Archive for July, 2008

swimming lessons

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Kaitlyn had her first swimming lesson today. We got to the pool about a half an hour early. I wasn’t sure how long it would take to buy the 10-visit passes. Naturally, when I went to buy them, the woman asked me for papers proving we live in town. My drivers license with the address ok? Oh, no. A phone bill would be good. I don’t carry one around with me. She finally just sold me the resident passes.

Once we got into the pool, Kaitlyn zipped up her float suit and got right in the water. It was a little chilly for me, so I watched. The teacher was in the pool giving another lesson. At one point he wanted the boy to put his arms at his side to swim… we’d have probably told him to be like a torpedo. The teacher told him to make himself like “une baguette.” Only in France. I also learned that those foam noodles kids love are called “frites.” (French fries) I was hungry from all the food talk.

kkswim-1.jpgWhen Kaitlyn’s lesson started she was so thrilled. The teacher gave her special goggles. I don’t know what makes them special, but she had to wear those instead of the pink ones she insisted we buy. He had her spit water like a fountain. I’m so happy she’s learned that. He had her racing her little friend across the pool. Kaitlyn won. She likes to race. She doesn’t like to lose. He also had them get into the deep pool to swim. That made me a little nervous, but I figured he knows what he’s doing. kk-alain.jpg

When the half-hour lesson was over, Kaitlyn acted like she’s ready for the Olympics. I made her put her float suit back on to get in without me. That didn’t last very long before she was standing on the steps, unzipping and climbing out of it. “I don’t need it anymore” is what she told me. I don’t think she’ll ever put it on again. I suppose that was the idea of swimming lessons.

Not a four-star hotel here

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

We came home from the pool to learn that some of our house guests would be better off not staying together. Which is a problem.

The dog we brought home this morning had broken the running tube thingie off the hamster cage.. and the hamster was missing. Kaitlyn immediately assumed the worst and started to cry accusing the dog of eating the hamster. I wondered why the dog was so excited about the coat closet so I looked there and found that was where the hamster had taken refuge. I wasn’t thrilled by the situation, but it did explain why there were hamster turds all around the house. As he was running from the dog he must have been scared shitless.

With Kaitlyn’s help we got the nervous hamster back into his cage. I probably should have put it back together before we put him in it, but I just wanted to get him out of the closet.

While I did that, Kaitlyn rushed to the laundry room to check the status of the turtle. She seemed very relieved when she reported back that he is still quite alive.

When Bill came home, he had to move the hamster up to the computer room so we can keep him somewhere with the door shut. Lucky rodent, he’s in the room with the air conditioning. I guess next time I’m considering animal sitting, I’ll make sure I don’t have overlapping guests. Or maybe I should just say no. It isn’t really my strong suit.

diving right in

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

We have a swimming pool in our yard, but we don’t have a swimming instructor. So today after lunch Kaitlyn and I went to the pool to find the swimming instructor. Honestly, I’m not even so sure exactly why I’d been given this task of tracking him down. Another mom had set up swimming lessons by saying to herself “what is the most inconvenient times for lessons? Let’s see… 1pm on Saturday and Sunday all summer! Sign us up!” Then she seemed a bit taken aback when I said I didn’t really want those times. Anyway, the ball was eventually tossed into my court to deal with.

So we got to the pool, paid our 9 Euros to get in and asked for Alain. Oh, he was there… somewhere. You know him? He’s a big guy. He’d been pointed out to me and I was fairly sure based on memory and the above description that I could find him. I quickly figured he was the large older man perched in the lifeguard chair. Given that I think you don’t chit chat with a lifeguard on duty unless it’s to say “Where’s the life preserver?” I thought I’d wait till he climbed down… and hope I didn’t miss him.

As I was walking along the pavement by the pool to stake out a place for our towels, a man in the pool started talking to me. Which shocked me. What didn’t shock me was that I had no idea what he was saying. So he told me in English: no shoes around the pool. Naturally. Instead you have to walk on rough pavers that have been baking in the sun all day. Pleasant.

Finally, the large fellow climbed down from the lifeguard chair. I walked up and asked if he was Alain. Yup, I was right. I jumped into my speech about needing to figure out the lessons for Kaitlyn. When I tried to ask him how many lessons a kid normally really needs, he told me to just switch to English. I guess it was that bad in French. Whatever, the answer is 10. Or 5. Depends on the kid. So she’s signed up for next Wednesday and Thursday (gotta cancel an overlapping French lesson… but anything to avoid the public pool in the middle of the weekend)… then “we’ll see.” I could have waited till Wednesday for that.

