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Author: kerrirae (page 2 of 3)

A quick update.

Yesterday, my kids had their first full day of school. I spent most of the day being nervous for them, new school, no friends is hard enough in your own city, never mind a brand new country with a different culture, I couldn’t help but wonder many times what I was putting my poor family through, why and would it all be ok in the end? When I dropped them off in the morning, they were scared, nervous, and physically stiff. One of the new teachers asked me if I would like to come inside for a moment, I knew this would be my only opportunity to be inside the school at the same time as the kids (Yeah, parents are NOT allowed inside), but I declined. My kids do not do well with long, drawn out goodbyes. I waved good bye and walked away. I hadn’t felt this feeling since the day I left my first born in preschool for the first time. I suddenly remembered how well that ended (Read: it did not, we left half way through the year and found another school the next year). Luckily, I had enough to do to keep busy and not focus on my anxious feelings.

The kids are in school from 8:30 – 3:45 (More if you want the continuing education hours that I’ve come to learn is just a homework hour and some playtime that costs a bit extra). This is about an hour longer than their days in Canada, and they are still suffering (though barely now) from jet lag. When I went to pick them up, they looked completely defeated. I thought for sure it was a rough day. I kneeled down and asked how it went, both of them suddenly lit up and and talked about how awesome this school was. Oh, thank god. They were VERY tired, Kaleb said he fell asleep at one point during recess, but not at all upset or sad.

A recess in the morning, and hour long hot lunch, an hour to play, another recess in the afternoon. Rabbits that live onsite that you can hold and cuddle during recess. They actually ate their lunches (something I thought would be a battle), yesterday they had Ham, mashed peas (Ew?) carrots, bread, cheese and crepes. The menus are available in advance, you can check them out here.  Each of them have another english speaking child in their class and there are a couple more throughout the school. A few of the teachers speak a bit of english, but never during school hours. Kyla got a supplies list from her super helpful english speaking principal (Yeah, I’m jealous of that one) so I went and got the same supplies, the kids were thrilled, they were going to tell me everything they needed for school and I had it waiting for them at home, score one for mom.

Kaleb spotted the Subway close to his school during an outing with his class, I was hoping to hold onto that one for when we maybe felt homesick, but instead it was our first day of school treat, they even had bacon to put on the subs!

All in all, they were happy to return today, and I feel so much better about dragging them to France. Wednesdays are half days here, so We’re going to do some exploring this afternoon. Everything seems good and peaceful today.

Reader discretion is advised.

This is not a blog for children. I fully reserve the right to swear, make bad jokes and complain about my kids.

It’s slowly coming together.

Yesterday I managed to register the kids into school. It was not the 30 minute visit I was hoping for. In fact, it took pretty much all day. Around 10am we walked into  l’Hotel de Ville (city hall) we passed through security, handed over our bags, went through metal detectors and fumbled a bit with the language barrier. Once we found the department we needed, we learned we had been mislead. A kind lady behind a desk fumbled with us and gave us directions to the education building which was actually quite a walk away (Ok, not really, everything is within walking distance). We made our way through a maze of narrow roads, checking out all the shops along the way. Once we found the education building (Not as simple as it should have been) we made our way inside and tried to decipher what to do and where to go according to all the signs facing us. We needed to see whatever person was in charge of our secteur (district). Ok, that was also not an easy feat to figure out. As we fumbled with our maps and addresses, an employee came to help. Sometimes in these situations if you are taken off guard you need to put the foreign words together in your head before they come out of your mouth. As I was once again fumbling with what to say and how to say it, my saviour daughter walked right up and told the lady why were there and what we needed. Phew, thanks kid. She took a look at our addressees, checked on a computer and told us who we needed to see. She also told us the first piece of news that would shatter us, Kyla and I, though close enough to throw rocks at each others apartments, did not live in the same school district. “Could we change schools and put the kids together?” She didn’t know, she worked with a different district. That part I understood.

 

We grabbed a seat and waited for the person we needed to see to be done with the person before us. The person before us was very interesting. Yelling, crying, hollering, crying and generally making a scene. I really couldn’t tell what all the fuss what about, but I took the time to imagine all the scenarios in which I myself would be so upset. I have quite the imagination.

