My mom asked me to do one each month – so I’ll give it a whirl…
As a whole, the month of October has found us dealing with the grippe (flu), planning our trips and trying to find some sort of normal routine. The first weekend after our Strasbourg adventure, everyone was sick so we stayed close to home. The second weekend, André and I had our longest date since we moved to France (6 hours) in belated honor of our 11th anniversary and then, on Sunday, we went swimming. I’m teaching Zander and Callie how to dive-–which is amazing to watch.
As for our new schedule, I think we have it all worked out now – I will record for posterity and to help me keep it straight… don’t read it unless you are really bored – just skip to the updating part.
am – André work, kids school, Rebecca French ‘goals’ class
lunch – André, Griffin and Rebecca eat together, Z and C at school
early afternoon – André work, kids school, Rebecca grocery shopping and housework
after school – André work, Callie and Griffin home doing homework with Augustin and Rebecca, Zander at soutien (after school extra help)
Dinner together and bed – Rebecca and André do bills
AM – André work, kids school, Rebecca yoga
lunch – André work, Zander and Callie school, Rebecca and Griffin eat lunch together
early afternoon – André work, kids school, Rebecca English conversation class
after school – André work, kids and I homework or play
Dinner together and bed – Rebecca and André discuss the children
AM – André work, Zander counseling, Rebecca and other 2 hanging out at dr’s office. Then home for American and French homework, aided by Augustin.
Lunch – together
early afternoon – a bit of play and then Zander at theatre followed immediately by Callie at rhythmic gymnastics
Dinner together and bed for kids – André and Rebecca catch up on their reading
AM – André work, kids school and Rebecca blogs
Lunch - André work, Zander and Callie school, Rebecca and Griffin eat lunch together
early afternoon – André work, Zander and Callie at school and Rebecca at French class
after school - Callie and Griffin home doing homework with Augustin and Rebecca, Zander at soutien (after school extra help)
Dinner together and bed for kids – André and Rebecca blog
AM – André work, kids school and Rebecca French class
Lunch - André, Griffin and Rebecca eat together, Z and C at school
early afternoon – André work, Callie and Griffin at school, Rebecca taking Zander to autophonist
after school – hang out a bit together and play
dinner together and bed for kids – André and Rebecca have a date OR do something they missed earlier in the week due to life getting in the way.
Saturday and Sunday
In the mornings we do French and English homework.
Rest of the weekend is flexible – often we go on adventures or to the pool. André and I try to do special time (one on one time) with each of the kids and also we have a date on Saturday night (if we didn’t do it Friday) and on Sunday we do paper scrapbooking and watch Buffy. Oh, and every Sunday morning we have pancakes.
It only took us from a week before fall break to figure that out. So, a quick (or not so much, knowing me) update on life
André – has been very very very busy this month. He finally had his AgileTour conferences at the beginning of the month (one here and one in Philadelphia) and had a good turn out for both – in particular the Philadelphia one had almost 100 people. That is an amazing turn out, especially for the first time the conference was run and with one of the main organizers across the Atlantic! The conference went very well, and was offered for free. This week he is in Ann Arbor for a special meeting with some of his Agile heroes – Ron Jeffries, Chet Hendrickson, Charlie Poole and JB Rainsburger to name just a few (I know, you are all soooooooo impressed). They are discussing the best way to create some type of standards for Agile programmers. There were 14 people there, and he was chosen, by day two, to facilitate the meeting. Go André! He has been sick a few times, seems to be having some bad allergies this season, and also got a touch of the grippe the boys had. His running has been suffering with all this activity but he is looking forward to another race, on November 8th.
Zander – is settling into his second year here. He has really been enjoying his theatre group and his teacher seems to like him. I am glad he has a place to be dramatic that isn’t my house! At school, he is still struggling both socially and academically, but doesn’t seem particularly bothered by it at home, so I try not to worry too much. He gets extra help two days a week and also is starting with an autophonist. We are pretty sure this is French for ‘a hearing and speech therapist – who does reading too” and hope she can help Zander. I have been working with him in various ways as well and, lately, he has really gotten into phonics and enjoys working with me. He is even willing to attempt to read some small books that aren’t phonics. Recent hits include Good Night Moon and The Spooky Old Tree. These are not where he should be at his age – but I am just happy he is reading at all! Every time we work together, his reading improves, albeit very, very slowly. He still does Legos when he gets a chance and his newest toy is a domino rally type thing. He missed over a week and a half of school and even had a note from the doctor to excuse him. They are really strict here about attendance. Even if your kid is home for only one day with an illness you have to call the school and let them know. Even though he had a doctor note they also had a school doctor take a look at him last week. I got a note home scolding me for not getting him to the dentist and eye doctor last year. I am really bad about that kind of thing since I am so uncomfortable speaking French on the phone that making appointments is something I avoid like the plague. Maybe this will give me the impetus I need to get on the ball! He is really looking forward to our upcoming Ireland adventure – he loves to see new places. I had some old photos on my phone, for some reason – so you can also see here a photo of one of the things he misses most of all in the US. Delaware sea biking on Hearne's Pond.
