March 23, 2009: The past few days have been full of great developments. At least that is how I view it. Nothing crazy or outlandish has happened. Creative adventures have not been taken. But, new people of have been met, new goals have been achieved, and bigger smiles have come to the surface.
On Thursday evening, I was provided the name of an American in Caen by the mother of a child in Grace and Mia's class. I had met her during their field trip earlier that week. She and I, through broken French conversation, were discussing how Andrew and I hadn't really had a chance to meet any friends. Not in a sad way, just in a matter of fact way. It turned out she had four children that were all around the same ages as my own and I immediately liked this woman. She understood. The very next day she found me at school and gave me the number of a friend of hers who was friends with an American who I might be able to at least meet and talk with about struggles, needs, and day to day life in a foreign country. How nice is that?
On Friday, I was once again welcomed by an unexpected field trip at school (don't worry, I am getting used to this). I arrived to drop off Ella and realized this day was a planned field trip to the library. Fortunately, I never really have any pressing appointments here in Caen, so sticking around for this adventure was not posing a problem. However, one other mother who had signed up didn't show. That basically left the teacher and a person who is essentially handicap - myself. I say handicap because I don't speak French well - and the kids KNOW I am Ella's mother and we are from America - and that gives them license to not understand me, listen to me, or think of me as being very smart. Do you remember being a kid and meeting someone who didn't speak your language and for a moment you thought that they were not as intelligent as you? That is seriously what I think these kids think of me. Paranoid, maybe? Yes...
We seemed to pick up a stray mother along the way (thank goodness) and the three of us, along with 20 other five year olds, were on our way to the library. I happened to notice that Ella was quickly "claimed" by a boy in her class. They held hands (like all the other students had to do with a partner) all the way to the library and cement partitions, trees and doorways were not to part them. One second of being apart and they quickly reconnected. It was heart-wrenchingly cute. There were two other boys that they "hung" with and I would say that Ella is probably in the rebel-rousing boy crowd. But I don't blame her. You take the friends you can get - right? That evening, after I picked up the girls from school, I noticed her boyfriend walking home from school just ahead of us on the sidewalk. He was walking with his mother and his two sisters - the other set of identical girl twins in Grace and Mia's class. It was beginning to make perfect sense - this magical bond.
Friday evening was nice. The girls are always so excited to see Andrew when he gets home (I am, too!) from work. I was excited to show him the new Apple TV I had purchased that day. The girls were excited to tell Andrew about the picnic I had packed for them after I picked them up from school and the carousel ride they had taken. And Andrew was excited about telling the girls about his newly named position at Coyote Logistics - President of Europe. Ella asked if Andrew had met Barack Obama, as he was a President, too. But he nicely explained that this was different...Even still. How proud am I of Andrew right now? What a hard worker and dedicated employee and man with a vision he is. His dedication and excitement about his job make me not working so worth it for the time being. I live vicariously through him : )
On Saturday I really wanted, needed, to get caught up on laundry. I had about 2 loads yet to wash and 4 loads yet to fold. So Andrew nicely took the girls on a tram ride to a park and then got some lunch while I did this fun home work. During that time, I spoke with the contact that the nice lady from the girl's school had given me and she was really kind. After a few minutes of conversation, she invited me to a gathering to occur the next day in a nearby village where other English-speaking people were to be found. After accepting that invitation, we said goodbye. It felt like I was making friends, slowly but surely.
Sunday was a lovely day - all five of us headed to the market. We bought our typical fare of veggies and fruits and unneeded toys. We dined on fresh pizza's by the riverfront and then home after a chilly, rainy day. Later, we went to the English-speaking gathering in Saint Contest. It was easy to find and great company but the weather was brutal due to cold and wind. We met about 5 couples that were English speakers either by way of a spouse or having been from the United States. Really nice people. After some appetizers, letting the kids play in a yard with some toys, and some tasty Calvados Cidre, we headed home. It was a great day of meeting new people and new friends to be made.
Today, Monday, was Grace's first day back at school all day. I am happy to report that she made it without once potty accident. The primary focus was during naptime, so we practiced that all last week. And today, she did it! No potty problems. Shew! Cross your fingers for tomorrow!
Tonight, Ella told me about how some older kids at school were telling her she didn't know anything. I said, "anything, as in you don't know anything in French?" She said, "no, like you don't know anything about anything." I said, "did they say that in French or English?" And she said, "In French. But I just knew what they were saying." So I said, "Well, what did you say?" And Ella responded, "I said yes I do! I know about the dinosaurs and how they lived and died and the names of most dinosaurs!". And I said, "Well what did the kids say back?" And Ella said, "They said Oh! I guess you do know something." And they left her alone. Oh boy. The struggles kids go through growing up - especially the "new kids". I never was a "new kid", having gone to school the same place my whole life so my words of encouragement and understanding are probably not as helpful as they could be. And despite all that, Ella sure is a trooper. No wonder Ella likes that ABBA song Super Trooper so much. She is just that. Well that, and she knows her mom is a HUGE ABBA fan.
Pictured above: The girls at the English Speaking Party (pictures 1 and 2), The girls in front of our apartment before the English-Speaking Party.