He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Caca à gauche!

Our family has the amazing privilege this summer of traveling with Jason around Europe.  We are seeing so amazing places and meeting some terrific people.  We are so thankful for these adventures together as a family.  

We started out in Paris.  I love this city so much.  We lived here 11 years ago when we first began our overseas adventures and were studying French.  It's been so much fun to return especially as our older girls are old enough to really appreciate the places we are able to see.  

There are A LOT of pictures in this post because there are LOTS of things we want to remember as a family, but also because I thought it would be fun for you to take a walk with us around the streets of France.  We've made some great memories along the way, laughed at each other and at ourselves and walked, well, a whole stinkin' lot!  (wish is a good thing because we have eaten more than our share of pain au chocolate- but I'll save all the food goodness for another post)...

When you are walking around France, the most important thing to remember is that there is dog poop EV-ER-Y-WHERE.  The French love their dogs who apparently love to take care of their business anywhere and everywhere.  Since so many people walk, I kid you not, POOP.  EVERYWHERE.  For this reason, Naomi declared herself to be the "poop patrol" during one of our first walks from metro station to bus station to home.  She would walk ahead and call out "poop on the right" or "watch out in the middle" etc.  At one point, Abbey chimed in "caca à gauche!"  (someone apparently DOES remember some of her French!)

We are trying to teach the girls the art of blending as we walk and not taking over the entire sidewalk with our loud, colorful American-ness.  We've gotten pretty good at that in the Middle East, but apparently not so much here.  (to be fair, I should say, Jason is actually trying to teach the rest of us this particular art, I seem to be erring on the side of oblivious tourist more often than not....).

In the below picture, we have lots of space, but try squashing our family of 6 in the Paris metro corridors and attempting to keep us together while keeping up with the kids, the stroller, the water bottles etc.  If he's said it once, he's said it 1000 times- "WALK TO THE RIGHT, PEOPLE"....  

One of my favorite parts about walking around in France (and this may seem silly...) is coming up out of the metro.  Maybe it's because of the stress of navigating the underground maze with stroller, kids etc., but I love emerging from the metro to the beauty of the blue sky, green trees and beautiful buildings...

And I mentioned colorful...  Europeans as a whole tend to dress in dark colors, or at least neutral ones.  One particular day we headed out to sight-see in Paris and I happened to glance around at our overall ensemble.  What a colorful bunch!

 As I said before, we've laughed at ourselves a lot!  The girls and I, for whatever reason have had our share of air headed moments....  

During our very cold, very wet day at Euro Disney we seemed to have lost a few brain cells along the way.   After spending literally hours in the downpour,  we were standing in line for a ride and thankfully were standing under a covered walkway.  Jason looked at Maddie still holding her umbrella over her head and says, "Maddie, you can put your umbrella up."  She stares back at home (looks a bit confused) and very innocently raises it up just a few inches higher....  (I guess she did put it UP!).  I also might have spent a few seconds longer than necessary banging on the wrong side of a public garbage can to throw something away instead of moving around to the other side where it was quite easy to deposit one's trash.  We'll blame it on the rain!  

Miss Anabelle has been such a trooper during our travels.  She is little miss independent and is loving every minute.  The first week or so she woke up every day asking, "I'm going to meet new friends today?!"  

She has once again perfected the art of stroller riding.  We really don't use it much where we live!

She's a huge fan of the metro and/or tram.  She loves to get out of her stroller and find her own seat.  Even if it's beside a total stranger...

She also loves to walk (as long as the stroller is a back-up option!) and hold big sisters hands...
...especially if they will play "1, 2, 3 wheeeee....."

Her absolute favorite mode of transportation would have to be the horse though.  Especially this variety... (there seems to be one of these everywhere we go!)

Naomi enjoyed it too!

AJ and Maddie are getting their fill of shopping!  Here they are browsing the streets of Paris....

And here in Marseille....

Naomi has been fascinated by all the street performers.  Music, pantomime, whatever- she loves it and wants to give everybody money!

