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Disappearing acts…

March 18, 2010

Auriane learned how to ride a bike without training wheels this winter.  Her favorite biking path is down the driveway between the house and the caveau directly at a wall, at top speed.  A blue and pink princess helmet eliminated a touch of my fear.  That is, when it can be found.  Such is the case in the country, bike riding is part of a whole day of  adventures.  When the majority of your day is spent outside exploring, one moment you’re on a bike, the next you’re digging in the dirt, the next you’re climbing a tree, then back on the bike – the helmet comes off at some point during the exploring and is forgotten for the next bike ride.  Apart from the vision of her crashing head first into the wall, is that she hasn’t figured out how to use the breaks.  Her feet/shoes are the breaks.  As she nears this wall, feet come off the pedals and drag through the gravel and grass until she stops. 

Recently, she and Olivia have taken to greater adventures;  riding their bikes on ‘long haul’ journey’s beyond permitted bounds, ie:  outside the courtyard.  These journey’s  involve packing a backpack with necessities such as flip-flops, water, chalk, utensils and other kitchen items, lipstick swiped from my purse, and whatever else they deem necessary on any give adventure.  The problem is, the journey’s have turned into disappearing acts. 

Yesterday Raphael was helping me with lunch so that I could have a much needed rest.  As I drifted off to sleep, I heard Raphael call  ‘a table.’  Moments later I heard it again.  Then I heard him call out their names from two different locations.  My dream laden mind perked up to the events going on outside my window.  Soon after, I heard the door bang open down in my in-laws house and another call for Olivia.  Once more I heard him call out her name, this time from the direction of the cave.  I was fully awake by this point and listening attentively.  The winery door slammed shut and I heard the crunch of tires on the gravel parking lot as Raphael rushed out in his truck.  At this I jumped out of bed my fatigue replaced by anxious adrenaline.  I ran to the window and looked out just as Raphael pulled back in with both Olivia and Auriane in his truck.  They had taken their bikes out to the main road on an adventure.  Every adult in the house started in on them as they cowered against the wall like trapped mice. 

 When our fear subsided, we explained he problem with them riding their bikes on this road.  It is the width of a single car, although it is a two-way road which winds and the curves have limited view. It’s travelled mostly by locals but the problem with this is that the locals are so used to the curves that they tend to drive too fast, Raphael included.   I can understand the appeal, however.  While we have sufficient space to ride a bike in our courtyard, it consists mostly of bumpy stone terraces, gravel and grass.  We’ve explained to the girls that while this nicely paved road is easier to navigate, (Imagine the speed the must get going down the slight slopes.  My heart shutters.)  it is very dangerous because the cars can’t see them and they drive too fast.  Then we reminded them that they can’t leave home without asking us.  I don’t think they got it.  Our property boarders both sides of the majority of the road.  To the girls, they are home. 

After sending to their room, I reminded Raphael of something he once told me.  At the same age of Auriane, he once spent an entire afternoon hiding in his room, ignoring the calls from his parents.  When they went to search for him in his room, he hid behind the door.  As the search made its way outside, he remained quiet, listening to their calls and only becoming scared when he no longer heard anything.  The search had extended beyond the house.  This lasted for three or four hours until they returned home to find him waiting for them.  His behind was quite sore for the next few days.  I wanted him to realize that, while dangerous and not permitted, the girls little adventure was nothing unusual.


Mad mornings

March 15, 2010



I spent 20 minutes chasing a folded piece of paper around the parking lot of Carrefour this morning thanks to the wind.  It fell out of my pocket when I reached for my keys and fearing it might contain some important information, I hesitated only a moment before beginning the chase.  It blew under my car and as I reached for it, the wind took it across the grassy divider into the next lane and under another car, and so on.  Upon retrieval, I discovered it was a notice from the school reminding parents that the kids would celebrate Carnival on Friday and Angeline must be dressed in her déguisement at home.  This would be a hugely important notice if it had been stuck to my refrigerator door.  Lost in the depths of my coat pocket, it is useless and I’m likely to forget. 

