Tue, 1/19/16. Freezing!

Today and yesterday have been so cold, with highs like 1 or 2 degrees Celsius and lows around -4. It's so cold, our apartment doesn't get warm even if we leave the heat on. Today Max stayed home with me after school while Jean took Gems to ballet class. Gems calls Jean "Ma" now for some reason, and me "Da". Maybe it's too cold for the full word. The markets don't have a lot of fruit options these days. They have oranges, tangerines, apples, and kiwis, but that's about it. There are no melons of any kind, no more delicious pears and persimmons as they had in the Fall, and occasionally berries but rarely. Jean has delusions about Max and Gems being tall enough to ride Space Mountain before we leave Paris. You have to be 4 foot 4, which is the average height of an 8.5 year old boy. Max is currently 3 foot 11 and Gems is 3 foot 9 and a half, measuring with my 6 inch ruler, so it's probably plus or minus 1 or 2 inches. Above are pictures of a huge millefeuille from La Theiere and below is a picture from today of Gems imitating a mannequin in a store. Tonight Max played guitar while they watched the intro to Doc McStuffins, Jean and I applauded, and Gems said "Hey how come Max gets all the applaudience?"

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Mon, 1/18/16. Appointment aschmointment.
Today Jean and I had our appointment with the police dept at noon to renew Jean's residency permit. Max was sick, so we called our babysitter Jayne who fortunately could watch him and Gems. However, when we went to the police station, after waiting about 20 min at the welcome desk with nobody there at all, the woman finally came and told us that although we had our appointment, there was nobody there who could see us, so we needed to make another one. She then paused and looked at me, I guess expecting me to say something, but what could I say? I just said "Ok." The French way must be to complain, and then she would say "sorry", and make another appointment for me, but I didn't feel like dancing that dance. I asked if we could wait and see someone later today, and got the following answer "Non." Anyway, I don't think anyone will be surprised about Paris bureaucracy at this point. Jean and I just went out to lunch at le theiere, which was great as always. On the way back we stopped at a beautiful little boutique shop called "boutique pour les filles" or something, and it was the most French store I've ever seen, with a complete mishmash of a few shoes, a few sweaters, jackets, and pants, and lots of different kinds of jewelry, all shoved in a store sbout the size of an average bathroom in the U.S.

Sun, 1/17/16. Sick day.
We all stayed in all day today. Max has a cold, I'm still congested and coughing, and Jean and Gems were trying not to get it. It's been very cold here and any outing means putting on lots of clothes and gearing up for some serious cold. Instead we watched lots of tv and movies. Jean and I saw The Martian which was just like the book. We both thought it was just ok, with great special effects but not much in the way of human interest. The kids watched Azur and Asmar, and we watched some of it too. It's great! It's really mesmerizing, and even though it's only in French the kids seemed to understand most of it. In one scene there's a party where a band is playing Arabic music and a few minutes later Gemma was humming the music the band played.

Sat, 1/16/16. Ella the Magician and M the Cleric.
Today we were sitting around, trying to get over a little cold Max and I have, and I was asking the kids if they want to do this or that, like play Monopoly or checkers or whatever, and they weren't too interested, so I asked if they'd want to play Dungeons and Dragons and they immediately perked up with interest. So we played a little, mostly making characters and buying supplies. Gemma's character was a magician she named Ella, who decided to buy plate mail armor, a bow and arrow, a dagger, a wand that shoots light out of it, and a parrot named Bossy. Max's character is a cleric named M, with chain mail, a backpack, food and water, and a bow and arrows. So far in the dungeon they encountered a mouse which they refused to fight so it ran away, and then a green pillow with a face, hands, and legs, which Ella shot and killed on her first try, and the pillow stuffing flowed out of it like blood, allowing them to each steal a gold piece hidden underneath it, and also to capture two potions. They're very interested in what will happen when we continue tomorrow, which I'm only gonna do if they let me sleep well tonight. Usually Max wakes up at the crack of dawn and wakes everybody up especially me. Yesterday we had the lightning round in Jay's tennis rotisserie. Jean has Nishikori, Tomic, and Thiem. My Dad has Murray, Lopez, and Gasquet who's not playing. I have Ferrer, Raonic, and Monfils.

Fri, 1/15/16. Peabody and Sherman.
Max got mad at Jean for speaking English when we picked him up from school. He said she's the only one who does it. I guess it might embarrass him, though maybe he was just in a bad mood and would have gotten mad about anything. At night we watched Peabody and Sherman which is surprisingly good and funny. We all liked it a lot, all four of us.

Thu, 1/14/16. Hail.

