Archive for October, 2007

Geneva to LA…

Friday, October 26th, 2007

I have never been on a flight before where so many people just got up and did whatever they wanted… even if the plane was taxing to the runway for takeoff or bumping its way through turbulence.

Or maybe it just seemed that way because I was so tired.

The taxi came to pick us up at 4:45 this morning. When we booked this flight, 9:15 didn’t seem too early. It was a couple of hours later than a lot of the flights we’d been looking at. Still, 4:45 is early. Really… really early. At least we had a taxi and didn’t have to drive. That was a last minute change, and I think, it was a good one. We got to the airport more than 2 hours before our flight. There were no lines anywhere, so we had plenty of time to just mill around. Checked the duty free shop for a last minute gift, but didn’t find anything. The selection of English magazines was very disappointing. I bought an old People, because trashy magazines make easy airplane reading. I also bought some British magazine… because I felt guilty spending so much for magazines when I was heading to a place with no shortage of reading material I can understand. But that was a waste, because all the celebrities they mentioned were people I’d never heard of.

On the plane, it was something close to a free-for-all. Ok, not quite that bad. But after they finally got everyone to sit down so we could push back from the gate, some dude kept getting up to rifle through his bag in the overhead bin. And the ride was quite bumpy for quite a long time. But no one paid any attention to the fasten your seatbelt sign and people just wandered all over. I can understand needing to go to the bathroom or sneaking a little stretch right at your seat. But some people were just standing in the aisles near the galley just to stand there. The flight attendants finally gave up on telling people to sit down; I guess they thought if they fell and got hurt, they’d be getting what they had coming.

One reason I’d pushed to fly on Continental is that they have individual video screens in each headrest, and a variety of channels from which to choose. But, just like at home, there were all those channels with nothing to watch. Bill found enough to watch to stay awake for the entire 9 hour trip. Kaitlyn watched some movie about an owl then some Looney Tunes. She still managed to work in a good nap. I dozed off and on, in between playing some of the video games the plane had.

The Newark airport handles international customers in a weird way. After you go through customs, you end up on the wrong side of security and you have to wait in that line again. Maybe they do it on purpose, to make sure that you’ve passed through an American metal detector. But watching the guy in front of us (who’d been pushy and rude, by the way) I was glad I hadn’t made any duty free purchases. She wasn’t going to let him take his giant bottle of whiskey, because it was a big bottle of liquid. Even though it was still sealed from the shop in Geneva. Last I saw them, they were wandering off to the nearby duty free shop, I guess to have it re-sealed. How stupid. The guy behind us got upset because the security woman told him he couldn’t take his candle on the plane. I guess he was hoping for a romantic trip.

All in all, it was a long, tiring trip. We left our house at 4:45am and got to the airport in LA at 3am Grenoble time. Then it was two more hours to our hotel, thanks to traffic. It was a long… long…. long day.

What would I do???

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

This afternoon while trying to find a list Bill keeps in the computer of names and numbers I need to finish off my “to do before we go on home leave” list, I came across a file where I’d stuck a few things I’d written a couple of years ago.

One is called “If I didn’t work…” and it’s simply a list of the things I thought I would do if I didn’t have to work. It was something I wrote when I was struggling with my desire to stop doing what I was doing but justify not having a paycheck anymore. (Little did I know that just three months later, I’d find out we were moving to France anyway.) So I thought I’d read it… and see how much of it I’ve actually done. It’s embarrassing how little.

It’s an assessment maybe we all should make once in a while:

Cook for my family
I have been trying and it’s extra hard when you cannot find all the ingredients you’re used to!

Make sure the laundry is done

Go on walks
Honestly? Nearly never. I should. It’s like when I see people biking and I think “oh, I should get out my bike and go on a bike ride.”

Meet the neighbors
Well, hey, they don’t even speak English. And French people aren’t going to rush over and bring you a casserole to welcome you to the neighborhood. This afternoon when I was getting the mail, a guy went walking by with his dog and I said “bonjour” and he just stared at me. The man, not the dog. The dog barked. Like he wanted to have me for a snack.

Play with Kaitlyn
Until she drives me crazy changing Polly Pocket’s clothes for the zillionth time

have tea parties with Kaitlyn
Not the way I pictured it, but we do have tea parties. I thought we’d sit around eating cookies and wearing big floppy hats. We don’t.

Take Kaitlyn to swimming lessons
I’ll blame the language for this one. But last winter I did take her to skiing lessons, so that counts. Since when I wrote this list I didn’t know we’d live so close to good skiing. Or any skiing, for that matter.

Take Kaitlyn to the park
Not as much as I imagined when I wrote this, but I do take her to the park.

Make a scrapbook
It’s slow going… I’ve only got a few pages done and I started it about 9 months ago… but I’m plugging along. I have done two video scrapbooks, though. More my style.

