Monday, September 12, 2011

For The Man

Every word they sing rings true for you & me, Babe.

Love you.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I had just the three big kids today. Decided I wanted to try and make the most of the time I have before I leave and spend a bit of it with just them. We tucked Rosie off to the creche and then headed into town for a little bit of bowling, something I had promised them we'd do during vacation and never got around to doing.

We got the funky shoes on, found our lane, and with thanks to those bumper thingies, we were able to bash the pins quite happily. Of course, Bubba took to throwing the bowling ball rather than rolling it, but his approach was effective because he won. Which, of course, caused a minor hysteria with the other two.

I tried to explain, over and over again, that it wasn't about who was winning but that we were having fun together. Cue horrible theatrics from The Princess. I tried to point out that I missed the pins pretty much every time and I was ok with that. Cue The Princess throwing herself onto the lane and weeping, with long drawn out sighs between shrieks.

We finally finished up and I was able to get the grumpy group back into the car and head off to the grocery store that started it all for me in France. I figured over Nutella crepes at Cora, perhaps I'd get that quality time I was hoping for.

Silly, Dig.

They ate fast, told fart jokes, and didn't listen to me when I tried to spill out all the worries in my heart. I wanted to tell them how much I love them, how proud I am of them, how I hope they'll take it easy on their dad and be nice to the nannies we've got lined up. I wanted to explain for the 700,000 time how I needed them to really help with Rosie when the gang flies over the pond in October. I just wanted to have that moment of deep sharing, a connection, like a scene from one of those movies where the whole smiling family gets together and says through hugs and high-fives, "yes, you betcha!"

I didn't get that.

I stared at their chocolate smeared empty plates as they ran off to the play area and felt like crying.

These are my babies. My babies who I've pushed around that store in all kinds of car seats and shopping carts. My babies who make me insane and crazy mama-bear proud. They leave half eaten cookies next to the toilet, fight over DVDs, and leave The Man's tools out in the rain. They don't listen, they eat with their mouths open, and hit each other when I'm not looking. There are times they make me want to run away as far as I can and now that I'm actually doing that, I'm scared.

I'm scared of leaving them. I'm scared of missing them. I'm scared of being me and not mommy.

I know these weeks will fly by and I'll be back to going insane with them and their Legos on the other side of the pond before I know it, but until then, I will ache. A deep, silly, unsettled ache until my whole tribe, The Man included, is with me again.

I know. I know. Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

Monday, September 5, 2011


I shouldn't be here right now. I have mounds of laundry to put away, dust bunnies to slaughter, and, oh that little packing thing I've been avoiding....

I still can't believe that in just a few short weeks, I'm outta here.  How do you wrap up 8 years of living in a place in such a short time? I have a new found respect and admiration for my crazy ancestors who decided to get on a boat and sail far, far away from everything and everyone they had ever loved, never knowing if they would hear from or see their loved ones again. I'm a lucky sod. I get email and Facebook.

Someone asked me yesterday if I regretted anything of my life here and the answer was most definitely, no. They then asked if I was really ready to leave and the answer was most definitely, yes.

Get me on that boat, Captain. It's time to sail.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Step One: Make More Coffee

Our coffee machine broke a couple of weeks ago and with the pending possibility of upping sticks, we bought a cheap and cheerful replacement at Carrefour. It's a lovely little white machine that makes ever so cute steaming noises while at work. The only downers are that it's white, and therefore likes to show off it's hard work, and it drips everywhere when you pour out the coffee. The other bummer is that it doesn't turn itself off automatically after 2 hours like the last one we had, so I have added another level of stress to my life: I shout and fight, get the tribe into the car, head off for destinations far & wide only to suddenly wonder, about 45 minutes from home, if I turned the coffee machine off.

On the positive side of things, since we don't own a microwave chez nous, there is a new found joy when I can stumble into the kitchen, frazzled and freaking, and find that the coffee I made after The Man left for work is still there and hot. Sure, it's thickened up slightly, but hey! Coffee soup! That's what's for dinner!

I've needed this overdosing of caffeine this week. Trying to sort out flights, nannies, clothes, toys, stuff, crap, friends, dogs, life is intense. But I'm sure you already knew that. In about two weeks, everything changes and we have two months of nuts. Even though the knot in my stomach is for something positive this time, I'm ever so glad I can still drown the sucker in a nice strong cup of Guatemalan.

My first cup coffee in the morning is the most perfect because The Man brings it to me and we sit in bed, stare out at the hills behind the house, and enjoy the peace. These days are flying. We sip as slowly as the minutes can allow.

An hour later and my second cup is done, just as the sun peaks out from behind the church. I hear the boys yelling for Nutella and the background noise of Rosie's favourite Wallace & Gromit film.

My cup is empty. But overflowing.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fasten Your Seat Belts

Wow. Whoa. OH MY GOD! I got that wonderful job. And now, everything changes.

After 9 years in France, 11 years in Europe, I'm taking my people back to chez moi. I arrived with a fuzzy malamute and a backpack crammed with t-shirts and coffee mugs and now, I'm leaving with 4 little people, a fuzzy Brit, and suitcases filled with Lego.

I have no idea where to begin with anything. I have no idea how to say goodbye to all that we've lived at the Birth Control Bed & Breakfast. I'm beyond excited and miserably sad.

I know in my heart this is the right thing to do. It's time for all of us to move on and do new things, become the people we want to be in a place where The Man & I think everyone will bloom.

I sit here, staring out the window at the village church, and I'm in awe how the weather reflects my mood. It's stormy out there, windy with the clouds swirling around the steeple. But just when I think it's going to finally rain, there's a flash of lightening and glimpse of brilliant blue sky.

I hear the kids fighting with each other in French as Rosie tries to squeeze next to them on the couch.

I hear Typhon howling as the church bells chime.

I see my neighbours heading up to the boulangerie for bread.

I watch the clouds.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Almost As Bad As Waiting for Your Due Date

I'm having one of those problems of thought block yet again this week. My mind is a jumble of past, present, & future and I really wish I could clear it all out.

Adding to my wonderful mental mess is that fact that I'm waiting on news about a possible job. I've interviewed roughly three times with the company and I really, really, really want to land this. Trouble is, if I do get it, this job will radically throw us all up into the air. Such fun trying to live day to day and plan for the immediate when there's a chance that the immediate we know won't be the immediate we live.

So until I know what's up, I'm back to impersonating a pinball machine as I wander around the house, cleaning up random Oreos that Rosie has licked and left laying about, listening to Bubba make deep philosophical statements like, "funny how all fish sticks are made from all kinds of fish, but I only like fish sticks and not all kinds of fish."

The Princess is obsessed with earrings and make-up, MH with Airbus 380s, and the dogs with finding a cold spot in lock-down to beat this amazing summer heat that has finally arrived.

The Man laughs at me as I try to stay calm, pointing out that staying sane has never been an option since 2002. He's working on part 3 of the 'Great Wall of the Village on the Hill' and believe it or not, the end is actually in sight. The psychological release of this is massive. I see a happier, zenner Man in the not too distant future.

So, my imaginary friends, patience. Take a deep breath with me and look around us. Perhaps this is the calm before the storm. Or not.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Can I Get Them All Electric Collars?

This morning started off nuts. Here's me, running around like a mad woman, trying to sort out some stuff on-line, doing laundry, dishes, and entertaining the tribe when my cancer-kicking running buddy stops by for coffee.

We have a good chat about all the wackos in the village, figure out how to solve all the worlds' problems, and decide just which running show is the bomb, when another friend and her three peeps show up for lunch.

And unfortunately, as her peeps came in, they let the dogs out.

But fortunately, la neighboure had her car parked out front of our houses so we zoomed off to rescue the furry friends before the three of them could be stampeded by a very big, very large group of angry Limousin. Nothing like the smell of cow-poop in a small French car.

We get the dogs back into lock-down, I start setting the table to eat, and then it dawns on me that MH is missing. Turns out, he had taken off on his bike to find the dogs as well and still hadn't returned.

I waited. I waited. I panicked. I called everyone in the village. Then everyone in the village went looking for him.

And low-and-behold, not 5 minutes after everyone had gotten into their cars and driven hours towards Paris, MH returned, very sweaty and almost as angry as that herd of Limousin. Of course, at this point, I couldn't call anyone to tell them he had returned because they were all still out there looking for him.

