Saturday, December 19, 2015

Enjoy your weekend!

Things are just crazy busy around here. I have been sick with the nastiest head-cold-slash-sinus-infection-slash-plugged-ears thing for weeks. I'm low energy and grumpy and Christmas is speeding into view. The house is a wreck, we've got mountains of laundry to get through and I just want to crawl in bed and sleep, or take a bubble bath, or cry. You know the feeling? Ugh. Tis the season for viruses and exhaustion.

But I'm so happy that the solstice is nearly here. In four days, we will be on the other side of it and each day will be just a little bit longer and a little bit lighter. That gives cause for rejoice!

And here are some links for your weekend.

The remembering power of water.

Schooling fit for a king!

To have a mom, to be a mom.

Listen closely for the coastal French winds.

We are having Yorkshire puddings with roast chicken and gravy tonight.

Don't worry, it's allowed.

I've never experienced any breastfeeding shaming. Have you?

Slow cooker recipe collection. Bookmarking this for January!

But where does all the stuff go?

The classic sweet potato casserole.

Ways to support post-trauma healing.

The most ridiculous thing ever. Really.

I'm happy to report that the snow is really coming down outside! :) See you back here Monday! xo

(Photo via we are knitters

Monday, December 14, 2015

Getting a Christmas Tree in Switzerland

Going to get a Christmas tree in Zurich was always a fun adventure. After you selected your tree, the shopkeeper would wrap it in netting for you. Then it was easy to take on the train or tram - or both! Our last year in Zurich, we kept things simple and all went together and got a tree pretty close to home. One of us carried Coco, and one of us carried the tree to and from the train, which we only had to ride a few stops.
But the year before, most of the places close to home didn't have trees yet and I was itching to have one, so when I saw them in the Migros in Adliswil, I bought one - and took it all the way home to Seefeld on the train and tram. Here we are waiting for the train. The Bugaboo really is the minivan of strollers!
And on the train. It was nearing rush hour and as we got closer Zurich's main station, the train was more and more crowded! I opted for more walking, but fewer crowds, and got out one stop early.
It was pretty romantic to cross over the bridge and go past the circus between Bürkliplatz and Bellevue with a tree in the buggy!
Coco was just one-year-old and thankfully slept in the Ergo most of the way.
When we got home, J saw us pull up and leaned out the kitchen window to snap a few photos. City living is such a fun adventure. I miss it! This year and last, J and Coco just went to pick up our tree at one of the local tree spots after school and brought it home in the car with no fuss. Honestly, the fuss was half the fun!

How do you get your tree? Do you carry it home in your buggy? Chop it down in the woods? Tie it to the top of the car? Dog sled? ;) Chime in the comments below. xo

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Coco & Theo's Christmas List

The cutest ever pom pom ballet flats in her favorite color to wear with all of her dresses.
The remaining furniture sets for her darling Cottage Dollhouse, and...
a sweet little Calico Critters rabbit family to live in the dollhouse. They have a mama and dada and big girl and baby brother like us!
The classic farm with noises and animals to make him laugh and dance.
A keepsake handprint set to remember, years from now, how tiny his hands once were.
A (chewable) nativity scene for the two of them to play with under the tree year after year.
A big set of wooden blocks to play with together. These encourage the most creative play of any toy I've seen!
A Sonicare for Kids toothbrush as recommended by the dentist. Why not? Cavities are expensive!
Gyo Fujikawa books. These books have the sweetest illustrations that Theo loves to point at and coo, plus they're extra relaxing for bedtime.

And, a little trip down memory lane with Coco's 2013 list, and Christmas in Kieselgasse.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Do you meditate?

When I was in college, and struggling with some mild depression and anxiety issues, I had a doctor prescribe me meditation sessions with an energy healer. This, of course, would only happen at the University of Oregon Health Center, but I wish it were happening everywhere because it's one of the best things that ever happened to me.

My energy healer's name was Jude. She was kind and open and genuine. Our weekly sessions were all about guided meditations, but in between it was my job to meditate daily (or as close to it as possible) with the guidance of this cheesy, but wonderful book. It was pretty amazing. Meditating made me calmer, more clear-headed and happier. It didn't take all that much time out of my day and, unlike anti-depressants or other medications, had no bad side effects.

Lately, I've been meaning to dig out my copy of that book and start meditating again. We are very much still navigating our way through the grand transition that began when we got out of Duluth, and some days I find I'm just grumpy and unmotivated. It's partly the darkness this time of year, but it's also that we've got a lot up in the air and that can be hard to deal with after a while. I even began to wonder if meditating would be enough, and then I saw the article, Medicating Women's Health, by Julie Holland, in The New York Times. It is a beautiful, moving and thoughtful piece written by a psychiatrist offering a new perspective on women's emotionality. "Women's emotionality is a sign of health, not disease; it is a source of power," she writes. My favorite line is, "People who don’t really need these drugs are trying to medicate a normal reaction to an unnatural set of stressors: lives without nearly enough sleep, sunshine, nutrients, movement and eye contact, which is crucial to us as social primates." I felt like she took all of my angst and rolled it into one concise sentence. If you would like to, you can read the whole article here.

