Our Family Stay in Paris: Housing, Activities, & Memories Made

After an overnight flight from the West Coast, USA, our family of six (with children ages 4 months to 9 years) arrived at CDG just over two weeks ago. The last days of July were the hottest of the year here, but this was to our advantage at first: the government declared journées anti-pollution and offered price-reduced tickets for public transport, so our family was able to take the RER train from the airport to our apartment for under 20 Euros. (This was a blessing after an expensive mistake three years ago.)

Our apartment, reserved through Kid & Coe, proved to be fantastic. Spacious for the price (meaning it was not simply a studio with a loft), it was in the 7th arrondissement, within walking distance of the Musée d'Orsay, Eiffel Tower, and Jardin des Tuileries. Normally I prefer to stay in the Marais, but getting to know this relatively quiet quarter (near Les Invalides and the American University of Paris) was a nice change.

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Flying Air France with Young Children

This year I was excited to discover that Air France had the most economical pricing for our family to fly to Paris. When I've flown with Air France in the past, they've had excellent service and very decent meals, unlike other airlines I've flown that seem to cut costs wherever possible.

On this trip, our fourth child is just four months old, so I was curious how the bassinet option would work out for us. With Air France, you can pay upfront to reserve a seat behind a bassinet (currently an additional $29/person), or you can wait until 50 hours before the flight, when anyone flying with an infant will automatically be assigned to a bassinet seat for free (if there are any remaining and assuming you have purchased the infant ticket as required. Currently an infant ticket is typically around $100 for an international flight).

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Preparing for an Extended Family Trip to France

What a monumental weekend it was for France last weekend, with la fête nationale on Saturday followed by the Coupe du Monde win on Sunday! My first visit to France (as a high school student) was just months before their first World Cup win in 1996, so this weekend brought back fond memories.

My husband and I and our four children will have the opportunity to see if France is still celebrating a week from now when we arrive in France for our extended family séjour. Three years ago we took our children to France so they could improve their French language skills and even attend school for several weeks. We had an amazing stay in Paris and Lyon, and the children enjoyed their school attendance even though we had only homeschooled until then.

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Giverny and Monet's Garden: the Beauty of Spring

May has arrived and Mother's Day is around the corner, but I'm still thinking of April . . . as in April one year ago! I was visiting Paris to run my first marathon and I squeezed in a side trip to Giverny, the site of Monet's family home and garden. My French friends were unsure as to whether there would be many blooms there so early in the season, but I made the half-day trip anyhow and I am still dreaming of the timeless beauty I saw there.

(You might also enjoy the garden stamps we've been inspired to use this spring! I share them at the bottom of this post.)

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The Birth of Our Fourth Child: What I Never Thought Would Happen to Us

Nearly a week after our fourth baby's due date, I was concerned--mainly because my midwife had expressed concern. According to her, this baby hadn't dropped down at all; instead, he or she was just "floating around" high above my pelvis and showed no signs of being ready to come. I did what I could to help my body prepare for labor: taking long walks, swimming laps at my gym's pool (oh, the temporary joy of weightlessness!), and visiting my chiropractor to make any necessary adjustments.

The day our baby actually arrived, I underwent a non-stress test to ensure baby was staying healthy, then I did what many American families do before a birth: I stocked up on pantry staples at Costco (ha!). Finally, I made dinner for our au pair's parents, who were visiting from France. I was feeling a little tired and emotional, which was odd. By the time dinner was over, however, I was feeling something more physical than emotional--a little cramping, a bit jittery. I knew labor was close.

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We're Americans Who Speak French to Our Kids: Our Interview with High Five Family (in France)

it's fairly unusual to find other parents who are raising their children in their non-native language, so I've recently been delighted to get to know Laure, the blogger at High Five Family. Laure is a French maman raising her children in English (her non-native language) while living in France. Laure just posted an interview with me about how my husband and I are raising our children bilingual--what the challenges have been, where my children's current language levels are, and what advice I'd give to parents hoping to expose their children to another language.

You can test your French comprehension and read the French version of our interview on the blog High Five Family: Ils sont américains et parlent français à la maison

For an English version of my responses, read on:

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New Books About French Homes: Home Sweet Maison & L'Appart

There's something alluring about anything French, and classic French homes and apartments are no exception. With their high ceilings and windows, ornate molding, decorative mantels, and parquet floors, they simply exude character. Of course, owning a French home or apartment also means one has to deal with antiquated plumbing and wiring, and any renovations one undertakes will require extensive--and expensive--paperwork, permissions, payments, and pain

Paris-based food blogger David Lebovitz knows this firsthand. His recently released book L'Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home traces his path from San Francisco to Paris as he sought out an appartment to purchase and renovate.

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Joyeuses Pâques! Sweet Easter Gifts & Artful Activities

C'est vendredi saint--It's Good Friday today, or Holy Friday as they say in French, and I'm remembering the beautiful ways that Easter is celebrated in France. Instead of an Easter bunny bringing eggs there, they tell children that the church bells ring to Rome, and when the bells echo back to France, the bells bring chocolates back to France. I have fond memories of hunting chocolate eggs at my host family's chalet in the Alps years ago.

Last spring I was in Paris to run my first marathon, so I was able to bring back small chocolate chickens for my children for Easter! Inside the hollow chickens were little chocolates in various forms. French chocolatiers make the most wonderful chocolate animals for Easter--not just bunnies, but even chocolate lobsters, dolphins, fish, and seashells! I'm not sure why the ocean theme exists at Easter there, but it's delightful to see the variety of chocolate forms.

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