Archive for January, 2007


Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

My body is taking revenge on me for snowshoeing yesterday and skiing on Saturday.

                    It’s worse than just not being able to move. Although that’s part of it.

                    I also have a migraine that won’t go away. I’m sure I got dehydrated yesterday, only adding to that pain.

                    But today, I just felt sick. Tired and sore and sick. Not sick to my stomach or feverish… just sick. I could just barely move. Kaitlyn and I watched two movies then took a nap for like three hours.

                    Perhaps I’m not cut out for all this French activity.

Raquettes sont tres difficile!

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

The literal translation for raquettes is snowshoeing. What no one tells you it really means is a hike in the snow straight up a mountain with tennis racket looking devices strapped to your feet. In the cold. But you get so hot you sweat. In the cold.

        Here’s the description of the day-long trek: (yes, “day long” should have been my first clue about the whole thing)

Voici une sortie sportive qui completera bien les activites culturelles et manuelles du mois: une promenade en raquettes au Bec de l’Orient (Chartreuse) le mardi 30 janvier de 8h45 a 16h. Elle est facile, tout le monde peut venir.

Here is an outdoor outing that will be a nice complement to the cultural and manual activities of the month: a snowshoe hike to the Bec de l’Orient (Chartreuse) on Tuesday, January 30 from 8h45 to 16h. It’s an easy one, everybody can come.

            Then, the day before, one small change:

Nous avons un petit contre-temps: nous avons du changer notre but de balade en raquettes. La zone dans laquelle nous voulions nous garer n’est plus accessible par voiture. Nous vous proposons donc une balade a la Pointe de la Gorgeat, en Chartreuse pres du Mont Granier, balade qui aura le meme niveau de difficulte celle du Bec de l’Orient.

We had a little mishap: we had to change our snowshoeing destination. It is not allowed anymore to drive to the zone in which we wanted to park the cars. So instead, we will take you to the Pointe de la Gorgeat, in the Chartreuse near the Mont Granier. This hike will have the same level of difficulty as the Bec de l’Orient.

            I arranged for Bill to take Kaitlyn to school in the morning, so I could get to the meeting point by 8:45am. I arranged for someone else to pick her up from school, in case we didn’t get back to the meeting point by 4pm (and even if we did, it would be a rushed crazy drive back by 4:30). I was set. I rented my snowshoes. I had my hiking boots. I packed my lunch (peanut butter and banana sandwich, two hunks of cheese, one red pepper, one pom pot – applesauce in a pouch you suck). I had my lip balm, mittens, hat. I wore long underwear underneath my clothes. Bill packed it all for me in his camera bag and I was off.

            From the meeting point (which was 30 minutes from our house), the group was divided in two and piled into minivans for the rest of the trip. I’d mentioned to a woman there that I know that I get car sick, so when she realized I’d been assigned to a car of ALL French speakers, she said something for me. They put me in the front seat and told me to take off my jacket and hat. The front seat was good for my stomach, bad for my head. The whole way there, I watched some sort of orange “check engine” light on the dash. It was that or try to speak French, really. They tried for a while to talk to me, but once I got past my small vocabulary I was done. Every so often, the driver would look over at me, put her hand on her stomach and say “ca va?” I also was trying to get the migraine I’d awakened with to fade. I had refused to let that stop me from going on this adventure. Forty-five minutes later, we arrived.

            The walk started innocently enough. On a big, flat snowy plain we stopped to strap the snowshoes onto our shoes. Honestly, you’d think that with all the advances possible in the world that the whole snow shoe thing would be more, well, user friendly. But it’s not. There are two plastic pieces where your foot sits… one for the toe and the other for the heel. You slide the heel forward or backward to “fit.” Then you snap a strap around your ankle and try to figure out what to do with the long end of it so you don’t end up tripping on it later. That’s it. The guide helped me. She looked at the snowshoes and determined the one marked “L” was for my right foot and the one marked “R” for my left. Since those markings could actually be for French words (although what French words, I do not know), I trusted her. She’s the expert.

