Category Archives: working mom

“Why are you moving to France? Is it for a job? Do you have a place picked out?”


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As we started to tell friends and family that we are moving to France this summer (granted, it’s been a year and a half in the making), one of the very first questions people ask is:

“Why?”

This question is asked in various tones.

“Why would you ever want to leave the US?”

“Why would you want to go so far away?”  

“Why raise your children anywhere but in America?”

But I have to say, overall, the most frequently asked questions are:

“Where are you going?  Do you already have a place picked out?”

“Why are you moving to France?  Is it for a job?”

Both of the latter questions are 100% viable (and I’ll just pretend that the top three were never asked).  I understand why people would ask them.  I probably would ask the same question if someone told me they were moving to a “foreign” country.

Gotta love the word “foreign”.  Honestly, I think in our day and time, it’s a very dated word.  What’s foreign anymore?  We don’t even call our languages department “Foreign Languages” anymore.  We are now called “World Languages“.  The only reason we can call something or someone “foreign” is because we haven’t taken the time to learn anything about them.  With the world being as small as it is these days, I think that’s a darn shame.

But to get back to the point, I think it’s high time I answered the question of whether we “have a place” already.  The answer is “no”.  We don’t have a “place”.

We sold our house here in St. Louis, we are going to move to France this summer, and when we get there we will have a “place” rented before the container with all of our household goods arrives 2-ish months later.  No stress.  We’re going to rent an apartment, and hopefully a really cute one with a guest room and an office (am I dreaming?).  We do happen to be in the fortunate situation of having family in the area, so we won’t have to worry about where we will stay in the meantime.

As for the second question:

“Why are you moving to France?  Is it for a job?”

People are always completely astonished when I answer, very simply, “No.  It’s not for a job.  It’s for a change, and one we’ve been dreaming of making for the last 14 years.”

That said, we are not independently wealthy, so we will certainly be working in France!  About a year ago I started thinking that rather than looking for a job to work for somebody else, I’d rather create something of my own.  What have I come up with?

Teaching English and French via Skype:  I got hired on by a France based company to teach English and French with them, and I already have five (sometimes six) students.  It’s so much fun!  I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it, and in the beginning I was really nervous.  As it turns out, I love it!  My husband has a business background as well as teaching in a French immersion school.  I have lots of teaching experience.  The plan is to start up our own Internet-based language school, and I am very optimistic.  I recently started a new blog to that effect:  learnfrenchwithjennifer.com   It’s only the beginning, but I know it will be something wonderful.

Oxbridge Académie de France:  A year and a half ago, this was a longshot.  I applied for the position of Dean at this French immersion school in Montpellier in February of 2012, but I was too late for the summer of 2012.  I wrote it down in my calendar to not forget about applying in 2013.  The job description seemed to fit me like a glove.  On January 4 of this year, I sent my CV and cover letter off to Oxbridge and hoped for the best.  It wasn’t until March 1 that I heard from the Executive Director of the school.  A month and a half and two Skype interviews later, I’ve just been offered the job.  I’m clearly on cloud nine!  It will be a summer of joy, I know it, because I love working with young people who have a passion for France (and French!).  It will be exhausting, but so rewarding.  My family will be just a few kilometers down the autoroute, so we will get to see each other often.  And how about that updated CV?  Sounds like a good plan to me.

What has being 40 (alright, 41) taught me about self confidence?

At this particular point in time, I honestly feel that the world is my (our) oyster, and why shouldn’t it be?  I’ll be the first to admit that I see the jar half full.  What’s the harm in that?  In the last six months I have come to believe that sometimes you just have to give yourself a chance.  Why wouldn’t something good happen for me if I’ve worked hard for the last fifteen years to try and fulfill my dreams?  (Side note:  It’s actually been 22 years, ever since I became a single mom at age 19 and decided I didn’t want to be a statistic).  I’ve often had the opinion that I’m not quite good enough at what I do for my dreams to come true.  I know, I can hear the violins.  But honestly, if we can’t believe in ourselves, who else would have a reason to?

