Sunday, February 28, 2010

Off to the Races

Here they are... The oft-discussed first steps!

video

I guess this means we're officially into toddlerdom?

video

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Studies

JJ says this may be the only proof she gets of me studying. I think she'll get some more chances. I'm going to have to learn how to do it if I want to get anywhere with this language.
Today I was in the elevator with another tenant of our apartment. I asked him how he was doing today... he responded with a 'what/how'... I repeated... he asked 'are you American'? Guess I'd better get back to practicing. Last month I was asked if I'm German. I took that as a half-step up. If so, I'm going backwards.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Rupp Arena Signage

My favorite Rupp Arena sign from December:


My new favorite sign in Rupp Arena I saw on the broadcast of the South Carolina game.
It read:
"Superman Wears John Wall Underwear"

Genius. Glad there's creativity back in the Big Blue Nation.

Go Cats!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Control

For the past four months through some 500 diaper changes, I've not received a single baby boy shower. Well maybe one or two. Cold air, warm air, extended time in his birthday suit... none of it had driven Sawyer to pee out in the open. Until recently.

In the last few weeks he seems to have lost control! Nearly every time I open up a diaper, barely seconds transpire before the fountain is switched on and unleashed. Sometimes short bursts, sometimes a flow that could rival my best and have me reaching for towels to swap one after another. What happened to my son who would squirm, fight, scream, play, and crawl away, but never water the house during a diaper change? Is he early to become a middle-aged man and do I need to search the internet for those commercials that ask, "Do you have a going problem?"

I had wondered all this and more, before yesterday.

In a moment of clarity, just 24 hours ago, it struck me: Sawyer had not lost control, he'd gained it!

He was lying on the table and I'd just opened his diaper. I pulled the front down a few inches. That instant a short surge of urine shot straight up in the air and gave me the ever-stylish wet-hair look. Immediately my son bellowed out in laughter. I thought to myself, "he always laughs when he pees on me." But I noticed something this time. His laugh was immediate, and deep. Almost like it was anticipatory. He'd been waiting for this moment! I had instinctively covered him back up, and I went back to the business at hand. I pulled the diaper down, waited, nothing. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw his grin... but either I thought it was residual from the earlier laughter, or I simply processed it too late. As I removed the old diaper altogether, the flow started up again. This time not a short burst, but a long continued flow that could have washed away mountain villages and made even Noah nervous. I grabbed wipes, extra clothes, towels, everything in arm's reach. From my chest outward I was soaked like I'd been bobbing for apples, and sure enough, Sawyer had been laughing hysterically since the beginning.

No, no, this was no loss of control. He had everything under control and was quite pleased with himself.

Behavior noted, my son is a baby no more. It's time to make some changes...

Anyone have a towel?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Who needs a nap?

One of the things I love most about parenting is that it's so fluid. You learn as you go. Kids don't pop out with a manual (written or pdf!). Although plenty of books on shelves in stores purport to be manuals for your children, I say they're all hogwash. Most of them just spend 75% of their pages telling you why every other book is wrong, and then give questionable advice in the other pages. Some are ok I guess. But I personally... am way off point. So raising kids is fun, because there's rarely a clear-cut way to do much of what we do as parents. We make decisions based on prayer and what seems right, sort of like the leaders of the first church did (see acts 15:28). One decision we've been wrestling with is if it's time to drop Sawyer to one nap a day. He never seems to like the idea of his morning nap and sleeps for shorter amounts of time each week. Yesterday he showed us that the morning nap is still a necessity. Here we are in the Jewish section of town (reminded me a lot of Little Italy in NYC, guys outside the restaurants telling you their's is the best and you must come in, the best table is for you!) about to get lunch. We went in and I took off the backpack and sat it down, he just stayed in it like that asleep for about 30 more minutes while we ate. And who knew the Jews made such good food?! Falafels, I am a fan!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Our Lady

I'm going to spit some sweet French skill at you... Did you know that "Notre Dame" means "Our Lady"? You did? Ok, so I'm not that impressive yet. But this morning as we were leaving our house to go see one of the most famous churches in the world, Notre Dame, it struck me: "notre is a French word that means our, and dame means lady, how about that!?" When I said it out loud, I suddenly didn't feel so smart. I'd just used my newfound french language ability to figure out something everyone else in the even slightly cultured world already knew. Oh well, baby steps.

