Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Good Read: The Year of Living Danishly

Over the weekend, my uncle stopped by with a book he wanted J and I to read. He had finished reading it, lent it to a friend who finished it in just a few days and was now bestowing it on us. It was called The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country by Helen Russell and J dove right in and started reading right away. He was instantly hooked, laughing and smiling and telling me little bits every few pages. Sunday, when he and Coco went up skiing for the day, I saw the book on the bookshelf and started reading it myself. I was also hooked. Theo and I spent a good portion of the day sitting together by the fire while he played with Legos and toys, or just sat and snuggled with me while I read. There may or may not have been an episode or two of Chuggington thrown in the mix.

I drank tea and flew through the chapters, unable to resist filling the book with little post-its covered in notes, or exclamation points, or stars, or hearts. There are so many places where she describes something and it's exactly how we felt in Switzerland. For example, just swap out Denmark for Switzerland in the following description of visiting Italy: "There is noise and color and passion in abundance. It is the antithesis of pared-down, ordered Denmark and we revel in its difference." It's as if she pulled that thought right out of my head. Then, she points out the ways that living in a country with a broad and buoyant safety net reduces stress and improves quality of life, and again, it's as if she's articulated the sense of insecurity and lack of safety that I've felt ever since getting back to the US. Russell's writing is warm and conversational, like chatting with an old friend over coffee. She makes me laugh out loud and nod appreciatively.

More than anything, reading the book makes me wish that I had been able to adopt her same approach to writing about our day-today while in Switzerland. It's a real talent to be able to recognize the differences between one's adopted home and home after they've become normal. The way she writes about the everyday adventures she's on in Denmark is inspiring, funny and entertaining. If you're looking for a quick and engaging read that gives an insight into Danish culture, politics and work-life balance, I highly recommend it.

And what are you reading these days? I'm always looking for reading material now that I'm not wasting all my time on Facebook anymore. ;) Thanks for sharing in the comments below! xo

(Photo of Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair via Avant-Scene on Flickr)

Monday, January 30, 2017

Montessori Monday: When in Doubt, Stay Out

Montessori Monday is an advice column written by yours truly. If you have a question about Montessori philosophy, parenting or discipline, or anything else in that realm, contact me and your question could be the next Montessori Monday post!


One of the best things about Montessori education is how it sets children up to be successful, and yet still gives them the chance to explore and make discoveries within any given activity. For example, when a child sews a button, there are several preparatory lessons, such as bead stringinglacing cards, and finally, weaving yarn in burlap using a dull-tipped yarn needle. Each step of the way, the teacher (or guide) gives the child a presentation on the technique and skill for that activity, from laying out the length of the string to threading a needle. Once the child has watched the teacher show the basic technique and process, the activity is handed over to the child to work with and the teacher retreats and observes

This is the hardest part about being a Montessori teacher. 

It's hard to see their clumsy little hands begin incorrectly and not offer help. But this is exactly when we need to stay out! Problem solving comes from trial and error, and unless a child is struggling to the point of frustration and defeat, we need to stay out of it and let them make their own discoveries. It is not easy to do. But it can be done. And the look of triumph and pride on a child's face when they make their own discoveries and do it themselves is priceless.

You can do this at home, too. With toys and tasks, always choose something that is just beyond your child's skill level. Give a clear, not fussy, slowed-down, deliberate demonstration of how it's done. Then, hand it over and observe from a distance. If it's something more obvious that doesn't require demonstration, resist the urge to correct or point out clues. They will find them on their own and they'll be better off for it. 

So how do you know when to help? If they are visibly upset, ask if they need some help. They might say no! But do ask. If they ask you for help, this can be a good time to point out a clue or offer some help, but don't do it completely for them. Still not sure if you should help? Then don't. Always err on the side of less intrusion and stay out! However, if they abandon the activity, offer to help and if they decline, tell them they can put it away and you'll try it again another time. 

Building independence is everything. It lends itself to confidence and the sense of steering one's own ship. We can never start too young setting our children up for success in life. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Have an amazing weekend.

Another late post! This week was just so topsy-turvy for no reason in particular. Right now, the kids are asleep and we're watching some TV and drinking red wine by a super cozy fire. I guess winter isn't so bad. ;) Tomorrow, we're going to take the bus downtown and go to the children's museum. Theo is losing his mind he's so excited for the bus ride.

Here are a few links for your weekend:

This may be the cutest thing I've ever seen.

Just ordered this for Coco and Theo.

Thoughtful post on family.

Coco asked for this song in the car the other day. (The whole video is worth a watch - beautiful Verbier!)

Fascinating article.

Gotta make one of these for Coco!

Salivating over this salad.

Your future self.

Must have this dress.

This podcast was so good!

