Friday, April 30, 2010

Staying Hydrated

Yesterday my students and I were waiting for the art teacher, so I decided to seize the opportunity to have a discussion about the importance of staying hydrated. At the beginning of every year, I ask families to send water bottles with their children every day. We also have a water filter in our classroom, so they can fill up their bottles when they run out.

Inevitably, the bottles start leaking or they get lost, and pretty soon children are asking to go to the water fountains because they are thirsty. In our discussion yesterday, I tried to reiterate the idea that if you only drink when you are thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. And drinking a few sips from the water fountain a couple times a day is, unfortunately, not sufficient.

Honestly, I battle with drinking enough water every day, too. I try to remember to carry around a 40-ounce water bottle everywhere I go. Before I leave the house, I stand at the door and say, "Wallet, keys, cell phone, water bottle, CHECK!"

Even when I have my bottle with me, it can be hard to force myself to drink it enough. The more I drink, the more I have to go to the restroom (which is no easy feat when you are a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade teacher!).

I've started trying to drink one entire bottle in the 2 hours I'm at home before leaving for work. Then I try to drink one more throughout the day and some more when I'm home at night. Sometimes I come home with my bottle nearly half full. When that happens, I can literally feel the effect on my body.

It's definitely a work in progress!

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Checklist for Preparing Our Relationship for Pregnancy

A kindred spirit left a thought-provoking comment on this post last week. I realized that Matt and I need to write "An Action Plan for Maintaining Our Marriage Through the Difficult Years of Raising a Child."

But before we do that, I feel like we need a "Checklist for Preparing Our Relationship for Pregnancy."

Hmm...this is a daunting task!

Let me take a stab at it...

  1. Equally distribute household responsibilities: Matt and I are doing well with this one. Because we both work full-time, we pretty much divide chores evenly. We made a list of everything that has to get done on a weekly basis and split it into two lists. One week someone will clean the kitchen, take out the compost, wipe down all the table surfaces, and clean slobber off our windows. The other person will clean the entire bathroom, shake out the rugs, and vacuum. The next week, we swap tasks. Then we each have our list of weekly chores that remain constant. I empty the dishwasher, do the laundry, coordinate our finances, and run Hoss four times a week. Matt does the yard work, runs Hoss two times a week, checks on the chickens daily, and cleans out the coop once a week. Once a month, someone will wipe off the baseboards, dust the office and bedroom, and wipe out the fridge. The other person will wash the rugs, dust the living and dining room, and sweep the front porch. The next month we switch. This kind of system works really well for us because neither of us gets resentful or bitter about the fact that the other person is doing more.
  2. Fight in constructive rather than destructive ways: We need to continue to work on this one. Matt and I fight about a variety of things, but we try to use different strategies to attempt to turn our fights into problem-solving conversations rather than assaults. If we're both tired, for example, we try to stop the fight and say, "Let's come back to this when we're not so emotional." We will also occasionally repeat back what the other person is saying to ensure that we are really listening and understanding.
  3. Agree on an approach to money: This is one of our strongest ones. Matt and I combined our finances a few months before we got married. Then we sat down together and created a monthly savings plan. We asked ourselves: How much can we set aside each month for: a mortgage? a baby? retirement? a car? home repairs? eating out? groceries? vacation? Then we set up automatic transfers each month, so our savings accumulate without much thought. We try to keep ourselves on a very specific budget for expenses related to joint entertainment, eating out, groceries, and dog care. We also give ourselves $70 each every month to spend however we want. Of course we still get in disagreements occasionally about what should be considered a joint expense versus an individual expense (mainly because I'm stingy and Matt is generous), but our system works pretty well for us.
  4. Make time for each other: With my penchant for taking on more projects than I can handle and Matt's addiction to running, it can be hard to find time for each other sometimes. We try to be home to cook dinner together or eat out by 6:30 every night, and we try to plan fun things on the weekends.
  5. Figure out an intimacy frequency that works for both of us: Matt wants sex more than I do, so we constantly talk about how to help him feel satiated without making me feel obligated. It's definitely something we're still working on.
  6. Make time to cultivate our selves outside of our marriage: We try to encourage each other to spend time with friends and colleagues without being joined at the hip.There are times when it makes sense to compromise our own tastes, interests, and preferences in order to spend time together, but other times we should maintain our personal authenticity and do what we want to do.
  7. Show appreciation: It can be easy to fall into a pattern of taking each other for granted. Matt and I try to verbalize our appreciation for each other (for both big and small things) on a daily basis.
  8. Support each other to undertake healthy habits: Mustering enough willpower to live the kind of healthy lives we want to lead can be difficult. It helps to encourage and support each other (not in nagging ways!).
  9. Delineate the dreams we have beyond the baby: We need to make sure that the baby doesn't become our everything. We need to make a space for our other dreams.
  10. Create an action plan for maintaining our marriage through the difficult years of raising a child: That's the next checklist!
It might be cool to show this list to Matt and have each of us rank the items in order from what we consider to be our strongest areas and our areas that are in need of most growth. Then we can compare lists and engage in a really good conversation.

