What I Learn From My Daughter

Something unexpected happened this summer. My daughter’s French took off. I had feared that being out of French school, away from the structure, the exposure, and the other kids who spoke French would cause her to lose ground. Instead, she’s now speaking conversationally. Sometimes. When I switch to French, she switches to French. And with her father, she’s about 50/50, French/English. She loves to babble French sounds; it’s almost like her French is a year or so behind her English. The great thing: she’s enjoying it. She likes speaking French.

This whole thing has made the prospect of not having access to a French school much less scary. We’ll have to devise some sort of plan to make sure reading and writing in French develop – I still lean toward summer school in France for all of us – but I’m finally relaxing about the whole thing more and starting to believe the other bilingual families who have reassured us to not worry, it will happen.

I learn a lot from my daughter, too. Like when her friends came over and one of the boys stole a toy from her and ran away with it. She ran after him shouting, “Ça c’est à moi !” thus I learned the French version of “mine!” If I had guessed, I would have said, “C’est la mienne !”

It’s so strange sometimes to hear my daughter speaking in a foreign tongue. Before meeting a Frenchman and deciding to have children with him, the thought that my children might speak a language that I didn’t speak never crossed my mind. It’s developing organically in her, whereas in me it’s taking great effort. It makes this part of her a little mystery to me.

Recently, we spent some time with one of my husband’s brothers and his family while they were visiting California. Before we saw them, we told our daughter that she would be seeing her cousins and that she’d need to speak in French because they don’t speak English. She had a lot of questions.

“Mommy what language will Papa speak?”

“What language will you speak this weekend?”

Over the long weekend, we had to coach her and translate for her with her cousins. As cousins do, though, they found a way. Cousins always seem to share a special bond, an instant connection. Even with the language difference, they had fun together. By the last day, our daughter began to spontaneously, without our interference, speak to them in French.

She likes to talk about what languages people speak. She’s exposed to so many languages; in her class alone there were native French, English, Spanish, Turkish, Hindi, and Chinese speakers. Lots of multicultural families. Every once in a while she’ll babble something and tell me that she’s speaking Spanish. She’s not, but still, the awareness of different languages at such a young age is a gift, I think. With exposure and continued effort, I believe we can get there. We can’t give up. We won’t.

Après la déluge, and be careful what you wish for!

DSC01012“And when the skies fill up with clouds, I want something to happen. Thunderstorm, snow…. Anything is better than gray clouds that just sit there, doing nothing but being gray clouds blocking the sun.”

That would be a direct quote from my previous entry.


We arrived in Colorado along with the downpour and worst flooding this area has seen in decades. The storage facility where everything we owned was stored flooded; lucky for us the angels that are our moving company loaded our things into a van and got them out of there before the waters hit the facility. I am forever grateful. Overall, the worst of it for us was that we had packed for hot days filled with hiking the national parks of southern Utah, and instead found ourselves shivering in our car with the heater cranked up. We got lucky, much luckier than many here.

A wet but beautiful Zion

A wet but beautiful Zion

We’ve settled in, are back online, and now trying to reestablish: find preschools, activities, make friends, and for my husband, start work. I discovered this blog a year or two ago, and I’m counting on Bringing Up Baby Bilingual to help us find the French community in Colorado. (Looking forward to meeting you in person, Sarah!)

Did I mention it is ridiculously beautiful here? Stunning. Green, open, the Flatiron Mountain range soaring upward in the west… I feel a peace that I haven’t felt for years. I belong in a place like this.

Doo, doo, doo lookin' out my backdoor!

Doo, doo, doo lookin’ out my backdoor!

People are incredibly friendly and relaxed here. Wow, are-you-for-real friendly. Smiles are genuine and easy, people don’t hesitate to pause for a chat. The neighborhood we landed in has neighbors that actually do stuff, together. Block parties, camping trips, an Oktoberfest this weekend…. They have a Google calendar to plan their events. They banded together to help out flood victims. Many of them have stopped by to welcome us and make sure we got on the mailing list so we’d be included. This is old school Americana and I can’t believe our luck! Plus, Louisville, our new home, has the cutest little downtown with several yummy restaurants we’ve been systematically trying out.




