Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Forest Preschool

Would you like to go preschool in the forest? Imagine that you are 3 or 4 years old. Your school is the forest, where you play with your friends, rain or shine or snow or wind. There's a trailer parked in the woods.  And if you really need to go inside, you can. But otherwise, your classroom is the outdoors, your toys are nature.

In Germany, these Waldkindergartens are a very real trend.

One of our friends, who goes to a regular preschool, but spends one week each year in Waldkindergarten says she doesn't like it because she can't dress up nicely.

I think it sounds cool. But maybe that's because both the piccolini are boys and I know how much they like to be outdoors. I'm not sure that the 3 year old version of myself would be a big fan.

Here's an ad from a german children's clothing retailer.  The ad is for outdoor Waldkindergarten clothes - for preschoolers! Of course, it's not cheap because everything needs to be waterproof, wind resistance, very durable and so on.

I have to tell you, this is what it made me think: Waldkindergarten is a brilliant marketing/sponsorship opportunity!  There's almost no overhead for the school (because the classroom is the outdoors). And the parents (probably) pay (lots) for all the appropriate fleeced-lined-adjustable-waterproof-double-reinforced-kneed pants. So, maybe outdoor clothing manufacturers should be sponsoring Waldkindergartens throughout the US. And preferably, that will mean we can enroll the piccolini in a less expensive preschool.  

Oh, I know. It never really works that way.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Weathered Wood

I'm thinking about wood lately.

I'm thinking about it because we'd like to build our deck out of wood: the decking, as well as the structural support. I'm not a fan of plastic composites and I don't think we can afford aluminum and I like wood. So wood it will be.

Wood weathers when exposed to UV light. It turns grey without treatment. All woods do this. Some will also bend and twist and shrink. But if you choose the right kind of wood, it will hold its form for hundreds of years and only the color will change, even if you do nothing to do it.

During the time that the wood is changing color - going grey - it can look quite uneven. Some people try to retard the process by painting or sealing the wood.

But the process can be quite beautiful.

I'd love to see more weathered wood in the States. Seems like most of it is reserved for shingled houses by the beach.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Why we need a dog

Fritz: You can eat off the floor in our house, and not because it's 'so clean'

He's not joking.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spoon Bouquet

I'm not really one for buying house decorations. I'm a minimalist in that way.  But a few weeks ago, I did put together this spoon bouquet for the top of a lonely hutch.

The wooden spoons were a gift to Fritz when he visited Tanzania.  The metal spoonish utensils from his mother.  Fritz also made the vase in school.  And the wooden mugs were a baby gift.  All this to tell you that I didn't buy anything.

It makes me laugh, nonethless.  Even better are the funny expressions guests make when they see it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Noah's Sheep

Since Noah was born, my mother has been making these incredible "soft scultpures" for Noah's wall.  They are based on the Judy Horacek's illustrations from "Where Is the Green Sheep" by Mem Fox, a very fine book, if you are looking for a book recommendation.

Just last week, we received the latest installment: a bath sheep on shower curtain for Noah's bathroom. (Don't give your kid his own bathroom, by the way.)

I love the funky texture on the bubbles.

Here are some more sheep photos, in context.  There are actually more sheep than shown here, but not all of Noah's room is so photogenic.

The Sun Sheep hangs out in the reading media-esque nook.
The Bath Sheep in the bathroom.

...the elusive Green Sheep.  Glad the fire trucks found him.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How to Transplant a Really Big Tree

There's always lots of construction going on around us. Here's a little slideshow we I made to share with "budding" construction workers.

(Not so thrilled with Picasa, but crossing my fingers that this works in your browser the way it does on mine.) Enjoy!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Surprises in Becoming a Family of Four

As a family of three, I (unintentionally) put a lot of pressure on my relationship with Noah. When he was sick, or hurt, or just generally in a grumpy mood, I felt like the responsibility to make-it-better was mine. In theory, we were a family of three, and there was Fritz to make-it-better as well. BUT... I like to be in control. And I'm a perfectionist, so, of course things should be fixed.  By me.

Because of this relationship between Noah and I, our little world could quickly become unbalanced. If he was sick and not sleeping, everything would revolve around this fact. Noah would be cranky and tired. I would be tired and frustrated. Fritz would be frustrated and helpless.

And we would all suffer Noah's cold intensely.

Since Mattias was born, I no longer have the luxury of sitting by Noah's bed all night and comforting him.  I have to worry about Mattias, too. Two children forces me to deal with Noah's needs with a broader perspective. That means sometimes I simply say, "sorry, Buddy. I know you don't feel well. Go take a nap in your bed. I need to feed Mattias."

