Saturday, June 17, 2017

Weekend Reading

Nobody ever told me to follow my wildest dreams, to bushwhack my own path. Standardized tests told me I was good at whatever I focused on, but Nobody asked me what makes me come alive.
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Instead I was handed the most dangerous road map of all. From the outside it appeared safe. But three years in, I realized it was slow death by stagnation. A 9-5 in the real estate industry. Advertising deadlines. Business casual clothes. Sitting down all day. Living for the weekend and suppressing my discontent with sugar and alcohol.
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It’s easy to blame external influences but the truth is that Nobody is needed to validate our wildest dreams. Launching is a process of Self.
Are you following Where's My Office Now (of #vanlife fame) on Instagram? Yesterday they posted the photo and caption above and I loved it so much. It came literally at the most perfect moment for me and I saw it a mere 10 minutes after they posted it, which just felt serendipitous somehow. It left me feeling really inspired and validated going into the weekend. I hope it gives you some inspiration, too!

Sunday we're going to a baseball game to celebrate father's day. And here is a bit of weekend reading for you:

Parenting mistakes we should try to avoid.

What a discovery!

A friend's pregnancy.

Health care is on the line. Now is not the time "to cling to an overly cautious, centrist ideology."

The sweetest playroom storage.

Words cannot describe the love.

Instead of goal-setting, try fear-setting instead.

I'm obsessed with this bright copper kettle.

This essay made me laugh and cry. Too good.

And, a few from the archives. Do you like your name? The transition from co-sleeping to a crib. and Remembering My Dad.

I hope you have a fantastic father's day. A special hug to all of you who have also lost your fathers. You're not alone. See you back here Monday! xo

(Photo via Emily King & Corey Smith/Instagram)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Choosing Lullabies for Your Baby


The other night, I went and leaned against the doorframe of Coco and Theo's bedroom door for a few minutes before going to sleep. The room was aglow from Coco's pink flower lamp and the white noise machine filled the room with a constant, relaxing whirring. Also to be heard was their lullabies and I just stood there, admiring their sweet sleeping faces, listening to the lullabies. It took me back to a very early morning nursing session when Coco had a cold as a baby. We were staying at my mom's during a visit and the blinds were lowered from the top down enough to see a big slice of star speckled sky. As I lay there nursing Coco in the dark, listening to the rhythm of her breathing, morning light slowly took over the sky, extinguishing the stars one by one and gave way to birdsong and sunrise. It was pure magic. Standing there in their doorway, I could almost feel her heavy little baby body in my arms, and see her sweet cheek as she nursed and cuddled with me. I think that's the best part of having lullabies for your babies. Years later, they can take you back to those truly tender moments we might otherwise forget.

Before I was even pregnant with Coco, I was in charge of setting up the nap room at school for the 3-year-olds who stayed in the afternoon and needed a nap. We had little nap mats that we spread out around the room and little blankets for each one. We brought the shutters down so it was nice and dark, and I decided we should have lullabies. It was a learning process. At first, I though I could just play classical music, but classical music is so dynamic with crescendos and cymbals that it did not work at all. Three or four children would be shocked awake, or even start crying. So then I found Baby Einstein Lullaby Classics Vol. 2. It's classical music, but adapted to be pleasing and lulling to baby ears and brainwaves while they're falling asleep. It worked like a charm and was indispensable in the nap room.

Then, after Coco was born, I still had the album in my iTunes, so it got a lot of good use. I also invested in Fisher Price's Rainforest Music and Celtic Lullabies, two fantastic lullaby collections I never could have survived without. When Coco wasn't settling in the stroller, I would play her lullabies on my phone to calm her. And in the photo above, we were on vacation in Davos where her lullabies made nap time so easy and automatic even though we were in an unfamiliar place and she was sleeping in her travel cot instead of her own bed at home. Since Theo was born, we have had more than a few miserable moments while driving rescued by putting the Baby Einstein lullabies on over the stereo. I can't imagine motherhood without them.

Do you play lullabies for your child? Which are your favorite albums?

Friday, June 9, 2017

Weekend Reading


The photo above was taken while riding my bike Tuesday. We went with Coco and Theo over to Chatcolet, Idaho and did our very favorite bike ride for the first time this season. It really feels like summer is here now. It was a perfectly gorgeous day and the lake was so beautiful. Long live summer! This weekend is going be busy, busy, busy with my nephew's high school graduation and parties and celebrating. I cannot believe that little baby is already graduating. It definitely makes me want to hug Coco and Theo an extra hundred times per day!

