Monday, 31 March 2014

... wave my son off on his Classe Verte trip

Short one today, going to be a quiet few days.  My 10 year old is off to the Loire.  Fifty three CM2s with bikes, accompanying teachers and brave parents all embarking on 3 days of circa 70km biking. From Chateau to Chateau, exposition to exposition, picnic to picnic and even a disco, though dancing after a 38km bike ride will be a big ask.  A wonderful experience he will have but boy will I miss him.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

.. tell you my fears.

Been a little too long between posts I fear, the procrastinator in me rears it's none too attractive head.

One of the problems with moving alot is the waiting alot. That stagnant period when you are leaving behind your old life again but excited to start your new and playing the waiting game.  I am not very good at it, patience, not my strong point, loyalty and continuity unfortunately yes.

Also this time I keep feeling scared.  It is a new emotion for me.  Not that I have  never been frightened.  Yes put a spider in front of me and I run.  See my children at a cliff edge and panic kicks in, adrenalin flares, voice cranks up a notch, I stand paralysed trying with depesperate restraint not to impose my irrational fears on them.

This scared differs though, some would call it anxiety but it is too quiet an emotion to be thus.

Age, death, fear of not having lived well.  Less choices left to make and less time to correct mistakes made.

This house we buy is not the one I have fixated on, a big choice, yes an old house as always but a big house, 500msq plus attics big, can only be that.

Maybe I must remember it is just that, bricks and mortar.  Houses sometimes workout.  When they don't you move on, buy another, use it as a base for a life not actually make 'it' a life.  Alas! maybe that is what I am scared of ?

A big fireplace in a big house,
I try to imagine Christmas,
It helps with the doubts.

Monday, 17 March 2014

.. take my son to the Orthophonist

Half an hour he spends.  Just once a week, all in French but what a difference it is making.

Two of my boys we placed straight into the french schooling system on arrival.  At the time I thought nothing of it.  They were 7 and 9 therefore time enough to acquire the language  before having to sit any formal examinations.  Yes it would be tough initially, their french consisted of merci, bonjour, counting from 1 to 10 and having spent many holidays here they could order some baguettes if pushed so no chance of starving.  It has been a success.  A year and a half later they both speak French and despite a reluctance to complete homework tasks are pretty much on parr with their french class mates academically.

Socially we mix with expats.  This was not our intention but our older boys attend an International School and because both husband and I do not speak french it has evolved this way.  In time this will change, our expat friends will move on, we will not and as our French improves we will be able to integrate into the local community.

Is that relevant to this post, possibly yes? the heading, where am I going here.  Well parents complain that the french system is too rigid, to geared around achievement, possibly it is.  However they seem to live under the illusion that this is all so different in the U.K.  There they say is an individual approach, special needs budgets geared towards ensuring those atypically academic children meet their full potential.

Well I say bollocks! My eldest had dyslexia, it was ignored.  Why? because he is so damn bright he managed to read in spite of it.  If you are ticking the boxes the British system doesn't care if you are reaching your full potential or not.  Where is the problem then you might think? Well the problem is when you find yourself in  secondary school, in english, history any wordy subject amongst your academic peers but due to the support you never got you are no longer one of them.  Your grammar, your spelling it just isn't up to the challenge and you lose confidence in your own ability.  A downward spiral ensues, why learn, why do your homework, why not be the clown of the class, put up a front, tactics all of them because the system failed you despite having a parent who constantly raised the issue and asked for help.

My third son also has dyslexia and dysgraphia like his brother.  Like his brother support was not forthcoming in the U.K despite my constantly alerting teachers to a problem with his reading at home.  In school he was rarely listened to, good grief no, where was the need the boy could read, a job for his parents, better spend time on those who could not or whose parents would not.  Not until his last year there, when reading tests were administered by a professional, moi, as opposed to a volunteer reading coach and it transpired that he was in the bottom third percentile for reading did he finally bet some extra support. Too little, too late and probably because being a teacher myself I had raised his head above the parapet.  Too many have I seen in my capacity as a parent volunteer and as a teacher going un-noticed or sacrificed to a policy of special needs budgets being spent on a vain attempt to get every child, no matter how academically capable, hitting a level 2 or level 4, a deemed average level. Children should be encouraged to achieve to the best of their ability, not some government politician's arbitrary idea of what everyone should be capable of.