Café de Paris - a touch of France in Louisville, perhaps?

Café de Paris – a touch of France in Louisville, perhaps?

We made the mandatory visits to Ikea and Bed Bath and Beyond. We cruised down the freeway through the Denver suburbs to Ikea with our jaws dropped. Everyone here drives the speed limit. Not over. Right at it. In San Diego, we push it by a minimum of 15 miles an hour everywhere. We grumbled that people were moving so slow, then had to laugh at ourselves. Isn’t this part of why we came here? To be in less of a hurry? Reduce our pace from frantic to chill? In Target, I wandered through empty aisles where I never once had to maneuver around a traffic jam of carts nor squeeze by two or three people to grab what I needed from a shelf. When I got to the check out line, where I went straight to the conveyer belt and did not have to wait behind a minimum of five people, a party of two got in line behind me and the cashier sighed, “Ohmigod it’s crazy in here today.” I looked around. “Crazy? Really? This is crazy?” She sighed again. “Yes, I think we just don’t have enough cashiers or something.” Same thing at the post office today; I entered and did a happy dance because there were only two people in front of me. They guy behind me said under his breath, “Oh, no, a line.”

We visited our local park where a small group of 8 or 9 year olds were playing, scooters strewn over the patio and no parent in sight. My initial reaction was concern – where are their parents? Who lets their kids go to a park without supervision? What if they get hurt? Kidnapped? I could never…. And disappointment: how will I ever meet other moms if they aren’t taking their kiddos to the park? Then I caught myself and realized: this is how it is supposed to be. This is how my childhood was, the childhood I now idealize. Where I hopped on my bike and cruised the neighborhood, and the rule was I had to be home at dusk, or when my mom called out my name for supper. This is why we wanted to move here.

Where we hung out our last night in San Diego

Where we hung out our last night in San Diego

Transitions are hard. San Diego in our rear view mirror was a strange sensation, though we’ve been mentally preparing for it for almost two years now. It’s finally sinking in; this is our new home, we aren’t going back. I crave El Zarape, I wake up thinking I’ll take the kids to Kate Sessions Park to see our friends, or hike Torrey Pines. I miss my peeps. Yet, here, I’ve reunited with some dear long-term friends, and best of all – I’m back in touch with my soul. The soul that belongs in mountains with a book, a cup of hot cocoa, a fire in the fireplace, and hiking shoes at the ready.

Dare I say, bring on the snow?

Au revoir, Pacific Beach

Au revoir, Pacific Beach

Leaving California and Heading for Colorado!

It’s official! We are moving to Colorado, the Boulder area. My hubby found his dream job with Google and we are heading east very soon!

We’ve often questioned whether we belong in San Diego. We like it here, there’s so much to like. Yet despite both of us being here more than a decade, we’ve never felt rooted. It’s never become home. For me, my heart belongs in the mountains; I need to be able to get to a place where I hear wind through trees rather than rushing cars, where I see something towering far over me that isn’t a building but rather nature’s majesty. For my husband, he’s ready for a new adventure.

If our experience with Google so far is any indication, this is going to be an amazing company to be a part of. We feel like a dream is coming true.

Yet parting can be such sweet sorrow. We’ve spent the last few weeks saying goodbye to friends and our favorite San Diego spots. It hits me with intensity, the strangeness of moving. Places and people that have been a part of my everyday life for years will soon be places and people I won’t see at all.

Here is what I will miss the most:

My friends. We know some great people in San Diego. Some are friends I met soon after I moved here who became and remained an important part of my life, some are friends we’ve only known a short while but who have been dear to us, each goodbye has, well, sucked. I really hate goodbyes.

My writer’s group. We’ve been together for eight years. Eight. Writing, sharing our writing, sharing our hopes and dreams and frustrations around writing, and getting to know each other in a way that is so intimately close and so unlike any other relationship. We are an eclectic group – each one of us very different from the others – yet it works. It’s worked for years. I love these people. They are family to me. Saying goodbye to them was so strange; it felt as if I would see them again in two weeks, just as it’s always been. But it was goodbye.

My book club. A fabulous group of strong, intelligent women who I have enjoyed reading with and discussing ideas with. Plus, they are also all fabulous cooks, and our book club meetings were always accompanied by fantastic meals.

