Sunday, October 25, 2009

October 25, 2009: See Our History, See the World

Oh my goodness, what a completely, totally fun weekend we just had! Seriously, it was a blast! I am pretty sure that past experience has definitely taught me a thing or two when it comes to the "weekend adventure event planning" role. A few months back, I would have chosen a pretty town with long walks for a family weekend adventure. But now I know better. "Pretty" lasts only as long as the toddler tummy is full and a "long" walk only lasts as long as the first kid who complains. After any of these two items fails, it is a slow spiral downward for all concerned. So this time, I chose a weekend adventure that was sure to captivate even the hungriest of tummies and the weakest of legs.

I had to choose a road trip that was far enough away to make an overnight stay at a hotel worthy, but not too far that the girls would become antsy during the drive, even with a DVD player at their disposal. After briefly looking at a Google map of France, I saw a bolded town with the name of Amiens to the east of Caen. So I then looked up the city website of Amiens and voila! TONS to see and do in this area. I scrolled through a long list of local attractions but ultimately decided on two specific places: The Samara Park and the Cite Souterraine de Naorn with an overnight stay in Amiens.

For a day or two, I had been talking up this adventurous weekend. Our first planned stop, the Samara Park, sounded interesting because it was a site wholly dedicated to educating children and adults about the ways of life dating all the way back 600,000 years ago! I had seen there was a park on the premises, so even if this site were a dud, at least the park was there to entertain. But the whole place was a success. The Samara Park was very pretty and interesting. To start, there were ancient dwellings made of leather and sticks. There was a walkway made out of tree posts. And there was a labriynth garden, which the girls absolutely loved. And mind you, I haven't even mentioned yet that it was a rainy, dreary, chilly day because we didn't mind it at all! There were no crowds, the rain was just barely a drizzle, and each couple of steps intrigued all of our curiosities.

What the girls enjoyed the most about The Samara Park were the interactive demonstrations. There were real people demonstrating how people lived hundreds and thousands of years ago. And what Andrew and I enjoyed the most was watching how interested the girls were with everything they saw.

(Pictured above: a woman making mosiac decorations with rock pieces)

(Pictured above: a man making pottery)

(Pictured above: The girls digging like archeologists looking for bones and fossils)

(Pictured above: A man demonstrating how to chip away at a rock (silex) to make a sharp edge for removing hair from animal hydes and for cutting, also used to make chalk)

(Pictured above: A man shows how armor was made with iron, hot fires and patience)

(Pictured above: A woman starts a fire with silex, mushroom shavings and hay)

(Pictured above: The girls paint on rocks as cavemen once did thousands of years ago)

(Pictured above: A woman demonstrates how to make flour)

(Pictured above: A woman makes Galettes with flour and water and cooks them in the hot ashes. We tasted and they were good!)

(Pictured above: I try my hand at throwing a spear and came really close to the target - a hay pile, not an animal!)

I think you get the point! We had a great time, took tons of pictures and I would recommend this place to anyone - young and old. And there was a ton we didn't even get a chance to see.


This town was really nice. We arrived at night after a long day at Samara so all we really did was grab a quick bite to eat and hit the hay. But the next morning, we got up and took a nice walk around the city. The streets were very wide and pretty with many of them blocked off for only pedestrians. There were many beautiful old churches and lots of pretty gardens and fountains. My favorite part of Amiens was the beautiful cathedral. It is known as the, "Parthenon of Gothic Architecture" and it is just beautiful. The details on the exterior and the height were breathtaking.

There was a lot in Amiens that we didn't get a chance to see. As we left on Sunday morning to get to our next adventure destination, I saw tons of signs and sights that I yearned to stop and see. But you just don't have the flexibility with three young children. I would love to go back some day and see the rest that Amiens has to offer.

La Cite Souterraine de Naours:

Our next and final stop was an underground city located in Naours, France. It is a real city that is located 33 meters below ground level. This city was created as a place of refuge for nearby city inhabitants in times of war. From what I can decipher on the French website, this underground city dates back to at least 1618.

