But it was Friday afternoon in Chicago. No dice on my average commute time. Traffic was crawling. creeping. not moving. Seriously, why are you turning there?
I was tense, feeling pressed for time. I was co-hostessing a French-themed tea party as a fundraiser for Veronica’s school stat. I needed to move, MOVE! – from work, to Stella’s school, to my house.
Once home, I had ten minutes to grab some party supplies and change out of the school-spirit wear from my school’s leadership rally and into a fashionable look.
I threw on a party dress, Mary Jane flats, and some black pearls. I misted my face with relaxing (?) lavender essential oil, freshened my locks with a crunchy crunch, and bolted out the door.
Halfway out, I glanced down at my hand and saw the scribbled reminder note – _______ (read: the name of Stella’s preschool)
Shit, mother bleeping shit! I forgot the damn deli ham and cream cheese in the fridge at Stella’s school. The why this happened is no story, just classic Rudey.
Yet ham’s a must for Croque Monsieur, so I busted to the corner store – well, not so corner, it has craft beers, and two aisles of fresh, vegan, and organic selections.
I went old school and grabbed some Philadelphia and some Buddig (sorry about the nitrates! What I originally bought was organic. There were out at Food Smart).
And I was off running.
Shvitzing and frazzled, I drove north, simultaneously reminding myself Slow down. It’s okay. I’ll get there when I get there and cursing What was I thinking having this party on a Friday night?
Party at 5, I rolled up at 4:57. Luckily I found a spot right in front of my friend’s house. In the nick of time. I gathered the goods from my trunk just as the first little girl was walking up with her mom. I followed them in, handed off a party ensemble to V to change into, and breathed a huge sigh of relief.
A grateful sigh.
Wowowow. The dining room looked gorgeous:
My friend (the co-hostess) took our blueprint and nailed it.
Months ago, we had turned to Pinterest for French party decorating ideas and settled on shades of pink, black damask, and Eiffel Towers. She ran with it and beautifully designed the room. Très français!
Thank God for pre-planning, prepping, and her eye to round out the details.
I just needed to show up.
Bonjour! Channeling un peu Julia Child and un peu Madame crazy lady, I cooed Bonjour, bonjour. I pulled out the lesson plan I created and we were ready to roll as five more girls appeared in their party dresses at the door.
Let the Games Begin
- Musical Chairs: I wrote statements (such as I’ve been to Florida, I like to swim, I’ve seen the movie Maleficent, I am in second grade.) on index cards. I tacked the cards on the back of vintage French postcards. The girls took turns reading the cards. Every girl that fit the description had to stand and change seats. It was la folie, but a means to get the wiggles out and sprinkle in a few French words like Allez and Bougez.
- Read Madeline: Page by page, the girls read the classic story outloud. Fresh off a teaching week, it barely fazed me when one of the girls wildly waved a princess puppet in my face and read her page like a monster. I cozied her by my side by and reeled her in with Oh là là and other Frenchiness. We choral read the end: “Good night, little girls! Thank the Lord you are well! And now go to sleep! said Miss Clavel. And she turned out the light – and closed the door – and that’s all there is – there isn’t any more.”
- Ask Madeline Multiple-Choice Trivia Questions: Did you know the boy next door is named Pepito?
- Played Madeline, Madeline, Where’s Your Tiger?: This circle game was a take on Doggy, Doggy Where’s Your Bone? The girls sat in a circle with one girl (Madeline) in the center. Madeline had to guess which friend was the “tiger” (meaning the girl with the tiger token). If she guessed wrong, the girl said Pooh-Pooh. If she guessed correctly, the “tiger” became Madeline.
- Do Ballerina Project: We had planned to read another book Degas and the Little Dancer to set the stage for the project. Didn’t happen. We ran out of time. The game part of the party zoomed, so we skipped it. The girls worked on the snowflake ballerina project in the kitchen. We guided them while we finished prepping and platting the food.
Below is the ballerina Veronica created:
Let Them Eat Cake
On le menu:
- Pink lemonade served in small porcelain tea cups
- Croissants with strawberry jelly
- Baguette slices with Nutella and banana
- Président Brie with tiny French flags toothpicks
- Ham and cheese sandwiches with the toothpicks
- Onion and Goat Cheese Crostini. This wasn’t a hit with the girls, but it was with the moms. I snuck into the kitchen and popped a few between pouring rounds of lemonade.
- Bite-sized pastries from the freezer section at Costco – Eclairs, Napoleons, etc.
- Mini cupcakes in Frenchy muffin cups. The other mom sweetly accounted for V’s egg allergy and made the cupcakes with pumpkin purée.
In between passing the finger foods, I taught them a few French table manners: Straight posture, look people in the eyes when you say à ta santé (tchin tchin), and wrists on the table are okay, but no elbows.
During dinner I cued up some tunes on my phone. I compiled three French playlists to set the mood. I pulled from Putumayo, Yelle, and classic kids songs like Frere Jacques. Spotify also has solid compilations. I like the set: French Chill Out.
- To wrap up the party, we gave each girl a French photo booth prop so they could pose for some pictures. I ❤ Etsy.
- The giant Eiffel Tower from my classroom served as a backdrop for girls to Oh là là là là and oui, oui, oui.
- Seven o’clock came fast and they were out the door with their goodie bags – I heart Paris hand sanitizer, French stickers, a pin, and a pencil.
Then we popped in a Madeline video for our two daughters while we cleaned up and poured ourselves respective beers and wine. The mamans deserved a bevie.
Leaning over the kitchen island, we recapped the party and slowing sipped away the week …