Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A new chore to add to his list

Benjamin can now take over the writing of the grocery list!

That says "FROMAJE GAUN" (separated by a vertical line so we know they are separate words). He sounded out "fromage jaune" (yellow cheese) by himself and wrote it. Pretty close!
And VERY proud of himself!

(On a side note, I'm not really sure what type of cheese "yellow cheese" refers to... possibly cheddar... but I'm sure Frédéric, the grocery shopper, will figure it out.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Noah's first day of school!

Today was preschool orientation for the new 3-year-olds who will be attending in September. Noah couldn't wait, he's been talking about nothing else for months already.

8 of the 11 newcomers were present, along with a parent or two apiece. Some were clingy and upset, not wanting to let go of their parents, and others felt immediately at home and felt free to do anything their little hearts desired. Noah, of course, tended to be in the second group, and didn't really care whether I stayed or not; he ignored me except to bring me pictures he drew for me. He obeyed the teacher pretty well but wasn't happy at being told to use crayons instead of markers (even though he doesn't use markers at home either, we aren't *that* crazy!). When it was time to stand up and introduce themselves, Noah stood up and told the teacher that he (Noah) was taller than him (the teacher, who was seated). The boy is convinced he is big enough to do anything he wants.

So they started with some free play time inside the school while the bigger kids had recess outside. Then the big kids came inside for introductions, until Noah stood up and said, "I have to go to the bathroom, ok, teacher?" Which effectively ended circle time as the teacher decided to take advantage of it and send everyone.

Then everyone had recess outside for a while (and it was HOT today! Already 86° and after weeks of the 60°s, we are melting!!). When we went back in, the teacher sent the 1st graders to do their work, read a story to all the others, and then (about 10:30) he told us we could take the little ones back home.

Noah was disappointed at being told to leave, he wanted to stay. So I think he will do just fine in September! (And yes, I will too - though it may be strange to have the house to myself every morning, believe me, there will be no tears shed here!!)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

School's Almost Over

And it brought with it the end of year school presentations. The lower grades (3-year-old preschool through 1st grade) learned songs from different countries that they presented to us. Their repertoire included "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," a German song about the big clock, the little clock, and the very little clock, a Spanish song about the cat and the mouse, a Congolese song, and they rounded off their set with a French song called "Bumbaïa" by Les Ogres de Barback (whoever they are).

They made decorations to go along with each song.

They did this interpretative dance (that's what I'm calling it, anyway) to the Spanish cat and mouse song. One of the moms, who has a son in kindergarten, and who babysits a couple of the other kids, told me that the three of them had been "practicing" this at her house but she had no idea it was related to their presentation, she thought they were just being silly.

Near the middle of the video, a kid took a dive up towards the front - to some great parental gasps and a good "ooh là là" hand-shaking gesture from the teacher's aide at back right.

Benjamin was a HUGE ham, bowing after each number and saying "Merci, merci à tous !"

And he had everyone rolling in the Congolese song by singing his 2 lines in a silly voice.

Benjamin was disappointed when their part was over and the upper grades (2nd - 5th) presented the play they had written, a reinterpretation of some fairy tales. He told me he wasn't done yet because he hadn't gotten to do the play!

The reception after the presentations had what I imagine is one major difference between French and American school functions; there was sangria for the adults. Adds a certain challenge to the evening when you get to watch the kids like hawks to make sure they don't get confused between the kids' version (yes, there was a kids' version also) or fruit juice and the adult beverage.

Noah followed the teacher around like a little puppy dog. He gets to go to preschool orientation Monday, and can't wait! I, on the other hand, found out that I have to go with him, which sort of spoiled my plans for 2 1/2 hours of freedom Monday morning.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Nefarious Noah

This post is dedicated to those of you who see Noah's angelic little face in photos and don't know the devilish thoughts lurking behind that cherubic visage like we do.

So you remember how we took Noah's crib out long before I was truly ready, because he was kicking it for hours every night and driving me insane?

And how then we had to take his radiator off the wall because he was taking it off himself??

And how we had to take his wardrobe out because he kept taking the knobs off, and then opening and slamming the door repeatedly, to the point that the corner of the wardrobe door left marks on the paneling upstairs? (I don't think I posted on the blog about the door slamming, but rest assured, it happened. The wardrobe was taking up space in my "closet room" until I rearranged some furniture this week to make room for it out on the landing instead.)

His latest exploits involve lights.

You may remember that we found this adorable light for him one time at a secondhand shop.

