Monday, August 27, 2007

My Flight is Retardé

Of course this means my flight is late. But it is so late that I would like to call it retarded, since I have seen this flashing “retardé” sign for about 15 hours now. Thank god this is on our way home and thank god we don’t have children with us. Actually, there are very few children around at all, thank god, because if they were as tired as I am, they would be unbearably cranky.

We happen to be stuck in Paris. No, it is not the worst place in the world to be stuck. In fact, we checked our bags in here at the airport, then took a train back into Paris. We got there around 3:00 in the afternoon, and went straight for the biggest shopping stores in Paris. We had no idea that the entire thing, two huge stores occupying several blocks, would be closed. I guess there is no shopping on Sunday in France, who knew? So we headed for the nearest café, which was occupied completely by other people who came to the area to shop and now had nothing else to do. Fueled by caffeine and a desire to stay awake until on our flight, we decided to just walk around a bit. Several miles later, past the Opera, the Louvre, the Tuilleries Gardens with little boys sailing boats in the fountain, we ended up on the Champs Elysess. It was a warm sunny day, the nicest day of our trip. We started to sit down at another café, but we were redirected away from the premium table on the sidewalk to one just inside the café. We ordered two café au laits and just sat and watched people.

Soon, the scene around us came into focus. We noted that the café managers and waiters were super-watchful and zipping around. Somewhat unusual. For Paris. Then we noted the double row of cars parked along the Champs Elysess. All Mercedes. Next we noticed the tall men in nice, custom-made suits keeping a watchful eye on the seating area. The drivers/security gentlemen, working the cell phones, never sitting down. Yes, OK, I see the tall, thin, exquisitely beautiful model sitting across the way with her companion. My friend Paree, People Magazine expert, would know exactly who she was I’m sure. Wait . . . my god, can it be? Impossible! She is eating a piece of white baguette with butter on it. Newsflash: low-carb and low-fat are OUT.

But the drivers/body guards are not there to watch a skinny woman eating bread. They are there to watch a rather large collection of Middle-Eastern men and women, sitting in small groups, drinking coffees and eating desserts. There are two women sitting right next to us, and they seem to know many of the other women walking by. One woman is veiled, one is not. They are sitting so close to me that I can’t properly check them out without being awkward. Gradually I become aware that there are quite a few people, at a polite distance from the café (this is France), checking who is there. Not one person is looking at the model. Instead they are looking at the women, their hair covered, designer glasses covering most of their face except for their lips slathered with Dior or Chanel lipstick. They are looking at the men, with their oiled hair, massive watches, their aura of power, privilege and raw wealth. They have private jets dripping off them.

I have no idea who these people were. I can guess though. Saudi royalty?

So I know you don’t feel sorry for me that I am stuck in Paris. But our flight is going to Houston, and all the people stuck with us are Texan. They are harder to understand than the French and definitely not as polite. And the flight is STILL retarded. So now you can feel just a little sorry for me y’all.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Smells of France

My dad once took me on a “smelling tour” of Boston. We walked around and smelled the things there were to smell; the coffee, the seafood, the old buildings, all kinds of things. I thought about that tour today, as I rode about 30 miles through the Loire countryside today. Part of the day was rainy, part of it was just cloudy and misty. I think the weather intensified the smells.

A little description for my dad of the smells: wet earth in the fields we went by, vineyards, the yeasty smell of wine near the wineries, lavender growing near the road, the pungent smell of wet livestock, the large fragrant flower gardens we passed, the fresh-mown grass that edges even the smallest roads, the smoke from a fireplace, wildflowers, a meaty aroma from a house wafting across the road.

Thr French are very sensitive to smell, and appreciate all kinds of scents. They don't distinguish between good and bad ones the way we do.

Dad, I think you are just a little bit French.

35 Miles on a Bike, Followed by Dinner, Stinky Cheese and Armagnac

Enough said. Good night. Alicia said I would wake up fine in the morning. Wait, that was what the sommelier said. They were wrong. I didn’t do all the miles, partly due to hangover and partly due to pouring rain. Also partly due to lunch and Jean-Claude’s winery and lots of wine tasting.

