Moment of Silence

Today, the day after the fatal terrorist attack in Paris, everywhere across the country of France, people stopped for a moment of silence at noon.  Alexis and I were in the Carrefour when an announcement was made at 11:56 am, asking everyone to please stop and take a moment of silence.  As noon came upon us, most people stopped in their tracks, the cashiers stopped their service and I even saw a few older men bow their heads.  It was respectful except for the few Arab women in headdress who continued their conversations.  I say that without hesitation.  There is a rapid movement among the Arab world to overtake Europe, specifically France.  This morning I read many articles about the concern of too many Middle Easterners in Europe, specifically France.  I fear the France that I love will no longer be the same in 10 to 20 years.  I read one article that expressed concern about the rise of French Jews emigrating to Israel in fear of the Muslim population in France.  Even in Nîmes, there are neighborhoods where one is not to go if one is not Muslim.  There are large communities in Paris, for instance, that the French police and government do not even enter because the Muslims have taken over.  It is a sad but true reality.  I do know that not all Muslims fall into this extremist category and for that I feel deep sorrow.  Their lives, too, are forever being changed in how they are treated.

Aaron was at Sophie’s school at noon today to pick her up for lunch.  I reminded him before I left the house that I was pretty sure something would be happening at noon at the school.  I came home and he relayed this info to me.

“It was very touching.  The Directeur (principle) and the Mairie (Mayor of Sanilhac) gathered all the children, teachers and parents together outside in the courtyard.  The Directeur then asked everyone to form a large circle.  Each took the persons hand next to them while a moment of silence passed.  The Directeur then said a few heartfelt and tearful words followed by the Mairie giving a few words of encouragement.  I wish I had had a recording device to show you the emotion, sadness, respect and concern that existed in that circle.  It was unifying and very touching.”

The older boys were all able to participate in a moment of silence at their school.  The students were dismissed from their classes a few minutes before noon and were asked to congregate in the courtyard of the school.  There, the Principle, read off the names of the victims and said a few inspiring words and then during the moment of silence everyone in the courtyard raised their hands with pen in hand.  Austin said he felt sorrowful and touched by this.  He said every school in France, students were gathered at the noon hour to pay their respects.  Tristan thought it was a cool experience except for the few Arab boys who were trying to whistle and cough during the Principles message.  He said he was disappointed that they would do something like that.  AJ said it was neat to see the Principle enter each classroom, stand before the students, say a few words and then hang up a Je suis Charlie sign on each chalkboard.

I am grateful our family has had this experience.  And, I, by no means, say that to disrespect the tragic events of yesterday.  It has caused my children to reflect upon issues that aren’t tangible in Utah.  Aaron and I always have discussed world events with our children and this is a very impressionable experience for them.  AJ and Austin were 4 and 1 when 9-11 happened.  So, to have them feel like they are participating in French history (though it is a tragic part of history) is unforgettable!

Noël à l’école!

Today Jack and Sophie came home from school with both hands full of gifts.  All the school children were gathered together to watch a movie, “Horton Hears a Who”, play games and receive gifts from the school.  They each received a new book, an eight inch tall hollow chocolate Santa and a clementine.  All the students received these gifts.  I was so touched that the school would give this much to each child!  I really love the small town atmosphere of our little village.  Everyone is very friendly and welcoming to our family. What a wonderful feeling it is this Christmas season!

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We have been receiving a lot of rain intermittently over the last couple of weeks.  One evening it was raining so hard I thought for sure our property was going to flood!  I had a moment of panic as I realized we did not know what to do in an emergency here.  I have since found a few internet sites with road conditions, bridges out, etc.  I have to also mention that Jack and Sophie brought home a flyer from school referring to the weather and emergency alerts for this time of year.  I was a little perplexed, thinking what could possibly happen in the Fall, but not yet fully understanding the information on the flyer.

About 5km down the road from our village of Sanilhac, there is a well known bridge, Pont Saint Nicolas, that crosses over the Gardon.  It is a medieval arched bridge that has received flood damage a few times throughout its’ existence.  We cross this bridge every time we go to Nîmes.  Back in 2002 the bridge was severely damaged. The Gardon (river) has been completely dry since we arrived.  Every time we cross the Pont St. Nicolas someone comments about the dryness of the riverbed.


The day after we received the large amounts of rain we needed to go to Nîmes.  When we got to the Pont St. Nicolas we were shocked by the amount of water that was flowing due to the rain!

