Sep 252011

And apparently people have noticed.  Honestly, it has been a thick week to process, though not an easy one to write about in an interesting fashion.  But, hey, I am game if you are!

When last we left our merry band, DD had been doing well at Hogwarts, but was a bit overwhelmed with the Language aspect, and DS had struggled through his first week at Durmstrang, finding a few friendlies along the way.  DH and I were fretting over transportation issues.  And the weather was just starting to get an autumnal edge to it.

So lets get caught up!


DH finally managed to track down a local driving school that can speak a bit of English and get us set up for our Driver’s licenses.  We went and talked with the pleasantly flustered gentleman who runs the school and he took down all our info and researched things for us.  He mostly spoke in German, but was able to understand me when I did not.  We spent a busy morning attending to some of the hoop-jumping that is necessary.  We got our photos taken, our eyes tested (I passed, but it is clear that I need new glasses!) and we found a place that will translate our CA DL’s for us and got that process started.  We also got signed up for our First Response Safety class (what to do if you happen upon an accident).  Unfortunately, it is in German, but it is hoped that if I take it with David we will be able to muddle through.  Other than that all we need is to take the written test, take a couple actual driving in a car classes to make sure we have all the weird little things down pat, then take our actual driving exams and, knock wood, we should be in.

The other issue, of course, is finding a second car.  David has been researching, writing and calling a bunch of private sellers, but so far there are a lot fewer options this time around than last time.  And, the places he has managed to get ahold of have all already sold the vehicles.  So, we forge on.  I really want to get this dealt with ASAP.  Our life is complicated enough without adding hours of train rides and weather issues to the mix every day.  Also, last week I got a migraine for 2 days, which meant I was not able to drive.  But, I still had to drive up to David’s work in order to get him the car so he could pick up kids.  Would be safer if he already had a car there with which to make the runs.  Most of the cars in our price range are very much like the one we already have.  Small, hatchback, practical without much personality.  But, we did find one very cool car in the mix.  It isn’t really practical because it has terrible gas mileage, but I am sort of in love anyways.  It is a black, Fiat Stilo Abarth.  David’s dad used to collect Abarths, so it caught our eye immediately.  Creamy beige leather interior.  And the weirdest dang sunroof I have ever seen.  It sort of fans back, creating what looks like a series of spoilers across the top of the car.  Also, it is an automatic so I could even drive it!

I cant find an image that shows the sunroof correctly.  The rear section is like 5 layers and looks seriously bizarre.

Unfortunately, the gas mileage makes it pretty much a no go, but, sigh, a gal can dream! 


By the end of the first week, DS’s school had hired a tutor to teach him German during the other students’ English classes.  They had also set him up with an after school tutoring program where older students help the younger ones.  By the end of the second week, they called us again.  This time they had set up a second tutor to come in and teach DS during the after school programs.  But, this one we would have to pay for.  A quick email to the Grandmas and we got a tutoring sponsor (Thanks Great-Grandma Connie!).  So, now DS will have about 6 hours per week of one on one German lessons.  I was supposed to go in on Friday and meet with the new tutor, but somehow the info got confused.  DS and I wandered the school for a while before ending up in the Headmistress’s office.  She confirmed with me that we were interested in getting it all set up, and will meet with DS and the new tutor after school Monday to make sure it is all flowing correctly.

Honestly, DS is still having the most trouble adjusting.  He mostly likes having other kids to hang with.  But, he is definitely still stressed a lot of the time.  Last weekend he had a major tantrum and David opted to take him running as a response.  They ran for the better part of 3 hours.  David was SORE for the next 3 days! But, it seemed like a positive way to get some of that crud out of DS’s system in a healthy way.

Friday was another rough day for DS.  This time he didn’t have a tantrum, but some kids at school discovered that he didn’t like the nude pictures in the text book, so spent time shoving them in DS’s face.  He, unfortunately, responded emotionally.  I fear that temperament-wise, DS is not very German, and this may prove a challenge for him going forward.


In the mean time, DD reported having a few clashes with one particular teacher at Hogwarts.  Given that she has between 11-12 teachers (one is stepping in temporarily for some extra French tutoring), the fact that there is only one with whom she seems to have had personality conflicts is hugely encouraging.  But, she requested that we help her in finding healthy ways of communicating with this teacher.  So, we started by writing a note to request a meeting. Coincidentally (or not?) that same evening is scheduled a “Parent Teacher Meeting”.  This turns out to be Hogwarts’ version of …

Back to School Night

The meeting is scheduled from 6-8.  We show up a few minutes early and make our way into the room designated.  It is in the new building in the middle of the campus.  Simple white and blue desks and relatively human-sized chairs allow parents to sit in semi-comfortable ease.  There are about 8 parents there when we arrive, and about double that trickle in over the course of the next few minutes.  It is an interesting group as we are about to discover.  We sit several rows back in the middle of the room.

