Saturday, May 29, 2010

French Library

One of our favorite family outings in our near-suburb of Paris is to the local library. We pretty much just stick to the kids section, with an occasional curious crawl through the music room and a glance at the one shelf of English books. In the kids section, not only are there miniature chairs and tables that Sawyer loves to climb on and through, but there are books with words like "cat," "dog," "baby," "green," and "ball." Sometimes we can even read some of them. Perhaps the best part of the visit is the treasures that we are always sure to find. Here's a sampling of some of the books from yesterday's trip...

Oh! la vache

Oh! la vache
, or Oh! the cow, is a little book that has curiously colored cows and cute little rhyming phrases to go along. The pictures are curious to the point of psychadellic, I can't decide if they'd be better suited for a 1-year old's play room or as light reading before a Phish concert. The sayings are equally amusing.

Pedal cow, it's not normal

Music cow, it's magic

And the last page winner, the ever-popular cow xray with a giant baby bottle inside:
Milk cow, you make me happy!

One of my favorite titles was from a book written to parents with advice on a popular issue. I didn't open it, because I knew I wouldn't have a prayer of reading what was inside, but the title read:
Doudou or Not Doudou
In France, a "doudou" is an infant/toddler's favorite object, in this sense a transitional object. Like a blankey, stuffed animal, favorite toy, etc. So the book was about whether or not such a thing is a good idea. Excellent play on words through the medium of English, Mr/Mrs French Author whose name I didn't read.

I also like flipping through the JoJo line of comic books, with great titles like (translated to English):
JoJo in Prison
JoJo the Veterinarian
JoJo learns Self-Defense

The winner of best book from our visit came from this little gem, entitled Nono fait comme Papa. I picked it up, because I thought it to be a legitimately good idea for a book. Nono does like Daddy... So does Sawyer. A great match!

So I opened it up and read through great, perfectly sensical (just looked this up and my dictionary tells me that 'sensical' is not a word, but 'nonsensical' is... I hereby start the petition to make 'sensical,' the root of 'nonsensical,' a word in the English language) pages. Lines like Nono reads a book like Papa, Nono puts on his hat and jacket like Papa, and Nono works in the garden like Papa made me smile. All are great pictures of father and son life, and in some form I've experienced them all. Then I came to the masterpiece:You read that right. No translation needed. Nono makes pee-pee like Papa! Outstanding. After I stopped laughing at the absurdity of what I was looking at in a children's book, I started laughing again at the realization of art mimicking reality.

When Sawyer was about 7 months old, I was giving him a bath one night before bed. During bath time, the sudden strong urge to relieve myself hit me. So I stood up to the toilet next the the tub and left Sawyer to play with his bath toys. He then started to stand up in the bath tub, which he knows he's not supposed to do. I had just opened my mouth to tell him no when he began a simultaneous pee standing up with me. At that point I could only smile.

When I started this post, I hadn't intended to make it an object lesson with a look at our heavenly Father, but now I can't help it. I think this french children's book picture will remain in my mind for a long time as an amusing but vivid reminder that my son will watch and imitate everything I do. Will he act like a godly man from an early age, with integrity, gentleness, self-control? In many ways, that will be up to me. Similarly, God calls us to come to Him with a child-like faith. Do I watch and imitate Him daily? If I did, would I have any reason to worry about my own son imitating me?

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Messy Crib

Did you think we disappeared? Not quite. Just have been really busy. Small test tomorrow, then class all week, then I'm into some music stuff over the next couple weeks. So I may be sparse on here for the near future, then will be back to it. In the meantime, a story to incite a giggle or two.
We went to get Sawyer up from his morning nap today and we found him naked in his crib, diaper off, and poop everywhere. We didn't lay him down naked, nor pooping, so the scene before us came as a complete surprise. Is it common practice for toddlers to learn how to remove their own diapers and then do so? Or do we just have a gifted son? And the poop... we don't know if that came before or after the naptime diaper removal, but we do know that he managed to get it on his bedsheets, his feet, legs, arms, even in his hair. How does one accomplish this?!

This is the same boy who last week at a restaurant went quiet and then caught our attention minutes later with his milk fountain that was soaking my pants. Turns out that if you take a bottle, turn it upside down, and then squeeze it against a stroller bar just right, a stream of milk can forcefully fly over 3 feet through the air. He went home without pants that night, I went home with a large wet spot mid-thigh.