I hope your weekend is absolutely amazing! And see you back here Monday. xo

(Photo via What A Nice Place)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Winter Comfort Food Craving

This has been a hard week for me. I feel like we're deep in that phase of the winter when Christmas is long over and gone and we've been through many dark days and nights without much going on, and it's depressing and we're ready for spring, already! But spring isn't coming for quite some time. Sigh. If you follow Smitten Kitchen on Instagram, chances are you're already salivating over this gorgeous Shakshuka recipe. 

It's this dreadful time of year that I like to remind myself how hot and savory things like this don't taste quite as wonderful in the summer, so enjoy them while you can! I think on the way home, I'm going to stop and get everything to make this beauty. The recipe had me at San Marzano tomatoes and jalapeƱos, but the feta?! Get me to the store right this second! You can check out the entire recipe over on Smitten Kitchen right here. I hope you're all feeling good and keeping the winter blues at bay. 
Bon appetit!

(Photos via Smitten Kitchen)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

I Love this IKEA Cabinet - or - All of My Thoughts Lately


Do you see that IKEA cabinet? My God how I love that thing. When we moved from Zurich to Minnesota in 2014, I really tried to find a good place for it in our house. I imagined filling it with neatly folded, fluffy white towels, bath salts and a ring holder in the bathroom, or in the living room with vases and knick-knacks. Or even in the kitchen with china or other items we don't use every day. It's just so good-looking! It needed to go somewhere. But, we had a lot of built-ins and the one place in the hallway I thought it might work we ended up putting the changing table, so we never got it. Oh, how I wanted it! And then last week, I saw it in a bunch of Scandinavian design posts and I felt so vindicated. It's a great piece. And on sale! I want all the colors. Maybe we'll still have a chance to get it. Who knows?

I sat down twice today to write a post, but it just was not happening. My day began with a wild goose chase tracking down my vaccination records for the MMR shot I received in 1981. Why, you ask? In order to be able to continue subbing since being exposed to Mumps at a high school I subbed at a few weeks ago. What a mess! While I waited for calls back from my doctor's office to figure out if I needed a booster or not, I tried to write a post about a few happy marriage hacks J and I have discovered over the years - they're good ones! Maybe next week. But, after an hour at the coffee shop, I decided to just go in to my doctor's office instead, and it's a good thing I did, because they were running low on shots and a new person turned up every few minutes also requesting their records and it was kind of mayhem. Once I'd gotten home and settled down to write again, I had finally had enough of all the photos slowing down my phone and I was overdue to upgrade my iOS. So I went ahead and spent a solid hour taking care of it. More on that later.

Just yesterday, I realized that we have to start thinking about Coco's kindergarten plans now! I thought we would have all spring and summer to figure out our next move and things would fall into place naturally depending on whether we're in town or not. But I was wrong! If we stay in town, we have to get her applications in now, even for our neighborhood school, and if we move in the summer, there's no guarantee we'll get the school for the neighborhood we move into. Isn't that just bonkers?! I mean, it would be really awful to move and pay way more rent in order to get into a good school and wind up going to the same school we would be assigned to in this house anyway. So I started looking into the elementary school I went to, and we're going to go tour it. It's a good school and, all important factors aside, let's just acknowledge for a minute how easy mornings would be if Coco had a uniform! I'm sold. ;)

Now this is rather random, but if you have an iPhone, you need to know this. Remember how you used to be able to select "Delete after import" when getting the photos off of your phone, and then it actually would? The computer would delete the photos off of your phone. Well, maybe you've noticed as I have that it doesn't do that anymore. It has got to be the most annoying thing ever! And then, if you go to delete the photos off of your phone, a big warning pops up that the photos will be removed on all of your devices and every time you try to take a video, it stops after about 15 seconds and tells you your phone is out of space. Drrh. Well, those days are over. Go into Settings on your iPhone and then iCloud and turn of all of the settings for Photos within iCloud. Then, if you go to Applications on your computer and open Image Capture, you can select all of your photos and click on the little no symbol and they will all be deleted from your phone. MAGIC, am I right?! So much better than selecting and deleting each one. J has a theory that they've done this to get people to just give up and buy a new phone and I think he may be right! It's that dreadful to delete the photos by hand, even if you swipe to select. Just make sure you've gotten all of the photos off of your phone before going into Image Capture, obviously.

So sorry for the late post today. It was quite the day, and perhaps you even enjoyed my rambling? Ha!   Thanks for reading. Until tomorrow, my dears. xo

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

An Intriguing Personality Test

My two sisters and I are all extremely different, despite the fact that it looks like we all planned our matching outfits on this day! Juliet, fon the left, is the oldest and she is very much a leader. She likes to take charge and isn't afraid to take risks. Juliet does not enjoy being on stage or hitting the dance floor so much. Amy, on the right, is very steady, responsible and risk-averse. Amy is one of the best dancers I know and she's a very talented photographer. And then there's me in the middle. I've always been the really outgoing, love-being-on-stage, loud, life-of-the-party type. I treasure being alone and writing. Every individual has a rich inner life, and our outward personalities only tell a small part of our individual make up.

