France Day 24: Life in Chamonix

I woke up today alone, in complete silence, in a mostly white room.  I looked at my tennis bracelet watch with the diamonds, given to me as a college graduation gift from my grandmother, who also graduated from Furman.  Ten ‘til noon.  TEN ‘TIL NOON?!?!?!  I shot up in a flash.  I’d been up until 2:30 the night before just soaking in the tub and washing and drying my hair and generally finally looking after myself and settling my thoughts after an entire day with no time alone.  While I soaked in the tub, I saw flutters on my tummy, and I wondered if that was the new baby.  So, OK, I wasn’t entirely alone.  But the baby I don’t mind at all. I am one of those unfortunate people who needs nine hours of sleep per night.  And I had gotten exactly nine hours, including making up for those 10 minutes I’d spent at the crack of dawn this morning mopping up where both children had peed all over the bathroom floor and making them go back to bed.  Geoff had mentioned he’d take the children out for breakfast at the café this morning and then to the grocery, but whoa!  Was everything OK?  Did it really take that long?  Silence.  I’m pretty sure we’re the only people on the entire floor of the building.  So many luxury apartments, so many empty.

Then I heard a gigglish agreement echoing down the outside hall and thud-thud-thud and here they come, before I even got a chance to get out of the bed.  I was relieved to hear them, though.  In three seconds flat, Bittykins was right by me with a gold key from one of the like 8 doors in this apartment (which all have different keys) and a white mixing spoon.

“Dis is your ice cream, Mommy!” said Butterscotch, handing me an imaginary bowl and Bittykins whacked it with the spoon…

Geoff stepped in the bedroom for a moment to let me know they’d been to the café and had amazing hazelnut something or other, how Butterscotch slept in until 10:00, and how now he (Geoff) was retreating to the bathroom.  Geoff claims he wasn’t in there long, but here’s what happened in the interim:

Bittykins escaped with my watch.

I had to get up to chase it down.

Wait. Slippers first.

Wait, where are my slippers?


(They were in the washing machine, which is in the bathroom, which doesn’t have a toilet.  The toilet’s in a separate, tiny room, which is probably the way to do it.)

I’m starving.  But pregnant.  Must pee.  But bathroom occupied by Geoff.

Ooooh, breakfast pastries!  Hazelnut pastries that look like super-flaky amazing macaroons!  This must be what the kids had for breakfast.  I take one and wander out onto our extra-long balcony.  Three sets of big, beautiful French doors open out onto the balcony, which overlooks the entire Chamonix mountain range, culminating in the breakthatking Mont Blanc at the far end.

Butterscotch followed me out to tap on my belly and ask me if I wanted to come on his really fast train in the bedroom.

No, thank you.


Because I just want to eat my breakfast in peace.


Because I haven’t even gotten a chance to use the bathroom yet, and I just don’t want to be pawed on right now, ok, sweetie?

But whyyy?  (This time he reaches up and hangs from my super-sore 13-weeks-pregnant boobs.)


Wha-thump. (Bittykins closed the balcony door behind us, and there is no handle on the outside.)

We knock.

And knock.



Bittykins!  Can you let us in, please?

GEEEEHEHEHEHEHEHEHEHEHEHEHEHEHE! And she runs away, electrified with giddiness and mischief.  I watch her curls bounce away out of sight.


I’m not upset that I’m stuck out here or that I’m not wearing a bra in front of God and everybody, or even that she’s eating my breakfast.  I’m upset because she is strewing a parade of macaroon crumbs all over the entire apartment that I now have to sweep up.

I try the other two sets of doors, and the ones to the bedroom open.

I stomp in and retrieve what’s left and eat it quickly while looking for the broom.

I get no more than 4 strokes of the broom in before I see Bittykins sitting in the living room floor now gnawing on a thin plastic bag that our bedroom slippers came in.

Bittykins, get that out of your mouth, please.

Now she’s tossing her head around like a dog with a toy.

