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We’re so… “Lucky”

Sometimes people we know comment on how lucky we are, I don’t mind, in reality we are lucky, but sometimes people say words that completely dismiss the hard work and sacrifices we’ve made in order to be here. For MANY months we had a running joke in our house; “This bag of chips, or France” “Well, it’s a night out, or France” I got weird looks when I told people I would LOVE to but a litre of that artisanal honey, but I cant, I’m saving up for France.  Sorry, I’d love to support your child’s current fundraiser, but this year we’re saving up for something special. Let me say it straight: We did not win the lottery. We did not have mucho dinero just laying around before we decided what to do with it. The cost of being here (both in Canadian dollars and in emotional costs) has been, and continue to be INCREDIBLE.  We are not millionaires, we worked our asses off and went over every dollar for a LONG time before we decided it would be ok to take this trip. We put off renovations, we put off vacations, and we excluded ourselves from some of our favourite things in order to give ourselves and (more importantly) our children this opportunity, it was not a light decision, and it was not made in vain.

 

On that same note, we get a lot of our difficulties dismissed. “Ok, so you’re struggling, but you’re struggling in the south of France!” True, absolutely,  but is a struggle lessened because of the location, really? Is the fact that I/we have very few friends and social connections really not that bad because we’re in a place with a different culture where people don’t speak our language? Should I be comforted through my troubles by the chevre and baguettes? Sorry, thats not how it’s done out here.

 

I am absolutely lucky to be here, so are my children. We have made it through two very difficult economical crises, one which continues to threaten us daily, but are we here by some sort of magical happening? No. We worked our asses off and made a decision to spend time and money in order to remove ourselves from our comfort zones. We have learned a lot from this trip, and I imagine a lot of that will stay with us for a long time. I can only hope that when all is said and done I can look back on all the sacrifices and hardships and simply say “Worth it”.

 

 

 

Yeah, we’re dropouts!

I have started this blog post over and over, it’s a complicated one I know some of our readers are very interested in, and it’s rather interesting for us too, but more difficult to explain on a blog than in person, it’s a long haul story after all.

I have officially withdrew the kids from school. I would love to say it was a difficult, long thought out decision, but honestly, it wasn’t. One day I tweeted “Some days I don’t know why I bring my kids into that building” Not too long after I asked my self… wait, should I keep bringing them there everyday? I didn’t think about it a long time before I realized NO, of course I shouldn’t! I could have fought and had multiple meetings, and assessments, and if my kids were staying here permanently, or even longer I would have done that in a heart beat, but they aren’t, so I didn’t. I have stressed that my kids did not fail at this experience, the school system failed them, and I stress again, WE COULD HAVE DONE MORE, but taking off one extra month of school until returning to Canada seemed like a much easier choice, and a better one.

 

My kids started off school in France with high hopes, open hearts and kind souls, it didn’t take long until the french school system crushed all of that. My kids were being bullied, on a daily basis, and I want nothing more than to say it was from only the other children, but I will never be ok with how the teachers treated my kids, the worst teacher we’ve ever had in Canada seems like a total angel here. I had paths in front of me that included lawyers, psychiatrists, educations boards, etc. or on the other side, travel, hands on experience and true quality time together. Easy choice once it’s presented that way, right? Right. We’ll still be debriefing with psychologists back in Canada, not because the kids suffered any amazing amount of trauma (I think) but because I think it will do them both good to talk about their experience with an impartial person, because I love to normalize counselling, and because we have a ton of coverage for it before the new school year starts, so why not?

 

So, that’s that. We had enough of the French school system, or perhaps, the specific school my kids were assigned to. Now, them being out of school has it’s pros and cons, language learning was a major reason we were there in the first place, The kids being out of school actually did change our budget quite a bit, and we get to spend some amazing time exploring Provence.

C’est la vie! This entire trip was meant to take us out of our comfort zone, and here we are, giggling, travelling, and being uncomfortable.

 

 

Blog? What blog?

I have a few posts I’m working on, and people keep hinting that they aren’t hearing enough from us, so I wanted to take the opportunity to share our twitter account , it has a lot of info on our daily happenings if you need a fix quicker than I can seem to deliver on the blog!

