Thursday, May 26, 2011

Forgetful Mommy

I hate when I pull a stupid parent moment. This morning I dropped my sad, tearful Livia off at school then headed on my brisk walk to get Mya and Celine to school. While walking I noticed a little girl headed in the other direction with a see through backpack. In her backpack was a lunch. Wait a second... You can't bring a lunch to school (you either eat school lunch or you get picked up and eat at home then get brought back). It immediately hit me. OH MY GOODNESS!!! "Mya, is it Livia's school field trip today???" Ummm... "Yea, Mom, I think it is". This is an all day field trip from 8:30-5:30. You know, the kind of field trip where you pack a backpack with a lunch, sun screen, hat etc... I didn't even bring my bag and phone, so no money and no communication. Just my metro pass. I ran to the metro as fast as I could, ran up the stairs and had to wait 4 minutes for the metro. It felt like 4 hours. The Metro was jammed packed but their was no way I was not getting on that train, so I shoved my way in the crowd packed like sardines and waited so impatiently for my stop and ran home, up 5 flights of stairs and busted in the door and yelled.... "Jeff!!!!! Is it Livia's school field trip today?!?!?! Wiping the sleep from his eyes because he stayed up until 2am working on a school paper, he said "Let's check. Yep, it is." I bursted into tears, ran to the kitchen and started making her a lunch and packing a backpack for her while Jeff called the school. He was told that it was too late and not to worry about it because they were about to leave. Because of my uncontrollable crying he grabbed the bag and ran out the door to see if he could make it on time. In the meantime I cried and prayed on the couch while my 22 month old little Eva told me it would be ok and rubbed my face. Jeff called a few minutes later and told me he barely made it and was able to wave goodbye to her as they rode off on the bus.

We usually have our computer remind us of all of our events, but Jeff turned off the calendar reminders because of a school presentation and forgot to turn it back on so we totally forgot. I seriously felt like the worst Mom ever in that moment. She didn't even want to go to school and was crying this morning and I just sent her to school and didn't tell her about her field trip or send her with anything. I'm happy she got her bag and I'm happy Jeff picked up a few things at the store last night because it made it easy for me to throw a lunch together. I hope she has a good time on her field trip.

Ugh, this parenting thing never seems to get easier!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

L'aperitif

Just after getting home from a long day at the MBAT with Jeff and the girls (which HEC won!!) our downstairs neighbor came up to invite us to have an "l'aperitif" with them (a "l'aperitif" in France is a small get together with drinks and light finger foods). Although we were a bit tired, we were thankful for the invite and we wanted to get to know them better (and we were very curious to attend our first l'aperitif), so we said yes. It was really cute and fairly formal. When we walked in we noticed that their apartment was spotless even with having two children. The kids were ready for bed, and somehow they were able to play with our 3 oldest girls pretty quietly...amazing. We shared some very brief small chat and then were invited to sit on their sofa. The husband sat in a chair to our left and the wife sat in a chair to our right. It felt as if we were being surrounded! They offered us drinks (and were surprised with the non-alcoholic requests) and also brought out a tray of cute little finger foods. There were 4 items: cherry tomato with feta cheese on a toothpick, cantaloupe, crackers, and a thin meat (I think salami). We were given toothpicks, and about every 3-4 minutes the husband dutifully rose and served us from the tray. We're not sure if he did this out of a kind of protocol or just because we weren't taking the food ourselves. It was formal, but very cute.

Now, it wouldn't be a good story without a little action, right? Well, leave it up to me to provide the action. I'm not exactly sure how this happened, but mid-sentence I made a gesture with my hand that was holding my drink and ended up spilling my Coke all over my leg and all over their sofa! Great move Christa! The kids were in the other room, so I couldn't even blame it on one of my children, which I probably would have done... Ha ha! After that I was too nervous to actually take a drink, so I just gripped the glass with all my strength for the rest of the night to ensure no more spills. Maybe next time I should bring my own sippy cup!!

