Winter 2005: One year!

That�s it, we have been in the USA for exactly one year! We are officially a �Jersey family!

We�ve got most of the lingo down, but we�re still trying to figure out this Jersey thing where we leave out the �New�. We go to the Jersey shore, live in Central Jersey, eat Jersey corn, read the Jersey Post, work in Jersey City, and cheer for the Jersey Devils. Why don�t the other �new� states do this? Are you a York girl? Have you been to the York coast? Do you take the Hampshire Express? Do you read the York Times? Do you vacation in north York? Do you study at Mexico College? (well, perhaps if you live a bit more to the south).

Enough of the philosophizing� We made it through our first winter!

You know the season has changed just by having a quick look in the hall closet. There used to be nothing but 4 pair of flip-flops, a hat and a bottle of sunscreen. As of November, the closet is bursting with warm coats, extra warm coats, wools coats, down coats, ski coats, snow suits, scarves, 5 different types of gloves (wool, leather, waterproof, fleece, and snow), hats, ear muffs, wool socks, long underwear, rain boots, snow boots, tennis shoes, regular shoes, hiking boots, sheepskin boots, warm slippers��

Our new vocabulary includes �snow day� when school is closed because of the weather, �snow blower�, an ingenious device that blows the snow off your side walk, and �white out� where it snows so hard that all you can see is a sheet of pure white. As you can tell, all of our new words deal with snow. We got our first light snow just a few days before Christmas. It was truly gorgeous. The ground, trees and roofs were covered in powder and icicles hung from the porch. By the end of January, we were getting a bit tired of the cold and inconvenient weather. Then we got a major storm that dumped about 12 inches of snow in just a few hours. Amazing! Luckily we have a snow service that came and plowed us out.

What a difference 3 months make

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For Gontran�s birthday on December 11th, we went to the new fondue restaurant. That was a major hit with the kids. They love dipping their bread into gooey cheese, but nothing compares to the looks of pure ecstasy on their faces when they dip a marshmallow into melted milk chocolate�. By then end of dessert, they were covered from nose to chin in chocolate.

The holiday season kicked off with a trip to the City to see the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular Show. The kids were utterly amazed at how high those girls can kick! After the show we all went to check out the massive tree at Rockefeller Center. There�s nothing like Christmas in New York City.

Christmas morning the kids were delighted to get most of what they asked Santa for. Theo got his green dump truck (OK it is a recycling truck but he doesn�t know the difference) and Madeline got her Barbie guitar. Theo�s giraffe, Sam, got a little red radio flyer wagon, and Madeline�s American girl got lots of new outfits. They both were spoiled rotten with gifts from grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, cousins, etc.

Gontran got an electric blanket from Santa. That has got to be the best invention ever. There is nothing like curling up on the couch in the electric blanket to watch TV on a cold winter night. A great trick is to put your PJs under the warm blanket a few minutes before you get ready for bed. Bliss. Anyway, I digress. The whole family fought over that blanket, so I bought another. Then another one. Then another one. We each have one now.

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We have one pet-a fish that we were given last summer. Actually we had two, one for Theo and one for Madeline, but one bit the dust pretty quickly. Anyway, the surviving fish would not die. We neglected him, forgot to feed him, went away for the weekend and forgot to change his water, but he just kept on. Around Christmas time, Gontran changed the water in his bowl and replaced it with icy cold tap water. He died instantly. I left him floating in the bowl for about an hour and then had a moment of revelation when I realized that he might have died because he was a tropical fish used to warm water. So I poured a little boiling water into the bowl. All of a sudden, he started to flinch and shake and then he started swimming around like nothing happened. Miracle fish!

However, I must admit that he is a little weird since he rose from the dead. He must have suffered some brain damage because he keeps bumping into the glass of his bowl and can�t quite get the fish food into his mouth. We think he drools. Anyway, it is quite a miracle that he survived the ordeal, and such an ironic twist of fate that I accidentally poured him down the kitchen sink while cleaning his bowl this morning. Is that the last we will ever see of Miracle Fishy? I hope his new friends in the sewers don�t make fun of him.

After Christmas, Daddy got his tonsils out.

In January, Theresa came from London for a visit. We did a lot of shopping, toured a bit of New Jersey, and spent a few days in New York City. There�s nothing quite like an open-air bus tour at 16 degrees F.

Easter came really early this year! Normally the Easter Bunny leaves a basket full of treats by the kid�s bed. This year he tricked them and left just one chocolate egg by their bed with a note attached leading them to another place in the house.

