February 18, 2008

Paris Day 2 or “Look, That Kid Has No Head!”

Posted in family, food, Paris, Samwich, travel at 4:42 pm by Michael

It’s hard to write about Paris. What hasn’t been said? That triteness aside, let’s see what I can do here.

Overall, the theme for day 2 was “walking” and “closed”. Walking because we literally walked about 10 miles. Closed, because its Sunday, and many shops and restaurants, are well, closed. We, being total Paris neophytes, missed that and ventured to many places that were in fact, closed. D’oh!

Our day started off by walking from our hotel to the Eiffel Tower – where we found gigantic lines (more than an hour – even for the stairs). After deciding that this was a bit of a non-starter with an 11 month old, we decided to go to the Louvre, to allow Samwich some running room.

What is there to write about the Louvre that already hasn’t been written? Huge? Check. Impressive? Check. Full and I mean Full of amazing artwork? Check!

However, two things of note – one is that the “Gate of Lions”, on the south-west side – not sure how often its open, but the line there was non-existent, where the main line in the center was super long.

Secondly, Samwiches LOVE the air vents there. The air vents, well, only the Mona Lisa compares. The air vents are grates on the floor with air coming up – a la Marilyn Monroe.

Samwich was *fascinated* by these. For literally an hour, he played w/various vents – coming over, leaving – coming back over, etc.

If you are in Paris with a toddler, and want a place to let them roam – the art museums are where its at, especially if its cold or rainy. He was able to gets lots of room, plus see (if not appreciate) some amazing art.

After the Louvre, our plan was to walk back to a recommended spot near the Eiffel Tower. Closed on Sunday. The view of the tower was still worth it.

Eiffel Twilight

We went on a short boat trip on the Seine… short but fun!

Boat Trip

While we were walking near the gardens of the Eiffel Tower, we hear a kid say in English, re the Samwich – “Look, that kid has no head”. I can assure you that Samwich does have a head, and he’s well versed in using it. However, from this shot, given the backpack we carry Samwich in, you can see the root confusion.

Samwich No head

We ended then walking across town, back to our hotel, to find some sort of sit-down-creperie. It was a testament to how crappy our food luck has been that this was the best meal that we’ve had so far.

Oh well, it was good, and we had an amazing walking day… All and all, it was all good! (But since I’m writing this after day 3, and know how that went, the food luck turned – Stay Tuned!)

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February 16, 2008

Paris – Getting Here

Posted in Air France, family, Identification, Paris, Samwich, transgender, travel at 2:48 pm by Michael

One of the things that we have come to learn from traveling in general, but traveling with kids specifically is that direct flights are your friend. Sometimes you pay a little more, but its absolutely worth it.

Air France just started direct service from Seattle to Paris last year, so we decided that Paris would be a great destination for us.

This would also be our first “post transition” trip, and we are doing this with just Samwich, as Peri and John are with their mom this week.

We both had a little trepidation around if this would be harder than a domestic trip with the TSA, airlines, and also walking around in a new city.

Fundamentally, all of those concerns have been non-issues to date. So far, if anything, Paris has been even easier than other places we have gone.

First off, with Air France – you aren’t allowed to checkin electronically if you are going with a child under two – either on lap, or in a seat. So we had to check in at the counter. We all have passports (obviously), but I was wondering if the ticket agent would ask who Samwich’s dad was, and if he had consented to the trip. (We’ve had this question before when going both domestic and international with Peri and John.) We checked in, no questions.

On to TSA – three passports, three tickets, no problems.

When we went to Italy last year with all three kids (Samwich was five months then), we went with SAS through Copenhagen then to Rome. SAS is a very kid friendly airline. Rome as an airport (and their infrastructure in general) isn’t great – the baggage handlers had a work “slowdown” and intentionally didn’t give us one out of four of our total bags – we had to wait two days. But, the airline – top rate – best kid experience ever. I was curious to see how Air France did.

Like most airlines, they do early board for families with kids, and we did that. We have this super cool “convertible” stroller/car seat for Samwich that does this Transformers deal that allows it to go from stroller to car seat and back. It’s called a “Sit N Stroll” (I couldn’t find an active link for it right now… odd). Its FAA approved, we’ve used it a ton. The coolest thing is that (on some planes) you can stroll it right down the aisle (it fits in general), and then “convert” it at your seat. It is a little hard to convert it w/the kid strapped in, but my arms are long enough to do it. Anh has a harder time w/it – it’s not a strength thing – it’s a leverage and reach thing. Anyway, we get to the seat (I had to convert it early because the aisle was too narrow), and we have bulkhead seats – three in the middle (of four – it’s a 2/4/2 configuration – an Airbus A330-200), but in the bulkhead the armrests are permanently down (to allow for video screens to come out of the armrests), and the seat is too narrow for the car seat. Dammit! Turns out that we tried it the row back, and it was ok – there was just enough space to get it in.  There were two flight attendants (female) in the cabin right there, and they were super helpful. We ended up swapping seats w/some folks three rows back, and it worked out just fine. The flight was uneventful, and they even had baby food (apple sauce and some other veggie/chicken thing) that usually Samwich won’t touch, but he did eat the apple sauce and was great. I’ve never seen an airline automatically carry jar baby food before. Super impressive. They also gave away little toys to the kids (age appropriate), but didn’t give out infant life vests, which SAS and Northwest both do. I kind of think this is no biggie, as quite honestly, when was the last time that *anyone* was saved by an airline life vest, or there was a survivable ditching of an airliner in the ocean – the 50’s?

Getting Samwich up at 2:30am the night before helped him to time-adjust, and he slept for half the trip. We got in at just about 9am (left at 2pm Seattle time – 9 hour flight, 9 hour time difference), and on to the next test – customs.

