I am a Jedi like my MOTHER before me


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Cue the theme music… here comes “Good Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight, with the blue light saver (sic),” also known as my three-year old son. Lately, we can’t go anywhere without that light saber.

This little guy has an incredible passion for all that is Star Wars. From books and cartoons to Legos and mini action figures, he simply cannot get enough. Well, with the exception of the actual movies… which, after several trial viewings, he has deemed too scary.

Even without the Lucas films to reference, he’s memorized most of the plot line and convoluted family tree. Plus, he’s got an unquenchable desire to make-believe. In one favorite game, he pretends the guest bed is the Millennium Falcon and we have to scoop in to save Padmé or others in distress. Other times, he instructs one of us to play Darth Vader to his Luke. It goes something like this:

Me: [with labored breathing sounds] Luke, trust your feelings and you will know it to be true. I – AM – YOUR – FATHER.

Mateo: [gasps] What?! Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Then we redo the scene. Again and again. Sometimes it’s hard to share his enthusiasm.

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Even his older brother, age 6½, our Star Wars Lego building expert, is getting fed up. He loves the movies and can’t wait to get his hands on all the latest Star Wars toys but his little brother’s total fixation has become rather annoying.

This got me thinking about another set of siblings in a not so distant galaxy where little sister (that would be me, age 3 in 1977, the year the first Star Wars movie came out) became similarly obsessed with the Star Wars merchandising machine. I coveted the impressive collection of toys my big brother, age 7, had acquired. He seemed to have it all — Death Star, Millennium Falcon, Tie Fighter… and when his Star Wars figures would get a little worn out, guess who would get them?

Yes!

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I loved Star Wars and started to amass quite a collection of my own. Prized possessions included several dozen action figures, an x-wing fighter, a ton-ton which Luke or his comrades could actually ride and the planet Hoth with a built in at-at.

Oh, Lord. Is it obvious that I’m not quite over it all yet?

Eric, Liz, Leslie Rothaus, 1976

Me with my older bro and younger sis, circa 1976.

I’m not sure if my obsession riled my brother’s nerves though it probably did, especially when I cut off the tips of Obi Wan and Luke’s light sabers to make them more realistic and tried to slide Vader and Leah’s cloaks on other, bulkier characters. (He seemed to have a sixth sense that these toys, or at least their non-mutilated twins, would have value someday.)

My parents surely worried that the only times I’d play with my 3-story doll house was to reenact an elaborate scenario in which the resident family hid beneath the removable kitchen floor to escape the ruthless Storm Troopers who came looking for them.

Behavior like this (not to mention my questionable taste in naming my baby doll, “Carwash”) must have led to some serious eyebrow raising but they never let on that I was an unusual child. They let me be me, quirks (especially quirks!) and all. I’m glad for that now.

All of this has left me wondering a few things:

  • Is this all a coincidence or is age 3 a moment when most children fixate on a particular passion?
  • How important is the influence of older siblings or do all children go though a similar phase?
  • Finally, should I worry that my son is obsessed with Anakin and his struggle between the light and dark sides of The Force or is it actually the perfect metaphor for the impulses he’s experiencing now?

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No doubt, my Star Wars youth prepared me well for having two boys. Each time I was pregnant, I wondered what on earth I would do if nature bestowed a girly-girl upon me. How would I handle it? I guess I would have done the only possible thing, dug down deep, marched into the American Girl doll store to buy a brunette doll who could fit a custom-made Princess Leia costume.

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Grocery Shopping – Ze French Way!

When I’m in France, I love to go shopping. Yes, clothes and home furnishings are swell but my true love is food. Give me an outdoor, open market any day and I’m one happy camper. But I’ve discovered another guilty pleasure — exploring the super-sized hypermarchés that have popped up on the outskirts of most cities around the country.

You think you know how to shop at a grocery store? Guess again. Successfully navigating a French hypermarché means mastering a new set of rules. Hop in your Peugeot and on y GO!

