Rest in peace, my Poncho baby boy. You were sometimes a cantankerous, don’t-pet-me-anywhere-but-on-the-top-of-my-head-or-I’ll-bite-your-hand-off, wait-around-the-corner-and-jump-out-at-the-dog-to-scare-the-living-shit-out-of-him, you-will-think-about-declawing-me-in-my-middle-age-because-the-toddler-seems-like-a-fantastic-if-mobile-scratching-post kinda cat, but you were also a purring, fireplace-loving, can-find-a-sunny-spot-in-the-house-on-the-cloudiest-Seattle-day, warm-my-peoples-feet-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night kinda cat… and you were my first baby. I will so very much miss your feisty and always charming little spirit.
Traveling with Kids, Lesson Three: Scale Back, Stay Longer (Part 4)
I confess that, at first, I was a bit jealous that it was Bill, and not me, who got to be the first parent to pack a bag, flash a passport, and take off into the great unknown. But it *was* Bill, after all, who came up with the brilliant plan to start taking shorter international trips (rather than waiting until all the kids were old enough to implement our original plan, conceived way back before we were even married: to take all three kids out of school for a year and travel as a family to one country per month for twelve months), even if that meant just one parent and one child until all the kids got old enough (and our bank account got big enough!) to travel as a family of five. And it *was* Bill who put together an entire eight-day, seven-night itinerary for his and the then-9yo’s trip to Iceland within a couple of weeks – and even found a good deal on airline tickets! So it made sense that he’d be the first parent to go… But it wasn’t until he returned from Iceland that I truly appreciated the guinea pig/lab rat nature of being the first parent to go: “Six days just wasn’t enough time,” he declared as soon as he got off the plane.
He went on to explain, in between cups of coffee (which, sadly, didn’t compare very favorably to the apparently amazing coffee in Iceland – who knew?!) to ward off the jet lag, that the two travel days were essentially a wash: though he and Paisley did manage to spend the morning before their return flight home splashing around in the famous Blue Lagoon (and in the process, came home with the smoothest skin EVER – wow! I seriously need some cosmetic franchise or other to start bottling that baby-soft goodness and selling it stateside…), this was only accomplished because the Blue Lagoon is located very close to the airport and because they didn’t spend as much time there as they’d have liked; Bill recommended that, when it was my turn, I shouldn’t count the days going to and coming back from another country as anything other than travel days.
Once he subtracted those travel days, he was left with six days to see a country about the size of Ohio, but with some seriously rough terrain that makes it rather difficult – and time-consuming – to explore. Granted, they did a great job seeing as much as they could in those six days, but if Bill was left to his own devices, he probably would’ve seen twice as much as he did.
And, even as mindful as he was about traveling with a young child – who simply doesn’t have the attention span or the stamina of a grown-up who has consumed way more coffee than is good for anyone (no matter how delicious it is!) – about not trying to fit too much into one day, sometimes in his enthusiasm to see as much as he could he feels he sometimes pushed Paisley too far… Like on the day when, wanting to explore just a bit more of (in Bill’s words) “this tiny country that feels so BIG,” they took the Ring Road from Reykjavík to the village (yes, I said village) of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, where they rented a little cabin for the next two nights. It’s a long drive, through a whole lot of wide open space (or, in kid-speak: a whole lot of boring). In an attempt to make the road trip a bit more manageable for the kiddo (read: keep the whining to a minimum), Bill broke up the long drive with several stops along the way: for lunch in the small town of Selfoss;
to explore the seawall in Stokkseyri…
and also to check out the quirky elf and troll museum called Icelandic Wonders while there (turns out, quite a few people in Iceland believe in fairies: how much do I love this?!);
AND to hike around Seljalandsfoss (one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls).
But though all those stops were wonderful and fun, they were also really tiring and made the already long drive (because they still had to spend several hours in the car, staring out the windshield at some seriously beautiful…
…but seriously empty empty empty landscape…
…to get to their final destination) just that much longer. With the breaks, it took them ALL DAY to cover 160 miles (which, according to Bill, felt more like 5,000 miles); though Paisley was a real trouper, Bill thinks the drive and trying to pack in as many scenic sights as they could just felt like too much for Paisley.
He sipped more coffee, made yet another reference to how good the coffee was in Iceland (I’m not kidding: he did; he really liked the coffee there and still talks about it…), and, quite seriously (clearly, he’d spent more than a bit of time mulling this over), suggested that when it was my turn to take Paisley to Paris, I should only plan to do one major activity on any given day, and even that should take no more than half a day; and then he looked at me, sussing out whether or not I was mentally fit enough to hear his next comment, and deciding I had to hear it even if I was going to have a nuclear-grade meltdown: “Jill, darling, dear, love of my life… You aren’t going to get more than a morning at the Louvre.” I cried. I begged. I pleaded! But he stood resolute: of course our high-energy daughter could be pushed to see more and do more, but he strongly felt (and still does) that she – and therefore I – would be happier if we took it all a bit more slowly, spending the mornings seeing the sights, and then, perhaps, whiling away the afternoons sailing boats at Luxembourg Gardens or reading books at a sidewalk café. I sniffed. Scaling back?? Scaling back was going to be tricky. But I saw his point; and then I remembered that they serve wine at sidewalk cafés, and really good wine at that… “But how were we going to see everything we needed to see??,” I whined (I know; I whined! I hate myself). To which he responded by suggesting… that we plan on staying longer than a week.
Um… well… twist my arm?! Okay!!
So I abandoned the idea of looking at hotels and started looking for more economically priced rental apartments to stay in during our visit. To be honest, I would’ve likely stayed in a rental apartment even if we were in Paris for only a weekend, because I like having a separate bedroom where I can put the kid(s) to bed before I’m ready to retire for the night, I like having a washer and dryer so I can pack half of what I’d pack without being able to wash clothes, and because I like having a kitchen where I can make a cup of coffee as soon as I wake up and can make more wholesome (and way more affordable!) dinners than I usually find at the nearest Panera Bread or Macaroni Grill I have to rely on when traveling (though I suspect finding a healthy and delicious restaurant in Paris isn’t as difficult as in some parts of the US!), but I was originally open to staying in a hotel if the price and location were right. Once you plan on staying longer than a week, however, a rental apartment is definitely more financially advantageous, and plus, you get to live more like a local and less like a tourist… like having to find the nearest grocery stores and wine shops… which is really fun. So I started spending less time on Pinterest and Instagram and more time on Airbnb.com and VRBO.com, as well as VRBO’s sister-site, Homeaway.com and several other rental agency sites recommended by reputable travel books (like Rick Steve’s Paris book).
