Sunday, September 27, 2009

I Miss the Haverkampfs!!!

Hi, I''m Kris, Katie's oldest sister. I just wanted to share some of the fun adventures I had with Katie and her family the second week of my visit with them. It's hard to believe that I've been home 2 weeks already!

Katie and I took day trips within the region while the girls were in school. I'm amazed at how much there is to see in Normandy, and all less than 2 hrs from their home.
Monday, Sept 7, Katie and I visited St. John's Church in Caen. This church was built prior to 1417. This chuch leans a little the left, which is very obvious when standing in the doorway. It has beautiful stain glass windows and an old pipe organ; a sight to see. We walked around Caen and then headed over to the school to pick up the girls. After we arrived at their apartment, the five of us colored and I listened to the girls sing to their favorite songs(including Katie) until dinner. That evening I took a walk around William the Conqueror's castle, which is just a minute or two from Katie's apartment.

On Tuesday, Sept 8, Katie and I met her friend at the jogging track. They had a nice run while I enjoyed a brisk walk. Later, Katie and I drove over to Bayeau to see the Bayeux Tapestry. This is an embroidered depiction of the Battle of Hastings in 1066; over 1000 years old! Before we saw the Tapestry, we toured the Bayeux Cathedral and had a nice lunch. Then it was a sprint back to Caen to pick the girls up from school. Katie is so good about giving her children fresh fruit and veggies for after-school snacks, but while Aunt Kris was there that didn't always happen. Here is a pic of Ella enjoying an ice cream treat after school that day.

The girls didn't have school on Wed., Sept 9, so Grace and I went to the grocery store and picked out goodies for our picnic lunch that day. We went to La Colline, a park that Katie has written about before. It was a little windy and chilly , but it was fun anyway. The flowers at the park were beautiful. After walking through different sections of this park full of different flower gardens, and having a nice lunch, we took the girls to the playground there. The girls had a chance to play and Katie and I were able to sit and relax. Before we left, the girls were able to ride on the Merry-Go-Round and ride in the Pokeman Bus.

On Thursday, Sept 10, the girls were back in school, so Katie and I visited a couple D-Day Beaches. The memorial to those who lost their lives there is hard to describe. It is peaceful, yet you can hear the rumble of the waves crashing onto the beach below. In between beaches, we stopped at Port-en-Bessen. This is a port town where we found a stretch of beach full of shells. We had never seen so many shells in one place before. After Andrew came home from work, Katie and I went out to eat. Deciding where to go was hard, but we ended up going to a place called Le Vendome. The owner was very friendly and remembered Katie from past visits (enough to tell her that he had noticed she hadn't been in for a while). While we were waiting for our salads, the owner brought out bread and a pate'. Katie thought it was tuna, but it tuned out to be a sardine spread; we didn't ask for seconds! The rest of the meal very good though.

Friday, Sept 11, we headed out to visit Chateau de Crevecoeur-en-Auge and Chateau de Vendeuvre. Both were unique, but Chateau de Vendeuvre really was the most interesting. It had paths on one side of it that lead to different ends; a scarry scare crow, a statue and fountain covered in shells and a flower garden with flowers I'd never seen before. On the other side of the house there were flower gardens armed with fountains that were triggered by the motions made when people walked by; they caught us off guard! We were also able to tour the furnished first floor and basement of this Chateau. It was a fun day and it was was pizza night for dinner, so no cooking for anyone when we returned home.

Saturday, Sept 12, Katie and I left at 7:30am to go to Mont-Saint-Michel early enough to beat the crowds .It was amazing. This is another place I know Katie had been to before, but I really wanted to see it. I'm glad she was willing to take this trip, again, with me so I could experience the walk from the bottom of the hill to the top. I was exhusted before we even got to the ticket office. You wouldn't believe the age of some of the people trying to make this walk, to just by a ticket for the tour! I read that you walk as many as 900 steps to reach the ticket office. We made it back in time for Andrew to take Ella to the birthday party, Katie entertained Mia and Grace and I took a 2 walk around Caen and bought food for Taco Night. Katie and Andrew left us about 6:30pm to attend an overnight birthday party. The girls and I had tacos for dinner. Mia was very helpful with getting the food ready, while Ella and Grance did crafts at the table. We had yummy tacos and a chocolate cookie and bananas for dessert. After dinner we watched a movie, Tinker Bell, and before we knew it, it was time for bed. Once everyone was in bed they slept until about 8:00 am on Sunday.

