Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Old Friend Bookends

In a classic comedy of errors, our plans to get together with Amanda (my best friend since 5th grade) and her husband Chris were thwarted and delayed, but we finally worked things out just before we had to fly back to France. It was our year to go to Memphis, but I just wasn't feeling one more leg of the road trip smushed into our scant two and a half weeks, so they were kind enough to come see us in St Louis this year.

Four people is the bare minimum you need for the Game of Things, but as you can see, it's enough to get the hilarity ball rolling.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, Xenia!

Our niece Xenia's second birthday fell during our Thanksgiving trip, so we celebrated Sunday, after we returned to St Louis.

Afterwards, the boys were very pleased to have an early Christmas with gifts from aunts and uncles.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Back to St Louis

Saturday morning we rejoiced (again, as we have every year since college or so) in the fact that we no longer have to get up at the crack of dawn with my parents to drive back to St Louis. We did set our alarm to get up, but we packed up our things, had a leisurely breakfast, said goodbye to everyone, and only dashed into the car to take off when the downpour didn't want to hold off any longer.

It rained pretty much the whole way back to St Louis.

In between rainshowers, I got a few from-the-car pictures of what the French would call "deep America." (Which loosely translates to "provincial," with the same possible but not necessarily obligatory negative connotations.)

We drove over Lake Texoma.

I meant to print some of these off and show them to Benjamin's class.

But, jet lag. I think that shall be my new excuse for everything.

I could always print them next year, and pretend they were from next year's trip.

One of these days, we will have to stop and check out one of the myriad flea markets.

We wanted to buy this truck and bring it back, but it would have put us over our luggage allowance.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

More Madill

Despite the lousy weather (the weathermen had promised us all high 60s and sun, but we wound up with chilly gray skies instead, booo), we made my little brother take some family pictures for us down at the playground.

And Uncle Vance taught the boys how to play washers.
And of course, we continued our traditional games with the Game of Things, Quiddler, Five Crowns, Say Anything, and Phase 10.

The two and a half days we spend down seem to go by much faster these days than when we were kids. Wish we could slow them down!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Madill, Oklahoma

On Wednesday afternoon, we headed for our Mecca of Thanksgiving: Madill, Oklahoma. For the past thirtyish years, our family has rented out a camp for our family reunion at Thanksgiving, and the tradition continues on. We now have four generations attending since all the grandkids are having kids!

I continued to play with the camera on the way down.

Sadly, I don't have any of the fish story pictures, but here is the fish story... Frédéric, the boys, their cousin Alex, and my grandad went to the (now greatly depleted) pond to go fishing. Frédéric caught an 8-pound catfish, but only had a 10-pound line. He and the fish fought it out for a while, until he managed to get it up near his feet.

Grandad Crowe reached in to try to pull the fish up, but the fish pulled back and Grandad fell in the pond. At this point, the boys decided fishing was not for them anymore!

Now, if you ask Noah how big the fish that got away was, he stretches out his arms as wide as he can. If you ask Benjamin, he tells you it was "21."

Noah tried his skill at hurling sticks into the pond.
He and Uncle Curtis looked in awe at the one he got to land straight up.
(Thanks to Heather for this picture of me walking with Caitlyn and Noah down at the pond.)
Niece Xenia looks on as her brother and cousin play washers.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tuesday, we headed down to Tulsa to visit with my paternal grandparents. The road down was very scenic. Frédéric makes fun of me for taking pictures out of a moving car, but I don't care.

We thought Noah and Caitlyn were gardening out in my grandparents' yard, but they told us they were making pizza.
While in Tulsa, Jordan and I squeezed in a quick coffee visit with Wendi, a college friend. My older brother Ryan and his family came through in time for dinner, so we all went out together.

great-grandparents and great-grandkids!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bentonville, Arkansas

We followed Jordan and Kacey through the fog to Bentonville on Monday, where we spent the night with friends.

There, the kids continued the game-playing with Uno Moo.

And air hockey.
And we played a game of Smart Aleck with our friends. (I ought to get some commission here for these game mentions, no?)

I also got to visit with Kerry, who was my downstairs neighbor 14 years ago when I did my study abroad program in Montpellier. For our "it's a small world" or perhaps "six degrees of separation" segment of the blog, we found that my little brother knows her husband's cousin.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Columbia, Missouri

Now that our trip is almost over, I guess I should update the blog on what we've been doing!

We started our Thanksgiving travels with a visit to my brother and his family in Columbia, Missouri. We missed out on a visit with friends there since their kids were sick, but we had a nice couple of days anyway, and the boys enjoyed playing with their cousin, Caitlyn.

Benjamin also appreciated his initiation to the Wii.

