Thursday, July 31, 2008


Okay, so, you all know about the half marathon I want to do in September, right? Well, for SOME silly reason, in order to sign up for it, you have to have a certificate from the doctor that says there's no reason you shouldn't run it. So, I go to the doctor yesterday.

Let me preface this by saying that I HATE going to the doctor here. For one, even when you have an appointment, you always have to wait an ungodly amount of time in the waiting room. Then, when you get into the doc's office, it's usually, well, an OFFICE with a desk and whatnot and he usually says, "Take off your clothes" right then and there... No little private room, no little paper robe, nothin', just get nekked. And yeah, I KNOW he's gonna see all my parts eventually, but there's just something dehumanizing about derobing in front of someone with little or no foreplay on a medical level like that, you know?

So, we go (yeah, that's right, I took my husband and three kids to the doctor with me and I feigned linguistic resons, okay?) and we sit in the waiting room which has NO air conditioning, of course, and has one tiny oscillating fan, but the windows are closed and everyone one in the waiting room is melting in their chairs. We sit there for an ungodly amount of time, during which Laurel decides she wants a boob and though I've been told that "In France, you can't just do it anywhere you want" (oh REALLY? but you can make out and almost have SEX in the park in front of my kids? You can unzip and piss wherever you want on any building or light post you want right in front of my kids while we're eating outside at a restaurant? but I can't discreetly give my kid a boob? Insert eyeroll here.). So, I'm giving her a boob and a doctor walks in, says a name looking directly at me and says, "So, is the soup good?" Meaning is my child's dinner good. I'm not sure if he's being funny or if he's trying to ridicule me into feeling guilty for my "indiscretion" or what, so I fight the impulse to say, "Looks like it," and instead just stare back at him. Whatevah. Later, Sam told me that the guy was an OB, so let's just hope he was being funny. Yeah, that's how we're gonna take it.

So, the doc comes into the waiting room and calls me. My boob is still in the baby's mouth. *sigh* I put things away and get ready to go back, but he says, "Maybe your husband and children would like to stay here?" I send Sam a pleading look, but he says, "Go ahead." I sent "you traitor" darts at him with my eyes, but sighed and went with the doctor, steeling myself to undress with no ceremony whatsoever.

But we get into his office and he has me sit down. He asks me all kinds of questions. One of them was, "How long have you been in France?"

"About three weeks," I say.

He drops his pen. "So, how is it that you speak French natively?"

I can't help it. Call it ego. Call it the ONE thing I have to be proud of that I EARNED with my own blood, sweat and tears (and I mean that LITERALLY) but I LOOOOOVE that reaction.

"Oh, well, I used to live here... I've been out of the country about seven years."

"Hmm. Obviously it's like riding a bike, huh?"

I smile.

He asks a few more questions, like why I'm there and about marathons and stuff. He asks if I plan to nurse my baby for much longer, "Because, you KNOW, nursing will make you tired..." Um, dude, listen, I have three kids, if you think you're sending me some kind of medical news flash.... shhhhh, Joelie, don't get all huffy.

Then, he does something that surprises the hell out of me. He tells me to go into the little exam room (well, it's sort of an exam ALCOVE with a teensy wall half-separating it from his office) and get undressed down to my bra and underwear. I had to scoop my jaw up off the floor. Huh? You mean PRIVACY? Cool! So, I did as he asked and then sat timidly in a chair waiting--that was nearly as embarassing as undressing in front of him, just sitting there in my skivvies, tee hee hee *snort*. He came in, weighed me (which was convenient because I needed to weigh in for Biggest Loser),asked me to lie down, poked, prodded and did all the reflex stuff. I figured it was just a formality. I've lost forty pounds since January (okay 42, but I've put two back on since I've been here) and up untill three weeks ago spent two to three hours a day exercising at the Y. I'm thinking he's just gonna say, "Yep, you're healthy. Good luck!"

But he doesn't. He keeps moving his stethoscope around. I'm trying to relax, but I really thought this was going to be like getting my oil changed.

"You have a murmur. Did you know that?"

A murmur. A murmur.... Hmmmm... Yeah, okay, so last spring, I had strep (thank again Anne for watching the kids when I thought I was about to DIE) and went to the doc and she said something about a murmur, but I've had at least one EKG since then and no one said anything further. But instead, I lie and say, "No."

He steths some more. "Yes, you have a murmur." Steths some more. He asks me to sit up and then does it again.

"So, what does this mean?" I say, praying he's going to say that it's nothing.

"It means I can't give you your certificate."

My heart drops into my stomach... But what about the half? What about the HOUSTON FULL???????

"...UNTIL you go to a cardiologist and he gives you the thumbs up."

Shew. Big brow-wiper there.

So, in the end, he reminds me that I'm overweight and that, though he can't give me my certificate until I see the cardiologist, I should in no way change my training habits as long as I'm not having any symptoms--very good news there--congratulates me on my weight loss, gives his own thumbs up to Weight Watchers (he says, "Oh yeah, that one is very good... very well equilibrated" I don't know how else to translate that) and tells me to come back after the EKG. He also tells me that I had better not dally. Everyone (no, seriously, EVERYONE) goes on vacation for the entire month of August and if I want to get this done in time for the half, I had better get a move on--and it may already be too late... I may be trying to get all this done in a quickie fashion in early September. Then, he shakes my hand, tells me good luck. I tell him that I'll send Sam in to pay.

That's it.

So, no undressing in front of him. But compared to a murmur that kept me from quickly getting my certificate... well, I'd rather have just stripped down, honestly.

Cross your fingers for me.

In other news....

Looks like it's going to cost an arm and a leg after all to get the AC fixed in the van. I know, I know, it ain't green. And I completely agree with you. BUT, it ain't humane to watch my children dehydrate in the back of that van. As much as I wish that keeping the windows open would keep them cool, it doesn't (unless we're on the freeway, but then, we're going 90mph and there's so much wind that they look like they've been riding a motorcycle by the time we get where we're going). So, we're gonna hafta dip into the farm fund and pay for air conditioning. Plus, my sister in law (who is selling us the minivan) is gonna tell us this evening how much they want for the van. Eeek! Cross those fingers extra tight on that one. Our whole point in buying from them was to save money... Let's hope that happens. By now, we already bought insurance on the van, so, it's too late to back out. *shrug*

Stay tuned...

Where have I been?

You may be wondering where the heck I've been? (Okay, indulge me and FAKE IT.) Well, I've still been cleaning. That's right. And I'm not done. And it sucks. It truly does. To spend one's whole day scrubbing with pruney, slimey fingers punctuated only by diaper changes and breaking up squabbles and finger diving into Laurel's mouth fishing out treasures she keeps finding on the floor.

Yes, it's sucky.

But there is so much good. Enough to make the suckiness rewarding. Like, I washed all my old glasses we found up in Pepe's attic--all the old wine glasses Sam and I used to use when we were sweethearts--and put them away in a CLEAN cabinet. Like, I found some cool non-skiddy shelf-liner-y stuff at--where else?--IKEA, that I used to line the kitchen drawers (and the hall-way organizer for sock and undies). Like, I LOVE "line"-drying (meaning that in France they have these laundry racks they call "etandage") and knowing that I'm not sucking up energy and I'm being all green. And (speaking of) like how my girls are wearing their cloth diapers and how my new front-loader washer wrings them out with its little centrifuge to the point that they are nearly dry when I hang 'em up and only take half an hour to dry (as long as they used to take in the electric dryer at home). Like the soapdish I bought (yep, IKEA) fits perfectly on the tile ledge in our water closet. Like working cell phones, internet and cable (CNN International!!!). Like speedily-processed long-stay papers. Like inexpensive tune-ups on the minivan. Like having my smooth double stroller and my nearly-fixed, borrowed TRIPLE stroller. Like Sam going to the mass transit office to get our family passes so we can take the metro, tram, busses, etc. as a family and can soon do trips to the mall for hardware, etc. without having to take the van out. Like Sam going to the in-laws' house and bringing back their awesome and ancient and WOOD dining table--when I think how I grew up eating in front of the TV and now how it makes me break out in hives--and our old folding wooden chairs. Like how we might soon have our house in Charlotte rented and be able to save even more money. Like how our cost of living allowance, because we are so careful, is going to help us pay off our credit cards within one year (six months if we rent out the house). Like how stinky cheese that would cost $12 (and up) per pound in the States is like a buck-fifty here. Like how I FINALLY found my Weight Watchers slide rule and can now calculate my points and am surprised at how not-so-bad I've been doing after all. Like how our American VCR/DVD combo actually WORKS on our new TV so we don't have to use the behemoth anymore. Like how when people visit to deliver stuff, they take one look at the view from our living room and say, "Woao! Bel appart!" Like how my father-in-law sent me two heads of lettuce, a mess of tomatoes and four cukes and three zuchini yesterday and just in time because we didn't have anything to eat for dinner (or lunch today) and really didn't want to try to go shopping at 8pm.

Yes, there's suck aplenty. But there's good around every corner. *sigh*

And there's more....

