Sunday, April 13, 2008

We went to Paris....

The cavalry is here! Mom and Debbie (my cousin) have come for a visit. We picked them up on Tuesday from the airport. I woke up with a stomach flu, so I had a tense and stressful three hour ride to the airport hoping I wouldn't have to find a sudden place to pull over. Then the stupid GPS routed us back in a way (because I, as operator, put in shortest distance for the route back)that took us four hours instead of two. But we got to take a ferry ride across the Rhine, which was really cool (and cheap) and see some beautiful scenery.

Yesterday, the Debbie and I had plans to go to Paris with a tour group from base. We had to meet them at 2:30 a.m. (no that's not a typo). As the bus pulls away from base, I realize - I have no money and no ID. Crap. Fortunately, we are on a bus full of folks with military ID's, so worse comes to worse, I can show them the paperwork from the travel company (I had to show my ID to get it). I also had my passport, so I could at least prove who I was. Debbie now has the stomach virus I had, so our seemingly unending swaying, bumpy, herky jerky ride in the back of the bus didn't help.

We stopped for breakfast about 45 minutes outside of Paris, where I resisted the urge to get out and kiss the ground. When we pulled into Paris, I was instantly in love with the city. I can't explain it - I hated Rome with it's dirt and grime and piles of garbage. But Paris - wow. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that the sun was shining for the first time in over a week or maybe it was just because it was Paris. To me, it was like New York City, only better. And I didn't think anything would top NY for me.

We got off the bus at Rue de Rivoli, almost right across from the Louvre. We were told to meet the bus back at 4:45 - bummer! The tour bus wasn't going to be back until around midnight, so even with a dinner stop, that meant a looooooong bus ride home. But, you know, we were in Paris so let's get to it! We went to the Louvre with the intention of seeing only the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, but were amazed and awed at everything we saw, so we were in the Louvre (which is the size of a small city) for a lot longer than we planned.

From the Louvre, we walked through the Jardin de Tulieries up to the Place de la Concorde. One of my husband's coworkers was with us on this trip and was now in a full blown huff because Debbie and I refused her idea of biking through the city. Umm... just in case you read this, coworker of my husband who shall remain nameless, vomiting and diarrhea do not go hand in hand with planting relatively out of shape tushie's on bikes - even in Paris. DUH!

From the Place de la Concorde and the good view of the Eifel Tower (if anyone else thinks it's green, it's not. But it IS as big as I thought it would be, unlike the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore) and the Arc de Triumph, we debated (read..argued) with coworker over bus versus metro and carte packets versus Metro day pass. Metro day pass won, and off we went. Next stop - Pointe Neuf bridge. This will forever be in my mind with Matt Damon on it in whichever of the Jason Bourne movies it was (I think it's number two). "Meet me at Pointe Neuf. Come alone." You betcha, Matty. And guess what Sarah Silverman song I'll be thinking about....

But I digress. From Pointe Neuf, we took a boat tour that allowed us to see some of the main sights of Paris - a closer view the Eifel Tower, Notre Dame, French Parliament, and many other beautiful buildings and historic sights - without having to actually walk to them all. Coworker, in case any one is interested, went off to have a fabulous French meal, since it still hadn't clicked that those of us with a stomach bug wouldn't want to eat - even in Paris. Which, also - bummer - because I mean, we WERE in Paris and I really wanted to try something - even if it was just the bread.

After the boat ride, the three of us met up and headed to a flea market on the outskirts of town. We were making good use of our Metro cards and getting better at identifying which lines we needed to take to get from point a to point b. Well, it's a good thing because coworker abandoned us in the Metro station. And honestly, at that point, it was a relief. She was cranky, combative, and pissy over everything we wanted to do, even though she had no ideas about what she wanted to do other than the bike ride thing.

After spending the better part of an hour trying to track her down, we decided that enough was enough and we decided to make the most of the rest of our day in Paris. On the Metro on the back from searching for coworker at the flea market, we met a Parisian who suggested we visit the Rue St. Germain area. She even volunteered to take us there, which was just so nice of her. Rue St. Germain was so beautiful, kind of like a less humid, more beautiful French Quarter of New Orleans. Debbie and I had cafe au lait and tea in a little sidewalk cafe, and if it hadn't been raining, we would have sat outside. After holding down coffee and tea, we covered the neighborhood on foot, finding a quaint little bakery and buying some goodies to take home for when we actually felt like eating again.