Today it hailed for about 10 minutes! It was beautiful, though the rest of the day was sunny and extremely cold. Jean and I went to our lunch place Cosi, after a long hiatus, and it was surprisingly crowded, filled with Brits. The Directrice of the kids' school, Madame Dupichot, has been extremely nice to us since we have instituted our new policy of making Max and Gemma say hi to her in French really loud every morning, otherwise we don't bring their trotinettes when we pick them up in the afternoon. Max and Gemma are surprisingly agreeable about this and their new relatively sugarfree diet, other than 2 treats per week each, and every morning they get pancakes with a little honey on them.

Wed, 1/13/16. L'Orangerie.

Today we signed Jean up for the gym down the street and did some errands including finding coconut oil finally at the local Asian market after checking like 4 other markets, and going back to the Post Office for the parcel they said was here for us but somehow they don't have it still. We then took the kids to the creperie for their weekly treat and then to the musee l'orangerie for the big circular Monets, which we all liked. Max and Gemma have started their own detective agency, which conveniently runs out of our living room, where they find lost toys and books, and usually charge just 20 centimes per toy. It's a bargain, and is right next to Max's imaginary Amorino gelati stand.

Tue, 1/12/16. Coccinelle.
My French hit a new low today as I got corrected by a two year old. Auri's 2 year old sister Iiris, who's not even French but Finnish, corrected me on my pronunciation of "coccinelle", which means ladybug. I realized today that there are a bunch of places we often go that are all about 25 min walk away from us: the ballet class, my basketball gym, the musee d'Orsay, the Louvre, the Pompidou museum, the Picasso museum, Jean's french class, the Arenes de Lutece, and the Jardin des Plantes. They're all almost exactly the same distance from us.

Mon, 1/11/16. Substitute teacher.
Madame Gentil, Gemma's teacher, hurt her back and will be out all week, so Madame Becker, a substitute, is replacing her. She seems nice. Jean went back to French class today while I made copies and filled out forms, getting all our documents ready for next week when we have our hopefully final meeting with the police to approve our French residency for this year. Max and Gemma were kind of wild tonight, jumping on their beds and into our laps and stuff. At one point Max collided into Jean and hurt his butt. Jean asked if he was ok, and he said "I'm fine. I just don't think I can poop ever again."

Sun, 1/10/16. La Sirene.

Today we tried speaking French only to each other for a whole day, for the first time. We got tired and ended up quitting, but til then it went pretty well. We went to the aquarium to see the mermaid show, and also saw their octopus and other cool fish and some very good movies. On the way back we went to the spice market in the 7th, which Jean loved shopping in while the kids and I sat eating raisin bread and drawing pictures on napkins. I would tell them something to draw and then they'd draw it. Interestingly, when I told them "a sun looking at the moon", Max drew a full moon as shown above. Gemma's all were very good and sort of sensible, whereas Max's were all kind of crazy but interesting. We saw some huge slabs of beef hanging in the Grand Episserie and Max pointed at one and decided it was dragonmeat.

Sat, 1/9/16. Vacuum bones.
Today was a lazy day where we just stayed home, rested, and cleaned up a little. Jean vacuumed, and while the vacuum cleaner parts were on the floor Max called them "vacuum bones", which they kinds look like actually. Max and I went to Monoprix and picked up boxes there for free, which Max and Gemma are decorating and using as toys. Gemma doesn't like Monoprix Roquefort cheese and says it tastes like playdoh.

Fri, 1/8/16. Museum of Decorative Arts.

Our landlord, Frederic Reille, was working all day installing a new hot water heater in our place and it is finally up and working now. Hooray. Today we went to the museum of decorative arts, right near the Louvre, and it was completely empty. We seriously only saw a handful of people in the whole huge museum. It was definitely one of the strangest museums of all time and I'm not sure if I liked it or not. It was just such a hodgepodge. It was like if you went to some rich person's house, and they said "And I also have this, and then I also have this." There was a big collection of French toys, dolls and books, and then computers were set up with little video games and songs for kids, which Max and Gems liked. Then there was a huge collection of middle age art and furniture, and we kept going up and up the floors, of which there were 10 in all, and it kept getting weirder and weirder until you got to the top with French furniture from the 1940s and a cool sculpture of a man pulling another man's earlobes. The last two photos above show Gemma and me next to a sculpture of the great mathematician Laplace. At night I played basketball. I played badly, but it's funny how my stamina is actually much better than these 20somethings. On the way home I was wondering if, when we're old and looking back on our lives, we will think of this year as the best year of our lives. It doesn't really feel like a vacation, as life with 5 year old twins probably can't feel like a vacation ever. But it is definitely a lot of fun.

Thu, 1/7/16. Austrian Consulate.