I've just about had all I can take of Ryan, my oldest. I really wish I could say that I can overcome any obstacle and that all it would really take would be some patience, energy and love. Well, my tank is running low on all three. It's not his fault. It's mine. I'm stressed. I want to get the apartment clean so they aren't traipsing around in filth, but I can't get anything done cuz they're always here and fighting or choking or hungry or whatever. So, LOTS of places are almost clean. Then, there's the fact that I get maybe half an hour to myself (including bathroom breaks) and that starts when I wake up and ends when I go to bed. Even now, Laurel is slobbering on my knees and I'm pretending not to notice. I know Sam has to work and all, but when I'm sitting on the couch with one kid on the boob, the other standing face to face with the TV screen (and me physically powerless to do anything) and the other saying, "I'anna cuuuuuuuppa!!!" over and over and over, and I say, "SAAAAAAAMMMMM! What are you DOING????!!!???" And he doesn't answer. And I get up and find out he's been "checking his email" for the past half an hour when he has internet at work ("But my Yahoo doesn't WORK very well at work!"). That's when I lose it and seem to somehow blame it all on Ryan. Maybe because he's the one there and he's the one misbehaving and SMILING about it. Maybe because he's the one who I find, time after time, jumping on the futon when he has promised not to. Maybe because every time I find Lily screaming or squealing or with tears running down her face, and I ask what's wrong, Ryan answers, "Lily did it" or some similar version. Maybe because he says "I waaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnnnnaaaaaaaa" all the time. Maybe because I'm a crappy mother.

I don't know.

All I know is that last night, I told Sam to "FIND RYAN A SUMMER PROGRAM before I end up in jail!!!" And this morning, I thought, "Oh, it's not SO bad. If he did actually find him a summer program I would probably really miss him." I thought, "Maybe we just needed a chance to get used to each other again." And just when I think that, Sam calls and tells me that he's found Ryan a summer program. It doesn't start next week, but the week after. Ryan is going to be THRILLED. All he talks about is going to s-c-h-o-o-l (sorry, I've gotten used to spelling it because even the slight MENTION of school--and I mean, even if you say "school of fish"--Ryan says, "I wannnnaaaaa go to schoooooool!!!!" So, why is a little teensy part of me sad? I guess because we've sort of bonded over the past three weeks.

But it will be for the best. The program is a total fun thing (not real school) that will prepare him linguistically for what he'll find waiting for him in September. And this program thingy will take him on little excursions and stuff (to the park and to the movies and to the museum) and he'll feel so grown up and stuff. It makes me tear up just thinking about it.

And Lily. We're also going to find out tomorrow if she can have a spot, too. She's SO ready, too. Every time we go to IKEA (which is, ahem, often, huh?) and go to the play area, she wants to run and play with the other little kids. The other day, she sat right down next to a little girl sitting in one of those egg chair thingies. They sat there like that until they both wanted to get up but were stuck. It was so cute. So, she might be going to "school" too which will be great because she was starting to feel left out in the States whenever we would drop Ryan off at school.

So NOW, instead of being like, "I'm stuck at home alone all day with all three of these kids!!!" I'm like, "Hey, I only have a week left to spend all day with all three of my kids." I have to admit, it will be fun to be alone with just a baby again. I loved staying home with just Ryan. And just Lily. But I only had JUST LAUREL for three months before bringing Lily home from day care. And it seems like I've been home with both girls forever but it really has only been seven months (since New Year's). That's insane! But at least Lily might be happy to see me at night again like she used to be.

Either way, things seem to be moving forward. Gaining momentum even. It's true, I haven't even gone anywhere by myself yet (other than the parc) and haven't had to go shopping or anything by myself yet or really had to interact with many people yet--not all alone anyway... YET... So, I'll update you on the progress of all that. That will be the true determiner of whether or not I'm gonna make it without having to be admitted to a mental institution. If I can stay home with the baby, work out, write, go to the outdoor market, work on my farm project and well, you know... the Five-Fold... Then, everything will be okay and I'll return to the States in one piece. Not unscathed, perhaps, but maybe enriched on a few levels.

Bee Tee Dubya... In case you're wondering where the hell all the pix are, I have to say, well, just hold yer horses. Even though I have wi-fi now, it aint the fastest thing in the world. So, I'm gonna hafta upload my pix to Sam's computer since it's directly wired. Bear with me and stay tuned. Thanks for reading me.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Another weekend!... and tidbits

I just deleted about six paragraphs of blah blah blah. I don't know why I get on here and think that you need an exact play-by-play of my days over here. It's silly. Is my life really so empty that all I have to write about are logistics? No. But I admit, I am excited about what I'm doing even if it's not anything exciting.

So, to give you the Reader's Digest version of what I wrote and deletedd: We went to IKEA, I bought a great table. we went to Sam's parents' house and picked up Ryan's bed. We came back to the apartment. Sam took the kids back to the hotel while I stayed at the apartment and mopped. I also put together my new table, the changing table and the new lamp. I stayed over there until 1am and didn't want to leave. Sam called me at midnight to tell me that I had to come back to nurse the baby. It figures.

Then, yesterday, I spent the entire--no, I mean it--day cleaning. It was listed in our rental contract that the owners would have the place cleaned by professionals. Well, they must have gotten a pretty lofty quote because instead, they paid the gardienne to come in and vacuum, clean the toilets and wipe off the gas range (which we're not going to use anyway). And whoever mopped last must have used the same mop to clean the garage downstairs because Laurel had black knees everytime she crawled even ten feet. So, I mopped. Did I mention that the apartment is 205 meters squared? And not a bit of it is carpet. All wood and tile. I mopped all but one room.

And the cabinets! It was like someone had taken a dead fish and scrubbed the inside of the cabinets with them. Grody!

Okay, I'm moaning and groaning but the thing I realized at the end of the day, when everything was all shiny and clean and gorgeous (okay, well, not EVERYTHING since I didn't get to finish the kitchen--it really is disgusting) is that now I super duper appreciate the apartment. It's MINE. It's like I peed on it--so to speak *wink, wink* Now, when I picture it, I don't imagine someone else's apartment with someone else's dirt. I swept and mopped out all the past and am ready to start my own glorious two-year future there. Sorry for the melodrama.

So, by the time we went back to the hotel, I was ready to cut in the bath line so that I could go to bed. I didn't, but I did make Sam do all the bathing. After they were done and it was my turn, I actually dozed off in my soak. There have only been two other times in my life I've fallen asleep in the bath! I slept like a rock (though I had some crazy mixed up dreams).

Anyhoo, there were some things that occurred to me over the past few days... Things I've seen, heard or realized... And I think they're funny. I'm calling 'em tid bits.

Women here don't "dress their age." Oh, sure, there are the grannies who wear their house dresses and low heels who pull their shopping caddies behind them, purse at elbow, on their way to the market. But many (most?) of the older ladies I've seen wear, well, YOUNG clothes. (Fortunately, most of them have the bods to match the clothes--I don't know what kind of great super genes these people have but I've never seen more elderly people who still have round tuckuses and firm bosoms in my life.)

The even funnier part is the English. Just like we, in the States, like to put French words on our clothes and call it fashion, there are some pretty funny occurrences here. For instance, just this week I've seen two women--both well into their 60's--one was wearing a pair of pants that said, and pardon my French, "Fuck The World" on the pants leg. She was wearing pearls and Gucci sunglasses. The other I saw was wearing a shirt that, in gold studs, had "Golddigga" written on her shirt. I thought I'd pee my pants laughing.

I don't know if last winter was a particularly bad one or what. Maybe there were rolling blackouts. Maybe there were so many strikes and people got bored staying home or something. I don't know WHAT happened. All I know is that EVERYONE is pregnant. I've never seen this many pregnant bellies in my life. They're everywhere! I'm avoiding the water. Though I want to get pregnant again, 1) I don't want it to be until after the Paris marathon and 2) I'll never look as good as most of these preggos, so maybe I should just wait until I get home... I doubt I'd be able to fit into the maternity clothes they have over here.

Do you know how easy it would be to live at IKEA? They have the greatest furniture, they have soft, comfy beds. They have rows and rows and rooms and rooms of stuff to play with. They serve food all day long. They even have free wi-fi. So, if you've come here to visit and don't find me home (with my husband and kids all shaking their heads as to where I've gone) chances are, I'm at IKEA.

The Other Foot...
Since we've been here (going on three weeks now isn't it?) I have stayed with ALL THREE kids by myself. Oh, I know, wah wah, but those of you who have three or more children under the age of five know how difficult it can be to chase after/entertain/referee/etc. Well, yesterday, while I was cleaning, I left the kids with Sam. He came over with them at one point to visit and asked me to come back to the hotel with him.

"Why?" I say.
"No, really."
"Well, don't you want to nurse the baby?"
"Yeah, I'm DYING to nurse the baby."
"Well, I need help getting them all down for a nap."
"You don't need help. You just put them down and close the shutters. They fall asleep all on their own. Well, except for Laurel. She doesn't sleep while they do."
"So, I just have to STAY there with her?" He asks. "What do I DO?"

Wow, welcome to my Monday Through Friday.

"You'll have to PLAY with her," I say. "Or not. Choice is yours. You can choose NOT to play with her and just let her bug you, scream at the top of her lungs and wake the other kids up OR crawl around the apartment putting bad stuff into her mouth until she chokes... Either way, good luck with that."

That night when everything was done and clean, he said, "Thank you SO much for everything you do and for cleaning the apartment and doing what you can to make it ours."

I thought I'd cry.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Ahhhh... THERAPY! (um, and puke...)

You know what I did? After I wrote that last post, I got drunk! Well, here it only takes three yummy beers (one Adelscott, one Pelforth Brune and one Desperados) and I'm silly. I drank those three yummy beers and played internet games (Poppit!, Text Twist, Mah Jong, etc.) and ate the entire pan of leftover pasta salad (I know, what a rebel, huh? Insert eyeroll here.) So, during that little trip to ivress and back (all it takes is a little starch to bring me back y'all), I had an epiphany. It was time to go to IKEA! If I couldn't do anything about anything, the one thing I COULD do was spend money. And I have an excuse, right? I needed stuff for our new apartment. Trust me, I'm not a habitual drinker (I mean, don't go planning an intervention yet or anything) and I'm NOT AT ALL a big shopper (I usually have a list, tee hee hee), but I can't tell you what kind of therapy that was.

