Friday, July 31, 2009

July 31, 2009: Swimmers Ear

Today was an interesting day. It started with dropping off the girls at their last day of First Baby's School. They had on their best dresses and were very excited!

After the drop off, I then went to a friends house for coffee. She is my French friend that I run with during the school year. During the summer it has been difficult to keep running together as she vacations with her family here and there and we have been lucky to have lots of visitors. So we were still unable to find a time to run together but managed to have coffee today before I leave for our Colorado trip on Monday and she leaves, again, for another 3 week vacation. She has a lovely patio and 4 lovely children. Each of them came out, calmly and occasionally, and always came up and said a formal hello and gave me kisses. I thought how completely opposite these children were compared to my own at this present time. And our children are around the same ages. I guess it gives me something to aim for, right? I brought some homemade chocolate chip cookies with me and those seemed to go over well with her kids. Shew! After a few hours of visiting I started for home to straighten up the house and get to the store.

Later in the afternoon I had a hair appointment. I was way past due for some highlights and a cut. Knowing no other place to go, I went back to the only salon I have ever been to in Caen. My first experience went well although I had a really hard time explaining my requirements and I ended up looking like a Kellie Pickler wanna-be. But all in all, my hair looked OK, no harm done.

So today, I was hoping for the same result. The biggest problem I encounter so far at this salon is that no one speaks English - at least not to me. And I haven't ever really taken the time to brush up on my hair-cutting terminology seeing as how I only have to use it once every 6 months. The woman cutting and coloring my hair today was trying so hard to ask me how I wanted my hair colored. What I really wanted was highlights - the only thing I have ever gotten and the same that I got last time. But she kept asking me, in french, if I wanted my whole head of hair colored or just bits and pieces. She was using gestures to accompany her questions which I did not understand. So I made a choice based on the gesture that seemed to fit closest to "highlights". Or so I thought.

She proceeded to talk in quiet whispers with another lady at the color counter for about 15 minutes, pointing to various color tubes and glancing back at me occasionally. I felt like she was getting her first tutorial on how to color hair. I prayed for any decent color at this point. When she finally came back to begin the color treatment, I decided to just go with the flow. Hair grows out, right? Well, it turned out that I had told her to only color my roots. Instead of giving my hair partial highlights, she was just putting color on about 1 inch of my hair in some places here and there. This is probably a normal thing but something I have never had done and not what I expected and certainly didn't seem worth the money I was spending. But unequipped with any clue on how to say what I actually wanted, I had to sit and deal. I continued to tell her how great it was looking (because I know how to say that in french).

When the color was done and after sitting for my required time, a new woman took me to wash my hair. I have to say that I have never experienced quite a washing. Most hair washes that I have received have been pretty uneventful. Maybe once in a while some suds will get moving down your forehead or a sud will travel to your ear tip. But never in my life have a had a full on ear wash at the hair salon. I was sitting there and was astounded by the level of sud-age in my ears. This woman was going to town on washing my hair - I probably had 3 inches of suds surrounding my skull. And the suds were just piling up in my ears. So then she begins to rinse my head and again, waterfall in my ears. I shut my eyes and pretended I was scuba diving because all I heard was water gushing. Who knew you could get swimmers ear at the hair salon? I didn't say anything to the woman during any of this because I honestly didn't know what to say. How could she be such a horrible hair washer? Isn't that like one of the first things you perfect at a salon before moving onto cutting or coloring? Then I started to wonder if my ears were filthy and she was trying to discreetly wash my ears for me. Because why else would she be piling suds and water into my ears? She washed my hair three times and then conditioned it and each time was a dive in the water. Crazy. Totally crazy!

The good news is that when I finally got back to my chair and the colorist started to blow dry and style my hair, absolutely nothing had occurred. No color change, my roots still were dark. And she cut off so little of my hair that she didn't even charge me for the cut. So in summary, I went to the hair salon today and came home with swimmers ear and not much more.

The girls had a great last day at school. But all they could talk about was how excited they were to go to Colorado. In fact, they didn't want to wait any longer. They wanted to leave right away, today. I tried to explain the whole airfare booking thing, the late fees for changes, why this was just not possible. But that didn't really mean anything to them. When we got back home, we played a game where I began to draw a picture of something beloved from Crested Butte or the surrounding area and the girls had to guess what it was. That was fun and made us all even a bit more excited about our trip home next week.

My oldest sister Kris is officially coming to visit in September so that is very exciting. Two whole weeks she will get with her god-children Grace and Mia. That is more time than she has ever spent with them or Ella or even me for that matter! Being 10 years older than me, we never had the opportunity to be close until we were both adults. I can't wait for her visit!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

July 30, 2009: A Touching Story about Why

It's very possible that I may have just fooled you into thinking this would be a sappy story full of love and heartache. And truthfully, my words are backed with love and my heart does ache - but not in the traditional sense when you hear a really great love story or a really cute story about kids...

