I am in my thirties and I just realized that I missed my whole education. I wish I could go back to 1986 and that the Maria Montessori method of education would have been so highly accepted in France that my parents would not have had any options other than enrolling me in a Montessori school. I feel that my life would have been very different if I had received this style of education.
I always felt misunderstood and for me school was just a waste of time. I am a dreamer. I would sit in the back of the classroom, close to the window in summer and next to the heater in winter. I would watch the seasons as they went by... birds singing in spring, leaves falling in fall, wintery snow flakes, and staring at the bright summer sun as long as possible without blinking. I was not found of school. What a frustration it must have cause me that I can still remember the childhood poems that I had to memorize word by word, comma by comma. And how about math! Teachers taught us to use our fingers to count, then traumatically told us not to. I can still picture those countless pages of fractions, additions, subtractions and divisions that I had to do. And the teacher, walking down the rows making sure we were staying on task. I would just look out the window, wishing I were a bird and fly away (so my bird tattoos represent my childhood frustrations). The worst part of a non Montessori education is the homework. I remember getting in big trouble when failing to do my homework. Who likes to add more hours after a long day of school! Everyday the teachers would review our assignments and grade them, and if the assignment was not done properly, we would be required to hand over a note to be signed by our parents. Ouch! Nobody wants to go back home with a note from the teacher.
School was painful. I did not have a lot of friends as I never felt I could be myself. Therefore, my creative juices were stifled. Grades were a great frustration as I grew up. Being constantly compared to classmates did not help build my confidence (which I am still lacking). The constant pressure that I had to go from grade level to grade level and how good results are crucial. But really, are they? Later, in your life, will you be judged on the good grades you had at school or on the person you became? If you ask my parents, I don't even think that they remember whether or not I was a good student.
Finding myself was a big introprospection. I spent the next 5 years after high school trying to get my niche. I first needed to find out who I was, then what I was good at. However, instead of discovering that at 23, I could have started this "finding myself work" at 3, when starting my Montessori education.
Surprisingly, Maria Montessori said that we become adults at age 23. She was definitively right, I got my life together and finally decide which direction to take at 23. Perhaps, If I had had a Montessori education I would have continuously be working in Communications and would have started my career way earlier. Or maybe I would be a journalist or a painter but not so.
Everyday, I have the chance to watch my girl working in her classroom, I can picture myself blossoming in this environment. I am such a hands-on person. I need to see, touch and play with materials. Combining, assembling, sorting, and matching in order to understand is the whole concept of Montessori. It invites you to learn at your own rhythm... Yes, your own rhythm! I would have loved working with the tower, assembling it step-by-step and leaning the decimals with the golden beads.
I would have made such a great Montessori student. I would have actually enjoyed receiving lessons, appreciated my teachers (instead of hoping that they were sick), and among everything, LOVE LEARNING ... my mornings would also have been way easier.
Photo credit: Helena Eddings
I always thought that I was ambitious and that at some point I would end up, at least, VP of Communications in a big company. I therefore studied hard, got my Master and worked in big and well-known organizations. My goal was to gain as much experience as I could. That was until … I became a mom and realized that I preferred leaving work at 4 pm and spending time with my family. Being a mom made me realized who the real me was … A person who does not mind hanging out all day wearing large t-shirts and yoga pants, covered with left over vomit. This is definitively the “cool me.” During my time as a stay-at-home mom, I got to know all the Disney movies and even build opinions. For instance, Anna from Frozen is way cooler than Elsa (come on girls, stop with her, she is so annoying and needy). I ate kids’ food, drank out of sippy cups and over used the words: “pee pee”, “peekaboo,” “boo boo,” and “ba ba ba.” The good side of being a stay-at-home mom is all the time you get to spend with your child. Seeing them growing, getting independent, being around for every laugh, smile and step. The bad side is all the time you spend with your child; crys, tantrums, diapers that overflow with diarrhea, running noses and catching your child blowing it with your favorite shirt… Yes, it sounds contradictory … but there is really a mixed feelings. At some point, I needed an activity that would take me out of the house … but at the same time, not too far. Yes, still very contradictory.
