Beurre: Salted or Unsalted? What kind of butter do the French like to eat?













 Max, some time ago... 



to exhaust, to wear out

Max has paired an orange-and-blue T-shirt with red sweatpants. I gaze at my son, thinking about how I need to explain to him the basics of fashion. For one, he needs to learn the rule on colors that clash: "No wearing orange with red!" 

On second thought, forget about the color wheel! Precious few years remain in which I'll be able to witness daily this wake-up-and-dress-with-abandon innocence. Besides, my mission this morning is not to critique Max's wardrobe, but to find him a project.

Earlier, at the breakfast table, when I could no longer eat in peace after the kids began bouncing off the walls, I realized I might channel some of that energy... into home improvement! 

"You know those baseball cards of yours?" I ask Max.

My son looks lost.

"I mean, the basketball cartes..."


"Oh... I'm talking about the cartes de foot—the ones you like to trade with your friends!"

"Ah, oui..."

"Well, if you sweep the back patio—really well—for, say, one-half hour and not five seconds—then I will buy you a pack of those cards. How much do they cost, by the way?"

"Quarante centimes," Max answers, grinning from ear to ear.

"O.K., that'll work!"

Max begins his chore with gusto, sweeping, swooping, and swiveling that brush-on-a-stick. Occasionally he stops to admire his reflection in the porte-fenêtre....

He turns the broom sideways... and heaves up the make-believe ten-ton barbell. When the champion weight lifter is satisfied with his world record, he returns the barbell/broom to its vertical position and resumes sweeping the patio.

Noticing him push the broom hard against the ground, making great exaggerated swoops, I intervene:

"Max, you are going to wear yourself out if you continue like that! Watch me," I suggest, taking the broom. Accomplishing a few feather-light sweeps across the patio, I begin to sing:

Il ne faut pas t'épuiser
Non, non, non, ne t'épuise pas...

I sing as only a mother can, before her child and no other, belting out the make-it-up-as-you-go tune.

Il faut pas t'épuiser
Non, non, non, ne t'épuise pas...

I stop the broom in its tracks, to experience a flashback of a similar scene. I am at my mom's cabin, near Saguaro Lake, back home in Arizona. I am pushing a three-ton broom around the living room.

"Here, give me that!" my mom says, stubbing out her cigarette. She proceeds, light on her feet, to sweep the hardwood floor of her salon. She is in full make-up, though we are an hour's drive from civilization, and her hair is gathered into a French twist and secured by a battalion of bobby pins. She is wearing cowboy boots, the ones with the spurs. Instead of singing, she's humming. "Don't struggle so," is her message. "Lighten up and the job will be easier."

"Watch this," she says, sailing across the room, with the broom in her hands. In the background, televangelist Freddy Price is spreading the Word, causing us to pause now and again to shout "Amen!"

Mom's got that broom and she is fluttering across the wood floor, with the lightness of a butterfly.

"I used to sweep like you," she says, "until I learned to sweep like this!" As I watch her, an overwhelming urge is building in me to sweep! I want that broom just as I want to try on a new pair of roller skates. My mom hands me the broom and returns to her desk to paint her nails copper. Behind her, there is a wall of books. I recognize the hardbound editions; I can still see them perfectly in my mind, just as they were placed on the bookshelves of my childhood.

There were, among others, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, James Michener's The Source, and My Mother/Myself by Nancy Friday. And there was Mom's treasure: William Gurnall's The Christian in Complete Armour, the epic masterpiece written between 1655-1662. She had the giant red leather three-volume set.

Her library aside... the image of my mom sweeping returns to me whenever I find myself making a brick wall out of any hard-to-begin activity, whether it be writing or washing floors or rearing children. The more I push, the more I struggle, the more I wear myself out and despair.

I hand the broom back to Max and return to the breakfast table to observe him from the window. He pushes the broom, stopping to pass it between his legs, then sweeps, sweeps, sweeps, to stop again and make another pass. Only a kid could make a basketball out of a balai. Only a mother-in-spurs could tame a two-ton broom into becoming a butterfly.

As for me, I'll quit building brick walls today and remember to flutter instead of fluster, to pass or dribble instead of pound and tremble, to lighten up like the papillons that fly across the soon-to-bloom poppy fields outside my door.

Il faut pas t'épuiser
Non, non, non, ne t'épuise pas...

