Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Benjamin's birthday is coming up in December. He will be 4. So we've been talking with him about how we will celebrate his birthday at Grandma and Grandad's house. Tonight our conversation went something like this:

Me: What kind of cake do you want?
Benjamin: Big!
Me: Um... ok... let me rephrase that, what do you want your cake to look like?
Benjamin: Like birthdays!

I started offering some options, and he voted for a train cake, shaking his head and saying "nooo" (like "No, what a silly idea!") to my other suggestions of a truck, a fire truck, and an airplane. He wants this train cake to have four cars since he will be four, and he wants it to be brown, blue, white, yellow, red, black, orange, purple and green. I'd say our pastry chef (Frederic) is going to have his work cut out for him this year!

Then I asked what he wanted for his birthday. Here is his list:
- an airplane
- 2 airplanes
- 4 airplanes
- 5 airplanes
- toys
- a tractor
- a mailbox
- presents

I'm not quite sure what the airplane kick is about. Or the mailbox.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

School Vacation and Preschool Update

School started less than 2 months ago and here we are at our first school vacation. The kids have a fall break for "La Toussaint" - All Saints' Day, November 1st. (Pretty funny for a country that prides itself on being secular, but they appreciate their holidays too much to give them up for a matter of principle.) They get a week and a half off, and it is really too bad for us that this doesn't happen, say, around Thanksgiving instead of Halloween. We will be taking advantage of this break for a quick trip up to the mountains this weekend to check on the condo.

Benjamin still loves preschool, and we are using the happy face charts mentioned in a previous post in an attempt to get him to come up with HIS happy face on instead of dealing with a cranky Benjamin all through lunch. He still very clearly needs a nap most days, which is what we keep telling the teacher, who wants us to leave him in school all day. I could go with that, if the teacher would also take him home with him and deal with Benjamin himself after school, too.

We finally have some idea of what Benjamin does at preschool, because he brought home his work from September and October.
(Note the Halloween-influenced October design; the holiday must be gaining ground if it has entered the educational system.)

I was AMAZED to see this on one of his papers, because he refuses to write alphabet letters with me at home, so I had NO IDEA he knew how to write his name!

And this is how you know Benjamin goes to a French preschool. No counting of apples or books here, they count baguettes, pains au chocolat (chocolate bread pastries), and petits beurres (typical French butter cookies)!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fall Fun

Look, they are getting big enough to play together...

We don't really celebrate Halloween in France, because despite 12+ years of some French people trying to import the holiday, it's not a holiday that lends itself well to being imported. You need the whole neighborhood to be in on it for Trick or Treating to work out at all - it's kind of silly to try and get candy from people who have no idea why you are dressed up and ringing their doorbell. Even more so when some of the kids who have tried that at our home in the past haven't even been in costumes. Therefore we haven't ever felt the need to have the kids dress up, but we did carve a jack-o-lantern this year.

Benjamin did NOT want to help empty the pumpkin, because it was "yucky."

Noah DID want to help empty the pumpkin, but mainly just stuck his hand in there and didn't pull anything out.

Benjamin designed our jack-o-lantern this year. He didn't exactly draw the face we ended up with, but he started it out for us and described and then approved my interpretation of his design as we went.

Here you can see how he's directing the whole operation, telling Frederic how to carve the face.

And he's very pleased with the finished product, with its "big happy face." Happy faces are what we use on various behavior charts for Benjamin and for some reason they motivate him pretty well. He's very into happy faces, so that is what he wanted his jack-o-lantern to have.

Happy Halloween! (Feel free to save some candy for us, we'll be arriving in the US a mere two weeks after Halloween.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Today would have been a good day to stay in bed.

1. It was freezing out this morning (literally) but I don't have a scraper in my car. So my Borders Rewards card got to do the honors. I didn't think of leaving 5 minutes earlier to take Benjamin to school, so we had to hurry so he wouldn't be late.

2. In my hurry, I forgot to buckle Benjamin into his carseat. I didn't realize until we got to school (fortunately not very far), and he didn't tell me, either. When I picked him up, he did kindly point out that I "gotfor" (forgot in Benjamin-speak) his seatbelt in the morning.

3. When I got home, I put the trashcans away, but somehow banged one of them into the taillight of my car and broke it (the taillight, not the trash can, more's the pity).