After a while we met the gentleman who would be taking a large chunk of his day to register all 4 kids into the public school system. He was obviously a little stressed out from the people before us but despite being frazzled, he tried his best to speak english, some of which he has been learning from his girlfriend. We tried our best to speak french, it was a good compromise. Why don’t we have copies of everything, he asked. We sent in copies, we were told to bring in originals. Ok, so the poor dude spent at least 25 minutes just standing at a copier. We went over before and after school care (Of which we were not needing, but I was surprised at how much care was offered) and cafeteria options (Um, yes please! Hot lunches everyday, no more cold sandwiches? We were ALL on board for that). Then he said he wanted to go for lunch and asked us to come back in a few hours, he said he’d work on our files, probably. I’m coming to learn that attitude is king around here.

Ok, Walk back across town, lunch, coffee, laundry, DO. NOT. FALL. ASLEEP. Walk back across town, again. We asked again about having the children in the same school, again he said “Maybe” after a while he spoke with a lady and most of the fast paced, frustrated sounding conversation I could understand “There just isn’t room” “They can barely take the two in this district” “I will check in the other district” “No, there just isn’t room, maybe if they came at the start of the year” Damn. Kids, bummed out. As he was finishing up my kids registration he picked up the phone to call the principal and let them know about the 2 new students. Totally unexpectedly he turned to me and said “Can you please go meet him at 3:45?” Umm… I showed him the clock, it was 3:30. Yes, he said to the principal, he would send us. Here, take these papers and rush across town, RIGHT NOW. By the way, your new principal doesn’t speak a lick of english. No problem, that’s what we want to encounter. Rush, kids, rush.  “Bonjour, je suis ici pour M. Pxxxxx” his response was something along the lines of  “SATEAMNE ET BLOSEDUNC PROFA ICI” Oh, shit. I turned to Kaylee to see if she understood, she shook her head. “Attendez” he said. So I did. After a few minutes waiting at a giant gate he brought us back to his office and we exchanged words, slowly, and as clearly as possible. The children were quiet and didn’t move from hiding behind me. He gave me some paperwork he told me to bring back in the morning. He told me in France, it is NOT ok to be late for school. Since we’re still up wildly early and live 5 minutes away, I didn’t anticipate problems. I asked him if the children needed to bring things, he didn’t understand. I asked what the children should take to school, he told us to walk. OK, we’ll see… I THINK he told me the kids will be put into classes based on their year of birth and moved after a week of evaluation if necessary. He showed us the courtyard where the children played, he showed us the lunch room where the children must go each morning to tell the cook “Je Mange Aujourd’hui” I asked if the kids could eat lunch together, he said no, they eat with their class but for the first day only, pas problem. He escorted me back through the giant gates and said the teachers would greet the children in the morning. “Bon Journee”. And that was that.

Once I got back to the apartment I filled out the papers to the best of my ability. What the hell is student insurance anyways? I was sacred and nervous, the kids were tired and hungry. Thank god for pre-cooked rotisserie chickens. Ignore the fact that they have feet on them and just make a salad, pour a glass of wine (Booze, hella cheap here, it’s not a wonder we see so many day time drunks).

Today, the kids are at school. I found a supermarket and bought some pantry and fridge supplies, I got a pull cart. I got a french phone number so tomorrow I won’t spend all day thinking the kids may have cracked their heads open and the teachers have no way to get ahold of me (Getting a french phone number by the way, NOT as easy as my research lead me to believe!) . I’m going to try my best to stay up past 7:30pm so I’m not waking up so damned early, but we’ll see how it goes. Yawn.

Second night in France

I’m just starting to remember what day it is, and accepting the time on all these clocks as a possible truth. Nothing went as bad as it could have. Jason took us to the airport and while we were a little emotional, most of the freaking out and being sad about our temporary separation was not new to us, we didn’t feel the need to be dramatic with our last goodbyes, though they were still hard. The flight into Amsterdam, while uneventful, was really long and boring. I spent far too much energy on trying to get my kids to sleep. Kaleb finally dozed off about 90 minutes before landing but Kaylee and I were wide awake, next time I will forego the gravol and just not care, it turned out to not be a very big deal, to be honest, my kids didn’t turn into gremlins, they didn’t scream, fight or even whine. In fact, the worth I heard between Calgary  and MRS was “I just cant get comfortable and it’s really bugging me” Me too, kid. While I realize and appreciate how incredibly amazing it is that my kids didn’t go insane, I am forever going to be holding it against them… “Remember that time you were awake for like 50 hours without crying? calm down”.