To his credit today, he's like his daddy and was totally freaked out by the brown substance that had creeped onto his body. He stood in the middle of his crib when we arrived and did not move right, left, front, or back, for fear that he may further soil his self or bed. Whether that was out of general dislike for the fecal matter or fear he'd been caught doing something bad, we're not sure.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Night in Paris

We just finished our Sunday morning breakfast, I ate to my fill, and my 1-yr old son literally ate more than me. He’s 1/7th my size! Do most 1-yr olds eat 4 pancakes and a bowl of oatmeal to start their day? And still look like a bean pole with arms?

I must share some of our experiences from a recent date in Paris. Life abroad is never boring. A movie and dinner... typical, simple, no room for excitement, right?

For starters, we went to see Robin Hood, or Robin Des Bois as it’s called here. We’d seen the posters, we like Russel Crowe, we like Robin Hood, perfect match. We didn’t really think it through though. As the movie started, we were sitting in the middle of a crowded theater, surrounded by 300+ french folk. The opening scene shows the English army attacking and ransacking a country French castle. A little uncomfortable with the obvious defeat of the ancestors of my current neighbors, I shrunk down into my chair and tried to give a disinterested look in hopes of passing myself off as French. Then the movie progressed, and the ‘bad guys’ were made known. It’s a prequal of sorts, so Robin Hood is not yet fighting the rich English, instead he and the others are fighting the vile evil Frenchmen who seek to take over their land but instead fall to the sword like bad henchman from an old Bond movie. Further down in my seat, I couldn’t help but whisper the obvious “awkward!” I mean, can you imagine going to a movie where your ancestors are shown as the evil, incompetent, sputtering foolish villains? Until the Middle-East creates Mollywood, most of you probably won’t get that chance.

Then it was off to dinner. Nothing to report there, we had a great and very nice dinner in Paris.

After dinner, we walked to catch the metro. It was 11pm. We were held up though, as literally 200-300 rollerbladers clogging the street skated by. On the outskirts of the rollerblading mob were police in brightly colored vests skating alongside. Following were a couple of police cars and an ambulance in Tour de France style. But this was no special race. Rather, it’s a weekly event. If my understanding is right... years ago, groups of rollerbladers (someone forgot to tell Parisians that rollerblading stopped being cool in the early 90’s) would flock to the streets of Paris and skate across the city together at night, causing traffic problems and narrowly avoiding arrest. Instead of clamping down on it, the government decided to join along, and created a rollerblading police academy of sorts, expert police bladers who now accompany the 100% legit night rides. Yeah. That’s what we saw.
[*you may want to research this yourself, that’s just what’s in my head based on a magazine article I read sometime ago, and could be partially fabricated]

As the last of the skaters passed, we heard the revving of motorcycle engines and looked across the street to see around 80 motorcycles in formation waiting for their chance to drive up to the steps of the Opera. Whether there for a midnight rally, protest, board meeting, or what, we don’t know. The motorcycles all pulled up honking their little horns and waving their arms. Imagine an American motorcycle gang, except mostly on little hondas, suzukis, and bmws, they’re all thin, no tatoos showing, and under the leather they’re fashionably dressed in scarves and polos and sweaters. A little odd? We thought so.

Ah Paris! Life is always more fun in the city.

An update... breakfast was one hour ago, and I just heard some munching in the kitchen. I walked in to find Sawyer sitting on the floor with an open tupperware, a half-eater cracker in one hand and a cookie in the other. Where does it all go?!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Trash Chute Fun

A much anticipated video...

Our apartment garbage chute is so much fun! Now Sawyer shares our passion for tossing his dirty diapers down there.

Friday, May 14, 2010

On a Journey Together

5 years ago today we said “I do.” 5 years ago today we began a foundation for a wild ride that neither of us saw coming. JJ has been a wife, confidant, doctor, caretaker, lover, helpmate, cheerleader, voice of reason, navigator, prayer advocate, and best friend to me. She happens to be one of the best cooks in the world, a creative genius, a fun-loving gal who’s not afraid of too much, and she strives to be better everyday at everything she does. Right now that means pouring herself into mothering and French studies, and I can see her quickly shaping into an expert at both. I love this girl, and knowing what I know now, having experienced what I have so far, there’s not a chance I would have said anything other than “I do” 5 years ago. Given the option, I’d make the exact same choice all over again.Here's a pictoral run down of our 5 years of marriage:

May 14, 2005. Let the journey begin.

