Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Day in the life

My Paris life is a combination of jaw-dropping amazement and soul-crushing drudgery.  Observe. 

Here are some pictures of me out for a normal day with Camille.  We were running errands. We were also kicking ass and taking names but it's best if you don't know the details about that, for your own safety.   

Coco no longer reclines back in her stroller; she sits straight up because it's easier for her to lunge and grab whatever we pass.  It makes pushing her stroller super exciting because if I don't notice her lunging and grabbing, there's a danger of breaking her arms since the girl doesn't let go.  Those tiny hands are so vice-like, that will so strong...


We were heading to the Right Bank so we crossed the Seine.  Pretty --

Unfortunately, we were on the Right Bank for printer paper at Darty.  Ugly --

I saw this canvas at one of my favorite stores and seriously considered buying it for Coco's room.  She is our Paris-grown baby, after all.  But it was a pretty big canvas and I couldn't bear the thought of dragging it home --

Across the river, we saw part of the Conciergerie covered in what appeared to be a large advertisement for the iPad --

My heart sank.  Marie Antoinette would be so upset!  Her beloved prison! Then I realized Marie Antoinette would be more like, "Meh, screw that place," so keep rockin' your giant obnoxious ad, Apple.  Marie's severed head is smiling down upon you. 

Then I saw these shoes.  The sign said they cost 400 euro --

I considered walking into the store to congratulate the saleslady on her funny joke, but I didn't because her face was really pinchy -- it didn't look like she'd used her sense of humor in a long time.  Could she have been serious????

We passed this sign at a creperie, which translated "galettes au boeuf" as "beef pancakes."  I doubt they're big sellers with the tourist crowd.  The translation doesn't really work, plus it sounds sexual.  I'm pretty sure if you walk into a place and say, "I want to eat some beef pancakes" you're going to get either a punch in the face or somebody's phone number.

Then I went back to my favorite store and bought that giant Paris canvas because I often fixate obsessively on things.  As I feared, it made for an awkward walk home.  I tried hanging it on the back of the stroller but it dragged on the ground.  I tried carrying it but then I only had one hand for stroller steering, which meant Coco was in constant peril of being driven into traffic. I made my choice.  I let the bag drag on the ground.  Now gimme a mother award!

Immediately after I pried Coco's vice-like fingers off some lady's shopping bags and apologized profusely, Cokes decided she was tired and fell asleep instantly, leaving me alone to sweat and swear and stumble home with her giant Paris picture. I would have forgiven her for that if, immediately upon return to the apartment, she hadn't perked right up and trashed the place. 

I stopped at this produce stand on the way home because I needed celery.  Nice melons, eh? 

When you buy celery at a produce market like this one, the stalk comes with twenty feet of leaves sticking out the top.  It's large and unwieldy and it's often tough to keep your celery under control.  There was an elderly woman in front of me who was also buying celery.  When it came her turn to pay, the man offered to chop the leaves off before he weighed it.  I'd never seen that before!  Hey, that's great! 

I was excited for him to chop my leaves off, too, but he didn't, just slapped the whole thing on the scale and made me pay for seventeen pounds of worthless leaves.  When I told him I didn't want the leaves either, he said he only does that for that one elderly woman.  It's OK, I know he's lying and just hates me.  I'm cool with it.   

Then I struggled home with a canvas dragging on the ground and what looked like a small tree sprouting up from the stroller basket.  Occasionally the leaves obscured my vision and I ran the stroller into a sidewalk cafe table.  Ima go back later and jam those worthless celery leaves in that guy's ears, but only because I've been in a foul mood since everyone around here got on my case about DSK. 

Isn't Place de Furstemberg looking lovely today?

See, it's a combo.  You do the same old boring errands, and it's harder to do them,  but your surroundings are a lot prettier.

Beef Pancakes!

Monday, May 30, 2011

DSK drama and crap

Greetings from 1950s America!  No, not really.  But yes, really.

