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Summer Merit Badges

So Summer is here and the kids have had their first taste of freedom having broken up over a week ago now. In between working and getting our new house ready I can already feel the days flying past us. I always have dreams of quality time with the kids but the reality is the days somehow never seem long enough and before I know it it's the end of the summer. Undeterred however I have been thinking of activities that we can do together as a family but that can also keep them occupied when that frequent phrase...I don't know what to do...pops up.



Inspired by finding my old Brownie and Guide sashes, I decided to set the boys up with their own merit badge challenges. I found these fantastic badges and have set them these 10 challenges...

Reading: both of them have to read books over the summer in English. Reuben is on chapter books and I've just bought Jacob these to get going on.

Writing: Jacob will be concentrating on his letters and numbers whilst Reuben keeps a diary and writes a story.

Music: both of them will learn a piece to play on two different instruments. They have a choice of the piano, ukulele or recorder.

Swimming: we will set them swimming challenges suitable for their ability. We will also have a family picnic at their favourite wild swimming spot.

Bug House Building: both of them have to build a bug house and fill it with stuff they find around the garden. They then have to find somewhere to put it on our new land.

Fire Lighting: outside they will learn how to prepare, light, maintain, cook on, and safely put out a fire.

Canoeing: we will all go on a family canoe trip. Reuben went last year but we'll take Jacob along for the first time.

Cooking: we will over the weeks teach them how to prepare a starter, main course and pudding. They will then have to make this three course dinner for us by the end of the summer. (They've already had a go at a salad starter!)

First Aid: our new house is currently full of hazards so we feel it's important that they learn basic first aid skills so that they know what to do if there is ever an emergency.

Growing: they have both choosen something to grow from seed. Reuben chose pumpkins and Jacob carrots. (I was a bit worried about the carrots having never grown them before but thankfully we found tiny shoots yesterday!) They can also find an empty bed in the garden and choose plants to fill it with.

I'll let you know how they get on over summer and you can follow their progress over on Instagram. What badges would you choose to challenge your kids with?

We Bought A House!

It was hard keeping this quiet and it's very exciting to finally get it out here! WE BOUGHT A HOUSE! We've had major grins on our faces for a while now as we've found it hard to believe we have found a house so perfect for us. We have the keys in our hands and can finally breath a sigh of relief as it's ours...officially ours. Every property we've lived in until now we knew wouldn't be our forever home. We always knew that one day we would outgrow them and move up the property ladder. We knew long term what we wanted was space, and most importantly land, so that the kids could run wild alongside the chickens. So we're really considering this purchase to be our forever home. The home the kids will grow up in and where they'll always find us once they've flown the nest.


Andrew and I don't mess around with decisions like these. We know what we like when we see it and we don't hold back once we find what we want. This house had apparantly been on the market for a while. Had we looked at it 2 or 3 years ago it would have been way out of our budget, but little by little the price has been dropped, so that when we found it it was within our budget. Believe me when I say there are bargains to be found in this corner of France. We had only looked at two properties before this one and within minutes of looking round we knew we had found 'the one'.


So what have we bought? It's a house of two parts with an older part and a new extension built in the 90s. It has numerous outbuildings including a garage, (for the camper) a swimming pool, (never in a million years did I think we'd end up with one of those) and a barn to the side of the house ready to be converted slowly but surely into a guest house. The house comes with 5.5 hectares of land. Yes...that's a lot of land, but we have ideas, and it will be more than enough space for a veg patch, our chickens, and numerous other animals that I have decided I want to keep. It's on the edge of a village not far from where we are now so the kids can stay at the same school. There's no passing traffic and the house backs onto our woodland ready to be explored. Reuben has his metal detector at the ready!

I'll try not to bore you too much with house renovation details (unless you're really interested) but I will do a little video if we ever get round to finishing all the work that needs to be done. I hope you'll join me on the next part of our adventure of moving house and putting down Brown family roots in South West France!

Gruissan - Alphabet Adventures

It was tucked away in a garage all winter but as April marked the opening of most campsites around France and with a two week school holiday to fill we had an excuse to fire up our camper and head South for a few days. The initial plan was to stop in Carcassonne for a night, which we did, and explore the old city again after a whistle stop tour on our last visit, which we did not. Over winter we had managed to completely forget how to use our camper and overnight managed to kill the battery having left the fridge on the wrong setting. Luckily the lovely campsite people gave us a jump start and we disrupted everyone's breakfast with our exhaust pipe fumes. We downed our breakfast and quickly legged it to the nearest car shop where we bought a spare battery, just in case we decided to do the same again!


