A day in maternelle

Dear kids,

 

Today I had the great opportunity to spend the morning in a Petite Section class in the school where you, Son, currently go and you, Daughter, will go next year.

 

It was Daughter’s halte-garderie who proposes it as a sort of « passerelle » from « Petite Enfance » and the halte-garderie, to preschool/maternelle. We went with a lady from the HG, and as luck would have it, we spent the morning with the teacher that Son had for PS.

 

I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity, it’s a shame we didn’t have it earlier with Son, who wasn’t at the same halte-garderie as Daughter. But it just reinforced the positive image I have of French maternelle. I already was pleased with it, but any sort of doubts I had about the size of the classes, overloading the kids, or surveillance during recess (la recré) have been totally thrown out the window of the charming 19th century building the school has been housed in for the past 110+ years.

 

We arrived at 9am, where the kids were downstairs rehearsing their dances for the upcoming end-of-the-year spectacle. Son did this last year, as a matter of fact a couple of the songs were the same that he did last year (Enrouler le fil and Jean Petit Qui Danse). The maitresse and the ATSEM (a lady who helps the preschool teacher, also known as a « dame de service ») recognized me and Daughter immediately. We watched the rehearsal, Daughter you got up and danced a bit, and then we went back upstairs to the classroom. The teacher called the students up by the first letter of their names : « All children whose name begins with M, please stand up », etc.

 

The children sat down at little round tables and chairs and were given a glass of water. (Kids in French maternelle are no longer given a snack in the morning, they have to wait for their 11h30 lunch hour, so it’s important to eat well at breakfast). Daughter you joined them. Then the teacher called each of the children by the color of the table. « Children at the green table, please come to the bench », in front of the classroom, etc. This is a nice way of teaching children letters and colors, Also it encourages children to pay attention.

 

They talked about what day of the week it was (mardi, Tuesday), whether there was school the next day (no school on Wednesdays) and the fact that it was Mother’s Day on Sunday and that left them with only three days to work on their Mother’s Day project and to learn the poem to recite to Maman.

 

Then the children sat down at the tables again and got to work coloring little paper hearts which were part of the Mother’s Day project. Each child worked diligently and was given time to work at their own pace. Some children finished earlier and were then allowed to play with the toys in the classroom.

 

There were : baskets of Legos and cars neatly sorted under the bench, a play kitchen, a doctor’s kit, a baby doll and toy pram. Toy brooms and dusting bins, stacks of puzzles, a rug with a race track design on it. The children were interested in you, Daughter, and kept asking me what your name was and how old you are. One little girl sat down to play doctor with you, which you obliged.

 

By then it was 10 :30am and you could see the children were getting restless and loud. The teacher was firm but kind, and had to speak sharply to a few children who started throwing Legos. One little boy had to sit in the corner.

 

This was the perfect timing for recess. Normally the children go immediately to recess, but on Tuesdays a music teacher from the town conservatory comes to the school to do music lessons with the children.

 

I knew this already from Son, who has had these classes both years, but what a treat to be able to see the lady in action. She taught the children simple songs and body tapping, and had them tap on some xylophones.

 

Then she announced she had a special instrument who was very shy, and fragile, and we had to be quiet to coax it to come out. Then she brought out a large guitar-type string instrument and said it was from Africa. I believe it was called a kora, but I’m not sure. She said that it was made from an extremely large, inedible fruit. Then she played and sang a lovely African tune for the children, who hummed it down the stairs on their way to recré.

 

Then the children had a few minutes of recess. Recess was wild, but manageable. No worse than the playground. Daughter you were so happy to play on the equipment that you see every morning when we bring Son to school, but are never allowed to play on. The children were very nice to you and one little girl swung you on the bridge.

 

I was always concerned about the lack of surveillance during recess, but seeing it in action made my concerns go away. There are only about three teachers, but the playground is small and I never saw a situation that got out of control, or that wasn’t immediately handled by a teacher.