            Shoes strapped on, we headed off. It was beautiful. Wide open, blanketed in snow all under a blue sky without a single cloud. We shuffled past a man working outside his house. I’m thinking to myself… how does he pay his bills? Buy food? Do for a living? I’m not very French, am I?

            Past that, we went off the big, wide, flat path and up through some trees. Seemed so lovely. Almost quaint. We stopped when the guide saw some rabbit paw prints. She told us how it’s some bunny that changes colors with the seasons: it’s brown in summer and white in winter. When it snows, it hunches down and lets the snow cover it like an igloo. Fascinating. And we pushed on… onward and upward.

            After a few minutes, she stopped again. Told us to take off our coats, as we were going to start going up the mountain and we’d heat up. She also suggested we take a drink, because it is easy to get dehydrated on a mountain and you may not even get thirsty to realize you need water.

            Then the lovely, picturesque, easy snowshoeing walk became a difficult climb in the snow nearly straight up, winding along a narrow path lined with tree branches. This couldn’t last too long. Oh, yes it could. I didn’t look at my watch but this part of the hike had to have been an hour or more. My heart was pounding so hard I thought it would pop out of my chest or come up through my mouth. I could barely catch my breath (I hadn’t even thought till then about how mountain air is thinner). Luckily there was another snowshoing newbie and she seemed in even worse shape than I was, so when she stopped, I stopped. We stopped for quite a while and more than once. Some others stopped and waited with us. I don’t know if they were being polite or if they, too, thought they’d collapse if they shuffled one more awkward step up in their raquettes.

            Finally, after countless promises that the steep climb was almost over, it was. We came to a small little plateau with a few rocks to sit on and with the most spectacular view. When I got there (and caught my breath) I thought the nearly impossible climb was worth it.

            We sat on the rocks or on the snow to eat. Each of us had packed our own. I wasn’t the only American who pulled out a peanut butter sandwich. Sandwiches appeared to be the most popular choice, but most were with meat and on baguettes or thick slices of some variety of French bread. (Mine was on the bread we buy for Kaitlyn. “American sandwich bread” — exactly what you’d expect) One woman had a hunk of wheaty looking bread and cheese I smelled before I saw it. Someone brought a thermos of vin chaud (hot wine). The guide tried to get us all to have some. She said it would make the trip down easier. I thought I’d stick with her earlier advise to try not to dehydrate and I stuck to my water. (although on the way down, I thought maybe I should have listened to her lunch time words of wisdom) After everyone finished, a container of brownies got passed around. Then out came another thermos with coffee. That was met with chocolate. Such a French meal, even sitting on a rock 1400 meters up.

            After about an hour, just enough time for the sweat on my back and neck to start to make me chilled, we were strapping our raquettes back on for the descent. The guide stopped to show us how to go down that horrible steep hill. Just pretend you are sitting in a chair. Good for your thighs and butt, she added. Oh my God – it was like doing squats the whole way down. Still, going down seemed a lot easier than up. It didn’t seem to take as long and it didn’t seem as steep. Of course, the real challenge was keeping the stupid snowshoes on my feet. I’d walk like two steps, and one would come off. After about three attempts, we got that one on tight enough to stay, then the other one started doing the same thing. All that stopping must have helped make it seem easier.

            It was hard to stay awake during the 45 minute car ride back to our cars. Like I told the guide… je dort tres bien ce soir.

Comment on dit “huh?” en francais?

Monday, January 29th, 2007

        Today I gave a French-English exchange group a second try. The first try didn’t really go the way I’d expected. Not because my French was so lacking, but because the group I ended up in was steered by a woman with a big French-English dictionary and a bunch of grammar questions. BOOR-ING. I can do that in my French lesson.

        I want to talk.. to converse… to try to carry on something that resembles a conversation in French, even if the sentences are lucky to contain verbs and the subject matter is what foods I like.

            I returned today, determined to get into a group that had the same goals as I did. At least, I avoided the grammar woman. I mean, I’m obsessed with grammar but if you don’t know any of the words to say well the grammar doesn’t mean merde.

            There were four of us: two Americans and two French. Well, one woman is Swiss but from the French speaking part and she has lived in France for something like 20 years. So for the purpose of dividing up by language, she’s French.

