Summer turns to fall!

The de Quillacq�s have enjoyed their first American summer. Wonderfully. The kids and their parents have relished in the fantastic weather and all the activities the region has to offer!

The last days of summer were spent mostly at the beach (call it "the Shore", please). We love to go in the late afternoon when all those pesky NYC tourists have gone home and leave the whole place to us, the real New Jersey folks.

While riding a boat on the river one day, we found our secret treasure island... A small hidden island which makes a superb ground for hiding, running, discovering, and even pick-nicking... that is, until the rising tide quickly hastens the lunch!

The highlight of the summer was the hot air balloon festival. We sneaked into the departure zone to be literally amazed at the scene of hundreds of inflating balloons of all colors and shapes. In a matter of minutes, the sky above us filled up with flying elephants, cars, houses and teddy bears...

The kids even got to go inside a balloon before its take off.

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We went on a day trip to Wild West Village where actors walk around saying �howdy, partner� , drinking sarsaparilla, having bar brawls, robbing banks and chasing the can-can girls.

When our stagecoach was apprehended by bandits, Theo stood up to the bandit. �Hey, you�re not nice!� He pulled off the outlaw�s bandana covering his face with a �ha ha I saw you!� Meanwhile Madeline was clutching my neck and shaking in her little cowboy boots.

At the end of the summer we negotiated and finally bought a new car (damn car dealers, now we know why they make so much money).

To handle the kids, their friends, their parents and paraphernalia, and the visiting family members, you have the choice between a minivan or a 4x4. Which one do you think we took?

The real shocker was actually... the car insurance. NJ is the most expensive insurance state in the US, and to top it off we are both considered new drivers! Daddy, the former driving instructor for commercial reticulated trucks, even had to take the driving license exams again.

Don�t you like that big mama?

With no US driving history and no US credit scores, we have ridiculously high premiums!

We have learned that America no longer says to its immigrants �Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses�� Now Miss Liberty says �Give me your FICA score, credit history and proof of residence for the last 5 years.

On the sports scene, T Ball ended, followed by soccer, and now basketball is in full swing. They

both enjoy playing in team sports, but still get easily distracted by a ladybug found on a blade of grass or a friend from the other team who has a cute hairbow.

We�re working hard on Theo�s positive attitude. He can kick the ball 50 times perfectly into the goal, and on the 51st turn he misses and so crumbles into a ball on the grass saying �I can�t do it�.it�s too hard..I am so bad at soccer.�� It drives us (and the coach) totally crazy!

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Kindergarten started in the beginning of September. They go to the afternoon session, which is 12 to 2:40. They have an amazing teacher, Mrs. Bennett, who is adored by all her students (and the parents!)

The first week they learned the Pledge of Allegiance. Theo and Madeline will be happy to recite it for you:

I pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United American steak, and to the public standing over the God who is invisible with liberty.

Each week the kids have a �sponsibility.� This week Madeline is the door holder, and Theo �sharkens pencils.�

Theo won�t let his mother kiss him goodbye as he goes to school�..sigh. So I said �That�s OK, because at night when you�re asleep I go into your room and give you a hundred kisses!� Boy did that make him mad!

We had a wonderful visit from Aunt Chris. We showed her New Jersey, including our favorite outing of berry picking. For the kids, we made popsicles from the juice.

The kids keep on discovering the world around them with so much candor. They love Mamie and Bon Papa�s books like �The animals from the Sea� or �Air and Space�... Every evening, when daddy opens a book, the magic word is �Splain, daddy, Splain�

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Shortly after school started was the twins 5th birthday party! We decided to invite the whole class (18 kids) plus a few other friends. Our theme was �Princess and Policeman.� The girls were all dressed up and the boys took the law into their own hands.

Madeline�s cake was decorated with Cinderella, Belle, and Sleeping Beauty. Theo�s cake was a street scene with police cars, an ambulance and a firetruck. We even had a visit from our town�s police team. Sergeant Talarico pulled into the driveway with his siren blaring and let Theo sit in the front seat and play with all the buttons.

Grandpa and Grandma Matey gave Madeline the best present she could have hoped for-a gift certificate to go to the American Girl doll store in Manhattan and pick one out! What a day. She was so thrilled by the adventure of going into the city and to this very very special store.

