Gems has a fever again, and a sore throat. We were all gonna go to the
Louvre to see the Founder's Myths exhibit, but instead Jean stayed home
with Gems while I went with Maxie.
We saw a lot of statues and paintings, but Max's favorite parts of the
museum were the lockers where you can set your own combination,
the cafe where we ate fruit, and the escalators. He also liked pointing
out all the bare weeners, boobies, and booties on the statues. He also was
really interested in the sculpture in the 2nd photo above, as well as a
painting of Saint John the Baptist with two arrows in his chest. Max
called the arrows bullets. Anyway, I'm
just glad we were able to have a good time in a museum. I didn't want to
overemphasize the art and have him feel like it was a boring place he
wouldn't want to go back to. On the way home, Max was so tired he almost
couldn't make it. We got to the Notre Dame, which is like a block from our
apartment, and Max wanted to get a taxi or take the Metro.
I've been working on my paper, where I think I've found an interesting
brand new method for estimating the triggering function for Hawkes models
nonparametrically. It doesn't seem to outperform current methods though,
except maybe it might be faster. I can't think
of where to submit it though. Any theoretical journal will want me to prove this
method is optimal, but I don't think it is. Any applied journal will want
me to show it outperforms current methods for a particular dataset, but
again, I'm not sure it does. I really think this method could, in the
future, be tweaked somehow so it becomes the state of the art, but right
now it's not. It seems annoying that journals won't publish new ideas
unless they can be shown to outperform every existing method. Then again, maybe
I am being premature here as I haven't even finished writing the paper
yet. But I find myself trying to dig for some particular scenario where my
method outperforms existing methods, and it seems unnecessary to have
to do this when the main thing is the idea.
Fri, 11/20/15. Marc Hoffmann.
Today I met with Marc Hoffmann at
and we got a coffee together. Even
though I don't normally drink coffee, I figured I'd try one here. It
tasted delicious but had soooo much caffeine I was completely wired
afterwards and played great basketball tonight. I also left with a real
sense of urgency to get my paper I'm working on out there before it
becomes too late, but maybe it was just the caffeine talking. Marc was really nice and
we might work on some projects together. I guess I was talking too loudly
in the cafe because this annoying guy asked if we could be quieter, and Marc
apologized for the guy's rudeness afterwards. Anyway, it was great meeting
him. Meanwhile, Jean picked up Max and Gems and took them to the park in
their brand new jackets, where they went jumping in puddles with Auri.
Thu, 11/19/15. Photo ridiculousness.
We got the class photos back, and Gemma's had a picture of just her but
Max's had a photo of him and Gems together. When I asked why, they
explained that on the photo request form I had checked the box for a photo
of both siblings together so they didn't take an individual one of Max. I
had checked both boxes for both, which I thought would make it obvious
that we want both, but I guess not.
I thought I'd messed up, but then I wondered what the other twins did, so I
asked Samir, Timeo and Marie's dad, and he said the exact same thing
happened to him. His wife Kath said "That's Elizabeth for you" or
something, referring to Max and Timeo's teacher Elizabeth Laurent, and rolled her eyes.
Today I saw this sign in a perfume store and thought Marko would be
interested. It says "Etat Libre D'Orange", free state of orange.
I took the kids to Parc Cluny after school and we did some relay races,
before tomorrow when it's supposed to rain and we will have to be
sedentary. Jean and I had one of the most delicious cheeses we've ever had
today, for lunch. It was Saint something and covered in mold but so good.
Max pretends to have his own restaurant in our apartment. He has a menu,
which is actually a map of Paris, and also a scribbled menu he drew up,
and then he serves you your order and then requires you to pay for it
immediately within 5 seconds, and when paying you have to use credit card
and sign a form including your name in print, your name in cursive, your
name in Maxie language followed by a period, and then you have to draw a
smiling face with hair.
Wed, 11/18/15. Il faut Disneylander.
In the spirit of many French, including my basketball friend who said
"Life must continue", we decided to get back to enjoying life in a big way
by taking the kids out of school for a day and going to Disneyland with
them. It was a great day. We got there early and planned to leave early
too, but we had such a great time nobody wanted to leave. It was
incredibly empty as you might imagine on a Wed in Nov, the first day it
was open since the terrorist attacks 5 days ago. We went on about 10
rides, saw two parades, two Frozen singalongs, and a tree lighting
ceremony, plus two shows at Disney Studio park. There was literally no
line on Pirates of the Caribbean, and practically no line on most rides.
The only kind of bust was
we waited about 40 min in line for a princess meet and greet and it was
kind of a waste of time. However, even that we're glad we did today
because usually the line is twice that long. Another bust, depending on
whom you ask, was the Nemo ride. Oh Jesus, it was like a mix of whiplash
and nausea for me, but for the kids and Jean it was their favorite
ride of the day. My favorite was Alice's labyrnth where we actually got
lost together looking for the way out.
The kids chose not to go on the Haunted Mansion today,
which by the way, in France is really different as it tells the tale of
the bride, "Melanie", who is awaiting her groom on her wedding day, but
the groom gets lured into an attic by a ghost and hung. Melanie continues
to haunt the house. But then it for some reason goes into a saloon in the
old West, where there are also ghosts. And it ends with Melanie the ghost
sitting and looking sad. Somehow it's too scary for the kids, but going
100 miles per hour backwards while spinning around in the dark on Nemo is
all fun and giggles. Anyway, it was just a great, fun day, and we really
needed one. We also got strollers for the kids around lunchtime, which is
so great as they love being strolled around and call it "Stroller
Tue, 11/17/15. Life must continue.
Today was a beautiful, balmy 60 degree day so we walked to dance class and
back, while the kids were on their trotinettes.
We found out it's not just us. Eva said she's constantly doing laundry
too. I guess the school is taking terrorism seriously because Gems's
teacher told me not to stand and talk near the school after picking up Max
and Gems, for security reasons, whatever that's supposed to mean.
During dance class we went to the kids library. Jean wants to work on her
French and thought about getting a book for 4th graders. I
suggested she start really easy in the baby section and gain some
confidence. She settled on Winnie the Pooh and a book that looks like it's
for 8 year olds or so. On the way to dance class, Maxie was so hungry he
started sobbing and it sounded just like his cry when he was a newborn
baby. I went to my basketball club today and was happy
they were playing. I told one guy I wasn't sure if it would happen and he
said "We MUST play. Life must continue."
Mon, 11/16/15. Ganging up on Joseph.
Yesterday, in talking to Clara, Zadig, and their parents, two interesting
things were revealed. First, we all realized that our kids are all being
sort of playfully terrorized by Joseph, who is kind of wild though clearly
not too bad. Second, and even more
interesting, Ewelina said when Clara and some others were crying
about something Joseph did one time,
the teacher suggested they gang up against him and get him back! The
teachers don't watch them during recess, and they have assistants for
recess, so there really isn't much the teachers can do, but still, the
extent the school works on jungle rules during recess is staggering. Today
Gems and Max apparently joined the antiJoseph gang because when I picked
the kids up, Max said he got punished for being too rough and had to sit on
the bench of shame, twice. After school we went to Parc Cluny, as did a
lot of other kids from school, including Auri, Timeo, Marie, and
Sebastian, and the kids did running races. They obviously needed to blow
off some steam after being cooped up all weekend.
I wrote lots of letters of recommendation today for UCLA students, many of
whom I know to highly varying degrees.
Jean was joking that I should write "I'll never forget him or her."
Sun, 11/15/15. Lockdown.
Everything in Paris seems to be closed. You can hear lots of police
sirens, and people are scared and advised to stay at home so the streets
are pretty empty. Today in the afternoon we invited over Zadig and Clara and their
families, and had a little playdate here. It was a lot of fun, and both
families brought over delicious sweets, including the fantastic
Zadig brought from Odette, pictured above, so the kids and we are on a sugar high.
After the amazing coincidence with Auri's family being friends with
Marlena's former boss, I am half expecting everyone I come in contact with
to have some connection with me. Aurelie, Zadig's mom, was talking today
about one of her childhood friends who married an American and lives in
L.A. now, and I fully expected it to be our nextdoor neighbor or
something. For lunch today, to get ready for our upcoming Vienna trip in 2
weeks, I made an Austrian lunch consisting of sausage, spatzle, and
ribisls. The ribisls here were so sour the kids wouldn't eat them, and
Mima informs me spatzle is actually swiss not Austrian, but it's the
closest I could come.
Sat, 11/14/15. Attacks.
Last night Paris had a series of terrorist attacks that killed 120
people and injured many others. It's very scary and on the news here they
show it very graphically. The scariest part may be the responses by the
Prime Minister and President saying it is an act of war and will be
responded to in kind. On the other hand, while the tv makes it look like
there is carnage on every street in Paris, the truth is, if we didn't turn
on the tv or our computers, we'd never know about it. There is a suggested
curfew so the streets are quiet, but that's about it. Also they closed all
the museums and a lot of the public places today, and we are not sure when
they will open again. But really in some ways it is business as usual and
it doesn't directly feel or look like anything's wrong. Jean disagrees
with me about this however and feels it is very scary, whereas I feel
like, given the media coverage, it seems like it would feel scarier than
this. I went to the
supermarket today and it was crowded, as it often is on Sat. We had
tickets for a tour of the Musee Quai Branly but since that's closed now we
just went over to our Finnish friends' apartment and hung out with them
all day. Amazingly, just a couple hours before we went over, their old
friend Arno came over, and it turns out he was Marlena's supervisor at UCLA.
His daughter is one of Eva's longest and oldest friends since they
were kids. And Eva is Auri's Mom. Auri is Gems's best friend here in
Paris. It's such a small world. When I first heard they were Finnish I
thought about this connection but then I thought, no way, Finland's gotta
have more people in it. But I guess not. We had quite different opinions
about Leena as you might imagine. We spent most of the afternoon playing
Spades with them and exchanging math puzzles, as the Dad Kale was a math
major. They played spades for the first time today, and Eva played well
and Kale played like a jedi master. When we got home tonight Max said "Gemma, asseyez
vous!" and I said "What did you say?" He said "I said sit down." I said,
"No you didn't, you said it in French." He didn't even realize he was
Fri, 11/13/15. Le Louvre.
The Louvre opens, and the book is drunk.
The sentence above is a lot
more fun to say in French than in English.
We're very excited to have gotten a comment from Kala on the blog
yesterday! Max and Gems are very curious about the plunger people story.
I've been emailing with Melz, Randy and Mars about the mild but slightly
annoying GI issues I've been having in Paris and getting lots of good
advice from the experts. Fortunately I don't have anything serious, but
seem to be having to poo like 3-4 times a day which is unusual for me.
Meanwhile Jean and Gems are the opposite, and Max is normal.
Anyway, today Jean and I got a year pass to the Louvre and saw it for the
first time this trip. It brought back a lot of memories of our 2003 trip
and was quite emotional actually. So much has changed since then. I feel
like about a dozen miracles have happened in our lives. Max and Gems had a
great school week with no crying and no complaining about other kids being
mean to them really. Max has 2 kids in his class who are rough
and their names are Nathan and Joseph. Sometimes Max complains that they hit or kick
him, but on the
other hand when I ask Max who he likes best in his class and who he plays
with the most, he usually says "Nathan and Joseph".
Thu, 11/12/15. Miznon.
Today Jean and I met for lunch at always delicious Miznon after her French class.
I guess Miznon means "buffet" in Hebrew. Speaking of
languages, on the walk there I saw a sign for a politician and under his
face it said "Legalite. Hommes. Femmes." I initially thought it meant
something about the legality of gay marriage, before realizing it was
about equal rights for men and women. It's weird that legality and
equality are spelled and pronounced exactly the same except for a silent
and easily missable apostrophe, "L'egalite".
Anyway, after lunch we went to the Picasso museum to see some new things
there that were under construction before.
The museum is so great. Above, the 4 Picassos together made us think of
Gems and how she always tries to draw the same thing over and over, and
keeps getting frustrated when it's not perfect, as
Melz used to do too. It's funny to think of Picasso possibly having been
the same way. Actually Max draws the same thing over and over but not out
of frustration, but just because he likes it. I'd say once a day or so he
draws a planet being destroyed by a spaceship. Did Kala draw the same
thing over and over too?
We discovered today that Picasso died when Jean was 10 days old. So, they
I'm still enjoying looking at the photos of Max and me looking identical
at age 14 months or so. Max and Gems were asking if I sucked my thumb when
I was little as Max likes to, and I can't remember.
Wed, 11/11/15. Villette.
Today was Veteran's Day here so there was no school. We went to Parc de la
Villette, which is huge, and saw the
and light exhibit there. On
the way to the park we passed a
of soldiers on horseback right by
the Seine. Max and Gems's favorite part of the
seemed to be
trotinetting down the steep and smooth bridges, and after that the best was
climbing and playing on the spinning wheel and huge tire sculpture. We
only left home around noon and by 3:30pm we were all so tired, we just
went back home and watched Peter Pan, which is now Maxie's favorite movie.
He laughs really hard at it. Kala would probably like it too.
Tue, 11/10/15. Guitar.
Today I bought a used guitar on leboncoin.com for 85 Euros. We figure
it'll be a nice winter activity. It's been very warm lately though, with
highs like 20C, and someone said it's been the hottest Nov on record.
Jean talked all morning about the big "excursion" she was gonna go on but
was so late getting going that it turned into more of a trip to Monoprix.
My work is going terrifically well lately. After school we trotinetted
with the kids to dance class, then I came back early to skype in for a
student's defense, and after dinner got the guitar and played basketball.
By the way, yesterday at le souris the waiter asked "Parlez-vous francais"
and I just said "Oui" instead of "un peu". We figured if I said no, he
would have said "We're out of everything except hot dogs."
Mon, 11/9/15. Le cubing.
I've learned how to do the Rubik's cube and am teaching Jean and the kids,
and looked online to see the world champ who did it in 5 sec, and very
modestly said "cubing" really isn't that hard. We were laughing that
"cubing" is a word, and joked that Jean should ask her French teacher how
to say it in French. Jean and I went to the teahouse, Le Souris dans le
Theiere, for lunch today and partook of their delicious pies again. They
are just as good as they look above.
Gems seems to be learning French despite herself, as
we went to the park after school today and she saw a stray cat and said
something like "That chat lives here in the park?" A lot of their friends
went to the park with us too, and we played "Quelle heure est-il Monsieur
Renard" together until one of them named Ouliana realized it was close to a game they
knew involving a wolf and sheep that was kind of like tag, and the game
kind of disintegrated. M and G are very chatty with the guy Johann who
works at the Boba place next to us, and very excited about the Buy 9, get
1 free policy in the store. So far we have gotten 3 and they can't wait
til we get our free one.
Sun, 11/8/15. Yasamin.
Today we went to Jar Luxe to meet Yasamin and her Mom, Nazanin, for some playtime,
and English speaking, in the playground. They are from Palos Verdes and
Yasamin has a 7 year old brother, Abdullah, who wasn't feeling well so he didn't
come, unfortunately, but Gemma and Yasamin are the same age and hit it
off beautifully. We found out today Nazanin is pregnant with another girl
and due in March. After the park we had lunch at Cosi and then delicious
gelati at Amorino. It was beautiful weather today and it had been a while
since we had ice cream. Max's favorite flavor today was strawberry, mine
was mango, Jean's was hazelnut, and Gems couldn't decide between mango and
chocolate. Jean's eye is much better today and I think will be all gone by
Sat, 11/7/15. Plantes.
