Sunday, December 20, 2009


I really did TRY to blog in the first three weeks of DECEMBER!!! I promise. In fact, I have proof. I wrote the following post on December 8 (I think):

I had plans to spend the day at the cine because FINALLY all of the craziness of November (which actually stretched into December) is over and I thought I'd spend the whole day just BEING instead of cooking, cleaning and fretting. But, I just can't be bothered. *gasp* I know, right? ME, pass up a day at the cinema? WHAT? But the movies I had planned to see just don't seem like the right thing to do right now. One of them is a silly French comedy that I'll probably like but just not right this minute and the other is going to be one of those end of the world depressing things, and I REALLY don't need that right now.

I'll just start with the wah wah and move on to the update of November and projections for the rest of the year. The wah wah is that I am depressed. No, scratch that, I'm bipolar. I'm sure most of you know. I might have actually told you. I woke up this morning with a zest for life and looking forward to my "day off" and now, here I am, hunkering down in my sanctuary. I warn all of you close to me that I can feel the immenent reclusivity. So, if I pull away, turn down invitations, don't return emails right away and whatnot, it's not you, it's me. Part of the reason is that we still don't know if we're going to stay here or not. And Sam is such a brat that he won't ask again. The boss dude said he would let us know by the end of the year "but more than likely by the end of November" but obviously... well... it's December 8.

I just came to the sudden realization that if we're not going to stay here, I need to be doing some preparatin'... For one, if we're not staying, I'm going to make arrangements to leave early in order to have this baby in the States. Why? Well, because if I have the baby in late June, like my bitch of a OB is saying, and then am set to leave two weeks after that, I'll have to end up staying until August or so because the baby won't have a passport and you can't buy a plane ticket for a person who is not yet born. Not to mention all of the citizenship shit. So, it just seems to make sense that I go to the States sometime in late April or Mid-May and squeeze the baby out over there. Sam said that if we don't stay, he might just request to be relocated back early because of the baby, but either way, *I* won't be staying here. I mean, if I have to sleep on my sister's floor and have the baby in her bath tub, I will.

The other thing is that, if we aren't staying, in July, (or April/May if we leave early) our income will be cut by essentially 30% since we will no longer receive the expat bonus. That's some harsh shit. I've already looked and library jobs are essentially NIL right now. Plus, I'm supposed to start a full-time job with a brand new baby? Not gonna happen. I'll stay home and survive on ramen noodles before I do that. Maybe I'll be able to finally sell my book and that'll give us a little cushion. I've been considering going to school to become a French baker the short time we're left here (if we don't stay). Maybe I could start a free-lance baking thing on the side and sell to local restos in the States. *shrug* Who knows?

Obviously, we are by no means "down and out" or whatever. But things will definitely have to change if we're not staying.

And what if we are? Am I happy about that? I don't feel happy. I don't know if it's the season or the pregnancy or the complications I've had (don't worry, I'm getting there--those of you who have Facebook already know most of it), but I'm not jumping up and down about France right this second. I'm not jumping up and down about the States either, but I am dreaming of my little house in the woods. I am dreaming of hermiting myself away in my little homestead. Of drinking hot tea, wrapped in a blanket, fuzzy socks on my feet, sitting on a swing on my newly refurbished front deck, contemplating the world. Researching my milking goats and my cheesemaking projects. My brick bread oven that I'll build my goddamn self if it comes to it. My downstairs canning kitchen.

Would I rather be in Virginia but poor or be here and wish I was there? Ugh. Blah. Screwed.

Alright, so I guess that's enough of the major wah wah... Shall we proceed to the update and get that over with so we can get on with the short period of 2009 that's left?

If you'll remember, on my return flight from the U.S. I had pain and cramping so bad I thought I was losing the baby. I went to the doctor and the baby was fine. A few days after I met my new BITCH OB WHO WON'T GIVE ME ANY F****** PRENATAL VITAMINS, I woke up in the middle of the night to pee and on my way back to bed, I collapsed on the floor with the worst pain I have ever felt in my life (keep in mind that I've had four babies with no anesthesia). I tried to deal with the pain by using my microwavable herbal heating pad, by taking a warm bath, by letting Sam rub me, but by 5am, it was obvious that the pain not only wasn't going to go away, but it was getting worse. So, we called the neighbor and asked him to watch the kids while we went to the ER.

We tried the place up the hill from our apartment but their ER isn't open until 8am. So, Sam took me to the hospital where he usually takes the kids when they're sick. It's a place called Femme, Mere, Enfant (Woman, Mother, Child) because I'm the first two and because we assumed the pain was linked to the third. After a short wait in the waiting room, a nurse got me into an exam room, asked a few questions (none of which was "how are you going to pay for this") and did a quick internal ultrasound. Baby was just fine and moving around like a champ. She asked me to sit up and describe where my pain was and then looked at Sam and said "these are classic blah blah blah symptoms" (by then, my pain is so bad, I can't really keep up with the conversation). She asks me to give her a urine sample "and don't worry if it's only a little bit." I'm relieved because I really REALLY need to pee anyway. I slip into the bathroom and pee, but when I look at the THREE DROPS that are in the cup, my mouth falls open. First of all, it felt like I peed out a gallon but there's really only 1/8 of a cup (if that). Secondly, IT LOOKS LIKE TEA. Not light and lovely green tea you get with your Chinese food... DARK AND MURKY sweet tea you get with your meal on the southern east coast of the U.S.

"Kidney stones," Sam translates. Instantly, scenes flash through my mind. The time a few weeks prior when I went to shop with Flavia and my back started hurting. The time a few days later when Flavia and I went out to eat and my back started hurting. The drive to VA and how my left side of my back hurt the entire way. The drive BACK to Charlotte and how nauseated and achey I felt. The cramps on the plane and how they seemed to be on my front left side leading down to my bladder. All along I thought it had something to do with the baby. I thought the blood was coming from the "birth canal" when really, some of it was surely coming from the urethra, based on the tea-colored pee sitting in the cup in front of me.

She wrote me a prescription for a pain medication and a kidney sonogram to be done by a more powerful machine. I did the sonogram and sure enough, my left kidney is extremely dilated (oh, and as a bonus, I get to find out that I also have GALL STONES... lovely, huh? no telling when those will creep up to wreak havoc)...

See? I TRIED to blog.

So, anyway, back to the story... Later that evening, the pain is back and is unbearable. We call the neighbors to watch the kids and we head to the ER up the hill because they close at 7 and we'll just barely make it. We get in there, wait in the waiting room maybe 15 minutes before they put us in an exam room (again, they do not ask for any proof of insurance or a credit card or anything). They ask a bunch of questions, do some research in a medical database on what they can give pregnant women with "renal colic" (I GUESS that's what it's called in English), hook me up to an IV and start pumping stuff into me. Within 20 minutes, the pain is gone. I seriously wanted to name this kid after that interne!!! BUT, if it's a girl, Franck is not gonna be a candidate.

He sends me home with some pills of the stuff he's just given me through IV and told me that if it happens again, I should head to the nearest ER that has a urologist on staff. That means, the private hospital on the other side of the park or the public hospital down on the south side of Lyon.

We get home and I'm feeling better... for about half an hour. Then it comes back. The pain. And with a vengeance. Now it's worse than it's ever been. I'm doubled over in pain, I'm bawling on the couch by the time the neighbor shows back up to watch the kids.

