26 January 2010
Let's see...
...Merry Christmas!

...Happy New Year!

...Happy Birthday Pooplette! (She's four now, and we have no idea how she made it so far without us killing her.)

...Happy Chaos! Yes, we're back to that. No news there, right?

Christmas came and went without a hitch. Well, without anything more than me misplacing my address book and finding myself unable to call most of the people I wanted. It has since been found, and most of those catch up calls have been made, so we're good. We handled the Santa situation fairly well. I did pretty much everything, including buying most of the gifts for myself. The Manthing pitched in with a surprise that wasn't a surprise, but was a fairly decent effort on his part. We'll call the gifts this year a success. Even the family dinner went off without any arguments or tense moments. Yay!

After Christmas, Mr. Manthing planned a trip to visit friends. A vacation he called it. Was this OK for me? OK? OK? I don't consider laying restlessly on an airmatress with two of my freaked-out children attached permanently to my body much of a vacation, so no. Not OK. But I think, for me, it's more a question of semantics. A vacation is luxury hotels, solitude and room service. Airmatresses in a friend's living room is more of a visit. In any case, getting out of the house and seeing something other than the local sights was … a change. Change is good, right? Well, usually...

Mr. Manthing has an aversion to change. I guess the fact that there was a trip planned at all should be considered progress. But this aversion to change found us on the road with a map that dates to my first visit to his land almost 10 years ago. And, in typical Manthing fashion, he has this thing about waiting until the very last minute to ask the co-pilot (me) to verify which exit we should take, a task complicated by the fact that the road we were travelling didn't figure on the 10-year old map, and this because apparently I am blind and don't know how to read a map. No, they never taught me that in the military, did they? (He has, of course, after being bitched at, verified that the road is indeed NOT on the map, and I have had a sort-of apology—and only a month after the fact.) The ensuing argument was only made worse by the screaming, road-weary monkeys tied down in the back seat who had, like their mother, had just about enough of Mr. Manthing's grumbling and of riding down a never-ending highway in rush hour traffic around one of France's larger cities. Things finally got better when the Manthing called the friend and got specific instructions, and I stopped laughing hysterically at his grumbling and his yelling at the kids for...well, for being kids.

The return trip was a lot less interesting, considering I allowed him to bitch, moan and complain while I SPENT MONEY (the horror) on an adapter that allowed me to plug in the laptop in the car and play DVDs for the monkeys. He apologized again, after six full hours of silence in the car. Ah, blessed technology, and blessed moms who allow it to touch the children! So pleased was he with this idea of mine that he started talking of taking more trips! Imagine! Woohoo! (Please, someone pass the Valium.)

For New Years, we put the kids to bed, and fell asleep. Rockin' party that was!

Then it was back to work, a place I really and truly love because, see, a classroom full of hormonal teenagers is a cakewalk after two weeks trapped with my family. Of course, the hormonal teenagers were less thrilled with the end of vacation than I was, the poor dears, but I shocked them back to reality with that famous back-to-school assignment we all grew to hate: The Vacation Essay. Muahahaha. And I must say, I was most pleasantly surprised with the results. These kids, sometimes they really surprise me! All of them claimed to have done nothing at all during the holidays, and that writing a paper of the length I demanded was impossible. But they managed, the poor critters, and I ended up with a few gems to file away in the 'Interesting Stories of High School Kids' folder that I am keeping, including the story of one poor soul who only wanted to ride his bike in the local sub-zero tundra and found himself with a numb 'member number one'. I laughed until my sides hurt with that one.

Pooplette got to have her first real Burpday Partay with invited guests. She turned four, and if you don't know, turning four is like totally THE social occasion. I asked everyone to please remember that this birthday was giftless, considering we're still in the hovel and have NO SPACE, but apparently my French is still terrible, or I was ignored. They were kind enough, however, to stick to small surprises, and we've somehow managed to integrate these new treasures without too much trouble. I blew up 200 balloons for the occasion, dumped all of them on the floor and let the kids loose. If you ever need ideas for a 4th birthday I highly recommend this. The kids ran around for an hour chasing balloons, tossing balloons, kicking balloons, and tiring themselves out in the process. No need to plan any activities because they're so occupied with the damn balloons that they just don't care to do anything else. Until the cake comes out, of course, but I honestly thing that was only because we had one of those indoor fireworks candles and that caught their attention. So, then we had cake. And that was good! But those balloons....

