Thursday, March 31, 2016

Have you ever lived in a haunted house?

Coco and I arrived at our home in Minnesota on a Friday. We had flown away from Zurich without J because the doctor wouldn't let me fly past June 23rd. Coco and I stayed with a good friend of mine in Minneapolis, whom I’d actually met in Zurich, when we first landed. I liked to joke that her house was our decompression chamber, a place to make the transition from Zurich to Minnesota. In retrospect, it wasn’t a funny joke at all. It simply highlighted how little I knew about what we had gotten ourselves into coming home. Re-entry is no small thing. But thank goodness I had no idea. How could I have possibly gone through with any of it if I had known what was coming? 

Friday morning, following a fun week with friends, Coco and I pointed our car north and drove to Duluth, watching the temperature gauge plummet like a rock thrown into deep water as we got closer. J and I made the move to Duluth thinking we’d settle down and call it home for at least four or five years. The city had charmed us in ways both big and small. We fell in love with Chester Bowl, a little tiny ski hill right in the middle of the city, where middle school-aged cadets would take kindergarteners and preschoolers up and ski down with them. The single chair lift didn’t open until school let out and it only operated for a couple of hours. Then all the kids would pile into the lodge, drink hot chocolate and eat hot dogs. It seemed like Norman Rockwell’s America. The other thing that stole our hearts was Lake Superior. It’s like looking out across an ocean when you stand on its shores. In the winter, the lake freezes, but before it does, there are a couple of weeks of steam. It’s almost magical to think that the air temperature gets so cold to cause steam to rise off of a lake that’s only 44 degrees Fahrenheit (6c) to begin with, but it does. Once the lake finally freezes and when the wind causes the sheets of ice to shift, piles of broken glass collect on the beaches.  The ice groans and squeaks until it can’t take the pressure anymore. Then it crunches into brilliant sparkly, geometric piles. If the sight of it doesn’t take your breath away, the cold will.

We never ended up going to Chester Bowl once. It just was a few blocks from our house. It was the end of June, 50 degrees and raining when Coco and I arrived. We got our suitcases into our cavernous house and set up the new bedframe we’d had delivered in advance from IKEA. Our shipment from Zurich wouldn’t arrive for at least another two weeks and all of our things in storage out in Oregon wouldn’t be there until J arrived, flew to Portland, loaded them all up and drove back a few weeks later. I laundered our new linens and Coco and I went to sleep that first night on a brand new bed in an otherwise empty house. 

It was around 3 am when Coco woke me up, pointing to a spot in the middle of the floor saying, “Why is she here, mama? I don’t like her here!” I didn’t fully come to, but instead tried to stroke her temple and cheek brushing her hair out of her face in an effort to get her to go back to sleep. She would not be placated. “Why is she here?” she asked again, at which point, I was fully awake. I sat up in bed and reached up to turn on the overhead light. “There is no one there. See, sweetie?” I said, my heart pounding out of my chest. “Let’s go back to sleep.” Then I turned off the light and willed myself to take deep breaths. I slept the rest of the night with my back turned to that spot. 

For a while, I explained away the feeling that someone had just entered the room, or the figure I thought I saw in my peripheral vision, due to the novelty of it all. We were settling into a new space in what felt like a new country. It made sense. Once the house was fully furnished and all of us were there, I just tried to ignore it. 

Weeks went by and we brought a new baby home. The first night in our house with sweet baby Theo, I woke up three times to see a little old lady, leaning over the side of the bed peering at him excitedly. The third time I screamed and woke up the baby. It was just a nightmare, I told myself. The lack of sleep was the perfect explanation for these apparitions. Then, fall settled in and Halloween was just around the corner when finally J said one day, “Do you ever see things in this house?” to which I responded simply, “Yes.” And then we didn’t talk about it anymore.

But it was out. We still managed to deny it a bit, but it was out. J felt that when he was in the woods, or down by the shore, that he also saw things then. We were sleep deprived, we were in a new place, we were really, really stressed out. Surely a logical explanation could be made. 