No, alas, this is the story of my children - the ones who can't stop touching things and when they are told not to touch things, they ask Why. And then touch it anyway!

The summer time has brought about new challenges for us living here in France. First and foremost, the girls are home more than during the school year and I am home ALL the time since I am not working. Which means I must figure out more things to entertain them, occupy them, distract them, keep them out of trouble. Now fortunately, I have had my parents and Andrew's parents here for a lot of the time and that forced me to plan outings and automatically that occupied the girls. But now the visitors are gone and my well of creativity is running low. And the twins in particular are raising their level of "unawareness" of me and what I say throughout the day.

So call me crazy, but when I ask the girls to NOT run into the street without looking because they may be hit by a car, shouldn't that produce a new result which is - look before running into the street? Or when I ask them NOT to touch the hot pan on the stove because they will get burnt, shouldn't that produce a new result which is - not touching the pan? Or my favorite is, if I ask them not to touch anything at a nearby store when we go in (that also has DO NOT TOUCH signs in English posted throughout the store which I am sure are specifically designed for my children) and they touch all the foods, go behind the counter and try to play with their MONEY and poke holes in their quiche lorraines, I really do expect them to not touch. But it seems they are incapable. And if disobeying were not bad enough, the following question of, "Why?", drives me even more nuts!

Is it their age? Maybe. I hope. Ella is doing quite well with listening whereas Grace and Mia are not. And maybe just one 4 year old would be tolerable and understandable to a parent, but two 4 year olds ignoring you is sometimes unbearable! Twins know what pushes your buttons and they prod their sibling(s) to do the very thing that will push your button. Just to see what will happen. And then you have Mia, who doesn't need prodding. She will just do exactly the opposite of what she knows she is supposed to do to see what will happen. And generally, these issues focus around touching things she shouldn't touch or generally disobeying me. And quickly after being told not to touch, the question of, "Why" quickly follows.

I now ashamedly admit that I understand why my parents answered with, "because I said so" to my, "Why" questions growing up. You get tired of explaining yourself and the reasons of Why and it is easier to just say, "because I said so!" And after a certain point, you feel like your voice speaking should be reason enough, yet children will question you about every single thing and when you answer, only about 2% will resonate with their thought processing - and they will ignore you.

So, here I am. A mother in France, just like all of you other mothers, fathers, grandmothers or grandfathers around the world who know/knew all too well this predicament, who have/had touch-less and why-less aspirations. But failing miserably at getting desired results.

For me and us moving to France, it has been hard enough getting used to not working and instead doing load after load of laundry, load after load of dishes, day after day of grocery shopping, room after room of cleaning, meal after meal of making, etc... But to then have my children disregard what I say and choose when to listen, well that has by far been the hardest part of this whole adjustment.

Tonight - I think this blog is about all of you who read. I want to hear back from you. I'd like to hear how you conquered similar situations. How you got your kids to stop being so "touchy". How you got your kids to listen on the first request. How you got your kids to stop asking "why?" How you moved from Grace and Mia to Ella. Lay it on me!

Tomorrow is the girls last day of school before we head home next week to Colorado. We are all very excited! And the best part is that I will have Andrew with me the whole time so the girls can spend some of their, "No" time and ,"Why" time with him!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

July 26, 2009: Safety in Slumbers

(pictured above: Grace holding her caterpillar)
(pictured above: birds from the observatory windows)
(pictured above: look closely - frogs!)
(pictured above: walking the trails)
(pictured above: many of the snails we saw on the hike)

(pictured above: the cows)
(pictured above: the girls looking at the flat-bottom boat)

Today I tried to find something new and interesting to do with the family. We have this great book that Suzie and Peter have donated to our tiny library collection. It is about Normandy and I often refer to this book when in need of inspiration. I began my search with some two criteria: under 1 hour driving to get to the destination and nothing through windy roads in small hilly towns. This criteria has been derived from months of trial and error while going on adventures with the girls. Not abiding by this criteria will result in the following: 1) whining 2) vomiting 3) whining 4) dry heaving. Now, Andrew and I are ready and able to deal with all four outcomes. But I think we have learned that dealing with those outcomes are only worth the effort when traveling out of town for a few days - not just 2-3 hours.

So taking the above two criteria into account, I stumbled upon the commune of Saint-Côme-du-Mont. Here you can find a nature preserve with lots of walking trails with a focus on bird watching and other creatures you might see in this natural habitat. I had also read that you could take a trip on a flat-bottom boat through a marsh and see all of the creatures in the marsh below and that sounded exciting to all of us. So after 40 minutes of nice, flat highway driving and a vomit-free zone we arrived at the nature preserve.

