Paris Day 59: Big News & An Ode to Hard-Working Moms

*My husband, Bug, wrote today’s post.*

 

During my time away from work, I’ve realized I have missed the last several years of my children’s lives, and I can never get that time back.  I also realized I need more balance in my life to be the dad and husband I want to be, and more importantly, the dad my boys’, and the husband Dawn, deserves. Over the past five years, I travelled for weeks at a time, leaving Dawn alone as a single parent to manage sports schedules, home school, oversee the household, and maintain a writing career. That’s a lot for one person to handle.

After a lot of soul searching and conversation with Dawn and the boys, I have realized I need a radical change in my life, and have resigned from my job. This may sound crazy, especially in this economy, but I think I’m in a good place to do it. Plus, I don’t want to miss any more of my kids’ and Dawn’s amazing lives. I also want to be an equal partner again with Dawn — both in terms of the parenting responsibilities and in our marriage.

By resigning now, I’m able to stay in Paris with my family until I start my new job. This means my role as Mr. Mom is a limited time engagement, but I intend to embrace it fully while I can. As you’ll see below, my first attempts have been received with mixed reviews.  That said, I have thoroughly enjoyed it and know that with a little practice, I can be almost a quarter as good as Dawn!

I think I’ve been an extremely involved dad over the past eleven years – coaching, making school breakfasts, changing night-time diapers, even making an occasional dinner. But when the boys arrived in Paris and I decided to become Mr. Mom, I quickly learned I had no idea what goes into keeping the kids happy, healthy, and engaged while running a household.

I’ve been at it for almost two weeks, and phew, I’m tired.

The days are relatively structured which makes my life a little easier. But, I have no idea how Dawn does this on a daily basis and finds time to write. I’m exhausted and ready for a nap by noon.

 Here’s the morning routine:

 8:30-ish: The boys generally wake up in order — Keegan, Finn then Boone — and in relatively quick procession because they share one over-sized bedroom.

 9:00 am: Breakfast – I’ve always been the breakfast maker in our house, so this isn’t a new routine for me. While I detest being a short-order cook, I am a big pushover and usually give into the boys’ demands for scrambled eggs, cereal, cheese and meat plates, or yogurt and granola.

It’s tough whipping up a number of different meals because our kitchen is the size of a closet. But despite the small size, it’s amazing how quickly and how badly it can become dirty! What’s also amazing is for some reason, our boys can’t seem to put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher.

 9:30 am: Math – After tidying up the kitchen, we start math lessons. Dawn takes the youngest and they play with base 10 manipulative. He really seems to be picking up the idea of addition and subtraction.

Meanwhile, I work with the older two boys.

Math is our toughest subject by far.

Pudge and The Fox (using his left hand) working on the order of operations.

We slog through the lesson every day.  The goal is 30 minutes, but we usually spend 45 minutes to one hour, and at the end, I’m ready to crawl back into bed. It takes patience and restraint, energy, and a lot of love to work through these math lessons.  The good news is that I’ve seen progress over the last several days, and that keeps all of us going.

 10:30 am: All three boys gather for our history review.

Each night, I read a chapter from the History of the World, a really cool and easily understandable chronicle that breaks history into nice, brief little chunks that even The Colonel understands.

Our review entails ten questions about the previous night’s reading. Afterward, the two older boys write 1-2 paragraphs from a focused question about the reading.

What’s funny about the history review is that the five-year-old usually gets the highest score! He dictates his answers to me via whisper, so his older brothers “don’t cheat!”  When he doesn’t know the answer, his default answer is someone attacked someone else, or it’s war. Honestly, given the history of the world, it’s probably not a bad guess.

 11:00 am: The Colonel gets a needed break, and he usually runs off and plays cars while I teach one of the boys their spelling lesson and the other tackles French with Dawn.

Spelling is everyone’s favorite subject. Pudge, our oldest, has dyslexia and he struggled with spelling until last year. But now, he loves it, and every morning he blows me away with his progress. I credit this to the program Dawn chose for him: All About Spelling.

 11:15 am: The Colonel has wanted to read for months, and he’s finally getting his chance. Dawn works with him using All About Reading. Like with Pudge and spelling, it’s pretty cool to see the progress the Colonel has already made. In just two weeks, he can read basic sentences. I’m not sure who’s happier and prouder – mom and dad or him!

The Colonel can read!

 

 Noon: Assuming everyone is still standing and awake, the boys journal for 15 minutes. The Colonel draws a picture and dictates to us what he’s trying to communicate while the other two focus on paragraph formation – strong topic sentence, four to five supporting sentences, and a good concluding sentence.

