Archive for November, 2007

good day

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

I managed to have two conversations today in French. One on the phone. That qualifies today as a good day.

At school, I finally got up the nerve to speak to one of the French mothers. The parents’ group had sent home a note asking for Christmas decorations for the school’s booth at the Christmas market this Saturday. Today I asked one of the group leaders if they still needed anything. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was huge for me. Talking to these people is intimidating.

Then this afternoon, I had to call the VW dealership to make an appointment to take Bill’s car in while he’s gone. It needs service and that wasn’t lighting a fire under me to get the job done. But this morning my French teacher read a recall letter we’d gotten… saying that the car could possibly catch fire. So I called. And managed to make the appointment and reserve a loaner (ok, rental) car for the day. Not too shabby.

Of course, this feeling of triumph ignores the conversation I had this morning. While Kaitlyn and I were getting out of the car, I noticed one of the dads staring at my front tires. There is now a big black disk covering the center of the hubcaps. Understandably, he wanted to know what the heck those were. But in trying to explain to him that they are for a different kind of tire chain Bill bought for me, I was stumped by the word chain. Told him it’s for when it snows. “Ah,” he said. “Pour les chaines.”

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

We put up our Christmas tree tonight. I know, I know, it’s obscenely early (ok, it is the Saturday after Thanksgiving) but Bill leaves Wednesday for the UK and won’t be back until the night before we leave for our vacance de noel. So even though it’s November, we put up the tree.

Bill and Kaitlyn were in charge of picking it out. Last year we got a white flocked tree because Kaitlyn wanted a red or purple flocked one… and I wasn’t sure what Bill would come home with this year. He has a hard time telling his little girl “no,” especially when it’s something he doesn’t see as a big deal. (Or especially when he won’t have to be staring at the tree for the next few weeks.) They did a good job. It’s much better than last year’s white, two-foot-tall, Charlie Brown doozie. It’s about 6 feet tall and a lovely natural green. There’s a good amount of space between the branches, just like I like my tree.

They also went to the hardware store and bought two strands of lights. Only two because the lights are way WAY more expensive than at home. We have storage bins filled with strands of lights we bought for a buck each at Target. The light strands were about 18 euros each… which is actually a bargain here. Bill said he saw some that were 60 euros each. That’s a little much. Still.. the two strands he bought twinkle and are very pretty. Maybe we used to put too many lights on our tree. Nah… but this one is still good.

This tree also has hanging on it some of the ornaments that had been my mom’s. Last year I opened the box of her ornaments and put it right back away; I didn’t even touch the other boxes that had come from her house. This year I felt differently. Not every ornament is on the tree, but the ones that I remember most are. And the ones Kaitlyn really liked. I also took out some of her Christmas plates and bowls to set out. It’s not the same as having her here for Christmas. But I’m never going to have that again. It does make memories surface… and makes me feel close to her even though she’s gone.

In it’s own way, this Christmas is already better than last year’s. The tree is up, it’s a normal size and it has lights. I’ve already bought several gifts. We have a wonderful (hopefully) week planned skiing in the Swiss Alps with good friends. It stinks that Bill won’t be here for most of the month. But I’m learning that Christmas may be about family… but it’s not necessarily about being together with them… because sometimes you just can’t be. And I’m learning that that is ok.

think you understand? nevermind!

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

My head was all pumped up after my all-in-French ski renting experience… but some little kid managed to burst my bubble and bring me back to reality.

After the ski rental and before dragging Kaitlyn to Carrefour, I took her to McDonalds for lunch. (Yuck). Again, I conducted the ordering in French. Ok, chicken nuggets is English, but I used the French words when appropriate.

Once we’d eaten, I went to the McCafe and ordered a fancy coffee and let Kaitlyn climb and jump around the playland. (A coffee served to me in a proper glass made of, well, glass… and delivered to my table) I sat outside braving the cold wind to drink my coffee and attempt to read one of those weekly papers that just tells about movies playing, etc. (Found out there’s a big chocolate show this weekend in town… gotta find someone who likes chocolate to go!)

