Thursday, July 29, 2010


One of the drawbacks of living far from grandparents is that there’s no one you trust as much as them to keep your children. In Ireland most of my friends lived near their siblings and parents so had weekends away, last minute babysitters and a dig-out when things got the better of them. I would spend my 10 euro an hour for a date night or to go to Pilates while Paul was away on business trips.

So when Mom planned her trip here this summer she encouraged us to take some time away. Not that it took much encouraging. I’d booked our weekend away as fast as my fingers could fly across We decided on Barcelona.

For a Texan used to driving up to 12 hours to get out of my state, being able to drive three hours to another country was pretty amazing. Three hours from Austin, Texas gets you to Dallas in one direction, nearly to Houston to the East, who knows where in the middle of the desert to the West and not even to the beaches of Corpus Christi to the South.
We couldn’t help comparing the drive to the Austin-Dallas trip we’ve made so many times.

Rest stop--Pyrenees

A:’Now we’d be in Waco.’
P:’Yea, but we’re in Perpignan.’
A:’Look at the Pyrenees!’
P:’Different than Waxahachie, huh?’

And on it went.

Musee Picasso
In no time we were in another country, with another language, food, culture and style. Our hotel was in the thick of it all so we could walk everywhere. Las Ramblas with its bizarre ‘performance art’ and throngs of German and Dutch tourists, down to Colombus’ statue pointing to new worlds to discover, Musee Picasso and the Barri Gothic’s winding streets, shops and countless tapas bars. It was glorious to ramble, stopping to have a quick browse in ceramics shops without worrying about fitting the buggy through or about little fingers touching breakables. We popped into a small bar to have a quick glass of wine and olives and spent hours in front of the Esglesia de St Maria del Mar watching a wedding party arrive and cheering for the bride while drinking cava and eating tapas.

All of this was fabulous but the best part was being together; laughing, talking and reconnecting. And sleeping in until 11 wasn’t bad at all either. We literally whooped with delight when we realized the time!  Merle Haggard's, ‘If we’re not back in love by Monday’ was the soundtrack in my head the whole time.
Placa Cataluyna

My new plan is to find a nanny…maybe an American French language student who wants room and board in exchange for some child minding.
As for my mom, we’re thankful beyond imagining to her that’s for sure. Our first time away together in five years deserves a big shout out, THANKS MOM!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Hooray! Hooray! Grandmother is coming!

The countdown, anticipation, preparations are all coming to an end. Mother is coming on Thursday. We are all so excited to have her here that these last days are a sweet torture. We've been waiting, waiting, waiting to see her familiar face, hug her tight and smell her Momness/Grandmotherness.
She smells good, my mom.

I can't wait to show her our new life. She's never been to France and I know she's excited to see this place that's stolen us away. My secret hope is that she'll let it steal her too.

We haven't seen her in the flesh, no skype substitutes, since April 2009. Can you imagine how big the kids are going to look? We see them every day, their growth spurts only noticeable in their rapid outgrowing of clothes and the 'how high can I touch on you' height test. S used to be able to reach my chest, then my chin, and now she touches my forehead. No tippy toes! How do you prepare for that kind of change? The Middlest has stretched too and his lovely face has changed, not so much a baby anymore and more of a handsome boy. And then there's the Baby. He was only 8 months old in April 2009. Now he's nearly two.

We've gotten her room ready, fluffed her towel, bought her fan and made travel plans. The girls are going on our own adventure. Provence look out. We're going to make some signature parfum, smell the lavender and drive through hillside towns. We're even going to get her to la plage. I've bought her a colorful parasol to make the experience more pleasurable. She doesn't share my love of the sun...maybe one of the reasons she looks far younger than the numbers of her age.

So you'll forgive me if my posts slow down. I will let you know about our trip to Provence, our parents only escape to Barcelona and whatever other noteworthy things happen. But mostly I will be sitting on the terrace talking to my mom, in person and not on the phone. 

 2 more sleeps!!!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

It's Hotting Up

Man, oh man is it hot. And oh how I love it. I will now write a love note to the heat....