One night, I woke up and saw a little baby, fully clothed in very old-fashioned clothing, sitting in our bed, looking at me. I was half asleep, but I wondered why Coco had a little bow in her hair in the middle of the night, and why her hair was so short. Then I sat up and looked down at Coco’s head, with her long blonde hair glimmering against my pillow in the light sneaking in through the blinds from the street lamps. I put my hand on Coco’s back while starting at this little baby girl in front of me. My next fatigue-addled thought was that it must be Theo, but I turned and placed my hand on my much smaller baby boy and looked back to see that still, this little baby girl just sat there, staring at me. She was the little girl Coco had been talking about that first night. Poor little mite! How dreadful to be stuck between two worlds with no mama and no family. I gasped and she disappeared right before my eyes. I lay down with a sigh and stared at the ceiling for a long time. I listened to the rhythmic breathing of my two little babies on either side of me. I counted the dots stretching across the ceiling from where the light came through the blinds. Despite all the stress and chaos in our lives at that point, I was overwhelmed with gratitude that my children, J and I were all healthy and alive. For months after I saw that little baby girl, I thought every day how thankful I was that we were all healthy and alive. Because being healthy and alive meant that we could get out of there, out of that situation, out of Duluth. Eventually, we did. 

One day, not much later, I was doing laundry with Theo in the bouncy seat in the basement. I was pretreating a stain on Coco’s leggings in the utility sink when I felt someone right behind me. I spun around and saw an old woman in a nightgown with long, silver grey hair in rag curlers. I screamed and she brushed past me. I can still see the ecru lace on her nightgown, the wrinkles on her face.

Before everything had really become unbearable; before we knew we’d be leaving Duluth quite soon, our landlord had some ghost buster types come through. They brought sage and clanked around with weird wire instruments. They walked through the house and stopped right where Coco had pointed that first night. They told me that it was a very active spot. We had two ghosts, they said, an old woman and a baby, but they didn’t seem to be related or aware of each other. They said that the old woman liked to wander outside and went in and out through the laundry room. When they went through Coco and Theo’s room, they said the baby was sitting in the crib with Theo while he napped. “Don’t be frightened,” they told me, “she just likes being with him. She is very innocent and loving.” That night, after they left, we had dinner and went to bed. I barely slept. The old woman was in and out of our room all night long. I didn't dare open my eyes, but I could feel her come and go again and again. She was angry and didn’t want to leave, but just before dawn, she did. I never saw or felt her presence again. The baby stayed. She didn’t understand. There we were with two children, loving them, caring for them. I think she felt like she was part of the family. I saw her in our bed a few more times. And then we left. While I was packing one day, I told her we were leaving. The last day, when the floors were still drying from the mopping, I said goodbye to her and locked the door for the last time. 

Originally, we had wanted to leave Duluth the way we had gone there and drive south to Minneapolis to stay with our friends for a couple of nights before Coco, Theo and I flew out to Spokane and J did the drive in the moving truck. But we didn’t have enough truck space in the end, so we left straight from Duluth. We spent the night with the only good friends we had made there. The next morning, everyone hugged and said their goodbyes and we literally pointed our vehicles west and set out. It was cold, 50 degrees and so foggy you couldn’t see the lake. I drove our car pulling a U-Haul trailer and J drove the Budget truck. We drove out past the edge of town and watched Duluth recede into oblivion in the rearview mirror. We crossed the state line and our spirits lifted. We watched as the temperature gauge climbed higher and higher. The mountains rose all around us, we entered the west’s embrace and all of the ghosts of Duluth were behind us.  

(Photo of my friend's mother, that scared me half to death that spring when it appeared our of nowhere in my phone thanks to the auto-download feature on WhatsApp;)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tips & Tricks: Road Trips with Kids

Last year, we drove from Minnesota to Spokane and back again for spring break. Then, when we moved to Spokane last June, we drove all the way from Minnesota with a moving truck and trailer and both kids, too! Suffice it to say that, after all that, we are really good at road trips with kids! Our top tips and tricks to making it stress-free and enjoyable, after the jump…


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Would you try a morning date?

Yesterday, Theo and I met my uncle Cyrus for coffee at The Shop, a super cute and funky coffee shop over on South Perry. It's just around the corner from Coco's school, so after dropping her off, it's the perfect place to go for breakfast bagels and coffee. My bagel was delicious and Theo ate most of my uncle's quiche! There were loads of people working on their laptops, good music on and some fun toys for Theo. I love the vibe there, and in the summer, they have big garage doors that they open all the way onto a sunny patio with sun streaming into the whole place.

