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Prenez soin de vous + Take care of your French with a dozen more words

Etonner and a big surprise on Easter morning

Garden april 2020
Our up-n-coming Victory Garden--where I hang out (and try to chill) when I'm not bossing everybody around... Read today's story and please share this French word journal with a friend. That's an order!

TODAY'S WORD: étonner

   : to surprise, amaze, astonish

Audio file: click here to listen to the following sentence
Les bonnes actions sont choses fort naturelles, et pourtant elles étonnent toujours. Good deeds are natural, nevertheless they always amaze us.
Adolphe d'Houdetot ; Dix épines pour une fleur (1853)

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

"The Bearded Easter Bunny"

Early Sunday morning I headed to the poulailler to feed our chickens. Now that we have 5 poules we are collecting around 4 eggs a day. (For weeks, Mama the white hen, has laid que dalle. That's French for zilch! But this doesn't stop her from going into her straw-filled nichoir, pretending to be productive. I know the feeling, Mama--the fear of what would happen if we quit producing, performing, or otherwise making use of ourselves. We fear we might somehow be dismissed, rejected! But we'll get to that later in our story. Or try to....

On my way out of the pen, I automatically lifted the hatch over Mama's nesting box and did a double-take. 

There, atop the fresh straw, were two giant oeufs...chocolate eggs! I stood beside the nesting box, experiencing a wave of emotion. Easter eggs... for me!

Hidden eggs
The chocolate eggs (one is actually a fish...)

This tender gesture was so unexpected, so humbling. A surprise gift...pour moi? After all, most times I am seen as the Sergeant around here. Spending my days, as I do, trying to keep everyone in line. What they don't understand, this family, these bandits young and old, is that all I want is for everyone to have what they need, and for everything to run smoothly....

Wash your hands, Max. Be safe in Miami, Jackie! Don't lick the jam jar, Jean-Marc!! Lock your door, Mom. Don't nap on the lettuce patch, Smokey!

I feel everything will fall apart (or be squished!) if I don't keep "our world" together. Having written that, I am reminded of the thought (put to words by French novelist and dean of the Académie française, Jean d'Ormesson):

Si étrange que ce puisse paraître, le Monde après nous continuera à tourner. Sans vous. Sans moi!

Indeed, strange as it may seem, the World after us will continue to spin. Without you. Without me!

May as well let go...
Looking at those delicate chocolate eggs, I began to relax, in time see and receive a hint of my family's unconditional love. I carefully collected the gift and returned to bed, where my coffee was waiting and the morning devotional* was open, ready for me to read to Jean-Marc.

"Somebody left a big surprise for me," I said.

"C'etait Max..." Jean-Marc replied.

Max? I had been certain it was somebody else, sure it was Mom who hid the eggs! I had not even considered our 24-year-old. And now my mind was filled with the scene of The Bearded Easter Bunny, sneaking out at night to hide the surprise.

What is it about an unexpected gift that so moves us? Could it be we feel unworthy or undeserving? And here we find ourselves beholding a most exquisite, symbolic gift wherein we--we nagging Casse-Bonbons, we Mean-Wells (if not always seen-wells), are reminded we are deeply loved and appreciated, warts and all.

It reminds me of redemption, which so happens to be the theme of the week. Joyeuses Pâques !


Max painting  in garden
The Bearded Easter Bunny enjoyed painting in the garden on Paques :-)

Related Stories:
=> Unfit Mother
=> Control Juice
=> Casse-bonbons
*Morning devotional: La Bonne Semence. The daily message is free and can be listened to via audio, in French, here. Excellent for your French, too!


le poulailler = henhouse, chicken coop
la poule = chicken, hen
que dalle = zilch, nothing, nada
le nichoir = nesting box
les oeufs = plural  of oeuf, egg
Joyeuses Pâques = Happy Easter

Kristi in the pen with chickens and Smokey
With all 5 chickens and Smokey the lettuce crusher.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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So sweet, Kristin. Cherish the moments of having him home during “la quarantaine”.