Fun night overall, despite my clumsiness!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Jeff's Press Release

Angel network hires McCombs student

Austin Business Journal - by Christopher Calnan, Staff Writer

Date: Friday, May 20, 2011, 7:28am CDT

The Central Texas Angel Network has enlisted its first full-time employee to handle the day-to-day duties of managing its growing roster of investors.

Nevada native Jeff Harbach is scheduled to assume his duties at the Austin-based angel investor group in August. He will replace Executive Director Randall Crowder, who plans to focus on local investment firm TEXO Ventures, where he is managing partner, while taking an advisory role at CTAN.

The move to a full-time employee coordinating CTAN’s activities is the latest in a series of indicators that the popularity of angel investing is surging in Central Texas. Such growth is a positive development for local entrepreneurs seeking investment in early-stage companies and investors who want to be involved in Austin’s startup community.

CTAN, which was founded in 2006, reports having about 70 member investors. Crowder managed the angel group while completing his MBA at the University of Texashttp://www.bizjournals.com/ - bizWatch-infoPopup’ McCombs School of Business.

Harbach, who is also a McCombs School student, is in France completing his MBA at HEC Paris, one of Europe’s highly regarded business schools. He plans to build on what has already been created at CTAN instead of making any major changes.

“We want to strengthen the [executive director] position for entrepreneurs to get advice and investments,” Harbach said.

CTAN invested 60 percent more during 2010 than during 2009, the angel network reported in January. The increase came one year after the group tripled its annual investments.

During 2010, the angel group invested $5.7 million in 15 companies compared with $3.5 million invested in 12 companies the prior year. As a result, the amount of capital CTAN annually invests more than quintupled during a two-year period.

Life sciences continued to be the largest sector for investment, attracting 19 percent of the capital that CTAN invested in 2010, according to CTAN officials.

Most of the group’s investors are busy with their own ventures, CTAN Chairman Jamie Rhodes said. As a result, a full-time employee is important to coordinate the funding process when investors consider the viability of startup companies.

“We’ve got to keep them organized and focused on the due diligence,” he said. “It’s difficult to carve out enough time to study plans and then sign checks.”

Austin attorney Pete Winstead, who helped established CTAN five years ago, didn’t anticipate the organization’s rapid growth. The group was formed to create jobs by filling the capital gap that existed for new companies not large enough to collect venture capital.

“There was this huge vacuum for what had been one of Austin’s strengths — entrepreneurship,” said Winstead, a founding shareholder at Winstead PC. “It has turned out to be really, really good.”

Thursday, May 19, 2011

MyJobChart.com

Jeff and I have used many different tactics to try and keep our girls on task, clean, tidy, etc. Often times we settle on a series of Job Chart spreadsheets that Jeff has compiled over the years. They work really well and do a great job motivating the girls. The problem is that it takes so much time each day to check off their charts and assign verify their points (our way of rewarding them). I'm sure many of you have gone through similar struggles, right??

Well, we just recently found an online version of what we've been doing for years that makes this whole process much easier. It is MyJobChart.com. It is great! You can create a family profile and give each child their own login (with their own picture), their own assignments, and their own point system. When they finish their tasks they get points, and they can save these points or spend them based on what they want as their reward. It is a great tool for teaching work, savings, tithing, etc. And the best thing is that each kid can login to their account, verify their own tasks, and even send us messages that get emailed to us. So it is very exciting for them and saves the family time. I love when I find things to make (my life) a Mom's life run a bid smoother. The girls are liking it too. They feel so responsible and they love to leave us notes.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Baguette


The baguette has it's own food group here in France, and fittingly it has become a staple for us at mealtime (or snack time, or anytime really). We have eaten so many baguettes that we have now become picky with where to buy them, which is the Parisian way. Everyone has their favorite baguette shop. Sure you can pick up a baguette just about anywhere, but not all baguettes are created equally. Jeff and I prefer it to be a little bit crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, while the girls prefere the softer buttered baguette. Some are definitely more fresh than others, so we set out to find our favorite baguette shop.

