Sunday, May 30, 2010


Do you ever feel incredibly overwhelmed by the demands of the day?

Wednesdays warrant a Levatol. Ditto Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and most times on the weekends when I’m with the kids (which in short, is whenever I’m in the house), because during these times, I can feel my stress increasing and blood pressure rising. By the end of the week, I’m beat.

Like I previously mentioned, Wednesdays the younger children don’t have school. It’s been deemed “Activities Day.” Yes, activities—plural. And while I don’t want to bore you, Internet, with the lurid details of this day, let me just say that between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm, Kid A, B and/or C have Karate lessons, gymnastics lessons, tennis lessons, piano lessons and cello lessons. It’s magnificent, yes (for them), but in between dropping off, picking up and waiting for Kid A, B, and/or C at each of these fantastical character building, life-flourishing, extracurricular activities, still lies the necessity to make their breakfast, tie their shoes, do their laundry, make their lunch, wipe their face and wipe their….hands (what were you thinking?! Lauren doesn’t do bathroom duties!). I tutor them, read to them, entertain them, discipline them and inhibit the desire to strike them. Somewhere in the mix, I attempt to meet my own needs: shower, pee, and brush my teeth--you know--general hygiene.

Sure, I’ll continue. One day, Kid A goes to this school, Kid B goes to that school and Kid C goes to morning tutoring. The next day, Kid A goes to that school, Kid B goes to this school and Kid C has afternoon tutoring. This day you drop them off at the new school and pick them up at the old school, but the next day, it’s the opposite. Two days, they eat lunch at home. The other two, they eat at school. Thursdays, the neighbor kid comes home for lunch with them. Monday afternoons (you’ll love this one, I promise), Kid A and Kid B go to school together. After one hour, pick up Kid B to take to the Psycho-motrice for a fifty minute session (where he does nothing but color and play Wii) then take Kid B back to school. Pick up Kid A and Kid B for lunch after 30 minutes. Take Kid B back to school but Kid A to a different school in a different town. Apple, there should be an “App” for that.

So here’s my gripe: Why can’t things be simple like they were in the old days? Like the days when the world was flat. When a ball of Silly Putty could pass the time. When you could look up a recipe for oatmeal cookies and not be faced with 2,030,000 Google results (yes, I checked). When you opened up a box outside of your house for all of your mail instead of our now email, voicemail, texts, Facebook, Twiiter, and whatever else I left out. A time so simple that Kid A, Kid B and Kid C were taken to a after-school facility (that starts with a Y and ends with a MCA), where they could do their tennis, their karate, their gymnastics, their piano, their cello, and their whining (snacks included) all in one.

Somewhere in life, the world became full of possibilities and we decided to attempt every possibility at every different location because we want the best. We want to stay in formed. We want to stay connected. We diagnosed ourselves with ADHD.

So as a connoisseur of my own needs and lover of my own life, when Friday evening hit, I un-regretfully said “No” to babysitting, to staying home, to giving up my time in France (somewhere in California, my therapist is proud). I signed out of my email, turned off my lap top and went out with friends. I enjoyed a glass of red as my aperitif, a glass of white with my dinner, and espresso with dessert. We walked along the Rhone River, listened to music, had cocktails aboard a Peniche, and laughed about nonsense. It gave into those brief moments when you’re caught off guard thinking “Wow, this is my life. I’m really lucky.”

It’s all very simple: Summer is approaching, I’m living in Europe and I have some really great friends to pass the days with. It’s time to give up the stress and give into some pleasure. Time to stop and smell the roses, the tulips, and the Nutella crepes. Eat salmon instead of Silmfast; take walks in the parks instead of runs on the treadmill; frequent the monuments, the music festivals and the nearby beaches. Read for pleasure. Walk to explore. Frequent an ice cream or two. Then, when the sun starts to set on Sunday night around 10 pm, come inside, exhale and realize that now, combating the week doesn’t seem so discouraging.

You can have your soapbox back, now.

  • Friday and Saturday warranted a Sunday PJ day
  • My dad fixed my broken Ipod over the phone. It's good to have Lady Gaga back in my life.
  • Alicia Keys concert on Friday with my Lyon PIC!
  • My friends. My family. Their advice.

