Friday, September 4, 2009

CAMP MOM

Well, I have several August stories and trips that will get their own blog entries – but, since school started today (Thank you!) I thought I’d give you a quick rundown on what we did in August.  I refer to it as Camp Mom – since (except for on weekends) it was me and the kids vs. the world!

On a typical weekday, the kids would sleep in (until around 8am or so) and then have snuggle time with me for at least half an hour.  Then we got up, got dressed and ate our breakfast together (Daddie has left for work by this point).  After breakfast we did about an hour or hour and a half of homework each day. We got a bit freaked out over the summer to realize how far Zander and Callie are slipping behind for American school and decided to do a bit of catch up over the summer – of course we couldn’t leave Griffin out!  Then I would play a game or something with them for about half an hour and continue on to my workout.  I have been feeling very out of shape so I purchased Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred workout – they are only 20 minutes each but it was still a challenge each day to get the kids to play by themselves long enough for me to complete the routine!  Then we would have lunch (with or without Daddie, depending on the day) and clean up together.  Actually, we have now instituted “everyone helps clean up until all the clean up is done” as a rule after every meal.  It was hard to enforce at first, but is now awesome.  We can usually get all the clean up done after a meal (i.e. clearing table, wiping table and counters, sweeping floor and washing and rinsing all dishes) within about 10 minutes.  I love it!  After lunch we did a different activity depending on the day, such as: swimming, hiking, visiting a museum, doing a craft or going grocery shopping/doing errands.  Often they spent time in either the morning or afternoon out in the courtyard with their friends.  Then it was time to make dinner and for Daddie to come home.  He did science experiments with them while dinner was finishing being cooked.  Then we ate, cleaned up and sent the kids outside to play with their friends until bedtime – which was usually around 9pm instead of their usual 7:30.  This was our version of re-immersion into the language.

We took almost all the art down from the craft/computer room to make room for new stuff.  Here are a few shots to remember the former glory.

           mini_HPIM2173 mini_HPIM2174                 mini_HPIM2177         mini_HPIM2178        mini_HPIM2175

mini_HPIM2409Here are some of the crafts we did. On popsicle art day, Camini_HPIM2414llie and Griffin made popsicle caterpillars and Zander made an elaborate house to feed insects, particularly ants – but no bees.  Another day they all worked together to make this elaborate bird cat toy for Simone.  It was wonderful to watch – Griffin picked out the blue sequins while Zander mini_HPIM2410and Callie did the placement and gluing – it came out magnificently!   Another day, when Callie was on the one play date we managed to arrangemini_HPIM2415 this summer (seems they don’t happen much around here), the boys and I made soap box balloon racers.  Left to right, you can see Mr. Bamini_HPIM2413lloonie (by Griffin), The Rose Racer (by moi) and Triple Blue (by Zander).  They actually didn’t roll at all when the balloons were inflated, despite the Family Fun article to the contrary, but it was a great craft anyway.  I loved how they didn’t let that little snag bother them – they must be learning to go with the flow, just like us.

mini_HPIM2355 And then, of course there was the other creativity that went on.  I went omini_HPIM2402utside once to find Callie protecting this sand sculpture she had painstakingly created outside one day  when no friends were around.  Another day I was treated to Zander the swami doing his snake charmer impression for the amusement of Griffin.  Zander is always creating something.  Today he ripped a receipt up into tiny pieces and

arranged them so they looked somewhat like a robot on the (formerly clean) living room floor.  He showed them to me saying excitedly, “Look at this, Mom!”.  I responded with the (admittedly repressive): “Looks like a mess on my floor.”   His priceless rejoinder: “Mom, you never respect my art.” (No, I am not making that up).    I am filled with chagrin…. Finally you can see my personal fave of the month, the day Callie decided to be creative with Griffin’s head. He loved it as you can see! I have been doing some scrapbooking recently, and when Zander was this age and he loved to get his hair done and get dressed up too. 

