The last days of school!

School ended for AJ, Austin and Tristan the week of June 22nd.  The last day of school was not until July 3rd, but at their ages the kids do not stay that last week and a half. Schools stay open because most parents work and it is a form of governmental babysitting.  Most working families do not have their vacation until the beginning of July. Most French vacations last anywhere from three weeks to six weeks.  So, schools stay open until July 3rd so working parents do not need to find another form of “day care” for their children.

The three boys were happy to be finished with school.  They had a day that was dedicated to turning in their books and a conseil de classe (class meeting) when all students get to see their final grades.  Overall AJ, Austin and Tristan did a great job this school year!  Many teachers commented on how well they integrated and communicated.  They will miss their friends they have made here, the delicious school lunches, a few of the teachers, riding the public bus, playing the tennis ball game during class changes, two week vacations every 6-8 weeks… but they will not miss the long days of school!

The last day of school for Jack and Sophie was July 3rd.  They had field trips, water game days and just a last few weeks of school filled with so many fun activities.  It has been sad for these two cuties to say goodbye to the Sanilhac Sagries school.  Jack was very disappointed when he was advanced to the next grade (CP) with his friends and he knew he would not be with them next school year.  It is a dilemma for Jack.  He enjoys his life here but also wants to return to America.  Sophie had mixed emotions too.  She was a little melancholy the last few days of school.  She is so young to be able to understand what she is feeling, but she is taking all the changes with happiness mixed with a few tears!

Aaron and I are so grateful that our children have had this schooling.  Most of them are bilingual as the end of our time in France is approaching.  Now onto the next challenge… retaining the language!

2015-06-24 00.42.42 2015-06-24 00.42.51 2015-06-24 00.42.55

This is Sophie’s “report card”.  It has pages of all the things she accomplished and the page where her teacher advanced her to the next grade, moyenne section.

2015-07-02 02.32.21

Sophie et Maîtresse Sylvaine

2015-07-01 23.14.19 2015-07-02 02.32.54

Sophie et Elza

IMG_8667

Jack, le directeur Gault (principle), et Sophie

5th Place!!!

2015-06-16 22.51.56

About a month and a half ago, Tristan took a countrywide English test.  All students in his grade throughout France are required to take an English test.  We, and all of Tristan’s class thought it wasn’t fair that Tristan take the test.  Tristan’s english teacher insisted that Tristan take the test.  I will tell you why… the boys have been studying “British” english this year.  The english curriculum in France is based upon what is taught in England, because that is the most common english that would be spoken in this part of the world.  Quite frankly, I enjoy the “proper” english over America’s versions of english!  The test consisted of sentence structure, vocabulary (which is often different), factual information about education in England, and a few questions of English history.  Tristan had to study for this test because there were definitely things about the english language he did not know. Naturally because english is his native language he had the advantage over every student in his school.  But, again, the teacher really wanted Tristan to take the test.

It had been announced that the first 5 highest scores in the country would receive prizes, first prize being a laptop.  Tristan was a little nervous on test day because he wanted to win that laptop!  He came home upset because he knew he had answered one question wrong:  “Mr. Pond calls to speak with Tristan (I am inserting his name because he could not remember the name of the person on the test.)  Tristan answers the phone and says:”. There were four choices and he did not answer with the correct, “Speaking”.  Tristan had never heard that expression before, which I was surprised because that is what I learned from my Dad growing up.  I guess I never taught him proper phone etiquette!

Just last week the test results were announced and Tristan came in 5th place in all of France!!!  He found out that the four students that placed higher than him were all British students.  How funny is that!!!!  Hooray for Tristan!!!  Because he came in 5th place his prizes were not as glamorous as a laptop, but the trophy and clock sure put a huge smile on his face!!!  Way to go Tristan!  Everyone at the boys’ school were talking about the student who won 5th place!  What a fun memory and souvenir to bring back to America!

2015-06-16 22.53.48 2015-06-16 22.52.49

Our Sweet Sophie!

Saturday was an eventful day!  Eventful in the sense that we will never forget the day.  AJ was outside with Jack and Sophie looking curiously under a large heavy cement block.  As AJ was putting the block back down, Sophie’s left hand got in the way and unfortunately crushed her middle finger.  Screams and sobs were heard immediately from not only Sophie but from her brothers who were so scared by what they saw.  Aaron and I have experienced a lot of broken bones, gashes that needed surgery, bacterial meningitis, etc., but this scared us both.

