Aug 212012
Me, makin” in through the day.

Still hot.  Still still.  Still muggy.  David gets to spend each day in an over-cooled computer-friendly office.  The rest of us?  Not so much.  We are getting frayed and fried around the edges.  Also, perpetually damp.

Sunday we went to a movie in search of someplace cool.  The actual theater was conditioned.  But, for some reason they opened up all the doors to the lobby.  So, as soon as you walked out of the theater, it was like playing that game where you jump from a cool swimming pool into a jacuzzi and back. Only, since it cost about $60 for the 4 of us to see a film, there is no “back”.

Monday, we just laid low and tried to ride it out.  But, today I decided we needed to do something.  David had a work event that would take him late into the evening.  And, I figured it might be fun to get some French ingredients to liven up my cooking options!  Plus, with school fast approaching, we really need to check off the school supply list.  So, we made the trek back out to Cora.

The good: It was open!  We could see from the freeway that there were cars in the parking lot, so that was a positive sign off the bat.  Inside, it is in fact like a huge Target/Walmart/K-Mart, only done more French.  So, there are inexpensive clothes, school supplies,  video games, electronics, household goods, etc.  And there is also a supermarket- complete with a butcher, a baker, and a fishmonger.  I suspect there was a cheese person in there somewhere but I never found them.  That would be because of:

The bad: Both kids spent the day completely losing their sh*t.  And, by the end, I was ready to lose mine as well.  I don’t talk a lot about it here, but life with DD and DS can be intense.  They are both ‘twice exceptional’, (2e), which means they have some amazing strengths in the form of creativity, intelligence, drive, energy  etc.  But, they have some unusual challenges, too.  DD falls to the Aspie side of things, tight, controlling, inflexible, hypersensitive to stimuli (too much sensory info overloads her) and always struggling with OCD tendencies.  DS is in the ADD/Absent-minded-professor tradition of wunderkind, with some serious emo intensity thrown in (especially with all the preteen hormones in the mix right now). 

We have been at this family thing for a good 15 years now, so just like any other family, we have figured out methods of handling most day to day activities that work well for us.  And, usually, they do work passably well.  But, then there are the days when they don’t. 

On the way over, I could tell things were already a little bumpy.  DD & DS were bickering in the car.  He was reactionary, she was pushing his buttons, I was putting my foot down. 

DS has been having some mild panic attacks about attending school in France and learning French.  He just spent the entire year learning German, and now he is rather aghast that he must learn a whole new language on top of it.  Understandable- but he chose this path.  We gave him the option of staying in German school, weighed out pros and cons, and he decided on Hogwarts.  We have been taking French slow and with humor.  But, sometimes he does the Deer In the Headlights thing and we just have to push him past.  That was the first issue of the day.  He was panicky in the car, thin-skinned and looking for a fight.  When I made it clear that wasn’t going over, he withdrew.  At the store, he just chose not to participate while DD and I read down the long, complicated French list of all the different supplies they need. 

Now, you may think that you have quite the back to school list in the states.  But, I have never encountered anything like what we get here at Hogwarts.  I counted.  DS’s list had 87 separate items on it.  9 different kinds of paper (large square, small square, graphing, lined, blank, tracing and rough- note french use the squared paper for writing; plus two weights of art paper), several different sizes of notebooks, 4 ring binders (not three), dividers, plastic sleeves, a very specific list of pens (fountain, ball point in various colors and fine tip), ink, pencils (3 hardnesses, for drawing not writing!), dictionaries, rulers, calculator, erasers, sharpeners, correction pens, colored pencils, paints, brushes, glue, PE clothes & shoes, badminton rackets, ping-pong paddles, etc etc.  Here is a picture of what we have bought so far.  I think we have about 15-20 items left to go.

You Wussy Americans think you have to deal with school supplies? BWAHAHAHAHAHAH
I count EIGHTY-SEVEN required items for DS this year.  DD has a similar number, but some can continue
from last year- and a couple items can get handed down from DD to DS.

Needless to say, finding all of this in the row upon row of similar looking items all labeled in French is a challenge that takes focus.  Focus, is what someone like DS finds difficult to provide- especially in a distracting environment when he has a mental block about the language being spoken.  So, yeah.  He, was less than helpful. 

