Thursday, 12 December 2019

Where'd 2019 go ?

It hasn't been a year yet. So that means my blog is not dead. Yet.

It's been a long few months full of navigating the CPAM, French health care and learning a lot about physical therapy.

I started 2019 laid up with a new hip (resurfacing actually). When I was 12, I got hit by a car. At the time, I remember a doctor saying to me "one day you'll have arthritis." As a 12 year old, "one day" means when you're really old...not 35 when my pain actually started. I was always athletic, started running track and field in high school, I ran cross country at college. And after college, running  was my solace. I ran a marathon, a dozen half marathons, running through two pregnancies...and then I started getting odd pains. I was in and out of physical therapy for years with various back and knee pains. But as they came and went, my mind kept going back to that doctor in 1987.

So in fall 2017, after various stints of not running, cutting back on activity, and constant low grade pain, I took matters into my own hands and went to see a rheumatologist. He sent me for a scan, confirmed I had some arthritis but that we could do cortisone injections and I'd be fine. He also said to stop running. After crying a little, he said well I could run if I could get through the pain.

The scan showed a more severe amount of damage to my hip than they suspected. I had a torn labrum, osteoarthritis and  a torn ligament. The cortisone injection was a flop because it made me feel WORSE. I went back to the rheumatologist, who by this point started understanding that  I wasn't just giving up. He sent me for 2 more injections neither of which had much benefit. By this point, there were days when I couldn't put on my own shoes, I was walking with a visible limp and the pain was waking me at night.

Before evening waiting for results for the second scan, I had an appointment with the hip surgeon. When I saw him in July 2018, I hadn't run in 7 months and couldn't walk for more than a few feet before my hip started to seize. He told me I was too  young for a total hip replacement and that I was too small for resurfacing. Due to a crazy law in France, resurfacing is only from a certain femur size in order to prevent inexperienced surgeons from doing the operation.

By now it was summer vacation and I had accepted that I would maybe never run again. But it was ok if I could still go for long power walks. One day, I came in from a 5k walk in the woods limping like never before. that's when my hip starting "sticking". I spent the next 3 weeks of vacation in excruciating pain. My husband was washing my feet. I couldn't sit cause my hip would stick. I couldn't stand because it hurt. And I couldn't sleep.

When I got home, I said that's it. I've lived a month in excruciating pain and I'm not doing this anymore. One sleepless night, I contacted a surgeon over the border in Belgium about hip resurfacing. Rereading that first email still makes me cry. Long story short, he confirmed I was the perfect candidate, the hip surgeon in France told me that going to Belgium for surgery was the best option for me, and so in November 2019 I was the owner of a newly resurfaced hip.

I've spent the last year learning to walk and run again (more about that running thing later). But mostly, fighting social security so they would pay for my surgery.

The biggest lesson I've learned this past year is about advocacy. If you do not advocate for yourself in France, and probably anywhere, no one else will. But what about the people who don't have the tools or the knowledge or the confidence to advocate for themselves? What do they do ?

So in this time of Thanksgiving, I have a whole bunch of people to thank starting with my friend Sean who first told me about resurfacing, my kids and husband for supporting me through all this , the surgeon at CHR (Prof. Migaud) for being honest with me, and also netflix for keeping me entertained during some very long days and nights....

Ideas for future blog posts :

  1. how to deal with the CPAM
  2. a brief lesson on resurfacing 
  3. learning to run again 
  4. and of course my kids and their little bilingual minds ! 

Monday, 7 January 2019

2019: a new beginning

It's been over a year since I've posted on my blog. It's not dead but maybe it should be.

This blog started as a way of venting about the French, living in France, and being an expat. It then turned into a way of documenting my kids' bilingual progress. That part, for me, was the most important part. Thanks to this blog, I'll be able to remember what my kids' first words were (without confusing them) and I'll be able to tell them what growing up bilingually was like so they can, hopefully, raise their own bilingual kids one day.

So, since I've decided this blog isn't dead, here's an update on what's happened the past year or so.

  • I got a new hip. I guess my blog could have been a really good resource for anyone else suffering from hip pain, about how to navigate the medical scene in France, about osteo-arthritis, about hip resurfacing. But I missed the boat. If you do come by this blog and do want to know anything about it, I can still let you know. Or maybe I'll post about hip resurfacing another time. Goals...

