Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Babies Lie Flat

Ever since we took the Bugaboo to Silverwood, I've been thinking about how crazy it is that we hardly ever use it living here! In Zurich, I couldn't have survived a week without it. It was a member of our family! But here months will go by and we won't use it once. In fact, it has been floating about our house, taking up ridiculous amounts of precious space in our living room or kitchen for the past week. It may be time to break it down and take it back to the storage unit. Sniff. Which brings me to the topic of today's post.

In Switzerland, babies lie flat.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Positive Thinking Trick

Last weekend, J and I listened to a Hidden Brain podcast about rethinking positive thinking, and it really got me thinking...

Monday, August 22, 2016

Silverwood Theme Park

We had assumed that Coco and Theo were too little to enjoy Silverwood, but we were wrong! Earlier this month, we took them to Silverwood for the day and had an absolute blast! If you live anywhere nearby and haven't been, get there as soon as humanly possible. Silverwood is an exceptionally clean and well-run park, beautifully landscaped, family-friendly and non-stop fun!

In order to make the most of it, we took the Bugaboo and made sure the kids wore super comfortable shoes. Coco rode on the buggy board most of the time and Theo was delighted to be able to both look at us, and all around - something he isn't able to do in our Maclaren.

We packed a picnic so we wouldn't have to eat park food and saved that money for horrid treats like Cotton Candy and Dippin' Dots! Yuck. ;) In the end, we were having so much fun, we ate the park food anyway. I am happy to say that it was actually quite tasty and completely affordable!

We were surprised that even Theo was allowed on so many different rides and attractions as long as he was riding with an adult. Here we are on Little Toot, the cutest and tiniest roller coaster you'll ever see. It's all glossy and red and made in Italy and the kids loved it!

Coco felt like a true big kid and loved calling the shots on where to go next!

I was a little nervous to put Theo on Red Baron, but he absolutely loved it. They got their plane going up and down and he even called out "Hi, mama!" to me as they flew past!

Our favorite ride of all was the Paratrooper. We went on it twice - once J went with Coco and I went with Theo, and then we traded children.

The views from the top were really lovely. You could see most of the park and the surrounding hills and mountains.

Then, once everyone was on board, it got going really fast and we were positively sailing through the air and around the bends. It was so exhilarating! Both Coco and Theo loved it, and by the end, we were all grinning from ear to ear. 

The longest wait, but completely worth it, was for the Ferris Wheel. Being on a huge Ferris Wheel is like nothing else, don't you agree? Somehow it's thrilling, magical and relaxing all at the same time. I actually think Theo would have fallen asleep if we had gone around a few more times. But, as it turned out, he was just a happy little bear when we got off.

We had a such a good time on the antique steam locomotive, we forgot to take any photos! The train makes a 30-minute trip through the park's extensive grounds, complete with an entertaining Old West-themed enactment of a train hold up! Coco and Theo were spellbound the entire time.

They slept the entire way home and this was the scene once we pulled into our garage that night! It was so much fun, we decided we will squeeze in another day before the park closes at the end of September.

Have you been to Silverwood? Do you like going on rides and rollercoasters? I always thought I'd outgrow it when I became an adult, but I just don't think there is anything better than going on a big rollercoaster. If you're in the area, Silverwood has lots of big rides, too! It is definitely not just for kids. :)

(This post is sponsored by Silverwood Theme Park. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Swiss Lark possible!)

Friday, August 12, 2016

Have a delicious weekend!

Any exciting plans this weekend? My aunt is in town from Seattle, so we're having pizzas and salad  with a big group of family tonight. I might whip up a Pavlova ahead, or maybe a batch of these to throw on our salads instead? Coco has swimming lessons starting up again Monday and J and I are gearing up for our very first night away from both kids EVER next Tuesday. (Thanks, mom!) We are going here and I cannot wait. We're bringing a bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir Rosé and I'm so looking forward to uninterrupted conversation and 360 degree views at sunset. Also, stars. Hurrah!

Here's a bit of what caught my eye this week:

10 things to know before you have babies.

