I’ve been devouring my birthday present, a Kindle version of The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler. Instead of a list of top tens, he gives 200 suggestions from which to pick and choose – that’s my kind of book!  I love gathering support for my convictions from outside sources and ignoring what doesn’t jive.  Many ideas I’ve heard before (though he boldly predicted I would only know 25percent) but it’s always good to hear good ideas again.  I’ve highlighted in the Kindle along the way. Let’s see how easy that makes it to share my thoughts.  I don’t know how to put page numbers in, though!


On Agile in the Family

It bugs me to use “agile” as a noun, but it’s used that way in the business world, so Feiler uses it here to.  “In effect, what agile accomplishes is to accept that disorder and order live alongside each other.  By acknowledging things will go wrong, then introducing a system to address those wrongs, you increase the odds that the system – in this case the family - can work right.”

Hm, should that apply to my GTD system, too?


On the Weekly Family Meeting

I’d heard of this before, but our kids seem a little too young still.  That’s changing quickly.


““What works about the family meeting” he said, “is that it’s a regularly scheduled time to draw attention to specific behaviors.  If you don’t have a safe environment to discuss problems, any plan to improve your family will go nowhere.””


I like the format he proposes, short and simple (20minutes!).  Ask these three questions of each member of the family:

  1. What things went well in our family this week?
  2. What things could we improve in our family?
  3. What things will you commit to working on this week?


The stories of how this works in families and how children can contribute insights and innovative solutions are inspirational.


“The Agile Family Manifesto”

Feiler proposes these five points inspired by the original “Agile Manifesto” created by Jeff Sutherland and 16 other designers.

  1. Solutions Exist – we just have to go find them (and they might not come from anything directly related to family)
  2. Empower the Children – “Scientists at the University of California and elsewhere found that kids who plan their own time, set weekly goals, and evaluate their own work build up their prefrontal cortex and other parts of the brain that help them exert greater cognitive control over their lives.  These so-called executive skills aid children with self-discipline, avoiding distractions, and weighing the pros and cons of their choices.”
  3. Parents aren’t invincible – “’One thing that works in family meetings,’ David Starr told me, ‘is the kids are allowed to say whatever they want, even about the grown-ups.  If I’ve come back from a trip and am having trouble reentering the routine, or if Mom hasn’t been nice that week, this is their venue to express their frustration.’”
  4. Create a safe zone – “Every parent quickly learns that every child- and every adult- handles conflict differently.  Some push back when criticized, some turn inward, some break down in tears.  A key gift of the family meeting was to give us a designated space each week to overcome those differences.  It was a safe zone, where everybody was on an equal footing, and no one could leave until a resolution was forged.” (Emphasis mine. As someone who doesn’t like to leave unresolved conflict, I love this – both the safe part and the finish part.)
  5. Build in flexibility – The original “Agile Manifesto” states “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.”  Feiler notes “even the best designed system will need to be reengineered midstream.”  Oh so true! Why do I keep searching for the perfect system that will no longer need work?


More support for homeschooling and Dad coming home for lunch

“A university of Michigan report that examined how American children spent their time between 1981 and 1997, discovered that the amount of time children spent eating meals at home was the single biggest predictor of better academic achievement and fewer behavior problems. Mealtime was more influential than time spent in school, studying, attending religious services, or playing sports.”


The importance of telling your family history

This one we could work on.  I’ve internalized more of a “you are your own person” idea, which is also important, but we don’t come out of a vacuum.

“The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem, and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.”

Quoting psychologist Marshall Duke, expert in rituals and resilience: “The most healthful narrative is . . . the oscillating family narrative. ‘Dear, let me tell you, we’ve had ups and downs in our family . . . But we also had setbacks . . . But no matter what happened, we always stuck together as a family.’”

The other two narratives are a downward “we had it all and lost it” or the upward “we started out with nothing and made our way to the top.”  Honestly, I remember lots of stories, but no narrative.  We just – were.  Sis, if you get time to read this, do you remember?

 “Marshall and Robyn point out that dinner is an ideal time to give kids this family history.  Everyone’s together, it’s a safe environment; it’s easier for children to hear about their family’s ups and downs while they’re in a nurturing environment doing something reassuring.  And nothing is more reassuring than eating.”

Ah, that explains chocolate as a comfort food . . .

But Feiler makes the point that what you talk about is more important than when and where you gather.

Feiler gives lots of tips for encouraging dinnertime conversations (or breakfast conversations is dinnertime is chaos in your family).  The list alone is worth the price of the book.


Another one for homeschooling and socialization

“Since a primary goal of family meals is socializing children, try to get the kids to do as much talking as possible.” (as opposed to letting adults dominate the conversation.)  So, if kids do best academically if they eat more meals at home, and kids are more socialized if the eat at home, then . . .why shouldn’t I be able to keep my kids out of school altogether?


“Pass the Ketchup”

“By watching others, including Mom and Dad, navigate ups and downs in real time, children develp empathy and solidarity with those around them.”  Acknowledging that not everyone likes having to share the good and the bad, he quotes a response by Marshall Duke:

“First of all, I agree that if children are feeling a real trauma about something, you shouldn’t force them to talk about it.  We have good data on this.  Otherwise . . . the most important thing we can give our children, at dinnertime or anytime, is a sense of perspective.  Children take their cues from us.  When they’re young and they hear a loud noise, they don’t look where the noise came from, they look at us. If you’re not upset, they’re not upset. . . When a child tells you something bad happened at school, sometimes the best thing to say is ‘Pass the ketchup.’  It’s your way of saying, there’s no reason to panic.  You can handle this, just like I handled things like this.  Then, once you’ve taken the panic out of the air, once you’ve put the ketchup on your French fries, then you can begin the conversation.”


I love this. I don’t rush in when my kids fall, but with my sensitive empathy bone, I do rush in when someone has sustained emotional hurt.  I love that “pass the ketchup” and then being willing to talk about it can convey so much more empathy and confidence than trying to express it in a tumble of words.

Posted by harp on Saturday, April 19, 2014 at 9:51 am | Edit
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I never finished my personal goals for 2013, but we did make some family goals and I like the idea of reflecting on the past to help focus for the future, so here we go before 2014 zips by . . .


Healthy birth and adjust (gracefully) to life with three kids.

Check. Mostly.  Praise be to God for all our blessings!


Happy Wightman visit

Check. Not perfect, but happy, at least as far we know!


Official homeschooling first steps

Check!  Stephan took the steps and we had a meeting that went as well as could be expected.  With huge projects that seem overwhelming, taking the first steps can be so difficult.  It’s easy to put something like this off when it’s only 2013 and Joseph won’t be school-aged until 2015!  But it’s made such a difference to just get the project rolling early.  I’m so glad Stephan pushed us to start and took the first steps.  Now it’s rolling with a lot more energy (and reminds me that I need to be sure I make the official proposal this year!).  Fear be gone!




We set an ambitious schedule of decluttering one room every two months.  We didn’t do too badly before Daniel’s birth, and though the big push stopped at that point, we haven’t experienced too much creep.


The big change that has made life much easier for living was moving our two desks out of the office/kids’ room and simplifying to one desk and a shared computer in the living space.  It is working quite well to share that workspace and having one dedicated kids’ room makes clean up and play and other things much easier.  When I think of all the stuff that was piled up in that room compared to what we enjoy now, I feel relief again and again!  I’d love to post pictures, but GEIBTP so words come fast and pictures may come later.


We had the living room mostly decluttered by the end of Feb.

By the end of April we’d mostly done the kids’ room, with only kid stuff in it.

We started losing steam and our goal of a decluttered hall and bathroom by the end of June was only half achieved.  We have plenty more space in the closets and surface clutter is gone (except the tall hall shelf, which I suppose is our designated spot for accumulating clutter, but better one spot than the whole house.)

I did some work on the kitchen by our September deadline, and it has stood up well, but it is starting to deteriorate.  I find the more space you give the things you use the longer it takes before things start to fall apart, so the kitchen was a good move, but still needs some work.

The hope of having the bedroom decluttered by December was gone before it started.  Our bedroom is the home of all the stuff we want to keep but don’t want cluttering up the other rooms.  It actually functions quite well, with stuff organized in boxes and shelves and piles, but it is STUFFED.  Seriously stuffed.  Still, I can sleep with stuff, I can’t work with piles of stuff, so having a mostly clutter-free home with one stuffed room that functions is a GEIBTP way to live.


One important lesson that came out of this “declutter in a year and be done with it” goal was that there is no such thing.  Decluttering is like doing the dishes: living makes mess and it’s best to clean up after yourself a little bit as you go rather than hope to work really hard and never have to do it again.  So, this year I won’t let myself obsess with fixing the house, but start living the life I want to live and just make little changes as I can along the way.


Decluttering the cellar was a bonus task (you know, in case we did everything early and had time left to spare . . .).  It has served us well as a temporary holding tank for the stuff we’re getting rid of.  It is still full, but not stuffed, and full of different stuff than at the start of the year because we got rid of a bunch of the stuff.


It’s amazing how much room stuff takes.

It’s amazing how little room you uncover when you get rid of stuff.