Dearest Warmth,

When I left you far, far away in Texas I had no idea what I was doing. Sure you can be a bit overbearing and demanding down there, but I missed you just the same. I spent years searching for you and dreaming of how wonderful you are. It was one day in Ireland, as I jogged down the promenade, that your loss hit me. I wasn't sweating. Not a drop. And then I realized how long it'd been since I had shed even the tiniest bead of sweat. I would pay good money to sit in the sauna just to be close to you again. I dreamed of spending holidays in places where I knew you'd be too. But, oh how I longed for more.
And now that we've been reunited, I promise I will never leave you again. My only sadness is I know that the winter must come. I won't think about that now. No, not now. Not while we're so happy together. Not while the kids walk around in swimsuits, dark brown skin and bare feet. Not while I feel completely warm in a tank top and shorts, no need for a cardigan, just in case. No, not now.
Now I will bask in your presence, enjoy the warm sea, sleep under the buzz of the fan and jump in ma petite piscine to cool off.
We were made for each other, mon amour.

Yours truly,

Thank you for indulging my silliness. I hope you feel warm wherever you are. Or not if you prefer.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Independence Days

July is the month of Independence. Did you know that Canada Day is July 1? Our North American neighbors tell me that they always have to go first....their version of Thanksgiving is in October.

It must be noted however, that their Independence Day was not until 1867. Nearly 100 years later than ours. But I'm not one to quibble. You can be first on Thanksgiving mes amies canadiens.

The 4th of July is ours. The day we thumb our noses at the British (just jokes my empirical friends), eat meat, shoot fireworks and drink too much beer. It's red, white, and blue day in the US of A.

On Sunday we shared our 4th with the Canadians. We figured we could combine our nose thumbing into one long day. Well, that wasn't really a plan but it sure did turn out to be fun. We ate brunch, sipped bellinis, and jumped in the pool to cool off.

Next we ate snacks, drank champagne, and jumped in the pool to cool off.

Then we ate hot dogs, potato salad, and homemade ranch style beans followed by Coke floats for the under 21s, champagne floats for the humans, and jumped in the pool to cool off.

Our neighbor got annoyed with our North American noise and asked us kindly to please keep it down because he was trying to have a civilized dinner sur la terrasse. I'm sure it was mostly that he couldn't stand listening to all that English going on next door. He obviously didn't know it was the 4th of July!

The French have their own day in July--Bastille Day, the 14th (1789, sorry but we were first on this one too).

But it's funny how we all do the same things. They have parties, eat meat, light feu d'artifice and drink too much wine. Well, they probably don't because they don't really do that, but someone might.

We got a notice about this year's Bastille Day celebration on the kids' last day of school. It says something like, 'Come to the celebration with your family. It's a good time to reconnect with your fellow citizens in the middle of the summer holidays.' How nice, huh? I'm planning on it. The color scheme is the same.

I wonder if our neighbor will expect silence next Wednesday night?

Take a moment to lift your glass to the French republic, Vive la France! They did give us the Statue of Liberty after all.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mots Flottants

'Elle est tombee amoureuse. Les garcons disent rock n' roll!'

Last week Ma Fille was singing this in the shower. She's learned all these little diddies from the school playground. Most are accompanied with hand clapping. You know, the kind we did in elementary school where you'd clap together from the top and bottom, then straight ahead, then your own hands together, starting over again and again to the rhythm of the chant.

She's one of those kids who wants to know everything about words. She was annoyed when she first started reading and couldn't stop reading all the signs around her....on buses, billboards, shop windows.

Now all those signs are in French. And she's still reading. She and I are constantly trying to figure things out. 'Venir comme vous etes!' 'Gagnez un voyage!' 'Les bons plans de l'ete.' We'll shout it out when we've got it translated. Woo hoo! Another one down.

So we work out all these songs. Like the one about the witch who ate too much chocolate and got a stomach ache then had to hide from all the children. It's cuter in French.

