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House Of Quiche and Horrors

13th October 2017

Next week is the last week of term and we are just going to make it; dragging our sorry arses over that finish line, twitching spastically like marathon runners in lactic overload. We are down one school backpack (where lost? how?), somehow every one of T-Bones t-shirts has turned into a rag with holes, and the homework and book-management schedule has crumbled, but we’ll make it.

I haven’t been writing much. It’s been intense. We’ve had a double whammy of cold and gastro viruses in the last fortnight; some sort of combination Frog Flu platter, and running family life has taken all my mojo.

We have to hold a fairly hard line around missing school, especially here in France.   If they can get out of going they will - who wouldn’t? It’s stressful and hard in these first months where they don’t speak the language, and while they are coping incredibly well, they are exhausted and depleted. Mornings are tough.

The girls are heavily invested in who has had what days off and for what specific reasons (they are both talented actresses in the soap-opera genre) and I’m sure they are filing away the bits of theatrical business that worked for the other. ‘Oh, I see what she did with the sitting on the sidewalk wailing’, one sister will think. ‘That’s good – embarrassing Mum gets results…’ The other will watch and learn too. ‘My god, are those real tears? I bet she put a bit of shampoo in her eye.  Genius move.’

My son doesn’t tend to notice the world around him as much, thankfully, so he hasn’t noticed that his sisters are getting days off school, even though he hates school the most. He is too immersed in his own internal monologue (at the moment, it’s all about the world-building computer game Civilization. Every conversation with him goes something like this: Mum, should I get a nuclear submarine or get a stock market? Mum, what’s a stock market? Mum, do you think I should prevent a Barbarian attack or build a wonder? Mum? What’s a Barbarian?)

T-Bone has stayed well, thank goodness, but both the girls have had time off with fevers and nasty coughs, and then this round of gastro. Both girls had an awful night throwing up, which took a toll on their depleted systems. The four flights of stairs in the house are feeling like ten at the moment, and the five-times daily visit to the school gates is intense.

Not least because it’s at these gates that I constantly run into school parents, and as I start to make friends, I am using French all the time. The school Mums are really nice. There is one who speaks perfect English, but most speak none and a few speak English that is much better than my French. Every week I feel my vocabulary expanding a little, as I’m able to make myself understood and able to understand more that is send to me. I would estimate that I can understand about 10% of a sentence said to me; sometimes more – sometimes less. Those few words I can pick out of a phrase is sometimes enough to piece together, with context, what’s happening. But I really can’t communicate in any reasonable way.

I had a few school Mums over for lunch this week, with all their kids, which was so great. The house filled with babies and children, I practiced making quiche (when in Rome) and we sat around the table laughing and talking.  Keith’s French is good, and gets better by the week, so he loves the chance to practice.

Our lunch date fell a couple of days after Peanuts bout of vomiting. She had been back at school, and hadn’t spewed, so I thought it was safe. But the night of the party, Peanut arrived at my bedside at midnight, sick and miserable, and we had one of those exhausting-yet-lovely ( I wrote about it here once, and here too) nights of nursing a little one.

I felt so bad that I had invited these new friends into our house of horrors, and had to explain it to them in French the next day as well. My French goes along these lines: ‘I am so sorry, my big girl, she is big sick. The vomit. Big, big, big, the vomit. After lunch I eat you, in tonight, the not tonight, but tonight of Wednesday. Big big the vomit my daughter. I am so sorry! Lunch my house, the house of vomit. My god, it is bad.’

They were very kind ‘Pas grave’ they all said. ‘C’est normale.’ It’s OK. School kids vomit. I am so tired. My back hurts. My brain is tired from trying to understand and be understood.

However. The last days of summer are beautiful here in Sommieres, we are looking forward to seeing Australian friends this weekend, and the school holidays are only a week away. Also, despite this tough couple of weeks, we are really loving our adventure. Hopefully this bacterial hazing ceremony has inducted us into the life and germs of our new town and we will, from this point, start to recover and thrive. May add some cod-liver probiotic olive-leaf to the quiches in the meantime.

Now, I am on a deadline - I have promised Peanut that she can watch Netflix from my computer while she recovers on the couch under the very soft and fluffy blanket we call Big Bertha. I have to go and deliver some cuddle therapy. The last tool in my box.

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