Monday, March 30, 2009
Another fascinating yet befuddling weekend in Paris. Brace yourselves, people, because it could be a long one. Mama's got some stuff to process.
First, can I get another grocery store rant out of the way? I swear if we didn't need food life would be so much more enjoyable. There are some days at our local Champion that are "stocking" days. These could also be referred to as "just go screw yourself 'cuz you ain't gettin' what you came for" days.
The aisles of Parisian supermarkets are teeny tiny to start with -- but now add to this teenyness a couple employees in each aisle unloading boxes off big carts, emptying them, then jumping up and down on said boxes and tossing them in a large unkempt pile a few meters away (oh hell yeah, I'm metric now).
Yeah, like I said, "go screw yourself" days. You're not getting your cart through that. And if you try, like me, with hope in your eyes and a polite, "Pardon," you will receive a blank stare and the very, very infuriating French shrug -- the shrug that says, "nuttin' I can do, screwed lady" -- then they will return to jumping up and down on their boxes.
Giving up on the aisles, I tried produce. I've taken on produce many times before, with it's bag it-weigh it-label it yourself machine and it's been relatively smooth sailing. But this time the grocery gods were against me. I had two bags of produce and headed to the scales but could not, for the love of all that is good in this world, find either the green onions or the cauliflower listed on the screen. Thus, I had no button to push and thus no sticker to print and thus my dinner is looking to be about two items short. I looked and looked, scanning every line with my finger as the line behind me grew longer and longer and I started to sweat from the pressure.
I had a very resigned realization as I looked at the machine and the boxes and the shrugging employees -- some days the grocery store just wins. So I left two plastic bags of green onions and cauliflower sitting next to the scale machine and walked right out of the store. I will most likely need grocery-related therapy before our years in France are over.
I don't even really know how to write about this next thing. There will not be enough space or time to write about all the surreal events that occurred at the (eerie music here) Paris aquarium. Sounds so tame, right? But no. Weirdness.
Now granted, we have high standards as we come from Seattle which has one heck of a fine aquarium. In all our city-on-the-coast snobbery, we joked back and forth on the metro about the aquarium we were about to visit, perhaps full of deformed creatures snagged out of the Seine.
When we arrived, we saw a large "Tickets!" sign under which sat half a dozen touchscreen machines. Alex and I rationally assumed this is where you purchase tickets. So we walked up, put our credit card in the little card reader and started poking the screen. But all we got in return were either pictures of fish or various trivia questions about fish, which we dutifully answered, assuming we had to prove some knowledge of fish in order to be worthy of admission. After answering a few questions and watching some fish swim by we started eyeing each other with concern, a familiar sense of cluelessness and "we're doing something very, very wrong" coming over us.
Eventually Alex walked over to the unmarked counter next to the coat check and asked how we buy tickets. The boy happily informed him it was right there, with him! So Alex pointed to the "Tickets!" machines, asked him what the hell they were for, and the boy told him, "Oh, that's just a game! They used to be how you bought tickets but they don't work anymore!!" WTF.
Perhaps a sign would be helpful, Paris aquarium? Or maybe the chipper little employee boy could walk over and inform the clueless tourists they were making asses of themselves trying to buy tickets from a game? (We were not alone at the "Tickets!" machines. There were a couple Italian women and a whole family of somethin'-or-others poking at the machines, answering the questions and pushing and pulling their credit cards in and out of the reader in their futile attempts to get some goddamn tickets.)
That was just the entrance. There was more. The Paris Aquarium, you see, has a split personality. It is part fish home and part movie museum. We have no idea how they're related either. You pass the shark exhibit and enter a room full of famous movie costumes. We saw the getup from Robocop! Now that's something special but when you're expecting to see fishies, it's also disorienting.
We passed from the Caribbean fish exhibit straight into an exhibit on Japanese anime. And then we went from the jellyfish into a makeup studio where some guy was working on bloodying up a molded head on the table. We watched him for awhile until he looked up, saw the Loosh and asked him if he would like to be made up like a pirate? Hell yeah, we said, brimming with parental enthusiasm and excitement for our child.
We assumed this would be a normal, average kid face-painting. We were super wrong. The guy busted out greasepaint, told Lucien to close his eyes and started painting a large black eye patch across his eyelid. Did I mention it was greasepaint? So I'm cursing under my breath as the eye patch grows bigger, then as the mustache, beard, and bloody scar appear because I know, as most people probably know, that greasepaint doesn't dry for a really, really really long time. And it stains anything it brushes up against. And we were only halfway through the movie aquarium and a long metro ride away from home.
As soon as the guy was finished with the makeup, Lucien started poking at his face, then rubbing his face because it felt funny, resulting in two stained hands and ten seriously stained fingers reaching for Mommy and Daddy who were ducking and weaving away from him with impressive agility because they like their clothes.
Lucien looked like one demented pirate as we continued through the aquarium. Very Heath Ledger Joker-esque as the makeup deteriorated throughout the rest of our visit. I grabbed some napkins and paper towels and tried to rub the paint off his hands best I could but greasepaint wins in the greasepaint vs. paper war and I only succeeded in turning his hands a sickly gray.
Now, there are some seriously cool exhibits in the Paris aquarium/movie thingy. There is a tank where kids can feed the fish. The employees give the kids food and the fish come and nibble it right out of their hands. Tempering my enthusiasm somewhat, however, was the design choice to make the wall surrounding this tank just a few inches above some of the older kids' knees. The combination of "excited kids leaning way over" and "short wall" doesn't work well, as evidenced by little Johnny next to us who, if his Daddy hadn't been there with excellent reflexes, would have gone headfirst into the tank along with his fistful of food.
In a further head-scratching detail, there is a "No Swimming" sign next to this tank. Perhaps there is some confusion surrounding "swimming" versus "falling in" on the part of aquarium management. Or perhaps there are some people who truly can't resist the urge to strip down and dive into a shallow tank filled with super large and rather slimy goldfish. I don't know which one I'd rather believe because they're both scary.