It’s amazing how plugging along a bit at a time makes a big difference in the long run.  Each effort is a drop in the bucket, but then one day, you look up, and see that you have more space than you did, that you can move a bit more freely, that there is a surface to set down the grocery bag while you struggle to help your toddler take off her boots and get your baby inside (3-yr-old must fend for himself, but he can, because there is room on the shoe rack for his shoes and a hook for his coat).


One main reason for simplifying our living space was to build in more leisure for the family.  We wanted our home to be a harbor – a place where all are respected and where our contentment brings us leisure and allows us to be available to each other.  To do this, we realized we needed to be better at saying “no.”  In this respect, we’ve not done a bad job.  Our schedule is less packed, our routines simpler and easier to follow, and I, at least, am more contented.  Stephan is the one who pulls toward contentment whereas I naturally want to push toward improvement.  We’re good for each other and I am mighty happy that we married and we continue to grow and learn together and from each other and from the kids.  I am much more exhausted, and work much harder than I ever imagined I would with a family, but I am also more fulfilled and more thankful and more aware of the great blessing God gives us when he gives us difficult tasks.


Thank you all for your support in this journey!

Posted by harp on Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 6:44 pm | Edit
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I’m still working out the new system for blog and educational journals, but here’s a catch-all for what we’ve been up to.


With the new year we started trying designated language evenings: Monday is Swiss German, Wednesday is High German, Thursday is English, all other times are free, which means back to the old routine of Stephan speaking Swiss German and me (I??) speaking English, hopefully more or less correctly . . .

The first day (Jan. 6th) was traumatic for Joseph.  Mom speaking Swiss German was more than he could handle and I ended up switching to English to help him calm down.  It’s like someone stole his mom and replaced her with a look-a-like.  Happily, several weeks later Joseph looks forward to our designated language evenings and has even started to try to speak some High German.  It really is amazing what one small change, done consistently, can bring about.  Most Swiss kids struggle when they get to school and have to cope in an environment all in High German, but with just one night a week Joseph is coming to see High German as something natural and easy.  This is another reason why I love homeschooling – you can use those little moments that add up to big progress.  Of course, it’s a challenge for Stephan and me, as he has to deal with my broken attempts to communicate and I have to keep my constant flow of thoughts to share in check because I don’t have the ability to communicate them.  On English days I try to be more deliberate in my speech as well, but I usually forget.  Still, it’s a step in the right direction, which is a very good thing.


January 3rd we celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary.  What a lot has happened in five years.  We enjoyed a quiet dinner at a nearby café followed by their yummy homemade ice cream.  Thanks to both sets of grandfolks for making it possible!


Jan.. 9th all three kids were napping at the same time.  This is mega noteworthy as it has happened probably a total of 3 times all of Daniel’s life . . .


Jan. 17-20 we all (except Daniel) got a stomach bug.  Enough said.


Stephan finished the over-the-bed trapeze and it was an instant hit.  Now the kids can get exercise without me having to bundle the four of us up to go outside . . .


Feb. 2nd we lead the music at our church for the first time (we’ve only been helpers before).  It went quite well and though the time required was greater, it fit better into our schedule as we could use the bits and moments of time we had and could rehearse with the singers at home.  Plus, I got to practice hymns for a reason, and that felt wonderful!


Joseph Tidbits


Joseph translates Vivienne’s request “Gerrysaw” to “Scarry ha” for Bappe.  (She was asking for a book by Richard Scarry)


We “correct” Joseph’s pronunciation of Cape Verde but he counters quite firmly with “no, It’s Cape Verd.”   We tell him it’s Verde (with an accent on the last “E”) but he says “No” so Stephan looks it up and we discover he is correct.


Joseph reads more and more.  He read “Elextolac” – the brand on our stove (did I get that right, Stephan?).


Joseph writes “Cooking” on his own with correct spelling.


He folded me a “flower” (his own imaginative design) and gifted it to me with a big smile.  This precious phase of motherhood is arriving!


From the project journal: Joseph continues to explore numbers and origami.  He’s learned by observing.  He once cut a piece of construction paper into a square and folded a Japanese helmet – I am very impressed with his level of precision.


Vivienne’s Variations


I captured most notes in her 2-year write-up, but since then she has learned to sing the alphabet, and does it rather well.  The end has an interesting variation, though, she sings “now I don’t know my ABC’s next time won’t you sing with me.”


Feb. 1st we celebrated Vivienne’s birthday with Stephan’s folks and sister and family.  We had a brunch buffet and all enjoyed being together.  It is such a blessing to family that loves each other and isn’t too far away!  Vivienne has since sung the happy birthday song to herself (a truncated version) many times.


Daniel’s Doings


Jan. 6th he spun a top, of course quite on accident (he dropped it) but it was impressive none the less.


Jan. 9th Daniel does the all-fours rock (hands and knees).  He’s the earliest.


Jan. 14th Daniel is really crawling and crawling for a purpose (not just from a reflex).


Jan. 15th Daniel turns 5 months old!


Jan. 16th Daniel is a mover and a sleep-fighter like all my kids.  Tonight he fell asleep with his head in the air.  He was on his tummy, pushing up and fighting sleep.  Sleep one, but it was only a bit later that his head returned to the bed and he settled down.  And people say you should just put the baby down so he can sleep on his own.  I am missing something . . .


Jan. 24th Daniel crawls up onto the special bed (a mattress on the ground only a few inches high).


Feb. 3rd Daniel gets his first tooth! Lower left incisor.  He also joins the brave class of kids who have fallen off the bed.  He, like the others, survived.


We started a PEKiP course together.  (PEKiP is a warm environment where the babies are naked for maximum freedom of movement and parents are encouraged to observe and interact with the work and exploration the babies are doing.)  I did nearly 6 months of PEKiP with Joseph and really enjoyed it and thought it would be fun to have a little focused time with Daniel in the same way (sorry, Viv).  Stephan’s folks come and spend time with Joseph and Vivienne (which they love) and I get to just hang out with my baby.  It’s amazing how relaxing it is now to be with one baby and how difficult it was when I was learning the ropes of motherhood.  Despite the EC I’ve done with Daniel I have a hard time reading him in the class because of the exciting environment.  I’ve caught one pee out of five so far.  Oh well, I’m much more chill about it, but I mention it so it’s clear we haven’t gotten this EC thing down pat even though we’ve had exciting successes.

Posted by harp on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:37 pm | Edit
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Before life as we know it fades into distant memory, I’d like to write a little about our daily life and rhythm.  I know that we will soon find it hard to remember what life was like with only two kids, so here is a sketch for our reference, and your enjoyment if you’re curious about the more mundane parts of our lives.  Stream-of-conscious is all I have time for, so here goes!


We are very happy as a family of four and never could have imagined life would run so smoothly so soon after the turmoil of welcoming a baby in our lives.  As Stephan put it the other day “you’ve gone from messy student to domestic goddess” and that has made quite a difference for us!  No longer do I cram stuff into every available space or procrastinate doing dishes, picking up or basic cleaning (there are still plenty of cobwebs and dirty windows – I’m not really a domestic goddess yet!).  Consequently we are always “company ready in 15 minutes” to use FlyLady’s inspirational saying.  The kids are quiet used to this as well.  They know that they must pick up their toys before eating lunch or dinner, though they still need help and encouragement most of the time.  It’s usually not a struggle and Joseph can pick up quite well on his own.  Part of why that works so well is that there is plenty of space for the toys and no so many available at a time as to be overwhelming.  Stephan and I have also made a concerted effort this year to pare down on the stuff we have and the effects are noticeable and inspiring for us – it also keeps us from buying more stuff without thinking really hard about it!


With that backdrop, here is a “typical” day.


The kids and Stephan wake up around 6am to a clean house.  Stephan helps them get dressed and started with breakfast.  I get up around 6:30 and join them.  Stephan is off to work sometime after 7am and the kids and I play and work until snack time at 9am.  In nice weather we take a snack with us and go to the playground or get milk at the farm and visit the goats and cows.  About twice a week we go shopping, which takes 1 ½ to 2 hours as we take our time walking there, exploring as we go, then the kids help me shop and play in the balls at the Wohncenter afterwards.  Mondays are more of a house-focus day, so we do laundry (the kids love to help – Joseph knows all of the settings), and some more cleaning than average.


During their snack at 9am I start preparing lunch, which is our main meal of the day.  The kids know always to wipe their hands and faces with a rag that is within reach after they’ve eaten (the usually still need some help getting all clean.)  If the toys are picked up then the kids can help me make dinner, but usually they play on their own as I try to finished up work I have out and get things ready for Bappe coming home.  I usually request that they start cleaning up an hour before lunch time as it takes them some time to be ready and complete it when I can’t be there all the time.  I run around bouncing from kitchen preparation work to picking up the house to helping them pick up their toys until Bappe comes home at noon for lunch.  (Note, we’ve recently switched lunch to 11:30, but for the longest time it was a noon.)


