Paris avec Les Enfants

Paris avec Les Enfants

We just got back from a week in Paris and the best word I can use to describe our trip is magical.
It’s not that everything was perfect and the children behaved like angels, but there’s just something about that city. And, for the most part, everyone really did a great job traveling, and a good time was had by all.
There are loads of blog posts about traveling with children (though many of them are about babies and toddlers as opposed to older kids).  And, surprisingly, there’s a lot of info specifically about Paris with children.
Here’s one of the Paris lists I found most helpful because it was from the perspective of the kids themselves:
I don’t want to re-invent the wheel, but here are a few of my tips for travelling with kids and some specific Paris tips.
1.     I think the most important part of travel with kids is knowing your particular children, how they respond to change and figuring out the appropriate time/age for a specific trip.  When we were at Disney Land last year (Sara Rose was 5 and Sammy was 7) they were both at ideal ages.  All they wanted to do was go on ride after ride.  They were too old to go deep in all that princess crap and a little too young to be impressed by all the marketing of Disney goods they were surrounded by.  There was no whining, no diaper changing, no arguments, just fun.  I remember looking around at people with kids in strollers and thinking, “Why? Why would you bring such a little kid here?  What a drag to navigate around the park with a stroller and the kid is too little for most of the rides anyway.”The first time my parents took me to Europe, I was 4 years old.  Sara Rose was a very different 4 year old than I was, and I knew if we had gone then, we would have had fun, but it also would have been difficult to deal with her pre-k tantrums and difficulty moving from one task to the next.  So, we waited until this year, and it felt right for our family.
2.     The key to a happy plane ride with kids—snacks, snacks and more snacks.  I tried to keep it healthy on the way to Paris (fruits, vegetables, nuts) and, surprisingly, when presented with these choices, kids will usually go for it.  Joe is not such a fan of the healthy snack on vacation so he brought along more junkie alternatives including, on the way home, exotic chip flavors like pickle.
3.     Rent an apartment, don’t stay at a hotel. Even before we had kids, Joe and I started doing this.  It’s a great way to really get into the local culture.  In Paris, each morning, one of us would go to the local boulangerie and pick up fresh croissants and baguettes and other goodies to share for breakfast at the apartment as we planned our day’s activities.  In LA, we rented a cottage in Venice Beach, which was perfect (http://www.letters2slinkie.com/la-vacay/)
4.     Travel with friends.  This may be tricky if your travel styles are different, but as long as you go in knowing that  you’re all okay with spending all your time together or maybe some time apart (depending on how things go), it’s a win-win.  We went with another family to Paris, and it made the experience that much more fun.  The kids had other kids to play with, we had other grown-ups to hang out with and we were even able to babysit for each other so each couple was able to enjoy a date night sans kiddos.
5.     As for Paris specific suggestions:
The flower and bird market on Sundays was a big hit for us (and a nice alternative on a day when many shops are closed).
The kids enjoyed the escalators at the Pompidou Centre as much as the art.
The girls really got a kick out of the Pont des Arts (Love Lock Bridge).
If you go in Winter, the ice skating rink at front of the Hotel de Ville is in such a beautiful setting—but bring gloves—they’re required.
At least one carousel ride/day is mandatory (and easy to do—they’re everywhere!).
And, lastly, if you want to go up the Eiffel Tower, go up at night—the lines are much shorter and the lights on the tower and looking at the sparkly city below are truly breathtaking.
What are your best travel tips?
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Carousel Sammy
Carousel Sara
Top of the Tower
Pompidou Centre
Crepes!
 Louvre 
 Pont des Arts
Eiffel Tower selfie
 
First off, jealousy is running deeply through me on so many levels but I will leave that aside. Great suggestions on renting the apartment. We have not done that yet, but have had great luck with house swaps (http://home-exchange-usa.com). As you know, we too have our favorite family to travel with where all the kids have a buddy as well as the parents, which adds built in entertainment even when we don’t have the energy to make it out of the hotel/rental. I am craving a european adventure and my dream would be to take each child individually on their own adventure of their choosing. I met a woman recently who treats her children to a trip upon graduating…elementary school, middle school and high school. Three kids so unfortunately pretty costly, so I can only dream….or dream smaller to make it a reality. So glad you had such a great time, it just reminds me so much of all our adventures we were so fortunate enough to share in our youth. And offering it to your children will hopefully, spur the same cravings for them as they get older.
Story Corps

Story Corps

Do you know about Story Corps? It’s one of those things that pops in and out of my life, but every time I’m reminded of it, I remember how completely and totally awesome it is.

Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit whose “mission is to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.”
Since 2003, they’ve collected and archived more than 45,000 interviews with nearly 90,000 participants. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind, and millions listen to their weekly broadcasts on NPR’s Morning Edition, which is exactly how I was first introduced to it.
 
It’s impossible to choose a favorite story.  Each one is so special for both the participant and the listener.  Here’s just a few that really touched me:
What story would you tell?
 
I LOVE Story Corps! I am always so excited when I unexpectedly hear it in the morning. The stories are always so moving and a breath of fresh air amongst the other intense news of the day. Thanks so much for the link, I can’t wait to listen to more.
image c/o avrilcarpenter.com
Game Changer

Game Changer

I know much time has passed since I last posted, so you would think I would have some really profound thoughts to share, but alas, I do not. I do, however have a new found love and cannot believe it has taken me 45 years to find them.

Amongst the precious few bits of memorabilia I inhereted from my mom’s apartment were a few odds and ends: tiny red staple from my childhood, a box full of matches which we never seem to have in our own home, a set of tweezers, a few super ugly but extremely useful readers, AND a pair of yellow dishwashing gloves (my newfound love). Now, I did not think it would be ME that would be interested in the yellow gloves, rather, I took them for Jarrett since he occasionally uses them for work.

Well, I humbly admit, I was WRONG! After slicing my finger the other day and in need of cleaning a sinkful of dirty dishes (dishwasher still broken) I decided to try the gloves to spare myself some pain. Oh my goodness, why has no one ever told me (or I never listened), they make washing dishes a whole new experience! Extremely hot water…can’t feel it, nasty, soggy slimy food…can’t feel it, slippery dishes slipping out my hands…not happening, winterized chapped hands…laughing all toasty dry in in their big yellow friends. So simple, so plain, so cheap, such a game changer. My dishwashing days are changed forever. Thank you mom!

Yay!  Welcome back, Slink! I’ve never really used the yellow gloves too much myself, but I must admit, you’re making me want to try them. As for your mom, I know she’s laughing and thinking, “I told you so!”
What the F#$k is the Polar Vortex?

What the F#$k is the Polar Vortex?

Baby it’s cold outside.

I’m not going to complain about it, and, unfortunately, I have no great strategies for how to deal with it.  It’s not pretty.

But what the hell is it? How have I lived 45 years and never heard the term “polar vortex” before?

As best as I can tell from the tiny amount of “research” (aka. trickle down info) I’ve received over the last day, it’s really, really cold air that normally hangs out in the North Pole, but has now decided to join the rest of us for a variety of weathery reasons.

As for those of you thinking you’re clever and saying, “global warming?!” As if cold air cannot possibly be explained by that phenomenon, here’s a little explanation from Scientific American that explains how the two are connected:

“More and more Arctic sea ice is melting during summer months. The more ice that melts, the more the Arctic Ocean warms. The ocean radiates much of that excess heat back to the atmosphere in winter, which disrupts the polar vortex. Data taken over the past decade indicate that when a lot of Arctic sea ice disappears in the summer, the vortex has a tendency to weaken over the subsequent winter.”

For more interesting quotes and info about our friend, the vortex, here’s a link to NPR.

Until then, have a few drinks and snuggles with those you love.

PS. Polar bears are so darn cute.  Seriously. If you’re bored under your blanket, drinking your warm beverage of choice, google image polar bear.  You will not be disappointed.

 
     

Well, you pretty much summed up what I understood from a program I heard on NPR yesterday. A long explanation, a vague understanding. Truthfully, it was super cold in DC yesterday, but if there was not all the media hype about it, I would have just thought it was a pretty cold day and carried on. Why does the media feel it necessary to make people so anxious about stuff?!

PS: I had  lived 43 years and had never heard of a derecho…but that is another discussion.

More Mindless fun

More Mindless fun

No thought provoking post today, just this delicious tidbit:

I’ve never been on a press junket before, but I can imagine it gets pretty redundant and exhausting.

I’ve always enjoyed Jason Segel (I was a massive Freaks and Geeks fan), and I find Paul Rudd hilarious and endearing.

And now, I think I love them both just a little bit more.

Here they are in a rarely seen interview promoting the film, “I Love You Man.”

