Archive for July, 2008

turn on a fan or something!

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Air Conditioning. When it’s 36 Celsius is important. No… vital. (My car tells me it was 36. Google tells me that’s just shy of 97 degrees Fahrenheit.)

That was the temperature at 5:30 this evening when Kaitlyn and I went shopping for her new Barbie (which she earned by swimming underwater again today in her lesson). We went to King Jouet… France’s answer to Toys R Us. It isn’t as big as a Toys R Us. And it isn’t as cool. I mean… there’s no air conditioning. No fans. No windows to be opened. No air circulation of any kind. I had sweat dripping down my back just from standing there looking at every Barbie and every other doll in the place. And there aren’t really that many.

It was so hot, I started to get physically sick. I finally had to tell Kaitlyn she HAD to stop examining every item in the store, we were getting in line to check out (at the one cash register) and getting the heck out of that store. Stepping outside into the 36 degree heat was actually a relief.

I’m sorry. I just don’t get it.

Too scared to swim???

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Kaitlyn really surprised me at her swimming lesson today. The teacher told us that she has to put her face in the water to progress. Which she does when she jumps in, and doesn’t realize that’s what’s happening. We’ve been practicing in the bathtub. This morning I even offered up a bribe… put your face in the water like the teacher asks and I’ll buy a new Barbie for our upcoming vacation.

We got to the pool a few minutes ahead of the lesson. Her friend was already there, already in the pool, and already swimming under water! I was stunned.

The lesson started and Kaitlyn refused to put her face in the water. The teacher told her she was done… no more lesson today or any day until she can do it. He took her friend into the big pool and left her with me. Crying.

I wasn’t going to let her get away with that. Her friend can do it; so can she! I told her that she could try or she could go home, but standing in the pool crying was not on the list of options. She decided to stop crying and try harder.

First, she’d put her head under water but be looking up at the sky. The teacher stopped by and told her this isn’t flying lessons… it’s swimming lessons and that means look down in the water.

After a while, she figured out to put her feet out behind her and sort of wiggle and she’d swim. She started jumping up and going under water doing the splits. She started swimming in-between my legs. She had gone from chicken to fish in under an hour.

She has another lesson tomorrow. I told the teacher before she left that I’m bringing her; he agreed she’d made a lot of progress. (He said he thought it silly for a parent to pay for a lesson when the child isn’t learning anything new.) On vera… on vera. *

(*we’ll see… we’ll see)

A Day in Provence

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Now I get it.

Kaitlyn and I spent the day yesterday driving to then through a slice of Provence. We’d gone with a friend and her 2 year old to see the lavender fields. The day was long. Very long. I fell asleep thinking of Provence. I woke up thinking of Provence. I slept so soundly in between; I don’t know if it was because 12+ hours in a car is tiring (I wasn’t even the driver) or if the lingering scent of the lavender helped me doze. lavender-field.jpg

Whatever the case, I came home understanding why Peter Mayle moved to Provence then wrote “A Year in Provence.” We drove through the area where he lives. Or lived when he wrote the book, I don’t know his current whereabouts. The sky was bluer than I’d seen it anywhere but North Carolina. The hills were gentle and rolling yet rocky at the same time. We drove insane winding roads on which you’d turn a corner and…. voila… there was a giant patch of purple blanketing the ground. Grand stone houses with the trademark purple shutters dotted the landscape. And the towns looked like they just grew up out of the cliffs.

Getting to Provence wasn’t easy. We went on a Monday, thinking that even though we went in the midst of tourist season, the traffic on the autoroute wouldn’t be too horrible. We didn’t count on an accident. And, I later found out, that when there’s an accident the rescue crews shut down the highway so they can get it all cleaned up… to prevent another accident. So we sat for about 45 minutes. Sitting in a hot car not moving is a real thrill for two little girls.

Once traffic started moving, we decided to stop at the next rest area touting bathrooms and have our picnic. I’m not good at the whole picnic thing. First: you have to pack something you’ll want to eat later, which means it has to hold up to being in a cooler for a few hours. Second: you have to find a table which will probably be dirty. Third: you are outside, so there are bugs. I did much better than usual and had a lunch worth eating, at a table, covered with the beach towel I’d brought in case we had to sit on the ground. It was even in the shade, so it wasn’t unbearably hot; I’d go so far as to call it pleasant. The girls wanted to play for a while before getting back in the car, but some genius decided to put the metal slide in the middle of the grassy area where not one speck of shade could reach it. And that was the only play equipment around.

