Thursday, April 23, 2015

Connect before you direct

 Who here has a hard time getting their children ready in the morning?

[I'm imagining every parent raising their hand, except that one annoyingly perfect parent whose children are ready 15 minutes early every day, whose children *never* fight, whose children never eat with their fingers, and whose children never joke incessantly about poop and pee and farts at the dinner table.*]

I have a certain 8-year-old girl (cough cough Zari cough) who has such a hard time getting ready in the morning. She's easily distracted despite multiple warnings and reminders and timers and escalating consequences. All too often I'm still pushing her out the door 1 minute before school starts. At school, she's a very good student, enjoys pleasing her teachers, and has no problem following directions. At's like I am the Invisible Woman and my words just pass right through her.

Here's advice from one Canadian mom I know. I'm really interested in trying it out.

Two things work really well for us.

1) "Connect before you direct": We are wired to only take instruction from those we feel either a) emotionally connected to or b) fearful of. Since your daughter probably doesn't fear you (this is a good thing), she needs to feel connected to you, and that feeling of connection is pretty short-lived. I find I have to "collect" my kids All.Day.Long but when I do, things are much smoother.

Instead of basically pulling teeth to try and get my oldest to put on clothes, we spend a little bit of time on his level, reading, singing, listening to him tell me a story, cuddling, etc. Only after he feels "filled up," I will give him instruction ("I really loved reading this book with you. I'd like to do that again. Right now we need to put on our socks and shoes and get out the door. Please get a pair of socks and your shoes.")

I seriously think this is a parenting secret weapon. It works. Like, seriously.

Instead of trying to convince her to get out of bed in the morning when she's lying there, try climbing in with her and talking for a few minutes about how she slept, what activities will happen throughout the day, if she had any dreams in her sleep, etc.

After you've filled her love tank, give her instructions on what to do next and go from there. It sounds like a lot of time and energy but I seriously find this takes soooooo much less time than trying to basically pull teeth to get my eldest to do things.

The concept for "connect before you direct" comes from Gordon Neufeld's book Hold On To Your Kids.

2) Routine Charts. I don't really like to add rewards or incentives to these because I don't think they work, but especially for visual kids, having something they can look and some sort of physical marker of being "finished" can be really helpful.

Don't you love that routine chart? Now I have to make one for each of the kids!

So please help me oh wise women (and men) of the internet.
We scrape by most mornings because we live 1 minute away from school. Next year, when we're back in the States, school starts earlier and each child goes to a different school (some several kilometers away) and I teach an 8 am MWF class. HOW are we going to get everyone out the door on time? 

* We have a rule: bathroom words have to stay in the bathroom. If the kids want to talk about pee or poop or make fart noises, they can do it all they want--as long as they're in the bathroom.
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Monday, April 20, 2015

Happy birthday to me!

Just about every day, the kids pull out crayons, scissors, and tape and create things: baskets, birds, balloons, balls, confetti, cards, airplanes...but yesterday was my birthday, so I got a birthday card from Zari!

Eric bought me 2 tickets to a ballet at the opera house. Because babysitting would have been tricky to arrange, I decided to take Dio with me instead of Eric.

Remember when I took Zari to a ballet 4+ years ago? Yesterday she surprised me with an out-of-the-blue memory of the ballet--one she's never told to me before.

Look at that little girl...I hardly remember her being that age!

On paper the performance supposed to last 1 1/2 hours, but with two 30-minute intermissions, it was almost 3 hours long. It started after Dio's normal bedtime, so the poor kid was exhausted. He fell asleep on my lap 10 minutes before it ended!

We were on the very front row, so we could peek into the orchestra pit. He enjoyed looking at the fancy interior and was especially impressed with the enormous chandelier ("bigger than our car!") and high balconies.

Sorry for the blurry photos--the lighting was very dim. I have paint all over my hands and arms. Earlier in the afternoon, I was caulking and priming up in the attic. I lead such a glamorous life.

