Museums With Kids

When Ben Blair and I were in Paris for our no-kids weekend, we went to the D’Orsay Museum. We both rented a headphone tour guide and spent several leisurely hours wandering around the museum. Sometimes together. Sometimes alone. It was luxurious to feel so un-rushed. Kids at a museum is a different feel, but we still love it. In Amsterdam, the whole family visited the Van Gogh museum. It’s a great one for kids, because it’s not too big and you can still see a lot in an hour (which is about how long my little ones can last). For this visit we tried something new: We started at the gift shop and had the kids pick out a favorite postcard. We purchased the favorites and then treated the rest of the museum visit like a treasure hunt, trying to spot the originals we could see on our postcards. This was especially great for Oscar and Betty — and the postcards make wonderful souvenirs! How about you? Do you take your kids to art museums? Have any tips or tricks you can share?

The Illusion of Control

What do you do when you feel out of control or powerless? Me? I work. Ben Blair is at the hospital with Maude. His French is one billion times better than mine, and he needs to be there to communicate. Maude is still very sick. Her fever went down in the night, but was back strong as ever this morning. She’ll have her third set of x-rays this afternoon and then we’ll get a current assessment of her status. I am taking care of things at home and feeling frustrated that I can’t do more to help my sick child. I am in need of a distraction and work is the only thing that sounds appealing, so I’m going to post a few things today to keep my head in a happy place and give me the illusion of a little bit of control over my life. Thanks in advance for indulging me. : )

French Greys

images by Sarah of Modern Kids As promised, I’ve made a list of all the sources for our clothing and accessories from the Modern Kids shoot. I keep using the term “French Greys”. I don’t think it’s an official term, but I’ve noticed that pretty much every clothing store here in France carries options in muted greys. They are warm greys — some even lean to purple, like a dove grey. Others are sort of creamy. I love the look! When I was a design student, I had a box of warm grey Prismacolor pencils and I used to admire them when I was bored during class. I feel the same way about the grey clothing and I love that it’s easy to find here. …

Family Photos

[imagebrowser id=2] [nggallery template=’carousel’ id=’2′]   A few weeks ago, Sarah from Modern Kids Photography came to our home to shoot a family photo. We just got the results back and I’m so pleased with how they turned out! I had a hard time narrowing down the images to share with you. Something fun: instead of shooting with a digital camera, Sarah decided to use film. I asked Sarah about it and she said, “These images were shot on a Contax 645. This is a medium format film camera that makes lovely negatives — about twice the size of 35mm film. The bigger the negative the prettier the results — typically. ;) I love film because the process is slower and makes me more thoughtful when shooting. I also loves the beautiful skin tones achieved with film.” I’m pleased with the skin tones too! There is one of Baby June (2nd thumbnail, last row) where she is simply radiant and I want to eat her up. If you’re looking for a great photographer of kids, I highly recommend Sarah. My children adored her and even insisted she stay for dinner! Sarah lives in San Francisco but photographs all over the US (and sometimes Europe). If you’re interested in a film shoot, reserve her quickly, because she only offers a limited number of film shoots per year. Want to see more of Sarah’s work? You can find her on Pinterest and on her blog too. P.S. — Do you like the French Greys we wore? I’ll share all the sources in another post.

Betty & June

I saw this shop featured on Black Eiffel. It’s in Abilene, Texas and the design was done by Ryan Feerer. I love it because it’s great looking, but I especially love it because Betty and June are our two youngest kids and the phrase “Betty & June” is used at our house a dozen times a day. : ) If I’m out and about and I see a shop with one of my kids names (like Oscar’s BBQ in Colorado), I snap a photo. It’s a simple, happy thing to collect. Do you have any silly habits like that?

House Hunters International

Remember the TV crews that came to our house a few months ago? We were being filmed for an episode of House Hunters International — and our episode aired last night! We haven’t seen it yet, but it’s called Historic Country Homes in Normandy, and we had such a fun time filming the show. I’m feeling so nervous. If you get a chance to watch, please tell me my family looks adorable. : ) UPDATE: You can find the episode on YouTube here (it’s in 4 parts). P.S. — The funniest part: We don’t get HGTV here in France, so I didn’t even realize it had aired until I read your comments today on our way back from Paris. So glad you let me know!

