Sunday, October 23, 2011

6 Weeks of Readjustements

After 6 weeks of reajusting and getting to a "normal" life again in the States I thought I better get on a normal blogging schedule again too.

As a little update, Jonathan and I are in the middle of deciding where we will be going next after leaving Paris. Jonathan was actually over there for three weeks while the kiddos and I stayed here. It was much easier for one person to sell everything out of an apartment than a whole family. So while he was doing that we were with my parents in the States. We were so happy to have him back! But the kids and I so miss Paris. Claire and Matthew have asked several times when we are going "home" or back to Paris. They don't quite understand everything about the move. It will be helpful when we are able to tell them where we will be next so that they can focus on that instead. Until then we are relying on God's strenght to be able to show them patience and trust during times of uncertainty. He is always faithful.

I have to share some of the little cultural and life style things that we've had to get used to.

  • The first time Claire went to use the bathroom in the States she came out with a very worried look on her face and said, "Mommy, I can't find the button for the toilet!!!" In France they have buttons on top of the toilet to flush it. When I showed her the handle and how it works she looked at me kind of funny and then said, "Wow, Mommy, that's cool!" Haha!
  • Two days after we arrived in the States, Jonathan went to a lunch meeting. Matthew watched his daddy drive off in the car and then asked where he was going. I told him that he was going to a restaurant to meet someone. Then he said, "Mommy, why doesn't he just walk there?" In Matthew's mind you walk everywhere because we did that in Paris. He believes cars are only for long trips. Both Claire and Matthew were also confused for the first week when we took the car to the grocery instead of walking.
  • The milk here in the States taste much different than in France. It took Claire several tries to even start to drink it. Now she's doing ok, but she still doesn't like it.
  • We took one big grocery trip to Walmart and I won't do it ever again. We'll just stick with Aldis and Price Chopper for now. Do we really need a whole isle half a mile long for chips? Really??? It's just a little overwhelming.
  • And yogurt...I miss yogurt!!! I have found one brand similar to the French yogurt that is actually made for babies and toddlers here in the States.
  • Do we speak French or English? For the first week it was strange to say thank you instead of merci or hello instead of bonjour. Claire kept asking if the people we were going to see spoke English or French. Then my sweet Matthew decided to introduce the nursery worker to Micah one day at church and said proudly, "Regardes! C'est mon frère, Micah!" (Look it's my brother, Micah.)
  • So I kind of forgot that complete strangers say hello when you are walking by. I was walking along the sidewalk with my kids the day after we arrived and the guy running by said good morning. It scared me to death.
  • Restaurants: huge portions, hovering waiters, refills before my cup is even finished. However, I am seriously happy about having restaurants that cater to kids and even have high chairs again.

I'm sure we will have more funnies to post over the next few weeks. But here's a little quote from Claire and Matthew a couple weeks ago.

As we were coming home from church, we passed a fire station and Matthew said that he was going to grow up big like Daddy and be a fireman. When I asked Claire what she was going to be she said a doctor. She then said, "Matthew, you can come to Russia with me and be a fireman and a I will be a doctor." (One of Claire's future dreams is to help the orphans in Russia) Then Matthew said, "I will rescue the children without daddies and mommies in a fire and then take them to your doctor office. You can help them feel better." "Yep," said Claire, "that will be great!"

It was seriously the cutest thing ever!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

One BIG Update

Wow, it's been a while but for very good reason. This has been a whirlwind of a summer for our family! Instead of writing a small book about what our lives have been since the end of May I'll just give you a few little glimpses....

On June 25th Claire and Matthew's maternelle had their closing program. They were amazingly cute. Matthew sang right along in French with the other students (he loves singing), and our timid Claire stood bravely and calmly but didn't make a peep (which is just fine with us). Here's a little video of their school choir.

The last day of school was July 1st. God has grown our children physically and spiritually so much this year. What and awsome joy to see how He works in their lives!