While I was in line, I couldn't help but notice a little sign that read "Mimosas, $3 ($2 weekends)!" Amazing, right? Then it occurred to me that Saturday morning could be a great time for a date for me and J. Any teacher will tell you that Friday night is always out because they're exhausted from the week. Then, Saturday nights are typically packed for everyone, so it can be hard to find a sitter. But Saturday morning would be a breeze! We could drop the kids off at my mom's where they could play outside while she gardened. Or, maybe my uncle would like to take them to the library for storytime. 

Then J and I could head to The Shop, have mimosas and breakfast and then drink coffee in the sun and chat to our hearts' content. After that, we could head home, have a nap, and pick up the kids for lunch. No one has to worry about bedtime or getting home too late (and still getting woken up early the next day). So perfect! When do you find time for dates? Any unusual times? Have you tried a morning date?

(Photo of Coco having a babyccino Sirmione, Italy, Easter 2014)

Friday, March 25, 2016

Enjoy your weekend!

You guys. J and I are going to caucus for Bernie tomorrow and I cannot tell you how excited I am!!!! I heard a Bernie ad on the radio this morning and it was music to my ears. Bernie Sanders is the real deal. He just makes my political science major, loved living in Europe heart sing. Go Bernie! Feel the Bern.

Sunday is, of course, Easter, and it's also J's birthday. My mom is babysitting so J and I can go out Saturday night and Sunday we're doing a brunch, egg-hunt and birthday party combo at my sister's house. The forecast is for sun during the caucuses and rain during Easter. A little switcheroo would be good.

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

This toy would make Theo cheer!

Are you thriving where you live?

Prenuptial Q&A. (This is so good.)

Seemingly inexpensive money suckers.

Good news for small hands!

Screen time.

A real-life teddy bear!

Hair woes.

Thorough profile of Bernie, the democratic socialist.

Reclaim some counter space.

I was more than rattled by the Brussels attacks. It really made me wonder if we even want to consider moving back to Europe? But then I remembered that we're probably just as likely, if not more so, to get killed in some school or other mass shooting here in the US, so why not? Six of one, half a dozen of the other. How's that for depressing? I spent several hours this past week, awake in the night, worrying about each of those scenarios in vivid detail. Not good use of the Kopfkino at all. My heart is with all of the victims and their families.

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

(Bernie photo via mic.com)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

How To Host A Typical Swiss Luncheon Party

More often than not, when living in Switzerland, you'll be invited to, or host, a luncheon party rather than a dinner party. The Swiss like to stick to the old ideas that "the early bird gets the worm," and "early to bed early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise" and so on. In line with this thinking, they're not going to make a habit of staying out late. Dinner parties all too often mean cranky children who stayed up too late, but not when you have a Swiss luncheon party! When you have young children, there is one word for this: Awesome.

More Swiss perfection and the one time we screwed it all up, after the jump!


Monday, March 21, 2016

On Learning German

When I think of the possibility of moving back to Zurich, one thing that makes me absolutely cringe is the prospect of learning German. It is a very difficult language and deciding to learn it would take considerable much time and effort. But, then I see words these and I'm inspired at the thought of attaining that level of expression in German and using them. Click on over to BuzzFeed to see the full list of 21 Perfect German Words We Need in English. Which are your favorites?

Friday, March 18, 2016

Have a beautiful weekend!

This weekend, J and I are getting out on Saturday night for drinks and dinner. As much as I hate springing forward, I'm excited for longer evenings and more light. Maybe we'll even sneak in a walk and go see the falls. They're raging right now!

Thank you so much for all of the comments and support on this post. I read each and every one and I can't say how awesome it is to feel supported by all of you wise, insightful women. I'm still chewing on all of it and processing my latent desire to work. I'm even considering the possibility that I might enjoy my children more if I had more personal satisfaction through work that fills my cup. Hmmm...interesting stuff! Thank you for being my virtual tribe! I love you all.

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

Words as images. So cool. (#26!)

The cutest bed ever.

When life imitates art.

Phone battery saving trick, foiled!

We've been wasting so much clean water. Love this cool idea.

Just say no to advertising that preys on mom guilt. :(

We are taking the kids on the impressive Palouse Falls hike on spring break. Have you been?

Does the "less is more" maxim apply to school hours?

Cold hands, warm heart.

Loving this beautiful Instagram.

