The End

imageimageWhat most postcards and Christmas letters won’t say. Day 258: We are trying to get out of the dirty apartment we had to stay in for two days, the hallways smell of dead cat corpses, the sinks and toilet we found filthy. We are in stress mode, it involves cleaning and cooperating, as impossible to accomplish as the Rubix Cube. So Noah is loudly gabbing away about something, Chloe is grumpy it’s before noon and she is up and cleaning and says “NOAH NO-ONE CARES!” Ouch, Noah takes offence and deflates, stomping off. “We’re in an apartment shhh!” I remind them and reprimand Chloe about being KIND and treating each other with respect. We try to get closer to the door, Wayne gives his famous unwanted countdown, ” 6 minutes till we need to go”, shoes on, Chloe can’t find her socks, followed by inept child looking, no luck, I find her socks under backpack sigh, stress building…Wayne counting down 3 minutes to go. Noah plotting his revenge. Wayne conveniently disappearing downstairs. We get to the elevator that can hold only two of us. We are on the sixth floor, Chloe and I are there first, Noah pushes Chloe out of the way with me reprimanding him, “shhhh” I get pushed into the elevator with Noah and Chloe’s backpack. Chloe yelling “Mom, it’s not fair!!!!”, ” shhhh” I hiss, I hear her stomp loudly down the stairs our elevator stops at floor 5. “That was Chloe pressing the button” Noah says. I say “Noah that’s why wars are started people jumping to conclusions. How do you know it was Chloe?” We stop at floor 4, then 3 then 2 it was definitely Chloe, ground floor a proud looking Chloe trying to get her bag out of the elevator. Noah pushes her away and presses a button and sends Chloe’s bag up to floor 2. Chloe gasps “MOM!” ” shhh” I remind again “shhh”, we are like a band of drunk rock stars we are so LOUD, but I can’t help but laugh. Day 265: Chloe is cleaning the frosty freezer scrapping the ice from the sides and she thought it would be hilarious to dump a bucket of ice on Noah while he was relaxing in the bathtub. Noah was so upset that the only resolution they could come up with (Chloe didn’t like the take away her ipad suggestion) was to let Noah throw a bucket of cold water on her. So with a plastic bag on her head, goggles on her eyes and pjs on she stood in the shower while Noah threw a pot full of cold water on her. This was before we knew about the ice bucket challenge. Peace resumed. I’m going to miss this chaos one day.

Chloe getting a bucket of cold water thrown on her by Noah

Chloe getting a bucket of cold water thrown on her by Noah


We often sit around the table saying: remember when the elephant charged Chloe in the dark, or when the fornicating cows almost trampled Noah, or when we almost died in the Tuk Tuk or when dad ran for the train swearing like a crazy man, or when mom thinking she is as perfect as Mother Theresa writes in her blog, how great she is and how terrible we are. These are my favourite moments, simple and un orchestrated, add a delicious baguette, some french cheese, a tomato salad and it can’t get any better.
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rainy day in Tuilleries Garden

rainy day in Tuilleries Garden


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I hate endings and I hate leaving places, I don’t want to go home yet. Beginnings have such possibility and promise; endings are so final. It’s like the optimism I felt at the beginning of the school year, how organized and smart I’d be, verses the end of the year when I wish I would of been more organized and smart. I get a bit panicked shoulding on myself, ever done it? I should have a thoughtful gift to bring everyone, I should be well versed in French language, cuisine, history, art, I should have changed my children’s mind so they really do like sight seeing, eating vegetables and biking with their parents, I should of tasted every sweet, gone to every bakery, store and art gallery. I should of read more, learned more, enjoyed the children more, had more insights on life and my future, hell throw discovered the secret to world peace, global warming and what to do about poverty, in the shoulding pile. But whether I like it or not our adventure is galloping at a ferocious pace to it’s conclusion. I do feel proud that we had the courage to take off and live a dream.
There are two camps back at the apartment du Kaulbach, the sad… not ready to leave yet parents and the bouncing up and down with excitement yelling “we’re going home, we’re going home, thank God we’re going home”, children. Noah has a new found love of Canada he will kiss everything he sees, he will go to QE park and kiss the ground, he’ll kiss our house, he’ll ride his bike kiss that too and eat at Trillusa’s, have bagels from Solly’s, grilled cheese sandwiches, Frank Red Hot Sauce, he’ll first HUG and then play with his friends. He LOVES CANADA, he loves our home, his friends and hockey. Chloe is having unusual fits of high pitched squealing accompanied with skipping and twirling at the thought of her own bed, pillow, blanket looking at her clothes again. Seeing her friends, having sleepovers CUDDLING LOLA. Wayne and I are dragging our feet, kicking our backpacks, and pouting, thinking of work, bills, and the busyness of home. We are trying not to take the childrens joy personally, they are SOOOO happy that this trip (we have inflicted on them) is about to come to an end. I figure if torturing them gave them a far greater appreciation of home it was a success. Plus there happiness is contagious and great to be around.
Just when the French language and culture were almost familiar. I take one trip to the post office where no one speaks English and there’s a weird machine thing and paper stuff to do and I haven’t a clue how to work it and I am like an infant left alone in a forest, I am a still a foreigner.
We cram sightsee, the Catacombs and a two hour line up one day. We weren’t that impressed sure there are 6 million bones down there but they are all just piled up, row after row. Then Noah and I spent a whole day at Versailles which we loved, the gardens sublime, the castle all gold, tapestry, frescos and decadence for extra value the Kings loved Roman mythology so Noah was happy as a clam. Chloe imerged like a butterfly from her cocoon to see the Tower, eat lemon tarts, the Arc du Triumph, eat raspberry tarts, Moulin Rouge, eat chocolate cake, Tuillers gardens, eat crepes, We kept cramming our mouths and our schedule till the last possible second. We started to say good bye to the last lemon tart, last best baguette ever, last time seeing the Eiffel Tower, last time shopping at the Monoprix or the Bon Marche food store, last time on the Velib biking along the Seine. Last time smelling urine on the street, or choking on cigarette smoke or drinking the chalky tap water.
Noah in the catacombs where 6 million bodies are buried under the streets of Paris

Noah in the catacombs where 6 million bodies are buried under the streets of Paris


Noah reading Horrible Histories France in the gardens of Versailles.

Noah reading Horrible Histories France in the gardens of Versailles.