Of all the sites I looked at, Airbnb.com was definitely my favorite: they had the best prices, and we found some really great flats; but the few places that Paisley and I did try to rent were actually people’s homes (as compared to places used exclusively as rentals), which made them so cozy and so ideal for that truly “local” feeling I was after (and I’m the first to admit that I’m super finicky when it comes to places to stay – I’m pretty sure my fantastically-persevering realtor lives in fear of having to take me house-hunting ever again), but because they were actually people’s homes, they were only available when the people who lived there were on their own vacations and, sadly, our vacation times didn’t match up… So… I kept looking…
And eventually a good friend of ours told me that another couple he’s friends with used a local Paris rental company, My Paris Visit, for their trip to France the year before, and they’d had a great experience. When it came to smaller and local companies, I was pretty leery – most of them require a hefty down-deposit and I couldn’t stop imagining showing up on the doorstop to some apartment with my little girl in tow, jet-lagged out of our mind, and discovering that the key didn’t fit and I’d just been conned and now we had no place to stay in a country where I can barely speak the language (yeah, I’m that paranoid) – but as I had it from good authority that this specific company was legit, I checked them out, and was rather taken by one of their flats on Île Saint-Louis in particular (because Paris is laid out rather like a circle, divided roughly in half by the Seine River, the central location of this island in the very middle of Paris just seemed so ideal to me for using as a hub for touring various segments of this culturally-rich city), but as it was at the top of my budget, I kept looking…
And then I stumbled upon Craigslist Paris and – whoa! – I was so so so excited to recognize a handful of places I’d seen on Airbnb and VRBO (but were more than I wanted to spend for this trip to Paris) listed for 1/3 of the price I’d seen on the other sites! Right away, I emailed about an apartment on Île de la Cité (the other island in the middle of the Seine) with a fantastic view of the river and received an answer back saying the place was available! But… huh… that’s funny… the name on the email (a one John Williams) was not the name of the owner as listed on Airbnb… Perhaps John was just a property manager?? But according to the reviews I’d read, the property manager’s name was Claire. Uh-oh… So I did some research and learned that there are lots of “too good to be true” scams on Craigslist Paris that involve thieves pulling photos and descriptions from legit sites like Airbnb. Sigh… So I contacted Nina (the actual owner) to let her know how her apartment was being used (she was so nice, and very outraged), I flagged the ad on Craigslist (though it sounds like Craigslist does little to nothing about this kind of fraudulent behavior, which is too bad because it makes me want nothing to do with them ever again except warn everyone I meet away from their site), and went running back to the more trustworthy sites… and was relieved to find that the two apartments that I kept going back to were still available.
And so I gave the decision to Paisley: would she rather stay at a really cute flat I’d found in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, fairly close to the Jardin du Luxembourg where she could play with other kids at the park every day, or would she rather stay in the (yes, more expensive, but I was now willing to spend more money for the security of knowing I wasn’t going to get conned) place on Île Saint-Louis, where she’d be within walking distance of the Cathédrale Notre Dame, which she was quite keen on visiting ever since we’d finished reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame (which we both really enjoyed even though I cried, okay bawled, at the end – and wow, that Victor Hugo fellow is a dark grim soul, just saying – and even though I had to highly-edit and gloss-over certain age-inappropriate bits while reading the near-rape scenes of the innocent Esmerelda by both the despicable Phoebus and the villainous Archdeacon Claude Frollo; for the record: the Disney movie version is SO NOT ANYTHING LIKE THE BOOK, and neither Paisley or I liked it… I mean, HOW can they possibly make Phoebus a HERO?! But I digress…)? To my surprise, she chose the apartment closest to Notre Dame over the place close to the park, and so now all I had to do (other than stop squealing in delight every time I thought about Paris!) was decide on the exact dates…
Based on Bill’s advice to stay longer than the 8 days he’d taken for Iceland, I originally planned to stay for 10 days, including 2 travel days… but as I kept researching apartments and looking at the calendar, it gradually morphed into 12 days… and then finally into 14 days – 14 days!! – once I figured out that many of the rentals offer a weekly discount… so staying for two weeks was simply a better deal, right?! Right?! (“Truly, I love how my mind works!!” she says while rubbing her hands together and laughing maniacally!) And then it became about which two weeks would be better – and that was pretty easy, as (I’m not kidding) I built our trip around the ballet schedule of the Opéra National de Paris (founded in 1669 by the Sun King, Louis XIV, it is one of the most prestigious ballet companies in the world and performs at the opulent Palais Garnier under a magnificent ceiling painted by Marc Chagall; if you can’t tell, I kinda like ballet…), which would be performing La Sylphide (which originally premiered at the Paris Opera back in 1832 –!! – and which marks the very beginning of the romantic ballet – !!) from June 22 to July 15. For no real reason other than knowing I couldn’t catch the first show, as my son’s birthday is June 23 (and I wasn’t going to miss that!) and thinking it’d be fun to celebrate Bastille Day on July 14, I chose the first two weeks of July. And booked the lovely apartment on Île Saint-Louis. Just like that! Voilà!
And so now the time has come… in five days (FIVE DAYS!!) my 10yo and I are off for two weeks (TWO WEEKS!!) in Paris. While there, I will do my very best to heed my husband’s advice and “scale back” on all the activities and sights on the Must-See-and-Do-While-in-the-City-of-Lights-List my daughter and I have managed to compile over the last few months of reading every book on Paris we could get our hands on. And by “staying longer” I think we’ll even manage to See-and-Do most of the big items on our list (naturally we want to see the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, but Paisley can’t wait to visit Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, the largest flea market in the world, I can’t wait to walk in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles… and of course, we must climb the tower of Notre Dame!), and even enjoy some lazy afternoons people-watching at the park and idly sipping lemonade at the sidewalk cafés…
Honestly, I’m so excited about this “scale back, stay longer” lesson about traveling with kids that Bill (very generously on his part, I might add) discovered, that I suspect I’m going to want to “stay much longer” than two weeks… Like, I’m genuinely worried I’m going to Skype my husband after Paisley and I’ve spent one particularly wonderful morning puttering through some museum and after we’ve enjoyed every delicious bite of one or two or a dozen particularly delicious freshly-made croissants from the local patisserie and tell him to pack up the boys and put the house up for sale… because even two weeks just isn’t going to be enough time… and we’re not coming home.
Which would definitely fulfill the “staying longer” portion of this approach… Right?
Though I’m thinking he might call moving to Paris anything BUT “scaling back.” I’m not sure he’ll buy it… Well, I always suspected that part would be rather tricky!
Maybe if I just tell him the coffee in Paris is really really really good…
This blog post is the fourth in a series:
Planning For Paris, Lessons From Paris (Part 1)
Lesson One: Context is
Criticial Everything (Part 2)
Lesson Two: Wherever You Go, There They Are (Part 3)
And still to come (if I can find some time in-between packing my bags long enough to write):
Lesson Four: Make Time for Playtime
My 10yo daughter has been badgering me to let her cut her hair for nearly a year now, and I just kept putting it off… and putting it off… and putting it off…
I don’t know why I kept putting it off… It’s not that I was against her cutting her hair, it’s just that… well… it’s just that I didn’t make it a priority.
For one thing, the first time she told me she wanted a haircut she announced, after school one day, that she wanted a bob, just like two of her friends at school. Now, I have no problems with bobs – I think they’re adorable – but I do have a problem with doing a particular something (any something: cutting your hair, jumping off a bridge, etcetera etcetera etcetera) for no other reason than because your friends are doing that something.
And then there was the fact that, on quite a few occasions, Paisley didn’t seem even remotely interested in parting with her long hair. Take, for instance, the time when I went to pick her up from school and, approximately one minute before the bell rang, she loudly proclaimed “GROUP HUG!” and every single classmate obliged her request, and, turns out, as that little love fest was happening right before my very eyes, a mom standing next to me oh-so-off-handedly mentioned that she had heard there was a lice outbreak in the class. @#&%!! And so began The War of the Lice, Round Three. ROUND THREE!!! I swear it’s like Paisley’s long long long hair begs lice to hop on and come party on top of her head! And do you think my (adorable if overly-affectionate) daughter would take me up on the offer to get that haircut she’d been asking – nay, hounding – me for (even if she still wanted a bob because her friends had one, because at this point I was completely willing to jettison my principals out the bathroom window)?? OF COURSE NOT! And in the midst of trying my best to gently convince her (read: foaming at the mouth, waving my arms up and down in severe agitation while pacing the floor, and basically doing my best impression of Jack Nicholson in The Shining) that cutting her hair right then (I could even do it myself!! What a grand idea!!) would definitely speed up the lice-removal process the next morning at her (apparently regularly scheduled) appointment at the Lice Knowing You Salon (which, with her long hair, would take more than two hours), I was suddenly forced to stop short my own little (and, might I add, really well thrown) pity party when I finally noticed my (completely freaked out) daughter protectively placing her hands on her golden locks, her eyes three sizes larger than normal and welling with tears, rendered completely speechless (do you know how hard it is to render my daughter speechless??) and slowly shaking her head back and forth and back and forth and back and forth in a clear sign that, uh, yeah, maybe she wasn’t quite ready for short hair. (At least not until the next week, when she quite perkily bounced up to me and reported, that, hey!, she was finally ready for that haircut I said she could get! Yeah, not kidding.)