My New Best Friends


OK, forget the food log. I just can’t keep up. I am too busy. I’m biking all over the place, sometimes in the rain, along the most incredibly picturesque roads in France. Actually that is not the only reason. I am enjoying so many little courses of wonderful food three times a day that I actually can’t remember all the things I’m eating. Keeping a food log would be impossible unless that was all I was doing. The French so enjoy what I like to call “the art of the meal,” that keeping notes would be totally inappropriate. Plus I am busy using all the items of silverware in the right order, keeping track of my beverages, and trying to be a fascinating dinner companion to my husband and my thirteen new friends.

I have been watching for French boys to observe and write about, but I really haven’t seen any. So instead let’s concentrate on the thirteen new friends. There are the two leaders of our Backroads (www.backroads.com) tour. One is the lovely Alicia, a 30-year-old American who lives in Paris. She is a musician, wonderful conversationalist, and has a life full of travel and adventure. She even drives in France, which after seeing the roads and road signs up close for the last several days, really impresses me. She speaks French very well and knows everything from terms of endearment to how to swear effectively in her second language. One of the things I really like about Alicia is that she really loves her job and so obviously enjoys life. She has so integrated into the French lifestyle in the four years she has lived in Paris that she has never seen YouTube. I’m not entirely sure she knows what a blog is either. You see, the French are not so into technology. They are too busy enjoying long luxurious meals. Pretty much the opposite of where I live.

Then we have Davide (dah vee DAY), our other leader. He is a very charismatic guy in his early thirties (you’d guess younger trust me) who is both French and Italian. He lives near Grenoble, also lives a life of travel and adventure, and plays the accordion. His English is peppered with many funny and slightly offbeat turns of phrase. He is enthusiastic and has a smile on his face all the time, except early in the morning, before his breakfast, when he is concentrating hard on waking up. I think early morning for him is before 10 am. But he is up with us, getting bikes ready to go, much earlier than that.

Alicia and Davide, both young, not married, seem to get along very well. My husband and I were starting to create a love story for them in our own minds until we discovered that Alicia has a serious boyfriend.

Some of the couples on the trip:
Chip and Mary, the turbo bikers from Florida
Despite the fact that they finish their biking before the rest of us make it to lunch, I really like them. They are both funny, smart, and ambitious. They are really devoted to each other. Chip told us on the first night “It ain’t the first rodeo for either of us.” He also told us he got arrested on his very first time out of his home state, but has gone on to be an self-made success and has been to Europe now 44 times. He told us about he and Mary visited a goat cheese farm nearby and how he was assaulted by a male goat, which seemed to be very attracted to him. His wife told us how crazy it was to smoke pot – which is legal—in Amsterdam. He told us how he mastered his stutter, and then decided to get some of it back because it worked so well for him in business meetings. He told us how he likes to give young people a hand, but never a handout. He is self-deprecating and funny as dog poop (a borrowed expression).

Connie and Peter, the power couple from Washington D.C.
I can’t tell you their last name or I’d have to kill you. He is a VERY powerful person in D.C., a very pleasant person to talk to, keeps his opinions close to the vest. He loves biking. I mean LOVES it. He has some amazing calves. He is very successful in his business and loves spending time with his family. He has a killer wink that says, “ I hear you” without saying a word. His wife is more quiet initially. But tonight I had an opportunity to talk with her at length (over, guess what, dinner). She is a very powerful attorney in her own right, working for the government for a long time and more recently in private practice. They live in a house older than the state I live in, dating back to the civil war. Connie is also very well traveled, although I think she wants to do a lot more traveling if she can get her husband to retire. Connie has been recognized as an outstanding person by President Bill Clinton and visited the Oval Office at his invitation. She’s got a great perspective on being a woman working in a man’s world in D.C. She has also got an amazing zest for life that is really displayed as you hear her talk. Her and Peter met on a blind date.