Next to the feeding fish tank was a "green wall" exhibit where kids can stand in front of a green wall and watch themselves on a TV screen as a scene is projected behind them -- just like Will Smith did while filming Hancock! Lucien, little exhibitionist he is, loved checking himself out on the screen and entertained the crowd with a jolly round of pirate "Aaargh"s, helping to clarify in peoples' minds what the hell he was supposed to be with his smeared makeup and earning him a hearty round of applause from onlookers.
Let's just leave it on that positive note because all the other memories are making my brain burn.
I am grateful we passed on the annual memberships. And two days later, I am still trying to get black greasepaint out of Lucien's eyebrows.
Aaaargh, mon chou,
Friday, March 27, 2009
Upon entering the garderie, there is a sign posted on the door saying something to the effect of, "Please take off your shoes; you stepped in a lot of dog poo out there and it's for the health and well being of our students yada yada yada." Now granted, there are a few words on that sign I don't understand but I got the gist and have always diligently removed my shoes just inside the door.
But then, to my confusion, I noticed a pile of terry cloth booties next to the door and some parents walking around wearing them while escorting their little Genevieve or Sebastien to their room. So OK, overkill maybe, but I don't want to get yelled at so donned the booties.
I do remember a few parents looking at me oddly as I went about my footwear routine but I didn't think anything of it because sometimes people just look at me oddly here. But then came yesterday. As I'm removing my shoes and putting on booties another mother walks in with her child and LEAVING HER SHOES ON puts the booties on OVER the shoes. Ohhhhh...... that makes so much more sense. So I'm sitting on the floor staring at her feet letting this sink in when she glances at me, sees what I'm doing with all the shoes and booties laying around me, and laughs.
So I weakly say, "You mean, we don't do both?" And she laughs again and points to the part on the sign that apparently says, "If you've paid too much money for your shoes, as most French woman have, to part with them for five minutes, you can put these little bootie covers on. But don't tell the American and watch her doing both for weeks and chuckle, if you want."
But on a positive note, I now know the French word for "bootie!"
Enough of mama's floundering -- on to Loosh's thriving. Lucien is truly a boy of the people, an extrovert to the extreme, it would seem, with little fear or self doubt. When we walk down the street these days, Lucien makes eye contact with everyone we pass, gives 'em a smile and extends his hand to shake theirs, greeting them with a "Bonjour," and occasionally patting their arm afterwards for good measure. If they don't see him or just ignore him and walk past, he'll turn around and watch them walk away, yelling, "Oh, that's OK! Au revoir!" and continue on his chipper little way.
Emily took Lucien for the entire day on Wednesday. God bless her. It was Otis's birthday and he wanted Lucien to join him for their day of fun all over the city. Part of the day entailed a boat tour on the Seine with a large group of Chinese tourists. Otis and Lucien, being Otis and Lucien, called a large amount of attention to themselves and apparently won the hearts of the Chinese completely. Lucien did his walk up, handshake, hug, "bonjour" thing and they were smitten. Emily claims the Chinese people stopped looking at humdrum things such as the sites of Paris to instead pass the Loosh around the group, allowing each member to pose for pictures with him.
Emily sent me pictures from her phone as it was happening with captions such as, "You'd think Lucien was the goddamn Eiffel Tower or something."
And yeah, we've heard it already: the boy's a politician. I can see his campaign poster now, "Lucien is the Solution." Or "The Lucien Revolution." I'll have to think of some more later and start drawing up the signs because you have to be prepared for these kinds of things.
Have you heard of the new disgruntled French worker's pastime of "bossnapping?" It's happened a few times around here recently and it's when angry workers barricade the boss in his office until he gives in to their demands. Kind of like a more aggressive and morally questionable strike. It's a sign of the times here, how increasingly angry and desperate workers are becoming.
Humph. At first, talking about "bossnapping" seemed like it would be funny - I mean, who hasn't wanted to barricade their boss in their office and demand things from them??? -- but on second thought it's a total downer due to the whole "desperation behind it" part.
Now everyone go have happy weekends while the world falls apart around us!
Use your powers for good, mon chou,
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Sloppy Seconds! Sloppy Seconds! You suck, London!
Steve and Lisa arrived at our pad so damn tired from stupid London they couldn't have cared less what city they were in. We might as well have been sitting in the middle of Fargo the way their eyes glazed and shoulders slumped. You damn people living in England taking our friends' energy and enthusiasm for life!
Man! Sorry about that rant, guys. London just pisses me off sometimes with its "Ooh, look at our beers and our pubs and our speaking English." Whatever.
Steve and Lisa (or "Stevea," as we've determined their celebrity couple name to be) eventually came around to the land of the living and ultimately had a good time with us here in Paris, which, by the way, is a far superior city to stupid London.
There were certainly some misfires during their visit such as the time Steve ordered (thought he ordered) an exotic French sausage for lunch and was served a plain old hot dog without the bun. And then there was Al's bad choice of a restaurant the first night (it's hard to find a bad restaurant in Paris but my Al is gifted like that) which found Al and Stevea in a questionable Italian fusion joint with Michael Jackson music in the background. And not even good Michael Jackson -- the bad stuff from "Dangerous."
But there was greatness! Greatness in the form of a babysitter and Chez Fernand, my most favorite restaurant in the world until I branch out and try another. Even foodie Lisa was filled with foodie joy -- she now says she can never eat veal again as it will never taste the same. HA LONDON! STUFF IT! Alex and I ate ecstasy in the form of Noix Saint Jacques and the way we all stealthily attacked Steve's bourguignon sauce with pieces of bread left no doubt in our overstuffed minds -- the meal was perfection on plates.
Food aside, you know what else makes me giddy with glee? How the French people treat Alex as a Quebecois. I wasn't sure going into this international move how my Al was going to be received. I knew I didn't stand much of a chance, as an uncouth American, of winning their hearts but what about my Al? The French, of course, believe they're superior to their Canadian cousins but would they greet him with disdain? Heckling? Armpit farts?
