Tag Archives: children

Junior High in France

French students in what are essentially 8th and 9th grades do a one-week shadowing internship, observing someone doing what they think they want to do for a living. This year, Theo’s 8th grade year, he is in a small private French school, so he was expected to do this “stage d’observation.” And what Theo is interested in doing as a career, is sustainable farming, imagining his own restaurant and maybe using this knowledge and platform in developing countries. Our part of France is amazing for family farms and sustainable farming. I don’t think we have ever passed a field of more than 20, 25 cows. The local produce is preferred, and it’s amazing. Unfortunately, his stage was scheduled at the end of February. Farms aren’t really all that busy in February, and so we were having some trouble finding a farm willing to take on this American kid no one knew.

At the last minute, an acquaintance of another parent at the school who is a farmer, who happens to also have a church and food pantry and bread ministry on his farm, agreed to take on Theo. It was a match made in heaven! He spent four days working hard in an all-Francophone environment, and instead of finishing the day weary and near-silent as usual, I would pick him up, energized and talking constantly of all he had done! And he did a lot.

Farmer Ted. Note the amazing view from the farm!

Farmer Ted. Note the amazing view from the farm!

He helped build a pen for the new little chicks coming in, and helped them settle the next day. He accompanied the tractor mowing the grass around the bees’ hives, helped build parts of the electric fencing, and sautered and painted a cow pen. He also ate lunch with the family each day, a nice French farmer lunch!

Where they grind the wheat they grow into flour, which they then bake into loaves they use for food aid.

Where they grind the wheat they grow into flour, which they then bake into loaves they use for food aid.

Only one loaf left! The oven is the whole wall in the back.

Only one loaf left! The oven is the whole wall in the back.

The sheep are getting to know Theo.

The sheep are getting to know Theo.

Another view from the farm.

Another view from the farm.

He spent the next week preparing the report of his stage, and he is more convinced than ever that this is what he wants to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Holidays in France 2013

I definitely wanted to document our second year of holidays in France. For one, we made an American Thanksgiving for people here who made an impact on us and made us feel very welcome. It was a big meal in a small kitchen, but every person there was a gift we were thankful for!

A lively table of food and conversation.

A lively table of food and conversation.

We weren't just thankful for us old fogeys, either.

We weren’t just thankful for us old fogeys, either.

And I was super especially thankful that my oldest daughter had arrived from the States to join us for more than a month!

And not just thankful for the help washing dishes. Folks were pretty amazed we had no dishwasher here.

And not just thankful for the help washing dishes. Folks were pretty amazed we had no dishwasher here.

My friend Brigitte brought adorable little costume additions that we photographed the group with. I added them to our centerpieces!

A centerpiece with extra oomph!

A centerpiece with extra oomph!

We had a quiet Christmas at home, but left the next day for Paris. I’ll include the Paris photos another time.

 

Joyfully celebrating the Christ-child's birth!

Joyfully celebrating the Christ-child’s birth!

The big reveal. I am sure Theo was grateful his sister came. His dad and I are sort of boring on Christmas morning.

The big reveal. I am sure Theo was grateful his sister came. His dad and I are sort of boring on Christmas morning.

New Year’s was celebrated early, with Italy, and minimally, with a toast of sparkling pear juice. Party on, people!

So that was our Bonne Année, and I think next year we will get to have some of it back in the good ol’ USA.

 

 

 

 

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Scenes of Brienz

This post is just to give a feel for the lovely city of Brienz, including the much-preserved art of woodcarving. It’s a big deal in this area, and in Brienz was featured not only in two major studios, but in a museum dedicated to the craft. But you couldn’t turn a corner without encountering examples.

A column near the outdoor dining area of our hotel. And if you go back to first shots of the hotel, you can see the carved lintel on the building across the back garden.

A column near the outdoor dining area of our hotel. And if you go back to first shots of the hotel, you can see the carved lintel on the building across the back garden.

An ode to tourists? I am trying to remember where I captured this fellow; I think either outside the museum or the office of tourism.

An ode to tourists? I am trying to remember where I captured this fellow; I think either outside the museum or the office of tourism.

It's not Swiss without a cow, right?

It’s not Swiss without a cow, right?

He we are, heading down to the lake. It's not a long walk, really; but it is a steep descent.

Here we are, heading down to the lake. It’s not a long walk, really; but it is a steep descent. Follow us lakeside!

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Yes, there really is a Swiss Knife Valley.

