Thursday, November 20, 2014

Henry and Tate's Christmas List

Every year my mom asks for a list of things for the boys. I thought I would share this year's list, in case you are trying to pull together something similar! 

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014


I'm not exactly sure what prompted the change, but we did some major rearranging around our house this weekend. It might have been the fact that I noticed Tate's bed was getting too small for him. He's been sleeping on a mattress on the floor in his room since a couple months after his birth. We've followed the Montessori approach of using a floor bed and making the rest of the room as safe as a crib would be. It's worked really well for Tate (and worked well for Henry, too). 

But Tate is a big boy, and at 16 months, he is outgrowing his mattress. Our original plan was to put Henry and Tate in the same bedroom as soon as possible. We were going to go the bunk bed route (I've been itching to paint an IKEA bunk bed!). But sleep is just too tenuous around our house to consolidate the boys into the same room right now. Both of them sleep through the night regularly, but there always seems to be something that wakes up one or the other. Tate will be sick and his coughing will wake him up. Then he'll get better and Henry will get sick. And then they'll both be well and then there will be a loud thunderstorm that wakes up one of them and then the other. Or our dog will be snoring in the most distracting way. It's crazy! 

It means we are not ready to put them in the same room and increase the chances of waking. No way! 

But at the same time, we are eager to have a guest room. Right now we make our guests sleep on a futon mattress in the living room. Also, Matt has been hankering for a king-size bed for years. So, we decided on the following configuration:
  • Get a new king-size Malm bed from IKEA for our room
  • Move our queen-size Malm bed into Henry's room
  • Move Henry's twin-size mattress into Tate's room
It took some arranging and rearranging, but I'm really happy with the way Henry's room turned out. Although there is no longer a lot of floor space to play on, I love having the big bed for reading and wrestling. I also plan to turn his table into a writing and art center soon. There's plenty of floor space in the living room, entryway, or Tate's room. It's crazy to see little Henry sleeping on such a big bed (I didn't have anything bigger than a twin until I graduated from college!).

When we do have guests, we can have Henry sleep in Tate's room for the night. We'll see how it goes!

In case you're interested:

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Vegetarian Crockpot Meals

I'm really struggling with cooking meals lately. My meal-planning system still works well, and I manage to go shopping each week, but I really, really don't want to cook once I get home from a long day at work. I'm sick of the meal-planning kits from Greenling, and I feel too guilty about eating frozen food all the time (although Indian night is really tasty!). 

My approach for this week was to prep everything on Sunday and then put it in the crockpot in the morning. Here's the website I followed in order to make the following meals:
  1. Stuffed peppers
  2. Mushroom, lentil and barley stew
  3. Spinach and artichoke casserole
  4. Vegetarian sloppy joes
I love how all of these meals can be thrown in the crockpot in the morning, and I especially love how they don't even require much prep time on the weekend! Hopefully they'll all taste good and I can add them to our permanent rotation. 

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014


I picked up a copy of The Happiness Project from our Little Free Library at school. I read the first chapter and found it to be mostly annoying. I think it’s a classic case of not liking the narrator because she reminds me of what I don’t like about myself. 

I want to be the kind of person who finds the right balance between identifying the things I want to improve while simultaneously celebrating who I am and where I am in the moment. I do believe that striving and growing are worthwhile endeavors, but I don’t want to be so consumed with striving and growing (which is inherently deficit-based) that I lose site of how far I’ve come or how much gratitude I have for the present moment. 

The first chapter left me pretty overwhelmed since many of the things she decides to tackle are also things that I want to tackle in my life. I decided to go back to an approach I tried a couple years ago: I want to focus on one resolution at a time until that resolution becomes a habit. 

And I want to be really intentional about which goals I pick. I know that daily and weekly habits are an investment. And I’m already investing in so many things right now. Parenting! Work! My marriage!

I don’t want to pick something that isn’t really necessary. I want to pick things that will genuinely and sincerely make my life better for the rest of my life, if I do them religiously on a daily or weekly basis. 

There is a whole list of things I want to make habits. Drink enough water every day! Exercise regularly! Take my vitamins daily! Practice gratitude each night! 

I’m tempted to pick more than one thing. But I shouldn’t. I should isolate one thing and make it a habit before I add the next thing. 

For my first habit, I think I’m going to pick drinking enough water every day. My goal is to drink at least 80 ounces. I’ve chosen that amount because it’s what I personally need to feel hydrated. 

In practical terms, 80 ounces is two of my water bottles. What holds me back from drinking enough water each day? I’m good at bringing my water bottle to school, but I don’t necessarily fill it up. So the first step is to fill it up first thing in the morning. The next step is to make sure I take a couple sips every time I return to my desk. That would ensure that I’m getting through my bottles. 

And if I struggle to make time during the day, I need to prioritize it at night. I need to stop being lazy and actually fill up my water bottle and then drink it while I work in the evenings. 