What to do in an emergency in a foreign country?  Aaron and I jumped in the car with Sophie in hand.  I drove, Aaron tried to calm Sophie down and control her shock and pain. First, we went to the logical place, the hospital in Uzès, but after seeing there was no emergency room or doctors that could help us, we were instructed to go to Nîmes.  The kind nurses in Uzès could see our panic and had Sophie soak her hand in a cleaning solution, made a few phone calls, wrapped her hand in clean wrappings and quickly blew up a balloon to help sooth her.  The solution helped Sophie calm down a little, but once we were in the car her screams began again.  She kept saying, “I want Jesus!”  Aaron finally was able to help her relax for a moment and she fell asleep.  She needed those 15 minutes of sleep to give her body the comfort and peace it was seeking.  Jesus definitely heard her pleas!

We arrived at the Polyclinique du Grand Sud at the Urgence Room (similar to an American Emergency Room).  Sophie woke up calm and with a smile on her face.  We entered the Urgence and it was filled with people.  It was dirty.  It was different.  It was overwhelming. Aaron approached the counter with urgency and explained that someone needed to see Sophie immediately.  They asked her age and gave a quizzical look.  They told us they didn’t think they could help us because of how young she is.  We then asked where we were supposed to go.  They weren’t sure!!!  You can imagine our frustration.  They told us they needed to make a few phone calls.  We didn’t understand why a doctor couldn’t just look at her finger and give their assessment.  I waited in the room and Aaron took Sophie outside for fresh air.  He came back in 5 minutes later and I noticed her bandaging had been unwrapped.  Aaron went right to the counter and told the nurses someone had to see her because her finger was going to be dead.  It looked purple/black.  As soon as they understood how serious this was, they let us back and a doctor came in immediately. They sent her to radiology for x-rays. Within 15 minutes they knew her finger was crushed, broken and needed stitching.  Phone calls were made to the surgeon and anesthesiologist.  We still do not know why they were initially going to refuse to see and treat Sophie because of her age.  This hospital was the only one in our area that had a hand surgeon.

IMG_2860 IMG_2863 IMG_2864 IMG_2865

Sophie had to be admitted to the hospital for surgery.  Our family had plans to spend the evening with the Mallets, Maria and her husband Paul.  I had called her while waiting to tell her the situation and she ended up coming to the hospital.  She stayed with us for hours. She was an angel!

The nurses brought Sophie her hospital clothes and Sophie thought she was so cool!  She had huge smiles on her face and melted the hearts of the hospital staff.

IMG_2866 IMG_2871 IMG_2870 IMG_2869 IMG_2868 IMG_2867

When it was time for her to go upstairs to her hospital room they brought her a wheel chair.  Sophie first thought it was awesome.  She was getting royal treatment!

IMG_2872 IMG_2873 IMG_2874 (1) IMG_2874

As she was getting wheeled thru the hospital her demeanor was slowly changing.  Her smiles changed to looks of concern and nervousness.  We got into the hospital room/recovery room and she was put in the bed and then I had to explain to her what was going to happen.  Aaron and I were not going to be allowed to be in the surgery room with her.  Sophie took each minute in strides and was somewhat calm.  She understood that the doctors had to help her and she needed to listen to them if she wanted her finger to get better.

IMG_2875

One of the nurses came to get us and Aaron carried her down to the surgery area, Bloc Operation.  She was very quiet.  The anesthesiologist came to us and was so sweet.  She got eye level with Sophie and asked her if she was a little girl or a big girl.  Sophie, of course, said she was a big girl.  (Everything was in French and Sophie understood perfectly!)  The doctor then proceeded to tell Sophie her two options and she needed to decide what she wanted to do.  First, do local anesthetic to her arm, or, second, put her to sleep.  Sophie immediately responded she wanted just her arm.  We all felt this was best.  They would try with the local anesthetic and see if Sophie could relax enough to proceed with surgery.  I took these two pictures below while Sophie was listening to the anesthesiologist explain what was going to happen.

IMG_2877 IMG_2876

We were so proud of Sophie.  She was concerned, but she was so brave!  The anesthesiologist explained how they would numb her arm, etc. and Sophie did not panic or start to cry.  Then, the doctor asked Sophie to come with her and away they went!

IMG_2878

(Sorry for the blurry photos!)  This was a helpless feeling as a mother.  We could not be there to hold her hand or give her encouragement.  I couldn’t believe she just walked out with the anesthesiologist to an unknown place speaking a foreign language.  Over the course of about 2 hours Sophie was in the surgery room.  The anesthesiologist came out a few times to give us updates.  She said Sophie had not cried and that she was the best pediatric patient they had ever had.  She kept saying how adorable and kind she was. She told us Sophie was telling all the doctors and nurses about her brothers and sisters.  I was so proud of our 4 year old daughter!  How amazing and blessed we are!