And here are some fun links and a little weekend reading for you.

When you have a toddler and your house is a literal treasure.

This toy had ALL THE KIDS OBSESSED at a birthday party we went to last weekend. Coco is still talking about it.

Stop complaining about how you need more space.

Why you need an early night. So good.

Not a football player, not a weightlifter, but a dancer. This is my kind of hero! (Made me think of this post;)

Travel goals. (!!!)

The toy-free kindergarten.

Yikes.

Instead of relying on the iPad so much, we're getting Coco a few of these for our summer road trips.

Super excited to listen to this new podcast. Especially after this trip.

And finally, this incredible event is taking place this weekend in honor of my college friend and sorority sister Jen. Sending her family so much love. And if you'd like to make a donation, you can do so through the event website right here.

I hope you have a fantastic weekend. Wear sunscreen! And see you back here Monday. xo

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Surviving Stressful Times


The last month or so has been really intense. To try to maintain some equilibrium, I've been journaling a ton, trying to get plenty of rest, and going to yoga every chance I get. The journaling is easy to fit in and making that happen is very helpful for me. However, getting plenty of rest is much harder for me than it should be. I just love this time at night when everyone is asleep and the house is quiet and I can hear myself think. I always wind up staying up too late because of it. As far as yoga goes, I've been sporadic about it. Three times one week, then just once the next. But I keep going.

I'm trying not to beat myself up over anything. I'm just aiming for progress, not perfection.

A few other things I have on my list of to-do items are: Drink lots of water each day. Go for a pedicure with my mom. Get a massage with the gift card J gave me at Christmas (why haven't I used that yet?!) and read a whole book. (I just started this one this afternoon and it sucked me in immediately.) We're also experimenting with having no phones from 4 pm until the kids fall asleep. So far it's a sickening game changer. I literally had no idea how much we were on our phones. :(

How do you cope with stressful times? What are your go-to tips and tricks for staying sane when life gets crazy? I'd love to have more tricks up my sleeve, so please chime in in the comments below!

(Artwork via francois henri galland)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Would You Opt For A Child-Free Wedding?


We had about a gazillion children present at our wedding. I think in the photo above, I had just finished telling the hoards of children that they would have to wait until the speeches were finished before descending upon the cupcakes. Honestly, there were kids there I didn't even know! But I didn't mind.

In fact, I thought it was really weird when people had weddings and/or receptions that were child-free. But then something happened...


Monday, June 5, 2017

Montessori: Children and TV


Lately I've been thinking a lot about what a slippery slope TV is. A few Saturdays ago, we ended up letting Coco watch My Little Pony on Netflix autoplay for like two hours. She had woken up at 5 am for some inexplicable reason and we really needed some more sleep. It seemed like an okay idea at the time.

It's mildly disturbing, but...


Friday, June 2, 2017

Weekend Reading


June is here and another week has flown by! Time is going so quickly it's making my head spin. Thank you to those of you who recommended Catastrophe on this post. J and I finished season three last night and it's probably one of our favorite shows ever. Now it seems like we have tons of TV to watch. House of Cards is back on. Bloodline released a new season and we've only watched two of the new season of Master of None. When it rains it pours!

Here are some fun links and a bit of weekend reading for you:

International exchange students' view on American high schools.

Eyeing these for Theo this summer.

Flip it over. Perspective is everything!

I can't say I disagree here.

What would you do with a Paris ghost metro station?

LOL!

A really thoughtful article exploring the #vanlife phenomenon.

I received this perfume as a gift and I find myself wearing it every day. J LOVES it!

Save the teachers.

Advice on aging from women who've done it.

And a couple from the archives: Learning To Be On Time, and Our Bird Feeder.

I hope you have an amazing weekend! See you back here on Monday. xo

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Are you a perfectionist?


I've known for years that I'm a perfectionist. It's probably the reason I don't enjoy cooking with my kids, and I'm more or less okay with that! But lately, I'm getting better at seeing the ways it holds me back.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What Good Parenting Looks Like


Parenting is so damn hard. It's really easy to get caught up in the aesthetics of parenting: Having the right stroller and posting photos of their cheerful, tidy room on Instagram. Those things are fun, and baby and kids' stuff is so cute! But parenting is not about any of those things. Unless you're impoverished and struggling with basic securities like rent and putting food on the table, then your main risk factor as a parent is far from not providing enough and actually very simple.

But don't let the word simple mislead you. Simple simply means "not complicated." And if something is uncomplicated that does not necessarily mean it is achieved without effort. Simple does not equal easy.

