What an amazing journey…

What an amazing journey this has been. From the moment this was a possibility to changing our entire lives, to experiencing this country, to now preparing our adventure home.

Andrew- he is doing AWESOME! Happy as a clam, as they say. Friends have welcomed him with open arms and lots of food. From our dear friends, Marilyn and Drew, dropping him off groceries upon his arrival to lunch dates, dinner dates, bottles of wine, people randomly stopping by his office to welcome him back. I am so happy for him as his time, working in France, was incredibly difficult. The job itself yes but AK is damn smart and knows how to get his stuff done but more so the working culture. For 21 months he did his best, accomplished so much and made all of us proud.

Lauren – this girl continues to amaze me. She did so well this year. She ended the school year well and had to do an end of the school Exhibition project, which she designed a vertical garden, for her school. She did all the research and had amazing support at ISP. I can’t thank principal Kate and Jackie enough for all of the time they spent with her to make this happen. It was a huge learning curve for her. When planning something or having a vision doesn’t always mean it’s going to happen the way you hoped. But you learn and overcome challenges but also figuring out other ways to get things done.

Outside of school, she manages to find joy in gaming, relaxing and just being with family. She has her end of the year piano recital on Sunday and has grown so much this year with her ability to play more challenging pieces. So happy for her.

She is excited to go home but also sad as the school she is leaving is pretty freakin amazing! She has had some of the best teachers and I mean all of them. She has learned so much and has grown. ISP has purchased a new middle school campus, everything is state of the art, technology included and she will not be a part of that. Plus she will not be able to continue the MYP program because there are only a couple of schools, in Washington, that offer this program and know where near our house. Having said all of that, she is also excited about starting a new school and moving back to a familiar place.

Morgan – what a year. Started off on a bad way but Morgan continues to mature and grow as a young lady. She has faced many obstacles in her personal life and continues to press on, learn from her mistakes as well as others hurtful behavior and is and continues to blossom into a really cool kid. We enjoy hanging out with her and living life with her.

She has mixed emotions about our return to the states but understands that the IB program is the way to go and she will be able to continue that, for free!!! You pay for the neighborhood and house but the program is free. It’s offered at our local high school and she can join her 11th and 12th grade years. Next year, 10th grade she will take all AP classes to prepare herself for the IB program as it will be tough. I am proud of her for wanting this and understanding the value and the impact it will have in her life.

She just took the ABRSM singing exam and we are awaiting the results. Hopefully, next week we will know if she passed. It was a lot of work but her singing teacher is AMAZING and knows just how to push her and has changed the way she now thinks about music. It’s been an extraordinary time in her life.

She will spend the month of July spending with her lifelong friends and making memories. They have an amazing weekend planned, full of fun and adventures. I am grateful for the relationships she has built here. I say “she has built here” because I do not social engineer her life. She needs to build her own community and learn how to choose friends. I am proud of the friends she has as they are all different and amazing.

Courtland – he has also grown so much. He loves his friends, Pokémon, his French spinners, have no idea how to spell it. Everyday, I take the boys to the neighborhood park, after school, and everyday Court gets in there, speaking French and trading his Pokémon and making friends. It is incredible to see him. There are really no words to describe the gratefulness I feel and have for these past two years, especially for the boys.

He misses his Dad and is sad to leave all his friends here. I agree. However, we just bought our forever home and have a lot of space for the kids to play, build a tree house any many other fun things. Plus, I promised him a car bed for his bedroom :).

Elijah – what a journey it has been for him both emotionally and academically. I am in awe of this kid. His ability to understand things, at age 5, is a gift. He gets frustrated at school sometimes but I have to remind him he is in class with 6 and 7 year olds and he is doing it! His writing is better than most adults and his understanding of math is impressive. He too, loves his Pokémon but not to the extent Court does. Eli likes to play, he is rough and tough and never complains when he is treated unfairly. When we go to the park and kids are acting unkind, I watch him, he usually removes himself from the situation, waits a few minutes, then tries again. Every once in a while, I do have too step in as the aggressive behavior here, is something I’ve never experienced in children before. They are rude and disrespectful to adults as well.

The boys together- you know how some boys are quiet, like to play alone, read books, etc. Yeah, well, I don’t have those kinds of boys. Mine are loud, full of life, love to talk, play hard, risk takers and love everything and anything that goes fast. They have beautiful hearts but good gravy they are a lot to keep up with.

Me, I LOVE my life here as well as the life I built in Washington. I will leave this amazing place wanting more and I think that is a way to leave. I don’t have any regrets, even with people that I don’t agree with and or see eye to eye with because every experience is an opportunity to grow, mature and evolve. Thankfully there have not been many people like this here or in my life in general.

I’ve been busy helping plan the 5th grade promotion party. It has been a lot of work but thankfully the women who are on the committee are incredible and I am thankful for each of them.

I am trying to be thoughtful on how I want to spend my last days here in Paris. I am going to restaurants I’ve always wanted to go to. I have a few museums and exhibitions I still want to see and a few stairs to climb. Like the Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur. Not sure why I have a desire other than the view that awaits me.

I also want to have a few more picnics in the park and watch the kids play while I drink a glass of wine and share these remaining moments with my Paris family.

I to am worried about the move home as I feel different. Not better than, just different. I’ve had this time to really reflect on my life, what I’ve done, what I want to do and how I am going to get there.

Now, I am in the process of being reimbursed for our many and I mean many Dr bills, here in France. Enough to buy a car.

I am also trying to sell all of our furniture, which is interesting.

I know it will all come together but I am running out of time.

That’s it for now, until next time!

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What’s going on now?

Warning, this blog post is a bit jumbled. We had a lot going on these past 3 months, which is why I haven’t updated in a while. Read with caution 🙂

What’s going on now? So glad you asked. We wrapped up February and had such an amazing French Alps ski vacation. This was the vacay I planned and organized as I love to ski. Sadly, I hurt my knee a couple of weeks before we went so I wasn’t able to ski. But time in the French Alps was AMAZING!!!!

March was surgery month and I was ready. Ready to walk normally and not be in pain. Ready to resume my life here and see all that is left for me to see.

March was a good month, kids were happy and ready to see their friends. With one exception, Andrew’s emergency appendectomy. You’ve got to be kidding me, right? Nope. It’s true. He was feeling kinda yucky all week but Thursday he was really feeling sick and Friday he said it felt like there was a ball in his stomach. Like everything in life, we downplay things, right. I must have eaten to much. I must have eaten something that didn’t agree with my stomach, ya da ya da ya da. Sadly, it was really serious. He went to bed early but didn’t really sleep. He was complaining of lower stomach pain but not where your appendix is. He didn’t have a fever and he wasn’t getting sick. By Saturday morning he was terrible so I suggested he contact his best friend, as his wife, had an appendicitis a few years back, and compare symptoms. Sure enough they matched. When I watched him get out of bed, Saturday morning, I told him I would start getting ready as I was going to take him to the hospital. He could barely get up. He’s so cute, he said “no, I’m going to rally and enjoy my cup of coffee”. 10 minutes later, he got dressed and took an Uber to the hospital.

He was tested and by noon he is was being prepped for emergency surgery. He was a trooper and did great! He stayed in hospital for two days. He really needed the rest and to detach himself from work. I was thankful I was able to visit him both days. He looked tired, as expected but really good.

Elijah- missed his best bud Sota. He asked me, while on holiday, I wonder what Sota is doing? I miss him. He LOVES school and is killing it. His writing is amazing but he has not yet learned to read. I’m okay with it as he is stretching his brain in other ways, learning a new language. In France, they don’t really focus on reading until 1st or second grade. Since Eli transferred into 1st grade late, he has not yet learned. He has however, learned to write well. It’s amazing. He loves numbers and math and drawing. He is becoming quite an artist. His new love is Minecraft. He loves building and creating and is quite good at it. I try not to let him have screen time during the week but over break they are allowed to play each day for a bit.

Courtland- he is a hilarious and talks a lot! Very inquisitive and loves learning but he is quite loud and his voice carries. He loves his teacher. Courtland also loves math and numbers and asked daily math questions, like how much does such and such make? Is 400 more then 200? I always answer, is 2 higher then 4? Look you answered/solved your own question. He knows but for some reason he loves asking me. He is a lovebug and his new thing is, he says “Mom, I just can’t stand it, you are just so pretty, you smell like rainbows, flowers and the color purple. Purple is his favorite color. It’s really sweet. He tells me all the time how pretty I am.

I love when the boys wake up as they want to snuggle and they sit right close to me. They have so much life and love. It’s amazing.

Sadly, they have started pestering each other a lot and fighting. Not angry fighting but play fighting. I’m still trying to find the balance as it’s stressful so it’s hard to know when to jump in. Since we live in an apartment it adds to the stress.

Lauren, she is doing great but is having a hard time wanting to move back to the states. She has a hard time with change/transition. She loved our life, prior to Paris so it’s not that she is sad to go home but the stress that comes with it is hard. It’s hard for all of us.