I think this is a good thing for Noah. We thought it would be a good thing for Noah. That's why we had a second child.

What I didn't anticipate is that it's also been a good thing for me.

Maybe some people are better at saying No to their kid. I'm not good at it. Or at least, I wasn't when I had only one child. It's a whole different game with two.


When we were a family of three, we were a family of three similarly disposed personalities. There seems to be a whole list of traits that Noah, Fritz and I share. We're all stubborn, serious, and generally skeptical. Life with just the three of us could be quite... um...demanding? And the three of us can snowball on each other's moods. Mattias, however, is an adventurous, smiley clown. He defies our moodiness. He causes all three of us to break into laughter with his antics - even when the rest of us are perched on the precipice of a big, snowy mountain slope.


I can't believe how fast Mattias' first year has gone. Noah's first year seemed about 5 times as long and I didn't enjoy it half as much as I've enjoyed Mattias' first year. I heard a lot of advice as a new parent, among the most common: "enjoy it, the time goes so fast." But I couldn't really enjoy it as much as I wanted with Noah. Everything was new and I was stressed. I'm pretty sure the only way for someone like me, who has such strong controlling, perfectionist tendencies, to relax is by repetition and practice. As much as I tried to enjoy Noah's first year, my enjoyment of it really pales in comparison to my enjoyment of Mattias' first year. And you know what? It feels great to enjoy it. It even feels great to feel sappy about its conclusion.

To put a finer point on it, I felt guilty that I didn't enjoy Noah's first year more. I felt guilty when I was relieved that his first year was over. (Hello, Perfectionist!) But I don't feel guilty about it any more. Somehow, enjoying Mattias' first year redeemed me.


Being a family of three was sometimes like being a couple with a high maintenance but adorable accessory. Early on, many (childless and not) friends offered to take care of Noah if we needed a little time. That didn't - and doesn't - happen with Mattias. On one hand, Mattias is generally about 3 times easier than Noah to take care of, so I'm not quite sure why anyone wouldn't want to take care of him. On the other hand, I know it's because there are two piccolini now, and it's a lot more intimidating to offer to take care of 1) just Mattias or 2) just Noah or 3) yikes! both of them.  That's okay. Really. I understand. I enjoy having Mattias to myself.  I enjoy the fact that I no longer have to share Noah. There's not a tendency to treat the piccolini like accessories. It makes our family feel - a lot more like a Family.


In theoretical conversations about society, I'm always a big proponent of the value of differences. In practice, I like living in a city because I like the diversity of people. It's also true in my own household: I like having two different kids because it makes me appreciate their unique qualities more. A rather basic   example: Noah loved to sit on the counter and watch me cook.  Yup, I pretty much sat him on the counter and he watched me cook dinner every evening until he was 2.

Noah, at 17 months, on the counter (um, stove? Don't worry, the burners had a child lock.)

Wow! What a helper! I used to cook dinner all the time. At the time, I didn't appreciate whatever character trait it was that allowed me to do this with Noah.

I would never even try that with Mattias. In fact, it's hard to imagine that I even did it with Noah. These days, nobody is eating any home-cooked meals for dinner because Mattias will simply not tolerate sitting still (ie, staying out of trouble) after 4 pm such that I can cook.


These thoughts from a mother, who was uncertain about the second child. Now, I would never go back.

Becoming a Family of Five, posted in November 2014.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


I cleaned my desk. Or at least I put it in more orderly piles. So now it looks like this:

Some of the piles in the background belong to Fritz, since our desks face each other. Isn't that sweet?  I mean: it's sweet that our desk face each other, not that Fritz has piles on his desk.

I not only finished designing the deck, but I got the necessary permits. So we're ready to build. Kinda. Except for the part about having two piccolini who would just love to help us play with saws and drills and big pieces of wood. And, oh yeah, buying supplies and tools and stuff.  Gotta do that.

Shaming myself on the internet worked. Or at least, it worked better than whining to my mother.  She says I need to "stew" before I take action.  Isn't that sweet? I mean: it's sweet that she kindly refers to it as stewing, not that I'm whining to my mother at this age.

Mattias. I'm sure I managed to get the permit so easily thanks to his smiley face and the grandmother-ly building department official. He IS so cute. But. He's a monster at diaper changing time.  He basically screams and twists and turns so hard throughout the whole process, that it takes me three stages to get him fully changed. We take one pause where he crawls around without his diaper on and one pause where he is wearing only a diaper. I know, the problems of motherhood.  Poor me.