I thought that the kids would wake up in the morning and be disappointed to find only one little chocolate egg (until I could explain the game). I was shocked when they both ran into our room so excited that the Easter Bunny gave them a chocolate. That was enough for them! But of course, as they searched the house with each clue, they finally found their baskets, which were filled with toys and candy. That was a huge surprise.

When we first arrived in Fair Haven last April, I was surprised to see all the ladies wearing cute, colorful, feminine sandals. Not very practical, huh? Well now I understand why. For the last five months I wore the same big, black, snow-proof, water-proof sheepskin boots (not top mention a puffy down coat that made me look like a marshmallow). Let me tell you�the first sunny day it hit 55 degrees F, I went straight out and got a pedicure and bought several pairs of sandals�pink with bows, yellow with daisies, lime green with turquoise stripes�.. Summer here we come!

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Madeline loves making tea parties for her dolls. She sets all the dishes and food out and then puts a nametag on each place. She decided to take a break from ballet and is now in tap. She is doing great in kindergarten and really learning how to read and write.

She loves to copy anything written, especially from the Sunday newspaper advertisement sections. But she hasn�t learned about word spacing yet, so I will be proudly handed a page that says:

Madeline also keeps a diary. I asked her to translate this page of it for you:

Do you think it will say the same thing when she is 16? Better yet, do you think she�ll still read it to me?

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Madeline recently wrote her first book entitled �Teddy Lost His Hat.�

She has some trouble with past tense and future tense, especially �tomorrow� and �yesterday.� So she often sounds like a fortune teller who sees the future when she says �Tomorrow we went to the playground.�

Madeline loves drawing, especially portraits. Here�s one that she did of Theo eating his lunch (notice his mouth full of peanut butter).

She is such a compassionate child. She is always concerned about the well being of others, asking what she can do to help the homeless, or simply helping a younger child on the playground. She can�t stand to see anybody hurt, and cries when mommy gets a paper cut and bleeds. She is always full of compliments and wants nothing more than to spend time with her parents or get a big hug.

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Theo�s passion is science. And his all time favorite subject is the human body, specifically germs and viruses. He draws pictures of cells being attacked by microbes. Every Wednesday at the school library, he takes out one of the �Magic School Bus� series that explores inside the human heart, or inside a volcano, or into an electric wire to examine electricity.

He recently took out a book that described all the dinosaurs. He learned all about their eating habits. At the dinner table that night, he proudly declared �I�m a carnivore because I love bacon and steak!� Madeline, however has always preferred pasta, bread and potatoes, so we decided that she is a �carbivore.�

While learning about dinosaurs, we told him about evolution. He had lots of trouble imagining so far back and somehow concluded that Grandpa used to be a monkey when he was a little boy.

Theo is doing great in school. His writing is coming along very well. Only a few months ago he came to me so distraught because he could only spell two words (mom and Theo), but now he�s really taking off. He is very meticulous and gets extremely upset if his letters aren�t perfect. Needless to say, homework takes a LONG time with him. Madeline, however, is unaffected by this perfection gene and zips through her homework not giving a second thought to the accuracy of her work.

Theo started Tae Kwon Do this winter. At first it was such a struggle because he didn�t know any of the moves, and if he couldn�t do it PERFECTLY�.well then forget it! I had to bribe him to go by letting him watch his favorite cartoon Spiderman (usually banned by mom). We persevered and now he is proud to be getting his junior yellow belt. Madeline just rolls her eyes when he tries to perform his moves on her.

He continues to enjoy computer games, especially train game, where he builds train tracks, loads and delivers cargo, etc.

Here�s a picture of our trip to the movies to see �Robots�

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He loved the snow and played outside in it constantly. We bought some special snow paints that he used to color snowballs and decorate his snowman.

He also had a blast sledding and especially liked the double one he used with his sister.

Theo is definitely Daddy�s boy. He wants to be with him constantly and is very proud to speak French with him. First thing in the morning, he always comes straight to daddy�s side of the bed and gives him great snuggles. When I ask him to come to me, he groans. After weeks and weeks of basically begging him to come to me, one morning he did! He came straight to my side and lay next to me. He looked at me with his big eyes with a pitiful and sad look on his face. After about 3 minutes of this miserable look, he said �can I go snuggle daddy yet?� I said yes, and he jumped up in pure glee and leapt over to his side and gave daddy a huge hug.

He won�t let me kiss him, in public or at home. And a sure fire way to make him angry is to say � Theo I love you snuggle bear!� Or to really really tick him off, I tell him that I kiss him 1,000 times while he is sleeping at night! He gives me the �if looks could kill� eyes.

Theo has 2 loose teeth! This is probably the last picture you will see of him without any spaces!

Enjoy spring and summer! We�ll update you again in the fall

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