She has a big project called PYP. It is a big part of her grade and she had to choose a project to research and learn about. She chose to plant a vertical garden at her school and her principal approved it. It’s been fun going to gardening stores with her and here about her findings. Her grandparents were also a wealth of knowledge so she was able to speak to them about it.

Morgan, she is doing great! Her knee is feeling better. We have an appointment to see if surgery is still necessary so we are hoping not.

School has been great but busy! So many projects. This kid is holding her own. For not being a match person she is doing well in Trigonometry and actually enjoys it!

This week she has work experience. She has a desire to help children with learning disabilities so she is working at a school all week and learning what it takes to do this type of career. She had a great first day.

Andrew, he is busy as usual. The guy never stops. He just keeps going. He was looking forward to his parents visiting as he had not seen them in almost a year. His job is rough but he pushed through and remains strong. He has an incredible work ethic.

April was an interesting month. We were preparing for Claire and Michael to visit. AKA Grammy and Grandpa Kotowski. Sadly the week before they came our dryer broke. What a pain.

Andrew, the kids and I went on a 4 day trip to Normandy and went with our dear friends Corinne and Andrew. It was amazing. We got to learn a lot of war history which was incredible and humbling.

Everything was going great until I got food poisoning. Wait, it gets better. I haven’t had food poising since I was Lauren’s age and I have never forgot it!

Saturday night I was in a world of hurt but Sunday I was slowly starting to feel better but still sick. We left on Monday and it was manageable.

That week I just didn’t feel well and thought I was dehydrated and my back started hurting and my lower abdomen too. Again, I thought I was dehydrated. By Wednesday, I was terrible and in a lot of pain so I went to the Dr. She thought it was my gall bladder but I didn’t think so. I had to get a blood test to see what was wrong.

Thursday I was starting to turn a corner but the Dr called me in the afternoon and asked how I was feeling. She sounded very concerned and was relieved I was feeling better as she said the test came back showing that my kidneys were not functioning as they should.

Andrew left that morning and I was glad I was starting to feel better. I went to bed around 9 and 10:30 I woke up and I felt horrible. My ears were ringing and I was losing hearing in my right ear.

I barely slept. When 7am finally came I got up, got the boys ready, went in the girls room and told them I was feeling terrible and was going to go to the hospital. I just thought I was dehydrated.

As I was walking the boys to school, I couldn’t hear out of my right ear, and my skin felt like it was being burned by the cool air. Crazy. I walked each boy to their class and said “Mommy isn’t feeling well and is going to go to the hospital, Miss Corinne will pick you up after school. I told them I loved them and I would see them later and I was going to be okay.

I remember calling Uber, getting picked up but have no real memory of getting there. I just remember focusing on the time and how long Uber said it would take.

When I made it to the hospital, I was so relieved as I knew if anything happened I would be okay.

I went to the Emergency and was immediately checked in. They could tell I was in a world of hurt. I explained I got food poisoning on Saturday and thought I was dehydrated. By this point my back felt like is was being pulled apart and I was in tremendous pain in my lower abdomin. They hooked me up to an IV pretty quickly and IV pain meds. Thankfully I knew to tell the Dr I had a blood test and my Dr told me my kidneys were not functioning normally.

From Sunday to Friday, I lost 6 kilos and had ZERO appetite.

The Dr. called the lab and he came back and said he needed to switch my IV as I was in kidney failure?!?!? What!? Seriously!? I honestly thought I was just dehydrated.

Thankfully Corinne was with me and knew the questions to ask. She was such an angel, I just can’t even.

Around 3:45pm, the ER Dr came back and said I had to be admitted to the hospital. I still couldn’t believe it.

Corinne had to speak sense into me and tell me to tell Andrew to come home as I thought I would be okay. Obviously, I was not in my right mind. Andrew took the first train that he could home.

I had an okay night but was not able to sleep as it felt like there was a race track in my mind. It was wild. I was grateful my body was being hydrated but still out of sorts.

Saturday morning the Dr. came to visit me, he was a different Dr. then the ER Dr. He came in and asked if I had kidney problems and I said never. He said because you are to young for this. He said my kidney numbers were dangerously high. Triple from what they should be.

He said in his medical opinion I would be in hospital for 3 to 4 days.

I gotta say I was in shock. He asked me so many questions about my health, medicine I was taking etc. to determine what was the cause of this.

I am thankful for my family and friends support. Andrew came as soon as he arrived on Friday, Morgan came Saturday and Sunday for hours. Sarah and Tim watched the boys on Sunday for a few hours so Morgan, Andrew and Lauren could visit and Corinne was more then I could have asked for. She picked up the boys from school on Friday, fed them dinner, put them to bed, helped with my laundry, went grocery shopping for me and made us several delicious soul fool meals. Angie and Sarah also brought us delicious dinners. Thank you all for your love and support.

Fast forward to today, I am completely back to normal. I am exercising and feel wonderful, like it never happened!

I got out of the hospital on Monday and Andrew’s parents were coming on Saturday so I needed to get the house in order. I was exhausted.

Grammy and Grandpa arrived and everyone had a great time! They seemed to really enjoy there stay and the kids loved showing them around Paris.

Lauren loved dancing with Grandpa and the boys loved drawing with Grandpa. Morgan loved showing them her favorite places and just talking with them. She and Grandpa had an incredible conversation faith and history of Christianity.

During their stay Andrew, accepted a new role at Microsoft which will bring us back to the states. Andrew leaves this Sunday. The kids and I will stay to finish out the school year and take the month of July to get the house ready.

Never a dull moment in our life 🙂

That about sums up the past 3 months.

Roll with the punches, as they say….

Roll with the punches, as they say or in our family’s case, two broken ankle’s (same ankle twice- Andrew), pulled ligaments, in foot (Morgan), cracked tooth, from stress (me) torn meniscus that required surgery (me) pulled ligaments while on family ski break (Morgan), a scoliosis diagnosis (Morgan) eye infections (Lauren and me), sinus infections (Lauren and Andrew)stomach infection (Lauren) to strep throat (me and Morgan )and many more..

I am done! Done with it all. Right bank Paris living is hard. Your body both physically and mentally get pushed daily. The stress of millions of people around you, riding public transportation, daily food shopping, walking everywhere unless you want to spend money on taxi’s, I’m finding really wears on one. This is not to Paris city life is not amazing but coming from a pristine city like Sammamish, where we had it pretty easy. I mean you drive everywhere. You don’t walk to get groceries, go to Dr. appointments, sports stores, etc. Everything is done in or around a car. Life was easy. Plus we were not exposed to hundreds of different viruses from all over the world. Thankfully we are building our immunity to many foreign viruses.

I appreciate Paris living but it certainly has its challenges. It’s noisy, dirty, polluted, the constant buzz of cars, buses, taxi’s, ambulances ring throughout the day and night. It is never quiet. Your mind never really gets a chance to shut off, unless you leave the city.

Feeling sorry for me, well don’t! Life is also filled with amazing adventures, energy all around, people walking from place to place, public transit filled to the rim, languages from all over the world spoken, different smells fill the air, some good some not so good, buildings, history, and the bridges paint the most amazing view as you walk from place to place. Eating at different places everyday, living life with friends that have become like sisters, learning, breathing, feeling alive and learning more about the world, then any class could teach. The trade off, for me, is worth it!

February was a tough month…..
– Morgan she is still learning what it means to be a young adult. A young adult meaning, she is not quite an adult just yet. She does not have adult responsibilities. She is still learning her boundaries, what music to listen to, movies to watch, how you she should talk and act, social etiquette both on and offline and how to help at home. She doesn’t have to pay bills, or a full time job to earn her own money. She does however, have a job, school, and that has it’s own challenges, mainly mentally. Homework, friends the drama that friends bring, timelines, deadlines and meeting expectations. It’s a lot to manage for sure. Overall she is doing well. We definitely have our challenges but what parent of a teenager doesn’t it. Thankfully she has lifelong friends. Friends that just get her and she gets them. These kids come from good families with great values. Andrew and I know we are fortunate she has adjusted here so well and so quickly.

Right now her body is being tested, she was recently diagnosed with scoliosis and had been complaining of back pain for some time but I thought it was a pulled muscle or something. Her diagnosis was quite random. She got strep throat so I had the Dr come to the house. After he was done prescribing antibiotics, I explained she was complaining of back pain so he asked her to stand in front of him, within 3 seconds he said your daughter has scoliosis. But when she touches her toes it corrects itself so it would be very hard to detect. Which is why is has gone undetected for so long. We met with our pediatrician to get a referral but she did not agree with the diagnosis but in her French way she said “as you wish”. I’m glad I did not back down because the x-ray clearly showed the scoliosis. We no longer go to that pediatrician. Thankfully, it is not severe but we are still trying to figure out the best way to help her deal with the pain.

