Friday, March 24, 2006

He's Home!

So Ethan's home! He got home a week ago, actually, but I've been freelancing and catching up on grading, and haven't had time to post anything until now. I've got to figure out a way to balance blogging with everything else I'm doing, because it means a lot to me.

I'm not cry-y mom. I'm so not. But, when all the parents were clustered around the Northwest escalator waiting for our orange-clad world-travelers to descend, I started to feel a little funny. Then, as the first-class and business class people started coming down, asking if we were waiting for the kids from Paris, and smilingly reassuring us that they were here, coming any minute now... I started to feel even funnier. Then, as the kids finally appeared, and I was taking pictures, and suddenly Ethan was there hugging me, there were these odd water droplets in my eyes. Huh. It wasn't relief, or reuniting... it was just happiness. Happiness in his presence. I missed that more than I realized.

Doesn't he look capable and self-sufficient, carrying all that luggage? That's his dad in the background, by the way.

Simon was quite glad to see his brother again, as you can see.

As was his dad. It was really sweet. The guy hugged him for the loooooongest time. He almost couldn't bear to let go.

I look like a giant purple hippo in this picture, but maybe you can see the tears in my eyes, just a little?

Sometimes Ethan is such a boy. I think if he were a girl, I would have heard a lot more description of his stay in France, and of the people he stayed with. Girls (hate to be stereotypical, but it's true) just seem to be better at detailed description. Here's what I know. He had a super duper time, and I am most proud of 3 things:

1) He tried new foods. Even escargot! Dude is a seriously picky eater, but he tried everything, and even liked most of it. Good for him. He was especially keen on the pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants) and some kind of chocolate yogurt he had for breakfast every morning. And the "round bread" his host mom bought for him every day.

2) One of the chaperones who went was his English teacher, who is considerably older than the other two twenty-somethings. I'm sure this makes her slower getting around, and probably a bit stodgier. This means that she is definitely not as "cool," right? She's a lot like my mom, actually. Ethan told me that he spent a lot of time with her, and was always in the back of any lines with her, because most of the other kids were just busy having fun, and being kids, and stuff, and so she was a bit ignored. But he is so kind, and so thoughtful (and also so attuned to my arthritic-kneed, stationary mother) that he kept this teacher company, and moved at her pace with her. She shared this with me as well. How on earth did I manage to create this sweeter than sweet person? And what will happen to him in the big, wide, mean world? Well, anyway, I am prouder than I can say of this boy and his sensitive treatment of others.

3) He brought back the most thoughtful souvenirs for everyone in the family. Stereotyping again: boys aren't always the best at this, no? But dudes, he's ELEVEN and he knows to bring quince jam for Andy, and caramels for my mom and dad, and adorable hair clips for Charlotte, and a knight-themed magazine packaged with a cunning little toy dagger for Simon, and a black necklace for me. I'm stunned.

Ethan's teacher told me that his host family was lovely. The mom was a teacher, and the three daughters had way too much fun mothering and feeding and entertaining Ethan. Apparently, he was deeply immersed in the European kiss-kiss greeting, and all the little girls loved kiss-kissing him. Which he loved as well, except when it came from guys. So Ethan took to extending his hand for a manly American handshake to any men who attempted the kiss-kiss. His host family apparently thought this was hilariously adorable. Heh.

What a wonderful experience he had. I'm so glad I nervous-breakdowned my way through that first freelance job to pay for it. Totally worth it. His French is magnifique now!

Speaking of freelancing, they are now hiring me on in a fuller capacity through August, to write 5 more criminal justice classes. I'll be like a major! Maybe I'll be a cop! In order to make this happen, Andy and I have agreed that I cannot continue to pull overnighters. I'm almost 40, for crying out loud! It takes me like 3 days to recover! So, in order for me to be able to work during the day, we're seeking someone to watch Simon and Charlotte 2 days a week. This was a really difficult decision for me, as I was so committed to staying home with them, but our financial situation has gotten to the point where this is just necessary, and I think it's a good compromise. Charlotte will love it, I'm confident. Andy's also going to look into getting me a refurbished laptop, so I can go work somewhere else, because I have a hard time concentrating here chez nous.

I'll be making scads (for me) of money, as long as I can retain my sanity. Working on that too, by the way. I want to sock it away for the boys' schooling. Simon is so smart. He deserves to go to a great school, you know? You should hear him whizzing through Dr. Seuss. It's beautiful! Talk about getting schmoopy! I practically lose it every time!

I include the following pictures because they make me laugh. My niece had a superhero party for her 3rd birthday, and Charlotte went as Supergirl. She had an absolutely cracking good time. Don't even try to tell her it isn't very badass to be hauling around a milk bottle. She won't even have that.

Simon had another excuse to don his favorite, bemuscled Power Ranger costume. He is deeply into them, I'm afraid. He appears to have gotten it from his father, whose powers, I think, originate in his deeply hott spectacles. Mmmm... spectacles...

Monday, March 13, 2006


It's been truly loony over here. In light of said lunacy, I'd like to document for posterity the following sweet, calm moments and small pleasures:

1) Brand new cake of soap. Ahhhhhh.....

2) A HUGE, long, beautifully hand-written letter from Yucaree. JOY!!

