The Chinese Mulberry tree that shades us in summertime...

fier, fière (fyer, fyeruh) adjective
1. proud; high-minded  Also: la fierté (f) = pride

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

"Comment lacer ses chaussures" 

 Note: this story was written in 2006. Jackie is now 13-years-old.

Walking down the couloir I hear a low hum coming from my daughter's room. Peering around the open door, I find Jackie sitting on the floor, one leg extended, the other bent (knee up). Her arms circle the bent leg with its scraped genou while her fingers are caught in her shoe-laces. With a sigh, she frees her hands from the tangle only to pick up the laces, once again, before repeating this mantra:

Pour faire un noeud
Je fais une boucle
Je tourne autour
Je passe par le petit trou
et je tire...

To make a knot
I fashion a loop
I circle around it
I pass through the little hole
and pull....

Jackie brushes a golden mèche away from her face and begins again. As my 8-year-old repeats the chant, I can just imagine the pressure she must be under. Earlier, her brother had warned her that if she couldn't tie her shoes by the time she was twelve, she would be la honte of middle school.

Behind the shoe-tying girl, tossed over an unmade bed, lies a very bedraggled "Bunny", Jackie's 6-year-old dodu. To say that the plush "pal" was fired or dismissed or laid off would be incorrect. Some time ago, Bunny was let go, as one lets go of a raft to then swim on one's own.

If only tying one's shoes were as easy as swimming... then our fish of a daughter would not be in such a predicament! I think about the disservice I have done my girl by opting for all those non-lacing Mary Jane's or the tennis shoes with the Velcro closures. What was a helpful shortcut for a busy mother is now a honteux obstacle for a determined daughter.

Hands now clasped in supplication, I stand quietly by the door listening to a few more shoe-lace tying attempts:

Pour faire un noeud...
To make a knot...

I listen, front teeth pressing into lower lip, until the last line of  the litany changes: voilà!
...and there I have it!

With a soupir de soulagement I slip away unnoticed and continue on down the hall, my heart swelling. That's my girl! You did it!

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::
Comments, corrections, and stories of your own are welcome in the comments box. Merci d'avance!

French Vocabulary

comment lacer ses chaussures = how to tie one's shoes

le couloir (m) = hallway, corridor 

le genou (m) = knee

la mèche = lock of hair

la honte (f) = the shame

le doudou = security blanket (or stuffed animal that comforts a child)

honteux (honteuse) = disgraceful

un soupir de soulagement = a sigh of relief


When you buy any item at Amazonvia the following links (and at no additional cost to you) your purchase helps support this French word journal. Merci beaucoup!

Les Oeufs Verts au Jambon: The French Edition of Green Eggs and Ham

SmartFrench Audio CDs Intermediate/Advanced

French Demystified...simple enough for a beginner but challenging enough for a more advanced student.

Clean Provence. Eau De Parfum Spray

Mille Bornes (Card Game)
First published in 1962, Mille Bornes (pronounced "meel born," French for "milestones") is an auto racing card game whose object, for each team of two players, is to be the first to complete a series of 1,000-mile trips.

Behind the scenes of photo staging...

Mama Braise (pronounced "BREZ", like PEZ), left, Smokey Bear, right

That's my knee. You can imagine the contortions involved in photographing these animals.

Idioms & Expressions
le courage fier = lofty courage
faire le fier = to show off
fier comme Artaban = as proud as a peacock
fier comme un pou = "proud as a louse" (arrogant and vain)
être fier de quelque chose = to be proud about something
être trop fier pour mendier = to be too proud to beg
se tenir sur son fier = to hold a high-and-mighty attitude

     Feel free to add to this list. Share an expression in the comments box.

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Spectacular photo! Thanks for that. Love the Fall colors and the way the sun shines in the South, not to mention those adorable pooches!


What is the difference, if any, between la fierte and l'orgueil? I used to think that fierte implied justifiable or reasonable pride whereas l'orgueil was either unjustified or excessive. I'm no longer certain that is a good distinction.