While on ski break, the last 30 minutes of the last ski lesson, she fell and pulled the ligaments in her right knee. She had to be brought down on a stretcher by a guy that looked like “the most amazing man on earth” commercial. It was pretty crazy. I got that text 3 seconds after I posted “I am drinking this amazing café Venoise and somewhere out there Morgan is skiing, it could be worse”. Well somewhere out there Morgan was being rushed down the mountain. Seriously people. When I met her at the medical office, down the mountain, she rolled up on a stretcher/sled and was completely secured and buckled in. She looked like she was in a MRI machine on the snow. I just smiled, chuckled a bit and took pics. She was smiling and confessed “Mom, the worst part was, they just told us that we were going to end our lesson early and go to the restaurant to have free food”. She really wanted pizza that day. If you love food as much as she does you can relate. We just laughed and laughed.

– Andrew, he is busy with work and the daily challenges it brings to balance life, family, career, etc. There is so much to do in this city and when you are working 60+ hours a week, and have four kids waiting for you on the weekends, I would imagine it would be difficult. Oh and squeeze some free time in for yourself, sorry that ain’t happening!

He and Lauren went on a geocaching adventure and loved it. It’s nice he is taking time to do one on one adventures with the kids.
He tries with the boys but they really do not enjoy going anywhere on the weekends so he takes them to Capoeira. But the entire way there, Courtland usually complains how he doesn’t want to go….good grief!
Eli is usually good about going and enjoys Capoeira. But like everything, you walk and it’s a good mile each way.

He took Morgan to a nice dinner a few weeks back to tell her how proud of he is of her for doing her best in school and getting good marks. She really enjoyed spending time with him. They are so much alike so when they find things they both enjoy, it’s a perfect combination!

I thanked him over and over because as much as he drives me bananas he is incredibly thoughtful to buy me the best of things. Mostly little things and those are the things that feed my soul. My favorite cheese, flowers, wine, meat, bacon, whatever it is, he always makes sure its the best quality, taste, etc. Very special to have that in my life.

Work is work and he is in the midst of one of his busiest times of year but thankfully he has not had to travel a lot the past few weeks.

Elijah- that kid is awesome. Speaking French and trying his best to keep up with his classmates. He is a good, strong boy and I am grateful for him. He has the most tender heart but when you first meet him he may come across as a complete and total ass. I am finding, in life, sometimes these types of people are the most genuine because their friend group is small, like they’ve hand picked the best. He is very special to all of us. Oh and he is quite a genius playing Minecraft. He loves puzzles and drawing. His drawing’s are so happy. Not a jumbled mess or lines. Usually a sun with a simple smiley face, and a patch of flowers but it’s in the way he does it. I can’t explain, you just have to see it.

Courtland, he has the most giving and generous heart. Always wants to give people the best of what he has. It is so sweet, he will randomly come up to us and say “you did such a great job with blank, here is my favorite Pokémon card, you deserve it. Truly kind.

On the flip side he is incredibly LOUD!!!! It’s as if his normal volume is a 9 or 10. He is also pretty emotional so we are working on calming down and using our words. Exhausting! Oh and he likes to “borrow” things, let’s face it he likes to steal and that’s strange because I have not really had to ever address this type of thing with the other 3. Every week, he comes home with a different something so we have to have him bring it back. He’s also really good about getting people to buy him things, please, please, please he says. I usually feel mortified that he asks friends of mine to buy him things. He knows it’s wrong as he does not do it when Andrew or I are around. Clever boy. Needless to say, we are addressing these things with him.

Each morning he comes out of his room with a silly dance and then I do it back to him and we laugh and laugh. He throws his head back and really lets it out.

I’ve been playing a lot of Uno with the boys. I know it’s designed for 7+ age but they are ready. Boy was it hard at first. A lot of tears shed when one of them would lose. Now when Court loses it’s no biggie but good grief he sure wins a lot!!! When he wins, I will ask him “Court doesn’t it feel good to win”, he bats his eyes, looks down and quietly says, “Yeah” and gives the most adorable giggle, I wish I could bottle it up! I’ve had him do it for Morgan and she and I get a kick. He is just so sweet.

Lauren- she is doing well in school and learning how Girl Scouts works. It’s a wonderful organization. Funny how we could not get in a group where we came from as it was to full but here we got right in. Glad it has worked out for her. She is a very independent young girl and full of good things. She is well beyond her years in the way she thinks and sees the world. She is naturally gifted like her Daddy. She is blessed, she just gets things. She skype’s with her best friend, Parker, it’s funny to hear their conversations. Parker is a great girl and comes from a remarkable family.

Lauren still loves making slime and her slime is so light and fluffy and smells amazing. She also loves listening to music. This week she put on her favorite songs and sang away, it was lovely. She loves Piano and playing the recorder too. She is working on her brown belt, the last belt after that is black so I joke and say “you’ve almost mastered the recorder”. Oh crap, the reality of having to go through the recorder x2 in 4 years is daunting.

Lauren is excited because my friend, from Washington, is coming to visit and she asked if she could bring anything from the states. I know Lauren would love Twinkies she is brining a box for Lauren. That will make her day.

I can see a shift in her personality, she is entering in the tween stage and trying to create boundaries so it’s interesting to watch the next chapter in her life unfold before me. She’s still fairly quiet but opens up, when the boys are in bed. I cherish those moments as I know my time is limited. She recently wrote her teacher a thank you email for all of the things he does and how much she appreciates him. She was so happy to send it. She doesn’t think many students send encouraging emails, she’s probably right.

Me – I’m doing well. Glad I got my tooth fixed and my surgery behind me. I was terrified as I got my surgery through the French system, using my carte Vitale, which means, it was free! I paid 18 euros the day of. The only thing we had to pay for was the surgeon fee and anesthesia fee, but Andrew’s company insurance should cover that. I was more worried about check in, before surgery, then anything as everything was in French. Thankfully my friend Corinne, told me about an Australian who was also having surgery that day and she would be there at the same time as me. She was a lifesaver because I can understand way more then I can speak so she helped me communicate and I was so grateful. She was also my room recovery buddy so we chatted for hours. It felt really nice to have someone there to go through this with. I was very grateful.

I’ve been injured since February 5th, well before then but I was still going strong. February 5th my left knee simply gave out. I was walking home from an appointment and just like that I could barely walk.

Here’s what I’m learning, I am not as young as I used to be and when my body is sending me signals to slow down, I should listen.

I have no pain and walked about 4 hours after surgery, with no pain. It was pretty freakin awesome. I have seven days of minimal walking and go back on Tuesday to see what’s next. My surgeon has promised me, 1 month I can resume all sports so that’s what I plan to do.

Last night my knee woke up, I had a lot of pain but this morning when I woke up, the swelling had gone done a lot and I can finally see my knee cap. Plus I can now bend about 70%, amazing what one day can do! The pain is better today but I have to stay off it as much as possible.

I miss cycling and the gym but my body has been so grateful for the break. The break of not walking everywhere, the hustle and bustle of life, living and exploring. I needed to stop.

Ski Break was amazing! Champagny et Vanoise is the loveliest little resort and it was easy to get around. This trip was for me, I know that sounds selfish but I really wanted the boys to learn to ski on the Alps and the girls and I went skiing a couple of years ago and loved it so they were so excited too. Andrew was not at all excited about skiing but God bless that man for doing it.

Sadly, my knee gave out a week before we went so I was not able to ski and that part was very hard but all of the other things were great! The place we stayed in was owned by a friend from Lauren’s school, grandparents. I am so glad we rented the house, got ski lessons, for the week and were able to go. This was the first vacation, in over 25 years, that Andrew and I have been together that I fully planned. Andrew really enjoys planning and does such a great job but he told me to take of this and I did, WIN!!!

Today is the 6 day of my recovery and I am sitting comfortably while writing this. I’m tapped out now.

Thanks for reading….until next time!

Bonee Annee!!

Bonne Annee to my friends and family! 2017 went out with a bang!

December was AMAZING! We had the Schiff family visiting from Seattle and that was really special. What a terrific family. Their kids are so kind and lovely. Thanks again for taking the time to visit! We enjoyed the comforts from home like Seattle chocolate!

Morgan, she was on overload with homework. She was up many a night until 12, 1 or 2am completing projects. There is something so wonderful to see your child work hard and begin to really understand the benefits of hard work. 9th grade is no joke, it’s demanding but thankfully there is still some time to play.

She also had her first voice recital. She sang “Mary did you know” powerful song and she did well. She was quite nervous so I think her next recital will be stronger.

She had a lovely break, hanging out with friends and relaxing. She really enjoyed spending time with all of us too.

Lauren, she too had a recital but for piano. She did amazing! We have had a hard time finding a keyboard for her to practice on so I am hoping to get one soon. Her teacher said she has an excellent memory and ear for music so that sure helps.

She had a great Christmas and got a Piper coding computer as well as a soft cushy blanket. That is really what she wanted. Her nana and grandpa also spoiled her with Christmas money so she spends it everywhere and on other people.

She is an excellent big sister and the boys adore her.

Courtland, that kid is so funny. When he is in a good mood he is such a joy to be around. He’s kind, funny, thoughtful and so expressive. I just love watching him talk and explain things. He really enjoyed being on break. He slept in many days and relaxed, watched TV, played Minecraft, went roller blading. That was nana and grandpa’s present to the boys. They are a hot mess but it is so fun and a bit stressful to watch them. They fall a bazillon times and just get right back up for more. I don’t know how their entire bodies are not covered with bruises.