First thing we did upon arrival was have a picnic, of course. Today's gourmet eats consisted of baguette with peanut butter and jelly, cucumber slices with hummus, and fresh cherries. Dessert was a heavy dose of bug spray, much to the girls dismay! By the picnic areas was the flat-bottom boat that we had read about. The fine print revealed that this boat was not departing for 3 more hours and the actual ride took 3 hours. Andrew and I knew right away the flat-bottom boat was sailing without us...for obvious reasons.

After the picnic we went to the visitor center for a quick preview of the walking trails available. We choose the shortest trail of 1 km which took you to a large bird observatory. The hike itself was fine. But the twins were a bit distracted...meaning they were unable to follow rules, instructions and walking so slowly they were almost going backwards. It might have taken the five of us 1 hour to walk 1 km. Which would be fine if there were interesting things to look at along the way. But there wasn't! They were just wandering off the path, touching every plant and object they could get their hands on. They were sneaking into little wooded areas that wild boars probably inhabited or were decorated with poisonous mushrooms. They were just dilly-dallying to the nth degree. And as I stated before - this was a pretty uneventful hike. We did see some frogs and some cows and some birds that were very far away - but these sights were far and few between.

We arrived to the observatory and watched some birds in the distance but the majority of our time was spent frog-hunting. They were just so darn cute and hanging out in the lilly pads that we couldn't resist ourselves. Mia and Grace were continuing to be their disobedient selves.

About an hour later we arrived back at the visitors center where we saw a short film and an exhibit on how houses were/are built around the world as well as in Normandy, out of earth's materials, such as clay. That didn't captivate for too long so we went just down the road where we had seen a little restaurant. Andrew and I split some french fries and the girls had chocolate crepes. But again, listening skills not so apparent from the twins during snack time.

After snack time, we started back to the car. On the way, Grace and Mia spotted a caterpillar so we had to stop and cuddle with this 'pillar for a while. Then we started for home. I tell ya, it wasn't 5 minutes into the drive before I fell asleep. And I'll bet that Andrew wanted to sleep the whole drive home. We were exhausted! I am not sure what is more tiring: hiking uphill for 2 hours straight or twins that won't listen for two hours straight. For some reason, today it was the twins not listening. It just wears on your energy.

When we arrived home, we willingly let the girls watch a few TV shows while Andrew and I took about a 1 hour nap. I know it sounds lame, but we were just worn out! The girls were happy as clams, had no clue what tired meant.

I guess overall today, we had a nice time. Maybe if the surroundings had captivated Grace and Mia more they would 't have been so ill-behaved. Personally, I could have stayed out and hiked another 5 or 6 km had the chance arisen as I really wanted to get some close shots of the unique birds in the marsh. But Grace and Mia were not having it. Whether it's their age or their attention span or what they had for breakfast, you just can't guess what you are gonna get from a pair of 4 year olds on any given day. So all I can say is, on the days when you get more than you bargained for, take safety in slumbers. A nice slumber can reset your energy levels and get you through the next few hours before your children take their nightly slumbers. And the next day is just around the corner...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

July 25, 2009: Life's a Beach

I don't mean to sound like cheesy bumper sticker, but life really is a beach! Sometimes the water is wavy. Sometimes the water is still. Sometimes there are treasures to be found on the beach. Sometimes there is just the same ole' sand. Sometimes the wind is blowing so hard you don't know if you want to stay at the beach. Sometimes the air is still and calm like a gentle hug. Sometimes you have people sitting next to you that are rude and loud and ruin a perfectly nice day at the beach. Sometimes you meet the person next to you and you become life long friends with a person when you least expected it. Sometimes the clouds come and cover up the sun you were so badly craving. Sometimes, the sun bursts through the clouds and tell them to run along, enough of you for now. Sometimes the rain falls and gets your towel all well and you are freezing. Sometimes, the rain cools you off on a really hot day bringing relief. Sometimes there is a long line of traffic to get into the beach and the waiting is just too much! But sometimes, you wake up early on a beautiful day, you arrive first when the water is calm, the beach is quiet and you just know you have a wonderful day ahead of you.

