Yesterday I came back from what was my longest stint away from home since college. Almost a month! We started doing laundry immediately upon unpacking the car, and the last load is still in the dryer as I type. The house is almost put back together, or at least what passes for put together these days. As I mentioned to my husband today, our life is like a giant game of Tetris, with new stuff constantly dropping in as I frantically look for a place to fit it all. Every once in awhile, some of it magically disappears -- usually to the basement storage unit, where I've learned to not poke around too much for fear of provoking a cardboard box landslide and taking out my husband's wine collection (which is probably the one thing in the entire basement we'd miss).
Mademoiselle left in mid-July with two teeth and a fierce determination to finally crawl, and she came back with four teeth and the ability not just to shuffle efficiently around the living room, but also to pull herself up to standing position. We took a nap together today, I in my bed next to a heap of unfolded clean laundry, she in her crib which is still between my side of the bed and the wall. I woke up to her standing and peering over the edge at me with a huge smile. Her primitive crawling style is adorable, and I must film it before she perfects it any: she first moves one arm, then the other arm, then slides one knee forward and finally pushes the other leg forward with her foot, keeping the second knee folded off to the side. It's quite asymmetrical and charming.
Le Petit has grown, too. Gone is the "reserved," reluctantly verbal child described to me in my end-of-year meeting with his teacher. Everywhere we went he chirped 'Bonjour' to people in the street and repeated it until he got a response, and when someone engaged him in conversation, he explained that he was four years old (and with great concentration, showed the requisite number of fingers) and that his baby sister was eight months old. He readily found other kids to play with at the beach, and even had his first summer crush, a little girl named Anna who coaxed him into the water at the beach in Collioure and held his hand when he was a little scared.
It was also le Petit's first gastronomic Tour de France. He visited the Roquefort caves and came back with a kilo of his favorite cheese. In Collioure he threw a tantrum when we wouldn't let him finish in one sitting an entire package of anchovies. In La Rochelle he made friends with the vendors at the central market, using his charm to beg slices of salami. In Brittany, he took his crab stuffed animal to visit the crabs in the tank at the fishmonger, and was unfazed when we took one of the crab 'friends' home to cook.
Most impressively, le Petit can accurately describe what he's seen, what we've done and where we've been in a way that shows he now participates in our travels more than he ever has in the past. Perhaps this will be the first family vacation that he remembers when he grows up.
There were moments when I felt guiltily like the vacation wasn't much of a break for me, since I was on-duty mothering 24/7. Mademoiselle still woke up two or three times a night, and Le Petit had a memorable tantrum at the end of a visit to the La Rochelle Aquarium. Getting everyone fed, dressed, bathed, packed, and out the door in the morning was an undertaking. A trip to the beach involved logistics that rivaled a Napoleonic campaign. Le Petit started "singing" loudly to Mademoiselle in the car during her naps, cheerfully explaining that he was trying to wake her up (and when that didn't work, he sometimes surreptitiously took a swipe at her car seat with his foot). I lost my patience more than I'd like, and I even threatened once to take everyone back to Paris on the next train. But on the whole, the Great Vacation of 2011 will go down as a success.
I had no time to write. I dragged the laptop across France and didn't so much as fire up Word. I brought back plenty to write *about*, though, and I hope I'll have time to do it shortly.