Wednesday, April 28, 2004

April in Paris (and Two Bad Girls)

I don't mean to rub it in or anything, but Paris was WONDERFUL! Like Graceland, it never disappoints.

The Spouse had a meeting with a client on Monday and was planning to camp out with friends, but the friends were sort of redecorating (if it is possible to redecorate 30 sq meters) and there was no where for him to sleep, so he got a hotel and that's when I invited myself along. We were in the 18th, on rue Ordener, at the charm-free Eden Hotel Montmartre ( which is not to be compared with the lovely Terrass Hotel where we stayed at Christmas time . . . but it is clean and safe and there are croissants for breakfast and it's not like we were hanging around inside the whole weekend anyhow.

We didn't really do much . . . we arrived Saturday morning and left Monday night, and mostly just walked around. Ate in places we had eaten before (none of them extraordinary, but a pleasant change from Bratislava and cabbage), and got to know the city a little better. A lot of the time we were in the 18th near Sacre Coeur, but on Sunday we visited Saint Sulpice (since we had read Da Vinci Code, we wanted to see the meridian . . . which is there) and then walked all over . . . through the Luxembourg Gardens, by the Pantheon, down Rue Mouffetarde, past the mosque, through the Jardin des Plantes, and then back along the Seine to the Place de la Concorde. I guess the only thing new I did this time was use one of those public toilets . . . 40 euro cents and no classical music!

I did see the most incredible small dog on the metro . . . he looked like a bear cub, but his body had been shaved (whether for summer or for health reasons, I don't know). He sat on his owner's lap, blissful, while she held his little paw. I don't know what it was about him exactly that amused me, but I really wanted to have that dog!

Monday while The Spouse was in meetings, I tried to find some foreign language bookshops that might have children's books in Spanish for Baboo. I struck out, but while I was waiting for one of them to open (which, it turned out, was not going to happen on a Monday) I stopped in a bakery and had the most heavenly croissant I think I have ever had. Warm, buttery, light, flaky . . . it was zen-like in that enjoying it made it vanish . . . like it was just the idea of a sublime croissant. I get sentimental and all choked up about the strangest things, I know. I also got misty about the accordion player in the metro at Concorde who was doing Vivaldi . . . and well! It echoed through the maze of tunnels. You could hear him everywhere there. Apparently he is a regular there. Commuters were humming along with him, everyone perked up a little bit as they passed him. It was hard not to get just a little bit joyful when surrounded by that music.

And the flowers in the gardens! Poppies and lilacs and narcissus and lobelia. Oranges and purples and yellows and reds. Last week I had been admiring the public flower gardens here . . . bright tulips and hyacinths. This week they look small and sad compared to those glorious Parisian parks. I know it's not fair to compare, but it's hard not to.

So back to real life. And back to parenthood. While we were gone, the girls had three of their favorite teachers come stay with them. All reports suggest that they were amply spoiled with walks in the parks and ice creams. Baboo had a birthday party to attend. I was full of renewed patience and maternal . . . je ne sais quoi. Which lasted exactly until yesterday afternoon.

I had to do a little writing, and the girls were amusing themselves (since I am trying to stick to my new-and-improved No TV Rule). And the experts do all say that a hurricaned room is a sign of creative play. So when I checked on them and Skittles had strewn green Easter grass from the kitchen to the living room, I was not upset, but told her she had to pick it up. Skittles, defensively, shouts "I'M DOING IT!"

Baboo, meanwhile, is trying to get my attention to show me how she has written three birthday invitations to her friends (her birthday is June 6). I realize she has taken cards and envelops from the book we brought back from Paris for Skittles (something about Secret Princess Isabelle), written on them and sealed them up, and not only are they not hers, but now I cannot revise them in a way we can use them because she licked and sealed the envelopes. I explain to her, patiently, that these are NOT hers, she really had no right to help herself to them, and would she please not make a big deal about it to Skittles (because now she is starting to get weepy) because that will only set Skittles off.

I notice that Skittles still has not cleaned up grass. I ask again, nicely.

Then I hear Skittles saying to Baboo, "What do you mean, you're not supposed to tell me?" Summon Baboo for another private chat about the cards. Return to kitchen to see that Skittles is just noodling around. Get impatient and explain to Skittles that no one else is going to clean up her mess: she made it, she must clean it. Skittles shouts at me, "IT'S BORING!"

Skittles is marched off to her room for insubordination, screaming, and Baboo, now nervous that perhaps my wrath will turn on her, begins cleaning up the Easter grass. I tell Skittles to please stay in her room until I am no longer angry with her (which might be when she turns 14 . . .). But now I realize I have not yet started dinner, and it is getting late. Next time I checked, Skittles had signed herself out of her room, and was actually cooperating nicely with her sister to clean up the grass.

Ok, they're not axe murderers. And today it IS funny. But at the time I was not feeling like I was doing my best parenting work. Why can't they be as angelic when they are awake as they are when they are sleeping? Certainly, all is forgiven then.


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