Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Keeping the Road Workers in Business

We had a loud rain/hailstorm Monday night, with golf ball-sized hail. It rained and hailed hard for probably two hours, and 15-18 inches of rain fell during that time.

The next day, we had a clear blue sky and decided to try to go out for a walk in the village... right outside the house, we saw the road torn up like this:

Rivers must have run down our streets from the field above. We could still see the paths they left, flattening all the grass in their way.

The "technological risk" of our area, which you're now required to disclose to sell your home, is mudslides. Which is exactly what happened here, just a bit further down from our house.

Just a little further on, we decided to turn around and go back, because there was not a single unmuddied spot in the road for us to cross on, and visions of mud-covered children and piles of laundry did not appeal to us.

Frédéric ventured out to town yesterday, and found part of the road in one of the other villages with a monster pothole... measuring about 3 feet wide, by 30 feet long, and we're not really sure how deep. We hope that the road workers will be able to fix all of this soon, so taking the kids to school in a couple of weeks is not any more of an adventure than it may already be, since they are still working on the bridge in our village, so we have to go the long way around.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cooking with Noah

Noah helped me make a green tomato cake this morning. Our poor tomatoes got sick from all the rain we've had this summer, so this is part of our last-ditch efforts to save the ones that remained.

We were naming the ingredients as we put them in...

Me: "Muscade [nutmeg]. Can you say muscade?"
Noah: "Muscade!"
Me: "Canelle. [cinnamon]"
Noah: "Can-aigle."
Me: "Bicarbonate [baking soda]."
Noah: "Bicaboboranate."

We laboriously went through each syllable, then put two syllables together, and he finally was able to string them all together.

Frederic: "Noah, what is that in English?"
Me: "Noah, say 'baking'..."
Noah: "Baking."
Me: "Soda."
Noah: "Chocolate!"

Well... a good baker always thinks about the important things!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Picnic at La Ferté-Milon

We had great (hot!) weather today, so thought we'd venture out to La Ferté-Milon for a picnic along the Ourcq Canal.

Frédéric knew about a new playground they had installed there, so we figured the kids would like that. To our dismay, we found the play areas padlocked when we got there, with an official note from the Mayor's office saying that the play areas were not "réceptionné" (any French readers who want to chime in on what that means, please do, because even French husband couldn't figure it out).

Instead, we walked over to see the water wheel, and then walked in the park between the canals.

Kids checking out the waterwheel

We visited the slightly lesser known "Eiffel Bridge" (yes, designed by the same Gustav as the Eiffel Tower).

Kids (and Frédéric) on the Eiffel Bridge

And then headed up to check out the castle ruins before heading back home to get out of this crazy heat... I know to most of you in the US it will sound like nothing, but 82°F is a big deal when you're used to summers in the high 60°s, with thick cloud cover and rain!

Kids admiring the castle of La Ferté-Milon

We had a lovely bit of quiet time after we got home, then let the kids go in the pool for a while before dinner. Then Tin-Tin, dinner, and bed!

Kids chilling out, watching Tin Tin, after their busy day

Friday, August 19, 2011

my first ever emergency services call

(fair warning, a few gory pictures below)

Our friends Chris and Isabelle Burkholder and their two daughters arrived Thursday afternoon to spend the week with us before they fly to the US for a couple of months and then head on to Mauritius.

Thursday afternoon, Frédéric was making dinner for all of us, and went outside to do something, while I was inside talking to Chris, when I heard Frédéric call me and say “It’s urgent!” I stopped mid-sentence and went running, to find his leg spurting blood all over the patio. It was every bit as lovely as it sounds. I ran to bring him a clean washcloth for him to hold on it while he applied pressure to try to stop the bleeding, and then I got to make my very first call to the pompiers (the English translation for that is "firemen" but they are also EMTs/paramedics). Thank goodness for speaking French! Actually, this was my first emergency call ever, as I've never made one in the US.

When I called, I explained to a first person, who told me to have him apply pressure with a clean, dry cloth (he already was), and then transferred me over to the SAMU (emergency) doctor line instead, I explained to a second person there, who told me to have him apply pressure with a clean, dry cloth (he still was), and said she'd let me speak to the SAMU doctor - he picked up and just said he was sending the pompiers and hung up.

During this whole time, Frédéric continued to apply pressure to no avail.

I had told the first person about our house being inaccessible through the village due to bridge construction, but that message didn't get get passed on to the pompiers, so we heard the sirens get closer, and closer... and stop. And finally heard them again, so I stood outside to let them know where we were.