 12:15 pm: Until The Fox fell and broke his arm, we had been sending the boys to the playground for their physical activity while I tidied up the apartment and Dawn worked. That’s changed now, but I still have to load the dishwasher, wipe down the counter, hand wash dishes, do laundry and hang dry the previous load, clean the bathroom and handle whatever other household chore that needs tackling.

I whip up an easy lunch like peanut butter and jelly, re-heat leftovers from the day before, or give them some money to buy sandwiches at the patisserie around the corner.  After lunch, we head out for our day’s activities.

One of the boys favorite activities – riding the Metro. Pudge is an expert navigator and loves plotting our journey.

 7:00 pm: Dinner – we’ve been trying not to eat out as much since the boys arrived.  First, because while our boys behave well in restaurants, sitting through a typical two-hour-plus French dinner is tough. Second, it’s expensive feeding five hungry mouths every night in a restaurant.

This means, I’ve been cooking dinner.

It’s honestly been hit and miss.

Taco night was a failure. You’re probably saying, “Bug, why in the world did you try to cook tacos in Paris?”  You are wiser than me.

I bought taco seasoning, hard shells and all the fixings. I whipped up some kidney beans and corn with salsa for the vegetarian. The boys were good sports and ate it up, but both Dawn and I thought the taco season was gross.  I’ve made pasta with a bit more success and I’ve bought some good pre-made food at the local grocery store.

After dinner,  we may walk to the park a few blocks away where The Fox attracts all the French girls despite his limited French. Other nights, we stay in and play 10 Days in Europe which is a big hit in our household.

After showers and tooth brushing, I shut up the windows and shades while the boys put on their PJ’s.  When everyone’s in bed, I read the day’s history lesson. Once it’s over, we do our normal nighttime tuck-in ritual.

And then, finally then, the day with the boys is over. Dawn and I get to talk and spend some time alone without the boys.

I’m ashamed to say, until this time away, I’d never read anything Dawn wrote. I had no idea she dedicated Larkstorm to me, or included me in the acknowledgements.

But now, many evenings, Dawn and I read together. I was privileged to read Nightingale out loud to her, while she took notes.It’s been fun becoming more involved in this aspect of her life and learning what goes into writing a book.

Like being a mom, it’s not as easy as it looks.

After Nightingale, we read a beautiful contemporary story she wrote that I hope someday the world will get to read. I know I’m biased, but the voice is amazing, the story is beautiful, and there were several parts that made me cry (yes, I cried). Maybe because it’s a boy’s point-of-view, or maybe because I identify with the main character, but I’m now reading that story a second time on my own.

So there’s a typical day for me as Mr. Mom.

I thought I appreciated everything Dawn did, including her writing. But I’ll be honest. I don’t think it was possible to appreciate it until now because I had never taken the time to walk a mile – actually it seems like a marathon – in her shoes.

I can never repay Dawn for all she does for us, but the next time I say, “thank you,” or let her know how much I appreciate what she does, I at least will be saying it from a place of better understanding.

One of my favorite pictures of Dawn. A reflection in a mirrored table under the Printemps dome.

Paris Day 57: Break Down

*disclaimer: this was written at 1am, after a long night. I didn’t proofread.*

The heat. Oh, God, the heat.

I now know why Parisians flee the city in August, sleep till 2pm, and stay up socializing until 3am.

To escape the heat yesterday, we took the boys to the amazing Arts et Métier museum – an undiscovered gem not far from our place. This museum has every kind of mechanical device you can imagine – radios, tvs, old computers, weaving looms, spy camera, printing presses, airplanes. It’s a “machine” kid’s heaven.

Oh yeah. It has a few Statue of Liberties, too.

;

Today, it hit over 100 degrees, and nearly no shops, cafes, or houses have air conditioning. Bug, the boys, and I plunked down in front of a fan and watched a movie. After it was over, our 8 year old asked if he could go over to the playground since it had cooled off. We said “yes” since it was nearly 7:30 and the park closes at 8:30. And by closes, I mean a woman comes around with a whistle, blows it, and everyone files out. It’s kind of awesome.

We told Pudge to go with him and we stayed home with the Colonel who had been vomiting all day. The park is two blocks from our place. No big deal.

About fifteen minutes after they left, someone began pounding on our door. It was Pudge saying the The Fox had fallen from “Way up on the structure. I think his arm is broken.” Bug took off running, in his PJs, to the park. He called me a few minutes later saying I needed to bring his wallet and passport – an ambulance was on its way.

My last experience with an ambulance was Bug’s accident when a man called to say my husband had been hit by a truck and was pinned beneath the wheel.

I am not a fan of ambulances.

