Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Stitch Fix Experiment

One of my board members was wearing a lovely shirt, and when I asked her where it was from, she introduced me to Stitch Fix. The idea is pretty simple. First you create an account and answer some questions about your style preferences (with a fun little quiz that include pictures of outfits). You pay $20 to have a box of clothes shipped to you based on your general preferences. You only purchase what you like and send the rest back via free postage. If you purchase at least one thing, the $20 fee is waived. 

One of the things I inherited from my mother is an intense dislike of shopping. I really get little to no pleasure out of trekking to stores, trying things on, and always feeling like I'm settling for things I don't really like just because I'm eager to get back home. 

But at the same time, I need professional clothing. I don't need a lot; I'd be content to have five professional work outfits for summer, five for spring/fall, and five for winter). In my year of "making a clearing," I'm excited to try out one more strategy that helps free up some time. 

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014


As I start this post, I'm sitting on our front porch. Henry is making mud in our in-progress garden. What a simple formula: water + dirt + bare feet = pure joy. He dug up a grub and moved it over to the grass. Then he stopped by the porch to tell me there was "something with teeth" in the grass. Apparently it's either "a grasshopper" or a "Japanese spider crab."

This morning was the groundbreaking ceremony for the school. What an amazing feeling to simultaneously be a staff member and a parent. 

It took a lot of years to get to this place. There were times when I had to take jobs that weren't exactly what I wanted to be doing but were very aligned with helping me build the skills I needed to pursue my dream of opening a school. There were financial sacrifices (for example, I worked full-time for nearly two years before starting on the payroll). There was a lot of delayed gratification and waiting. 

There are times when life feels so full that you can't help but worry about it tipping over and spilling out. I don't want to lose anything. 

But instead of going to a place of fear or worry, I simply hug my boys a little tighter and enjoy the breeze on the front porch. And then when Henry asks, "Will you come make mud castles with me?" I respond with yes. 

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Party Time

I am so eager to host a party for some of our new staff members this Friday! When we were choosing the design of our house, we intentionally tried to create a casual, comfortable hang-out space. The kitchen has a giant island that connects to the dining area with a large table which connects to the living area with a large sectional which connects to the deck. Now that we finally have furniture, the deck is also a fun place to hang out. 

The truth is that we don’t use our house as a hang-out space nearly enough. Mustering up the patience needed to calmly and cheerfully parent an infant and a three year-old pretty much takes all our energy these days. For the most part, we’re good about staying calm, patient, and cheerful, but it’s definitely draining—especially because Tate is still not sleeping through the night (at 9 months) and we are often awake for up to 1.5 hours in the middle of the night. Oy! 

Of course Matt and I could make this difficult period a little easier on ourselves if one of us didn’t work full-time, but we both want to be fully engaged in the outside world. I honestly wouldn’t want another 14-month maternity leave at this point. I missed work too much. 

So for now we basically just tuck our chins and walk straight into what feels like a wind storm at times. 

I don’t mean to sound whiny. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the little family we have grown. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I am so, so glad we made the decision to grow our family. There was a while there when we thought we would stop at one. 

But it’s a hard period in our lives right now. The boys’ needs are very different, so we are constantly tag-teaming. Matt gives the boys a bath while I clean up from dinner. I read Henry a story while Matt gets Tate dressed and ready for bed. I feed Tate while Matt talks with Henry. I take Henry to the childcare room at the YMCA so I can run on the treadmill; meanwhile Matt pushes Tate in the stroller on trails. 

I’m just tired all. the. time. 

So those are all the reasons we are not inviting people over all the time. But this Friday we are! And I am immensely happy about it. My questions are: What do we want to serve for a meal? How do we build conversation and connection among people who are meeting each other for the first time? 

My mind immediately jumps to the name tags we made for our wedding. We had everyone complete this prompt with three things: “Ask me about _____.” Everyone was really creative and interesting. It’s a small thing, but it might be fun. 

And what about food? We are going to have upwards of 20 people! My top contender is Tex-Mex. I could buy some stuff from Chuy’s (tortillas, chips, queso, and rice) and then make the rest myself: guacamole, black beans, shredded cheese, and roasted vegetables). For dessert we could have chocolate fondue with cake, pretzels, bananas, and strawberries. We could also set up a S’mores making area with sterno cans by the sectional on the deck. 

