Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fête des écoles

The Fête des écoles, is the end of school festival.  I had no idea what a big deal this is, but it's huge.  There's two of them - one for younger kids (Peter's age up till about 8) and another for older kids.  This past Wednesday, which is normally a day off school, the school festival for the younger kids took place at the Parc de Bastion, close to the old town.  Peter got dropped off at the school, then he marched with his class to the park, where there were all kinds of rides, exhibitions, and shows.  There were many shows focusing on Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the famous Genevan philosopher of the 18th century - anyway, as much as you can focus on a philosopher when your audience is between 5 and 8.  Peter was there all afternoon, and then I took the tram to pick him up at 5:30.  As I got closer in the tram, I saw just how jam-packed it was.  It seemed like thousands of parents were there, waiting for the gates of the park to be opened so they could pick up their little kid.  I searched for Peter about 20 minutes.  The organization was a little bit lacking in terms finding your kids again.  Then after I found Peter, getting out again was pretty tricky.  But overall Peter liked it.

Then Friday evening was the Fête des écoles for Kenny's age and up - around 8 or 9 to 12 or so.  The festival was in Parc La Grange, very close to our apartment building.  They had huge bouncy houses set up, climbing walls, a concert stage that played pop music at a surprisingly reasonable volume, and all kinds of other things to tickle the fancy of kids that age.  Lots of kids were running around in groups, and Kenny found some kids from his class to hang out with, which was nice.

Peter fell in love with the climbing wall, and waited in line to go up it 4 times!  The last time he was on his own, without any friends.  He managed to get to the front okay, and got himself strapped into the harness.  But then he stood around so long, without going up to do the climbing, that one of the people working there assumed that he'd already gone up, and unstrapped him from the harness!  A kid from Kenny's class who knew Peter ran up to me, and told me Peter was crying, and after Peter had calmed down I got the story from him.  We managed to get him in the harness again, and he climbed up to his heart's content.  It really struck me that in the US, they would NEVER have allowed 5 year olds (or any kids or adults, for that matter) to go up on a climbing wall without lengthy signed permission slips, etc.  Here they had a semi-automated system where the kids could go up without anyone manning the ropes - somehow the ropes stayed taut while they were climbing, and then let them down when they reached the top.  And hundreds if not thousands of kids had fun on the climbing wall without a lot of bureaucracy .

Kenny's been bringing home all the projects that he's worked on throughout the year.  He sewed up a pillow, made a hand-sawed jigsaw puzzle - a lot of projects that, in the US, would not have been done because they would have taken away time from subjects that are evaluated on standardized tests - math, reading, etc.  I think doing that kind of handicraft has been a really good experience for him.

My new workout routine

I blogged previously about how I've been getting on in terms of setting up an exercise routine - Getting started on an exercise routine again.  After slacking on the home exercise routine quite a bit, I joined a gym really close to work (mostly paid for by my work).  And went...maybe 4 times in about a month.  I think it's a combination of not getting it done in the morning, the need to take an extra shower during the day, having to change clothes at work, etc - it's just a hassle unless you're exceptionally motivated, which I'm not.

On the positive site, what I have started now is doing a stair-climbing workout right here in my apartment building.  Basically, I go up and down the stairs 3 times - that's 8 flights times three, so 24 flights.  It takes me less than 15 minutes.  Then I do a few squats and other exercises at the top, and call it good.  My goal is to do it every day, but I'm probably actually doing it once every other day.  I can tell a big difference when I climb the stairs now, in that I get winded a lot less.  I think I'll aim to do 4 sets in about the same amount of time, so speed it up a bit, and then I'll be good.

It's hot!

We're had a stretch of very hot weather here in Geneva - a high yesterday of 33 degrees Celcius (91 Fahrenheit).  The air conditioning situation is this - almost no buildings have air conditioning, including our apartment.  There's lots of blinds and shutters to block out the sun, which is very handy - critical, really, when the sun is streaming in.

The office building where I work has air conditioning...kind of.  In reality, it never works.  Really.  It's not standard air conditioning, which is apparently forbidden in Switzerland on the grounds of high energy consumption.  It's these weird ceiling mounted pipes, that have cold water flowing through them.  They worked one morning, a lot of condensation formed on the ceiling (it's designed for that, made of metal), and it was pleasantly cool.  That was nice, but it was just for one morning.  The rest of the time, during this stretch of really hot weather, it's just been really warm at the office.  People are wearing shorts, and some little USB fans have been distributed, they help a lot.  Also yesterday I brought a frozen water bottle from home and sipped on it throughout the day, that cooled me down tremendously. I wasn't even warm while everyone else was complaining about the heat.

