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I finally have my own site, something I have dreamed about and now have made a reality! I will continue to copy the posts over here for a little while, but please come over to www.toulouseconfessions.com to see me in html flesh!

Dear Jake

March 10, 2010

Hi, little one. Little angel. Little nephew. Today you would have turned 5 years old. Five years old! Were everything in life perfect your Uncle, cousin and I would have called you on Skype to see all your new toys and your birthday cake, to sing you CumpleaƱos Feliz and to blow you lots of birthday kisses. We would have, too. Instead we will call your parents to see how they are doing, but they won’t want to talk long, which is okay. It’s just that your daddy likes to know that we all still remember you. But how could he even think that for one minute we might forget you….?

I remember the day you were born. March 10, 2005. It was snowing so much outside St. Mary’s Hospital that it was almost a blizzard. We were so excited to see you that your uncle and I came as soon as we were done with our classes. Your Binka was already there along with your older brother and sister. And you were so cute. You had a little scrunched up nose, almost no hair and slept all the time,….and it was impossible NOT to take pictures of you. I have one framed in my living room right now. You are just one day old.

The problems starting showing right away, although no one knew that you not being able to keep yourself warm would eventually become a sign for such a terrible disease. No one knew because this disease rarely occurs. It’s jus that you were that one in a million. You certainly were for all of us, though in a better concept that when speaking of a disease. It didn’t matter that you never wanted anyone to hold you as a newborn or that you slept all the time, we loved you. I loved you. I was smitten from the beginning, just as I was with your older brother and sister. And even though you managed to poop right on my lap several times in your short life I was still smitten.

When the insomnia hit from so many medications running through your body and you decided that you would rather be held I was always willing to hold you. So were your mommy and daddy, but you have to understand that there were times that they needed to do other things. And that is when I got to hold you. We would spend hours together on the couch, remember? I always hated putting you down just because I had to go to work or go home because you would always wake up. I know most nights you slept next to your daddy, but I still hated seeing you wake up when I left.

I was so happy that you made it to my Wedding Day. Grandpa Curtis took a beautiful picture of the two of us dancing together. It was one of the last days that I saw you alive as I moved to Spain just a week later. I was so sad at the thought of leaving you. So sad because as much as I prayed and wanted to believe that you would make it to be a Real Madrid soccer player one day, we all knew the prognosis. We all knew you weren’ t supposed to live until your second birthday. We all wanted to deny it and deny it we did, especially for your daddy’s sake, but it didn’t change the fact that this disease was tearing you apart from the inside out. It didn’t change the fact that your brain was shrinking and being replaced by fluid. That everyday you could do a little less and you hurt a little more. Looking over pictures of you I see the painful look in your eyes and I wonder why I didn’t see it when you were alive. Maybe I just didn’t want to see it. Yes, I saw you cry. Plenty of times, but the eyes that I remember are so soft and so loving. I guess I just don’t remember those eyes full of pain.

And now you have no more pain. And every year we have a little less. Three years ago in May, when I received the phone call to come because you were going to Jesus I thought my heart was going to stop. All the way home I cried. I didn’t know if I would see you again alive or not and for that I cried. When I walked through Binka’s door at 1 am your auntie Kerri told me I was too late to see you. You were already gone. You had left two days before as I was buying my airline ticket. She told me it was a terribly dark day the day that you left, that it was the worst experience to watch you slowly leave this earth, but the consolation of it all was that you were no longer in pain. Yes, that was good news. You had been in pain all your life and now you were able to run with the other children and Jesus, pain-free. It was good news for us, but it didn’t keep us all from crying.

For three days straight we cried. There was nothing more to say, just tears to cry out. I’m crying right now as I type this…so I’m going to move on, baby boy. Let’s talk about something more fun.

I’m sure you are having fun now. More than us, although I am having quite a fun time raising your cousin. I wish you could have met her, but then, you wouldn’t have realized who she was, I guess. If I’m going to go on wishing I guess I’ll just wish that you had been born without a kink in your chromosome…but what’s the point?

Your brothers and sisters are doing well. So are your parents. They are doing much better than I could imagine anyone after sending their baby away to Jesus. It is consoling that you went to have a better life than the one you had here. And that you are there with lots of grandparents and relatives to take care of you until your parents come, but we still wish you were here. It’s hard not to wish that. It’s hard not to wonder what you would have been like as a normal boy. What your voice would have sounded like, if you would have prefered trucks over trains, if you would have been a dreamer or a realist. It’s hard not to wonder.