When we leave the house to go to the ER again, we have those two choices: We can go to the private hospital on the other side of the park, where we might have to pay more, but we should be seen pretty quickly OR we can drive all the way to the south of Lyon where we wouldn't have to pay as much but might have to spend hours waiting to get help. We made the OBvious choice.

And sure enough, as we walked through the door, they saw my distress and took me right away to a room and started prepping me to do an IV. They told Sam to go to the desk to fill out some paperwork (it's not a public hospital, so I imagine they wanted our address and phone number for billing).

The nurse comes in and tells me she's basically going to start a Tylenol drip. I try to tell her that at the other ER they gave me a cocktail of Tylenol, an anti-inflammatory and an anti-spasmodic, but she just tsks like I'm stupid. At this point, I don't care because I can barely speak. She starts the drip and instantly I start to feel better. It lasts for about 20 minutes. I start cramping again. At this point, I'm wondering where the hell Sam is. AND I'm starting to think it was a mistake to come to this hospital. The nurses at the public hospitals we visited LISTENED to me. They treated me like an equal. This nurse had treated me like a child before walking away and leaving me alone.

Before long, I'm rocking back and forth sobbing. The pain is back in full force and I can't take it. I text Sam to ask him where the hell he is. He says, "They won't let me in." I start to freak out! What does he mean they won't let him in? I text back, "Insist." He says, "I tried, but they won't let me." I text, "Talk to a goddamn supervisor or something." He doesn't text back for awhile.

I start to hyperventilate.

A man walks in the room. I can only see his knees because I'm spasming in pain and fear. He says, "Ma'am, what's wrong with you?" I can't answer. I can only gasp. He walks out without a word.

The nurse finally comes back in. I say, "I need my husband." She says, "He can't come in until the doctor has seen you." I say, "When is that?" She says, "Soon." But I can tell she doesn't give a flying fuck. She walks out and even her POSTURE is patronizing.

I start to beg. I try French. I try English. I'm pleading for someone to do something, to give me something. I'm texting Sam telling him it hurts and I need him because I don't think I'll even be able to talk to the doctor. He texts me back that he's trying. That he's out in the waiting room fighting with the nurses. Telling them that we want to leave and go somewhere else.

Finally, the nurse comes in and says she's going to give me some morphine. She tells me to calm down. I say, "I'm trying." She tells me that it's not good for my baby--AS SHE'S PUMPING MORPHINE INTO MY VEINS!!!! I say, "I NEED my husband." She says, "Not in THIS state." WHAT????? The absence of my husband is what has PUT me in this state. I'm livid, I'm in pain and I'm sick of her tone.

The man who left walks back in. The doctor. He smells like he's just smoked a pack of cigarettes. It's so strong, I almost puke on him. Now I know where he went when he left!!! Not to check on another patient. Not to look up my medical record. Not to speak with my husband. He went on his fucking smoke break.

He says, "How old are you?" I try to tell him but I'm gasping a lot. He says, "I can't understand you." But he says it in a bored tone. "I'm... trying... to... calm... down... and... tell... you..."

"Ma'am, I can NOT understand you if you continue to speak to me this way."

I want to punch his fucking face. I continue to hyperventilate, and I feel dizzy like I'm seconds away from passing out.

"Now......... How old are you?"

Right about then, the morphine starts to work and I can compose myself long enough to tell him my age, but I'm still shaking between sentences. After he's done with all of his questions, he leans close, his ashtray breath in my face, he sticks his hand up my shirt and down into my pants to massage my side as he patronizingly tells me that in order for my pain to go away, I'm going to have to calm down. Now I know how all old people in nursing homes feel. The indignity of being spoken to as though I'm a child. As though because he's a "doctor" he's somehow superior to me. I'm SHOCKED his hand is down the waistline of my pants, so shocked I can't even process it. I don't do or say anything but, "I need my husband."

"Yes, dear. I'm going to call your husband in here to hold your hand. Because that's a part of your treatment. To have your husband hold your hand."

He had better be glad I was incapacitated because otherwise my hand would have been pounding through his skull. Part of my fucking TREATMENT? I had been in that room for over an hour texting my husband.

They finally did let Sam come in. The doctor told Sam that he wanted to keep me for observation. Sam said, "She'll stay here? In this room?" The doctor said, "Yes." Sam said, "Because if I take her home, she risks coming right back here in a couple of hours, right?" The doctor says, "Right." So Sam kisses me, tells me he'll be back in the morning. The doctor says he'll call the urologist and get him to come see me the next day.

The morphine knocks me out for about half an hour but I wake up again in terrible pain. There is no call button, so I just have to wait for someone to walk by and say, "Excuse me?" and hope it's a medical professional and not a visitor. At one point, a male nurse with fifty piercings in his face (hey, I got piercings, I ain't judgin'... just sayin') comes in and leans down close to my face and tells me that he KNOWS how bad it hurts because he just had the same thing two weeks prior. He says I need to get some sleep and then he turns out the light.

Twenty minutes later, the lights come on all of a sudden and they wheel me out into the hallway between two curtains on the other side of which are two snoring old men. Observation my ASS. That doctor was a sadistic fuck who wanted to punish me for what he considered to be my "outburst"... I didn't sleep a wink. I was under bright flourescent lights the whole time, every time a nurse walked by, they called out to the other end of the hallway to another nurse, laughing and joking and etc. Patients came in, moaning and screaming like I had. I think my collective sleep count was about half an hour the whole night (and that's under MORPHINE, yo).

Whenever I needed to go to the bathroom, I flagged down a nurse to help carry my IV bottle or to disconnect me long enough to go. But he/she was never there outside the bathroom to help me back to my bed and I nearly CRAWLED back every time.

I finally woke up for good around 7am. I smelled coffee and fresh croissants and as much pain as I still was in, I was hungry having missed dinner the night before. But those goodies were not for us. They were for the nurses during their shift change. Holding their steaming coffees and they're buttery baked goods, they had their meeting right there in the hallway. To confirm my suspicions about my "observation" being my punishment, I sat, mouth agape, and listened to them tell the story about "The little American lady" who threw a fit, begged for her husband and had caused a big scene, blah blah blah. Everyone snickered and winked.

My bladder near bursting, I raised my hand. "Excuse me?" I got the attention of the male pierced-face nurse. "Yes, sweetie, we're coming."

No one came. They all left in their separate directions, completely ignoring me. I raised my hands several times but was invisible. Finally, when I couldn't take it anymore, I just lifted the IV bottle, wrapped the IV tube around my shoulders and carried the whole thing to the bathroom. As I sat there peeing out my three drops, I looked down at my IV and wondered how difficult it would be to pull out. I waved it away. This aint the movies, Joj. People don't REALLY rip out their IVs and leave in real life.

By 8:30, I'm texting Sam, telling him to come get me. He texts back saying that he's calling the hospital to find out the scoop. He texts again saying that a urologist has been called but they don't know when he'll be there. I text back that if no one comes to help me by 9am, I'm going to the bathroom, pulling out my IV and walking home across the park.

8:45 still nothing.

8:58 I get up, go to the bathroom, rip out my IV, staunch the bleeding with a bathroom paper towel, wrap my hair tie around the paper towel, put on my hoodie and purse, toss the IV stuff into the hazardous waste bin and leave the bathroom in search for an exit. But all the doors say "No exit." Or you have to push some kind of button. There are cameras everywhere.