And we took the very winding, often narrow, looooooong-tunnelled route between Brienz and Brunnen, the home of the Victorinox museum and the heart of Swiss Knife Valley. The lure of assembling one’s very own, monogrammed original Swiss Army Knife was too great to stay away. We did need an appointment, which was easily made in English by phone the day before.

Brunnen, home of the Victorinox museum.

Brunnen, home of the Victorinox museum.

The instructor there in the middle, explaining to Stoney and Theo the parts they are putting together.

The instructor there in the middle, explaining to Stoney and Theo the parts they are putting together.

The truly handy end results, accompanied by all kinds of new trivia.

The truly handy end results, accompanied by all kinds of new trivia.

But Brunnen was more than just a knife museum. It also had a stunning view…

I think Switzerland must have as many lakes as they have mountains.

I think Switzerland must have as many lakes as they have mountains.

Th everpresent haze over the mountains and lake. I am going to have fun playing with these effects in paint!

Th everpresent haze over the mountains and lake. I am going to have fun playing with these effects in paint!

And, although not the most picturesque Swiss town we visited, it had an irresistible miniature golf course. We succumbed.

Theo, displaying his laissez-faire form. He actually really golfs, so you can see he considers this total play.

Theo, displaying his laissez-faire form. He actually really golfs, so you can see he considers this total play.

The statuary throughout this little course was amazing. Half of why I chose to play was just to get closer to the forms. It certainly wasn’t my high likelihood of dominating at this game. Ahem.

See the peacock in the distance behind the lion?

See the peacock in the distance behind the lion?

An eagle.

An eagle.

A giant mantid.

A giant mantid.

A wof.

A wolf.

I think Brunnen is a great place to take kids. It was very engaging and kid-accessible. And we have wonderful souvenirs!  I even have a pair of Victorinox steak knives now, just not with my name engraved.

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Birthdays and Bugs

We have been very blessed regarding flexibility to travel this year. Nowhere was this more evident than our trip home to the States. My oldest daughter graduated from Kansas State University mid-May. If Theo had been tied to the French school schedule, we would not have been able to attend. And really, no one should miss a processional led by a kilt-clad bagpiper in the midst of the US plains.

I would never have expected it!

I would never have expected it!

We are very proud of our young graduate!

And visiting the States at this time is high birthday season: my oldest son had just had his, this daughter’s was a few weeks away, and definitely Theo, with a late summer birthday, would prefer to celebrate with US friends. How nice to knock out three with one blow, so to speak.And really, I was so, so grateful to spend time with my kids, including the poor winter birthday child. I took all the summer birthday kids camping. OK, so maybe this was the birthday choice of the nearly 14-year-old boy, but everyone loves camping, right? We fueled up with Krispy Kreme donuts before heading out. On a 2-hour drive to the campsite. That’s right, I’m the smart mom.

None of these in France, believe me!

None of these in France, believe me!

Fishing was almost as popular a past-time as messing with the campfire. Unfortunately, Quinn, my oldest, was the only one who caught anything. At least it was big enough for everyone to get a sample. Good fish, Kansas! Honestly, I couldn’t believe how chilly it was there in JUNE. Theo had asked for Oklahoma, but after the near-daily tornadoes, I was able to talk him into camping a little closer to his sister. The weather has been weird, folks. Still, as Deep-Woods Off as I fogged myself, I still got multiple aggravating mosquito bites and one tick. Uck. Now that leaves a person looking fondly on France…

Tyring for one of the really big ones at the dam  outlet. No luck.

Trying for one of the really big ones at the dam outlet. No luck. 

I really loved being home. It felt so comfortable! And seeing so many people I love was like refreshing water in a desert heat. And the hugs!! American hugs everywhere you turn! All good things end, though…

When we first moved to France, it was mid-July. I wrote about the remarkable weakness of pest invasion in our open home not long after. Having now almost completed a WHOLE YEAR (Happy anniversary to us!) in France, I have decided spring is the more buggy season.

It’s still kind of odd, though. For instance, we had one day that was really the Day of the Mouche. (That’s French for housefly.) We had a plague. The doors and windows were closed, but we killed, by swatter, over a hundred houseflies. What is with that?! Seriously? I couldn’t find where they were originating, and I couldn’t find a, well, organic source for them. The next day we killed only about 40, and the next day, maybe single digits. The funny thing about these flies was their general lethargy. Well, you can probably guess that by our high kill rate. There would be some serious effort to dispatch that many flies back in Kansas. It would probably qualify as some kind of boot-camp workout, but here, not so much.

