Monday, November 28, 2016

The Best Cyber Monday Shopping

Can you believe it's already time for Christmas shopping? I am really excited for the holidays this year and already getting questions from friends and family as to what's on our wish lists. If you're shopping today, here are my favorite sales around the web:

Minted is doing 20% off of EVERYTHING.

Nordstrom has a huge sale going. As always, free shipping and free returns.

Target has 15% off your entire order - in stores and online!

REI has tons of deals up to 50% off.

Ergo Baby is 30% off Newborn Bundles.

MOO is 30% off everything.

Tea Collection is offering 30% off everything.

Land of Nod has 20% off and free or flat-rate shipping on tons of items, including furniture!

Finally, if you're in the mood to treat yourself to a little something, I can personally recommend this, a bottle of this, and absolutely this. Happy shopping!

(photo of shopping in Zermatt by J)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Holiday Traditions

Since having kids, the holidays have really come alive for me. Their excitement and joy is pure magic to watch. When we go for a Christmas tree, hang lights and decorate, their eyes are filled with amazement and wonder. It really is the best.

Now that Coco and Theo are getting older, I'm really excited about establishing our own family holiday traditions. Here are a few we're excited to incorporate this year.

The Elf on the Shelf

I actually can't think of anything more obnoxious than The Elf on the Shelf! And yet. It is exactly the sort of thing that will make five-year-old Coco go absolutely over the moon. And for that, it is worth it. I already told Coco that one of Santa's elves will be coming to live in our house between St. Nicolas Day and Christmas Eve. Her eyes got all wide. I explained that the elf will be watching to see if she's bad or good, just like the song. Then, on Christmas Eve, when Santa delivers her presents, the elf will go back to the North Pole. She actually gasped audibly and clasped her hands in front of her chest. Elves are available with light or dark skin (bravo!), as boys or girls. When I asked if she would rather have a boy elf or girl elf, she shouted, "GIRL!" Done.

St Nicholas Day

This year, we are going to celebrate St. Nicholas Day. Coco and Theo will each put a boot outside their bedroom door. Then, in the morning, they'll discover that their boot is filled with special treats like a chocolate orange, mandarins and cookies. They will also each get a pair of matching pyjamas! Last year, we got them matching pyjamas for the first time and it was the cutest thing ever. This year, I got them the sweetest pair from Baby Gap. I can't wait to see them wearing them all winter long!

Visiting Santa

Another fun tradition we started last year was visiting Santa and having photos done on his lap. At the mall in downtown Spokane, there is a gigantic tree at least two or three stories tall and Santa has a big throne-like velvet green chair flanked by giant candy canes at its base. I don't know how great Coco and Theo thought it was, but J and I thought it was great. Santa had a real beard and the photo was so adorable! Definitely something we'll do again this year.

What are your favorite holiday traditions? Do you feel like you enter the holiday season prepared, or is it a time of total overwhelm? ;) xo

Monday, November 21, 2016

Montessori Monday: Baby-proofing

Montessori Monday is an advice column written by yours truly. If you have a question about Montessori philosophy, parenting or discipline, or anything else in that realm, contact me and your question could be the next Montessori Monday post!

Dear Lindsey, 

If there is a Montessori theory on baby-proofing I would love to read about it in a Montessori Monday post. My 11 month old just started crawling a month ago and already wants to walk on her own (can't quite yet, but probably soon). We took precautions where she could get seriously hurt, but what about areas like a small floor bookshelf with books and magazines? I'd rather just teach her that she's not allowed to pull all of the books off the shelf. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Or am I being too optimistic?


Dear Tori,

There's darling baby Coco looking very guilty as she finds herself caught red-handed about to pull every single book out of the (bolted to the wall) bookshelf. The way I see it, baby-proofing comes down to two things: safely and sanity. It sounds like you've got the safety piece under control, so now it's time to gauge your approach to the sanity piece.

