8 ans

Somehow, in what feels like the blink of an eye my “baby” is now 8.  This can mean only one thing…  A watch was requested, and gifted for this year.  A few new outfits tossed in for good measure; as oldest she has the least amount of clothes of all the girls here.

And this weekend, a birthday party!  We’ve invited ten little French girls over to celebrate this year.  Last year we played games and had a dance party.  They absolutely loved the dance party bit…  I am currently on the hunt for a art type project we can do with them all this year…  Dreamcatchers, I think.

All of that to say I cannot believe that I have a child that is already 8.  I really was a baby when I had her, even if I didn’t feel like one at all.  (Ah, hindsight!)  She is bright, kindhearted, beautiful, and absolutely perfect just the way she is.  I can’t imagine my life without her in it, and I hope that we are able to stay close as she gets bigger.

And with that, I am off to sweep under the couch and do some deep cleaning so we are ready for the hoard of little girls this weekend!  🙂

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Hues of blue and gray

Be it the skies or the water, my eyes have been attracted to the different hues of blue lately.  La Bretagne really knows how to show off if you know to look!  A few sights that have caught my attention lately…

Daoulas at dusk…

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Mushroom hunting!

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The day Brittany had yellow skies…

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Sit and think a bit…?

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Les Gendarmes

Next up in the series on becoming French…  A surprise visit by the Gendarmes!  While I knew it was likely to happen, somehow when they actually showed up it was a bit of a shock.  I wasn’t expecting them this “soon” (manner of speaking, after all, my file was sent in months ago!), and I half expected a note in the mailbox to organize a time for them to come.  Instead they got to see a table with remnants of breakfast still on it, a mountain of unfolded wash on a couch and many other small touches of real life.

I had the littlest home for the morning from school because she was congested and she is prone to asthma or lung type infections.  Anyways, so we were home on a weekday morning, hanging out, I was on the internet, little Miss was watching some cartoons in undies wrapped up in a blanket.

And then, TOCK TOCK TOCK, someone knocks on the door.  This is already somewhat an event in itself.  We aren’t super rural, we do have a few neighbors, are on the edge of a village, and often I close our gate, so it isn’t a daily occurrence.  The dog goes wild.  Child comes running over to investigate, naked.  I see a dark silhouette through the pane on the door and think it is the postman.  Immediately think “yay, a package!”, swing open the door in excitement.  And it isn’t.  It is two gendarmes, of course, looking rather stern.  Actually, I don’t know that they look really stern, probably just the effect of the uniform and the stance they always seem to have, legs shoulder width apart, hands behind backs.

Of course, mother and wife that I am, I think that something has happened either to my girls, or to my husband.  I’m pretty sure all the blood drained out of my face seeing them there.  They were quick to reassure that everything was fine, they were here to speak to me with regards to my nationality request.

So we stood in my messy entryway (think rain boots for a family of five, other various shoes, a kimono on the ground where it was tossed the night before upon returning from judo, a few small piles of clean clothes children were supposed to carry up to bedrooms, and weird catch-all table that lives in the entryway until I find an armoire that makes my heart flutter covered in random bits and pieces of life…), while they asked me a few questions.  When did we move here?  How did my husband and I meet?  How many kids do we have?  How old are they?  What does he do for a job?  What do I do?  A few kind of random comments that I wasn’t really sure how to reply to like “Wow this is a big house!” and “You don’t have hardly any accent at all.”  And then they left, it was all pretty friendly and not a big deal.

They went down to the  neighbors after to ask if we really were a couple…  And of course, small village, my neighbor knew the older gendarme so they stayed and had an apéro at hers before heading back down to the gendarmerie.  The neighbor actually played a pretty funny role in this whole situation before the gendarmes even got to my house, but more on that, later!

So, all in all, just under 4 months after my file was sent in, I had my gendarme visit.  Now just waiting for my entretien d’assimilation, so getting there, slowly but surely!  I can’t wait!

Bientôt Française…?

As wife to a Frenchman, mother to Franco-American children, the idea of becoming a bi-nationaux is something I’ve been considering for quite some time. As the world we live in sometimes feels stranger and stranger, filled with less certainty, an more confusion, I decided it was a step I was ready to take.  I have been in France for many years, soon enough, I’ll have lived in France longer then I lived in the US, so I really do consider myself half French, half American.  Or, maybe I should say 100% French and 100% American?  Whatever the percentages, my identity is split between the two now, and carrying both nationalities satisfies parts of my identity, being and soul.  I carry both in my heart, one is my roots, the other are my branches.

Once I had decided to move forward, I wrote to my préfecture to inquire about the exact requirements.  I knew I had the basic requirements to apply as the spouse of a French person, but each préfecture has a slightly different process, or requirements, and they all function a bit differently.  (Mine requires files to be sent in via AR with a chronopost envelope in case they must return your file to you, others prefer a rendez-vous to drop off your file in person, so if you are interested in requesting nationality, I recommend checking with your own, local, préfecture before starting anything).

They got back to me rather fast, and with the list of paperwork required in hand, I got to work locating everything.  Luckily, it was the start of the school year, when I finally found myself with free mornings!  I started compiling my dossier, which I finally completed end of October and send off to the préfecture early November.  In total it took about 2 months to get it together, with some help from my parents as I needed copies of their birth certificates, along with the “usual suspects” when dealing with French Administration- recent bills, impôts, acte de naissance, copies of IDs, self addressed pre-stamped envelopes…  But nothing all that daunting, in fact, I think the list is quite similar for a ten year carte de séjour.