And then there are the bees. They are obviously quite healthy and numerous here, unlike back home. And I am betting they loved the wet winter and spring, because the outdoors is literally humming with them. I have this hedge that goes around two sides of the house…

See any flowers? Me neither.

See any flowers? Me neither.

It is abuzz. Constantly. I canNOT figure it out, because why? There seems to be nothing a bee could eat there. But there are hundreds just all over this thing. I even had one briefly pause on the back of my hand one day while I was sitting out back chatting with friends. Being allergic to wasps, I prefer to avoid bee encounters. If there was some way to discourage their constant chillin’ in my background, I’d take it. The wildflower field behind the house was recently flattened (not mowed, interestingly), and I am wondering if that might encourage the bees to hang out elsewhere?

But on the up side, the mosquitos are STILL wimpy. We have enjoyed backyards, riverbanks, our own patio right along with the mosquitos. We have been bitten, but I don’t even get welts. They barely itch. Curious, eh? For a place lush with flora, there just isn’t much annoying fauna. I hope this continues! We are back in France for another year and then a bit. Our appointment is set with the prefecture to formalize that at the end of the month. I’ll let y’all know how that goes!

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Scenes from St. Mark’s Square on a Rainy Day

It was lovely and busy.

This piazza is big.

See the platforms people are sitting on to your left? It finally struck me that those are walkways during the flood times. Wow.

This piazza is really big.

This piazza is really big.

Everyone is gathering to tour the cathedral. Except us. I was content to take photos outside, with no waiting.

Everyone is gathering to tour the cathedral. Except us. I was content to take photos outside, with no waiting.

The thing about Venice is that its position at the crux of byzanitine and asian influences and roman and gothic influences is really evident in the architecture. You really do see an extraordinary mix, and I liked it. It was especially welcome after the weight, stolidness, and excess of Florentine architecture. Click on photos, and then again, to enlarge details.

More St Mark’s here

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Making a Difference in One Life

I haven’t given an update on our Compassion child in quite a while, so I thought this would be a good opportunity. I really wasn’t sure what to expect when we first began our sponsorship. We hoped to make a difference in the life of a girl in India, to help one girl at least to realize her innate value to God, and to grow strong because of it. (You can read about our Compassion journey under the Category “Compassion” to your left).

I pray we are succeeding, but through her correspondence my hope has grown a bit. First, I can SEE with my own eyes that we have made a physical difference in Pavithra’s life! Theo and I chose her out of so many little girls in India in part because she looked, well, hungry. She seemed thinner than so many others, and hollow-eyed. She was a rural child, and our reading led us to believe that her female-ness might be even less welcome there than in an urban family. This winter we finally received an update photo, and she has filled out beautifully! She is wearing clothes our gifts provided, including shoes, which she mentions in her letters, and her cheeks are filled out, and her arms look strong and healthy. I nearly cried to see the difference in her! If we have provided nothing else, we have supported the means to help her live strong and healthy through Compassion’s aid. I would show a photo, but I really want to protect her, even her image.

Second, I hear a difference in her letters. She has grown from fill-in-the-blank response sheets to interactive conversation. She writes a half page, and tells about things in her life, and responds often to something mentioned in ours. I can tell she is beginning to grasp this concept of a conversation over time in print. And delightfully, we are beginning to hear a little about her family, too! And this opens my dreams up…are we influencing her whole family toward Christ through Compassion? Not one child, but four people? What an encouraging thought, and how it has expanded our prayers! I begin to see in her letters a sense of a dream, a desire to do and be better. How I pray that I might encourage that and feed those young sparks of flame!

Our last letter was hand-carried back to the States with my husband and mailed from there (it has to go to Colorado for processing, and so much cheaper and surer to send it from Kansas than France). It was the sort I couldn’t do as an email letter: one side was a cut-out of my hand, and the other, Theo’s. Accordion-folded between them was a yard of paper with the verse “You are loved with an everlasting love” printed on. It should be unexpected and unusual enough to grab her attention, and I hope it delights her. I also hope she gets it before Easter!

I am glad God pointed us to Compassion International.

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Homeschooling in France

I apologize for my scarcity. I have several posts I would like to blog, but I’ve struggled with making the time. You see, I may not have a work visa like my husband, but I am still working; I am homeschooling my teenage son. Yes, this is pretty much a full-time job, and we have added to it my little French classes at the marie, and a church retreat last weekend. So my apologies, but I will probably be a little erratic.