 

That said, I kind of still feel like, there isn’t enough individual surveillance, but do you know what Kids ? I think that it’s always going to be impossible to monitor every unkind word, every bruised ego. I think that is part of life, that we all will experience, and that we need to learn to handle in our own way. It’s painful, I know from experience, but the thought of too much surveillance is not quite the answer either.

 

In any case, Son, we watched you from the window during your recess, and you seemed happy, roughhousing with a group of boys. There isn’t much more that I could ask for.

 

So then the children who were staying at school for lunch went off to the cantine, and Daughter you and I went to Son’s class to pick him up for lunch. I was glad that this morning before leaving, I’d taken the time to grate some carrots into a salad to marinate in a lemon-balsamic vinaigrette with some minced basil while we were gone, and had thrown a few chicken breasts into the crock pot with some lemon juice and teriyaki sauce. All we needed to do was pick up a baguette from the bakery at home, and pit some fresh cherries for dessert.

 

I’m really so grateful for this day. It feels like an experience I won’t forget. Really getting to see French preschool in action. The teachers always tell us at the beginning of the school year, what the children’s days look like, but it’s so different to see it in action. And to watch the maitresse in action. I think that this is a particularly good maitresse, many people say so, but it’s so reassuring to see that she is firm in the French way, but very available to the children as well. Not belitting, not overly encouraging, giving honest praise to a child who did a nice job coloring their heart. Rewarding children who were well-behaved that morning by choosing them to be able to pluck the African instrument. I’m really so pleased.

 

And it’s so hard to believe, Son, that you are already halfway through maternelle. You will be in Grande Section next year, and then the year after, it’s primary school. As a matter of fact tonight I’m going to a talk at the American Library about the transition to CP, which is the first year of école primaire.

 

I’m so happy we have such a nice school a two minute walk away. What a blessing.

 

cantine

Vacances Scolaires

 

Dear children,

 

I have mixed feelings about the school holidays in France. They are just so long, and come around so often. Two weeks, every six weeks. It’s great if you have grandparents nearby to send the kids out to their country house for a week, but unfortunately that is not something we are blessed with. Because I’m on congé parental, we aren’t permitted a spot in the centre de loisirs, so these two weeks are just so intense and full-on.

 

On the other hand, I really do welcome the break from school rhythm. We get to do a lot of things that we are normally too tired to do on the weekends. It’s for that reason that I rarely schedule a trip away during the vacation, with the exception of the winter break when we visited T and R in Germany. I really enjoy doing things in Paris and I love how so many things are available to do. Workshops and performances make themselves available every day instead of just weekends and Wednesdays. I love the idea of offering you both a museum workshop, a theatre performance, a movie and some outings during the school vacations and I really enjoy taking you to do these things.

 

We try to rent a car a couple of days during the vacation to do day trips. Here are some of the things we have done this vacation :

 

-The drive-through safari park at the Château de Thoiry

-The indoor playground at Kidzy

-a magic show for you Son

-a little theatre show for under 3s for you Daughter, followed by lunch at Le Petit cafe du monde entier in the 11th

-a movie : Miniscule

-your first trip to the Louvre, Son, is planned for this week.

-trips to the park, we got you your first bicycle Son so we’ve been riding around the neighborhood, having picnics

 

Here are some things we have done during past vacations :

 

-a museum workshop at the Musée Marmottan

-a trip to the aquarium, and to Disneyland

-another indoor playground

-apple picking at the Ferme de Gally in the fall

-a performance of Le Chat Botté

 

In fact, kids, if all goes as it should with the French bureaucracy, this will be the last school vacation where I’m not working, and therefore you will spend part of it in the centre de loisirs. I am glad about this as I think it will make it less intense, however I still plan on taking the first week of the vacations off to do activities with you. I’m trying to think about how to make it work. But it’s true I really love the little break, and much importance is placed in France on taking a break, a balance between work and family life.