  • Brexit. Well that just sucks. And then the orange man sucks even more (or as my son calls him Dumb-old Trump). So yeah, you know my political views. So what ?

  • Suzanne: my daughter is 12 1/2 going on 18. I didn't know that teenage eye-rolling was universal but I can confirm that it is. The mood swings are terrible and the attitude. And my daughter is still nice, which means there are lots of kids who are so much worse than this. Suzanne is fully bilingual. She's in 5e (7th grade) at the international section at a local middle school here in Lille. I HATE the French education system with a passion. All she does is work. She's at school from 8am to 5pm. And when she comes home, she has homework. Everyone I speak to says the system is not set up for kids, that kids don't get a chance to be kids, but then why doesn't the system change. It's sometimes painful for me to see how much she has to do.  At 12 1/2, Suzanne is more bilingual that I ever could have imagined. She doesn't love reading (neither did I and now I can't live without books) but she devours mangas and graphic novels. She prefers speaking and reading in English, has a perfect little American accent and her language is peppered with lovely little teenage inflections (like OMG, obvi...!). She's an avid and talented artist. She's funny and sensitive, sweet and creative, and also a pain in the butt. Suzanne has never struggled with being bilingual. She's always thought it was cool, and she's seems to be perfectly balanced in French and English. She even says she prefers English which is reflected in her choice of friends. The advantage to the international section, besides the additional English work which to be honest is still extremely French, is that she has American and British friends. That's the absolute best way to learn English. Her english is so good to begin with thanks to our regular Wednesday play dates with her first friend, Matilda who no longer lives in Lille. I couldn't be prouder of her, even if sometimes I just want to tape her mouth shut. 
  • Max: my son is now 9 1/2 and in CM1 (4th grade). He's a geek and proud of it. Max is that dorky little boy who went from knowing everything about super heroes to legos and now is obsessed with Yu-Gi-Oh cards. When Max has nothing to do, besides complaining that he's bored over and over and over, he can be found building Yu-Gi-Oh holders out of cardboard boxes or building crazy lego vehicles.  Max's language is extremely precise in both French and English. The other day, he told me that he'd asked me "thrice", a word he'd leaned in a book. He continues to speak with an accent when he speaks English. It's not really a French accent but it's something. When he was little, he sounded almost German which we thought was due to over-pronunciation. Now we just attribute it to his Max-ness. Max is also in the international program at school which means he does 3 hours of English in school with other bilingual and non-bilingual kids. Unlike Suzanne, Max doesn't have a language preference. He just talks all the time to whoever will listen, in whichever language is available. Max loves reading, but is also a huge fan of audio books. He just finished listening to Harry Potter in English, but doesn't want to read the books. What was amazing though was that he was able to LISTEN in Harry Potter in ENGLISH while simultaneously READING a minecraft book in FRENCH. That just blows my mind.

So there you have it. A little intro to 2019 and hopefully a push to get my back to my blog just for myself really. 

Thursday, 16 November 2017

6 months later....

I didn't mean for 6 months to go by, but that's what happened. This blog started as a way for me to document my kids' voyage through bilingualism and by not writing, I'm missing out on so much and I don't want to forget.

So here goes.

Suzanne (aka Suz aka bear) is 11 1/2. Suzanne was an early talker; speaking English and French before she could even walk. She started collège in the international section in a public school here in Lille. She's amazing. And totally annoying. But mostly amazing. I think the annoying part if par for the course. We're lucky to have the international section in the Lille school system. Her experience in grammar school was amazing. The English teacher there challenged her, often using her as an assistant to valorize her bilingual-ness. And it worked. Suzanne has gone through the first semester of collège with flying colors. The problem is that the English is too easy - and this is where we come up against the wall of French education. The literature teacher doesn't get what being bilingual means and rather than teaching up to the kids, she teaches down. I know that not all of the kids are bilingual, but they all had to take a test to get into the international section. Therefore, they all have a certain ability. So the teacher could be offering them short books rather than focusing on the Gruffalo - a wonderful book, for a 6 year old. But I digress. Collège remains frightening for me. Imagine an American middle school experience - awkwardness and hormones and all - but without any of the fun. That's French school. And it kind of sucks. But since she doesn't know anything different, it's all good. And, she's made an American friend. She's had lots of English speaking friends in the best, but it's her first American friend. And she's loving it...they talk about pop tarts, Halloween and Costco. Suzanne is an artist, she's intelligent, kind and creative. If she doesn't have a pencil in her hand, or a book by her night table, she's lost. Unless there's a cat...then she drops everything to cuddle with the cat.