.. And so we move to France and within months the school requests he be tested for dyslexia, recognized despite his limited french and in conjunction with information from his knowledgable parent.  Tested he finally is at a reasonable cost which is all refunded. In the U.k it is expensive so unless the school does it only parents with spare cash can contemplate it.  Not something one does with a limited budget and if one is not confident with one's own diagnosis and certainly not an option for many on low incomes.

.... And he has dyslexia, he has dysgraphia and he now has funded weekly sessions with a lovely Orthophonist ( speech therapist) and finally he is starting to read willingly, those nightly battles and tears of frustration both him and I, a thing of the past.

As an aside also despite the so called rigidity of this system, children sitting in rows facing the teacher, silent rooms passed whilst walking through corridors, programs followed with crossed T's to dotted i's,  they love school and they are excited by what they learn.

Their brothers on the other hand supposedly in the 'fun' , ' child centered'  international system well that's another story....

Thursday, 13 March 2014

.... work out what to do with my once beautiful but now broken mirror.

Last week we had two glorious days of skiing.  Early nights and even earlier mornings a necessary evil.  So on one such night being woken up to a decibel breaking crash was not in the game plan.  Mike jumped out of bed, Sherlock dived under and poor Lily, our beautiful Bengal who'd chosen that night to join the motley crew upon our thankfully super kingsize, dived over headboard and onto window sill.

The floor now littered with glass scattered around my upturned mannequin and prostrate mirror.  The culprit astutely hidden and in no hurry to reappear for fear of being marched straight back to S.P.A from whence he came by one irate, 40 plus, male, owner. 

No longer full length glass to peruse oneself pre venturing forth each day. Sadly an all but empty frame with sole glazed corner reflecting back feet and ankles, cankles not, my best feature peutĂȘtre but not terribly practical. 

Alas bin I think, cela vie at least it wasn't this one.

Phew that Wii game was exhausting.
Lily enjoying a more restful sleep.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

... let you in on a secret

Thank you google maps
Alec aussi for showing moi screenshot.

An Old House  may be ours, fingers crossed, touch wood and all that.  Best laid plans .....  the intention was to wait, to hang fire not count our chickens, 70's edition of First Aid in English has a lot to answer for as does my mother.  However bedrooms have been bagsied, sofas selected, Christmases planned. It has a drawing room to die for.  Cool went out the window as competition entered the ring.

U.K sale still chugging slowly forth , still no tie ins no deposits no anything to stop our purchasers fleeing into the night, leaving us high and dry and sans funds to buy this wonderful abode or at the very least a deposit to cover costs already ensued.  However we are nearly there. A final form winging its way, okay optimistic that, dilly dallying across the channel; international post being what it is, random.

Once done that magic word, exchange and then corks pop, celebration time proper and despite knowing the french system will be long and arduous, at least both parties will be committed,  I hope,  moi, I most definitely shall be in all senses of the word.

Ohhh and it comes with a lot of  brown stuff.

Monday, 10 March 2014

.. write about ponds and pools.

My older boys returned to school today, the younger have another week off, frustrations of having one lot in French system and the other in an International School.  The sun shines so we will spend time in the garden and walking Sherlock.  Almost tempted to open pool.

The pool has been a bone of great contention.  When we moved here it was on the must have list of requirements.  Back in blighty Blakeney we converted a pond into a splash pool.  The boys were using it for inflatables pre-conversion so to avoid catching dysentery or some such when also diving in to retrieve treasures thrown by youngest, then toddler age, we emptied out flora and fauna and added some nice tiles and a couple of chlorine tabs.

Small it was, bad the weather was, great fun still for boys and friends and unfair to move to better weather and not one have.

Who needs a beach?

So we rented a house with pool but arrived at a house with swamp.  Green it was and green it stayed those first few months and cross was I and offspring too.  Frustrated,  we closed it down for winter in the hope that all would be resolved come following spring.  It wasn't, not even after a full on raving middle aged loony mother, shouting match, with recalcitrant landlord, witnessed by mortified off-spring one not so sunny day.