And we got started on our Thanksgiving game-playing with the Game of Things... which we started playing about 14 years ago, long before the Hasbro version came out, and now we regret not patenting our idea!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Let the Thanksgiving Tour begin!

We made it to the US last Friday, 23 hours after we left our house. I'm still not sure how a 9-hour plane trip + a 1.5-hour plane trip = 23 hours of travel, but it does. It could have been a bit shorter, but the Delta gate agent wanted to seat the four of us in four completely separate seats... which wouldn't have been a big problem for us, but might have been for the people seated next to our monst... uh, kids. Actually, on our second attempt, they pulled the same nonsense again, but we accepted because we were afraid if we refused, they wouldn't find seats for us on the last flight of the day. As it turned out, on that flight, there were enough people coming in late from a connecting flight that we had time to trade seats with other people.

(In France, we tend to say, "It's an airplane, not a train," meaning that you need to arrive an hour or two early to board a flight. That doesn't appear to be the case in the US, where you can board a flight 5 minutes before take-off. Extremely surprising post-9/11, but there it is.)

Frédéric thought he was clever, making me sit by Noah on the Atlanta-St Louis leg of the flight... but Noah pulled one over on him by sleeping the entire time, while Benjamin took over whining duty.

We have spent our week visiting friends and family in St Louis and doing our annual shopping.

Today we leave for Columbia, Missouri to visit my little brother and his family. Monday they and we will go to Bentonville, Arkansas, then Tulsa, then southern Oklahoma for Thanksgiving, the highlight of our trip every year.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Grocery Shopping with Noah

A couple of weeks ago, Frédéric and Noah were getting ready to go to the store.

Noah: Wait Daddy! I need my list!
Frédéric: Ok, let's write your list. What is on your list?
Noah: Chocolate.
Frédéric: Ok. What else?
Noah: Vinegar.

Frédéric: Uh... ok. And what kind of fruit do you want?
Noah: Candy!
Frédéric: Candy?
Noah: M&Ms.
Frédéric: Ok, M&Ms, but what kind of fruit? Bananas, apples...
Noah: Bananas. And apples too.

Benjamin, interjecting: And I want those orange thing. Clementines.
F: Ok. What else, Noah?
Benjamin, to Noah: And not things that cost too much!
Noah: Ice cream.
Benjamin: Ice cream costs a lot!

Noah: Ok, that is good, I have my list. Cucumbers. We will buy cucumbers because I like them.

Yes, I am sure my future daughters-in-law will thank me for raising men who know how to grocery shop.

* * * * *

In other news, we are almost ready to leave for the US for Thanksgiving! That is, we are all packed, but there is no guarantee there will be space on the flight for us. Ah, the joys of traveling standby.

Friday, November 4, 2011

And some more Toussaint visiting!

After some schedule-juggling and matching, we found that the only time to get together with the Monnoyeur family before our trip was immediately after the Dubort family left. So the Monnoyeurs came over Sunday evening, and spent Sunday and Monday nights with us.

The nice weather lasted through Monday, so we took the kids out for a bit. Our neighbor across the street gave the girls a couple of roses, one of which contained a tiny snail, to their great joy (but not that of my boys, who wouldn't touch it).

They named it Isabelle (despite its hermaphodity) and sang songs to it. Then they brought the roses, complete with snail, inside the house, where they stayed until the girls took them home, accompanied by the tiny snail.

We took a walk back through the beet fields, and found a mountain of beets waiting to be picked up.

Played some more ping pong...

And let the kids do a Halloween candy hunt in the yard just before it got too dark. They waited patiently by the door until the candy was hidden.
The boys and I visited a couple of houses with them on Tuesday - they are looking for a vacation home out this way and we hope they will find one, the closer, the better!

Noah was NOT happy to see them leave. He was ready to ditch Frédéric and me and go home with them, and sobbed when we told him he couldn't. "I want to go with them, because me likes them!" he cried. Through his tears, he waved goodbye and sniffled, "See you Sunday!"

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

More Toussaint visiting

Saturday evening, Frédéric's childhood friends Eric and Natacha Dubort and their kids, Alexandre and Matthieu, came over to spend the night. Alexandre and Benjamin got a kick out of seeing elementary school class pictures where their dads were their age.

We were fortunate to have gorgeous weather, so we got to try out the neighborhood ping pong table for the first time in the five years we've lived here.

The spectators were enthralled.

The boys played up on top of the hill.

and played battle tops.
Everyone got in on the ping pong action.

And there was a game of Puppet Ping Pong, too.

Eric just got transferred to southwestern France, near Spain, so next time we get together, we may have to take the airplane and make a whole vacation of it.