It was really dark, as you might expect, in this underground city. We listened to handheld radios as it guided us from one room to the next. They gave us a wind-up flashlight to use for anyone needing some extra light (and wouldn't you know it, all of them wanted the one flashlight). It was amazing to see that families lived in these small cavelike rooms beneath the ground with up to 2000 people at a time. I get a little anxious and panicky just thinking about it. Imagine never leaving this dark, cold place for months at a time. Ahh! Anyway, it was really neat and if war disaster strikes while we are living here in France, I know exactly where we are going to head for protection - Naours! I am not sure if my pictures will do this place justice, hopefully they do.

(Pictured above: During wartime, this place was used to care for wounded British soldiers)

(Pictured above: The girls and Andrew listen to the audio describing the underground room they are visiting)

(Pictured above: These tiny rooms actually had room numbers posted on the outside walls)

(Pictured above: Ella finding her way through a dark hallway)

The underground city tour was very interesting...but guess what. There was also a huge park and animals and windmills on the grounds that we discovered just after the tour that I believe became the favorite part of the day for all involved.

We really did have a great weekend. One of those that will be talked about by all of us for many years to come.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

October 21, 2009: Little Differences between the U.S. and France

For no particular reason, I have been thinking lately about all the little, random things that make France different (at least I think so) from the United States. So here goes:

In the United States, one might think that a big truck with 20 wheel drive (slight exaggeration) is required to haul a camper. I mean for goodness sakes, we bought a camper that specifically marketed itself to be haul-able by a normal size sedan so we wouldn't need to trade our car in for a bigger gas guzzler. But in the end we STILL traded our car in for a bigger gas guzzler, because the sedan just didn't tow the camper all that great or very efficiently. But here in France, you actually see sedan's towing big-time campers, trailers, huge stuff that would probably get you pulled over in the United States. It's totally crazy when you see these tiny little cars hauling a camper that sleeps a family of 8 on the highway here in France. Not only that, but the actual hitch itself on the cars here in France are a little do I say it...straight up? I can't help but giggle like a 5th grader who has just learned about the male human anatomy in health class when I see one.

(pictured above: I think you know)

Something else that always takes me by surprise here in France is the radio. They seem to play a lot of American music. It has been great because the whole family can get into the car and hear familiar language - both songs we know or new songs we are hearing for the first time. But there is a problem. There is no censoring of American music on the radio - at least not here in Normandy, France on the stations we listen to in our car. Back in the United States, as we listened to Sirius Satellite Radio or even the regular FM radio, we didn't have to worry about the "F" word or "B" word creeping up and tainting our daughters ears - only to be asked, "Mommy, what is a "Bitc$"?" But here in France, by golly, you can be singing along and before you know it the "F" bomb has been dropped three times and another one is fast approaching. I don't know what it is, but they simply don't censor the music. Maybe they don't know what the cuss words are? Here is a link to a song that they play on the radio all the time here that my children LOVE. They think (after I told them so) that the girl is saying, "Thank you, thank you very very mu-uu-uuuch." But in reality she is saying something quite the contrary.

Lunch is also quite different here in France. If you go to a real restaurant (i.e. no McDonalds,
Subway, or Panda Express) you are pretty certain to get a really fresh meal for a very
good price. For example, today I had Steamed Marlin with Creamy Pepper Sauce and Potatoes
served with a side of fresh baked bread. Now, I don't normally order such a meal for lunch -
this is way too much food and way to rich for noon. But I have learned my lesson. If you order
the Plat du Jour (basically, the lunch special) being advertised, you can get it for about 7-8 Euros
and you can have it served to you in less than 3 minutes. No kidding! I have tried ordering
off the menu (a simple salad, even) and it always takes much longer to receive and usually
ends up costing more. They make the Plat du Jour ahead of time and it is ready to go and
fresh and quickly served. I don't recall ever having quick service for anything ordered in the
United States during the lunch rush - heck, an appetizer of tortilla chips could take 20 minutes!
So I guess my point is, even though you wouldn't normally eat a filet in red wine reduction
or chicken prepared norman style for lunch back in the United States, just go for it here in
France. The food will for sure be prepared with loving hands and served fresh, tasty
and quick.