Chloe's Parisian mission

Chloe’s Parisian mission


We are practicing ways to respond to people when they say “How was your trip?” this gives us countless giggles.
” It was good” won’t suffice
Chloe came up with
“It was interesting thank you, I learned a lot about the world, myself and the people I travelled with……….I no longer call them my family.”
or
“My psychiatrist tells me it’s too soon to talk about it.”
or
Noah’s
“I enjoyed 9 hours and 10 minutes of the whole trip”
or not wanting to appear bratty or spoiled or rich he wants to say it was good thank you and never talk about it again.
or Wayne’s being the optimist of the group:
“Our nuclear family has been forever altered, for good, for bad, but mostly, I hasten to add, for the good.”
or
“We had an amazing time”
or mine
“Noah is prepubescent, Chloe is a teenager, Wayne has an anxiety disorder and I’m menopausal, need I say more???????”
or
read Chloe’s upcoming memoirs “The 9 Months of Hell”
and Noah’s “I Don’t Want To Go, Why Are You Forcing Me”
The trip after a recent poll exceeded (optimistic) Wayne’s expectations,  was lower than(hard to please) Chloe and Noah’s and my (wishy washy) answer changes dependant on the moment. I know we jammed some interesting experiences into our lives. It has been amazing, frustrating, inspiring, tiring, uncomfortable, and fascinating. I am mournful and intrigued to be able to watch our children as they leave there kid ness behind.  Chloe is blooming into a young woman. I realize now it requires a lot of sleep to bloom. Noah still has a toe hold in childhood, but his legs and arms are embracing teenagehood. “Slow down, don’t hurry, be safe, stay young, keep skipping, singing, playing, with abandon.” I tell them, my sermon words are blah blah blah to them. We are packed and boarding our 20th plane for our home and native land, familiar Ontario to see Wayne’s mom and sister. We are greeted with the loving embraces of family. We are staying at Lois’s house which is a country oasis, the night is filled with cricket, and frog serenades. We walk the dogs, pet the cats, catch frogs, find baby snapping turtles, visit sweet nanny, Lois and the cousins. We miss and remember Al, Lois’s amazing husband who died two years ago of a massive heart attack at age 52. Al’s daughter Lindsay just gave birth to a healthy boy and in one moment we felt the joy of a brand new baby and the sorrow of the loss of her father. Wayne and I buy a book for the baby called Guess how much I love you. We both cry in Chapters remembering when we read it to our babies. We remember Nikki, Lois’s daughter who was killed on her nineteenth birthday. We feel Al and Nikki everywhere, but it is not the same as having them here. They ever remind us to LIVE IN THE MOMENT.
We are off to see Litia!!!!!!!!! Waiting at home in Vancouver, she hasn’t seen Chloe and Noah in a year and a half. The excitement is palatable, we are coming home.

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Noah and I do Paris

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Noah and I went to the Louvre to see the Egyptian and Greek collection supposedly the best in the world. Shouldn’t the best be in Egypt? Noah and I packed a lunch and headed out. I allowed Noah to competently lead me to the Louvre on the Metro which he had figured out in seconds, he had me to our destination without a moments hesitation. We go to our favourite place on the Seine over the Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor walking bridge. I would show you photos of our day but Noah requested no camera so he would have my undivided attention. I had camera withdrawal, like a smoker without a cigarette. Oh I want to photograph you here, that there, such a strange ritual to try and immortalize each moment, as if the moment itself isn’t enough. So instead I commented each time I wanted to take a photograph. Oh I wish I had my camera to take a photo of……. Noah grabbed my hand and pulled. Our first stop was to play ping pong a French past time. Most parks are set up with ping pong tables where the Parisians pack their paddles along and have games with their friends. At this table they have paddles available on request. Plus tables with board games. The wind was blowing so hard that a shot across the the table would be swept back almost to halfway rendering lots of lunging and missing. Noah won as he did Chinese checkers, each race we had up stairs, and every competition suggested, my long blonde haired companion whipped me. We played this fun game a cross between tether ball and tennis where you get to smack a tennis sized ball that is attached to a string, which is attached to a pole and the person on the other side gets to smack it back. Great tension release although we both had sore arms from so much enthusiasm.
Noah is such a great date, a wonderful conversationalist. Our conversations can be anywhere from the Egyptian afterlife, to favourite Disney character, to the meaning of life and religion. Noah hands out complements freely.
“I’m so glad we here together, this is fun, I love being with you” he’ll tell tell me while snuggling into my arm. I try and breath deep and really be present for all this. I want to slow down these moments to paste this on my memories all the sweeter perhaps knowing that it is fleeting.
I drag him away from the games and pull him towards the Louvre which he is now back pedalling away from. “na I’m ok I don’t need to go to that. It’s too busy, it’s too touristy lets just go to the fair.” he pleads
No must go to the Louvre, must instill art appreciation, must foster love of mythology. Like a caveman I plow forward
“I know a secret entrance that won’t be busy.” It’s just that I have to find the stupid thing. We wind around hordes of people, hawkers selling Eiffel Towers 5 for a Euro, Noah trying to tell me let’s just go I’m fine really. At last we come to an underground entrance Noah saying “it’s too long a line up I’m not waiting!” we wait only 20 minutes at most and we’re in.
This imposing fortress, come palace, come mansion of art that sees 9.7 million visitors a year is a sea of people. But we had only one destination in mind no Mona stupid Lisa for us. Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece that’s all we want. Percy Jackson books have started a mythology revolution in my boys mind. So Noah like an Olympic athlete in a race against death ran to the right floors, while I keeping up, tried to steal glances of other treasures. I could of meandered all day amongst the art but that would be a different day, a different date. We headed for, saw and conquered the two exhibits in record speed. Mummy, hieroglyphs, mummified cat, nude Apollo, nude Aphrodite, nude………. “mom why do the Greeks always have to make everything nude? It is a bit unusual that a warrior would be buck naked except his sword and shield but hey it must of been hot I guess. “I hate that about them, lets go”. and we’re out of the Louvre hair flying behind us.
Now onto the fairground of the Tuileries Gardens. The Gardens are stately, regal, small sections of grass with statues gracing the centre. The trees create long paths from the Louvre to the Place de Concord and are manicured in perfect rectangles boxes. Green bistro chairs litter the lanes, under the trees, around the fountain, people picnicking, reading, taking a nap but we were headed to the Fairground, a concourse of rides used to bribe children to visit museums. We strolled up and down the small fairground, Noah trying to entice me on the FUN of each ride. “It will be great, I promise you’ll love it, don’t worry it will be fun, if you throw up I’ll cut my hair.”
As tempting as all that was, I dragged and protested “I will not! cannot! go on those horrible twirling rides! and you can’t make me!”
So we agreed on the Flume Ride, twice, no sickness, not too wet and a great scream at the end.
We on another day went with rollerblades to skate along the Seine but there were so many people it was like avoiding land mines. My go gear works well but the stop one is sporadic. I feared crashing into some innocent passerby. Plus my pride was taking a toll because I have moments of looking like I’m having a seizure as I try to balance myself on the damn things.
Noah and I have been going to the Hotel De Ville back by our apartment rollerblading at night when it’s cool and secluded. In an attempt to injure me, Noah likes to suggest we race. I always lose because I’m terrified of crashing. My mantra being around Noah is “don’t hurt me” he’s like living with Kato from the Pink Panther waiting around corners to attack. It keeps my on my toes.
We discovered an underground parking lot which we skated from the top to the bowels -6 floors. “Ahhhh! Ohhhh! hehehehe this is AWESOME ahhhh! Don’t hurt me” I yell as Noah reaches for my hand.
The playful, competitive person that he is keeping me young or he’s trying to kill me? Where is his friend Brennan when I need him?