I lose my nerve and go back to my bed. I sit up on the edge of the bed, waiting until I see a nurse walk OUT of the closest door and planning to tailgate him.

Behind me, I hear the doctor from last night talking to the doctor of the day... telling him again, humorously, my story. "La petite Americaine..." and whatnot. I start trembling with anger.

He makes his way over to me. I stare down at my feet. He says, as though talking to a child, "And how are we feeling today?" I say, "Not well." He takes my hand and in his slimy, handsy voice says, "Now, where are we going? Why are we all dressed up? Hmmmm? But first of all, don't we need to say Bonjour? Uh? Do you not say Bonjour to each other in the morning?" I don't answer. I'm ready to spit in his face. He repeats, "Now why are we all dressed up like we're ready to go?"

"Because I want to leave. I asked someone at 7 to help me go to the bathroom and then sat here for two hours without help until I had to carry my IV myself."

"Well, little lady, I saw you do that all night," he laughs nervously to his colleague.

I don't dignify it with an argument. I'm past arguing. I just want to know where the door is. "I want to go home."

"You want to go home? Well, the door's right over there."

I stand up.

"But at least let us help you get your IV out."

I said, "I already did it. It's in the bathroom if you need it."

"Well, then au revoir."

"Au revoir." I didn't even look back.

As I walked across the park, I called Sam. He insisted on coming to get me, but I argued that there was no way he was going to get the neighbors to watch the kids while he came to pick me up mere walking distance from home. I told him I'd walk to the end of the park and take the bus home. And that's what I did. I got home, fueled by anger and disgust. Determined to NEVER AGAIN go to a private hospital. They are supposed to be the places where people can get more personal attention if they are willing to pay more than the goverment set prices... but that's not what you get. What you get are NO RIGHTS and NO CARE and treated like an IMBECILE!!!

Okay, I'm going to take a commercial break to give you a few pics... take your mind off the prior scene...

Ryan's first day of CP (like first grade):

Lily's first day of public school:

The winery/hotel/castle I visited with Flavia and Gilles:

Paradis Festival (the nearly-rotten-on-the-vine last harvest grapes they use to make the last wine pressing of the season... they take the mashed grapes and cook this really yummy sausage in it... *slurp*)

I cooked this chicken:

Some kind of national holiday thingy going on at the park:

Our apartement from the national holiday thingy going on at the park:

Sometimes Lily likes to pretend she's a dog...lying on the couch... watching TV.

Somtimes she likes to put her head up Lolo's butt... while watching TV.

Pix from my trip to our new homestead in VA!!!!:

What I saw on Halloween night coming back from doing my laundry:

Our trip to Buffalo Grill (an American wannabe resto *eye roll* don't expect it to be "just like home" cuz it aint... notice the GLASS water glasses?):

Our trip to the bird park nearby:

We helped this baby bird get back into its cage. It's mama cried the whole time and then they hid behind this bush until it felt comfy enough to come out! Craziness!

Who's the vulture here?

In the "herb" garden... Hmmm wonder who's smokin' this?

Baby birds (in the nursery):

Baby humans... on the playground and obstacle course:

Big bird:


So, that day, I take a crap load of medicine (that the dude at the FIRST ER gave me) and we go to Sam's parents' house for the day). I was very glad to get away and VERY glad to see their appalled expressions as I told my story. I mean, these people survived World War II as near orphans! The fact that they are upset and surprised means that I'm not out of my head. That's really NOT how doctors are supposed to treat people. And then, Sam reveals that not only did they treat ME as "the little American", but they did the same to him. At one point in the evening when he told them that if he wasn't allowed to see me then he wanted them to release me and let us go to a different hospital where we could get some help. The nurse looked at him and said, "Oh, no, no. This here is NOT McDonald's!" *eyes bulge* Are you KIDDING ME?

So, the next day, Sam calls around and finds us an appointment with a local urologist who works out of a small clinic but who has an office literally one block away. I go see him. He's very no-nonsense and confirms, through ultrasound, that my kidney is even more dilated than it was during my first ultrasound and that if I have another bout of renal colic, I'm to call him and the clinic and he'll have them set up a bed and monitor me all night with an IV full of drugs, etc. The mere thought made me break out in hives as I stared down at the bruises the previous hosptial left all over my arms (I left out the part where the nurse missed my veins and completely messed one of them up... took four weeks for the bruise to fade). But in the car, Sam assures me that this is different. I'm not convinced.

Later that night, I have another bout of colic, but I take a crap load of medicine and a bath and go to bed.

The next day, just after I get home with the kids from school, it happens again. But this time, seriously worse than ever. I can't lie down, I can't sit down. All I can do is sob and pace and murmur gibberish to myself. As long as I keep moving, my feet keep my mind off my back, but the whole time, I feel like someone has jammed a red hot fire poker into my back and groin. Sam is on the phone with the doctor and then the clinic and then the doctor. 45 minutes go by of my pacing at home when FINALLY the doctor says for me to go to the clinic. That he's set it all up.

We rush over there, they start the IV, within 20 minutes, I feel a little better but am still hurting. They come in and turn it up a little. Sam kisses me and leaves. I sleep for half an hour and am awakened by the pain. I call them in and ask them to turn it up. They look at me like I'm crazy and say it's up full blast. They call the doctor. He tells them to give me morphine. They do, in the arm, hurts like hell but knocks me OUT. I sleep on and off, until morning.

Sam drops off the kids, rushes over to see me. The doctor comes in and says he wants me to come down to his office, he's going to fit me in between appointments to look at my kidney and discuss some options.

I'm just glad he said the word "options."

We get down there and here is what he says:

Okay we can do one of two things. One: nothing. We can leave it alone and see if the stone passes on its own but I hate to say that more than likely, before it does, you'll have another bout or two of colic and need to come in for another IV pain treatment. The second choice: A stent. We can put a tube up in there that runs from the kidney to the bladder. That will bypass the stone, allow the kidney to drain and keep you from having the colic. You won't feel it, we'll leave it in there for three or so weeks until you get into your second trimester when we can do an x-ray and see the stone, know where it is and how big it is and try to get it out.

"Let's do it." I mean, it's the obvious choice.

"Well, I'm going to let you think about it."

"What's there to think about?" Okay, to give this a little perspective. I must inject here that I am OBSESSED with Thanksgiving, okay? Right then, at that moment, I have three still-feathered birds stuck in my fridge waiting for me to get home, pluck them, gut them, and cook them. It's Thanksgiving day the day they propose the stent (though my celebration is not until Sunday). I have up to 35 or 40 people coming to my house. I am NOT canceling. Okay? So, my thought is, let's get this stent thing DONE, let me get HOME and get things started cuz I have pies to bake and potatoes to peel and blah blah blah.

So, we do it. He has a break between 12 and 2pm where he can slide me in to a slot on the block. They make me shower in betadine--even my hair--but they don't provide towels... get THAT. I'm having impromptu surgery, you think I've brought my own towels? I ask a passing custodian where I can find towels, she looks at me like I have a cupcake on my head and says, "Uh, we don't provide towels." I shrug and walk into the bathroom, figuring I'll use my tee-shirt to dry my hair. In the mean time, my roommate's husband overhears my exchange with the custodian and rips her a new one, telling her to give me something to dry off with because I'm having surgery. I could just KISS that man! The custodian comes back with one of those hotel-looking terry cloth bathmats and a sheet. I thank her and shrug. After my shower, I dry myself and my hair off with the bathmat, then throw it on the floor and put on the teeeeensy tiny little paper pyjamas they gave me to put on and wrapped the sheet around myself... I tiptoed down the hallway wearing my Crocks and my toga. LOL!