(pictured above: myself, enjoying a tasty Plat du Jour)

Wow, they sure do have fresh fruits and vegetables here in France. You have seen my pictures
and stories about going to the markets and basically being in French Fresh Heaven. But I have
to tell you. I have found something that the French don't seem to be so good at growing. Now
growing up with grandparents who had a farm that grew tons of corn, we often ate corn for
meals. And I don't mean as a side dish. I mean, as the ONLY dish. Seriously, I remember when
Andrew and I were just dating and I brought him to my parents house for Sunday dinner. There
must have been some other items on the table (probably radishes and canned pineapple, but
the main dish was SWEET CORN. No joke, each family member would eat 3 ears of corn at
dinner. Andrew was absolutely floored at this corn-consumption conundrum. Who eats 3 ears
of corn in one sitting? At his house, it was one ear and no more. I don't know if my family was
different than most. It was just as simple as corn was in season - corn was eaten. So we did!
Needless to say, I was very excited to buy some sweet cord at the market here in France.
I waited and waited and waited. None in May. None in June. None in July. None in
August. None in September. Ah, finally! I found some in October at the market! "Give me 10
of those", I said (or, "Dix, s'il' vous plait). Boy, was I excited to eat some corn. And I really
talked it up to the girls and Andrew when I got home from the market. All day, I bragged about
the tasty corn we were about to enjoy at dinner. Visions of melting butter dripping from salted
ears of corn haunted us all day long. And then dinner time came. And I peeled the corn. And
I was amazed by the total lack of corn on the ear of corn. And on the next. And the next. And
then finally, the very last ear of corn was hosting an alien life form. Cornless corn is one thing,
but mysterious life-form corn is another. I decided, at this point, that France had not yet
perfected the art of growing corn for their people's consumption. And we were all very bummed
at our corn-less dinner.

(pictured above: Cornless corn from France)

(pictured above: Corn housing an alien)

Well, that is all for now. But as I think of or see some other interesting, yet pointless, items that differ between the United States and France I will bring them to your attention.

Have a great day!

Monday, October 19, 2009

October 19, 2009: I Hope You Pee Your Pants Today

(pictured above: Grace almost in tears from laughter)

I know, the term "peeing your pants" is kind of taboo around this house and probably around yours. And that is totally understandable. What a mess! But when I say that I hope you pee your pants today, I mean it in a positive way. Let me explain.

Lately, Andrew and I have had a lot to think about. Unfortunately, I can't really get into what we are hemming and hawing about but I can assure you that we are all happy and healthy so not to worry. But for me, as I have pondered during the past few days, I have really been thinking a lot about family and friends. I miss them. I worry about them. Though this has always been the case, no matter where I live, it seems that having such great distance between all of us makes the missing and the worrying even stronger. Friends and family members with upcoming surgeries, sick with the flu, losing jobs, combatting the tough economy, trying to move and buy houses and relocate - for these difficult life events I wish I could be around for to provide support. Support in the way of "I-could-hop-on-a- plane-or-start-driving-right-now-if-you-need-me". Not the "Let's-Skype-and-I-can-hug-you-over-the-computer-screen" support or "chat-with-me-over-Facebook" support.

But wait! I know that is all very sad and not at all what you want to read about to cheer you up today. So let me finish on a positive note...about peeing your pants. As I think about friends and family and missing them so dearly, I also begin to think about all the great attributes they have and the fun times we have had together. Some of the happiest memories I have of being with my friends and family are those times that involved me and many others peeing our pants (and probably crying) because we were laughing so hard. I have strong memories of sitting at the dining room table playing cards with my sisters and my mom and laughing so hard that someone peed their pants and usually ended with my dad, clueless about what was so funny - storming off in annoyance...and we'd laugh even harder at this. I have memories about driving in the car with my girlfriends, going to concerts, or not even doing anything of note but typically included loads of laughter that was unstoppable and ended with tears and pee.

So as difficult decisions are ahead for Andrew and I, instead of thinking about the things that make me sad and I know I can't control (like living far apart from dear friends and family) I have chosen to think about the great fun we have had in the past and will have again in the future when we see each other once again! I look forward to laughing so hard that I pee my pants and I wish the same for you. I hope today, something so funny happens that you can't control your laughter, that you pee your pants and maybe even shed a tear.