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It was a full flowing river.  We could no longer see the riverbed!  This made us more concerned about the flooding that does exist in France.  I was beginning to see why the flyer Jack and Sophie received was so important.

We received more rain on Monday and Tuesday, so much that trains were not running. We made some phone calls to get a little more information and found out that if it is raining a lot you do not drive or go anywhere if you do not need to.  Many roads are more susceptible to flooding and we do not know this information.  After a full day of rain on Monday, I started looking online for more road conditions, school closures, bus terminations, etc.  Some areas not too far away, about 10-15km had bridges submerged and roads closed.  Nothing serious was affecting our area or the schools.  We have come to learn that flooding is serious in the area we live!  I am grateful we live up on a hill and the river is far enough away, but our means of getting places could be disrupted!

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PS.  Mom, don’t be worried!  We are safe!!!!!

School Update

Many of you have inquired how the kids are doing with school.  Here goes:

Sophie:  Aaron and I decided to send Sophie to school 5 days a week.  Monday, Tuesday and Thursday she attends from 9-12, comes home for lunch and returns at 1:30pm for the afternoon 3 hours.  She does take a nap after lunch at the school.  She seems to enjoy doing this and it actually has allowed her to sleep better.  She is finished at 4:30pm on these three days.  Wednesday and Friday she goes to school from 9am-noon.  She does not return after lunch.  We have the option for Jack and Sophie to return for extra curricular activities, but we have chosen to keep them with us.  Sophie’s french vocabulary is increasing and we notice her speaking “franglais”.  For example, she will say “I wish I could sauter up in the sky like the avion”.  Meaning, I wish I could jump in the sky like an airplane.  It is so cute and each day, as hard as it is for me to send her to school, we can see the progress she is making with the language.  It is fascinating! :)  Also, Sophie loves to walk to and from school.  I love it!

Jack:  He, too, is going the same days and hours as Sophie.  He is more timid in the classroom so his teacher thinks he is not learning and behind.  We decided an extra french class for him on Mondays from 4:30-5:30 would be good for him.  Jack went this past Monday and the teacher, Madame Sylvaine, told me and his regular teacher that Jack did not need any help because he was understanding everything.  Madame Sylvaine, the Director (Principal) and La Maîtresse (this is the title for a teacher, hence, Jack’s teacher) all talked with me and we decided he just needed to speak in class.  LOL!  He is so shy that he wasn’t saying anything in the classroom.  So, all three teachers talked to Jack about speaking in class and now the last 4 days he has come home telling us the words he has spoken.  He is just a good little boy!  Aaron and I are shocked by his vocabulary and the things he is learning at a rapid pace.  Yesterday, he was telling me about a counting “game” the class played.  I casually asked him if he could demonstrate and he immediately counted up to 30 in french.  I have only heard him get to 20 with many numbers left out between 13-17.  Today he told Aaron and I that he knew numbers up to 60!  Go Jack!  He is awesome.

The boys are jealous of Jack and Sophie because they understand so much better.  I think they are a little disappointed their Dad didn’t speak to them in french all these years.  It has been a huge commitment to speak a different language all the time for Aaron.  It can be frustrating, but we can see the benefits flourishing in their little minds!  Sorry Julia, Alexis, AJ, Austin and Tristan!  He tried with Julia, but quickly got frustrated and stopped.  We regret this, but c’est la vie!

Tristan:  Each day gets a little better for Tristan.  When we registered for school, Tristan had the option of taking a third language.  He chose to take German.  This idea was so cool in his mind.  He thought, “I will learn french and a little german this year, so I will be able to speak 3 languages!”  Well, Tristan’s German teacher is a JERK!  That is the nicest word I could find for him.  We are in the process of getting him removed from his class.  The first few days of class for Tristan were good and then the teacher realized he didn’t speak french and was American and has humiliated Tristan ever since.  For example, Tuesday, Tristan came home from school very frustrated.  He told us the German teacher came up to Tristan’s desk, while giving his lecture, looked at his notes and grabbed his notebook.  The teacher then proceeded to the front of the classroom, held up Tristan’s notebook, ripped out his page of notes and yelled at Tristan for not taking perfect, neat notes!  The teacher then told the class it was unacceptable to have messy notes and it was wrong!  Tristan showed me his paper the teacher ripped out of his notebook and there were a few crossed out words because Tristan did not know the right french spelling. I wanted to march to the school and give that teacher a piece of my mind!  We are in the “process” of getting him removed from German.  I say “process” because it is.  We have to contact his homeroom teacher, le professional principal, which we have already done.  She has to approve it, which she has already done.  Now we can contact the German teacher and ask him if he will let Tristan drop his class.  I am not looking forward to this conversation so I am hoping Aaron does it.  We will contact him on Monday, because that is the day Tristan has German.

