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Posts Tagged ‘postaweek2011’


Our first Christmas in France was filled with new experiences, some shocking, like the sudden arrival of Christmas decorations in October, others deliciously soothing like the welcomed appearance of vin chaud (hot, spicy, mulled wine) at every single outdoor event we attended.  This year I learned that life is better when indulging in a warm, alcoholic beverage.  Hordes of grumbling, shoving, faux-merry Christmas market revelers turn amiable and festive after just one sip from a Santa-festooned mug of piping hot vin chaud.  While shopping at our Sunday market, cupping the warm, aromatic brew in my frosty hands, my snot-encrusted, whining children magically sound like two jolly carolers, spreading cheer (as opposed to their nasty cold virus) throughout the crowd.  The local ski club charges the bargain price of 1 Euro for this cold weather staple and the Thoiry pompier (firefighters) give it away for FREE.  You gotta love municipal workers who dole out free alcohol on a Sunday morning.  Vin chaud, welcome to my life.  I think we are going to be very, very good friends.

Christmas of 2010 will forever stand as the year of Santa.  It was the year that my three-year-old became a card-carrying member of the “I ♥ Santa” club.  For the first time in her little life she fully realized the power of the Claus and spent the majority of her December dreaming about Santa, asking questions about Santa, and drawing pictures of Santa.  Her behavior magically improved, she was kinder to her sister and less apt to erupt in ear-piercing shrieks.  She efficiently collected data on the Big Man in Red, grilling us like a seasoned Law and Order detective.  Where does Santa live?  Who does he live with?  What is Mrs. Santa’s real name?  How many elves reside with Santa?  What do elves eat?  She peppered me with questions until I would cry mercy and seek outside counsel in the form of my infinitely more creative husband.

We were officially Santa crazy at the Hirschauer house and it didn’t help matters much that there were Santas everywhere in our little French town.  Now, French Santa, or Pere Noel, is a different breed from the traditional sack-wielding, sleigh-driving, jolly old elf that we are familiar with in North America.  Pere Noel doesn’t seem to ride in sleighs or pal around with reindeer.  The French take a much more “Mission Impossible” approach to delivering presents.  The Santas in our town dangled from ropes, and shinnied up drain pipes like furtive cat burglars.  They hung from military grade cables, looking like a band of special ops taking over the produce section in our local grocery store.  The houses on our street were teeming with acrobatic Santas.  One family had as many as ten tiny Pere Noels scaling the front and side walls of their maison.  Their backs were always to us, faces turned away from passing cars and pedestrians in an attempt to conceal their true identities.  Why so furtive Pere Noel?  Are you spending the holidays spreading cheer and goodwill towards man, or are you pocketing a few trinkets for the Mrs.?

The girls were a bit confused by this new twist on the lovable Christmas icon. After seeing a life-sized Santa dangling precariously from a top-story window Emma exclaimed, "Mommy! Santa is falling!" Burglarizing Santa, Nyon, Switzerland

Poor Santa dangling from the ledge was not nearly as disturbing as this headless Santa in Geneva.

Thieving Pere Noels, however, have nothing on the strange, bough-straddling Santas that were immortalized in neon lights and illuminated our street this holiday season.  What is a bough-straddling Santa, you may ask?  Well, it is a Pere Noel with an odd penchant for placing Christmas tree branches between his legs and riding them like a bucking bronco, or a witch on a broom.  Why does Santa do this?  What possible place does a Santa with a fir-tree between his legs have in childhood lore?  And why is it that the French do not believe in a Santa that drives a reindeer drawn sleigh?  According to the French, Pere Noel either rides a phallic tree bough or burgles his way into our home, and I am not sure which option is less disturbing.

A right jolly old elf! (Freud would have a field day.)

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So here I am, five days into 2011 and I think I am doing pretty well on my ever-expanding list of New Year’s resolutions.  I have washed my face morning and night with an age defying cleanser every day since the first of January, and I am on the lookout for a reasonably priced French, wrinkle-zapping, miracle night cream.  (This resolution was bred from the sickening feeling that took residence in my stomach each and every time a well-meaning European man mistook my mother and I for sisters this past week.  My adorable, and I must admit, extremely young-looking mother left our vacation glowing from the compliments, while I slunk away feeling wrinkle-ridden, sun-spotted, and panicked.)