Homesick

Can you believe we’ve been in France over 4 months now? We are loving our time here and we are doing our best to make the most of it. But that doesn’t mean we don’t get homesick every once in awhile. Today I woke up missing America — nothing specific really, just the familiarity of it all. Since homesickness was on my mind, I asked the kids what they’re missing most of all. Here’s what they had to say: Betty: Well, what I miss… hmmm… I miss my flower blanket and I also miss our cousins and I miss the green belt behind the house. Oscar: I miss blueberries from Whole Foods! I miss the Sabeys. I think I miss my superhero toy too. Olive: I miss having smoothies every day after school. Maude: I miss cupcake batter. I miss cinnamon rolls. I miss Sour Patch Kids. I miss my gymnastics class and my turquoise bed sheets. And my favorite weeping willow tree on the way home from school. Ralph: I miss pizza delivery. I miss the mall. Sometimes I miss dressing casually. It feels strange to be watching American pop culture happening from so far away. Also, I miss having movie theaters really close to my house. What do you think you would miss most if you moved away from home? P.S. — I took these images last month during a visit to The 104. We heard about it from Jordan. There is a stunning carousel there unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. And no matter how many pictures I took, I couldn’t do it justice. Every creature was elaborate and unique, with parts to manipulate and levers to pull. Truly a stunning work of art. If you want to see it in Paris, act fast, because it’s moving to its next location in a few weeks (we heard London might be the next stop).

Ask Design Mom: Shopping as an Expat

Question: How are you getting your Warby Parkers shipped to France? On their site, they write that they only ship within the U.S. I’m in Canada, and as so often is the case, apparently out of luck in trying out this company. — Anna Answer: Great question, Anna! I have a few different options. 1) I have stuff shipped to my mom who lives in Utah, and then she ships it on to me. 2) I have stuff shipped to Melanie, who watches the P.O. Box I left behind in Colorado. Then she ships it on to me. 3) If I have a friend or relative coming to France for a visit, I have stuff shipped to them and then they bring it to France in their suitcase. 4) When I knew I was going to be in the U.S. for Mom 2.0, I had a few things shipped to my hotel in New Orleans. Like the shoes pictured here. : ) Don’t have those sorts of options available? No stress. Natasha told me about My US and I think it’s genius. You sign up with them for an annual fee and they give you a U.S. shipping address. You can shop from any U.S. stores you like and have the products shipped to your assigned address — then My US forwards the packages on to you wherever you live in the world. I haven’t tried this, but it sounds smart and costs about what I pay for my P.O. Box. How about you Dear Readers? Have you ever tried a service like this? Do you have one you would recommend?

The French Open

On Saturday morning, Ben Blair decided it would be really amazing to attend the final match at this year’s French Open. It was between Federer and Nadal — who are quite possibly the best two players of all time. So he got to work searching every possible online source and around dinner time, we were proud owners of two tickets to the final! Yesterday, we drove to Paris straight from church. Jordan and Paul generously took care of all six kids, while Ben Blair and I grabbed a taxi to Roland Garros. The stadium was very French — lattice work cement, orange clay, green seats and red geraniums lining the court. It was such a treat to be there! This is what it looked like about 30 minutes before the match started:

La Cressonnière: Springtime

A few months ago, I gave you a photo tour of the exterior of the farmhouse. But as you can imagine, Spring has totally transformed it. So I thought I’d show some of my favorite images of La Cressonnière in bloom. These were all taken over the last 2 months. There are more rose bushes than I can count. Huge peony bushes too. It hasn’t rained much this year, but thankfully, that hasn’t stopped the flowers from showing their pretty faces.

