Sunday, March 29, 2009

Not all Sunshine and Flowers

Today I got the chance to wander in the local forest with just the older boys. It was supposed to be one-on-one with R, but J tagged along. It was okay for awhile, but then J found something he just HAD to show R. So off they went.

I found a moss covered stump to rest on while waiting. I closed my eyes. When I opened them, a dog was sniffing nearby. I held out my hand for it to smell, thinking it would be okay to say hi. The dog jumped up barking and got in my face. I don't know if it was going to bite me or not, but it really scared me.

It's owners were nearby, and one of them spoke to the dog. The other one spoke to me (in French, of course). I didn't understand the words, but it was NOT an apology, and included the word "Permission," like it was my fault the dog jumped on me, because I had said it was okay.

I was PISSED! What kind of a person watches their dog jump on someone, then blames them for not defending themselves better?

Afterwards, I started crying. What is it about this place that makes people such jerks? Just because I don't speak the language doesn't mean I'm an idiot.

I've been here nine months now. Day to day I do all right. But some days I am really homesick to be in a place I understand. Where I can communicate. Where I can ask for what I want and need. Where I can sit on a tree stump in peace.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Museums & Cooking - What's Good about Paris

I've been online reading other peoples' blogs. It occurred to me (after an hour or so)... Hmmm. Maybe I ought to write something. Gee, ya' think? Somehow I've just not gotten around to it lately. Let me see if I can give a reasonable update. So, let the rambling begin...

On Thursday, none of the women who regularly attend my Jazzercise class could come, so I cancelled it and went to the Musee d'Orsay instead. This is a museum that is dedicated to French art (as opposed to the Louvre that has art from around the world).

This is the place that houses a very large collection of the Impressionist painters like Van Gogh, Renoir, Degas & Manet. I have two thoughts about what I saw...

1. If no one had told me that these are the grand masters, I could see mistaking some of it for high school painting 101. Like, "my kid could have painted that." On the other hand, I LOVED it. This is the museum I was remembering from my trip here with my parents twenty-odd years ago. About time I found it again.

2. This is an excellent museum in which to have a tour guide. It is very helpful to have someone knowledgeable explain to you what was such a big deal about the Impressionists - what came before them, and why they were so different. (For instance, didja know you could paint an orgy and have it be acceptable as long as you made it look historic and included a couple of frowning onlookers?) I highly recommend Paris Walks if you're here for a visit.
Also, I am finally taking a cooking class. This is the MOST fun I've had since I've been here. I have actually cooked Coq au Vin, Tarte aux Poireaux, Coquilles St. Jacques, Tarte Tatin aux Peche, Cassoulet and Tarte au Saumon Fume. And not only that, I could do it again.
The teacher sends out an ingredient list, we each buy what's on it, then meet in one anothers' homes. The teacher shows up, gives instructions and supervises as we each attempt to follow the recipe. While the recipes are great and yummy, her instruction is wonderful too. The things she says in an off-hand way, are almost more useful than the specific thing she's teaching.
My biggest "aha" moment, was when she said (basically), "leave it alone." The more you mess with it (stir), the longer it will take to cook. Let it be. Quit trying to "make" it happen. Wow. Sometimes I'm a really slow learner. (Hasn't god been trying to teach me the same thing?)

What else. Hmmm. Even though I am learning how to cook, and I'm enjoying the food, the kids haven't been all that excited. (They did like the cassoulet). I have been getting very frustrated about having to cook something EVERY DAMN NIGHT! And make sure there are appropriate breakfasts, lunches and snacks. I'm getting tired of it.

I have decided I'm ready to have the kind of help that doesn't just clean, but helps prepare meals and plays with the kids. I have a gal now (that just cleans), but I am not enamoured with her. I want someone whom I will be delighted to see - someone who takes care of me a little. I am ready to have help that helps.

Okay. This is three or four posts in one. So I'm considering myself caught up. What's up with you?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Everybody Dance Now

Wanna see something cool? My kid is a dancer too! (Well, there is more than one kid in the video... But one is the dancer).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Saint Chapelle

On Tuesday I had to go to the US Embassy to request an "attestation" of my Drivers License, so I can exchange it with the prefecture for a French one. The appointment wasn't until the afternoon, so I took the time to follow the advice of my father on what to "not miss" while I'm here.

Sainte Chapelle is supposed to be the best repository of original stained glass in all of Europe (the world?) It was built in the mid 13th century by King Louis IX, who was apparently a very devout guy. (As Kings go, I guess).
Anyway, to get there, you go to the Isle de Cite in the middle of Paris, then walk all the way around the Palais de Justice (which has a bunch of armed officers around every entrance). Wait in line awhile, let them scan your bag and walk through a metal detector... then you finally get to the entrance to the museum.