Your portrait hangs over our fireplace in the playroom, where we spend most of our time. I’m glad I can finally hang it as I no longer cry every time I look at you. Now I smile at you, greet you, blow kisses at you. Your cousin does, too. We all do because we still love you. And always will. I just wanted to let you know that, baby boy, we love you.

Happy Birthday. Eat lots of cake since you can’t get a stomach ache in Heaven. I’m blowing you kisses so make sure you catch them.

I’ll see you soon,

Your auntie

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Protests in France..They are NOT a stereotype!

March 8, 2010

This past weekend I saw yet another two protests. I was going to write about them, but it would have only been a small excerpt since combined they consisted of about 50 people. In front were the Women’s Rights people talking about abortion and tacked on (literally) to them were the communists. I didn’t really get what the communists were demonstrating about. They really just looked like they had organized a handful of people to follow the feminists around. Perhaps they were just showing their support. I’m not sure. At any rate, it looked a bit funny and I couldn’t help but laugh at the strangeness of it all. Why bother demonstrating when you are less than 100 people? This is France. I don’t know.

From the day we moved here I have seen four protests. But today’s topped them all.

At around 1;20pm, after playing a bit of chase the ball down the hallway, Queenie and I started hearing a lot of honking and shouting outside. At first I blew it off as being some strange traffic at lunch hour, but it continued and I became curious. This is what I saw:

From my bad French I can tell that they are protesting jobs. Something about less water=8000 jobs lost. Which isn’t cool, granted, but I just had to giggle at the fact that at least fifty tractors drove by my huge city apartment today. And this is just Toulouse! Image what it is like in Paris! I have heard of the jokes about the French protesting but now that I have seen it live, I understand that they are not jokes, they are just funny facts about French culture. They protest a lot. A lot.

Ah, well. Gotta love freedom of speech. Plus, Queenie thought it was pretty cool that we not only have maneenono (snowman snow) today, but we got to watch a bunch of vroom-vrooms got by our house. It must have given her good dreams because she took a sweet three hour nap afterwards!

Sunday Market

March 8, 2010

We went yesterday to what some people (including the internet) told us was a brocante (flea market). As we asked for directions yesterday on our way there a man gentle told us that it was certainly not a brocante as it had mostly food there with some stands selling other items. If it was furniture and treasure we were looking for we were going to be sorely disappointed. He was kind about it, but it still put a damper on our spirits as we had been dreaming of finding two pieces of furniture to complete the bathrooms.

Well, the man was right. It was mostly food, although it had some stands with baskets and fabric and jewelry. There was even a stand with handmade baby clothes. Super cute stuff, although rather expensive.

The market was packed with people, which didn’t make it easy to weave through with a toddler, which means Principe’s neck hurts quite a bit today from carrying her on his shoulders!

Halfway through the market Queenie started asking for pasta and pizza and bread (basically any food that she saw a stand for). We bought some sort of gooey cheese for 7Euro the half-kilo (not exactly what we thought we were buying) and a loaf of bread. She plowed through some bread and cheese but was still asking for food so we decided to buy a small pizza and sit down on a bench to eat. We ended up sitting right next to what we thought were stands selling eggs. But they weren’t just selling eggs. (BTW, the market is the place to buy eggs in France. One point for me!)

Look closely at what the man is doing….:he is tying up a live chicken and sticking it into a box! From the pictures you would think that we live in a small village! As we ate our pizza we watched quite a few people come and buy real, live chickens to take home. What I’m wondering is where in the world they de-feather them? In their apartment?

After watching the show (thank goodness Queenie is too young to ask questions about why chickens are going into boxes) we came across a music man. Like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins except that this guy had spread out a huge blanket and scattered it with musical instruments that he had made personally out of wood and other recyclable items for kids to play with. He sat on his chair and randomly played either his violin or other instruments or showed the children how to play things. Queenie had a blast and didn’t want to leave.

A good day, all in all. Most interesting. The more we see of French culture the more I am intrigued. It’s so rich!

..the sound of silence….

March 5, 2010

There needs to be a new song written called “The sound of silence DOES NOT EXIST IN THE CITY!” Not even one as small as Toulouse. This is a small city. SMALL. But silence does not exist here.

Last night we were invited to have front window seats at the Hopped Up on Booze and Nicotine University Boys A capella Club.

And the singing was not good.

We tried to politely refuse this invitation, but they wouldn’t listen.

They came anyway.

At three in the morning I seriously thought about how many Hail Mary’s I would have to do for throwing eggs at the club. But then I remembered how expensive eggs are and let it go.

Then at 3:15 I thought about changing Queenie’s diaper in order to throw that at the singing club, but was grateful enough for her to still be sleeping so I opted to cover my head with my pillow instead.