I shoved the Colonel into his shoes and raced to the playground, arriving just when the ambulance did. The Fox was on his back, surrounded by adults, not crying, but not really doing anything either. He had fallen about eleven feet off the top of the open slide thing.

The sight of the ambulance triggered a mild flashback in Bug. As much as he wanted to help The Fox, he couldn’t because he was struggling with not losing it – especially when they began to stabilize his neck. That, combined with his inability to speak French, meant I was on ambulance and hospital duty.

We were fairly confident his arm was broken, and my sweet little guy was crying – not from pain – but because it’s his right hand and he was worried he wouldn’t be able to write. He begged the doctor to please “Save my fingers,” which she promised she would. And she did. His fingers are completely free and despite not being able to move his thumb before surgery, he woke up a little and wiggled it.

I’d like to take a moment to say that the staff of Necker-Enfants is wonderful. It was the most efficient, well-organized, and fast emergency room I’ve ever been in. The staff didn’t speak much English, but they took their time to explain everything to me and The Fox. They worked hard to make sure he was comfortable and happy. Basically, they put a very scared eight-year-old at ease, and within an hour-and-half of admittance, he was in surgery. No waiting for approvals or filling out forms. It was general exam, x-ray, and we’re off to surgery.

The Fox has to stay one, possibly two, nights for observation, but we hope he can come home tomorrow.

Here’s his nasty break:

A complete break.

;

And here he is post-surgery, resting.

;

New cast 😦

Paris Day 53: The Great Macaron Taste Test

My slightly manic obsession with macarons is on par with the way some people feel about chocolate or coffee. I SIMPLY LOVE THEM. I MUST EAT THEM. ALL. THE. TIME.

I’m proud to say I’ve passed my obsession on to my boys. Since today was the first day of home school, Bug and I decided to reward them with a macaron treasure hunt/taste test. The goal: find five macaron shops and decided which reigns supreme over all and in each category. Since I’m in quarantine due to illness, Bug took the boys around Paris gathering up the goodies. They returned with a nice haul.

The haul.

The contenders from top left to bottom: Salon du Thé (1), ; Les Jardins (2), Les Paris Gourmands (3), La Durée (4), Marais Boulangerie et Patisserie (5). From left to right the flavors are lemon, vanilla, raspberry, chocolate, and salted caramel. Two shops were out of vanilla (my flavor), so I averaged out the scores to make it fairer.

The results (scoring 1-5, with 5 being the best):

Flavor: Lemon. Taster: The Colonel. Winner: All of them.

It became clear during the taste test the Colonel does not care if the cookie is good as long as it is a cookie. He rated every macaron a 5 and tried to steal other people’s flavors. He was immediately banned for life from all future taste tests, but that didn’t detour him, and he proceeded to eat as many as he could sneak. If he doesn’t puke tonight, it will be a miracle.


Flavor: Vanilla. Taster: Me.

#1 scored a 2 because it had a medicinal/plastic taste I’ve never experienced before.

#3 The filling had sugar granules that I found weird. My score – a 3.

#4 scored a perfect 5. It was soft, had the right combination of chewy and crunchy, and the filling was perfectly vanilla.

Flavor: Raspberry. Taster: The Fox. Winner: Tie – Les Paris Gourmands and Marais Boulangerie & Patisserie.

#1 scored a 3 for not having enough filling.

#2 scored a 4 for being too soft.

#3 scored a 5 . It was sweet and mushy and tasted like real raspberries.

#4 scored a 4.5. It was penalized for being too crunchy.

#5 scored a 5. The Fox declared it to be “perfectly creamy and yummy.”

Flavor: Chocolate. Taster: Bug. Winner: Les Jardins

#1 ; scored a 3.5. The cookie was too crunchy.

#2 scored a 5. Had a perfect combination of crunchy & chewy. And the ganache was amazing.

#3 scored a 3.5. It lacked filling as was almost all cookie.

#4 scored a 4.5. Almost perfect, but the cookie needed more fluff.

#5 scored a 4.0. Too Soft.

Flavor: Salted Caramel. Taster: Pudge. Winner: La Durée

#1 scored a 4. Not enough filling.

#2 scored a 4. Too mushy.

#3 scored a 4.5. So good, but not as good as…

#4 scored a 5. “It’s amazing.”

#5 scored a 4.5. “Too creamy and the cookie fell apart. But it was good.”

The overall results:

1st place – La Durée

2nd place – Marais Boulangerie & Patisserie – Rue du Vieille du Temple near Rue des Rossiers.

3rd place – Les Jardins

4th place – Les Paris Gourmands

5th place – Salon du Thé

The aftermath:

The last macaron standing.