Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Twenty-four Hours of Chic in Cannes

One of the things the French Navy does right is "l'escale."  The word even sounds better in French, "escale", than it does in English, "port visit".

This paragraph will make US Navy people crazy jealous.... So here, this time, the ship is out for a month.  And the planning-friendly port visit is fixed for halfway through the "deployment".  The ship pulls into a fabulous city for a weekend.  There is no buddy-system, no curfew, or standing-watch required: have a good weekend, everyone, see you Sunday afternoon.    

And if he is going to have some time-off, I'm going to do all I can (move heaven and earth to find somewhere for my kids and the dog to spend the night), so that I can have some time off from full-time-parenthood to be with him.  A twenty-four hour weekend getaway with my handsome husband, YES please.

The escale was in Cannes, just an hour and a half away from where we live, making it totally doable for the twenty-fours Phil was free.  I'm not in any way "cannes" type of girl.  I wear a lot of Old Navy clothes here in brand-name-only-fashion-France, thank-you-very-much, but I did go out and buy a new pair of designer sunglasses before my weekend amidst all the glitz and glamour.  Phil rolled his eyes at me, but they helped give me some confidence as I, a housewife, walked down the croisette with all the divas.

I had a lovely, bubbly bath at the fancy hotel and then a quiet, relaxed dinner with my husband.  The next lazy morning, we consumed four of our favorite things before 12:30pm--a café creme and a pain au chocolate and an hour later, a carafe of rosé and a pizza (the french make really good pizza).  For us, that's living big!

Weekend getaways are the best!  Weekend getaways in Cannes, France---vive la French Navy.         

Monday, March 19, 2012

Le Carnaval -- Year 3

In our last year here, I'm starting to finally figure all of this out...important what to expect at elementary school sponsored activities.  And here in France, one of the most important in the mind of any school-age child, is the Carnaval.

My first year here I was overwhelmed by the chaotic, unorganized nature of the event...totally stunned that all the hype was for the two second stroll the kids did wearing costumes.  Is there a PTA I can join, my americanness wanted to know...why is there no program or purpose when all these parents took time off of work to come see this?

Last year I couldn't get over how kids literally strutted one by one, runway-style on wobbly tables set up in the  school recess area.  Where are the helmets, my americanness cried out...this is not safe...not to mention the idea of a cat-walk for 5, 6, 7 year olds.    

But this year, I've got it down.  I knew it was going to mass chaos and parents would be pushing each other trying to get pictures.  I knew that the lack of organization/program of any sort would have kids acting crazy which would incite the teachers to yell.  I knew kids would step up to walk on flimsy, preschool tables jerry-rigged-attached so as to create a poor-man's runway.

And I caught myself, having a moment as I snapped pictures of this annual event, laughing at how all of that wasn't affecting me this year.  BECAUSE I KNEW IT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN.  And that's the thing with expectations.  So because I didn't have any this year, I wasn't disappointed.  I enjoyed the event for what it was. I enjoyed it because I had the cutest cowboy and Indian on the eastern side of the Atlantic.  That's right, we went ahead and fulfilled all American stereotypes.   Except for me.  The stereo-typical american need for organization, a big budget, an exciting program, and a wow-factor...I let that go.  Maybe that's why this year, I had fun too!
You know that look:  When your child finally finds you in the sea of parents and chaos--you call his name, he searches the crowd recognizing your voice and then when he sees you his face lights up.  It's one of my favorite things about being a Mom.   

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Christmas at Home Recap

Definition:  Jet-lag-hang-over, post Christmas-blues, hole-in-your-heart-feeling because we are so far away from our amazing, loving families

1.  Not leaving your house and/or wearing your pj's all day for two days in a row while attempting to clean out closets and get organized.  But at the end of a two day effort the house looks more UN-organized than ever and you feel slightly overwhelmed by it all.

2.  Dragging yourself out of your pj's on the third day to take your kids to school an hour and half late because you and your kids slept in.  And also writing the mandatory "please excuse" note to your daughter's teacher in English, because you just don't feel like making the effort to write it in French.  Whatever, your daughter is six and this is not Harvard.  

3.  Unable to stop thinking of the ten months that remain of our little life here in France.  With totally mixed emotions...pure joy when I think about returning "home" (mostly when I'm dealing with typically French frustrations--parking, grocery shopping, customer service, lack of good Mexican food) combined with pure sadness that this chapter in our life will be over, with the addition of pure stress/wonder/excitement over where in the world our next move will be.

All that to say, I've been having a difficult time jumping into January.  And here's why:  my parents made my dream of a "home for Christmas" holiday come true for the four of us and it was EVERYTHING I knew it would be.  And so as you look at these pictures of cousins and sisters and grandparents and SMILES, I hope you can understand why I'm still longing to live the last weeks of December!

My Dad who loves to play with his grandkids!  Bouncing at the bounce-house-place.

 Meeting baby Harry for the first time.  I could not get enough of this little, sweet man.

 All dressed up for Christmas Eve services--the three GIRL cousins.  Not pictures because we didn't even attempt it...the four three-year-old BOY cousins or the 3 month old baby Harry.  

 Christmas morning breakfast with everyone

 Tradition!!!!  PJ picture on the living room couch.  Eight cousins.

 Grandma H who drove 12 hours to see us for two days!!!  Soooo loved.

Grandpa H who gives the kids university tours and buys pizza for lunch (and also drove 12 hours to see us)!

My Grandma Dee who flew in from Arizona for Christmas--we made a scene and surprised her and Gramps at the airport in Columbus.

 More of my Dad playing with the kids.  Hot tub time!

My loving, generous Mom who made (financed) all this family-together-wonderfulness possible.  Lily's smile couldn't be bigger.