Kristin, I made the same mistake with my son. He was awful at “lacer -et délacer- ses chaussures” and I couldn't get him interested in trying! On the other hand, my younger daughter wanted to make knots, pretty ones, double ones, at a very early age, so, “lacer ses chaussures” was always fun for her. I realised that, behind my back (mums do have an extra flair + eyes behind their back, don't they?), my son would go to his younger sister - quite naturally she would not only tie his shoelaces but also untie them when he wanted to take off his shoes! He would even keep his legs stretched towards his sister's hands and she, "le plus naturellement du monde", would remove his socks too! Stupidly enough, I started to buy him some velcro shoes. No more fuss. He could do it all by himself with Velcro. Great!
Then, a bit before his 6th birthday, I said: no more velcro for your next pair of school shoes. I gave my son the over-sized cardboard cut-out shoe with very colourful shoe laces (kit bought the previous year but abandoned in a drawer for lack of interest). I showed him again how to “loop it, swoop it and PULL” and told him he might even get a lovely pair of trainers IF (and only if) he could tie his shoelaces without his younger sister's help. (Ohooh! So Mum knew? No more secret?)

This time, something mentally clicked. He did show some interest and kept practising. To my surprise, after a couple of days, he got the hang of it. We told him we were very proud of him! His reply was: if I can tie the shoe laces with the cardboard cut-out, I can do it for real too, can't I? Can we go to the shoeshop please? I don't care about the school shoes with or without laces, but can we have a look at some 'wicked' trainers with wicked laces? We did - and that was it!

1)in those days, everything a bit out of the ordinary, everything you fancied, was → 'wicked'.
2)In those days, you still tied your shoelaces properly and the knot was seen . Fashion changed and eventually made children think you've got to hide that knot. Oh well...

gail bingenheimer

-er & -ier: feminine always in -ère & -ière

fier, fière proud


by -> the knot was 'seen',
I meant: seen just above the shoe, at the place where you would normally make your knot (what I consider 'normal')
What's wrong about that?
Does it look better and is it more comfortable to push the knot under the tongue of a shoe??? still fashionable to do that where I live.
As you can guess, I don't follow that fashion!

PS I had the intention to type in my previous post but forgot:
= 'trainers' (funnily called 'baskets' in French) is the UK equivalent of 'sneakers'.

Linda R.

... same with my six year old son - velcro was in, so we went the easy route or else I tied the shoes for him just to speed things up. Then one day during a baseball or t-ball game when my son was up to bat, the umpire looked at my son, pointed down at his shoes, then knelt and tied the shoe that had come unknotted - arrgh. The 'shame' was mine alone for not taking the time. We learned how to tie shoes that night.


Salut Kristin.

Tying one’s own shoes is a challenge for all youngsters. Alas, it becomes a challenge again for the aged. In my case, the back doesn’t willingly bend that far anymore. For others, the stomach may obstruct the view. Some ladies may have other obstructions.

Another hurdle that children have to tackle is telling time. The digital timepiece may eliminate that challenge, but will the meaning of clockwise and counter clockwise be lost?

Two sayings that may fit into today’s theme:

To “turn up” one’s nose at something. . . . Not good enough for the person.

To “look down” one’s nose at another . . . The looker is better than the other.

French translation?

À bientôt


About the expressions:

The adjective “fier” can be seen BEFORE courage.
Here is "fier courage", used with verbs to have, to show and to prove:
→ AVOIR un fier courage pour ….
→ MONTRER un fier courage
→ FAIRE PREUVE D'un fier courage / faire preuve d'un courage extraordinaire.

"Se tenir sur son fier"
→ very common to say: "garder sa fierté"

When the adjective “fier” means 'stuck up', 'haughty', you can also use the adj “orgueilleux” ("orgueilleuse")

- the noun is: "l'orgueil" / "la fierté"
= pride.
"La fierté" also means a certain feeling of satisfaction about oneself, one's work, one's nationality...
For ex: "être fier de son travail" (PAS "orgueilleux de son travail")
= to be proud of one's work

- "un orgueilleux" / "une orgueilleuse" is a person who is overproud and very ambitious too.


