Bad Things

I thought by now I’d be tired of Pinterest. But because there are infinity cool/pretty/clever things out there, I still remain powerless once I log on.  I spend a lot of time looking at decorating and house decor. Not everything is groovy, though. There are lots of things that I just hate. Things that are so dumb I don’t know how they remain popular. In no particular order:

White sofas. They are everywhere. Every room in every magazine seems to have at least one white piece of furniture. I understand that there are people out there who have nothing better to trouble their minds about than worrying every 20 seconds that their sofa is getting dirty. I don’t understand these people at all. Not one tiny bit. I can’t imagine the amount of stress that a white couch (or chair) would add to my life. Even if it’s a machine washable slipcover. Haven’t these people ever heard of chocolate milk? Or husbands who like to lie down with their feet up? Or brand new dark jeans? Or pets with dark hair? Or just dust floating through the air?  I have had people with white sofas swear they’re not hard to maintain. I have one word for these people: liars.

Dumb Sayings. It’s really popular to have words incorporated into your decor. I have a few signs and sayings around various rooms in my house. They’re phrases that are really special to me.  But at some point this word trend is just dumb. For instance, this sign that I saw at Michael’s last week:

IMG_1573

Home. Of all the words to pick, that’s the best you can think of? Like you’re not going to know where you are unless you have a sign proclaiming it? Like your friends are going to come over and be like, “oh, I thought we were at the dentist’s office but I can see from your sign that we are in a home.”  Duh.  This is even dumber than “live, laugh, love”, another silly and meaningless phrase (“hey, I forgot to laugh today but that doormat just reminded me. So haw haw haw.”)

Karate-Chopped Pillows. This trend came out of the clear blue sky a few years ago. The first time I saw it I actually said out loud, “what in the world?”  See, we used to have this pug named Anna. Anna’s favorite thing was to sit up on the back of our sofa and lie as close to our heads as possible. If she could have made out with us, she would have. Unfortunately, when Anna would manage to get her lazy butt off of the sofa, all the sofa pillows would have a giant dent in the top of each one. It drove me insane in the membrane. I couldn’t have cared less that there was pug hair everywhere (pugs shed like you would not believe), but those messed up pillows made me lose it. So imagine how perplexed I was to see that there is a style that makes it look like pets have been sleeping on every single cushion. This is now a thing. Why? WHY iS THIS POPULAR? I think it’s ridiculous and I don’t care if Joanna Gaines* shows up at my front door and demands that I karate-chop my pillows; it’s never happening. (Bonus points in the picture below for karate-chopped pillows AND a white sofa! Too bad there’s no chevron as well; then it would have been everything I dislike the most.)

Karate Chopped pillows

 

 Open kitchen shelving. Oh how pretty it looks. There is something that makes my heart skip a little beat whenever I see a kitchen with open shelves instead of boring cupboards.  But then I remember that I actually have plastic cups. And bowls. And a bunch of mismatched mugs which I happen to be quite fond of. And several sets of dishes that are packed into the cupboards because that’s how kitchens are: full of stuff.  Maybe if all you have in your kitchen is a charmingly curated collection of vintage milk glass, then this would work for you.

open shelving

 

Or how about this? It looks so wonderful! But it is just a disaster waiting to happen. I can hardly wait until some three-year old tries to get those pretzels down for a snack.  Let’s think about this: who would keep their flour and sugar in a glass jar on a super high shelf? It makes no sense. (Truthfully I have this pinned on my Pinterest Board–me and ten trillion other people–but it’s totally a pipe dream. Like I might as well wish for a dog that scoops his own poop.)

Open pantry

 

 

My final pet peeve is  storage-less side tables. They could be anywhere but I find it particularly vexing in the bedroom. What the heck? Don’t you have any earplugs? Or chapstick? Or a pen? Where do you put these things? In the case of this room below there’s barely enough room on the top of the side table, what with the orchid and picture frame and superfluous alarm clock. There’s not even space for a box of tissues, but maybe I’m the only one who ever has a runny nose.  If a side table doesn’t have drawers it’s dead to me.

dumb side table

 

I know I must sound crotchety and old. Kind of like the decorating version of an old lady who says she only wants sensible shoes. But I’m right! I don’t care that every catalog I get in the mail has open shelving and side tables with no storage whatsoever. They’re wrong, I tell you! Wrong!

 

*Joanna Gaines is the main decorating lady on the HGTV show Fixer Upper. It’s a really good show filmed right up the road in Waco. I have only watched a few episodes thanks to a Fixer Upper marathon that was on TV the last time I stayed at a hotel. Someone really needs to invent a cable system that only has HGTV. I would be a very happy girl. BTW, I went to Joanna’s shop, Magnolia, last week. It was very cute but verrrrrry tiny.

Kimmel Austin

In case you missed this little detail, I live in Austin, Texas. Right now in Austin it’s SXSW. Which, for those who live under a rock or are just over the age of 60, is a super-mega-gigantic movie/music/gaming/computer festival that lasts for a week and a half. It also transforms our rather small downtown into a raging cesspool of traffic, drunks and weirdos.  Everybody calls it “South By” (emphasis on the first syllable). It sounds semi-pretentious but “South by Southwest” is a redundant mouthful.

Mister is into the movie scene and because of his job as a video producer has employed pretty much every actor in the Central Texas area. So it’s always fun to see what the tykes have been up to. Also, it’s pretty fun going to see the movies when the directors and several of the stars are right there in the audience. He always gets a platinum pass which allows him first dibs on every event. And there are about a jillion events going on all over downtown at every hour of the day and night.  He manages to get fed several meals a day for free just by attending the right parties and get-togethers.

