2011 Christmas Newsletter

25 12 2011

It’s the holiday time of the year again. We would like to take this wonderful opportunity to say hello and let you know what we’ve been up to. I bet you want to hear about the kids first. Good because that’s what I like talking about the most. David and Gabrielle are growing strong. David is a powerhouse that excels in sports and can’t sit still. Gabrielle is maturing into a young woman who’s interested with the latest beauty and makeup trends. They both moved up a grade in school with David now in CM2 and Gabrielle in 4 ème. That’s 5th and 8th grade for you non francophones. Gabrielle was selected to be part of the special European class with more intense language studies and an overall higher curricular push in the 3 Rs. That’s reading, writing, and arithmetic for you non anglophones. Outside of school the kids have their activities. David is really getting into handball now with practice two times a week, he has continue on a 3rd year with ping-pong, and this year, now that he is old enough, he signed up for competitive shooting. Jeff and David do this together Sunday mornings. They also tried paintball for the first time. There’s a neat little video at windstrup.com if you like that kind of thing. Men and their shooting sports. Gabrielle is still actively involved with her art class, American Girl Scouts, and dance though this year she changed from ballet to modern dance. Not sure if shopping should be called an activity but as of late Gabrielle is really into it. She’s an American after all.

In addition to school, hobbies and work we still found time for travel and vacation. In February the kids and I spent a week with my cousins in Alsace next to the German border. Good hardy food and fun. In April we went skiing in the Alps. This year my brother joined us for the fun. We hiked and explored more that skied as there wasn’t much snow but still a welcomed repose. Jeff video blogged our adventures if you want to check it out. Summer vacation was spent in England and Wales. We visited London, Greenwich, Bath, Bristol and Stonehenge the first week. We saw and did a ton and lucked out without hardly a drop of rain. After that we met up with some English friends to spend the second week together in Wales. We enjoyed the Welsh countryside, an abundance of castles, the Celtic culture and of course speaking English. David had an opportunity to go more than a week solo this year at a vacation camp for kids. “Colonies de vacances” as it is called in France is something of a national institution and most kids participate in several up to the age of 18. He and his best friend joined the group where they went to the camp center in Brittany. They followed outdoors type activities and games and just reveled in being away from their parents for a stint.

Jeff and I are still working at the same places as before. Going on 5 years now. Jeff did have a big office move but his new office is only a minute away from the old one. I have been keeping up with my dance. In tennis I’m progressing and I have recently taken up sewing. Jeff’s most recent thing is music and stereo equipment. He tells me he’s trying to relive that big 80s sound he had when he build his own speakers and CD audio was new. He’s doing a good job because the speakers he has now are huge. They take up a good chunk of the front room and they definitely have a big sound. He just loves his toys.

We kept up our faith this year with David’s First Communion, Gabrielle’s Profession of Faith, and we all participated in a weekend pilgrimage where we crossed the the bay of Mont St. Michel barefoot at low tide. It was a moving experience. We wish you Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.

2010 Christmas Newsletter

25 12 2010

Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

We would like to give you a brief update on what we Windstrup’s have been doing since our last newsletter. We were able to travel and discover some new destinations this year. In February Jeff’s mother Gloria came to visit. She came with her cousin and Jeff was proud to show the ladies around the City of Light. They even went to eat in the fancy restaurant Le Jules Verne on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. He likes to say that he knows Paris like the back of his hand. I wonder if he knows it better than I do. The second week of their visit we all went to visit the French Riviera. We went to Cannes, Antibes, and Nice in France. We didn’t plan it but we just happened to be in Nice for Carnival. “Nice” timing. Since we were close we also went to visit the principality of Monaco with its palace on the rock. We all enjoyed our visit and were glad to spend time with grandma. In April me and the kids met up with my parents in the Pyrenees for a week. French side of course. Jeff wanted to come but was saving vacation for summer. We did quite a bit of hiking and exploring in the mountains. There was a hen house and farm close to the chalet where we stayed. David was very pleased since he was charged with looking after the hens.

