Monday, November 29, 2010

There's a certain slant of light

We visited these woods on Halloween day, I think, or maybe the day after. Just about one month ago. (This is some indication of just how out of step with the moment I've been lately.)

Even so, I find the French woods to be magical and there is always a fairy rock or fairy cave or ancient bridge to spur the kids' imaginations with. I can't help but wonder, when I'm in the midst of them, breathing in the history that wafts right out of the spongy soil,  if Marie Antoinette or Napoleon or some obscure, yet very rich Duke and Dutchess once galloped along the very same ancient path that we walk.

I guess it's not only kids imaginations that are getting spurred on our outings.

Since that day in the woods, one month ago, November sidled in and is almost ready to leave again.  In its wake, comes winter, real winter. Burgundy style. Not exactly Vermont winter, but there has been snow flying and the puffy gray duvet in the sky has been turned down, enticing all of us to get in bed and stay there.

The darkness is pervasive. It lifts at 8 a.m., ever so slightly, only to be replaced by a thick, foggy gray, then starts to descend again at 4 p.m. making the day feel like one quick little catnap. Or a fleeting, yet passionate affair. Never enough time to say all you have to say and do all you want to do.

Ian has been bringing wood home with him every night and we've been fending off the November blues with warm, orange fires in the kitchen.

The fires have a Little House on the Prairie effect on all of us. Even I have been getting down on the floor to play pick up sticks with Isla. I draw the line with puzzles though. I suck at puzzles. I told Isla I would rather have all my teeth pulled without anesthesia than do a puzzle.

She didn't really understand, but she didn't ask me again. She knows puzzles are daddy's thing.

And Esther does her homework in front of the fire and even got out her violin tonight after months and months of ignoring it where it lay, forgotten, under the table in the corner.

So November can, it seems, bring good things.

This dark and cruel month has, after all, ushered Isla, my brother, my niece, and several of my favorite people into the world. I suppose I should apply the don't- kill- the -messenger rule to this unfortunate eleventh month. My least favorite month.

But I cannot say I am not looking forward, with antsy pantsy anxiousness, to December. Something about December, despite it's shortest days of the year, brings me hope. Perhaps it's the finality.

November can still be a bit wishy washy. Like those leaves that hang on to the trees, crispy lone rangers, long after all their friends have floated to the ground. And those late-migrating geese and swans that keep flying over our heads, so close we can hear the rhythmic squeak of their wings as they pass.

December means business. There is no chance of turning back now. No chance at all. Only forward.

Emily Dickinson's poem, from which I lifted my title, can be found here. 

Other repetitive and annoying musings on motherhood can be found here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Some poor old dobbins are made into glue

Rapidly approaching my 45th, yes, you heard that right, birthday, I am living proof that horseplay is a lot like riding a bike. It all comes back to you as soon as you take hold of the reins.

Granted I had to fall out of line after three of four laps, bend over and pant to catch my breath, and there was a moment when I was worried I had pulled a muscle slipping on the slicker-than-snot, French- clay mud, but I'm still walking and might just go out there again, if the kids will have me.

But I'll definitely wear a more supportive bra next time. Funny, you think there's nothing there to bounce until you break into a gallop.

For a fuller, more comprehensive picture, this is what I was up to on my 42nd birthday. 

Hmm. Not sure if I've matured or not.

New Momformation blog posts here and here. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The perfect twirl

No words necessary

No music either

Just a girl

and a dress

and a camera

and a little ham, is all you need.
Thanks for the dress, Zsa Zsa and Papa

Friday, November 12, 2010

The world according to Isla

Thanks to Meara for the most fantastically stunning, mind-blowing princess dress ever.

Thanks to daddy, a.k.a. Marty Stewart,  for not just one, but two birthday cakes.
Isla is five. Five. Cinq. Funf. Half of ten. One quarter of twenty. On tenth of fifty.

Okay I will stop now because I never got higher than a C in any math class I ever took. This might have something to do with the fact that I often used high-school algebra and geometry class as a time to hike on the mountain behind our high school. May Ruth Upson rest in peace.

I have taken the time to try, a girl can try, to give those who don't have the great privilege of living under the same roof as Isla, a glimpse into her strange and beautiful world:

The world according to Isla

Halloween is a noun: As in, "Look Esther, I’ve got a Halloween and you’ve got a Halloween." (These were pumpkins she was referring to.)

Chocolate, and any food that seems to come laden with rules of conduct, tastes better when eaten while hiding under the kitchen table.

ABCs and 123s are interchangeable: AB3s and 1BCs, it’s all good.

Shoes are also interchangeable: as long as they fit, and they look nice, why does it matter what feet they are on?

The future and the past are irrelevant: here and now is all that matters. If one wants a cookie, "after lunch" is not an acceptable, or sensible, answer.

Sweets are meant to be eaten at any time of day and any good mommy worth her weight, should have them at hand at all times and in all places.

Drinking too much makes you pee and eating too much makes you poop.

Daddy’s are not beautiful, or soft.

Simba, if he ever saw her in real life, would want to be her friend.

England is full of English people. France is full of French people. And she is American.