This has been one of the nice things about actually living here. We have started to recognize the same people in the neighborhood when we're walking along the streets. We've made friends with shop owners, and we've received tips on places to try for just about everything. We've found that it's definitely worth the walk when you find the right bakeries, cafes, cheese shops, etc. My friend Emily also gave us the good advice to pay attention in the mornings, at lunch time, and especially when people are on their way home from work and see which places are crowded and have lines. That will tell you who has the best goods. Sounds simple to me, and sure enough I think she's right. We've narrowed in on a couple of shops we like, but we're constantly searching and trying new bakeries...and LOVING it!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Music Solo


While putting the dishes away tonight Celine came to me and told me she had a tummy ache. This was nothing new, as she has been telling me that she had a tummy ache all week. I gave her hugs and kisses and told her it would be ok and to head back to bed. She then turns to me and says:

"Mom, I have music tomorrow at school and I just don't want to go! I'm going to get all sweaty again and my face will turn red!"

Music? Thats sounds like fun to me.

"Well, last week the music teacher was asking me a bunch of stuff in French. I couldn't understand what she was saying, so I just kept saying yes. When I went back to class my teacher told me that I agreed to sing a Snow White solo in english to the class!!!"
It took every ounce of self restraint I could muster to keep myself composed. But I quickly learned that I don't have much self restraint. I couldn't help it! Tears were starting to stream down my face from trying to hold in my laughter. I don't know if it was the way she told me (so cute and innocent) or just knowing Celine's personality (of all our children for this to happen to, it happens to the my most shy child), but it was hilarious!! No wonder why she has had a tummy ache all week. She's thinking they are going to make her sing a solo in music class!! My tummy would hurt too!!!!

I love you my sweet sweet Celine!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Perfect Father's Day Gift

Looking for the perfect Father's Day present? Well...


My mom retired three years ago from a successful career, but instead of sitting in the rocking chair, she decided to follow her dreams of becoming an author. Her first book, My Dad is Forever, was published in 2010. She just completed her second book (not released yet) with Disney artist, Jared Beckstand, and is presently working on a suspense novel. In the fall of 2010 she started a writer's blog: onefineday11.blogspot.com that's filled with short stories of humorous antics about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Her fun personality and quick wit shines through her work and she has captivated quite a following.

She recently flew to Idaho for a radio show where she was invited to promote the release of her new book, My Dad Is Forever, by Linda Sumner Urza. One week after the show aired, the radio announcer called and invited her back for an encore. He said that he'd never had so many responses from the radio audience and the phone calls were still coming in! You would think that she spent the entire hour talking about the success of her book, but not my Mom ~ she encouraged people to follow their dreams! "There is a dream in everyone! No matter where you are in life, follow that dream today and it will become the reality of a bright tomorrow."

Mom, I am inspired by your constant desires to improve the world around you and your tenacious zest for excellence. You make life look so easy, peasy, lemon squeezy (as Livia would say)!

These next couple months my Mom and her publishing company are getting ready for a big push for Father's Day. If you haven't read My Dad is Forever, you won't be disappointed... It's a must read! Very tender book and I am so proud of my Mom and want to support her and her dream. You can find links to the books here:

Friday, May 6, 2011

A million bucks


While we were at David and Lourdes's home getting ready for a night out with just the parents, Celine overheard a conversation Jeff and I were having. She heard me say "Man, Lourdes looks like a million bucks!" Once I was ready for the night, Celine remembered the conversation and told me proudly "Mommy, you look like a million bucks!" I thanked her for being so sweet.

The next morning we were finishing breakfast and I told everyone that we need to hurry and get ready so that we could leave. Celine proudly told me again, "Mommy, you look like a thousand bucks!" Wow, I can go down hill pretty quickly. Jeff said "Wow, I knew mornings were rough, but that's a serious drop in your stock price". Well, I'm feeling pretty special right now.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pull yourself together

Jeff started school today. We were all excited for him. Celine even told him he needed to wear something nice for his first day. Ha! He did look nice might I add.