Jennifer and Pete, the New Jersey-but-really-from-Connecticut Couple
Peter has got some of the best facial expressions I have seen on a man. Although he is very articulate, I’m convinced he could express himself perfectly as a mime. He works in the pharmaceutical world, travels quite a bit, and likes to run. His wife is ten years younger and they do not have children. She recently stopped working but does a lot of volunteer stuff. She grew up on a farm. When her Dad first met Pete, he didn’t like him because he didn’t drive a Ford. Didn’t matter that he had an Acura, manufactured in America. That’s OK though because when Pete’s sister met Jennifer for the first time, she screamed “So my God how old are you anyway?”

Terra and Ethan from (West) Hollywood
Terra is Connie and Pete’s daughter, see above. I haven’t gotten to know them very well yet, they are rather quite and it appears that they have been dragged on this trip with Connie and Peter and they haven’t quite figured out where they are and what the heck they are doing here anyway. Terra is Connie and Peter’s only child, and she is doing her best to keep up her role as daughter although she is here with her husband. I have a sense that Terra lives in LA but is certainly NOT an LA kind of girl, and that Ethan has a wickedly funny sense of humor. Again, just an inkling since I haven’t spent much time with them, and they are rather quiet and reserved, concentrating on their respective daughter and son-in-law duties while chasing after her parents on bikes all over the French countryside. I have seen not one cross word pass anyone’s lips, an amazing feat on this kind of family trip I think. (I later find out that Ethan works in the entertainment industry and is also a stand-up comedian.)

Moshe and Maya from Manhattan
A father and daughter on a trip together before she goes away to college. He is spending time with his youngest of four daughters before she leaves home, and his pride and enjoyment are tangible. He is having a great time. Moshe was born in Poland and lived in Israel before immigrating to the US. Maya is his youngest and obviously holds a very special place in his heart. Maya herself is off to Dartmouth soon. She and her father originally planned a trip to the Amazon, but her mother stopped it because she didn’t want Maya to contract malaria before starting college. She is an incredibly poised, confident young woman for the age of 18, and she’s got some damn cool D&G glasses and beautiful shiny long brown hair. As my husband says, “Wow, she’s going to have some dudes chasing her.”

Adelle, the Woman of Mystery
The woman of New Jersey, Martha’s Vineyard, Vermont, and France. The single mother of two girls, the kindergarten teacher. The woman of incredibly great skin (does she get facials every other day or is she really that lucky?) The woman of independence, of “Oh, I won’t be joining you for dinner because I am flitting off the Paris for dinner with my French boyfriend.” Will we get to know her better? I really hope so but so far not.

Oh my gosh, I have to go. As the card I found in my room states, “Le repas du soir est une fete. Evening dinner is the highlight of the day, for which an elegant form of dress would be greatly appreciated by your fellow guests.” I’ve got to get myself ready for this evening of dinner theater.

Becoming French, French Manners


The atoms in my body are now French. Another NPR story of the day I listened to on the way to France talked about how in the space of one year, 95% of the atoms in your body are new. In other words, you are literally not the person you were a year ago. I can tell you I am not the person I was three hours ago!

A friend suggested that I keep a food log while on this trip. I am already so behind. And here I am, jet-lagged, food-logged and wine-saturated, trying to recall the meal that I just ate. We enjoyed this three-hour extravaganza of gastronomic delight having just arrived at the hotel, after a four hour flight to Houston, a three and a half hour delay (unplanned, due to hurricane weather) and a nine hour flight to Paris, followed by an hour shuttle ride to the train station, and then an hour TGV train trip to Tours, followed by a taxi ride. I slept a little on the flight, which is why I am not a total wreck right now. My travel expert friend Lynley gave me an invaluable tip a few years ago: Tylenol PM.

We are the only Americans (that we can tell, and usually you can tell) in our hotel, and in the hotel restaurant tonight. Everyone kept speaking to us as if we understood French perfectly, so I don’t think we stood out that much.

