Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Climbing walls

I was standing beside two elderly men at the grocery store yesterday when suddenly one turned to the other and said, "You know, the first time I put on my kilt, I thought 'damn, I've got some nice legs.'  The second time I put it on I thought, 'well, shoot, where did those nice legs go?'"

I love living in English again.  If you're within earshot of me, I'm listening to you.  And even if you don't make a whole lot of sense, I'm giddy about it.

Look at this crazy drama with the school bus. There was a truck parked too close to the roundabout so the bus couldn't make the turn and got stuck.  A fire truck happened by and the firemen jumped out to make sure everyone was OK.  Then the firemen turned on the engine lights to entertain all the kids stuck on the bus and we all said, "Ooooooh."  (Not much happens around here on a weekday afternoon... it was a really big deal, I swear.)

Bear with me, everybody.  Little light on blog material today.

When Lucien was four years old and living in the super-white 6th arrondissement of Paris, he saw an African American boy at the park and asked me if he was burned.  Jesus.  I told him sometimes people are just different colors and he looked at me like I was batshit crazy.

Now that we're home, he gets it, and doesn't care a whole lot.  None of the kids do.  We're happy Lucien now lives and schools with people of assorted colors.  His school is a beautiful rainbow of skin color, a cornucopia of language and ethnicity.  I'm pretty sure I even saw a purple boy in his class but maybe that kid just had measles.

Sometimes adults don't do as well with the concept of race.  I'm sorry to say there's some racial tension in my neighborhood, and it's getting stirred up by the contentious issue of dog poop --

(I'm not sure why "black" is in quotes.)

I hate to think someone is purposely letting their dogs poop in this specific yard because the family is black.  If so, this dog owner is way worse than your average poop-ignorer; this person is a whole new level of shitty (HA!)   If the dog owner is racist,  I hope that person visits Paris, and then I hope they trip and fall face first into a steaming pile of Parisian dog sidewalk offerings.

What?  You want to hear more about poop?  I must obey!

Now that I'm back in a land where picking up dog poop is an absolute duty that must never be shirked, I'm hearing about lots of people having dog poop problems.  L.A. Mom is borderline obsessed with identifying a dog owner that regularly leaves poop in her yard -- obsessed to the point of sitting up all night with a pair of binoculars, a stun gun, and a maniacal look in her eye.

A woman recently left a note in L.A. Mom's mailbox addressed to L.A. Mom's husband.  The note said, "Brian, I need to talk to you.  Call me, Katie."  There was a phone number.  L.A. Mom did not immediately think, as I would have, "Katie is my husband's mistress and I must now challenge her to a duel."  Instead she thought, "OMG, I bet this woman knows something about the dog poop."

L.A. Mom called Katie.  She excitedly dove into her questions -- had Katie seen something in their yard, and did she know who the mystery shitter/owner were?  There was a long silence, as any person not emotionally involved in the poop situation would expect.  Katie then explained the reason for the note in the mailbox.  It was not only NOT related to poop, it was not even related to L.A. Mom and her family.  The previous owner was named Brian, too; L.A. Mom's family has only recently bought their house.

Please, people, take a deep breath.  I implore you, let's not let dog poop cloud our reasoning and make us suspicious, angry people.  Let's not be racist.  And let's all just pick up our dog's crap, okay?

Lucien, my recently turned six-year old, after three years of Eurodisney, finally had a real birthday party.  Us being us, we made it a DANGEROUS birthday party --

Seattle Bouldering Project.  Best birthday party ever.

The birthday boy climbing through a hoop

Here are the rules for birthday parties at Seattle Bouldering Project --

Here's what happened at our party --

The women who led the climbing part of the party said Lucien has incredible energy.  One said he could be an award-winning climber with that kind of energy.  The other woman said he could probably be an award-winning anything (except quiet person) with that kind of energy.

This was Lucien's cake --

 Dinosaurs, volcano, edible "rocks"

A mother of one of Lucien's classmates asked me if I baked it myself.  She doesn't know me so didn't realize how funny the question was.  Alex however, who was standing nearby, nearly passed out from lack of oxygen due to maniacal laughter.

Today at the bus stop after school one of Lucien's classmate's moms said, "Hey, does Lucien want to come over for a playdate now?" and I said, "Yes, take him."  I love this neighborhood, even if there are some questionable dog owners with possibly racist evil intentions.  

Alex is in Europe right now for work.  Today he's in Munich; tomorrow it's Paris.  He's in Paris for less than 24 hours so I know he won't be having any fun but still, I wonder how tomorrow will feel for both of us.

He should probably go get liquored up and yell at cars on Boulevard Saint Germain so he can say goodbye to the city properly.  Always worked for me.