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DSC00797 For museums we visited the Citadelle to see the animals and enjo

y the view.  We also got to see a cool new insect display.  Towards the end of our visit they had an interactive portion and Zander was chosen as a volunteer.  He got to hold a sword and pretend to fight with it. They also did this bizarre sword fight set to music – it was supposed to be serious, I think. See the video… Callie and Griffin were too shy to take part, unfortunately.  The kids also did workshops at the Musee de Temps and the Musee de Beaux Arts.  They loved both the classes but particularly the one at Beaux Arts which was focused on art and mythology around monsters. Below you can see them before the class and Zander and Callie’s monster pictures…

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I will do a quick update on each kid.  Griffin has had kind of a rocky August.  For whatever reason, his transition back to France was not easy.  He is still almost never speaking French and has even started having accidents with the potty from time to time (OK, more like every other day). I am hoping and praying he will stay clean at school. He seems very nervous for the start of school and I think it is mostly because he is really going to miss Callie, who was in the same school with him all last year.  He did well during homework time, however! His daily homework consisted of doing a page of the Summer Bridge workbook for Pre-K to K.  Of course I realize this is a full year ahead of his skill level, but he wanted to be included, seemed to like it and could do most of the work with very little help.  I was actually amazed when, last week, I did some letter and number flashcards with him and he knew almost all the letters (about 18) and the numbers (all but 9 and 10), on his first mini_DSC00838try.  I guess it has been sinking in on some level or another!  He has a bit of trouble socially at home because it seems he is the only 4 year old out there playing,  I don’t know what the moms do with their 4 year olds, but they are either inside or only outside for about half an hour, totally with their mothers.  Of course, Griffin is not willing to stay inside when his brother and sister are going out – and he is usually fine  playing alone for 20 minutes or more but I think it would be better if he had more peers.  Sometimes the bigger kids are mean to him and he retaliates by doing things like throwing rocks at them.  In a way, I’m glad he does this instead of running away crying – but also, I think rock throwing is not the best of habits!  He really is too small still to bike and wants a big boy trike but we have been unable to find one the right size for him.  He spent about half an  hour  pedaling around and around on this toy the other day. We’ll keep looking! 

Callie hamini_DSC00770s jumped right back into French life.  As soon as we arrived here, friends began knocking on our door and she was ready for action.  In fact, they were ringinmini_HPIM2170g so much Zander was inspired to create this sign to post next to our doorbell! You can see her with best bud Evan, who is limber enough to climb, unaided, up into that tiny window well. She has been doing pretty well on her homework as well.  She struggles with the sounds of the vowels and printing correctly (of course, they don’t print at all in France, only cursive so she has never learned how to print!).  She really enjoys learning and seems to pick up most things very easily. She and her friends have lots of fun playing with Littlest Pet Shops and Polly Pockets and generally just hanging out together.  She seems to be very worried about school, especially the bigger kids who might be mean and  the change to staying at school for lunch.  Yes, that’s right – she and Zander will be eating lunch at school from now on.  I want to do this to help them socialize more and also so that I can keep having a bit of special time with Griffin who is now in for a full day at only 4 years old.  She has been really picking up swimming to an amazing level and I have even started teaching her how to dive – it is awesome to see her in the water.  I wish we could go more often.  She has really been struggling, however, with learning to bike better.  She knows how to bike, can do it quite well, in fact, and even laughs and giggles when she is feeling confident.  The problem is that she has fallen a few times and gets easily scared.  Once she gets scared, she starts to slow down, loses her balance and usually falls.  Obviously, this does not help with her confidence.  She is also extremely worried about what others think of her and refuses to ride in the presence of her friends who openly mock her if she falls.  We did manage to go on our first family bike ride last weekend, but she walked her bike about half the time!

