Classe de mer

Dear Son,

 

The big news lately, is that you are going on a “classe de mer”.

 

A classe de mer falls under the category of “classes découvertes”, that are a big part of the French education system, apparently, even from a very young age. There are vacation centers all over France called “colonie de vacances”, where children are sent during school holidays. They are on the sea, up in the mountains, in old castles, on farms, and have different themes like the sea, a week of horseback riding, or skiing.

 

These colonie des vacances are then used for classe vertes during school terms. They are well secured and made especially for children ages 4 to adolescent. The center where you are going is right on the sea, in Brittany. It’s in a small village. The center has an outdoors area, a cantine for the children, and classrooms, since the classes vertes are not vacation, they are proper school, meant to complement school lessons. Each room has a toilet and sleeps 4 to 6, with bunk beds. The law states that only children over the age of 6 can sleep on the top bunk, so that eliminates you.

 

There is a full time nurse at the center, and various “animateurs” that lead activities such a sailing, which is for older classes so you won’t be doing that. You and your class will be exploring the tide pools, looking for mussels and little crabs and sea urchins. You will also visit a nearby aquarium.

 

You will take a TGV in a few days from Gare Montparnasse to Bretagne and then a bus to the center. And you are staying for four nights.

 

This blows my mind. I still have such mixed feelings about it. The first time I heard you’d be doing this, was way back in September on Parent’s night. The teacher explained to us that she had done this last year with her Grande Section class, and she was applying to do it again, although she didn’t think she would be chosen again since only one maternelle class in all of our town has the funding to go.

 

But it turns out she was chosen again. She explained that many teachers didn’t request to go because they had families and couldn’t leave for a week at a time, and it’s not yet the case for her.

 

These classes are not at all required for teachers. These Education Nationale teachers do these classes, because they want to. They don’t get paid extra for it. They do it because they want to offer their students enriching experiences. This blows my mind.

 

And so, that’s how I find myself, letting you go.

 

At first when I heard about it, I was like, no way. I remembered myself at kindergarten. I was barely going to school a few mornings a week. No way was I going to let you go away for four days with your school.

 

But then, we had several meetings about it. We had a meeting at the town hall where the animateurs were sent in for the day to meet the parents, and then went home that night. We saw photos of the center, met the director, heard about all the things that the classes would be doing.

 

And so, even though I’m still very unsure, I decided that if you were going to go, these were the conditions to do it. I have 110 percent confidence in your teacher. She is someone who got into her bathing suit every week during the winter to get in the pool with you all. She is truly passionate and exceptional.

 

And I also thought, the thing is that we have chosen the French public education system for our children’s education, and that maybe means going along with it, even if it seems very different from what I’m used to.

 

You were very hesitant for long time, but now, you are looking forward to going. You said for months that you didn’t want to go. But then you told me the things you were worried about:

 

-you were worried about crabs crawling into your rain boots

 

-you were worried that you’d be forced to pick up a big crab if you didn’t want to

 

-you were worried about night time

 

We talked to the maitresse about the first two. She was able to reassure you that you didn’t have to touch anything you didn’t want to, and that the crabs were far more afraid of you than you are of them.

 

But we’re all still worried about night time.

 

I’m trying not to project, but I was someone who hated spending the night at friends house. My parents always had to come get me in the middle of the night. Much like you, we didn’t have nearby grandparents so I never had the opportunity to sleep away from my parents. This is the same with you, in fact, this will be the first time you are sleeping away from both of us.

 

This really has the potential to go terribly wrong. Especially as I still remember the feeling of missing my parents at night. It could go terribly wrong, or it could just be difficult but doable. Impossible to say, but I guess we have decided to find out.

 

If it does go wrong, I hope it is not too terribly traumatizing for you.

 

We packed your suitcase a few days ago. We were given a list of what to pack. A windbreaker/rain jacket, rubber wellies, towels, toiletries, tennis shoes, hats and sunscreen. Also a lovey, but they said not to send THE lovey in case it gets lost. We are supposed to label absolutely everything. Apparently it’s going to be gorgeous weather this week, so you are really lucky about that, as Brittany is known for its rain.

 

We gave the suitcase yesterday because they send it ahead of you, so that you don’t have to carry it with you, which is smart. We are sending you with a backpack with a picnic lunch for the train, along with a photo of us. I wrote you a letter this week and sent it along , according the maitresse’s instructions, so that you would have it when you got there.

