Archive for October, 2008

one way to fight lice….

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Tonight Bill had Kaitlyn try on her ski helmet to see if it still fits. She said it does and she plans on wearing it all the time from now on. Day and night. Not just on the slopes. Why? She said it will keep the buggies out of her hair.

biting lesson in economics

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

When I picked Kaitlyn up for lunch today at school, she handed me a piece of paper all folded up and taped shut. It looked like a note one might pass in jr. high. Not that I’d know.

I worried the teacher was trying a new form of communication with me. But when I opened it up there was no note. Just a tooth. Kaitlyn came home from school yesterday with a loose tooth. (She tried eating an apple to get it to fall out, but made me cut up the apple which made it a less effective dental tool.) Now, she’s officially missing her first tooth.

She says she wants the Tooth Fairy to pay her in dollars. So she can spend them on vacation. Apparently she doesn’t realize the Euro is worth more.

… till the cows come home….

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

We spent this weekend in Annecy… a beautiful lake town at the edge of the Alps… to see the annual “retourner.” It’s the weekend when they bring the farm animals back down from the mountains to spend winter where it isn’t so cold and, more importantly, where there’s some food.

Like everything else we’ve experienced here, we left with two basic thoughts. First, nothing here ever happens quite the way we think it will (let alone should). Organization is best left to someone else; you won’t find it here and we should learn to stop expecting it. Second, no place in the United States will a crowd of people be allowed to stand on a street too narrow for a mini-van in order to watch herds of cows barrel by.

Maybe it was the wonderful weather, but the event was far more crowded than we anticipated. I’d printed out a map that marked the spots where there would be demonstrations and bands performing. I did not expect there to be rows of vendors selling everything from baskets baskets.jpg to toys to wooden carvings lining every cobble of stone in between each promised venue. After about an hour of being bustled about, we went back to the hotel room to dump off un-needed jackets and my backpack purse. birds4sale.jpg

I’d really expected Kaitlyn to enjoy the demonstrations of the “traditional” ways of doing tasks in the Savoyard region of the Alps. (It’s the region that’s traded between Switzerland and Italy and France… and long resisted joining France altogether.) We saw men sawing giant logs by hand (ok, that was kinda dull), a man making rope (or trying to, but some old French man kept talking to him and distracting him), apple cider being pressed (which tends to eliminate any craving for apple cider). cider.jpg The one demonstration Kaitlyn wanted to watch was the one permanently emblazoned on my brain as the single most disgusting, repulsive, nasty thing I have ever seen… or smelled… EVER. There were a couple of men standing over a table making sausage. Using some gross looking white casing that I’m sure was fresh from some animals innards. Then I realized what was being put into that casing. One of the men was dipping a giant ladle into a plastic bucket of blood and funneling it into the casing. Voila! Fresh blood sausage. Which Bill says he’s been told is the only way to eat it. bloodsausage.jpg I don’t know what is more disturbing. The idea that people eat that crap or the idea that later in the day, that big plastic bucket that held the, uh, ingredients was probably used for mixing up popcorn or soup. The sight of it was like a horrible accident…. as badly as I wanted to look away I simply couldn’t. The smell of it was what I couldn’t stand. And it wasn’t just the smell of that bucket of blood… it was the aroma of the freshly cooked sausages mixed with it that was so repulsive. Just thinking about it makes me shudder.

After enough wandering to get that image out of my head and nostrils, we decided to walk the route that the cows were eventually to take. I’d also printed out the cow route from the internet. We turned a corner and spotted a barricade. It seemed like a promising place to stand. So we staked out a spot. I’d overheard some people saying something about 2:30, so I figured that was the appointed time for the bovine processional to begin. (Which, being that it’s France, really means 2:45 or even 3….) It was about quarter to two when we stopped. Bill suggested a couple of times that we give up on standing there and keep moving until it became obvious we needed to stop. Kaitlyn was not enjoying just standing there. But the sidewalk started to fill up; we were soon surrounded by others eager to see the cows. People started to stand and wait on the other side of the street… even though the sidewalk was taken up by vendors hocking jelly, breads and honey… and waiting to see the march of the cows meant waiting in the very street those cows would use for their journey.