We jitteringly sit down to eat, jumping up from time to time to tell kindly villagers driving by that MH was now home, safe and sound, all the time thinking to myself, "what a hell of a morning."

Cue coffee and a deep sigh of relief.

Silly, Dig.

'Cause now, where, oh where, was Rosie?

We checked the attic. We checked the bedrooms. We checked the basement. We checked the closets. We checked the pool. We checked the lane. At this beyond panic overload, I ran to the back garden and up the back alley that leads into the village. Still no sign of her anywhere.

I reached the boulangerie, hung a left, and ran hard back towards my house.

And who do I see then? My cancer-kicking friend, eyes wide, giggling.

"MON DIEU! I just pulled into the village after looking for MH and who do I see banging on the front door of the boulangerie looking for bon-bons? ROSIE!"

Cue heart attack and tears of relief.

Mon dieu, indeed.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Glimpse

I don't think you have any idea, you 8 dedicated readers out there, how much I've been thinking about you, wondering if I decided to just quit this whole blogging thing, what difference would it really make... And then I remembered that as much as I blog for the responses I get from you, (all two of them!) I blog because if not, I will launch myself off that proverbial cliff that I cling to every day.

It's been a hectic couple of weeks with the tribe at home, shitty weather that would make France ashamed of itself, and craziest of all, my homeless in-laws being with us. Imagine: you've just turned 85, sold your house, and now are stuck squatting at your kids' places until you can find a house you like in a depressed property market. Yup, it's a complete 180° to the normal "parents-have-house/poor-adult-child-moves-back-in" thing. But here, I think we win because these two so want their own place again that everyone sees a light at the end of the tunnel, unlike some of my other friends who's kids are BACK and seem to really like sharing the same toothpaste with Dad once again. 

And yet even though they are lovely, the kids are lovely, The Man is lovely, I'm mentally a mess. I'm having this little problem of keeping my thoughts too much in the past. I'm dwelling on this time last year and I know it's because our plans for the future are stalled and until something gives, moves, or changes for The Man & I, I can not get out of this rut. Until our new plans can really kick in, I'm remembering all the crap that tried to swallow me in the years behind us. You have no idea how much I want one of those red blinking light things they have in The Men in Black films.

Bless my Man for trying to keep me sane... but there are times when all he can do is hug me and wonder why on earth we have to live through so much 'after the fact' bullshit from time to time...

Someone asked me how I was the other day and the honest answer is, I don't know. I think I'm ok but there are moments when I can't sleep that I wonder what the hell this is all for. There are moments when the kids are driving me bat-shit crazy that I wonder why, why, why.... There are moments when I try to explain myself to someone in French that I just want to lay down, curl up in a ball, and wish I was miles away in English. 

One of my longest connections here left the other day and it's hit me hard. I didn't hang with her like I did with Miss Tennessee 1975 but BVJC was always, always there for me. She got me to know the other lost Anglo-souls, she explained where to find whatever it was I needed, she knew how to get around the French system, and it was her who I called when the shit hit the fan last September, giving me excellent advice in one of those tiny cafes in town while we sipped lukewarm coffee...  

I couldn't say good-bye to her the last time I saw her and now, she's on other side of the pond. This woman who lived the crazy bilingual world I know has left the building and I'm still standing here with my Bic lighter raised above my head, damp from slam dancing in the mosh pit. 

It's a turbulent time. 

I need some sun, some good news, and something to give.

I'm ready. We're ready. And any time about right now would be just fine.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Next Time, I'll Just Wait

We took the tribe to the pool yesterday and had a whale of a time splashing around and causing much needed mayhem.

Turns out, Rosie is as much of a fish as her sister and inherited that lovely way of yelling at all and sundry to leave her alone while she floats all by herself in the middle of the pool with her armbands on. We should have named her Bob.

MH and The Princess have gotten to be stronger swimmers and it's a blast to watch them dive off the side of the pool and then surface with the most amazing goggle grins on their faces. Bubba isn't quite yet there but he doesn't care. Splashing around in the baby pool works just fine for him, thank-you-very-much.

After we were done, we all scurried into a big cubicle together to get changed. Suits off, shirts on, towels on the floor, socks into puddles, pants damp,  just a big jumbled wet happy mess. Finally, when everyone else was about dressed, I started to get my own suit off and throw on my clothes.

"WOW. Look at all of mommy's muscles on her tummy!" MH shouted.

And so they did.

The Man started smirking and with that big shit eating grin I love so much on his face, just started laughing.

I shot him the death stare, which obviously isn't as good as I'd like it to be, and calmly replied to MH,

"No, sweetie, those aren't muscle marks. Those are stretch marks from having babies."

Cue curious silence.

Cue three angelic voices, echoing loudly in a family cubicle at the public pool:


Saturday, July 9, 2011

It's The Man Holding My Hand Now

Last night, The Man & I had our last appointment with our therapist.  It was really strange finishing our appointment, shaking hands and saying, "goodbye." 

How does one say goodbye to someone who now knows more about The Man & I than most people on the planet? Goodbye to someone who let me cry in her office over things that happened over 20 years ago? Goodbye to someone who never judged us and never let us forget that when there is love, there is hope? There were moments these last 9 months when I wanted to adopt her.

I had been very afraid to go to counselling. No because I'm afraid of therapists, but because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to really express myself in French. I know that on a daily basis I often miss the subtleties of what happens in this language I'm living in and I was so scared that I wouldn't be able to really get to the heart of what was happening in mine. 

I shouldn't have worried. Pain & suffering translate. And when people are in a crisis, the message gets across a hell of a lot easier than we expect. 

She guided us well through our own path of discovery. She let us vent, let us ponder, let us forgive without ever judging either one of us for our humanness. And not once did she laugh at my accent. I don't know how to thank her for that, thank her for letting us remember who we are & who we want to be. She held our hands lightly, guiding us to ourselves and that's wonderful in any language.

Au revoir, Madame. Je vous remercie, du fond de mon coeur.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Most Days

Rosie wakes at 6:30 and immediately demands a bottle of chocolate milk. She plomps herself down on the Nutella smeared couch (the reason why I haven't washed it) and with her finger points at the TV until The Man or I find her the daily music video show. Yes, she's a big fan of Shakira's Rabiosa and M Pokora. I fall into a lump next to her and drink a gallon of coffee.

By 9:15, Rosie has discovered a pen or permanent marker and painted herself in the most amazing rainbow colours. This is, of course, only after she has used hair gel as skin cream, emptied the desk drawers, and thrown all of the doudous off of The Princess' bed and into the bath tub. I make a fresh pot of coffee.

Around about 11:40, I am finally able to persuade the large tribe members to get dressed. Sort of. I find them a half hour later, hiding amongst the very recently sterilized Legos in a mish-mash of pyjama & bathing suits.

At 12:30, I dream of a Domino's being built THAT VERY INSTANT in the village but in reality, I fight with everyone to eat something that resembles a vegetable. Well, all except The Princess who has made her own salad with exactly one carrot, two pieces of lettuce, and four cherry tomatoes. I make another pot of coffee.

The afternoon is a haze marked only by the beautiful stillness around us as Rosie sleeps. When she's up again, all bets are off. It's laundry time, dog poop time, refereeing the boys, hoping no one drowns in the lovely new Intex pool we bought again this summer, and yet another pot of coffee.

By 5pm, I'm finding excuses to open the fridge and just gaze at the rosé bottle.

By 6:45, I'm wishing and hoping that The Man finished really, really early at work and is on his way home with a pizza from the imaginary Domino's down the street. I hesitate between more coffee or "accidentally" opening the rosé.

7:30pm rolls around and the entire village is treated to the sounds of Rosie screaming, "DADDY" at the top of her lungs as he parks his car. He looks tired and hot and is ever so grateful for that glass of rosé I've thrust into his hand.

8:30-9pm: CHAOS. Think of a hurricane hitting the dining room, then the bathroom, and then try to get it snuggled under a little blanket in a teeny tiny baby bed only the hurricane isn't finished throwing Stinky and everything else out of the teeny tiny baby bed over and over and over again. In the meantime, the big kids stall. I pray that there is another bottle of rosé in the basement fridge.