They wheel me down to surgery. A guy comes over asks me some questions and then asks a passing anesthesiologist to clear me. The doctor raises his eyebrows and says, "I don't work before the appetizer." The interne scratches his head and continues my intake interview. He asks about my piercings and I tell him to wait for the tongue piercing and say that the nose piercing doesn't come out. "That's okay, we'll just cut your nose off." He laughs. Later, a senior nurse comes over and starts talking to me. When she asks the interne if I've talked to the anesthesiologist, the interne tells her what the doc had said. "Oh, he was kidding." And he was. Poor interne... must have been new.

The druggy doc comes over and starts talking to me. Someone suggests he speak English to me since he used to work in the States. He says, "Wee are een Fronzt, so vee vill speeeek Fraynch." And then he laughs to himself. They wheel me into the operating room and put me up on the table. Okay, it's NOT a table. It's HALF a table for my back, a bucket stool sorta seat for my ass with a CUT out for my, ahem, um... you know? and then leg thingies for my calves. That's it. They get me up there and I start to slip. I say, "Um, I'm slipping." They laugh and say, "Well, we can't have your booty touching the floor."

I remind them to take out my tongue ring (which I only do right before any surgery because I have a phobia about the hole closing up). But because I have my IV in my left arm and am not allowed to bend it, I ask for assistance. The anesthesiologist, says, "Oh, let ME do it." He leans over, grabs both ends of the barbell and starts unscrewing. I taste aftershave or cologne on his fingers and my mouth is filled with that aftertaste even after he's put my tongue piercing into a little baggy. Blech. Another doctor who doesn't wash his hands. I have a half a second of nerves about it but I figure it's too late to stop at this point.

He comes around to the other side, starts messing with my IV and asking me where I lived in the States. When I mention I'm moving to VA, he perks up and starts talking about somewhere he went there. I can't for the life of me remember where it was. But then he says, "Okay, now I want you to go home. Go on back to Virginia. Take some pictures and send me a postcard, okay?" As he says it, my eyes close and I barely get out a "Goodnight." in which my voice sounded like I could sing bass for the Oak Ridge Boys.

Okay.... More pix? Sure!!!

Rainbow over the park (from the kids' bedroom window):

An autumn visit to Meme and Pepe's house:
Sitting under the apple tree:

The flowers need a drink:

Snack bandit!

Up a tree (as usual):

Ice cream ladybug!

Pig tails... You having deja-vu? Me too!!! Grrrr...

This is as close as my stupid camera would take (okay, the camera wasn't stupid, but the photog forgot to bring the zoom!) of actor Jean Dujardin at the pre-premiere of Lucky Luke! HAWT!!!

Caught Lolo taking a cat nap:

Monkeys in a tree!!!

Lolo turns TWO!!!

Coloring in the birthday suit:

The "do-over" Lolo's birthday party the day AFTER her birthday!

I wake up. Correction: I can hear, but am NOT awake. I can hear them talking and I can FEEL the doctor doing something to my urethra that BURNS LIKE HELLFIRE, but I can't move. I am beside myself with fear but can not signal to them that I can hear them. I send VERBAL messages to my body parts trying to tell myself to MOVE but the only part that responds is the big toe on my right food.

"Look at that," a nurse says. "Her toe is moving."

The doctor starts arguing with the nurse. He sounds really pissed. I can't really tell what they're talking about other than him saying that if she's not prepared to do what he tells her, she can leave and then he slams a clipboard down on my lower belly. I assume he walks out, because his mumbling cusswords seem father and father away. I realize that I am finally able to move my head a little, but I can't open my eyes. I shake my head.

"Look! She's saying 'no!'" A nurse says and she and another nurse laugh.

I don't think it's funny.

I guess I pass out.

I wake up in recovery and choke on the tube in my throat. I struggle to breath. I kick and try to scream but nothing comes out. I can't open my eyes. I fight until I am lulled by the sound of a machine. A machine that seems to be breathing for me. How strange.

I wake and vaguely feel tape being pulled from my eyelids. It burns and hurts like hell. I pass out.

I wake up and wave to the nurses. They rush over and take out the tube. I feel like I've swallowed rocks. I cough and nearly puke. I ask to put my piercing back in. I do. I ask them to call my room and tell my little hubby that I'm awake and fine. They do.

I'm ITCHING to go to my room. To sit up and talk to the doc. To get home and start baking pies. But they tell me I have to wait another half an hour before I can go to my room

I watch them joke around and crack up. I wonder if I'm laughing at them or am still under the influence of drugs. When an orderly comes to get me, one funny interne looks at me and says, "Okay, now, forget EVERYTHING you may have heard. Erase it from your memory!" I laugh and say, "You got something for me to sign?" He rubs his chin and pretends to consider it.

I get to my room and Sam is waiting there. Worried about me and happy to see me. I want to get the heck out but they have to hold me until I've been out of surgery for four hours. They have to observe me. I don't want to be observed. I want to go home and bake.

Sam leaves to go get Lolo who gets out of her daycare at 5:30. He brings her to the clinic. He asks if we can leave now. He tells me he talked to the doctor while I was gone and in recovery and the doctor said for us to come by his office near our house after they were done observing me and he would talk to me.

Sam gets to the clinic and has my sweet Lolo with him. She's adorable and the sight of her is like candy. I haven't seen my kids in nearly 24 hours. I dress quickly and let THEM remove my IV this time. I limp out to the van and can barely sit as we hit EVERY bump from the hospital to the doctor's office. I am in SO MUCH pain in my urethra that I wonder if I've made a mistake. I'm scared to death. I can FEEL the tube they've put in there. I can barely walk.

I get in his office, he looks at the kidney with the ultrasound, tells me that the blood I'm peeing is normal and that it should all stop hurting within three or four days.

Since we're only a block away and since I KNOW Sam would manage to FIND a few more hidden bumps with the car, Lolo and I walk home. We get there and I go straight to the kitchen. I wash, cut and load the potimarrons and courges into the oven to roast. I wash, peel and cube the butternuts and throw them into the steamer basket. When all is done, I puree everything and put it in muslin (sp?) to drain for the night. That means half the work is done on the pumpkin pie and the butternut gratin! YAY!

Friday morning, I realized that I hadn't written ANYTHING on my Nano novel in days. How could I? So, I sat down, pounded out a few thousand words or so, and spent the rest of the time cleaning the house. After lunch, Flavia came over and helped me by peeling, eyeing and cubing about 20 pounds of potatoes. As she did that, I cracked and chopped walnuts and a plaque of chocolate and made batter for chocolate chip cookies. She continued to work as I walked to the school to pick up the kids. Every step of the way, I felt like someone was stabbing my urethra (if you don't know what that is, it's your PEE HOLE) with an ice pick.