 

Our new landlord picked us up at the airport in Marseille, customs was almost nothing, I’ve only been through customs in two different countries, one of which being my own, but France honestly just glanced at my passport, asked where I flew in from and waved me along. After picking up my luggage I could choose to go through one hall “Declare nothing” or go to an officer “Declare goods” he looked pretty bored sitting there while everybody passed him by. I expected more, but was not at all disappointed by the quick exit from the world of travelling and our entrance into our new life. Alain (Landlord) was so awesome, he insisted on carrying our bags, drove us to Aix and gave us a quick little tour of the town and our new neighbourhood. Once inside (fourth floor up a narrow, winding staircase) he gave us a very detailed orientation of the apartment, the kids of course, stopped at the part where he handed over the wifi password and ignored everything else. I didn’t care, they weren’t fighting or crying, I didn’t mind of they wanted a few minutes of internet.

 

By the time he left it was around 5pm, despite agreeing that we were all going to crash immediately, we decided to open up our suitcases, shower and make some food, I mean, if we could stay up another 2 hours then we’d be hitting a regular bedtime, and since we were not crying yet, I figured it was a good idea. Dinner was the snacks leftover in their “snack bags” from travels and a pack of Lipton’s soup that I squeezed into one of the suitcases. Sometime between 7-8 we all went to sleep in our beds and I was sure we’d sleep until noon the next day. When I woke up I thought ‘Wow, what a great sleep, so glad I closed all the shutters to block out the morning light!’ yeah, it was midnight. Fine, Back to sleep. But what time is it now? What time is it in Calgary? How many hours awake vs sleeping have there been in the past few days? GO. TO. SLEEP. I got out of bed to hit the bathroom quickly and on my way I noticed Kaleb sitting up in bed. I didn’t say anything to him because it wasn’t visiting time, went to the bathroom and crawled back into bed. After some restless lying in bed a child crawled in, kind of expected, he saw me get up, nope, that’s Kaylee. Ok, I can share my bed. Oh, here comes Kaleb. Whatever. Despite being wide awake, I tried to be very quiet and still, wanted to keep the illusion that it was night time. I mean, it was night time. We played musical chairs for the next few hours and finally got out of bed around 7am. I tried to muster together what I could to feed the kids while we prepared for our day, then went out to buy food. Our landlord bought us milk, orange juice and some rock hard bread biscuit things and jam, presumably for the rock bread,  while totally awesome, didn’t quite cut it for breakfast.

Buying food was interesting, to say the least. I have spent my entire life getting everything I need at only a few places, that did not happen today. As we were wandering around checking out our neighbourhood I bought one or two random things as I came across them in different markets and shops. Bread from here, yogurt from there, across the flower market for some pasta and sauce. We didn’t starve today but my two goals for tomorrow are 1) a playground, my god, the kids need to run in a place that ISN’T the street (which is not a sidewalk, despite it being the place you have to walk, hopefully my kids get used to that soon) 2) stock up the pantry and fridge. It would be really nice to have bread, milk, butter and cheese at the same time. maybe some flour too, then I can actually make things… we’ll see, I have to map some things out and figure out the best bang for my buck, within walking distance (And I still don’t have an old lady cart yet). I really don’t want to be buying food once or twice daily, it’s going to come down to finding out better options, and better planning.

I still feel really tired, Hopefully that doesn’t last too much longer.

 

 

Last night at home.

Six months seems so short and so long at the same time. When I think about what I was doing six months ago, it doesn’t actually seem that far away. Of course, Jason and I have not spent months apart since we met. I really wanted to dedicate an entire post about how I felt about leaving him for that long, but I just cant do it yet. He had bedtime cuddles with the kids tonight while I finished packing, there was a moment when I walked by and overheard just a few words and my heart just sank. Ugh.

Packing sucked. The two suitcases we were going to take turned into three, two of which are dangerously close to their weight limit, and all of them are completely stuffed to the brim. I’m trying hard to ignore the fact that one of them already appears to have a damaged zipper… please just get me to my apartment. It feels weird to cut our wardrobes down so small for half a year, All packed up and yet articles of clothes keep popping into my mind. Fine, no, I don’t need a collared shirt, when do I wear those anyways? One bathing suit is fine. Yes, I could probably use more socks, but I’ll just wash and wear the few pairs we each have until they have holes. And why the hell do I own like eight times more bras than I do jeans? Pick your favourites. Ok, cut that pile in half. Ugh, fine, cut it in half again. I spent more than a few minutes trying to hunt down my favourite, most comfortable sports bra I had fully intended to wear on the flight, with no such luck. Did I already pack it? Do I have ZERO sports bras? Stop thinking about BRAS! I refuse to open those suitcases one more time, enough is enough.

