Monday, February 28, 2011

Office Space

Just before she went to sleep tonight, Ailbhe told me that Mum said she could have her own room when we move into a new house in Canada. Then she asked me if she could have her own office too.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Best Playground in the World ...

or at least, the best playground we have been to. This playground is close to Oranmore, where I am from in Ireland. We went there last week with my sister Caitriona and her family. The playground is huge with lots of little hills. We all had fun.

 And Jack came running down

 Cara, Ailbhe, and Jack on the trampoline

 Ailbhe on her way up the rope tower

Ailbhe slightly higher 

Connell made it to the top, Fiacra is part way up

 Connell and I on the zip line. It zips along a bit faster than I like

Caitriona and Fiacra on the zip line

Fiacra loved the zip line. Jack wouldn't go on it at all. Last time he was at the playground, he went on it sitting on his dad's lap. Unfortunately John dropped him face down in the mud.

 Connell joins the rat race

When I was taking this photo of Connell in the gerbil wheel, he was bending down lower and lower. I asked him why he was doing that. He wasn't aware that he was until I mentioned it. "It's very disorienting!" he shrieked.

Fiacra and Ailbhe on one slide, Jack at the top of the other. Jack shoots down these slides. 

Ailbhe on the trampoline, and Jack has come tumbling down

There is lots more there that we don't have photos of. It may not be the safest playground, but definitely the funnest.

Home Again

We got home yesterday afternoon after spending 10 days in Ireland. The kids enjoyed seeing their cousins again. It was nice to be there for Ailbhe's birthday. Finian got 2 new top teeth while we were away for a grand total of 5. The weather was pretty good, some rain but not all day everyday as it sometimes seems to be.

The kids are back to school on Monday. They have 6 weeks of school and then another 2 weeks off. We will do day trips at the weekends but won't go away again until the next school break. We are planning on going to Lac d'Hourtin-Carcans, the largest lake in France, for a week then.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


We spent the kids' winter school break in Ireland. We flew from Bordeaux to London to Dublin and spent 2 nights in Dublin before taking the train to Galway. We stayed at Jurys Inn, right across from Christchurch cathedral. It was the perfect location for us, within walking distance of everything we wanted to see.

Seasoned travellers, arriving in Dublin late at night

Christchurch Cathedral

We arrived late on Monday night. Tuesday morning we had breakfast at the hotel and then went to Dublinia, an exhibition about viking and medieval Dublin. Fiacra loved it. We got him a wooden sword and shield and a helmet with big horns. He marched around Dublin roaring at people, a lot of whom laughed and roared back at him.

 Fiacra in a viking house

Not a raiding party I'd like to meet

We went to the Lord Edward pub for lunch and then to see Christchurch. It poured rain all day. We met my aunt Nina and Betty and Cathy for dinner at the Bad Ass Cafe in the Temple Bar area. I have been going to the Bad Ass with Nina for over 20 years. Ailbhe wasn't feeling well so didn't eat much, in fact ate only 2 love hearts. Fiacra was a bit out of sorts when we got there, so chose to sit at a table by himself at the other side of the restaurant. Connell went and sat with him until our food came. Fiacra ate at his own table. When I heard a loud roar and saw the viking charging over to us, I knew he was back to himself again.

It's important to have a nutritious lunch

The Bad Ass Cafe

A little bit of Asterix before bed

On Wednesday morning, while Finian napped, Connell took Fiacra and Ailbhe for a ride on a double-decker bus which Ailbhe was very keen to do. They went to the O'Connell bridge and to see the millennium spire. We all went for a short walk to Dublin castle and then took a taxi to the train station. 

Fiacra and Ailbhe on a double-decker

 A double-decker bus

 The viking about town

 The millennium spire

 The viking, just before he scales the millennium spire


Dublin is a great city. We'd like to go again but for longer.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lose the Boots

Sunday was Finian's last day wearing his Dennis Browne boots and bar. He has worn them full time for the past 3 months and will continue to wear them at night until he is 3 or 4. Fiacra and Ailbhe were really happy for him.

Dennis Browne boots and bar

Celebrating the last day of the boots

Finian was born with clubfoot in his left foot. His right foot was also turned but wasn't considered a true clubfoot. We saw a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at the Grand River Hospital in Kitchener every Thursday from when Finian was 7 weeks old until we left for France. Finian was treated by the Ponseti method, where his foot was stretched at the clinic each week and then a cast applied to retain the correction. He wore casts on both feet for 3 weeks and then only on his left foot for another 4 weeks. He also had a tendon release where his Achilles tendon was cut.