I disappeared last week because I was working on an article for my friend's Seattle news website about the Dominic Strauss-Kahn debacle -- a first-hand report from someone living in the Paris hot zone.  It's not the kind of writing I usually do and I got very wrapped up in it because I wanted to hit the right tone -- you know, not too screechy as I screeched about suddenly realizing I'm living in an old-fashioned culture full of misogyny and cavemen.

I can't begin to get into all the things I've heard and read in the French press the past couple weeks.  I will not pollute my happy little blog.  I can tell you it would give many Americans a sense of déjà vu, as I imagine these are the kinds of titillated "tough shit, ladies" attitudes that got tossed around fifty years ago in the States.

I don't know what the guy did or didn't do.  Maybe he's guilty, maybe he's innocent.  I am fairly certain he's an asshole either way -- but that doesn't matter and his innocence or guilt is not even my point.  My point is, this case has opened the floodgates and revealed the deep-seated misogyny in French culture.  (There are many reasonable voices calling for cultural introspection, too, but from what I can tell they seem to be the minority?)  Truth is out.  France is way behind the times.  Way.  Behind.

You can call me an American prude all you want, Frenchies -- but please realize that word doesn't make much sense when discussing an act of violence. 

We are SO not getting along right now,

P.S.  I'll be back tomorrow with pictures of kittens or something.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Hangover

Al and I drink "the alcohol" regularly but we rarely overdo it.  But sometimes we overdo it.  Two friends came over for dinner Saturday night bearing robust English ales from a beer shop near their apartment.  French beer is crap so we've had a hankering for something with a little more personality.  Perhaps we got too excited.

At the end of the evening, we stood in our kitchen surveying the damage, swaying a little bit, and saying things like, "Only 16 bottles of wine and 52 unfiltered English beers?  Thank God we were so reasonable because the kids wake up in four hours."  Then Alex went to sleep in the bathtub and I curled up in front of the neighbor's front door.

(You know what else was a good decision?  Leaving the kitchen full of dirty dishes.  Because really, when you wake up the next morning wanting to die, a kitchen full of food-encrusted dishes is exactly the first thing you want to see.) 

Unfortunately for both of us, Alex had an appointment with his personal trainer, Thor, Sunday morning here in the apartment.  I had promised Al I would take the kids out, but when I awoke Sunday morning, I felt like Wile E. Coyote with an anvil on his head and was not very excited about the plan.  But I'm a woman of my word.  I stumbled into the sunshine dragging the kids, wearing my darkest shades and hoping I wouldn't throw up on a perfectly manicured shrub. 

We went to the Luxembourg.  There were many attractive Frenchmen wearing purple shirts milling around.  It was an event organized by the city to introduce kids to different kinds of sports.  Even in my agony, I realized it was a good idea to get Lucien involved -- we're searching for an activity that will capture his attention so he'll stop mooning his classmates.

The (only) great thing about being hungover on Sunday was I didn't care if I sounded like an idiot when I spoke French.  I accosted the closest Hot Purple Man and said, "Yo, how does this work, my kid wants to do this so make it happen, sweetcheeks."  I was mildly surprised when he nearly tripped over himself in his haste to help me.

We got Lucien signed up.  I walked up to every sport demanding someone help him box/tennis/judo chop/whatever.  I've never been so horrible and abrupt with people, yet for some reason I've never been more irresistible to French men.  I was approached, flirted with, and winked at more times in those two hours than my entire time in France.  I don't know what that means -- maybe I'm just super hot when I feel like sh*t and am being borderline verbally abusive.

I let Coco hold the camera while Lucien learned how to fence.  She accidentally took this picture of me.  I tinted it green because believe me, it's more accurate that way --

so much for the "super hot" theory

What you can't tell from the photo is I'm sitting next to the hip-hop dance area.  Rap music was blaring from large speakers near my head.  The rapper was rapping (in English)  "BITCH, YOU AIN'T JESUS,  BITCH, YOU AIN'T JESUS" while little kids cheerfully learned how to pop and lock.  At the second this photo was taken, I was thinking the rapture had happened, just like the crazy man said it would, and I obviously had been sent straight to hell. 