San Diego French American School. Our daughter, and we by extension, had such a great experience here for her PK0 year. The teachers were talented and caring, the school fostered a wonderful sense of community, and our daughter’s French showed great progress. I wish there could be a French immersion school like this everywhere, but alas. There is not. We’re going to have to work harder to find French connections in Colorado. I know they are there, but they won’t likely land in our laps the easy way they did here.

Diversity. There is so much in San Diego. People, food, cultures, things to do. I love it. I take it for granted that my social circle comes in all colors, celebrates a variety of holidays, and has opened my mind and made me a better person.

On a sunny day, San Diego, with its Mediterranean climate and vegetation, fabulous food everywhere (this town is becoming a real foodie town and we love that), tons of things to do, it’s like being on vacation, only it’s all right there, accessible every time. I’ll miss the ocean views, the bougainvillea, the red tile roofs, and the palm trees towering high overhead.

What I won’t miss:

The cost of living. This is our main driver. We don’t want to kill ourselves to afford a home. And over half of San Diegans send their kids to either private or charter schools. That leads to suffering public schools and expensive living.

And on that note, I won’t miss the ducks. Not the bird. I wish I could claim this analogy was my own making, but it’s not. Someone I knew once said that San Diego is full of ducks. They glide across the water, looking so smooth, so controlled, they’ve got their beemers, their jags, their feathers are slicked back, they are wearing the right clothes and the right accessories… but underneath, their little feet are paddling like crazy, trying to keep up the show, trying to keep the water from pushing them where they don’t want to go. Keeping up with the Joneses can be hard to avoid here. I don’t want to keep up. I don’t want to be thinking about whether my make up is fresh when I go to the grocery store, I want to be kicking back with a microbrew and my bare feet curled under me.

I will not miss my frizzy hair. Given even a tiny bit of humidity, my hair adopts a style that was popular only in 1973. It isn’t pretty. Product, straightening irons, straightening treatments, you name it; I’ve tried it. A ponytail works best. Two months after I moved to San Diego, I called my mom. “I’m going to have to leave. This place is terrible for my hair.” So now, I’ll go to a dry climate similar to what I grew up in, and my hair and I might get along. Cracked, dry knuckles vs. frizzy hair… I’m now investing the money I spent on straightening treatments into hand lotion.

May Grays and June Gloom that spread their arms into April, July, and August. “Sunny” southern California isn’t nearly as sunny as Colorado. I’m an Arizona girl. If I go 2, 3 days without sunlight and blue skies, seasonal affective disorder kicks in. My husband laughs at me; after the gray Paris weather, San Diego is great for him. I remind him that one May we had a total of three days where we saw the sun. Three. I want blue skies. And when the skies fill up with clouds, I want something to happen. Thunderstorm, snow…. Anything is better than gray clouds that just sit there, doing nothing but being gray clouds blocking the sun.

I won’t miss the density. I realize San Diego isn’t a true “city” by the standards of many, but it’s much denser than the places I spent my formative years. In my twenties, I craved density. I wanted people surrounding me, something going on and something to do on any day at any hour. I wanted to walk out my door and be where things were happening. Now, I crave wide open spaces. For my husband, after growing up in Paris, a few trees qualifies as getting out into nature. We tried an urban hike here recently. Well, he called it a hike, and was delighted to be “getting out, away from it all.” I just grumbled. “The freeway is right there,” and I pointed to where, less than a football field length away, cars were flying by. I need more.

We’re excited about Colorado. Boulder is beautiful, and the Rocky Mountains have been beckoning for a long time. We have some good friends in Colorado, which will make for a softer landing. We are excited about the life we envision having there. But we aren’t leaving San Diego blasting Tom Petty’s “Last Dance With Mary Jane,” the part that says, “Tired of myself, tired of this town!” I’ve done that one before, with other places I’ve left. I’m older now. I hope wiser. Certainly my views are more nuanced. This time, it’s subdued. Bittersweet.

To San Diego: Thank you for these past 12 years. They’ve been mostly fantastic, sometimes sucky, and never dull. To Colorado: we’re on our way. Hope you are ready for us. Hope we are ready for you.