At 4:05, we headed back to meet the bus. And you know, there are a LOT of buses in Paris. And they all look a lot alike. When we arrived at the place where we thought the bus would be and it wasn't there, then we started to question ourselves. We then hoofed it to every place we thought it might be, but by 5:05, we realized that we were in quite a pickle. Refusing to panic, we went into the nearest hotel, and asked to use the phone to call the ITT escort. Since it was a German cell number, we were redirected politely to the pay phones. Two of the three were out of order and the third one worked but we couldn't get the call to go through. Merde and double merde! By this time it was around 5:20, so we knew that we'd better explore other options to get home. We asked the concierge the best way to get home, he suggested the train station and told us how to get there. Off we go to the Metro again and head for the train station.

While we weren't exactly fully panicked, I was very stressed about how to let Mom know what was going on. And without any money or ID, other than my passport, I was very concerned about cost. We briefly discussed renting a car, but then Debbie pointed out that I wasn't exactly great with directions in Europe, even with a GPS. True, but ouch! And then Debbie cursed me by saying, "Well, at least you have your passport with you". So when I decided to just reassure myself that all wasn't lost, I realized my passport was G-O-N-E gone. For the love of Pete!

It was at that moment when I allowed myself to panic for about three minutes. Then we arrived at the train station and we focused on getting back to Germany. I feared that a last minute train ticket would cost us $500 each, but it was under 100 Euro. Doable. The thing is - the next train left at 7:05 and it was after six, which meant we couldn't use the kiosk to purchase the tickets and the line in the ticket office was 30 people deep and not moving at all. I had no pride left, so I went back to the info booth and asked what to do - and the clerk suggested that I plead my case to the conductor and ask if I could buy the tickets on the train.

***Just a side note*** In all our adventures in Paris, never, ever did we ONCE meet a rude Parisian, waiter included. I speak a little French, not much, but we were assisted tremendously at the Louvre, in the Metro, when we were stranded on Rue du Rivoli, and especially when we were trying to figure out how to get home. So, thank you to all Parisians. I love your city and once I get my new passport, I'll be back. I'll leave my passport on base, probably, but I'll still be back!

So, Debbie and I search out the conductors for the train we wanted to take. We explain our situation and he tells us yes, we can buy tickets on the train. First class was 117 Euro, I think, and second class was 89. Only we couldn't find seats in second class, so we ended up in First Class. But we got our own compartment and were promised dinner (that's another issue entirely - let me sum it up to say we didn't get it, we tried to get it anyway, had a really nice Frenchmen intervene for us, but got off the train before our meal could be prepared. At least I choose to believe that last part was true.) So two trains and a 50 Euro cab ride later, we arrive at the front gate of base. And remember - I have no ID and now no passport.

During this whole ordeal, I'd manged to only tear up briefly once. But I get to the gate, walk up to the guard shack and start to explain the situation and I burst into tears. Women! Such emotional creatures. However, the guard and I work out an acceptable plan for me to go and get my ID and bring it back. Which, I do. Debbie and I get home, start to tell Mom about our little adventure, and the doorbell rings. It's the coworker. Pretending to be concerned about us. Whatever. (That little drama is the tale for another day).

And so ends our Paris adventure, other than the frustrating, expensive, arduous task of trying to report my passport stolen. That, too, is a tale for another day.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

What's more important - the battle or the war?

I've come to the conclusion that I need some serious work on my personality.

As most of you know, I have begun the frustrating, time consuming process of having T evaluated with the school system here. I originally took him in for speech and possibly behavioral issues, but due to his lack of cooperation, now he's being evaluated for Autism Spectrum Disorders and who knows what else.