The Journey from my home to our new apartment is going to suck. It’s going to start with saying goodbye to Jason, bummer. Then after the nightmare that is taking two kids and a bazillions pounds of carry ons through security, we sit and wait for two hours. Then I spend many hours trying to get my kids to sleep on the plane, fully regretting letting them stay up late and making them get up early because as tired as they are, they don’t sleep, they just get more evil. Then we land in Amsterdam at 8:30am local time, 12:30am Calgary time. Then 4 hours with evil, tired kids until we board our next plane. The rest will likely be a grumpy, disorienting blurr that ends with the kids fighting and yelling while our new landlord tries to give us an orientation of our new home. I’m pretty optimistic, hey? Come on, at least I can be prepared. If it goes better than that, it’s a pleasant surprise, if it doesn’t, thats ok, that’s what I was expecting, I just hope the new landlord doesn’t judge my kids too harshly on the monsters they will turn into and eventually gets to meet the awesome, super friendly kids they are.

Today was the last day of school. One of the many things I did not get done was a goodbye present for the teachers, we always give a year end gift and I’m a huge fan of group gifts from the class, but that wont be happening this year. I’ve come to learn that people have wildly differing opinions on the value of teachers, from “Overpaid babysitters” to “The single most important influence on the next generation”. I’ve always leaned more towards the latter and never considered myself having a view far on one end of the spectrum until my kids went into school and I heard from other parents. Maybe my kids have gotten lucky with such amazing teachers, maybe I was strongly influenced by my own teachers as a child, I don’t know where my feelings come from, but they are there, I believe in Alberta teachers are undervalued, under appreciated and overworked. Regardless, I wanted to let them know I appreciated their work this year and I let it slip, I regret it already. I really hope that the teachers in France are just as awesome. I really hope school registration goes ok, and i REALLY hope that my worst case scenario of home schooling the kids for 5 months doesn’t become a reality. I mean, we were told our kids could register on long stay visas, but what if we get there and everything goes down the pooper?

I seem to have lost my ability to think positive for the night… better go take comfort from my husband for the last time in many months….

Two weeks to go.

My god, where has the time gone? It seems like just yesterday that I said to Jason “What do you think about me and the kids going to France for a few months?” A few days ago Kyla asked me what I’m bringing for groceries, at the time I thought it was such a silly question, I’ll buy my groceries there, obviously. But she made a good point, when we get to our apartment it will be around 4:30pm local time, we will be cranky and tired from our travels and I will be far too overwhelmed to venture out and try to find something to eat in a place where I have far from mastered the local language. What are we going to eat for dinner? What will we have for breakfast the next day? I kind of shrugged it off and didn’t think much of it, food was not something I was worried about, in fact, I was worried about very little, (besides leaving my husband, which I can’t yet bring myself to write about, because I’m not done being teary eyed about yet) I was very calm, knowing everything would magically find it’s way to my suitcase, all rolled up and neatly packed away.

Then it happened.

I woke up the next day to an email from Air France. “Votre Voyage a Marseille” yay! I quickly scanned the email and realized it was all in french, despite getting previous emails in english. Hmm, where’s the button to translate this into english? Oh my god, there is no button, oh my god, there will be no button for SIX MONTHS. I felt a weight on my chest. I’m not going to have more than one bathroom, I’m not going to have a yard, Oh, I still have a suitcase to buy! I still have to figure out what clothes I’m bringing, I still have to decide between saving money and bringing x,y and z or saving space and buying it there… and what the hell am I going to bring for GROCERIES?!?

I’ve been taking many moments to have a good cup of tea and some meditative breathing, but somehow that doesn’t seem to be helping these suitcases become packed and organized, has disney lied to me all these years? Do I just need to come up with a catchy song? Whats the deal?

Two weeks to go … 100 things to get done.

Just over two months!

