Saturday, May 24, 2014

Little Middle Margot

I have one more vacation post to write, and I'm WAY behind on starting my sappy baby letters for the little boy, but I don't care about any of those tonight because all I want to write about it Margot.  She's also long overdue for an update, so here it goes.

Dear Miss Margot,

I think you've helped me find my favorite age.  It's 2.  Or just before 2.  I forgot how awesome 20-24 months was for Sylvia, but you are every bit as awesome as she was at this stage.  You're still so tiny, with short little arms that can barely touch when you try to reach them over your giant head.  You have the most beautiful dark eyes and hair, which set you completely apart from your big sister.  Your hair is barely growing at all in the back, but it's quickly reaching down to your nose in the front, so we pull your bangs to the side every day with a little pony tail and a bow, usually your favorite "M Bow," and you look absolutely darling.  You smile and you laugh at almost anything and anyone, but Sylvia still elicits the most joyous gut laughs we ever get to hear from you.  You are also thrilled by anything on four legs, especially dogs, and apparently goats, now that we've been to a goat farm!

Today I had the pleasure of spending all day with you, and you have become so much fun to talk to.  You understand everything I say and everything Daddy says, which is impressive!  Just a couple of months ago I was worried about your language skills, but suddenly you took off and now you're chatting up a storm.  My favorite phrase of yours is one that you say 1,000 times a day..."Okay, Mommy!  Okaaaaay."  You seem to be a Mommy-pleaser at the moment and I will not complain about that!  You do everything I ask you to do with an "Okay, Mommy!" and you answer every command and question with "Okay!"  You repeat everything we say, too, which is always fun because we love to hear you talk.

Other favorite phrases include, "Thank you, Mommy, Thank you" or "Merci, Papa, Merci,"  "Welcome!" "Where'd _____ go?" (as you hold up your hands and look at us for help, unless it's something you hid on purpose, then you try to look at us without smiling and laughing but you never can pull it off), "Oh no!" "Bye bye, KC!" (every time we pass Gina's house), "Mommy baby?" (as you point to my belly - yes, there's a baby in there, same as yesterday), "I want ___________." (usually strawberries, blueberries or milk). 

You love to color and play outside with the chalk.  Sometimes Sylvia doesn't put her markers away quickly enough and if you get to them first, you like to draw on your own face!  Speaking of putting things away, cleaning up messes is your favorite thing to do.  Sometimes you dump out a bucket full of toys or crayons, just so you can say, "Clean up!" or "Uh-oh, made MESS!" and start putting it all back.  You also love to read books and you are often seen dragging books out of your room and following someone around until they agree to read to you.  And if no one can read to you, you're usually content to just plop down on the bean bag or lean against the ottoman and "read" to yourself. 

You can identify all of your capital letters, which was a huge surprise to me because Daddy and I have never tried to teach you that!  You were saying letter names before you were really saying anything else at all and we were stunned!  We've determined that you've probably watched too much Super Why or played too many iPad games, but if that's how quickly you pick that stuff up, then so be it!  Since we discovered your hidden talent, we like to practice it as much as possible, but I've had a hard time getting your genius caught on video!  You also love to count and can usually count to about 14, but you're still skipping some numbers every once in a while.  You love to sing the last word of every line in a song, and your favorite songs right now are ABC's, Twinkle Twinkle, Let it Go, Who's My Pretty Baby, and Goodnight My Margot. 

When ever you're excited or happy, you tend to run around in a circle and stomp your feet while laughing like a maniac, or shouting "yay! yay! yay!!!"  You also do this when anyone asks you to dance.  It's one of my favorite things to watch.  You love to run and race yourself anywhere we go.  When we get out of the car in a parking lot, you hold my hand, stand really still and shout, "Mark, set....GO!" then we run as fast as you can to the doors while you scream and laugh.  You are so much fun, Margot.  So much fun.

Daddy and I could not have asked for a better little girl.  Your snuggles and hugs and kisses are priceless and I still enjoy every second of rocking you and singing you to sleep.  I know things are about to change when the little boy arrives, but I'm sure you and Sylvia will handle it in stride and be the best big sisters our little guy could hope for.  He's one lucky baby!  Thanks for being adorable and awesome and amazing.  We love you!

Forever and ever,

Friday, May 23, 2014


This is the second prompt in the "30 Things My Kids Should Know About Me" project.  The directions are to describe three legitimate fears and explain how they became fears.  I'm trying not to get too heavy, but I have a lot of fears....