Learn to garden
One word: wasps.

Paint something
Does finger painting count?

Organize the junk drawer
I moved it to France. Where it remains disorganized.

Hug Bill more often
Would be easier if he didn’t travel 3 weeks out of the month. Ok, he hasn’t even started that yet. We are trying to just spend time together after Kaitlyn goes to bed… watching tv or making plans.

Learn to wash the car myself (well, maybe)
Actually, yes. I do wash the car myself. But not at home. Why? See the entry for gardening.

Get a library card
Had one in the U.S. (I still carry it on my keychain) Not brave enough to go to the French library in town yet. The English libraries have wacky hours.

Take a class or two

Not yet. Still want to.

Finish my cross stitch that I started before Kaitlyn was born
Not just no… started ANOTHER one I have barely touched.

I’m getting better at it. Last night instead of coming home to do laundry and clean up after dropping Kaitlyn off at Cubbies, I went to a friend’s house and drank cocoa. Does that count? It should.

Especially when attempting to play euchre.

Only read the funnies in the paper
Morning routine: read two funnies on line (For Better or For Worse and Luann) then read stupid pop culture blogs on USA Today. Occasionally take the grammar quiz on the N&O so that I can remind myself I have some mastery of a language. Just not the one I need right now.

Only watch the news for the weather
Can’t even do that. Just found out that the news here comes on at 8pm and lasts “around” 40 minutes. Then the weather is on. Then there’s like 15 minutes of commercials, then the evening programming. I haven’t bothered to watch it.

Volunteer to help others

I’m trying to just be nicer and offer to help people out when I can.

Invite friends over more often
We’re trying. I’m ready for some invitations to go to other people’s houses so I don’t have to clean first.

Not what I bargained for

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Found out tonight that Bill has been given a new project to manage at work. It’s fairly high visibility and could seriously impact our next move.

But I can’t stop being pissed off about it. Because it involves a lot of travel. He will be gone for 3 and 4 weeks at a time. In November right after we get back from home leave… in December for basically the entire month except the week we’re already planning on going away for Christmas… in January for the last part of the month including his and Kaitlyn’s birthdays. And that’s all we know of so far.

I realize there are lots of other ISEs here who travel a lot. Plenty of other wives deal with kids and life in France by themselves a great deal of the time.

What really irks me is that we live up this crazy, steep, narrow mountain road. Not only will I be here alone in this house far more than I’d ever intended (maybe I can rent a dog)… but that I will be here alone during winter. When it snows. When I cannot drive up this road nor can I put chains on my tires. The more I think about this, really, the more pissed off I get. I already don’t like this house but this just really is the icing on the cake. (That coupled with the fact that it took us a half hour to heat up soup tonight because the stove top kept turning itself off.) Had I known Bill would be traveling a lot, I don’t think I’d have agreed to live in this house.

And I’ve really made a pledge not to complain about the cost of things here. But now we’ve gone and spent several hundred euros on annual ski passes that hopefully we can get the most out of in February. Because I don’t ski alone. And I don’t drive up the mountain to the ski resort if it is actually snowing, either. As for the whole driving thing, Bill said he’ll just go out and buy the crazy-expensive chains that aren’t really chains that you just stick on the outside of your tires. (Ok, he was thinking of getting those anyway.) He’ll be traveling to the UK which means we could very well end up spending the money for him to fly home or for Kaitlyn and I to fly up. London in January.. sounds enticing.

The more I think about this just the more angry I get. Anyone want to come stay with me this winter? Pleeeeeaaase…

I’m still not thrilled with the idea of driving in the snow, but I guess we should have thought about that when we decided to live in the Alps. I’m ok with it now. It’s an opportunity. Sometimes you have to take them… even when they come with extra challenges.

Halloween Party

Saturday, October 20th, 2007

If Kaitlyn’s self-assessment of fatigue followed by her tucking herself into bed and falling right asleep is any judge… then the annual Halloween party this evening was a huge success. Although we do have a couple dozen juice boxes left over. I guess the kids weren’t as thirsty as I thought they’d be. Maybe since it was hovering somewhere in the upper 30’s, they just didn’t need to guzzle as much as they would have had the party been held in, say, August. Which would have been a stupid time to have a Halloween party. But… I digress.

I may have bought too many drinks, but my pumpkin was just right. Kaitlyn and I carved it yesterday after school. I tried to get her to wait for Bill to come home, but she was too excited. Not that he really cared; he hates pumpkin carving. That’s my department. I did get her to sit with me while I drew different eyes, noses and mouths and she pieced together the face she wanted. It had to be a witch. I asked her how people would know the pumpkin was a witch. I shouldn’t have asked. The answer meant I spent Saturday morning making witch hair out of green ribbon and taping it into the witch hat Bill made out of paper. We accidentally left her broomstick (made from a cardboard tube off a hanger and more construction paper) at home. That didn’t matter. We won the “most creative” award… as voted by our peers. That was kinda neat. I’ve never actually made one of my creative endeavors actually work out before.

