31 December, 2014

New Years Eve is my favorite holiday.

We have been invited to a party, but I am not really in the mood to go to a party tonight.

Our Christmas was quiet and mellow. The kids got toys from Grandma and Pappy and Auntie Chris and Mom and Dad and Santa. That was about it. I think they had everything opened and put together but the 26th. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on toys and junk that they don’t play with. They got a new sled from Santa with some snow boots that we hope to use soon. But, there isn’t any snow, so we have been house-bound this stay-cation. We were going to go on a little road trip this weekend, but that sort of fell through too. We are going to save up for the February holiday. We are planning on going a week ski trip.

We did get out of the house on the 26th and took a walk on the Cap d’Antibes. That was really nice. Everyone raves about that walk and I figured it was finally time to explore it.

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It really is a beautiful walk and I can only imagine how crazy packed it is when all the tourists are in the area.

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I took the tree and all the decorations down by the 26th. The tree was so dead that Kinnerly would just lightly touch the ends of the branches and all the needles would fall off. I would wake up in the middle of the night and double check to make sure the lights were off for fear of having the tree burst into flames. One more Christmas in France checked off our list.

Our Christmas Eve was really nice though. We went over to the Burns’ house for some mid-afternoon drinks and appetizers and then went to their little local church that was built sometime in the 1600’s and watched the children put on a nativity play and sing carols. It was surprisingly fun and I really enjoyed being there, in the old church, singing carols. It really did put you in the Christmas spirit.

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The new year should be interesting. We were scheduled to be back in the states by now, but the project keeps being delayed. I’m trying to stay positive about it all. It gets really depressing though whenever I see someone and they ask when we are leaving. I have no answers. It seems like everyone is just waiting for us to leave instead of just enjoying us being here.

I was browsing through our pictures before writing this post and we have been to a lot of places in Europe so far. It really is amazing to think of the adventures we have had. I want to have more adventures and take more pictures because who knows when we will be back in Europe again. I never dreamed our family would grow so much so far away from everything and everyone we know and love. We are all changing quickly, B and I both turned 40, we have watched the kids grow exponentially, we have made some wonderful friends that I believe we will have for a lifetime. Being an expat is hard. I was sent an article yesterday by a friend about being an expat, how you find other people like you and you immediately cling on to one another, like you are on a ferry in rough seas, you find out who will be your friend a lot faster than in your “other” world.

I’m clicking over to 2015 and I have to get the kids out of the house today. We are going to go down to Cannes and check out their little street festival and get some NYE churros.

Nothing says NYE in the south of France like churros!

Happy New Year!

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Thanksgiving, Opio, France 2014

So, here we are, still in France, knee deep in the holiday season.

Thanksgiving in France, of course, is really a non-issue. It isn’t really celebrated, but the locals are starting to realize that there are some American expats around and they even celebrated it on the radio this morning. They played “American” songs during the morning drive. No “Alice’s Restaurant” but that’s really ok by me. I’ve never really been keen on that song.

Turkeys are elusive, unless you want to special order one, and they are really expensive this time of year. They will be around more for Christmas as a lot of French people have them for their Christmas dinner.

So, here we are, our 4th Thanksgiving in France. Byron is in Tolouse, the kids are at school and I’m making some pecan pie cookies.

I spent way too much money on this tiny little jar of cranberry sauce, but, hey, it is a holiday right?

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The kids are having a little friend over after school. Not for long, but a couple of hours. I’ll see if I can get her to have some stuffing. It is raining right now. I swear, I haven’t seen this much rain in a long time! Everything is super-saturated, it’s crazy. But, I took this photo a few days ago when the sky was clear. It was beautiful out there on the golf course. Almost all the leaves are gone now, and I can’t wait for ski season. I think the kids are really going to have a great time this year. A little bit older and a little bit more independent, they will be able to cruise around fairly well. Especially Kinnerly.

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I can’t believe we have been here for 4 Thanksgivings. I do know this will for sure be our last one. So, I’m trying to enjoy (???) it.

Happy Thanksgiving! I love you mom and dad and Chris! Miss you!