We all went to the beach today. It was just perfect! Sometimes you go to the beach and it doesn't go quite as well as you would hope. Sometimes it does!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

July 22, 2009: So Far Yet So Close

Tonight after Andrew got home from work, I went running. It had been about a week or so since my last run and I was just craving to go, go, go. While I was running, I got a cramp in my calf - which is not typical for me at all. And I immediately thought to myself that my mom was probably experiencing that same calf cramp at the very same moment back in Indiana. Why would I think that? Ironically, this happens between my mom and I. One time a few months ago when I was having a bad day I ended up breaking into tears for no good reason right in front of the girls. I later talked to my mom and she was telling me basically the same story happening to her that day, and she didn't even know yet that it had happened to me! The examples are numerous - a back ache, a cut on the finger, an eye twitch that won't go away. It's like we have this connection that transcends distance! So despite the fact that my parents are now back in Indiana after a wonderful 3 week visit with us here in France, I still feel comforted like they are here with me - albeit as a calf cramp - but you can't be choosy! To add further to this mystical story, Andrew and his aunt have said they also share a similar connection. But theirs is more related to having full conversations without ever actually speaking to each other. Maybe one of them could comment further on this when they read the blog?

It's weird to have the house so quiet now. For the past 5 weeks we have had family staying with us and I got used to the activity, the extra help and the non-stop action. Today was my first whole day home with the girls ever since school has gotten out and without any grandparents. I felt a little rusty! Aside from a long walk to the fruit and vegetable stand and the meat stand, we didn't do much other than play at home. That was fine with me and the girls - I think a day of decompression was in order. Tomorrow the girls and I will also be home all day. I am thinking a trip to the post office to mail some letters the girls have written (or drawn) is in order, followed by a small picnic in the park and maybe a ride on the carousel. A rainy day is forecasted so we'll just have to roll with it.

Now I thought I might take a moment to summarize some of the adventures with my parents that I haven't previously talked about. I don't plan to go into great detail, but rather just give an idea of how we managed to occupy every single second of our time!

First - a few overlying themes of the trip:
1. My dad has a new love and it's name is meringue.
2. Despite our best arguments, Andrew and I were unable to convince my dad to like Barack Obama and dislike Sarah Palin.
3. We played a lot of euchre and in the end I think it all came out even.
4. My mother repaired a ripped Care Bear which made her a saint in Ella's eyes.
5. My parents ate foie gras - on more than one occasion - and I like to think they enjoyed it!
6. My dad lost 6 pounds while here in France - we walked A LOT!
7. After many trips through the circles here in Caen, my dad now plans to write a letter to the Valparaiso, IN newspaper proclaiming the greatness of round-a-bouts.
8. It isn't just me, my parents agree the fruits and veggies here really are a million times tastier than anything you have ever had prior.

OK, now to the summary of our adventures:

July 10 - On this day my parents and I had lunch at an English Tea and Brunch restaurant called Dolly's. We had a nice lunch. My parents had hamburgers that were about 5 inches in height. The rest of the day was spent doing grocery shopping, house stuff and napping.

July 11 - All of us (sans Andrew) met up with our friends Alain and Carih and their daughter Amelia and newborn Maddie at the park for a picnic. Andrew returned home later that evening after 3 days out of town for work. He managed to fit a trip to Amsterdam into his work trip so don't feel too badly for him...

July 12 - Ella and I took my parents to see Mont-St-Michel. My parents were truly amazed. We walked the perimeter this time, on the sand while the tide was out. Ella found some great rocks and treasures to bring home. My parents were very tired from the tons of steps and we never even made it to the tippy top!

(pictured above: Ella and Grandpa on the surrounding sands of Mont St Michel)

July 13 - We hung out this day - no excursions. Just plain ole home time!

July 14 - Bastille Day in France! Andrew had the day off from work. The group split up. Andrew, my dad and Ella went to Cherborg to see the monster submarine. My mom and I and the twins had a picnic at Willy's Castle and then had a playdate with a friend of thier's from school.

( pictured above: Grandpa and Ella at Cherborg)
(pictured above: Mia and Michel on the play date)

July 15 - Andrew and I had lunch this day at a nearby restaurant. My parents choose to do as the French commonly do, which is to grab a baguette sandwich and walk with it. Later that day, my parents and I visited a store that I had been thinking about visiting. It specializes in frozen food and boy did they have a TASTY selection!

July 16 - Beach day. We went to Hermanville-sur-mer having heard from a friend of mine that it was the best beach in the area. And we all agreed that it was, in fact, the best! It was large, not busy, the weather was great, tons of shells and rocks, pretty scenery. We loved it!

(pictured above: Grandma and Grace)
(pictured above: Ella, Grace and Mia playing in the sand)

July 17 - Fulfilling my dad's ultimate search for the best cafeteria (he loves MCL Cafeteria in Lafayette, IN) and his desire to see the public transportation here in Caen, we took the Twisto (tram) up to the mall and had lunch at the Casino Cafeteria with Andrew.

July 18 - Fairy Castle day! We let the girls dress up in fairy costumes and then we visited a castle where we looked for fairy's all day long. We also had a picnic and took at tour of the chateau - St. Germain de Livet. That evening, we got a babysitter and went to a nearby casino at Luc-sur-Mer. We had a nice dinner at the casino and have no major wins to report.

