love and that I fear for when she's 15.

She gave me the most amazing hug the other day and I didn't want to let go. I worry the most about how we will grow and change as a mother and daughter over the years and I just hope that she always knows how much I love her. This relationship has to be one of the most dynamic and amazing I've ever had. How can I ever thank her for that?

The Princess is 7 today. Happy Birthday, my beautiful, beautiful daughter.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Long Live the King

The other night at dinner, we somehow, by way of a conversation about Grandma and Grand-dad, started a long and convoluted discussion with the kids about the Battle of Hastings. Hubster and I launched colourful explanations of 1066 and why this battle was every so important to English history.

On my side, I tried to really stress the point that the man who invaded England at that time was actually Norman. I had great fun telling Mini-Husband that William the Conqueror was actually French. Ok, so not French-French at the time, but hey, I'll do what I can to score some points in this Anglo-centric household.

It was a lively discussion and I have to say I'm ever so glad that the kids are at least learning a little bit about history outside of France. Whether or not they remember all this is another thing.

But I know I'll will.

See, Bubba-Love was ever so impressed to hear than not only had he, William, invaded England, but that he, WILLIAM, actually became the KING. (Yes, Bubba-Love's name is William.)

"I'm the KING," he cried with a huge grin across his face. "And my sisters are the princesses! And mommy's the queen!"

"So what's daddy then, sweetie?"

"Daddy? Well, daddy's the horse."

Friday, May 21, 2010

Recharging the Batteries

The sun is back.

I'm sitting at the upstairs desk, windows open, listening the Grandma-Français chat away with La Neighboure's dad in the street. Pleasant voices mixed with the occasional melody from the birds nesting in our magnolia trees.

The church bells have just told me it's 9:30 a.m. and I know I need to rise up, stretch out my arms and get busy with all that surrounds me.

But for just a moment more, I'm like a cat. Eyes closed, face towards the morning sun, soaking in the warmth and beauty that we've missed for the last few weeks. I inhale deeply. The air is perfume today.

The street is silent now and I open my eyes to look at the ancient church across from my window. It's cool shadows have been pierced by the sun. The green leaves of the blooming apples trees between us have cast a surreal glow that makes me want to take this place, this light, these smells, into my arms and affirm in a silent whisper: C'est beau. C'est beau. C'est beau.

This morning, I am better for letting the sun, in all it's glory, speak.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Big Dogs

The owners for Melting Pot and Calisse came over Sunday afternoon to move our lawn mowers onto greener pastures. After two weeks of nibbling away at our field, we've got some nicely trimmed sections, some nicely pooped on sections, and some really horrible stinging bushes that the horses wouldn't go near with the a ten foot pole.

When their 'parents' got here to to move them, they handed me a helmet and asked if I wanted a go. Me being me said, HECK YEAH, before really thinking that whole thing through.

I used to ride horses when I was about 12 years old. My mom would schlep me up to the equestrian centre not too far from our house and I'd hold on tight to the horn of a western saddle and pray that whatever horse I was riding that day wouldn't really wake up and start running with any sort of speed. I was happy to go around in circles, calmly, all the while in my head thinking I was like those rough and tough western woman on the frontier.

Childhood dreams. Adulthood reality.

I was able to haul myself up on to Melting Pot without a problem and tried to listen to my friend's advice about how to hold the reigns, how to not fall off that non-Western saddle, how to make the thing stop, as best as I could. Of course my friend didn't tell me that not only did Melting Pot not like eating stinging bushes, Melting Pot didn't like walking through them either.

Galloping through them was just fine on the other hand.

Somehow by the grace of God and the size of my four-children-later butt, I was able to stay on. Quite exhilarating I must say. I kept thinking that if I did fall off and kill myself, at least Hubster could use the insurance money to buy a proper lawn mover and the kids some bon-bons at the boulangerie.

When Melting Pot finally did stop, my friends smiled at me and I started giggling like the village idiot I really am. Such wonderful, wonderful fun.

I followed our friend on Calisse and rode Melting Pot down the path behind the field and over to the next field where they will put their lawn mower skills to good use. Funny thing is, I miss them here. I miss getting to see them from the window, giving them some carrots or apples when I would go to feed the dogs. I miss singing to them when Typhon would howl, I miss watching them romp, stretching those long legs and beautiful strong heads.

I can't wait till they come back.

You know, screw that puppy idea. I know what I want for my 40th...

Monday, May 17, 2010

I Blame Eyjafjallajokull

I don't know where you live, but here, in south central back of beyond, it's cold. Freaking cold. I kid you not, we have had both our wood stoves burning as hot as we could get them to just try and keep the house at a comfy 15°C. We thought about turning back on the central heating, but it's MAY for goodness sake.

This past weekend was one of the many long May weekends that we get in France. The first big one of the month where all and sundry pack up their vacation stuff and head off to the old family homes, where ever they may be, and spend a weekend chasing spiders, scrapping mould off of walls and just being really glad that second homes and some family members are just that, far far away. 

Our village was plein a craquer, meaning that every single house that usually sits tight with it's shutters closed, was open and sporting more cars in front of it then a Hummer dealership. Funny thing was, there wasn't a human to be seen. 

Why? Well, all these poor long lost rellies of former residents of the Village on the Hill were all hiding inside trying to stay warm and cursing themselves for not having gone to Tunisia instead of being stuck in this frigid backwater of the Auvergne. They were hiding under dusty duvets wondering what on earth happened to the sun and who's idea was it to pack sandals in the first place?

As for me, I'm blaming that unpronounceable volcano in Iceland. That scary cloud of ash that stops jumbo jets in a single poof, I am convinced is wrecking havoc with my spring time. 