Before I do that, do you have any suggestions about how this checklist should be revised?

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth

Matt and I started watching Pregnant in America last night. I'm not a huge fan of the movie (I much prefer The Business of Being Born). However, I do agree with the concepts. I love analyzing the ways in which profit-making affects what becomes culturally acceptable in our society (obviously, this relates to weddings, too!).

As much as I'm leaning toward the birthing center or home birth option because I don't think it's necessary to pathologize or overly medicalize the birthing experience, I do want to get my hands on unbiased information that compares home birth to hospital birth. I know home birth advocates argue that it's safer, but I'm sure the other side argues the same thing about the hospital option. I don't want propaganda from either side; I just want legitimate, sound data!

Can any of you point me in the right direction?

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Breakfast Options

I'm getting ready to make my first green smoothie (in my regular ol' junky blender). I'm just waiting for the pears to ripen, so I can make rainbow chard + pears + water + ice smoothie. One of my student's moms said that was a good combination to start with. I'm excited. I can't, for the life of me, ever remember eating rainbow chard (and I didn't realize it was pronounced with an "sh" rather than the common "ch" sound). I guess that's what happens when you grow up in a pork chop + ice burg lettuce salad + mashed potatoes kind of family (no offense, Mom).

In the meantime, I've been eating a shredded wheat cereal + bananas for breakfast every day. I find that eating a lot of fiber for breakfast really helps keep my system regular. The cereal is Barbara's Bakery Shredded Wheat. I love it because this is the ingredient list:

  1. 100% Whole Wheat
That's it. Seriously. I know that health benefits of eating wheat are debatable, but my body really does well with fiber in that form. And it has zero grams of sugar (which is why I try to get a small piece of banana in every bite).

I'm looking forward to making the switch to green smoothies for breakfast sometime soon, but in the meantime, this cereal is super-easy and satisfying.

What are you eating for breakfast these days?

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Monday, April 26, 2010

More Chatter About Ovulation (or Lack Thereof)

I'm happy to report that the length of my cycle went down last month (perhaps thanks to my stress-reduction efforts?). This year, it's gone from 43 days, to 35 days, to 33 days.

I'm still worried about my potential lack of ovulation. I peed on sticks every day last cycle and this cycle, but I never get a very dark line. The line does change in darkness, but it never gets darker than the control line. I also haven't noticed a temperature shift yet (although I track this more unreliably). I do notice changes in cervical fluid. This month, for example, I had one day of "egg-white" fluid.

I'm going to give myself more time to de-stress before I worry about it too much. My summer vacation is coming (hooray for being a teacher!), which means I will experience a lot of stress in May and then little-to-no stress for 2.5 months. At some point, I'll probably start going to an acupuncturist for more stress relief and hopefully to help regulate my cycle. I need to dig a little deeper into my insurance plan to see if I can find an acupuncturist who is covered by my insurance...

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Dry Cleaning (or Lack Thereof)

I have a confession to make. I don't take a single thing to the dry cleaners. I just can't bring myself to do it! a) It's expensive. b) I can't even begin to imagine what kind of chemicals go into the process. c) I barely have time to exercise, yet alone swing by a dry cleaners.

