Saturday, July 26, 2008

How cute are they?!

That's a rhetorical question, obviously.

Friday, July 25, 2008

summer days

Benjamin and Noah have both been keeping themselves pretty well occupied lately while I've been working. Benjamin plays with his cars, looks at photo albums, or brings books one by one into my office to "read" to himself (or sometimes to me). As you can see, he is still wearing long sleeves!

The parking garage. He parks like a Frenchman, no available space is left empty. If a car fits, it's a legal space.

Noah wiggles and squirms every which way on his play mat, alternately cooing and squealing. He is gaining weight adequately now, it seems, since the doctor didn't say otherwise at his last appointment on Monday.

Benjamin brought me some flowers (ok, weeds) the other day - I am fairly certain Frederic coached him, since he came in with a fistful of flowers and said "Uv oo Mommy" ("I love you, Mommy")... but when I put out my hand to take the flowers, he said, "No, Mommy!" I guess he only meant to show them to me, not give them to me. I think Frederic talked him into putting them into a vase which ended up on my desk.

The weather has been warm(er) the past couple of days, so Benjamin has gotten to play outside in his pool, and Frederic has gotten to powerwash the driveway and walkway. Our bricks on the driveway are red, who knew! And yesterday I cut down the laurel bushes - AGAIN. I cut them down last summer but Frederic never had the time to take them out. Since his cousin is coming to help with some yard work in 2 weeks, I thought if I got things started maybe they'd get them removed this time. They're pretty, but in the wrong spot... and the less maintenance the yard needs, the better for us.

Monday, July 21, 2008

It's July and we are still wearing long sleeves

And I wonder if it will ever feel like summer. We seem to get a warm, almost-hot spell in early spring, and then the weather turns gray and cold again for the rest of the year. It's sunny out at the moment but much colder than one might expect in the middle of July. We definitely won't be setting up the wading pool today.

Benjamin has been behaving very nicely lately, a great change from the whining and crying over everything he'd been treated us to for the past while. He even helps out with Noah and gives him kisses.

Of course it's easier to get kisses from Benjamin these days if you tell him you don't want any. Ask and you shall not receive, but tell him "No kisses!" and he will run at you and give you a big smack on the cheek (or several).

These are two little (ok, big, compared to Noah!) robots that a friend sent him. Aren't they cute?

Frederic's brother and sister-in-law came over for lunch late last week with their third daughter, Mélinda. The 2 older daughters were off at summer camp for 2 weeks. We had a nice visit despite the cool, cloudy, threatening-to-rain weather that kept us from eating outside. It's always a challenge to set up times to get together with them since both Frederic and his brother have non-traditional work schedules.

Frederic's new hours are working out well; he is much less tired already, and we are all happy about that.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A first time for everything

I neglected to mention that earlier this week we had our first true vomit episode. I'll spare you the gory details, but I can say this - I'm sure glad we don't have carpet anywhere. And chocolate cereal... well, I'll leave that one to your imagination! Poor Benjamin was very upset, and kept calling out, "Mommy, hold me!" in between stomach spasms. I, of course, didn't... what a mean mom. I did clean him up and pop him in the tub, though. And I managed to not puke.

He seemed to feel much better a short time later, so I guess it was a 24-hour bug or something he ate.

I won't post pictures of all that. No, don't worry, I didn't really take any! So I'll give you a picture of Noah looking cute instead:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

No wonder I'm so tired!

I have had the feeling for quite some time that I'm not getting anything accomplished lately. When telling Frederic about my day today when he got home from work, I realized why. No church for us today since he was working, so this is what my day looked like:

11:00 pm Bed time the previous night.

2:30 am Wake up Frederic to put Noah's pacifier back in, in the hopes that he will go back to sleep until at least 3 am.

2:45 am Give up and feed Noah.

5:30 am Feed Noah again. Tell Frederic, "yes," it is 5:30 when he asks because he somehow turned off his alarm and now has to hurry to get to work on time.

6:00 am Get up and put Noah's pacifier back in.

7:00 am Get up for the day with Noah, have breakfast, check e-mail.

8:00 am Get Benjamin up and dressed, fix his breakfast.

8:30 am Put Benjamin back to bed to start his day over when he won't stop whining about everything & nothing.

8:45 am Get a much nicer Benjamin out of bed, feed Noah, and put Noah down for a nap.

10:00 am Get Noah up from his nap, have coffee with my friend who spent the weekend here and who was smart enough to bring ear plugs so she could sleep through all the morning activity.

11:45 am Feed Noah again, put him down for another nap.

12:15 pm Start preparing lunch. (Leftovers, thank goodness.)

12:45 pm Get Noah up from his nap, have lunch.

1:00 pm Take Benjamin away from the table and put him to bed early for his nap since he is whining/crying over nothing again and refusing to eat. Finish meal with friend in peace, clean up after meal.

2:45 pm Feed Noah again. Frederic comes home, so pass Noah off to Frederic to put down for yet another nap, and get Benjamin up from his nap.

4:00 pm Frederic goes upstairs to put Noah's pacifier back in.

4:30 pm Repeat, this time I go up as Frederic and Benjamin are taking my friend back to the train station. Start catching up on work.

5:00 pm Frederic gets Noah up from his nap. I keep working.

6:30 pm Stop working to go feed Noah. Frederic feeds Benjamin and puts both to bed. I go back to work.

7:30 pm Eat dinner while working at my computer. Keep working until bedtime, with a short break to update the blog.