So we went to the Notre Dame today! We have a short break from language school and decided to get back into the city and do some touristy stuff as well as wonder the streets and pretend we're locals. Notre Dame is, in a word, impressive. It's huge, it's beautiful, and it's an interesting dichotomy of museum and working church inside. Inside, I couldn't help but imagine being in there late at night before the days of electricity with a storm raging outside. Then we imagined what it must have been like for the thousands who once (or more?) sought refuge while troops beat on the doors and war threatened outside. Then I thought how cool it would be to set up my drums and have a kickin' band together to rock the Notre Dame. The acoustics in there are incredible! Is that sacreligious? Oh well, my bad.

The sculpting outside (and in) really was a thing to marvel about. If it wasn't crazy windy and cold, and if I didn't have an ever-growing and squirming boy on my back, I would have loved to sit outside and walk through the hundreds of stories depicted, imagining what meaning was being artistically rendered in each little nook and cranny. Here's a few stories below that I did check out, and if the details (or entire stories) are wrong, sorry. I didn't fact check (or really check anything at all... just think I heard it, or maybe made it up).

This is a cool one with a story. Across the front of the cathedral stand the kings of the Old Testament. Way back when, some revolutionaries came through and chopped off all their heads, assuming they were French kings (they've since been restored). Clearly they didn't own a Golden Children's Bible, or they would have immediately recognized the figures as Biblical Kings and left them alone.

Didn't know the priests had played in some of the early Super Bowls, did you? No, they hadn't. These were just some of their jewelry from the past. I'm pretty sure that one in the middle is wider than about 3 or 4 of my (rather feminine) fingers combined. So this is what the leaders of the church wore on their fingers, back during times that a lot of regular folks were literally starving to death. I'm starting to understand more of why most of the French have a strong dislike for the church.

Last month I threw up a picture of John the Baptist's head on a silver platter. St Dennis here has a pretty fun story to go with his head. I don't mean that the beheading was fun. Sorry Dennis... that's not what I meant at all. Folklore has it that after being beheaded for not bowing to the Roman gods, Dennis picked up his head, cleaned himself up a bit, and then walked off in the distance, head in tow, to find a good place to go home and meet his maker.

One thing we didn't get to do today was go up the bell tower and stand face-to-face with the gargoyles up top. We did see from a distance the massive and incredibly creepy structures though. And our favorite is the bored gargoyle, who sits head in hands with a "woe is me" countenance.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Say Cheese! 246 times.

"How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?"
-Charles De Gaulle

And what is this one? That's cheese.
And that one? Cheese.
What about the white one there? Also cheese.
This one? Still cheese.

One of the things that France is famous for is cheese (also see: bread, wine, berets, man-pris, white flags, and saying "z" a lot). There's a lot of cheese here. And a lot of different kinds. Our venture into the cheese realm has been exploratory but cautious. We've found out that there's some really good stuff over here. Some early favorites of ours are Compté, Leerdammer, Gouda, Abondance, Gruyère. Those are all hard cheeses, all have different flavors and are great when fresh on bread, sandwiches, or even by themselves. There are also a lot of soft cheeses here. By soft, I mean the consistency of like a pumpkin pie or a brick of meting butter. JJ's willing to dive into that world of cheese; me not so much. Then there's all the cheeses with blue, green, black, and purple throughout. Sort of like a chocolate marble cake but a little more colorful. I'm out. Not even slightly interested. Maybe in 20 years. Doubt it though.


This photo is from a cheese-tasting that JJ went to. She said some were good, some were not terribly pleasant, and some were just awful. Yeah, that's some of those blue/green spots I mentioned. It's not not a vegetable quiche. Not food coloring or additives. Think more of the damp corners of your basement. Would you want to eat that stuff?

Sawyer's taken pretty well to enjoying the cheese here. One thing's for certain: he'll never be a Kraft Mac&Cheese kid.