Where did MY nice legs go?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Miss you, metro baby

Alex is having a hard time adjusting to life back in the U.S.  Maybe it's because he's not American.  Maybe it's because his work hours got longer when we returned (something no one thought possible).  Maybe it's because he misses wearing huge scarves and pointy-toed shoes without looking like an idiot. 

Or maybe it's because of the bus.

After the near-flawless (if you don't count all the strikes) Paris metro system, the Seattle bus system isn't measuring up.  Seattle's public transportation is a little less glamorous, a little less polished, a little more flannel-filled than in Paris.  But we don't care about that -- the problem is Alex's bus has an attitude problem.  It may get him to work on time today, but if it doesn't feel like it, it sure as hell isn't getting him to work on time tomorrow --

We swore we'd be a one-car family when we returned.  That resolution may not last long because I'm worried about Alex's mental health and my children's vocabulary.  Even if I'm in the shower (a rare occurrence these days because....I mean, why?) with lots of water hitting my ears, I can still hear a long string of expletives from the other room and know the bus is running late according to the "just how late IS your bus?" bus tracker online tool. 

So I yell from the bathroom, "ALEX, PLEASE WATCH THE LANGUAGE!  THINK OF THE CHILDREN!" and Lucien pops his head around the corner to say, "He can't help it, Mom.  It's that goddamn motherf*ckin' bus again."

(To those who are going to say Alex should get his butt out of the house earlier, I say "back off, kind sir."  Mornings are the only time Al has with the kids; they are not going to let him leave a second earlier than he absolutely has to and that's the way it should be.) 

I've suggested Al buy a new bike since his other bike has gone into deep freeze storage with our Paris stuff until we find a house to buy in this town.  He liked that idea.  Fingers crossed his new bike is always on time. 

But this brings me to another point about Alex.  Unfortunately, whenever Alex is pissed off at something not at all related to me, he seems to think it's related to me and I owe him an explanation and a solution.  He suspects I'm part of a grand universal plan to make him miserable.

"I was late to a meeting yesterday because the bus was late," is said with a slightly accusatory tone that means, "I know you are in control of the bus, woman, you are fooling no one." 

"I can't find my keys," is spoken with an undercurrent of "I know you took my keys." 

"Where is my important work file?" is said with a suspicious look that says "You are attempting to destroy all I've worked for by hiding my important documents." 

To my knowledge, I have never been the true cause of any of these problems (she says as she hides her Seattle Metro transponder and her "where to hide Alex's documents so he will never find them" study guide.)  I don't understand my Al sometimes. 

I also don't understand Coco's reaction when she asks for a piece of cheese.  She adores cheese more than anything in this world.  She follows me into the kitchen laughing her head off with cheese anticipation but when I open the refrigerator, she gets so excited she runs directly away from the refrigerator, away from the cheese, as fast as she can.  Then she usually trips over her own feet and falls in the dining room.  Wouldn't it be easier to just take the piece of cheese from mama at the refrigerator, kid?

Man, I really don't get these people.  Thankfully I'm on the same page as Lucien.  When he insists on eating dinner with his pants off because that's the way dinner should be, I'm like, "YES!  EXACTLY!"

Hey, good news.  One of our Presidential candidates has finally mentioned a pressing issue, one very close to my heart -- establishing moon colonies.  Finally, someone's got his finger on the pulse of the important issues affecting everyday Americans. 

Mama's night out tonight with the ladies.  Don't wait up, Al -- going to be a late one because I'm searching for new and exciting places to hide your stuff,

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Six years of him

We moved out of our downtown condo and into the second of what may be a long succession of temporary homes over the weekend.  As you can see, the children did not make the move easy but it did eventually happen.

Now we live in Tiny Cottage.  Tiny Cottage is just a few blocks from The Goddamn House.  We can now walk past The GD House regularly and throw rocks at it, give it the middle finger, swear at it -- you know, the normal stuff you do to something you love.

(There is no progress on the purchase of The Goddamn House.  We need the ex-wife to sign some things and she doesn't feel like signing things right now.  I kind of don't feel like not smacking her upside the head, either.)

Tiny Cottage

Living in Tiny Cottage has put us within a few blocks of some of our best friends.  It's also an easy walk to anything we could ever want, such as bars and restaurants and tattoo parlors.  Seattle Mom and I walked to the local hipster bar Saturday night.  Hipsters are funny in their plaid pants and thick-rimmed glasses, derby hats and ironic piercings.  I bet you didn't know a piercing could be ironic but Seattle hipsters can make it happen.


Seattle Mom and I had too good of a time and got home late.  Alex got up with the kids the next morning so I could sleep in.  He thoughtfully closed the big, beautiful pocket door to the bedroom to give me a better chance of being left alone by little people (our kids, not the other kind).
Our tiny cottage is a turn-of-the-century house with some quirky old house features.  For instance, you can't open the drawer of the bathroom built-in if the bathroom door is closed because it hits the doorknob.

