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Thursday, February 17, 2011

new french prof

So I hired a French Teacher to teach me at my home.

She will be coming every Wednesday and Friday afternoons 3 hours each week while M is at Halte de Garderie (which is day care - he only goes 2 - 1/2 days a week).

She has been teaching for 8 years.  Has a degree in French Literature and a Master's degree in French as a Foreign Language - specifically for Anglophones.  She was young and very professional.  We clicked immediately.   Her prices were moderate at 350 euros for 10 hours, she provides a valid invoice and accepts CESU (cheques de service)!

She starts next week...I'll report back how my first week goes.

I hope to be able to speak comfortably and easily soon!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

getting out there...

So since I am not going to take "REAL" French Classes at a school anymore.  I need to meet people somehow...

I have joined a few Mommy Clubs here in Paris:

Message which is a Mommy Club for English Speakers in Paris.  They provide classes for mommy which is precisely that...groups online who meet up.  I have joined the only 3 Mommy/Family English Speaking Groups here in Paris - 2 of which I have had real meet ups with and they are GREAT!

If I was in the US there would be NO WAY would I join a club online to make friends...just the old traditional way but since I would like a few English speaking friends I had to.  Good news so far so good and no crazies!  I haven't met any long lasting friends yet but you never know who you will click with.

Ideally I'd like to do one big meet up/activity a week and then also a few times a week go to a local Park with M and see who we meet.  

Also I'd like to meet some French friends as well...I am thinking about joining the local community center for some Mommy and Me classes with M.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

a change in the french lessons...

I have been done with Alliance Francaise since Christmas break and man has it been the best break ever 8 weeks and counting!

But it's time to start up my French Lessons again :-( boooooo....

I have decided that I do not want to go back to AF for a few reasons:

1. The distance.  We live in the 3eme which is on the other side of the river from AF(located in the 6eme).  It takes me 1 hour to get there by bus.  Well not really but I leave 1 hour early so I am on time and so I can relax for 15 mins before a 3 hour class.  And then another 45 mins to get home (because of traffic at 4:30).   So that is just over 5 hours in just commuting per week.  

2.  The Schedule of Classes.  I don't like having classes 3 days a week.  3 days a week would be ok if it were Monday, Wednesday and Friday but it is Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.  The Monday's and Tuesday's are stressful since I have to hurry up and get all of my homework done.  I feel rushed.  I would rather 2 days a week but that is not offered (for regular language classes).

3. The time away from home. 5 hours commuting + 9 hours of class = 14 hours total spent away from home. 

4. The lack of talking time.  I just need more time speaking and I feel that after homework review, review of the old lesson, the break and the new lesson there isn't much time left for speaking.  And that is what I need at this point.

Even though I had a wonderful teacher at AF I am gonna have to say goodbye!  I may end up back there at some point if my below plan does not work.

The plan.

to find a Private French Teacher to come to my home.  I have put out my feelers and I have asked everyone for recommendations.  The majority of the French Teachers are offering in home or outdoor meetings for around 40 euros and hour!   WOW!  I know...loads of money since Alliance Francaise was going for about 98 euros for 9 hours.  But this is one on one and the Teacher works at your pace not the pace of the average student in your class.  No rush to stay on the lesson plan. 

I am narrowing my search and weight all the prices and options.

I have found that some are not legitimate (and will not give an invoice if asked - we need this since we still have some company money paying for my classes!) some accept the CESU (cheque emploi service)
and some don't.  CESU is an employee and government social benefit for child services, language services even cleaning services.  We save taxes and I believe the company pays for a portion of it as well!  

I have narrowed it down and have 3 teachers who will provide valid invoices, accept the CESU and are 25 - 35 euros per hour (only if buying multiple sessions i.e. 10 lessons for 25 euros per hour).  2 of the teachers are unfortunately on vacation right now as it is vacances scholars (yes the kids are on a 2 week break AGAIN!).  One will return in one week from now and the other in  two weeks!  So I will wait as the 250 euros for 10 lessons is just too tempting to pass up!   

I am probably only going to do 2 lessons per week for a total of 3 - 4 hours per week.  I will also have to read, listen to TV/Music/Movies and do some Rosetta Stone.  But maybe the Teacher will also have some ideas for me as well.  

