Demons in Disguise…

Hey Campers,

As anyone who has spent even the smallest amount of time around children has undoubtedly discovered, appearances can be quite deceptive. No matter how angelic the littl’uns may seem on the surface, it usually doesn’t take long before their true demonic nature starts to make itself known. My own children are no exception. Much as I love them, I know only too well that they can go from adorable to anarchist in a heartbeat. Often without any warning, a terrible tirade is unleashed upon all the poor hapless souls in the immediate vicinity.

Granted, my two are far from the worst of the ones I’ve had the misfortune to encounter, although they do say that you tend to have a higher tolerance for your own offspring’s shenanigans. Indeed, I have found this to be true, especially after a fortifying gin or three.

That being said, mine are both unarguably cunning little creatures that have firmly wrapped my husband and I around their sticky, little fingers. Sadly, all it takes is an unprompted cuddle or a wonderfully cherubic laugh and I find myself forgiving them almost any transgression…almost…I still mourn the loss of my MacBook to a toddler-spilt tea.

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In a strange turn of events, my children’s almost supernatural ability to ingratiate themselves isn’t just limited to us. Certainly, friends and complete strangers often come up to us and gush about how gorgeous they are, especially their big, beautiful blue eyes. This in turn has resulted in an unexpected windfall. Upon taking my son for a walk to the boulangerie he’s often given free pastries by the adoring staff. Not only has this happened at a few different places here in gay Paris, but has even occurred when we were away on holidays. Unsurprisingly, my son soon realized what was happening and began to work this to his advantage, knowing that half-hiding his face and giving a shy smile seemed to increase the likelihood of a complimentary pain au chocolate or a Madeleine being thrown into the paper bag along with our other purchases.

Beneath my son’s carefully cultivated innocent façade resides an evil mastermind in the making, I tell you. He has also developed an uncanny knack for finding the way to get at what he wants, regardless of what methods we go to in order to prevent such things. For instance, using his bike as a battering ram to get through the baby gates we’ve put up to keep him out of certain areas, although he’s now found that shaking them violently also works to unlatch them. His latest feat of mischief was working around the ‘no-spill’ design of his newest cup. It took him all of two minutes to work out that if he tipped said cup upside down he could use his fingers to help free the liquid inside and then indulge in one of his favourite games of drawing pretty patterns on the floor with whatever he’s been drinking.

While his sister is still a tad too little for such malfeasance, I can tell by her cheeky smile that it’s merely a matter of time before the two of them team up and become an unstoppable force for mayhem and destruction. I’d better start stockpiling the Xanax now.

Tchao! Tchao!!!

Third Time’s The Charm…

Hey Campers,

As I sit before my laptop, huddled for warmth against the harsh Parisian winter, I’m wont to reflect upon our recent scorching-hot sojourn to The Land Down Under. To be fair, I’m actually feeling rather toasty, as while the current outside temperatures leave a great deal to be desired, our central heating works wonderfully well and even when I’m occasionally forced to venture outside, my wardrobe contains a most fabulous array of winter finery to protect my delicate self against the unforgiving elements. But I digress.

It’s hard to believe that our time in Aussieland has come and gone so damn quickly. It seems like only yesterday that I was at the airport fretting about the prospect of taking a toddler on two long haul flights to reach our destination. Happily, our offspring was relatively well behaved, but it’s still not an experience I’d recommend to anyone…unless you have a nanny taking care of them in cattle class while you relax in the comfort of first…one can but dream.

Sadly, it wasn’t possible to catch up with everyone we would’ve liked to, as family obligations and the breakneck passage of time conspired against us. In all honesty, I’d already presumed that this trip was going to be rather different to my typical jaunts back to the motherland, mostly due to the fact that we’d added a new member to our travelling party. Naturally, my ridiculously extended family was all very keen to spend time with the newbie around his first Australian Christmas, meaning that my usual schedule of evenly dividing my time between family and friends was forlornly cast aside. The relentless heatwaves and a carsick-prone child also hindered our ability to get out and about, and left us with just a touch of cabin fever and a few familicidal urges. My husband then flying back to the Continent – somebody needs to keep working – and leaving me a single father for the second half of the trip certainly didn’t help matters.

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My feelings of frustration were further amplified by the fact that when I was able to briefly escape my parental duties, the weather gods decided to taunt me mercilessly. The first two visits down to Sydney saw the previously aching-hot, blue-skied summer days replaced by grey unpleasantness – only for the duration of my stay, mind you – and consequently prohibited my so desperately sought after solitary beach time. As something of an avid, and admittedly borderline-obsessive, sunworshipper, the whole experience was absolutely devastating and had me questioning my life choices and wondering why I was being punished so unjustly. Fortunately, on the third such attempt, the weather gods relented in their cruelty and I was able to enjoy the sun, sand and surf for two whole days just before returning to the Arctic north.

That being said, we still managed to have an agreeable summer break. Indeed, my darling son had a most fantastic time being welcomed properly into the family fold by his cousins – a daunting amount of excitable littl’uns running riot all over the place.  Then, of course, we were finally able to keep our promise of holding a third and final nuptials in Australia for my extended family and friends who’d missed out on the previous celebrations of our love. In spite of the oppressive heat and vicious mosquitoes, it proved to be a lovely day and it was thoroughly delightful to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in a long while, as I proceeded to get drunk on bubbly.

