New Digs

It was never my intention to so thoroughly neglect my blog. It just happened: one week, then one month, then months…. I have felt guilty and the need/desire to blog has always been on my mind, but the longer I neglected it, the easier it was to not come back to it.

One of my excuses: We bought a house and did a huge remodel. Yep, we are sinking roots in Louisville, CO! Just outside Boulder, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, a place with mild(ish) seasons, gorgeous hiking trails and camping places, fantastic schools, and lots of great friends, new and old.

No way I could resist this:

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Or this:

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Louisville is a slice of classic small town Americana charm with a dash of liberal “republic of Boulder” and a good layer of whatever-you-want frosting. Music? Art? Sports? Beer? Parades with dogs and cute kids? A fire station that gives your kids a tour if you pop in to say hi? Summer Street Faires that draw names like the Gin Blossoms and Los Lobos? Free horse and carriage rides around downtown? Fine Dining? Fantastic burger? It’s all right here, in my adopted home town.

I hope to never move again – this is it for me. No more packing, no more boxes, no more house shopping, done. I told my husband: we aren’t leaving here until we’re too old to get up the stairs. His response: “Then we’ll just get one of those electric carts to slide us up and down. We never have to leave!” We love, love, love our new house, and Louisville, and my husband is working for Google and, well, Google is GOOGLE. Best company to work for, hands down.

This, of course, was before we realized that Trump becoming president of the USA wasn’t an impossible joke, but a frighteningly real prospect. That could be such a disaster that a move to the EU would be a real consideration. Seriously, ‘Merica, WTF?

As for the remodel, I became an HGTV junkie and my daughter kept begging to come to the house when they were “breaking stuff” so she could see it. As it goes with remodels, things are never as easy as they initially seem they will be, but long story short: we are in and our house looks fabulous. We even have a guest room, a true guest room, for the first time ever! The theme (a room with a theme!) is, of course, Paris. Here’s a photo:

Paris room

My husband and I have a running joke about how in every American movie with even one scene in Paris, the Parisian apartment or hotel room always, always, always has a view of the Eiffel Tower. We watch for it and see who can be the first to call it out: VOILA, TOUR EIFFEL ! HA HA HA! So here it is: Our room with a view!

One of the pillows has this lovely Audrey Hepburn quote from Sabrina (where, ironically, she has a view not the Tour Eiffel but of Montmarte): “Paris is always a good idea.”

Agreed, Audrey, agreed.

New home, new desk, new year, new plans… more to come. I won’t promise to be fast with my next post, but I will say this: when I’m not writing about A French American Life, I’m living it, and that’s the point of it all anyway, right?

 

 

Are we bilinguals?

For a long time, I’ve held lofty goals for my kids and for myself. I wanted us to all be “completely bilingual,” which I defined as nothing short of 100% fluency in reading, writing, speaking, and comprehension. I dreamt of accent-free French for my kids, and for me – maybe every tenth word or so would hint that I’m not French and give me a sexy, subtle accent that would earn exclamations like, “Oh, your French is so beautiful! Where’d you learn to speak it so well!” or “Don’t lose the last eensy-teensy accent you still have, it’s so adorable.”

That’s what you get when you’re type A. And have a husband who meets this “completely bilingual” criteria (albeit with a bit more of an accent. Ooh la la.).

My views have evolved. Matured? Grown more realistic? And while at one time I might have seen this as giving up, now I see it this way: we’re still pursuing something pretty awesome. I’m just more sane.

“Bilingual” means different things to different people. We’re certainly not monolingual, but we also haven’t attained my previous definition of bilingualism. So what does that make us?

All of us understand most of what is said to us in French. My kids spontaneously speak the language, sing songs, and watch cartoons in French. When thrown into a situation with people who speak only French, I don’t hesitate to use the language, and I’d say I’m pretty adept at expressing myself. My kids are at the point where they are able to use full sentences in French without needing prompting. Perhaps the most important thing: we are actively working on improving our language, every day, and have no plans to stop this work.

So I’ve decided to give credit where credit is due. Next time someone asks me if we are a bilingual family, I’m going to say, yes. Yes, we are.

Photo Day: Antibes (Part 2)

One of my favorite things about traveling is meeting people. I approached the summer we spent in Antibes thinking I would probably be at least a decade older than most of the students in the immersion program, and therefore likely to spend a lot of time alone. I brought my laptop and blank notebooks, thinking I’d spend most of the time I wasn’t in school working on my fiction and studying French. Instead, I met some of the most fabulous women (many my age on language vacations) I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. As it goes with traveling, sharing a common experience, we bonded quickly and became fast friends. I have to admit I have many reservations about things like Facebook, and even blogging (it’s so public! I’m so exposed!), but these things have enabled me to stay in touch with these lovely ladies.