Today I told the girls we were going to relax, sleep in, and rest our feet from all the walking around Paris we’ve been doing and finish up all of our library books because we will be returning most of them tomorrow. We did just that. We stayed in our pjs and read in blankets all day. You know where I’m going with this, right. Why is it that every time you decide to take a day to relax and look a mess that someone pays you a surprise visit! Yep, my neighbors came over to introduce themselves, and I looked, well, a mess. They couldn’t have come the other 6 days a week that I painstakingly get all my girls and myself ready (plus clean the apartment)! Of course not, because then I would never learn humility, right!? Ugh!!


The knock on the door came as a surprise. I scrambled to clean my very small apartment, take a glance in the mirror and cover Eva with a blanket (she took off her diaper and was running around naked…of course). Then, after a couple of minutes of scrambling I run to the door (let me add that we live in an apartment building and you can hear EVERYTHING that goes on in an apartment from outside the apartment. I also know from experience that when Eva blesses us with her HIGH pitched scream that you can hear her 3 floors down. Nice! So, I know they heard my scrambling.) I started to try and open the door, but I couldn’t figure it out. Jeff locked the door from the outside when he left for school and the only way for me to unlock “The Vault” was to find the key. Great! Where the heck is the key! “Ummm. HOLD ON…” I said while I went looking for the key (they’ve probably been waiting 2-3 minutes now). I finally found the key, and after all that I finally met my upstairs neighbor.


Monsieur Lenoire lives right above us, and he is the manager of the building. He is in his mid 60's and he has the sweetest demeanor ever. He works on French movie sets as a “sound man”. He is semi-retired and only does 1-2 movies a year, which means he’s gone for 2-4 months a year working and then has the rest of the time off. He came down to let me know that he would be traveling for work soon and would be gone. He said "I'm so sorry, but I will be traveling to movie set. I will be gone for 2 months. I only work one movie a year and this is time for me to work,” in is darling French accent. He told me that his wife would be home later tonight and he would like to introduce us.


That was so nice of him to stop by and I would love to meet his wife. I most definitely will clean up first!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lundi de Pâques (Easter Monday)

In France the Easter Holiday includes the Monday after Easter (or Lundi de Pâques). Children don't have school, and it is a day to spend with families. There are many different activities going on around Paris, so we decided to check some of them out.

The first event we went to was the Chocolate Festival (or the Celebration of Chocolate). It was held in this cute little shopping village on the Right Bank. They had free chocolate fondue and a free class for the kids where they "were taught about the joys of chocolate" (in reality, they just decorated chocolate, but still fun!). The girls had a great time, and Jeff and I loved checking out the shops in this little village.

Afterwards we went out to Parc Floral in Vincennes, which is a large park just to the east of Paris. They had a new attraction at this park that allowed the kids (and families) to walk amongst the trees on wooden bridges they built to connect the forest in a large network of "treehouses". So fun, except for the fact that we showed up too late to do this because we had so much fun at the chocolate festival. Still, the park was gorgeous and we're going to try and make it back another time.

This candy shop in Bercy Village was a little girl's heaven.

Chocolate dipped fruit

And if you look closely at my white (or not so white anymore) shirt, you'll see I have a nice big chocolate stain. Thanks Eva!

Eva and I hung out and took pictures while the girls were off decorating chocolate for an Easter activity with Dad. I loved the old brick walls and wooden doors in this village. Perfect backgrounds for a photo shoot!

Thanks to their Daddy they were supper happy all day. Turns out they needed to register for the decorating, but because Jeff is persistent and patient, he waited long enough for them to find an opening and allow all three girls to participate. They loved the chocolate decorating.

Mya was the smart one and took off her white cardigan so she didn't end up a chocolate mess like me. We then headed over to Parc Floral and we were amazed at how beautiful it was. I would love to go again before I leave Paris. Check out the Chateau Vincennes below!

Can you find all 4 girls?