Teaching English and French Classes Online


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As many readers will know from my previous posts, I’m a high school French teacher.  I’ve been doing this for fifteen years, and teaching is my calling.  I love it.  I work at an awesome high school where all of the students are amazingly motivated and the parents are supportive, my colleagues are my friends.  So as I quit my job to move on to the next stage in life, which is making a permanent move to France this coming summer, I have mixed emotions.

For the last year or so I have been thinking very hard about what I’d like to do for work once we’re in Béziers.  One thing I know, at forty years old and with two kids under the age of ten, is that I want to plan my own schedule.  I want to work on my own terms.  I know, after having lived in France before, how wonderful it is to be able to pick up the kids from school and bring them home for lunch between 12 and 2.  Also, as I look at the schedule of school holidays in France, I know my family would benefit greatly by my being able to be off with the kids during those times.  Who am I kidding?  I’ve been a teacher for fifteen years, and I enjoy life with school holidays (coming from someone who has the whole next week off for Spring Break).

Sometime last fall I got the idea of teaching English online.  I have a colleague who taught Chinese online for a while, and she talked to me about doing the same.  I investigated many online language schools, and some are certainly more reputable than others.  I sent my CV off to several of the more established schools, and waited to see what would happen.  It wasn’t long before I started receiving email responses from several of them.

One of them is actually a French online school, but they’re looking to expand to teach English classes as well.  They are based in Montpellier, which is very close to where we will be living in France. That’s where they’re based, but given the nature of the business, one can live anywhere in the world.  The French owner, who is about my age, is in Thailand for the time being.  Another has recently relocated to Tahiti.  They all have children, and they all home school them.  I’m not looking to home school my children, but I love the idea of the freedom we will have.

I actually feel much more comfortable teaching French as a foreign language than English, but that’s just because I have a lot more experience doing that.  I have a BA in English as well though, and I think that’s what gives me an edge in the business even though I’ve spent my whole professional life teaching French.  I went through several Skype interviews over the months of December and January, and finally I was hired!  I’ve given a total of 8 classes via Skype so far.  These classes have actually been in French rather than English, even though I’m not a native speaker.  At first, I was very nervous about it.  Fear of the unknown!  After the first fifteen minutes, I was once again at ease.  It’s so much fun.  You just use the chat box like you would a white board.

I’ve also started creating free French lessons on YouTube.  This is just for fun, and there are only three lessons on my channel so far.  I put a link to my YouTube channel at the top of my blog page. I’m going to try to put up at least one lesson per week and we’ll see how that goes.

I wanted to get started with this new method of teaching right away, so that I could become familiar with it and hopefully get established before moving (and before my teaching paychecks stop this summer).  Looks like I’m on the right track.  I’m also getting a website, business cards, and flyers ready for one-on-one English (or French) classes in Béziers.  Wouldn’t it be great if this took off?  Call me an eternal optimist, but I really think I will find success in this venture.  I always see the glass as half full, and so far that’s worked out very nicely.

Traveling to France with small children? Pas de problème!


It’s almost scary how much I’ve heard (or overheard) people saying that they’re not going to travel this summer. Why? It’s not because of the economy or because they’re afraid of terrorist attacks.  They aren’t going to travel because their kids are too small.  While I haven’t given advice where advice is not requested, I did think about it a good bit. We’ve always traveled with our kids, and though the flight to France or 12 hour drive to Louisiana may not be the MOST fun we’ve ever had, the reward has been enjoying our summer travels to places near and far even if we do have little ones.  In this post I’m going to focus on traveling with kids in France.  We all know that France is the world’s #1 tourist destination, but what usually comes to mind are the museums, fine restaurants, wine tours, etc.  In a nutshell… We think of grown-up stuff. When traveling in France with little kids, you may be amazed at how much there is for them to do.  It’s just that before you have kids you don’t pay as much attention to what’s going on for the younger set.  I’ve been digging around in my pictures looking for shots of our kids having a blast in France.  Sometimes you’ll see we’re in Paris, other times in the south.

