On our relationship with our Roomba (or the search for a thrill)

I won’t get into the nonsense of letting this blog lie dormant for all these years. Instead, I’ll just dive right into our life today, in all its messy foreignness, the way a Roomba dives under the dining table. Never sure what it will suck up next. Always going at it with total eagerness. Sometimes getting stuck or tangled up and letting out a lonely cry before sitting quietly, waiting for its rescuer.

(I didn’t realize how much like a Roomba I am these days, exactly one year into our expat adventure in Switzerland.)

What I really wanted to write about when I sat down is my son’s evolving relationship with the robot vacuum. The pandemic baby, who was 3 months old and unaware when the world became a different place. Who doesn’t really play with other kids, except his 9- and 11-year-old siblings. Who was fascinated but also completely overwhelmed this past Christmas when he shared a house with his three Danish cousins, his aunt and uncles, his grandparents.

When he could point, he started pointing to the Roomba. When he could crawl, he crawled after it, and probably learned the backwards crawl trying to escape it. Now he’s walking, learning to pivot fast enough as it approaches. He panics as it nears his toes, and yet can’t keep himself from following it around the house, part thrill, part fear.

How strange we humans are. Accepting the fear and unpredictability (that random algorithm!) for the thrill of discovering something new. I watched him engage in the emotional tug-of-war with the machine as it picked up pine needles this morning. Perhaps I’ve been cooped up too long, or am gazing into my navel for lack of other things to gaze into, but I thought about the choices we’ve made. We could have stayed in the comfort of our Boston life, but we chose to move to Basel with three kids, one of them a newborn. To throw our kids, who’ve only really known one home, into a new city, new school (and then another), new home. And then the world threw in the new “new” we all know all too well.

Yet here we still are. We could stay home for the holidays, but we drive for 13 hours to get to Denmark to see my husband’s family. We quarantine. We welcome the swab up the nose, its 10 twists. We celebrate. We drive 13 hours back. The baby cries, I cry, there’s no place to stop to use the bathroom, it’s freezing, we eat KFC (it’s awful). We settle in back home in Basel. And days later, we’re at it again, driving up a mountain to see snow, not sure our car will make it, the baby crying again, the older kids sick of each other, of us.

But there, at the top, we witness the most extraordinary views. We’re above Lucerne, above the clouds. Mount Pilatus appears, disappears, reappears from the living room window. We learn to heat a house with a wood-burning stove. The kids try cross-country skiing, discover they’re great at it. Meanwhile, I sit in the car with the baby for two hours until I can’t feel my toes, the discomfort bone-deep.

The willingness to feel fear, sadness, isolation, pain, frustration – the whole lot, all for that sudden, unpromised thrill. The most fleeting of moments, and yet the most memorable. The discovery that overwhelms everything else along the way.

January 11, 2021 at 11:08 am Leave a comment

Facials, cool Brookline Village boutique, and artsy library visits for kids

Far too much time has passed without a post…so I’m going to try something new: mini-posts on mini-experiences. I haven’t written much about life in Brookline – how great it is in general, how especially great it is for families. After 3 years, it seems it’s time to start chronicling the things that make me want to stay here, try as my husband might to get us more space in the ‘burbs.

Three things for today (two for big people, one for little people):

1. A facial at Lavinia Borcau Skincare on Harvard Street in Brookline Village (which seems to become significantly more interesting every time I go). I’ve been coming to Lavinia’s on an off for years, ever since I worked reception at the very cool, art-loving hair and beauty spot HC Studio down the street and heard about her aesthetic talents. Organic products (her own line!) are a plus. And you can choose what you like and need – a pure-pleasure experience or a deeper, more intense one – the pleasure from that comes about a day later and looks beautiful for weeks.

2. After Lavinia’s, I popped into Abeille just down the block – what a transformation that little corner jewel has undergone. The owner, Lisa, is lovely and her shop is brimming with a carefully curated collection of jewellery, kitchen and bath things, pictures, clothes… It’s a perfect place for gifts – for, say, Mother’s Day (I loved their modern teapots and beaded bracelets). And gifts for yourself, of course.

3. This Tuesday afternoon, I’ll be taking the kids (now almost 3 and almost 5) to the Coolidge Corner Branch Library for their weekly arts-and-crafts and storytime with Paula (3:30 – 4:30 pm). It’s been a sanity-saver much during this insanely long winter. They can do the artsy stuff they love (Paula comes up with ingeniously simple crafts – often courtesy of Pinterest – like cotton-ball-sheep or paper-plate-caterpillars) – and I don’t have to scrub paint off the walls and floors. Win! They have special programming during vacation weeks, too – some great events coming up over April break.


April 8, 2014 at 5:23 pm Leave a comment

Cultural playdates at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston!

It turns out the MFA has monthly playdates (last Friday of every month except February) for kids under 4! A pretty incredible thing, given that most institutions of its caliber typically feature events for older kids, leaving parents of toddlers wondering how they can possibly see any art while their littler walker/runner tears around, coming dangerously close to priceless statues, etc. There’s a read-aloud story time, followed by a short tour and activities.