A little after 3, a parade of sorts made its way to our street. We heard bands and saw a police officer bike by. Then the bands marched a different way and for a moment I thought that if we’d stood for more than an hour on a street that wasn’t even on the route that Bill would completely lose it and I’d have to go bail him out of some French jail. But then the second, uh, parade “act” marched by.

There were frustratingly long gaps in-between most of the parade entries. We saw bands playing accordions… accordionannecy.jpg groups playing those big long horns you see in pictures of Alpine pastures… bighornannecy.jpg carts covered in fall flowers and pumpkins… horseannecy.jpg a local military brigade… a band that played big sticks slung over their shoulders beat on with smaller sticks…. stickinstrumentsannecy.jpg people simply dressed in traditional garb…. farmers carrying old-fashioned farm implements high over their heads as if they were out to get the ogre….

And you have to understand that with each group that passed, the people lining the street not cleverly trapped behind a barricade pushed into the street to take pictures. And the mob slowly moved forward from each side… making the passageway smaller and smaller… like human cholesterol blocking the street. Some of the carriages that drove by nearly ran over the feet of the most stubborn. Some of the people who walked by with the procession were just people walking along who had nothing at all to do with the parade… but figured maybe they’d stop if they saw a good place. (One chose to stop right in front of us and I was fairly sure that Bill would have smacked her upside the head if he could have reached her.)

At long last (about an hour after it all started), the animals finally started marching by. There were the St Bernards… sporting long strings of drool and little wooden casks under their chins. If I’m ever in an avalanche and that’s what comes to rescue me, I don’t know how reassured I’ll feel. stbernardannecy.jpg There were geese. Yes, they march the geese down from the mountain. Yes, I do think they could probably just fly, but they don’t. duckparadeannecy.jpg sheepannecy.jpgThere were sheep, complete with a very intense looking sheep dog herding them along. There were a couple of rather big oxen pulling a cart that featured people riding along tossing hay onto the street and into the crowd. New Orleans has beads, Annecy has hay. There were goats. annecygoats.jpg The goats ate the hay. I suppose it was tossed down to get them to follow the path, like Pac Man gobbling up the dots. Then came the cows. They also liked the hay. This was quite a surprise to a woman in the crowd holding a big fistful of it. One cow charged right into her looking for a snack. I had another cow stick it’s face in mine looking for I don’t know what; I patted it on the head and luckily it went away. I will say that when the cows barreled down the street, all those people who’d been pushing each other to get into the street were suddenly pushing to get out of the street. annecycow2.jpg Bill had lifted Kaitlyn over the barricade so she could have a better view. annecykkinstreet.jpg When the cows turned the corner, he grabbed her and pulled her back to the relative safety of our spot behind it. The cows had on bells and sprigs of pine trees tucked into their collars. annecycow1.jpg They didn’t appear happy about either… or about the trip through town. I think they’d have preferred the bypass. Kaitlyn was very amused by the cow that stopped to relieve herself all over the street… and as the seemingly endless stream flowed toward the sidewalk it sent more pushers-forward scurrying backwards. I don’t know how many herds of cows went by. Four, five, six… I’m not sure.

At one point I turned to Bill and asked him how you’re supposed to know the parade was over…. the parades I’ve gone to before Santa or the fire trucks show up to signal the end. Here, there was no way to know. The band that had stopped performing at the street corner took up their instruments again, so we figured that meant the procession had finished streaming by.

So we joined the people who’d filled the street in attempting to dodge the freshly laid coating of, uh, fertilizer… as we made our way back to our hotel for a break.

A friend asked me if I’d go again. No, I don’t really think so. Because of the crowd. Now that I know that the parade includes zero crowd control, at least I’d be prepared for it. But that doesn’t mean I want to deal with it again. But am I glad I went? You betcha. You’re never going to see something like that at home.

so that’s what’s been bugging her…

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Kaitlyn is taking this whole lice thing better than I expected. Heck, she’s taking it better than I am. I barely slept last night; I kept dreaming that my own hair was filled with crawling lice. In the middle of the night, Kaitlyn called for me to go lay down with her. Bill offered to go instead (he told me this morning he’d figured his shaved head wouldn’t be too attractive to the little buggers), but I went. I don’t want her to think I have a problem with her just because of the lice. But I refused to lay down. I sat up and rubbed her back.