And for another thing, honestly, with our ridiculously hectic schedules, it was just really hard to carve out the time to take Paisley to the hairdresser. I mean, there was no way, and I mean NO WAY, I was going to take her to get her hair done with the two younger siblings in tow (can you imagine?! I have a headache just thinking about the effort it would take to keep the boys from spinning each other on an empty barber chair until they vomited or stabbing each other in the eyes with a pair of untended scissors while we waited for her to be done – excuse me while I go get some Advil), so weekdays after school were OUT. And then our weekends are always full of different sporting events and birthday parties and running errands and staring at our yard pretending that someday we’ll actually cultivate something other than weeds (the poisonous hemlock that keeps sprouting up seems to be doing quite well, so that’s all good, right?!). So I kept putting it off…
And then, a few weeks ago, while cruising on Amazon looking for a short, black wig to complete her Halloween outfit (and no, I’m not nearly as on-top-of-things as this makes me sound; the outfit was originally planned for her end-of-the-season roller derby party, but they’ve since changed the theme from Sci-Fi/Space – for which Paisley had decided to go as one of her favorite graphic novel heroines, Zita the Spacegirl – to Formal Wear, so now the outfit I’d already put together will be used for Halloween), Paisley went gaga for a particularly “animé-looking” wig we saw; it had good reviews and was on sale so I bought it and when it arrived a week or so later, you would’ve thought I’d given her an iPhone (the one she’s been insisting “absolutely everyone has but her,” and, because I have absolutely no problem being “the meanest mom on the planet,” I adamantly refuse to buy her): she insisted I help her put it on right then and there, and she dashed to the bathroom and shrieked – SHRIEKED!! – with pleasure at her transformation. And then informed me that THIS was the haircut she wanted – no, the haircut she HAD TO HAVE.
But… oh, because, you know… she just so happens to have fine, blonde, wavy hair – and NOT thick, black, straight hair (hey, only an observation!) – yet again, I put off the whole haircut thing…
Until last weekend… when my daughter made it quite clear she was over the whole waiting game thing…
Right, so last Friday, immediately after school, Paisley asked if we could finally go get her hair cut. I stalled (as usual), reminding her, “But you have your last roller derby practice tonight. We don’t have time.” To which she (very) quickly suggested, “How about we go right now?” To which I (not at all) sadly replied, “I’m sorry, but we have to pick up your brother from school in a few minutes; we really don’t have time today.” She thought about that for a moment, shrugged, and declared, “That’s okay. We can do it tomorrow.”
And “tomorrow” came – bringing with it Paisley’s big end-of-the-season junior roller derby bout in the morning, held across town from the 6yo’s baseball game which started at the exact same time as the bout (it’s all about divide-and-conquer these days: Bill took Paisley to her bout and I took Liam, with his almost-3yo brother in tow, to the baseball field), followed immediately by Paisley’s end-of-the-season choir concert (again, held across town, but in the other direction), taking up four hours of the afternoon and early evening (the concert itself lasting 2 ½ hours!!), leaving us with barely enough energy to make pizza and enjoy our family movie night (we finally introduced the youngest member of the family to the joy that is STAR WARS – and now he finally understands why he owns several shirts with Darth Vadar, R2D2 and C3PO emblazoned on the chest and why we have a roughly 1,008 Jedi swords in the house, but I digress…) – and went, another day gone with no visit to the hair salon. As I tucked her in that night, Paisley sat bolt upright in bed, and with utter despair howled, “Mama! We didn’t get my hair cut!!” With more than a bit of exasperation creeping into my voice (I know, bad bad mama!), I reminded her about the bout, the concert, and the family movie night. “There wasn’t time today, honey.” And then… SHE BURST INTO TEARS.
I kinda chalked the tears up to a long, tiring day, but in my heart, I sorta feared we were nearing the point when my daughter was going to COMPLETELY SNAP and would most likely take the scissors to her own head (which really didn’t go over so well when she did it when she was 3yo), and totally knew that I needed to stop trying to delay what was looking inevitable and make that dang hair appointment… But because I had already poured myself a glass of wine and it was waiting for me downstairs I decided to not think about it anymore that night (because, clearly, I have my priorities straight); I’d deal with it tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the week after that…
And so, another day dawned with my daughter’s long tresses still attached to her pretty little head…
The first thing Paisley asked me (very enthusiastically I might add) that Sunday morning, as she pranced downstairs (where DOES she get the energy? Gah, I was still staring blankly at my cup of coffee, wondering how it’d gotten into my hands, but extremely grateful that it had…), is if she could get her haircut THAT VERY DAY.
I rubbed my bleary eyes, blinked a few times, and explained that she had a soccer game that afternoon and Liam had a birthday party to attend (again, both events scheduled at the exact same time, and again, both events across town from each other – truly, my life is crazy); she was going skating with some of her roller derby teammates that night; and somewhere in-between she also needed to finish (and, um, also, to even begin) the school project she had planned for her class’s Market Place that would be held the very next day (she came up with the idea of making paperweights by painting several dozen rocks that she’d collected at the beach the week before, and then, using a paint pen, writing inspirational words – like Laugh and Love and UW Huskies – or drawing cute pictures – like owls and funny faces – on them after the first coat of paint dried, and then, once this second coat of paint was dry, setting the whole thing with a final spray of clear gloss; you know, the kind of project that requires just a wee bit o’ time). To which she responded (again) by BURSTING INTO TEARS.
And to which I responded (wisely) by retreating posthaste to the kitchen for some more coffee…
… and then mentally tried to rearrange the day in order to free up an hour or so for an impromptu hair appointment. But how?! I couldn’t see it happening…
My daughter, however, is nothing if not stubborn and tenacious (excuse me, laser-focused and persevering), and that afternoon (it was already 2:30!), after her soccer game and as she sat down outside to start painting 30+ rocks that were due the very next day, she asked (or rather, beseeched) me to um, help her with her project? So she could maybe still get to the salon? You know, THAT DAY?? (I swear I am not making this up.) So… I first thought about banging my head against the house; but then I realized that that would HURT. And then I thought about bringing her attention to how late in the day it already was and gently letting her know how I didn’t think getting to the salon that day would be possible; but then I visualized the tsunami-level waterworks that would come my way if I did. And then I thought that, well, if I’d helped Liam with his Amelia Bedelia diorama (because, after all, he’s 6yo – he can barely spell diorama, let alone build one without a parent showing him how), then it only seemed fair I help Paisley at least paint the base coat on her rocks. And so, without further ado, I stopped thinking, grabbed a paint brush, mixed up some colors, and went to work.
(Not that I expected Paisley to actually finish her project with time to make it to the salon, but can I say: painting rocks is so much fun! If you have a chance anytime soon, I highly recommend you paint your own rock paperweights…)
And so it was that, about two hours later and with much paint all over the sidewalk (we’re messy painters, what can I say?), and just as Bill and Liam arrived home from the birthday party, Paisley finished writing/painting on her last paperweight, put the rock down with proud satisfaction, looked up at me with great expectation and demanded, “Can we go now?!” As the boys were happily clutching bags of Dick’s Drive-In burgers and fries in their hands (they clearly agree with Esquire’s assessment that Dick’s is America’s Most Life Changing Burger Joint; not that I would ever let them read that magazine), I realized I didn’t have to make dinner… The rocks still needed to dry before we sprayed on the clear gloss… And, with a shock, it dawned on me that I had run out of reasons to put off the haircut. There was nothing for it but to squeak, “Um… I guess?”