Last fall, I applied for a job and got through the first couple rounds of interviews no problem. Then, they wanted me to go online and do an assessment before making me an offer. I went on and took the test in a bit of a rush, which probably wasn't smart. And I couldn't help but try to answer the questions the way I thought the company might want me to answer them, rather than how I really felt. So, although I was a bit disappointed when I didn't get the job, I wasn't that surprised and I made it my mission to find the assessment, which really felt more like a personality test.

After some scouting, I found the book, StrengthsFinder 2.0, which includes a code to take the online test in the back cover. The questions were ranking statements from "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree." The one that stood out to me the most in my memory was: I enjoy telling jokes and stories at parties, to which I responded strongly agree. After ranking all the statements, your results are generated as your top 5 strengths and the book discusses each strength in depth.

I was surprised and interested to see that my strengths were 1. Strategic 2. Empathy 3. Input 4. Individualization 5. Connectedness. And after reading about them, I felt like I had a good idea of what I do best - and I could easily see how I ended up working as a Montessori teacher. ;)

The author points out right at the start that we have to stop spending time and energy trying to fix our weaknesses, and instead put our efforts into cultivating our strengths. Such a smart and positive approach, don't you think?

Have you ever taken the Strengths Finder test? How has it helped you personally or professionally?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Montessori Monday: Limiting Choices, The Clothing Edition

Imagine this: Your preschooler is finally at the point where he or she can dress independently and you're so excited, because this means that mornings will be a bit easier and there is one less thing that you'll have to do for them. They go into their room and moments later, they're calling for you because they can't reach this or that item. Or, they emerge a while later dressed in a sundress and sandals on a winter day.

In Montessori, we follow some pretty fixed rules when it comes to cultivating independence for children. Firstly, we prepare the environment. In the classroom, this means a clear and orderly system of organization in which everything has a home; that tables, chairs, shelving and so on are all child-sized and accessible to children; and we make sure that everything is beautiful, inviting and attractive. Then, through a set of simple rules, we limit children's choices. (More on those rules in this post). It works wonderfully!

We do these things in order to set the children up for success and all of these same principles can and should apply to all areas of your child's life at home. So let's break it down with regard to clothing and dressing.

Child-Sized Furniture
Although Coco's rooms have both had closets since she's been old enough to dress herself, we decided to invest in a child-sized armoire from IKEA for her hanging clothes and shoes instead. If you don't want to spend the money, or don't have the space, you can also install a hanging rod lower in your child's closet, but the clothing must be at their level and accessible. Along with Coco's armoire, we got the matching chest of drawers. She can open and see into both drawers without pulling or tip-toeing which also makes it much safer than a tall chest of drawers. 

Everything has a Home
I'll be doing a full-length post with interior closet and dresser photos on clothing organization soon, so stay tuned for that one! But, the general idea is that clothing is organized by type and folded so that it can all be seen. I follow the same drawer layout for Coco's and Theo's dressers so there is no confusion when putting clothes away on laundry day.

Beautiful and Inviting 
Children take pride in their room and their space when we help them cultivate an attitude of caring for their environment. Choose furniture and objects that they'll like, or let them help you choose their own furniture and decor. When they love it, they'll naturally want to care for it. 

Limiting Choices
This really is the point of this whole post, but it wouldn't do to just talk about this one piece without the preparatory pieces above. So once you have accessible, organized and attractive clothing organization in place for your child, make sure that only appropriate choices are available at any time.

Appropriate choices include
  • Seasonally Appropriate - As the seasons change, go through your child's clothing and remove anything from rotation that is not suitable for the weather. It's only fair to do this, because children want to choose their own clothing and feel independent in dressing themselves. If they go and do what we've asked them to do, it deflates their sense of pride and accomplishment when we then tell them they made poor choices. If, on occasion, you get into a power struggle over clothing, depending on the circumstances, let it slide. For example, if your child refuses to wear mittens, just say, "Okay, I'll put them in my bag in case you change your mind." Chances are they will and it will be their own choice to put them on rather than a struggle. But, if it's genuinely unsafe, obviously we have to keep our children safe.
  • Clothes That Fit - Coco will insist that things she loves still fit and will try to squeeze herself into them and I always let her do this. Most recently, she wanted to wear a pair of wool tights I had handed down to Theo to layer under his jeans on cold days. I told her they were too small, but when she insisted, I let her wear them anyway. When she got home, she commented that her tights wouldn't stay up at all during the day! She hasn't tried to wear them since! ;) Just this morning, I noticed that the sweet dress she chose for today has gotten too small. But I didn't say right then and there that it was too small, or ask her to change. I just made a mental note and when I see it come through the laundry, I'll take it out of rotation.