Sunday, Sept 13, was my last day in Caen. It was cold and looked like it was going to rain. When the girls woke up, we lounged a little and watched cartoon or two, had breakfast and got dressed with the intention of going to a park. We ended up staying inside and before long it was lunchtime already. I made grilled cheese sandwiches and they each had two. We tried reading together but there was always someone who couldn't see the pictures so that didn't last long. But after Katie and Andrew returned home, we all went for a walk to the Botanical Garden. The Botancial Garden had an petting zoo and 2 playgrounds. So many places in France, such as this, are very kid friendly. We stayed there for a while, had a little snack (Katie is always prepared), then left to eat dinner at the restaurant next door to their apartment. After we we returned to the apartment, the girls took a shower and I tucked them into bed and said "good night" ; it was hard for me not to cry.

On Monday, Sept 14,Andrew and I left the apartment at 4:45 am to catch a 5:10 train to Paris. Then from Paris we had to take two more trains to get to the airport. It was a long morning, but is helped to have a seasoned traveler with me. Andrew was actually flying out from the same gate area as I was. I had the pleasure of enjoying the Red Carpet Club for the first time; thanks Andrew. We both passed through customs without a problem and made our flights.

I hope now that when the girls see me or hear my name that they actually have a memory of me pop into their heads. I will remember laughing with Katie over silly stuff the girls did, while we talked about family memories, and even while we were stuck under a walnut tree during a random hail storm on our way to William's castle. I will remember Mia saying she wants to come live with Aunt Kris and her suggling up in my lap. I will remember Gracie's little hand in mine walking to/from school and watching her take such interest in flowers and butterflies. I will remember Ella enjoying speaking French, reading to the girls at bedtime and being fashionable. I will remember that Andrew shared his special beer with me, got me hooked on the tv show, Prison Break, and compromised with me about the journey to the airport.

I hope they all know how much it meant to me that they opened up their home and hearts to me for those two weeks. I love and miss them all.

(A special Thank You to everyone who made this trip possible; Katie, Tim, Nancy, Hank and Lou)

Friday, September 25, 2009

September 25, 2009: The Wheels on My Bus Go Round and Round...Unfortunately

Well, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the CTA Bus broke. The bad news is that it is now fixed and ready for pick-up at the repair shop. C'est dommage!

I had high hopes for this break-down. After receiving a text from Andrew early one morning that stated the car's engine "broke" while he drove it to the train station in Caen, my dread quickly turned to excitement as visions of tiny commuter cars danced through my head. Bye bye to 10 minute parking sessions in our apartment parking lot. Bye bye to close calls as I dodge through tiny French villages on streets the width of a hallway with a car the size of a driveway. Bye bye to the nasty looks people give me - I think they are just annoyed by the look of my car and I cannot blame them. Heeellllloooooo economy car!

When I got to the train station, I met up with the Renault mechanic who came to diagnose the situation. He started the car and it purred like a kitty, happy as a clam. He said it was fine. Oh, dread, I thought. So I said he should drive it around the block (as I didn't really know what a "broke" engine would sound like and Andrew was travelling and unavailable to tell me what specifically happened). I jumped in and had a nice leisurely drive around Caen with my Mechy (aka. mechanic). The car drove perfectly. Lovely, I thought.