Our meal at Jean Bardet Hotel Belmont in reverse:
Coffee
Comes with a post-dessert, also known as second dessert, of a marshmallow square, a strawberry fruit gelee, and a caramel.
Dessert
A wonderful mixture of rice pudding, a strong citrus gelee, passion fruit seeds, and cardamom. Sounds bizarre, however it was fantastic. I usually only like chocolate dessert but I loved this. Served with cookies that looked remarkably like breasts. Hey, we’re in France.
Pre-dessert
A tiny portion of ginger crème brulee, a petite mocha sandwich cookie, a tiny sugar cookie, and a lace cookie. For each of us.
Main course
Pink, or rare, pigeon, boned and served over a mysterious pastry-like medallion that reminded me of Thanksgiving stuffing. Served with three apricot halves. A really wonderful flavor combination.
Fish Course
A local fish also served rare, with a coconut crème fume sauce, accented with julienned slices of Granny Smith apples and lime. As the waiter it was exotic. This was my husband’s favorite, even though he claims to not like coconut. Whatever!
Appetizer
A dramatic presentation of a crab ravioli, topped with finely julienned vegetables and a mysterious black disc that melted when hot broth was poured over.
First Appetizer, or Fois Gras Course
Fois gras. Served with toast and salt and pepper. I love fois gras, I don’t care if it is not the most politically correct food item on the menu. It was decadent. I estimate that the piece I ate had about 10,000 calories, all fat. Whatever.
Pre-Appetizer, or Happy Mouth
An amuse-bouche of a tiny slice of terrine made with shrimp topped with a tomato sauce.
Pre-Pre-Appetizers
So good, partially because we hadn’t eaten all day, partially because we were sitting in a garden in France, and partially because they really were good.
All of the above accompanied by some excellent Vouvray, made very locally, that complemented the menu wonderfully. My husband had a glass of 1959 Vouvray that was dry and rich and honey-scented, what a treat. He was excited to drink something older than he was. I had a glass of local sparkling wine.

We left wondering why we saw not one person paying a bill of any kind. Yes we are staying here, but how strange that we don’t sign anything . . . I think they didn’t want to ruin anyone’s evening by telling him or her how much they just spent on such an extravagant meal. The service was wonderful and friendly.

By the way, we did see one French child in the restaurant; a boy, about nine or ten, who was NOT being taught those excellent French manners. He was dressed in soccer shoes, t-shirt, and shorts. Not exactly appropriate. He was playing some sort of hand held video game and proclaiming loudly to his parents how his game was going as they ate. Not exactly appropriate either. I don’t like seeing this at any restaurant, no matter where I am. I certainly wasn’t expecting to see it in France, with a French family, at a fine French restaurant. We Americans don’t own all the bad manners after all!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

For the first time in five years, I am traveling without my children. No pictures for a while since I am traveling. I’m not saying I won’t have anything to photograph. I just don’t quite have the technology to post photos from the road. I will be biking along in France touring castles and wine tasting.

Leaving my children to go on a trip with my husband is a bittersweet operation. It is hard enough, both logistically and emotionally, that we don’t go away without them very often. But I also know that it is very important for us to have the time together as a couple, leaving behind our roles as parents and remembering why we like each other so much and why we got married 15 years ago. So we prevailed on grandparents to take care of them for part of the time, and we’re putting them in “the kennel” for the rest. Yes, the three of them are going to experience resident summer camp for the first time. They are going to have an adventure, and so are we!

I know from past experience that this kind of a complete get away for both my husband and myself somehow restores us and allows us to attack our various roles as parents with a renewed gusto when we get home. I think the boys will each feel a sense of accomplishment and independence after spending a week at camp.

How to blog about kids when I won’t be with them for the next week? I’m not sure. Maybe observe French boys and their activities? Cultural differences between American and French youth? Who knows, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to observe a French family eating out and instructing their boys on table manners?

