Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What do you look for in a home?


After my first few rentals in college, I had experienced some of the worst: a basement apartment with a leaky ceiling, terribly uneven (and expensive!) electric heat, and an awful little galley kitchen in which the refrigerator actually went into the bedroom closet, where it was fully visible and noisy every time I went to select my clothes. So it didn't take very long for me to come up with a list of must- or really-would-like-to-haves.

At that time, my list was actually pretty short:

  • Window in the bathroom
  • Window above the kitchen sink
  • White kitchen cupboards
  • Hardwood floors
  • Fireplace
Our apartment in Zurich had everything but the window in the bathroom and I really loved and appreciated all of those other items so much. When we first came to Spokane, we went around with a realtor and looked at houses. There were so many houses that I got really excited about based on how cute they were from the outside, and then when we went inside and my heart sank! House after house had been "improved" with hideous, generic mosaic tile and pedestrian cabinets and fixtures from Home Depot. Or worse yet, they went for the "high end" stuff and made it look like some sort of faux Tuscan villa. It makes me want to cry thinking of the beautiful original kitchens that were torn out in order to replace them with that crap. 

Nowadays my list is pretty much the same, but I would add:
  • A dishwasher
  • Bathtub (not just a shower)
  • Radiator heat
  • Washer and dryer, or W/D hookups
  • Patio, balcony or outdoor space
But I have learned that I prefer a smaller apartment in an urban setting with parks and outdoor space within walking distance to a larger place with more space and even a yard or patio. And last week, I was having kind of a bad day and then J and I made a fire and sat down to have our nightly fireside chat and I said to him, "You know, all I really care about is having a fireplace anymore" and we both got a good chuckle out of that, because it's true. Having a fireplace is better than having your own washer and dryer, or a balcony or patio, or any of it! 

What do you look for in a home? What is an absolute deal breaker for you?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Four Fab Finds


This week has already felt about ten years long, don't you agree? We have been so busy and tired, but the kids are so cute and they make us laugh and smile and bring so much joy every day. It really is just a lot. Lots to do, lots of laundry, lots of snuggles, lots of cuteness. I'm doing my best to stay present and enjoy every moment. And here are four gems I just had to share.

I can't wait to sit on my patio this summer and drink my morning coffee in this Rosé All Day t-shirt. It's only $12 at Old Navy and I know it's going to make me feel like a million bucks with these adorable cropped sweats. Bring on the patio weather, summer! This mama is ready. All I need to add is a good book. Yasssss.

Buuuuuut, summer is not here yet, and nights can still be a bit chilly. We all know that sleeping in a cool room leads to better sleep, but it can also lead to, well, getting cold. So J and I have taken to sleeping with socks on! I usually just sleep in a tank top and undies, but with a pair of regular old socks, I'm so toasty and warm that I fall asleep faster and wake less often. Game changer!

And speaking of game changers, have you ever used a mascara primer? I was given samples of Chanel Beauté des Cils primer and Le Volume mascara last fall and tossed them in a drawer and forgot all about 'em. Then, a few weeks ago, I stumbled across them and figured I would give them both a try. WHOA. Lash primer makes mascara go on smoother (no clumps!) and lashes miles longer.  I went out and bought the full sizes within a few days. Seriously. I'll never go back! I have noticed no flaking over the last few weeks and no transferring to my brow bones. I'm in love! Plus I almost look like I have false lashes on, but they look real because they are. Too good.

And, finally, since I started using NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer a few months ago, I constantly get complimented on my skin and asked what foundation I'm wearing. Usually, I have trouble finding a good match for my skin tones as I have olive tones from my French heritage and very pink tones from my Irish heritage. What a mess! But the shade Finland from NARS is absolutely perfect. I don't use it all over as that can create a really flat and unnatural look. Instead, I balance out the redness where I need it around my nose, between my brows and on the soft part of my cheeks. Then I blend out the edges until they're invisible. With a light dusting of NARS Orgasm blush and the power primer-mascara combo above, I feel totally polished and glamorous in minutes!

What's making your life easier lately? Any fun tips to share?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Montessori: Sensitive Period for Order


Dr. Montessori observed four sensitive periods: order, coordination of movement, development and refinement of sensory perception and language. Let's start with the sensitive period for order, which goes from birth until 4 1/2 years old. I wrote in my introductory post about the sensitive periods that the periods are active from birth until 6 years old, but that is not entirely accurate. To clarify, only one sensitive period, language, goes until 6, the other sensitive periods all end at 4 1/2.