Not giving up hope, I waited patiently as he looked around the car for any other signs of possible problems that Andrew may have experienced. Obviously, a full account of the circumstances from Andrew would have been helpful. I mean, I couldn't have verbalized the problems to the Mechy, as my French car repair vocabulary is non-existent, but I could have at least drawn him a picture! I could have even made him a hama bead depiction of the problem - that would have been more helpful than him just having to walk around the car guessing at a problem and cursing this silly american woman under his breath. He was about ready to leave when he noticed something. Yes! A problem! I knew there was hope! It was the Service light on the dashboard. And the airbag light would not go off. Mechy tried to fix it and I was elated when his attempts were unsuccessful.

Mechy told me I must make an appointment to come into the garage and get the car fixed. I told him I thought it should be fixed right away - I have three children and last I checked a broken airbag = broken head and body in the case of an accident. So, he talked to his people and they agreed. Must be fixed right away. So you know what this guy did? He towed my big, fat CTA bus. Guess how long it took him to hook up my car for towing? 2 minutes tops. And he towed my car with a car almost identical to mine. Have you ever seen a car get towed in the United States? It's more time consuming and complicated than solving a rubix cube. Hooks, bolts, gears, levers, hydraulics - it's ridiculous. And then they charge you $150 for all the effort. Here, Mechy literally lowered a tiny platform to the ground that had two spaces for the wheels of the car to roll onto and then we were off. In the United States, this would have been quit a doozy of a tow, a big production. I was amazed. And elated at the prospects of one less CTA bus on the road...forever.

I rode to the Renault dealership with Mechy where I sat with nothing to do (my phone was even dead) while they tried to fix my car for about 3 hours. Clearly, they were stumped. For sure they thought this would be a quick fix. Around 3:30 p.m. they finally gave me a rental car to take home for a couple of days. This was going to take a few more heads and a few more hours to figure out. I got into my nice 5 seater Renault Kangroo and fell in love with this tiny, yet roomy car. My happy little family would fit nicely in this car. I hoped and prayed for a fault in my car that would require a recall of all major 10 seater passenger vans immediately. Surely, all other owners of similar CTA buses are looking for the same help. And I wanted to keep my new Kangroo.

I parked this new little car like a champ in our parking lot. Shop owners and residents who share this parking lot were surely watching with happiness, as they thought I had a new car. They would no longer have to fret about their cars getting sideswiped or scratched each and every time I pull in and out of the lot. The girls voted that we should keep this car, they like it very much. Andrew agreed. It was like we got a new pet - a cute little puppy that the whole neighborhood saw and liked immediately for their own different reasons. And then our new little pet had to be returned because of one reason or another and all they could give in exchange was a big, smelly pet cow. I pulled into the parking lot this afternoon with my newly repaired cow. Neighbors were peering out their windows, wondering where the cute little puppy went. And then they figured it out. Puppy was borrowed until fat, smelly cow was milking, again. Bummer.

On other fronts, everything has been going well here. Andrew has been in Manchester and Brussels this week for work, hopefully getting some new customers or reassuring some old ones. Grace and Mia began going back to First Babys School. Just on Wednesdays when school is out and for half a day. I tried to find classes to sign them up for but they just don't know enough French yet to understand and be good participants and they also hare terrors together. So First Babys School, I am hoping, will do some good work with them on their French speaking. Ella has started a drawing/painting class in the mornings on Wednesdays and a dance class in the afternoon. Her first week at these classes were great! My last goal is to try and get all three of them signed up for a sport, maybe on Saturdays, but we'll see.

Personally, I have started going to Power Plate sessions with a friend of mine. She knows a woman who owns a studio (this is my friend that I run with) so she asked if I wanted to give it a try. Now, it is really hard to explain this Power Plate thing. And the Kate Jury is still out on whether she believes it has any power to help her path to a fit body. But in the meantime, while I decide, it certainly is interesting. The best way I can explain it is that you do all of your exercises on a platform that vibrates a million times a minute. It supposed to stimulate your muscle fibers or something, more than any exercise you would do without vibrations. All I know is, my brain feels like I am putting it in a Cuisinart at some points and my teeth might very well vibrate right out of my jaw. Google this, if you haven't heard of Power Plate before.
Also, I have started a weekly tennis lesson with a group of women. Today was our second gathering and I think it is going to be a lot of fun.

