Bourdon Patate Douce

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So our mystery vacation was to Provence, in the south of France. Landisdad’s mom, who has been responsible for our last four trips out of the country, outdid herself this time–it was even better than when she got us a count’s apartment in Rome. She rented a six-bedroom mas with a pool, terraced gardens, and an honest-to-goodness olive grove.

We ate a great deal of excellent food, including an almost-incredible amount of chocolate. My only previous trip to France was to Paris, and I confess, I don’t remember having chocolate with every meal there, but I think that the south of France is (in the words of the Bee) “crazy about chocolate.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that. There was a daily intake of wine that may have greatly endangered my liver. The Potato also developed a fondness for citron presse, although that probably didn’t damage his liver at all.

There were daily trips into various parts of the countryside, including a 12th-century abbey, and some nifty stone huts that have been continuously occupied for 3,000 years. The kids climbed around on the rocks at the Pont du Gard (that blue dot in the picture is the Bee)–the Potato was a little worried that she might not come back, so he shouted for her. We wandered through the local farmer’s market, and the kids held up the doors of a building with some statues. We also visited an ancient Roman ampitheatre, a fishing village on the Mediterranean, and the Palais de Papes in Avignon. The kids both developed a fascination with the various knights in armor that were featured at various gift shops. (Here, the Bee models the shield and sword of a gladiator.)

In addition, the kids got to swim every day. The Bee spent hours practicing her underwater handstand, which is a recent obsession. She wants her legs to be straight up and down, like mine, because, “yours are like a sixteenth of an inch not-straight.” The Potato ventured out into the deep end at every opportunity, wearing his swimmy vest.

The nights were light so long–the kids stayed up until about 10 every night. After dinner, they’d wander around the garden making stew in a garden pot, mixing together stones and flowers and sticks, being on their best behavior to avoid going to bed while it was still light out. Our stick collection was impressive, although we did convince the kids to leave the sticks in France. Fortunately, the late evenings led to some late-morning sleeping on the part of the Potato–we slept until 8 every morning.

And best of all, there was no drama. Of course there were moments of minor annoyance, but overall the trip–including the two ridiculously long travel days–was fabulous. I’m sure that we won’t all remember the same things–the Potato, for example, may remember this bus trip longer than anything else–but we will remember the love and good feelings for a long time, and that’s what’s really important.

July 29, 2007. family life. 11 comments.

we’re back…

…and boy are my arms tired.

Lots of photoblogging, plus catching up on blog-reading tomorrow. Oh yeah, and some grocery shopping or something.

But tonight, sleep.

July 28, 2007. family life. 7 comments.

dear U.S. travel office

Thank you for processing my passport renewal one day before my vacation. I can now heave a huge sigh of relief. I don’t even care that the new passports look like a bad patriotic checkbook (©landisdad).

I’d also like to thank my friends for listening to me babble on about not having a passport (despite having sent the renewal in April), and to the random strangers that my MIL has been talking to about this for the last three weeks, since I slipped up and told her that we hadn’t gotten our new passports yet. I know that having a complete stranger telling you about her children’s inability to go on vacation with her is probably annoying, but hey, you live in NYC, you deal with annoying strangers every day.

Thank you, senatorial constituent service rep that I talked to last Friday. I’m not sure what worked, but something did.

Sorry to the aforementioned MIL for getting snitty with you on the phone the other night, when you asked if landisdad and the kids would still go on vacation if I couldn’t go. And I’m glad that your first-ever text message (from me, after getting the passport in the mail approximately 25 minutes ago) was a good one.

Whew. Now, my blood pressure can go back down, and I can start packing.

Bonus–thanks to landisdad for finding an English language bookstore at our mystery destination, so that my Harry Potter dream can be fulfilled. I’ll see you all on the flip side.

July 19, 2007. random other things. 10 comments.

got to keep your head up

Sheesh, is this a mommy blog or what? I feel like lately I’m writing about everything but my kids. Let’s put an end to that now.

One of the things I like about the summer is that I get to ride to work every day with the Bee, who goes to camp near my office. We get to have interesting conversations on the ride in, as she asks me all kinds of questions. I often wonder where they come from, but I’m a little afraid to ask, because I don’t want her to stop.

Today, we had a conversation about nuclear weapons. No, really. She asked me if humans will be around forever, and I told her I didn’t know. I explained to her that when I was growing up, many of my parents and their friends didn’t know if their children would grow up at all, because there was so much fear that the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. would get into a nuclear war, and end the human race.

I was trying to explain the Cold War to her, and the competing economic and political philosophies of the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. She said, “do you mean these two countries were in a war just because each of them thought they were better than the other? That’s ridiculous! Everybody knows that no one is better than anyone else. I mean, one person might be good at music and another at art, but that doesn’t make them better people!”

It warmed the cockles of my maternal heart, I gotta tell you.

July 16, 2007. family life. 9 comments.

In which I prove that I drank the apple kool-aid

Well, my computer blues seem to have been resolved by the purchase of a new external hard drive. Apparently, the ol’ Powerbook just got full up of zeroes and ones, and didn’t want to add one more thing. So now, my entire iTunes library is on the hard drive, and I have to have it attached if I want to play music on my computer, add new songs, or update my iPod. I really didn’t think my iTunes library was that big, but it did free up about 8 GBs on my hard drive, so I may have an exaggerated sense of how big is big.

I’m about due for a new laptop, but we’re going on a fairly ridiculously expensive vacation soon, and I’d like to get through that, and have it paid off, before introducing another enormous charge to my Visa.