When we first starting seeing the orthopedic surgeon, Connell asked if Finian would be able to run, jump and play in the NHL. The surgeon said definitely to run and jump but couldn't guarantee the NHL.

 Newborn Finian

 Finian with both feet casted

He was fitted for his boots in November. He hated them. We will see an orthopedic surgeon in France in 2 weeks for a check-up.

Finian loves pulling the laces

Sunday, February 13, 2011


We went to see the citadel in Blaye yesterday. Blaye is on the bank of the Gironde estuary, after the Garonne and Dordogne rivers meet. It's about an hour from Bordeaux. The citadel was built in the 17th century as part of the defense of Bordeaux.

We visited the Grotte de Pair-Non-Pair along the way, perfectly timed just as Fiacra's motion sickness was setting in. We were the only visitors to the cave so the tour guide gave a very kid friendly tour. The  engravings of animals are amazing.

One of the engravings

This is a picture pulled from the internet. Fiacra had paid great attention to the 'interdit' sign. No smoke and no cameras, apparently. The 6 year old police were out in full force. For some reason, I was deemed high risk. I managed to restrain myself and lit no fires and took no photos while in the cave. 

We continued on a small road along the Dordogne river into Blaye. The road is lined with beautiful old houses.

 A carrelet along the Dordogne. The fishing net is drawn up regularly, no bait is used.

We spent about two hours walking around in the citadel. Fiacra and Ailbhe loved it. We were almost the only people there. 

 The entrance to the citadel

The outer walls of the citadel

 Fiacra and Ailbhe at the entrance

 A view of the estuary from the citadel

Fiacra excavating in the Blaye citadel, a UNESCO world heritage site.

We had a wonderful day. No need to mention the part after we got home and Ailbhe was hyper-giddy, Finian and I were tired, Connell was first gone to pick up our washer-dryer and then installing it with only French instructions. Fiacra, to be fair, just wanted to sit and read Astertix but Ailbhe was having none of that and insisted he join in the giddy fun. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Lunch

Just Ailbhe, Finian, and I home for lunch today, Fiacra had lunch at school. From when I picked Ailbhe up from school to when I dropped her off again, she never stopped talking. When Fiacra is talking like this, he asks constant questions, often questions that require thought to answer. Ailbhe is different, she just needs an occasional "mmmm", "wow", "I see" to continue for hours.

A lot of her chat was about her plans to build a boat. Most of our friends in Canada and family in Ireland are included in the building plans (be warned), which seems to be taking place at the Orchards'. I admit I tune in and out but was paying enough attention to pick up two nuggets of conversation today.

The first, "I don't see far distances so well anymore." Anymore???? Yikes - may need a trip to the optometrist.

The second, "My class is like Emmanuel, the big class is like JK." Emmanuel is the daycare Ailbhe went to last year. She's completely right. The first two years of Ecole Maternelle, which includes 3 and 4 year olds, seems to have a big focus on pre-writing and pre-reading skills. Ailbhe hasn't done any actual writing practise at all. So in a single year, "the big class" of Ecole Maternelle, go from not writing at all to script handwriting. This seems like quite a big leap.

Meanwhile, Fiacra is enjoying his school lunch. He described it to us over dinner, "there was meat with dots in it, we had to have 2 slices, I tried it but didn't like it. There was meat with gravy. It was a type of meat we don't have at home. I ate it but didn't really like it. I ate all the carrots and my yogurt."

Before bed, I looked on the schoolboard website to see what the menu was:
Saucisson + beurre
Sauté de kangourou sce venaison
Petits pois carottes
Yaourt vanille Bio
Fruit de saison

Saucisson is a cured sausage, I'm guessing this is the meat with dots. I'm not sure why butter is mentioned. Kangourou is, as you've probably guessed, kangaroo and is probably the meat we don't have at home.

To deflect from the meat, I asked Fiacra what the "fruit de saison" was today.

"An orange"
"Was it peeled?"
"Was it a mandarin or an orange"
"It wasn't a mandarin, it was an orange"
"Were you able to peel it?"
"No, I just hacked at it with my knife, and got some pieces out"

The kids now have two weeks off school, but I'll be eagerly awaiting the April school menus.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Feed Me

Time to start giving Finian some solid food. I haven't found a baby cereal here for him. For some reason, I don't want to start him with caramel flavoured cereal, so we'll just stick to fruits and veggies for now. We tried carrots first.

