I haven’t been blogging for a while because i have been going nuts trying to get ready to come to the US (ONLY ONE WEEK LEFT!) and I keep putting this off.
But, a strange thing has happened to me – I miss it! I feel like I need to write. I was supposed to be asleep but have been thinking so much about blogging I couldn’t rest. What is happening to me? I finally gave up trying to go to sleep and headed up here. PLUS – so damned much has happened since we last spoke.
Let’s see… 3 weeks ago Andre’ went to a conference in Paris for the day. (He is pictured, left, discussing something official. By the way, his technical blog is http://dhondtsayitsagile.blogspot.com). Meanwhile, the kids and I went to the first ever Hautes de St. Claude block party. I did face painting for the kids, which was a big hit and also made the very American goumet dishes of Jello, popcorn and brownies (also a bit hit). Even though it was very disorganized (like, there were no plates or forks and cups and there were dishes like salad that were impossible to eat) it was still fun and lots of people came out. It started to absolutely pour about an hour into the festivities – but we just stood under awnings and partied onward. I was happy to get a chance to meet more people and attempted many French conversations. The person who organized the party, Claudine, was especially nice to me. Pictured below (L to R) are: Callie, Evan, Luca, Lots of neighbors in the rain, Perigne and Thibaud.
Hmm… in other news that week we went back to counseling for Zander again and Griffin wore this lovely ensemble to the office. He loves to be beautiful and play princess (so did Zander when he was 4 – but not in public!) My policy on this type of thing is, why not? Many people told us she looked beautiful – and were suitably horrified when we told them ‘she’ was a ‘he’. Further evidence of my ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ parenting style can be seen by viewing Griffin’s hairdo – bottom right. Hopefully this is not the reason for Zander’s issues as he ended up in therapy at age 7. So far nothing much has changed for Z – but he HAS stopped trying to break his glasses and seems to accept that he is stuck with the Rec Specs – which is a relief. Except for, as you can see in this photo – he doesn’t keep them on all the time – says they get too sweaty – this makes us worry he might fall and get hurt. Luckily he was wearing them when he took a major tumble off his bike the other day – even cracked his trusty helmet – Thank goodness he was wearing it. (Example of a not so small thing in our opinion. The rule is… no helmet, no glasses, no bike!) In France, almost no kids wear their helmets. I even know one family where the kid went to the ER to get like, 10 stitches and had a concussion from falling from his bike. He wasn’t wearing his helmet. A few days later I see the same kid riding around on his bike, still with no helmet. Um, do warnings mean nothing to you people? Of course, we bought Zander a new crack free helmet, which he loves.
Yesterday I took the kids to the circus for the first time since we’ve been here. Circus is HUGE in France – there are tons of circuses and we see the different companies and tents all the time. This one was the Pindar circus – it was only one ring and the entire audience was probably only like, 400 to 500 people. This meant we were really, really close to everything – even in the cheap seats – and in the expensive seats (which were only like 40 Euros) you could have literally just reached your hand into the ring. (must do this before leaving France.) It was awesome. They had amazing acrobats (hula hoops, ring in the sky, trapeze, jugglers, etc…) and lots of animals (elephants, horses, a dozen lions plus 4 tigers) and, of course, a clown. They also had an older man who was playing live music. In other words, he was actually using drums to do the dramatic drum roll thing. I really got a chance to appreciate how hard the stagehands (er, ringhands?) work at the circus – they were hopping the entire time. The kids had a good time, of course, but the French kids were soooooooooo into it – the place was packed.