The party included some kids games… a ball toss modeled after the one on the old Bozo show (which none of tonight’s contestants remember)… a pumpkin seed spitting contest (Kaitlyn was frighteningly good at it)… and a modified apple bobbing. Instead of trying to grab the apple out of a bucket of water, the apples were hung on strings and the kids had to get it from mid-air. Kaitlyn liked it, but couldn’t do it. And once she did manage to get the apple, she wanted a different one. So I ate the one she’d gnawed. The hostess had figured out how to make some caramel dip for the apples. That was so good I briefly considered bobbing for an apple myself to have more, then decided against it.

The kids also marched in a little parade… so that we could see all their costumes. This year, Kaitlyn was the only princess. The girls costumes included a witch, Laura Ingalls, a chef, an Indian and some rock stars. Among the boys, there were a lot of super heroes or warriors from Star Wars and a handful of pirates.

Instead of a parade, there was a contest to try to get the adults to dress up. I fretted all week about a costume then realized Bill wouldn’t wear what I had cooked up (I wanted him to go as the pizza truck… ) and I was so busy trying to think of something for him I didn’t think of anything for me. Kaitlyn said I needed to be a cat, which was a lucky choice because I do have some cat ears and a tail. So that was pretty easy. Bill went as a skier but everyone just thought he was himself because just tossing on a ski jacket is not enough for a costume. The hostess dressed in a kimono and her normally red hair was dark black. How long will that last? She said she didn’t know… however long regular hair dye stays. Hope she likes it! (It looked cute) The winner of the contest was the guy who went as the “pampered chef”…. a chef wearing a big diaper.

I had offered to help out, so I ran the Bozo game for a while. I’m too nice, I let the kids have too many tries. But I wanted them all to have fun. After a while I did limit it to three tosses each turn. And a little later, the kids ran the game themselves, sticking to the rules and keeping each other in line. It was cute. Bill was the official photographer for the night. The only thing that changed for him was he took more pictures of everyone instead of just Kaitlyn. If we were expected to herd people into a special area for posed pictures, then we failed.

Kaitlyn says her favorite part of the party was the games. My favorite part? I’m not sure. Maybe those caramel apples.

Jack o’Lantern Jackpot

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

If you’re reading this and you’re in the United States… go this weekend to the nearest pumpkin patch and just enjoy the fact that it is there.

Pumpkins in France are not like pumpkins at home. They are greener. And thicker. Carving one would take far more skill and patience and a much longer, sharper knife than I have. They don’t use it to make pie or bread. They make good soup out of it. But I am yet to figure out what else one does with one of these mega-gourds.

Today I went to a market I hardly ever go to. And right there at the entrance were a variety of pumpkins… including the kind I recognize. They weren’t too big and the shapes weren’t so very good for carving. But I got two anyway. (One for us, one for the family where Kaitlyn was playing and eating lunch today after ballet class. It was the least I could do.)

At the produce store next door to that supermarket I found little tiny pumpkins. The kind you buy at Harris Teeter for 50 cents or a buck and use as decorations. I bought two. I hope to figure out how to get those two to stay on the big one and make it look like a Mickey Mouse pumpkin. I have until Saturday to figure it out. That’s when the ISE Halloween party is. I also have to figure out two adult costumes by then.

Before I can do that… I have to figure out what I’m going to make to take to school tomorrow. We’re supposed to bring in snacks that have something to do with a farm and with creativity. Don’t ask me why, I haven’t quite figured that part out yet. I found a recipe online for sweet potato haystacks. Do they have haystacks in France? Then again, at this point, do I really care?

Tip Toe through the Lavendar… to the doctor’s office!

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

I don’t know that she means to do it, but Kaitlyn’s teacher has this special way of making me feel, well, stupid. It’s the whole not-understanding-French-very-well thing. But still….

This morning, Madame Segura wanted to talk to me and only did because the English teacher was there to translate. She’s obviously been waiting to say anything until she could do so with help, because she wanted to talk to me about something that happened Friday. Today is Tuesday.

Fridays the bigger kids in Kaitlyn’s class take roller skating lessons. Last Friday, the roller skating teacher raised a concern about the way Kaitlyn is always walking around on her tippy toes. We think it’s just a cute, silly thing that Kaitlyn does. I thought the teacher was annoyed because one cannot very well roller skate if she is on her tippy toes. No. In France, tippy toeing around everywhere is cause for alarm. The teacher thinks that we need to have her checked out by a doctor because the tippy toe walking could be a sign that her tendons in the backs of her legs are not forming properly… which can be fixed with the French version of physical therapy. Bless her, when the English teacher did the translating she added a few extra thoughts, like “this is something they’re big on in France… it’s hardly something to worry about.” Good, because I wasn’t planning on it.