As most of you know, Jonathan and I came to Paris in order to join a team planting a church here. God has provided us with enough funds two be able to work here for 2 1/2 years. However, because of both the economic issues in the States and the high cost of living in France, we can no longer sustain our family within this country. Therefore, much of this summer has been busy with all of the details involved in moving back to the States. Moving overseas and closing up an apartment is no small task, but it is getting done steadily. September 6th is our official moving date. Although we are disappointed in the ending of our ministry here in Paris, we are very excited to see what God has in store for our family. He always provides and has always known our path. (Psalm 121 & Psalm 139)

In the busyness of moving it has been my goal to keep as normal of a schedule as possible with the kiddos. This way they feel less stress and the transition can be smoother. Each day I do a little bit involving the move and try to work around the kiddos' schedules. Almost every afternoon we like to go to a park (depending on the weather), and then we work on preschool/kindergarten about 3 days each week. It's been nice to have all 3 of them in the house at the same time, and I'm greatly looking forward to homeschooling the older two this coming year! These are 3 amazing gifts God has given us, and Jonathan and I do not want to waste any time we have with them. They are growing up so fast!!!

Claire Alanna turned 5 years old August 7. Is it just me, or is there something "big" about being five? It's not that she had a sudden change or look. But it does seem that she's grown so much over the past year. We no longer have a toddler or a preschooler. We have a little girl! And she is a precious little girl at that! It is a joy to see her growing in the Lord. Right now, she and I are studying God's attributes together twice a week, and she is usually the one to come to me asking to do a study. What a blessing to this mother's heart. Here is our little princess in one of her "outfits". :)

My amazing, handsome, godly husband has hit 30!!! I definitely have been teasing him for it, but I suspect he will get me back next year. We celebrated with a cake and some homemade cards from the kiddos. Very fun! He is still just as hansdsome as when I met him almost an entire decade ago!!! P.S. Do not attempt to make a cake with cream cheese frosting inside of a kitchen that is humid and 85 degrees. It amounts to no fluff. Oh well, at least it tasted the same!

Well, when I look at the little update it doesn't look like much, but it seems every day has been packed and quite tiring. We are saying goodbyes, selling most of our household items, packing, making transportation and housing plans for the US, praying about our next ministry destination, finishing our French taxes paperwork, apartment sitting for our colleagues' apartments, helping out a foreign family with a medical crisis, and working on English preschool for Matthew and kindergarten for Claire. Jonathan is also working on responsibilities for when we get back to the States. Whew! Lots to do, but we aren't complaining. God has been so good to us, and given our family peace and confidence within His perfect plan.

So there's the update. Now maybe we can get back to a normal blogging schedule!!! Praying that each of you are having a great summer full of God's blessings.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Finger Painting Fun!

Claire and Matthew have asked several times in the last couple of weeks to paint. While we were walking around the park a few days ago they both found leaves that they decided would be good to decorate, so we went home and did so. I love their concentration; in fact, Matthew sat still for 40 minutes painting. That's a big deal for him! Micah even joined in on the fun.

"I'm not to sure about this stuff, Mom."

Now we're getting the hang of it.

He really isn't in pain here. He was just showing off his hands.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

In the last month or so.....

Well, since it's been a while since I've had the time to update; I thought I'd give you a little about what's been going on in our part of the world for the last month.

My four siblings came for a visit for 10 days. We had an amazing time, and of course the kiddos loved every second of the time with their uncles and aunts.

I saw a new country! My siblings and I went to Brussles, Belgium for the day. I highly recommend it! The fries and waffles were amazing.

The kids and I have headed out to the park enjoying the warmer weather we've had lately. I think we are going to be at the park for a good portion of the summer!

And our 13 month old Micah Aaron has started walking. Here is a little video of him walking with his new slippers.