By the time 10pm rolls around, The Man and I stare at each other through our rose coloured glasses and dream of new places, vacations on our own, winning the lottery, going to Cape Town. We haul ourselves up to the attic, fall into bed, and hold on for dear life.

And then in the morning, it's rinse and repeat.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

And Curtain

Look. It's July once again.

The sun sets late, the wind blows warm. The Man and I stare at our wild garden and wonder, dream, repair.

Our friend's wife died Thursday and even though she had been sick for all the years we knew her, it's still hard to find the right way to grieve. They had a tough love, lots of bumps and bruises along the way, only to have their life culminate with her suffering from that lovely leveler, cancer. 

All those years. All those things, issues, stresses, joys, worries, arguments, happiness. All those things done.

How many times do we have to be hit over the head to get the message? 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Air Conditioning, à la Française

Technically, I should shut the window as well but I've got this thing for constant courants d'air even when it's mind-numblingly hot out there. I'm so not a summer person. Give me snow, cold temps, ice, thick socks, & gloves. Wrap me up warm and hand me a hot-toddy. That's my kind of season.

But as it's said in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8: 

To everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under the sun.
A time to be born and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill and a time to heal ...
a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance ...
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to lose and a time to seek;
a time to rend and a time to sew;
a time to keep silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace.

Vivre l'été.

Friday, June 17, 2011

It's My Own Fault

I swear, I hate potty training. 

I, myself, have been potty trained for over 37 years now so sometimes I have to admit to having a wee (no pun intended) lack of enthusiasm/patience/motivation when it comes to the latest member of the tribe tackling this milestone.

See, Rosie has hit that stage where trying to get a nappy on her is like wrestling an octopus and I hate, hate, hate slimy, 8-limbed fish, so she's running around "free." And thus, sometimes she's getting to let things fall where they it were. (Yuck. I know. But this is my fourth, people! Seriously, we have no carpets in the house... I mop after... it's not so bad... and did I forget to mention that I'm slowly going parentally insane?)

Lucky me that summer vacation is nearly upon us and through the next couple of weeks of potty training joy, I'll have 3 other tribe members around to help freak out when Rosie has an accident.


Today was a dress rehearsal for the coming months when after lunch I forgot to put a clean little pair of Dora underpants on the raging turbo turbis and she high tailed it upstairs to MH & Bubba's room. MH, who is home today due to a slight fever, went up a few minutes later to see what she was getting up to.



"What's wrong?" I yelled back as I ran up the stairs.

"THOSE, " he said arm stretched out straight pointing to his toy pile, "ARE NOT LEGOS."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Move Over Lourdes

So after my little sing-song session with Mary, The Mother of God, yesterday, I'm thinking that I've got a whole new tourist angle for our little village on the hill. Heck, all kinds of people from all over the world make pilgrimages to see Jesus' face outlined on a rind of cheese or formed out of melted candle wax. Can you imagine what they might do to see a singing Mary? And not just a singing Mary, but a Beatles singing Mary?

Just think of the commercial possibilities! The hordes of pilgrims who would come and buy bread from the boulangerie on their way to Pic de La garde. Imagine the rush every morning to buy beautiful replica baquettes of the statue, holding a sesame guitar made from a petit pain. Large, crusty couronnes de Marie, which are just the right size to actually fit on the pilgrim's head, thus making it a heck of a lot easier to carry one's picnic up les éboulées.  Caramel, Chocolat, & Tornado could also be gainfully employed to carry the rest of the picnic, happily transporting to this sacred spot the ham, the wine, and the Jesus round of cheese.

The village bar would also have it's turn in watering the sing-song faithful with cups of the holiest pastis or luke-warm rosé. Just the right things to get one in the mood for singing Yellow Submarine at full voice with a marble statue.We could pipe Beatles songs throughout the village on a loudspeaker, with Let It Be replacing the church bells on the hour. Imagine! Imagine! We haven't even begun to Imagine!

In my excitement yesterday, I chatted about this idea with my running buddy, the one fighting cancer. She looked at me, eyes wide with a mixture of fear & mirth and said,

"I don't care if Mary sang Mylène Farmer with you up there! Please don't ruin les ébolées by inviting bunches of pilgrims to scramble up all over them! Now stop this silly pilgrimage idea thing and go do some laundry!"

And so I did. But I still like the baguette idea.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Maybe She Just Really Likes The Beatles

I've been getting all worked up over all kinds of things that are out of my control, like the school nurse telling MH that he was fat, like my friend struggling with the after-effects of her second round of chemo, like not knowing what The Man & I are going to be when we grow up.... he and I spent yesterday, twirling around in circles, not knowing in which direction to turn. Finally, we gave in to the corkscrew feeling that we had and sat on the couch with a cheap bottle of red.

Today I found myself starting that dangerous swirling thing again and since all & sundry are off at work and school, I decided to do what I do best when that feeling of being out of control shows up: run away.

I threw on my shoes and headed out of the village towards the lava rock covered hillside we call les éboulées.  You can't really run it as much as scramble up it, but when you finally reach the top, you are at the Pic de La garde, a viewing point with 360° views and a massive statue of Mary.

I scrambled up, reached the top, looked around, and then hurled myself down the trail the other side. I ran hard at this point, trying to beat all the thoughts banging around in my head to a submissive pulp. I took a random trail leading off to the right, still running hard, pounding out my emotions, and low-and-behold, 40 minutes later I found that I had looped around full circle, back to the start of les éboulées.

I hesitated for a second but then scrambled up again. Much slower this time, much more conscious of the size of each of these lava boulders. Much more aware of the hollow echo they made as I stepped on them. When I finally reached the top, I put my hands on my hips, took a deep breath, looked up, and realized Mary was staring at me.

"Oh, Mary! What on earth should I do about all this crap?" I said.

And like a thunderbolt, she answered me.

I ran home then, this song still playing in my heart.

I not the religious type, but I've been told.

Thank you, Mary. I'll do just that.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

He Won't Be Wearing Seer Sucker

The last couple of weeks, I've felt like I'm waiting to get asked out to prom. And it sucks just as much this time around as it did back in high school.

I shouldn't complain too much because, in fact, junior year, I had a hell of a time at 4 different proms. You see, I was the best "rent-a-date" on the market. I could go to any dance, chat up all kinds of friends and strangers, dance just enough to be ok, drink just enough to be silly, and, best of all, not really embarrass anyone. Sure, all this kinda changed by the time senior proms rolled around, but who cares.

Waiting to get asked to prom is frustrating. You send out all the clues you can to the person you are DYING to have ask you. You smile a lot. You take more showers than you have ever done in your entire life. You laugh at silly jokes. You pretend to like import records because that what they like. You even offer to drive him and his insane football friends every night to MacDonald's because you're the only one with a car.

You've done everything you can to be charming and witty, pretty and fun. And now, you wait. And wait. And wait.

And then you find out that he actually asked somebody else.

Oh, the life lessons we learn at 16!

The only consolation in my whole prom saga this year, is that I already know that The Man is taking me. He's bought the corsage, we've rented the limo, and we know where we want to go out to dinner. Thing is, we are still trying to figure out where the stupid prom is being held in the first place. You have no idea how frustrating it is to be all dressed up and totally clueless as to where we are supposed to be.

I guess till we know where we are going to dance the night away, we'll just shimmy around the B&B, scaring the children while we play big hair 80s tunes at top volume. Anyone got a suggestion for a prom theme?

I, myself, am voting for this one:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Subliminal Message or My Thoughts on DSK

At lunch yesterday, MH asked me if there were any male teachers in his school district.

"No," I replied. "There are only women."

"So that means they are maîtresses and not maîtres."

"Yeah," I said off handedly as I cleaned off the table.

He sat there for a second and then started laughing.

"You know, Mom, French is hilarious! You could have 5000 women and then throw in just one guy and TA-DA, we'd say maîtres and not maîtresses. Just throw in one thing male and we win! We are so strong, us men!"

5000 women and just one man and in French the phrase becomes masculine.


Eight years on and I'm still having trouble with this one.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Being Good

I haven't been able to find the right words lately and, I must admit, my desire to write has packed its bags and headed south. I see it sitting comfortably by the sea, sipping margaritas, reading Jerome K. Jerome and thinking that all the good things have already been said before. Yet, here I am once again, trying to subdue my own ego that demands I write something, anything, to prove that I still exist... So here I go. Forgive me for repeating things you may have heard or lived before, but I'm only human and I am the only subject I think I know well...