 

I got you a book about a classe de mer a few weeks ago. The maitresse asked me if she could borrow it to read to the whole class.

 

This also has the potential to be a wonderful enriching experience with you, but it will be hard, very hard. I did want to blog about this before the trip itself, so that I can then blog about it afterwards, and how it all went.

 

Maybe this is also more of the separation, that is so terribly hard. Many French people say that their children came back from classe vertes a bit more independent. But I hope you won’t be too independent when you come back. You are still my baby boy.

The Louvre is our playground

Dear Son,

What a wonderful day we had today. Today I took you to the Louvre for the very first time. I had signed you up for a morning atelier, Poils et Plumes, for 4-6 year olds, that they run during the school holidays. We arrived at 10am to one heck of a line to get into the museum. Luckily I had the ticket for your atelier and so we got to jump ahead.

You happily put on your little green Louvre vest that they give participants so that they don’t get lost and went off to your atelier. The first part of the atelier was taking the children into the museum to study various Dutch and Flemish still life paintings, and the animals in them. You also got to visit other parts of the museum such as the medieval foundations and the Hercules sculpture in the Cour Puget. Then the children went back to the atelier room to do some coloring of the paintings you had studied.

You really enjoyed it. I wandered the museum a bit while you were in the atelier and did a bit of sketching. I picked you up at noon and we took the lunch I had packed for us to the cafeteria. I wanted to avoid spending a ton of money on mediocre food. I got myself a cup of tea and you told me about the atelier and showed me the little carnet of what you had done.

After lunch we went back into the museum. You wanted to show me the old castle foundations. They are a favorite part of the museum so I obliged. Then, I wanted to show you a few of the most famous treasures: the Venus de Milo, the Victory of Samothrace, and of course, La Joconde herself. You were less enthusiastic because you wanted to draw, but you obliged me. Thank you for that Son.

I decided to let you be my guide, rather than the other way around. AT first I was trying to direct you to see all these things, but the wonderful thing about the Louvre is that you can wander aimlessly, turn a corner, and be standing in front of Delacroix’s Liberty Leading The People. So I was happy to follow you.

Then we spent an hour or so just sketching in the Cour Puget and the Cour Marly. How lovely it was to see you studying these sculptures so intently Son, and then sketching what you saw. You drew four sculptures. It really made my heart sing to see you enjoying this activity.

Dare I hope that this will be something you will continue to enjoy?

Then, you wanted to show me the Dutch and Flemish paintings you had studied earlier that day. I let you lead the way to try to remember where they were, and the next thing I knew, you were pointing out turtles, peacocks, and fox studies in paintings that I had never seen before.

Then we noticed that the Cafe Richelieu served Angelina hot chocolate and there was no line, so we decided to indulge.

By then it was already five thirty. We’d spent the whole day there.

I bow in gratitude for this day, for having been able to show you this wonderful, special place, as I described it to you this morning. I hope you will always find joy and astonishment in art.

The house I’ve known

Dear Kids,

I’ve been meaning to tell you about a house that I’ve considered a second home for most of my life. The house of my aunt and uncle in Germany. I’ve been coming to this house since I was a teenager. Once or twice a year. I’ve slept up in the loft, under the skylights and the wooden roof, although this past visit, I decided to sleep with you in the lower bedroom, on mattresses on the floor.

Who knows how much longer we will be able to do that.

Anyway, the house has a lovely garden which turns into a beautiful snow garden in winter, and where we eat breakfast barefoot in the summer. There’s an apple tree which my aunt and uncle collect apples and take them to be pressed for juice which lasts all year long. There’s a red currant bush which both of you have eaten from since you were small babies. I too have eaten from that bush for as long as I can remember, juicy sour red currants popped into your mouth, or a handful picked and thrown into some organic whole milk yogurt and sugar for dessert.

There are also raspberry bushes and blackberry bushes where we pick berries and get occasional thorns in our fingers.

The house is made of wood, has an aforementioned sleeping loft where I’ve been sleeping since I was allowed to climb the winding ladder that leads up to it. You can see snow drift down as you lay in bed, or rain sleeting down in summer thunderstorms. There is a fireplace and worn down green velvet couches that I have napped on since a young age. Sometimes when I’m restless, I picture myself napping on that green couch, with the fireplace crackling and the wool tartan throw that is stored underneath the couch for impromptu siestas.