And then Queenie woke up. And I changed her diaper. But just as I was preparing to open the window the singing became rather distant and I realized they were going home. I don’t know if the tears were in relief or disappointment for not getting to show them my appreciation.

Then the garbage man came. 5AM. But he must have been in a rotten mood because he decided to throw the canisters back onto the curb instead of setting them there.

And it is Friday, time to pick up the recycling. Apparently the thought of the weekend coming gave the recycling man (or woman, yeah, yeah) the idea that every piece of glass in the canister should be given its last rites by being thrust individually into the truck, being at once smashed into little pieces. Right below my bedroom window.

And then Queenie woke up. So I tried to convince her to go back to sleep. But the people walking to work at 6 AM who seemed to be standing on opposite sides of the street found it a good time to shout to each other about the news of the morning. And Queenie laughed when I said it wasn’t morning yet.

And then she covered her face with her Elephant and said, “Mama, e esta?” (“Mama, where am I?”)

Not even allowing her into our bed helped soothe her back to sleep. Not even the semi-silence as the recycling and trash trucks finally pulled away, their engines roaring at an ungodly decibel.

And that is how I found myself playing neighs (My Little Pony) at 6:25 AM. Gotta love the city.

This is Where I Live

March 5, 2010

Welcome to This is Where I Live Thursday. The new part of the blog where I show you (visually) where I live. I’m pretty much falling in love with this town and I think soon you will realize why. Every Thursday you will get some eye candy straight from the streets of Toulouse, France. Ready? (yes, I realize that today is Friday, although i had to ask Principe when I woke up today what day it was…but either WordPress or my internet funked out on me and I just noticed that this post didn’t publish. Forgive me. I wasn’t trying to fool you!)

This is the Jardin Royal (Royal Gardens) that is literally a three minute walk from our house. Patitos (ducks) live there on the pond we go at least two to three times a week so that Queenie can get her fix of them. She loves to throw them bread and tell me, “shhh, patitos, pan” (basically: “Shh, the ducks are eating bread”.)

Numbers vs. words

March 4, 2010

For the last four years now Principe and I have been writing down our expenses. It started out as a way to save money for our trip to Thailand in 2006 but soon grew into this ginormous monster of an Excel spread sheet. Principe is a numbers expert and addict. When he studied his masters in the United States he discovered that Bill Gates must share this same addiction and passion for these little things that I usually just attached to a price tag or to toddler flashcards, but which are indeed something so much more than that. You may not know it but numbers are interesting. They can tell a story, straight and true without any error except for human error. Words are something that, since they come from humans, can tell a story but you are always left wondering if it is true. Not so with numbers, Principe will tell you, and much less with his beloved program buddy, Excel, because excel rules out human error by going bonkers when there is one. It spits out a bunch of nonsense, which is really just computer swear words smeared across the screen telling you that you are one dumb blonde who should really just stick to the words. That is why I don’t use Excel any more. It has been so rude to me whenever I have tried that I just don’t care to try and reconcile. That and Principe gets annoyed at how slow I go on it that he ends up taking the computer away and doing it himself. Fine by me. I don’t need some computer program telling me I am inapt. I have that little voice inside my head doing it too often to need a mindless, heartless robot to add to it.

But aside from my dislike of a program that every engineer and economist love to the point that they would bend over and kiss Bill Gate’s feet in their gratefulness, as I said before, we write down our expenses. And it is all on Excel. There is a LARGE folder full of graphs, comparisons, inputs and outputs, slides, etc that all interact with each other dated from the moment we got married. Principe thought it was unfair to keep the pages he filled from before we were married. Those are stored away somewhere else.

While it is interesting at times to see the ways in which are lives have changed (you can see exactly where Queenie was born as all of a sudden the category salir (going out) drop straight down. It doesn’t curve it plummets. Funny. And if you ever doubted that moving is expensive all you have to do is look at Principe’s many graphs. Every time we moved house (or country) we end up spending a small fortune.

But these little boxes with their little formulas that automatically calculate and enhance Principe’s graphs and other columns wouldn’t be able to do a thing if it weren’t for one annoying little review every night before we go to bed that starts in the form of a question: “How much did you spend today?”

Every day I must tell Principe how much I spend and what category it needs to be filed into. He doesn’t harp on me about any of my spending at all and rarely makes a comment, but I still don’t like it. I would rather spend 50Euro on scrapbooking supplies without really having to tell him about it like most wives and just wave my hand around if he dares to actually ask what I spent. Instead I have to tell him.