Bappe gives a call from work when he’s on his way so I can do the final preparations and have the meal on the table when he arrives 10 minutes later having biked home from work in just about any weather.  We enjoy the meal together as a family in a clean home and we treasure the time together.  The kids still need quite a bit of help during the meal in terms of serving food, cutting it, and cleaning up after spills, but they can eat on their own and know where to get the rag to clean up after themselves (though often they need prompting and adult help to finish the job.)  We try to wrap-up eating after 30minutes and then clear the table and wipe the floor so the mess is all contained in the kitchen at least before Stephan goes back to work and I’m alone with the kids again.  In the last 10 minutes of Stephan’s lunch break we do the Bible reading together on the couch in the living room – another reason why we clean up the table together – I have a hard time concentrating on prayer and the reading when there’s a mess in front of me (our dining table is in the living room.)  We sing 2-3 verses of the hymn of the week during the reading.  Afterwards, if the kids are playing well I’ll try to wash the dishes before naptime, otherwise with the mess just in the kitchen I don’t worry about leaving the dishes for after our rest time.


With me pregnant Stephan helps a lot more with clearing the table and getting the kids ready for nap/quiet times.  I take a nap with Vivienne (or at least lie down with her until she is asleep) and Joseph plays quietly on his own, and does quite a good job for the most part.  With a noon lunch, naptime is usually around 1ish to 3, and it is sacred time for me.  If Joseph wants me to play with him I tell him that Mommy needs a quiet time too and that I’ll play with him at the end of his nap or we can lie down together a bit.  He usually ops to play on his own.  I use the time to rest, eat some treat that I don’t want the kids seeing me eat, zip through emails and do other computer work and check-in with my GTD system, thinking about what needs to happen and taking care of papers.  The main thing is that I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to – it’s really my only time “off” and I need it in order to work all the rest of the long day.  I really notice if I miss that time for some reason.  It’s hard to be on call 24-7!


Usually, if I’ve had a good hour or so to myself and to work at my own pace, I’m happy to join Joseph for the end of his quiet time and play with him.  Lately he’s been wanting to play with the number puzzle and solve equations.  I really hope I can have such one-on-one time with him still after the baby comes!


Vivienne usually sleeps about 1 ½ hours and comes out on her own (she sleeps in our bedroom – Joseph plays in the kids room) and in a good mood, happy to see her brother again.  After a little snuggle-hug from mom the kids are happily playing together again.  We might go outside if we haven’t in the morning, but usually one outing a day is enough for me.  We have a similar clean-up routine before Bappe comes home for dinner around 5:30, which is usually leftovers or bread and cheese.


Bedtime routines have been a bit of a challenge for us, but lately it’s been working well to wrap up eating by 6, help the kids get ready for bed (potty, diapers, teeth brushed, PJs) and then have some family time in the kids’ room before the Bible reading at 7pm.  The kids get out some extra energy (and their evening poos . . .) before they have to lie still.  We transition from play to rest when the old clock strikes 7, at which point we shut the shutters, take turns praying with each child and tucking them in bed (Joseph prefers the pack n’ play, Vivienne the bed).  From that point on they need to lie still and quietly or they lose the privilege of having us in the room with them.  The threat that we’ll leave if they aren’t quiet is enough for them to settle down (for the most part) and we do the reading, saving the singing part for the end, with the idea that live-bedtime music is more precious than canned.  We sing the hymn-of-the-week (or two weeks) and then take requests from Joseph until 7:30 when one parents leaves to do evening chores and the other stays with the kids until they fall asleep.  It’s a much longer bedtime routine than most find acceptable, but for us it is well worth the time investment.  It is precious family bonding time that also refocuses our minds from ourselves and our work to God and to higher things.  The kids are learning to love good music and to know that it’s natural to make your own music rather than pay professionals all the time.  Most importantly, they learn that everything we have comes from God and that our faith is not just a Sunday morning affair, but something essential to daily life.


Everyone keeps telling us how quickly these early years go by, so I’m guessing soon enough we’ll have the evenings to ourselves again and we won’t regret not giving our kids enough time!  Still, as long as we spend with the kids in the evening, they’re often asleep by 8, which gives us quite a bit of evening time to work or be together as well.  I’m usually too tired to do much more than the evening chores (a quick sweep, a bathroom swish and swipe, a last pick-up) and plan for the next day, checking my tickler and GTD lists.  Stephan does the dishes and does computer work (I can’t work on the computer too close to bed or the light keeps me charged up).  I try to get to bed by 10 and Stephan comes around 11.


Other random weekly traditions:

Monday evenings Stephan shops at Lidl on the way home so I don’t have to shop so much with the kids.  I meal plan for the month, check it for the week, send him a list and he sticks to it.  That saves us money as well.


Tuesdays we have homemade hamburgers (I buy the buns) for lunch – a real treat for not-too-much money.  Tuesday evening is Stephan’s night for his writing or other work.  Mostly he still helps get the kids ready for bed and does the dishes, but before I got too pregnant I could relieve him of a few more of his duties so he could do something for himself.


Thursdays are Mommy’s day off, which means I can generally pick which work I help with and which I don’t.  Stephan lets me sleep in, and in the evening I can take off somewhere or pretend I’m not around and focus on getting some project work done.  The kids don’t understand the concept yet, so there’s plenty of work and time with them, but I take the pressure off myself to be efficient and driven, and just stick to the basics and let myself go with inspiration.  Oddly enough, I often end up using Thursday nap-time to enter financial receipts into our money program, so it’s not like I don’t work or serve my family on my day – it’s hard to explain how nice it is to have a day where I have permission to put myself first a little bit.  It makes serving others and working for the family easier!!  It also makes me less guilty for asking to give the kids baths – a chore I really dislike for some reason!!

(We’ve also starting making Thursday pizza day.)


Also twice a month on Thursday is our Bible study which we take turns attending while the kids are in bed.


Friday we often have a pancake dinner as Stephan stays at work over lunch.  I try to fit in a vacuum session and maybe mopping or dusting – but with pregnancy the vacuuming is about all I’ve been able to manage most weeks!


Saturday morning I can often slip across the street to the Coop restaurant and have a coffee and some time alone to think while Stephan gets the kids breakfast and the kids enjoy some playtime with Bappe.  I use the time to breathe a sigh of relief (I’m not on call when I’m across the street!) and reflect on the week, the good, the bad, the ugly, and focus on one or two main problems: what exactly is the cause of trouble, possible preventions, and baby steps toward putting change into effect.  That kind of though is nearly impossible during the week when I’m either constantly interrupted or too exhausted at the end of the day to think straight!


Sunday we have zopf (Swiss Sunday bread) with toppings for breakfast all together before going to church (FEG Emmen) at 9:30am.  It’s an 8min walk, but we leave at 9am so the kids can walk or ride the (foot)bike or scooter.The kids stay in the service until the sermon, at which point I take them out to the nursery, where they happily play and practice their Swiss German.  The kids also have a play time after church, so that’s another reason why we insist that they spend at least some time in the service (most other kids are out in their Sunday school classrooms the whole time.)  I can sometimes listen to the sermon from outside, but usually I end up asking Stephan what it was about on the way home whether I listened or not.  I like it that way, though, because it gives us a reason to discuss the points brought up.


I think that’s enough daily life to jog our memories.  Thanks for tuning in!

Posted by harp on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Edit
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With a baby due in August a big summer vacation didn’t seem to make much sense, so we opted for a few “family weekends” throughout the year.  Our first was Feb. 21-24 didn’t go at all according to plan, but we had a great time anyway (aside from getting sick).  We ended up getting a Bed and Breakfast near the Basel Land area (at Mariastein) and enjoyed the location despite the large unexpected snow fall.  Fortunately we’d arranged a visit to Gymboree and visits to friends so the weather didn’t trip us up too much (and yes, Vivienne loves the snow but neither kid knows quite what to do with it or lasts very long in it.)


The first day we visited Stephan’s sister and had a good chat before heading for a special treat of lunch at McDonald’s.  It feels good to indulge the desire for grease and then reminds you why you don’t do it that often . . .


Then we visited VZ, the lady I stayed with until Stephan and I got married.  It had been well over a year since we’d seen her, so that was a fun visit as well.  For our evening meals we ended up getting stuff at Coop and eating in our room, which served us all quite well.  The kids’ favorite toy were the Scrabble letters with magnets on the back that Stephan’s brother had made him ages ago and we recently unearthed.  The played with them on the radiators . . .


Friday we enjoyed our breakfast and I enjoyed not having to clean up afterwards.  Then we went to a Gymboree class, and though we all thought the class concept was less than impressive, the kids had a blast playing with all the padded equipment.  Vivienne went from not knowing what to do with the slide to walking up it (the slide part) and zipping down head first and laughing hysterically the whole time.  It’s a pity you can’t join just for free play but have to enroll in a class as well, because like I said, the class (Play and Learn for crawling to age 5 kids) was rather stupid, though the teacher was friendly and enthusiastic.


Then we enjoyed a lovey lunch at Krischona with Tante Anita, which we all enjoyed as it was more laidback and the kids had a play table to retreat to as well.  Sadly we were starting to get sick at that point so we had to cancel seeing our friend Katie W. and her no-longer-new baby that we still haven’t seen, as well as missing some other folks.  That was sad.