She woke up eager to get rid of the bugs. We went to the pharmacy and chose some lice shampoo. The woman offered me the choice of that or a cream. I’d read online that the creams work better than the shampoos.. but you have to leave that cream on the head for 8 hours. I don’t like the idea of rubbing a pesticide on Kaitlyn’s head then putting her to bed that way. So we went the shampoo route.

You put this stuff on dry hair… which means you’re guaranteed to knot and mat it down…. which makes the subsequent combing with the special comb nearly impossible. Bill came home from work in between meetings to help. He knew that I was completely freaked out at the idea of picking bugs out of anything, let alone out of our daughter’s hair. So I washed her hair (which involved making her sit for 15 minutes with the stuff on her head, doing it’s job.) and got her ready for the combing. Then Bill sat with her and dug in. He immediately pulled a dead louse out. Kaitlyn made me go get her magnifying glass… she wanted an up-close look at what had been making her so itchy. She looked up close at each thing he pulled out. I tried not to squirm and say “gross” every time, but it was hard.

I have to say, her hair looks better than it’s possibly ever looked… so very thoroughly washed and combed. (She generally has a great aversion to having her head touched in any way and brushes and combs are pretty much off-limits.)

I’m nearly done with all the washing. I do miss my giant washing machine today! I still have to re-vacuum everything. (I stayed up till midnight vacuuming last night.) I have to vacuum my car, too. It probably all needed done anyway.

Then I’m packing a suitcase. We’re still spending our weekend away.


Thursday, October 9th, 2008

Now Bill is in the bathroom shaving his head.

I swear I feel something crawling on my head.

I wonder if the vacuum will wake Kaitlyn up? I mean… I won’t vacuum in her room…. yet…

Argh…. and she crawled into bed with us last night and I let her sleep on the couch the night before.


eeeww…. gross….

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

It’s a common problem in France that I’ve been a wee bit too smug about avoiding…. until now. Kaitlyn won’t be going to school tomorrow. We’ll be going to the pharmacy and buying whatever it is you need for lice.

Honestly, I can’t think of anything grosser that I want to deal with any less. It’s a mix of many of the things I detest most. The idea of combing through Kaitlyn’s hair purposely hunting bugs and their eggs…. makes me shudder. And she’s so not good at letting us comb her hair; it isn’t going to help.

I remember when I was about Kaitlyn’s age, there was a case of lice at my school. My mom told me she had to check my head for bugs and I don’t remember my exact reaction but I’m going to guess it was something close to unglued. From that moment forward I thought there could be nothing more skin-crawling. Except maybe bed bugs. Blech.

I feel rather guilty; she’s been complaining for days of having an itchy head. I’ve been looking for the buggers since they’re a constant problem at school… but haven’t seen a thing. Then tonight, Bill found one. Not the eggs, like people told me we’d find. A big, brown, fast, nasty bug who’s been feasting on my little girl’s neck. Gross.

And now my head is itchy.

what’d you say?

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Forget French lessons.

Just keep inviting Kaitlyn’s little French friend home for lunch.

What an exercise in my ability to speak French. Or inability as the case may be…. I only followed about half of what she said and the half I followed was generally when she was answering a direct question.

Kaitlyn sprinkled the occasional French word in conversation. For instance, when we got in the car she pointed at a piece of bread sitting on the seat (yes… bread… we were a little crunched for time this morning and Kaitlyn took her breakfast in the car) and said “don’t eat ca.”

Toward the end of lunch and this poor child’s frustration with things like me constantly saying “je ne comprends pas” (I don’t understand) and Kaitlyn’s “don’t eat ca” I decided she could give me the best possible answer about Kaitlyn’s French. I asked her if Kaitlyn speaks French at school. She made me repeat the question… like it was so odd. Then she said “oui… beaucoup.” I’ll assume then that “don’t eat ca” was simply a token for my benefit.

Quel Americain etes-vous?