Thanks for your patience!

Response to rm 23

Dear Class,

Thanks for all those comments!!! I will answer the most frequently asked questions;

  1. Have you ben to the Eiffel Tower yet? No,but I am going in two weeks.
  2. Have/How manny snails have you eaten? I will eat some, but not yet. My mom also says I should try frog legs!! (Even though I kind of don’t want to)
  3. Do you have any friends (post cards)? I do, his name is Tommy. He is very nice, you guys would love to meet him.

School is very different here. People are always bullying each other, including the teachers, they yell a lot and say some not encouraging stuff. Subjects here are very hard for me, in math for instance, we are working on problems like 558 % 3 I can barely do it. We don’t have social studies, we have grammar, it’s weird to learn french when you have to conjugate everything including the tenses, and it feels like there is one million different tenses. We have to sit in our desks for the ENTIRE day besides recess and lunch, we don’t even have gym, and we never play any sort of games in class. I think that if you ever get the choice between French and Canadian school, you should pick Canadian for sure.

I miss all of you very much. Even though we have bunnies, I miss the frogs, I miss playing games with you guys and most of all I miss having kind and caring teachers. Canada rocks, and I cant wait to come home!

They make Ice cream differently out here, I don’t know whats different but it is very yummy and they make a lot of great sorbets too. Croissants, Pain au chocolate, baguettes and pastries are AMAZING, I’ve never had ANYTHING like that in Canada.

Want to know something weird? We haven’t seen any door knobs since we left Canada! A lot of doors open with keys and a push handle, or a handle, but never door knobs :)

I was so happy when I saw all those comments, my mom got an email for every one and it kept ringing, so fun :) Thank you guys.

 

Kaylee

 

 

 

Pictures

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So far……….

So far things have been going well. Four bus rides, three planes, many taxis. I am going to regularly update this post so you can keep up with my travels. We don’t have much food space so the kitchen is regularly dirty. Mine and Kaleb’s room, too. I do not know how the french keyboards work. Me and Kerri think that it’s a English circuit, but the French layout. Anyway, I think France is great. I have sooooo much homework I need to finish, though, witch is going to be hard. I don’t know half of the words my friends are saying, witch I think is a bummer, because I need to understand before anything, really. Anyway, thanks for reading! Have a great day!

Hello world!

Hi! I’m Kaylee. For some of you, yes I’m KayleeBug from buginashrub. Please check out my blog posts on my other website! My posts might not be as long as Kerri’s, but they’ll be funny to read. If you stumbled upon this website by accident, have fun! Friends, HELLO!!

My little Shvitzkas – Mom to mom

I’m going to keep this post short and sweet, just like my kids.

gag.

At home I have a wonderful network of amazing moms, I maybe didn’t realize how good I had it until I left it all behind. I LOVE hearing and sharing stories about how our kids are driving us bonkers or how our kids have done something so cool we were left feeling bad for having underestimated them. It makes a chaotic life seem a little more normal. I love knowing other people have the same problems, or completely different ones and I love seeing pride in a mom’s face when she shares a story that only she really cares about, but cares enough to share it. I love talking about a stupid parenting problem over wine or beer and hearing eight different opinions on it.

Since I don’t have that here, here it is:

I am so SICK of sharing a single bathroom with my stinky kids. And the toilet here SUCKS and constantly needs to be scrubbed, and for god’s sake, does the toothpaste issue EVER go away? How does it get EVERYWHERE?!? ugh.

The washing machine here SUCKS and because we have a super limited wardrobe, the shitty machine combined with a higher rate of use means my kids are blowing through clothes like nobody’s business, but the clothes here are so expensive! I just want one trip to gapkids and old navy (my god, I almost forgot Costco!!), I’d even take Walmart clothes right now, ugh.

How the hell do people in this country raise children?!? They are up until 10-11pm, there is almost nowhere for them to run and play (did I mention the idea of kids playing in pools is outrageous to the french?) and people constantly treat them like little inconveniences, ugh.