LOL! This is so me. ;)

Our kids have been on a screen fast since I read this chilling article.

And with the iPad gone, this is their favorite audio book to listen to in the car. 

What weird rules have you internalized from your parents? (My mom had my sister and I convinced that toilet cleaner was acid and would eat through our skin, a fear we shared well into our twenties until we all finally talked about it;)

The best (gluten-free) cocktail snack!

I hope your weekend is absolutely delicious. See you back here Monday! xo

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Humans of New York Invisible Wounds

Are you following Invisible Wounds, the Humans of New York and Headstrong Project collaboration? Earlier today, I started to read one of the stories, which are told in several parts, and was instantly hooked. The stories are gripping, personal and vulnerable and I found myself thinking about the people in the photos all day.

From the photo above:

(1/4) “My brother went to Harvard. He’s ‘Good Will Hunting’ smart. I lived with him in Cambridge for a while, and I visited the campus chapel, and up on the walls they had the names of every Harvard man who’s died in war. The list was so long for World War I and World War II. It went all the way to the ceiling. But the list got thinner and thinner as time passed. The best and the brightest didn’t show up for Vietnam. And I understand. I get that it was an unpopular war. But they chose to not show up and there was a consequence for that. There were leadership failures. Standards were lowered and people were killed because of bad decisions. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were going to happen whether I chose to participate or not. I was a fortunate son of this country. I had a good family. I went to a private school. I graduated from a great college. A lot of the guys who served under me didn’t have those advantages. They relied on me to make tough decisions in dangerous situations. And I’m glad I was there to make those decisions.”

(2/3) “All we wanted to know was who the bad guys were. But nobody knew. We were getting picked off one by one and we couldn’t find the bad guys. Some guy who was helping you during the day might kill you at night. The enemy didn’t wear uniforms. Far more innocent people got hurt than anyone else. It wasn’t malicious. It was just legitimately confusing situations. When you’re driving to a meeting and a car bomb explodes, suddenly every car looks like a bomb. And you’re surrounded by cars. And anybody could have a suicide vest. And you’re surrounded by people. It was threat overload. And it was mentally exhausting. One day we were driving to a small village to pick up a young Iraqi boy. We were going to fly him to the US for a rare heart surgery. And I’m in the back of the convoy doing rear security. And this woman in a burqa starts walking toward me. And I’m shouting in Arabic for her to stop, but she keeps coming. And I can see she’s carrying something. She’s clutching something inside her burqa. And she won’t stop. And I keep trying to wave her away. I’m screaming at her and pointing my gun but she keeps coming closer. And I’m thinking that I have to kill her because she has a bomb. I have to do it. And I switch off my safety, and I’m just about to pull the trigger, and suddenly she opens up her burqa. And there’s a baby inside.”

(3/3) “I know guys who look back on the war as the best time in their lives. They’d love to go back. They only see themselves as a soldier and I want more for them than that. I want them to be OK with being home and finding new and better ways to be themselves. What happened to being a good person? Or being the best version of yourself? I think at the end of the day, everyone just wants to feel good about what they did. And so do I. But I don’t. I don’t want to wave the flag and say we killed those motherfuckers. I don’t want to be thanked for my service. I don’t think it made anything better and I don’t think we won any hearts or minds. For a long time after I got back, I isolated myself in a cabin and drank all the time. Then at one point I decided that I was going to try everything possible to feel better. I was going to try acupuncture, chiropracty, therapy, and if nothing worked, I was going to kill myself. Recently I’ve been experimenting with femininity. I’ve never been feminine. My father put me in mixed martial arts when I was nine. I became a blackbelt and a kickboxer. I was always the tough chick. Now I’m trying to go in the opposite direction. I'm being very cliche about it. I’m doing yoga. I’m wearing dresses everyday. I’m wearing make-up. I even joined a woman’s group. Every month we have a sacred circle on the new moon and do guided meditations, set intentions, and eat chocolate. God, this is harder to talk about than bombs.” 