It's important to make pulling clothes out of rotation easy by having a small bag, box or bin to put pulled items in right in your child's bedroom. It should be somewhere you can easily get to it, but where your children can't (we keep ours on the top shelf of the closet in their room). Every six weeks or so, go through and take out anything that doesn't fit anymore. Or, when things you've mentally flagged for removal come through the laundry, just fold them along with everything else and then put them in the box instead of their former home as you put everything away. Coco is getting better at hanging clothes on hangers and putting her things away after we do laundry, and even Theo likes putting folded clothes away in his drawers. Because I know she'll be upset to see me put things in the box in the closet, I'll often put these aside and do it when she doesn't see.

When you limit your child's clothing choices, you really set them up for success. They'll get the satisfaction and confidence that comes with independence in dressing and they'll always be comfortable and appropriately dressed. This sort of independence goes a long way in helping children feel capable and build self-esteem. And that is good all around!

Friday, January 20, 2017

On This January Day

I majored in Political Science in college. Then, because I wanted to live abroad, I went into teaching. Overseas, I saw that people don't live the way we do here in the US. I experienced exceptional quality of life, a feeling of true safety and security and excellent healthcare, which was structured by the government in such a way that we never had to worry about being bankrupted by medical bills. Granted I only lived in one teeny-tiny utopian country for five years total, but it changed me. It changed what I thought was possible and it changed what I think people deserve. Since returning to the US, I have felt a constant sense of insecurity. People seem downtrodden and hopeless. Seeing homeless people and vets asking for money at highway off ramps was downright shocking when we first came back. We've dealt with unemployment and underemployment and going back to school and changing careers in mid-life. This has given us a comprehensive tour of the US healthcare system, so-called safety net and social programs. It has been horrifying.

I mentioned almost a year ago that we were huge Bernie supporters in this house. We took both of our kids to the caucuses (Theo in the hiking backpack!) and we were so excited about the possibility of a Bernie Sanders presidency. And then things just nosedived and I found it all so depressing. I buried my head in the sand.

All of this time, my only way to cope has been to bury my head in the sand and pretend that none of this madness is actually happening. When I say "madness" I mean that Donald J. Trump has been elected as President of the United States by spouting a populist message that is completely contradictory to his policies and actions since being elected. And that people on both sides of the spectrum are being aggressive, hateful and angry in their speech and actions. To me, it feels almost apocalyptic. And try as I might, I'm not having any success in finding ways to be the love to drive out the hate, or the light to drive out the darkness, as Dr. King suggested.

But, I realized this morning, that burying my head in the sand is no longer an option. I'm very concerned about the future. I'm worried about healthcare, the environment, growing inequality and greed, and quality of life for common Americans. Bernie Sanders got on Instagram this morning and said,
This is going to be a tough day for millions of Americans, including myself. But we cannot throw up our hands in despair. We have to fight back as effectively and as vigorously as we can. We are not giving up.
I realize that some of you may be really offended that I've chosen to touch politics here on Swiss Lark. And if you're a Trump supporter, I know that a lot of what Trump says can sound really good: Lofty ideals, Unity, Make American Great Again! But, since his election, his actions have spoken louder than his words. His cabinet picks are divisive, he has attacked news and media outlets and suggested that intelligence agencies are incompetent. I fear that insular rhetoric and nationalism are going to reign large in a Trump presidency. And I am worried for the future. I'm just not quite sure how to fight back effectively and vigorously yet.

So, I'll leave you with these two fantastic, insightful, intelligent links:

The Internal Invasion, by David Brooks.

Requiem for the American Dream, with Noam Chomsky.

Thank you for reading. xo

(Illustration via Maira Kalman)

Have a fantastic weekend.

This week, I've been reminiscing so much about Coco's baby days at our lovely little apartment in Zurich. I love looking through photos of those days and thinking about how amazing it was to be a new mom and taking care of a little tiny baby for the first time. She was such an incredible baby. So much personality and wit and smarts, right from her very first days. Just look at that face! She's a gem. That's for sure.

What are you up to this weekend? We are just hanging out and hoping that all the inch-thick sheet of ice will melt enough to chip it off of our walks following the freezing rain earlier this week. Talk about fun, right? ;)

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

For mamas of girls. LOL.

And just re-read this lovely piece. (For the mamas of boys;)

Let the debate rage on.

Eyeing this sweet top for spring.

We made this kid cult favorite last week. The kids did not like it. :( Fail!

Out with almonds, in with Doritos.

Will you be marching, wherever you are?

Bumpy Re-entry.

Inspiration for small space living.

And some more!

Also, re-reading this book ASAP.

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

Thursday, January 19, 2017

How Alike (or Different) Are Your Children?

It seems positively ridiculous to me now, but while I was pregnant with Theo, I assumed that the new baby would be just like Coco! I looked forward to evenings watching TV with him sleeping in my arms and wrestling-free diaper changes.