1. Dress for Success

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When French women head to the grocery store, they don’t show up in yoga pants and a t-shirt. Think more like dress, heels, and full make up. That’s the expected attire. Believe me I’ve tried the casual route and my sneakers were a dead giveaway of my American upbringing. It wasn’t until I slipped on a new black & grey number that I looked and felt like I really belonged.

2.  Put Another Nickel In, In the Nickelodeon

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Ok, so a nickel won’t actually cut it. (But a quarter might if you can’t find a euro! It worked for me…) In France, you’ll generally find shopping carts neatly arranged in their metal stables outside the store. People actually return them because they had to invest a euro to borrow them in the first place. If they want their money back, they’ll remember not to leave them flailing in the middle of the parking lot later.

So, two things: don’t forget the cart on your way in since it can be a LONG walk back to find one and make sure you come with some change. Most caddies take 1 euro or 50 centimes pieces.

3.  It’s a Whole New World!

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Did I mention that this place is humongous? For the unitiated, it can be quite an eye opener to find a supermarket in the same complex as a shopping mall. So remember this common sense rule: try on those snappy little shoes and check out those handbags before you check off the fish, ice cream and stinky cheese on your shopping list.

4. I Dairy You

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Did you really think the dairy section was sufficient at your local Trader Joe’s? Believe me, you ain’t seen nothing like the overflowing aisles of refrigerated cheese, yogurt, creams, desserts and other milk-made treasures. Oddly enough, you’ll find the actual milk (ultra-pasteurized) stacked on regular shelves next to warmish bottles of spring water like Evian and Volvic.

5. The Price is Right

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A couple important things to know about pricing in France. First, as you consider your shopping budget, know that the price you see is what you’ll pay at check out. Taxes are already included. Second, many grocery items are priced by the kilogram (that’s 2.2 pounds of fun). You can usually buy less than a kilo — 500 grams is about 1 lb. — but keep those quantities in mind as you’re planning recipes and your budget.

6. Weight a Minute!

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Hey? Where are you going? Don’t leave the produce department before you bag, weigh, and label all your fruit and veggies. Otherwise, you will be banished upon arrival at the cashier.

7. Registers, Registers All Around But None of Them are Fast

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Oh, Lord. Even if you are a quick shopper — no small feat in stores that take 10 minutes to traverse from one end to the other — you’ll need to plan for extra time at the cash register. Make that a LOT more time. Lines tend to move at a snail’s pace. Cashiers are in no particular hurry. For some mysterious reason, usually 4 of the 30 available registers are open at any given time.

Beware of the “priority lines” that give preference to pregnant ladies and those with disabilities. It’s a lovely concept but I personally witnessed two brawls about to break out on my last trip to France — one of them involving my mother, gesticulating with a cane after a recent surgery. Also, don’t try to bring that big caddy into the Express check out lane — you’ll get seriously reprimanded.

8. I Like Big Bags and That Ain’t No Lie

sacsFrench grocery stores are big on the do it yourself motto — be ready to bag your own groceries with your own bags. For environmental reasons, free plastic and paper bags are no longer provided at grocery stores. So bring your own or be prepared to buy ’em. (Note: the produce section does provide small bags for fruit & vegetables only — see #6 above.)

9. Returns? Think Again.

“Fine! I’ll keep ze hat!”

Are you sure you really don’t want that thingamajig? Remember how long it took to buy it in the first place? Consider carefully since successfully returning an item is a major bureaucratic victory in France. You may be used to American stores where returns are welcomed with a smile and often without a receipt. That’s definitely not the norm here. Expect the process to involve several vendors, each of whom will inspect the merchandise and receipt with an eagle’s eye and direct you to wait in no fewer than 3 different lines before you walk out with your 8€50. The old phrase “buyer beware” seems pertinent to remember.

10. Baby, You Can Drive My Car.

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If all of this sounds like too much work or too much choice or too much trouble, maybe you’d prefer opting for the latest rage in France. Drive through shopping! Order online, then pick it up. Total time at grocery store: 5 minutes.  No extra charge.

But what would you do with all that free time — shop???