A family outing………

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Oziris

Oziris

Now this is what I’m talking about, FUN! Yeah! We all got to go out together! It required some strong negotiations and pleading and begging to get Wayne to agree to be subjected to a Theme Park. “You can do that anywhere, we are in Paris and we should be doing Paris things, besides I hate theme parks and rides” Wayne insisted

We insisted more on insisting so we were all up on Monday morning 7 am to have a day of FUN? at Parc Asterix.

Usually getting Chloe up at 7 am would be equivalent to poking a tiger in the eye with a stick (she actually growls and hisses) but for roller coasters it was like rousing a kitten. Noah bounced and chattered excitedly, Wayne looked gloomy but it was hard not to be influenced by the kids enthusiasm even if he was being dragged against his better judgement.

Goudurix the worst roller coaster in the world

Goudurix the worst roller coaster in the world

The first ride we went on was Gouderix a roller coaster with 7 loop da loops, was I insane? was my brain going to spew out on the tracks? It was voted the worst steel roller coaster in the world! The line up was unfortunately short so we were sitting in the ride prepared for pain within moments. I know your thinking how stupid going on the worst roller coaster in the WORLD. It was just that the best wooden roller coaster in the park was blinkin well closed grrrr. We screamed from beginning till end our voices seriously compromised, but we were all smiling at the end. Although I would of been more content with just 3 loop da loops. I felt like I was drunk after the ride, not the good drunk, if there is one, but the dizzy, the ground is moving, kind. The next and favourite coaster was Oziris, HOLY COW! We waited in a long line up for this one and I was so thankful for that life prolonging line up, it could of been all day and I wouldn’t of complained. There was an exit gate just before the front of the line that I kept my eye on so I could easily escape if I gathered enough sense. But no I am lacking sense so we were buckling ourselves onto this coaster where our feet dangled and we went upside down through a tunnel, in water, up and down and all at 90 km an hour. Perhaps we need to scream in life because we have it all pent up inside of us with no lions chasing us. So scream we did, it was hold onto your face it is going to peel off kind of fun. Right after the ride we found a queue for single riders that had no wait so the three kamikazes went again while I regained my equilibrium. Noah went a total of 10 times the crazy fool.

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Thank God by 6 pm we were back on the bus on our way back to the apartment completely spent. Noah and Chloe both had sore throats the next day. We all stayed in bed, barely moving. Too much fun turning upside down. Wayne the guy we had to drag to said park has now written a song about the day. So I am chalking this one up to success.

“Hey Hey have you ever touched the ground? Hey hey is your planet upside down?         I search from coast to coast to ride your roller coaster and I’m never coming down. We’ll search from coast to coast to ride your roller coaster did we break the speed of sound? Hey Hey this charming little curse. Hey Hey sweeping cross the universe.
CHORUS
Our heads are spinning round and round. This world’s much better upside down, we’ll stand in line, you blow our minds, let’s do it all again.
CHORUS”
perhaps he’ll play it for you one day, it’s very catchy
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Dates in Paris

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A JOURNEY IS LIKE A MARRIAGE THE CERTAIN WAY TO BE WRONG IS TO THINK YOU CONTROL IT  John Steinbeck

My Parisian Date

My Parisian Date

imageMAY THESE DAYS LAST LIKE CENTURIES.
My Parisian boyfriend Guille (Wayne’s french monicker) and I romped around Paris giddy with all the sights. Paris is like a great sculpture, carved of stone by romantics. I remember being in Paris when I was 18 still wet and shiny. I was here with a girlfriend and we were lost. The people we met were rude, our highschool French useless. We were scared and young and couldn’t even order dinner properly. We couldn’t wait to get to Italy where we felt people were friendly and pizza was easy to order. This time in Paris has been completely charming. The people we have met have been tres gentile. Many people graciously speaking English to us. Most Europeans speak four or five languages while we hang our heads in  unilingual shame.

I let Guille lead and I for the most part was happy to follow, each place was a delicious surprise. I didn’t at first concede to being led, it has taken most of the trip for me to realize this following can be a great thing. My new motto: just because I can do it, it doesn’t mean I have to do it. So why try to be in control, it’s just one more job? Instead I am trying to be thankful and enjoy the ride.
The biggest difficulty with this plan is there is no, I repeat, NO SHOPPING, or looking or browsing or glancing in the general direction of a store. It is shocking to me how little we’ve bought and how little anyone wants to buy. “You have no socks without holes in them, your shorts have one patch and now the bum is starting to wear thin. Hey we could buy some new ones” I offer enthusiastically. “Nah I’m trying to make it home with out buying another pair” he responds
I was trying to encourage Noah to buy something the other day in a gift shop I wanted to look in, and he said “no I don’t need a trinket, I’m not interested in having anything I won’t use.” This is exactly what I was trying to drum into his head before our trip but now it seems to have worked too well.
Whose child is this? Wayne’s obviously. What a mother…..trying to consumer him up.  8 months of seeing a smorgasbord of different eye catching exotic stuff (perhaps mostly unneccessary), that I only glimpsed from afar while being herded past. We have purchased one painting (I stamped my foot to get that one) and the rest could fit in one hand and on my two feet. I know, I don’t want a bunch of stuff either….. but???????  But no I’m with the anti Christ of shopping and his spawn. I’m having withdrawal, a kind of non buyers remorse. However many times I replay over and over in my mind, memories, not stuff I still end with the thought Yeah whatever! I want some STUFF.

My date, who would put bats on there families crypt doors? Spooky

My date and tour guide

So back to the non shopping dates. One day we went to Cimetière du Père Lachaise it was hauntingly beautiful we saw  Edith Piaf, Chopin, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison graves. Guille had ‘a moment’ at Jim Morrison’s grave standing for a long time, trying to channel his musical genius.
The cemetery is jammed with stunning somber looking sculptures and phone booth sized crypts with old ornate doors rusty and cobwebbed. 20140801-193327-70407700.jpg
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A peaceful, yet spooky place to spend an afternoon. I had the feeling at any moment a hand might reach out of a grave and grab my leg. We sat at a cafe after, I ate French Onion Soup we faced the street and watched the people passing. Spectacular.

Delicious picnic at the jardin du Luxembourg.

Delicious picnic at the jardin du Luxembourg.

The most delicious waffle of all time by the Moulin Rouge

The most delicious waffle of all time by the Moulin Rouge

Another day we biked as far an outer galaxy, pedalling through an ugly industrial part of Paris in the burning heat, to the Robert Doisneau Museum. We love Doisneau’s photography which is very evocative of Paris in the 1950’s. When we finally arrived panting, sweating and drained of energy there was none of Doisneau’s work?????? We saw another guys images which were OK but Wayne’s street images are way better. After the museum we had a picnic in a near by park, where we took off our shoes and laid on the grass.
Up to the top of the Eiffel Tower one day the Montparnese Tower for sunset another. The Montparnese is said to be the box the Eiffel Tower’s came in. it has the best view in the city but none of the charm, just an ugly black box.