Tonight I had what I am pretty sure will be my last French horseback riding lesson. My 10 sessions are over and I just don’t feel right doing it again. I love horses, and riding, but I am just not learning anything. In fact, tonight was almost a repeat of the first lesson I had (another beginner was starting) and I did far worse than I did the very first time. Depressing, after 10 lessons. I think, back then, I was going on my instincts and past knowledge, but now I am trying to incorporate what they are trying to teach me – but I don’t understand half of it and I am just screwing up. This wouldn’t matter too much in an art class or something but in this case I feel like it is just not safe. I almost fell a couple times tonight. Plus, and probably more importantly, another living creature, is continually being tortured by my ineptitude. It is just not fair to the horse. I am also not connecting socially with the other riders. On a brighter note, I continue with my yoga and my classmates think I am some sort of amazing flexible superstar. The group is quite a bit older than me (in fact, I believe they are all at least in their 50’s and most are clearly retired, like me!) but that doesn’t really matter – in fact it is cool – the one guy thought I was 25 – total ego booster. They are nice. I hope to continue with this in the fall.
Zander had his bike vandalized today. He rides it back and forth to school and locks it up there. He’s been riding to school for about a month or more. Today his tires were popped, gears were smashed and brake lines were snapped. Basically it is now totally trashed. The bike rack is right next to the school gate, but the principal says, since it is not school property, he can’t do anything. He also refuses to let him keep it on school property. We didn’t bother with the police, I mean, what are they supposed to do? So, we put out a sign offering 20 Euros as a reward if anyone can tell who did it. Regis, who helped with the sign, said we probably wouldn’t get any response. “Since World War II the French don’t talk.” Um, OK…. but I told Zander all we could do was try. Guess we will head to Emmaus tomorrow to look for a ‘new’ used bike. I told the crossing guard about it and her response was “N’importe quoi” repeated several times. Literally translated this means something like – What isn’t important (I think). I was confused (seems pretty important to me!) and asked Callie and she didn’t really know but thought it meant things were bad (her translating is usually better than this). Andre’ says it means different things in different situations – but in this situation it means something like. “That doesn’t make any sense!” I despair of ever being able to learn this language. Another mom said “Bete” which means “Stupid”. Why can’t others be more like her?
This blog is such a brain dump – I just hope it helps me get to sleep!
This part of France is full of roses. Blooming, stinking gorgeous roses. They form hedges, fill highway dividers, grow wild in the woods and generally just bloom like crazy. These are no fragile, hard to grow creatures here in France. Callie and I love their heady scent but it makes Zander and Daddie feel sick. The flower situation around here is fun as usual. Especially cool is that Andre’ has been bringing me flowers from his morning runs every day. It reminds me of when we were first dating and he would bring me flowers like every week! He likes the challenge of finding something new. Luckily there are always lots of new ones as the season progresses and last weekend, we even went to the Besancon Botanical garden where I got to check out lots and lots. Unfortunately, many of them were not labeled or it was simply unclear what the labels were pointing to. I am a bit sad not to have expanded my knowledge too much. Here are 18 of the latest and greatest…. Going from top left to right, here are the items I could identify: 1. unknown 2 and 3. Papavar Rhoeas (seen growing wild and in a garden so I’m not sure if it’s indigenous) 4. Freesia 5. Digitalis (cool, right? Like for heart attacks) 6. shows what must be the scientific name for Daisies – Pyrethre de Da (something covered by a flower) tie. I wish the signs had featured the common names as well – who can remember that? 7. ? 8. Lis Orange (orange lily) 9, 10, 11. ? 12. Clematis 13. ? 14. Achille MilleFueille (1000 leaved Achilles? Common name????) this grows wild all over the place 15. water lilies, 16, 17, 18. ? I know, I know, you expect better of me but I just can’t take the time to research today! The kids pointed out at least half of these to me – they love to find new ones for me.
There has been tons of artistic excitement around here lately. Zander (who has been taking art classes all year) finally had his expo where we got to visit and see his work. He is quite prolific as you can see by the shots of his stuff below.
These are his sculptures – I love the middle one – it is a bed that tips down like a slide. The last one was actually created by Andre’ who came with Zander one night – it is a laptop tree swing.
Here are some of his drawings (there were like 20). I love the Egg House – so creative! The last shot is of his teacher. He really likes Zander. He says he is a great listener, works really hard and takes his work very, very seriously. Also he is nice. He also said he has a great eye for detail and is good at drawing just what he sees.
