Random Thoughts

I hope you’re in the mood for a Random Thoughts post. Here are some of the things on my mind:

-For the past three Christmases, our kids have been part of a big production of Scrooge the Musical. In fact, Oscar played Tiny Tim all three years — with a lovely solo song! The rehearsals always started in the fall and the play was essentially a daily part of our life for a couple of months. It feels a bit strange this year not to be taking part. If you’re curious, you can see last year’s production on Vimeo — Oscar’s solo starts at 1:24:26.

-France is in the middle of a big strike. It’s been going for a week and a half and they expect it will continue through Christmas. The trains and subways are mostly not running, and to me it feels like the whole country is at a bit of standstill. We know several people who have cancelled their travel plans for December, and our friends who live in the suburbs of Paris can’t get to work at all.

Since Ben Blair and I work at home, we’ve mostly not been affected, but that changed this weekend because our older three kids are headed here for the holidays. Ralph’s flight was scheduled to arrive this morning, and we knew he wouldn’t be able to get a train from Paris to Argentan, so Ben drove to Paris last night, and stayed over at an airport hotel, so he could pick Ralph up this morning. That all worked beautifully, but then they got stuck in traffic for hours. They should have arrived home at about 1:30 PM and instead they’ll get home around 4:00 PM.

We’re actively trying to avoid Paris until the strike is over, but we’ll need to head back in to pick up Olive and Maude too. Though I should note: we are more than happy to do it — we’re so excited to have the whole family home for the holidays. I’m confident about the pick up for Maude because it’s the same thing we just did for Ralph, but I’m worried about getting Olive from Montpelier to Paris where we can pick her up. We’re making our plans and crossing our fingers.

-This past week Ralph finished his finals, and just before Thanksgiving, he submitted his transfer application to the U.C. schools. It’s been a challenging semester we’re glad he’s getting a break. In addition to his heavy load of coursework, he was also determined to make a movie — and he just finished the editing a couple of days ago. It’s called Sea Chub and it’s about a fish who can impart knowledge. (It’s 12 minutes.)

-Maude’s finals are this week. I have the impression this has been her favorite semester so far. She loves her classes, she loves her roommates, and she seems to be thriving.

-Olive is deep in the middle of figuring out what comes next after her year as an Au Pair. She’s thinking about studying film and has made a spreadsheet of all the programs she’s interested in, with application dates and tuition costs and that sort of thing, and she’s gearing up to make some big decisions.

-Last week Oscar had his Eagle Board of Review — via Skype — and passed! He’s officially an Eagle Scout. Woo hoo! We’re not sure when we’ll do his Court of Honor, but we’re told they are actually optional, so we’re not in a big hurry. I would love to do it back in Oakland with his troop.

Oscar is still working on his French — he feels like he’s about 50% there. And he looks forward to math class because he’s awesome at math in both English and French. : )

-Betty has been killing it at school, which is especially amazing since her French is also not fluent yet.

When school started her hardest subject was probably Spanish. Betty has had no previous Spanish but her classmates are on year two of Spanish studies, so catching up was a challenge. But even more challenging is that she is having to learn Spanish via French. So tricky! Can you picture the vocabulary lists? She has to learn the French words before she can learn the Spanish words. But she has studied like crazy and is now really excelling in her Spanish class.

-Flora is still the newest to French so you can imagine how challenging it is to be in a fully French classroom all day long — with no French-as-a-second-language program. Olive was Flora’s age when we first moved to France and she said it took at least six months till she felt like she was functional with basic French, and that those six months were really, really hard. We’re super proud of Flora for showing up everyday and doing her best.

Last Friday, each student in Flora’s grade had to recite a memorized poem in front of the class. She worked so hard to memorize that poem! And when she recited it, her teacher had the class give her a big round of applause.

-Christmas shopping has been an adventure so far. In the U.S., I did most of our shopping online, but here I do about 75% in store, and 25% online. There are some things I wanted to gift that I can’t get here, so Ralph is bringing a suitcase of items as well. In fact, the morning he flew out, I asked him to stop at Target to pick up a few packs of those fold-flat gift boxes in the holiday section. Probably I’m looking in the wrong places, but I can’t find anything like that here. Hah!