I thought a smaller space would be easier to keep clean, why do I find myself spending hours a day cleaning this tiny little space? ugh.

That being said, I thought by now I’d be a lot more sick of my kids, I thought by now I would feel like I need a massive break, but I’m not there at all. I have a husband who doesn’t travel for work, who helps with chores and parenting, and I thought by now I’d be totally insane without him, but I’m not (Ok, I’m insane from missing him, but not needing him to help me). My kids and I have actually grown closer through this trip. I feel like I have never understood my kids so much and they have never been so accommodating to me. Even on days where we are up until 11pm and then up at 4:30am to catch a flight, or when they tell me they are “really hungry” but I have to fumble through a different culture for 3 hours before I can feed them. I can’t believe how much they’ve held it together, how considerate they’ve been to me and to each other, and how much we’re absolutely loving being together. I can’t believe I am so lucky to be on this trip with such amazing little human beings.

 

 

 

Yo no hablo español.

My french language skills leaves a lot to be desired, I know this. But, as the people of Spain loved to point out, my spanish language skills are non existent. I know around 10 phrases, all of them completely basic, I had to stop my son from singing “Yo no hablo espanol” over and over, because it was getting really boring for him to say.

My experience in Spain was very mixed. On one hand, it was VERY beautiful, The drive from Madrid to Granada was spent looking at the countryside in awe and contemplation of our amazing opportunity to be there. We saw the Alhambra, and Flamenco dancers in Granada. The Alhambra was one of the most amazing places I have seen in my life. We spent a few hours wandering the grounds on our own before we met up with the Stacks and went into one of the castles together, amazing! I wish I had taken 1,000 more pictures. The Flamenco dancers were nothing short of awe inspiring. It was a late night, Our walking tour started at 10pm and lasted for more than an hour before we went into the restaurant/cave, my kids handled it like champs. It was a little chilly but our guide was great and my kids were attentive. Once the show started Kaleb cuddled in and I spent the next 90 minutes trying not to let my jaw hit the floor or look too stunned. It was truly amazing. About halfway through I had to hold a sleeping Kaleb’s head up so he didn’t fall right out of his chair. It was so loud and we were so close, I was a little surprised he was able to sleep, but he didn’t whine, cry or complain once so I didn’t mind holding his face with my elbow. I also noticed that people in Spain loved my kids, in fact, all kids were treated differently than here in France. People constantly talked to them, handed them flowers, laughed with them playing in the squares, and even tried to comfort them when they seemed upset, Kaleb was all out hugged by an older man with honest intentions at the Alhambra when he had a 45 second meltdown, I’m sure it would have been longer had the man not approached Kaleb, but the boy was so stunned he stopped immediately and tried to figure out what was happening. The man wiped his tears with his own sleeve and ushered Kaleb a few feet to a water fountain. Then they high fived and separated, just an example of how kids in Spain are looked upon. Here in France I get the feeling people really want me to beat my kids if they dare to cry in public. The Sangria’s were the best I’d ever had, hands down. Our hotel in Madrid was very central, so it was quick and easy to do anything and everything we wanted to do, we were very close to a large square so it was easy for me to sit in the sun and have a coffee while the kids played around or watched entertainment, living statues, magicians, people blowing bubbles larger than my kids. In Madrid and in Granada it really seemed like foreigners banded together, people were happy to speak in English or French to me, ask me about our trip and tell me about theirs. I had coffee one morning with an old man from Peru, he didn’t speak english or french and he only sat with me because I had one of the last empty chairs in the sun at my table, but we got across that I was from Canada, he was from Peru, and my kids were being silly enough that we could laugh at them together. But, there’s a reason I believe the foreigners tend to band together. Again, My experience in Spain was very mixed.

