Kermesse

School’s out for summer!

kermesseSummer feels more real with kids. In San Diego, where the seasons blend and where we have two, maybe three weeks of vacation a year, summer never really meant much. Just a little warmer and crowds of tourists everywhere we want to go. But now, my daughter has finished her first year of preschool, and we kicked off summer in style: with an end of year show and Kermesse.

The preschool section of the school put on an hour-long show. Somehow, the teachers got those two, three, four, and five-year-olds to perform choreographed dances, sing, recite memorized lines, and even put on a play. Seriously – three and four year olds doing the tango, kindergartners performing Snow White, and two-year-olds dancing to a beat, each group waiting patiently while the others performed, and not one of them on stage crying for Maman? Amazing. These people are miracle workers.

Four year olds doing a choreographed dance on boogie boards to Surfin' USA

Four year olds doing a choreographed dance on boogie boards to Surfin’ USA

Two-year-old cowboys and cowgirls

Two-year-old cowboys and cowgirls

 

Then there was Kermesse, a carnival of sorts that in France is mainly put on my parochial schools. When my husband heard there would be a Kermesse at the French American School, he immediately decided to take a half-day off, citing fond memories of going to Kermesse with friends as a child. The school did not disappoint: lots of fantastic food, a few rides, good music, and all sorts of fun activities.

Yes, please!

Yes, please!

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Homemade games with prizes

Homemade games with prizes

Dunk Tank

Dunk Tank

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Happy summer, everyone!

Staycation for the Summer

Me, with a serious frou frou drink on our honeymoon

Me, with a serious frou frou drink on our honeymoon

The following is a post for this month’s Raising Multilingual Children Blogging Carnival hosted by All Done Monkey. This month’s theme is Multilingualism and Travel. Click here to read great posts from others. 

Once upon a time, it seems so long ago, summer meant packing our bags for an adventure, or two, or four. I prided myself on my ability to pack for two plus weeks in a carry-on. Over glasses of wine uninterrupted by children who needed to use the potty or who wanted to eat NOW, we vowed that we wouldn’t fall into the trap so many of our friends had, we would keep traveling, having adventures, and our kids would simply come along for the ride. I look back on those evenings and it’s like I’m watching a sit-com; I double over in laughter and point at the former me and say: “You think you are so savvy, so above it all, BWAH HA HA! Just you wait!”

Thing is, in my mind I skipped right over the toddler years and straight to kids that were able to talk, bathe themselves, and walk more than a quarter mile before needing to be carried. I didn’t think about the car seats, Pack ‘n Plays, nor the strollers that would need to come with us. Hotels equipped with cribs, restaurants with high chairs… not even on my radar. I definitely didn’t envision a full-blown tantrum in any of these scenarios.

We took our daughter to France when she was nine months old. She did great – there were almost no tears until the last leg of the flight there, at which point she’d reached her limit. She screamed – SCREAMED – for an entire hour, and nothing we did could comfort her.

Then there was the train ride from Brittany to Paris. We had our suitcases – three – plus a stroller, plus her car seat, plus a diaper bag and a backpack. The train station had one elevator. One. The elevator held about three people with one bag each. The group waiting to board the elevator was fifty deep. Each trip on the elevator took four and a half minutes. Seriously. I timed it. To make it even more complicated, the platform wasn’t announced until 10 minutes before the train was due to take off.

This was France, mind you, where a line is more of a group of people pushing and ducking and manipulating their way past all the others. There’s no polite and fair waiting your turn. It’s survival of the fittest, and they aren’t above shoving past a woman and her stroller, or even shoving that stroller. While I complained about it, Stéphane took the stroller and turned it into a battering ram. When in France…. We pushed our way to the front of the group, made it to the platforms, and sprinted – he dragging two bags and wearing the backpack, me pushing the stroller/car seat and dragging our third bag with the diaper bag slapping against me and knocking me off balance. We boarded and the train immediately began to move.

Then I realized I had a diaper to change. The train had one car – one – with a diaper changing table, but I couldn’t find it. I ended up sitting on a toilet seat, my feet braced against the wall and my legs a makeshift changing table with my daughter stretched across them, rocking precariously every time the train hit a curve.