Have a great one! See you back here Monday. xo

Thursday, March 17, 2016

How to make Endives with Gruyère and Proscuitto

For J's birthday, I'll be making this delicious dinner. Endives are bitter and have a unique flavor that pairs well with proscuitto and Gruyère cheese. This is really easy to whip up on a weeknight, but it's also lovely with champagne for a more special occasion, like a birthday. ;) We like to eat it in courses with a simple soup to start, then the endives for the main, followed by a cheese plate and dessert.
You'll need:

  • 2 tablespoons butter 
  • 4 or 5 Belgian Endives, ends trimmed, halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup water or white wine
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto 
  • 4 ounces Gruyère cheese

First preheat your oven to 160c/350F. Then, melt half the butter in a large pan over medium-high heat. Just as the butter starts to brown, add the endives cut side down. Pan fry for a few minutes to grill them to a crispy brown. Then, reduce heat to medium, add water or white wine and put a lid on the pan and allow to steam until the liquid is completely evaporated. The endives should be tender yet still slightly firm in the center. Work in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.
While the endives steam, slice enough cheese to have a generous slice for each endive and halve the prosciutto slices if necessary.
Transfer the endives to an oven-safe dish grilled side up and layer first the prosciutto, then Gruyère on top of each.
They're now ready to pop in the over for 15-20 minutes. Remove when the cheese is melted and bubbly and just beginning to brown.
Bon appètit! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Worthiness of the Stay-at-Home-Mom

Marriage includes fighting. It's unavoidable. I'm feeling very sheepish today because I quite unfairly - unleashed, I believe would be the correct term - on my lovely husband last night, and again this morning. I realized too late that I couldn't take back the things that I said and he left the house angry. Now that Mt. Linz has fully exploded and I'm left to just sit in the steamy aftermath, I can see what led up to the big blow and I feel pretty badly about it because the things I'm angry really don't have much of anything to do with J. So let's talk about sleep deprivation, how much work it really is to be a stay-at-home-mom and the feminist movement, shall we?

I can hear all the mice and trackpads clicking this tab closed as I write this. I know what they're thinking, those who left us: Not another whining mom who "doesn't work" complaining about how hard her life is, right? Wrong. I work my tail off 24-hours a day doing things that no one respects or values and I have had enough. It's time. I'm saying my piece.

Sleep deprivation is real. I think Christine Skoutelas summed it up nicely in her Huffington Post article, "This Is Why Parents Are More Exhausted Than You Think They Should Be." In a sentence: once you become a parent, you never sleep though the night again. Ever. The infant months give way to the worrying-if-your-baby-has-died-in-their-sleep months. As Skoutelas explains,

At first, parents wake up in a panic when the infant doesn't wake them up, and they check on them, adrenaline rushing, thinking they're going to find something very wrong. They nudge the baby. Nudge. Nudge. Until they hear an audible sigh. Then they either can't fall back asleep because of all that adrenaline or they can't fall back asleep because they woke up their kid.


This gives way to the toddler years, filled with a little person coming into your bed, bed-wetting, or needing a tissue! No improvement in sight. Teenagers keep parents up with worries of sneaking out and when they're in college and no longer at home you lie awake, "wondering if they've been roofied and are lying in a ditch," until finally they're out on their own and you're so old that you're "biologically incapable of sleeping. The end." 


Great. It's all too familiar. I woke up in a complete exhausted panic last night, having forgotten that I had put Theo in his crib, and woke J exclaiming, "Where is Theo?! We lost him! He's not here!!!!! We have to find him; the door is open and he is not in this room. WHERE IS HE?!" to which J replied, "You put him in the basket, remember" and, knowing he meant crib, I got back into bed and went back to sleep. So concluded the first 90 minutes of my sleep for the night. I was woken by Theo two hours later, just as confused, wondering if Coco was crying in the distance. I came to, realized it was Theo crying from his basket, and stumbled into his room and brought him into our bed. He proceeded to wake me at regular intervals wanting to be cuddled and spooned just so for the rest of the night until J's alarm went off (and he pressed snooze repeatedly!) in the early morning. My neck is sore from all the cuddling. But, like Skoutelas said, it's not ever going to get better, so I guess that  I should just quit worrying about. At least I have chubby baby cuddles right now.