Other than German, Tristan is adapting well.  He is slowly making friends and the kids are realizing what a nice kid he is.  They are all fascinated that he can do a back flip and that he seems to know how to do all the dance moves in gym.  Gym is very different in France. The boys all have it on different days of the week and it lasts 2 hours.  Each class time they learn about a new sport or activity and participate.  Tristan is learning the art of dance.  LOL!  He has been doing ballet style dance in gym.  This cracks us up when he describes what he has to do.  The good thing is that everyone else is doing the same thing so no one is making fun or laughing at others.  I think it is cool!  Funny, but cool!

Austin:  His attitude is amazing and positive every day!  I am so grateful for this!  He enjoys school for the most part.  He loves the cantine, or school lunch.  It is actually a very healthy menu with 3 real chefs that cook everything from scratch.  They take great pride in their food and it shows.  The other day Austin came home and said he had some really good chicken kebob for lunch.  When AJ got home he said, “Do you guys eat the rabbit today?”  AJ has friends that speak english so he knew exactly what was served that day!:)

Austin is also taking another language, italien.  He is really enjoying this, but finds it difficult because he has to translate words from french to english and then english to italien.  He attempts almost all of his homework and is trying to speak a little more each day.  Each day Austin feels he is understanding a tiny bit more.  Him and Tristan have discovered a new game to play with all the other kids.  In the large courtyard of their school there are cement ping pong like tables.  When we first visited the school we all thought it would be cool to play ping pong during breaks and lunch.  Well, they are not used for ping pong.  The kids use them to play a game with a tennis ball.  Groups of kids get on each side and they hit the ball with their hands and then run to the other side behind the next person.  Who ever messes up is out and two players are always left running around the table trying to be the last one in the game.  They love playing this with their friends!

AJ:  AJ loves school here!  He is the cool new American kid and everyone loves him.  He is the english teachers assistant so that helps with his confidence!  He has a few English/British friends who are so kind to him and have taken him under their wing.  He gets invited to sit with people at lunch everyday and always seems to have a friend with him.  AJ has a funny story to share almost everyday.  One day he came home and said a french girl came up to him and asked him to say, “Je m’appelle Aaron.”  My name is Aaron.  After he said it, she said, “you really have a good accent”.  AJ’s smile is infectious and more and more people are noticing it at school and church!  Way to go AJ!

I have to mention the boys schedule.  Each day is different!  The school does not provide lockers so they carry their back packs with the days supplies.  They leave the other supplies and books at home when they do not have a particular class for that day.  School starts at 8am, except AJ doesn’t start until 9am on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  School technically is over at 4:30pm but the boys have different schedules so they all come home at different times.  It is interesting!  It is almost like a college schedule.  Both AJ and Austin have a few days when they do not have a class between 11 and 12, so they have a 2.5 hour break, because lunch is from noon to 1:30.  But they have class starting at 1:30 and there is no bus at that hour so they do not come home.

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This is Tristan’s schedule so you can get an idea of the difference between here and America.  The boys all take the public bus to school and they are able to ride it home after 3:30.  The exception is Wednesdays.  They only have school until noon.  It is a nice break in the middle of the week.  Most days the boys leave at 7:15am to catch the bus just up the road from our house and they do not get home until 5:05pm.  Almost 10 hours!  It is long and exhausting.  We do not have time for sports.  Austin and AJ have a seminary lesson every night, which I teach.  They have to go to the church once a week for a group seminary lesson.  It is on Thursdays.  Because we do not have any extra curricular activities, our family is always together!! Yeah!  Aaron and I love this!  Tomorrow we are going to Toulouse as a family.  There is a Stake Youth Super Saturday for the boys so we will take them and the rest of us will explore Toulouse.  It is a 3 hour drive so we have to make the most of our time!  Crazy!


This is a little booklet that all the students carry with them.  It has permission slips, schedules, etc.  At the back bottom of this booklet I had to fill out the time for each day of the week that I give permission for my boys to leave campus.  Someone is always at the gate to check each students booklet.  This is because some kids leave campus to go eat at home or in the village.  Plus, some teachers don’t show up for their scheduled class and the kids get parental permission to leave.  This has happened to Austin twice so he has been able to leave school an hour early!  The school has a good “checks and balances” when it comes to kids coming and going.  It is very common for ALL age groups to leave school for lunch.  Most businesses, except for food places, close between 12-1:30.  We have to plan all of our errands around that time period.

