Another nice thing is that the weather has warmed up a bit. I love snow, but not cold and I hate walking everywhere all bundled up with the wind freezing my face off. Also, I have to act all like "Hey, this is great - no problem" or my kids will sense my weakness and start whining. Well, it has gotten much warmer and the wind had died down as well.
School wise, the end of the week was great too. I had all three of the kids' teachers and their tutor tell me things that boiled down to - your kids are finally getting it! They don't have to reexplain in English any longer - the kids are understanding all the French and Callie and Griffin are even speaking it as well. Zander is still having the hardest time but he is working very hard and seems happy in school. His teacher told me the best thing about Zander is that he has such a big heart. Everyone else who has done this before us says that it takes 4 to 6 months for the language to kick in - well we are just past 4 months and the good reports are starting up. Proud mama is me!
On Saturday Callie had her 2nd french birthday party - for her friend Paul (pronounced 'pole') at Funky Parc (which is sort of the French version of Chuck E. Cheese). Of course she loved it. While she was having her party, we invited Tebaud (TeeBO) over for a playdate with Zander. They had a wonderful time together playing board games, forts, pirates and making things with modeling clay. He is a great kid - polite and kind - hopefully he will be a good influence on Zander.
We finished out the day by shopping for Callie's party supplies - she will be turning 6 years old this Wednesday and her party will be at our house Saturday. Counting my 3, there will be 12 kids there - so we have hired a babysitter as back up adult hands!
Saturday night I made a lame attempt to help André with some French paperwork - it is very hard for me because I can't understand details of the language or pick out what parts of the cover letter are important. I end up translating the whole thing - taking me an hour - when he could have done the same thing in 5 minutes. Anyway, the point of this story (since all my stories have a point, right?) is that, to the French, politeness and doing things a certain way is very important. This is true in spoken language but most especially in written language. When I used to be in marketing my closer was something like. "If you have any questions or problems, please feel free to contact me at any time" Oh ho, ho, not so simple in french business talk. A great example of this formality is the closing paragraph of this letter that was written to us (it is a cover letter for an application for a grant we might be eligible for). "I remain at your disposal to answer any request for additional information. I wish you good reception and, please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my cordial greetings." Excellency???? I mean, who wouldn't be happy after being referred to as an Excellency? - we do have 11 blog followers but still, I don't think I qualify for a title.....
Sunday we wanted to do something, but what? a swim? (did that Wednesday) a bike ride? (wait, it's cold and rainy) a hike?? (um, didn't we just say it was cold and rainy?)
Well, it's less cold and rainy than it has been. A hike it is then. We dithered back and forth a bit - maybe we should stay home, do some bills, clean etc... but we really wanted to get out of the house - and we won't melt right? André had been wanting us to hike together up to Fort Chaudanne - so we decided to go for it! You know you have been in Europe for awhile when you say to your kids - come on, let's go for a hike to see a castle and their response is "Oh man! Not another castle!" Finally we convinced them by promising trees and forest as well. After a bit of misadventure we all got on the (infrequently running) Sunday bus and headed out to the station near the mountain. It was actually kind of fun to hike up the mountain - but it was also cold, and windy and rainy. When reaching a sign post, we decided to hit Petit Chaudanne (.6 km) instead of Fort Chaudanne (1.8km) that day. We wound our way up the hills, enjoying impressive views of the Doubs and Besancon, and finally made it to.... an abandoned animal pen??? At least, that is what it seemed like. It did have some overgrown fortlike walls and stuff around it. I guess that's what happens after 100 years of neglect. We stopped and had a picnic lunch (with a thermos full of hot cocoa) and Griffin decided it would be great time to pee in his pants. Of course, I had a change of pants with me in the bag, but we still had to change him out in the freezing conditions. (We also had to do this a couple of times in the Alps, in the snow....). He doesn't like it one bit, but the dislike doesn't seem to motivate him not to do it either. Not sure if anything will motivate the stubborn little lunk. Anyway, we headed back down the mountain to wait for the bus. Callie, usually the least sensitive of our trio, was NOT loving this particular adventure, she spent a lot of time whining from picnic point on but we made it to the bus stop in good speed (maybe because it was a 200m drop in elevation at 18 percent grade?) Oh well, those Sunday busses. It was supposed to come in 9 minutes and ended up not showing for almost 1/2 hour - which, when you are standing in an wind tunnel, is a long time. We huddled together most of the time for warmth - kids took turns in the middle of the huddle pretending to be the chocolate in the pain au chocolate..... (see, even our imaginary analogies are becoming french) Hot baths when we got home, of course.
On Sunday we also spent some time cleaning out the kids 'special places'. Since they share a room, they each have a foot locker that they can put things into that no one else is allowed to mess with - this means that any toy not in the special place is fair game for any other kid to play with. Well, of course, everything seems special to them and soon the places are overflowing. I really needed Callie to take care of hers since I know she will get gifts at her party and that means she would want to put them in the box. She did a good job cleaning up and so did her brother later. They spent some time 'trading' some of their special things and she ended up with a large quantity of plastic jewels, some of which became body jewelry as you can see!
Until next time, please refer to me as: Her Excellency, Rebecca