Here are some boxers trying to teach Lucien how to box.  He wasn't half bad but admittedly, I didn't see much of it.  I was slumped in the corner -- but I periodically yelled things like, "Yeah, get him!  Punch his lights out!  Eff 'em up good, baby!" to appear supportive.  This led to more purple shirts wandering over and asking me if I wanted to grab a drink later.

One of the boxers told me Lucien was better suited for judo than boxing because "he likes to throw people on the ground."  Excellent news!  Can't wait to see where that takes us in the future!

This looks more violent than I meant it to.  I just didn't want to show the other kid's face.

The Loosh liked fencing but only because he thought it was sword fighting.  The fencing Purple Shirt repeatedly told Lucien the objective was to touch the other person's chest but Lucien ignored him and continued to swashbuckle.  He didn't want to touch the man's stupid chest;  he wanted to hit his sword as hard as possible and say "Yah!"

It was about that time I laid down and did a little sleepy-boo on the tennis courts.

 Yah!  Errr.... Mommy?

Once I was sure Thor had left the building, we went home.  Alex took Lucien back to the Lux later that afternoon so he could finish up the sports we didn't do.  Al said it went well, especially the part were kids learned how to pop and lock while a rapper rapped about "Bitches and MILFs."  Alex found this utterly delightful.

I want "Bitch, you're not Jesus" sung at my funeral.  I think it sums up my life nicely.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Lessons learned

Our friends, Michael and Sophie, are the calmest Parisian-dwellers I know.  While I'm usually harried and stressed out, they're as calm as can be, endlessly enjoying life in this "rich tapestry" of a city.

After being invited to their country home last Sunday, we now know why they're so calm, and why we look fifty years older than they do.  Their country home has been in Sophie's family for many decades and is just half an hour outside Paris.  They go there every weekend (and many weeks) to sit outside and sip beverages calmly while birds chirp and their children explore a large plot of land.

We, on the other hand, spend our weekends pushing through crowds of people just to buy toilet paper.  Sometimes we have to shoo away clusters of tourists with cameras from our front door stoop just so we can go home.  We oftentimes have to tell them to move their asses in several different languages.  Birds?  What the eff are "birds"?

When confronted, Michael admitted that yes, while they love living in Paris, they can't be there very often or they'll go crazy.

The original plan was to join them at the country house regularly, but since Lucien was responsible for some property damage (send us the bill, Michael, huzzah!) while we were there, that was most likely our first and only visit.

Lesson learned -- To enjoy living in Paris, get out of Paris as often as possible. (Consider leaving Lucien elsewhere.)

I want to go to there

I went to see Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris with a handful of The Ladies Monday night.  Several of us witnessed the movie being filmed last year; Virginia Mom saw the crew at the Rodin Museum and I (almost) saw them filming outside Shakespeare and Company, but had my head down texting Alex about his missing mouthguard so missed the whole damn thing.  When I walked into my writing workshop, everyone was bubbling over with excitement, "Did you see Woody Allen out there?  He was just outside with a camera!!"  Then I gritted my teeth and thought, "Curse you, Al, and your mouth that needs guarding."

The beginning minutes of the movie are a succession of Parisian street scenes, many of them filmed within a few minutes (if not seconds) of our front door.  "We've walked that street a million times" all The Ladies said over and over, nudging each other and giggling.  I expected to see a scene featuring Lucien flying around the corner on his scooter and clobbering a few unassuming elderly folks but nope -- guess Woody picked a rare "no scooter casualties" day to film our 'hood. 

All of us ex-pat ladies experienced the same feelings as we watched it -- near-debilitating sadness and nostalgia for a place we haven't even left yet.  Weird.  It smacked me around a little, shook me by my delicate shoulders, made me realize how horribly I'll miss it when we're gone, regardless of how batshit crazy it makes me on any given day.