Sam has been barking all week long about how the futon I want wouldn't fit in the minivan with all of us in there and I said, "Tough titty. We're going to IKEA and if I have to sit out there on the front curb of the store with my kids all of us eating ice cream cones (cuz have you TRIED their ice cream cones????) while you take the thing to the apartment and come back and get us, then, so be it!!! AND, Mr. Frenchy, on top of that, we're going OUT for dinner cuz I ate all the pasta salad, so nanny nanny boo boo!!!" So, we went. And, not only did we get the frame, the mattress, and the cover of the futon, but we also got a TV stand, a set of silverware and three ice creams!!! So THERE!

Afterward, we drove to Villeurbanne (where we used to live--it's a sort of suburb) and bought kebabs and fries!!!

We went to the new apartment where all of our AIR SHIPMENT had finally been delivered (and with Ryan in the minivan the whole time saying, "What's the surprise, Mom?"). Ryan and Lily went absolutely beserk to finally find some of their own toys!!! Ryan ran to his tiger with whom he ususally sleeps, grabbed it and squeezed the life out of it saying, "Oh, Tiger! Where have you been? Were you scared?" I pretended not to cry and stuffed my face with kebab (have you all picked up on the face-stuffing trend here? pasta salad, ice cream, kebab, FRIES? Yep, thank the UNIVERSE the air shipment is here with some of my workout equipment... I've had to pretty much fast all day today just to get down to my "maintenance weight" for my Biggest Loser forum. Oy!).

So, we're having fun, running around the house, discovering our happiness (mine being the huge stash of cloth diapers I meticulously and mourningly packed away--I'm SO happy that I'll be able to put away the sposies again) when all of a sudden, I hear a splash! I'm thinking, "Crap, Ryan has spilled his drink!" And I'm just praying it's not on the new TV or Sam's computer or whatever other electronics happen to be lying on the floor. But then I hear coughing. And it sounds like... puke coughing. And sure enough, Ryan has ralphed all over the floor. No warning whatsoever. He had scarfed down the ice cream at IKEA with no hesitation. How could he have a stomach ache out of the blue like this? He hadn't eaten much dinner but I figured it was just because he was excited about the house.

We ran him over to the toilet and once there, he let loose again, and I mean really letting things go, you know? I ran in to clean up the mess before the girls could get over and track it around the apartment. After vomiting, Ryan said he felt better, but by that time, the girls were screamy and cranky so we went back to the hotel.

In the middle of the night, Ryan climbs into bed, as usual, on Sam's side. He wakes coughing--yep, that familiar kind of coughing--and he's a blur as Sam carries him to the toilet. There's the gut-emptying sounds in there, but I doze back off, thinking Sam has things under control (and well, we had just gone through this the night before with Lily and I was the one who had to stay up, bathe and soothe her until the wee hours, not getting any sleep). And he does. He cleans Ryan up, comes back to bed with a frown on his face saying that Ryan had actually puked in his bed before coming to crawl into ours. We take the waste basket into bed with us just in case. And we ended up needing it. Finally, after a few hours of puking on and off, Ryan has dozed off and seems to be past it.

Suddenly, Laurel wakes up crying. I bring her to bed with me to nurse her but a second after she latches on, she gags and pukes all over me. I say, "Don't worry. It doesn't smell like the same kind of puke as the other two. It's more like burp spitup. It's just a coincidence." And I nurse her back to sleep. I get up, rock her gently for half a minute and go to put her back in her bed... She cheeses me. And I mean mass quanitites of cheese. It's dripping down my back and belly. I've at least had the presence of mind to rush into the hallway which is polished stone tile. Sam wipes her down and I wash off as much as I can. It smells familiar and no longer like burp-up. I try to nurse her again, thinking that it'll be good for her... It'll keep her from being dehydrated. And it works. But sure enough, the minute I go to lay her down, all that work we just did ends up on my last clean tee shirt (having already exhausted my nightgown). So, I strip us both down and hop in the tub with her.

She sits splashing and clapping at the water, full-body grin shining bright and after a twenty-minute soak, she seems better. I lather her up with lotion, dress her and lie back down with her. I decide NO nursing this time. And she does vomit once or twice but it ends up dry (which I wonder if is good for her... *sigh*). After a while, I'm finally able to put her down and get some rest. Thank the UNIVERSE Sam let me sleep until 8.

But, at that point, he has to run over to the apartment because they are delivering our new appliances. He's sweating and looks pale. I have a strangely intense stomach cramp. We're a family of sickos. But at least the kids' bouts seem to have passed. He reminds me that it might take a little while because since they didn't have our freezer in stock, he got a bigger one (and paid another 100 Euro for it) but that the fridge would be slightly smaller (which was supposedly a good thing because it would fit better). I wave him away and out the door. I don't attempt anything more than a Danactive for breakfast. Thank the stars Laurel woke up smiling and puke-free.

The clock ticks. I'm thinking, "Wow, that wasn't cool of Sam not to call me when he got to work to let me know how everything went," because it was ten-thir--the phone rang. It was Sam telling me that he had FINALLY gotten to work. He said that the freezer he had ended up buying was TWICE the size of the one we originally ordered and that 1) it didn't fit in the elevator so they had to carry it up the ten flights and had charged him an extra 60 Euro to do so (not that I can say I blame them that much), and 2) it doesn't fit in the KITCHEN and so now lives in our entryway. In my sleep-deprived, gut-cramping weakness, I explode. I ask him why he didn't check with me before buying the bigger freezer and that had he done so, I would have reminded him that the reason our freezer was always full in the States was because it was always nearly full of BREASTMILK, which I now no longer donate, so don't have that problem. I tell him that we can't keep a deep freeze in our entryway. It's not pretty and it's not safe.

I take a couple of deep breaths and then I add, "Thank you for wanting to surprise me with a bigger freezer--"

He cuts me off with, "No, that's not why I got the bigger one. I wasn't trying to surprise you. I just figured it would be better."

"Yet, you didn't ask how BIG it would actually be?"

"Well, he told me the volume in liters, but that doesn't mean anything to me, I don't know anything about deep freezes."

"Sam, the time to realize all this would have been BEFORE they climbed up ten stories. You're going to have to call them and see if they have an exchange policy." (and I know they do have SOMETHING like that because that's why we went to one of the smaller stores... so that, ironically, we'd be assured good service apres vente.

I can tell he's pissed and I feel guilty that he seems mostly pissed at himself, but what can I say. All he would have had to do was COMMUNICATE with me and I would have told him no thank you on the upgrade, yo.

He came home at noon for lunch and I had a veggie dish (hey, I know it's boring, but have I mentioned the whole Biggest Loser thing?) ready. We ate while the snooty housekeepers came and did our room (they were snooty because they have been trying to insist since our second day here that they come in and change the sheets and replace the towels... but I'm a water-conserving hippy and don't see why towels used to dry CLEAN BODIES need to be changed every day, same with sheets... BUT, since the kids threw up all over all the sheets during the night there was no more holding out). I'm not even going to go too far into that except to say that it was a little Twilight-Zone-y feeling like the cleaning ladies were judging us. Maybe they were wondering what squalor lie behind our hotel door and were surprised to find it--other than the overwhelming puke smell--sparkling clean. Whatevah.

So, we headed to Carrefour (okay, it's LIKE a SuperTarget... Kinda.) to buy odds and ends--mostly cleaning stuff because even though we had it cleaned, they didn't do a GREAT job of doing the floors (the kids always come back to the hotel with black feet) and there's this lingering question of what in the world made us all sick, and since Lily first got sick on Wednesday at our first visit to the apartment... well...

We also stopped by the appliance store so Sam could talk to those guys about the freezer. They agreed to come get it and to exchange it out for a smaller one but we ended up paying another 90 Euro (!!!) to get them to come get the first one. I'm sure they're all rolling their eyes at the annoying Americans, but at least I won't have a freezer welcoming my guests in my front entryway!!! Yeah, I DO realize I sound like a spoiled American brat. I'm sorry. No, really, I truly am, but what am I going to do about it? Would YOU want a humongous freezer in YOUR entryway? Wouldn't you rather your husband give you a courtesy call to ask whether or not you planned on stocking up on all of the Arctic Circle?

Anyway..... Here's the good stuff. We have our air shipment--all safe and sound. We have a couch and a bed (in the form of a pretty good futon--good enough to last us until the ship shipment comes in late September). We have a microwave, a fridge, a TV, a WASHING MACHINE, and a freezer on it's way (Monday). The kids seemed to have gotten over their 24-hour stomach bug. We have cleaning products. Sam is going tonight to pick up our kitchen table (which is actually is parents' old table but it's awesome and heavy and, well, awesome) later tonight or tomorrow. AND... Sam JUST walked in with our NEW CELL PHONES!!! I have never been one to gauge being okay by stuff I have, but in my journey into middle class, I have become depended on certain machinery in order to maintain sanity... Sad, huh? Sad, but alas, TRUE! I guess since I'm a stranger in a strange land, I'm holding on to the only thing I know as familiar? Well, I guess that's what I'll tell myself.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Heard the news?

Well, it's official!!! The honeymoon is OVER, folks! Yep, you got it. I was sure it would take longer than two weeks. I was betting on two to three months, but I guess I have a shorter fuse than I did even ten years ago. I guess I'm spoiled by good (or even mediocre) customer service. I guess I have become gut rotten about having SOME kind of control. That's the only explanation for my new, sudden and familiar HATRED for this fucking (pardon my French) country.