Shutters

Another new-to-me aspect of living in France is using shutters. In America, if there are shutters on the building at all, they are generally non-functioning. But in France, shutters are real working parts of the house and they are typically opened and closed daily. In fact, one of my favorite mornings in Paris was spent watching the buildings on the street come alive as each window shutter was opened and folded in for the day. At our house, opening the bedroom shutters has become a part of my morning routine. And closing them at night has become part of my evening one. At first, I wasn’t sure what I thought of it — opening the window to get the shutters in the middle of winter is cold! But we’re four months in and I’ve come to love the shutters. Especially now that it’s staying light until 10:00pm or later. The shutters are so helpful in getting the kids’ rooms nice and dark at bedtime. …

Tulip Fields

On our way to Amsterdam, we stopped to see the world famous tulip fields. But oh dear, we were late! We searched the whole area and there were only a handful of fields still blooming. At first we were shocked. Just five days before our trip, Jordan had visited Holland and dozens of tulips fields were still in bloom. How could they have disappeared in such a short time? But then, it was sort of hilarious — all the tourists were crowded in front of these few remaining fields, trying to get photos to document their visit. Next to the still blooming fields you could see other fields where all the flower heads had been cut off. The flowers aren’t harvested to sell, instead, the flower heads are cut off at full bloom, which apparently makes the bulbs grow their biggest. Then weeks later, the bulbs are harvested and sold. I found it so interesting! Luckily, the few remaining fields made for some great photos anyway. …

Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day, Friends! We are back from Paris. The kids are in school today (it’s not a holiday here in France), but Ben Blair has the day off so we’re going to lunch. My mother snapped these photos when we stopped at an American Military Cemetery after our visit to Mont St. Michel. I find military cemeteries to be peaceful and sobering. So many graves it always makes my heart break. Most graves were marked with names and dates, but some had only the inscription above. Which makes my heart break even more. I hope you’re enjoying your day off and I hope you get a chance to honor your military loved ones today.

Paris

image by Jordan Ferney Hello, Friends! How are you? I want to thank you for the really lovely comments about weaning June. They are such a comfort! I’m actually sneaking out early today because there are fun plans in the works. I’m taking the train to Paris this morning to hang out with my friend Megan — one of my favorite people in the whole world. Then, later tonight, Ben Blair and the kids will meet me in the city and we’ll spend the long weekend playing tourist. We’re planning a picnic at the Rodin Museum, and hoping to see a match at the French Open. (Did I tell you Ben Blair is a huge tennis fan?) I wonder if there will still be huge piles of peonies at the flower shops… How about you? Any fun plans for the 3-day break? Memorial Day weekend always feels like the start of summer to me! kisses, Gabrielle P.S. — Here are this week’s Babble posts: – Am I the only person who still laughs when I hear ‘woot!’? – Possibly, I am turning into a cat person. – Over $1000 for an indoor playhouse? – Vive la Macarons!

Weaning June

Not long ago, June said goodbye to nursing. This was the 6th baby I’ve weaned, so it wasn’t too shocking to me. My body stops producing a lot of milk around the baby’s first birthday and my babies have each let me know — in subtle and not-so-subtle ways — that nursing was no longer as compelling as other food sources. : ) I’m not a very sentimental person. My sister said she think my brain works like a man’s, more practical and problem-solving. And I think she’s right. But I felt very emotional when I realized June was giving up on nursing. (I’m starting to cry right this minute as I think about it.) I kept trying to really pay attention during those last few nursing sessions — not knowing which would be the final one. I watched her little curling fingers and felt her little tummy against mine. I kept thinking I should ask Ben Blair to take a picture so I would have a record of it — but then I couldn’t bring myself to interrupt the sweet moment. (Dang! I wish I had a photo.) It’s hard to imagine I won’t nurse a baby again. So strange. And the funny thing is, nursing isn’t even something I adore. I’ve nursed all my babies, but if I hadn’t been able to, I don’t think I would have minded much at all. I guess that’s why I’ve been thrown off by this emotional reaction to weaning June. Maybe it’s something about feeling like it’s the end of an era for me. What do you think? What is weaning like for you? P.S. — I snapped these photos of June on her first birthday, right after we cleaned all the lemon tart from her hair.

Shooting With Film

images by Sarah Wert I woke up this morning thinking it was Saturday. And it was such a downer when I realized it wasn’t. So dumb! Do you ever do that? I love these behind the scenes shots from our photoshoot last weekend. The photographer was Sarah, of Modern Kids, which is based in San Francisco. Sarah was on a vacation here in Normandy and when she realized how close we were, she offered to come by. I didn’t know this until Sarah started taking pictures, but she’s currently shooting only with film. And she uses a giant old camera (which she let Ralph try out). Isn’t that the coolest? She’s getting the rolls developed next week. I can’t wait to see the results. I don’t think I’ve bought a roll of film in 10 years. Do you ever shoot with film? Or even have a film camera? P.S. — Sarah is fabulous! She’s lived everywhere and knows all sorts of interesting things. My kids fell in love with her instantly. As she was leaving Oscar called out, “I love you Sarah! You can come stay with us anytime. Just skype us and we’ll tell you where we live!!”