Elijah, he loves playing games and just gets them. Cool kid but he is in another grouchy and fussy phase. A wise mom with twins once told me that twins will trade personalities and go back and forth. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant but I do now. When Court is happy and loving life, Eli is a pain in the %*$. When Eli is happy and loving life Court is whiny and unbearable. Interesting to experience.

December was truly a wonderful month of celebrating! The best part of our holiday was Sean and Erin’s visit! It was so wonderful to have amazing family/friends to share such a special time. Everyone absolutely loved having them too.

Erin, she is just the best. So patient, beautiful, and funny as all get out. She just has a way of telling stories and explaining things. She is one of those people who make you laugh when she speaks. I just adore her. She got a bit sick a couple of days into her trip but what a trooper!

Sean is so great he always makes sure she has what she needs and loves her so much. I LOVE hanging out with Sean. He is funny, smart and has a great perspective on life. He and Andrew have been friends since they were in 2nd grade. Pretty cool.

New Year’s was INCREDIBLE! We celebrated Aussie style and the embassy and had a wonderful time with our friends that have become our family. I love living life with these ladies. We had music, games and lots and lots of food. It was everything I could of hoped for. It was also great to have Sean and Erin there.

Sadly, they left the morning after and it was so hard to say goodbye.

The kids had the next week off and we went to the park jumped on a trampoline on Montparnesse, went to the movies and bought annual membership to the aquarium. But I was grateful when they started the new year back in school!!!

January has been an excellent month of exploring Paris with friends. I’ve been too the Marmottan Monet Musee, the Louis Vuitton Foundation, took the kids to Cite Sciences and witnessed the River Seine flooding. Good gravy!

Each month I am trying to plan a couple of Paris tours, or visits to museums. It’s been a joy going with friends.

Thanks for tuning in….unitl next time

Avoir!

Just like that, all the 1st’s are over!

Just like that, all the 1st’s are over! November was quite special and surreal at the same time. Special, in that, we have been here for a year and have now completed all the 1st’s. Let me just say there were a lot of those. For those of you who have followed my blog, you know what I mean.

Surreal, in that, we have just celebrated one year living abroad and feel so humbled by this opportunity. Each day as I go out of my apartment and cross the bridge, to my right is Lady Liberty and my left the Eiffel Tower. They are constant reminders of this incredible and life changing journey we are on. Is it hard? Yes. Do I want to cry some days because I miss family? Yes. Do I get overwhelmed trying to figure out what to say, how to say it and once I figure it out to actually say it? Yes. Does it come out wrong 99% of the time? Yes. Do I care? Yes. Am I trying my best? Yes. Well then, that’s all that matters.

On the flip side, I look in the mirror and see some of the battle wounds, if you will. More wrinkles but I also see the deep appreciation in my eyes, this soulful gratitude that when I go outside, I am no longer existing I am living!!

I do not write these things to offend anyone but this is a personal journey/exploration so I must remain true to it.

Andrew- Work is hard. Work is really, really hard. Personalities and ways of treating others makes it’s ugly face known each day. He tries to work from home as often as he can and the meetings never stop. I honestly do not know how anything gets done. When he does go into the office, it’s a work station, no window, just a phone and a desk. Talk about depressing. No one to crack jokes with or lighten the mood by grabbing lunch. He is in a business role, which means he travels, therefore an office is not needed.

Lauren- She has been so sick off and on and poor thing lost about 2 to 3 kilos. Turns out you have glands in your stomach and she contracted an intestinal infection. She was in a tremendous amount of pain. When she is in pain, feelings of missing home really hit her. She really, really, loved our old house. She loved her room, our backyard and the feeling of home. Although we call Paris our home, and it is. There are still parts that still don’t quite feel like home. I know overtime these will disappear but for a tender and sensitive soul, the feelings are real and raw.

Elijah, this boy is on fire! He is loving school and excelling. His teacher is amazing. She is young and has traveled the world teaching in other countries. She understands French is difficult but Elijah loves learning. Even if it is in French. His penmanship is incredible. He is writing in cursive, which is a big thing in France when a child is in 1st grade (CP).

I finally was introduced to a football club (soccer). It was difficult to find one for the boys age as everything I found was for age 6 and older. But thankfully a French lady at the boys English speaking school, they go to on Wednesdays, invited us. We just went this past Wednesday and the boys LOVED IT! Eli kept coming up to the mesh fence and asking me to take his pic. For those of you, who know Eli, he does NOT like having his pic taken. He also asked me if we could go to this “camp” everyday. I think he loves it, how about you?

Courtland, he is doing much better as we are doing half day in (Grand Section) Kindergarten and half day in (CP) 1st grade. Outside of school Court just loves to be at home and play with his toys. He loves to ride his bike but honestly it has been so bloody cold lately its hard to get the motivation to take the bikes out.

Big news!!! The boys turned 5 on the 16th so we surprised them with a trip to London. Andrew bought a London book about a year ago and has been reading it to the boys often. It was so special to take them there. Eli never stopped smiling, he was so happy. We stayed in a lovely hotel in Picadilly Circus, walking distance from a lot of main attractions. We did a lot in 3 days. The London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, The Tower Bridge (my absolute Favorite), walked around the city and went to green park, the right bank, ate lunch at Nando’s and had great food all around. Took a taxi ride a river tour on the Thames and swam in our hotel pool, they loved it!!!!

Morgan- she is very, very busy with school. The IB program here is intense and it’s very challenging. It’s good for her. It keeps her focused and off her phone!

She is taking voice lessons and enjoys it. She is also starting back playing the violin, with the Conservatory of Paris. I am really excited for her! It’s nice for her to have a focus other than school, drama at school and her phone!

Paris living- November the temperature changed and holy moly it is freezing. Thankfully this year we are prepared for it! I try not to walk as much but rely on the bus more. When it’s so cold outside it’s not enjoyable to walk around.

Oh, this Thanksgiving I ordered a turkey in French and it was delicious! Andrew did a great job cooking it. We celebrated Thanksgiving on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, during our family dinner time. We invited a couple, Andrew works with the wife and the husband is French. They have three wonderful kids and it was really nice to have them over. We also invited one of Lauren’s best friends, Isabella and her mom. They are terrific and it was their first American Thanksgiving. As you can imagine, it was pretty loud but our boys and their boys seemed to have a great time! It was pretty chaotic and loud, a little thing we like to call “Sunday”.

We are now preparing for Uncle Sean and Aunt Erin’s Christmas visit and I can’t wait!

Oh, I applied for the Carte Famille, a discount card for people with kids. You don’t really know about it unless a French person tells you and that’s how we found out about it. What a pain though. We sent in every piece of information imaginable and that still wasn’t enough so I had to send in more. I know it was received so now I am patiently waiting. The purpose of the card is the more kids you have the greater the savings on travel. Apparently we will be able to save 40% on train, and airplane tickets and 1/2 price tickets on the metro. I will write more about it once I get the cards and actually use them.

Me- I finally, after a year of waiting received my Carte Vitale Card. France public health insurance. Now when I go to the Dr. or pharmacy, they swipe my card and will be reimbursed accordingly. Pretty crazy.

That wraps up November, celebrating our 1 year anniversary, the boys 5th birthday and a wonderful trip to London.

Until next time……

365 days = 1 amazing, life changing year

365 = 1 amazing and life changing year. Yes, it’s true we just celebrated our 1 year anniversary since we’ve moved to Paris, France!

Today, 1 year, ago Andrew flew to God knows where and I was to take Lauren to her new school, with the boys in tow. I had no working phone or GPS. Let me just say, I was excited for the challenge but I am so grateful that is behind us.

We arrived on a Wednesday and by Monday, Andrew was traveling. That meant, I was to get Lauren to school, with the boys in tow, on the metro, during rush hour. I will not tell you how difficult that was so when we moved to our new place, after 6 weeks of hell, I was elated!!!!

Today, I made homemade chicken pot pie to celebrate our 1 year anniversary.

It’s actually quite hard to believe. At first, it was so damn hard. Everything was hard. Finding a notebook, school supplies, a ruler, shampoo, contact cleaner, soap to anything and everything you name it, it was hard to find!

We started our journey in the 8th arrondissement and LOVED it! We lived about a 5 minute walk to Parc Monceau, a beautiful and relaxing park, during the day, it’s filled with children, business people, a carousel, a small pond and great play area for kids.

Two doors down, was Christian Dior offices and weekly there would be bus loads of models having photo shoots on or around our street. It was pretty exciting!

From there, we found our place in the 16th arrondissement and it was love at first sight! Open concept, it’s not typical in France so I’ve been told. It’s small but because it has an open concept floor plan, it somehow feels large.

Thanksgiving and Christmas were exciting because we were in Paris but lonely and sad too. We missed home, our family, friends and special traditions.

There is an old saying “the home or your home is where your heart is” that’s not true. At least it wasn’t for us.