The antibiotics sadly do not seem to be helping Jean's eye noticeably yet,
so we are wondering how long it will take to get better.
My idea I had for estimating triggering functions of Hawkes models
does not seem to be working either. Hmm.
Today I took M and G to the Jardin des Plantes. It was really great, with
a tiny zoo with kangaroos and deer and not much else, and a labyrnth out
of hedge, and nice areas to walk around all over.
A sign outside posted about a million outlawed things though. Max thought
the one with the big hand and a line through it meant "No gloves".
In fact he thought they meant, in order,
no bikes, no dogs, no feeding birds, no stepping on fires, no music, no
rollerskating, no balls, no picking flowers, no cameras, no smokers, no
gloves, no trotinnettes, no hamburgers and no drinks with straws.
the Rubik's cube .
becoming a little mixed on how all the playgrounds in Paris seem to be
jungle rules, and the parents just sit back idly while the kids duke it
out over who gets to go on what, with no orderliness at all. At first I
thought it had some merits since it kind of lets kids realize how life
really is and how to cope with it, but on the other hand I now think it
also teaches kids when they grow up and become receptionists in a doctor's
office or store clerks or whatever, they shouldn't care about orderliness
or fairness or lines. There are pros and cons I guess.
Fri, 11/6/15. Conjunctivitis.
Marlena posted the photo above on facebook. In the middle is me when I was
a baby, with her and Randy. Compare with Max age 1.
Today Jean and I went to the doctor, and it's a good thing I came along
because the doctor spoke no English at all, not a word. She didn't even
know how to ask Jean if her eye hurt, and didn't understand when we didn't
know the word for swollen. But she seemed good and it was no problem
communicating with me in French, and we got antibiotics which hopefully
will cure Jean's eye. After school I took the kids to Cluny park and we
threw the soccerball around and over the big apparatus they call the
"lifeguard". We've created a phrase "Timeo style" which means eating
cheese straight up with no bread or crackers, as Max's friend Timeo does.
Thu, 11/5/15. Eye infection.
Jean's period of being healthy for a few days is over. She has an eye
infection or some kind of redness, severe swollenness, and wateriness in her left
eye. We made an appointment with a doctor for tomorrow morning.
Yesterday someone asked me where I was from in my basketball league, and
for the first time I found myself saying the answer with a French accent
in order to be understood. It sounds like "Lo Zongelez." If I say it
normally they rarely understand it. It seems weird to say something in
English incorrectly on purpose, but I guess everyone else does it too,
like French people who come to the U.S. and say they're from "Pariss."
Today after school I took the kids to the park and there were a bunch of
other kids playing on the jungle gym and just kind of standing around. I
started playing "Quelle heure est il, Monsieur Renard?" with Max and
Gems, and after just a few min there were like 8 kids playing as all these
French kids jumped in, from ages 4 to 10.
Wed, 11/4/15. Cluny.
Today our renter paid. This is huge news for us and a big relief. She had
signed a contract with us already, but until you get actual money, it
doesn't seem official really. After the short day of school we took the
kids to the Cluny museum of the Middle Ages, which is very near our
apartment. It was very cool, with lots of tapestries and statues of
unicorns and biblical stories, especially about Jesus but also some others
like Samson and various Saints. The museum itself is in a little castle
too so it all feels very authentic and old. The caption to the first photo
above should be "Tell me more about Jesus" because Max and Gems were
asking stuff like that the whole time.
Tue, 11/3/15. Irrational Dance.
While the kids were in school, Jean and I saw the new Woody Allen movie,
L'homme Irrationel, and loved it. It was in English with French subtitles.
After school we took the kids to dance class, and to our delight Gemma's
friend Clara decided to join the class, so it was Gemma's two best friends
here, Clara and Auri, plus Max and Gems, and Auri's little sister, Iris.
We trottinetted to class and back while the others took the bus both ways,
so Max and Gems were really tired afterwards. Auri and Iris are Finnish
and going back to Finland in July, after 2 years here in Paris. Iris is 3
years old and teaching me several words in Finnish, including the word
"Norso" which means elephant, "Hai" which means shark, and my favorite,
"Kala" which means fish.
We got to class early and hung out in the library, and the mean librarian
kept scolding Ewelina and Eva about their kids and Ewelina argued back.
They almost got in a fight. Eva and her family went to Switzerland over
the break, and they celebrated Halloween there. She said in Switzerland, kids
knock on the doors and say "sweet or sour?" Also Eva said that they don't
celebrate Halloween in Finland, but they have the "witch and ghosts for
Easter." She said around Easter that kids go door to door and give adults
branches decorated with feathers in exchange for candy. These "whips" are
supposed to be used to swat at the evil spirits in the barns.
Speaking of feathers, Jean got bio eggs the other day and opened the
carton and a feather came out. Pretty authentic huh?
Tonight I played my best basketball ever in my league here. It was a tough
game with good players, and I missed my first two shots but then made
something like my next 12. Several guys complimented me on my playing, and
one said "Tu etais l'homme du soir". Jonathan, who suggested taking me on his team,
said "C'est mon mofo" and gave me the nickname "In yo face, mother
f**ker". Everyone down there seems to know that kind of English and it's
so funny to hear them say it.
Mon, 11/2/15. First day of French school, for Jean.
Today Max and Gems went back to school, and then Jean had her first day of
French classes. It was just her and one other woman taking the class, so
virtually private lessons.
After school today, we went with Marie and Timeo and their parents to the park for some
soccer. They were all great at soccer of course. On the way, with my
French I accidentally told them that because ordinary balls aren't allowed
in the park, we got a sweet ball. Samir corrected me, noting I had used the word
"doux", for "sweet", instead of "moux" which means "soft". Meanwhile Max invented the
word "yestermorning". At night I got a horrible cramp in my knee. I've
never had anything like it and it scared me to death. I thought I'd
dislocated my knee or something. But, it was gone 5 min later.
Sun, 11/1/15. Lutece.
I took Maxie to Lutece today for some soccer.
Later, Max drew a picture and said it was Lutece. It is above.
We think it's great. I wonder what Kala would think of it. We let them eat
one Halloween candy today and will let them have one a day, which they're
really excited about.
I had a few Larry Davidesque moments at the market today. First of all,
I'm on a first name basis with the checkout woman, Sam, and when she saw me
she came up to me and said "Bonjour Frederic!" and I guess I was suppposed
to do a cheek kiss but I didn't know it so, caught off guard, I didn't do
it but it seemed like she felt awkward about it.
Then when I was checking out, she asked if I needed a bag, and I said no
because I had my backpack. But when I had just paid and was loading my
backpack, it quickly because clear I was gonna need a bag. The bags are 10
cents, and I had no cash on me, and there is a minimum to use a credit
card. So now what? I ended up just stacking and balancing a bunch of
remaining groceries and leaving.
How would you say Ai Wei Wei's name in Pig Latin? How would you say "A way
I would weigh 8 weights by Ai Wei Wei is a ways away"?
Our renter Stephanie and her 3 sons take the house tomorrow,
and Mima and our gardner, Valentin,
very nicely came today to take our dining table and chairs away.
Thu, 10/31/15. Le trick ou le treat.
Happy Halloween! Today we went to the American Library in Paris for their
big Halloween party. We met some nice Americans there, ate their snacks,
did some arts and crafts like making bat cutouts, spiderwebs out of
yarn, and Halloween poems, and listened to them sing songs and do a magic
show. Then we went trick or treating, with Max and Gems on their
trotinettes, dressed as Anna from Frozen and a doggy.
Max said one of the candies tasted like 68 lemons on fire.
Gems said her favorite part was looking at everyone's costumes. Max said
his favorite part was eating the snacks.
After stopping for
dinner, we went to a patisserie featuring Halloween themed desserts like
the ones shown in the photo above. It was another really great day.
Thu, 10/30/15. Stroller Mountain.
Today we took the kids back to Disneyland Paris. This time we did it
right, following the guidebook Doug and John gave us before they left. It
was awesome. The book has so many tricks that helped us. We went early,
getting there around 820am, to enjoy the 2 extra hours we get with our
pass when it's only open to pass holders and people staying in their
hotels. Disneyland was so empty in the morning and we got to do so much,
especially since we followed the suggested itinerary in the book which was
great. We did Peter Pan, Teacups, Lancelot's Carousel, the Haunted Mansion,
Thunder Mountain twice, Buzz Lightyear, and Star Tours.
We also saw two parades and a Disney Villains show, and partook
of our free strollers that we learned also come with our passes. It was
great, and the weather was incredible too. We did a Fastpass which I was
always curious about, and it worked out really well too. The highlight for
the kids was us scooting them around really fast through the crowds in the
strollers, and they loved it and called it Stroller Mountain. We met a
family from Texas in one of the lines. They live in Lyon, and I was
curious what they thought about French people and the Mom said "They're
... different." By 3:15pm we
were tired and went home, beating the crowds. It was a great day, with no
meltdowns or fighting, and basically no waiting in lines. A big help too
was we brought tons of snacks, drinks, and sandwiches Jean made which
allowed us to eat in the lines without having to stop for the slow, crappy
Disneyfood. Now we are home and exhausted but starting our Disney hangover
early at least.
Thu, 10/29/15. Luxembourg and Pompidou.
Gemma's feeling all better! Today in the morning I took Max to the
Luxembourg gardens for some soccer and trotinetting. He fell off his
scooter at one point and a woman said "Ca va?" and he said "Oui", so he's
getting comfortable speaking francais with strangers.
Then while Jean went to the market and cooked delicious cheese souffles
for dinner, I took Max and Gems to the Pompidou on their trotinettes. The
highlight for them was probably listening to the didjeridoo player outside
I'm getting addicted to the Rubik's cube.
Max identified Rhianna, a guest on The Voice which is a really stupid show
we were watching with the kids, as the voice of the girl in Home.
On Wed we will have been in Paris 3 months, which is how long we were here
in 2004. On that trip without kids, we saw every museum and ate at every
restaurant. This time, it has not been quite the same, but I guess we've
still done a decent amount.
Wed, 10/28/15. Cosi and Decathlon.
We had another casual day today. I took Max again to Lutece. It's pretty
amazing how we can just play
soccer right where they used to keep the lions 2000 years ago before
gladiator matches. It's such a cool place. They used to have a big maze
of bushes but they'd completely razed it to the ground this week.
Gems is feeling much better and we took her out for her first outing in a
week, to lunch at Cosi and then to Decathlon with Jean while I went to a
park with Max. At Decathlon we bought a squishy soccerball which Max loved
and just hugged and kissed it when we got home. Kala would like it too!
Gems was crying about nothing on the way to Cosi, so much I
lost my cool and exploded yelling at her and started taking her home,
before she snapped out of it.
Tue, 10/27/15. Lutece.
This was a pretty uneventful day. Gems is getting a lot better. I took Max
to l'arene de Lutece for some soccer and trottinetting, and we also went
around the Notre Dame park. His favorite part was me using my watch to
time how long he took to trottinette from one place to another and back.
He's very good at it. I played basketball tonight for the first time in a
Mon, 10/26/15. Thermometer.
We were gonna take Gems to the doctor today, but she woke up significantly
better than yesterday so we feel like she's on the road to recovery. I
went to a pharmacy and got a thermometer and she registered at 96 degrees.
The paperwork with the thermometer said it is accurate to within 0.2
degrees. Yeah right. Anyway, I think her fever is gone or almost gone,
and she still has diarrhea but it seems to be going away too.
I took Max to the
Jardin du Luxembourg
and he had a great time on the zip
line, climbing apparatuses, and especially the spinning wheel.
Two brothers, about 8 and 10 years old, were on it too and fighting really
roughly with each other all over and around Max, and he was loving it. The
French kids are so brutal in the lines and it always surprises me.
I had to sit in line with Max on the zip line since so many people were
cutting in front of him otherwise. My new hobby is I'm trying to learn how
to do the Rubik's cube. I wonder if Kala knows how to do it.
Every morning Max bounds out of bed and pursues his new hobby, drawing
pictures and selling them to Jean and me for a coin.
He wants to collect enough coins so he can buy more desserts here.
Jean said this morning he was up at the crack of dawn making drawings and
kept coming over to her bed with them and asking for coins, so finally she
snapped at him to stop waking her up and he said "Ok, guess it's time for
my yogurt" and waltzed into the kitchen to serve himself yogurt for
breakfast. How did Jean and I have a child who's an early riser and in a
great mood in the morning?
Sun, 10/25/15. Sick Gems and Pompidou.
Gems is still sick today and we thought about taking her to a hospital or
calling the housecall doctor but it seems like a doctor making a housecall
would have limited tools at their disposal to actually do anything, and
I read a yelp review about one of the only hospitals in Paris that's open
on Sun and the woman said she had to wait 6 hours and then they said to
come back tomorrow. So we opted for just a cozy day at home with lots of
drinking water, and maybe we will go to the doctor tomorrow. Gems's
diarrhea is still bad and she even pooped in her pants a couple times but
her fever is down again and she seems like she is getting a little better.
I took Max to the Pompidou to tire him out a little. He had the usual good
time playing the video games and playing Mrs. Paint, and they had a cool
exhibit downstairs with hundreds of little sugar cubes and people were
making statues out of them. All the statues were perfect and very
symmetrical except Max's blob with two blobs on top of it, and he said
"It's the Notre Dame".
Sat, 10/24/15. Back to Paris.
Today we took the Chunnel train back to Paris. Gems's fever went way down
in the night but in the morning she still had the same fever she's had the
past 4 days. She is starting to eat a little and drink a lot but is
still a long way from her normal, healthy self. Max is infatuated
with the gum he got from Marlena, as well as the Norwegian coins with holes
in the middle she gave him, and the other coins he accumulated in London.
I told him after he gets 10 coins he can use them to buy a crepe in Paris,
and he was very excited about it and told Gems first thing this morning,
starting with "Hey Gemma, this is exciting." In the morning I took him to
the playground for a last jump on the pirate ship, and on the way we
passed an empty balloon helium tank sitting in the street. I asked Max if
he knew what it was and he said it was an "open ballooner". The other day
we passed an old telephone booth on a sidewalk in London, and Max thought
it was a shower. It does kinda look like one.
The train was really nice by the way. I think the standard seats were sold
out because our seats were very luxurious and they served us delicious food. We
got there early for once and it was nice not having to rush onto the
train. We finished the first Harry Potter book today. Now onto the next
one I suppose. I'm not sure if any of us likes the books, but they do seem
to put us all to sleep nicely.
Fri, 10/23/15. So long to Mima and Mars.
Today Jean and I stayed with Gems while Mima and Mars took Maxie and went
to the Tate modern museum, and they also got to see Buckingham Palace and
Big Ben a little bit. There was an artist named Nam June Paik who had an
art work there with a soundtrack playing Verklarte Nacht. So maybe there
is another Paik Schoenberg out there.
Jean and I cancelled our flights to Ireland and got
train tickets back to Paris for tomorrow. Then Mima babysat both kids
while Mars, Jean and I went to the Ai Wei Wei exhibit which was amazing.
Mars said he's her new favorite artist. Kala would have really liked it
too. Apparently Kala is this blog's biggest fan so I'm gonna try to have
lots of Kala shoutouts from now on.
Our realtor Ed is writing up a
contract with our renter which I'm very excited and relieved about. Gems
is still very sick but
getting gradually better we think. At night we said our sad goodbyes to
Mima and Aunt Mars. These few days went by so fast.
Thu, 10/22/15. David T.
