Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Going Under

The ambiance at the pool yesterday was tense. I don't know if it was the kids or my own shattered brain, but nothing seemed to be going smoothly. None of the games in the water really seemed to work and we ended up just letting the group play jellyfish for most of  the time.

It wasn't just our group that was off, the maître-nageur also seemed to be having difficulty with his group. Granted, he has some of the most challenging boys with him, but yesterday, things seemed to escalate beyond the realms of normal 7 year old boy behavior.

At one point, the maître-nageur punished the entire group and left them sitting on the side of the pool until the three main trouble makers, Valentin, Alexi, and Tomai, understood how horrible they were being. He then made the whole group line up on one side of the deep end and, one by one, swim as fast as they could to the other side.

The only problem was that some of these kids aren't really psychologically ready to get across that pool. Sure, they know how to kick and pull with their arms, but they just don't know that they know how to swim.

I saw Valentin dive in with a huge grin on his face. He made it halfway across, close to where I was with my group, and then stopped. He  bobbed up and down for a minute, and then between moments of sheer panic, he began to frantically search around him for a wall or a kick board. I glanced at the maître-nageur who was standing on the side of the pool watching, all the while Valentin becoming more and more distressed.

Finally, my heart couldn't handle it anymore and I began to swim towards this boy I've known since he was 3 years old. I made two strong strokes, but by then the maître-nageur had already beaten me to him.

Later on in the changing rooms, Valentin looked at me with his large dark brown eyes now filled with fear and said,

"He was going to drown me. He was going to drown me."

"No, Valentin," I sobbed as the tears poured down my face and into the hole in my heart. "No, I wouldn't have let him. Never. Never."

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Do you hear that?

It's the sound of the silence that is screaming through my broken heart and I can not make it stop. No matter how much I've cried, no matter how much I've listened, it won't stop.

It's lashing at my hair, blowing the tears off my face and haunting me in every room of this house that is now no longer a home.

I take a deep breath, open my eyes and scream back with everything that I am.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Empty Your Attic

The village had it's annual vide grenier yesterday which meant pretty much everyone in town emptied out their basements, attics, and garages, set up stands around the square and then stood there for hours hoping someone would pay a heck of a lot of euros for old granny's hot water bottle.

At least it was a nice day.

MH and The Princess searched every single nook and cranny in our house for all the centimes they could find so they could buy all kinds of wonderful stuff. They are now the proud owners of a disco ball microphone and yet another marble game amongst other things like fridge magnets and more broken little cars. Yippy.

I got given a very nice version of Monopoly by some friends of mine. I'm still trying to understand the irony of finding something that reminds me of when I was footloose and fancy free while standing in the square of a village on top of a mole hill in the backwater of France, yelling at my children to stop asking for barb à papa.

Who knew that a game about the Chamonix of the Rockies would have been such a big hit here in the darkest Auvergne? I just wonder which one of my neighbours was friends with John Denver?

In the end, a nice day was had by all. Especially our buddy, Christophe, who knows how to make the day, and by coincidence his sales, just that much nicer.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The People in My Neighbourhood: Smahia

When I first started sending Bubba-Love to the creche, I had no idea what the heck I was doing. Not because I didn't get the whole leaving-your-kid-in-day-care thing, but because I didn't really understand the nuances of what going to a creche meant. Having not been raised in France and not speaking the 'real' language, there were lots of little things that seemed simple to understand that just went over my head. Like what was expected in his lunch, the fact that slippers were obligatory, and the whole gigoteuse thing. Sure, a lot of this would be similar for any parent beginning to use any day care, but when you're coming at something like this with a whole different cultural background, something so simple as slippers can become complicated. And frightening.

Thank God for Smahia. 

The first time I met her and bumbled my heavily accented hellos, she took my little man in her arms and with a simple smile, made me feel at ease. She spoke slowly and never seemed to try and guess at what I was saying until I got to the point where I just couldn't charade it any more. It was obvious in her manner that even though I was butchering her native tongue, she respected me and didn't make me feel like an idiot. I was a parent dropping off her son, just like all the other mothers that morning. I could have kissed her.

Thing is, as I've come to learn over the years, Smahia was the best person to understand. She remembered all too well when her own mother would have difficulty trying to get by in French many years ago. Her mom was like me. Not from here, but raising her family here. Raising children who's nursery rhymes are songs we'd never heard before.  Children who have the French manner of saying, "oh la, la, la, la" with the right hand gestures to go with it. Children who are French even though their parents are not. 

I forget now where exactly in the Maghreb Smahia's mother is from, but it really doesn't matter. There are things that a mother with a North African background and a mother with an American one do share when they live here. At times we are lost, confused, unsure of ourselves, and missing "home." We also share this incredibly wonderful thing of having worldly children who, at tender young ages, get what it means to be multicultural. 

It's a God send knowing Bubba-Love, and now little Rosie, get to be with someone like Smahia at the creche. She 'gets' them. And their mother. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Down Time

It's getting late and I'm waiting for Hubster to get home. All the members of the tribe have been fed and watered and hunkered down for the night. The four legged ones with a scratch behind each ear, the two legged ones with a hug and a kiss.

It's so quiet that I can hear my thoughts arguing with each other. Should I worry about why I exist or should I focus on how I'm going to get a weed wacker to the repair shop tomorrow while having to deal with two ricocheting toddlers?

Should I play on Facebook and see if I can find more of my past and wonder how it's possible that I've crossed paths with extreme skiers, insane runners, some simply wonderful French people, evangelistic Christians who I actually like to listen to, and those who may have just been witnesses to my life as a comet?