Repatriating after life abroad as a civilian is hard enough; I can't even pretend to know what it would feel like after experiencing the trauma of war. But it makes me want to go back and watch episodes in the first season of Homeland when Carrie and Brody connect over the shared experience of returning home forever changed. To be clear, I am in no way comparing living abroad to fighting in a war. I'm thinking solely of how all-encompassing immersion experiences change us. On a very basic level, there is a similarity and shared element. J and I started watching Homeland while we were still in Switzerland and I bet I would hear a lot more in those scenes between Carrie and Brody now than I did then.

Head on over to Humans of New York to read the remaining parts of these stories and more. I have such infinite respect for the Headstrong Project and the important work they're doing of helping veterans heal and return to normal life after serving in a war zone. A huge thank you to Brandon for featuring these amazing stories along with the beautiful photos. It truly does humanize these veterans and their stories and bring us all together.

(Photos via Humans of New York)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Summer to Fall Capsule Wardrobe

It feels like I have been wearing the same boring-to-me clothes forever. So this in-between time when summer is winding down and fall is coming but the days are still warm seemed like the perfect time to try out a capsule wardrobe. Have you ever made one? The basic idea is that you have five or six main items. A pair of jeans, a dress, non-jean pants, a blazer or jacket, a blouse or top and maybe a sweater. Then you have accessories and basics, like shirts and camisoles, and of course shoes to round out complete outfits. Total purists will actually have a wardrobe that is truly only 10 or 12 items including shoes and outerwear. But, in general, the idea is that you create a mix and match wardrobe that gets you through an entire season with just five or six main pieces.

I had so much fun putting together this little wardrobe above. I love the cropped wide-leg look and I like that many of these pieces could be worn in late summer and yet still make it all the way through fall. The black tunic is a versatile item that could be dressed up or down and the relaxed fit would be forgiving to my not-budging mom shape! I'm in love with the delicate bar earrings with little stones. And the gold watch and tote would go with everything. Ankle booties are great with dresses, jeans and cropped pants and can cruise right into fall with tights and socks.

What do you think? Would you try a capsule wardrobe? Or if you have already, what worked and what didn't? 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Sports in America

It has been my most sincere wish since Coco was born that she become a ballerina. The ballet mom lifestyle is just so much more my speed than the soccer mom lifestyle. Let's break it down: Ballet lessons happen once per week, a few more days when they're older, but with a grand total of precisely one (1) recital in the spring. Soccer moms, on the other hand, are driving back and forth to practice each week and going to weekly games on Saturday morning. That's the best morning of the week ruined by getting up and out of the house early, each and every week. Please, no!

I was never a sporty child, nor did I participate in any high school sports, unless you consider cheerleading a sport. Yet, some of my most vivid childhood memories have to do with sports. I remember loving the emerald green of our uniforms and admiring the way my own pony tail swung back and forth on my shadow as I tossed my head to and fro, daydreaming with the warm sun on my back the year I played soccer. Throughout the entire season, my uniform stayed perfectly clean. It looked so great with my dark hair and pale skin in the team photo. Jewel tones! They're still totally my colors. Then, I remember spending all of my time on the bench in sixth grade basketball. To say I was short is the biggest understatement of all time. (No pun intended;) Once, we were losing by so much, that our coach figured he might as well give me some play time. After a missed shot, and a missed rebound, I picked the ball up and actually ran under the legs of the behemoth player guarding me on the other team. No joke. That's how short I was. In softball, they created a position just for me! They told me it was sort of like a short stop, which is a very important position, but between first and second instead of second and third. Later I realized it wasn't a special position at all, but that I was just that worthless of a player. No, sports and I never did get along. But I never cared, either. My interests in theater, music and writing were enough. The arts kept me fulfilled, confident and fed my soul. In fact, all of those sporty people just seemed like a bunch of aggressive animals to me. They weren't the enlightened daydreamers I preferred to spend my time with.