A few things to know about the sensitive periods before we go further. Montessori borrowed the term "sensitive period" from the Dutch biologist, Hugo DeVries (1848 - 1935). DeVries studied genetics, but not on humans, rather on fruit flies. In his work on Porthesia Butterfly's Life Cycle, he described how as a caterpillar, the Porthesia species is strongly sensitive to light. It's this sensitivity that prompts the caterpillar to move from where it hatches in the deepest, darkest part of the tree where the branch meets the trunk, to the end of the branch, where the most tender leaves, the only leaves the caterpillar is capable of eating at its tiny size, are located. It's as if the caterpillar is attracted to the light by an irresistible and impossible to ignore voice. Then, the sensitivity to light, no longer needed, vanishes and the caterpillar is completely indifferent to light once it's a bit bigger. But that period of sensitivity to the light is critical. Without it, the caterpillar might look for food in the wrong places and perish before finding any.

Just as with the butterfly, sensitive periods in children last for a determinate amount of time. Parents will often tell me they're planning to have their child start Montessori when they are four instead of three. But I have bad news for these parents. The Montessori classroom is designed and perfected to welcome children at three years old (younger in infant/toddler communities) largely because of the sensitive periods. If a child starts at four, and there are only six months remaining in three of the four sensitive periods, and in most cases, this limited amount of time means that the child will not become fully functional in the routines, structures, methods and movements that make the improbable Montessori class set up possible in the first place. In some cases, it works out because the child's home life is amenable to the pace and framework of the classroom. But, this is rare because life outside the Montessori prepared environment is structured around and designed for adults, not children. Most children have a low degree of independence, have insufficient unstructured time in which to focus on their developmental tasks as dictated by the sensitive periods, and are rushed far too often. My kids included. Life cannot always move at their pace. We make great efforts to respond to their developmental needs and give them the time and space to follow their whims, but it's not always possible or safe. That's why Montessori schooling is so wonderful. When a child arrives at three, there is time to lay a strong foundation before the sensitive periods for order, coordination of movement and sensory perception end.

So how can we recognize and foster the sensitive period to order? Sensitivity to order in children can be observed in their extreme attention to detail and precision, aversion to messes and insistence on things being in their proper place. For example, it's not unusual for a toddler to go around and close drawers that have been left open. Toddlers also pay close attention to very small things, like ants, and can spend a very long time (an eternity for a bored adult waiting for them on a walk;) just watching them move and studying their very existence. Some children like to line things up and order manifests itself this way. A parent is usually pleased to see their toddler closing drawers, but may be tempted to pull them away from the ants, or jump in and show them how to build with the train tracks instead of lining them up, but to do so would interrupt their developmental work.

The developmental goal of the sensitive period for order is for external order as created and dictated by the child to act as a foundation for internal order and mental organization. Making this possible is the use of the hand as an instrument of the mind. And ultimately, through manipulation of their environment, the toddler becomes a well-oriented child with an orderly mind.

If the toddler prefers to line up the train tracks side by side, like tally marks, we must let them line them up. It's not hurting anyone and they're not damaging the train tracks, so why would we stop them?! When left to their own devices, a toddler will line up the tracks, then sit back and admire them for a moment, and most likely, gather them up and do it all again. Repetition is a hallmark sign that a sensitive period is at work. Children will repeat, tirelessly, until they feel satisfied. Allowing a child to follow their inner drive and exercise their hand as an instrument of the mind is critical to allow the sensitive period for order to do its work. Another supportive piece is having reliable and predictable routines in place that allow a child to predict and know what's coming next and develop that mental organization.

The photo of Gaudí apartment building was taken in Barcelona by J. I included it for two reasons - one, because this building would probably be very offensive and terrifying to a child in the sensitive period for order. It defies all predictability and preconceived notions we have of what a building is. Its form is completely unexpected and irregular. But, lest you should begin to think that the sensitive period for order leaves no room for unfettered creativity and imagination, that is the second reason I included it. Being well-oriented to one's world and surroundings and having an orderly mind is the very fertile breeding ground of creativity, imagination and expression. One cannot create and conceive of interesting or compelling ideas from a place of confusion, misunderstanding and disarray. A successful sensitive period for order sets the child up for complex and intricate thoughts, ideas and actualization across all disciplines.

Next week we'll move on to thwarting by adults and the finality of the sensitive periods in conjunction with the sensitive period for coordination of movement. Montessori theory is especially difficult to write about well. The ideas are not linear, but more like an interconnected web and it feels like writing a circular outline, which is just whacky and almost disorienting. So thanks for hanging in there! And please leave your questions in the comments below! I want to hear what made sense and what didn't. I'll absolutely answer them all. Major kudos to you if you made it this far without falling asleep! xo

Friday, March 17, 2017

Have a lovely weekend.