Being a stay-at-home-mom is quite impossible. Literally impossible. I love the kids and I love our house, and I love taking care of all of them, but there is just no way for one person to do all that. No matter what, our house is always a flipping mess. I try to be proactive, I am still working on a traditional housekeeping schedule to keep it all under control. But the fact remains that the mess and the laundry and the dishes are being produced at a rate that will never slow down. Groceries and toilet paper disappear at the same rate. I might be able to find a pace to keep up, but that means never ever having a break and never ever being finished. I am a hamster on a wheel. As much as I want to, I can't ever slow down, because then the wheel will flip. I understand that people who work still have laundry and eat and so on, but it's different. When you're all gone all day, no one is there to make a mess on par with a grenade going off in your living room. When your children are in daycare, you can pop into the store and grocery shop without them in a fraction of the time. And when we were both working, we could afford to have cleaners come every couple of weeks. I had no idea the reality of the workload of the stay-at-home-mom. It is actually quite impossible. But, awesome tip: vinegar in the rinse cycle makes clothes so soft! Try it. :)

And now, to the load of blarney that is the feminist movement. Just hear me out on this one. This is my current reality: Right now, it makes sense for us for me to stay at home. It makes financial sense because childcare is so ridiculously expensive. Additionally, it makes sense for us as Montessori teachers and experts on child development because we want the formative years from 0-2 to be optimized through the security and attachment our children get from being at home with me. That may piss a lot of you off, but that's how we see it, and we are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to do it. The decision for me to be at home is a well thought out, deliberate choice. 

And yet, I am constantly at odds with warring ideologies. I feel an insane amount of pressure to be more than just a mom. Women are supposed to have it all! The career, the children, the happy marriage, the vacation photos. Don't forget the sexy figure. But we cannot have it all. We have to make choices. 

People love to say that they respect the choices women make, but when women choose to stay home, they don't. Not really. The work I do is not respected or valued. It's a shame, but that's the way it is. And now I'm done complaining about it. It's true that my current reality gets in the way of the creative ideas I have that I would love to devote more time and energy to bringing to fruition, but I'm happy to invest that time and energy into my children instead. I would love it if my life were more in balance, but early childhood is intense. I would really love it if I could get some affirmation for the worthwhile and important things that I do, but I don't. Oddly, J is my biggest advocate and greatest supporter and admirer. He sees what a good job I do with the kids and he notices when I bust out a few pomodori and get the house looking great. More importantly, he never complains when he gets home and it looks as if we were robbed, or a bomb went off, or both. And then I go and get mad at him and accuse him of making my life more difficult when rough houses with Theo and gives him noisy kisses while I'm getting ready for bed. Sure, it wasn't easy to get Theo to sleep after that, but what gives? I'm never going to sleep well ever again. Why worry about it?! J is an awesome, loving, involved dad. That's more than enough; it's wonderful.

I recently heard a woman with an impressive career, in the last trimester of her pregnancy with her first child, lambast a homeschooling mother of four, saying that the homeschooling mother really has no place telling her daughters that they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up. My first reaction was, of course they can't because we all know women have to make tough choices between career and family and fitness and discretionary income and I started in on my response, "No kidding," I sighed, and she jumped right back in and volleyed, "Right?! I mean, she's the worst role model for female empowerment ever!" And then she laughed and I really sighed. It is not fair that we set women like her up to think it's possible to have it all. And it's even more unfair to discount the work of the homeschooling mother of four to being such a failure that she doesn't have any place in encouraging her daughters. 

I can see that it's up to me to find a way through this. I am so exhausted I could snap, and yet I have to understand that to most people, it looks like I don't work. I'm not fully clear on my feelings on this far-reaching subject, but I'm getting there. And now, despite the fact that I'd like to edit this and read if over before publishing, Theo has woken up from his nap. We're going to get out of the car where he prefers to nap these days, go inside and change his diaper. I'm going to get a load of laundry in, cook some lunch, eat and feed him, rotate the laundry, clean up, take him for a little walk, come back, rotate the laundry and fold the first load, deep clean the bathroom, change his diaper, go to the grocery store and post office, come back in time to see J off to his class this evening, help Coco finish the bookmaking project she started this morning before school and write a little story together. Then it will be time to make dinner, fold the last load of laundry, get the kids in the bath, read them stories, get them off to bed and then clean up some more. I chose this. I choose this. I am doing valuable, respectable things with my time and energy. It's up to me to believe that it's enough.