So quirky

The exterior doors have old-fashioned keyholes that are completely open to the outside so we had to stuff them with paper towels to cut the draft --

So silly

But most important, another quirky feature of the house is once the big beautiful pocket door to the bedroom is closed, it is impossible to open again --


I was stuck in the bedroom for a long, long time.

When yelling didn't work, I called Alex on his cell.  I said, "Come get me. I can't get out of the bedroom" and he said, "My God, you're a disaster."  We eventually shimmied the door open;  the secret is to push on the upper right side as you pull on the handle.  Of course, you need the wing span of a pterodactyl to do this alone, so I'm just going to go with "let's never close that damn door again."

Yesterday was Lucien's 6th birthday and me being the fantastic mom I am, I didn't take any pictures of him.  The only picture I took was of his dinosaur birthday balloon in the dining room.  I am the worst.

where's the kid?

In my defense, I was distracted because I had to attend Lucien's classroom birthday party and it was a high pressure situation.  I was instructed by the teacher to show up in the class with cookies, juice, napkins, Lucien's favorite book, and some music.  It made me nervous because it was so different from our school in Paris, where they instructed me to bring nothing, absolutely nothing, stay the hell away from school on celebration day, hippie. 

It was my job to read Lucien's favorite dinosaur book to the class while the teacher set cookies and juice on all the desks.  When I first sat down in front of all those bright blinkie eyes with my book, I felt icy cold fear.  Kids are very good bullshit detectors.  Would they know I didn't know what the hell I was doing?  That I'd never entertained a large group of children before?  Could they sense my fear?  Would they turn on me like angry chimps?  (The answer is no but it looked iffy for a second when little Miles raised a suspicious eyebrow.) 

The book-reading was chaotic because Lucien couldn't contain his excitement and jumped up to share what he knew about every dinosaur I mentioned.  Several other boys were also dinosaur experts so they talked over each other to add their thoughts and hypotheses to the mix.  One little boy believes dinosaurs became extinct because they ate some bad burritos.  I wonder what happened at that kid's house recently...*shudder*

Coco, for some reason -- either excitement or a grave balance problem -- couldn't stay in her chair to save her life.  She kept falling over backwards and landing with a loud THUD.  I reached over and picked her up without skipping a word, all while keeping Lucien on an even keel and fielding questions from his classmates like "Would that dinosaur eat french fries?" and "Lucien's Mommy, can I go do poo-poo?"

The teacher told me afterward it was the most impressive multitasking she'd seen from a parent during birthday story hour.  I gave her a feeble thumbs-up from the floor, where I'd fallen after finishing the final paragraph about fossil formation.

No time to rest, though, because then came the dancing and I was the DJ.  The teacher asked me to play a "dance song" and of course I played some Korn followed by some Marilyn Manson.  Dancing time was vocabulary time, too!

(I actually played Laurie Berkner and it was as lame as it sounds)

(P.S. If you've never danced with a classroom full of kindergarteners, you really haven't lived.  It was the cutest thing I've ever been afraid of but ultimately enjoyed)

Lucien's class then presented him with a book of drawings of all his favorite things.  I really liked this one --

 It's an herbivore dinosaur eating a macaroni and cheese tree

After school, Lucien, Ms. Cokes and I took cupcakes to his friends who live on the same street as The GD House.  I think we really pleased our friends when we dropped off cupcakes right before dinner, thus instigating horrific struggles between parents and their children who wanted to eat cupcakes RIGHT. NOW.  Sorry about those migraines, friends.

While delivering cupcakes, we got pulled into a spontaneous dinner at a friend's house.  That's why we want The GD House.  When you're just walking down the street and someone suddenly offers you delicious food, you know it's where you need to live.

Lucien's birthday party is this weekend.  Maybe I'll remember to take some pictures of that.  Until then, here's a picture of Lucien getting on the school bus for the very first time, just this morning.  It's blurry because I was verklempt.  It hasn't been six of the easiest years on record, but man, I love that kid.

bye-bye, buddy

May you discover a most excellent dinosaur skeleton someday, crazy little six-year old son,

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Snow purgatory

It's Seattle Snowmaggedon 2012, or as I like to call it, "two inches of snow get a grip, city."  Seattle is a city incapable of dealing with snow.  If we get a couple inches of accumulation (what we would have called "a light dusting" back in Ohio) all the schools are closed and cars are sliding all over the place.  It's mind-boggling stuff.

Growing up in Ohio, school closure days were pretty rare.  We'd be hopeful and stay up to watch the late news only to hear, "Only fifteen feet of accumulation expected by morning so give up and go to bed, kids.  You're going to school even if you have to dig your way there yourselves using your tiny mittened hands and kitchen utensils."