At the end I asked them to pop the balloons. Dude! It was like giving them the keys to the candy store. Once all the ballons were popped, I had them play the one and only game I had for them—pick up all the popped balloons, put them in the trash and you win a bag full of candy! And a noisemaker! I was the most popular mom in the nighborhood! At least as far as the monsters were concerned. The parents force themselves to say hello at the bus stop. Muahahahaha!

And it seems that life is about to change around here again. And NO, there's no MP4 on its way. None of that, folks. Those days are over! No, just more work. My job at the high school is only part time. And I've enjoyed that. The pace is nice and regular, and I have two full days of torturing teenagers and freedom from the monkeys. But there is an English teacher shortage here, and I may well be finding myself with a more-than-full-time schedule here soon, like next week at the earliest. As soon as they figure out how to change the schedules around I'll know. It seems we're back to the scramble to find someone to watch the monkeys for lunch time. I'm dreading this, as so many of the nounous prefer full time work and not just an hour and a half a day. And there's the question of who and where and do we split the two older ones up? MP3 has a place at the crèche, so is not a problem. But the older ones... Oh, if only we had a canteen!
posted by Doc at 10:42 | Permalink | 2 comments
15 December 2009
Ho Ho No!
It's that time of year again. I used to love Christmas, back when Christmas was a time of happiness and celebration and, yes I'm going to go there, giving and receiving gifts. Especially receiving gifts. I likes getting me some gifts!

And then, things changed, as things are wont to do. Damn things! Damn change—or at least damn the change I don't like. Boooo!

See, my mother was the Christmas spirit carrier in our house. She loved the holiday, and while she was far from a Christmas-tree-after-Thanksgiving-dinner extremist, she did get into the holiday. It was her most favorite time of the year, and her love for Kris Kringle and all things Christmas-y was fairly contagious. Even my father never complained, or at least he did it in a way we didn't hear.

I think he actually liked it, too, because once Mom was gone, Christmas kind of died for him. We pretty much had to force him to put up a tree—if for no other reason than so the grandkids wouldn't ask too many questions. He grudgingly agreed, but I think that tree represented for him all that was gone.

I'm straying, aren't I?

So, Christmas here, in a word, blows chunks. I am married to Scrooge himself. And I shouldn't complain. The fact that Mr Manthing squirrels away pennies for whatever rainy-day emergency may come along has permitted us to survive in a warm, albeit too small house while paying for the Shitheap on the Hill that we can't live in. His economies have permitted urgent visits home to see loved ones who needed a visit. I shouldn't complain. Shouldn't. But I'm going to anyway.

This Scrooge-like behavior has sucked the joy out of the holidays for me. Sucked it dry. I've spent Nine years in France, and celebrated eight Christmases here. We did go to my brother's one year, and I basically walked him through Christmas that year. He hated it. I think he'd have rather had a root canal without anesthesia.

The rest of those holidays I have either gone without a visit from Saint Nick, or have been presented with the scrapings of the bottom of the bargain bin. Mr Manthing has a difficult time with gifts in general, and an even harder time when the idea of giving something is imposed on him.

And then I have a difficult time explaining to my son, like I had to do two Christmases ago, why Santa thought I was so terrible that I didn't get anything.

For the most part we've been able to come to some sort of agreement on the kids. I suggested, and then imposed Kim's idea for Christmas gifts—something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read. Not only is it poetic, it saves us from the idea of utterly spoiling our monkeys—something that gives both of us nightmares. And it seems to be a happy medium between his childhood Christmases filled with a piece of fruit and a book (or maybe that was his parents? In any case, it wasn't exactly as though Santa's sack was overflowing here) and mine that were characterized by an unhealthy dose of excess.