Great vignette!
Mama Braise's brown truffle shows that she's also a digger! Aah.....we're so familiar w/ that at our far our 6 month old golden still has his black far......we're still at a modest number of holes in the backyard.
Hope your stay in Paris was fun....& that everyone enjoyed "Chief Grapes" wines.


I'm hurrying this morning but here's a link to instructions for the "bunny ears" method(if that's not already what Jackie's working on" It was our daughter's method of choice for a long time. The instructions make it sound harder than it is.


So sweet, if only all of life's obstacles could be surmounted with just a little practice and a devoted praying mother. Have a wonderful week.


One of your best photos, I love it and the story.


Lovely top photo of a venerable giant, at rest now for a few months!
- easier to watch the birds...

At this time of the year, seeing a tree that lost all its leaves or walking on a carpet of dead leaves, bring back to my mind (and my ears) the poem by Prévert -> "Les feuilles mortes".
I first heard it sung by Yves Montand - he still sung that song at the end of his career. So many other singers sung it beautifully too. The English version and the half French-half English version keep the same melancholic mood.
Mille mercis for the top photo.
PS - I do sympathise with 'the contortions involved in photographing animals', and insects, ... and small creatures that can't keep still!

Ophelia in Nashville

Love this photo and the sweet story. I often made the mistake of running to my children's aid instead of allowing them to succeed on their own as you did. What a great mom you are.

Bonne soirée!


Oh how I understand trying to get a good photo of two dogs!


Remember the "Dressy Bessy" Doll's? They taught us to zip, button, snap, lace and tie...I never had one lol. Neither did my kids, but I am making one now for a grand daughter's christmas gift...Hope it works ;)
I laughed when I looked at your pictures of Mama Braise and Smokey, I find that in photographing it takes about 150 to get a handful that are what you hoped for. Love digital camera's.
Oh, but life holds so many fun things to learn, at all ages :)



To Ann Mah,
Kristin & Jean-Marc,
and all the lucky people who can make it this evening at Shakespeare & Co in Paris,

I wish you "une excellente et joyeuse soirée"!

Meg Tipper

You are so lucky to have a vehicle which forces you to take a minute in the business of life with children to record such a precious moment with your daughter. Since my own daughter's death two years ago (she was 22), I have longed even more for memory nudges such as these. I realized today that I have no recollection of her learning to tie her shoes.
Mais, c'est la vie. Merci, Meg

Julie F

What a beautiful sunset you give us today. And thanks for the story. I always worried about my kids growing up in the age of velcro and digital clocks. They learned how to tie shoes eventually, but in their own strange bows I still don't understand (they are now college age). And I don't think they have an automatic instinct for such time phrases as "quarter after (the hour)" like previous generations do.

And thanks for the "behind the scenes" photos of Smokey Bear and Mom. I felt so inadequate about my own dog photographs after seeing your fabulous ones that lent themselves so easily to stories. A remembrance: when one of my furry babies passed away recently, I looked for a photo of her to put on my blog. However, it wasn't until that moment I realized that almost all of my photos of her over the 12 years were exactly the same. No matter what she was doing when I pulled the camera out she would stop it, come to me and sit at my feet, and then stare upward at me to see what I was going to do next because she had insatiable curiosity. So most of my photos of Millie were taken from above looking down at her staring up at me. I gave up trying to pose her years ago.

Marianne Rankin

A few times, I've seen some kind of gadget that is supposed to help kids' shoes to remain tied, fastened to their shoes. Don't know how well it works. Some parents tie the tied shoes again (using the loops), but that's very hard to untie.

My son had mostly laced shoes, and when he was still a toddler, he tried to tie them, but lacked the manual dexterity. So I tied them for a few years.