Today I took the kids to the French translation place to pick up our marriage certificate which they'd just finished translating, and then, while Jean was at her French class, the kids and I went to the Austrian Embassy to pick up Max and Gemma's citizenship document and apply for passports for them. The passport applications have to be done with the kids and both parents there in person, but I was hoping we could maybe do the kids' parts now and then I could go back with Jean later. I didn't have much hope this would work though, since usually the answer to any type of request like this is a simple no. The woman who worked there, Michaela Steiger, was so incredibly nice and helpful. It was kind of shocking. I guess we've been getting used to French administrative service and it seems like Austrian service is significantly better, or maybe Michaela is just an exception. She was amazing. She gave me all the forms I needed to fill out and helped me do them. She also allowed us to fill out the passport application in pieces, with me filling out some things with Max and Gems there in the morning, and then she made an appointment for Jean and me to go back at 3pm and we both signed off on it. I asked what documents she needed out of my huge folder of documents, and she said "Just give me everything you have and I'll go through it" while I filled out the forms, which was also really great. And, she spoke perfect English. All in all I was so happy about how helpful she was, and we now have their Austrian citizenship forms and it seems we will be getting their passports in 3 weeks or so. After the embassy I took the kids back to school, and then met Jean at Galerie Vivienne where we celebrated exactly 13 years to the day since we first came to Paris together, in 2003, for 3 months. The teahouse in Galerie Vivienne, called A Priori The, was the first place we ate on that trip, so it was fun to go back there and reminisce a little. It was still good! The other thing that happened was our water heater broke on Tuesday and our landlord came today to fix and replace it, which left us waterless most of the day, without even the possibility of flushing the toilet. Now we have cold water at least and he says we will have hot water tomorrow. He gave us the keys to an apartment upstairs in the meantime so we can shower there if we want. Today at school they told us Gemma's teacher, Melanie Gentil, hurt her back so she won't be there tomorrow and they could not find a last min replacement, so the kids get a day of hookie tomorrow. We were thinking of going to Versailles but it's so cold, and a little bit rainy, so I think we will wait til it's warmer. We got a letter in the mail yesterday saying we have something mailed to us and to pick it up at the post office today, Jan 7, after 4pm. So I went at 5:45pm and the man said "Yes, it says that, but actually it's not here yet. It will be here tomorrow morning, around 9 or 10am." It's probably the Christmas presents Marlena, Randy, or Nan said they sent us about a month ago. Vive la France!

Wed, 1/6/16. Gallette.

Today is the 12th night of Christmas, so in France they celebrate by eating these pies called gallettes, that have a toy hidden inside them somewhere and a crown around the outside of the pie, and whoever gets the toy gets the crown. They had one in Max's class and he got the crown, and the toy turtle. Gemma was jealous so we got an apple gallette after school and shared it, but nobody found the toy and we couldn't eat any more so we poked through the rest to find the toy and gave the bite it was hidden in to Gemma, making sure she would win the crown. We're not sure what they toy was. It's shown in the last photo above. In the morning Jean tried out the gym near us and liked it, and in the afternoon we went to the Lutece and met Zadig and family there for some soccer. His mom Aurelie said she's gonna make a gallette tonight. She and Tabue have both never seen any of the Star Wars movies. Tomorrow we are off to the Austrian Consulate to apply for passports for Max and Gems. We got their photos taken today, which are the serious photos shown above. You're not allowed to smile or have your mouth open in your passport photos in Europe.

Tue, 1/5/16. Gemma's meltdown.

Yesterday we got this awesome book Doug made of photos of legos in interesting scenery, and he published it himself and sent it to us. We all loved it and Max and Gems especially want to look at it over and over. It is called "Small Beings in a Big World" and I'm just amazed how good it is. As soon as I read it yesterday, they wanted me to read it again, and first thing this morning Max wanted me to read it with him. Today after school we went to ballet class and on the way back Gems had a major meltdown, crying and crying about how Auri wasn't giving her a turn to sing, in the sing and response game they were playing on the walk home. I think mostly they were just tired. It was kinda funny though how Gemma went up to me and said "How do you say It's My Turn?" I told her, and then she came back and said "It didn't work. How do you say It's My Turn Now!?" While the kids were at school today, Jean and I went to the d'Orsay and saw this great lunchtime concert they had there, with pieces from lots of French composers. It was really terrific. I kept thinking during it how amazingly talented the performers were and how, while humankind might drive itself into extinction, we've had a pretty good run and have been able to achieve some pretty good things, this concert being one of them. Tonight I played basketball for the first time in a couple weeks since it was closed for the holidays. I got picked a ridiculous 6th out of 14 players, whereas I should be like 10th or 11th. But actually for some reason I played really well, making like 9 out of 12 shots or so. When I first showed up at basketball, one of the guys said "Happy New Year" and I responded "Bonne annee", and then asked him if they say "Bonne annee, or bonne nouvelle annee", and he answered without hesitation, "Neither, we usually say N*c Ta Mere, MotherF***er." It was pretty funny. I'd forgotten how much those guys swear. I've been constantly around 5 year olds for the last couple weeks and it was a bit of a shock.