In terms of accountability, I think I’m going to mark our big calendar each day that I complete this task. My goal is to make this a habit by doing it for at least 21 days straight.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Thanksgiving Books!

Our new tradition of reading Halloween books in the weeks leading up to the holiday was a great success. Henry really enjoyed his holiday books, so much so that he wanted to dig into the Christmas books as soon as we book the Halloween ones away. 

As much as I love the holidays, I am not the kind of person who likes to start focusing on Christmas early. I like waiting until after Thanksgiving--one holiday at a time! 

I decided that it made sense to purchase some Thanksgiving books. Here's what we ordered:
It was hard to find the right kind of books for our family. As I've mentioned before, we try to stick to realistic fiction or non-fiction while Henry is a super concrete thinker and is trying to learn about the world through his five senses. We also don't want books that romanticize the relationship between white settlers and the indigenous people who were in North America first. 

So I have no idea how great these books will be, but we'll give them a try! I'll be sure to give you reviews and recommendations next year!  

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Things I'm Working on as a Mother

It dawned on me the other day that Henry never seemed to have a hard time adjusting to life with his new brother Tate at the time of Tate's birth. I realized, however, that it's probably getting harder and harder for Henry, now that Tate is more of a presence in our lives. He interacts with us, he laughs with us, he cracks us up a lot more, he asks for things, he demands a lot of attention, and he elicits a lot of positive feedback because he's so stinkin' adorable now (in my opinion, 16 months is when kids start to get really fun). 

Tate's more pronounced presence in our lives makes me wonder how Henry feels. It's also inspired me to work on the following things as a mother:
  • Narrate the positive: I find myself doing lots of correcting and redirecting with Henry (who is 3.5), and yet I realize the real learning takes place when he's feeling positive. So when he is making good choices, I try to narrate what I see him doing and why it's a good choice. 
  • Default to redirection rather than correction: My natural inclination is to correct rather than redirect, but I find that Henry responds so much more positively to simply being redirected. I can still achieve my goal of stopping the behavior (and I can also narrate why the behavior isn't good), but I can avoid so many conflicts and struggles by simply redirecting him. 
  • Monitoring my own mood in his presence: My job is incredibly stressful right now, and I'm working on not carrying that stress into my interactions with my children. I try to save my venting or problem-solving for Matt (after the kids go to bed). This one is so hard for me! I really, really want to dissect my day with Matt during dinner. In fact, if I'm not analyzing my day, I have a hard time coming up with things to talk about! 
  • Being fully present when I'm with my children: I'm with Henry for about 2.5 hours each day and with Tate for 1.5 of those. I try to be full present during that short time. I also try to take full advantage of our weekends together. 
I know this time with my children is going to fly by (and then I'm going to be old!), so I'm trying to make the most of it.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Revitalized Spaces

There are spaces in my home that bug me every time I walk by them. The thing about those kind of spaces is that they typically only take about 15 minutes to transform. So I generally spend several hours (if you add up all the seconds I spend being bothered by them each day) thinking about corners that don't take very much time to fix. Oy! 

In this case, one area was really bothering me: the bookshelf in our bedroom. The thing about that bookshelf is that I see it for several hours each night as I work on my computer from my bed.

One night I decided to do something about it. I started by pulling off all the books that I thought we could donate. When I was in college, I started saving every book I owned (and even added books to my collection whenever people donated their old, outdated textbooks back to the bookstore). I had this idea that I wanted to have a library room in my house when I grew up.

I carted those books all around with me over the years. When I moved to rural Louisiana to teach with Teach For America, I remember only being able to take what I could fit in my car. There was no room for my boxes of books. So, at the last minute, my mom and I got the idea to start shoving individual books into the crevices of my car.

I moved a lot over the years! From Tampa to rural Louisiana. From rural Louisiana to Houston. And then I took a year off to go on a self-subsidized sabbatical (to folk art school in the mountain of North Carolina, a commune in Virginia, a trip to India, etc.). Then I moved back to Houston. And then to Denver. And then back to Houston. And then finally to Austin (to two different houses).

At some point, I started feeling like keeping my books was about impressing other people instead of fulfilling some real desire in myself. "Look at how cultured I am!" (even though I hadn't read all the books I was actually keeping on my shelves). I decided to donate books that I really wasn't going to return to.

But even as I type this, I do feel some sadness about giving away all my books. It would have been awesome for my sons to see all the books that helped shape who I am as a person.

But as I write that, it feels like a romantic and sentimental notion that may be somewhat true, but the possibility of my boys picking up a book that was fundamental to my life is way overshadowed by the burden of making space for so many books.

So anyway, we pared down our books again. Then I went about a trial-and-error process of arranging books and objects in different ways. These shelves are still not where I want them to be (I feel like the colors of the objects clash too much), but it's a definite step forward from the previous mess (sorry I don't have a "before" photo!). 

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