After 18 months as a stay-at-home mom, I am back on track! Yoga pants stay home, working pants and clean shirts on, I am ready to rock the outside world. So was the transition easy? No, it was hell … first, I have to wake up early. Then, as soon as I open my eyes, the morning marathon starts: getting ready, preparing the girls, lunch boxes, finding the missing shoe, bottles, the hubby, the missing phone, the wrinkled shirt, me, what to do with my hair … getting everybody in the car, rushing to the daycare, rushing to the school, applying mascara in car, rushing to … oh no, no more rushing, I forgot to mention that I work at my girl’s school (5 minutes away from my place). Yes, I know, a dream job for any mom. I drop my girl in her classroom, chat a bit with her teacher and walk to my office. At 4 pm, I am done working and at 4.20 pm I am home with my two girls. My work environment is fun and challenging, but why would it not be, I work in a school. Everyday is different, with different issues and an UH-MA-ZING team to work with.
So back to the question, was the transition easy? I was kidding, it surely was. I even enjoyed it. The main issue while not working was the lack of interaction with other adults. Now, every day, I face challenges that require me to use something that I forgot I had … a brain. Yes, I have a brain that I stimulate everyday. Sometimes I forget that in a working environment, we do not go “pee pee” but we “use the bathrooms.” I also meet great people with whom I can relate. Of course, my routine changed. My 9 month old goes to daycare instead of spending the entire day with me. But at the end of day, we are happy to be together and keep on hugging and kissing. I also feel that I have something that drives me, something that is just for me.
As parents, we think that the second child is less of a struggle than the first one. We think that we know it all. And because the first one survived, the second surely will. So we act differently with second one. We are more relaxed, way more !
I can hear myself saying: “nah she will be fine.” We are less worried about eventual bumps, sleeping routine and food. It does not mean that we love them less, I think that we just realized that babies are tougher than we thought. However, sometimes we forget that they are just babies …
You are a wonderful baby and we take it for granted. You rarely cry, you sleep well, eat whatever we give you and you are always happy. Your laugh is the best! you can make an entire crowd laugh with you. You are also more (but wayyyy more) advanced than your sister at the same age. You started crawling at 7 months and you nicely play by yourself. However, sometimes we just forget that you are just a baby and I find myself talking to you like I do to your 3 year old sister. But Margot, you are only 8 months old, a 8 month old baby. When your sister was your age, we use to treat her like a baby and were always watching her back. We don’t do it with you, and for that, I am deeply sorry.
I am sorry that I do not cook only organic fresh veggie purees like I used to for your sister
I am sorry that I do not baby talk to you like I used to with Lise
I am sorry that I am sometimes out of diapers although that never happened with Lise
I am sorry that I wait longer to change your soggy diapers than I used to with Lise
I am sorry that I leave you to play alone while I was always hands-on with Lise
I am sorry that I do not stressed out when you bump your head like I used to with Lise
I am sorry that I change you on the carpet while I always changed Lise on the changing table
I am sorry that your routine is more approximate than Lise’s one at the same age
I am sorry that when we go out I do not take a diaper bag with everything in it while I would never go out without it when Lise was a baby
I am sorry that you wear your sister’s old clothes
I am sorry that sometimes you go second because I want to make sure that your sister does not feel left behind
I am sorry that I leave you to overcome obstacles by yourself while I use to clear Lise’s path
I am sorry that you have to share your toys while Lise did not have to
I am sorry that Lise chokes you instead of hugs, pushes you instead of lays you down and suffocates you instead of kisses you
… I am sorry you tasted your first ice cream at 7 months and your sister didn’t until she was 3 years old
Margot, we love you as much as we love your sister. You are our bubble of joy and everyday I try to be a better mom for you … my dear baby.
Being the second child is difficult. We know that because your dad and I are also second kids.
I will start by saying something that some of you might not understand. My husband and I consider our cat, Shelby, as our first child.
We rescued her when we were freshly married and took care of her like a baby. I even felt emotional when we discovered that it was a … she. But really, when we got her she was in very bad shape. She was found dying in a wooded area around Geneva. She was so skinny that we could feel her bones. She was full of worms and could not breathe properly because of a bad pneumonia. So we went back and forth to the vet for over a year until she was finally healthy.
She became the perfect apartment cat, and showed us love every time since then. She did not care about going outside and never really asked for it. Sometimes she would go on the balcony but after 5 minutes would beg to come back inside, petrified. Shelby only loves us. If you come to our place you will not be warmly welcomed by her. For a long time, it was just us and her … until I got pregnant and Lise arrived. Like a jealous “big sister”, she would just ignore her and beg for love as soon as the baby was asleep. Then the time to move to Toledo came as well as the time for a second baby … our lives changed but so did hers.