(Sweet photo of J and baby Coco circa 2012)

Monday, March 14, 2016

Montessori Monday: Imitation

Until around 6 years of age, children have what Montessori called "The Absorbent Mind," meaning that they can learn through absorbing knowledge from their surroundings. To illustrate the powers of the absorbent mind, Montessori points out that "The only language we ever learn perfectly is the one we learn in babyhood, when no one can teach us anything!" This is one of the most magical things about childhood neurological development. It is also one of the most terrifying aspects because being the parent, teacher or caretaker of little children, they show us exactly what we're like through their natural tendency to imitate us. It can be quite illuminating.

During the Montessori training, we were taught to make our movement, volume levels and so on those that we'd like to see from the children. We learned to walk slowly and deliberately, use a quiet voice and eliminate fidgety gestures we weren't even really aware of. One teacher I know recounted seeing children in her class push repeatedly up the bridge of their noses with their middle finger. She was wondering what was going on with all these kids?! Did they all have the same itch or was it some sort of non-verbal message she wasn't privy to? Nope. It was something they'd seen her do a million times when she pushed her glasses up. It didn't matter to them that they didn't have glasses; seeing her do it, they absorbed it and did it, too! Magical, and a bit crazy, right?
Lately we're seeing an explosion of imitation from Coco and Theo. The other night, Theo grabbed his toothbrush and was brushing his teeth. Then he stopped for a second, leaned forward to some imaginary sink and made a tiny raspberry with his lips. "Did you see that?!" I exclaimed to J, "He's spitting just like Coco does!" This isn't something we're doing with Theo yet because we didn't realize he was ready, but maybe he is! And, of course, he is a complete pro with the phone. He pushes a bunch of buttons, or just the button on our iPhones, then throws it up to his ear and exclaims, "Hello!" then cruises around chattering into it. Wow.
Coco's imitation is becoming more and more refined. She will push Theo in at the table, she'll model really carefully for him how to lift something or pour milk. And then there's her doll "Big Baby". Big Baby has been around for years and Coco has always loved her. But now she's really starting to mother her. She asks her before bed if she'd like to sleep in her bed or in bed with Coco. She tucks her in, she feeds her. The other day she requested little diapers so she could change Big Baby. It is so ridiculously cute. And evolutionary science shows that mothering is all learned and not instinctual, so this is exactly what she's supposed to be doing.
Saturday, when we went to the St. Patrick's Day parade, she had Big Baby in her Ergo Baby for dolls. It kind of blows me away. Sometimes her tone of voice makes me cringe, because I know it's what I sound like when I'm annoyed or angry. But seeing her care for Big Baby is one of the times it makes me insanely proud of what I'm teaching her when I don't realize I'm teaching her. What have your children shown you through imitation? Was a nice surprise, or a less than pleasant revelation? ;)

Friday, March 11, 2016

Have an Irish weekend!

What does your weekend look like? Ours is going to be all about St. Patrick's Day. Every year, the city of Spokane goes all out celebrating St. Patty's Day the Saturday before St. Patrick's Day. There is a parade and bagpipers take over restaurants (honestly, you can't hear anything over those things!) and the entire city is out drinking green beer and wearing green. It is my favorite holiday of the year, as evidenced by that smile in which you can see all of the teeth in my mouth, because my family goes NUTS. We all start with a big brunch (including mimosas and Bailey's in our coffee:) at my uncle's house. Then everyone takes cabs or walks downtown for the parade. Then we all have corned beef and cabbage for lunch and then go listen to traditional Irish music and do a pub crawl after that. In my 20's, it was obviously just rad. The last time I was in town for St. Patty's was in 2012, pictured above with sweet baby Coco. That day, I went home with her after lunch. But this year we have my niece and my cousin's daughter lined up for babysitting starting after lunch. Now that I'm in my 30's, I'll be curious to see how long I can hang in there. One thing is certain, it's all going to be easier than ever with Lyft. :)

And...here's a bit of what caught my eye this week:

Haha

Have a problem? Ask the five whys and get to the bottom of it.

This crazy test can guess your age, marital status and income based on the apps you have on your phone! Did it work for you? 

This is absolutely genius! (No more flipping cups in the dishwasher:)

This poor teacher. Not gonna lie...I kind of get it. 

Pining after this breezy dress for summer!



When something falls out of the cupboard and makes you scream. 


