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 B├╝rkliplatz 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

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