Monday, September 28, 2009

It's that time - brrr!

We had sunshine and warmish weather this past weekend, but not today...

It looks like we made it a couple of weeks longer than last year, but we have already turned the heat on in the boys' rooms, and with all the cold fog outside this morning I decided it was time to make the house a little bit warmer!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

And *I'm* the one who needs driving school?

How about the Frenchies who think the road belongs to them?!

It's a good thing we didn't pay too much for the "new" car, because we've only had it for a month or two and have already had to pay a 90 € deductible to replace the windshield that cracked in the heatwave, and now we're going to have to replace 2 tires...

Thursday was the first day I had to take Benjamin to school, since Frederic had been on vacation all of September, but went back on Wednesday (and Benjamin doesn't have school on Wednesdays).

Getting him there in the morning was fine. But when it came time to go pick him up...

Noah and I left the house at 11:45 to pick Benjamin up at noon. The school is only about 3 km away, so it doesn't take more than about 5 minutes to get there.

Our village roads are VERY narrow. They are not wide enough for 2 cars, but they are 2-way streets. I'm not sure how old the houses along the road are, but the church is 12th century... the village was definitely around centuries before cars were invented.

Not even 1/2 mile from our house, this big white delivery-type truck came barreling at me. He saw me coming but did not budge a single millimeter to his side of the road, so I had to pull as far to the right as I could. I slowed down, but didn't stop -- and this is where the story goes wrong, because I did not see but did hit a huge square stone (there are several on the side of the road, sort of like a makeshift curb, or something. They are spaced about 2-3 feet apart). The car literally LEFT the ground, and fell back down. The speed limit in the village is is 40 kmh (25 mph) and I was not even going that fast - it was a big rock. I continued on for a few more feet, but the car was shaking so I knew the tire was totally flat. I pulled off the road and got out to check, and not only was the tire flat, the whole wheel was dented in.

Just before I got out of the car, I saw the neighbor drive by on her way to school to pick up her daughter - but as I was still in the car, I wasn't able to flag her down.

So I took Noah out, skedaddled back to the house with him in my arms, and tried to call Frederic. He didn't answer. I tried again, but he still didn't answer. I called his friend who is always with him at work, but it turned out his friend was on vacation so of course had no idea where Frederic was. During this time, I was looking up the school's phone number (need to program that one into the phone!). I called the school, and the teacher said they could just put Benjamin on the bus.

But by now it was at least 12:05, and the bus only takes about 5 minutes to get to our village, and it takes 10 walking fast to get to the only bus stop which is in the center of the village. So I grabbed Noah and ran out the door again. At least this time I had the presence of mind to stop at the car where I had left it on the side of the road to check for Noah's stroller, which to my ENORMOUS relief was indeed in my car and not in Frederic's.

I walked as fast as I could down to the village (in my sandals, not bright, the side of my foot is rubbed raw now). As I arrived at the bus stop, the bus was pulling away and the other kids were leaving with their parents, and Benjamin was the last one left with the teacher's aide & bus monitor. He started pointing at me and saying, "That's my mommy!" (in English) -- but he didn't seem bothered in the slightest by having had to take the bus.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

What's happening around here:

We enjoyed a visit from Emily and Brent last weekend. We took them to a flea market in La Ferté-Milon, and to see the village of Longpont.

We went to Frederic's older sister and brother-in-law's last Saturday and had lunch with them, Frederic's brother and family, and cousins.

Benjamin still loves school - and can say "j'aime l'école !" in his very American accent. I still find it amazing that he goes swimming every week with school. He has also learned how to put his own coat on quickly and easily - I have never seen this method outside of France, although for all I know they do it in the US, too. I should get a video and show you.

Noah's vocabulary, albeit probably not understandable yet to many other people, is expanding daily. Some of his favorite words and phrases are: "Here you go!" [heah gooo], "thank you!" [tak oo], and "coquin" [co kaa].

Frederic installed one of the two lights that will go over the bar in the kitchen/dining room.

Yesterday we went to Frederic's brother and sister-in-law's to help them celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary.

It's getting colder and the garden is winding down; we're contemplating what to put and where for next year.

Frederic has been on vacation the past 2 1/2 weeks. He goes back on Wednesday and we are not looking forward to it (even though we're glad he has a job to go to) - it was nice having him home. (It would have been like a vacation for me, but with Emily out last week and this week, I'm working overtime!)

We're planning our Thanksgiving trip! On our itinerary so far: St Louis, Tulsa, Madill, Georgetown, and Memphis - if your town isn't listed and you think it should be, let us know! (This is all of course contingent on no one getting sick this year....)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

bicycles and swim caps

Our friends who came last weekend gave Benjamin a bicycle they didn't need anymore. So we bought some training wheels, and let him at it. He is having a hard time pedaling so far, but he likes his bike.

I mentioned the possibility a few days ago, and we have since found out that he does indeed get to go swimming through preschool. We had to buy him a swim cap, and he has to wear a speedo-style swimsuit (both due to French swimming pool "hygiene" regulations). We got him a backpack to carry his towel and swim cap in, so he is all set.

