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.

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.

Fourth of July

I love the Fourth of July. Moreso than Memorial Day, it marks the true arrival of summer. Grills fire up, parades march through the streets, smiling kids lick their ice cream cones and ride their bikes, the May Grays and June Glooms of San Diego usually let the sun have her turn to play. A year ago, we moved to a suburban neighborhood in our city. My biggest fear was that I would feel lost in the burbs. Our former neighborhood was mixed use; all sorts of shops, bars, and restaurants within walking distance and a park always filled with playing kids, impromptu soccer games, owners walking their dogs, picnics and birthday parties. Most of us didn’t have a garage, or if we did it was way too small and/or full of stuff to fit a car into, so we saw our neighbors often as we all came and went, visiting the park and the shops. We knew each other and even spent time together. Sometimes I think garages are one of the worst things for a neighborhood. That and not having front porches.

However, our little suburban ‘hood knows how to celebrate the Fourth. It’s even a big enough deal that the mayor of San Diego came, and the trolleys altered their routes in order to bring people in. At our neighborhood park, we had a pancake breakfast, a fun run, live music all day, a pet and bike parade, dance troupes – my favorite was the Polynesian one, I got a little escape to Tahiti for a moment there, all sorts of booths, and plenty of things for kids to see and do. For a day, I felt like I was part of small town USA. I loved every second of it.

Live Music at University City’s 25th Annual Forth of July Celebration. Oh Say Can U.C.

DSC00600

DSC00617

People enjoying the pancake breakfast:

DSC00603

Bike and Pet Parade:

DSC00609

DSC00610 DSC00612 DSC00613 DSC00616

Presentation of the colors:

DSC00619

Stuff for kids. Because no party is complete without a jumping castle. I was more excited about the rock climbing wall.

DSC00624

DSC00629

DSC00635

DSC00633

DSC00636

We had friends over for a barbeque after. Planked salmon with a mustard slather and corn on the cob. Plus peach cobbler. My grandmother’s recipe. Yum.

DSC00664

DSC00671

DSC00656

Chef’s helper. I wasn’t crazy about this beer, but the bottle is pretty.

DSC00653

Another fabulous Fourth. Welcome, summer!

Kermesse

School’s out for summer!

kermesseSummer feels more real with kids. In San Diego, where the seasons blend and where we have two, maybe three weeks of vacation a year, summer never really meant much. Just a little warmer and crowds of tourists everywhere we want to go. But now, my daughter has finished her first year of preschool, and we kicked off summer in style: with an end of year show and Kermesse.

The preschool section of the school put on an hour-long show. Somehow, the teachers got those two, three, four, and five-year-olds to perform choreographed dances, sing, recite memorized lines, and even put on a play. Seriously – three and four year olds doing the tango, kindergartners performing Snow White, and two-year-olds dancing to a beat, each group waiting patiently while the others performed, and not one of them on stage crying for Maman? Amazing. These people are miracle workers.

Four year olds doing a choreographed dance on boogie boards to Surfin' USA

Four year olds doing a choreographed dance on boogie boards to Surfin’ USA

Two-year-old cowboys and cowgirls

Two-year-old cowboys and cowgirls

 

Then there was Kermesse, a carnival of sorts that in France is mainly put on my parochial schools. When my husband heard there would be a Kermesse at the French American School, he immediately decided to take a half-day off, citing fond memories of going to Kermesse with friends as a child. The school did not disappoint: lots of fantastic food, a few rides, good music, and all sorts of fun activities.

Yes, please!

Yes, please!

DSC00507

DSC00498

Homemade games with prizes

Homemade games with prizes

Dunk Tank

Dunk Tank

DSC00508

DSC00523

Happy summer, everyone!

Staycation for the Summer

Me, with a serious frou frou drink on our honeymoon

Me, with a serious frou frou drink on our honeymoon

The following is a post for this month’s Raising Multilingual Children Blogging Carnival hosted by All Done Monkey. This month’s theme is Multilingualism and Travel. Click here to read great posts from others. 

Once upon a time, it seems so long ago, summer meant packing our bags for an adventure, or two, or four. I prided myself on my ability to pack for two plus weeks in a carry-on. Over glasses of wine uninterrupted by children who needed to use the potty or who wanted to eat NOW, we vowed that we wouldn’t fall into the trap so many of our friends had, we would keep traveling, having adventures, and our kids would simply come along for the ride. I look back on those evenings and it’s like I’m watching a sit-com; I double over in laughter and point at the former me and say: “You think you are so savvy, so above it all, BWAH HA HA! Just you wait!”

Thing is, in my mind I skipped right over the toddler years and straight to kids that were able to talk, bathe themselves, and walk more than a quarter mile before needing to be carried. I didn’t think about the car seats, Pack ‘n Plays, nor the strollers that would need to come with us. Hotels equipped with cribs, restaurants with high chairs… not even on my radar. I definitely didn’t envision a full-blown tantrum in any of these scenarios.

We took our daughter to France when she was nine months old. She did great – there were almost no tears until the last leg of the flight there, at which point she’d reached her limit. She screamed – SCREAMED – for an entire hour, and nothing we did could comfort her.