We lured them into the car with the promise that the flowers weren’t too far away… only an hour to go to get to the lavender museum. kk-lavender-museum.gif I think Kaitlyn liked it, but she spent about as much time looking at the displays as she does any. Which is approximately .0000001 second per display. kk-sniffing.jpgShe did like the one where you sniffed the difference between lavande… what the Provencial French claims is the only “real” lavender because it only grows there… and the kind that grows just anywhere. Pretty much the displays were just different kinds of contraptions used to get the essential oils out of the flowers. kk-distilery-thingie.gif Kaitlyn mostly enjoyed the gift shop. I managed to convince her that she didn’t need the 18 Euro bottle of essential oil. And I convinced her we didn’t need to buy the bundle of dried lavande, when we have a giant lavande bush in our yard (yes, the real kind) and that we can go out some time when the bees aren’t all over it (I suppose that would be at night) and snip off a bunch to dry. She ended up with some lavande spray that I convinced her is perfume. She also bought soap, which I think she only wanted because it’s purple. I figure if it gets her to wash, it’s worth it. She can sit in the tub for an hour playing and not think to actually use soap to get clean.

From the museum, we headed out along what some website dedicated to lavender said would be a good lavender route. It took a little while, but when we finally got to the area with all the lavender, it was worth it. We found one spot where we could park at the end of someone’s driveway, and tromp through their lavender for pictures. Unfortunately, by that time Kaitlyn was sound asleep in the car. kk-sleeping.jpgShe did wake up a little later just as we were coming to an overlook from which you could see the entire valley below sprinkled with the purple blankets of lavender.kk-lavenderfield.jpg

Our last stop was a little town with its own spectacular view of the fields. We ate dinner in a bar… because the only choice was the bar for sandwiches or an overpriced fancy restaurant. The bar did include the bonus of having a cat that wandered around, hopping up on barstools or customers’ laps. cat-at-bar.jpgThe cafe with the tables that included a view of the fields didn’t serve food after 3pm. Naturally. That was where we wanted to sit… and enjoy the view of the fields and be able to watch an older couple play petanque in the dirt nearby.

We did learn one very important lesson. You may want to check the route your GPS has planned. On the way home it took us only along winding, narrow back roads through the mountains. It got a little scary. And took a really long time.

We left the house around 9:30 in the morning. Kaitlyn and I got back home around 11:45 at night. It was a long day. But now I’m converted to a Provence lover. I want to go back. Soon. And often.

bottomless coffee… what a treat

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

This morning for brunch we had bottomless cups of coffee, pancakes, fluffy scrambled eggs, sausage, blueberry muffins, hash browns… it wasn’t a dream. There is an American restaurant in Grenoble. And it serves Sunday brunch two times a month.

The owner is an American married to a French woman. I think she does the cooking. But she makes food he must really like. The dinner menu includes hamburgers on buns, catfish and cheesecake for dessert.

Brunch was good. It would have been a wee bit better if we hadn’t kept Kaitlyn out late last night at a cookout.. she was a bit grumpy and got in an argument with us over whether or not she is a big girl who can wield a knife to cut her own muffin. (We won that argument, but others in the restaurant who had to listen to her hollering were the real losers.)

The owner says he’s already booked for Thanksgiving. But we can get our traditional meal with all the trimmings if we’re willing to eat it on a day other than Thursday. Works for me. I think I’ll have to make reservations for that.

real (scary) lesson?

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

Today after horseback riding lessons, Kaitlyn said they stood up on the back of their horses. Like in the circus.

This cannot be good. It certainly cannot be safe.

Of course, she also told me she rode a purple horse. I hope both things are things she dreamed while dozing on the bus ride down the mountain. I fear they aren’t.

going under

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

I think the swimming teacher is getting a bit frustrated at his two American students.

One always seems to be off in her own little world… hardly paying attention. That would be Kaitlyn. Today when she wouldn’t listen, he picked her up and tossed her in the water. She then listened to him. She told me later she thought that was silly. She was completely unfazed by being tossed under the water.

