Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Little Kid Lost

Our two goats are sisters. 
Gigi named them Tulip and Yogurt. 
We bought them from our local zoo when they were babies. 
We bought them to be companions for our pony. 
They were the first inhabitants in our newly renovated barn in 2011. 

When Buttercup arrived they were terrified of her. 
What was this giant beast that we were locking them up with?!
But in a short period of time, they came to trust her. 
Trust that she wouldn't run over them. 
That she would share fruit treats with them. 
But Yogurt and Buttercup have a special bond that we've noticed. 

Of course Tulip is her very, very best friend. 
If one goat is separated from the other by a gate or fence the screaming starts. 
The relationship that Yogurt has with the pony is very unique in my eyes, though. 
You see, Yogurt often loses her baby. 
Her baby. 
Yogurt goes into a false pregnancy a few times a year. 
Where her udder fills with milk and she prepares for birth. 
The vet has seen this happen in Yogurt and has told us what is probably happening. 
Since of course she's not really pregnant, as all of the animals in the barn are female, she probably has a cyst on an ovary causing false pregnancy. 
Goats aren't normally spayed like our pet dogs and cats are. 
Goats are seen as working animals. 
Most people breed them, milk them, butcher them. 
But our goats are our pets. 
And Yogurt thinks she's pregnant too often and then becomes the saddest thing I have ever seen. 
She moans. 
She cries. 
She hides. 

Most interesting is that when she hides she hides under the horse.

She won't leave Buttercup's side. 

And those sounds she makes are so mournful. 
But here's the thing. 
I don't know if she's crying out because she's in pain, having contractions and trying to give birth. 
Or if she's already had her baby and now can't find it. 
I know I'm anthropomorphisizing things with her. 
But something is definitely happening. 
She cries and hides for usually two days. 
She let's me pet her, which isn't her thing. 
She likes to always act tough and will rear up on her back legs to hit you if you try to pet her. 
Which is really just very funny to see because she never does hit anyone. 
It's her tough-gal warning. 
Well, unless you're a cat. 
Or a chicken. 
Or Gigi holding a cat or chicken. 
Then she will make contact. 
I'm wondering if we should get her spayed. 
It will make her more comfortable I think. 
And she won't look for her baby. 
Or whatever she's doing. 
Anyway, it will make me feel better...

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Snowy Barnyard

It finally snowed at our house in Central Illinois. 
It seems to wait to snow a big one late in winter. 
We have been getting big downfalls of winter white in February and March the last few years. 
Everyone headed out early as is needed when you have farm animals. 

We need to shovel out doorways and make paths. 
We put straw down outside the chicken coop so that the hens have something to walk on instead of sinking. 
They still came out and sank as a few of them jumped right off of the ramp not realizing what would happen. 
We have about 8 inches of powdery snow today. 

Buttercup loves snow. 
She will romp and buck and kick and roll all. day. long. 

The goats don't get as excited.
Especially Yogurt.  
She's shorter and her belly hangs into the cold. 
She constantly has a "what the hell?" look to her when it snows.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Girl Was On Fire

Today we had a birthday party for Zoe. 
She turned ten years old four days ago.
Cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents came. 

And her hair caught on fire. 
The girl's hair caught on fire as she bent over the cake to blow out her ten candles. 
And this what quite joyous for me. 
As I told her when it happened "that's awesome that your hair caught on fire!  Well, not that your hair caught on fire, but awesome in that your HAIR caught on fire!"
Because her hair hasn't been this long since she turned five. 
The birthday before she got cancer. 
And now her hair is long enough to catch itself in the flames celebrating another year of life. 
The flames OF life. 
And the girl was on fire. 

*a big thanks to her great uncle Dave for extinguishing her hair with his hands. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Final Days Of Paris

Still in Paris and still walking. 
I would love, love, LOVE to live in this city for a few years. 
To get to really know the neighborhoods. 
To become one with it's cafés and museums. 
But, since we had a limited amount of time we had to see it all. 
And at a quick pace. 
With a few leisurely strolls mixed in. 
Actually, my quick paces all turned to leisurely strolls on this trip. 
Seeing that I was hauling around a growing human within my abdomen. 