I think that’s it for now. Please feel free to respond to my random thoughts, or you can leave your own random thoughts in the comments. I always love to hear what’s on your mind.

P.S. — More random thoughts.

34 thoughts on “Random Thoughts”

  1. I live in Albania and struggle with shopping too. I miss the convenience of Amazon and even Walmart. While I do love the European style of shopping for groceries, it is so difficult for everything else. I never know where to look for half of the household items or gifts we need. We usually end up ordering on Amazon and bringing everything back in suitcases after our yearly trip home to the US.

      1. I was just in India for work, and lost my crochet hook on the flight over! I was determined to find one while I was there as I was trying to finish a Christmas project. Gave me just a tiny peek into how challenging it must be to shop for simple, yet semi-random, items. Finally I just resorted to old, faithful amazon…a pack of crochet hooks were delivered to my hotel a few days later!

  2. Being a parent of two children, it is eye opening for me to imagine having family members with so many different experiences – and joys and challenges! We have decidedly “good” times and “hard” times in our family of four. With a larger family, does it feel like there is variety in everyone’s outlook at any given moment?

  3. I LOVE your Random Thoughts posts! And I totally teared up when I read about Flora’s class applauding for her. Bravo for walking through the hard stuff with your kids and cheering on their daily accomplishments!

  4. So wonderful for you to have all your family together for the holidays…

    My random thoughts for this evening:

    I’m trying to balance work, some one on one time with my children as they all finish up school for the year and prepping for our big family holiday celebration.

    I was thrown a curve ball this evening when I ended up at our local hospital with a possible diagnosis of appendicitis for my son. We are back to hospital again very early in the morning for more tests to clarify what is going on.

    I am worried about the huge bushfires in places I know and love. The Blue Mountains west of Sydney are ablaze and frighteningly the fire front spreads almost to the coast.

    I’m angry our politicians have been so slow to acknowledge the link between bushfires, drought and ultimately climate change and have worked hard to find loop holes to avoid fulfilling our responsibilities to manage our CO2 emissions responsibly.

    I’m hoping all those incredible fire fighters can spend some time with their families over the coming weeks and those who have lost their homes feel supported and loved by their community

  5. These posts are my current favorite – I love hearing about the small and big details of life in the Blair family! I found myself tearing up reading about how your little kids are doing in French school. I don’t know why – I guess it’s just pretty awesome to read about kids who are making what could be a really tough situation into a challenge, and then kicking it’s butt!!

  6. We’re planning a France trip in March and getting concerned about how the strike will impact everything. What do you hear about the 2020 forecast?

  7. Look in to Flixbus for transport in lieu of trains. So cheap and they run pretty much everwhere. Good luck with everything for christmas!

  8. Loved Ralph’s excellent film.
    So happy Maude Emma is happy.
    Olive and a spreadsheet! Wise girl.
    Congrats to Eagle Scout Oscar.
    Betty–of course she would make it work.
    We want to hear Flora’s poem so we can applaud, too.

  9. I think you might like to shop for gift-wrapping (and party) items at mylittleday.fr (they have some smaller gift boxes, but not ones big enough for clothing). For larger boxes, I’ve only found at Ikea here (search “boîte cadeau” at ikea.fr). You can have them shipped if you don’t live near an Ikea. Happy holidays to you & your family!

  10. I get to drive to LAX this Saturday AND Sunday. I’m more then happy to do so since it means my partner is coming home for the holidays. He’s been in Atlanta since August working and then Sunday his daughter flies in from Italy to stay with us for 2 weeks…. this holiday I’m looking forward to cozy family time more then anything! We were going to plan a trip to Mexico but with all the traveling I’ve been doing this year (Atlanta) and my partner being gone…staying put sounds so good right now!
    This week is full prep mode for a house to be full again!
    Happy holidays ♥️♥️♥️

  11. Ralph’s film is amazing! Seriously. It reminded me a bit of a modern Michael Mann, especially Manhunter (a gruesome movie but I do think Michael Mann is a wonderful filmmaker). I can’t imagine that he won’t have a wonderful career in film. Literally everything about his movie, from the cinematography to the music to the story to the acting was really well done. How many times have you watched it?!?!? It’s so good!