Lesson -- If you live in Paris for years, then leave Paris, any movies filmed in Paris will be unwatchable until the crushing depression of missing the place has lifted.

My friend and photographer extraordinaire, Chloe Lodge, is finished with her project, the one in which she followed me around and documented my life.  Her school's end-of-year exposition was Wednesday night, so I went with Al and a couple of The Ladies.  I was famous amongst her classmates in a "there's that damn woman whose face we've been staring at for months" kind of way.

Chloe is an incredibly talented photographer.  You can see some of her work, including a few photos of her project with me and her expat women portrait project, at her website, www.chloelodge.com.  (My favorite is the one where Virginia Daughter is holding her finger up in the air and telling me Lucien bit it.  I'm swinging around with a "He did WHAT?" kinda look while Lucien tries to look nonchalant in the background.  And...welcome to my life.) 

Al and I went out for a late dinner after the exposition.  We ate on a terrasse in the 11th arrondissement, in a neighborhood we've never been before.  The waiter was friendly.  Our fellow diners were friendly. One neighbor spilled his bottle of wine onto another diner's chèvre salad, and what followed was a very gentlemanly battle about who would pay for it.  The spilled-upon man insisted he would still pay for his own salad, much to the spiller's chagrin.

I love witnessing scenes like that one -- people being human and gracious to one another.  It reminds me the beauty of life lies in the little things, like spilt wine on goat cheese.  Also beautiful was the sound our feet made running on pavement, trying desperately to chase down a taxi to get home at a decent hour for the babysitter.

That was hella deep, bet I just changed some lives right there.

Lesson -- Chloe Lodge is going to be very successful.  And people are a lot friendlier in the 11th than they are in the 6th.  And wine on goat cheese is profound. 

One more.  Lucien got in trouble the other day at school for pulling his pants down and running around the playground during recess.  We hear it was a dare he was very happy to accept.  He got lots of attention and laughs from the kids which, of course, is Lucien's joy.  Whenever we bring it up, he laughs so hard he falls out of his chair.  He doesn't seem to hear us telling him he can never, ever do that again.

Lesson -- We are so, so, so, so, so screwed.

I see... a rhinoceros, mes choux,
(Total Woody Allen joke.....if you see the movie, worship Adrien Brody for me.)

P.S.  My blog is being attacked by more and more spambots.  The spam is getting more sophisticated, oftentimes resembling a real comment.  I can still usually tell right away because it starts with, "Thank you. This blog has really helped me" -- total tip-off, since we all know this blog has never really helped anyone. 

Anyway, comments may take longer to appear, as I am going to dissect each one with a magnifying glass, wearing a monocle and holding a snifter of brandy.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Eurovision forever

After this post I will lose all my followers because it's based on pictures I took of my television.  I'll miss you, thanks for the fun, and I'm sorry it has to end like this.

I had an exciting Saturday night.  Instead of going out to enjoy a beautiful Saturday evening in Paris, or take advantage of La Nuit des Musees as I did last year, I stayed in, sat on my couch with a bottle of rosé, and made Alex watch the Eurovision Song Contest.

If you've never heard of the Eurovision Song Contest, you're really missing something special.  It's a Europe-wide singing contest (with an absolutely outrageous production value) that's been going on for 56 years.  It's a big deal.  Little European kids with songs in their hearts aspire to one day represent their country at Eurovision.  I won't go into details of how it works -- all you need to know to enjoy Eurovision is each country comes with a song, a singer, and a dream.

I've been hearing the hype for weeks now.  Everyone agreed this was France's year.  France hasn't won in 34 years, but this time they had an adorable classically trained tenor named Amaury Vasili who sings like an angel.  This year, the competition was France's to lose.  (spoiler alert -- they lost.)

I knew we were in for something special during the pre-show show, which featured the hosts talking to this lady in a French flag dress --

  I must have it 

They were pretty much saying over and over that France was definitely going to win. (spoiler -- nope) and if they didn't win, the U.K. was going to win (spoiler -- nope again).