The cathedral in the heart of Paris. 
I believe it's very near the center of the city. 
The one made famous by Victor Hugo and the hunchbacked boy he wrote about who lived within it's towers. 
The church that began being constructed in 1163. 
That's 500 years before Pilgrims decided to get on a boat and head out into the saltwater for a new life. 
The church that is protected by gargoyles who live atop it's towers. 
Who put that sign up saying *not recommended pregnant women climb the stairs?
Move out of the way people, this pregnant lady is climbing to the top of Notre-Dame!
And I did. 
All 387 steps up. 
Or was it 433?
It was a lot. 
Thank goodness there's a gift shop halfway up. 
With some seats. 

The few from up there was literally magical. 
It was the most breathtaking view I had seen in a long time. 
Was it what I had hoped it would be?
And more. 
The River Seine and Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Sacre Couer. 
All seen from the top of Notre-Dame Cathedral. 
A postcard view from my dreams. 

Once we meandered leisurely back down the steps we stopped for a crepe. 
There's a great crepe shoppe with a red awning right at the feet of the Cathedral. 
If you're ever in Paris, get one of those crepes, okay?

When Chad and I travel to a new city, we visit a zoo. 
Paris was no exception. 
We started out one morning to the oldest zoological park in Paris. 
The Ménagerie.  
Not realizing how far away it really was, it took us a very, very long time to get there. 
And we may have been going in the wrong direction for maybe an hour before it was realized. 
And I may have been the one in the lead. 
When we finally arrived it wasn't that interesting. 
All I remember are flamingos and meerkats. 
And my feet hurt. 

It was nearing the end of our trip and we had one thing left to see. 
And we were having trouble finding it. 
Why we wanted to see this particular sight is odd enough. 
We were on a quest to see the tunnel that Princess Diana was in when she was killed in a car accident in 1997. 
I had read that there was a memorial near the tunnel, but it wasn't in many guidebooks at that time. 
The Liberty Flame that commemorates French Resistance fighters. 
And it was supposed to be near our apartment. 
We had looked and looked and decided to look one last time during the evening of our last day there. 
OH, it was on the other side of the Seine!
We had been looking on the wrong side of the river the whole time. 
It was dark when we found it. 
A sculpture of an oversized golden flame sits over the tunnel on the street above. 
But I wanted to see that tunnel.
And take a picture. 
Who knows why really.
To document a piece of history, I guess. 
In my lifetime, her death was headline news. 
A tragic end to a beautiful life. 
So, I was going to get a picture. 
There's a median between the two traffic lanes leading into the tunnel. 
I thought I would just walk down that. 
Geesh, there's a lot of traffic going through that tunnel. 
My plan was to walk down the median, getting as close as I could without actually going into the dark. 
I ignored my husband's numerous requests that sounded like... "you're not going into the traffic! you're going to get killed!" 
And snapped a picture. 
And another when I got back to the side of the road. 
Both were a bit too dark. 
Of course I didn't know this at the time because this was before the popularity of digital cameras. 
I had to wait until I got home to see what had been captured on the film. 

Once we saw that tunnel, we were assured that we had seen everything. 
We had eaten dinner near the Arc de Triumphe. 
We had taken a batobus ride down the River Seine taking in all of the sights from the water. 

We had climbed the curving walkway and stairs up to Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre. 
We had eaten a prosciutto and cheese sandwich on a bench on the Ile de la Cité.
I ate the largest cotton candy I've ever seen under the glittering lights of the Eiffel Tower. 

We had meandered through Rue Cler. 
The street market that was around the corner from our apartment. 
We bought fresh food there that we took back to our kitchen. 
In our Parisian kitchen Chad whipped up dinner for us a few times. 
It was a grande street market and I loved it a lot.
Except for that one afternoon at the fromagerie. 
And the cheese shop owner began yelling at Chad in French. 
Was she yelling that she wanted us to try a free sample?
We were being told to leave. 
Because he had touched the cheese. 
Apparently, that was a big no-no. 

We said goodbye to our Paris apartment in the 7th Arrondisement and headed back to the airport. 
Since we were flying standby, we had to wait for all revenue ticket holders to check in before we would know if we would get a seat. 
Two seats, remember.
As we chewed our nails and looked around we noticed two other people waiting. 
And then it was announced that there were two seats left on the jet back to Chicago. 
Two seats and four people. 
Please, please, please give those seats to the pregnant lady and her husband!
Luck was on our side that day and we got the seats. 
We said a bittersweet au revoir to Paris. 
And have been dreaming of a trip back ever since. 
With our two daughters who have a love for all things French that they have inherited from their mère.
Our daughter Gigi will fit right in. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Hope And Dreams At Age Ten

When you have a baby you have big dreams for that child. 
Hopes and dreams take over your life. 
Feeder of starving children. 
Genius doctor. 
Juilliard musician.
You never think that those dreams will be sidelined by disease. 

