Friday, August 29, 2014

Little Big Girl

Next Tuesday Juliette starts the equivalent of first grade.  In France it's called CP, for cours préparatoire.  I thought her first year of pre-school was going to be tough on me.  Seeing my little three-year old (at that time) go to school turned out to not be as excruciating as I had imagined (though my eyes did get moist!).  Now she's an old hat at this school thing.  But first grade is in a different school and now she'll be rubbing shoulders with much bigger kids.

Little one looking quite the star!
I'm already worrying about her attitude changing.  Lately she seems to be six going on 13 in terms of her tone.  I know it's just her age and that other kids in this age group are starting to backtalk and complain about not making decisions in their lives.  But it makes me think that the true teen years and especially the tween years are not far off.

I guess every generation says it, but kids do seem to be growing up super fast these days.  Blame it on TV, technology, our own attitudes, whatever.  Sometimes it seems childhood ends at 10 and girls face more pressure in terms of body image.  Seven-year olds worrying about their weight is not unheard of nowadays.  And I want to hold on to my little one as much, and as long, as I can.

So I cherish those hugs around my neck, though sometimes they pull my hair.  I smile to myself when she says hilarious things like, wouldn't it be cool if kids were born before the parents?  And I hope we've still got some good years of playing with her toys, if only because she's got so many of them! I'm relieved she still likes Disney shows and riding carousels. And I'll try to face every new challenge, and every inch she grows with courage and by being grateful that she's in my world.

Happy back to school time to parents, teachers, and of course, kids, all around!

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Are you like me sometimes, are you desperately caught up in your own head dramas?  You know that you should think about how lucky you are compared to 3/4's of the world's population, but you still find yourself obsessing about finding the right cushion for a chair or feeling bummed when there's nothing good on tv.  Or staring at the circles under your eyes all the while making critical remarks in your head about how that lady looks rather trashy in her ultra short skirt.  Yes, we all do it.  Maybe Mother Theresa never did, but we can't all be her. 

I'm not perfect.  I'll never be a saint.  I fall off the "goodness" wagon quite often.  I'm not talking about alcohol but trying to be a kind, uncritical, live by the golden rule kind of person. 

And I go on the Internet way too much.

But sometimes that's a good thing.  Because, guess what, sometimes surfing Facebook and checking your email over your morning coffee is more productive than you'd imagine.  Dare I say, even a source of inspiration.

I found two such gems this week thanks to a FB friend and my mom.  The FB one is by another mommy blogger (who is much more wildly successful than me, not that I'm jealous or anything ;) .  And in her post she reminds us in fact to be a lot more grateful with what we have.  But she does it in a graceful and not in your face way.  Take a look

My mom passes lots of cool things along to me, and this week she sent a nice link to Kid President giving us advice on "Twenty Things We Should Say More Often".  And it's true.  And this kid is so naturally funny and happy despite having a bone disorder that could make his life a bit more miserable than your average kid. 

And even chillin' on the couch can lead to some inspiration if you're watching the right stuff!  Remi happened upon this lovely little movie that really warmed my heart with its fresh take on love and rebuilding yourself.  It's a bittersweet film called La Délicatesse with the actress from Amélie.  I love the quirky Swedish guy's characer in this.

So maybe I'm not completely on the path of eternal optimism and continual acts of kindness.  But I know where to look for inspiration.

What's inspired you lately?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Comfort in a foreign land

Sounds a bit like a movie title, but in fact it's part of a blog hop created by the very imaginative and thoughtful author of EnglishGirlCanadianMan.  That is her expat theme of the week and I thought I'd put my two cents in.  See her lovely motto below.

English Girl Canadian Man

I've been in France for nearly 12 years now.  One of the questions my students often ask me when they learn I'm American is how often I go back home (though they usually mangle the grammar and say something like "you go back how long?") or if I miss my family.  To which I reply with a somewhat forced smile, once a year if I can, every year and a half if money is tight.  And, yes, of course I miss my family.

After 12 years I suppose I'm getting a little better with the distance, and I'd say that since I've had a child, I feel like I've got a little bit of America in my living room with me.  But there are certainly still moments when a joke I tell in French falls flat or my six-year old announces to me that she's decided she's just gonna speak French now (luckily she hasn't kept good on that one, but she's definitely conversing a lot more with me in French, sigh!).  And then I feel a bit alone indeed.