Today Gems was sick again and threw up twice, the poor thing. On the
bright side, I took Max back to the Kensington Gardens playground with
Aunt Mars and Mima and we had a great time. Max loves jumping off the
pirate ship, spinning on the wheels, and playing the drums. Aunt Mars told
Max the story of how on Mila and Kala's birthday, they went to the
Cheesecake Factory and Randy ordered vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.
Max was enthralled and had her tell the story about 10 times with more and
more details each time. Eventually Aunt Mars turned it into an opera.
afternoon, Mima watched Gems while Jean and I went out for lunch and got
some wine and trinkets for David Teitelbaum's kids, and then at night,
Mars, Mima, Max and I went over to David's for dinner. Their place was an
absolute palace and what I thought would be a little informal dinner
turned out to be a feast for a king. It was amazingly beautiful and
elegant. Fortunately Max was on good behavior, and it was fun not only
talking to David and Sayoko but also getting to interact a little with
Teddy, who's 4 and a half, and Asher, who just turned 2. It was incredible
how down to Earth, humble and unassuming David and Sayoko were, as despite
having this extremely luxurious setup and army of housekeepers, they
really didn't seem to feel superior or haughty at all. Teddy looks just
like David and has a thick proper British accent. He has to wear a tie and
hat to school every day as part of his uniform.
They also have a 9 month old girl Aya but she was sleeping.
It's amazing that David and I have remained friends for 40 years now.
Marlena and Mima sang "If you know me, you know I'm great" and Marlena
asked him if he has his Lamborghini Countash and Camel hair coat yet. He
comes to Paris often so hopefully we will see him again there.
Max and I almost got hit by a car and also Jean almost got run over by a
taxi before I reached out and saved her life. It is hard to remember to
look the right way in the streets here.
Wed, 10/21/15. 3 Dinosaurs in the Country.
Today, Gems woke up with a fever and stayed in bed. Mima, Max and I went
to the Natural History Museum in the drizzling rain. The Natural Hist
museum was great, with huge animatronic dinosaurs. It was incredibly
crowded though. At night, Mima watched the kids while Jean and I went to a
great play called 3 Days in the Country by Patrick Marber. It was
incredibly well acted and a fantastic play, though kind of depressing. We
both loved it. At night, when we got back, Aunt Mars arrived! We have a
renter who is interested and submitted an application for our house
finally, so we are very excited and relieved about it.
Tue, 10/20/15. Kensington Gardens.
Today we walked to and all around Kensington Garden, looking first at
Kensington Palace where Queen Victoria lived before being Queen, and then
we found this great kids playground area named after Princess Diana. Max
and Gems had a blast there, especially on the huge pirate ship in the sand
and the spinning wheel. We spent hours there, and then went to the
Princess Diana Memorial and the Royal Albert Hall and monument.
It was a great day and thoroughly tiring for all of us. Mima's foray into
European languages has expanded as she continued her Italian and Spanish
with our waiters, spoke German with Inge Loos whom we ran into in our
hotel, and French with Max and Gems. Although we've been having a really
good time, English people seem kinda rude to me. The English guy at
customs was definitely the rudest person I've met this whole time in
Europe, and today this woman seemed to be very nicely giving a ride in her
golf cart but then demanded a donation at the end, but we only gave her 2
pounds and later we saw her
circling around and she just zoomed by us.
Tomorrow Max wants to go back to the playground, but it's supposed to rain
so we're not sure. It might be a museum day instead. Max gave us two
choices, either to go to the playground for 4 hours or 5 hours.
Mon, 10/19/15. Chunnel and Mima.
Today, after barely getting by the extremely mean British passport control
guy in Paris, we took the chunnel to London and met Mima in the lobby of the
hotel. It was so great to see her and catch up. We all had dinner together
in the hotel and walked around a little bit afterwards, talking about how
everyone's doing. She got Max and Gems this really cool puzzle of a photo
of them in Disneyland Paris. She told us Umps is recovering well but
Larry broke a vertebra in his
back which must be so painful for him. Mima belongs here in Europe. She
spoke Spanish with one of our waiters, Italian with another, and French
with Max and Gems.
Sun, 10/18/15. My feeling is I'm hungry.
We had sandwiches with Doug and John before seeing them off on their bus
to the airport. Their next stop is Berlin. We had a really good time with
them. Doug said he suspects that Max's obsession with dessert is really
a manifestation of something else, like a desire for more attention or
love or to express his feelings. It could be, but we're not so sure. On the
walk home, Max was complaining that he was hungry and wanted to stop for
ice cream or something, so I asked him "Do you want to talk? Do you have some
feelings you want to express?" And he said "My feeling is I'm hungry." We
ended up going to the Pompidou where there was a huge line for the
bibliotheque but no line for the museum so we went in the museum part and
did a little kids workshop on architecture where they make buildings out
of sand. Max and Gems's artworks were basically cakes made of sand.
Tonight Gems made the drawing shown above, of Snow White. We have some
postcards from the l'orangerie above Max and Gems's beds, and today Gems
was looking at one and asked if it was Monet, and I said yes, and she said
"He's a really good drawer."
Sat, 10/17/15. Sacre Coeur.
Today we went to the Sacre Coeur with Doug and John. We had a great time
going up the fenicular.
Doug took one look at the Sacre Coeur and said "My God. It's hideous." We
had a nice walk inside and around it though, and then went down the hill
and all around in a circuitous route back to the Opera near Doug and
John's hotel, where we stopped and watched the little band playing in
pajamas. Near the Sacre Coeur we saw two singers harmonizing, and
Max and Gems stopped
roughhousing and were spellbound.
Fri, 10/16/15. Orangerie and vacances.
Today we went to the Orangerie with John and saw all the impressionist
paintings including the huge Monet water lily paintings. It was really
fun. Clearly the creepiest painting of the lot was one by Rousseau of a
very adult looking baby with no neck. I was struck by all the great
works by impressionists I'd never heard of, like Marie Laurentin. It was
surprisingly hard to find a place for lunch afterwards and we ended up
opting for sushi in the 1st, and then picked up the kids and celebrated
their last day of school as we start our vacances on Mon with our trip to
London and then Ireland. They won't have school for 2 weeks. Gems had
another great day of school today and said everyone was nice to her today,
which means 4 of the 5 days this week she said were great and only the 5th,
yesterday, left her in tears and wanting to go back home. By the way, can
you guess which of the masterpiece art works above is by Gems? She said
she was trying to do a Picasso.
Thu, 10/15/15. Jewish standoff.
Today we went to the Pompidou museum with Doug and John, and got to hear
their extreme opinions on artists, such as "Chagall is a hack." Jean saw
some more of what she considers "real Baron Randenakis" some of which are depicted above.
We then had lunch and wandered around the marais into this gallery
showing Star Wars related art that was very cool. We also stopped in a
couple clothing stores, including one where John found a jacket he liked
and thought he might buy it but not right then. Doug then decided he was
gonna buy it for him, John insisted he not, and it became what John called
a "Jewish standoff."
Jean and I then had to
split and pick the kids up from school, got some pains au chocolat and
then scootered around at the park before meeting up again with Doug and
John for dinner at Maoz Falafel and ice cream at Amorino.
There's a lot of press for Moses und Aron including the ad Doug saw, above.
It's freezing here. This morning Gems could see her own breath.
Wed, 10/14/15. Softie.
After school, I took Max and Gems to meet Doug and John for lunch. Jean
stayed home recovering from her cold. We went out to Korean food at Ari
Ari which was delicious. Max was in a rather whiny mood, which may have
discomforted Doug and John somewhat. They felt I was a "softie", i.e.
overly soft on Max for not staying in his chair and not always listening
to me during lunch, and also for repeatedly asking if we were gonna have
dessert later, which to me isn't really that bad but maybe that's the
Gems and Max are getting good at
in French .
Tue, 10/13/15. Miznon, Dance, and Cosi.
Today while Max and Gems were at school we went to lunch at always
delicious Miznon with Doug and John, and then walked around the Marais and
Pompidou, then I got the kids and we scooted to dance class. The bus back
was super crowded and it was standing room only. Gems and Auri were
sharing a seat but an elderly woman made them give it up for her, but then
took Gemma on her lap. Gems said she had a great school day both today and
yesterday. In the evening we went to Cosi with Doug and John and then got
some pastries for dessert which we at back at our place while talking
about kids and all sorts of things long into the night. Max and Gems were
very social and comfortable with Doug and John, which was surprising
because usually they're so shy and quiet whenever anyone comes over or if
we go anywhere. Gems patted John's head, said "You're bald!" and asked
him all about his hair.
Mon, 10/12/15. Fire station, Doug and John.
This morning I went with Max and his class to the fire station for their
field trip. I was instructed to chaperone Max and these two girls, Pauline
and Camille. Pauline was very chatty and kept trying to talk to me but I
had trouble understanding her. She said Max is very good in the class,
good meaning in terms of not misbehaving. There was also a girl in the
class named Mila who heard us speaking English and was intrigued, and said
she was from the United States too, though she didn't seem to speak much
English so I'm not so sure. The fire station was quite a
production, with the firemen totally putting on a show, to the point where
one of them faked injury while the other firemen climbed ladders and
slowly lowered him down the building. One fireman also said to us at one
point "I'll be right back" and ran up some stairs and then slid down the
pole. The kids were very amused by that. Max was not participating in
several of the activities, such as climbing a platform and putting on the
fireman's jacket, helmet and gloves, but when he opted not to shoot the
firehose I knew he was just being shy so I forced him to do it and he
loved it. He said later it was his favorite part of the field trip. At
night Doug and John arrived and Jean was still a little too sick to go out
so she stayed home while I went to their hotel and went out with them for
a quick bite. They were surprisingly their usual energetic and cheerful
selves despite all the flying to get here, and it was great catching up
Sun, 10/11/15. Neige and rugby.
Today we went to a kids movie called something like "Snow for Christmas"
at this alternative moviehouse near our apartment, and Zadig and his mom
Aurelie met us there. It was all in French and, for an animated movie for
kids, had a lot more dialogue than we were expecting, but it kept Max and
Gems's interest well enough and afterwards we discussed the plot, which
involved a town where it always snows but one year there's no snow and the
greedy head of the newspaper steals a snowmaker and tries to blanket the
city in snow, so much that all the houses and everything are covered so
that he will be internationally famous. He programs a robot journalist to
protect his snowmaker, while it asks routine and nonsensical journalist questions like
"How does it feel to have won the tournament?" The maker of the snowmaker, along
with his pet duck and mole, end up coming to the rescue just in time to
save Christmas. At night we went to Timeo and Marie's house to watch the
rugby game where France lost to Ireland. Axel and his parents, Brice and
Nathalie, were there too. Everyone was rooting for France
except Timeo, who for some reason is an Ireland fan. Rugby is a very weird
game. Sometimes they are in a "melee", sometimes they are running around
and passing the ball, and other times they are lifting each other up in
the air. Every time I tried to ask "Why are they doing this now?" the
answer seemed to be "Because there was a penalty". Max and Gems love their
scooters and want to ride them constantly. Tomorrow is exciting as
Doug and John arrive
tomorrow night for the week and also we have a field trip
to the fire station with Max and his class.
Sat, 10/10/15. Commentary on gravity.
Today we had a workshop at the Picasso museum where they toured us around
and then gave us some materials and had us make a kind of circus involving
our sketches of acrobats based on a Picasso artwork. Gems and Jean made a
quite professional one with a window and door, and acrobats hanging from a
trapeze. The other two families also made very professional ones, with the
parents probably doing 99 percent of the labor. Max and I had a ridiculous
one with the acrobats sort of half standing up, nothing resembling a
circus really, cut outs of hearts and stuff, and drawings of lava. They asked us to do an
explanation and Max didn't want to speak, so I talked in my broken French
about how it was a
commentary on gravity, and how you never knew if the
acrobats would fall or not, and the rest might fall also.
Afterwards we went to a great sports store called Decathlon and bought
little scooters for Max and Gems, which they loved and rode all the way
home for 3 miles, falling multiple times but just getting right back up.
There's a lot of advertising for Moses und Aron which starts with an
open rehearsal on Oct
17. We tried to get tickets for the rehearsal but they said it's sold out.
It might be for the best because I doubt Max and Gems would sit through it
or get much out of it.
Fri, 10/9/15. Lutece.
Today after school we went with the kids and some of their friends, Auri,
Clara, Axel, and Saona,
l'Arena de Lutece,
which is this really cool place that kinda looks like a Roman forum,
and I guess dates back to
ancient times when gladiators fought lions there. Now kids play soccer
there and run around laughing in this maze they have there. My check
finally cleared in Banque Paribas, after just 23 days, 4 followup visits by me, and
no real explanation. Tonight in basketball, someone got called for
traveling, and a couple guys asked me if I thought it was traveling. I
said I didn't see it, and one of the guys said "That's because it didn't
exist. It was a phantom."
Thu, 10/8/15. Relax about that.
At basketball, I was talking to one of the guys about how the kids are
learning French so well and how when they pronounce words, it's so much
better than me, and the guy, Yuval, said "You can relax about that. No
matter what you do, you will never learn to speak French as well as they
do." Our realtor told us he heat in our place in LA is on and he couldn't
turn it off. I called Mom and Dad who will take care of it, and in the
process found out Mom's eye operation and
Dad's prostate surgery both went very well, and Mom is already fully
functioning and Dad is recovering really well. We get to see Mima in just
a week and a half in London, which we're all really looking forward to
especially the kids who are a little homesick. Max asked if Umpa is coming
too, and I told him no, and said "Do you miss him too?" and he said "Yeah.
He makes great chocolate pudding."
Wed, 10/7/15. Rowdy day at the Picasso.
After school we took Max and Gems to
the Picasso museum for their first time, and they liked it but were feisty
today for some reason, especially Max. Their favorite rooms seemed to be
the Olga room, where one sees how he portrays his wife Olga uglier and
uglier from the time of their marriage til their divorce, and the
surrealist room. Both had very interesting and thoughtful guesses when asked what they
imagined some of the art works were depicting. For the painting above, Max
guessed it was a bird eating a hot dog, for instance.
Tue, 10/6/15. Minions on the wall.
Today I met with my student Linda Zanontian who is using my being here as
an excuse to come to Paris with her husband and parents. We ate at Cosi
and then had an ice cream at Amorino, and she brought great presents for
Max and Gemma, including a cool Lego set from her and an awesome Minions
game and Minions sippy cups from Glenda, our student affairs officer at
UCLA. It was so nice of them both and Max and Gemma immediately took to
the Minions which are these sticky things you're supposed to throw against
the wall. Max and Gemma are really enjoying dance class and seem to be
getting good at it, and Gemma today announced that she is starting to
understand everything they are saying in French in school and is speaking
French in school too. It's pretty amazing that in 6 weeks of school Gemma
has not missed a day and Max has only missed one with a cough. It is also
amazing how nice the other kids and their parents are. We really
lucked out with this school.
Mon, 10/5/15. "I would not like the problems."
I got in a little spat with the Chinese guy at the restaurant next to our
apartment when I was throwing out our trash this morning into our trashbin
which they share with our apt building. Between him and
me it was probably the worst French ever spoken. He said "No. The trashcan
is me." I responded, "I would not like the problems." Tonight for dinner
Jean made a cheese souffle and it turned out delicious! Photos are above.
Gemma is starting to bring home French phrases too. Today she said "Mets
ton manteau" which means "Put on your jacket".
Sun, 10/4/15. Lunch lady French.
