What’s New In The World Of Gwen And Blaise?

Since our last post in May there have been a few major developments in our little family. Watch this little video of our bookworms to see the kids in action.

Lazing on a sunny afternoon

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Biscuits and Pixar. Sweet together.

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E-I-E-I-O

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Gwen’s News

In September 2014 Gwen started at the local Ecole Maternelle, which is technically school but is a lot like Kindergarten. They have a proper classroom, but they spend a lot of time playing in their cafe, drawing, playing games and the like. She LOVES it so much. Every morning she acts shy, but by the afternoon she’s running around like a crazy thing playing with all the other little kids. Also, she’s becoming less fussy about food as she’s at school all day with a proper school lunch. They eat really well (and there’s no alternative food), so I’m sure that’s why she’s trying lots of new things at home now.

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Pretty and ready for a birthday lunch

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Summer nights!

She is gorgeous.

A postcard? For ME?!?!?!

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Gwen’s in a class with older kids, which is probably good for her in terms of learning French. The class of kids her own age are a bit less talkative. Why is she with older kids? Well, for starters she’s one of the youngest kids in the school (there were about 40 kids in our town bumped up from creche to school early because there wasn’t enough room for them in the new creche). There are two classes of Petit Section at this school, and they tried to make the older kids go in one class and the younger ones in the other. But the numbers didn’t add up, so 5 lucky kids got chosen to go up to the next class. By surname. Me, I would have chosen the oldest kids, but whatever. As I said, I think it’s actually doing her some good.

First Day Of School (Maternelle/Kindy)

She’s started talking in French more often to us, and it’s clear from a few conversations that she understands what’s going on at school. When she speaks French to us, it’s usually a full sentence, then she switches back to English. So, she’ll say “J’ai fini!” or “Qu’est-ce qu’on fait?” randomly, with a sprinkling of “Alors” when she’s trying to think of something to draw.

The latest development is that Gwen turned three (see the video of her blowing out candles)! She’s currently obsessed with her new kitchen from her great Nanny. Blaise is too – that thing rocks. Gwen’s also big on dinosaurs and books, so she got lots of them for her birthday too.

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Bruce took Gwen on a special birthday adventure the day after her birthday (because in France there is no school on Wednesday afternoons), but he hasn’t uploaded the pictures yet. It will have to wait for another post.

Blaise’s News

Blaise finally started walking pretty much on the dot of turning 18 months. That was also a big turning point for teeth and talking too. He got four new teeth (for a total of 8) the week of turning 18 months. Then a week later he got another 4 molars coming through. So much teething pain!

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Yes?

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LOVES his bike.

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Nee Nor, Nee Nor

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On the talking front, he mostly said “Oh dear!” and made animal noises before 18 months. Since then he’s taken up a couple of new words every day or so, both in French and English. Blaise has also started at a new creche, which is bigger than the other one so he gets to hang out with kids his own age. I think that helps.

Blaise is totally obsessed with cars (and Pocoyo). He has piles of toy cars and trucks which are the best things ever. Also, the steering wheel toy rocks, and he lives for the times when papa takes him for a drive in the real car. He LOVES Top Gear, but gets angry when they stop driving their cars. He starts yelling at them, going “Broom BROOM!” and “No. Ready steady GO!”

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He has also grown quite a bit since our last post. Check out this cute little smile. 🙂

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Holiday In Cahors

At the end of August we went on a camping trip in Cahors (Reflets de Quercy), which was more like Glamping than camping, but without the glam (if that makes sense). The tent was furnished and had all the kitchen things we’d need, like a fridge, cooker, crockery and cutlery. Most importantly, the tent was in a campground that had an awesome pool and play area, which we made good use of.

Reflets de Quercy Pool

Kitted out tent

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Hello!

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Bouncing!

We went on a couple of great daytrips in the area. The big trip was to Padirac Cave (see the official site and some tourist info) and then Rocamadour (more tourist info). The campsite organised a bus tour, which we realised later was the best way to see the caves as you didn’t have to wait in the MASSIVE line. Anyway, those caves were amazing – the best I’ve ever seen and probably the best I will ever see in my life. Photography wasn’t allowed, so check out the websites to see how impressive it is (the official site has a brilliant virtual tour). Also, we got one official photo taken (on a gondola in the cave), but I don’t have the digital version of that just now. I’ll add it later [Edit: Added]. Rocomadour was also pretty amazing. It’s a castle and a cathedral on the side of a cliff. We spent a few hours there and got a tour of some parts of it.

