Saturday, January 31, 2009

Would you believe

that the last encierro of the season is tomorrow and we have to miss it?!

And there are "three new bulls," the sign says! Oh man... if ever there was a good reason to miss church, I'm sure this would be it. But we're also invited to lunch afterwards, so I guess those are the breaks.

Frederic ended up getting home from school early on Wednesday, because the test he was supposed to have was cancelled due to an instructor being out sick. So we bundled the kids up and went for a walk.

After a very short ramble around the town (not much to see), we decided to hop in the car and head for the beach instead. After all, we are in the south, and we don't get to see beaches very often where we live. So we headed towards les Saintes Maries de la Mer, and Frederic felt sure we'd find a turnoff not too far along where we could go to the beach. At one point, there were two signs for les Saintes Maries de la Mer. One said "(direct)" and the other did not. Frederic chose the one that did not - why? I do not know. This scenic route took us to:

"What's that?" you ask. Here, take a closer (and blurrier) look:

Still don't know? It's a ferry. Not a great thing for someone who is already scared of water, and even more scared when inside a car over water. We almost turned around and went back, but decided to brave it. At least I didn't have too much time to dwell on the fact that I'd be over water buckled into a 1.2 ton mass of metal, nor to think about how hard it is to get kids out of carseats without being under water. On the bright side, it was free.


How much good will the life preserver do us, when we're looking at it through the windshield?

But we did make it across without incident. Whew!!

And finally found a beach. It was already late by then, and the wind was piercingly cold at the beach, so we didn't stay long at all, after all that!

But at least the boys got to get their wiggles out and have a change of scenery from sitting in the house all the time. And no, we did not take the same route back!

Friday, January 23, 2009

What a week.

And I don't mean that in a "wow, what an exciting, fun-filled week!" way.

I did appreciate the two or three days we had this week when Noah was not sick and was sleeping at night without random screaming episodes. Unfortunately, two or three days was all we got of that. Yesterday the runny nose started again and so did the screaming. Sigh.

Benjamin will be a very lucky little boy if he makes it to his fourth birthday. He's testing all the limits, pushing all my buttons, and I expect to have a nervous breakdown very shortly. I'm sure Frederic will be happy to post about that to let you all know when it happens.

Three weeks after we left home and after multiple phone calls to various services at La Poste, our mail finally started being forwarded. It seems our mail carrier from home hadn't been doing his/her job setting our mail aside - hardly surprising given that we have a different mail carrier practically every day; most of them must have missed the memo. (Why it's up to the mail carrier and not done directly at the post office is anyone's guess. Call it French efficiency.)

And we've also been fighting a large overdraft for a couple of weeks, since our bank so kindly informed us that when they said it would take 7-10 days to deposit a check in US dollars, what they meant was seven WEEKS. Then the bank director told Frederic it would take "about a week" for an international transfer, which he later rectified by email to "15 to 20 days." Either the French have long weeks or we are having some major communication problems... but Frederic's first language is supposed to be French, and he's the one talking to these people.

So we decided to go with Paypal, only to find out that European money laundering regulations mean you can't receive more than a certain sum per year through Paypal without sending in all sorts of documents proving your identity, your address, and your ownership of the bank account in question. But all that has finally been sorted through, and in a few days we should be able to start paying our (now very late) bills. Of course, we aren't at home now anyway, so it won't matter much if they cut off our electricity or anything.

And here are two pictures of the monsters to finish out the post. They look nicer in pictures than they are in real life, but don't tell them I said that.

I cut Benjamin's hair again, but he was very wiggly so if it's uneven and he has bald spots, it's his own fault.

And here's Noah not going up the stairs (he won't do it for the camera), but thinking about it.

Here's hoping this week will be better!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sunrise, Sunset

This is what time we left to go to church in Marseille on Sunday.

This is what time we drove home.

It's hard to get very good pictures from a moving vehicle, but we saw some windmills on the way.

It was nice to see old friends, some of whom didn't realize we were coming, or staying in the area so long. It's about an hour and forty minute drive from here to there, so we plan to attend church there while we are here.

Benjamin's been on a nap strike all week. I've started telling him he can read in his bed, but he has to stay in his bed until I come get him. He's doing ok with that (not always ok noise-wise, but at least he stays in bed). He stays in bed in the morning until one of us tells him he can get up, too. I guess that makes up for his waking up too early.

He likes to read Green Eggs and Ham by himself now (from memory, he's not reading, of course), so when he's in his bed, you can hear him saying, "Sam I am! That Sam I am! I do not like them in a house!"