Here's to a good laugh with friends and family!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

October 14, 2009: Utah Beach

So for some reason, I keep forgetting to blog about some of our recent adventures. It now strikes me, looking at my past few blogs, that I have forgotten because I have been griping about one thing or another so let us return to this placed called France and all of it's many wonderful sights and history. So let's start with Utah Beach.

Utah Beach was the only D-Day Beach I had not visited. It being a cold and cloudy Saturday and the constant buzz of cartoons driving Andrew and I crazy, we decided to get bustled up and go see this historical sight once and for all.

Utah Beach was one of the five beaches (or sectors) designated for the D-Day Landings on June 6, 1944. It was on this beach where General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. earned himself the Medal of Honor, due to his leadership, confidence and courageousness. From what I have read, it seems that it was on this beach where the allies received the least resistance and had the most success.

Approaching the beach, all was still and quiet (well, there may have been some whining in the background...). The deep coastline and the lack of people and activity made it hard to comprehend that beginning on June 6, 1944 it was a complete mass of chaos and fighting and ships and soldiers. On this present day, the only activity was some people fishing for some creatures beneath the sand and a horse buggy that scooted by.

(pictured above: people are digging for something, but I don't know what!)
(pictured above: a random horse buggy glides by on Utah Beach)
(pictured above: this about sums up the activity on Utah Beach the day of our visit)

We all had a nice visit to the beach. You give the girls sand and a bit of water and that is all they need for entertainment for hours. They must have played in the cold, wet sand for an hour or so while Andrew and I just gazed out along the shore, trying to figure out what the heck the other people were digging for in the sand. We should have just asked, but we didn't.

I think we may have waited to late in the day to go on our adventure, as Grace and Mia were a little cranky and whiny and loud. That meant that we could not visit the museum in good conscience - another time, I guess. Here are a few pictures of the exterior.

(pictured above: a tanker in front of the Utah Beach museum)

(pictured above: Grace and Mia are very interested in this large gun)

(pictured above: Ella and Mia inside a German Bunker that remains behind on Utah Beach)

(pictured above: a photo of the Utah Beach Museum and skyline of the beach)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

October 11, 2009: The Business of Beds

The past few days Andrew and I have been conducting an experiment of sorts. For about 5 nights we have allowed Ella to sleep on the floor (on cushions) of Grace and Mia's room. They have all three had been asking for weeks if they could sleep together so finally we said OK...we'll try it. Of course, Andrew and I kept thinking back to when we first moved to Caen and how we had tried to have all three of them sleep in the same room. Within weeks it proved to be a bad idea, as they just wouldn't go to sleep. So we ultimately split them up and gave big sister Ella her own room. And as you probably recall, we have had several sleeping variations since. It seems that Andrew and I are trying to find the "perfect" sleep computation.

Today, after 5 nights of successful sleeping, we finally moved Ella's bed into Grace and Mia's room. Poor thing had earned her right to sleep on an actual mattress after sleeping on the floor for almost a week! Andrew moved the bed and then I took care of moving all the toys and stuff back into the other room, which is now the play room. The only difference with this configuration than the original is that all three beds are now in Grace and Mia's room instead of all in Ella's room. You might be thinking, why all the fuss about this bed business?

We have had several conversations with the girls for a few days. We ask them why they like sleeping together so much instead of having their own space. Ella says, "Mom, we are SISTERS! We like each other!" Grace says, "Because when we have nightmares, we can help each other!" Mia says, "It's fun!" I mean, we have the space to spread them out, so Andrew and I don't want to cram them all in the same room if it is not absolutely required. But we do see their points - we have noticed that the past 5 nights, the girls have woken up much less in the middle of the night. They get out of their beds much less right after we tuck them in at bedtime. They wake up quicker in the morning for school. It seems that after months of sleeping apart, they are now finding comfort in each other's presence. I guess they feel braver in their posse of three, ready to conquer any bad dream, noise or knock in the night that they might hear. I get it. I, too, feel the same way. My safety partner is Andrew - when he is sleeping with me in bed I feel safer than when he is out of town and apart from me.