My aunt uses a Provence woven basket to bring out the breakfast things to the side stone porch or the grassy back garden, depending on where we decide. There is always good black tea with milk, and homemade jams, always homemade jams: currant, plum, citrus, raspberry, cherry, etc.

The house has wood floors covered with antique rugs, and an antique writing desk in the living room, and a wooden table in the kitchen that I have enjoyed many relaxing moments at. My aunt took up sculpting full-time after retiring as a pharmacist and the house and garden are filled with her wood and stone sculptures. In summer she attaches a swing to one of her outside metal arch sculptures in the garden and you both swing on it.

There are tiles in the bathroom that have been there since the late 80s but still manage to look elegant. The bathtub is surrounded by river rocks collected over the years. The downstairs bathroom also has windows covered in coloured glass, and crystals and stones decorating the window sill.

There is a big park nearby with two playgrounds, one of them a wonderful eco-playground made out of natural materials: a wooden tree house, a climbing maze made of tree trunks, a double rope swing, a lion tunnel, etc. There’s a plum tree that drops sweet plums on you as you enter the park in summer.

My aunt and uncle both have their own rooms and then a sleeping room that they share. My aunt’s room is filled with books and artwork, much of it her own. She has her tarot cards, candles, art supplies, photos of family, paper, pens, and little toys for her grandkids. She also keeps a shelf of children’s books for her grandchildren.

They do all their shopping at the local bakery and the local organic supermarket. They always have wonderful cheeses, sweet butter, good quality milk, and many other basics in their small fridge. They also have a wine cellar and as the cellar is stone and therefore cool, they keep much of their food down there to stay fresh.

My aunt has an admirable “lebensfreude”, one that I strive for. At nearly 80 years old, both her and my uncle are very fit. They ski, they take week long bike trips across Germany and Austria. They go every spring to Greece and do a sculpting workshop in France in autumn. They walk and bike a lot, and swim in the summer.

My aunt has always been a role model for me for quality of life. The way she brings beauty into every moment of the day. For her, things don’t have to be perfect. Their house is very clean, but there are pockets that aren’t tidy, her room is an artistic clutter. They aren’t always on time. So things don’t have to be perfect, but for her, it’s important that things are beautiful. Beautiful outings, even a simple cup of tea. Importance is placed on beauty and this brings an oasis of calm to their house.

My aunt has an artistic yet classic sense of style. She wears earth tones and has a small collection of artisan jewelry, simple and tasteful. She gets her hair done every seven weeks and does it herself the rest of the time. She wears Camper shoes as they are comfortable and stylish. She takes pride in her appearance. She has a collection of perfume in the bathroom that I remember sampling from when I was a teenager.

She has been a great influence on me. When I was a teenager and would come to visit, she would always take me to the ballet, and to art museums in Munich. She also taught me about tarot. We started doing yearly tarot readings together when I was around 17 years old, and it is this influence that has helped me with my own self-reflection.

Now that my own mother is gone from this plane, I am grateful to have them, grateful that my own children are able to know them a little bit. I hope we have more time to spend with them in their lovely world.

Winter break and a bump on the head

photo 2 photo 1photo 3Dear kids,

We have two weeks of winter holidays right now. Last week we hopped on the TGV and went to visit Tante and Oncle in Munich for a week. It was a lovely break. There was a lot of snow, which was very exciting since last winter there was no snow at all. This time we took walks in the snow, made a snowman, Daughter you enjoyed eating snow very much, and we made snow angels. And, we went sledding.

Sledding was so much fun. So much fun. I remembered how much I enjoyed it, the few times I got to go when I was a kid, since in southern California it required a bit of a drive to get there. I remember actually going in the Alps with my aunt when I was already an adult, around 20 years old. We drank a Schnapps at a little “lokal” up in the mountain before sledding down it. Liquid courage. It was so much fun.

Son, at first you didn’t want to go by yourself. You were afraid. But then I told you examples of how you were afraid of things, and then ended up really loving it. So you tried it, and you loved it.

And I think that has now been completely messed up.

We would stay at home in the morning, drawing, playing Schwarze Peter, sitting by the fire, having long leisurely breakfasts, or else we went out for walks in the snow, or out to the playground. Then in the afternoon we would go sledding. But on the third day of sledding, you hit a tree a couple of times. You couldn’t steer out of the way. I told you, that you couldn’t do it by yourself anymore. You were very upset about that, but I said that if you couldn’t avoid trees you couldn’t do it by yourself.