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Rocomadour

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The other big daytrip was a road-train ride around Cahors. We were right in thinking the kids would love the train, and we’d love seeing the sights without having to carry the kids. It was about an hour and a half of sight-seeing, and I swear they hadn’t run out of interesting stuff to show us by the end of it. Quite a fascinating town, really. Wouldn’t mind living there!

It’s now months since the holiday. Gwen still asks when we’re going back to our tent. 🙂

Singing

Bruce and I are both still singing with the local choir, and I’m still singing with the Lotelles Trio, as well as branching out alone.

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Family Mailing List

If you’re part of the Alcorn family, sign up to hear about all of our endeavours. You’ll get a post once per week (or no post if no-one’s written anything) with any personal blog posts any of us made, including Jennie’s dogs. And if you’ve got a blog that should be included, bug Ange.

If you’re a friend of Ange (or family that’s not from the Alcorn side) sign up to this one instead. 🙂

Gwen Is Two! Blaise is One! This post is really late!

Wow, so more than a year flitted by and all of a sudden, Gwen is two! Blaise is one!

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We considered having a party for Gwen’s 2nd birthday, but no-one was free when we were. Instead, she took a cake to crèche and we had another little cake at home. It was nice and simple.

Gwen absolutely loved all the presents she got too. Thanks everyone! She also got the hang of opening birthday presents, and the fact that we say “Happy Birthday”. Now whenever she sees a parcel she says “More happy?”. Cute, but deadly.

Gwen's 2nd Birthday!

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Blaise also skipped the birthday party thing for his 1st birthday. We nearly went to a soft-play place with some friends, but people weren’t available when we were, so we just stayed home. He loved his gifts though, so thank you everyone!

Blaise's 1st Birthday!

Somewhere in there was a Christmas celebration or two and maybe an adult birthday, but what do we care about those anymore?

Doesn't like Father christmas AT ALL.

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Ange's birthday

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There is in fact so much to say that there is nothing to say. There’s nowhere to start. We spend all our time looking after little kids and working. That’s about the size of it. Bruce and I look older every day. The kids keep getting taller and growing out of their clothes.

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We have been fairly awful at updating this blog, but with two toddlers and no sleep time it’s not actually surprising. I hear there’s a point where the parents get sleep again? Anyway, our little family is lovely and we’re enjoying life generally. By the way, videos don’t embed nicely to this blog, so if you want to “meet” the kids, browse the collection of Blaise’s videos and Gwen’s videos.

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Feel free to check out our pages about what Blaise is like and what Gwen is like. I do try to update those every few months just so we remember the details. Also feel free to check the hall of fame to see our list of visitors over the years. Other than that we have photos. I will now studiously sprinkle some through this article. Click them for the rest of the sets.

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We now have as many kids as we can handle!

Most of you will know by now that we’ve had another kid, Blaise Frank Alcorn, born in the middle of March. He’s in perfect health and REALLY cute. In fact, he’s so similar to Gwen when she was a newborn that I think there will come a time where the date the photo was taken will be the only indicator of which child is featuring in the photo. Well, for newborn pics anyway.

We’ve created a page for Blaise on our blog to keep up with the changes as they fly by, but also see the photos on Flickr: here’s a collection of Blaise’s photo sets, Blaise’s first few days, all of Blaise’s photos and our favourite photos so far.

We’re not planning on having more kids, which is probably a good thing as these two are quite a handful. They’re lovely and all, but they always seem to need attention at the same time.

Other than this huge piece of news, there’s not a lot else to add. We’ve both had parental leave for the past 2 weeks, but Bruce will have to go back to work soon. The weather’s finally warming up (after some random Spring snow when Blaise was born) and we’ll soon be able to eat outside in the garden again. Looking forward to it!

It’s been a while. What HAVE we been up to?

It’s terrible how it takes so long to get back into blogging when you’ve been ignoring it for a while. You see, just to catch you up on the main events of the last year and a bit would involve giving you just one sentence or so for huge events like the birth of Gwen. And since that really doesn’t cut it, it doesn’t get written. So, I’m going to stop all the silliness and just write until I’ve said a bit about a few important things and then leave it at that. Is that alright?