Then

Then

So, other than a small weekend trip up the coast, we aren’t going anywhere this summer. I’m intimidated by the thought of traveling with a one-year-old and an almost three-year-old overseas. Next year, we hope to go to France and spend at least a few weeks there. It’s obviously important that our children know their French family and their French heritage. And that we eat crêpes. Lots and lots of crêpes. There are all sorts of opportunities for family language vacations throughout France, where the three of us could enroll in language courses and really immerse ourselves. Plus, with my husband’s French citizenship, there are options for sending the kids to summer school there. Soon, while they’re young, before they realize that school instead of lazy summer days equals Mean Mom.

But here’s the silver lining: We live in San Diego, a top vacation destination for so many. All it takes is a morning at the beach, my toes in the sand, watching the surfers, for me to feel like I’m on vacation.

Now

Now

My daughter’s preschool lets out this week. She’s made so much progress with her French over this past year, but soon she will be home with English-speaking me every day rather than at school with her native French-speaking teacher and French only classes. I’ve been so worried that she’ll lose all she’s gained. Then I realized –hey, my French is decent. It’s certainly better than nothing. So we’ll be tourists in our own city, but we’ll do it in French. San Diego Zoo day, where we learn the animal names in French and talk about what they are up to. We’ll learn what noises they make – in French! Sea World? Lego Land? Balboa Park? The Embarcadero? The beach? Oui oui! Ce n’est pas mal!

I mentioned my idea to another mom at the preschool, and she quickly said she wanted to join us with her kiddos. Then another mom. And another. So my little idea just became a big deal – most of these families are not French speaking, so I’ll be leading the charge with our efforts to keep the kids progressing in French.

I still vow to get back to traveling adventures. I haven’t given up the dream. It will just hopefully be without a diaper bag.

Fondue and Mousse Au Chocolat

I turn my dinner guests into guinea pigs. My first attempts at a new meal are often when we invite friends over. So far, no one has complained. Fondue is an old stand by, but this was my first attempt at chocolate mousse.

May isn’t the best month for fondue, but it was requested by my friends back in March, then the dinner kept getting pushed down the calendar… did I mention I live in California? This is what we do. Luckily, last week was cold and rainy, so fondue turned out to be the perfect remedy.

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Two things broke me out of my Kraft Mac and Cheese habit from college. One – a good girlfriend who was a brilliant cook. I started hanging out at her house, learning what I could. Thank you, Shawna! The second – my husband. On our first “Come on over for dinner” dates, I served him quesadillas and spaghetti with packaged sauce mix. He was gracious and complimentary. So I tried something a little more complicated. He was more complimentary, even excited, and cleaned his plate. So I kept trying. I stopped using packages and started using fresh ingredients. I got bolder, more experimental. Today, my friends know me as a really good cook, and I’m convinced it’s the reason our parties are always so crowded. And to this day, my husband has never once said a bad thing about anything I’ve cooked. At worst, he’s been silent, and when I say something like, “That was horrible, I’m sorry,” he’ll pat my hand and say, “it wasn’t your best effort.” So I keep at it.

The chocolate mousse was a recipe that, six or seven years ago, I would have taken one look at and decided to buy a gallon of ice cream instead. Lots of steps, constant stirring, and temperature dependant… but it came out fantastic.

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Beautiful Saturday at the Farmer’s Market in Little Italy

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Intimidated by trying to find parking, I’ve never visited this farmer’s market. But my daughter and I were in Little Italy this weekend so we checked it out. It’s huge, maybe even bigger than our usual one in Hillcrest. The views are fabulous:

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The music sophisticated:

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And they have crêpes. Authentic ones, from Fabrison’s French Crêperie Café, also located in Little Italy. This restaurant has great food, and their crêpes are the real deal: the savory ones are done with buckwheat flour. Hard to find outside of Bretagne, but this is the way a savory crêpe is meant to be. I split a Nutella crêpe with my daughter and chatted with Fabrice, owner of the café, about the challenges of raising kids in a bilingual household (his wife is American) and what we do to try to make sure our kids are learning French.

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Here are a couple more photos. Spring is blooming in San Diego!

