1. Europe, overnight train from Munich to Paris.It was 10:30 p.m. and we boarded the overnight train, expecting that Zoe will nod off very soon. We apparently violated the number 1 rule of traveling with a toddler -- NEVER expect anything. Not only was she not sleepy, being on the train made her more excited than anything else, she was bouncing off the walls. This was particularly tricky because everyone else had turned off their lights and were ready to sleep. The elderly Frenchman in the lower bunk was already a little annoyed by our very existence since it interfered with his perfect bedtime ritual (perhaps he offers an excellent example of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD?). Every time someone walked by him, he had to readjust the sheets and blankets just so. With his headphones and eye mask, Zoe's chatter and giggling did not sit well with him, to put it mildly. I figured that in the dark, bored, Zoe will eventually go to sleep if we just try. After laying with Zoe on the 18 inch berth, fearful of moving lest we fall off, Zoe decided that sleep was not for her. But she tried to help the situation by singing everyone else to sleep... she cycled through all of her favorites ("Farmer in the Dell", "Itsy Bitsy Spider", "Old MacDonald"...) and then sat up. Apparently Mom was being just too uptight with her "Shhhhh-ing" and needed some "pat-patting" (this is where she slaps my back with all the force that she can muster up in her tiny body and sings in her clearest, loudest voice "Jesus loves you evermore"). I had to inwardly smile a little, because the older man's grumbling seemed to tone down at the mention of Jesus. Anyway, after many rounds of this song, Matt took Zoe out to the "luggage room" to bounce off the (padded by bags) walls there, where I joined after the nearly involuntary Franco-grumbles unnerved me sufficiently, and we discussed politics and love with some nice, beer-chugging, German youth. The adventures continued in our cabin when the girl on the upper berth made trouble by getting sick, causing more grumbling from our friendly neighbor. But eventually we all managed a few hours of rest, without falling off the berths. (p.s. how weird-- in the morning, we learned that the upper berth travelers were family of, well..., an ASTROPHYSICIST! They left Dad/Hubby behind to do science while touring Europe on their own. It's a small world.)
2. Street performers. Ever since being put in a certain *ahem* awkward situation in New York, Matthew has developed a fear of street performers. Unfortunately for him, Zoe finds them quite inspiring. Late in the evening (well past Zoe's bedtime), the sun had barely set in Paris and we were out roaming the streets with Ben on our last night in this wonderful city. We were in front of the Notre Dame when we saw some "popping" (the break-dancing type art where movements are really sharp and jerky, kind of like Robots... pretty cool, actually). Zoe tried some of that too. Then "Popping" was replaced by "Fire-juggling" and Zoe did the less dangerous version of this too. I think the poor street artists lost some audience to her, as she did her best to mimic them (we did not solicit funding for our talents, however, since we were leaving Europe and had little use for Euros at this point... just kidding. )! Here are a few videos.
3. Prayer out of school. For whatever reason, Zoe has always been rather in tune with some form of spirituality or other. Starting with her fancy for Buddha, to singing "Jesus loves you evermore" when singing her dolls to sleep... Since our vacations, Zoe has realized that she likes to have "Mommy-Daddy-Zozo" days all the time -- cries of "I don't want Daddy to go to work", "I want Mommy to be with Zoe", ... and "I don't want to go to school"... have replaced her enthusiasm in the mornings for getting ready for school. We talk about her friends and discuss all the things that she loves about school -- circle time, art, water play, Ms. Namalie, ... Naynay (Nathan), Omeed, Rahrah (Ryanne)... we talk about how Mommy and Daddy will both pick her up later (soon!) and we can go to the park and have special Mommy-Daddy-Zozo time then, we plan to look for and count the "Daddy" buses and school buses on the way to school... eventually we manage to get out of the door and repeat again once buckling into the carseat. The other day it was pretty silent all the way to school -- we did not encounter any school or Daddy buses that day. When I went to the back to unbuckle her at school, I found her eyes closed and her hands together, the lips softly mumbling.
"Zoe, what are you doing?"
"For what? Can you tell me?"
"So we can have Mommy-Daddy-Zozo day and no school."
It kinda broke my heart to send her to school that day.
I hope to recount some other favorite stories again soon. To hold you over, here are our pictures from Europe. (It began with an Xray Astronomy conference in Berlin for me alone; then we met in Vienna and spent a few days with Rinka; finally we had a family trip to Paris, where we met up with Ben, Michel, Frederique and Chloe.)