Wednesday, February 10, 2016

New Plan for School Lunches

It used to be that Matt made the boys' lunches every day. And I loved him for it. But my efficiency brain kicked into high gear when I noticed how long it would take him to make the lunches each night or how stressed he would be if he waited until the morning. 

My good friend and organizational muse, Maia Heyck-Merlin, introduced me to the concept of "batch processing." The idea is so simple. Instead of making 10 separate lunches 5 separate times, you make 10 lunches all at once. You save an immense amount of time because you only have to take everything out and put it away 2 times instead of 10 times. You only have to open and close everything 2 times instead of 10 times. 

Because I am at the very edge of my capacity in general right now (my organization is still in start-up mode! I have two young children! I'm trying to exercise! I'm trying to make time to talk to my husband each day!), I've been doing batch processing in the laziest way possible. Here's what I've been sending to school:
  • Ethically sourced turkey for Henry; chickpeas for Tate (in a Tupperware container)
  • Cucumbers (in a plastic baggie)
  • Cheese stick
  • Applesauce (in a container)
  • Crackers (in a plastic baggie)
It's been super fast and convenient this way, but I can't continue contributing to the land fill (and general demise of our world) in this way. It's time to invest in container. Ten containers, in fact. 

I know. It's going to be expensive. I recently read that the average woman has 27 pairs of shoes. I have about 4 (two for the summer and two for the winter). So at least I'm saving money in the shoe department? 

I'm going to try out the LunchBots Bento Cinco. We don't send a lot of liquidy stuff, so it should be okay. I'm going to start slicing the cheese instead of sending individually wrapped cheese sticks, so that will reduce the waste some. I like that the product doesn't contain any plastic at all. 


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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Parenting Is Tough


Last weekend I attended the Teach For America 25th Anniversary Summit. I got to reconnect with so many amazing old friends, and I found myself inevitably talking about and reflecting on how we are all trying to work toward social justice while also balancing the needs of our family. After all, we are in this work to make the world better, but we aren’t actually working toward that goal if we make our family miserable. 

Then I read this article about how you have to choose three things from this list: 
Work. Sleep. Family. Friends. Fitness. Pick three. And remember, you can choose a different three every day. As long as it balances out in the long run, you're ok. So don't put pressure on yourself to do all five of those things well every single day.
I definitely feel like that described my life in the past several years. I picked work, family, and sleep. And I definitely felt the impact of not having time for fitness and friends. 

So this year is the year of Health and Wellness, which is very exciting, and I'm even squeezing in some friendship into it, too.

My friends and I traded strategies about how to balance everything. One of my friends has a full-time nanny, and another one has a live-in au pair.

Here are my strategies:
  1. Have a husband who works from home. This helps a lot! 
  2. Get my groceries delivered each week. I actually spend less money than when I go to the store. And it would still be worth it, even if it cost a little bit more! 
  3. Make lunches in bulk on Sunday to decrease the amount of time it takes overall and alleviate some of the stress during the week. 
  4. Prep dinner ingredients on Sunday. It makes pulling together dinners so much quicker during the hectic week. 
  5. Don't watch TV. I do watch some Netflix, but I have to stay away from TV series because they are so addictive and are such a time suck. When I stick to movies, I am much more intentional about using TV to relax rather than procrastinate. 
  6. Put down the phone! It's so easy to go into a Facebook coma and just veg out on my bed. Although I get a couple good things out of being on Facebook and am not one of those people who wants to eliminate it yet, I definitely need to limit my time on it. 
  7. Intentionally make time for me. I now exercise three times a week. One of those times happens while the boys are still in after care at school so they don't even really notice. One of those times happens after bed. And one of those times happens while they go to the dog park with their dad. We also put the boys to bed as early as possible to make time for ourselves at night. On weekends, we give each other about three hours of free time alone. Matt uses his to play soccer, and I usually use mine to write blog posts (I write them on the weekend and schedule them to run during the week). 
  8. Intentionally make time for us. Matt and I go on a date night once a month, and we are now trying to take a trip together once a year. 
I think those are all of my strategies! Please share yours in the comments so I can add to my repertoire!

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Monday, February 8, 2016

Trying to Prioritize Family When Traveling for Work


The Spring is always a busy travel time for me. I usually attend several different education conferences, and this year I’ve had to travel to meetings with potential funders, as well as the Teach For America 25th Anniversary Summit.

My family definitely feels the impact of me being gone. I already feel like I get just barely enough time with my boys on a daily basis, so when I’m gone for a couple days, it feels even worse.

In an effort to reduce my time away, I’ve been trying to be conscious about my flights. When I compare flights, I look at how much time away I will miss. For example, if I fly to California at 9pm, I can do the whole dinner/bathtime/books/bedtime routine with my family and still get to my destination at a somewhat reasonable hour. I also try to make time to connect via FaceTime each day. It's fun to hear their voices and see their faces.

It's a constant conversation in my mind and consideration in my heart about how to pursue my passion and be a good mother. I don't always get it right, but I'm doing my best! 

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Updated Family Mission Statement

I updated our Family Mission Statement with a new photo of our family! The last photo featured Matt, me, and Henry as a four month-old...

