Click here for the week of 02/28/16.
Sun, 02/21/16. Buffets and pools.

Last night we ate at the hotel buffet and then this morning ate there again, because it was the only place open and even for the buffet, we had to beg them to let us in because it was closing. It's weird because there are 3 or 4 other restaurants on the grounds but they seem to be closed all the time. After breakfast I just went back to sleep and tried to get over my runny nose, while Jean went swimming with the kids. They took a break to get some pizza, and two birds came down and swooped their pizza! Jean said Max yelled at the birds to take his pizza, saying "Mangez ca!" Our hotel is amazing in most ways, with a free kids club with tons of activities, and lots of kids here, and like 5 different pools of varying temperatures, including a nice hot tub and a pool that feels like ice cubes it's so cold, as well as several in between, and tons of activities like a disco for kids, as well as one for adults. The only problem seems to be the hotel's strange relationship with heat. We basically came here to heat up. However, our room is 68 degrees and has no heater and no way to heat it up any more than that. It only has air conditioning, and when we asked for a portable heater or something they said they didn't have one. So we just stocked up on blankets. Also, there is a beautiful bathroom with a nice big bath, but the "hot" water only gets lukewarm. We run it with just all hot water and it's perfect for the kids, who don't like the bath to be really hot, but for us adults it's a little lacking. I guess this area is usually boiling hot and so they don't really worry about the few days a year when it's on the cold side.

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Sat, 02/20/16. Fuerteventura!

Today we flew to Fuerteventura on the Canary Islands and checked into our hotel, the Sheraton Fuerteventura, which we got for a week free care of our Starwood credit card points. The island reminds us a lot of Hawaii but one difference is in Hawaii everything is so laid back and here our taxi driver was going like 100mph and tailgating the cars in front of her. The hotel is amazing. It's so kid friendly and huge. There's a great kids club, 3 pools, a huge spa, and we just gorged on the delicious buffet dinner. It's right on the beach too. It was raining today and I have a runny nose, but I can't complain. It's clearly gonna be a great week. And it's like 60 degrees F, which is so nice. Gemma said it feels like Los Angeles.

Fri, 02/19/16. Last day of school before break.
Today was the last day of school for Max and Gems before yet another 2 week break. We need sun, so tomorrow we are flying to the Canary Islands for a week. It's supposed to be in the high 60s there, which will seem nice after 3 months of never being higher than 50. Max and Gems have been making up stories and tonight for the first time, Max read a book to us instead of the other way around. Gems still wanted us to read hers. Max took a book about a girl who always asks "Why" and turned it into some sort of Italian drama where there were bad people and a bad day and then there was a lot of shouting "Prieta prrrrianto" and stuff in what sounds like Italian but what he calls Maxie language.

Thu, 02/18/16. Snow.

It snowed today, just a few little flakes. I went to the Post Office and played the message for them. The woman wrote down some numbers, typed some stuff into the computer, and then told me she has no record of any of the packages except one, and that one was from Atlanta, and got sent back. I told her I've been there every week and people kept telling me to be patient, etc., and she just said "Sorry but it got sent back." So, I think I officially give up on our Christmas presents now. There's an ad near our apartment that says "Ail ame the best." It took me a while to get it. I can't believe Max and Gemma's favorite tv show, Curious George, stars William H. Macy. We've been joking that the voice of George is Robert de Niro. Today was red day at Max and Gemma's school, and they had to wear all red and bring in a red object and describe it. Gemma brought a red shoelace and said "C'est mon lacet. Il est rouge" which she's been practicing. She said it went well. Maxie didn't have to describe his red coffeepot. Today Jean for the first time accomplished her goal of walking over 20,000 steps in one day. I bought our plane tickets home, on July 20. It's really sinking in that our time here is limited. In some ways we will be very happy to be back but there are also things here we'll miss a lot. It's definitely going to be very bittersweet going home. We were talking today about how we think our diet will be a little different when we get back. We'll miss the little markets like this fish guy down the street from us.

Wed, 02/17/16. Math homework.
Today after lunch, it was my once a week turn to give Max and Gems their treat and what could be better, on a 0 degree Celsius day, than a hot crepe with nutella? We've eaten surprisingly few crepes so far and these 2 went down smoothly. Afterwards, we just hung out in the apartment and somehow Max and Gemma got the idea that I should give them homework, so I gave them some math problems and they did them and then I'd grade them, and they loved it and kept wanting to do more and more all day. They must have done about 10 pages each of math problems. Their favorite is still good old addition, but I mixed in some easy subtraction and multiplication problems, and even had some tricky ones like 0 + 27 and 2 - 4 and they got em right. Max goes super fast and gets like 90% right, while Gems goes very slowly and gets everything right. We've given some French friends our voice mail recording from the Post Office, which is here and even they are having problems understanding all of it. Tonight Jean was watching Master Chef Jr. with Max and Gems and they got so into it. Gemma would convulse every time they'd say how much time was left, since she'd get so nervous for the participants. Meanwhile, whenever they criticized someone's dessert or kicked someone off, Max would tear up and defend the kid who was feeling bad. He said he would give the kids 50 Euros for trying so hard, and he said "It probably doesn't taste the best but it probably tastes good."