We took our first post-honeymoon vacation. To Niagara Falls. In February. It was nice. Less crowded. A little cold. We had a blast!

The year of change. Here we are in VA, signing up for new jobs that would give us less pay than either of our previous jobs alone, but would take us around the world and allow us to do what we desperately desired to do... what we are called to do. Oh, we still had no idea what was ahead of us! This year saw us leave behind our house and friends and family, the only jobs we'd ever known after college, and take us somewhere unknown. We lived on a campus in VA for 2 months, we landed in East Africa before the year ended. And in one year, we accomplished something many will not in a lifetime: we saw the only two waterfalls on earth that display a moonbow (Cumberland Falls: KY, USA and Victoria Falls: Zambia)!

We seriously live in East Africa now? Does the rest of the world know this is the most beautiful place on earth? There's a few negatives... malaria, check; food poisoning, check; unbearable heat, check; chased by an elephant, check; friends and neighbors die of aids & dehydration & other preventable diseases, sadly yes. But what a place to live! And soooo much to see.

Our son is born. In Africa. That makes him African-American (right?). Here we are in front of Mt Kilimanjaro. It's big (but hidden by our bigger heads). He'd been on more than 5 true safaris before reaching 6 months old. And we wonder why he's not afraid of big dogs...

And here we are. We're living in France. We're raising a bilingual son. We live in a community of artists, musicians, immigrants, workers... all of whom speak a language we barely understand. There is absolutely no way I ever would have guessed that 5 years ago. We live in one of the most visited cities in the world, and I barely know anything about it. I'm just glad they like live music and I can occasionally find a Dr. Pepper. There's nowhere we'd rather be.

5 years. 3 continents have been home. 2 new languages. A host of family and friends that we've actually grown closer to over the expanse of oceans. What a life!

If you happened to be with us 5 years ago today, you likely remember a fun, quaint service in KY that was the perfect day for us. Well, almost perfect. There was one small blemish, on account of yours truly. Those of you in attendance may recall a slightly awkward silent recessional (that’s where the wedding party exits, right?). We were posed to skip our way down the aisle to a song we’d picked out as the perfect fit, but no music came on. I looked back to our friend Kevin at the soundboard in desperation, and he just smiled real big back, oblivious to the fact that I was hoping he would save the day in that instant. He could not have, and did not know what I did though, because I forgot the simple task of handing him the cd and telling him “play this song when we leave.” Oh well, silence it was. The song we’d picked out back then was “Together” by Phil Joel. We thought it was a wonderful and cheery love song, perfect for the occasion.

After the wedding and as life got going, we sort of forgot about that song. But then a week ago, on Mother’s Day, I gave JJ a little playlist I’d created, some fun music for days around the apartment. As we listened, the song “Together” came on, included simply because it was a musical fit. We listened to it last week, and looked at each other thinking the same thing... that really does describe us! Here’s a section of the lyrics below, indeed a great description of our love story thus far:

Together on the wrong side of the world
Together, just a boy and a girl

Together on the wrong side of the world
And you know we'll always be strong
Because together we belong

This is no roll of the dice

There are no fools in this game
We followed the Son
And we'll do it again

I know You have lead us here
This part is could not be more clear
I know that someday we will understand
And Your plan unfolds
Still all we need to know

Is that our home is with You

As a side note... I'm taking my wife to Paris for dinner on our anniversary. What are you doing this year? :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Vacances Part 5: Omaha Beach and American War Cemetery

The D-Day beaches. Pictured above is a part of Omaha Beach. To stand on this beach and look out to sea, then across the flat sands, then up the gentle-sloping hills took words and thoughts away. I could only stand in awe, and respect of what had been done 66 years ago. Men and women walked and ran into certain death to liberate a country and people that they didn't know, and in so doing they began the end of a world war. I could easily feel the heaviness of this place. Thousands had died on the very beach that I stood, and thousands more had lost friends, brothers, leaders. I'm not much of a history buff, but standing in a place like that where significant (and not that long ago) history had taken place, I desperately wanted to know more. Reading the stories and timelines and quotes inside the American War Museum brought it home. Walking through the cemetery and reading the names and home states of the fallen took us home. This day in age, we don't often advertise our nationality when we're traveling the world, but being here made us immensely proud to be Americans.

Thousands and thousands.
These are grandparents and friends of, legends, heroes, normal everyday men and women.