1.  I'm very much afraid of the dark, more specifically, dark basements.  This comes from watching scary movies as a kid.  I never liked scary movies, but my friends and my cousins always watched them and I didn't want to be a wimp, so I crawled under a blanket and watched them, too.  Whenever I'm walking up a dark staircase, I tend to take two steps at a time while my heart races because I just KNOW that Freddie Kruger is behind me.  I know it.  

2.  I'm afraid of heights!  This one is fairly recent and it took me by surprise.  I used to love heights - tall buildings, cliffs, roller name it!  I used to rappel down rock walls at the Red River Gorge.  I used to work on a high ropes course and teach kids how to conquer their fear of heights!  Maybe it's a result of getting older, or having kids and realizing how much I have to lose, but now - when I stand on anything higher than a story or two - all I can think about are the million things that could go wrong.  I tried to ride a Ferris wheel last summer and I almost passed out!  A sub-fear connected to this one would be my fear of sidewalk grates or those crazy glass sidewalks at the aquarium.  I don't like walking on things if I don't know what's underneath!  It just doesn't make any sense. 

3.  I'm afraid of failing.  I don't like being a disappointment to anyone, which is why I often have a hard time saying "no" to people.  If someone asks me to do something or be responsible for something, I assume it's a great honor and they're asking because they have confidence in me, so I always accept.  This gets me into trouble, especially at work, but it's also led to some great opportunities.  I'm not a perfectionist, but I'm very afraid that someone will see me or judge me as "not good enough," so I try really hard to be THE BEST at everything, which of course, makes me mediocre at everything because it's impossible to be the best at everything.  I know this, but it doesn't change my fear of failure. 

I have some much bigger fears, the kind that everyone's afraid of, but if I let myself write about them, I'll get too sad.  When I looked at the prompt I realized that it doesn't ask for your three BIGGEST fears, just three LEGITIMATE fears, so I let myself get away with these.  They are totally legitimate, right?

Monday, May 19, 2014

France, Part 3: Paris!

When we finally decided, once and for all, that our trip to France with two tiny girls was really going to happen, I made it very clear that we had to spend at least ONE DAY in Paris.  In my opinion, Paris is the most beautiful city in the world!  I was not going to take my girls all the way to France and NOT take them to the Eiffel Tower.  We began planning the trip, and as we started looking at dates and times and reservations, as we started talking to the family about dinners and outings and tickets and cars and became clear that we were really only going to get ONE DAY in Paris.  But that was enough.  All I wanted was ONE DAY.

We left Lagnieu on Tuesday morning and drove back to St. Florent to eat lunch one more time with Papi and Mamie Nelly.  It was another really long drive, but I am so thankful that Sylvain knows how to drive over there.  I'm sure I could figure it out, but you know how it is in a foreign country - rules are different and signs are different and everything just feels weird.  I was happy to look out the window and take care of the girls in the backseat!

Wind Turbines!

Toll roads.  Boo.

Hot dogs and french fries.  So elegant!

I bought Margot that new coat on my shopping day and she didn't want to take it off!
Papi drove us to Paris and by the time we arrived at our hotel we were exhausted. It was so nice to stay in a hotel, where we could take longs baths and showers, make messes without bothering anybody, and relax a little bit before hitting the big city on Wednesday.  The girls jumped on the beds, we went to the free happy hour in the beautiful lobby, and we ate dinner at the nearby train station.  Our hotel was AT the airport, which was nice because we didn't want to miss our flight on Thursday morning.  On Tuesday night, Sylvain bought our one day family pass for all trains and subways, so we were ready to go bright and early Wednesday morning.  We caught the train into the city and the girls were so excited to be on a REAL TRAIN!

I'm glad we brought the umbrella stroller, but it took a while to get used to hopping on and off the subways with it.  It beats having to chase after a 22 month old, though, so it was worth it!

First stop: Eiffel Tower!

We waited in line for over an hour to get our tickets to go to the top.  As it turns out, we could only buy tickets to the second viewing level, and if we wanted to continue to the top, we'd have to buy a second round of tickets once we got there.  It was crowded and I was so nervous that we'd lose a child, so once we got the the second level, we just hung out there long enough to say "We climbed the Eiffel Tower!  Hooray!!!" and we got the heck out of there.  The girls didn't know we weren't at "the top" and they had a perfectly good time, aside from all the whining and running away they tried to do.  We did find the perfect peace keeper, though - an Eiffel Tower lollipop!  Worth every penny.