(pictured above: The girls entering the fairy castle grounds)

July 19 - On this day our friends Alain and Carih hosted my family for the most wonderful lunch. It was very French - just perfect for my parents to experience. We started with delicious foie gras, followed with confit de canard and green beans, then with local cheeses and ended with homemade ice cream and and watermelon.

July 20 - After dropping off the girls at First Babys School, my parents and I went to the train station for a 10am train to Paris. We dropped our bags off at our hotel at the airport and then went straight back into Paris for the day. They hadn't yet seen the Luxembourg Gardens so I took them there. We walked around all day, watched the people, looked at the statues and even paused for a little nap in the grass with the rest of the Parisians. We finished the night with a dinner at an Italian restaurant with some fine spaghetti.

(pictured above: In the orange hat, my dad looks on at a game of Petanque)
(pictured above: my parents having lunch in Luxembourg Gardens)

July 21 - After a 7am wake up call, I took my parents to check in for their flight. Around 9:30am we parted ways! I had a long desired Starbucks coffee and then started back home on the trains.

I talked to my parents this evening and they say they arrived home safely yesterday and they are feeling just great. They got a good nights sleep and were eating cherries that didn't taste nearly as good what they had in France : )

Sunday, July 19, 2009

July 19, 2009: Where to Begin?

Goodness. Time sure does fly by when you are having fun! My last blog post was about July 9 when we took a trip to a nearby zoo. Since then, our days have continued to be filled! We've been to beaches galore, castles galore, churches galore, abbeys galore and then even more. We've hit a casino, taken the Twisto, attended playdates, had many a picnic, and gone shopping. We've eaten tons of crepes and galettes, bought tons of fresh veggies and fruits, had lots of laughs, and late nights filled with euchre and farkle. We've driven miles and miles across Normandy, done many arts and crafts, gone fossil hunting, and had many skype conversations with family. And now tomorrow, I will be taking my parents to Paris, where we will spend the day and night, before they head back to Indiana on Tuesday.

It's been a great visit. I know this because as I sit here and type this blog, I am also making a movie/slideshow for my parents to take home that contains almost 1,000 photographs that we have captured during our last 3 weeks together. And each photo makes me smile!

The past few weeks I have been a very lame blogger! My only reason for that is because, as you know, I am a night owl. A night owl on their own can blog like crazy. A night owl not on their own but with two other night owls (my parents) gets no blog done. Rather, they have busy days and then manage to play lots of cards and dice til the wee hours! And then the blog becomes the next day's task, then the next days task, etc...So, don't worry, my blog will continue! But I think you might need to wait until after my parents have left French soil to get anything solid and meaningful out of me.

Look for posts soon and I promise to tell you about some more adventures that I took with my parents and share some great pictures. And now, I am happy to say that this euchre-playin, foie-gras eatin, clothes-foldin, toy-picker-upper is heading to bed!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

July 9, 2009: Lost In Translation

Thursday, July 9 was a day off for the girls. Having spent all day on Tuesday indoors due to rain, I had made a pact with myself that we would leave the house rain or shine this day. So I looked up a zoo that was not too far from Caen, just 30 km, and after a few episodes of Hello Kitty from Apple TV, we got the girls ready and left the house. With a cooler full of picnic food, a backpack full of the road trip essentials, and the DVD player, off we went to the car. But this is only where the adventure begins...

Earlier that morning, much earlier actually (5 am), Andrew had left to drive to Paris and then catch a train to somewhere else, etc... for a business trip. It wasn't until I tried to find the GPS to program our zoo destination that I discovered the GPS was actually gone. Now I confess that I can get my way around Caen pretty well without a GPS, but if you take me out of Caen you take away my comfort of how to get anywhere and GPS is essential. And maybe for a normal, directionally unchallenged person unlike myself you could use a printed off Mapquest directions to find your way, but I tried that and it didn't work. This doesn't work mostly because the road names around Caen are hard to see and they twist and turn so often that you just can't read and drive at the same time. I know, because I tried. After 10 minutes of driving and being completely lost, I had to find a different solution. So I did what any other woman would do. I called Andrew to find out (complain) why he took my lifeline while everyone was sitting impatiently in the car to get this party started.

It turns out he took the GPS because the company car, which he was driving, had a GPS that did not have The Netherlands (which was one of his stops on his business trip) and ours did. So he informed me that our car DID in fact have a GPS in it, just not our own. Shew, I thought. So I let him go, consoled with the thought of a GPS.