I suppose the best way to describe it is like seeing an older brother greet his much, much younger but no less beloved kid brother. Upon hearing his accent in any given restaurant, the customarily professional and formal waiters have more or less slugged him in the arm and greeted him with cries of, "Eh, it's Quebec!" Sometimes I think they are moments away from putting him in a headlock and messing up his hair. Or giving him a wet willy.
It's delightful to me. They love him but cannot resist picking on him. Isn't that just the way we all feel about my Al?
Chez Fernand's waitstaff greeted Alex in much the same manner. The Quebec ribbing began almost immediately as Al and our waiter forged their instant bond based on the slim, slim chance of distant common relatives. When Alex told him the rest of us were "charming Americans," the waiter, possibly believing none of us spoke French but not realizing I am a French wunderkind, leaned forward and asked, "Do charming Americans exist?" with a conspiratory wink. I told you I didn't stand a chance.
STUPID WAITER AND STUPID LONDON.
When dessert arrived, the waiter took harassment of my Al to a whole new level by dousing his rum cake with mass, mass, mass quantities of rum. In front of us all, just pouring, pouring, pouring....the plate slowly filling with rum after the cake had reached saturation. Poor Alex couldn't even really eat the thing, let alone finish it and I swear the rest of us got drunk just smelling it. When Al cautiously suggested to the waiter he had, perhaps, gone overboard on the rum, the waiter picked up the bottle and doused it some more, walking away cackling with mischief and delight.
I'm surprised he didn't give my Al a wedgie on the way out.
Steve and Lisa are spending their last night in Paris in a swank hotel off the Champs Elysees. We're trying not to take it personally but I can't help but wonder if we did something to scare them away. Was it the inflatable Aerobed that sometimes chooses to be not-so-inflated? Was it Lucien staring at them inches from their faces while they were trying to sleep? Was it the way I clung to their legs whenever they walked past, begging them not to leave me alone with all these Frenchies?
Nah. Can't be any of that stuff. They probably just need some sexay time and that's tough to do in the middle of our living room without being rude.
I put a link over there to the right under "Things to click" that shows how the Loosh helped daddy row the boat on the Grand Canal at Versailles. We didn't move very fast.
Paris first next time, mon chou
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Ah, but he's a good egg. And Versailles is a pretty nice pad, if you have to live somewhere. Gold-encrusted chateaus have never been my particular style but I could get past the distaste if someone offered me a job as Queen of France. But yikes I hear they do way worse than fire you if they don't like how you're queening. Maybe I should stick with momming. I may lose my mind but at least it will still be attached to my body.
We spent a glorious sunny Saturday at Versailles, moving as quickly as possible through the bazillion rooms inside to keep Lucien's antsiness at bay, then turning him loose in the immense gardens outside. Woo boy they know how to grow some bushes.
Not content to have only Paris at his feet, Louis "I'm the Sun King" XIV -- seriously, what an ego on that guy -- installed a mile-long Grand Canal out in the garden, complete, at the time, with gondoliers and gondolas shipped from Venice. There are no longer any gondoliers in gondolas on the Grand Canal. But there IS my Al in a rowboat.
Rowboat rental with the Loosh may sound like a sketchy proposition. And I assure you, it is. They flopped an ancient life preserver around his little body and tied it with a frayed rope but honestly, it wasn't the "saving him" part I was worried about. It was the "him rocking the boat sending us all into the Grand Canal" part.
Oh, but we spent happy times out on the canal, feeding Lucien's leftover pain au chocolat (he now just eats the chocolate part and throws the pastry part on the ground) to the ducks and swans and watching Alex make funny strained faces from the effort of rowing all of us two miles (no, I didn't help because I was the Queen of France on Saturday. But Lucien helped. Lucien's "help," however, is really more of a "not so helpy.") And no one ended up in the canal. We emerged from the rowboat happy and dry as a bone except for the spit on the front of my jacket -- unfortunate timing for me as I moved into Lucien's line of fire while he was attempting to spit on a duck.
We spent a walloping eight hours at the chateau, moving from gardens to the Grand and Petit Trianons (for when you need a chateau away from your chateau) and Marie Antoinette's hameau (for when you need a break from your chateau and your chateau-away-from-chateau.)
I have a hunch we pushed it too far, judging from my dragging of ole limpy legs Loosh across the front courtyard back to the train station, him crying and carrying on and such. Can't complain, though -- the kid put up with eight hours of near constant walking without a whimper. We will forgive him his end-of-day tantrum, but just this once.
On Sunday Daddy took the Loosh to the Eiffel Tower where Lucien fell down some steps and hit his head. Hard. Big ole goose-egg appearing immediately kind of hard. Alex, the recent Natasha Richardson tragedy fresh in his mind, sought medical help at the Eiffel Tower infirmary (they have one -- must be for all those tourists who fall down and hit their heads on the stairs) where they treated Lucien by rubbing a mysterious paste on his forehead and telling Alex he was good to go. Paste? Eh? What year is this? Where are we? Is it one thousand years ago and that's the Eiffel Tower witch doctor?
We spent the next several hours staring intently at Lucien checking for signs of deterioration. Lucien stared intently back at us. He now thinks we are completely insane. We're parents -- close enough. And that mystery paste, if I may eat my words, is amazing stuff. The bump is subsiding and has failed to develop the horrific colors we thought it would. Do we have "mystery paste" in the U.S.?
Tonight Alex and I were in the kitchen when Lucien came in carrying his potty chair from his bedroom, apparently after doing a pee, because he pointed inside the potty chair and said incredulously, "Would you look at the color on that?" My boy has an artistic and discerning eye. Mama felt proud.
I am happy to say our very first visitors are coming to Paris today and staying with us for a couple days. Steve and Lisa, come on down! I may find some time to write something while they're here but I also may be too busy squeezing the Seattle love out of them and begging them to stay forever.
It was a beautiful shade of yellow, mon chou,
Friday, March 20, 2009
Since we're the first button on the buzzer panel outside the front door, someone buzzes this apartment near daily and relays a garbled message I don't understand. I now just buzz them in with a flourish of the arm and continue puttering around the kitchen. (don't think I'm actually much of a putterer but that word provokes such a delightful mental image)
This morning it went like this: RING. I press button, "Bonjour?" Woman answers, "Bonjour. C'est Nicole!" in a cheery little voice. I say "Bonjour Nicole!" matching the cheeriness level to a tee and then BUZZZZZZZ. I don't know any Nicole here but she seemed nice enough.