So here's the latest. We had our appointment with the developmental pediatrician. Imagine my surprise when we recognized each other from the post office. She was nice enough to let us cut in front of her in line one day when the kids were being a little difficult. I think the other people in line took up a collection of money and jewelry in order to thank her, not that I blame them. T's latest favorite trick is to flip himself over the back of any chair or couch. Unfortunately, he could care less if there's anyone IN the chair or couch. One day I'll look back on this and laugh, I'm sure of it. I just don't have any idea when that will be.

So, we came into the Dr's office, T was quite reluctant, so the Dr. and I sat and chatted for a while until Tucker warmed up to her. She had completely reviewed his medical files, which impressed me. I can say that's the first time I've been impressed by the medical staff here. She told me that he definitely does not have Autism, which is a huge relief. So now we just have to figure out what's going on with him and the best way to handle it.

Which leads me to an update on the Major. T had an appointment with the occupational/physical therapist that works for the school system. The OT/PT told me when we left our meeting that T had done just fine, she had gotten him to do most of what she needed him to do and that she'd be in touch. Several weeks later, she calls and leaves me a message, so I call her back. She wants permission to observe T in a classroom setting. Of course I give it to her and I give her Mrs Joyce's contact info. Only, she doesn't want the contact info for Mrs. Joyce because the classroom observation she's talking about is through the school. I'm confused. He doesn't attend school through the school system. So the OT/PT tells me that he's supposed to go for a week or so in order to be observed. This is news to me and I tell her so. She's stunned no one has been in touch with me - me, not so much. So I tell her that until someone gets in touch with me, he'll not be in any program but Mrs. Joyce's and I also do not plan to pull him out of Joyce's to attend school with the school system since I have to pay his tuition whether he's there or not. Harrumph.

The day before I take T to the developmental pediatrician, I get a call from the Major. In her typically snotty way, she tells me that she's spoken with the OT/PT and now she (the Major) wants to observe T again, but not before she gets in her digs about how difficult he is and blah blah blah. And that, since he's so difficult, she's going to rearrange the room to give him no choice but to go to a station and participate. I mentally snort with laughter as she is so sure she's solved this puzzle and gives T absolutely no credit. So then the tit for tat between she and I begin. She wants to see him the next day, which is the day he's scheduled to go to the developmental pediatrician. That's not going to work. He's so resistant to this process that we might as well try to convince the Brooklyn Bridge to move itself over a block or so. I think we'd have more success. As the debate between the Major and I continues over when to bring him in to see her, I suggest that we see anyone else because of his (and my) immense dislike of her. She denies this request, of course, and says she's the only one that does this. I find this very hard to believe.

Then SHE mentions something about T attending school and I again say that no one has gotten in touch with me about this, and my suggestion to whomever is planning this little school attendance needs to call me ASAP because I'm not throwing a wrench into our routine when I've been dealing with this process since the first week in February. And since this is the second time in the last four weeks that I've heard that he is supposed to attend school 'soon', I'm becoming less likely every day to be accommodating when it's been planned for months and I'm just now being told. After a few more minutes of sniping at each other and a few more digs back and forth - she's just sooooo convinced he's autistic - we agree on a day, time and place for evaluation.

The day after he's been pronounced 'NOT autistic', we head off to the school for our appointment with the Major. T, predictably, freaks when he sees her and does not want to cooperate. However, he listens to me, calms down and I can get him to do most of the things she wants. I was doing SO WELL about being mature and focusing on what was really important, which was T, and then she had to open her big, fat mouth and get all snarky with me over the fact that he didn't know how to button yet. SIGH. So then I had to open my big, fat mouth and snark back, "Wow - it's just killing you that you were wrong about him being autistic, isn't it?" And with that, she pronounced the evaluation over and T cheerfully left (and so did I). I so don't like this woman - oh my goodness. But I have to admit I'm worried - she's the head of the committee that determines if he qualifies for help and I think that my doing battle with her, however justified I think it may be, is going to end up hurting T in the long run. We are really stuck here with limited resources and opportunities so if it's decided that he actually needs help, how much are we going to get from the school system when the Major is all up in everyones business. I am so tempted to take him to the states for evaluation. Plus, it's already nearing the end of the school year. Have we gone through all of this only to find out at the end of the evaluation that since it's so near the end of the school year we'll have to start all over next year? Deep down I think that's a real possibility.