2007 - For Better or for Worse

2007 ended with a post-Christmas trip up to Vermont to the Stypa’s home. We enjoyed a week of skiing, eating, and sitting by the fireplace. Elizabeth broke her knee while teaching Theo to ski…..


We ushered in New Year’s with our latest obsession, the board game Settlers of Catan. The game soon gravitated to our friend’s homes and has become a monthly (or sometimes weekly) competition.

Madeline advanced to “orange level” in reading, and Theo to “green”, so they each made a dessert in celebration of their color.

Cousin Ryan came to visit


Madeline made great Valentine’s Day cards—they were cell phones with candy buttons!

The family really loved skiing in Vermont (except Elizabeth) so we all went up to Mont Tremblant in Quebec, Canada for 2 weeks of pure joy.

We have been to this area before and just love it. Everyone speaks French, albeit with a bizarre accent and vocabulary, and the food is a marvelous combination of French-inspired Canadian. Cheese! Crepes! Foie Gras! Wine! Venison! Croissants! And everything maple- maple mustard, maple wine, maple sauce on duck, maple candy, maple whipped cream, maple liquor, maple nuts, etc. It is a winter wonderland with so many activities.

Making maple candy

collecting humongous icicles

Ice slide

hot tub when it is –25 degrees outside!

Ski lessons

Indoor water park



Chateau de Quillacq

Best fondue in the world

Cross-country skiing

The ski bike is not just for kids

Sure, honey, we can make it — this car is 4-wheel drive.

Thanks for the help!

Back home, the kids marveled over the lunar eclipse, during a long cold night...

And our first snow fall!

So, now on to the saga of my knee. I tore some ligaments and other vital parts and needed major surgery. The recovery was brutal—a month unable to drive and unable to walk. Followed by 3 months of grueling physical therapy.

Thank you to all my friends and neighbors who took care of Theo and Madeline, cooked us dinner, picked up Vicodin and Percocet at the pharmacy, and drove me to physical therapy.


The Easter bunny arrived

Madeline’s Easter tree decorations


The kids got sick! A very rare occurrence in this house. Sleeping on the couch with the electric blanket got them well

Adventure time! We decided to take the kids off the beaten path to somewhere different and exotic. After much research, we settled on Peru!

We wanted to show the kids how mommy and daddy used to travel the world with a backpack…… So everybody got their own little backpack with ONE change of clothes and just a few essentials to last 10 days. It was so liberating to have so little! When your outfit was dirty, you gave it to the hotel laundry at night and it would be clean in the morning. Simple.

We stayed at very authentic, cozy lodgings—in a converted convent, an old Spanish residence, an eco-friendly tree house, etc. We wanted the experience to be really unique and full of local influence.

We arrived first in Cusco, which has an elevation of 11,000 feet. That is pretty high and altitude sickness is a problem. Not to worry, we did like the locals and drank coca tea (leaves of the plant that are used to make cocaine). It tastes bitter, but it does give you quite a buzz!

Theo preferred the tourist solution of pure oxygen

Cusco is an amazing colonial town with Inca roots and Spanish influence.

With an enchanting music and culture

We took a train through the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu.

Mom’s knee has made a full recovery!

A few days later, we went higher into the mountains to a tiny village that made gorgeous weavings and chullos (hats). The villagers were ver6y surprised to see us, but happy to show us around. Luckily we were able to buy some original pieces from them.

We visited the Salinas—natural salt mines

The Inca crop experiments

We spent the day at one of South America’s most vibrant markets—Pisac.

We finally got up the courage to try the local dinner favorite—roasted guinea pig.

Tastes like chicken, really.

A meeting of all the local leaders.

More amazing Inca stonework at Sassuihuaman (the kids got a kick out of the name because it is pronounced “sexy woman”)

A parade in Cusco!

We then ventured on to Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, at a whopping 13,000 feet.

We all felt pretty sick that first night and had to have oxygen tanks brought to our hotel room.

We toured the “floating islands”, literally island made of many feet of reeds.

After a 5 hour boat ride, we landed on the very remote island of Taquile where we were to stay for 2 days with a host family.