I have gone on three runs and two walks, on the annoying advice of Bob Greene, Oprah’s fitness guru, who callously orders readers of O Magazine to exercise for SIX HOURS  a week.  Maybe that is possible if you get paid to work out, per Mr. Green, or if some hired hand literally drags you from your bed and pushes you out the door every morning, per Oprah, but for me this six-hour mandate is going to be quite a feat. Even with my five days of exercise (an impressive stat in itself) I still have yet to hit 200 minutes, which means I still have more than 2 hours of huffing and puffing ahead of me to fulfill my quota for the week, and I was counting on at least one day of total and complete inertia.   Bob Greene is now and forever my enemy.  In the future I plan to refrain from reading O Magazine, but for now (or for however long I can keep up this resolution ruse) Mr. Greene’s directive is seared into my brain.

In another resolution coup d’etat, I have successfully warded off the snacking bug during all five nap times in 2011.  As much as I cherish nap time, the blissful silence, the opportunity to use the restroom in solitude, the unfettered Facebook time, the clandestine Jersey Shore watching, it is also a time when I tend to graze through my cabinets in a manner not unlike our neighboring gluttonous French cows.  While skimming through pictures of other people’s vacations I unconsciously consume half a bag of pretzels, in the time it takes me to catch up on the trials and tribulations of Lindsey Lohan’s most recent rehab stint I impressively polish off half a wedge of brie and a baguette.  During nap time I eat because I am often too busy to eat lunch with the girls, but I eat without thinking, and I overeat because the stress of the morning has left me weak and haggard.  This year I have vowed to try eat my lunch with the girls, and to not eat anything but fruit and vegetables while they are napping.  For some reason gorging on carrot sticks is not nearly as tempting as polishing off that bag of popcorn in my cupboard.  This resolution just may be my Everest.  As I type this I am peevishly sipping on a cup of herbal tea and desperately trying to ignore that box of chocolates sitting on the counter.

That was it.  Those were my three big resolutions, and I was mildly impressed with the fact that I had faithfully held up the resolutions for five whole days.  Lurking way back in the corner of my mind, however, was a tiny voice, annoyingly reminding me about the blog that I had started with such enthusiasm when we first moved to France.  Remember that blog, Maura?  Remember how you wrote every, single day for weeks, and then every other day for a while, which turned to once a week, which quickly turned to once a month, until finally, not a word has been written since October.  Oh my poor neglected blog!  The guilt that has been steadily building from my blogging drought weighs heavily on my mind.  I read friends blogs and cringe with shame (all the while enjoying your witty prose, and beautiful pictures, I promise).  I read blogs by people who blog for a living, and marvel at their doggedness, their carefree writing style and super-hero like ability to tackle writer’s block, and wish that I could capture just a bit of that talent.  If I am really serious about this whole resolution business, I owe it to myself to dedicate at least a sliver of these efforts towards my blog.  I have been avoiding my blog like a certain beloved children’s storybook character eschews green eggs and ham.  But, today I bit the bullet, I looked that Sam-I-Am in the eye, grabbed my plate of green eggs and ham, and opened my WordPress page for the first time in months.

Remarkably, when I opened up my blog I was greeted with a call to arms; in the upper left hand corner of my page a gauntlet was thrown by the people at WordPress, a challenge to blog at least once a week for the next year.  For the more courageous at heart there was the option to blog every day for the year, but I chose the infinitely easier way out.  Apparently, thousands of others suffer from dysfunctional bloggers block and WordPress is daring them, daring me, to change.  Do I dare?  Yes, I do.  The truth is that I feel better when I blog.  It is almost like exercising.  There are so many days when the last thing I want to do is lace up my sneakers (and let’s be honest, many days I simply don’t, please don’t tell Bob) but once I do, I immediately feel invigorated and that feeling of energy and accomplishment carries me through my day.  When I blog I am also rewarded with a sense of a fulfillment.  When I write I feel like there is more to my life than the endless cycle of cook food, feed food, clean up food, with a little bit of laundry, child chauffeuring, and bottom wiping sprinkled in for fun.  My blog is also a way of giving back to my family.  It is a record of our amazing adventures in Europe, a history of the crazy things that happened and will happen to us while we live in France.  When I think about my blog in this positive light I am invigorated and eager to write more.  It is no longer an albatross around my neck, another chore, like cleaning the toilet, that I must slog my way through before I can relax.  I need to remember why I blog, for my own sense of self, my emotional and intellectual well-being, and for my family.

So, a fourth resolution has been added to my list; to blog at least once a week.  Any words of encouragement on this front are greatly appreciated.  And, if there is anyone who is willing to call me every night to make sure I washed my face, that would be very helpful as well.

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