Paris, days 1-4

As Paris is utterly spectacular and noisy and vibrant and expansive and cozy and full of cheese and baguettes and street art and epic works of art and a river and traffic jams and music and old people and children hand in hand, we are having a grand time. 

More details later, but for now, pictures. 

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the Seine

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Rue des Rosiers, near L’As du Fallafel

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St. Germain/Odéon 

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in the Luxembourg Garden  

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Les Halles

Saint-Germain des Prés  

Saint-Germain des Prés  

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La Tour Eiffel

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keys in Montmartre

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goat cheese with ash from La Petite Ferme d’Ines in the Marche des Enfants Rouge (he oldest market in Paris) 

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Les Halles

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dancing with bubbles in Les Marais

Ol is ten, Roux is Ruthie, NZ's PM shows real leadership, and away we go

My baby turned 10 this past Sunday; both boys in double digits now, and soon, Jack will be a teenager. This year, Oliver wanted a cake that pulled together much of him: our cats, St. Patrick’s Day, his love of boxes and Star Wars. And so I crafted cats from fondant, and made a square layer cake, and frosted it green and decorated with tiny gold shamrock-bedecked coins, and topped it with a cool banner I ordered from Etsy. He loved it, and I am glad.

Ol’s 10th birthday cake

Ol’s 10th birthday cake

my darling boy

my darling boy

Jack has spent this week at the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia on a space research trip he applied for through school. He and his group have been taught how to use the 40-foot steerable radio telescope to collect data, got to meet NPR’s Ira Flatow and hear his presentation as he was being honored with an award, and even visit Polyface Farm in Virginia. I have always wanted to go to Polyface and cannot believe the remarkable educational opportunities the boys’ school provides. I am exceedingly grateful. Two of Jack’s science teachers are chaperoning this trip, and while they have little connectivity in Green Bank, we’ve gotten some updates and it sounds like the trip has been incredible. They return home today.

As it turns out, Roux has gone completely by the wayside and even Tom is calling our new cat Ruthie. She is such a spritely, darling little peanut, and it just fits perfectly. Do y’all know that she chirps like a bird? It is priceless. Little chirpy trills emanate from her all day.

Nutmeg is still not interested in being her friend, but he’s calming down, and I think they’ll find their way.

The horrific attack on two mosques in New Zealand has been hard to ingest. But I am grateful for the leadership the Kiwis have in PM Jacinda Ardern. Did you see she has already announced a country-wide ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles? She has also enacted a buy-back program: “‘the government will create a buy-back program to pay owners "fair and reasonable compensation," which she estimated could cost the country between $100 million and $200 million. She said the guns will eventually be destroyed. She said no one will be prosecuted over any weapons they turn in. "Amnesty applies. We just want the guns back.’“

Not a week later, and NZ takes decisive action to protect its citizens. What inspiring leadership. If only we could see such leadership here.

Tomorrow commences spring break, and we are lucky to be heading to Paris. It will be so nice to get out of town, out of country, out of context for a bit. Y’all keep your fingers crossed our housesitter doesn’t need to mediate any feline mayhem.

A jumble of thoughts including an act of kindness, winter, and a cat

Today was the first day in ages that I believed winter would, at some point, end. Every year, I reach a breaking point: sick of cold, of wet, of soggy earth, of layers and bundling, of chapped noses, dead grass, and that dreadful gray-white shroud covering the sky. I feel bleak and enervated.

It continues to be revoltingly soggy today- our yard is but a sponge. But after lunch, the sun showed itself and the temperature crept well north of “this just sucks,” and I was able to do some yard work and listen to the birds, and uncover tulip shoots and various other evidences of life, and it felt good. We probably have three or four weeks left of definite chill, but in spotting so many tiny buds today, and that green that only means and rejoices that spring is coming, I was replenished with faith.