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Now THIS is why I wanted to come south for the winter!

We went to Aigues Mortes today. It ended up being a shorter outing than planned since we mistakenly thought Benjamin would be ok to skip his nap.

Random aside: This hanging Santa Claus is the plague of French holiday decorating. They are everywhere, and I just hate them! I'm not sure if you can tell in this picture, but they normally look like floppy, half-dead Santa Clauses. Ick ick ick. They're even more pathetic-looking after Christmas, if that's possible.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

So about that snow...

This is how much we ended up getting:

(about an inch)

It did stick, but not to the roads, and it had mostly melted by today. I hear they ended up with 7 inches in Marseille, something that hasn't been seen since the late '80s! We are under a winter weather advisory tonight, but I am hoping it will be a false alarm.

While I work, Benjamin plays with his toys or watches one of the four DVDs we have that will work on a French DVD player (Charlie & the Chocolate Factory has been his preference for the past few days):

And Noah tries to pull up on anything and everything he can. He started trying to go up the stairs the other day - a whole new world for us since Benjamin didn't do that until 14 months. The landlord did loan us a baby gate but Frederic will need to borrow pliers or something too to install it.

Noah has bronchitis so we didn't get to see our friends in Marseille last weekend, but we hope he will be better by this weekend so we can go.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

This was NOT part of the deal!

I didn't agree to come south for the winter for THIS!

Yeah, it's just a little bit of snow, but it's sticking, and it's still falling, and it's cold! And while we find the loft of our rental attractive, the double-tall ceiling makes it quite hard to heat the house. And I think the person who sold the owners their firewood conned them; it's not dry enough to burn properly yet. I heard from a friend in Marseille (2 hours east of us) that they have 4 inches of snow already and it is still coming down.

I'm going to have to rethink our retirement plans for St Louis. I'm not sure I want to live somewhere there is snow ever again. Any suggestions for a nice, temperate climate? 65-80° year round sounds good to me!

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Today we went to check out Frédéric's school, to be sure he knew how to get there from the house, and see how long it would take. His classes start tomorrow morning.

Then we went on to Montpellier, where I did my junior year in France program. 
This is Montpellier's Arc de Triomphe, not far from where I lived there.

This is where I lived that year.

My apartment was the one at the top, with the small window. My roommate Lara and I used to have a pink basket that hung from our shutters down to Brienne and Kerry's apartment below. It was very useful for passing things back and forth and getting each other's attention without bothering to use the stairs, but sadly, it's no longer there.

This is the Eglise Sainte Anne, at the end of the street we lived on.

Before heading back home, we stopped at the beach at Carnon to show Benjamin (and Noah, but I suspect he won't remember) the seaside.

Friday, January 2, 2009

White New Year's

We didn't have a white Christmas, but we did have a white New Year's -- not terribly hard to accomplish when you go to the mountains, of course.

Fun part first, here are some pictures:
Benjamin practicing with the sled
Noah hanging out in the condo

Benjamin does not like looking at the camera these days - we've got to get one that takes pictures more quickly to capture the millisecond he looks at the camera.

Benjamin, Noah and me
Benjamin and Noah sitting in the sled
Benjamin trying to kick snow on Frédéric

Now for the real story: Remind me not to try this again for at least 5 years. Two adults and two children in 270 square feet, when neither wants to sleep and each wakes the other up... not fun. Oh wait, this won't be better in five years, will it?! Remind me not to try this again until we get a condo with a few bedrooms. Between Noah randomly crying for a minute at a time throughout the night, Benjamin not wanting to fall asleep for hours and then waking up to ask for a drink of water (I think we should bring the humidifier with us next time, it was very dry up there), and Frédéric snoring, I did not get much sleep this week!

We've been talking up skiing for a while with Benjamin - reading Curious George books about snow, telling him about ski boots, skis, and a helmet, and showing him pictures from previous trips. So he thought he wanted to go skiing until we got into the ski shop and had him try on the ski boots. He let the man put them on his feet but then refused to walk around in them to see if they fit properly. After much ineffective cajoling and bribery (attempted because we think he would like it if he tried it), we gave up and he stuck to sledding this year.

And here is one more picture - we changed out the Carribean-looking comforters and cushion covers for some more mountainy-looking ones that my mom made up for us with fabric we got in the Alps back in July. We think it looks much warmer and more inviting for the winter with the red colors than it did with blues, greens and yellows.