Other than that, nothing much new. My sister's family is on it's way, as we speak, to Denver, Colorado. My brother-in-law took a new position with his company and how happy is my family that they will now be living in Denver? Pretty darn happy. When we get back to Crested Butte permanently I see a lot of road trips taking place between our two homes.

This weekend Andrew and I got invited to a party and guests are supposed to wear wigs. So tomorrow, Grace and I are going to go on a hunt for funny wigs. We are also going to go pick out glasses for Grace finally.

Next week, Ella starts swimming lessons with her school. They will go once a week for a few months and she is very excited. That's it for now!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

September 20, 2009: Dork Alert

Ever have those days where you just feel like a total dork? Like you go from doing one dorky thing to the next and totally on accident? Well, in case you thought it was just you, I am here to tell you it is me, too. Living here in another country among mostly strangers, you can see why I MIGHT have thought I was immune to feeling dorky or being caught doing dorky things. But I did something the other day that made me remember what a complete dork I can really be and then I got to thinking about other dorky things I have done since living here in France. A lot of these things are due to language or culture barrier but some of them are due to just being a dumbass (sorry for my rated PG readers). I probably haven't shared them with you because at the time, it seemed minute, but as a whole all the little things add up to one big dork alert. So just for laughs, here are a few of my dorkiest moments (aside from my monster truck stick shift issue and apple sauce conundrum).

The other day, I went running with my friend Celine. She is my friend that lives here in Caen and with whom I only have French conversation. She has really been nice, introducing me to her friends, involving me in activities and sports and even inviting my children over to her house to play. So anyway, the other morning after we went running I said goodbye and walked home. When I got home, I started to think about Andrew and decided to send him a quick text message that I missed him, as he had been out of town for almost a week. So I picked up my iPhone, quickly typed "Miss You", and hit send. Except I realized right after I got the sent confirmation that I hadn't sent the text message to Andrew, I had sent it to Celine. I had replied to a string of texts and Andrew's was right below Celine's and you know the rest. Oh my god, I felt like a complete DORK! I just saw her 10 minutes before and all of the sudden she is getting a text message from me on her phone that I miss her? She must be thinking I am a freak, but whatever that word translates to in French. Anyway, I quickly sent her a text trying to explain myself - basically admitting that I am a scatterbrain. Thank goodness she was nice about it, but man, total dork alert for sure.

Later in the day, I went to the grocery store and at the checkout line I decided to pay with cash. I believe the total of my goods was 54 Euros and some odd change. I was feeling very confident in my conversation and counting in French that day so I decided to show off my skills counting out loud. So I took out a 50 Euro bill and I said "Cinquante", which is 50 in French so that is right. Then I took out a 2 Euro coin and said, "Trois", which is not right - that is 3 in French - but I didn't know I was wrong at that moment. But when the checkout lady looked at me like I was from another planet - that is when figured out my interesting counting. I tried to correct myself on my new coin, another 2 Euro coin - I said "Quatre", which is not right - that is 4 in French. In my mind, I was tallying up the money to equal 54 Euros (which I had actually done) but my counting out loud was confusing and incorrect. I knew I had paid the right amount but I felt like such a dork that I rushed out of there quite quickly. Total dork alert. Imagine going to Target and giving the checkout person a quarter but you stated the value to be 50 cents. And then you gave her a dime but you stated the value to be 20 cents. That checkout person would look at you weird, because coins just don't come in those denominations. I don't know, I probably made too much out of it, but I felt like a real dork!

I can't tell you how many times I have showed up for an appointment on the wrong day or the wrong time. The plumber said he would come over "lundi ce matin" - which is Monday morning, but my head heard "matin" and translated that to mean evening. So I missed him and called him to see where he was that night only to find out I am just a big dork who wasn't there to meet him that morning. Celine invited me and the girls over one day. We were going to have coffee while the kids played and then a short while later head over to the library for story hour. So I had heard a time and jotted it down as 12:30 p.m. Celine had said quatorze et demi. That is actually 2:30 p.m. Running slightly late, I had notified Celine around 12:25 p.m. that we were running a little late but would be over shortly, to which she replied, "you have plenty of time since we are not meeting until 2:30 p.m. and story time at the library doesn't start until 3:30 p.m. And here the girls and I were 200 feet from her front door. I meant WHAT a DORK!

