Sunday, September 14, 2014

Back in town

Two weeks have passed since we came home. Home. Hmmm. I seem to use throw that word around a lot. France isn't exactly my home. But it is where my heart is. Meaning where my children and husband are. Hence it is home. 

And yet no place can really be home when you receive a culture shock every time you come back after being away for two months. The culture shock isn't as bad as it was the first time I moved here, but it was worse than my other returns, since I have never been away this long. 

Although I knew what was coming, I was surprised about a few things. Walking through the streets that are so familiar after four and a half years of living here I almost expected changes, a difference i the air, in prices, in people. Looking around, breathing in the air, I noticed that no one else felt the charge of change in the air, no one else held expectations. I walked past the same people begging for cigarettes and coins on the street and heard them calling out the same insults or pleas. I went to buy eggs and found the same price and the same woman working. I did find my usually veggie stand change owners. But then the smell of urine in that corner didn't change. People didn't magically start picking up their dog's poop either....

School started without too much upset, although the girls claim they don't like it. Well, they say, we like recess, but not the school part. Yep, the same tale. France, the States, doesn't matter. All kids prefer recess to school work. Imagine that.

The worst part is that Chatterbox started daycare part time. And she hates it. She hasn't even actually been longer than one hour so far because she screams so loudly and hits the teacher when she tries to pick her up so they don't want her there for any loner. This week we are going three times in which I will stay for fifteen minutes to see if she will act a bit calmer. I have the feeling that if she doesn't they are going to "suggest" that she doesn't come any more. Ay, my poor nervous toddler. Now she clings to me each time we go somewhere and acts like she is afraid I'm going to leave her. She wants me to hold her when we are outside and when I do she claws her nails into my shoulders to make sure I won't put her down! Talk about culture shock! Chatterbox bears the brunt of it, it seems!

Hopefully it will go better this week. As I get comfortable again with the high prices, frowning cashiers and terrible customer service that rarely allows you to return anything, hopefully Chatterbox will get comfortable with a French speaking teacher and find the fact that there is a ball pool at day care way more interesting than screaming for an hour! 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

White bean vanilla cake

Remember my obsessison with beans and baking? Remember the chocolate  brownies I made with red beans? Maybe we shouldn't remember. Let's forget that one because this time I made it right. Only in vanilla. And a cake. So not the same but the point is that this time it turned out perfectly and I can't wait for you guys to try it!

I know there are quite a few recipes out on pi teret using beans. Heck, even Martha Stewart's sight has a vanilla white bean cake. I tried it. It was ok. I like this one better. That's probably pride talking since I modified this recipe in the way I wanted it. 

One note: using beans in place of butter makes the cake a bit heavier. You could play with using just egg whites to make it lighter. I don't like doing that because I hate throwing away the yolks. Give me a recipe with just egg yolks and I will try it!

But until that time I will continue on with this cake recipe. I took the original recipe from Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice. She has lots of awesome recipes and I highly recommend you try some. Who wouldn't love someone with over twenty versions of chili? Or is that the Wisconsinite in me talking?

Anyway, this is my version of the recipe. 

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white bean puree (open a can, rinse them, then puree them with a blender. Add a bit of water to make it a smooth blend)
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups flour (I use bakers wheat)
2 tbsp ground flax seeds (optional)
3 1/2 tsp baing powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk (dairy or non)

Theoretically you can dump all the ingredients into the bowl and stir, but I prefer to mix them in the order that I wrote the recipe. And I like to mix the dry ingredients together separately just to make sure a clump of salt doesn't end up in one piece of cake! Make sure your oven is preheated to 375F. Butter and for the pan of your choice and pop into the hot oven. I made a nine inch round and it was done about 20 minutes later, but every oven is different so check on it!

My frosting is a classic buttercream frosting and I overlooked my resolution not to buy anything with hydrogenated oils in it and added the sprinkles. Cause sometimes it's more important to be joyful. It was a good choice too because the girls ended their first week of school with exhausted melt downs. But a bit of cake cheered them right up!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

what it's like

Last week I found out what it's like to have family around. I mean REALLY have family around. Not just hanging around and talking, which is nice, but having them there when you need them the most.