Still, Mr Manthing tries to trim off as much as possible from the above list. See, they don't really NEED anything, right? So we can do away with that one. And reading.... They've got a lot of books. Grrrrrr. Why can't this just be simple!

And he's not exactly a font of ideas, either. He's quite capable of saying no to any one article, and justifying it. But when trying to get an idea of what, exactly, we should get for the kids? Ha! Blood from a turnip, anyone?

So I'm doing it alone this year, giving Mr Manthing the veto on specific items (The Gift—the one that fills the Something You Want slot, since ours are still young enough to not really know what they want—other than everything they see, that is). And for now, no one is complaining. This may well be because things are wrapped and hidden before he sees them. But I am sort of giving him the play-by-play of what Mère Noël is doing. And he isn't grumbling, too much.

Now if I could just get him to retire this idea of gifts as poison. I'd like a nice Christmas, too.
posted by Doc at 09:40 | Permalink | 4 comments
10 December 2009
Procrastination....is making me late!
(Kudos to all who get the musical alliteration!)

Yeah, I know, it's been too long. See the title. Or don't. Because it's not only the procrastination factor that's kept me away. It's been a long road. As you remember, I went back to work last year. It took hardly any time at all for a few of the overly curious minds I was charged with instructing to find this blog, and start questioning me. I had the option of going private, which just seemed like too much hassle, or tuning it out and letting things die down naturally. And since so many of the things I would have written about at that time came directly from those experiences in the classroom, a little blog-neglect didn't seem too negative a thing.

And then summer came along, and with it the sacré readjustment to full-time parenting (something that I still have a hard time carrying around with any real sense of normality), and all the roller-coaster mood swings that go along with the harvest, the farm-widowhood, and all the regular crap I bitch and moan about. It felt old. I'm rather tired of feeling old.

Especially when my students put my age at 53, bless them, the little shits.

The beginning of the school year brought along more crap, with rearrangements and last-minute changes that sent me for more loops than I care to remember. It took me a while to recover from that, especially as I didn't feel connected with my normal mood-ventilating and dirty laundry airing technique—The Blog. And the student factor still had me reeling a bit. And the future was still unsure. So the absence continued.

But now, finally, maybe, I think I might be hitting my groove. That, and it's that time of year when I need to air all the dirty laundry before the sheer reek of it overwhelms me—Christmas. But more on that in a bit. Let's get through the news:

For the family, particularly my sister-in-law who spent the entire Thanksgiving phone conversation SCREAMING at me that I needed to blog because she has no idea what's going on over here anymore and how very dare I leave her in the dark like that: We're fine! The kids are great, and beautiful, and healthy and all is very well in that department. Here, you can even have a crappy photo of the three of them, the little wild monkeys, in all their wild monkey glory.

Monkey I is in love with school and can't wait to learn something else, anything else, just TEACH ME SOMETHING ALREADY! The things he comes home with have supplied both Marc and me with a never-ending list of “Where the hell did he get that from?” looks over dinner. The kid is a sponge, and school has given him the opportunity to absorb so much more than here. He's even impressed a Real Life Historian with his knowledge of the Middle Ages! Not bad for a kid who hasn't hit six years old yet.

Monkey II, who is almost the same size as her brother who is almost 2 years her senior because she's just Ginormous, is finally finding her comfortable place in the world. We've all but abandoned our battle with the school to get her moved forward, thinking that perhaps later on might be the best time for that fight. In the meantime, she's “repeating” her first year at school and calming down a bit. Quite a bit actually. She brings home all kinds of surprises, some good, some (like the stolen keys to the supply closet) not so. But she's hitting her stride and finding her place, and we honestly can't ask for more. Well, not realistically at least. More peace would be nice, but hey, her antics do provide lots of comic fodder around here, and seriously, life would just be too damn dull without her.