When he was turning 6, I decided he was old enough and dextrous enough to tie his own shoes. I prepared a sheet with the numbers from 1 to 100 on them, and told him that after he tied his shoes 100 times (surely enough for him to learn), I would buy him a nice Lego kit he had been admiring. At first he didn't seem to care too much, but as he got closer to 100, he got excited. He tied his shoes, then untied and re-tied them, sometimes several times a day (under my watchful eye) to reach 100 faster. After he bought the kit, a complicated one with a couple of hundred pieces, he was able to put it together unaided!!!

When he had to wear a tie starting in 7th grade, I tied it for him too many mornings when we were running late. I didn't care much if he was late, but since that would make me late to work, I was trying to save time. Finally, I started getting us up earlier, and told him that if the tie wasn't tied, it was his problem, not mine, and he eventually learned.

Kids seem to take forever sometimes to learn things, or to accept that they need to do them, but suddenly a corner is turned, and they have it mastered. My son has been doing all of his own laundry now for a couple of years, along with assorted other chores.

Children and animals seem to have only two speeds: asleep and fast! It makes taking pictures a challenge.

Kristin, we appreciate the great shots of your pets, and sometimes other things, which you've achieved through all kinds of poses.

I got down on the floor at odd angles to get pictures of our cat who had to be put to sleep after he developed bone cancer. One of them in particular turned out so well, I'm glad I made that effort.


As I age, this story is a great reminder of the little things we take for granted in life. It's funny how learning to tie my shoes remains in my memory. How 'in the moment' we are with the shoelace - evident by your daughters lack of acknowledgment of your presence. If we could all be so present with our attentions to the task before us - the simple ones.. what a gift! Oh glorious fall colors...big sigh:)

Voie de Vie


When I first saw the word, I didn't read the story, but went directly to my Dictionnaire LaRousse to look up the word - fier (se), the verb meaning to trust or rely on. Of course, I then read the story. Maybe both the verb and the adjective are appropriate? :)

Cheers and bon chance at Shakespeare & Co -


Kristin,what a wonderful post and such beautiful pictures!
THANK YOU for them! For sharing such a cherished moment!
And also for such a sweet rememberance about 'milestones'! As important to dear Jackie then as they are to all of us now, journeying through life, hopefully still able to achieve our goals.
Only wish we could retain Jackie's enthusiasm and joy!
Bon journee! Good luck at Shakespeare & Co!


your post is a breath of fresh air. I always leave learning something. I have checked out your past posts.You sure did have a beautiful vacation spot, your Puppy is so sweet.




The picture of the Mulberry Tree brings back a nice memory of our visit with you this summer.

I hope your night at Shakesphere and Co was a success..wish we could have been there.

Newforest- I wanted to tell you I did finally get to see Inspector Morse last friday. I have a few Colin Dextor books, and I have had a box set of his shows my dad loaned me years ago, but since they are VHS, I hadn't seen them. I plan to dig the VHS machine out and try to hook it up to our flat screen...not sure it will connect. It was nice to see Inspector lewis so young. Did you know he used to be a folk singer. Anyway, Sun nights Sherlock was good. I am looking forward to more of them...they left the cliff hanger.

Kristin, as always your blog is a great welcome, and a needed escape from my world right now. I sometime wish for those days when the boys were young and they were learning all kinds of new things like tying their shoes. They were so sweet back then. They still can be as you may remember, but teen years are hard at times.

Good night

Jennifer in OR

I loved Jackie's little song...

Marianne Rankin

Meg Tipper, I somehow missed your comment the other day. My heartfelt sympathies on the loss of your daughter. Losing a child must be the most difficult and painful experience imaginable. Having lost two husbands, however, I can say that memories WILL come, often unbidden. Maybe not of the learning-to-tie-shoes type, but random things, such as a song, a book, a game, a TV show, a clothing item - even now, with a healthy older son, I'm occasionally reminded of his younger years by one thing or another.

I'll keep you in my prayers.

Athrun Xala

I've been wanting to go to France for a long time now. I've always been nervous with traveling to a foreign country. I feel like I need to pack some sort of survival kit, along with every other item in my house because I have no idea what I should expect.

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