Monthly Archives: April 2014

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between trips

We had a lovely weekend in Dijon, while the kids stayed home and had a lovely weekend with Brendan and Erin.

Luuk, in Dijon, France

Luuk, wandering the streets of Dijon.

We ate multi-course meals at a leisurely pace, took our time in museums, slept in, and only stopped for nap time because we wanted to. It was our first night away from the kids together and it was great fun.

On Wednesday night we’ll pack up the car and head off to Bretagne for eight days of sight-seeing and seafood, and with any luck some family fun. The region is famously beautiful when it rains… and since it’s raining here too, we might as well go to where the rain is pretty.

I’ve been putting photos up on my facebook and twitter feed, and will continue to do so. I’m not going to write a whole travel-log post on either of these trips, probably. Just some long, chatty captions, perhaps.

In the meantime, Louis has two days of school, and Elena’s not having any halte garderie. She still hasn’t got visible chicken pox, but there’s a lengthy incubation period so it’s probably still coming. She’s staying home rather than spreading it around, and we are continuing with the potty training. Fun fun fun…

Five signs you’re in the home of a potty-trainer:

1. The floor is cleaner than you’ve ever seen it. (Don’t think about why.)

2. There are lots of towels on the line. And in the laundry pile. And possibly smack-bang in the middle of that vast, clean floor. (Too late, you thought about why.)

3. The toilet paper has been rolled up. As in, it was at some point unraveled and then re-rolled.

re-rolled loo paper


Dry and safe, but disconcerting, nonetheless.

4. Sticker chart(s) on the fridge.

5. Bare-bummed kids are a dead give-away. Otherwise, watch out for those brand new packets of tiny knickers, all ready to go (long before the kid is.)

What’s worse is that you’ll never need these five signs because we’re probably talking about potty training. Sorry.

Now, I’ve got laundry to do, and also a little bit of planning: got to get my head around a few little writing projects I can do during kids’ nap times, and possibly while we’re on the road, over the next couple of weeks.


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chocolate therapy

It’s true. Chocolate does not cure chicken pox. We are yet to ascertain whether or not it makes Elena immune. She is spot-free as yet, but not going to Halte Garderie because apparently she’ll be contagious before she’s spotty. Louis’ pox appeared after we’d already been staying with friends for a couple of nights, in Lille. Oops. Too late, they’d all been exposed. But only the baby hadn’t had it before. Good luck, JJ. Hope you sleep right through it, kid.

So, there was one day of our holiday in which we were all good and healthy, basically. And we went to Bruges, which is less than an hour from Lille, across a border you wouldn’t know was there (except your cell phone company texts to say they’re ‘with you’ and these are the roaming charges…).

belfry, bruges

The belfry tower in Bruges.

looking down a well, bruges

Louis and Luuk in a very old well. Let’s say they’re looking for chocolate.

virgin and child, bruges  I recently saw Monuments Men (good one. See it.) and in the film, one of the artworks threatened by the Nazis is Michelangelo’s Virgin and Child – in the middle of this photo. A bit of action takes place in this church, where the statue stood before the war and (spoiler alert) returned later. I was keen to see the place, and the statue, so I bullied everyone else into it.

our lady of bruges  Cool old church, undergoing refurbishments. On the plus side, entry was much cheaper than usual. In france churches are free to enter, but not so everywhere else. We’ve paid in england, italy and now belgium. But fair enough, must cost the earth to preserve stuff for so long.

refurbishments, our lady of bruges

I do like looking at old stuff. Call me a patina junkie.

more modern sculpture in our lady of bruges

Quite like the more modern art as well. Louis, inside this other Madonna and child statue.

So that was Friday. Saturday I woke up all head-coldy and Louis, covered in pox. So we took it pretty easy.

connect four, or five, or three

The kids, messing with a board game. Not playing it.

what I did Saturday morning...

I did manicures with a six year old… pas mal. And read.

After lunch, the dads took the kids to the park and us Mum’s relaxed, got the roast on, and hid the easter eggs. Sunday was meant to rain so we did the hunt early.

The kids had a restrained but appetite-destroying amount of chocolate. We grown-ups probably ate about the same amount, in all fairness, but that didn’t damper our enthusiasm for the leg of lamb. Not one bit. I do a mean roast potato. Marcelle’s gravy was gravy baby.