Easter

We were excited to celebrate Easter this year in Paris. We had a great time going into all the shops and checking out all their Easter candy. Last year, much to the disappointment of the girls, I wrote the Easter Bunny a letter telling him we really didn't want candy or chocolate that year (I thought this was brilliant). So, the sweet Easter Bunny left money in the eggs instead of candy. Great! No cavities and the girls have money to save and spend. Right? Wrong! This year, the girls made it very clear that I was not to write the same letter again! They wanted candy and chocolate! Celine said "Mom, please don't write the Easter Bunny and tell him we don't want candy this year, BECAUSE WE DO." So, we had a chocolate/candy extravaganza...


I got some fun colored candy and ribbon at our neighborhood market. I was hoping to get some fabric and jars but Easter is on a budget this year, so we used whatever we had at the apartment.

Eva held on to her cup with a death grip! I really didn't want her to eat any of it due to her just getting over being a bit sick and having a fever, but I let her eat some anyway.

Chocolate bunnies, chocolate gift pack and chocolate eggs. We ate a ton of chocolate!!! We were ALL surprised when the chocolate gift pack had a toy game hidden in the chocolate. Each girl got a different toy game and it kept us entertained for hours.

Can't go wrong with crepe's for breakfast... teacup style..

We had originally planned to have a picnic in Versailles, but with Eva just getting over being sick we decided to picnic around the corner from our apartment...at the Eiffel Tower. What could be better than beautiful weather and an Easter picnic at the Champs de Mars!

We ate sandwiches, chips, strawberries and bananas with Nutella (more chocolate).



Any spare time we've had lately has been spent reading. And reading at the park is one of our favorite pass times. They each have a book that they are reading and then I have a book I've been read to them (so fun to experience the book with them!). We are just finishing up Jennifer Murdley's Toad. Celeste, the librarian, (who is super helpful) picks out her favorite books for us to read. And so far we have been very pleased.

Yep, more candy. I'm sure she'll have a fever relapse tomorrow. But it's Easter... right!? And look at that smile. How could I resist! She almost had me fooled that she even had a fever at all.

We have watched Tangled so many times since we've been here that of course the girls would put flowers in their hair.

Fun day!
(PS...please, no comments about my white legs!)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Paris-sites


I was chatting with my Mom this morning telling her that Eva hasn't been feeling very well and was running a low grade fever for the past couple of days. I was also mentioning that I was glad I brought my medicine cabinet from home so I didn't have to worry about running to the pharmacy to get her some medicine. My Mom listened to what I had to say and then cutely responded "Yes, sounds serious. I think you should bring her to me. I believe she is suffering from a small case of 'Paris-sites'. And the cure for having Paris-sites is Grammy!"

Of course my Mom would have something witty and cleaver to say. Love you Mom! You make me smile!

Sacre Coeur and Arch de Triumph






Wednesday, April 20, 2011

All by myself

Well, I did it... I made the 1:10 minute trek out to Disneyland. I rode the Metro, switched to the train, made it in and out of security gates, and walked up and down stairs with 4 kids, a stroller and bags... ALL BY MYSELF! This seriously was a HUGE breakthrough for me because I tend to get very nervous and overanalyze everything. I was mostly unsure about taking all the correct trains and navigating the switches, but I was also nervous about all the stairs we had to go up and down with Eva in her stroller. We have been teaching our girls about Metro rules, safety, and protocols during our time here. Before we left I reiterated some of our discussions and made sure they knew that it would only be me this time on the trip and that they had to stay close. I also went over all the safely tips with the girls and how important it was that they did everything I asked...when I asked. Celine and Livia held on to each side of the stroller and Mya walked in front of me so I could keep an eye on her. Mya really is blossoming as a young lady, and she has been a huge help as of late. She not only helped me carry the stroller up and down stairs, but she was great with navigating the Metro stations and lines. Because she's done it with Jeff so many times she really feels like she has the hang of it. She would help me with the stroller and then turn around and help us figure out where we needed to go.

The girls were amazing, and I was especially grateful for Mya's help. I couldn't have done it without her muscles and her navigation skills. We met up with Jeff later that day and also the Halls (the family with the 3 girls the same ages as Mya, Celine, and Livia). It made it so much fun for the girls to have them there, and they knew the park so well that we just followed them everywhere...from ride to ride to ride. It was great!


