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Wednesday, September 18, 2013


We are back in N.C.  New house almost unpacked.  Kids in school.  Dogs free to roam around a fenced yard.  Easy-peasy, right?

Back in Paris, I thought "going home - things will be familiar and therefore easy".  I mean we returned to where we had left, sort of.  Granted it was a new house one city over from the previous house, but only a 10 minute drive to the 'old stomping grounds'.  And joys of joys, everyone speaks my language.

The first hurdle came when we enrolled the kids in school.  I thought that we would go with the traditional calendar option for middle school.  I mean, the kids were now used to a traditional calendar from the British School and the year round option meant that there would be 3 weeks every 9 weeks that they would be out and if I was working again (more on that later) that would require YMCA membership again.  Well as it turned out, our 'base school' was the year round school and the traditional calendar school was 'capped' and not accepting any more students.  What....?  It used to be everyone wanted the year round option and they were hard as hell to get into.  Perhaps it is because it is middle school and the kids are more likely to have older siblings in high school (which has no year round options) parents were jumping on the traditional option calendar to have both kids on the same schedule.

But actually I think we lucked into the better option.  The kids were already bored sitting around the new house while I unpacked and tried to organize, so this enabled them start on a track that had only started one week previous.  Not too much 'catch up' thank goodness.  The school is relatively new and clean with great sports field and beautiful auditorium.  I have since driven past the other traditional calendar middle school and it looks like a scary fortress.  It is on a busy road, so it's surrounded by a crumbling brick wall.  I think that coming from where we were, a big, beautiful campus on the Seine, the kids would have been thinking "what the heck is this - juvie?".

Unfortunatly (or maybe fortunately), we have already met the teaching team.  Max is having some transition problems and was falling behind in math and language arts.  As he is known to do sometimes, when presented with a challenge he perceives as "too hard", he had determined that he couldn't do it, so therefore gave up.  Kudos to the teaching team for arranging a meeting at the first sign of a problem.  Our last experience here with public school, we didn't know there was a problem until we left and got copies of the kids' records.  So again, that gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling about the school choice.

I think both kids feel like they have maybe taken a 'step back' in the maturity level they were experiencing in the British School.  I mean they were changing BUILDINGS across CAMPUS, not just across the hallway as they do here.  They were on a campus in Paris with grades 6 - 12 and felt like 'big kids'.  They had 1 1/2 hours for lunch and got to 'burn off steam' by playing some football (soccer) or catching up with their friends they didn't have classes with.  They were expected to make their own choices and manage THEIR time.  There was a sense of trust from the staff that they could do it......and probably 90% of the time, the kids did.
Samantha and second cousin Brady
at his 3rd Birthday party

As for the studies, I don't think the kids are coming in at a disadvantage (expect for American History...they are whizzes at British History, though!).  The disadvantage here is that since class size is larger than at the British School, studies can't be 'tailored' to fit the kid within the classroom. However, another thing I am extremely pleased with in our new school choice,  is that they have built in a time that can be used as additional study time if necessary.  Much like the BSP, there is an 'elective' you can opt out of and receive additional help during that time.

So now with school underway, we have started Max back in indoor soccer and Samantha has rejoined TaeKwon Do.  Slowly I see a new pattern emerging for daily life, although we have yet to 'track out'.  I'm sure that for the first track out, the novelty of three weeks school-free will be enough to counter the boredom, but after that, I think some day camps may be in our future.  But for now we'll just take it one day at time.

There has been some more reverse culture shock moments and my first solo-parenting in the new house with Patrick's first trip back to Paris and Barcelona, but more on that later.  Time to try to convince two pre-teens to get up ( A Herculean task some mornings!) and start another day - back in the U.S.A.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

..the good, the bad, and the ugly

The Good:
We finally received a confirmation that we will be returning to the States this summer.  I write that with a tiny bit of trepidation as for the past 4 months we have been 'ping-pong'ing back and forth between do we stay or do we go.  But Patrick is certain that this time the decision "will stick".  The kids will get to finish their school year (Grade 6) and be ready to enter the lovely (yeah, right!) middle school years back in the States.  It is good news, but also kind of sad to think this adventure will be over.  That we have walked our last Christmas Marche, viewed our last magical holiday windows at the swanky stores, experienced our last Paris Fall.....  It just makes us more determined to take in everything with a renewed passion in the time remaining.

The Bad:
While we are 80% sure that we will be returning to North Carolina, there is still the possibility that we could end up in Boston or Chicago.  I know, not really bad, but the indecision is getting a little old.  There is also the challenge of once we get our "assignment", where to live.  We have decided that if we do return to N.C. we would like to buy in another area and keep the house on Askham a rental.  But what school?  We have heard good things about Park Creek Middle and Davis Drive, but feel really out of loop with what's going on and if we do go to a 'new' State, where do we start knowing nothing about the area.  The kids have had such a great educational experience here and we want to try to keep this new found enjoyment of school going.

The Ugly:
Alas, that would be me right now.  In the middle of November I developed a severe case of psoriasis on my scalp.  Since I knew we would be returning to the States in December, I decided to wait and see a doctor when we got home.  I really didn't want to experience the French medical system.  So once we arrived in N.C. I went to the dermatologist and they did labs and confirmed it was psoriasis but that I had also tested positive for a Staph infection.  Joy of joys!  So antibiotics and topical treatments in hand we finished Christmas in N.C. and headed for Florida.  Things were beginning to get better, but 3 pills shy of finishing the antibiotics, I developed some side effects that caused the doctor to tell me to stop taking the pills.  I continued with the topical regime  but it wasn't getting better and about a week after returning to Paris, started to get worse.  I decided to put on my 'big girl panties' and go see a doctor here.  I elected to go to the American Hospital so at least I could be relatively sure I could understand what was being said to me.  The experience was fine (may blog longer about it in another post) and was given new medications.  One week in and I can see a difference already.  Unfortunately, I have lost a lot of hair throughout this, but the French doctor had no doubts it would grow back and even prescribed vitamins that encourage hair growth.  Another bad thing about returning is that this medicine is working really well and, wouldn't you know it, is not available in the U.S.  So if this is the regime I need to kick this, I won't be able to get it once we return.

As I was leaving the doctor he said that psoriasis can be brought on by stress.  He said (in his best accented English) "You are stressed, no?".  Oh buddy, if only you knew!

A Paris Memory:  We did get to see the Eiffel in the snow!