Monday, May 22, 2017

Montessori: Right Now

One mistake I make over and over again as a mom is bringing up future plans to our kids. Especially plans that they'll be excited about. For example, we received an invitation to my niece's birthday party two weeks ahead and I told the kids we were invited and would go. Their response? "Right now?" What follows is trying to explain time to someone who has no concept of time. ;)

We've done a bit of experimenting and discovered that telling the number of "sleeps" is actually quite helpful. I never understood why parents talked in terms of "sleeps" until having my own walking, talking and confused children. Going to sleep over and over again is something young children can grasp and understand quite well. It seems to be okay to mention plans a day or two in advance as well. Even thought it isn't happening right then, it's soon and they can wrap their heads around tomorrow (Theo) or even the day after tomorrow (Coco). But next week is too far away to tell them about something.

Montessori recognized different Planes of Development. The First Plane is from birth until 6 years of age, the second from 6 until 12 years of age. She has a wonderful quote that captures perfectly why children under the age of six have such a hard time with time: "The first plane child wants to wrap their hand around the world, the second plane child wants to wrap their head around the world." Children up until six years of age are really only concerned with what they are experiencing in that moment. In other words, right now. They're interested in what they can see, hear, touch and feel at any given moment. They are totally and completely present at all times. For them, all that exists is right now.

So I really try to stop telling our kids about plans in the non-existent-to-them future. And I also avoid imposing future consequences. Children rarely understand the offense or the consequence outside of the present moment. So saying there will be no tv tomorrow really doesn't do anything but confuse them.

What do you think? Are your children able to understand the idea of the future? At what age did it get easier for them? How do you discuss upcoming plans?

(Photo of Coco in the Columbia Gorge)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Weekend Reading

J's parents are coming up from Oregon tomorrow for Coco's big ballet recital on Monday night. It's at the Fox Theater, which is so amazingly gorgeous, and then afterward we're having a big shrimp boil out on our patio, courtesy of my Uncle Cyrus. Sunday night is all about the s'mores with the grandparents. It's going to be a busy one!

And here are a few links and a bit of weekend reading for you:

How to be a better iPhone photographer, according to Apple.

Can't wait to wear this jaunty tee all summer long.

Brava! So much honesty and candor.

J and I are really into this (new to us) podcast. (The Trumpland episodes are blowing my mind. Eeek.)

Get me a pedicure before these beauties arrive!

Wouldn't you love to do this for ten minutes every day?

Rolling on the floor laughing.

I'm pretty sure this takes predictable routines for kids too far. ;)

Seriously, can you find anything new in this smart cleaning advice?! (Oh wait, that bit about the sheets is kind of eye opening.)

Finally ordered this book upon Coco asking for it daily for many days in a row!

And from the archives: One thing I loved about Switzerland and still my favorite breakfast.

I hope your weekend is top-notch! See you all back here Monday. xo

(Ranunculus photo via Pinterest)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

How To: De-puff Eyes After Crying

This has not been the easiest week. Soon I will be able to share more about some very big stuff we've got going on, but until then I'll leave you with this invaluable trick to de-puff eyes after crying. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Have a beautiful weekend.

How was your week? Tuesday afternoon, Coco came down with a fever and I spent Wednesday and Thursday at home with a very sick little bunny. She had a headache. "Mama, my forehead hurts!" And a sore throat. "If I do this (swallows several times, with visible effort) it really hurts." And maybe some sinus pressure. On the way to the bathroom: "When I step too hard, it really hurts in my head." But she was a total trooper and it was nice to spend a day on the couch with her. Such a sweetie.

Today was the Mother's Tea at Coco's Montessori school. I made this incredible and oh-so-easy salad and it was a total hit! But, Thursday while I was home with Coco, I somehow managed to burn an entire baking sheet of tomatoes to a veritable crisp while roasting them. That is not an easy feat! So I started over and roasted these mini heirlooms and they were just delicious.

Now, I feel a bit of a sore throat myself. Ugh. But here's a bit of what I've been reading and checking out lately:

Following your dreams is actually about saying no.

What is going on here, exactly?

Make your baby feel loved.

Excellent explanation of what repatriation feels like.

The Swiss National Bank is rolling out a beautiful new banknote series.

This is so true.

The most flattering, comfortable yet still pretty everyday bra.

Made me giggle with glee.

Have you tried the two minute facial? I'm obsessed!

Forget building self-esteem and do this. It works.

Wishing everyone a Happy Mother's Day, especially to those of you who have lost your mom, or can't have a baby, or have lost a child. You are not forgotten. I'm excited for brunch and mimosas on Sunday and I'll see you back here Monday! xo

Monday, May 8, 2017

Montessori: The Debrief

Very small children are all about predictability and knowing what comes next, which is why they respond so well to routines. It's also why they respond to a lack of routine quite horribly. The problem is, of course, that we do things each week, or at least each month, that fall out of our predictable routines and that's when we all need the debrief.

When I was teaching, I employed the debrief often. Before Creative Movement class, which only happened every few weeks, we would debrief. Before any sort of holiday gathering or inviting observers or visitors into the classroom, we would debrief. Before going out on the playground after the first Oregon rainy day, debrief. It was upsetting to the children that everything was wet and squishy. They needed a heads up.

Simple things to which we are accustomed are happening to children for the very first time. Before Creative Movement, we'd all gather in a circle and I would explain plainly and somewhat slowly what was about to happen. They enjoyed the suspense and intrigue of being told what would happen. They would not have enjoyed the jolt and surprise of just going without the debrief. I looked around the circle at their little eyes. "Today, we are going to Creative Movement" I would say. "Very soon, I will call your names one by one to line up by the outside door. Miss Joan will be waiting for us in the covered area and everyone will participate and have a nice time." Pause. "Can anyone tell me something they remember or like about Creative Movement?" After no more than three comments, I would announce the first person to line up and then get them on their way. Whereas they might be frantic and worried about where I was leading them outside, not during recess time (!) they would walk calmly and without resistance to Creative Movement. They would then participate and have a nice time. So handy!

A few weeks ago, J took Coco and Theo to Target because he needed to buy some thank you cards. This was most certainly outside of their predictable routine. They go to Target with me often enough, but almost never with J. Whereas I have some ground rules and routines for Target visits, J just thought he could take them in there, grab some cards and get out. Ha. Hahahahahahahaha! Of course all hell broke loose when Coco spotted some toy she wanted.

Normally, I make them both sit in the cart (Theo in the seat and Coco in the actual cart) and allow them to each pick a toy to have with them whilst we wheel about. J did not know this, of course, and told Coco no to the toy. Coco, not being one to take no for an answer, proceeded to have the worst tantrum of her life, complete with clawing at his face and screaming blood curdling screams in the middle of Target.* By the time we'd had a glass of wine and he was telling me about it while they slept in their beds later that evening, he was able to laugh about it (bravo, J!) but he said in the moment, it was extremely trying and embarrassing. Um, yeah.

I explained to him that he needed the debrief. Rather than just cruising on into Target, he needed to park the car and then turn around and look into their sweet eyes and explain what was going to happen before going in. Lay down a simple code of conduct. "You're going to both sit in the cart while I push" Explain what you're going to get and why. "I need to get some thank you cards for my co-workers. You can help me pick out some nice ones!" Then, allow them to ask questions. "Can we have a toy in the cart? Mama always lets us have a toy." Coco would definitely explain this one in her super detailed way, "We go to the toys and mama lets us point to a toy and pick that one to have in the cart with us. And after a little while, we trade and Theo looks at my toy and I look at his. And we don't buy them. Andt the end, we put them away before we go." She's very verbal. And tenacious.