I am rather non-impressed with the entertainment industry. I don’t like how important they find themselves. At this point in my life I find it incredibly annoying how hard they try: to look good, to be “unique” and “edgy”, to pretend to be so much more awesome than they really are.  At one point I would have cared a lot too. But now I am old. Make that Old with a capital -O. And I know this because I crave authenticity. I really want people to be themselves and get rid of all the crap and façades. Just be who you really are, man!

Mister occasionally drags me out of the house to a movie he thinks sounds like something I’d be interested in. I have to wait in the pitiful “general admission” line which might as well have a sign that says “losers stand here”. He gets in first and saves me a seat while I wait there knitting and eavesdropping on everyone’s conversations. Yesterday’s foray into SXSW was a taping of the Jimmy Kimmel show. We were required to stand in line in the sun and heat for two hours which made me peevish beyond belief. I was ready to throw in the towel but I held on and it actually ended up being really fun and interesting. (Listen, I may complain about all this stuff but when I go out, I do it with enthusiasm. Because nothing is more annoying than self-conscious people who won’t cut loose.)

Mostly I stood and watched all the hipsters around us. And I saw them with their silly clothes that are supposed to be ironic but mostly make them look like rejects from 1989. A few years ago I would have felt super self-conscious like I wasn’t cool enough to stand outside and wait in a dumb line with all the stylish people.  This year I came straight from taking York to the oral surgeon to get his wisdom teeth out. I didn’t really care if my shirt was awesome (although it was St. Patrick’s Day so I did make sure it was green), or that I had trendy shoes or edgy accessories.

This year I feel fine with who I am. Am I thin? Heck no! I’m fatter now than when I was pregnant. Am I stylish? Not if you consider the fact that most of my clothes come from Steinmart or Costco. Is my hair awesome? Well, I’m 44 but I don’t have any greys so that fact alone makes me drip with pride. (Take that, all you people who must get your hair colored!) My hair is not super styling but I think it generally looks pretty decent.  I do have nice makeup so I have that going for me. You can wear awesome sunglasses and overall shorts (yes, they’re back) with high-heeled booties, but if you haven’t got on an attractive shade of lipstick, you really aren’t all that.

So I guess I’m really a grown up now. Or maybe I’m an old fogey. I don’t know. But I have to echo the sentiments of Jasper who announced after looking at everyone meandering around downtown Austin, “who are all these awful people?”.

 

There is one sure way to get a cold wherein your nose runs like a waterfall and you are forced to sleep with bits of tissue stuck in your nostrils. And then your lips get bone dry because you’ve been mouth-breathing for two days. Let’s not forget the painful-skin-and-bone fever either.

The way to get that kind of cold is quite simple: it’s not about germs, if that’s what you’re thinking. They might have taught you that in science class but the real cause is running out of tissues with lotion. As soon as your body senses that all the tissues in your house are the regular sandpaper-y kind, that’s when it knows what to do.

If I had taken a shower at some point in the last three days I would go get a new box of tissues with lotion. But, alas, I look frightful. So no soft tissues for me.

P.S. You might wonder why my husband or son hasn’t driven to the store to buy any. That would be an excellent question. In the mean time I think I’ll earn how to blow my nose like a cartoon character. It seems like the appropriate skill for a time like this.

 

 

 

I love baby names so much. There are very few topics that give me more pleasure in discussing. So I was super excited when Nameberry asked me to write a couple of blog posts them. My first? The outlandish world of Mormon Baby Names. Mosey over and have a read!

 

essential-oil

Are you on the essential oil bandwagon? Nevermind, don’t answer that. Because if there is anyone more missionary-minded than Mormons, it’s people who are into essential oils. You would think that essential oils are the cure-all to every ailment under the sun, the way do-terra people talk. I do like the idea of essential oils, though, and think there are all sorts of nature-ey substances that can help people get well.  I tend to be a little distrustful of mainstream medicine. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good antibiotic and my kids are vaccinated right on schedule. But on the whole I think doctors are just educated guessers. Sometimes they can hit the nail on the head but a lot of the time they are just way off-base. But they refuse to believe that they are; so instead they throw a bunch of expensive prescription medication at every ailment and think it will all be OK.

A couple of months ago York got a nasty case of Mono. If you’ve ever had Mono you know there is nothing to treat it. Just take some Advil and get a comfy pillow because you’re going to spend the next six weeks sleeping your life away.  That’s it. That’s seriously all the doctors have to say. So I was more than happy to have a friend of mine offer to help out with some essential oils. Essential oils are especially appealing to me when modern medicine has zero to offer.

She came over and gave York some oils to gargle with to help with his killer sore throat and some other oils to make into pills to boost his immune system. Or something.

After three doses York was feeling well enough to drag himself to school. But he called in absolute dismay by the end of the day. He was covered with a red rash and his face and lips were quite swollen. I called my friend who had given me the essential oils;  “A rash is just a symptom of the body adjusting to the powerful essential oils,” she explained. “This is just his body’s way of detoxing.”

I raised my eyebrow. A rash doesn’t seem like a reassuring side effect. What’s next, getting rid of bad humors through blood-letting?

