Joie De Vivre

"The best thing you can do for your children is to love their father." Anonymous.Perhaps it is because we leave for Paris next Sunday.

My two middle children and I will be traveling with the Ridgefield Symphony Youth Orchestra on a seven-day tour, performing in medieval cathedrals for Parisians and tourists alike in three concerts throughout the week.Perhaps it is because I watched the book, "French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure," catapult to bestseller status on Amazon and to the No. 2 spot on Barnes & Noble. Other bestsellers included "Barefoot in Paris" and "Guy Savoy: Simple French Recipes for the Home Cook" by the renowned French chef.

Even Julia Child remains on the bestseller lists at most book chains.I've never been to Paris, and I am a self-acknowledged disinterested cook. Truly not "into it." Not into the gourmet thing, the foie gras thing, or the wine thing, I spend my days not in the kitchen, but in my office or my studio, writing or painting.

or in the chemo clinic, hooking primitive rugs while watching medicine drip into my son's port-a-cath. Not one to either read travelogues or purchase cookbooks-?particularly those re: French food, I find other things to grab both my attention and my time.But because of this upcoming trip, my radar has been out for most things French. Partly because of my ignorance.

Partly because of my inexperience. I desire now to educate myself, not with the hope of becoming a serious Francophile, but with the modest intention of getting up to speed.And so it was that my husband and I went to Bernard's, a French restaurant in our little New England town, for date-night Saturday. It was a rare treat, indeed. Accustomed to regular date-nights, which have, for sure, been interrupted with our son's leukemia battle, we generally choose reasonably priced restaurants where we can relax over a meal, yet dive in and out within an hour or so.

And with my New Year's resolution to practice "dining" rather than "eating," dinners out with my hubby-?albeit more infrequent than we would like-?generally fit this bill.When one eats at a French restaurant, and a five-star one at that, one must plan on making it a whole evening's affair. And, true to that custom, our dinner lasted three hours. It was splendid! Their bread, freshly baked and warm, was divine with real butter.

The bisque soup was like medicine for our souls. The cheeses which Ernie chose for dessert were both rare and the perfect end to a fabulous meal. More important, to us anyway, is that Bernard's owners are fellow youth symphony parents who have been wildly supportive and extremely generous in lending their facilities, their time, and their talents on behalf of the youth orchestra. So on several fronts, we wanted to "give back" as they have so graciously given to our own.

However wonderful the food-?and it was indeed wonderful-?it was in combination with uninterrupted time out with my husband that proved such a special treat. Not only did we appreciate fabulous food and superb service; we simply enjoyed the beauty of the environment?-the warm glow of candles, the freshly cut and beautifully arranged flowers on our table, the artwork on the walls?-as well as the luxury (and it was pure luxury) of sitting back and relaxing in each other's company. We were fully aware of its rarity. Fully aware of its perfect timing. Fully aware that kids' schedules just happened to jibe to make the evening work. We promised each other not to take any of it for granted, but to enjoy it for the pure delight that it was.

Maintaining date-nights with your spouse, once children arrive, can be a daunting task. When your kids are babies, you hesitate to leave them in the care of someone else. Thoughts ranging from "What if the babysitter drops him?" to "How can I wear silk while I'm nursing?" to "What if he screams all night?" can leave the best-intentioned of us defaulting to delivery pizza and a DVD.It doesn't get much easier when toddlerhood arrives.

What with separation anxiety and the "barnacle syndrome"; tantrums and "time-outs"; and potty-training and all of the other activities junior claims to be able to do on his own-?we often throw our hands up in frustration, believing that it's just not worth the effort.The teen years hardly bring relief, either. For just when you think it's safe getting away, you learn all too well that two parents out of the house for a couple of hours is a guaranteed invitation for disaster.

Dozens of hormone-impaired, logic-challenged youth will descend on your house like mosquitoes to a poorly-drained swamp. Word travels via cell phones at the speed of thought, and before you realize you've been "hit," your home has become the veritable stomping ground of social science. Once again, your well-intentioned date-night has been relegated to years-?if not decades-?down the road.Fewer things bring more pleasure than regular, weekly date-nights. Yet fewer things are more difficult to consistently pull off.

Just knowing that the weekend will bring a couple of hours out, alone, with my husband, helps me "keep on keepin' on" when the mundane realities of the job drive me practically insane. Knowing that a little glamour might transform the make-up-free-workout-clothes-tennis-shoed-uniform that finds it way onto my bones most days keeps me upbeat and optimistic when carpooling and dishwashing get me down.I cannot advise you as to how-?exactly-?to work romance and date-nights into your own reality.

I can only assure you that, like fine French cuisine, its pleasures cannot be denied. They must be experienced as frequently as possible. Embraced for all of their possibilities. Enjoyed to the fullest.

.Carolina Fernandez earned an M.B.A. and worked at IBM and as a stockbroker at Merrill Lynch before coming home to work as a wife and mother of four. She totally re-invented herself along the way.

Strong convictions were born about the role of the arts in child development; homeschooling for ten years provided fertile soil for devising creative parenting strategies. These are played out in ROCKET MOM! 7 Strategies To Blast You Into Brilliance. It is available on, in bookstores everywhere, or by calling 888-476-2493. She writes extensively for a variety of parenting resources and teaches other moms via parenting classes and radio and TV interviews. Please visit http://www. to subscribe to her free ezine and get a weekly shot of inspiration.

By: Carolina Fernandez

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