The lower level was apparently built for the rif-raf (though actually quite beautiful and elaborately painted). You climb up one of the sets of stairs at one end of the chapel. As you come up and out, you see this...

It is truly breath-taking. You can go to the linked website to get more info if you want to. Here's my take though...

The first five sets of windows tell the stories of the first five books of the bible. But as it goes around (there are 14 sections), it becomes the story of Jesus. In the latter sections, it tells the story of how the French Kings are somehow direct descendants of the Jews. I got a little confused there. Somehow I missed how the Promised Land moved to Europe.

Stunning, though. Here is the picture I took...

And, a bonus picture of my biggest & my littlest. Getting along. And liking it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Pictures, Now With Added Video...

... because for some reason, I don't write any more. Must be because of the exciting life I lead.

R can often be seen here. That's the 4th Harry Potter book he's reading. He cna barely lift it. I have readers in my family. Hooray!

Pay no attention to the fact that I am also on the computer behind them. I am sure I have the same expression on my face. Just kidding. I hope.

But we do get out some. These are at the Parc St. Cloud near us. Apparently we found the "Ropes Course" they have. After about 20 minutes, we were chased away. Not sure exactly what they said, but it had something to do with harnesses and liability. Oops.

Speaking of reading, I've got another one up & coming. He's spelling too - with assistance. It's fun to see his creativity when it comes to making words. And other shapes with letter magnets.

E is fascinated by all the scooters/motorcycles around. I'm not sure where this came from, but he says/sings "Happy Motorcycle!" and then runs around in circles (or down the street on the way to school) making motorcycle noises. I don't know how to make it right side up.

And last, but not least, is R. With his mowhawk. He is SO happy with it, his grin touches his ears on either side. The french woman cutting his hair just kept shaking her head...
And then yesterday, we went to a Purim festival. They had face painting. So, here he is with a green mowhawk, and "Indian" face paint. Apparently this is his "Evil Zombie" face to go with it. And to think I once worried about this kid following the crowd too much. Ha!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

March Forth!

Back when I used to work for a living, and ran a business, we (I and others in my industry) used to use March 4 as a marketing promotion day - i.e., today is the day to MARCH FORTH into your new (more organized) life, to take bold action toward something big.

Now, I am not trying to promote anything, and am mostly just hanging out from day-to-day. I woke up remembering it was March 4th, but I'm not really in a "GO FOR IT!" place.

An aside... This reminds me of a past business associate who one day got the advice to be TEN TIMES MORE ENTHUSIASTIC than she normally was. It was really irritating.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, being bold. Not really feeling it. (Sorry, Lisa).

I'm thinking, maybe you all could give me some advice. If you were here, what would you not miss? What, to you, would be the greatest thing about living just-outside-of Paris? What can I do (and blog about), to allow you to live vicariously through me?

Maybe I can regain (some) enthusiasm through you. Thanks.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The France Fifteen

Eeek. I got on the scale today, and it wasn't pretty. My friend (who has lived in at least three different countries), likens it to the "Freshman Fifteen," i.e., the weight you gain your first time away from home in college.

She points out that everything is new and different, and whatever good habits you may have had, go flying out the window in the face of everything being so foreign. You reach for comfort foods, and easily-recognizable foods, and easily-prepared foods.

This is not an excuse. But it does explain the problem. I have definitely been eating way more bread, cheese, chocolate croissants (mmmm), and quiches than ever before in my life. They are available, easy & inexpensive. Not to mention delicious. (It's fine when you travel here for a week's vacation. After seven months though, it adds up).


This is NOT WORKING. I worked too hard to get to a handle on my weight to lose it now. It is time to get back into shape and take care of myself again. Here's how I'm going to do it:

1. Slow Down. I'm going to eat my meals sitting down (not standing at the counter), and take time to enjoy the food. Whether or not the kids do.
2. More Vegetables, less bread. Cheese tastes just as good on salad as it does on bread. Really.
3. Less Desserts. I've been eating dessert-y things as snacks. And then eating dessert later. And telling the kids they can't because "one sweet thing a day is enough." Time to follow my own advice.
4. Jazzercise! I've scheduled two classes per week through the month of March (still looking for a permanent location). Teaching twice per week, and practicing another two or three times per week should help me regain my strength.

And that's it. I know there are a host of other, detailed things I could be doing, but I think these four things by themselves will help immensely. I'm making this public because it helps me make the commitment. Feel free to ask me, nudge me, cheer me on and/or make faces at me. I'll keep you posted.