In Toledo, we live in a house with a garden. Shelby went from being the perfect indoor cat to a real hunter. It took her some time to face the outside. But now, she is fearless. She brings us all kind of animals, like mice, dead birds, alive birds, dead rabbits, half of rabbits … Come on Shelby, it is not because we are French that we eat rabbits. I understand that it is a way for her to tell us that she loves us, but Really?!. WE ARE ANIMAL LOVERS and everyday we teach our girls to love and respect them but it is hard to explain to a 3 year old why there is a bird “sleeping” in the cat’s mouth. Naively, I try to explain to Shelby that it is not ok to kill other animals; however, her instinct is stronger and the next day she brings back a mouse. So I tell her that I am mad at her and I do not want to talk to her anymore and bla bla bla (she never seems to care). Of course, the next minute she is on my lap, purring. She loves us, she really does. Every evening we have our cuddling routine where she purrs, purrs and purrs again and gets upset when I stop petting her. Then she lays on my pillow and I feel her hair tickling my cheek. How adorable, isn't it? I do believe that cats reduce stress, anxiety and help with depression. When I am not in a good mood, having her purring on my lap relaxes me. So now, I will say the thing I am not suppose to say : Shelby has more privileges than our girls will ever have. She can sleep with us, go out late at night, eat whenever she wants and sleep all day long.
Shelby is part of the family and tells us (in her way) when she disagrees with us. All cat lovers will understand this feeling of having your cat judging you. You feel it looking at you and you would love to know what is going on in its head. I often have this feeling, even more when Lise is throwing a tantrum and I am trying to calm her down. I feel Shelby staring at me like: “really? My kittens would have never done that ! Bad mom”
Our Shelby is a great family cat. Sure enough, she is very patient with our two girls. Lise, our 3 year old, adores her and really wants to play with her and cuddle her; however, she can be a bit tough. So everyday, we remind her that it is not OK to climb on Shelby’s back because Shelby is not a horse. Shelby is a cat and we do not ride cats. Mickey Mouse is not allowed to climb on her back as well. It is not OK to chase Shelby with a tennis paddle nor with Mickey. It is not because Shelby is sleeping on the rocking chair that she wants to be rocked. Also, it is not OK to pull her tail, legs or her ears … and of course, it is not OK to eat her food. Just LEAVE HER ALONE. Yes, Shelby is patient. Despite everything she has been through she has never been violent. Shelby is more than just a cat, she is a real family member. Meowwww !!
You want to follow Shelby on Instagram ?
And here we are again, more killings, killings and still more killings … like it is not enough. Yes, it is all over the news, all over social media. It’s dinner time and we are on our phone, silently scrolling down looking for any information on what happened and we scroll down, scroll down, scroll down, and the more we scroll down the angrier and the sadder we get. But we keep on scrolling down hungry for more information. This is how we spent our diner yesterday. Then I put my girl to bed, read a nice story went back downstairs and now I wonder.
I want to raise my girls to be open-minded, respectful, kind and charitable. But what if the family next door is raising theirs to be violent and racist? I wonder, should I lock my door and create a bubble around my girls so nothing happens to them? Should I become paranoiac?
I wonder what kind of world are we creating? A world of fear where we will constantly suspect our neighbours to possess a gun or to be radicalized. I also wonder if our kids are the key to end violence … even though I would be happy if violence ends with our generation.
I wonder why killing under the name of God because I am not a believer. I wonder why killing under the belief that there are different races and some are better than others, because I do not believe in races. I believe in people living in the same world. I believe in a world that we could share even if it seems so hard. I am surely too naïve but I believe in peace.
I keep on wondering and wondering again … as French living in the US for over a year I feel helpless and frustrated. I am here an ocean away from my family, friends and compatriots. With our 4000 miles apart, I made sure everybody I know was safe. And it was the only thing I could do.
This is the first thing you read when entering this restaurant. Then you take a look at the menu and you realize that whatever you will order will at least be 3000 calories. So they were not lying. You really go to this place to ingest calories. But good calories. The kind that you do not regret. You know this feeling, when you starve for a McDonald’s, run to the place and order a Big Mac. At the end of your meal you regret because, come on, it’s McDonald’s so very bad junk food. Well Grumpy’s is like that except from the fact that you do not regret after because the taste is just fabulous.
