Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Illness that Will Mark Our Era

“‘People are now constantly connected to computers and machines, and this is changing the way we think,’ he said. ‘People just cannot make sense of what is happening. There is no respite. The world is going to go faster and faster in this regard.’

‘In the nineteenth century the biggest threat to humanity was pneumonia,’ he continued. ‘In the twentieth century it was cancer. The illness that will mark our era, and particularly the start of the twenty-first century, is insanity. Or, we can say, spiritual disease.’ He paused. ‘This next century is going to be especially turbulent. It has already begun. And when I say ‘insanity’ and ‘spiritual disease,’ I don’t only mean inside the minds of individuals. Politics, military, economics, education, culture, and medicine—all these will be affected.’”

This idea resonates with me even more these days. I feel bombarded with news and ideas, and it makes me shut down. It scares me because we are entering a time when we need to be more vigilant, not less vigilant, and yet I feel overloaded. I need to spend more time thinking about this.

Image courtesy my life partner

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A New Phase in Parenting: Travel Booster Seats

Our family is entering a new phase in our parenting: Instead of lugging our giant carseats around the airport (using our double stroller) and needing to stop and check them at the counter, we are now making the switch to using these inflatable booster seats for traveling. These things deflate and fit into a tiny bag that can be packed in the boys' carry-on luggage.

We are now a family with just carry-on luggage. What?!?

Don't get me wrong: I am all-too-aware of how fast our boys are going to grow up and how painful it's going to be when they leave the house. I try to savor every last moment as much as I can (but parenting is really, really hard!). But I'm not going to lie that it feels totally liberating to not have to schlep so much stuff to the airport for a vacation. 

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Monday, December 5, 2016

What Do We Do Now?

I'm embarrassed that my last post--first thing in the morning on the day after the election--was about food sensitivity testing. That's not at all what I was thinking about at that time. I had written the post the weekend prior and scheduled it to run on Wednesday without connecting the dots about what day Wednesday was. 

I am feeling too many things. I don't even know how to process them all in this space. I've had o step away for a very long time to deal with my grief privately.

Sometimes bullet points help me when I'm feeling blocked:
  • I am ashamed that I had my head in the sand about what was coming. I live within an "echo chamber," in which I get my news from very like-minded people. I was blindsided.
  • Racism and xenophobia and misogyny and homophobia and ableism are even more pervasive in the U.S. than I thought. I knew it was bad, but I didn't think it was half-the-population bad.
  • After the fact, I now understand why some people voted for Trump. When your own basic needs are not being met, it's really hard to have empathy for others or to prioritize the needs of others above your own (even though the needs of others are ultimately connected to your own needs). 
  • But I also want to be clear that a vote for Trump was a vote that sanctioned and emboldened racism and xenophobia and misogyny and homophobia in this country. 
  • None of this is "politics as usual." It's not time to keep quiet about whom we voted for because of what etiquette says. This is not an example of republicans v. democrats or conservatives v. liberals. This is more evidence that our country is a "domination" society as opposed to a "partnership" society. People are legitimately scared and vulnerable in our country right now. 
So how do we move forward? What do we do? 

This is where I thank my lucky stars that I am a Montessorian and that my life's work is to help as many children and families as possible have access to Montessori schools. The Montessori method is literally designed as "education for peace" in so many ways. Montessori disrupts the conventional model that perpetuates the "dominator/dominated" relationship between adults and children. When children grow up in a "command and control" environment, they are likely to become dominators themselves as soon as they have a modicum of power. 

I am also so thankful that Montessori For All is intentionally committed to building racially, culturally, and socioeconomically diverse schools. We need our children to learn how to navigate and appreciate lines of difference and to become leaders in a multicultural world. 

But my life's work is the long-game. What do I do right now? I think I need to do more to be an ally to the people in Austin who are the most vulnerable. Acts of violence and white supremacist sentiments are anecdotally on the rise. I need to attend local meetings with social justice groups and continue the anti-racist, anti-bias work that we have going on at our school right now.

Even as I prepare to post this message, I'm feeling like it's so incomplete. But I can't not say anything. And I can't go on posting about the trivialities of my life if I haven't said at least something--no matter how incomplete my thoughts are.

Sending well wishes your way,


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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Food Sensitivity Testing

We finished doing a neurobehavioral assessment with Henry, due to some of the self-regulation struggles he had been displaying for the past couple of years. Interestingly, during the several-month process, he seemed to start to regulate more and more. I'm not sure if it's from the counseling we've been going to weekly or the fact that his brain is continuing to develop as he gets older. In Montessori theory, we believe that children go through a huge developmental shift as they move from the first plane of development (0-6) to the second plane of development (6-12). As Henry gets closer and closer to 6, we (and his teacher) are seeing huge gains in his ability to self-regulate. Regardless, I'm continuing to follow-up with the recommended next steps, including food sensitivity testing. We have an amazing place in Austin called People's Pharmacy. They have a wellness clinic that focuses more on holistic health. I'm also going to get Tate tested because he has a lot of eczema on his arms. 