            The topic was simple enough: Qu’ais tu fait ce week-end?

            The other American tended to a sick child.

            The Swiss woman just worked around the house.

            I wowed everyone with my tales of skiing. Je suis tombe, je suis tombe, je suis tombe. Then they told me how to say I am sore. I can’t remember. Too bad, it’s a useful thing to know. J’ai un corps something… ah I have to look it up. (endolori, according to google is “sore.”) I told them that I think there is ice on top of the snow at Chamrousse. (not below the snow. The two words sound similar, so this was a big accomplishment) And I explained how my husband went both days and he said there were plus de personnes dimache que samedi. That one earned me a correction on the pronunciation of plus. Sometimes you say the s, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you feel like you can speak some French, sometimes you don’t.

            The French woman had the best story. Remember, she told us all this in French and I understood. She threw a party for 50 guests at her home Saturday because her husband who is in the medical branch/field/area of the military was just promoted to general. Her friends couldn’t believe it because her husband never talks about work. He is a researcher. He is researching bio-terrorism. Preventions and cures. She explained the lengths they go to to keep the germs contained. Still, should I be at all concerned that this research is going on so close to Carrefour?

            Je ne sais pas.

too sore to move… ouch….

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

Remember that skier who tumbles down in the “agony of defeat” in the opening of Wide World of Sports? I know how he feels. Ok, maybe not exactly. But I know how it feels the day after a two hour private ski lesson. Sore. Very. Definitely too sore to hit the slopes again today, after hitting them over and over again with my rear-end yesterday.

            Now that there is finally some snow and enough cold for the snow makers to blow their stinging little pellets at skiers-by, we headed up the mountain to Chamrousse yesterday. Kaitlyn was sick Friday night so we postponed her ski lesson. Bill skied by himself for a couple of hours in the morning while Kaitlyn continued her recovery. Then he came back and got us and drove me up there for my lesson. I’d postponed it twice due to a lack of snow. I was really looking forward to it. I want to be able to ski well enough for Bill not to get bored on the easy runs with me, where mostly when we did go he spent his time stopping and waiting for me.

            I found my instructor among a sea of red snow suits outside the ski school’s cabin/office. Frederique was young and scruffy with his dreadlocks pulled back in a bandana thingie. I figured he looked at me and thought “oh, no.” I got my lift ticket (honestly, for the price of the lesson you’d think they could give you the lift ticket) and off we went. Since I’ve been skiing before, can snow plow and get on and off the lift, I was spared the experience of beginning in the Piou Piou Club. Frederique was immensely patient and helpful. I admit, there was one exercise he tried drawing in the snow to explain and I just never quite caught on. He’d watch me then say “that was a nice turn, but not what you were supposed to do.” I also found myself trying to explain to him that I understood what he was telling me to do with my left leg, but that my leg was simply refusing to go along with the program. And I need to work on getting up. Because I had little problem with the falling down part. Once, I swear I fell straight back. That was getting off the lift. My real challenge was getting over any icy spots. One time I fell and twisted my knee or something in the process because it hurt like crazy while I was lying there struggling to get back up, like a dying fly trying to flip itself off its back. Once Frederique hoisted me up, the knee felt fine so we went on. Today, I can barely get up and down stairs with the knee. It stinks. In the middle of the night I got up to get a drink and nearly decided to go back to sleep on the couch rather than climb the stairs back up to bed. So when the alarm went off this morning I told Bill: take Kaitlyn to the Piou Piou Club and ski without me today.

            Still, I think I learned a lot. Frederique claimed he could see improvement by our third, and final, run.

            I can guarantee if nothing else, my outfit was a big improvement over those Barney pants I wore last time. I got pants (black), a new jacket, new boots, new skis. I look the part. At least when I’m not flailing on the ground like a dying fly….

5, 4, 3, 2, 1

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

        Ok, ok, so I said in my snow man blog that I wish EVERY Wednesday could be like today. I need to clarify. What I meant is that I wish every Wednesday could be like the HOUR Kaitlyn and I spent outside playing in the snow.

