Sunday, May 19, 2013

"Un peu spécial..."

If you're an English speaker, I bet you think you know what the title means, but the French give "a bit special" a different spin - here are some lovely variations of its translation, which range from "a little strange" to "a bit unique"... including some positives but frequently putting a more negative spin on the whole concept of  "special".

My family has been having a bit of an interesting, not to say "spécial" month, and there have been moments when I have wondered why we are just all so weird. Surely normal people don't have such a bizarre series of things to deal with?

Well now, of course they may, and the fact that they may deal with them in different ways does't necessarily mean that our way of coping is worse, or that someone else's is better.

I have been forcibly reminded of how parents think that their children's problems are all their fault by a chat with a wonderful mum, whose child is one of my many dyslexic pupils. Without going into too many details, I can tell you her first reaction when she realised that her child was struggling to learn. She told me, "I thought: It's all my fault! I've indulged my child too much and now s/he's too lazy and undisciplined to learn like the other children!" The discovery that the child was in fact trying very hard, but had a genuine block, freed her up to love and help her child - and this is something that I can identify with too.

Then I read this post today - by a mum whose eldest has just turned 18, and who talks with a beautiful, poetic honesty, about the beauty of their life together but also about the hard years. I hope it's OK if I quote her here. She says: "Hard to know I can’t fix any of the times I dented up your heart with my ridiculous white-knuckled steering-wheel control and big Buick idols."

There we are - we think that everything that goes wrong is our fault, and that if only we keep harsh enough control, our children will be "normal", whatever that is, and not "un peu spécial". But actually, I think everyone's child is special, don't you? After all, I am a Special Needs Teacher...

And one rather sweet thing about the "specialness" of my family was brought home to me again today, as we drove to church and the boys and Ben were yet again discussing what colour words and letters are. And the colours of sounds, smells and feelings, too - I didn't even know they saw colourful feelings, even after all these years of living with them! The ability to do this is called synesthesia, and it's certainly quite special! It's inherited from their dad - I really am the odd one out in this family.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Bank Holidays in France

In France, Bank Holidays don't move around to the nearest Monday like they do in the UK. Sometimes, this means they all fall at the weekend, and we get no extra days off.
But sometimes, they fall in the week and we get crazy amounts of time off - hurray! This last week we had VE day (Wednesday 8th May) and Ascension Day (Thursday 9th) - it was a weekend in the middle of the week, and we enjoyed it to the full, despite a bit of rain.
Son 2 and Ben worked together to construct a small hutch for the new guinea pigs. They came with all their accommodation, but we think that the garden they were in before was more sheltered, and we feel happier now that they have a proper bit of 'indoors' to go into at night, when they are in their run on the lawn. They love the new home, and Son 2 is so happy that his work has been appreciated... and it's fantastic for Ben to have shared projects with the boys.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A trip to the Vide Grenier... a Fabric History of France!

I got back from the massive school Vide Grenier this afternoon and unloaded my finds:
There seems to have been a theme to today's haul! I'll take you on a mini-tour of French fabric history, thanks to today's stall-holders. Let's go backwards in time...
So, it won't surprise you to know that in the 1970s, French women were crocheting granny squares with the rest of us! 3€ with a matching cot blanket thrown in...
They were also buying repro floral fabric rather like the Laura Ashley trend in the UK - I thought this fabric was original early 20th century, but the woman who made the curtains sold them to me, and she should remember when she bought the fabric! She was using it as a tablecloth today... another 3€.
We leap back to the 1950s, and find the origin of the fabrics that Cath Kidston has made so popular today... 50c.
We have to go back a bit further in time to discover that France was importing, or even making, paisley shawls in the 1840s - I am going to have to research this a bit further. It's a fine woollen weave, and in pretty good condition - much like the fragment of Scottish paisley shawl that I've treasured since I found it in the 1980s. This one is whole, with one hole on the fold and a rather fragmenting fringe. 3€.
It seems we have to go even further back for this embroidered bag!
OK, so the bag itself is a little damaged, but the fine embroidered roses and the swags, ribbons and chains are in great condition.
"Oh, around the time of the Revolution..." opined the stall-holder, selling it to me for 3€! What do you think? Which one would you choose?
In other news, Son 2 has adopted not one, but three guinea pigs! I will be asking Seranata for advice... He was very, very keen to care for some rodents, and the owner of these three is ill and has returned to the UK for immediated treatment (please pray for her - we are very moved by her story) so we stepped into the breach! Son 2 didn't really sleep last night, because he kept imagining that he was a guinea pig, and he had a nap with them in their substantial run on the sunny lawn this afternoon. It's going to be hard to get him back to school tomorrow!