I finally gave up on sitting outside, downed the warm drink, and sat reluctantly inside the playland. (They are often smelly and loud and just icky.) A little boy who looked a little younger than Kaitlyn rushed up to the woman sitting next to me and gushed out a question. I had no idea what he said. I was so glad he wasn’t the one trying to rent me skis.

Ready for the next Snow

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

The snow may have all melted, and the temperatures are back up in the 50’s (I did the conversion for you), but today’s mission was to go rent Kaitlyn’s skis. She was very excited about this. Of course, any time she enters a retail environment, she’s excited.

I was so proud of myself because I did the whole thing in French. Only one time did the guy have to switch and ask me a question in English when he needed to know her weight. I said what I wanted, gave her height and eventually her size in French. I also stumbled through describing her skiing experience.

Last year’s skis had penguins on them. Today, Kaitlyn went straight to a lovely pink pair with butterflies. She got something pretty generic… that makes her look like she has some idea what she’s doing on the slopes.

What amazed me the most happened when I went to pay. The sales guy asked if I’d rented there before, which I had, so I managed to spell my name and he found us in the computer. Then after some tapping on his calculator to compute our Caterpillar discount, he looked at that number then lowered it a little more. He told me that because I’d rented snowshoes there last winter and had a problem with them (which is true), he took an extra 5 Euros off the price. I couldn’t believe that a note by my name in their computer resulted in anything… especially nearly a year after it was entered. It may only be 5 Euros, but it is enough to make me feel like a loyal customer now.

Kaitlyn est malade

Monday, November 19th, 2007

If falling asleep less than a minute after your favorite movie starts is any indication, then Kaitlyn is really pretty sick. She’s sleeping on the couch with Mulan on the tv.

When I picked her up from school today the teacher told me that Kaitlyn had thrown up after lunch. Well, she told me this in French and doesn’t know the English word for vomit so she acted it out. I got the point. Then she handed me a bag with Kaitlyn’s dirty tights and shoes (they’re new and they’re suede. now, they’re trash). There was also some other kid’s scarf that Kaitlyn barfed on. I will remember this if she ever comes home with someone else’s barf on her stuff… the guilty party is responsible for the washing! At least she didn’t throw up on someone else’s suede shoes.

I’m kind of bothered by the fact that the school didn’t call me after she got sick, but waited until the end of the day to let me know. The teacher said that Kaitlyn told her she felt better after she threw up… but once we got out to the sidewalk Kaitlyn had to throw up again. We made it to a pile of leaves far away from everyone before she did. When I offered her a barf bag for the car ride home she got really insulted.

She wasn’t the only sick kid at school today. Something is going around. But keeping her there all afternoon to spread it even more seems bizarre to me. We’ll see how she feels in the morning. I’ll decide then if I’ll keep her germs at home or send them to class.

Fun in the Snow

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

The ski resort isn’t open yet, but it was packed this afternoon. Anyone who owns a sled drove up there to enjoy the early snow.

It was kind of funny to see all those people dragging their sleds up the piste meant for skiers. The run that leads right to the “lodge” is an intermediate run.. so those sleds got going pretty fast!

There were a few dedicated skiiers there… walking up the mountain in their skis specially made for just such a jaunt, then zipping down. I’m sure the runs were empty until they got to the bottom!

Bill had hoped the lifts would be open today. I think this snow is making him even sadder about spending most of his winter in the UK instead of 20 minutes from the ski resort.

I’m so tired!

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

I give up on getting a good night’s sleep.

At 3:20am, someone called our house. On our French phone. (we have two: a French phone and a Vonage phone) I ran to answer it thinking that if someone was calling at that time there must be a real emergency. I picked up right after the answering machine did. The person hung up. Didn’t even have the courtesy to apologize for dialing the wrong number in the middle of the night! I have some choice English words for the clumsy dialer.

I tried and tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t. After about an hour of lying in bed, I finally went back downstairs and turned on the tv. I got the Slingbox to connect but couldn’t control it, so I watched The Biggest Loser with whoever at my brother’s house watches it. Then Kaitlyn got up and came down with me. I convinced her to go upstairs and snuggle with her daddy. I crawled back into bed and was just dozing off when my alarm clock went off.