But in Seattle, it's a couple inches and the schools close and everyone runs around all Chicken Little "STAY INSIDE WE GONNA DIE."

To be fair, of course, Ohio is flat.  Seattle is all big hills.  Ice on big hills is scary.  It doesn't help that Seattle has never heard of salt, not to mention salt trucks.  And I think the city must only have one snowplow and it must be somewhere else because so far I haven't seen it.  Keep all that in mind as you watch this video of my poor fellow Seattle citizens trying to drive in two inches of snow --

 Hang in there, guys
P.S. I think the person zooming past at 1:48 grew up in Ohio 

Even though I drive a badass four-wheel-drive Coloradomobile, I'm still not brave enough to face the menaces on the road.  Instead, I did something equally as stupid yesterday.  With both kids in tow, one in a stroller, I walked twenty blocks through the snowstorm to register our Coloradomobile at the King County administration building.

It was our last day to register the car without incurring a late fee.  It had been my plan for awhile to go Wednesday and dammit, a little snow and two kids home from school were not going to cost me $25.00.  Plus, I reasoned, there wouldn't be a line.  I'm a very good thinker.

It was one of the most miserable walks of our lives. Pushing a stroller through snow drifts and slush for twenty blocks with snow blowing in my face and Lucien asking, "Is this almost over, Mommy?" every ten seconds did not make for a leisurely downtown stroll.  My snow boots haven't arrived from France yet so my feet were soaked by block five.  The only gloves I have are the stylish fingerless beauties I bought in Paris.  Don't get me started on my houndstooth coat.

Crossing streets was exciting.  We stood far back from every intersection to make sure all cars that wanted to stop but couldn't stop slid down the hill past us before we started across.  For the most part, the drivers of those cars looked calm and resigned as they passed, kind of like, "ho-hum, snow day in Seattle here I go a-slidin' down to the waterfront I love coffee." 

We walked past quite a few employees of the downtown buildings who, after miraculously making it to work, decided to stand around outside watching snow mayhem instead of actually doing their work.  Several of them made comments like "Heh heh, you got four-wheel drive on that thing?" as I slipped and slid past with the stroller.  I resisted the urge to punch them in the face with a soaked-through fingerless-mittened fist.

 Downtown Seattle is lonely in a snowstorm

You should have seen the faces of the people at the vehicle registration office when I came through the door with hair plastered to my face, mascara running down to my chin and melted stroller snow trailing behind me like a river.  I immediately said, "I KNEW IT! NO LINE!" but no one congratulated me; they just stared at me like they couldn't believe a human being was stupid enough to come through a snowstorm to register her car.  Lucien told the lady behind the desk he couldn't feel his fingers anymore but I said "hush, child, mama just saved herself $25."  

I felt a real sense of accomplishment on the walk home as I tried to keep Coco's stroller on the sidewalk and screamed at Lucien "STAY NEXT TO ME OR YOU'LL GET HIT BY A CAR."  Most people just sit around, or worse, go out and have fun on a snow day.  But not us -- we get sh*t done. 

I do wish we were in a house instead of a downtown apartment during all this snow.  A yard would really come in handy right now, a fact that became obvious when Lucien flopped down in the middle of the sidewalk and tried to make a snow angel. 

City kid snow angel

I've just been notified schools are closed for a third day tomorrow.  Oh God.  A few days ago everyone was excited about snow days.  My friends' tweets and e-mails were, "Yeah!  Snow day!  Sledding!"  Then halfway through that first day they turned into, "Someone please take these kids" and now at the end of the second day they've turned into "Another snow day tomorrow?  Sweet merciful angel take me now, I'm ready." 

To end on a positive note, Whole Foods jalapeno hummus makes me proud to be an American.

Seattle, baby, your quirks are what make you you, but please consider a salt truck,

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hippies and chronic undressers

We watched the Golden Globes last night.  It was like watching a Golden Globes broadcast beamed down from an alien planet because we didn't know the films, TV shows, or actors mentioned.  After every close-up of a nominee's face, Al and I would say in unison, "Who the hell is that?"  Then we turned off the TV and went to bed because we realized we didn't care.

Speaking of returning ex-pats lost in the homeland,  I am thrilled to announce I've been re-united with my Paris friend, L.A. Mom.  She lives in Seattle now, moved here six months ago.  She's been waiting for me.  We went out for beers Friday night and my face hurt for a full day afterwards because of the laughing. 

L.A. Mom has a crazy job in Seattle.  She's a math teacher but works at a hippie school.   I like hippies, in fact consider myself a hippie enthusiast, but after talking to L.A. Mom I don't think I want them teaching my children.

