Saturday, 21 December 2013

Our Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year


I am writing this from a very cold Toulouse thinking that it is hard to believe that this is going to be our second christmas in France.  We have been in France for 15 months now and have had an amazing experience so far.  We have been to many different places including Paris, Portugal, Switzerland, Amsterdam, Spain, London and of course seen lots of France - in fact I think our children are a bit over pretty medieval villages and bastide towns!!  We have also been very fortunate in having had many visitors from New Zealand.  My Mum came for the months of May and June and then James’ parents visited for the months of July, August and September.  I flew to London to collect my Mum and spent the weekend there with her which was wonderful and then when she left France she flew out of Paris and again we got to spend the weekend there together.  It was wonderful having my Mum here as she fitted so well into our everyday family life whether that be helping with laundry, looking after Hannah while I did the school run or going and getting some groceries.  The weather was not that great during my Mum’s stay but that didn’t stop us getting out and about and visiting some of the  
local sights.


James parents arrived during the long French summer vacation so we had lots of opportunities for weekends away and had a great weekend down on the coast of Spain in late July.  We also got to do a big road trip through Provence to Switzerland.  Friends of Sue and David’s have a lovely holiday home in Kloisters and we were fortunate enough to be able to use it for two weeks.  What a wonderful treat it was to be able to hike in the mountains and enjoy the beautiful Swiss countryside.  
We drove home through Italy stopping at Genona and then onto Monaco and Nice.  

The highlight of the trip for Jasper was seeing a Lambourgini as well as many Ferrari’s in Monte Carlo!

We have settled well into life in France and James is enjoying his job as Air NZ Technical Resident Manager.  He can be very busy at times especially when an aircraft is due to be delivered and is away a lot inspecting plane bits all over Europe, so that can be a bit tedious for the kids and I.  We have joined the Toulouse international Church and have made many lovely friends there.  Through friends at Church I have joined a jewellery group that meets once a month as well as a fortnightly prayer group and I also help look after some of the babies once a fortnight so the mums can go to the young mums group.  

Last year the children did not do any after school activities and as a result their French did not really advance so this school year both Jasper and Penelope are doing one activity each in French as well as out of school French lessons.  Jasper is playing football with the local club and really enjoying it and Penelope is doing Jazz and she also goes to Brownies and theatre club which are both in English.  Hannah has joined a lovely dance group which is taught in English.  She also goes to Girl guides which she just loves!!

It has been a huge adjustment living in a foreign country and even after a year of lessons my French is still very poor!!  I am starting to understand more and can have basic conversations which is an improvement!  

We have also had a difficult time with Hannah’s schooling.  We eventually managed to get her into the International School of Toulouse along with a full time teacher aide paid for by Air NZ - just for mornings.  In March I went in to school for the IEP and to discuss Hannah staying for longer hours and was instead told that they could not meet her needs and gave her two weeks notice!  We appealed to the board and she was allowed to stay until the end of the school year in July.  We registered with the French Ministry of Education and Hannah was given a place in the CLIN - which is a class in a nearby school for non-French speaking children to learn French.  She could only start in this class, however once a ministry appointed teacher aide was found.  Since then I have been homeschooling Hannah using NZ Correspondence School resources along with a teacher aide that came to our house.  The teacher aide finished on the 6th of December and then Hannah started in the CLIN the following Monday.  Unfortunately the CLIN has not worked out and has been too difficult for Hannah so we are back to square one!!  We had an IEP for Hannah last Thursday and the support worker said that the next step would be to try and get Hannah a place in a special needs unit.  Not sure why we could not have applied for Hannah to go there back in May when we first started this process - seems like a very long process and a lot of hard work.  So it looks like I will be homeschooling Hannah again next year and hopefully we will be able to get someone to help give me a bit of a break.

At this stage it looks like we are here till August which will mean we will get to enjoy some of the northern Hemisphere summer before heading home.  James’ replacement arrives in May but he will do a handover and help with the July A320 delivery.  We have a few more adventures planned before we leave and are trying to make the most of this opportunity by seeing lots of different places.  We went to London for the weekend last weekend as the girls and I are going to the Nutcracker ballet.  Then on the 31st of December we are going to Morocco for a week and are going to do a camel trek as well as a hike in the Atlas mountains.  No trips planned after that although Jasper wants to go to Greece and Penelope wants to go to Hollywood and Hannah just would like to go camping!

Hope you are happy and healthy.  Wishing you a very Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Love from Rachel, James, Hannah, Jasper and Penelope

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