Then there was the trip to the Rodin museum. The best museum in the city! We think without knowledge or experience.  We did go to the old train station, the Musee d Orsay which was impressive. Our favourite painting which took an entire wall was Georges Rochegrosse The Knight of the Flowers

Most mens fantasy

Most mens fantasy The Knight of Flowers

musee d' Orsay

musee d’ Orsay

Plus the Jeu de Paume, which was confusing and over our heads. One photographer had a screen up which showed a short film of hands with pink rubber gloves, moving very slowly????? We are nowhere bright enough to appreciate this art, it needs to be more obvious for the dimmer folks like us. Wayne and I crashed a puppet show in Luxembourg Gardens reminiscing when our children would of loved it.
Musée Rodin’s was perfect from beginning to end, beautiful gardens decorated with Rodins sculptures, and an exquisite building where he lived and worked. Sculptures to make you cry and sigh and clutch your heart. Rodin had an exhibit with one of his lovers and former students Camille Claudel and photographs by Maplethorpe. We loved Camille’s work so much Wayne came home to investigate her. We watched a tragic movie of her life. Talent does not equal happiness folks, she spent the last 30 years of her life in a mental assylum. Mapplethorpe’s photographs were mostly of naked dancers bodies, what’s not to like about that?

Rodin and Mapplethorpe

Rodin and Mapplethorpe

We loved it so much we went again.

I love that this guy has his shoes on and nothing else.

I love that this guy has his shoes on and nothing else.

We biked there from our apartment, sigh I’m in love. Wayne prefers the underground Metro and I like the aboveground bikes. I tell myself I like the air and light he likes the dark, smelly, and dank, but I may be wrong. I do see his fascination subways are a mash of captivating humanity, all colours, nationalities, ages, smells, a life story written on each. It’s really hard to avert my eyes and not stare at everyone as we sit face to face knees touching. I would like to vote to change this rule of etiquette from now on staring is not rude but mandatory. Little children are to subways what ice cream is to a cone. Maybe the analogy isn’t right but the best part is that, finally I am able to stare unapologetically at someone delightful.
From our noisy apartment we can quickly get to the Seine and bike along a path seeing the Eiffel Tower in the distance. It is thrilling every time to see that humongous tower. Guille sees it as a woman (dress, corset and long neck) and I see it as a man ( no need to describe).  Riding over patches of cobblestones that leaves our teeth clanking and all our arm flesh wobbling we make our way to the gallery.
The one flaw of our apartment is it is very noisy. We are on the third floor of a non discript 6 story building we overlook two roads. Below our window is the glass recycling bin which is used by all the neighbours of the surrounding apartments. Never thought I would hate recycling. The method is to find the hole on the upper side of the 5 foot x 5 foot box and drop, throw, or missile the glass to insure it will make as much noise as possible when it smashes into little pieces. It is more exciting to be recycling than to hear recycling. Some people seem to get the recycling urge at 12pm or 5 am. The garbage truck likes to come early as well and it seems to delight them to loudly idle and rev and rev and idle for a good 15 minutes longer than I can stand. It feels like our bed is down beside the traffic with the mufflers inserted into our eardrums. Oh and I forgot to mention the loud drunk people who laugh and yell after leaving a nightclub at 4 am. I have the urge to scream out the window at them but my scream French is limited. I worry they would yell back and I wouldn’t understand and I would resort to my most common French. bonjour, merci, accompanied with a dumbass smile. On August 12th our street is slated for jackhammering. Summer construction noises seem to follow us where ever we are.

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Inside the Rodin Museum

Inside the Rodin Museum

Mapplethorpe

Mapplethorpe

Biking home I yelled to Guille as he was pedalling in front of me. “you were the perfect person to see that exhibit with!” “what!”he yelled
“YOU WERE THE PERFECT PERSON FOR ME TO SEE THAT EXHIBIT WITH, THANK YOU!” I yelled louder feeling very happy and loving. I am so lucky after 17 years of marriage 21 years of being together, I can still feel like this.
as the Dutch say Leven is Goed…..Living is Good

Passerelle Simone-de-Beauvoir

Passerelle Simone-de-Beauvoir

Near the end of the Tour de France

Near the end of the Tour de France

 

At 50…. I’m too old to die young!

One of my favourite things to do.

One of my favourite things to do.

Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age. Victor Hugo

I’m too old to die young that’s what Kim just wrote to me. So I guess I can stop worrying about that. I will just spend more time worrying about my loss of eyesight, hearing, skin elasticity, hair colour, bladder control. Or should I think of a time, when I didn’t say things like when we were kids back in the old days……there wasn’t any computers, wifi, Ipads, cell phones, FaceTime, Facebook, email, google, Youtube, …..

Gratitude! Acceptance! Being present! that’s what I’m working on. See I do have a job. Those are not easy jobs either I’m needing to constantly remind myself. But my 50th birthday was full of gratitude, acceptance ( cause I got what I wanted and was treated like the boss) and being present to that isn’t a struggle.

I woke up feeling grateful, birds singing breeze blowing in the window. Ahhh what a life, a Disney movie really. I rolodexed through my memories of other fine mornings most revolving around birds, clouds and fresh air. But I have to say hearing Litia wake me with her baby chatter from her crib when she was a babe sleeping in my room, was a magical way to wake up. Or having Chloe and Noah in our bed when they were young snuggled up, the smell of their baby heads right under my nose. Oh that made this mother hen very warm and happy.
Today I got to eat chocolate croissants for breakfast! Birthday songs sung and cards given. The bag of croissants twisted and squished under the jar of pickles made them even more charming.

Wayne and I then went on a bike tour in the 30 degree, I think we’re going to die, heat. But once we got on the bikes, breeze in our hair, other people to impress, we stopped thinking of fainting on the spot of heat exhaustion and started to enjoy ourselves. We biked through a Paris protest an initiation of one more thing Parisian. First we saw about 20 police vans filled with fully decked out riot patrols. Twenty officers jumped out at the corner where we were waiting for the parade of police vehicles to pass. They were carrying batons, guns, and shields. They were wearing helmets, armoured chests and arms pieces looking like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Wow a little unsettling as we heard the protest in the distance. Then we biked right into the loud and angry sounding mob, punctuated with loud car horns trying to get through the blockage. Our guide interpreted they were in support of the Palestinians. I prayed for the protest to remain peaceful. Then I prayed for the conflict in Palestine and Israel to resolve.

Our French waiter/chefs

Our French waiter/chefs

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Arriving home late, with dessert hunted for and found at a chocolatiers delicious, mouthwatering shop. We bought three tiny cupcake pops covered in chocolate and adorned with colourful petite pastilles on two and pieces of jewelled candy on the other. Plus an expensive package of macaroons the famous Parisian cookie with the beautiful pastel colours. The green pistachio flavour, the pink raspberry and our favourite the beige Nutella one. But that’s dessert. Dinner was even better!