Boy, this is starting to seem like a post sponsored by Apple. Disclaimer–it’s not. (But if the nice folks in Cupertino want to send a shiny new MacBookPro for my review, I wouldn’t say no. I’d even promise to return it without many drool stains. It’s the ethical thing, after all.)

And while I’m on the I-love-Apple theme, let me just say, I heart firewire. How do you PC people out there stand having to wait for the USB connection when you’re backing up your computer? Do you just not back up stuff like music and pictures?

July 14, 2007. meta. 8 comments.

39 and counting…

I was going to write a somewhat whiny post yesterday, but what I got for my birthday was a melting down laptop. Posting may be kind of light, until I figure out how to rearrange my hard drive, so I can have more than one program open at once. Evidently, I’ve lost the ability to do fewer than three things at once, and the idea that I can’t have my email program open at the same time that I edit a memo and listen to music is kind of driving me crazy.

July 11, 2007. growing up. 13 comments.

the unforgiveable curse

The Bee and I had a difficult day on the Fourth of July. It was kind of overcast and cold, which squashed our plan to spend the day at the pool. The kids were whiny and spent most of the morning squabbling with each other. In the afternoon, she said something really mean to me, and I just snapped. I went up and hid in my room, reading a book, for about an hour, and left landisdad to deal with the kids.

One of the things I struggle with most as a parent is how to teach my children to fight with the people that they love, without hurting them irrevocably. It’s a lesson I’ve never learned that well, and therefore I am neither the teacher nor the example to my children that I want to be. I remember once, when I was an adolescent, that my  mother told me, “you fight just like your father,” when she and I were fighting about something, and the reality is that I have never learned to argue like a civilized person.

When the Bee was mean to me, I wanted to lash out at her, and tell her that I hated her, or to just storm out of the house and not come back until after dark. I don’t hate her, of course, but there is a part of me that just wants to win in a kind of one-upmanship (one-upgirlship?) kind of way. That is the terrible curse that’s been handed down from my father, and my father’s father, the curse of thinking that ‘winning’ is more important than protecting the person you love from being permanently damaged. I can’t imagine what lesson the Bee would learn, if I ran away from home in the middle of a fight, but I know I don’t want her learning it.

There are times, of course, when I can have a normal argument with the kids, or my husband, or just about anyone. Times when I’m well-rested, and haven’t spent several hours listening to the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard, when I’ve had an hour to myself to read the paper or talk to a friend on the phone. But “most of the time” isn’t good enough, I’m afraid.

The thing I struggle hardest with, is how to teach my children the delicate balance of how far is too far to go in an argument. I don’t want them afraid of the thing I am most afraid of–that they will end up in an estranged relationship, like the one that I’m in with my father–I don’t want them to ever think it is even a possibility. But how can I teach them that it’s not a possibility for us, when they can see it’s a possibility for me?

Recently, the Potato has started to tell me, “I am not your Potato anymore!” when he’s angry. Unfortunately for him, he pronounces the word “Potato” as “Pee-tay-toe,” so it sounds pretty adorable. (And yes, the Potato does in fact refer to himself as the Potato.) It’s a good thing he sounds so cute when he’s saying it, otherwise it would practically kill me.

July 6, 2007. thoughtful parenting. 13 comments.

On Living

I.

Living is no laughing matter:
you must live with great seriousness
like a squirrel, for example–
I mean, without looking for something beyond and above living,
I mean living must be your whole life.
Living is no laughing matter:
you must take it seriously,
so much so and to such a degree
that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
your back to the wall,

or else in a laboratory
in your white coat and safety glasses,
you can die for people–
even for people whose faces you’ve never seen,
even though you know living
is the most real, the most beautiful thing.
I mean, you must take living so seriuosly
that even at seventy, for example, you’ll plant olive trees–
and not for your children, either,
but because although you fear death you don’t believe it,
because living, I mean, weighs heavier.

II.

Let’s say we’re seriously ill, need surgery–
which is to say we might not get up
from the white table.
Even though it’s impossible not to feel sad
about going a little too soon,
we’ll still laugh at the jokes being told,
we’ll look out the window to see if it’s raining,
or still wait anxiously
for the latest newscast…
Let’s say we’re at the front–
for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day,
we might fall on our face, dead.
We’ll know this with a curious anger,
but we’ll still worry ourselves to death
about the outcome of the war, which could last years.
Let’s say we’re in prison
and close to fifty,
and we have eighteen more years, say,
before the iron doors will open.
We’ll still live with the outside,
with its people and animals, struggle and wind–
I mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are,
we must live as if we will never die.

III.

This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet–
I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
in pitch-black space…
You must grieve for this right now
–you have to feel this sorrow now–
for the world must be loved this much
if you’re going to say “I lived”…

Nazim Hikmet, 1948

July 4, 2007. books for grown-ups. 1 comment.

cross that one off the list

I think that the Bee has finally come to terms with riding a two-wheeler. She still needs a little help getting started, but other than that, she’s fine. We practiced a lot today, but from the very beginning, it was clear that she was doing better than she ever had before. I raised her seat, which helps–I think she was having trouble keeping her balance before, because she wasn’t able to stretch out her legs enough.

We went to the park this morning for about an hour, and as we were on the way home, she kept trying to figure out how to get started without me holding  her up. I asked her if it was because you can’t have your mom starting you every time, and she kind of shrugged and grinned at me. I told her, “I know that you’re gonna learn to do this, then, because you are a determined girl, and you learn what you want to learn.”

Watching her cycle away from me was a bittersweet experience. She kept getting smaller, of course, the further she got away. But she is oh, so big now.

July 1, 2007. growing up. 5 comments.