Every now and then I think about a funny dork alert of Andrews. He was at work one morning, meeting with his French tutor. They were talking about their weekends, just warming up a bit. I don't quite remember what specifically Andrew was talking about, but he was trying to explain that he was very excited about something. And in the French language, there are a lot of words that mean the same in English, but just pronounced slightly different. So Andrew said, "Je suis excité" which in French translates to "I am very horny." His tutor politely explained to him that in this particular case, the two words do NOT mean the same in the French and English languages. He felt like huge dork. But at least he didn't say it to someone less understanding.

There are so many other examples I could share, but I think you get the point. Day to day life in your home country presents you with dork alerts - but add a new language and a little pressure to the mix and you find your dork alerts happening at an increased frequency.

So goodnight to all you fellow dorks out there and for all of you that are perfect - you really are missing out on the fun!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

September 17, 2009: 104 and Yet There is More

We cruised past 100. I had every intention of blogging all about hitting the 100 milestone but I totally forgot. And then there was 101, 102 and 103 that blew right past me. But today, no more! Today I celebrate the 104th blog to be written on Life in Caen - We Can! I seriously don't think I have written this much since my diaries, journals and heavy note passing that took place in middle school. I thought about writing stuff down a lot over the years but I guess I needed something interesting like picking up and moving to another country to get me to actually write and keep writing.

The intention of this blog was and still is to keep our friends and family informed about what our lives are like here in Caen, France. Yes, at first it was tough here. My dad actually told me when he came to visit us here in France in June that some of the initial blogs that I wrote made him sick to his stomach because he was so worried about his little girl and her family. So I began to wonder if maybe I shouldn't have been so honest about the state of affairs? But then I decided it was important to be completely honest. That way, everyone would be all the more relieved when things started to look up (I was hopeful) and get better.

So now it has been 7 months since we have been here in Caen. I think back to the day we arrived and compare it to today and things are vastly different. Andrew has now settled into his job, Ella is reading French better than English and speaking French better than some French children, I have lost 10 lbs thanks to my membership at The Pavement, we have friends and know store owners, Grace got past her mid-day bed wetting issue and Mia goes to sleep at night in 5 seconds flat. Would any or all of these things have happened even if we were still living in Crested Butte? I really doubt it. The adaptation required by all of us to make this move work facilitated these changes. So, 104 blogs into our lives here in Caen and with many mini-issues encountered along the way, I say this whole experience has been well worth it.

Now, to the issue of blog #105 and beyond. The last thing I want to do is write about boring stuff that is of no interest or entertainment value to the people who read this blog. You might have noticed over the past few months that my blogs were not written daily as they were in the beginning. That is a good thing. It means that disastrous and/or noteworthy events are not happening in our lives on a daily basis. It means that there is some level of normality now. But I assure you that normal is relative and what is normal to us now may actually still be of interest to you. So I do plan to keep on writing in this blog but if it starts to get really boring or pointless, someone please do me a huge favor and just tell me!

As a side note, I also wanted to mention that this blog has been found by other people on the internet that we don't necessarily know. Some email correspondence and blog comments that I have received are from people trying to find information about moving to another country or information about living in Caen, France. So it's nice to know that this blog has been useful for others in ways I hadn't expected.

Now, tomorrow I plan to blog about my very busy week. I have tried new workouts (ever heard of Power Plate?) started a new team sport, got a library card and enrolled the girls in some Wednesday activities. And last weekend, Andrew and I attended a very fun party that I'll fill you in about.

A demain!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

September 15, 2009: I Miss Kris!