Hopefully, next time we visit we’ll be slightly better prepared and see more of our adoring fans, although by then there’ll be yet another travel companion, so it’s anyone’s guess really.

Must away, the gym is calling and I need to answer for my holiday sins – namely those unwanted kilos that crept on over the festive season as I seemed helpless to stop myself devouring anything vaguely edible that crossed my path.

Tchao! Tchao!!!

Dashing Through The Snow…

Hey Kids,

As the year draws to a close, unlike my jeans whose top buttons have never seemed further apart after all the festive shovelling of food I’ve been doing into my mouth, I thought it high time to issue one of my increasingly infrequent, rambling missives.

For the past week we’ve been enjoying a rather lovely White Christmas. Indeed, I’m currently on the lounge with a big soothing pot of tea and watching the snow come down in flurries outside. As per tradition, my mother-in-law is trying to kill me with food. I used to think it was because she thought her son could do better than me, now I realise that it’s simply her mission to make everyone around her fat. Thank goodness, the summer holidays are half a year away and I have time to transform myself back into beach body ready. In my current state, helpful environmentalists would be trying to roll me back into the water.

MAYHEM IN MEGÈVE!

Hey Campers,

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…actually it was mostly the worst. Our sojourn, off to my favourite alpine retreat, got off to a rather rocky start, let me tell you. I’d been looking forward to our early-summer getaway to the family apartment in the French Alps, where I would have both my husband and mother-in-law on hand to help me wrangle our beloved bouncing baby beast. Consequently allowing me to have time to relax and catch up on my writing. Alas, it was not to be.

Upon arrival we discovered the weather was decidedly chillier than anticipated and that the heating for the building had been turned off in anticipation of the usually warmer season. Added to this, the cold water had been switched off while the pipes were being replaced, so that we had as much scalding hot water as we liked but nothing else. This meant that the toilet needed to be manually filled to flush – like peasants we were – and showering was nigh on impossible – I’m not a fan of baths…except for the ones with the blood of virgins, but that’s far too fiddly to organise in the Alps.

Granted these were somewhat minor inconveniences but then my darling mother-in-law managed to throw out her back and retreated back home again for treatment. And to add insult to injury the indoor icerink was closed and I would be denied my Disney Ice Princess playtime.

WHO’S YOUR DADDY?

Hey Kids,

It’s official – I’m a Daddy…and not just to young, impressionable twinks.

I’m coming up on two weeks of fatherhood and very happy to admit that I’m still bumbling about in a state of awe and shock. Not to mention the fear that creeps in whenever our pint-size man stops moving in his sleep and second guessing myself about absolutely everything, which I’m assured by more experienced parents will probably pass in thirty years or so.

It would be fair to say that Nathaniel Yves Peter Dhalluin-Goninan – the excessively long name is a French tradition – has me well and truly wrapped around his adorable petite fingers. Indeed, my whole world has quickly come to completely revolve around the needs and wants of this wonderful little bundle of joy. Thankfully, we have a handy app that tells us at a glance how long it’s been since we cleaned and fed him without having to calculate with our sleep deprived brains. Actually, on that point it hasn’t been too bad at all, with my beloved and I taking turns with both baby care and having naps throughout the day so that we aren’t complete zombies. This will, however, be tested when Antoine goes back to work in a few weeks and full daytime care falls to me.

Baby Steps.

Hey Kids,

Well, the cat is well and truly out of the bag, actually, come to think of it that always seemed like a bit of an odd phrase to me. Whenever our cats are merrily rummaging about in a bag it’s somewhat obvious and hardly a secret. Perhaps, a more apt saying would be, the cat is in the bag and very happy about it, indeed. But I digress.

For those who haven’t seen our proclamations on social media, our recent visit to the States was in fact the latest step in a very long quest to form a family of our very own. If all goes according to plan, Baby Jantoine – don’t worry that’s just a cute placeholder and not a narcissistic mashing of our names together that would be the bane of our progeny’s existence – shall be arriving early in the New Year.

To say we’re excited is a bit of an understatement, although there is a healthy mix of fear in there as well – I mean I can just about manage to keep my own life in check, how am I supposed to do that for a completely dependent infant, whilst in a sure to be thoroughly sleep deprived state? My empathy for my poor parents grows daily. Luckily, we have a very strong base of supportive people, which will allow me to muddle through somehow.

One of the main reasons for the trip was to attend our baby’s second ultrasound, where our little bundle of joy danced about more than my good self at a Kylie concert. To be fair, if I was being poked and prodded, in the middle of taking a nice cosy nap, I’d be doing my very best to move away from the source of the rude intrusion as well.  It was also a chance for us to finally meet our wonderful surrogate, Tara, and her equally delightful family, face to face – all of our previous contact having been of the virtual kind. Thankfully, everything went swimmingly, with our greatly enjoying their gracious hospitality. This didn’t come as a huge surprise, however, as we have all grown rather close over the lengthy process – well into our second year. In truth, we have already come to think of them as family and can’t imagine better people to be coupled with on this fascinating journey.