Note:  Do not forget to dress Angeline in her costumer Friday morning. 

There are days when I wonder if my decision to have another child was wise.  These are the days when just getting the kids off to school, forget about on time, seems and insurmountable task – preparing breakfast, and a slice of brioche slapped with a layer of Nutella or a bowl of cereal hardly counts as preparing;  finding matching shoes, hats and often coats;  foraging through the cupboard for the goûtez.   It’s not so much performing these tasks as the constant pushing and arguing that come with them.  The never-ceasing argument over what to wear.  Who would’ve thought that begins at the age of two?  It’s the youngest two who give me the most problems in this area insisting on a dress or an outfit resembling a dress, like leggings and a long shirt, on a daily basis.  It must also be the proper color – blues, greens and basically anything other than pink or purple, will not do.  One girl must not be dressed ‘prettier’ than the other.  This is evaluated based on color, fullness of skirt or whether or not the dress boasts ruffles.  Oh, and “skirts do NOT count as a dress, Mommy.”  They put up less of a fight over shoes.  Although that might be because I hide their favorites – the ballerina’s, patent leather flats, and shiny summer sandals.  Auriane does have issues with comfort, however.  The line of her tights must fall precisely along the tip of her toes.  Her underwear must be roomy and yet not twist under those tights.  Turtlenecks must not be too tight, ie:  they must sag.  I have to admit, I had issues with tights when I was her age.  I hated how they would slip down between my legs and sag.  I used to wear a second pair of underwear on top to hold them up.  I had forgotten about this until Auriane’s issues.  

Hair brushing is a necessary evil and Monday mornings are the worst.  After a weekend when, in order to preserve the sanity of all involved, hair brushing is optional.  Olivia gives it a try when she’s in the mood.  This involves running a baby brush down each side of her heat the putting on a head band.  They’re allowed to choose their own clothes on the weekend as well provided they are weather appropriate.  If that means the orange fluorescent tights that they begged me for under a pink sundress, so be it.  Just as long as they don’t forget the red and white striped turtleneck underneath.  

 My girls are morning people, usually up and bothering my mother-in-law before Raphael and I stir.  One of the pluses of living with grandparents.  The girls are just not too fond of school, or at least, being rushed to go to school.  And so they drag, they daydream, they take ten minutes to put one leg through their underwear.  So I dress them.  One by one, even Olivia.  She’s the biggest daydreamer of the three and the only one who actually has to work in school so you can guess how much desire she has to go.   

There will come a day, I know, when all this will end.  They’ll dress themselves, brush their own hair and teeth and ignore my lovingly prepared breakfast as they rush off to school.  I’ll be sad and think nostalgically back on the days when we both got excited to dress for school in a real fairy dress. 


Detoxing on cheese and wine…

March 4, 2010

I caught a terrifying glimpse of myself in the living room mirror yesterday while doing my Denise Austin Pregnancy Plus workout.  The sight embarrassed me so much I had to close the curtains just in case a neighbor happened to be spying on the hefty pregnant lady. 

My eating habits while in the states are borderline disgusting.  I have this tendency to fill up on all the things I miss out on in France – really just the junk food.  During the past two and a half weeks my meals have included, but are not limited to, twice McDonald’s (which I don’t miss as it exists in France), twice pizza delivery, twice Long John Silvers, one Krispy Kreme and one local doughnut joint,  Olive Garden and Bahama Breeze along with some local Italian place, one Grand Country Buffet and one Texas Roadhouse, and let’s not forget the Chinese Buffet’s breaded and deep fried sweet and sour chicken.  And I never made it to the Brighton Hot Dog Shoppe which will have to wait until the next visit.  I’ve had enough.  I feel ill just thinking about it.  I feel like I need a detox of cheese, saucisson and wine.  Or maybe I should try Mireille Guiliano’s Magic Leek Diet of “French Women Don’t Get Fat” fame.  Maybe not while pregnant.  She should consider writing a book entitled “French Women Don’t Get Fat While Pregnant.”