Then, I was about half way through Theo's pregnancy when Coco really hit the terrible twos. She wasn't napping at all and she refused to ever sit or stay still on the bus or tram. It was so exhausting - and embarrassing - to chase her up and down the aisle of the tram, all the while being chided by disapproving old ladies. I avoided going anywhere beyond walking distance with her unless I absolutely had to.

I remember looking at J one night after we'd finally gotten her to sleep and and saying, "You know, this baby sure is lucky he's already in there, because I don't know if I could reasonably get pregnant right now knowing what it's like to have a two-year-old!" And now, when I think of that, I just have to laugh!

In all fairness, it's pretty natural to assume that your second baby will be like your first baby, but Coco and Theo are so different! He was never a fan of sleeping in my arms while I watched TV, but preferred to be put into bed in the evening. And, just a few hours after he was born, I literally had to pin him down to change his diaper! He was wrestling me from the first change.

As they get older, it's amazing to see their distinct personalities emerge and grow. Coco is so high-energy, she never stops talking and she loves a big party! Theo is quite her opposite. He is very mellow and relaxed most of the time. He still isn't talking very much, and he takes about an hour of being held by me, taking it all in before he gets comfortable at a big party. But somehow, it almost seems because of their differences, they compliment one another so well. We love watching them play or dance together, and while their approaches are unique, they share a love of being outdoors in all seasons and weather. It's pretty magical!

Are your children alike, or different? In which ways? What about you and your siblings? Join the conversation in the comments below. xo

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

New Year Organizing

I've already got organizing and decluttering on my mind in preparation for our next move. While we love our little house and the price is right, the neighborhood is a bit fringy and the school for our particular address is not the greatest. So, with Coco starting kindergarten next fall, it seems that a move is in order this upcoming summer.

Moving is the absolute worst. Every single time we move, I think to myself, "We actually don't have that much stuff. We've done such a good job of keeping our clutter down." And every single time, I am completely wrong. You know that phase in the move when you feel like you've packed just about everything and yet the house still feels as full as it did when you started? I would like to avoid that. So I've been reviewing my favorite organization and decluttering books beginning now. Over the next six months, I plan to purge and prep big time and make our lives more minimalist. Hopefully, it will make the move easier.

Organizing for your Lifestyle by Jane Stoller

This book, written by an expat living in Zurich, is perfect for the business traveler. Her approach is maximalist, but with pristine organization and no clutter. Think of a kitchen with all the best appliances and gadgets, but with none of them crowding up the counters. Everything in its (labeled) place is Stoller's approach. It makes packing for trips (and unpacking on the return) an absolute breeze. She has found ways to streamline and maximize efficiency in all tasks, from laundry to bathroom storage to getting dressed every day. Perfect for the meticulous organizer or novice organizer alike. Stoller has basically created a room-by-room guide to total organization.

Time Management from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern

I first read this book over ten years ago. It focuses a lot on schedules, but really is all about life organization. The follow-up book, Organizing from the Inside Out focuses more on physical objects, but I find that the time management piece can be a game changer over all. Morgenstern starts the book with a little anecdote. The sun comes out and she thinks it would be wonderful to go for a walk with her baby. By the time she finds and gathers everything she needs - or thinks she could possibly need - the baby has fallen asleep on the floor and it's raining again. Her point: if you're organized, you won't miss out on moments like these. She carries the reader through a series of questionnaires and visualization exercises to determine the type of life they want to create and organize for themselves. Super awesome for the planning and strategy phase of your clear out.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

This book has been the gold standard of decluttering books for the past few years, largely because Kondo's approach is so different and whimsical. Rather than focusing on practicality, Kondo is concerned mainly with joy. Does an item give you joy? If so, keep it, and if not, toss it. Toss, of course, can mean recycle or donate etc, but her maxim is that you do not ever keep something because it's valuable or might be useful or you might need it someday. You only keep things you love. This book is great for people who have a hard time letting go of things. Her follow up book, Spark Joy, is a beautifully illustrated guide with step-by-step tips on implementing her organization strategies once you've cleared out.

Because I love the look and feel of a minimalist, tidy, clean and clutter-free home, I really want to pare down our belongings yet again. It makes such a huge difference in my mood and stress levels to have things orderly and neat. But, it's easier said than done, especially with children around. Being calm and present with one's children is all the more reason to do it. And the thought of a less painful move is really getting me motivated! ;)

How do you keep clutter to a minimum? Do you clear out every month? Once a year? Consistently throughout each week? Please share your tips in the comments below!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

On Leaving Facebook

I left Facebook back in mid-October. The election season was in its final, crazy days and I was completely overwhelmed by the acrimony of the posts I was reading every day. Even the posts I agreed with seemed so bitter and hostile. I couldn't take it anymore. So I decided to take a break from Facebook - until after the election was over. Whatever made me think it would be better after the election is beyond me, but that's what I told myself.