Because last week, out of no where, all of a sudden, I woke up sick. After spending a terrible, feverish night I woke up sick. And thank God it was a day that my sister had off work. I went back to bed and hoped that I would feel better by the time Chatterbox needed a nap. When I heard her crying a few hours later I dragged myself downstairs, only to be greeted by a terribly sore throat, an exploding headache and higher fevers. I got Chatterbox down and convinced myself I would be better after another nap.

Not so. When Chatterbox woke up and my sister had to run an errand I squeaked out a phone call to my niece and begged her to come over. Oh! Thank God for family! The rest of the evening and next day were pretty much spent trying to swallow and calm my body down from the trembling that it couldn't seem to avoid. My fevers were so high my body couldn't calm down. Even when the Tylenol kicked in a bit and lowered the temp my body couldn't stop trembling.

I've had strep a lot in my life and I've never had it like this. I was so weak I couldn't hardly stand, let alone walk, let alone pick Chatterbox up. My family pitched in like never before and literally took care of my kids for two days straight. Even after getting antibiotics I still felt like crap. The third day of being sick, 24 hours after getting antibiotics I still needed to stay in bed. I couldn't get out, in fact, until I forced myself to that same afternoon to go to the farm. Because I really wanted to go to the farm. Like, really. So I went. And ate some ice cream.

But that isn't the point. The point is that I wondered, looking back on those days last week, what the heck I wouldn't done in Toulouse with that high of a fever. I couldn't do anything. Literally. I wonder if my super mom powers would have kicked in, but I don't think so. I don't think I had any. I remember thanking God that I was this sick at home in Wisconsin and not in France.

Wow. For all of you who have family near you to pitch in when you're sick, that is awesome. It's the most wonderful thing I've ever seen. I mean, my kids barely noticed I was gone. The only reason they knew I had a fever is because the family had to give them a reason why they had to ask them and not me for candy. And apparently uncle and auntie never say no while I do.....

But in the end I can't get over how nice, awesome, wonderful, super, totally fantastic it was to be sick and have family around to take care of my kids! Seriously, you gotta try it. It's almost like a minivacay. Except for the high fevers. And the not eating for three days. And then the stomach ache when you start eating again....And the weird pulsing pain I have left over in my hips....but other than that you should try it!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


It's obvious to a kid that they are growing. We not only tell them every day but they can see it as they reach higher heights, grow out of clothing, need new shoes.

They see with each passing school year that they've grown in learning as well. We have books given to us each June full of pages pasted in them of the work they did throughout the year and the girls love looking through them, comparing each other's from years past and seeing how much they've grown in their academics.

It's nice to see growth. Kids don't see it that way and many adults don't either but it is nice to see a timeline of progression in your life. At least I think so.

The trouble is that once we get out of college we think our growing is over.

I thought that once I got to around the age of 20 I would be grown up and I would pretty  much be done growing. Dumb, huh?

I really thought that once I got to 30 I would have it pretty much together and would really be pretty much done growing. Still pretty dumb.

I realized the other day when my niece said something about her mom that our kids see us the same way that I saw grown ups when I was their age: people who are so old that they must have it all together. This idea probably comes from us giving them so much advice all the time, telling them what to do, telling them what they can't do, etc.

When I heard my niece I wanted to turn around and kindly tell her to give her mom some grace because she is still growing, we are all growing, but then I got sidetracked with this whole epiphany that she see us as people who are old and not growing any more. And I was a bit shocked.

I know my thirties have crept up on me a bit. I'm fine with my age, I just don't feel like I thought I would feel at this point. I don't feel old. Which is good. I don't want to feel old. But now I'm thinking that I should point out to my daughters that while they think I am old and those around them are old, while they need to treat adults (everyone) with respect, they always need to keep in mind that absolutely NO ONE has all the answer and no one is done growing. And if they claim to be that is the one person they should stay away from. Because there is never a good reason to stop growing. But that's a whole post in itself.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Waterparks are not foolproof

Yesterday my sister, her friend and I decided to take four children six and under to a water park/theme park. We had free tickets and they were about to expire so despite the slightly chilly wind we trucked up the highway to the Wisconsin Dells. This is a village that thrives off of water parks and theme parks. Lots of people seems to take their vacation up there, which astounds me as it would turn out to be a vacation of traffic, fast food and keeping track of children in wave pools.