I didn’t stick to my guns.

We took a break from sledding the next day. I took you both back to the kinder reich at the Deutsches Museum, which you both really enjoy. We had wiener schnitzel for lunch at the cafe there and then went for an afternoon swim at the beautiful art nouveau Volksbad.

The next afternoon, we did more sledding. But I didn’t stick to my guns about you not going by yourself. And so, you slammed into a tree at full speed, the front of the sled hitting the tree, and you whiplashed your forehead into the tree, splitting your forehead open.

It was the scariest moment of my life. Blood poured down your face, into the snow, onto your coat. You were in shock. You kept apologizing. “Sorry Mama”. I was absolutely freaking out with fear, that you had brain bleeding or damage. I told you not to apologize, that it was my fault for letting you go by yourself.

And no, before you ask, you weren’t wearing a helmet. Rest assured, every time now that we go to the playground, you will be wearing a helmet.

We took you to the “Kinder Klinik” in Schwabing where they glued up your forehead, said this sort of thing happened a lot, and sent you home after a few tests. That was it.

You are fine, you say it doesn’t hurt, and after the initial shock you were very brave as they were cleaning the wound. The doctor said he could see your skull. I, myself, was too shaken up to look. I held your hand as they glued you up.

I feel ashamed of myself for having not stuck to my guns, listened to my instinct. Why didn’t I do that? Will I be able to stick to my guns in the future?

It could have been so much worse, but by the grace of God, or the Universe, or the Divine, whoever, you are fine. I guess these incidents are part of childhood, and a reminder of how important it is to wear a helmet.

But aside from that scare, it was a very lovely, relaxing holiday. Taking the train was so fun. I packed a lunch for us, we caught the very early train out of Gare de l’Est. We made drawings on the train, played cards, looked out the window at the snowy landscapes, watched movies on the iPad.

Here are the things we did:

-sledding

-having long German breakfasts

-walks in the snow with feet crunching

-playing in snowy playgrounds

-going to the Kinder Reich and swimming at the art nouveau Volksbad afterwards

-going to the forest to an eco-centre and seeing wild boar, and having a picnic in the snow

-visiting our cousin’s chickens, feeding the hens and checking their coop for eggs and having their fresh eggs for breakfast

-face painting for Fasching

-building a snowman with your great-uncle

-sitting by the fire

-eating raclette for dinner on our final night

We have one more week of school vacation now. Son, you are home today because of your wound, but otherwise you both will go to the centre de loisirs for a few days, tomorrow Daughter I will take you to Cafezoide, and Son you have an atelier at the Louvre for 4-6 year olds. We will try to squeeze in a spectacle too.

 

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Winter 2015 letter

Hi kids,

Here’s what we’ve all been up to:

We went to California for Christmas. It wasn’t planned, but after Grandpa’s health issues, we decided quickly to take the plunge. We left a few days before school let out for the break, and came back a day before New Years.

I hadn’t spent Christmas in California since 2002. We stayed at the ranch in the mountains for a night and then went down to the beach in San Diego with the cousins. It was so nice to have a big christmas family celebration. We rode horses in the mountains and played on the beach in SD and Son, you even rode the inflatable raft pulled by the boat on Mission Bay. It was an interesting experience, because I was so hesitant about it, and so were you, but I could tell you wanted to try it, and I was reminded of a piece of advice I am not very good at taking, which is to do something that scares you every day. So you did something that scared both of us. It turned out great. You had a wonderful time and didn’t fall in the Bay. Daughter wanted to go too, but at three years old, she needs to wait a bit!

So it was a nice family Christmas. We flew on Air Tahiti Nui so it was almost like going off to the tropics. We picked you up from school after lunch at 1:30pm, and took the taxi to the airport at 2pm, and were taking off at 5:30pm. Then when we came home, we spent a quiet New Years with lots of yummy food. Son, you really like shrimp cocktail so I got that for you. The Friday after New Years you went to the CDL. We didn’t get to go ice skating this year, we will have to wait for next year for that.

Son, you learned to ride a bike in January. It only took about three days to learn (not consecutive). I decided to teach you in January so that you would know how to do it by spring.

The first day we went out was miserable. You were scared and thought you couldn’t do it. Then, our neighbour showed you how to do it. She spent ten minutes holding the back of the bike. This made you gain confidence. I have noticed that sometimes it takes another person to get you to listen. I wonder how this will play out in the future..