I ordered a homemade corned beef sandwich. Wahhh I always thought that corned beef only comes out of a can but this day I realized that it can be delicious. The meat is so tasty and tender that I was pulling it from the sandwich.
So if you feel like having corned beef, take a plane to Detroit then drive an hour south and try the Reuben at Grumpy’s, downtown Toledo, Ohio.
Grumpy's, Toledo, Ohio
I am definitively one of those moms who believes that there are no “only boys” or “only girls” activities. I also hate all stereotypes like: girls wear pink and boys blue, girls play with dolls and boys with cars, girls dance, boys fight or even girls play quietly and boys are hurricane. And the worst of all, boys don’t cry like girls!!!
Lise is a happy 3 years old that is discovering the world and she does not care about what activities she should do as a girl. She can switch from being a real “girly girl” to being a real “tomboy” within 5 minutes. She loves to have her nails done, just like mommy and she sometimes asks to wear a dress. However, you will not find any doll at our place. Not because we do not have any, but because they are at the bottom of her toy box. She just has no interest in dolls. The only one she tolerates is Mickey. Not Minnie, Mickey.
Lise loves trains, cars, planes and among everything bulldozers. Being stuck at a crossing gate makes her day. I have to say that Toledo’s trains are the longest (they can reach up to 110 wagons, yes I counted) so when you arrive and the gates close right in front of you, you know that you will be stuck for a long time. So when Lise sees the train coming she gets over exited, she carefullys stares at all 110 cars and yells “mom look look, train, loooook”. When the train leaves, she feels sad and says “bye, bye train”.
When we pass construction sites, it is the same story. She is impressed by those huge yellow vehicles that dig holes in the ground. And of course gets over excited “oh no loooook, tractopelllleeeee”.
She has a real passion for any kind of vehicles. It is her special thing that makes her so special. So exit Elsa, for Lise’s birthday, I made the greatest bulldozer cake.
After two weeks traveling to France and visiting our families we are finally home.
Have you ever traveled by plane with two kids under 3 and your husband? I remember one of my friends telling me how he hates kids in plane. I always agreed with him ... until I became a mother.
After this trip, I realized that we are THIS family. You know, the family that you try to avoid. In the plane, you wish you were seated far from them. At security check point, you make sure you use the other line. You watch them running across the airport with one baby in carrier, another one inside the cart trying to get to the next plane on time.
Yes, this is us. Noisy, moving around, going from loud cries to loud laughs, going back and forth, opening and closing the overhead compartment every five minutes. How do you like to have a three year old staring at you while you try to sleep? Just remember, that my kids are over-excited to fly in a plane that is not a Lego one ... while you just want peace.
The funny thing when we fly is that my husband never realizes that hell is to come. Before going to the plane, he always buys a magazine and thinks he will sleep or watch three movies in a row. The reality is different … way different. Margot, our 6 month old decided to poop 3 times within 7 hours whereas she usually does once a day. Then Lise, our 3 year old, who was obviously exhausted just did not want to sleep and was just a pain in the *ss. “Nemo, I want Nemo!”, “where is my blue car!”, “I want crackers!”. When she finally falls asleep, she can only do it in my arms and always in a weird position that is just uncomfortable for me. But I do not complain even if my back hurts because I know that if I wake her up too soon I will also wake up the demon inside her. No need to say that kids are very clever. They know that in public you will not shout or punish them, they have the power and use it … against you.
Another thing when you travel with kids is the place you get in the plane. Airline companies do not make your life easy. They place you in front of a wall so you can hang the bassinet – a kind of bed – to the wall and have your baby sleep. However, you are not allowed to put the baby when the belt sign is on (most of the time during our last flight) and the baby cannot sit, she has to lay down (so you cannot have her play inside, even if you stay with her).
Also, unlike the other seat of the plane, the armrest cannot be removed. So impossible to lay down or have you child laying on you. Basically, you are stuck in your narrow seat.
On top of that, this specific row is right in front of the … bathrooms. I need to tell something that I learn from this experience. People always go to the bathroom right after eating. So basically they prefer to queue for 20 minutes than wait a bit and not queue. After each meal, during 30 minutes, we had a long queue of travellers, parading in front of us and waiting to use the bathrooms. Then no people at all. I guess we are all formatted by Delta. We eat then poop then sleep.