When I asked about a typical day for her daughter, who attends kindergarten at the (crazy expensive, by the way) hippie school (for free, because she teaches there) she said "Well, they take a long walk." It's her understanding they walk to the park and play with sticks.  They've been building a fort thing for awhile, but have recently discovered homeless people sleeping in it.  (At least there's one beneficial, if completely unintentional, socially-conscious component to the crazy expensive walk to the park.)

L.A. Mom, along with all the other teachers at the school, has to attend regular meetings in which everyone sits in a circle, drinks tea and discusses their feelings.  Sometimes there are presentations.  After the presentations, the teachers are asked to journal and draw a picture expressing how they feel about what they heard.

After a recent talk on the three parts of reproduction (sperm has three parts, egg has three parts, apparently it's more complicated than any of us ever knew, and I have no idea why teachers are talking about this), L.A. Mom didn't know what to draw.  She ended up drawing some circles, hoping it would pass as some circle-of-life sh*t or whatever.  She glanced over at a co-worker's page.  He'd drawn a rainbow.

Rainbow Guy caught her looking at his page so L.A. Mom told him she liked his drawing.  He shrugged, lowered his voice and told her it's what he always draws.  Every time there's a presentation and he's asked to draw his feelings, he just draws a rainbow and everyone tells him it's beautiful.  L.A. Mom and Rainbow Guy are friends now.

I was reunited with another old friend over the weekend, too.  I worked with her back when Al and I were first married.  I was working as a stock trader back then.  I can't really believe it either.

The Loosh and my stock trader friend's son were similar boys energywise before we left for France.  We were happy to discover they still are.  You can barely tell the two boys apart as they smack Al's butt in unison.

My friend's dad used to be an actor and very involved in the local theater scene.  She tells me he's no longer an actor, though;  now he's an "elderly model" and is currently featured in an ad for a clothing line created for chronic undressers. (this is apparently a real affliction in which elderly people can't keep their clothes on.  Horrifying stuff.)  She became aware of his most recent modeling gig when she flipped through a catalog and saw a picture of her dad sitting in a wheelchair, dressed in a shirt that buttoned up the back with a bowl of Cheerios on his lap.

We had a pretty snowstorm in Seattle yesterday.  There's much, much more snow coming, which probably means school closure, which would be a lot of fun if I hadn't jam-packed this week with stuff I MUST DO WITHOUT THEM.  So OK, none of it will get done and life will go on.

I walked down to Rite-Aid yesterday and there, tucked next to the Snuggies and the Pajama Jeans and some product called "The Forever Lazy," I saw this --

Now I know how to answer when someone asks me how French people stay so thin.  I'm going to say "they're willing to bend over to wash their own feet."

You've got to help yourself, America.  Jesus.

Snowmageddon on the way.  I'm going to go draw a picture expressing how I feel about that.
(It's a rainbow)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friends and apples

I had some time to kill yesterday between grocery shopping and picking up Coco so I stopped at one of my old favorite coffee shops.  The difference between coffee shops in Seattle and cafes in Paris is that there's angsty music playing in coffee shops and every single person is staring intently at a laptop.  No one even looked up when I spun in circles to dazzle them with my coat.  Harumph.

The coffee tasted like Seattle.  It tasted like hot memories ("hot" as in temperature, not as in sexiness.  Hey, that makes me wonder, does anyone have any sexy memories involving coffee?  If so, please share because I don't understand how that would work.)

As I got up to leave the coffee shop, I saw an old friend sitting at the table directly behind me.  We looked at each other in confused silence for a second, then realization dawned and there was joy throughout the kingdom.  He broke into a big grin, spread out his arms, and said my current favorite words in the English language: "YOU'RE BACK!!"

I love our Seattle friends.  I wasn't sure I would still like them when we returned but for the most part (we won't mention that one guy) I do.  My vision of a huge Welcome Home House Party didn't work out, mainly because we don't have a house and that appears to be a crucial part of the plan.  So we're seeing friends little by little, in small clumps, which works out better anyway because it prevents us from passing out from the emotions.

We met a small clump Tuesday night for drinks, laughs, and, unfortunately, some farts.  Farts led to more laughs, though, so we didn't mind. 

You hear it said all the time, but with real friends, time apart doesn't change a thing.  You just sit down and pick up in the middle of the sentence, right where you trailed off three years ago.  We must have left in the middle of a very raunchy sentence because that's where we started again.

 ...so where was I.... oh yeah, so about balls....

Not related to balls, but I'm thinking about joining the PTA.  The idea is scary.  I never thought of myself as a PTA member, and am picturing meetings with a perfectly coiffed blonde woman named "Muffy" wielding a gavel, but I'm pretty sure it's required to live in the U.S.A.  As long as they never ask me to bake anything, we should be good.

You know what else is good?  Amazon Fresh, the grocery delivery service.  It's not that I mind grocery shopping in Seattle, where everyone smiles at everyone and there's plenty of room in the aisles, but I've found it difficult to schlep a dozen heavy bags from our car in the parking garage up some stairs into the elevator and then down the hall to our apartment. 