I wonder how long it will be before the angry crabby people start pounding on our door, outraged all their precious silver and family heirlooms have been pilfered. At least I'll be able to say, "It was Nicole. She's real cheery but doesn't have a body."
Since we're on the subject of speaking French over devices that complicate communication, I'm developing an aversion to phones. When I see one, I hiss at it. If it rings, I run wild-eyed into the corner and stare, trying to make it stop with my mind.
At least in person if I'm stuck language-wise I can pantomime and smile huge and look like a general ass to get my point across -- not to mention the facial cues I get from the person to whom I'm speaking that let me know I'm either on course or veering off wildly into nonsenseland.
It is with that background information I announce with great joy I completed my first full-length phone call 100% in French. It wasn't flawless and I hung up bright red and sweaty from the effort but I did it!
And while I'm bragging about my French-speaking prowess; I visited a school with Lucien and did the entire tour and interview in -- yeah, how did you know? -- FRENCH. There were some charades involved; I said a few things that were met with blank stares and I pulled a French dictionary out of my purse when I started making up new, wondrous and fanciful french-like words.
I'm quickly learning the key component to learning a new language is not caring if you look like a moron. You've just got to jump in there and go for it, people pointing and laughing be damned!
Yesterday Alex came home from work and me, being the loving wife, asked the usual, "How'd the day go?" series of questions. And he looked thoughtful for a moment, stared off into space and said, "Well.....one of my co-workers had a bit of a nervous breakdown today and started crying in the middle of the meeting because she's so stressed out from all the work." Oh. That's not good.
We're thinking of going out to Versailles tomorrow. We will pretend to be kings and queens, frolic in the gardens without a care and then cut our own heads off.
Mommy's gone to her happy place, mon chou,
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Is it just me, or is this lion a little too anatomically correct for a merry-go-round? TMI, Lion!
I find myself scrutinizing many things around here and deeming them "lawsuits waitin' for plaintiffs." Perhaps it's the daughter-of-a-lawyer thing, or perhaps it's the I'm-just-American-and-we-sue-the-crap-out-of-each-other-for-fun thing, but either way, facts are facts. There is some serious litigation overdue in Paris.
I already mentioned the merry-go-round in a previous posting -- the one where you tie your children on with leather belts and watch from a safe distance (lawsuit). But let's add to it Alex chipping his tooth on a rock in his salad (lawsuit) AND a preschool program I'm looking into that involves taking the kids to a pool once a week for swim lessons -- usually without their working parents and with an undetermined acceptable ratio of adults to children (devastating lawsuit). Needless to say, if Lucien goes to that program, mama will be putting on a bathing suit once a week for the rest of his preschool career. The only other alternative would be to sit at home and have a heart attack.
There are also very few guardrails in this city, especially along the Seine, which has gotta make you wonder how many people have unintentionally gone into the drink. Lucien, of course, has tried intentionally several times, which is why Lucien is sometimes on a leash.
And speaking of leashes, you know what else makes me feel sad? The lack of good ole American groceries in my neighborhood. As I've mentioned, I don't like to cook much but occasionally I get into jags of wanting to cook constantly for a few weeks. Don't worry; it always passes.
But I'm in a jag right now so I pull out the recipes from home and head to the grocery store convinced I'm going to find all the things on my cheery little list. And now, I ask you, how is it possible in a land of CHEESE such as France, I can't find a single block of extra sharp cheddar in a grocery store? Or hell, even mildly sharp or completely dull cheddar? Their cheese section takes up an entire wall yet there's just no cheddar.
Cooking sprays, such as my beloved fat-free Pam, are missing from the shelves. No pancake mix. Don't even get me started on the lack of cottage cheese and I'll be damned if I can't find any cornstarch or maple syrup. (Whoa -- lumping them all together like that makes it sound like I'm cooking something pretty f'd up).
There are specialty and international food stores where I could find these things but I would have to sell Lucien to pay for them. There's an American grocery import store where I COULD fork out six bucks for a box of Kraft mac-n-cheese but I wouldn't feel very good about myself afterwards.
In other strange news, the Loosh has started saying things like, "I can't" with a British accent. He sounds like Madonna with her half-American, half-British thing going on. That, thankfully, is the only way Lucien reminds me of Madonna because more than that would be disconcerting.
We asked our neighbors what year our building was built -- 1670! I don't really have anything else to say about that except hey, that's old. Our building is older than the United States of America -- a full hundred years before TJ and the ole D of I.
It's time to sign off when I'm too lazy to write out the full names of our founding fathers and defining documents.
Just one more thing -- I would like to make a general statement that no one, absolutely NO ONE in the world, should try to sing the song "Kiss" aside from Prince. There is an adorable young guy with his little guitar down at the end of our street and he just keeps trying but it's fingernails down the ole chalkboard. If you ain't got the falsetto -- and face it, not many do -- just. don't. do it.
Nigh' nigh' mon chou,
Monday, March 16, 2009
In a statement that will shock zero people....Sainte-Chapelle continues to be beautiful! It's disappointing, though, to see that teargas is now banned inside. I guess the chapel went and got all uptight. Thankfully I had forgotten mine at home and Alex was plumb out after breaking up a hostage situation near Porte Maillot.
There are certainly positives to living above a professional cellist. She has her string quintet over some evenings and they play pretty things for a couple hours. It forces me to turn off the Karaoke channel, which I admittedly resent slightly, and listen because they're so good.
However, they are currently working on one intense piece of music and it's freakin' me out. A bit too horror movie: lots of quivery strings and loooooong sustained high notes on a screechy violin. The other night I was sitting at the computer with the Loosh in bed and Al not home yet when they started playing this particular shiver-inducing piece. I found myself continually looking over my shoulder, worried there was some slasher guy in a mask in the entryway closet.