4. I put Noah down for his nap, and worked a bit. Then I went upstairs when I heard him wake up, and found that he had taken off his sleepsack, his jacket, his pants, and unsnapped his onesie, and taken off his diaper. And then proceeded to poop in his bed and on the floor, and smear it all over his crib. Oh joy...

5. I put Noah in the shower and he screamed bloody murder so I had to take him downstairs to give him a bath instead. Then we went back upstairs so I could clean up the mess, disinfect his crib, and change his sheets, all the while thinking up various strategies to prevent catastrophes of this nature in the future.

6. Then I made pasta, went back to pick Benjamin up from school, came home, and was putting the pasta on their plates in the kitchen while Noah was opening the cabinet in the dining room, and he proceeded to break two bowls (one with my name on it some friends gave us, one that Frederic always used at his grandparents' house growing up).

7. Noah got a spanking for that and went into his highchair and screamed at me some more - until I gave him food.

Also, Benjamin is apparently the only child at school without mittens, and I got a splinter from the firewood today.

Oh, and Noah is now in bed for his nap, wearing his sleepsack backwards. Surely he can't unzip it from the back... right???

And all this in one morning.... maybe I should spend the afternoon in bed.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

so those green tomatoes...

I finally made jam out of them yesterday. Benjamin helped me wash them a couple of days ago.
The next day, he helped me crush them up in the food processor. I let them marinate with the sugar and lemon juice overnight in the fridge. Then they went on the stove. I think we ended up with about 4 kg (8.5 lbs) of green tomatoes.
A while later, here is our finished product - 9 jars! (One is already in the fridge in case anyone's counting.) Maybe I should put "real canning supplies" on my Christmas list, if we're going to start making a habit of this. We may also have to make more friends so we can give some of this stuff away.

* * *
This is one of Benjamin's favorite activities lately, thanks to the craft set his French grandmother brought him last week. When it's naptime or bedtime now, instead of asking for "2 minutes," he now asks for "2 minutes to cut!"

* * *
We are at D-4 weeks for our trip to the US... but before that we are heading up to the mountains in 2 weeks. Benjamin will be on fall break from school and Frederic wangled an extra day off with all his comp time, so we'll have a quick 4-day trip to check on the condo and be sure it's ready for this winter's rentals.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Autumn (winter?) in the forest

This is what you do when you live in the forest... Frederic, his dad and Benjamin went mushroom hunting yesterday and came back with these.

This is what came wandering into my office this morning. Isn't he cute?

We had our first freeze last night, so we harvested the last of the garden today. I did not realize we had quite so many tomatoes still on the vines! The tomato plants were even still flowering - they were not ready for winter so soon either!

Since we still have oodles and oodles of green tomato pickles left from last year's late harvest, I'm going to try green tomato jam this year.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Keeping with our tradition of child labor

Noah is following in his brother's footsteps. Which is a good thing, since his brother is letting things slide lately.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Still warm enough to play outside

Benjamin recently rediscovered the tennis racquet we got him last year (thank you, Goodwill!). He's having a great time playing tennis - or Bing-Bang, as he prefers to call it - with Frédéric. We've had great weather all summer that is so far still holding (despite the morning chill we ward off with the fire), so this has been an almost-daily activity lately.

Noah gets to be the ball boy.

Can you spot what's wrong with this picture?

Let's take a closer look.
Noah is not actually *that* advanced- he can't quite reach the pedals yet. Maybe next year!

Trying to get a picture of the two boys together is something of a near-impossible feat these days. This is as close as I've gotten lately.

Noah is a little gardener... or perhaps just a scavenger. He likes to pick and eat anything he finds growing outside, including our entire 6-grape harvest, the raspberries, or green tomatoes fresh off the vine.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Happy Belated Birthday to me

Belated on the blog, early in real life. Benjamin and Frédéric made me a birthday cake last weekend.

We celebrated a little early because my friend Delphine was spending the weekend here. She gave me a book (in English, yay!), and Frederic gave me a wireless mouse. When they come out with a wireless laptop, I will be set! (Actually, it seems they did, I just read about it this week.)

I turned 32, not 3, but we didn't have 32 candles so they only gave me one.