Theo got to go to the biggest Toy�s r Us in the USA and pick out whatever he wanted - which was the game �operation.� Thanks so much Grandma and Grandpa.

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Mamie and Bon Papa came to visit from France at the end of September for three weeks.

Mamie bought Madeline a real sewing machine, which they used to make doll clothes together. Theo got a house building kit with real cement and bricks. Madeline and especially Theo loved learning to play cards (a de Quillacq family passion). They would play for hours with their very patient grandparents.

We showed Mamie and Bon Papa all around our area, spending one weekend in Philadelphia and one weekend up in the Catskill Mountains.

Look who we ran into at Roosevelt�s mansion in Hyde Park! Mr. Gorbachev was really nice to pose for a picture�.. but we did have to bribe the kids a dollar each to do it!

Madeline is obsessed with death. One of her parents (HIS identity will not be given in order to protect HIS innocence) told her about how when people die they become invisible and can fly around your room.

Her obsession with death led her to write a book on the subject called �Things Dead People Can�t Do.� Inside are pictures of a person eating with an X over it, or people swimming with an X over it, etc.

Of course that resulted in several nightmares and several nights of her sleeping with us.

Dead People can�t sit at the table and eat oatmeal

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Halloween was the next major event. Keeping with their birthday theme, Theo wanted to be a policeman/fireman and Madeline a princess. But just 2 days before the big night, Madeline changed her mind and wanted to be a scary witch because �all the other girls were going to be witches.� I agreed to give in to the peer pressure if she gave me half of the money from her piggy bank to buy a new costume. She gladly agreed and everyone was ready.

We had several Halloween parties at school and friend�s houses. Our town really gets into it. Almost every house is decorated with pumpkins, ghosts, scarecrows, and witches. Halloween starts with the town parade at noon. All the kids march down the main street in their costumes and we all end at the firehouse to drink warm apple cider.

Then at 4 PM the siren blares and the kids hit the streets. The police patrol around, making sure everyone is safe, and give out glow stick necklaces for the kids to wear. Their pumpkin buckets were filled to the brim and so heavy that they couldn�t even carry them!

We then went over to Bruce Springsteen�s house. He made a big haunted graveyard in his front lawn and was even out there himself watching the kids enjoy themselves.

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As the seasons change, so do our bills. During the summer, our electricity bill quadrupled (air-conditioning) and during the fall our gas bill octupled (heating). Check out our water bill in July as we struggled to keep the lawn from dying in the heat. (in August we gave up)

This summer, we added some new words to our vocabulary: cicadas, citronella candles, triple root canal, and moles (the kind that dig up the yard you tried to save from the sun).

This fall our new vocabulary included �the foliage report.� Every night at the end of the news, the weatherman comes on with a map of the tri-state area with little leaves on it. Each color of leaf represents where the leaves are changing and where the best areas are to see the fall colors. Green-no change, Yellow-slight 25% change, orange-most at 50-75% change, and red-peak colors.

This winter, the new vocabulary has started with the �1st freeze report� - the anchorman now announces where and when it has already frozen once. We are looking forward to discovering �snow storm�, �black ice� and �burst pipes�. Eeeha.

Well, we�re going to go and get ready for Christmas now. In London, there was nothing between September and Christmas, so the stores started decorating in October and I always had my tree up by mid-November. By the time December rolls around, it�s like beating a dead horse and you can�t wait for Christmas to be over with.

Here, the whole month of October is dedicated to Halloween, after which November follows with its pilgrims, its Thanksgiving and its family time. Then BOOM, it�s December. Nobody decorates or advertises Christmas stuff until December 1st. It is so refreshing. Here, it only lasts for a short time - short but very intense.

Our list to Santa has been mailed. Madeline wants the Barbie Rock �n Roll guitar so she can jam out. Theo�s wish is a little more complicated because he wants a green dump truck. It looks like Christmas Eve will find me with a normal yellow dump truck and a can of green spray paint��

Roasting Marshmallows for �smores in the Poconos

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And as our French family gathers at Mamie & Bon Papa�s in Lille, and as the first snow flakes start to fall here, we wish all of our friends and family a wonderful holiday season and our best wishes for 2005.

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