A tall, attractive, slightly-greying, unadorned, formidable woman with a low voice and an American accent greets us.  She has intelligent eyes, a confident, self-deprecating, slightly sarcastic edge to her, and a pleasantly straight-forward communication-style.  I like her right away.  This is Ms. Lustig, DD’s homeroom and science teacher. She greets each parent, explaining her issues with face-blindness (though she never used the term) and asks them to identify their children and introduce, or re-introduce themselves to her.  Her banter goes something like this:
“And you are whose parents?  Ah of course!  Wonderful.  And, I am sure you have your own actual identity.  You aren’t just ‘Fred’s Dad'”

A somewhat scraggly, tall gentleman with a twinkle in his eye comes in and sits at the back.  He introduces himself as being the father of one of DD’s friendlies.  Ms. Lustig does her usual spiel.
“And I am sure you are not known as just ‘Sebastian’s father’!”
“No.” He replies with a mischievous smile.
“You have your own name and Identity, I presume?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Which is?”
“Different than my son’s”

By now I am rolling with laughter.  Ms. Lustig wisely moves on.  She explains that since this is the 3rd year class, many parents already know the drill and don’t opt to show up.  Her implication is borne out as more lost parents looking for the 2nd year meeting wander through than the total contents of our room.

One by one 11 of the 12 teachers DD has this semester come in to introduce themselves and describe their classes.  Most parents behave as one would expect in such circumstances.  They nod politely, chuckle politely, and, perhaps, ask an occasional polite question.  But, there are exceptions.

The first teacher to emerge is actually the one with whom DD was having issues.  Ms. Gardiner is youngish, blond, and has a bit of an unplaceable accent.  She is also new.  The energy in the room immediately changes as the parents realize who she is.  “We’ve heard about you!” states one parent, bluntly.  “Oh, what have you heard?” The parents now begin reciting various things their children have been reprimanded for in class.  They aren’t hostile, but there is just a little icy edge to the banter.  They think Ms. Gadiner has been too harsh, and while they are not yet ready to confront her on it,  they are letting her know they are watching.  She tells one family that the reason she doesn’t allow the kids to sit with their feet crossed under their chairs is because she worries about their ‘poor backs’.  The father, a rather brusk, stocky red-headed American explains that the kids are used to gymnastics.  I am not sure what that has to do with it, but maybe they need to cross legs there? Ms. Gardiner says that she told the kids that if they had a note from home, they could sit as their parents said they needed to.  The father replies “You will have a letter tomorrow”.  Ms. Gardiner beats a hasty retreat.  We were among the friendliest gazes in the room.

The other teachers begin to file in.  Ms. Sungalee is a petite dark-skinned Indian woman with a thick accent.  She explains that Maths are getting serious this year and she will be upping the pressure.  She comes off a little humorless, and DH gives her a skewed look.  I whisper that DD loves her because she lets her play with the math, so he relaxes his glance.

Mr. Chevalier and Ms. Rapini are the French Teachers.  He is high-strung and animated, she is brash and domineering.  They explain that they are concentrating more on writing this year but that there are 5 students who are new to French (DD is one).  So, they are doing catch up classes.  They urge that the students must work hard, but stay relaxed, which is tricky.  I can’t imagine either one putting kids at their ease!

The technology teacher is a younger gentleman who doesn’t have too much to tell us.  He says that the group is mixed with English and French, so he teaches primarily in French, but helps with English as needed.  This is when we get our first glimpse of another of the true characters in the room.  A father sitting in the back introduces himself and his wife.  He is swarthy, thick, with tight curly hair and is dressed in a suit with no tie.  And, she looks a bit like a stereotypical Jersey Shore Matron- big hair, too much make-up and sausage-tight clothes with bold prints.  Dad then begins a long, thickly accented (Spanish?  Italian?) speech about how his daughter works on the computer but does not organize her work properly in folders.  He rather dogmatically demands to know whether this is not included in the curriculum.  The poor Tech teacher is taken by surprise.  He manages to stammer that filing really isn’t part of the curriculum, but that he will cover it.  Dad blusters and repeats himself several times, but they get through it and Tech Teacher escapes.

Music Teacher is mellow with a nose ring and poor English skills.  Art teacher is oddly defensive about the idea that the students MUST bring all their supplies each and every class.  German Teacher is mellow but doesn’t speak much English, which annoys one of the French father’s who doesn’t have any German skills.

Around this point the academic headmaster arrives with an older teacher in tow.  He explains that they are considering arranging a week-long ski trip for our students, but that last year there was a lot of discussion about other options, so he wanted to make sure everyone was on board before going ahead with all the work of doing the planning and such.  It takes a while for the parents to warm into the discussion, but in the end almost everyone thinks it is a great idea.  One French mother does raise her hand and declares “I would be opposed to such a trip”  The brusk red-headed father demands “Why?” “I am generally not in favor of fieldtrips” she explains.  Everyone looks surprised, but accepting of her personal preference.  She is the only one opposed, though, so planning will go forward.