Do you have big plans this weekend? Tomorrow, J, Coco and I are all going skiing together and Theo is spending the day with my mom. Sunday, we're just hanging out and maybe going to the park if the weather is good. Right when the snow hit the east coast, we got some sun. Finally! I'm happy for the switch.

And here's a bit of what was on my brain, or caught my eye around the web this week:

So excited to have these lilac soaps and spray in our kitchen for spring. YUM! They smell sooooo good.


This article caused quite the outrage in Spokane this week!

So much so that The Guardian issued this apology


Grammar rules. (OMG.)



I need this. (I mean I don't, but I do.)

And, an ode to Ireland. Happy St Patrick's Day!

Have a lovely weekend and see you back here Monday! xo

(Photo via Pinterest)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Walking


I miss walking so much. Now I know what you're thinking. Yes, it is possible to walk here. There are streets and sidewalks and I still have feet. But it is not the same at all. This photo is of us leaving our house in Kieselgasse to go somewhere when Coco was a baby. Every time we left the house, every single day, we left like this. No car, just on foot. And it always felt totally comfortable. I know there are places like New York or San Francisco in the US where people walk, but unfortunately Spokane is not one of those places.

Last winter, Theo and I went to the library one morning and happened to get there before it opened. So I figured we would take a walk. We headed down a residential side street and Theo was having a great time looking at fences or footprints in the snow or stopping to admire shrubs. Then, a truck came along and as it got nearer, it slowed down, and then it pulled over. The driver rolled down the window and shouted over the engine, "Are you okay?!"

There was no one around. No one. But I was so stunned, I actually did one of those looks over my shoulder like, who is he talking to? Oh yeah, he was talking to me. "Um, yeah, we're fine," I said, and his response was, "Did your car break down?" to which I replied, "No, just taking a walk waiting for the library to open." And then he gave me the thumbs up and drove away.

Now don't get me wrong. I appreciate this stranger's concern and I appreciate his goodwill. But damn, am I really living in a place where is it so inconceivable that people would go out for a walk?!

Today was sunny - very windy, but sunny - so I walked to work. When I failed to get a ride home from a colleague, I was pressured to either take the bus or get a Lyft home because after dark it would be unsafe to walk. Wow. Unsafe to walk after dark. That makes me so sad. And kind of angry. I only live 12 blocks away, but I'd have to pay to get home safely. I wanted to walk. So I just left work ten minutes early and got home before dark. On the way, I had three drivers actually glare at me or throw their hands up because I was in the crosswalk and they wanted to turn. And I spent a good deal of the time waiting for walk signs. Overall, it's just not comfortable or relaxing in any way to have three lanes of cars whizzing by noisily (and fast) as you walk. Sigh.

It was a beautiful evening though. I popped into the store for half n half, bread and eggs on the way and it was seamless and easy to do on foot. It almost felt like old times in Zurich. And when I walked through the front door, I felt happy and all pumped up on endorphins from walking up the quite steep South Hill. So there is that. But I hate that walking is this extraordinary, potentially dangerous act here. If I want to walk, I have to be deliberate and plan and make extra effort to make it happen. I just hate that. I miss walking being an innate part of every day. I miss it so much.

So now, I guess we have to either move somewhere that isn't car based, or just get used to it. Tell me honestly, how much do you walk on a daily basis? Do you use your car every day? Every week? When you walk, why do you do it? To get somewhere? For exercise? To get outside? To walk your dog? Please tell me all about it! xo

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Worry Time


I'm a huge worrier. I fret. I hem and haw. I bite my nails. And for the past year or so, I seem to wake up at 3 am and find it impossible to go back to sleep again. Sometimes I'll lie awake for several hours imagining worst case scenarios, or just general nondescript horrific scenarios before finally nodding off again. By that time, I can sleep just long enough for my alarm to be really painful when it goes off a short while later. Ugh.

So in the book I just finished, Leap Year, by Helen Russell (the same author as The Year of Living Danishly, which I also loved) she suffers from the very same woes and decides to try a little thing called Worry Time. It's wonderfully simple, you just set aside 30 minutes at the same time each day, preferably before a transition in your day, and write down everything you're worried about. You don't have to go into the reasons or search for solutions, just get it all out on paper, by hand. Then do it again the next day. Russell chose to worry right before leaving to pick her son up from daycare, and for me, a good time to worry is right before lunch.

