Thursday, March 31, 2011

First Impressions

This is the first time I have been out of the country other than going to Mexico (does that really count?). I am excited and nervous to be able to experience a different culture and learn what it’s like to live in a different country. I will be honest and say that more than once this first week Jeff and I have looked at each other and asked ourselves if we're out of our minds and wondered if we're going to survive this. Of course we will, but anxiety has been running high.

Before coming to Paris I was warned by many that if you don’t speak the language you will have a very difficult time getting around and the people will give you a hard time and be more on the rude side. While we have certainly experienced some of this, I must say that I have also experienced lovely people here in France. For instance, the ladies at the British Airways counter at the Paris airport were very helpful when they lost our stroller and car seat (they gave us loners to be picked up when our items were delivered); or the Pizza man who delivered our pizza gave us free Coke as a "gift" when he delivered our pizza, probably because he heard about our struggles just to order a pizza for delivery; or the lady at the market who gave Jeff a free baguette all because he said it smelled good and he tried his best to communicate with her in french the night before; or the lady that gave up her seat on the bus so that Mya could sit down. I was very grateful for these acts of kindness! I don’t speak their language but I know we can communicate with a smile…(merci!).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bus Ride

After waking up really late Wednesday morning (jet lag is a killer), we wanted to venture out to see the surrounding area. It was raining and chilly for most of the day, so we were trying to wait and see if it would clear up. By late afternoon we decided to just tough it out and go, so we bundled ourselves up and walked the short distance to the public bus stop at the entrance to the Marriott property. We were cold and wet while we waited 10 minutes for our bus, and when it came we realized that we were waiting on the wrong side of the street. So, after another 10 minutes on the other side of the street, the correct bus arrived. As it approached we broke down the stroller and our umbrellas and helped the girls onto the bus. Jeff asked the driver if it was headed to Val d’Europe (a Mall that I have been excited to check out because it is the self proclaimed "largest mall in Europe"). Jeff then held out his money to pay the driver and he waived for us to sit down as though he was in a hurry. Thinking ok, we’ll get situated and then pay, we did just that. Not more than two minutes had passed when we were at the next stop and four public transportation police entered the bus and asked us for our tickets. Curious how they came directly to us. They almost seemed to be tipped off by the driver. Of course, we didn’t have a ticket because we hadn’t paid yet. The next 10 minutes Jeff was negotiating with these police trying to understand why they were charging us a fine. Jeff said afterwards that he felt like he was getting the shake down from the French mafia. They basically said "we'll give you a deal since you are new to France. Give us 30 euros and we'll call it even." Jeff got off the bus so frustrated. Since then we've learned that they were actually legit. What did I learn on this very expensive bus ride?

  1. Buy your bus ticket or pass before you get on the bus.
  2. Don’t lose your ticket while on the bus because they will do random checks and you will get a hefty fine from the bus police.
  3. You do not need to break down your stroller on the public transit. Keep the baby in the stroller and they have handicap spots for you to park.
  4. Apparently you can’t take pictures on the bus. Who knew? Not me. Be careful, because taking pictures could result in another fine.

Let’s just say that we went home and studied the maps and bus system. We also bought our monthly bus passes with our scary mug shot pictures and now we feel a little more prepared.

Here's Jeff's ticket...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Vive le France!

We're here!!! We made it safely to our hotel around 1pm on Tuesday, and our family was exhausted. The girls slept the entire 40 minute drive from the airport, and I even had trouble keeping my eyes open. We're staying at the Marriott Vacation Village at Disneyland Paris (about a 30 minute train ride outside of Paris). Here's some pictures from our first couple of days...

Our cute little village at the Marriott

We have a bunch of ducks and swans that live outside our villa. Pretty isn't she.

This was dinner our first night in Paris. Not sure if it was because we were so hungry, but the pizza was AMAZING. The bread was soft and doughy and the cheese was sooo good.

Eva happy to be outside.

Mya and Livia paying our pet swan a visit.

The swan got a bit too used to the girls feeding her, so she came to our back porch looking for more.

Isn't she lovely!

This is the cute little town where the Marriott is. The name of it is Bailly-Romainvilliers. Very small and very quaint. Love it.

For how small this town is, there is no shortage of fun bakeries and restaurants. We picked one of our favorites and watched the chefs through the window make their masterpieces.

Check out these yummy pasteries. They just don't make them much like this in the States.

Beautiful Eva enjoying the flowers outside.

Don't think anyone told Eva that swans can actually snap and get aggressive if they think you have food.

Stressful but Successful

Well, after weeks of planning and light packing, and then two weeks of intense packing, we’re finished! I’ll spare you the gory details and just say that I’m not a huge fan of moving! The funny thing is I know I’m going to have to move a lot in the future, so I guess I better learn to embrace it. Let me give it a try…if there is a silver lining to moving it is that each time we can continue to purge our old items that never should have survived so many moves! Hmmm, not convincing myself either. Still don’t like moving.