A few months of running down to the mailbox as soon as the postman had come by, I was almost suprised one day to find an envelope in my mailbox written to me, in my own handwriting!  The préfecture wrote to let me know that my file is complét (whew!!) and next I’ll be called in for an entretien d’assimilation.

So, while not a fast process, it is one that is moving forward.  I’m busy now reviewing my knowledge of French history, but I’m not concerned.  I’ll update as the process evolves, watch this space!

Affaire à suivre…

Les vacances d’hiver

Ahhh, les vacances d’hiver.  Pure bliss.  6 weeks after Christmas/New Years break the French schools have a 2 week break.  A friend in the US with some French family roots that still run deep calls this “national ski week”, which is actually fairly apt and concise of an explanation.  A lot of families head over to les alps or the Pyrénées for a week of skiing during this winter break.  It is a lot of fun, but it can be pricey when you are a famille nombreuse!  We do like to go, and try to go now and then, but not this year for us!  Maybe next year?  Instead, we’ve spent the first week working on paperwork, making glorious messes, some local tourism, I’m hopeful that we will maybe get some lights hung and a few other odd jobs this weekend, Mama likes to dream!…

We took our three valentines out to lunch on Valentine’s day.  Inadvertently we ended up at a crêpe place that seemed to be hosting a valentines lunch for a 70+ year old crowd.  We were the youngest ones there by several decades, including the patrons, the chef and even the serveur.  After, we took the girls out to the Pointe du Raz.  The “end of the Earth” as they say here.  It was a beautiful, sunny, day, though a bit windy.  (I wish I could share some pictures but I’m struggling to get them to load- I’ll keep trying so check back!)

And, as quickly as it started our week as a group of 5 ended and Papa headed back to work.  Our week of just girls was a bit less productive, but we rested, snuggled, got some paperwork sorted (new passports, galore!) and all that that entails.

Monday is back to school for the girls, and time for me to clean the house, top to bottom, and work on some of my other obligations!  My parents are coming for a visit at the end of April so I have to get the house together!  This involves hopefully hanging what little art we have on the walls, putting in light fixtures in, well, pretty much every room in the house (still!), and mopping floors, clearing dust from corners and all the exciting chores that never seem to make it to the top of the list among all the regular chores!

Limping along

… what our reality feels like these days!  Not due to injury, just trying to have a foot everywhere all the time!

I’ve got so much happening.

I have to work on Christmas shopping, which feels weird as I have 2 children that still have birthdays before then.  Speaking of which, 2 birthdays and their respective parties to organize, and a house to have clean and tidy for both!

I’ve been spending a lot of time wrestling with my California ballot. In addition to the federal elections, there are 17 measures submitted to voters statewise, even one from my district.  Wading through all of that information to make a hopefully informed choice, is time consuming.

My laptop went all wonky with the latest iOS update, though if I am honest it too was already limping along before then.  I have to take it in for repair, I hope.  One thing about living fairly rurally- no Apple store with a Genius bar nearby!  They’ve suggested a local person that is approved by them, so, hopefully he can be my hero du jour.  I can also hope it won’t be too pricey.  Both may be in vain.  I really do need that laptop though, and I definitely do not want to be replacing it at this moment in time, so, here I sit, fingers crossed.

We changed banks, this is not easy anywhere, but I think French red tape takes the cake here.  We still have a few accounts lingering at our old bank, along with their fees, so I would really like to get those closed, asap as well.  It is a bit like a dog chasing its tail- around and around we go, hoping to one day actually catch the end goal!

My day to day life is also generally busy when school is in session, volunteering at school, cooking, cleaning, keeping up on laundry.  None of it seems huge in the moment, but, it all adds up to busy days.  My great plan for today is to hopefully make some applesauce with apples from the yard and an apple tart or maybe a pie.  Because nothing sounds better right now then a gorgeous slice of apple pie warm from the oven, to just sit with and enjoy in the moment.

One year later

One year in Brittany and the bilan is overwhelmingly positive.  I haven’t worked in the garden as much as I would have liked to.  I’m still a few boxes short of having sorted everything we have, mainly too small girls clothing but I am still holding out on actually getting ride of those (a hearts secret hope, maybe, or perhaps a bit of folie, it is what it is, I am not ready to get rid of anything, yet)…

Our village was very welcoming to us.  The girls love their school.  They have friends.  And so do I.  As many expats can attest to, making friends, your own friends, can sometimes be difficult.  I have been lucky to have made friends in France fairly easily from the start, but many were girlfriends of my husbands friends.  I am lucky to have them, even still many moves later, I count them as great friends, women I can count on, women who I witnessed becoming mothers, and vice versa.  But these friends, here, in our village, are my own. I have found them, and befriended them, on my own.  We have some things in common, children in the same school, but they are kind, they invite me to events, send me text messages, check in with me if we haven’t seen each other in a few days, they would pick up my children from school if needed, who would watch them if I had an appointment.  And it feels good.

I am invited to the girls classrooms to read or play games in English fairly regularly.  I was asked to read at the library (albeit for now in French; but I hope to start an English story time now and then).  I Zumba with the village ladies once a week, walk with the school on a hike weekly as well.  I go to the weekly market for the organic goat cheese, fruit and vegetables, the roast chickens, the cheese monger for the thick cream and eggs and beautiful cheese choices.  I know the local supermarket ladies, my neighbors, the postman.  This village has become our own.

I still let myself dream of a little chateau, or many acres with a farmhouse, animals, and extensive vegetable gardens, or even the field behind our house to add to our own 1.25 acres.  But I am content, happy, and in a place in my life I enjoy, and we are so lucky to be here, right now.