Friday, January 28, 2011

A Mishap

Today we had a rough afternoon. The kids had no school today so everyone was home and in each other's hair all day. Jackson woke up way too early this morning, so by about 4 p.m. every single thing that happened to him was a tragedy of inestimable proportions. Jared seemed to take particular delight in finding "innocent" ways to set him off. After many vain attempts to distract Jackson, get milk down him or otherwise limit the screaming, I pulled out the big guns: we made cookies. In almost no time Jackson was happily eating Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate-Chip Cookie dough while Jared scooped cookies onto the baking sheet.

By 5:35 p.m. peace was finally restored in our house and we had put the first tray of cookies in the oven. We we were waiting for it to bake when the phone rang. It was the mother of Jared's friend on his basketball team, the one that I pick up for practice which-- oh crap! There is practice today and it started at 5:30 and I completely spaced it. I yelled at the child who picked up the phone to tell her that we are on our way and started frantically herding children into the car. I drove as fast as I could to his house, internally kicking myself. So far I had been really reliable in our carpool. I take the boys to practice and they bring them home but I- who frequently struggle with being late-- have made a point to always pick up early and get the boys to practice on time. How could I be so stupid and blow it today?

When I reached Jared's teammate's house, he was waiting out front with his mother. She said, "Can we switch who drops off and who picks up? The boys are supposed to be to practice ten minutes early and you never get them there 10 minutes early." I was stunned. I knew they were supposed to be there 10 minutes early for the first practice of the season, but I assumed for the rest of the practices that there were just supposed to be there at the appointed time. Was the building even open earlier than the time practice started? On one of the days it definitely wasn't and often I usually wait in the parking lot until the person who has the key to the building arrives. I started to reply something about how picking the boys up wouldn't work very well for me and she interrupted and said, "You know what, I'm just going to take him myself. This carpool isn't really working out and I need to make sure he gets there on time," and then she got in her car.

Maybe it was just a bad day for me already, but I drove Jared to practice almost in tears. I felt completely humiliated. If she was so upset about them not arriving ten minutes early to practice each time then why had she not called me and told me as much? It's not like I couldn't have left earlier if I had known that was important to her. I guess I just foolishly assumed that getting them to practice on time was "on time." I recognize that she had every right to be angry with me for forgetting about practice today but the fact that she had actually been upset with me all along for not getting the boys to practice ten minutes early just threw me for a loop.

I think part of why it upset me so much is that I frequently fall into deriving my self-esteem from being "competent and capable." So the thought that some person out there would think that I am anything less than competent and capable is humiliating to me. But even more, I have this picture in my head that people who aren't familiar with Mormon mommy-hood must look at me like I'm a crazy woman from a different planet. I picture them looking at me and thinking, "What is her problem? She is, like, 31 and has four kids. Doesn't she know about birth control? She drives a dumpy car filled with children dressed however they chose to dress themselves with their hair still sticking in multiple directions from when they woke up this morning. She is always late, her house is a mess and her life is complete chaos. If you can't do simple, adult things-- like, say, picking someone up and arriving on time where you need to be-- then maybe you shouldn't have had so many kids in the first place. Maybe then your life would be a little more manageable." (I have a really bad habit of inserting hypothetical words into people's mouths and hypothetical thoughts into their heads.)

I guess I still struggle with feeling like I have to justify myself somehow. Like I need to jump up and wave my hands and say, "Wait a minute!! Actually, I'm not a total incompetent. I have a Master's degree and once had a lucrative job in technical writing and business process analysis (back in what seems like a former life). I have the life I do because I love and value family and I chose this-- not because I accidentally got pregnant and kept repeating the accident. I know I look like a nothing, but there's a lot of brain and talent and a person worth knowing hiding behind these 'mom jeans' and vomit-stained shirt."

So what is it about our culture that makes mommy-hood feel like being a nothing? What is it that makes me feel like being a stay-at-home mom is something that I need to apologize for? Or that the only way I can justify being a stay-at-home mom is if I am a perfect, always prompt, perfectly groomed, tidy-house mom? I know this is my own issue and I just need to come to terms with it myself. I need to be able to say, "I know that I am a person that is worth knowing, even if I'm late sometimes or forget things or have baby boogers on my shirt sleeve. My job is a tough job and deserves respect."

So, yes, this is about me and not about the carpool. I'm doing my best. God knows that and hopefully that's enough.

A Night Out

Recently Dave and I went on a date to the symphony. Dave had gotten me tickets for my Christmas present this year. We went to hear one of my all-time favorite pieces: Brahms 2nd Piano Concerto. To make it even better, Emmanuel Ax was the soloist. The music was absolutely fantastic and it was a great evening.

We went to dinner at a nice restaurant.

 I dressed up and was ready for a night on the town.
 ...with only one small catch.
It wasn't until halfway through the evening that I looked down and realized that there was one teensy detail that wasn't quite right...