I sound like a 1950’s wife, don’t I? Don’t feel too sorry for me. A few months back Principe asked if all of this bothered me enough for me to want to stop. I told him that I hope one day we can stop, and when he face fell ashen, I quickly added, “but I know that you enjoy it immensely and so would never actually ask you to stop. It doesn’t bother me that much. Not as much in comparison to the joy that you get out of it.” And his face quickly became brighter. And then he asked me if I was ready for the monthly review, his favorite time of month. !

And really, it is just so ingrained in my routine now that I guess I don’t really mind. What I do mind is that it seems to take precedence over my words. For some reason it always works out that Principe wants to “just take a look” at “how we’re doing with money” just as I am cozying up to writing either a post or working on a story. Of course it is no coincidence that many times we are in bed or it is late at night as neither of us has the time to do these things while Queenie is awake. But after eight years of being together Principe still doesn’t understand that words are not like numbers in that you can leave them, come back and still have the same ones come flowing out. One small break in typing breaks up the whole idea or paragraph. In other words, the train of thought gets on another track. Take this post for example. I was going to write about how extremely expensive eggs are here in France. I mean, crazy expensive. To the point that you start thinking that French chickens are probably having a better life than you, sleeping on silk cushions or something in order to produce such expensive eggs. What else could possibly explain that they are DOUBLE the price than in Spain? Eggs and beef. Apparently those are the farmers to be here in France as they must be making a killing compared to those same farmers in all other countries.

See what I mean about words and numbers and getting on different tracks? Ah, oh well. It’s late and Queenie will probably be waking up at some ungodly hour because she barely ate any dinner.

Everything’s gonna be alright

March 3, 2010

At least that is what the doc says. Without committing too much, as no doc can commit truly and wholly to any opinion, he bascially told us that there is no reason to worry about Little N coming too early and that Principe going away for the weekend next weekend to get ridiculously drunk with his friends (the doc does not know it is a bachelor party. For some reason Principe didn’t want to add that little detail to the question!) will be no problem. We do have some friends of ours who are not usually in town (as they don’t have children and like to enjoy their weekends skiing or traveling) who will actually be in town that weekend “on call” for me. They are so sweet to do this. Queenie loves them and would be fine with them if Little N did decide to engage her head and come into the sunlight. Of all people this helps Principe go away with his conscience soothed, although he did mention with a bit of a whine that he won’t be able to enjoy himself AS MUCH AS HE WANTS just in case I end up calling him. To which I rolled my eyes and almost, ALMOST went into a rant about how many times since Queenie was born that he has had the opportunity to go out compared to the times that I have gone (that would be zero on my side), but I held my tongue. I am getting better at holding my tongue. Maybe because two friends of mine have mentioned that they may come to visit this summer and boy do I have plans if they do….! ( I have a nasty little smile on my lips right now…..!)

Somehow the day has gotten away with me and although I had a ton of post ideas running through my head earlier today I have dinner now on my mind as well as trying to come up with an idea on how to keep Queenie out of my scrapbooking stuff which is strewn everywhere. I am trying to organize it, but I am at a loss as to just how to do that. I mean, I have ideas, mostly ones stolen from my best friend and scrabooking bloggers, but I am at a loss as to where to buy the stuff needed in order to put those ideas into action. The worst thing about moving countries is that you have no idea where to go in order to buy certain stuff. If I were in the States I would head over to Target or Walmart, but those stores haven’t made it over here and I don’t see their arrival coming very soon. As much as Europeans love Walmart when they are in the States, they would hate to see it in their own country!

Hmmm. It is now about three hours later. I am sitting in the living room with Principe and two of his friends as their watch Spain vs. France play soccer. Principe again came home late (about 8:15) and therefor missed Queenie refusing to eat chicken and brocolli cassarole and instead opting for two hot dogs, a couple spoonfuls of SMACKS cereal, freexe dried cherries and strawberries from my Special K cereal and some applesauce. In the end she ate well and went to bed with a full tummy, which will hopefully keep her from waking up, but it DID NOT keep my frustration at bay from her refusing to eat what I had actually made for dinner. I am still in limbo on what to do about that. Since I obsess over my family’s fruit and veggie intake I think I am finally going to give up with the idea that if I give her veggies in their natural state or sticking out of rice and pasta in plain day in order to get her used to eating them and liking them and go more towards the Sneaky Chef way. I think I really messed up with her when she was younger with this eating thing. Or maybe not. Maybe she is just picky. I don’t know. Any kid friendly recipes you have lying around would be helpful.

At any rate I can’t concentrate any more. Principe wants me to stay in here with them but I think I’m going to go scrapbook a bit. They are speaking in French and watching soccer. Not exactly my idea of how to unwind at the end of the day!