It's been an interesting couple of weeks for us at the B&B. The Man and I finally saw our parents for the first time since everything exploded and I think we both were relieved that no one got punched or screamed at. Actually, we are both blessed with good people to guide us, good people to love us unconditionally, and good people to hug us until our backs hurt and our eyes water. I thank God for these people who have not judged.

The Man took my parents back to the airport yesterday morning and he told me that just as my dad was about to disappear on the other side of security, he turned back to The Man and said something about how "it's working... we're working" which, knowing my father, is huge.

Our martial troubles may have been ours alone but the waves created a tsunami that hit all kinds of shores.

We're clearing out the debris now, both physically and mentally. We've starting getting rid of furniture that we don't use, toys that are broken, clothes that don't fit. We're seeing our friends again, travelling, playing chess with the kids. Life feels lighter, simpler, and overall easier to clean.

The Man is singing again. A lot. I'm laughing again. A lot.

I find I don't need the words so much when I'm living the emotion.

Yes, my wonderful father, it is working.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

This One

There are a lot of people in the village who like to tell us how wonderful The Princess is, how sweet she can be with the other kids and what a pleasure she is to have around. They tell us how she said a kind word or helped with something simple. They tell us how sharp she is and how she's got such a strong character. I love hearing these things because she is all this. And more.

She's sensitive and strong, this one. She watches and listens and gets it. I mean really, really gets it. She has this uncanny ability for a such a young child to sense that there is more going on than meets the eye. She observes, takes it in, and doesn't mince words. For example, when The Man moved back in after our quick separation, she's the one who looked him straight in the eye and said, "you were a jerk." She nails me too, it must be said, frustrated when I stop to chat with all and sundry or when I forget things, as I often do.

She's fed up with her brothers, can't deal with Rosie touching her toys, isn't so sure about falling off those ponies, and hates stinging nettles. She has a fierce temper and isn't afraid to use it. She summons up all of her now 8 year old self and goes storming off screaming, just so that you know she really isn't happy.

She can't resist dogs, donkeys, or cats and wants desperately to have a French bulldog. She does cartwheels and handstands in the grocery store, on the ferry to England, and waiting for her favourite TV shows to start. I can see her doing acrobatics on circus horses, smiling broadly, eyes glowing with joy.

The Princess is like sunshine. I can't imagine a day without her and we're ever so grateful that she's here.

Happy Birthday, our beautiful girl.

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Favourite Painting at the Musée d'Orsay

Madame Jeantaud au miroir, Edgar Degas, oil on canvas, 1875

So, is she as we see her, as the painter sees her, or as she sees herself?

Are any of us as we really think we are?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Somewhere Beyond This Side of the Sea

I live in a bucolic wonderland and these spring days only make it worse. The brilliancy of the sky, the colours of the fields, all the flowers, & the intensity of the scenery is everything you'd expect from one of those impressionist paintings. It's beyond gorgeous. I kid you not, there is nothing like France. Just give me a glass of wine & let me sit in the lazy sunshine to watch the flies go by, captured in time, by this magical place...

But here's the funny thing... I so want out.

Out of this beauty, out of this country, out of this life.

I'm having near daily urges to pack up the tribe, grab The Man, and book a direct flight to the tackiest place I know on earth. The place that screams "tat" and frightens civilized people. A place that is no more than a sand-bar in the Atlantic, with enough tourist shops, malls, putt-putt golf centers, and pizza joints to make your head spin. It's tacky, it's covered in concrete and neon signs, and it's about as far away as you can get from a dream vacation on the beach.


Here I am literally aching, itching, and desiring with all my heart to be back in that place.

I want to sit by the sea and listen to other parents yell at their kids in English. I want to know that I can get a cheeseburger at 4 in the afternoon and no one will think I'm nuts. I want to go out in my sweatpants & flip flops and actually look over dressed. I want to walk into a bookstore and freak out because everything is in English. I want to watch The Man try and hole-in-one that stupid flamingo at the 136th Street mini-golf course.

I need beer coozies with the town's name tattooed all over them. I want to get steamed crabs and throw them all over the front porch of my parents' apartment and watch as the seagulls try and catch the empty shells. I want to hear Bubba, The Princess, and MH shriek with laughter as Rosie falls in the waves. I want to tell the kids to watch out for the "under toad!"  I want a snow cone on the boardwalk that stains our lips bright blue and can only be removed by funnel cake, powdered sugar, and iced tea.

I want to be able to open the door to that apartment and have all my years come flooding back to me. Senior week, my summers as a bread girl, working at the tennis center, riding my bike to the movies, holding on for dear life behind a beach cleaning machine...

I want to be chez moi. Be amongst things that comfort me, make me forget, make me remember. I want to surround my people, my man & our kids, in my world and finally, finally, finally...let go.


For now, I'll sit in my garden, amongst the wildflowers and buttercups, in that incredible light & it's breezes coming from that other ocean to the south, and try not to cry.

What a beautiful hell to be living in.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Time Flies When You're Twirling

It doesn't seem possible to me that Rosie is two. This little unexpected bundle of chaos that makes me laugh, smile, and want to tear my hair out all at the same time. This little blond bombshell who can destroy a packet of cereal in about 5 seconds and melt your heart in 2. This little extra bit of us that we didn't plan, we didn't "need," but my God, how we would be incomplete without her.

She climbs everything. She opens everything. She picks on the other kids at the creche. She steals PlayMobil. She still hasn't figured out that there are two Stinkies, but she knows there is only one Da-Da. It's him she wants when she falls down and it's only him that can rub her leg in the car to calm her down. 

She uses toothpaste as body lotion on her dolls, is fascinated by the way dog fur sticks to fleece, and dances to any music you play. She struts around, full of confidence, in such a way that I can't help but think of my mother-in-law. Rosie's blue eyes twinkle just like hers and hope this means that she will be as forceful in spirit and as generous in kindness as Annie is. 

She's wonderful. She's hard work. She's beautiful. She's a terror. She is more than anything I could have ever imagined. She is one of the four best things The Man & I have ever done.

Our baby is two. Happy Birthday, Rosie. You have no idea how much you are loved.

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Few Thoughts That Stuck

Yes, I watched it. 

I hadn't really planned on doing that, but something about the uniforms, the horses, or the young happy faces of William and Harry just got me. I got sucked in and carried away with all that joy that a wedding brings. The optimism. The beauty. The hope. The fairy tale and its iced cake.

And then, about the time Kate got out of the car, I got sad thinking about my own wedding not quite ten years ago. I thought about The Man, who we were, the promises made that have been broken, our expectations that may have been too high, our pledges to each other, shattered, and now super glued back together...

And then I listened to The Bishop: 

"The spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this: the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life."

"It is of course very hard to wean ourselves away from self-centredness. People can dream of such a thing but that hope should not be fulfilled without a solemn decision that, whatever the difficulties, we are committed to the way of generous love."

"As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We are all incomplete: we all need the love which is secure, rather than oppressive. We need mutual forgiveness in order to thrive."

Mutual forgiveness. Generous love. This is what makes marriage. 

I think ours still may have a chance...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


I remember when I was young and took that massive spectacular tumble off my bike at the bottom of our neighbourhood hill. I scrapped up both knees, banged my head, and started shaking, wanting to vomit, just thinking about having to ride that evil bike back home, up that huge, horrible hill that now seemed fifteen times bigger than it ever was.

By the grace of good neighbours, I got home and my mother ran a hot bath where I soaked my knees and my wounded confidence. Eyes stinging, boo-boos throbbing, I wondered why on earth anyone wanted to ride a bike in the first place. Especially around hills.

It was hard to walk around with those big old scabs on my knees and I was convinced that everyone was staring at me, laughing that I obviously didn't know how to use my brakes well enough. I was ashamed of my big ugly sores and tried to cover them up with a million Band-Aids, which of course, only made it worse.

"What on earth happened to you?"

After a couple of days, I sat in yet another of the endless hot baths I was addicted to and ripped those plastic things off and had a really good look at all the dirt still stuck in my wounds. I picked around with my fingernail, digging out what was left of the hill's gravel that I had been walking around with. Of course, digging and probing only made my knees bled again and when the scabs dried, they were deeply cracked and more painful then when I had originally fallen down.