The first contender was this adorable young warbly man from Finland, who sang a song about saving the planet.  He was so cute and environmentally conscious, he made me want to have another baby, but only if it was him:

Bosnia and Herzegovina then stole my heart from Finland, primarily because one of their members spent the first half of the song skipping around the stage.  I love skipping; it's so carefree, just like Bosnia.

Then we had these psychotic characters:

Something's gone horribly wrong in Ireland

Guess where this guy was from?

Be careful or he'll smolder you to death with his Greekness:

It's France's turn!  France!  France!  France!

Forget the Finnish kid.  I want to birth an Amaury and raise him as my very own --

But something went wrong for Amaury.  The beginning was a little shaky.   Err... maybe next year, France?

 At least he stuck the landing

It was about this time Alex went to bed, declaring me "nuts" for wanting to stay up and watch the whole thing when we've both been so sleep deprived of late.  For the record, Alex is correct.

The U.K. brought a solid boy band.  I don't like boy bands, but this band was all man.

 Then I got distracted playing Angry Birds and missed a few countries.

When I looked up again, there was a boring though pretty tune being sung by two hot people from Azerbaejan?  Azerbagean?  Azerbaigean?  How the hell do you spell that?

Pity. They're beautiful (and they made it rain fire on stage) but they don't stand a chance because nobody knows how to spell their country.

And then the question of the evening -- what the hell is going on in Moldova? When Moldova hit the stage, it was like a goddamn European free-for-all.

My God, they have a woman on a unicycle.  Someone call my travel agent.

Looks like they got the good stuff in Moldova

Then, finally, with the call-in and judge points tallied, the moment of truth --

Really?  Damn, guess I better figure out how to spell their country. 

So Azerbaythingamajig won, but the best part of the results portion was when the cutie frontman of  the group from Denmark told the representative from The Netherlands he wanted to f*ck her.  In English.  On live TV.

Thankfully, some astute observer already posted a video of it on YouTube --

This is the best show ever.

(Our beloved France placed a very painful 15th.  Ouch.) 

I've decided we're going to throw an annual Eurovision party when we move back home*.  We will assign everyone a European country.  They must show up in that country's native dress, and bearing the country's native alcoholic beverage.  We will then force them to watch the Eurovision Song Contest until they have seizures and/or their ears bleed.  This is just one of the many significant ways our lives will be changed for the better from having lived in Europe. 

*Alex is less enthusiastic about the idea than I am.  He wants that on the record.

If you want to participate in the joy and cheesetasticness that is Eurovision 2011, I've embedded way too many videos below of some of the contenders.  Most of them sing in English.  You should watch them, if just to see what a real talent show should look like.  Eurovision makes American Idol look like it's filmed in Simon Cowell's basement.  (Really?  He's not on the show anymore?  Then what's the point?)

Who would you have voted for?  I think we can all agree Moldova got robbed.  God Bless Europe and goodnight.

My cutie pie but off-key Finnish boy who's out to save the world --

Bosnia and Herzegovina with Mr. Skippy --

Denmark. He wants to f*ck you. And he can sing while running. That's hard.

Ireland. This one is just psychotic. Do not watch if you have epilepsy.

Greece. My God it's bad. It's very bad.

Russia. It was like Ah-Ha came back from the 80s to woo me all over again. (I realize Ah-Ha was from Norway, so that's weird...) "DO YOU FEEL MY HEARTBEAT, EUROPE???"

France! France! France! France!

The United Kingdom. I especially like the naked mug shots in the beginning. I'm embarrassed to admit how much I liked this performance -- I am, after all, an obsessive Arcade Fire fan for years now, years and years before they won Best Album at the Grammys and everyone was like, "Who the hell is Arcade Fire?" I swear I'm cool, but I liked this man band. I'm feeling defensive now so just watch the video and feel my shame.

Sweden. He wants to be popular. This is horrible. And unfortunately very catchy.

