27 November 2007
Tonks Ghuiwing*
Forgive me for not sharing my annual Thanksgiving adventures with you this year. My heart was simply not in The Spirit, what with three kids, a husband, and plenty of last minute cancellations to kept me tied to the Unhappy Unhappies. And now, after the last of the turkey has been carefully wrapped and hidden away in the frigo where I needn’t think about yet another turkey-leftover-based dish, some vicious species of micro-organism has taken over and is holding the entire family hostage, insisting on a huge supply of tissues, cough medicine, and sleep. Who has time to sleep these days?

Not only all of that, but the Whole Affair was overshadowed by The Baptism of Marc’s nephews the following day. My painstakingly prepared feast was certainly pale by comparison, considering the parents of said nephews not only had their shin-dig catered, but also employed a waitress for the entire thing. My fare was simply not on par with such high-class offerings, and that has left me in a giblet gravy funk.

I simply must plan another holiday meal for friends, one where I too can go high class and upstage the rest of the family. Send donations and reservation requests to my e-mail darlings. I’m feeling the need to make something gourmet.

I shan’t bore you with all of the stupendous things that have made me feel thankful this year. The list, while meaningful to me, would probably bore you to tears. And let’s face it, a Thanksgiving List at this point would only serve to point out what a horrible person I am when faced with time constraints. Thanksgiving is so last week! So on to other things.

A house update: We still have not received the stupendous and damning report from the Judicial Expert, the one that was due back on the 15th of August. We cannot, therefore, start any work on the house, and this depresses me no end. We have, however, received a copy of the complaint to be filed by our wonderful lawyer against the (expletive deleted) builders who have make such a total mess of things. And here I have a little hope. Should the courts decide to inflict maximum damage on this guy (and we all know they won’t but play along to make me happy), he’s looking at 13 years 6 months in prison PLUS over One Million Euros in fines. I’m not clear on where the One Million would go, either to us or to the courts, but hell, I’d love to see his lying cheating incompetent ass in jail. Would LOVE it.

And if any of you magically inclined out there have a spell or potion that would change me into the proverbial fly on the wall when they serve him with these papers, PLEASE let me know. I’d LOVE to see it. I would, I would, I would!!!

Monkey Update: Monkey-1 is doing really well, aside from being sprawled on the couch in The Sick Position. Like any man, he’s more than pitiful and pathetic when overwhelmed by germs. And like any good mommy, I am playing along, allowing him such luxuries as any DVD his heart desires and extra helpings of candy. Monkey-2 has yet to forget that she’s able to climb Everything In The House. She is pure energy, that one, and, I have to admit, quite charming about it. Her evil disposition has melted away and she’s turned into a lovely, beautiful, and yes, more-often-than-not, sweet creature. Monkey-3 had her six month check-up this morning and is doing quite well. We changed her milk again just after my arrival home and quite against the doctor’s orders, but as we’ve found more often than not, mommy knows best, and it turns out we did the right thing. Gone are the days of projectile vomiting and watery poo. Gone too are the struggles to make her eat anything, for the love of God! Nope, Mom’s pick goes down, stays down, and comes out exactly like it should. And she’s growing, so all’s well in that department as well.

Other Updates: No news is good news, right? I’m going to go make myself a strong cup of honey-laced lemony tea and snuggle with my box of tissues. Send evil, germ killing thoughts to the microbes that have taken over by body, will ya? Please?

* The E-MIL’s pronunciation of Thanksgiving.
posted by Doc at 14:36 | Permalink | 9 comments
23 November 2007
Another reason to like being called mom:
You get to listen to this over and over and over and no one things anything of it.

posted by Doc at 22:13 | Permalink | 0 comments
16 November 2007
All I've heard since we got back home is, "On va chez Un Que Baille quand, mama?" (When are we going to Uncle Bill's house?). Monkey-1 didn't quite get the English part, where uncle is a word, preferring to hear French where un is one and the rest just followed with his half-French, all-child accent. Of course, when Un Que Baille takes you places like the fire department, where the chief not only has the trucks pulled out Just! For! You! but also lets you Ride! Up! Front! With! A! Fireman's! Hat! well, home is rather pale by comparison. **Funny story: after Mr. Chief had given us a his card so we'd know where to send a Huge Thank You, I mentioned that I'd have to send him our local firemen's calendar so he can see how different things are over here. Well, like any good, red-blooded Fireman, he presumed that the local boys do up a thing rather like Les Dieux de Stade. We did have a good natured laugh, though. **

Afterwards, it was on to the Pumpkin Patch where one can find Real Pumpkins, unlike the god-forsaken wasteland where we live where nary a pumpkin was to be had. Halloween without a Jack-o-lantern? You’ve got to be kidding! Here, every size imaginable was there for the taking, and take we did, one so big Monkey-1 couldn’t lift it. Ah, feels like home!