Our hearts were in this, we had a new home, we had each other but each of us felt lost, at a loss and it is hard to say why. Yes, we were thankful, grateful and excited to be in this new place but there was no going back and everything around us was completely and totally different. Everywhere we went, people were smoking, unfriendly and if you needed anything, and didn’t speak French (like us) you were scared to even ask. Most days, I would go in a store and leave without buying anything.

But as the days went on, weeks, months, we now find ourselves blessed, grateful and appreciate how much our world, worldview and hearts have changed.

For example, I have no problems finding my way around the city, on a bus, metro, taxi, RER or walking. I can do it. I’ve gotten lost many a times but always managed to make it home.

Here is a list of all the places we have been, in and outside of Paris:

-Loire Valley, home of king and queens, chateau and cathedrals
-Milan Italy
-London (3 day trip with Farida and Corinne)
-Portugal (Family vacation)
-Corsica (Family vacation)
-Evian France (Morgan 9th grade week camp trip)
-Warsy France (Lauren 5th grade 4-day camp trip)

Sites we have visited/seen:
-Eiffel Tower
-Palais De Tokyo’
-Cite de Architecture
-Arch De Triump
-Champs Elysees (also during Christmas…..beautiful!)
-Tulleries Gardens
-Angelina’s for hot cocoa and brunch
-Versailles
-Catacombs
-Musee De Orsay
-Louvre
-Musee Du l’homme
-Champs de Mars
-Rollerskating on top of Montparnesse
-Champagne Region champagne tour
-Chocolate Tour ( I never liked dark chocolate before this tour)
-Musee Andre Jacque Mart
-Galleries La Fayette
-Disney Paris
-Swimming on a Large Barge on the Seine
-Paris Opera
-Paris Ballet at the Opera Garnier
-Sacre Coure
-Hop on and Hop off bus
-River Cruise
-Boat Cruise
-Pere Lachaise Cemetry
-Luxembourg Park
-Bastille Market
-Le Grande Arch
-Watched the Tour De France riders fly right by me, they came across the street from my house. I could reach out and touch them.
-Parc Beau Chamont (where Andrew broke his ankle)
-Zoo
-Planatarium
-Latin Quarter

We still have so very much to do but we have purposed to do as much as we can on weekends, vacations and holidays.

Things I have personally learned along the way….
First and foremost, I am grateful. Even if I had to go home today, what I have learned in 1 year is more then some people learn in a lifetime. I have learned what it is to be challenged, humbled, out of sorts, lost both emotionally and physically :), yet realized just how capable I/we am/are. I know God is present in challenging times as well as victorious times. When I lived in the states, I was existing and not really living. I rarely did any site seeing, exploring not because I didn’t want to but our kids were involved in sports and dance so it really limited our free time. Here it’s not like that. Yes, kids play sports but it doesn’t rule and dictate your life. Culturally it’s just very different that way.

Kids are amazing. They too are capable of so much. They just need you to be in it with them. When the boys hated going to school and struggled with French, I would tell them daily, mama is learning French too. I am not going to ask you to do something that I myself won’t do.

I also have daily conversations, less now, how difficult things are here. I tell them some of life’s biggest blessings are the hardest to walk through. I tell them, I am walking with them and God is leading us on this journey.

Negative experiences, I will never make fun of someone who does not speak English. I will go out of my way to help them. It is a very scary, frustrating and helpless feeling to not know or understand what someone is saying to you.

Apartment living is tres difficile, very difficult. Imagine living on a racquet ball court, lots of echo, loud sounds and living in a very small space. I so miss our backyard. I miss letting the boys explore on their own. I miss not having to take the boys to the park everyday for hours so they can get out and run around and be boys. I really believe kids learn by playing and up until we moved here, we would play outdoors, rain or shine for hours. We do the same here but it’s quite cold in the fall and winter, wet and exhausting and it takes a tremendous amount of effort.

Diversity/Independence I am so grateful to have the opportunity to expose the kids to different cultures, way of life/living, thinking and beliefs. It’s vital my kids know what they believe and why “they believe it”. They are learning how to navigate through life with so much tolerance, flexibility, humbleness and grace. They are also learning independence and what to be aware of while on the city streets, in the airports, metro, bus, RER, etc. They know how to take a taxi, uber, metro, bus, train, RER, go to the store to pick up groceries, go to the post office and mall. They know what to do if they are lost or get on a metro and are going the wrong way. Sometimes they are more aware then I am if someone is by us or acting strange.

Travel, the family vacation we have taken this year have been AMAZING! I will say it until the day I die, Corsica is a must see. If you need somewhere to vacation, you must go to Corsica!

French, so I thought I would be a lot farther then I am today but I have to be realistic. If we moved here only to learn French, that would be one thing but we/I am doing so much more then that. I am learning a new culture, way to tell time, measure, get around, establishing all the firsts, building a community, etc. French is one component so the fact I can speak like a 2 year old is awesome :). I sound pretty ridiculous and will never say I speak French. This language is so complex, beautiful and difficult. I will however, not give up. I will keep learning, growing and speaking.

Visitors. Thanks to all of my friends and family who have made it to visit us, this past year. You will never know how much it meant. People always mean well and say “I will come and visit” but to those you came and took the time to see us, I want to thank you:

-Alex and Trevor Cann (November 2016)
-Hugo Suviya (December 2016)
-The Dzuik’s (December) We really enjoyed eating dinner with your family, great wine, great food, great company 🙂
-Megan Powers (February 2017)
-The Dannenberg Family (March 2017)
-Matt, Amber and Hudson (March 2017)
-The Mason Family (thanks again for the suitcase of treats, pajamas and love) (April 2017
-The Wane Family, came from their vacation in Africa (April 2017)
-My Mom (may 2017
-Dylan Kesselring (June 2017)
-Marilyn and Drew Kesselring (June 2017)
-Hai (June 2017)
-Jeff and Denise Grabo (July 2017)
-Frank and Inge (July 2017)
-The Espinosa’s (July 2017)
-Hannah and Cliff (my side still aches from laughing)(July 2017)
-Denise and Julius (August 2017)
-Jackie and Craig (touched my heart, Premier Dance Center is truly a wonderful family)

I could go on and on and some things, places, experiences I will save and hold near and dear to my heart. This blog is for my parents and children so they can look back and read about this amazing journey!

A year later, I am still homesick. I have made incredible friends here, like sisters and I feel very fortunate and blessed but there is still a part of me that misses what we left behind. You know who you are people, you know who you are:) With all my love.

That about wraps up this amazing year! Thanks for being a part and stay tuned……

September and October flew by….

September and October flew by…….

This year, I decided to sign up to be a 5th and 9th grade class rep. When we arrived last year, I told myself, I would give it a year and then get involved. I am so glad I waited.

Me September was busy with meetings, coffee mornings and new parent workshops. I am so glad I waited to get involved with the school as it gave me time to adjust to Paris living, and find my way around a bit. I am of course forever learning but at least it gave me the time I needed.

I’ve also had many Dr. appointments that I’ve been putting off, dentist, and other appointments and let me just say I am so glad I did. Nothing and I mean nothing could have prepared me for how they do things here in Paris. I will spare you the details but let me just say everytime I finished an appointment I would have coffee and dessert with Corinne and tell her about it. We would laugh and cry and mostly shake our heads at how things are done here. People in the states, you are blessed, fortunate and spoiled with the health care. It’s amazing compared to here.

Moving on……I started a French conversation group, in my home, led by my French tutor Shakira, with about 9 of my friends. It has truly been amazing. I don’t know how it all works but those who are more advanced push themselves and those of us still learning and starting to understand are learning and speaking more.

I have been incredibly homesick as I have not had a great haircut in about a year, and miss the coffee houses that I grew accustomed to in Seattle/Sammamish. I was spoiled and took so much for granted.

September was busy but overall a good month.

Lauren, she always has such a difficult time starting back to school. Mentally she is great but physically it is really hard for her. She missed a week of school, of the first two weeks, from being sick. That was maddening. Thankfully, her teacher is great and reached out to make sure everything was okay in the class and she was happy. I assured him she was.

Morgan- started 9th grade and out of the gate they have had a lot of homework. They sent out an email letting the parents and students know they could expect about 15 hours per week. She gets home at 5pm, dinner, shower, etc. You do the math. It’s a long day for these kids. The education is great and we are pleased with most of her teachers.

Andrew, he has been traveling a lot. Out of the past 8 weeks, he has traveled 5. I’m pretty sure he is tired of eating out so when he is home, on the weekends, he enjoys going to the markets to buy fresh food so he can cook. Thankfully, he is a great cook so we all enjoy his creations.

Work is hard, stressful and long hours but somehow he is managing to keep it together and is doing it! He travels to Seattle in a week so I know he is somewhat excited about that. Everything is familiar.

Elijah and Courtland started Kindergarten but Kindergarten in a Montessori school has it’s good points and not so good points. When you have kids older then you, you are challenged and learn more. When you are the oldest, you can tend to get bored and act out. This is what was happening to Elijah.

I suggested to the principal that he be moved up a grade but silly me had no idea Grand Section ( was kindergarten)I thought they were in Pre School still. It’s a bit confusing here. Had I known what I was asking, I am not sure I would have asked. The directress let Eli have a trial period. Up until the last day in Kindergarten, Eli has complained about school, said it was stupid and he didn’t want to go. I was a bit confused as I thought it was the French.