There are, of course, two opposing schools of thought with this. The first school of thought is that you make the baby fit into your life. The second is that you adapt everything to be baby friendly. The fit-the-baby-into-your-life folks believe that you can teach the baby not to do certain things. Rather than move the Fabergé eggs to a higher shelf, they're of the opinion that if you just reinforce again and again and again that the baby is not to touch them, after a while, the baby will accept this and ignore the eggs all together. This is a lovely idea in theory, but I have never heard of it actually working. What tends to happen instead is a power struggle. The eggs, or in this case books, become a point of contention and a battle of the wills ensues. I say it's best to just skip all of that and remove the books, or eggs, or whatever it is, all together.

For several months, in the spirit of making everything baby friendly, we took all of the books from the bottom two shelves of our bookcase and put them in a box in our cellar. We still left Coco's baby books on the bottom two shelves of her bookcase in the entryway and she pulled them out just about every single day. We could have moved those, too, but for whatever reason, I was able to maintain my sanity putting those away every day. Sometimes I had to put those books away multiple times per day. Other days I just stepped over them until she was in bed and only put them back once. Ha! Then, after she had outgrown that phase, we brought our books back.

The general rule is make sure everything is safe. Then, once safety is no longer an issue, don't have anything accessible to your baby or child that you can't easily part with if it gets broken or that you can't deal with in terms of sanity. Both of our kids went through long phases of unpacking everything from the kitchen cupboards on a daily basis. This was okay with me, but if it hadn't been, cabinet locks would have been in order. In terms of safety, we did lock the cabinet with all of the pyrex and stoneware. If you're really consistent and patient, you can try teaching your baby not to do certain things. And, depending on her personality, it might just work. If it's not working and you're starting to lose your mind, just eliminate the problem, keep calm and carry on. Happy baby-proofing! xo

Monday, October 24, 2016

Montessori Monday: MINE!

Montessori Monday is an advice column written by yours truly. If you have a question about Montessori philosophy, parenting or discipline, or anything else in that realm, contact me and your question could be the next Montessori Monday post!

Dear Lindsey,

Do you have any advice on getting your 2.5 year old to stop saying "mine" whenever a friend even starts walking in his direction while he's holding a toy? He currently goes to daycare 3 days a week, so my husband and I aren't sure if this has aided in his need to guard the toy he is currently playing with. But, it has been hard to do things with his friends when he spends most of the time worrying about his toy getting taken from him rather than just playing with it. We also have a 5 month old and I had entertained the idea that he suddenly feels a need for more attention from us--whether good or bad. Could this be part of it too? Thanks! 

The Mine Police

Dear The Mine Police,

This could be many things. It might have to do with your new baby, as you mentioned, and it could also be a mechanism developed at the rough and tumble world of daycare. Sharing is hard for small children. In fact, it is completely unnatural. You can read all of my deep thoughts on sharing right here.

But, in this instance, the first thing that came to mind for me was language and idea recognition. Children at your son's age are learning language at a staggering rate. And along with learning language comes comprehending and recognizing the ideas that the language represents. In Montessori (and probably in other places, too) this is called an abstraction. So you have the word and then you have all that the word is and grasping the sense of the word's being is the abstraction. Sometimes when children are adamant and repeat something over and over again, maybe even at varying volume levels, all they are looking for is some validation. You could try saying to your son the next time he is on a "MINE!" kick, "Yes, that is your toy. It's yours, isn't it?" and see if that satisfies him. I'm thinking it probably won't satisfy him entirely, but it will probably give him a moment's pause and a very good feeling of having gotten the whole concept right.

To quell his fears of his toys being taken, it might work well to talk to him before people come over. Children can digest much more than we give them credit for, but don't push it - keep it short and sweet anyway! Just say in a matter of fact way, "Some friends are coming over in a little bit. Billy will be interested in your toys and he will touch them and play with them, but he won't take any of your toys home with him. I promise all of your toys are going to stay right here at home. We're going to have a fun time with our visitors!"