Now is when I talk about food. Al and I were invited to dinner downstairs at the Quebecois' apartment Friday night. Being a French dinner, it started at 9:00 pm and ended approximately at the crack of dawn.
The company was wonderful, but I have to skip that part to talk about the food. (Honestly, sweetest people I know and I know a lot of really sweet people..... actually, no, I don't -- I know a lot of "gruff" people.)
But I digress. Let me tell you what we ATE. The salad was shrimp and grapefruit with some creamy dressing I could have drunk right out of a spigot if a salad dressing spigot existed. The main course was veal, perfectly sliced, tender and melty with huge roasted potatoes, carrots and green beans. Then there was the traditional cheese plate after the main course which contained a Roquefort that, as Alex exclaimed after the first bite, "it's a party in my mouth!" Desserts, courtesy of my Al who picked them up at the bonbonnerie, were individual cakes of all different types. I inhaled the strawberry tart and Mme. attacked the chocolate one as I would imagine an addict pounces on the good stuff.
We came home right after the meal was finished -- at 12:45 am. I don't know how the Frenchies function eating that late. Going to bed with a dangerously full stomach certainly leaves something to be desired; it's like trying to sleep on a basketball and the dreams are seriously f'd up. But the French are equally as confounded that anyone in the world could be hungry at 5:30 pm, so looks like we will continue to puzzle at one another.
Now is when I talk about Lucien and the craziness. We have a phrase we use in those moments when he's gotta move or burst. We call it "bees in the pants." Sometimes he'll be squirming and getting crabby on the couch or sitting at the table and he'll look at me and say, "Mommy, I got the bees in my pants." So we get up and spin circles and flap our arms around and run laps around the dining room table or whatever. Usually works and he can settle again, having expelled another bit of his endless supply of energy.
But with such good intentions come such unintended consequences. Today we were at the park and Lucien started to pull his pants down right next to the sandbox, a very cross look on his face. I ran over, and as I got closer, I heard him sternly saying, then eventually yelling, "Bees, get OUT! Get outta my pants! You drivin' me crazy!"
Then, today in a waiting room we were chatting with a lovely Australian woman who, duh, speaks pretty darn good English. When she turned to chat with Lucien, ask how he was doing and whatnot, he responded with, "I've got bees in my butt."
The weather in Paris has been divine. Sunshine and light-jacket kind of bliss. We celebrated Sunday by taking Lucien to the gelato place around the corner, reputed to have the best gelato in the city. Lucien wanted "two chocolates," and though we ordered the "petite" size for him, as you can see.....not so petite. It's the size of his head.
We ended up at the park so he could get the sugar-induced bees out. Usually the bees are forces of nature but sometimes the bees are man made.
Gelato, mon chou,
Friday, March 13, 2009
Sorry, Heloise, but this just ain't workin' out. And it's not you -- it's the Loosh.
Remember how I said all those days ago (two) that I didn't think the garderie was the best place for the Loosh? Turns out the garderie agrees! Consensus is fun!
My pretty thorough knowledge of my boy told me from minute one this was not a great fit. If you put a tornado of a three-year-old in a room with a bunch of mobile home two-year-olds, it ain't gonna be long before the two-year-olds start to fly.
When I went to pick him up yesterday, I saw the look on the teacher's face as she approached me and my heart sank clear down to my toes. I know that look. It's that look like, "I have something to tell you but I'm not sure if you're going to deck me or not." But I'm not the decking kind of mama. I know my boy's strengths and weaknesses better than I know my own (denial for me, thank you very much) and I'm happy to be proactive and deal with them as a mature adult. Stinky stupid face teacher.
So I sat down with two teachers and had a chat entirely in French which makes me feel like a superstar despite the subject material. Turns out my boy's got gusto! Revelation! This particular garderie is really for younger, rag-doll-like children. Lucien needs more physical activity (duh); he needs more structure (yep) and most importantly, he needs bigger kids around him who can push back if he goes all "Looshstyle" on 'em (you said it, sista).
He will still attend the garderie -- they just wanted to give me a heads up it's going to be rough going for both him AND the other teeny kids (those poor little beach umbrellas caught up in Hurricane Lucien). Thanks to that information, I will now cross "relax" off my list of things to do while Lucien is there.
We are now looking into some private schools and other more active options to unleash the Loosh upon. It is going to be tough. Getting your kid into a cool school here at any point besides September and January without a waitlist is about as easy as finding a French person who wants to give you a bear hug and call you "buddy."
But fingers crossed we find an opening at a school that encourages stick fights and mud wrestling because that would be perfect.
It's going to be brief, Heloise, but we'll never forget you. I hope you get the mama time you so desperately need. (Seriously, can someone please call Heloise's mom?)
Garderie drop-out, mon chou,
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Aside from impaling Daddy in effigy, things are lookin' up! Oooh yeah....I'm on a roll now. Smooth sailing from here on out, I think.
The sun was shining and Paris was sparkly and beautiful today, so forgive my premature optimism. And I swear, I SWEAR they're doing a better job cleaning up dog poo as the tourists start to roll in and what's not to celebrate about that?
Lucien is in something called a "garderie" now, which is essentially a daycare program. The neighborhood preschool he should be attending at this point is full so he's on a waiting list for September. If he doesn't get in then, I will most likely shoot myself.
So in the meantime, to grab something fast and get him immersed in French with Frenchie kids, we landed the local garderie.
It's not an ideal place for the Loosh. I don't know if you've heard, but he's on the "spirited" side of the kid spectrum. He's the oldest kid there by a couple months which is never a scenario that screams "success!" for our kid. He's already louder than his three-year old peers. Put him in a room with a bunch of kids six months younger than him and holy hell! You should see their eyes widen with the terror, yet the fascination! They can't look away!
The first day was part of the "adjustment period." Just an hour. I stay in the room with him the whole time. We can do this. So after a high-five we walk in, me admittedly apprehensive, and BAM! SHOWTIME!
Even my mouth was agape. He was trying out some great stuff. There was the chatting happily with all the children in loud English, resulting in more of those, "You are a frickin' ALIEN" looks he's getting so used to. There was the going down the slide headfirst. Then on his back headfirst. Then rolled up in a ball. Other children, those made of the stronger stuff, immediately followed suit and incurred horrifying injuries.