Tue, 02/16/16. Post Office blues.

It was 1 degree this morning when I took the kids to school, and on it said "feels like" -3. While the kids were at school, Jean, Eva and I went to a lunchtime concert at the d'Orsay, where a pianist played a bunch of short pieces by Satie and 1 by Liszt. It was really fun even though the concert was very mediocre. Then we picked up the kids and went to ballet class, stopping on the way at the Bon Marche dept store where the kids and I ate snacks while Jean looked at the Ai Weiwei exhibit IN the department store! It seems so weird to have all this art in the middle of a regular dept store where people are buying perfume, jewelry, etc. Yesterday I went to the Post Office and tried to give them a piece of my mind. They had the gall to tell me I was "too late" to pick up the Christmas presents sent to us by family members, even though I've been there 3 or 4 times over the last couple months and previously they've been telling me to be patient and that the mail's always slower over the holidays. It was the first time I'd ever tried to get angry in French and the words didn't come out well. I said something like "You cannot tell me that" and "It's not ok". Anyway, at home I called the post office, which I'd also done before but this time I actually got someone really nice and helpful who took down my info and said she'd look into it. Today we got a message from a guy from the Post Office, and I'm not exaggerating, the message is about 3 min long and all in extremely fast and unclear French. He sounds like he's underwater. I could hardly understand a thing and neither could Jean. So during dance class we gave the phone to Ewelina, who's been living in France for 20 years, and she said she couldn't understand it either, not because of the French but because of what he was saying. It was so convoluted, with incomplete sentence fragments and correcting himself every two seconds, and talking about 3 different post offices and stuff. So, tomorrow I'm gonna try to find a native French person to help us decipher the message. We might be getting closer to getting our mail, but it is definitely gonna be a process.

Mon, 02/15/16. I did it!

Jean's big goal for the year has been to speak French with people and have them not switch to English on her, and her mission was accomplished today so the entry is written by her this time, except I just want to say Max drew the picture above today, and he says it is for sale for 20,000 Euros.
Today, after I was having major mental blocks in my French class (For example, we were practicing prenoms tonique and the teacher would ask us these fake questions such as "Vous avez mange avec Laurent?" and we were supposed to answer, "Oui, j'ai mange avec lui." but for some reason I kept thinking about the content of the sentences and when she asked me "Vous habitez avec Paul et Pierre?" I answered, "Je pense que vous n'aimez pas Paul et Pierre. Pourquoi vous habitez ensemble?") I went to the doctor for allergy medicine. Rick made the appointment for me, but he couldn't go because he had to pick up the kids from school. So, for the first time, I was on my own to fend for myself in a situation where I would have to speak French and they were unlikely to speak any English, and ... I did it! The entire appointment, from the accueil desk to seeing the doctor, to getting the prescription was done in French. I can't believe I didn't break into English once, mostly because no one was speaking to me in English. It was just really fast and official French. At one point, a woman asked for my postal code, and I said sept, cinq, zero, zero, cinq. And she said, "Oh, soixante quinze, et quoi?" Then there was a bit of a mix up with my first and last name (they thought I was Gemma!), but it all worked out. Then, while I was waiting to see the doctor, I looked up tons of words to help me such as congestion, itchy, pressure.... For once I was glad to wait for 30+ minutes. The doctor was great but spoke no English. Then I went to the pharmacist who took so much time getting my paperwork all accounted for and printed out numerous things and then after all that she charged me just 8 Euros for two prescriptions. I came bounding home so excited that I made it through the afternoon en francais. I really can't believe I did it. In other news, Max's love of counting (money) and elevators have combined to form a very unusual way of counting down for spaceships, trains, etc. He says, "5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0, -1, -2, blast off!" He and Gemma were in great moods today, partly because they are finally feeling a bit better (knock on wood) and we let them have some leftover Valentine's Day candy. I think I may be turning into a typical French parent. It seems that Max and Gemma are playing together during recess nowadays and sometimes the "bad team" meaning Joseph K, Nathan, and Timothe, chase and hit them. Gemma told me that Nathan hit her in the eye, so I told her to hit him back. Max said Joseph K. has hit him in the stomach, so I told them to gang up against him. One can hold him and the other can hit him. Gemma seems up for it, but Max is trop timid.


Click here for the week of 02/14/16.
Click here for the Paris journal from 2015.