Do not use a tone of voice that suggests you're apologizing for some terrible thing you're doing to him. If you do, the message will be that sharing is really awful and a punishment to be endured and it will not go well! Do not tack the word, "Okay?" onto the end of the explanation! It's not a question. You're not asking. You're telling. You're telling him you're having visitors and that his toys will be fine and it will be fun. Which is true! Do not get down on his level and hold his hand while saying this. Even two year olds know bad news is coming when someone does that.

Try not to let the "MINE!" phase bother you. It's normal and healthy and nothing to be concerned about, even if it is annoying or embarrassing at times. Good luck!

Lovely readers, do you have any tips or tricks for dealing with the "MINE!" phase? Please share them in the comments below! xo

Friday, September 23, 2016

State of the Lark

Tomorrow we're celebrating Coco's 5th birthday with a party down at the children's museum. Five feels like a big one. Thanks to this loving girl, I have been a mama for five years! Coco is acting so grown up these days. I'm so proud of her. She is ever the treasure of my heart.

I spent the whole day baking these pink cakes for her and then, after she and Theo were asleep, I started going through old photos and now I'm a blubbering mess crying at my computer. She should still be this little. I should still be able to stroke those dark hairs on her temple and marvel at her creamy, soft, smooth skin. Those tiny little fingers. That sweet nose and determined brow. Those round, kissable cheeks. I miss her as a baby so much. Even when she still was a baby, I was already missing her eventually not being a baby.

And now I'm here. She is a little girl and I marvel at all she is and all the things she says. All the ways she's growing and changing. And I anticipate missing these days. These days when she still comes into our bed at night and still wants to snuggle and still wants to sit on my lap and read stories and tells me everything about her day.

Sometimes motherhood just hurts. I shared it once before, but this poem, published on Momfilter in 2012, sums it up perfectly. Since I was already crying, I went ahead and read it again and made it an all out sob fest over here. My baby girl's growing up way too fast!

I'm still looking for that pause button. But in the meantime, we just have to savor each moment as best we can. It feels like the moment you become a parent, someone hits the fast-forward button and it all starts to disappear in the rearview mirror. Life is so beautiful and fleeting. And now I'm off to go get Theo, who is crying for me, and to snuggle his sweet little self and savor his soft, pudgy arms and legs for a moment before I close my eyes and get some sleep. Goodnight! xo

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Same Clothes, Two Days In A Row

When I went to study abroad in France, we had a pretty exhaustive two-day orientation. It included the usual stuff on how not to be an American jerk (remember who was president in 2002), some tours of the old town, and also some tidbits on cultural differences - little things that would be rude or unacceptable in America, but that were totally fair game in France.

We were warned that eye contact with men would be interpreted as an invitation to come talk to us, to which I responded, "Wait! If we want to talk to a guy, all we have to do is look at him?!" much to the dismay of my professors and advisors. Then they let us know that it is okay to use a hunk of baguette to mop up any sauce incroyable from our plate and not let a drop go to waste at the end of a meal.

But by far, the most wonderful tidbit of all was that en France, it is perfectly acceptable to wear the same exact outfit two, even several, days in a row. Can you imagine?! I was overjoyed. In high school, I had a friend whose sole goal was to be voted "Best Dressed." Every night before she went to bed, she laid out her clothes for the following day, including accessories and plans for what she would do with her hair. She had a personal policy never to repeat an outfit within a two-week period. Exhausting. I had grown up going to Catholic school, so I literally wore the same exact outfit every day all year long, except for free-dress Fridays, which didn't even happen every two weeks. In high school, I valued sleep over everything else and could only envy my friend's discipline.