After days and days of begging and pestering and constant asking, I finally took Coco back to Target to look at the coveted toy. I needed to buy a few other things, so she played with it in the cart. After five minutes or so, she said, "Can I get a new toy? This one's boring." Theo wasn't with us that day, so we swung by the toy department and switched it out for something else. Then I finished my shopping.  She probably would have gotten bored of it the day she was there with J, too. But it's good he held his ground anyway. Hopefully next time, it can be avoided.

Do you like surprises? Do your kids? How do you debrief or help things to run smoothly?

(Photo via The Mountain Laurel/Tumblr)

*She came down with a fever the next day;)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Pet Peeves

Today I had a really great day. It's funny, I couldn't even tell you why it was great really. I was tired AF from Theo keeping me up again, and he was still very cranky and demanding and made his trademark screeching sound a lot. That makes me want to scream. And yet, I had a great day. Go figure.

So, seeing as it was a great day, this seems like a fine time to rant about a few pet peeves I have. I wonder if we have the same pet peeves? Read on to find out.

#1 - Converse shoelaces.
Have you ever wondered why Converse shoelaces suck so bad? I have. So many times. They're impossibly slippery and never stay tied. I remember, as a child, thirty years ago, my mom double-knotting my Cons the way I double-knot my kids' now. Why, in thirty plus years have they not done something about this?! On their own website, they show the shoes untied. Preview of what's to come.

#2 - When people say, "It is what it is."
Argh. This one is so irritating. In the Bay Area, you're guaranteed to hear someone say this at least once an hour. It is almost always accompanied with a sigh of resignation or shoulder shrug, as if to say "it's hopeless" or "it's beyond anyone's control," rather than "it is what it is." Saying that something is what it is seems to give it a great amount of gravity. However that is not how this particular phrase is typically used. We don't go around quipping, "to be or not to be" because it carries weight. It has gravitas. But "it is what it is" just gets tossed around like nothing. Oh well. Nothing I can do about it. (Shrug) It is what it is! ;)

#3 - Overhead lighting.
Damn if I can't stand overhead light. It's glaring and harsh and over illuminates everything and creates horrible shadows that feel straight out of some David Lynch film nightmare. Our apartment in Zurich didn't have any overhead lights. Not a single one. Instead, each plug had one socket out of three that was connected to the light switch on the wall. It was amazing. Click the switch (they were buttons, not flippers like we have in North America) and all of the connected lights came on at once. Our current house has tons of overhead lights. One in every room. I refuse to use them and went to great lengths to place lamps near every door. But J loves the overhead lights when he's looking for something, or just whenever really. I've threatened to take the lightbulbs out. Cringe!

Tell me your pet peeves in the comments below. Do you share any in common with me?

(Photo via UO Orange County/Instagram)

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Self-Care When Caretaking and TV Lately

I've been taking care of a very sick Theo for the past few days. We have spent a great deal of time on the couch together, just snuggling, or sitting together watching a movie, or napping together. Taking care of a sick child is really hard. They feel awful and don't quite understand why or that it's temporary and they're very very needy and demanding. So, I did something this week that I haven't when caring for sick children in the past. I took some time for myself. Saturday, Coco had a birthday party to go to. Normally, I would have had J take her so I could stay with Theo. But I left Theo in the capable hands of his dad and took Coco myself. It was nice to get out of the house and such a needed break. Sunday, I went to yoga, and again today I went to yoga. Theo and J are close and having him take care of him when he's sick only makes Theo's bond with J stronger. It's a win-win all around.

So, I have to ask what TV shows are you watching lately? We became total TV junkies after getting married and I love it. When we were newlyweds, we would get Chipotle and watch Desperate Housewives (HA!) every Sunday. That show was so bad it was good. I loved that weekly tradition. After becoming parents, J really did make everything so darn perfect for when Coco and I came home from the hospital. He stocked the fridge, cooked and cleaned for two solid weeks and made sure that I had a funny or compelling show to watch with a big cup of tea on the couch every night. The first series we got into was Weeds and I get all misty eyed now when I hear the theme song because it takes me back to those days holding newborn Coco on the couch and watching TV.

Back to the present, we like to have a few shows going at once. The most recent season of Homeland was incredible, as always, and thankfully we had Billions to keep watching on Sunday evenings when Homeland ended. However, now Billions is in it's season finale this coming weekend. No! I know that House of Cards starts up again at the end of the month. And I have to double-check the dates for Master of None and Bloodline. I would still love to hear what you recommend as it seems that most of our shows are kind of heavy and dramatic lately.

Speaking of. We've started watching the most terrifying, twisted, dark show I've ever been into. It's The Fall. Have you watched it? It's a Netflix original and so violent and creepy, I can't believe I actually like it. But it's all I can think about. The little details, the amazing acting by Gillian Anderson, the dynamic, human, flawed (sometimes very flawed!) characters. J does not like it. And on some level I don't either. It's that dark. But I really do love one aspect of the show so much. It does an incredible job of illustrating sexism and misogyny. Incredible! I love their social commentary. It's really thought provoking.

So tell me what you're watching! Especially if it's something funny or light-hearted. ;) And here's to Theo being back to his old self very soon! xo

(Photo via Elvira/Instagram)

Friday, April 28, 2017

Have a sweet weekend.

What are you doing this weekend? Is it warm where you are? We are freezing and hoping for some sun and warmer days. I'm craving rosé and sunshine and bike rides and lazy days at the park, but spring has been so slow to start. Finally our cherry tree is in bloom, so it's coming. Hooray! 

Thank you for sharing so much through your thoughtful and eye-opening comments on this post. I think deciding when to be done done having babies is one of the hardest things. There are so many logical reasons to go one way or another, but if I think ahead to having adult children, or try to imagine how I'll feel at the end of my life, I can see that this is one of those things that is just going to have to come from the heart. Cheesy, but true! So, sometime over the next couple years, I guess I'll just follow my heart. I'm not ready to do anything right now, especially with things a bit up in the air at the moment, but we've got a little time. I think I can leave that question out for a bit. ;)

And, here's a bit of what caught my eye around the web this week:

Speaking of commutes, this couple has a short one!

Spokane had the most amazing storm this week. We sat on the couch with all the lights off and the front door open and said "Wow!" and "That was a big one!" about a million times. :)

Beauty gurus claim this $12 exfoliating sponge is better than the Clarisonic

Is undiagnosed lead poisoning a problem in your state?

I got J a bottle of this for summer. Mmmmmmazing!

This made me rethink the girl on wall street. 

Cannot wait to read this book. (Her Modern Love essays made me cry!)

I hope your weekend is lovely and wonderful and filled with good coffee and sunshine and naps. I'm going to get down to business cleaning out some closets and doing a bit of spring cleaning. Wish me luck! See you back here Monday. xo

(Photo via Prone to Wander/Tumblr)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

What's Your Ideal Commute?

J and I were talking about commute times today and it got me thinking about what it means to commute. Personally, I don't like a long commute that forces me to get up early and commit to covering a serious amount of ground every day. When we first graduated from college, J and I moved to LA for a few months. I always felt like it was a really stupid move, but now I see that it was actually awesome. I learned a whole lot about what I didn't want in life during those months. Among those things was a long commute. For a while I drove nearly an hour each way to work and it was a completely demoralizing and soul sucking experience.

Over the years, I have had walking commutes, including one that was veritably straight uphill and always resulted in my arriving at work hot and red in the cheeks. Another crossed over a small farm in which I would sometimes get held up in a traffic jam of sheep! I've had urban walking commutes (typically weather permitting) and public transit commutes, and of course, the standard car commute.