Here are some photos from a walk/hike I took around the Cap d’Antibes with one of those dear friends.

Cap d'Antibes

Cap d’Antibes

Looking across the Baie de la garoupe

Looking across the Baie de la garoupe

Walking along the Sentier touristique de tirepoil (tourist path around the cape)

Walking along the Sentier touristique de tirepoil (tourist path around the cape)

Locals use some of these spots to practice diving. Yikes!

Daring locals use some of these spots to practice diving. Yikes! The water is powerful and the rocks precarious. I just took photos.

551 Cap d'Antibes

554 Cap d'Antibes

Why You Should Learn French

Did anyone happen to catch John McWhorter’s article in The New Republic about why people shouldn’t bother to learn French? Here it is, if you care to have a look. He makes a shallow case for why French is “antique,” even elitist, and isn’t worth pursuing as a second language. From his point of view, the only reason to learn a second language is to better employment opportunities. According to him, only Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish are worthy of pursuit, as these are the current political power players.

Nika over at Nika Likes Maps makes an excellent counter-argument to McWhorter’s, here.

There there’s this article by Rob Wile in Business Insider: 7 Reasons You Should Teach Your Children French.

I had a friend who studied Russian during the Cold War, determined to become a translator in the geopolitical scene of the day. Then Russia imploded, no longer a geopolitical power. Didn’t exactly lead to the power career she had hoped for. Now I’m not saying don’t bother with Chinese or Arabic or Spanish – I believe pursuit of bilingualism in any language is a worthy pursuit. But McWhorter’s assumption that pursuit of bilingualism should be solely for career advancement is narrow-minded.

In a country where bilingualism is too often a low priority, discouraging learning any major world language strikes me as short-sighted and ignorant. To, on top of that, ridicule those that pursue learning French as doing so simply as a fashion statement or elitism is, well, insulting.

French is hardly on its way to the graveyard. It’s widely used throughout the world. I’ve travelled to places (non-French or English speaking countries) where English wasn’t spoken but my French sure did come in handy. Do you hear the languages being spoken by the announcers at the Olympics? Russian, English, French. French and English are the working languages at the UN Secretariat. Want your knowledge of English to improve? Learn French. My understanding of English grammar as well as my English vocabulary have broadened dramatically since I began learning French.

Learn French. It’s beautiful, fun, and will open doors to a broad range of cultures throughout the world. Or learn whatever other language you have fallen in love with. Study that language simply because you love it. Because it speaks to your soul. Because, as Nika so eloquently points out, “learning a language is an access card to seeing life through another perspective.” Learning a language that you love will make you a better person.

BIENVENUE 2014 ! And Ten French Goals for the New Year.

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I’m so ready for this change. New Year’s Eve, my husband and I enjoyed our yearly tradition of making a meal together, reminiscing the past year, setting goals and making plans for the year to come. I love this tradition of ours: the good food, the good company, and the way I wake up January 1 feeling recharged and ready for the great things we have planned. Often I find myself nostalgic as I watch the clock tick toward midnight on December 31; sometimes even sad to bid adieu to the year that has gone. This year, none of that – 2013 was a mixed bag for me, and I’m happy to move on. New year, fresh start, clean slate… bring it. (Do people still say that?)

Les Moules (Mussels)

Les Moules (Mussels)

Bon Appetit !

Bon Appetit ! Moules-frites: our New Year’s Eve feast.

This year, we set new personal goals and made some travel plans – smaller scale than some years past, but we have some great trips to look forward to.

Here on my blog, I’m posting my language/blogging goals:

1. Volunteer at my daughter’s school by offering a French lesson each week.
I’m scaring myself with this one. Talking in a foreign language to a bunch of 2, 3, and 4 year olds? How will I keep their attention? How do I go about making a lesson that’s captivating to preschoolers, let alone in a language none of them speak (yet)? Still, I have several ideas that I’m excited about and I’m feeling up to the challenge. I’ve discussed it with the head of the preschool, and now I’ve written about it on my blog. So, I’m officially committed. Holy… merde.

2. Read five books in French.
I’ve got a few picked out already. It’s always hard to begin a French book for me – reading is normally such a pleasure, yet reading in French is work. I remind myself that once I get into a book, I forget that I’m reading in French and I start to enjoy it rather than slug through it with my dictionary on constant alert.

3. Look into pursuing a Master’s in French.
University of Colorado at Boulder has a great program, as does Colorado State in nearby Fort Collins. While in San Diego, I took a few upper division French courses at SDSU and had a fabulous time. I’m toying with the idea of pursuing a master’s. Would it be simply fulfilling a personal goal of being completely bilingual, or could this be a career change – I don’t yet know. What I do know is that I love learning French and that improving my French benefits my entire family. I’m not quite ready to return to work full time as my kids are still so small. I have the luxury of choosing to stay home with them, yet I want/need something apart from being a mom. So, why not another degree? I can hear my friends now: Or you could chill out and address your overachiever issues.