We celebrated Maddie's 13th birthday in Paris and allowed her to choose a few things she wanted to do on her special day.  We started out going up to Sacre Coeur- one of my favorite places in Paris.  The church on the hill is beautiful (pictured above- the girls and I on the steps), but I knew she would particularly love the artists square around the corner from the church where artist's set up and paint and sell their work.  It's such a fun place to visit!

From there we walked down to the Seine River where we had booked a river boat tour of the city.  It was a beautiful day and a perfect way to get a first glimpse of Paris sites.

Naomi has been SO excited about seeing the Eifel Tower!

And what a great first way to see it!

This past week, we've made our way down to the south of France.  We've enjoyed visiting with friends in Marseille and this weekend we're in Montpellier.  Jason and I lived here 17 years ago (WHAT?!) when he was doing his internship for a French insurance company while doing his international MBA.  It's an amazing city and we've had a lot of fun coming back and showing the girls some of our favorite spots.  

Of course, there's been LOTS of walking.  (gotta work off all those French pastries somehow!).  But it's hard to mind walking in such beautiful scenery.  

The port at Marseille....

Say what you will about the French, but they do outdoor space very, VERY well.  I think I'm remembering now why it was such a rude awakening for me to move from France with green spaces and playgrounds on every corner, to the concrete jungle of Beirut! 

Here's where we walked around and enjoyed our baguette sandwiches today...

Look at this place!  It's just a public park right outside one of the malls!  Fountains, flowers, people enjoying the weekend with their families- beautiful!

Anabelle was fascinated by the playground.  Especially this thing....

(having one of my spacey moments- what would you call this?  The big girls would whisper to her in one end and she'd look so confused as she tried to talk back then figure out where they were...)

And no Saturday afternoon in France would be complete without a little fountain frolicking...

I hope you've enjoyed walking with us through some of our favorite places in France.  Remember, avoid the "caca", walk to the right, savor the beauty coming out of the subway, and don't be afraid to  kick off your shoes and dance in a fountain when you're given the chance!  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Since Anabelle was about, well, this big...

lovey ("Lubby" since she started talking) has been an important part of her daily routine.

This little pink giraffe, found at Target, became one of the stable parts of a nap time routine that, for the first 6 months of her life, was rarely in the same place twice.

Ok, ok, I know that such a young baby probably doesn't really know the difference...  But this momma needed some stability for the sake of her little one (who thankfully was amazingly flexible with the craziness of our lives during that phase of her life- 3 big moves during her first 6 months of life).  However, by the time she was 7, 8, 9 months old, lovey was pretty important to her too!

Lubby has been quite the world traveler.  Oman, America (twice), Bahrain, Greece (twice).  On one of our trips to America, while walking the aisles of Target, I found an identical lovey that also travels with us, "just in case".  

AB would not be fooled, though.  When we showed her the new one, she quickly said, "that's not Lubby.  That's pink Lubby. My Lubby's purple."   You see, original lovey had become so well loved that she had kind of taken on a grayish color, or "purple"according to Anabelle.  New "pink lovey" just didn't quite have the needed softness to her satin edges yet.  And yes, I did say "she". A while back, AB started referring to Lubby as she and we've all just gone with it.  We typically have one of the girls assigned to keep up with Lubby when we're out and about.  Mainly if we are somewhere where AB is going to be napping in the stroller or something or holding it in a taxi we don't want it dropped.  And we definitely want to make sure Lubby is around for nap time or bedtime!  

The below pic is a sure sign that AB is ready for nap time or bedtime.  She is usually willing for Lubby to wait at home for her if we're going out and about, but if we're traveling or going out for the day, Lubby usually comes along.

Lubby has made her way into quite a few family pictures...

All of our family members (and a lot of our friends!) are aware of the importance of Lubby.  Everyone usually helps us make sure we have her when we are leaving or traveling.  She was even left behind at a Crackerbarrel during our travels in the US and Jason had to drive back to get her.  

Once we dropped her while walking out of the doctor's office and didn't realize it.  Over an hour later when I made my way back, there she was sitting on the sidewalk on a very busy street.  