 

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Dear Mom 2014

Dear Mom,

 

That day has come around again. April 4th, or rather the night of April 3rd. Three years. Three years since you’ve been gone. I remember when you passed, saying how it felt like you were on a two year trip to a desert island or the Himalayas or somewhere equally remote, but that I would see you again. It’s been three years now so I know it’s not true. I no longer feel that way, either. I know you are gone for good.

 

So I soldier on. The years will go by, and my children will grow up, and I will move farther and farther away from you, the memories will fade though I hope not completely. I will always come back to this day to check in and to write you a letter.

 

I think I was doing a bit better when I wrote to you last year, because I was doing some therapy. I’m not now, and I really, really need to. Therapy helps. Talking helps. I haven’t been really dreaming about you, but I know that’s for other reasons. I’d love to see you in my dreams, make it a meeting point, making it a way for me to spend some time with you and to remember you. I remember last year dreaming that it was 1999 and we were traveling to Greece again, it was a lovely dream. I’ll get there.

 

We are doing good, Mom. I hope you know that and can see that. I hope you can somehow see your granddaughter. Goodness, you would be so proud ! You would be so pleased to have a granddaughter and I often wonder about the conversations you would have with your grandchildren. I wonder if you would speak French or English to them. I would probably insist you speak English. I wonder if you would have taken them places. Ah, all those things that could have been.

 

Well, you don’t have to worry about us. We are in good health. Life isn’t perfect, but I have to say, Mom, it really isn’t that bad either. We have it pretty good. As a matter of fact, Mom, coming up this summer on my 40th birthday, it’s 40 years since you gave birth to me, and I have none of the midlife crises that so many 40 year olds get. I’m grateful to be turning 40 and I’m so pleased with where I am in life. Yes, there are still things to be worked out, but I’m at a great place in life. Two healthy children, ten years of marriage, a job I like to go back to, an apartment in Paris. I am very blessed. We are blessed.

 

This summer, we will be spending the summer in California. It’ll be the first time we’ve gone since you passed in 2011. This is the longest I’ve ever been away from California, or the US. I’m really looking forward to it, though I don’t know if it will be sad or happy. Probably both, right, Mom ? I am looking forward to taking my kids to the beach at the border of Venice and Santa Monica where you used to take me. And to the Promenade, and the Library, and walking on the boardwalk. I will tell them about you and about my memories so that they will know you.

I can’t remember if I told you but last summer, I spread a small amount of your remaining ashes off the St Laurence river in Canada, directly across the border from upstate New York. I had held a small hope of being able to make a side trip to New York City, but it wasn’t meant to be and so I didn’t want to return to France with the ashes. This isn’t keeping in the tradition of spreading your ashes to places that meant something to you, but I thought that upstate New York was pretty close. So you have now been buried there, and off the Santa Monica Pier, in the family plot just outside Munich with your mother, and in the shadow of Notre Dame, in the Seine. I still want to scatter a bit off the Vieux Port in Marseille, to commemorate when you left from there for America by boat in 1965, and whenever I get to New York, I’ll scatter a bit there. It might take a lifetime but that’s ok. All the places that marked something in your life.

Then maybe I’ll be able to fully let you go.

 

This morning at breakfast I showed Son the photos we took when you and tante came to visit when Son was one month old, and we walked in the Bois de Boulogne with the dog. He asked me if you were ever going to come visit. It’s always hard when he asks that. I tell him that you are in heaven now, with the doggie. It feels a bit hypocritical to say that since I don’t know if there’s a heaven, but honestly, for talking with children it feels like the most reassuring thing to say. So that’s what I tell him. Momie is up in heaven now.

 

They have some caterpillars in their class this year, and a few of them have died, so he slowly understands the concept of death now, although he says “they died, and then they went to the hospital”. So he’s got it a bit backwards. I can tell him that it’s the reverse for you, you went to the hospital, then you died. It makes it easier for him to wrap his head around it, though I know it’s still hard.