It's funny to me, as I think back to my childhood. There were 4 of us children and sometimes we had to share rooms. My brother being the only boy, he always got his own room. And though I remember having my own room and being excited, I remember most being happy to share a room with my sister Kim. Six years my elder, she stayed up very late, talking on the phone, studying, reading, lights on full blast, but still I felt safer and happier than when I slept by myself. On the nights that should wouldn't come home because of slumber parties or on the nights she worked late, I had a hard time falling asleep. So as I think back on those days, I get why they want to sleep together even more.

It has also occurred to me lately just how close the girls are in age. I know, duh! But it is easy to forget and to be perfectly honest, on most days it doesn't even occur to me that we have twins! All three if them are so unique and different and that is how they are treated in return. But today, as I was arranging their playroom, I was thinking back over the past few weeks and remembering how well they have been playing together. Their imaginations have gone WILD but they will play together for hours. And the older they get, they closer they seem to get, the more compatible they seem to get. And the more relieved I get in the process.

My relief comes from seeing what a gift it is that they have each other. What a gift, that as they encounter so many new people, cultures and surroundings, they they have each other with which to encounter them. What a gift that Grace and Mia can see Ella embracing the French language and life. Grace has done the same in the past month or so and Mia, just in the past week, has finally decided to follow suit. What a gift that when they can't find a friend to play with during recess or at lunch, they can find each other and instantly feel comfortable. What a gift!

There are definitely downfalls about having three children so close in age. So it is times like this, when dealing with this business of beds, that I am so thankful for remembering what a blessing the closeness in age can be, too.

Tomorrow, I will fill you in on some recent adventures we have taken to Utah Beach, St. Mere Eglish and Saint Malo! Take care!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

October 8, 2009: Friendly Intervention

How, as a parent, do you know when to get involved with a problem in your child's life and when to butt out? That is the principal issue that I face this week.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, Ella is having a hard time making friends at school. I don't know, maybe if I had known this for some time I wouldn't be taking it so hard. But since she just told me last week and it has now become a daily discussion, I am really torn up about it.

Do you remember being a young child in elementary school trying to make friends? Maybe on your first day of kindergarten or on your first day after moving to a new school? All the worries of, "Will they like me?", "What if they don't like my outfit?", "What if they don't like my haircut?", "What if I say something stupid?". What if. I can imagine the anxiety that must come with those questions. But imagine the anxiety that must additionally come with, "What if they don't understand what I am saying?", "What if they don't like American's?", "What if they don't like the way I speak French?" Those are the worries of my dear Ella. Every day she goes out to recess three times a day and every day she tries to get in with some kids to play and they tell her, "maybe tomorrow." That is just awful. And it just makes my heart hurt in a way that I can't explain but that I know many of you can totally understand.

So as any worried mother would do, I try to understand the problem so I can fix it for her. Right away. But just like any mother would see in their child, I see a smart, brave, funny, silly, happy, courageous and pretty girl. So why wouldn't other children want to be a part of that? Ella isn't mean or rude or selfish. She would give you anything if you asked for it. She would defend you if needed. She would be a good friend.

So what is the MATTER? Is it just a typical case of a new person arrives at school and there is no room for a new person in the clique? Is it that she speaks English and they are afraid they won't understand her if they play together? Is it just because she is different than them and that makes her an outcast? Is she offending her classmates in some way and she doesn't realize this? Is she trying too hard to make friends and that turns people off? These are the questions that I ask myself as my heart aches for her.

Now don't get upset. I can guarantee you that I am taking this harder than Ella. And maybe it's because if it were me in her situation, I would be devastated and petrified and I assume she must feel the same way. But she doesn't feel the same way. Fortunately for herself, she seems to be taking it in stride and she seriously seems to take the attitude of, "Oh well, I guess I will try again tomorrow." Try again tomorrow! How awesome is that? I mean come on kids, you have to give a girl props for continuing to try EVERY SINGLE DAY, right?

Today, Andrew and I mentioned that maybe she should stop approaching the other kids to play. Maybe she should just hang out by herself, take a book or pad of paper out to recess to read or draw, and see if any of the kids approach her instead. So she went to school this morning equipt with a book and a drawing pad, ready to pass the time at recess by herself. She seemed pleased with this alternative. But I had also asked Ella if she would like me to talk to the school's secretary, who seems to handle matters of this nature, and see if she could help in any way. Ella said yes, please do talk to her.

