Saturday, August 29, 2009

Weebles wobble and other random tidbits

Goodness knows it has taken him long enough to get to this point. Noah just started taking a few steps around 16 1/2 months, but only when he thought we weren't looking. He is finally now letting go and really walking. Of course his cousin showed him up a long time ago, but hopefully in a couple of years no one will be able to tell the difference! So here he is in (wobbly) action!

He slipped in just under the wire, as I had been threatening to send him back to the physical therapist if he didn't get moving before 18 months (that is in just 10 days!).

Frederic started trimming the hedge around the house today. He made great progress. We'd prefer to tear it out at least at the front of the house, but that is going to have to wait a while... in the meantime, what a chore.

Our garden is doing great. I blanched and froze some more zucchini today, and may need to start doing tomatoes soon. Although we do have bunches more company coming soon, so perhaps instead of having stuffed tomatoes we will just stuff our guests with tomatoes. We'd like to expand our garden as time goes on, but I think we'll have to learn how to can vegetables at some point if we are going to do that. And find a better spot for the garden than near the swing set.

Cool as a.... zucchini, after blanching and before freezing

This morning as Frederic was getting the kids out of bed, he looked out the window and saw something a little unusual. He called me, and I of course ran for the camera.

It was very low over the house and must have landed nearby.

Noah's hair is getting so long, it's almost getting too long to curl. Which leaves me with the dilemma of trimming it and hoping it still curls some, or leaving it for a bit and enjoying his long baby hair. Or I could just give him barrettes or ponytails. We're also being much more lenient with the pacifier and lovey being allowed outside of his bed since it's one of the few ways to calm his frequent, random displays of bad temper.

And Benjamin starts school next week... but we don't know whether he starts on Wednesday or Thursday, whether he has school on Wednesdays at all, what his teacher's name is, what time school starts, what time school gets out for lunch, whether his teacher knows he is only attending half days, whether he needs school supplies, whether they know how to contact us in case of emergency (we're unlisted), how to sign up for the school bus should we choose to do so (we probably won't), or, well, ANYTHING. I'm prejudiced against the French school system to begin with given Frederic's experiences with it, but this is really not helping matters. Frederic called the city hall of the village where the school is yesterday to try and get some information... but of course they are not open until Tuesday morning.

Benjamin, fortunately, is blissfully ignorant of all this, and I think he is going to love being around other little kids. As far as I know, he will be the youngest one in the school this year as there are no first-year preschoolers and his birthday is 15 days before the cut-off.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Touring the Aisne region

Becky, a college friend of mine, came to visit us this week after vacationing in Italy. We enjoyed her visit, and this gave us the chance to see some more things in our region that we weren't familiar with yet.

We started on Wednesday with the ruins of the 13th century Chateau de Coucy, which was destroyed in 1917 by the Germans.

We found some unexpected tourists there.
On Friday we visited a champagne cellar. We asked if we could have the visit in English, and they said no because the English tour was earlier in the day. From that simple question, they decided that our friend was a high school exchange student visiting us to learn how to speak French. (Flattering, I suppose, when you consider that we graduated college together 10 years ago.) We didn't correct them, and it was pretty funny to see how they invented this whole story out of thin air.

Saturday we treated Becky to a Real French Lunch. She helped with the preparations, which started at 9:15 am Saturday morning (not including the strawberry cream cake, which we made the day before). The Real French Lunch's menu included:

before dinner drinks and zucchini cheese garlic bread,
chips and salsa, petits fours
tomato, corn, and tuna salad with vinaigrette
chicken and beef tacos and burritos
green salad
assortment of cheeses
strawberry cream cake, served with champagne from the aforementioned cellar

Lunch began around 12:15 when the first guests arrived, and was not over until the last guests went home around 9:15 pm!

Frederic encouraged our guests to work on their English by having them read Fox in Socks.

And Benjamin had a great time playing with his cousin Nina, even after she beaned him in the face with her shoe, and he was "not very happy" when she had to go home.

Also seen this week: Benjamin teaches Noah not to bite the hand that feeds him.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

two little bookworms

Noah is getting into books these days. I can't type how he pronounces "book" or you might imagine he's some kind of racist, but he does ask for them. He won't usually sit down and let me read to him, but he likes to read them by himself. He also likes to help us go through the weekly ads. He can even read upside down!