 Ready to begin

Trying some 

Not too sure about it

 Fiacra wanted to try some too, about the same reaction as he had 6 years ago

Finian did okay his first feed but since then every time he sees the spoon, he keeps his mouth clamped shut. We've tried banana too. Sweet potato and pear on the menu next. We'll see how he does.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Leaving Canada

We had a pretty hectic morning the day we left Canada but we managed to take a few photos. We were allowed to check-in 8 bags, each with a maximum weight of 50lbs. Most of the morning was spent moving stuff around to make sure no bag was overweight. Of course, when we got to the airport, the person who checked us in said she would give us a break and just assume the weights were fine.

Fiacra and Ailbhe were excited and eager to get going. They haven't looked back since.

      Most of our bags

Best friends

 On the airways transit bus to the airport

 "What, you're serious, we are actually going????"

France vs Pays-Bas

Fiacra and I went to a soccer game today. It was an under 19 game between France and Pays-Bas. We had seen posters for weeks before I figured out that Pays-Bas was the Netherlands and not the Basque region of Spain.

The game was fun. There was a big crowd and when they played the national anthems, it reminded me of Casablanca when they played La Marseillaise at Rick's.

The final score was 1-1. Both goals were scored on free kicks. The Dutch tied it with about two minutes left in the game and everyone up for the kick. A few of the players seemed quite good. Maybe they'll play for the senior teams in a few years.

Say "Bonjour"

I was walking past a fruit shop when I noticed a table outside with some mandarins on it. I put a bunch in a bag and entered the shop, noticing some bananas at the back. As I went for the bananas, the woman at the counter launched into some French that was too fast for me to understand, although I could definitely tell something was wrong.

I went over and she said something more which I also didn't get. I apologized and said I didn't understand. (I say this a lot!) Then she seemed ... not apologetic, but more relaxed. She checked that I spoke English and then searched for the right words in English but couldn't find them.

In French, I made sure that it was okay that I bought the mandarins. (It was a fruit shop after all.) And bananas too. Then I spotted some grapes and grabbed them as well. As I paid, she asked if I would understand if she spoke slowly. I ventured to say "Oui", although it was far from certain that I would.

Then it came out (calmly now) that I had failed to say "Bonjour" when I entered her shop. I gathered that it had been impolite of me - and she felt justified in reprimanding me for it. It was her shop after all.

I remember being told, years ago, about this difference in the customer-shopkeeper relationship. In Canada, we tend to think of the shopkeeper as being involved in the service industry and is there to help the customer, being rewarded with a sale: the customer has money and the shopkeeper would like to get it. In France (I was once told, and this experience seems to confirm it), it is the opposite: the shopkeeper has some wares and the customer would like to get some.  Of course, in both countries, it's win-win when you buy something.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Relaxing Sunday

The weather was beautiful on Sunday, sunny and about 15 degrees. I went for a run in the morning. Once I got back, Connell, Fiacra, and Ailbhe left for the pool. This was their first time going to the pool so Ailbhe was very excited. We arranged to meet downtown for lunch.

About an hour later, I got a "Failure to Swim" text from Connell. Ailbhe was not impressed. The swimming pool has very exact standards for swimwear, swim shorts (what all guys wear in Canada) are not allowed. All swimwear must be tight to the body. Connell and Fiacra will be speedo shopping this week. Will they have speedos for Finian?

We met up on the tram to downtown and went straight to the riverside promenade. The pathway is just over 3km in length and is very wide and smooth so the kids were eager to scoot there. There is a market along the path on a Sunday and lots of outdoor cafes and restaurants.

Fiacra and Ailbhe on our way from the tram to the river

The riverside path

Lamposts along the path

The boys 

Ailbhe practising before setting off

Fiacra and Ailbhe scooted the whole 3km, most of it way ahead of Connell, Finian, and I. They had a great time. The pathway and all the outdoor patios were busy, lots of people out enjoying the sun. The path ends at Cap Sciences, a science museum. Fiacra was very eager to go in but we are saving this for a rainy day (there haven't been very many of these since we arrived).

Fiacra in front of Cap Sciences

Ninja time

We will be doing this again many Sundays I think. The kids were hungry at dinner, we had roast beef, Fiacra's new favourite.