Tuesday, 25 November 2014

10 things so sweet about you

1. The way you shout "Daddy" and rush to see him when he arrives home.

2.  The way you run to give Matilda and Owen a kiss and a cuddle when they come downstairs in the morning.

3. The way you wave at photographs of people.  Or even the picture of the baby on the shampoo bottle!

4.  The way you flash your Über-smile at passersby in the street.  You smile ALL the time.

5  The way you go and give someone a hug when they're crying.

6.  The way you sing "Peeeee-ppa Pip!" every time you see a picture of Peppa Pig.

7.  The way you squeak like an over-excited guinea pig whenever you want something.

8.  The way you so desperately want to be one of the gang.

 9.  The way you love labels, any label.  And the accompanying Pavlovian thumb-in-mouth response.  The other day, Owen was crouched on the floor playing and you grabbed the label sticking out the back of his trousers and snuggled up behind him.

10.  The way you are always - always have, perhaps always will - sticking your tongue out and blowing raspberries.  It is your answer for everything and shows you have a proper sense of the absurdity of life.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Now she is 6

During the school holidays (holidays - hah!) my firstborn became a six-year old.  This was all very exciting for her and we celebrated with a trip to Carcassonne, a birthday fajita dinner, festivities with the cousins and an obscene amount of cake.  She likes to milk her special day and frankly I'm quite happy to eke out excuses to make and eat cake as well.

Matilda at six is equal parts charming, thoughtful young lady and stroppy incipient teenager.  Her feelings run high and whether overcome with joy or drowning in sorrow the emotions come flooding out of her.  Consequently she can be quite shy and sensitive at times.  She adores Nell and Owen is her best friend; as head-minibeast she is protective and bossy in equal measure.  What I love most about her are those small moments of kindness and empathy.  When I'm rushing around like the Tasmanian devil on speed and she says to me, "It's alright mummy, don't get upset".  When she asks Fanf how his day was.  When she encourages and congratulates Owen and Nell. 

 She also has a good healthy streak of crazy.

 At six Matilda loves:

Her cousins
Learning to read
Zia and Marco
Making things

Oh, and pigging out.  No doubting this kid is mine :)

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

His Princess Period

Owen has recently started drawing things that look like things.  But most of his things are, of course, princesses.  Often with very long hair.  Like Rapunzel.  For his cousin's birthday he drew a princess Rapunzel dragon, with very long hair, which was an interesting twist on his trademark theme.

I sense this will be a long period.  More of an age. 

Monday, 17 November 2014

A wet weekend in the Aveyron

On Friday night we set off for a gîte in the Aveyron for a weekend with friends.  We did that wonderful thing where you arrive in the dark and wake up the next morning to discover yourself in the most beautiful surroundings, lost in the middle of nowhere.  It rained.  Quite a lot.  But there were games, cake (ohhhh, so much cake) and sausages cooked on the fire and wine (there's always wine), and quite a lot of screaming children and one peaceful moment of reading by the fire.  The gite was lovely, but I took zero photos of it.  I did however photograph our walk which was timed, thankfully, to coincide with the only window of glorious, dappled autumn sunshine.  For me, this is the kind of weekend that childhoods should be made of.  When we asked Matilda and Owen what their favourite bit of the weekend had been they said "All of it!".

Have a banana! (obligatory kickstart for little legs)

Matilda with her best friend, Zia

Nell tried to half-inch everyone's wellies during goûter

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Cool kicks: for Uncle Dan

Here's Nell...

...wearing a pair of super cool giraffe print converse that Uncle Dan gave Owen three years ago, which Owen never managed to wear.  But today our decision to make a third minibeast finally bore fruit and the converse were paraded around our local karting track in all their glory.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Our little clown

This morning when Matilda and I went in to say good morning to Nell she turned over on to her side, looked straight at us, gave us a big beaming smile, then blew the most enormous raspberry and chortled to herself.  That's Nell all over.  She is the cheekiest, charmingest, huggiest* and most huggable little creature - she makes us all feel very loved.

*Seriously!  A couple of weeks ago an elderly gentlemen smiled at her and she walked over to him and hugged his legs.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Made up

Yesterday morning, Matilda and Owen descended looking triumphant but sheepish.  Owen came up to me grinning and shiny-cheeked:

"Sans faire exprès, on s'est maquillé", he informed me gleefully.
[We accidentally put make up on.]