Callie – is also doing very well. She is finally getting used to riding a two wheeler. She has been able to do it for over a year, but has a lot of fear every time she gets on the bike. We would have to force her onto it and she would cry for about a half an hour every time. Daddie, however, is determined to go on family bike rides and forced her to ride. Now she is finally enjoying herself, most of the time. She does have bad luck, though and has fallen a few times – I am thinking of getting her gloves to protect her hands. It’s funny how some things scare her and others don’t. She recently scaled an apple tree so high it made me dizzy to pick some of the remaining fruit without a hint of fear. She is also enjoying her rhythmic gymnastics class. Last week they were given a piece of a routine to memorize. She showed the routine to me after class. It was pretty complicated with twists and turns and balancing with a ball etc… After that, though I gently reminded her each day, she refused to practice it at all. I figured, whatever – she will end up embarrassed and know better the next time! I did, the day right before class, try to talk to her a bit more forcefully about how she might end up embarrassed (she hates that) but she informed me, quite matter of factly, that she had ‘taken a picture of it’ in her brain. Apparently, once such a photo is taken, it never comes out, and she never has to practice. OK, I said, that’s great. (Of course, inside I was snickering, anticipating the great lesson she was going to learn about the importance of practice). Well, off she went to class yesterday and afterwards, when I questioned her, she told me she remembered it, no problem. So, is she lying to me so I won’t be right or does she have some sort of photographic physical memory? Either way, it’s her on the stage at some point later this year so I will get to see for myself. Recently, I ordered some photos of our summer and made an individual picture frame for each of the kids. Each of them hung it right next to their head and love looking at it. They all miss their Grammie! Here she is, reading to them at the library – she talked so much she lost her voice!
Griffin – is my wonderfully happy little man. I am absolutely loving his new teacher and it is totally clear that she loves him to pieces. We had a meeting with the school to discuss (again) his gluten intolerance. It consisted of: his teacher, his art teacher, the class room aide, the director, a representative from the mayor’s office, a school doctor and (of course) André and I. The meeting only took about half an hour. I say only, but in reality it should have taken, perhaps, 30 seconds since the end result was as follows. Gluten makes Griffin sick, don’t give him any. 4 people hours wasted for that? André thinks it’s good, since it makes sure everyone knows and is on the same page – but the amount of paperwork and bureaucracy seems overwhelming to me. We finally got him hooked up to a bike with training wheels and he is in seventh heaven, riding all around the place and even accompanying us to the bakery last Sunday morning for a treat. He is having a bit of trouble, however, playing out on the place with the bike. If I’m not with him, he gets harassed by some of the older kids on skates. He loves school and is making lots of new friends. So far he has been invited to 3 birthday parties and will attend his first (grippe took him out of the others) this Saturday.
As for me, I have lots and lots to report. First a few incidental photos. We did these Styrofoam egg people for one Wednesday art project recently. Creators of the creatures below are (l to r) Rebecca, Callie, Zander and Griffin. For those of you who don’t know LYTIAM stands for ‘Love You To Infinity And More’ When I was a kid, I used to say this to my mom every day. As a matter of fact, I vaguely remember it was a competition and had all sorts of strange rules (Mom, do you remember them?). I think, on a normal day, you could only say “I love you to infinity” and whoever said it first won. On Sundays, you could add the “and more”. (Why Sunday I wonder? Maybe we figured that, with the Lord, all things are possible, including something larger than infinity. Of course, we weren’t particularly religious, so maybe not). I post this photo of my mom here as well since it was one of the ones I found recently and because I miss her!
Now for a bit about nature. This fall has been very different than last fall. The rain is here, but not constant like last year and the weather has gotten so much colder in the past few days that I had to spend time today digging out the winter jackets. We are seeing the end of the roses as well as the French mosquitoes buzzing around. I photographed this mosquito next to my hand so you could see how huge it is. Luckily, these buggers don’t seem to bite people. I can’t imagine the size of the bump! Zander found a praying mantis the other day – it was the first I’ve seen in France. Unfortunately, it was dead. Zander put it in a plastic container to show at school but it started to rot or something and stunk up the class so he had to throw it away. As all this shifts over, we get crunchy leaves underfoot, changing colors, falling nuts and lots of people doing yard work. The other day I even saw a riding lawn mower – the photo is too far away to see but it was actually a John Deere!