Then the PE teacher arrives.  Her English isn’t great, but she does get the point across that everyone needs to have dedicated gym shoes.  She also discusses some sort of extra-curricular sports program that they have during lunch and after school.  There are some forms that we need to fill out if we want our students to participate, including a health form that must be signed by a doctor.  The father who wants his daughter to file things properly on the computer has a major issue with the forms.  He wants to be able to just sign something that says he takes responsibility for his daughter instead of having to get a doctor’s signature.  He is aghast that they would have to visit a doctor and finds this a major inconvenience.  The PE teacher muddles through the conversation for a while before Ms. Lustig jumps in to her rescue.  She firmly and clearly explains that while it would be more convenient if he could do it his way, this is a government rule having to do with insurance and they have no choice.  He persists for a while, but she is skillful in de-escalating his increasingly strident objections.  He eventually gives it one last “It would be better if” and then lets the conversation move ahead.  PE Teacher escapes.  

Did I miss anyone?  If so, they were a bit of a blur.  The Human Sciences (Social Studies) teacher is the only no-show.  Though, come to think of it the Ethics teacher walked through but never talked with us.  Toward the end a mom who arrived late turns to us and asks if the English teacher had been there already.  She expresses disappointment at having missed her opportunity to see her.  Ms. Gardiner already appears to have quite a rep.

I take the opportunity to stick around and grab some face time with Ms. Lustig.  I feel a bit guilty because they start to close the school down around us!  She walks us out, and we see her off on her bicycle.  But, she seems interested in hearing a bit about DD and seems to “get” what we are telling her.  I think that DD will have a lot in common with her, and discover that her degree is in The History of Science- which is a subject she taught at the university level in Texas back in the states.  I didn’t even know The History of Science was a thing.  Too cool.  She encourages me to talk more with Ms. Gardiner to get that situation cleared up, but I leave feeling encouraged.

Ms. Gardiner

DD stays home on Friday.  She is tired, cranky, a little stuffed-up and probably has PMS.  She could have forced herself through the day, but we have learned that about 1 Mental Health Day per month is pretty much necessary to keep her life manageable, so we agree that this one can be it. As a result, I am able to drop DS off with her at home after I pick him up from school before my meeting, simplifying dynamics.  So, yay.  He was a crabby mess anyways, so a bit more time away from humans is probably for the best.

In any case, my meeting with Ms. Gardiner is actually pretty universally positive.  She is a Californian who was raised in France.  She is new at the school and having issues with DD’s class because they are chatty, and more issues with another class because they are downright mean to each other.  DD, however, isn’t chatty and does her work as requested and is not mean to anyone.  DD did tell Ms. Gardiner that she is a “Control Freak” which she wasn’t sure how to parse, but she seems willing to let it go.  I describe DD’s strengths and challenges and some of her past issues and she seems quite amenable to trying to accommodate DD’s uniqueness.  I get the impression Ms. Lustig has also already given her the heads up.  And, before I left for the meeting, DD told me that she and Ms. Gardiner have been getting along better already.  So, knock wood, let’s hope this is the last one of these that we need to have for a while! 


On a completely separate topic, last weekend our friend Bernard came in to Liestal, Switzerland on a business trip.  So, we toodled on down to say howdy.  Unfortunately, it was Sunday- which isn’t a great day for a visit in Europe since, you know, NOTHING IS OPEN.  But, we managed to find things to do, anyways.  Those of you who follow me on Facebook will have already seen most of these.  But, for everyone else, here are a few pictures of our visit to Liestal:

Bernard was staying at the Hotel Engel (angel)- these ladies guard the entrance way

DS and DD checking out the art

DH reading the quotes

More playing with the angels
We did discover that the town museum was open.  This was an eclectic collection of textiles, family histories, and space Stuff.  The lobby had a nice working loom.
Both kids enjoyed it.
Trying out astronaut balance trainers

DH braved the challenge

Third floor- family histories.  You could read quotes on the wall, then find electronic picture frames and audio files to correspond

lots of places to kick back and listen/look
A jacquard punch card machine- pre computer

DS wanted to program it

Pretty textiles
Silk worm cocoons
Black Lit Astronaut

DS and Black Light

Everyone comparing black light

Top floor was all about watching lit star charts as if they were the night sky
This was an interesting set up near the hotel

Lots of hunting shops in town.  The box is a “game processor”.  We were geekily amused by this.

the fountain reads “Nancy”.  Interestingly, the statue does not look like a Nancy

St. George and the dragon above… no clue who the guys below are, though

weird art outside the church

weird art inside the church…. The leaf on that stained glass seriously looks like cannabis.

cat in the churchyard

very friendly
This used book store was not only open, but had English Language books.

gardenplatz near the train station

the smallest violin in the world playing just for you

wait, this one is smaller!

small recorder to accompany

Swiss Army Knives now have USB

Obligatory town snake art

  2 Responses to “Ok, so I am a little behind”

  1. as far as the Nancy fountain – it says Nancy 1477, so it is probably referring to the Battle of Nancy (France), at which the Swiss mercenaries proved the deciding factor in a battle between Charles, the Duke of Burgundy, and Rene, the Duke of Lorraine. (Nancy is in Lorraine, which sounds amusing to Americans 😉 In fact, a Swiss mercenary was credited with killing Charles, throwing the Burgundian forces into disarray.

  2. Grin. Yeah, yeah. I had a suspicion there might be some historic reference going on, there ;-P

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