        The rest of the day, from basically the time we got up until now – the time when I am trying to get Kaitlyn to go to bed, stay in bed, and go to sleep – I have been reminded what a skillful backwards counter I am. FIVE, FOUR, THREE, TWO… as I count down Kaitlyn’s final seconds before heading to time out. She has managed to stay out of time out all day… no, I take that back. She has managed to only end up in time out once today. Somehow. She probably deserved it about a half a dozen times.

        Listening is not Kaitlyn’s strong point right now. The result is that driving me crazy is her strong point right now. It took us an hour to get ready to go outside and play because she wouldn’t take her tights off her head and actually get dressed. I kept trying to walk away from her because she was making me so mad, but she kept following me, distressing me with her tights-covered noggin.

        At one point this morning, I got so frustrated with her I put her in time out for talking back to me then I sat on the floor and cried. I thought it wasn’t the best move I’ve ever made, but maybe she needs to see that she pushes her Mommy to the point of being that upset. She brought me a mimi. She brought me a book and sat on my lap. And as soon as we agreed we were going to get along and listen… she started back in with the tights on her head and the refusal to behave. I try… oh how I try… to prioritize the things I’m going to get upset about. But not listening to me… blatantly ignoring me… that I cannot CANNOT stand. If you don’t want to play in the snow, fine. But if you do want to play in the snow, then one must get dressed for it. Tights do not go on your head. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

        Excuse me, I just had to pause for a countdown to return Kaitlyn to her bed.

        Her new thing is to try to distract you by saying “oh, I just want to give you a big hug and a kiss.” Yes, hugs and kisses are nice. But when used as a ploy to try to make Mom or Dad forget the offense that has initiated the countdown… well that’s just abuse of one’s power. And it’s not ok. Just now, I heard her get out of bed. I heard her walk this way. I said, “If I look up and you’re standing there, you’re in trouble.” I looked up and she smiled and said “oh, I just wanted to give you a big hug and a kiss.” argh.

        Earlier tonight, I agreed to play her new game with her. I gave her a little kids dominoes game for her birthday. Leap Frog claims that it’s for a child as young as three. Only if that child’s parent likes beating his or her head against a wall. She grasped the whole match the square with a square, a star with a star, concept. But as for listening to and following instructions for actual play… well, forget it. That lasted maybe 10 minutes before I was so frustrated I picked up all the pieces and put the game away. I may be willing to take it out again sometime before she is 12. But, then again, maybe not.

        Guess who is standing at the doorway wanting to “give you a big hug and a kiss.” I’m going to invent bedtime pajamas. They are sewn directly into the sheets. That way, the kid can’t get up.

        I do not know how single parents handle it. Tonight is turning into one very long night because Bill is out at a business dinner. On a Wednesday. (remember, there’s no school on Wednesdays. It’s not a holiday. It’s an inexplicable French school calendar) Since she woke up at 8 this morning, it’s been no one but Kaitlyn and Mommy. And Mommy needs a break. Instead… looks like I’m going to go back and try to get Kaitlyn to go to sleep.

Un bon homme de neige

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

A French busy signal is more like an indicator that you may have misdialed or that your phone line isn’t working properly than an actual busy signal. It doesn’t even sound much different than the sound you hear when the other end is ringing. But I got used to the new sound as I repeatedly tried getting through to the ski school at Chamrousse to make sure Kaitlyn has a lesson Saturday morning. Everyone else who woke up to all that snow on the ground had the same thought: hurray!

            Kaitlyn and I couldn’t resist all that fresh, white snow in our yard. Plus, I had to try out my new ski jacket and pants. So we bundled all up, filled my pocket with buttons for our snowman’s eyes and mouth and went outside.

            I didn’t bother with a ruler. Too fussy and official. I can tell you that the snow easily came up to Kaitlyn’s knees as she tromped through it. Last night, Bill estimated four inches looking at the snow piled up on the swings. I think it may even be a little more.