Well, oooops.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Girls' Night In

With my girls.  For the first time ever.  So exciting.  Fanf was away in Paris and Owen staying over with a friend so we decided to make a night of it.  We made pizza.

Ate pizza.  Which Matilda thought was just hilarious.  Mainly because Nell spent the entire time trying to escape from her chair.

Then with mini Houdini in bed, Matilda and I snuggled up under the duvet on the sofa with a pot of chocolate icecream to watch Wallace and Gromit The Curse of the Wererabbit.  The whole evening was chosen by Matilda and when we were deciding what film to watch she said we didn't want anything too girly.  How cool that she understands asking me to sit through something princessey would have made my toes curl whereas when it comes to duvets + icecream, I'm happy to be as 'girly' as you please.

How pleasant it is to enjoy the company of one's own children.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Gappy Gertie

My first baby lost her first tooth!  She has been so excited for the last couple of days.  Ever since the wobble set in.  Even waking me up in the middle of the night to tell me how excited she was and how she couldn't wait for her tooth to fall out.  At that point I would have happily yanked it out for her...

So tonight she shall be receiving a visit from the tooth fairy, or perhaps la petite souris (the little mouse) who remunerates French tooth shedding.  After some hasty research into the going rate for milk teeth, it seems some little froggies demand (and get) notes, which I suppose are lighter than coins and so easier for little mice to haul about.  But the English tooth fairy is made of stronger stuff, not only will she fly all the way across the Channel, she is perfectly capable of carrying a perfectly reasonable 1 euro piece.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Canadians

Spot the difference

One of my oldest dearest friends, Jen, came to visit us from Canada this summer with her charming family.  I hadn't seen her for five years.  I was so excited about her coming, but also slightly nervous.  I was worried about:

- my expectations being impossibly high,
- feeling like strangers after all this time,
- that our new family rhythms wouldn't gel,
- that I would be heartbroken when they left.

But I was wrong on all counts.

We had the most wonderful time together.  Getting out and about as well as plenty of time just hanging out, even a cosy drink between girls.  (Girls!  Crazy, but yes I still think of myself, and all my friends as girls - as in "she's a game old girl").  And the kids got on like a house on fire, bonding over a mutual love of Frozen, which they spent one evening reenacting in its entirety - Matilda directed (of course) and Owen took the role of Anna letting Margot be Elsa, no higher expression of his love exists.  So early hopes for some intercontinental nuptials remain firm, the only possible snag to proceedings being deciding who gets to wear the dress...

In fact everything just went perfectly.  Jen and I felt like we'd never been apart, what with the letters, the blogging, the emails and the skype chats, there are few people with whom I have more contact and the friendship continued quite naturally face to face.  Everyone was laid back, everyone got on.  There was much wine drunk.  I'm not saying those two facts are linked.  I'm just saying.

Nor did I feel heartbroken when they left and I had to hug my beautiful Jen goodbye.  Because we still have our blogs, and our letters, and email and skype and I know that we have many more adventures ahead of us.

In the meantime, thank you so much for flying around the world to see us.  Please come back soon.

Friday, 5 September 2014

La rentrée

 The obligatory picture of my kids with their bags. Neither of them changed teacher or class so la rentrée was even smoother than usual.  I practically had to get O in a headlock to demand a goodbye kiss.  The only one not happy was Nell, who wanted to stay at school too.

This rentrée was a bit different because we had two extra in tow.  For the last five days of the holiday I was looking after my friends' two girls, Louisa and Emilie.  That's five children to herd on the big day, but frankly we had no problems.  My talents are clearly wasted with just the three, if it wasn't for Fanf I'd be on the lookout for some handsome Captain Von Trapp type.  (Cos if you're going to have seven I think it best to appropriate someone else's).

 I have felt completely wiped since the kids went back to school.  At first I thought this bizarre, given that my days are calmer but I think it is precisely the sudden calmness which has given my body permission to let go.  I don't have to be on all the time.  I have loved having some one on one time with Nell again but she sleeps in the afternoon so I am enjoying zoning out, not being in the moment, mind wandering... all fancy ways for saying it's great to be a lazy slattern once in a while.


Thursday, 4 September 2014

How it should be

So much to catch up on, I don't know where to begin.  So I won't, not today. In the meantime, this:

Snapped, all three their nose in a book, while I prepared tea yesterday.  Long may it continue...

