Ally, FPM

Less About the Louvre, and more about the Hair.

Today was our day to visit the Louvre. I hear this is what most people go to Paris for. Well, not us, I guess.

We started our morning thrift shopping in the Le Marais. The hotel Concierge, who is always slightly appalled by the questions I ask her, was more than slightly appalled when I asked her about where to buy the best used clothing. “You want USED clothes?” “Yes, we really of do.”

We got this for Brady, for USD $5.59, and he was quite impressed.

We got a lot more than that. We bought our clothes by the kilogram. For real. After checking out though, it began to rain. So, we ate an ice cream and waited for the rain to slow. This ice cream was special. I had eaten the same flavor, out of the same type of cone, from the same shop, when I was 16 years old and went to Paris on my high school trip. Ally found that amusing. “That makes this flavor really old.” Hush your mouth, and hope this rain stops soon, young lady. We need to go!

It stopped and we rushed back to the hotel to drop off our kilos of clothes and head off for our “preferred access tickets” for the Louvre.

Y’all, that place is nuts.

That’s the line to see Mona Lisa. I have seen her and Ally has ZERO interest in her. So, off we went to see some other cool stuff. Alas, we are not art aficionados. So, what we classified as “cool stuff” amounted to us being like “HEY! WE FOUND CATE!”

Yes, that is a statue of a naked child wrestling a…goose? We laughed endlessly about how our Goose would TOTALLY do that, took a pic with it, and moved on.

There was other cool stuff, but I likely won’t remember a whole lot of it.

Because, other stuff was the coolest. Today, Ally was brave enough to sit in an African salon and have her hair braided. That might not sound brave, but when you are forced to leave your homeland at a young age, leaving everything you know behind, it is VERY hard to confront those memories again. Today, she did.

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, she was brave enough to take you along with her in a way she felt safe with. That is a huge honor. She wants to do that for other families who have younger children living through what she has lived through. Ally has been living with us, in the U.S., for ten years now. For ten years she has lived as a Ghanaian-American with forced (by me) cultural connections.

Today, I walked behind her, saying nothing, texting her dad, and praying she would take the lead. She did. In a small, but VERY large to me, gesture, she decided to navigate the process of having her hair done in a African salon.

She is so beautiful, inside and out.

–FullPlateMom, who is so lucky to be along for the ride.

Ally, FPM

Up the Tower

This morning we started at the Centre Pompidou.

We have joked on Facebook that macaroons aren’t Ally’s thing. Well, modern art isn’t either. But, the view really couldn’t be beat.

Or, so we thought.

After we left the Centre Pompidou, we hopped the subway, and promptly got lost. We would have been fine except several lines are closed for maintenance.

Eventually, we figured it out though, much to the chagrin of our hotel concierge, who tried with everything she had to talk us OUT of riding the Metro and into using the hotel car service. Hard pass. We’re Metro girls, with 6 days worth of pre-purchased rides.

We made it to the Eiffel Tower in plenty of time for our tour. We took the extra time to walk through some residential neighborhoods near by. We fell in love, and sat in a tiny square eating some crosswinds and cheese. Perfection.

We skipped the hours long line at the tower and headed up.

The view from the top did NOT disappoint. So worth it.

And, in true Full Plate Mom fashion, there is a story to share. The second floor of the Eiffel Tower is topped with what looks like square shaped fencing. You can climb a half level and look from an unchanged view, but from the actual second floor, tempting squares of metal. These squares are, apparently, the perfect size to stick your head through.

A child next to us did it, Ally and I gasped, but thankfully, he promptly pulled his head out. Phew. The kid about 10 feet away who decided to emulate the behavior, but with a slightly larger cranium, not so lucky. Totally stuck. I watched in horror as he became panicked, his head locked into the fencing that surrounds the second floor of one of the world’s most famous monuments.