Happy Birthday Stephanie Cuttler!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Casis, Provence

After you take a day trip to Provence, sometimes pictures summarize it better:

  • Swimming in the ocean
  • I get my taxes done tonight with Bob... Let's hope he keeps the stories to a minimum ;)
  • The cat and the chicken haven't dragged any dead birds in front of my window since Saturday.
  • Julia and I just finished making "Kitchen Sink Cookies" and I'll just go ahead and say it, They're damn good, thankyouverymuch!
  • Friends to keep you sane when kids are driving you insane

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cote D'Azur

Once upon a four-day holiday weekend in France, five girls decided to celebrate the “anniversary” of Christ’s ascension into heaven by piling into a rental car and heading South…because nothing says “heaven” like the Cote d’Azur and a weekend away from kids (especially the latter). With our oh-so-plentiful Au Pair salaries, we found accommodations through Couch Surfing, meaning that we found a guy who complimentarily offered us his apartment for our stay. It was in Cannes. It had the most perfect ocean view. It was amazing and it welcomed us, after 6 hours of driving, with aperitifs and three of the host’s seemingly charming French friends who were ready to take us for a night out.

So, that’s exactly what we did. And by 2 am, we found ourselves wrapping things up at the bar after sipping drinks and exchanging expat stories. Despite the hour, the streets were still swarming with people; their cameras ready for star sightings and their heels ready for the dance floor. It was your typical middle-of-May night out in Cannes during the 63rd Annual Film Festival.

Lauren, a few of us are going dancing,” Our host mentioned. “Are you coming out with us or going back to the apartment with the others?”

The thought of sleep was whispering in my ear: Use your better judgment and return to the apartment. Hmm… But on the other hand, how often am I in Cannes with my friends, being toured around by four French locals. No, it’s been a successful day. End it on a high note. Call it a night. Get some sleep. Go sight-seeing in the morning…and maybe even a jog on the beach? Yeah, okay. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll definitely head back now.

I didn’t go back. I stayed with the remaining five of our group in pursuit of an overly pretentious Cannes dance club. (Because in the French Riviera, which is frighteningly similar to Newport Beach, that’s really all you’ll find). Okay, yes, maybe I am easily influenced at times, but after our last victorious vacation in Barcelona, I had no reason to believe this would be any different. Yet, I should’ve known. I should’ve known that after the “luck” I’ve had with France since January that it wouldn’t be so easy-breezy without some sort of hiccup.

Because somewhere in the midst of standing in the streets waiting for our host to decide on a destination, and me explaining to one of the French friends why I’d make a good Wingman for him, I realized the rest of the group was gone.

Yes, there I was, lost in Cannes. But, but, at least I wasn’t alone. I was with Cyrus, one of the three friends who welcomed us into Cannes. And don’t fret Mom and Dad, because though I may not have remembered his name at the time, it was written on a piece of paper in my clutch (along with his email for, duh¸Facebook), and he was quite attractive (despite what his name might lead you to believe). Plus, he worked in Finance, said that his job title involved the word “executive” and he had his MBA, which totally equates to being dependable, right?! So, don’t worry because I wasn’t worried in the least. Plus, how hard could it be to find the other four people when the there’s only a couple of streets of nightlife?

Apparently, very... While searching for the others, we danced, twirled, spun, weaved, and giggled our way through club after club, landing ourselves empty handed without a smidgen of success... but it was an adventure, right?!

Okay, no big deal.. Let’s just call them,” I suggested to the cute business (though probably a junior, if that) executive.

Yes, but my phone died about an hour ago. I may be able to turn it on long enough to get their number and then we can call them on yours.”

And here is where I feel the need to articulate, at least to myself, that I’m generally a very responsible gal: I jog on the right side of the road, I carry Purel hand sanitizer in my purse, I file my taxes before April 15th and have a savings account (which okay fine, is dwindling far quicker than I’d like). I keep a listing of American Embassy locations in my wallet and an overly organized accordion folder in my room with copies of my passport, birth certificate, plus any other ostensibly vital document. And if you’re still not convinced, I get the flu shot.

