Monday, August 30, 2010


How could I have forgotten to mention this?

Last Sunday, driving home from church, Benjamin looked out his car window, and said, "Mommy, the letters on that car say 'TAXI'."

Our jaws dropped and we stared, first at Benjamin, then at the taxi.

We don't know whether he sounded out the word or recognized it from one of his books, but either way, we were very impressed!

This ranks right up there on the excitement meter with his first recognizable spoken word (which, for those who are keeping score at home, was "duck"... but not the animal. I was telling him to "duck" because we were driving to the airport and a plane was flying low overhead).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Amazing Architectural Feats

Right in my living room!

Benjamin made this track all by himself. I did help him with reconstruction a few times since Noah ("the Bulldozer") kept knocking it down.

Oh look, here is Noah ("the Bulldozer") himself! He looks like a little troublemaker, doesn't he? But such a cute troublemaker, I guess we have to keep him.

I've been busy in the kitchen the past couple of days... here is what the tomato harvest has yielded so far: 6 jars of salsa (not pictured), 7 jars of zucchini-tomato pasta sauce:

And 5 jars of green tomato pickles, with probably more tomorrow. I was going to make green tomato jam but found a couple of jars of it still in the pantry... so I guess I could still make some but we'd have to find someone else to eat it.

We visited Frédéric's cousins for dinner Tuesday night. They had just returned from summer vacation in Reunion Island, and brought us this lovely carving that I think we will hang up somewhere in the dining room.

Frédéric hasn't been to Reunion in over 20 years, so we are hoping to rectify that within the next couple of years, and we hope our friends will be joining us. Most of Frédéric's family on his mom's side lives near Saint Denis, in the north.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Odds and Ends, or, Transitions, Who Needs Them?

Recently, after drinking anything other than water, Benjamin started asking us if his mouth was "in colors." I'm guessing this came from having a red mouth after Kool-Aid or something. He does NOT like to be "in colors." He went whole hog the other day and informed us that he does not want to drink milk or juice anymore, only water, because "I don't want my mouth to be in colors."

He is ready for school to start; he asks every day whether there is school. Not yet, school starts September 2nd for him. No big kindergarten transition since he will be in the same one-room schoolhouse with many of the same kids, the same teacher and same aide. The biggest change for him will be having to go back after lunch.

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Noah helped Frédéric made muffin-shaped bread ("brioche") today.

Hard to say whether his favorite part was flinging the dough balls into the muffin pans, or cleaning out the bowl afterwards.

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Benjamin's transplanted zucchini plant has graced us with one zucchini so far. Still probably better than it would have done had I been the one to uproot it.

Too much rain has cut our tomato season short this year, so in the next few days we need to go ahead and harvest everything that is left and make spaghetti sauce, jam, green tomato pickles, or whatever else we can think of. I made several jars of salsa a couple of days ago.

Our THREE eggplant plants managed ONE eggplant. I think eggplants in our garden will go the way of the bell peppers, and we won't bother with a second attempt.
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Benjamin has also come around to our way of thinking about TV, apparently... when he watches too much TV, he turns into a real grouch. I have never officially limited him to a certain amount of time, I just cut him off altogether when he starts getting too cranky. Lately, he has taken to asking Frédéric or me to turn on the timer so he can watch TV, and he turns it off himself after the timer goes off!

The not-so-elusive Laundry Gnome in action.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Summer's not quite over yet

It got up to a sweltering 81°F today (those of you in the midwest or south of the US can stop laughing now) so I let the boys go in the pool again. It has been too cold to use it for weeks now, but we are hoping to get a few more dips in before school starts in just under two weeks.

You can see that Noah's favorite thing to do is splash.

I think Benjamin must have learned something at the swimming lessons he gets through school, because he is very at home in the water and doesn't mind sticking his face or whole head under, or even staying under a little bit, and he paddles around and can kick his feet.

I love that he gets to do that through school so we don't have to figure out the logistics of having him take lessons.

Noah also likes to observe the bugs on the side of the pool or in the water and squeal for someone to come take the "bazar" (roughly translated as "mess") out.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

At Tata and Tonton's house

"Tata" and "Tonton" are "Aunt" and "Uncle." In this case we are speaking of Frédéric's aunt and uncle, who we try to go see every summer. They live not quite two hours away, but they are south of Paris and we are north of Paris, so traffic and schedules make visiting more often difficult.