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Parisian Lifestyle

The more I learn about the culture in Paris (and in France really), the more I'm starting to fall in love with the Parisian lifestyle. In America we are always in such a rush to get to that next important thing. We pack our lunch and most of the time eat quickly at our desk so we can move on with the day. The Parisians think this is blasphemy, and it's really true that they shut down at meal times to enjoy their food, their family and friends, and the experience of eating. I love the line that the French use..."Americans view food as fuel to put in their machine to make it go. The French view meal time as an experience to be savored with good company." Our friend Mike was telling us that under no circumstances would he bring his lunch to work with him. He would be ridiculed and ostracized. Also, eating at your desk in Paris is out of the question! Instead, you take a break for lunch and eat with your coworkers. We do this in the states a bit too, right? Not like here. Here offices will often shut down for 2 hours for lunch (12-2pm) while the employees site outside at the cafes, enjoy the weather and their food, and watch people walk by. It is people watching at its best! Mike works in La Defense, which is the business sector of Paris with all the skyscrapers. He said 2 hour lunches are a bit rare there, but the average is about an hour or so for lunch with another 15-30 minutes for coffee afterwards (or hot chocolate if you're LDS). He also says that he mainly eats in the cafeteria and that the food is amazing.

Another important note about eating at restaurants here is that they don't gorge you with food. You get a healthy portion of food, and you savor and finish every bite. No take home bags here, and why in the world would you bring the food home anyway? You eat at the restaurant where the experience is! So interesting. I'm not sure if I've ever gone to a restaurant and not taken something home that I didn't finish. Tisk tisk on me.

In the business world here you are done between 5-6pm. You will be gently nudged home around 6pm if you haven't left yet, and you will be kicked out of the office by 8pm. Mike told us about a project one of his coworkers was working on. It was behind schedule and he wanted to stay late to work on it. He had to get special permission from his superiors to stay past 8pm, and they were insistent that they did not expect him to stay that late but that he could if he wanted to. So, you work AT work, and once you leave you're basically done. Sign me up!

I know different jobs require more or less for the individual, but I would love to adapt this culture into my life. I want to slow down and take time to enjoy life...and especially enjoy the food! Thank you Paris!!

Essential books while in Paris

I found a wonderful book today at The American Library in Paris called Paris in a Basket. This book was my favorite find at the library today. I'm seriously so excited about this book!!! Everything you need to know about the Parisian markets, food and the people. We've already been obsessed with all the markets while we've been here and we are on a search for our favorite market. I can't wait to go to the organic market in the 6th arrondissement.

Bloom Where You Are Planted is another fantastic book. Unfortunately you can't get it on line. I mentioned this book in my earlier post regarding Helpful Paris Information. It is published by the Women of the American Church in Paris. I am so glad Jeff went and picked this book up the first couple days we were hear in Paris. It has saved us on a number of occasions. For example... All the power went out in our apartment. I couldn't figure how to get it back on and we were just about to leave so I left a flashlight by the door and when we got home Jeff was smart enough to check the book and sure enough it told him exactly what to do. It was simple! If we didn't have the book we probably would have been out of power for a good while until someone came to help.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The American Library in Paris


My exciting find for the day...The American Library in Paris! I know what you are thinking... Why spend time in an American Library when you can be exploring Paris? Well, we have been doing a ton of exploring. Jeff has drug us everywhere and we (us girls) are getting tired. So we took the kids to the library today and I could see the smiles on the kids faces. It was a place of comfort for them. Celine had a huge grin on her face and when I asked her why she was smiling her reply was. "I'm just so happy to be here. They speak English and I can read all the books I want. I want to come back all the time."

The library is about a 10-15 minute walk from our apartment and we walk right past the Eiffel Tower to get there. I have a feeling we'll be at the library at least twice a week if not more.

Eva fell in the box of toys and couldn't get out.

Happy girls

Notre Dame

Here's a couple of pictures from our visit to the historic Notre Dame...