So when they told us this in France, I was delighted. I put my new French practices to use right away. I happily mopped up sauce and ate it on baguette. (Salad dressing, too!) I tried out my man-fetching eye contact skills, but if I'm honest, I was too timid and shy to pull it off. And I excelled at repeating outfits. The laundromats were expensive and I was on a student budget, after all. If something was not dirty, not only did I not wash it, I wore it again. The very next day. I pretty much thought it was the greatest thing ever.

I reluctantly left this practice behind when I left France, but I still long for it. Actually, in Switzerland, I figured since we were sharing a border with France, it was close enough and deemed it fair game. But here in the US, not so much. It could possibly work on the weekend. Or, maybe the same outfit to work Friday and out running errands Saturday? But I'm thinking if I had gone to work in the same outfit two, or even several (!!!) days in a row, there would have been summons for a meeting. Obviously, since becoming a mom, my clothes are never clean enough to wear again at the end of the day!

Cultural differences are so fascinating. Really, why shouldn't we wear the same clothes two, or even several days in a row if they're not dirty and it's a put-together, smart outfit? Would you do it? Do you?

PS - I recently recovered some of my emails from my time in France that I'll share with you next week if you'd like to read them. They're hilarious. France Lindsey was really something.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Montessori Monday: Eat Your Vegetables

Montessori Monday is an advice column written by yours truly. If you have a question about Montessori philosophy, parenting or discipline, or anything else in that realm, contact me and your question could be the next Montessori Monday post!

Dear Lindsey, 

I know it's been asked a hundred times, but how do you get a 2.5 year old to eat vegetables? I'm not that concerned; I keep suggesting and providing them patiently. But, it really winds my husband up which makes meals more stressful than they need to be!


Dear Frazzled,

I can totally relate to your frustration with this issue because if I'm honest, my blood pressure is never higher at any point in the day than it is from dinner until our kids are asleep in bed! ;) But, don't fret! Your toddler can and will eat vegetables. First, we need to talk about getting wound up.

Toddlers love to flex their muscles and experiment in creating change and wresting control, particularly when that change and control have to do with the behavior of other people. The fact that your husband gets wound up at mealtimes is allowing your toddler to have all the power. Montessori said that once we get into a power struggle with a child, the only way we'll ever win is though our physical dominance. As adults, we know we're getting into a power struggle the moment we begin to feel wound up. Being bigger than our child means we can pick them up and remove them from a situation, but we can't make them eat a vegetable. We can't make them do anything! As long as your child is directing her energy toward holding her ground and frustrating your husband by not eating vegetables, the actual nutrition component remains a moot point.

The first thing you need to do is sit down with your husband - without your child - and establish this fact: Your toddler will grow and thrive whether he eats vegetables or not. It's true! If your husband is worried this isn't true, have him ask your pediatrician or a midwife, or another trusted advisor in that capacity. I'm certain they'll tell him the same thing.

Next, once that is agreed upon, release all cares about vegetables. At mealtimes, come together at the table, dish up with everyone getting vegetables on his or her plate, toddler included, and finally, eat.

Say nothing to your toddler about her vegetables. Do not look at them sideways.

Now here's where many people might say, "Ignore them altogether!" But ignoring means pretending something is not there, in this case frustration, irritation, anger, whatever it may be, when actually it is there. That's no good. Children are not fools. They know when the frustration is there, whether you're showing it or not, and they know they're in control because of it! So, the key is to genuinely not care. Repeat silently in your head: My child will eat vegetables when he is ready. Until then, he's just fine. Release all cares about vegetables.

Eventually, your toddler will eat her vegetables. One school I worked at had hot lunch provided. Meals were balanced with salad or vegetables beforehand and a main course. Most children would eat the main course, but many children did not want to eat the salad and vegetables. After three or four months, most kids were eating everything. There was just one child who still wouldn't touch anything and ate nothing each day. Finally, his mother confessed that she felt so guilty picking him up two hours later than his little sister that she had a fruit danish and cheese stick for him in the car every day. Well, there you go. If she hadn't done that, he would have eaten just like everyone else!