When I discovered I wasn’t returning to France this week I made an evening run to the grocery store for salad and vegetables.  For the last few days I’ve eaten spinach salad with diced red and yellow peppers and whole grain pasta with a sauce made of veggies sautéed in olive oil.   I even bought some pomegranate juice to help with the detox.

I am in fear of my upcoming midwife appointment because, on the contrary to my doctor, she delights in pointing out my weight gain.  With my first or second child (all the pregnancies are starting to run together) she asked me if I was eating McDonald’s every day.  “No,” I replied.  “Just a daily breakfast of brioche with Nutella.”  I got an okay for brioche and a scowl for the Nutella.

With each pregnancy my weight gain has gone down significantly.  With Olivia I had just moved permanently to France, quit my job as a flight attendant, and was discovering Raphael’s long work days.  I was bored.  I still had the American perception that pregnancy = free eating, anything and everything at anytime.  I gained probably 60 pounds.  (I stopped weighing myself at 8 and a half months.)  I was still in my 20’s and lost all that extra weight within 6 months without exercising.  

Moving along three years to baby number two.  I determined not to gain so much.  I changed doctors (but not midwives).  At about 6 months, after my obligatory weigh-in, I got the look when I reported the reading on the scale (I round down.) – raised eyebrows.  I shrugged sheepishly.  He said that my weight is my concern.  I’m the one who has to lose it after.  I gained 45 pounds and it took one year to lose it all with exercise.  Wouldn’t you know, the same month, Auriane’s one year birthday, I got pregnant again.  So much for that weight loss. 

With Angeline I was determined to be French.  I bought my Denise Austin with the intention of doing it religiously.  French women would hardly exercise during pregnancy but not having those skinny French genes, I have to do what I can to fake it.  I did exercise, off and on, and managed to gain only about 30 pounds.  Not bad, I thought with a pat on the back.  I guess, the midwife said, for an American.  This time I needed almost two years and much more exercise to lose it all.  I’d give up if it weren’t for some favorite clothes in the smaller size and well, living amidst those French genes doesn’t help.  Wouldn’t you know, the same month I saw my goal weight on the scale, pregnant again.  Thus…Denise Austin as much as possible.   I am no longer in my 20’s.

The fact that my weight gain has decreased with each pregnancy is irrelevant to my midwife.  She informed me at four months that I must not have a 20 kilo, or about 45 pounds, weight gain.  I’ll have her know that I recently read that Heidi Klum gained 45 pounds with each of her 4 kids.  Okay, so I’m no Heidi Klum before pregnancy and can’t I compare during pregnancy.  Given my mirror sighting above, apparently all that fast food has put me over the approved weight gain limit, by midwife standards.

When we told the girls they were going to have a baby brother or sister we mentioned that when my belly gets bigger they could feel the baby move.  Raphael even said that sometimes we can see the outline of the baby’s foot.  “Highly unlikely,” I rolled my eyes in his direction.  That has never happened with any of my pregnancies.  I have too much padding around the middle.  That only happens to thin French women.


Feeding time

February 18, 2010

Photo of the day…


I know of no other male species who would accept this;  Kitty happily taking a nap on the couch when the girls decided that his ‘babies’ needed to eat. 

Feeding time

And the answer is…

February 3, 2010

Olivia and Auriane with a newborn Angeline in the family berceau.