You've probably figured out where I'm going with this!  We are traveling a lot this summer.  We left Amman at the end of June and will be returning mid-August.  We boarded our plane in Amman headed for our first destination- a meeting in Greece.  As I was helping AB get settled into her seat, I asked the older girls where Lubby was.  I was met by blank stares.  My heart sank!  We were some of the first to board, so I found a flight attendant, explained that my 3 year old had lost something very important in the airport and I needed to see if I could find it.  Thankfully, we were in Amman, not the US, where I'm pretty sure security would not have allowed it, and one of the airport workers escorted me back through the airport to look for Lubby.  No luck.  

Don't laugh, but I think I was more upset than Anabelle!  Thankfully it wasn't nap or bed time and she had several friends around her to distract her.  Momma got a little teary though when I realized that this time, Lubby was actually truly lost.  

AB took it all in stride.  After a few minutes (true to form), our little singer made up a new song.  To the tune of "Let it Go" from Frozen, she started singing, "I want Lubby.  I want Lubby.  IIIII want Lubby."  I want Lubby, I want Lubby, IIIII want Lubby.  I want Lubby, I want Lubby."  and on and on it went.  

Thankfully by the time bedtime rolled around that night, it was pushing midnight, she was beyond exhausted and when I retrieved "new lovey" from her suitcase.  She took it, looked at it for a few minutes, and started rubbing the edges of the silk until she found the perfect spot.  

New Lubby is proving to be perfectly acceptable.  Every once in a while she'll say something like, "real Lubby is still in the airport," but mostly she is doing just fine.  

New Lubby has already been to Euro Disney and proved to be a great umbrella in the rain.

She's taken numerous naps in the stroller as we've traveled around.  

I've gotten over my tears too!  Let's just hope we can hang on to New Lubby...

...we don't have another replacement!!

Gardening Phase 2

We've had so much fun with our backyard garden!  It's definitely been a learning process and somewhat hit or miss as far as what will work and what won't, but we've had fun and, most importantly (for me anyway), been able to enjoy the great outdoors on a fairly regular basis.  The girls have learned how much hard work it is and that a lot of labor comes before you begin seeing results but we have all really enjoyed watching our little garden grow.

Unfortunately we've had some slightly unwelcome guests
(at least in my opinion...)

Remember our kittens from last year?  Same time of year, same story.  We found a litter of 3 in our yard in early June.  Fortunately, this batch vacated on their own and we didn't have to repeat the whole herding cats experience (that you can read about HERE).  Unfortunately, they managed to trample all of the sunflowers as they started coming up and almost completely destroyed the pretty little row of peas we had coming up in front of the tomatoes.  

A few pea plants survived.  One is apparently of the climbing variety (do I sound like I know what I'm talking about?  Don't be fooled....), and has pretty well wrapped itself around the cherry tomato plant behind it.

The morning we left for our summer of travel (more on that later), Maddie went out to water and discovered a handful of peas on the vine.  She was thrilled!  (and also slightly disappointed that we were leaving right when the garden started producing...)  She did snap a few pics with my iPhone...

We've also discovered the fun of embracing the local weeds wildflowers in our garden.

These little white flowery vines started popping up all around the lemon tree in the center of the yard.  Since it was in an area where I didn't really plant much (or maybe I should say where the flower seeds I planted didn't come up), I just let them grow.  

My little gardeners hard at work...
They helped me plant the olive tree beside Naomi and 2 grapevines that (hopefully) will grow up along the trellis.

Then it was time for swimming!

Things are growing, growing, growing...

Ground cover with little pink flowers...
(Gonna have to get more of this- it's so easy and so pretty)

Tomatoes.  Maddie counted about 50-60 tomatoes right before we left.

Our grape tomato vines were growing like crazy.  I'm going to have to figure out a better system for letting them climb if we do those again.  

Below I have them rigged with an unused rake and some rope once they far outgrew the stakes I bought

Oh and then there was this unknown vine that popped up a few weeks ago.  I vaguely remember planting seeds in this spot- no idea what it is though and it was just starting to flower when we left...

Hopefully our house sitters have enjoyed the fruits of our labor this summer while we've been gone!