Perhaps I should read a book. Or maybe write a letter. Open some wine or take a bath. Or just sit here and watch the bat that lives in our stone wall do his nightly aerobatics past the window and marvel that he's as blind as I am in this world and yet.... He seems to be doing ok. Perhaps I am too.

The church bells are chiming out yet another hour. How grateful am I for that.

And for the sound of Hubster's car.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Coming Soon!

My apologies for not writing sooner. Between toddler wrestling, sibling rivalry and the basic nightmares of back-to-school meetings, I've found myself short of time and short of ideas. I already bore you with loads of random blah blah as it is, I didn't want to nail the coffin completely shut by talking about the September menu at the cantine. (Though, puree and tête de veau twice a month is quite exciting, isn't it?)

But, I do have good news. I've decided that I'm going to make an attempt to introduce you to some of the people in and around the mole hill that make our life here so interesting and good. There's the local healer, the insane woman who gets me lost in the woods, the very funny boulanger, the wonderful women at the creche, Grandma Francaise, and even the secretary at the Mairie, for starters.

Hell, you know us so well, why not get to know those here that we know well, right?  Now, I'm not promising this will be a regular feature, but I will try and do this at least once a month. Pinky-swear. And feel free to remind me. Especially if I start talking about really boring stuff like poop or children or French grocery stores too much.

Till then, you guessed it, I'm off to clean up dog poop, take the kids to horse riding lessons, chase Bubba-Love around the grocery store, and then if I'm lucky, spend some time matching socks.

Jealous, aren't you?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Rentrée des Bisous

This whole going back to school thing has been incredibly stressful for me. Not because I'm sending my children off to spend their days with highly trained and strike happy teachers.  No, it's been this whole bisous thing.

A bisous, as some of you may be aware, is the way the French like to greet people. You say, "Bonjour" and then you cuddle up to them and press your cheek softly against theirs and make that gently puckering noise often associated with kissing babies. Sometimes someone might give you a full on the cheek kiss as they might  like to do and that's fine. Perhaps a bit wet, but fine all the same. Then, once you get one side done, you then have to do the same thing all over again on the other side.

Doesn't sound too complicated, now does it?

BUT, ALAS! Simple trickery once again! Just who does one give a bisous to? I've known the teacher for almost 8 years but the thought of giving her one has never crossed my mind. Then, there are the people I've known from school year to school year, who's children have caused all kinds of ruckus with mine for the last few years, and I'm scared I'll smack my nose against theirs as we say hello. Then, finally, there are our good friends, who's children I've feed and had sleep over. I'm almost sure I need to give them a bisous, but I feel so silly trying to kiss my good friend's husband.

To bisous or not to bisous, that is the question.

Good thing we got to school 15 minutes early yesterday so that I could bisous or not bisous the other parents and kids that were there. Luckily our Auvergne bisous is only one on each side. It must add a 1/2 hour to any group greeting in places where 4 is considered polite.

Yes, you see, because it is normal when you go somewhere where other people have also been invited (dinner parties, drinks etc) that you give a bisous to everyone who's there. Once again, I'm at a loss. Do introduce myself as I switch sides? What if I've got a cold? Do I have to bisous that man that smells like goat's cheese?

I will admit that this is where I flaunt my foreignness to the hilt. I show up behind my adorable cherubs and just smile like the village idiot. I wave at everyone, hug a few people, and then just yell "BONJOUR" to all and sundry standing there. There is a reason why I've cultivated this "airhead" thing as well as I have.

So at least I survived the dreaded rentrée bisous for this year. Now, I can go back to just kissing people that offer me wine.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Oh Happy Day

So 3/4 of the tribe trundled back to school today.

Mini-Husband got up at 6:45am to get ready for his 8am bus ride. The Princess was up at 7:15 and finally got her hair brushed with just 10 minutes to go. Bubba-Love "lost" his back pack somewhere in the house. We searched everywhere but only found it when he went to use the bathroom before walking up to school.

All things considered, not too bad a start to the school year.

And what did the other 1/4 and I do, you must be wondering? See if you can guess...

Nothing but happiness and joy. Happiness and joy!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I Bought Two Bottles in the End

It occurred to me yesterday that I have absolutely no need for a mobile phone. No one calls me, no one texts me, the only people who might need to reach me are the ones who can physically do so as they follow me around the house yelling about siblings.

I had finally recharged my phone after having forgotten about it for the month of August. All ready to roll, I decided perhaps it would be nice to catch up with some of my friends with a quick, "how was vacation?" text. Seven sent, zero replies. I'm hoping it's because their own phones are still snoozing somewhere and not because they had blocked anything from my number.

Later, standing in the booze section of the grocery store with three people high on barbe a papa (thank you Buffalo Grill,) I tried reaching Hubster for a little advice on just where in Scotland our whiskey should come from. He told me he'd call me right back.

I'm still waiting.

Thank God at least the sugar high has finally worn off.

I plugged the phone in again this morning just for kicks and giggles. It looks so cute all lit up and blinking, pas des messages. I feel kinda sorry for it, actually. Such a nice phone with all kids of lovely little features, stuck living in the back of a drawer next to four year old gum packets, dead batteries, and tick spray.

I lived without one for years and I'm thinking the time has come to do just that once more. Perhaps I'll rethink this whole thing in a few years when Mini-Husband is off learning how to drive cargo boats, but until then, back to the drawer with you! I prefer feeling insignificant all by myself, without you reminding me that I have pas des messages, thank you very much.

So if anyone needs me on this last day of summer holidays, I'll be wandering around the village, trying hard to enjoy the sunshine and the tribe. We'll be the ones yelling in English.