Ukraine. Best part is the Ukrainian sand artist doing her thing behind her.

Molodova. I love you. You guys are probably a lot of fun at parties.

There are more, but I just realized I'm neglecting my life to embed a million videos no one is going to watch. Bye.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Champ de Mars karate chop

I wasn't happy with my last post.  It seemed wrong to compress a busy, enjoyable weekend into a handful of sentences about my daughter trying to eat people.  I wanted to gloss over it with a new post yesterday but Blogger decided to take Friday off without telling anybody.  Now that Blogger's slunk back to work in shame, I'm going to do a rare weekend post.

Virginia Mom and German Mom organized a playdate at the Champ de Mars Wednesday.  They are very good and creative organizers.  I am not.  When I plan a playdate, I'm more like, "All you kids go in this room and play with this piece of cardboard and I'm going to go in that room and pretend you're not here." In popular terminology, I believe I'm known as a "slacker mom." 

My lack of ability makes me even more grateful for women with the ability.  Without them, my kids would have been playing with an uncooked spaghetti noodle on Wednesday. 

There was a potato sack race --
 The kids may look a little wonky, but I think we can all agree the Eiffel Tower has never looked so magnificent.

And there was a maypole, which Virginia Mom cleverly rigged up using a broom handle.  I should start calling her MacGyver Mom --

There were a few maypole collisionsAnd that one kid is supposed to be a little girl facing the other direction, not a spider on a stick.

OK, now I'm going to veer seemingly off topic to talk about Lucien's karate instructor.  Lucien's karate instructor is a real life Mr. Miyagi, except he's about 6 foot 4, weighs hundreds of pounds, is of German descent, can bench press a house and likes to uproot trees with his bare hands when he's bored.*  When he's not teaching karate, he's an ultimate fighter -- that's that crazy sport with no rules.  So he's just like Mr. Miyagi, minus absolutely everything except his mad skills and perhaps his ability to trick other people into doing his housework.

*He's also the kindest, gentlest, most smiley person we've met in France.  I guess when you look like him, you can afford to be nice and kind to everyone; it's not like anyone's gonna mess with you.  

Now I'm veering even more wildly off topic to mention the karate instructor -- I'm going to call him Thor -- is Alex's new personal trainer.  Al had to replace his first personal trainer because First Trainer used to come to our apartment and ask, "So what are we going to do today?"  He would then reluctantly agree to Alex's plan and go running in the Luxembourg where Al would run circles around him.  Sometimes Alex couldn't even see First Trainer because he was so far behind.  Nice guy, but perhaps not the most effective of trainers.

OK, bear with me.  So Alex usually takes Lucien to karate class every Saturday so he can discuss workouts with Thor.  But since Al was in Venice last weekend, I took him.  I was able to watch the tail end of the class, the part where Thor pairs the kids up for some light sparring.  They don't really land any hard hits or kicks, they just kind of circle each other practicing the motions.  

As Lucien approached his sparring partner, he started bouncing and shuffling with his hands held up in front of his face like a boxer.  (I later confirmed with Alex --  he always does this -- Lucien's the Muhammad Ali of karate.)  Even though Loosh has yet to muster any real enthusiasm for karate, he's not half bad at his punches and kicks and can hold his own against the older kids.  He also seems to be cultivating a style never before seen in the sport by pulling in elements of a completely different sport.  He's a real trailblazer.

So back to Wednesday on the Champ de Mars.  As we gathered up all the equipment to leave, a little French boy appeared on the scene.  I should say a bratty French boy appeared, who immediately made off with one of our plastic hoops.  Two of our kids went after him but sustained injuries when French Boy hit them with the hoop and ran away.

Lucien smelled a rival.  He went after the hoop.  He and the boy sized each other up, chased each other a bit.  Lucien tried to grab the hoop but the French Boy ducked and weaved.  Things got tense as the two little boys glared at one another.  Then, slowly at first, I saw some familiar shuffling, some circling, some hands coming up in front of the face.  I just barely said to Virginia Mom, "I think Lucien is about to do some karate..." when --

Ima dazzle you with my moves, boy!