At home, we keep the blinds down, turn on the fans at night, and we manage to beat the heat.  Occasionally when I come in from walking around outside, and am really hot, I fill the bathroom sink with cold tap water and soak my arms for a while, that cools me down quite well.

EDIT: The air conditioning at work is fixed now, and it's actually quite cool there!  I need to wear a fleece in the office to feel comfortable.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Football (soccer) is REALLY big here!

Just now it's the middle of the Euro 2012 cup, England vs Italy.  I have the windows open because it's still quite warm out, but it's LOUD out there, even though it's 11:30 at night!  The noise is coming from people yelling and screaming while watching the football game.  We live in an apartment complex, and you hear it from so many of the open windows, shouting, exultation at goals scored, etc.  

I'll have to show Kenny the highlights on YouTube tomorrow morning just so he's not completely out of the loop at school.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

I eat Peter's popsicle

It's been a stressful few weeks, but I wanted to share this funny story.  Kenny, Peter and I (Eric is on a business trip to the US) walked to the park next door yesterday evening, with popsicles, for a little stroll before bedtime.  Peter was walking behind me, Kenny was ahead of me, and then I heard Peter crying from behind me.  I tried asking what's wrong, why he was crying, etc.  This goes on for a while, but he can't tell me what happened.  I keep on asking, "Don't you want to eat your popsicle?"   He kept on shaking his head.  So I end up eating much of his popsicle as well as mine (they're pretty small).  At one point there was a hard bit that I spit out.

Later on Peter had calmed down, and I asked him again why he was crying before.  He said, "I dropped my popsicle on the sidewalk".  Yech!  And I ate that thing.  To realize the depths of my disgust, you need to know what the sidewalks are like here - they're truly disgusting, with dog poop everywhere.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The kids and how they're settling in

If you asked Peter and Kenny, the most important thing that's happened recently is that they've FOUND FRIENDS!  It turns out (now that it's warm, kids are out and about) that there's a family in the apartment block just next door, which along with our building and 2 others, surround a little courtyard.  This family has twin 8 year old boys, and a 4 year old boy too, the same ages as our kids.  How perfect is that?  They've been having  an awesome time playing soccer in the courtyard, until some busybodies told them not to.  Apparently there's a policy of no loud games in the courtyard.  I just sent them out to the courtyard again today, but sans soccer ball, just with a little tennis set, and they played happily for a long time.  It's nice - if I leave the door to the balcony open, I can hear them out there.

Since Eric has started working again, we've hired a Moroccan lady, Malika, to pick them up from school, and also watch them on Wednesday, the day they don't have school.  She's a lady who's been doing some babysitting for the mother of classmate of Peter.  She's very sweet, and Peter especially loves her (he wrote her a note, "Malika is so nice")

Kenny has been picking up French quite well, from what I can tell.  When the kids watch television in French, and I ask how much he understands, he says, "Most of it".  When I ask Peter the same question, he'll usually say something like, "Nothing".  But I know he understands and speaks some French - I've heard  him speak with his friend from the next building.  He's not as fluent as Kenny, but he's getting there.

Both Kenny and Peter have been going on a lot of field trips recently with their school - to the local pool, to the natural history museum, and next week to a local park and mini-zoo.  I need to arrange a meeting with Kenny's teachers and see how he's been doing - we had one a few months back, but other than that, I haven't been getting much feedback from the teachers on how things are going.  And he won't be getting any grades this year - apparently that's the policy for the first 2 years when a child is just learning French - no grades at all.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Another Sunday Evening in the Emergency Room

We try to get Kenny to bed around 9 PM.  His usual routine is that he brushes his teeth, flosses (hopefully) and reads in bed for a little bit.  Last Sunday he was in the middle of his routine, when I heard, "Mom, I think there's something stuck in my nose!".

Okay, big emergency.  I got out the flashlight, sat him down, looked up his nose.  "What did you stick up your nose?", I asked.

"I don't know."

After I saw something in his nose that reflected the light, I asked, "Was it something shiny?"   Yes, he said, it was shiny.