Max's French is getting good and we are realizing it has a lot to do with
his intimate relationship with the school lunchlady. For instance,
yesterday as we were leaving the apartment, Max held the door open and
said "Avancez s'il te plait" (Advance please), a phrase Jean and I never say, and when
asked how he knew it he told us the lunchlady says it.
Yesterday we saw this great film festival for kids at the nearby Odeon
Theatre, and it was awesome. It had an eco theme, and before it started a
woman sat on the floor with the kids and told them a story, and then they
showed about 8 little 5-10 min animated films which were all incredibly
good. My favorite was about sheep and clouds and it was all in
watercolors. I'd never seen an animation in watercolors before. The others
liked one about a goldfish who wants to go in the sea, but then
finds the sea a rough place to live and is happy when he gets put back in
a bowl by a human. Afterwards we went through the Jar Lux to the Quai
d'Orsay for some monkey bar exercise. It was a beautiful day and nice to
walk around. At night Jean did yoga at a place just two doors down from us.
Sat, 10/3/15. Auri's birthday.
Today we went to Auri's birthday party, our first birthday party in Paris,
and it was an extravaganza. Eva made a delicious Finnish cake and planned
a terrific treasure hunt with a different treasure and map for each kid.
It was amazing. A lot of kids from school were there, and all in all it
was 11 girls and 1 Maxie. Afterwards we went to see this cool ice
sculpture exhibiting tonight only outside the Hotel de Ville. The ice
statues looked like popsicles and we debated which we'd eat first.
Max has started playing with his handcuffs again and is quite addicted to
them again. Gems is getting really, really good at art. Her picture she
drew recently is at the top of this entry, and Jean and I call it an early
Degas. I'm sure we're not biased at all.
Fri, 10/2/15. Timeo and Marie.
Today we cleaned and shopped while the kids were in school, and then after
school had Timeo and Marie over. They are boy girl twins in Max and Gems's
classes, and were also born on Aug 18. They're really nice kids too, and
their dad Samir came with them and was extremely nice as well. Spoke
French to him and he spoke English back. He said the school wanted to
separate his twins when they started the school at age 3 but he and his
wife Cath didn't want to so they protested and the school caved in but
made them separate at age 4. I asked him why the land of Debussy, Money
and Voltaire could have so many ridiculous rules. He just shrugged and
said "I don't know."
I think I'm getting a little better at French. Yesterday I was reading the Tennis
magazine they gave me at Roland Garros in French and it was very readable,
and I've been having nice conversations lately with people I meet like the
supermarket checkers or the parents of Max and Gems's classmates.
Thu, 10/1/15. No balls in the park.
Jean and I did lots of errands, including returning her purse and pants to
BHV, which took a hilarious number of steps and paperwork. We went out to
lunch again to le Loir, a place fast becoming our regular spot, and an
Ellen rec I should mention. Everything there is so incredibly delicious.
Anyway, it sucks that our place in LA still hasn't rented and we're not
sure what to do financially if it just never rents.
After school I took Max and Gems to Parc Monge to play soccer and a woman
said balls were not allowed in the park. It is incredible how many rules
they have here. We ended up playing instead in the little tiny park right
near the church, St. Severin, across the street from our apartment, and
ran into Max's school friend Guillaume there. I tried to talk to his nanny
a little bit but we were not understanding each other, and I'm not sure
why exactly. Yesterday in my basketball league, I was picked like 5th
overall out of around 20 people there, which is ridiculous. Usually when I
play in LA, I am generally slightly underrated, and am almost always
picked last when probably I should usually be like 8th or 9th out of the
10 players. Every once in a while, though, there are a couple guys who
will vastly overrate me and pick me much earlier than they should, and
it's usually kind of half as a joke and half because I'm just kind of
friends with them and they like playing with me. I guess France is no
different because that's exactly the case here as well. Every time I've
been picked near the end even though I'm about average or maybe slightly
above average here. But last night, a really nice guy named Jonathan
picked me so early it was just absurd. I think we lost every
single game. There were sooooo many clearly better players than me, and I
mean guys taller, more athletic, 20 something years old, and good.
At night after dinner today we did our usual nighttime routine of
brushing teeth, washing faces, putting on lotion, dancing to Michael
Jackson with Maxie while Gems talks privately to Mama, and then reading a
little Harry Potter, doing "I tuck you in your little bed and rock you to
sleep", and then going to sleep.
Wed, 9/30/15. LeBron.
Today we went to the Pompidou Bibliotheque where they were having a
tournament of their new video basketball game, and I played with Max and
Gems and we lost thoroughly despite the fact that LeBron James was
completely unstoppable in the game. Max and Gems did a lot of Mrs. Paint
in the library too. While I was playing the videogame with Gems, Max and
Jean were reading the Batman book there, and Jean pointed out the Batcave
where Batman does all his work. Max said "Oh la la, that's a lot of work."
Max was so starving for a snack afterwards, we had to
convince him to wait til after dinner for a delicious ice cream instead.
The weather has been nice and warm lately so it's been nice to walk around
and eat ice cream again.
Tue, 9/29/15. La danse.
We went after school with Auri, Eva and Iris to dance class and met
English Chris there and his daughter Alora who's also in the class, and
went back on the bus with them. They're all very nice, and Eva was talking
about how she didn't like living in Finland very much which surprised
Chris, and Eva said "If you ask most Finnish people to name 3 things they like
about Finland, their response will be, hmm....". Max and Gems are steadily
getting better and better at French, and it seems like every day they come
home with a new expression or phrase that they clearly didn't hear in our
house, like Max's "a toute a l'heure" the other day when he went to the
bathroom. I found out today the bank still hasn't made available to me my
check I deposited there on Sep 11, 18 days ago, despite my having
contacted them about it and even having gone in to speak with them about
it twice. They warned me it takes 12 days for a check to clear here, but I
didn't realize that was optimistic. Today for lunch Jean and I went to
another Ellen rec in the Marais and it was her first bust so far, as we
didn't really like it and won't go back but even it was not bad. She's
like 9 out of 10 now. However, after lunch we stopped at a patisserie and
shared the incredibly delicious "dome de cassis" shown above. Actually, at
first we went into one place and they were open for lunch and the desserts
were sitting out and looking good, but the man there said they
would not serve dessert until 2pm! How French is that?
Mon, 9/28/15. Les amis.
Jean went with me to drop off and pick up the kids from school today and
met a bunch of Max and Gems's friends, including Ouliana, Zadig, and Timeo,
and their respective parents, Olivier, Aurelie, and Samir. After school we
went to the park to play soccer which evolved into rolling the ball onto
this statue and then chasing the ball as it fell down, and then making
fake pizzas and cake out of dead leaves and grass.
Sun, 9/27/15. Disneyland hangover.
Today we all woke up late and tired. Jean cleaned the house while we
hurried to get ready, and Karin Braverman came over and we walked to Le
Loir for lunch and pie. It was fun. The kids were very tired and shy
and mostly just listened to us. Karin lives near the Champs de Mars,
which are the grassy fields right outside the Eiffel Tower. In the
afternoon we checked out this big park on Rue Monge where there is an
enormous zip line about 150 feet long and about 20 feet high. Max and Gems
wanted to do it but the line was about 45 min long so instead they played
soccer and climbed around onto these rows of stone stairs and threw the
soccerball and watched it bounce down the steps to me. I'd then throw the
ball back up and we'd repeat. We crashed early today, still tired from our
Sat, 9/26/15. Le Dream Pass.
We decided to reward the kids for finishing a month of school by taking
them to Disneyland Paris again. We thought since summer is over it would
be less crowded, but today was the Press Day or something and so it was
extremely crowded. We forgot to check whether our pass was valid today,
and we didn't think it was possible that a random day in late Sep would be
blacked out but sure enough it was, so we couldn't get in unless we either
bought new tickets, or upgraded our passes, so we did the latter,
upgrading to dream passes which are good 365 days a year. When asking to
do the upgrade, I asked if we could transfer to the "reve pass" and the
woman said "It's just called Dream Pass. There is no French word
for this." We had a great time despite the crowds and managed to go on
lots of rides. Favorites were the
Toy Story parachute ride, Pirates, Buzz Lightyear and the Haunted House.
They were so tired by the end of the night we had to carry them, two
50 pound bags, back from the metro station.
Fri, 9/25/15. Voicemail.
We're finally all set up! It only took us 8 weeks, but today we finally
got tv, high speed internet, and voicemail for our phone. It feels great.
I tested out our voicemail by leaving a fake message in French from Le Cigale saying
Mr. LaForge forgot to get a rendezvous. We invited Max and Gemma's boy
girl twin firends, Timeo and Marie, over
for Sat evening but now Timeo is sick with a fever so they had to cancel.
Instead, tomorrow we may go to Disneyland again to celebrate the kids
being done with their first month of school. For lunch Jean and I went to
a restaurant down the street from the school and Jean ordered a steak. The
server asked Jean how she wanted it cooked, and Jean was debating it and I
said "entre a point et bien cuit", i.e. in between medium and well done.
The food server smirked and said "That does not exist." Max and Gems love watching
French cartoons on our tv. Today after school we took them to
the park on
Rue Monge to play soccer, and their schoolfriends Auri and Clara joined
us. By accident I brought a basketball instead of a soccerball, but Max
enjoyed sliding it down the slide over and over again while the girls
played on the monkey bars and spinning seat.
Thu, 9/24/15. A tout a l'heure.
Today we waited for Monsieur Reille and the TV/phone/Internet guy to come
over. They arrived in the morning and stayed about 3 hours only to say
that it's not going to work for another 24 hours. And then, after
24 hours, we need to call someone to get a code to activate the TV
and Internet. However, our phone does work now! It's strange because it
doesn't ring; it only lights up. Max is excited about having a phone and
wants to call Elijah right away.
We went out to lunch again to Miznon, the Jewish pita place.
It's crowded and noisy in there and has a very Berkeley vibe.
Rick said it's like Intermezzo minus the nose rings, plus some scarves. We sat next to
an older couple from Australia who had just completed a 35-day pilgrammage
in the south of France. They walked 5-6 hours a day with their packs.
After school, Rick, Max, and Gemma had a competitive soccer game with two
random 8 year old boys at the park. Luckily, another random kid showed up and played
with them so that their losses weren't too embarrassing. Max was
goalie once and made a great block with his knee. Gemma had a very
defensive play when she saw an opponent coming towards her and kicked the
ball in the bushes. (Then she turned around to smile at Rick.)
Gemma's on a roll with her meat and cheese selections. Tonight she picked
an amazing vieux Gruyere, which was 14 months old. I was joking that it's
older than their friend Zadig's baby brother (Swann). She also picked a great
Tonight Max went into the WC and before closing the door said, "A tout a
l'heure!" I guess all that French school is seeping in.
Wed, 9/23/15. Magic wand.
Today we took the kids for lunch to the delicious Le Loir again and ate
their incredible pie desserts, where we felt like pigs because we each got
a piece of pie and then the table of 4 adults next to us seemed to be
laughing and pointing at our food and then just got 1 piece of pie to
share among the 4 of them, but later a few more pieces of pie showed up
for them so we didn't feel too bad. Afterwards we went to the Science Museum which
was just ok but not great. The highlight was definitely seeing the show
about electromagnetism where the host seemed to be shooting electricity at the volunteers
with a magic wand . They also had a cool room
where the lights on the floor
seemed to follow you and the image on
this big billboard seemed to be you
only swirly .
Max and Gems also spent a lot of time
swinging on these ropes meant
to show you mechanics or something. A lot of the exhibits just had a ton of
talking in really fast French which bored all of us even in the rare
moments when we understood what they were saying. But Max and Gems liked
the interactive stuff. We found out today someone in their classes has had
lice, but so far Max and Gems seem to be clear of it. Gems says the girl
in her class has "fleas".
Tue, 9/22/15. Pablo.
We finally got checks today, and then got annual family passes for the Picasso
museum, which is great. The passes let you skip the lines which is quite a
coup. After the museum we ate a delicious lunch in a restaurant in
the middle of the Jewish neighborhood of the Marais. The restaurant was
called Miznon and it was really delicious. I'm sure we will be going back
there. It was by far the loudest restaurant we've been to in Paris. I
guess people would call it Jewish food though I'm not sure if that's accurate. I
got a lamb kebob sandwich, Jean got a spicy fish sandwich, and we split a
roasted cauliflower. After lunch I picked up the kids, walked em to ballet
class with Auri and her mom and sister, and then we took the bus back. I
learned that strangely, the Mummins, who are Gemma's other friend Ouliana's favorite cartoon
characters, come from Finland where Auri is from.
Max was sad because he only got two desserts today. Jean successfully
taught Max to multiply 4x3 using squares of Milka chocolate, which comes
in rows of 4. We call it the Milka system.
Mon, 9/21/15. Futbol.
Today we bought a soccerball and a jumprope and took Max and Gems after
school to the Parc Monge to play with them. They went over very well.
While the kids were in school, Jean and I did lots of errands and ate
lunch at a surprisingly good tourist trap cafe in the middle of the
Tuileries. I think Max has already passed us in French. Jean says if
anyone can guess what word Max is saying in this video , you get a free crepe when you
come visit us.
Sun, 9/20/15. Air Duh Day Duh.
We passed by a store with Star Wars figures in it and heard a French kid
talking about R2D2, which is pronounced like the title of today's entry.
It makes sense, but it just sounds weird until you think about it.
We were gonna go to the Science museum today but didn't get rolling until
so late, we changed our minds and decided to just go to the Jardin
Luxembourg where Max and Gems played on the
spiderwebs and other stuff at the very fun playground. We then ate at
always delicious Cosy for dinner and Gems went crazy for their apple
crumble, which she says is her favorite dessert in Paris. We also had a
skype call with Chloe today, which made Gems much happier. Chloe asked if
we could have a playdate with her when we come back from Paris.
Sat, 9/19/15. Roland Garros.
Today Gems woke up very upset about not having any friends here in Paris,
and complained how even in school the kids she likes don't play with her
and seem to run away from her during recess. She wanted to stay home today
and sulk with Jean, so I just took Max to Roland Garros and we had a great
time. They open it up this weekend to the public, and it was not crowded
because tons of places are opened up to the public this weekend so
everyone is doing other stuff I guess. It was great. They had a little
kids tennis court where Max got to hit the ball on the red clay with an
older girl named Aidee, and Max hit the ball 14 times. He was very proud
of himself, rightly so, and won great prizes including 3 keychains, a tiny bag
of red clay, and a frisbee.
I got to hit on Court 9 for 10 min with a former
professional tennis player named Fabian Boudet who is now marketing
director for Roland Garros. It was interesting because he very gradually
started hitting the ball harder and harder to me until he finally reached
my limit of what I could get back. Max enjoyed watching me and also really
was intrigued by the tour of players locker room. He was especially
interested in the locks themselves, and why some lockers were locked and
others unlocked. There was also an
incredibly difficult treasure hunt at the Roland Garros museum where you
had to study all the exhibits to answer these incredibly hard questions.