With a whoop and a holler, Paisley rushed me into the car (probably worried I’d change my mind if given half a chance), and less than fifteen minutes later we walked into Rudy’s Barbershop. The salon was PACKED, being a weekend day at the über-trendy Seattle institution that specializes in cheap but quality haircuts and walk-in appointments; there was at least a 45-minute wait. I looked at Paisley… and saw the sheer panic in her eyes. I sighed, put her name on the waiting list, told the (super hip) guy behind the desk we’d be back, and went and made a date of it by going out to dinner.
An hour later, and stuffed full of good food, we walked back in for Paisley’s appointment. She was escorted to a chair attended by an ultra-cool and tattooed stylist with purple hair pulled up into a retro boho-chic bouffant and pinned with a bright turquoise bow; Paisley nearly melted in the chair, she was so psyched. Our friendly stylist asked Paisley what kind of haircut she wanted, to which Paisley jauntily replied “Short.” The now-intrigued stylist asked “How short?” and Paisley immediately directed me to pull up the picture from the wig product page on Amazon that she’d made me email to my iPhone right before we left so it was easy to access and refer to when she was asked this very question… I obligingly showed our enquiring stylist the picture of the young man with the thick, black, straight hair, and mentioned that I had, in fact, told Paisley that, because she does NOT have thick, black, straight hair, “Your hair, I’m sorry to say, just won’t look like this.” To which our experienced stylist turned to Paisley and repeated, “Your hair, I’m sorry to say, just won’t look like this.” And to which Paisley nonchalantly repeated back to her (with truly awe-inspiring, and never-wavering, confidence) what she’d been repeating to me for all the weeks since she’d first put on that wig: “Oh, I know. I want that haircut… and my hair will just make it look different.” (Subtext: Like, duh people! It’s all good. Now get to work. *Snaps her fingers.*) And then she flashed us both a beatific smile. I mean, what can you do with that?! I’ll tell you what you do with that: you give her that haircut… And know it’s just going to look different… It’s as simple as that.
And so, Paisley’s long long long hair went back into a ponytail, and the scissors came out. I think both Paisley and I were rather shocked at how quickly her hair was cut off (seriously, after months of badgering and haggling and crying and persuading, it took all of 10 seconds for our very efficient stylist to snip, snip, snip, snip that ponytail right off Paisley’s precious head) and all those sweet ringlets I’ve always loved tugging on were, just like that, GONE! (I’m not going to lie: it made my heart ache a bit).
And so, my daughter now has very short hair. Very very short hair. And she loves it. I’m talking, like, loves LOVES LOVES it.
And after living with her and her very short hair for a bit over a week now… you know what? I DO TOO. Holy. Wow. What was I thinking, putting this off?! I. Love. It. And not because it’s so adorable (which it is). No, I love it because it now takes her a total of two seconds to shampoo her hair (*fist pump*!!); because, better yet, it now takes approximately ZERO seconds for me to brush the tear-and-tantrum-inducing snarls out of her hair (oh yeah!!); because I now don’t have to relentlessly nag her about pulling her hair back in a ponytail – so she can actually SEE – for soccer and Jiu-Jitsu and swimming practice (wahoo!!); and because, upon returning home yesterday afternoon from the three-day sleep away camp she’s been at with the 4th and 5th graders of her school, if she just so happens to tell me in the next day or two (please please please, no!) that her head is itchy – and yes, while she’s significantly less likely to get lice with short hair, I still don’t put it past my hug-loving and socially gregarious daughter and her friends to braid each other’s hair, trade hats and headbands and brushes, swap sleeping bags and pillows, and generally do whatever it takes to share absolutely everything with each other, secrets, notes and lice included – it now will take all of 10 breezy minutes, instead of the usual 45-60 excruciating minutes, for me to do the subsequent lice check (to which I say: bring it!! Actually, don’t; please don’t bring the lice…).
And perhaps more important than the purely selfish reasons I listed above (though all still very relevant reasons, I would like to say in my defense!), I love my daughter’s short hair because, though it might have taken her eight months or so to get to this point (she is, after all, only 10yo; self-determination takes time, as does – and anybody who has ever gone to a barber and paid good money for a haircut will confirm this – finding “the right” hairstyle) and another month or so to convince her over-scheduled (and okay, sometimes slow-to-catch-on) mother that she was really serious this time, Paisley made this decision all on her own and not because she wanted to be just like her friends, and not because she was bullied into it by her lunatic mama suffering from a (completely understandable?!) lice-induced anxiety attack; and not even because she wanted to look like some formerly unknown manga character to whom she doesn’t even have a passing resemblance.
And here’s what I only realized after the hair fell to the salon floor, and what I almost missed because I thought I was too busy to make this a priority: I love that my daughter walked into that salon ready for a big change and with a fierce confidence that never wavered. I love that she was so bold and so fearless. I love that she embraced the uncertainty of the outcome; she knew her hair wasn’t going to look like that picture from the internet, but she had faith that she was going to like it anyway. And I love (and I’m talking, like, love LOVE LOVE) that she was going to like it anyway, because she LIKES HERSELF. For her, her hair is just her hair. It doesn’t define who she is; it’s something fun to play with, another prop in this drama called life. Yes, she is absolutely having a fantastic time surprising her friends and teachers and neighbors with her new look. But she still skated her heart out that night at the skate rink, after everyone remarked on her transformation, and she still completed her paperweight project on time (and which were so popular at Market Place that she sold every single one!) after everyone oohed and aahed at school the next day; for her, she is a skater and a seller of rocks no matter what her hair looks like. And the few times people have told her she looks like a boy? She’s been completely unfazed. This (seemingly) simple haircut (that’s become, for me anyway, something more significant than a simple haircut, and has, rather, marked itself as a milestone moment in my always-amazing daughter’s life) has shown me that her identity, her concept of who she is as a person, is not wrapped up in how long or short her hair is, or how others expect her to act. And as a parent raising a daughter in a culture that puts so much pressure on girls (and the women they grow up to become) to look like this (unattainable) ideal of beauty or that (archaic) concept of femininity, I could not be more proud, or grateful, that my 10yo daughter feels so empowered to take risks with her appearance and experiment with her hairstyle and not at all feel defined by what she looks like to others. As her mother, I hope she always maintains that spirit of independence, that joy in reinvention, and that courage to take risks which she exhibited in that hair salon as she continues to figure out what it means to “be herself.”
And I hope that next time she has to badger me into taking her to the hair salon (because, c’mon, I’m still not going to take her when the boys are around, and it’s not like our lives are getting any less busy!), she still wants me to stay by her side, sitting in the empty chair next to her. And I hope I remember how privileged I am to witness her awe-inspiring development into the phenomenal young person she’s becoming, no matter what hairstyle she comes up with next. And I hope that I will never forget, no matter how busy life gets or how many trips to the salon we make, to take every opportunity to let her know as often as possible that she’s beautiful, both inside and out…
…no matter what her hair looks like.
Because for me? Well, now… that’s a priority.
(Though here’s to no one showing her a picture of Mr. T anytime soon… because, seriously, because, seriously, I am SO not ready for a Mohawk!)
Traveling with Kids, Lesson Two: Wherever You Go, There They Are
As parents of three kids, my husband and I sometimes fall into the bad habit of thinking that taking care of just one of our kids (especially the oldest who we often forget is still a young child, even if she is two feet taller than her youngest brother), is A LOT easier than having to juggle all three at the same time. And, more often than not, this misconception is held up by experience and rings true, like at bedtime: trying to convince the 10yo to brush her teeth is waaaaay easier when not also being screamed at to get soap out of the eyes of the 6yo in the bathtub while at the same time trying to wrangle the 2yo into a pair of clean pajamas (and not the yogurt-banana-cereal-smeared dirty pair he plucked out of the laundry basket and is insisting on wearing) while he gleefully taunts his sibling with the soap in his eyes by dangling a toy that said wet (and now screaming) big brother told the still-naked (and now giggling uncontrollably) little brother he couldn’t play with or even touch, but was, for some inexplicable reason, left in the middle of the youngest child’s bedroom floor (and yeah, I only wish I was exaggerating).
