Thursday, September 11, 2014

Some *Other* Things to Know about Motherhood

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It seems like lately I have been seeing articles or blog posts pop up on my Facebook page or on Pinterest or other places my eyes happen to be looking around on the internet, talking about Motherhood.  Titles like 18 Things to Know About Motherhood , Five Incredible Things Motherhood has Taught Me and one of my favorite series from Joanna Goddard, where she interviews mothers from around the world.

The curious thing about all of these articles and hundreds more are talking about a very specific kind of mothering:  One that seems to apply to people with children 8 years old and younger.  Perhaps these years offer the most inspiring moments, snap-worthy memories and tired-to the bone days filled with adorable antecdotes and messes to match.  Aaaah, those were the days.

I've had many of these incredible mothering moments, I've learned 18 or more things about motherhood since I started the job.  And I'm currently a mother living away from my motherland and culture and have seen some interesting differences about what Motherhood means to a lot of people.

Right now I am a mother of a 16 year old girl, a 13 year old girl, a 12 year old boy and an 8.5 year old boy.  Most days I get plenty of sleep, unless I decide to stay out late with my friends or up reading.  I sleep in on the weekends and if my kids wake up before me, they stumble downstairs and make themselves some breakfast.  In the summer I let them stay up until 2 am and sleep until whenever, and when they turn down an offer to go to the beach, my husband and I go without them.  These are some of the perks of surviving the days when bottles of milk would curdle in the crib or a diaper explosion would have me buying a clean onesie at Target instead of trying to save the one covered from crotch to neck in yellow poo.

But there are still things many to know, to learn, about motherhood after these younger years.  Because reaching age 8 just means they probably won't accidentally kill themselves by doing something stupid and you have taken most of the precious pictures that will show up on their wedding video by then, because once puberty hits-well-those photos might not be so cute.

So here is my list of things to add to all those others out there:

1.  HYGIENE.  Teenagers stink.  Literally.  One day they seem to decide that bathing is no longer a requirement, along with brushing their teeth, or wearing clean clothes.  You may repeatedly find yourself asking the question, "When was the last time you showered?!"  If the answer isn't "yesterday"- it's time.  And have you smelled their feet?!  Or their breath?!

2.  MENTAL EXHAUSTION.  Mothering teenagers can be exhausting.  Especially girl ones.  You think you have good advice, helpful tips to help them navigate these confusing times.  Get over yourself--teenagers don't care what you have to say.  You're the devil.  *Cue teenage eye-rolling and comments muttered under their breath.  I firmly believe this is why some mothers watch hours of ridiculous television and bake a lot of dessert recipes from Pinterest.  Avoidance behavior must be deployed in times of severe weirdness, like having a conversation with a teenager while they look at themselves coyingly in the mirror behind you.

3.  HUNGER. Children over 8 eat A LOT of food.  A handful of Goldfish crackers hasn't fooled these kids for years.  They are HUNGRY ALL THE TIME.  And a bowl of cereal won't cut it, either.  And they hate chicken.  And anything that resembles soup.  Did you think motherhood was all about love and kissing boo-boos?  I personally missed the chapter about how motherhood was mostly about being a cook.

4.  DRAMA.  A scrape on the knee?  Bee-sting? Fight over a toy? Toilet paper unrolled all over the house?  How about some of these scenarios:  years-long bouts with lice, a hypochondriac who needs to see the doctor about once a week for things like "my toe hurts" to "my stomach feels like it will explode".  Real tears shed when MineCraft gets turned off, texts saying "I can't be your friend anymore because so-and-so told me you sent him a naked picture of me" . . .  comments like "I wish I could just die."  Oh, you didn't get a degree in psychology?  or medicine? or teenage social media war?

5.   EDUCATION.  Maybe you live in a place where you love your schools and there are many options for children of all learning abilities and systems and functions in place to help those children develop to their fullest potential in a loving, respectful environment.  Or maybe you have one child that absolutely despises her learning environment, one that doesn't fit in to the prescribed learning environment and a couple of them that seem just fine (thank goodness)!  Maybe there are bullies at school or cliques that make your kids feel weird or schedules that drive everyone insane.  Buckle up, because if you can't change the bull you're on, it's going to be a neck-wrenching ride where you will most likely end up on the ground with a lot of bumps and bruises.   Don't worry, just tell your "authentic self" to stay strong!

6.  CONTROL.  You will steadily lose control of your child as all of the lessons you have taught them over the years start to kick in and they no longer believe that you know all things or have the power to frighten them or cajole them into pretty much anything.  You might want to start practicing a response now for the day they pull out "that doesn't work for me" or "don't try to guilt-trip me", or a personal favorite: "It's MY LIFE!"  Indeed, my child, it is YOUR life.  That's the hardest one for us mothers to remember because this is our job, our calling, our destiny.  But in the end, no, it is not our life.  Despite it being your life,  we know "it" is all our fault - you have made that abundantly clear.

I can most certainly assure you that unlike most sweet and inspiring lists about motherhood running around the internet - Motherhood continues after age 8, and it's a whole different ball game.  I could write a list 100 points long and probably wouldn't even touch things like "what to do when your child won't visit you at the nursing home".  The lessons don't stop, and it doesn't get easier, and the stories get more bizarre and YOU CAN NEVER LEARN EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW.  Ever.  Because children are growing, dynamic beings.  YOU are a growing, dynamic being, and your role as a mother will shift and morph so many times that by the time you're 68 and your 40 year old daughter calls you crying about something, you might shrug your shoulders and whisper to yourself "A Mother's work is never done."