I was assured by my friend that it wasn’t an allergic reaction, and after doing some investigative reporting on the almighty interwebs, I felt assured that York wasn’t having an allergic reaction. (Just to be sure I gave him Benadryl which made zero difference in the rash or swelling.) If essential oils are powerful enough to cause this sort of reaction after just a few doses; there needs to be a lot more education before people start recommending these products, willy-nilly. Obviously essential oils can pack a punch if this is what can happen. Learning how to use these products properly should be a much bigger deal than it seems to be.

Here’s my big beef with essential oils: it’s really hard to find actual, truthful information. Instead people are being “educated” by the companies that sell the oils. That seems all wrong. Everyone knows that corporations exist to make money. They can say that they just want to help people, but if that were true they wouldn’t be charging the prices they do for their oils. They want to make a buck (well, lots of bucks, actually). So of course these companies want to sell all the oil that they can. I get that and I understand that’s what business is about. But I think this causes a conflict of interest. I basically don’t trust what these corporations have to say. It’s like a petroleum manufacturer making cars; wouldn’t a petroleum company make a car that requires you to use even more gas because that’s how they make money? Selling people gas? So why would I trust them to make a car that gets good mileage?  Same idea with essential oil companies.

Trying to find a reputable website or book to educate myself has been almost impossible too. What I’ve had have a hard time finding is a book that is unbiased. Many of the books and websites are affiliated with essential oil producers and affiliates. These books want me to use all sorts of oils every day for every complaint I have–surprise, surprise!  Again it makes me very skeptical of anything E.O. companies have to say. These are huge corporations that have all sorts of catch-phrases and hype that are meant to replace education with enthusiasm. (And lets not forget about the whole MLM aspect which makes me plain old uncomfortable.)

Here’s something I would like every essential oil company to know: the more copywrited terms you use, the more skeptical I become; so save your “certified pure therapeutic grade”, “seed to seal” and “certi-5″ testing and just give me the honest truth. I am not interested in your slick marketing and websites featuring beautiful people surrounded by flowers.

What is a smart and savvy girl to do? I stumbled upon a few resources. Here were some incredibly helpful blog posts:

Which Essential Oil Company Should YOU Buy From?

The Great Essential Oils Showdown

These great articles piqued my interest in finding out the truth about Essential Oils. Just this week I took a big jump and registered for a couple of courses from Vintage Remedies. I’ve done a ton of info-gathering on the web and it seems like these classes are just what I’ve been looking for: research-based classes using actual science to educate and teach the way to use essential oils properly. These classes are not cheap but I really feel like I’ll be able to get the truth that I’ve been looking for to help my family find a healthy way to use natural substances to heal and prevent illness.

I’ll let you know how my journey goes!

 

harp-hands-toned

As you may or may not know I play the harp. Back when I was but a child, I saw somebody playing a harp and I just fell in love. Unfortunately for me my mother had musical fantasies of her own and I got to live those out instead. It didn’t matter that I had less than zero desire to be the church organist, that’s what my mother always wanted to be so my siblings and I were chained to piano lessons starting when we were small. I was never any good–truly–and I hated it with a white-hot burning passion. “Oh, one day you’ll thank me for forcing you to play!” my mother assured me as I sat and cried yet again before another piano lesson.

When I got old enough I started taking organ lessons. Excuse me, organ lesson. Did you know that you play the organ with not just your hands, but also your feet? There is a whole other keyboard in front of the bench on the floor!  I took one lesson and I was like, no way is that ever happening in a million years. I can’t even play a hymn with my hands let alone my feet.

Let’s fast forward to the conclusion of my piano career: I was lucky enough to get in a car crash and break my arm really badly when I was sixteen. No more lessons! I didn’t touch a piano for years after that and still avoid them at all costs. I hated, hated, hated playing and have thankfully forgotten how to do it so I will never have to play again. So, yeah, thanks Mom! I told you when I was ten that I would never play the piano when I grew up but, nooo, you just didn’t believe me.  Moral of the story: Music education is very important. But if your kid wants to play a different instrument, let her! Second moral of the story: Don’t get in a battle of wills with me. You’ll lose.

When I was thirty or so I decided that my time had come. I have always been a collector of hobbies and harp-playing seemed perfect to add to my repertoire of semi-pointless but enjoyable skills. At that time I lived in Utah where there are about a jillion harpists. (I don’t know what it is about Mormons and harps but there is a total love connection.) I found a super awesome teacher and adored it from day one. The best thing about playing the harp is that it sounds really wonderful even when you aren’t very good. It’s quite a bit more complicated than it looks, though. It has a lot more in common with playing the piano than, say, a stringed instrument like a guitar.

Even though I love playing the harp, I just don’t have a musical self. Music does not come naturally to me. I like visual stuff way more. I should be way better at playing the harp than I am, although I totally quit after I had Jasper; harp lessons seemed like a laughable folly when I had six children under age ten and could barely even handle simple tasks like brushing my hair. I can also be a bit of a perfectionist. So playing and making mistake after mistake kind of stresses me out.

Which I am now realizing since I agreed to play the harp at church on the Sunday before Christmas. I haven’t learned a new piece in about a decade. I just keep playing all the ones I’m already good at. That seems incredibly lame now that I write it out. What’s the matter with me? I guess I like coasting along.

I found a piece that is not too challenging (“In the Bleak Midwinter” because I just dig those oddball carols) but–oh my goodness gracious–is it killing me!!! I have been practicing all week and I still haven’t gotten past the second line. I can’t even play the first two lines without making a dozen mistakes! This does not bode well. And because I suck and because I agreed to play in front of the entire universe I have a permanent stress-knot in between my shoulder blades (also my eyelid twitches but that’s not such a big deal). Apparently I won’t be able to relax until after December 21st or unless a true Christmas miracle occurs allowing me to learn the music better.