Which reminds me... there's no cheddar cheese here. I mean, every now and then you find it imported, but it's not one of the 246. They don't like it and dismiss it as poor American junk. Maybe I'm a poor connoisseur, but I still like (and miss) my cheddar cheese.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

First Frenchie Haircut

Before:
Yep, Fabio Salsa. Pretty Sweet. On a Tuesday because it's a couple euros cheaper on Tuesdays.

During:
Complete with lemon tea, friendly conversation, and smiles.

After:
Not bad, eh?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Les Baguettes

French bread, ah! How I love the baguette. It’s one of the things I was most excited about in coming to France, and it’s not disappointed.

Before coming here, we’d heard that the French were so obsessed with their bread that they bought a new loaf everyday. Seemed absurd to us. In college we’d often go to Jimmy John’s and buy a loaf of the day-old bread, still soft and incredibly tasty! But I said it seemed absurd. We totally get it now. We bought a couple loaves and enjoyed the tasty goodness for both lunch and dinner. Then the next day we broke out the remainder for an addition to our meal, but quickly realized that it would be good for little more than breaking teeth. The thing was as hard as a rock. It really is only good for one day! Maybe less preservatives? Not sure...

It’s pretty funny to see people everywhere at all hours of the day walking down the streets with long baguettes in hand.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saving the planet or saving money?

France is much greener than the US. Not green like Yellowstone National Park, but green like a commune of hippies trying to save the planet. Every day we pass people on the road walking with empty shopping bags and/or a large sac on wheels. Groceries and shops here typically don’t even ask the question “paper or plastic?”, they simply expect you to bring your own. And so everyone has their own reusable bags that make the trip with them to buy just about anything.

Another ‘green’ aspect of this country is the lights. Almost all communal space (hallways, bathrooms, staircases, shared rooms, foyers) will be dark upon entry if you’re the first person in over a few minutes. Either a motion sensor will activate the lights or there will be a button glowing in the dark somewhere that you press and get 30 seconds to 5 minutes of light. Then the lights go back off and never risk being left on.

I’m guessing lights here didn’t always have timers and motion-detectors, and people may have once used disposable bags. So what brought about the change? Was it an inward desire to make changes that save the environment? Difficult, as portrayed in movies like ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ and as it continues to be a hot topic of discussion in the US with concerts and hip celebrity appeal, but little real change. Or was it simple economics? Supply was decreasing rapidly as resources disappeared, demand increasing, and thus prices went so high people had no choice but to institute changes? I really have no idea. Maybe when we get our first electricity bill in a month, I’ll have a clue...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Blades Everywhere!

There are rollerbladers all over the place here. In places you wouldn’t expect. “But wait,” you may be thinking, “isn’t it cold outside with snow and slush covering the ground?” Yes. It is. And so they skate through malls, subways, a rare patch of cleared ground in the city, just about anywhere that the ground isn’t terrain better-suited for alaskan huskies. It’s weird to be standing in the cereal aisle and have someone zip by, gliding on their 8 wheels. I’m sorry, it just is. Don’t they realize that rollerblading was a fad in the US that went out with neon colors, Alf, and the word “NOT!”?

I’d read in a magazine before coming here that the sport or rollerblading had lived on in Paris after it disappeared in the US. So much so that there are races, clubs, and underground posses... even police who train and work daily on wheels to keep up with the civil skaters. I’m here to tell you that it at least appears to be true.

I think some of the skaters down at our super-shopping center are actually employees. It kind of makes sense to send someone on wheels down to aisle 27 for a price check, I guess? Still, I look up every time and shake my head just a bit.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Le Louvre

We live in Paris, right? Well, not exactly. You see, Paris is a well-defined area, with no room for growth. There is a road that surrounds the city called the boulevard périphérique. Sort of like a by-pass or similar highway that circles an american city, the périphérique circles Paris, and everything inside the circle is Paris, everything outside is not. We live outside the périphérique, and after a month of living here, we actually had not yet made it inside! That's right, we live in Paris and after one month we'd not been to Paris! This weekend, we changed that.