And so it was, with this misconception firmly established, that Bill packed up our eldest child (who, theoretically at least, seemed the most independent, self-sufficient, responsible and open to the inherent differences that come with travel: different schedules and bedtimes, different social rules and expectations, different foods and flavors) and flew off to Iceland to learn yet another valuable lesson in traveling with kids: turns out… wherever you go, there they are.
Or rather, wherever your child goes, there your child is…
Meaning: you can take your child outside of the good ol’ U S of A, to explore and inhabit different cultures from her own in attempts to expand her young and therefore limited horizons, but – if your child is anything like mine – she’s still going to fight going to sleep just like she does at home, no matter how tired she is;
she’s still going to think the world is her playground and try to climb on stuff she shouldn’t;
and she’s still only going to want to eat PIZZA and nothing else. And I mean ABSOLUTELY nothing else.
Okay, maybe she’ll eat a pastry or a cream cheese bagel here and there (minus the cream cheese – nope, not kidding),
but not the thick, delicious Icelandic yogurt-like soft cheese called skyr you (read: Bill) thought she’d love.
Clearly not the fish and chips she excitedly proclaimed to you (read: Bill) that she’d eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day while she was in Iceland.
Definitely not the hot dogs, lamb stew, reindeer steak, or smoked puffin served in many restaurants in Reykjavík.
And absolutely NOT the poisonous local shark called hákarl (this local delicacy apparently smells and tastes like ammonia, and can only be eaten after it’s been buried and left underground for several weeks, then cut into strips and dried for several months – apparently Gordon Ramsay, the “I’ll eat anything” adventure foodie, actually threw up – threw up!! – after eating hákarl, it’s that, uh, shall we say… potent?) which the (okay, maybe only some) Icelandic people enjoy. And truth be told, I can’t really fault her for this last one, but what’s up with not eating the yogurt?! Or at least the chips part of the fish and chips?! They’re FRENCH FRIES for crying out loud!! Who doesn’t love French fries?!
All of which leaves me more than a little nervous about our impending trip to Paris (in only 4 ½ weeks!!). Specifically… I worry that Paisley won’t find any cheese, stinky or otherwise, to her liking at the fromagerie nearest our rental apartment (which I’ve even shown her, in hopes that familiarity breeds not contempt but comfort, by doing a virtual walk-by on Google Maps, which, can I just say?, is honestly the coolest resource available when planning a trip: just type in the address or place you want to “see” – like the Louvre, Paris, France – zoom in on the location, then click on the little yellow person icon and drag it to the spot you want to check out; it’ll pull up Google’s photos of that street, and you can use the arrows to “walk” by the store or café or even through the entire neighborhood!). I worry that not one of the very few (turns out this foodie capital of the world caters mostly to the carnivores and omnivores amongst us) vegetarian-friendly restaurants (yes, I’m vegetarian, so for the most part the foie gras, paté and langoustine ravioli is out, to the 10yo’s great relief) – of which I’ve spent several hours researching various delightful and helpful Paris-specific blogs (I find myself pulling up Lost In Cheeseland more than any other blog, but HiP Paris is another solid site, and I also really like Paris in Four Months) and several Paris guide books (if you only buy one guide book, make sure it’s Rick Steves’ Paris – I actually had an anxiety dream the other night that I’d forgotten to pack this book and was almost willing to miss my flight in order to go back home and get it!) and several more hours bookmarking the most promising finds on my Yelp Paris account (which has a helpful GPS-enabled map that can quickly lead me to any nearby restaurant of my choosing, if I decide to pony up for the international data plan for my iPhone) and on my TripAdvisor Paris City Guide app (which has a map feature that can be used offline and therefore can be accessed without racking up data roaming charges, but which doesn’t have as thorough of a list as Yelp Paris) so that when we’re walking around the quaint streets of Paris after a morning spent in this greatest museum in the world or that fantastically picturesque park and suddenly find ourselves ravenous without a boulangerie or pâtisserie in sight, I can instantly pinpoint the nearest well-reviewed coffee shop or place to eat and, voilà!, we have food in our bellies and enough energy for another round of sightseeing – will possibly tempt Paisley into eating something other than the bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios (or the nearest French equivalent, which I will make my number one priority to obtain as soon as we arrive on foreign soil, at the closest supermarché to our rental, which I’ve also already located via the very fantastic Google Maps) she had for breakfast. I worry that Paisley won’t like the crêperies that abound on the streets of Paris (yes, the French have crêpe stands like we Americans have hot dog stands, and how insanely brilliant is that?!), and will be the only child in the history of civilization to turn down a Nutella and banana crêpe for lunch. I even worry that Paisley won’t eat the long, thin baguettes that (like the Icelandic fish and chips of last summer) she’s proclaimed she can’t wait to eat for every single meal every single day, but will, instead, use them as Jedi swords against her unsuspecting mother (though, rest assured, I will fight back, in spite of my desire to avoid, at all costs, being considered an uncivilized American with bad manners and ugly shoes; however, I will most definitely smear my baguette-sword with rich and creamy French-made butter afterwards and devour it with utter delight).
But here’s the thing… really, what are we expecting? It’s not like Paisley’s an adventurous eater here at home. I’m not sure she eats anything that isn’t white or beige, other than pizza sauce (and only then, if it’s smothered in white cheese) and the occasional slice of bacon (she likes saying she’s a vegetarian except she eats bacon – again, nope, not kidding). Just because we WANT her to try new and different things (like local cuisines) while we’re out exploring the world doesn’t mean she’s going to (and I’m the first to admit, as a vegetarian with a purposefully-restricted diet, it’s not like I set the best of examples). And even if she DOES try something new, she might not like it (like the Icelandic skyr). The point is, she’s still a child, she’s still who she is, she’s still my sleep-fighting, sculpture-climbing, picky-eating daughter, and we need to not expect that she’s going to change overnight just because she woke up in a different country. And that’s really okay. Because the fact is, she’s still IN a different country. She’s still SURROUNDED by people speaking a foreign language. She’s still OUTSIDE of her comfort zone, and learning to navigate in a world that is, each trip she takes, way larger than the 10-block radius that makes up her everyday life.
So… if a couple slices of pizza make her feel more comfortable in this new, great-big world?
Then pizza it will be.
(And you know what? Though it’s not Venice or Chicago or NYC, I’m pretty sure that finding a slice or two of good pizza in Paris will still be easier than putting all three of my ornery, dramatic, loud, and possibly tired, cranky and wet, but also adorably cute, little urchins to bed at night!)
This blog post is the third in a series:
Planning For Paris, Lessons From Paris (Part 1)
Lesson One: Context is
Criticial Everything (Part 2)
And still to come (if I could ever stop researching vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Paris long enough to write):
Lesson Three: Scale Back, Stay Longer
Lesson Four: Make Time for Playtime
Lesson One: Context is Critical Everything
One of the more important lessons Bill learned about traveling with kids (or at least traveling with our kids, or maybe just traveling with our ONE kid, but it seems like a good lesson for any young person with an attention span that can barely last through an episode of Phineas and Ferb without taking a break to beg for more goldfish crackers, visit the bathroom, or whack a sibling upside the head just to see the reaction): give them as much knowledge, background information and context about what they’re going to see or do BEFORE they actually see or do it – and not DURING and not AFTER.