Conclusion:  some days are better than others.  Some days are really hard and we all want to cry out of frustration but we are plugging through the hardship.  Hopefully everyday will improve! :)

A little laugh on a Monday morning!

This is what happens when you send a 3 year old to school!

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I have been crying I have laughed so hard!  Sophie had no idea she had this stuck to her “buns”!  In fact, when we pointed it out, she said, “You mean everyone was looking at my buns?”  I am glad she was able to come home for lunch so we could make this discovery!

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LOL!  She is the cutest thing ever!  Happy Monday Everyone!!! :)

Fournitures Scolaires

School Supplies

We were given the school supply list on the Friday before school started.  AJ, Austin and Tristan all needed an extensive list of supplies.  Jack and Sophie needed tissues and a couple small little things.  To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement!  I did not know the translation of half the things on their lists and each list contained at least 30 items.  Tristan had his own list because he is 6th year and the 5th, 4th, and 3rd years, AJ and Austin, had a list.  I did not know where to get the best prices either.  I put it off all weekend!  Aaron asked Isabelle if she would be willing to go with me on Monday.  (I think he was nervous for the task too, and he knew I was overly stressed about it!)  Isabelle kindly agreed to come with me so I picked her up around 9am, Monday morning.  She said we needed to start early.  That was a bad sign!

We went to the Carrefour because they have the best prices.  We went through each item, one by one, and got everything.  It took us over 2 hours and Isabelle has been buying school supplies for 18 years!  It would have taken me 4 hours.  I had to buy over 25 cahiers (which is like a spiral notebook)!  Cahiers have different paper on the inside.  Each teacher requires a certain size square and a certain number of pages.  “Grand carreaux” means the squares on the paper are a little larger.


For example, Histoire- Géographie required 2 cahiers (24×32) grands carreaux 48 pages. Everything had to be exact!  There were all different sizes, page numbers and page type of cahiers!  I was getting a headache just looking at the shelves and trying to find the exact cahiers!  It didn’t even phase Isabelle because that is what she is used to.  I could not believe the array of choices!  My mind was blown away and I was getting a headache! And that was just for the cahiers!

Some teachers require soft cover binders, when others require hard cover binders.  Lined paper, as we, Americans know it, does not exist in France.  The paper has squares, like the above photo, and is sold in single sheets or in booklet form.  So, some teachers want “feuilles simple” (single sheet) and some teachers want “feuilles double” (booklet form). Some teachers require page protectors, while other teachers require a “porte-vue”.

This is similar to a presentation or report folder in America

This is similar to a presentation or report folder in America

All three boys have art this school year.  I had to buy ALL supplies:  specific art paper, paints in specific colors, 4 different size brushes, specific pencils, etc.  For Math, all the boys need certain sizes of rulers and they all needed a specific calculator.  In France, they sell calculators according to what year you are in school.  Tristan’s calculator was labeled for 6th years, Austin’s for 4th years, etc.  It was mind boggling!  I kept telling Isabelle I could not believe how complicated school supply shopping was!  She said, “Now you understand why the French are always so rude!  They are always so frustrated with the way things have to be done in France!”  Amen to that!

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The grand total for all these supplies was around 260 Euros or $337!  I knew it was going to be expensive and I knew that added to the stress.  I NEVER spend that much on school supplies in the States, even when I am buying for 5 kids!  I have spent, maybe, $30 per child.  (I am getting a headache reliving this experience!)

The interesting thing is yesterday when the boys came home from school they had written down exactly what supplies their teachers wanted them to bring to school the next day! Each day my boys have a different schedule so they have to write down what will be needed.  I am and have been overwhelmed by this whole school experience!  God give me strength!  (These pictures don’t do the quantity of what I had to buy justice!)

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Second, First Day of School!


Wednesday, September 3, 2014 was AJ and Austin’s first day of school.  Austin started at 9am and AJ started at 10am.  It was the same process of calling out a students name, then the student lines up with the teacher and they leave.  Aaron took the boys as I was taking Jack and Sophie to school at 9am.  AJ and Austin were a little nervous after Tristan’s experience, but they were still positive!  I think Tristan’s experience was a blessing in disguise so Austin and AJ could be better emotionally prepared for their day.  Plus, they are a few years older and more outgoing.  Poor Tristan was the guinea pig for the older boys!  We learned that one does not bring ALL their school supplies the first day- just a small notebook will do.  Tristan stuffed his backpack and he had to add books to it at the end of the school day.  It was so heavy!  So, AJ and Austin only had a few things in their backpacks and they were ready to go!