Chloe and Noah had surprised us with creating a French restaurant complete with menu, small dainty serving sizes, French names and costumes, a moustache for Gabrielle a beauty mark for Areille. You could take me to the most expensive restaurant in all of Paris and I wouldn’t of enjoyed it as much as this one. Five courses, a petit salad, some baguette with balsamic and olive oil, a lemon crepe, heart shaped apple with cinnamon sugar and thinly sliced banana frozen just a little and beautifully presented. We were pampered and waited on by our personal French chef/waiters. TRES TRES TRES BON! MERCI!
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After dinner we waltzed in the living room. Noah having his first waltz lesson. Lucky me, lucky me, lucky me.
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imageOh and you want to know the gift I received???? A beautiful pair of French shoes oh la la. So now I am more French my dear.

My new beautiful shoes

My new beautiful shoes

Parenting

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imageI cried the other day in front of Chloe. I didn’t want to and tried not to but I was unable to suck it back up. This parenting a teen can really hurt my feelings. I knew in my rational brain that Chloe wasn’t intentionally snubbing me, but I was hurt. I feel like I’m trying to date a guy I love and he’s just not into me.

Wayne and I are often fumbling from one plan to the next like moths bumping and crashing into a light, not getting anywhere, except for sore heads. Instead of instilling confidence and the strength in our family, I fear we have created more fear and self doubt. By taking the children away from their secure home, friends, school we have shaken up their compass and sense of self.
Plus we have failed repeatedly at showing our kids a good time. We often can’t agree on where to go, where to eat, when to eat, when to stop, what to see. I understand why they want to stay home.  What is the point of being so far away from home, if we can’t get them out of the apartment? Selfishly, Wayne and I love Paris! I look longingly at other families that are out together and think what are they doing right that we aren’t.

I think the difficult part of this parenting a teen can be the lack of connecting that takes place. Translate to they really don’t want much to do with us. As a way to entice, force, connection with our kids and try to get them off WIFI, smell air that is outside and move their limp, pasty white bodies. Wayne and I came up with a plan that we would date our children one on one. Gosh how swell (I imagine I am channeling Flanders from the Simpsons)! One parent would be with Noah while the other would be with Chloe then visa versa. We would take turns deciding what was on the agenda, the children could pick one date and we could pick one date.
Really both kids would rather stay in their rooms than go out and explore. Noah keeps protesting that he only wants to have FUN and our job is to keep searching till we find what is fun for him. Wrestling and sword fighting are fun for him. He’s getting stronger and taller and it’s too dangerous because I’M going to get hurt. Chloe complains she is tired and just wants to be alone. Going outside creates a barrage of insecurities and discomfort. Someone might speak French to them or gasp look at them. Can’t they see the beautiful, capable, children we see?
It is not all bad of course and I tend to be dramatic and sensitive some days. This just happened to be one of those days. Chloe is playing the guitar now, writing a book, reading profusely. Noah is helping Chloe write, thinking of his own books to write, studying FIFA history, plus reading a ton. But their life line seems to be not mom or dad or Paris or outdoors or anything but iPad. We just can’t compete, we’re not smart enough, entertaining enough, or friendly enough.
My vision of this trip was that we would walk together hand in hand experiencing new lands, being amazed by this building, that mountain. interested in that new person. We would be drinking up culture, history, new food, new friends, a whole new bond would be formed a lifetime of stories.
The reality feels more like Wayne and I forcing the children to have some cultural experiences with them dragging their feet trying to tell us they are not interested. We as parents keep dragging the children keep resisting. I imagine other families back home playing board games around the table laughing, friends coming and going and ours is like four dragons trying to bite each other’s heads off before retreating to our individual caves.
I don’t know the answers do we push, do we leave them alone? Do we remove the blasted cherished iPads. They are not doing anything wrong and next year I might pray for the time they were closeted in their rooms safe and sound. There is no smoking, drinking, partying, having sex, doing drugs, failing school all I am thankful for. I just thought there would be more enthusiasm, less fear, less boredom, less lethargy.
Perhaps the thing to do is pretend all is well and focus on the positive. That seems to be the trend on Facebook. Show the prettiest pictures of the family write about all the great things and leave out the pain. So I am left wondering WTF are we the only ones floundering.
I cried in front of Chloe because I wanted us to have a wonderful day together (in Paris). I had it all planned in my mind how it would be, how much fun we would have. First we would watch The Hunchback of Notre Dame then we would go see the real thing and then we would eat a French pastry. But Chloe didn’t want to go out in the hot, crowded Paris and have probably a boring time and she didn’t want to watch The Hunchback of Notre Dame. So I cried, then she felt guilty and came out with me. She was right, it was too hot, too crowded, the line up too long so we just had a drink and came home. I cried some more when we got home after hearing Wayne’s fantastic day with Noah, mourning the girl who really wanted to be with me and for the me that can’t figure out what to do about it.
I pray our children will look back on this trip one day and know it was a mission of love and not one of torture. Perhaps we missed the mark? But what we intended was to have quality family time. To experience great things with each other to make lasting memories. Like a cheesy Hallmark card I suppose.
I have to remember just because my children don’t want to do what I want them to do it doesn’t make them wrong or bad. But really who doesn’t like biking and fresh air and French people? I am trying to love my family as they are and not as I wish they would be. Goes for myself too. It’s a hard one for me. I once had a wise woman tell me when Litia was suffering from teenagitis. Imagine your child as a wave your job is to metaphorically let them come and go. When they are in enjoy the closeness then let them out again.  Well I seem to be the fool holding on to the wave as it goes out, sand in my bathing suit, water up my nose, looking clingy and insecure. I think the children have to be out exercising, eating fruits and vegetables, hair brushed, teeth flossed, nails clean and trimmed, enjoying our gripping company for life to be alright. When I stop trying to orchestrate perfect some ordinary beautiful moments happen.
Wow all of this angst I’m feeling, might be because I tried on a bikini yesterday with a well lit full length mirror in front of me. Pink polka dots don’t frame doughy white that well, just so you know. Or because I’m turning 50 in a few days. Or because my children are in Paris and don’t want to do anything but stay home!!!! Wayne had an insightful thought that might be true, our kids don’t have the same urgency to see things because they are invincible they have their whole lives in front of them. Wayne and I know this could be our last day on the planet, so we want to make the most of it.

P.S. Don’t worry this to shall pass and as I write these words it indeed has and returned and passed and returned. Just thought I would share the struggle as well as the delight so if one of you are struggling you know you’re not alone.
P.S.S. Any brilliant insights on teens and WIFI and monitoring iPads are all welcome.

More Paris

The red Tower is made of bistro chairs. Celebrating 125 years of the Grand Dame Bistro Chair.

The red Tower is made of bistro chairs. Celebrating 125 years of the Grand Dame Bistro Chair.

We are now in Boulange-Billiancourt about a 15 minute metro ride from the Eiffel Tower, where we will stay for a month or more. It is a newer area lacking some of the flavour of Paris. But it is close and safe with everything we need just out the front door. Since we left our nest in Milly la Foret we stayed a few days in a 6 floor walk up in the Montmartre area. The biggest charm of the place were the windows which looked out onto a row of old walk up apartments, with terra cotta chimney pots adorning the roofs. We could lay in bed with a clear view of the sky. The kitchen window my favourite to date, had a view that made washing dishes a pleasure, especially if I was watching the kids wash them. Old Parisian buildings laid out with cloud dappled sky right across the street. Those windows were worth the six flights of stairs we climbed to get up to them.

