On Returning to France: How "Paris to the Moon" Allays My Fears

In preparation for our trip to France (we leave next week!), I’ve been re-reading Paris to the Moon, Adam Gopnik’s essays on five years of living in France with his wife and young son. It’s a perfect read now, because in the weeks before I leave for France I always develop a small undercurrent of fear—fear that perhaps France won’t be the same.

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Why I Try to Avoid Spanking

As parents, we either respect or reject the way we were raised. My parents were fairly authoritarian and followed the advice of Dr. Dobson, whose book The Strong Willed Child was a bestseller in the '80s. They believed in the adage "spare the rod and spoil the child;" and in our household, the rod was a wooden spoon or a yardstick. But we three daughters rarely needed such correction. When we were disciplined in this way, my parents always prefaced it with an explanation of what we did wrong and a reminder that they loved us.

As an adult now, however, I can't recall more than one or two reasons why I was spanked. Instead, what I remember is the boiling anger and resentment it stirred up in me. I certainly don't recall deciding to change my behavior as a result, only trying to avoid getting caught. Psychology backs this up, showing that punishment motivates a child to avoid future punishment but it does not effectively change behavior by itself.

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Tips for Choosing Family Lodging in Paris

We're certainly not the only family headed to France soon--an article in The Wall Street Journal last week announced that Europe is bracing for record numbers of visitors this summer, largely due to the favorable dollar/euro exchange rate. Nonetheless, I think Audrey Hepburn would agree that even when traveling as a family during the height of tourist season, Paris is always a good idea. Over the past five years, the amount of home and apartment rentals online has grown exponentially, making it simpler to find an affordable and accommodating space for your family. Here's what you should know if you're looking for family lodging in Paris:

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Bilingual Progress Update: Before Our France Trip

Bonjour! It's been a while, hasn't it? May was a whirlwind--amidst the beauty of spring, it was my husband's busy season of coaching track, but thankfully we'll have more time together soon. This past month I've figured out some details for our first trip to France as a family. It's an extended trip stretching from July to the end of September. We figured if we're going to pay for all of us to go (we opened a savings account last year towards this goal), we might as well stay as long as possible. Without a visa, we can stay close to 90 days.

I'm really curious to know how much fluency our children will gain from their time in France! Here's where they are currently at in their French knowledge and acquisition, along with my hopes for their experience:

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The Three Questions / The Most Important Ones

Ten years ago I was searching for a birthday present for my nephew who was turning seven, and I stumbled across The Three Questions. In this children's book, author Jon Muth reshapes one of Leo Tolstoy's stories into a fable about a boy seeking answers to three questions: What is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? In helping a few animals, he discovers the answers: 

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Resting Easy about Babies and Sleep

A few months before my first child was born, I thought two nurses had given me the ticket to a good nights' sleep after baby's arrival. I'd read their book (complete with a DVD demonstrating how to swaddle); it advocated letting your baby cry for two nights so that he or she would learn to sleep through the night by the third night. This technique--commonly known as cry it out or CIO--seemed to me a bit harsh but necessary, like vaccines, so I considered it good advice.

Then I became a parent.

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