I don't normally set new year's resolutions, but this year, I really feel called upon to cultivate a practice of self-care. The way I'm feeling right now is really quite simple, and manageable. I read recently that self-care doesn't mean "me first" but rather "me too" and I really love that. So deciding to practice self-care and make sure I'm getting enough sleep, sunshine, nutrients, movement and eye contact is the easy part. Carving out time in our schedules to make it happen is where the work lies. I'm curious, do you meditate? How do you carve out time for self-care?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Do or Don't: Montessori Elementary

Parents often wonder, as their child approaches completion of the Montessori Primary Program, if they should continue with Montessori Elementary. As with everything in Montessori, it all comes down to the individual child.

In the Montessori Elementary, children have many of the same freedoms they had in the Primary. They're allowed to choose what to work on and when, they're able to move freely around the classroom and garden, rather than having desks in rows like traditional schools, and, just as in the Primary, children follow their internal motivation. So when considering Montessori Elementary, the question you need to ask is: How motivated is my child?

My own mother is trained at the Primary and Elementary levels in Montessori. She has taught for over 30 years and currently runs her own school. My brother, who went on to get an Ivy League masters degree and currently lives and works in New York, went to Montessori Elementary. When left to his own devices, he was a kid who got to work. He was curious, he was interested in doing things. He wanted to learn. Those qualities made him a really good fit for the Montessori Elementary. I, on the other hand, did not go to Montessori Elementary. I went to Catholic School! Yes, I was very smart and really didn't have to try at all to get good grades, but I was not motivated in the same way my brother was. When left to my own devices, I preferred to daydream or socialize. I was an avid reader, curious and loved writing, but I lacked the industrious motivation my brother had. That made me a poor candidate for the Montessori Elementary. I did much better with imposed deadlines and intimidation and fear. I still do! That's not to say that I don't get things done, or that I'm a bad worker, because I'm not. It's just the distinction between industrious motivation and the art of doing nothing. My brother naturally bends toward the former and I'm an expert at the latter. Both of us possess considerable joie de vivre and are very social and have lots of friends. It's just this difference in inclination when left to our own devices.

Aside from your own child's motivation, it's important to observe in the prospective school. How is the program organized and how do the teachers keep the children accountable? When you're in preschool and kindergarten, it's all just gravy. Not in Elementary school; there are things you have to learn. While none of us advocate for teaching to the test and removing all creativity and innovation from the learning process, it is necessary to cover all the bases. So visit and get a feel for what they've got going on there and imagine your child fitting into it.

Other considerations are social group, proximity of peers and demographics. Montessori Elementary classrooms tend to be smaller and offer fewer choices in peers. At the same time, they tend to come from a pretty homogenous group and don't offer a lot of diversity in terms of race and income differences. One concern for many parents is all the driving it creates, both to and from school and to play dates. When your child is in public school, their friends are right in the neighborhood and they may even be able to walk to school. Are team sports or band a priority? Most Montessori programs do not offer these types of extracurriculars.

Montessori Elementary is amazing. It gives children a learning environment that responds to their stage of development, allows for inquiry and discovery and hands-on learning. It can produce phenomenal results. If your child's teacher has suggested your child for the elementary, chances are very good that your child will blow you away with what they can do in there!

What else plays into your decision making for your child's education? What have you chosen for your child? Please chime in in the comments below! xo

Also, Choosing a Montessori School in case you missed it.

(Photo via Hellenica World)

Friday, December 4, 2015

Enjoy your weekend

I don't know about you guys, but I am feeling super depressed about the frequency of mass shootings in the US. J and I feel more and more certain each day that it's time to take concrete steps toward moving back to Zurich. I long to live somewhere I feel safe again. Yes, there is terrorism in Europe. But 300 times more Americans have been killed by other Americans with guns this year than people were killed in the Paris attacks. A friend of mine who is also repatriating after nearly a decade in Switzerland put it perfectly in a message on Facebook: "I'm so sad at my own country's lack of democracy, yet so wanted to enjoy being back here. My heart is tired. Do you know what I mean?" 

I know exactly what she means. Polls show that the majority of Americans support stricter gun laws and yet nothing happens. That's not very democratic. Like my friend, I also wanted to enjoy being back here in the US, but with big issues like the economy and senseless gun violence, I find that I can't. I also miss a million little things about our life in Zurich. As time goes on, I find it harder and harder to imagine not going back. I just hope we can get over all the hurdles that lie between us and a life there again. As happy as that makes me, it makes me sad, too. My heart is tired. Do you know what I mean?

So, I hope you'll enjoy your weekend. See you back here Monday. xo

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Black Friday Extended: Holiday Cards from Minted

J and I have gotten our holiday cards from Minted every year since 2010. Minted is a design marketplace of independent artists from around the globe. All of their designs are fresh and unique and you won't find them anywhere else. Their standard paper is thick and luxurious and they're a really wonderful value for your money. 

Click on Read More below to see our past two years' cards and to learn more about Minted's special 20% off offer valid through Sunday night 11/29! 