Oh, yeah, summer vacation…

Sorry, I’ve been a *little* busy lately. So busy that I do remember uploading these pictures from the summer but then totally forgot that I didn’t post them. Ugh.

Well, let’s start then, before I forget!

We started off in beautiful Zermatt, Switzerland. The drive there was AMAZING! It is seriously one of the most beautiful drives. We went up through the top of Italy, by the Lago Maggiore and then over the pass where the border is located.

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It was quite rainy through the pass area, but it was still gorgeous.

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As soon as we got up over the pass, the clouds cleared and I had to have Byron stop so I could snap some pictures.

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Really pictures couldn’t do the drive justice. It was just amazing.

So, we finally got into Zermatt, found our camping spot and set up. It wasn’t the best weather when we got there, just drizzly enough that we needed to stay under cover.

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We played games and eventually put on our rain gear and went for a little walk to check out the tiny town and grab some dinner.

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We found an awesome restaurant and of course, ordered schnitzel! Gosh, the schnitzel in Switzerland and Austria is so dang good. I swear I think I had schnitzel almost every day while we were on holiday.

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Kinnerly really liked hers too.

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So did Brannan.

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To get to the town of Zermatt and to be able to see the Matterhorn, you are not allowed to drive in, you either have to take a “shuttle” like a van or you can take the train up the hill. The train is really cool, it allows dogs and bikes and luggage and skis and snowboards. It is really a great way to travel into a tiny mountain town. We camped right next to the train so we just walked over to the train station and hopped on. Byron had a brilliant idea to bike ride to the town – he saw lots of other people doing it – and somehow convinced Brannan to bike with him. I thought it would be all good, the person at the front desk at the campground said it was easily accessible by bike. Well, little did they mention that it was quite a big incline getting up there. Brannan had to walk his bike quite a long way as he didn’t have enough leg power to get up there.

Kinnerly rode in the train with me. My bike didn’t have enough gears to go uphill as I just brought my cruiser bike. Byron brought his mountain bike and Brannan had 6 speeds on his bike so it was a little easier for them.

Anyway, we got to the little village and walked around a bit to get our bearings.

The first day we took the train into Zermatt it was quite overcast and we knew that we weren’t going to see the Matterhorn. We walked around a bit and finally the drizzle got the best of us and we ducked into a restaurant for a late lunch. Then we headed back down the mountain to our camp.

We decided to extended our stay in Zermatt because I JUST HAD to see the Matterhorn! I mean, when will be the next time I’ll be able to drive to the Matterhorn??? So, we stayed another day because by the time we got back to camp on the first day, the weather cleared out, the sky was blue and I just knew the next day it was going to be clear and I could get a picture of that dang mountain!

So, we headed up the hill again on the train and the boys took their bikes. Brannan actually went up there the second day and he made it almost the whole way! He knew what to expect and I guess Byron encouraged him enough that he was able to make it up the hill. We were really happy for him and I think he was too.

The second day, however, was actually really beautiful. I just knew I was going to get a picture of that sucker! So we waited some more. And walked around the village. But there was just this ONE FRICKING CLOUD that stuck around the Matterhorn!

So, we waited…

And waited some more.

We looked at cute little Matterhorn chocolates…

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Bought some Toblerone…

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And took the kids to the outdoor zip line course…

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And waited and walked around some more and admired the cool signs on the rubbish bins…

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The day was gorgeous and blue skies but that dang Matterhorn was still shrouded in clouds!

I looked every minute up at that mountain. I had my DSLR in hand, waiting for the shot. I walked out of the zip line park to look at that Matterhorn, totally expecting clear blue skies, but that thing just really made me angry! There were some super sticky clouds that would not let go of that mountain, making it totally impossible for me to see it clearly.

And, I’m sad to say, I never got a clear view of the Matterhorn. I guess it is a great excuse to go back again. I got some very, very, close views, but never a whole view of the big mountain.

I was a little sad, but not so much, because it was super fun and we had some great food, the campground was good, and the kids had a good time.

We found some more amazing treats:

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But then we realized we had to get on our way.