Okay, many of you are going to read the following and think, "Man, she really is a little spoiled after all." And I won't blame you for thinking so. But imagine yourself in my position: Stuck in a hotel where my children's every movement echoes down the hallway. Where the staff are snide and sneery and whispery as I walk through the lobby carrying one kid, pushing another and yelling at the third to keep up or stop. If you were in my position, having lived in a hotel for four weeks now (if you count the two weeks we lived in one in the States), you might be more apt to understand my reaction. If you just so badly wanted to move into your apartment (which is easily FOUR TIMES the size of your hotel suite) so that your kids could move around and breath a little bit... If you just wanted to be able to have a phone, TV and internet (not even worrying that you didn't have a fridge yet, cuz, DUDE, peanut butter and jelly can hang out without getting spoiled)... If you were in this position, you might sympathize.

So, here's what happened. Most of you know that the cable guy was supposed to be here between noon and two. NOT RIGHT AT NOON, have you, but BETWEEN NOON AND TWO, right? Well, at 11:50, Sam walked out of the hotel to walk the five minutes to the apartment to wait for the cable guy. He says, "I'll call you from there when everything is hooked up," because the phone is supposed to be included. About ten minutes later, the phone rings. "Wow," I think, "that's some FAST service." But it's not Sam. It's the cable guy. He says he's in front of the building. I say, "Well, my husband should be there."

"No, there's no one here."
"Well, he's coming from the hotel just down the street. If he's not there, he'll be there in less than five minutes."
"I have other appointments to go to, you know?"
I think, blah blah blah, YOU were the one who set the TWO HOUR appointment range! But then, I realize that Sam may be in the apartment and that the only way to reach him will be through the sonnerie in the building's lobby. And you need a code to get IN to the lobby. So, I say, "Oooooh, maybe he's in there. But you'll have to contact him through the sonnerie... though I'm not sure his name is on it yet... but the code to the lobby is, blah blah blah."

He tries it. It doesn't work. "Are you SURE that's the code?"
"Well, it's the one he TOLD me was the code."
"Madame, I have other appointments. If he's not here in the next five to ten minutes I have to go."
"I understand, but will you call me before you leave?"
"I'm calling you now. Do you want to make a new appointment?"
"No, he'll be there."
Blah blah blah... Him talking fast and me not understanding.
I say, "Merci." And he says, "Au revoir."

I'm freaking. We don't have cell phones yet cuz you need a copy of the lease and we don't have that yet (don't ask ME WHY!!!!!!). There's no way for me to get in touch with him except for to go there. So, I grab my set of keys, the hotel key, I wake up the baby, dress the kids and am right in the middle of it all when the phone rings again. Relief spreads over me, but I'm annoyed that I've had to wake the baby.

"Oui? Allo?"
"Yeah, this is the operator for Numericable. Our technician just called to say that he's in front of your building but your husband is not."
"Yes, that's right. I'm on my way there."
"Well, he's been waiting in front of the building for 20 minutes and..."
"No he hasn't, he just called me five minutes ago. I'm getting my kids dressed so I can go there... blah blah blah... *insert explanation about the sonnerie*..."
"Well, hold on a minute," she says....
When she comes back on the line, she tells me that he's going to give me ten minutes.

I threw the baby into the AWESOME BUCKLE TAI from TWOMOMMASDESIGNS.COM, made Ryan put Lily in the stroller and we raced for the elevator. We ran the four blocks to the apartment building IN MY FLIP FLOPS, my greasy short hair flopping in the breeze, Ryan almost getting hit by a car crossing the street. We round the corner expecting to see the cable guy there, but who do we find?


He's been waiting there for half an hour!!! The cable guy got the wrong address. Well, I'm THERE by then, so I figure I'll go up into the apartment and let Sam go take care of things. He comes up to get the hotel key, runs back to the hotel, does whatever and is gone for another half hour. I sit on the floor and feed the crying baby her fruit--which she DOESN'T WANT--while the other two kids run crazy through the apartment. At the very least, they got to get out and run some energy out, right?

Well, when he comes back, I can tell by his face that it's bad news.

"Next Tuesday."
"WHAT!!!!!" I know I sounded like a dragonlady.
"That's the soonest they can come."
"But it was THEIR FAULT!!! They had the wrong address!!!"
He shrugs.
I feel the old familiar feeling boiling down in my gut... Rising up through my belly... stopping at my throat like bile. No. Hold your tongue, Joelie. It's not his fault. But this is how he was before. He just throws his hands up. Just like that. No real fight. Then, he nails it on home by saying. "That's the way it is here."

I don't have polite words to express my anger. My frustration. Not just with this gods forsaken place but for the... No... I can't.

What upsets me the most is that he really did sort of TRY to fix things. He called and said, "it's YOUR fault" and even asked to speak to her supervisor--which she said no to (!!!!!!! I mean, HOW is that legal? How can you do business like that? REFUSING TO LET US TALK TO A SUPERVISOR????). Then, when he threatened to call another company, she said, "Go ahead." And she did that because she KNOWS there IS no other cable company. The only other option is to go through the phone line and you all know the difference between DSL and cable internet, right? AND who's to say that the appointment time would be faster, right? It took us a WEEK to wait for THIS appointment. Going somewhere else might mean waiting until Thursday or Friday of next week!!!

See? Me, I, at that point, would have INSISTED to speak to her supervisor. And then, when Sam asked if she could call the technician, she said she couldn't which is TOTAL BULLSHIT because she did it while she was on the phone with me!!! She just didn't want to do it because she's a BITCH!!! Do people not believe in representing their company here? I mean, do the company managers not CARE how these people are ruining their image? Or are the French so complacent that they have all gotten used to shrugging their shoulders? Yep. That's the one! And I thought my Frenchman had changed. But maybe the food, the air, the sounds and smells have projected him straight back into the habits and behaviors he had before.

The thing that is MOST frustrating is that if it were ME, I would call them straight back and insist to speak to someone... Going up the ladder until I reached the damn OWNER of the company if need be. That's the freakin' American way, right? But the thing I'm kidding myself about is that I HAVE NO RIGHTS HERE!!! I have NO CONTROL over anything. That is what I completely forgot about this freakin' place! That's what I hated about living here. You can't get ANYTHING done here on your own. You have to coax and lick ass to get ANYONE to do ANYTHING to help you. Nobody does ANYTHING just because it's the right or considerate way to do things. Nope. Maybe they are each and all SO devoid of any personal power that the moment they get ANY kind of power, they go as far as they can to exercise it... but in the NEGATIVE way!!!

*smoke rising out ears*

So, there was nothing else to do but go back to the hotel and cry myself to sleep. And that's where we are right now.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Found 'em...

So, Monday evening, after dinner, I got the kids dressed and loaded up the umbrella strollers and told Sam it was time for a family walk in the Parc. All the hard work I had done that day, trying to deal with Ryan by asking questions instead of telling him what to do (a la "Parenting With Love and Logic") had paid off and given me pretty cool results, but MAN is it hard to change one's own behavior.

Look, I yell a lot. "RYAN! STOP RUNNING!" "RYAN! SIT UP IN YOUR CHAIR! NOW! DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?" I'm not sure where it comes from or why I do it, but it's what I've slipped into doing over the past two years. After reading the first four chapters of this book and seeing that if I just take a deep breath and work through my anger before speaking to Ryan (so that I am in control of myself rather than letting his actions have control over me), I am able to better direct his behavior. Well, actually, I let HIM direct it. Sort of. And, well, it's working. Most of the time. But, as I said, it feels really GOOD when I yell. An easy release. So, it's really HARD not to.

SOoooooo, after a day of keeping my yelling to myself, I felt the best release would be a physical one. I was ready to walk the entire acrage of that damn parc, let me tell you.

And, well, we almost did.

We started out on our regular path through the shade, stopped and took some pix near some monuments and statues and what not, and made our way around the lake a bit. But then, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. A garden. A ROSE garden.

Yep, folks, you guess right. I found the rose garden where Sam and I used to go on our little lovey dovey picnics when we were wooing/shacking up. But, now, it is no longer just a rose garden. When we were here before, it was a handfull of oriental vine arbors with a few patches of roses in the grass. Now, it's a floral extravaganza. All the little trees I hadn't noticed because they were so small and spindly are now bushy monsters, hiding little rocky footpaths with soft green blades of grass growing in between them. There are huge sweeping and weeping trees carressing foot bridges and covering pathways. The little fountain pools are full (and clean). It was just amazing. I wish I could say that our relationship has grown as flowery as the rose garden. I can say that it has matured. But there are definitely some weeds that need pulled and some bushes that need pruned in OUR little garden. *frown* I'm hoping that some of that will happen in the next couple of years that we are here.

After winding our way through the garden, we heard some voices singing. We followed them until we found a small troupe of performers rehearsing for some kind of spectacle. They had a little organ that runs off those pages with the little holes in 'em (I forget what it's called). They had stopped singing by the time we got to them, but I SO love that I live near a park where entire groups of dramaphiles feel comfortable enough to rehearse.

With both of the older kids walking, it took us two hours to make our way around the big lake of the parc. We did stop once and let them play on a small playground (and tore them away SCREAMING) when the baby started to get chilly (by the way, the weather here is like SPRING right now... I don't know what's going ON, but I LIKE IT!!!). And just when I thought the expedition was over, we found that our favorite little buvette was open. We bought the older kids Mickey Mouse ice cream each and we old fogeys had coffee.