Friday, November 27, 2015

My Best Black Friday Sale Recommendations

Black Friday sales aren't just for overly indulgent holiday shopping; they're also a great time to get your family the essentials they need at a great price. Here's what we are taking advantage of this year. We may be short on cash lately, but we'll never sacrifice our style or fashion! ;)

Tea Collection has $12, $15 and $17 deals!

Up to 50% off at Nordstrom.

20% off holiday cards at Minted!

The Honest Company is offering 50% off your first bundle.

No exclusions! 40% off everything at Stride Rite.

Nicole's Classes is offering 50% off!

Amazon has a promo going on one of our favorite brands, Green Toys, among dozens of others!

Gymboree is doing 50% off everything! (Coco loves their Olivia Collection:)

And, of course, we could never live without Baby Gap. 50% off store/site-wide!

Happy shopping to you! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. xoxo

(Photo via Bloglovin)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Flour Power

I desperately miss the flour we used in Zurich. Not only was it totally chic in its cream colored bag with vintage design and sleek typography, but it was really good flour. Pastry dough came together easy as pie, pancake batters were smooth, dumplings and cookies came out fluffy and perfect. Back Stateside, I've tried making all of the above with a variety of different flours and they all suck. Pie crust is crumbly and dense, pancake batters are lumpy, and dumplings are brick like. I just do not get it. I'm using new cans of the same Trader Joe's baking powder and soda I always took back to Zurich with me on every visit to the States. What is the difference?
But it's not just flour based recipes. Other recipes aren't turning out as well, either. Our beloved Spaghetti Bolognese (from this brilliant cookbook) isn't turning out as tasty. It seems like everything I cooked or baked in Switzerland was richer and filled with more flavor. I'm using high-quality ingredients like organic ground pork and beef and imported Italian pancetta. Is it just my imagination?

Has anyone else experienced this? And please, give me your recommendations for your favorite all-purpose flour. I have two discs of worthless pie crust in the fridge and I need to make a cherry pie today! ;) Thank you. xo

Friday, November 20, 2015

Have a safe and warm weekend

What are you up to this weekend? If you have a moment, send some good wishes to the people of Spokane who are still without power since the historic wind storm that hit Tuesday afternoon. The photo above is of our friends' house. Can you believe that?! She put this photo on Facebook with the caption, "This windstorm showed us who's boss," and I really have to congratulate her for keeping a sense of humor right now. I would totally be crying!

Due to unexpected thawing thanks to the power outage, we are having a spontaneous early Thanksgiving here Sunday evening with deep fried turkey. I pretty much cannot wait!

Here are some links for your weekend:

Photos of the Spokane Wind Storm. UNREAL!

Priced out of parenthood.

Intrigued by this Thanksgiving dessert.

How to do laundry the right way. (You've been doing it all wrong!)

Coco's new winter boots. Ridiculously cute! (Take 20% off with code DEALSWEEK)

Critical small space living tips.

How's your password?

That's it. I must go to Seoul.

Time to dress up the sweats.

We're not in our twenties, but we're kind of broke! ;) Recipes for those times.

I'm in love with this nursery in Iceland.

And in case you missed it, my ode to the wind storm. It really has been great for us.

Stay warm and safe and see you back here Monday! xo

Spokane Wind Storm 2015

Tuesday morning, I was idly scrolling through my Facebook feed when I saw a Spokesman-Review mention of a severe wind storm coming. It said that it would be worst around 4pm Tuesday and it would continue through Wednesday morning. We dropped Coco off at school, went to Trader Joe's and stocked up with four big (reusable) bags of groceries. We stopped off at a friend's house and got some firewood and then went back to get Coco early from school at 1 o'clock. We already had lots of candles and matches at home. We were ready. We settled in with a cozy fire and read lots of books together and then we pretty much thought nothing of it.

Holy hell.

By 3:30, it was like an inland hurricane out there. My mom was the first in our family to lose power. By 4, one of my sisters had also lost power. By 4:30, when J and Coco went to pick up my mom at her house, there were downed trees blocking roads everywhere. Later reports confirmed that one woman had been killed by a falling tree in my mom's neighborhood. Over a thousand trees went down in the city parks alone. This is tall tree country around here. Ponderosa pines are super tall and just as treacherous when they're falling over. The destruction the next day was insane. It's still insane. School was cancelled for three days. So many houses and cars were smashed by trees. Over 200,000 people lost power.

The house across the street from us was bashed in by a ponderosa at the back. Then, the tricky thing with those tall ponderosas is that the top snaps off after the impact and goes on to cause further damage. The house next door to the house across the street had a huge portion of the roof damaged and the small gable roof over the side door was completely knocked off by top of the ponderosa that snapped off when it hit the other house! The people in the house across the street were renters and the house was uninhabitable after the smash. So the next day, there they were with a U-Haul, just moving out. Crazy.

We were so lucky. We didn't lose power and our house was just fine, except for a few shingles that blew off of the roof and into the backyard. Our house has been like a revolving door ever since. My mom is staying with us. Thankfully, our couch is quite comfortable, she reports. Every morning, my uncle comes for coffee and my sister and cousin have been coming regularly to recharge phones, drink coffee or tea and stay warm.