So finally, at a point of time, you manage to get some sleep. Lise is quietly watching Nemo. Margot sleeps. The hubby gets to read his magazine. Suddenly, you feel spied, you open your eyes slowly and you see a middle age lady queuing to pee (right after snack time), staring at you and saying “what a cute baby, he is sleeping”. Really?! First it’s a GIRL. Second, STOP LOOKING AT US. I know SHE is sleeping and it is why I am (was) asleep to. Because, when people wait they just stare at us and feel the need interact. Leave us alone! I understand that you need to kill time while waiting for the bathroom but I do not want to socialise. Do not talk to me, smile or even look at me.
So yes, we were this family. Next time you see us, just understand that I spent the last 8 hours not sleeping, struggling to have my kids quiet so you can sleep.
Have you ever been to Chicago?
If not it is a must! In my opinion Chicago is the most beautiful city in the US. Its stunning architecture, beautiful beaches, great free zoo, nice botanic garden, amazing museums, awesome shops and yummy restaurants. Chicago is everything you dream of, in one place. Forget New York, LA or Miami, Chicago is the place I dream of living. One day, I tell you, I will live in Chicago. Living 3 hours away from this great city, we try to go there as soon as we have a chance. Really, we already went at least 10 times. But each time we visit Chicago we rediscover the city. I love the U.S. Midwest for its 4 different seasons. A very snowy and cold winter, a hot and sunny summer, a stunning colorful fall and a … spring. Chicago is constantly changing and each season brings a different charm.
Millenium park is the happiest place with children playing in the water, the bean, the huge free playground, the pier and Damen, the hipster area. It is just a happy and dynamic city.
Now let’s talk about food. Did you know that each state of the US has its signature pizza (check here)? For Chicago, it is the deep dish pizza. Before going further I would like to apologize to my dear Italian friends. The deep dish pizza is basically a 5 cm crust with tone of cheese and tomato sauce. To that, you can add more cheese, sausage, bacon, pepper, fresh tomatoes … (the list is long). So basically, you go to one of the Giordano’s restaurant, wait outside for at least 45 minutes. Finally, you are seated and have to wait an extra 30 minutes for the pizza (make sure phone battery is full). In the end the wait is worth, it is really delicious.
The deep dish pizza with extra fresh tomatoes
Giordano's, Chicago, Illinois
This week signs the end of the school year for Lise. What an amazing year for her! I cannot believe how much she improved and grew. Last year, she was my two-year-old baby and this year, she is my three-year-old big girl.
When we arrived in Toledo in April 2015, the first thing we did was to look for a school for Lise (before even looking for a house). It was crucial for us that she benefited from her experience in the US, made friends and learnt English. We agreed that we would speak French at home and she would learn English at school. Even if our English is good enough, we definitively don’t have (and will never have) the correct accent and the right tone. We did not look for an international school but for a regular American school with only American teachers and students. The goal was to integrate Lise as soon as possible.
We found the perfect school for her with some great teachers who made the transition very easy. The first couple of months must have been frustrating for Lise not understanding the rules or the other kids willing to play with her. But she learnt very quickly and is now fully integrated to her class and has great friends. How thankful we are for the patience that her teachers showed! It is amazing to hear Lise speaking English with a perfect accent. She can switch from English to French and understand perfectly both languages. It is funny to hear her voice changing when using English. Her “come here” and “that’s not OK mama” are the cutest. This year was a turning point for Lise. She not only learnt English but she also developed her creativity, independency and problem solving. She went from scribbling to drawing, from being dressed up to dressing up by herself, from using diapers to wearing panties.
As I said, within a year she became my big girl and you know the saying: “little kid, little problems, big kid, big problems”. She is now a toddler… a real toddler and she develops many other skills. Like how to throw a tantrum in the middle of Kroger or how to test us until we reach our breaking point (this is an entire subject for a future post).
I often complain about how conservative Toledo is and how the way of living is different from what we were used to. However, at the end of the day I am thankful to see Lise being so confortable and so happy in her new environment.
Lise's present for her teachers
A nice customized bottle of wine
Here, it is all about food, children and me.
Claire, mom of two adorable girls. Montessori believer.
A few pounds overweighted and a few inches too short. Sometimes too French for Americans and most of the time too American for French people. Rarely down to earth but often out of my mind.