Friday, 31 October 2008

Trick or Treat

We have never celebrated Halloween at home in Australia, so it was a novelty for the kids to get dressed up and go out door-knocking for lollies. We didn't have any real Halloween costumes like some of the others, but we managed to find enough black clothes to go around and we put a bit of dark eye make-up on their faces. We also put some dark red lipstick on for blood, and it wasn't until they tried to take it off that that we realised how well the stay-on lipstick stays on, and I have run out of waterproof make-up remover. So the girls will still have "blood" stained faces when they wake up in the morning.

Only one house had Halloween decorations .

The group of girls who went trick or treating together.

Bonnie showing her make-up (a bit washed out with the flash).

Roger, Esther and me, getting into the spirit of Halloween.

Odette, with a handful of lollies.

We headed out at just before 6:00pm, but as you can see it was already quite dark. That made it all the more exciting for the kids. They collected quite a bounty, which is just as well, because then we had plenty of lollies to give to the teenagers who came along to our house later in the evening.

Jeux Pour Tous

The Mairie has organised lots of school holiday activities for children. We missed the Halloween themed scary stories at the library, and the giant Cluedo too, because some of the kids were sick. But yesterday everyone was well and we went to the games afternoon down at the salle des fêtes. There was "Puissance Quatre" (Connect Four), les "Dames Chinoises" (Chinese Checkers), toys for little kids, dolls, and lots of fun things to do on a cold and rainy afternoon.
Here are some photos so you can see for yourself.

Bonnie and Hugh playing with a little farm set.

Hugh enjoying the tunnel.

Sophie playing a game that slides tokens using an elastic launcher.

Watching Odette play against Amandine.

The girls looking a little bit intimidated by all the cake and soft drinks.

But wouldn't you just know what was the best fun?? After all the toys and games were packed away, the beautiful shiny slippery floor was great for sliding on! And doing handstands and cartwheels.

Bonnie doing a cartwheel after Odette has done one.

Hugh being dragged along by his friend Gabriel.

Woo-hoo! Everyone slide...

There were a dozen happy screaming children running around having a ball while the adults took the things back to the mairie. And once again, one very BIG kid!

Nice performance, Eric!!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

French Translation

I have, for some time, had a link to the AltaVista Babel Fish translation service on this blog. Today I discovered the Google equivalent, which seems to work differently and did a very good job with a French to English translation. The English to French seems readable too, so maybe all you French readers would like to bookmark this link to the GOOGLE TRANSLATION of our blog.
One major benefit of this tool is that you can see the original text at the same time as the translation, which helps sometimes with context.
Any feedback on the usefulness of this (or any other) translation tool is welcome...

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Odette and Hugh at School

Roger walking Hugh into school.

During the term (we now have holidays for a week and a half) I took some photos one morning when Roger and I both took Hugh and Odette to school. Usually I don't have time to handle a camera at that time of the morning...
Odette showed me the escargots (snails) that were in her classroom. They were the type of snails (bourgogne) - the type you can eat. They laid eggs and the eggs hatched into baby snails. Now we have three baby snails in a clear container on our kitchen bench. We have to keep them moist and feed them with fruit and vegetables.
Odette had done lots of work on the theme of autumn, and some lovely big pictures were displayed on the walls. The teacher cleverly managed to work the spiral shape of the snails into the pictures too.

Odette with containers of snails.

Odette (and her friend Amandine) with some portraits in ink.

A lovely autumn coloured picture with spirals.

Hugh showing Daddy his class book - parents can have a look
at the book to see what the children have been doing in class.

The colour of the term was "vert" (green).

Sunday Walk

Roger and kids at a lavoir in Montalieu
(Odette chose the setting for the photo.)

This photo looks a bit the same,
but I'm not sure what Roger's face is doing!

Last Sunday the weather was absolutely glorious. We made the most of the fine weather by going for a walk in the woods, despite the gunshots of the hunters sounding quite near. We walked from the vieille église at Saint Vincent de Mercuze along to Montalieu and then down to our house at Saint Marie d'Alloix. It is not a very long or difficult walk, but I was so happy because it is the first time that we have had a family walk where no-one has needed to be carried because they got tired. (Roger carried Hugh for a while when we were on a road.) We had planned to do a little walk in the woods and go back to the car, but because everyone was happy and walking well we walked home, and then drove back to get the car (it would have been a nice walk back for me and Rog, but we couldn't leave the kids at home by themselves and it was getting late).
Here are some pictures of our walk.

