Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas #4

Our fourth (and final!) Christmas this year was on Boxing Day - and we can call it that this year, because we celebrated with a British friend and her family. They came over for dinner, and spent the night. The next morning, another British friend and her family joined us for English breakfast (brunch, really). We had so much food, we didn't eat again all week! (Well - not really. But close!)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas #3

Our third Christmas this year was spent with Frédéric's brother's family. They invited us over for lunch on the 25th. We had a nice traditional Christmas meal (snails for Frédéric! foie gras and smoked salmon for the rest of us), and played some games afterwards.

The boys received an electric race track from their aunt and uncle. We had to reorganize the landing to find a spot for it, but we did it!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas #2

We had our second Christmas - is that like a Hobbit's second breakfast? - on December 23rd. Since it was just the four of us, seemed silly to have to wait for a certain day to open presents!

The boys were very happy with mountains of books, Legos, with a large dragon one for Benjamin, robots, and a guitar for Noah.

Benjamin also got a "grown-up" present - his own alarm clock, which he'll be expected to start using as school starts in January!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Happy Birthday!

Benjamin turned 10 this year! He requested a cheesecake and presents at home. I don't know if he was more excited about the Legos or the Wimpy Kids books.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Christmas #1

After we got our tree up, the boys made their gingerbread houses. Thank you, Target!

The village had its yearly Christmas party for the kids and elderly people. They showed a short cartoon, had a snack, and then Santa Claus showed up with the presents!

Friday, December 4, 2015

A rough return, and it's not just jet lag

Our difficult return began before we even left. We arrived at the Air France check-in counter in Houston, which was inundated with a large number of weight-lifters returning from some international competition. (I hope they calculated the passenger weight for our flight accordingly.)

Once we got up to the counter and presented our passports, the check-in agent ran off with one of them. And came back, telling us we couldn't get on the flight, because Benjamin's passport didn't have 90 days validity left on it. Well... duh. It didn't have 90 days left when we left France, either, but Air France didn't tell us then that it would be an issue coming back!

We told them that he was also French, and we had sufficient documentation to prove it for any person familiar with France's citizenship laws - my French ID card, Frédéric's French ID card, and Benjamin's passport showing place of birth as France. But that wasn't enough for them. They wanted us to go into downtown Houston and get a passport extension. But not that day, it was Sunday. So that would delay our flight until Monday or even Tuesday.

We insisted, and insisted, and insisted some more, and the Air France employee (who either was not French or picked up a heavy American accent from working in the US) finally called "Paris" and "Paris" told her Benjamin would not be turned away at the border, so they begrudgingly let us on the flight.

We got home around lunchtime, and our jet lag strategy for the boys began with sending them off to school in the afternoon, followed by swim team practice that evening.

Noah was ready to start the next holiday already - Thanksgiving's barely over, but at least it's December - so we put up the Christmas tree a couple of days later.

And the boys played with their new volcano science kits that Mrs Uccello bought for them for Christmas.

And then the next excitement... Frédéric left for work around 12:15, and I left shortly after that to go shopping and then have coffee with a friend. I came home to screaming smoke alarms and a smoky house.

I grabbed the phone and checked the chimney - smoke was coming out from between the mantel and the drywall. I called the fire department, who told me to open the windows, and said they'd send a truck. About 10 minutes later, they showed up.

They went in with their small sledgehammer, telling me they'd have to break up the wall to check things out. And they did... the culprit turned out to be metal nails holding the drywall to the mantel. They overheated, and set the mantel on fire.

So now we wait to hear from the insurance adjuster, and see how they will take care of this for us. We won't be hanging our stockings by the chimney with care this year, but we're thankful that it wasn't any worse than this. (And Benjamin is relieved that the presents made it through the ordeal unharmed.)

Sunday, November 29, 2015


As everyone who knows me knows, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. All of the fun of family and friends, none of the hassle of presents.

We started our week of celebration with a visit to my grandparents in Oklahoma.

Then it was on to camp, where we canoe on dry land and hike down to the pond in the rain.

Benjamin, Noah, and my mother-in-law all caught fish, despite the rain. No catfish this year, though, only bream and black bass.

Due to the non-stop rain, Noah had plenty of time to catch up on his schoolwork, and we all had plenty of time to eat and play games inside.

Benjamin has already realized the harsh reality of how short Thanksgiving camp is, and wasn't pleased to have to go to Houston to fly out the next day.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Fun, Games, and Education

We visited the St Louis Science Center one day, and my 8th grade science teacher joined us. We were happy to have our own knowledgeable guide! We learned about geology, weather, ecology, architecture, neurology, dinosaurs, and space.

We got to watch two live experiments, one about static electricity, and the other about "boiling hot and boiling cold."

The boys played "Mindball" - each player puts a sensor-band on his forehead, and the ball on the table rolls towards the most relaxed player.

To my surprise, Noah won!

They built a couple of Arches. And we still can't afford to send them to the moon yet.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Arch!

The boys got to go up in the Arch for the first time. We had tried a couple of other years, but each time it was either too foggy, or raining. It was chilly this time, but fair weather.

The Arch museum and grounds are still under construction, so we went over to the Old Courthouse afterwards to see some of the exhibits they've got set up over there in the meantime.

The Old Cathedral and the Arch both look great with the autumn leaves!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

We must be in America

Cotton: check.

Graceland: check.

Gun show: check.

Monday, November 16, 2015

First Days in the US

The night before we left for the US, we heard about the horrible events in Paris. I hopped online quickly the next morning to let everyone know we were ok and still planning to head out. Fortunately, our flight was not cancelled, and we were able to leave with only an hour and a half delay.

Frédéric's mom came with us this trip, to the kids' great delight! We started our trip off right with a visit to the farm. Our family there treated us to a delicious pre-Thanksgiving home-cooked meal, and s'mores around the fire pit afterwards.

The next day, thanks to a confused GPS, we didn't find family at church since we ended up at a different one... we only realized our mistake after opening the auditorium doors and realizing we didn't recognize anyone, but at that point there really wasn't anything else to do but go in and sit down, so we did! They were thrilled to have visitors, so I guess it all worked out!

When church service was over, we drove back over to the farm, and visited the cows and chickens before we had lunch with the rest of the family.

Then we headed over to the church building we had intended to be at that morning, to celebrate my grandma's 90th birthday.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Another qualified swimmer!

This kid passed his Ecole de Natation Française 2 and 3 tests!

He had to do various types of dives, a "synchronized swimming" routine, and a 100-meter medley. He and the other kids from his club all passed, so they are all qualified to compete now.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Quick Trip to the Mountains

We took a super-quick trip to the mountains to make sure everything was ok at the condo and that it was ready to go for ski season this winter.

The boys look nice here, but it's a Parental Mythology Moment. There's a reason it was a super-quick trip.

They've added a chapel to the resort! It's still under construction, so we didn't get to see the inside. It's in a weird location, but still a nice addition.

Friday, October 9, 2015

My Pastry Chefs

Both boys' schools made apple cakes at school this week. I went up to help out at Benjamin's school. The boys were disappointed that the PTA co-opted their cakes and crumbles to sell at a school carnival, so we made our own at home. The results were beautiful, and so tasty!