Sure, I’ll probably ask the doctor here next time we’re in. But I’m not making any special appointments. The health care system here may be fantastic, but I’m not privy to the socialized part of it.. in other words: we pay every time we go. No, it isn’t expensive. The full payment is still about the same as the co-payment was in the United States.

tired little girl

Monday, October 15th, 2007

I don’t know what Kaitlyn is doing at school, but it is certainly wearing her out.

Tonight at the dinner table, she said she was tired. So I told her she could go lay down on the couch. That usually lasts for thirty seconds before she’s up playing with her dollies. So, she went and laid down and had me cover her up with a blanket. And she fell asleep. It wasn’t even 8:00. (20:00 if you’re French)

She slept all night. This morning I started to worry and went in her room to make sure she was ok. She was just sleeping. Still.

Advantage: French

Monday, October 15th, 2007

I went to the French-English exchange group this morning. It was the first time in months that I’ve made it. I was hoping that over the course of those 4-or-so months my French would be much improved, and carrying on a conversation would be easier. Or at least easier. Not so much.

The house where the group met today was the same house where I went to my first exchange. But this time was different… and definitely not because my confidence was any higher. It immediately became clear to me that the dynamics of the group had changed. Advantage: French.

After standing around drinking coffee and doing some general chatting, the actual exchange gets underway. For that, we broke into smaller groups to help make sure everyone gets a chance to do some talking. When we did, there were two French for every English speaker. That was intimidating, to say the least.

My little group started with French. Unfortunately, three non-chatters ended up in the same group. (What are non-chatty people doing at such an event in the first place? Good question) Basically, there were a lot of long, awkward pauses and silences. The group at the dining room table seemed to be having much more fun, so we just listened to them a lot.

The exchange also pushed my day and my French close to its limit. The exchange was in the morning then in the afternoon I had my “pool plan” French lesson… 90 more minutes of French.

All this parler-ing in francais had better start paying off pretty soon.

Apple Cider

Sunday, October 14th, 2007

Every Sunday it’s the same thing… what are we going to do today? I’m sure there are oodles of activities going on, but I don’t know about them. I’m getting frustrated trying to find them.

Today we decided to go check out a marche at a nearby town (our pizza truck’s town). There’s a big huge sign as you drive up the mountain, so we figured it would be at least a medium size marche. Nope.

Once again, we ended up at a marche with just a handful of stands. At least only one had produce. The others had local products. All apparently tied into the “semaine du gout”… week of the taste… which this year is about farm products. I think, as best I can decipher the website.

I did make one purchase. There was one stand where they had a very old press that was pressing apples into juice. Well, into cider. It’s the first place I’ve seen apple cider the way we know it. It was one Euro a bottle. They just took the fresh cider and poured it into an empty, used wine bottle. That would never be allowed in the U.S. Here, it seemed perfectly ok.

Kaitlyn also made a purchase. Or had one made on her behalf. A guy had four donkeys and for two euros you could ride one on a very short circuit around the park.

I think I got the better deal.

no such thing as a quick bite to eat

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

Bill is pretty fed up with the state of our office. I’ve not been the world’s greatest file clerk. (hey, I put away the laundry I wash… how much is one person expected to do?) And when Bill decided to set up an older computer for Kaitlyn to use to play her games, I volunteered to give up the spot where my laptop sits to recharge.

The logical solution seems to be yet another desk.

The new Ikea opens in town on Wednesday. But there are already signs up on every road anywhere near the place warning about traffic problems. Government signs, not things that Ikea put up to generate interest. I don’t think they need to generate any more interest.

Anyway, we decided not to wait for that rush and to go to another similar store that’s already here. From the looks of things in the parking lot, a lot of people had the same idea.

The store is pretty huge and two stories tall. At the end of the “circuit” upstairs there’s a cafe. As we walked up the stairs at the entrance, I said I was thirsty and hoped to stop at the cafe for a drink. I’m thinking store food… like at Target. Sodas and bottled water and maybe chips and, since it’s France, salads and yogurt. But when we got to the cafe, I realized I wasn’t going to stop there for anything. There may be salad and yogurt. But, since it’s France, it’s a sit-down, full service, have someone wait on your table and bring your food on real plates cafe. And it was full… they were calling names of people waiting for tables.

We passed. Of course, by the time we left the store I was not only thirsty but also hungry.

At least now we know what to expect next weekend when we go to Ikea… still looking for a desk.