Our homeschool nook, which hosts current school curriculum and my son’s crib blanket. Hey, some things you just don’t let go of.

I am not new to homeschooling. Most of my children have been homeschooled some or most of their school careers, although I haven’t done so for four years. I am comfortable, confident, and know from my older kids that our curriculum choices work. I also use an umbrella for administration from junior high and up, so my son is under an umbrella here. We are studying world history, and I have some pretty awesome hands-on field trips planned to places world history actually happened.

Our first will be at the end of this month, to a spot in Spain where the first Greek settlement of Gaul was founded, then built over by a Roman garrison, followed eventually by a medieval Catalan city. You can find a virtual visit here, but the day we go will also have a Roman re-enactor to bring the Roman landing alive. The fact that some great tourist beaches are also near has not gone unnoticed. I love teaching world history!

Ancient Egypt come to life, soon to be recorded in Power Point. By the way, NOT a fan of French glue. The stick glue is American, and not great either. They don’t like you flying with bottles of glue.

There are, of course, special hoops to jump through in a foreign country. I have submitted my letter of intent, as required by law. Today I got a phone call (they were able to scrounge up a sort of English speaker) asking for clarification of Theo’s birthday. I was told to expect a letter from the department of education, as his education would need to be “controlled.” I am confident this is a translation issue, and they mean something more like monitored, because most homeschoolers here I’ve talked to haven’t had too much trouble. I am definitely praying for favor in the eyes of the inspector, though!

Next year, after touring Europe through the eyes of history, we’ll enroll our son in the International School here, but until then, I am grateful for a year of discovery together!

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IKEA: for the Bob the Builder in Every Adult

or teen, for that matter. Pretty much most of our interior furnishing will be from a flat-pack box.

More than a room’s worth here.

Thus far, we have seen nothing to match IKEA for their quality/price-value ratio, even among the u-assemble crowd. The local runners-up would be Alinéa, who won a spot on our patio with table and chairs. These were easy enough for a 12-year-old to assemble with nearly no adult direction. As witness:

Yes he can!!

The chairs, sturdily assembled by Theo, awaiting their mate, the table.

IKEA, on the other hand, can be a little more complicated. The furniture assembly has (for the most part) extraordinarily clear directions made almost entirely of illustrations. Still, it is very well designed and put together, even if I am the final assembly technician. Bolts and screws are often threaded into metal receptors inserted into pre-drilled holes and locked into place with these little metal spiral-like discs you half-turn over the bolt or screw, and which probably have a well-known carpentry-ish designation, but which I had never encountered before. IKEA having all-illustration directions, I remain ignorant of the term, but NOT of the need for 24 of these sweet babies on my one piece of furniture.

Theo has been helping with our IKEA construction, (and since I do occasionally bite into virgin wood with these screws, I feel justified in using the term), but I don’t try to turn him loose with these. They can get a little complicated.

Some vigorous pushing had to occur here. Honest, there is no headbanger music playing.

I built these lovely things. Really, with a little help from my son. And some prep work by some IKEA factory workers. But other than that, I built these.

OK, I confess: I am pretty limited in my construction skills. I’m only willing to try so much without fear of some really unfortunate mistake, so the rest of our furniture will have to have Stoney’s help this weekend. I figure, directions that seem a little complicated and maybe ambiguous should be quite clear to a structural design engineer. Right? So I expect by the end of the weekend to have all the furniture basics assembled to show you, and more importantly, ready for our 900 pounds of worldly goods, which arrive Monday. (Not that you’re not important.)

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Happy Birthmonth!

Or three weeks of birth celebration, as Theo would not be in the US for his thirteenth, so we had a party with family and friends early, before we left. We will probably still have some sort of hurrah for him when he truly does become a teenager, so it sort of prolongs the joyous crossover. Ahem. I love thirteen year olds. Honest. Mostly.

Anyway, our party was in Wichita’s Old Town, starting with pizza. What group of boys doesn’t like pizza? We followed it, down the street, with time at City Arts, constructing an arsenal out of wire frames, foil and Crayola Model Magic.

A constructive birthday

en guarde!

Theo’s older brother surprised him by driving up from Texas and appearing in the midst of the creativity. Awesome birthday surprise!!

How does Quinn look with a handlebar?

You’re never too old to make stuff.

more merrymaking HERE

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