Because vacations are hard work

I completely fell off the face of the earth last week.  Life definitely got the better of me.

It happens to the best of us.  Work was insane and the kids even more so.

With the crazy weather we've been having, all of us were getting some severe cabin fever.  The weather during the week would be amazing - sunny and warm (not hot) and then the weekend would roll around and it would be cold and rainy.  It sucked for all of us.

By the time Friday rolled around - I was ready.  Ready to take 3 weeks off of work.  Ready to spend some quality time with the boys before they have to go back to daycare.  Ready to enjoy some of the mild French weather.  Just ready.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I hit "Mark all as read" on my Reader this morning.  I apologize to all of you for not stopping by last week, but seeing over 400 unread made my little heart panic.  I dreaded even opening the laptop having that big ball of guilt staring back at me.  So I did it - and what I am ashamed to admit is that it felt great and liberating.  Like making a fresh start.

So now that I'm home with the boys for a couple of weeks, I hopefully will have some time to play catch up.  I will also be making time for some play time at the park, some rides on the carousel downtown, and a family vacation nestled in between.

Isn't this what summertime is all about?

I hope you are having as much time as we are....

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Noah 7 Months

I can't believe that we have passed the half way mark and are quickly gearing up to your first birthday.  Noah, you are growing up way too fast.  This month you have definitely started working your way out of the baby stage and are getting ready for your "toddler" stage.

You are learning new things everyday and each new adventure makes you giddy with excitement.  This month you finally started sitting unassisted, which opened up a whole new world to you.  Exploring has now taken on a whole new meaning.  You still topple over from time to time, but luckily there is always someone nearby to catch you.

You also love spending time in your jumperoo.  You can't get enough, and would jump for hours if we let you.  Your face lights up with excitement and we can hardly get you out of it sometimes.  You love to jump even when not in the jumperoo.  Every time that you find your way onto your feet you begin bending your knees in excitement.  You have become our very own kangaroo.

You still love to eat and eat a lot.  This month we introduced all sorts of new tastes - such as meats and dairy.  You eagerly open your mouth waiting for the next big spoonful.  You do get yourself worked up when we don't feed you fast enough, and there has been nothing that you haven't loved.  We are still making all of your food and we love experimenting with new flavors and textures.  Your favorite this month has been broccoli with leeks.  You couldn't seem to get enough.

You still don't have any teeth, but we think they are on the way.  Although, you don't seem to be bothered by any pain, so we can only wait and see.

You are still nursing, although we are down to two times per day.  We have lasted a lot longer than I thought we would, but it is sad to admit that our time is quickly coming to an end.

You are still going to the "kine" about once a week, and even though we haven't been able to get rid of the congestion in your chest - you handle your sessions like a champ.  We are so proud of how well you make it through - although we will all be so happy when the sessions are over.  You do begin to whimper when you see the doctor walk into the room, but hey - who wouldn't?

You are still so incredibly happy and bubbly.  You always have a smile on your face and love to laugh, especially at your older brother.  You are so in love and you just stare at him in awe.  The relationship between you two is amazing to watch.  It must be truly amazing to have the "brotherly" bond.

We can hardly wait and see what this next month has in store for you!

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Dear Nathan

Dear Nathan,

I can honestly say that this month has been like none other, and one that I will never forget.

You came back from your amazing vacation with your grandparents speaking yet another language.  You picked up Romanian as if it was the only language you had ever spoken.  The only problem was that I could never understand what you were saying.  Luckily, you daddy was never too far away to translate for us.  In the few weeks that you've been home, you've started adjusting back to English and French, although every once in a while you like to throw in a Romanian word just to keep me on my toes.

Lately, you have become obsessed with all things Pirate.  You love to dress up like them and are fascinated by every ship you see.  We took you on a special trip down to the beach just so that you could see the Pirates at your new favorite restaurant.  I love seeing the magic in your eye when you dive into this new imaginary and magical world.  This has also started expanding into Castles (chateaux) and Princesses.  My favorite, of course, was when you called me a princess on the day I was wearing a skirt.  Remember that you did in fact think "mommy was a princess" at least one day in your life.  I know I will.

