La Rentree - this is what the French call the return to the school year. I think we refer to it as: ‘Back to school’. The photo is of the kids and I heading to school on the first day. It was raining (welcome to September in Franche-Comté) and Griffin is carrying his gluten-free cookies. We have all been trying to walk together each morning, which is very fun.
The first day back we got to Griffin’s school to discover it wouldn’t be open for another half an hour. It only took going to the other school to discover why. I had been a bit concerned since I got zero information on which class the kids would be in. Was I missing out because I’m some stupid American again? For once, the answer was no. It turns out that no one knows anything until that first morning. The parents and children all come pouring into the courtyard, attempting to find out which list contains the name of their child – and who will be their teacher. The first day is stressful enough without adding in this overwhelming mob. It was madness! It was also very unclear what to do once we finally found our kids’ names. We just tried to find the teacher, said goodbye and left the teeming masses, hoping to get Griffin to his school on time.
Griffin is doing very well. He hasn’t had any accidents at all (hooray!) and, in his own words: “loves, loves, loves” school this year. I was sad he did not get Valerie as a teacher, since I believe she is one of those rare gems of a teacher that is truly gifted (plus she speaks English), but I do like Agnes. She seems to be gentle and kind and truly loves all the children – I can’t ask for anything more than that. She says he is doing very, very well in class and excels at handiwork – things like cutting and stringing beads. (Can’t imagine why!) He has been coming home each day to have lunch with me. We do special art projects or play a game or even, one day, had a party lunch. At left, you can see him walking through the forest one day that we went for a picnic lunch. He was the leader, of course. He has so very much to say when we have one on one time. I think he often gets drowned out with his older brother and sister around and relishes the chance to have center stage. He is in a phase where he thinks he knows everything and loves to tell me all about it. “Mommy, that is a treasure rock. Did you know that? If we break it open with a hammer, the treasure will be inside. You didn’t know that, right?” etc….. My role here is to support his wisdom. It is fun for me to spend time with him, but also, strangely, a bit hard to focus. I am so used to having all 3 around I find myself feeling kind of bored and distracted – shouldn’t I be doing laundry or something??? Other things for Griffin are that he really has been enjoying music – here he is listening to his CD player – he especially loves his Elmo CD’s. He has also picked up the terrible habit of chewing off his nails lately, not great and loves to climb, as always. He’s not doing any extracurricular activities – because he doesn’t want to and he’s only 4.
Callie’s big excitement of late is that she has started a weekly rhythmic gymnastics class with her good friend Lilou. I stayed for the first one and they do lots of stretching, dancing and playing with balls and ribbons. There is supposed to be some sort of competition (or maybe it’s a recital) towards the end of the year so that will be fun. She loves being active and beautiful simultaneously. I love they way she is so in shape – one game involved them running back and forth over the floor for several minutes. Callie was giggling and laughing to the end, while the other kids were turning red and gasping for air. This giant hill of gravel is right next to the gym where she has class – Griffin insists it is the new Alps--they need to build one in France so it will be more beautiful. Callie spends lots of time, lately, trying to debunk all of Griffin’s theories. As you can imagine, this leads to a bit of conflict between the two of them! She has also been quite into the music lately. On Wednesdays at home we do French and English homework, then have lunch and, after an hour or so, head off to activities. Lately all three have been listening to music during the in-between times. Callie loves 80’s pop, ABBA music from Mamma Mia and Pocket Full of Sunshine. She almost has ‘Honey Honey’ memorized and it’s hysterical to hear her sing some of the worst lyrics ever: “I heard about you before, I wanted to know some more, and Honey, to say the least, You’re a doggone beast!(Oh you really thrill me!)’ She also enjoys hanging around after school and playing on the church stairs (pictured right). Griffin is hiding behind her. She is enjoying the start of school as well. I was sad she didn’t get Madame Pakiry as a teacher – in fact she ended up in a class that is team taught by 2 teachers, neither of which speak a word of English. Luckily for Callie, this is no problem, she has 2 very good friends in her class, says she loves school, and is even enjoying staying for lunch. The lunches are incredible – I wish I could stay! A typical menu day goes like this (copied): Celeri rape mayonaise, Saute d’agneau provencal, Courgettes, Eclair Vanille (celery, lamb, zucchini and an eclair). Plus they get water and some bread. It is amazing.
And then there’s Zander. Well, he also still enjoys climbing and hanging around. Here they both are – with the church door between them! He started an art class this week. It was located at our local community house, right next to the school, but it wasn’t the right class for him. All the kids were girls, all of them were younger than him and the teacher wouldn’t let them be creative at all – she wanted them to draw the same picture, in the same color – Zander said it was worse than being at school. So, we will have to go back to the drawing room for that! He really wanted to try gymnastics this year, but I hesitate to do that with him since he is terribly uncoordinated and the last thing he needs is another place where kids can make fun of him. I am hoping we can find a better, more creative, art class, with kids his age. He also started a drama class, which, thank goodness, he seems to already love. He gets to act and be creative and he was talking about it for hours afterwards. The kids are a mix of age and sex and the teacher seems nice. I am hoping he can make some friends through this venue. They are supposed to put on a play at the end of the year – so we can look forward to that as well. He has been having a hard time, however, with the return to school. He is sullen, angry and uncooperative. He is expected to be able to read, which he can’t and he is having a very hard time socially. His teacher claims the kids like him but he isolates himself. Zander says he tries to play with them, and it works for about 5 minutes but then he can no longer follow what game they are trying to play and they kick him out. He doesn’t like that rejection so he just chooses to start off sitting it out. It is so frustrating. He seems to have no friends at all. We are trying to get him hooked up with Elie, someone he liked last year, but Elie is quite popular and doesn’t have tons of time for Zander – we do have a playdate with him today though so that will be good. We visited the autophonologist (I think that’s French for reading specialist) as well last week and she has identified him with at least a mild form of dyslexia. He will get further testing next week and then we will meet to decide what to do next. I hope we can help him have an easier time, at least academically, with this new information.
In other news, we have hired a new babysitter/tutor. His name is Augustin and the kids love him. Actually, Griffin had a bit of a rocky start since he hates a kid named Augustin in his class and was convinced he’d hate anyone with that name. Callie suggested he just call him a different name – like Violet. Luckily this seemed to work – and now Violet and Griffin are buds. Because of the new sitter, André and I have started going on dates (hooray!) and I am getting a bit of help on the French homework with the kids. This is great because my ability to spell and read with the right pronunciation is not quite as good as a native speaker, to say the least. André turns 35 today – and the tradition in France is that, on your birthday (or any other special event) you bring in croissants or something to share. This seems awfully backwards to me. You basically stop everyone, mid-morning and say, “Hey, I brought us cookies!” Everyone stops work and comes to eat and chat. If it is a birthday, they always ask how old you are. So Un-American. We will celebrate the big day tomorrow!