To make a long story slightly shorter - he had found strong super magnets.  He said he tried to put them in his nose, just on the bottom part, keeping hold of them with his fingers, but the magnetic attraction was so strong that they slid  up right onto his septum.  And once that's happened, there's no way you're going to be able to pry them off again with your fingers.

After I had experimented with trying to get some pliers in there and get them out, I figured that I'd need to take him to the emergency room.  We took a taxi to the pediatric emergency room (there's a taxi stand right next to our apartment block) and didn't have to wait long before we were seen by a doctor, who took a look at the magnets, and tried a little bit to remove them with various surgical implements.  Then she gave up, and told us that we needed to go to the adult emergency room, where supposedly there was an ear nose and throat doctor on call.

So, we took yet another taxi to the adult emergency room.  That was a whole different scene from the pediatric emergency room.  No friendly little mobiles hanging from the ceiling, no cute animals painted on the walls, and nobody was sweet and friendly like in the pediatric emergency room.  Nope, there was blood smeared on the floor, and we saw a handcuffed man being walked out the emergency room door with three policeman surrounding him (Kenny asked - "Was that a real bad guy?").

We did get seen pretty quickly, not by an ear nose and throat doctor, though.  Kenny was checked out by a very young resident - barely in his mid 20's, I'd say.  He tried with various implements to get the magnets out of Kenny's nose. Kenny was having a very hard time keeping still, even though I was encouraging him, telling him he needed to be brave and tough and be very still so that the doctor would be able to take the magnets out.  Eventually the doctor got 3 nurses, and me to try to hold Kenny down while he prodded in his nose to try to remove the magnets.  It was not a happy scene. The doctor caused some injury to his nostrils while trying to separate the magnets, and blood started dripping from his nose while Kenny was squirming and crying, which freaked him out even more.

So, he gave up and said he'd need to call an anesthesiologist.  This meant general anesthesia for Kenny - not something I wanted to happen!  We were relegated to a stretcher nearby, and told to hang tight until the anesthesiologist got there.  Kenny really wanted his teddy, and was hoping that we could go home and get it.  That was not going to happen, so I asked the nurse if they had any stuffed animals there.  They had nothing.  She tried, though - later on she came by with a coloring book and a few pencils for him.

Kenny was doing some coloring, so I decided to do some web searching on my smartphone.  I had done a little bit of Googling before taking Kenny to the emergency room - I believe I searched for  "magnet stuck in nose" or something like that, and didn't find anything useful.   So while we were waiting for the anesthesiologist, I did some more searching - I searched for for "magnet nose septum"  The word septum was the key - that's the cartilage between the nostrils.  The very first article I found was this one: An attractive approach to magnets adherent across the nasal septum.  It's an article in a medical journal called The Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine about this very same problem - also in an 8 year old boy! The author used a handle of a medical instrument, attached it to the magnet just using the magnetic properties of the metal, and then was able to pop off first the one magnet, and then the other, "painlessly and without trauma to the nasal septum".

"Painlessly and without trauma to the nasal septum!"   That sounded really good.  I searched for the doctor to show him the article on my phone.  He looked at it, and then said, "Let's try again".  So we sat Kenny in the chair again.  It took some convincing that this time it wasn't going to hurt, because he was traumatized from the previous attempts.  The doctor didn't quite get the gist of the article, so I had to explain it to him.  We searched for some tools that might work.  He ended up using some tools that look like they were designed to open up the nostril to look inside.  He put one in each nostril, and voila!  Just like that, the magnets popped off and were gone, adhering to the metal surgical tools instead of Kenny's septum!  I was so relieved that I practically yelled, "Thank the Lord!".  The doctor shook my hand.  I think he was pretty impressed that I had found the article.  I was frankly very happy with myself as well, that I had found this information and managed to avoid general anesthesia for my son.

After a little checkup inside his nose, we were free to go.  The nurses that had held him down while the doctor first tried getting the magnets out wondered where we were going, and when I told them that the magnets were gone, were shocked and asked how the heck we did it.  I didn't explain that well - it was late (past midnight) already and my French, quite shaky, was not really up to it, but I think I managed to convey what happened.

Then - another taxi to our house, and the whole dreadful experience was over!  No permanent damage, just a story to tell.

And now I know the word magnet in French - aimant.