I found the other GPS and already had visions of monkeys and penguins in my head. But those zoo animals vanished quickly when I realized that this GPS was only going to communicate to me in French. It didn't look like my GPS, it didn't sound like my GPS and it was not cooperating with finding my destination. So I did the only thing I could do. I called Andrew and asked (complained) how you got the darn thing to speak English. He confessed that he had never used it before and had no idea - and please stop bothering him as he was sitting in man's worst traffic jam, missed his train, and needed to make his client meeting. Reluctantly, I let him go. And the peanut gallery was now saying to forget this whole thing, lets just go to a local park and eat lunch as they were already getting hungry for lunch and feigning thirst. But that meant giving up and I was NOT giving up.

I am proud to say that I finally got that French GPS programmed and followed her directions quite nicely all they way to Zoo Jurques. Now you might be wondering why I didn't think I could follow a person speaking French on the GPS - after all I do speak broken French myself on occasion. The only reason I thought I couldn't was because sometimes I can't even follow the English GPS. And often, when speaking French with others, I have to ask them to repeat themselves 2 or 3 times to fully understand what is being said. So why would I understand a French GPS that does not understand when I need it to repeat, more slowly, the next set of directions? I can't believe it, but I actually DID understand! No problems following her to and from the zoo and back home. A proud moment for me and a point in my life when I knew I had grown. Back in Colorado, prior to moving, I had changed the settings on the GPS in our car to speak in French just for the practice. And I had no idea what the GPS was saying and was able to cheat because I knew my way around. But this day, I did understand and it was awesome!

(our picnic at the zoo)

A short drive later we got to the zoo and at once had our picnic. After all - it was past lunch now! Next, we paid and entered the zoo. Now unfortunately the first thing you see when you enter is a huge play area full of blown up bouncy houses and a big playground. So of course that is what the girls wanted to do. But we had just paid good money to see this zoo, so the adults wanted to see the zoo first and then play at the end. Kids and adults were not in agreement. We spent the next hour touring the zoo while the twins kept asking when we would be at the park again and having fits every few minutes that all they wanted was the park and didn't want to see any animals. Well, me made it through and the girls were finally in heaven at the park. We let them play there for about an hour and then decided to head for home as the rain was looming in the sky.

(these were really loud animals!!!)

(the girls playing at the zoo's playground)

(a brief moment of Grace and Mia walking in harmony)

(funny penguins that we named Grace, Mia and Ella)

July 8, 2009: A Buffet of D-Day

(pictured above: My dad at Courseulles-sur-Mer beach (Juno Beach))

Wednesday, July 8 started by dropping off the girls at school. I came right home to pick up my parents and off we headed to see some of the D-Day beaches.

First stop was Juno Beach at Courseulles-sur-Mer. This is where the Canadian Museum is located that describes the efforts made by Canadians during World War II. Upon arrival, we went down to the beach. It was a beautiful sunny day, kind of chilly, with some wind. My dad was very pleased to see some guys fishing. He walked right on down to check out the poles and the bait being used and the other fishing gear. It turned out to be the same gear he uses in Corpus Christie, Texas on the Gulf Coast. He couldn't believe that something he saw in France was just the same as back at home - when most of what he has seen so far seems so completely different from home. We went over the the fishermen and my dad asked me to tell the guy that the poles and lures were the same as back in the United States. We saw the guy's son catch a sizable fish and re-bait the pole. From there, we took a short walk down the beach, visited an old bunker and then made a brief visit to the Museum. Then it was off to Arromanches!

(pictured above: My dad enjoying his rhubarb crepe in Arromanches)

At Arromanches, I was most excited to show my parents the remnants of the floating artificial harbor built during World War II for the D-Day landings. It was a clear day and easy to see the huge expanse of concrete just surrounding the water at Arromanches. We walked along the wall of the coastline and made a quick stop at the museum. My dad noticed that he had one of the same rifles on display in the museum! We walked up a hill and got a great view of the village and then noticed our hunger. In search of yes, crepes, we sat down to a yummy crepe lunch and just in time, too, because it started to rain just as we sat down under the outside awning!

The next and final stop of the day was Omaha Beach and the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer. By now the weather had pretty much cleared up with threats of rain subsiding. We visited the memorial first and read through a lot of the statistics and data about D-Day and the day's following up. From there we exited and got a view from the tippy top of the beach. My mom decided to take a break while my dad and I took the hike down to the beach. It was a LONG way down on the paths but an even LONGER way back up the path! But we made it having taken only 2 breaks.

(pictured below: my feet on Omaha beach)

July 7, 2009: Rain, Rain Go Away

On Tuesday, July 7, we followed up the previous days chateau escapades with a day at home. We woke up to rain, had lunch with rain, had an afternoon snack with rain, and then had dinner and bedtime with rain. It was one of those days that just when you think it might clear up, buckets of rain magically begin falling from the sky. So we had a day full of T.V., arts and crafts, dress-up and reading books. I took the opportunity to do a deep clean of the bathroom and other cleaning around the house while my parents supervised a lot of the activities. Though the day was nothing much to describe, we had a nice day at home, all of us hanging out together.