I sent the school secretary an email this afternoon, stating my basic concern of Ella having no friends. The secretary does speak and read English pretty well, but I tried to keep it simple so as not to confuse. As I wrote the email, I began to wonder if I was getting involved where I should not. Should I just let Ella work through this on her own? Do all mom's swoop in when their child has problems making friends? Am I squashing Ella's ability to work through social problems by asking the secretary to intervene? But ultimately I decided that asking for help was not the wrong thing to do.

Your friends know your personality. Your friends know when you are being serious, sarcastic, or silly. Your friends know when you need a hug or a smile and when you need encouragement. And they know these things because of what you say, how you say it, when you say it and who you say it to. So it is for these reasons that I think it is difficult for Ella to make friends. She simply cannot express herself to others or show her personality, the way the other kids can. She can't say just what she wants, when she wants to and how she wants to, because she doesn't know the words or because they don't come to her when convenient. So maybe she uses physical actions or English words to supplement what she is trying to say and this probably loses the interest of her classmates quickly - who can communicate among themselves so carelessly and easily. And so I asked the secretary to intervene so that she might be able to help the other kids understand the challenges that Ella encounters each day that she arrives at school. And that they might reconsider having her as a friend despite her differences.

I'll admit, some days this is all enough to make me just want to pack up our bags and head home to Crested Butte. I think about how much easier life would be for all three of the girls. OK, and it would be easier for Andrew and myself, too. But for now, I think we can all deal with the obstacles that are coming our way. Some of them are painful obstacles, but I am told they are good for your character ; )

Sunday, October 4, 2009

October 4, 2009: La La Land is Full

Hey there! Hope you are all having or had a nice weekend. Considering we have two children (Grace and Mia) with sniffles and coughs, I would say we are holding up pretty well. Still no fevers and certainly their energy is not being held back. Never-the-less, Andrew and I decided not to take the girls anywhere on Saturday, giving them another day for recuperation and relaxation. The only problem with that agenda (or lack thereof) is that it is bound to drive you crazy - especially when the sun has not and has no intention of appearing all day long. So around 12:00 p.m. I had had enough of the cartoons and fighting and loud playing. I took Ella with me and we boarded the Twisto Tram to go buy some dance shoes she needed for class on Wednesday. Yes, very unkindly, I left Andrew behind to deal with the twins chaos and a a grocery shopping list.

Ella and I had a nice ride on the tram. You remember how fun it was as a child to ride public transportation, right? She was giddy the whole way. When we arrived at the mall, we first stopped for lunch. We went to the cafeteria-type place (Casino) where the food there is sure to please any palette, from 1 year - 100 years old. After lunch we went to the equivalent of SportMart, which here is called Decathlon. We found some jazz shoes for Ella and she somehow convinced me to buy her an outfit that belongs on Fame. I couldn't resist, as her excitement was bubbling over. After that, we went and found a few items on the sale rack for me to wear to The Pavement and then eventually we made our way over to the workout contraptions. I think Ella must have spent 30 minutes riding the stair stepper, the treadmills, you name it. She was having a blast! Alas, eventually it was time to start getting home. We boarded the Twisto and off we went.

On the way home, Ella was telling me about her friends at school. She was telling me how they don't really play with her, how they make fun of her ears and how her best friend says mean things to her. She told me how at recess she tries to trade Pokeman Cards with the boys but they just take her cards and give her nothing in return. She told me how her one friend is nice one minute and then mean to her the next. I told her that those things didn't seem very friendly to me. Up until now, I had the impression that Ella was just a happy kid, making friends in a foreign country against all odds. But during our conversation I started to realize that Ella is the "Rock" in a game of Rock, Scissors, Paper. She can handle the "Scissors" that come along often but sometimes a piece of "Paper" comes along and wraps her up - bums her out. But the "Scissors" happens more than "Paper" and she continues to win the game because she is the "Rock." And she could have come home from school and been sad and distraught, but instead she comes home happy most days and tells me the fun things that happened at school. I don't know, I am beginning to think I just wanted to hear only happy things. Living in La La Land.