All afternoon Wednesday, my cousin was here. We didn't sit down and focus on one another like we normally do when we get together. She had a FaceTime call with her boyfriend. She played with Coco and Theo for a bit. She worked on some knitting she had going, and between loads of laundry and scrubbing the bathroom sink, I helped her cast-on and pull it out and cast-on again. While I loaded the dishwasher for the third time, we chatted about one thing and another. As I swept the floor, I noticed from across the room that she was knitting all wrong and we laughed and she pulled it all out and I helped her start again.

I was doing dishes Wednesday evening, feeling so full of love and happiness and I realized, this is what I thought living in Spokane would be like. I thought there would be family around all the time. I thought there would be this constant feeling of togetherness. But it took an historic storm and widespread power outages to make that happen. Why is that? Are our modern lives really that busy? Is it so rude to stop by unannounced that we don't bother anymore? Is anyone ever home anyway?

I'm so grateful for this storm. Granted, we fared very well and didn't suffer in the slightest. But it also gave me a huge dose of love and family closeness that I've been craving. Coco announced at dinner last night that she would like Grandma Joanie to move in forever. We will never forget it.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Montessori Monday: Talking About Tragedy

When bad things happen, like the terrorist attacks in Paris over the weekend, it can be hard to know what to say to our children. Even if we choose not to tell them about it ourselves, inevitably they hear or see something they don't understand. News media is everywhere and filled with disturbing images. Personally, I am not comfortable with sheltering Coco from the realities of life. I believe when bad things happen, we have to talk to our kids about it.

One Montessori mantra that comes to mind is "brief and true". It's the idea that whenever you're speaking to young children between the ages of 3 and 6, you should keep your statements truthful and concise. Children are unlikely to listen to a lecture. Instead, they want you to give them something to help them understand right that minute.

So far Coco hasn't asked about what happened in Paris, but, when she saw the photo of the refugee child who had drowned on the beach in Greece, she was curious. "What happened to that boy?!" she asked. I explained that his family had to leave their home, so they traveled to the sea and tried to go across it in a little boat, but the boat turned over and he died. Pretty brief and all true. This led to Coco asking why they didn't just stay at home. I responded because their city was full of fighting and wasn't safe; they didn't have anywhere to live or work or play, and no table at which to eat their food together.

She thought about it for a minute, then her eyes grew wide and she asked me, "In this world?" Yes, Coco. In this world. I find it hard to believe, too.

Try to avoid over simplifying or phrasing like "bad guys". It's also important to avoid making the issue black and white. Life is messy and grey most of the time. To suggest otherwise would be false. Children appreciate when their intelligence and status as fellow human beings is respected. They're not emotionally or intellectually ready to have the whole story, of course, but they need to hear honest information that they can understand, relate to, and digest.

I genuinely believe that it strengthens our children's capacity for empathy and compassion when they are exposed to some of the harsh realities of life in a way that they can comprehend. So, keep it true and brief rather than keeping them in the dark. What do you think? How do you approach these issues with your children?

Also, a great podcast about talking to kids about death.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Have a great weekend

What are you up to this weekend? I have come down with a pesky cold, so I'll be taking it easy. It doesn't help that right now I am so homesick for Zurich. The Christmas season is so wonderful there. The smell of Marroni (roasting chestnuts), Glühwein (mulled wine) and Raclette at little stands on nearly every street, Conelli Circus and this year Coco would have been old enough to ride the Märlitram. I could cry! But, on the bright side, we get Thanksgiving on the actual day and we will finally be able to take our kids to have their photo on Santa's lap. Plus, we don't have to travel for the holidays. All positives.

Here is what caught my eye this week.

I totally love this song. (The video is SO BAD. Don't watch it!)

Brilliant, understated tiles.

Long hair, don't care.

Loving this sweet nativity play set. And this one is cute, too.

Is your parenting style damaging your marriage?

Martha's gluten-free Thanksgiving.

The antidote to that annoying, "don't tell your daughter she's beautiful" advice.

This one made me laugh.

The best news for IKEA lovers in Spokane. (And, enter to win $500 in IKEA furnishings:)

I'm drooling over this cherry pie with almond crumble recipe. Yes, please. With a cup of coffee à la Twin Peaks.

See you all back here on Monday! Enjoy your weekend. xo

Photo via zuerich.com

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Are you a wine snob?

Now that I work at Trader Joe's, I find myself doing all sorts of bizarre things, like using a box knife to cut and stack and display insane amounts of Two Buck Chuck. We have so many cases of wine out on the floor at one time that we actually use them to build a little room, a room that houses wine tasting on the weekends. Naturally! You might be more familiar with its proper name, Charles Shaw. It's the super cheap wine that sells for two dollars per bottle in California, usually a dollar more in states that slap more tax on wine. It is exclusive to Trader Joe's. And that's the only thing that's exclusive about it.

