Archive for July, 2007

to the beach!

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

Today we ventured to our first French beach… sort of. I dragged Bill away from his chance to read Harry Potter to go back to the lake where Kaitlyn and I went earlier this week. Only this time we went to where I’d seen paddle boats and the like for rent.

                        The beach was filled with people laying on their towels getting a tan and smoking. (someone tell me again why the French are so healthy?) The only women with one piece suits on were old, extremely fat, or me. Even the pregnant women wore two piece swimsuits. Oh, sure, you could say that some women had on a one piece suit since all they were wearing was the bottom. Bill said he didn’t notice all the boobs swinging around the beach. One pair I saw was attached to an overly skinny, overly tan woman and it looked ridiculous. And, sure, there was the little boy (about 18 months old or so) who wore absolutely nothing.

                        The beach wasn’t what we think of as beaches. It was not sand. It was rocks. Not comfortable to lay on or to walk on.

                    When we first arrived there were no boats out in the water and Bill thought maybe there was a problem with the rental place. No, no problem. It wasn’t 2pm yet… the guy was still on his lunch break. But at 2 there was a line10 people deep waiting to rent boats.

                    We got on our boat with all of our stuff (didn’t want to leave it on the beach) and peddled out to the middle of the lake. Not really the middle, the lake is huge, but pretty far out. Some wind surfers went by us. So did some sail boats. That lake is the windiest spot I’ve been to around here. Normally unless there is a storm there is no wind at all.. one reason Grenoble is so notoriously hot and miserable all summer long.

                    Once we got to the “middle” Kaitlyn said she wanted to go swimming. She saw others jumping in the water off their peddle boats and Bill had told her we could do the same. Until he put his feet in the water. OK, here’s the thing. A lake 900 meters up in the Alps fed by the snow melt and blessed with a constant cool breeze does not have warm water. It has cold water. Very cold. I had no intention of going in and was trying to convince Kaitlyn that we’d go in at the shore where you could go just knee deep. But Bill hates to disappoint his little girl and he eventually gave in and splashed into the water off the back of our little boat. He looked darn cold. Ice-cube like even. Kaitlyn on the other hand squealed and swam and thought it was great. We could barely get her back into the boat to return to land. We had only rented the boat for an hour and time was running out when she finally relented.

                    Back on shore, Kaitlyn dragged Bill then me into the water with her to swim. After that numbing experience we somehow got her back into the car to head home.

                    On the way down the mountain, Bill realized he hadn’t seen some statue of Napoleon someone had told him about… so we turned around and went back to see it. Bill said it’s apparently the spot where Napoleon was met by the French army when he marched back into the country after his exile. I admit, I know very little about French history so I just take his word on it. Maybe I’ll remember to look it up on the internet some time.

                    At the bottom of the hill we stopped again. This time, at a spot marked with red and white police tape and flowers and burned out candles. It is where a week ago a buss load of Polish pilgrims plunged off the road when their bus lost control. I had no idea when I drove to the lake earlier this week that I’d driven right by the wreck scene… driven down the same mountain road that the bus had. There are signs saying it is a 12% grade, but it didn’t seem any worse to me than any of the other crazy mountain roads I’ve driven around here. Even a bit less crazy because it was wide enough for two cars the whole way up and down. At the sight where the bus had crashed, you can look over the cement barricade and see where it sheared off tree tops then you can see the charred ground where it hit and burned. There is a giant chunk missing out of the barricade (sort of a cement guardrail) where the bus went through. Bill saw the skid marks coming around the corner just before where it hit… those I didn’t see. Seeing what I did was sad enough. I felt the need to add a flower or relight a candle there, but had no way of doing either. Bill took pictures… but this is an image I’ll never forget.


Sunday, July 29th, 2007

            I stayed up until 1am the last 2 nights, but managed to finish the new Harry Potter.

            Now Bill is trying to read it and finding out how hard it is to do while also dealing with Kaitlyn while the other parent is on the computer. He’s got to hurry up and finish it so I can talk about it with someone!

Lions and Tigers and Bears… not quite

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Right now, our house could easily be mistaken for a pet store.

                There is a hamster, a turtle and a bunny all bunking here while their families are off to far-flung places, probably enjoying either cooler temperatures or whole-house air conditioning. )(Maybe I’m trying too hard to be friendly?)

                The turtle doesn’t do much. And his food smells to high heaven. It’s awful stuff. I need to change the water in this tank and rinse off his little rocks, but I don’t want to touch him to get him out.

