Friday, March 18, 2011

The birthday that never really got off the ground

It’s been exactly two years since we left America. Two years away from home. Two years in Europe.

Two years in France. And we're still not French. I'm okay with that.

Two years of rootlessness. Two years of no dishwasher or clothes dryer. This is possibly the most amazing thing: That I have survived two years of hanging clothes up to dry all over the house, and outside when the weather permitted, without losing my mind. How pathetic is that? How pathetic is our dependence on a clothes dryer. I have, however, avoided ironing, even still. Yea me.

I have probably broken fifty dishes that don't belong to me in the past two years, including glasses. We have a ceramic sink, things drop out of the overcrowded dish drainer, fall into the sink, and break what they land on, before breaking itself.

Things break.

But we’re not broken, yet. No. We’re good.

It was Ian’s birthday last Friday.

We’re not broken, but we are a bit broke. I knew he would get angry if I spent money on him, so my present to him was a bag of Mars’ Bars. I did buy some champagne as well, but it's still in the fridge. Waiting for the right time. You don't open a bottle of champagne, straight from Champagne, France, unless you are committed to finishing the bottle.

Isla’s gift to Ian was sleeping all night. Miracle. She came out of her room at around 6, went to the toilet, then went back into her room and shut the door. Unheard of. And sort of creepy.

Ian called me at 11 a.m. on his birthday and asked me to meet him for lunch at a cafe in the next village. I was tempted to say "no" simply because I had work to do but quickly realized "no" was not an option.

We had a really delicious lunch. I had Oeufs Meurette for the first time since coming to Burgundy. If I could go back and do it again, I would have had Oeufs Meurette every day of the week. Holy crap it is delicious, even if it looks a bit scrotum like on the plate. It is eggs poached in red wine, with onions and mushrooms, all sitting on a perfect bread raft.

I missed dinner, after wasting my time at a school meeting, which I only attended out of guilt, and which I didn’t understand one word of.

Okay I understood some words-- Kermesse, Carnaval, Spectacle, Rosé pampelmouse-- but mostly I sat, just on the periphery of a tight circle of mothers all talking at once in what was to me a whole lot of mumbo jumbo. I can listen to the radio. I can have okay conversations with the doctor, or anyone, one on one. But groups... I just can't do it. It didn’t help that I am almost totally deaf in my left ear as a result of my ongoing sinus infection. I just listened, not catching much, and smiled and tried to laugh at the right time.

I did make Ian a cake after dinner, while the girls watched.

They sat at the dinner table making birthday cards and arguing and listened to me swearing, not so under my breath, at every little thing. I spilled flour, burned butter, dropped eggs, almost knocked another jar of Molasses on the floor, and kept turning on the wrong burner when trying to make the lemon curd.

I am the model of domestic dysfunction. I will surely give my daughters, by example, my aversion to the kitchen, not to mention a potty mouth. Note to self: Don’t bake in front of the children.

Isla is already fond of saying "Shit, shit, shit!" quite a lot lately. Her timing, tone and emphasis are perfect.

Ian poured himself a vodka orange juice,  he never does that, and they all watched me as if I was some sort of spectacle. The potty-mouthed Mommy show.

I put the girls to bed. Ian had tried, earlier to get Isla to bed but she rejected him, as she does, and I found her crying, redfaced, sitting up in her bed.  She is so impossible, then acts all innocent when shouted at, as if she has no clue why we are shouting.

Esther's card was sweet. She fashioned a book out of recycled cardboard and string, tying in several little love notes. She had me write one, she wrote one herself, and she wrote one for Esther.

Her note read:

"Of all daddys my daddy is the best. I love my daddy and no he loves me too. Happy birthday daddy, I hope you had a grat day."

On the outside envelope, she wrote, "For Ian, the best daddy and hasbind in the worlde."

Her heart is pure, but we do have work to do when it comes to English spelling.


cecile said...

I love your stories. Happy birthday to Ian, then ! And those eggs... I never tried them, next time I'll be in France, I will. It's crazy how kids pick up words that you would not want them to. My son (3) says "merde" and "f..."... apparently, according to him, you say both of those words when you break something. It's great to grow up bilingual, isn't it ?

mooserbeans said...

Oh, I laughed out loud. I really needed that. Lately, I feel like the "model of domestic dysfunction" myself. Of and the swearing? My 6 year old was playing a Mario Cart with her sister and called Mario a jackass. Who has she been litening to drive?

Seamingly Sarah said...

oh beautiful! I hate how I lecture my daughter on things we shouldn't say and then a moment later I catch myself uttering the same phrases. Uh oh. But Ian's birthday actually sounded quite wonderful. I'd take a full night's sleep from my daughter too.

Emma said...

It is sort of creepy when they sleep through the night! Hope ian had a happy birthday, and you get to open that champagne soon.

btw- your cake making reminded me of when i tried to make a cake ib the shape of the number 1 for Simon's first birthday and it ended up looking exactly like a penis. :(

TerraD said...

"She is so impossible, then acts all innocent when shouted at, as if she has no clue why we are shouting."
This is sooo true of my daughter, too. She's just younger than Isla and can be so exasperating!

Sara said...

I thought the picture of your oeufs was ice cream. But now all I see is a giant scrotum. I can't decide whether I'm hungry or grossed out.

Shroomy said...

Hehe I thought the pic looked like an uncooked organ :P and now that I know what it is...woof. I HATE red wine. But poached eggs are delightful.

I was thinking earlier about dishwashers, and how people who have them are LUCKY BASTARDS who don't know it! I've never had one and the moment I do, I will never wash a single dish again! There is something about clothess hanging up - especially outside- that seems so romantic!

Many happy returns, Ian!

Hilary said...

I just found THIS blog. It is so wonderful!!! We miss you all.
Happy birthday to Ian! And I am so glad you explained that those were eggs...

Chasidy said...

You rock Betsy! I love your writing, your style, and your unabashed honesty. I can relate to everything thing you're saying. In my house you can replace shit, with "ass" yes I have taught my kids that word and they will now teach all their friends. Keep blogging, I am now a fan!

Betsy said...

Chasidy: Come back anytime. I learned how to curse from the best--my dad.

Heather said...

I just found your blog from Babycenter, and am in love. Isn't that the way when you find another person - a stranger, even - who eerily echos your own daily missteps, unspoken fears, and experiences? My husband, 2-year-old daughter and I moved to Holland 8 months ago, and I'm struggling with a similar feel-like-I-should-be-loving-this-but-miss-feeling-at-home (we're from New England as well, and damn, I missed the autumn there)... while also growing a second small human inside me and all of the gloriously insane hormones that go with that. I question my quality as a mother at nearly every turn, and some days feel so inept I'm desperate for anyone else to share the same shortcomings. I've subscribed to your RSS. Thanks for your fantastic writing, and fantastic honesty. Makes me feel a bit less alone, and somehow a bit less flawed than I usually feel.