The first Sunday of each month means free admission to all Paris museums, so we thought we'd take advantage of one of the coldest free Sundays of the year and head to the Louvre in February. We plotted our route on the trains/subways and took off for the day. We didn't bother to bring maps though, and when we tried to change trains for the second leg of our trip and discovered that the train was shut down (not sure why, but lots of police, red tape [literal red tape], dogs, and such blocking the wing of the train station), we had to improvise with no real plan and no directions to follow. So we walked. And looked at maps on bus stations. And generally got lucky. Along the walk through downtown Paris, we did discover a little bit of why people seem to like this city. There's something captivating about the place. It's nice. You should come.

As we were walking, I had to find a bathroom bad. Luckily, this little guy popped up in my path:
Sort of like a port-a-potty but more permanent, cleaner, and automated. I'd read in a book once that you have to pay for these streetside stalls, but thankfully this one read "gratuit" on the door. So I pressed a button to open the door and went inside. When the door closed, I prepped myself for the task at hand and saw a red lever on the door. Assuming the lever to be the locking mechanism, I pulled it. The door immediately swung open and a voice started telling me to exit, over and over again. Try as I might, I couldn't get the door to close again, so I obeyed and stepped outside. The door then shut and a wash cycle commenced to fully clean the unit while I stood outside in the cold doing the peepee dance. Don't push the lever, it doesn't lock the door!

We eventually found our way to the Louvre. A big old building full of art. It's pretty cool. In the middle courtyard is this big glass pyramid. Controversial when it was built, it's now the entrance to the big old building art museum. Many people still don't like the weird modernness of the glass pyramid. It was ok I guess. If you'd like to know more, ask someone or go to wikipedia or something.

Inside there were lots of paintings. Most of them just hung on the wall and you could look at them. No big deal. But then there was this one:Protected by glass with ropes blocking you from getting too close, the Mona Lisa is one of the most famous paintings in the world. Maybe the most famous. I totally don't get it. More on that in a sec. Here's a picture of the ridiculous mass of people taking pictures of the Mona Lisa:

Facing the Mona Lisa across the room was the very large painting below. Now this giant painting had not one person, but 120. And 5 dogs. And I'm pretty sure Jesus was one of the people. I figure that makes it about 125 times better than the Mona Lisa. Yep, this painting is better than the Mona Lisa. I tried to get people to turn around and look, but they were too attached to their cameras and phones and such.
(*side note - after starting this post, JJ told me that this painting is famous too, who knew?)

I'll take my little Venus over the white stone one with no arms anyday:

Probably the most disturbing piece of art, courtesy of our good buddy John:

Almost as disturbing was this statue found in the deep bowels of the museum:


I liked this painting. I think it's of Charlie Daniels...

Living art. I think I'm onto something.

Hooray Le Louvre! We had a great time. After a couple hours of looking at pretty stuff, we spent another hour trying to find our way out. For a big, almost U-shaped building, you'd think getting out would be easy. But it's not. They get you with the floors, up and down and up and down. It's a mess. Next time we'll start our exit an hour earlier.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

date night fun

Before going to a local jazz concert, we went out for a nice dinner together as a couple. We chose an italian restaurant that we'd seen a few times and came recommended. The restaurant was comfortable, and the waitress very nice. At our first sign of struggle in communicating she ran for a manager and told us she knew "zero" english, but we asked her to stay and bear with us as we tried to butcher her language. We ordered our food, jj lasagna, me a pizza. Then the fun began...

There's something the french do to their pizzas that I find a little weird. The love egg on pizza. Not like little bits of hardboiled egg, or egg baked into the crust, but like a runny fried egg just plopped down on top of the pizza. As I read the menu, knowing the word for egg, I searched and intentionally chose a pizza that did not list egg as one of the toppings. But when the pizza came out, it appeared that as a last thought before leaving the kitchen, the person bringing our food cracked an egg in the dead center of the pizza, let it ooze a bit, and then delivered to the table. I tried it, still not a fan.