Margot and I shared a crepe.  Everyone was happy!
If I had to do it again, I would DEFINITELY buy our tickets online so we could go straight to the top as early as possible.  The line waiting killed our spirits, as parents, and we almost threw each other over the edge of the tower!  We held it together long enough to get our viewing's worth and then we went DOWN to solid ground and walked through the yard in front of the tower.  That was much more pleasant.

After a few photos, the girls and I sat under a tree while Sylvain went in search of sandwiches and drinks for lunch and diapers for Margot.  I couldn't believe how quickly he found both!  We had our picnic lunch while we gazed at the Eiffel Tower, then the girls played on a playground for a little while with a bunch of other kids from all over the place!  The weather was beautiful and I was in heaven.  It was definitely the most relaxing and iconic part of our day!

Chasing the birds

Trying really hard to NOT pick the flowers.  Torture!

I love this picture.  It has my whole heart in it!

At the edge of the playground.  She was happy to sit in the sand!

After lunch we planned to go to Montmartre, so we headed to the nearest subway station.  We got one last glimpse of the Eiffel Tower on our way...

And then this happened....
That poor girl was worn OUT!  I've never seen her sleep like that before.  Luckily, it was a pretty long walk - Sylvain carried her like that for a good 30 minutes.  When she woke up she said, "Is this how we nap in Paris?"  I said, "Yes, I guess it is!"

The subways were an excellent adventure, and probably Sylvia's favorite part of the whole trip.  She just loved the hustle and bustle of all the people.  She held my hand the entire time, but she loved going up and down all the steps quickly and never knowing what was going to be around each corner.  Sylvain was great about knowing which trains to get on and which way to go - we all just followed Daddy and hoped that no one got lost!

Sylvain carried the stroller up and down a million flights of stairs, along with our bags and belongings!

This is the subway tram to the top of Montmartre!
 When we finally reached the top of the hill, we found a cafe where we could have some drinks and let Margot sleep in the stroller.  Sylvia and I had pineapple juice in fancy glasses and Sylvain had some new beer he's never tried before.  The cafe was right next to the big artist's plaza, which is what we came to see, so Sylvia was itching to get out there and look at the art.  Once Margot woke up, we were on our way!

Sylvia sat so still for her portrait!  It took a good 30 minutes and by the end, she was nodding off.

Margot sat on my lap for an artist to draw her portrait, but she was not quite as still as Sylvia.

 Their portraits are okay - they don't really look anything like them, but it was the experience Sylvia was dying to have, so she loves hers!  I know I'll be glad I have them in 20 years, but for now they're still rolled up in a yellow tube in our basement.

We strolled around the rest of the artist's plaza and Sylvia picked out a small canvas Eiffel Tower painting in bright pinks and blues, and that's what she wanted to buy with her birthday money.  It is now hanging proudly in her room and we all love it!

By the time we finished at the plaza, it was almost 5:00 and we were all exhausted, so instead of going around to the front of the church, we headed back down the hill and wandered a bit through the streets and shops before getting back on the subways to head to the hotel.

The sights and sounds of Paris were enough to leave a lasting memory on the girls, or at least Sylvia.  She was really able to soak it all in and I hope she remembers it forever.  She still talks about the Eiffel Tower and the subway, and she constantly asks when we're going back!  When we returned to the hotel, the girls had a nice, long bath, and they both crashed before their heads hit the pillows!  I spent the evening packing and repacking and organizing and FREAKING OUT about getting ready for the airplane ride home, but I'll leave our airport adventures for another post.  Sylvain went to the hotel bar and brought up one glass of chardonnay for us to share before bed, and that...along with the box of chocolates I had to finish before they went bad...was the icing on the Paris cake for me!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

30 Things My Kids Should Know About Me

I need another project like I need a hole in my head, but I love this idea, so I'm starting it tonight!  The details are here, and the first one doesn't seem so daunting.  There are some others that might take a while, but I think I can do this one pretty quickly and without much pain or tears.  Then again, I cry about everything lately, so we'll see.  Here we go, kids:

20 Random Facts About Me
1.  I'm afraid of the dark and I HATE sleeping alone.
2.  I am really good at roller skating.  I'll always be faster than you.
3.  I'm better at starting things than I am at finishing them.
4.  I prefer to shop alone.
5.  I love listening to Daddy read French philosophy books out loud.  I have no idea what he's saying, I just love the sound.
6.  When given the choice to do anything or sleep, I will always choose sleep.  Sorry.
7.  I've never broken a bone or had stitches.
8.  I used to think any church song with the word "rejoice" in it was a song about Grammy, because her name is Joyce.
9.  I didn't want to go to UK until my second visit there. 
10. I used to love snakes and even owned a couple, but now they creep me out.
11.  I'm still waiting for Joey McIntyre to propose to me.
12.  Grandma Neltner says we're related to Maria Von Trapp somehow. 
13.  I can never find my keys.
14.  I hate the beach.
15.  I'm a really bad cheerleader because I prefer to cheer for both teams.
16.  I speak much better French after two or three glasses of wine, although I still only speak in the present tense.
17.  When I was little, I used to close my eyes and pray to God that when I opened then, I'd be a famous actress in California.  I'm really glad that didn't work out.
18. Grandpa and Daddy have both tried to teach me to drive a stick shift.  They both gave up.
19.  I've always been good at soliciting donations for one cause or another.
20. I believe in tolerance and equality.  For everyone.  Everywhere.  Always and forever.

I did it!  No tears.  That wasn't so bad. 

France, Part Deux

Our four nights in St. Florent flew by much too quickly, and before we knew it we were on our way to Lagnieu to visit Sylvain's grandparents and extended family for the weekend.  It was roughly a five hour drive and the girls did a better job in the car on that long drive than they've ever done on long drives here in the states! 

When we finally arrived in Lagnieu, we stopped for an apertif at the Grandparents' house, where we met Lara for the first time!  Sylvain's cousin, Loredane, has always been amazingly kind to me on our last couple trips to France, so when I found out she was pregnant a couple years ago and that her daughter would be close in age to Sylvia, I was over the MOON!  We were planning to stay at Loredane's house while we were there, so it was nice to have the girls meet ahead of time at the Grandparents' for a little play date before we showed up with our bags and ransacked their house!

The girls ran back and forth through his grandparents' garden and let me tell you something: I think this is the place where my soul will rest when I die and go to heaven.  Ever since my first visit in 2005, I've dreamed of this backyard garden, patio and upstairs porch at least three times a year.  I am absolutely taken away with the beauty and history in that space, but Sylvain has as especially soft spot in his heart for it.  He has very fond memories of picking raspberries (on our last visit, his grandmother made everyone wait until we arrived and she let him pick the first one!) and of sneaking "bon bons" from his grandma's candy jar.  The house is made of stone and I'm told it was one of the first houses built in the city.  All of this is to say that I was once again brought to tears while I watched our kids play there with their cousin.  The laughing and the smiles....I felt like such a big part of our family history was being soaked up into their tiny bodies!  I could write a book about that space. 

This is the spot I dream about.  This picture needs to be framed in my bedroom!

After the apertif at Mamie and Papi Fasciotto's house, we walked across the street to Uncle Joel's house.  He is Sylvain's godfather whom Sylvain adores beyond anything else!  He is an artist and his house is full of paintings and sculptures and amazing things to see.  His wife, Roxanne, is always the first with a hug and a kiss and a pat on the back to ask, "Are you happy here?"  I love them to death.

However, by the time we got there to eat dinner, it was getting really late and the girls were really cranky.  We gave the girls dinner before the rest of us, then let them play with Loredane and Renaud's old toys while we ate dinner.  Considering how exhausted we already were from traveling all day, the girls held up pretty well, I think!  It may have had something to do with Uncle Joel's "new" instruments, which he found in the trash and brought home.  His LOUD serenade was just the laugh we all needed to make it through the night!

Roxanne also played the accordian.  Sylvia didn't quite know what to make of it!

"Loud music?!  There are my kind of people!"

Playing with Renaud's farm toys and legos
We finally had to leave their house and head to Loredane's for the night.  She and her husband, Vivien, live about 15 minutes away and we were very happy to arrive in the house where we'd spend the next four nights!  They are currently renovating, but they were gracious enough to give us a double bed and two pack-n-play's in their upstairs loft.  Sylvia hasn't slept in a pack-n-play for a very long time, but I didn't mind because our beds were at the top of a narrow staircase and she's been known to wander in her sleep!  Sleeping in the same room with both girls, while a two year old slept in the next room, proved to be a challenge.  Naps were non-existent and I finally had to bust out my ear plugs on the last night. By the third night we had learned that the girls could NOT be put down to bed at the same times, so we did Margot first, then once she was asleep, we did Lara, then finally Sylvia!  (Should have done that from the get-go!)  Here are some pictures of our time at her house:

Morning cartoons with the Daddies!

Love their new kitchen!

Lara, the sweetest!

Movie night!

Except they decided to play outside instead.  Whatever!