This time last year we were in Narbonne and for some reason, despite the fact that it was freezing and windy, we decided that this year we would go back with a bunch of friends and try again. This time we found a little campsite right on the beach near Gruissan. We were lucky with the weather in that the sun made an appearance which allowed us a bit of beach time. However, there is no denying that this part of France is windy, and no matter how much the sun shines it's not the best experience being sat on a beach while the kids dip their toes into the freezing sea and you get sandblasted away. Needless to say I think this was our last visit to this part of France.

Gruissan is a pleasant enough little town. We made it to the Saturday morning market where the boys bought shells (cause we really couldn't find any good ones on the beach) and we bought wine (local of course.) We climed to the top of the ruined castle and literally had to hold on for dear life, not sure any view is worth that amount of wind battering! I found a nice brocante shop to browse and we bought a suitable Gruissan fridge magnet to add to our growing collection. We failed to sample any of the fresh seafood as we ate mainly out of our little camper.

It was great to be back in the camper. We took the slow scenic route there and back through a national forest which was just stunning. We're planning Spain again this summer to another little campsite right by the sea. Do you have any holidays planned this year?

Museum of Writing - Figeac

Spring is well and truly on on our doorstep here in South West France. We've had some good days of sunshine giving life to seeds I planted in the garden and forcing us outside to soak up it's rays. The boys have been playing out with village kids after school and we've even had our first BBQ. This is the time when villages start to come alive again. We're spending weekends hunting for treasures at vide greniers and looking for local places we have not yet discovered. We're planning our next trip in the camper but recently we found ourselves driving to Figeac, a 45min drive from where we are, to explore the 'Musee Champollion'.



The museum is dedicated to the history of writing. Champollion was a Frenchman who in 1822 diciphered the meaning of hyroglyphics. The museum houses a collection of early examples of writing and takes you right up to present day with typewriters, modern printing presses and computers. Jacob was pretty freaked out in the first room as it contained a real Egyptian mummy encased in glass. We had to pick him up to hush his cries and distract him with the other cases of early Egyptian writing on display. We had bought the boys booklets with pictures of items that they had to find throughout the museum, encouraging them to spend time looking at the displays and find the objects. They were able to have a go at Chinese character rubbing and writing their own with help from an interactive tablet. We squinted through cases at tiny engravings on stone and wood and I got whisked back to my own school days reading Greek (I studied Ancient Greek and Latin way back in the day!)



Two weeks later Jacob came home with some pictures he had done at school. Turns out he's been drawing mummies and attempting his own version of Chinese writing. Pretty cool...and nice to know that something does actually go in on trips like these! There's so much to explore in the local area we'll be out and about a lot more now that it's Spring.

What museums have you been visiting recently?


Lou Messugo

Soapnuts

Have you heard of soapnuts? I hadn't until a few years ago when they entered into my radar via this post. Not long after that on a visit to my local Biocoop I found them in the cleaning section and bought a bag. This bag then sat under our sink for a looooong time. Then one day our bottle of laundry soap ran out, I had a ton of washing to do, and I remembered about this long forgotten bag so out it came. Soapnuts are basically the dried shells of fruit that contain a natural soap. If you hold a soapnut and rub a wet finger on the inside of the shell you can see this soap start to form. It's one of nature's magic tricks! There are some great websites such as this one if you fancy a more detailed explanation but for me the most important question was...does it work?


I've been using it a while now and my answer is I think so. Clothes that come out the washer after using soapnuts don't have that freshly washed laundry smell, you can add essential oils for that, but most items do seem to come out clean. With two young boys in the house that enjoy a bit of outdoor play clothes are often stained and for this I think I will need to try the natural stain removers as trousers in particular have sometimes had to go back in for a second wash. Also washing in the winter is nothing compared to the hot sweaty clothes that get dumped in the basket over summer so it will be interesting to see what happens then. But it's the start of a journey that I hope continues as soapnuts seem way more cost effective that buying laundry soap. The nuts can also be composted after use rather than sent to landfill which is always a good thing.

Are you a fan of soapnuts? Do you have any tips for using them? If you do I'd love to hear them.



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A Green and Rosie Life

Understanding Our Multilingual Children

This month Annabelle from The Piri Piri Lexicon has organised a month long series looking at the topic of 'Raising Multilingual Children'. Every day this month a different blogger from around the world has taken a letter or the alphabet to discuss the topic and today we've reached 'U'. I have chosen to write about how we as a family help to better understand our multilingual children.