The past two weeks, I have also been receiving progressively worse reports from Mia's teachers. I kid you not, she has been stealing food (treats) from other kids on the playground, having temper tantrums in class and crying when she doesn't get her way. She has been singing loudly all day long in class, even when the teacher is teaching and no one should be talking and she also does whatever she wants whenever she wants. And telling the teachers, when they try to intervene and help, not to touch her. Now we all know that Mia is stubborn by nature. But these reports at the end of the day were just enough to make me send Mia to her room one night after school, only to come out for dinner. Tough? Probably. But I was embarrassed. I tried to talk to her, tried to have her explain to me what was causing her to act out this way - looking for an answer. But she would only say what I wanted to hear...and as I am typing this it is reminding me of a period of time that I went through with Ella. But regardless, Mia's behavior was/is getting worse by the day.

I told Andrew about this issue with Mia a few days ago, as he had been traveling for work or out late with visiting office colleagues from the U.S. for quite a few days. Andrew sat down and talked to Mia and she told him she doesn't like France, doesn't like to speak French, doesn't like to hear French and that she only speaks English. Basically, she told Andrew she is rebelling against her life here in France is she is bound to give everyone h.e.double toothpicks until she is out of here. Here I was thinking that it would take a longer time for Mia to come around. She did fine last year in school and I expected fine this year. But I now see that she probably got away with a lot last year because she was new and foreign and the teacher didn't want to bother me - especially since things got considerably better after we split up Grace and Mia. And this year, she just can't get away with as much. Geez, La La Land is really filling up fast.

You are probably wondering about Grace. She got glasses last week which she is really happy about. She wears them pretty consistently and has her sister totally jealous. Mia would do just about anything to get prescribed glasses right now. She has had one potty accident in class so far, but nothing to get her kicked out of school yet. She comes home from school singing French songs and trying to speak words that really do sound French - though they are just jibberish. But the point is that she is trying, she is trying to speak in French and that is encouraging. Dare I say that Grace is happy?

What about Andrew? Well, Andrew is doing OK. It is a real struggle for him to go to work many days. The main reason for the struggle is him being an American who doesn't speak fluent French in charge of an all French office and that just doesn't jive well for everyone. And if you have been in this type of situation you probably can comprehend this matter. And it's really too bad, because he is really good at what he does and they would benefit so much if they just gave him a break and listen to him. Regardless, he is plugging away and doing well, he has good relationships with all the other European offices and remains an inspiration and collaborator for his U.S. colleagues. When Andrew and I discussed coming to France for his job, I certainly had higher hopes for him. Meaning, I really thought his genuine character, his smart mind, and his great, sincere smile would win anyone over (it won me over!) despite the nationality, culture and language differences. But it seems he has a tough crowd to deal with. And deal he does - what a trooper! It is official - La La Land is full.

This morning, all three girls were playing a game called "French", and in the game they were all characters who could only speak French. That was quite an accomplishment for Mia - she was all into this game! Progress may be in progress...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October 1, 2009: Chicken Soup for the Bowl

So Grace and Mia are home sick today with colds and coughs. Fortunately, they haven't developed fevers yet which means they are probably just experiencing a seasonal cold. Never-the-less, as sickness strikes the household after a few months of health, I started to search on the internet on what kinds of foods can naturally boost the immune system. I'd like to do everything naturally possible to help my family stay healthy. So what have I found out?

Well, after years of trying this and that to better my own personal health (once it was TONS of soy, then it was no diary, then it was no soda or coffee, etc...) I have come to the obvious conclusion that we would all be very healthy and closer to disease-free if we didn't do so many detrimental things to our bodies and enviornments every single day of our lives. It is a mystery to me that our bodies don't just implode!

