Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dragon Smoke

So, there we were, waiting at a traffic light when L (who is 4 years old) declares that he really wants to breath dragon smoke. "What's that dear?" I ask absently. "I want one of those sticks, with fire at one end, where you breathe in the dragon smoke and then breathe out the dragon smoke" he replies. "WHAT?!?!?!" Yes, my four-year old just asked if he could start smoking! Okay, so not in so many words but that is the essence of the request. I don't smoke. C (my husband) does not smoke. None of our friends smoke. This is from pure, innocent observation of the THOUSANDS of Genevois who smoke "like it is a cure for cancer" as C says. Starting July 1, 2008, smoking in public places, ie restaurants, is banned in Geneva. Alas, since we do not frequent restaurants (too expensive, and the kids are too picky to eat anything anyway), the smoking on the street is what they have been exposed to and that will not change. Is it a surprise then that Philip Morris is building one of the biggest day cares in Switzerland? Ok, so the day care is meant mainly for their own employees, 10-15% of the places are reserved for neighbourhood residents. Later on L grabbed my hand and pointed at a woman holding a cigarette. "See mommy, see the white and yellow stick, that is what I want". *photo by ArtWerk

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Football, Party, Football, Castle, Cheese, and Chocolate....aka our weekend

So, after writing a veritable book about our adventures in England, we had another weekend full of activities to be describe. Our regular Friday night social gathering included an outing to the Geneva FanZone to watch the Netherlands pound the French. I was wearing a nice bright orange t-shirt (the Dutch team colour) and it was a very exciting match. The next morning C left to pick up our good friend "TruroM" from the airport. L, M, and I (that's kind of funny) went to the fête du fin de l'année for the Mille Pattes kids (end of year preschool party). L and M were a little unsure about joining in the games and were a little clingy. It wasn't just our boys though, since their "girlfriend" and her older sister were also clinging to their mother's legs. After a while, a children's entertainer began a performance of "Blanche Neige" (Snow White). I'm still unsure what the French version of all the 7 dwarfs were, but it was pretty educational for me. The boys didn't really seem to follow the French very well, all the better since I think describing strangling your step-daughter in the woods and tearing out her lungs and liver is a story best not told by a stranger with props. They certainly enjoyed much of the physical humour, but I do believe some of the less pleasant undertones were conveyed well enough for them to be a little uncomfortable. After about half an hour L had reached his breaking point and started calling for me (the kids were on the front row benches, the parents were standing behind). L came to sit next to me on the grass and ask some questions about the plot...loudly, while I was desperately trying to keep an eye on M. M had no problem staying put for the rest of the performance. L is certainly more sensitive to such things than M, and L's level of comprehension of what he was watching was also likely higher. After the party we retired to our local park where girlfriend M and her family supplied water guns and hilarity ensued during a balmy 20oC afternoon. M was ready to fall asleep back at the party, so by the end of the park, the poor little guy was on his last legs. Thankfully we had TruroM at home and the boys got their second wind entertaining her. The next day we walked along the Geneva lakefront and gawked at the kerbillion Czech fans pouring into the city (they lost that night 2-3 to the Turks). It was quite a sight! The boys did fairly well with walking around for hours on Sunday after such a busy Saturday. C went off to watch the Swiss team win their last match at the FanZone while TruroM and I caught up. On Monday, I took a day off of work and we took the train back to Gruyères. We first went to the old town and through the castle. L was happy to go through as all the rooms were numbered to correspond to the guide book. We then went to the cheese factory for lunch, where the cafeteria is GREAT, it has a corner with a few toys for kids to play with. After having some of their favourite Gruyere cheese, they were off to play while we adults could finish in peace and even have a nice cup of coffee/tea afterwards. Then we were off to Broc and the Cailler/Nestle chocolate factory. The tour is FREE and self-guided. So we were able to race past all the informative exhibits and multi-sensory displays and head straight for the tasting room. All of us gorged on wonderful chocolate. The boys were literally dancing, spinning, jumping, and running with delight. Thankfully the few other visitors in the room found the boys as charming as their mother does. We caught the train back home after stocking up on some Iced Tea (there was no juice) and got back to Geneva. The boys were amazingly great all weekend. I think this means that we can start planning more day trips. TruroM left us to travel back to Halifax (business class, the poor dear) but not until we had likely infected her with our current version of cold virus.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