Three (or four) is the New Two

I really enjoy listening to NPR Story of the Day podcasts. They are a bit of interesting, wide-ranging newsworthy or just interesting topics that are relatively short. Short being the key word as my time during the day is still broken up into small chucks where I’m lucky if I have a sense of accomplishment for any reason.

Anyway, in listening to my beloved podcast, I just learned that I have the Ultimate Status Symbol. I am so excited! I wasn’t aware that by having three children, I have catapulted myself into the ultra-elite. Because three (or four) children is the new two. Yes, didn’t you know? Check out the podcast (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12513004).

It turns out that we are in the midst of a social status change. It used to be that only poor families had three or more children. Now, it turns out, large families are a trait of “serious money.” In going from career to “Momzilla,” those of us former career moms have traded in our 9-to-5s for competitive birthing. We have more kids because we can afford to, and it helps us feel better about our decision not to work. Some of us with three or more children apparently hire potty training coaches and when our children get lice we hire Nit Pickers (Time Magazine article?)

At first, I felt insulted by this article, until I realized that it does in fact articulate a trend that I had failed to notice. When I think about my friends that have three or more children, it is a status symbol of sorts. These friends have been (or are) career women; an attorney, a model, a photographer, a teacher, a high-tech saleswoman, an interior designer, an engineer, a nurse, a doctor, a CEO of a high tech company. I have one friend with four kids; she is a former figure skater and current writer, academic, and activist. They are achievers who have decided to do the mom thing in a big way. Let’s face it, it really does take a lot of financial resources to have three or more children in a major metropolitan area with a high cost of living. In the area I live in, competition is a way of life. I wouldn’t put it past people to participate in competitive birthing.

Some of us have a nanny (or two), housecleaners, people to do our laundry and cook for us. But some of us choose not to have these added luxuries. I’ve always said that if I worked outside my home, I would not have had a third child. That special child number three was, for my husband and myself, a bonus of sorts that we felt we could handle because I was no longer working. I come from a family of three children and so does my husband. I remember my parents reminiscing about deciding between getting a dog or having another baby. My youngest sister doesn’t much like that story, but I think this trend started way back then: my parents felt they had enough resources to go for the longer-term, higher-cost option.

So I have to remember to thank that wonderful third child, in all his wackiness, for catapulting me into the realm of the elite. He really is more fun than a designer handbag.

The Bar Mitzvah

I have needed a couple days of reflection on the bar mitzvah before I could write about it. It was a very moving and emotional experience for me. Someone told me at the ceremony that, not being Jewish, I couldn’t really understand the significance of the event. While that may be true in the religious sense, I did feel like I shared in a very wonderful rite of passage that in many ways I am sad my boys will not go through.

There is one rabbi in the state of Montana. There have been only three bar mitzvahs ever in the town we were in. The local card shop doesn’t carry any cards for Jewish holidays. The bar mitzvah was a huge family effort in so many ways. And I don’t think that small town will soon forget the ceremony and the incredible party that followed.

The tradition of the ceremony goes back to a time when a thirteen-year-old boy was ready to become a man and marry. Obviously, that is not the case in modern times, but the tradition is still valid in marking the time when a boy enters into the process of becoming an adult, with some of the responsibilities and privileges that come along with that. It is ceremony bringing together all those that care for and support the boy in his journey toward manhood; his parents, his rabbi, his religious coach, members of his community, his siblings, grandparents, relatives, and friends from near and far. The boys discovers, through preparing for and performing the ceremony, that he can do it. And everyone is there to say to him: we know you can do it, we’ve seen you do it, and we are here to support you now and through your journey to becoming an adult.

I can only guess that this is a powerful message for a thirteen-year-old boy, navigating his way through figuring out who he is. I can’t help but think how many other thirteen year olds out there would benefit from this show of love and solidarity. I felt truly honored to be a part of it.

Our ten and nine year old boys were there with us. As is typical with my boys (and my husband too) they didn’t offer up any insightful initial reaction to what they had witnessed. I know from experience that I have to give them time, and then some more time, to reflect and let it all stew, and then at some random moment they will come up with some words to describe how they felt about it. I will be sure to record that on this blog when it happens.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Onions That Are Not

My boys are adventurous eaters, and like good food.