Probably the best commute of them all was when we were living in Northwest Portland and J and I commuted together. The drive was absolutely beautiful through the winding streets of Portland's forested West Hills. Some mornings, the sun filtered through the trees and sprinkled us with delight in our convertible. Most mornings, we had the top up and the heat on, surrounded by tall trees whose tops you couldn't see in the misty clouds and rain. While I don't favor a long commute, I also don't want a commute that's too short. In my mind, around 20 minutes is just perfect. It's long enough to drink a big cup of coffee and listen to the news and mentally change gears. While I was forced to give up my morning-news-in-the-car habit commuting with J, I did get to listen to his curated playlists each morning and do my makeup and drink coffee in the passenger seat. A year later, we wound up moving across the river and in the interest of time, usually wound up taking I-5 to work instead. But, sometimes, if we had some extra time or got up early, we would go across the Broadway Bridge and drive the old way, just because.

This week, J and I have been subbing at the same high school. Every morning, we pile the kids into the car and drop them off together and then chat while we finish our coffee the rest of the way. It's pretty darn cozy, I have to admit. So, tell me, what's your perfect commute? Are you a headphones on the bus or train kind of commuter? Do you not mind driving 45 minutes? Or do you even really think about it? I would love to hear. Please share in the comments below! xo

(Photo via Pinterest)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Don't Yoga So Hard

Namaste. Did you think that was me for a second? Bwahahahaha! So not me.

But, Sunday night I did go back to yoga after a six or seven month hiatus. In the grand scheme of things that is a very good thing. I'm crazy out of shape now that I no longer walk everywhere and I'm grumpy and disagreeable when I'm not getting regular exercise. But, the whole thing with yoga, as you very well may know, is that it is a practice and it's usually a good idea not to fall completely out of practice for an extended period of time. Hey, what can I say? I did. And the only thing to do was get back to it. So off I went on Sunday afternoon. Once I hit my mat, I was feeling so good and so inspired, I really did think that the mindfulness practice I've been doing thanks to the Breathe app on my Apple Watch had carried me through my lapse, no harm done. Ha. I was so wrong! In my inspiration and desire to look like this crazy yogi above, totally nailing an impossible contortionist pose, I yoga'ed so hard.

Word to the wise: Do not yoga so hard.

If you yoga so hard, you will hurt your neck like I did and it will not feel good. It's been a few days of neck pain now, so I've had plenty of time to contemplate what went so wrong when I yoga'ed so hard and it was this: you do not yoga hard, ever. In fact when you yoga well, it is the opposite of doing something hard. Yoga is the ultimate balancing act. Yoga is seeking to find that place where you can balance and feel your weight supported by the earth and then you relax into the posture and let it all go. What I did was the opposite. I seized those postures with all my might, which given my weak core following the carrying and delivery of gigantic Theo, happens to be my neck muscles. Ouch.

So I'm going to go back to yoga tomorrow, but for the Restore class. And then, over the weekend, I'll do my best to yoga so soft. I cannot and will not push myself into a pose beyond my limits. And I vow to seek balance and to focus on letting go. I think this soft approach is going to spill over nicely into the rest of my life, too. I really do.

Do you go to yoga? Do you ever find yourself wanting to yoga so hard? Please tell me I'm not the only one! ;) xx

PS - My favorite yoga pantsAnalyzed Movements, and photo via Lululemon/Pinterest.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Fascinating Podcast Episode

J introduced me to the Hidden Brain podcast last summer. Do you listen to it? It's always really interesting and deep and they're not afraid to ask big questions or tackle big topics. Last week they had an episode that was particularly engaging and really hit home for me. Its title: Schadenfacebook. As you might have guessed, it was all about the effects of Facebook and social media on our over all happiness and well-being.

The entire episode and all of the interviews were completely captivating and I found myself nodding along in agreement throughout. I promise I won't give anything away, but one segment toward the end completely crystallized this weird feeling I've had ever since we got back from Switzerland.  While I was in Switzerland, I felt like I was missing out on so much here in the US. In fact, I felt that way so strongly that it actually diminished my ability to be present there. But then I got back to the US and realized that everything I thought I was missing out on here was actually just happening online anyway. I have been trying for months to formulate a post about this, but it's surprisingly hard to articulate. What I was seeing from Switzerland on Facebook and social media wasn't any different from what I'm seeing from here. In other words, none of these things I thought I could be a part of if I were here are actually real. Our lives have become based online to such a degree that we feel isolated in our real, non-digital lives. It's at once fascinating and horrendous, and no wonder that so many of us feel lonely and unhappy.

I have to say that I'm infinitely happier since I left Facebook last fall. I go on occasionally to post on my Swiss Lark page or check on a particular friend, but that's it. Sometimes I find it fun to scroll a bit and see what's going on with people I know. But usually, I find it all so overwhelming that I get off of there as quickly as possible. I'm so much more peaceful and content for it. Are you still on Facebook? To what degree? Definitely give Schadenfacebook (Ep. 68) a listen. I'm so curious to hear what you think. Do you agree with the guests and findings? Does it apply to your own life and levels of fulfillment and happiness? Hurry back and let me know. (Speaking of online engagement;)

(Photo via Pinterest)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Are you a middle child?

It's hard. Even though we have every reason to be done having babies - two healthy, beautiful children; a girl and a boy; life is so much easier with just two - I find myself thinking about having a third anyway. Why is that? In my mind, we are done, but it doesn't change the fact that I want another pregnancy, another birth, those newborn days again. I want to see another baby roll over, smile for the first time, take their first steps, crouch in that gorgeous gnome-like baby way, pick up peas with pudgy fingers. I want to experience all of it again, with a new little person whose personality and self I don't yet know.

But, one thing that comes up again and again for me is middle child syndrome. It's the idea that the middle child gets left out over and over again, with lasting consequences. They're not the oldest and most skilled, doing everything first and they're not the baby, who no matter how old they get always remains the baby. The middle child is just that, stuck in the middle. I can't stand the thought of doing that to Theo. He is so sweet and perfect.

Of course middle child syndrome is a theory, not a fact. And why am I thinking about this anyway? I feel like I'm getting too old to have another baby. Some days, my kids take up every ounce of energy and patience I've got. I wish we had started earlier and given ourselves more time to do this, but we didn't. Maybe that's why I can't stop thinking about it. Time is running out. Will I regret not having another baby later, once it's too late? Or would I regret making Theo a middle child?

So I want to hear from all the middle children out there. What do you think? Is it just ridiculous? Or do you think you'd be better off if your younger sibling had never come along? (Now that sounds ridiculous! Maybe I just answered my own question?!) Please chime in in the comments below. If you're a parent of three, did you factor middle child syndrome into your decision? Or am I just that neurotic? Haha! I'm just curious. Tell me all about it!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Have a beautiful weekend.

I am craving bright sunlight and fresh spring air. It's been the slowest start of spring of all time here in Spokane. Finally the cherry in our front yard is starting to get little buds. Hooray! This weekend I just want to clean, be outside as much as possible and take lots of naps. Sounds good after a week of sick kids and no sleep. Phew!

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

Amazing recipe idea for one of Trader Joe's absolute best products.

This is What Happens to Half-used Hotel Room Soap.

Not your usual April showers.

Cutest ever idea for those pop-open cinnamon rolls.

Theo's really into books on this topic lately.

So wish I were going to this workshop in May.

This article really made me think.

The coolest bath toy ever.

26 Ways to Take Your Life Back When You're Broken.

Drooling over this tote for spring and summer - and fall!