And the baby, Monkey III, is a midget, and cute, and probably the worst of the three because of it. She is the manipulator, and she's frighteningly good at it. If she doesn't turn out to be a super-powerful politician of some sort, like President of France and the US at the same time, then I'll be surprised. She's also a smart little cookie, and oddly determined to do exactly what she wants. Which is sometimes good (like with the potty training—she simply decided she didn't want to wear those bulky diapers anymore and that was that) and sometimes frustrating (like the Asscrack-of-dawn breakfasts eaten hidden behind the couch before anyone is awake and the ensuing de-sugar-ifacation of every surface in the house because She. Must. Leave. Her. Mark. On. The. World.) She has two frighteningly good and eager teachers (her older siblings) and that, combined with her own natural abilities and superpowers means we live with a force of nature.

And that means that we're tired.

And we all know what a bitch I am when I'm tired. Muahahahaha!

Hmm, just getting all that up and out has made me feel a bit less bitchy. That's a bit sad, actually, as I had planned on spitting venom a while longer. Maybe it's the good news in the laundry department that's hampering the venom flow as well. Who knows...

Anyway, the Laundry Department News: Our washing machine died. Its death was a long and agonizing process and I honestly felt bad for the poor thing at the end. But I must back up a bit or you'll never understand the drama. And there is Drama.

When I first moved here nine years ago (yep that anniversary came and went, unnoticed and unremarked upon by anyone other than myself) Marc's washing machine was in the throes of death. Or maybe it's spasms had subsided at that point. I can remember one attempt at washing a load in that ancient beast of a contraption, but I think it was a doomed effort. The quest to purchase a new machine began in earnest shortly thereafter. Quest in not an understatement. Marc is seriously cheap, renowned among his friends (most of whom are cheap by American standards) for the attention and care he gives to every single purchase he makes. He studies price tags like some lawyers study for the Bar. It's disgusting. And FRUSTRATING. Very frustrating. The quest for a new machine took just over two months. Two months is a long, long time to wash your dirty undies in someone else's garage. And with each visit to the appliance stores my still-very-American mind felt just that much closer to exploding. In the US, you figure out what you want, go to the appliance store of your choice, purchase your machine, load it in the car, go home, and install the thing. Or at least that's what we did in my family. My parents were Kenmore people, and while Sears did get all of our washing machine dollars over the years, the machines they purchased lasted FOREVER. I think the last washer and dryer were purchased solely because my mother wanted a new pair. The old one was fine. And 20 years old. So coming from that background and finding myself trailing behind Marc while he studied each machine's minutest details to get the most for his franc was frustrating, especially as I didn't speak any French at that point, and the technical discussions were so far beyond me that I felt retarded.

But I can, if nothing, adapt. And while the Manthing busied himself with the washing machine quest, I wandered the aisles looking for that Holy Grail of the laundry world—a dryer—an unheard of luxury in the Prostrate of France. And when he finally made his choice, I purchased for myself and by myself, my first major appliance ever—and in a foreign country. The pride! The joy! And the frustration of explaining to that man the necessity of a dryer... Argh!

But he's come around, and we've compromised on the use of the dryer, perhaps more to my liking than his own. But that's a tangent for another rant. Because my dryer is still going strong (knock on wood) and his washing machine is dead. R I P .

And no, I'm not complaining about the machine. Far from it. That poor thing suffered many years of abuse with hardly any problems. As far as washing machines go, we did good. Or rather Marc did, as I was ready to just point and pay, can we get a damn machine already PAH LEESE! Patience being a virtue, and me being the least virtuous person I know, right? But we've learned that washing machines are designed to do three loads a week for seven years. Of course we have! You don't think I'm still so ignorant that I can't go along on the appliance quest, right? And as I was often the one around when the repairman came to take it off to be fixed up and bandaged for a little while more, I ended up finding out a lot more about washing machines than I ever really wanted to know. But band-aides were simply not enough for the poor thing in the end. We were doing more like six thousand loads a week (slight exaggeration, but hell, three babies later, right?) and most of those were ever so slightly over the capacity the machine was designed to handle. Something had to give, and it gave it's life. (And might I just add that the last, killer load that assassinated the machine was done by Marc, so I am not at all under any suspicion of foul play. Woohoo!)