Yesterday, while floating down the Glacier River here in Montana, my husband asked my nine year old if there was any food he didn't like.

"Onions that are not carmelized" was his answer.

I love that kid.

Boy Moments in Montana

We are in Montana for a family friend's bar mitzvah. These friends moved to the town of Whitefish a year ago, and there are something like 30 families visiting and attending the ceremonies. Some of the families we have known since our children were in preschool together.

Last night we went to a big family BBQ at the almost-complete home of the family who lives here. The boys enjoyed a rousing game of what they called "dirt football" which basically consisited of hurling big handfuls of fine dusty Montana dirt at each other. They have never had a better time. One boy, usually clean and put together, came over and completely freaked his mother out by shaking his thick head of usually brown shiny hair and creating a cloud of dust around him exactly like the PigPen cartoon. She was wearing a white outfit, so she made a hasty retreat and we instructed all the boys to not come near us. The boy was delighted, saying "This is SO fun!" They all had dirt everywhere, including in their ears. I think when the group returned to the hotel, we tested the limits of the hot water capacity.

Tonight we attend the bar mitzvah ceremony, an important rite of passage. My boys have never been to such an event, celebrating a boy in this manner. I look forward to lots of good discussion.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Shoe Shopping, Boy Style

It's a military style operation.

Get in.

Get out.

Don't forget your credit card.

It's really a bonus to get a shoe salesperson. In fact, I find it essential. Otherwise you might have to waste time browsing (a swear-word for boys). And you might have to dig through stacks of shoes to find the right size. And then you've lost them.

So we shop for shoes at Nordstrom. You can get in without walking through the mall. You get to ride the esculator. It is not the cheapest place to get shoes but it lessens the pain of shopping considerably.

Shoe shopping is something we have to do fairly often. Boy's feet grow, and they wear out shoes if they don't grow out of them. I can't buy shoes for them without trying them on, and they have opinions about what shoes they like and don't like, and how they feel. My boys hate shopping, so I usually try to get it all over with at once and take all three kids.

This last trip to Nordstrom, we got a salesman who just "gets" boys. He was fabulous. I should have gotten his name. After ten seconds of the dreaded "browsing" the boys sit down to get helped. The saleman approaches, looks at the boys and their current shredded shoes, and asks what kind of shoes they are looking for. He gets in return the unsure stare of Ones Who Hate to Be In A Store. He sums up the situation, asking, "Should I just bring you some cool shoes?" He gets in return a few grateful affirmative nods. He smiles, and I can tell this guy gets boys. Or at least my boys. He doesn't bring velcro tennis shoes, which he can guess would not be looked on favorably. He does not bring skater shoes, which don't stay on the feet when moving at lightening speeds. He does not bring suede anything, which would look terrible after ten minutes of wear. He does bring cool shoes. Nikes with cool colors and cool shocks on the bottoms. He gets in return a grateful "yeah!" when he asks if they are acceptable.

But then, and this is really important, he makes sure the shoes FIT. Boys spend so much time on their feet, jumping and running around that I think it vital their shoes fit their feet. I also try (mostly successfully) to avoid passing shoes down. An old shoe molded to a different shaped foot is not such a good thing to wear.

So now that we found a great shoe salesman, my middle son, who is nine, will no longer be able to shop in the children's department. His feet are the same size as mine already. He is on the cusp of outgrowing youth sizes and youth prices.

I am betting the men's department has a really good salesman who gets boys. I plan on seeking him out and becoming his most loyal customer.

Sports Survival

I like the Starbucks cups with "The Way I See It" quotes on them. They make for some interesting conversations. My favorite one is #252. It just speaks to me.

Give me world politics, gender politics, party politics or small-town politics . . . I'll take them all over the politics of youth sports. ––Brenda Stonecipher, Everett Washington City Council Member, a wise woman who is also probably a mother of a child involved in club soccer or Little League.

