Sunday, September 23, 2012

Weekend cramming

The biggest adjustment, I think, to this new working schedule, is that we have to cram everything that needs to get done on a Saturday. Even if Stéphane doesn't work on Wednesdays, I have the car so he can't run errands (but at least he can make phone calls!).

We had a ton of stuff to do yesterday, but even then it was a bit much. Stéphane had a dentist appointment in the morning, then we picked up the new-to-us car (where we had to wait an hour (!!!) because there was a document that went missing, then was found at the garage owner's home, then had to be recuperated.... makes for a cranky Vivi, unfortunately!). After that it was new shoes for Fry, lunch with Mémère, and then Fry was off to his cousin's sixth birthday party. Stéphane and I retreated to his mother's house where I took a much needed nap!

The last leg of this errand crushing day had us going to the other side of town, picking up groceries I'd ordered on the internet (and seriously, thank goodness for this option now), shopping for fruits and veg at the fruit and veg store (because while the internet shopping in itself is awesome, bringing home bruised and unsatisfactory fruit and veg is not), finally picking up Fry from the party and going home.

My life is so, so glamorous.

We are very happy with our new Ford Fusion. It's not got the bells and whistles that our C4 had, but it makes up for it by costing half as much at the gas pump. Vive le gasoil! Seriously, when I'm clocking 1000 km per week, the difference is huuuuuuuuge.

Work is going fine, except for that moment on Friday afternoon where I closed an Excel document that I'd been working on all day without saving it. Such a proud moment. I'm really looking forward to doing that one again tomorrow.

Actually, I should say a word about Fry, because I haven't posted about him lately and he has changed so much. While I've been using this blog mostly for outpouring all of my career drama, Fry has been quietly (or to be honest, quite loudly) growing up. He'll be four in November and he's in his second year of Maternelle, called Moyen Section (middle section). He's been in school for three weeks and still loves school as much as last year, to the point where he's disappointed when school is closed! His language skills have exploded since this summer and now we can finally have a conversation. He gets the concept that Mommy speaks English, though he and Papa speak French, and he understands everything I say in English, even if his default is still to respond in French. He also doesn't get that, even though Mommy understands French and English, the rest of his American family doesn't understand French, so he still chatters away in French on the phone (though I think now he's doing it on purpose!). More and more English vocabulary is coming out now, however, and he often asks me how to say stuff in English, so I feel a bit more confident that we're heading closer to bilingualism.

Oh hey - also Autumn started this weekend, my favorite season! I'm really looking forward to seeing the leaves change on my commute.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

La Rentrée 2012

My last day at my old job was August 25 and I had a week's break before I started my new job in Reims. I mostly spent that week stressed out, second guessing myself, terrified that I'd made a bad choice.

Luckily, from about the middle of my first day, I felt myself relaxing a bit and realizing that everything is going to be ok. I can't say I felt that way from the very beginning, as I jumped right in shadowing a colleague and everything went straight over my head for the first hour or so. Then, I really thought, "What the hell have I gotten myself into??" Lucky for me, my lunch spot looked like this. I munched my tuna avocado sandwich and people watched for forty-five minutes, and I was ready to attack my new life.

It's been two weeks now and I can honestly say that I love, love, love my job. I still have so much to learn - it's in a business I knew nothing about, though my experience in administration certainly applies - but little by little it's starting to sink in and my confidence is growing everyday.

Of course one of the hardest parts is the fact that we don't exactly live next to Reims. Even with the toll roads it's an hour's drive each way. Our lovely Citroën C4 that we bought last year is unfortunately unleaded and the price of gas is killing us right now, never mind the fact that I have to refill the tank every three days. We made the decision this week to find a new car that runs on diesel, and after a quick search online, we found a decent Ford Fusion that will do in a pinch. Saturday we went to look at it and after a quick test drive we decided to take it. It's definitely a step down in terms of comfort, but it's going to make a huge difference in our wallet! We can pick it up this Saturday. Of course, after we move next year, we can always change it again.

And yes, that's the next big step for us. December is when the "Movement" happens within the Education Nationale system. Stéphane will make a request for a town closer to Reims (but not Reims itself - a bit too pricey and crowded for us) and we'll find out in March where he'll be placed. Of course, he can request two or three towns but there are so many conditions - how long you've been in the system, if you have a family and children in school, how many points you have (teachers are inspected every two years and gain points according to their performance; Stéphane is maxed out), and obviously it depends on if a place is available in the school you've requested! We're hoping that the fact that my job is over there will help us, but we've heard so many movement horror stories that we're only cautiously optimistic.

So you can see that our Rentrée has certainly been a full one with plenty of changes! I definitely had the "back to school" vibe going, since I started the day before students went back to class! I hope everyone's rentrée was a smooth one!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Summer Vacation 2012

So much for updating more often. Hmph.

When I last left you, I'd just been hired for my new job and I'd given my notice to my old job. I'm glad to report that my last weeks at my old job were relatively painless (boring!), with the director even offering up a glass or three of champagne on my last day. I brought cupcakes, which according to one of my colleagues that I'm still in touch with, are still being talked about. I'm no foodie, but it's pretty hard to mess up chocolate cupcakes and cream cheese frosting.

I had already scheduled our family vacation before I gave my notice, so we headed off to the Puy de Dôme for the first week of August. For the first time, we invited my goddaughter to join us. M is a year and a half older than Fry and they get on like a house on fire, and it was an interesting experience for us to double our parental responsibilities.

We stayed in a fantastic, completely isolated, rural gîte about a half hour west of Issoire. What it lacked in amenities was more than enough compensated by the space, the garden, and the fact that the kids could make all the noise their little hearts desired.

Home sweet home for one week - our gîte was on the top two floors.
The bad news is that we found ourselves quite far away from most of the area's touristy attractions. The good news is that the roads in this mountainous area are extremely well maintained, which meant that descending our mountain by hairpin roads, crossing the valley, and crossing the next mountain to get where we wanted to go took a while but we never felt like we were going to drive off a cliff.

Some highlights were visiting Volcania (link in French), taking the funicular train up the Puy de Dôme, the highest point in the area, and doing a bit of mountain wandering with the kids around our gîte.

The view from our bedroom
With two preschoolers, we found that our best plan of attack was to get out the door relatively early, so our main activity was before lunch, and either hang out in a park and play after a picnic lunch or head back to the gîte and play in the garden. There was even a makeshift barbecue set up in a corner of the garden, and a nice big table where we were able to eat outside a couple of nights - though as soon as the sun sank below the next mountain, it was quite chilly, despite the fact that it was the first week of August!

Les grottes de Jonas - we climbed all the way to the top inside!
At one random stop looking for bread on the way home, I grabbed a couple of local beers and we enjoyed them so much, I ended up buying enough to have one every night with dinner. We're not big drinkers, but I think we both really enjoyed those beers!

Lac Chambon
 Fry absolutely fell in love with the beach last year, so I really wanted to find some kind of water activity for our vacation. We went to the lac Chambon, which was certainly very pretty,  but a bit too cold to swim in, and of course the pebble "beach" doesn't hold a candle to the fine sandy beaches that we love in the north (or even Cocoa Beach, which we visited last November!). They did, however, have a great big bouncy house and slide and the kids went bonkers on that.
Chateau de Murol. Most of the chateau is restored but I love this view of a  still  ruined corner.
Overall, it was a fantastic week, much more relaxed than our vacation last year (when we stayed in cramped hotel rooms - I wouldn't say we slept in them, ha!! - and had to eat out all the time) and I loved discovering a new corner of France. I can definitely see us returning to the Auvergne in a few years when Fry will be able to do a bit more hiking!