So a formal letter was sent, this is France, threats of withheld rent made, and finally come July in time for the long summer break we had a fully functioning pool,  if a bit rough around the edges literally;that concrete needs filling.  And there, on lounger, lay I for the best part of two months; car issues have their advantages, another blog peutĂȘtre .  I do love France.

The boys on the other hand, after all their bloody moaning, had to be blackmailed off their various
electronic satanic beasts to use it!

Summer 2013
Amazing what happens when the internet is turned off.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

...sort through our ski stuff

Holidaying with four boys can be a tricky endeavor and unfortunately or fortunately some would say for many years living on low funds choices were limited.  Thank you Mother in law for accommodating us in you cosy West Country abode and that Longleat Center Parks treat we so enjoyed.  You aussi Tesco satan for many but four boys consume much food, wear through many socks and pants and points equals prizes, equals two weeks Cote D'Azur stay at a delightfully small, family friendly caravan park.

However the payback for spending most of the week sans hubbie mean't increased holiday budget, choice entered the equation.  We chose to ski.  Always the cheapest week, not that flush, but conveniently the quietest.  And then we moved here thoughts of weekends spent slewing down slopes, glistening white planned.

It hasn't worked out quite that way, things never do.  Our rent is high, school fees equally so and the joy of an almost full time hubbie comes with a cut in wage.  Nether the less it is vacances and we will ski, if only two days we can manage.

That said an offer has gone in on ' an old house' , school fees will be halved and the slopes an hour closer.  Fingers crossed, now that sounds familiar.

My how they have grown.
10 year old still fits in youngest jacket.
4 years later!
Great for the budget though.

Monday, 3 March 2014

..... shop for Alec's dinner.

Yesterday was Sunday so just like the great one I too took a day of rest.  Sunday for us is also test day.

It's not just moi that needs to get speaking this tricky lingo.  So too do the hubbie and four boys.  The youngest two have a bit of a leg up as they attend a French school.  The eldest not so and their apathy towards acquiring said skill partly contributes to my disappointment with their establishment of not so great learning.

So to help us all we have a verb of the week and we have to learn four tenses of chosen verb.  The winner gets to chose a four course meal of their choice and the loser gets to be footman and scullery maid for this grand repast, too much Downton peutĂȘtre.

Last week Alec was the lucky one poor Elliot the not so.  The carrot and the stick it has to be.  Does it work?  Well put it this way Elliot may not be choosing this weeks supper but neither is he tidying up.  That not so pleasant task will be left to the eldest. Unfortunately it often is, genes will out poor Tom.

Suffice to say I like to ensure I never have to, as I mentioned at the beginning of post, everyone deserves one day off.

La semaine prochaine,
We revisit aller.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

.. watch Downton Abbey.

It's a tad miserable outside, been like it for days now and I hate gloom.  Also feeling a bit weary as our house sale in the U.K drags slowly forth.  Survey done yesterday and as the country has been flooded for the best part of the year and when not flooded being blown to bits, I am not feeling too optimistic   about the chances of a 6 month empty, 18th century house with a large treed garden coming out unscathed.  So feeling on tender hooks till this part of the tortious selling process is over.

 Also on Thursday we optimistically put in an offer on ' an old house ' and we haven't heard anything back.  I was hoping to pre-empt a second viewing that is happening on the property today.  My gut instinct is that we have gone in too low.  It could work we could save thousands which will be needed for the renovations but we could also loose it all together.  Our fall back option appears to have disappeared off the internet, cela vie.  After the day I had yesterday things are looking decidedly  dreary.

So why Downton, why today?  Well being a mother of four boys T.V viewing is oft of the macho variety.  Zombies, action heroes, horror, war movies, you get the picture.  Very occasionally though I manage to commandeer this state of the art monstrosity that graces, not! my living room wall.   Rarer still there are times when a son shall happen upon my presence there sit himself down aside of me and appreciate a change of genre.  For the second time this has happened with Downton.  'Alas, Alec '
no2, son watched the first few series avec moi and now no 3, Sam has gotten the bug after happening upon my latest xmas special and recent series binge.  So a request he has made to view all from start to finish,  and who am I to argue with that delicious  prospect.

My beautiful old home in Gloucestershire,
Sadly will have to say goodbye,
Curse those bin bags though!