Then there was the running to the window, screaming, "LOOK AT THAT!" and somehow convincing every single kid in the room to come to the window and look at a construction crane. There was also the unfortunate incident of the marker meeting Esme's shirt. And don't even get me started on the stealing of poor Jonathan's choo choo and hastily trying to replace it with a stuffed dog before Jonathan blew a fuse. Jonathan's no fool, though. He blew.
I would have loved to have stopped him or at least had a few well-intentioned chats with him but I was unfortunately pinned to the wall by a young girl named Heloise who apparently has never seen a mother before. I mean wow. Clawing at me, trying to climb up on me, pulling at my hair, my clothes (not the red peacoat, Heloise!) shoving her stuffed rabbit in my face and eventually my mouth, all the while crying, "Maman est partie..." ("Mama left") I had definitely been pegged as stand-in mama but honestly, I think it just qualified as assault! How do you fight back when your aggressor is two-and-a-half years old? And still look polite and like a great mom and "Oooh....aren't children great?" about it all?
By the time I distracted Heloise by throwing her rabbit across the room, sending her on a game of fetch hatched out of desperation, Lucien had developed a posse of no fewer than six kids and they were unleashing their particular brand of hell on the previously serene room.
The teacher, bless her heart found most (I said most) of this pretty darn funny. She raised her eyebrows and let her mouth hang open no fewer than a dozen times in that "transition period" of an hour and at one point looked at me incredulously and uttered the sentence I've already heard several times in reference to my son -- "Il est quelque chose, non?" (Wow, lady, your kid's kinda a nut, eh?)
The second day he stayed there a couple hours by himself. Thank God, because the second I walked in the door to drop him off, Heloise made a beeline for me. I hightailed it out of there so fast. She has the pinchiest fingers.
When I came to pick him up he was at snack time. Us parents are responsible for bringing the snack for our child every day. And here comes a whopper of a cultural difference. I brought a pretty standard snack for our house -- some pretzels, a baggie of raisins, and the equivalent of a French Nutri Grain bar. Pretty decent, right?
Lucien had just thrown his raisins on the floor when I walked in and once I took a look around, I can't say I blame him. Every other kid at the table had cakes, cookies, chocolates, pastries. One was finishing off a HUGE chocolate mousse and his face was completely covered in the sweet stuff, his eyes closed with the joy of it all. Lucien was livid as he got hit hard with the realization -- he got SO screwed!
Next time I'll sweeten it up good. He's going to have the best snack at the table, hands down. Hey, when in Rome....
While Lucien was spending those two hours flying solo at the garderie, I'm happy to report I was spending them with a new, honest-to-goodness friend, Lissy. She's part of the MESSAGE group and lives a few doors down from us on our street. We had a pretty great time snorting about our common experiences regarding getting used to Paris (she's been here over a year now and loves it but remembers all too well the "dark days" and relives them with glee.)
I never wanted to move here and mingle solely with ex-pat English speakers. But French people don't give me a choice because they don't want to hang out with me.
Upon leaving the cafe and walking to get Lucien, I realized I had forgotten my scarf at our table. Walking back in and seeing it had already been removed from the table, I was faced with the only option of asking someone about it. And I'll be damned if I couldn't remember the French word for "scarf" in that moment.
So I walked up to the young man behind the counter, started off promisingly with, "Excuse me, but I left my......." and then pantomimed what must have looked like a large boa constrictor squeezing the hell out of my neck. I finished off the sentence that had no middle this way, "...upon my neck! Upon my neck!" The young man looked at me with great humor and said in accentless English, "Your scarf, madame?" I'll be damned if he wasn't American.
Ugh. So I'm still an asshole here and there but I have to tell you -- I swear I'm getting the hang of it.
Ssshhhhhh. Don't wake Heloise, mon chou,
Monday, March 9, 2009
Caption for above photo according to moi: "Their initial foolhardy plans thwarted thanks to blatant warning sign, Alex and Lucien sat down nicely holding hands."
Turns out Al and I have questionable morals and will do anything to save a buck(euro). Upon arrival at Eurodisney, we checked out the pricing at the door and promptly lied about Lucien's age to the ticket lady. Yeah, yeah, we suck as parents -- but seriously, 45 euros for a three-year-old? And he JUST turned 3 (a couple times!) six weeks ago? Thus, "Why, absolutely, he's still 2," followed by innocent eyelash flutters from Al.
HA! We felt we had really stuck it to the overcharging man until we realized we had lied needlessly, thus compromising our integrity and complicating matters in a major way. Since we were purchasing two year-long passport memberships (oh yeah we're that committed to Mickey), Lucien's was free and he could get his own Disney passport with picture and everything -- as long as he was OVER the age of three. Oooh boy, what a pickle we were in then!
We sure did make that poor ticket-selling lady's head spin when we couldn't decide when our son's birthday was. I think she was suspicious. But eventually all three of us nodded enthusiastically in agreement that Lucien was over three! Huzzah! Al and I then left the ticket counter sheepish, bright red, and perhaps lesser people than we were before.
The whole thing got funnier and funnier the further we got from the ticket counter and by the time we reached the actual entrance to the park, we were in stitches. So much so, that when a group of French people cut in front of us at the turnstile, Alex could only point at them and say in his high-pitched giggly voice, "Oh look! They did it again!" and then double over with laughter.
I don't know if anyone's familiar with Loudon Wainwright, folk singer, but I'm a big fan. He has a song entitled "Bein' a Dad," and one of the lyrics goes something like this, "It's as hard as it looks. You gotta read 'em dumb books. And you end up despising Walt Disney."
I had that lyric circling through my head all day as I took in all the parents with the dull, far-away looks in their eyes, adding up the crazy money they were spending just to be there, contemplating the precious time lost standing in long lines everywhere they went and trying to stay calm with crazy overstimulated children who wanted to eat, buy or hug everything they passed.