But anyway, after that, you were able to practice, but then you didn’t want me to let go. So I did it without telling you. I’m sorry I let go without telling you, Son, but I had to show you that you could do it. Because you could. By the second day, you could ride a bike by yourself.

So now we are working on getting you to start by yourself. I feel confident you will get it. I’m so proud of you for being able to ride a bike!

And you can swim! I was amazed when I sat in on your swim lesson a few weeks ago to discover that you can now jump in and swim halfway across the practice pool with no trouble. So you can swim, speak English and ride a bike. Great for you!

KIndergarten/Grande Section is going well still it seems. I think that you have some normal friend issues, your best friend from last year is in a different class so you don’t play with him anymore, and there’s the usual “je suis plus ton copain” stuff that goes on. But you are an upbeat, charming little boy.

The big news is that your class is going on a classe de mer in April. You won’t even be six! This blows my mind and I’m not sure how I feel about it. You aren’t so sure either. I’m sure you will have a good time, I just need to wrap my head around the idea of it all.

Yesterday while walking to school, you asked me: “qui a fabriqué les gens?”. (Who made people?). I told you that was a good question, and that people throughout history have wondered this question. You told me that “tres loin dans l’espace, il y a un mur, et derriere le mur, il y a des gens qui fabrique les gens”. I told you that was in fact a theory that some people already had.

And so the God questions begin.

Daughter, you still enjoy Petite Section and you adore your maitresse. You have a lot of little friends in your class, and you still do lots and lots of “betises”. But you are so smart and cute you get away with it. Your dance class had an open house last week, and you did a solo dance. You were so great! It is so interesting to see how you are discovering what your body can do.

You’ve been seriously bit by the princess bug. Everything is about princesses these days. You even ask for a princess song while you brush your teeth. You also enjoy doing tea parties, but you still ask to wear your brother’s old Spiderman costume. I hope you will always keep that balance.

You are still a great eater although you eat more at school than at home. I’ve decided to just be relaxed about it.

Currently we are working on getting rid of nighttime diapers. In fact, more often than not, your diaper has been dry in the morning for several months now, but it was just us being lazy that we haven’t tried taking them off. So two weeks ago, we took them off, and you peed every night for a week. Weird. The second week was better, now it’s intermittent. I don’t mind because we have a washing machine and I think you will get there very soon.

This means that I haven’t touched a diaper in over two weeks.

Wow. Our diaper days are really over and done with.

It all went by so fast.

Annapurna Woman

Dear kids,

I recently discovered the website Annapurna Living which is headed by Carrie-Anne Moss. I must admit that I’ve had a secret girl crush on Carrie-Anne Moss ever seeing her as Trinity in The Matrix, as well as Memento, and I’ve been hooked recently on this site.  It has a section called Annapurna Woman in which women who “embody the nurturing spirit of the annapurna life” are asked a series of questions. I don’t pretend to be able to claim this for myself, (although it’s a lofty goal),  but as I’m a sucker for these types of interviews, I decided to answer the questions myself:

HOW DO YOU START YOUR DAY?

I aim to wake up at 6am or 6:30 to have a good hour before everyone else wakes up. I make a pot of green tea and sit and meditate and do pranayama breathing for 10-15 minutes. I clean my face with just water and rosewater toner (no face soap in the morning), and do abhyanga sesame oil massage.  Depending on the day, I’ll do yoga (usually on Mondays), or a pilates DVD or some ballet barre exercises, which I recently rediscovered a love of. Or I’ll aim to go for a walk after dropping the kids off later at preschool.

When my kids wake up around 7am, we take ten minutes to do snuggles on the couch. I think this is the most important part of the day. Then we sit down and have a calm breakfast together. It helps that their preschool is just a two minute walk away, so I never feel we have to rush in the morning.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU ARE OVERWHELMED OR STRESSED?

Go for a jog.

Take a hot aromatherapy bath.

Make a therapist appointment.

Get a massage.

Massage my head and face.

Breathe.

Write in my journal.

Call up a friend who I know will really hear me and who will lift me up.

WHAT GIVES YOU THE FEELING OF TRUE BLISS WITHIN?

I find pockets during the day where I’m suddenly overwhelmed with a feeling of true bliss. It often has to do with my kids.

When I see my kids playing together.

When my son sings my daughter a bedtime song.

