Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Violet is FOUR! (Two weeks ago!)

Eleven days ago was Violet’s birthday. In lieu of a babybook, I ask the following the following 20 questions to my birthday girl (starting with the third birthday). You can see last year’s  answers here. So, this morning, after walking sisters to school, I fired away. 
  1. What is your favorite color: blue, I mean, my favorite color is red. Or maybe it's blue. 
  2. What is your favorite toy: my elsa dress or pup (For her birthday, we gave her a new Elsa dress, and she has only taken it off very briefly, and usually only to put her new Moana dress on. And pup is her stuffed dog that she plays vet with.) 
  3. What is your favorite fruit: apples
  4. What is your favorite movie: Frozen 
  5. What is your favorite thing to wear: my elsa dress (this is the same one from answer #2). 
  6. What is your favorite animal: puppies or lions 
  7. What is your favorite song: Love is an Open Door and Let It Go (from Frozen, naturally. Personally, my favorite is when she sings Love is an Open Door and shouts "Sandwiches!" and then she bursts out laughing. It is the sweetest sound.) 
  8.  What is your favorite book: Fancy Nancy Bonjour Butterflies (She just got this for her birthday from Grandma and Grandpa. Other favorites include Bedtime for Bear, Rainbow Fish, and Zog and the Flying Doctor are always go-to picks for her).  
  9. Who is your best friend: Shea (These two are the cutest friends.) 
  10. What is your favorite breakfast: banana bread and bacon 
  11. What is your favorite lunch: macaroni and cheese 
  12. What is your favorite dinner: spaghetti and meatballs 
  13. What is your favorite snack: cheese-its  
  14. What is your favorite dessert: chocolate cake   
  15. What do you sleep with at night: mommy and daddy, but sometimes my minnie mouse 
  16. What is your favorite thing to play outside: ride my bike 
  17. What do you want for your birthday dinner: this girl has celebrated her birthday multiple times, and each time she had spaghetti and meatballs and chocolate cake. (three times in one week). 
  18. What do you want to be when you grow-up: just like daddy. (cue heart melting.)  
  19. Where is your favorite place to go: Disneyland or Switzerland. I can’t decide.  
  20. What is your favorite game: operation or playing family with sisters  

Friday, July 13, 2018

Chez Stars Conquer Paris

A really long time ago, our family of five went to Paris with my parents and my brother. Well, I guess it wasn't that long ago. But, when you come home and are hit with two rounds of strep throat and an online summer course and swim team, vacation seems like a really really long time ago. 
Prior to this trip, the only ever time I had been to Paris was as part of a very awkward third wheel. While, I did enjoy the fancy hotel (with my VERY OWN BED! and MY VERY OWN SHOWER!! It was the tail end of a multi-week backpacking, train sleeping, cliche college trip), I did spend much of the week either: a) alone or b) in very close proximity to an extra-marital affair (hence the awkward part). But, the thing about Paris is that it was almost exactly how I remembered it to be, even seventeen long years later. Also, and this is important, it wasn't nearly as cold or wet as Apple Weather (and my parents) were predicting that it would be. This meant that the weather in Paris was glorious and warm, and we spent much of our week outside. 

This is from our first full day in Paris when we were all exhausted from jet lag, but still had fresh legs. It was also the only picture I have of all eight of us. And two people aren't looking at the camera. Also, note, this was about 15 minutes into a four hour trip to Versailles. I won't go into details, but needless to say my French isn't quite up to snuff and we got on the wrong train going in the wrong direction. But, by the end of the week I totally mastered the metro. So, no hard feelings Paris. 