It was funny to see the discomfort of the server and his morbid curiosity (I guess it was that since he kept walking back and forth and peering to look) as I nursed the baby. I was discreet and kept my shirt down (as opposed to my shirtless nursing displays at home *wink*). I was surprised by his reaction. I'm so used to the French being so open about boobage. I guess you can have a naked pair on a billboard (um, I have photographic PROOF of this) but you can't stop to actually USE them for their intended purpose? *shrug* Maybe it was that guy's particular hangup? Or maybe I was just paranoid? Who knows.

We took 'em home, hosed 'em off as usual and threw 'em in bed.


Get this... In France, signing for an apartment is like closing on a frickin' house in the States. You have to GO to the agency who handles the property and you have to TAKE the agent who represents you, and you BOTH have to be there and sign and whatnot. REALLY? You actually want me to show up with all three of my cranky ass kids and let them sit there screaming in an unairconditioned room in the mezzanine level of your ancient office just so I can sign some frickin' papers? Are you crazy?

Guess so, cuz that's exactly what happened.

And believe me, they screamed and shuffled and grunted and cried the entire time we were there. Even mild-mannered Laurel screeched the entire time. I guess some of that was my fault. Though I had made sure they had napped before we went to the agency, I DIDN'T make sure and run their energy out at the park beforehand. My bad.

Still, I say, if you're going to have a policy where both parents of a couple have to be there, you need to have a toy room. Or you need to keep your snarky comments and your sneery facial expressions to your damn self. That's what I say. And if you ain't gonna do that, it AIN'T my problemo, capice?

After we signed our lease, we went to Conforama which is like a home interiors place--furniture, appliances, etc... Kind of like IKEA but not as nice and not as cheap. We found, again, a really nice futon, but, again, they didn't have dark blue in stock. I think Sam's gonna go back to IKEA by himself and just get the dark brown one. It'll have to do, because we just found out that our ship shipment will not be here until September 5. It'll need to sit in customs for a week and then it'll take another week or two to get to Lyon. *sigh* So, we won't have a bed until then. At least I have Sam nearly talked into going to get his childhood bed for Ryan. That's a plus!

Then, we went to Carrefour to pick up some small basics we've run out of. We meandered and shopped and got our goodies but then when we went to pay, Sam's bank card was refused. WELL, the card has been blocked since Saturday when we went and bought all of those appliances. Little did we know, there's a 2000 Euro spending limit (monthly!!!) on his DEBIT CARD!!! WHUH? So, anyway, we asked if we could write a check. They said yeah. She took the check, wrote all her little numbers everywhere she has to and then she called the security guard. HUH? He came over, looked at the check, looked at Sam's international I.D. Looked a the check, looked a the card. Looked at Sam. Looked at the I.D. I MEAN REALLY?!? Seriously!?! First of all, I have stood in a lot of French lines and have never seen anyone go through that much crap to write a check. Secondly, Mr. Security Guard has NO POWER whatsoever (and even proceded to walk away because they have to put the check through some kind of machine for verification anyway), so he was just doing that looking thing for NO REASON other than to try to intimidate us and fill his poor little power-empty life for a few seconds and get his jollies (to use a polite form of what I WANT to say... I'm trying not to be CRASS!!!).

Sam said, "Where's the problem?" The cashier said, "Oh, no, there's no problem, we have to just run it through a machine for verification." At that point, the &%$#@ security guard is STILL looking at Sam's card/check and I want to say, "Then run your little ass over there and run it through the frickin' maCHINE already." The kids are just SCREAMING now. Ryan is groping every germ-covered surface he can find. Laurel is screeching between chomps down on the side of the umbrella stroller for effect. Lily is trying to stand up in the seat area of the cart. I'd get her down but since she's always kicking off her shoes during tantrums, we usually take 'em off the first time she drops one, so she's trying to stand in the seat, shoeless. Finally, I took the key and at least took Ryan and Laurel to the car so Sam could get things figured out and so I wouldn't freaking explode and make things worse (cuz that's invariably what happens in these situations... I explode out of fury and frustration, I get only amused and curiously interested stares from the people I'm unloading on and end up only making matters worse because they look to Sam to please control his woman).

Of COURSE, because I'm terribly disappointed in Ryan for his behavior (though, granted, a lot of it was my fault anyway for not reacting to him in the right way) and because I'm pissed at Mr. Security, I lash out at Ryan and yell. He stares at me stunned and slightly amused (but too smart to show it too much).

When we get home, I walk in the door and go directly to the kitchen. I've already prepared the veggie pasta earlier in the day and even had the zuchini's chopped and ready to throw into the pan for stir frying. I get the fish out of their wrappers and throw them into the sizzling and lightly-buttered pan and I lose myself in cooking dinner. It's like therapy, you know?

After dinner, I lie down to nurse Laurel and I let Sam corral the kids while I watch this whole show on people who have given up their previous lives to start new things (how IRONIC, huh?) and it's pretty interesting until Lily comes in with her diaper around her KNEES!!! Sam changes her at my insistence. But then, as I'm giving her her bedtime hug, I smell poop again. I check her dipe. Clean. I sniff her clothes. Clean. I smell her hand. VOILA!!! What we didn't know is that Lily had been sticking her hand down the back of her dipe. DISGUSTING! I yelled at Sam and told him he had to give her a bath (thinking that, since we don't know how long she's been playing around in her poop, we don't really know where esle her hands have been). He went to the bathroom to wash her hands. REALLY!!!!!!?????!!!!!

I storm into the bathroom and start running bathwater. I put her in the tub and go back in to finish with Laurel. Sam comes in the room. "Where's Lily?" I ask. "In the tub." REALLY!?! Do YOU leave YOUR two-year old in the tub by herself? I say, "Dude, go back in there. You can't leave her by herself." "Oh, she'll be alright," he says. WHUH??? I'll not give you the rest of the play-by-play because I'd have to put a censor bar over it to make it polite. Suffice it to say that there was some yelling (true to form, eh?) and Sam finished by going back into the bathroom.

After everyone was in bed, I came in here in the kitchen where my computer is, to check my email. After CM-ing for awhile (all you Charlotte Mommies know what I'm talking about), I decided to call it a night. That's when I noticed a headline about a little girl who got forgotten in a car here in France and died. I know better. I really do. But I clicked on it anyway. I had already heard about the story. But when I clicked it, I found that it wasn't the same story. It was a different one. TWO IN THE SAME WEEK!!! I mean, this country is smaller than TEXAS, okay? You'd think that if you live here and don't live in a hole, you'd read about the FIRST incident and hold your kids so tight you'd not forget them in a car, right? Well, some jack ass did. I'm sorry. I know, he was in shock and stuff when he realized she was there and that she was dead. And I'm terribly sorry for his loss (so sorry, in fact, that I cried myself to sleep last night thinking about how that poor sweet baby girl must have screamed and cried and then ultimately fell asleep to never wake up--choking up just thinking about it) and what not, but he's still a JACKASS!!!

That story was too much for me. I went to bed, but I pulled my baby girl close to me and refused to put her in her Pack 'n' Play. She stayed the night with me and I can tell you, I didn't sleep well cuz I kept waking up making sure she was still close and snuggling with me.


Apartment update...

Okay, so, we've signed the lease. This afternoon, Sam is going over there to do the etat des lieux to make sure all the scratches and other dings are recorded so we don't get charged (although, have I mentioned there is a hallway where the wallpaper isn't PAPER but is instead done in FABRIC? That's gonna be fun to replace when we leave because I can almost guarantee my kids are going to ruin it... and I'm an OPTIMIST!!!) when we leave. So, we'll have our keys tonight. I'm tempted to take the kids over there and let them run the length of the place and see them be excited and what not.

The happiness is that tomorrow, our air shipment will arrive and then later in the afternoon, the cable guy is coming to hook up our internet and stuff!!! WOO HOOO!!!! And THEN, on Friday, our appliances are coming! YAY!!! So, if we finally get a futon, we'll be out of this hotel by Friday night.

Cross those fingers...

Monday, July 21, 2008

What a weekend!

I didn't write anything for Friday because so far, everything I've written has been--for the most part--positive and healing and all that mumbo jumbo. I was hesitant to get too comfortable with it because I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop. For the honeymoon to be over. And that's what happened on Friday. I didn't write about it because my blog has so far been about France. Well, this shoe-dropping had less to do with France than a certain Frenchman. I don't see the point in going into it much since I don't think the cyberworld would like the smell of my dirty laundry. This is supposed to be about France, right? And my relationship with her (not necessarily, her "ites" right?). On that front, the France front, things are pretty smooth.

Friday was pique-nique day. I made sandwiches and other eats, piled 'em into a bag along with a bottle of water and a soft blanket and surprised Sam with my idea of eating lunch in the parc. He seemed excited by the idea, but stressed by the reality. Even so, we loaded into the elevator and made our stressful little way to the parc, scrunched up faces, furrowed brows and all.

I spread our blanket down under some trees and unpacked the picnic bag of goodies. Of course, actually EATING lunch in the parc was a bad idea. What I should have done was feed the children and make Sam a sandwich to eat on the way. Because all the kids wanted to do when they got there was chase the birds. So, I sat on the blanket, feeding the baby in the umbrella stroller, who, by the way, did NOT want to eat any of the things I packed for her (she's having a hard time getting used to French babyfood and by the way it smells, I can't blame her). I'm stealing bites of sandwich in between spoonfuls of mush and secretly swearing at my children for chasing the birds toward me so that I have to shoo them away with my sandwich hand. My husband INHALED his sandwich and spent the rest of his lunch hour yelling at our kids.

