Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sister Time

A week into life in France and the girls are in a decent rhythm. The weather of the Jura mountains can be quite unpredictable and moody and we've had some inside as well as lots of outside time. XO & SLM are relishing in discovering new sights, sounds and smells.

The beginning of the week offered up a big surprise. A pelle-teuse, or back-hoe, was deposited on Sunday night and began work on Monday. The girls love watching the machine move back and forth along the road.

Grass is slowly starting to grow on the property and the girls are loving the deck. The grooves in the wood are great for zipping a toy car back and forth.

New neighbor friends only speak French and the girls amaze us at the new words and conversations they already follow. Here is a little down time where they squeezed together on a chair to read and listen to sounds.

Getting to sleep has been a bit difficult for the wee ones. It may be remnants of jet lag or the fact that they are processing so much new information through their senses. Either way, both girls seem happy and content when they are awake and loving life en France!

Aah, the differences

Coming to France seems so much like arriving at home that I often seem to look past those little differences. Here are a few that have popped up so far on this trip.

Medicine - the land of effervescents and other "odd" methods of taking meds. This is a vial of liquid sunshine (aka Vitamin D). Simply pop the top - thanks for the scouring - and take it down. This one is best taken with a bit of yogurt so that the calcium will help bind. I guess you just toss the glass...

Sticking with odd forms - try paying for a passport upgrade. I'm not sure if this is the case for all official documents but when renewing my passport the question was not check, cash or credit. The question was, "Do you have the official stamps?" The local tabac (a local drug store or mom 'n pop store are the closest equivalents) may or may not carry them. It took a couple of tries in different stores to find one that could provide these important stickies.

While we're on the form of payment, watch out when traveling with your American credit  card. Be it Visa or Master Card, us Americans are getting behind the times according to the French. The back-of-the-card strip to swipe is now only found on old machines and we've already run into a few instances where we could not pay. A hospital trip found us asking to pay with cash and other outings found us looking all over for an ATM before entering in to buy. What do you need in France? Cards here now come with a microchip on the front of the card. This part of the card is inserted into a machine. Only the older machines seem to have both a slider and a microchip reader. It's getting a bit frustrating to say the least...

Is your VISA up to date with a microchip?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Landing in France

An hour delay on the Beijing tarmac left us a bit worried but the rest of our travels to France passed without any issues. On a side note, the airport in Warsaw is the first that we've been in with kid play areas - a great way to pass a 4 hour layover. We arrived in time for a late dinner and then off to bed. The kiddos slept well and we awoke to nice weather, clear air and a couple of excited girls.

Backyard scenery

Spring rains brought on a good early hay harvest

They were pumped to see their grandparents and the new environment. A few fun moments from the first days...
Our future skat-ologists examine a new specimen - cow patties

Strolling down a small lane
Our first mission was to find cows. The cows of the Jura mountains typically come with bells around their necks. Some bells are big, some small, some long and some short but they all ring away to announce the location of our bovine friends. Last summer, the girls spied a few cows but that was a distant memory. They wanted to get up close with she that goes Mooooooo.

Little girl beside a monster pile of wood
 When in France, what should be put on bread?

Yay for Nutella! The first taste brought early morning smiles to these happy girls.

A short walk down a hill lies a beautiful lake. With the exception of some safety boats, only those without motors are allowed on the waters. It makes for a peaceful outing.

Heading down the hill with Ole Far

Getting our toes wet.

A couple of swans spied us from a distance and decided to venture on over. The girls' eyes widened as the swans glided near and then...

it's head disappeared!

The return journey took a bit more energy as the uphill route sapped strength and the wind picked up announcing the arrival of an afternoon mountain storm. Crawling their way up the monster hill, the girls managed to make it quite a ways before needing a bit of a lift.

Back home a special treat was discovered - a frog had come to play! It hopped about on the deck and the yard as the girls tracked its movements. Then, it simply disappeared. Where did it go? When will it return?