There were a few close calls when Coco got on the elevator without me as I tried to round up grocery bags.  The doors started to close before I was ready so I shrieked a little -- "my baby!"-- but Coco just waved goodbye at me.  I got my foot in the door just in time and I swear that girl looked disappointed. 

My Paris baby is a real Seattle girl now.  The proof is in the shirt.  

So yes, grocery delivery is sometimes the way to go.  A nice guy delivered my most recent order.  He frowned as he handed me the bag containing a gallon of milk and some apples.  He said it was a "shoddy bagging job" so if any of my apples were bruised, I should call and they would deliver me some new apples that would be the very definition of apple perfection.

I laughed out loud.  It was funny he cared that much about my apples.  In Paris, they wouldn't have cared about my apples.  They probably would have stacked eggs and precious family heirlooms on top of my apples, then bulldozed the whole damn pile out of their way because they had places to be.  Then they'd say, "Oh yeah?  Your apples are bruised?  Suck it up, p*ssy, life's hard" as I shrieked "My apples!  MY APPLES!"

Seattle.  Paris.  I'm not saying one's better than the other but I am most definitely saying one is easier than the other.


Lucien's gym teacher approached me to introduce herself yesterday after school.  She said Lucien recently asked her if she'd ever been to Paris.  When she said "Yes," he asked her if she knew his street?  His old school?  His friend David?  Did she jump on the trampolines in the Tuileries?  If she went again, could she bring him a pain au chocolat?  Gym teacher chuckled and said Lucien is "just the sweetest kid."  Then my heart exploded.

Now that we're settling into some kind of daily routine, I'm finally checking items off my to-do list.  I have several friends who, after being told what I've done in a day, have exclaimed, "Wow, you're really gettin' stuff done!"  Since several have now said this, I can only assume my friends have held many secret meetings in which they discussed my inability to ever get anything done, including rolling out of bed and putting my shoes on the right feet. 

I'm gonna blow their frickin' minds when I register the car next week.

May all your apples be bruise-free this weekend, posse,

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Kindergarten calculus

We were all sick over the weekend with a "death must be better than this" kind of illness.  Alex decided he was sicker than the rest of us (he wasn't) and slept all day, leaving me to fend for myself with two kids who passed the time by throwing up on me.  and the furniture.  and the floor.

I would occasionally drag myself to the bedroom door and yell at the prone figure on the bed, "WTF, AL?  I'm sick, too, why am I dealing with this alone??"  He'd mumble something like, "Seriously, MJ, I think I have it a lot worse." (he didn't)

It's kind of like the house caught on fire and Alex jumped out the window to save himself while the rest of us stared after him and whimpered "Daddy....?"  He's hanging his head in shame now and singing my praises, declaring me "much stronger" than he is.  Agreed, bed boy.

We're all fine again but the place still reeks of sickness and misery.  I've washed all sheets and towels a million times and Alex is getting upset because I keep spraying him in the face with Febreze.  Here's hoping we get accustomed to U.S. germs very soon.

Anyway, before it all went to hell healthwise (again), we went to the neighborhood post-holiday party.  By "the neighborhood" I mean the neighborhood where we're trying to buy the goddamn house.  Everyone on the street knows so much about us and our now ten-month-long headache, we're even getting invited to the street's parties.  We're de facto neighbors (better than "insane wannabes").

What a great group of people on that street.  Some are still knocking themselves out to do "blog-worthy" things, though.  One friend, Seattle Dad, tried coming out as a proud homosexual man at the buffet table.  Man, I sure hope he wasn't serious -- otherwise the eye roll and the "I still ain't putting you in the blog, dipsh*t" probably weren't very sensitive responses.

Things are going very well for the Loosh in U.S. kindergarten.  I don't have time to get into the differences between his two schools just yet, but am happy to say that being loud does not equal being bad here.  Huzzah!  His teacher likes him, kids like him, smiles all around.

Unfortunately, he's lost his "self manager" badge already (this is apparently a very big deal to the kindergarten set) because he kicked some kid named Finn, but every day at the end of school he promises his teacher he's going to try "super harder" to earn it back the next day.  She ruffles his hair and tells him she knows he will.  He's happy.

But hang on, hang on -- there's homework in kindergarten?  That's insanity.  It's not "draw a pretty kitty cat" kind of homework, either.  One of his math problems was "draw a symmetrical picture that has 2 squares, 2 circles, and 3 triangles."  I read it to him and then we looked at each other with question marks in our eyes.  He slowly asked what "symmetal-cul" meant and I agreed that was a good place to start.