Be sure to follow along on our St. Patrick's Day fun this weekend on Instagram! Have a good one and see you back here Monday! xo

Thursday, March 10, 2016

A Bright & Colorful Birthday Party

It seems like a curse, but almost every year, I seem to get sick on J's birthday. Our first year in Switzerland, I couldn't even get out of bed. I had the flu and the poor guy was so disappointed. We celebrated a few days later, but it's a drag to have your actual birthday be a dud. This year, I just got over being under the weather for a couple of days. So, I am hoping that means that I'll be well for his birthday in a couple of weeks! Did I get it out of the way early? I hope so!
In 2013, I was fully healthy and we did a super fun birthday party for J at home. I went to Globus in Zurich and got a sweet tea towel to use as a table decoration. 
I let the tea towel take center stage and pulled in extras from votives and candles we already had in the house. I also popped into Migros and picked up a table party bomb. It was crazy! You actually light it and it blows up and shoots party hats and party favors everywhere. SO much fun!
I had been thinking of ideas for an easy, every-occasion-appropriate wrapping scheme to always have on hand. We had so little storage, I wanted go-to wrapping and I loved the idea that over time, people would know a package was ours before even reading the card. 
I came across this beautiful kitchen twine at my favorite shop in Seefeld. It also came in green, which I snagged for Christmas, but I decided to make the smart and sharp blue and red my go-to! Coupled with kraft paper, it is affordable, simple and good-looking. We still have it and it's still going strong!
I had everything ready and dinner ready to pop in the oven by the time J got home from work. He was so surprised! I fashioned a cupcake stand out of a dinner plate and salad plate with a water glass in between. Clever! 
After we had exploded the party bomb, we popped open a bottle of champagne and chatted while dinner finished in the oven. The German Chocolate cupcakes were so tempting!
For dinner, we had J's favorite French meal, grilled endive with prosciutto and Gruyère. My host mother always made this while I was studying abroad in France. It probably has a name, but I don't know what it is!
Then we sang happy birthday and Coco helped J blow out his candles. I still cannot get over how she looked like a real live doll when she was little! What a cutie.
She didn't hesitate to dig in to her cupcake and loved every single bite. It was such a sweet birthday party and we had so much fun. This year, J has asked for German Chocolate cake again. I think I'm going to do a triple layer round cake instead of cupcakes. That should be fun! Those endives look so good, I think I'll make those, too. Stay tuned, I'll be posting the full recipe with instructions next week! 

How do you celebrate birthdays in your family? Do you keep things simple at home, or do you prefer to go out? We are home bodies. (There, I've said it.) As such, I just love a little birthday party at home! 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Easy & Affordable Decor Idea: Calendar Wall

Our office needed a little something, so when 2016 calendars were on clearance, I decided to do an easy and affordable calendar wall. I am so pleased with the results. We have three Rifle Paper Co calendars. Each month, the color scheme changes, but they all match, so I have to wonder if the people over at Rifle had the same idea? ;) 
I've seen previous year's calendars used as wall art in most of the Airbnb's we've stayed in from Paris to Missoula and it works every time. Calendar art can be so beautiful, it seems wasteful to only have it up for one month.
I'm really happy with our sweet office space. It's inviting and serene and calm. But I love a change and having variety, which makes the calendar wall perfect as every month we get a change of art. I don't ever look ahead, so it's a surprise on the first of a new month. Do you peek ahead at calendar art, or keep it a surprise?

Friday, March 4, 2016

Have a lovely weekend

What's on the docket for you this weekend? I got a work-for-trade position lined up at a local yoga studio, so I'm going to start my training for that and I can't wait to get back to regular Bikram practice. I've missed it so! J and I are hoping to get out for a date during Inlander Restaurant Week. Dozens of fixed price three-course menus at different restaurants around town. Should be fun! Coco and Theo have a regular play date lined up with their cousin, and other than that, we will just be relaxing. Tomorrow it's supposed to get up to 60 degrees Fahrenheit! A park afternoon is definitely in order. :)

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

Love this dip-dye dress tutorial. So pretty.

Gorgeous flowers to make you smile.

I got this ridiculously adorable dress for Coco last week!

As much as I find these high-speed cooking videos annoying, I can't stop watching them. Doesn't this chicken look great?! YUM!

Go, Lena!

Facebook buttons we could really use!

Coco's favorite lunch item lately. Good thing with Easter coming up. ;)

A very well-researched and scientific article on the rise of American authoritarianism.

I want a recipe box. Why do I look at recipes on my tiny phone screen?!