When summer arrived we were all excited about returning to the US. There were some changes in the 3 years since we’ve been back. Most notable was certainly getting to meet our niece Josephine and our nephew Jonathan. We did the usual things around Chicago though it felt odd acting like tourists in a place I lived in for 10 years and Jeff grew up in. Our list of tourist attractions included the Brookfield Zoo, Museum of Science and Industry, Field Museum, Adler Planetarium and the Shedd Aquarium. Couldn’t forget the skydeck on top of the Willis Tower. Jeff took the kids as some of you might know I am not particularly fond of elevators and that one must be a doozie at the 103rd floor. Jeff says he just can’t stop calling it the Sears Tower. Oh well things change. We also went on a few day excursion to the the House on the Rock and the Wisconsin Dells. Those of you from the Midwest will know these. They have a special charm and if you are in the area I recommend visiting them. Jeff and I also took 2 little getaways together without the kids. We took a day trip to Rouen. There’s a neat little video at windstrup.com. For my birthday Jeff got me a gastronomic weekend getaway. We had a top notch dinner and stayed in a medieval castle in Sedan France in the Ardennes. Speaking about birthdays. I turned 40 this year. We rented a hall and had a DJ dance party. It was quite a blow out.

The kids are getting another school year under their belts. Gabrielle is in 7th grade at the junior high school the next town over and David is in 4th at the primary school right across the street. Both are doing fairly well in school so far this year. Let’s hope the trend continues. The kids had two shows this year. David had his part in the quasi production quality school play. Gabrielle had an equally elaborate dance recital. They both worked hard on their productions and it showed with stunning performances. As for after school activities David has continued with ping-pong and started handball. No change for Gabrielle and I as she continues with art class and ballet and I continue with contemporary dance and tennis. Jeff’s interest in Geocaching, hiking, and computers is also unwavering. However, he has changed computers now by becoming a MacMan. Both Jeff and I are working at the same place for the last few years now and are pleased with what we do and where we are.

We hope you too are happy this Christmas season and all throughout next year.

2009 Christmas Newsletter

25 12 2009

Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

Time really goes by quickly. It is almost 2010. As we’ve done for several years now we would like to give you a brief update of what we’ve been doing. In April we went skiing in Morillon, France in the Alps. Jeff is still quite impressed to ski in the real mountains compared to his youth skiing in the relatively flat Midwestern United States. The kids continued to improve their level at the week long ski school. David succeeded and received the coveted “première étoile” or first star badge. Gabrielle moved on to the second star or “deuxième étoile”. Jeff has rated himself as a “debutant confirmé” or “skilled beginner” and marked the occasion with the purchase of ski equipment. Considering that this is a nonexistent classification I gather he was just looking for an excuse to buy skis.

I took a few days off work to participate in an international social work conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia. The brief hiatus and the region were very interesting. In fact, I enjoyed the area so much that I suggested we spend some family vacation time there next year. During one of my dance shows I had muscle tear. I had to walk on crutches for weeks along with a couple of months of physical therapy. In spite of the “dangers of dance”, as Jeff says I am not letting that stop me from doing what I love to do. Hobbling around on crutches made this year’s summer vacation a little rough. Despite my mobility issues we still spent one week camping in Milau, France with friends. We had a great time. Jeff made a neat Video Slideshow chronicling the fun. Now that the kids are a bit bigger they were able to take sailing lessons. They had 5 days to learn to sail on optimist dinghies and explore the Arcachon Bay in the south of France. They loved it and want to do it again next year. While we were in the south with my parents, family from Poland came to visit. It was nice seeing them again.

Summer fun behind us we moved on to a new school year. Gabrielle successfully made the transition from grammar school to junior high. She continues improving her English with private tutoring. David too is motivated to speak English like his big sister. He fortunately passed on to the 3rd grade. 2nd grade with David presented us with some difficulties. So in an effort to work past these and ensure his educational progression we had a “sit-down” where we discussed what was expected of him along with the reward he could attain with his successful completion of the school year. The goal that kept him motivated was the hope of having a pet at home. He lived up to the details of our agreement and moved on to the next grade. He earned his reward and we now have a kitten. Peatch is her name and we’ve welcomed her in our family.

Both Jeff and I are working at the same places for the last 3 years now. Though we’ve made few changes the kids chose new activities this year. Gabrielle surprised us by taking ballet classes. That’s my girl. She has also started stamp collecting with a club at school and she is still actively involved in the Girl Scouts of American and her drawing classes. David has moved from the more sport like wrestling of judo to the more self-defense striking techniques of karate. He has also moved from tennis to table tennis. They are both quite active.

