Monday, April 20, 2015

April in Paris

Pretty much heaven. Crisp, hot-chocolate-inducing mornings. Cold breezes that made you pull your jacket tighter, followed by sunny blue-sky afternoons. Gypsies selling lilacs on the street. Sidewalks. History and art. Moderately interested children. Bread and cheese and chocolate. Grandparents.

Some particular memories:
- our first morning we were wide awake before 6am because of the time change. Rather than try to keep the kids quiet for sleeping grandparents, I bundled them up and we went down to the corner cafe for hot chocolate, which came as hot chocolate pudding in a mug with a small pitcher of steaming milk to mix in. The early morning feel, our first look at Paris, and stirring the hot foamy milk slooowly into the chocolate goo... delightful.

- Lucy bought a grapefruit at at street market all by herself, speaking French. We had to practice a bit before she went, because it turns out that 'grapefruit' in French is 'pamplemousse.'

- in true French form, we conceded defeat easily and often when it came to famous sights, backing out of lines for the towers of Notre Dame, the Eiffel tower tour, the Catacombes, and bailing on Utah beach in Normandy. (though we did go to Omaha beach and it made me want to cry.)

- We did go to the Louvre, which mostly entertained the kids by reminding them of a Studio C skit. I made a scavenger hunt for Theo that I think I should market (Find a mostly naked man. Find a mostly naked lady. Find a dead guy. Find a cat.).

- Lucy learned how to caramelize onions from her grandmother, and put in serious time with her grandfather looking at Foucalt's pendulum (which is very cool). Theo invented the sweater war (see below).

"I can't believe I'm THIS close to something THAT famous!"- Theo

There are no pictures of me in Paris. This almost looks like me, but you can tell it's Lucy- her legs are longer.
The stunning Saint Chappelle church.
Each one of those little glass panels is a story from the Bible.

Here you can see Lucy studiously examining the windows, and Theo working on his photo-bombing skills.

The kids called this Heaven Street. One night when we didn't want to choose, we ate Greek Salad, raspberries, Vietnamese spring rolls, french fries, a crepe, and ice cream cones for dinner.
Theo introduces Grandpa Martin to the joys of sweater wars, which pretty much consists of hitting each other repeatedly with sweaters.

Artie chokes 3 for a dollar.

We went to the glorious Mont St. Michel, a major site for Christian pilgrimages since the 8th century, and one of the most magical places I've ever been.

For starters, it had a real drawbridge. That had actually been used when the French held off a siege here for a year, because every morning the tide would come in and wash the attacking army's stuff away.
This place actually was what every Renaissance Fair is trying to be. Our guidebook said, "the main village street is awful- a garish tourist trap. But if it makes you feel any better, it's been exactly like that for a thousand years."
The story goes that Michael the Archangel appeared to the abbot and told him to build a giant building on that rock out in the sea. When the abbot was initially skeptical, St. Michael burned a hole in the abbot's head with his thumb and the man was convinced.

It was cool- it just seems to arise organically out of the rock.

At first they used nice little pillars, like these...
But when part of the building collapsed and tumbled into the sea, they got serious.

Chris and Theo
Theo got knighted. And photographed by Asians.

Monday, April 13, 2015

they're so spaced out

i was loading groceries into my car when i heard music and yelling coming from a man and a woman in the car next to me.  i couldn't help but over hear some choice words and conversation.  the woman was screaming at the man... lots of not nice things.  and the man was singing along to and increasing the volume of a very loud Bennie and the Jets.  
she would yell, "TURN THAT DOWN!!"
to which he would bang his head and look right at her and
yell/sing "BENNIE! (head bang)    BENNIE!".

 "WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR #$@%$ BREAKFAST?!?!", she would yell at him.


"DANG  IT!  (only she didn't say dang it)    WOULD YOU TURN THAT DOWN YOU  TURKEY (only she didn't say turkey)!!! WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR BREAKFAST!!??"

and he would look right at her and  sing at the top of his lungs,


she finally got out of the car and slammed the door and went into the store.

i chuckled about it all the way home, and told the kids.  now jack sings it full volume when ever he doesn't want to hear what i am saying.

 tim is thinking about using this tactic also..