Now, I saw, and fell in love with a big HUGE machine when I was appliance shopping for the house a few years ago. I swear I'd have tried to sneak in a new washer and dryer at that moment it if hadn't been for the price tag—something like a cool 2000 euros that would have been hard to disguise no matter haw I jiggled the figures. But the machines were sexy and BIG. Big enough to wash the comforter that we fight over in that king-size bed of mine (yes MINE! Muahahaha!). This fact alone means that the washing machine, at least, would pay for itself over time. I have to have the comforters dry-cleaned, and that ain't cheap, bud! But alas, my Whirlpool Dreamspace Dream Machine would have to wait.

And as I waited, I plotted. And schemed. And did my homework. And finally that poor, abused, overworked machine of ours died. And was I able to swoop in there with the sale of my fantasy-inspiring replacement? No!

Because Marc has this physical NEED to go on the appliance quest personally. And these things take time. And patience? Ha! Still not virtuous, moi. But he did come 'round to my idea in the end. And I was honestly helped by the dealers, repairmen, and even the aunt with the same machine who he consulted and who all seemed to share my opinion of this behemoth (at least as far as French standards are concerned) of a machine. And this time it only took five weeks! I feel progress here, don't you?

So she's on her way. Yes, she. And she's got a name—Molly, because you don't think I want a stranger washing my undies, do ya? She's twice as big as our old machine. And she's got so many extras that I think I can just toss the three kids in together and she'll wash them too. Ohhhh, I can't wait. I might actually like doing laundry!
posted by Doc at 10:59 | Permalink | 9 comments
13 April 2009
Indoctrination, a mini-rant
My eyes are bleeding. In that painful, “Why the hell did I just read that … again” kind of way. Make it stop.

I have wanted to post about Facebook for a while. (Alright, I've wanted to just post for a while, and we all see how that's been going, so maybe not the best of intros there, granted.) I came reluctantly to the Facebook scene, probably because I have always had a reluctance to reconnect with the people I went to school with (you'll remember I'm the one who skipped prom for roller coasters because honestly, if I had the choice between hanging with the majority of my classmates or having my nails ripped out, I'd give up ever scratching an itch). But there are exceptions to every rule, right? And when my new group of friends, my 'real' friends, my hand-picked family if you will, all started raving about FB, well... I'm a follower.

And all in all it's been an interesting experience. The ones I thought would make good, who deserved to make good, have, at least for the most part. And there are, of course, the ones who haven't set a foot outside of their trailer park, and probably still don't know what's down at the end of the road. The confirmation of my beliefs has been an ego-enriching experience.

But the fun part, the most interesting part if you will, has been the odd few who I knew, and I mean KNEW, would probably end up as crab fodder, passed out and drowned in the ICWW from too much beer and bong who have actually tuned into interesting, intelligent adults. And maybe that is why, day after day, I allow my IQ to be sucked further down by the phenomenon that is Facebook. It's those people, the odd success stories, that capture my interest. Them, and Mafia Wars, of course.

But there is the TMI factor. We all post little updates about ourselves, about how we're feeling, what we're doing, etc. It's like Twitter (one addiction I have been able to curb) with lots of bonuses. But really, how much of this stuff do I want to know?

I am wholly of the idea that sexual encounters and religion are on the same plane of privacy. I doubt seriously anyone I know on FB or otherwise, would toss out a few perfectly written blurbs about that blow job she (or he, of course) gave last night, or would wax poetic about the most excellent position they enjoyed the week before. Facebook probably has some policy about that anyway. They seem to have a policy for most things.