There is no better place than Paris to just walk around - and we managed to cover a lot of ground. Seeing that it was half of our party's first trip to the City of Lights, we did many of the most notable landmarks. We climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower in the late afternoon. We took a private tour of the Opera House - the girls were obsessed with seeing that building after they saw the movie Leap earlier this year. We found nameless neighborhood brassieres where we gorged ourselves on frites and bier.  We got hopelessly lost on public transportation. We (along with the hordes of other people) elbowed our way to see the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo at the Louvre. We tried all possible flavors of macaroons. We admired the breathtaking stained glass at Saint-Chapelle. We walked out to Pont Neuf at midnight to see the Eiffel Tower in all it's lit up glory. We rode every carousel we could find. We wondered the D'Orsay and practiced our backbends in the Versailles Gardens. We admired the Parisian views from the top of the Arc de Triumphe. We prayed for our country at Notre Dame and bought books at the famous Shakespeare and Company bookshop. We had drinks at a Jazz Cub. Of course, we were looking for live jazz music, and if there's anything worse than being laughed at in French, it's being laughed out of a Jazz Club on Sunday night in Paris because you don't have a reservation. 
One of my very favorite things about Paris, by the way, is the staggering preponderance of cheese and baguette that is everywhere. Most mornings, I started our day by visiting the local boulangerie to buy bread, then stopping in the little market for fresh cherries or berries and juice before finally heading into the sleek fromagerie to buy the softest, smelliest cheese I could find. I'd load up my backpack with my goodies, stop for espressos at the cafe and balance everything in my bags and arms before climbing the 80+ creaky, circling steps back to our tiny apartment kitchen. I love staying in apartments and in places for longer than a just a few short days; you feel less like a tourist and so much more like a resident. For our week, we stayed at the most wonderful apartment in the first arrondissement, near the Louvre, but off a quiet alleyway on the third floor of an old building. 
I've been to many cities, but Paris might be one of my favorites, and as much of a cliche it is to say it, it's true. It doesn't matter if you are staying for eight hours or eight days or eight months, the city expands and contracts around you to fill the time you're there. We never felt like we hadn't seen and done what we came to see and do. 

So, this is what I say to everyone: Go to Paris if you're ever given the chance, even if it's years and years from now. Go with the person you love most in the world. Go with your children if you have them. Walk everywhere. Get lost on the metro. Eat everything. Drink all the espresso. Take a lot of pictures. But, be smarter than us and make a reservation for a jazz club. And don't be fooled by the RER Train Line C, you want the Rive-Gauche exit. 

Monday, April 30, 2018



Violet is blowing bubbles in the backyard. Sweet potatoes are sitting on the countertop, ready to be baked and stuffed with black beans and scrambled eggs for dinner. Are you gonna put that spinach in the dinner? Violet calls through the kitchen window. It’s a cool day, the promise of warmer weather is on the horizon, and we all are anxiously awaiting it.

The Paris and Switzerland guidebooks are strewn about the dining room table. We are just a few weeks out from our two-week grand adventure. Packing lists are started. To-do lists to finish up the school year and to finish out the semester are on post-its all over the house. A scribbled quote from John Muir graces the back of an old church bullention read “As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.” I read it again and take a deep yoga breath.

Lily has been practicing for her upcoming piano recital. “The Can-Can” is playing on repeat in my head. The playroom looks like a tornado hit, but in reality the girls spent the entire afternoon setting up an elaborate Hotel Glorys yesterday with a bookstore, a dress shop, spa and restuarant. Signs made with sharpies and decorated with stickers are are hanging with washbi tape off the walls and stuffed animals litter the floor.

Last night at dinner, Daisy tells us she is writing an autobiography in school. She wrote about her early years, present day and now she’s working on the future. She tells us she wrote that she is planning on going to Stanford University and she wants to be a veterinarian as her career. What happened to being a singer, we ask?  

Later as we are snuggled up with our books, she an old copy of Nancy Drew and The Secret of the Old Clock and me the second book in the The Tail of Emily Windsnap series, she tells me that she wants to have a job that will make the world a better place. She wonders outloud, Do writers make the world a better place?

As I survey her room, her journal filled with poems and musings sitting atop her nightstand, a carboard storyboard outlining her story and illustrations of a marshmallows terrible fate becoming a s’more, and the stack of early reader books she created for Lily, I tell her about John Lennon and his song “Imagine” – he came, he sang and people listened. His music inspired and challenged people to believe there could, one day, be a world without hate. I remind her that poets and artists and novelists of every generation have shaped the way we view language and culture and ideas. We talk about Shakespeare: he managed to reinvent a form, and in doing so, he completely changed culture itself. I tell Daisy she would make an excellent author, illustrator, musician or vet.

I tell her, whatever she chooses to do, she will do out of love, and ultimately, that will make the world a better place.