Today we received our passports back from the Consulate of France in Vancouver, they came back to us with lovely little visas inside of them, what a relief! For an idea of what we had to put together times six (two copies of everything for three of us) check out the requirements here. Kyla and I had to fly to Vancouver and submit our applications in person, thankfully the kids didn’t need to make a personal appearance so Kyla and I ended up having a lovely day in rainy Vancouver. We flew in in the morning, found our way to the consulate on transit, went for coffee and did some last minute re-checking of our applications (ok, I did last minute checking, Kyla sat there and watched me very Zen-like while she drank a hot cup of what I can only assume was valium considering how calm she was). The application and interview only took about 10 minutes for each of us, a few questions and submitting fingerprints. I think it’s a good thing we were obsessing and organizing these applications so hard for so long, because by the time we submitted them, every i was dotted and every t was crossed. I still was a little nervous about the processing of my application, but it went through just fine, hooray!

 

Kaylee was as thrilled and excited as me, but Kaleb admitted he was kind of hoping we’d be rejected, the boy has some worries and hesitations still, but I know when everything is over and we are back home, he’ll be thankful for the experience. He is nervous about needing to speak french a lot, which is understandable, his school day is almost entirely in french, but he speaks only english on the playground, and is afraid he’ll never meet another kid he can speak english with. He may, he may not, it’s all a part of the package. His french is taking leaps and bounds this year thanks to an awesome teacher, and he is even engaging in more french at home. Kaylee, my little bundle of anxiety doesn’t seem to have an ounce of worry about the trip yet, she’s super positive about it, loves to ask questions and plan things and is generally very excited. I suspect the day will come when she decides this big change is something to freak out about, and I’m feeling good and prepared to deal with that day when it comes.

I feel like everything big is out of the way, we have our visas, we have our apartments, we have our plane tickets. Now it’s just a matter of making sure we have everything we need to bring, and going! Of course, I’m putting everything on the back burner until Christmas is over with, I can only deal with so many major things to focus on at once.

One Year to go!

If all goes according to plan one year from now the kids will have had a few days in their new school and our apartment will finally be filled with groceries! While our plans always seemed so far away in some distant dream, I’m suddenly feeling burdened with all the things I need to accomplish this year, new passports, Visa applications, apartment hunting and preparing the kids. We all need to be working on our French, and me especially. I passed by a lady just yesterday who was speaking on her phone in French, I slowed down and tried to eavesdrop a bit, trying to see how much I could really understand from a native speaker in a normally paced conversation. It did not go well. Something about eating? Something soon, or until, or again? We? They? Hmm…. I will be signing up again for the next session of Alliance Francaise and am keeping my fingers crossed that they will be offering my level during the day over the lunch hour this time. It’s a really convenient time with my kids being at school and I seem to make huge strides while taking their classes.  If not it will like be Saturday mornings for a couple of months, which is slightly less convenient, but doable. Since the kids are in French Immersion already it takes a lot of the burden off of me, but we need to be working on reinforcing it at home. Kaylee is always bringing lower level French books home from school to read with me which is great because it took a LONG time before she was patient enough to put up with 20 minutes of mistakes from me.  I have noticed that Kaleb has started to ask for things around the house in French, to play the XBox, help with chores etc. It’s really great to see him using French without being asked.

The kids will continue to be working on cursive writing at home (something their principal has strongly recommended they learn ASAP to be successful with reading and writing on their trip). We will need to supplement math and social studies parallel to their Alberta curriculum on our trip, since math is so reliant on previous skills learned and Canadian social studies wouldn’t be touched over there.  It makes me really grateful that information is shared so easily through CBE with parents, and the really great communication between parents and teachers at their current school. It should be fairly simple to always know what’s going on back in their Canadian classroom, so we can supplement their learning while abroad.

One year to go, a millions tasks to complete!

 

Meeting with the principal.

Tomorrow Kyla and I will sit down with the principal of the kid’s current school here in Calgary to discuss our plans. We need to hear from her about how our plans may affect their schooling here in Calgary. As it would have been the older kid’s last semester at their current school I’m not sure if placement into the following school will be affected, I know they will miss the graduation and other ceremonious things. I’m 31 years old with a great life of my own, and yet going to the principal’s office still makes me nervous.

Videos and links

I try to visit Aix-en-provence’s city website weekly to stay up to date on what’s happening, and learn more about the town. It’s a lot of work for me because it’s all in French and although it’s always easier to read than to listen, there’s a lot to take in. When I’m trying to get to know the town better but need to think in English, here’s some of the things I watch and places I visit.

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