He went to the pool for the first time on Tuesday, and from the few words we managed to squeeze out of him, he seemed to have enjoyed it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

more weekend visiting

This is where a WWI observatory tower used to be in our forest. Now there is a memorial there.

This is a monument that I assume is associated with the cemetery a little further on. The inscription on the base says: "Passant, arrête-toi." ("Passerby, stop.")

The British WWI cemetary is quite small and not very accessible as there is no real place to park nearby. 98 British soldiers are buried there, and the land was a gift to the British from France to honor the soldiers who died during the war.

The inscription under the cross and the sword says "Their name liveth for evermore."

The kids were more interested by the little door where the guest book was kept.

FINALLY, after living here for 3 years, we stopped to take some pictures of the windmill! This is our landmark that says, "We're almost home!" It's of course no longer functional and is boarded up.

After our quick photo op at the windmill, we continued on to a local flea market, where I found novels in English! Most of you know how hard those are to find in France (if you don't want to pay an arm and a leg, and I don't), so I couldn't resist. The girl selling them was Irish and almost didn't put them out because she figured she wouldn't find any takers - our region is not known for having many foreigners.

We made a short afternoon of it, since the kids (and we) were all still pretty worn out from Disneyland the day before.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

the happiest place on earth... but not on Saturdays.

We went to a very crowded Disneyland Paris on Saturday with our friends who were visiting from Germany. Up until now, we've always been able to go to Disneyland during the week, and during the school year. Now that Benjamin is in school, that just got a lot more complicated, so we had to brave the Saturday crowds. And crowds there were. We managed to ride a grand total of about six rides.

Benjamin got to drive his own car.
while Noah and I waited. (I'm still resisting cutting those curls!!)
We went on the Casey Junior kids' rollercoaster, and Benjamin was saying, "This is fun!"

And once we found a ride we didn't think Noah would try to jump out of (the fairytale boat ride), he got to go on it, too.

By the end of the day, Benjamin was walking hunched over, dragging his hands close to the ground, and saying "I'm too tired!" He made no complaints when it was time to go to bed when we got home! And Noah was unrecognizable - he took a one hour nap while we were there, and was a happier little kid than we have seen in 18 months (he is 18 months old today! Already?!). Maybe we should take him to Disneyland more often...!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

La Rentrée

That is what they call "back to school" in French, but all of French life revolves around school. Even people who don't have kids go on vacation in July or August and talk about "la rentrée" in September. We try to avoid watching the news in September because they talk about la rentrée ad nauseum.

Benjamin had his first "rentrée" today, or as one of the neighbors called it, "la grande rentrée" (the "big" one, since it was his first). He could have attended last year, but I really thought not-quite-3 was too young, and we were gone down south for 3 months anyway.

As I probably mentioned before, this is a one-room schoolhouse set-up, and his school includes children in the 2 years of preschool and one of kindergarten ("école maternelle") and first grade ("CP"). There are 3 other children in his class, the "moyenne section" (second year preschool).

His school is located in a nearby village, about 2.5 km from our house.

It is right next to the church, in which, like in our village, they probably have mass once every 3 months or so.

This is the courtyard door; this is where the kids go in and out, and it is here that the parents gather to drop off or pick up their kids.
When we got there this morning, we found out we were supposed to have brought slippers for him (not sure how we were supposed to know this since we had zero communication from the teacher beforehand), and we discovered that the director and the teacher are the same person (and I felt quite old seeing this guy who looked to be in his 20s teaching my kid).

Benjamin seemed to feel right at home as we walked in the door and he saw there were toys. I called him over to say goodbye, and he said, "So, bye bye, Mommy." I believe that translated to, "Get out of here, Mom, you're cramping my style."

Here he is when we picked him today, he was saying, "I like school."
He didn't tell us much about it, but the teacher told us he asked for "Papa" at one point (and Benjamin later told me he cried and said he wanted Daddy to go to school with him - whether he actually cried, I have no idea, I sort of doubt it, though). And he told us very proudly that he had spoken French at school. We have been insisting on the fact that he'd have to speak French at school for a few weeks already.

There is some talk of swimming class but we haven't determined yet whether that is for all the students or perhaps only the first graders. Frederic is supposed to ask tomorrow because if it is for Benjamin, we'll have to go find him a swimming cap before Tuesday. Speaking of odd school supplies!

The first parents' informational meeting is on Tuesday (why four days AFTER school starts and not BEFORE, I'll never know) but as we have no babysitter, only one of us will be able to attend. So either I can go, and having no frame of reference for French schooling, I may not understand half of it, or Frederic can go, and forget to tell me half of it when he gets home. Hmph.

It's not actually much of a break to have him gone for 3 hours in the morning. He's pretty self-entertaining most of the time, and the hassle of getting him and Noah up and dressed on time to go, then driving there to drop him off and pick him up sort of cancels out any time benefit there might be. When you haven't had a babysitter in almost 4 years, it's a little strange to all of a sudden be expected to entrust your child to someone else, especially someone else you've never met and know nothing about, but anyway - I survived his first day, too, and did NOT cry, in case anyone is wondering.