French School – Week 1

Day 1

Just a quick update from Aix.  The kids returned to school this week and let me tell you that between France, French and our round-the-world extravaganza, it’s been quite the transition.  Out with the old and in with the new.  As per usual, the kids are adapting with a surprising amount of agility.  Being able to be flexible in life is one of the best traits a person can have and our kids have had lots of practice over the last year.  Sometimes the changes are difficult, but these experiences are some of the best gifts we can give them as they grow.

Our new routine started (aka kicked into gear) on Monday, September 6th and when I say “started” I mean we went from 0 to 60 in a heartbeat.  Unlike school in New York where the kids are coddled through a lengthy multi-week transition (much to the chagrin of summer-weary parents who are ready for a break), day 1 was 8:30 to 4:00pm.   Full on.  In French.  For both kids.  No naps for either.

Surprisingly, Talia seems to be coping better than Judah.  She is thrilled that her “French” teacher will speak to her in English (some). I keep warning her that this will soon change.  But for now, it is keeping Talia happy.  On the other hand, Judah’s teacher is very French and while she musters an occasional exchange in “normal-language”, he’s being taught in French 100% of the time Monday-Wednesday.  He’s not too sure about this new way of life at the moment.  But I am sure his hesitancy will pass.  Just yesterday a waiter asked me in French if the kids wanted 2 scoops of chocolate ice cream for dessert or one scoop of vanilla and one scoop of chocolate – Judah answered “deux” without missing a beat.  Yeah, he’ll be just fine.

Anyway, for the last 8 plus months our only routine was that we didn’t have one.  We rarely stayed anywhere for more than a week and we never stuck to a single schedule.  Alarm clocks were far and few between and typically signaled an unavoidable early flight to somewhere new.  Another adventure.  Now each morning’s slumber is rudely interrupted by the sound of an iPhone alarm that heralds the start of a new school day.

Up at 7am and downstairs for breakfast, with Judah announcing to all who will listen, “…but I am not going to school today, don’t you remember?”  His chocolate cereal gets him going, while Talia takes after her father and is a true Weetabix gal.  As for me, I just need some coffee and armed with some joe, I know I can face yet another day.

And then it is time to get dressed.  This in and of itself is an adventure and one that the faint-of-heart should avoid, especially before 8am.  As a parent, I know I am not alone.  But that is minimal consolation as we struggle to help Talia find underwear that feels comfortable and an outfit that she deems “appropriate” as Judah makes his second proclamation, “I don’t do buttons”.

Seriously, this is the worst part of my day.  I am thrilled the school is introducing uniforms this term.  I cannot wait.

Take this morning for example: Armon took Talia upstairs (two flights of stairs from kitchen to bedroom) to get dressed.  Twenty minutes and some screaming later, they came back downstairs.  Armon entered the kitchen first, then Talia.  She was naked and Armon bore the look of defeat.  At least she’d gotten her PJ’s off, but she was butt naked and upset because she couldn’t find anything (emphasis hers) that worked.  Nothing.  Of course Judah thought this was all very funny and started laughing at his big sister.  We were flirting dangerously close with morning-routine disaster.

We finally got her dressed in the kitchen and she downed her bowl of cereal.  It was then time to brush hair and teeth.  Hair done, she goes to brush her teeth.  As she does she turns back around and gives me an exasperated look as she utters, “I want to change”.  Back upstairs I went to get another outfit in hindsight this sounds insane. But let’s face it; what a parent will do to get child to school in one piece without too many tears does test the limits of sanity…

Anyway – with new outfit in hand – she changed.  Everything came off and a new outfit was donned.  For perhaps 10 seconds.  She then gave me yet another screwy look and in sheer frustration proclaimed she was changing back to her original outfit.  And she did.

Now it’s Judah’s turn.  Yes he’s a boy.  And on some level this helps the getting dressed dynamic.  But, he also has a big sister and he is still a kid after all.  So if Talia has to change a gazillion times and he sees this happening, he’s likely to mimic this to some degree.  And he does.  Plus he throws in a few of his own quirks.

Judah has long detested buttons and refuses to wear anything with such an accoutrement.  Knowing this, we now avoid any garment with any type of snap, zipper, button or embellishment that he could potentially point to and veto.  This morning, Armon successfully got J-man dressed in a t-shirt and elastic waistband pants.  For five minutes.  And then the pants came off because they were ”too puffy”.  Talia naked and Judah half-naked, Armon and I were clearly losing the morning battle.  Somehow we managed to salvage it, but it took enough trips upstairs to make today’s gym session largely unnecessary. Somewhere in the chaos I ended up cutting a pair of Judah’s older trousers into shorts – just so he’d have something other than boxers covering his derriere.  Yes, I know.  Loco.

Somehow, we managed to get out the door at a decent time.  Backpacks in hand and packed for the day we headed to the car.  Water bottle – mandatory for each.  Gym clothes and sneakers – mandatory.  Art smock – mandatory.  Pencil case – mandatory.  Indoor slippers – mandatory.   And frankly, kind of cool that they get to wear “slippers” when in the classroom.

On the way to our car I asked, “so are you ready to go learn some English?”  To which both kids replied, “but we already know English!”   Yes, today and tomorrow (Thursdays and Fridays are taught in English) they will be in their comfort-zone.

Drop-off went fine.  Lunch today will be:  beets with vinaigrette, beef bourgignon, pate, frommage frais au fruits and chocolate eclairs for dessert.  We’re not in Kansas anymore.

The kids are great.  I am writing this.  I will then get some work done, go to the gym and we will pick them up at 4pm.  If earlier this week continues to set the stage, both kids will be showered and ready for bed by 8pm.  Mentally and physically exhausted.  They will be asleep shortly thereafter and will sleep soundly through the night.

I am sad to see our vagabond lifestyle come to a close (at least temporarily), but that said there’s something sweet about fall and the return of school and exhausted kids at the end of each day.


  1. Rufers

    Even though its been over 16 years since I’ve seen the inside of any sort of classroom (yes, it was grad school, and yes, that does show some of my age), September will forever be the start of the new year, not January. Never January. There’s something wonderful about ending the summer, wanting to put on a sweater because its getting chilly, starting school, and starting over. I’m envious of that annual fresh start, but this year, I get a fresh start of my own on October 4th. Off to school we go kids!! Love you – Aunt Rufers

  2. Grammy

    Happy First Days of School!
    Buster & Bea send licks and sniffs! I am sending you big hugs and lots of kisses.
    Uniforms are going to change your lives so much! Wish we all still wore them on days…
    Love, Grammy

  3. Mrs. Whipple

    Nothing like the childhood friends that last forever, ahh the memories we are making. Wishing you all lots of joyful school days.

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