Saturday Stephan took the kids for a walk and I ended up using the time to sketch out an essay idea for Power of Moms, which happened to later turn into an actually submission and should be published this month.  Husbands willing to give their wives breaks are a wonderful thing!


We headed home a little earlier than planned because we didn’t want to infect anyone else with our germs.  That was a bit disappointing, as we were hoping to see a bunch of people in the Basel area, but we had a good time anyway.  We’re learning how to relax and just enjoy what happens and let the kids lead in what they want to do because it’s often something like play in the dirt rather than something more entertainment oriented.


This weekend was our second “mini-vacation” and in keeping with letting the kids lead, we decided to stay at home and try to be more present for the kids.  On Thursday we went to the Transportation Museum in Lucerne and let the kids lead, which meant we saw some outside parts and one-half of one floor in the museum.  Fortunately we could avoid any fears about how much we paid for the experience because Stephan can borrow tickets from his company, so our only expense was the bus and lunch.  I see no point in dragging kids around a museum so they can see everything, but even I was surprised at just how much time we spent in one place!  We all enjoyed the morning and Vivienne fell asleep peacefully on the bus ride home.  We took the boat from the museum to the station, which Vivienne loved but Joseph couldn’t seem to care less!  Funny how I never know what my kids will love and what they won’t care about!


Friday was a quiet day at home with some shopping and gardening – also very pleasant as we gave ourselves permission to relax and enjoy each other.  Saturday we visited Götti A and Gotte Da and had a breakfast feast.  Vivienne was quite affectionate and happily walked over to Gotte Da to give her a hug then walked to me to give me one.  Whata sweetie!   Then we went to the homeschool association day at the gym – a free for all that Vivienne in particularly enjoyed as she could crawl around and explore without her mother worrying about her getting into dirt . . .  She started to walk on her own on purpose, too.  Poor Joseph was battling a bit of a fever and exhaustion, though he has no other symptoms.  I wonder if it’s the terrible twos fever and exhaustion from power struggles.  Most of the time we all have a delightful time, and then sometimes . . . well, I’m guess you all have been through it . . . but before Joseph crashed he was making great strides in catching a ball, be it a big one.


Sunday was my birthday and my family treated me very well.  Thanks to everyone who made it special.  After the dramatic melt-down at church (okay, we admit it, parenting help welcome) we spent the rest of the day at home and I did whatever I wanted while Stephan cooked and cleaned.  It was splendid.  I got to relax and play with the kids, read, eat sugar, and we even did some decluttering and furniture moving, making a little more space in both the kids’ room and the bedroom.  Slowly but surely we are beginning to notice our concerted efforts in getting stuff OUT of the house.  It was a lovely birthday/family weekend!

Posted by harp on Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Edit
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This isn’t an official Quick Takes (I don’t know how), but I’ve had a lot on my mind and I can’t wait to share it anymore, so here goes.


  1. Focus 2013 Goal 1: Fail.  Well, not entirely, but we set a goal to have the living room decluttered by the end of February and it came and when without us hardly noticing.  I had done a lot of work earlier, and it’s still the best room in the house, but I think we discouraged ourselves when we moved the computer desk into the living room.  That’s just about the hardest place of the house to declutter and keep that way!  I’ll share photos when we finally upload them . . .
  2. My current envy is just about everything in this home. Simple, uncluttered, lots of space, beautiful well-made wooden toys that are well-ordered and easy to use and put away, lots of activities that encourage the competence and independence of the kids, and respect all around.  I am inspired, intimidated, and hungry for more!
  3. Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin.  I’m soaking up every page.  Her first focus for making the home happier is possesions and she talks about the other side of simplicity.  The word is quite popular these days, and she points out that her natural tendency is to be lazy and therefor quite simple, but that doesn’t equal happiness.  The right possessions and the right care for them can increase our connectedness to people, which is the real source of happiness.  We still have too much stuff, but it’s good to keep the other end in mind, and it helps explain why I still have a fairly pricy wish list. . .
  4. Parenting.  It’s darn hard. My kids are so wonderful, why do I yell at them?  How can I go from being so proud and happy and filled inside to losing my cool?  I participated in a live webinar with Positive Parenting Solutions sponsored by Power of Moms and I identified with so much of what was on PP I decide to spend the 180 to take the whole online course.  I cannot tell you how light my heart was once we spent the money and even before I started the course!  It felt so good to know that I was about to get a bunch more tools in the toolbox for encouraging my wonderful children rather than discouraging because I can’t handle their messes and spontaneity.  The course promises I won’t remember the last time I raised my voice, and I am looking forward to that.  So far, I am loving what they have to say: praise is discouraging because it creates a fixed mindset and instills fear of losing whatever positive label the praise created; don’t tie allowance to chores, everyone contributes to running of the household and everybody benefits from it’s blessings; time out is not effective and just creates a huge power struggle; children deserve respect, not humiliation; we want to train our kids to be internally motivated, not dependent on external rewards; etc. etc.  I’m only about a third of the way through, but it is so encouraging.  I never would have thought I’d be the type to pay big money for a course like that, but I’m so happy we did.
  5. Joseph and I were putting together the States puzzles saying the capitals. He said “Subtraction Mississippi” – I love it!
  6. Vivienne gave her signature belly flop welcome to Gotte Di when she came to visit yesterday.  It’s so cute, she crawls up nearly to the person she loves then flops on the floor like she can’t go any further, but it’s not a temper, it’s from happiness!
  7. I’m about to be a published author!  Well, electronically anyway. Power of Moms has accepted an essay submission from me.  I’m hoping it will be shown on my birthday in April. ;)  It’s AMAZING what a little bit of encouragement can do.  Stephan didn’t praise me, he helped me get it done because he believes in me – that goes right along with what I’m learning in the parenting course.  We all have people in our lives who discourage us.  I think I’ll give them a collective name and call them “The Discourager.” The Discourager is strong in my life and he makes me sad and depressed – but boy does it teach me the value of encouragement verses discouragement.  I vow to listen to the Encouragers in my life and tune out The Discourager. I vow to encourage people wherever I can and choose to curb language that is discouraging.  Life is hard enough. Don’t we all need someone cheering us on when we’re going in the right direction and loving us anyway when we’re not?  Wait, we have Him. He’s The Encourager!
Posted by harp on Friday, March 1, 2013 at 3:05 pm | Edit
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I’m a mother.  I’ve been trying to sit down and plan our goals for 2013 since early December.  It’s now the end of February, and we have made good progress, but really, time to sit down and think is awfully scarce!  One of the main things on our hearts is the space we live in, or rather the space our stuff lives in.  We have a lot of STUFF.  With a baby coming and moving not happening, we have to make more space for the people and get rid of the stuff that is just taking up space!


Stephan and I did not get the declutter bug naturally. We were forced into by living in small spaces and finally feeling overwhelmed by all the stuff hanging off of shelves and tripping us up.  I used to think that organizing meant taking everything out of a drawer and putting it all back in neatly.  No wonder I never stayed organized for longer than a few days!  The work I’ve been doing on the house feels much like one of those sliding puzzles, to move one piece to the right spot you have to move a whole series of other things one at a time because you only have one empty space.  I was always very good at those puzzles, but I don’t have time for that anymore!  Our home is one huge puzzle with tons of little pieces, but since I learned about decluttering and simple living it’s like I’ve been given a new rule: if you bump into a piece you don’t think you need, you have permission to just take it out of the puzzle!  Before you know it, the space you made is making more space as you appreciate the space more than the things.


It’s hard letting go!  Especially if something is still good and you don’t know who you could give it to.  Here it helps to have a “leave the house” box where I toss anything I think we can do without.  I decide how to get rid of it later.  This really helps the part of me that hates decisions – I only have to make only decision at a time (first that I don’t need it and then later what to do with it.)  It’s been SO satisfying to see that box fill up again and again and be transferred into bags in the cellar, and then seeing the bags in the cellar go.  Of course giving feels even better if there’s an appreciative recipient.  Today I gave away the very first shawl I ever knit.  It was hard to decide we didn’t need it, but I was thrilled that Stephan’s great aunt accepted it when I offered it to her.  Stephan has really jumped on the bandwagon, too, so we’re seeing that box fill up again and again and we’re really beginning to notice the difference in our house.  I wish I had taking “before” pictures sooner, but I plan to take them now at least, because we still have a long way to go!  (And I have to figure out an easy way to get pictures on the blog . . .)


I hope to use the blog as accountability and encouragement like some other members of the family are this year.  2013 is well underway, and if I don’t have time to make lots of goals, then I certainly don’t have time to reach them!  Hopefully if we focus on clearing out our living space it will last a lifetime and allow us to really focus on what matters!


Before photos coming soon!  (And I think there’s a video from when we first moved in, so that could be a really good “before” video.  It shows all the junk we thought we had to move!!!)