This month, you gave me the first, of what I expect to be many, mini-heart attacks.  While being your usual rambunctious self, you fell - in the bathroom.  It was almost in slow motion.  You began crying, and when we lifted you up to see if you were okay, we saw all of the blood coming from your eye.  I have to admit to you, that I panicked and didn't handle the sight of all of that blood very well.  Luckily, everyone got it together shortly after and you had your second big trip to the ER.

You handled it like a champ and were very calm throughout the entire thing.  It must have been the laughing gas they gave you.  Three stitches later, you were as good as new.  It hurt me to see you with stitches, but you were as proud as can be.  You love to point it out to people, and milk it for sympathy when you get in trouble for jumping around yet again.

You certainly keep us on our toes, but life with you is nothing if not fun.  We love you!

Linking up with Shell for Pour Your Heart Out
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While making the trip down to Marseilles, I asked Cornel if we could take a detour to Aix-en-Provence.  It is only a few kilometers away from Marseilles and was also on my list of places to visit. 

Since we had already spent three days in Marseille and had a super long drive back home, he was less than thrilled to make a detour.  What a guy won't do for love, right?
Don't be fooled by the Catalonian flag, we were really in France

We made it to Aix just in time for lunch.  In France this means two thing:  1) time to sit down for two hours and enjoy a nice meal as a family because 2) everything is closed between twelve and two.  As we were nearing downtown we found a super cute terrace and decided to go and sit and enjoy the sun.

After a nice meal, we took in the beautiful sights of the downtown.  We were actually kicking ourselves for not having spent more time there than in Marseille. 

The streets were clean and gorgeous and shops like Zara and Mango were calling my name.  Luckily for my husband it was a Sunday and everything was closed.

There were so many things I wanted to see and do.  Nathan kept wanting to go on the tourist train (because it's not a vacation without a tourist train) but alas, we had to make the five hour ride home.

While I wish I could have spent more time there, it was the perfect way to spend an afternoon.
The city also quickly climbed on the list of "most beautiful cities" in France. 
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I have always been kind of clueless when it comes to certain things in France, like their education system for instance.

In April, the daycare director asked us if Nathan would be coming back after the summer break.  I thought this was an odd question.  "Bien sur, he is coming back.  He is only 2 1/2!"

That is when the nice daycare director informed me that children in France began school, not after they turn three years old, but in the year they turn three.  Which means 2012 for my little guy (I'm still in shock that I have an almost 3 year old).

Of course that sent me into a complete panic because I had no clue where to begin to find a school.  Word on the street (or rather the French people in my office) told me that you usually had to sign up at least a year in advance and usually in your neighborhood.  Awesome.  I saw another disaster looming like the one we had to find a daycare.

When you are an expat in a foreign country, choosing a school becomes an even bigger pain.  This notion of "good district / bad district"; "public school" ; "private school"; "bilingual school"  take on an entirely new meaning.

Since my company is pretty big in this tiny little city.  They have their own international bilingual school for the children of expats.  It is a private school and like most private schools the list is a mile long.  Since there aren't too many bilingual choices around here many French parents send their kids there too.

Then came the decision about whether that school was really the best for Nathan or not.  I mean, he is pretty bilingual already.  We speak English exclusively at home and he speaks French exclusively at the daycare - would it really be so bad to have him in a French public school.

Ultimately we interviewed (or rather were interviewed) several ecoles maternelle.  There were so many decisions to make.

Would he stay in the cafeteria for lunch or would someone have to pick him up for the 2hr break?

What would we do on Wednesdays (when all French schools are closed).

What about the before/after school programs since Cornel and I both work.

Would he be potty trained, because schools do not change diapers. 

Would we even be able to get on a waiting list.

Could we send him in January instead of September when he's a little bit older. (Schools here do 1/2 terms).

We weighed all the options and put our names on several lists.  Finally we decided that our company's international school was the best choice for Nathan.  It doesn't hurt that many of his "friends" from daycare will also be going there, and as an added bonus it is right across the street from our offices.

The best part?  He got accepted for the "re-entree" (re-entry) in September.

My kid in preschool.  How did this happen?

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Taking Time to Play

Sometimes as a working mom it is so hard to find the time to play with my boys.  It seems like there are so many other things to do:  dishes, laundry, etc.

This is why I was so thrilled when JDaniel4's Mom asked me to guest post for her series "Taking Time to Play".  Her blog is so inspirational and while I have never met her in person, I know that we would be great friends.