An open window a thing to behold.

An open window a thing to behold.

my foot in the light

my foot in the light

The kitchen sink. The tap would fold down into the sink to open the windows

The kitchen sink. The tap would fold down into the sink to open the windows

Chloe picked up the guitar and started to learn songs as easy as I make toast. She tried to teach me an easy song and it felt like a form of torture for me. My fingers felt arthritic and my brain sore from remembering where I had to place my fingers each time. How does she make it look so easy?
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Wayne and I gushed over countless photography books left in the hallway our favourite was Alain Laboile En entendant de Facteur. The book is a heavenly book of portraits Alain had taken of his 6 children growing up in the French countryside. There is such freedom and playfullness and life in the images I wanted to live my life over again to live in his world. Or have our kids raised in his world. My favourite book in a long time.image
On a rainy day, one of many, we decided to go and see the Eiffel Tower and leave the young ones at home. The good thing about the rain is it scares people away so the crowds were palatable. We walked up to the second story and took in the view. I prefer the view of the Eiffel Tower more than being in it but glad to have made the climb.

From the tower we strolled over the Pont Alexandre dripping in statues. We walked along the Seine gawking and smiling. “WOW it’s really beautiful,” I’d mutter then “I love Paris” When I’m in this mood everything in my path is charmed with a golden light, every person we see I love. We stumble upon a dance performance, free, by the Seine, in Paris, sunset approaching. The dancing is exquisite, classical music is playing. I’m feeling so happy, I have to stop myself from hugging and French kissing everyone I see. That’s the french kissing without the tongue by the way the two cheeked air kissing kind. Which is another amazing thing about Paris is the kissing. I LOVE IT! We are in the grocery store and the janitor French kisses the cashier, we are in the metro and the young guy French kisses each of his 5 friends before he departs, we are on the street, in the bakery, everywhere people are french kissing. I just need to know the rules do you French kiss when you first meet or is there an initiation time? imageimageimageimageimage
We spent three nights at a Servas house close to the George Pompidou. The place was in a derelict building, looking about ready to fall apart. Once in Katherine’s apartment it was cosy and held together. Noah didn’t like the dead animals she had on the walls or the skulls on the bookcase. We all grumbled about the harder than cement beds and lead pillows. Noah watched a Fifa game staring out the bedroom window across the street into someone’s living room. Germany 7 Brazil 1….. ouch.

 

Bastille Day

imageA memorable night! Bastille Day July 14th a day commemorating the storming of the Bastille prison at the beginning of the Revolution in 1789. I was going to the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower. I needed to push Chloe a little to come with me. We had watched fireworks from the comfort of our apartment just yesterday they were so close, in fact, we watched sparks fall to the ground and kept constant watch for sparks falling in our window. I was able to wrap Chloe and I up in a blanket and watch the loud sparkling explosions as we perched on the windowsill. I was remaining cool, acting non chalant, about this opportunity to spend some close time with Chloe. Not loving physical forms of affection and much preferring my servitude to show my love, I quietly relished this chance to hug her. But this was only the precursor to the best firework display we had ever seen. Being reluctant of the crowds and the stinky metro and my most likely boring company, Chloe waffled before finally at the last possible minute following me out the door. I felt a bit of pressure to show her a good time. Our plan was to meet Litia’s friend Jane then enjoy the ambiance of the city, just walk and people watch and wait for the the fireworks. Our plans were foiled because our meeting place to find Jane the Trocadero Metro Station was closed. So Chloe and I got off at the station before Trocadero and found our way to the right station. For Wayne, Noah or Litia this would of been no big feat because somewhere in their DNA they have a compass gene that Chloe and I are missing. Wayne’s is so acute he can be dropped anywhere on the planet and point North within a millisecond. He will assess the position of the sun and we will be at our destination using shortcuts that locals still don’t know about, with record speed. Once in Vancouver, Litia and I blindfolded him so we could take him to the roller coaster as a surprise. Well he knew which way he was going by the light on his face the smell of KFC out the window and some weird unexplainable implanted alien tracking device, I am yet to find but I know it is there.

I on the other hand I look at a map and it looks like spaghetti to me. Where am I on this map? Which way are the roads going? Should the map be laying this way or that way? If I ask for directions, I can hear one, perhaps two instructions before I float away in a daydream. I don’t imagine myself on a map or the globe, N S E or W or are we bordering Italy, with Germany to our east. I just think wow there’s a chocolate store. Or that baby is sweet, or I love this park. I arrive, step out of a doorway and usually chose the wrong direction every time. I suspect our Chloe has similar qualities although Wayne doesn’t want me to pigeon hole her yet. Plus it’s hard for him to think one of his offspring might not be a human GPS.

 Chloe and I easily found our way, even if blindly and joyously surprised when we arrived, we still found our way. Chloe’s first glimpse of the iconic Tower. We didn’t find Jane but saw millions of others that looked similar to her. Chloe wanted a drink, I to use the ladies room so we decide to go out and search. Chloe said she wished she was here with her friends, but this is to be expected. I said yeah I wish I was with my friends too. Then she said oh I wish I would of stayed home. Come on lets find coffee we move away from the huge crowd sitting on the grass waiting for the show to begin. We follow a lesser crowd hoping to get to the Seine where we can cross a bridge, drink a coffee, use a toilet. We see a tall iron fence with a patrolled gate and a beautiful view of the Tower. People are sitting outside the gate and some well dressed couple in front of us go through it. The guard is occupied the gate is held open for a moment we see another couple dart through so I grabbed Chloe’s arm and pull her through. I thought we would find our way to the Seine. We walked through a parking lot towards the Tower and were stopped by a fence and bush, but we had this amazing view with no one else to jostle with. There was also a beautiful opera and orchestra playing which sounded like it was coming from the building beside us. I thought hey we snuck into the Opera house parking lot. A grand balcony was perched just above us to our right. Chloe and I snuggled up on the ground leaning against a car. My boney butt admittedly sore but Chloe was leaning on me and I was willing to endure. I’m sure Chloe’s mind was not filled like mine. Pathetic lonely mother of a teenager. This is so nice, I’m so happy to be here with her, she is so sweet, I love her so much, I am so glad we are having this experience together, my butt is sore but I am hugging my wonderful, beautiful 15 year old daughter so I will sit here uncomplaining. We listened to an audiobook by David Sedaris and laughed at his experiences in Paris. Oh we are laughing together at the story. We are so close, I really love her. I think she’s having a good time? I hope she remembers this forever just her and her mom watching the best fireworks in the best location ever.