www.bateaux-mouches.fr
Having fun on the Seine

You can go directly to their website @ www.bateauxmouches.fr for pricing and schedules.  The ride doesn’t last too long, and if you choose to go on the cruise on a day when it’s nice out you can sit outside on the deck as we were in this picture.  The cruise along the Seine gives you really nice views of practically all of the important monuments in Paris.  In the summer, you have to wait until it’s pretty late if you want to see the monuments illuminated… which might be a challenge if you have really small kids with you. Here’s my baby having so much fun on the carousel in the Champs de Mars park, Eiffel Tower.  I wish I could remember how old this carousel is.  Let’s just say it’s VERY old and old-fashioned.  What I mean is, there’s a guy who stands in the middle and hand cranks the thing so it will turn!  Only in Paris!  There’s so much fun stuff to do in the Champs de Mars.  You’ve got this great park with swings, jungle gyms, this carousel, a sand box.  There’s also, on the other side of the park, an area where the kids can ride donkeys, ride in little go-carts, watch a Marionnette show.  Here are some pics from the Champs de Mars:

By the way, these swings go REALLLLLY high!   So much fun, but make sure you strap ’em in real good!  They also have swings like these in the Jardin du Luxembourg, which is over in the Latin Quarter.  Another really neat place for people of all ages.  Here are some pictures taken over there:

Guignol! 

There are plenty of marionnette theaters all over Paris, but for some reason I really like this one in the Jardin du Luxembourg. So much fun. The old man comes out with his bell in hand and starts ringing it when it’s puppet show time. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t speak French (but of course, it helps if you do!) because the show will entertain both your kids AND you regardless. There’s probably no better way to have a truly Parisian experience, right along with REAL French parents and their kids, than at the marionnettes.

This is one of the most beloved activities of our kids at the Jardin du Luxembourg.  You rent one of these little sailboats, especially fun on a moderately windy day, and you play to your heart’s content.  There’s just a small fee, but you’re good for a solid hour of seeing your sailboat fly across the basin and running to catch up with it.  If you go on a day with no wind… you may have to wait awhile for your boat to get to the other side but it’s still so much fun.

Who knew there were so many donkeys in Paris?  As at the Champs de Mars, your little one can take a donkey ride at the Jardin du Luxembourg.

What kid doesn’t like trains?  In France, a great option with the little ones is to board the fastest train in the world (on rails) and head down for le Midi (the south) where you’re sure to have nice, warm weather and you’ll meet some of the sweetest, most kid loving people on the planet!

When most people think of the south of France, they think of “The Riviera”… La Côte d’Azur.   Yes, it’s quite lovely!  BUT if you’re on a budget and want to really get to know the south of France, where there are  more French people and less tourists, head on over to the Languedoc region.  It’s just as beautiful, it’s less crowded, and it’s cheaper!

You’ll be hard pressed in Paris to find an outdoor swimming pool where you can relax, but in the South, finding a pool is no problem!
Dans les vignesNow here’s something just as much fun for Maman et Papa as for the kids.  Go and take a walk through the vineyards.  They’re everywhere, literally.  Along the way, maybe you’ll run into a little “dégustation de vin”… WINE TASTING!!  Did you know that the Languedoc produces the largest quantity of table wine in France??  And if you’re on foot or if you have a bike, you don’t even have to worry about driving!  Yeah… Watch out if you’ve been to a dégustation and then have to drive while you’re in France.  They’ll stop you and you’ll get a DUI.  It’s gotten really strict.  Just don’t do it!

EscargotOur kids love to gather up as many escargot as possible, get them a little wet, then have races to see which one is fastest!

Cigale

La cigale, the so-called symbol of the South of France.  You’ll find them depicted everywhere, on tableclothes, in ceramic form, just everywhere.  If you’re really lucky you’ll find one coming out of it’s shell, just being born.  It’s a real privilege!

"Bullfight"... Provençal style!