How did Bill learn such a valuable lesson, you ask? Well, a little backstory first:
As a family, we we have decided that these global escapades of ours, though meant to be fun, are also very much meant to be educational – as compared to, say, our past trips to Hawaii, which were solely dedicated to frivolity and absorbing as much Vitamin D as possible, a vitamin, it turns out, that is quite important for pasty-fleshed Seattleites (okay, I’m only speaking for myself, but seriously, the pasty-tones get BAD come early spring) who can only go so long without sun before turning translucent (like those icky looking fish who dwell in cave lakes – honestly, it’s not a good look for me or anyone), and I therefore whole-heartedly appreciate every trip to a sunny paradise I’ve ever taken (truly!). However, these international trips with the kids are not about devouring as many beach reads as we can stuff in the suitcase and sipping fruity drinks with paper umbrellas in them poolside (though maybe I can work this in during a future trip to say, oh I don’t know, Bali? There has to be some GREAT educational stuff going on in Bali!!). Of course, just being immersed in a new culture is mind-opening and enlightening, but in attempts to ensure the whippersnappers learn something a tad more concrete about the country they are visiting than “Hey! Like, wow! They speak a foreign language in this foreign country!” we decided to ask the kiddos (in this case, just Paisley, since she was the only young‘un going this round) to write a report about something – the culture, the history, the social expectations, etc. – they’d be seeing and encountering while visiting the destination country.
So about two weeks before Bill and Paisley left for Iceland, I asked Bill when he was going to have Paisley do her report on Iceland; wasn’t he running out of time? And he was all, “Huh! I thought we were doing these reports after they got back from the trip…” And I was all, “Huh! I guess that makes sense… Write up what they just learned…” Turns out, I was thinking the report would serve as a way of providing information (you know… that whole context thing?) about what they’d see while they were there, and Bill was thinking the report would serve as a way of synthesizing and summarizing what they learned while they were there, after the fact. (Which really does make sense, but you see where this is going, right?)
Okay, so I agreed that Bill’s plan to wait until after the trip to have Paisley write her report on Iceland had merit, and two weeks later they abandoned me and the boys, and headed off into the great unknown…
Being very conscious of traveling with a young child, and considerate of her feelings and that whole relatively short attention span thing (recall the whole Phineas and Ferb episode above: I wasn’t making that up…), before they left he worked hard (like the good Papa he is) to create an agenda that would be educational, but enjoyable, too. For instance, he planned that they’d spend the first two days in Reykjavík touring the must-see sites like Hallgrímskirkja (a tower-like Lutheran church that is probably the most distinct landmark in the city),
Solfar (the Sun Voyager sculpture that sits majestically in the center of Reykjavík, on the waterfront),
and Tjörnin (called “The Pond,” this lake in the center of the city fronts Reykjavík City Hall),
but he also planned on them spending several (very happy) hours a day (both morning and evening!) in the more kid-friendly pursuit of swimming and splashing about in several local geothermal pools (Laugardalslaug, the city’s largest hot pot and host to an 86 meter long water slide – 86 meters long!! – was their favorite).
And instead of spending all day driving the 190 mile loop that comprises the three different sites of the famous and touristy Golden Circle (Bill didn’t think our 9yo would much appreciate spending that much time in the car), he planned for their third day to visit only one of the sites, Þingvellir (where the continents of North America and Europe actually meet, the first national park in Iceland, and the original location for the founding of the country’s parliament way way way back in 930 AD),
where they could spend a few quality hours (rather than just the quick, cursory visit most tourists make when trying to see all three sites in one day) exploring the church and the remains of the Assembly (talk about an educational experience!),
and just playing outside at a more leisurely pace – after, of course, spending the morning at a hot pot!
All was going well, everything was going according to plan, and Bill was looking forward to what Paisley would choose to write about in her report, when… on DAY TWO:
Bill, being a history buff as well as a diligent visitor who genuinely wished to know more about the foreign country he was in, naturally took our daughter to the National Museum of Iceland. The museum has an impressive exhibit, with about 2,000 objects and 1,000 photographs dedicated to telling the story of Iceland from the Settlement in the 9th Century to modern day. Bill planned on a lovely morning spent taking it all in… Maybe a couple of hours, say, followed by some lunch and a cup of hot coffee for himself (did I mention that he said the coffee in Iceland was out-of-this-world good?) and some hot cocoa for the kiddo…
Yeah… it took our daughter exactly ten minutes to go through the ENTIRE exhibit, covering approximately 1,100 years of history.
She even wore the little headphones and followed the special audio guide for children. To give her CONTEXT about what she was learning about… To give her a general awareness of what she was seeing and why it was important…
At which point, Bill started worrying about my upcoming trip to Paris…
He knew for me, who loves art, who studied art history in college, who can’t WAIT to meander, browse, slowly absorb and just BREATHE IN the art and history and culture of all of Paris… Well, yeah, ten minutes wasn’t exactly going to cut it.
He emailed me that night, and reiterated his point when he got back home, saying that, um, yeah, he thought maybe the kids should go ahead and do those reports BEFORE we left for foreign lands… I believe his exact words were: “Make sure she has LOTS of context when you go to Paris; otherwise you will go NUTS!! I really think she was bored today.” And then he recommended I have Paisley read everything she could about everything that was Paris before we left.
Great. So, I had a little less than a year to introduce her to all of art history?!
Yes, yes, I know I’m rather melodramatic (you’re not really surprised, are you?!), but, as you might be aware, the Louvre is just a WEE bit larger than Iceland’s National Museum, and it’ll take more than ten minutes just to GET to the Mona Lisa, let alone spend any time with her small bad self… At least seeing Leonardo’s masterpiece – if you recall – is one of the primary reasons Paisley chose Paris for her second international trip (left to my own devices, I probably would’ve picked somewhere they serve those fruity drinks with paper umbrellas with a healthy dose of Vitamin D on the side, waiting to visit Paris when Paisley had several years of world history under her teen-aged and undoubtedly hipster-styled belt), so I can at least feel confident that she’ll want to GO to the Louvre… But will she want to STAY there long enough to see and learn about (this isn’t supposed to be torture – I want it to be fun! – but it is supposed to be educational…) some of the most significant and iconic art pieces in the world?? (Like, did you know that the Louvre houses not only some of the most impressive works of the Renaissance, but is also home to the Law Code of Hammurabi, an ancient Babylonian stele dating from 1772 BC, one of the earliest known law codes in human history, and the origin of that whole “an eye for eye, a tooth for a tooth” concept?? Yeah, kind of a big dealio…)
And then, of course, there’s still the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée Rodin, the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Musée de l’Orangerie… For crying out loud, do you have ANY idea how many of the world’s GREATEST museums there are in PARIS?!?! Well, let’s just say… there are a few…
And she might get BORED?! Well! I don’t think so…
So as soon as Paisley returned from Iceland I took Bill’s advice and I brought home approximately 20,000 books from the library (okay, okay, more like 20 books) for her to start reading… and I must confess, my indoctrination plans (pardonnez moi, my plans to gently and supportively create CONTEXT!) for my 10yo are, so far, going quite well… In all seriousness (don’t snort; that’s rude… I can be serious if I really really try!), we have found many delightful books which I think, or at least hope, will help her (or, to tell the truth, help both of us, as I’m learning stuff I never knew about the City of Lights as well…) more thoroughly enjoy our upcoming trip (and avoid that dreadful boredom that comes with being forced to look at art or, are you kidding me?!, another church, that just looks old-fashioned and has no relevance to her modern-day life): books about kids going to Paris (for instance, we both chortled and snickered while reading Eloise in Paris, in which Paisley learned several invaluable French phrases, her absolute favorite being “tout de suite” – meaning “immediately” or “right away” – which she uses quite often here at home, now, with much Eloise-style flair, as in: “Mama, please do have Papa come upstairs and say good-night to me… and make sure you tell him tout de suite!”); books about kids living in Paris (outstanding reads in this category include the impressive and captivating The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a novel worth owning whether you plan on visiting Paris or not… the very enjoyable Madame Pamplemousse and Her Incredible Edibles, though I seriously doubt even this cute book will be enough to encourage Paisley to try either foie gras or paté… and the adorable Adèle & Simon, about a sister who walks her brother – who loses a mitten, a scarf, a crayon and other precious childhood items while visiting the dinosaurs at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, watching a puppet show at the Jardin du Luxembourg, eating sweets at a patisserie and visiting several other essential Paris destinations we’ll be visiting ourselves – home from school… Paisley and I liked the story so much we plotted out Adèle and Simon’s address on the Cour de Rohan on our map of Paris and plan on walking by!); books kids in Paris themselves read and love (the standout in this category is, hands down, the English translations of the wildly popular Astérix comic books, about a village of wily Gauls who fight off Roman occupation, which have also been made into several films starring none other than Gérard Depardieu – though Paisley hasn’t seen the movies yet, she did get an Astérix t-shirt for Christmas, which she plans on proudly sporting on the streets of Paris… unless, because it’s quite a favorite of hers, she wears it out from overuse before we ever leave!); and books about kids meeting artists whose paintings and sculptures are on display in the various museums (MUSEUMS!!) of Paris (there are literally hundreds of kids’ books about famous artists like Degas, Rousseau, Matisse, Monet, Van Gogh, Cézanne and Picasso – some of the better ones are the handful of books by Laurence Anholt, and the Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists series by Mike Venezia, the Da Vinci one being a beloved gift to Paisley from her grandmother who visited Paris a few years back and is most likely the reason Paisley knew enough about the Mona Lisa to declare she’d be going to Paris to see said painting for her second big trip abroad). And when we were done with those first 20,000 books, I went and got 20,000 more books… and 20,000 more after that… I will confess: for the most part, I’ve deliberately chosen picture books for her to read – books well below her reading level, I suppose, but books that are fun to read and full of stories about kids just like her and, I think most importantly, books full of colorful pages exhibiting the very paintings and sculptures and cathedrals she’ll get to see (and dare I hope… want to see?) in Paris – art work and buildings that she’ll be able to recognize when we visit all those (hopefully now interesting and not boring) museums and tourist attractions in Paris.
