Sunday, June 27, 2010

That's All Folks!

We're out of the Cup. But it sure was fun to have a team to get behind.....the kids got to hear the National Anthem for a change, the European news had something positive to say about the US, everyone had nice teeth and the uniforms were nice. 
Oh well. At least my optimism and subsequent suffering were short-lived. Now I can go back to ignoring football, reading books and writing things down here.
I promise, no more football talk from me.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Crow Pizza

Just down the street from our house we have a pizza truck. It opens between 1 and 3 and then again from 6-8 every day but Sunday and Monday. He doesn’t mess around with this timing and if you’re there one minute before or after hours the hinged door/window is shut tight. It’s reminiscent of a sno-cone stand but with a big pizza oven, balls of dough, and pizza makings instead of a shaved ice machine and colorful syrups.
These camions de pizza are everywhere here. We’ve lucked out to have one a stone’s throw from the house for those nights when you just can’t figure dinner out. And Jean-Pizza likes you to stay and chat while he prepares and cooks your pie. We’ve talked about the BP oil spill, the noise of the music festival at the nearby arena, the big-whig boss of a certain American company who lives down the street, and finally, le coupe de monde.
The last time I got a pizza was with my visiting Irish friend Denice. It was the beginning of the World Cup. We were talking about how France was in shambles due to the coach and his decisions but Denice and I claimed it was all down to karma because of Henry’s hand ball. Because I’m an American he mentioned the US team and their likelihood of success.
Jean-Pizza said he believed the US would be beaten in the first round by Algeria. HAH!! We all know that wasn’t the case and now I’m patriotically all riled up. I am still American after all and with that comes a sense of pride, enthusiasm and optimism. Never one for half measures, I’m now convinced we could win the whole thing! My plan is to go down to Jean’s and brag about how incredibly wrong he was….to be exact, my first thought the morning after the win over Algeria was spoken aloud to Paul. “I’m going to go over there and make Jean-Pizza eat crow!” And as usual Paul’s even keel reply was, “Ok, go over there and show him how wrong he was by buying some pizzas.” He has a point but I really don’t care. I’m going to go buy some pizza, brag a bit about my country’s team, and pray that I won’t be the one eating crow instead of pizza next weekend. I don’t want to have to do away with the pizza but Jean doesn’t seem the type to hold a grudge.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Blogblock--Not So Much

I don’t know why really, but I have been suffering from blogblock.

{walking into walls}
It’s not that there hasn’t been anything to tell you about or that I’ve been uninspired by the goings on here in France.
It’s just I’ve been busy, lazy, preoccupied and have lost the ability to spell in English.

And then there’s the baby who keeps me on the run; chasing him out of lotions, flour, lip gloss and every pair of shoes he can find. He has a shoe fetish, this one and walks around with everyone’s shoes on either his feet or in a pinch, his hands.

Last week I sat down at the computer more than once to tell you something….about the chicken I made and how my lovely new friend, Madame Bonne Amie made chicken that day too, only hers was ‘USA Chicken’ and how that made me laugh.

I started on a post about going on a field trip to the Fabre Museum in Montpellier with the Middlest and his class of 30 other students to look at sculpture.

We spent a wonderful weekend entertaining new friends and being entertained as well and I sat down to tell you about all that too.
Today, I’m back. And I’m finally going to put some words on the page for you to read and enjoy.
I’ll work my way backwards.

Sunday was Fête des Peres. We spent a lovely, dappled sun and wine hazed day Chez Canadian. It was one of those perfect days that unfolds slowly and pleasantly with food and drink throughout, kids playing and laughing and leisurely enjoying the company of friends.

We were invited to our first French barbeque on Saturday by Madame and Monsieur Bon Amis.
They have to be the kindest, most welcoming people I’ve ever met that I can’t really talk to.

We were treated to a postcard lunch under their pergola, tasting different wines from his cave, telling stories in the others’ language, and eating, eating, eating.