When my daughter asks my son for a hug and he obliges.

When either one of them accomplish a new skill and the look of pride on their faces. When my son says he wants to make a present for me or someone else.

Taking my daughter to her dance class.

Walking my kids to school gives me such a feeling of bliss every morning, as well as picking them after school in the afternoon. We walk along a tree-lined street to get to their preschool. It’s peaceful and I get a feeling of being blessed that I have the honour of being able to take them to school and pick them up.

I also get a pocket of bliss noticing things like the way the sun reflects off a pool of water, or a leaf changing color. The ocean, when I can get there, gives me a profound feeling of bliss: its energy, the sound and smell, the feeling of the all-encompassing wind.

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’ve lately been heading into bed right after the kids are down for the night and reading in bed instead of watching TV. The light from the TV, I have found, makes me feel more awake and less relaxed. I love watching TV but have decided to reserve it for earlier in the day or for weekends.

Currently I’m reading The Light Between Oceans and Things I want my Daughters to Know by Alexandra SToddard. Wild Money by Luna Jaffe is next on my list.

WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?

Some relaxing nature sounds from an app on my iPad.

WHAT IS YOUR GO-TO SIMPLE RECIPE?

Coconut tofu with homemade peanut sauce and vegetables served over brown rice. My kids really like this dish.

Also: Roasted root vegetables: sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, turnips, potatoes, served with garlic aioli. Bean or lentil salads with quinoa, dressed in a vinaigrette.

WHAT ARE SOME SIMPLE THINGS YOU DO FOR SELF-CARE?

I’m pretty good about self-care. I get monthly massages and have a spa night once a week on Sundays in my bathroom. I steam my face with peppermint and lavender herbs, followed by an oatmeal scrub mask, a lavender salt body scrub and a whirlpool foot bath. When we go to California one of the first things I like to do is get a mani/pedi at a nail salon.

On Saturday mornings I go for a jog and then take my daughter to her parent-and-me “jardin aquatique” class. The pool is heated very well for the small children and it feels wonderful to get in after my run, especially in the winter.

On Saturday evenings I have a hot lavender bath with candles and herbal tea (or sometimes a glass of wine) followed by a movie with my husband (and maybe another glass of wine).

I try to get out in nature as much as possible for a walk. More often than not, that’s a nearby park, but sometimes I manage to venture further out into the countryside.

Yoga at least once a week, and breathing exercises and sitting meditation every day.

I aim to write in my journal at least a few times a week.

I call up friends to chat while I’m power walking or folding laundry.  On Saturdays, I take my son to his piano lesson, and then go to a cafe and order a drink and call or Skype on my phone with my best friend in California.

I schedule in lunch or coffee or wine with a friend at least once a week. I also schedule in lunch or coffee by myself, in order to listen to how I’m feeling, and what I need.

WHAT DOES NOURISHMENT LOOK LIKE TO YOU?

Nourishment is family meals at the kitchen table several times a week.

It’s being able to reschedule my work to have a bed day every once in a while.

Taking day trips every so often with my family.

Sunday afternoon movies while snuggling on the couch.

Scheduling one on one time with each member of the family.

Being inspired by other women, learning from them, the things they have learned.

Being uplifted by good friends who are kindred spirits, who know me and hear me, and being able to reciprocate.

Being present with my children and being able to show them new things and give them new experiences.

HOW DO YOU MAKE SPACE FOR PLAY?

Play doesn’t come very easily for me. I sometimes resist it. My kids are helping me through this as they often ask me to play. They ask to do dance parties in the living room to 80s and 90s music. How can I say no to that?

I have a rule: If we pass a merry-go-round, I never say no to my kids” request for a ride, and in the summertime, I never say no to a request for an ice cream cone.

Yesterday afternoon as I was picking my kids up from school, they asked to go to the local pool after school. We have never gone during the week, but as it was a cold rainy winter day, it was a great idea (indoor pool, well-heated). We were the only ones there in the early evening, and it was so much fun to splash around together.

I recently rediscovered my childhood love of ballet. It’s an amazing thing to come back to something after so many years and realize it gives you the same joy it used to.

Taking off for the day to explore a different part of Paris, its cafes and bookstores and parks and merry-go-rounds. Sometimes by myself, sometimes with my kids or sometimes with one kid. One-on-one time to play with each child is extremely important, I have found. I am still learning how to schedule that in.

WHAT ARE SOME FAVORITE MANTRAS YOU CLING TO?