                The hamster is a crapping machine. All he does is poop. And pee. He seems most delighted to perform these functions inside his tube thingie. He has a little exercise ball you can put him into outside his cage. All he does in it is instantly poop then spin the ball around, flinging the poop all around it. It is gross.

                The bunny is the best guest. She likes to be pet. She isn’t too crazy about being held but will tolerate it for a few minutes. She has a leash and you can sort of walk her in the yard. But I found out the hard way that she hops really fast, so if you aren’t holding the leash you are stupid. The first evening she was at the house she took off and as I chased her I thought “how am I going to explain to her family that I let her hop off the very first day we had her?” Fortunately, I managed to snag the leash and I won’t be making that mistake again. Daisy is not quite as prolific a pooper as the hamster, so I do let her out of her cage to hop around the living room a little bit. She’s still a little freaked out and doesn’t really go far from the cage anyway. She has a litter box. All she does is sit in it. Or toss the litter all over the floor. We’re having a hard time explaining to Kaitlyn that it is not there to make sand castles with. Gross. We also found out the hard way that Bill is a little allergic to Daisy. He found that out after holding her on his lap. If he just lets her be and just picks her up and puts her down quickly, there’s no problem.

                    I sort of thought that the animals would help show Kaitlyn that it is a lot of work to have a pet. But I’m the one cleaning out poop filled cages, tubes and balls. I guess it goes to show that trying to make new friends can be shitty at times.

Harry Potter

Friday, July 27th, 2007

                So today, a full 6 days after the rest of the world cracked open their brand new Harry Potter books, mine finally arrived in the mail. It was hard to miss… since the mailbox lock isn’t working well and the poste lady just left the door wide open.

                I managed to read a little bit this afternoon during Kaitlyn’s so-called quiet time.

                She’s got to go to bed early tonight… so I can find out what happens!

Flunch, anyone?

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Filling summer days is already becoming something of a challenge. Filling them with something other than lying around the house, that is.

                So, today, Kaitlyn and I had a “girls day out.” That meant shopping and lunch after our French lessons.

                The shopping went pretty much as I’d expected. Kaitlyn ran through the store picking things out, refusing to make sure there were bottoms to go with the tops and vice versa. She also got a new, not especially needed, bathing suit. It has a little skirt that goes with it. But when her Daddy sees the suit… it’s her first bikini. I don’t think he’s ready for it.

                Lunch was something of an experience. We went to a place next door to the store. It’s called Flunch. Why Flunch? Who knows. It’s sort of France’s answer to a cafeteria. Because of some construction in the parking lot, we had to enter through a side door. That meant we went in where all the food is. But that isn’t supposed to be your first stop. First, you go get your trays and your salad and your dessert and your drink… then you pay… then you get your food. Kinda backwards to me. I discovered our mistake when Kaitlyn spotted the letter-shaped chicken nuggets and we tried to order. The nice guy behind the counter explained in politely slow French how it works.

                Taking a 4 year old and a big shopping bag to a place where you have to carry trays of food is not the wisest. Flunch has that all figured out. They have these carts that you put your trays on… you can stack four high (the lowest one being near your feet, the tallest one around waist level) and there’s even a hook for a bag. Handy!

                So we got our salads, our drinks, paid for our food and went back to where we’d started to get our lunches. It was ok. Nothing great. But, apparently something to write home about, huh?

Lost in the routine

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Today I was oh-so-reminded that having a gps does not mean that you will get to where you are going. Or… that the gps is only as good at finding your destination as you are at telling it what that destination is.

                        Kaitlyn and I drove around, literally, in circles for about 90 minutes trying to find a meeting point where we were supposed to, well, meet up with a group going to an area lake for the day. When I signed up it seemed like a fun way to spend some vacation time with Kaitlyn. When I looked at the directions earlier in the week, it looked like something I could accomplish. When I looked at them again this morning, I realized my fun day with Kaitlyn faced a serious possibility of not happening because I had no idea where I was going.

                    I did what anyone would do. I called Bill at work. Tonight he announced that next time I have plans, I am to check the directions before the day of the event to confirm that I know not only where I am going but how I am getting there. Yea, yea.

                        After nearly giving up, I finally figured out that the gps was leading me astray and I got to the lake. Kaitlyn convinced me to go into the water. Murky, cold lake water. Ooohh.. my favorite. She loved it. And she loved running and screaming with the other 4 year olds who were there.