In other news, I have finally hit my stride with France thrifting as well. I go to Emmaus regularly to bargain hunt and recently scored a leather jacket and some awesome black leather boots for 5 Euros each. The place is staffed entirely by volunteers and nothing has price tags. The volunteers assign prices and you pay whatever they say (no haggling – this is for charity, people) I found out, last week, that sometimes you can get a great deal if the right person is working. Usually they charge between 2 and 3 euros per piece of clothing – about 5 for shoes or jackets. We headed over to get pants and hopefully a new jacket for Callie last Wednesday. It was a lucky day because we ended up finding about 5 pairs that were her size and a nice lined blue jacket. Also two pairs of Thinsulate gloves (one brand new) and some other little things. Normally, I’d expect to pay between 20 and 25 Euros for this haul but the worker threw it all in a pile, without even counting up what was there, and said 11, no, 10 Euros. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I need to know – when do you volunteer again?
I had a wonderful time out with André for our anniversary. We wandered around downtown and I got to go in all those stores I’ve been wanting to go in for the last year. There is this one kitchen store I have been eying and I loved it! I finally got a decent peeler, an olive pitter and a honey spoon in this wonderfully French little store. The woman was amazing – I can’t imagine how she could find anything in the towering mountains of merchandise, but she knew precisely where everything was. This place had cooking stuff, sewing supplies and a lot of beautiful hand embroidered bedspreads and doilies and things. Plus some touristy hand towels and magnets. She had it all!
We also were looking around for a new engagement ring for me – I love my old one, but it needs to be repaired and André and I were interested in a new setting. We didn’t find anything we really liked but it was fun to look. I also had a great time going into a new store on Grand Rue. You can taste various olive oils, vinegars, wines and hard liquors. We came out of there with two types of vinegar – one an 18 month aged basalmic – heavenly! I also splurged at Claire’s for some new hair clips since I’m getting bored of always having a braid – unfortunately one of them broke the first time I used it – and it had cost about 5 euros – grr…. We ended up with dinner at a local place that has wonderful fondue for only about 12 Euros a plate. We have known about it for a long time but kept getting unlucky when we would drive by. It was either full of people or closed. This time it was open but the waitress, upon seeing us, told us they were full for the night.
Time for a little French culture. Restaurants here never ever open until 7pm, and even at that time, they are empty. So, André, knowing this, asked if we could get in if we came as soon as they opened. “Well” she hedged “I do have one table that isn’t reserved until 9:30, but that won’t give you much time to eat your dinner.” Ummm… on what planet is two and a half hours not enough time to eat a one course meal? It is truly our planet earth friends – in France. We told her we would take it and got there right on time. We ordered a comté mixed with blue fondue and it was amazingly good. We chatted and laughed and took plenty of time eating, but we were still done and out the door before 8pm. We are so very not French! We ended our date by going to the Sonorama concert. Something is always happening in Besancon and this weekend they were having experiments with sound and music ending with a concert in the Grand Place. We went and watched for a few minutes but, other than the truly awesome giant wrecking ball they turned into a disco ball, we were unimpressed.
Another thing that is happening lately, is that I find myself getting prematurely nostalgic for France. I was compelled to take these photos while in the market getting some comté the other day…. I know, even now, I will miss this..
Another thing I’ve been trying to notice lately are the lesser known sights of Besancon. Here is a lovely fountain we wandered past and a few shots of our local synagogue – finished in 1871.
I am hoping we get a better shot of the synagogue before we leave the area since it is actually one of my favorite buildings in Besancon. It is an official historical monument, and, according to the placard out front, is one of the most representative and original examples of Neo-Moorish architecture in Eastern France.
A thing I won’t miss, however, are French detours or deviation. Well, who likes detours, you may wonder? Detours are never fun since they take you out of the quick way and make you go a longer one so you are later than you already were for whatever you were trying to get to. Oh people, you just don’t know how very lucky you are. In the US, when there is a detour, you get signs, multiple signs, lovely helpful signs that point you around the obstacle that is blocking off the road so you can continue (albeit late) on your merry way. In France, this is not the case. First you get there, try to turn down the road and realize it is closed (rue barree). Then you turn around and head further down the road until you spot the yellow deviation sign. You turn in the direction it is pointing and then – you are on your own baby. No more instructions, no more signs, no more help – it is up to you to forge the path. Once again, I am hearing the thoughts percolating in your heads. So what? You just go around the block, right? Oh you foolish, foolish ones – there are no blocks here! These roads grew up from winding farm paths and spider web their way across the city. There is no logic, no straightness and no city planners. I often say I can’t find my way out of a paper bag – and deviations strike terror into my heart. They have been doing construction around ASEP (where I take my classes) and I have to leave an extra 15 minutes every time I leave the house (usually it would take about 5 to get there).
We are hanging out at home this weekend – with plans to spend time together, catch up on paperwork and begin getting ready for Ireland. We are leaving right before lunch on Friday. Hopefully we will be able to blog a bit along the way – but if not, you will hear from me in November…
Until then, may all your roads be free from deviation!