I hope your weekend is amazing! Get rest, be kind to yourself and notice the little things. See you back here Monday. xo

(Photo via Pinterest)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

DIY Laundry Detergent

Not long ago, we got a brand new washing machine at our house, which would have been a great thing, except that the landlord got one of those new high efficiency top-loaders. First of all, high efficiency top-loader sounds like a complete oxymoron, and it is! That thing doesn't work at all. I was so excited to have a big, brand new, shiny washing machine! But after I experimented around with different wash cycles and water levels and soaps, it just doesn't work. Sometimes I go down and open it up during the wash phase and it hardly uses any water, which if it worked would be a good thing. But it doesn't work. Drrrh.

So when my cousin mentioned that she had a recipe for homemade laundry detergent, I figured why not try it? It can't possibly make our laundry situation worse! Plus, it smells so ridiculously good that there is that. It's a new experience in smell alone.

This week has been a rough week with not much sleep and Coco being sick, so I was home a lot and it was a good time to catch up on laundry. I still think our washing machine is the worst, but regardless, it felt like a nice little escape to go down to the laundry room. This detergent filled the room with the smell of lavender and freshness. It felt pretty good to bring up a basket of fluffy, warm, nice-smelling clean laundry to fold while the cuties watched a movie.

Here is the recipe, if you'd like to try it. In a large airtight container, combine the following:
This combo pack is a great way to buy the main ingredients in bulk if you're interested in making a bunch, or giving it as gifts. It's so pretty and with a nice jar or canister, makes a lovely impression. Obviously it smells amazing because of the chemical-laden Unstopables! If you're chemical averse, leave those out and add a few drops of essential oils to each load instead. Or, if you think you'll use it up reasonably quickly, add essential oils to the mix. 

I'm really enjoying my laundry detergent. The clothes come out incredibly soft! Have you ever made laundry detergent? What are your favorite laundry detergents?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Sleep Update

I don't know if it's the change of the seasons, the fact that we took the side off of Theo's crib, the wet, rainy weather, still adjusting from getting home from spring break, all the Easter candy, the later sunset or what. But our kids have become really horrible sleepers in the last few weeks. Sleep deprivation is one of those things that makes you stop regretting how fast it's all going and thank your lucky stars that your children won't be little forever, am I right?

I hope you're sleeping well. Despite the hot water bottle, pink flower nightlight that fills the room with a soft glow, Dohm white noise machine, humidifier, rain forest lullabies, sleep training clock and a gazillion stuffed animals, we just can't seem to get a solid eight hours.

I'll be back tomorrow with a more interesting post, but I just had to share. I am losing my mind over here, one night without R.E.M. at a time! Wish me lucky for tonight. It's 9 pm and our kids aren't even asleep. More red wine, please. But wow, I love them so much anyway. Parenthood is funny that way. Goodnight! xo

Monday, April 17, 2017

Montessori: The Sensitive Period for Language

This is the final post in the Sensitive Periods series. You can find the other posts via this one. ;)

Language is a huge topic and a huge body of knowledge and a very complex human thing, so this sensitive period lasts a full year and a half longer than the others, until six years of age. Perhaps Montessori's most famous quote on the combined powers of the Absorbent Mind and Sensitive Periods is, "The only language men speak perfectly is the one they learn in babyhood when no one can teach them anything at all!"

This is significant. When you stop and think about the fact that children learn a complex language with grammar, syntax, tons of words and verb conjugations all simply by being around it, that is a big deal. It is absolute proof of everything Montessori professed in her theories and it supports all that she designed in terms of giving children the richest, most developmentally appropriate environment within which to learn. I deliberately did not say "teaching children" in that sentence because Montessori never set out to teach children. She observed the peculiarities and natural tendencies of children and noticed their preferences. Then she provided them with a curated space to give them the best chance at flourishing. The learning came from within rather than being deposited from without. It's much different!

So, back to language. The greatest piece of this sensitive period is input. Children need tons and tons of linguistic input. This usually happens naturally. We provide children with exposure to language through speaking to them and speaking to each other in front of them. Children who face their mothers in their strollers rather than facing out tend to speak sooner and better than those who don't. Another important input for language is books. We read at least three books per day to our children, but that is the minimum and usually it's more. It's important that we not overlook children or only give them instruction throughout the day. Children need conversation and to hear descriptions and explanations. You don't need to talk until you're blue in the face every minute, but providing a lot of interaction and dialogue, even one-sided dialogue in the beginning, is good.

In the Montessori classroom, there are so many ways that spoken language is fostered and encouraged. There is even a lesson for having a conversation at an object or picture on the wall. The teacher models-through-doing with the child how to have a conversation about something and then invites the child to do so with another child. Child-to-child communication is something that is almost being lost in our modern lives. It's important that children have time with other children that isn't completely facilitated by an adult.

Symbolic language in the forms of writing and reading are also made possible in the Montessori classroom, following the child's interest and ability as a guide. Three-period lessons are given on the sounds and once a child knows enough sounds, they can progress to building words with the Moveable Alphabet (pictured above) by sounding out and making the words phonetically. This is done with the Moveable Alphabet because the mind is ready before the hand. Reading comes last in Montessori. It is a natural extension of building words to read them back. Then phonetic reading progresses, puzzle words are introduced through three-period lessons and the explosion into reading occurs. The key to this explosion is strong input and use and command of language, orally and communicatively, ahead of time.

The sensitive period for language, like all the other sensitive periods, is the time when a foundation is laid. If a child only learns one language during those years, but gains a commanding grasp and understanding of the intricacies of language and develops a real talent for it, then they would likely have an easy time learning other languages throughout life. Of course, the closer to the sensitive period, the easier, but that love of and strong foundation in language will remain.

How do you see language manifesting in your child? What do you do to foster language development at home?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Finally Assembling Coco and Theo's Baby Books

I don't know about you, but when I became a mother, I got really excited about putting together a baby book for Coco. I ordered up this cute book when she was just a tiny baby. Life with a newborn, baby and toddler was busy, but the fact that it was still completely empty when Theo was born a few years later didn't deter me from ordering up the same book in blue for him. Then I had two completely empty baby books!

When we were down at J's parents' house on spring break, we saw the calendar we sent them for Christmas. J and the kids and I had the best time flipping through it again and again. The fact that they request photo calendars every year is literally the only reason I make them. With a deadline and request from the grandparents, I get it done. But without a deadline and request from someone else, I never do books and prints just for us. It's time to change that. It's so worth the effort!

So I vowed to get to the kids' baby books when we got back home. I think part of what makes doing baby books so challenging in the digital age is the sheer amount of choice. We take so many photos and have everything so well documented, it is hard to decide which ones to use. That, combined with the fact we don't have to print our photos in order to see them means they can just sit on our computers forever and it can feel like a lot of work to organize and print them.

But of course this is a bad move. I've heard that children in our kids' generation will be the most photographed kids of all time and yet have the least number of photos when they're older. What a paradox. So I set about making sure my kids photos got into those books and it was doubly time-consuming and difficult as I thought it would be!

I spent all morning yesterday flipping through the different pages of the books and looking for applicable photos. I set up two separate folders, one for Coco and one for Theo, which was a mistake because I forgot to print a bunch of Theo's once I started uploading. I used mpix for the prints, which is so easy to use. You can upload from your computer, or from a variety of social media sites, including Instagram, Facebook, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. Once you've selected your photos, you choose the size and finish of the prints and add them to your cart. It was so easy!