Sarah LaBelle

The colors in your yard seem so intense! Quite lovely. Around here, we are excited to see the tiniest spring flowers showing their beauty. Trees are not yet in bloom.


Unexpected gifts suggest kindness, and yes, love. How thoughtful of Max and clever also to surprise you in that way. When we were in Nice 7 years ago, it was the week before Easter. That’s when I learned that in addition to chocolate bunnies the French celebrate with chocolate and candy fish. I bought some to take home to friends. Joyeuses Paques. I see wisteria blooming in that photo of Max.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi,
How sweet of Max! I love unexpected surprises! I love the photos of you all and it looks like you have wisteria blooming!
Happy Spring!

Sarah LaBelle

Just now it is snowing! April snow, not so frequent.

Lynn McBride

A lovely Easter story. And your garden is beautiful!

Ophelia Paine

What a great story.... and so sweet of Max. A surprise gift from one of your children, even a small one, touches the heart. Your garden is beautiful, too, and I love the photo of you holding a chicken!

Gail L

It’s a double blessing when it’s our children who surprise us! Your garden is lovely!

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,
How comforting when our children are kind, especially to their parents! A trait that seems to be passed on to the next generation in loving families...
Such a picturesque garden you have created. The best part of it? Smokey! I admire your ability to transform an outdoor space as you do.

Your sweet story brings to mind a favorite passage of my mother’s...
There is a destiny which makes us brothers; none goes his way alone. All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own.
Edwin Markham

Rhonda Alperin

Pssst chère Kristi...

œuf (singulier)
œufs (pluriel)


Delightful: the story, your family and your garden!

While I have yet to keep my own chickens, I plan to have all hens. Years ago, I was counseled that if I choose not to have a rooster, one of the hens will stop laying and take up security duty. I wonder if that is what your white hen is doing? Or perhaps this is not a certainty. After all, Mama is sitting in her nesting box. Fascinating.

Kristin Espinasse

Merci, Rhonda! 

Jean Briggs

Hi Kristi,
Loved the Easter surprise!
Just two quick corrections: in the audio file section there are some spelling errors. Fie should be file, and portant should be pourtant.
Enjoy the chocolate!

Audrey Wilson

Delightful surprise for you Kristi .A family to cherish I don't have a garden per se Only troughs in front of the house & a wild patch behind ,which the owner won't sell to us .To my delight a beautiful blue iriis has appeard therein
PPs Maybe an American spelling but in English it's sergeant
STay safe all of you

Angie Quantrell

Awww, what a sweet guy! Perfect Easter surprise! Hope you are all well and staying sane!


Your garden looks beautiful Kristi. We were supposed to be leaving for France April 26 with a 2 week stay in La Ciotat ...our 3rd time. Everyday I look at my last time there and dream now of returning...next May... hopefully. I hope I see you on the seawall when all is healed with our world . Hope your chocolate eggs were delicieux !!
Patricia (Vancouver)

Judith Dunn

......Kristi, votre jardin est très jolie! You are blessed with a loving family and many devoted friends. your son clearly adores you and was so sweet to show you in an delightful way! He is the result of great parenting by you and JeanMarc. You have accomplished one of the greatest goals in life.... raising loving and caring children. May God continue to bless all of you.... Judi


Beautiful and very touching!

Patricia Sands

A sweet Easter tale, Kristi, and I echo Judith Dunn's words above.
Prenez bien soin de toute la famille! <3

Maryann New York

Max is a keeper. What a tender, loving young man.

Barbara Berndt

Given my aging eyes and eyestrain from too much time on social media, "Monet!" is what popped into my mind when I opened the email from your blog today. The small format of the display on my Android was a factor, too.

The opening photo of your garden is so lovely and the colors reminded me of how Monet must have seen his world. Thank you for memories of France to brighten this snowy Chicago day of solo isolation.

Rick Spring

Sargent? Sergeant. As always, I really enjoyed your story and the pictures.