I just don't see how it is productive to chase after your children all the time. We were in a wide open space. We would have seen if they had strayed too far. We would have noticed had they fallen down. They always come back, you know? They know where the food and fun is. When I asked him, he said, "Lily could get hit by a bike!" Really? I mean is she REALLY all that speedy? You think that those folks strolling their bikes through the park can't slow down or stop for a TODDLER? And what if she DID get hit? Wouldn't that finally teach her to watch the hell where she is going? (Oh, hush, I'm half-kidding!)

So, what I had imagined to be an idyllic picnic (so to speak) by the lake in the parc, turned into two hours of me cursing under my breath and wishing I had just made him take the two older ones to the parc by himself so that I could get on here and bitch. Or at least eat a sandwich. Or maybe take a shower. Or a nap.

Whatever. That didn't happen. But I've learned my lesson.

Saturday was actually pretty fun. We got up early and went to the appliance store and bought stuff for our new apartment. We got a fridge, a small deep freeze, a micro-wave, a washing machine and a TV. Then, we walked through the outdoor market (which was just in front of the store) and bought lettuce, grape tomatoes, summer melons (they look like tiny yellow watermelons, kinda, but are like a cantaloupe inside, potatoes, purple-y garlic and flat-leafed parsley (what we call Italian parsley in the States, I think). Obviously, that part was a BLAST. We came home and I cooked a simple meal of fried cubed potatoes and a mushroom cheese omelette (well, French omelettes are more like scrambled eggs, just not so scrambly when it ends up on the plate) followed by a small tomato/cuke salad.

After a small nap, we loaded up into the van and went to IKEA. I never knew just how much I love IKEA. We found this nearly PERFECT futon (because, did I mention? I think I did? That our BED did not make it in the air shipment?) and in a PERFECT color to match our existing furniture's color scheme and painfully discovered that the dark blue cover no longer exists. There's a brown that will match but... eh. We'll see.

We found a cool table that extends into a gigantic eating slab and chairs that are only 15 Euro a piece. We toyed around with getting Ryan a big boy bed (and I mean single sized big boy) but I reminded Sam that we had planned to bring his childhood single bed from his parents' house. One of our goals for moving here was to save money. I don't see the point in buying a new bed for 700 bux when we can just get a new mattress for the bed we already have available. I think I won the argument but we'll have to see.

We didn't buy any of the big things we looked at. What DID we buy? We bought a tent. It was in the kids' section, it was only 7 Euro and we saw it as a great place to corral all their toys that are grazing in the floor of the hotel suite's living area.

We also bought a knife, since I've been cutting all the veggies (including the POTATOES) with a butter knife since the kitchen of our hotel suite must be just for show (otherwise it wouldn't be so dismally ill-equiped... it has like six serving dishes, but no potato peeler, no cutting knife/board... it has a salad spinner, but no salad bowl... like the management asked the employees what they had at home that they weren't using anymore and the crew brought in little odds and ends). *deep breath* I can feel myself going to that place. The place where I vent. And I apologize in advance because I really didn't want to go there. I'm not picky, really. In fact, living in a car and in a tent on the side of the road and in a camper on the back of a pickup truck has all made me pretty resourceful if I do say so myself, but when you make someone pay rates of upwards of 500 dollars a night for a FOUR STAR kitchenette, you should, by gods, have a freakin' cutting knife. Right? Some dishwashing liquid? A sponge? Handtowel? (All things we've had to purchase that we have ample enough of if our AIR SHIPMENT EVER GETS HERE!!!!)

Okay. Rant over. Sorry. Whew, I don't know about you, but I feel better.

So, I bought a knife and a little plastic cutting board and some drawing paper for Lily because she loves to color. We stopped in the little restaurant and bought the kids ice cream cones which they GREATLY appreciated (duh).

After IKEA, we drove over to the laundry down the street from where we used to live because it's the only one we know of (and the only one we've seen with a parking space or two in front). WHY did we go to the laundromat on a Saturday evening? Oh, well, because the TWO DRYERS this hotel has for it's gods know how many suites were broken. So, Sam ran over to the grocery store for change JUST as it was closing (so they let him use the ATM but not didn't let him buy lemon juice for dinner *shrug* Whatever... it just gave us an excuse to eat something else.. .you'll see what). Then, while I stayed with the kids, he ran the clothes to the laundry and put them in the dryer. It's fifty cents for seven minutes and you can't pre-load your money. So, it was funny that he had to keep going back over there every seven minutes to put money in the machines. In the mean time, since we didn't have lemon juice for our tabouleh, Sam ordered us PIZZAS from the pizza wagon! Yes, THE pizza wagon (thank you, Mr. Grocery store man for NOT letting Sam buy juice).

We chomped on pizza and giggled as Papa ran away every seven minutes to deal with the dryers. When it was all done (and gone), we went back to the hotel, hosed off and went to bed.

Sunday morning, we got up early, loaded up the kids and set out for Sam's parents' house in Haute-Savoie. They had invited us to come back out and visit so we weren't hanging around the hotel room with nothing to do all day. Though I knew we could find stuff around Lyon we could do (like go to the park or take the kids running around the city), I was actually looking forward to going to Haute-Savoie. The kids SO love to go there and I love to eat there that it just seemed like a nice break. Still, I told Sam that it would be better if we get there around 10 and leave around 3 so that we have the perfect amount of time there (I get the feeling that his parents, while they LOVE us to death, get a little sick of all the activity/screeching/etc... I would if I weren't used to it, you know? Heck, I AM used to it and I get a little sick of it myself.).

As we set on our way, I broke out my camera, planning to capture road-trip France for you guys. First of all, I apologize for the snapshottiness of the pix, but that's exactly what they were. Secondly, PLEASE pardon me if the windshield made it into the pix... It's dirty and had I known I'd be taking pix, I would have washed it, but... well... there you go.

Toll plaza:

This is an American restaurant (a French guy went to the States and wanted to recreate what he found there... beef eating)... It's the Buffalo Grill:

Hay bales and irrigation... funny how much is familiar here with the States, eh?

Rest stop:

Nuclear power plant (or as Ryan likes to call them "lightning factory"):


Getting "mountain-y":

Deer Crossing:

Equestrian on a bridge:

Gas Prices (per LITRE!!!):

On our way...

Heavyweights, slow down!:

Roundabout coming up:

Macumba... a HUGE night club that people come from all over Europe to visit... lucky us, it's just right down the road from Pepe's house:

Flags outside of Macumba:

Pepe's house:

Crossroads (on the ride home... this is where we decide to go to Lyon...):

Military memorialin Lyon:

We got there around 10:30, as planned. The house smelled like gigot d'agneau--roast lamb--that my father in law is famous for. My tummy growled from the get-go even though we had snacked on a few shrimp chips in the car. Thank goodness Pepe showed up just after. He went to the garden and cut a few heads of lettuce for me to wash and spin while he dug up the potatoes.

In the mean time, Sam suggested we go up to the grenier (like an attic) and look through our old stuff to see if we had any dishes and stuff that would help us out until our ship shipment gets here. I only thought I would find a pile of plates and a box of shoes or something. And I did. But I also found a bag full of our stemware, a wicker laundry basket (that I LOVED, btw), my old shopping caddy--yes, folks, I am now OFFICIALLY a French housewife--my iron, my French no-name brand dust buster and another treasure... A box of goodies... Our old love letters and all the stuff from our wedding--the programme, the menu, the little lacy stuff they put on the plates... all stuff I and my friends made by hand days before the wedding! I even found the little pillow I made the night before our wedding, for our rings to go on!

When I came back downstairs, my mother in law saw the look on my face when I went into the bathroom to wash the dust off of my hands. She said, "Did you rediscover your happiness up there?" I smiled and said, "And my youth." How I wish the nostalgia could last. If I could just bottle it up and spray it on myself every time he gets on my freakin' nerves or walks away while I'm talking to him... But, then, I'd be a millionaire, wouldn't I?

So, just after noon-ish, we sat down to fried cubed potatoes, gigot d'agneau with little whole mushrooms floating in the savory, tomatoed juices, fresh salad, summer melons and yummy bread. A rich, bitter coffee washed it all down and did just the trick to put the lid on the pot.

Pepe lay down on the couch to snore, Sam put Lily to bed and Ryan went out to play. I grabbed an afghan and took the baby out on to the grass to nurse in the shade and breeze. TaTa Fabienne showed up with stories of a festival that had taken place up on the mountain--I was jealous but even had I known about it, I wouldn't have been able to go... SHE'S our babysitter, LOL--where they had an immense tartiflette (it's a sort of pie that has potatoes, lardon, onions, creme fraiche and reblochon cheese in it (like my favorite pizza in Lyon)) and other goodies. But just as she was finishing up the story, we heard thunder. And though I would have loved to have paused life's DVR and feel that stormy breeze forever, the storm inevitably came, forcing us to run into the house.

Well, had it ended there, things would have been fine. Had we loaded up the kids and the attic stuff, kissed the in-laws goodbye and made our way to Lyon, things would have been just peachy. But we didn't. Though I hounded Sam about leaving, he kept disappearing--to the bathroom, back up to the attic, to the garage, etc. Probably doing legitimate things, but dallying. I could feel another storm brewing. And sure enough, as the baby was screeching and Ryan was whining about not being able to go outside, my father-in-law shot me a look (no description available folks, just trust me, it's not a pretty one and it is completely primative) that said, get your noisy kids out of my house so I can watch the Tour de France on the TV, before he grunted, cursed and pretended to scoot closer to the TV (though, of course, he was already on the edge of the couch).