All the same, I have always felt like a bit of a weirdo for not giving a twit about sports. To this day I don't follow any teams and I'm always genuinely surprised to hear that people actually watch The Olympics! Then, about a month ago, I happened upon the article The Case Against High-School Sports, published in The Atlantic in 2013, and it really struck a chord. I felt so vindicated reading as the author, Amanda Ripley, wrote, "Like most other Americans, I can rattle off the many benefits of high-school sports: exercise, lessons in sportsmanship and perseverance, school spirit, and just plain fun. All of those things matter...But as I’ve traveled around the world visiting places that do things differently—and get better results—I’ve started to wonder about the trade-offs we make." Suddenly, I saw my indifference to sports not as a harbinger of some fatal flaw of mine, or something I lacked, but rather for what it simply is: a value I do not share with my own sports-obsessed culture.

American high-schools invest an incredible amount of time and resources into sports. Student athletes who don't care about their grades and only go to class so they can play in that week's game are a well-worn cliché. For the longest time, I was horrified at the way Swiss students are openly ranked and separated into academic, professional and vocational track high schools from a young age. Now, I'm beginning to think that that focus on future achievement and career stability is way better than wasting one's teen years with the shortsighted habit of only going to class in order to play in the game that Friday night.

So far, it would appear that Coco really does not care that much for ballet. I've signed her up for another year, but most of last year she whined and protested against her weekly lesson. What she really wants to do is gymnastics. As a Montessori mama, I will follow her lead on this one because children deserve to be supported in following their own interests and I cannot deny that she does possess a great deal of athletic prowess. Coco advanced into the swimming lessons for five to eight year olds last summer when she was still three! She is a phenomenal skier. And I could see her really excelling at gymnastics. I'm proud that as a mother, I have neither passed on my hatred of tomatoes nor my irrational fear of spiders to my daughter. Now I can add to that list, my utter lack of interest in sports.

When Coco was a toddler and we were making the decision to stay in Switzerland or come back to the US, I thought that giving her an American upbringing and identity were so important to me. Somehow, I was able to overlook the fact that I don't actually share a lot of the quintessential American values to which we were coming home. I abhor the glorification of sports and sports heroes. All of the inevitable linebacker comments after Theo was born made me cringe. And I honestly can't think of a worse way to spend my weekend than watching my child compete physically against other children. But it runs deep. For some inexplicable reason, I feel almost ashamed for writing that.

It's deeply unsettling to realize that perhaps your own culture is not where you want to live and raise your children. Becoming parents abroad changed us forever. If we ultimately do decide to move back to Europe and raise Coco and Theo there, I hope they will some day understand our decision. Maybe they will even thank us some day for making it a higher priority for them to be cosmopolitan and bilingual over American and sporty.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Have a fab weekend.

It's Friday already! I'm hoping to get in a bike ride or two this weekend. And, also, we need to plan out and schedule for fall. J's classes start up in a few weeks and I'm so ready to be back on a routine. The kids aren't sleeping well and everything feels a bit crazy by this point in the summer. I love this time of craving crisp days and fall clothes and braised meats. I love summer, but nothing could ever beat fall! I'm feeling it. So ready.

And, here are a few fun links for your weekend:


Ask yourself this.

There are no original ideas.

Want so bad.

Made me snort laughing!

Gourmet camping.

Is it just me, or is everyone going here this summer? (I've been wanting to go for years!)

Interesting Finds.

Obama nails it.

And, in case you missed it, I was featured on the inspiring blog Milk and Motherhood.

I hope you have a fantastic weekend! See you back here Monday. xo

Thursday, August 4, 2016

On turning two.

Theo is officially two years old. For his birthday, we went with my sister and her husband up to a cabin on Lake Roosevelt. We played on the beach and rode in the boat and saw wild horses and deer and little tiny baby frogs. Theo loved seeing a waterfall from the boat. Now that he is two, he is really not my baby anymore! His baby years went by far too quickly and now my mind is on overdrive with questions. When will we begin weaning? Should I transition his crib to be a toddler bed? Should we have another baby?

Weaning has been on my mind for a few months. With Coco, I never had to wean her. I got pregnant with Theo, and once I had entered the second trimester, my milk stopped producing and that was that. She was not happy about it and complained "milk's not working!" but got over it really quickly and stopped trying. I was secretly relieved because I had no desire to tandem nurse and the process of weaning completely freaked me out.

Now, here I am. Weaning still completely freaks me out. How on earth do I do this? How long does it normally take? I'm so exhausted. I really think it's time.

Another terrifying development of late is that Theo is very close to being able to climb out of his crib. Obviously we have to change his bed into a toddler bed before that happens. But, obviously we also want to keep him in a crib as long as possible. Sleepy toddlers should not have access to roam freely about the house in the dark. So, when do we do it? And is it going to make bedtime even more difficult? (Don't answer that;)

The baby question is the hardest one of all. We are so lucky to have one boy and one girl, and they're both ridiculously beautiful and healthy. My pelvic floor is still intact! Sometimes I think I couldn't possibly have the energy for another one. And it is certainly a huge expense. But then I think about how much I loved being pregnant, and the incredible wonder of giving birth, the magic of those newborn days and how awesome it is to breastfeed a tiny baby. I remember the little noises they make and the quiet moments nursing in the middle of the night. Swaddling, wearing the baby in a wrap, chubby thighs! Life is short. We get one shot at this crazy, beautiful experience. Why on earth would I forgo the experience of having another baby when I want one? Still, it's a tough call. We will just have to wait and see on that one. I have no desire to get pregnant right now, and this upcoming year is going to be busy and hectic. Plus, I'm almost feeling fit and strong again, but my body needs just a bit more time to recover fully from 9 lbs, 10 oz Theo! However, after that, in the intervening years before 40, I'll have a little window of time left. How on earth did it all go by so quickly? I'm not sure I'm ready for this time to be over. So here is my promise to myself: If I find myself desperate to have a baby before that window of opportunity closes, then we will. We totally will. But, no fretting for the moment. We'll just have to wait and see how we feel when we get there.

How do you handle the transitions your baby goes through? Are you excited with each new phase and passing milestone, or are you searching for the pause button like me?

Monday, August 1, 2016

Happy 725th Birthday, Switzerland!

Today is the Swiss National Day. Man, do we ever miss it. In honor of Switzerland's 725th birthday, I thought I would share a few items from our Swiss Bucket List with you. We always planned on doing these things someday, but somehow never managed to get to it all while we were there. Sigh.

First up is the Seealpsee. When I saw the photo above on Instagram the other day, I immediately sent a screen shot to Joel with the caption, "We need to go here." And he immediately wrote back and said "It's famous. That's the lake on the label of the bier I used to drink." HA! That made me laugh out loud. In my mind, I instantly saw the beer label!

On the same hike, you pass by the Seealpsee and the Äscher Hotel, which is built right into the side of a cliff overlooking a gorgeous valley. Isn't it breathtaking? That hike and those views are definitely number one on the bucket list for me.

Next is the Lavaux Vineyard Terraces hike. This walk goes up and down along the wine terraces that grace the northern shores of Lake Geneva. With views of the lake and Alps, it is quintessential Switzerland.

The Bernina Express Railway is equally beautiful in summer or in winter. The train cars have special panoramic windows that allow incredible views. It's absolutely magical to relax and take in the views as you glide along the slick Swiss rails.

Then there is the Aareschlucht, or Aare Gorge, hike with its pristine milky glacial waters. The trail is built into the rock on platforms that hang over the water in some sections. It looks ridiculously wonderful.

The Five Lakes hike is one that we actually attempted, but had to abandon due to lack of visibility. We got up there and couldn't see more than 15 feet in front of our toes. It was a no go. So sad, because on a clear day, it's really magical!

Finally, we always wanted to visit the Verzascatal, or Valle Verzasca, in Ticino, the Italian speaking region of Switzerland. The water is ultra clear, green and sparkling and there is an impressive tall dam upriver. Scuba divers love to take amazing underwater photos here. It's absolutely gorgeous.

If you're ever visiting Switzerland, My Switzerland, curated and run by Switzerland Tourism, is the absolute best resource in existence for discovering and planning every and any type of excursion, from food to hiking and skiing, to boats and trains. My Switzerland was on our bookmarks bar the entire time we lived there - and still is! ;) Happy Birthday, dear Switzerland! xo

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