Before doing a large order, I ordered a small assortment last fall to compare the different finishes.  E-Surface and Metallic are shown above. I find that this is something that isn't explained all that well on the mpix site and it's a bit subjective, so they can't really give a good explanation anyway. They offer three finishes:
  • E-Surface Paper (Standard Photographic Finish) which as the name implies is a pretty standard high-quality photo, exactly what you'd expect from a professional level print. This works well for most photos. This is the finish of the bottom print pictured above.
  • Metallic Paper (Pearlescent Glossy Finish) which is a very dimensional and vibrant finish. I found that this is best for heavily treated photos, like those out of Instagram, Hipstamatic and so on. It gives a depth and vibrancy to the photos, which looks just great. This is the finish of the top print pictured above.
  • True B&W Paper (Classic Matte Finish) - for any black and white photos, it's worth the extra premium to get the true black and white paper. There is absolutely no glare so your black and white photos are crisp and look gorgeous. 
I highly recommend mpix for photo prints. Their customer service are so helpful and prompt. When I've emailed them, I always get a response within minutes during business hours. They truly are exceptional! And, they have beautiful art options and cards to order, too. I can't wait for the rest of our prints to arrive and to really see those baby books bursting at the seams with photos! :) 

Have you done baby books for your kids? Do you plan to? What's your secret for printing photos or making photo books?

(This post is not sponsored by mpix, I just think they're really great:)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Our California Trip: Mistakes, Realizations and Letting Go

Last week we went to California for spring break. We had an interesting time. It was fantastic to catch up with old friends and get a change of scenery. It was also oddly and extraordinarily exhausting and we were pretty relieved to get back home. Many more beautiful pictures, a big mistake and a surprising realization, straight ahead...

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Montessori: Sensory Perception

This is the third installment of the Montessori Sensitive Periods series. You may also want to read the intro, post on order, and post on movement. Also, if you have any questions about Montessori or Montessori discipline, parenting or the like, please email me and your question could be a Montessori column here on Swiss Lark. Thank you.


Sensory perception is the sensitive period related to all forms of sensation or receiving impressions through our senses. Touch, sight, hearing, tasting and smelling. Of course children are in most cases  are born with all of these senses. The sensitive period is focused on the refinement of these senses. 

Montessori discovered that the best way to refine and perfect the five senses was to isolate the senses and qualities that they perceive. It drives me nuts how on educational videos for kids, they're always mismashing qualities perceived by the senses. For example, they'll be doing colors and shapes at the same time. A red triangle, a blue square. These things need to be learned separately. It's important for a child to understand what quality makes a square a square before focusing on the color of the square. Make sense? 

The child in the photo above is feeling geometric shapes from the geometric cabinet. The shapes are all blue, coincidentally, but that is not discussed by the teacher during the lessons. If the child notices it, it is acknowledged, of course, but color is not the focus, shape is. By making the shapes all the same color, their difference in shape is highlighted as the quality that makes them different. 

Before names are assigned to the shapes, they are understood through extensive feeling and seeing. There are matching exercises (done without a blindfold!) and feeling exercises. Then, once the shapes are understood on a sensory level, the names are introduced with a three-period lesson.

The Sensorial area is my favorite in the Montessori classroom. There is a tasting exercise in which children match seemingly identical liquids based on how they taste. There are exercises for listening, smelling, tactile and then complex puzzles that the children become ready for through refined recognition of shape.

One story goes that in the first classroom, Montessori brought in a worker to repair a window pane. As he brought the glass through the room, the children remarked that it was too big and wouldn't fit. He scoffed at them, and when he got it over to the window, it was about an inch too big. Montessori thought it remarkable that the children could see that and put it down to exceptional refinement of sensory perception, gained from the materials she had designed herself! ;)


So I really must apologize for not posting this yesterday. I tried to write it - several times! But something very exciting happened and I was too distracted to even focus on it at all. Hopefully I'll be able to share it with you soon! ;) Please leave your questions or reaction in the comments! xo

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Taking a Time Out

We arrived in Berkeley around dinner time on Monday - after a full day of driving and a full day of driving before that. Once we had fallen into bed, exhausted, I remembered I hadn't written the blog! So I resolved to pick up where I left off today. Then, as bedtime rolled around once again, I realized this whole blogging on vacation thing just isn't happening. Today was another full day of action. We sat in more traffic than I care to ever sit in again and in between traffic jams, spent the entire day at the zoo, chasing around kiddos and pushing strollers.

So I have made a decision. I'm taking this entire week off from the blog while we're on vacation here in San Francisco. Over the past couple months, J and I have had so much on our minds and I feel like it's a good time to detach and regroup and take a real time out.

It's also insanely busy and I have very little free time while "on vacation" with Coco and Theo. So there's that, too! ;)

But, while I'm having my mental time out, here are a few posts from the archives you might enjoy:

Best Tips for Building IKEA Furniture

The Swiss Way to Get Rid of the Pacifier

Learning the Ukulele

A Positive Thinking Trick

Beauty Trick: Sleeping Masks

DIY Stamped Pillow Covers

Shoes Off Inside

Coco's Fasnacht Costume

The Best Rule of Thumb when Caring for a Sick Child

Do you meditate?

I hope you have a wonderful week and see you back here Monday the 11th with the next installment in the Montessori Sensitive Periods series. Thank you for reading. Your being here and thought provoking comments really are the best part about writing this blog. xoxo

Friday, March 31, 2017

Cheers to the Weekend!

Spring break is finally here. I rushed home today to do a bunch of laundry and get the house into some sort of semi-semblance of order before we take off on our trip tomorrow morning. My mom is housesitting and I think when we get back, it will be time to set up the patio furniture. Spring was really in the air today. The kids played in the backyard for hours. So lovely!

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

Loving the bold lines of this modern map art. (Especially the red Zurich one:)

When life gives you lemons...haha!

The four types of introversion.

I love this simple revelation.

My go-to lip these days. (In love with Whole Lotta Honey;)

This essay. OMG. So good.

Game changer. Our kids LOVE this stuff!

No joke.

So funny! (Or not funny at all?!)

For the mamas who've lost their names.

The iPad and iPhone 4S are loaded with Apps and movies. We'll be on the road this weekend. Please follow along on Instagram! And I'll see you back here Monday for another Montessori Sensitive Periods post and next week's Bay Area posts should be fun.  As always, thank you for reading, thank you for commenting, and thank you for your patience regarding my replies to comments. All my love! xo

(Photo via Katy English/Instagram. Onion via Morgan Cline. Hollie McNish poetry via Johanna Sargeant.)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

An Appraisal of Values (and More on Walking)

Since we came back to the US and felt our lives completely fall apart and run off the rails, our car has always stayed with us. The first thing we did after leaving the Volkswagen dealership was install super fancy Maxi-Cosi carseats for two-year-old toddler Coco and not-yet-born baby Theo. When it was clear he would make his grand entrance, we parked our car in the hospital parking lot and in true American car-culture fashion, we were given free parking as a bonus and congratulations. We kept the parking ticket stub and put it in Theo's memento box. The date stamp says August 1, 2014, 6:07 pm. Two days later, we took Theo home from the hospital in that same car. All four of us, buckled up safe, gliding along a tree-lined street in a sweet, quintessential American town. And when that town failed us miserably, it was that same car that carried us (and a U-Haul trailer) out of there. During hot Spokane summers when our kids wouldn't sleep or calm down, we'd all get into our air-conditioned car and take long, relaxing drives in the Palouse. There could be no greater symbol of our American life than our beloved car. It's been like a home to us in a way.