Posted by harp on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Edit
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I’m a mother.  I’ve been trying to sit down and plan our goals for 2013 since early December.  It’s now the end of February, and we have made good progress, but really, time to sit down and think is awfully scarce!  One of the main things on our hearts is the space we live in, or rather the space our stuff lives in.  We have a lot of STUFF.  With a baby coming and moving not happening, we have to make more space for the people and get rid of the stuff that is just taking up space!


Stephan and I did not get the declutter bug naturally. We were forced into by living in small spaces and finally feeling overwhelmed by all the stuff hanging off of shelves and tripping us up.  I used to think that organizing meant taking everything out of a drawer and putting it all back in neatly.  No wonder I never stayed organized for longer than a few days!  The work I’ve been doing on the house feels much like one of those sliding puzzles, to move one piece to the right spot you have to move a whole series of other things one at a time because you only have one empty space.  I was always very good at those puzzles, but I don’t have time for that anymore!  Our home is one huge puzzle with tons of little pieces, but since I learned about decluttering and simple living it’s like I’ve been given a new rule: if you bump into a piece you don’t think you need, you have permission to just take it out of the puzzle!  Before you know it, the space you made is making more space as you appreciate the space more than the things.


It’s hard letting go!  Especially if something is still good and you don’t know who you could give it to.  Here it helps to have a “leave the house” box where I toss anything I think we can do without.  I decide how to get rid of it later.  This really helps the part of me that hates decisions – I only have to make only decision at a time (first that I don’t need it and then later what to do with it.)  It’s been SO satisfying to see that box fill up again and again and be transferred into bags in the cellar, and then seeing the bags in the cellar go.  Of course giving feels even better if there’s an appreciative recipient.  Today I gave away the very first shawl I ever knit.  It was hard to decide we didn’t need it, but I was thrilled that Stephan’s great aunt accepted it when I offered it to her.  Stephan has really jumped on the bandwagon, too, so we’re seeing that box fill up again and again and we’re really beginning to notice the difference in our house.  I wish I had taking “before” pictures sooner, but I plan to take them now at least, because we still have a long way to go!  (And I have to figure out an easy way to get pictures on the blog . . .)


I hope to use the blog as accountability and encouragement like some other members of the family are this year.  2013 is well underway, and if I don’t have time to make lots of goals, then I certainly don’t have time to reach them!  Hopefully if we focus on clearing out our living space it will last a lifetime and allow us to really focus on what matters!


Before photos coming soon!  (And I think there’s a video from when we first moved in, so that could be a really good “before” video.  It shows all the junk we thought we had to move!!!)



Posted by harp on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Edit
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Oct. 20: We went on a hike with Joseph’s Swiss-side cousin and his parents along a beautiful like that we couldn’t see because the fog was so thick.  It was sunny on the inside, though, as we enjoyed the company of family.  At the very end we did see some of the view and the rest of the afternoon was crisp and beautiful.  The boy cousins had fun throwing stones and drinking water from the fountain and just enjoying life.  Joseph rode his bike for much of the time and Vivienne was happy in the backpack with Stephan.  She fell asleep so when Joseph got tired he had to go on my back!  The wrap works well, be he sure is heavier than his sister!


Joseph teaches himself how to write 7.  The down stroke is vertical and it MUST have a cross.


22: Together we write 12-100 on the blackboard.  This time Joseph does all the 0’s, 1’s, 4’s, and 6-9’s by himself.  He does a number of 5’s in his own way until I try to help him (read: correct him).  Then she shuts down and insists that he can’t write 5 and that Mommy has to.  It’s another clear lesson of why there is so much to the idea of unschooling.  Joseph has taught himself so much but he is so fragile.  He learns most when I’m there as a resource for his self-directed learning.  Any brilliant idea of mine on how to gently teach is more often than not a disaster.  (Note that in the pictures that are up there is one photo that is labeled “Joseph writes 95-100”.  The 5 of the 95 is mine, the rest is all his.)


23: Joseph demonstrates that he knows most of the US capitals as he puts his US puzzle together.


Looking at a board book with the animals names in bold lower-case, Joseph says “c-a-t spells cat” and reads each of the animals names in that way.


Joseph starts to color inside the lines in his coloring book – not perfect but he has the idea (I never told him to, but I did color inside the lines a few times when I was playing with him).


24: At Vivienne’s 9 month doctor appointment Joseph remembered and asked for a 15-piece jigsaw puzzle that was in the waiting room.  We did it together once then he did it himself almost without help.  We have no such puzzles at home (hint, hint).


26: We visit Joseph’s birthday buddy and have a great time playing.


Soon after I asked Joseph to put away his number puzzle I heard him say “I put away my number puzzle just for you.” Which is a modification of the lines in the book “Just for You” where the child character does things just for his mom.


27:  Joseph reads all of “Hop on Pop” on his own.


Vivienne knows the hand motions we use during our Bible reading times.  I still guide her hands, but she anticipates a little.  It’s so fun!  Joseph has most of the repeated parts of these readings memorized even though most of the words surely don’t make sense to him.  A child’s memory is amazing.


30:  Vivienne back down 5-6 steps of stairs.


November 2: Joseph is getting pretty good at going to the toilet when he needs to go (at least during the day).  Today he was watching a Pimsleur French DVD when he realized he had to go and said so while climbing off the chair.  I paused the DVD and he went to the toilet without complaining.  I find that impressive, because TV - even educational TV - is mesmerizing.


Nov. 5: Joseph has been trying to teach himself to write “2” and is very frustrated.  I see it as a good illustration that a child’s play is really WORK.  Joseph doesn’t imitate and ask for repetition, and practice writing just because he doesn’t know what else to do.  He is desperate to be able to DO and SAY the things adults can.  He is thirsty for knowledge and is deeply upset when he can’t learn what he wants to learn.  If we patronize and say “how cute” or in other ways belittle his work, we can easily crush his spirit.  It’s a bit scary.  He is so capable of learning so much, but all that can fall apart if we don’t take care to respect his work as serious and not just child’s play.  Parenting is fun, but it’s scary!

Posted by harp on Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Edit
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The last weekend in September we visited the Stücklins while they were on vacation in the Ticino.  We had a grand time despite some drizzly weather.  One night the kids had a special date with their grandparents (including baths!) while Stephan and I had a special date just the two of us.  As we drove away from the house I realized it was the first time I’d been away for something fun since Vivienne was born.  I think the longest I’d been away from them both at once was for a church worship team meeting that I went to directly after my post-birth exercise class for a total of about 4.5 hours.  Anyway, it was strange to think I hadn’t gone out for fun on my own for eight months!  Of course I’ve been having plenty of fun, but it sure felt strange to only have my own two arms and legs to walk around with.  I soon stopped worrying (thanks to cell phones), which was good because we were headed for quite an adventure of our own!


We checked out a restaurant that was in the restaurant guide we gave the Stücklins and we almost didn’t stay because they were booked and only had room in the event room, which was past the kitchen, up a narrow staircase and decidedly less atmospheric than the main room with its fireplace and homey feel.  A friendly neighbor translated for us (Italian to German) as a plump Italian grandma gave us our options.  Dinner is at 7pm and there’s no menu.  You can pick between pasta and sliced meat and a veggie pâté for a starter, and roast beef and rabbit for entrée.  Until then you can take a walk in the rain or order a drink and wait inside.  We opt for the rain after Stephan convinces me we’re better off here than finding another place to eat.  And boy, am I glad I submitted this time.  The kids survived the late evening (though we were back by 10) and we had an absolute blast.  We walked through the beautiful Italian-style little town (name?) and covered it all in a matter of minutes.  The wet and cold didn’t keep us from enjoying the romance of the moment.  Hard to believe so much cuteness can be packed into so little space.  Back at the restaurant, I still wasn’t convinced of the ambiance.  We were located near the restrooms and we heard a man doing his business loud and clear.  Shortly after, he entered the room we were in with not a small amount of embarrassment (all expressed in Italian, of course).  As it turns out, he was a musician and we were in the musicians green room of sorts.  We shared our first course with the two musicians – the other one being the owner of the restaurant – before they went downstairs to entertain the guests.  I had the freshly homemade pasta and Stephan had the huge plate of meat and the vegetable pâté.  Both were delicious.  I was thrilled with my roast beef and Stephan quite pleased with his rabbit.  I’m not such a bit fan of dining out in Switzerland (nothing can compare to the dining experience in Japan), but this was a real treat.  During breaks the musicians would join us again and we got to talking.  It turns out that the bass player is a Canadian who first came to Geneva with a job in theater and now teaches English privately to the Italian-speaking Swiss, and the owner/mandolin player is a former banker who got sick of the dirty end of the business started the restaurant with his wife.  He’s an avid amateur mandolin player and absolutely adores entertaining his guests with song and passionate playing on weekends when he’s not chatting with guests or filling their orders.  During one break Stephan asked him if mandolin playing was different in different music traditions, which lead to a passionate impromptu lecture on mandolin styles complete with musical examples from bluegrass to Peruvian.  When I asked “And what about Italian?” he beamed saying it was the most beautiful of all and launched into a soulful and passionate ballad.  As for my doubts about ambiance, how romantic can you get?