Thursday, 10 July 2014

The big 4 O

 My little man turned 4.  My little man turned 4 many times, requiring many cakes.  We began with the Elsa cake, moved on to the farm cake, had a favourite loaf cake for a birthday picnic in the parc and, my pièce de résistance, finished with the green dragon cake.

But enough about cake.  My little man turned 4!  And such a splendid little man he is.  For his birthday he asked for an Elsa dress, and received a lovingly and beautifully handmade version from the ever impressive Auntie Katie, and an electric train.  Owen is a modern man, in touch with all aspects of his eccentric personality.  Just thinking about him and his happy little face makes me smile.

We went into school last week to celebrate with his class.  Part of the birthday ritual at the Calandreta involves choosing 4 people to jump up and down with while the others chant along to the beat of a tambour (don't ask me why, it's all in Occitan and I haven't a clue what's going on).  Last year when I came in with Owen to celebrate Matilda's birthday her first choice of fellow jumper was Owen.  This year, with Matilda on special leave from her class, the first person Owen chose was Matilda.  Their closeness nevers ceases to delight me.   After Matilda followed a string of little blonde girls...  "Ah, Owen et ses princesses!" his teacher sighed.

Owen also loves his teacher, Cati, who is not blonde but tall and foreboding with a shock of frizzy black curls.  To be honest she's quite frightening.  But all the kids adore her.  Owen made her a thank you card for the end of the year.

When he showed me, I pointed to the small round object to the bottom right, "Is that a spider?" I asked innocently. "No, it's Cati's hand, someone cut it off".  Well, that's nice isn't it.  Nothing says thank you like a bit of dismemberment.

My strange and loving Owen, you give the biggest, bestest squeezy hugs, don't ever stop.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Keeping up with the activities

I read this on a blog last week and felt a real pang of recognition.

"I'm not sure at what point it became necessary for children to be socially, musically and gymnastically aware all before they reach the tender age of 6 but it most certainly wasn't the way in the 80's and for that I'm grateful."

I pretty much did nothing except hang out with my friends until I started high school.  And I loved filling my time with games and make believe and sleepovers and reading and making perfume out of bits of dead petals and detergent.  The one activity I did do, Brownies, I hated and promptly dropped out.

I'm really in two minds about the whole extra-curricular activities circus.  Part of me has a serious dose of "Keeping up with the Joneses", I see all the other kids around me following a tight schedule of weekly activities and I don't want my kids to - what? - not fulfill their potential, feel left out, get left behind... behind in what exactly...? And socialising our children has become yet another activity to add to the list, but surely being social is something that just happens naturally because they are in the world.  It can all feel a bit like pushy parenting.  So part of me thinks I should leave them be a few years more.

But the Joneses have it and yesterday I signed up Owen for dance classes starting in September and Matilda will continue with circus.  I can see that she enjoys it, I suspect so will he.  I keep telling myself, and them, that it is about their enjoyment.  Their little lives are hectic enough without adding activities just for the sake of it.  At their age I just want them to have fun and if they want to stop they can stop.  In all honesty, I'm sure they would have just as much fun hanging out with each other or their friends but during free time it's hard to meet up with friends/cousins because they're all off doing activities!  And so it spirals.

I'm not quite sure what I'm saying here really, and maybe in fact what I'm trying to say is something I've said before.  There is a crazy pressure to make every second count for our children (I once read an article that claimed this was because modern parents see their kids as an extension of themselves, we seek vicarious fulfillment and affirmation through our progeny) and that seems to mean our children have to be constantly involved in "Activities" that develop their artistic, physical or social abilities in a more or less structured and measurable way.  But maybe, rather than always being behind our children, urging them on, we should simply live alongside them a bit more, allowing them to count their seconds as they wish.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Owen logic

Conversation over dinner following Owen's 4-year MOT with Dr. Proslier, which included an eye test.

Owen: I don't like Dr. Proslier.
Fanf:  Doctors are there to help us.  Mummy and I like Dr. Proslier and we trust him.
Matilda:  Doctors know everything.
Fanf:  They know all about the human body.
Owen:  They don't know everything, he didn't know what cats are.  He showed me a picture of a cat and asked me what it was. 

Doctors - not all they're cracked up to be.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Nell at one

A cake lover.

An art lover.

A book lover.

A theatre lover.

On Magali's shoulders at the Foire des Grenouilles today.

A daddy lover.

One of the gang.

Still a cheeky tongue sticker-outer-er...

... and a sultan of smile.