On Saturday, I had Sam pluck the necks of the turkey and then had my first experience gutting the birds. We got the birds from a local Label Rouge farmer (meaning that the birds are raised using certain standards and fed certain foods... in our case it meant that they were prairie raised where they get to eat bugs and were fed organic and locally-grown grains--grown on the same farm where the birds are raised--and were allowed to roam free from the time they were "teenagers") who had removed only the intestines and bladder. I had to start by cutting off the feet and the head. Then, I had to cut off the windpipe and esophogus. Then, I had to disconnect the neck (which I saved for later to make the gravy and stock for next year). The farmer hadn't removed ANY of the vital internal organs or even the bird's anus. *I* had to do all of that. It wasn't easy and it wasn't pretty, but I survived it and at least that way, because all of the organs had remained intact, I didn't have to freeze the birds (you can refrigerate them for up to three weeks). After I got both birds cleaned up, I put them into a trash bag and made a 15 or so gallon brine solution with unrefined salt, fruit nectar, herbs, a little oil and a little sugar. I tied the trash bag closed and stuck everything out on the balcony where temps were COLDER than my fridge. The birds would need at least eight hours in the salt bath and I planned to do one of them that night, the next on Sunday.

I found a recipe on-line for a pecan pie that didn't use corn syrup! If you know me at all, you probably know how I feel about corn syrup. It is POISON, I tell you! But I found a way to make my own substitute using my organic sugar, a little water and cream of tartar. So, I baked two pecan pies (one of which got pretty "TOASTED" as my oven got possessed and jacked itself up to 240 degrees C *eyes bulged*). As I got ready to prepare the custard part of the pumpkin pie, I realized I was out of ground cloves! So, I had to get out the pestil and mortar and have Sam ground the hell out of the whole clove nails I had bought the month before from the organic store. It's not the same as industrially ground cloves--it meant there were a few large pieces in the pie, but it actually ADDED to the flavor and texture, believe it or not! So, I made two of those and then made a couple of apple pies. When that was done, I used the prepared butternut from the day before to make a pesto/butternut strata gratin. You butter a baking dish, lightly, spread some butternut puree, spread a thin layer of pesto (which as you'll recall, I make and freeze myself) and then a thin layer of freshly-grated parmesean. Then another layer of each. You put little pats of butter here and there on top of the strata and stick in a hot oven for about 30 or 40 minutes. I got the recipe from that Italian-American chick on Food Network. You can Google the recipe (and actually have a video tutorial) if you search for Butternut Squash Gratin. Then, with that cooling, I made the chocolate chip cookies.

Then, I made bread. Four long loaves of my hand-made, organic, whole wheat bread. I had made the dough earlier in the day and I should have probably had two batches of dough going so that I could make rolls the next day, but I didn't. The most important thing to me was that the stuffing be made out of my own homemade bread. Once the bread was done, I let it cool, had Sam cut it into little croutons and toasted it.

Then, I steamed some fresh local organic carrots, glazed them with butter and honey and shoved them into the oven.

Then, I made the "cranberry" sauce from the same berries we found last year: Airelles. They aren't from France, but from Norway or Sweden, but they're more local than the actual cranberries (which are shipped from North America... Cranberries aren't native to Europe and I guess they don't grow well here because the only ones I see come out in mid December and are all from Ocean Spray... go figure). I put walnuts, fresh shredded ginger, a shake of cinnamon and nutmeg and a few clementines in my cranberry sauce. Don't get me wrong, the canned stuff has its place in my archives of nostalgia and whatnot, but the real, homemade stuff kicks the canned stuff's ASS!!

Just as I'm getting all of this done, the neighbor calls saying that their oldest is throwing a nervous fit and asked if she could come over to our house to cool off. I sent Sam down there and according to later accounts, he got there, walked into E's room, said, "you're coming with me, okay?", at which point, she got up, without a word and followed him here. I hugged her, asked what had happened (turned out it was a tiff with her sister--probably just a natural result of all the tension going on down there at the time with her parents trying to work through marital stuff) and after a few tears and some hugs, I changed the subject to cooking. I had her help me make some cookies or something (I don't rightly remember) but she was happy for the diversion and spent the next couple of hours NOT thinking about her life. Cooking is such good therapy.

Get this... I made green bean casserole... and NOT from a frickin' CAN yo! This is how I made it... SO easy and simple. Okay, first, I cut up a huge thing of mushrooms into fairly nice-sized pieces and put 'em into a big bowl. Then, I steamed some green beans I had put by earlier in the summer. When they were nicely steamed (a little longer than you would use for a stirfry), I threw 'em into the bowl with the mushrooms, covering the mushrooms. Get this--the BEANS cooked the MUSHROOMS!!! Then, I put some butter into a pan and added some thinly sliced onions. I let that cook until the onions were clear. Then, I added some flour and let it cook out the flour-y taste (this is a white roux). I added lots of milk and a little bit of cream, salt and pepper and let it thicken. I poured that on the bean/mushroom mixture and tossed it to coat the beans. Then, I put some shredded gruyere chese and tossed again. Then, I put it all into a long baking crockery and topped it with, yes... the main and necessary ingredient... fried onions... (the only store-bought thing in the recipe) and chucked it into the oven to brown. The house smelled HEAVENLY!!!

At about 11pm, I pulled one of the turkeys from the brine, rinsed it off and patted it dry. I cut up some apples, some oranges and some onions and shoved 'em up its butt and down its neck. Then, I got some trussing twine and trussed him nice and tight (I'm not a very "neat" trusser, but it holds it all together pretty well anyway). I put about half a cup of water in the bottom of the roasting pan, made a little "tent" out of aluminum foil and stuck the bird in the oven. Then, since it was late, I took a nap. I set the alarm to wake up when the bird had been in the oven for a couple of hours so I could take off the tent. That way, the bird could brown up nice and golden for the last hour and a half. When the bird was done, I put him on a plate, covered him well with the foil and put him in the oven. I drained all the turkey juice from the roasting pan and poured it into a big bowl for the next day's gravy.

Sunday morning, I got up early and started everything else. I made the gravy using most of the juice from the turkey AND the delicious stock I had frozen from the year before.

Sam put together the pigs in blankets that we make with little smoked sausages and pate feuilltee and started putting those into the oven. I made a honey mustard, a chipotle-plum and a barbecue sauce to go with them.

Flavia dinged!!! She was here to help with the tables!!! YAY!!! I let her and Sam (okay, I butted in a few times with revisions... I TOLD him how I wanted it and he did it however he wanted ANYWAY, so I had to come back in and yell a couple of times) take care of all that. Thank you FLAVIA!!!!!

Meanwhile, I used the rest of the turkey juice (and the rest of the stock), plus a few eggs, some diced pears and apples and walnuts and and celery and onions and raisins and herbs to make the stuffing, shoved that into the oven to cook.

I prepared the second turkey for roasting and when the stuffing came out, the bird went in.

As the bird cooked, I did the finishing touches because we were coming up on noon. I pulled out all of the stuff I had cooked the day before--everything that was in the fridge and all that had spent the night on the balcony chilling.

I steamed some broccoli, buttered it nicely and tossed it with wheat germ and garlic salt.

I steamed some more green beans for the green bean amandine (basically, green beans, butter, a splash of lemon and sliced almonds!!! YUM!!!!).

Guests started to arrive. I started nuking everything.

The bird was finally done, I put it on a big bed of the stuffing and carried it out to the table to the general chorus of ooohs and aaaaahs of my guests!

Then, I went back into the kitchen, shoved bird number one from the night before into the oven to heat back up and rushed into the next room to take pictures. I didn't get to catch everything because, well, there WERE twenty five people (LOTS of flu cancelationg), half of whom were children, but I caught a few pix.

