January 2007

Work Hard, Play Hard.

Let�s pick up where we left off: summer 2006.

We spent a lot of time this summer reading.

We learned to scuba dive

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The highlight of the summer was a much anticipated, much awaited trip to Mexico with Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Mike, Aunt Amy, and cousins Lia, Miles and Danny. Grandma and Grandpa have a time-share in an awesome resort in Puerto Vallarta, and they upgraded to a super mega top-floor suite.

We did it all�Mexican fiesta, water slides, boogie boarding, margaritas, banana boat, pirate ship, tequila factory, and some major R & R.

A few months before the trip, Grandpa was talking to Madeline on the phone and promised to take her shopping in Mexico. So Madeline prepared for that day by practicing the phrase �take me shopping and spoil me rotten!� It worked.

Mexico was the perfect spot for this Matey family reunion. The adults had a relaxing time by the pool sipping cocktails and the kids loved swimming and getting Grandpa to buy them ice-cream.

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We thought that the girls Lia and Madeline would be inseparable, and that Theo and Miles would be buddies, but that didn�t happen at all.

It was Theo and Lia that became immediate friends. They did everything together.

When the vacation was over and we were saying our goodbyes at the airport, unexpectedly, Theo burst into tears. He bawled all the way down the runway and down the aisle of the plane. When we got settled in our seats, he was still crying uncontrollably. He turned to me, and with tear-streaked cheeks he pitifully said �I miss Lia so much that my heart hurts. I�ve never felt this way before, mommy.�

In the midst of all the fun, we took the opportunity to go with a local charity organization and visit a small village that is actually located on the dump. We brought several suitcases full of clothes, food and supplies for Theo and Madeline to hand out. It was a great experience for them to spend the day seeing with their own eyes how other people live and hopefully make them want to help others.

Remember Barbara? We�ve known each other for about 7 years�since England and before babies�.. Well, she and her family moved to Sydney shortly after we came to New Jersey. She (with daughter Azura and 3 week old baby Xanthe) was in Santa Barbara for a few weeks, so I jumped at the chance and went over for the weekend.

What should have been a quick weekend, became even quicker. I just so happened to fly on the day that the British big security alert/ no liquids thing happened. I waited 4 hours to check my luggage. Then another 4 hours in a security line. I missed my flight,

but managed to get onto another. My 48 hours in California quickly evaporated into 24. But it was all well worth it to be able to be outside soaking in the hot tub on a warm summer night sipping champagne with my buddy.

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The kid�s school was under major expansion/renovations this summer and it wasn�t quite finished when school was due to start. So the town decided to delay the opening for 2 weeks. We decided that was the perfect opportunity to take a quick vacation.

There were two things we�ve always wanted to do: go to French speaking Canada and go on an RV trip. So we got some maps, rented at 33-foot monster and headed north (and knocked out several mailboxes along the way).

Our RV was loaded�DVD player, espresso machine, master bedroom with queen sized-bed, cable hookups for the 2 TVs, eating area and fully stocked kitchen. We do love camping�really roughing it, but this was like luxury camping.

At night, we would sit around the fire roasting marshmallows and then if it got chilly, we�d go inside, flip on the heat and snuggle into our 800 thread-count sheets and down comforter. Roasting hot dogs over the fire? No way. Try cooking duck sausages in port sauce and Roquefort mashed potatoes on the stovetop while sipping champagne picked up at a local Quebec vineyard. Now that�s living!

We quickly learned a few tricks- especially when it came to deciding where to camp (park and hook up) each night. We soon figured out that there are several types of campgrounds.

Your best bet is one that has a �14 day maximum stay.� Why? Otherwise the campground is for full timers�yes, the kind that rolled in sometime in the mid-80�s and haven�t left since. Somewhere along the way they decorated for Christmas and decided it looked �purty� and left it up. A few years later someone blew out the tires, added on a porch held together with duck tape and made their kids a playpen out of old bricks.

We�d pull into these communities and feel all eyes upon us. When our neighbor threw an empty bottle of Jack Daniels at his dog calling it a �no good %^$#@� while I said to the kids �time to do your French homework!� and �Gontran, would you like another glass of champagne?� We knew we didn�t quite fit in.