It was hard to leave those scabs alone, you know. I'd subconsciously pick at them while at school, accidentally hit one with the edge of a table, or scratch them like mad as they started shrinking and pinching my skin. It was almost a twisted game to see just how much of that scab I could rip off without making myself bleed again. Sometimes, I did great, most times, I just made them worse.

Somehow, after several weeks, and in spite of my own self-torture, the scabs fell off on their own, leaving there, on both knees, a pretty pink puckered spot, a smudged speck, to remind me that one mustn't brake too hard on hills. In spite of all the blood, all the gravel, all the pain, and all my picking, the scabs were finally gone. I had healed.

I don't know if it was days or weeks later but somehow, someday, I headed out on my bike and went down that hill. This time, I didn't brake hard when I saw the bottom of the hill come racing towards me. Sure, I was screaming bloody murder as I somehow rolled around that corner but you should have heard me laughing as I stayed on that bike and peddled my pink knees as fast as I could up the other side.

Lesson learned with no visible scars to prove it. There are a lot of things in life that are just like riding a bike.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Latest Lawn Mowers

Once again, it's that time of year when the back field becomes a massive jungle of stinging nettles, dandelions, and weeds. Ever so beautiful and ever such a nightmare to cut. Last year, you may recall that we had some horses come and help us out with all that and it was lovely. They strolled around in the back garden, ate the grass, and just looked majestically stunning out there.

This year, we were asked by another neighbour if we would could help them out by letting their three donkeys come and have a go at our field. She swore up and down that they would be much better munchers than the horses and even eat those pesky stinging nettles. Alright then. Why not?

Well, let me tell you a little bit about Caramel, Chocolate, and Tornado....

Caramel is the lovely little wonder, nicely nibbling at the grass in the picture. She seems relatively sweet and just meanders around, following the other two where ever they go. Like a gentle, naive younger sister, she seems happy just to see what the other two get up to.

And speaking of the other two....

Tornado is that rasta-looking donkey giving us "that look." She's pesky, curious, and has taken to scratching herself with some strange J-Lo butt move on the wall. She's knocked over the cement mixer, eaten a package of cement, and played football with an old plastic bucket. She and Chocolate, the little one in front here, have this thing for climbing up the rock piles in the garden and playing King-of-the-Hill.

These donkeys run, romp, and cause mayhem. They let you rub their ears for hours and then go and eat the swing-set. They've figured out how to bray at the dogs and get Typhon to howl without the bells. The love The Princess and have a thing for Bubba-Love's little wheelbarrow. (I just hope it still has its tires. Not sure I'm eager to see what donkey poop de pneu looks like.)

Yes, they definitely are a change from Melting Pot and Calisse, but for some strange reason, I think we might be a much better fit for a bunch of asses.

Friday, April 15, 2011

April in the Auvergne

There's that famous song out there somewhere about April in Paris and if my computer had speakers, I'd actually go find it and link you to it here, but since it doesn't, I won't. But I'm sure most of you might have an idea of what song I'm referring to.

" Paris." I sing so well, don't I?

Yes, April in Paris is a wonderful thing. Or so I've been told. I think I was in Paris one April about 10 years ago and it rained the whole time we were there. The Man and I toured the major museums with my sister & her family and then at the end of the day, we did what other people have done when it's raining in Paris and well, we got a nice little souvenir we call MH... ah yes, " Paris...."

Ok. Sorry. Once again...I digress.

Right, it's April and we are no where NEAR Paris. We are miles from Paris. Decades, one could claim even, from Paris. This is the Auvergne. And here April is all about allergies and cow poop, baby lambs and blossoms, warm days and chilly nights. The grass gets so green this time of year. It's like I forget that this colour exists and then one early morning, the sun hits the field behind the house and I'm transported to Oz, with Dorothy as my guide. Green, glowing, alive and beautiful. Not a café or a museum in sight.

April in the Auvergne is how I will always remember France. The village, still only inhabited by year-round residents, is quite and peaceful. My people watching consists of observing the new leaves dancing with the wind. The grey volcanic stones of the houses are no longer dull and dingy with winter's light, they are now brilliant and sparkling, the perfect cadre for purple blossoms, white flowers, yellow daffodils, a sharp blue sky, and that green, green grass.

Close your eyes. See it. Sit with me on my front steps, have a coffee, and watch the world go by, one meandering cow at a time.

Souvenirs of my Auvergne. Sing it with me, " Paris....."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

And We Grow

We went for a hike with friends a couple of weekends ago and came upon a magnificent tree. It stood there, stoically stretching its branches up to the sky, laughing at us as we traced the outline of its belly button. 

At first, I thought that the tree had been hollowed out, shaped like that by man, but it soon became apparent that the tree had actually grown this way. Old decayed wood had fallen away exposing the delicate nature where the sun and wind had passed, but overall, the trunk was true and solid.

I stood amazed at the determination of this old soul. How it must have struggled to reconnect its base and find the will to grow tall and strong even though something had split it centuries before. Its desire to be one, to be whole, was obvious...

Perhaps I'm waxing too poetical about this tree. Perhaps it was nothing more than mere chance that it is still standing and that it really didn't fight its way back to wholeness. Perhaps over time, bugs and bees had nibbled their own right of passage through it and that's all. All sorts of things may have troubled this tree and created this space that shouldn't be.

But I don't care. 

To me, this tree is still strong, it's still one. There it stands, giving hope to those branches who are unfazed by whomever or whatever tried to take it all down. They are there still, reaching towards infinity.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

May It Always Be So When It Comes to Homework

We got home from school last night and the big two, MH and The Princess, sat down at the dining room table to do their homework. The Princess pulled out one little red book and sat scribbling away at math problems contentedly for the next 10 minutes.

MH, on the other hand, pulled books, one after one, out of his back pack and placed them strategically on the table. He started with the blue one of a certain size, then the slightly smaller green one next to it. In the middle he placed a large yellow folder, and then to complete the left to right arch, two red copy books of about the same size.

He looked over his display and then closed his eyes and tilted his head towards the ceiling. He sat there in quiet concentration for about 2 minutes and then slowly, in English, started saying the days of the week.

"Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday. Friday. Saturday. Sunday."

And then, just as methodically as he had placed all the books on the table, he began to rearrange them in his backpack.

"MH, what's going on there?" I piped up from the kitchen.

"I'm done my homework," he replied.

"Already? That was quick."

"Yeah, I just had to learn the days of the week for English." he said.  "Boy, you have no idea how hard THAT was!"

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Yellow Card

I wish I could explain to everyone just how good things are between The Man and I right now. Seriously, it's like we were both in a coma for the last two years and WHAMO all of the sudden, we're alive. It's good. It's fun. It's chaotic. It's love. But this doesn't mean that everything is all happy clappy. We've still got our moments and we've still got a lot of people to face and that's not just live ones that live around the globe, but some old demons that lurk in our ingrained behavior.

For example, on Sunday we hauled the troop and two of our friends from Scotland out for a hike around the village. There was a major trail race going on and I was hoping that we would be able to catch my running buddy as she finished her 75k course. We followed the last part of the course as it meandered into the woods and down the hills towards the infamous cascade, a rather large muddy section of waterfall at about the 73k mark. 

Unfortunately, we had had a fair amount of wet weather around these parts in the last couple of days so to say it was muddy is putting it lightly. To say that a hippo might have been happily hidden in one of the puddles we needed to splash through is more correct. Of course, this little jaunt had been my idea so I was feeling rather sheepish about the amount of mud The Man had to push the jogging stroller through. Rosie was happily bouncing along as her dad muttered various four and five letter words in several languages at her mother. Luckily for all of us, good humour prevailed and we all made it back to the B&B in one piece. Dirty, but happy, everyone kicked off their shoes outside and that was that.

Monday night rolled around and I realized that our furry friends had been locked in their prison since Sunday so we needed to let them out to play. The Scottish duo kindly did so and got them fed. Once again, tails wagging and wine being opened, that was that. Or so I thought.

Later that evening, we noticed lovely bits of black and purple material that had been chewed and flung all over the garden with only soles left as reminders of what once was. Unluckily for The Man and The Princess, their shoes had taken a direct husky hit.

