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Why isn’t this a ‘snow-day’ for school?! There’s even someone skiing on the sidewalk because there’s so much snow.

Earlier this month, Toronto had its biggest snow dump in 5 years. And for reasons unknown, the Toronto School Board decided to keep schools open and only cancel school bus transportation. Snow fell the entire day burying the streets 25-30 cm deep. Why didn’t I live in Paris this school year rather than last academic year, when winter barely showed up in Toronto?! Argghh!!

For a week or so before Valentine’s Day, I helped my daughter make Valentine cards for her entire kindergarten class. As suggested by her teacher, it was a good opportunity to practice her printing skills by writing to every classmate. Well evil, control freak Maman that I am, made a huge exercise out of it. Sadly, my son opted out of giving Valentine cards to his classmates–not because he would have to endure my perfectionist demands of letter-printing, but because he was afraid that his peers would think he actually liked someone. Yet, 75% of his classmates exchanged Valentines during the classroom party. Peer pressure has not been kind to him this year.

Butterfly Valentines with lollipop heads. We impressed the French very much with these creations.

Butterfly Valentines with lollipop heads. We impressed the French very much with these creations.

Last year, I forced my kids to give out Valentine cards, which I made, because we didn’t find any stores that sold packs of them. (I think I felt the February blues and needed to push some North American commercialism into French culture.) [Single] Valentine cards were slightly more plentiful than Christmas cards in Paris but typically an adult celebration.** However, the recipients (teachers and a few students) of our Valentines were quite touched and honoured at receiving acknowledgements of being liked. [I realize that I did a Canadian faux-pas by not giving Valentines to everyone in the classroom but figured we’d get away with it as it is not customary for French schools to celebrate Valentine’s Day.]

A page from my son's school booklet (of progress reports/ report cards). He received an "A" for knowing and respecting the symbols of the Republic, but if you ask him now, he hasn't a clue what they are. I'm not sure I know them either...

A page from my son’s school booklet (of progress reports/ “report cards”). Interestingly, he received an “A” for knowing and respecting the symbols of the Republic. But he, nor I, understand what that is…

Report cards for both kids were given out this month. They are both doing well, with just a description of accomplishments for Clarisse in junior kindergarten and grades of Excellent, Good, Satisfactory, etc. for William. While our children typically receive up to 3 progress report “sheets” a year, children in French primary schools receive a report booklet so that their progress is easily tracked and collected from preschool to grade 5.

“Family day” in France is traditionally time spent together on a Sunday. But in Ontario, Canada, we are fortunate to get a provincial holiday (probably because we spend too many a Sunday doing what we do on Saturdays — more chores/work). So we took both kids to Canada’s capital city for the first time and did the touristy things during the celebrated Winterlude festival. Needless to say, the kids really enjoyed Ottawa and its family-friendly activities, and it’s a beautiful city to boot, even in sub-zero weather!! And although I really miss the variety and number of quality museums and art galleries in Paris, I’m quite sure that the Museum of Civilization Musée canadien des civilisations] in neighbouring Gatineau, Quebec, would gather high praise from Old France patrons for its content, presentation and architecture. It has a superb, interactive Children’s Museum inside (which sucked up most of our time). Plus, we had an expensive and fabulous lunch in one of its restos, bistro Boréal, which would make a French foodie proud. It’s weird to be a tourist in your own country. But Paris has taught me to explore and relish my surroundings, while I am still able-bodied!

Discovering "Oscar Peterson Corner."

Discovering “Oscar Peterson Corner,” outdoors in Ottawa.

Contributing colourful blocks of ice to create a new ice sculpture.

Contributing colourful blocks of ice to create a new sculpture at Winterlude.

Strolling under a thousand+ Korean lanterns at Winterlude, Ottawa.

Strolling under a thousand+ Korean lanterns at Winterlude, Ottawa.

The entrance to the Public Wing, evocative of ...

The entrance to the Public Wing of The Museum of Civilization, evocative of a human face, with the entrance plaza along Laurier Avenue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On a real Pakistani bus in The Children's Museum.

On a real Pakistani bus in The Children’s Museum.

Like most tourists, we "ice-skated" on the Rideau Canal and ate hot "Beavertails," a glorified, flattened, deep-fried pastry.

Like most tourists, we “ice-skated” on the Rideau Canal and ate hot “Beavertails,” a glorified, flattened, deep-fried pastry.

A small example of the many ice sculptures for Winterlude Festival. The kids loved it.

A small example of the many ice sculptures at Winterlude Festival. The kids loved it.

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