I removed the Facebook app from my phone, as I've done before for other breaks, and told myself I could check it periodically, but only on the computer. Then, a funny thing happened. Once I got past the first few days of wanting to open Facebook during idle moments, like waiting in line at the post office, or on a break at work (the addiction is real) I didn't feel the need to go online at all anymore. Not anywhere. I wasn't terribly interested in Instagram, or this blog, or anything. It was like white noise.

It was so nice.

I didn't feel like I was missing anything, but a few friends in far-flung places got in touch to say they missed me on Facebook. So, shortly after election day, I went back on to give it a try. The level of hysteria and vitriol was at an all-time high; it was much worse than before the election. I made a remark that was misinterpreted and gave way to what felt like personal attacks from friends who I thought knew me better. And that was it. I decided I was done and I would never go back. And I haven't.

It's really horrifying to say, but after I went off of Facebook, my life, the actual life I live day-to-day and that is ever-present in front of my eyes, came into better focus. It's not healthy to be so distracted by social media, and yet when you are, you don't really notice. I found I had so much more time after I left Facebook, and I hadn't even considered myself that heavy of a Facebook user! Clearly I was. I found renewed interests in puttering around and staring out the window. And then, I started to hear my own thoughts again. My own ideas, my very heart's desires and my own soul's yearnings. These things had been dulled and drowned out by the constant barrage of other people's opinions and thoughts. Hearing my own thoughts again translated into wanting to blog again. I'll never go back to Facebook.

If you're thinking of calling it quits on Facebook, here are a few articles and resources to help you on your way:

Hooked on Our Smartphones. Curbing all phone use, including Candy Crush, is my next goal to conquer.

Why Is Everyone on the Internet So Angry? When you remove yourself from the online anger, your blood pressure goes down instantly.

The Importance of Staring Out the Window. I found this gem of an article after discovering my rekindled love for staring out the window. Too good.

The Skimm. If you worry that you'll miss out on news on Facebook, sign up for this daily skim of the world's news. Besides, news on Facebook is notoriously unreliable anyway!

Why Social Media Is Ruining Your Self-Esteem - And How to Stop It.

Have you ever taken an extended break from Facebook? Or quit all-together? I'm so curious to know if Facebook and Social Media are generally more positive or negative forces in your life. Please chime in in the comments below. xo

(Image via Lucy Houghton)

Friday, January 13, 2017

Have a wonderful holiday weekend!

Are you traveling or doing something special this weekend? We had planned to go down to Oregon for a dear old friend's baby shower, but between finding a place to stay and the insane amount of snow that fell in Portland, it's just as well that we're not going. But, what a bummer anyway. The upside is that we now have three days stretching ahead with no plans, Homeland starting up again and a nice stack of firewood on the porch. Things could be a lot worse. ;)

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

I'm using (and LOVING) this free daily goal tracker.

Theo's favorite toy these days, by far.

Things that make you grow. (Love this:)

As much as I love Homeland, I have felt increasingly guilty for loving and watching it. Turns out I'm not alone.

Your best life is waiting.

French school supplies.

Afternoon slump? Try this.

How to change your life.

Yay for polka dots on polka dots.

This photo is giving me major wanderlust.

Learning and teaching resources on MLK, Jr.

Have a wonderful long weekend! See you back here Tuesday. xo

(Photo via L ' Essenziale)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Weaning a Toddler

I have officially been pregnant or breastfeeding (or both!) for six solid years. Tomorrow, January 13th is the actual day that, six years ago, I took a pregnancy test at 5 in the morning, still warm from my bed and jet lagged in our little tiny apartment in Adliswil. We had just gotten back following a trip to Spokane for Christmas and I wanted a baby so badly I could hardly see straight. I had woken up and just knew that I was pregnant before I had even opened my eyes. So I jumped out of bed, grabbed a pregnancy test and within seconds, we saw two pink lines. Oh, the joy and wonder that followed.

Six years. Two babies. Two continents. Four homes. All of it either pregnant, or breastfeeding, or both.

Weaning Theo has me all emotional. We actually started weaning back in October, but now we're nearly there. I'm not even sure that I'm producing any significant amount of milk, or if it has just been mainly comfort for him the past few days, but I can feel that it's different somehow. We're down to once a day, before bed. On the one hand, we need to be done. Theo's forgetting how to latch and he approaches it like a straw. On the other hand, I'm going to miss snuggling up with him and hearing him ask for "nay" (his word for nurse). I'll miss the way he holds onto my hair, or strokes my arm or face while he nurses. It's the most loving, tender time we share and I hate to think of it being over. But then he starts doing this weird thing that isn't quite biting, but sort of feels like chewing or grinding and I just want to scream!