Monday, Eli started 1st grade and that very day he came home a different boy. He was happy, singing the alphabet, writing various words, asking how much 3+3 make, 4+5 make, etc. He just completed his 2nd week and has not looked back.

Courtland – he was missing Eli and based on Eli’s experience, I knew Court could manage. Plus, when we get back to the states, we do not want them to be on two different levels. He just finished his 1 week in 1st grade and liked it. He doesn’t love it as much as Eli but he is happy and no longer complains about going to school.

I have had to buy extra school supplies, mainly workbooks, writing, reading, maths, etc. They also have homework now, reading, reading reading. We have also been working on writing! They are learning cursive writing something that has been lost in core curriculum. I am amazed how well the boys are writing, honestly, it is pretty freaking impressive.

October- was much of the same, meetings, coffee mornings and parent workshops. In fact,I went to a Digital Parenting workshop that was AMAZING!!!! Parents of all ages, you should attend one, no matter what age your child(ren) are. It will open your eyes. I will post the website and phone number on facebook.

Lauren- she started Piano and is loving it! It’s so wonderful to see her excited about something. She also made the school basketball team and plays chess. She is such a cool kid and tries different things. She also has some really great friends. Thankfully the moms of these friends are really spectacular women….you know who you are 🙂

Morgan – I am still mourning over the fact she no longer dances but she is going to start playing the violin again and is taking voice lessons. The same lady that teaches Lauren Piano, also teaches voice. I am happy to have her put her energy into something other than school and her phone :).

Andrew, much of the same, travel, travel, travel but at least his ankle is healed and feeling better. It was a long 5 weeks walking with a boot, especially with all the travel.

He hopes to take a couple of days of this week so we plan to go to a couple of museums and lunch. I’m excited.

Court and Eli have been to 3 Halloween parties and decided to be skeletons. My view on Halloween is shifting so I’m kinda glad we are not trick or treating on Tuesday. We’ve carved pumpkins, dressed up and celebrated in a fun and silly way so that’s been nice.

The school also had their annual International Night, parents only. The lady who organized it, is the heart of ISP elementary and I was so happy to work alongside her, I didn’t do much but anything I could do I was game. I met a lot of people and was able to talk to some people I’ve met along the way and get to know them better. Andrew bartended for an hour or so, so he had a great time too! Poor guy, travels and works a ton and I drag him to so many events and outings. He is a trooper though.

We also went to our first Day of the Dead party where a life is celebrated of someone you lost. It was really nice how our friends coordinated it. Everyone brought a picture or something that reminded them of the loved one and a meal to share, the same idea. The boys had a blast as there home is truly a home so it was comfortable and spacious. We all had a great time!

Outside of that, the kids are in the midst of their 1st break of the school year. It’s called Toussiant break and everyone travels. Most of my friends are gone, one is in Corsia, the other in Bordeaux, the other in Rome, the other in Dubai, oh the lives we live!

We are having a staycation since Andrew is traveling and I’m okay with it. The boys and I had a great week, riding bikes, kicking the ball around, baking, roller skating on the rooftop of Montparnesse and today the whole family enjoyed our first Salon Du Chocolat event…..we ate so much chocolate, Morgan said she doesn’t even want to hear that word.

That about sums up September and October. My next post will celebrate our 1 year anniversary here so stay tuned…….

June. Check.July.Check.

June.Check.July.Check! Since the kids have been out of school, life has been a bit of a whirlwind.

Vacanes D’ete (French Public School Summer Camp)
Let’s rewind to June….I had to somehow figure out how to sign the boys and Lauren up for French public school camp and let me just say that was NOT an easy thing to do! Started with a trip the The Mairie, which would be the equivalent to a city hall. Problem, no one speaks English and my French is not even close to someone understanding what the heck I’m saying! Thankfully my dear friend Farida came with me and somehow we managed to get information on the “next step”. Which for me was going to the school I was planning to send the boys. I went, and Andrew graciously worked from home that day so I could go. I didn’t want to have to drag the boys 3 km, and try to bumble my way through speaking French. I spoke my “French” and thankfully the girl helping me spoke her “English” and somehow we knew what one another was saying. From that point, I was told I had to take the paperwork and turn it into the local French public school that the boys would be attending, if they were in French public school, which was totally confusing because that particular school was not hosting Vacacnes D’ete summer camp”. Needless to day, I went and let me just tell you it took just about everything I had to keep going. There is nothing worse then not being able to do simple tasks, like signing your kids up for summer camp. Anywho, I went and I met a lady named Margo and thank the Lord she spoke English! She looked over my paperwork and said if they had any problems they would call me. What! That’s it!?! All of that leg work for, “If there any problems, we will call you. Okay dokie.

Lauren- the school she would be attending was much easier. Again, Farida and I went and turned in our paperwork (which took my a good 2 hours to complete as I had to translate everything)!

A week later, I received a letter from The Mairie with a form I had to complete and return to my bank. What the?!?!

I manage to complete it and went to my local HSBC branch because you can’t just go to any HSBC, you have to go to the one where you opened your back account at. so very inconvenient but whateves!

I asked the lady if there was anything else I needed to do and she said no.

What now? We play the waiting game……tick.tock.tick.tock.

Courtland and Elijah
In the meantime, I tried to prepare the boys as best I could that they would be going to a French camp. From what I heard, it would be fun and they would go on plenty of adventures, for next to nothing. The boys were not excited at all as they care less about learning or knowing French. They just want to go back to Sammamish and be greeted at the Y by Mrs Susas and Miss Dan 🙂 and checked in to the adventure zone by Mrs Laura. They are so over France.

Lauren was excited about going to camp and really wanted to improve her French so she was an easy sell. I was sad she could not be at the same school as the boys but we are all learning and growing.

Morgan- She and I were excited about being able to spend quality time together and exploring the city. We were able to spend the first week together but soon after Lauren started camp, she hated it.

The boys too….who was I kidding, as much as I was hoping they would like it perhaps I was hoping for more then the kids could manage. Here’s what I ‘ve learned with parenting and in life. You don’t know until you try so try is what we did.

Me, while the kids were in school I was able to work with my wonderful and fabulous French teacher. Buy the time August rolled around I had learned quite a bit of vocabulary but still did not have the sentence structure down. Then we took a month break to vacation and well, a little set back.

Andrew, he was busily working and crushing his job! I am so incredibly proud of him, his unwavering determination and dedication not only to his job but our family. Life is hard in a foreign country. By the time the daily tasks are done some days, well most days you don’t have it mentally in you to explore this incredible place.

July…..the day arrived, the boys and Lauren were to start camp. The only problem was, I had to be in 2 places at the same time. First, I wanted to get to the boys camp and I was holding my breathe. Of course, when I arrived, there was a line so I patiently waited my turn. I got to the front to be told, in French, they did not have the boys enrollments and I needed to fill out again. Seriously?!?!? The boys were so sweet and waited patiently. I’m pretty sure they could see the look on my face. Thankfully, I ran into Margo and told her and she said “but I turned them in” so she knew we turned our paperwork in on time.

After 15 minutes or so I completed the paperwork and checked the boys in. There were no real instructions, no way of getting a hold of the boys of checking in on them, I had to simply walk away. One of the hardest things, as I mom, is placing the responsibility of having your children looked after by someone other then you. In France, I find it even more difficult not only with the language barrier but the cultural differences.

That day, the boys were going on a field trip..wait?!? what?!? Where are they going? They told me but it wasn’t registering. I was thinking, what if they don’t come back, get lost, detached from their group. Again, walking away that day, I left a piece of me with them.

My job is and will be until they graduate, to prepare them for the world. Be aware of their surroundings, how to trust people, ask for help, know what to do if they get lost, et. This day, I learned what it truly meant to trust God. Believe that He would watch over them, for me.

At the end of the day, they were fine, hated the camp but were fine. It was going to be a long, long month.

Lauren- I had to race over and register Lauren but was late so Farida held the door open until I arrived. Thankfully Lauren had Is-Haaq, Hannah and Mussah to hang around with. The older kids registration was much easier and Lauren’s registration was there:)!

July was rough but we managed to get through it. Lauren went to camp almost 2 weeks out of the 4 but the boys went the full 4 weeks. I was so proud of them.

Each day as we would walk to camp, we would talk about our “old life” and how desperately they missed it. I explained, daily it seemed, that sometimes the hardest things in life, are the biggest blessings. You don’t and can’t always see it but one day they hopefully will. They weren’t buying it:(.

At the end of the 4 1/2 weeks I told them they could pick out a special toy at La Grand Recrue, trying anything to help them make it. I told them I understood it was hard and I was so very proud of them.

AUGUST
August was the best month EVER!!!! We finally got to go on a family vacation. Andrew planned a 10 day trip to Portugal. We went to Peniche a coastal town and stayed at a lovely home, with a pool and about a 5 minute drive to the beach. It was lovely. The house was comfy, cozy and beautiful. Lauren and I commented how it reminded us of the states so that was nice.

