Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hi, Have You Met....

A fortnight ago, my new host family returned from their vacation in the US and it was the start of my new Au Pair life. Being the worrier that I can sometimes be, okay fine, the worrier that I usually am, I’ll admit that based on the previous Au Pair experience, I was mildly apprehensive about how things would go in the new setting; if I would still open up a fridge to tubs of crème-fraiche and packaged ham; if their kids, my laptop, my luggage, and the French postal service would unanimously try to turn against me (the postal service still does); if I would still long for the invention of a Lexapro Martini . Then something happened: The day before they arrived, I realized I was really looking forward to their homecoming (even aside from knowing that they’d be returning with Red Vines and peanut butter… Okay, yes, I was looking forward to that, too). My spirits were high, my anxiety was low and I was ready for a new venture

And how has it been going, you ask? It’s been nonstop. Fourteen nonstop days of activities, reading, swimming, trampoline jumping, tutoring, story-time, play time, homework time, and dinnertime; Riding scooters with the little boy and riding bicycles with the girls down to the small town center to pick up fresh baguettes and fromage to accompany dinner. If you aren’t yet sick with how cliché my French life has become, let me add that we spend our summer evenings dining outside, talking about the highs and lows of our day, then revert back inside for herbal tea as the sun lingers until nearly ten pm. So I’ll go ahead and admit that yes, it’s going quite well. But enough about me… Let me introduce the family.

Terra and Christian have been married for the better part of thirteen years and as she put it so perfectly, “We definitely bicker, but we’re madly in love.” It’s true. They provide hope. Hope that happy marriages do last, that relationships involve passion and friendship, and that after years of being with someone, they can still make you laugh. They’re cultured but unpretentious; sociable without shallowness. They’re from Idaho (and yes, they do like potatoes) but moved to France to give their children an experience. Terra just started culinary school and Christian is a business entrepreneur from Cal Berkely. I’ve been introduced to more French products living with them than I did with my previous French host family, as they’ve kept the Carbonara-crème-fraiche-ham pasta at bay. They’ve help me realize that being an Au Pair can actually be quite nice and dare I say, fun, at times?! In the midst of traveling, music festivals, and full-time careers, they produced 3 beautiful children.

Lauren (aka Lolo, which coincidently is also what they call me) is the type that will restore your faith in human kind, especially the youth. She’s 12 going on 22, and a humanitarian at heart. For her 8th birthday, her “party” involved her and her friends helping out at a homeless shelter. She likes her pizza with hot sauce, her chocolate dark, and her meat on someone else’s plate. She’s a creative spirit with a passion for cinematography, reading, acting, and –in typical preteen fashion--Twilight. “Team Edward” to be specific. She adores Audrey Hepburn, The Beatles, everything Vampire, and driving her dad to insanity by mirroring The Teenager Attitude…. Oh, and she can produce best French accent by an American on this side of the Rhone.

In ten years, 8 year-old Julia will be at a college somewhere, majoring in entomology, the study of insects. There isn’t a beetle she won’t try to capture, a worm she won’t touch, or a spider she won’t dissect. When we found a fist-sized spider in the garage (exaggeration unlikely), she ran inside searching for her dissection kit despite our pleas not to. And leave it to her to find the biggest beetle when we were at the park. She’s a girly-girl who isn’t afraid of dirt, loves all things green, and hates-hates-hates losing. Did I mention she’s a bit competitive? Spunky, stubborn, and full of sass with a laugh that’s contagious and a smile that barely fits on her face. Then, just when you think you’re familiar with all of her mannerisms, she’ll turn to you in a voice famous to the 1930’s, and say “Hey Shoogs!”

Then there’s Sage, whose name deceives him because let’s face it, while he’s wiser than most would like to give him credit for, he is far from calm. Very far from calm. He should’ve been named after whatever means “fantastic curly hair.” He’s an instigator and a manipulator, but mostly, he’s a lover. He gets attached to people, to relationships, to your word. Don’t lie to him, because like I said, he’s wise. He remembers. If you say you’re going to be there or read a story or take him to the park, so you better be there with a book in hand and en route to le parc. There are times when he acts in a way that makes you want to pull your hair out, but then there are the moments when you call him over to read The Adventures of Frog and Toad, he cuddles up on your chest and it melts your heart.

Lastly, there’s Beaujolais the cat, who is far too interested in Toute-Suite, our not-so-spring-chicken. Everytime Toute-Suite comes to our back door for its daily serving of Special K, Beaujolais tries to approach her, only to be attacked and scared off. So the next time someone asks why the chicken crossed the road, it was probably to kick the cat’s ass.

And that's the family. While we're at it, let's take a little trip down memory lane. Cue Old Room:


Cue New Room:

The After:

Granted only two people have seen my old host family's home to have a sense of comparison, but here is my new place:

  • We started looking at tickets to Corsica today!
  • Two of my best friends are moving to San Diego!!
  • I had a hilarious conversation with my dad this evening, who asked who it was I started dating because he only read the first part of my last blog post, up to the part about being naked, then stopped, assuming that I was talking about being with a guy. Oh, Dad...You make me laugh!
  • I started an online course :) If only I could find the time to begin lesson one! 3 kids are definitely more than a handful!


  1. Yayyy! I'm so happy to see you happy! The kids seem adorable, and the family seems really fun. Reminds me of my sister's stories of being an au pair in France. What online course are you doing? We need to catch up soon!!

  2. One of your best yet, pookie, aka shishyu! the family sounds wonderful! While the first experience was less than even demeaning, it seems to be the golden rod that has granted you appreciation for all this family has to offer! I am so glad you have hung in there-your tenacity is well served! Love and miss you so much...xoxo, mom

  3. ohhh i am soooo excited for you! this new family looks awesome! :)
    i have a feeling you will be able to look back on this experience and feel GREAT about deciding to move homes and not just give up and stick it out with the miserable people.. im sure they are kicking themselves for not treating you better now!!

  4. Hey! I found your page a while ago and I have loved reading it from the beginning to now! I am embarking on the same adventure in just a few short months except I am going to the suburbs of Pairs. I leave in August. I am so excited but feel like I am more prepared after hearing about some of your unfortunate experiences but also know that its not the worst situation to have happen. You turned lemons into lemonaide. How inspiring. Anyways, I've been reading a bunch of books of expats in France and I'm about read a book called "Au Paris" and I'm not sure if you've heard of it, read it, or care to, but once I'm done I"ll let you know if its any good. If it is, I would be more than happy to mail it to you to read yourself. Anyways, glad to see you are enjoying your new family!