Bleak midwinter, indeed.

 

(First of all “license” is a really tricky word to spell. I know there are c’s and s’s but I can’t ever remember which goes where. Same thing with “excersise”. Or is it “exercize”?  I’m really a good speller, I swear!)

Texas DPS

York, although being 16, was a bit of a dawdler about getting his driver’s permit and license. We signed India up for a driving school and she did all her stuff and got her license and it was not too hard. We decided to do the homeschool option for York because . . . we’re dumb and cheap. The homeschool version costs about $120 less than a driving school. The would-be driver has to do an online course but you do every speck of driving with the would-be driver.

Let me tell you, it’s most definitely worth $120 to make someone else learn to drive with your child. You eventually are the one who has to put in the major hours with them either way, but it’s nice having someone else show them the ropes at the beginning when they are know-nothing idiots. There isn’t anything more frustrating than a teenager who thinks he’s a great driver just because he’s played lots of driving video games. You can explain til you’re blue in the face that the very nature of Forza Motorsport is the complete opposite of driving in the real world (you have to obey speed limits, stay on the road and no running over pedestrians), but he’ll think he’s an expert already. Ah, the hubris of a teenage boy!

York did an online course for Driver’s Ed that was pretty straightforward. The rotten part was actually doing the driving.  Here in Texas you have to do about a million and a half hours of driving before you get your license (a bunch of it has to be done at night, too). This is definitely a great idea but it’s se emotionally taxing that I found myself giving York excuse after excuse about why he couldn’t drive. I had just been through the white knuckles with India, I needed a year or so to recover before I got to this business with York. Not to mention I didn’t want him to drive with his siblings in the car; if he was going to kill us I wanted him to take along as few people as possible. When there are six kids at home it’s quite difficult to find a time when only one person needs to go somewhere.

When you have toddlers and older people laugh and say, “wait until he’s a teenager” you look at them and think, “what’s worse than a meltdown in the middle of Target?”. You imagine a surly teenager and wonder “how hard can that be?”  The idea of not having to hire a babysitter anymore/make food other than chicken nuggets/wipe anyone’s bum makes the teenage years shine from afar with a rosy glow.

It’s things like teaching your kid how to drive that are simply too hideous to explain to a young mother. How do I communicate the frustration and terror of making sure my child understands how to not kill himself and others with this one ton mass of steel and soft Corinthian leather*.

York and I (I am the teacher of children learning to drive. Let’s just say that Mister’s temperament is not quite suited to patience in the driver’s seat. Plus I’m a better driver to begin with) muddled through our many hours of driving together until it was the magical day to get his driver’s license. Instead of getting it at the dumpy little office ten minutes from our house, everyone told us to go to the big fancy office way on the other side of town because it was so much easier to get an appointment. So York made an appointment–only a two-week wait!– to take the driving test way over there. I looked at the DPS† website to make sure we had the proper paperwork, although the website is as vague and unhelpful as possible (“Bring the Driver Safety Form”. Well, which of the eight hundred forms and papers that I’ve been given over the last few months is that? Why can’t they just say, “the form you got from the online driving school saying you finished all the lessons”??? Oh that’s right, this is the government. Why make something easy to understand when you can be cryptic and misleading instead?)

I pulled York out of school early (Of course driving tests are only given during school hours. Of course!) and toodled over to the DPS (a 35-minute drive and $2 in tolls) and got in line for his appointment. The lady who worked there was sweet but very insistent that we were missing a form. The form that I had left sitting on the table because I didn’t realize it was one we had needed. Naturally. It was too late to go get it and return before the office closed (an hour and ten minute round trip, remember!)   At this point York was about to lose it because he was not about to wait another two weeks for his driving test. The Prom was in two days and he wasn’t crazy about his mother driving him and his date around.

The sweet DPS lady assured us that if we arrived first thing in the morning we would be able to get a walk-in appointment. So we were on the road at 7:00 a.m. the next day to get to the DPS on the other side of town when it opened. We had all the correct paperwork and York and the driving instructor set off.

And they were back sixty seconds later.

Seems our safety sticker had expired a year earlier. In all fairness we were driving India’s car and I had no idea. So we drove around the surrounding area until we found a shop that could do a safety inspection. An hour later we were back at the DPS only to realize it wasn’t the safety sticker that had expired, but the car registration (which is a sticker on the dashboard so it’s very easy to tell when the date passes.)  There is no way we had time to drive over to a completely different government office to get a new registration so we decided to go back home and get my minivan.

Fast forward half an hour; we were about to get in my minivan when I realize that it too has an expired registration (really, people, I can’t be expected to stay abreast of everything). Our only other option was the giant pick-up we owned that mostly just sits in the driveway until Mister decides that he needs to take stuff to Goodwill. Only India had taken it to school that day because we’d been using her car for the driving test.

So we went to the High School and had her run the keys out to us in the parking lot. We swapped cars (registration and safety stickers were up to date!) and drove back to the DPS. York had never driven the truck in his life but that just made it all the more wonderful.

By this point it was noon. We’d originally left for the test at 7 a.m. Yay for missing another day of school!