  12. What kind of conversations do you have about college debts? Is it on each child to decide how much they take on? Do you have a per kid contribution? I’m overwhelmed by this stuff and my daughter is a Junior. Would love a post about this!

  13. Gabby, you are such an incredible mama. I admire you and your family in so many ways. But reading about your kiddos makes my heart swell. Love to you and Ben Blair, gosh you two are so good at parenting. <3

  14. Oscar solo is fantastic! does he miss singing? there should be plenty of choirs in Argentan? About shopping, bravo for making 75% shopping not on line and support your local designers/crafters, we’re fighting so hard for that right now in France.
    About the strike, have you thought about blablacar? good luck with that, it’s totally that time of the year…
    Bravo to your children for adapting so well!

  15. Loving this random thoughts post. I am amazed by how you handle such a diversity of things all at once. So thanks for sharing and inspiring. I believe the situations we have to face, are presented to us for a reason. This year I am buying lots of second hand gifts, doing something my self and supporting local community to do something to reduce my environmental footprint and I invite everyone else to do so. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  16. I find it so interesting to know what people are missing from their countries and need to make sure to have it shipped!
    I’m french and I wouldn’t need I think to necessarily have a box to pack Christmas presents, and if yes, i would use the sustainable method of a shoe box or something :)
    Indeed, I wouldnt know where to direct you to find one … Good luck!
    You can look for carpool options for getting people from the airport: blablacar is great, and cheap!

  17. What item would you suggest bringing to gift to a French/Swiss host family? They also have a teenage daughter so any sought after American items? Thank you!

  18. As always, I love your random thought posts. Here are mine:

    -My husbands busiest time of year for our business is December and we are like ships passing in the night. But we are in the home stretch and I am looking forward to both of us not having to be anywhere.

    -Part is the holidays is managing stress and boundaries with family. It can be hard! I am so grateful for my mom who has never questioned my boundaries. Ever. If I didn’t show up to her house for family stuff for 6 months, she would just tell me to take all the time I need. I want to be like that when I am an older mom. Take myself and my personal worth out of the equation.

    -How do I get my 9 year old to stop lying about the stupidest things??

    -There are so many good movies in the theaters and I need to make a list and get busy watching them!

  19. HI Gaby, *may I suggest Bla Bla Car for your daughter in Montpellier?
    She just needs to sign in her name and write a request: date and where she wants to go. She doesn’t have to be 18. She will have to pay a fee but it’s really cheap, much cheaper than train or plane and eco friendly as she’d be sharing a car with people who are already driving to that place anyway.
    Good luck for everything, happy celebrations!

  20. For your gift boxes, you should look at Hema (there is an on-line store). The equivalent in the US, or at least NYC, would be flying tiger

  21. I have followed you for years, but now that we’ve moved from the US to Portugal (July this year), your posts about life in France are extra special. So much of what you are experiencing is happening in our lives too! Someone coming to visit? Here’s the list of things you must bring! If your family is ever headed to Portugal for a visit, you can all stay with us, we have a big house and we love visitors :)

  22. Love getting this update, particularly on all the life changes for the kids, but I agree that I’d love to hear how you and Ben Blair are re-adjusting to life in France.

    -My 18-yo daughter got home yesterday from her first semester at college. It was rough. My husband and I were on campus Monday helping to move most of her stuff to her new dorm room. We’re hoping the room change and a greater understanding of navigating college expectations will make the spring a more positive experience for her.

  23. My goodness, your children are amazing….So industrious and determined! It makes me think how much wisdom you have to share about parenting! Also, I do enjoy your random thoughts. Hope your holidays have been wonderful.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top