Our dear Kristi,
How gifted you are!Your beautiful words never fail to wrap us in hugs and smiles!
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed today's post and pictures!
What an uplifting message during this most meaningful time.
Max,with his thoughtfulness and love,
just touches our hearts.What a wonderful bond you all share!
Thank you,dear Kristi.
Once again you made my day!!!
Natalia. Xo


I love every story you write, Kristi! But this one is so beautiful it brought tears! Redemptive tears!!



Bonjour et merci pour le bon mot: étonner! Your sweet story resonates especially strongly with me today. After 4 months
of being sequestered in Stanford Medical Center’s ICU and Residence Cottage and having endured countless tests, biopsies, blood transfusions every three days, and About 4 rounds of chemotherapy, and losing 30 pounds, as well as enduring the trial of his wife (my younger sister) leaving his side to have her own cancer treatment, my brother-in-law was released home because his very low white blood cell count made him ineligible for further treatment for his very rare cancer. Late last night my sister texted me that some where in the world there is a young man who is ready to donate his stem cells for my brother-in-law. I thank God for young men like Max who learned to love and care at home and then share it with a stranger.

jean Palmer

Thank You Kristi. Brought tears to my eyes. A memory to be truly treasured! Your garden is indeed lovely.
Stay Safe

Gail V

My most treasured gifts of joy come from the most unexpected places as well. You are indeed one of those places!

Linda W.

My wish for you is that you would stop feeling so unworthy of love, happiness, and any other good things. You are a child of God and therefore, worthy of the best life has to offer! You don't have to DO anything to deserve it. You just ARE valuable, treasured, worthy! And you write beautifully from the heart. You inspire us all.


Your garden is beautiful. I love the bicycle and the table with the umbrella and the flowering trees. It is so picturesque. Your season is far ahead of ours. We have daffodils, tulips and forsythia. I have been mulching and mulching.
Easter was so strange this year, where families could not get together except via Zoom. We watched our church
Easter service via live streaming and then did Fellowship via Zoom for those who wanted to join in the conversation.
We need to keep a positive outlook and enjoy the little surprises which happen. Max is a sensitive young man who was taught great values by his loving parents and grandmother.
Peace, Kathleen

Valerie Meluskey

Thank you for sharing such charming beauty....this nest for your delightful family and creatures.
tears and smiles...,

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Rick, for the correct spelling. P.S. I have been eliminating the word *that* here and there. Making progress!

Frank Chappell

To stun

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Jean. Much appreciated. Off to fix these...

Alastair Grant

I just want to endorse what Linda W wrote on 15 April. It couldn't be better expressed. During these troubling times we should be reminded that we are human-beings, and to stop being such busy human-doings.

Kristin Espinasse

Nancy,  That is interesting! And a possibility... A year or so ago, another hen quit producing for a month. She lost a lot of feathers, too. I think it is called molting, and a natural part of things. 

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Linda. 💕

Kristin Espinasse

Alastair, wonderful distinction between human-beings and human-doings. Merci.

Kristin Espinasse



God bless your family, Joanne...

Marianne Rankin

How well can you all hear the audiofile? It seems to be fainter than in the past. I have the sound turned up to 100%, and can barely hear it sometimes.

Thanks for a great post. It's heartwarming when people show kindness, and very gratifying when our children 'turn out" well.

Joanne, I will pray for your brother-in-law.

Kristin, thanks for the reading from la Semence, and the link so I can read it on my own.

Wishing all of you continued good health!

Kristin Espinasse

Marianne, Jean-Marc says he will record it a bit louder, next time. If anyone else reading this could let us know about any sound issues, we would appreciate it.

Glad you enjoyed the Bonne Semence info. There is a recording, in French, of every entry. Look for the button, which is less apparent when reading from a smartphone, for example.

Judy feldman

A beautiful story, and a beautiful photo of you with your lovely poules!


What a beautiful, heartwarming story, Kristi. Max is a sweet and caring young man. It's clear that he has learned so much from you and Jean-Marc. Sending so much love to you and your family!


Last year we were in New Zealand, and found chocolate kiwi birds!


I'm having sound issues too. It would be super if Jean-Marc could record a bit louder. Thanks! Bette

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