Thursday, July 29, 2010

Four A.M. Again

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Thoughts on Flying Sardine Cans

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

All the Hippies Go Berserk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come on, let's grow some dreads.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Truth About the Birth Control Bed & Breakfast Summer Camp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 15, 2010

They're Faster Than You Think. I Think.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words


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

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

See this bear:

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

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

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

Boarding school. I'm dreaming of boarding school.

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

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

Friday, July 9, 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

 A cool wind. A soft bed. Sleeping children.

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

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Careful, He Might Think He's Actually French

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Myth of "Vacation"

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

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





My head hurts from the noise.

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

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

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

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