When Zoe was born ten years ago today I had those dreams. 
And I still have those dreams. 
Because disease did not steal her from us. 
It made her strong. 
She fought back. 
Determined to live this life she was given. 
And we remind her not to take it for granted. 
Three years ago today she said goodbye to her friend Jake. 
Who also had cancer. 
On her birthday she was at the funeral for her friend who fought just as hard as she fought. 
But his disease was too much. 
And we will forever curse brain cancer for taking him from all of us. 
And she will continue to live her life for him. 
Dreams continue in her heart and actions. 

This morning I hugged her and whispered in her ear "thanks for staying with us."
Tears came to her eyes because she knows how things could have been.
And she knows what she needs to do. 
Hope and dreams. 
They keep us going...

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Creme Brûlée

When I arrive in a new city I get all jittery to get out and about. 
My time is limited and so I need to start seeing the sights. 
Like now. 
And Paris was no exception. 
Irregardless to the fact that I was lugging around twenty extra pounds.
Twenty extra pounds that made me very top/front heavy.
We decided, in our overly frugal way, to walk everywhere that we could. 
We took the subway to farther off neighborhoods. 
But once there we hoofed it. 
Up steep inclines. 
Around mysterious corners. 
Is that a cafe?
Let's get a creme brûlée. 
Berets were bought. 
Postcards were sent back to the States. 
We bought a collar for our dog from a sweet French woman who owned a shop that sold petite puppies. 
She spoke no English. 
We spoke no French.
We pointed our way to a purchase. 
We meandered near the banks of the River Seine. 
Past tea houses. 
Do they have desserts?
Let's get a creme brûlée. 

We tried to see it all. 
The Louvre Museum that houses the infamous Mona Lisa. 
She was hard to see really. 
People were twenty deep to gaze at her amused face. 
I preferred the large portraits that adorned the halls that took us to her. 
The Rodin Museum. 
Where The Thinker contemplates near The Gates of Hell. 
The Moulin Rouge with it's red windmill. 
Everything in that city is mesmerizing. 
The bridges have gilded flying horses atop them. 
The parks are immaculately maintained. 
I don't remember seeing much garbage. 

Dogs and death are everywhere. 
Dogs ride the subway.
Sit in shops. 
Frolic in parks. 
And there are cemeteries. 
And tombs. 
Napoleon's Tomb. 
He was encased within six coffins before entering his crypt. 
To keep everyone away. 
They have an underground cemetery. 
The catacombs. 
Where people were deposited under the streets of Paris in 1786. 
Piles and piles and piles of bones under the feet and homes of the people of this city. 
Cimetière du Père Lachaise. 
A cemetery overlooking the city on a wooded hill. 
We saw Jim Morrison's grave. 
And the final resting places of Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Isadora Duncan, Chopin and Balzac. 

All of the walking made for a very hungry pregnant woman. 
I ate bread. 
And ham. 
And creme brûlée. 
And snails. 
And creme brûlée. 
Did I mention that I ate creme brûlée?
Upon returning home my obstetrician was shocked to see that I had gained 10 pounds in one month.
I sheepishly smiled and said that I had just returned from Paris. 
All was forgiven. 

One thing we did notice as we were traveling around the city...people talked to me. 
Not to Chad. 
To me. 
Standing on a street corner figuring out where we wanted to go, French people would stop to ask me directions. 
Sitting on a park bench to rest my swollen ankles, someone would stop to chat. 
They were always a bit bothered when I shook my head and said "American."
I think it was because I was so roundly pregnant. 
Or it may have been the jaunty scarf tied around my neck. 
I guess I looked Parisian. 
I'll take that as a compliment. 