So of course, the night before my 9:20 am sonogram, our youngest, Angeline, woke up at about 1:30 am sick.  She had already been coughing for about 20 minutes.  At least that’s how long I lay awake listening to her before I decided she wasn’t going to calm down on her own and I needed to give her some cough sirop.  I don’t believe cough medicine works but I knew I would hear about it if she kept coughing and I couldn’t say I treated her in any way.  I was right, she continued to cough for another 10 minutes.  I decided to sleep on the couch holding her in an upright position thinking it was the drainage of her cold while lying down that was making her cough.  I just finished getting the couch ready with a pillow and blankets when I heard it, the gagging reflex that was the sign of a child vomiting.  And sick two-year olds don’t really think about running to the toilet before they’re going to be sick.  I ran in, too late of course.  She was just gearing up for the second round and knowing I would never get her to the bathroom on time, I grabbed a pair of dirty pj’s lying beside the bed and held them under her chin.  Meanwhile, Auriane, with whom she shares a double bed, finally woke up.  I sent her to our bed with a still sleeping Raphael.  When the worst of it was over, I took her to our bathroom, got us both cleaned up and into our bed, making it four in the bed.  After a few more bouts with the toilet and one or two on a towel on our bed, I detoured to the ready couch and left the kids with Raphael.  So, after spending most of the night with Angeline and her gastro, a stomach virus, I wondered as I lay on the couch, would I get to the doctor in the morning for my appointment?    We made it with a much better Angeline along for the show.  And finally learned the highly anticipated words… 


It’s a girl! 

And then last night, it was olivia’s turn to be sick. 


Will it be a boy or a girl?…

February 2, 2010


Raphael and the two oldest.

Today’s the big day.  My fifth month sonogram.  The big one during which we will hopefully find out the sex of the baby.  Yes, we’re crossing our fingers for a boy.  So are the girls.  At lunch yesterday, Raphael asked them if they wanted a boy or a girl.  They all said a boy.  If they get their wish, this is going to be one spoiled baby boy with three older sister. 

They’ve begun talking about my ever-expanding belly;  touching it and asking if the baby is okay.  They routinely pull up their shirts to show me where their baby is growing.  I don’t remember Olivia having so much interest in my previous two pregnancy’s.  Auriane’s future goal is to be a mommy and then a teacher, because, as she points out, “I can do both mommy.”

Saturday night I dreamt that I was pregnant with twins, on girl and one boy.  I already know there is only one.  The twins part came because we had our good friends over Saturday and they have 3 month old twin boys.  In my dream, sadly, I lost one of the baby’s, the boy and was left with another girl.  I say another in memory of the dream.  While we hope for a boy, we’ve both admitted that we don’t know what to do with one, we’re so used to girls.  Then next morning, after I told Raphael my dream, he said it was a sign that we are having a girl.  He believes strongly in signs. 

In France, a pregnant woman is entitled to three sonograms, one during each trimester.  In fact, the first is considered highly important and is necessary in the 12th and 13th week.  If you miss this window, they see no reason for you to have the first trimester sonogram.  The main importance of this sonogram is to check the size of the neck to determine whether there is a risk of Downs Syndrome.  In addition to the neck measurement, the doctor also asks at this check up if we’re interested in doing a blood test as a second level test for Downs Syndrome.  The blood test, like the neck size, is no guarantee that the fetus has the syndrome.  They are statistical tests.  According to a gynecologist friend of ours who specializes in infertility, the blood test results are so irregular that one day you could have results that place you in the high possibility the baby has Downs Syndrome and the next day fall below the range of possibility.  For Olivia, as a first time pregnant woman, I elected to have the test.  If fell into the highly likely percentile.  The next step was an amniocentisis to extract some amniotic fluid and do a DNA test.  This is the only test that accurately confirms or rules out Downs Syndrome. 

I remember the day we got the call that said we fell into the high risk percentile.  In our concern, Raphael immediately called his friend and was told not to worry.  We decided to go through with the amniocentesis anyway and thankfully, the results were negative.  With Auriane the blood test was in the low percentile and with Auriane the blood test results were once again in the high range but this time we elected not to have the amnio.  By this point, after giving much thought to what if, we knew we would never abort a baby no matter what the circumstances.  And abortion is ultimately the reason for this test.  If the baby is confirmed to have Downs Syndrome in the first trimester, the parents can choose to abort the fetus. 

This time, we elected not to even have the blood test.

Now we’re at the second trimester sonogram and I’m sure there’s a medical reason for it, but at the moment for me, it’s the “Boy or Girl” test.  So, a plutard….