It might take months for your child to eat vegetables, but it will happen. Just last night, in fact, Theo finally ate his green beans. I can't tell you how many nights he's had green beans on his plate and tried one and refused the rest, or just not tried any at all. But, last night he gobbled them up.

You have the right idea in your approach: always provide vegetables, be patient and don't be that concerned. Rest easy! You're doing a great job.

Fellow parents, how do you get your children to eat their vegetables? What about picky eaters in general? I'd love to hear your tricks!

Friday, September 16, 2016

State of the Lark

So I'm trying something new. Instead of doing a link list as I've done on Fridays past, I'm going to ramble in a stream of consciousness, part essay, part journal entry sort of way and sprinkle links at you within the text. You'll still get your links, but mostly I'll just share my thoughts on how the week was and what we did over the course of the week, subjecting you to my inner monologue. I think you'll like it! I decided to give this a try for several reasons. One, I don't seem to have enough time to post five days per week lately and the Friday link list is not really a full post, in my opinion. Two, I frequently do something that seems "blog worthy" but the daunting reality of taking and editing photos is very off-putting for me (I'm in it for the writing!) and a lot of times, things aren't really enough to make a whole post out of it. Not in 2016 anyway. Back in 2006, blogging was SO different. Just look at this post from Oh Happy Day. And what about this one from Cup of Jo? My how things have changed. These are now more on par with Facebook status updates. Some of these old posts might even fit into a Tweet! What will 2026 look like? Just for fun, here's one of my 2006 posts.

This week, we baked the New York Times' Original Plum Torte Recipe from 1983, pictured. My mom's friend has a huge Italian Plum tree that yields insane amounts of fruit every year. When she first brought me a box of like 70 plums, I'll admit I was a little overwhelmed, maybe even slightly annoyed? Coco ate a lot of them. I ate a few. And then, this glorious recipe showed up in my news feed. Holy moly. So easy, so simple, so absolutely delicious. I have enough plums to make three more and you better believe I'm baking all three today. Two will go in the freezer and one will be for the little patio pizza party we're having to celebrate my uncle (and mine and Coco's) birthdays tonight. If you have plums, make this torte. If you see plums at the farmers market, buy a dozen and make this torte! Be aware: I took ours out at 45 minutes. Watch it carefully. One of the commenters on the Times article said that she baked this during an open house to try to get her house to sell after it had been on the market for a while. And it sold! I totally believe it. It's that good.

Every time the Apple folks come out with a new iPhone, they have to come up with superlative phrasing to out-do the year before, which was the most spectacular thing ever, until now. But, this year, with the camera on the 7 Plus, they've actually really done something. I am hoping to get one for the camera alone. Let's be clear. I do not need a new phone and I should really be focused on the fact that our monthly bill will be dropping drastically now that our phones are "paid off". But, the camera!

Our kids are sick again, if you can believe it. This time it's a fever, cough and stuffy nose. Coco is (more or less) old enough for Children's Dimetapp, which absolutely saved us last night. Theo on the other hand is a nursing monster when he's sick. He called out "NAY! NAY!" all night long and chased me around doing the same all morning before his nap today. I really love that he has his own little word for nursing. Coco just called it milk! But, I was tired of hearing it by about 10 this morning. I think we may need to throw a pot of this on the stove. I've always made enchiladas with the chicken after making stock. What do you use it for? And doesn't this sound like the best stock of all time for a cold? I mean, yum.

So, something that took up a great deal of head space this week was coming to the realization that my family and friends, and just about everyone here who wasn't also in Switzerland (so everyone) does not understand that we are still reeling, grieving and suffering from the loss of it. It seems so completely obvious to me because I am the one who is sad and depressed and can't seem to escape those feelings on a day-to-day basis. But to everyone else, that is ancient history! Truly. We have been back in the US for over two years. But it still feels very fresh to us, even after all this time. So, I heard something that really struck me on that vein. I was reading a post on The Alison Show and she mentioned that Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project says, "What you do every day matters more than what you do every once in a while."

