Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Happy Mardi Gras!

After a very long two weeks of vacation, Brooklyn was delighted to finally go back to school this Monday and see all of her friends. (In fact, she now likes school so much that she's begging the parental jury to go in the afternoons too. The jury's still out in deliberation--while Jason and I are thrilled that she loves school so much, it's a long time for a four year-old to be gone every day.)

Brooklyn's excitement about going back to school was doubled when she learned that they were having a Mardi Gras parade on Tuesday. What kid wouldn't love getting to dress up, march around, and have their picture taken? Personally, I thought the festivities were great--all the perks of Halloween without the sugar overdose.

Brooklyn decided to dress as a fairy princess (as did about half of the other four year-old girls.) Here she is with her friend, Diane.

No excitement on these faces! (Excepting Zoro, who is too distinguished for such antics.)

Brooklyn's maitresse (teacher), Christine:

Posing a hundred little kiddos for a school photo. As the only blond, it's fairly easy to spot Brooklyn.

In honor of Mardi Gras, Talia decided to disguise herself as an abuse victim.

Poor kid! This is actually an older wound that has basically disappeared by now. She took a pretty terrible tumble while we were in Switzerland a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately, a friend of ours (who happens to be a nurse) took great care of her for us.

Hope everyone enjoyed Fat Tuesday!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Far from Home

This evening Brooklyn and I had the following conversation:

Me: Would you girls like pizza for dinner?
Brooklyn: No, I want leftover ratatouille.

While for the most part, life here in France has become very routine and normal, every once in a while these "huh?" moments catch me off guard and remind me how very far from home we are!

Here are some other daily glimpses from our life here in Lyon: This morning Talia was driving us all crazy in true two year-old fashion by running around the kitchen yelling the same word over and over and over at the top of her lungs. I looked over and noticed she was wearing both of the oven mitts and saying "Chaud! Chaud! Chaud!" (Hot, in French.) I had to stop and smile as I realized that if I could have glimpsed that scene a year ago, I would have found it completely adorable (not to mention motivating it terms of tackling the innumerable hurdles that stood in the way of getting here.)

I also admit that I enjoyed being bossed around by my four year-old yesterday at the park. Definitely the oldest sibling, Brooklyn was micro-managing our game of "cache-cache" (hide-and-go seek) by telling me exactly when and where to hide, count, etc. The difference, however, was that she was actually doing it in French. While she still lacks a lot of vocabulary and some grammatical structures, over the past month she's really taken off with the language. Her teachers are so pleased that she's making such significant efforts to communicate in French now, and as parents we're trying to jump on board and follow her good example. Last weekend we went to the Swiss temple in Bern with our congregation. I chuckled as we pulled up and Jason said, "Look at all of the snow!" only to have Brooklyn translate, "Regarde! Beaucoup de neige!"

Even I am making some linguistic progress. In general, it happens so slowly that you don't feel like you're progressing at all, but positive changes still happen if you are patient. Yesterday I had to take resolve an issue at the social security office. It wasn't until I got home that I realized that four months ago I never would have had the linguistic competence to successfully accomplish that task. While I'm sure that my grammar and pronunciation were not flawless, I was able to get the job fairly well done without any major communication breakdowns, and I didn't even sweat bullets in the process. That's progress!

Things are going really well for Jason too. This architectural internship is turning out to be great--he has lots of autonomy and responsibility with his design project, which is turning out so well that they are already taking significant steps to move forward with it. I think it's a big confidence booster to have his many years of education and training actually be valuable and useful, even on the other side of the big puddle.

And yet, despite all of the wonderful things that are happening, we're starting to feel those gentle tuggings towards home. We were extended the opportunity to stay for another year, but decided we'd rather be closer to family. (Not to mention the fact that Jason still needs to graduate.) :)

So instead of converting more dollars to euros, we decided instead to purchase our plane tickets home. We're coming back on July 2nd--just in time to celebrate Independence Day with some good old-fashioned fireworks. (Sadly, we barely miss the beginning of the Tour de France, but you can't have everything...)

With plane tickets in hand, I'm full of the awareness that we haven't really got all that much time left. I hope that instead of counting down the days until our flight, we will do our best to take advantage of and seize every moment that we have here. After all, this is an opportunity that we will probably never have again.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Special Delivery!

So for the past few days we've been missing our mail key. The inconvenience was bearable until yesterday when we noticed a narrow package peeking through the wide slot at the top. (There's about a 1/2 inch gap so the mailman can slide in letters without actually opening up the box.) After searching the house futilely for the keys, Jason finally decided to take matters into his own hands. He got out the kitchen tongs in an effort to fish out the package. Unfortunately, in the end he ended up losing the tongs down the slot too!