I ended up getting strep throat the second day but thankfully Andrew had left over antibiotics and I was able to take them and felt better.

We visited a town called Obidos and went to an amazing castle. That was a great day and all the kids loved it!

From Peniche we went to Lisbon. Andrew nailed the apartment we stayed in. It was awesome! It was like it was built in a cave. It was quite warm the 3 days we were there but we took it slow and went to the large foodcourt area and the name is slipping me. It was really different as they offered all types of cuisine.

One day we took the kids to the kids center where they got to experience the big fire and earthquake of 1755. The boys were a little scared but it really affected Lauren the most.

Oh, fun thing, the boys and I had to use the bathroom so we found a place but you had to pay 1 euro per person, which I thought was a little much but I was not prepared for this…..we walked in and there was a wall of every color of TP imaginable. Each bathroom stall had Wi-Fi access and when you were done, you brought the TP roll back and put it on the wall. The lady who worked there was very nice and gave the boys their own roll, in their favorite color.

One day, we took an hour long jeep ride through the city, and the driver was great! He reminded me of Johhny Depp. He gave us the history of the places we stopped. Our final destination was a castle but we stopped by several churches/cathedrals along the way. We also took a short tour of a castle and then a trip to a local park. It was a great day!

By the end of the 10 days, AK and I were pretty tired of trying to make everyone happy so we were happy to go home.

It occured to Andrew and I that Paris is home. We arrived and had loads of laundry so for the next 2 days I focused on that. Then….we took the vacation of our life! Thank you Baptiste for giving us the idea. We went to Corsica. I don’t know how but Andrew managed to book a house on 5 acres, with an infinity pool and walking trails. What we didn’t know is the amount of lizards, bees, grasshoppers, spiders, ants and bugs that were there. Oh, don’t worry it was awesome and the boys and Lauren were in heaven. The kids spent hours catching grasshoppers and lizards and to this day, talk about Corsica.

We went to so many beautiful beaches, words can’t even describe how incredible they each were. The water was warm but the sea was incredibly salty so that was interesting. The kids all had a great time. The girls and I were busy riding the waves and Dad and the boys were busy building sand castles.

The people, food and city were lovely. We drove all along the coast and stopped at various places. To many to write about. A small fishing village was one of my favorites as the history of the fishing nets, boats and everything about the little cove was riddled with stories, stories I could only dare to read about.

We stayed in Corsica for 6 days and could have stayed for 6 weeks. We spent the days exploring beaches and the early afternoons playing in the infinity pool.

I would go back in a minute if I could.

After we returned home we had two weeks before school started so we were all busy getting school supplies, clothes and relaxing.

In the midst of that, Denise and Julius came for a visit, those two are simple the best! They live and love life. I hope people can say that about me because being grateful and showing it are two different things. These people live it and show it! Thank you again for a delicious dinner at the Buddah Bar!

Well that wraps up the summer. I’ve missed a few things but I will keep those things in my heart and will forever remember them.

Until next time……..

June came and went…

Just like that, June came and went. What an incredible month. It was filled with “firsts” first time ending a school year in a foreign country, first time registering for Vacanes D’Ete (French summer public camp) what an absolute pain that was, and first time gearing up for spending a summer in Paris.

Ending the school year for Lauren was sweet. She wanted to make homemade chocholaste chip cookies so we did. She took them to her end of the year school dessert party and they went in a matter of seconds. It was lovely to meet more moms from her school and get to know her good friends moms more. I feel incredibly fortunate that Lauren is surrounded by good friends. Although she desperately misses parker, Abbey, Audrey and Khoudoy.

Registering for French Public school camp was incredibly stressful. It was complicated, not easy to understand, wrong information was given over and over again and it was very time consuming. I went to the Mairie to gain information but that was a waste of my time. I then went to the school that would be open and I only knew about closed school from my dear friend Josephine. Went to register the boys and no one really spoke English but thankfully I could speak enough French and they could speak enough English where I at least was given registration forms to return.

I completed the forms are had to return to the “closed” public school, right by my house. I know, seriously. Thankfully I met a lady named Margo there and she at least took my registration forms and understood what I was trying to do.

From that point it was a gamble, I had no idea if the boys or Lauren were accepted.

Farida met me at the school where Lauren and her three kids would be attending and we enrolled our kids together.

In the meantime, I had to obtain extrascolaire insurance for the kids, fill out a bank form, that I had no idea what they were asking, return the form to my bank. Thankfully they understood what it was and prayed all would go well.

I was sad that Morgan did not have an 8th grade promotion/graduation but it doesn’t work like that here. So instead Andrew and I chaperoned 10 of her friends and took them to Paris Disneyland. We also took Lauren and the boys. It was our very first time taking the kids. Outside of the crappy weather we endured in the morning it was a great time! The boys had a blast and we all went on Thunder Mountain. Holy #$T%* I forgot how scary a roller coaster could be. Andrew went with Lauren and Courtland and Elijah went with me! We had a blast up until the end….the dark tunnel at the end was not pleasant. The boys did not cry but Eli was not happy when he got off the coaster.

Morgan and her friends had a blast throughout the day. I was trying to inform parents that all was well but holy cow trying to touch base with 12 teenagers was like pulling teeth.

Andrew took the boys home around 8pm and Lauren and I stayed until closing, 11pm.

It was a long day but I was grateful we could do it and was able to spend time with Morgan’s friends.

Outside of that, I attended Lauren and the boys end of the school year parties. Andrew was traveling for business. They were both really nice but it was much easier to attend Lauren’s, everyone speaks English. At the boys school 20% speak English so it makes it more challenging.

In the meantime, we had three amazing guests, Frank and Inge, Hai and Denise, Matthew and Jeff.

Frank and Inge are two of the most genuine souls one will ever met. Inge is full of life, zest, kindness and love. Frank is precious, smart and friendly. We are so grateful they were able too spend the afternoon at our home, talking, laughing and drinking amazing wine. The boys were a bit fussy but they didn’t seem to mind. They also introduced us to our amazing new friends Joseph, Baptiste and Hussan. Joseph owns a wonderful Lebanese restaurant, below us and has become a big brother to me. Every time I go out, he says in perfect English “where are you going”? I love him dearly. Baptiste and Hussan are his dear friends and they are wonderful souls.

Hai came for a short time and we got to hang out at the house, and go to a nice dinner. He was on his way to Bourgandy as he won a special trip for being an amazing wine guy.

We have known Denise and Jeff for 15 years and they took their son Matthew on a grand vacation. They are amazing people, parents and friends and I am so grateful they were able to make time for us. Matthew and Lauren hit it off with Minecraft and Pokémon so that was cool. We had a terrific time catching up and hanging out with them.

Overall, all the kids had an amazing first year experience in a foreign country, learning a new language, meeting new friends, exploring and learning a new way of life and living.

We are all forever grateful to God for allowing us to be privy to this grand adventure.

Until next time…..

March Madness?!? More like May Madness…..

Whoever came up with March Madness, should change it to May Madness because in the Kotowski house, it was May madness!!!!

So much to write in this post so please bear with me. To those who are my faithful followers…thank you! Thank you for your comments, questions, conversation, I really love and appreciate you taking the time to keep up with us.

Let me just say, I know I have posted A LOT of pictures over the past few weeks but seriously we have had so many visitors and it’s important to me that each one get a proper shout out!

Having said that, I will be slowing down a bit for summer as you are all probably on the verge of gagging, if you haven’t already.

So let’s get back to May…..May is a lovely month, the flowers are blooming, birds are singing, the smell of spring rain (more like dog poop and pee in the city of Paris) but rain none the less. People out and about enjoying the sun, kids riding scooters, a lot of laughing, smiling and overall happiness fills the air. That’s why Mother’s Day, Girls trip to London, mom Mom coming for a 3 week holiday, Lauren’s birthday, my birthday, and Andrew and my trip to Milan was welcomed. But my goodness, this girl is tired. Or in French Je suis Fatigue.

Mother’s day wasn’t really celebrated on the actual day as I got the date wrong. I thought I was flying my mom up before the holiday but turns out I did not so instead I was traveling home from a girls get-a-way trip to London with Farida and Corrine.

So let’s start there. These two ladies are lovely. We are all so different and have very different life experiences but somehow we just work. We laughed, cried, shopped, bartered with merchants. Farida, you knew she was a pro at bartering. Thank you dear for teaching me not to back down, and with a smile get what you/I want for the price you/I want!

Corrine and I enjoyed celebrating national cocktail day at our hotel bar, compliments of our hotel, obtained by Farida and Fardia doesn’t even drink!

We all had things we wanted to do, well mostly Corrine and I as Farida is from London. I really wanted to see and go to Notting Hill and Corrine wanted to go to Buckingham Palace. We also wanted to shop at Harrods and just see the city!

We had so much fun and stayed at a swanky hotel called Saint Martin. I would gladly go back.

It was fun traveling with someone familiar with the metro, area and overall know how things work.