(pictured above: Kris in front of Le Mont Saint Michel)

I just want to write a quick blog by saying how much fun I had with my oldest sister Kris during her visit. She left yesterday morning and I already miss her! Her being the 11 years older and the oldest of four children and me being the youngest, Kris and I didn't really spend much time together growing up. One of my fondest memories of my sister is when she would come home from college to visit and she would take me with her to Burger King around midnight to get a Whopper. Way past my bedtime, but my mom would approve and I felt so grown up and special to get invited by my big sister to hang out and eat tasty treats with her. And now this trip has replaced that as one of my fondest memories. Her trip here made me discover that my big sister laughs a lot, is funny, curious, caring, creative, thoughtful and adventurous. All great traits and for having the time to discover them I feel blessed and so do my children and husband. Now, I would update you on what we did after our fun weekend adventure, but I have granted Kris the ability to write within this blog. So expect pictures and stories from her in the near future about the other trips and sights we saw during her trip here in Caen.

Monday, September 7, 2009

September 7, 2009: Doors to the Imagination

I have always been fascinated by doors. If you looked back through my photos taken on trips during the last 15 years you might notice a heavy amount of "film" dedicated to doors. Everything from the age, the color, the size, the upkeep, the location and the surroundings of doors can create a really cool view. But, I think I really like them because of what just a quick glance can spark in my imagination. I begin to wonder if the door owners know just how cool a door they really have? Or was their awesome door created by a poetical mix of weather and neglect? Do they know the flower box to the right adds just the right amount of color accent to the rusty iron door handle? Do they ever stop and take pride in the beautiful gift that their door presents to passerbys? Did the owners of the the door know that over centuries, all that would be left was the door frame and minor portions of it's surrounding wall? Why does their door have a iron grid at the level of a person's face? How hard did they look for what appears to be a 200 lb wolf door knocker? Did the ornate door numbers get passed down over generations or have I been fooled and were recently acquired from Frontgate Magazine? And then of course, most importantly and interestingly, who has lived behind the door and what is their story?

I could go on forever about my fascination with doors and I bet a few of you share the same interest. But I am particularly thinking about this topic today because of the adventure that we took this past weekend. My sister Kris has been visiting from Indiana and to get her a good taste of the French country-side and non-city life here in Caen, I thought a nice trip away would be fun. So I very randomly selected a trip agenda and we all loaded into the CTA bus on Saturday morning and started towards Domfront, France.

Domfront, France is called the Cite Medievale (aka. Medival City). I wasn't totally sure what that meant, but I had expected to see a really old castle when we arrived. Indeed, it was quite the contrary. The city itself appeared to be scattered with ramparts or remnants of an old city fortress that was huge in diameter. You might see bits of a tower from the 12th century that are now integrated into a restaurant or an old 11th century fortress wall that now forms the back of a homeowners garage. And if you keep walking up an old cobble stone street, you will run right into a large chunk of this fortress that still remains from centuries ago. Huge fortress walls tower over you, mazes of underground and above ground passageway are visible to you as you enter what is called Chateau Domfront. But most interestingly to me were all of the doorways that remained. Instead of the doors spurring my imagination, it was now the doorways themselves that made me wonder. All of the adults (Kris, Andrew and myself) were truly amazed by this visit. The girls were surprisingly unphased by the monster fortress walls and the spectacular view from the Chateau look-out, but that is the behavior you learn to expect from little kids - unpredictable!

We left Domfront around 4:00 p.m. and started driving to our next stop: Bagnoles de l'Orne. Now how I came to have this be our next stop is that I knew on Sunday I wanted us to end up in La Ferte Mace. And the only hotels I could find suitable for the six of us were in Bagnoles de l'Orne which was about 10 km away from La Ferte Mace. So I knew from a bit of reading that we might find some place for dinner and that a nice, pretty walk would be available to us around the lake. And that this place is popular with the elderly and the sick around France due to having a spring with supposed healing properties. And in retrospect, I should have sent Andrew to the spring immediately upon arrival as he was sick as a dog with a sore throat and chills. But I hadn't expected the fun we really ended up having.