They arrived maybe 10-12 minutes after we called. Frédéric's leg was still spurting out blood like a hose (very literally, if he stopped applying pressure to check on it, it sent a fountain out 2 or 2 1/2 feet away!). So the pompiers bandaged him up and then he won a trip to the hospital to try and really stop the bleeding, and make sure he didn't lose consciousness or anything. I followed in the car, and Chris and Isabelle were kind enough to keep the boys and finish making the half-prepared dinner to feed them while we were gone.

We don’t know what happened exactly. Frédéric was back in the garden, and we guess he scratched his leg on a stick holding up some of the beans or something, but he didn't feel anything. He bled for a while without noticing, leaving a trail of gore behind him, then went into the shed to look for a trowel, saw blood all over the place, and figured he had stepped on a mouse!! He finally figured out HE was the source of all that blood and that is when he went into action putting pressure on it and calling me. The patio looked like a crime scene, as did the shed and the green bean patch.

Scene of the crime, the green bean patch

What *really* happened in the shed?? Hoping CSI doesn't pay us a visit!

At the hospital, I went in the ER to fill out his paperwork, then they sent me out to the waiting room while they checked him out, and then they called me back in to explain what was going on, and how they were trying to stop the bleeding, and let me wait for 45 minutes with him until the doctor could be sure whether the bleeding had stopped and it was ok to let him go home.

Start to finish the whole thing was less than 2.5 hours (including a 20 min drive each way to the hospital and a 45 min wait in the hospital just making sure it had really stopped bleeding), and the EMTs & ER staff were great.

Friday, on the ER doctor's very strong recommendation, we saw a phlebotomist, who checked out the varicose vein, and who is contacting a surgeon for him. So Frédéric will call the surgeon Monday and will have surgery to fix (remove) the vein. Since he stands, walks, and climbs stairs all day long, the ER doctor and phlebotomist decided to keep him off work this week so the hole in his leg can heal up properly.

While at the hospital, I unintentionally made a joke....

The doctor asked if I wanted some water or orange juice.
I said, "No, I'm fine, thanks."
Then she said, "Scotch?"
I said, "No, better not if I have to drive him home."

Everyone was cracking up... I thought *she* was joking, saying maybe I needed something stronger after watching my husband lose all that blood. What I didn't even realize until we got home and Frédéric was telling our friends about my joke, is that she wasn't talking to me at all, she was asking her assistant for tape for the bandage. Oops! 

I also let Frédéric know at the hospital that I was on to him.... what some people won't do to get out of working in the yard, AND to get an evening away from the kids!

Collateral damage on the ash-can

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pause, Continued

I made a nice big batch of tomato soup to use up a bunch of our tomatoes - I was going to freeze all of it but the boys begged to have some for dinner that night (!) so we of course happily obliged.

Our neighbors are taking care of other neighbors' garden while they are on vacation, and they have about had their fill of tomatoes, Swiss chard, beets, radishes, zucchini, and so on, so they've started bringing us some of that bounty and we've been enjoying that, especially since our own garden gave up the ghost this year between neglect and too much rain.

The boys kept busy playing while waiting for our friends to arrive ("Is it today?? When are they coming??"). Benjamin made a Lego (Duplo) city and wanted me to take a picture of it for him.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mid-August Pause

We have a few days this week between visitors. My parents left yesterday morning, and our friends arrive Thursday afternoon. So besides resting, I've also been canning, working outside, and soon will be cleaning inside, too.

Though our garden has been largely neglected this year, we have been canning a little bit... 6 jars of tomato sauce, ready-to-use for pasta or pizza, and many, many jars of pickles.

And we are almost done with the non-shed shed! Here is a "before-we-moved-in photo" where you can see the FOUR outbuildings (plus the large, nasty hedge/bush/tree thing which has been chopped down but still needs to be fully removed). With the removal of this non-shed shed, that leaves only two, the one for the yard equipment and the cinderblock one at back right.

In this picture from last week, you can see the mountain of yard waste that my parents helped us clean out. The picture makes that pile look deceptively like a molehill. It has taken thirty-plus bags so far to clear it all out, and many hours of mulching branches and shoveling all manner of clippings, leaves, and grubs.

Here, you can see that Frédéric aggressively chopped down the privet hedge behind the non-shed shed, and as of today, we can see concrete! I might have finished today, except that I ran out of yard waste bags. That means another trip to the dump for Frédéric tomorrow. And a big thank you to Mom & Dad for all your hard work clearing this mess out!