 

I hope that many, many years and decades from now, at the end of my life, once I have watched my grandchildren grow (I hope I am so lucky), that we can sit and have a coffee on a cloud table and talk about everything that has happened. I hope this happens very, very far in the future, not too soon. For the moment, we have a lot of living to do.

 

Until next year, Mom.

 

Love always,

Your Daughter

The Essentials

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Dear kids,

 

I saw this photo this morning, and it got me thinking about what I, as your mother, feel it’s my job to teach you about life. About what to appreciate.

 

Aside from the basics of keeping you fed, bathed, clothed, giving you a warm place to sleep, and hugs and kisses, and making decisions about your health and well-being, these are the things that I wish to impart to you :

 

-An appreciation for books and reading. I feel this is important for all the education years that lie ahead of you. I would love it if you developed a love of reading for pleasure, but even if it doesn’t continue after your higher education years, I still feel that reading will get you far through these years to come. So I insist on reading time, reading books every night before bed. We make trips to the local public library for French books, and trips to the American Library for story hour.

 

This is especially important during this age of screen time, and I struggle with this a lot. It’s so easy to stick you in front of Dora or the iPad. And I’m also a big fan of the screen, so I think the thing it’s my job to teach you is to balance it all out. The pleasure of reading while curled up in bed, and the pleasure of relaxing in front of the TV with the whole family.

 

-An appreciation for nature, as well as physical activity. Taking walks in the woods, sitting by the sea when we can get there, getting our feet dirty in summer. I’ve never been a sports person, so I’ve decided it’s not my job to teach you to play soccer, but I do want you to appreciate the joys of a nice walk, a slow walk or a brisk walk.

 

-Giving you free time to be bored. Not over-scheduled. There’s a fine line for that for me, because there are a few things that are really important to me that you do. English, for one, you will need to have extracurricular English. Swimming classes are another, and music and dance are a third. But I also want time for you to just sit and ponder, to stare out the window, to pick up some crayons and start drawing, or to make up stories. Again, I’m not sure I’m doing such a great job of this, but it’s the goal.

 

-Teaching you to appreciate food. I think we do OK in this department. There’s room for improvement, but I love that you get excited about fresh fruit and cheese for dessert, or that you will gobble down coconut tofu with brown rice. I also love how much you appreciate your 4pm cookie snack. That’s the key, is teaching you the balance, that everything has its place.

 

I love that you love picnics, and enjoying a hot chocolate in a cafe.

 

-Teaching you to pick up after yourself. Again, I’m not the best role model for that, but, well kids, do as I say, not as I do. Also basic manners: saying hello and thank you, table manners, offering your seat to elderly people, holding doors etc.

 

-Taking you traveling, on adventures in our neighborhood, showing you the great art museums of Paris, taking you to children’s theatre. Whether you like it or not is not the point, but I wish to teach you to be curious and open-minded, and up for adventure.

 

-An appreciation of the seasons, of lying in the grass in summer, watching leaves fall in autumn, moving inward in winter, staring in wonder as the flowers begin to bloom in spring again.

 

-To cultivate an attitude of gratitude. I am just now learning this, but I think expressing gratitude at the end of the day (or beginning !) can do wonders for mental health. I have started asking you what your favorite thing about today was. I hope we can continue with this.

 

 

 

 

The things I don’t think I need to do, or should not be doing, are :

 

-solving your conflicts for you. It’s our job as parents to teach you to manage conflicts, and definitely to stand up for yourself and defend yourself, but not to come running every time I hear yelling. I’m trying more and more, whenever you two start squabbling, to stand back and let you resolve it. Not always so easy, especially when your caveman instincts start coming out, but I don’t think I’m doing you any favors by always jumping in.