Lucien sparred the crap out of that kid.  He was in the zone.  He circled and threw (light) kicks and karate chops, bewildering French Boy until he became so disoriented he let go of the hoop.  Lucien ran back happily.  I can't wait to tell Thor.

I love my Karate Ali,

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A completely inadequate post

I don't have a lot of time today but I'm going to dash off a half-assed post anyway.  Enjoy or promptly give up on me, whichever is easier.

My solo weekend with the kids was surprisingly enjoyable.  Both Lucien and Camille were calm and well-behaved, which is further proof of my theory that Alex makes them crazy.  I've started to gather empirical evidence for this theory -- such as how he gets the kids whipped into a frenzy, then goes to take a nice long shower while I peel them, screeching like howler monkeys, off the ceiling.

Coco's in a horrifying pattern of waking every morning at 5:30 a.m.  The only bright side is we're up and ready to take on the city before most of its residents have even gone to bed.  On Saturday morning,  I took the kids to the park with a bag of pastries for breakfast at the sandboxes.  The only other people in the park were a group of drunk middle-aged men still in their Friday night clothes, swigging from bottles and arguing amongst themselves about things only drunk middle-aged men can understand.  Occasionally one of them laid down on the ground and took a nap.  We stepped over them a few times, no big whoop, just life in the big city.  In related news....yum.... sandy croissants.

On Sunday, we ate ice cream in the morning.  (it was Berthillon on Ile St. Louis so that makes it OK.)  We eventually ended up in front of Hotel de Ville, where there was a celebration commemorating V-E Day, the end of World War II in Europe.  There were tents and events and demonstrations showcasing Europeans of every ilk.  

Nothing says "I'm glad the war is over" like potters from Poland.

Coco is a happy, fun little girl but lately we've been seeing glimpses of a scary beast, most likely a preview of what's to come.  She's also a music fanatic; as soon as she hears a few bars, she's on her feet "dancing" (she's the only one who thinks it's dancing,  the rest of us know it's just wobbling around like E.T.)  I was therefore happy to see a band setting up onstage in front of the Hotel de Ville.  It would keep her happy, which is a very good thing to all those around her.

The band was a group of German high school kids.  I think it's nice they invited the Germans to the World War II party:

I also like this guy, who was their band leader.  Is that an ascot?  I hope it's an ascot, but I fear it may just be a jaunty handkerchief --

The German high school students were very cute, very nervous, and very bad.  It was soon apparent that not only is Coco a music fanatic, she is also a music critic.  The beast in her was not pleased; she felt no desire to E.T. to that music.  Soon "the glare" emerged and her fist clenched so I wheeled her away quickly before she could devour any townspeople.

Stop squeaking that damn clarinet or the dude with the jaunty hankie gets a punch in the throat

After the hasty retreat, we went for Coco's first ride on the carousel.  She liked it.  The savage beast was soothed, and the people were glad.  Well, everyone but me, that is, because I had to ride with her and carousels make me want to hurl on the nearest festively painted animal.

 Ima let everybody live today!

A swing band started to play as we were leaving.  They were better than those poor nervous German kids.  Their first number was a swing version of "Flashdance: What a Feeling."  I thought it was a nice choice.  World War II is over?  What a feeling!

That was my crappy and inadequate summary of our weekend.  Alex enjoyed Venice but is apparently allergic to the city.  His allergies were awful there, worse than they've been in years.  We figure he must be allergic to either mold or pigeons.  Or sexy Italian men.

If you have a minute, send some positive thoughts to my dad, David.  He had an operation yesterday and we're waiting anxiously to see if it gets him walking again.  He's had a year full of debilitating pain.  He deserves better, because Dave's a good guy and a really good dad.

It sucks to live so far away.