At one point the anesthesiologist came out and invited Aaron back because Sophie kept asking for “Papa”.  They said they NEVER let anyone into the surgery room but they loved Sophie so much they met her request.  How cool is that?!  They needed Aaron’s help to get her distracted so they could proceed.  She was having a hard time relaxing her arm, even though it was “asleep”.  Overall, Sophie did awesome.  She did everything that was asked of her and she did it with a calm spirit.  The best news was that we did not have to stay the night at the hospital like we were originally told.  Sophie kept asking to go home.

IMG_2879 IMG_2880

After surgery she was rolled upstairs to her recovery room and they brought her some food.  She was hungry and thirsty.  She did great!  They told us we could go home as soon as she ate and they had to remove the IV.  If she would have been “put under” she would have had to stay the night.  I am so glad local anesthetic worked.

IMG_2881

The boys were so excited to see her.  We had talked to them throughout the day and evening to give them updates.  Aaron and I had left the house with Jack sobbing in the garden, AJ sorrowfully walking down the road, Tristan aimlessly crying and worried and Austin cleaning up blood and in a panic.  They were so happy to have her home and to know she was okay.

The surgeon said her finger should grow back normal.  Her fingernail will fall off and he wasn’t sure if she would have a fingernail again.  He couldn’t tell us what would happen to that area of her finger.  He is hopeful that it will heal correctly and that she will have full usage of her finger.  We have to have a nurse come to our house every few days to change the wrapping and check her finger.  We feel so blessed that the Lord heard our prayers and fasting.  It was a scary experience, especially being in a foreign country.  I have a few new words that have been added to my french vocabulary.  I am so grateful Aaron was home and not traveling.  It was very emotional and exhausting for all of us.  I know the Lord gives us trials to make us stronger!  He is real and I know he hears and answers prayers!  I have always been a firm believer of prayer and this was another example of the Lord’s love for me and my sweet family.

We love you so much Sophie!

IMG_2885

Maison d’hôtes!

Our room accommodations in Zollikofen were simple, yet awesome!  It is a building, like a dorm hall, next to the Temple where patrons can stay for a very reasonable price.  It only cost our family 89 euros for 4 nights/5 days.  We had a discount because our 3 boys were paid for by the Stake.  But, if that was not the case it would have, still, only cost our family of 7, 174 euros for 4 nights/5 days.  Aaron and I had stayed at this maison d’hôtes 22 years ago.  Our memory was vague, but we did remind the children that the rooms would be small and filled with bunk beds.  What fun!!!!

I say that with all honesty!  What a blast we had as a family in this little room of ours!

2015-02-09 06.50.02 2015-02-09 06.50.12

The biggest dilemma was deciding who would sleep where!  Each person received linens for the bed and a blanket.  We provided our own towels and any extra bedding we thought we would need.  We did not have room to bring anything extra, so what was given to us was what we used and it was very comfortable for all of us!  Because the room was so tight we had to make sure everything was always organized and in its’ place. Each person had a little locker at the end of the room where clothing could be hung up and shoes stored away.  Jack and Sophie loved this because they had their own locker and could lock it with a key if they wanted to!

DSC_0314 DSC_0315 DSC_0318DSC00579

After a day of having our room like the first photos, a friend told us the bunks move and we would have more space if we moved things around.  We did and it gave us more space to move about.  Plus, the extra floor mattress could more easily be stored on top of another mattress with this new layout.  None of us were in the “dorm” room very much so we didn’t feel stressed about the space.  It worked great and everyone worked together to keep their space picked up!

The below photos are of the bathroom space.  Notice one small pedestal sink and a small stand up shower.  There were a few hooks to hang towels, coats, etc.  We really felt like we had to live the law of sacrifice and consecration in this tiny space.  It was a great reminder to Aaron and I and our family to work together so everyone could be happy!

DSC_0317 DSC_0316

There was a communal kitchen in the basement of the “dorm” hall.  This, too, was a great reminder how everyone needed to share space, clean up after themselves and respect each others space.  The cafeteria area was lined with refrigerators and metal shelving for people to store their groceries.  Each person staying at the maison d’hôtes could use the needed shelving space.  We had one shelf in one of the refrigerators for our family and two metal shelves for our room temperature food.  Everyone could use the kitchen.  There were 10 small stations, 5 along a wall with a sink, and two stove top burners.  There were no ovens, only one microwave.  So meals had to be something that could be made on the stovetop.  Dishes, glasses, and silverware were all provided.  Everyone had to clean and wash what they used.  There was one wall devoted to dish towels and a large island for cutting and preparing food.  It was such a neat experience to “share” these spaces with everyone in the maison d’hôtes.  The youth had the kitchen every night from 6-7pm.  That was the only time non youth were not allowed in the space.  But, many adults were there helping prepare food for the youth.  It was so fun preparing and eating along side our friends!  It also allowed us to meet new people.  It was a great social setting and we all loved it!  There was a feeling of community that I have only felt on few occasions!  There was a feeling of true Zion that we experienced.  Everyone had to be of one heart and one mind to make the situation comfortable and enjoyable for all.  FANTASTIC!  The boys (all of us) really felt a sense of sadness as we packed up our car and drove away.

