Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy Canada Day

Tomorrow is July 1st, Canada Day. For the past 4 years we have spent Canada Day camping with our friends in Pinery Provincial Park on Lake Huron in Ontario. Last year I was 2 weeks away from my due date with Finian and it was hot, hot, hot but still wonderful. There's no better way to spend a week with your kids (and 15 of their friends).

Of course, there are some dangers with camping -

Enjoy Family Camping, we'll be there next year.

Friday, June 24, 2011

For Father's Day, We Give You ...

The task of fitting all of this

and all of this

into here

"We can do it"

 "I'm cute but no help really"

All in

All on

Off we go, destination - Hourtin Plage

We are spending a week in Hourtin Plage, with my sister Caitriona, her husband John, and kids Jack and Cara. We're having a fantastic time, I'll post photos when we get back to Bordeaux.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Finian and the French Healthcare System

Finian has been sick since Friday. Today he was really grumpy, he couldn't sleep, and he had a fever all day despite getting paracetamol every 4 hours. He hasn't eaten any solid food since Friday and seems to have a stomach bug. Tomorrow is a holiday in France so our doctor's office is closed. I was worried he had  E. Coli so we brought him to the hospital this evening.

We dropped Fiacra and Ailbhe at our friends' house at around 5pm and continued to the nearby hospital. They don't see kids in that hospital however, so they called a taxi for us to get to the kids' hospital across town. We arrived in the emergency room, gave all our details, saw a nurse in triage, and then went to the waiting room. Within 5 minutes we were called in. We saw a 5th year medical student first and then an intern; they both looked so young (am I getting old?). The intern asked if we would prefer to speak in English. I am all about practising my French, but the emergency room with a sick baby is possibly not the best place, so we gladly accepted. They examined him and said it was just a virus. I said I was worried about E. Coli and Measles, my random sample of illnesses currently in the news, but they said it definitely wasn't either. They took a blood sample to check his red blood cells. The receptionist called a taxi for us. Once we got home, Connell went over to collect the kids. He picked them up before 7pm. At around 7:45, the doctor called us to say the blood work was back and everything was fine.

Our experience (really I should say Finian's experience, since he's the only one who has seen a doctor) of the French healthcare system has been extremely positive. Finian has seen his own doctor quite a few times, for vaccinations and for various illnesses. I got the name of an orthopedic surgeon from his doctor and called and made an appointment to have his feet checked. I got an appointment within 2 weeks.  Finian now needs to see a pediatrician to have his development checked, his doctor gave him a referral and again we got an appointment within 2 weeks.

In contrast, when I was in Ireland a few weeks ago, I read that over 1000 children are waiting for outpatient orthopedic appointments in the west of Ireland. Initially, we had considered having Finian see an orthopedic surgeon in Ireland. I'm so glad we decided to deal with the language issue and use the French system.  It has been great.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tissue Box Battle

Finian is sick again, a throat infection this time. We saw his doctor twice this week, once to get his vaccinations and the second to get an explanation for a fever and extreme grumpiness. Finian has easily had more antibiotics in his 10 months than Fiacra has had in his 7 years.

Visits to the doctor are benchmarks for my French, I am definitely improving. I didn't struggle at all this time in the doctor's office or in the pharmacy.

When Fiacra was a baby he loved to pull every tissue out of the tissue box and throw them all around him. We didn't let him do it very often and we would gather up all the tissues afterwards and stuff them back in the box. Finian was so out of sorts yesterday, I thought I would let him try it. He loved pulling them out, but instead of throwing them up in the air, he would try to stuff them into his mouth, I would try to stop him, and then tears. Somehow not as much fun as with Fiacra.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Calm Ailbhe

This evening when I was in the bathroom, washing Finian for bed, Ailbhe came in and calmly said "I just opened my closet, something fell down on my head, I think there is someone in the top of the closet and they threw it at me".

I told her that I had put some winter things in her closet today, that I must not have put them in properly, and it was one of those that had fallen on her.

"Well I'm not going back in there until you go in and see if anything else falls out, and if it does then you have to ask them."

"Ask them what?"