Andrew took a nap when we arrived and when he was ready, we all started off on a walk. The walk was around the pretty lake and over a floral bridge. It was so pretty, in fact, that we probably saw about four sets of marriage parties taking pictures and tons of "just married" cars and caravans driving by beeping their horns. We continued to walk by the hippodrome (horse track) and around the
neighborhood deeply embellished with pretty, old mansions, bed and breakfasts and other shops. Quite by accident, we came upon a forested area that had signs for some kind of path. With no other entertainment in mind for the evening besides dinner, we decided to follow the path. The path ended up being a fitness trail,
but much more fun and interesting than any you have ever seen. This fitness trail took about 1 hour and I truly think the girls (and Andrew) could have done the circuit 3 more times because it was so fun.

The stations on the trail were various things such as wall climbing, hurdles, rope swinging, etc...It was an unexpected diversion that actually ceased all fighting, whining and any other animosity from the girls for a whole hour straight and it was something that Kris, Andrew and I noticed - and truly appreciated. We ended the night with pizza and pasta from a local italian restaurant and then a comfy night sleep at the Hotel du Beryl.

On Sunday after breakfast we started for La Ferte Mace, France. It was just about 15 minutes away from Bagnoles. So the great thing was that the drive was short. The not so great thing is that an annual vide-greniers (imagine the whole town packing up their wares for a garage sale and then taking them into town and having their garage sale on a card table along the main streets of town) was occurring in the town's center. Roads were closed, traffic was backed up and our GPS was utterly confused by our lack of direction-taking. I had planned on having nice weather and a slow-paced town at my disposal for figuring out where and what to do in this town but all I had was the nice weather. I had read about a big park with tons of stuff to do on a lake and after some searching we did find this park. And though we did manage to spend about 3 hours at this lake, it was only due to a sandy beach and a park. All of the other activities never opened. The park was very fun for the girls as it had lots of unique structures and the emergency sand toys I keep in the car also came in handy. So the morning and afternoon had the potential of ending in disaster, but it ended just great. Before starting back to Caen, we stopped for a picnic in Falaise.

Our adventure weekend was so much fun and I was so pleased to share it with my sister. I will be forever grateful to her for helping entertain the girls and for her patience and flexibility. But especially I am grateful for the pictures and memories that we will have to talk about for the next 40 years of our lives. We can recall the great doors we saw and imagine what it must've been like to live in a grand fortress in Domfront, France five centuries ago. When the fortress had doors and the walls had ceilings and the rocks were still stacked atop each other to make a moat. Most likely, we will laugh about how stubborn Mia was when she was 4 years old, how adventurous Ella was at 6 and how cuddly and cute Grace was at 4. Today, my sister Kris and I can only imagine what the girls have in store for them years from now. I wonder what doors they will open and which ones they will close...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

September 3, 2009: A Face Worth Framing

Hi there. Not much to fill you in on the past few days. Fortunately, the girls are doing just great at school. Ella has had homework every night (very teeny, tiny homework) and that is making her feel like a real big girl. Grace and Mia seem to be happy in their own separate classes. Mia has been trying to stop singing all day long during class - I'll have to check when I pick them up today on how that is going.

I successfully picked up my sister Kris yesterday morning from CDG Airport in Paris. We both napped on the train ride back to Caen and we both got to be quite early last night! She is still sleeping now at 9:45 a.m. so she should be ready for a day out on the town in a while.

Yesterday afternoon, we met up with a friend and her two daughters at a place that was doing face painting. The line was so long that we eventually gave up on most but Ella stuck out the wait. This face painting offer lacked face painters (there was only 1) and the one lady who was doing it put 150% effort into each face. Like each was a work of art to be displayed for the world to see. I am all about pride in your work so I can't fault her, but I did feel badly that all of the girls didn't receive such a fancy face like Ella. Instead, we opted for going to a cafe and getting some hot chocolates.

I don't know what today will bring for Kris and I. Check back later to find out!

Have a great day!