On the way to school one morning - she has to be there at 7:55 most days so we bring her to make sure she actually gets there - I asked her if she wanted me to leave her on the corner so the other kids wouldn't see me. She said, "mom, why would I be embarrassed of you? you're my mother...". Then she added something that made me so proud to be her mother, "those other kids should be embarrassed because their parents aren't as cool as mine." Let's hope those awful hormone surges don't overtake the sweetness.

Max (aka beastie aka monkey) is 8. I struggled with Max to speak English, but when he finally started, he came up with complicated words. He continues to be structured and complicated. He also changed schools this year, starting the international section of the public grammar school. Max is one of those "smart kids" so sometimes it's a little hard for him. But something clicked last year and he decided that he didn't have time for kids who weren't nice to him, mocked him for crying, and didn't understand his lego and pokemon obsession. So my little boy went out and got himself new friends who accept him for who he is (it was borderline harassment for a while there...). At his new school, it's like he's always been there. He came home the first day with a few friends, including 2 bilingual English kids. Max is a mega reader now. It started out slowly, he knew how to read but refused for a while (that's also how he learned to speak). Max has a slightly obsessive personality and over the summer he started reading series of books. I handed him a Magi Tree House one day, but he wasn't interested. Once we got started, he read it alone in English and he was off. He read 30+ Magic Tree House over the summer but had to stop because we couldn't find #44. When we were in the car over the summer, I explained the Civil War to the kids in light of what happened in Charlottesville. And Max piped up in the back seat, "I know about the Civil War from Magic Tree House number....".

So there you have it, my bilingual experiment is on going.
As for me, the kids and I still only speak English together. I try to help Suzanne with her homework in French but she finds it hard and lapses into English which is funny. And they both correct me now which is humbling...

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Readers !

Oh dear, as my daughter would say with a fake British's been 6 months since my last post!

But I just had to share my joy ! What joy and pride the mother of a bilingual child feels when they catch not one but BOTH children reading in the minority language!

Reading for both kids has been a challenge.

For Max, almost 8, it's been more of a laziness thing. He's known how to read since he was 5. He taught himself to read in English at the same time. But he just simply refused to acknowledge that he actually knew how to read. Until about 6 months ago when he got hooked on a series of French books, Les Mystérieuses Cité d'Or. Max is an organized little dude and likes to know the next step. So I think he finds it reassuring to read series. I finish book 1 and then there's book 2. So I was surprised when he kept resisting the Magic Tree House...but then I began reading him one a couple days ago. He finished alone in bed last night and this morning went to the book case, took out the next 5 books in the series, and brought 2 to school "just in case I get bored".

So after finding Max in his bed reading in English alone, I went down to see Suzanne (now 11) who was reading Percy Jackson in ENGLISH on her kindle. I was like, WHAAAAT???? And I had to high five myself  and then high five my husband.

Suzanne is not a "reader". She loves books, but doesn't have the patience or the confidence. I think she believes she isn't a good reader because that's what they tell her at school. But I remember being that same kid. I was in the lower level reading group because I was a slow reader. The message that sends to you is "you don't read well" so you end up not wanting to read.

When we gave Suzanne a kindle for her birthday, the purpose was twofold. First, she wanted to be able to play her music in her room which meant an internet connection but we didn't want to give her an ipod or other. Second, we thought hey she can download books. So my husband found her Percy Jackson in English. This past year at school, she studied and loved Greek mythology. And now she can't put Percy down! She doesn't understand all the words, but I tell my kids that that's ok. For instance, she asked me what a "card came" is. It turns out she didn't understand "report card came". So there are cultural limits but who cares! My kids are readers. In French. In English!

Next year, Max will begin at Sophie Germain in the international section where Suzanne has been the past 3 years. Suzanne will be starting collège, French middle school, which I am extremely traumatized about (but that's for another post). She'll be in the section britanique doing 3 extra hours of English a week. I am really pleased with the system so far, considering it's public school. But I petrified...