But he's been wanting to sleep with the light on all night for months. His Ikea Spöka light doesn't work anymore because someone (not sure which of the monsters, none has confessed) somehow destroyed the AC adapter, so it can't recharge anymore.

I don't care for his light being on all night long, it's too bright and in my mind, not conducive to good sleep. I figure if it's darker, he'll sleep longer. That opinion seems to be based in no scientific fact whatsoever when it comes to Noah, yet I can't let go of it.

So we went to Ikea to get another Spöka light for him. He decided he didn't want one, he wanted a star light like this instead. It was cheaper, so who were we to argue?

This light is screwed into the wall, and the cord hangs down and plugs into an outlet.

The first day, Frédéric found Noah with the cord unplugged, and the end of it in his mouth.

The second day, I found him with it wrapped around his neck!

Clearly THAT couldn't be allowed to continue, so Frédéric found some little plastic thingamajigs that have a nail on one side, and we attached the cord to the wall with those, and secured the extra length at the end near the outlet with a rubber band.

The first day, Noah took off the rubber band. I put it back on and warned him not to touch it again.

The second day, he had managed to pull the cord OUT of the plastic dealies without breaking them or pulling them away from the wall.

So we took down the star light, and let him have the airplane light on again.

A few days ago, we decided to attempt the star light again, this time alternating the direction of the plastic things (as the nail is only on one side), and nailing more of them into the baseboard to keep the extra length secured at the bottom.

The first day, he managed to pull it all right out of the plastic doohickeys, alternating directions be darned. Don't ask me how.

Frédéric thought he could modify the lamp to plug directly into his light switch. Since we had a similar moon light that had already been altered, I suggested he try on that one instead of the new star one.

So he did. He insulated the adapter that is inside the light, on the off chance (off chance?! Ha!) that Noah might manage to get his fingers in there, and put a ton of glue on and around the remaining bit of cord, in the hopes that Noah won't managed to pull IT off the wall too.

So far so good, but it's only been a few days.

Please note that Benjamin got a matching star light, and has had no trouble not touching it other than to turn it on or off.

Is it really any wonder I'm about to lose my mind with this child?
72 days til school starts for him!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Day & Rainbows

Frédéric got his early Father's Day present/card from Benjamin today:
It says "bonne fête papa" (Happy Father's Day). (Is anyone else as impressed as I am by his cursive? It still blows my mind that they start cursive so young here. Could be why so many of them end up with beautiful handwriting.) Frédéric was very pleased with it, and Benjamin was very proud of himself for drawing the hearts himself. And he got to pick the color of paper he wanted to make it. I love that he still loves pink and hasn't been told that it's a "girl color."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Benjamin said the prayer at dinnertime tonight.

"Thank you God for Noah and Daddy and Mommy and Noah and Daddy and Mommy and Benjamin and ketchup. In Jesus' name, Amen."

All the important blessings. And doubly thankful for some of them.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

And we were treated to several bright rainbows during and after today's rainstorms.

Pointers on how to take good rainbow pictures gratefully accepted.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Walks with Noah

One thing I love about living in our middle-of-nowhere village is being able to walk right up through the fields. There is a road -- well, they call it a "path," but in theory at least, cars can go on it, though they rarely do -- that goes through them to the next village. Noah and I took a walk in the wheat and beet fields, and I brought the camera along.

He starts out ok...

but gets distracted early and often.

Benjamin's school is across these fields. But he wasn't there the day of our walk, he was on a field trip to a park outside of Reims. He didn't come home for lunch since it was a day-long field trip, and he was confused and disappointed in the extreme to only go to school "one time" that day. He didn't quite understand why he didn't get to go back after dinner.

Noah didn't want to pose for me, but I managed a few decent pictures all the same. I think you can see his personality shining through... more on that nefariousness to come soon.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Spring Odds and Ends

Our spring visiting continued on Monday with another one of Frédéric's cousins and his girlfriend who came over for a lunch of relatively normal proportions, lasting about seven and a half hours. No, we didn't eat for seven and a half hours straight. We also took a walk around the village, and played the game that they brought as a present for Benjamin, and Noah played with the playdoh they gave him.

Frédéric's been trying the Swimming Pool Strategy after Benjamin gets home from school to wear the boys out for bedtime. Success is mitigated so far, but they are enjoying the experiment.

Today I went out to check on them and Noah informed me I needed to take a picture of him, because he had a towel with a "capuche" (hood) - "I'm like a baby! I'm "mignon!" (cute). Of course I obliged him.

Benjamin is like a little fish in the water since he is finishing up his second session of swimming lessons at school.

That is Noah hollering in the background that he is "dry enough" and can go inside now.