Gwendolyn Coraline Alcorn

Our biggest piece of news since January 2011 (when we last updated the blog) is that we had a baby. Gwendolyn was born in October 2011 and she has proceeded to change our lives in all the best ways possible. We’ve set up a special page on this blog just for Gwen, with tidbits of information about what she likes, plus a few good photos and links to where you can see more. It will update slowly over time.

New Baby

We’re also awaiting another baby, which we’re expecting in late March. As we did for Gwen, we’re not finding out the gender until it’s out in the real world. We’re excited and happy that Gwen and sibling will be pretty close together in age (17 months).

Visitors

This past year has been light on visitors, with Jayne, Tony and Felix visiting in April and Mum & Ian visiting in October/November on either side of walking the Camino de Santiago. We also caught up with Alan and Patricia near Carcassonne for lunch while they were in France.

Work

Not a lot has changed: Bruce is still working for Agralis and Ange is still working for MakeUseOf.com with some singing gigs for Lotelles and associated things. We have added new roles and things to do, but still enjoying where we are. Bruce got to take a trip to Finland for work just before Gwen was born and he’s currently in London getting some training. Ange also flitted over to London while pregnant with Gwen for a gig with the Monestier Big Band.

Play

Despite spending most of our time doing baby stuff now, we still go to choir and just take Gwen with us. It was easy at first with Gwen as she was quiet. Nowadays she’s more inclined to run amok and distract everyone. We’ve got a concert on Feb 10th, which is the last one we’re doing before the next baby is born and I guess we’ll have to rotate rehearsals or something in order to sing again when we’re ready.

Other than singing, we’re really doing a lot of housebound stuff at the moment (being winter and all). Around all the nappy changing and attempts at sleeping, we can usually be found reading to Gwen, playing board games and occasionally getting the chance to watch a movie.

Over the summer in 2012 we had an awesome camping trip in the Pyrénées (which was where I realised I was pregnant). Gwen absolutely LOVED it, so we’ll be doing lots more camping as soon as the new baby is ready for it.

For Christmas 2012 we were invited to a great many things and finally got to do the traditional French Christmas Eve celebrations with our lovely friends. Christmas day was a quiet one with just us (as was Christmas 2011). We’re trying to piece together our own little family traditions. So far, a highlight is that mid-afternoon we need to have hot Milo, which is about as Aussie-in-Winter as you can get.

The Future

Well, with a baby due soon we definitely won’t be heading to Oz in a hurry. Feel free to come visit us here, though!

The next few months will be a blur of baby-related stuff, but thankfully I get two months off work to deal with it (paid maternity leave for freelancers in France – yay). Gwen’s already at crèche three half-days a week, so she’s got a little bit of independence and other fun stuff to do. That will also make it easier when I get back to work, too.

At some point in the not-too-distant future we’ll also need to think about moving into a bigger place. We’re hoping we can get by here until we’re ready to buy something, but we’ll see how that goes. It might just be more sensible to rent somewhere bigger for a while. BTW, we recently got interviewed about looking for houses in France, if you want to read that.

Right, I guess it’s time to add a sprinkling of photos throughout the post and get it online for you all. Generally speaking, if you want to see what we’ve been up to, checking Flickr is the best bet. Sometimes it’s slow to be updated, but not usually as slow as writing blog posts. 🙂 I’ve also tried to link to relevant photo albums from this post, so take a look if you’re keen to browse.

Brief Catch-Up for November and December

Well, we’ve been rather busy the last few months. In November we did a whirlwind tour of the Eastern States (in Oz), spending about 3-4 days in any given place and then racing off to the next one (see pics from the QLD bit, Port MacQuarie bit, the Sydney bit or just browse the whole lot – actually, that’s still not all the photos). We had a total of 12 days in Australia, so please don’t get offended if you weren’t one of the people we managed to catch up with!

The point of the trip was for Bronwyn’s Wedding, which was lovely even if you can’t tell that from our awful photos.

We got back to Europe and found lots and lots of snow everywhere but our house. We’ve still only seen a tiny bit here this year.

December has been mainly quiet, although we did head to the Space Museum in Toulouse for a day and a visitor (Tets!) from Australia for a couple of days. We also squished in some concerts and carolling in there.

The Space museum was awesome, but you don’t need me to tell you that.