            We plopped down and made snow angels. We tried to make a snowman, but the snow is so soft and dry it won’t stick together enough. Kaitlyn loved just making footmarks (what she calls footprints) around the yard. She brushed the snow off the swings and teeter totter so we could take turns going up and down and up and down. I had to convince her that the pool is not an ice rink and managed to keep her at a decent distance from it. We rolled around in the snow. We laughed and laughed, it was such silly fun. Kaitlyn climbed our little hill and tried to slide down on her rear end. That didn’t work too well. I fetched her little sled – it looks like a flat plastic shovel with a stubby little handle. Perfect for a little bottom. It sent her flying down the hill. I even gave it a try. Honestly, we both squealed with delight the whole way down. And climbing the hill was hard… had to have burned off at least a few extra calories that way.

            Kaitlyn refused to give up on the idea of a snowman. She started scraping the snow and piling it up the best she could. It took a fair amount of work but we finally ended up with a lump in the snow about a foot tall or so. She stuffed a carrot in the middle for a nose. That took a couple tries, the first time the carrot made the blob disintegrate. Then came the buttons. Two pink ones for eyes and an assortment to make a mouth. She was thrilled with her creation. But to get the buttons out of my pocket and onto his face, we both had to take off our mittens. Then we were both freezing.

            Before going in, I couldn’t resist a couple more rides down the little hill on Kaitlyn’s little butt sled. She got her folding beach chair out of her playhouse and set it up at the bottom to watch… like the people at the base of the run at Chamrousse.

            We had a great time. Every Wednesday should be this much fun.

Il neige!!!

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

I found out tonight that it really is better to stop at the bottom of the mountain to put your chains on your tires if it is snowing. And, naturally, I found that out the hard (code for: pigheaded) way. I had plenty of time to think about this while I was sitting in my car on the side of our road waiting for Bill, rather than decorating Kaitlyn’s birthday cake as I’d planned.

            When I left the house at about 4:20 to get Kaitlyn from school, the day’s snowfall had amounted to little more than a dusting just in some spots on the grass. Nothing was sticking to the roads. I drove her down off the mountain and dropped her off at Cubbies. I went to look for a new ski jacket (especially after discovering in the morning snow that the coat I brought with us is not water proof). When I went into the store it was raining. When I left the store at 7:15 it was snowing. Uh-oh. I’m not on the mountain. And it is snowing.

        It’s ok, I think. I have snow tires. Four of ’em! And chains in the trunk. I’m fine!

        The trip up the one road to Uriage, the town at the base of our mountain (although it isn’t really at the very base) was a slow one. No one was driving fast. It was hard as heck to see because the snow was coming right at the car in big huge flakes. Massive ones. The only thing lighting the road was headlights. I tried not to get too far behind the car I was following, because his tail lights helped. It also helped that some days I make that drive 4 times (two down, two up) and know the road pretty well.

        Then, around the circle in Uriage and up to our town. The snow had started to collect on the road. Traffic going the other direction had slowed or stopped as people tried to maneuver a corner that apparently was icy under the snow. I went the entire way up the hill in 2nd gear. I don’t know if that’s good or bad for the car, and I really didn’t care. Besides, the car in front of me was so slow that I nearly had to down-shift.

        As I passed the town pool, I noticed a couple of people stopping there, probably to put chains on their tires.

            Then I noticed the main road from the pool to our side road was lined with cars parked for the night. I don’t know where the people who own those cars live; but clearly they’d decided that this was better than driving the rest of the way.

            Rounding the corner to make the drive up our road, there were more cars just stopped. A clump of them were at the base of our road, where it is only one lane. Are they stopping people from driving up there? No, two cars were coming down and the guy going up had to back out. Ok. Still, when that little tango cleared, the other cars in front of me didn’t all take off up the road like I thought they would. One guy seemed to be putting chains on his tires. Should I? I have no idea how. Bill showed me once and finished by saying something to the effect of “You’ll never be able to manage that. It’s hard.” If I get out here, maybe one of these nice French people will take pity on me and help….

            Then a little, dinky Twingo or Cleo went up our road. (Twingo and Cleo are car models. They are small, under powered and seemingly always driven by someone afraid to see if the gears above third are merely decorative notations on the stick shift.) Dang it, if a Twingo/Cleo can get up our hill then I can. I didn’t notice any chains on the tires, although it is admittedly hard to get a good look at the front tires of the car in front of you. Doesn’t matter… what does matter is that I followed him. And I immediately knew I’d made a mistake.