First, a French take on guacamole served in petit cups, more of an avocado mousse than anything, it was light and fluffy and delicious.
We then moved onto the salade—a decomposed spread of tomatoes, cucumber and tuna with a vinaigrette. All washed down with rose.

Next we ate sausages that come in one long coil, cooked on the open fire chiminea to perfection; their richness cut by cold, boiled potatoes with a crème frâiche, chive and garlic sauce and vin rouge.

The cheese course was presented on a platter with two huge slabs of white cheese and one bleu.

More vin rouge.  And to finish we had a flourless coconut cake with coffee.
Voila! A perfect French welcome.

Saturday night we treated ourselves to some English, steaks and soccer with our American friends.

{american friends}
How I could have eaten anything else I don’t know, but somehow I managed. It was great to speak easily and frivolously in my tired Texas accent and be completely understood.

This past weekend contained a wealth of riches; welcomes, friends, food and wine, happy kids, sunshine and that sparkly happiness you find in those rare moments when you realize how thankful, appreciative and joyful you are to be here, spinning around on this planet and living life.

Finally, I did it. I hope it doesn’t take me so long next time.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Ma Fleur Rouge

The middlest had his school fête and spectacle last night. Of course I managed to bugger it up in my own way by misunderstanding/forgetting what time to have him there. You see, everything is written and spoken in French here!, and they use what we Americans call 'military time' to boot. You'd think I'd be used to 16h and 18h being 4pm and 6pm because it was the same in Ireland. However, with the added bonus of French I get a bit fussed.
It all turned out alright in the end even though he missed the practice pre-show, because we arrived at what I thought was early making it in time for his performance extraordinaire.

The theme of the spectacle was printemps and all the children were different colored flowers, my son was a fleur rouge...a poppy I suppose. There were three jardiniers who went around watering the seeds (28 children crouched down in rows on the stage) which then grew and grew and grew until they bloomed into beautiful dancing flowers. Dancing flowers who were given carte blanche to perform their best improvisational twists and twirls, wiggles and spins, and even, in the case of my middlest, the robot.
I can tell you with utmost certainty that a better robot has never been witnessed--at least not at a small school in the South of France. He bloomed slowly, rising from his seed crouch after all the others, teasing out every bit of drama until he burst into full height, arms waving in the air, smile on his lovely face, and began to 'robot'. I've never been more proud.
After the spectacle, everyone gathered in the school playground which was set up with food stalls, bouncy castles, and rows of tables and chairs. Parents were asked to help in different ways. I signed up to bring a salad (scary) and we all bought each others' quiche, pizza, salads and cakes. There were even hot dogs á la français...sausages in baguettes, and in true French fashion, Perrier and wine; red, white and pink to drink.
We stayed until after 9pm, or 21h if you prefer, and had a lovely time chatting in a mixed garble of French and English. We even met the mayor. What a welcome!
Ma fille has her fête and spectacle next week and I can't wait to see her performance. I'll let you know how it goes.
bon weekend!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Boss and The Bed

I’m really bad at spatial relations. It’s one of those things my brain just can’t do. I can’t judge what would fit where and always cut off either way too much or way too little wrapping paper therefore it takes me an awful long time to get through Christmas presents.

We’ve been waiting for a month for our bed frame. It’s not because it’s some special, made-to-order item. Just that IKEA didn’t have it in stock until Friday.

Tired of sleeping on the floor and looking for more projects for P-Daddy to tackle this weekend, I decided to take the bull by the horns, pack up the Baby, and go get it myself.

I arrived before they opened and waited with all the other affordable (cheap) yet well-crafted (that depends on who’s following the directions) and attractive (nothing here) furniture junkies. As soon as we got in I made a bee line for beds only to find myself waiting with a sweaty and impatient British couple, a young French guy, and an American couple who kept trying to cut in line.

It was while I waited that the screaming started.
The Baby, not me.
{don't let this face fool you}
I started sweating yet tried to look serene.

The screaming drew glances, stares, and thankfully, another person to the second register. It was finally my turn and I got the paperwork for the bed.