As much as I love our car, I also deeply resent it. The aforementioned carseats quickly became the bane of my existence and what seemed like such a smooth ride and enjoyable driving experience at the dealership quickly felt stodgy and frustrating when punctuated by constant parking, getting in and out and car seat buckling. I especially hated it when compared with the seamless walking and stroller pushing I missed in Zurich. Heated seats and Bluetooth connectivity can only make you so happy, it turns out. Despite the popular opinion that having a car is convenient, I'm resolutely unconvinced. Drive-thru's are not the answer and yet for so many months, when I felt the stinging of tears in my eyes as my three-year-old cried and begged, "Can't we walk instead?! Please can we walk!" on the way out to the car, they absolutely were.

I cannot tell you how utterly ridiculous it felt to pull our car into our garage when we first moved into this house. "It's like our car has a tiny house of its own!" I would exclaim to others, jazz hands out in front of me, nodding excitedly, only to be met by puzzled expressions and the shaking of heads. We have a detached garage that doesn't even have a remote opener, but it seemed extravagant and unbelievable to me. And it still does, honestly. It's bizarre, because one of my favorite books when I was little was about these personified cars who loved to get into their garage at night and rest their tired wheels, cool off their hot tires after a day of driving and just rest and unwind in their happy place, which of course was their garage. I'm not even sure what to make of this.

The thing about walking here that frustrates me so much is that even if you live in a place that's a bit walkable, it's still just out and back trips. Right now, we can walk from our house to the grocery store - and back. Or we can walk from our house to a coffee shop - and back. In Zurich, it was a constant mix of buses, trams, trains, even boats, but mostly walking. We can't do that here. Things aren't close and clustered and it doesn't make sense to walk most of the time.  It's only out and back trips, which are something we have to make time for, and that drives me nuts. I can't live this way.

And yet all this time in Spokane, I've been trying to get behind the house and yard and garage idea. When we first got here and went around with a realtor that very first weekend, I was ready to dive in and do it. By the end of that weekend, and after seeing a dozen houses, I was less enthusiastic. And by the end of that week, we concluded we were not ready to take that step. Thank goodness for that! The word mortgage comes from French and literally means to engage with death. Still, as the months went by, and I would catch myself noticing "for sale" signs as I drove through certain neighborhoods, I wondered if maybe I was just scared of buying a house - in a good way. After all, lots of things that are wonderful and good are frightening in a way, too. But I just couldn't get excited about the whole package and overall lifestyle. Even if I had a house I loved, a space I enjoyed and could tend to and make my own, I always came back around to the fact that it would still be car-based living.

A few weeks ago, I heard through the grapevine that one of our favorite houses in town might go on the market this spring. I got thrown for a loop because it's a beautiful house. We've been inside it because we know the owners and it has just about everything on my list. Hardwood floors, gorgeous, well cared for original 1940's kitchen with white cabinets and a newer gas stove, stainless refrigerator and dishwasher. A window in the bathroom, a window above the kitchen sink. Nice yard with a hot tub. Fireplace! Maybe this is it, I thought to myself. Maybe that little house would be a place where we could settle down and finally go all in on this Spokane life. I drove by. I imagined our kids walking to the park and to school. I imagined our furniture inside and wondered what colors we'd paint the walls. I thought of birthday parties in the backyard and breakfasts in the little nook off of the kitchen. I thought of pulling our car into the garage.

Ugh. Deal breaker.

I wish I could do it. It seems like we're supposed to do it. We just need to accept that once we're grown up and have kids, we have to give up certain things. We have to move to the suburbs or a smaller city and accept car-based living. But I can't. Just as I would rather have dinner all together every night than more money in our bank account, I would rather live in a small apartment in an urban setting than have a house and a yard and a garage. This is proving to be quite the stumbling block, but if nothing else, I'm grateful for all that we've been through since we got back to the US for identifying our values. I'm not sure where that leaves me, but at least I know, right? What are your values? How do you align your life with them?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What's the bravest thing you've ever done?

The other day, I was chatting with my friend Stephanie and her friend Sue and it came up that I had lived in Switzerland. Sue asked a few questions about it and in the course of conversation I clarified that I had lived in Switzerland twice - once on my own and once with J.

"Oh my goodness," Sue cried, "you moved there all by yourself?! How old were you? Did you have family there?"

"No," I replied shaking my head, "I was 26. I'd never even been there before." And at that, Sue gasped and put her hand to her heart. Then Stephanie looked at Sue and then looked back at me and with the biggest, most genuine grin said, "Isn't she so brave?" and gave my shoulder an excited little squeeze. And that really surprised me!

"YES. Yes, she is" was all Sue said in response and they both just stared at me and I was rather stunned. It had honestly never once occurred to me that moving to Switzerland alone was a brave thing to do. But, once they mentioned it, I decided to give myself some credit and a nice pat on the back because it is a pretty brave thing to move all alone to a foreign land and I should go ahead and be proud of that.

Have you heard that the little girl facing down the bull on Wall Street is going to stay for another year? I love Mayor DeBlasio's description of the statue as a reminder of “standing up to fear, standing up to power, being able to find in yourself the strength to do what’s right.” What a great motto for 2017.

So tell me, what's the bravest thing you've ever done? Please share in the comments below.

(Photo via ABC)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Montessori: Sensitive Period for Movement

This post is part of my Montessori series on The Sensitive Periods. You may want to read the intro and The Sensitive Period for Order before reading this post. As always, if you have any questions about Montessori theory, philosophy and practice - or - about parenting, child-rearing and development, please do not hesitate to send me an email and ask. I love reader questions and sharing Montessori with you!

The sensitive period for the coordination of movement, or just movement, is what drives the child to develop strength through practice and refinement of gross and fine motor skills. Children do this through observing and absorbing abstractions related to human movement, imitation of these movements and, finally expressing one's own desire to move.

The absorbent mind (another full post coming up on that!) is very much at work when it comes to the sensitive period for movement. Children, in order to learn bi-pedal locomotion and sophisticated human movement, must observe and absorb these movements first. In orphanages throughout history, there have been instances where children's movement was severely restricted. In some cases, they could still observe the nurses walking and moving from their cribs. But in other instances, cribs had solid sides and babies and toddlers with no model of walking and human movement were very stunted and curtailed in ever developing these movements themselves. The absorbent mind, along with the sensitive periods disappears by age six. So, before that time, the child's mind sees things differently and absorbs totality images indiscriminately.

Stop for a moment and think of someone you know who has a very ungraceful walk. We all know someone who plods around, hunched over slightly, clomping and stomping as if they have sandbags tied to their feet at all times. It appears to take great effort with each step to lift their foot off the ground and their hair may even shake and tremble from the force of it all. This is a totality image. I do not have an absorbent mind, so I labeled it right off as ungraceful and cast a negative judgment on such a walk. But the absorbent mind does not do this; it simply takes it all in and concludes, "That is what walking is" and then sets about training the body to do just that. So you can see that the images presented to the child matter very much, as they're what wind up being imitated, unconsciously, by the child's body.

A teacher in a Montessori classroom is always aware of how they move. When I was in the classroom, I walked so quietly and deliberately always because the absorbent mind is always watching and downloading everything it sees. This is evident in ways you'd never think possible. My trainer said she had to start wearing her hair tied back because she saw all of the children, including those whose hair was too short to tuck behind their ears, repeatedly making that movement. Another teacher I know who wears glasses said that after a few months, children would push their middle finger up the bridge of their nose repeatedly. She could not figure out what these kids were doing, and when she asked them about it they just looked at her blankly. It wasn't until she was out to dinner with her mother and saw her mom push her glasses up that she realized they were simply doing what they'd seen her do a million times! I have an ear that requires me to pinch and blow air into it a dozen times a day. After a few months in the classroom, I had to make sure I stepped out to do so because all of the kids were doing it!