After our desert we were invited downstairs as there was now room.  We enjoyed the music and couldn’t have escaped if we’d wanted to.  The only space for the musicians to play in the tiny room is right in front of the door!  If Dad didn’t worry so much about fire-safety violations I’d insists on taking my parents there someday.


It’s a good thing we don’t have too many adventures like this because it surely does take a long time to write about!  We returned home happy and not as poor as we thought we might after the feast we were served.  The kids had had a great time with Stephan’s folks and we had another memory to last a lifetime.  Every year Father Tom’s words take on deeper meaning.  His wedding address to us included the advice that the answer to “How long have you been married?” is always “Not long enough.”  The longer we’re married the more it’s not long enough.  Who knew life would be this hard but this good?


Now on to the biggest reasons why life is so hard and so good: the kid’s adventures!


Sept 29: Vivienne’s next upper right tooth appears.  She climbs up a whole flight of stairs.


Oct. 2: Joseph sees some soy sauce in a bowl and calls it “pink ink” (from One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish)


Oct. 6: Vivienne’s next upper left tooth appears.  Now she has four on top and two on bottom.


Oct. 7: Vivienne can reach my desk.


Oct. 9: I overhear Joseph say “J-O-S-E-P-H Joseph!”  He can now write I, J, H, O, and L and enjoys doing so greatly.  J is for Joseph, H is for Aunt Heather, L is for Lorax, and after writing I he says “that a very very nice I”


Oct. 10: Once a week a friend visits so he can practice English.  His mother tongue is French.  Sometimes we read Dr. Seuss books.  Today I overheard Joseph reading Fox in Sox.  He read the first page the way he always does, then he read it again with a French accent.


Oct. 12: Joseph still loves writing numbers on the chalkboard.  He can write one and zero and something that sometimes looks like a 9 (but it always is a 9 to him).  I write down the parts to a number he can’t and he fills them out for me, usually placing the numbers in the correct place (like adding 1 before the 3 for 13).  Today he asked for “count by 6’s.”   I stopped at 102 but said “108” so I wrote it to, then he said “114” then “120”!  I don’t know what’s going on up there.  He says crazy stuff like “4+5=1!” but then he knows stuff like how to count by six to 120!!  Motherhood surely is an exciting ride!


Oct. 13: Joseph loses his socks in the indoor playground with balls at the shopping center nearby.  When the time comes to put his shoes on without socks for the trip home he is distressed.  Who knew socks were that important to a two-year-old?


This afternoon both kids wake-up shortly into their naps within 5 minutes of each other.  That’s not too unusual, but what’s noteworthy is that they both went back to sleep and slept for a good while before waking up again (also within 5 minutes of each other).  A double double nap!  It doesn’t make up for the times when they don’t nap together at all . . .


Joseph is starting to not need an afternoon nap.  He still sleeps several times a week, but it is not uncommon for him to stay awake for the whole two-hour quiet time.  I am grateful that I started the quiet time rule just in time!


Joseph is also getting very good at wearing underwear and using the toilet for his needs.  We’ve taken a few short outings in underwear but haven’t tried any naptime or overnights yet.  We haven’t been pushing it.  He asks for his underwear most of the time.  When he is in a diaper then he can’t be bothered to use the toilet, though.  So I wonder if he would do well during a nap if I let him wear underwear to bed.


Oct. 14: We take a Mobility car up to our old Basel church BCF and enjoy a Sunday service in English and then the harvest lunch afterwards.  It’s lovely to see old friends and to see how much all the children have grown.  It had been over a year since we visited!


Oct. 15:  Joseph can write “6” as well as “9, 1, and 0.”  On the 19th he adds “4” to his list of skills.  He is very proud of himself.  He wrote something that looked like a 5 without the cross and I said “That looks like a five!”  He looked at it and then added a cross in the right place and said excitedly “five!”  It’s still hard for him to reproduce, though.


Oct. 16: Together Joseph and I write 0 to 100 on the blackboard.  Joseph writes all the 0’s, 1’s, 6’s and 9’s, adding them in the right places.  Often he’ll first put them in the wrong place then correct himself saying “that’s 41” then putting the ‘1’ in front to make the number he meant to in the first place.


Oct. 17:  I get frustrated easily, and though I’m much better, I still yell at my kids in exasperation.  Today I heard Joseph in the other room saying “no, not the CD’s” over and over in a calm voice.  I went to check it out and he was patiently trying put back the CD’s Vivienne had pulled out.  One can question the effectiveness of such calm correction, but I am grateful at least that he has picked up some kind discipline from us despite the times when we fail to be calm.  So far the only “yelling” he has picked up is when he pees in his pants.  He goes “grrr Joseph!” (or something like that) when he pees, which I can only assume is the grunt of dismay I utter when I’ve noticed he’s soiled something . . . but like I said, he doesn’t pee in his pants that much anymore and can even stop it in time to run to the bathroom and finish.


That is plenty for now.  Don’t forget to post a comment to my Mind Oranization for Moms post!

Posted by harp on Friday, October 19, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Edit
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Aug 20th : Joseph learns to do a somersault by himself.  Vivienne is getting pretty good at sitting up by herself, though she only does when I put her in that position.


Aug 21st: Joseph appears to say “Grandma, Dad-o” with a strange accent but then continues with “delta” and part of the Greek alphabet.  He can name them all but no yet say the full alphabet without looking (at least as far as I’ve noticed).


That night it storms so hard that rain comes in through the heavy shudders and we get to clean up a bit mess in the middle of the night.  Then the kids were up early . . . but on the plus side I rearranged the furniture because of it and we’re happy with the space it gives us.


Aug 22nd: Vivienne loves clapping her hands together and slapping water.  She LOVES water.


Aug 23rd: Vivienne uses a neat pincher grasp to pick up a garden pea.  She’s getting better about getting things in her mouth, too.


Aug 24th: Joseph often says “hard one” when he’s on the toilet (because I used to encourage him when he was working hard on the pot with “that’s a hard one, isn’t it. You can do it.”)  Sometimes he goes on to say “hard, too” and if he has another one he’ll say “hard three”.  English is so confusing.


Aug. 25th: We go to the wedding of one of Stephan’s friends and Joseph has a blast playing with the other children.  He’s too excited to chew his food and brings it all back up on the drive home.  When we stop to clean it up we discover Stephan’s wallet on the roof of the car still intact.  See Stephan’s blog for details.


Aug 26th: Joseph easily completes a shape sorter at the church nursery by carefully looking for the correct slot before attempting to put a piece in.


Aug 29th: On the swing we count by 10’s, 2’s, and 6’s.  Later that day Joseph asks me to count by 6’s again.  I stop at 96 and he exclaims “102!”  Your guess as to why or how is as good as mine.


Aug 31st: Vivienne is fussy much of the early morning (starting at 2am) and it’s because her morning poo came too early.  That meant we were all up at 5am (but I caught most of the poo on the toilet – as is often the case these days).  That threw the schedule and the ability of the kids to cope way off and it makes me appreciate that we have a pretty good rhythm going.  Joseph is usually up shortly after 6 and Stephan gets him going.  Vivienne often sleeps until around 7 so I can either sleep a bit more or get some work done.  Vivienne takes a 1 ½ hour nap (about) in the morning and then both kids sleep about that much after lunch.  The afternoon naps even overlap a good bit of the time, so that makes me happy.  I’ve also started asking Joseph to play on his own even if he’s not sleeping so that he’s on his own for two hours whether napping or sleeping.  He does a very good job with it, and having that space every day does wonders for my sanity.  I’ve started making myself rest again during part of that time, which is also very beneficial.  I almost got a nap today but their naps dovetailed so neatly that my chance for sleep faded away.  Instead, you get a bullet update.  I know that will make some grandparents very happy . . .

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Aug 9: Joseph and Janet are writing numbers, as they often do, this time at the chalkboard.  Joseph asks Janet to write 112 but she only write a ‘2’ and asks Joseph to make it a 112.  Joseph completes the number correctly.


11: Vivienne now has a cross-pattern creep (hands and knees crawl).  Go Vivienne! We’re so proud of you!  Her lower left tooth appears, too.  That’s quite a bit of change for a little body!


The four Stücklin-Wightmans take a trip to Tierpark Goldau, an animal park (not quite a full zoo) in the Lucerne area.  We all have a blast, though I have to admit when I discovered that they let deer and other animals out in the public area I was a little uncomfortable, especially since we’d bought some animal feed and were there the moment the doors opened.  That meant we were greeted by a swarm of hungry deer that could smell we had breakfast!  Joseph was a little frightened, too, but he warmed up throughout the day and by the end was having a blast feeding the deer and goats and we all came home healthy and happy minus a skinned knee.  We’re at that age and I’m doing better with not letting my heart break when I see my son bleed. . .

There was playground equipment scattered throughout the park and I had fun trying my skills at them (I’m not pregnant! I can DO these things!  Did I mention diving off of the high dive at the lake?  It’s fun to have my body my own again after a few years of baby carrying…).  Joseph and Vivienne also had fun.  Vivienne did well in a contraption that looked like a Pacman on a spring.  Lots of playgrounds have those horses on a spring you can whip back and forth in, but this one had a seat and a foot and hand bar that Vivienne could hold on to well.  She did great!