We went to visit them on Monday since Frédéric was off work. As an extra bonus, Frédéric's cousin Nathalie was there for lunch also, with her daughter, Nina, who seemed very pleased to see her cousins.

We drove there and back through the rain, but the sky cleared up enough while we were there to allow the boys to ride Nina's bicycle after lunch. Benjamin did fine on his own (with the training wheels).

Noah needed a little help to figure out how to pedal.

He looks like a pro here - what you can't tell in the still picture is that his feet are just stuck in that position so he isn't actually moving.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Short but Real French Lunch

Our friends the Hummels came for a whirlwind visit this weekend; they arrived yesterday morning in time for breakfast and left today after lunch. We had other friends from church coming over for lunch yesterday, so we promised the Hummels a Real French Lunch.

This is what that looks like before it starts:

They were treated to the entire 7-course meal:
* Before lunch drinks & snacks (chips, nuts, zucchini garlic cheese bread, olives)
* Appetizer (zucchini/tomato/mozzarella pie)
* Main dish (stuffed cannelloni)
* Green salad
* Cheese (goat, camembert, cream cheese & Emmental)
* Dessert (zucchini chocolate cake)
* Coffee (we cheated and had this at the same time as the dessert)

Between the cheese and the dessert courses we took a walk down to the center of the village and back. All in all, the lunch itself only lasted about 5 hours, although preparations started 4.5 hours before the other guests arrived and clean-up lasted a couple of hours after they left.

Aw, look at that cute kid.

And since we had the patio table inside so we had enough room for all our company at the table, we realized we should really stop complaining about our ugly table, and put the patio table inside until we get a dining room table. So the patio table is now the dining room table and vice versa. Doesn't leave much room for company, but I guess we'll figure out a solution to that the next time we have guests. In the meantime, at least it looks a lot nicer than the "family heirloom" green Formica table!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Noah almost made it

to his bed last night.

Hmmm, this could be a series of pictures almost as fun as the Spider Brigade.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sleeping Children

Sometimes they are just silly... Benjamin was lazing around in bed this morning and didn't want to get up (sometimes I think the kid is a teenager in a 4-year-old's body!) and Noah went to tell him to get out of bed (but ended up in the bed with him).

But sometimes they do sleep. And oh, how I live for those moments. (And thank you, thank you, thank you, Dr Weissbluth, for helping us instill good sleeping habits and early bedtimes!) Benjamin is wonderfully accomodating and doesn't mind too much that we enforce "rest time" for him almost every afternoon. I let him play or read quietly in his room if he wants to, but some days before I can even tell the boys it is naptime, Benjamin tells me he wants to go to bed after lunch because he is tired.

I'm not sure how he is going to manage full-day -- 9 am to 5 pm! -- Kindergarten next month. (Actually I have a sneaking suspicion about just how he is going to handle it, and I think the "I came home from school with a happy face" chart may have to make a reappearance come September.)

Noah is back to fighting nap- and/or bed-time, but eventually he crashes. Sunday night he did not quite make it to his bed...

And did I mention that in his pared-down room, he managed to PULL THE RADIATOR OFF THE WALL?! WHAT are we going to do with this child?! At least we had the foresight to shut off all the radiators upstairs at the fuse box, so he didn't electrocute himself in the process. I have no idea what we will do this winter. Duct tape him to his bed? Put him in a kennel that is bolted to the floor?!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Bebenhausen, Germany

On Thursday we visited the small town of Bebenhausen, about 30 minutes from where our friends live. It was drizzly out but we decided to brave the elements so we wouldn't have to be cooped up inside with the kids. My camera did not really appreciate the rain and the lens fogged up, but I got a few pictures.

The village was overflowing with flowers. I guess that is a benefit to having so much rain.

Look at that! Almost a blue sky in this one! (Didn't last long.) This is a 12th century Cistercian monastery.

Benjamin with our friends' kids, Isabel and Tristan. Benjamin was trying to make a different funny face in every picture, I think.

Look! The rare and elusive object known as a family picture! We got one! And who knows, perhaps the family portraits will look slightly less goofy as the years go by. I was holding Benjamin's arms trying to get him to stand up and not cover his face. At least we know this picture is an accurate representation of our goofy selves.

Here I am with Emiley, my wonderful American food-, drinks-, and books-supplying friend:

who also played '80s Trivial Pursuit with me after the kids were in bed and while the husbands watched The Green Zone. We modified the rules so we could get as many pies of any color as we wanted. Had we not done that, we might still be playing now.