Downstairs to pick up the box for the slats.
I had the Baby in a small shopping trolley and had to get one of those long, big merchandise ones too. Pushing one with each hand, I maneuvered the box onto the big trolley.
No problem. I was feeling very organized and competent.

Next stop, retrait merchandise, where you collect your bigger items.
When my number was called and I saw the box I panicked a little bit on the inside but decided not to show it. The box was BIG! If you’re thinking that I shouldn’t have been surprised then you’ve forgotten about my problem.

Pushing a trolley with a 180cm x 220 cm box balanced on it while pushing a screaming baby in a smaller shopping cart is not recommended. I miraculously got to the car but this was only the beginning of my problems.

Undaunted by the sheer size of this box compared to the size of the back of my car, I carried on.

After I successfully wrestled the Baby into his seat, I set my sights on the box. ‘No problem, you can do this. Don’t panic. Just don't panic!', I kept repeating to myself.

As I tried to fit this very large square peg into the round hole, a car full of scarved Muslim women pulled up behind me, parking so close to the back of my car that the box bashed into their hood. Oh, for goodness sake! Now I’m sweating, stressed out, and have banged my box into a car and will have to explain this, en francais.

I have to tell you that I was not happy.

I usually try to see the good side of things but the entire production had gotten on top of me.
Angry Aidan was rearing her ugly head. With what could only be described as a scowl, I started complaining to them, saying how the box wouldn’t have fallen on their car if they hadn’t gotten so close to me while I was obviously struggling to achieve an impossible feat.

Before you get carried away, all of this was spoken in English and most likely very fast.

The next thing I knew, the oldest of the group ran up to me, grabbed a side of the box and started fluttering at me something about how it wasn’t ever going to fit. It took me a second to realize she wasn’t unhappy with me at all. Relief!

Someone was actually taking pity on me.

She began ripping open the side of the box while telling me what to do and flapping her arms and ordering the others around too. She was now in charge.

Everyone started ripping and tearing open the box. It was a frenzy of activity to a soundtrack of super-fast French. I couldn’t even get in there and ended up standing aside while they went at the box like some sort of ten-handed, French speaking machine.

They took out the pieces, threw aside the box, and started cramming the head and footboards into the back of my car.

{the offending bed, delivered safely}

‘Oh, no…there’s a baby in there!’, said one.

‘You must move the baby. You must move the baby!’, cried the boss.

Oh, dear. Where?  Where should I move the Baby to?!?

She looked at me with such patience as if to say, ' you poor child, you really are a bit soft in the head aren’t you?'
Why in the front seat of course!

‘Move the baby, move the baby, or leave the bed behind!!!’
So I moved the baby.

I undid the car seat from all its protective harnesses and moved the baby, gulp, to the front seat. This went against all of my American girl who had babies in the past 10 years training.

Two minutes later the entire contents of the enormous box were somehow contained in my car and the Baby was delighted to be up front with me. He just kept giggling and pointing, the happiest he’d been all day.

As the spatial relations angels left me in a dizzying whirr of arms, squeezes, and ça n’est pas graves, the boss kept calling back over her shoulder, ‘Roll up the windows or the bed will tumble out! You must roll up the windows!!!’

I laughed all the way home.

You never know where help will come from and it will always come when you least expect it.

Bless you boss lady, merci beaucoup a vous, wherever you are.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Butt Bumpers