I've come to the conclusion there is no such thing as "reverse culture shock."  This is the culture in which I've lived my entire life -- three measly years somewhere else isn't going to shake it out of me.  Maybe if you lived outside your culture for twenty years it would be different, but what we're experiencing now is nothing like real culture shock, the kind where you get smacked around and your head dunked in the toilet by totally new things.  This is more a slow, "ohhh yeeeeah... I remember that now."

So no need for the dramatic term -- there's no "shock," just "getting-to-know-you-again, culture, and by the way, you look lovely today."  It's like putting on your favorite pair of jeans straight out of the dryer.  At first it's "What the hell's happening here?" but soon enough it's "These jeans are nice and roomy.  So comfy."

Hope I can write again soon, but I may be too busy helping Lucien understand particle physics.
(Kindergarten's not for the weak, people),

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Live it up and text me in the morning

I don't miss Paris yet, at least not the way I thought I would.  I'm still excited to be home, to understand what's going on and who's saying what and who's shooting who (there was a shooting in our downtown 'hood on New Years Eve VIVA AMERICA!)

My "I miss Paris" moments come in short bursts, more nostalgia and fondness than pain, and usually happen when I see a picture of our former Parisian lives.  I sobbed uncontrollably while looking at Paris pictures the other day but then realized it wasn't because I missed Paris, it was because I was listening to Bon Iver.  (Those fellas make hauntingly sad music that could make you mourn the end of your root canal, if you happened to be listening to Bon Iver during your root canal, which, by the way, congrats on your cool-ass dentist.)

Surprisingly, Alex misses Paris a lot more than I do.  I think it's because he didn't say goodbye properly.   He worked like mad up to the last second then boop! just got on the airplane.  As for me, I had a mourning process, or as others might call it a "losing her dang fool mind" process.

I was so emotionally unstable those last couple months, I didn't eat much and lost over ten pounds.  I drank a lot, smoked a lot (I don't smoke) and went out pretty much every single night because I couldn't stand to be stuck in the apartment.  If no one was available to go out, I went out by myself.  I met some great people that way, including a fun group of Moroccan fashion designers.

Several nights found me crouching in narrow Parisian streets texting my Texas sister.  "What the hell am I doing?" I would ask.  "You're going batshit crazy; live it up and text me in the morning," she replied.

Some of the comment posse were online with me, commenting in real time, on our last night in Paris as I stood on the balcony of our hotel room and hollered at the cars below on Boulevard Saint Germain.  I named all the people on motorcycles after people I loved in Paris, then yelled goodbye at them.  "Au revoir, Madame Kickmyass, au revoir Boutique Man, au revoir Hot Thing One and Two" (who, by the way, are now my Facebook friends; they are lost without mama).

 I think that's "Wild-Eyed Australian Mom" down there...

I named a large burly man on a large burly motorcycle "Virginia Mom."  As he peeled out in front of our hotel window, I yelled "Bye-bye, gigantic Virginia Mom!" and laughed and laughed but then cried.

It wasn't my most emotionally stable time but dammit, I said goodbye.  I fell apart but I left it all there.  Alex didn't do that; he was in bed every night at a reasonable hour, ate well, exercised, drank only respectable amounts of alcohol but now he's Mr. Sad Face.  Let that be a lesson to us all.

Hey, good news.  We will no longer be without a home when the executive housing people kick us out at the end of the month.  We found a house.  It's a tiny little cottage but it's in the right neighborhood and it's furnished so we can all sit down at the same time -- on furniture, even!  There's a tenant living in the studio apartment in the basement which is unfortunate for him.  After a few weeks (days? hours?) of living with us, he may re-think his place in the world.  I'll take him some crappy croissants to apologize for us being so damn us.

I called a cab company a couple days ago to reserve a taxi.  I told the guy I needed the cab at 7:30 a.m. the next day.  He said, "Are you going to the airport?" and I said, "Nope, I'm going to the deserted parking lot of Northgate Mall with my two small children while it's still dark outside."  Immediately after I said those words, I thought, "dang, he's probably already called the cops."

But there was nothing shady about going to a mall parking lot hours before the mall opened.  Sure, the kids and I looked a little weird standing by the curb holding two car seats over our heads to block the rain, but it all made sense when this sucker pulled up --


We bought my Mom's old car in Colorado and had it shipped here on one of those car carrier things that somehow manages to keep a dozen shimmying cars on top while flying down the highway at high speed.

Our first stop in the brand new car was Seattle Public Schools where we enrolled the Loosh in the American school system.  I was promptly told by an imbecile at Enrollment Services I couldn't enroll Lucien in kindergarten because he'd never been in kindergarten before.  Chew on that for a minute, I'll wait...

I asked to speak to someone a lot smarter.  The supervisor came over and, of course, said Lucien could be enrolled in kindergarten because, well, HE'S A KINDERGARTENER.  The supervisor looked worried, perhaps wondering how many other kindergarteners had been turned away by the rogue Enrollment Services officer and sent out into the Seattle streets without any arts and crafts.