Coming up in the next post: D-Days

(pictured above: Mia sneaking into the cherry bowl and getting caught)

Friday, July 10, 2009

July 6, 2009: 8 Mile

Monday, July 6 started the new and consistent schedule for the girls at First Baby's School. 9 - 5 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I know it seems like a long time for the girls to be at "school" during the summer break. But trust me. There is no place else they rather be! They cook, garden, run around and play, do arts and crafts, sing songs, etc...So I with a very full heart of happiness for the girls, dropped them off at school and went on my merry way.

When I arrived home, I parked the car and immediately left for a run which I so desperately craved. I decided to run up to the botanic gardens since I had never been there. It took only about 20 minutes to get there and then run around the whole place so then I decided to run up some streets to see what I might find. And you'll never guess what I found. Running trails!!! Published running trails. There was a huge map at the entrance to a huge green, grassy field with walkways and the map showed 4 published running trails through the city of Caen. I couldn't believe it! I mean at first, I thought no one ran here in France. Then I finally found the horse track where many people run. The more I ran there and at differing times of the day, the more I saw more runners. So that was relieving. But then to see these running trails, I was beside myself with excitement! I just had to run one of them, I couldn't resist. The 4.5 km trail sounded nice so off I went. It was so nice, as the running course had posts throughout the city and the path took me through green spaces and fields and gardens that I didn't even know existed. I saw parts of Caen that I had no idea were so close to my home - running around just kind of connected the dots for me in a lot of ways. How cool, huh?

I arrived home a little later than I had expected, around 11:00 a.m., after having ran longer that anticipated. But once I showered, my parents and I immediately set off for a walking tour of Caen. I took them to the Hippodrome (the horse track where I often run) where we walked about half a lap.
(my mom and I standing in the Hippodrome)

From the Hippodrome I took my parents to see the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) and the Abbaye aux Hommes. The weather was cooler this day and a bit windy so the walking was much more enjoyable than it had been. We walked around the pretty landscape of the Hotel de Ville and then tried to enter the Abbaye but it was closed until 2:00 p.m. So that was a good time to grab some lunch. I took them to another crepe restuarant that I had wondered about where we ended up enjoying another tasty crepe and gallette lunch. We then returned back to the Abbaye where we saw the tomb of William the Conqueror and perused the beautiful building.
From here we started for home. I took them to a favorite store of mine and also showed them where some othe stores were that they might be interested in at some point. We arrived home around 4:15 p.m.

My mom has been using a pedometer and keeping track of how far she walks each day. She informed me at the end of this day that we had walked over 5 miles. Add that to the over 3 miles or so that I ran earlier in the day and that would explain my body's extreme exhaustion and sore feet. Eight miles logged and I can recall that we all slept VERY well that night.

Coming up in the next post: Not much - it was a rainy day that kept us at home!

July 5, 2009: Plateau at the Chateau

On Sunday, July 5, I decided to plan a family trip to a chateau that I had long been eying from afar. I had heard that there were fun times to be had by all age groups at this 13th century chateau. It's architecture dabbles in 4 different styles and the grounds and chapel's interior are surrounded by contemporary artists' works chosen by the chateau owners. It also offers games for visitors to play that supposedly were played by people centuries ago.

I think we arrived around 2:00 p.m. or so after a drive time of a mere 25 minutes. When we first drove up we immediately saw the tall gates and the very tall chateau. After following the signs to the chateau entrance, we then came upon a lovely gift shop, a terrace for having tea, coffee, ice cream or other treats, and then the big open area of games. Once we got the girls out of the gift shop and ensured that no goods had been slipped out of there, the girls were immediately playing the games. They were having so much fun that when our guided tour of the chateau and it's grounds were ready to begin just 5 minutes later, they were quite disappointed. Up until this point their behavior had been completely normal - which is to say manageable. Though we did get them to part ways with the games, they began to play loudly and roughly upon arrival at the castle where the guide was trying to explain (on his very first day on the job, mind you) the exterior architecture to a large group of people. The contemporary sculptures surrounding the chateau, though cool, were also a magnet for climbing. Grace and Mia were sliding and hiding on them, laughing and screaming with joy. Mia whipped out her typical Hannah Montana concert, singing on her new found stage at the top of her lungs. So within 5 minutes of the tour, Andrew had to make the call to stay outside with the twins while my parents, Ella, and I took the tour of the chateau's interior.