Had we only left a few minutes earlier.

So, I found Sam and said, "Time to go." Though I would have liked to have gone through a few more of our belongings and though I KNOW that old people don't mean to be crotchety--I mean, DUDE, they spend their whole week in silence and peace and while a FEW hours of noisy grandchildren is a pleasure, as I said, I can see how it can wear--it was TIME TO GO.

I loaded the kids up, even though it was still sprinkling and let Sam load up some of our stuff. We practically blew our kisses goodbye as we were backing out of the driveway (not really, but almost might as well have had). I know how to take a hint.

And I wasn't that stung by it. Frankly, I think it was a mistake to go back SO soon. But that's neither here nor there. The trip back was uneventful. Ryan and Laurel slept. Lily teetered back and forth between, "I 'anna chip," and "I 'anna cuppa." So, I tottered between taking road-trip picks and doing her bidding. The evening ended in tabouleh, jambon de Paris (ham), cornichons (VERY sour gerkins), saucisse de Strasbourg and a teensy sprinkling of shredded gruyere. I chased mine with a sweetly dark Pelfort brune (beer) and Sam had an Adelscott (beer with just a hint of whiskey in it).

The hosing off of the children went fairly quickly and afterward, I settled into bed with a book.

Okay, this is an aside. You can choose to read it or not. It's dirty. Not like that, you pervert. What I mean is that it's gritty. It's about why I'm here. Really why I'm here. Yeah, sure, I'm here because Sam's company wanted to send him here, but that's not why I'M here. I have a purpose. When this whole thing started out, it was a three-fold purpose and it has evolved into a five-folder. And it's also about what's working and what's not. Because even though I wanted this to be about my MAGNIFICENT FRENCH HOMECOMING, I'm realizing my humanity and I need to share that. So, skip over the parts you don't like if you find them too whiny, melodramatic or extraneous to what you're looking for from this blog. But if you're really wanting to know how I'm doing and what's going on, feel free to follow along.

Okay, the five-folder:

1) Write. While I'm here, I plan to a) do the final revision of my France memoir and publish it, b) publish my YA novel, c) finish my pregnancy/adoption memoir and d) start two other projects I have in my head (maybe three).

2)Run. While I'm here, I want to a)run the Lyon semi-marathon in September, b) run the Houston marathon in January, c) run the Paris marathon in April and d) MAYBE, IF I don't get pregnant, run the marathon in Athens (THE Marathon... with a capital M). This is a lofty dream since my feet and knees are screwed, but I'm going to give it my all.

3)Study. While I'm here, I'm going to read the huge freakin' library of books I bought and brought with me in order to start living sustainably. When we return to Charlotte, I want to buy a farm. I want to grow all of my own veggies as well as have free-range chickens, harvest my own honey, weave my own baskets, even make my own clothes if I have to. Whatever it takes to live as self-sufficiently as possible. This does not have anything to do with being a control freak (though, admittedly, I am one) and it doesn't have anything to do with wanting to cut myself off from the rest of society (as all of you who know me know that THAT... is... impossible...). What I want to do is make stand and start a trend. Eventually, I'd like to have guesthouses on my farm so people can come and learn how to themselves live sustainably. I'd love to have an organic, locavoric restaurant. I'd love to host locavore conventions, even. Burning down the labs and fields of genetically modified plants is NOT how we're going to effectively combat what is happening to us. Standing up and refusing to let people grow our food FOR us without asking what the hell is in it IS the way to fight. Peacefully. Efficiently. Greenly. *stepping down from the pulpit*

4) Shoot. While I'm here, I need to find myself again in my first art and that is photography. While some of it may (and already has) supplemented my writing, I plan on taking it to another level. I miss this part of me and need to find it again.

5) Parent. I love my kids and sometimes, they're pretty cool. But for the most part, it's all an accident. I'm sucky parent. I've tried this parenting by the seat of my pants stuff and it sucks. I suck. I'm not the natural I always thought I'd be and I figure the old cliche rings true that it is better late than never. Before I completely screw my kids up, I'm gonna hafta start trying some new stuff. If I don't, not only will they be all messed up, I will too... (and don't even GET ME STARTED on the whole marriage fiasco, okay?). I'm hoping that diving in and trying new things (wow, things found in BOOKS) might help me out a bit. I've already started a few and they are working, but if any of you know of any good books and are finished with them, send 'em my way (and for the record, I already have a Bible... TWO in fact... one of them is in French... so hold on to those... I'm looking for modern-y stuff, please).

There you go. Whew. Glad I got that down.


What's working? I'm not sure much is working yet. But I can say that there are small things I stop and appreciate every day. EVERY day. Here are a few...

I love that I have to wash the sand off my lettuce. That it is so freshly picked, so locally grown, that I have to fill the sink with cold water and wash every leaf. That there is a PILE of sand at the bottom when I get done fishing the leaves out to put in the spinner.

I LOVE the feeling of seasickness I get when I watch the tree branches outside my window sway in the breeze.

I love pinching off the dried up and spindly stems of the tomatoes I buy here.

I love the scratches I get on the roof of my mouth from the bread cuz I haven't built up a new bread callous yet.

I love the way Laurel becomes a full body grin at the sound of my voice and comes crawling, laughing like a maniac until she finds me. I also love that she's started to dance. She hears music and almost as if it's stronger than her, she can't help but bounce.

That's enough love for one day, eh?

Thanks for bearing with me and...Stay tuned for pix...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Parc de la Tete d'Or... 07.17.08

It was Sam's first day at work and I was a little nervous. It had been a long time since I had been left alone ALL day with ALL three kids. No, sillies, I'm not afraid of my kids (well, okay, I'm not THAT afraid of 'em); it's just that Ryan is used to going to school all day long and I'm not sure I can entertain him in the fashion to which he has become accustomed. My plan was to take them to the parc (and I'll go ahead and excuse myself RIGHT NOW for the misspelling of the word "park" I can't help it and I've stopped trying) which has a zoo and a big rose garden and lots of huge greenhouses and a little trolly train and paddle boats and little pedalcarts and... and... well, you get the picture. But, one look out the windows at the thick blanket of clouds shrouding the city and I dug my teeth back into my nails. The one thing I know about Ryan is that letting him watch TV all day is like a ticking time bomb. He gets all giddy and weird and starts giggling maniacally. No, I only made that mistake once.

So, around 10am when the baby woke up, I decided, rain or no, we'd go to the parc since it's JUST across the street. If it started to rain, we'd hightail it home. I just crossed my fingers that we'd get some good grass time in before that happened.

I strapped the baby into my AWESOME BUCKLE TAI made by, put Lily in the umbrella stroller, checked the diaperbackpack for precious goldfish and sippycup of juice and headed out. You should have seen the look I got from the front desk attendant down stairs. It was like he smelled a toot or something.

When we stepped outside, I asked Ryan if he wanted to practice his French and he said, "Oui." So, he said, "What's the word for this and that," and I told him. When he saw a guy walking toward us, he said, "Bonjour." And there it was again, the toot-smelling look. Poor Ryan. He turned to me and said, "That guy doesn't understand French." I thought I'd pee my pants laughing. But then I had to explain that in France, many people don't talk to each other if they don't already know each other. I was mentally crossing my fingers hoping he wouldn't ask how people got to know each other in the first place.

Walking into the park was like taking a deep breath of fresh air. Like taking off--pardon me--a tight bra. Wide fields of green grass, huge trees, wide passages made for pedestrians, cyclists, rollerbladers and pedalcars but NOT automobiles. One of the first things we saw was a horse-drawn cart used to change the trashcans along the roadways. Lily SQUEALED, "Hor-seeeeeeeeeey!"

I saw what I thought to be the old rose gardens that Sam and I used to visit during the courting phase of our story and knowing how Lily loves flowers, I steered us in that direction. The path leading there cut across a wide field and seeing how my whole purpose was to run them to within an inch of their lives so they'd nap well, I let Lily out of the stroller (and gave my back a break by putting Laurel into is cuz even though I have an AWESOME BUCKLE TAI by, I have a FAT baby).

Big Trees...

As Ryan and Lily took off down the path, they met four older folks. Ryan said, "Bonjour," I guess forgetting the discussion we had had earlier. I felt myself blush because I figured these older adults wondered why I couldn't reign in my rude little hellion, but instead, they said, "Bonjour" in return (albeit with much reserve). But, then, Lily waved at them and said, "Hi." One granny turned and said, "Well, aren't you the little sweeties." Then, seeing Laurel she said, "How about you? Are you going to say hi?" Laurel flashed that huge, full-body grin at her. I heard her gasp. "Those EYES! That SMILE! Aren't YOU gracious?" (I'll explain here that for some reason, French people must think that babies are allowed to be reserved and are allowed to hold back their demonstrative affection or something because every time a baby smiles or laughs or something, the adult feels like the baby has been "gracious" enough to share such a wonderful gift with them. Cool, huh?) I just stood there, blushing and giggling because I was SO caught off guard. Maybe people didn't talk to me when I lived here before because I looked like all the other young punks. Maybe now that I'm portly and have kids, I'm an equal? Or maybe I'm more valid? OR maybe I'm less paranoid? I don't get it. I'm not complaining, it's a nice change.

As soon as the older folks were gone, Lily and Ryan flirted with the border of the field. Like shyly wondering if they could handle the freedom it promised. "Go play, guys." I said, pushing the baby along in the stroller, getting my camera ready for some good kid-field shots. But they only stopped along the side and timidly tickled the dandelions. "No, seriously. GO PLAY!" Still nothin'. "Ryan, RUN!!!"