Info about the next MFA Playdate

Theme: Latin-themed stories and activities as a part of the MFA Fiesta celebration.

Time: Friday, March 25 · 10:30am – 11:30am

Location: MFA Boston – Meet at the Sharf Visitor Center.

Admission: Free with Admission – No Ticket Required.

Additional Info:  This program is for accompanied children 4 and younger. No registration required.

The most up-to-date info is on the Museum’s Facebook page.

Hope to see some of you there!

March 16, 2011 at 5:54 pm Leave a comment

Keeping your relationship sparkly after baby

I must be more sleep-deprived than I thought. And that’s just with one child. I dread the kind of stuff I’ll forget when our second arrives. I sort of get that whole “I’m more proud of the Oscar my kid earned in Little Gym class than my own achievements” parenting symptom – but I never really wanted to be that selfless.

I was so excited when this happened. So proud. So amused at what my writing looks like in the UK! (Guy became bloke, mom became mum – things just started looking cleverer.) And then I forgot to share it.So, with a typical two-month mom-delay, I present a link to my spice-up-your-relationship-post-baby advice on Glamour.co.uk’s G-Spot (haha! who thought that anatomical wonder would make it to this G-rated site ;).

Anyway, enough of my rambling. Check out Romantic Mum & Dad here!

February 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm Leave a comment

Little Oscars for little stars at the Little Gym

We just got back from our last class at The Lyttle Gym of Harlem. On the way home, Oliver passed out with his face smushed against the stroller bar. That’s never happened before – and it’s a testament to what a great morning it was. The gym organized “Show Day” to celebrate everything the kids had learned, set up an obstacle course for the “Little Beasts” to show off their skills – and actually awarded golden “Oscars” with the kids’ names on them. (I want an Oscar for hauling the stroller through feet of snow for months on end to get to class, but that’s another story.)

I’ll be the first to admit that, like with most mommy and me classes I’ve taken, I was initially skeptical about The Little Gym. I’m just not so into the cheesy stuff and baby voices. I snarkily laughed as I told my husband about the song (hum to London Bridge tune) “It’s time to put the balls [or other object to be cleaned up] away, the balls away, the balls away! It’s time to put the balls away at The Little Gym.” “Cheesy, much?” thought I.

But now we both sing it regularly because nothing else is as effective in getting even an opinionated 19-month-old with his own thoughts on how to spend his time to clean stuff up.

And then there are the after-class stamps on the hands and feet Oliver proudly shows us for days after the class. And his new ability to walk across a beam, do somersaults, flip over a bar…the list goes on. When he cries in the morning and we tell him we’re going to get stamps at the Little Gym, his mood instantly flips. It’s uncanny. And, I think, totally worth the price of the classes.

So despite my initial eye rolls at the music, the times I thought the activities were too scary (self-inflating, huge mat so loud it honestly frightens me a little), I’d stay it’s been a pretty developmentally cool experience.

And then there’s the fact that Oliver’s first word, bubbles, was said at the Little Gym as the teacher blew thousands of tiny little bubbles at him.

After that, I’d have to say that this Little Gym concept is pretty great. Dare I say I’ll actually miss the weekend morning trek? I dare. Fortunately, I’m pretty sure you can find a Little Gym just about everywhere, even in our soon-to-be-new-home of Boston. Hooray for that.

February 6, 2011 at 5:55 pm Leave a comment

Cool, whimsical and original kid room art

Last year, as I made my way through the chaos that is Manhattan’s Union Square, I had to stop when I saw a stand with what I think is some of the sweetest, coolest and kid-friendliest art out there. Seeing my reaction, my best friend bought me a print of this giraffe:

It now hangs above my son’s crib and – I don’t exaggerate – instills a surprising sense of calm and well-being despite it’s letter-sized dimensions.

The other day, my love for Kristiana Parn’s art (which, it turns out, you don’t have to go to Union Square to find, but can simply get on the fabulous Etsy.com) was rekindled when, much to my amazement, I found her prints are now for sale at my favorite local children’s bookstore, Book Culture‘s Children’s Room (downstairs).

Who else can come up with marshmallow-eating giraffes and hide-and-seek foxes?? So fun.

I’m waiting ’til we move to our new place and can finally design a proper children’s room to choose the next additions to our Parn collection – but in the meantime had to share this gem of an artist with others. It can be tough to buy art on line, but I can promise that you’ll be thrilled with what comes in that Etsy package. And at 20 bucks a pop, it’s probably the most affordable cool art (other than the stuff they bring from pre-school) you’ll find for your kids.

February 5, 2011 at 11:23 pm Leave a comment

Baby rocker with heirloom potential!

My favorite part of pregnancy is fantasy shopping. I do this by scanning magazines and cool sites for baby objects that are well out of my league but well within my style parameters, and imagine that they might one day be mine.