With Tets, we did some rather interesting sight-seeing. 🙂

Here’s a highlight from the Christmas concert:

So, that was the end of 2010. I still haven’t finished uploading all the photos (or explained what we’ve been up to for most of the year), but feel free to browse through what is in the 2010 set and get a feel for what we’ve been doing. Happy New Year!

Social Life and Choirs

Everything’s great here. Things are just starting to fall properly into place.

I’ve (Ange) been doing freelance work for MakeUseOf.com for a few months and slowly but surely have been offered more responsibility (and money), which is pretty awesome. MakeUseOf.com might not be on your radar, but it’s in the top 100 tech blogs and PC magazine recently listed it as number 5 in top tech blogs for the year. So, as far as using my degree for something appropriate goes, this is pretty high on the list. 🙂 Plus, it’s fun! And it means messing about on the internet is officially useful for me professionally. Woo!

Other work things… I’m about to start working as an English teacher for kids (just two short lessons per week on Wednesdays). Basically, this will mean playing games for an hour with about 10 kids. 🙂 I’m also about to start conducting a bilingual kids choir. I’m not getting paid for the conducting. When I agreed to it I wanted an excuse to get out of the house more and I had previously figured that volunteering would be a good way to pick up more French and meet new people.

Socially, we’ve been sort of adopted into a lovely family here. Their kids have decided that we’re like aunt/uncle or cousin to them. I babysit the girls every now and then, plus I go to the park with them sometimes on Wednesday afternoons (kids here get Wednesdays off school). Most weekends there’s a lunch either at their house or our house, plus we go out for dinners/lunches sometimes. We’ve even been to their family farm. 🙂 For the little one’s 4th birthday, we had been invited for lunch on the Sunday when the grandparents would be there, but when the kid woke up on the Saturday (which was her birthday) she demanded that there be a birthday lunch for her ON her birthday and told her parents to invite us around quick smart.

Oh, and another day, I was driving somewhere with the mother and the girls, when one kid suddenly asked if she’d be allowed to spend some time at my house while her mum wasn’t there. ?!?!?!?! The other kid decided that would be a great idea and got in on the begging. So, somehow we wound up agreeing to this and I looked after the girls (ie. let them play computer games and eat lollies) while the mum went home and had a nap. They also choose having me babysit them over the nounou (nanny), which is good(ish) for them since the nounou can’t often take them at short notice.

Both of the adults of this family speak better English than we speak French. The father is determined to get us to teach his whole family decent English, so he prefers it if we speak English (with the girls especially). The girls hate this idea, so we say things in both languages (if we remember). Then, we sneakily set up computer games which will teach them small amounts of English (but not rely on it). I think they learn at least one new English word (in a way they’ll always remember) per day of babysitting.

There’s not much of a work social culture for Bruce, but they’re all lovely and friendly people. Occasionally there’s work lunches or dinners, and if there’s English speaking people that need entertaining I usually get invited out too (perks!). We usually entertain the English-speaking people who are here on business during weekends, too.

In choral stuff, we joined a choir a year ago. This was the start of everything. It’s just a small (5-10 people) unauditioned choir in Agen (choir is called L’Ensemble Vocal Expression d’Agen). Because of the conductor and a few choristers, we’ve then either joined other choirs or at least met people through joint choir concerts.

Alright, I’m going to have to start throwing names in to ensure things make sense (note: Françoise is a woman, François is a man. Different people).

The conductor (Françoise) and a few singers from there (including François and Anne) also sang in another choir once a month on Sundays (called Gaudeamus), which Bruce and I got invited to join. Gaudeamus is basically made of people from Expression d’Agen and another one of Françoise’s choirs, Impulsion de Villeneuve (Villeneuve is a town 30 minutes away). Gaudeamus is held at Anne and François’ house and has a rotating roster for who’s in charge of making lunch, so we’re blissing out on awesome French food when we’re with these guys. They also sing awesome music (Françoise has great taste). Oh, and it’s got lots of Dutch women who speak English and are still learning French (and are lovely and give me lots of mirabelles), so we all help each other out with understanding what’s going on. We like this choir.

Meanwhile, Françoise has convinced me to do some solos and to sing solo/duet stuff at weddings with her as well as the choir stuff. And Bruce and I get to go to French weddings!