 

-Not always helping you get up when you fall. Assessing whether there’s blood or not, and then let you pick yourself up. You will always get a cuddle though if you need it, but I need to try not to coddle you every time you fall.

 

-We also need to let you fall, to put you in situations that test your abilities, even though that means you might fall and bruise and scrape yourself, or maybe even more than that. This one is hard for me, just last week Son, we had a lovely morning in the playground at the Jardin du Luxembourg, and you climbed too high on one of the structures, and couldn’t get down. I was watching you and wanting to let you climb higher, to test yourself, but then I saw that it was too high for you. Finding that limit is still a challenge for me.

 

What did you want as a child? A quiet environment. Freedom from chaos and conflict. A window seat, a view, and a pad and pencil. Some music. The chance to make mistakes without anyone caring. The chance to chew on some blades of grass and stick beans in your ears. Books to read. A Saturday movie. French fries. Nothing mysterious, nothing theoretical. Can’t you extrapolate from this vision of your ideal childhood, exactly how to parent?” Eric Maisel, “A Writer’s San Francisco”

Scootin’ along

Dear kids,

I have a thing for baby products, although of course now we’ve moved more into kids’ products. Ergo, Peg Perego, Stokke, Tripp Trapps, Bugaboo, Storksak, Maclaren, etc. Like many moms I spent a lot of time researching strollers when I was pregnant. Now that you both are out of strollers (for the most part, Daughter you still use the Maclaren Quest quite a bit for outings into Paris, and I suspect you will for a while longer), I have come across our new favorite transportation product : the Mini Micro scooter, also known as the Mini Kick in the US.

We went through three (three ! Count ‘em ! Three !) scooters for you, son, before one fateful day when we went on a play date with a friend and were introduced to her Mini Micro. We were sold at first sight. The other scooters couldn’t hold a candle to the Mini Micro. For one thing, the other strollers we bought had two back wheels, which causes the child to kind of kick their leg outward to avoid hitting the wheel. The Mini Micro has two front wheels and one back wheel, so it avoids this problem.

We bought a red one for you Son about a year ago, thinking eventually you would grow out of it and pass it on your little sister. However, for the past month I’d been noticing that your sister really wants one and is ready for it, so we bought her the 3-in-1 in blue, since she’s not yet 3 and the Mini Micro is theoretically for ages 3-5 (though I see quite a few toddlers using it). She is already too big for the seat part, but does really well with the O-ring handle. You ended up swapping as the O-ring handle can be switched quite easily, and so now she has the red one and you have the blue.

It took you,Daughter, about four days or so to get the hang of the tilting steering, whereas you Son got it almost straight away.

It’s so fun to see you both take off and enjoy your scooters. Not to mention the fact that it helps us get places faster. We take it into Paris, it’s light enough to carry on the metro. Son, you ride it to your Saturday afternoon music class, and Daughter you ride it on our Thursday outings.

I am thinking about taking them to California this summer, I love the idea of you both scooting down the bike path along the beach, in your helmets and summer gear, after an afternoon of boogie boarding in the ocean and building sand castles. I also love the idea of taking short trips around Europe and bringing them along with us, London for example, although we will see about that one. There’s something so freeing about them.

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La cuisine

 

Dear kids,

I have just come home from the preschool/nursery run and made myself a cup of coffee with our machine. It’s so nice to come home from the busy morning and make myself a coffee and settle down for a little bit before starting to prepare lunch. I sometimes think that having an actual espresso machine means I don’t get out to cafes as much. I could be writing this at a cafe. But it’s so nice to be in from the misty gray morning, with a candle burning in our warm apartment, and my good latte, settling on the couch with my feet up on the ottoman. I’ll make the effort to go to the cafe.