He shot me a look that said, "For real?" I choked up a little at that and could only nod. It sucks that so far where we've lived they haven't had a place they could just let completely loose and go crazy. "RUN!" I screamed. "Run, run, run!!!" And finally, they did! It was cool to see them as tiny people in that big huge field. They stopped only to pick up spent dandelions and blow the fuzziness into the breeze. When a group of little (and I mean Lily little) girls came out onto the field and started running with them, Ryan ran away from them because, as he said later, "they were chasing me!" Laurel sat calmly smiling, watching them patiently as if she knew that it would only be a few more months and she'd get to teeter around out there, too.

Field shots...


After the initial turbo boost of pure freedom to run had been spent, they dallied, looking at little things in the grass. I waited patiently for them until they were sick of it and tried to steer them back toward the roses. Surprisingly, Lily was aloof. I guess she's not much into roses but prefers the more delicate flowers because she simply walked the rose rows (sorry) with her arms crossed. Ryan, liked them, however, but I think that had more to do with the rows being like a maze (and the naked statue didn't hurt--he was very curious as to what happened to her clothes--ahem and one of her arms, LOL).

Roses... (but not the ones where we used to do our wooing...update on that later)...

Lily in the rose rows...

Ryan and the statue...


We turned a little and headed toward the animals (have I mentioned more than a thousand times that there's a zoo in the parc?). But before we could get to them, Ryan was distracted on one side by a carousel and Lily on the other by a pair of dogs. I have to stop here and explain that Lily is OBSESSED with dogs. She can't help herself. When she sees one, she starts barking as though she is speaking to them and no matter how much I yell at her, she won't stay away. She walked right up to these two dogs and, true to form, started yipping at them. Okay, usually--well, it has been my experience--French people are VERY particular about their dogs. You can admire from afar if you want, but don't dare talk to their dogs or heaven forbid, try to pet them. So, when I saw Lily head for the dogs with her hand out to pet them, I ran for her. It was like slow-mo, me yelling, "Liiiiilllllyyyyyyy, Nnnnnoooooooooooooo!" But it was too late. She was all up in those dogs' grills. But, thankfully, the owners were a pair of twenty-somethings who just giggled at her as she barked at the dogs. After a few minutes of me trying to move her away--and her FOLLOWING them--the guy said, "Okay, we'll take her with us," with a little laugh. I was so caught off guard by the humor from a STRANGER that I just stared blankly. I think he thought I thought he was serious because his smile faded and he said, "Bonne journee" (have a good day). I still stood there with that weird, uncomfortable smile on my face.

Instead of chasing after Lily, I tried the walkaway. I said, "Bye, Lily," which I know you're not supposed to do, but look, I got three kids, yo. I can't go chasin' after 'em all the time and I don't wanna tie 'em all down, so desperate times... well, you know. Anyway, usually, she comes running after me saying, "Nooooo," while I wait for her to catch up. This time, it didn't work. And it wasn't because of the dogs, either.

Lily has found a new obsession: Pigeons. Well, birds of any kind, I guess.

We followed this pair of pigeons down the road a ways before I hear Ryan say, "Ewwwwwww." He had stepped in the mud I had JUST told him not to go near. Feeling frazzled and let down a little bit by Ryan's apparent weakness for disobedience on even the smallest matter (look, the kid's only got one pair of shoes, for crying out loud... and me without a way to wash them), I started to steer us back toward the entrance near the hotel. That's when I looked up and saw our building. The one where we're going to live! Isn't that cool?

Our new apartment building... view from the parc:

Ryan runs like a girl...

Boats on the lake...

My spirits lifted again (but still heading out of the park because it was finally starting to sprinkle), we stopped for just a minute so the kids could chase these ENORMOUS geese across this little field. I don't know if you know many geese, but most big honking (sorry) birds aren't very nice. I knew a swan that would chew the leather right off your shoe in an attempt to eat your foot. So, I was hesitant at first to let them wander in the field with these birds. No worries though. These geese must be used to kids because other than one gander turning to warn Lily to stay clear of his young'uns, none of them were in the least agressive.

Gone to the birds...







Ryan pretending to be a goose...

Birds at the entrance/exit of the parc...


The walk home was long and slow. I had succeeded. They were tired. And judging by Laurel's SCREAMING once we got back to the room, they were hungry. I made a quick lunch of pasta with a creme fraiche/lardons/gruyere/fresh diced tomatoes sauce that was nice and light and let it simmer until Sam got there. Meanwhile, I shoved food into my little baby birds gaping mouth--not fast enough to curb her hunger as she had her hand in her mouth between bites.

After lunch, we had a THREE HOUR NAP!!! ALL of us!

I fed the baby again as Sam was an HOUR late coming home from work (as I sat there going over scenarios of what I'd do if he didn't come home... that's one of the last things I need, folks... to be suddenly widowed or abandoned here in this country). When he walked in, I handed him the baby and said, get her dressed, we're going shopping.

And we did. We stopped first to get kebabs and eat them in the car as the rain sprinkled down on us but then quickly made our way to the supermarket.

Okay, yes, I know what I've said about being a locavore and about buying things at the outdoor farmer's markets and all, but look folks, we don't have much of anything in the hotel room and I can't go shopping with all three of them and expect to get anything done. So, until we get into the apartment, I'm shopping at Carrefour, okay? Don't hate on me. I bought "bio" (organic) as much as I could.

No, but the exciting part was this... COUPONS!!! And I didn't even notice 'em. Sam did. Domestic Goddesses, there were blinky/tearpads all through the store. Yep, that's what I said, a tearpad with a blinking red light over it. And then, we found a coupon on one of the yogurt containers. Now that I see what they look like (and know they exist) I'm keeping my eyes peeled.

The only peanut butter I could find.... Says it's Mississippi Belle, but it's made in New Jersey (hey, I ain't knockin' Jersey, but um... it's peanut butter)...



There's more... As we were checking out, I could see Sam was talking to the cashier about our cloth bags we had brought. I thought she was giving him a hard time about them, wondering if they were from their store and about to call a manager (can you tell I'm a leeeetle bit jaded by this country?) but instead, she was asking him where she could get some. And she said, "I thought only Canada did that cloth bag thing. I could only dream of a France that used cloth bags." I stood there with a bottle of olive oil in one hand and a bag of "bio" flour in the other, my mouth agape. I think I might have even felt a tear spring up. WHAT? Appreciation? Huh? I was downright flabbergasted. "Yeah, and the way they fold up like that? Like the size of a post card? Genious, I tell you! You should talk to the company about those. Are they very expensive?" As she went on gushing about the bags, I had to look away and continue to put things up on the conveyer belt, trying hard to swallow the apple-sized lump in my throat.

Healing. I'm feeling it. Good, warm healing.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

07.16.08...On the road again...

So, we got a call yesterday morning announcing that our application had been accepted and that all our conditions were agreed to (have a service come in and spring clean, fix the broken mailbox downstairs, take care of the broken toilet seat and replace the gas range with an electric one). There you go, folks, we're signing the lease on Tuesday, getting an etat de lieu (like a state of the apartment check) and the keys on Wednesday and moving in on Thursday. We're actually going to go this weekend and buy a futon (because, did I mention that our BED didn't make it over in the air shipment?) and our kitchen appliances. I'm actually excited about that part!

After an otherwise uneventful morning and a lunch of a creamy, cheesy, hammy, zucchini thing my father-in-law made, we shoved our stuff back into our suitcases, loaded up and headed for Lyon. We got into our hotel and I played house while Sam went grocery shopping (with a list, of course). Funny thing about that. Back in the States, when I send Sam shopping it takes him FOREVER. He'll call me from the store ten times to find eleven items. But HERE, I guess because he knows the stores (his father ran a grocery store for crying out loud... they never went shopping because he grew UP in a grocery store), he knows where everything is. So, he got home fairly quickly and with ALL of the items on the LIST!!!!!

When he got back, I made a simple dinner of tomatoes, cucumbers, Saucisse de Strasbourg (basically lightly smoked hot dogs, but SO much better than most dogs I've eaten in the States... you can eat 'em cold) and lentils. I sprinkled it with salt and pepper and splashed a little vegetable sauce on it. Top it with a little shredded Emmental (what we call back home "Swiss" cheese) and call it dinner. I made a simple chicken sandwich for the kids, because I knew they weren't going to go for the cukes. Not a battle I had energy to fight.

They all played nice and quietly for a few hours while we checked our email (because YES, Sam was able to find an adapter) and balanced our accounts. When things started scream and cry, I got everybody naked, threw 'em in a tub of bubbles, hosed 'em down and put 'em to bed.

I finished my Stephen King and, as usual, wished I had the sequel here to start (what am I going to do when there are no more Gunslinger books?). Instead, I started a Hal Higdon book on training for marathons (the half marathon here in Lyon is in September... think I'll have time? I should probably at least be able to walk it). But after a chapter, I got antsy and played on the internet until it didn't work anymore. But that was okay, because I didn't work anymore either.

Saying goodbye to Pepe:

Excited to be alive (as usual):

Hotel pics...
Master bed (yes, folks, that IS two single beds pushed together):

BATH room (not the water closet where the toilet is):

Bidet and towel warmer(in the bath room):

Kitchen (all that stuff on the counter is the stuff from the "mini-bar" which is essentially our only fridge... I didn't want to accidentally drink a five dollar bottle of water or eat a seven dollar mini-bag of chips, you know?):


We put up all the pretties that were in the living room because we don't want to have to pay for them... I don't think these would survive the shaking pull-up by my baby and the fall to the tile floor, do you?:

Street views:


Lily helping unload:

Watching TV: