Monday, September 29, 2008

Fall in France

As I walked home from dropping off the younger boys at school today, I started picking up all the things that are growing around here. There is such a tremendous variety of plants here. Here is a sampling of seeds/fruits/nuts I found along the way. Cool.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Action photos

I've taken some decent photos lately, but haven't had time to upload them, or write about them. I'll try now...
These are J & A at the playground. J was really great that day, playing with his brothers and being helpful all around. When he's good, he's wonderful; when he's not, he's a tremendous brat.
He's also, as you can tell, learning to play the recorder (along with R). I've listened to "Hot Cross Buns" so many times my ears are bleeding. On the other hand, they are so excited to master this, it's fun to watch them interact and practice.
The other picture is of the pathway that starts just outside the older boys' school, and leads to a large park, which is really quite lovely. It's been nice to go there on days when I have an hour or less to use up. It's not worth the effort to walk home, and I don't want to be anywhere in particular. This is nice.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Eight Years ago, Today...

What I remember most from your birth is what a tremendous surprise it was to see testicles. We were expecting a girl, and you clearly were NOT one.

The other thing I remember from your birth was the shock of black hair you had. (People told me afterwards that babies with a lot of hair give their mommies heartburn - guess that's why).

We were so excited to add you to our family. J was excited too - though would later come to realize you were here permanently, and he would no longer be the center of our world. (I'm not sure he's forgiven you for that... on the other hand, since his position has been usurped three times, maybe he's settled down).

Anyway, that was a long time ago. Eight years, in fact. Today, you are a walking, talking (and talking, and talking), running, climbing, drawing, sculpting, soccer-playing, heely-riding, hugging, kissing, loving, curious, wonderful second-grader.

Happy Birthday, kid. Hope you had fun!

Friday, September 26, 2008


Just something for fun (which I may have actually posted before). Snacks for little kids, and fresh bread w/fresh cheese and mashed raspberries for me.


Hi everyone,

I keep thinking of all these great things to post about, but when it comes time to actually sit down at the computer, my mind goes blank.

It might have something to do with the fact that everything happens in September (after nothing happening in August). In the past week I have been or done the following:

1. 2nd grade tea @ school
2. 5th grade tea @ school
3. Open house @ school
4. Volunteered in the community room (guess where?!)
5. Got Cartes de Sejour (Residence Cards) for all four kids
6. Brunch with the COPWives (T's company)
7. Pilates (yay! something physical for me!)
8. Got R to his first art class
9. Arranged J's first soccer practice/clinic
10.Went to a luncheon in Paris! (wahoo! my first time in Paris alone - got to hear someone speak about how to look at art - way cool!)
11.Filled out a claim form to complain about someone not doing contracted work from June. (I forgot about it, then realized it was never done - and never communicated about).
12.Planning a birthday party for R.
13.Market and grocery shopping (meal planning, etc.)
14.All that other stuff.

Man, no wonder I'm exhausted at the end of the day!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fireworks in Bed

No, it's not what you think... get your mind out of the gutter!

This weekend has been the Fete de Garches - or the weekend long party celebrating the town we live in. All of the signs advertising the event had a big firework display on them, so we assumed we would get a show.

The kids were very excited.


We found out they wouldn't be until 10:00 p.m. at night. We told the kids "maybe" we'll watch them.

There was a party earlier in the evening for parents/families at the school the older kids are going to, so we figured we'd go from there to watch fireworks.


Around 9:00 at night the kids are losing it (falling asleep on the couch), and we still have to walk home.

So we pack them up, and walk up the hill toward home (carrying E, who fell asleep in my arms). We undress them, put them in their pajamas and dump them in bed. So much for fireworks.


A little after 11:00 at night, we heard these great big booms (that woke us from a dead sleep). We opened the shades and looked out.

Lo and behold... Fireworks! Directly outside our window. We could see them with our heads on the pillows. Which was good, because we were tired, and fell asleep again immediately afterwards.

The last thing I remember thinking was, thank god we didn't try to keep the kids awake for this. Sorry they missed it, but I really don't need my kids to be still awake at 11:30.

Friday, September 19, 2008

This is NOT it!

Finally I have the whole day with nothing scheduled. I wanted to do two things: 1) blog and 2) exercise. It's now time to go pick up boys and, guess how many of them I've done?

Arrgh. Apparently September around here is always crazybusyweird, and it's not actually just me. Maybe I will have time for myself NEXT month.

Gotta go.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Watching Ike from afar...

It's mid-morning here, and Hurricane Ike is pounding not one, but two of our former homes (Houston, Texas & Lake Charles, Louisiana). Watching it on CNN, I'm feeling a little worried for my friends, but at the same time relieved I don't have to deal with it, personally.

Take care, everyone. Let me know how you're doing.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A weekend in the UK

I spent most of my time in the hotel, but went out on a pub crawl on Sunday night. Had dinner in a pub in a building that's been around for 700 years. (That is SO cool to me).

I don't have any pictures of the pub (go to the website if you want to see it), but I did take photos of the hotel. I thought it was funny/interesting that I had to pass through ELEVEN doors to get from outside to my hotel room. They take fire very seriously, I guess.

Also, as long as I'm putting in photos, here are the berries I found on my walk. Yum!