We had to go meet Sully in Germany!!!

Oh, but first, we had these goats that grazed right above our campground – they are half black and half white, like black and white cookies, but they are only known in the Zermatt area – they were so cool! They  made me want to have a black and white cookie!

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Only in Switzerland!

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So, after Zermatt, we headed out towards Munich because we needed to meet Sully. We drove across a huge pass, I don’t know what it was called, but it was gorgeous!

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There was a glacier back behind that hotel, and on the other side of my camera as well, but I didn’t get any snaps of that. It was the end of summer and we were up with the glaciers! That’s my kind of camping! Well, we didn’t camp there, but it was super fun to pass through there.

We stopped at a couple of places in between and finally ended in Leutasch, right on the border of Austria and Germany. It is so beautiful at this campsite. We were at the same spot last year and I really wanted to go back. It was freezing a lot of the time, but there is a restaurant and a bar and a sauna and an indoor heated pool, so there is so much for the kids to do, you barely have to leave the campground. Plus, there is climbing around for Byron and we rode our bikes to the other village and got totally rained out on the way back home but it was funny and super cold and totally crazy that we will talk about it for the rest of our lives.

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We finally got Sully and took him around the area. We had time at the semi-heated pool, at the restaurant and in the surrounding areas.

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We went to Brechtesgarten, which is such a beautiful area in Austria. Unfortunately it was a little overcast and chilly, but we still made the boat ride out onto the lake.

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I do have to say, this was probably one of the most rainiest holidays I’ve had. We spent a lot (too much??) time in the tent unfortunately, but we did have a lot of fun, sunny days. It was even better to have Sully there to enjoy it with us.

Summer 2014

I finally just downloaded all of the photos from my “big” camera. There are some really good ones from our trips. The days flew by this summer. We started it off with Kinnerly’s birthday and ended with Brannan’s – with a lot in between.

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She had an amazing birthday. I think this year really “clicked” for her, in that it was “her” time, her special day.

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Well, school ended without a bang, the kids were ready to be done and have some new adventures. We went to some lavender fields for a weekend drive. It was gorgeous. I totally forgot about the pictures I took until I pulled them off my sim card today.

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After our quick trip to the lavender fields, we had a few playdates, some judo camp and then Grandma Patty came to visit!

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IMG_7589It was so great to have Grandma Beers for a visit. We were so happy to have her here at our house and so happy to have taken her to all of the usual spots in the South of France – Gourdon, Cannes, Valbonne…

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As soon as she left, we went on to our family vacation. That’s up next!

I’m alone at home. Finally getting a little peace and quiet. In 10 minutes though, I will have to put on some “nice” (not a beach dress) clothes and go get the kids at school.

But, being home alone gets me thinking a lot about the future. About our future as a family. I look in the mirror and see my gray hairs popping up way more frequently than I remember. I can’t pluck them like some other lucky people since I have such thin, fine hair that every one counts, even if they are gray. I see the wrinkles around my eyes and realize that I am going to be 40 in only a few more months. I can’t believe it. I took a silly quiz online a while ago asking your “emotional age”, turns out my emotional age is 23. That is how you feel on the inside, but the outside says something way different.

The kids are getting older and wiser and more “bicker-y”. Some days we all wake up, gather around the kitchen island for breakfast and the first thing the kids say to each other are verbal pokes, which leads to verbal whining and verbal tattle-taleing. I’m hoping this is just a phase. I know it is, I keep telling myself. I just keep plowing through the morning chores saying to myself that they will be separated in school within another 2 hours.

The boys are getting into “boy” things this year. Brannan has been upset that he isn’t very good at football (soccer) and he gets teased at school about it. I told Byron and said that he really needed to spend some time with him doing that sort of boy stuff, and lo and behold, after one Saturday morning, Brannan came home from school yesterday and said he almost scored a goal at school. It gave him just enough confidence to keep it up and not feel bad about being teased. Every day we come home and I play the new Taylor Swift song “Shake It Off” for him and tell him to just think of that song when people tease him about not being able to make a goal.