But why is it that we can keep all our dirty laundry locked up tight, but we (we meaning ya'll of course, because me? Not lumping myself in with that group) suddenly feel the need to brag about our religions. “Had a beautiful rainy morning at church and got washed free of sins!” Umm, are JC, Big Daddy and the Spook now in the laundry business? Because I knew you way back when, and hon, ain't no bleach strong enough to wash that shit away. And why not drag the kids into it too, right. I mean, Little Ophelia is probably still shitting her pants, but I'm so glad she believes in God and is happy the Baby Cheeses died on the crossword so we can eat chocolate and color eggs that we hide in the backyard and find many months later when the boiled baby chicken has fully decomposed. Of course Little Ophelila believes in The Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, The Tooth Fairy, Ghosts, Goblins, The Monster Under the Bed, The Monster in the Closet (Did she just mention closets? Who's in the closet? Gay is so unGodly!), Mickey Mouse, Spiderman, and a whole plethora of other fictional characters so why, WHY for fucks sake, are you so PROUD (a sin, if memory serves) that she also believes in God?

When did church become the new status symbol? And is it so bad that I still don't feel like having the Herd Mentality?

“But Doc,” I can hear you thinking, “this reeks of bitterness.” You're damn right it does. I mean, here I sit, thousands of miles away from my 'home', getting a good bit of perspective from the distance, and what do I see? Hell, the USA started a war against religious extremists. Ain't that just the pot calling the kettle black?
posted by Doc at 15:31 | Permalink | 12 comments
11 April 2009
tired—an update on the nightmare
Do you remember what it was like when you were a kid and you couldn't wait for Christmas to get here? How that anticipation would drive you insane until you could no longer sleep? And how when Christmas morning finally made it's slow-ass way to your house, well, you were so tired from the weeks of sleepless nights that you fell asleep ten minutes after opening the Best Christmas Present Ever! That's about how I feel.

Seven years ago Marc and I started down the road to home ownership. We looked and looked and looked in vain for a house. Our criteria were rather exacting. It had to be near the farm, big enough, with some land around it (I am American after all). And I needed windows, and lots of light. I die inside without sunlight (which maybe explains why I'm in a vegetative state most days). So we looked, and what we found was nothing. The places we did like were either too far, or too expensive, or too owned-by-people-who'd-never-sell. So we gave up looking and started fighting over plans. Floor plans.

When I say we fought, I mean that in a literal sense. We had a few good rounds over what was acceptable, what was needed, what was fluff and what was just plain absurd. And what we finally ended up with, after months of arguing and sleepless nights (sometimes on the couch), was a house we LOVED... at least in theory.

So we went to a nice reputable builder with our much-fought-over dream and handed it to them and held our breath. And the nice reputable builder looked at the plans and said, “We can do this. Just let me run some figures.” I was pregnant with my first child, and we were building a house! Life was good.

Then we got some bad news. The baby was breech and that wouldn't do. So I got checked into the hospital to try and turn him. It didn't work and while I can't say I'm sorry I tried, I will admit it was painful enough to put on the list of experiences I wouldn't want to repeat. I came home from the hospital with the date my baby would arrive written on a piece of paper with all the instructions for checking in and getting him exorcised by surgical means.

Ten days before I was to check in for the exorcism, we got another shock. The contract we'd signed with the nice reputable builder had been annulled. The price they'd given us was a bit too low for them to handle because their agent, Mr Idiot, had forgotten to include things (like the staircase, and the heating, and a few other minor (note the sarcasm) details) and the new price was a mere 13% higher than what we'd been told. I left their office reeling from the shock. Sticker prices on new houses here are enough to test the limits of your cardiac capabilities, and we were just tossed out of our dream home.

Time to cut things down a bit.

So we went back to the arguing, and the drawing and re-drawing of our dream. And after more FIGHTS, and more sofa-sleeps, we ended up with something smaller, something we could more easily afford (theoretically) and honestly something we both liked better.

We both agreed that we were turned off by the reputable builder and shopped around elsewhere to find someone to realize this dream we had. Marc had heard of a new builder in town. We went for a visit. He brought us pretty pictures with the house we so dearly loved drawn on them. We were happy. And then he presented us with the price. I think Marc fell over. It was heavenly. Mr Manthing ran around clicking his heels with glee. Screw the establishment! We were getting the house we wanted at a price we could afford. Oh, and I was pregnant again. Life was great!

