Monday, July 27, 2009

Did I say Noah is not walking?

Noah *is* walking -- but only when he thinks we aren't looking! Both of his hands were full Saturday so he didn't have any left to hang onto the coffee table with and just toddled a few steps right over to the couch without holding onto anything. I'm not sure whether he didn't notice, or whether he thinks *I* didn't notice.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

We have been busy

this week. We finally got the dining room painted, all but the ceiling. 
Before, complete with faux-brick wallpaper and blue textured wallpaper with a pastel-colored-yet-southwestern-style-motif border.

And after.

The other side before, with a full wall and the same yuck wallpaper.

And after, with the wall opened up to the kitchen.

With the new bar, or as they call it in France, the "American kitchen."
Next on the list: new kitchen!
(It will be a few years, so don't sit in front of your computer waiting anxiously for pictures of that.)

* * * *

In other family news, Benjamin is a budding artist

when he is not an engineer.

We're teaching Noah great table manners.

And Noah is not walking (and we thought Benjamin was a slowpoke!) but is standing unassisted when he thinks we are not looking.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

In France today, 750 €* could buy you:

1388 postage stamps.

937 baguettes.

750 espressos in a café.

563 1.5 liter bottles of Coke.

241 Big Macs.

219 gallons of milk.

167 gallons of gas.

100 movie tickets.

34 doctor visits
(which would be 70% reimbursed by national healthcare,
30% by complementary private insurance).


1 1995 Peugeot 306.

Our Neon is dying a slow and painful death, and we need something more reliable so I can take Benjamin to preschool this fall. They do have bus service (although the bus looks more like a tourist bus), but I'd have to walk him at least down to the center of our village. That walk only takes about 10 minutes for an adult - but about 30 minutes for an adult, a 3-year-old, and a 1 1/2 year old in a stroller. And there are no sidewalks (sidewalks? Ha! The road is not even wide enough for 2 cars!). And the walk back home is all uphill. So we got a car.

It smells kind of funky and the power steering is much less than powerful, but otherwise it seems to run fine. (And I should know, I drove it home from Lille, where we bought it, about 2 1/2 hours away. I'm not complaining, though - our Renault came from Lyon, so Frederic had to drive it about 6 hours home.)

* 750 € is approximately $1050 at today's exchange rate.

Friday, July 17, 2009

You know you take too many pictures

when your 3-year-old makes something out of Play-doh (or Daddy does),

picks a flower,

makes a Meccano car,

picks raspberries,

makes a block tower,

or harvests the tomatoes,

and his first thought is to run to Mommy's office and say, "We have to take a picture!" And he's clearly perfected the cheesy grin.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Why We Love Our Friends

Especially our American friends.

Especially our American friends who have access to American products.

Ok, that is not really the only reason we love our friends. But we sure do like presents like these! Thanks, friends!

(Those are Dr Pepper freezer pops (like Mr Freeze) in the back there, if anyone is wondering.)

And for anyone wanting to come visit us soon, it might be worth mentioning that our supply of chili powder is dwindling. Just in case you were wondering. And we love Starbucks coffee drinks. And Diet Dr Pepper. Oh, and there is no waxed paper in France, every now and then that would come in handy. And Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and Cool Whip, although I'm not sure those travel well. Ok, I'll stop now. Actually, we're not picky at all. If it's American, we like it. Well, except maybe for that nasty cheese stuff in a whipped cream can. We do have some standards.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Independence Day

This is probably the first patriotic Independence Day I have spent in France in the 10+ years that I have lived here. Normally it is a day like any other for us since we don't have American friends nearby. This year, our friends the Hummels came from Germany for the weekend, and on Saturday we went to the Aisne-Marne Cemetery and Memorial in the small village of Belleau, about 45 minutes from our house. This is near the site of the Battle of Belleau Wood.

The curator of the cemetery told us many interesting things, including how they are able even today to identify unknown World War I soldiers, how many records they are able to access now on the internet to consolidate information, and how almost 20% of the soldiers were immigrants. He also told us that July 4th was declared a national French holiday in the year 1918 in gratitude to the American troops during the war.

After the cemetery, we went around to Belleau Wood, now known as the "Bois de la Brigade de la Marine." We saw the cannons and memorial there, as well as the trenches and bomb craters that are still apparent today.

Tristan and Benjamin helpfully explained the diagrams to us. ("Those are train tracks!")

After lunch in the woods, during which we fed the mosquitos, too, we headed back to the German cemetery we had seen on our way in.

From there we continued on to the newly opened WWI museum in Belleau, where we also saw the "Devil Dog" Fountain that the Marines adopted as their own when they discovered it in the village of Belleau.

Benjamin and Isabel especially appreciated the gravel.

And Noah has become much friendlier - he won't go see anyone else and clings for dear life to me or Frederic when other people are around, but he does laugh and smile at them now instead of screaming. It's an improvement!

We came home after our outing to have a 4th of July barbecue and fireworks - sadly, the quality of the fireworks left much to be desired, but the company more than made up for it.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Finally Summertime!

One thing about living in France is that it now leaves me completely perplexed when Americans start talking about summer as being already underway in June. Summer in France is July and August, period. School does not get out until the very end of June and starts up again in early September, and all of France revolves around the school year, whether one has children in school or not. Even the date our income tax declaration is due is based on which "school vacation zone" we live in, and every year in September the 8 o'clock news focuses on "la rentrée" which is "back to school" time and all that implies - maybe I'll go into more detail on that in September.

So, now it is July, and summer has finally begun, and we at last have the weather to go with it as well (rare in our cold northern climate). I'm very grateful for my new office ceiling fan. With some strategic opening and closing of the shutters and windows on different sides of the house, we manage to keep the downstairs cool enough. Upstairs in the attic rooms is a different story, so we keep our fans on all night.

Due to the sudden heat wave (high 80s, I know that doesn't seem that hot to some of you, but when you are used to 60s/70s throughout the summer, 80s feels very hot!), there were no more swimming pools at the store. So Frederic managed to patch up last summer's pool and we got it out for the boys on Thursday.

Noah was not even close to as apprehensive about it as Benjamin was the first time. To be fair, Benjamin was a bit older the first time, so maybe that had something to do with it.

Our water comes from a well in our village, and it is coooollld! But it was hot enough yesterday that the boys weren't shivering blocks of ice when they got out like Benjamin always was last summer. No need for a bath to warm them up this time.

Now we wait to see how long the summer weather will hang around.

Friday, July 3, 2009

More notes from the garden

Our new composter was subsidized by the the "communauté des communes" (an official grouping of villages/towns nearby) because they hope it will save some money on garbage collecting, so we got it for a mere 20 euros.

We already had an unofficial compost pile, so Benjamin helped transfer some of that into the composter.

As usual, Noah just looked on.
We used some of our semi-compost as mulch around the tomato plants to keep the weeds down. It seems to work very well, and less work is always a good thing in my mind!
In other news, our raspberries are growing.
And it looks like our pepper plants have made a long-time-coming comeback, and we may actually end up with some peppers this year after all.