It was at this moment in time that the ugly demon of stress and frustration that lingers in the soul of The Man raised it's ugly head and got angry. Really, really angry. And this ugly demon, in my opinion, blamed me for the dogs having eaten his boots. And it was then that my own ugly demon of righteous indignation, that at first tried to remind The Man that anyone could have brought the shoes in, couldn't handle all the crap that's been going on between us for years and decided that throwing that mangled boot at The Man was the right response.

Of course, I missed. 

Damn it all.

But you know, it's funny when parents in their forties have tantrums: we look exactly like all of our children. And since consistency is key in dealing with tantrums in children, I promptly put myself in time out in my room, where I sulked and smothered that demon with my blankie. When The Man came up to bed a little bit later, he hugged me and whispered a simple, "I love you," as we lay there.

The Man and I have been laughing a lot about the shoe since then. He knows he blew his cool and I know that I countered his stupid tantrum with a stupid stellar one of my own. 

Though, I have to admit, I'm glad we had this little tiff. It's cleared the air once again and reminded us both that we still have some work to do. But trust me, it's good work if you can get it. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Go On, I Dare You to Try and Pronounce It

So the latest craze over here at the moment seems to be loads of ados wandering around ice rinks, malls, and parks wearing this:

Yes, that would be a Franklin & Marshall sweatshirt. And what's funny to me is that I'm sure not a single one of these ados have any freakin' idea what Franklin & Marshall is. Which is such a shame because the admissions office of that fine school in Lancaster, PA might be able to tape into a massive influx of international students from this part of France if they knew what was going on.

At first I wondered if there was some sort of exchange program already in place between the local university and F&M, but that doesn't seem to be the case. I just wish I had jumped on the bandwagon sooner and started marketing my own Alma Mater's sweatshirts. Sure, Marquette may be just a bit too easy for French ados to say, but one could have tried, I suppose.

You have no idea how much I want to grab one of those kids and say, "Oh my GOD! Did you go to Franklin & Marshall too?!?!?"

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

All We're Missing is a Space Mountain

We've had a kid swap this week. French Me kindly has taken the resident grumpy guts, aka Bubba-Love, for two nights and in exchange, we've got her oldest. And I have to admit, it's kinda nice having three kids over the age of 7 to deal with. There's just something about cranky 5 year olds that make me break out in hives and dream of drinking large bottles of Jagermeister.

The Man left for work early this morning with Rosie in tow, which meant that I was free to actually make the big kids some pancakes for breakfast. French Me's daughter watched in wonder as I flipped the pancakes over and asked me to clarify just what the difference between pancakes and crêpes is. I mumbled some stupid reply about the fluffiness of pancakes and how they only get folded over hot dogs in diners, but she seemed to glaze over so I quickly changed the subject.

As they sat down to eat, I watched as all three of them first went for the syrup, then for spoonfuls of sugar shaken like they were all in detox, and then finally some rather large glops of Nutella smeared all over those poor pancakes. I'm expecting the sugar rush to end sometime this evening.

At one point, French Me's daughter looked up from her very sticky plate and said,

"You know? Being here and eating pancakes reminds me of the time we went to Disney Land Paris and we had pancakes and coffee with Goofy."

Yes. Yes. I know. If the shoe fits....

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The More The Merrier

After Madame Home Depot had actually booked her tickets for this last adventure at ours, she made an off-hand comment that one of the guys she knew from work had told her he wanted to come to France too. MHD, being MHD, told him that if he booked his own ticket, she was sure Dig and the tribe would be happy to have him along. So one bright and sunny Kansas morning, MHD gave a copy of her itinerary to said gentleman et voila! And much to every one's surprise, he actually booked a ticket.

What hadn't been explained to us in greater detail was that, sure, she knew him from work, but only because he was a customer of Home Depot. And sure, they have had lunch together once, but overall she knew him about as well as I know my mailman.

For the 10 days she spent with us before he arrived, we quizzed her on everything we could. What did she know about his family, about his past, if he'd been arrested for any major crime, if he ate meat or drank alcohol, or even what he liked to do when he wasn't walking through the hallways of a hardware store. Her answers never wavered. "I don't know! I DON'T KNOW! Oh, my GOD!"

Ok. No big deal. We've had other random people come through the B&B before. We could handle this. Daily deep breath therapy seemed to help MHD not stress too much about it all because, hey, big deal if she basically invited a complete stranger to spend a holiday with her in Europe. Loads of people do that all the time, right?

Luckily for her (and for us) said gentleman was exactly that. An all-around good guy who's motto, "it's not a problem until it's a problem" has now become standard mantra with us all. He jumped right in and helped with the house renovations, hung out with the kids, and shared his own personal experiences with MHD, The Man, and me. He fit right in and didn't seem too phased by the state of the bathroom. He fixed our lights, removed radiators, and helped The Man plan some renovations to our little house in Idaho. Such was the complicity between them that he even caught the horrible lurgy that The Man has been fighting for weeks. Ever so kind, wouldn't you agree?

If I have to admit it, this whole experience has reminded me of the thing I've love most about the Birth Control Bed & Breakfast: all these people who come to stay. Be it family, acquaintances from near & far, or friends who showed up after years of being lost, they plop their bags in the guest room and just jump right in, adding their touch to this tapestry we call home. Here is a France that doesn't exist in guide books: a real live, loud, messy, multi-cultural, multi-lingual guest house where everyone is welcome, well as long as they don't mind changing an occasional nappy or painting a wall.

Overall, I think she did good there, MHD, by inviting this gentleman to come. It was a risk, for sure, but as we all know, sometimes we need to take risks or we miss out on life and all it's got to offer. (Granted, if one of my girls tells me years from now that they've invited a strange man they met at McDonald's to go on a trip to with them to the other side of the world, I might be just a wee-bit nervous, but hey, at that point we'll just forget this little event ever happened, ok?)

All's well that ends well and I'm happy to say that this gentleman stranger is now a no longer just a stranger. And who knows? Maybe after this trip, he and MHD might even go out to dinner! As for The Man and I, we only hope that we will cross paths with him again someday, even if it's only for a few seconds and a coffee in the paint section of Home Depot.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

It All Started in the Post Office Parking Lot

It dawned on us the other night that Madame Home Depot and I have known each other for almost 15 years. Three of which we spent attached at the hip, dodging shots at the local bar and trying to out talk each other in random and sundry other spots. The other years consist of frequent phone calls and her 4 trips to the B&B where she got exposed to chicken pox, demolition work, and car sickness....not all at the same time, of course. We like to dole those out special moments out over several extended periods of time. Keeps the freshness of the place exciting, you know...

Funny thing with Madame is that in the years we were working together in the Rockies, we had this inexplicable need to call each other every night before bed. Didn't matter if she was at her boyfriend's place or we had had a heavy night in the bars, we had to hear each other's voices so we could sleep peacefully, safe in the knowledge that we were loved. We talked every day, sometimes all day, cracking up over stupid stuff. Seriously, neither of us can remember what we really talked about but the laughter, that's been tattooed onto our souls.

She's seen me through thick and thin, this woman. She's listened to me whine, moan, and sing. She's known The Man almost as long as I have and is the only other woman who I know who can give it back to him like he needs. It's awesome knowing he loves her as much as I do.

Normally it's him who gets to spend time knocking things down, rebuilding, and chatting the day away with her but due to his flu/bronchitis/stress/life in general, I got to do all those things, not him. She and I have sanded plaster joints, painted undercoat, drank gallons of coffee, and laughed until our sides hurt. All it takes is one glance at her wry smile and I'm in stitches remembering why we were so inseparable all those years ago. (Just mention the words, "stamp collector" to either one of us and you'll see why...)

She's good, Madame Home Depot. One of the best people I've ever known. One who has reminded me that laughter is what I need. Every day and in large, large doses. Her visit has been a blessing and I ache from giggling.

Screw running. A half an hour of laughing, with tears streaming down my face, is all I'll ever need.

Thank you, MHD. I remember.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


I go up.
I go down.
I spin around and around and around.
I need to lay down.

I go up.
I go down.
I want to jump and fly and soar.
I must lay down.

I go up.
I go down.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Attics of My Mind

I've spent the last two days tucked up into the eves of the attic, sanding away at the plaster board, trying to gently scrub off any excess plaster mud that's there. It's not a hard job, but time consuming and the repetitive gestures makes me feel like my left shoulder is going to explode.