So what can I do?  Like Holly said on her blog, a nice cup of tea with friends is one of my go to remedies.  I'm absolutely spoiled to have stumbled upon some great friends here in France, both expats and natives, who are in the same mindset as me and are eager to gather for a cuppa.  It always lifts my spirits.  Muffins and cakes certainly don't hurt!

Watch something in English.  Luckily we now have the option to watch a lot of US and British programs in English now.  Hearing the real voices and humor is a bit like music to my soul.

Speaking of music, I couldn't live without it.  If someone asked me to choose between losing my sight or hearing, I know the logical answer would be hearing, because it's perhaps less debilitating.  But without music, I think I'd be even more insane than I am.  A good song is like meditation to me.  Like this sweet one by Marie-Pierre Arthur.  It's a French one.

Getting my hands dirty.  Be it with some gardening or painting a simple butterfly with Juliette, using my hands can calm me.

Baking and cooking.  I've always loved baked goods, but I'm getting more into cooking in general.  Experimenting with recipes and enjoying the end results is satisfying.

addiction,calories,barre de chocolat,noir,délicieux,desserts,fotolia,tentations,emballagesAll things chocolate.  Two little squares of dark chocolate can make the world all better.  Make that four squares!

Communication!  In all forms!  Reaching out to people, via FB, the blog, a text message or Skype, makes me feel connected.

Reading. Getting lost in a good book (I mostly read in English lately) can help me forget about my problems for a while and fall asleep faster. Reading a fun botanical mystery my mom sent me now, The Water Lily Cross.

Nature. Like Holly, I love enjoying the simple pleasures of hikes and just listening to the wind in the trees.  Or a lovely blue sky.

What do you find comfort in?

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Vacation State of Mind

I put the start of a sentence on Facebook (yeah, I know, I am still battling that addiction) and asked friends to complete it:

"August is..."

Most people said "hot", which is not the case in my current location, where we barely ever hit 85°F.  Others talked about back to school.  But for most French residents, it's still about vacation or at least a slower pace of life due to all the other folks being away. 

You almost have to experience it to believe it. That eeriness when you drive to work and feel like you're practically the only person on the road.  How places like supermarkets and intersections just seem quieter.  The next two weeks there will only be two instead of five teachers at my company.  That's gonna be super quiet...

But that's ok, because I like having August to myself.  I feel like I'm still on vacation and can get some home projects done when I'm not actually working.

Besides, I did have a nice longish week in the mountains in July.  It's funny how when I told my family in the US I'd be gone a week, they said, "Wow, a whole week!" while most French people said, "Oh, just a week?"  I even took to replying that I'd be gone "une petite semaine" ("a little week") to French people, but would sometimes hastily add that I also had the last week of August (since Juliette's daycare is inexplicably closed that week). 

Ah, French people bask in their five weeks off and can't conceive of having less.  Americans can't conceive of five luxurious weeks and make the most of their two to three weeks. 

That must be why the French have truly got vacationing down to an art.  Packing up a million household items if they're going camping, leaving at midnight sometimes to avoid traffic and heat, carting three-month olds anywhere including in high altitude. 

I, however, was not born with vacationing in my genes.  And though my adopted country is rubbing off on me in the strangest of ways, I don't know that I am totally at ease during my vacation.  Like one of my favorite authors, Sally Vickers, says in several of her books, life is lived forwards but often enjoyed and understood backwards.  Vacations seem to be the same.  Try as I might to truly appreciate the moment, it seems I reminisce the week after and kick myself for not enjoying it even more.  During the vacation I let little things get to me: hubby's grumpiness or Juliette's whines.  Afterwards, I don't totally forget it, but my mind goes back to the misty walk on a hillcrest or the soothing green of the conifers surrounding our vacation village.

Maybe like this picture, strangely fuzzy from the misty weather, vacation memories become mottled, hazed over with what we want to remember. 

At any rate I am thankful to have had the opportunity to get away and see some beautiful landscapes, a big breath of fresh air in more ways than one.