Not sure if this guy was dancing, being born, ascending to heaven, or asking for his dinner.
Whatever he's doing, he's the statue/memorial/symbol of a beautiful and important place.

Explaining to a 1-yr old that this is a "quiet, somber, respectful place" just didn't work.

We sort of felt like we were back in the States while at the American cemetery.
The landscaping very much felt like Washington DC.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dressed by Daddy

I have a problem. I apparently only have enough fashion creativity for one person (some would say I don’t even have that much). I realized yesterday, that I seemingly have the capability to come up with just one outfit for any given morning. Why is this a problem? Because I often dress my son and myself.

Yesterday, I had awoken to a crying 15-month old and put his clothes on for the day: blue jeans and a gray t-shirt. Then I showered and dressed. As I was pulling on my own gray t-shirt over jeans, it hit me that I had dressed myself and my son exactly the same. What’s more is that I thought back over the past month and realized countless times I’d done the same.

I don’t wake up each morning and make a conscious decision to dress my son and myself exactly alike. In fact, I often roll my eyes when JJ and I end up dressing in a similar or matching manner by coincidence. Instead, I have a simple thought of what to wear, and those clothes get stuck in my mind, then are materialized in everyone I dress for the day!

Today I’m sitting here wearing khakis and a brown shirt. Sawyer is on the floor playing, and he’s wearing khakis and a brown shirt. And this is after I made the realization yesterday and decided to stop doing it! What’s even more sad/astonishing is that we’re both wearing gray socks. I have a problem.

I’m thankful that God is much more creative than I. Look around you and see that we are all so individually different. I love it! One of my favorite things about traveling to the various parts of the world we get to is to see cultural differences in lifestyle, dress, physical realities, music, and much more. It’s a beautiful world, and God made us every one different. However, I am eternally grateful that like me and my son, he chooses to clothe his children in the VERY SAME righteousness as himself and his son Jesus. Isaiah pointed out that in and of ourselves, “all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (64:6). But we don’t have to remain in filthy, disgusting, rags of human righteousness clothing. Simply put, “righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:22-24). Paul told the Corinthians that God condemned his perfect Son into sin so that we could be justified as “the righteousness of God” (2 cor 5:21). My son ends up dressed like me a lot, but if I let God the Father have my life, He will dress me in the VERY SAME righteousness as himself. That’s a pretty good deal. Like Job desired, “I put on righteousness as my clothing” (Job 29:14a). And in my case, it’s my heavenly father who’s dressing me.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Vacances Part 4: Dinan

After touring the impressive Mont Saint Michel, we hopped in the car and went for a drive. Eventually we landed in Dinan. Dinan is a smallish city in North-Western France that has a rich intact history. Dinan was a walled city of old, with walls and original streets, church, and other buildings still around. The city itself has since sprawled beyond the rock walls, but getting inside the old walls gave us a great place to walk around for the day. The city was beautiful and very walking-friendly on the cobblestone streets, with fun shops and restaurants all around. The highlight of the visit for me was finding a little English place that served hearty portions of fish & chips for not a lot of money. It more than hit the spot for dinner, and JJ enjoyed the ice cream stand across the street!

Friday, May 7, 2010


I interrupt our vacation stories and pictures to share a great French word we learned in class today: un embouteillage. We learned this word when a classmate was trying to say a sentence that included the words "traffic jam." After seeing it written, we discovered at the core the word for "bottle". So unlike in the USA, where our traffic "jams," in France the traffic "bottlenecks." Why do I share this? Because it is SO TRUE!

Driving around the Paris metropolitan area is a challenge, to say the least. Roads are tiny, one-way, roundabouts abound, and roads do not follow structures that are at all recognizable to our American minds. Add to that the fact that rush hour starts at about 7:00am and ends around 6:59am (as far as we can tell), and you get a driving nightmare. But we've begun to realize a distinct difference in the stop and go traffic around Paris and that of any American city. When we drive to a friend's house across town, we can almost guarantee we'll be calling to declare our lateness due to traffic. What's interesting is that in most cases, we can essentially drive all around Paris and never come to a traffic light. Roundabouts and highways with looping exits and merges are the norm, square blocks are not. And so what happens is that two roads merge, a lane drops, and then a kilometer later your road merges again, a lane or two is dropped, and repeat, and repeat. At every merge, traffic comes to a standstill. In essence, the traffic has indeed bottlenecked! We never find ourselves sitting and watching a light change from green to red to green to red while we inch forward. Instead we find ourselves squeezed onto a road that cannot possibly hope to accommodate the number of cars incoming, we inch along until everyone finds their space, and then we drive free until the next merge.