This holiday season as always we wish you the best. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

2008 Christmas Newsletter

25 12 2008

Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

We would like to wish you Happy Holidays with our sixth Christmas season newsletter. We hope this finds you well.

Gabrielle and David are growing by leaps and bounds. David, now in second grade, enjoys reading French and he is even trying to read English. He is still taking tennis lessons though he would have preferred to take soccer this year. He shouldn’t be at too big a disadvantage since soccer is the favorite game at recess so he’ll get lots of practice at school. Gabrielle, now in fifth grade, is in her final year of elementary school. Next year we hope she goes to an international junior high school with a strong emphasis on English. She is currently preparing for the entry exam though recently she is less interested in school and more interested in her activities and hobbies. The big thing this year has been the Girl Scouts of American. There is a troop in the area. She participates in the meetings and she has already gone camping. “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.” They have merit badges too…

Both Jeff and I continue working at the same positions we started last year though I changed to slightly reduced workweek by taking Wednesdays off. It gives me more time with the kids who do not have school on Wednesdays. Jeff continues his geocaching, hiking, and mountain bike riding. Of course I am still dancing and I have continued with tennis this year. Also, on Sundays I mountain bike ride with a ladies only group.

We had several good vacations this year. We enjoyed skiing in the Alps in April. The kids had ski lessons again this year and they progressed to their respective next levels. This was the first year that we were actually all able to ski together down the slopes. Our main summer vacation was the kids, my mother, and I visiting family Poland for a few weeks. It was nice seeing family and trying to speak Polish though it is not an easy language to learn for us Franco-Americans. Back from Poland but with summer not completely over we had the opportunity to discover the mountains off-season. We went as a group, 4 adults and 5 kids, with some English friends we made shortly after arriving in France. We went hiking, mountain bike riding, zip-line repelling, and adventure park tree top climbing or accrobranche which is all the rage now. The kids and Jeff seemed to have no fear all safety harnessed up; they just took the plunge so to speak. I participated but at my own pace. With summer finally over and the kids back to school we started planning for Grandma’s visit during the All Saints vacation. We went to Scotland for a week. You can see a detailed write-up and even some photos of our Scottish vacation on our Family Blog. It was really nice for the kids to spend some quality time with Grandma.

From all of us to all of you Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

2007 Christmas Newsletter

25 12 2007

Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

What better time of the year to say hello, the Christmas holiday and soon the new year will be here. This newsletter, fifth in the series, is a brief recap of our year. Jeff started a new job in June and I did the same in September. His work is much closer to home than before but he works longer days and travels more. His job is challenging and interesting. My job is quite different from my last. I used to work for the elderly in a home now I work for teenage students in a school. It has taken me a few months to make the adjustment. A good thing though because I have a feeling I will need experience dealing with teenagers soon.

Gabrielle is now in the 4th grade and doing well. She likes her teacher and she is making new friends. She has entered what everyone is calling the “pre-teen” phase. She is paying attention to what she wears to school and she is developing her own taste in music. She has high fashion blue jean boots and she is listening to the latest teen music. She has noticed a sharp contrast between what she listens to and to what daddy listens to. The two often comment on the other’s music but sometimes they find common ground. She is taking dance lessons, playing on her DS and the computer. The Barbies have been shelved. David has gone form preschool to grammar school and in a few short months he is expected to start learning how to read, write, and do arithmetic. This has been quite the transition for the little man who used to have difficulty just sitting still in the chair. It is marvelous to listen to and to see him starting to read and write. He is taking tennis lessons again this year. Maybe him and I can play together next summer because I too am taking tennis lessons.

This year we had a great summer vacation. We spent one month in United States. The kids got to meet everybody in Chicago and we had a great time with family and friends. David started speaking English while we were there and since then Jeff and I are speaking English again at home. Gabrielle was able renew and certainly add a lot of new memories about the US. You can read her account of our vacation on the Windstrup Family Blog. This year we were lucky to be able to connect with a lot family. My family from Poland even spent a few days with us in France this summer.

We wish you all the best this Christmas and we hope the New Year finds you well.