I would love to see a case study done on a newly created planned community that only eats a varied diet full of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables that are grown by it's own community without pesticides, eats it's own naturally raised beef, poultry and other meats, eats eggs from it's own chickens, doesn't use bleaches for it's flours or sugars, but rather eats whole-grains and natural cane sugars, no soda was drank and the only candy known was an occasional lollipop etc... you get the point. I would also like to see this community only be at the size where bikes or walking are ample for traveling to work or a rowboat or paddleboat could scoot you across a lake where you also catch your fish for meals. I'd like to see natural beauty promoted and physical activity embraced by people of all ages. I'd like to see a community where adults work well and with pride but only within their planned working hours and spending time with their families and spouses and friends happens frequently and often. I'd like to see everyone get a
good nights sleep. I'd like to see the community members relax, meditate, and cherish the quiet instead of needing constant music in their ears, a T.V. in the background or a heavy workload to keep them going. Then, I would want to compare, over time, statistics from how a majority of us live our lives today to that of the planned community. How would our health be if we didn't have boxed and canned foods? How would our health be if we exercised everyday and we actually had the time and desire to do it? How would our health be if we were not surrounded by pollution and work-related stress? How would our lives be if we didn't take medications that solved one-problem but caused another? I am no scientist, but I think we would see less diabetes, less heart attacks, less immune-system disorders, less work-related freak out sessions, etc... It is a sad cycle, really.

So what CAN we do, knowing this planned community will probably never exist and the prospect of turning back the clocks to the times of Little House on the Prairie are quite slim?
I guess you just try to make your own personal healthy choices - hoping they will rub off on others - as often as you can. Magazine and internet articles tell you to consider so many things (take the stairs - not the elevator, add lemon to your water - don't get the lemonade, ask for salad dressing on the side, eat a piece of meat the size of a deck of cards, get more fiber in your diet by drinking this disgusting cup of orange slim, etc...) and it is so difficult to keep doing one good habit changing thing because something seemingly better comes along and knocks you off track when you receive your next magazine in the mail.

So what am I doing? Not as much as I should or could, that is for sure. But for starters I am trying to feed my family healthy and nutritious food in hopes that it will help keep them healthy in the short term and the long term. I am trying to teach them that a batch of homemade apple sauce is not only better for you nutritionally, but it is also better for the environment in so many ways. And that they see how easy it is to make so hopefully when they grow up they will want to do the same for their own children.

And what am I doing today in my quest? Well today, I discovered that Chicken Noodle Soup really is supposed to help a cold clear up quicker. I can't really get my head around what elements of the soup consumption would help your sickness resolve in a speedier manner, but as it is a natural remedy and a food that my children like to eat, why not feed it to them? Now you might suspect that I buy canned soup as much as I buy gallons of high fructose corn syrup to add to my home cooking. And you would be right. I absolutely hate canned soups for SO many reasons. And today, I plead with you to not buy them, either. At least as a small step, don't buy Chicken Noodle Soup.

The next time you are at the grocery store, skip the canned soup section. Instead, make your way over to the spices section and buy some organic low sodium chicken boullion cubes. Next, head over to the fresh vegetables section and grab a bag of baby carrots. Head over to the pasta aisle and grab some favorite whole grain noodles. Finally, buy some chicken breasts. Now you have all your ingredients for your soup.

Chicken boullion cubes take up NO space in your pantry - they should be a staple in your cooking spices. It doesn't hurt to have baby carrots in your fridge at all times. They're a good snack raw, a good easy side dish cooked at night, and a quick appetizer with a dip at the last minute. As far as chicken breasts, the next time you prepare them for dinner, make one or two extra and freeze them. Or if you are like me, just keep a few extra in the fridge and use them for sandwiches or salad toppers. Then, when the day comes that you want soup or need soup you can have your own fresh bowl in under 20 minutes.

Steps for 4 servings of Chicken Noodle Soup
Put 2 pots of water on the stove and bring to a boil - one for the pasta and one for the chicken boullion.

Take chicken out of freezer and thaw in microwave.

Make 2 servings of chicken boullion (see instructions your container but I think it should be around 1 L of water). Add the chicken boullion cubes to the boiling water and stir occasionally until dissolved. Once they are dissolved, cover with lid and let boullion simmer.

Make 2 servings of pasta. Once water is boiling in the other pot, add pasta to water, slightly salted, and cook. When pasta is finished cooking, strain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.

While waiting for the pots of water to boil:
- dice up about 10 - 15 baby carrots. Add the diced carrots to the chicken boullion water once the cubes have dissolved. Let simmer for 10 - 12 minutes.
- While the carrots are simmering, dice or shred up the chicken into small pieces.

After the carrots have simmered for 10 - 12 minutes, add the pasta and the chicken and simmer for 5 more minutes.