To me that equals stress.

But we went for the day. Or rather a few hours. At least all of us adult girls were on the same page of being there for just a few hours.

Because that is all we lasted for.

First it was windy and only about 70 degrees outside. So we went to the indoor pool. Firecracker was slept in the car but apparently was not finished with her nap because nothing but sitting down appealed to her. I sat her on my lap, threw us down a kid slide in an attempt to make her laugh but when she hit the water it went in her eyes and that was the end for her. Five minutes into being at the park. Great. So she sat out while Queenie and her cousin rode the lazy river. But one time around was enough for them.

Out we went to the wave pool. Everyone likes a wave pool, right? Not Firecracker. Not Chatterbox. It was too cold. Queeie and her cousin had a good time for about twenty minutes until one wave brought Queenie's head in contact with another boy's elbow. And she was done. The next wave took her cousin under and she scraped her foot along the bottom. She was done. For the next ten minutes they stood in their towels, shivering and eating Oreos while watching the waves come in. But it isn't as mezmerizing as the actual beach so within ia few minutes they were bored of that as well.

We packed up and headed out to the car. During the trek back to the car Queenie let me know that she "never wanted to see this park again". Firecracker shouted out an "amen" and their cousin said she was willing to come back "once her foot was all better". Chatterbox took another Oreo and smile a chocolate smile. I don't think she cared one way or the other!

Yep, waterparks are not a foolproof way to having fun. At least not with four kids six and under...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Traveling poem

I have no pictures, I had no phone.
because I was traveling alone

Traveling the world alone with three girls
I admit the time around you swirls

Between the screams and giggles and cries
There was no time to rest my eyes.

We made it through 9 hours of flight
we made it through without one fight

Up and down the aisle we walked
With other passengers Chatterbox talked

Moments of boredom and desperation came
But with a smile I refused to go insane

Just a few more hours I said to myself
then I said it aloud to and that helped

We finally descended, the girls held hands
and out we went to my homeland

It is a summer in the States they said with a smile
We had one more trip in a car, 130 miles.

But now we are here, though we wake at dawn
with air conditioning, cousins and a big lawn.

I breathe a sigh of relief and an upside down frown
and see how nice it is to have family around

Happy Summer to all of you, near and far
I hope it is as nice as ours so far!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Talking to myself

Chatterbox and I were at the park one morning a few days ago. We were by ourselves for a bit until some older folks came along to it on the bench and enjoy the cool morning air. Then another mom and her little girl came. Chatterbox came down the slide, then I set her back up and she came down again. Then she tried to climb up the slide and needed to be redirected. She looked at me and "talked" and I talked back and suddenly, being about three feet away from an older woman sitting on the bench I realized that I was talking out loud a lot. To a baby. Who doesn't yet speak.

The older woman said nothing. But I started to get a bit self-conscious. Determined to at least stop saying "dica, dica, dica" back to Chatterbox every time she said it to me (which was about every two minutes) I straightened out my shoulders and walked back to the slide stairs with confidence.

It took me about two minutes to find my resolution was impossible. Then I heard myself asking Chatterbox what we should do: should we go get our errands done, run get a coffee, was she hungry?"

Seriously, I probably looked like a poor, said woman who had no friends and used my child as my way of pretending I was fine about it. But I swear I do have friends. I caught the older woman eying me at that point. So I tried to close my mouth. Then a fat raindrop fell down and I felt the need to inform Miss Chatterbox that it might rain. After coaxing her into the stroller, which I felt was necessary talk and quite frankly she was looking at me very intently like she understood everything I was saying, I asked her what we should make for lunch.


But just as we left I heard someone talking. I turned around, arming myself to speak French to the other mom at the park when I realized she wasn't talking to me. She was talking to her daughter. And she was asking her what they should do next: go to the store or to the pharmacy?

Conclusion: toddlers are awesome because having one means you can talk out loud about whatever is in your head and no one thinks you are crazy. And no one comes back with  snide comment or whine.


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