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)
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