Mattias. And his car seat. He's ready to move out of the infant carrier and into the convertible. The convertible which Noah is still using. I know Mattias is ready because I basically have to shove him into the seat use all the strength in one arm, hold him in place as he arches his back and scolds me at the top of his lungs, and attempt to buckle him in with the other hand. No pauses. We do this every time. Yeah, I know, the car seat instructions say something about age and weight and maybe even height. But when getting the kid into the seat is this much of an ordeal, I say, time to change.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Preschool Options

I'm struggling over preschool options for next year.  Should Noah be in a full day program at the local elementary school where he will spend the rest of his primary educational career - or a half day program at the fancy pants private preschool that he currently attends?  He will be 4.5 in when school starts next year. It will (still) be preschool, NOT kindergarten. (Kindergarten (in 2 years) will be 5 full days.) He currently attends 3 HALF days a week.

Conventional SAHM wisdom seems to be keep the kids home with you as long as possible. Especially since I'm home with Mattias anyway. But I think Noah is bored. (Am I projecting my own feelings on Noah??) I think he might like to be in a more stimulating environment for more time.  The jump to 5 FULL days, however, seems like a big jump.  But those are the options we have.

I'd love to hear from anyone with any thoughts/experiences with preschool...

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Mattias has spent the last two months in a stage of extreme cuteness.  There's something wonderful when a baby begins to really move around unassisted; opening and closing doors, initiating his own peek-a-boo games, waving hello and goodbye, pushing around the furniture.  Expressions emerge: "Uh-oh!" as he tests gravity with his dinner food and the furious shaking of his head when he hears the word "no."

I remember with Noah that I felt so amused by the idea that there was suddenly one more person in the house to change things around. Why is this paper on the floor? Did Fritz drop it? Did Noah pull it out of the recycling? Fritz and I used to laugh as we "blamed" Noah for the mess.

This time, the question becomes: which of the piccolini unrolled the toilet paper? Which one drew on the wall? Which one climbed up the stool to reach the cup on the counter?

Noah, for his part, has figured out Mattias is an easy target for off loading responsibility. Noah's quick to pass the blame. And sometimes, he's right. Sometimes.

Just look at that happy face. It's hard to be too angry. Cuteness is awfully handy.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Need: Grass and Furniture

We had some nice weather this week. Which served to effectively highlight two ways in which we are completely inadequately moved into this new house.

First, there's the mud pit on the side of the house. Perhaps someday we will call it the deck and the side garden. I like side garden. But it's a pretty lofty title, since I have a black thumb. We need some grass out there to hold the mud. And a deck would be nice, too. But I'd settle for crab grass and less traveling-into-the-house mud.

I'm definitely going to design that deck. But design takes time. And a clean desk. I need a clean desk. My desk has pretty much looked like this for the last month. I pile everything on it that: 1) doesn't have a home 2) is being used frequently 3) shouldn't fall into the hands of piccolini 4) was confiscated from the hands of piccolini.

The desk is the second complete inadequacy in the new house. It's terrible. I can't think when my desk looks like this. Which pretty much Something.

Where was I?

I need to design that deck. So we can go outside and build it and then use it. (Ha! Sounds so easy when I put it in words.)

I honestly don't know how to get the stuff (okay, maybe just half of the stuff) OFF my desk to do some designing. Where will I put it? I need Ikea. I need shelves. I need spaces up high away from little hands. I need drawers. I need to unpack 6 more boxes INTO shelves and drawers and NOT onto my desk.

Those 6 unpacked boxes? They have all the things I need to design the deck (somewhere) inside them: site plan for the house, old fashion drafting supplies...

Before we had built-ins to hold this stuff... now they're gone ... all gone. That's the problem. New house with little furniture. No built-ins. And a city with no Ikea.

I feel so disorganized.
No, I am disorganized.

I'm publishing this in hopes of shaming myself into figuring out some solution.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Plastic Eyeglass Frame Discoloration

Is anyone having problems with their plastic eyeglass frames - well, drying out?  I have a pair of plastic tortoise shell frames that keep - discoloring, turning whitish? - on the bridge.  Now, these glasses are almost 10 years old, so maybe I should just get a new pair.  But I like them.

It seems to me that the plastic is drying out.  First, I tried rehydrating them with some lotion.   That didn't work so well, but maybe it was my lotion.  So then I tried "pure" lanolin.  Which works a little better, but, of course, makes a goopy, not-so-easily-cleaned mess on the lenses.  They look pretty good for about 4 weeks with lanolin.

eHow says that the plastic is discolored from chemicals - and that I should SAND the frame! Yikes. I don't know if I'm brave enough to try this when lanolin is working just fine (for 4 weeks). Has anyone tried this? Maybe I'm making the problem worse with the lanolin.

An optometrist in Munich did something to them that worked for about 6 months. Unfortunately, I didn't ask him what he did.

Later experimentation here.