Again, a total non-issue (remember, my passport says “Megan Jenna Wallent”, but has an M for gender). The customs agent, who spoke English (thank you!), even greeted and said goodbye to us using the plural feminine French term (Mesdames).

We had a car service arranged, that worked flawlessly too, and we got to the hotel, even with customs, checking bags, and a thirty minute drive by 10:30am. Not bad!

February 3, 2008

Stressed Out: Reflections on Life as a Pats Fan

Posted in family, NE Patriots, Samwich at 7:39 am by Michael

Nailbiting

Just about eight hours till kickoff of “The Big Game”.

I’ve been a Pats fan for as long as I remember. I used to sit and watch games with my dad on every football Sunday. He would watch *any* football game, but he was a true blue Pats fan. He’d go make Onion Dip (which was McCormick Onion Soup Mix plus sour cream), and get a bag of Ruffles. Then, the piece de resistance, the Schlitz (later he upgraded to St. Pauli Girl, then Coors once you could get that in RI).

This was during the 70’s and 80’s though – fundamentally then, the Pats sucked.

In the words of my Dad, they “Snatched Defeat from the Jaws of Victory” on many occasions.

They didn’t always sell out their games, so we ended up listening to a lot of games on the radio.

We hated the Cowboys together, but sometimes rooted for the Redskins (we lived in Alexandria, Virginia for a while).

I remember going to a couple of games with him in Foxboro – it was Schaefer Stadium then. It was a huge concrete bowl, with backless aluminum benches. We went to once game where the temp must have been 10F at most, and there was literally 2-3 inches of ice covering the seats. We went to another game in the pouring rain. We had crappy luck going to nice weather games.

He was still alive (but not totally with it) for the Pats wins in 2001, 2003 and 2004, and he was so excited and into it. We used to talk on the phone for much of the really close games – just watching and reacting to it together. When the Pats played the Colts in the RCA dome in 2005, and ended up winning the game on a last minute goal line stand, I was in Florida driving to the aiport, and he was on the phone with me, doing play by play.

He passed away in August of 2006.

I often think about what he would think about this season for the Patriots. He was such a homer, he’d certainly think the whole Spygate thing was bullshit. He’d be SO happy that the ’72 Dolphins aren’t the only regular-season undefeated team, and he’d be rooting so hard for them to win today to complete the cycle! (He didn’t like the Dolphins either – they were the rivals who always found a way to beat the Pats. EXCEPT in the dreaded “Snow Plow Game”. We LOVED that game.)

I know that he’d be excited that his youngest grandson has his own Pats game jersey and does “Touchdown”. (Although my dad passed away just as we we found out Anh was pregnant, and he never knew that there was a little Samwich coming. I’m still kind of sad about that.)

I know that my transition would have been hard on him, and I think about that a lot as well, especially on days like today, when he and I would have been so connected, and in it together. I hope he would have still loved cheering on the Pats with his youngest daughter.

Anyway… in Brady we Trust.

Brady

Today is a “Hat and Shirt” game, and they generally do pretty well on those days. 🙂

Go Pats! Lets hope that we see this next week:

Superbowl Parade

January 28, 2008

No Wonder Samwich Loves Feist So Much

Posted in Samwich at 9:45 pm by Michael

Feist - Manly Addition 

I’ve written about how Samwich is hypnotized by the song “1234” by Feist (the song from the Apple Video Shuffle Ad).

Tonight, we were eating dinner, listening to the radio. Anh and I were eating dinner, Samwich was sitting with us, in his highchair at the table, eating cheerios. (He had already had dinner earlier).

He was being a little crazy, and then, all of a sudden, we heard the start of his fave song. Instantly, he stopped, looked up, and started swaying back and forth in his chair (dancing!), with his arms out forward. He did this for the *entire* song, with the same little smile on his face. (Of course, I turned the radio up!).

The song ends, and the DJ comes on.

“Feist, she’s Canadian. And, have you noticed, a little, um, manly. You never know, maybe she was born a he?”

HA!

Anh and I both looked at each other, cracked up, and Samwich of course, started laughing along too….

However, I don’t think he got the joke.

January 14, 2008

Samwich Update

Posted in family, Samwich at 9:45 pm by Michael

Samwich 

Six weeks ago, Samwich was Typhoid Samwich. His victim count was ~20. They suffered. Damn rotavirus!

Luckily, he’s over that.

Here’s some positive Samwich news…

Walking/Standing:

One: He’s standing – max time is ~ 5-10 seconds. Not bad one day short of his 10 month birthday.

Two: He’s “walking” – two to three steps, he can do. He gets so excited, he falls forward. Classic toddler walking failure mode – self inflicted loss of balance.

Three: He can do “Touchdown”, aka “So Big” aka “Yea Samwich”. I think of it as “65 Yards, Brady to Moss! Touchdown!” He can do this while standing without support.

Talking:

One: He says “What’s That?” However, when you answer, he repeats said question. He’s “speak only”.

Two: If you say “I love you” he can work out “I luh”. Close enough. He says “I love you”.

Affection:

He gets hugs, and will give you “kisses”. However, his kisses include grabbing both sides of your head (hair, ears, whatever), and pulling you in to bite you in the chin, jaw or lip. This was cool, except for the hair pulling part, until he got a tooth. Now, he uses the tooth as a puncture weapon. Its a shiv in disguise.

Sleeping:

He’s the frigging terrorist. No negotiation. He’s killing us.

However, we love him.

This morning, Anh said that he went to the corner of the kitchen where my laptop is when I’m not working, and started crying. She interpreted this as “Where’s my maddy?”

He was very happy to see me when I came home tonight.

It was all good. Slobber and all.

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