It's rained for almost two weeks straight and we've even had snow at 700 meters. There's a rumour floating around that all these cold temps have also practically destroyed the hirondelle (swallow) population of the area. The poor little birds migrated back for summer only to be faced with freezing temps and weren't able to cope. Unlike the second home owners, the little birds couldn't just get in their cars, turn on the heat and leave.

The weather service says that things should improve this week and I really hope so. I love winter. It's my favourite season. But there is just something in me that thinks when the local ski area is closed, it's time for spring. 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

He So Gets It

Magali is visiting with us this weekend and it's hilarious how we all flip from English to French, back to English and then again to French. I'm not really sure what language we should stick to at this point.

Bubba-Love is quite taken with Magali and has been enjoying chatting away to her in all his languages. It's good she's here because there is nothing better than having a native speaker correct your mistakes.

For example, he asked me if I could go get his blue blankie (the most wonderful dou-dou of all time).

"Maman, tu peux chercher mon bleu dou-dou?"

Magali quickly corrected him.

"Bubba-Love, in French we say, 'dou-dou bleu.' In English, we say "blue blankie."

He thought about this for a nano-second and then said,

"Maman, tu peux chercher mon blue blankie?"

Touché. Il est trop fort.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Another Reason Why I Hate Living so Far From Family

I need someone to come hang out with the big kids for an hour tonight while I go return the rental car. Just an hour. Not too much to ask.

But finding someone in the village has gotten to be a little nutty. It's a long holiday weekend and everyone is on their way out of town. I've tried Grandma Française, I've tried the daughter of the boulanger, I've tried Musher Boy, I've tried French Me.  I've even gone so far as to considering calling the lady who lives opposite us, the one who's only contact with us has been to yell obscenities at Typhon from her living room window.

I wish I had a niece, a nephew, an aunt, a grandma, a BaPa, someone who I could call in a second and beg to come hang out. Someone who I don't have to explain the whole situation to, just explain that I need them. Can they help?

Family. People you can guilt trip into helping with the simple promise of a nice Christmas present or a non-existent million dollars.

Amazing what you notice you appreciate when you haven't got it around.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Six People, Four Countries (Two without a Government,) and One Very Nice Tow Truck

You know, I have been trying all morning, make that all day now, to figure out how on earth I can blog about this latest adventure to England. An adventure that hasn't yet quite finished since our lovely old bateau de route is in some garage 100 kilometers from here and until that beautiful beast is back in the fold, I'm not convinced the adventure is over.

How can I blog about that fabulous experience at the American Consulate in Lyon last Wednesday. (Already? Whoa, that went fast!) The appointment where my darling son, the first child of my love match to Hubster, spurts out while I'm signing his passport application,

"I'm not American. I'm British. English British."

How can I blog about our trip to the industrial museum in Mannheim (yes, there were some steam rollers) with it's steam engine train ride that consisted of getting on the train, going out of the train garage, stopping to give us a second to stare at the pouring rain, then reversing itself right back into the museum as fast as you can say, "auf wiedersehen!"

How can I explain in a simple blog how we stumbled upon the mythical restaurant at the end of the universe, hidden off an auto route in Belgium, exactly where no one would have looked for it. A place where neither my English or French got me a piece of bread, but somehow Hubster managed to get us all meatballs and pasta.

How can I limit myself just to a blog to talk about how wonderful and amazing Auntie Doris is. How can I begin to explain the life that this woman has had, the things she's had to deal with, and yet she still remains the most positive person I've ever met.

And how can I tell you about how freaking nightmarish it was to have our bateau break down on the auto route. Trucks and buses whizzing by as we slowed into that teeny tiny bande d'arrêt d'urgence. The vision of carnage that was beginning to swirl in my head...I don't think I've ever been so happy to coast into a rest stop like we did yesterday. Cross your fingers it's nothing serious and we can be happily reunited with the bateau soon.

At this point, Rosie is throwing socks and bottles of day old milk around the hallway. Duty calls at the Birth Control Bed & Breakfast so I must leave you with just these tid bits for now.

God, it's good to be home.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I Have Four Minutes

In Germany. Thankfully.

Remind me to tell you all about how Hubster popped off and the car dropped out of gear as we were travelling at 130 km on the autoroute. Good times! No more beans for him, that´s for sure...

I´ll update from England and the "Auntie Doris is 90" party, I promise.

Till then, I´m going to enjoy the wine and whiskey that have been placed in front of me.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Tondeuse à Deux Chevaux

It's the World Cup of Grass Cutting these days in the village and I'm happy to say that our team, (pictured here on the left) even though off to a slow start, has rapidly caught up with the neighbour's side.

So far, no signs of injury or red cards, so we're hoping the team can carry on through the finals and really give that field a really good kickin'.

Only bummer is that Hubster, aka the head coach, is so allergic to his team, he's been sent off the field. Good thing Mini-Husband has been there to take up the relay. He's happy to give inspirational messages to Melting Pot and Calisse as often as he can.

Yes, our lovely new lawn mowers are Melting Pot and Calisse. Now please make sure you say Melting Pot correctly. The other night I tried to call her, "Here, Melting Pot" and she just stared at me. You need to make sure you call her Melting Pot. Got it? Accent is important with animals, you know.

And no. We haven't bought them. The only deux chevaux we'll ever have would be one like this:

Cute as it is, I'm not so confident about it's ability to cut grass. I think we're much better off sticking with the deux chevaux that not only trims back the weeds and stuff out there, but in the process provides us with fertilizer for the grass I'm trying to grow in the front garden. A win-win in my humble opinion. Just what the team needed.