York took his test and passed (hooray, because I really would have strangled him if we’d gone to all that trouble and he’d flunked), and it was very anti-climactic. We were just happy to be out of there. As we exited we passed a sulky teenage girl who was standing there with her mother while a DPS employee informed them that the license plates on their car were expired and they’d have to come back another day. “But I pulled her out of school for this! Now I’ll have to pull her out again!”, her mother wailed. I hear you, sister. I hear you.

So York got his driver’s license, hopped in the car all by himself and drove back for the last couple of hours of school.

The worst part of all of this is watching your child drive away alone for the very first time. Your heart has just driven off and you are sure this child will certainly die on the road. You spend the rest of the time praying every few minutes that he will be safe and not be killed. Like really, honest-to-God praying. For the first week you will nearly cry with sadness every time your boy wants to drive somewhere, certain are you that you will never see him again.

But then a few days later you find yourself making dinner and realize you forgot to buy an avocado. So you hand your son some money and have him run to the store and it’s like angels started singing and the world is bright and wonderful now that you can make somebody else run your errands.

Just like all the other things that happen when you’re a parent and your child goes through milestones, it is bittersweet. This one is the most bitter and sweet I’ve experienced, though. It’s so great to not have to pick people up from play practice at 10:00 at night. Or drive them across town at 6:30 am for the SAT. Or to have an extra set of wheels when one kid needs to be picked up from a birthday party at the exact moment when another kid needs to be at a soccer game. This is pure bliss. But now my child has the power to inflict death, whether on himself or someone else. I mean, I guess he could have stabbed somebody before but it’s not quite the same thing as a car crash. He also has the power to say he’ll be one place and be someplace else far, far away. That could mean trouble.

This parenting job, though, is all about letting go and hoping it all turns out semi-decently. It’s hard but it’s good.

Of course I’m saying all this now but let’s see how much of a basket-case I am when we take India to college next month.

 

 

 

†Here in Texas we have the Department of Public Safety not the DMV.

*You younger people won’t get this reference. But you should. I totally remember this car commercial starring the ever-suave Ricardo Montalban. Most people remember him saying “rich Corinthian leather”, but that is erroneous. Also erroneous? The leather that Chrysler used came from New Jersey, not Corinth.

This was probably the lamest day of our trip. It started out well, though. Of course we stopped by the Fête du Pain as we did every morning. We ate all our deliciousness on our way to Sainte-Chapelle, the little jewel-box of a church on the same island as Notre Dame. There was a security line that wound around the sidewalk that we had to wait in to get our bags peered into. Thanks to our Museum Passes, though, we walked right into the church after going through security, bypassing the hundreds of people waiting in line to buy tickets. Chumps!

Sainte Chapelle is an interesting church. It’s quite small and is built on two levels. The bottom level is where you enter. It’s pretty but nothing fancy. That’s where the servants and lesser mortals worshipped. Up a tiny winding staircase you’ll find the upper chapel with its gorgeous riot of stained glass. This, as you might have guessed, is where the Kings of France and the noble classes went to church.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The stained glass windows are in the process of being restored. Some are finished and look bright and beautiful; some have scaffolding and you can’t see much at all and some still have restoration left to go. It’s quite interesting to see the differences.

It’s not a terribly large church, so it doesn’t take much time to visit. But it’s so lovely that it’s certainly worth a trip.

I split up from the rest of the family afterwards for the afternoon. I wanted to do a little shopping for some beauty products at City Pharma (the best and cheapest drugstore in town). French drugstores sell the most wonderful beauty products. None of them are particularly cheap but the quality is superb. Unfortunately a major wrench was thrown into the plans: my period started.  Normally this wouldn’t be worth a mention but it brings up a very important issue. There are no public bathrooms in France. Theoretically there are, but they are so few and far between that I have to believe that French people have bladders the size of watermelons. No store we visited had a public bathroom. Not even Monoprix which is a giant department store. I made sure to ask after I’d spent quite a bit of money there so they wouldn’t think I was just in the store to use the bathroom. Still the clerks claimed there were no toilets. You might, as I do, hate McDonalds. But when you’re in Europe your heart will leap at the idea of a bathroom, a cold drink and free wifi.

Where do people pee in France? It’s a question I still can’t answer. Every museum has a bathroom with lines a mile long. It’s really the only choice for tourists, of which there are a jillion. Occasionally we’d come across one of those automatic public toilets that sits in the middle of the sidewalk. Only once was one of the working; the rest of the time we’d get our hopes up only to waddle away, praying to find another alternative soon.

Of course I had no tampons or anything with me. So instead of shopping for beauty supplies I spent almost two hours shopping for lady supplies. I visited three pharmacies, all of which had entire aisles devoted to weight loss aids, but no tampons (seriously. No tampons. I walked up and down every aisle.) Finally I struck gold at Monoprix (which is very similar to Target). Because there was no bathroom there, I spent another twenty minutes trying to find a toilet. Any toilet. I didn’t care how smelly or dirty. Eventually I stumbled upon a modern-type shopping mall and was so happy to find a public bathroom that I almost started to cry. Naturally I had to pay 1€ to use it, but at that point I would have paid 10.

In my frantic wanderings I came across this charming beehive built into the corner of a building. You know I have such a fondness for beehives. You didn’t know? Well, how do you think I came up with the name for this blog?

Beehive Paris

I also passed by a realtor with the same name as me! (The spelling is a bit different, alas.)  If I hadn’t been doing the potty dance I might have stopped in to introduce myself.

Hilde Realtor Paris

And look at this jaunty little car! It has silhouettes of all the most famous French sites on it. I wonder if they have one in a minivan version.