So, movement is huge. Children will respond with their full body to rhythmic actions like sweeping. They also can be taught things that seem impossible to teach a baby or toddler. If your baby is having trouble with tummy time, get down and model it for them. Do not speak, just show them. For older babies, teaching them to go down stairs backward is the single biggest sanity saver of a favor you'll ever do yourself. Tell them, "Look honey, this is how you can go down the stairs" and then show them without talking during your movements. You can exaggerate your movements slightly for emphasis and clarity, but don't overdo it or they will, too. For older toddlers and preschoolers, exposure to a variety of movements and allowing them to try the ones that appeal to them is very important. Ballet, skiing, scootering, balance bikes, and of course, running, walking climbing, etc are all extremely beneficial.

Once a child hits four-and-a-half, the sensitive period for movement is fading away, never to return. Their foundation for coordination and refinement of movement has been laid and will limit them throughout their life. If they develop high levels of coordination, balance, gross and fine motor skills, they will always be able to take on that high level of activity as they grow and are ready for different challenges. If they don't, then they won't. Each child is motivated by different things and this will impact the type of coordination of movement they develop. Some might excel more at fine motor and some at gross motor, while others still excel at both, or neither. It doesn't mean new skills can't be learned, but it means that the potential for mastering new movements is somewhat set.

A few other posts to read which you might find relevant:

Analyzed Movements

Perceived Risk


Setting up for Success

Sorry for the missed post yesterday. It was J's birthday and we had so much fun celebrating, I completely forgot about writing the blog until I was in bed, nodding off peacefully. I promise that I will get back to your questions and comments on last week's post ASAP. They really were such thoughtful questions and comments. Thank you for taking the time to respond. It really does make my day! xo

Friday, March 24, 2017

Have a great weekend!

I saw this gorgeous photo on Instagram Monday and it made me so darn happy. Can you believe that spring is here?! I feel like I was just exclaiming how excited I was that March had finally arrived and then we got more snow. Then all the snow melted and now it's nearly April. Time just keeps on flying. It is truly crazy.

Tomorrow Coco, J and I are going skiing together. The weather looks perfect! And Monday is J's birthday. I'm so excited for a date night and Coco and I are making him a Pavlova. Of course Theo will help, too. And here's a bit of what caught my eye around the web this week:

This recipe looks delicious!

I've got this at the top of my wish list.

Coffee shops that will welcome your laptop in Paris. (Not easy to find!)

Cling to this tiny habit.

The bit on the US is particularly spot on.

French Toast 101.

Oooh, want.

The world's most hipster neighborhoods.



Have a wonderful weekend and I'll see you back here Monday! xo

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Around here

What a day we had around here. This morning I didn't have to work until early afternoon, so I was at home with Coco and Theo. Coco was playing quietly in the living room. She comes up with the sweetest games and is always making something for me, or J, or Theo, or all of us. I overheard her saying, "Daddy is the best artist, so I'm making this for him." Cue hand to heart. Oh how I love her so. I hadn't seen Theo for a few minutes, so I went looking for him and found him all snuggled up in the big bed. He looked so cute that I grabbed my phone to snap a photo, but there wasn't enough light, so I opened the curtains and he reached out and smiled and exclaimed, "Morning time!" and I honestly thought my heart would melt. He is the most incredible boy. And Coco is such a wonderful girl. I love them more every single day which I never would have thought it possible. But it is. Being a mother is absolutely magical that way.

The morning slipped away from us and soon we were on the way to Coco's school. We got her all set and then Theo and I had coffee with my uncle Cyrus. After I dropped Theo off, I went to put some air in one of our tires that has had a slow leak for a while. It had been damaged on the side wall and couldn't be repaired, but happily a sealant got us through the winter no problem. With all the melting, we think the sealant unfroze and that's why it started leaking again. Boo. So l pulled up to the air thing at Les Schwab, grabbed the pressure gauge and when I got around to the passenger side, noticed that the tire was practically flat! The Les Schwab guy ran out to see how I was doing and four new tires later, I drove away. Ouch. Having a car and driving every day sucked already, but four new tires?! Just painful. Give me back my city life! On a side note, those Les Schwab guys really do run. All the time. They never walk! They're running to the cash register and running to the shop. Run, run, run. When you're in a hurry, it really does make you relax while you're waiting, because clearly they're getting you out of there as fast as they can.

Let me just say that the car drives like a dream with four new tires. And thinking of our road trip to California, I'm glad that there is not a high likelihood that we'll find ourselves in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire, or worse, in an accident due to a blow out. It's expensive to get new tires, of course! But so worth it.


The news is making me feel more than a little crazy lately. Even just scanning headlines makes me want to bury my head in the sand. I talked with a friend about it today and she mentioned how she was getting involved in local politics. She joined a few groups and feels more empowered and surrounded my like-minded people. I'm curious, what are you doing to get involved? What is making you feel engaged and active lately? I hate the feeling that I just read the news and feel terrible and don't do anything. I don't have a ton of time, but I think it's important to make it. I would love to hear your pointers, particularly for local level involvement. Grassroots efforts really are all about affecting positive change right where you are, and acting from the bottom up. Postcard parties and calling senators are important moves (I've done both) but coming together within our own communities and speaking with a collective voice on local issues is critical. I can't honestly say that I feel that settled or integrated into our community in the first place, but I want to do more to change what I see happening on the national level and it starts at home.

I'm off to bed. Today was such a strange day. It had all the trappings of a horrible, depressing day, and yet I felt good today and focused on the positives. I'm making so much effort to savor the small, everyday pleasures after reading the piece On Final Things in The Book of Life. It's so easy to get caught up in problems, or stress about things that really don't matter all that much (like new tires! Will I think of those and wince in twenty years? No way!) and when we do, we miss out on the beauty right in front of us. Like gorgeous, happy children and their hugs and snuggles and stories, or rushing waterfalls, or light streaming in through the windows, or birds singing, or even just how pretty our soaps and perfumes look on a vanity tray. I had a strange day, but a good day. Read On Final Things. It will change your day tomorrow, guaranteed. And probably the day after that, and the day after that, and hopefully it will get you into a new, beautiful, life-affirming habit. Goodnight. xo

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What do you look for in a home?

After my first few rentals in college, I had experienced some of the worst: a basement apartment with a leaky ceiling, terribly uneven (and expensive!) electric heat, and an awful little galley kitchen in which the refrigerator actually went into the bedroom closet, where it was fully visible and noisy every time I went to select my clothes. So it didn't take very long for me to come up with a list of must- or really-would-like-to-haves.

At that time, my list was actually pretty short:

  • Window in the bathroom
  • Window above the kitchen sink
  • White kitchen cupboards
  • Hardwood floors
  • Fireplace
Our apartment in Zurich had everything but the window in the bathroom and I really loved and appreciated all of those other items so much. When we first came to Spokane, we went around with a realtor and looked at houses. There were so many houses that I got really excited about based on how cute they were from the outside, and then when we went inside and my heart sank! House after house had been "improved" with hideous, generic mosaic tile and pedestrian cabinets and fixtures from Home Depot. Or worse yet, they went for the "high end" stuff and made it look like some sort of faux Tuscan villa. It makes me want to cry thinking of the beautiful original kitchens that were torn out in order to replace them with that crap. 

Nowadays my list is pretty much the same, but I would add:
  • A dishwasher
  • Bathtub (not just a shower)
  • Radiator heat
  • Washer and dryer, or W/D hookups
  • Patio, balcony or outdoor space
But I have learned that I prefer a smaller apartment in an urban setting with parks and outdoor space within walking distance to a larger place with more space and even a yard or patio. And last week, I was having kind of a bad day and then J and I made a fire and sat down to have our nightly fireside chat and I said to him, "You know, all I really care about is having a fireplace anymore" and we both got a good chuckle out of that, because it's true. Having a fireplace is better than having your own washer and dryer, or a balcony or patio, or any of it! 