Bonnie helping Hugh to get a stone out of his boot.

Roger and Odette enjoying the view.





Odette and Sophie.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Le Courseton

Bonnie's school at La Buissiere held what would be the equivalent of Australian cross-country running this week. Sophie's school took part as well, but because she was sick Sophie couldn't compete (not such a bad thing as she hadn't been able to train due to her sprained ankle.) Bonnie has always loved long distance running - on the farm she sometimes asks me if she can go for a run to the middle gate by herself, and I always say "have one for me while you're at it" because I hate running.

Bonnie running in the "courseton".

The course was 200 metres; around the soccer field and over to the church and back. Bonnie's class had a total of fifteen minutes to run, and they had their laps counted. A piece of paper on their back had squares to be crossed off by parent helpers as they rounded the corner.

Another lap down, and crossed off on the paper on her back.

Bonnie ran 15 laps, which is 3,000 metres, or 3kms, by my calculations. Which I thought was a pretty good performance. As I was taking photos during the race I didn't follow her progress, and because everyone was running laps, it was hard to tell who was in front. It didn't look like Bonnie was winning because the field was well spread out, but some of the people in front of her would have been people that she had lapped a couple of times already.
Hence the surprise when Bonnie arrived home from school today with a medal around her neck!!! She beat all the other girls in her class to be the number one girl. Which was great for Bonnie. I am so proud of her.

Bonnie with her medal for winning the courseton.

And Bonnie obviously enjoyed the running too - this morning at breakfast she said that she wished she could do it again!

Thursday, 23 October 2008


Healing hands...

To help clear his lungs after his illness Hugh had some kinesitharapy. There is a lady who lives just in the next street who works from home and is a kinesitherapist, so she came up and gave him his massage. Hugh liked it so much that he went to sleep each time!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Hugh in Hospital

Sorry I don't have any photos for this post. Despite my motto of "don't go anywhere without a camera" I rushed off to the doctor's surgery on Saturday morning with Hugh, but without my camera. Hugh had been coughing on Thursday night/Friday, then had a fever on Friday night. By Saturday morning his pulse was racing, and he was breathing rapidly and sucking in his belly and throat trying to get more air. We knew this was not good, so administered some ventolin, which had little effect. So while Roger took the girls with him to deliver Nanna and Granddad to the airport at Lyon, I took Hugh to the doctor. The doctor got Hugh's shirt off to listen to his chest, measured his temperature quickly with a forehead sensor, and then lay him down for an examination. The doctor was quick to say what I didn't want to hear: that it was serious and that Hugh should go immediately to the hospital. He suspected pneumonia, so ordered a pulmonary x-ray.
Didn't I say one time before that we should find the hospital so that we know where it is in an emergency?? Luckily Roger hadn't left yet for Lyon so I called him and asked him to bring TomTom, our GPS, so I could find the way. Despite what everyone said about it being easy to find I am glad I had TomTom or I would have become extremely flustered trying to get there. So I took the autoroute all the way and made the most of the 130km/hour speed limit, and kept glancing back at Hugh to make sure he wasn't going bluer around the mouth.
Once at the paediatric emergency section of the hospital I just had to give details to fill in some paperwork before we were shown in to a consulting room. Hugh lay on the examination bed with his tummy pumping in and out. Being a teaching hospital (CHU) there were plenty of medical students, interns, externs, and doctors coming and going. The x-ray showed something in the top of one lung, and he had a blood sample taken to confirm the infection. The doctors also said that asthma was causing Hugh's breathing difficulties. He was treated with ventolin and another drug I can't remember the name of (something like avent) and had oxygen. For the pneumonia he had intravenous antibiotics, and something else to control the fever.
In the hospital we shared a room with a lovely little girl called Chaima and her mother. Chaima and Hugh would have their nebuliser masks at the same time, and we would watch their blood oxygen saturation monitors flash up at 100% for a few minutes. Then when the 02 got down to 91% the machine would start beeping.
For the night there were fold down beds for the mothers to sleep on, which made the room extremely squashy (nurses probably have to have a slimness test to see if they can squeeze through small spaces and reach long distances in order to work in rooms like that.) So I lay on my bed in my clothes and watched Hugh's breathing on the graph on the monitor. There wasn't much sleep to be had, but in the early hours I must have slept heavily, as I didn't hear the machine beeping when Hugh's 02 saturation dropped and the nurses put the oxygen mask on him.
By late Sunday morning Hugh had discovered that the playroom down the hallway had not only books, but a ball and some ride-on toys. He was feeling much better thank you, and his biggest problem was that he was running around too much. The nurses kept telling me that he was to rest and stay calm, but I don't think they told Hugh...