So tonight, while perusing an older issue of Pregnancy, I came across NurseryWorks.net and am still sort of swooning. Because have you ever tried plugging “modern glider” or “modern baby rocker” into Google and seeing what pops out? The same one or two decent pieces, and a half dozen things that you’d be embarrased to keep past the nursing phase.

Is it so hard to design a rocking chair that has the potential to become a family heirloom? Something you might want to look at without feeling like you settled on the biggest minivan eyesore in town?

Few companies seem to do it, but I think NurseryWorks has hit the nail on the head with their Sleepytime Rocker. At $700-$1250, you’d have no choice but to declare it a family heirloom. But maybe it’s worth it…

February 5, 2011 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Moomah: a creative haven/cafe for families in Tribeca

You won’t often hear me say that a weekend trip downtown with a toddler in the subway is worth it. But this one was – and we now have a brightly-colored canvas made by our 1.5 year old son to prove it.

I’ll be honest: the website left me confused about the unique Moomah concept. But here’s how I’d describe it, in a nutshell. You show up whenever it’s open, sit down for some really nice, casual food and drink with your kid(s), then watch as the kids escape to explore either the many art project options on display or the “Funky Forest” – a dark room with interactive animations projected on the wall that’s extremely minimalist yet bizarrely appealing to little people of all ages. When you’re ready, you pick an art project (we did the $25 canvas painting), and an ultra-friendly staff member will get you set up with smock, paint, brushes, and whatever other gear you need or fancy.

Then there are loads of workshops and other scheduled activities you can do, but I think the beauty of it is that you can just pop in whenever you have a spare couple hours, and be sure that even your tiny, curious toddler won’t get in trouble as he bobs around while you at least half-relax to enjoy your almost-grown-up cafe experience.

Rumor has it Leonardo DiCaprio was there the week before us. So, add celebrity sightings to the list of happy Moomah experiences.

January 26, 2011 at 4:21 pm Leave a comment

Let Your Baby Sleep Outside? Surprising parenting wisdom from Scandinavia.

One of my favorite parenting sites, Babble.com, recently published a story I wrote about our summer in Denmark!

You can read Let Your Baby Sleep Outside? Surprising parenting wisdom from Scandinavia here. Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments!

January 26, 2011 at 4:04 pm Leave a comment

Going natural: how I mom-stocked my beauty shelf

In all my 28 years, I never thought organically. Not in the kitchen, not in the bathroom. I never saw the point of paying more for organic foods unless there was nothing else around, and thought Clinique and Estee Lauder were great because of their free gifts. My life was so simple.

But then I got pregnant. And the moment that happened, I went into mad hormonal research mode. I found Skin Deep, a site that shows the risks of various ingredients – and then, much to my amazement, discovered that my bathroom was filled with garbage!

My cosmetologist had been going on and on about awful parabens for months – but it had never crossed my mind to look into it as I honestly just figured it was part of the usual cosmetologist “buy my line” marketing ploy. But alas, it appears that parabens have estrogenic effects (my interpretation: what you put on your face messes with your hormones, freaky) that could have something to do with cancer. I put that info together with the constant newsfeed about increasing cancer rates, and figured I might as well go natural.

And “natural” is key here. Not “organic.” Because as far as I can tell, organic products can still have loads of garbage in them (as in 92% organic ingredients, 8% nightmare). Anyway, whatever the label, the trick is to learn about the biggest culprits and make sure they’re not on the label.

Come to think of it, one of my reasons for avoiding the natural cosmetics isle at Whole Foods is I was wholeheartedly convinced that stuff didn’t work. But then I bought some Zoya nailpolish on Amazon (awesome stuff, stays on and comes in a dizzying range of colors). And after over two years of inexplicable face horrors exacerbated by the pregnancy hormones, I found a German line called Lavera Faces that has been doing no less than wonders for my destroyed skin in just a matter of days. “It’s not the product,” my cosmetologist friend asserted, “it’s just your hormones changing.” So I went back to Clinique for 3 days – and with it right back to what my Dad affectionately called my “Pepperoni Pizza Face” back in the chicken pox days.

So I’m convinced. No parabens. No salicylic acid. And a whole bunch of stuff that they say you shouldn’t use when pregnant that I’m quite sure you shouldn’t use when you’re not pregnant.

Note of warning: the ladies at Macy’s and Nordstrom’s cosmetics counters won’t tell you a darn thing about ingredients. Before I knew what was good for me, I let one of their smiling faces convince me to get this wildly expensive brown Estee Lauder glass bottle with a pipette that’s supposed to restore your skin to baby butt quality (“and is used by burn victims!”) I came home and discovered that just about every ingredient was in the danger zone. With the $70 or so I got back, I could buy about 3 months’ worth of my Lavera calendula stuff.

Just don’t ask me for before/after photos just yet. While my skin might be improving, my expanding “baby fat” face is not the stuff of web posts.

November 22, 2010 at 3:47 am Leave a comment

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