The other student refuses to do anything that might put his face anywhere close to the water. While the teacher was trying to get him to put his face in the water, he wasn’t noticing Kaitlyn behind him doing just that, even though moments before she’d expressed a firm desire not to do so. I guess if he wasn’t watching it seemed like a good idea. When I tried to point it out, she started to cry and said she was too cold. I should have brought her backpack with the sweatshirt and coat!

moi Kaitlyn

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

To make sure Kaitlyn cannot possibly be cold outside on a horse in the middle of July, I packed her a bigger backpack today to take to horseback riding lessons. In it along with the extra sneakers and clothes, I put a sweatshirt and a jacket.

At the end of the day, both were untouched. The doll she’d insisted on taking with her was carefully smashed inside along with them.

Kaitlyn says she’s liking the horseback riding lessons. They learn to brush the horse then walk it on a lead… and they take turns riding them. I asked her if she ate hay with the horse for lunch. No, the leaders took along sandwiches which she “loved” but cannot tell me what was on it. It does sound like they eat next to the horses. Gross. Better her than me.

Her friend’s mom told me that he’d said that Kaitlyn spent yesterday trying to say her name for the teachers with a French accent. I didn’t tell her that Kaitlyn’s report was about how many tears her child shed. Then this afternoon she said she watched the kids get off the bus and Kaitlyn was at the very back of the line with one of the leaders… just chatting away. In English. When she paused, he apparently turned to another kid and said he couldn’t understand her. Didn’t seem to phase her at all.

hot or cold… depends who you ask

Monday, July 21st, 2008

When I picked Kaitlyn up from horseback riding lessons today, she got mad because I picked her up too early. She wanted to stay later and play. As if she’d never seen a dolly before.

One of the group leaders told me Kaitlyn had been cold. Cold? Kaitlyn? Sounds incredulous. Kaitlyn told me that was not at all the case. Sounds more believable.

Kaitlyn also told me that her friend “cried like a baby” most of the time, wanting his mommy. Did Kaitlyn cry? Oh, no. I believe that, too. I’m glad she’s confident and independent. Sometimes it makes me a little worried… but I’d rather she be willing to do things on her own than not.

Horseback riding lessons

Monday, July 21st, 2008

Kaitlyn is at her “cours d’equitation” — horseback riding lesson. I’m trying not to be nervous about it.

When I dropped her off, the woman checking everyone in looked at us like we were crazy. Or stupid. “Doesn’t she have a sweater?” A sweater? It’s July. The list of what to wear said pants and sneakers. No mention of a sweater. I’d even gone over the list with a French teacher. I thought all that. I said simply “non.” The lessons are up in the mountains. It’s cold. So I drove like a maniac to the house and back to make sure she’d have a sweatshirt.

I bet she gets hot, refuses to wear it, and comes home without it.

The little boy they paired her with for the bus ride up the mountain is her friend that she’s taking swimming lessons with. He tends to get carsick. No, he seems to nearly always get carsick. He’d better not get carsick all over that sweatshirt.

Floatation Devices: rejected!

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Today we were back at the pool for swim lesson number two.

I discovered that an 11am lesson is a little early. It was still a bit chilly to me. My car said 20 degrees… not quite 70. But we’d signed up and besides it’s never too cold for Kaitlyn to swim. It does make me question the wisdom of the 10:30 am lesson in a couple of weeks. Maybe it will be hotter by then.

Kaitlyn watched as the teacher laid out everything he’d need for the lesson: goggles, frites, a weird kick board kinda thing that looks like a big 8, and swim fins. She squealed with delight at the idea of wearing the fins.

During the lesson she put her head under the water. It took him a couple of times of explaining to her in French what she was supposed to do. But then she figured it out. She just had to go under then pop her head up on one side of the crazy 8 thingie. Her little friend, Isaiah, then did the same on his side. He was far less interested in putting his head under the water. Kaitlyn is sometimes a little too brave for me.

When the lesson was over Kaitlyn was one giant smile. And she absolutely would not hear of putting on any sort of float suit. Isaiah put his floaty arm bands on.

Kaitlyn was showing off for me her newfound swimming abilities. The teacher said “the mom of Kaitlyn?” (to get my attention)… then he explained that she needs to learn to swim with her face in the water.. that’s the next step. I don’t think it will take too long for her to do that. Not long at all.