The trip is off to a great start. The girls are happy and beginning to think about sleeping past 3 or 4 in the morning. What's the rule of thumb - 1 day for each hour of time change? Well, we're past the halfway point and waiting for sweet sleep to take over.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Garden Update

And the seasons they go round and round and the painted ponies go up and down...Here we are in the waning days of spring as the summer heat begins to bear down. Last October, we began setting the beginnings of our home garden in Beijing.

When we first moved in, remnants of a sodded yard existed but the girls got to work and soon much of the grass was dug out.

In the early spring, the girls were given this bed. It is easy to see from the house and the girls have had a great time planting and working in it. Usually, they are gentle with their plants but other times digging expeditions begin and the plants worry about their existence. The girls have enjoyed a flowering bed and often check up on the flowers.

We also had a bed of volunteers. At one point, many squash-like leaves began popping up in one corner of a bed. Digging down, we found a jackpot of seeds. It seems like the soil that was brought in held a decomposing squash. It will be interesting to see what is produced and if edible. There were so many plants coming up that we decided to let 'em go crazy. A few structures have been built to guide the vines as they snake all over the place.

The only ripe veggie for the eating at the moment are the cucumbers. It's made us so happy that the girls get excited about taking food out of the garden and giving it a try. They have a daily cucumber snack and give the plants an early morning inspection in the hopes of finding ripe cukes. The tomatoes are safe at the moment but the girls really want to begin pulling the green "balls."

On one end, we've experimented a bid with wine bottle design. An herb garden went in first and is doing quite well. We're trying to keep some of the herbs in line so that they don't take more than their allotted territory.

Here's an "aerial" view of the garden. Teams of people have recently been through our neighborhood sodding community spaces so we decided to try our luck with a bit of grass for the girls. At the moment it looks great and they like running through. We'll see how the intense Beijing summer treats it while we are gone.

The "empty" patch beside the grass is a first attempt at asparagus. For some reason, people typically do not think that it is a bed so this spot has been trampled more than any other. A few brave asparagus fingers keep popping up. It is supposed to take a few years to get going to we'll stay hopeful for a bit.

The rest of the area around the herb mandala needs a bit of work but it all takes time...Here's to a happy summer in all of your gardens!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Monday, June 16, 2014

Back under the knife. Again....

Our wee one lasted a full year without seeing the operating table but May madness brought the scrubs back out. At home, we did our usual set of highly scientific studies (snapping in her ears until she became irritated with us, trying to communicate from across the room, cranking on her favorite dance music, etc) to decide that she was not hearing. The first visit to the doctor found a cautious pediatrician recommending that we see an ENT. Sound rooms, medications and a conservative "let's wait a little longer" brought a verdict similar to our own - she was not hearing. Loss was estimated at 85-90%. Wow! A surgery date was set to replace the fallen out tubes and to remove her adenoids. The surgeon had a hunch that swollen adenoids were blocking drainage and keeping her from becoming healthy.

An early morning trip to the park helped get our minds off wanting to eat or drink, pre-surgery fasting. Soon, the car arrived to take us to the hospital. Little traffic brought us early to our destination and we lucked out that an empty play structure was ready for use.

The hospital was quite nice and we were first shown to an intensive care area to prep for the surgery. Gloves make great balloons but IV set-ups are no fun.

A diaper arrived "properly" identified as biohazard.

During surgery, Krista and I roamed around and finally made our way up to the recovery room. I kept on calling it a hotel room by mistake but it was unlike any room of our past hospital experiences.

The surgery lasted quicker than expected and the surgeon returned with a good prognosis - the adenoids were quite enlarged and blocking as believed. New tubes were put in and the pesky adenoids removed.

Initial hearing tests after the surgery (both the official and unofficial parent-directed study) show that her hearing is vastly improved!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Easter 2014

The bunny is long gone but we did have a fun time this year. The girls came down the stairs for an early morning in the house egg hunt. (This would hopefully prepare them for the community hunt scheduled for later in the day.) They then dived into the traditional "bird bread" before getting decked out for the day.

A stairwell conversation between the girls as they decide the best way to get eggs during the hunt. Little did they know they would be against professional hunters...

Success! Each girl found one egg. They just weren't quick enough off the line but were completely happy with their egg.

First peeps!

A little see-saw action to end the day.