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While I was have menstrual-related anxiety, Mister took the kids on a ride in a bateau-mouche on the Seine. They had a wonderful time and I am so glad they didn’t have to get dragged on my drug store and toilet wanderings around Paris.

When we finally met up, it was time to go to Versailles. When Mister and I went to Versailles the first time about twenty years ago, we thought it was kind of lame. Don’t get me wrong, Versailles is very grand and impressive and everything you would imagine it to be. But it just really lacked something. A heart, maybe.  It was built to be fancy and ostentatious and that’s pretty much the vibe you get.  But I thought maybe I had the wrong impression when I went last time. Maybe I would like it better since I’m so much older and more mature. And it’s May and wouldn’t the gardens look so mud better now than when we went last time and it was still winter-y and cold?

Here’s what I think about Versailles: it’s good to check off of your bucket list. Is it beautiful? Well, in a very grandiose impersonal way. It’s tremendously big and gaudy. It’s not my style at all. Foreigners, especially all the Chinese we saw there, were absolutely blown away by it. They could not get enough. York was pretty impressed too. It’s cool to see a place like that at least once. I mean, there were up to 10,000 people staying there at the same time. Do you realize how big of a building that is?  And yes, the gardens are amazing. But they’re very formal with miles of hedges and topiaries. It’s not about flowers, it’s about subduing nature. The entire experience of Versailles was built to impress everyone with how the King of France was boss of everything: not just his subjects but nature too.  There aren’t big flowery fields and rolling hills and things that we find so attractive nowadays; Nope, it’s just perfectly manicured trees and bushes that could just as easily be made of plastic and wouldn’t look all that different. Everything is about order and formality. So mostly we went because the kids should see it, but Mister and I swore never to go back.

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Getting to Versailles requires you to take the RER which is the train out to the suburbs. It requires a different ticket than the métro does. Pretty much every person who goes to Versailles is doing so as a day-trip from Paris. Some are on tour busses but most people will be taking the RER. To save yourself a mountain of time, buy your outgoing and return ticket in Paris. There is the most outrageously long line at the  Versailles train station to buy return tickets back to Paris. Here’s the tricky thing, the ticket machines don’t have a return ticket listed. So you select the “Versailles Rive Gauche” station and then . . . what? There is no Versailles-returning-to-Paris option.  I was completely perplexed, especially after my sister-in-law told me that she hadn’t been able to figure it out either, the last time she was here. So I went straight to the ticket counter and asked for four tickets each way.  And here’s what I got: eight tickets that said “Paris – Versailles Rive Gauche”. And guess what! The same ticket works both ways. So just buy two tickets for Paris to Versailles. One will get you there and one will get you back. I know you’re feeling very skeptical of what I’m saying, but the man at the train station assured me that this is how it works. And it did indeed work on the way back from Versailles.

The French train system is quite fickle. Trains quit right in the middle of the route without previous notice. Make sure you find out if the train you want to take to Versailles is, in fact, going all the way out there.

As Versailles is fantastically crowded at all times, we decided to go at the end of the day when the crowds have died down quite a bit. I studied the Versailles website to make sure our plans would work out. I picked a Saturday because the fountains are turned on on Saturdays during the summer.  The largest fountain–the Apollo fountain–only turns on for a short time. Which we somehow missed. The smaller fountains stay on as long as the château is open. The website doesn’t mention this. It only says that the gardens are open two hours later than the château. The website also doesn’t state that the gardens are a separate cost than the palace. The palace admission is included in the Museum Pass. But the gardens and the Petit Trianon are not. If you wait until after the château is closed then you can get in the gardens for free. When all the fountains are shut off.  It’s all very confusing and ended up making me very angry and frustrated.

The thing at Versailles that we didn’t see last time–and I was dying to see–is the Petit Hameau. It’s the place where Marie Antoinette pretended to be a little country shepherdess. I am so entirely jealous.

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Here is the crazy thing: the Petit Hameau is a 45 minute walk from the château. It takes that long to walk through all the fancy gardens. Goodness gracious!  There are also bikes that you can rent. And golf carts. And there is a little baby “train” that goes back and forth. But to my great dismay the Petit Trianon (of which the Petit Hameau is a part) closed earlier than the chateau. Right about the time that we wanted to get in, of course. No amount of cajoling softened the hearts of the employees. Even asking if I could just stand outside and take pictures. Non madame! Ce n’est pas possible! I found most of the people working at Versailles to be smug, cross and utterly unhelpful.

We had to content ourselves with seeing only the palace itself. Which, as I stated before, was gaudy and overblown with eight hundred types of marble and gilt everything and statues and paintings of gods and goddesses everywhere. (OK, we get it Louis XIV, you’re rich and powerful! Jeez!) Despite the crowds having thinned out remarkably, the place was still packed. We literally had to wait at the door of each room for five minutes while the crowds funneled through into the next room. I was so put out and disgusted that I didn’t take a single picture. Even in the Hall of Mirrors. It happened to be wall-to-wall with Chinese people taking photos anyway. Nothing puts me in a foul mood like a huge crowd.

Around the side of Versailles are the apartments of Louis XV’s three old-maid daughters: Adelaide, Victoire and Sophie. These rooms are intimate and pretty and I liked them so much more. Here is Adelaide’s bedroom. I took a picture of it because I have a daughter named Adelaide and I thought she would find it interesting. Also interesting is the fact the the Royal daughters were called Madame, not Princesse. How strange.