DSC00574 Stefan, Benjamin, Aaron, Claireline,DSC00572Emma Sordes,DSC00633Jack et Darcie,DSC00634Elias et Aaron,DSC00636Valentin et Emma,DSC00637Clarisse et Sophie,DSC00638Jack in our dorm hall.DSC00661Alexi et AJ in the kitchen!

6 Months

We have officially been in France for 6 months!  I can’t believe how fast the time has gone by and I am not looking forward to the time flying by this next 6 months.  I wanted to give a quick 6 month update.

AJ is slowly making progress with the language.  He surprises us all the time with little French expressions he will say.  Last week he answered the phone and answered the person on the other line without difficulty.  My jaw dropped as he was speaking and I think he even surprised himself.  We are still encouraging him to try to bless the Sacrament on Sundays.  He is the only Priest in the young men organization so it usually falls upon the men in the Ward, but we keep trying.  It is very intimidating for him to offer the sacramental prayers in another language.  Maybe he will have the courage to do it once before we leave France.  AJ is doing a lot of roller blading.  He wants to make sure he is ready for hockey season when we return.

Austin is progressing very well!  He is practicing his pronunciation daily by reading his scriptures in French out loud.  He no longer says school is so boring and just too long because he now understands his teachers and what is going on.  Last week, Austin told me how surprised his SVT (Earth Science) teacher was when he raised his hand to answer the question.  He is forming some good friendships and I think it is going to be difficult for him to leave, but he has FOOTBALL on the brain, so I think that is his motivation for returning to the States.

Tristan, by far, wins the prize for learning the language!  He has a fantastic ear for the language (I think he gets this from Aaron)!  It seems to come so naturally for him.  It is still a struggle at times because he isn’t 100% fluent, but he gets it and he speaks all the time in French.  The other kids are a little more hesitant still.  There are times the phone rings and I ask Tristan to answer it because he can understand on the phone better than myself. (For some reason, I am terrible on the phone in French.  I have to see the person with whom I am speaking.)  Tristan tries so hard to speak and I think that makes the difference. Tristan is doing great at school.  His grades are better than most of his French classmates and his teachers all say he is flourishing.  This is all a wonderful improvement from that first 6 weeks of tears and anger about being here! :)

Jack and Sophie are both doing fantastic.  I am so glad Aaron has only spoken french to these two cuties.  Sophie rambles off in French all the time and Jack doesn’t freely share his language.  We have to ask him to speak French.  But, his friends and teachers all say he is finally speaking and speaking a lot at school!  Hooray!!!

Aaron is trying to improve his fluency.  He doesn’t feel his vocabulary is the same as it used to be.  So, he is also trying to improve in the language.  Then there is me… I am trying!  My comprehension is very good but when I have to open my mouth I freeze!  My tongue has not been loosed yet.  I think I get anxious when I have to open my mouth.  I know what I want to say, it just doesn’t always come out right.  It is frustrating for me, but at the same time I know I am improving.  My reading and accent are getting so much better!  I have given up being hard on myself because there were a few months I put so much pressure on myself to speak perfectly, but I can’t speak 100% fluent and I don’t know if I ever will.  The good thing is that I feel comfortable in almost all situations.  I am not hesitant to go places any more for fear of the language barrier.  That is a huge accomplishment for me.

I came upon an interesting article about learning a new language.  Some people have an artistic mind and with language it is like a song or dance.  One can hear the correct “rhythm” when listening to another language and therefore they repeat what they hear.  On the other hand, there are those who have more of a mathematical brain who have to learn the language systematically.  One uses a “formula” for the language and, therefore, it is harder to have the language flow or with any fluency.  It is interesting to see who fits where with our family.  Aaron, Tristan and Sophie are more artistic with the language.  It definitely flows off their tongues easier.  Austin, Jack and me have a need to formulate the words, sentences, etc.  This makes it harder and less natural.  AJ, fits a little into both.  He is along for the ride and we are happy with what he can take away from this process.

After 6 months, my dreams are becoming reality!  I know I may never be fluent, but that is okay.  My kids, on the other hand, are doing what Aaron and I have wanted for so many years:  to speak a second language!  Selfishly, I want to stay another year so we can all retain the language after we return to the States! :)