Françoise also conducts a choir (well, she conducts lots of choirs) not far from here in Bon-Encontre. This choir is a bunch of oldies and is massively bass/tenor heavy and so she begs me to sing with them sometimes. Thankfully, she doesn’t make me go to all the rehearsals and has allowed me to be the sort of evil ring-in that everyone hates (except they don’t). Bruce is invited to sing as well, even though they really don’t need more guys around. And these guys are great – they invite us to their massive lunches after choir events, so we get to hear old-person jokes, practise our French and eat more awesome food. Expression d’Agen and the Bon-Encontre chorale sing concerts together sometimes too. Oh, and through these concerts in Bon-Encontre we’ve met this awesome Irish priest (who lived in Adelaide).

We’ve sung at community events, fund-raisers, the fête de musique and proper concerts (as well as the weddings). Sometimes we go on short hikes with choir people before or after a concert (and they teach us which wild plants are edible). Some concerts are with more than one of these choirs, and we either sing the same piece together or a few pieces each. It all works out, although sometimes we have no idea what’s going on.

Three of the choirs (Gaudeamus, Expression, Impulsion) went to Auvergne at the end of September for a joint concert and whatnot. It’s a beautiful mountain area.

I think we’ve met about 100 people directly through this small circle of people. Plus, we’re getting to see a lot of local culture and everyone is keen to teach us local history, make us try new foods and notice anything special worth noting. It’s great!

Somehow I wound up being convinced to conduct Gaudeamus after Françoise parted ways. It’s not a paid job and I’ve told them they can only have me temporarily until they find a proper conductor. Mainly, they wanted to get someone who knows last year’s music well (Jenkins – Armed Man), since we learned it especially for a concert in Holland this July.

Oh, and for this year (year being like the European school year: Sept-July) Françoise wanted to get a female choir (made from Expression and Impulsion) to sing one of my favourite pieces ever (Jenkins – Adiemus). I have no idea when we’ll have time to practise this, but I’m damn well doing it.

So, that’s our French choral circle. Then there’s the English choral circle. (Oh, also in name annoyances, in this social circle there’s both a Victoria and a Vicky).

Earlier this year, Victoria decided to start a female choir which was friendly to mums with kids. I figured I’d join so I could meet English-speaking people (especially mums). In this sense it’s GOLD. There’s a few mothers (25-40 years old) with small kids. They babble on about toddler/baby stuff, the French school system and bilingual kid issues constantly. Perfect. Also, they talk about how to get hold of English produce in France (or things that are normal in England but you can’t find here, like CRUMPETS). So, it’s great. I’m learning (about both kids and being an expat in France), networking and speaking to people more my own age – yay! They’re also a fun bunch who are involved in local folky/music stuff. So, there’s a few of us there who keep track of the local folk events and make sure we all know what’s coming up. Plus, those ladies have partners who are all friends too. They run a cricket club for English expats who get together for beer & cricket in Summer. They want Bruce in. 🙂 Oh, and we sort of made friends with the guy who runs the curry cart at the folky events. Mmmmm, curry.

Luckily, it is also a good choir. The conductor, Vicky, has great taste in music. For this choir it’s all show-tunes and boppy stuff. The girls sound good. It’s fun – Yay! But, within seconds of joining this choir Vicky had asked me to join another one of her projects. So, after those rehearsals, Vicky, Victoria and I have a practise together for a trio (which might expand when we find the right people). We sound amazing together. We’re singing pretty, angelic-voiced stuff for one concert theme, and Vicky wants us to do some dixie (and similar) for a concert she’s got planned with her husband’s band. It’s going to be awesome. And busy!

So, I pretty much need to stay inside and hide from the world so I don’t wind up finding out about other cool things I can do. 🙂

In general, we’ve spent lots of time chilling at home, reading, watching movies, playing games and trying to learn French. We’re tourists some of the time, too.

Oh – and we were taken gliding the other day!!! After a lovely lunch our host just said “Hey, the weather’s nice, let’s go gliding!”. It was great!

Sometimes I think we do nothing, other times I think we do too much. 🙂

Most of this post was written in one hit (originally in an email to tanya) and I’ve been slowly adding photos relevant to what’s written here. However, there has been many other events between the last post and this. Plus, there’s other news worth mentioning this week. My grandfather Barry Moore has recently died after slowly watching his body fade away. I will be very sad not to be in Australia for the funeral on Friday.