Then there was the train ride from Brittany to Paris. We had our suitcases – three – plus a stroller, plus her car seat, plus a diaper bag and a backpack. The train station had one elevator. One. The elevator held about three people with one bag each. The group waiting to board the elevator was fifty deep. Each trip on the elevator took four and a half minutes. Seriously. I timed it. To make it even more complicated, the platform wasn’t announced until 10 minutes before the train was due to take off.

This was France, mind you, where a line is more of a group of people pushing and ducking and manipulating their way past all the others. There’s no polite and fair waiting your turn. It’s survival of the fittest, and they aren’t above shoving past a woman and her stroller, or even shoving that stroller. While I complained about it, Stéphane took the stroller and turned it into a battering ram. When in France…. We pushed our way to the front of the group, made it to the platforms, and sprinted – he dragging two bags and wearing the backpack, me pushing the stroller/car seat and dragging our third bag with the diaper bag slapping against me and knocking me off balance. We boarded and the train immediately began to move.

Then I realized I had a diaper to change. The train had one car – one – with a diaper changing table, but I couldn’t find it. I ended up sitting on a toilet seat, my feet braced against the wall and my legs a makeshift changing table with my daughter stretched across them, rocking precariously every time the train hit a curve.

Then

Then

So, other than a small weekend trip up the coast, we aren’t going anywhere this summer. I’m intimidated by the thought of traveling with a one-year-old and an almost three-year-old overseas. Next year, we hope to go to France and spend at least a few weeks there. It’s obviously important that our children know their French family and their French heritage. And that we eat crêpes. Lots and lots of crêpes. There are all sorts of opportunities for family language vacations throughout France, where the three of us could enroll in language courses and really immerse ourselves. Plus, with my husband’s French citizenship, there are options for sending the kids to summer school there. Soon, while they’re young, before they realize that school instead of lazy summer days equals Mean Mom.

But here’s the silver lining: We live in San Diego, a top vacation destination for so many. All it takes is a morning at the beach, my toes in the sand, watching the surfers, for me to feel like I’m on vacation.

Now

Now

My daughter’s preschool lets out this week. She’s made so much progress with her French over this past year, but soon she will be home with English-speaking me every day rather than at school with her native French-speaking teacher and French only classes. I’ve been so worried that she’ll lose all she’s gained. Then I realized –hey, my French is decent. It’s certainly better than nothing. So we’ll be tourists in our own city, but we’ll do it in French. San Diego Zoo day, where we learn the animal names in French and talk about what they are up to. We’ll learn what noises they make – in French! Sea World? Lego Land? Balboa Park? The Embarcadero? The beach? Oui oui! Ce n’est pas mal!

I mentioned my idea to another mom at the preschool, and she quickly said she wanted to join us with her kiddos. Then another mom. And another. So my little idea just became a big deal – most of these families are not French speaking, so I’ll be leading the charge with our efforts to keep the kids progressing in French.

I still vow to get back to traveling adventures. I haven’t given up the dream. It will just hopefully be without a diaper bag.

Fondue and Mousse Au Chocolat

I turn my dinner guests into guinea pigs. My first attempts at a new meal are often when we invite friends over. So far, no one has complained. Fondue is an old stand by, but this was my first attempt at chocolate mousse.

May isn’t the best month for fondue, but it was requested by my friends back in March, then the dinner kept getting pushed down the calendar… did I mention I live in California? This is what we do. Luckily, last week was cold and rainy, so fondue turned out to be the perfect remedy.

DSC00161

DSC00168

Two things broke me out of my Kraft Mac and Cheese habit from college. One – a good girlfriend who was a brilliant cook. I started hanging out at her house, learning what I could. Thank you, Shawna! The second – my husband. On our first “Come on over for dinner” dates, I served him quesadillas and spaghetti with packaged sauce mix. He was gracious and complimentary. So I tried something a little more complicated. He was more complimentary, even excited, and cleaned his plate. So I kept trying. I stopped using packages and started using fresh ingredients. I got bolder, more experimental. Today, my friends know me as a really good cook, and I’m convinced it’s the reason our parties are always so crowded. And to this day, my husband has never once said a bad thing about anything I’ve cooked. At worst, he’s been silent, and when I say something like, “That was horrible, I’m sorry,” he’ll pat my hand and say, “it wasn’t your best effort.” So I keep at it.

The chocolate mousse was a recipe that, six or seven years ago, I would have taken one look at and decided to buy a gallon of ice cream instead. Lots of steps, constant stirring, and temperature dependant… but it came out fantastic.

DSC00172

Beautiful Saturday at the Farmer’s Market in Little Italy

DSC00201

Intimidated by trying to find parking, I’ve never visited this farmer’s market. But my daughter and I were in Little Italy this weekend so we checked it out. It’s huge, maybe even bigger than our usual one in Hillcrest. The views are fabulous:

DSC00193

The music sophisticated:

DSC00194

And they have crêpes. Authentic ones, from Fabrison’s French Crêperie Café, also located in Little Italy. This restaurant has great food, and their crêpes are the real deal: the savory ones are done with buckwheat flour. Hard to find outside of Bretagne, but this is the way a savory crêpe is meant to be. I split a Nutella crêpe with my daughter and chatted with Fabrice, owner of the café, about the challenges of raising kids in a bilingual household (his wife is American) and what we do to try to make sure our kids are learning French.

DSC00197

 

DSC00195

Here are a couple more photos. Spring is blooming in San Diego!

DSC00200

DSC00198