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We also soon learned that the campgrounds with the FEWEST rules were actually the more upscale one. A civilized pool would have one sign that said �no diving.� Other, less reputable ones had several signs, and even some of those signs had additions taped to them:

no cut-offs in the pool (who still wears those?)
no smoking in the pool
No bathing in the pool
No washing clothes in the pool (think about it

�someone had to have actually done it in order for it to now be a rule)

No babies in diapers in the pool (gross)

And here are a few other signs you may see around this campground:

Do not scavenge for wood
Do not leave trash bags at campsite, put in dumpsters
Do not put used mattresses in dumpsters (can I put in a new one?)
Do not put appliances in dumpsters
Fires cannot be higher than knee-high (but I need to burn the evidence!)

We had tons of adventures. We made our way up New Hampshire to the Quebec region of Canada.

One area was known for cheese, and we sampled our way through there. We had lots of fun in the wine region, stocking up on ice wine and some bubbly. We moved up north to the city of Quebec, which was breathtaking. Fall was in full swing there so the colors were fabulous. We then headed up northeast to the more remote areas along the St. Lawrence.

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The kids 7th birthday happened on our way home through Vermont. We made that the best day! We stopped at the alpine slide, the longest candy counter in the world, the Ben & Jerry�s ice cream factory and finished at a huge quarry where you can �mine� your own rocks. What an incredible birthday!

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When we got home, we did have a real party with all their friends. For gifts, we did the same thing as last year and asked everyone to make cards instead of giving gifts (and if the guests wanted to, they could put in $5 towards one �big� present each).

Of course with 35 guests, they got a lot of cash. First, we each gave 20% of the money to one of our favorite charities�sightsavers.org. This organization works to combat blindness and impaired vision in developing countries, restoring sight through specialist treatment and eye care. Madeline and Theo were able to pay for 1 cataract surgery, 34 pairs of glasses, training of medical staff, and eye tests in a rural village. Wow!

Then we went to the toy store! Madeline bought a Doodle Bear and a Barbie styling head. Theo bought some Pok�mon cards, air rockets, and a Hot Wheels racetrack. We still had lots of money left over, so we put it in our savings account at the bank.

Finally, at the end of September, school started! We are in second grade. (Because of all of Theo�s missing teeth, he says �I�m Feo, and I�m in fecund gwade.�) Our teacher is Mrs. Angiolino.

What Theo did this summer

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Halloween: Madeline was a Geisha and Theo was a Hershey Kiss. Madeline really played the part and kept a serious look. She refused to smile. Theo�s costume, made with a glue gun and silver fabric, was a bit difficult to maneuver through doorways.

In November, the dads and the boy scouts went on an over-night trip on board the battleship New Jersey.

Battleship NJ � It�s been through 4 wars. Now it must survive a night with the Boy Scouts.

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Then Mamie and Bon Papa came for a visit. Bon Papa brought an entire suitcase full of Pok�mon cards for Theo, and Mamie brought a suitcase full of American Girl Doll clothes that she made for Madeline.

Mamie measured the kids for some new outfits

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The basement is finally done! Long story short, our basement renovation contractor decided that though he was 300% over budget and 14 weeks over deadline, he still needed more money and more time to complete the job� We refused. He bailed.

So Bon-Papa gave us a whole week of his time to help us finish the job! Merci! Merci! Merci! We even put the kids to work painting.

The underwear crew

Check out the basement, before and after.

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Now you see it, now you don�t...

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The laundry room before and after:

We held an �orphans� Thanksgiving again this year for anyone who was around or didn�t have family in the area. We had the Stypa family, the Butlers, Gontran�s parents and us.

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We kicked off the Christmas season with a visit from Uncle Barry and Uncle Elias. We gave these two hip London city-slickers a taste of suburbia and a big shopping spree to Target. We enjoyed having them so much�come back soon! The kids ADORE them (who doesn�t?).

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Soon after we put up the Christmas decorations, Madeline got started on her list to Santa. She had mentioned several times that she wanted the Polly Pocket Cruise Ship. I said NO WAY because it is too big�where will we put it?�and expensive. So I told her she would have to think of something else because the cruise ship was not going to happen.

She continued to beg. Every time the commercial for it came on, she would scream and point. She�d still frame the TV and stare longingly at it. She tore out pictures of it in the Toys R Us catalogue. At dinner, she would casually mention that the Polly Pocket Cruise Ship had a gift shop, Jacuzzi, and rock climbing wall. I held strong and still said �no way.� In her note to Santa she states: �Please Santa I want the Polly Pocket Cruise ship that nobody will get for me.�

When it came time for Theo and I to shop for his present to Madeline, he knew what she wanted. I still refused and told him it was too big and cost too much. He negotiated to give her some of his space in the toy closet, and stated that he wanted to buy it for her with his own money, no matter how much it cost. How could I say no to that? So we surfed the web and found a great deal on the cruise ship.