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Le Chemin d'Autrefois

Autumn in the forest.

On Wednesday my parents offered to look after the children so that Roger and I could go out together. (Which was just what we needed.) We went and had lunch at our favourite restaurant, the Auberge de Saint Vincent de Mercuze.

The Auberge de Saint Vincent de Mercuze - our favourite restaurant.

We had a long lunch and a good discussion without any child-induced interruptions. It is time to start thinking about our next step after so much time over the last few years has been concerned with getting our exchange experience happening. Now it is nearly finished!! Well there are three months left, but that doesn't sound like much to me...
After our long lovely lunch we set out to walk the chemin d'autrefois up to the cascade (waterfall).
The autumn weather was perfect for an afternoon walk, and the colours of autumn were at their best. Roger took a little backpack with a snack and some water, and I took my SLR camera.

The beauty was mesmerising. No wonder it took so long to walk up...
I had to keep stopping to take photographs!

The stream cascading through mossy rocks.

The colours of autumn leaves in the stream.

An interesting rock formation?? No, some metal debris...

The path criss-crossed back and forth across the stream, and it was very well maintained with hand-rails, steps, and cables in place.

Roger ascending with the help of a metal hand rail.

Another, more natural handrail.

A path being held up with wire netting.

A plastic-covered metal cable for protection,
lest one should fall to the stream below.

I am glad we did the walk while the weather was good, and before it rained, because I don't think I would enjoy it so much if it was slippery and muddy. And I am definitely glad that we didn't try to take the children. Odette would not have the stamina for such a walk, Hugh would be a danger and too slow. Sophie and could probably make it, but not with her foot still unfit after the sprain, and Bonnie would want to know where we would be going next (she has that much energy.)

If I had read this sign first I doubt that I would have considered walking...

Roger walking down the easy way.
There was an alternative route back to our starting point.

The village at Montalieu; we drive through often
but had never explored the narrow back streets before.

Apart from the day we went to Grenoble to change our airline tickets and have a medical check complete with chest x-rays, this was the first day we had had someone else look after the children so that we could go out. It was much appreciated, and Nanna and Granddad got to spend some quality(!) time with the children.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

The Princess Party

There is no doubting that Odette enjoyed her birthday party.

We have had a lovely afternoon and evening celebrating Odette's birthday with friends. Her beautiful princess dress and shoes, which I had bought on e-bay, arrived in the mail in the nick of time. They weren't here in time for her to open her present on her birthday morning yesterday, but they arrived in time for her to wear them to the party today. And wow didn't she look like an absolutely stunning princess!!

Odette and some happy friends
(I don't know what Eric was doing behind my back,

but I might have to hire him to work in the studio.)

Does this pose remind you of another more famous Princess?

We had lovely birthday food, like cornflake crackles, fairy bread and lamingtons. Yes the party had an Australian flavour... The birthday cake was a dolly vardon style - hardly as magnificent as I had imagined it, but effective none-the-less.

Lighting the candles

Eating the cake.

Cornflake crackles


Fairy bread

Sophie organised games, as she does very well. The children played pass the parcel, musical chairs, pin the crown on the princess, and a treasure hunt (although the treasure hunt was somewhat spoiled when Odette took a shortcut straight to the treasure instead of following the clues.)

Pin the crown on the princess (a variation on a theme...)

After a couple of hours for the children exclusively the parents and other brothers and sisters were invited to join with us to continue into the evening with drinks and food.

Once the boys arrived the tone of the party changed.

But it wasn't only the boys who enjoyed the "red carpet" (paper tablecloth) slide.

And it wasn't only the children either!!

My Mum and Dad had prepared some finger food, and Roger made pizzas and a zucchini slice. There was also cheese and a fruit platter. And more cake. And wine and beer.

Roger in the kitchen