Any who that is what is going on here...more to come in approximately 2 weeks

Thursday, February 10, 2011

music with mummy

M and I did a music class with other English Children the other day. He was very shy and did not want to participate. Well we were late...30 mins late! And we were just kind of thrown into it. I should have planned better and showed up on time or early so M could meet the other children and the teacher first. But good news today he found his new musical instruments he received from Christmas and was playing with them. I think he remembered seeing some in his class. We have an art class coming up soon with the same group...I will be 15 mins early ;-)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

la chandeleur

La Chandeleur is celebrated on February 2nd (same day as Groundhogs Day in the US) and it's the day of Crepes for the French!

It is really a Catholic Holiday celebrating a feast to commemorate the presentation of baby Jesus.

I made the crepe batter this year, here is F's recipe:

250 grams (2 cups) Flour (all purpose)
300 ml (~10 ounces) Milk
200 ml (~6 ounces) Beer
1 tablespoon Vanilla Sugar (or regular sugar)
shot of Rum
3 eggs
1 tablespoon of Vegetable Oil

Put flour/salt/sugar mixture into a mixing bowl and put the eggs into the center.  Beat eggs and flour mixture until incorporated.  Then add remaining liquids slowly to avoid lumps.

Grease a hot non stick crepe pan (we got ours from Bed Bath and Beyond OR 10 inch non stick omelet pan) with vegetable oil (do this after ever crepe). And pour 3/4 of a ladle and move it all around to cover the entire pan. Wait till crepe is browned slightly and pulls up from the pan easily. Flip and brown the other side. Normally we make all crepes ahead of time and place them on a plate over boiling water until ready to eat (to keep warm). 

With this recipe you can make sweet crepes or salty ones!  For the salty crepes we usually fry an egg (on a separate pan) and place it on top of ham and cheese then fold the crepe!  For sweet crepes I prefer strawberries and cream.  While F's fav is just white sugar with lime juice ;-0  We also like nutella and bananas.

There is a good luck/fortune tradition with making crepes on La Chandeleur. While holding a coin in your right hand, when the crepe is ready to be flipped make sure you flip it 180 degrees without dropping it! It will mean a prosperous year for you and your family ;-)

Monday, February 7, 2011

florida vacay review

It was weird going home for the first time after living overseas for 7 months. Everyone's lives seemed to be exactly the same. Nothing had really changed without us.  I guess not a lot of time has gone by.  We had a great time with friends/family and rediscovering our favorite spots.  As well as finding new family friendly things to do in the area.  We went to a few Children's Museum's, The Zoo, Parks and tons of Beaches.

M really enjoyed the beach.  Even though it was too cold to swim.  He liked running away from the waves as they reached his toes (it was FREEZING!).  He also loved the sand and being able to run free without anyone saying no ;-)  The beach is the place to be for a toddler tons of open spaces.  We visited Ft. Desoto and Anna Maria Island (where we were married almost 3 years ago).  They are both pretty relaxing/mellow beaches and even so on the weekdays.  It was great to soak in some sun and relax from the hustle and bustle of Paris.

Next year I think we will come more in the season March/April when it is warm enough to swim.  Plus there are tons of festivals in March/April and May in Tampa/St. Petersburg Area.

Friday, February 4, 2011

what to do in paris with a toddler (under 3) the winter!

It's so hard to find things to do with a young toddler in the Winter let alone in a new city. Many programs are for 3 years +. I will also put together an outdoor list as soon as it warms up here ;-)

Aquariums- My son is 19 months and enjoys seeing fish the Aquarium
Cine Aqua- is fairly expensive but when M is older they have tons of fun things for older children (movies, art projects, sting ray touch pool, puppet theater - M was a bit scared of this)
Palais de la Porte Doree - We have not visited this one yet

Indoor Parks/Children's Museum
Cite des Enfants - M is a bit too young but first thing after his 2nd birthday we will be sure to participate!
La Maison des Enfants - We have not tried this yet but would like to

Child Friendly Cafes with Play Areas - there are a few others in Paris but not close to my home...I think I found 2 or 3 in the 18eme...and more in the 16eme or 7eme
Le Poussette Cafe - they also offer Ateliers (workshops)

Mum & Babe- This is also a spa and salon with a child center - the price is included in your service!
RRose Selavy Ateliers d'Arts
- 2+ years old. M is a bit too young they also have courses for adults as well!
Le Poussette Cafe - they also offer Ateliers (workshops)
Les Minots - We have not attended yet because they offer 2+ but they emailed me and said they are working on classes for 18 months+!!!