Aunt Dorinda came with us (thank goodness!)
Dinner on the patio

Dorinda, Roxanne, Joanna (another cousin), and Renaud

Reading books and singing songs!  Loredane is expecting baby #2 in June! Another girl!!
 On Saturday, we drove for an hour to spend some time with Sylvain's mother's side of the family.  We had an amazing afternoon at his Uncle Michel's house.  Michel trains Newfoundland rescue dogs, so you can only imagine what kind of bliss those giant furry creatures brought to Miss Margot!  There were also two little boys there, Killian and Alex.  They were probably the sweetest kids I've ever met!  They played soccer with Sylvia, and then they lowered the handle bars on their scooters so she could learn how to ride.  They also led her on an imaginary hunt for treasures through the backyard.  She was smitten by the time we left!

The girls were showered with gifts when we arrived!  Princess crayons were the clear favorite.

Sylvain's Grandpa Bedeau!

Uncle Michel

Sylvain's cousin Maxime, Aunt Patricia, Aunt Odile, Great Aunt Marie-Jeanne

Charlotte, Grandpa, Michel, Adrien and Sandy

Margot's love affair begins.

Uncle Michel took her into the dog pen and he thought she'd be scared, so he laid the dogs down...

He didn't know she would want to SNUGGLE THE HECK OUT OF THEM!

Those dogs were gentle giants!

Brioche for dessert!  I had to take a picture.

She was scared, but he was SO nice, so she gave it a try!

Before long, all the kids were in the dog pen having a dandy time!

Margot napped on the pull out couch!  It was epic, too.  Ahhh.....
After lunch at Michel's, we returned to Loredane's house and had dinner there, followed by another giant meal on Sunday.  It seems that all we really did for that entire weekend was EAT!  I did not mind.  The food was delicious and the girls kept themselves busy (for the most part, there was a lot of lap sitting, especially for Margot).  Sunday night's dinner was another special treat for all of us.  For some reason, whenever Mamie and Papi Fasciotto are around, I feel like a kid in their family.  I feel like I grew up there, perhaps because Mamie is so much like my Grandma Neltner, and the rest of the Fasciotto family is just like mine.  It feels peaceful and right and then all of a sudden it feels PRECIOUS beyond measure because I remember that these special days with his grandparents might not happen again for us.

Pretty table!  The tree is decorated with eggs for Easter and there were chocolate treats in the vase for the kids!

Girls having fun!

Sylvain and his grandma

Sylvain's dad and grandpa

Loredane and Roxanne

Renaud and Joel

Nelly, Joanna, Dorinda and Renaud

 Sylvain's Grandpa is one of the only family members that I cannot understand!  He speaks French with an Italian accent (he was born in Italy) and I try so hard, but I usually have no CLUE what he is saying.  When he realizes I don't understand him, he switches to ITALIAN to see if maybe I'll understand that.  Still no dice, Grandpa!  So then he just laughs and laughs and gives me a punch in the shoulder!  He is the world's cutest and hardest to understand old man.

This was about as close to Sylvia as he could get for a while.

Cousins.  How happy does Sylvain look?!

Oh yeah, there were more birthday cakes for these two!

"Happy Birthday Sylvia, 4 years"

"The Band" made another appearance.

Her new favorite person!
 After dinner we walked up a beautiful trail behind Loredane's house.  The weather was gorgeous the entire time we were there and this little walk was exactly what I needed to keep myself from taking a nap after eating all of that delicious FOOD!

By Sunday evening, the girls were making it pretty clear that they were spent!  Margot was having an especially hard time understanding everyone and she wanted nothing but to suck on her paci and sit on my lap.  In fact, I couldn't pull myself away from her without a meltdown almost all weekend, so by Sunday night I was about to lose my mind!  Luckily, Loredane and Joanna had planned a ladies-only shopping day for us on Monday, so Sylvain and Vivien stayed home with all three girls and I got a much needed break!  It was nice to practice my French with two other girls, one of whom was a mama, so we had a lot to talk about!  They reassured me that my French really is good and that everyone was very happy we were there.

We had our last family meal back at Sylvain's grandparent's house on Monday night, and when we walked into the street to head to our car, in the dark, we had to say our goodbyes.  It was heart wrenching.  I managed to hold it together long enough to get in the car, but the girls hugged their great grandparents and waved goodbye like we were going to see them again soon and I knew that we weren't.  I hate leaving beautiful places and special people.  Hate it hate it.  We will try our hardest to get back there as soon as we possibly can.  Heaven knows I'll probably dream about it a dozen times between now and then!

Next up: our jaunt in Paris and our flight HOME!