 

But today, I want to talk about food. It’s a well-known fact, perhaps even a cliché, that the French are obsessed with food, and over the past few years I have gotten to see that it truly starts early. I have to say I’m always surprised and disappointed by the fact that French women don’t breastfeed as much as they could. It’s only a very small percentage that breastfeed. Unfortunately, a lot of it is an attitude I really dislike, of wanting to get back to the business of being a woman right away, and this attitude of « my breasts are for my husband » which I find stupid and absurd. I like that fact that French woman don’t let being a mother consume all areas of their lives, but I do think they take it to the extreme. This is not all French women, mind you. Many of them do breastfeed, and many I think would like to but there is still the problem of not getting the right support in the hospital.

 

It disappoints me that France is not a breastfeeding nation because I feel like breastfeeding is so inline with their ideas about introducing new tastes early on. Breast milk changes slightly with regards to what the mama has eaten, and what better way is there to introduce the baby to new tastes ?

 

With regards to solids, the French don’t start their babies on rice cereal like they do in Anglo-Saxon countries (and like I did with you guys, too). They start them on carrots and green beans, The BabyCook is an appliance that is used almost universally by French parents. I have to admit that with you, Son, I didn’t know about its existence. With Daughter, I bought one used because I wasn’t sure how much I would use it, but it was really terrific. It makes steaming vegetables and pureeing them so easy. You can put your veggies in before you leave and they will be ready to puree when you get home. I admit that I even still use it at least a couple of times a week because I like how it steams veggies.

 

So, French people start with vegetables. Not fruit. Vegetables. They cook green beans and carrots and spinach for their babies, to get them used to the natural taste.

 

Which leads me to the creche and preschool. I have been delighted with how the lunch system goes, so far. Daughter, you eat at the creche once a week and son you eat at school twice a week, the other two days we pick you up for lunch and drop you back off in the afternoon.

 

The French school meal is the standard format of a French meal : starter (entrée), main dish (plat), cheese, dessert. The children are served with real plates and silver ware, and there is water to drink and always, baguette on the table.

A starter can be leek soup, or carrot or beet salad, or hard boiled egg with mayonnaise, a standard bistro starter.

The main dish can be anything from beef bourguignon, to roasted chicken, pork etc. If the child is Muslim there is a substitute for a pork dish, and more often than not, this being a country with Catholic roots, fish is served on Fridays : sole meuniere, salmon, etc. There is always a vegetable accompaniment.

 

Dessert is either fruit, yogurt, or a piece of cake, occasionally. Cheese is a soft mild cheese and can be baby bel, coulommiers, kiri, etc.

The menu is posted at the front door of the school, or in this day and age, you can download it from the town hall website. A “suggestion du soir” is often posted as well, with consideration for what the child has been served for lunch.

In the creche, the meals are adapted according to age. The smallest babies will have the meal pureed, 1-2 year olds with have it mixed with small chunks, and the 2-3 year olds will have it served normally.

 

Lunch is a convivial affair, with children sitting around small tables with each other. What’s amazing is that all the kids more often than not will eat what is served to them, even if it’s something they might not eat at home (which is often our case kids).

Then, there the the “gouter”, taking the basic after school snack and rising it to an honored place. Gouter is always at 4pm, and always something sweet: a pain au chocolat, or baguette with some chocolate, cookies, pom potes, etc. It is seen as something of a reward for getting through the school day, a little treat to tackle the rest of the day before dinner. Of course, French people eat dinner quite late, often 8pm or later, so it does make sense to have that little treat.

 

In early October, there is something called « La Semaine du Gout », or « Tasting Week », which is proof of how seriously the French take food into consideration for the education of its future citizens. Children are encouraged try new things and to learn about different foods. Menus are planned for the week around a theme ; for example, this year, they did meals around a different color every week. The « white » day was celery remoulade, chicken in cream sauce, steamed potatoes, camembert and rice pudding. The « red » day was raw beet salad, chili beef, rice in tomato sauce, yogurt with berries, and red plums. The « green » day was iceberg salad with green olives, fish in sorrel sauce, peas, chevre (guess there’s no green cheese out there), and green grapes. Etc. You get the idea.