I was going to make my own birthday cake, because I am pragmatic like that, but Eric would have none of that. He bought a scrumptious cake from Lac Chocolatier.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Master bedroom: before & after pictures

Hooray! I love posting these pictures, because it means we are DONE. (Well, we still need to install a railing on the sleeping loft...)

Done enough.

Picture from the real estate listing

What it really looked like when Eric visited


Remember when we ripped out the rotten shower? Mold and spongy wood everywhere.

Everything torn out


I have a thing for turning furniture into sinks....we found this marble-topped coiffeuse on leboncoin (40 Euros!) and added a sink & faucet. I found the mirror at a thrift shop (30 Euros) and painted it with silver gilding paint.

The green leather chair was an absolute steal for 30 Euros at my favorite consignment store. Wool rug was only 18 Euros. Sold. Eric found the antique writing desk on leboncoin. The seller lived in Monaco, so we made a day trip and visited the aquarium. It was a miracle that the desk fit inside the car.

I want to put an armoire along this blank wall.

View of the entry hall.

The sleeping loft. The kids are forbidden from going up until we install the railing. I found the chandelier for 10 Euros. I love leboncoin!

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A mama expecting twins needs your help!

I recently received a request for help/information/references from a woman expecting twins in May. She lives in Valence, which is in southeast France:

My husband and I are expecting twins in May, and we are looking for a midwife who would help us deliver them naturally.

We originally planned on a home birth, before we knew it was twins. (We discovered that 2 weeks ago, since we did not want to do more ultrasound checks than required.)

We really want to avoid the hospital and all of their medical procedure if possible, but the midwives here do not attend home births with twins. And the doctors at the hospital are using fear to convince us to induce, prepare for C/S, etc. We would prefer to stay away from them and look for another option.

Could you recommend someone who could help us? We thank you in advance for your help!!

I am located in Valence, South-east of France. We could travel to Lyon or Grenoble. These two cities are 1 hour away.
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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Goodbye, Sheila Kitzinger

I just saw the news that Sheila Kitzinger passed away today. Kitzinger's books were some of the first I read when I was first discovering midwifery and home birth. Typical of her spunky self, she was, according to her husband of 63 years, "drinking Kir Royale and champagne and eating chocolates three days ago, knowing she didn't have long."

I'm so sad to lose this wise woman. She's done an enormous service for childbearing women around the world.

Read more about Sheila here at the BBC.

Now, readers, I'd like to know...what are your favorite books by Sheila Kitzinger? (ps...her autobiography is coming out next month!)
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Thursday, April 09, 2015

Bathroom before & after pictures

The original bathroom in this apartment was a glorious relic of the 1950s or 60s, guessing by the color of the tiles. Many of the tiles were cracked. Some had been painted. There was no ventilation in the bathroom, so mold was growing on the ceiling and walls. The bathtub had also been painted, probably more than once.

Before photos: 

This bathroom had a window that opened into the back bedroom. Kind of strange, but it was the only source of light and ventilation, albeit secondhand.

The adjoining WC was similarly dismal. The original tiles--burgundy, pale yellow, and aqua blue--had been painted with matte beige paint. Well, everything had been painted beige. We have a humidity problem because of water infiltrating into our apartment, most likely from the neighboring building. The plaster is falling off the walls, the ceiling is stained and damp, and during rainy periods water slowly drips down the wall.

The bathroom renovation all started with leboncoin (French equivalent of Craigslist). I saw a new floor model Jacuzzi tub for a great price. This one:

We did some measuring and realized it would fit in the space with some creative rearranging. Once we actually brought the tub into the apartment, we realized that the tub was too big to fit through the bathroom doorway. Well, the tub HAD to stay so what else could we do but open up a hole in the wall?

Demolition photos

Demolition took nearly a full week with several people working. Back in North America, you'd simply chisel the tiles off and, if needed, take the cementboard or drywall off with it. Easily done in a few hours. Here, we were painfully chipping off tiles inch by inch; they had been double mortared onto a solid cement wall.

And the mess...oh the mess...plaster, cement, and earth dust everywhere. The wall was thick and mostly made of solid earth, embedded with bits of brick, wood, and even tiles in certain places.