And we're working on transitioning him to a cup. He actually does pretty well already, having been practicing for months in the bathtub. (Yes, I know that's gross. But he doesn't, so it's ok.) I'm tired of sippy cups and he's chewed holes in all the spouts anyway, so it's time.

He is also finally gaining some confidence for walking, but still prefers someone to hold at least one of his hands, or he'll plop back down on his knees and race away.

Benjamin starts preschool in just over 2 weeks. He says he is going to sit and listen to the teacher, and learn his "Ah Bay Say" (ABCs, in French). We've been telling him that the teacher will be speaking to him in French and he will have to speak French at school. We've decided to only put him in for half days this year - a full day is 9-12, break for lunch, and 2-5. We think that's much too long at his age (4 in December), especially when there is so little sunlight in the winter. What a shame it would be to be 4 years old and only see the sun at lunchtime!

French school teachers and directors aren't too keen on the idea of half days, but the director said he couldn't force us to put him in all day - so he will go only in the morning this year and next year we'll re-evaluate, I guess.

I made 6 jars of homemade salsa this morning with tomatoes from our garden. I used 10 2/3 cups of tomatoes, and there is still a bowlful of tomatoes left over and more ripening every day. I need to freeze some zucchinis, too. We've got one ready to pick every couple of days now and even though we pick them before they are gigantic, each is still large enough to feed a family of four for a couple of days - especially when one member of that family is 3 years old and turns his nose up at all green foods. Time to start using the Deceptively Delicious cookbook.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Sumac Resurrection

Since the demise of our sumac, we have learned that sumacs propagate by rhizomes, as evidenced by the teeny sumac plants popping up all over the front lawn where the sumac used to be. For a while we mowed them down. Then we thought maybe one would grow so we tried to put one in a pot, only to see it promptly croak. But one finally came up in just the right spot, not too far from where the original tree was, so we have been mowing around it and are waiting to see if it will grow into a tree again.

It's got a ways to go

before it looks like the old one:

Benjamin was begging for coffee like daddy today after his nap, so he got what we call in France an "American coffee." That is, just enough coffee to cover the bottom of the mug, and the rest filled up with water. He was very pleased with the result! (I know some of my family members will be pleased to see we are raising him right.)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

We are still here

It's August, the time of year when the rest of France is on vacation and the entire country comes to a grinding halt, but we are still here. Frederic doesn't request vacation in August since it would be a miracle were such a request to be granted, and since the boys aren't in school yet we don't need to take vacation at school vacation time yet anyway. (Time will tell what skirmishes will ensue with the school teachers and administrators over Thanksgiving in the years to come.)

The temperature got up to about 28°C (82°F) yesterday which is about as hot as we can hope for around here in the summer. (Note long sleeved shirts on the boys in the picture below. I never really get to put away all the winter clothes.) Not really quite warm enough for the swimming pool, but we have to take what we can get and the boys (and Frederic!) enjoyed splashing around yesterday despite all the shivering when it was time to get out.

We have walked down a couple of times to see the ducks - and had scary run-ins with dogs both times. The first occurred when a very large dog that legally is supposed to be muzzled in public was not and came to say hello to Noah about a centimeter from his face, to which Noah responded by having a screaming fit. The second was when we were almost home and another large and unleashed dog came charging at us from its home and I swept Benjamin up in my arms - as if that would make him higher and out of reach. Ha. Let's hear it for responsible dog owners! Oh. Right, we don't have any in our village, apparently. Or cat owners, for that matter. We're thinking of getting a pet bear that we would allow to roam at will also.

We've also been enjoying our vegetable garden this year. Benjamin was happy to help me make the zucchini bread... not so happy to eat it, because "there's zucchini in it!" Uhhh... yeah.

Our next round of company is about to begin, with 2 ladies from church (one in Paris, one in Marseille) coming for lunch on Monday. Then my friend Becky arrives mid-August, Frederic's cousins will come for lunch while she is here, and Emily and Brent will come in September after their wedding. Time for another round of good house cleaning!