Thursday, June 25, 2009

June 25, 2009: Turning Words and Pictures into Reality

Yesterday was quite fun. Suzie, Peter and I took the girls to Giverny to see Claude Monet's house and gardens. The reason this trip was so great is because of a book that our neighbor gave the girls. The book is called Linnea in Monet's Garden. A few weeks before we moved our neighbors Sherri and Bill Crittendon had the girls over for a few hours. Sherri and Bill were so kind, giving me time to pack for France and get organized. While the girls were at their house, they did all kinds of arts and crafts and read books and played with tons of cool toys. But the most memorable part of that day was this book Sherri and Bill gave the girls about Monet. Ever since that day, the girls paw through the pages, just looking at the paintings, looking at the young girl Linnea, looking at the adventures she went on in France. Andrew and I would tell the girls that they, too, would one day get to visit Monet's house and gardens, just like Linnea.

The ride to Giverny from Caen took about 2 hours. Ella was quite content with her new DS - I don't think she made a peep the whole ride other than to say maybe 8 times that her DS was the greatest gift she had ever received. Grace and Mia on the other hand were not so content. They were car sick. Fortunately, after many a car trip here in France, I am VERY well prepared before I leave the house. I know exactly what is required for any possible distraction, road block or surprise. So I was well prepared pulling out my goods when Mia needed a barf bag in the car, a towel to wife off her face, a kleenex to blow her nose apres-barf, water to quench her thirst and a slice of bread to sooth a hungry tummy. All while I was driving the CTA bus. Grace went through the same routine. Poor Suzie's back must have been crying out for help, as she dove to the ground to pick up this and that and remaining agile for intercepting a puke. Thanks Suzie!!

When we finally arrived to Giverny around 11:00 a.m. we all sighed with relief. It was a beautiful day, sunny and kind of hot. We had packed a pic-nic and decided to eat it right away. Our parking space was right across from the entrance to the house and gardens so we really lucked out. Just after entry into the visitors center, the adventure began! First off, right inside the door, there was a copy of Claude Monet's painting Water Lily Pond. Ella had come prepared with a sketch book to draw things she saw and the Linnea book. So she took out the book and the very first page which she knew so well was the very painting that was right in front of her. All three of the girls were beside themselves with excitement. To turn this book they had known for months into a real place was a true event for all of us.

Next, we all headed out to see the gardens. They were very pretty, lots of poppies and foxgloves and roses. Cement paths wound through rows of flower beds and around ponds. The girls kept asking Suzie what the names of all the types of flowers were because they just know that "Gaga" knows about flowers and plants! Now, Grace had the Linnea book. She was stopping to look at pictures in the book and see if what she was looking at was something she had seen before. She was very serious about it all! Ella was busy taking pictures with the new camera she got for her birthday from Auntie M. And Mia was just busy taking off.

The ultimate moment came when we finally approached the ponds of water lilies and
the bridges over the pond. People were crowded all around just trying to get a good view of these lilies. I thought the pond was beautiful and I thought the lilies were beautiful but what I really like most is the painting of the pond and water lilies. The vision that Monet put on canvas leaves a lot to the imagination - what is outside the lines of the painting, what is just beyond the pond, are there people in the background, was there a dog sitting next to him as he painted or a glass of lemonade? Here, as I looked at the water lily pond, I was slightly disappointed to see people across from me, tainting my view of the bridge across the pond. This vision didn't match my imagination of this beautifully painted scene. My disappointment didn't last long, as a comment from Grace really made me and many others smile. I was trying to get her to move away from the edge of the bridge (so as not to fall in) and as I called her over to me, she said, "Mommy, I really like these water lilies. But why aren't they all smeary?" I guess she really had studied those paintings in the book...and thought the painting was the reality. Love it!

After the gardens, we left to see Claude Monet's house. Unfortunately, at this point, we lost Suzie. She decided to sit out the house tour and instead opted for a sit on a bench. She was not feeling well. So Peter and I took the girls through this house that was very unique and charming. It was a sizable two story pink house with gorgeous views to the ponds and gardens from almost all windows. The paint colors for the rooms (think yellow walls with blue trim) were bold yet completely fitting for this house. The kitchen was pretty much all blue and white patterned tiles, a big table, just what you need for a family of ten! I decided I could live at this house quite happily.

That concluded the Claude Monet field trip. We picked up Suzie from her bench, where we discovered she was still feeling awful, and headed back to Caen. Peter drove the two hours while Suzie took a nap, Ella played her DS, and I controlled the DVD player for Grace and Mia. Once we got home, Suzie was out for the count! Other than two times today when I saw her retrieve some water and ice, she didn't emerge until about 3:30 p.m. today. I feel badly, like anyone who visits us gets sick in one way or another. Nonsense, right?

So that was our Monet adventure. We all had a great time but the greatest pleasure of all was seeing the girls link a book they knew so well to a real place with a real story.


  1. THAT WAS TERRIFIC!!! Except for Suzie feeling sick...hope she's feeling better soon! XOXXOXOXOX

  2. So wonderful to know that it really is there! We've heard stories from and about Aunt Molly and her view of those gardens all our lives. You are very lucky to be ( or have been )neighbors to Bill and Sheri. Sheri was, and obviously still is, an inspiring teacher. I am Bill's sister, Debby. I really enjoyed reading your description.

  3. I'm Bill's sister, Laurie, and I just loved your description! I felt as though I were there! I studied art and art history for years and there is nothing like seeing the real subject. As a former art teacher myself there is no greater thrill than to have a child "see" it! Debby's right, Sheri is a gifted teacher and all children really gravitate to her! Thanks for sharing!