Of course, this “lesson” is currently more of a “theory” at this point… and I have no idea if all this reading will pay off; after all, the museums we visit are still MUSEUMS, and she’s still only ten years old with the attention span of any 10yo: roughly somewhere between ten minutes and the length of that ridiculous episode of Phineas and Ferb (and that’s approximately 22 minutes, for those of you whose children don’t demand a little cartoon action in their day)… Nor am I sure that having her write a report for me before we go will help, either (though I’m thinking of having her write something about Versailles, as it’s going to be infinitely BORING for her there if she doesn’t understand who the Sun King was and why he was so important, or who Marie Antoinette was and why she got her head cut off for simply offering to feed everybody cake – because, let’s admit it, without a modicum of historical context, any modern-day 10yo in her right mind would throw a parade for someone, anyone!, who offered them CAKE; I mean, it’s CAKE!). But, for me, I think it’s worth trying to follow Bill’s advice to provide as much knowledge, background information and context as I can, in attempts to hold off the boredom as long as possible for that 10-22 minute stretch of time, so that our visit to the Louvre or any given museum in Paris will be educational, but will also be just that much more interesting…
And don’t worry! Even with having learned all this “context” BEFORE we go, I know I’m not going to get more than an hour at any given tourist attraction. So what to do with the rest of the 23 hours of the day (well, minus at least eight hours of beauty sleep – we ARE in Paris, after all, and must look our best!)? Well, we might not be able to go splash around in any geothermally heated hot pots (sadly, I don’t think the Seine is very warm, or even very clean, and I’m pretty sure we’d be arrested if we tried taking a swim… and being arrested in a foreign country isn’t exactly the kind of educational experience I was hoping for), but there’s gotta be some serious giggles to be had in counting how many couples we see kissing as we walk along the Seine on our way to the nearest metro station, and some great times to be had while trying desperately not to accidentally order frog legs or snails at the fantastic sidewalk café we just stumbled upon, and, if all else fails, some deliciously smile-inducing moments to be had while devouring all the macaroons and pain au chocolat we can lay our greedy little hands on, right?? Because we WILL have fun… after all, c’mon! As Eloise just might say, c’est impossible – and that means rawther impossible – to NOT have fun when one is on vacation in PARIS.
And if things go really well, and we’re not in a total sugar-induced coma from all those macaroons? I’ll have Paisley send you a postcard telling you all about everything she learned at the museum that day…
This blog post is the second in a series. If you missed it, feel free to read the Introduction: Planning For Paris, Lessons From Paris (Part 1)
And still to come (if I could ever stop pinning Paris pictures on Pinterest long enough to write):
Lesson Two: Wherever You Go, There They Are
Lesson Three: Scale Back, Stay Longer
Lesson Four: Make Time for Playtime
Holy WOW. I did it. Last week I booked two round-trip tickets for Paris! In slightly less than three months my 10yo daughter and I are leaving for Paris. Yes, PARIS. Paris, FRANCE.
(Ooh, sorry… that high-pitched sound you just heard through your computer screen? That was me squealing. With glee. GLEE I tell you!! Wheeeee!!!!!)
Seriously, I am almost vibrating with excitement. I honestly can’t get my brain to concentrate on anything else (I mean, c’mon! Do you really expect me to remember to pick up my kids from school, on time, or, and it gives me a headache just thinking about, do my taxes when there are photos of Paris to pin on Pinterest or style blogs to read about what is – and perhaps more importantly, what is not – acceptable to wear in Paris??). So far I have checked off the three biggest items on my planning to-do list: I found an AMAZING apartment for us to rent for our visit, and have even paid the down deposit; I woke up in the middle of the night the week before last to go online and nab (just barely, too!) our fancy-schmancy tickets to the Paris Opera Ballet, which, as a huge ballet fan, I actually built our entire trip around attending; and now I have two non-stop tickets (non-stop!! I’m sooooo in love with non-stop flights…), with confirmed seats and everything. The only thing left to do, now, is plot out the smaller, day-to-day details, like exactly what Paisley and I will be doing while we’re there… Maybe we’ll spend a delightful afternoon at, gasp!, the Louis Vuitton flagship store on the Champs-Elysees! And maybe we’ll take three whole days to explore the Louvre!! And maybe we’ll dine at Le Jules Verne, the legendary restaurant at the Eiffel Tower!!!
I’m sorry, but did you just SNORT with laughter?! You did!! Well. That’s not very nice of you… Honestly, can’t you just let me have my dreams for FIVE MINUTES?! I mean… I know. I do! I KNOW: I’m traveling to Paris, one of the most important and significant cities in the world, a veritable treasure trove of history and culture, the capital of Romance with a capital R, THE City of Lights… with my TEN YEAR OLD.
Not exactly a second honeymoon (or even a first honeymoon, for that matter, since Bill and I decided to move across the country from Seattle to North Carolina instead of booking a romantic getaway to Paris, or anywhere else for that matter; ahhh… someday)… I know, I know…
Which leads me back to my husband’s trip with Paisley, to Iceland this last summer: the inaugural expedition in our family’s plan to travel with our three children around the world, once each of them becomes old enough to a) travel long distances comfortably (and without making me or Bill – or everyone else on the plane – want to commit ritual suicide; honestly, I don’t care how many times I hear or read about people who travel around the world with their youngest munchkins and have the absolute greatest time – bully for them, I say – I personally think traveling 12+ hours on a plane with a 2yo toddler sounds like a circle of Hell straight out of Dante’s Inferno) and b) to actually remember all, or most of all, the horizon-expanding adventures we wish them to experience (and just spent a whole lotta cash on procuring). Being the first international trip for both of them (Canada doesn’t count – sorry, Canada), we knew there would be quite the learning curve with this trip; and indeed, Bill was a wonderful guinea pig (or should I say canary in a coal mine?!), bringing back a wealth of fabulous lessons learned from his one week stay in Iceland – and which I have taken to heart while planning my upcoming trip to Paris.