Megèvan Memories

Hey Campers,

Well, I’m currently zipping through the air at a breakneck place, headed to our final destination of the summer – Chicago – where I shall post this missive once re-establishing contact with my beloved internet. Unfortunately, we were subject to yet another travel delay – I do believe we’ve somehow mortally offended the travel gods this year – although, thankfully only three hours this time.

Anyways, it gave me the opportunity to get thoroughly tipsy on champagne in the Air France lounge and put me in the mood to write about our recent time slumming it in the French Alps. Now, I’ve oft spoken/written/bragged about my love of this place – it is truly one of my favourite places in the world.  The landscape is beautiful and I can usually bronze myself to a healthy mountain glow in the summer, not to mention that the fresh mountain air tends to have a wonderful effect upon my creative juices. Indeed, the only thing missing is a beach…slightly hard to manage in the mountains.

The week got off to a slightly rocky start, however, as I’d anticipated a lovely spot of rest and relaxation after our partying in Barcelona, only to discover on arrival that we were to be in charge of our rambunctious – and possibly demonically possessed – nephews, for the first two days. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that following a sleep-deprived night I wasn’t particularly in the best of states to entertain children. Mercifully, my husband and his mother took up the brunt of the work and I only had to deal with a few energetic kicks to the body before they left me in relative peace.

Married in Milan.

Hey Campers,

As my faithful pussycats slumber by my side I thought I’d take the time to regale you all with the tale of our recent trip in Milan. The purpose of the Valentine’s weekend getaway was to give Antoine’s sister, Laurence, away to the highest bidder…sorry, I mean to see her get married to the marvellous Maximiliano.

The happy couple looked radiant in their stylish wedding apparel, as they became legally bound to one another, in the town hall by the historic Duomo Cathedral. Given the mixed nationalities of the couple, the ceremony itself was thoughtfully presented in first Italian and then French. I must say that the stereotype of Italians talking with their hands was well and truly reinforced by the lovely lady who officiated, as there seemed to be a constant flurry of movement throughout the proceedings.

From there it was a rather short stroll to the reception where a five-hour-long lunch was held to help celebrate the joyous union. Dear gods the food! So much delicious, stomach bloating food! Not to mention the seemingly endless champagne and magically refilling glasses of wine. Thankfully, we were only staying a few blocks away and were able to waddle back home for a brief nap before dutifully reporting back for cocktails and nibblies later that evening. How I managed to eat anything at all after the thoroughly stuffing lunch remains a mystery. Fortunately, we then retired earlyish for some much needed sleep and digestion ahead of the next round of celebrations.

Where’s My Snowman Dammit?!?

If I hear one more person proclaim that climate change is a leftist hoax designed to attack big business and the fossil fuel industry I may very well snap. I’ve ranted about this subject before but the situation has become more dire of late and I’ve found myself smack bang in the middle of an environmental nightmare. Forget about rising sea levels and animal extinction – where’s my snow?!?

We’re currently up in the French Alps, to celebrate the commercialism of Christmas, at what is supposed to be a rather cold and snowy time of the year. Indeed, every other time I’ve voyaged up here in December the place has been blanketed in a magical whiteness, with the whole winter wonderland ambiance in full force. This year, however, it may as well be autumn, given the practically pleasant weather – we were even eating outside in t-shirts yesterday. Crazy, I tell you!

The winters have been getting progressively milder here and it’s worrying for a number of reasons, particularly in terms of tourism. The village council is doing their best to combat the possible lack of revenue by turning the local Palais du Sport into a veritable water park to give people more things to do – apart from eat cheese and drink wine. Granted, there’s still another month until the coldest time of the year where the snow should once again be falling, but if not, things will be very desperate indeed.

The Ties That Bind.

Hey Campers,

Let me tell you dear reader, last weekend was a maelstrom of emotion; so much so that’s it’s taken nearly a week to recover. Well, maybe not quite to that extreme but my mood did swing from delighted to dejected and a made quite a few stops along the way. The cause for all this great turbulence of feeling was, unsurprisingly, family-related.

The first event to throw my world into upheaval was dropping off my beloved husband at the airport on Saturday afternoon, as his quick sojourn is sadly already over – the one consolation is that the time I’ve spent here has sped by at an alarming rate meaning that we shall be reunited again soon enough. There wasn’t a great deal of time to dwell over this, however, as I then had to drive like a demon back up the coast to make it back in time for my niece Chloe’s naming day ceremony – which I wretchedly missed by about fifteen minutes. On a side note, if my brother-in-law happens to be reading this – it was his car I borrowed – by “demon” I obviously meant quite carefully and around the sped limit…ish.

Fortunately, all was not lost as I did make it back in time for the shock twist to Chloe’s special day – the wedding of her parents. Admittedly, it wasn’t a surprise to me as I’d been let into the secret a few weeks beforehand. So yes, I attended the wedding of yet another sister, and have yet anoter new brother-in-law. Honestly, it almost seems like we’re recruiting for a cult at times.