Today I am honored to be gracing her amazing blog with a Pirate Story.  Stop by and say 'hello', no eyepatch required!

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It's a Sunshine Day

Anyone now where that song is from?

I was so very honored to have received this wonderful award from Sara from Le Petit Village.  She is also an American in France and her stories can always make me laugh.  Stop by and say 'hi'.

Sadly, this "sunshine" award is the only sunshine I've seen all week.  The weather here has been cold and rainy. It's almost as if I'm living back in Manchester...

The rules of this award are that I have to answer 10 random questions before passing it on to 10 more people, so let's get to it.

 Favorite Color:  It seems that I don't know the answer to this one.  This used to be my security question for my password at work, and when it came time to retrieve my password I failed the question.  I didn't just fail it once, but many times, so many that my computer was locked and someone had to come and help me.  I'm going to say blue, but who knows what I'll answer next week.

Favorite Animal:  I love cats.  Love them.  All kinds.  Tigers and Lions, oh my.  But I've always wanted a koala, because they are cute and cuddly.

Favorite Number:  I'm going to say 13.  Everyone says it is unlucky and I like to go against the grain.  Besides, it has to be lucky for somebody right?

Favorite Drink:  I would love to say wine, especially living in France.  If you knew, however, the amount of money I shell out for a can of diet coke at work you might fall over.  (FYI a can of Diet Coke costs $2 at my office and that's cheap compared to what I would pay at a cafe).

Facebook or Twitter:  I'm a Facebook gal.  I just can't keep up with twitter.  By the time I feel like I am caught up there are like 100 more things to read.  Plus, Facebook  makes it so much easier to keep up with what is going on back home.

Your Passion:  Traveling.  Now if I can somehow be independently wealthy so that I could just travel the world ....

Giving or getting presents?  Giving.  I love to pour over thinking about the "right" gifts and how excited someone will be when they open it.  I am horrible, let me say that again - HORRIBLE, at receiving gifts.  Just ask my husband about that.

Favorite Day? I didn't really understand the question.  I'm assuming day of the week.  I'm going to go with Saturday because it's pain au chocolate day.

Favorite Flower:  Oh how I love lilies, but if my husband asks I love roses - lots and lots of roses.

Now comes the fun part.  Sharing my little piece of sunshine with 10 other people:

My Memory Art  - because she can always bring a little sunshine with her beautiful words and pictures

Femme au Foyer - She is my fellow Clermentoise Expat and she goes to a lot cooler places than me.

Scarbrough Fair - Another American expat living in Istanbul with two beautiful girls

Ava Grace's Closet - I love her style and her family is just gorgeous.

Two Bears Farm and Three Cubs - I could not handle being without power with such grace

JDaniels4 Mom - She is inspirational.  Truly.

Our Simple Lives - I have no words to describe his awesomeness

Life Ever Since - I love Rachel and her blog!

Runner Mom - She has such a beautiful family and she shares my love of all things chocolate.

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One of my big "to-do's" before leaving France was visiting Marseille.

Every single time that we had a weekend off, a holiday or a vacation I would always throw, not so subtle, hints to my husband to take me to Marseille.

He never had any interest in going.  Sometimes I would go as far as whining (and then I wonder where Nathan gets it from) about "how I would never ever see Marseille" - complete with pouty lips and all.

I have no idea why I was so obsessed with Marseille.  It just sounded, je ne sais pas, fancy.  A port city on the sea, it had to be beautiful, right?  I also became slightly obsessed with a French soap opera while on maternity leave with Nathan and it took place in Marseille; this didn't help the obesession.

And then, a miracle happened!!  During one of the long holiday weekends in May my husband said "why don't we go to Marseille".  I might have fallen off my chair, excusez-moi?  Actually, I said nothing.  I was afraid of jinxing it.
This picture would be gorgeous without that crazy girl in the back with her mouth open. 

We booked a hotel near the port, packed up the kids and set out on the five hour drive to Marseille.

I should say that Marseille has been chosen as the European Capital of Culture for 2013, which meant that now in 2012 the city is a dump under construction.  Seriously.  All of it.  It took us over an hour to find our hotel because all of the streets were condemned with holes and big tractors.  Cornel was ready to turn around and drive back home - we are not quitters, though, and this vacation would carry on!!