We gave up after a few min but then I realized it was really easy
to correctly guess the final
answer, which combined 1 letter from each of the former answers, to spell
the obvious "J'aime le tennis". So while all the frenchies were struggling with it,
Max and I sprinted to the finish line and won this cool book on French
tennis as a prize. After Roland Garros, we
went to the Pompidou which supposedly was having a big thing for kids, but
it totally sucked. It was just a few kind of lame
looking arts and crafts and kids were crowding in and lining up to do
them, and they were giving out free popsicles and Max and I waited in line
for one and they ran out right on Max's turn to get one. So I consoled him
by taking him to the market on the way home and letting him choose
whatever popsicles he wanted. Meanwhile, Jean took Gems shopping at the
local Monoprix right around the corner from us and somehow spent 2+ hours
there, because "a. They had cute kids' clothes there, and I ended up
basically buying Gemma a new wardrobe.
b. I walked down every aisle at least twice looking for eggs only
to have the monoprix guy tell me that they are in the corner in
the non-refrigerated aisle. bien sur!
c. There was a manif for the environment that took over both major
streets and the intersection and Gemma saw someone dressed as a
tiger and someone else as a banana." At night Jean and I discussed whether
I could get a game off of Boudet, who was obviously better than me but was
in his late 50s and out of shape. I feel like I could have gotten a game
but Jean says no way.
Fri, 9/18/15. He's American. They're always fighting.
Today I found that when you deposit a check from a French bank into a
French bank account here, it takes 12 days before the money shows up in
your account. 12 days! I don't know why I continue to be shocked about
this kind of thing here, but somehow I do. Jean was feeling a lot better
today thanks to her medicine which seems something like vanilla extract
and Eucalyptus oil,
and we had lunch together at a delcious little place in the marais,
another Ellen rec called Le Loir dans le Theiere, which had incredibly
delicious and huge desserts. Check out our meringue pie and millefeuile
above. We are reading Harry Potter and decided Gems has the magic touch
when it comes to picking cheeses to buy. She loves going to the cheese
shop with us and is amazing at picking which one to get. Today she chose
one called something like Crottin de la Loire and I think it was the best
cheese I've ever had in my life. A picture of it is above.
We looked it up and apparently it comes
from wild mountain goats who graze on these hills in the Loire where the
grass is fertilized completely naturally with no chemicals at all. I guess
that makes a difference because the cheese is sooooo good. At night I
played basketball. The Fri night games are good so I have to play my
absolute hardest just to keep up. I played well today, and got a key
offensive rebound that helped us win a close game. One guy on the other
team said "How did he get that rebound?" and the other guy replied "He's
American. They're always fighting."
Thu, 9/17/15. Police.
Today we went to the police agency for foreigners requesting visas and
residency. We had about 3.5 hours to get it done, and had to wait in the
waiting room for about 2.5 hours. We were nervous we wouldn't even get to
speak with anyone after all that time, but sure enough we got in. They
asked for every paper imaginable, including things like Jean's birth
certificate that were not on the list of required documents, and we had
them but they complained that some of them were in English and not French
and they initially said we would have to translate them and come back, but
then changed their minds. I complimented the Polish woman helping us on
her good English and she seemed to loosen up towards us afterwards.
Jean described it as "beaucoup de la beurre".
Anyway, in the end it all got done and Jean is now a legal resident. After
establishing a French bank account, getting the kids in school, getting an EDF
account, paying for the school lunch program, and various other setup
activities, this was basically our last step so it is very relieving to
have it done. Officially we just have temporary residency status and
on Jan 18 we have to go to the main police station to get residency
status, but anyway it's nice to be done for a while.
After school I took the kids to hip hop dance class with Zadig and talked
to his Mom Aurelie while the kids were in class. I asked her many personal
questions such as whether they were gonna have more kids and why they
never got married, and later Jean asked me what Aurelie's favorite cheese
is and I said "I didn't ask her. That's too personal a question."
Wed, 9/16/15. Achilles.
I played basketball again tonight, and my American friend Jeff tore his
Achilles tendon and had to be carried away in a wheelchair. Poor guy. They
say it takes 4 to 6 months to recover and requires surgery. The ambulance
took 45 min to arrive and there was a lot of yelling about the delay
between the head of the basketball league and
the medics who arrived. Gems, Max and I walked all the way up
the Notre Dame steps today. The
hardest part was waiting in line 30 min in the rain before we could go.
It's been raining almost every day this month. We knew Paris would be cold
in winter, but we didn't realize it rained this much.
Gems was in a really foul mood tonight and did a lot of
crying. She snapped out of it when we got crepes with nutella, and said "I
was just whiny because I was hungry" but then fell back into the whiny
mood again later. My French is still pretty bad. I was talking to a nice
guy at the basketball courts when we were leaving, and I accidentally said
"See you last week." At least I'm trying. When I asked him if he's coming
Fri, he said no, and I asked why not and he started to say it's a long
story, and I interrupted him and said "You're scared?" I think he was
surprised that I would try to joke around in French even though my French
is so bad. Meanwhile, Max is not scared at all. In the market today he
said "Merci Monsieur" to the checkout guy about 15 times. Gemma is not
nearly as adventurous or vocal but seems to be understanding most of what
people are saying.
Tue, 9/15/15. School night.
After school I took Max and Gemma to a store to get ballet clothes and
then they had ballet class with Auri, and everyone liked it. At night
there was school night, and Jean watched the kids while I went. I couldn't
really go back and forth between the classes because they closed the doors
to each classroom, so I stayed in Max's class and tried to find Timeo's
Mom but was not successful, as the teacher just lectured the whole time
and there was no time for us to chat or even introduce ourselves. Mme
Laurent seemed much nicer and better than I expected though. Afterwards,
Ouliana's Mom gave me the lowdown on how it went in Gemma's class, and it
was very similar. I had been thinking of asking Mme Laurent if she would
let us stay in the class a little in the morning, but instead during her
lecture she explained that she likes the kids to get used to the classroom
being theirs and theirs alone, and meanwhile in Gemma's class, Mme Gentil
said she wants the parents not to stay so long in the mornings, so there
you go. Jean's cough is persisting, and our Tennis Channel prospective
renters seem to have backed out for no reason. Max and Gemma say they are
homesick, Gemma because she is missing her friends and Max because he is
missing his teddy bear and his books. We found out we will finally be
getting telephone, tv, and internet service on Sep 24.
Mon, 9/14/15. Jumeaux.
We found out today that Max's best and only friend from his class, Timeo,
has a twin sister named Marie in Gemma's class!
I met their Dad Samir today in Gemma's class and was curious why he was
there til he told me.
Jean has a persistent cough that just won't go away.
Gemma and Max love the fromage here and are already cheese snobs.
Gemma said "When I get back to LA,
I won't want to eat orange cheese any more." There is something strange
called Schweppes Indian Tonic and it is sold everywhere here. Like if a
little market has only 3 different sodas, they will probably be Coke,
Fanta, and Scheppes Indian Tonic. We are fans. It's weird but good.
Sun, 9/13/15. Zadig.
Today we went to Zadig's house for brunch, and Jean was still coughing so
I just went with Max and Gems. Zadig is really nice as are his parents,
Aurelie and Tabue. They also have a 6 month old boy named Swann. Their
place is really cute and kinda feels like a treehouse in a way, and Max
and Zadig had a blast playing with swords and shields with each other. We
spoke about 60 percent French and 40 percent English, and it worked out
great, and I think everyone understood each other though I had trouble
getting words out of my mouth a lot of the time. Afterwards we went to
Monge Parc where kids were playing soccer and Max and Gemma were very
scared to play with them but were interested, and I coerced them into
trying and said they just had to make contact with the ball once, and
after about 30 min the ball came right to them and they were able to do
it, and were very happy about it.
Sat, 9/12/15. Ouliana.
It was rainy all day today, so we went to the Pompidou Library for video
games and macpaint, which Max and Gems call "Mrs. Paint". At night we got
invited to Ouliana's house for apertifs but Jean's cough was too bad to go, so I went
with Max and Gemma. Ouliana is really sweet and the kids did puzzles and
watched cartoons while I talked with Arina and Olivier, who are also
extremely nice. Ouliana is originally Russian and Olivier is French but
born in the U.S., and the two met in Sweden so they are really
international and fluent in a million different languages. It was fun
getting invited over to someone's apartment for the very first time, and
we all had a great time.
Fri, 9/11/15. Donne moi le rock.
Phew, I got beat up in my basketball league today. I'd heard the players
were better on Fridays but didn't realize they'd be that good. Those were
some tough games. They play zone defense here, which is totally different
than what they do in the U.S., so I have no idea what I'm
doing and the language barrier doesn't make it easier. They always put me
on the "exterieur" but there are typically 4 offensive players out there
and only 2 defenders so I always feel like I'm guarding 2 or 3 guys and my
team is always yelling things at me and I have no idea what they want or
expect me to do. Anyway it was fun and exhausting. Jean was sick today so
I took Max and Gemma to the Pompidou after school today, and we had fun
there. Max's best friend in his class is Timeo, who's a nice kid but we'd
never met Timeo's parents because his teacher won't let any parents enter
the class, but today after dropoff I met Timeo's Dad kind of randomly, and
he seems like a nice guy. A bunch of us Dads were there today and were all
talking about how annoying it is that the teacher doesn't let us in. Some
of them have been at the school for years and they would like to know who
is in their kid's class and they just have no idea. Anyway, the food is
good so Max and Gemma are happy, and Gemma's class is a social happy hour
every morning so both Max and Gemma are making friends there, esp Auri
Zadig, Ouliana and Angelina. All 4 are nice kids and their parents are
extremely nice as well.
Thu, 9/10/15. Renters.
The big news is it seems we finally got renters for our house in LA.
Establishing residency is becoming a bit of a saga.
By French law, according to
EU citizens can live in France for up to a year, and
spouses and children of EU citizens can be here as well for up to a year
but need to apply for a residency permit in their first 90 days by visiting
the local police prefecture and supplying the necessary documents.
Children of EU citizens who wish to work in France also need to apply for
Yesterday the woman at our local police prefecture told us we first had to head
to some other place, so Jean and I metro'd
there, only to realize this
was totally the wrong place since it was for student visas.
So we ate
lunch, a delicious lunch at a place in the 1st called
Ellsworth, a sister restaurant of a place Ellen recommended called Verjus
which is only open for dinner,
and then walked back to our police station for more
ridiculousness. At the check in, the woman asked what we wanted, and when
I explained it, she said "impossible", referring to Jean's chances of
obtaining legal residence for our year here.
Her interpretation of the law is so interesting to me.
She was contending that, because EU citizens' spouses and children who want to work in
France must apply for residency, it therefore follows that if they do NOT
intend to work here, then they cannot apply for residency.
In other words, the law says if you want to work, you need this document.
is that since Jean does not want to work, she therefore ... has no right to exist.
Can you imagine a world where that was the law, and that was the way they
chose to express it?
It is endlessly fascinating to me that she could have had that conviction,
and have been so sure of herself about it. It is such a weird, hilarious,
line of legal reasoning.
Actually, the website above explicitly states that adult family members of
must apply for residency whether they intend to work here or not. But
whatever. I know it won't surprise anyone that France is crazily
bureaucratic, but this one surprised me.
When I started arguing with her that
we were at her same office yesterday
and were told otherwise, one of her coworkers overheard and
and she was the one I'd talked to yesterday. So then we got in to see
someone else, and the craziness continued yet again. The next woman we
talked to told us we need to go somewhere else tomorrow, in the
17th arrondissement, and they will make an appointment to speak to her.
And she told me what papers I need. I said "I have all those papers now.
Do I still need to go there just to make an appointment to speak to you?"
And she said yes. This was all in French, by the way, so there goes my
speculation that things go smoothly when I speak French. Then again, maybe
in English it would've been even worse. Anyway, I have no doubt it will
all work out, and after school we played at the Notre Dame park
with Auri and her Mom and sister. Gemma and Auri held hands on the way
back. Today we were invited to Auri's birthday
party as well as to Zadig's house for brunch this weekend and Ouliana's
house for aperitifs. So we are starting to have a social calendar. We
still can't find really good afterschool activities for Max and Gemma.
Jean joked that their summer camps here are probably called "Camp
Doucement" where counselors just yell at the kids over and over "Doucement!"
Wed, 9/9/15. Anniversaire.
Today was Jean and my 16th anniversary. We celebrated by going with the
kids to Georges, a swanky restaurant on the top of the Pompidou we heard
was kid friendly but it was definitely ritsy and adults only. It had glass
everywhere, roses on the tables and waiters in tuxedos
(for lunch!). But whatev,
the kids did great and the view was amazing. The food was good too.
Then we took the kids to a different dance class to try it out, and then went
back to the Pompidou library where Max and Gemma played video games and
macpaint. At night I played for the first time in my basketball league,
and it was really fun. The level was perfect for me. I met a bunch of nice
people including a very nice American guy named Jeff, who helped me get in
and thanks to his perfect French, kept me in the loop of what was going
on. Jean and I also went to the police station today but it was a wild
fois gras chase, as they sent us to this other place where we have to fill
out something and then come back to the police station again.
Tue, 9/8/15. Dance.
Today was my turn to take it easy and recover from the cold everyone else
had already got.
Jean took Max and Gemma to their first dance class after school, and they
both really liked it.
Gemma had another existentialist quote today, something like "This is the
strangest life I've ever lived." I pulled a Carol Steele, listening to
tennis radio since our tv cable still isn't installed. It was surprisingly
Tomorrow Jean and I are going to the prefecture de police to register,
which is our last major step toward getting our feet on the ground here.
Mon, 9/7/15. L'hotel Californie.
Today Gemma was getting over a little cold, so I took Max to school while
Gemma stayed home, and we thought we'd take Max out early, like 130pm,
just to make sure he took it easy too, but the school Directrice said
"Non." We either had to take him out all day, or let him stay for the whole 8 hour
day, so I left him there, poor guy. He seems to be making a friend there
named Timeo. After school we made it up to him by giving him a crepe au
nutella and letting him watch videos.
In the morning I went to the electric company to give them our Banque
Paribas info and to change the names on the account from Frederic and
Barbara to Frederic and Jean, and it went well. Gemma's feeling a lot
better now. I love the corner of Blvd. Saint Germain and Rue Monge, just a
couple blocks East of us. It seems everything is there: a great fish shop,
a delicious cheese shop, a terrific boulangerie, a patisserie, and knick
knack shop, and lots of other stuff too. For some reason the fish shops
are all closed on Mondays though. Is it because the fishermen are all
praying on Sunday? Or maybe it's because the fish are all at church on Sunday?
Sun, 9/6/15. Bibliotheque Pompidou.
We had what Julie and Jennifer call a post-Disneyland hangover today,
sleeping in and feeling very tired. While Jean and Gems rested, Max and I
went to the Pompidou and discovered the awesome library there, with tons
of computers, books, and video games. Max and this Chinese boy played
Star Wars for a while, with Max having no idea what he was doing or which
character he was controlling, but that didn't stop him from trash talking
and saying "I got you baby" and stuff like that. Max does a good imitation
of the sounds
the street posts make when the lights change. I saw some graffiti that
said "If Greece were a bank, it would have been bailed out already."
That's pretty erudite and sophisticated for graffiti, don't you think?
Tonight our landlord made a huge improvement in our internet connection,
which is really nice for us.
Sat, 9/5/15. Regular French people of the Carribbean.
We went to Disneyland Paris
and got annual passes. I know, it's
ridiculous, being from LA and given all Paris has to offer. But we wanted
to reward Max and Gemma for doing so great in the first week of school,
and the annual
pass is worth it if you go more than twice, and we just know we will, and
also it's much cheaper, more manageable, probably less crowded, and easier
to get to here
than in the U.S., so we thought we'd go for it. Even though it was a
Saturday and was kind of crowded,
we had a great day, did lots of rides
including the Frozen singalong which ends next month, and had a great
time. A highlight was Pirates of the Carribbean which the kids loved and
we did it twice. The pirates were lazing around, drinking,
telling jokes, playing music, dancing, womanizing, and hanging out, so we
noted that they're basically just like regular French people.
