Archive for May, 2008

what’s up with her?

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Kaitlyn’s teacher is out… recovering from appendicitis. This is the second week she’s been gone. Last week, the substitute seemed ok. This week, I swear she has it in for Kaitlyn.

Monday when I picked Kaitlyn up from school, the teacher told me not to let Kaitlyn wear bracelets to school anymore because she loses them and disrupts the whole class to find them.

Tuesday she stopped me outside the door in the morning wagging her finger at us saying the stuffed monkey Kaitlyn had brought with her was too big and had to go. Kaitlyn was in tears about it; the only way I had even gotten her out of bed that morning was with the promise that the monkey could go to school with her. Stuffed animals have always been ok.

Yesterday when I picked Kaitlyn up for lunch, the teacher informed me in a rather scolding tone that Kaitlyn had tossed her very small plastic pony up onto an awning where it remained stuck. (I asked a tall dad who was there to get it down. He did, no problem.)

Then this afternoon when I went to get Kaitlyn, the teacher rushed to tell me that Kaitlyn had not “obeyed boucoup” today. She tells me this while Kaitlyn is sitting there crying. She offers no explanation for my crying child, other than a French shoulder shrug and some mumbled comment about her fussing with her little friend. Then Kaitlyn tells me she is crying because she got whacked in the face by some little French boy.

Each of these things alone would not cause a second thought. But together… I think they tell a different story. And I think that story is that the teacher has it out for Kaitlyn. Maybe because she and I don’t speak French very well. I don’t know. Kaitlyn says all they do now in class is color and play. She used to practice writing letters and numbers. Yesterday her regular teacher stopped by on her way to a meeting with the headmistress (apparently to tell her she needs a third week to recover) and every kid in that classroom flocked to greet her with a huge smile on his or her face. I get the feeling no one smiles when the substitute enters the room. I know that between now and Tuesday (there’s no school Monday) I won’t be able to bolster my French skills enough to ask this woman what the f*%(_#$ her problem is. Then again… maybe I can.

getting better at it…

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

This morning after ballet, Kaitlyn and I went to the marche in town to pick up a few things we need for dinner.

At the fruit and veggie stand, the nice man gave me the peach I was going to buy for Kaitlyn. He said it was for her. Sometimes it pays to drag her along on these shopping outings!

Kaitlyn spied the playground… it’s right next to where all the stands are set up.. and she asked to play there. So we went over there and she played quite happily for quite a while. I even heard her speaking French to the other kids there. Later I asked her if she’d even realized she’d done that; I don’t think she had. She got a big smile on her face and said “Mommy, I’m getting better at it!” At least one of us is.

Problem Solved

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

The great drama that was our summer vacation is finally over. Today I reserved a room at a hotel a block off the beach in Viareggio… a big Italian beach resort in Tuscany.

I was so thrilled. I told Bill as soon as he got home and he said “which one did you choose?” I was so sure we’d decided together. But we did look at a lot and they were starting to get mushed together in our heads. I went with the one that isn’t on the beach but does have a pool. There wasn’t one with both. Well, there may be one but I only looked at ones in our price range.

I’m getting excited about the trip. Our hotel is 30 minutes outside of Pisa and 30 minutes outside of Carrara. I know, I said after Barcelona that you should stay where you plan to sightsee. But those places aren’t worth more than an afternoon. I also found a tour company in Florence (an hour away) where you rent a vintage Fiat and drive around with a guided tour. We aren’t sure how it works… maybe the tour guide is in the lead car with some sort of radio transmitter for talking to everyone. But Bill thinks that sounds cool. Which I thought he would.

Tonight before dinner, Kaitlyn was watching Scooby Doo and they were in Italy. She recognized the places she’s been and she got to see one place she’ll go. At least a cartoon of it.

hidden talent

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

I’ve stopped worrying about whether or not she can speak French. She’s surrounded by it all day every day at school but has no trouble going… says she likes it and always reports having a good time. So I figure she’s ok with the language and I finally realized I should just leave it at that.

But I’m still curious about whether or not she actually speaks any French.

Today when I picked her up for lunch, we had one of her little friends with us, waiting for her mom who was running late. Sophia fell and cut her knee pretty bad (on the asphalt play ground) so we went back into the classroom to clean her up and maybe find a band-aid. Well, Kaitlyn must have been so distraught over her friend’s injury, she forgot that she doesn’t speak French in front of me. We got to the door and with a perfect accent (so, in other words, no accent at all) she said “Maitress! Maitress!” (Teacher! Teacher!)

Later, she told me that she’d turned down the gouter (snack) because it was chocolate. I asked her how she’d let the teacher know that? She looked at me and said “pas de chocolate.” Again, in perfect French.

Then after school she was telling me how she and Sophia and her little French friend were playing on the slide pretending to be kitties. I said “oh, I don’t know how to say cat in French. How do you?” With no hesitation, she looked at me and said rather matter-of-factly “chat.”

I knew it. She can speak French. She’s probably been doing so for months.

Early to bed….

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

I went out tonight to my book club meeting, leaving Bill home alone with Kaitlyn and his new Wii game. (He had it shipped to someone who was on a business trip in the US, who then lugged it back with him in his suitcase.) Surprisingly, he got Kaitlyn to bed at 8:30. Not surprisingly, it was so he could play his new game. I’m supposed to go out to a ladies dinner tomorrow night. We’ll see if he can pull that off two nights in a row…. we’ll see….