A Winemakers Blessing

January 26, 2010

Sunday, we almost lost Angeline, for about five minutes.  Before I tell you the story, let me mention that this is the child I called chunk as an infant due to her roly-poly roundness. 

It was the celebration of St Vincent, the patron saint of all wine makers.  In our town this is a weekend event.  Representatives from the towns in Germany and Italy with which we are twin cities,  Jumelages,  make the trek to Bourg St Andeol to participate in the celebratory mass.   The guests of honor are the various commanderie’s, or brotherhoods represented in town;  of Cotes du Rhone, Olive farmers. 

They don their robes and funky hats and take their seats in the very first pews.  Shortly before the communion,  members from each commanderie makes his or her way to the rear of the church and chooses a basket, bushel or plate of various offerings to place at the foot of the altar.

This year we arrived at the mass on time, in fact, I should say this week.  We tend to get to the church just before communion.  Our early arrival, okay, we weren’t exactly on time but we arrived before the sermon, granted us a prime seat on the side aisle, right next to the rows of commanderie members, all of whom we know. 

When it was time for the procession to the altar, the two oldest girls were invited to carry a candle to place on the altar.  I remember as a child, participating in numerous activities that brought me to the front of the church;  children’s choir, youth service, Easter and Christmas pageants.  But in France, in this particular Diocese at least, there are not many church events which involve the kids, so anything they get asked to do, I encourage.  The active participation  makes church less of a boring hour sitting on a hard bench and being continuously hushed. 

After the service, our prime seating became a problem for a speedy departure, at least for the adults.  The brotherhoods, along with the local band, line up in the center aisle and make their way in a parade from the church to the apéritif , a 2 minute walk around to the end of the block and around the corner.  We got stuck behind the line up.  The kids however, slippery little girls that they are, darted and snaked their way between the lines out to the front of the church to watch the parade.  By the time I made my way out a side door, I found I was on the opposite side of the road from the girls.   I scanned the people and quickly spotted Olivia.  Soon after I saw Auriane, but no Angeline. 

The brotherhood’s, thinking of that first glass of Cotes du Rhone, were quickly lining up down the center of the road preparing to march off to the sound of the brass band.   Now this street, which curves around the side of the church, is one way and cobblestoned.  It is not a two lane main street blocked off with police escort so that hundreds of people can watch the parade.  But the 20 or so people milling about mingling with the parade waiting to follow behind to the apéro, managed to block my way and my view to the other side. 

“Olivia” I called waving to get her attention.  “Where’s Angeline?”  This elicited a shrug and a glance to either side.  I darted between the parade just as they began their march spotting my father-in-law nearby.  I asked if he’s seen her.  “Angeline?  She is outside?”  Yes, I nodded making my way to the small parking lot on the side of the church.  A quick look told me she wasn’t there.  At this point only about 5 minutes had passed since the girls snuck out of the church ahead of us and honestly, I really wasn’t worried.  Back on the main road, I fell in step with the parade, trying in vain to bypass the elderly women slowly making their way to the apéritif.  I reached the end of the road, rounded the corner and behold, Angeline, standing in front of our favorite bakery, watching the parade with her little red sac in one hand and three bags of bon bon’s in the other hand.  You see, Angeline know’s where to get the good stuff.  She apparently made her way out of  the church, decided she needed a snack, marched herself to the only bakery where she know’s exactly where to find the rack of candy, helped herself, and installed herself on a prime corner to watch the parade. 

Face red, more with embarrassment than worry, I whipped the still unopened bags of candy from her hand, snuck into the bakery with a howling Angeline behind, apologized to the woman behind the counter whom I see almost daily, replaced the bon bon’s and turned to leave.  Angeline and I did not see eye to eye as this action was met with little red sac and pacifier being hurled to the ground followed closely by her hat being ripped off her head launched at the feet of the entering customer.  Ten minutes after finally escaping the bakery with the kid and all her stuff, minus bon bon’s, I had to go back.  I forgot to buy bread!