For my husband and I, the idea of understanding our multilingual children falls into two categories...do our boys understand the multilingual world that surrounds them and how as parents can we understand their needs as multilingual children? Just over three years ago we moved from the UK to France. Our home life is exclusively English and our two boys get their French language education purely from what they hear at school. Their progress has been quick and it never ceases to amaze me their seamless slip into their second language.

The school holidays have just come to an end and every morning for two weeks Reuben, aged 7, had swimming lessons for the first time. On the first day I suddenly had a thought in the car...would he understand everything the instructor asked him to do? Vocabulary is a huge topic as unless they are exposed to words or specifically taught them (in both languages) how else do they learn them? I was hit by the worry that he may not understand 'swimming' vocabulary in French and hated the thought of him not understanding instructions alongside his peers who would understand everything. When I put the question to him he replied that if the words were easy it would be ok, but there might be some things he wouldn't understand. He didn't seem bothered by this prospect and in hindsight I realised my worry was a bit silly. At school they have had to learn how to deal with not fully understanding everything from day one and to date this has never hindered their learning (they've both had glowing reports!) or held him back in any way. As an adult we may be afriad to surround ourselves with a language we do not know, but not understanding everything is not necessarily a fear that our children may have and it's important that we recognise that.

As parents of multilingual children we understand that our boys may have difficulties at times speaking their two languages. We often cringe at some of the English words and phrases that come out of their mouths and hasten to correct them, but we recognise that this may be a common feature for kids exposed to and using two languages at once. We are constantly explaining the meaning of unknown English words that pop up in books, television, or in conversation, and we help translate French words into English when they struggle to find their meaning.

How do we help and understand our multilingual children?

We listen to the English language that they use, gently setting them straight when the vocabulary is not quite right or words are not placed in the correct order. Although we don't want to be doing this constantly we recognise the importance of doing this to help them progress and continue learning in their mother tongue.

We talk! As they are only exposed to English at home it's important that we talk...lots!..over dinner, with books, to family over the phone. The more vocabulary they hear in both languages the more their language will develop.

We encourage and lead by example. We show them that although our French is far from perfect my husband and I try and learn from the friends we have made and the people we talk to everyday. We encourage them to use their French outside the comfort of the school environment.

We support them, with their French at school for example. We help them with their homework when we can, which in turn aids our own understanding of the language.

Do you have tips on understanding multilingual children? If you do we'd love to hear them. Also, if you have the time do take a look at some of the other posts from the series. There is lots of good advice and stories from families raising multilingual children around the world. You can find all the posts here.

the piri-piri lexicon

Our Lego Obsession


The past two weeks were half term for us and the kids were free to do as they pleased. 95% of the time our boys get on swimmingly well. We stayed put during the holiday and although two weeks at home could seem daunting to some, the boys had their favourite obsession to keep them going...Lego. I have to admit, we have rather a lot of Lego. Every Birthday and Christmas they have acquired more sets along with inheriting my old set from when I was a child. Lego is not cheap. But the price is more than justified as it is the one toy that they keep going back to. (In our case on a daily basis.) The Playmobile box sits unplayed with, even the car box doesn't get much of a look in these days.


There are endless benefits of Lego, the imagination they use to create and build, their storytelling with the characters, the negotiations that go on for the smallest of parts, and the fact that it's a toy that doesn't break (aside the few small pieces that have been stood on...ouch!) There are even charities around the world, such as this one, that takes Lego donations and, in this case, sends them to Africa to give children a chance to play and develop skills. Our boys can spend hours...and hours...lost in their Lego world. I'm a little sad about the fact that they no longer need me to help them build their sets, to the point where I'm even considering going out to buy my own!


Despite the fact that Lego is our favourite toy, because we have so much of it we have imposed a 'Buy No Lego' rule in our house this year. I have to confess I've already broken it. We are hugely excited for the new Batman Lego film that I couldn't resist the new minifigures that contain characters from the film. Check out Batman Fairy above. No, not Batgirl as we originally thought but Batman dressed as a fairy! He's like the best character ever and has allowed pink to be cool for the first time ever in the eyes of my 5 year old boy. Even I'm going to find it hard to resist the new sets that have come out to accompany the film. (We have our eye on the Batcave!) We have a grand plan of sorting out all the Lego to find all of the bought sets so that they can be rebuilt to create a massive Lego city. Just thinking about this task is exhausting itself so I'll let you know by the end of the year whether we manage to achieve it.

What are your favourite household toys? Are you massive fans of Lego too?!


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