"One of these things is not like the other..."
Oops. For future reference, don't grab dress shoes of the shoe rack without taking a closer look. I guess this falls under my bucket list "101 Ways You Know You're a Mom."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Paris: Day 2

Day 1 in Paris was a really long day. Yes, we had fun, but between making our way from the Eurostar to our hotel with our bags via Metro and foot, trying to get around without speaking the language and getting used to the Paris Metro (which is much less direct and more smelly than the London Tube), by the end of the day I was exhausted and a little "homesick" for London. I wasn't sure if Paris and I were going to get on that well. But some cities just require a little acquaintance. Before long, I found myself falling in love with Paris, one of the world's most beautiful and enchanting cities.
Got "Joie de vivre"?

It was a beautiful day: clear, but cold.  We decided to get a hop-on, hop-off bus tour and use it for our transportation to avoid the stinky Metro. We hopped off near Notre Dame and went to church -- our church: Eglise de Jesus-Christ des Saints des Derniers Jours-- at 12 Rue St. Merri. You pressed a button that opened a door, let you into a courtyard and then there was the church: rooms in a regular building. They had one side that was translated into English and one side in French.

Off to church in Paris at "L'Eglise de Jesus Christ," 12 Rue St. Merri
The door in the wall to get to the church.

The church building, inside the courtyard off of the Rue St. Merri
After church we went back to the Ile de la Cite (near Notre Dame) and got some French Onion Soup for lunch. I also realized that I was going to freeze my tootsies if I did not have something besides my jacket to wear-- especially considering that I was wearing a skirt. So I broke down, Sunday and all, and bought a hat, scarf and gloves. I was considerably warmer for the rest of the day. After lunch we headed to the Sainte Chappelle. It was beautiful, but part of it was blocked off for restoration. Still, it was pretty awesome. Absolutely incredible stained glass --with both the building and stained glass dating from the 1200's. 

Stained glass at the Sainte Chappelle

The Sainte Chappelle
We strolled by a market and the Palais de Justice while wondering the Ile de la Cite. The Conciergerie (the site of Marie Antoinette's imprisonment) was closed so we just saw it from the outside.
Palais de Justice
Notre Dame Cathedral
We took a quick stop in the Paris Archaeological Crypt and then went to Notre Dame. Notre Dame was INCREDIBLE. I had heard tons about it in History of Civ and so forth, but still it did not disappoint. It was incredible by any standard and that fact that it was built around 1200 was absolutely unbelievable (my pictures taken with no flash really don't begin to capture it).
Notre Dame
The interior of Notre Dame
Ranell after the organ recital

More Notre Dame

So hard to capture!

Ranell with Notre Dame in the background.
We walked around on the Left Bank for a little while and got a crepe. Then we went back to catch the Sunday afternoon organ recital at Notre Dame. Amazing building, amazing organ. Then we crossed the bridge to the Ile Saint-Louis. It was the cutest microcosm of Paris-- a little island of cute shops in the middle of the Seine. They had the cutest candy shop I have ever seen. Beautiful brightly colored boxes, candies, cookies, etc. They had 10 different flavors of handmade caramels including marzipan, hazelnuts and chocolate.
Notre Dame from the Left Bank

Wandering the streets on the Left Bank
A typical Parisian balcony.
On the Ile Saint-Louis
On the beautiful Ile St. Louis
Heading back over the bridge to the Ile de la Cite

In front of the "back" of Notre Dame.

After our walk we went back to the bus stop and got back on for the rest of the bus tour. The bus took us down the Left Bank by the Seine and then crossed to the Place de la Concorde (site of la Guillotine). We got out by the Madeleine Church and went back to our hotel to get warmer clothes on. I put my pajama pants on under my jeans, borrowed a pair of Ranellès tennis shoes (yes, my feet were tired enough that I stopped caring about looking like a European) and bundled up with coat, hat and scarf to go see the Eiffel Tower.
Place de la Concorde: the site of the Guillotine during the Reign of Terror

The Seine at Sunset
We walked back to our Hop-On Bus Tour and went by the Arc d'Triomphe on our way to the Eiffel Tower. Coming out on the Eiffel Tower viewing deck at night with all the city lights and the Seine below was just plain heart-stoppingly beautiful. All I could think was "Where is Dave when I need him?" The Ile Saint-Louis was definitely designed for strolling hand-in-hand with someone special, but the Eiffel Tower at night called for some serious kissing and Ranell was not the travel companion for that. (Sorry, Ranell. Love ya-- just not that way.) :) So we contented ourselves with taking lots and lots of bad pictures that were blurry from no flash --or pictures with a flash that looked like we were just standing in front of a fence in the dark.
In front of a fence in the dark-- er, uh, on the Eiffel Tower lower viewing deck
View from the Eiffel Tower at night. You really can't capture it.
We saw the lower deck first and then got *dinner* and hot chocolate from the snack bar. Then we went up to the windy, but beautiful, upper deck. We completed our trip by riding a city bus back to our hotel (to avoid the stinky Metro). It was actually quite a lovely way to get home.
The Seine at night from the Eiffel Tower