Of course, all the excitement, and being drug along while Mama does serious damage to the Mastercard, does wear out a monkey.

Un Que Baille even took us all to the church Halloween carnival! And took Monkey-1 through all the games, several times over, while Monkey-1’s mom braved the Haunted House. The HH was a killer, and I had the bruises to prove it. Note: Never tour the Haunted House with a group of pre-pubescent girls who scream high-pitched, high-decibel screams and take off with the flashlight unless you want to fall over and break something.

Ah, Chuck E. Cheese! What would life be without you. Alas, you’re a perfect place to let a monkey run wild while I chat with my ex-husband’s mother. Oh, yeah! We had a play date, along with two of the ex’s children—very nice, very cute children. I hadn’t seen the XMIL since The Split, but she’s always been like a mom to me, and it seems like our old friendship is still there. We hadn’t even made it out of the parking lot and we were both doubled over in hysterics. Monkey liked the place so much that any time we drove past a place with a red door he screamed bloody murder to go inside and play.

No trip to the coast would be complete with a visit to the sandy seashore. Stupid me only set aside an hour and a half for this fun activity, and I literally had to drag my son kicking and screaming out of the waves, through the dunes (or what's left of them at least) and back to the car. This is the one activity that truly made me question whether or not I should be where I am, whether raising my children in a foreign country miles and miles from the ocean, white sand and roaring waves is the Right Thing. This, more than anything, even more than Walmart, is what makes me homesick, and what makes me most sad that I cannot share it daily with my babies. Next time, I swear, I'll not only take more time out for a stroll in the waves, but I'll share that stroll with the three pieces of my heart absent in the above photograph.

And voila! The ‘real’ reason (besides my sanity, of course) for this trip home—Halloween! Please do notice my nephew’s traditional puking pumpkin in the background. Trick-or-treating, as an activity, was rather anti-climatic. We only visited a dozen or so houses, but it was after another long day of shopping, visiting, and taking in everything under the sun. Monkey-1 can now say Spider Man correctly, not Speedah Mahn like the French or Peter Mal, as he called him before. In fact, his Maîtresse was telling me just this afternoon that he’s correcting the little Frenchies at school now as well. “Spider Man”, “Non, Speedah Mahn! Speedah, comme pipi.”, “Non! C’est Spider Man, t’es con!” Oops, looks like we’ll need to work on proper vocabulary a bit…

After getting quite a bit of American Consumerism out of my system, we did take time to just enjoy the good weather (and great company of AntiKissy) with a picnic in one of the lovely local parks. And what parks they have! Monkey-1 LOVED this place! And yes, another terrible time getting him back in the car, where promises of eating at The Great Mickey Dee’s and even of ice-cream did nothing to soothe him. I’m so terrible…

…but that’s not why we visited with the nice Sheriff. This, along with the fire trucks, was part of Monkey-1’s school vacation project, which we’ll be sharing with all the other little monkeys in the near future.

posted by Doc at 14:01 | Permalink | 7 comments
12 November 2007
Earning my space in the hereafter

I flew into Washington-Dulles, not only because it was the cheapest ticket to the east coast I could find (outside of flying into NYC, which was the same price, but who in their right mind would want to fly into and then drive out of NYC? Seriously, is anyone out there that nuts?), but because it is central to a part of my family I never really got to see as much as I would have liked (at least in retrospect) when I lived way down south in the land of cotton and tobacco. By the time we’d retrieved our luggage, caught the shuttle to the rental car shack, and hoped into our new white car, Monkey and I hit rush hour on The Belt-way. Oh buddy! I used to really like Tom Clancy, and given as how I used to work in MI back in my army days (meaning I basically made and drank really strong coffee all day long) some of his books really rang true to me. That man must have friends in spooky places, really. But driving around Washington, like Jack Ryan (who was best played by Harrison Ford, don’t care whatcha think) does in so many of his books, I began to realize just what a fantasy Mr. Clancy had dreamed up for me. Nothing moves. Mr. Ryan, gorgeous as he was, would never have been stupid enough to take The Belt-way because NOTHING MOVES. Our entire world would have fallen apart in the time it takes to get from one exit to another, and Jesus, with a three-year-old in the back, not even Jack Ryan could have handled that.

Note: Never take The Belt-way again. Nevah!