At one point Joseph saw a little girl with a 4x4 pattern of hearts on her shirt.  He scared her a bit by walking up close and saying ‘heart heart heart heart.’  At this point I was more worried about him scaring the girl and trying to get him to give him some space, but Stephan said as I pulled him away he said ‘sixteen heart’ in German.  My mental replay confirmed that this could have been what he said, but how did he know that?  Oh, maybe the dominos, which have numbers in very logical patterns, I say, but Stephan points out that the dominos only go up to 15, though the pattern is the same for 16, only one row has three not four.  A day or so later I saw a pile of almonds on the table and said ‘six’ without counting them.  He’s done that now and then with other random amounts of things.  This baffles me even though of course I know he’s had a lot of number exposure.  I just still have too little expectation for what a little kid can do!


Joseph has also started to experiment with jumping with both feet coming off the floor.  Late for his age, but he’s having a blast.


12: Another number story, this time in church.  During the announcements there were several dates and numbers mentioned.  Joseph picked them out of the flow of words and happily repeated them.  His pronunciation was clear enough for those around us to understand what had happened.  Fortunately he was happy to continue with his quiet voice so as to no longer disturb other people (though folks at church are quite relaxed).


15:  It’s a Catholic holiday so Stephan has the day off.  We go and visit Joseph’s birthday buddy, who had just gotten a little brother.  It was great to see them again and even though we’ve known each other for over a year it was Stephan’s first time meeting them!


That evening Bappe gets a Vivienne kiss.  She is quite deliberate about them.  She opens her mouth and pulls you close and plants one on your cheek.  She is not exactly a snuggle bug (she also likes to be on the move a lot, like her brother), but she is quite affectionate when she wants to be.


17: This is the third morning in a row that Vivienne has woken up and pooed on the toilet for me.  EC has been on the back burner for a while, so I’m happy that I’ve had several day of no pooy diapers!  We’ve been feeding her bits of solid from about 5.5 months and she eats it up!  I’m much more relaxed about giving her food that I was with Joseph.  Again, we’re not pureeing anything, just giving her soft bits of whatever we’re eating.  She does a great job of rejecting what she can’t swallow, and swallowing what she can.  I think she prefers to eat than nurse at least during the day!  Anyway, the solid food helps make more solid poo, which makes it easier for me to tell that she’s working on getting one out, which means I can catch them pretty easily.

Posted by harp on Friday, August 17, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Edit
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June 14. Joseph is stopped just before getting the Jack Daniels BBQ sauce bottle to his lips.

15. Joseph calls any bug he sees a bumble bee (bambabee)

16. We’re at the yearly lab BBQ, and Joseph eats peanuts and chips as though we didn’t feed him anything.  He can’t see into the plate, but he knows the blind reach will get him something…

Vacation in the US

July 8. Joseph asks me at bedtime to count to 200.  (He still often wants some amount of counting as his bedtime ‘story’.)

Vivienne rolls both ways purposefully and easily.

9. Joseph says the alphabet from memory without visual aids.

10. Joseph counts backwards from 11 without any aids.

18. Joseph tries a day in big boy underwear (he’s been in disposable diapers for half a year because of the pesky fungus and dry leg problem, but that is now gone!) and he only has three misses – the rest went in some sort of receptacle.

21. Bappe was working in the garden and asked me to hand something to him over the balcony.  Joseph takes the opportunity to be on the balcony, where he is at home, only this time Bappe is bored waiting for Mama to bring him what he needs so he slips his gloved fingers in the space between the floor and the solid wall of the balcony.  Joseph flips out and clings to Mama who has just returned to give Bappe his stuff.  Mama can’t tell where Joseph ends and Mama begins because Joseph is clinging on so tightly.  Note to Bappe: Joseph is still a little young for loving scary surprises.

23. Joseph sings Grandma’s ‘we love you’ song.  Using crayon on paper he write and narrates his writing ‘one, circle, circle’ then exclaims over his finished work ‘one hundred !’ It was a very beautiful 100.

25. Bappe was helping Joseph put away his States puzzle.  Joseph was frustrated that Wyoming wasn’t fitting so Bappe said „Wyoming isch uffem Chopf,“ which means Wyoming is on its head (turned upside down).  Joseph obediently places Wyoming on top of his own head.

26. Vivienne does a one hand forward proto-creep.

28. Joseph emcees the Bible reading (he knows the drill !)

31. Vivienne gets her first tooth ! Bottom right.  She also pulls up onto the couch and the bed.

Aug. 4th Vivienne starts creeping at Uncle Jul’s because she doesn’t like the carpet.  She gets better every day, but still likes to belly crawl when wants to be somewhere fast.  She loves pulling herself up on everything, but is a little smarter about how to fall than Joseph was, according to memory.  She’s grown up so fast!

9. Joseph asks me to write numbers on the chalkboard.  When he asks for 112 I write a two and ask him to finish it.  He does so correctly.

Posted by harp on Saturday, August 11, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Edit
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Apologies for the long silence.  GTD keeps me from getting too overwhelmed when the routine is interrupted, but it still takes some time to get back to feeling like I can use the precious double-nap time for blogging.  Thanks for the prods from people who let me know they enjoy reading what I have to write.

This will still be a bit of a whirlwind.  June 16th to July 7th we were away in the states.  I tried to prepare Joseph for the trip by telling him that soon we will take a bus, then a train, then a plane, then a car and go see Grandma and Dad-o.  He went right for the door without so much as putting his socks on.  From that time until when we left he often repeated “take a bus, take a train, take a plane, see Grandma Dad-o.”  It turns out that helped a lot to encourage him while we were traveling.  It was quite a feet with two kids and no stroller or car on this end of things.  We hauled our luggage and baby and made our not-quite-2-yr-old walk to the bus stop, then changed to the train and had another unexpected train change due to work on the lines, then there was quite a bit of airport to walk through as well.  I was really proud of how well the kids did through it all, especially on the return trip being exhausted and suffering from jet lag.  Jet lag is a parent’s nightmare.  I’m still not sure we’re back to normal, but the first week back was torture with taking hours and hours to try to get the kids to sleep but not really getting to sleep in.  Family travel is a whole different ball game, and I’m not sure when we’ll have the strength to try such a long trip again, but I know none of my family wants to hear that . . .

But fortunately, jet lag is not nearly so bad going toward the US, so we enjoyed our nearly three weeks there to the fullest.  We flew into Boston where Grandma and Dad-o picked us up and drove us to Old Saybrook.  We got to go to Grace church, where our blessing of the marriage service was, I used a birthday gift to get a hot stone massage, we visited Stephan’s cousin S. and her daughter Q. in Rhode Island and enjoyed the park and a restaurant together.  June 23-24 was the Big Family Weekend at the Maggie P. where the weather mostly cooperated and we all had fun in the sun, sand and water.  Of course it was too short a time with most people, but the Maggie P. is a small place for so many.  The Daleys were there for the week after the big weekend and Joseph just adored his cousins and loved every minute of play.  It wasn’t all easy for him, but he didn’t show any discomfort, I could just tell he wasn’t himself.  He likes to take quiet moments to sit and read and he likes to eat at a table with a plate and fork.  He didn’t eat much most of the time and I thought maybe he didn’t like American food, but one time is was relatively quiet and he actually got a spot at the table and he happily ate everything that came his way, carefully and slowly with fork in hand.  We discovered it’s one thing to interrupt your habits for other people and it’s another to let your kids loose everything they’re used to.  I have a hard time putting into words how much fun we had and yet how disorienting it was to be so thrown out of whack.  I don’t expect people to understand that I experienced culture shock, but I did, and it’s nice to be back home again.  I’ve lived outside the US for six years and believe it or not, a lot has changed there and in me over that time!  But that’s not so important or interesting – I’ll get back to recording the fun!

June 26th we took advantage of nice weather to take the birthday buddy outing on the Essex Steam Train.  Joseph and Noah turned two and six, respectively on the 28th, so the gang of us to the train and visited Gillette’s Castle.  Joseph slept some of the train ride – he is used to trains after all, but he enjoyed a good part of it, too.  There was a storm the night before so the train had to stop for a downed tree.  Extra excitement!

On the actual birthday we had pizza, bay punch and ice cream cake.  Joseph isn’t an ice cream fan, but I’m sure he’ll acquire the taste some day.  I think the best part of the day for Joseph was being invited by Noah to a tea party at the frog table/umbrella set that Aunt Ellie got for the Daley girls.  He loved every chance he could get to be included in activities with his cousins.