I am the proud new owner of a fancy smartphone. At least it feels fancy to me, but that may be because I’ve never had the best of luck with cellphones. Although I’ve never broken a phone, I’ve had a long series of devices that have proved to be diseased and decrepit. I’ve only ever lost one, and even in that instance I believe the phone gods were working against me: while biking home after class one night in college my phone jumped out of my pocket and skittered across the ground at the perfect trajectory and speed to shoot it into a storm drain. By the time I brought Vivian back to help me try to retrieve it, that sucker was probably already in the Pacific Ocean.
One phone in particular was especially entertaining, though. It worked well for a while, but then one day the microphone completely stopped working. Since this was my third phone in as many months, I wasn’t thrilled about buying yet another, so I decided to hang onto it for a while. Inspired by my underhanded and thrifty sisters that discovered they could use the pay phone at Sierra High without putting in money by beeping their request to the person at home on the other end of the line, I decided to work out my own system of ‘beep-talk’. One beep meant positive, two meant negative, and multiple beeps indicated laughter. So my conversations went something like this:
Me: *silence*
Vivian: Hey Rach, you there?
Vivian: Are you going to be able to make it for dinner?
Vivian: Oh, too bad. Hey, remember that time my car battery died because we were using the headlights to look for your lost phone, so we recruited a bunch of frat boys to help us push-start it?
Vivian: “Hey boys, ever push-started a car before?” What a good pickup line!

Anyway. Yesterday I gave a Gospel Doctrine lesson using only my phone for access to scriptures, online quotes, and my notes on Google Docs, and then I came home and used it to video-chat with Mom, Beth and Sarah. My phone will also work to make calls and texts internationally, and I’m going to post this blog using my phone, just because I can. I know this is old-news technology for most people by now, but I can’t help but, how far I’ve come. It all seems too good to be true, and I’m just really hoping it doesn’t get abducted by a giant fruit bat in Sierra Leone and dropped in the Atlantic Ocean.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Hiring a surrogate

Last weekend I was a little sad that I didn’t get to be at home for Easter, especially since there are now a majority of sisters partying it up in California. But I decided that instead of spending the holiday alone, I’d invite myself to be a part of my friend Connie’s family in rural South Carolina for the weekend. This plan worked out splendidly because as it turns out, her family is essentially the southern version of ours - there are seven sisters who grew up rather unrestrained on sprawling country acreage, are still all close, love getting together for family dinners and singing around the piano, have rusty playground equipment and a metal building  in the backyard, and even have two cats that look exactly like Starbuck and Apollo. Perusing the family photo albums showed a lot of pictures of them as kids sporting only underwear and bad haircuts. In short order I had a herd of adopted nieces and nephews following me and asking me to swing them around, get in tickle fights, and catch frogs and tadpoles with them at the pond. Needless to say, I felt right at home. 

A lot of the similarities had distinct southern twangs to them, though. For example, the whole family went to a church that had the familial feel of Auberry Ward...but it was Southern Baptist, with a preacher that bellowed about judgment from God. Our grand Easter meal included collared greens, biscuits, grits, and fatback lima beans. The brothers-in-law had loaded handguns sticking out of the back of their slacks during the Easter family photo. 

Even though I’m from California and that means I am “essentially a Yankee”, her family seemed pretty willing to adopt me in. Her dad was especially fond of least, after I proved my countriness to him a couple ways. First, he came across me teaching some of the younger boys how make bird calls by whistling grass. His eyes reevaluated me and he said “huh. I thought you were a city girl.” Then nodded approvingly to me, and walked off. I’ve never been prouder. Second, I passed a true test of Southernness by playing gospel and country songs with him on the guitar all afternoon. In case you’re wondering how I know gospel and country songs - I don’t. When he invited me to play with him, we quickly realized he wasn’t going to know any of the few songs I know (Ever heard of Ben Harper? No? How about Iron & Wine?). So I told him to just start playing and I would try to follow along. He had this wonderful deep voice that drawled along while I picked my way through the chords I mimicked from him. Sometimes Connie and her sisters would sing or play along on the piano and I even got to mess around on a banjo and it was Afterward, Connie said that jam session secured my spot as her dad’s favorite guest.

So it was with dismay he reacted to the news that I am going to turn my back on the south and move back west. Couldn’t I just live with them and go to Augusta Medical College right down yonder? I demurred, and so he tried to figure out when I could at least come visit again. I told him that actually, I am only going to be in the south a few more weeks altogether, because I am going to Africa to help with the Ebola response. That was where he lost it. He threw his hands in the air and exclaimed, “WHAT!! You mean I’ve finally found someone to play the gee-tar with me and now I’m gonna LOSE ‘ER TO EBOLA?!?

Somehow it was the most endearing thing that anyone I’ve only known for two days has said to me, and hilarious to boot. After a weekend full of charm and hospitality from a family that felt so similar to my own, I toyed with the temptation of switching from western mountain garbage and going full southern country and staying with them forever. The dogwood trees and wisteria were in bloom around their property, they had a big porch with rocking chairs and a prime view for watching thunderstorms over the valley, and for heaven’s sake, the kids all called me ‘Miss Rachel’. It was the cutest. In the words of my southern friends, “If that don’t light yer fire, yer wood’s wet!”

But the land of farmers markets and recycling and mountains and my real family is calling me. And it will be nice not to have to worry that I might get shot by a gun going off accidentally at the dinner table. While it was entertaining to spend a holiday with our family’s southern doppelgänger, I guess I’ll keep y’all. It just might help if you teach your kids to speak in soft southern accents.