We arrived a little late in Rye. We decided perhaps it would be better to feed the kids and ourselves (McDonald's) once we had arrived at the airport, before starting the 2 hour train ride. The motel was 2 blocks from the train station and we were soon settled in. We walked around the town for an hour or so, finding the pub where the reception would be. We investigated one of the old Mortello towers on the south side of Rye, previously integral to the defense of this coastal town (the French raided it around 3 times during the 100 year war). We found a grocery store and got supplies for breakfast the next morning and the always important juice and snack supply. We found a restaurant displaying a "Kids welcome" sign out front and a menu that didn't seem too outrageously priced and had dinner. Or should I say that the kids alternated between asking to go to the bathroom and refusing to sit/eat/stop yelling while C and I tried to enjoy our meals. The only item on the kid's menu that looked at all like something the kids might eat was fish cakes. Basically like chicken nuggets, only one big patty instead of several nuggets, and fish instead of chicken. L tried it, declared it good, but refused to eat a second bite. M decided that the chips (fries) were too hot, while L objected to their wedge shape. Much crying and complaining ensued. To be fair, they had been traveling much of the day and it was now an hour past their normal bedtime. We scurried out of the restaurant with much embarrassment and retreated to the motel room. We flipped on the tv, played musical beds (it was a "family room" with 4 single beds, and of course both boys wanted the same one) and snuggled in. M fell asleep while we watched "Britain's got more Talent" (one of my guilty youtube indulgences), but L was captivated by the British talent show. He commented on the vocal abilities of some of the contestants. The next morning we were in search of A) where the wedding ceremony would be, B) a chemist (pharmacist) to get something for M's so-called chicken pox, C) gift wrap paper for the wedding gift, and D) a barber for C's rather long hair. We did a little more exploration of Rye and then got ready for the wedding. L decided that he HATED his "wedding clothes". There was a massive battle of wills to get him into his dress shirt and pants. Once we got out again, all was fine. The wedding was at the city hall and we were welcomed by the Town Crier. L was fascinated. Up in the room where the ceremony was to take place there were plenty of friendly adult faces for L to talk to and entertain, so he was fine. During the ceremony M started to get upset so I pulled out the emergency lollipops. Instead of a whining sound though, there was now a rather loud sucking sound and M is well known for his rapturous method of enjoying his treats. At the wedding reception the boys were full of energy running around the parking lot chasing each other. Eventually I convinced them to join the other kids, about 5 in total, all about the same age. Dinner again turned into a mix of bathroom breaks and tantrums. The kids wouldn't even eat dessert. M was so incredibly tired that he was beside himself with emotion. I was tired and beside myself with emotion that my poor baby was so upset. I took him outside several times and eventually took him upstairs to a room where shortly babysitters were to arrive, to see if he would sleep. After a few minutes, the sitters and all the other kids arrived....no sleeping! I left both boys watching a portable DVD player and was able to enjoy the wedding speeches. We had a good 45 minutes before M started to lose it again and I headed back to the motel room while C enjoyed the rest of the reception. It is odd, since it was my friend's wedding, but to be honest, I was tired and upset that my kids were upset, and C had apparently made some very good friends during the bachelor party in Amsterdam the previous weekend. The next day we took the train to Canterbury. We arrived just before lunch. Again I looked for a restaurant with a children's menu. The Foundry. We went inside. The children's menu, it turned out, is actually the same as the adult's menu, they would just give a half portion for half price. We ordered the kids a bowl each of chips (fries). It was then that we read that all the food was purchased locally. Cool, I like to support initiatives like that. Also, food was not prepared in advance, the food preparation would only begin after you ordered, so please be patient. Cool in theory, please be patient with two preschoolers who have been traveling all weekend? Not so cool. They did okay though, we convinced L that the cranberry juice was a special kind of grape juice since he was adamant that he NEEDED grape juice. M started to throw a major fit when the chips arrived and were still hot. I picked him up after the very first high pitched scream, said very firmly "That is not appropriate behaviour, you will NOT scream in a restaurant" and took him down the stairs and out the door and sat on a bench until he calmed down. I made sure he understood that if he were to scream again or get upset, we would be right back outside again. The rest of the lunch went great. I think L was even better since he saw that we meant business. We got to the hostel, dumped off the bags and then went to explore St. Augustine's abbey. All four of us got the personal audio guides. L was in 7th heaven, he loved programing in the different audio tracks, telling me which number he had finished and which number he was now listening to. We actually got to enjoy exploring the whole site until closing time. We then grabbed dinner at the evil McDonald's, but it was just so much easier when there was something that the kids will eat. We walked over to Canterbury cathedral and walked around the outside as it was past closing time for tours. We then explored an old Norman keep/castle. That was really cool. We got back to the hostel and fell asleep almost instantly. Well, the troupe of Russian kids playing in the backyard right outside our window kept me up for a while, but I was in a semi-conscious state of mind. The next morning we packed up our gear and headed back to the cathedral. We explored the inside this time and made it out with an hour and a half to spare before our train. We decided that it wasn't enough time to see the "Canterbury Tales" exhibit and instead caught an earlier train back to the airport. I paid an astronomical amount of money for 2 Thomas the tank engine sticker/activity books whilst L was screaming that he wanted a different present. In the end though the sticker books occupied the boys for most of the 90 minute flight back to Geneva. It was a busy, expensive trip, but it was fun to have done it. The wedding was beautiful and I was really happy to have been able to be there for my friend (even if we didn't really ever get to chat). WOW, this is a long post, but it WAS a pretty busy weekend!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Eat, Drink, and be Miserable