While J and I have graduated to boxed wine as overwhelmed parents, there is still a very special place in my heart for Charles Shaw, or Two Buck Chuck if that's what you call it. We just so happened to serve it at our wedding.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sleep Deprivation

Honestly, today, it's like I am seeing the world anew. Our avocados at breakfast seemed to be the most beautiful color I'd ever seen. My first sip of coffee was so rich and luxuriously tasty it made me stop, say Mmmmmmm and feel grateful. Mind you, this was a cup of coffee that I had topped off with boiling water because it had been sitting in the French Press for over an hour! Then, after breakfast, watching Theo walk and take little steps with his sweet chubby legs filled me with the most indescribable joy.

I think it's all because I got a good night's sleep.

When Theo was ten days old, J snapped the photo above of me co-sleeping with Coco and Theo. I love this photo so much. It captures all of the sweetness that makes co-sleeping completely worth it and wonderful. But, the night before last, I got to thinking (as I have many times before) that it may be time to give up co-sleeping once and for all. I haven't been getting good sleep lately and now that I'm working late some nights, I honestly can't deal.

But, it just doesn't seem like we'll ever go through with it, so I filed that thought away for later. Then, last night, as I was getting ready for bed, I happened to think of it, so I ran into the hallway and grabbed a sheet to cover the blinds on the door to the balcony off of our bedroom. There's a light in the alley that really bothers me at night. Somehow that horrid light manages to shine right through the tiny holes in the blinds and straight into my eyes at night. It is ridiculous. Until we get a curtain, I figured, why not just hang a sheet up there?

OMG. Total game changer.

Last night, I slept all night long and it's got to be because of the sheet! Theo was in bed with us and Coco climbed in during the night, too, but I only vaguely remember her coming in and asking for a drink of water. I don't remember Theo waking me once before sunrise. Then, this morning, J and Coco got up and got ready for school and work and I didn't even hear them. Theo and I slept until 8 o'clock! Seriously.

Co-sleeping wasn't the problem. Theo hadn't been waking me at all. I think it was that light in the alley! I can't even count the number of times I woke up with that thing beaming into me like a laser beam, and I think it had been waking Theo, too. The light may have even been preventing me from getting into deep sleep. It's a known fact that bright light will mess up your circadian rhythm and sleep cycles. I am leaving that ugly sheet there until we get a curtain!

It is amazing to get restorative rest when you're sleep deprived. The whole world seems different. If you're getting bad sleep lately, really assess your sleep environment and make sure it's nice and dark, cool and quiet. Little changes can make all the difference. Sleep is king!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Have a cozy weekend

What are your weekend plans? I'm working tonight and Sunday at my new part-time job at Trader Joe's! It is actually the perfect solution for our family right now because I can work evenings and weekends and we don't have the added cost of childcare. Plus, their benefits are really out of sight. It's kind of an amazing company, it turns out. I'm feeling so grateful for it right now. I love that our kids are with their parents full-time and I still have the time and energy to devote to writing. Win, win!

Saturday night, my niece is babysitting and J and I are going out on a much-needed and horribly overdue date night. We will eat at home, then go out for cocktails at Santé (the best!) and take a walk through downtown. I can't wait to have some time together, just us.

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

The most beautiful phone cases.

I love this essay so much. I read it again and again.

Cold and flu tonic to make at home.

IKEA asks kids what they want for Christmas.

The loveliest alternative to Thanksgiving sports games. Do you play?

Nordstrom's big fall sale is underway. :)

But, it's not fall until we make this exquisitely simple dinner.

An inspiring new video series from Holy Mama.

Have you seen these hilariously awkward Tweets inspired by The Bloggess?!

Interesting perspective on life and vacation.

I hope your weekend is wonderfully cozy and restful. See you back here Monday! xo

(Armoire photo via Design Mom. 650-square-feet essay via Cup of Jo.)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Swiss way to get rid of the pacifier

Coco hit a huge milestone Tuesday when she decided to give all of her nuggis to the Nuggi Fairy. Nuggi sounds like cookie and is the Swiss German equivalent of paci or binki. We were honestly beginning to think that Coco would leave for college with her nuggi! For more than a year, it's been for sleeping at night only, but still, her teeth are clearly displaced from it and it was past time. We had made one attempt to get rid of it in the summer, which resulted in Theo giving up his nuggi for good, but Coco held strong.

As with all parenting dilemmas, I suddenly felt really, truly, confidently ready. So Tuesday morning, I asked her if she'd like to gather up all of her nuggis and make them into a necklace. Then, I explained, we could take them into the forest and - she interrupted me and finished the story, including what the Nuggi Fairy would bring her in return! The whole story after the jump.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Customer Service in Switzerland

Oddly enough, I am feeling wonderfully comfortable with my ambivalence following our trip to Zurich. I had hoped to come back with clarity on our future plans to either a). move back to Zurich or b). settle in Spokane. Now, I feel totally at ease with going back and forth multiple times a day. What's coming? We don't know, and it honestly doesn't matter. Clarity, shmarity!

But, one thing that I have 100% clarity on is the total and utter lack of customer service in Switzerland.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Zurich in Photos

Our trip to Zurich was absolutely magical. It was just like riding a bike. Much to my surprise, it's all still there, just waiting for us. Nothing has changed, nothing is gone or lost. It's all there, and we could be too.

If you'd like to see, I have loads more photos to share after the jump!