Monday, 23 January 2017

Key lime pie

While my daughter and I were marching through the streets of Paris for women's rights, we (and the cat) were on Les Carnets de Julie, presenting my no bake key lime pie.  The kids were amazing, so was the cat. And the pie is delicious. If you're interested in the recipe, please send me a message. It's inspired by the no bake pie in my cookbook. And don't forget that my cookbook, Let's Cook with the Zazoo! is a fun way to learn English while having fun !  

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

bilingual ado ramblings

Suzanne just turned 10 but has long entered the tween years. I used this blog to document her  bilingual development - from waleau  (water + eau) to assit (assis+sit) - so I should also start to document what a bilingual tween/ado.

Suzanne is a artist. She's constantly doodling and drawing so her desk is a disaster piled high with papers, crayons, markers, pens and an easel that's always about to topple over. On Sunday, I began helping her clean her room (only fair because I'd just helped Max put his legos away). As I came across paper upon paper, I started to complain.

Me: Suzanne, your room is a mess. You know, I love your drawings, but you don't have to keep every single piece of paper.
Suzanne: Mom, you're not helping me.
Me: Ok, fine I'll stop helping you clean your room.
Suzanne: I didn't ask you to help puis, tu peux arrêter de malement complimenter mes choses.
Me: I don't understand what you mean...(pondering malement and wondering if I should be angry because she's got attitude or smile because she's being verbally creative)
Suzanne: Tu comprendras quand tu comprendras mieux le français (You'll understand when you understand French better).

Bam! And so it begins...

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

What a difference a year makes.

Holy  moly! It's been almost a year...I've been thinking about posting but never got around to it. Something to do with lack of time...

A lot has happened this year in the life of my bilingual children.

Suzanne will be turning 10 in 6 weeks. When I began this blog, she was barely speaking. And now, she's a fully bilingual young lady. She's thriving in the environment of the bilingual class at school. I can't say enough for positive reinforcement, of which there is not enough in the French school system. Her English teacher this year is amazing and I've told her as much. She's positive, full of energy and since Suzanne's English is better than the other kids in her class, she uses Suzanne as a helper. So that positive energy is really giving Suzanne confidence, something all little girls could use a little more of. (As a reminder, Suzanne is in the international section of a public school so she has 3 hours of English a week. This doesn't seem like much, but is so much more than she'd get at a traditional public school). The main issue right now is hormones and social issues. I've spent so long telling Suzanne that difference is good that she actually believe it. Yes! And now she's starting to learn to stand up for herself. I'm proud of the person she is becoming. But I'm not looking forward to the bumpy road ahead ie puberty.

Max has been more of a challenge. My little boy is turning 7 this summer. He's always been a bit anxious. But it turns out he's what the French call précoce, which in English is gifted. We've been doing a lot of reading up on what that means and basically he's wired differently than other people so his brain goes at light speed ALL THE TIME. That's why he's had issues in school in the past; that's also why he's always been sensitive (physically and emotionally) and that also why he was bored at school. As soon as we got the results, we went to speak to his teacher along with the principal of the school. His teacher was also Suzanne's 1st grade teacher whom, you may remember, was not the most skilled in dealing with child psychology. So when the principal offered to take Max into her triple level class we said YES! I'm happy to report that he is now thriving at school. There are still many social challenges, mostly because he prefers to be one on one and because he gets so emotional that some friends just don't want to deal with him. But he seems to be feeling fairly good with himself. He even read 2 chapters of a book in English. For the past year and a half, he's resisted reading, claiming he doesn't know how. But I know he does. And then the other night, I read a chapter of Little Bear and told him it was time for bed. So he asked if he could read alone. He spent the next 10 minutes alone in his bed reading out loud in English. I was amazed.  I hope that we can keep up his self-confidence because it's going to be a rough road ahead. The French school system doesn't adapt to difference...I realized last week that there are no handicapped kids in either of the kids' schools. So where are they all ????

In other news, I got my wallet stolen on a business trip to Germany. And I've spent the last month trying to deal with the frustrations of French administration. A good example is when the city hall called me to say the Préfecture needed a certain document to process my ID card; but the Préfecture didn't even ask for said document when they took my driver's licence request. Some things never change....

I will try to be more diligent with my blog. I'm working on a new cookbook at the moment. I think the old one wore me out. And the last year has been full of introspection, including a bilan de compétences , which was actually fairly emotionally exhausting. As I tell my kids, I won't promise but I'll try to get back here more often.

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