Well, that's a small portion of what has been going on. I have several other fun blog posts to get on here, so I'll stop here with this one.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

My Little Stinker

Micah has been getting more and more onery. My French mother friends would say, "Il est en forme!" (He is in form!) In otherwords, he's being michevious and rambunctious. It doesn't help that he has a brother who is just as michevious as he is. Tonight before bed time Matthew and Micah were playing toys together, making their toys be as loud as they could be, and grunting. Why do boys naturally grunt? It's very odd to me. But I'm so glad that they are all boy; we wouldn't have it any other way. Here is what I found Micah doing the other day. Normally we have a gate closed that blocks both our kitchen and bathroom from little hands. However, I'd left it open for just a little while when...

Whoops, she caught me!

But, Mom, it's just so funny!

Really, just hilarious!

I need some extra fiber in my diet.

Do I look cute and innocent or what?!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

"Be Our Guest" Dinner Protocol in France

This blog post on dinner etiquette and protocol has been on my mind for a while. However, I did not want to speak about it until experiencing it first hand more than just once. Now that we have hosted and have been hosted several times for both lunch and dinner in France I feel that I can speak on this subject in a clearer manner.

First of all, I must begin by saying that lunch or dinner is rarely the first get-together two parties will have to get to know each other. Instead it is often the 2nd or 3rd step. Normally, there is an invitation to coffee or for a gouter (snack time before dinner). Each party reciprocates this, and then the dinner invitation can be extended. Needless to say, this protocol can be broken, but it is the general rule of thumb.

Second, lunch can be anywhere from 12pm to 1:30pm for a start time, just like in the United States. However, dinner is early if it starts before 8pm (even then, 9pm isn't at all late). Families will often feed the children before hand and then eat separately from them because of bedtimes. When we have invited or been invited dinners will start early for the kids sake. Early being between 6:30pm and 8pm. Because of this difficult time for dinner, we often opt for lunch with our friends. It makes it much easier for the children to participate and keeps the time less stressful for them.

Third, the invited brings a gift to the host such as the one brought to us last week. Flowers are a very popular choice for the gift.

It is also perfectly acceptable for the invited to ask to bring something such as desserts or the baguettes for the meal. At the dinner we had last week, the family we invited offered to bring dessert; and I gladly accepted. Doesn't it look amazing? Just so you know, it tasted even better than it looks! The French know how to do desserts.

Also, a meal is not something to be rushed through! There is a pause in between the appitzer and/or salad; then another pause between the main dish and the cheese plate; then another pause until the dessert; and yet another pause before the coffee or tea (they usually eat their dessert separate of the coffee and tea). All of this takes place at the table, and can last a couple of hours. In the United States we would often move to the living room at this point to make discussion more comfortable. However, the French love table conversations and will often stay there for the evening enjoying their discussions on politics or strange American customs like having dinner at 6pm (Ok, maybe that's only when we are there). So far, our shortest dinner engagement has been 4 hours long with the average being for 5 1/2 hours.

The wonderful thing about being an American in France is that the French will serve their regional dishes to us (In France, there are very specific regions with very specific regional dishes. Therefore, people from different regions of the country love teaching us about their specialty dishes.). It has been fascinating! In turn, they love it when we fix classic "American" dishes. This can be hard for me, and slightly frustrating. It seems like the classics in their minds are fried chicken or hamburgers. I don't mind occassional hamburgers, but cannot our family doesn't eat anything fried! Therefore, I will make a BBQ meatball dish or a honey/mustard chicken, which they enjoy immensely. I'm finding more and more how much the United States has adapted from the countries which founded it. Our dishes are so international! However, our angel food cake or soft-baked chocolate cookies, or brownies with ice-cream are huge hits over here; so the desserts are easy to decide on.

Did you know that Americans use their forks an extraordinary amount? Really it's quite startling. In France, it is proper to use both the fork and the knife at the table with the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right hand for almost every dish served. I have seen Frenchmen eat boned chicken piece with such grace and then leaving nothing on the bone. In fact, that is how I always view the way the French eat...with grace and poise. They do the same with a piece of pizza as they would with a steak dinner. They also enjoy their food emmensly often remarking on the quality of the vegetables or the sharpness of the cheese. They love savoring each bite and commenting on it. Sometimes they are brutally honest, such as when a woman told me she enjoyed the kiwi and banana in my fruit salad but that the strawberries were only so-so and were still out of season. It is not something I should be upset about, she is just explaning her experience with the food.

Now, to discuss kids at the dinner table. I have been told that in the last generation French children were expected to stay at the dinner table with the adults and be seen and not heard until they were dismissed. Now, I do believe that it is important for children to learn to be well behaved at the dinner table. However, a two hour long dinner seems nearly impossible for the child. Therefore, after they have finished their main dish,we always let the children go to their room to play until the dessert is brought out. Thankfully, this is well excepted now. I am also glad that all of our guests have been willing to let the children in on the conversation. Jonathan and I are firm believers in helping our children develop their conversational skills. Claire and Matthew are both shy around adults. However, they are gaining confidence as we include them and listen to what we they have to say.

So there are a few little insights into the French dinner table. To be quite honest, I used to be terrified of eating dinner here. Now we all love the conversation and the enjoyment of the food. And to show how much I have integrated into the culture, I now eat my salad, pizza, and even chicken legs with a knife and a fork. :)

Monday, April 25, 2011

It's Time to Celebrate!

We had a big weekend of celebrating. Micah turned 1 year old on Thursday, and we then had a weekend of celebrating the Lord's death and resurrection. I've placed some photos below to describe all of our celebrations!

Birthday Boy!
One year ago I was recovering from the easiest birth I have had of my three and enjoying my newborn son. This weekend we celebrated the year of life that God has given him. Thank you God for our beautiful little boy!
Interesting facts about Micah:
  • He is by far the most extroverted person in our family. Although he still wants mommy more than others, he really has no fear around others and loves having a lot of people in the room.
  • Micah has a stuffed animal that he must sleep with every night. In French it is called a doudou, and he knows it by that name. :)
  • He loves playing with his brother and sister, and they are very patient with him. When playing they include him in their imaginary stories by calling him "The Giant Baby".
  • Micah currently has 5 teeth. The poor child gets every symptom in the book when teething, so every couple of months he gets miserable for a week or so.
  • Micah looks and acts much like his older sister did when she was his age, but he is more outgoing than her.
  • Micah loves balls, but really does not like playing consistently with any other toy. He would rather climb or be with people.
  • Speaking of balls, the word ball was his third word. He said dada first and then mama. He also understands some phrases better in French than in English.
  • All of my children are in the upper percentiles until they are two. However, Micah is my tallest baby by far! Clothing that Matthew was wearing between 15-18 months he is wearing at 12 months.
  • Micah loves carrots, apples, strawberries, and broccoli.
  • He does not care to try to walk. He stands by himself often. However, he really doesn't even want to practice with us. I don't mind at all! He'll walk when he's ready.
  • However, he speed crawls. Seriously, he is the fastest crawling baby I have ever seen. He starts at one end of a room, puts his head down, and mows through everything in his path all while groaning like a motor.
For his birthday we went to McDonalds and got him his first happy meal. The next day we went swimming and on Sunday we had birthday cake with the folks at church. His big birthday bash will be in a couple of weeks.

On our way to McDonalds.

Resurrection Day!
Explaining the simplicity of the gospel to our children this year has once again reminded me of the amazing sacrifice and gift that God gave to a sinner like me. It has been wonderful answering the questions they have asked. Claire has taken to heart that Christ forgave the soldiers who nailed Him to the cross, and that He forgives us when we sin against Him also. And Matthew is beginning to understand that it was for him that Christ died. This was also Micah's first Easter. Last year he was two weeks away from his birthdate (Is Easter super late this year?). Here are some of the pictures from our Easter fun in the park.