This secluded island has no running water, electricity or bathrooms. It was a great way to really live like a native a show the kids a rich culture with no western influences.

Surprisingly, the food was delicious, not particularly sanitary, but yummy all the same. Quinoa and eggs with some local tea was our breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The first night, we were all invited to a local dance, on the condition that we borrowed our hosts finest clothes and dressed appropriately.

Madeline danced the night away!

Only interrupted by an incredible hail

Next we took a quick flight to Arequipa, a beautiful town at the base of several volcanoes with Baroque churches and mansions from the Colonial Period.

Good bye Peru !

Budget for this trip for four people, including food, hotels, transportations and activities? $2,300!

Showing the kids that poor countries can be welcoming, beautiful and rich in culture? Priceless.

Congratulations yet again to Elizabeth for an outstanding organization!

Mom was pretty sick when we got home, and was in and out of the hospital for a month—A 3rd world traveler with a 1st world stomach!

I lost 20 pounds and soon everyone wanted to know about the de Quillacq diet: Go to Peru and eat at Yolanda’s house, where the food stored in metal coffee cans in the dirt floor kitchen, dishes are washed in dirty bucket of water and tea is made by pulling some leaves off a bush and soaking it in warm river water.


Back to reality and on with the social calendar, including a Kentucky Derby Party.

Picnic on a small island in the bay

Summer is coming! Time for Theo to brush-up on his hole digging skills

Fun and games at the Gavioli’s birthday party

Theo loves cooking a meal. He starts with a recipe, makes a shopping list, goes to the grocery store with mom, and does all the cooking by himself (practically).

Fruit shish kebobs; ham, broccoli and cheese parcels; and chocolate-marshmallow cake.

At school, the kids studied the 50 states and had to do a report on one.

They performed a fabulous show called “Fifty Nifty States”

Dinner parties go from elegant to obnoxious


This is our last year at Sickles School. Next year, Madeline and Theo will be going to Knollwood, which is 4th-8th grade. So near the end of 3rd grade, there is a ceremony called “Transition Day”. The 3rd graders all gather together and ride their bikes en masse to the new school (with a police escort!)

Along the way, towns people stand on the side of the road and cheer or draw “good luck 3rd grade” in chalk on the road.

When the kids arrive at Knollwood, they are greeted by a welcome show and escorted around the building by the principal.

Last day of school pool party!

1st day of summer vacation and we hit the beach club and the shore!

Happy Birthday Mom!

Mom took sailing lessons


Oh Canada! We’re back! We just can’t get enough of our northern neighbor, and decided to check out the Quebec Province in the summer. In order to experience a more authentic and comfortable stay, we decided to do a home exchange. We ended up having 3 great offers that we couldn’t refuse, and so did three swaps back-to-back for a total of five glorious weeks.

We started off in St. Sauveur, and adorable town in the Laurentian mountains. Our home was so lovely, complete with a trampoline and tennis court.

We spent every day outside soaking up the glorious scenery. The “petit train du nord,” a converted railway line perfect for long bike rides.

Mountain luge

The underwear brigade conquers a rock

North America’s best zip-line park

Lounging in the sun

High jumps

Next we headed up to Mont Tremblant to a lovely home on the lake, where daily kayaking and canoeing was enjoyed.

Late night canoeing with sparklers

Roasting marshmallows in the evening

Followed by reading on the porch at night

We also enjoyed daily concerts during the Tremblant Jazz Festival

Climbing the iceberg

Finally, we headed on to Ste. Adele to an amazing home by a river with a swimming pool.

More rock climbing

Nightly bonfires

Dad made Theo a slingshot.

An incredible water park

Go karting

The boys won 1st place

Or maybe not!

The kids improved greatly their French by listening to the radio in Quebec:

“McDonald’s, c’est ca que j’aime!”

Budget for this trip for four people, including transportation, accomodation and activities? $500 (except food!)

Showing the kids that developed countries can be welcoming, beautiful and rich in culture? Priceless.

Congratulations yet again to Elizabeth for an outstanding organization!


Back home just in time for the Police / Elvis Costello concert

A trip to the city and Mme. Tussaud’s

A visit from Jorge and Michelle!