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It’s Kinda Sunny Out, Too

It had been one of those days. I was tired, overwhelmed, isolated. Another day at home with my two kids where my biggest accomplishment is finishing the day without poop ending up in anyone’s hair. I was feeling sorry for myself. Questioning whether staying home is right for me, or for the kids, and feeling jealous of my friends with jobs they can go to (escape to) and time for pedicures and happy hours. Wondering if the elusive “balance” I seek will ever be found.

Dinnertime came. My husband wasn’t home. Again. I checked my cell phone for a text message from him with some sort of explanation or ETA. Nothing. I’d spent most of the day eyeing the clock and counting down the hours until he would be home. Not, sadly, because I missed him. But because I desperately wanted help. Because caring for two so young can be exhausting on a good day. On a challenging day – God help me.

He’s been working late a lot these last few weeks. Family dinners, with all of us together, are a huge deal to me. Yet there we were, waiting, wondering. Again. My daughter asked me, “Where’s Papa?”

I did something I shouldn’t have done. I snapped out an irritable answer. “I don’t know where he is. Whatever. We’re not waiting for him. Let’s eat.”

She looked at me with her earnest, solemn blue eyes, and said, “Mommy, Papa wants to be here.”

This, from my 2 ½ year old. I caught my breath. The wisdom of her words, whether they came from true insight or simply innocence, hit me in a zen, pause for a moment and consider kind of way. She was right. My husband wasn’t staying late at work to avoid me, to dump responsibility for the kids on me, or because he “doesn’t get” what I’m going through, as the twisting tornado of irritation and anger forming in my mind was telling me. The simple truth was exactly as my daughter had stated it. He wanted to be there, with us. He just couldn’t.

It’s one of the things I love most about having kids. The way they slow down the frenzied pace life can assume, they way they remind me of what really is important. How easily smiles and happiness come to a child. How quick they are to forgive and forget. How pure and huge their love is. When I slow down and see the world through my kids’ eyes, I’m reminded that a hummingbird buzzing around a flower is an amazing and beautiful thing. That lying on my back and watching clouds float by is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. That Tigger stickers make excellent fashion accessories. That blowing raspberries is hilarious.

I need these reminders. I bury myself in expectations, projects, goals, all in the pursuit of “making something” of myself; “doing something” with my life. My kids remind me to just embrace the moment. To smile. To laugh. To enjoy. That I am lucky to be a part of a family that loves each other and wants to be together, even when we can’t actually be together. I realize, in watching my children, that sometimes the difference between a good day and a bad day can be as simple as an attitude adjustment on my part. I’m lucky that I can stay home with my kids and be such a huge part of their lives right now. I’m choosing this, not stuck with it, and it isn’t forever.

One morning a few weeks ago, I went into my daughter’s room to wake her up. She reached for me to pull her out of her crib and into a hug. Still holding her, I opened her blinds and was greeted by the typical San Diego marine layer coloring the sky a dull, listless grey. I wrinkled my nose.

“Eww. It’s kinda cloudy out today.”

She looked out the window. “It’s kinda sunny out, too.”

I pulled her into a tight hug as tears sprang into my eyes. “You are so right, sweetie. It’s kinda sunny out, too.”

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*Note: These photos were taken by the amazing, fun, and talented Carey with Barefoot Memories.

Papillon

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One of my daughter’s first French words was papillon, or butterfly. In her small toddler voice she carefully enunciated each syllable: pa-pi-llon. She would start high, with the first syllable, then descend down the scale as she spoke the rest of the word, like she was singing. We found any excuse we could to get her to say papillon; whether it was showing her a photo, a video, or saying it ourselves, we turned her into a performance monkey.

She still loves butterflies and last weekend we went to the Butterfly Jungle at Safari Park. The long line to get in: worth it. Walking into that aviary filled with fluttering multi-hued butterflies is a magical experience, especially for kids.

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This beauty landed on my hand and stayed for a while:

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Friendly butterflies! Everyone wanted a picture of this guy and his new friend:

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Vole, vole, vole papillon

Au-dessus de mon village

Vole, vole, vole papillon

Au-dessus de ma maison

-Comptine française

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