I finally got back to sleep. And I didn’t get up till nearly 1 in the afternoon. Great, now I won’t be able to fall asleep tonight!

turkey and all the trimmings

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

Tonight, we celebrated Thanksgiving with our extended far-from-home family. But in the rush to make everything happen the way we thought it “should,” we sort of forgot about the whole point of the dinner… being thankful. Because even though some days are harder than they should be, we have a lot to be thankful for.

I had signed up to bring two things to the dinner: vanilla cupcakes (to make sure there was a dessert Kaitlyn would eat) and stuffing. Kaitlyn and I had a tough time with the jet lag and my plan to bake the cupcakes yesterday just didn’t happen. We didn’t wake up until nearly 11:30 (and only because the phone rang when Bill called to say he was at the airport)… so our baking got a late start. They got done just in time for Kaitlyn to take a bath and for me to take a shower.

The stuffing should have been a breeze… I’d brought four boxes of Stove Top back in my luggage. Boil water, add stuffing, let sit five minutes. But when Bill went to fix the stuffing while I fixed my hair, the stove went out and turned the 10 minute job into a 45 minute job. No stove top nearly meant no Stove Top! (It takes a long time to heat water in our little microwave.) That’s appliance number two that’s given us problems; thank goodness we chose the house with new appliances so that we wouldn’t have to worry about these things!

Anyway, we finally got the Stove Top done, the car all packed and headed out to the dinner… only 30 minutes late. And as we approached the interstate I looked at the overpass and said “uh, those cars aren’t moving.” An accident had the interstate at a standstill. So we drove through the city. Along with dozens of others making the same detour. Most of the drive was spent discussing how we hadn’t planned wisely and if we had then we wouldn’t be so late. Even with the traffic problems, we got there at about the same time as most people.

I had volunteered Bill to be the official photographer. Which I think had him a little stressed out. He tried wandering around taking pictures, but I made him come back to the table and sit down so that we could eat. Eventually, he got to snap his pictures. After I’d had dinner!

The meal was just like at home… everyone ate too much. There was turkey, stuffing (my Stove Top was a hit), potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, green bean casserole, gravy, pumpkin pie.

We never stopped to share our thoughts about what we’re thankful for. I’m thankful that my daughter, husband and family are all healthy. I’m thankful that even though it can be trying, we have this chance to experience life in another country. I’m thankful that I have such a supportive husband. I’m thankful that my brother bought me a Slingbox. I’m thankful that I have such good friends at home and that they haven’t forgotten me just because I’m so far away.


Friday, November 16th, 2007

I’m reading Julia Child’s book “My Life in France” and finding it fascinating. So much so, that I brought it up during my French lesson today. And the French teacher (who likes to cook) looked at me and said “who?” It seemed funny… when I think of Julia Child I think of French cooking but he had no idea who she was.

I guess the woman who pioneered tv cooking and who taught Americans how to cook French food is, well, American.

Jet Lag is Evil

Friday, November 16th, 2007

Jet lag is a horrible, horrible thing. Especially if you live with a four year old.

The past two nights, I’ve gotten her to bed by 9pm.

The past two nights, she’s gotten up around 3 to get into my bed… and then flopped around unable to go back to sleep for 2 or 3 hours.

Waking her up to go to school today felt downright cruel. But it wasn’t as if I wasn’t tired, too! She cried basically from the time I woke her up until the time we got into the car. Mixed in with the sobs was “sorry, Mommy, I don’t want you to be mad at me” which only made me feel like a bigger jerk. But sleeping in is not going to make the jet lag go away.

Once we got to school, she was fine. Kissed me and hugged me goodbye and headed off with her friends. When I picked her up, she was in a great mood. But by the time her friend who’d come over to play in our snow had to go (partially because it was already DARK outside!) she dissolved into tears.

I got her into bed at 8:45. I convinced her that it’s time to get back to our routine and I refused to lay down with her. She fell asleep all on her own. Now if only she sleeps all night long!