"Who they are and what they are doing in there."

I laughed and laughed and laughed. She was so indignant, how dare they climb into her closet and then throw things at her.

It's amazing the differences between Fiacra and Ailbhe. If this was Fiacra, we would have had to take everything out of the closet to show him there was no one in there. Even then, it would take ages before he would be comfortable in his room alone again.

Our house in France has skylights, something our house in Canada did not. Fiacra considers them to be very high risk for a break-in. I don't know why he thinks they are higher risk than a regular window or a door, and really what are they going to steal? Maybe there really was someone at the top of Ailbhe's closet, after he came in the skylight, he took a look around, saw that we had NOTHING, and decided to leave us some stuff. I'll go look now.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Today Was the First Day That ...

Today was the first day, in the five months we have been here, that it rained for the walk/bike ride to school. This week is cooler than it has been with some rain forecast. It's actually a welcome change, provided of course, that the rain has completely disappeared for our week at the beach in under two weeks time.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Schoolwork in France

Here is an exercise that our six year old son did in school.

Coche les noms de fromage (Tick the cheeses)

_ le camembert
_ le roquefort
_ le pain
_ le lait
_ le beurre
_ la brioche
_ la moutarde
_ la tomme
_ le gruyere
_ le brie

Apparently, la tomme is a cheese that I've never heard of.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Little Differences

Given any two countries, there are going to be differences. We notice a lot of differences between France and Canada. These aren't meant to be complaints - just some things we notice.

Many doors here open in. When we first arrived, we kept thinking shops were closed because the doors wouldn't open when we pulled.

When driving, you can pull into a parking spot on either side of the road, rather than having to turn around so that you are facing the right way.

Or you can just park on the sidewalk.

Road signs here point the way to things, telling you what you will get to if you follow a road. This can make it tricky to find things if you aren't used to it. Often, in a rental car, I will have a street address that I'm trying to find. However, the signs that tell you the name of a road are usually quite small and attached to the buildings making them quite hard to see. I usually have to circle a few times, getting closer (I hope) with each pass.

Restaurants are open at meal times - French meal times. 12:00-14:00 and 19:00-whenever. And when the restaurants open for lunch everything else closes for two hours. They take their lunch very seriously.

Our local grocery stores are open 8:30-20:30. And only until lunch time on Sunday. No running out for milk before breakfast or after the kids are asleep.

24 hour time.

Most shops are closed on Sunday.

Public transport is well-used. The tram is never empty and often full.

Cell phones are the preferred way for making arrangements, rather than email. This is a hardship if your level of French includes gestures and grimaces as key components.

There are lots of open squares or plazas. Not so many grassy parks, though.

A lot more people ride bikes, including right downtown. I haven't seen any signs of car/bike tension. Also, I haven't seen any bike trailers for kids to ride in. Instead, people use child-seats that are mounted on the back of the bike.

There's a lot of dog poop. But it gets cleaned up regularly.

Most picnics quite openly involve bottles of wine. If you need wine for your picnic, you can get it at a grocery store, farmer's market, bakery, ...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fiacra's 10km

Fiacra had no school on Tuesday afternoon and Connell was working from home, so when Finian was napping, Fiacra and I went for a bike ride. We biked to the trails, did a 5km loop on the trails and then biked home, a total of 10km. Fiacra was so enthusiastic the whole ride and was making big plans for all the exercise we will do this summer.

We biked partly on the road and partly on bike paths to get to the trails. Fiacra changed gears many times and was very conscientious about hand signals. He was making me a little nervous when he was taking his hand off to signal. That night, I mentioned to Connell that I was surprised he had shown Fiacra the hand signals. Turns out Connell had never mentioned hand signals to him. So I'm not sure why he has started doing them. Connell thinks he remembers them from a Franklin book.

There weren't so many gear changes in the trails, he was busy following the orange arrows which mark the trail, and watching out for roots and rocks. He loves biking in the trails. We both really enjoyed the ride.

Bikes are used much more here for zipping around town than in Canada. When we get back to Canada, I am definitely getting a bike seat for Finian so that we can bike more and use our car less.