In other news, our ceiling fans for the upstairs bedrooms, ordered 6 weeks ago online, *finally* arrived, and Frédéric has installed one of them. Of course... it is mid-June, summer is practically over with temperatures in the 60°s.

I guess Frédéric thinks I haven't posted enough about the garden this year, because he took this picture for me of our first small harvest.

We do indeed have a garden this year, with tomatoes, zucchini, snow peas, green beans, carrots and radishes. And our raspberry bushes and grape vine, and a few wild strawberries that grow along the fence.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Flea Markets and American Festival

Emiley came to see us this weekend for one last visit before she heads back to the US. I dragged her to Benjamin's school Friday afternoon to pick him up and set up a Real French Lunch for her on Saturday.

Sunday morning we headed out early for a flea market at Vauciennes on the way to church. We found Clue and Uno which we plan to leave in the condo for our visitors.

After church and lunch at the airport (because that is what airline employees do on their vacation), Emiley came with us to the 11th annual American Festival in Fismes.

It was our second time at the American Festival, but possibly our last. While Frédéric did manage to get Emiley and me a discounted entrance fee this year with our American passports, I was very underimpressed with the discount. Discount? Why shouldn't an American get in free, especially since you get a free entry with an American car? An American car is worth more than a Real Live American? Hmph!

The people manning the WWII army outpost were very informative, and spoke excellent English. One described to us different objects on display in the medic's tent.

Another one let Benjamin and Noah look through her binoculars, and let Noah try on the Scottish Highlanders uniform hat.

There were plenty of American cars.
And American license plates for sale.
But no Indian village this year, only a lone teepee.

We rounded out our American cultural field trip with a bit of French culture by stopping on the side of the traffic circle in Fismes so Benjamin could take a picture with the magic potion and the menhir from the Astérix comic books. Fismes is the birthplace of Astérix illustrator Albert Uderzo. Astérix is Frédéric's favorite comic book series, and at the moment is Benjamin's as well (though Noah has a preference for Tintin).

And speaking of comic books, did I mention Benjamin is reading? He can sound out words pretty well in French or in English, and recognizes smaller ones like "and" or "the" without having to sound them out. When he and Frédéric read their Astérix comics, Benjamin reads all the noises.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

June French Lunch and Flea Market

Frédéric's cousins came for lunch today. The weather couldn't decide to be cloudy or sunny, but in the end we managed to have our lunch outside, and the kids got to play ice cubes in the swimming pool for a little bit.

After dessert, we all went over to the village of Longpont where they were having a "nocturnal flea market."

We didn't find anything to buy, but the boys and their cousin Nina got to go on the inflatable slide (Noah decided once was enough for him).

And all three kids danced to the loud dance music blasting out of the bumper cars stand.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Definition of Insanity

Is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Right?

So... you know how every time we go to the mountains with the boys, we say, "Never again!!"?

Well. We're stupider than you think.

During the 9-hour trip to get to the condo, we had about 45 minutes of peace. Neither boy sleeps much in the car, nor all that well when not in his own bed. Noah especially has a hard time settling down when he knows we are right in the next room - next room? Yeahhh, it is practically the same room; the bunkbeds are in a little alcove.

We stopped for dinner at McDonald's before heading up the mountain. Even McDonald's fits in with the local décor.

We were surprised to see the playground closed due to... snow!
I was hoping to get some new "summer" photos for our condo website, but the snow pretty much put an end to that bright idea. But the boys were thrilled with the unexpected bonus.

Hard to say whether they enjoyed the snowball fights or building a snowman more.

Benjamin demonstrated how we could snowplow, if we only had some skis. He's excited about taking his "snowflake" level ski classes next year.

Walking around the resort, you could almost mistake this one for the beach.

After the snow melted, I did manage a few photos of the new playground for the condo website. The boys and I went there for a couple of hours Thursday so Frédéric could get some work done in the condo.

We also brought the tripod along so we could attempt some decent family photos where you can't tell that we're all on each other's nerves. Now in later years we will be able reminisce about these lovely, fun, family trips that we all enjoyed and during which we were all perfectly behaved. Ah, the good ol' days.

And we did get some things done to the condo, which was the purpose of the trip. We added a curtain for the bunkbed alcove and made a few other changes and repairs, so it wasn't a total loss. But... dare I say it.... Nah. We all know that we'll come back anyway. Insanity, remember. But wouldn't it be nice if next time, we could find a babysitter for the kids and Frédéric and I could come by ourselves?! In the meantime, we will just keep that "eternal optimist" thing going where we hope next time will be better.