By the time we made it to Baltimore, considering the flight, the lack of sleep the night before, and the fun Fun FUN! of re-learning how to drive an automatic in rush hour in Washington, I was exhausted. So the darling ladies with whom we were staying the night fed me yummy crab and scallops and scrimps and fishies and sent us off to bed.

The next morning we continued north a bit to my godparents’ home where we visited, and ate—more crab! I likes me some crab, yumm. After lunch, when Monkey-1 was starting to look a bit tired, I whisked him back in the car and we started the Long Drive South. A yawning baby promises a smooth trip, right?

Dude, I’ve never been so wrong in my entire life.

We stopped every half hour to 45 minutes. Monkey-1 had to pee. Not only did he have to pee, he had the worst case of the liquid poops he’s ever had. So we kind of had to. Stop. At every Rest Stop. And this is the US, where rest stops are plentiful. PLENTIFUL. And with automatic toilets that flush all by themselves. Magic Toilets, if you will. Which didn’t help matters. Because now, not only did he want to poo all the time, he’d also crowned himself Official Magic Toilet Inspector. By the time we’d reached Richmond, I’d had it. ENOUGH of the toilets already! So I put a pull-up on him and commanded him to sleep, to dream of Magic Toilets if he wanted, but to sleep. And so he did.

Ah, peace. From the Virginia/North Cacalaki line the only sounds coming from the back seat were beautiful baby snores. It was lovely, and we started making decent time—good, considering The Belt-way, not to mention the inspection of the Fuckin’ Magic Toilets, had put us about three hours behind. I found a half-way decent rock station on the radio, settled in with a group of truckers going a wee bit over the limit, and just rode with traffic. I love me some I-85 in the evening.


“…zzzzzzzz…urp…zzzzzzzz”, from the back.

“Did you say something, sweetness?”





Yep, Monkey-1 spewed, all over the back seat, down the back of the passenger seat, all over the door, all over his body, his car seat, the floor, everywhere in fact. And he slept through it. Which was the scariest bit of it all, because, my God, has he just choked to death or what and Jesus, where’s the exit?

So we lost another hour. And the rest of the Long Drive South was spent with the window opened enough to let in enough air to allow me to breathe something other than stomach acid fumes, yet closed enough to keep out the cold which I was totally not expecting. Gah!

But we made it. Finally. A trip that should have taken us just over 7 hours took closer to 11 ½. My brother’s house has never looked so welcoming.

And then, after my Bro pushed me out of the way to get to his nephew and God-son, and settled him comfortably into a comfy bed, and everyone got at least five minutes of sleep, the Real Fun began.

posted by Doc at 10:41 | Permalink | 7 comments
11 November 2007
I am usually the one who gets to explain the answers to some of life’s harder questions around here. This is usually because, as I’m the one with the kids most often, I’m the one who is there when the questions come up. Sometimes it’s cute and endearing. Sometimes, well, not so.

No trip ‘home’ would be complete without a visit to the parents. Sadly I no longer have either of mine. My mother died more than a decade ago. Her wish was to be cremated and returned to the crabs she loved so much, refueling the eco-system as it were (although what any crab could find to nibble on after the furnace got done with her I’ll never know). I wasn’t there the day my father and brother returned her to the elements, something that both bothers me and relieves me in many different ways, but I know the spot well. Still, there’s no plaque, no symbol of her presence on this earth, and that at times gets rough. All that’s left of her are memories and a few photographs.

My father passed 7 years ago this last August. He is buried, as was his wish, in a veterans’ cemetery along with all the old soldiers he loved so much, and, all too sadly, an increasing number of too-young ones. This is where I go to visit my dad when I go home.

The last time I was home, in 2004, I was pregnant with the monkey, and Marc and I made the pilgrimage together. That wasn’t an easy trip. One of the very last conversations I’d had with my father was about when I’d be making him a grandfather because he was getting up there in age and wanted to be around to see all his grandkids graduate high school. Of course, he died the very next morning, and missed not only my kids’ graduations, but all his grandkids’ graduations. The man was nothing if not fair.

This time wasn’t much easier. A lot had changed since that last visit almost four years ago. Here I was bringing that little unborn child back to meet Grandpa, only now he’s walking and talking and a big brother with two little sisters. (Dad would be more than pleased about that—he always wanted 10 grandkids, and now he’s got them). There was more than enough to tell the old man that he’d have been very happy to hear, yet it’s all very bittersweet because he’s not there to share his wisdom and wit anymore. That is something that still aches deep down, and I guess probably always will.