The Fireman’s Fair always means that summer is over. For weeks, Madeline had been building her courage to ride the scariest ride there—“the rainbow”.

Here she is, ready to go!

During the ride...

... and after


Mamie and Bon Papa are soon to be great grandparents!

Loic and Sophie are expecting a baby in the spring.

School time!

For Madeline’s birthday, she begged for her first slumber party. It took lots of planning and tons of research, but we really pulled together a great party.

Madeline hand made these creative invitations

The evening started with a trip to the pizza parlor, then a trip to the mall for some browsing. Back at home we had cake, decorated pillow cases, watched a movie and played truth or dare and “what if” (what would you buy if you had a million dollars? What would you do if you had only one week to live? If you could change your name, what would you choose? Etc.)

Theo’s party was the next day. We picked up his friends and headed to the pizza parlor for lunch. Then we drove to the Liberty Science Center and explored the exhibits and saw an IMAX movie. Then we headed home, first stopping at the ice cream place for sundaes. Then back to our house for fun and games.

Sorry, only one photo to show you because 5 rowdy boys really kept me on my toes!

Theo has a very old Game Boy that I bought for him second-hand a few years ago. He loves it even though he can barely see through the scratched-up screen. I decided to really splurge on him this year and get him the red Nintendo DS lite. Madeline was in on my plan and helped me trick him.

The first present he opened was from her—it was the AWESOME Pokemon Diamond game. Theo looked so sad when he opened it and said “oh man, this is the best game in the world, but I can’t use it because it is only for DS” We told him how sorry we were and that we would return it to the store tomorrow. He was so upset.

He opened other presents from friends and family and finally got to mom and dad’s gift. As he tore off the wrapping paper, his look of confusion turned to a look of sheer disbelief. “Are you kidding me? Is this really the new Nintendo DS?” he asked. He could not believe his eyes and could not stop smiling for days.

Madeline’s big gift was a new bike.

Happy 9th birthday!!!!

We headed over to the Delaware Water Gap for our annual camping trip with friends.

Gontran proved his skills with the axe and now goes by the name of Lumber-Jacques.

The food was superb as usual.

The event of the year! The much anticipated Goble-Ewert wedding finally arrived! We flew to California and stayed with Aunt Barbara and Uncle Mike.

Meet the family

Sande helped Uncle Mike with his tie

Cousin Ryan, me and Uncle Mike

Sande and Aunt Barbara

The Goble- Herrick-Matey clan

Madeline made her debut as a flower girl.

The wedding had a 1940’s theme.

The first dance

Mike, Barb, Allison and new Mike

The father of the bride’s speech left us all looking for Kleenex.

Madeline danced the night away.

Brother Mike is a bad influence

Will you dance with me mom?

The next morning we had an early breakfast to say good bye to the newlyweds at Allison’s crepe restaurant.

Then we drove up to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for a visit. (and a game of bocci)

Back home in New Jersey.... While at the grocery store, Theo asked if I could buy him some Mountain Dew.

Mom said:

- “How do you know what that is?”

Theo replied:

- “Madeline and I drank a bunch of it in the plane from California. While you were sleeping, we pressed the button with the lady with a tray. The stewardess came, asked what we wanted and we asked for a sugary fizzy drink. She brought us some Mountain Dew. And she kept bringing it every time we pressed the button! “

A few bits about the twins

Madeline & Theo had their teeth fixed - it’s early, but much easier at their age.

Theo’s teeth before


and after

Madeline’s teeth before


and after

Theo’s current obsession is making paper airplanes. He has a book to help him make ones that fly high, fly low, fly fast, fly in a circle, etc. Give that boy a ream of paper and he’s happy for hours!

After we left Aunt Barbara’s she said she found 17 planes all over her house that he made in one day.

Theo and Madeline are taking a break from piano and have joined the school band. Theo is rocking it on the oboe and Madeline is jamming on the flute.

And a few miscellaneous

Check back in January, as I plan on doing updates more often (a New Year’s Resolution)

OK, now here it is, click here for your moment of Zen.