I did however eat just over half of my pizza, but stopped with 3 pieces left (thought the rest could make a nice lunch). JJ finished her lasagna, and our waitress came, seeing that we were done. She looked to JJ, asked something with a smile, and JJ emphatically nodded "Oui! Oui!" as if to say "yes, the food was very good." She then looked at me and began to speak. "Would you like" was all I caught, and then as she continued talking she made a motion with her hands in a circle as if to pack something up. I had been thinking through a way to ask for a box to take my leftovers home, but came up with nothing. It seemed she was taking care of this for me! "Yes," I said, "please and thank you!"

When she left, we laughed for awhile imaging all the fun things that could have been said and what we would likely do as waiters if we knew our patrons didn't understand the language. Like walk up and ask with a smile "did your food taste like fried rotten foot?" Yes, of course, thank you! Or "was it so bad you want me to tell the chef to look into a career with waste management?" Oh yes! Or make a packing motion and ask the question "would you like me to take your pizza, roll it up, and flush it down the toilet?" Thank you so much! Oh the fun that could be had...

After dessert and paying our bill, my pizza had not made its way back to our table. We got up and began to put on our coats. Our waitress saw us and came to say goodbye. I put together the simplest question I could come up with, and simply asked "my pizza?" She suddenly had a look of utter confusion on her face and didn't really respond at all. So we said goodnight and left, laughing. What did she say to me when I thought she was offering to pack up my pizza?

You want I take your pizza, roll it into a ball, and throw it at your head as you leave? Bury it in dumpster out back? Plant it like a seed and see what grows?

New languages and cultures are so much fun.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Jesus saw their faith

So one day, Jesus was in this house... Being a rather intriguing figure at the time, He was surrounded by a mass of people. Imagine a studio apartment filled wall-to-wall with people and not even enough room to pull and hors d'oeuvre from a tray. Well some guys showed up and had brought their friend along with them. Their friend was paralyzed, and these men had heard the stories about Jesus and quite simply believed that He could heal their friend. But the house was way too packed to come walking in through the front door with a motionless man on a mat in tow, so they came up with another idea. Up on the roof, they cut a hole and lowered the paralyzed man straight down into immediate area of Jesus. Pretty cool right? Some friends who were both creative and determined... but that's not all. Here's where the story gets interesting.

Jesus looks up at the friends on the roof, and the Bible says He "saw their faith" and then looked down at the paralyzed fellow and said "friend, your sins are forgiven." This causes a big ruckus in the room - "who can forgive sins but God?" "He can't say that" "Blasphemy!" blah blah blah - and then Jesus does His Teddy Roosevelt 'speak softly but carry a big stick' routine and simply says "get up, take your mat, go home." The paralyzed dude (that means he is scientifically, medically, and common-knowledge-to-everybody completely unable to walk) then hops up, rolls up his ancient Capernaum therm-a-rest, and trots out the door (do you think the crowd parted to let him out? Or did he have to play human plinko to reach the door?).

This was one of the many "I AM GOD" statements that Jesus made in not so many words.

But go back a minute. Did you notice who's faith He recognized? The friends of the paralyzed guy. The Bible says "Jesus saw their faith." Now I'm not saying that the paralyzed man didn't also have a very real and intimate salvation experience through faith with Jesus as He lost the weight of his sins and stood up to walk. But all that we know for sure is that his friends had faith. His friends had faith that Jesus could save him! Heal him! Make him whole again! This part we don't know: but what if the paralyzed man didn't want to go, didn't believe it could make any difference when his friends pitched the idea. He wouldn't have much say if they carried him off anyways. Perhaps that changed along the way. We don't know how it started or how it progressed in his mind, we just know that Jesus recognized the faith of his friends.
[Luke 5:17-26, Mark 2:1-12]

Do I have that kind of faith? Do I believe that Jesus can make a difference in the lives of others? Even if they don't believe it or don't think they want it? Do I really? Am I praying for other people and believing that my faith can actually make a difference in their lives?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pourquoi?

Why why why? Learning a new language is like being a kid again. I begin to notice a pattern, then it’s totally ignored. So naturally, I ask why. Why is this one different? There must be a good reason!? Then I get a point to the sky, “ask Him.”

Swahili may not have been one of the great romantic, ‘high society’, intellectual languages, but at least it followed its own rules! Or had a good reason to deviate...