We also went to an art show at Fort Griffon, held by the preschools in the area. It featured some art made by Callie and Griffin. Here they are with their monster art!
We then had a nice picnic and wandered around Fort Griffon a bit. It is the ‘other’ citadelle of Besancon. It has beautiful views and fun gardens to explore.
Also, I got fascinated by the variety of bees I saw pollinating these strange (sorry, also unidentified) pink flowers. I took some nice shots and showed them to our local French expert (aka the kid’s tutor) Cecile. She claims the first is a bee or abeille. It looks like the bees I think of as honeybees – and it is probably the first time I’ve seen one in France. She had no idea what the giant black one with blue wings was (it was scary, I’ll tell you) and the last one she called a boursin (reminds me a bit of our bumblebee). I will also include a shot of the giant dragonfly here – as long as we’re discussing insects. She lived in the pond at the botanical garden.
Hmm… Oh – well after the botanical gardens we headed up to Chappelle de Buis which is a little town (and I do mean little – like 20 buildings) perched on a hill overlooking Besancon. That means the view is actually higher than the citadelle. There was a lovely little church that we stopped in. It was interesting because they obviously redid the entire interior – new stained glass, perfectly smooth walls. Very calm and peaceful.
On the outside of the church, there was a statue of the Virgin Mary, looking suitably pious, as usual. I took this photo because there was what looked like an entire colony of bees swarming around the hem of her gown (see right). We were looking at it, wondering if the bees were lost or trying to find a new hive or what, when a very old nun wandered by with her (only slightly less old) companion. They noticed us looking and told us that this happens every year, one day per spring. Supposedly, the bees come in the morning, swarm around Mary’s feet all day and then, at around 5:30 pm, they all just fly away-–back to their hive, she guessed. OK – is that normal? Is this some kind of miracle the Vatican should know about? How cool that we were there on the one and only special ‘bee’ day of the year? Jealous much? We headed over to the very strange Monument de la Liberation. I find it strange because it has no placard, or explanation of why it is there. I assume it is for liberation from German occupation WWII – but I’m not positive. We had our usual picnic lunch nearby and found, wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, real, live, edible wild strawberries. Have you ever had these? They are so tart and sweet and good! The kids were thrilled and spent about an hour picking what ended up being about 3 cups of berries. I have very vivid memories of the same type of small wild strawberries that used to grow in front of our old house in Ringwood. I would spend hours each spring picking a small box of the miniscule treasures just for the pleasure of eating them in a bowl with milk and sugar. I also spent inordinate amounts of time picking raspberries and blackberries as a kid. But this time folks, I went one step further. I actually made wild strawberry jam out of them – it is really a neat taste and I feel so pioneer! We are hoping to find a pick your own berry farm for our traditional father’s day jam fest this Saturday – but can’t get through on the farm to either of the places we found online. Our plan is to head out there and hope they exist. Should be another adventure, of course.
Have you ever heard of synchronicity? It’s like, when you learn about something and then it is everywhere…. So, we read this Water Witches book and voila – we met the fossil dowser. Then, the very nice neighbor Claudine invited us over for dinner. We met with her and two lovely American college students spending 2 months studying here (Sadly, they were Penn State students, but I decided to overlook that due to my constant search for conversation with someone other than my husband). We had a lovely time and we tried to speak mostly in French. It was comforting to see that my French (though crap) is about as good as these women who have actually studied French for like, 6 years, and were minoring in it. OK, to be truthful they kicked my butt on grammar but I had a better accent – and I felt like I could get ideas across just as well as they did – so I must be learning something. I’m afraid to tell you that something is…. after 9 months of immersion – you will be able to speak as well as….. a 2 year old! Congrats! But, as usual, I digress. I was talking about synchronicity, remember? We were talking about our recent adventure in Tasseniers to the group and mentioned dowsing and it turns out that Claudine can dowse. Actually, everyone in her family can do it – some better than others – and they do it for all kinds of things, not just water. Dowsers are everywhere people. Right now, one of your friends is probably a dowser – and you just don’t know it.
I believe in magic.