Enjoy!

image c/o www.hollywood.com

573×187 featured image

 
HILARIOUS! Perfect with my morning coffee.
Heroes

Heroes

Webster defines “hero” as a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities.  The concept of heroes is one we don’t often consider very seriously.  It tends to come up in the books our kids read or maybe as the topic of a cheesy admissions essay written for school.

But who are your real heroes?  The people who awe and inspire you?

Over the last few years, my good friend, Jen Yashari has truly become one of mine.

Jen is one of my best friends from medical school.  We clicked from day one.  She is hands down one of the funniest people I’ve ever met.  But she’s not just funny, she’s silly.  I mean kind of ridiculous at times.  And the best part is, she’s incredibly smart and beautiful as well, which makes her goofiness that much better.

About seven years ago, Jen was diagnosed with Hereditary Inclusion Body Myopathy (HIBM).  It’s a rare genetic disease that impacts people from all over the world. It’s so rare, in fact, that when Jen was diagnosed, despite the fact that I was just newly out of medical school, I’d never heard of it. Although concentrations of HIBM are found among the Japanese and Iranian Jewish communities, HIBM affects individuals of diverse ethnic backgrounds, including those of Indian, Dutch, Latino, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Caucasian and Israeli descent, as well as those of mixed heritage.

The disease is caused by mutations in the GNE gene. GNE encodes the enzyme responsible for making sialic acid, and HIBM patients have lower levels of sialic acid on the surface of certain proteins that are important for muscle function. The body’s failure to produce enough sialic acid causes muscles to slowly waste away and can lead to very severe disability within 10 to 20 years of diagnosis, ultimately confining many patients to wheelchairs within that time.

Over the last 7 years, I’ve watched Jen go from my super active, silly, fun carefree friend to a less active still silly, fun, no longer able to be carefree, incredible advocate for herself and others with this disease.  Words cannot describe the spirit and strength that she has shown.

Here’s a link to a speech she gave recently:

Annual Neuromuscular Disease Foundation Gala. Jennifer’s Speech
http://vimeo.com/79357093

And here’s a link to learn more about HIBM.

I know she knows, but I really mean it.  Jennifer Yashari, you are my hero.

 
How to respond to this… I sit here full of emotion and awe for this friend of yours with her courage and strength, this incredible woman whom I have heard about and unfortunately have never met. I hope she has some idea of how many people she has touched with her eloquent, passionate, insightful and moving speeches. She is truly amazing. Thank you so much for sharing this, I was in need of a new hero.

 

image c/o etsy.com

Gone But Not Forgotten

Gone But Not Forgotten

As we were leaving brunch yesterday, a Velvet Underground song was playing.  I stopped and made a point to Sammy and Sara Rose, “This is one of my favorite bands ever.”  When we got home in the afternoon, I found out Lou Reed had died.

It is, of course, always sad when someone passes away.  I must admit, however, that I surprised myself by how upset I was at hearing the news of Lou’s passing.

For me, Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground will always be synonymous with New York and rock and roll.

I was really into them when I was in college and any time I hear one of their songs I’m immediately transported back to late nights in the printing studio in Florence, Italy trying desperately to pull a proper lithograph (that fucking stone!) and blasting White Light/White Heat again and again while I kept pulling one failed print after another.  Listening to that music then (and even now) always felt a little rebellious.

Once I moved to NY and lived in the West Village, I used to see Lou all the time.  Often times riding his bike.  He wore novelty socks.

Supposedly he was kind of a dick.  Or at least he was in interviews.  In some weird way for me, that just made him more rock n’ roll and made me like him even more.

Joe and I tried to see him in concert once in Tel Aviv, but the show was sold out.  The only time I ever saw him perform was at the Rufus Wainwright Family Christmas show at Carnegie Hall.  I know, random on so many levels. But even there, Lou was kind of bad ass.

The world has lost an artist, and I feel profoundly sad.

Joe really put it beautifully earlier today…

He was like the Statue of Liberty – you always assumed he would be around NY forever. In a way, he’ll always be here.

 
This may be the first post I don’t really have a response to other than I wonder where I was while you were pulling lithographs listening to Lou Reed in Florence. Standing beside you attempting my own lithos? Painting studio next door? In any case, I have no lasting memories of Lou Reed (although I do enjoy his music and the Velvet Underground will always remind me of you) and I find it so odd that he was at that Rufus Wainwright Christmas show.