And maybe frozen margaritas? 

And we definitely need to hang up the white lights around the deck. 

I’m so excited to be planning a party! I really need to list out my daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly needs again. I’m realizing that I’m missing some things in my life. I love planning get-togethers! 

  • Send out e-mail (with embedded form to have people complete their name tag info in advance)
  • Make name tags
  • Set up sign on the front door that welcomes people
  • Set up name tags right by the front door when you enter
  • Purchase the following from Chuy’s: flour tortillas, corn tortillas, rice, queso, creamy jalapeƱo sauce, chips 
  • Purchase the following from the grocery store: peppers, onions, mushrooms, avocados, cilantro, lemon, tomato, cream cheese, sour cream, pepper jack cheese, butter, pretzels, bananas, strawberries, sterno cans, graham crackers, chocolate bars, marshmallows, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, condensed milk
  • Borrow fondue forks
  • Cook guacamole, beans, roasted vegetables, cake
  • Hang white lights
So excited! 

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Meal Ingredients Delivered

While I was writing this post about batch cooking, I did an internet search and realized that I could use Greenling to get organic/local/sustainable products delivered to my door and that I could actually order all the ingredients (already chopped/prepped) to cook five Engine 2 meals (for two people). 


For those of you who aren't familiar with the Engine 2 diet, it was developed by a firefighter in Austin (I'm actually friends with his awesome wife!). It's a plant-based diet that focuses on whole, healthy foods. 

The total cost for 10 meals (5 separate meals for two people each) was $89.99. 

And just when I was about to feel guilty about the carbon footprint associated with having groceries delivered to my home (so indulgent!), I read that it actually uses less carbon to deliver 100 orders in one van than to have all those people drive to the grocery store separately. 

Don't get me wrong; I don't want to be the kind of person who gets groceries delivered. In fact, I want to be like Barbara Kingsolver who grows all her own food and cooks homemade pizza with her family! But I'm okay with it for this year (if it actually works out well). I'm trying to make a clearing so that I can balance everything. Parenting is so, so hard. Parenting two children is even harder. Trying to do it without getting very much sleep is even more overwhelming. And then throw in two parents who are working full-time+. It's a lot!

But when we start to get overwhelmed, Matt and I remind each other: "Let's be grateful."

Even if this system works out for us, we'll still go to the grocery store every week so that our children learn the very practical skill of shopping for food; it's just that we'll only shop for breakfast and lunch stuff instead of every ingredient needed for every meal. (I guess we won't be reducing our carbon footprint...). I'm eager to see if we can buy breakfast and lunch things and pay $90 for our meals and still stay within our weekly budget for groceries. 

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Planning the Spring Garden

I'm sorry it took me so long to post the plan for our front yard! It's kind of hard to tell what's going on without any of the labels, but the short version is that the four squares near our front porch steps are 4x4 raised beds made out of wood. The bed to the right of those is an herb garden. The bed along the sidewalk has five blueberry bushes in it. There is also a pomegranate tree, kale, basil, and some other edible things. The whole thing has drip irrigation which will help us save water and minimize the amount of work that is going into the front yard.

The good news is that we've finally saved up enough money to have the landscaping done. Woo-hoo! And since it's only April, there's still time to get stuff planted in the garden for the upcoming season. 

I've consulted the Vegetable Garden Planting Guide for my county, and it looks like we can plant things every couple months all year long (thanks, Texas!). Here's what we're planning for April:
  • Sweet potatoes (4 per square)
  • Greens 
  • Okra (1 per square)
  • Watermelon (1 per two squares)
  • Carrots (16 per square)
Of course we reserve the right to modify the plan once we get to the garden store and see what's available and hear some of their recommendations! 

We'll be following the Square Foot Gardening method, so that we can maximize space and make the process easier for ourselves. I don't come from a family of gardeners, so it's not second nature to me. It's something I'm trying to learn. We'll see how it goes! 