I watched for a moment, then as he began to panic and cry, I stepped over, trying to look as calm as possible, since he didn’t speak English, I simply told his wide-eyed, I’m assuming here, sister “Go get mama!” She understood, because a panicked “mama!” is practically universal. Mama came and there were exclamations between her and her adult travel companion that I couldn’t understand. There was no way to help except to offer my hand lotion. I handed it to them and they nodded. Then, I fled. I am not staying for the aftermath of an Eiffel Tower head greasing. Mostly, because it could have been me.

I could have TOTALLY been greasing my small child’s head to get them unstuck from the Eiffel Tower fencing. It could happen to any mom. Truly.

–FullPlateMom, who might still have to grease a head yet in her parenting career, one never knows.

Ally, FPM

Two Americans in Paris.

Ally and I arrived in Paris yesterday after a long, but uneventful (phew) journey.

This is the beginning of a new tradition in our house. For 16 years, we saved frequent flier miles, credit card points, and hotel points from 12 adoptions and several vacations, to make it possible for us to take each on of our kids to an international destination of their choice. We decided the summer between their Junior and Senior year of high school would be perfect timing for that trip.

For all the kids, that year begins now, and it begins with Ally.

Ally chose Paris as her destination a few years ago when we first began talking about these trips and why we were saving so intentionally for them. Paris has always appealed to her. She wanted to see the opulence, the luxury, and to enjoy the history. All of it appealed to her.

So, here we are. Just her and I, enjoying all of those things.

Since yesterday was our arrival day and we didn’t get to our hotel until shortly after noon, we spent the remainder of our day shopping. We chose the most opulent mall we could find and Ally chose three tops, that totaled $29.10 USD.

Ally may like to look at the expensive dresses, and to pass the people waiting in line for a Gucci handbag to be released, but she loves a bargain shopping. She can’t wait to visit the flea markets later in the week.

Today we oriented ourselves to the city from atop a double decker bus. We spent 6 hours being chauffeured past some of the most famous sites in the world.

We hopped on and off the bus and ate our way through both the left and right banks of the city. We are following a tour guide for James Baldwin’s Paris. We sipped coffee in the same spot he penned Go Tell It On The Mountain.

We made our last stop the Musee D’Orsay where we went in and saw some art, but stayed for the view.

–FullPlateMom, who truly believes Paris itself is art.

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Deafness, FPM, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Meat and Potatoes, Sofia, Tess

Raising Readers: Book Club, Full Plate Style.

Last July, I started a book club with some of my besties.

I chose three of my kids who had a similar reading level and I crowdsourced a book that they might all like. I downloaded the reading guide for the book here. We had multiple meetings at local restaurants where I had gift cards or coupons. Y’all, it was the highlight of the summer.

So, when summer was dawning on the horizon this year, these three lobbied to have a book club again. But, this time, all of their besties jumped on the band wagon. Initially, I divided the kids into two groups. But, once we got going, the tiniest of Full Platers also demanded their own book club. Now we have three going.

The kids are obsessed. When is our next meeting?!? Can I read ahead?!? Oh my gosh, mom! I can’t wait for you to find out what happens in the next chapter.

The “bigs” are reading Children of Blood and Bone. Here’s the free teacher guide I found to help prompt our discussions.

Juliana is the youngest of this group. She is a rising 7th grader, but reads at a high school level. Ally is not joining us this summer because of the aforementioned internship she has at an on campus preschool. Her internship includes room and board at a local dorm. We send her snaps like this one to let her know she is missed.

Their meetings were first. We’ve had three so far, because this book is a brick. The next meeting will be our last for this book. We’re taking suggestions for the next TBR (To Be Read). The kids love Black authors, and their favorite genre is definitely fantasy/magical realism. Dystopian novels are okay.

The “middles” are reading George. Juliana chose this for them. I love that an older kid is curating the bookshelf of the younger kids. I am using the reading guide from the Anti-Defamation League.