When we had just about given up on finding the last few items, we headed out the check the rest of the store.  That is when we discovered that they had about 6 more rows of school supplies set up in a huge Back to School display in a different section.  That area was completely crowded and intimidating.  But, since we hadn’t found a few things, we waded in.

This was a bad idea.  Remember, DS has trouble with focus and emo.  DD hates dirt, sensory overload, and too much exposure to people.  After 5 minutes with the hustle and bustle she was ready to leave.  And we had not found anything useful that we hadn’t seen already.

At this point I should have said “OK, let’s go.  We know where it is now, and I can come back.”

But, dang it, I had wants, too.  By my tally between our failed Cora attempt last week and this one, I had driven 2 hours and 15 minutes just to check out this store.  I wanted to check it out!  Maybe they would have Cheerios, or real vanilla, or powdery powdered sugar!  Or maybe they would just have some cool French pastries or ingredients that I would think were fun.  And, maybe there were cheap clothes that would fit me!

But, DD was REALLY done.  I told her I needed 15 minutes.  She thought that was too much.  I asked her if she could go wait outside.  Nope.  From then on out I got a constant stream of DD intensely lecturing me about the need to leave NOW.  There was foot stomping.  There was a raised, inappropriate voice.  There were lost privileges.  But, it didn’t matter.  She needed to leave. 

I just needed not to.

In the end, I made a very truncated and uncomfortable shopping run of about 10 minutes.  I grabbed an artichoke, vanilla, chocolate chips and sugar.  And DS got 2 packs of noodles.  That was it.  I might ordinarily have been mortified, but I have been through this enough times that this particular outburst just didn’t hit that button for some reason.  It was an issue to work through, and I hadn’t found the right solution.

Walking back to the car, DD was already starting to relax.  But, I was still pretty ticked.  We unloaded the cart into the trunk and I went to return it.  Carts in France, as in Germany, have a coin locking mechanism.  You put a Euro in, and it pushes out a lock that chains the cart to the next one.  When you re-insert the lock, the euro pops back out.  I was so frazzled that I clicked the lock wrong and pinched my finger!  Ouch!

Back in the car I realized that I felt scungy after digging through the store for so long looking at all the school supplies.  So, I pulled out a sample of hand gel that the pharmacy had given me a while back.  I ripped open the foil pouch and squeezed it onto my hands.  Odd.  It was thick.  I started to rub it in… It didn’t evaporate.  Uh-oh.

I checked the pouch again.  Douche Gel.  It was shower gel!!!  DOH!!

Both kids scurried around getting me napkins and partially emptied water bottle from stashes around the car.  Mineral water proved the best because the fizz helped wash away the sticky soap.  We all giggled over douche puns, and the ridiculousness of it all.  Laughing helped.

DD and I talked it through on the way home.  She had done the right thing in letting me know where her limits were, but, it was unfair to expect me to always give up my own priorities for hers.  Next time, should something like this come up, we decided that maybe letting her sit in the car with the AC running would be the way to go.

Back home the heat had let up only a little.  We discovered the degus had actually emptied their entire water container!  We will get a larger one tomorrow.  DD and DS worked nicely together to sort out all the supplies and identify what we are still missing.  No one pissed or raised their hackles.  We had exhausted our surlies for the day.

David didn’t get home until after 9.  He had wild stories of German and Dutch bloggers and hackers coming to BFG (Black Forest Games) for a BBQ.  He signed a historic keyboard and chatted with people about how American it was for us to just up and move to Germany. 

Fair enough. I guess we are still pretty American.  And we are still, clearly, our own flawed and foibled selves.  But, we are making progress!  David Sedaris has a line that we read and laughed heartily about last night.  It talks about Sedaris’ graduation from having the language skills of a mad baby when he first arrived in France, to having those of a hillbilly some time later.  “Is thems there some chocolate?” he might say after his progression.  And, we giggle because we are simultaneously at both stages.  I am still the mad baby in German.  “I want that!” I can point and get the idea across, but it is pretty bare bones.  In French, I am the hillbilly, with bad conjugations and completely mismatched article agreements.  And David is the opposite.  Maybe someday we, like Mr. Sedaris, will learn to talk pretty- and navigate all the inroads of European society with aplomb.  But, really, why should I think that?  It isn’t like aplomb was the hallmark of our US existences!   Perhaps we will just learn to talk pretty and be ourselves.  That is probably the goal worth pursuing.

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