Fri, 9/4/15. Lockdown.
Ok I gotta say there are a couple things here that make no sense to me.
See how French you are by taking this little quiz.
Question 1. Your school's paperwork says you need to bring in a "photo
d'identity de votre enfant." Which of the following is acceptable?
a. A photocopy of your child's passport page.
b. A photo of your child from a photomat, which by the way does not even
say your child's name on it anywhere.
Question 2. The school also says you need to bring proof of your
child's registration with the city. Which do you bring?
a. Your bill for registration and your receipt for paying the bill, both
of which show your children's names and your name.
b. A letter of attestation from the city, which says only your name and
not the names of the children.
In both cases I went with a, and was given my forms back and told to come back with b.
If you chose b, you belong here in France. Anyway, today we were on
lockdown as our landlord told us he needed to change our front door locks
at 10am, and it took him til almost 1pm. After school Max and Gems were in
great moods and it seems they are getting used to it. Max made a friend
but doesn't know his name. Gemma said her favorite part of school was when
the teacher read Cinderella, and her least favorite part was when they had
recess and Max wouldn't play with her because he was playing with his
friend. Meanwhile, Gemma is making friends in her class, including Auri
and her friend Angelina with whom we went to the Notre Dame
school. Eva asked what I thought of Paris and French people so far, and I
was very positive about both, and felt that they get a reputation for
being rude but really aren't. She moved here last year from Finland and
said she felt the same thing the first week or two, but then started
to get the feeling that people were cold and closed off. She said most
French people just drop their kids off, say "Bonne journee," and go on
their own way. I guess it's kind of like New York that way. She also said
that she gets annoyed at how people always yell "Doucement" at their kids,
girls, even on playgrounds, and she wishes they would let the kids be more
wild once in a while. We totally feel the same way, and I added how it can
be kind of annoying how quiet everyone is in the restaurants, and there
are never any kids, so we always feel like we are the only ones making any
noise. Angelina's Dad, Rafael, was at the parc too, and didn't hear us
talking about French people. I wonder what he would have thought, since he
is French but seems atypical, as he was pretending to be a vampire and
running after the kids, who loved it. Gemma kept trying to climb a tree to
get away from him. Jean is kicking butt in Jay's US Open rotisserie while
I am trying and probably failing to make it back into Serie A with my
almost all French player team.
Thu, 9/3/15. Banque Paribas.
Today while the kids were at school I signed up for a bank account. Jean
and I were deciding which bank to use and Jean thought Banque Paribas
because "they advertise at the French Open, so maybe they might be more
used to international customers." It turned out to be a great choice, as I went
in and got incredibly great service. The woman at the entry told me to
wait for a representative, and then after 5 min, a man and woman came over
and the man spoke to me in English. I responded in French, and then he
said "Oh, you speak French? If you'd like to speak English, you have to
wait til this afternoon to meet with me, but if you can speak French you
can start with her now." So I started with Madame Konte, who was extremely
helpful and started my account in one sitting. I thought it would take a
week. After that and getting the million sheets of paperwork ready for the
school, we had lunch and picked up M and G from school. They were
surprisingly in a good mood, though Max was really sad when we dropped him
off in the morning. Afterwards he said he loved it. On Thu they stay late,
til 430pm, and to reward them for being so good all day we took them for
crepes au nutella after school.
Wed, 9/2/15. Austria backfires.
While the kids were at school for day 2, I went to Electricite De France,
EDF, to try to get the electricity bill in my name. I need my name on a
utility bill for both the school and in order to get an account in a
French bank. I went with my Austrian passport and my Mom's Bank of Austria
details, as well as the details about our electricity meter which EDF
previously said I needed. The reason for the Astrian account was that the
previous representative had said I need an IBAN number of a bank, and
European banks have IBAN numbers but US banks do not. After waiting 40 min to meet with a
representative, I said I'd like the account to be under the names Frederic
and Barbara Schoenberg. The representative then took very little info from
me, but typed in, and I'm not exaggerating at all here, about 500
keystrokes and clicks on her computer. I was cracking up, as it took maybe
10 or 15 min of me just sitting there as she typed. After all this, she
said that it wouldn't work, as it must be a French bank, not Austrian.
I told her that the French banks need a utility bill, and she said "Yes,
it's a circle," but not to worry, as she started my account and gave me a
printout that she said would work for me when starting a French bank
account. So I have to do that and then go back to EDF to complete my EDF
account. The problem now is, I put the names Frederic and Barbara on the
account, so I should change it, and I'm not sure what the justification
should be. Jean joked that she is actually Jean Paik Schoenberg but goes
by "Barbara", while I maintained that I changed wives over the weekend.
Anyway, I guess we are getting closer to resolving this.
On Wed school gets out early, at 11:30am, and when we picked up M and G
they were in awful moods. Max snapped out of it but Gems was so whiny we
couldn't go into a restaurant with her so Jean ate with Max while I took
Gems home and ate gyros with her at a nearby stand. In the afternoon we
went to the park right across the street and met a woman named Eva there
with two daughters, Auri and Iris, and we recognized each other from the
school. Auri is in Gemma's class. The family is from Finland, and the mom
speaks 5 languages fluently, Finnish, English, French, Swedish, and
Italian. They seem very nice and live right up the street from us. Auri's
birthday is in 2 weeks and Eva said she's gonna take her to Disneyland but
Auri doesn't know it yet.
Tue, 9/1/15. Mme Gentil.
Today was Max and Gemma's first day of school. Jean and I had been joking
about how all French names seem to be one of like 10 first names followed
by a French 1 word, like our previous landlord Michele Petit. So it seemed
perfect when we saw Gemma's teacher was Mme Gentil. Max's is Mme Laurent.
They both seem really nice. Gemma said she only said one word today, her
name, and the rest of the time just kept her mouth shut. Max said he said
15 words, but when we asked what they were he said jibberish. Jean saw him
talking when we picked them up though. They were separate from each other
except at recess, when they threw a ball back and forth to each other, and
at lunch they saw each other but weren't allowed to sit next to each
other, which they seemed ok with. They both said lunch was good, with
chicken, carrot soup, rice, and cantaloupe. Gemma said Max was super
hungry and drank like 11 cups of water while waiting for his food. Both of
them said they liked school, though Max said he doesn't want to go back
tomorrow. Gemma said she made 3 friends already and she described what
color clothes they wore. She doesn't know their names yet and hasn't said
a word to them but clearly they are best friends. Max said he hasn't made
any friends, and his favorite part of school was when the teacher read
books in French to them, including one about a fox who tried but didn't
successfully eat some pigs, and his least favorite part was when the
teacher told them the rules. Gemma said there was no part she didn't like
and her favorite part was resting on the couch. Gemma said a teacher got
angry at her when her coat got stuck on a pole while she was going
downstairs, and another girl tripped on the stairs and a teacher got
really mad at her.
At night I read Harry Potter to them, and before turning the page Max
usually tries to guess how the sentence will end, but his guesses are
usually violent and ridiculous, and often are simply the word "dangerous"
or "danger". For instance, I might say "the book looked old and ..."
and he would say "dangerous". Once he cracked me up because we are only
like 1/3 of the way into the book, and I said "Harry smiled and ..." and
Max said "died."
Mon, 8/31/15. Pompidou, Pompidont.
I signed up the kids for school lunch, and then we went to the Pompidou
and signed up for a year pass. Jean thought she saw some "Real Baron
Randenakis" but I thought it was way too complimentary to the Baron.
Max looked at the outside of the pompidou and said,
"are you sure the building is finished and we can go in it?"
Gemma got a gourmet $12 hot dog for lunch and the first thing she did was
take a napkin and wipe off the mustard from the hot dog and bun.
In the afternoon I looked in 3 or 4 different stores for prepaid cell phones but they were
all sold out. Jean did yogo two doors down for the first time. Tomorrow is
the first day of school for Max and Gemma. We still have no phone, tv, and
very, very limited internet signal so these posts will probably be brief
for a while. It takes several minutes just to get our emails so uploading
photos and videos would be hard.
Sun, 8/30/15. Birthday.
Today is my 44th birthday, and it was a great one. We slept in, went to le
Jardin du Luxembourg where I played basketball while Jean took Max and
Gemma to the playground, and then came home and watched Spirit in our air
Sat, 8/29/15. Medicaments and Jardin d'Acclimation.
Today we went early to our old apartment to try to track down the woman
who runs the apartment and see if she would let us in to check on Jean's
allergy medicines, and it worked. As soon as we got to the apartment
saw her and sprinted up to her, and she let us in and the medicines were
still there. So we took em back home to our new apartment and felt very
relieved, because they are very expensive and it is impossible to get them
in France, we have heard. We then went with Elijah, Tony and Margaret to
le Jardin d'Acclimation in the Bois de Boulogne, and it was an amusement
park to our surprise, with tons of rides and fun things to do. We went on
roller coasters, boats, bumper cars, and all kinds of things.
It was scorching hot today but we had a great time. Tonight Tony and
Margaret babysat Max and Gemma while Jean and I had our first
time away from the kids since we've been in France. We went to a
souffle restaurant, La Cigale Recamier, which I think is my favorite
restaurant in the world. We both ordered the same things,
a mushroom souffle for dinner and a chocolate souffle for dessert. It was
scrumptious. They give you a little spoon-fork combo for the souffles, and
we called it a soufflork.
After dinner, we shopped around a little for something for
Margaret and Tony to thank them, and thought it would be funny to get
Margaret a Monoprix tshirt because she loves that market. However, they
didn't have one, and in Monoprix I suddenly had to go to the bathroom,
probably the worst I have ever had to go both ways at the same time. Of
course the bathroom in Monoprix was closed, and I even tried to sneak in
but it was barricaded and I snuck past the barricade but it was locked, so
I went outside and just in time found a hotel around the corner that was a
Fri, 8/28/15. Directeur.
Today we met the Directeur of the ecole maternelle, and he was really
nice. He spoke only in French and tried a little French on Max and Gemma
who did not understand at all, so we were a little worried he would deny
them or something, but he said it was ok. He said twins are separated in
school in France though, and he thinks it is good for their development
and their learning of French, so Max and Gemma will be in separate
classes, though they can play together at recess and have lunch together.
Lunch is 2 hours by the way, from 1130 to 130. A lot of the discussion was
about lunch actually, and I had to run to la mairie to set up an account
to pay for lunch, after our meeting. Another thing we learned at the
meeting was the new directrice, who will start Sep 7, has boy girl twins
of her own, who are 20 years old! After I signed up for lunches for the
kids, we raced off to meet Elijah, Margaret and Tony at a Korean
restaurant and were about 20 min late due to my wonderful sense of
direction, but they were ok with it and the lunch was delicious. Jean then
cleaned the old Bellechasse apartment and then I met with the proprietress
and gave her the keys, but only tonight did we realize we left some
important allergy medicine of Jean's in her fridge, so hopefully we will be able to
get it from her before she throws it out. The kids have been making up a lot of
knock knock jokes on our trip, inspired by the movie Home which we saw on
the plane here. So far the main one is
On. You're all wet.
Shh. I'm thinking.
Thu, 8/27/15. d'Orsay.
Today we went to the Musee d'Orsay with Elijah and Tony. It was great.
The kids had a lot of fun playing with the audio guides. Max said his
favorite part was "the channel selected is unavailable" or something like
that. Max said the last photo above was someone saying Help. I'm stuck in
a block of cheese! In the afternoon we cleaned our old apt, skyped with
Mima, the kids
napped, and I set up an appointment for tomorrow with our school. At night
we had another delicious meal with Elijah and Tony, at a delicious place
Ellen recommended on Rue de Bellechasse. We had tried to go there before
but it was closed all month. It was delicious, and not exactly kid
friendly but there was one other kid there, for I think the first time
ever in a restaurant in France, and it turned out to be an American family!
Wed, 8/26/15. Ecole and moving day.
Today I went back to la Mairie to try to beg them to let Max and Gemma
into school without an EDF bill, and they agreed! So, we are in school.
Elijah, Tony and Margaret came in to town last night, so while Margaret
worked we met Elijah and Tony for lunch, and then while the kids napped I
went to our new place on Rue St Jacques and got the keys, and in the
evening we moved in. Max had to say goodbye to his beloved elevator but
the new place seems to be going over well as they each have their own bed
now. Max says his favorite things about Paris are the elevator and putting
the ticket in the turnstile on the metro.
To celebrate moving in, Max had a nutella crepe at our old crepe place
from 11 years ago which is fortunately still here and still delicious, and
Gemma had a crepe au nutella et banane .
It feels great to move in and unpack. However, we won't have phone,
internet, or tv service for another 7 to 10 days. In the meantime we have
very limited internet signal from another apartment.
Tue, 8/25/15. Rodin.
Today we were gonna go to the musee d'Orsay but it was too long a line so
we went to the musee Rodin, which was not too crowded and very fun and
nice. It was our first art museum here really. The main building was under
construction but the whole outdoor grounds were available and we had a
great time. Max and Gemma were a little rowdy at times but in general were
very good and liked it. Max's favorite part seemed to be looking through
the binocular thingies they had outside. Gemma liked taking photos of
everything on Jean's camera, and sitting outside drawing. I had a step
backward in my efforts to get Max and Gemma in school, as I went to EDF
and tried to get some kind of bill or statement or contract and got
nowhere with them. After I first started saying what I wanted,
the woman I talked to said, "You can speak English if you'd like" and
she spoke perfect English so I did. But now I think it was a trap. I feel
like the word they are most comfortable saying in English is "no", but
somehow when I speak French, they are a lot more constructive.
They said I need a French bank with a IBAN number to
set up an account, so I looked into opening a French bank account and
online they all seem to require a utility bill, so it seems like we are in
a Catch 22. Jean and I had heard of this problem before. Maybe France
isn't so brilliant after all. I'm gonna go back
to la Mairie and see if they can take some other kind of bill instead, or
some other kind of verification that we live in our apartment. If that
doesn't work, I'm thinking maybe we can keep the electricity bill in our
landlord's name and add my name to the account, or something. Tomorrow we
move into our new place, which may or may not have electricity, and also
Elijah comes into town tonight and we will see him tomorrow at
le Jardin Luxembourg.
Mon, 8/24/15. le Buffet and la Mairie.
Today it rained and we looked for restaurants for lunch but kept finding
ones that were closed, til we found a Maison Pradier with a delicious buffet
and ate there. It was awesome. We gorged on their salad of cantalope, shrimp
and broccoli and then ate 8 desserts, namely 2 chocolate eclairs,
millefeuille, lemon tart, charlotte, chocolate cream
cake, raspberry tart with marzipan, and chocoate tiramisu.
Their lemon cake was the sourest thing we'd ever had.
It was somehow more sour than just biting into a lemon.
The whole shabang was pretty incredible. We're not sure they will let
us back in there after the amount we ate. In the afternoon, I got dressed
up in my best clothes, shaved and showered, and went to la Mairie, the
town hall. I had heard they were rude and difficult, but the workers there
were so nice. It is hard to imagine them being any more nice and helpful.
They patiently waited for me to finish my slow French sentences, spoke
slowly back to me in french, and were in general extremely helpful and
considerate. I was all ready to get super mad, because when I called them
in Spring, they said they could not accept documents from me by email or
fax, and I had to come in person, and could do it in Aug when I arrived.