I sat and ate a little bit but by the time I got out to the tables, the turkey had been carved and served. So, I missed the first round. But a little while later, I went into the kitchen and pulled the second bird out of the oven. One of our new friends did all of the carving (thanks Jean-Philippe!) and I got to get a nice juicy taste of our nearly wild turkey! It was delicious, especially with the "cranberry" sauce on it. *slurp*

When I brought out the pies, everyone stopped talking. The apple pie got topped with vanilla ice cream, the pumpkin pie got topped with whipped cream, and the pecan pie... well, it got eaten. Coffee followed and so did chocolates and chocolate-chip cookies.

I was extremely happy and completely exhausted by the time everyone left.

Pictures anyone? Oh, why not?

Birds arrive from the farm:

Before kid-proofing:

After kid-proofing:

Plucking the turkey:

With an audience:

Centerpieces (courtesy of Flavia and Ryan):


BIRD!!! (well, Bird Number One... Number Two got inhaled before pix were taken)

Green Bean Amandine:

Mashed taters:

Turkey gravy:

Honey-glazed carrots:

Stuffing/dressing (whatever you choose to call it):

The crispy, cheesy, melty top of the butternut squash gratin:

Apple pie:

Corn syrup-less pecan pie:

Pumpkin pie:

Let's eat!!!

You lookin' at me?

So, you know there are only thirty days in November, right? And that we celebrated our Thanksgiving on Sunday the 29th? And that I started cooking Thursday night and continued nearly non-stop for three days? Well, that meant that Monday the 30th was "Nano Day"... That's right, folks. I spent the ENTIRE day writing to catch up on my nano. It wasn't THAT difficult. Just time consuming. I wrote 16,000 words that day and finished around 11:30 with a little time to spare. Since I basically wrote PORN, it was super easy to write the conclusion to the story. It ended up being pretty sweet and magical and opened up the story to a trilogy, believe it or not. It probably won't ever see the light of day, but it was a lot of fun to write and truly was a writer's vacation for me.

With that over, you'd think I'd finally be able to recover from my minor surgery, right? Wrong. I had Tuesday off, sure, where I said to myself and everyone else, I will NOT work, or clean, or write or anything else. But I did anyway. I got to work on Ryan's birthday party. I went to the mall and tried to find all kinds of stuff I was missing for his pirate party, but the only thing I ended up buying was a lot of duct tape and some twine. I'll explain later.

I had asked Sam way back in October, when we had promised Ryan that he could have a pirate birthday party (he had never had a themed birthday party where he could invite actual friends and stuff, so I decided that this year we would "go all out"... of course, in my language, that means I make nearly everything by hand myself, but whatever), to secure me one or two refrigerator boxes so I could fashion a pirate ship for Ryan. Well, no matter how many times you remind or hound the man, he procrastinates and waves things off until the night before and then he pretends like he has no idea to what you are referring. I call it Selective Alzheimers. So, I had no box. I looked everywhere. I had Sam call around to EVERY appliance store in town. I went to Carrefour and asked and they said I had JUST missed the boxes and that they had already pressed everything in their compressor. I was screwed. I just HAPPENED to have my Facebook page open and just HAPPENED to chat with Iva to see if she would get her husband David to make some more calls for me and help me find some boxes. At this point, I was ready to pay big bucks for them. Get this, her husband had JUST had a shipment of new office chairs delivered the day before and he was about to throw out the boxes. She ran over to the office and stopped him. I walked across the bridge, took the three boxes AND a cardboard roll that I planned to use for a mast! I looked really funny limping across the bridge with all that (especially since there was so much wind that I might have actually been blown out into traffic or right off the bridge into the river) cardboard, but it was worth it. On the way OVER to Iva's guess what I saw on the ground? A HUGE pile of BIG cardboard and another large-sized cardboard roll, just lying on the ground discarded. It would have been PERFECT had it not RAINED the whole day prior and SOAKED the whole thing.

When I got home, I set up the boxes next to each other to see if I could actually do anything with them and sure enough, I could see it would be PERFECT. With that taken care of (I wouldn't actually MAKE the boat until Ryan was safely in bed), I got out my twine and decided to make Ryan a bona fide fishing net as the back drop to his pirate ship. A net will cost you a pretty penny, but two rolls of twine will only cost you seven euro. *wink* and then all you do is YouTube how to make a fishing net. But now you don't even have to do that cuz I'm just gonna tell you how to do it. I started with a loop knot and then basically finger crocheted the twine to the lenght I wanted the net to be. I push-pinned this to the wall in even spaced increments. Then, I took the twine, measured how long I wanted the net to be (about), doubled that length and then cut the twine. Then I cut a whole PILE of similarly-lengthed strings. THEN, I took one of the strings, doubled it so the ends touched and then looped it through one of the openings of the loosely crocheted length I had pinned to the wall. I started half way through the crocheted length. Then at the ends and then I basically cut those spaces in half over and over, putting in looped strings until I had filled the entire length of the original crocheted length. that's the hard part, believe it or not. The rest of it is just tying knots. Each of the hanging loops of string ends up being two strings. So, you take one of the strings from the left one and one of the strings from the right one and make a loop knot. You do that all the way across and then all the way back etc. until it forms a net. I did make the mistake of enlisting Sam's help but because he is infamous for doing things half-assed and in a hurry, he made the spaces in the net HUMONGOUS. I didn't UNTIE his knots, but I did tell him that the net work was off limits to his hands. Then, I made him put the boat together.

So, the boat. It was three wide one way but fairly narrow the other way, boxes. I decided to cut down one side of the width of two of the boxes (essentially forming two long U-shapes and tape those two U-shapes together at the cut ends to make a long rectangle. Then, the third box, I also cut down the wide side and intead of making a U, I made a long V. That would make for a triangular shape at the front of the boat. I pretty much just bossed Sam around until he made it exactly how I had imagined it. Then, I cut windows and cannon holes into it. I made Sam get dressed and run down near the bridge and retrieve the piece of thick cardboard roll I had seen out there. Since it was slightly damp still, it was easy-ish to cut into a shorter length to make a cannon. Then, I had him take the more narrow cardboard roll and create a sort of duct tape "cup" in a hole cut into the boat. We stuck the "mast" down in there and then Sam duct taped the heck out of it. While he did this, I juxtaposed between working on the fishing net until my back and shoulders hurt and then I'd go into my office and print out paper fish for the kids to color and cut out the next day to help with the sea scene I had envisioned on the walls of our hallway to make for a more pirate-y experience.

I didn't get much sleep. I got up and had Ryan and Lily coloring and cutting fish. Antonia arrived early and started helping with the decorations, too. She insisted on cutting out the wavy blue paper lines I had drawn for waves.

I didn't get done everything I had wanted. I HAD wanted to paint a "treasure map" of our apartment on a wooden puzzle I had found at the craft store, but I never got to it. Instead, I hand drew a treasure map, crumpled it up and then tore it into pieces. I had also wanted to have a bean bag toss game with little homemade bean bags that they were toss into a skull and cross bones painted onto a cardboard box but I didn't have time to make either the bean bags OR the skull/crossbones. :-(

I got the goodie bags filled with tattoos, stickers, pencils and chocolate money in little skull and crossbone bags and hid them in my treasure chest.