But you know, all craziness and long lines aside, we had a great time. A great time that certainly ranks in the top of Lucien's happiest days. He was pure, effervescent joy and laughter. We hit the choo-choo, the vomitous teacups, the Pirates, all those singing, singing, endlessly singing children in "It's a Small World..." oh my God, please stop singing....
When we rounded a corner in the infuriatingly repetitive "It's a Small World" ride, there stood the US of A spread before us with big displays of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, Hollywood, etc. As I smiled broadly at the symbols of the homeland, Alex yelled happily beside me, "Hey, there's Canada!" Then, upon further study of -- er -- sadly lacking Canadian display, a disgruntled Alex muttered for the rest of the ride, "The U.S. got all that and all we got was a Mountie."
We waited in line 90 darn minutes for "Pirates of the Caribbean." We have now decided if you wait that long for that ride, you should be offered the chance to make out with Johnny Depp at the end of it. But he wasn't even there so blah.
The icing on the overpriced cake was the parade. The Loosh's eyes could not have gotten any bigger when he saw Buzz Lightyear larger than life hovering above us on the Toy Story float. And for that reason above all others, it's true. Disneyland is magic.
One float came at us full of demonic creatures twisting and writhing with black smoke billowing out of their nostrils. Horrified at such a creepy float, I asked Al, "What movie is THAT one supposed to represent?" Upon brief study, Alex informed me, in all seriousness, "It's Cinderella." I gaped at him. "What the hell kind of f'd up version of Cinderella did YOU grow up with?"
What's going on, Canada, with the Mounties and the scary Cinderella?
Mon chou had the time of his life but now we have no money, MJ
Friday, March 6, 2009
So I'm here again, kid's in bed and I'm with my friend, TV. There is a channel called "The Karaoke Channel," and it's exactly what you think it is. I'm a karaoke eye-roller on any given day in the States but sitting in the comfort of my own teeny apartment wrapped in a big fuzzy blanket, it approaches a whole new level of fun ridiculousness.
Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild" was just featured and the cheesy video behind it was some long-haired dude throwing lawn chairs around a backyard. That's wild? Didn't any of these people go to college? Spring break ring a bell? Seriously, showing some guy riding a bike without a helmet would be more wild than that. That looked more like a three-year old's temper tantrum and I should know.
And in another newsworthy item -- so big, in fact, I expect to see it on CNN tomorrow -- I witnessed my first Parisian picking up his dog's poo. And it was a BIG dog, if you know what I mean. I gave the nice man a huge smile to encourage his poo-picking activities. I hope it boosted his spirits enough for him to continue his efforts as well as inspire others to follow in his poo-free footsteps.
We are planning a trip to Eurodisney in the morning. That is, until we wake up in the morning and decide we're too exhausted to go.
OOH! "Macarena" is on the Karaoke Channel!
Friday night extravaganza, mon chou!
Thursday, March 5, 2009
This is actually one of our keys. I don't know whether to use it or generously donate it to a museum.
I used a dictionary last night to make Lucien's dinner. Cookbooks are SO yesterday. Dictionaries are the new cooking bibles for those in-the-know. Or (sigh) maybe just those lost and confused 99% of the time like me.
Alex and I just bought an oven. I use the term "oven" loosely. Perhaps twice the size of a toaster oven, this is the appliance that will sit on our countertop and fulfill all baking, roasting, and grilling needs over the next two years. But thankfully, with my affection (lack thereof) for cooking, we shouldn't have too many of those.
Happily, cooking-averse people like me have Picard in Paris. Ohhhh....kiss me, Picard. Picard is the best food store ever; I already miss it and I'm still here. It's stark white inside and full of top-loading freezers. You and fifty of your favorite French neighbors cram in there, peruse its fine selection of frozen entrees, sides, and desserts, go home, pop 'em in your generously sized toaster oven and voila! Dinner! And before you poo-poo frozen foods, you gotta taste the way the French do it. It may not be Chez Fernand, but we can safely say it ain't Stouffers. (Sorry Stouffers, but seriously...)
Back home, I was ready to fire up the new shiny oven thingy to put the yummy frozen thingy inside. I read the directions on the box of frozen thingy and said, "Crap." Eats may have to wait a minute while I figure out what the hell an "epui" is and what that crazy long verb is telling me to do with it. That's how I ended up sitting on the counter for an uncomfortable and stomach-rumbling amount of time looking up roughly every other word on the box in the French dictionary.
I buzzed some guy into the building today even though I have no idea what he said. He buzzed me, told me some sort of important message, and when I told him I didn't understand thanks to the crazy staticky intercom, he just said the exact same thing over again at the exact same speed. Great. So what the hell. I just buzzed the dude in to get it all over with. I may have unleashed a Parisian serial killer on our building but from what we can easily hear in our apartment, most neighbors seem to be alive and well. So I think I'm good. But if you guys hear anything on the news, it wasn't me, OK?
I ended up on the metro at rush hour today which is never a fantastic idea, but there I was nonetheless. And the strangest sensation came over me as I sat on that crammed metro car with way too many other people for comfort. As I looked about, I swear I felt something akin to AFFECTION for my fellow passengers.
There is most definitely something endearing about the French people despite all the things that are really, really easy to be horrified of/poke merciless fun at. They look tired at the end of the day but still get up and offer their seat to an elderly or pregnant woman; they know how crowded the metro is going to be but still carry two-or-three-foot long baguettes onboard. These baguettes then poke other passengers in the faces. The men are as fabulous looking as the women and the dogs even more fabulous still with their little sweaters and diamond-studded collars.
I don't know. My mind will change tomorrow and I will be frustrated and bitch mercilessly. But for today, at least, I get it, and that feels good.
Lucien is refusing to stay dressed in the house again. Dammit I thought we were past this phase. I dress him and clothes are immediately found in a pile on the floor. It's fine, I guess, but embarrassing when delivery men come to the door and Lucien jumps out yelling, "TA-DA!!"
You are a piece of work, mon chou
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
True, it's a moment that probably could have been taken from any country in the world. But since it happened here, it's noteworthy and entertaining. At least here's hoping. Here's how it happened last night at the Champion grocery store for my Al.