Kaitlyn was already in the pool having a great time. The public pool here in our town is set up with three different pools. A baby pool, which I entirely avoided. No reason to wander over there. A kiddie pool, which is about 3 feet deep and bigger than our backyard pool. And a big pool for people who can actually swim. I don’t know how deep it is, but I can’t touch bottom anywhere. So it’s more than 5 feet deep from end to end. Kaitlyn had on her float suit and was going at it in the kiddie pool… where she can touch the bottom. After a while Alain walked up to the edge of the pool when he saw her and said “C’est toi, Kaitlyn?” (That’s you, Kaitlyn?) Then rattled off something about a lesson with him. He walked away I think because she didn’t say a word to him then she got out of the pool and rushed up to me and said “Mommy, that man said I’m supposed to go with him.” So her French isn’t that good yet. At least she thought to tell me this before wandering off. I assured her she’d misunderstood, which made her mad, and she went back in the pool.

We tried the big pool. That’s how I know I can’t touch the bottom on it anywhere. Getting in was a trick because the ladders were where the teens too chicken for the high dive were hanging out. God forbid they move long enough for a 5 year old to get in. I guess you jump in or you’re out of luck. Or like me, you’re pushy. Kaitlyn had on her float suit still, or we’d have drowned there. One lap of the giant pool and I made her get out. That was not fun. To go back, I’ll need a float suit!

She seemed pretty happy with me in the kiddie pool, though. We jumped and splashed and spun and swam. Well, she swam, I walked. There’s no happy medium for me. After a while a little French girl came up to Kaitlyn and said “give me your hands” (in French) and they were off. So I got out. I sat on my towel and opened a book, but didn’t read a word. I was too worried to take my eyes off Kaitlyn. The other little girl seemed like she was about a year older and a year more confident with the whole swimming thing. She had on those awful arm floats which do nothing but make you look stupid and give you a weird tan. She also liked to get out of the pool and jump back into it. And she lured Kaitlyn out to do the same. First, Kaitlyn sat on the edge of the pool and scooted her butt as close to the edge as possible then just slid the rest of the way in. But after a few times with that, she got braver. And she stepped off the edge of the pool. And she loved it. Then she started running to the edge and jumping in. I got up and told her there were two rules to this: no running and no just stepping off the edge. Jump at least enough to not be close enough to hit your head. The girls then spent the next hour jumping in and getting out and jumping in and getting out.

That gave me a little time to check out the characters at the pool. I realized that not everyone in France is skinny. Those who are really do need to eat something. Those who aren’t really need to invest in bathing suits with more fabric. A gut-load of extra kilos is no reason to give up the skimpy bikini. I also noticed that a lot of the pre-teen kids seemed to be the chubbiest. My guess would be that McDonalds is having an impact on the French. There was also an old guy there who walked around talking to all the kids, tossing in Euro coins for them to dive for and return. Amazingly, they did return them. There was another old guy who has mastered the art of tanning to a frighting level; he was the color of orange tinted chocolate. It was fairly gross. But not as gross as all of them parading around in Speedos… the required swim wear for men at the pool. I’m told it’s for sanitary reasons. They’re apparently afraid that people would wear their shorts around all day, get dirty and sweaty, then jump in the pool wearing them. I’m sure that’s far worse than the cigarette smoke wafting over from the snack bar. Or the fact that the bathroom has no sink.

Toward the end of the day, the little jumping girl’s mom invited Kaitlyn to join them at the smoke, er, snack bar for an ice cream. Kaitlyn accepted and told me not to go with them. I hung back for a while then couldn’t stand it and went over. The mom told me Kaitlyn doesn’t speak much French. No kidding.

After nearly 4 hours there, Kaitlyn didn’t want to leave. She fell running back from the snack bar, though, and cut her knee open pretty bad. The lady in the ticket office (I guess that’s what you’d call it at a pool) has a little first aid kit with some strange red stuff you put on to stop the bleeding. I don’t know what that was but at least it didn’t make Kaitlyn cry even more. And I figured you probably aren’t supposed to go into the pool with that goop on your knee. So we came home.

just go to bed!

Monday, July 7th, 2008

It’s hard to be strict about bedtime in summer. Ok, I’m not good at being strict about bedtime any time, but I did find that putting Kaitlyn to bed early does result in a more pleasant evening for me and a more pleasant child the next morning before school.