French Vocabulary

le petit déjeuner = breakfast
la carte = card
les cartes de foot = soccer (trading) cards 
quoi? = what?
quarante centimes = forty French cents
la porte-fenêtre = French door
il ne faut pas t'épuiser = you mustn't wear yourself out, no... don't wear yourself out
le salon = living room
le balai = broom
le papillon = butterfly

Thank you for offering any edits, here, in the comments box. Note: You are reading the most recent edition of this story - if you notice any formating glitches, please point those out too! Click here to submit a comment. 

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


No probs with this at all. Sandra

Michelle Taylor

Love the story, but since you're asking for comments:

Are they "basketball" or "baseball" cartes? in one sentence you say "baseball cards", then "basketball cartes"....

...if you sweep the patio, really good,....should be "really well"...(sorry, but that whole adjective vs. adverb thing is one of my pet peeves.....)

Keep up the great work, Kristin!

Sarah LaBelle

If the first two book title are in italics, then perhaps, the third one will be in italics also?
William Gurnall's "The Christian in Complete Armour"

Small editing.


Yes, this story is perfect. I was also going to comment on the book titles. All three should be in italics.

Kristin Espinasse

Sandra, you win the prize for reading all of the stories!

Michelle, thanks for catching that inconsistency. Ive added a few words to clear it up....

Sarah, Super, Ive fixed that one too. Merci beaucoup!

Suzi Hodgson, Lima Mt

I like the tie in with your mom and you. It gives depth and life to the piece. We all need family ties, that show us where we came from.

Petra Douma

I'm a Canadian Mom who lived close to Lille for a year and a half with my family, so I'm reliving the experience through your stories.

Anyway, it looks like you have two vocabulary words on one line with no space in between.


Marijcke Jongbloed

the first time the sentence 'non, non, non, ne t'epuisse pas' is mentioned there is an 's' too many in epuisse!
other than that - a good story

Sharon Marchisello

"library" is misspelled.
I think you need a hyphen in "feather-light" when used as an adjective before the noun it modifies.

Sharon Marchisello

"Precious few years remain in which I'll be able to witness, daily, this wake up and dress with abandon innocence."
Precious few years remain in which I'll be able to witness daily this wake-up-and-dress with abandoned innocence.
I don't think "daily" needs to be offset with commas.
I think "wake up and dress" is used as a unit, so should be linked with hyphens.
According to the dictionary "abandon" is not an adjective; I think you mean "abandoned" in this usage.

Charles Orr in Flat Rock, NC

Another great story, Kristin. Suggestions:
1. In the Vocab section, "il ne faut pas t'épuisé" should, I think, use "t'épuiser," as you did earlier in the piece.

2. I read your usage of "abandon" as being a noun, used in a very appropriate way, not as an adjective. To say clearly what I think you intended, I would punctuate the phrase as: "...this wake-up-and-dress-with-abandon innocence", where the entire hyphenated expression modifies "innocence."
3. In "leather three volume set", I would hyphenate "three-volume."

À bientôt...

Vickie Kent

Great story. The life lessons we learned as children from our loving parents are truly treasured memories/stories. The story was teaching your son the way your mother taught you...part of the circle of truly are a gifted writer! Can't wait to see your new book! All this effort will be worth it for both you and us, your devoted readers. Good Luck!
Vickie Kent

Rob Tonkinson,  Mahomet, IL

A good one. I like the stories that have more, rather than fewer, French words and phrases with appropriate translation at the bottom.

Kristin Espinasse

Suzi, Mom and I were just talking about you! Nice to see your comment :-)

Petra, Ouf! Glad you caught that one. That would have been one big bobo in the book printing!

Marijke, and thanks for catching that extra s. I caught a few, too, but missed this one.

Sharon, Ive updated the text with many of your suggestions. Merci!

Charles, Merci times three.

Thank you Vickie, and Rob, for your positive words!

Stacy ~ Applegate, Oregon

Absolutely, positively LOVE this! The message and delivery are just lovely! It was just the reminder I needed today.

Being an equestrian, I would like to see it read mother-in-spurs (vs. on-spurs though I might be missing the message here?).

Mollie Baker

Kristen, one small thing. You list "pelouse" in the vocabulary, but I don't see that word anywhere in the story. Am I missing it?

Great story!

Kristin Espinasse

Stacy, I know my equestrian mom will appreciate your edit, chère Stacy!