Sunday we went to an English church in Lille. Elena and I helped with some easter egg smashing, all very symbolic of Jesus of Nazareth, defeating death… and yummy. And possibly exposing quite a lot of people to chicken pox, though probably not, because she hasn’t visibly got them yet.

We were going to visit the market in Lille but parking proved a problem and so we had lunch at a family friendly (but painfully slow) restaurant, and then returned to chez Leo’o for a little lazy indigestion.

rocking and rolling

Some slept. Others did not.

And then, because lunch was so late, we had to work up an appetite…

backyard soccer, pros and toddlers all together

Just a little light backyard soccer. Nothing to see here.

backyard soccer

Hard work, facing a professional sportsman, but all those years playing goalie paid off. It wasn’t a total walkover until I joined in.

elena swinging happy

Elena found a safe spot, where she wouldn’t get trampled. Smart kid.

After the kids were in bed, we cracked out the easter treats for the grown ups. Hot chocolate spoons from Bruges, and some good old Whittaker’s peanut slab from NZ.

hot choc spoons from bruges, belgium

Monday we headed home… via (well, not strictly via) Dunkirque and Calais and the Baie de la Somme. First stop, Dunkirque. It was a bit early for lunch, so we wandered, and then settled on La Pataterie, a baked potato chain restaurant we’ve never tried before.

There was a play area, a high chair and a changing mat in the loos. Who cares what the food is like? But it wasn’t bad at all. Then there was the circus, right there, how convenient. We went to visit the caged animals… hopefully not supporting any horrific abuses in the process. I dread the thought. But the kids do love them horses.

And the tigers and elephants and baby goat, leaping over it’s mother gleefully. It’s hard to compete with tigers and elephants but the kid made a noble effort.

Louis approved.

The kids were asleep before we even got to the coast. But Luuk and I enjoyed the meander around the port and the breakwater.

lighthouses, dunkirk

Lighthouses aplenty!

driving around the harbour at dunkirk

Lots of cool lifty-uppy and swingy-roundy bridges.

lighthouses at dunkirk

And more light houses.

There was a road across the top of the breakwater, which we missed access to.

on the breakwater, dunkirk

So we stopped to have a look-see.

And then drove on to Calais. We woke the kids, because we’d promised them some beach. So we had afternoon tea on the sand, at Calais. And to build castles.

luuk and kids at calais

Apple compotes and old snickers bars from the car-stash. Gourmet, much.

pier at calais

We walked up the pier, Louis on his bike, scooting around all the many fishing poles.

watching the fishermen on the pier at calais

Watching the fishermen cast, in the shade of the lighthouse.

The kids didn’t want to sleep again, so the trip from there on was a little less peaceful. We stopped to take in the view, at one point.

elena looks out on baie de somme

Lovely misty sun. Lovely restless toddlers.

windmills in baie de somme


kids at baie de somme

Happy kids. And then we put them in the car.

And they were less happy kids… and then (thank heaven) sleeping kids. Bit of a late one. Direct drive from Lille to home is about three hours. The dunkirk-calais detour should have added an hour and a half, plus a meal time.

Two meal times in the end, and three hours of sight seeing. Long trip, in the end. But we probably won’t make it back up to that bit of France. For eight days in May we’ll drive around Brittany and a bit of Normandy, but not this far north. So it was good to see it while we were there. And it was great to catch up with the Leo’os, our good kiwi friends who are moving back to Christchurch within a month of us! How cool is that?

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chipped or not, here I come

For years, I’ve only put nail polish on my toes. In my mid teens, when I might have got into the habit of colourful finger nails, I was painting with oils… turpentine is no manicure’s friend. I also cleaned for a job, on and off, and even gloved, my nails had a pretty rough time of it.

Of course, painted nails chip and mar and break. No reason not to paint ’em in the first place. Well, for me it was enough. I’d do my toes and wear jandals for three or four months of the year, so they weren’t always protected. I’m not generally a perfectionist. I live in bit of a mess. I work, pretty well, surrounded by chaos. But I am (or was?) horribly self conscious.

There is one line in ‘Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination’ (by Helen Fielding of Bridget Jones fame…) which I wish I could well and truly get through my head:

No one is thinking about you. They’re all thinking about themselves, just like you.

fun nailsChipped or not, fingernails are one of those things that no one else will ever notice as much as you do. But, you know what, I’m done. Go ahead and notice. Or not. Whatever. I like having colourful digits. It’s fun and cheap, as far as cosmetics go. It’s playful and pretty and there’s joy to be had, so why the hell not?