On the other hand, a wingspan away from the first one, visiting Spain was a difficult venture. Where I live in France, people are very patient and kind with me trying my best to speak french, it can be obvious when somebody is annoyed, but they aren’t overly rude, ever. My phone was useless in Spain, except when I was connected to Wifi, so using my translation apps, I practiced anything I thought I’d need during each outing, but I couldn’t translate on the fly, at all. I was constantly angering people. Cab drivers when I showed them an address or didn’t have exact change and had a hard time communicating that, employees of every single restaurant that I had to point at items from the menu, people asking me questions on the street, it seemed more people were angry with me in my five days in Spain than in my two months in France, by far. My attempts at asking questions or saying things in spanish were not taken kindly, people did not slow down their speaking or attempt to help me understand anything. Not that they have to, it was my job to navigate my five days there, it was just unexpected. I also did not expect to be physically pushed out of the door of a restaurant when I asked if they were serving food (asked, in rough spainsh) pushed and yelled at about not speaking spainsh (I think). It was more difficult to navigate feeding my kids than it should have been. Spain runs late, and I don’t mean the bars are open until 2am, I mean people don’t go for dinner until around 10pm, and often later. When we left the Flamenco caves and headed back to our hotel around 12:30am we saw people outside sipping coffees at cafes, restaurants (not bars) were packed with people eating dinner, the city was alive, from toddlers to seniors, everywhere. Doesn’t seem like an issue until it’s 5pm, your kids are starving and there isn’t a SINGLE place to eat. On one occasion I had to buy chips and other convenience store snacks just to tide my kids over until 7pm when the earliest (and likely crappiest) restaurant opened, and even then we ate in a room full of seniors. If it had been appropriate to take pictures of us in this setting, I would have, it was hilarious, I was the youngest one there by about 40 years. Eating was a weird balance of adjusting to another country and not starving my kids just for a cultural experience. My kids ate more bar nuts on that trip than I hope they do for the rest of their lives. So we learned that Lunch needed to be the big meal (3pm lunch? No problem!) and granola bars, trail mix, fruit and yogurt would be dinner. Our companions also had a bit of a rough go on our trip. Two of them ended up with a stomach virus that lasted longer than anybody would like. Having a stomach virus is an extremely difficult thing to deal with at the best of times, never mind being in a country where you know no words and seem to piss people off everywhere you go, and are stuck in a stuffy, tiny hotel room. Luckily, they didn’t go on their own, can’t imagine how rough that would have been.

Like I said, it was a very mixed experience. I am glad I went, saw some amazing things and met some great people but I think I can honestly say “been there, done that” about Spain. There are many other places I’d rather see before returning to Spain. On a positive note, it made me realize how much I actually CAN communicate in french, upon our return to France it felt like a miracle to understand most things and be able to ask questions again. While I was fumbling outside of our building with still packed bags from Spain looking for my keys I was stopped by a couple who asked me if the store two doors down was always closed, or just closed on Mondays (in french, of course) the feeling of relief I felt realizing I was back to understanding people was so strong I wanted to hug those strangers right there on the street. But I didn’t, because I’m not THAT weird. I just said “Ils n’ont pas ete ouvert pour un mois, ils ont construction a l’interieur”  and opened my door and went home.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like… home

So this week something has clicked with Kaylee’s teacher. It’s amazing how much a teacher affects a child’s outlook on life. Kaylee is finally getting help in class and is offered work to is more fitting to her classroom experience. I hope it lasts, honestly, because this week my daughter had her first good day at school, after a month (though there was a two week break in there). Having good days at school means she’s happier at home, she’s more interactive with strangers (an important part of this trip), she’s offering way more help with chores and daily needs and she isn’t contrary with me and her brother as much. It’s amazing to have my happy, bubbly girl back again.

Kaleb continues to enjoy school, despite the challenges. “It’s regular school for them, it’s hard school for me” I think his class was more suited to his school experience and he has a teacher that doesn’t tell the class to shut up, which also goes a long way.

I really wish the kids could play after school. The kids have made a few friends in school who they play with at recess and sit with at lunch, and I’d love to be able to offer more opportunities for them to hang out. I think that back in Canada, playing on the playground after school was an important part of their (and my) days, and we all miss it. In a month I may be asking the kids to invite a friend over for dinner or something, but I’m not there yet.