So we signed the contract and wrote the check and held our breath.

We live in a tiny village and honestly there's nothing here. Nothing, that is, except for a post office, and print shop and a château. Yes, a château. And inside the château there's ONE ROOM that is classified as a historical monument. INSIDE the château. The château that you can't even visit unless you know the owner. Who just happened to be the mayor. And our neighbor.

So our plans had to pass through the hands of the architect of the BF, Bâtiments de France, an agency that is charged with making sure that the French don't ugly-up their quaint rural villages with modern architecture and PVC windows or slate shingles. No sir, those things just won't do. This group even had (note the past tense—things have since changed) the ability to impose window sizes, roof colors and, get this, the materials we used for construction.

So we went to war again, armed with everything possible to defend ourselves and our dream from the over-zealous, idiot fonctionnaire at BF. We even brought along the Mayor/Neighbor/Château owner to plead our case, because if anything we wanted to do was going to reflect badly on his ONE classified room, who better to have on our side. And for the most part we won. The idiot finally relented and let us have our PVC shutters after I told him it was either that or he'd have to drag his sorry carcass up there every year to repaint the wood ones he insisted we use. We got our building permit. Things were starting to roll.

And they rolled, and rolled and walls went up, and things started taking form.

And then we started noticing odd stuff. Like the roof hadn't been ordered. And the front door? Ha! I managed to find one though, and it looked like we were going to get there in time for the second child.

Oh but no! Delays, delays and delays. Except where the second child was concerned. She decided to make her entrance a bit earlier than expected by kicking around a bit too much and making everyone think I was an the verge of a uterine rupture. So she came kicking and screaming into our lives in January. And the house? Oh, for February, for certain.

So February came and February went and our house? Well, it didn't get finished. Not in March, nor April nor May. In June I was getting rather anxious. And in July the kitchen arrived and...

Sometime in July the oldest child, who was by that time a walking talking pile of fun, decided to push on one of the walls upstairs. And it moved. A lot.

And it rained, and the house flooded.

The house is 65 meters above the water table.

And it flooded.

So we grumbled and we yelled and we called our insurance.

And around this time the builder filed bankruptcy.

But we weren't worried, because our beef was with the contractor. And he was still operational.

So everyone showed up to a nice meeting with the insurance expert who pointed out a lot of problems we didn't even know we had, problems like the roof that wasn't put together correctly and the drywall that was installed incorrectly and a few other minor (sarcasm again) details. The contractor took lots of notes and promised things would get straightened out... just as soon as he got back from vacation. What? July. In France. Everyone goes on holiday.

So six weeks later we expected to have his proposal for fixing things. The expert from the insurance set up another meeting so we could work things out amicably. We went up to the house and waited. The expert showed up. We chatted. We waited some more. No contractor. The expert, after having been prodded a bit, did mention that while we could do whatever we felt like, there was not a snowball's chance in hell he'd move into the house with the roof in the shape it was in. “You get a few centimeters of snow and that thing'll come down” was pretty much what he told us, although he did say this in French.

Lovely. We had a house that flooded and risked falling down on our heads.

And the next week? Well, we found out that the contractor had filed bankruptcy.

And the insurance? Ha! Not that kind of insurance. Why? Because the builder explained to us in minute detail why That Kind of insurance was a waste of money, how we'd be covered by the contractor's insurance should anything go wrong and how much wiser we'd be to save that money and upgrade our kitchen tiles.

Yep, one born every minute.

So we finally got serious, and got a lawyer. And not just any lawyer. A GOOD lawyer (and here's hoping I don't have to eat those words one day). Only he lives in a far away land. And the only day he could see us was the Monday after Marc's best friend's wedding.

So we drove from the extreme north of France where the wedding was, to the extreme prostate of France to drop the kids off with my MIL and then on to Besançon where the lawyer was. Weddings are quite the shit around here, and I'm sure that Vivi can attest to what a hoot (YEEEHAW) this one was. I was tired, rather hung over, and stuck in the car for eight hours. Twelve with the return trip.

