Saturday, April 25, 2009

My First Open House

Hi - it's Andrew today giving Kate a break from her typing duties...

Today was really fun. It's Saturday and the kids didn't get up until 7.30am! Can you imagine that? It's so great to be able to sleep in on a Saturday morning. Oh, wait a minute, I'm in crazy land! How did I forget about what it was like to sleep until noon (or even later). Speaking of sleep, I never thought I could get used to the 10pm/5am garbage trucks, 5am street sweepers, 3am drunk people yelling and whipping bottles in the street, pigeons warbling outside my window, seagulls cawing in the sky, and all the other nigh-time noises that go on outside our apartment. And you know what? I was right! They still wake me up at all hours.... That all being said, the fact that we live in a nearly 500 year old apartment in the center of a 1000+ year old town in France makes it all worth it. I wonder what the French word for earplugs is anyway.....

But seriously, it was a really fun day. All of us got up and were organized by 9.30am in order to greet our first visitor of the day. Our friend Amelia (age 3) was coming over to play with the girls while her parents had an appointment in town. I really admire her bravery - she literally jumped out of the car and ran up our front steps without really even saying good-by to her parents. Remember, this is a young French girl getting ready to spend the morning with the Green Bay Packers (the 3-3-5 year old girl version) who don't speak French. They all had a bunch of fun running around the apartment and Ella and I were bummed to leave to go to her school's first open house. Kate stayed home with the girls and Amelia until her parents came back while Ella and I went to the school.

The open house was really nice. Ella and I went in to the school and went right upstairs to her classroom. If you look at the pictures at the top, what you'll see is a view from the courtyard inside the school. The building is basically a big square with a courtyard making up the inside of the square and a door that leads out to the street. You can see a catwalk in the pictures and Ella's classroom has its front door off of that catwalk. I had a nice conversation with her teacher (in French no less) and was happy to hear that: Ella is very courageous, she has many friends, she is doing fine in math/cursive/etc, when she can't understand words she's able to understand in hand signals etc. The teacher might have been blowing smoke due to the open house - but I seriously doubt it. One of the clues was the number of kids - younger, older, and equal in age - that said hi to her and tried to give her the traditional French kisses on the cheek while we were there.

Ella and I also visited Mia's classroom (this also used to be Grace's room, but she moved as of Monday [as the regular blog-readers already know]). I spoke to Mia's teacher as well (yes, in French) and was happy to hear that things seem to be going much better now that Grace is in a room across the courtyard. Now, let's all be clear here - there was never a problem in Grace and Mia's mind - they were perfectly happy to be chatting with each other all day, eating all the bread at lunch, etc. etc. The problem was to the other kids and the teachers. Now that the dynamic duo has been reduced from 2 to 1 in each room, there seems to be a light shining on the horizon.

Right before leaving the open house I was able to have a few conversations with some parents in the courtyard. I spoke to the head of the parent's association for about ten minutes (yes, in French) until he revealed that he actually spoke fluent English. Honestly, I love it - I might speak like a 5 year old but people can understand what I'm trying to say. It makes me feel good when people give me the benefit of the doubt and fight on with a conversation in French. This happened a lot on our most recent vacation in Turkey - Kate and I liked the French conversations more than the English ones during random meals with other vacation go-ers. As for the word on the street, as it relates to the girl's school, people definitely know who we are. Maybe it's a bit like looking at a car wreck as you drive down the highway - maybe it's more like smelling the flowers as you walk through a field - regardless, it's nice to be making a tiny imprint on this wonderful town.

After the open house it was time for Ella and I to do some shopping for Grace and Mia's birthday. We decided to take the tram up to the mall by my office to a store called Carrefor - this is basically Target with a little bit of Best Buy sprinkled in. Luckily for the both of us it was lunchtime when we arrived at the mall, so I took Ella to my favorite spot. I had a salad with shaved smoked ham, eggs, capers, cheese, etc and Ella had a tasty grilled cheese sandwich with a fried egg dropped on top. The highlight was watching Ella finally learn how to hold her knife and fork like they do here in France and eat like she's never eaten before..... After buying our gifts we had to hurry back to the apartment because Amelia and her parents were returning for drinks and appetisers that evening.

I'll try to summerise the evening in one quick sentence: All the girls ate a combined Pound of Fois Gras, we drank beer brewed in Normandy, 7 dresses were worn and exchanged between the girls, the Amelia Bedelia book was lent to our friend Amelia, Kid's Bop 12 was cranking the whole time, and ultimately fun was had by all. The adults might be a bit harder of hearing after the night but we'll probably survive to hear another day (oh, and yes, it was the volume of the girl's voices that might be making us go deaf).

Tomorrow is Grace and Mia's 4th birthday - we will have a big event at the fair in town. Hopefully the sun will shine (um, actually yes it does - see the picture above), lots of rides will be ridden, and fun will be had by all.

One last note - see the bottom picture above with Ella and a boy in a blue hoodie? Well, this is the boy who Ella kissed for the first time in Turkey last week - a nice Irish boy who we hope we will see again along with is parents in Dublin later this year. It sure makes me think - how would I feel if the internet and camera phones were around when I kissed Mary Chamberland in the Kenilworth train station (my first kiss) twenty six years ago???

Take care all - hope all is well - and good-night (said Miss Clavel).



  1. Sounds like a wonderful weekend! I'm sad to think I could have been there with you; but schedules dictated otherwise. I can't wait to come for my visit in just two weeks! Birthday gifts will be sent via personal courier.