2006 Christmas Newsletter

25 12 2006

Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

We hope our holiday newsletter finds you well. We would like to give you a brief update on what we have been doing. Our 4th Christmas in France and we couldn’t be happier. The kids are growing fast. Gabrielle is in 3rd grade. She is obviously learning French in school and we are teaching her English at home. This along with the other subjects gives her a lot of homework to do at night. She continues taking drawing classes and she is becoming quite an artist. She certainly draws better than her mom and dad. Early next year she will be 9 years old. David, now 5, is in his last year of kindergarten. Next year he will go to elementary school. They will go to the same school next year. Then they will be able to play, or argue, at home and on the playground. In preparation for the big school David is learning his letters. He has taken ownership of the letter D. “That is my letter”, he says. He is now saying a few words in English and he is quite proud of that. He is interested in sports and he is taking tennis lessons. Jeff took a stained glass class and made an attractive arts and crafts style lamp. Of course, I keep taking dance classes and I am preparing for some dance shows this year. I am thinking about changing jobs next year and Jeff changed this year. I want something different and more challenging. Jeff certainly is challenged in his new position because it is much more technical than his previous position. He likes it though, because as he says, he can use his “geek skills”.

We were happy to return to the US this year for Jeff’s brother Mike’s wedding. Jeff was Mike’s best man and we were glad that we were able to be there for Mike and Jennifer’s marriage. We were also pleased to be back in the USA. Everything seemed just a little different to us. It is strange how things seem to change with time. We had several visitors from the US this year here in France. Jeff’s mom Gloria and her friend Carolyn came to visit and my friend Margaret and her children Monica and Mathew also came on their vacation. Gloria and Carolyn also went to Rome and Margaret and kids went on to Poland. The world it seems is getting smaller. In addition to our trip stateside we took the kids skiing in the Alps. They both took ski lessons for 4 days and they really learned to ski. We French take skiing seriously. After a fairly difficult skills assessment test the kids received certificates and pins that clearly indicate their level. Gabrielle is at the snowflake level and David qualified as a little snowman.

From all of us to all of you a very merry Christmas.

2005 Christmas Newsletter

25 12 2005

Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

Christmas is here and soon a new year. We would like to take a moment to say happy holidays from ours to yours. We hope that you finish this year on a pleasant note and that it continues throughout all of 2006. For us this will be our third Christmas in France and even though it appears that there will not be any snow, as usual, we are all in the spirit of things. Gabrielle and David are having difficulties waiting to open their gifts. As soon as the gifts are out in the open underneath the tree they seem to call to the children. “Open me; ask mommy and daddy for the 15th time if we can open just one…” You know what I’m talking about. Don’t you? And then there is the coming of Santa Claus. We are fairly sure that this is going to be the last year of belief in the jolly, chubby, white bearded man in the red suit and hat for Gabrielle. At the wise old age of 7 kids start to realize the truth while they uncover the perpetual lie of their parents with the aid their classmates. Hopefully she will not spoil it for David so that he can continue to believe in our lie for a few more years.

Gabrielle is in 2nd grade and she is doing well in all areas except for math. She has homework every night and we even add some additional work in English. She is growing, listening to the latest pop music, and starting to follow the new girl’s fashions. She is taking gymnastics and drawing classes after school. She loves her drawing class that her Grandma insisted she be enrolled in. We should probably thank her in helping Gabrielle release her artistic talents. David is getting bigger and as he likes to say he is a “big boy”. He is in pre-school for the second year now and finally he knows that he has to obey the rules. He is speaking a lot more and he now can ride his bike without training wheels. Now that his communications skills are coming along he has mellowed a bit and we couldn’t be more pleased.

This year we went to Poland for 3 weeks for our summer vacation. It was nice seeing family and meeting Christian, my godson and the kids’ second cousin, for the first time. I am still working at the same place and following the same routine. I still take dance lessons but this year I have been invited to be part of a dance company. The company is called “l’espace d’un instant” which translates as Within an Instant. So next year, I’ll be pretty busy with dance rehearsal for the dozen or so shows we have already booked for the year. Maybe you can come and see me. I can try to get you good seats if you’re interested and you can share an instant with me. At the moment Jeff has had a decision made for him that it is time to look for a different job. Sometimes changes come about in our lives that we don’t like or didn’t anticipate but in the long run things turn out for the better. We are both hopeful that this is going to be the case here. Hope to see you soon. You will always have our kindest thoughts and best wishes.