So it's time. I know that. And yet, it's hard because it feels like the end of an era. It is the end of an era! As a new mom, you hear again and again that it goes so fast. And then, in the blink of an eye, you see what all those people were getting at. My babies are no longer babies. They'll never be babies again. And I really don't know if we'll have another baby. This might just be it. What a lot to say goodbye to.

I never had to wean Coco. It happened naturally because I was pregnant with Theo. After the first trimester, my milk stopped producing and neither of us had a choice in the matter. But this time is different. It's harder. And knowing there is no new baby on the way to nurse and hold onto makes it harder, too.

I'm getting more and more ready. Time is flying. Spring is actually right around the corner. The days are gradually getting longer even though the temperatures are positively frigid. I have some travel coming up in February without the kids and J and I'm mentally preparing myself that that trip will mark the end of "nay." I think I'm almost there.

If I'm perfectly honest, I'm ready to see what's in store for us after "nay." We know we'll be moving out of our sweet little house and current school district ahead of Coco's starting kindergarten. This sweet tender time, "The Time of 'Nay,'" while it has been good and wonderful, is reaching the end of its line. Nothing lasts forever. I have this incredible feeling, very similar to the way I felt right before I met J, that we're on the edge of something even more beautiful. So I'll just have to let go and allow it to happen. Onward and upward!

How did you wean your baby or toddler? Was it hard for you, or were you relieved to be done? I would love to hear all about it. xo

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Winter Beauty Trick: Sleeping Masks

Don't you agree that keeping your skin hydrated and happy during the winter can be so challenging? This winter in Spokane has been bitter cold. The other morning, it was actually -1 Fahrenheit (-18 Celsius) when we got in the car. The cold and the dryness combined were making my skin red, swollen and blotchy. I had to do something, but what? After a little Googling, I discovered sleeping masks, or beauty packs. Have you heard of them? They're masks that you put on before bed and leave on overnight to work their magic while you sleep. 

I tried out three sleeping masks over the past few weeks. Here's what I discovered.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Expat Mamas: Corrine Fox

When I started this series, I wasn't so much interested in what it's like to live and parent in different countries as I was interested in hearing how women and mothers just like me deal with raising their own children far away from family and eventually having two places they call home. While we were in Switzerland, I felt so strongly that even though I loved it there, felt very much at home there and liked being a mother there, that I couldn't stay there. The pull to be closer to family and raise our children "at home" was overwhelmingly strong. It never really went away, ever. So when we finally left, I expected a huge sigh of relief to follow. But here I am, over two and a half years later, still missing Zurich and Switzerland and our life there in general. It feels like a catch-22. 

Some of you may already know and follow expat mama blogger Corinne Fox of Mommy in Dubai. If not, I'm so excited to introduce you to her and her family and their time making a home far from home.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Snow Day

Today was a snow day, which was completely awesome and relaxing and rejuvenating. My only regret is that we didn't realize it was a snow day until after we'd already gotten up and out of bed, showered and dressed, made coffee, started the cars to warm them up and woken the kids and gotten Theo dressed. So, basically, everything. As Murphy's Law would have it, we had prepped so much the night before and had never been more on it in the morning. Go figure! 

I stuck my head out the door to tell J through the darkness that it was a snow day and he could just turn off the cars. He shoveled the walk and then we got the little cuties settled with some Trader Joe's blueberry bars, milk and a movie and we went back to bed. It was fabulous!

After a big breakfast, we got the gingerbread house (which we never got to over the holidays) down off the top of the fridge and gave it a leisurely go. Coco loved it and Theo loved eating the sprinkles and candy! Side note: Yes, all of our decorations are still up. I just love how cozy they make the house feel that I can't bear to take them down. But Friday is tree collection day, so I suppose Thursday night, we'll finally have to take it all down. Until then, three cheers for cozy!

When it was all finished, Coco was so proud. And also keeping an eye on Theo. ;)

Then we went over to my mom's to help her shovel out. It was snowing hard and Theo and Coco had the best time playing in the snow for nearly two hours. By the time we finished the driveway, a full inch of snow had accumulated. My mom and I went inside for a bit and J and the kids built tunnels and started an igloo. 

We had a fire and dried their snowsuits, hats and mittens while we ate lunch with my mom. Then we warmed up the car and went home for nap time. I lay down with Theo to help him fall asleep and thought I just fallen asleep for a few minutes, but it was actually an hour and a half!

I lay in bed for a little while, staring at the ceiling thinking about what a nice day we had had. A snow day gives teachers the same feeling of found or gifted time as a sick day does, except instead of being sick, you're fully healthy and can enjoy it. Everything stops and suddenly, there is nothing demanding your attention and it's impossible to drive anywhere because the snow is so deep. So you just relax and do things you can't seem to find time for normally.