(I do not have the patience to enforce a time-out right now.  I go in there with my broom in hand and take the plastic out of her mouth.  Ew.  Dripping with drool.  I walk it over to the trash and continue sweeping.)

I decide it’s easier to just sweep all the macaroon crumbs out the door, so I open a door and make one large, frustrated swoosh…right into my left eye.



Now she’s crawled under the sofa and retrieved the other plastic slippers sleeve and is pulling the plastic apart with her teeth like taffy.

With a broom in one hand, my other hand over my eye, I retrieve the bag from her mouth with my toes and attempt to hop over to the trash, which is concealed behind a sleek Euro-kitchen door, and they all look the same, and I’m not sure now which door is which.

I guess.  Wrongly.

Crash.  It was not graceful.

On the upside, the eye doesn't seem so bad anymore.

Things do get better, though.

I managed to get all the crumbs out the door and splash my face twice before Geoff wanted to come in and take a shower, which meant unsupervised kids while I attempted to get ready for the day.

As bedcovers and pillows from all beds are ripped off and dragged into the bottom of their wall-to-wall sliding-door closet in the name of reenacting their afternoon on the TGV (tres grande vitesse, or, basically very fast cross-country train), I managed to get makeup and clothes on.

Then it’s time to re-make the beds.

And fix lunch.

And cleanup lunch (with help).

I love this apartment.  It’s so airy and clean.  It's the second place that’s really got me convinced we need to have at least one big white room in our new house.

Next was naptime.

I tried to convince Bittykins to pee, but if you had to climb onto a toilet that came up to your nipples and was as wide and deep as a hot tub compared to you, with a big person over you telling you if you didn’t at least try, you wouldn’t get a story for naptime, you might not be able to pee, either.

I offered to let her try in the sink.  That didn’t work either.

She escaped and got a bowl from the kitchen and went outside to do her business while gazing at Mont Blanc.

Finally!  At least 15 minutes have passed already.

I leave her alone for awhile, and she proudly delivers her bowl. I’m expecting pee.

Nope.  It’s a giant turd in a bowl.

I fell asleep nursing her to sleep, and I woke up with my arm asleep.  I managed to slide her off and snuggle her in her bed without waking her (a miracle!), and because I’m 13 weeks pregnant, I really, really had to pee (again).  I open the door to the throne room and I nearly jumped a foot.

It’s Butterscotch. “I had to poop, Mommy.”  Last time I looked at him, he was asleep in his bed!  How did he get in here?!

So I pace through the apartment, looking at the view and waiting.  Suddenly, Butterscotch materializes out of complete silence (again).

“Mommy, I have a rumbly in my tumbly.”  I think I jumped about a foot.

So before I even pee, I give him a piece of bread and send him outside because I am not sweeping again today.

Finally, my turn.  And then, no T.P.  How can this be?  Less than 24 hours ago, we entered this place and there were all kinds of fancy toilet paper origami greeting us, and now, nothing?  I hope Geoff comes home with some…

Butterscotch finally goes to sleep.  About 100 seconds later, Geoff comes in.  Which wakes up Butterscotch.

My Time Alone tally for the day = 2 minutes just before noon, plus 100 seconds.

I declare Quiet Time, where NO ONE TALKS and Geoff, Butterscotch, and I all do our own peaceful, quiet thing.  And that’s where we are right now.  Mountain winds blow in, the sound of the river rushing nearby, little bright red cable cars on their way to and from the Aiguille de Midi…it’s mid-afternoon, and sunset has begun.  Slight shadows of our building extend just 10 feet or so out onto the lawn.  It will take seven hours for the shadow line to pass all the way up to the tip of the Alps.  At 10 pm or so, we’ll see soft pink alpine glow on Mont Blanc, as we’re on our way home from dinner.  I can’t guarantee it will be a peaceful meal, and someone will probably spill something, or fall between a chair and a table and cry in my lap, or fill up on fresh bread while they wait for us to cut their food into button-sized pieces for them, but it will be a wonderful evening.  Because it’s gorgeous here, I love my family, and I finally, finally got some time to myself.