Next step, remove the concrete - it's only thin pieces, not a poured slab - and figure out what we want to do with all that reclaimed yard space!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mes petits Gaulois

Wednesday we went to the French alternative to Disneyland - Parc Astérix. Benjamin is past master of all things Astérix, so had the time of his life. (Click here to see Benjamin pictured with the cauldron and menhir from Astérix, in creator Albert Uderzo's natal town of Fismes). During the Astérix version of the Fairy Tale ride, where you go in a boat and see scenes from different Astérix books, Benjamin acted as our tour guide to the amusement of the people in front of us. He gleefully told us which book each scene was from as we passed them.

A very large Astérix overlooks the park.
My parents, acting as Roman spies, or something like that.
Another Roman spy.
We measured Noah the day before, and he was exactly one meter tall without shoes, so was just barely tall enough for most of the rides. He enjoyed this roller coaster, which went around its small track four times. He did NOT enjoy the higher roller coaster nor the "Mo-Mo the Monster"-type ride (he must take after you, Jordan). He didn't throw up, but he did ask to get off once we were already moving.

Benjamin took a turn acting as village chief, Abraracourcix, in the Gallic village.

Then it was off to meet the heros themselves, Obélix and Astérix. We missed our photo op here because the boys shook hands, then went straight through the door, forgetting to turn around and pose for a picture!
We made it around to the Dolphinarium twenty minutes before the start of the show. The sun was beating down on us (a rare event during my parents' stay!) and it was a cruel form of torture to sit there and fry while looking at the refreshing water in front of us. But we got front row seats for the show.

We found the smaller version of the swings on the other side of the park.

And had a little bit of time to play on the playground before the park closed - here is Noah, my little Gaulois.
One note about the park closing, just in case any higher-up in Parc Astérix happens upon this little blog one day... someone needs to come give them some lessons on tourism and theme parks. The park closed at 7 pm... the rides closed at 7 pm... and so did the bathrooms, restaurants and shops!! The ladies' room near the park entrance was overrun by people of both sexes since it was the only one still open as we made our way out.

I'm also not sure what trains or Moon cars have to do with Astérix; those didn't really seem to fit the theme. But we never had to wait much more than about twenty minutes for any ride, which was a definite plus, and we had a great day. It only took the boys a couple of days to get over their crabbiness from all the extra excitement. They can't wait to go back.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Slave Labor, or, the Truth About Why We Invited My Parents

After plying my parents with castles to lull them into a false sense of vacation, we cleverly arranged for our firewood to be delivered during their stay.

And we brilliantly decided it was time to dismantle the non-shed shed in the yard... which involved removing all the yard waste that has been moldering there for oh, about 5 years. Why yes, that is about when we moved in, for those keeping score at home.

Everyone had a job to do, filling bags
or mulching branches.
The boys got in on the action, too, and told me repeatedly how hard they were working, lest I should think otherwise.

This picture was taken after I quit... right after we found a baby mouse hiding in the compost pile. Now we know where they live when they aren't trying to come live in our house!

Today Frédéric finished chopping down all of those bright green bushy leaves from the hedge that was growing behind the non-shed shed.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Changeable weather and another castle

With the rain/sun/rain/sun/cloudy/sun weather we've had lately, we've had plenty of these:

Yesterday morning, my dad and Noah tossed the football around. (Who says we aren't teaching our kids American culture?)

And the boys swept the patio. They love to be helpful as long as it is outside and involves something they want to do.

In the afternoon we decided to brave the capricious weather ("It's sunny, let's go! Oh, it's cloudy again. Maybe the sun will come back? Doesn't look like it. Oh, there it is!") to go to the Pierrefonds castle, which we last visited in 2008.

On the way up, Benjamin found a pine cone which he told me was "for his collection." (I didn't know he had one.) Then he tossed it away. (I guess that is why I didn't know he had one.)

In the space of about ten minutes, we went from this:

to a downpour, to this:

Noah didn't want to go near the dragon until Grandad put his head in the dragon's mouth to show him it was ok... then he decided he could take the risk, too.

The boys posed for plenty of pictures for my Parental Mythology annals.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Le Château de Coucy

It's been sort of a guessing game with the weather the whole time my parents have been here. Yesterday, we went to the market in the morning, and then decided to take our chances with the gray sky at the Château de Coucy.

Unfortunately, the castle ruins closed for lunchtime (please don't ask me why or how, as I can't explain).

So we first explored the town ramparts and had our picnic lunch in the park.

Then we returned and waited a little bit longer.

At last we made it in. And we did get some blue skies!

So did the goats. Actually, this time, unlike last time, the goats were outside the castle walls rather than on the walls and in the windows.

Benjamin and Noah both played statues. Although Noah doesn't quite understand the principle of statues... he was a "jumping statue" at one point.

A couple of family pictures...