The other day I was wearing a shirt for the Nine Year Old All Stars Little League team. A woman came up to me and said, "Oh I've spent a lot of time at Quito games." She went on to tell me how she has three boys. They all played baseball. I quickly asked her, any advice for me? Maybe she could offer me the holy grail of surviving innumerable sporting events. Her advice? "Just enjoy it. If they play football you will be sitting there for six hours at a time."

Umm, football? I hope not. I don't like football and can't understand what they are doing dodging around on the field anyway. Even my husband has learned that if he watches football on TV he has to do so with the volume off or I come unglued. The only NFL game I have ever been to, I brought my knitting. I embarrassed my husband, not an easy feat. I got a lot done on that scarf despite rude people trying to edge by me with overfilled beers. I don't think I'll have to go to another game.

Yes, she explains, "I had one on varsity and one on JV. One game right after the other." I regard her with sympathy, but she's got a smile on her face. Then she tells me her oldest, who is 33 years old, is still playing baseball and is on an All Stars team.

My god, it never ends! I must take her advice to heart. Just enjoy it. I think I better learn to become a sports fan. Maybe I should start by learning the rules.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Need for Speed

Just got back from a boys' weekend. I was an observer to the phenomenon known to boys: the need for speed.

And the corollary phenomenon: getting air.

All the boys and men involved in this weekend were very dedicated to the pursuit of getting speed and air. My ten year old said at one point "I have SUCH an adrenaline rush!"



A hot day, a long thin lake, a new 350-horsepower speedboat, hundreds of dollars worth of gasoline, waterskis, tubes, ropes, wakeboards, surfboards. A friend willing to share all this and drive at high speeds to see two boys get the biggest grins of their life. And to teach the two most important rules of being towed: knees bent, arms straight, and follow the boat. Oh, we had to add one more. When you fall, let go of the rope.

This friend even provided something else for the boys. Something like the whipped cream on a mocha or the sprinkles on a chocolate-dipped frozen banana. The boys had the pleasure of hanging out with his 17 year old son, an extremely friendly guy with a ready smile who actually talked to them. Then this guy showed them what he could do on that wakeboard of his: get lots of speed, then get lots of air, do a 360 while in the air, and then land it. My sons think he is probably the coolest person that has ever walked the face of the earth.



This was the first time the boys have tried waterskiing. Much to my amazement, both the 10 year old and the 9 year old (my youngest wasn't there) got right up on their first try, zooming around the lake. Then my husband got right up on the skis too.

Now the pressure was on. My boys' sense of adventure inspired me to try. What the heck, it was 103 degrees out, I had to get wet anyway. So I got up on my second try, and hung on for as long as I could, trying to feel they way the boys feel when they are getting this kind of speed. I don't really get it. Speed scares me more than thrills me.



Later I watched as they whipped and bumped around on a tube at high speed, the driver of the boat determined to throw them off. The boys laughed maniacally and hung on like barnacles. When they did get thrown off, they did helicopter spins, skipping across the water like stones. I did my best to supress the momentary panic that they were hurt (that was the most adrenaline I experienced). They surfaced, laughing and wanting more.



Then they tried surfing. They were fascinated by the mechanics of getting set up for it, pumping water into a tank just for this purpose on one side of the boat. The boat was set up to create a large and steady wake that looked and acted a lot like an ocean wave, except it didn't die out and hit the beach, it just kept on going right behind the boat. Each boy was able to get right up on the surfboard, and surf the wave, even dropping the tow rope while surfing. It was quite amazing that they could make it look so easy on their first tries, both of them!



Then came the wakeboarding. Unbelievable, they could do that too! And they loved it.

The 17-year old told me "You're pretty much screwed."

And I know he is right. This is not the last time we are going to the lake in pursuit of speed and air.

All this, and they ate bacon, left socks laying around, didn't have to take a shower. They roasted marshmallows over the BBQ with battery-powered spinning skewers. Can life get ANY better?