I’m not sure how planned it was, but Joseph had only one day to be sad about the cousins being gone before we drove up to Maine to visited the island Aunt S.’s family has.  That was luxury for me as everyone there was adult or old enough to look after himself, so all the normal chores that go along with life (cooking, cleaning, etc.) were taken care of and enough people were interested in playing with Joseph and Vivienne that I actually had quite a bit of time to just relax and enjoy myself – something that mothers don’t often get to do on vacation I’m discovering (the older and wiser mothers are laughing – I can hear it).  I enjoyed a swim, which had warmer water than at the Maggie P. as it was river water and not as close to the ocean, I played games and even read some (I stole Stephan’s birthday present book . . .).  Billy took us out in the boat to the rock where the seals like to sun bathe. That was cool in person!  The kids did great in the boat with their new life jackets from Aunt P.  Really, everything went quite smoothly this vacation – I really shouldn’t complain, but that transition from single person to mother was/is a rough one for me.  It just changes EVERYTHING!  We had great family bonding time, though, and Stephan was an equal partner in kid care, which was a huge help as well.  Mom worked her butt off for us, too.  I feel a bit guilty, but thanks, Mom!  I wish I could report that we had a big bash for her 60th which occurred while we were there, but she did get to have all her grandkids together on the day, even if it was just at a pizza place.  I guess mothers are always under-recognized.

On the way back from Maine we got to see the Daley’s new home in New Hampshire.  It will be nice to have a visual for when the stories start pouring out on their blog (hint, hint). ;)

Joseph spent a lot of time in the sand with Daddy.  He did some swimming, including under water, but preferred the sand.  Vivienne did a good job swimming, too, but I only had the energy to take her once.  She had just started moving around before we left for the trip and while we were there he pushed up on all fours (July 3rd).

Thanks to everyone who made is a special vacation!  We made it back in the right number of pieces and our garden had grown quite a bit and not just with weeds!   My sugar snap peas aren’t as good as Uncle J.’s, but I’m proud of them nonetheless.  We’ve eaten a number of zucchini already and the squash and pumpkin are looking good.  Tomatoes are questionable and corn is slow, but we’ll see.


Joseph has been saying everyone’s names and tells me he wants to go back because he says “Take the bus, take the train, take the plane, see Grandma Dad-o.”

We love and miss you all!


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The calendar posted in our kitchen dedicated solely to the “Cute Things They Do” has been working quite well for recording “important” family events.  It means I have more to type and that means I procrastinate more . . . here are all the notes from May.  [Brackets] indicate comments I make today (June 7th).


1st: I finally made the push to get a new wash plan installed in our apartment.  Instead of everyone having one day a week to wash we have a sign-up sheet with three slots a day.  This makes my life so much easier!  I can mostly slip in a diaper load when I need to, and I don’t have to exhaust myself doing all our laundry in one day.  Hurray for being proactive, and it seems everyone else likes it better, too!


2nd: Joseph plays a game where he hides a puzzle piece (say, the 3) and then says “missin’ three” and then says “where’s three?” then goes and picks said puzzle piece again and says with great enthusiasm “three!!!!!!”.  We play it a lot.


Vivienne likes to laugh and it’s so cute!  No success getting it on video yet.  It’s a kind of giggle laugh.


Joseph counts 1-20 without looking at anything and with the correct 5 and 7 (as opposed to his “dice” and “dice”) but skips 16.


3rd: Joseph says left and right hand in Swiss German to Stephan (“ing ‘and” and “äch ‘and”.  The note from today says it’s quite reliably correct, but two days later he’s seemed to have lost the touch and often gets them mixed up.


Joseph drinks from the faucet just like Daddy. [He now says “Daddy” sometimes, too rather than just “Bappe.”]


4th: Today I packed a picnic dinner and took the family to a park in Lucerne because Stephan was at a business seminar there and I thought it was a good excuse to enjoy some spring weather.  He met us after the seminar and we enjoyed the sun, though the playground we had planned to go to was not yet opened.  Supposedly it’s the best playground in Lucerne . . . but not if it’s closed!  We had a great time anyway.  Joseph made the aquaintence of a little girl who had also planned to go to the playground but was thwarted and ended up in the same grassy area as us.  She was a few months older and Joseph had a blast running after and imitating her.  He wasn’t interested in eating at all . . .


5th: Joseph wants to say "Hi sweetie" and it comes out something like "Hi soovee" (sort of like SUV.)


6th: Joseph is maturing in his number knowledge and I have to admit I mourn the loss of “bissi” for “siebe” (7) and others.  Progress: hurray!  Loss of cuteness: *sniff*


Joseph counts himself to sleep by reading the numbers on the digital bedroom clock.  [He can also read the numbers on the analog clock in the living room, but has yet to understand it much.]


7th: Vivienne grabs for objects while on her tummy.  On her back she grabs her knees and got her left toe. [Babies grow so quickly, I feel like she’s been munching on both feet for ages now!]  She also rotates to the left when on her belly.


Joseph counted 11 muffin cups correctly.


9th: We went for a swim!  It was a bit crazy with two kids, but we met Joseph’s birthday buddy and her mom there so we were able to make it work.  Plus, Vivienne was super easy.  She was exhausted, but she did a great job swimming without complaining then she slept on the bench for a good while.  Joseph has forgotten so much . . . so we decided to make an effort to get him back in practice before the Maggie. [Today Stephan went swimming with Joseph and he can again be released as he’s pushed toward the steps or the wall and “swim” the last bit and pull himself up.  Hurray!  All the previous work is not lost!]


V grabs her toes.


10th: We had a picnic dinner on ‘our’ lawn and worked in the garden.  It looks much better this year than last year! [Currently we have zucchini, kohlrabi, and cherry tomatoes (with seedlings I made), butternut squash, pumpkin and lettuce (bought seedlings), sugar snap peas and corn (not yet sprouting), plus raspberries and roses that were already there but that I’ve cared for.  The music/garden swap is working well: we’re all enjoying it!]


11th: Joseph counts to 30 correcting his mistakes himself while I sign the numbers to him.


12th: Stephan tells Joseph “You have three options: go pee-pee, [something else], or go to bed.  Which one do you want?”  Joseph answers “four!”


Stephan makes rhubarb crisp with rhubarb from our garden (we didn’t plan it, but we ‘tended’ it).  Yum, yum!  First harvest fruits!


13th: I had a lovely Mother’s Day, but I wrote about that already.


17th: We went to the Stuecklin’s for an April birthday celebration.  The kids did their best to give Margee time off from worrying about serving so she could enjoy the company of all six (3+3) of her children and three grandchildren.  We all had a lovely time!  I remember thinking it would be FOREVER before Joseph’s cousin G would be able to play with him.  Now it’s happening already!  It’s so fun to see the age difference: 9 months exactly between each of the cousins (Joseph, cousin G and Vivienne).  So much happens in nine months!


Joseph counts to 32 with me signing without mistakes. [He likes to try to sign the numbers, too.  It’s so cute!]


18th: Planted the sugar snap peas, transplanted tomatoes and kohlrabi.


Stephan took a 21.7 km bike ride with Joseph, giving me a lovely break!


20th: The family went for a swim.  Joseph sustained two minor injuries.  We’re getting to the scraped and bumped stage.


21st: Vivienne sleeps 7 + 4 hours at night.  Heaven!  I catch a pee for the first time in months it seems.  The pee strike has finally ended!  [We still don’t catch all that much in the pee department, but we’re about 50/50 with poo.]


23rd: Vivienne’s 4 month appointment.  All is well.  She’s two kilograms lighter than her brother was at that age!  Little wonder.  He always needed to nurse to sleep and she hardly ever stays latch much past falling asleep and often falls asleep on her own or in the wrap.  [I love the wrap!  To me it’s a way to avoid the guilt of the “you’ll spoil her by nursing her to sleep” camp and the “it’s cruel to let your baby cry” camp.  I can get work done and put her to sleep with my loving touch at the same time.  The other day I scrubbed the kitchen cabinets while talking on the phone while putting the baby to sleep on my back.  Now that’s multitasking success!  I even rolled her off of my back onto the couch while still on the phone.  She stayed asleep.  Now that’s talent, my friends! (and an easy baby . . .)]


24th: Vivienne sucks her toes.


25th: Vivienne loves hanging from our thumbs.  She is quite strong and hanging and standing are much preferred to back and tummy!


26th: Joseph ‘dove’ down the front steps trying to walk down them himself.  There is no railing.  He does fine with stairs if he can hold on to something.  Getting a Band-aid was the most traumatic part.  Again, he knows how to fall well, so he got scrapped, but nothing serious.


We bike to Lucerne for the free bike-check the city put on.  Our bikes are fine, and the kids did great!  It only took 20 minutes to bike there!  I had no idea we were that close.


June 1st: I plant corn.


June 5th: Joseph uses the pot holder to take the lid off of a pot during dinner.


June 6th: Joseph says “Mommy pick it up.”  He often pairs my name with a verb to indicate he wants me to do it rather than him.  This was the first time I noticed him putting little words like “it” in his phrases.  The “ck” and “t” are glottal stops.



Vivienne has a short fuse and much prefers to cry so that I will bring her a toy than work to reach for it.  She moves backwards because she can push herself way up, and she sometimes randomly goes forward, but she hasn’t figured out how to do it on purpose yet.  She switches from happy to distressed to happy again in a flash depending on whether she has what she want.  She hardly ever cries without shedding tears.  She has the most heart-wrenching cry whether you take a toy away or give her a shot.  She is a fast grabber and a strong girl.  We have so much fun with her!

Posted by harp on Thursday, June 7, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Edit
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