As I don’t want to make you feel like I’m forcing you through one of those slide-shows old Aunt Edna and Uncle Chester made you endure when you were in middle school and would rather be doing ollies on your skateboard or cruising the mall for the perfect pair of neon-colored hoop earrings to match your very trendy neon-colored jelly shoes rather than hearing about what kind of birds nest on the top of Teddy Roosevelt’s moustache on Mount Rushmore, I’ve broken this blog post up into several parts, or “lessons” if you will, which you can read at your leisure… say, in between Instagramming – is that even a word?! I’m making it one if it isn’t already; feel free to alert the OED – pictures of your adorable kids doing ollies (because, let’s admit it, when you do ollies anymore your knees kill and you can’t walk up the stairs for a week… unless you’re Tony Hawk, in which case your ollies, and knees, are just as fine and Instagrammable – another new word! – as your adorable kids’ ollies and knees…), or internet shopping for the perfect neon-colored clutch to match your very trendy neon-colored strappy platform sandals (so very retro, and absolutely necessary for the spring cocktail party to which you’ve just been invited!). Granted, these are lessons for my family, and we’re a bit crazier than most, so some – or possibly all! In which case I humbly apologize for taking up your time which could have been better spent reading about Taylor Swift’s latest conquest and/or breakup – of these “lessons” might not apply to you and your precious little angels… But, in the belief that a few of you have angels who sometimes occasionally act like MONSTERS normal old kids, over the next few days, or possibly weeks – I do actually have to pick up the kids, on time, from school (they’re so demanding!), and my taxes, as much as I’ve beseeched the folders of paperwork sitting on my desk to do themselves, are stubbornly not complying with my wishes (how very rude!) – feel free to peruse, adopt, and/or adapt for your own family vacation planning, Bill’s top four lessons about traveling with kids…
Spoiler alert: yeah, it’s looking pretty doubtful that three whole days blissfully meandering through the rooms of the Louvre is in my near future… And Louis Vuitton and Le Jules Verne?? C’est impossible, aussie.
In the meantime, here’s a sneak peak at the next few blog posts:
Lesson One: Context is Critical Everything
Lesson Two: Wherever You Go, There They Are
Lesson Three: Scale Back, Stay Longer
Lesson Four: Make Time for Playtime
And here’s a mini-slide show that would do old Aunt Edna and Uncle Chester proud:
On the evening of Saturday, January 12, 2013 (the date will live in infamy, at least in the blackest part of my soul), while I was clearing the dinner table and Bill was reviewing the pictures he’d taken that day while hiking with the three kids (so I could work – seriously, how do I nominate him for a Hubby-of-the-Year-Award??), the youngest child (read: the smallest gremlin in the house) got mad (read: really really really really mad) at his older sister for not sharing her toys with him. So (naturally), he picked up her unfinished glass of milk and… threw the milk at her.
Yes. Really. He did. He THREW the milk at her…
(Go ahead and visualize the rich, creamy, white stream of delicious, wholesome, organic 2% milk arcing ever so gracefully through the air and…)
SPLASHING her right in the face. Totally drenching her… And the table… And the floor… And Bill… And, oh yeah, drenching the CAMERA, too.
Oh, my, YES, you read that correctly: drenching the CAMERA (on which Bill was reviewing the pictures he’d taken while hiking that day). The BRAND NEW CAMERA.
Yes, the brand new camera, all of 19 days old, that was my birthday present (I’m a December baby) from Bill… and my Christmas present from Bill… and Bill’s Christmas present from me… all rolled into one tidy, and expensive (at least for us) package (which I quite happily wrapped, and then unwrapped three hours later, on Christmas Eve).
Turns out, in case you were wondering, cameras don’t really care for milk.
My brand new camera hadn’t even survived ONE MONTH in our household.
And that’s when I cried. Really. I did. I CRIED over spilled milk (though not when the kids were looking; that’d set a bad example – I quite responsibly waited until I was alone in my bathroom later that night… to cry big big big tears).
I actually started this post the day after the milk incident. And yes, it’s taken me more than six weeks to write, mostly because every time I even think about my not-working-brand-new camera my stomach gets all tight and I just want to (and I’m sorry to say it, but there’s no delicate way to put this) throw up.
To be perfectly fair, there is a slim (and I mean miniscule) possibility that the milk wasn’t the culprit – the camera battery didn’t seem to love the cold weather up on the mountain during Bill’s hike, and drained within a few short hours. And I’d had a bit of trouble getting the LCD monitor to work when the camera was in manual mode (though this could be because I’m a complete amateur, and just don’t know which button or menu item to turn on or off).
But the likelihood that the spilled milk did the damage – and that, therefore, the toddler killed my camera and we, as his adult representatives, would be responsible for paying (through the nose) for said damages (or even having to buy a new camera altogether) – is pretty dang high. (And the 2yo is just LUCKY he’s TWO, and that he’s CUTE… and that he ran away as fast as his little legs could take him, once he threw that milk… AND that he’s pretty fast…)
The thought of the repair bill, or worse being told the camera was beyond repair… ugh! It took me more than a month to finally send the camera to the Nikon repair shop (really! I just couldn’t bear to even look at the poor thing let alone break it down and pack it up!), in hopes that my brand-new (did I already mention that??) camera could be, you know, FIXED.
Two weeks ago I checked my email as usual and – ooh boy, I actually got flustered and jittery – there were two (not one but TWO) emails from Nikon. With the estimates. For repair. One for the camera body and one for the camera lens. Oh, Holy Crappola. This wasn’t going to be good…
I didn’t open those emails then… No, I didn’t. Instead, I took a lunch break. And a dark chocolate break. And then I folded some laundry. After that I briefly contemplated dusting, but then rolled my eyes – like I was going to dust!! I think I actually snorted at myself in derision – so I reluctantly returned to my computer and opened the email…
To learn that the bill would be a whopping $0.
I know, right??!!
I’m not kidding, it took me 15 minutes to start breathing again, and then another 15 minutes of looking through the fine print for any reference of an unidentifiable sticky white substance shorting the wiring, or a note explaining that anyone with children under the age of 10 automatically voided any and all warranties, to finally believe that I wasn’t going to have to pillage my children’s college savings in order to cover the repairs or buy a new camera (an especially problematic solution given that the children’s college savings is currently nonexistent).
Of course, I still didn’t have my camera… I did, however, anxiously track the progress online daily – my stomach in knots every time, in fear that the $0 charge line would abruptly change to $699.99 or that the (fairly serious sounding) note stating the repair was a Category B2 “Moderate Repair: Major Parts Replaced” job would suddenly read “Category Impossible: Toss This Baby Out” – and tried to remind myself that repairs take time.
And then last night, at about 8:30 in the p.m., the doorbell RANG, prompting the dogs to start yipping and barking and running around and sliding on the floors like a swarm of killer bees was chasing them, and making me want to punch in the throat whoever was trying to sign me up for more magazine subscriptions at this time of night, while at the same time sending up a silent prayer to my toddler – the lightest sleeper in the entire universe – to NOT WAKE UP because I desperately wanted at least one glass of wine before having to put him back to bed for the eighty-ninth time. I felt bad for such violent and mean-spirited thoughts, however, when one of our neighbors (being, you know, neighborly) handed my husband a package that had been delivered to his house by mistake.
I opened the box… and found MY CAMERA!! (Oops… I mean, OUR CAMERA!! Sorry, honey!) And then I giggled. I did! I LAUGHED!! And it felt good, too. I did a little happy dance and put all the pieces back together. I had my camera back, I had my camera back!! I turned it on and… and…and nothing. What the heck?! Bill walked by and nonchalantly asked if I’d recharged the battery. Ugh! Does he HAVE to be so irritatingly smart sometimes?! I’m so taking back that Husband-of-the-Year nomination… So I plugged in the battery…
And now that I see it’s fully recharged, I think I will finally power up my big bad camera… and CELEBRATE!
And I do believe the occasion calls for something just a wee bit stronger than milk…
Now, where’s that Nestlé Quik??