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When noon came around I was anxious to hear about their day!  Austin said it wasn’t so bad.  There were a few times he felt a little discouraged but quickly tried to stay positive.  He said his “homeroom teacher”/”professeur principal” was nice and would ask him if he needed extra help and if so, she would try to explain it in english.  He said he tried to speak a little french and one of his teachers said he could write the assignment in english. Austin had a great attitude about the whole experience and said it should get better!

AJ was pretty happy when he got home, mainly because it was his 16th birthday yesterday!  AJ is a very easy going young man and likes to be in social settings.  He came home saying his day was saved after he met a nice British girl who spoke english.  She told him she could help him if he needed anything!  That put an instant smile on his face and then she introduced him to her friends.  (Do not know the name of the girl!)  AJ felt pretty cool hanging out with a group of girls, one of whom spoke english!  Way to go AJ!

After AJ and Austin were home and talking about their positive experiences, Tristan’s courage went up a notch.  He was ready to leave this morning and looking forward to meeting some new friends.  All three boys rode the “bus” this morning.  It picks them up a short distance from our house at 7:20am.  School starts at 8am.  It is the Edgard A15 bus that the boys ride.  All school students get a free bus pass for the year that they can use for one, round trip ride per day.  We have not received their passes in the mail yet, but the bus drivers still let the kids on, knowing they will have a pass soon.  This is what the buses look like.


It is great!  There were a few other students at the bus stop.  One in particular, Corianth, shook the boys hands and introduced himself.  Aaron and I had met his Mom at the mayors office when we were trying to figure out the school bus schedule.  He was looking for the “Americans”.  We told the boys to find the same kids at the end of the day so they make sure they get on the right bus!  They get out of school in an hour so I hope I see them within 2 hours! :)

First Day of School!

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Jack and Sophie started school yesterday, Tuesday, September 2, 2014.  It is the École de Sanilhac Sagries or École Maternelle.  They start at 9am and go until 12.  I pick them up from school for lunch and we spend lunch at home until 1:15pm and we walk back to the school.  The school is only about .25 miles from our house.  It is great to spend that time with Jack and Sophie.  They attend school in the afternoon from 1:30-4:30.  Yesterday Jack said, “That was a LONG time at school!”  That sweet boy has never been to school and he already counted out the hours and let us all know he is in school for 6 hours.

When we left our house Jack was nervous and kept asking me if he needed to go.  He was very hesitant.  Meanwhile, Sophie was skipping along the walk telling Jack it was going to be okay and school was going to be fun!  When the three of us arrived at the school Jack knew right where his classroom was and he found his teacher in the outside courtyard and immediately started playing with our neighbor, Tom.  Tom called out to Jack and I know it made Jack feel a little more relaxed.  Tom is 8 years old.  Jack did not forget to give me a big hug and kiss before he went off to school!

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Sophie was right next to me as this was all unfolding and I could tell she was slowly getting nervous.  Our neighbor, Denise, was there dropping her grandson off, so she helped me as well.  Sophie remembered where her classroom was and we started walking in that direction.  Her little grip on my hand was getting a little tighter as we got closer.  She was so timid as we approached the teacher standing by the door of the classroom.  I tried to get a few pictures of her, but she did not want to smile or anything.  I asked her to please give me a hug and kiss but she wouldn’t even do that.  She was so out of her comfort zone I wanted to grab her and run home!  Tears were starting to form in my eyes as I watched my youngest child slowly walk into her new classroom of 3 and 4 year olds.  The teacher could tell I was having a hard time leaving so she invited me into the classroom to make sure Sophie would be ok and I think she felt bad for me!  I quickly snapped a few pictures of Sophie approaching the other children playing.  I then slowly walked away…

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Jack and Sophie were so excited to see me at lunchtime.  We had a fun time at home and Sophie actually wanted to go back.  Jack was tired, but he was courageous and went back with a smile.  We walked back and, again, I had to leave my two youngest as they started the second half of their day.  Jack said Sophie was crying after I left and he was a great big brother and went to her and asked her if she was okay and tried to find a friend for her to play with.

