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
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