But ever since she got the chicken pox and her school year came to an abrupt end, there’s been no real reason to get up before 9. She’s had lots of reasons to stay up late: barbecues that go late, rides home from the zoo during which she naps making a reasonable bedtime impossible. I haven’t pushed it. I haven’t been able to sleep lately (I don’t know why). So I don’t really want to have her getting up at 7 or 7:30 while I’m still trying to get some rest.

Tonight after cleaning up her room and reading two books, I turned out the light and told her goodnight. Then she started in with her “I just want to ask you one question” routine. She is obsessed with asking what we’re going to do “at morning.” And if she doesn’t like your answer… for instance if you answer an honest “I don’t know”… she gets mad. So tonight she started in with that. I told her we have French lessons; we actually have to get up. Apparently that isn’t the answer she was looking for because she kept asking me over and over until I got so mad I had to just turn around and leave her room before I exploded at her.

Just when I was starting to think that just maybe she’d fallen asleep, she came out of her room and said “Mommy, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.” Seriously. That’s what she said. How can you stay mad at that?

I’ll tell you how. Five minutes later she was back out of her room asking Bill “what we going to do at morning?”

Sink or Swim

Monday, July 7th, 2008

Kaitlyn may have to teach herself how to swim.

Trying to sign her up for swimming lessons has turned into a serious ordeal. And it has become far more trouble than it is worth, to say the least.

Last year, I mentioned to a friend with a little boy the same age as Kaitlyn that they should take swimming lessons together. She signed him up, left us out and that was that. This year I mentioned it again.. more firmly. I said we should go together to the pool and arrange it. Well, she went without me and signed both kids up for lessons. On Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. I know I’m looking for something to do other than stay at home on the weekends, but fighting the crowds at the public pool isn’t quite what I’d envisioned. So she went back to change it and ran into the issue that the two families’ vacation schedules are making it difficult. So she gave me his phone number and left it to me to get with the teacher. I’m not entirely sure why, but ok.

I stopped by the pool one cool and un-crowded afternoon in hopes of finding him there. I don’t even know what this guy looks like, I just know his name. No, he wasn’t there. Try back tomorrow. Well, Saturday came and when I told Bill we needed to stop by the pool I might as well have told him he needed to dip his toes in acid. Neither was going to happen. So in a fit of annoyance, I broke down and called the swim teacher. I’d practiced in my head what to say, but still fumbled around when I had to actually talk. Still, I think I managed to get the point across including my phone number. I even turned our answering machine back on so I won’t miss his call. That was Saturday. Today is Monday. And he’s yet to call back. This afternoon I had another friend of mine who speaks French very well call and she, too, got his voice mail. She doesn’t know my number by heart so she gave him her number to call. I bet he won’t call her back either.

I’m just trying to find out if Kaitlyn can have a lesson Wednesday. The day after tomorrow. I don’t want to just wait till then and drag her to the pool for a potential let down and melt-down.

At this rate, this is going to be a long summer.

what to do… what to do….

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

I am determined not to spend every weekend here at the house playing Wii or watching Slingbox. That’s not to say I don’t like both; I do rather a lot.

But here’s the thing. A year from now we could be getting ready to move… home or elsewhere. I don’t want this stint to come to an end and to say “gee… I’m a pro at Wii bowling but never saw Provence or the Cote d’Azur.” It’s really bizarre. A few months ago we were still among the newer people. Then we hit our 18 month mark. Now we’re creeping up on 2 years and once you get to 3 all anyone asks you about is when you’re leaving and where you’re going. One day you’re trying to get used to how to order bread at the bakery; the next day you’re consumed with making sure you go where you want to from here.

So Saturday arrived and I’d come up with a short list of places to go. First was a summer sled run. But when we looked it up online it looked far too serious for Kaitlyn, even if she had met the height requirement. You ride part of the Olympic bobsled track from 1968. Alone. Not really a good activity for a little kid.

Next on the list was a giant display of garden railways. Bill’s been wanting to go since we got here and one of our French teachers told us about it. Kaitlyn turned up her nose. Now, we could have dragged her there anyway and hoped for the best… but we didn’t hold out any hope that it would be a successful plan. Bill had zero interest in the castle I’d found. And neither of us felt much like fighting crowds at any of the local lakes.

Tired of me grumping around the house, Bill printed out information about the zoo in Lyon’s version of Central Park. He made a couple of jelly sandwiches for the car ride, loaded them and us in the car and off we went.