I sit there moving my arm back and forth, up and down, and I find myself walking, once again, through the hallways of my mind. Remembering people I haven't seen in years, nights out with friends, what ever happened to so-and-so, and wondering why so much bullshit has happened along the way. Then I'll start humming a tune, connecting the rhythms to memories, as I shift my contorted body into the next space. I can see as I look over my work just where the good memories were and where I remembered the bad.

I'm lucky to not be alone in my attic because Madame Home Depot is with me. She's there sanding too and when I drop my sanding block because I'm miles away, she kindly picks it back up for me, hands it to me, and we sand some more. We sand and think. We sand and talk. Both of us covered in a fine white dust and if I could get my hands on some red, red lipstick, I could easily transform my Irish-American face into that of a beautiful geisha. Someone else entirely, who's memories I don't know.

The dust covers our hair, our eyes, our clothes, the floor, the furniture, the bed. It's snowing in the attic and I'm wistful. I want out of this house, this place, this life. I want to take my man, my children, my dogs, and go. Back to where Madame Home Depot and I lived before I realized just how hard it is to really love. They say you can never go home again, but I'm willing to try.

I climb down from the eves and take a shower. My skin turns bright red from the heat of the water and the dust and dirt wash away down the drain. I step out to see my face in the mirror. My freckled face that has accompanied me forever. I look into my red, tired eyes and stare. I know. I know. 

As I head downstairs, I hear Typhon howling and for some reason, the chords of Canon in D echo through my mind. Everything is off tune, but the melody is true. The Man hands both Madame Home Depot and me a coffee and as I clutch that warmth in my hands, I know. I know. I've gone home again.

Friday, February 11, 2011

About Him

It's been about a year since things started going off the rails for The Man and I. I wasn't really aware of it at the time, but last February, he was starting on that slippery slope into his own personal hell. I was too wrapped up in Rosie and the tribe to really notice just how bad things had gotten for him. Work stress, personal pressure to be someone he wasn't, and his own exigence on perfection was a cocktail for a seriously horrible hangover. Not to mention the fact that I really didn't like him most days didn't help. He was angry, yelling, blaming, distant, so I hid behind our kids. It was safer there for me. I knew who I was and what was needed of me. With him, I didn't.

It's easy with hindsight to see just how messed up our relationship had become and just how insane the two of us were in our own private thoughts. He became convinced I didn't love him (not surprising if you wife acts like she doesn't like you) and I became convinced that everything I did was wrong. We stopped communicating and just went into that lovely "parent-auto-pilot" thing. You know the one, where sure we talked about the kids, the house, what we need to do on Sunday, but never about what was really going on inside of both of us. 

I thought it was just a stage, we'd be fine. Once I got my head above water with the four kids, we'd breathe again. I knew that we'd had bad spots in our relationship before, but I didn't realize what was really happening this time. I didn't realize that The Man was at a point where he was unable to go on as he was. And so he didn't.

A year later and I actually think I know my husband more now than I have these last five years. Things that got swallowed up by us is our separate super-mommy/super-businessman roles are now moving back into focus. Still, every time I hit that "wall" in my head and I remember what happened to our marriage, I feel like I'm looking at a bad Woody Allen film with the two of us in his leading roles. How can I explain how odd it is to be able love him, fall asleep in his arms and then two hours later, I wake up in a cold sweat and want to punch his lights out?

Granted, these moments are less and less frequent because if the truth is told, something had to happen to our marriage. I don't like what did, but the clarity I have now I wouldn't trade for the world. Talk about irony.

In December, I turned 40 and I turned a page. I refuse to hide behind my mommyhood. I love these little people with all my heart and soul but one day, they will have other things to worry about then pestering me when I'm making dinner. I have my own life to live. And I want to do that with The Man.

Today, he turns 42 and I know he's turning a page. He knows now what he's missed, what he almost lost, what he's gained and what is important to him. And boy am I glad that I make that list. 

I only wish a world of happiness for him. That his next 42 years are ones where he can be exactly who he's wanted to be his whole life: someone good, someone honourable, and someone well loved. Anything else doesn't count for shit.

I tell you, my Man, I don't care what you do for a living or what our house looks like. I'm fine with feeding the kids pasta and peanut butter for the rest of their lives if it means you and I are good. I love you, Hubster. Even on the bad days.

Don't ever, ever, ever forget that.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

This Thing Still On?

It's been pointed out to me by two very special people in my life that I haven't posted in a while. (You know who you are, you two...) I do apologize. I like being able to blog and share all the bullshit that happens to me so here I am, ready to blog it all....and yet, I haven't a clue where to begin. How about I just start with a couple of things and go from there. Sound ok?

Bubba-Love turned 5 on Feb 1

That amazing, cranky, feisty, adorable, little guy finally got his birthday stash of bubble-gum and more of that PlayMobil I love so much. He hates going to school, has been interdit to play with two of his friends during recess because they end up wrestling into walls,and he is always in trouble at the cantine because when he decides he's done eating, he's done and he will not take another bite, no thank you, I said NO. 

But my GOD, when that kid laughs, my heart and soul want to explode with joy. He has his dad's smile and my grandfather's twinkle in his eye. He's a charmer, this Bubba, and he knows it. All he wants to do this summer is go play at Kitty and BaPa's and see his friend, Aine. He hopes she'll play football with him because that's the only sport he likes. 

He turned 5. Amazing.

From Stay-At-Home-Mom to Working-Mom to Stay-At-Home-Mom in just three short months!  

Yes, my adventures of working in France came to a rather quick end last week when it dawned on me that the woman I was working for has this thing for lying. Now, I'll be a little careful here because she was never outright horrible to me personally, but there were other situations during my short stint in her world that have me still going, "HUH?" I will say that overall, the experience was good. I met some lovely people, got two great weeks of training in Paris, and got to work with kids in the most awesome of learning environments. 

One of the highlights of this short job was working with a boy of 5 who had struggled in his normal French school. He had been frequently punished for not writing his letters correctly and therefore had absolutely no confidence in his ability to write or even try to write letters. For the first two weeks with us, he point blank refused to write his name. Finally, he discovered the box of colours and asked me if we could do them in English. We took each colour, I said their English names out loud, then I wrote them on a piece of paper. He then would take the corresponding coloured marker and trace the letters of their English names. And low and behold, guess who started writing those words himself? Guess who realized that it didn't matter if the "y" wasn't perfect or the "e" not between the lines? Guess who got excited about writing? Guess who's so angry at that mythoman that I couldn't continue working with this boy?

As it stands, I've had some good conversations with my old colleagues and with several of the parents and if they all have their way, perhaps I'll get the chance to work with these kids again, albeit in a whole different context. We'll see, we'll see.

"And I Ran, I Ran So Far Away!"

Now, this may not seem like major news, but it is. You see, as all the shit hit the fan in my marriage and my life, I became convinced that I had been running to escape from the things I was too afraid to face and hence, my running abruptly stopped. 

Well, I've finally faced a lot of truths about myself and about those I love and I'm ok with it all. Well, mostly ok with most of it, there are still some big points I'm trying to come to terms with, but that all being said, I can run again knowing that I'm not escaping myself, I'm empowering myself. I run to remind myself that it's me that chooses to make me run up hills and scramble over rocks. No one else is doing that to me. All the other crap that I've had to deal with is other people's shit. My shit is splashing through puddles in the woods... 

There you have it. A little bit of an update of the state of things at the Birth Control Bed & Breakfast. Looks like I'll be around here a bit more once again so perhaps, if y'all are good, I'll try to entertain you with more of the joys of living in village that's like a melange of Mayberry and Green Acres, with an Auvergnat accent thrown in for fun.

So sure, we might be recovering from flu, strep throat, some sort of disgusting throwing up thing, and overall a general malaise this week, but you know what? I think we're going to make it. We've got plans... 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Never Ending Toy Psychosis

So I finally got all the Legos picked up, just in time for Bubba-Love to have his birthday, and what happens? He gets PlayMobil. And here I thought Legos found their way into impossible places. I had no idea that those little PlayMobil people could shimmy their plastic heads into cracks that small.

Not to mention the wonderful CHOKING HAZARD that I now live 24/7 since Rosie thinks the little gold pieces from the pirates chest are bonbons...

I promise to upate in depth about birthday boys, jobs with insane directors, and Mini-Husband's lack of a pain threshold but that'll have to wait until at least tomorrow.