I can only imagine what the postman thinks about this odd American family who doesn't empty their mailbox, but deposits kitchen utensils instead...

(Addendum: We finally found the keys, hidden away in the couch. Thanks so much to wonderful grandmas and grandpas for the fabulous Valentine surprises!)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

A Christmas to Remember

After a long and wonderful break, I finally returned to teaching full time this week. (Granted, I haven't had a lot of students since many are still striking, but I'm not going to go off on that tirade again.) While I enjoy my work, I confess that spending more time in the office has caused me to reminisce longingly about our fabulous Christmas this year. My parents flew out, and we had an amazing time exploring some of the surrounding areas. So at long last, here is our photo travelogue:

Shortly after my parents arrived, we took off to spend a couple of days in Switzerland. On the way, we stopped at the stunning village of Annecy. You can see why it's called the "Venice of France."

We continued on to Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the alps. While the 45 minute open-air gondola ride to the top wasn't an option with little ones, we did take a train part of the way up and had a fabulous time playing in the snow.

Of course, Papa Kay was delighted to find a Diet Coke.

We continued on our trek to Bern, Switzerland where we stayed at the LDS temple hostel.

More than six years ago, Jason kissed me for the first time in front of the Provo Temple (cheesy, I know.) Well, he seized the chance to repeat the smooch...

The Berner Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) was also fun. I'd never had a fried waffle before, and I probably shouldn't ever again. Still, it was a great, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Back in our Lyonnaise apartment, we celebrated a traditional Christmas with family, food, and of course, plenty of presents.

Our good friend Annie shared Christmas dinner with us--as did her fabulous sheepdog!

Of course, no Christmas would be complete without the Nativity story.

We took some great day trips to some of the surrounding areas, such as to the amazing caves at les Grottes de la Balme.

As fascinating as the caves were (and they really were incredible), I think the local horse was probably just as memorable...

We also enjoyed taking a trip to a ski resort south of Grenoble, l'Alpe d'Huez. Unfortunately, we didn't make it in time for skiing. We did however, get to go sledding.

We also took a short lift up to a chateau where we relaxed a bit and enjoyed the view. There's nothing like sunbathing in winter!

Unfortunately, our lift tickets were only one-way, so we had to walk down. Brooklyn got a bit tired...

Back in Lyon, we showed Grandma and Grandpa the giant ferris wheel in the Place Bellecour that our family dared during the Festival of Lights.

We also had fun exploring Lyon's famous traboules, the ancient passageways once used by silk traders to quickly traverse parallel streets with no perpendicular connections.

We visited the elephants at the Parc Tete d'Or...

...and paid our respects to the rabbits and turkeys at the market.

A little creativity can turn an unimaginative building facade into an amazing canvas. (Nearly everything you see is a painting.)

However, we may have had the most fun discovering why Lyon is often considered the gastronomic capitol of Europe. We enjoyed some incredible meals (even if some of the cuts of meat were rather unfamiliar.) You should have seen the waitress using hand signals to explain to my parents that the dish included "museau" (the cow's nose) and trotters--the feet. My Dad still brags about having eaten what he calls the "unholy trinity" of foie gras (duck liver paté), tripe sausages, and frog legs. I prefer to dream about my pastry-encrusted goat cheese served warm over a bed of greens and gratin dauphinois (thinly sliced potatoes that are layered and baked with milk, eggs, garlic, and lots of good cheese).

And, of course, let's not forget the crowing glory--the ice-cream filled profiteroles for dessert.

I think I'm going to pull out this picture the next time one of my French students gives me a hard time about American serving sizes being too large... While my three course meal may have left me stuffed to the gills, fifteen euros has never been better spent...

All in all, it really was a Christmas to remember.

Des Bêtises--Up to Mischief!

I recently ran across this photos in our mound of digital pics. Brooklyn looks so grown up, yet quite mischievous! Lately our girls have been up to all sorts of "bêtises."

Hmmmm, I wonder who scribbled on our wall. Now that she can write her name, Brooklyn's not very anonymous! She wrote her John Hancock three different times, all in different colored crayons. Thankfully, Grandma Susie sent washable ones.

When Brooklyn's not decorating the wall, she likes to use her artistic talent to decorate her sister...

Of course, Talia's not completely innocent either. The two are partners in crime. Recently I walked into the kitchen and found them both devouring our baguette--each attacking an end. You know, we've been working on "sharing," but this isn't exactly what I had in mind!