To be continued...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Seeing The Light Of Paris

We landed in Paris. 
The air was ripe with Frenchness. 
The airport had an indoor smoking area that was packed with people puffing away on tar sticks. 
Our first order of business was to make a phone call. 
We were renting an apartment from a company called Paris Perfect
We would be living like regular Parisians in a regular home in a regular neighborhood. 
But we needed to call the person who would meet us there to give us the key to get in. 
This was happening 11 years ago. 
I think we owned a cell phone, but this was before the invention of the all-knowing smartphone. 
We didn't want to use our cell and use expensive international minutes to make a 2 minute phone call. 
So we needed to buy a phone card. 
At what appeared to be a little convienance store within the airport. 
You could buy a bag of chips, cigarettes, phone cards, or condoms at this tiny little shop. 
When you only speak English and you're in a foreign country, you must make do with your key intellect in the art of pointing and pantomime. 
After using our hands and finally getting the clerk to understand what we needed, we headed to the pay phones. 
We had to punch in a whole slew of numbers to reach who we needed in the city limits. 

After completing our call, we hopped onto the Paris Metro. 
We would take the train into Paris and then walk a few blocks to our apartment. 
My husband had been taking the subway in Chicago for many years as he didn't drive. 
He was confidant that he could figure out the Paris subway system. 
I have a profound love for maps and he has a great sense of direction when looking at colored lines on a board, so we weren't worried in the least. 
We settled onto the train and headed out. 
Past what I would consider the suburbs of Paris and into the underground tunnel system. 
We got off at a stop called Invalides after transferring lines a few times. 
And as we ascended the stairs we came out into the light. 
The light we had dreamed of fell upon our faces. 
It was the light of a city that I immediately fell in love with. 

We began walking to try to find the street our apartment was on, Rue Saint Dominique. 
It was in the 7th Arrondisement. 
The French call their neighborhoods or districts Arrondisements. 
And those Arrondisements have names as well as a number designated to them. 
We were staying in the Invalides and Eiffel Tower Quarter. 
The Invalides was a hospital built by King Louis XIV for his wounded and homeless veterans. 
It now houses Napoleon Bonaparte's  tomb. 
We saw this imposing gold-gilded building and, I guess because we were in awe of it's giganticness, we began walking in the wrong direction. 
After a few blocks of pulling our suitcases down uneven and oh, so tiny sidewalks we came to a halt. 
My map instincts told me we were going the wrong way. 
I sniffed the air and said " go back."
So we headed back to the subway entrance and walked the other way.
Through a small green space, around a few corners and yes, there it was!
Rue Saint Dominque!

The apartment was nestled on a quaint street full of clothing shops, bakeries, and coffee shops. 
Tiny cars were parked on the cobble streets. 
Dogs peered out from the doorways of shops run by their masters. 
There was a veterinary clinic that we passed, where we would eventually spot a beagle waiting with his owner one morning for the doctor to arrive as it stood in a gingerly fashion as a sock was sticking out of it's bum. 
There was a Pizza Hut. 
A French Pizza Hut.  
That we did eat at because the pizza choices were not at all similar to the Pizza Hut choices in America. 

We got to the apartment and knocked. 
I don't remember if it was a man or a woman who answered the door.
But whoever it was welcomed us joyfully and in English and gave us a "Welcome to Paris" basket of goodies. 
One of the things in the basket was a hand embroidered baguette bag. 
You buy your fresh baguette loaf from the bakery everyday and store it in this cloth bag once you get it home. 
I still use it to this day. 
It holds my French rolling pin and hangs in my south facing kitchen window. 

The apartment was amazing and was everything we hoped it would be. 
On the top floor of a three story building. 
With an inner courtyard that we could see from the kitchen. 
There was a small pool of water in the courtyard that was tiled in dark blue so it made the water so deep and luscious looking. 
Everything was so clean.
The people who lived in this building were very proud of it and it showed in the pristine condition of the courtyard. 
It would be our home away from home. 
A kitchen that my husband could cook in. 
A dining table for two. 
A washer/dryer combo machine was in the bathroom. 
A bedroom window that when I opened and leaned out and looked to the left I saw what I came to see. 
The Eiffel Tower. 
Just down the street. 
The symbol of France was within my view and I couldn't wait to see it up close.

Across the street we could clearly see the neighboring apartments. 
Every morning we saw the neighbor's cats sunning themselves in the window as we ate our breakfast. 
We were only in Paris for a short time, but I looked for those two white cats every morning. 
While I ate a croissant and had a latte that my husband had fetced for me from the bakery downstairs, I would pretend that I was in my own home. 
And that my own cats were in the other room sunning themselves in our window. 
And someone else was noticing them. 

To be continued...

To read Part 1...