John Oliver made my day on Tuesday. #makedonalddrumpfagain

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

(Photo from our trip to Greece, once upon a time before Coco was born, in Spring 2011:)

Thursday, March 3, 2016

My Five Favorite Products from Trader Joe's

In the spirit of focusing on the positives of our current situation, I just want to write a little love letter to none other than Trader Joe's. I missed Trader Joe's so much while we were living in Zurich and Duluth.  I was there this morning and I had to remind myself not to take it for granted. Trader Joe's is just the best. My five very favorite Trader Joe's products, after the jump!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Clear Mind, Present Mama Challenge

Yesterday morning, we were rushing out the door and I was doing all the usual things I do to get Coco going. I reminded her over and over again to put on her shoes and coat while I zipped back and forth between the kitchen, bathroom, thermostat and coat closet, getting everything in order and ready to leave. Keys in pocket, check. Shoes on, check. Jacket on, check. Coco's lunch, check. Shoes and jackets on kids, check. Okay, let's go! I made sure Coco had her lunch box in hand, then we all shuffled out the back door. I gave Coco yet another reminder to get a move on and then I turned around to see her completely stationary, not moving at all, squatting down examining some bug or leaf on the ground!

In that moment, I couldn't even get frustrated, or mad or angry. I just deflated in the best way possible. I exhaled and looked at her. I really looked at her and saw a innocent, sweet, inquisitive child who has no idea what it means to be late. And then I sort of gave up in the best way possible. I didn't rush her. I waited patiently, and helped Theo down the steps and we made it to the car and got off to school eventually.

A strange trend is emerging in which Coco stays in her own bed all night long. And while I'm thankful for the increase in sleep, I realize that it's finally actually happening, that thing I spent the past three years wishing for and so sure that I wanted. Now this overpowering ambivalent feeling is twisting me in two directions at once. I long to hold onto the little girl she is and I'm relieved to see her growing up. I'm simultaneously proud of her and aching for her to stay little. She is growing up so much faster than I can possibly handle. This morning, when she had come into our bed and I woke up with her nuzzled up to me, I smiled and marveled at how beautiful she is when she's sleeping. In that moment, I realized there is nothing else to do but slow down, be present, and enjoy her. 

Then, because the universe works that way, I saw the Clear Mind, Present Mama Challenge from Alexandra Hughes, a mama of three and life coach, in a friend's Facebook feed. I signed up just now and I am so excited. The program starts Monday, March 7th and runs for seven days. You get a podcast and exercises to complete each day with the idea that you'll be more present, clear headed and ditch the overwhelm. Too perfect, right?! I can't wait. Head on over to sign up here

How do you hold onto the fleeting mama moments? Are you clear-headed since having children, or a total hot mess like yours truly? 

Also, Mom's One-Line-a-Day Memory Journal, in case you missed it! xo

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Multi-Local: The Reality of Expat-Repat Life

Our fridge looks like a mini shrine to Switzerland. We have magnets featuring the Swiss flag, a pot of fondue, a Bernese mountain dog and cuckoo clocks. We have a pamphlet for the Conelli Circus that it was our tradition to attend every year the day after Christmas. We have postcards from our favorite ice cream seller and neighborhood shop. And magnets of the two tram lines that took us home. All of these things are on our fridge here in Spokane, and yet we have a full life back in Zurich. No matter where we are, we are forever more going to have two homes.

This is the greatest TED talk for anyone who has called more than one place home. Taiye Selasi proposes a three category system for determining where you're a local, rather than the usual focus on where you're from. These are what she calls "The Three R's": Rituals, Relationships and Restrictions. She urges you to get out a sheet of paper and examine each category. I did it and it's illuminating and fascinating to look at your life as it's lived day-to-day and see that, really, it might span multiple places beyond where you're living physically.

My favorite perspective she gives is on the idea of countries. She says, "Perhaps my biggest problem with coming from countries is the idea of going back to them...We can never go back to a place and find it exactly where we left it. Something, somewhere will always have changed. Most of all, ourselves." This has certainly proven to be true with regard to coming back to the States. And at this point, we've grown and changed so much, I wonder what it would be like if we were to go back to Switzerland?

If any of this resonates with you at all, you will just love Taiye Selasi's TED talk. Enjoy. And be sure to have paper and pen handy.

I'm curious, have you lived somewhere else and found it impossible to go back home? Were you then able to go back to where you'd been? Did you just accept a life in limbo? Or, like Taiye Selasi, have you cracked the code and found a way to live as a multi-local? I would love to hear your story! Please chime in in the comments below.  
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