A note to readers of this post: Don’t message me with any outrage over my children being “exposed” to a book of this variety. That is my intent, all you haters. I want my children to know about people who are different than they are. Understanding the life experience of others is what combats hatred and cruelty. Reading this isn’t going to make anyone anything other than more compassionate. We need a little less hatred in the world these days. Should you choose to post a comment with malicious intent despite reading this warning, I will simply not approve it. If you continue to send ugly comments, I will start blocking IP addresses. The end.

Then the “littles” demanded a Book Club. Let’s be honest, they really just wanted the treats and the time with mom. Whatever gets you reading, right? I structured their club a little differently, because it includes two Deaf kids and I sign like a rising 1st grader.

Their Book Club occurs at home. It does involve a dessert. Last week it was a brownie bowl. We choose a brand new picture book. I practice signing it, in ASL, and voicing it simultaneously. That’s a stretch for me to focus on correct ASL grammar while voicing English. Lots of times I try that and slip into SEE (Signed Exact English). This week’s book was the new Pigeon book by Mo Willems!

We adore Pigeon around here.

When the book is done, everyone in our little group has to sit for three questions that check their comprehension. Gigi struggles with that because her language is so delayed. ‘Why’, ‘What’, and ‘How’ questions are hard for her. ‘Who’ and ‘When’ are easier. This time she nailed both though. ‘How did the Pigeon get to school?’ ‘The bus! Same as me!’ ‘Pigeon was scared of school…why?!?’ ‘Maybe, friends…none. *insert sad facial expression*’ Nailed it.

They are loving this. I am loving this. It is a great way to connect with my kids.

–FullPlateMom, who is all about the connection, especially with her less than chatty teens.

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, FPM, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Sofia, Tess

The Graduates

We’re one week into summer break now, and adjusting to our new schedule. It has been an extra adjustment to have me back home again, and in charge of moving the children place to place. Oh the places they need to move. So many places. We lost our 3rd driver last week.

Ally has a summer internship at the university. She is working at campus’s early childhood center in the Toddler Room. She is so happy about that, but the littles all miss her terribly. Isabel asks about her less than we thought she would, but that’s good. First, she is sure Ally will come back. Second, she is used to Ally coming and going. Ally has her own life. When you live in a large family, and have a huge heart, it is really easy to make your younger siblings the center of your universe. We want our bigs to have their own lives. Ally does.

Cam has a job at our local pool and is waiting to take Driver’s Ed until such a time that he can prove himself responsible enough to handle that. We have high standards in this house, especially when it comes to operating a motor vehicle. And, I have big feelings about 16 being the driving age. It seems so young to me. That’s just me though, I’m sure. Some kids are so ready. Some aren’t. He’s not.

Brady is playing tons of local venues with his drum line and his bands this summer. He just played at the Union Terrace last night. That makes him an official Madisonian, I think. He leaves for Band Camp tomorrow. He has few to no responsibilities in this house other than being the great entertainer that he is. We will miss that for the week he is gone. The house always feels so quiet when the great entertainer is gone.

AJ just graduated 8th grade. He is so ready for high school, especially for the athletics part.

Jax and Jules are now completely adjusted to middle school, enjoying swim team this summer and waiting for Sofia to join them next year. She is so ready, and she is SO done with 5th grade.

Bowen is getting ready for Paralympic Junior Nationals again in mid-July. He’s competing in short course swimming and made it on to a relay this year!

Tess is my crazy reader and can’t wait to continue passing reading levels and logging her books read this summer! She has dreams of her own Good Reads account.

Cate bid farewell to Kindergarten. With her went our constant enrollment in Room 4. This man has become like part of our family. To him, we say ‘aloha’, which is hello, goodbye, and we care about you all in one word. How does one say thank you to a man who taught all of your children?

Isa has completed 4K, and will move on to full-time Kindergarten in the same center-based Deaf education program that Gigi is in. She can’t wait. School is definitely her jam.

I am looking forward to a summer of them. I spend so much of my school year focused on meeting the needs of other people’s children. Now it’s time to focus on us.

–FullPlateMom, who is summer lovin’