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Here’s a sitting room. It had these tiny chairs which I found quite interesting. What were they for? Children? Midgets? (Don’t laugh. Louis XIV’s mother was enchanted by dwarves and had a whole coterie of them.) Dogs?  I don’t know. Maybe they were just foot rests.  (I absolutely need this rug for my family room, by the way.)

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I just loved the walls in one of the rooms. Blue and white is a great love of mine. It’s fresh and timeless.

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We were happy to leave Versailles. We stopped by the Monoprix there to stock up on more French goodies and to buy some baby gifts for my pregnant friends back home (again, no bathroom. Aaaaarrrgh!)

The trains from Versailles pretty much all go to Paris. You just look at the screen above each train platform to figure out which one is leaving next. Some of them just sit there for ages with the doors open for some inexplicable reason. Make sure you’re on a train that actually plans on leaving soon.

If you want to go to Versailles, knock yourself out. But don’t feel the least bit sorry if you omit a trip out there. It’s not a quick jaunt; It’s about an hour each way on the train and a minimum of two hours at the château if it’s empty and you don’t see the gardens or the Petit Trianon. Most people are there for six or eight hours.  I certainly won’t be going out there again, I don’t care how many triangles Rick Steves gives it.

I bought Ada an Easter dress a couple of days ago. As I have done for many, many years I cut the bow off the front of the dress.

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I really hate bows. I always have. I don’t mind a bow on a dress that naturally occurs, say on the sash of a dress. But I hate bows that are sewn on to clothing for no other reason than to just make a dress more . . . busy.  I don’t know if this simple act has somehow been passed on to my daughters, none of whom like frilly clothes. Although I don’t want to give you the wrong idea: I love layers of  ruffles. If I see something with ruffles, I must buy it. It doesn’t matter what it is. Same for polka dots. I cannot control myself. But bows? That is another story.

Things are not so bow-covered now but that wasn’t always the case. Back when India was a baby in the mid-90′s there was a movement to encase little girls in more bows and floppy collars and gobs of fabric than should have been allowed. This movement was called Daisy Kingdom. You most likely have blocked these clothes from your memory, either because you bought it for your kids or you are young enough to have been dressed in this hideous stuff yourself. Or maybe you’re in your early 30′s you only saw these monstrous dresses from afar.

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The distinguishing factor of these dresses–besides the sheer volume of fabric and superfluous use of bows–was the cutesy bunnies and bears everywhere. I have always hated cutesy crap. Somebody made us one of these as a wedding gift and we were supposed dress it in baby clothes (different outfit for each season!) and have it sitting around our house. Naturally it found its way to Goodwill within a few month of the wedding. Who gives a grown woman a stuffed animal?

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I was living in Portland during the Daisy Kingdom heyday and we actually had a humungous Daisy Kingdom store downtown. I remember going down there and being simply overwhelmed by the ruffliness of everything. On paper I theoretically liked this stuff. I love little girls in pinafores! But in reality these clothes were much too over-the-top. I don’t remember if you could actually buy these dresses or if everything was just patterns and fabric and it was all do-it-yourself. But you know Mormons and how crafty we are. There was a parade of little girls with crazy curls wearing these dresses week after week at church. And it was just to sickly sweet for my taste.

And there I was picking the bows off of everything. I had to buy expensive socks from a catalog because that were the only place I could find non-ruffly socks (oh yeah, I only hate ruffles when they’re on socks. Or pageant dresses.)  Nowadays you can buy classy kids clothes all over the place but I still find myself picking off bows trying to make my girls look as non-cheesy as possible.

One day last year I was killing myself on the rowing machine (I have realized that I hate HATE HATE running), watching Netflix. I clicked on a show called Addiction. It’s a really good, graphic non-fiction show about–surprise!–addicts and alcoholics. The woman on the show was talking about how low she had fallen because of her heroin addiction and how she simply couldn’t stop using even though she was ruining her life and the lives of everyone around her. When she was describing what is was like with the heroin having so much power over her and not being able to stop, I burst into tears. I sat there and sobbed because I felt exactly the same way. But my drug of choice is not illegal. It is sugar.

If you scroll through my recipe tab you will notice that pretty much every recipe I list is chock full of carbs and sugar. These things are my very favorites in life. I grew up baking, teaching myself how to bake at an early age because I simply couldn’t get enough suweets (this is what I did whenever you left the house, Mom! You told me not to use the stove or oven but I just had to). Luckily I was blessed with a decent metabolism that tidily sorted through the sugar and pop I existed on for most of my life. Once I hit 40, though, my metabolism waved goodbye. Practically overnight it came to a screeching halt. I did what I had done in the past: went to Weight Watchers, tried to be reasonable about portion sizes and switched my full-sugar Mt. Dew habit to Coke Zero (sorry, but I find Diet Coke to be utterly vile.)  Nothing happened. I couldn’t lose a pound if my life depended on it.

Then I was called to be the Relief Society President. This means I was put in charge of all the women in my church congregation. Not only am I in charge of planning activities and lessons, but I’m the one on the front lines when the women have major setbacks due to illness, depression, death or unemployment. All sorts of fun things. All this new stress and responsibility left me exhausted and depleted at the beginning. So I did what every red-blooded American would do; I turned to food. Now I wasn’t stress-eating just for my own problems, I was stress-eating for everyone’s problems! The results were not pretty. I didn’t even know you could gain weight that fast!