After I forced myself in, exhausted from transplanting a large azalea and filling three bins with yard debris, I sat in my library working and looking out front. The kids and Tom were showering, and I was catching up on a bit of work. Out of one window, I saw someone tinkering with the dog-poop bag bin I’d hung from a yield sign in our yard. In all honesty, I assumed the worst: that someone was peevish about my desire to stop neighbors from leaving their dog crap in my gardens and planned to make a statement. Such reactions seem disturbingly common these days. Ugliness, entitlement, rampant examples of “the rules don’t apply to me.” It’s like watching the social contract break down on a daily basis.

So it was the most wonderful surprise when I realized that a neighbor I don’t know terribly well but whose family I am deeply fond of and feel we take care of each other when need be (they checked in so lovingly when Nut was hit; we always talk when they’re out walking their hound; they borrowed our Corn Hole set; I hire their daughter to check in with Nut during days no one is here with him) was repairing my dog waste bag bin and rewriting the message to please clean up which has faded in the past few months. My heart nearly burst with this kindness. An acquaintance noticed that my attempt at hosting a poop-bag station needed tending and took it upon himself to do so. Yes, he and his family always clean up after their dog and they have mentioned being irritated by poop left in their yard, but still. They live several streets down, and I am just so very touched by their attention to community and people with whom they have some connection. It’s lovely to the nth.

Experiences like this are good things, because the news in America is beyond heinous and I feel extremely dismayed on the regular. Sometimes I think all we can do is try and make our immediate communities better: our childrens’ schools, our neighborhood, our workplace friends, our personal friends, the things we value within all that like animals and the environment.

Perhaps because of winter, perhaps the news, perhaps the ascent into my 40s, perhaps having seen some really ugly behavior this year at the macro and micro levels, I find myself more carefully considering with whom and how I spend my time. I have zero interest in competition of any kind; I simply want to keep learning, encourage kindness, laugh, and try to take life’s pace down a notch or ten.

I’ve been using our Instant Pot (y’all try Melissa Clark’s turkey meatloaf with sriracha), loved celebrating Mardi Gras with the kids, and on one of the many recent school days off took the kids and one of Ol’s best pals to R&R in the cat cafe in Georgetown (Crumbs & Whiskers) and its new pop-up, the Kitten Lounge. I am telling you, lounging on plush futons with purring, playful, soft animals is legitimately therapeutic.

I fell in love with a diminutive slate gray lady cat nestled in a basket. So many of the kittens and cats were darling and tugged at our hearts, but this little cha cha really caught me. I said to Jack, “What’s her name?” As he flipped over her tag, I gasped: RBG. Her flipping name is RBG.

People, is there more of a cat for me (other than the one I already have)? There is not. Jack was like, “Mom, start texting Dad.” Obviously, I already was. He actually wore down pretty quickly; I think he knew objecting was a lost cause. Plus, Tom is a sucker for attractive animals, and, as you can see, RBG is a looker.

Right?

We put in an application and headed home, hopeful that Ruth’s adoption would be as simple as was Nutmeg’s.

Nutmeg wondered what was up, post cat cafe, based on my socks.

Nutmeg wondered what was up, post cat cafe, based on my socks.

It really hasn’t been, y’all. We still don’t have the cat. We met her more than a week and a half ago. We have subjected Nut to a blood test to prove that he doesn’t have feline leukemia (even though he is totally current on his vaccines), we have bought everything needed to get ready for Roux (we’re actually naming her Roux Bader Grossi, keeping the RBG but making it our own), and I have done every bit of research I can on introducing new cats to each other. I would not feel so rushed if spring break weren’t approaching and we were leaving. I do not want our poor house sitter to have feline mayhem on her hands.

I know this is ridiculously small-fry, but can we just have our cat?! This bespoke collar, a gift of talent and love from my friend Dakota, awaits.

a kitten-sized dissetn collar

a kitten-sized dissetn collar

I am thrilled to pay for and adopt the cat. OMG, don’t shelter cats need good homes by the millions? I deeply appreciate the thorough placement and thoughtfulness, but I just want my darling girl. We were supposed to get her today, but now it’s Tuesday. Keep your fingers crossed.

In the meantime, be kind. Be generous. Send vibes of warmth and life and goodness.