                    On our way home, I strayed off our path to find the area of the lake that has paddle boats and row boats for rent. I marked that in my gps for another time. (Perhaps with Bill… Mr Smarty-Pants-I-Know-Where -I’m-Going)

                    As we were driving away, I looked over the lake at the mountains that surrounded it (you can see a ski resort from the shore) and realized…. Kaitlyn and I just spent a day at a lake in the French Alps. And the most memorable thing about it is that I got terribly lost. Is living here actually becoming that routine? A day in the Alps is just a day of struggling to find my way around? And is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Crisis averted

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

Ten minutes later, the shutter opened as Kaitlyn jumped up and down cheering “yea! You did it, Daddy!”

                        Being married to an engineer has its perks.

marche pas

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

The problem with electric shutters is that they do not operate like garage door openers. If something is in the way when you close the shutter, the shutter just tries to close on it until it breaks.

                            This we now know because tonight one of our lawn chairs got in the way of the door. And now the door doesn’t work.

                            Bill is outside with a ladder, a screwdriver and a pissed-off disposition trying to repair the shutter. Because who knows what it will cost to get it fixed. And, of course, it’s the biggest shutter on the biggest sliding glass door we have.

                            Maybe he wouldn’t be so mad if it didn’t come on the heels of the news that the immoblier (rental agency/real estate agent) isn’t trying to FORCE us to accept a contract for 1000 Euros to pay for a gardener. I can think of a lot of things to spend 1000 Euros on…. taking care of someone else’s poorly prepared gardens isn’t one of them. It isn’t even on the bottom of the list.

                        Oh, and he stopped tonight on his way home from work to buy a second air conditioner… for the bedroom. He is finally tired of not being able to sleep. (I was willing to just sleep on the couch next to the a/c unit he bought yesterday for the living room.)

                        I’ll wait to mention that the lock on the mailbox doesn’t work right.

                        So, suddenly life in France is resembling life at home. Unpredictable. Expensive. Annoying. C’est la vie… partout on habite.

ah… relief…

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

                    I am now sitting here as close as possible to the direct line of cool air our new portable a/c unit is spitting out. I won’t say I’m cool. I will say I’m not as hot as I was.

                    Bill stopped on his way home from work and bought the thing. It was so heavy I couldn’t even help him drag it inside. There’s no way we can have one upstairs; I don’t know how we’d get it there.

                    After dinner, Bill rigged one of the sliding glass doors with some wood to block any winged intruders from entering while allowing the tube to go outside. Now he’s fiddling with the electric shutter to try to rig it so that I don’t break it closing it on the a/c’s tube thingie.

                    This has got to work.

My two favorite letters: a and c

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

Why do people go on home leave for a month or more in the summer? To sit in their relatives’ air conditioned living rooms!

                        I know that for thousands of years, people lived without air conditioning. Super for them. I have not been one of them up until now. And I am glad to know at least this is a temporary condition. Although as I sit here suffering… it’s not temporary enough. I don’t even really know how hot it is because everything here is in Celsius. The cheap little thermometer Kaitlyn painted is sitting in the laundry room where it’s reporting a toasty 80 degrees. (It may have been cheap, but it does give both Celsius and Fahrenheit). And it’s cooler in there than in the family room. Or the bedrooms.

                    We got past the issue of not being able to open the windows because we live in bug-central when Bill found some screens at the French version of Home Depot. They don’t fit exactly well, he’s put them in place with some lovely black tape. But they don’t come big enough for our giant sliding doors (including the one in our bedroom… which means that window cannot be opened) and the others are slowly scooting out of place.

                        We have two little stand up fans. They shuffle the hot air around. It’s better than nothing.

                        Today the downstairs fan isn’t even doing that. Earlier, Kaitlyn shut it off. She likes pushing the buttons. Then I had to shut the French door it sits in front of anyway when I noticed a hornet or evil wasp or whatever it is on the inside of the screen. He’s trapped. But, kinda, so are we.

                        This morning Kaitlyn and I went downstairs to the room that we can’t quite figure out what to do with. It’s the guest room. The play room (but she’ll only play if you’re in it). The work out room. And it’s the only cool room in the house. I haven’t deflated the guest bed yet; I may not. I may have to start to sleep down there. Funny … in the middle of the afternoon the heat makes me doze off but at night it keeps me up. Why is that?

                        They do sell portable air conditioners. But to run them, you have to have your window open so that the drain tube has somewhere to drain. Maybe Bill can figure out how to run a tube into the bathtub or something. Otherwise, I’m going to buy two airline tickets and show up at someone’s doorstep looking for a/c. Consider yourselves warned!