So it was with 'elle est tombee amoureuse'.

S: 'What's elle est tombee Mommy?'
M: 'That means she fell.'
S: 'Hmmmm, she fell, she fell, she fell? What's amoureuse?'
M: 'I'm not sure.'
S:  'Oh, Mommy! Amoureuse is love! She fell in LOVE!'.
M: 'And all the boys say rock n roll.' HA!

This is how it goes. All these words float around in our heads just waiting for us to piece them together.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Raised in Liberty

As I stood at the kitchen counter, dismembering and plucking stray hairs from a chicken and prying off her little silver bijou, I thought, “Wonder why the Europeans aren’t so fussed about these things?” And that led me to think, ‘Why are we Americans so bothered by some chicken feathers, innards, and the like?’
We like to see our dinners as far removed from the actual living creature as possible. I know people who don’t like buffalo wings or Thanksgiving turkey because they too closely resemble the animal. And forget about shoving a live, wriggling lobster head first into a pot of boiling water…unless of course you’re my fearless friend Abby.
No, we like our food to look like it never breathed air, walked around with a silver anklet, or batted long, brown eyelashes at fellow future hamburgers. Baby chickens are cute and fluffy, cows are favorites at the petting zoo, and forget about eating a petit lapin!
It is this that sets us apart food wise. We get all squeamish and anthropomorphic while the French just look on it as their natural right in the pecking order to eat good, rich food. Foie gras  (literally, fat liver) is an abomination to some, escargot are snails, pig brains are well, brains!?, and let’s not even start on cheval. Ma fille is still traumatized by the packaged horse steaks at the Hyper-U.
We just see things differently, that’s all. I’m actually getting used to being closer to my food. In the old days, women would step outside, snatch up a chicken and wring her neck for supper. I would never be able to go that far but at least they knew where their chicken had been.
Back to my poulet. My fat bird may have been slightly feathered but at least she was elévé en liberté or the more romantic translation, 'total freedom'. The French are big on liberty. It’s first in their national motto, liberté, égalité, fraternité, and chickens deserve no different. It’s like this: embrace your food, know where it comes from (preferably France), and above all, cook it well and eat it. If you don’t enjoy it then it was all for naught. And what a pity that would be.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Yesterday was a momentous day.

It was the kids’ last day of French school and I can’t believe they’ve done it.

I can’t tell you how much I worried over the move here; bilingual school v. national school, if the kids would be miserable, that the French schools would be too strict and squelch all the happiness and imagination out of my happy, free children.

As usual, it turns out that my fears were groundless.The more I do in life the more I find this to be the case.

We chose a French public school rather than bilingual on the advice of many and it turned out to be the best decision we’ve made.Our school is warm and friendly and I’ve been impressed with the teachers’ ability to help my kids integrate and feel welcome regardless of language.The Middlest’s teacher spoke not a word of English, yet we stumbled through together and she accepted him with bisous and patience.

There were swimming lessons at an indoor pool every Friday morning; a bus took children and volunteer parents to our nearby public pool for lessons, teachers in swimsuits, monitoring the class.This is public school, remember.

The school fetes and spectacles were block parties with a show. Even the moustachioed mayor was there.

The kids can write in cursive now and Ma Fille knows her times tables up to 5, en francais. Cinq fois cinq est vingt-cinq. Warm, kind, welcoming AND educational.

And you know about the lunches, right?!

All of this made me feel happy to bursting; proud and overwhelmed with what they’ve accomplished and how brave they’ve been.
As we were driving to school yesterday morning I was telling them so. I was waxing poetic, talking about life and how for me the trick is how you handle fears and insecurities. About how a life well lived is about doing things that are outside your comfort zone, being open to the new and unknown, and realizing that nothing is as scary as it seems.
Apparently, all my kids heard was this, ‘blah, blah, blah, blabbedy blah’ because when I finished my soliloquy and asked for their opinions, Ma Fille replied, ‘whatever'.

{French lessons}

Whatever. So what. French school, French language, French fries. It’s all the same to me.