What do you look for in a home? What is an absolute deal breaker for you?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Four Fab Finds

This week has already felt about ten years long, don't you agree? We have been so busy and tired, but the kids are so cute and they make us laugh and smile and bring so much joy every day. It really is just a lot. Lots to do, lots of laundry, lots of snuggles, lots of cuteness. I'm doing my best to stay present and enjoy every moment. And here are four gems I just had to share.

I can't wait to sit on my patio this summer and drink my morning coffee in this Rosé All Day t-shirt. It's only $12 at Old Navy and I know it's going to make me feel like a million bucks with these adorable cropped sweats. Bring on the patio weather, summer! This mama is ready. All I need to add is a good book. Yasssss.

Buuuuuut, summer is not here yet, and nights can still be a bit chilly. We all know that sleeping in a cool room leads to better sleep, but it can also lead to, well, getting cold. So J and I have taken to sleeping with socks on! I usually just sleep in a tank top and undies, but with a pair of regular old socks, I'm so toasty and warm that I fall asleep faster and wake less often. Game changer!

And speaking of game changers, have you ever used a mascara primer? I was given samples of Chanel Beauté des Cils primer and Le Volume mascara last fall and tossed them in a drawer and forgot all about 'em. Then, a few weeks ago, I stumbled across them and figured I would give them both a try. WHOA. Lash primer makes mascara go on smoother (no clumps!) and lashes miles longer.  I went out and bought the full sizes within a few days. Seriously. I'll never go back! I have noticed no flaking over the last few weeks and no transferring to my brow bones. I'm in love! Plus I almost look like I have false lashes on, but they look real because they are. Too good.

And, finally, since I started using NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer a few months ago, I constantly get complimented on my skin and asked what foundation I'm wearing. Usually, I have trouble finding a good match for my skin tones as I have olive tones from my French heritage and very pink tones from my Irish heritage. What a mess! But the shade Finland from NARS is absolutely perfect. I don't use it all over as that can create a really flat and unnatural look. Instead, I balance out the redness where I need it around my nose, between my brows and on the soft part of my cheeks. Then I blend out the edges until they're invisible. With a light dusting of NARS Orgasm blush and the power primer-mascara combo above, I feel totally polished and glamorous in minutes!

What's making your life easier lately? Any fun tips to share?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Montessori: Sensitive Period for Order

Dr. Montessori observed four sensitive periods: order, coordination of movement, development and refinement of sensory perception and language. Let's start with the sensitive period for order, which goes from birth until 4 1/2 years old. I wrote in my introductory post about the sensitive periods that the periods are active from birth until 6 years old, but that is not entirely accurate. To clarify, only one sensitive period, language, goes until 6, the other sensitive periods all end at 4 1/2.

A few things to know about the sensitive periods before we go further. Montessori borrowed the term "sensitive period" from the Dutch biologist, Hugo DeVries (1848 - 1935). DeVries studied genetics, but not on humans, rather on fruit flies. In his work on Porthesia Butterfly's Life Cycle, he described how as a caterpillar, the Porthesia species is strongly sensitive to light. It's this sensitivity that prompts the caterpillar to move from where it hatches in the deepest, darkest part of the tree where the branch meets the trunk, to the end of the branch, where the most tender leaves, the only leaves the caterpillar is capable of eating at its tiny size, are located. It's as if the caterpillar is attracted to the light by an irresistible and impossible to ignore voice. Then, the sensitivity to light, no longer needed, vanishes and the caterpillar is completely indifferent to light once it's a bit bigger. But that period of sensitivity to the light is critical. Without it, the caterpillar might look for food in the wrong places and perish before finding any.

Just as with the butterfly, sensitive periods in children last for a determinate amount of time. Parents will often tell me they're planning to have their child start Montessori when they are four instead of three. But I have bad news for these parents. The Montessori classroom is designed and perfected to welcome children at three years old (younger in infant/toddler communities) largely because of the sensitive periods. If a child starts at four, and there are only six months remaining in three of the four sensitive periods, and in most cases, this limited amount of time means that the child will not become fully functional in the routines, structures, methods and movements that make the improbable Montessori class set up possible in the first place. In some cases, it works out because the child's home life is amenable to the pace and framework of the classroom. But, this is rare because life outside the Montessori prepared environment is structured around and designed for adults, not children. Most children have a low degree of independence, have insufficient unstructured time in which to focus on their developmental tasks as dictated by the sensitive periods, and are rushed far too often. My kids included. Life cannot always move at their pace. We make great efforts to respond to their developmental needs and give them the time and space to follow their whims, but it's not always possible or safe. That's why Montessori schooling is so wonderful. When a child arrives at three, there is time to lay a strong foundation before the sensitive periods for order, coordination of movement and sensory perception end.

So how can we recognize and foster the sensitive period to order? Sensitivity to order in children can be observed in their extreme attention to detail and precision, aversion to messes and insistence on things being in their proper place. For example, it's not unusual for a toddler to go around and close drawers that have been left open. Toddlers also pay close attention to very small things, like ants, and can spend a very long time (an eternity for a bored adult waiting for them on a walk;) just watching them move and studying their very existence. Some children like to line things up and order manifests itself this way. A parent is usually pleased to see their toddler closing drawers, but may be tempted to pull them away from the ants, or jump in and show them how to build with the train tracks instead of lining them up, but to do so would interrupt their developmental work.

The developmental goal of the sensitive period for order is for external order as created and dictated by the child to act as a foundation for internal order and mental organization. Making this possible is the use of the hand as an instrument of the mind. And ultimately, through manipulation of their environment, the toddler becomes a well-oriented child with an orderly mind.

If the toddler prefers to line up the train tracks side by side, like tally marks, we must let them line them up. It's not hurting anyone and they're not damaging the train tracks, so why would we stop them?! When left to their own devices, a toddler will line up the tracks, then sit back and admire them for a moment, and most likely, gather them up and do it all again. Repetition is a hallmark sign that a sensitive period is at work. Children will repeat, tirelessly, until they feel satisfied. Allowing a child to follow their inner drive and exercise their hand as an instrument of the mind is critical to allow the sensitive period for order to do its work. Another supportive piece is having reliable and predictable routines in place that allow a child to predict and know what's coming next and develop that mental organization.

The photo of Gaudí apartment building was taken in Barcelona by J. I included it for two reasons - one, because this building would probably be very offensive and terrifying to a child in the sensitive period for order. It defies all predictability and preconceived notions we have of what a building is. Its form is completely unexpected and irregular. But, lest you should begin to think that the sensitive period for order leaves no room for unfettered creativity and imagination, that is the second reason I included it. Being well-oriented to one's world and surroundings and having an orderly mind is the very fertile breeding ground of creativity, imagination and expression. One cannot create and conceive of interesting or compelling ideas from a place of confusion, misunderstanding and disarray. A successful sensitive period for order sets the child up for complex and intricate thoughts, ideas and actualization across all disciplines.

Next week we'll move on to thwarting by adults and the finality of the sensitive periods in conjunction with the sensitive period for coordination of movement. Montessori theory is especially difficult to write about well. The ideas are not linear, but more like an interconnected web and it feels like writing a circular outline, which is just whacky and almost disorienting. So thanks for hanging in there! And please leave your questions in the comments below! I want to hear what made sense and what didn't. I'll absolutely answer them all. Major kudos to you if you made it this far without falling asleep! xo

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