It was just what we needed. I would actually love it if tomorrow were another snow day. ;) I doubt it will be as it's no longer snowing, but just in case, I'm now following Spokane Schools on Twitter, so if it is, I'll just turn off my alarm, roll over and go back to sleep. Fingers crossed! 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Have a Restful Weekend

As exhausting as it can be to readjust to waking up before dawn after the lovely Christmas holidays, it feels so good to be back on a routine. I have my fingers crossed that everyone in our house stays happy and healthy despite the new viruses circulating about. We seem to be settling into a nice groove this year already - and I like it. Tonight I'm making a pot roast and, like every other night this week, we're going to have a roaring fire to combat the sub zero temps. When we got in the car yesterday morning, it was -1 Fahrenheit (-18 Celsius) and today it was 6 F (-14 C). I do not like this bitter cold. Warmer air is coming our way, thankfully! The kids need their time outside. Cabin fever is real. ;)

I tried the rambly Friday posts (like this one) but ultimately decided to just go back to the ol' link list for 2017. So I hope you'll enjoy these:

This song is so good for driving or headphones.

Perfect Pot Roast. Beyond ready for this tonight!

Obsessed with this apartment. Especially that fireplace.

Some inspiration for your new year. And more from me on this topic next week.

Drinker's Guilt is a real thing. Do you get it?

An old college friend is traveling through India and his photos are tip-top.

Thinking about switching to a pen-and-paper planner this year? This one is my favorite.

Eight Ways to Save on Travel in 2017

Finally caved and it lives up to the hype.

Delightful or satisfying German words we need in English.

Enjoy your weekend! Stay warm if it's cold where you are and see you all back here Monday. xo

(Photo via Elle Decoration)

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Sleeping Babies on Instagram

They absolutely make me swoon. That is all. Three great accounts to follow for sleeping babies are Nicole DiGiacobbe, Bri and Ginger Parrish. You're welcome.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Do you like your name?

I've written on Swiss Lark about choosing a name for your baby and changing (or not changing) your name after getting married. But, what about your own name?

As modern humans, we like to subscribe to the idea that "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," but just as was illustrated in Romeo and Juliet, played by Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey (pictured), we all know that there is more to a name that just a combination of sounds. Names carry plenty and can give someone an impression of us before they've even seen our face.

All throughout grade school and high school, I always really liked my name. I felt that Lindsey was a strong, solid name; the type of name people would take seriously and respect. It was lucky that I was named Lindsey before the name got really popular. I was always the only Lindsey in all of my classes and it felt like a unique and great name to have in general.

Then, Lindsay Lohan came along. At first she was ridiculously cute, like in The Parent Trap. Adorable! Then she was just delightful in Mean Girls. But then she entered her total train wreck phase, and she doesn't seem to have come out of it since. I kid you not, Lindsay Lohan really seems to have tainted the name Lindsey. People seem to react differently to the name since she went off the rails. At least it seems that way to me.

Then, a few years ago, I saw this movie clip from Our Idiot Brother and could not believe its portrayal of the name Lindsey. (Starting at 45 seconds). It is like the complete opposite of what I've always thought of my name. Gah!

What is your impression or your name? Do you think it matches what others think of when they hear your name? I've had many unrelated people over the years tell me I look more like a Megan than a Lindsey. Ha! So tell me, do you like your name?

(Photo of Leonard & Olivia via Cloudpix)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

What Type of Planner Do You Use?

Way back in 2001, I bought a Kate Spade six-ring agenda on clearance at Nordstrom. It seemed like a really extravagant luxury, but I used it every day and got so much enjoyment out of it for many years. Each year, I'd buy a refill set for the pages and it aged beautifully, of course, because it was made of leather and nylon.

Then, smart phones came along and Google calendars and I stopped using it. A couple of years later, we moved to Switzerland and got rid of practically everything we owned, but it wound up being one of the things that went into storage. I didn't see it again until a few months ago when I came across it while looking for something else that I probably didn't find. ;) Don't you hate that? I was looking for the kitchen twine to tie a bunch of thyme the other day, but I had hidden it from the kids, who love to trail it all over the house in a huge mess, and I couldn't find it. Of course, I found it a few days later when I was looking for something else. Ha!

But when I came across the planner, I was curious to see if Kate Spade was still make refills, so I went online and not only are they still being made, but they were on clearance. Yes! I read a few of the reviews and it got me thinking that people are really shifting back to pen and paper planners as opposed to online or phone-based planners.

For our family, we use iCal and share calendars so they're always up to date in our iPhones. When J adds an event, I get a notification on my phone. It is super helpful and I wouldn't trade it. But I still  like the feeling of writing things down and being able to doodle in a pen and paper planner. According to UPS, my package will arrive tomorrow and I'm really curious to see the artwork and design for 2017.

What kind of planner or agenda do you use? All online? Old school day planner? Does anyone still use a Rolodex?! I'm curious to know. Tell me all about it in the comments below.

(Photo via Kate Spade)
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