4. Blog Entries 1-2X/weekly
Yes, continuing with my blog, posting about raising bilingual kiddos, what it’s like to be a bilingual family, and Franco-American cultural clashes is definitely on my list.

5. Continue my involvement with the multilingual blogging community.
I’ve plugged in to a great group of bloggers, all of whom are raising children in bi- or multicultural/lingual families. Several of their blogs are listed on my sidebar. Whenever I need inspiration, I just visit their blogs or our groups on Facebook.

6. French lessons for my kids twice weekly (at least).
Among the problems that many multilingual families face are: kids becoming passively bilingual – they understand the second language but don’t speak it (this seems to be developing in my home), or they speak it but reading and writing skills go undeveloped. My goal is for my kids to be fluent in speaking, understanding, reading, and writing both English and French. Whether it’s me or I hire a tutor, my kiddos need more exposure to all aspects of the French language.

7. Speak in French during two dinners/week with our family.
Currently, when we are all together, my husband speaks French to the kids but English with me. Again, the kids (and I) need more French.

8. Take advantage of the French activities in the area and try to connect with other French speakers.
I’ve found storytimes, playgroups, and group lessons so far. We’re going to participate in as much as we can.

9. French language summer school for the kids.
There are opportunities both here in the Boulder area and in San Diego for French language summer camps. Since we aren’t going to France this year, we can take advantage of local summer camps, as well as combine an extended vacation in our old stomping grounds – San Diego – with summer camps for the kids at the French American School. The beach, good Mexican food, old friends, and French? Yes, please.

10. Eat more crêpes at La Crêperie of Ft. Collins.
Because they really are good enough to merit a New Year’s Resolution.

Bonne Année !

Bonne Année !

Finding Home

I’ve often wondered whether one can ever recover the sense of “home” that one has as a child. The unquestioned sense of belonging in that one place. The intimate knowledge.

I have itchy feet. No, this is not a medical condition, it’s an expression my Dad uses to describe me; it means I long to explore the world, see what exists beyond my own doors. I used to think I’d like to move every few years, immerse myself in new places, meet new people. It didn’t exactly happen that way; practicality took over, but I did retain my love for exploring. I’ve satisfied that urge through traveling, sometimes for extended periods of time.

These days, however, I long to find home. The place I belong. The place I can sink my roots in, raise my kids, and connect with intimately. I just don’t know where it is. When I visit my family in the Arizona town I grew up in, I catch myself saying, “I’m going home.” I currently call San Diego “home.” A part of me feels at home in Paris, as the streets have become familiar and I have my favorite haunts. But none of these places feel deeply, solidly home.

For my husband, the question is even more complicated. He left France, his home, in his early 20s, and has lived in southern California ever since then. He feels pulled between two identities – French and American, and experiences an undercurrent of displacement everywhere he goes. He’s too French to be truly American, yet he’s become too American to be truly French. Plus, his accent is fading and his French gets rusty; sometimes he forgets words, or in certain subjects, like his work, where he’s never used the French terminology, he can feel lost. He’s not quite Tom Hanks in The Terminal, but he does sometimes feel like a man without a country.

For me, Arizona is filled with memories and family, but my current life is not there. I love San Diego yet have always sensed that one day I would leave, as it never has felt like home. Neither of us sees settling in France as part of our future – my husband has built a solid career here and isn’t interested in the “Metro-boulot-dodo” grind of Paris (where most jobs in his field are located). Translation: ride the metro, work, and sleep. The life of many Parisians. While we may joke that the French work short hours and get tons of vacation, the truth is that yes, public workers have cushy jobs, but your typical French businessman puts in a lot of hours. Out the door before the kids are up, back home after they are in bed, it’s not unheard of. Not exactly the reputed “joie de vivre.”

So we are searching. Hoping. I want to find that place where my kids can grow up and feel the same solid sense of belonging that I felt in my childhood. Where we develop our own family traditions and build solid connections. Where our rooms fill up with memories of good times shared with loved ones. Where I can put to rest this search for home, because I will no longer need to search.

Liebster Award

liebster awardThere’s nothing like an award nomination to boost morale and motivation! A fellow Francophile at Oh Sacré Bleu nominated me for the Liebster Award. Thank you, and Yay!

This award is a pat on the back for newish bloggers from fellow bloggers, meant to help spread the word about our favorite blogs out there in the blogosphere.