Natural History Museum- M loves to see the stuffed animals! They also have a special Children's Museum but it is for 6-12 year olds.
Musee National du Moyene Age - Workshops for baby and parents
Musee en Herbe - 2 1/2 years +
Centre Pompidou - 2 years +

American Library - Mother Goose Hour in English!
La Maison des Contes

Centre Loisirs- Good thing to check in your own arrondissements Centre Loisirs via La Mairie's webiste for Baby Gyms, Bebe Nager (swim classes) etc...
Centre d'Animation Pole Simon Lefranc - 18 month +, 3 - 10 years, 10-15 years and Adult Ateliers (Workshops)
Centre Loisirs 10eme - Baby Gym, Baby Climbing

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

international travel alone with a toddler...part 3

Adjusting to the time difference (from Europe to the US):

The hardest for Children is the Europe to USA jet lag because you are losing 6 hours. When you arrive in the US normally it will be in the afternoon (if a direct flight) or early evening (if you have connections). Usually we just have dinner, take showers and go to bed. For Adults there is no problem adjusting maybe you will wake up at 3am or at 6am and be ready for the day to begin. But for an infant or a toddler it's so hard to explain to them that they need to sleep until the sun comes up.

M was up at 4am (awake for an hour then back to sleep for 2 more hours), 5am (up and then napped late morning) and then 6am (up and then napped late morning). After the first 3 nights he was back to normal waking up at 7am or 8am.

I tried to keep him on his normal nap schedule but he was not having it. So we gradually moved his nap 1 hour later everyday until he was sleeping after lunch for 2-3 hours.

We had a wonderful vacation in DC and Florida with friends and family. It was great to see the sun again and get a little bit of warmth. Even though it was abnormally cold in Florida this winter.

The Return Flight...

When F arrived in Florida I had him bring an extra duffel bag to fit in all of the clothes, books, shoes etc that we had bought. We stocked up on basics and books because things are so expensive here in France and dirt cheep in The US. Everything fit! I was so surprised because I really splurged on the shopping ;-) One of the bags was 55lbs (but good thing that F is a Platinum Member with Delta so he can check 2 bags and they can be slightly over the weight limit!), other bags were 35lbs and 40lbs.

I was traveling alone back home with M because F had to take another flight (due to a new policy with his company). I made sure M got a good nap (2 hours) before we headed to the airport. We had lunch at the airport and headed through security. Tampa Airport Security is pretty simple to get through since they have about 5 or 6 different air sides with TSA checks at each (so they are lighter than the normal airport). We were to bring on 2 sippy cups full of milk they just had to screen them further with a machine.

On all of Tampa's Air Sides they have play areas for the kiddos. This was nice so M could get some exercise in before our 2 flights. We went to Miami which is only an hour flight. M was drowsy but stayed up and just stared off most of the flight. When we landed in MIA we walked around a bit and bought some water, juice and a snack then headed to our gate and boarded. The plane was a bit smaller that the one we took from France and it was FULL!

M was good on the plane. We did use the video player a bit more than on the trip over to the US. When it was time to sleep I changed him into his PJ's so he would know it was time to sleep. When he fell asleep it did not last very long and he woke up a few times when he was trying to stretch out. The two end seats was not enough room for him stretch out and for me to sit (on the way over we went to the 3 open seats next to us for him to lay on two seats). Since the plane was full we did not have this option. He got about 3.5 hours of sleep which was pretty good.

The flight was early about 8.5 hours long. After we landed we went through immigration (with no issues) and then on to picking up our bag and going through customs. F's parents and F were waiting for us as we left Security.

All in all it was a good flight. Not saying I would do it again alone but if I had to it wouldn't be a huge ordeal!

Adjusting to the time difference (from The US to Europe):

We arrived at 9am. After lunch M napped for 3 hours. We had to wake him up. Around 7pm we was ready for bed (screaming for no reason = ready for bed :-) The next day he was a perfect angel. Very happy and ready for fun. The third day he was in a mood when we went for a walk (screaming and crying for no reason for an hour). Then that night he did wake up at 3am crying but not fully awake. We let him cry a bit and he went back to sleep. Let's hope he has a better day today and a better night tonight!