I made a pear-flavored cake (with real mashed up pears) in the shape of a square, let it cool and then cut it in half. I used cream to make whipped cream and then mashed up some bananas (Ryan had specifically requested bananas in the cake). I mixed some of the whipped cream and bananas together and made a middle layer for the cake before putting the top back on. I took most of the rest of the whipped cream and colored it blue with food coloring and covered the cake as best as I could. Then I took a little and made it green and formed an island on one corner of the cake. Then, I look what was left and made it brown. I wrote "Ryan" down at the bottom and then traced a sort of treasure hunt swirling line that looped around and finally ended up at the island where I marked a big X. Then, I put in some pirate candles in the shapes of a ship, a scimitar, a Jolly Roger, a pirate hat and a parrot around in "water" as though he had to move around the candles to get to the island where I placed a final candle in the shape of a treasure chest. I also put two wooden palm trees on the island.

When that was done, I chucked it into the fridge to keep it from melting and made chocolate cupcakes for everyone to take home.

I also made a cardboard chain and anchor for the ship and pinned the fish to the wall.

Then, as guests started to arrive, I answered our interphone with a gravel-y pirate voice and told 'em what floor we lived on. After all the parents were gone, I sat all the scallywags down on the couch and gave them this speech.

Pirates are not born. They are MADE. First of all, you'll all need head scarves to hold back your mangey hair. [Here, I tied scarves onto each of their heads.] And in order to cover up your worm-eaten dead eye, you'll need an eye patch. [Here I passed out eye patches with the Jolly Roger on them--purchased at Hobby Lobby or Michael's or Party City in Charlotte while I was in the States.] You'll ALSO need a golden earring. [Passed those out.] And because you only have one good eye, you'll need your spy glass. [Passed out little pirate-themed telescopes.] And because one good eye needs all the help you can get, you'll need a little direction. [Here, I passed out golden compasses (that actually work, btw).] And now... You've been made into pirates! I suggest you go get in your ship and get to buccaneering.

Or something like that... I said it in French but in my pirate's voice. Nathalie, my neighbor, who had come to help me with the party stood there watching me as though she thought I had smoked a fat doobie. She obviously doesn't know me very well, eh? Those of you who know me and who have seen The Joelie Show know that this was just par for the course. When grown-ups aren't around, I'm pretty cool.

As the scallywags and mateys pirated around, I jumped back and forth between cooking fish sticks and taking pictures. Before long, there was a pile of "fish and chips" (no, literally... fish sticks and potato chips, LOL!) on the table as well as fruit juice and a pile of gummy candies in the shapes of fishes and worms. I called the pirates in to munch and heard Nathalie say the weirdest thing: "I bet you guys have never had fish sticks at a birthday party, have you?"

Turns out, birthday parties are all about candy. So strange to me, that. All the parties I went to had salty snacks and then cake and ice cream. But here, the candy seems to be even more important than the birthday cake. Didn't matter, they scarfed down half of the fish and chips and loved it, so PPPLLLLLBBTTT on any grown-up French people who want to make fun of me. Stupids. Their kids haven't had fish sticks at a pirate party before? Look at all the fun they have been missing!

Anyway, after that, I brought in the treasure map and sprinkled it's torn pieces onto the table. I gave 'em a roll of tape and said, in my pirate voice: "You wantcher treasure, eh? Well, then yer gonna hafta piece together the map, aintcha?" Nathalie helped them. I guess she was sick of it all. She teaches high school kids and maybe she is good with them, but she seemed a little bored of all this fun. *shrug* Anyway, once they got the map together, they figured out where the treasure trunk was and RAN all at once to find it. You should have SEEN Ryan's face when he found it and opened it up and saw REAL treasure in there!!! LOL! I'm so sorry I didn't get it on camera. He was VERY impressed with the whole treasure hunt thing.

After that, we all gathered into the dining room again to light the candles on the cake. As I brought the cake into the room, the kids started singing Happy Birthday in French. And then they launched into it in English and Spanish. But the strangest thing was that instead of beaming ear to ear, Ryan looked very uncomfortable. He looked like he was going to cry. It was then that I realized that Ryan is mini-Sam. Sam cries about EVERYTHING. He's a major sap. I mean, I am, too, but you just don't get the privilege of witnessing this squishy-heartedness in a little boy too often. Ryan was nearly in tears because he was overwhelmed with emotion. He pulled it together long enough to blow out the candles. And the cake was AWESOME if I do say so myself. Nathalie ended up having three pieces!

After that, we opened up presents. Every single one (excep the one I got him) was pirate-themed. Two different pirate books with constructible models (and one even had figurines). A pirate raincoat! Two decks of pirate playing cards. A pirate Lego set. Another pirate book with pop-ups! It was awesome. We put the presents aside and I blew up the three inflatable scimitars I had bought and fished my bubble pistol down from its hiding spot... but bad news--it didn't work. Sucks, too, because I think they would have had a blast swordfighting with the bubbles.

Instead, one of the kids, the only other Ryan-aged boy, decided to play keep-the-balloon-off-of-the-floor. That worked because I had blown up several black balloons. All the kids got involved and that kept them busy for quite a little while. About that time, Sam came home early (insert choir of angels here) and started playing with the kids. He sword faught and then played pirate cards with a small group. Pirates started leaving around 5:30 but the last one didn't leave until 6:30 (by which time I had actually passed out in my bed from exhaustion.

How about some pix?

Making a net:
Step one:

Step two:

Finished products:

Pirate cake:



Treasure hunt:

Pirate ship:

Overcome with emotion:

Make a wish:


Post-rum merrymaking:

So, you're thinking to yourselves, "NOW she's going to calm down and rest." Oh, but you know me better. Okay, so I did go on strike on Thursday after Ryan's Wednesday birthday party. I lay around and read, played on FB, did laundry, stuff like that. I was still REALLY hurting from the whole week and I was a little worried but I was ALSO really glad to be so busy. It kept my mind off of it.

On Friday, I made two big batches of salt dough (basically play dough), rolled it out thin, cut it with cookie cutters, poked a hole in it with a skewer and baked it nice and slowly so it would dry out. I had invited Iva, Vlad and Iva's sister-in-law/kids and Antonia and another little girl (Laure) to come over and paint Christmas ornaments AND cut snowflakes for Saturday.

THEN, as a fluke, we got an email from one of the kids who hadn't made it to Ryan's birthday party... he was responding that he'd be able to come to Ryan's party on Saturday. Sam wrote them back and told them that they had been confused but that the little boy was welcome to come over with us and do crafts. So, in the end, we had another 8 kids for the afternoon. It was a lot of fun! We painted, cut the snowflakes, I made a huge omelette and pasta for lunch. But by evening, I was exhausted and things weren't over yet. I HAD been invited to Iva's for a party and she had borrowed Ryan and taken him over to her house to play for awhile. But because I just couldn't hang, Sam went and picked Ryan up, dropped off the bottle I had planned to take and came home.

I lay down for a little while but the medicine I had taken for pain had given me the jitters. So, I figured, I might as well get up and start making food for the next day. My in-laws would be arriving at any moment. They were coming in late Saturday night to see the Festival of Lights. They would spend the night, all five of them, and have a Thanksgiving-esque lunch the next day.

So, Sunday, I basically re-created Thanksgiving them. The chicken we hadn't cooked for Thanksgiving got plucked, gutted, stuffed with apples, clementines and onions and cooked. I heated up all the leftovers and made some fresh mashed taters and fresh gravy. I made two fresh pies (there was still pecan left over, so I made a pumpkin and an apple pie) and a new batch of chocolate chip cookies AND some no-bakes cuz I know my sister in law likes them.