Monday, November 2, 2015

Montessori Monday: Mealtime

When it comes to Montessori Monday, I've received more questions relating to the messes and feeding at mealtimes than anything else. I spent a while thinking about it and asking others, and really, when it comes to meals and messes, it is a very personal choice. You just have to do what works for your family. Read through some options below to see what resonates with you.

Strictly Montessori
The Montessori way involves using a weaning table. From the time a child starts solids, meals are taken at a small table and chairs and the child uses all breakable tableware. This option works well for the first child, but then many parents find it stressful to feed two children at different tables if the older child has graduated to the family table by the time the second child weans. We never pursued the weaning table for lack of space. Plus, it just seemed like too much extra work.

Tripp Trapp
Both Coco and Theo have Tripp Trapp chairs and sit right at the dining room table with us. I love that they're at the same level as us and feel like our equals at the dining table. Currently, Theo's still using the baby seat so he doesn't fall and therefore it can't be pushed in under the table. The Tripp Trapp tray is the perfect solution. It's easy to remove and wash and we really do love it. The best thing about the Tripp Trapp is that it grows with your child. While the upfront price tag is hefty, it will get daily use for more than a decade! Totally worth it.

Self-feeding and Messes
Coco allowed me to spoon feed her when she was a baby, but Theo would never tolerate it. For a long time, that meant he only ate finger foods because I didn't want to deal with the mess. It seems ridiculous to allow a child to get all messy and have to change clothes and do extra laundry when they could just be fed by an adult and kept clean. However, I have had to learn that children making messes is important and they need to do it themselves. That said, it's not just a free for all. As a parent, when your child is feeding independently, it's your job to be a keen observer. What you're looking for is genuine effort and curiosity that results in either food going into their mouth, or sensory exploration. This can be really hard to gauge, but just trust your gut. Once it becomes just silly, or about getting attention or laughs from others at the table, or downright disrespectful with throwing or flinging food onto other furniture, artwork, or walls, it is definitely time to take the food away and end the mealtime for that child. It's possible for a child to completely cover their head and face with yogurt in an acceptable way. It's up to you as the parent to observe your child's process discriminately.

Snacks
Coco and Theo get a snack at 3 or 4 in the afternoon and that's it. If they graze on snacks all day, they're not hungry and don't eat when it's mealtime. I know a lot of people think grazing is healthy and child-directed. You just have to do what works best for you.

Family Foods
At our house, everyone eats the same thing. It's enough work to get a healthy, balanced meal on the table three times a day. Cooking separate things for different people is out of the question. We have noticed that our children really love it when we all have the same thing. It's a great equalizer and makes them feel respected and included. As a teacher, I've had a lot of parents worry that their children will go hungry if they don't like what's being served. Your child will not starve. They might skip a meal, but they'll most likely eat at the next one. One thing is for sure, if you provide your child with something else in the form of a substitute or snacks, they'll continue rejecting food. Stick to the idea that everyone eats the same thing and pretty soon they'll start eating, too.

I'm curious, what are your best mealtime tips? Is mealtime enjoyable in your house or in need of some improvement?

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween Weekend!

Theo and I are back from Zurich after a harrowing journey that included an unexpected overnight in Denver! I can't wait to tell you all about our incredible trip next week. In the meantime, if you haven't already, be sure to check out all the posts on Instagram. It was an Instatrip, for sure!

What are you doing for Halloween? We are having a very early dinner party with cousins and then trick-or-treating in our neighborhood. Honestly, it looks like something out of a movie around here with all of the fallen leaves and jack-o-lanterns everywhere. Last year, Coco wanted to be a farmer and Theo was a cow. This year, she is going to be Elsa and he is going to be Olaf. I can't wait to see them all dressed up.

And here are some links I've been collecting for you!

Run, mama, run!

Have you ever used a travel pillow? Are they worth lugging around?!

Well, this is tragic.

Thought provoking.

What is an ideal childhood to you?

Rose petals in the rain.

No recipe soup.

A Sci-Fi housing and space solution for San Francisco?

Quick and low mess Pad Thai!

Now that Theo's walking, we are busting out this sweet toy. SO much better than the noisy popper version. ;)

Have a wonderful Halloween and see you back here Monday! xo

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Our House Tour


Before I left for Zurich, we had been decorating and organizing like crazy. For me and J, our house is always an evolving work in progress, but now that we are at a point where it's feeling more "finished," I am so excited to share our house photos with you.

What's even more exciting is that I get to point you on over to Design Mom for the full reveal. I have been a huge fan of Gabrielle Blair's for several years now. I discovered Design Mom when we were living in Switzerland and the Blairs were living in France. Gabrielle's writing on her blog is so open and heartfelt. This honest post on depression echoed in my ears last summer when I was having a hard time. And their Olive Us videos are just too sweet for words. If you're not a reader already, I highly recommend it. Plus, it's now a book!