So on a night out in Cannes, a place I had never been, one would think that this ever-so-responsible gal would bring with her, oh, I don’t know, a cell phone? But alas, the space in my black Coach clutch that is supposed to hold the aforementioned phone, was substituted with a copy of my passport (responsible!), 20 euros (responsible!), lip gloss (eh, not so much, but I needed it!), and a camera (because in event that I actually did run into Ryan Reynolds or Mr. Clooney, I wanted photographic proof). Plus, straying from the group was not a part of the original plan….at least not mine.

By the end of the night, it seemed that Murphy’s Law --if something can go wrong, it will-- wouldn’t give us a break. Cyrus had his phone, but it was dead. My phone worked, but was at the apartment. Someone on the streets let us use theirs, but when we called, it went straight to our friend’s voicemail. We tried to take a taxi, but we didn’t know the address of the apartment. We finally found the building, but didn’t have a gate key. My previous childhood days of gymnastics enabled me to climb over the steel studded gate, but not without it puncturing through my shoe and making my foot bleed. We found the apartment building, but didn’t have a building key. And at 3 am, we regretfully had to ring every resident’s pager to please buzz us in, but no one answered…. Until they finally did on the second attempt. (I know, you hate me right about now…. I did, too. But if it helps, I did find a guy’s fully loaded wallet that night and rightfully turned it into the police so I’m not all bad!)

And if you’re wondering if it’s finally over, yes. Yes it absolutely is. We finally made it up to the apartment and more importantly, inside of the apartment. Then when Cyrus ultimately realized that his solicitous efforts were failing and it wasn’t going to be that kind of night, we retired to our contiguous sleeping areas and fell asleep.

Even though the night's calamity put an awkward start to the next morning (because you can take the girl out of the Catholic church but you can't take the Catholic guilt out of the girl), I decidedly left it in the past because well, it was a new day and everything worked out. As for the rest of the French Riviera, it was pretty much stunningly beautiful. Idyllic beaches, quaint villages, Italian influenced French bistros, and an ocean so blue, so glistening, that you’d think you had died and gone to heaven; After all, it was the Ascension holiday. After two days of sight-seeing, picture taking, Grand Prix watching, Cannes Film Festival Star Searching, lunches in cafes and gelato on the go; after hiking up the hillsides of Monaco and down the sandy beaches of Nice, five girls piled back into their cozy French car and made way back to our respective Au Pair families in Lyon.

  • My mom just celebrated her fifty-something birthday! Happy Birthday, Mom!
  • I have a full weekend ahead of me and I'm feeling pretty excited about it: BBQ, Provence, mini road trip, and most of all... SUNSHINE!
  • Great friends... here and back in California!
  • Courtney H and Stephanie who are keeping me updated with pictures of Kiki being a goofball and videos of her having doggy dreams! Thanks ya'll!
  • I think I figured out a plan for July.. It's in the works though. :)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My "Dear John" to Tom

Dear Tom,

I’m sorry that I had to do this through a letter but the time has come. This isn’t working—you and I. And I’m tired of pretending that we can continue this relationship. It’s not you, it’s me… well, actually no, I’m sure it’s probably you.

I remember when we met that day in April. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and there you were. You provided a je-ne-sais-quoi that I hadn’t had since my life in California. You were assertive. You knew what you wanted. You had direction… And it all came wrapped up with the most endearing British accent. You must’ve known I had a weak spot for accents.

We had some good times—exploring the streets of France together, going out with my friends. You even helped me with errands and the kids. Heh, remember our trips out to the country? You always remembered my favorites. Good times.

But then things changed. I’d say I’m fairly adept at identifying the exact moment when a relationship expires; when it takes a turn for the worse. Perhaps I was expecting it. Perhaps I was being pessimistic, but nonetheless, it came. All of those qualities you possessed that were seemingly charming in the beginning became well, not so charming. Your word became fallible. You lost your direction. You started making things difficult. You became bossy; demanding, even. I’m sure I hold some fault in it. There were certainly times when I made mistakes; when I didn’t trust; when I didn’t give you my full attention. But regardless, that didn’t give reason to demean me, to tell me to “turn around” when I screwed up…Especially those times my friends were with us.