It was actually a great visit. They came in late after walking around looking at the light shows with Sam for about three or four hours. By the time they got back, I had all the beds made up. We got up early the next morning and had a simple breakfast of bread, coffee, tea and hot chocolate. My sister in law, her husband and the two youngest boys (late teens/early twenties) all went to the morning mass at the St. Jean cathedral in Old Lyon. Their oldest stayed here and chatted about his new girlfriend and then went to Bernachon (the snooty snotty chocolate store) to buy her some chocolate. By the time they all got back, everything was ready to eat and they oohed and ahhhed over it all. And, I admit, it was good... Maybe even better than Thanksgiving. *cringe* I think I just like chicken better as a meat than I do turkey.

Later in the afternoon, they sat around and munched on cookies and watched me and the kids decorate the Christmas tree.

It wasn't until AFTER they left that I finally thought, "Huh. I'm done." It was like November had stretched its arms for a week into December and it was finally over. As you see from that first post above, the backlash, the down time was a little depressing.


How to make salt dough: 2 cups flour, 1 cup salt

Make a "well"

Add 1 cup of warm water

Stir from the middle and make a soft dough

Knead into a ball

Roll out thin

Press cookie cutter shapes

Pull off excess dough (then re-knead the left overs and roll flat)

Poke a "hang hole" into a balanced place somewhere with a toothpick/skewer

Put 'em on a cookie sheet

Cook at a low temp for several hours (making sure they don't bubble up)

Painting salt dough ornaments:

Painting is hard work:

Cutting paper snowflakes:

The aftermath:


Decking the halls... or, well... the tree at least:

Lily in her Winter program (she's the PLATINUM BLONDE in a pink skirt):

And since then, things have sort of gone down hill health wise. I went back to the urologist to talk to him about the peeing fire thing and to ask if he could take the thing out now. He said, "Uh, NO, you're supposed to keep it until you're 20 weeks." Ummmmm, remember when he proposed the damn thing to me? Do you remember him saying anything about 20 weeks? No, neither did I. I said, "I thought you said after the first trimester we could do an X-ray and then take it out." He giggled and said, "Nooooo." Then, he proceeded to tell me that if I wanted it out that badly, I would still have to wait until January because all the doctors would be on vacation--himself included. I wanted to slap him. I asked if there was anything I could take for the near constant pain. He said no. I burst into tears as we left the clinic. France's pain management SUCKS, yo. I remember a doctor in Houston gave me Vicodin for a cough when I was pregnant with Lolo. Nothing bad happened to her. So, why can't they give me something of the equivalent HERE when I can now barely walk?

I'm not exaggerating. Walking to Lily's school takes me 20 minutes (used to take 7). I waddle all doubled over in pain. I go to bed at 8:30 because I can't stand the pain. I can't be up on me feet for more than two hours at a time. It finally got so bad that Sam called the urologist and made a actual appointment to have it removed. The doctor said that while I'm under, he'll go in there with a camera try to find the stone and hopefully fetch it out of there. *crossing fingers* I just want it all out. You know, I LOVE being pregnant. LOVE it... But not this time. All this crap is really bumming out my pregnancy. Blah. I know, wah wah wah.

Well, I think that has you all caught up on most things. Ryan got in a fight at school and got sent to the director's office. He also came home with a fiery drawing with Nazi symbols all over it. *eye roll* There's more. He's becoming a "troubled" boy. GREAT! His academic examination came home with lots of equivs of Fs and Ds on it. But man if you could see the shit they expect a 5/6 year old to do!!! I'm not worried. I sincerely believe that the fact that Ryan can read, write in cursive and do basic math is good enough. I'm not going to push and pressure him to do more than he can. I wanted to use our Christmas vacation time to introduce him to reading in English, but I don't think I have the patience and energy with all this stent business going on.

Plus, as I told my sister yesterday, I've discovered that Ryan's a lazy bum... For one, Flavia bought him a construction set for his birthday that is brick and has real cement with it. You build one of the models and then when you want to build something different, you submerge the whole thing in water and the cement dissolves! Cool, huh? Wouldn't you give your left nut to do that with one of your parents? So, he bugs and bugs and bugs Sam until they finally find some Saturday time to do it. Fifteen minutes into it, Ryan doesn't want to anymore. It's "too much work." *eye roll*

On Wednesday, I ask him to come lie down with me in my room and talk. I say, "Tell me about school, Ry. Tell me what's going on." He starts whining about school in French. I say, "No, tell me in English." He says, "Well, I don't know how." Okay, I get that, but dude... it's my responsability that he remember his English and it's getting to the point that he's forgotten a LOT of it. He seems to speak the same English he spoke when he got here... saying "duh" for "the" and stuff like that. So, I say, "Well, just start talking and I'll tell you the words you need when you need 'em." He opens his mouth and then says, "I don't know. I forgot."

"You forgot what happened in school yesterday?"

He nods his head.

I roll my eyes.

"Well, Ryan, you're going to have to start paying better attention. Attention in class and attention in school in general. I want you to be able to come home and tell me what you've done during the day and I want to hear it in English. Do you realize that if you don't do well in school, you won't be able to get a good job and then you won't have a place to live?"

He looks at me, furrows his brow and then earnestly says, "But, Mom, I'm gonna live HERE."


Can you see it now? My 26 year old Ryan living on my couch and eating my food? Borrowing my car? DUDE!!!

And then, this week, he bugged and bugged and bugged me to help him put together the solar system model I got him for his birthday. It's a model that you paint first. So, on Saturday, he got up from his nap and said, "I'm here just in time."

"Just in time for what, Ry?"

"In time to do the planets, Mom!"

I sigh and give up. I walk into the dining room and lay out the model pieces and start to work on it. I tell him he has to do the basic colors and I'll do all the highlights and details. So, listen, all the kid has to do is cover a SMALL sphere with pain, yo. And then blow it dry. I've already put the planet halves together, put it on its post and sanded it.

We're working backwards, so he's done Neptune and Uranus while I'm working on Saturn and then he says with a sigh, "Mom, I'm gonna go play now."

"You're WHO?"

"Well, this is just too hard. I don't want to do it any more."

I said, "Get your ass back here and pick up that planet book and tell me what color Jupiter is!"

And he did. But I think Jupiter was his tipping point. After that, he really wanted nothing to do with it.

Half an hour later, there I was, sitting alone at the table, still painting planets. I even did all the glow in the dark paint that comes with it. *sigh* Little creep. Lazy bum.

I called my sister and told her about it and she said, "Well, get use to it because M (her EIGHT YEAR OLD) is the same way... Guess who always ends up doing all the school projects and diaramas while someone short watches TV? Yeah, Mom!"


Look, just as long as he's off my couch by the time he's thirty, okay?

On that note, I'm gonna get the heck out of here. It has taken me all day to write this crap and I'm sure it'll take you all day (or two) to read it and make it through all the pix. Sorry about that. This time, I'm making NO PROMISES about being in here on Mondays like I used to. You know how it goes. But I'm sure I'll have shit to gripe about (already do), so I'll be back in here as soon as I can.

Until then, enjoy the ketchup.

Rein Lily:

Two dear deer:

My first tartiflette!!!:

Silhouette of our Christmas tree (it's snowing outside, that's why it's so white):


Close up of Christmas tree: