Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How to Embarrass Oneself and Still Earn a High-Five

Today we went to the market in the town just outside our little village. A town with about 15,000 people that houses our grocery store, library, bank, shops and school for the children. It takes us about 15 minutes to drive in and it's such a gorgeous drive that the time passes very quickly. And some of the tiny villages we pass through on our way just about take my breath away with their charm. Sometimes I feel like I am existing in a movie set ...

And like any movie set community in Northern France, you must have an open-air farmers market right outside a stunning 16th century church. (Year-round, 2-3 times a week.) I wanted so dearly to take some photos, but I felt a bit sheepish about it. This is regular life, not a tourist experience, for these locals! Perhaps later I'll find a way to take some covert photos, but for now you'll have to trust me ... it was idyllic.

In my mind I picture myself strolling through the vendors trilling my orders in gorgeous French and chatting with the vendors as if we are decades-old comrades ... but the reality is that the dialog in my head drastically exceeds my abilities and my whole body shuts down in a frightened stupor. Suddenly, I don't know my name or who my children are much less how to ask if the whole loaf of bread costs 1euro15 or just part of it. So instead, I point and grunt and laugh manically as if to express, "Oh dear, isn't this funny, I can't even ask a proper question about bread." But the vendor looks at me quizzically and perhaps sympathetically, as he surely wonders how this woman has managed to stay alive and function for all of her years.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Outside Endeavor

Do you know why this girl is smiling? First of all, She and Pops built a tree swing. That is sure to bring a smile to most anyone, big or small.

But secondly, it's hanging from what will soon be ... a treehouse ...

You must head outside, naturally, and then take a right towards the back garden and head through these gates. You'll see hollyhocks and a grape arbor on the right and a gorgeous limbed tree straight ahead.

Friday, August 22, 2014

La Petite Rose

While we were ruthlessly discerning in our packing, I had decided to allow myself the luxury of one small piece of beauty to remind me of home. When gifted this little vase from a dear friend (whose sister has a magical etsy shop), I knew it was perfect. Tiny, beautiful, practical. I love it.

The climbing roses outside our door are nearing the end of their blossoming, but still exquisitely gorgeous. And perfect to adorn my little-bit-of-home. I have a little leap of joy each time I pass by.

What are some simple things you do at home that bring a smile to your face?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Good Day

Oh, thank you for all of the comments and personal emails yesterday of bolstering encouragement. It really was a boost. I say I am writing this blog for friends, family and posterity ... but it may just be for a few pats on the back and "you can do it" cheers. Merci.

Miss Lucette took some photos today of our laundry gathering. We've been avoiding using the dryer to save on electric bills and with the weather still calm ... it's a rather pleasant experience to let the sun do all the work.

While we hope to do some exploring beyond our little village this weekend, we have so enjoyed just doing everyday life. It's some calm amidst the chaos.

Because things are never picture perfect. And that's okay. Sometimes you have to wrestle with a bathmat on its way down from the line. But the laundry still gets brought in and at the end of the day ... I am the boss of the bathmat.

Today we managed a trip to the bank (hurrah!) and tomorrow we have a morning meeting at school to square away the details (hurrah! hurrah!). Our liaison we found through our landlord, Caroline, has been acting as translator and all-things extraordinaire. Finding the best bank rates and wi-fi companies, setting up appointments, recommending the best place for pastries and haircuts. She's sharp as a tack and is covering some of the details we don't know to. Plus, as one might expect, she's got that French Femme savoir faire. Must remember to mine for tips.

But now the day is done, the laundry is in and the bathmat is in a subservient position on the floor. All in all, a good day.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Inevitable Fails and Small Successes

I have been forcing myself to make small ventures into town each day. Both to get out of the house and to get used to it! I confess, the driving rules* and language and cultural differences make it rather intimidating. In someways, large cities are easier to be a foreigner ... because so many people are!

Today, we needed groceries (again), underpants, shoes for Jane, and pencil pouches. We have yet to complete our full school supply shopping (daunting), but apparently pencil pouches are expected. My kids weren't thrilled with the comic character pouches at the grocery and I had noticed a Librairie (bookstore) in the center of town next to a promising shoe store.  The Librairie had darling leather pouches of myriad electric colors (one for each child), plus needed post-it notes and the most darling cahiers. Cahiers being the French name for blank, lined notebooks. I'm certain I desperately need these for something.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

La Maison, La Cressonnière

To say we are enraptured with the maison we get to live in for the next year ... would be to phrase it lightly.