That really got to me because it speaks a lot to where we live and what our daily rituals are within our time and place. I think I miss a lot of the everyday aspects of Zurich much more than the big, spectacular, but also wonderful parts of living in Switzerland. I miss riding the tram and pushing the buggy around the city and shopping at our local Coop, where I could have done our shopping with my eyes closed! That's definitely one of the hardest parts for me.

And then I read this article about loss and grieving and it describes exactly how I've been feeling. And continue to feel. Jeez, seems like a dead horse by now, but this shit is hard and it is real. I think it's extra hard knowing it's still there. The decision to come back was our decision and it's not gone. How do you get closure when it's still there and we could just go back? Of course we couldn't go back to our same apartment and same life - Coco is older, we have Theo, etc. But, we wouldn't want to, either. The city itself, that's still there. Brutal.

Okay, enough rambling for this week. I'll leave you with this one last thing: Can you believe these beautiful photos taken down in subways? I love them all. I just realized I've never actually lived anywhere with a subway. Interesting.

I hope you have a lovely weekend. We are taking it easy and hopefully the kids will be over their cold by Sunday as we are planning to go back to Silverwood for the last nice day. Today is the last hot summery day. I've got my duvets airing out on our bedroom balcony and I'm excited to have the patio lights on tonight. See you back here Monday! xo

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

My Birthday Wish List

My birthday is less than two weeks away. And this year, I'm determined not to let it get swallowed up by Coco's birthday. That little darling was born two days after my birthday in 2011 and it's been a challenge to have our birthdays so close ever since. Yesterday, I finished planning her party, and now I'm ready to start thinking about my own.

Here's what's on my wishlist:

1. Smart, timeless blazer to wear with jeans and flats // 2. Glossier Boy Brow to give my brows some oomph // 3. Instax Polaroid Camera (and film!) because memories // 4. Slouchy Birkenstock booties for stomping through crunching leaves (I also love these) // 5. Dior Cheek & Lip Glow to have that flushed sick child look all winter long - minus the fever ;) // 6. L&J pillowcases I love that they say Good Night on the back // 7. A preorder copy of the new Domino book to flip through for inspiration // 8. A giant 1 liter size bkr bottle in the coolest new color // 9. The most striking Marimekko duvet covers to take us into winter

What's on your fall wish list? Or maybe you have a fall birthday, too? Apparently more people are born in September than any other month!

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Roadmap for Making Major Life Decisions

J and I are at a really exciting place right now. We are busy as can be, and in total overdrive planning mode. I sort of love that burst of planning and excitement that comes along with fall. It's like the "other new year." So the biggest thing on our minds, aside from all of the responsibility and intensity of J's class schedule at the moment, is next year. Next fall. When our lives are officially back on track, and this long and strange detour is over. All things considered, this detour has worked out extraordinarily well. When I think of all that we've been through, I realize that these were big things we had thought we would do "someday." It reminds me of the Doris Lessing quote: Whatever you're meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible. Damn if she wasn't right. We knew we wanted to experience the house-and-yard-life in Spokane, we knew we wanted J to do this coursework, and while we didn't leave Zurich to set out and do those things initially, I'm grateful we ended up right here, right now, doing them.

Even still, there is a piece of me that is shellshocked and hesitant, because it hasn't been easy. That piece can make me doubt myself and my ability to make decisions at all.

After a bit of Googling, I wasn't coming up with any good roadmaps for making major life decisions, so I drew upon what I've learned over the past few years, mixed it up with some conventional wisdom and anecdotes I've collected, and I'm eager to share it with you. If you'd like to make your own, grab a notebook or paper, some pencils and pens and let's dive in.

A complete road map for making major life decisions, straight ahead!

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