I cut down on calories and took up running (I had to try it before I realized I hated it so), and rowing and exercise videos. Unfortunately my weight stayed exactly the same. The scale would not budge. I cut out most white flour and ate nothing but whole grains (hey, whole wheat chocolate chip cookies are really fantastic, by the way! Super chewy!). And there were no more calories from soda since I was drinking diet. I couldn’t figure out what was going on or how to change it.

I knew exercise must be important but so far I hadn’t found the thing that rocked my world. And I knew I needed a partner to help me find some accountability. I’d been hearing about crossfit a lot so I found a place near us that had fantastic reviews on Yelp and got my friend Anna to go with me. It was hard. Really hard. But I really liked it. And hated it. If you know crossfit, you know what I mean. I’ll talk more about it another time. But the foundation of crossfit is good nutrition. That’s a really big deal. In particular, crossfit people are totally into paleo.

My crossfit coach suggested I try Paleo but once I found out that sugar and grains are forbidden I was like, “HELL NO!” Like, no way would I ever, ever eat that way in a million years. My coach just smiled, “after about a month of crossfit I bet you’ll try it.” I snort-laughed because there was not even a shred of possibility that that might happen. Obviously he didn’t know who he was talking to; I have won blue ribbons for my baked goods! That stuff is in my blood! Sugar and flour are my soul!

But this voice in my head kept nagging at me to think about it. Even doing crossfit several times a week was not helping my weight. The numbers refused to get lower. I began to face the fact that flour and sugar were like a dysfunctional relationship: they were doing me nothing but harm although I still loved them desperately. It was time for us to break up.

I read several books about eating Paleo* and here’s what turned me onto it: it’s all about getting over sugar and carb cravings. It’s about teaching your body to have a healthy relationship with food. It’s about healing your body from the damage you’ve done over your lifetime, and becoming as healthy as possible through clean eating. And most importantly to me it means eating foods that provide a healthy psychological response.

In other words, not eating because of sadness or boredom. You don’t think of food as a reward (that’s a big deal for me. I think of food as the ultimate reward). You can find all sorts of “heathy sweets” that have honey or agave. Or sugar-free chocolate. But those aren’t going to do you an favors if you’re a sugar addict. I needed to teach my body how to not crave things like that anymore. And the only way to kill a craving is to starve it to death. (Not starve as in “no calories”, starve as in “no more sweet things whether they are ‘healthful’ or not”.)

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Not eating carbs and sugar is pretty much the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Without a doubt. I face a temptation every hour of every day. Unlike heroin addicts, though, sugar is not only served everywhere, it is encouraged!  (Who’ll bring refreshments? Who wants some birthday  cake? It’s free slurpees today!) I’ve had to stop bringing people cookies because I can’t bake them and not eat them. I have to buy snacks for my kids that I wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole so I won’t be tempted (It would have to be the end of the zombie apocalypse before I would put a baked Cheeto in my mouth.) I psyche myself up and do a pep-talk before I go to any church function (Refreshments are so hard to say no to!). And I practically wear blinders when I go to the grocery store .

It’s getting easier, though. I pray a lot (seriously. “Please Heavenly Father, do not let me think about peanut butter M&Ms”. I know it sounds pathetic and cheesy but it really works). This morning I took my kids to our favorite donut shop  (I love donuts with a grand passion) and I sat and watched them eat their donuts without even having a bite. I abstained from ordering a donut for myself even when I saw them carry out a fresh, hot tray of chocolate glazed with peanuts–my favorite! I haven’t had soda or caffeinated anything since New Year’s Eve and I’ve stopped staring at the soda fountains longingly. I no longer think about how great a Big Gulp would taste right now. When it gets really hot out, though, I’m probably going to die without pop. Gotta stay strong!

The good news? The weight is coming off. Slowly. But it is coming off. And unlike Weight Watchers** or starving myself, I have plenty to eat. I’m never hungry. Thank goodness bacon and cashews are paleo or I would probably kill myself. The best thing, though, is that I feel strong and healthy. Not just physically healthy but mentally and emotionally healthy. I don’t reach for food when I’m bored. Although I have discovered that I am not a bored or sad eater. When I’m depressed I don’t want food. I’m an angry eater! When I’m frustrated and angry I want to “show everyone” by pigging out. I know, it doesn’t make any sense. But that’s what I’ve discovered about myself.

Will I stay paleo forever? I don’t think so. I really do think that whole grains need to be part of the human diet. I’ve been doing a lot of research and really feel like whole grains are important. But I need to be in a healthy state of mind before I can make that happen. I need to exist without thinking/wishing/pigging out on sugar day after day. I need to get cravings out of my system so one cookie doesn’t turn into fifteen cookies (which is what happens now, no lie). I need to be able to say, “that’s enough” and so far that’s not part of my lexicon.  But I’m hoping that I will be able to change that soon. And permanently. Until then, bring on the pea pods!

 

*If you’re interested in Paleo (which is a stupid, stupid name), I would HIGHLY recommend getting the book The Paleo Coach by Jason Seib. It’s fantastic.

**Weight Watchers has worked really well for me in the past but recently it just hasn’t done the trick. Plus it doesn’t really help with my sugar addiction. Instead I end up eating all my points by lunchtime and then I’m left with ten more hours of starvation. You’d think I would learn my lesson but I never did. Then there is the whole issue of weight being the ultimate gold standard. Weight is just a number. It doesn’t mean you’re healthy or that you look good. And who hasn’t felt great going into a meeting because you’ve tried so hard only to have all the feelings negated because of what the scale says. It’s not right!