So this post isn't necessarily just about our trip to England, but pervades our day to day life as well. Meal time, specifically dinner time, is my most miserable time of the day. This didn't used to be the case. When I was single, I loved dinner time. It could be as fancy or as plain as I pleased. Then I got married. "What do you want for dinner tonight?" might just be the most loaded, anger-inducing question of my post-marital, pre-children life. Then I discovered a magical book which gave me weekly recipes and grocery lists on a 12-week cycle and while the food was rarely fancy or delicious, it answered the question "What do you want for dinner tonight?". But now the question is back. It is back for two reasons. The first reason is that we are living in Switzerland, where the normal grocery staples of North America do not exist. All those easy to use "just add cream of XXX soup" recipes are useless. The second reason is of course the kids. My son is a picky eater. He is usually pretty good at "trying" something new if we make a fuss about it, but even if he concedes that it tastes good, he still won't have a second bite....because it is new. There is no telling what old staple will suddenly be on the "no eat" list at any given moment. Aside from pepperoni sticks and chicken nuggets he will not eat any meat product. He doesn't like pizza, he doesn't like pasta no matter what kind of sauce I dream up to put on it. We've tried to accommodate by including at least something that we know he likes into each meal, as a side dish. That just got too complicated, and see the above "no eat" comment. So we decided to serve bread and butter with each meal and he can eat as much or as little as he likes of what is on the table and nothing else. I think I would be fine with this compromise if A) I was sure he was getting adequate nutrition during breakfast, lunch and snacks and B) if C didn't fly off the handle on an almost nightly basis about the "waste" of food. I think we all just need a little more time for the phase(s) to pass. Not too long ago L all of a sudden started eating carrot sticks. Only raw sticks, not cooked, even if glazed in butter and/or honey (I've tried just about everything). So I guess I need to find a European version of the "miracle book" and just keep plugging on trying to set a good example, hope for the best, and ignore unpleasant outbursts by my fellow diners. I'll get back to dinners in England in my next non-rant post, I promise.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The pox or not the pox, that is STILL the question

Okay dear reader(s?), we are safely back in the land of chocolate, cheese, and militarily backed neutrality. I will fill you in on the wedding, Rye, Canterbury, and all stops in between shortly. First off though is M's health. So, wouldn't you know, but we noticed some spots on M's beautiful little face while sitting at the departure gate. Chicken pox? Looked like it. Crap. We decided to be irresponsible and continue on to our flight. We had already passed several security checkpoints without anyone, including ourselves, noticing anything amiss. We got to Rye eventually and checked the boy over for spots. We found 9. There was no itching though. We went to a chemist (pharmacist) first thing the next day. She suggested a nice anti-itch cream but remained skeptical about these rather atypical spots. They were not filling with watery innards like they were supposed to. They never did. The itching also never popped up. The pattern and look of the spots are very pox-ish...but not very pox-ish at the same time. We decided to try to fly home again to Geneva. IF we were asked not to board the plane C and L would continue on and M and I would make our way back from Britain by other means (boat and/or train). No one ever said anything. We took him to the doctor today and SHE isn't sure if it is the pox or not. I've decided that if in 1 to 2 weeks L comes down with the pox, or something pox-like then M had it. If L is fine, then it was yet another weird and wacky rash that little boys cultivate. I don't need to bother with research. These boys keep me busy with mysteries all their own. Oh wait....I don't get paid to puzzle over them. More's the pity.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The pox or not the pox, that is the question

There have been 7 cases of the chicken pox so far at the jardin d'enfants that the boys go to. On Thursday afternoon both boys developed a fever. For 3 days I alternated between dosing them with ibuprofen and checking for spots. Then the rash erupted, but not the chicken pox rash, a different rash. It is similar to the rash M had a little over a year ago, the doctor said "Roseole" or something like that. Thing is that you are not supposed to get this rash twice. Prelude to the chicken pox? Roseole again? Some new rash? I wouldn't be concerned about it, but we are supposed to fly to England on Friday for a wedding. Of course we didn't buy travel insurance, that would have almost doubled the price of the tickets. If they develop the pox between now and Friday, there is no way they can fly. If they develop the pox while in England....well we will have to calculate whether to come back by boat or sit tight in England for a week. So right now I am crossing my fingers and obsessing over what to do, even though there is absolutely nothing to do but wait. Argh!