As a reminder, here's what the text says:

We are a family that...
  • Prioritizes health and wellness.
  • Resolves problems, issues, and conflict respectfully and in a constructive rather than destructive way.
  • Does professional work that is meaningful, enjoyable, fulfilling, and good for the world.
  • Maintains a daily pace of life that allows us time to laugh together, express our love and appreciation for each other, and enjoy each other’s company.
  • Shares responsibilities equitably but covers for each other when needed.
  • Cultivates community and connection among friends, family, and neighbors and continuously seeks to expand our circle.
  • Aligns our lifestyle choices and actions with our concern for the environment.
  • Keeps our living spaces organized, calming, welcoming, relaxing, de-cluttered, and beautiful.
  • Continually explores the world through travel.
  • Maintains traditions and rituals around daily and weekly routines (like eating home-cooked meals together and prioritizing conversation and connection while eating), celebrations, and sicknesses.
  • Builds up trust through our daily interactions with each other.
  • Patiently supports and celebrates each other as we pursue our individual interests and passions.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Henry's 5th Birthday Plan

Henry's 5th birthday is coming up! We decided to throw a chef party at our house. We've started getting invited to parties at expensive venues like amusement parks and jump houses, but we only gave Henry two choices: home or the park.

For appetizers were going to serve:
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Fruit kabobs (strawberries, bananas, and grapes)
  • Chips and homemade guacamole (plus queso from our neighborhood restaurant) 
The the main course, the children are going to make their own quesadillas with a choice of rainbow colored vegetables and toppings:
  • Minced red bell pepper
  • Grated carrots
  • Corn
  • Broccoli
  • Grated beets
For dessert, Henry picked ice-cream, so we're doing make-your-own sundaes with the following toppings:
  • Cookie dough bites
  • Gummy bears
  • M & Ms
  • Strawberries
  • Sprinkles
  • Chocolate sauce
  • Cherries
  • Homemade whipped cream
We're going to follow the recommendation of only invited a small group of children since Henry is so young (his age + 1). The smaller group is likely to be less over-stimulating and overwhelming.  

I don't think we're going to do anything special with games, although Henry does want a pinata. We're going to make one in the shape of an ice-cream cone. 

It might also be really cute for Henry to bake something in advance that we then wrap up for favors. 

I'm looking forward to it!


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Monday, February 1, 2016

Reflection & Rejuvenation: My Goals for February

February is here! 

Thank you for a great month, January. 

The stats around New Year's resolutions are pretty depressing. I think it's something like 80% of resolutions fail. And yet resolutions are our chance to declare an intention for our lives and then to make it happen. How depressing to think that only 2 out of 10 intentions for ourselves come true! 

One of my tricks for setting an intention and making it happen is this kind of thing right here. This monthly post forces me to come back to what I said I wanted this year and to check in with myself. Sometimes I get to celebrate what I've been doing. More often than not I have to recommit to what I want to happen. And sometimes I have to change what I said I wanted. 

Let me check in with myself:

  1. Start the year with the 21-day cleanse from Clean and work through a book about breaking the emotional eating habit. Yes! My mom and I did this together, and I am so proud of myself.
  2. Eat more salads with dinner. Yes, I've been doing this!
  3. Drink at least 80 ounces of water each day. Yep.
  4. Run once on the weekend and once during the week. Yes! It's been really tough to fit this in every week, but I'm pushing myself to do it.
  5. Go to yoga once a week. Yes! I have gone once each week!
  6. Do 15 minutes of strength building once a week (either MommaStrong or my back exercises). No, I have not been doing this. This is one of those intentions that I want to eliminate rather than berate myself each month. Doing three different exercise activities a week is enough.
  7. Cultivate a daily meditation and gratitude practice. Half and half. I've meditated about half of the nights. I've been forgetting to practice gratitude. I want to be sure to do this. I need to start doing it at the dinner table again.
  8. Publish five books.  I haven't started this at all!
  9. Clean and organize our house before the boys go to bed each night. Kind of!
  10. Track our expenses in daily so that we are able to hit our saving goals. Kind of!
  11. Invite friends over monthly. We didn't do it in January. But we did go over to a friends' house. I guess I'll just have to count that....
  12. Use my work time in the evening to clear out my inbox and do bigger-picture planning. Try to move all projects into slots during the work day.  Hmmm...I have gotten better about scheduling projects to work on during the day.
  13. Take a trip with Matt. Still trying to figure out childcare for this one...
  14. Go on a retreat by myself. Not for a while!
  15. Reflect each month about how I'm doing toward these goals. Here I am!

2016 Family Goals

  • Take a road trip to Oklahoma: Yes!
  • Take a road trip to Dallas to see Kyla: Not yet.
  • Read three chapter books: We've finished two!
  • Read all the BOB books: Working on it....
  • Go camping: Planned for March
  • Take more day trips to small Texas towns: Not yet.
  • Hang out at the creek in the summer: Too cold! 

Goals for This Month
  • Keep up with the salad, running, yoga, and water. 
  • Work on my daily gratitude and meditation. 
  • Find a graphic designer to design the cover of our first book.
  • Plan my birthday celebration.
  • Plan Henry's birthday celebration.
It's going to be a great month!

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Our First Real Chapter Book

Henry found a random chapter book in a Little Free Library, which was geared toward middle schoolers who are trying to overcome the habit of procrastination. Henry insisted that we read the whole thing.

After that, I decided to see if he was interested in reading another chapter book. We picked up Little House in the Big Woods from the library and loved reading it! I think we'll take a break and read some picture books (they are good for building background knowledge) but after that we might pick up the second book in the series!

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