What Was I Going to Post?

What Was I Going to Post?

Oh boy do I have a lot to talk about today.

ADD.

Mommy brain.

Getting old.

Whatever you want to call it.

I cannot focus.

All kidding aside. I’ve been really thinking A LOT about this lately. We all have our excuses why our memories are shot to hell, but for me, it’s really been a problem for as long as I can remember…or not! And that’s the problem.  What makes it worse for me, is you (and Joe) and many of my close friends poo poo my self diagnosis of ADD or some kind of learning disability.  “You’re so smart. You’re a doctor. You remember so many things!” Well, no matter how hard I try to convince you otherwise, it seems to be a tough sell so I thought I’d write it here, exposing myself to the world (and all five of our readers).

Here’s the thing, Slink. For as long as I can remember, I can’t just sit in a lecture and pay attention and know what’s going on. It’s true, I’ll admit it, I’m pretty smart, so I can usually get the big picture very quickly. But for me to REALLY understand something, I have to read it for myself and write it down and study it again and again and again.  And most likely, I’ll forget it and have to do it all over again not that much later.  AND that whole process takes me forever because I can’t do it consecutively without taking multiple breaks.  It’s not that I’m lazy.  I literally cannot tolerate sitting there and paying attention for any long stretch of time.

When I studied for all my board exams, it took me hours and hours and hours.  Not because I wanted to ace the exam (I mean of course I did, but I knew I never would), but just so I could get through the material.  Every time I’m faced with these large amounts of information, the process is almost painful for me to take it all in.

While I was in medical school, I thought that the material was challenging for me because I was an artist.  I didn’t have a science background.  I did fine, but it was always a grind.  I never felt like I fully mastered it no matter how hard I studied.

Then, when I started to become more involved in medical education, I went to some workshops on the “academically challenged student.” They would present case after case of students who were really bright, but had some type of learning issue.  Because they were smart, these issues never really came up in undergrad.  Then, finally, in medical school when they were working at a new level, the deficit ultimately became apparent.  This was my aha moment!  They were talking about me!

I don’t think it makes me a worse person or a worse doctor.  I just think it explains why, for example, despite all my studying, I never do great on standardized tests. I’m not asking you (or anyone else) to feel sorry for me.  I’m just trying to make a point.  Learning disabilities, ADD whatever you want to call it, these obstacles are out there–even for “smart” people and it can be hard and stressful.

So why am I bringing this up? –in hopes of opening up the dialogue and maybe making some parents aware that even bright kids can face academic challenges.

Here’s some food for thought from the Times about what may be responsible for the rise in ADD diagnoses.

In truth, I was hoping to make this post much more poignant, but I lost interest…I’m only half kidding.

image c/o www.fgcuathletics.com

 
Well, it’s early and my brain is foggy after a party last night but this is the only quiet moment I have found since your post. And, even though it is quiet, there is the underlying anxiety that one of the four kids  in my home at the moment or my husband will wake up at any moment and spoil my few minutes of uninterrupted thinking. I mention this because I personally think for adults (and you) that if you have any sort of inkling of ADD, the second you have kids, especially more than one, the disability sneaks out and rapidly grows in our cesspool of trying to do a million things at once — answer their questions, read emails, answer their questions, check our phones, answer their questions, do our work, cook meals, laundry, answer their questions, read current events, organize their schedules, answer their questions, blah blah blah. It is ADD waiting to happen!

I hear that you would argue that is not YOUR problem, since you mention you have had this since you were young. And perhaps you have, however, being in the shadow of your (and many of our friends’) intelligence, it never inhibited you as a youth. As for medical school, I think that was finally the time in your life that you were really challenged, something was finally difficult. I think that is the way most people have to learn. Read, reread, reread again to try to lock it in.

I’m not saying you don’t have ADD, maybe you do, but I would hope that if you were going through school again as a child, you would NOT be diagnosed. I believe there is way too much of that happening now, and clearly you were able to accomplish what you needed both academically and socially. As for you as an adult, perhaps it is worth talking to someone to see if you are treatable. If not, at least you will stop obsessing over it and just move on like the rest of us, whose brains are getting full, and have to work hard to keep anything locked in. But if you do get some meds, I will be super curious to hear how they help! Personally, I long for a med that would eliminate all the stupid shit locked in my brain to make room for more important stuff.

ps: I was 90% done before someone woke up!