He was so excited when it arrived. We hid in the laundry room and wrapped it. He put it under the tree and surprisingly did not give away his big secret. He threw her off by hinting that it was something for her calico critters. He kept it a secret for three whole weeks. Good boy! Christmas Eve, the kids each got to open one gift�Madeline chose Theo�s. She couldn�t believe her eyes! She gave her brother the hugest hug!

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Christmas Eve we went to the Daluise home for a delicious dinner.

Christmas morning found Madeline clutching the alarm clock waiting for 7 AM (our minimum wake up hour).

You just can�t beat the look on their faces when they saw all the presents Santa left. Because they�ve been SO good this year, Santa went a little crazy�.. �Thank you, Santa, Thank you!� we heard over and over. Hey! How come Santa gets all the credit? Oh, yeah�..

Big hits this year for Madeline were the flannel nightgown with a matching one for her American Girl Doll, the Keira teenager doll, paint by numbers, and of course the Polly Pocket Cruise Ship. Theo�s favorites were the Marble Run, crystal maker, mosaics, and spy kit. They both love the keyboard.

Mom made each child a coupon book with coupons such as �you don�t have to eat your vegetables tonight�, �You get to go to bed 30 min later�, �One trip to the movies� or �You can get anything you want for diner�...

For Christmas lunch, Gontran made a fabulous cheese fondue.

At the end of the day, Madeline said �Santa gave me everything on my list�even a Merry Christmas!�

We spent the whole week between Christmas and New Years doing absolutely nothing. The day before Christmas, Mom stocked up on delicious food and snacks. Santa brought lots of board games, arts �n crafts projects, books, puzzles, wine, chocolates, magazines, DVDs, (and a list of handy-man tasks for Gontran). So we all just hung out in our pajamas for days on end puttering around. It was so relaxing.

Daddy even had the time to clean out the garage - For the first time ever, we can put both cars in!

I�m not sure how the kids managed to convince us to let them stay up until midnight on New Years Eve. By 11 PM they were zombies on the couch, so we made them run in the backyard to stay awake. At 11:57 we talked about all the great things that happened to us in 2006. At 11:59, we gave each other �the last hug of 2006� and �the last kiss of 2006�. At 12:00 we screamed �Happy New Year 2007!!!�

Theo looked at me with his big blue eyes and burst into sobbing tears saying �I�m going to miss 2006�.it was the best year of my life! I just want one more day of 2006. I�m not ready for 2007.� OK, Theo, goodnight.

Madeline and Theo were so sorry to be far away from the rest of the Quillacq clan for the European Christmas gathering.

Probably because they know who their cousins really are!

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Madeline is doing really well in school. She loves reading and library.

She loves drawing pictures of princesses.

She has lost a few more teeth (and a molar pulled by the dentist).

One day when Madeline and I were having chat on the couch, I told her that she was growing up so quickly and how I was worried that she wouldn�t be my little girl for much longer and how it was making me kind of sad that she was getting older. Her response? �Mom, you gotta go with the flow.� Where did she hear that?

A few recent pieces of art:

A 12-page - story about the banana boat accident in Mexico

A drawing of the family

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Theo loves school. He is really good at math and science.

He has all kinds of things going on in his mouth right now. In fact, the orthodontist is probably going to put him in braces this spring for 9 months. Apparently by doing this so young, he can avoid more serious problems later. A seven year-old with braces?

He enjoys drawing pictures of mazes or anything geometric.

His main passion is Pok�mon cards. He is in a Pok�mon club, watches Pok�mon on TV, is going to the NJ Pok�mon tournament next week, spends hours organizing his Pok�mon collection, and even wrote a letter to the tooth fairy to inform her that he will �only allow Pok�mon cards.�

A few recent pieces of work

A welcome guide to Fair Haven

Some Pokemon thoughts

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We have been really working on our reading. Both kids went up a level (pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, white, black). Madeline went to blue and Theo went to purple. So we celebrated with a purple and blue cake!

That�s it for this update. We wish you all a very happy and healthy 2007.

And remember, we have a guestroom ready for you anytime! Now that the basement is finished, we can get at least 10 more people in there. Our wish for 2007 is to have lots of visitors!

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