However, now on their website it says school registration must be done by
June 1. So I thought they'd just say "non" and I'd have to get mad, but
instead they seemed to be ready to accept my application. They even were
willing to accept photocopies of Max and Gemma's birth certificates in
English, though I'd heard they sometimes need things translated in French
and I fully expected them to want the original, certified copies. But they
were super cool. The only problem was they need a utility bill from me
verifying our new address. However, they even helped me figure out how to
get such a bill from EDF, the electricity company here, and gave me
directions there. So now I am much more optimistic that we will be able to
get them into school here and be able to settle our visa issues, and I'm
much more positive about France in general. Before this it seemed like
everything was so difficult, and we were wondering if we were gonna be
able to work things out, but now it seems like we will. In fact, it seems
like a lot of American tourists here are kind of bratty, and while the
French may at times be rude, they really can't be blamed. If you're a
waiter in a nice cafe, it just is not part of your job description to give
every American tourist who passes by polite directions to the Louvre or
whatever, in English. If anything, I think Americans should be more
respectful of French culture and not the other way around. The French also
seem to really think about things. Like just the way their traffic works
is kind of interesting. You can jaywalk if no cars or bikes are coming,
but if cars come, you have to wait til it's green or get your butt out of
the street. That's a great system, and it must be incredibly difficult to
get a whole society to agree to it and pull it off, but the French do it.
In general they seem like as a society they have often really thought about
things that others just don't think about, and they remind me in that way
of our friends Doug and John, which makes it all the more remarkable that
Doug also finds the French rude. But, maybe he will change his mind. Or,
maybe he's right and I just got lucky today with a nice Mairie worker.
Sun, 8/23/15. La Defense.
They say la best Defense is Le good Offense.
Today was the last day of a 6 week festival with
in front of la grand Arche de la Defense. There is also a big mall there
and a merry go round, plus lots of games like badminton, solo tennis, huge
chess boards, a huge fussball table, and other stuff. We had a really good
time. Max and Gemma tried to play badminton but quickly got frustrated and
instead Max tried to make it baseball and he would pitch the ball over the net
to Gemma and she would try to hit it. Max turned to me
and said "You be the vampire. You decide who gets a point." We move
into our new place Wed and are quite excited to do so.
Sat, 8/22/15. Housecall.
We gave Max and Gemma a robot zombie and an Anna dress for their birthdays
and they were very happy. Can you guess who got what?
I realized I left a key to our current place in Saint Tropez and wrote
the landlady in Saint Tropez who confirmed it. She's gonna mail the key to
our new place here in Paris.
After eating a delicious lunch in a cafe near la Tour Eiffel, we walked to
the nearby American Library and contemplated
getting a membership there,
and then walked back along the Seine. Max saw the steel gates surrounding
the trash cans along the Seine and said "That's a jail where you if you
are very unlucky. You have to eat trash for breakfast, lunch, and dinner."
Then he proceeded to explain how you also had to eat the key to the jail.
There was a rock climbing wall set
up near the Seine and Max and Gemma spent a lot of time climbing it.
Max's throat was sore and very swollen so we called a doctor who did a
housecall! He charged us 90 Euros which was totally worth it as he came
within 20 min, took Max's temperature, checked out his ears, throat and
nose, and gave us some prescriptions to get at a pharmacy. Max is already
doing better now and it was reassuring to know the doctor thinks it's
Fri, 8/21/15. Buses, trains and automobiles.
We packed up, cleaned up, and tried to get back to Paris.
The plan was to take the 11:10am bus
to Frejus which is 30km away and the bus was scheduled online to get there at
12:45pm, then we'd have an hour to get to the train station which is 5 min
walk away, and our train from Frejus would leave at 1:47pm, stop in Les
Arcs Draguignan for an hour where we'd change trains, and then arrive in
Paris. It all sounds reasonable, right? Just to reiterate, we
were taking the 11:10am bus for 30km and had to get there in 2 and a half
hours. The bus was on time when we got on, but there was so much traffic
it took til 1:45 to make it to Frejus. 2 hours and 35 min. People on
bicycles seemed to be speeding by us. People
casually strolling on the beach seemed to be speeding by us. When we got
there, we ran to the train station but were too late. We weren't sure what
to do and asked at information and the woman told us to taxi to the next
train stop which seemed crazy, so we ignored her and wisely took a taxi
to Les Arcs Draguignan and made it there with plenty of time. We are now
on the train
to Paris, where the train stopped in the middle and the
conductor explained that the train before us had an accident and we would
be delayed at least an hour. He then said
"Mesdames et messieurs, this is the conductor speaking. The conductor
will be giving us information soon" which made everyone laugh.
We started going backwards for about half an
hour, which I didn't even know trains could do, and now are going forward
at full speed again. We finally made it to our apartment in Paris at
10:40pm, meaning it took door to door almost exactly 12 hours. It feels a
lot like you'd feel if it took 12 hours to go from LA to Mammoth. When we
got home, Jean looked on her computer and noticed there had been a
terrorist attack on a French train North of Paris. The attack was
disrupted by two American marines and I don't think anyone died. They said
many trains were delayed in the wake of the attack. I'm not sure if this
is why our train was delayed, but maybe. It kinda makes me feel stupid for
complaining about the delay.
Thu, 8/20/15. Jellyfish attack!
Today we went to Club 55 beach
which was nice but not nearly as nice as Plage des Salins, surprisingly.
We had heard this was where the billionaires go and was extremely
exclusive, with the restaurant charging $100 per person minimum, so we
thought it would be extremely ritzy, but it was just ok, very rocky and
wavy and not calm and plush and sandy like Plage des Salins was. It was
also quite crowded, though we found a spot away from the traffic and
were nearly the only ones swimming. Margaret got stung by a jellyfish, and
it started bubbling up on her wrist. We weren't sure if the rumored
antidote was true or not, but Elijah peed on her wrist and immediately it
went away, so I guess it is true after all. At night the kids watched
Oliver and Company on the DVD while Tony gave us psychological personality
tests involving asking us about our favorite animals and why we like them.
Tomorrow we are back to Paris and the Elijahs are back to Ireland, but
will see them again next week when they come to Paris.
Wed, 8/19/15. La plage des salins.
Today all 9 of us crammed into a huge taxi and went to la plage des salins,
about 15 min away, which is the northernmost of a famous strip of
beaches near Saint Tropez. It was really beautiful and we had an
incredible time at the beach. The water was really shallow, like waist
high for an adult, for about 100 feet, and then dropped off suddenly and
became deep. The sand was very crowded and mostly filled with adults who
seemed to be staring at us and possibly frowning when we arrived and put
our stuff down, but we were mostly in the water which was close to empty.
Elijah's grandpa was talking about bananas at one point and asked Max if
he liked bananas, and Max said yes and Elijah's grandpa said "Who wouldn't
like bananas" and Max said "My Dad's brother doesn't like bananas." I
thought it was a pretty good sentence. I didn't even realize Max knew
Randy didn't like bananas but I guess so.
Bank of America is making it hard for me to transfer
money to our new landlord's account, which is a little worrisome but I
think we will get it figured out with a little help from our friends and
Tue, 8/18/15. Happy birthday!
Max and Gemma turned 5 today! In the morning, Max looked at his hands and
feet and said "Are my hands bigger? Are my legs longer?"
The Kims were a little hung over from their late night out last night at a
restaurant where Carl Lagerfeld was also eating.
For their birthday, we took the Super 3 as they call themselves on the
merry go round, then Jean took Gemma to the butterfly museum while the
others went to the farmer's market, which was really more like a flea
market, and then we had lunch and bought little birthday cakes. Jean and I
wanted to cook fish but went to two supermarkets, neither of which had any
fish, and when we asked, multiple people informed us that you can only buy
fish in the morning here. So we got frozen shrimp and made a shrimp stir
fry, which actually seemed to go over quite well, as did the delicious
cakes. At night we watched some of Fantastic Four and played with Max and
Gemma's new presents, including big pencil sets and cute shirts from the
Kims as well as a cupcake set for Gemma from us and a weird stretchy toy
and car for Max from us, where according to the instructions you are
supposed to put the car together, then throw this rubbery guy at the car
and brake it into pieces. Max loved it and he and Elijah fought over it.
Walking around town today, Max did a little more of his
Maxie language . It was a
great birthday all in all, and before going to bed, Max and Gems both said
they wanted to have a similar day tomorrow.
More photos from Saint Tropez are
Mon, 8/17/15. Lazy day.
We went to Pearl Beach again, which today was sunny
and windy, so windy that they didn't rent out umbrellas at all because it
would be too dangerous. So we played in the sea and basked in the sun for
a while and then took a nice long nap at home. At night, we just sat
around watching tv, eating, and
reading Mr. Jelly and
the related books which Elijah had brought. I've been reading Harry Potter
to the kids at night and before naptime. They really like it and I think
understand it pretty well. Elijah's reading is amazing. He can read
cursive graffiti on the buildings on the way to the beach. He can be
stubborn though, like Gemma, and wild like Max, so Tony joked he's a
combination of their worst qualities. It's not at all true though. He's a
very sweet kid and he is getting along amazingly well with both M and G.
It can be hard for 3 people of any age to all get along all the time, but
these guys are coming about as close as you can get. One thing Elijah does
not share with Max and Gemma is their love of food, and tv. Elijah is
quite indifferent about both actually, and it was funny hearing him say
"Let's turn the tv off now" and hearing Margaret urge him to "finish your
cheerios!" You would just never hear either of those sentences in our
family. But otherwise, in many ways he does seem just exactly like Max and
Gemma, and the 3 of them spend a lot of time laughing together. In the
water today we were playing Octopus, which is a game where you try to find
some seaweed or something in the water and pretend it's an octopus and
throw it at the other people. Then we played Fish Market, where I would
say I need salmon, or cod, or whatever, and Jean would pick up one of the
kids and throw him or her to me. The water is a strange temperature. They
say it is 77 degrees but it seems really cold when you first get in, but
then when you are in it feels warm somehow.
P.S. Jean says Fish Market is the greatest game ever invented.
Sun, 8/16/15. Pearl Beach.
Le petit souris left Gemma a note in french and a spirograph in exchange
for her tooth. Gemma was very happy about the transaction. Today we found
beautiful Pearl Beach and had a wonderful time there. Elijah had been not
too crazy about the water yesterday but today was swimming and splashing
around with Max and Gemma with full gusto. The water was really shallow
for a long, long way so it was really easy to just let the kids play. We'd
heard the water was 75 degrees here and that seems like an
exaggeration as it is cold at first, though once you are in you get used
to it immediately.
We tried to make the kids nap yesterday but they didn't so as a punishment
they didn't get any dessert. So today we told them they needed to nap in
order to be able to get ice cream at night, and they did it very
obediently and are eating their reward as I type.
Sat, 8/15/15. Toothless in Saint Tropez.
Gemma's first tooth fell out today! She was eating strawberries and it
just quietly, bloodlessly and painlessly
fell out .
She then put it in her room where le petit souris, the little mouse French
equivalent of the tooth fairy, will grab it in the night and leave her a
present. The last photo above is Gemma's note to le petit souris, stating
her name and age.
We had a fun day at the beach in Saint Tropez with Elijah and his
family, and at night Tony and Margaret cooked a delicious feast of
bruschetta, garlic bread, and pasta bolognese. There was a lot of What
Time Is It Mr. Fox and Hide and Go Seek played as well, and the running
knock knock joke is Knock Knock, Who's There, An Interrupting Shower, An
Interrupting Shower Who?, On and you're all wet. If you don't get it,
don't worry, neither do I. The house here is so great and Saint Tropez is
very picturesque and a lot of fun so far. It's a little strange that they
apparently don't believe in screen doors or windows, and you're supposed
to leave your garbage in the middle of the street at night, so I'm not
sure what the bug situation is here exactly but we haven't noticed many.
Gemma was at one point feeling a little left out of the lovefest between
Elijah and Max but it seems to have mellowed out. Saint Tropez reminds me
a little of a combination of a Greek Island and Beverly Hills. There is a
level of glitz and opulence that is kind of annoying, but it is also
charming and beautiful and just exploring the town we came upon some
really nice and fairly empty beaches where we had a great time.
Fri, 8/14/15. Elijah!
We took a 5 hour train to Saint Raphael and then a 90 min bus to Saint
Tropez, to spend a week with Elijah and his parents and grandparents. It's
gonna be great. Saint Tropez is very picturesque and the house we're all
sharing is so great, just a short walk from the center of town and super
nice. Max and Gemma loved the train ride but didn't sleep at all. It was
pretty stressful trying to make it to the train on time after getting up
early and taking the metro in the rain with all our bags, and we made it
and stepped on the train immediately before finding our seats, which
turned out to be literally the very last seats all the way down the train,
which meant we had to bump into countless strangers as we climbed down the
crowded train. The Elijahs had a very similarly rough train experience.
But, once we got to Saint Tropez it was really nice, and we
had a nice crepe dinner with the Elijahs tonight and then ice cream and
went to bed. It's Max and Gems's first slumber party as they and Elijah
are all sleeping in bunkbeds tonight. The 2nd photo above is Gems's
sippycup. We bought Darth Vader thermoses, but Gemma found hers too scary
so she used stickers to make it into Dora Vader, which we joke would say
things like "Come on, Luke! Vamanos to the dark side!" and
"What can we use to get to the Death Star? Map!"
Thu, 8/13/15. Robot zombie.
We went to Lodgis to try to get proof of our new residence we will have in
a couple weeks so I can try to get the kids in preschool, but they
wouldn't give me such a letter yet since the owner hasn't signed the
contract yet, as he is out of town. We went to the nearby lego store and
toy store, where Max saw a
robot zombie he loved so we secretly got it for
him for his birthday, and Jean snuck off to get Gems the Anna dress she
wants. Maybe Max will be a policeman actually. In addition to cigarettes,
guns and motorcycles, he also is very interested in handcuffs and coffee.
Tomorrow we leave early for our 5 hour train to Saint Tropez to see Elijah
and his family. We are very excited about the trip. It's raining tonight!
Wed, 8/12/15. 9.1 miles.
While it's warm, we've been trying to walk a lot and do outdoorsy things,
but today was a bit extreme both in terms of how hot it was and how far we
walked. It was 93 degrees and we walked 9.1 miles!
In the morning we went to Parc Monceau, which was as picturesque
as we'd heard, and there was a little playground there where the kids
played for a while. In the first photo above, Max found a little stick he
felt looked like a bow and arrow and was very excited about it.
By the way, Max has some interesting proclivities. He has seen people
smoking and said "I wish I could smoke," and he also wishes he could ride
a motorcycle and shoot a gun. I'm not sure how we raised a redneck but it
seems like we got one. Anyway, then
we walked to the Champs Elysees and saw the movie
"Le Petit Prince" completely en francais, and then walked home, had
dinner, and then walked to the 6th for more ice cream at Amarino. Max had
a bad moment when his ice cream fell, so we got him another one. We
started implementing a system of just one dessert a day and if they get 5
whiny points they don't get the dessert. They cut it close today, with
Gemma getting 3 whiny points by like 930am but then no more, and Max
cutting it extremely close with 4 whiny points, all accrued at his
hungriest moments. They get whiny points not just for whining but for
general bad behavior like trying to not hold our hands when crossing the
street or kicking the table or each other while eating. So, actually 3
points in a whole long, hot day is not bad. The food has been incredible
everywhere so far, but I have to say the popcorn in the movie theater was
the worst I've ever had, stale and oversalted. It's surprising, since I
would have thought the French would have doted over each individual
Tue, 8/11/15. Monkeys.