“I am open to the path that the Universe has for me”, or “I am open to the path that God has for me”, depending on the day.

Or, “I open myself to the path that God/the Universe has for me”.

This past summer on a trip to Big Sur, one of my best friends was telling me about some mantras he uses, and this was one he suggested. It gives me a feeling of being able to let go of things that I cannot change, and to stop worrying about things that are out of my control.

Every morning while meditating I say a prayer of thanks and gratitude for my life, my breath, my family, my health and my children’s health, etc.

“I breathe in abundance, I breathe out scarcity”.

PLEASE SHARE SOME WORDS OF WISDOM YOU’VE LEARNED AS A DIRECT RESULT OF SOULFUL AND EMBODIED LIVING

I used to be afraid of unpleasant emotions and would try to avoid them. But now I see them as a garden, and they all need blooming time, the unpleasant ones as well as the pleasant ones. There’s Joy over there, Anxiety as a dark shrub in the corner, Happiness, Anger, Sadness, Gratitude, Bliss, etc. They are all there and they all need to be heard at different times. Sometimes they even need to be heard at the same time. Grief and Gratitude all at once.

So, I’ve decided to invite them in rather than push them away. If Anxiety shows up in the middle of the night, I sit with it, and hear what it wants to say. When Joy comes a-knocking, I close my eyes and bathe in it. I give myself permission to spend time in Sadness and Anger. It is my experience that our emotions all come out at some point one way or the other, in one form or another, so you may as well pour them a cup of tea and hang out with them for a while.

I do also think, however, that once you’ve done that, you can give yourself permission to let them go. I have my wise best friend to thank for this bit of advice as well.  Feel what you need to feel, recognise those feelings, but then, when you are ready, digest those feelings and let them go. Don’t let them devour you. Wallowing does no good either.

I’ve decided to stop speaking badly about myself. I wouldn’t expect a friend to speak to me the way I sometimes speak to myself, so why should I do it? No more negative comments about my appearance or how much weight I’ve gained. I look in the mirror and tell myself how sexy I am. I tell my kids how beautiful I am, and doesn’t Mama look nice today? Doesn’t this dress look pretty on Mama? I don’t want my kids to grow up with a mother who puts herself down. I don’t want to model that behavior to my daughter. So instead, I’ve decided to believe that I am beautiful and perfect just as I am.

I even bought myself a bikini this summer, for the first time in 10 years. A little pink polka dot number with a retro frilly ruffle on the bottoms.  I wore it proudly on the beaches in Santa Monica during our vacation. What a 40th birthday present to myself!

Separation, stages

Dear kids,

A few weeks ago we got some bad news. Your grandpa has a stage 2 tumor in his lung.

Had, rather. They managed to remove it with surgery last week. But he will still need chemotherapy, and we have no outlook on what the survival rate is.

I feel much anger and sadness at the thought that you will possibly not have either one of my parents in your lives. I suppose I would like to tell you to not wait too long to have children, not as long as I did. You don’t want to have them too early, but I was 34 and 37 respectively when each of you were born, and I now realize that may have been too long.

I hope I will be around to see my grandchildren.

Anyway, I had to leave you for the first time in your lives. The longest I had ever left you was one night, both of you. But last Monday I flew to California, where I am now, for two weeks to care for Grandpa after his surgery, and so I am apart from you.

It was horrible to leave you. I cried and cried. I missed you on the plane, and I miss you here. But I know this was the right thing to do. Grandpa is very tired and wouldn’t be able to withstand the energy of you energetic children. It’s best that I am here alone with him.

Every morning I go on a jog down to an Italian coffee place for a delicious decaf latte. I go early, around 7am. I do some morning breathing meditation exercises. Then I sit with my father, reading, watching a movie or just chatting with him about life in general.

This time with my father, with your Grandpa, is very precious, and I am grateful for it.

I am looking forward to seeing you all very soon. This was yet another step in the process of separation, which you might say began at birth, when you went from my belly out into the world. Perhaps that is why giving birth is so painful. It is only the beginning. It goes on to the first time you have to leave your children overnight, and, if you are lucky and blessed, it ends at the end of your life, when you have to leave them for good.

I hope that it will be this way for me, for you, and for my father.

Mama has a heavy heart my darling children. I hope  that I am able to find a path back to happiness, somehow, some way.

I feel confident that you will be my biggest guides on that path.