Thank goodness I had a team of angels helping me! First and foremost, my Mom flew in from Utah to help me pack, which I am sooo grateful for because I knew I couldn't do it without her. She's just such a "get it done" type of person and has an amazing ability to stay focused and on task. I was a bit nervous when she called me days before she was supposed to come to Texas and told me she blew out her knee (severely torn meniscus) helping my brother move. I told her I would be fine and she should rest it and get ready for the surgery. Maybe she could sense the panic in my voice, because that didn't stop her. She was on that plane and helped me get everything ready and packed on one leg! I love you Linda-rella!!! I'm sorry for putting you to work, but I'm so thankful you are you! I hope I can do for my daughters one day what you continue to do for me!

We also had an amazing team help us move everything to our dear friend's the Yacktman's basement. When I say amazing, I mean it... Superman and Hercules (Randall and Ryan were in the MBA graduating classes of 2010 and 2009 respectively) came to our rescue and were able to pick up our piano, fridge, washer, dryer etc. like it was nothing. It was truly amazing to see these two guys move our piano by themselves! Add in the guys from the Singles Ward, our family ward and a couple other helpers from the MBA program and we were able to get all moved (thanks also to Mike Smith for the use of his 2 trailers that were a life saver!). The kindness didn't stop there. Kellie and Trevor Budge showed up at my house the night before our flight with dinner and stayed until 1:30am to help keep us going because they knew we would be pulling an all-nighter. Then, after a long night more help came to our rescue. The Allens helped with our last load, brought us breakfast, and took care of whatever else we forgot about. I haven't listed everyone, but you know who you are and I am so thankful for your service! I love you all so dearly!!

After moving ALL night we loaded up in Spencer Hoopes's SUV and he drove us to the Houston airport (this after helping for hours on Saturday -- thanks for being such a wonderful home teacher Spencer!). Did I mention that we had to drive to the Houston airport? 4 hrs. of car travel before we started the plane travel - great. We planned to leave around 9:00am so that we could get to the airport early and let the kids run around, but instead we didn't leave until 11:40am. Can I just say I was biting my nails until we arrived and they said we would make our flight okay. Whew! What a relief to finally be on the plane! I was sweaty, yucky, tired and stressed, but at least we all made it.

Here are some fun photos from the airport in Houston...

Celine checking out her passport

Celine sure looks like a world traveler, doesn't she?


What a cutie

Mommy's little helper

The girls checking out our newly acquired Euros

Paris, here we come

Everyone did fantastic on the flight to London. I was so happy that Eva didn't mind the flight and that she was happy and easy for most of it (Jeff did get a workout though doing laps around the plane with her).

Cool couch-thing in London Heathrow Airport

When we switched planes in London, the airport crew gave us a bit of a hard time about how big our carry-on bags were. They made us check them along with my stroller and car seat. The lady made sure that we knew that we were taking way too much stuff and that she has 3 kids and never packs this much stuff. I didn't see the point in trying to explain myself, so we just shrugged our shoulders. As we were walking away I heard her say "ugh, Americans always pack big." The funny thing is I would have packed more if Jeff would have let me and there is not one thing that I have wished I left home. NOT one (at least, not yet). I'll take a few crazy looks and semi-rude comments in order to have what I need. I guess they got the last laugh though, as our stroller and car seat didn’t make the flight and had to be delivered to our hotel room. The French immigration officers couldn't resist joining in on the fun either. As we were going through customs, they said in broken English and with some laughter... "Lots of kids. Are you Amish?" I'm sure that won't be the last of our crazy looks, but that's ok. France, here we come!

So, we’re safely in Paris!! More to follow in upcoming posts…

Friday, March 25, 2011

School's out for the summer

I went to Bush Elementary today to check the girls out of school for the rest of the year. I thought it may be an emotional day for was! The main source of my emotions came from how blessed I felt this year for my daughters to have such wonderful teachers. Mrs. Degilio, Livia's Kindergarten teacher, was especially sweet and we shared tears as she described how much she would miss Liv in the classroom. Mrs. Degilio and Ms. Jones (Mya's 4th grade teacher) were so kind to Mya and Liv and gave them going away gifts to let them know that they would be missed. I am so grateful for the wonderful teachers at Laura Welch Bush Elementary!

I can't believe that when we return to Texas my girls will be in 5th, 3rd, and 1st grade respectively. Am I getting that old that I have a 5th grader that has braces! Wow! It's amazing how quickly time passes and how fast my girls are growing up. It really is true that we need to enjoy life and live for every single day and every single experience, because life passes SOO quickly.