It's amazing, because I have enough worries - real and imagined - to fill hours and hours of nighttime. But in broad daylight, worrying for 30 minutes is actually an incredibly long time and feels like a chore! The first day, I only managed to worry for 20 minutes. The next day the same. The third day, I was feeling quite frantic and made it the whole 30 minutes, but the day after that, just 15. After that, I was less worried and stopped keeping track.

Somehow the act of writing worries down immediately lessens their severity. And it also felt to me as if having my worries written down, they were safely kept and therefore I didn't need to exert as much effort holding onto them and carrying them about the rest of the time. Side note: Montessori was very keen on the brain-hand connection. She called the hand the prehensile organ of the mind, and modern-day brain scans show that a greater surface area of our brains is devoted to our hands than any other body part. It seems that writing our worries down with our hands actually does move them out of our brains, right through our fingertips onto the paper. It's like magic!

I have to say, I'm quite pleased with the results. My nails are long enough to paint and I've been sleeping through the night. This is huge! How do you keep your worries at bay? Would you try worry time?

(Photo via A Little Bit of Bliss)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Learning to Ski


All winter, I've been saying that this would be the year I would learn how to ski. And all winter long, I've kept putting it off, thinking I had more time, or it really wasn't important, or that actually I'd never learn how to ski anyway, so why bother trying?

But then it occurred to me that with Coco being a total shredder (that's an actual word) and Theo turning three in August and getting on skis himself next winter, if I didn't learn now, very soon I would no longer be part of my family in a very real way. It was time.

So Sunday was the day. My mom took the kids and J and I headed up to the mountain...

Monday, March 13, 2017

Montessori: Sensitive Periods


One of the big pieces of Montessori theory that guides and governs so much of the curriculum and approach is The Sensitive Periods. Montessori observed and identified four sensitive periods that all humans have from birth until age six. They are Order, Language, Movement and Sensory Perception. Over the next few weeks, I will be writing in-depth about each of the sensitive periods and giving examples of how they manifest in young children and offering tips on what you can do to support them.

So send me your unexplained mysteries. Is there something odd that your child likes to do that you don't understand? Does your child have a particular action or movement they like to repeat? I want to hear about it and chances are it will fit in with one of the sensitive periods! Send me an email, or leave a message on Facebook or Twitter. This will be fun! And thanks so much in advance. xo

Friday, March 10, 2017

Sláinte!


This weekend is the annual St. Patrick's Day parade in my family. Tomorrow morning, the festivities start early at my uncle's house for brunch and then we go downtown for the parade, out to lunch for corned beef and cabbage (not actually an Irish thing), and then some version of a pub crawl usually ensues after the children have been properly deposited with babysitters. The photo above is of Theo getting his first taste of a little Guinness foam last year. He was not impressed.

Thank you so much for all of your San Francisco tips on Facebook, the blog and via email. I think we're going to have a great time. Now we just need to line up a babysitter for a couple of the nights. I love it when a plan comes together!

And here's a bit of what caught my eye around the web this week:

Loving these Spotify Sessions.

Finally had a sunny day today after record-setting snow this winter. Ugh!

The genius of German.

LOL. Like, I almost cried.

A perfect spring tee.

The best country in the world.

What if your partner wants fewer kids than you?

10 lessons from the French.

Sleep and jet lag - and wow!

Our kids have found a new nightly ritual: fighting over these at dinner. ;) Seriously.

I hope your weekend is fantastic and see you back here Monday! xo

Thursday, March 9, 2017

San Francisco Road Trip


We are so excited to be driving down to San Francisco in a few weeks for spring break. My friend Kate has a brand new baby boy whom we can't wait to meet and squeeze. And J's roommate from college, the one who basically introduced us, lives there and it's been way too long since we've shot some pool with that guy. Hooray for a road trip and a change of scenery! We really need it.

Oh, and we are taking the kids, too. We're staying in my friend Sally's apartment in Berkeley while they're vacationing in Denmark, which should be perfect as there will be toys and (hopefully) nothing too dear or breakable within children's reach.

What suggestions do you have for us? We already booked tickets to Alcatraz and a day trip to Muir Woods is a must. But other than that, we are looking for kid-friendly, fun activities that will allow us to see the city without overwhelming them, or completely boring ourselves. What should we do? Where should we eat? What should we skip? I can't wait to hear what you recommend and why. Thanks so much!

PS - Tips & Tricks for Road Trips with KidsSan Francisco with baby Theo, and European Road Trip xo

(Photo via Tim Melideo Photography/Pinterest)

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