            If you’ve never driven up our road, imagine a windy, twisty, mostly single lane road with a 20% grade (Ok, I’m completely guessing on that grade part) In the dark. Covered with snow. And, even with my four snow tires, slippery.

            As you reach the top of the first intense part of the climb, there’s a pull off. I think it’s meant for drivers who are coming down to pull over and get out of the way of drivers coming up. One car was already parked there. Then my inspiration, Monsieur Twingo/Cleo pulled over there, too! An orange flashing light appeared in my rear-view window: the snow plow! Yea! They plow our incline! I scooted over just far enough for the plow to get by, which in France is quite acceptable. You only have to move just enough for the other driver to get by without scraping your car; being close enough to touch is ok. I thought, once that plow goes by, I have a far better leader than Mme Twingo/Cleo. I can be behind the guy getting the snow off the road!

            In first gear, with the anti-slip system doing its best to help me not crash my car (at least I was past the part with the steep drop off) and it’s bright yellow exclamation point lighting my dash all the way, I slipped and slid along behind the plow. I could see that his blade was moving snow, but that was not road directly underneath my tires. We reached another decision point. The plow turned off my road and headed up an even higher side street, leaving a little wall of snow between me and the darkness ahead.

            That point also provided the last place I knew I could pull over at all and be out of the road. So I did. Barely. I did what I could not to be too much in the way of a gated driveway. I stopped and I did the only thing I knew to do. I called Bill. He had just picked up Kaitlyn and was headed home. He was 30 minutes away on a night with no bad weather. Perfect. Did I mention I’d decided not to stop and get fuel on the way home? So there I am, a third of the way up our street, to the side of the road in a car with a quarter tank left in it. (Bill says two things about having a diesel car. First, a quarter tank will last far longer than a quarter tank in a gasoline car, so not to fret when it gets to that mark. And, second, if you do ever run out of gas… it’s a nightmare. You cannot just go put more in it, you have to take it to the dealer and have it primed or something like that and it sounds expensive and time consuming and lecture inducing) I warned Bill to put on his chains on his way to rescue me. I didn’t tell him about my fuel situation. I could have always turned off the car and tried to stay warm by putting my new ski jacket on over my old winter coat.

            Once I realized what a long wait I had in front of me, I figured that I’m a smart enough person to figure out how to put some silly chains on my tires. I’d watched Bill. And they came with instructions, that’s how he’d figured it out the first time! So I got out, opened the hatch, took out the yellow safety vest, gloves and chains. The vest is, I think, a lovely addition to any already unpleasant situation. I did put it on, since it seemed wise. Then I opened the box that holds the chains. HHHHHMMMM…. ok. The directions say to take out the chain and hold it up with two hands to make sure it isn’t tangled. Yup, yup, got that done. Next, place the yellow thingie behind the wheel. The yellow thingie. Nothing on my chain seemed to match the sketch in the directions. (Why do directions always have sketches? Why can’t any company spend the little bit extra to have actual pictures?) And there’s more than one yellow thingie. I thought I was fairly sure which was the right one when I remembered Bill telling me on the phone “Chains that are put on incorrectly can cause a lot of damage to your car.” So I closed the hatch and got back in the car. Then I noticed I hadn’t put on my blinkers. Done. Probably should have done that before getting out of the car. Note to self for next time.

            I watched my neighbors making their ways home. Some had chains on their cars. Even the Audi wagon had chains and don’t they have some fancy all wheel drive? What was I thinking trying to drive up our street? I saw one couple walking carrying a couple of grocery bags with them. One fellow ran down the street with a flashlight (note to self: get flashlight for car). Two men walked down carrying a set of chains to rescue a car left on the main road; the older guy had a flashlight on a band around his forehead. (note to self: not that kind of flashlight)