We got him enrolled in a great school thanks to our new tiny cottage rental address.  And today, the Loosh had his first day of American Kindergarten.  He looked like this when I dropped him off --

His lunch is in the Frenchie Barbapapa bag.  He insisted.

I'll get into the differences between the French and American school systems next time.  There's some stuff I need to process first.

In a heartbreaking moment this morning, Alex declared his Frenchie clothing "not practical for Seattle" and put on a t-shirt with a polar fleece vest, jeans, and work boots.  My God, one rainstorm and the guy gives up on fashion.  I, however, am holding on.  The red houndstooth coat is ten pounds heavier when soaking wet but I look fabulous.

Now go live it up and text me in the morning,

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year, Charles Ingalls

Happy New Year, fledgling little Seattle blog of mine.  We may not be as big and fancy as we were in Paris, but dammit, we've got heart and I like you.

We left my devastated, sobbing and wailing family in Colorado and returned to Seattle on New Years Eve.  I was sad to leave my family, of course, but my sadness was compounded knowing how sad my parents were to return to a too-quiet house.  Sometimes I wish I didn't love my family so much so their darn feelings would stop oozing into mine.

The flight home went very well for me but not so well for Alex.  We were split two and two -- me and Loosh in row 7 and Al and Ms. Cokes back in row 20.  Even with that kind of distance between us, I could hear Coco's outrage at the injustice of the seatbelt and the restrictions it imposed on her freedom.  She let everyone know within earshot (which was everyone) she thought seatbelts were bullsh*t.

 Hello again, beautiful

Sapped of all energy and interest in celebration, we were content to go to bed early and scrap the New Years thing.  Thankfully we changed our minds and invited a couple friends over -- Seattle Mom and Seattle Dad, of course -- to help us consume wine and watch the fireworks at the Space Needle. 

As always happens, our exhausted lifeless selves were transformed into semi-alive and semi-fun people again in the presence of friends.  I was pretty annoyed by Seattle Dad, though, because every time anyone said anything, he turned to me and said, "Now THAT'S blog-worthy."  He doesn't realize only I can make such grave decisions.

It was a small get-together but it otherwise played out like any other New Years Eve party.  Al and Seattle Mom spent some time on the floor stretching and then Seattle Dad described at great length an episode of Little House on the Prairie he recently watched that made him cry (the one where the Irish guy dies?)  Then Seattle Dad tried to do some push-ups with his feet on the wall but instead fell down and hurt himself while I consumed mass quantities of Nacho Cheese Doritos, blocking the bag from the reach of others with my whole body.  I know, I know -- we can really party.

It was entertaining to watch the constant stream of people down on the sidewalk as they headed for the Space Needle.  They were in various forms of dress.  Many women showed a ton of leg and teetered on heels they obviously weren't used to wearing.  Several men dressed as bunny rabbits, and behind them a few others dressed as panda bears (Ahh, Seattle). 

The fireworks were joyful even if at one point Alex described them as "watching the Space Needle ejaculate."

 He may have a sexy point

We are going to be homeless at the end of January because we still don't have the goddamn house (long story involving liens and disappearing ex-wives) and our two months of paid temporary housing will be over.  We are currently looking for an apartment to rent in the same neighborhood as the goddamn house so we can get Lucien enrolled in the neighborhood school while waiting to close on, then renovate, a house we may not even get.

You may think our life sounds like a chaotic mess and you are correct.  Thankfully, we decided long ago we prefer chaos to boredom so that is how we are justifying these most recent life decisions.

Let's do it, Al.  Let's do yet another thing that's not easy, like not even a little bit.

I went to look at one apartment option today.  I hated it.  It's a charmless shabby ugly beige boxy thing but it's in the right neighborhood and isn't too outrageously expensive.   If we take it, we will spend the next six months eating our dinners at a card table on folding lawn chairs because we gave most of our furniture away in Paris.  We will not have a couch, either, so will tussle over one red leather armchair whenever we want to sit down.  Jesus Lord what the hell are we doing.

The best part of the apartment was the property manager.  After showing me the apartment we stood around and chatted for an hour.  He's a glassblower/former lawyer/playwright/former small business owner/property manager.  He also recently started bagging groceries at the local grocery store because he felt he was spending too much time isolated at home sitting in front of his computer.  I shuffled uncomfortably for a few minutes then ran to the nearest Safeway to fill out an application before I forget how to interact with "the people."  

Happy 2012, smaller yet more intimate Seattle blog posse.  It's gonna be a good year, I just know it, unless we end up living in our car,

And goodbye, Colorado.  Thanks for the warm welcome home and the continued validation we're in the right country.