We visited the Vieux Port (Old Port), complete with Pirate Ship.  This was the peak of the vacation for Nathan, who only wanted to see the bateau (the boat).

We also took an hour long boat trip around the harbor.  The sea was rough and the winds were cold, which is the perfect combination for a two year old.  He thought he was on a ride at Disneyland.  Once the weather got too rough to sit outside, Nathan loudly proclaimed that it was his boat and he wasn't going inside.  What can I say, the kid is stubborn.

We also enjoyed, the world famous, Marseille Bouillabaisse (fish soup).  I'm glad I ate it once in my lifetime, but since I'm not a fish lover (take that Google SOE) I probably won't be eating it again.

I think might expression might just say it all.

The one thing about the South of France, is that the fresh seafood is everywhere.  Every restaurant serves the catch of the day, and if you are feeling adventurous you can buy your own fresh fish at the outdoor fish market.

Fishermen dock their boats on the port and let you buy whatever they caught that day.  Most of the fish are still swimming.  Nathan got a kick out of seeing all of these creatures close up- especially the octopus.  Talk about a teachable moment.

There was also a trip into Old Town Marseille (via touristic train).  We took some time out to walk around and soak up some local culture.  Nathan took this time to "feed the ducks".  When you are two, any bird that will eat bread you throw at them is a duck, and he loved every second of it.

Noah was a little sick the entire trip but he was a trooper through it all.  And while I will never want to re-visit Marseilles, I'm glad that we at least went once in our lifetime.

Are there places that you've dreamed of going that didn't live up to expectations?
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Joyeaux Fourth of July

While most people are off enjoying the holiday, life goes on as normal around here.  I must admit that this holiday is one of the ones that makes me the most nostalgic.  I miss the beach, the cookouts, the fireworks and of course my amazing friends.

I did manage to sneak in a little festive American holiday cheer this morning.  Both Nathan and Noah were dressed in patriotic red, white and blue; while Nathan had fun waving around his flag (courtesy of the American Embassy in Paris).

As for the celebrations, Nathan is on another school field trip (riding another bus) while his daddy and I slave away at work.

Tonight there will be hot dogs with potato salad served for dinner, and maybe I'll find a nice video of fireworks to play on the computer.

I hope everyone has an amazing Fourth!

Also, my series WTF (Welcome to France) Wednesday, will resume next week after the holiday hoopla is over; but please stop by my FB Page for a WTF picture from the archives.  It's a doozie!
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When is sharing okay?

LiLast night I did something that I tend to do often; I posted a picture of my boys onto my personal Facebook page. My personal profile is set up so that only certain people can see pictures of my boys.

Then something happened that made me feel a little uneasy.  A close family member shared my picture on their profile; to their list of friends (most of whom I don't know) who could then share with their friends, etc. etc.

I immediately went "momma bear" on this family member and asked that pictures of my kids not be shared without permission.

I am sure that some feelings were hurt.

I am the first to see the irony in all of this. After all, I am a blogger and I am constantly publishing photos of my boys for the internet to see.  In fact most people that read my blog, I've never met in real life.

So why is it that this picture sent me into such a tizzy? Surely, sharing pictures with friends of family is better than sharing them with random strangers I've never met, right?

The fact of the matter is that the picture I posted on my personal Facebook page was a very personal moment with my boys.  My oldest was wearing simply his briefs and I just happened to capture a moment where both my boys were content, happy and together.  A moment that I wanted to share with close friends and family and definitely not one that I wanted to publish on the internet for the world to see.

The truth is, that while I am a blogger and my life is sometimes open to perfect strangers; it is always on my terms.  I am the one that decides what pictures to share, when and with whom.  I will never embarrass, humiliate or compromise my children in anyway for the sake of this blog or for the sake of a family member's feelings.  This is the same reason that I never publish pictures of anyone's children on my blog without permission.

Just because I choose to share certain anecdotes of my family's lives on the internet does not mean that my entire life is available for publication. Technology today and things like Facebook and Twitter have made it so easy to share everything with just the click of a button, but we cannot forget that there are real people behind those images.

How do you handle privacy issues when it comes to what is okay to publish?

Linking this up with for Pour Your Heart Out....
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