Exploding Chestnuts and Other Adventures

It's fall around here, and we have discovered chestnuts. They come in pods similar to pecans, but instead of being smooth, they are prickly - spikes everywhere.

I think it was R who first discovered them, but then A & E noticed a huge pile of them on the way to school. Remembering that they're edible, I agreed we could collect them and try to cook them. (I figured if pecans were good, chestnuts should be too. Not.)

Thanks to Google, I found instructions for cooking (cut a cross in the top, and put them in a hot oven for 30 - 40 minutes). But I must have missed something along the way...

After about 25 minutes, we heard a loud noise from the kitchen. Went in, and heard another, definitely in the oven. Took them out of the oven, shook the pan a little, and one popped like popcorn up to the ceiling! Scared the hell out of me. (Kids thought it was hilarious though).

Apparently, that's NOT the way to cook them.

But, what the heck, they were cooked, and open... so we tried them.

YUCK! Incredibly bitter. A says "maybe we collect them, but don't eat them." Wise kid.

In other news, E is keeping us captive in the house via potty-training (or NOT), and A is alternately upset about having to carry a backpack, then devastated he no longer has one to carry. (Oh, the tantrums!)

Here, I'll show you.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

I'm IN!

After a number of failed attempts, I have finally done everything it takes to become a certified Jazzercise instructor. Although many people who know me think I've been working on this all year, the truth is, I started down this path seven years ago.

In 2000 (1999?), I was living in Lake Charles, Louisiana and had been going to Jazzercise classes where my friend was an instructor. She was constantly suggesting that students become teachers (mostly, I think so she could have a substitute so she could take breaks).

Even though I was in lousy shape, and even though I had NEVER had the thought of doing ANYTHING physical on a regular basis, a little voice in my head said "that would be fun..."

So I packed my bags and headed toward New Orleans for a "screening," to judge if I could execute the choreography well enough to learn to teach it.

I couldn't.

The district manager at that time told me, very kindly, to "go back home and get better at it." (I'm sure those weren't her exact words, but it's what I remember - she was so nice about it, even though I'd failed, I was still excited about the possibility).

Over the next year, I went back to New Orleans three more times, and each time was told, "just one more thing." Finally, I did pass the screening (in 2001), and was accepted into the program.

I did my best to prepare for the audition (in which you must demonstrate the ability to not only execute the choreography correctly, but also cue it from stage an lead a class). But somewhere along the way, my regular business took off, and suddenly I didn't even have time to practice. I withdrew from the program.

Fast forward to 2008. I've been Jazzercising on and off for almost 10 years. It is THE thing that keeps me moving; it's where I've made a ton of friends; it's where I found my hairdresser, my optometrist, three babysitters, and learned to tie my shoes properly.

I find out we are moving to a place where there is no Jazzercise. Which upset me more than anything else about this move. Being in class is so fun for me, and it's been such a tremendous source of community, it is the thing I knew I would miss the most in this overseas move.

This time I applied to the program so I wouldn't have to give it up.

Pardon this post for being so long... I've been wanting to tell this story for a long time - but I didn't know the ending till yesterday!

I started the process this time around in February. I practiced like crazy, put my whole heart into it, planned my life in France around it (bought support items in the USA, because I knew they would be exhorbitantly expensive in France), and went to the audition in April. And failed.

I spent the day crying and ranting. And then shopping (retail therapy, you know). There was NO WAY I was going to be able to do it now, because I had to prepare my family (and my MIL) to move overseas. There just wasn't any more time.

Even though that all was true, I did actually keep practicing and keep trying. I obtained permission to audition again in June, the same week as our pack out - we were going to stay in the hotel for an extra two days, my last chance to do it before we left the states.

It became clear though, that I did not have the time, energy or "bandwidth" to practice on top of all I was doing to prepare to move. Sadly, I dropped out of the program, returned all of the materials, and decided I'd have to find something else to do for exercise for the next few years.

But then something interesting happened when I was visiting Denver (my last stop before expatriating).

I went and visited a class I'd been a guest at before. The instructor remembered me. She commented on how well I danced, and asked about when/if I'd consider becoming an instructor myself.

As I was telling her the whole, sad story, I realized that trying to learn all this while in the middle of a move was incredibly crazy, I had learned it. And while learning to live in a new environment was stressful, if I kept exercising it would help me stay healthy and sane.

So, to make a long story, just a little bit longer... I re-applied, continued to practice amid hotel living, moving in, getting settled, receiving guests, potty-training, and getting the kids into school.

And got on a train to the United Kingdom (after a false start, forgetting my passport and having to go all the way back home from the train station in town).

And passed.

And now, the learning really begins. But, I'm IN.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Bonne Reentre!

Here in France the return to school is a HUGE deal (mostly I think because 2/3 of the inhabitants of Paris leave town for the month of August). Seriously, a huge percent of the shops have signs that say "Fermee en Aout. Ouvert 1 Sept." (Closed in August; open September 1). It is actually recognized as a holiday "Bonne Reentre."

My nice quiet street is now filled with the sounds of families and parties. There are about 6 times more cars parked on the street than there have been all summer, and the weekly market was so big on Saturday, I got confused and bought food for about seven dinners.

But all this is good. Because....

...tomorrow marks the first day since before we left Houston that ALL FOUR BOYS are gone from my care for OVER FIVE HOURS!!!!

Halleluah, Praised Be! Can I get an "Amen, Sister!"