Zander adjusted back to French life with surprising ease.  He had so much fun and was so well behaved in the US I was sure I was in for some trouble when we got back to France but I was totally wrong.  He was a bit slower re-adjusting socially than his garrulous sister but is now completely one of the crew. You see him below playing Legos with one of the neighbors. He spmini_HPIM2171eaks in French too!  He especially enjoys riding his new bike around and around.  You may remember his old bike was smashed to bits by vandals at the end of last year. I looked retail but was dissuaded by prices that were at least 130 Euros for a bike not as nice as his old model.  Um…. no! It took a few weekends of looking but he is now the very proud owner of an 18 speed bikmini_DSC00837e (bought at Emmaus for only 30 Euros – thank you).  He is really almost too small for it but he loves it insanely and is really working on mastering all those gears.  He has been very active this summer, improving tons with his swimming and he also had a great time at this amazing new playground  we went to the other day.  I was too busy spotting to take a photo, but he was at the top of this creation pictured right, and you can see who has climbed higher in the photo below with Callie!  He has been doing amazingly well with his homework. I have never worked well with mymini_DSC00834 son but, for whatever reason, we made a breakthrough this summer and he has been working very hard for me.  He is an ace at math but struggles mightily with his reading.  His attitude and work ethic are great and he has improved, especially with his comprehension, as we work together, but it is just soooo very difficult for him. He still gets so many things backwards and mixed up and has a terrible time remembering anything that requires memorization.  The more I work with him the more I think he may have some form of dyslexia.  I’m no expert but I have read a bmini_HPIM2408it and he has tons of the typical signs found on various websites I’ve seen (actually, he seems to have every single one listed under primary age children).  Obviously, we need a professional to diagnose him and hopefully intervene and his counselor knows someone who is qualified to do this.  Of course,  they are qualified to do it in french and he is, obviously, not!  But I guess all we can do is the best we can.  The expert is currently on vacation (like 2/3rds of France) and we hope to get in touch with her early in September. Zander is reading simple books now with greater ease and is having fun doing it.  Also he is still writing and illustrating stories with my help – which I am very happy about. We are working on the fl sound and he came up with the story right. “There was a bad man. They flopped him in a slingshot. He flew, hit the ground, flipped and was flat.  He won’t be bad any more. That is for sure. He is road pizza.”  Love the illustration too!  I only hope all the work we have done doesn’t hurt his hard work last year in French school.  He is very, very excited for school to begin and totally looking forward to it.  This is even despite the fact we recently found out his two best friends (Noemi and Tibaud) have moved away. He also seems to have no qualms whatsoever about staying for lunch – which I thought he would hate the idea of.  Who can figure? 

As for Andre’, he is back at work.  It has been a bit choppy there since vacations are being taken left and right and also because his role at work has recently been changed a bit.  He is also still pursuing our options in terms of the monthly payment we are supposed to get just for living in France.  We were denied and his bosses are going to try to get that changed by changing our carte de sejour.  I hope it works or it will be bye bye to a few of our future vacation plans!  He is still running all over the hills of Besancon and has also been frequenting some dancing night clubs on the weekends.  He loves to dance and I am so happy he has found a place he can listen to that techno-crap he claims is music without inflicting it on me!

OK, I guess you want to hear about me?  (Not really, I’m sure).  Well, I am going to tell you anyway.  I am actually pretty happy.  I was really dreading August and it went way, way, better than I ever thought it would.  I did lots of fun cooking recently.  There is  so much interesting produce here that doesn’t exist back home.  They have these little black plums called pruneaux that are delicious and these yellow ones, that are smaller than ping pong balls, called mirabelles.  They are so good, it’s like eating candy.  I made a mirabelle tart with them.  Also we picked the local versmini_HPIM2364ion ofmini_HPIM2363 blackberries called mûre and I made two jars of jam with that and André also made a delicious blackberry bisque.  I loved the color!  I have also done thai shrimp, a comté tomato pie and my first whole duck in the past month.  I am really looking forward to having more time to cook once the kids are gone all day.  The kids and I have had so much fun together this month, and really this whole summer.  I have really started to be able to appreciate them as people and laugh with them some of the time. I am alsomini_DSC00833 very, very happy at how well they are playing together lately.  They really have become great friends this summer.  I have no idea if it will hold with the advent of school, but for now it is amazing.  I would say it is the first time in their lives that all three of them have been in harmony for more than 5 minutes at a time.  André and I are also getting along extremely well these days – I wouldn’t say we have figured this marriage thing out quite yet – but we are laughing together almost every day, which is invaluable. I am still very lonely and wonder how my life will shake out once the fall begins with school and all three kids gone 4 days per week.  For now, I’m taking it one day at a time, and trying to enjoy every moment.  I even laugh out loud randomly when the occasion calls.  For example, I saw this egg display at the market the other day and just started to laugh. I wonder if this is where the saying “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” came from?  They had at least 3 baskets, as you can see – but it still looked pretty precarious to me. 

I ran across an Einstein quote in a book I was reading the other day that has stuck with me: “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”  I have always had the desire to live each moment, appreciate the simple things etc… but lately – I feel like I am actually doing it (at least some of the time).  Every moment really is a miracle, and I am so lucky to be alive, healthy and surrounded by people who love me.

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