            After a while of marveling at how busy our never busy street seemed, a man walked up to my car. Honestly, I thought he was one of the Cat ISE’s. I don’t know why I thought that because we are the only ones on our street and it is not a street you would just wander up to see if someone was in trouble. I guess I thought maybe Bill relayed the story of my troubles while still at Cubbies and a wife called her husband and he came up to check on me. It all made sense in the moment. I got out of the car only to be greeted with a “Bonjour.” Great. Not anyone I know. Duh. “Vous voulez entrer ici?” My small ability to speak French iced over. “Oh, non. Je voulez…” didn’t matter what I said after that. I mis-conjugated the verb and he knew I was a lost cause. “You live up there?” I was mad at myself for saying something so stupid when I know how to say “I want blah blah blah,” but I was kind of glad he spoke English. I told him that I was waiting for my husband. He said he was just coming up to get his chains and go back down for his car. He opened the big fancy gate leading to his driveway and disappeared. Any time I’ve caught a glimpse of the houses behind that gate, I’ve been impressed. The one house I can sort of see from the road as I’m passing has a giant wall of windows… all glass… that has to have an incredible view. Dang! He should have invited me in! Drat, drat, drat. It took a while, then he came out, this time in jeans and this time carrying his chains instead of his briefcase. Should I jump out and ask him to help me? Nah, maybe if he gets back before Bill arrives and he cannot get his BMW around me.

            That created a new dilemma. Do I call Bill and warn him that the guy could be coming back and I could be blocking his way in? That question at least gave me something new to ponder rather than “why did I drive up here?”

            In the meantime, I also watched a second plow come up the road and keep on going toward our house. Now I had to decide: do I try to make it on a freshly cleared road? No. If I failed, I wouldn’t be able to get out of the way. That would frustrate a neighbor and likely infuriate the plow driver. It took him a long time to go all the way up and back down. Ten or fifteen minutes. When he got back to my perch, he carefully cleared away the little wall of snow created by the previous plow driver. He pushed the snow off the road and when he went to back up, his wheels spun on the road. Oh my god, the snow plow is stuck! And I considered driving up there! Ok, he wasn’t really stuck. But his wheels did spin. He went back and forth carefully removing the little snow wall then headed up the side road. Eventually, the flashing orange light disappeared in the distance.

            Bill got there before the guy who probably thinks I’m a total idiot (cannot drive or speak) returned, and before the snow plow got back. Bill walked over, looked at my car and said “you really can’t get out of that spot?” uh, hello. Yes! I really cannot. He told me he would drive my car and I would drive his. He wasn’t going to bother with the chains. Me first.

            Driving up the road in a car with chains on the tires was, well, easy. Like ordinary driving. Only I couldn’t see a darn thing. Why were the headlights from my car casting such a huge shadow on the road? Bill had turned his headlights off. I pulled and pushed and tried to turn every knob sticking out of his steering column. None affected the lights. My only choice was to stop so I could examine the dash. Only I stopped on a hill (well, the whole freakin’ road is a hill, so of COURSE I stopped on a hill) and Bill panicked behind me. But we both got started going again ok. Mr Smarty drove my car all the way up our road without chains on the tires. And when he got out he actually said I could have done that. No, if I could have done that I would have, rather than sitting in the car in the dark waiting!

            He pulled in the garage and put the chains on my tires in case I want to go out tomorrow. He thinks I might want to go up to Chamrousse. Not a chance. Not even with chains. Je ne veux pas conduire vers le haut de la montagne dans la neige.

A Tale of Two Meals

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

We never eat out. I think the last time we ate out was in Colmar, because when you’re out of town in a hotel that is your only choice. This weekend, we may have pushed our luck.

            Last night, Bill and I went out for a grown-ups-only dinner for his birthday.

            Today, Bill, Kaitlyn and I went out for lunch with some other ISE’s who say they never hesitate to take their two year old to a restaurant. They say poo on people who want you to think you can’t take a child to a restaurant in France. Lunch with us may have changed their minds!

            Last night, Bill and I ate leisurely, even finishing after French groups at other tables. I asked the waiter for advise, enjoyed some wine, tried dishes we weren’t entirely sure of what they’d be.