So, without further ado, and if you haven't seen it already, please head on over to Design Mom to see our sweet little nest and read all about our transition into the living-small reality that makes our little family of four so happy. Thank you for reading, and thank you, Gabrielle, for the feature! I am beyond excited. xo

Friday, October 16, 2015

Goodbye, Kieselgasse


Yesterday, Theo and I landed in Zurich. I didn't waste any time in finally going to say goodbye to our old apartment in Kieselgasse. When Coco and I left Kieselgasse, on June 23, 2014, the very last day of my pregnancy my doctor would allow me to fly, I went out the door and down to the tram just like I had for every other trip we'd taken to the US from that apartment. I didn't pause, I didn't say goodbye. And because J was still working and didn't go with us, it didn't feel any different. Of course, it was different, very different! We never went back. Yesterday, I finally did.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Embracing Uncertainty

I was chatting with Coco's godmother on the phone the other day and I explained to her that I knew, already, before boarding the plane, that I'm not going to return from Zurich with any sort of clarity or closure. Life just doesn't work that way. "Of course not!" was her emphatic reply, "Don't put that kind of pressure on your trip and on yourself. You'll just ruin it," which is exactly true. And I'm not just ruining the trip with that kind of unrealistic expectation for clarity, I'm ruining my life. How can I enjoy the trip to Zurich if I place that kind of expectation on it? And how can I enjoy this chapter in Spokane if I'm focused too much on where we're going, especially if I don't even know where we're going?! We cannot know where we are going. We can set our mark and work toward it, but life is fluid and ever-changing and, honestly, I kind of hate that.

Then, I saw this article in the New York Times about forgiving mistakes and embracing uncertainty. This really stuck out for me:

"As is often the case, it is very easy to look backward and make up stories about why certain things happened and then take either the blame or the credit for them. The reality of life is often a bit more nuanced. As I carefully reflect on the good and the bad experiences, I have come to the conclusion that, in both cases, I was simply doing the best I could with the knowledge and experience I had at the time."

Can we ever do anything more than our best with the knowledge and experience we have at the time? No, we cannot. So instead of answering all of life's burning questions and correcting the poor decisions of the past, I'm just going to go to Zurich, get some really great knowledge to catapult my freelance career to the next level, enjoy being with friends, introduce Theo to everyone who knew him only as a bump, soak up everything I love about that city, and leave not knowing what's going to happen or where we'll be in two years or five years. I think I can do this. 5:45 am flight tomorrow. Wish me luck. xo

Zurich photo via Pinterest

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Five Tips for Cute Bento-Inspired Lunches

As crazy as it may sound, I actually really enjoy making Coco's lunch. Sometimes it's a bit rushed and that takes the fun out of it, but most days, I love putting together her cute, healthy ensembles. I'm all about using Bento boxes, accessories and picks to make lunches cute and appealing. It's working! Most days, she finishes every last bite. 

My top five tips for packing cute bento-inspired lunches after the jump. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Montessori Monday: Just scrub it!

Coco is a newly-minted four-year-old. As such, she does many four-year-old things, like ballet class, and dressing herself, and refusing to wear a barrette. On some of these occasions, she becomes grumpy and oppositional. What I've learned, in my few short weeks of being mama to a four-year-old girl, is that the battles are plenty and choosing them is key.

To that end, Coco can wear whatever she wants - if she dresses herself. :) (More on this in a later post!) She can also have an afternoon at home without a barrette. Yes, it drives me nuts to see her with her hair hanging in her face, but it's not worth the battle. One afternoon last week, without thinking, I approached Coco and tried, unsuccessfully, to get those bangs pinched nicely back from her face, and into a barrette. She pulled back, she protested, she got angry, and I could tell it was only going to get worse. I tried distracting her with a drink of water, or playing with some toys.

None of it was working.

So I grabbed a scrubby brush, squirted some soap on it and announced, "Well, I am going to scrub the pirate ship!" and without another word, quickly went out the back door.

She followed me!

Montessori children do lots and lots of scrubbing. There is a whole sequence involving a table that progresses (of course!) from simple to complex. It begins with Dusting a Table, goes on to Washing a Table and finally, Waxing a Table. The aim is not so much to clean the tables of the classroom (although they do get clean) as it is to engage the child in a series of actions that follow a sequence. 

Following a sequence requires concentration, thinking of what comes next and preparation. It leads to problem solving and dynamic thinking. All of these things lead to a phenomenon Montessori called "Normalization." It sounds horrible, like something out of a psychological reprogramming lab, but really, it's the idea that the normal qualities of a child emerge through "purposeful work done with the hand, and accompanied by concentration" and abnormal behavior and qualities, like tantrums and being contrary, slip away.

A few scrubs into my pirate ship cleaning and Coco announced that she wanted to do it. I got a bucket of warm water, another squirt of (ridiculously good-smelling and environmentally-friendly dish soap) and she was busy for the next TWENTY minutes. When she was finished, she was right back to her happy self. When all else fails, just scrub it! I did a super fun Hyperlapse (6x faster than normal) video of the action. Take a peek!

What are your go-to ways to steer your child around a tantrum? I would love more tricks up my sleeve because, as we all know, the toddler/preschool years are tough!