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Some Days

  • You cook a nice main dish but run out of energy before you can make a vegetable. 
  • Jackson screeches, "I want milk. I want milk! I want milk!!!" like a broken record during the first half of dinner, despite your calm assurances that you will get him his milk cup as soon as he starts eating his other food. (No an all-milk diet is not a great option, Jackson.)
  • Your keys that have the mail key on them are still missing after two days. Gosh, could it be from one of the umpteen times my purse has been dumped?
  • Just as you're cleaning up from dinner Addy starts projectile barfing all over the couch.
  • You get Addy bathed, cleaned up and in fresh pajamas only to have her barf again, this time all over the carpet, the floor and her pajamas. (How did she have anything left? The first barf was pretty big by itself...)
  • You lose it and yell "NOOOO!!!" out loud at the sight of the second barf.
  • Your nine-year-old takes pity on you and asks, "Do you need some help, mom?" (Yes. Some serious mental help.)
  • Your nine-year-old helps clean up the barf on the floor and then makes a sign that says: "Caution! Wet floor! Thank you! Not: Barf. Is: Cleaned/Wiped up barf"

Leaving London: Paris Day 1

On Saturday, October 23rd, we said a sad goodbye to the little corner of South Kensington that had been our home away from home. 
Ranell heading into our hotel.
Our local internet cafe

In front of the NH Harrington Hall Hotel in South Kensington.
We packed up and dragged our bags into the tube station, where we headed to St. Pancras station to catch our Eurostar train. I spent the last of my British pounds on random food items to take home as souvenirs (lemon curd and "Percy Pig" gummy candies, anyone?) and next thing we knew we were zooming under the English Channel.

Ready to board the Eurostar train

Traveling to Paris in high-speed comfort.
We enjoyed a light breakfast en route of hot chocolate and croissants. One two-and-a-half hour train ride later and we were in Paris. Our hotel was right next to a major train/metro station so we decided to just catch a train to our hotel rather than take a taxi. We had mastered getting around on the Tube and how different could the Metro be? Easy-peasy. The line to buy a carnet of tickets from an actual person was really long so we just went to a machine. After trying several different times and spending about 20 minutes trying to figure it out we realized that the machine just wasn't accepting our American credit/debit cards so we ended up standing in the super-long line (which wasn't actually that long after all).

We started navigating through the enormous station toward the platform for the RER train to the Metro area of Paris --but not without me getting Ranell and a bag hopelessly stuck in a handicapped entry turnstile and having to find some Metro employee and convey to them in pidgin French that my friend was stuck and we needed him to let her out.

We finally made it to the platform, but unlike the British Tube--where every stop had a huge map of the line and the next stations to which the train would be going--this platform had only monitors listing arrival times. I could see no easy way of determining which side was coming from and which side was going to the Gare St.-Lazare. Finally, I walked up to the nearest man and said, "Train? Gare St.-Lazare?" He said three words that most likely meant "To or from?," unfortunately, I had no idea which word was which, so I just pointed back and forth and said, "St.-Lazare? St.-Lazare?" He must have gotten the general idea because he leaned over and pointed in one direction and said, definitively, "St.-Lazare." I still wasn't sure that I had conveyed what I was looking for, but following his directions seemed better than picking in the dark, so we boarded that train and started checking the stops as we went to make sure it was going in the right direction (It was. Thank you, nice Parisian man.) We then, after wandering through the Metro station, eventually emerged above ground, walked a block or two dragging bags with us, checked in to our hotel, the Concorde Opera Paris (thank you, Priceline!) and finally rested.
Our hotel: The Concorde Opera Paris
Tbe grand hotel lobby

The check-in desk

And across the street, a Parisian McDonald's... what a travesty!

After getting our bags settled and recovering somewhat from our Metro/train adventure, we decided to start out by visiting our hotel's namesake, the nearby Opera Garnier. It was the Paris opera house until the opening of the new Opera Bastille-- now it is used mostly for ballet. This is the extravagant opera house that inspired "Phantom of the Opera," almost a taste of Versailles.

In front of the Opera Garnier

The grand staircase. Yes this inspired the "Phantom of the Opera" set.
Inside the theater.
The beautiful ceiling painted by Marc Chagall.

One of the grand hallways for promenading during intermission.
Need a spot to flirt and show off your gown? Look no further.
Ranell on the outside balcony of the Opera Garnier, overlooking the Place de l'Opera below.
After our Opera tour, we headed over near the Tour Eiffel to the Rue Cler. We whiled away the afternoon wandering around, eating lunch at a café, buying chocolate truffles and having a long conversation over gelato at Amorino during a downpour and thunderstorm. 
Delicious gelato at Amorino.

We then headed over to see Le Tour Eiffel at night, up close and personal.

Then we headed back to our hotel to get some R&R and plan our next day's adventures.