I wrote earlier about the demolition, so you might remember some of the pictures. We also had to replumb the entire bathroom. 

We created a doorway where the window used to be. It improved the space dramatically. Now the bathroom has much more light and aeration. And it feels larger as well. I hope to install a sliding door, but for now we're just leaving the doorway open.

Now the "after" photos....

See wasn't that tub worth it???

We looked for tiles for weeks...couldn't agree on anything...and then these large gray tiles showed up on the clearance pile for 50% off. They are more gray than they appear in the pictures and look somewhat like concrete and somewhat like marble. Every tile is different, so they have a natural, organic feel. The accent is a 30 cm square sheet textured marble mosaics, cut into 10 cm wide strips. 

I love heated towel racks. They feel so civilized. Plus they double as heaters so they are practical luxuries.

We covered the walls with the same textured fiberglass wallpaper that is in the rest of the house.

I found this little hall table for 49 Euros at a secondhand shop. I painted it with oil-based glossy white paint. An irregular stone sink finished it off perfectly. We cut a little U-shaped notch in the drawer to fit around the drain pipe--so the drawer still works! I still haven't bought a mirror yet...waiting for the perfect one to catch my eye.

Here's the toilet room (aka WC). We just tiled it on Saturday and grouted it on Monday. The walls are white, like the rest of the house. Goodbye, beige!

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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Living room before & after pictures

Hi friends, it's time for some updates! We've been consumed with renovating our apartment. Since mid-January we've had HelpX guests assisting us. Our last guest leaves this afternoon...I'm sad to see him go, but we're also excited to have our apartment back to ourselves.

Ready for some before, during, & after photos of our living room?

The "before" photos from the online listing

What it actually looked like when Eric was househunting

This is the living room, where our couch now sits. One of the students used it as a bedroom

looking towards the front door

clutter everywhere

dining room
The bottom part of the wall was beige, and the trim was a glossy yellow-cream. Note: beige and yellow do not mix well. We painted everything white: ceilings (matte), trim (satin), and walls (eggshell).

Taking out the dividing wall between the living & dining rooms

Dio loved helping chisel out the plaster. We ran phone & ethernet cables from our bedroom over to the wall between the windows.

The walls were slabs of poured clay with random pieces of wood embedded inside, covered with a thick layer of plaster. Dust was EVERYWHERE

Phone/ethernet cables embedded in the ceiling beam and wall. Our HelpX helper is putting on the first layer of plaster.
Patching up the floor turned into a complicated project. When we removed the wood, it jacked up a section of the floor (terrazzo tiles on top of old tomettes, and underneath that a layer of earth, all on top of wooden beams. We had to break up the floor with a hammer and pound as much back down as we could. The rest we chiseled out. Then we poured several layers of concrete to bring the floor back up to level. Next came a coat of self-leveling compound.

We had to save and reuse the flooring, so Eric and one of our helpers spent hours scraping glue & cement off the back of the planks.

All done! No more wall!

I sewed the curtains for the two front windows. It's a fresh green jacquard with fluffy dandelion patterns. Fun and colorful, but not too loud. The curtains were over 3 meters long! I bought it at; it's called Ombelle.

The next picture shows the reading nook & living room from the entry hall. I convinced Eric to buy the daybed (140 Euros at a consignment store). It took some persuasion but he is sold. It's nice to have another place to read or take a nap.

I am in love with the cushion fabric. I had the hardest time tracking it down, because it kept selling out online before I could order it. It's called Orlando Tropical in some places and Panama Orlando in others. I finally bought it here.

The couch turns into a bed. We're "babysitting" a painting by our friend Jonathan Gent.

Below is The Mirror. We found it via The owner threw in the two side tables and all of the leatherbound books, plus the big mirror over the daybed, plus another mirror in the master bedroom.

I found the antique sconces at a secondhand shop for 15 Euros total. They were an ugly, tarnished brass so I painted them and the mirror with gilding paint (dorure liquide).

View of the door & entry hall

See the window over the kitchen? It looks into the master bedroom. We built a sleeping loft right under the window.

Now I can spy on my children from my bed!

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