Sunday, April 10, 2011

Saturday in Santa Cruz

Yesterday was a fun, full, exhausting day.

But fun. Mostly fun.

We got up relatively early (for a Saturday), and waited for Toni and her kids to arrive. We were going to convoy down to Santa Cruz, and maybe do a kid-exchange in the cars. Toni and the kids showed up early, and of course I wasn't ready (thinking "oh, we've got plenty of time for me to do this One. Last. Thing"), but we still got going at an early hour, and were in Santa Cruz before 10. Way early enough to get a prime parking spot in the boardwalk parking lot

The Beach Boardwalk doesn't even open until 11, so we had plenty of time to go to the Beach Street Cafe for French Toast. Heh. Remy couldn't figure out why it was FRENCH toast, but he was game to try it.

While we were waiting for the ticket booth to open, I sent Remy and Kelly down to the beach, so Remy could dip his toe (or his finger, depending on how adventurous he was) into the Pacific Ocean.

And then it was time for the rides to open.

We were the first ones on the Bumper Cars.

And then we were the first ones on the carousel!

After two trips around the carousel, we decided to hit the Giant Dipper (The 6th oldest roller coaster in the USA) before the lines got too long. Remy had never gone on a roller coaster. I hoped his French Toast wouldn't suffer the consequences...

(I made this big so you can see his face. He looks terrified and exhilarated all at once) Nate, on the other hand, just looks terrified and concerned.

Anyways. It was a big success.

The seaswings were a nice way to cool down after all that excitement...

And then time for some more tummy churning.

Cole took great care of Nate.

Churn the tummy!

And then take it easy in Ghost-Blasters.

Churn the tummy in Cyclone!

Cool off a bit in space blaster bumper cars...

churn things up in the Hurricane...

Please, can we stop for a bit now?

of course. Let's go walk out the pier.

Where an enormous sea lion came sauntering by to say hello to our French Guest.

The wind was ferocious and cold, but it sure was pretty.

When offered a choice between coffee and Coke, Remy voted with the kids.

He was captivated by all the typical American vehicles, and of course we had to take his photo beside the viper.

The wind died down (FINALLY!) when we got back to the beach.

But the water was still frigid.

One more time on the bumper cars!

Do I really want to do this????

Point of no return...

(even Frenchmen can scream like a girl, apparently...)

And the boys saved the best for last, so they said. After a long wait, they were finally on the FireBall!

Yup. They're on there.

It was not very hot, but the sun was intense, and the wind was relentless, so I was pretty much done by 4. We decided to get an early supper. Off to Pleasure Pizza (run by a former Google Chef) in southern Santa Cruz.

And then a quick stop at the beach on the way home.

(it was very windy!)


And playing in the waves.

The (exhausted) children were pretty quiet on the way home, but still found time to rock out before bed.

It was a good day.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Today with Remy

Today was Remy's first day of 'school' in California.

He and Skip had to get to the High School early in the morning (740), so Remy could get a visitor badge and lanyard, and then he went with Skip to his first two classes of the day. We're doing standardized testing this week and next, so there is an odd schedule, and lunch went from 11 to 12. I showed up at school at 1145 to get Remy, as Skip's entire afternoon was going to be an exam.

I will confess that hosting an exchange student is rather exhausting at the beginning. Mentally exhausting, rather than physically. I feel like I have to formulate everything that I say into short, direct present-tense non-complicated sentences and questions. And that is difficult for me, because i usually pepper my conversation with obscure words and non-standard idioms. Remy is still getting his feet under him, so he's a lot of listening, and not a lot of speaking. I'm happy to let the silence hang in the air, but I don't want it to get awkward.

So I thought that a good way to spend some time would be to go to Starbucks, and have our patsor/barrista take care of him for a while. Whoopsie. It was a slow day at Starbucks, and he had gone home early. So I took him home, and did a very, very bad thing. I let him go online and check his facebook. We're not supposed to be allowing internet access to our students because it causes them to revert to French Thinking, but I was just kind of tired, I needed 15 minutes, and he just seemed so very, VERY happy to be checking in with his mom online. Maybe this can just be our little secret, ok?

Then I stuck him back in the car, and we headed off to Nate's school.

Nate was so proud to show Remy around!

But then it was time for him to go back to play, and we were off to Kelly's school.

Kelly was suddenly the most popular girl on campus, as all her classmates suddenly had to talk to her about something pressing... oh, Kelly I have a question... and WHO IS THIS that is walking around campus with you???? I love how very transparent 12 year old girls can be.

Then it was time to go grab Skip from the end of his exam, and we went back to Kelly's school, so Remy could peek in on a class or two.

But first... let's scare Remy's mother!

Kelly was catching up on a science experiment that she had missed yesterday:

And then Skip spotted his old guitar/social-studies teacher, who invited him to join the guitar class for a few numbers.

We picked up Skip's buddy Cole (who was coming over for supper), and I dropped the boys off at the house.

And then I went and grabbed Kelly, and we went off (back) to the high school to watch her friends compete in the district track meet.

We had Toni and Ken (and Carrie and Cole) over for supper to meet Remy (Carrie has quite the crush on Remy. As do all of Kelly's friends, I think), and then we played in the back yard.

I sent these photos to Remy's mother. I hope she trusts that we're taking good care of her son.

We decided this was one of the best photos of the night. Doesn't it look like Kelly has drawn a dragon in the air?

Remy had a good time playing with fire.

And now we are shutting down for the night because we are heading to Santa Cruz in the morning.

Roller coasters, here we come!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

It's how the French do things...

Well, our lovely French student is getting ready for bed. It's nearly 6am tomorrow, his time. I think he has performed admirably, for being completely turned around on time, and experiencing culture shock (not to mention the stress of having two uncontrollably-giggly girls sitting in the van behind him, making even ME uncomfortable.)

Aside... I am beginning to realize why I don't write much these days. I just get uneasy when I read blogs of these folks who do a zillion and seventy things, and then give themselves praise by doing the "Humble Brag" (thank you, NCIS:LA for finally putting a name to that in my brain). And when I've sat down to write something, I think "If I write this, does it sound like the humble brag?" and it usually does. I don't come here to write about the bird poo that's piling up on the floor under Jewel's cage, or the fact that we could film an episode of Hoarders in my garage... I'm coming here to document one of those "I can't believe I did ALL THIS in one day!" sorts of things. Ick. I wouldn't want to read me.

But here's my new year's resolution (again). I'll just write. And maybe I might drop in the humble brag or two, but it'll be tempered by the photo of my kid picking his nose, or something.

So, anyways... our Exchange Student.

Today was one of those days that you hope will work like clockwork.

Skip is writing exams at high school. Exams ended shortly after noon. Kelly had an in-school concert for a local old folks' home. Nate's class was due to do the Math Games with me at 1030, I had ice cream to sell at lunch, then get Kelly, swing by and get Nate, grab Skip, and then Remy arrived on the 1250 flight from Paris.

Except that I got a call last night from the choral director at Middle School "Are you going to be at the in-school concert for our elderly guests tomorrow? Would you be available to play piano for the choir? Um, and we'd like to sing this one song that we've never sung all the way through, is that OK?" So while I was laundering what felt like every last piece of clothing (and bedding) in the house, I was going over American Folk Tunes. And re-arranging my schedule.

So this morning looked a bit more like this: Take Nate and Kelly to the corner half-way between their schools and dump them out of the car. Race back to the house to do one last load of laundry. Vacuum the hall (again - just in case my extensive collection of vintage dust triggered an asthma attack). Run the dishwasher. Clean the sink. Wash the counters (because 14 year old French boys (with jet lag) will care if there is a sticky film on a corner of an unseen counter?) Play several rounds of Feevo on Facebook (I am weak!). Gather up camera gear. Run (late) to my Moms in Touch meeting. Leave meeting early, so I can get to the Middle School. Help elderly folks find their seats at the school during the instrument warm-up session. During the orchestra portion of the concert, have a panic attack, and run off to the choir room to go over the song ten more times. Come back to the concert to see Kelly setting up the piccolo. She'll have a solo. Photograph the concert. Watch as the choir comes in. Make eye contact with the choral director, who now has that hunted look when he finally says "They took a vote. They won't sing the song you practiced". He thought I would be upset? I was happy. There were 8 bars that i was absolutely dreading. After Kelly's portion of the concert, I felt the walls starting to close in, and I thought "Screw it! I'm not cutting things close. I'm going home!" and I pulled Kelly early (she was thrilled), and we went home so I could charge my camera battery (down to 5% charge? That would never last through the airport!). I flipped the laundry while Kelly cleaned up her bathroom. We put away laundry, and had a snack, and then we went to get Nate from his school. I totally blew off selling ice cream at Middle School, and suddenly I was free! We even had enough time to pick up some groceries at the little market near the high school while we were waiting for Skip.

Then, yippee skippy! We were off to the airport. I'd found out that the flight from Paris was delayed a bit, so we weren't even feeling rushed.

Of course, once we got to the airport, the kids started getting restless. "Is he here yet? Is he here yet? Where is Remy? Why isn't he here yet?"


(camera phone, so I could email Remy's mother to let her know we were at the airport)

And then, barely a half hour later (but that would be six hours later in 'Is he here yet?' years, I suppose) we saw him on the closed-circuit TV. Those shots are on the camera, still, but I do have the next photo that I sent to Remy's mother with the title "Now we will go play!"

A funny story, and then I must go:

Remy comes out of the secured area, and Skip is holding up the sign. You can tell that Remy is relieved to see us, and he bee-lines for us. I try to make him feel welcome, so I do the motherly thing, and give him a big hug, and do the very French kiss-on-both-cheeks thing.

Then I introduce the kids. "This is Skip..." and the boys shake hands. "This is Nate..." and Remy shakes Nate's hand. "This is Kelly..." and Kelly holds out her hand to shake it, and Remy moves in and does the Very French kiss-on-both-cheeks thing.

I wish I'd had the presence of mind to snap a few photos, because her face was PRICELESS! She was totally not expecting it, and she just froze. And then she looked at me in horror. As Skip and Remy went off towards the parkade, she said "Did you KNOW that would happen?????" And I nodded. "It's French, honey. That's how they greet people".

"But mom~! If you'd KNOWN... YOU SHOULD HAVE WARNED ME!"

Priceless, I say.

Now I'm going to get all the photos off of my camera, and put together a "First Day in California" album for Remy's mom.