Can you do this????

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

Bill and I have been asked to take over managing the ISE mentor family program. As best I can tell, it basically consists of pairing incoming families with people who are already here and can help them out. The couple doing it now says it’s something of a headache… one of those sorts of things where you can’t make everyone happy all of the time and the people you don’t make happy like to tell you how you’ve failed. I can’t wait. Bill thinks it will do me some good to have something to focus on. As they say: on vera. (We’ll see).

Chocolate Tour

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

Kaitlyn and I like to watch shows on Food TV that show you how things are made. Today she is jealous because I got to go to a chocolatier and see how chocolate is made. (It doesn’t matter that she doesn’t eat it. She is just that fascinated by how things are made. She’s just like her dad!)

I took part in a tour of Bonnat Chocolate in Voiron, France. It’s the same town where the distillery tour for the Chartreuse liquor is. But I’ve never actually gone into the little town before. It’s really charming and filled with quaint little shops and restaurants. Now I know for the next time I drag someone to the 3-D movie of monks making the green liquor.

Getting there wasn’t that easy. I rode in a car with a woman who’d “insisted” on driving. Turns out, she did so because she doesn’t drive here and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to practice. I wanted to shoot her. She was afraid to drive fast enough to keep up with the people we were following. And by fast enough, I mean the speed limit. She was terrified of roundabouts. Which can be a real problem driving here. Basically, she really pissed me off.

Once there, we went into this wonderful shop filled with all sorts of chocolates and pastries. Bonnat Shop We sat in the tea room where the owner and her daughter talked about the history of the shop, how they use different kinds of beans from around the world, then had us taste a few different ones to see if we could discern the difference. It was all good. And they really did all taste different.

Then we went back into where all the cooking is done. We started in the bakery for the pastries. chocolatebakery.jpg There we saw an oven that’s been there since 1856. chocolateoven.jpg They still use it. We watched them pull some pastries out, in case we needed proof. choclateoven2.jpg

That was followed by the main attraction: the chocolate. We saw the room where they make the insides of the chocolates… that is, if the chocolate is one with a gooey inside. The owner’s son who was giving us the tour speaks very good English. But I still couldn’t quite understand his explanation of how they use some liquor that will kill you if you drink it and it is cold outside, yet it is perfectly safe to be in the candies. chocolatedude.jpg

This is one of only four chocolate makers in France that roasts and grinds its own beans. We couldn’t see the roaster, but we did see the room where the grinding is all done. It smelled amazing. chocolategrinders.jpgAlong the wall were giant bags of chocolate beans; next to the machines were buckets with the de-shelled fragments of the beans waiting to be ground and mixed with sugar and cocoa butter. He invited us to try some. So we did. We just stuck our dirty hands into the bucket of bean shavings destined to be made into high-end, expensive chocolates. The beans like that weren’t too good. Obviously, not sweetened yet. And the texture was like eating a coffee bean. Which is best done when wrapped in chocolate, so it was a strange flavor experience.

When the tour ended, we all flooded the store as if we’d never be able to buy any of this stuff ever again. I think I’ll go back.

A Footwear Find!

Monday, May 19th, 2008

I went to the mall today and couldn’t believe my eyes. No, they didn’t have clothes sizes for normal people. But they did have Kids. Real, honest to goodness Keds. With a little sign on the display showing off the familiar blue label. Granted, the Keds they were selling aren’t the tried-and-true plain white variety. They were sparkley. Or with fruit on them. But, hey, they were Keds. Maybe I won’t be a foot-fashion outcast the whole time I live here after all.

I just don’t know…

Saturday, May 17th, 2008

We’ve been having a tough time trying to figure out what we’re going to do this August. We had planned on taking our home leave then… until the company told us they won’t foot the bill. (They pay for us to fly home once a year… with extra baggage. The calendar for that year re-sets on the anniversary of our arrival here… which is in October.) We were going to just pay for our own airfare but the prices right now are just crazy. I’ve looked at cruises, beaches, Ireland, bike tours, all-inclusive resorts, villas in Tuscany.. nothing has quite been the thing that we’ve looked at and said “oh, yes, that’s the thing!” Tonight Bill said maybe we should just pay to go home, since that seems to be the thing we want to do. And since the Euro is pounding the dollar, it will cost us about the same. I don’t know…. I just don’t know….

now we know

Monday, May 12th, 2008


1.Stay close to the things you want to see. Don’t try to cram in a beach vacation with a sightseeing vacation. Do one or the other.
2.Look up train time tables in advance. Don’t count on them actually having any at the train stations.
3.Hotel advice is better taken from Trip Advisor than from friends… unless I ask all the right questions like: are there ants in the bathroom? (yes) there’s a washing machine, is there a dryer? (no) is the beach right in front of the hotel sand? (no) do they bother to actually heat the hot tub? (no)
4. Go to cities with something in them you want to see. Enjoying our time in Barcelona emphasized how Lisbon was miserable in part because there was nothing there we were really interested in. Except the cruise ship.
5.It’s ok to go to the Hard Rock Cafe and Starbucks. They make us feel less homesick. There is nothing wrong with that.
6.Carry plenty of Kleenex in your pockets. And maybe a change of underwear for Kaitlyn.