What a wonderful Christmas!  What a wonderful family!  What a wonderful Savior to celebrate!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Friends and Family

There is a saying, "You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family."  But maybe it's not always true.

Living here, there is such a limited number of Americans.  And the group shrinks even more when you consider the people living here associated with the American military.  So when we arrived 2 years ago, and we met le petit group, we instantly became friends---in a way, we didn't have a choice.  We NEEDED them for help, advice, and gripe sessions over coffee where we could vent about all things French.

For the last two years, we've eaten lots of meals together, celebrated many kiddos birthdays, and pinch-hit babysat in times of desperate need.  I often say, I understand about "70%" of what is happening around me--and the best part of having each other to talk to is that usually (after lots of laughs where each of us share what we "know") we can figure out the other 30% of the story.  To understand completely, we need each other.

But this friend's tour here in the south of France is over.  And she and her family are leaving us to move onto the next big thing.  We had a little "farewell" party last night at our house for them --our petite group of Americans got together to wish them "au revoir".  There were about 10 of us.  And as I looked around the room I couldn't help but think--I didn't get to choose these friends....but after two years, they have become like family.

Man, I will miss them.     

Monday, September 5, 2011

Teachers Like Champagne Too

Last year, Lily had a great teacher. Lily loved Mme Nathalie. Mme Nathalie seemed to like Lily. And Mme Nathalie was somewhat sympathetic toward me and our situation here in France. Knowing that Zachary was going to be starting school this year, and REALLY wanting him to have Mme. Nathalie as his first teacher here in France, I decided to go all out for her end-of-the-school-year-teacher-gift last year. I got her 35 Euro bottle of champagne. I laughed out loud at myself as I wrapped it up and walked it to the school last year. What mother in America gives a preschool teacher a bottle of champagne as a gift??? But hey, champagne here is a classic gift and I did really appreciate all her efforts with Lily-and maybe sorta wanted to bribe her into taking Zachary in her class for this year.

Two months later, I had a one in three chance that Zachary would be in Mme Nathalie's class. At nine o'clock this morning, surrounded by impatient parents and fidgety three-year-olds, each of the three Maitresse(s) read the lists of names for the kids in their class. Guess who called Zachary's?  Mme Nathalie!!!

Was it the champagne? Was it just fate? We'll never know. But I smiled a big smile and again, laughed out loud at myself as I dropped him off in the classroom.  It took everything in me, but I did refrain myself from winking at Mme Nathalie!

Cheers to another school year!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Back from the world of vacation....4 weeks, you say? THAT much vacation for someone who is CURRENTLY in the military? Welcome to life in France, my friends.

Before I post about our trip home, which was fabulous, I have to share some pictures from a week I spent on vacation in France. Since it will probably be the only time in my life this little dream of "a vacation after my vacation" will happen I wanted to document it right away.

Like every parent knows, a vacation with young kids which involves transcontinental flights, long and frequent road-trips, and constant (albeit great) extended-family activities is just plain exhausting! And as we drove back to our little corner of France a week ago, after experiencing all of this, I was nearly on the edge of a breakdown.

As Providence would have it, we were able to stay at our friends house in the French-countryside for five days before we could return to our own place (our Parisian renters/dogsitters wanted to have ONE more week of their own five week vacation at our house). Our friends' place is out in the country but still within driving distance to Phil's work---because sadly, he had to go back. READ: he did NOT get to experience "the vacation after the vacation", like I did. He's a saint and he never complains.

Anyway, our friends themselves were visiting the US and while it would have been great to have their huge chateau, with a pool to ourselves, what ended up being even better was sharing the house with the house-sitters who were already there. Turned out, they were a young couple who took a liking to our kids (as in, would play with them and entertain them) and he was chef, who enjoyed cooking every meal for us. Score!

So as I stumbled in the door Monday evening after our 6th roadtrip, (each one was over 9.5 hours) of the month, and smelled chicken cooking on the grill for us and watched the new friend take Lily's hand to pick fresh figs from the tree for dinner, I knew I had won the vacation-dream lottery.

And that's pretty much how it went.
I had five days of total relaxation... surrounded by vineyards and mountains and lavender. we spent hours and hours swimming in the pool, where Lily and I worked on perfecting our handstands.
We ate two deliciously, cooked meals a day, which I had NOTHING to do with.
I took naps with the kids, and read books with the kids and laid on the hammock on the porch.
I didn't wear makeup once, and in fact, I don't know if I washed my hair once (pool baths are totally acceptable right?). I didn't have to worry about the laundry in our suitcases, because the only things we needed to wear were bathing suits and t-shirts. And after happily sharing my kids 24/7 with all their Grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles, I was delighted to get some quality with them myself.

We're back in our place now. And thanks to the five day respite from my normal life, or any kind of life, the mountain of laundry, and suitcases filled with sand, and groceries to put away didn't overwhelm me. I'm thankful for every second of the four week vacation visiting family---but the last couple days for me in Provence were dreamy and vacation-like-to-the-enth (I mean, French)-degree .

Monday, July 11, 2011

Refined Thirst

For the first chapter of our lives, he drank Coca-cola out of cans, ages 12-22.

We got married, I did the grocery shopping, and he started drinking Diet Coke from cans.

He's always preferred bottled beer and scoffs at that stuff in cans...

But now, after a year and half in France, he swears that there is nothing more refreshing than a cold can of Perrier. "Can you please grab me a can of Perrier?" are words I never imagined myself hearing from him while setting the lunch table.
****This might only be funny to you if you have known Phil since the Coca cola days (ford escort, Johnny Cash and Lee Greenwood tapes, and a Carhart jacket). Anyway, we've come a long way.