Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Post-Christmas Fun

Benjamin made a hermit crab from a clay kit he got. It comes with a pull-string motor, so it wiggles around when you pull the string.

And Noah's favorite present by far was the 60-cent watercolor set he got. He would paint all day, every day if we let him!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Real Christmas Eve

We celebrated Christmas Eve this year with our friends in the neighborhood, Céline and Christophe. Santa Claus made a special appearance, that unfortunately Christophe missed, as he seems to every year, poor guy.

Noah got the new baby he asked for.

And Benjamin was very excited about his Meccanos (Erector set).

Frédéric was thrilled with his Dr Pepper (my jaw dropped when I saw it at our local closeout store, and of course I couldn't pass it up), and he delighted in his Christmas snails (he doesn't ever seem to get those at our house).

We were both pleased with a nice framed aerial picture of our neighborhood, and Céline and I cracked up when we opened each other's gifts and each found coffee-related presents. I guess it makes sense, since we get together for coffee dates!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Eve Eve

We let the boys open most of their presents on Christmas Eve Eve this year (the 23rd, that is), since we spent Christmas Eve with our friends. The boys didn't mind opening their gifts a little early... or a little late, actually, since in past years we start opening one per night whenever I feel like it. This year things were just so busy that we didn't get around to it until the 23rd, so we saved some to take to our friends' house, and let them open all the others.

Transformers, Legos, Playmobils, Erector sets, books... Santa Claus definitely spoiled them this year. Or family, friends and we did, since neither of them believes in Santa Claus.


But I think Gala was our best (early) Christmas present this year, by far! She is a quick learner (much quicker than my children, ahem) and may even be ready to sleep in her crate in my office, alone, very very soon!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Goose is Getting Fat

Last week I had a moment of panic when I realized I hadn't made anything for the boys' Christmas party at school. After mixing some butter and sugar together to start a cake, it dawned on me that it wasn't that week, it was this week. Ah well... I finished the cake and popped it in the freezer, so only had to thaw it out and frost it yesterday.

However, I then had another "eek!" moment yesterday when I remembered I hadn't done anything about teacher Christmas presents. So this morning I made some chocolate cookies, and at lunchtime (this is when that coming-home-for-lunch thing comes in handy) the boys made cards for their teachers. Benjamin made an "aquarium" on one side and Christmas tree on the other, with a sweet note to his teacher.



I don't think they sing that song about "Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat" at their school party. Not really sure what they did, other than eat - the plate we sent back back totally empty and washed, which I guess is a good sign.

Despite the party, both of them came out of school in kind of crummy moods. Which led to this conversation:

Me, to Benjamin: Hey. Tomorrow, be nice. Because Santa Claus is watching, and he doesn't bring presents to kids who aren't nice.
Benjamin: Hm. How does he watch?
Me: How do you think?
Benjamin: I think Santa Claus. Doesn't. Exist. Because you put the presents.

Somehow I don't think that Elf thing that is so popular would work in our house.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Welcome, Gala!

We had been thinking about getting a dog since this summer, when we thought my friend's dog would be having puppies this fall. Well, it turned out that her dog wasn't pregnant after all, so we had to find a dog elsewhere.

We found one online and started pursuing its adoption through a rescue, "Association Adoptions Sans Frontières," who turned out to be a royal pain to deal with. They were entirely anti-crate-training, for starters. Next, besides an EIGHT-page pre-adoption form, they then wanted a phone conversation, and a home visit. We did all that, but even though they "gave in" and agreed to let us have the dog despite our terrible, cruel idea (according to them) of crate training it, we then decided to end the proceedings. Part of their "conditions" were that you send them a vet report every year, and that you give them "news" of the dog regularly, and that they retained the right to take the dog back at any point they deemed necessary. Since they thought crate training was such a terrible thing, we felt that might decide it "necessary" at any time. So we let them know we were not going to continue with them. (And that is fair warning to anyone in France who finds a cute, adoptable doggy through this association. Just say no!)

Instead, we found another that someone was giving away, and Tuesday Frédéric and I drove 2.5 hours up near Dieppe to go pick her up.

Gala is an 18-month-old cocker spaniel / spaniel mix, and is very affectionate. She's already housebroken, which is definitely a plus, but she does need more obedience training. Her crate arrived today, and she has warmed up to it quicker than I thought she might. She has some separation anxiety, so we'll be working on the crate training a little more slowly than we might have otherwise.

She adopted us from the minute we walked into the home we got her from, and the boys have gotten more into the idea of having a dog, and are enjoying her (except when she jumps up on them, but we are working on that). They love to pet her and brush her.


Welcome home, Gala!

Monday, December 17, 2012

After Swim Meet... Gymnastics Competition

It is non-stop around here, it really is! Benjamin had his first gymnastics competition last weekend. We don't know the results yet, but all the kids got a cute bear for participating.


We were glad to finally see him in action, since parents aren't allowed to stay and watch classes in the new club they joined this year.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

At least that is what we think when we hear it is time for the annual village Christmas party. This year, the kids watched Mickey Mouse's Christmas Carol, enjoyed a snack, and then, the part they were all waiting for... got their presents from Santa.



Noah wasted no time trying out his present, even without the necessary batteries...

but we cruelly made Benjamin wait until we got home for his, since there were over 200 pieces in the Megablocks sets.
 
They got an extra Christmas present in the form of a visit from their friends Lily-Rose and Gabrielle, who came with their mom, uncle & aunt to visit a house in Vivières, and then came for dinner at our house.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Seven Years Old!

