We actually had the kids believing that the fog had enveloped the castle and made it disappear for good. But then Oliver said, "You have to run right up and touch it to be sure." Empiricism wins the day again! Barring that, the fog can make you believe that anything is possible. It was so thick and insistent today - we were very close to the castle when we took this picture today. What an impression it must have made on a foggy medieval day! I'm used to fog breaking up after a couple of hours of daylight, but perhaps we're too close to the coast here? In any case, it stayed with us all day long and created this kind of quiet, enveloping mood. What I would have given to see the Standing Stones of Monteneuf today - I bet it was abounding with elves!
The kids were plucky about going to school today. They'd all started missing things over the week-end, so I wondered how this morning was going to go: Oliver really missed the beach, and summer and his buddies; Iris missed her friends; and Eleanor missed her book about the Celts (how could we not have brought that!?) and, totally inexplicably, her pumpkin costume (still). So it's that much more amazing that they walked in this morning, and that when we picked them up they were bubbling over with stories of the day and stuff they wanted me to be sure to write down so they can tell their friends later. They turn it around for themselves at some point in the day. I know that those lunches are important for them because they see each other (and because the lunches themselves, as you know, are fantastic - cheese soufflé for the appetizer today - soufflé!!!). Today was super special because each table had a galette des rois for dessert (it's not just for Epiphany anymore!) and, amazingly, both Iris and Eleanor got the fêve (the little porcelain figurine - Eleanor got Galileo and Iris got Neil Armstrong!) and thus got to wear the crown.
Oliver was their royal guard, and was thus granted his own crown during our (clearly chocolaty!) snack at home.
We had lots of interesting news from school today: we have to purchase "assurance scolaire" (scholarly insurance) for the kids. It is not required, but (and I do love this phrase) "vivement recommandé" (we would translate it as "highly recommended" but "vividly recommended" does just as well). It's really interesting: from what I can glean from the brochure and web site thus far, it's insurance for your child at school (or, if you upgrade, 24/7) covering everything from something that might happen to your child to something that your child might cause to happen. Considering France's swell medical insurance, I'm not sure why this is needed, but it sounds like it's accident, general well-being, and the experience of being a student that is being insured here. It's very reasonably priced, so now we'll see if we can get it. We spoke with one of Oliver's teachers as well - he's basically the Special Ed teacher, and of course it's fascinating that there is not a separate "French as a Second Language" curriculum - learning disability kids and language acquisition kids are all in the same help session. That's how I learned English (I came to the States just before ESL started), and it worked out fine, and seems to be for Oliver, too - his teacher said he was "investi" and "motivé" - yes, invested and motivated. Yea! The teacher was also saying that they should have Oliver caught up pretty quickly - amazing to think my little guy will be understanding his French education soon enough! We also learned that Eleanor will not have school on Thursday, as her teacher is on strike. !!! I'm going to reserve an entire blog entry for that, having long been an admirer of the unity that emerges around French strikes (developed when I lived in Paris during the 1995 strikes). Will find out more about what's at stake for this strike.
Oliver has been eager to show his buddies his growing Asterix collection, as it is emerging from the Friday offering of Kinder-Surprise eggs. So, without further ado, here they are:
Between the corks (this is Oliver's display idea, but it provides an excellent sense of scale!) we have: Obelix, brave and true best friend of Asterix; and, oops, I actually don't know the other two characters' names. Another to follow up on. As each Friday rolls around the collection will grow - I'm hoping to get an Asterix book for us to read soon - but which one???
And finally. Mac and I were drawn into another wild documentary tonight, this time on Serge Gainsbourg (we've always loved the album Couleur Café from 1959). Tonight's segment focused on the women in his life (the list is long, but we focused on the Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin chapters). Ooo la la! They played many of his dozens and dozens of incredible songs - some hip, some wacky, some cheesy - and then they played "Je t'aime... moin non plus" which I would translate as "I love you... me neither" - it's one he wrote for Brigitte Bardot in 1968 but released and performed with Jane Birkin in 1969, and the melody was entirely familiar to me from when I was a kid. Listening to its sensuality now, I kind of want to revisit my parents' record collection! :-) It's a great number - sweet, sexy, absurd, fun and furtive all at the same time. Here's a video of it, including what look like home movies of Serge and Jane in Venice. La Dolce Vita French style - wow!
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