So what am I getting at here? What's not easy? Victoria Prooday, Occupational Therapist, described it as "The silent tragedy affecting today's children" in her recent viral blog post. She starts out by highlighting the alarming rate of childhood mental health issues, increases in ADHD, teen depression, and the sharp rise of teen suicide. These are very scary, very real problems. And yet none of them is the result of deprivation or poverty. We're simply parenting wrong. She writes:
Today’s children are being deprived of the fundamentals of a healthy childhood, such as:
Emotionally available parents; Clearly defined limits and guidance; Responsibilities; Balanced nutrition and adequate sleep; Movement and outdoors; Creative play, social interaction, opportunities for unstructured times; and Boredom. 
In many ways, how can you blame us? We rush from work to school pick up, to sports, to the grocery store (where the kids are given a lollipop), back home, and then we have 45 minutes to make dinner, 15 minutes to eat and then it's time for bath and bed and we get up and do it all over again. The result is that provided-for, non-impoverished children's lives are fully furnished, but completely lacking. Prooday goes on:
Instead, children are being served with: Digitally distracted parents; Indulgent parents who let kids “Rule the world”; Sense of entitlement rather than responsibility; Inadequate sleep and unbalanced nutrition; Sedentary indoor lifestyle; Endless stimulation, technological babysitters, instant gratification; and Absence of dull moments.
I think most American parents are stretched very thin. They love their kids and they are doing the very best with what they have. But it is completely inadequate and totally unacceptable. We are not giving our kids what they need and it shows. In the work I do with kids of all ages, from kindergarten through high school, and in the behavior I see in my own kids, we have got to do a better job. But how? Despite the fantastic recommendations Prooday offers in her full post, I do feel that the time and energy constraints are a real obstacle. Proper parenting and the setting of limits is a practice that takes time, energy, and patience, none of which I have at the end of the day when I'm reunited with my children.

Do you feel that you're giving your children the fundamentals of a healthy childhood as outlined above? Or are you a digitally distracted parent? Please share your successes and failures, or maybe even just a moan in the comments below. I'll admit that Coco and Theo have discovered how to work together to get what they want and they're kind of playing J and I like a fiddle lately. A very tired, out of tune, defeated fiddle. We're Montessori teachers for goodness sake! You'd think we'd be immune to such tactics. But no. Modern American life feels so hectic and busy, it's almost like there isn't even a space for children to fit at all. This is one big problem that isn't going away. Thoughts?

(Photo of Oeuf bunk beds (I am ashamed to admit that I want these for Coco and Theo;) via My Little Room)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Cute Girls' Swimsuits




Now that the summer weather is here and swimming lessons are right around the corner, I have been shopping for swimsuits for Coco. When it comes to little girls's swimsuits, I am extremely picky. I feel very strongly about a hard no on anything with ruffles, or key holes or other cut out features. Hello! This is a little girl's swimsuit, not an adult woman's. And I really despise those little skirts on swimsuits. Sorry, but I do.

When I'm shopping for a suit for Coco, I guess what I'm looking for is not too frilly, reasonably modest for a young child, classic, comfortable and functional for both swimming lessons and the beach, and (this is important) something that she can put on and take off by herself. Here are a few of my favorites (clockwise from top left)!

If a bikini is your jam, you can't go wrong with this cutie from Mini Boden. I love the sweet animal print, which is neither precocious, nor overly girly, nor frilly.

If you're looking for something bright, this bold turquoise suit is perfect! You'll be able to spot your daughter in a crowd of splashing children and even if she slathered in mineral sunscreen, that blue is bound to make her look summery and maybe even a bit sun kissed?

If your daughter would prefer a bold suit, then look no further than this Cat & Jack suit from Target. It's shiny, colorful, and the geometric motif is on point!

If sun protection or surfing require a rash guard, there is no reason to sacrifice style and femininity. I love the playful lines and whimsical flowers of this top matched with the timeless pink striped bottoms.

If luxury is what you're after, this Burberry suit will make the grade. It is quite perfect in that it's practical with a cross back, but the gathering at the neckline and contrast piping keep it modern and refined. Win, win!

If you're looking for a classic suit you'd see on the French Riviera, this Ralph Lauren suit will make you smile. Stripes, ocean and sky colors, and a graceful halter closure make this one a winner.

Coco loves them all, so it will be hard to choose just one! Which is your favorite? What do you look for in a swimsuit for your daughter - or yourself? Just click on the photos to learn more about the suits above! :)

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?
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