Brannan got a new guitar for his birthday. Byron wants to take lessons with him.  Kinnerly just started a dance class at school. She looks super cute in her little ballet shoes and her little leotard spinning around on the wood floor. I really want to take a transcendental meditation course, but will have to wait until we are back in the states for that. Not sure that is a popular thing here in France, plus I wouldn’t want to spend the money on something like that and not understand it.

I’m getting geared up to download our pictures from our summer. Just haven’t had the push to do it. There are a few good ones I think but I don’t know why I am scared of taking them out of my camera. It’s like I don’t want to release the summer yet. Close the page on that time just yet. I know it was our last summer here. It was very very busy, had a few good times in there, but I really am going to be sad to leave France. Although there are some days when I drive around longing for the clean, neat streets of America. Without graffiti and trash and potholes and sheer cliffs without guardrails. Like today, in fact. Maybe I’m just thinking of our October holiday too much. Thinking of what I want to get done while we are there, of all the travel, of stressing out flying with the kids by myself. But then shifting to fun things like seeing my family and having the kids experience a “real” Halloween. They don’t even know what Halloween is really. It is sort of celebrated here, people dress up at school but there is no trick-or-treating. I think they will have a blast doing that.

Now I must go put on some “nicer” clothes, some makeup and go get the kids…

7 years

Oh, my dear, sweet, Lego-obsessed boy. Happy birthday to you!

Seven years ago today you were welcomed into our family, a sweet, smiling little baby boy. A calm, happy, little baby. Ready for the world. Ready for whatever was going to come.

Today, seven years later, you are still the sweetest boy. Although you aren’t so little any more. You are almost up to my shoulders. I cringe every fall when you put on last years’ pants and find that they are now high-waters. I tell you all the time to stop growing. You keep telling me that you are trying not to grow but that you can’t help it.

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You have lost 4 teeth already and you know how to read my texts and you know how to make your own breakfast and you finally know how to operate the television (to my dismay).

You can shoot your bow, you dream of going white water rafting with your dad, you have pretty much mastered riding a bike and you know how to make your sister really really angry.

You know how to apologize and feel remorse and sorrow and happiness. You can get dressed every morning on your own, tie your own shoes, brush your own teeth and turn on your own shower every night. You are just getting way too big for me.

You walk to class on your own, you negotiate crosswalks, you choose your own dinners. It really is amazing to witness all of these things happen in such a short (long?) time.

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You are my little buddy and you always look after your Mama.

I love when you call me Mama.

Happy birthday little buddy. I love you to the universe and back.

Love, Mama

July 25, 2014

Kinnerly is sitting on the big leather couch, her tanned little body all curled up in the corner. She is eating a sweet and sour piece of candy. You know, those ones covered in sugar and sour, more sweet than sour, but all over delicious? It is one of the multi-colored “rainbow candies” as we call it. It is like a flat piece of leather with 5 colors stuck together. She pulls each color apart and sucks the sugar off first and then eats the fruity candy part. She eats the last color and says “mommy, look, my hands are all covered in sugar!”

I say, “yep, they sure are! Run to the bathroom and wash them off please.”

She says, “but mommy, I like to lick the sugar off of them!”

I think about it for a few seconds and say “ok, go ahead, lick the sugar off and then go wash your hands, ok?”

She starts to clean her hands like a little kitty, making this noise that reminds me of when she was a teeny tiny infant, when I used to feed her bottles in the middle of the night in the dark of the living room. It’s hard to explain, but it is a little smacking noise, a little noise only I can really notice her making, almost in her throat after she licks the sugar off her hands. She keeps licking until all the little glittery specks of sugar are gone. She shows me both hands and says “look mommy! All gone!”

Then she says, “I just LOOOOOVVVVE those rainbow candies mommy, can I have another one?”

I can’t say no. It’s just a little candy.

These little guys are growing up so fast it is heartbreaking to watch. I took Brannan to a dentist appointment today for a cleaning and as we were walking to the car he said, “Mom, that teeth cleaning was so powerful I think it knocked my tastebugs right out of my mouth!” I laughed in my head and didn’t bother to correct him on that one. It was just too dang cute!

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