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

This morning instead of a regular French lesson conjugating verbs in tenses I can’t figure out when I’m supposed to use or reading lists of vocabulary words… we discussed politics. American politics.

My French teacher said he’d found a quiz on a French news website. It’s called basically “What kind of American would you be?” It’s made up of 14 questions about the 14 biggest issues facing the United States right now…. according to the French news organization that put this quiz together. He asked if I’d be willing to discuss politics and take the quiz. (In his experience, Americans don’t like to talk about politics.)

The quiz sounded infinitely more interesting than grammar, so I agreed. And I have no problem discussing politics with a French person. It’s far more difficult to do so with an American. He’s right… we don’t like to talk about it… what he doesn’t understand is it’s just a problem we have with each other. (Which may explain a lot about the state our government is currently in)

The questions covered everything: Iraq, Iran, terrorism, immigration, trade, health care, retirement, pollution, gas prices, the sub-prime lending fiasco, abortion, gay marriage, gun rights and oh I forget the last one. Many were issues Americans won’t even consider while voting. My opinion is that most people will focus on one issue… whichever is most important to themselves… and vote based on that and that alone.

At the end, this quiz told me who I should vote for and why. Honestly, I wasn’t very surprised at the result. My French teacher told me that every French person he’s had take the quiz… including himself… has come up with a vote for Ralph Nader. He’d never even heard of Ralph Nader. I shared the story with an American friend here who had a similar reaction. (Really? There’s a third person running?)

If you’re interested, check out the quiz for yourself. Yes, it’s in French but Google translate can help:


Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

I am spending a lot of this week trapped in the house tending to getting things ready for winter. Friday, the pool guys are coming to close the pool for winter. Tomorrow, the heating oil delivery. Today, it’s the chimney cleaner. My appointment is at 1:30. A French teacher made it for me months ago. I had that done after I learned that you have to have your chimney cleaned for your homeowners insurance to pay out if there’s a fire at your house. Even if the fire is caused by trying to roast marshmallows in the over too close to the heat source and has nothing at all to do with your chimney. Like a lot of things here, I’m baffled because I can actually see the logic…

Kaitlyn and I were home puttering around getting ready to make lunch when the doorbell rang. The chimney cleaner arrived an hour early…. during lunch time.

I’m fairly certain that’s a sign of the apocolypse.

next time I’m not helping

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

Kaitlyn has been begging me to videotape her during gymnastics class. She wants those who cannot attend to see her in action. So today I took the camera along.

The class was using a corner of a giant gym that’s on the lower level of the town’s rec building. The set-up is pretty good for taping, because from two sides you can look down from the upper floor onto the action. So I was sitting up there recording when the teacher looked up and asked if a mom could help one of the little gymnasts to the bathroom. There was another woman sitting nearby, but she had a really little kid with her and I figured it would be a real hassle for her. So I agreed to go.

On my way to the stairs, a woman who works in the rec building told me where the closest toilettes are. Good thing she did a lot of pointing. I figured between her pointing and a sign on the door I’d probably find it.

The teacher handed off to me a little boy. Great. It’s not enough that I have to do this in French. It’s even more unfamiliar territory.

I managed to find the bathrooms and took him in to go. He was not happy I’d hauled him into the ladies room and promptly walked across the hall to the men’s room explaining I’d made a mistake.

In France, men go into the ladies rooms all the time if their daughters have to go. Or if they are cleaning up. Or I think just if they want to. I know women go into men’s rooms to clean (my brother refused to pee in a men’s room in a train station in Paris because the female attendant was attending to it). That doesn’t mean I go into men’s rooms. But I didn’t have a choice. And luckily no one else was around so I guess it really didn’t matter very much.

Then was the next problem. The boy is probably 4 or 5 years old. Too short to reach the urinal. But determined to use it. He expected me to pick him up so he could go. Wanting the whole ordeal to just be over, I did to try to expedite things. As he washed his hands he told me all about how when he went on vacation the urinals flushed automatically. Later when I shared the story of my ordeal over dinner, Kaitlyn agreed that sounded like a good quality for a vacation. She asked me what country he’d gone to. When I told her I didn’t know, she instructed me to learn how to ask during my next French lesson then go ask the boy so we could appropriately plan our next trip.