3) Taking a shower with Charlotte, and holding her small, silent, slippery body close while we stood rocking slightly under the warm water, with her wet little head on my shoulder. Communion.

4) Spinning a penny on the floor with Simon, over and over yesterday, while Andy and Charlotte slept. Simple, fun, communion.

5) Sitting for a few uninterrupted minutes in Andy's lap, like newly dating people, before Charlotte demanded to join us. Missed that.

6) Opening the windows during yesterday's rain. It's been raining for DAYS now (Andy had to vacuum the ponds out of our basement - sigh) and it's been freakishly warm (I guess we aren't getting a winter, after all) so our house got really stuffy and hot, and the open windows were delightful. Especially with the soft rain outside. Nice. One forgets how great fresh air is.

7) Got to wear my orchid-colored raincoat. I LOVE my orchid-colored raincoat.

8) Simon started reading by himself last weekend. Like, all of a sudden, he just started sounding things out, like you're supposed to, and he even read the word "stretch"! Andy and I didn't want to freak out too much in his presence, because we didn't want to stress him out with pressure, and you're suposed to make those moments all about their own ownership of their achievement ("I bet you feel PROUD of yourself, don't you?") rather than about pleasing you. But DANG! Privately, I did a very VERY ecstatic dance and promptly called up everyone I know to brag. He's so smart, you guys. We never really sat down and, like taught him. We just read to him all the time. I knew all those books sitting around here would pay off!

After Ethan's chaperones posted some pictures on the school website of the kids over in France, I finally felt the full force of missing him, and called him for the first time. I was all, "Bonjour! Je suis la mere d'Ethan! Je voudrais parler a mon fils!" Or some such old-lady-sounding, stilted version of French. He was happily playing Le Connect Quatre with the girls, and super excited about the dinner his host mom was preparing. Some kind of quiche with ham AND bacon. His salt-loving heart was thrilled. He told me she buys him a special round loaf of bread every day, because he eats so much of it. Also, they toured the downtown area of the town in which they're staying, which has many traces of its medieval past, including a cathedral that left him awestruck. He said it was the most beautiful thing he's ever seen, when the sun came in through the stained glass and colored the air and the floor. He's my boy. I remember entering St. Chapelle in Paris and just bursting into tears from the sheer beauty of the place. All by myself, sitting on a bench, crying. He's also spending all his money on gifts for us. Such a sweetheart. They've been to a cheese factory and the local market, and the Normandy beaches and American and German cemeteries, and several other points of local interest, and they'll be going to a carmel factory this week. He went to Mt. St. Michel with his family! In short, he's having a totally awesome time. He comes home Friday evening. I can't wait to see him, and to take in the changes I'm sure will have taken place.

I'm still freelancing. It's so weird. The lady who is the boss of me likes me, no matter how screwy and behind the deadline I get. She keeps offering me more work, and trying to schedule things around my life, and figuring out how to get me more money, and talking about future managerial positions, and stuff. I must be good at this, for all it totally and utterly terrifies me. I'm thinking about having someone watch Simon and Charlotte a couple days a week so that I can work during the day rather than overnight, because that's killing me. It's so hard to trust your kids with someone else. I've done institutional daycare, as well as in-home, and none of them have worked out well. Ack. More stress. But we totally need the money, and it's a way for me to build a resume, and, you know, Charlotte at least would probably LOVE daycare. Other kids, other environments, stiumLAtion!!! Geez. Yet another thing for me to have the heebies about.

Love you, internets. I couldn't stay away for long!

Monday, March 06, 2006


Sorry to worry y'all.

I've got to take a short hiatus while I finish my current freelance project. It's consuming my life. I'm actually considering getting some medication for my performance-related anxiety. It's so bad, I haven't been able to get near the computer without shaking and nausea. Can't check my email, can't look at my blog, can't type a lick. It's ridiculous, and embarrassing, and I feel horribly guilty to have neglected my online friends. Which just creates this heinous cycle, wherein I hate myself and beat myself up, and do lots of household chores I've neglected until just this moment because I can't go near the computer to do anything, even the stuff I love. I suck.

Side note: Ethan left for France on Saturday (EVERYTHING converged in this past week - I did the singing gig as well) and arrived safe and sound after something like 17 hours of travel (including the 3 hour layover in Detroit, and the 2 1/2 hour bus ride from Paris to the town where he's staying). He's with a family with 3 daughters (perfect for him), and has written me emails like "I'M HAVING A GREAT TIME!!!!! I MISS YOU BUT THAT WON'T STOP ME FROM HAVING THE GREATEST TIME!!!" and "I LOVE IT HERE SO MUCH I COULD STAY A YEAR!!!!" and, most hilariously, secretly written in white, so that I had to highlight over it to read it, the following super-classified phrase pertaining to the oldest daughter, who is 12 1/2 (oooh, older) "SHE IS SO PRETTY I WOULD DO ANYTHING TO STAY HERE WITH HER." My son. Sticking with time-honored tradition and falling into a first crush in FRANCE! He'll be back on the 17th. I expect great changes.

So, to wrap up... I've had a mini-breakdown and need to hiate myself (did I just make up a verb?) until I've done what I need to do. It's a daily struggle and I feel weird about considering the medication thing but I've got to do something for the crushing anxiety, the fall-out from which affects everyone in the family, not just me.

Wish me luck.