Yesterday at the ludotheque, Louis went for the dress-ups. He’s never shown much interest in them before, but yesterday he was a lion (with a dragon’s body, initially), a magician, a princess and a knight.

Elena couldn’t be cajoled into wearing more than (very briefly) a hat, or ears.

the lion-dragon-thing and lame-cat

What’s with that look? Made for the stage.
(Surely too young to be so Judgey McJudgey Face.)


louis roaring at ludotheque

Kid’s got a great roar.
(Sorry to everyone else at the Antony ludotheque…)

I’ve never been much good at costumes. Okay, I’m downright terrible. I’m always more worried about looking good, than looking like something/someone else. I under-dress and over-reach and just look silly, basically. But I think (hope) I’m getting less self-conscious, as I get older. Maybe I’ll do a good costume, yet.

I turn 29 in a couple of days, so it’s the week for thinking about growing up.

And not growing up too much for multi-coloured nails. Or dress-ups.

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so very many

When we moved from NZ to France, we thought it was an 18 month stint. We shipped over a few things: baby and maternity clothes, our top five kitchen utensils, a few toys, and some linen. There were no furnished apartments and so Luuk’s company helped set us up with a bit of furniture. A few months later we forked out for a desk, a bookshelf, chairs… Not two and a half years later, we have got quite a collection of stuff.

We brought towels with us, but before we arrived, Luuk’s company bought us some towels. So, we’ve got far too many towels.

Until there’s a baby throwing up in her bed. Again and again and again. Turns out, we’ve got just enough towels.

And far too much laundry. That was Friday night. The little lady is fine now. The laundry pile is still astounding, but c’est la vie.

We didn’t even bring over all our towels. Some are still in storage in NZ. If we take all the towels we have here back to NZ, then we really will have too many towels.

Oh, so big news… a decision has been made: we will be moving back to NZ. Done. Decided. And now I can breathe.

Har de har har har. Why did I think it’d be easier once the decision had been made? There are still another gazillion decisions and plans to make and yet right now, this week, I can do zilch. Nada. Except have weird dreams in which I panic that we shouldn’t buy our Easter chocolate in France because it’ll get crushed in transit.

Whaaat? We will absolutely be in France for Easter. I am (subconsciously and not) worrying about our things getting damaged in transit, and what we should take back to NZ, and feeling rushed… and we’re not actually packing up anything till July.

Even that date is not firmly fixed. But most likely, come the end of July, we will ship a bunch of things back to NZ and then spend a month or so travelling in Europe before we jet back to NZ. Arriving September, or so.

We will have stuff to get rid of here. I’ve never messed with France’s answer to TradeMe/Ebay – Le Bon Coin. I am (not so) secretly hoping I just happen to have friends who’d like to buy our oven, washing machine, fridge and microwave.

I think the kids are picking up on the stress of all these coming shifts. Louis, especially, is very fragile. Very happy, happy, happy, and FREAK OUT! CANNOT CALM DOWN. RIDICULOUS AND IRRATIONAL. I am exhausted. Partly because of the (multiple times) daily freak outs.

Luuk’s away on business again this week. He leaves tomorrow for Romania, and gets back on Friday, so it’s just four nights, not a full week like last time. Fortunately, the kids haven’t quite shaken the daylight savings time shift and are waking up after 7am most mornings. Long may it last. At least a week or I’ll be a write-off.

Speaking of writing, I am editing. Rewriting is more accurate. But it’s going well, when it’s going at all. Daily? Yes. Probably. But not as much as I’d like. I’m reworking the end of a novel. Rather than hearing all about the exciting climax of the subplot, the heroine is going to get in there and (attempt to) save the day. A much better way to round it all off. Action! Confusion! High stakes! True love!

Anyway, we’ll see. Might be a bit far-fetched. Only one way to find out. I do love a good story. Went to see Monuments Men today, with a couple of friends. It was stellar. Fantastic. Excellent. Loved it (clearly). Just the kind of flick that makes me want to write properly great stories.

On that note, back to work.

ps. Sorry, no pictures. Next time there’ll be too many. Maybe.