            Today, Bill and I spent the two hour lunch telling Kaitlyn that chopsticks are not weapons, taking them from her, telling her to stop yelling about losing her chopsticks, telling her to sit down, taking her outside for time out, taking her to the bathroom (she’s taken to announcing she needs to pee pee as a way out of time out), telling her not to crawl under the table.

            Maybe it’s our fault. Maybe we have been too reluctant to take her out and now teaching her how to behave is going to be super, duper hard. Maybe 1pm is a bad time to take her out (she generally naps around 2). Maybe Bill shouldn’t have made her noodles an hour before.

            Will we try again? Maybe.

Happy Birthday, Bill

Saturday, January 20th, 2007

I didn’t manage to get Bill a present that comes wrapped in a box with a pretty bow. I’m yet to figure out what store to go to here to find it. (cannot list here, he reads the blog) Instead, we went out to dinner… just the two of us.

            Kaitlyn got to spend the evening with two of her favorite people. They are teens who are here as Cat ISE kids, so to speak. She knows them because they volunteer at “cubbies” which she goes to each Tuesday night. When we arrive at their house for Kaitlyn’s big night, they have crafts spread out on the table all ready for her .. and Bugs Bunny on the tv. It’s probably the perfect evening in her mind.

            I’d chosen a restaurant off a list of five recommended by one of our French teachers. Honestly, it wasn’t the first choice.. that one is supposed to have a spectacular view but it is closed for the winter. Another was just trop cher. (100 euros a person seemed excessive.. maybe next year for his 40th) Another was Italian. We’re going to Italy in a few weeks, so I crossed that one off. The last one was out of town. I thoughtwe’d be heading to the trendy pedestrian part of Grenoble. No. It’s in Grenoble… but not downtown. We got there and weren’t even sure we were at the right place.  The name of the restaurant is Bistrot Lyonnais.  But try to find that on the sign! But when we went in, Radeline was on their reservation book.

            Bill has developed an amazing ability to just order. He isn’t too worried about exactly what he’s getting. His reasoning is, except for at the “American” restaurant here, he hasn’t had a bad meal. He went for the menu that started with a lobster and ravioli salad followed by beef that had some kind of stuffed cabbage with it.

            I decided to follow suit and go out on a limb. I even thought I’d try the route so many dealing with the French books suggest: I tried asking the waiter’s opinion of what I was considering. My entree was scallops, which I didn’t realize till I bit into it would be served cold (I’m not too nutty about cold food). My plat was veal, which I didn’t realize would be fried. It was a wee bit fatty. And super rich. I couldn’t eat it all… had to make sure I’d be able to have dessert. Again, I tried using the waiter’s advice. I told him I wanted something chocolate. I got chocolate cake. It was good. It wasn’t exceptional. Maybe I’m starting to expect too much just because I’m in France.

            Kaitlyn’s babysitters could find themselves with plenty of spending cash by sumer… because I could get used to this!

carte blanche with carte bleu?

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

        Ever since I typed in my secret code for my Carte Bleu (bankcard) to buy our skis, every time I’ve used it, I’ve secretly feared that instead of the card reader telling me “code bon” it will say whatever it says when your purchase is rejected. What would I do if after spending an hour filling my cart at Carrefour then unloading it all, having it scanned, then putting it all in my bags I couldn’t pay for it? (I have started carrying a back-up American credit card, just in case) All I need to do to end my suffering is to check our balance. I can do it online even. But the website is in FRENCH. And try as I might, I simply cannot decipher it. I could call the phone service, but that wouldn’t get me any farther.

        This stinks.

        It’s not like I think that the skis drained the account. But the skis, the ski lessons, the weekly trips to Carrefour… they all add up. And we aren’t keeping track of our spending in a checkbook or Quicken. We just look every once in a while at the online statement. Well, Bill looks because he remembers how.

        I used to balance my checkbook religiously. I used the form on the back of your statement, and always with a pencil to correct my math mistakes. If I was just a penny off, I would spend hours going back over everything to find the error.

        Now, I go to Decathlon and say to myself “hhmm… these t-shirts are only 9 euros each… I’ll buy three” (those were actually shirts for Bill)

        So far, we’ve been ok. But this is going to catch up with us sooner or later. Neither sounds pleasant.