As part of the Liebster award, I must do the following:

  • Post the award on my blog
  • Thank the blogger presenting me with the award and provide a link back to their blog
  • Write 11 random facts about myself (uh-oh)
  • Pay it forward: find 11 other blogs with less than 200 followers that I enjoy reading and nominate them. (This is a tough one! Many blogs I follow have more than 200 followers, or have already been nominated, or I don’t know how many followers they have and couldn’t figure it out, but here are a bunch of really great ones that I’m happy to share. Sadly, I had to leave many of my discoveries off the list.) Okay, so, my dad was a math teacher, leaving me with a strong left brain, and I have to wonder… if every nominee faithfully nominates 11 blogs, after about 10 rounds, we’ve well exceeded human population … but I digress. It’s great to receive and spread blog love.
  • Answer the 11 questions the award presenter asked me, and ask my nominees 11 questions

Here we go:

Random Facts About Me

1. Many of my relatives are cowboys, the real deal (read about them here). I, however, am horribly allergic to horses.

2. I wake up every morning at 5 a.m. to work out.

3. I’m left handed.

4. I’ve sprained my ankles well over 20 times between the two of them. Ridiculous.

5. My mom wouldn’t let me take French in high school, despite me really wanting to. She said, “Carol, you live in Arizona. You’ll never have any occasion to use French. You’ll take Spanish.” Then I married a Frenchman. I like to remind her of this story.

6. I  need a social media detox on a regular basis. I have a crappy little phone with no internet access and I like it that way. I often leave it behind, as well as my laptop – life feels freer and simpler when I disconnect from all devices. I’ll take a paper map over GPS any day.

7. I’ve been to 5 continents. Missing Australia and Antarctica.

8. Even though the bottle says rinse then repeat, I don’t repeat. I’m rebellious like that.

9.I recently discovered that I’m dairy intolerant. It’s really pissing me off.

10.  I’m a redhead. I’ve always been one, and I’ve always liked being one.

11.  I have a doctorate degree in physical therapy.

Eleven Questions from Oh Sacré Bleu

1. Why do you blog? Because I love to write. And I think I found a good subject to blog about.

2. Are you in any way a ‘cultural failure’? i.e. You don’t do something that is typical of your nationality or culture (e.g. an Indian who doesn’t like spicy food, an Irishman who doesn’t drink alcohol etc) I think being a Francophile makes me a cultural failure, doesn’t it? It certainly did during the “freedom fries” craziness. I also don’t like apple pie, I can’t get excited about baseball, and I can’t bring myself to eat a corn dog. I just threw up in my mouth a little thinking about corn dogs.

3. Do you believe in ghosts? If I say no, will the ghosts find out and come to get me?

4. What’s a really bad song that you secretly like? See You Again by Miley Cyrus. Yeah, that’s right. She was in Hannah Montana mode when she rocked this one.

5. One country you can’t wait to visit? Only one? Ok. New Zealand.

6. Dogs or cats? Dogs. Big dogs.

7. Favourite city in the world that you’ve visited? I have to say Paris, right? I love Paris. Not to live, but to visit.

8. Do you collect anything? Randomly and unconsciously, I do. Buttons. The extra ones that come with new clothes. I don’t just collect them, I hoard them. Weirdo.

9. Favourite destination in your own country? Yosemite National Park

Happy happy me, in Yosemite Valley

Happy happy me, in Yosemite Valley

Vernal Falls

Vernal Falls

10. Worst thing about living in my country is…. Angry, hateful, bitter political climate.

11. Best thing about living in my country is….Diversity. People, cultures, food, terrain – you can find it all, here.

 

My Nominations:

C’est La Vie Cuisine Yummy recipes and a slice of life from a Frenchwoman living in the U.S.

Little Miss Frenchified An American teaching English to Strasbourg high school students.

Multilingual Parenting Advice and insight from a parent who has been there and done that.

Learn French With Jennifer A French teacher married to a Frenchman gives us a word a day. Great resource for French learners.

Stumbling Into Paradise Fun stories of adventures in learning French (complete with stereotypical hardass French teacher) and traveling.

The Head of the Heard Stephen shares his adventures of living in a foreign country and raising a multilingual child.

Au Lit! An Aussie married to a Frenchie living in France

The European Mama A Polish mom married to a German living in the Netherlands and raising three kiddos

Brian Goldsmith Photography For some fantastic armchair traveling

Meg Travels Beautiful photos and anecdotes from around the world

Traveling Frenchies Family of Frenchies, traveling the world

 

Okay, you guys are up: Eleven Questions for My Nominees

1.     If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

2.    What is the best book you’ve read recently?

3.    What is the nicest thing a random stranger has ever done for you?

4.    Your life will be made into a movie. Who do you want to play you?

5.    What was your favorite childhood toy?

6.    What is your guilty pleasure?

7.    Sweet or savory?

8.    If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?

9.    How many and which languages do you speak?

10. What was your favorite subject in school? Least favorite?

11.  If you could have any job other than your current one, what would you do?

Now what are you waiting for? Go check out these blogs! Go!