Next was nap time for Sophie.  The teachers set up little beds/cots for the children to sleep on in a separate room.  “Le Dortoire” is the room where they sleep. This first week is a trial week for us to see if we send Sophie the whole day.  Jack and Sophie have school full days Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.  Half days on Wednesday and Friday, which means school is finished at noon.  So, it is only three days that Sophie would go full day instead of 5, and she would be home for 1.5 hours for lunch.  We are still deciding what will be best for Sophie and learning French.

Overall, Jack and Sophie had a successful first day!  It was cool hearing Jack tell me the things his teacher would ask him or talk about in his class.  He is understanding the language so well!  The transition for Jack and Sophie is not going to be as hard (except for me) as the older kids!

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Now on to Tristan’s first day.  AJ and Austin started this morning so I will update about their experiences later.  Tristan was not nervous or excited.  He seemed very indifferent, yet very courageous as he was ready to tackle this new venture.  He packed up his backpack with all the school supplies and was on his way.  Aaron took him as I had to take Jack and Sophie at 9am.  Aaron said all the 6th year students and parents met in the courtyard while the Principle spoke and then the Vice Principal got up and started calling students up by name according to their class.  Tristan’s name was called and away he went.  Parents were not allowed to follow or talk to them after.  They lined the students up with their teacher and then they left.  Aaron said it seemed a little rigid.  Of course, in America parents are loudly waving and yelling goodbye, taking a million photos and making sure their child has everything and then some!  This was all very different.  (In fact, not one parent was taking pictures at the Maternelle School!)

Aaron and I had a new student/parent meeting at 10am at the school after Tristan went to his classes.  We were in the meeting and half way through I glanced out the windows into the courtyard and I see Tristan wandering by himself aimlessly amongst the other students!  I was so heartbroken.  Tristan has always had friends and to see him without anyone while others are around talking to other friends, I wanted to run out and hug him and take him home!  I have always taught my kids to be nice to those who do not have friends or to someone who appears alone.  So, to see my child as the one alone and no one making an effort to talk to him was so sad for me.  I had tears!  Aaron walked out of the meeting and went over to him and Tristan immediately lit up.  But, at the same time, the French are so strict with adults and students.  Two teachers immediately went over to Aaron to see what he was doing with one of the students, Tristan.  Aaron said goodbye to him and we had to watch him, alone, for the next 5 minutes.  I did not want to leave the school when the meeting was over.  This might be harder for me than the kids!  Doubt it, but just saying!

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Aaron and I were anxious all day wondering how Tristan was getting along.  When Tristan got home he wanted to cry.  He said it was terrible, no one spoke to him, he couldn’t understand anything and he never wanted to go back!  After he settled down for a bit I asked him if there was anything positive and his reply, “The lunch was delicious!” :)  At least there was something!  We all tried to show our love and support, even the girls so far away!  This is going to be hard for the next weeks and even months but we are determined to make it a positive experience.  Tristan does not have school today so he is getting his groove back and hopefully the older boys will have a better experience to rub off on Tristan!  It is hard as a mother to see my children struggle with these things, but I know it is a great character building experience.  I reflect upon some of my experiences when I was their age and I know I would not be the same person if I did not have those hurdles to jump.  Bon courage mes enfants!

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WARNING!  This is a long post!:)

I have been asked a lot about the schools and when the kids begin.  I will break it down child by child because each one will have a different experience.  Let me just start off by saying that the Visa paperwork is NOTHING compared to the paperwork I have had to go through to get all 5 kids registered for school.  It has been very frustrating and I am beginning to not like the way the French do things.  Even the French complain about all the paperwork and nonsense they have to go through, even to receive simple over the counter medicine for example!

Most French households with children have two working parents, thus the government provides schooling for children as young as 2.  I have learned that as soon as an infant is 4-6 weeks the mother can go back to work and only pay roughly 100 euros ($131) per month for child care and the government pays around 200 euros ($262).  These mothers are usually only getting paid minimum wage and most are only getting 30 hours.  The minimum wage is higher but the French are taxed almost 75%.  That’s another post for later! :)

So a few months back when we found out there was a little “Maternelle” (Kindergarten) school in Sanilhac and Sophie would be able to attend, we were excited.  Not to send her off, quite the contrary because I do not like preschool and I have never sent my kids to preschool except for AJ who needed services through the county, but because she would be able to have the daily interaction with the French language.  I also need to include that Aaron called all the schools before we left the States so we would know exactly what would be needed, i.e. legal documents, etc.