"As the Stomach Churns will be back after these commercial messages from Little Plastic Toys from Hell..."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

She Was Cuter When She Wasn't Able To Move So Quickly

I had just sat down to write the most amazing and witty post that has ever been written by a woman named Dig when suddenly I heard a favourite sound of mine: the smashing cadence of a bucket full of Legos being poured out all over the floor by someone under the age of 4.

I shall return after I spend a few hours digging these little suckers out of the parquet. It's amazing where Legos can hide, you know.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What's That You Said?

These last couple of weeks, Rosie has started a whole new way of communicating. It's called screaming.

I vaguely remember this stage from the others but I thought I had safely blocked out all the memories by copious amounts of wine and a long runs in the woods. Amazing how the horrors can come back so quickly. I kid you not, I've gone grey. And that's just my face.

The worst part about the whole screaming thing is that I didn't realize until this morning that she was actually screaming something, a real word: "CHOCOLAT!" And then a few minutes later: "LA-BAS!" Then when she wanted her brother to let her have a look at his Lego: "DONNE-MOI!"

Silly, Dig. She's just not screaming, she's actually screaming in French! Et Voila! I understand!

And holy cats, now I'm wondering just how long this whole "I Speak French in a Loud Voice" thing has been going on. I knew she could say "mama" and "dada" but what if she's actually being saying real sentences like, "J'en ai assez de jambon" and I thought she was just babbling?!?

I've not been paying attention and my child SPEAKS! Yes, she SPEAKS! A language I still don't understand but she's speaking it, well, yelling it, and she makes sense!

I hear her now, thumping up the stairs with Stinky the dou-dou safely in her teeth, and she's singing. And would you believe it? All this time I thought she was just screaming out a mangled baby babble tune. Nope, it's actually La Marseillaise. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Tooth Racket

It was a funny week for teeth at our place. The Princess Boo pointed out to us on Sunday night that one of her bottom teeth was loose. For the first time in 7.5 years, she was finally getting to that magical point where she was going to earn some money from the mythical tooth mouse.

She wiggled that tooth, twisted it, and BAM. There is was. A little gem, white and just a little bit bloody, in her hand. Off to bed she went, happily clutching the little porcelain tooth jar we have for just said occasions.

Boy, was she psyched to see that 2 euro coin the next morning. So excited in fact, that she spent the entire day at school and all of dinner time wiggling the other bottom tooth. She wiggled it, she wrestled with it, she made a loud popping noise when she broke the roots, et VOILA! Look who got cash again Monday night!

Of course, the mouse hadn't gone to change large bills into coins so Boo scored and on Tuesday morning was beyond excited to see a nice 5 euro bill tucked into the tooth jar.

MH was pretty impressed with the quick haul of cash but just couldn't seem to get past the pain and rip out one of the two teeth that have been loose in his bouche since July. He gave it a shot but after just pushing ever so lightly on one and screaming, "AHGHGAAAAA," he's decided to wait till he can get the dentist to get them out under a general anesthetic.

Meanwhile, Princess Boo figured out that if she really wiggled one of her top teeth, she might be able to get one of those out too. So all day Tuesday and Tuesday night, she wiggled and wrestled and tugged, but alas to no avail, that top tooth stayed stubbornly in place.

Wednesday morning, she came down to breakfast and with a bottom toothless grin, informed me that she was very concerned her top tooth would fall out while she was at pony class and land in a big pile of horse poop. With that fear clearly drawn in her head, she wiggled and tugged and pulled and pop! VOILA! The first of her two top teeth was sprung from it's comfortable nesting place.

And once again, the mouse forgot to get change.

17 euros for three teeth in a four day span. Good work if you can get it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The End of Single Digits


It's MH's birthday again.


He's 9 now. I think everything I wrote about him on his birthday last year still rings true but the subtle changes in him are so deep and amazing.

He was a rock for me when the shit it the fan with The Man. The lovely boy hugged me and told me everything would be ok. He got angry for me, he took care of his brother and sisters. He made me coffee and put away his laundry. And when The Man and I reconciled, he was the first one to hug his father, nearly squeezing the life out of him.

MH makes us breakfast in bed, gets all giddy when he hears Shakira, the most beautiful woman in the world according to him, sing. He reads, he draws, he contemplates, he hates wiggling his loose teeth. He got his hernia fixed and thinks that general anesthetic isn't all that bad after all.

He sees his life ahead of him now in all it's full and rich colours.. He wants to be an Airbus 380 pilot and keeps asking me if I'll be proud of him when he's flying me around the globe. He sings all the time and I mean ALL THE TIME. It's just a shame he got my tonality.

He fights like hell with The Princess and orders Bubba around the house like Napoleon did to his troops. He chases Rosie away from his Lego and refuses to help us with the wood anymore. He's more determined, more confident, more him. I thought I was amazed at him when he was born, who could have explained to me then how amazed I'd be each and every day since.

Thank you, MH, for these wonderful 9 years with you. And yes, I'd trust you to fly me anywhere.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Tonight: Hot Bath

Friday morning was a typical morning for us at the Birth Control Bed & Breakfast, which means there were the usual rounds of  "SERIOUSLY YOU NEED TO GET UP NOW" followed by "JUST GET ANY SOCKS YOU CAN FIND!" All of this means that me and the larger 3 ran out the door with only minutes to spare and luckily, and not thanks to me, everyone was weather appropriately dressed and relatively stain free.

The day passed as they do, in a rush, and The Man and I had a late meeting with our therapist. We finally left the city to head back to the sticks by about 8 pm. The two of us divided and conquered, recuperated all and sundry and took the path of least resistance and put everyone to bed dressed as they were.

Saturday morning rolled around with big plans for friends to come and have dinner with us. This of course meant that I needed to disinfect the entire house and remove any and all scary spider webs in corners and poop stains in the toilets. The day flew by, our friends arrived about 4pm, the evening quickly followed and The Man and I, in a slight red wine haze, got the kids to bed in the quickest manner possible.

It was only this morning as I pushed Bubba in the grocery store cart when I realized that he was still wearing the same outfit I had put him in on Friday morning.

"But that's good, isn't it, Mom? I didn't have to fight with you about getting dressed all weekend!"

Monday, January 3, 2011

Perhaps He Meant the One In Texas

I was helping one of the new kids at the school where I work put on his shoes when he tentatively looked up at me and asked if I was American.

"Yes," I replied. "I am."

"So that means you're from Paris."

"No," I laughed, "America is all the way over on the other side of the ocean."

"No." he said, now staring straight into my eyes. "America is in Paris."

"No, really," I said again, this time using sweeping arm gestures out towards the west to reiterate my point. "America isn't in France. It's a whole 'nother country, way over that a way, across the Atlantic ocean."

"NO," he said, expressing his true anger at my obvious neglect of world geography. "You're wrong. America IS in Paris."

And so it is as of 10:47am GMT + 1 hour on January 3, 2011.

Duly noted, young man. Duly noted.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bonne Année et Bon Santé

After the bells chime and you've given a bisous to all and sundry around you at a French New Year's Eve party, the traditional thing to say  is, bonne année, bon santé: Happy New Year and Good Health. I like that. It's nice to wish everyone a good year in the 12 months to come and to hope that they stay healthy and actually enjoy them as best as they can.

But as I said this to yet another neighbour today, something stopped me. I decided I really wanted to say something else. More along the lines of "Happy New Year and I Hope You Laugh Every Day, Even on The Really, Really, Shitty Ones."

I learned in 2010 that life is life. Things happen, the world changes, people need, people forget, people come, and people go. That's going to happen again to all of us in 2011. I only hope that when we hit one of those dark days this coming year, we try to find a reason to laugh, a reason to remember that it's all going to be ok,  no matter what "ok" ends up looking like when we finally find it. Even if that's in 2012.

We may all want a happy new year, and I so hope most of us have one. But for those of us who may have more shitty days accumulated at the end of 2011 than happy ones, I hope that at least you have good humour and good people around you to give you the strength to know that you are going to be ok at the end of this year.

Live. Laugh. Love. Tell stupid jokes. Drink fruity cocktails. Enjoy the sunrises and the silly way dogs sniff each other's tookuses. Find some humour whenever and where ever you can. Even if that means laughing at yourself.

Bonne Année et Bon Santé.