Chloe’s train of thought was probably I wish Colleen and Fiona were here, this would be fun if I was with my friends, I wish I had a coffee, my mom can be so embarrassing, I wish I was in bed. But whatever, I enjoyed myself immensely. First we see the Tower light up with glitters we hear the crowds ohh and ahh. Then it changes colours each half hour, lighting up like a Christmas tree. By 11 o’clock 4 more people had joined us. French people who worked at the house we had broken into( a mansion of a wealthy Iranian family). They were friendly and open to our sharing this magical place to view the fireworks. This is the first year they told us that the fireworks would be coming directly off of the Eiffel Tower. Usually they just come beside it. I can’t imagine how they orchestrated it, how long it took, how many people were required to run it and how much money it must of cost, but it was awesome! There were fire torches lite on the wide base of the Tower, fireworks shooting off in succession like synchronized swimmers diving into the pool one after another, all the way up the tower, a fan of fireworks shooting off in succession around the top of the Tower, and bursts of fireworks filling up the sky beside the Tower. If that wasn’t enough to make our eyes light up and our jaws drop, a big full luminous moon hovered perfectly placed in the middle of the lower portion of the Tower. I thought at first the moon was part of the show so perfectly placed and glowing. But no it was the real thing! The best darn fireworks I have ever seen in my life and I was with Chloe. Please powers that be may I always remember.
Coming home with the wall of people to contend with, I opted for a quieter road, one which we didn’t know anything about, but the night was warm, we were in Paris and we would eventually find a metro. Chloe found the right road for us to turn on and we were waiting in line for the crowded metro and made it home again without incidence. This again was surprising and joy filled, we high fived. Wayne misses out on this joy because he always knows he will easily find his way home. So glad we went and thanks Chloe for deciding to come.
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Milly la Foret

Flowers from Sylvie and Eric's garden

Flowers from Sylvie and Eric’s garden

We leave our giraffe apartment for the life of the countryside 1 1/2 hours outside of Paris. We stayed with another Servas family crossing our fingers as we arrived. This experience was polar opposite to the one we had with Petra in Prague. We were picked up at the train station by Sylvie our very gracious host. There home which they opened up to us, like we were family, was as comfortable, and decadent as we had been to. A heated swimming pool in the back yard, surrounded by beautiful manicured ground and flowers. A ping pong and foosball table, plus a wall of board games at our disposal. Inside Chloe had her own bedroom with a mechanical blind, that created a room as dark as night, with just a press of a button. Bingo, our mushroom adolescent was happy, for the bed, the quiet and the alone time. There was a big screen tv which Eric was watching FIFA football, from his cosy couch. Noah and Wayne sat delightedly cheering for France. Eric and Sylvie prepared a beautiful meal for us a cheese cauliflower potato casserole golden brown and delicious. We sat on there expansive deck flower boxes surrounding us, birds singing, the pool beckoning, the sun shining feeling very lucky indeed.

Our gracious hosts Sylvie and Eric

Our gracious hosts Sylvie and Eric

Brika the dog of the house. Wayne loved this dog more than all of us.

Brika the dog of the house. Wayne loved this dog more than all of us.

Eric and Sylvie left us early each morning, while we slept, so they could work and we could relax in their amazing home. Didn’t seem right, I told myself, while I sipped my tea, ate fresh bread, swam in their pool, and rode Sylvie’s bike they were working like mad.

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This couple bless their souls work very hard first at their jobs, then beautifying their home. It is a very full time job, most days they start at 6 am and finish by 11:30 or 12pm. They have little time to enjoy the fruits of their labour, so we were doing it for them. It was like we had our own private 5 star accommodations for a week. Free of charge. Wayne really did a fabulous job of picking this place.

We biked through the countryside and the small villages which were built 100’s of years ago when everything was made of stones, shuttered windows, wooden doors made with a slab of real wood and a real brass knocker, streets were cobbled for the horses to go down, and the street lamps were a thing of beauty and purpose. It’s hard for me to imagine that one of our boring Vancouver apartment buildings will in two hundred years be A. still standing and B. considered adorable.

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Sylvie had brought a bike back from one of her trips to Holland so I had this amazing bike to pedal with a wicker basket in the front to fill with bread, fresh fruit, cheese and pastries. Going into the grocery store while Wayne waited outside with the bikes took me longer than Wayne thought reasonable considering I only came back with a few things. I explained the cheese selection was so extensive I felt it only right to pick up each one and try to figure out what one would be the most French and the most delicious. Wayne later came in the store with me went the cheese counter saw the Edam he has always eaten grabbed it and put it in the basket and was done.?????????????

“But, but, but don’t you see all the other options??????????” I groaned unbelieving.

This is why Wayne has no trouble making a decision and it takes me hours, days and sometimes years. At least we try new cheeses when I go to the store. Even if the one I chose smelled like my shoes and no one ate it. Noah and I went to the market together where I was seduced by a handsome cheese maker. He offered us a taste of his farm fresh, aged to perfection, french word, french word, cheese. It was delicious, Noah and I both agreed. Then another taste of sheep cheese, fresh, french word, french word, magnific.

So I said “oui Monsieur, I will take a petit piece of each”. He cut a small slice off of the big cheese wheel he had beside his elbow. It looked so rustic, so handmade, so French. “Plus un petit piece of la fromage de sheep si vous plait” I said all this with a charming french accent and a bright smile. “27 Euros si vous plait” our handsome French cheese maker smiled. “27 EUROS!!! Pardon moi??” I ask knowing I must have heard wrong. But no 27 Euros for two small pieces of cheese. I choked and said “WOW that is the most I have ever paid for cheese” but what was I supposed to do but pay as he had cut the pieces as I had asked him to. So I handed over the money and told Noah, don’t tell your Dad. I thought of my mom finding out and fainting on the spot. “Oh Michelle you didn’t! I can’t believe you! or it’s just like you!” she would say while shaking her head in disapproval. “You should of asked the price before buying it, of course it would cost a lot markets are always so expensive, you should know that. You should never shop in a market. I always bring my muffin from home when I travel so I don’t need to eat expensive cheese, or I take it from the buffet at the hotel and slip it in my bag for later” my mom kept talking to me, even after she had fainted from shock.

But there it was $39.44 on two small pieces of cheese. I told the cheese man I would eat this cheese as if an artist had made it, which I’m sure was true. The rest of the family ate it like they were eating cheap wax cheese from Bellingham, cutting big chunks and not savouring or anything. Each chunk they cut I calculated $5 dollars for that mouthful. ” An artist made this, enjoy it, eat it slowly” I reprimanded. “The cheese guy said I could keep it out of the fridge for two months we are supposed to have a little at a time”. But it was done within two days we all liked it, but only I savoured it.

Oh and we went to the Boulangerie (bakery) were we bought for Noah, Religieuse au Chocolat a tower of cream puffs filled with chocolate and held together with chocolate and topped with chocolate. Tarte Citron for me and Chloe, a beautiful tart, that was just the right amount of sour with pastry that flaked and fell when bitten soft as snowflakes. Wayne is on a diet so he abstained, which we all were thankful for, because we didn’t want to share with him. His little bite would equal any giants. So with baguettes still warm wrapped in a small paper twisted with a rosette, our $40 cheeses, pastries, apricots and tomatoes all piled in the wicker basket of the bike from Holland we rode through the old village, through the old stone streets, to our 5 star accommodation, I was feeling so chuffed and foreign filmish.