There's also an emerging science around genetic testing to see how the body processes various vitamins and minerals. I don't understand it fully, but Henry's therapist says that psychologists and psychiatrists are starting to see that supplements can significantly improve mental health and that genetic testing can help guide practitioners to know which supplements to recommend. I definitely have to do a lot more research about this, but I'm going to start by calling a doctor who was recommended by Henry's therapist. 

Matt and I are also going to start going to parenting classes. I'll keep you updated about what we learn! Also, I ordered this book to try out some of the activities with Henry. 

Phew! It's a lot, but all of these feel like solid next steps. 

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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Healthy Eating for Kids

I believe that food is fuel, and I worry that Matt and I aren't optimizing our children's health through the food we offer them on a daily basis, specifically around breakfast. Matt handles the breakfast routine for us (thank you, Matty!), and he usually defaults to peanut butter and jelly. I guess I wouldn't feel so bad about peanut butter and jelly if we made sure the ingredients were all healthy. As it is, Matt is picking up these items separately (from Target) instead of including them in our weekly Whole Foods trip. I realize that's what I'm struggling with. If we made sure the bread didn't have any nasty stuff in it and we used natural peanut butter and jelly, I'd feel better. I think the problem on the natural peanut butter front is that we need one of these so we can keep it mixed. That's why Matt reverts to unhealthy peanut butters. Maybe we could even get the boys to switch over to banana instead of jelly? I'm not sure how that would go at this point...

I also think I should start making green smoothie popsicles for the boys. I would love for them to get a daily dose of calcium (from plain yogurt) along with the vitamins and minerals from spinach and mango. I'm going to try these silicon push pop things to see if I like them. 

I also think it would be good to make some of these egg sandwiches in advance and store them in a freezer. This jumbo muffin tin will help. Henry loves egg sandwiches! 

I'd feel better if they took a multivitamin on a daily basis, too. I just did some quick research and landed on this one. The boys are going to love having four pieces of "candy" a day.

One final thing: I want them to eat more veggies at dinner. I really need to add more meals to my repertoire. I'm getting so bored with what we have day in and day out. I'm going to work on gathering more ideas right now! 

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Monday, November 7, 2016

Another Halloween in the Books

Although I miss the fun that I used to have in my pre-children days when I had the time/space/energy to get really creative with my costumes, I will say that there is such magic and excitement that comes from being in the presence of children. 

First thing in the morning, Henry set out all the pieces of his costume, including his trick-or-treating basket and a flashlight. It was fun to pick up the boys from school with such a sense of anticipation. We got home and started putting our costumes on. We also set up our driveway for our neighborhood party. 

The trick-or-treating with a big group through our neighborhood was really fun. Tate is rapidly turning into a "three-nager" and is both sneaky and willful. Despite the fact that we asked him not to eat his candy while we were walking door to door, he started to. Matt asked, "Why are your lips blue?" He replied (without skipping a beat), "I fell down and it turned my lips blue."

We are putting away the Halloween books and taking out the Thanksgiving books

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

I Went to Bulgaria--WHAT?!?

So, yes, I had the opportunity to go to Bulgaria last week. I couldn't believe it! Montessori For All was invited to present at the Teach For All international conference entitled, "Reimagining Learning." It's embarrassing to admit that I had to look up where Bulgaria was (it's near Greece). 

We flew from Austin to Toronto to Munich to Sofia and then took a shuttle another two hours to Blagoevgrad. On the way back, we left Blagoevgrad at 2:15am and flew from Sofia to Frankfurt to Houston to Austin. Something I unintentionally realized about international travel: it helps so much to plan your flights to arrive in the evening so you can arrive, get settled, and go to bed around 8pm. I accidentally scheduled my flights that way in both directions, and I experienced zero jet lag! 

The only issue we ran into was that one of our suitcases didn't make it to Bulgaria with us. It had 25% of the Montessori materials we brought for our session (we were supposed to create a hands-on learning experience for the participants), so we had to hurry and improvise at the last-minute. It seemed to work out okay, though. 

On one of the days, we connected with a friend of a friend who was born in Blagoevgrad and volunteered to give us a tour of her city. It was a delightful experience to drink freshly-squeezed fruit juice at one of the highest points in the city, shop for souvenirs at a little place off the beaten path along the river, stumble upon a prolific artist in the historic district who wanted to show us all her paintings, trek around the lake to see reindeers, rabbits, and deer, walk into a hand-built church from the 1800s, and hear stories about the rise and fall of communism in Bulgaria. Our tour guide's family had to be evacuated out of Bulgaria in the middle of the night in the late eighties to seek political asylum in the United States. 

I had never been to Eastern Europe before. Observing the remnants of communism was fascinating. And of course international travel is such a profound way to step out of one's daily experience and widen our sense of the world. 

I'm so grateful to be part of the Montessori movement, which is truly "education for peace." We need better educational opportunities for our children all across the world. As Maria Montessori says, "If help and salvation are to come, they can only come from the children, for the children are the makers of men [and women]."

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