Al did a grocery run last night after work, bless his heart, and here in Paris you have to weigh and tag your own produce. So Al has the heart-sinking realization at checkout, after loading half his stuff on the belt, that he forgot to tag the oranges. So he does a quick dash over to produce, weighs bag and prints sticker, and dashes back record time.
When he returns to the checkout line, there's a man waiting behind him. This man is obviously homeless and in a very bad state, laboriously counting centimes for the one beer he was holding. As centimes fell to the floor and man suffered, Al's heart gave out to him and he said, "Hey, why don't you throw that beer in with my stuff?" To which the man turned as if to walk away and said, "OK, I'll go get another one, then, too." (Rimshot here)
Al drew the line at one beer. He's no enabler. But you gotta admire the hutzpah.
The Loosh and I Fred Flintstoned (well, he did. I walked like a gentlelady) down to the McDo today. In this world of fine French cuisine, sometimes you just have a hankerin'. Our nearest McDos is down near the Sorbonne which means it is always entirely crammed full of college students clustered in study groups drinking teeny tiny McDonalds espressos.
Today the only empty table was next to a father and son. Lucien was immediately "on," mugging for the boy, trying to entice him into mischief and mayhem, ignoring his fries in his attempts at friendship. This would have been somewhat OK if the dad wasn't seriously uptight and PO'd about it all. He continually and tersely asked his child to sit down, eat his lunch, be still, blah, blah, blah.
I'm always torn in these situations. Do I let the Loosh do his thing and give the guy a serious lesson in loosening up (or at least get him in touch with his anger), or do I reign in the terror and try to keep the peace in my new country of residence? Today I caved and tried to reign in the terror. Sometimes the terror is resistant to being reigned, however, and today my ridiculous attempts took the form of force-feeding french fries followed by a drag-by-the-jacket-sleeve out of the restaurant.
Big surprise -- laundry continues to suck. It's a recurring theme. In fact, it may be the theme of the whole damn move. Now that I've gotten the hang of hanging all shirts by the bottom -- and thanks to all you faithful friends who filled me in on THAT tip -- all that's left to deal with is the "stiffie" issue. Some things coming off the rack look comically like cardboard clothing. Comical, that is, until you try to put the icky stiff things on your body. Towels are the worst. This evening I dried Lucien with a newly washed towel and he cried out -- said it gave him an "owie."
Lucien is refusing to settle down for bed, a trend alarmingly present since the big move. We've been trying to get him to stay in bed for over two hours now -- unheard of back in our peaceful slumber Seattle days. After walking Lucien back to bed for the umpteenth time, Alex then came back out, rustled around the kitchen, and just now walked past me carrying a large wrench. Don't you wonder what's going on in that French Canadian head sometimes?
I'm going to make myself feel better about a few things in my new life by watching another episode of Nouvelle Star. There's some guy on there right now singing into a paper cup. Ahhhh..... that just takes the sting out.
Monday, March 2, 2009
As I look at our lives here in Paris, I am struck by what's missing. The gaping holes. The voids. The nothingness where there should be somethingness.
I wish I was being profound or philosophical or even a tad enlightened but there's no time for that nonsense -- we're still in survival mode over here. I just really mean stuff is missing. Today I had the thought of steaming some veggies for Lucien's lunch but I'll be damned! Looks like the steamer is in no man's land. I could have used a Tylenol PM last night to help mama get some much needed sleep, but shoot! That huge, important bottle purchased at Costco just days before we left is in the wind. Don't even get me started on the shoes -- perplexing as it may be, several "pairs" made the journey as singles. Crazy one-footed insomniac steam freak mover.
Thank God I have the wedding dress, though. Phew.
I will now share some joy to make up for all the loss -- Alex and I spent our FIRST Saturday night out on the town as a couple rather than family unit. We found a babysitter (Paris miracle!), hooked her up to Lucien for five hours, and met Sophie and Michael for happy times at Le Petit Journal, a famously famous Parisian jazz club next door in the Latin Quarter. Food, spirits, jazz -- just happens to be my very favorite Saturday night triumvirate.
Oh, we were riding high, me and my Al, practically skipping through the streets full of Saturday night revelers like two dopey little kids with pocketfuls of secret candy. Sometimes Mommies and Daddies need to be free, running through the streets without a care in the world like they did all those lifetimes ago.
And then...open door and bam! Reality. Our poor, poor Looshman -- spiking a big ole fever and miserable as miserable can be. Mama and papa barely slept a wink that night trying to comfort a child who could not be comforted and whose sweaty little body eventually ended up in our bed. So are we wild or what? Up ALL NIGHT -- even if half of that "up" was re-wetting the washcloth for the the forehead of our boy, we still got it, right???
Al took on European electricity with great courage over the weekend but wisely had second thoughts while perched on a ladder six feet in the air and about to electrocute himself. We will now hire a professional. As soon as we can find one. And as soon as he decides to show up. God, I hope he doesn't have his own key, too.
I joined a group here called MESSAGE. It's kind of like a big warm hug for English-speaking mamas. I joined, posted a "hello!" message and BAM! BAM! BAM! Replies left and right, "Hey, I'm an Australian mom and I live on your street!", "Hey, I'm from Northern Ireland and want to be your best friend!", "Yo, wazzup! I'm from Philly! Do you want to get matching tattoos?"
Anywho, it's a host of information for people like me trying to figure out some stuff. And I'm sure the learning will happen -- but for now I'm distracted by the one whole forum on the website dedicated to figuring out the French people. It's a complicated subject and hilarious from a safe distance. One woman posted an article from David Leibowitz detailing his "WTF" moments -- as in, the new WTF -- "Welcome to France."
He tells once of going to a bank and being told they were out of change. And when a water pipe burst in his apartment, opening the door to the emergency plumber who came without tools, saying he was "just here to look right now." Or when his oven handle broke, the store clerk tried to sell him a handle eight inches too long, advising him to saw it off and stick it on and voila!
You know, people are nuts in every culture on earth so it's no surprise. But seriously, Oh, Lordy, help me.
WTF, mon chou,