I like to think of 2:00 p.m. as a performance plateau for the twins. Any time after 2:00 p.m. you cannot be certain of the behavior that might be witnessed. So going on outings after that time is a certain gamble. And today, the twins hit their performance plateau at the chateau.

Once we parted ways with Andrew and the twins, Ella, my parents and I began the tour of the chateau's interior. The tour was in French but they did provide an English brochure to explain what he was saying as we entered each of the different rooms. I think we all enjoyed the tour. Ella seemed a little bored but I don't blame her. It was a lot of standing around looking at old things. She did seem very interested in an old pen and ink writing set and also by the very old bathroom set up. My parents don't speak French so it probably got a little boring for them also but all in all, you can never get bored seeing the interiors of these chateaux, their paintings and porcelain, and furniture.

After the tour we met up with Andrew back at the games and tea lounge. We all had some hot chocolate, played some games, and then started back to home. The ride home was pretty uneventful except for the torrential downpour that we got stuck in and the realization that the windshield wiper on the driver side didn't work. I was driving and decided to pull the CTA bus over and wait for the rain to subside enough to at least be able to see partial activity out the front window.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

July 4, 2009: Ask Grandpa

The girls are at the age where they have tons of questions about tons of things. Grace and Mia's questions are not so challenging yet - they are more just a practice in patience because they ask the same question over and over and over again. Sometimes they are actually very funny. For instance, the girls are very used to seeing me strip their beds and carry sheets and blankets into the kitchen to place in the washing machine. This is because from time to time someone wets their bed. So the other day when Gaga came upstairs from the guestroom carrying an armful of sheets and Mia asked if Gaga had wet her bed, that was funny. She just assumed that Gaga had wet her bed - why else would she be putting her sheets in the washing machine?

Ella, on the other hand, asks very difficult questions. Questions that maybe I once knew the answer to, but now have no clue. Questions like, "Where does the water in the faucet come from?" and "What happens when you get bit by a mosquito, why is it all itchy?" And when Ella has those questions, I say, "Ask Grandpa." I have always told her that Grandpa knows everything. He was a science teacher for 40 plus years and I told her that science teachers know everything about the world. So Grandpa is officially her hero because he is a genius. Whenever we Skype with Grandpa, she has about 4 questions saved up to ask him. And currently, since Grandpa is here visiting, she can fire those questions at him non-stop. Such was the case when we visited Honfleur last Saturday. The girls were very excited to show Grandma and Grandpa the butterfly zoo (Naturospace) and ask all kinds of questions. What is this flower? What is that butterfly? Why do they get all crispy in those packages?

After the Naturospace, we found a great park to walk around. It had wide-open fields of trees and flowers and it was along the water. We spent about 30 minutes running around there and then we all got the hunger pains. After driving to the local popular park, my mom and I went to find sandwiches while the Andrew, my dad and the girls when to play. When my mom and I returned, we found the girls trampsing around in a shallow pool soaking wet while Andrew and my dad looked on in total amusement. Never mind that we didn't have any towels, changes of clothes or bug spray for the highly populated, huh?

So, with 3,000 swollen mosquito bites between the 7 of us and many with wet undies, we set for home around 3:00 p.m. That night Andrew and I were given the opportunity to go out on a date which was totally awesome. It was great to catch up and just chill out for a few hours!

Next Blog: Watch for a visit to a local Chateau.

July 3, 2009: A Market Like No Other

Friday, July 3 started with a VERY early morning. For some reason, I had said the girls would arrive at First Baby's School (to be called FBS ongoing in the blog) at 8:00 a.m. which is just absolutely insane. They didn't even have to be at regular school until 8:30 a.m. So I made a mental note to ask the head of FBS if we might be able to change the drop-off time to 9:00 a.m. ongoing. I dropped the girls off at school and not single child was there yet. You should have seen my children just dart off and begin to terrorize the whole place. For a minute there I was worried. But the teachers looked at me with understanding - maybe the fact that I told them Grace and Mia were extra, extra, extra full of energy had sank in. Something had sank in because most people would be running in the opposite direction at the crazed attacks of Grace and Mia. I darted for the door as quickly as I could.

I was able to get a run and some core training in after dropping off the girls. Around 10:30 a.m after I had showered, my parents and I began our walk up to the Friday Market here in Caen. I don't plan to spend much time talking about the market, as the pictures speak for themselves. But I will tell you that I had told my parents they have never seen a market like this. Such fresh, tasty fruits and veggies and the abundance of selection is unheard of back in the United States. The fresh meats and cheeses and fish far exceed what you may know yourself. And I was happy that my parents quite agreed with me. Below are some photo's from Friday's Market:

After the market, we went home where Andrew met us for a nice, tasty spread of fresh fruits and veggies.