 

For my part, as we tend to cook a majority of meals vegetarian, I try to do tofu on Mondays for lunch and a crock pot vegetarian soup for dinner, and veggie burgers on Tuesday, or a chicken from the rotisserie and then a soup from the carcass. Not having been much of a cook for most of my life, I’m still learning myself. I hope that you will both be brought up with an appreciation and respect and enjoyment of food.

 

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Da pox is in da house

Entertainer Madonna at Movie Premier with Bucket of Popcorn

(Image from Madonna Scrapbook)

 

Dear son,

Well, at four and a half years old, a year and a half into preschool, plus 2.5 years of garderie before that, you have finally caught the chicken pox. I’m amazed you didn’t catch it sooner. Every week there seems to be a sign outside school or the garderie indicating cases of “varicelle”. For a while there I was wondering if you had gotten it and it was so mild that we had just missed it. But, uh, nope, there’s no mistaking chicken pox. We are on day two and you are covered in spots.

It’s funny, son, but of all the things for me to feel nostalgic about, you getting the pox is the clincher. Yesterday I felt sad, because I wanted to call Momie and tell her you had the chicken pox, and reminisce about when I had them, 25+ years ago, and maybe have her tell me stuff I had forgotten. It’s funny but it feels like a rite of passage, and I wanted to call everyone up and tell them.

I have a fun memory of having the chicken pox. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it was MISERABLE. MISERABLE. I was so itchy and uncomfortable for weeks, I had pocks in my ears, inside my cheeks. But that’s not the fun memory.

I was 11 years old when I got it, which now seems kind of old, although at the time it was circling around my school mates and I knew it was a matter of time before I got it. (I’m told that they’ve been doing the vaccine in the US since 1995, so kids really just don’t get it like in the old days.). Anyway, I was in the fifth grade and out of school for at least a week, if not a bit more.

I remember about a week into my spots, I picked up a flyer somewhere that announced that Madonna was going to be in Century City for the premiere of her new movie, Desperately Seeking Susan. I convinced my dad to take me. I may have been itchy and miserable and covered in red dots, but there was NO WAY  I WAS GOING TO MISS SEEING MADONNA AND HER FINGERLESS FISHNET GLOVES.

This was the spring of 1985. The height of Madonna mania. Yep, I’m that old kids.

We arrived early in the afternoon and stood around and waited for what I remember seemed like hours. The crowd grew bigger and bigger. When The Lady finally arrived, I remember there was a huge, scary swoosh that took my breath away. My little 11 year old self got very squished by the crowd of teenage and twentysomething girls and gay men yelling “MADONNA! I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU MADONNA!” I panicked and my dad pulled me out of the crowd, and put me on his shoulders so I could see her in her white dress rolling down the red carpet.

We decided not to see the movie just then, the crowd was too overwhelming. Instead, my dad took me to see Return of the Jedi for the, um, sixth time. I itched through the whole thing.

It’s a nice memory.

It’s funny but the chicken pox is such a rite of passage, that I almost feel sad that, at age four, you probably won’t have any memory of having it, and your sister who is two and who I imagine will be getting it in a few weeks as well, will certainly not remember. It’s weird to feel this way about a disease that was probably considered extremely dangerous a couple hundred years ago, but I guess it’s just due to the fact that it’s pretty mild now. They say it’s easier to have it when you are young; I suppose the next few weeks will tell us whether that’s true or not.

The vaccine is available here in France, but it’s not in the routine childhood vaccine schedule and you have to specially request it. I thought long and hard about whether to get you guys vaccinated. I decided that as long as I was on parent leave, I wouldn’t, but I would consider it if when I went back to work you still hadn’t gotten it. I don’t know if that was the right thing to do, but I guess time will tell with that too.

Meanwhile, we are all about oatmeal baths and gels around here right now.