When I was a little girl I remember how I’d spend afternoons in the living room listening to Bette Midler and dancing. I’d look at the record jackets as I sang my heart out; spinning, twirling, performing. My favorite Bette Midler jacket was the drawing of just her face with a huge mane of curly orange hair fanning out around her. ‘Cause you’ve got to have friends…la, la, la, la, la.’, sang Bette. I loved that song then and now 30 years later it keeps popping into my head.
I’ve had some wonderful friends along the way and am thankful to continue to find them. The really special ones are like signposts marking out the years. As I watch S grow and learn how to be a friend I can’t help but think of the friends I had at her age. Nancy Beth saved me from 9-year-old heartbreak and loneliness after divorce and a move. We would talk and laugh and play for hours, swimming in her Grandmother’s pool, riding bikes and jumping on the trampoline. I loved her like a sister.
Today Sofia had her first French friend over after school. They don’t really talk to each other because they don’t speak the same language but what they share is being little girls. They hold hands, smile and laugh, mime what they want to say and find joy in being with one another, no words necessary. As they held hands and jumped into the pool, coming up for air only to giggle, I thought of Nancy Beth and all the lovely friends I am thankful to have in my life. You know who you are.
Yesterday I had a new friend over. She’s got a little one the same age as the baby so he’s got a new friend too. I’ve become accustomed to being the only Texan around,the only American too for that matter, but way over here in France I’ve met a fellow East Texan. As we sat by the pool watching the kids swim she asked, ‘Have you taught them butt bumpers yet’? A spring of joy rose in me…butt bumpers! I hadn’t heard anyone else call it that or even know what it was in years--Nancy Beth years. I loved butt bumpers and have taught it to many people; from my step-siblings to cute boys I was trying to flirt with in college. There’s something about shared commonality. It makes you feel like you belong. Even if it is just a silly pool trick where you hold hands, push your feet together and push! butts bumping each other and forcing you both out and over in an exhilarating flip.
Rowan’s had friends over this week too and along with his came the whole family. All French, all wonderfully kind and funny. As Paul and I talked to them in halting French mixed with English, they did the same only in reverse. We’d reach for our dictionaries when things got complicated and laugh at the fun of it all. We’ve planned a dinner out ensemble and P and Monsieur Bon Ami have planned mountain biking and wine tasting.
All in all, it’s been a very successful week. Friends for everyone. Sing it Bette, sing it, you know you gotta have ‘em!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bow to the Master

I’m not a huge fan of television. Every once in a while a show will strike my fancy and I’ll go through a period of mad infatuation, never missing a one and recording (or as I still say, ‘taping’) episodes so I don’t miss anything. One of my dalliances was The Real Housewives of New York and Dancing with the Stars revived me from a winter slump a year or two into Ireland. And finally, who doesn’t find some red, white, and blue comfort from King of Queens every once in a while?
When we moved into the new house we decided to cut corners, immerse ourselves, and opt out of the UK and Ireland television god, Sky. Alas, we have two Sky boxes, one with and one without DVR. The thing we’re missing is a dish. Rather than part with more money for hundreds of channels with nothing worth watching, we chose a French satellite provider with a package limited to North American Sports Network because my beloved can’t live without his college football. No movies, no cooking shows, no Place in the Sun--Home or Away.
All of this is fine for the most part. But sometimes you want a mindless, easy escape. Especially now when I’m surrounded by French all the time, some laughs from the big guy Doug and his sassy skinny wife Carrie would really come in handy. Instead, we’ve taken to watching House on Tuesday nights because we can switch the language to English for an episode after the French news. House isn’t so bad.
But the other night we were both so tired and hard up for English that we sat through the worst show ever….’Lie to Me’. The plot was silly. Terrorist agents infiltrated the CIA and framed an innocent kid from the ghetto while the English guy figured out that someone was lying about it all. It had everything—xenophobia, post-traumatic stress syndrome, terrorist threats from within and an unspoken attraction between the face reader and his partner. Cringe.
Yet we watched the entire show. Commenting the whole time on how awful it was while privately enjoying listening to something without squinting in concentration, picking out only every 20th word, and trying to piece together the story using visual and contextual cues.
Tonight we’ve hit an all time low. I just watched a Timbaland video about vampires and werewolves solely because it was in English. The sad thing is that even if and when I can understand French enough to watch a show like Friends en francais, the dubbing will freak me out so much it won’t be worthwhile. For now I’ll stick to the news and get my English fix live and in person from my Canadian and fellow Texan friends.
Oh, but how I would love to know what happened to make Jill and Bethenny ex-BFFs.