Nothing says "peace" like Polish potters,

Friday, May 6, 2011

Now that's a damn park

We finally got up to the Parc des Buttes Chaumont last weekend and are now ruined for all other parks forevermore.  It's park utopia up there in the 19th arrondissement. That's Alex at the Buttes Chaumont over there to the left, and for the record, I have no idea what he's doing.

Back when we lived in Seattle, the first sentence out of my mouth upon entering a park was not, "Oh my God, look at all the GRASS!"  That would have been a strange thing to say. But times have changed, and I truly was amazed to see the large expanses of touchable grass at the Buttes Chaumont.  No one blows a whistle at you, even if you pull out handfuls of grass and rub them all over your body (In our defense, we were delirious with grass freedom.)

Karin, a fellow blogger friend from An Alien Parisienne, stopped by the park for a visit.  It's "her" park; she lives nearby and likes to give any visitor she knows a quick howdy-doo when they come by (that's not a euphemism for anything).  She showed Lucien the grotto and told him it was Batman's batcave.  Loosh was nervous until he realized a grown man dressed as a bat is someone to pity, not fear.

We had a leisurely picnic lunch next to the stream.  While Coco ripped apart every sandwich we made and flung the parts in all different directions, Lucien joined in with a group of boys -- most of them making noise! -- and ran around like little boys do.  They splashed through the stream, rolled down hills, talked about poop.  Even with all the little boy commotion, they didn't attract a single stinkeye from the adults.  Lots of grass and no stinkeyes?  Quick, someone remind me why we're living in the 6th.

Coco's at a great age.  Her little personality is really starting to come out and man, were we ever surprised to discover she's terrifying.  She sees everything.  She knows everything.  She's focused and determined and not eff'g around so don't waste her time.  We think she's lying in wait... patiently.... identifying weaknesses.... until the second she's ready to rise up and destroy us all.

 this is the leg ima defeat you with

Coco the barbarian

I have French lessons twice a week but I don't write about them because for the first time, my French teacher isn't giving me any material.  My new teacher is calm, sweet, organized, and doesn't have any strong opinions about how I'm living my life.  I miss the drama of my lessons with Madame Kickymass, and the suckerpunches of Madame Suckerpunch, but it's nice this teacher is focused on teaching me French in a calm, effective way.

The downside of having an attentive teacher who's not prone to emotional outburst is she really notices all my mistakes.  There's still a slew of 'em.  Sometimes she has to take a moment to laugh into her cupped hands and say, "Ouf, c'est bizarre!" before composing herself and continuing.  I'm taking that as a compliment for absolutely no reason other than denial.

The problem with learning French the way I am, pretty much all listening with no writing and very little reading, is I'm missing small, yet crucial, words.  When spoken quickly by a Frenchie, many of those little words run together so I don't realize they're there.  When I repeat what I thought I heard, I end up with people laughing in my face and saying, "Ouf!  C'est bizarre!"  (IT'S A COMPLIMENT!)

For instance, the way I've been saying, "I have no idea" -- I never heard the "en," so I've always said "Je n'ai aucune idée" instead of the correct, "Je n'en ai aucune idée."   My version makes sense, but it's not exactly the idea I want to communicate.  I'm basically telling people I don't have any thought in my head whatsoever -- literally I have NO idea. 

I'm thrilled to know this is what I've said to mamas at school:

Hot Thing Two:  So what are you guys doing this weekend?
Me:  I'm completely devoid of thought, nothin' in the ole noggin', a real dumbass -- Ooh!  Squirrel!

The more French I "learn," the more I realize I've been free entertainment for the French for over two years now.  I should charge them admission to this freak show.

Alex is in Venice this weekend.  That was our deal -- me solo to Rome with Robin, then Al solo to Venice with his parents -- but I'm really wishing I could have gone both times and he stay here with the kids twice.  I don't think that's unreasonable.

Now Happy Mother's Day to my mama.  I sure do love my mama.

I love being a mama, too, even though I have two intense children hellbent on my destruction.


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