Did I mention I was hung over.


Se we met the lawyer, and showed him every scrap of paper, every contract, every receipt. And we played the part of the poor country hillbillies thinking we might one day make it good. We played the part well. And the lawyer looked at us and smiled. I think now he was trying not to laugh because we were, in all senses of the word, FUCKED.

Fucked because that famous 'worst case scenario' was what we had just spelled out to him.

Fucked because I was pregnant again.

And hung over.

Basically just Fucked.

But there was hope. So we signed, and he went to bat for us. And papers were served, court dates appointed and meetings held. And then came the first court date...

No contractor. No builder. Just our lawyer and the panel of judges who decided to ask a court appointed expert to take a look at things. It was February 2007. The experts report had to be finished for the 15th of August.

We paid the advance for the expert—nothing's free ya know. And he came to visit, along with our lawyer, and looked at the place and sighed. Worst he'd seen. Poor us. What idiots we were for letting Those People touch our dream. (sigh)

But he took pictures and measurements and wrote down a good many things. It all seemed so professional and official. Surely things would be better soon.

Then I had more bad news. My gestational diabetes was out of control, so at 36 weeks of gestation, as early as they dared do it, they plucked the third child from my innards. And while we got used to the roller coaster with her, it was nothing compared to the roller coaster we were about to ride.

August came and on the 15th (which is a legal holiday here), nothing happened—nothing that is, except for a huge storm that blew part of the roof off the house. (Oddly enough we do have That Kind of insurance, and that fact only made the roller coaster a bit worse, because seriously, why couldn't the storm have taken the ENTIRE roof, right?)

September, and still nothing. October had the lawyer calling the Tribunal. Nothing. November the same story. In December he mailed off a few nasty letters, got a reply in January and by February we had the pre-report from the expert. With a nice little 23,000 € price tag on it. Ha!

We laughed. There was no way in hell we'd be able to find anyone (anyone legal that is) who could fix everything for that price. So we cried FOUL and stomped our feet. And our lawyer went to bat for us. And another round of meetings were scheduled and held. The expert, once things were explained to him, backtracked a bit and tried another route. He had Another Reputable Builder come in and price things out for him.

That was in April. May, June and July passed while they ran their figures. There were a few more official visits in-between because things were that complicated. Every time we visited the house that year we found more problems. And the roof was now so deformed that you could see the deformations from the road. The ceilings were starting to fall down. The mold was so thick in places you could scratch your name in it, and a week later it would be covered again.

In August the Other Reputable Builder contacted us to present their estimate. See, not only did they serve as the expert's Easy Out, they were also looking to make a deal with us—something we were quite happy about because finding someone to take on that nightmare and fix it (and subsequently be responsible for the work later on down the road) is impossible. Or at least had been for us.

Their nice (and rather easy on the eyes) salesman visited and gave us the shock. The price to fix the house was just a bit less that what we'd already invested. And while I don't feel easy discussing figures, I will just say we're talking about six of them. Six figures' worth of 'repairs' on a new house.

And this is August 2008, a year after the expertise was supposed to have been reported to the tribunal.

But it hadn't been. And in September it still hadn't been. October, November, December, January, February, and March all passed. And nothing. Not a word. And there's someone following the file? Riiiight!

But today, a year and a half late, we finally got the expert's report. And it's been filed with the court. And the degrees of errors and mistakes listed within are staggering. As is the price tag for the repairs. The report is almost 100 pages long, and while some of that is annexed documents and copies of plans and correspondence, the bulk of it is a detailed listing of everything that is nightmarish about this dream house of ours.

I am straining not to be hopeful again. Every time I get hopeful about the house I end up on medication. But the report is in, finally, and we should have a ruling from the court soon. And while we know this ruling is only the first of many legal steps, it is the biggest hurdle of them all. Everything from here on out should be fairly quick, relatively speaking.

And as for the house, well, I'm thinking of setting up a charity to help pay for the repairs...
posted by Doc at 00:21 | Permalink | 7 comments