We just love it when culture and language mesh so well!
Now if only they would unmesh and let us get somewhere on time!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Vacances Part 3b: Mont Saint Michel in Videos

Here is the long-awaited video tour of Mont Saint Michel. Everything said is entirely factual, because it's on the internet, and everything on the internet is true. No. At this point I am required by my loving wife to put up a big red WARNING sign. She says that my videos deeply offend the historian in her. But if you're like me and would rather make up your history than learn the real one, watch away!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Vacances Part 3a: Mont Saint Michel

Mont Saint Michel.
France's most visited monument and second most well-known (behind the Eiffel Tower) is Mont Saint Michel. This monastery/cathedral/community is built on an island mountain off the north coast of France. It's pretty cool in pictures, and much much more impressive in person. Hundreds of years old (the original buildings, not all of what we now know at MSM), this monastery was an early pilgrimage place for many Christian worshipers who came to visit. Some died in the journey, as the island could only be reached at low tides by walking across the wet sand, some of which is quicksand that would swallow up wayward steps. Others were taken by surprise when the tides swept in and erased the path that had been. Monks who plead their lives to prayer found a place of solitude atop the rock where they could forsake all natural desires to focus on God. There's much more history out there, check it out! How about some pictures! Check back tomorrow for a mostly truthful video tour of the abbey and monastery. :)

Stairs stairs stairs! When we reached the island and breached the walls, we first passed some hotels, shops, and restaurants, and then we came to the stairs to the top. JJ's smiling here because she's not yet touched a single stair. But reach the top we would!

.................At a

Each time we reached the summit of a particular set of stairs, we rounded the corner and discovered... another set of stairs!

Here S and I conquered one rather long set and turned to express our conquering manness.

After all those stairs, we found the elevator
that we must have passed by!

That high up, on a mountain surrounded by changing ocean tides and quicksand, and yet it's this impressive and beautiful inside.

Following is a set of models which showed the changes in Mont Saint Michel through the years. It's pretty cool to see how it started and came to be where it is today. Also neat how the continued building followed and used the natural shape of the mountain.

10th century:

11th and 12th centuries:

17th and 18th centuries:

20th century to today:

Truly an amazing place. We'll see you again soon, Mont Saint Michel!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Vacances Part 2: Giverny

Giverny is a town about an hour outside of Paris by car to the northeast. It's where Claude Monet lived. Mr Monet apparently was a pretty wealthy dude, and his family had a strange fascination with Japanese culture. Behind their big country house was a big garden packed with flowers. Behind the big garden packed with flowers was a big garden with a pond and bridges and water lilies and bamboo (very Japanese-inspired). If you look up Monet's paintings, you'll see a lot of paintified versions of what we saw in real life. In his versions he must have edited out all of the tourists with cameras though.

Welcome to Giverny. If this is your cup of tea, than Giverny is your cup of tea.
On the topic of tea, do they sell "Lipton Gold Tea" in the States?
In the little pyramidal tea bags? That stuff is good.
We had two full days of meetings that just ended, and I have a sore throat.
I drank it literally all day yesterday and today. Mmmmm.

Heeeeeey Sawyer! Camera's this way. Yeah, you could throw up an Uncle Ryan grimace while watching the bumblebee in the flowers, but that just wouldn't make you a team player now would it? You do want to be a team player don't you?

Spring. Over at Claude's house. In a nutshell.

"Say cheese? Well which one? There's Bleu, Emmental, Leerdamer, Mimolette, Conté, Gouda, Rapé, Camembert, Brie..."

You know how Gushers are a fruity explosion of flavor in your mouth?
Well these flowers are a springy explosion of colors in your eyes. Now. Yeah.

Aww. It's Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear. So cute. All squinting in unison. Just right.

This incredibly large ancient sand sculpture inspired all of Monet's Last Supper paintings.
Of course I'm kidding.
Monet didn't paint the famous Last Supper painting, Da Vinci did.
You probably also knew Da Vinci was an inventor.
You may not have known that Da Vinci invented a time machine in an old Italian Delorean, traveled to 2010 and saw this sand sculpture, and then was inspired to paint the Last Supper.