Time flies... Benjamin celebrated his 7th birthday a week early, two weeks after we returned from the U.S. He chose a dinosaur theme, and we guided his thoughts on his guest list so that we didn't end up with the entire K-5th classes (hey, even in our small schools, that is still 40+ kids!).

His friend Léa was able to come, so he was very excited about that. And he told me he was very glad he picked out the mini-dinosaurs cake pan.




Happy 7th birthday, Benjamin!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

All Good Things Must End

And so our trip to the US had to end. My mom was kind enough to drive us down to Houston from camp to fly out. The flight attendants were extra nice to us, and Noah even slept for a few hours, so it was a good flight home.

And then we jumped feet first back into "real life" - school, work, and for Benjamin, it even included some literal feet-first jumping with his first swim meet.



What fine form! Future Olympians, for sure!

Benjamin swam the 25m breaststroke, and came in fourth (out of four, but Frédéric says I shouldn't say that part). He did a great job, and was very pleased with his medal.... which he is still convinced is the main reason to participate in sports, no matter how much I talk up exercise, fun, etc...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving at camp

After Tulsa, we headed down to camp in southern Oklahoma for Thanksgiving with my mom's side of the family, like we do every year. We had lovely weather, so the boys got to go fishing.



Frédéric caught a catfish for us.


Benjamin was very proud of him.

They learned fishing techniques from the master.

Benjamin was feeling like a little model, and kept asking me to take pictures of him on the playground on the various equipment, and he kept doing his victory stance.


Two boys in a canoe... looks like they love each other... but they were wrestling. Oops, did I mess up my Parental Mythology moment there?


Both boys had a blast going metal detecting with Uncle Mark. Benjamin because he found "treasure" (I think they found around 49 cents each), and Noah because he got to dig in the dirt.

The boys had a great time playing with their cousins, and only regretted that we didn't stay longer at camp. Do those two look like partners in crime, or what?

We had to leave straight from Thanksgiving camp to Paris this trip, which was an adventure, but the drive down to Houston was mainly uneventful, and so was our flight back.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tulsa

We got to see my grandparents in Tulsa this year, since no one was sick - actually, I think this is the first year since we've had kids that no one has been sick on our Thanksgiving trip. I think we probably win some kind of medal for that.

We had lovely warm weather, so the kids took the toys outside to play.
Benjamin created an entire playground/amusement park.

This is what happens when you try to get the kids to take a nice picture with Uncle Jim.

Jordan and I also got to see our college friend, Wendi, and catch up with her, and we took the kids swimming in the hotel pool for a while, too, to their great delight.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bentonville via Columbia

Ok, so it isn't the straightest shot to go to Bentonville, Arkansas from St Louis through Columbia, Missouri... but this way we stopped at my little brother's house to see his family and continue on with them to Bentonville.

We drove through Jefferson City on the way down, my first time ever seeing the Capitol building (unless we saw it last year, but I don't remember that. And have no pictures of it. So it may as well have not happened, even if it did).

Saw pretty sunsets.

And nice countrysides, trees, and clouds.

We had a great visit with our friends in Bentonville, even though it wasn't long enough. I love that they are right on our way to Tulsa. Well, only an hour out of the way - totally worth the detour!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

St Louis City Museum

My older brother and his family invited us to the City Museum as our Christmas present. We had never been there before, and it was quite an experience.


The boys would use words like: fun, exciting, super, great, and "we didn't stay long enough!" to describe it.

Frédéric and I would use words more like: strange, scary, dangerous, risky, frightening, wobbly, and downright nerve-wracking. Things like slides that end up two or three (or ten) stories lower than where you started, tunnels that are partially hidden behind other structures and are seemingly endless, and rooftop adventures, all combined with a busy 4 1/2 and almost 7-year-old... yes, nerve-wracking was indeed our word of the day.

I mean, what kind of nutcase would go up in a 1940s Ferris wheel, installed on the roof of a 10-story building?!?!


Oh. Apparently nutcases like us. And them.



This was quite possibly Noah's favorite part of the whole museum. We could have left him here all day long. Tractors? What more could he ask for?!


Benjamin liked climbing. Climbing in wire cages. Climbing in wire cages somehow welded to things on the roof of a 10-store building. I mean, who wouldn't like that? (Well, besides me.)

Climbing up ropes to get to the top of a concrete slide, which is awesome for your pants when you slide down. Doesn't wear them out at all. (Consider that your fair warning, other moms planning to take your kids to the City Museum.) The roof concrete slide is not the only one, there's also an indoor "skateless skate park."

The creator of the City Museum was an artist, and there is amazing artwork all over the place. The whole place is more of a modern art museum-slash-playground than anything else.
Witness this rooster on the roof.

Or this iguana on a pillar in one of the restaurants.


Or this puking pig.

Nerve-wrackedness aside, we survived it, and here is our end-of-the-day photo as proof.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Memphis!

This year has been a pretty amazing trip so far, since no one has gotten sick (yet, knock on wood), and we get to stay almost four weeks. That meant we were able to fit in a trip to Memphis without much trouble at all, to go see my best friend and her family, and other college friends.
 
We stopped in Sikeston on the way down, and saw the highlight of Frédéric's trip this year:
 

Here's to twenty-five years of friendship! And many more to come. Our kids got along great, which was a nice bonus.

Kayla drew a picture of her new friends Benjamin and Noah. This is Benjamin, and "Noah is behind him." Hee hee.

We visited the Memphis Botanical Gardens on Saturday, and the zoo on Sunday. We really liked both.

The kids' favorite part of the zoo was the playground.





And this was my favorite part of the drive home. Sadly, it only lasted about fifteen minutes. He has a quick-recharging battery.