Now that I'm sitting down to write this post, I'm realizing just how excited I am about this. I started this blog seven(!) years ago. My first post was about how I was starting to cook at home more and about how I wanted to take up gardening. The name "Feeding the Soil" came from an old organic gardening adage. My friend Camella shared it with me to describe the kind of education we were trying to implement in our English Language Arts classrooms (using the reading and writing workshop model). The idea was that education needed to be transformative and get to the very core of who we are as people (versus just dealing with the surface stuff). 

Matt and I attempted gardening with full gusto when we moved to Denver, but it was a big failure. Too hot. Too much work to water. Too little reward (if anything did ever grow, Hoss would eat it before we could). When we moved to Houston, our yard was too shady and we couldn't bring ourselves to chop down any trees to let in light. Then we moved to Austin and were in a rental house. And now we are finally settled in for the long haul. I opted to use our front yard for gardening because a) it's sunnier than the backyard b) we can keep Hoss and the chickens out of it more easily (although I am nervous about neighborhood cats) and c) we travel through it at least four times a day. We literally have to walk through the garden to get to our cars, so it will be easier to monitor and keep up with. Also, I'm hoping that the drip irrigation takes the hardest part out of gardening. Matt is skeptical that we'll be able to do it (given our previous lack of green thumbness), but I'm optimistic and excited! 

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Monday, April 7, 2014

April: Reflection & Rejuvenation

Hello, April! It's great to see you. 

I didn't have much time to accomplish my goals this month, since I set them in the middle of March, but I surprised myself by actually accomplishing a lot of them! 

Here's a review:
  • Run at least two times a week and stretch at least 3 times weekly. The good news is I have a system in place for fitting in two to three runs a week. The problem this month is that I had a lot of work obligations in the afternoons/evenings, so I wasn't able to run. I did manage to run on every Saturday and Sunday that wasn't already occupied. And I'm getting better at making time for my yoga stretches! This goal has definitely been a work in progress. I still have a lot of work to do to get my body back in shape after everything my babies put it through. 
  • Turn the bottom of our kitchen island into a chalkboard: Yes! 
  • Purchase dining chairs for our back deck: Yes! I hemmed and hawed about what chairs to get. In the end, I pushed myself to get over my sometimes paralyzing perfectionism and just buy something. Matt and I agreed on these chairs from IKEA. Once we shlepped the whole family there, we decided we should go ahead and buy furniture for our whole deck: a table, an umbrella, and a couch. It feels amazing to have all of that knocked out. We've lived here for eight months already, and our deck has been largely uncomfortable and not as usable as it has the potential to be. 
  • Finish our white board for real this time: Yes! 
And as I move forward and set my goals for this month, first I need to revisit my yearly goals:

I want to strengthen my habits of health and wellness:  
  • run at least three times a week and go to yoga once 
  • drink at least 80 ounces of water a day 
  • add new meals to our weekly rotation 
I want to continue to put down roots and connect with those around me: 
  • attend church potlucks 
  • sign up to support people by delivering meals, etc. 
  • regularly invite people over  
  • send birthday cards 
  • completely organize our house 
  • finish our front- and backyard landscaping 
  • do service learning with Henry 
  • start a garden 
I want to create the kind of school I want to send my own children to. 

So here we go:
  • Run at least two times a week and stretch at least 3 times weekly. 
  • Get a garden planted--so exciting! 
  • Organize Henry's and Tate's closets--get rid of baby stuff that we no longer need!
  • Update the guest bathroom
  • Host a get together with colleagues
  • Update Tate's scrapbook
That sounds about right for this month. Most of my to-do list is comprised of work-related stuff these days, so I don't want to overdo it with my personal goals. 

Have a great month, Everyone! 

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Electronic Organizing System

Phew! A OneNote version for Mac is finally available and free! I'm such a planner kind of person, but I couldn't keep up with everything in a pencil-and-paper format. I love that OneNote gives me the best of both worlds. It's organized like a notebook, but I can copy and paste things, etc. I still carry a notebook with me everywhere, but I use OneNote on my computer and phone to keep track of my specific to-do items. 

Sorry for the short post! This past weekend and past few days included a visit from my mom, a trip to Dallas to present at the American Montessori Society conference, a board meeting, and a visit from an out-of-state lender (for school facility stuff). 

I hope all is well with you! 

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