Mon, 1/4/16. Back to school.
Last night Jean and I watched the pilot of the tv show Versailles. Jean thought it was not bad and I thought it was pretty terrible. I don't know why they have to make everyone speak totally unrealistically in almost every historical movie or tv show. In this one all the royal people speak in proverbs basically, like they're making speeches to each other. The King speaks to his wife privately saying stuff like "My Queen, the unborn child in your womb will fulfill our royal birthright and bring France renewed strength and vigor." Plus they went with the Laura Braverman ending which was kind of hilarious, and got me to want to look up what ever happened to Richard Gere and the gerbil rumor. It turns out the guy who started the rumor confessed in 2012, at least according to some article I saw on the web. Anyway, yesterday was our first dessert free day in a long, long time, and today we had another one on the first day back to school, which I thought might be a problem but the kids are really being good about it. Today I went back to the translator's office to get our marriage certificate translated into French, which has to be done by an official translator of course. They also want copies of all the documents so I made the copies today. It's amazing how many documents they say they need. I counted 14 in all, plus they probably will ask for more, as this seems to be the French way. Today Jean went back to her French class and, while the kids were at school, Jean felt she missed her Quatl, which is what we are calling Gems as a reference to Total Recall, since she always wants to hang out in Jean's lap. When we picked Max and Gems up from school today, the Directrice gave us a handwritten card from Diana the lunchlady thanking Max and Gemma for the delicious fig jam we gave her for Christmas. We still haven't really met her but she's apparently Max's best friend in France.

Sun, 1/3/16. Oups.
Today we metrod to la Defense and saw Oups J'ai Rate l'Arche, which in English is called All Creatures Big and Small. The kids loved it. I found it to be a ripoff of Finding Nemo without the humor. Jean watched the Hunger Games next door and liked it. Jean and I often joke about how many French names are a common French first name followed by a French 1 vocab word, like our first landlord Michelle Petit. The producer of Oups was Jean-Renee Musique, another perfect example. Max was a bit traumatized by the mall toilet which flushed automatically and noisly while he was pooing on it. On the way back Max and Gems enjoyed being right in the front seat of Metro 1, which runs automatically without a driver, so they pretended to be driving it. I'd never been in the very front of a metro like that before and have to admit it is pretty cool. Tomorrow is the first day of school again, and already today everything was noticeably less crowded than it has been all week. It also was raining today which might have contributed.

Sat, 1/2/16. Miam Miam.

Today we went to delicious Miam Miam for lunch, and discussed what country's traditional food we would most want to eat if it was the only food we could ever eat again. My top 2 would be Italy and France though Korea would be in my top 5. They just miss a top spot because of the lack of what I consider real desserts. Jean would pick Korea and Mexico at or near the top and felt it'd be hard to live without ever having spicy food again, but even she had to go with Italy and France in her top 5 or so. We disagreed sharply about Mexico, India, Japan, Austria, and Thailand. I like Indian food, but if I had to eat it every day for the rest of my life, I think it would be a short life. Speaking of food, yesterday we brought tons of snacks to Disneyland so we could eat while waiting in the lines. Julien and Ewelina were surprised that we brought so many vegetables. Ewelina said she thought Americans only ate hot dogs and hamburgers. So she was impressed. On the other hand, we tried to start our new year's resolution to eat more healthily and then Jean and the kids decided to make a chocolate cake tonight. At night we skyped with Ella who is working on her first illustrated novel, about a bunny who is getting ready for the first day of school, and puts "buttermilk syrup" on her breakfast and then makes a carrot cake, with a full uncut carrot in it. Today Max and Gems opened their last Christmas presents, which were good ones, the movie The Lion King and a hidden picture book. Max is obsessed with money lately and always loves counting and recounting his coins. Here are videos of Gems cubing and Max dancing.

Fri, 1/1/16. Disneyland 2016.

We started off the new year in style, going to Disneyland early in the morning and meeting Clara and her parents, Ewelina and Julien, there. We had a great time. The magic hour before the public is let in was fantastic with no lines, and then even after 10am the lines were short because everyone else was hungover from New Years Eve. It only got crowded in the afternoon, and we ended up leaving around 5pm. Our only mishap was after waiting several min for Pirates they announced it was broken. The last 3 photos above show Small World's depiction of the United States. You can see the French one above too, and we kept asking Ewelina which one was Poland and she kept saying "That one is Poland! And that one is Poland!" Max's favorite ride was Buzz Lightyear and the train, Casey Jr., which I also liked a lot. It was surprisingly good as a mix of kinda fast and not scary, and most of the others liked Peter Pan or the rockets. Julien said his favorite was the coffee. He was really funny all day, in a very French way, saying stuff like "Do you like how I drove?" after he and Clara rode in the front of Casey Jr.

Click here for the Paris journal from 2015.