The saga begins… When we arrived in France we did not immediately get to the schools.  Two reasons: one, we wanted to have a little vacation family time and two, the French take 6 weeks off in the summer for their vacations and the schools would not be open or available for a phone call until the week of August 25th.  Plus, school does not begin until September 2nd.  Thursday, August 21st I went to “La Mairie” (the Mayor of our village) to register Jack and Sophie for school.  One does not go directly to the school for the smaller children, it has to be done through the Mayor’s office.  Aaron was out of town but I felt I needed to start the process for any unexpected bumps in the road.  I walked in and talked to the Secretary and the Mayor and started handing them the documents we were told they would need.  When I handed the Mayor the copied medical records, he quickly handed them back to me and told me he could not see them, only a Doctor could review and approve them.  Remember this is all in French! :)  They told me I would have to go to a Doctor and get a certificate that proves the children are current with their vaccinations and that all medical records were correct.  I asked for a Doctor referral since I did not have a clue as to where to go!  The Secretary kindly gave me the name, address and directions, and phone number to a Dr. Marc de Saboulin Bollena.  I could not even begin the process of registering Jack and Sophie without this certificate.  I asked the Mayor if there was anything else I would need.  He said to bring a document that has child’s name, birth date, parents names, etc.  AKA, a birth certificate.  I pulled one out to show him and he said that is exactly what they would need and to bring the birth certificates back.  I walked away feeling a little uncomfortable trying to telephone a Doctor, etc., but I was relieved that I understood the conversation and knew I would have everything I needed when I returned.

I get home and l called the Doctor’s office.  I was really nervous about this because phone calls are difficult for me to understand in French.  I need to see the person I am speaking to.  I had asked the Secretary to write down the exact name of the Certificate so I wouldn’t mess anything up.  I actually scheduled appointments for all 5 children for the next day at 16h30.  Aaron would be home then and he could help me with this experience.  We arrived at the Doctor’s office a few minutes early and it was locked.  The hours on the door said that the afternoon was for appointments only, but we had an appointment.  Aaron quickly reminded me that the French do not work anymore than what is needed so we thought he probably did not have an appointment before us so he locked his office! :)  Sure enough, about a minute before 4:30 the door was unlocked and we began the process.

The Doctor was very serious!  It was hard for me to watch as my friendly, humorous husband was trying to break the ice and the Doc would not have anything to do with it.  It was interesting.  He slowly and methodically looked over each immunization card, proceeded to type with one finger on his computer and told us it would be 46 euros and how were we going to pay for it, cash or check?  It threw us off guard and thankfully we were able to rummage up enough euros because we had not yet received our checks. After we paid, he proceeded to take each child’s immunization card, review it, write out a hand written letter with one sentence and gave us the “official” document.DSC_0403

Who does this anymore?  An actual hand written note from the Doctor and this was the official document.  I couldn’t believe it.  I felt like I had traveled back in time a bit.  Anyway, we get to AJ, Austin and Tristan and he tells us they are missing one vaccination each.  It was the Pertussis vaccine that my kids are current with in the USA.  In France, each child has to have the vaccine every 5 years until they are 18 and then adults get it every 10 years.  There is something in the soil that causes this sickness.  So, we ask him if he would just give the boys the shot, give us the certificate and be on our way.  He then wrote us a prescription for the shot that we had to go purchase and pick up at a pharmacy and then we would have to come back with shot in hand.  But, he would not let us come right back.  He told us he could not see us and we would need to make another appointment!  Aaron then asked if there was any way we could just come back quickly and he said no it was not on his schedule!!! HA!

We go to the pharmacy with a vaccine prescription and they do not have the one the Doctor prescribed.  Long story short, they found one that would work, but they were short by one shot.  We purchased all three said prescriptions and would wait a few days to go pick them up when the other had time to come in.  This was all on a Friday afternoon and I would have to wait until Monday to make a new appointment.

Monday comes and I take the documents to the Mayor to register Jack and Sophie.  The same Secretary helps me and she accepts the “Doctor’s Certificate” and then I give her the birth certificates.  She then asks if I have the French Document for this.  WHAT????  I asked her how I would get a French document for a US document.  She then starts getting heated with me and asks if she moved to the USA wouldn’t she need an official USA document?  I kindly said no, because her document was an official French document stating her birth and nationality.  I told her I did not know what she wanted me to do and that the Mayor had looked at the birth certificates and said to just bring them back.  She then left and went to talk to the Mayor.  I could hear them arguing for about 5 minutes and then she comes back and tells me that they will make an exception but in the future all documents needed to be Official French Documents.  I am still a little perplexed by all that!