10:20 pm Go pop Noah's pacifier back in so he will go back to sleep. Go back downstairs to keep working.

11:00 pm Bed time! Dream of Tuesday morning, when Frederic is off work and I will be able to sleep in!

Not getting one long stretch of sleep exacerbates the pain from my pregnancy-induced sciatica that didn't go away after pregnancy, and going up and down stairs all day doesn't help either. I can't wait until Benjamin and Noah take one nap/rest at the same time, or until Noah sleeps until 8 am without waking like Benjamin does (here's hoping he's not just an early riser by nature!).

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Mini-vacation ... or not... but at least we had good scenery.

Monday we left for the Alps to check on our condo since we hadn't been up there in over a year. It's about a 7.5 hour drive up there - if we don't make any stops.

It looks on the map like there should be a shorter way to get there. The route in purple is with [expensive!] toll highways - we paid 44.40 € one-way in tolls, which is about $70, and that is not including gas which ranges from 1.44 €/L to 1.60 €/L ($8.56-$9.52/gallon, so you Americans can stop complaining about the gas prices already!). The other route is only a few km shorter, and still involves 32 € ($50) in tolls.

But of course we make lots of stops, including one in Lyon to have lunch with Pamela and Arlin Hendrix. They were kind enough to invite our friend Loïc Bonfré over as well so we could also visit with him.

Before you get to the pictures and think what a great time we must have had, let me ask you to remind us not to attempt this trip again too soon... Noah did not care too much for the car ride. He screamed for probably close to half of the time we were in the car. Benjamin did well in the car, but it took him about 3 days to adapt to his new surroundings, by which time we were about to head home. "Taking 3 days to adapt to his new surroundings," for those of you who may not have children and be able to guess, means "threw random 2-year-old tantrums for 3 days over anything and everything and refused to sleep when he was tired, which was quite often since he was sleeping less than he does at home."

As usual, we had some nice surprises the agency's renters left us, like the straw seats of the chairs having been apparently purposely cut, and the fondue set was missing. The agency of course didn't keep anyone's deposit for those things, and they didn't want to bother to check the inventory until before the winter season. (Never mind that there is also a summer season, and that they are paid to check the inventory at the beginning and end of EVERY rental.) They tried to blame it on the renters that we sent them - people who rent through our website - the problem with that is that we pay the agency for those people as well, and the agency takes a deposit from them also. So the source of the renters is a non-issue.

When we complained, and wanted the chairs and fondue set replaced immediately, they agreed to pay 50% of the cost (even though they should pay the whole thing) - and they would pay us when they pay for NEXT season's rentals! Well... it's July and we haven't even been paid for LAST season's rentals yet. Needless to say, we won't be staying with this agency, so we won't ever see the chair and fondue set replacement money.

We did go ahead and buy the new chairs, though, and were lucky enough to find some waxed light pine ones that match quite well with our table:

We also went shopping and found some fabric to redo the comforters and couch and chair cushion covers (thanks, Mom!):

Another purpose of this trip was to meet a Belgian woman who lives up there now. Frederic met her some time ago on a forum for condo owners in that resort, and we decided ago to let her take over the rental management for us. As a condo owner herself understands what we expect because she expects the same thing. So we are confident that our rentals will be handled much better this season.

Benjamin slept in a "big boy bed" for the first time during this trip, because we weren't about to travel with 2 portacribs - no room in the car or in the condo for both. So we put him in the bottom bunk and put these rectangular cushions we have up there into the opening between the bed and the floor so he didn't roll off. He was pretty excited by the novelty of it and even wanted to "read" his bedtime story by himself. Then he realized we expected him to sleep, and he found that much less fun.

We couldn't find Noah's "lovey" the first night. But at least the socks were clean! Noah gets swaddled to sleep. We never did that with Benjamin, and it's apparently not really done over here much, but we discovered he sleeps so much better that way that we started doing it routinely.
This is the view from our balcony.

There is a little playground at the resort, and this year Benjamin was big enough to play on it. He mainly went up to go down the slide.
Also taken from our balcony.

The weather forecast had predicted rain all week, but we were happy to see that they were wrong. It did rain one day, so Frederic made a "house" for Benjamin out of the boxes from the new chairs.
Noah just watched.

This is a lieu-dit, which is even smaller than a village. Ironically, it's name is "La Ville," or "The City."

This conversation took place in the car on our way back home:

Me: Benjamin, look, cows!
Benjamin: Cows!
Me: What color are the cows? [they were white]
Benjamin: Pink!
Me: Uh.... no.... those are white cows.
Benjamin: Pink cows!

So he's either color blind, or he's a 2-year-old that likes to contradict us. Maybe I should ask him if the sky is blue.

La Fête des Clochers

We're back from the mountains, but before I get to that, here is a recap of last weekend. Our village, along with 6 other neighboring villages, has a festival every year called "La Fête des Clochers." This year was our village's turn to host.

The theme was WWII. 64 years ago, an American pilot's plane was shot down in this area and the inhabitants of our village helped hide him from the Germans until he could rejoin his troop with the help of the French Resistance. He, his daughter, and his granddaughter came back to join us for the festival this year. Frederic and I got to meet them and speak with them for a little while.

There is a local club that maintains a collection of old army vehicles, and they present them for occasions like this one.
Frederic and Benjamin got to go for a jeep ride around the village after more or less correctly filling out a questionnaire about WWII
The "Polly Frenchies" sang a few songs from that time period for us in both English and French.