Next week we are headed to Spain. Cheap flights around here are calling us in all directions, but since our travelling companions are headed there, we decided to tag along. We’ll fly into Madrid, spend a night in a hotel and then bus to Granada the next day, spend a couple days there before bussing back to Madrid, spending a couple more days there then flying back home. Kids in France do not take vacations outside of regular scheduled vacation weeks, I’m told. It is just unheard of. I haven’t yet explained my intentions to the principal, I’m still working up the nerve to have that conversation, but I’m assuming he’ll understand. When he first met me and asked about our trip, I called it a vacation because it was the easiest way for me to explain the experience in french, I assume I’m not the only foreigner to take a trip during school weeks. C’est la vie.

This week we got to experience our first cold. A really bad, head splitting, sinus aching, tissue consuming cold. It actually was unlike any cold we’ve experienced in the last 5 years (and before that my kids were still young enough that all my memories are fuzzy). Luckily I had brought some of my favourite medication (My theory is when you’re sick is the last time you want to be out shopping, never mind experimenting with foreign drugs). I had also brought some for the kids, but only a nighttime formula. Apparently I ran low on space in my med/first aid kit and prioritized being able to knock my kids out over them being able to breathe and function during the day. Since this cold came with an incredible amount of sinus pain and headaches for all of us, medication was not something we put on the back burner. I went out to buy some decongestants for the kids at a medical medicine pharmacy (Yeah, I have since figured out which pharmacy specializes in what, that was a real relief) and learned that in France, you don’t give decongestants to children. Ugh. Night time medication it is. And you better believe My visitors from Canada will be hoarding a FULL first aid/meds kit. With my kids either unable to breathe and in incredible pain, or a little doped up from the anti histamines, they missed two days of school this week. Double Ugh. Missing school is also a different game in France. In Canada, you contact the school and let them know your child will be absent (Note the tense), In France, you send a note once your child returns begging forgiveness, and it comes with a doctor’s note. I will not be wasting my, or a doctor’s time having bad colds diagnosed, not to mention the cost for a doctor’s visit (While 25 Euros seems totally reasonable when you NEED a doctor, double that for two school notes and it seems insane).

Damned foreigners always expecting a pass from the expected behaviours.

Yesterday, in pain, slightly feverish and tired as hell, we had to leave the apartment while our landlord showed it (He’s hoping we’re the last tenants here and somebody will take possession shortly after we leave). It sucked. It was 5pm, so very few places were open, we really didn’t want to walk around but benches don’t exist here outside of parks and the cafes that were open were too bustling and loud for our tired bodies and headachy brains. We wandered around dreaming of a place that would serve us hot soup or a place to sit that wasn’t the ground. We ended up walking by a place that served fried chicken and fries, and I was surprised his door was open and his sign was out. Most places to grab a bite aren’t open this early. We went on in and took a seat. I was only mildly surprised when he told us he didn’t have any chicken for us (In a chicken restaurant) but could make us some fries. I didn’t care at all, I would pay for any food he had just for a place to sit. He brought us out two giant portions of fries with Mayo on the side. He had been speaking english early on (My accent must be horrendous, because we did start out in french) so I asked him where he was from. He didn’t have a french accent when he spoke in english like everybody else. He told me he originally learned english in India, after that he spent two years living in England before moving to Ireland. It was in Ireland that he decided he wanted to move to the united States, so he spent the next year trying to arrange a visa that he could eventually apply for citizenship with, He spent a month in California, a month in Washington and two weeks in New York before he gave up on trying to find a place in the US that he didn’t loathe, so he came back home, to France. Amazing. We learned that he hadn’t started prepping chicken yet because he didn’t expect any customers, but had come in early to try a few new recipes, and he would very much like to have some testers. So we tried his chicken nuggets, his chicken wings, his onion rings, fried onions and a few other dishes, for free. All of it was incredibly delicious, I started looking for things to criticize just so he didn’t think I was just being polite. We went back home with our spirits lifted, our bellys full and in a much better mood. Kaleb was raving about the guys food and Kaylee was raving about how incredibly nice he was to us. I thought all night about his story. India, England, Ireland, US, Home. He made it sound so easy.

Could it be that easy? Hmm, that gives me an idea…

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