We just aren’t right for each other. While I sometimes find myself a bit anxious without you, I gain a greater sense of achievement knowing that I’m no longer dependent. I’m not that helpless girl that I was the first time we got in the car together. I think that’s the type of person you need. Okay, yes, maybe I did almost come crawling back yesterday when I was lost. It would’ve been easier to have you there, but guess what?! I figured things out myself and after 5 months in France, I know my way pretty well. I don’t think you gave me enough credit. So with that, I wish you the best.

Goodbye, TomTom.



  • Catching up with my mom today on the phone. If I forgot to add "Excellent Giver of Advice" to the last post about her then I'm adding it now.
  • Oh, I'm sorry but who was it again who made some amazing roasted vegetables with garlic and thyme? Oh yes, it was me, thankyouverymuch.
  • I've conquered jogging up the "Rollercoaster Hill" as the kids call it. It's steep.
  • I finished packing...
  • Because in 12 hours, I'll be in the car on my way to Cannes for the film festival!!!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Fête des Mères

Twenty years ago, you could find me rummaging through her closet full of shoes, not letting a single pointed-toe stiletto get past my adolescent foot. There was an immediate attraction to all pairs measuring above a 3-inch heel and an aversion to the white pairs, flats and of course, Sperry Top-Siders. I’d then progress to her makeup drawer, applying every Clinique eye shadow and Sugarplum shade lipstick she had collected in the “Free Gift” purchases, which was a lot. Fast forward to present day and (when I’m not wandering about Europe) you’ll still find me sitting in front of her closet on our weekly Monday Mother & Daughter Night, assessing her obscene sum of shoes purchases. As for the makeup, I no longer have the need to delve around her makeup bag because now instead of getting one “Free Gift with Purchase,” she buys two and wraps one up for me.

My mom and I go back a quarter of a century. She’s beautiful, intelligent, audacious, and doesn’t accept enough credit. She loves all things New Orleans, purple and gold, and has still manages to cling to her Southern slang. She’s the impetus to my autonomy, love of ketchup, and addressing groups as “Ya’ll.” No longer does she question my desire to live in France, and in return, I refrain from criticizing her lengthy voicemail messages or inability to cook vegetables. Spoiler alert: Don’t use a microwave ;) After 25 years, we may not have it perfected, but we’ve got a knack for this whole Mother-Daughter thing. It works for us.

Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, between the days of taking me to preschool and taking me to the airport to board a plane to France, our relationship transformed; these past two years, especially. We had our ups, our downs, lefts, and rights, two steps forward and one step back. We talked it out in therapy and we shopped it out in Macy’s. We had moments of feeling dejected with a side of sorrow and a heaping measure of grudge, but we processed, discussed, and then found a pair of Nine West heels in our respective sizes with an extra 40% off.

There have been tears, arguments, slammed doors, misunderstandings, defensiveness, and even days without talking. But more importantly, there was forgiveness. There was laughing, advice seeking, story exchanging, inside jokes, nonfat-grande-extra-hot-decaf-cappuccinos from Starbucks, and mini-half-vanilla-half-cake-batter-frozen yogurt from Golden Spoon. There was acceptance and appreciation for each other’s idiosyncrasies rather than the previous desire to change them. The last couple of years, when life seemed to be a quarter-life emotional rut, I leaned on her for a crutch and she helped me to stand on my own two feet again. Without her support, I might still be in that rut.

While there was a time when it seemed that her and I were too dependent on each other, we’ve learned. Learned that love doesn’t mean leaning, and company doesn’t always mean security.[1] And now? Now our relationship feels the most secure to date. I’m sure we’ll encounter future tangles, future spats, future therapists’ couches, but with each disparity, we gain a little more insight, a little more genuineness, and a little more strength.

So Mom,
Thank you. I love you. I really miss you. Happy Mother’s Day.

[1] “After A While” Poem by Veronica Shoffstall

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!