Friday, October 9, 2015

Have the best weekend


I am so bummed today because we had to cancel our weekend plans to go to Seattle and visit our old neighbors from Zurich who just moved back. It turns out this is the one weekend this month that J has class all day Saturday. Boo. But, so far we've made the most of it. I took the kids to the Y and they played in the Childwatch while I worked out. Then we got everything to make the most ridiculous meatballs that I discovered from a Facebook video of all places. I am throwing them in the Le Creuset in a few minutes here and can't wait to see how they turn out. Three cheers for crisp(er) fall weather, savory slow-cooker meals and the amazing leaves around town. If there is one thing I can say without a doubt, it's that Spokane has the best weather ever. Sunny spring, hot hot summer, golden-warm colorful fall and freezing snowy winters. I do love that.

Here is a bit of what caught my eye around the web this week:

Tonight's meatballs. (Just ignore the cheesy music!)

Well said.

Have you ever had a Word document just disappear?! This completely saved me this week.

Grown-up play kitchens.

LOL.

As much as I love co-sleeping, I believe this.

Gorgeous pizza dough.

So sweet.

My new favorite laundry detergent.

And I'm so honored to be guest-posting on Kimmy and Bear covering Montessori topics for the next five weeks. You can see the first post in the series here.

Have a wonderful weekend! See you back here Monday. xoxo

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Zurich Plans

Our trip to Zurich is just 9 days away. I honestly thought I would be more excited than I am about going, but I feel conflicted. I can't help but run down the list of possible outcomes in my mind. The idea, after all, is to go to Zurich and come back with a sense of closure. Then, I can leave all that behind me, fix my gaze straight ahead and move forward in establishing a full, rooted, permanent life in Spokane. Perhaps it will help that we'll be in Zurich when the weather is cold and grey and nasty?

Deep down, I know that doesn't matter.  The fact that we were always out and about regardless of the weather is one of the things I miss most about Zurich. Just this past weekend, someone was telling me to make sure and walk to the parks here in Spokane while we can because soon it will be too cold. But all it made me think was that I need to remember to pack baby scarves and get Theo a pair of rain pants so we can take advantage of the parks in Zurich while we're there. In the same conversation, this person asked if I have been making friends or finding mama groups to join. I have not. Until we know, absolutely 100% sure, that this is where we are going to stay long term and raise our children and put down permanent roots, I'm not doing any of that. When we left Zurich, we didn't fully appreciate that we had put down roots there. It was so painful to leave our home, our apartment, our lifestyle and those meaningful friendships. I simply cannot go through that again. Beyond this darling house of ours here in Spokane, (which I absolutely love, but that we will grow out of in two years anyway,) I am not interested in establishing any attachments just yet.

That's why this trip is so important. I'm not convinced we are done with Switzerland. But I can't be sure it's right to go back until I've been there as the person I am now. We have grown and changed so much since we left. Nothing is the same. So I suppose it's only natural to feel a bit of trepidation at going. But, we are moving onward. This is the first step.

Photo via Style Me Pretty

Monday, October 5, 2015

Montessori Monday: Screen Time

Screen time is a slippery slope in our house. Is it in yours, too? A few weeks ago, I had begun to see a lot of behavior in Coco that I didn't like. She was impatient and more prone to frustration and irritability. Then, I happened to read an article in Psychology Today that made me think.

The author starts out by addressing the alarming prevalence of moody and aggressive or depressed and disengaged children and teens. This often leads to a diagnosis of ADHD or similar, but the problem is that medication and the usual treatments don't produce results. What is often being overlooked is simply screen time. In order to determine if that's the cause, it's necessary to do an "electronics fast" to "reset" the brain. Incredible, right?

We decided to do an electronics fast with Coco and she didn't watch television or movies, play with the iPad or iPhone or do anything electronic for two full weeks. The results? Just as the article promised:

"If done correctly, this intervention can produce deeper sleep, a brighter and more even mood, better focus and organization, and an increase in physical activity. The ability to tolerate stress improves, so meltdowns diminish in both frequency and severity. The child begins to enjoy the things they used to, is more drawn to nature, and imaginary or creative play returns."

You can read the entire article here. It is a fascinating and inspiring read.

Now we are in the process of deciding when and how much screen time Coco can have while still maintaining her sweet, curious, creative, inquisitive, playful, joyful nature. So far it seems like no screen time Monday through Friday is going to be best in our house. And on the weekends, not more than one or two hours. One or two hours of screen time per week is not much. But, after the fast, and now that Coco's brain is reset, we find it easy to enforce.

Have you ever done an electronics fast for your child - or for yourself? I want to hear all about it.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Have a safe weekend

It's shameful to think that another school shooting is on the books here in the USA. This is definitely not helpful in our attempts to repatriate. I feel like running back to Switzerland at the earliest opportunity. Hug your loved ones a little closer and a little longer this weekend.

On a lighter note, here's what caught my eye this week:

Made me laugh out loud. (A few times!)

Such a quiet, peaceful moment.

Montessori in a nutshell.

NYC is a close second.

Perfect fall comfort food.

My sister made this cake for my birthday and it was so good.

The power of a bedtime story.

Because we all need advice from a chic French girl.

Beautifully arresting.

Read until the very end.

And, J and I were quoted in a Wall Street Journal article about repatriation. Check it out!

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

Photo via Con Poulos
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