Bullfighting is really big in the south of France in the summertime, but it’s not exactly something you want to go see with your kids…..a liitle too much blood.  In Provence, you can go with your kids to see a provençal style “bullfight” where the guys taunt the bull but nobody gets hurt.  You can see the guy jumping over the wall here in this picture.  It’s pretty exciting, no matter your age.

……..to be continued…….

What’s for dinner tonight? Julia Childs’ steak au poivre. Bon appétit!


See, if we were living in France, my kids wouldn’t be hungry for dinner at 6:00.  We wouldn’t be having dinner until at least 7 or 7:30.  BUT, they wouldn’t go to bed at 7:30 either!  So it’s a trade off.  Hectic around here at 5:00 trying to figure out what to cook for dinner but so worth it when Maman et Papa have adult time in the evening.

So, dinner.  What’s it gonna be?  We made a lavish trip to Whole Foods this weekend so the frigo is plein à craquer.

I’ve just about psyched myself into preparing “Steak au Poivre” à la Julia Child. Pretty sure we’ve got everything it takes.  Sure would taste great with some homemade freedom fries but I used all of the patates last night.  Will have to make do with a ratatouille….NEVER a bad choice.  Unless I decide to sauté some ‘shrooms instead.  Yes, that’s it.  A sauté of mushrooms and a full-bodied red are a fine match!  Bon appétit!

….hours later….. Ok so I decided to go with the ratatouille.  Mushrooms disappeared somewhere.  Set the table in the backyard.  Gotta enjoy these cool St. Louis nights while we can.  Soon the mosquitos will attack.

Maman, how could you forget the goûter???


Oh heaven forbid….  4 o’clock is creeping up slowly and I’ve obviously forgotten about the goûter.  My kids are going to riot.  The goûter.  The God-given right to all children big and small.  4 o’clock snack.  Don’t be mistaken, the goûter is not to be had at 3:45 or even at 5 till 4.  Nope, they don’t call  it the “4 heures” for nothing, and today my darlings, Maman has forgotten.  Off to Panera we go, unless I can come up with something better on the way home.  Think maybe I have some slice-n-bakes in the frigo.

Allow me to introduce myself to the world of blogging.


Unknown-1A little about me…  I’m from Louisiana, which may somehow explain my obsession with all things French.  Not living there anymore, moved away when I was 23 to see what it was like “away from the south”.  If anything, I’ve come to have a much greater appreciation for most things southern than I ever had when I was living there.  I’m living in the big middle of the midwest in the great city of St. Louis.  Some will say that St. Louis is a small town, but if you come from a place somewhere in Louisiana that isn’t even considered a town and doesn’t have a post office… St. Louis is pretty damn big.  Ok Louisiana people, especially those who know me.  YOU may be from a town, but I’m from a community.  A community that has only a gas station (with some darn good boudin, if I may say so myself) and a golf course.

Been living here in ole St. Louieeee  off and on since ’96.  In the meantime I’ve managed to earn a Master’s degree in French, get married to a very sexy Parisian, procreate a mini-me troop of three, live in Béziers, France (mediterranean coast, west of Montpellier), come back to St. Louis to be a high school French teacher, and the list does go on…  More about all of that later.

Unknown-2I decided to get started on this blog when I realized that this American-French lifestyle I live certainly isn’t unique to me.  When you fall in love with someone from another country, there’s way more to it than what you can see when you say “I do”, or just “Oui” as I did at our wedding in France.  There are the first days, before the days of real jobs and children when you seem to focus entirely on perfecting, as in my case, the French language.  Then there are the little cultural differences that make life very interesting.  And then….  drum roll…. And then you have the kids.  What a pleasure, yes I’ll agree there’s nothing quite like being a parent.  This is, after a certain number of years of marriage, the time when you’re really going to make it or break it.  Of course I know that’s true for all married couples, probably with or without children, but boy let me tell you something.  Raising the kids the international way, growing up in America with a very French lifestyle, speaking only in French at home with the kids….  Now in my mind, this is the stuff good blogging is made of!  So if anyone actually clicks on this link, even by accident, I hope you’ll enjoy.