The place we call home has always been key to our family. A place to rest, to work, to laugh, to dwell. And after all of our months of preparations and day dreams ... we have been ready to be excited to be home.

We had the whole two-hour drive from Paris, in which to anticipate. But you know how it is. You try to measure your expectations, as sometimes unexpected hiccups and realities are just part of the drill. (Like when the rental car company goofs and you must perform luggage tetris to get all of your gear into a hatchback sedan. It seems okay and you just trust the children are still in the car by the muffled sounds they make, as you can't really see them anymore.) 

But when you turn into the drive, past the gate, and see it ...

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Window to Paris

To be eight years old, gazing out from above ... upon the Parisian streets. I wonder what thoughts flit through her adaptable mind ...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

La Tour Eiffel + La Travel Tip

Guess where we went today? Paris is organized very well, but as Pops said, "It's huge." Since it took a fairly long metro ride from the 11th arr. to La Tour Eiffel, and we are already pretty tired, we decided a simple look about was all that was needed. 

After all, it's Paris. It's the Eiffel Tower! There is plenty to gawk at even if we kept our feet on the ground.

Travel tip for families? In this case, we will be in close proximity to Paris for awhile, so we truly can "see it next time." But even if your trip is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, if you are just too tired, or are contemplating doing/seeing something because you feel like you should, tell yourselves "We'll see it next time." Somehow repeating this phrase makes it feel okay to skip an otherwise fun thing.

It's just not worth burning yourselves out and dealing with a crew of cranky people over something that's optional. Trust me, there will be plenty of crank-inducing moments that will not be optional.

And truly, when it keeps the masses congenial ... the view from the bottom is every bit as good as the top.

How about you? Any good travel tips out there?

**PS-When we were in New York, men in flip flops everywhere. Paris? I haven't seen any male toes. Almost entirely clad in proper shoes and when in sandals, thick strappy kinds that keep those hairy man toes covered. I mentioned this to Pops. I don't think we've lived here long enough for him to care.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

To Arrive in France

 And we are here! If you rent a furnished house, this is what luggage for 5 people for 2 years in France looks like! I don't know if it looks like a lot or a little, but we were definitely the American hillbillies in Paris.

After a whirlwind tour of New York (more on that later), we survived a trip from NY to Reykjavik, Iceland and then on through to Paris. May I just say for a moment that IcelandAir is one of the most pleasant airlines I've flown? I dearly hope we can fly again and actually stay for a visit.

Our pre-arranged taxi picked us up at the airport promptly and took us directly to our darling little apartment in the 11th arrondissement. We have only explored a small bit, but there is something interesting at every turn.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Not Just for Expats: To Thrive not Just Survive

I have realized, lately, that a lot of my worries about all that is to come is draining my joy and excitement! How do I recognize and prepare for certain difficulties but still look forward to all the good that is in store?

I stumbled upon an expat blog by Ariana with a guest post by Allison called, 10 Ways to Thrive as an Expat. It was really good.

She broke her thoughts down to 10 points, and expat or not ... this is well placed advice for anyone in new and challenging circumstances. Moving to a new city stateside, new church, just married with a new husband and in-laws, having a baby, new job, new school, empty-nesters ...  haven't we all felt out of place and wondered how to thrive (and not just survive)?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Perfectly American Endeavor

 The girls have been plotting this all week ...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Straight Way

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, 
and He delivered them from their distress. 
He led them by a straight way 
to a city where they could settle. 
Let them give thanks to the Lord 
for His unfailing love ...
Psalm 107:6-8

Making this my anthem today. Feeling mighty overwhelmed and disoriented on a twisty-turvy path. If I step outside myself, I know this is a season and we will press through. He will make our paths straight and lead us to "a city where we can settle." But today ... I feel weary before I've started.

Know the feeling?