Thursday, September 4, 2014

La Rentrée 2014

la rentrée . . . back to school. 

Sometimes I wonder if I'm not the most overly emotional, sentimental, melancholy person in the entire world.  Or the most prone to hyperbole.  

But as the kids head back to school now, things feel different.  Maybe it's because this girl ran away to Arizona.
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Abby with her cousins on their first day of school

It's like a weird preview of what's it's like to send a child off to college.  She got on an airplane one day in August and that was it.  School registration done and Allez, hop - She's an american teenager in an american high school going to the Sadie Hawkins dance.  Dave and I have turned into grovelers...but we get barely more than a text or a "yeah, everything's fine".  *Sigh*  At least we have Aunt Janae to give us the behind the scenes details.  

Meanwhile, on the Cote d'Azur .  .  .   photo IMG_0635_zpsf6adf1ff.jpg

Sophie and Sam started 5eme today (that's 7th grade).  And Carter started CM1 (4th grade).  I took this picture this morning before we all went our separate ways and when I now I'm loading it here - tears welled up in my eyes because these people are mine for a little while in life, and today I got to straighten some hair, put some gel in some other hair, find the right shirt for someone who was a little cold - and then step back and look at all those smiles and capture this small, happy moment in our small, happy life.  

Happy School Year.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Update: Year 7

So here we are, 7 years in France.  I would be lying if I didn't tell you I've got a bit of the 7 year itch - to have my kids see what school is like in America, to call my friends and family and be generally in the same time zone, to read a recipe on Pinterest and know exactly where to get all the ingredients, like coconut oil or almond butter.  But there is still work to be done, a property to finish, a day at the beach calling . . .

2014 has been a big year for some of us in the Ashton household, but there's so much so say I think I'll have to break it down:

The House:  
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Attic, May 2014 photo IMG_0328_zpsefac392b.jpg

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Master Bedroom, May 2014 photo IMG_0324_zps2350d447.jpg

The house continues to be a work in progress.  We finished the attic renovation a year ago in April.  Then we started working on the outside, which has been as challenging as the inside!

Dave planting in Lavoir photo IMG_0346_zps3e717e2f.jpg

Dave is still running his business, SnapCar, in Paris.  It continues to be a huge learning experience to build a company out of nothing.  He still goes to Paris every week and sometimes sleeps at the office.  Ah, the realities of start-up life.  Dave wears his hair long like a Parisian, but wears his trousers in pinks and blues - true "Riviera Attitude" as his fleet manager says.

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I am 40.  This should have a post of its own, but as a friend told me, I shouldn't give too much importance to un-important things like a number.  Weirdly, I actually do feel older in a bad way.  I hurt my elbow at an exercise bootcamp in September of 2013 and it is still bothering me.  I have a lot of gray hair now and refuse to allow it to show.  I will not give in!  I hurt my back in the spring and was in a lot of pain for a couple of weeks.  The lead up to my 40th birthday was NOT fun.  But my party, which was a month later (to avoid rain and cold temperatures), was very fun.  There was a huge thunderstorm a few hours before the party.  While it poured rain I sat in the car and cried because my outdoor party was ruined.  The temperature dropped several degrees.  My hair was frizzy.  But an hour before the party everything stopped-the thunder, the rain, and the humidity.  It was a beautiful night after all.  I still hate it when Dave goes to Paris every week.  Sometimes I even cry.  We have been married 19 years and he is still my favorite person to be with and I miss him when he goes.

Abby CM1 photo KidsSchoolPhotosAbbyLarge_zps4ae0474d.jpg

Abby 16 photo IMG_0359_zps44ea4e0f.jpg

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Abby's party photo IMG_0351_zps2b20d030.jpg

Abby turned 16!  SIXTEEN!!!!  She had a party with friends from the Lycee and it seemed to be a success.  Given that she's all grown up now and has been begging us for three (um, six) years to go back to the States, we finally gave in.  Dave's brother and his wife have graciously agreed to let Abby live with them for a year and go to school in the good ol' USA. Gulp.


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 Sophie is 13.  Wow, that one snuck up on me.  One day she just didn't look like a little kid anymore.  It was so weird.  Then she went and got braces and really started looking grown-up.

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Sam's 12th birthday cake photo IMG_0595_zps59627245.jpg

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Sam is about to turn 12 and just had a party with all of his friends, who won't be here on his real birthday in July.  He is still playing soccer and loving it - we are just waiting for him to grow a little so he catches up with his other teammates.

Carter 2 years old bday photo November2007032_zps7363c8d2.jpg

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Carter discovered MineCraft this year.  We haven't seen much of him since then.

The Rest:
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I still don't know what will happen in the future (who does?), or how much longer we will be here (I say that every year!), or what I want to be when I grow up (maybe because I never want to grow up?)--but I continue to believe that no matter where you live, with all the positives and negatives, that the best thing about living anywhere is the people that you spend your time with, and we know a lot of great ones here in our corner of the world.

And just for giggles, our family then and now:
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July 2007

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Christmas 2013


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