Monday, May 27, 2013

Kid-Free weekend!

AKA, the best thing ever. Frédéric's mom came last weekend to keep the kids for us overnight while we went to a wedding in Lille. We are less than two hours away from Lille, but weddings in France tend to last far into the night, so we stayed overnight up there.

The drive wasn't bad at all, especially since it was so QUIET! No fights to break up! No arguing, no whining or complaining!

And what's not to like about driving through this kind of countryside? It is one of the things I love most about living here.

We drove by the Chateau de Coucy, which we've visited a couple of times.

We did NOT know we were going through Belgium to get to northern France, but that is what the GPS told us was the shortest route, so we did. And it was slightly shorter.

We drove by "Joyful Heart."

Arriving back across the border into France, we saw this church.

And this... castle? Maybe?

And this clock tower.

The wedding was beautiful, and we enjoyed getting to see friends we don't see all that often anymore. Congratulations to Emi and Jean-Simon! I met Emi in 1996 in Marseille, when she was 11 and I was 18. Time flies... she is now an RN and her husband is in medical school.

Part of the best weekend ever was getting to sleep in until 9:45 Sunday morning (and still make it to church with plenty of time to spare, it was only a 10 minutes drive from our hotel to the church - and we found a parking spot right away. I'd LOVE to have that here!!). Maybe we should move to Lille...

On our way home, we wondered if my friend Emiley hadn't flown over for the weekend... it does have a Florida plate...

Friday, May 24, 2013

Which came first, reading or writing?

Writing, of course! Noah loves to write and is always writing us notes. Sometimes in print, sometimes in "cursive" (squiggly loops).

But ask him to read something he wrote? "I don't know, I can't read!!" he says.

Ah, but he does read... here he is reading a note he wrote to us. Bonus points if it means something to you in any language. (Jordan... reminds me of you talking gibberish when you were little...)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Getting his feet wet

And not just his feet. Noah, never one to let big brother get very far ahead of him, decided he wanted to start swimming, too. Benjamin was lucky to be able to start lessons with school in preschool, and has gotten to go with school every year since. Noah hasn't had that opportunity because of the way they have split up the classes (only the classes with the first grade class get to go). So we signed him up for a series of lessons to get him started.

He was the youngest in the group, but he is fearless and determined.

He is also convinced that after his 15 lessons, he is ready to join Benjamin on the swim team! Nevermind that Benjamin had 3 years through school plus 30 lessons before he got to join!

Monday, May 20, 2013

My new office!

So, working from home is wonderful, and I love my job, and all of the advantages of working from home. I'm available to pick up the kids from school, don't have to pay for daycare or school lunch, and can make my hours as flexible as I like.

However, trying to get work done when the kids are home, during school vacations or days off (like today, Pentecost Monday), is next to impossible. Even when Frédéric is off work and home with them, the noise permeates my office and I always end up coming out to break up fights.

I've explained to Frédéric that when he goes to work, he is unavailable to us for about 10 hours a day, and that I don't have that luxury since I can't "go" to work. So we have found a solution... my independent office!

We found it online - it's a 1970s or earlier camper trailer that's been completely redone. The guy sold it because he was redoing a larger one for his own family. The price couldn't be beat, so we jumped on it and Frédéric and his friend went down to Angers - 4 hours away! - to pick it up for me today.

Getting it under the carport was something of a challenge since with the "trash can port" in front of the carport, the trailer wouldn't fit from the front. They had to push it all the way around the yard to bring it in from the back.

But they made it! In theory, this is its temporary spot; eventually it will move to the back yard, but we can't move it there now without destroying the vegetable garden. I wouldn't mind leaving it here, except that I don't know where we would put the firewood... still thinking about this.

My new work table! The whole thing has been rewired, so I can plug my computer in with no problems, and there are lights inside, too.

As an added bonus, it sleeps four people! Well, two have to be pretty small, to fit in the bunk beds, but still.

It is exactly what we were looking for, and I am looking forward to "going to work" as soon as Frédéric finds the proper extension cord to bring the electricity to it for me.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Gifts from Japan

I won a contest on a blog about raising bilingual children (, and the boys got a surprise package from a bilingual family in Japan. They were very excited to get mail!

The package included all kinds of fun things, like origami paper and instructions, bookmarks with pictures of Japanese landmarks, candy, a fan, stickers, little animals, a Japanese coin and toy money, and a picture the boy from that family drew for them, and some origami that the girl made for them.

We looked up Japan on the map.

And Benjamin and I got busy trying our hand at origami, and this is what we've managed so far... 2 elephants, a giraffe, a deer, a rat, a bear, and a boar.

If anyone reading this is raising bilingual children, I highly recommend the Bilingual Monkeys site for ideas and encouragement.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Happy Birthday to Frédéric!

Frédéric had a big birthday this year, and we temporarily took leave of our senses and invited a few people over... like about 22... (well, 22 including us). Yikes!

He was very, very spoiled this year, with a soda machine and a stand mixer.

And Jordan, I did TOO make him a cake! Yellow cake with chocolate sour cream frosting, so there. And airplane candle holders, of course!

Monday, May 13, 2013

What do you do when the edger runs out of cord?

This is an easy question. That's why you have kids! And scissors!

Maybe we don't even need to go buy more cord for the edger!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

French Countryside

The other unfortunate part of taking Benjamin to his gymnastics competition by myself, besides Frédéric missing out on seeing him, was that I couldn't take pictures of the scenery as we drove there. I warned Benjamin that we'd be stopping to take pictures on the way home, and we did.

A village church. Brick construction is typical of the northern areas of France.

This monument is to the Battle of St Quentin, in the war between France and Spain in 1577.

Lots of rapeseed in our area this time of year, I love the bright yellow fields. They make up for our gray skies.

We found a WWI cemetery on our way back. French, North African, and German soldiers were all buried there.

This is a lieu-dit, which is even smaller than a village. According to Wikipedia, a lieu-dit is not necessarily inhabited at all, though most I've seen have been.

A pretty village church.

With a pretty town hall just across the way.

More rapeseed fields.

Most of the roads to and from the gymnastics competition looked like this. It still amazes me that anyone could want to live in Paris when there are so many more beautiful areas to live in. Like ours!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Gymnastics Competition

Benjamin had a gymnastics competition with several other clubs today. They weren't competing against each other, though, each boy had to try to validate his color level based on the exercises they were asked to do at each station. Benjamin got his yellow level, and was rewarded with a certificate and wristbands with a yellow marking on them.

We don't get to see Benjamin do gymnastics very often since practice is closed to parents, so we always enjoy seeing how he is doing. Unfortunately, Frédéric had to work, so only I got to go this time. Not to worry, I took pictures and video of the whole thing. They didn't mind parents moving around inside the competition area, which made it easier.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Aquarium

The boys were supposed to have a field trip with school to Paris, but we really weren't comfortable with them going to Paris without one of us along, and all the chaperone spots were already taken. So instead, we took our own field trip to the aquarium.

The entrance fee was pretty exorbitant for the size of the aquarium, but at least it wasn't too crowded, despite Parisian schools being on spring break.

This "sea dragon" was the craziest thing we saw.

The boys enjoyed the aquarium, but I think their favorite part was a toss-up between the playground near the exit and McDonald's for lunch.