There are two different kinds of days: school days and ballet days. All other kinds of days are confusing and unnecessary.

It would be fun if you could hop in, and then back out, of pictures in a book.

When she gets bigger, she willl be like her big sister, Esther.

Mommies should have dressups like princesses and daddies should have dressups lke princes.

Sometimes princesses are even on underpants.

When she gets bigger, she will still be my child.

When it comes to clothes, there are those that are good and those that are stupid. She will carry the secret to how you tell the stupid from the good to her grave.

The same goes for shoes and coats. The secret to coats lies in how easy it is to get your arms in without your sleeves riding up. Bumpiness, in any clothing, is bad.

Socks suck. Socks are an unnecessary nuisance and should be banished from this world.

You cannot wear a hooded sweatshirt under a hooded coat. No double hoods. Double hoods can ruin an otherwise perfect day.

Playing with her new friend, Cassandra, is even more important than watching movies.

Music makes you dance. When you hear it, you let the spirit move you, no matter what you are doing or where you are. This includes bathing, or eating dinner, or sitting on the toilet at the supermarket. Dancing with your hands, when there is no room for dancing with your whole body, is a good alternative.

 Sleeping alone is stupid. 

No one-armed hugs: There is a proper way to cuddle and an improper way to cuddle. Parents should cuddle their children properly. 

If you wake up in the dark to find yourself alone, you should get up and immediatelly find a warm body to get in bed with. Otherwise you should stay where you are and yell, “I want you," at full volume, until someone comes.

Nothing is beyond negotiation: The word, "but" is a very useful word in this regard.

The day after tomorrow is called, the “other tomorrow.”

Kisses should be careful yet deliberate, and preferably in five parts: left cheek, right cheek, forehead, chin, then lips.

For an inside look at her party, look over here. 

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Your shoes are on the wrong feet again, dear

We're on the eve of Isla's fifth birthday, and, well..... Isla still doesn’t seem to get it.

I don’t think she cares, really. Why should she?

But I can’t help but wonder, when will she care? When will she try? Does it matter?

Will this apathetic little habit lead to a lifetime of chronic, pathological odd -sock wearing? (I was an odd sock wearer. It was a possibly one of my first, in a long line of, mini rebellions.)

Is this some indication of future rebellious and anti-authoritarian behavior?

Will her feet start turning out like a duck?

That said, I don’t like some of the tactics adults use to get their kids to put their shoes on the right feet.

An acquaintance of ours sees no problem in saying, “That’s just stupid” when his two, yes two, year old puts her shoes on the wrong feet.

I think he’s stupid.  I think anyone who calls children stupid is stupid. 

This is why, at this point, I have taken to remaining silent. If she likes the way her shoes look and feel when they are on the wrong feet, then who am I to tell her it's wrong, or weird, or stupid.

And if she doesn't like it,  she'll figure out how to change it.


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

One wants candy

Halloween, French style, was a trip.

I had expected nothing. I didn't say a word about it in the week leading up to it for fear of getting my kids all excited about what may potentially turn out to be a big fat disappointment.

But, as it turned out, I was underestimating the French.

So there wasn't a Disney Princess in sight, only sorcieres (witches), mummies and skeletons. (Esther was Holly Golightly in pajamas.)

Nor did I spot a single mini Snicker's or Reese's. One Madame passed out Madeleine cakes, and another invited the children back to see her rabbit hutch, teeming with adorable bunnies, which would eventually become lapin en gibelotte (rabbit stew).

There wasn't as much actual door knocking as there was insistent singing, or, eventually, chanting-- kind of like what you hear when striking workers are marching through the streets of Paris.

What do they chant?

"On veut des bonbons! On veut des bon bons!" Literal translation, "One wants some candy." Actual meaning. "I want candy."

When that didn't work, and the doors, or sometimes shuttered windows, didn't fly open soon enough, the kids cleverly resorted to politesse:

"S'il vous plait, s'il vous plait!" "If you please, if you please."

After the begging part was over, we went back to our neighbors'-- the every-ready- for- a- party Brits-- and had a bit of wine and garlic bread, while the kids dined on, um,  bonbons in front of a warming outdoor fire.

I ran next door to use my own bathroom and while I was there some latecomer Trick- or -Treaters knocked on our door.  I ran to our sweetie basket and grabbed some of the Twizzlers my sister recently sent me-- lucky Trick -or- Treaters, I don't even like to share these with my kids-- went to the door and handed some out.

As they retreated down our driveway, I shouted, "Happy Halloween!"

Out of the darkness, I heard the sound of five different voices each phonetically calling back,

"'Hah-'appy 'alloween, 'appy 'alloween, 'appy 'alloween!, 'appy 'alloween!, 'appy 'alloween!" (The letter H is purely ornamental for the French.)

The sound of those total -stranger French Tweens, dressed up as ghosts and grim reapers, trying on my language, and favorite American food, with such obvious pleasure, filled me with warm fuzzies of such profound measure this entire stay, here in the middle of nowhere France, suddenly made complete sense to me.

"Now that," I thought to myself, "is why I'm here."

There's always more stuff to read over at Momformation.