Today we went to the Quai d'Anatole and played the monkey game again,
and then Max and Gemma played on these monkey bars that much bigger kids
were playing on, and Jean said she thought it should be their goal to be
able to go across the bars on their own by the end of the year.
About 5 min later, Gemma went all the way across
on her own!
They also played solo tennis and ate more crepes.
Is it our imagination or is the whole milk here 53 percent fat?
Max and Gemma love watching videos from Mima and Umpa and making videos
back for them, and especially watching their own silly videos to Mima and
Umpa where they say things like "Happy Goodnightday to poop."
Mon, 8/10/15. Patiner.
Today we went roller blading and roller skating at La Tour Eiffel. I
actually didn't do it but Jean roller skated while Max and Gemma did
rollerblades for their first time. They were surprisingly good at it,
especially Gemma, who said she wants to get good at it so she can put on a
show. She was referring to a roller blader who was doing a street
performance near our apartment the other day. Our landlady went to the
police today to put a cease and desist order on our neighbor. Although
he's annoying, it shows what
a tourist driven city Paris is that a guy could get in legal trouble just
for bothering a family of Americans and complaining about noise. We've
noticed some other "little differences", to quote Pulp Fiction. For
example, the sign on our fridge with emergency phone numbers lists a
Does that refer to emergency haircuts? Also, a carton of eggs
has 10 eggs in it here. I guess because of the metric system, again to
quote Pulp Fiction. Max thinks the big decorative doorknocker things that
are everywhere around la Seine are "handcuffs".
We found a delicious cafe called Crepe Mamy off of Rue
St. Dominique on the way to La Tour Eiffel and it was so good we went
there twice today. Max was in a terrible mood on the way home but I think
he was just hungry, as after lunch he was fine.
In French class back home in LA, Max and Gemma's teacher Crystelle used to
sing this song with them about "Un Elephant" and it goes like
this , and it's funny because
right outside our apartment is a big statue of an elephant.
At night we walked along
the Seine into the 5th and 6th arrondissements, had another delicious
Amarino ice cream, and saw the school where they will probably go on Rue
Saint Andre des Arts. Jean's favorite ice cream flavor so far is
grapefruit, mine is hazelnut, Max's is strawberry, and Gemma's is nutella.
Sun, 8/9/15. Champs Elysees.
Today we walked to the Obelisk and then almost all the way up the Champs
Elysees. It was super crowded but very cool getting a close look at the
Obelisk and a relatively close look at l'Arc de Triomphe.
Jean told Gemma that the Obelisk is from Egypt and Gemma immediately asked
if Moses is on any of the pictures on it.
We stopped in a boulangerie and ate lunch
followed by a delicious chocolate eclaire which Max called a chocolate
hot dog, and Gemma got a big chocolate macaroon.
I have noticed that a lot of times when trying to walk somewhere, say to
the NorthEast, I will plan on taking one big street North, and then taking
another big street East. On the way, I might see a small street going
NorthEast and try to take it as a short cut, and about 90% of the time it
turns out to be a mistake, as the small street ends or curves around and
changes name and veers back toward one of the big streets, and thus was a
longer route than if I'd just stayed on the big streets.
Basically the shortest path between two points is complicated because the
directions are uncertain and changing. Maybe this is why the French
invented BOTH measure theory and probability.
After dinner tonight we went to the Quai d'Anatole again and Max and Gemma
played on these tetherball
things. Then we shared a couple crepes but they didn't have sweet ones
so we got one with eggs and one with egg and mushroom
but Max and Gems were not impressed. In ordering the crepes, they asked me
for my name so they could call me when they were done, and I said Rick.
After asking me a couple times, the guy wrote down Bregue. I think I need
to go by Frederic here.
Sat, 8/8/15. Deux pains au chocolat s'il vous plait.
This was another very successful day. We decided on the apt in the 5th. In
the morning Jean went to the Musee d'Orsay gift shop to get postcards so
we could show them to the kids before we go to the museum and then they
could look for those paintings when we get to the museum, probably
sometime next week. Then we got a snack in a little coffee and pastry
place, and Max and Gemma wanted a pain au chocolat and Jean said they
could only have it if they ordered it in French. They were very shy about
it but ended up ordering "Deux pains au chocolat s'il vous plait" after
much practicing. The woman was very amused and gave them their order,
which tasted extra sweet having worked for it. It was their first time
really saying something in French here other than "merci" or "au revoir".
As we sat outside and ate
in the cafe, Gemma had a very existentialist experience, asking Max "Is it
tomorrow, or yesterday?" We then took our first
Metro, and wanting to do something off the beaten track while it's August
and crowded, we went to the Lego exhibit at this museum in the 15th and it
was pretty lame but the kids enjoyed it a lot. Max's favorite part was the
video game in the gift shop. At night we walked on the quai Anatole again
and listened to the street performers play guitar. The kids swung very
bravely on the jungle gym and we played this French game kinda like Jenga
where you try to remove sticks without having monkeys fall off. By the
way, Gemma has a very loose tooth and my prediction is it's gonna fall out
on her birthday, in 10 days.
Fri, 8/7/15. La Tour Eiffel.
Today was a great day. In the morning we went to see another apartment,
this one a more spacious place in the 1st, and then went to the Tuileries
where Gemma started playing with two 7 year old
twin sisters, Olivia and Emile, while
I talked to their Dad, a journalist who was also named Frederic. Olivia
looks a lot like Zoe, and as we were leaving I told Gemma, "Doesn't Olivia
look like Zoe?" and Gemma responded "Yeah. I wish the real Zoe were here."
There was a little well type thing in the park where you pump and water
comes out, and Max and Gemma completely soaked themselves in the water,
which was nice because it was sunny and hot, like 85 degrees. We looked
for this creperie but it turned out to be closed. Actually a good number of the
restaurants people have recommended to us are closed for August. After a
nap, we walked toward La Tour Eiffel, eating at an incredibly delicious
restaurant again recommended by Ellen, where Max and Gemma got
complimented on their good behavior. It was a very adult place with very
adult food, and Gems was not happy when her shrimp was served with "soap",
which was really a delicious foam. For dessert they got the most delicious
ile flotante and profitteroles, which went over very well.
Gemma asked "Do I have chocolate on my face?"
Then we went
right up to La Tour Eiffel
which they were both very excited to see up
and we played in a little playground there.
We decided we like the apartment in the 5th slightly more, even though it
is smaller and not as nice inside, because we like the neighborhood more.
By the way, we are up to like 7 restaurants now and in these restaurants
we have seen zero children other than Max and Gemma, and 1 dog.
Thu, 8/6/15. Luxembourg.
Today was pretty similar to yesterday. We got up around 730, ate
breakfast, walked to the Tuileries and went on a couple rides. We had
promised Max yesterday that we'd take him on the merry go round but ran
out of time so we told him he could do it today, and
he demanded that it be first thing in the morning, after breakfast but
"before getting dressed". We didn't honor the latter request but did get to
the ride right when it opened and Max had a blast on the motorcycle
while Gemma sat on Bonjour Kitty. We were up early enough for Gemma to be the
first one drawing chalk on the huge black chalkboard on Quai d'Anatole.
They played at the Tuileries park again and
Jean and I sat next to a couple of American women who had kids and were
pregnant and were both living in Scotland the past few years and
spending the month in Paris. One had a Southern accent and knew absolutely
no French, and it was comical hearing her interact with a French man. She
asked "How do y'all say 'what's your name'?" He answered "My name is
Patrick" And she said "No, I mean, how do you ask someone what their name
is?" and he took a while to get it. You can't blame him. It would've been
hard for anyone living West of Mississippi to understand her. Jean and I
were remembering a Saturday Night Live skit where these southern American
women go to France and are in a restaurant and one says "Do y'all have 5
Alive?" and the other says "No, it's cinq. Do y'all have Cinq
Alive?" The waiter then brings them wine, and they're happy. Anyway, after
playing at the park we again walked to Lodgis, stopping at the lego store
before talking to Manuela again about apartments. She set up a meeting
with us and the owner of a place in the 5th on Rue St. Jacques, and we
went there and saw the place and liked it a lot. It's smaller than our
current one, but the area is wonderful and it did not seem to have a crazy
man yelling at us. He said we can't move in til the 22nd or so though,
which is fine. On the way back we got delicious ice creams at Amarino,
which we remembered adoring last time we were here, and then went to the
Jar Luxe where they have a HUGE kids play area
where you pay like 2.50 to
enter and there is just endless stuff to do. They have a circular zip line
for kids 7 and older and Gemma really wanted to do it. Probably in a few
months she can sneak on but we told her not today. We stopped on the way
home into a cheese shop and boulangerie recommended by Jean's friend Ellen
and ate them for dinner. The fuzzy aged chevre was unbelievably good.
The kids conked out immediately at 8pm. Jack hasn't bothered us today,
perhaps because Mme Roset has insisted that he leave us alone and stop
harrassing us, and said if he wants to complain he should call her. And
unless we are misreading her French, we think she said she is going to
have him arrested on Aug 25.
Apparently he did call her,
saying we never sleep and are making noise all hours of
the day. Whatever, crazy is crazy. It is nicer knowing we are moving out
soon. The irony is we are actually getting
over our jet lag amazingly well and quickly. We do have to get up to go
the bathroom in the middle of the night occasionally, but man, I remember
last time we were in Paris in 2004, and Jean and I for the first week were
up from like 2-5am every day. This time we have been close to normal from
the get go and I think by today already we're basically on a good
schedule. By the way, we have eaten with the kids at like 4 restaurants or
so, and are usually picking the most casual places possible,
and thus far we have seen a grand total of zero children not named Max or
Gemma at these restaurants.
Wed, 8/5/15. Tuileries.
We got up around 630am, had another delicious breakfast in
the apt, and walked around the Tuileries. There's some kind of carnival
amusement park thing
going on there, and Max and Gemma really enjoyed
playing not only in the park
but also on the rides.
We had a very nice
lunch at a Lebanese place, and also got an ice cream, with Max and Gemma
disappointingly opting for the bright blue candy flavor
instead of the
other delicious gelati choices. We walked to Lodgis, where we met with
very nice Manuela Falletta and told her we can't stay in our apartment and
want to move somewhere else. She showed us a place in the 15th, and we
told her about two we like in the 5th and 1st. She said she would look
into them and also would talk to Mme Roset-Petit. We had emailed Mme
Roset-Petit the day before, telling her we can't live like this with this
crazy guy under us, and she told us to call the police, which we have no
desire to do. Anyway, we felt it went well with Manuela Falletta and felt
optimistic we could switch. Max and Gemma were exhausted after all the
running in the playground and walking around in the heat, and fell
completely asleep in the office of Lodgis! Otherwise they didn't nap
though, and when we got back to our place at 730pm, Max conked out without
dinner and Gemma, Jean and I just ate a tiny dinner and went to sleep too.
Madame Roset wrote us that she texted Jack and hoped things would get
better with him, and sure enough it seems he hasn't complained tonight,
though Gemma just woke up crying at 2am and we are not sure but
it sounds like he cranked up his tv in response.
Tue, 8/4/15. Jack.
We all got up around 6am and had breakfast in the apt.
Around 7am Jack yelled at us to be quiet. We left and were out most of the
day exploring around our neighborhood
and trying to take advantage of the
last day of the solde. We thought about getting stuff from ikea like kid
beds and a dining table and chairs. We're currently using 2 chairs and a
bed and a little round table to eat off of, and Max and Gemma are sharing a
pullout couch. Instead though we walked to a department store called les
Galeries Lafayette and I bought some pants and underwear.
Max was hilarious, as I was asking workers there for help in
French and Max turned
to one and just started talking in jibberish. Also, in the streets when a
car comes close to him as he is crossing the street Max sticks his hand out
at the car and says ''stop''.
Max and Gemma seem to really like Paris by the
way, and Gemma said the city ''is so alive''. Here
is Gemma's Paris picture of the Eiffel tower, the lock Esmerelda gives the
hunchback of Notre Dame, l'Arc de Triomphe,
herself loving Paris, and a heart symbolizing our red apartment.
We spent a good amount of time
in a very nice toy store there where Gemma really wanted a music box
similar to one Jennifer has. Max and Gemma had their first crepe, both
deciding on nutella only. It went over very well. When we got back home
around 3:30, it only took til 4 for Jack to ring our bell and come over
again. He invited me in to his place for a drink, and I came in though
said I had to leave in a couple min. He kept trying to offer me a drink,
and rambled on and on about all kinds of things like gossip about Hillary
Swank living in this building and antisemitism in Paris, and how his
friends are moving to Israel and stuff. I kept having to cut him off. He
said the noise is terrible and this morning it was like living under a
racetrack. I repeatedly told him, I think 3 times, that we would be quiet
at night, like between 11pm and 630am, but otherwise could not guarantee we
would not make noise. Every time, he would say ''Yes, that's fine, normal
noise is fine,'' but then in the next breath he would say something crazy,
indicating that we were extremely noisy, like ''Just don't treat the
apartment like it's a racetrack.'' The weirdest part was that we felt we
hadn't been making any noise yet. All we'd done was sleep basically. I
left and went back to our place and we all took a nap. We ended up waking
up at like 830pm, and just ate a small dinner in the apt. I went on a
brief walk over the bridge with Max and Gemma and we looked at the lit up
Eiffel Tower which they loved. Max also loves pushing the buttons to cross
the street, even if we aren't crossing. We all went to sleep around 130am,
and as we were putting the kids down and then just lying in bed talking
about how crazy this Jack guy is, he started banging on his ceiling and
yelling at us.
Mon, 8/3/15. Welcome to Paris.
I've decided to start chronicling our days in Paris, partly
as a journal we can read years from now, and partly so we can remember what
day it is. The 10 days or so
before leaving, we put forth an enormous amount of effort into boxing and
moving our stuff to get ready for this trip. It was ridiculous actually,
with every day both Jean and me winding up completely sweaty and exhausted.
My bad decision was to get a truck, hire people to load our stuff into and
out of the truck, and use public storage in Colton, which was totally dirty
and dusty so we ended up changing to public storage in Redlands. We needed
two trips, the storage places closed much earlier than we expected and
traffic was awful, and it ended up being an extremely stressful and
exhausting thing. Even after moving most of our stuff out, we still had
tons of last minute things to get rid of or store, and again packing them
up in the last minute was really stressful and exhausting. We are pledging
never to do anything like that again.
We packed so much stuff, with
suitcases, 4 little backpacks and 4 carry ons. Navigating through
the airport was tricky. Max and Gemma were terrific on the plane, very
happily watching movies but hardly sleeping. The
flight was great and amazingly no one of us got sick. With all of our
luggage and a ridiculous line for the RER, we made a good decision to take
the bus to Paris, which was very convenient and nice, and then got two
taxis to take us to our apartment where the landlady
Madame Roset-Petit met us and was really nice and extremely classy.
She helped us pay for
one of our taxis who would only take cash and had no change. Then she
showed us around the apartment which was fine, with a great location, high
ceilings, sloped floors, and a beautiful glass elevator that Max and Gemma
loved to play with. Before she left, she said there's a crazy man
downstairs who always loves to talk and complain about noise, but just
ignore him. Then she left around 1pm. While Jean crashed and took a nap,
I walked around and had a delicious lunch with the kids, and then we
napped, walked around a little, got a light dinner, and I got some
groceries, and as we were getting ready for bed, sure enough the man
downstairs, Jack, rang our bell and said the walls and floors in the old
building are very thin and asked if we could keep it down.