It was a nice day, if a bit windy (a lovely hurricane sat just off the NC coast, and was making its distant presence known). There was another burial scheduled at the time we arrived so Monkey-1 and I tried to make ourselves as quiet as possible. I must say the child can really be an angel at times, and this was one of them. So we sat and visited with my dad while folks gathered to say good-bye to Dad’s new neighbor and while I got to explain how and why this is my dad.

Explaining death to a child is not easy. I was brought up with all my questions about such matters answered directly and matter-of-factly. Marc was, too. And I think we both feel this is probably the best way, at least for us, to deal with these things with our own monkeys. So that’s what I did—brushed off Dad’s marker and explained yet another Big Thing to my son.

And cried.

But I know my dad would have been proud.

posted by Doc at 14:33 | Permalink | 10 comments
08 November 2007
Getting back into the swing of things…

…seems to get harder the older I get. Not only older, maybe, but I now have three (holy shit) hangers on that I didn’t have last time I crossed The Pond. Marc was kind enough to let me have Tuesday and yesterday to sort of sleep it off, but today Monkey-1 headed back to school, Monkeys-2 & -3 back to the crèche and Papa Monkey is off to whatever meeting he has scheduled for today, so I had no choice other than to try to swing back into ON mode. And I took NyQuil last night, so my ass is draggin’—and no that’s not another fat joke (although it could be).

I’ve been gone just shy of two weeks, not really a long time, right? Monkey-3 is completely changed. I hardly recognized her, and she scared the crap out of me Tuesday evening as she practically leapt backwards from my arms. She’s never done that before. Two weeks in the life of a five month old, though, means I’ve missed a lot. Time stands still for no mom.

Monkey-2 hasn’t slowed down in her development either. Little Miss Full Sentences And Don’t Even Think You Can Outsmart Me seems to forget she’s still months shy of her second birthday. She makes us forget, too, because not only does she not act her age, she doesn’t look it. We’re in for a world of shit later on—and no NyQuil induced night-coma will help me prepare for that. Craaaap!

You’re all probably curious as to the wonders Monkey-1 witnessed and participated in during his travels of the Great East Coast, and I shall get around to that. If I were to write a narrative of the entire trip it’d read like stereo instructions. It’s just not in me. So I’ll probably just put up snippets here and there—and hopefully you’ll all forgive me my prolonged absence.

Those of you in the know know this has been a mental health trip for me, and hopefully one for Marc as well (don’t go feeling sorry for the man—he took a short break in the Alps while we were gone). So far we both seem a bit more healed on the inside. I’ve been trying to get my shit back together, and things seem to be working. During my absence, Marc hired someone to help on the farm and that’s been a BIG RELIEF. He’s finally realized he cannot do it all, and MY GOD, I’ve actually seen more of my husband since I’ve been home than I have in the two months leading up to my escape!!

There’s still a big transition to go through. The household, which had been subject to My Way Of Doing Things has flipped over to Marc’s Way Of Doing Things and now that we’re all happily together again, and with time to spend together, we’re going to have to work out the Happy Way Of Doing Things TOGETHER. This is probably going to be a big challenge-because both Marc and I are right—all the time.

So it’s going to be interesting, or at least it promises to be. Or maybe Marc will make good on his promise and it will be dull as hell. Who knows.

posted by Doc at 10:25 | Permalink | 5 comments
07 November 2007
I could sit here, probably for hours, and wax poetic about my trip back ‘home’, about how I really cannot pinpoint where that is on a map anymore, about how wonderful my family and friends are, and how nice it’s been to eat fresh seafood for a change. I could describe, in minute detail even, all of the wonderful action packed activities Monkey-1 and I participated in, how gloriously cheap Walmart still is and how lovely it is to just pick something off the rack and have it fit. I could possibly scratch the surface on how much better my soul feels, how I’m absolutely certain that raising my children here is the right thing, or try to find a reason, any reason, why so-called French bread bought in the US resembles nothing sold at a boulanger here. I could even describe the tearful goodbye at the train station, the nightmare of traveling through London on a foggy fall day, and the lightness I feel now that my family is intact once again. But I won’t.

See, it’s 4-something in the morning, and while you’re probably working your way through coffee many hours after I post this, I’m still working through jet lag, flying-related sinus issues, and all the amazement I have at how much Monkey-3 has changed.

But, as Christine so eloquently showed us on the way home from the crèche last night, where she sighed her brother’s name in the car and held his hand all the way back to the still-too-small abode, it’s very comfy here, all together, all safe, and all alive. And that’s really all I need.

posted by Doc at 04:50 | Permalink | 9 comments