Lyon isn’t that far away but we’ve only been a couple of times… and at that really only for the Toys R Us. It’s supposed to be the gastronomic capital of France. But this trip wouldn’t be to explore any cafes and certainly not to try our luck at a restaurant. No, this was just for the zoo. Honestly, I have zero interest in yet another zoo… especially one known for, well, nothing. But I was not in any position to really argue it. So I shut up and got in the car.

Naturally, the parking garage was on the opposite side of the park from the zoo. But that’s ok, the walk would do us some good. Naturally, I didn’t wear shoes that keep tiny pebbles out and who’d have guessed that all the paths in the zoo are covered with tiny gravel. But I wasn’t going to say a word. Not a peep out of me and my feet.

We walked past a playground and convinced Kaitlyn we’d return after seeing the animals. Then we passed a small pool filled with kid-size motor boats. We stopped and let her drive one. kk-lyon-boat.jpgShe thought it was ok; I think she’d have liked it more if the smaller kid hadn’t kept bumping into her (and everyone else). Than we passed the little race track with cars and motorcycles for little kids. Kaitlyn hopped on a pink motorcycle there. The guy asked us if she’d done this before and I said no, but before he could finish explaining it to her she hit the gas and was off. That she really loved.kk-lyon-moto.jpg

The zoo was not at all what I expected. It isn’t a separate thing. It’s in the middle of the park. One minute you’re at the playground, the next you’re staring at a lemur. There were some animals I don’t think I’ve seen before… varieties of lemurs and teeeeny tiny monkeys. But none of the displays seemed very big and definitely seemed like something the humane society would freak out about at home. The lions and tigers had a bit more room, but they didn’t seem so very separated from the people. There was one area that looked like a flock of ducks had assumed squatters rights. Bill figured that was just where the zoo kept the tigers’ next meal.

Kaitlyn became obsessed with having a stuffed snake. We had to skip the elephants in order to work our way back to the stand where she’d seen the must-have toy. Since we didn’t pay anything to get into the zoo, it didn’t seem so bad to pay for the snake. Which she named princesssssss (yes, with the hissing sound) and happily wore around her neck like a scarf.kk-lyon-snake.jpg

I held princesssssss while Kaitlyn climbed and jumped on the playground. She was having a ball until she announced she had to go to the bathroom. We walked toward what we assumed would be it and she said “why can’t I just go in the grass?” Sometimes, she’s so French. Then at the bathrooms came the next dilemma…. they were nothing but holes in the ground with porcelain foot spots. Nice. Difficult. Especially for a little girl wearing a stuffed snake around her neck and tights on her legs. (Yes, it was about 80 degrees and she insisted on wearing tights.) With visions of the time she peed like a bum on the train platform in Barcelona in our heads, we were about to entirely disrobe her when Bill peered inside the separate handicapped bathroom. Lo and behold… it had a regular toilet. No light, but at least a toilet. Seemed like a fair trade.

All in all it was a good day. But my goal for this week is to come up with some sort of box of day trips… pull one out that’s where we go. Leave it to chance. Or not…

hamster update

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

True to her word, this evening Kaitlyn asked me for a paper towel so she could walk around and pick up the rodent droppings deposited by the hamster while he spun in his exercise ball. For those who have never had the joy of a hamster in the house, they are basically pooping machines that leave little pellets everywhere… all the time.

Anyway, she picked up and washed her hands. Yes, I did have to explain to her that one does not put the towel with the tiny turds on the kitchen counter. But at least I only had to tell her once. So far.

She doesn’t pick up her Polly Pocket shoes with as much gusto as she picked up that shit. That’s one point for the rodent… minus one for the plastic girl.

Reverse psychology backfires again

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

We have two house guests for the next couple of weeks. A turtle and a hamster. I’d offered to sit for the hamster thinking it would help teach Kaitlyn that having a pet rodent isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. (in her mind)

They arrived yesterday afternoon. So far, Kaitlyn has tried to move the hamster into her doll house (and I don’t think she understands why I vetoed that), driven him crazy putting him into his exercise ball only to plunk him right out, drawn him a picture to hang by his cage, gone to the store to buy special treats for him (ok, I did drive there and pay for it but I did manage to talk her out of buying him a special cage one could use to tote his pet rodent around), and now she is playing hide and seek with him. Which should have me far more worried than I am that a hamster is potentially running loose in the house. But Kaitlyn isn’t screaming enough for me to think that’s the case.

Truth is, she loves that stupid thing. This plan of mine isn’t working. Maybe she’ll find the cleaning up part unbearable.