So, after all that hassle, she prints out this “Official” word document that states they can start school and we bring that to the school on September 1st when we go meet the Director.  (It was one sentence too!)

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Sophie will be in the 3 year old class and she goes to school from 9-12.  The children then have lunch for 1.5 hours, which they will eat at home.  Sophie could return after lunch but her age group takes a long 2 hour nap and then doesn’t do too much else for the rest of the day.  I am opting for her to only go from 9-12.

Jack will be with the 5 year olds and he goes from 9-12.  He will come home for lunch and then return at 1:30 to have spelling, reading, etc. in the afternoons.  Jack has a half day of school on Wednesdays and Fridays.  Thankfully the school is a short walk from our house so I can walk them to and from each day.

Now on to the older boys!  Aaron called the Doctor’s office Monday and she said to just come in after 9am on thursday and the Doctor could give the vaccine and certificates.  Meanwhile, I knew we could not register the boys without this Official Certificate.  So, we waited until thursday.  Well, Aaron happened to be out of town again yesterday and today so I had to register again by myself.  It would be ok!?  Right?  Right!  We all loaded up and went to go to pick up the vaccines at the Pharmacy and went right to the Doctor.  No one was in the waiting room and we were next in line.  So lucky!  (Side note: every task takes twice as long in France for some reason!)  The Doctor proceeded to look over immunization cards, administered the vaccine to each boy, typed with one finger on his computer, wrote out a one sentence “Official Document” and had me pay 69 euros.  We were in and out in 30 minutes!  Thank goodness!  By this time it was around 11am and I wanted to go right to the school which was around the corner.  I knew we had until 12 because almost all businesses/offices close at 12 for a one hour lunch.  We get to the school and what seems like the “front office” is closed.  No one is there.  We look around for a few minutes and the boys remark about how different it looks, etc.  I could not see any other offices so we left.  I thought we always have tomorrow, Friday.

Last night I received a phone call from our friends, the Darguences.  Aline had received a phone call from the school inquiring if the boys were still going to be attending.  I told her I was at the school earlier in the day and no one was there.  She said to call first thing in the morning!  I had Aaron call from Paris this morning to make sure everything was on track.  We went this morning and the same looking “front office” was locked and closed.  We were there at 10:30am.  I thought this could’t be right.  Sure enough, all the offices were further back in the courtyard with no sign or any indication of offices.  We found the secretary and started with the registration process.  All three boys will be in the same school! YEAH!  I had to fill out 3 forms, all in French, with interesting questions.  For example, does my child need a wheel chair?  Does my child have permission to leave school if the teacher for the last class of the day does not show up?

The Principal wanted to meet with us and introduce himself so we had to schedule an appointment for 11:30am.  I thought that was funny because we were right next to his office and it was 10:50 at this point, but he had to have a scheduled appointment to meet with us!  So I filled out forms to pass the time while the kids ran around the huge courtyard.  The Principal was nice and tried to explain things in English.   This meeting lasted about 45 minutes.  We finished up with the Secretary by 12:30 with her telling me to fill more info out at home because of the time.  She handed me a school supply list that is going to cost a small fortune!  Plus, it will be comical trying to figure out what everything is.

All three boys are registered at Collège Lou Redounet in Uzès.  They will take the public bus to and from school.  The government gives students bus passes.  That took me another 2.5 hours of paperwork today.  Hopefully they will receive their bus cards in the mail in the next few weeks.  We will drive them until they have their card.  AJ is in the 3ème grade.  All French students begin to learn a second language in elementary school so the Principal was surprised to find out my boys had not studied another language.  He is going to let AJ just take extra English instead of a second language, apart from the French.  This will be great for him as he needs Special Education in America. Basically, this school offers bilingual instruction.  Austin is in the 4ème grade.  He has chosen to study English and Italian.  This means that two or three days a week he receives 3 hours of instruction in English and 3 hours of instruction in Italian.  The other days it is all French.  We have lucked out!  How cool is that?  French and Italian!  Tristan is in the 6ème grade and he has chosen to do English and German!  We walked away feeling so blessed that this opportunity is before them and all of us!  America is so behind in the foreign language department!

Tristan starts school on Tuesday at 9am and he goes until 4:30pm.  Austin goes on Wednesday from 9-12 and then AJ starts on Wednesday at 10-12.  Thursday is the day they will all start together.   I am probably forgetting some info but I am so tired of this post that I am signing off!