Our treats from the Boulangerie

Our treats from the Boulangerie

To dislodge Chloe from her dark den of isolation we insisted she accompany us to the Cyclops by bicycle. “No not the bike! I hate the bike! I will not go on the bike!” she protested “don’t worry you don’t have to pedal I’ll do all the work” I countered throwing her off guard. So on the Dutch bike (kiss kiss I love that bike) I showed Chloe how to sit side saddle on the back rap track and get a double from her mom. There was a moment of grumbling followed by I would dare say some enjoyment. The Cyclops is a monstrosity in the forest which left me so inspired. A French couple decided to build this with their artists friends. It was hidden in the woods and not commissioned or approved by anyone. Outside it is as tall as a 7 story building awkward and blobby with one big eye dangling from the top hence the name Cyclops. There is a mouth at the bottom where a mirrored tongue protrudes which was meant to be a child’s slide. Must of not been thinking well to have a mirrored slide for children, so now it is just a fountain. Inside there were quirky and magical elements. A room with everything tipped sideways, the bed table and chairs on the wall. A movie theatre which repeats the same play over and over again a puppet hammer chopping a glass bottle. The seats in the theatre where all unique and moving one on top of a large spring, one looking like a flying machine. There was a sound element with hundreds of metal poles hanging from the ceiling in a square pattern which I walked through to make a huge amount of racket. This causes a dangling ear outside the building to shake. Our tour was in French so I had the pleasure of having Chloe be my translator. Then a bowling ball is launched from somewhere in the belly of the Cyclops and travels up around and through the room running on its tracks creating some chain reaction to ring bells and move things. We see to the left up another floor a train car that has been suspended 4 stories off the ground. Inside the car is a memorial of people killed in WW2. The Cyclops was built using all recycled materials and manual tools. There were no architects or builders in the group and yet they managed this colossal piece. The only machinery they had was a crane to lift the train car up the four floors. This project although not the most beautiful I had seen inspired me for it’s rouge aspect. I imagine these friends getting together and collaborating on this creative clubhouse. I believe there must have been drugs involved or perhaps just being European gives one that extra creative flair. This was a 25 year project an artists hideout, using all old junk, with no permission asked for or granted. I want to start one in Keats or Johanne you should build one with JP on your property.

Noah, Wayne and I biked to the neighbouring village and went into the forest where there was a beach from a long ago sea. Sylvie was gushing about it, how we must go,  it is very beautiful. So when we got there and bus loads of school children were there playing in the sand. The three of us West Coasters couldn’t see the appeal. It would be nice if the sea was still here we thought.
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Paris

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Our family is still unable to navigate an airport without family meltdowns and lots of stress. We were sweaty, disheveled and not talking to each other by the time we make it on the plastic stuck upright seats of the plane. The security to get on Easy Jet (Crappy Wreck I named it) was so hostile regarding our carry on bags we were repacking and cramming our smaller bags into our larger ones on the walk up to the plane. It felt like we were being checked for smuggling drugs not a hairbrush and a camera. We still all held hands on the take off and landing our family ritual.  I was certain 

the plane was going to crash the whole way. It shook so loudly, trembling at what seemed a ferocious speed. I fluxuated between watching the flight attendants every move for any sign of distress to closing my eyes and praying to Jesus. I looked up from my prayers to see the flight attendants signal to one another some concerned hand gesture. OMG that means something is terribly wrong!!!!!! I watched gripping the arms of the children……. ..After a few moments of near hyperventilation I saw it only meant they needed more tea at the front of the cabin. We miraculously landed all alive. I thought I was getting better at this.

My ugly blue shoe  on point zero Norte Dame

My ugly blue shoe on point zero Norte Dame

What a Parisian wears

What a Parisian wears

We arrive in Paris fashionably unacceptable, all except our Chloe, who cares enough to spend more time in the bathroom than all of us combined. I’m wearing Chloe’s light blue Keens that make my feet look like I belong on the west coast MEC camping trip. Not a look for Paris that’s for darn sure! Chloe is not wearing them because she has too much pride and I barely have any. Besides wearing shoes that scream I AM NOT ATTRACTIVE they have the unfortunate side effect of smelling so bad that greyish stinky fume clouds rise from my feet. I tried to get more acceptable foot wear before arriving in Europe but my inability to make fast decisions has left me shoeless.

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Our apartment near the Latin district is a small ground floor flat with the windows far above our heads made for a giraffe I suspect, with no possibility of looking out of them. The first morning I coax Wayne to stay in bed and watch Amelie before setting out to meet Paris. The first time we watched the movie was with Noah when he was two days old. We were smitten with the movie then and now. I love the creative, feel good, Parisian flair of this movie. Each character in the movie is introduced by the narrator with their quirky likes and dislikes. This is Wayne; he likes the subterranean under world of subways and metros, turning his socks twice before putting them on, and walking down a street or alleyway that he has never been on before. He doesn’t like being late , unlocked doors, or photographs without people. Michelle likes putting her thumb between her pointer and middle finger while walking, the smell of worms when it rains, and the feel of floating on her back in the ocean. She doesn’t like the feel of chalk on her hands, watching people spit, and rides that spin in circles. Chloe likes counting subway stops on her fingers, planing her birthday all year long and feeling like God in the stories she write. She doesn’t like hugs, running during PE classes, and looking at her email or Facebook messages. Noah likes growing his hair, drinking pickle juice and tying 7 knots in each lace when he ties his shoes. He doesn’t like using public toilets, riding in boats, and cats kneading on his lap.

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So feeling artsy and inspired Wayne and I happily left our nest to wander the streets of Paris aimlessly. Chloe and Noah opted out of our wandering the city aimlessly whilst photographing and drinking in the atmosphere. I don’t understand why they don’t like to wander and drink atmosphere. But secretly Wayne and I high fived. We were giddy with Montmartre, Sacre Couer, the old Parisian apartment walk ups, the subways (minus the smell of urine), the flowers in the window boxes, the narrow streets. We bumped into by happy accident the fruit and vegetable store that was in the movie Amelie. I think it was orchestrated by God. Sorry for all of you who were left by God so he could arrange the little green market on our path. A serendipitous sign.

Amelie's green grocer

Amelie’s green grocer

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You have to travel with our children for awhile to appreciate a free day, it’s like a day out on parole. Without the children with us there was no complaining, no compromising, no negotiating, no whining, no fighting, no tears, no lagging, no dragging, no coaxing, no dictating.

Wayne and I held hands, we wandered, no destination in mind, blissfully meandering. We both knew our children were in the apartment thanking everything and everyone that their obnoxiously embarrassingly boring parents were leaving them alone. For one we were not dragging them around narrow streets, yawn, admiring windows with flower boxes, who cares, getting excited by a green market from Amelie, really, eye roll. We were not ignoring them, yelling at them, embarrassing them, dragging them, starving them, or boring them. They were laying in the apartment singing they are gone, they are gone, Thank God they are gone. Like prisoners whose guards have finally left them alone after months of torture.