Mollie, excellent catch in the Vocab section. Thanks!


hi Kristin,
I love stories about motherhood and learning the art of mothering. It takes a lifetime to master it I believe!! It looks like the others above have edited much. OK here is a small one maybe to ponder: "Only a mother-in-spurs could make a butterfly out of a three-ton broom." I was a horsewoman like your mom and I "get" this image of her as a horse trainer (in spurs) "taming the broom" into becoming a butterfly. So maybe a revision something like "only a mother-in-spurs could tame a two-ton broom into becoming a butterfly." Just an idea.

Betty Gleason with blue pencil in hand


BAFA Studio

This will be a great edition Kristin. Looks like it's all been covered. Now on to the last story unless I get interrupted once again.


Great story!

Bruce T. Paddock

The question you ask Max in the 4th paragraph is basically a rhetorical one, so I’d suggest, “I ask Max.” “Question” has connotations of interrogation, or at least of wanting to find out information.

“Cartes de foot” is italicized, which is good, but so is “the ones,” which is bad.

Grammatically, you don’t need the comma between “only a mother can” and “before her child,” unless you intend “before her child and no other” to be a parenthetical phrase.

At the end of the 21st paragraph, you need a comma after “Lighten up,” because what follows “and” is a complete sentence.

You don’t need the comma between “across the room” and “with the broom.”

You don’t need the comma between “the wood floor” and “with the lightness.”

But you do need a comma after “Mom’s got that broom,” because what follows “and” is a complete sentence.

There’s an errant space between the title The Source and the comma that follows it.

The semicolon after “pound and tremble” should be a comma.

Marianne Rankin

I agree with Charles about "wake-up-and-dress-with-abandon innocence." "Abandon is the object of the preposition "with," so is a noun. The whole hyphenated phrase is the adjective modifying "innocence."

How much is 40 centimes worth? It doesn't sound like much, but I don't know what the fractional division of the euro is.

I saw the tie-in between Kristin's mother teaching her to move more lightly, and Kristin doing the same for Max. But in this and other stories, I wonder if the second part is a bit distracting from the first part. This one works reasonably well, but be wary of going off on too many tangents, including a plethora of detail (painting her nails copper) that might not be needed.

Kristin Espinasse

Hedda, this is just beautiful. I know my mom will be honored for the editorial change and I think my friend Stacy, your fellow equestrian, would approve, too!

Bruce, thanks! Most all of your edits made it in. No offense if I didnt follow your comma edits; though I trust you on the grammer, some of the commas (and absenses of commas) have to do with pauses or burst of energy in my speech.  Also, sentences like this always stump me: in the following phrase is the room holding a broom (as it might, minus the comma):

Watch this, she says, sailing across the room with the broom in her hands. 

That is, does the female room have a broom in her hands? Do you see what I mean? So that, when I add the comma, it is clear that it is Mom who has the broom in her hands.

Another example would be:

Moms got that broom and she is fluttering across the wood floor, with the lightness of a butterfly.

Only, without the comma, one wonders which wood floor we are talking about the one with the lightness ... or the one with the newly finished floor, or the one in oak...

Bruce T. Paddock

Hey, Kristin -

First of all, I'm just making suggestions. It's your book, you can do or not do anything you want in it.

I see your point with regards to the comma. Does Mom have the lightness of a butterfly, or does the floor, given that the floor is closer to the adjective phrase?

I'm pretty sure that grammatically, the comma is not required. However, if you think it makes the sentence clearer, use it. As I said in my commentaire on moquette, it's good to make things as easy as possible for the reader, so he or she doesn't have to back up and reread something..

Personally, though, I find both your example sentence and the one from the story to be perfectly understandable without the comma. In fact, the commas make me pause, serving to further separate the subjects ("she"/"Mom") from the adjective phrases that modify them ("with the broom in her hands"/"with the lightness of a butterfly").

Final Analysis: It's your call.

Stacy ~ Applegate, Oregon

I love Hedda's suggestion ~ poetically adds to the story!


When you're typesetting, the ellipses need to be properly spaced: " . . . ." when they end a sentence and " . . . " when they mark the removal of a middle portion of a sentence. So a period needs to be added to each of "carte," "oui," and all the "pas," and spaces added between all of the periods.

Love the story!

Kristin Espinasse

Bruce, I agree--and I think it is clear to most who has what in that sentence :-) Id like less commas in my writing future!

Stacy, you are right, Heddas suggestion makes the scene poetic. 

Carolyn, good to know that; however, I will not be able to typeset the manuscript in this way--not enought time. It is interesting to learn the correct way, though :-) 

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)