Monday, July 7, 2014

What We Think We Will Miss

Today we were talking about how there are many things we are looking forward to about being in France, but there are bound to be plenty that we miss about the States. It's only natural, no? I anticipate that we won't even know what some of them are until we've actually expatriated ourselves, but we did come up with a few "little things" we are pretty sure we will miss:

Peanut butter. Why is this such an American thing? It's so good!
Family and friends. This is super obvious and not "little," but it still made the list.
Trampoline. No explanation needed.
Snacking. Love to hate it. Snacking is so fun, but it is mindless. I'm actually excited to try a more French meal-based version of intentional eating ... over grazing.

And the #1 little thing we expect to miss:

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Fitting Together

Uzes, France

Can you imagine the kinds of questions I have swirling through my head these days? So, so many. Big things like school for the kids, doctor's visits, how I'll manage phone conversations (??) and what to do in case of an emergency.

But I also have questions like ... which bank should we set up an account with? Do we buy a car, lease a car? How long should we reserve a rental to cover us until we figure this out? What do we do if someone chips a tooth? Are there other English speakers in our area that we can befriend? How about church? How about classes to improve our French? Which market should I go to? Where can I buy socks and underwear? (I don't know why, but this seems important.)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Becoming of Memories

 Today was an interesting day. A revisiting and packing up of memories in preparation for future. I was hesitant to begin the removal and storage of all of our wall hangings, decorations, books ... the signs that have made this house our house and not that of someone else.

Is it the thing, the place that is so dear ... or just that it is what, where our memories rest upon? How come memories feel so sweet and yet so tender all at once?

It was hard at first to fill the boxes, but now I am finding it somewhat cathartic. With each bare wall exposed and empty bookcase wiped down, I am reminded of what really makes this house special. Our home and yard have been lovely, yes. But what has truly made it special is that it held us and our memories. The us  part ... well, we are still intact. Ready to be held by a new place ... together. Us.

My mama was here for the day, a regular workhorse she is. She packed box upon box with tetris-like precision. Not only was she a massive help, but it was a treasure to talk about future plans and reminisce over the past. After unloading the attic, we came upon the box marked "wedding dress" and I remarked that after sixteen years, I have never once taken it back out, nor tried it on.

So, guess what we did.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Our Kind of Fun

This evening we played croquet. At first glance, we are a menacing group.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Like Nothing Else

One of the marvelous things about this move is how we have been questioning our spending and our acquisitions, as we need to curb both. The result has been a winnowing of possessions (we still have pleeeeenty!) and an adjustment in our gift giving.

For Father's Day this year, Pops received a homemade, from scratch double-layer chocolate cake with chocolate ganache with candied lemons from Lucette (wowzas), a painting of geraniums entitled "You are Always Here for Me" and a plate of cookies from Jane, and from Peter, a hand-whittled letter-opener carved from a laurel wood branch in our backyard.

Doesn't handmade say "I love you" like nothing else?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

And this is not your own doing ...

We are in process of finishing the sale of our house. A week on the market, sold for a reasonable price for both parties (we think, at least!), to an adorable young Christian family that is expecting their first baby in October. Praise God. I absolutely despise negotiations, as I find the pull between looking out for our own interests, yet being mindful and kind to other parties involved ... a nerve-wracking tightrope walk. Praying the inspection goes well and the final details are managed smoothly.

In the interim, as we are not quite ready to begin the massive disassembling and packing-up of the house, I've begun research on possible English-speaking churches or general fellowship in area we will be living. This has been a massive prayer of ours, that God would provide some sort of connection/fellowship with other believers ... in English ... while our language skills move past infancy.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Berry Picking Preparation

 In the midst of all of this house-selling hoopla, we hope to break out tomorrow morning for some strawberry picking.

Jane painted her nails in anticipation. It's always lovely to match your manicure to your activity!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

In All These Things

Yesterday our dear little home was listed for sale. After a marathon of touch-ups and carpet cleaning and closet organizing and stuff purging ... we pounded a sign into the front lawn declaring that our home of 8.5 years was ready for a new family. In exactly 2 months we will be leaving for France. It is time to let go to move forward.

I have complete peace that this is what we are to do to pursue the next adventure God has lined up. But it is not without some melancholy. Everywhere I look I see memories. The staircase that Pops rebuilt and the children have trotted down every morning.