First stop, silly phone booth. Why these booths are so cool I don’t know but they are. Perhaps it’s something so different from the states and I’m guessing Australia that it’s fun to see. We of course had to take pics in the first one we came across. Gotta love Corrine!

Next stop, hotel….AMAZING! Life size chess pieces, funky yet modern furniture and very kind people but the best part was they ALL spoke English!

We hit the ground running and went straight to Harrods where sweet Corrine bought gifts for everyone she knows and also was gracious enough to shop for items a friend had asked her to get. I didn’t know Corrine is a tea towel mama!!! Can anyone really have to many tea towels:)Nope:)

After an exhausting 2 or so hours of seeing the most beautifully displayed food, fruit and pastries we headed over to a café for a drink. I ordered an iced vanilla crème coffee that was to die for.

We headed back to our hotel and got ready for dinner. Our stomach led us to Mexican food and we were all in heaven. It was a great way to end the day and we were exhausted by the time we got back to the hotel.

Saturday we hit the ground running with free breakfast at our hotel. Corrine taught me how to eat a soft boiled egg properly, by tapping and cutting the top off…who knew! Then we headed out to find Notting Hill. Interestingly enough, there are no signs saying this is the place, perhaps because they are so over tourists, who knows. We nicely went to what we thought may have been the famous bookstore and asked the young guy behind the counter. He was a complete and total ass and made us feel like imbeciles by telling us “movies aren’t real” and basically that bookstore doesn’t exist.

But that wasn’t going to stop us. So we sauntered down the street, and enjoyed the open market and vendor booths with all kinds of fun and cool things.

We came across a very hip older lady, notice I did not say “old lady” as I myself am half way to 90 as my oldest daughter reminds me. Any who, we fast became friends and asked her if the bookstore existed. She understood the fascination and directed to the “Blue Bookstore” down the way. She cautioned us that it was nothing like the movie and had been turned in to a store that sold a myriad of things. Sure enough, when we found it, we understood but even still it was pretty cool. There was a large pic of Julia Roberts hanging from the ceiling.

Corrine and I were able to buy lots and lots of light up fidget spinners. I bought a ton as a take away gift for Lauren’s upcoming 10th bday party and Corrine got some for her girls. We were so proud of ourselves as they were 10 pounds and we got them down to 6 per spinner….go Jan and Corrine!

We went to a fabulous and famous cake shop called Hummingbird. Corrine and I indulged and bought a few….delicious!!!

We then headed to Buckinham Palace but first stopped at a cool park along the way and got a drink. We found lawn chairs, that you had to pay to use but that Fairda is such a rebel she made us break the law. Thankfully chair security was nice enough to let us go:).

We walked to Buckingham Palace and Corrine’s eyes got brighter and brighter as we got closer and closer….she is adorable! She is a total Queen’s girl and LOVES the royal family. Farida and I got the bug too and by the end of it we were all amazed. The day we went the queen was throwing a Garden party for soldiers who had lost their lives. It was for the families of the fallen. The streets were closed around the Palace so that was really special.

After many pics, we headed towards the London Eye and passed by Big Ben of course. He’s so cool, what a ringer he is, wink, wink.

We of course, stopped at my FAVORTIE sandwich shop in the entire universe, Pret A Manger. I found out they also have one in France so if anyone ever wants to go….I’m in!

We ate and chatted and Farida tried her 1st Reese’s miniature peanut butter cup and she was quite surprised how fabulous and wonderful it was. For those of you who do not know Farida is not a peanut butter fan. I know what you are thinking, how can I be friends with her but someone has to show her the way. Kidding, of course:).

That night we went to the best Lebanese restaurant and had an absolute blast. Eating, dancing, eating, dancing and laughing. It was such a great experience and I am grateful to have shared it with these beauties. Corrine showed us a few dance moves, I’m still laughing about them…thanks Corrine!

Sunday rolled around and we took it pretty easy, breakfast at the hotel and more shopping in Covenant Garden, Selfridges other stores that caught our eye.

It was to short of a trip and so needed.

My beautiful Mom was here so as soon as I got home the next day we were hitting the streets of Paris. My mom wanted to simply live my life with me so that is what we did. Monday we went started at Arche de Triumph and ended at the Tulleries. She loved the Champs.

Tuesday and Friday we went to my neighborhood market and bought food, clothes and other fun things. My mom was truly amazed at this way of living and embraced it 150%. That’s something I so appreciate about her. She is so accepting and adventurous, no judgement. She is happy and content living life and experiencing new things.

*When do we lose that? People can be so critical, judgmental and unkind. Being around my mom is a good reminder, almost like taking a refresher course in loving others and appreciating the people in your life. Thank you Mom!

It was wonderful to have her in the day to days. She spent time with all of my friends and they loved and embraced her. She took the boys and met my friends at the park one day.

We of course went to Galleries La Fayette and ventured to my favorite place, the spice market. Corrine went with us that day and we ate at the Spanish restaurant. We then headed over to Opera Garnier. Stunning place that I love. My mom loved it too!

Lauren’s bday rolled around and she had a sleepover with 5 of her closest friends. My Mom brought streamers from the states so we decorated the house. I set up the dining room table filled with crafts and fun things to do.

When Lauren came home she was so excited! There is something special about streamers and balloon.

We made a triple layer chocolate and vanilla cake, special request by the bday girl. Dad bought a big steak and I made a tomato tart and quinoa for her bday dinner.

All the girls had a great time, crafting, singing, dancing and watching a movie.

The next morning everyone was pretty tired.

Lauren wanted to show Nana the Eiffel Tower that night, so we did! We got there around 10 pm and had a lovely time. We are all so goofy and just laughed and had a blast!

*As we get older, have kids, life is busy I think it’s easy not to laugh or appreciate humor. Note to self…DONT EVER LOSE that. Laughing everyday is important because it means you are living, appreciating the things, people around you, even if it’s only for a moment but that moment can last a lifetime.

Wednesday, Andrew and I got to go on a Champagne tour, arranged through the school and boy what an amazing day that was! I have NEVER been a champagne fan but after this experience I am changed. We went to several places, visited Don Pergone grave in a fantastic yet simple church. Had a delicious lunch at a local restaurant and learned so much about how champagne is made. I have a newfound respect and appreciation for champagne

The next week Andrew and I went on a 4 day trip, by ourselves to Milan Italy. I really wanted to go to the Last Supper on my birthday, see the sights and just be. It had been a long time coming.

We flew out on Thursday and had a relaxed short flight so that was nice.

We landed and took a train close to the hotel. My first impression was everyone was so nice, relaxed, tan and had the best Italian accent and talked with their hands with so much expression. Just how I had imagined. I was in heaven.

We arrived at the hotel and it was lovely! Couldn’t have asked for more. We were right in the Galleries, which is filled with restaurants and high end shops.

We were about 2 minute walk to the Duomo, which is/was breathtaking. I could stand and look at it for hours.

That night, we took a long walk to the canal and had dinner at an authentic Italian restaurant. I had veal cutlet and it was INCREDIBLE!

We walked around the canal and they had a nighttime open market with jewelry, bags, hats, etc. It was a blast! I bought some things for the kids and my mom.

Friday rolled around and it was my birthday! We had breakfast at the hotel and I enjoyed the best cup of coffee in 7 months. It was a great way to start the day!

We then headed to our 3 hour tour of Milan. We went to a Castle, the Original Opera house, the last Supper and a park. The Last Supper was spectacular! I felt so blessed to see with my own eyes the painting that I have read about my whole life. Very humbling.

We also visited a cool park where there was a lot of things to do for everyone. Kids park, adult’s lounging and kicking the ball around. Sunbathers, artists, couples and lots of things to do.

We then headed over to Microsoft and toured there new building. What a cool office that is. Unlike anything I have ever seen. It was really nice to meet some of Andrew’s coworkers.

I stepped out for an hour and got a pedicure and manicure and pampered myself, in preparation for my birthday dinner.

We took a taxi back to the hotel as we walked miles and miles that day and it was quite hot.

That night we had an amazing dinner at our hotel restaurant. We had so many dishes and courses, I honestly lost track. I wore my favorite black and white dress and felt so loved and so special.

After eating more then I should, we went back to the hotel room and they had a bottle of champagne and a happy birthday dessert waiting for me. So awesome!

It was wonderful to get away, recharge, relax, and spend time with Andrew. I look forward to doing it again!

We arrived home on Sunday and Monday Josephine scheduled a bday lunch at Andre Jacques Mart. It was divine. It was so lovely to spoil my mom.

Tuesday was my moms last day and we had planned to go to Versailles but Macron was going to be there so we decided to head back to Jacques mart and have lunch. We also toured the house and spent time exploring the property.

After, we went to La Defense to see the Grande Arch, then headed to Bir- Hakeim bridge and ended at the Statue of Liberty.

It was truly an wonderful end to a lovely 3 week stay with my mom. I am so grateful she so enjoyed herself, got to see and spend time with all the grandkids. They love her so much and each have such a special relationship with her. I am happy they know her and she knows each of my children. They talk about her daily.

That about wraps it up! The month of May came and went. I survived, we all survived:)

Until next time…..Au Revoir