Polarn O. Pyret

We talked about Sweden yesterday and how serious the Swedes are about their outdoor gear (loving all the fantastic comments, by the way!). Today, let’s talk more about the gear itself. How they layer, what pieces they invest in, and how they get their money’s worth. From what I understand, it’s a layering process. A specific one. You start with a first layer of 100% wool, or a synthetic material that will wick away moisture from the skin. Next up, you add a warming layer, like fleece. And finally, you add weatherproof outerwear. That’s it in a nutshell, but there’s a really helpful layering guide if you have a million questions and want more details (I did!). Once they are properly layered, you send your kids off to school. When they get to school, if they’re going to be indoors, they take off the outer layers and spend their indoor time in that first wool/synthetic layer. They basically walk around school in their long underwear! I love that!! (Apparently, when they get older, they bring jeans to change into. : ) …

Sweden

A couple of weeks ago, I took a short trip to Stockholm, Sweden. Polarn O. Pyret knew I was a fan, so they invited me and Jordan to visit their headquarters and get a behind-the-scenes look. I was impressed. And I want to tell you all about it. But before I do, we need to talk about Sweden. First off: Gorgeous. The city was gorgeous. The people were gorgeous. Super model gorgeous. Second. My impression is that the entire country is like one big Waldorf school. Very wholesome, with lots of time spent outdoors. People work hard and enjoy their leisure time. The Swedes we chatted with joked about raising their kids like Pippi Longstocking — with lots of play and independence. Third. They do childhood differently than we do in the states. So different. Every single day, children spend hours outside. Every single day without exception. Rain, snow, below zero temperatures. This is not me exaggerating. It’s the real deal. Every. Single. Day. There are preschools that don’t even have a building! They are held entirely out of doors. From drop-off to pick-up. Snack time, play time, learning time all happen outside. And these preschools are not for the fringe thinkers, these are one of several regular options that parents pick from. Are you dying?! Also. Babies in Sweden nap outside. All naps are outside. The babies are bundled up, put in the stroller and rolled out to the porch where they nap for hours at a time — in every kind of weather. Now are you dying?!!! Let’s also remember, that Sweden is super far north. Like moose north. It’s cold up there! So how do they do it? Well, every person I talked to said it was all about the gear. In fact, they have a Swedish saying that roughly translates to: There is no bad weather, just bad clothing. They are super serious about their cold weather wear. This is getting long, so I’ll follow up with a post about the actual visit to the Polarn O. Pyret headquarters later on. In the meantime, I’d love your thoughts. What’s your take on outdoor time every day? Would you be up for it? Would your kids? P.S. — How can you not love a country that came up with H&M, Ikea and Hasbeens? I love the Swedish appreciation for design! I snapped these photos at stores, hotels — even the airport.

Geraniums

We’ve been trying to adopt French traditions where possible. One of our favorites is growing potted geraniums in the windows. We’ve seen them brightening homes all over France. They look so cheery! This was an easy tradition for us to adopt, because I’ve always favored geraniums to greet visitors. Do you keep potted flowers? Do you have a favorite flower to grow?  

La Cressonnière: Ralph’s Bedroom

Would you like to see what Ralph’s bedroom here in France looks like? I’ve got lots of photos to share! When you come in the room, the first thing you see is his bed. It’s a beautiful antique piece with turned wooden spindles. The side folds down so that you can climb in easily. It’s actually intended to be for a child in the 5 to 11 range — much bigger than a crib, but a bit shorter than a twin. Ralph isn’t the tallest kid his age, so he actually fits just fine. Although. He’s totally had a growth spurt since we arrived here — his pants are floods all of a sudden! So I think he may need to move out of this bed soon. : ) The second thing you see is the desk. It’s in a quiet corner next to some bookshelves. A great place to study his French conjugations. : )
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