So, in general, I try to avoid those dreaded "dry clean only" labels (yes, it is hard for me to shop for professional clothing).

However, when I do by something that is supposedly "dry clean only" I usually end up putting it through the wash on cold using the gentle cycle (and air drying). That's what I did with my new favorite professional pants from Banana Republic. These pants seriously feel like yoga pants. I don't even want to take them off when I come home. The good news is they made it through the washing machine! (Granted, they may get worn out more quickly because I'm bucking the system, but we'll see...). They shrunk a bit in terms of length and fullness, but I can definitely live with the shrinkage (hopefully it's a one-time deal...).

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

DIY: Picnic Placemat

I had so much fun making picnic placemats for my friend's birthday. I couldn't find a pattern in any of my sewing books, so I decided to wing it. The process was very simple (even though I was going to initially make eight of them and decided to make two...).

First, I cut two pieces of fabric for each component:

  • 2 pieces of 16" x 22" for for the placemats (canvass material from IKEA)
  • 2 pieces of 6" x 6" for the napkin/knife pocket
  • 2 pieces of 4.5" x 6" for the fork/spoon pocket
  • 2 pieces for the napkin
I followed the same steps for sewing everything:
  1. Put right-side of fabric to right-side and sew almost around the entire area.
  2. Clip the corners in a diagonal to make the corners more crisp when you flip it.
  3. Flip everything right-side out.
  4. Iron.
  5. Fold the remaining hole in place and iron.
  6. Sew around the top of the fabric to close up the hole and produce a nice finish.
First I did the place mat pieces (and I put two pieces of ribbon inside the two pieces of fabric before I sewed it shut to create the ties).

Next I cut a piece of quilt batting to size and fit it inside each placemat.

I sewed everything shut.

Then I sewed on each of the pockets, which helped to quilt the fabric and batting into place. I sewed a line down the center of each pocket to make a divider for the cutlery and napkin.

Finally, I made the napkin following the same steps above.

The process was fairly painless. I do wish I would have picked a better ribbon. The little flowers on mine make it hard to tie it smoothly.

I've also seen something similar done with sushi mats, which is a cute option, too!

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

DIY: Whiteboard Door

I've been craving a big whiteboard in my house ever since I was a first-year teacher in rural Louisiana. There was an experienced teacher a few towns over who had whiteboards in his living room. They stretched across his walls, and he used them to lay out his master plan for the school year. I would stare at those whiteboards in complete awe and wish for my own personal system of part-inspiration and part-accountability.

Two cities and five homes later, I still didn't have any whiteboards to call my own. Matt and I have been debating where to put one. We have two windows on nearly every wall, which makes it difficult to find a good patch for a whiteboard. It also has to be a place that we pass by often enough, and it has to be in a spot where we can easily access it with a marker in hand.

Finally, we figured it out: the bathroom door! It was a spot we can easily get to and spend time looking at while we wait for the shower to heat up. Here's how we transformed our bathroom door into a centralized whiteboard for less than $20:

  • Step One: We carefully measured the area we wanted to cover with a whiteboard.
  • Step Two: We took our dimensions to Lowe's and searched for a large piece of shower board. Shower board is the water-resistant material used to line the inside of showers. However, it can also function as a white board that can be used with dry erase markers. We ended up finding a $10 piece of white board, which we asked a Lowe's employee to cut down to our exact specs.
  • Step Four: We bought two packages of removable mounting strips (size large). Each package can hold 12 pounds, and we figured our board would be really secure with enough mounting strips to support 24 pounds.
  • Step Five: We followed the directions on the package to adhere the strips to the back of the board.
  • Step Six: We removed the paper backs from the removable strips and pressed the board into place.
  • Voila!

In retrospect, it might have been better to pick a door that doesn't get as much action. It will be easy to brush against our bathroom door whiteboard. So far, it's working out well, although the door to our office might have been even better.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Camera Considerations

One of Matt's big dreams is to get better at photography. I also feel like I need to get better at photography to be a better blogger. Therefore, we are looking into options for purchasing a fancy camera.

Our friend takes amazing photos, and he uses a Nikon. Here's what he says about it:

I have the Nikon D60 camera body only (the link has an included lens, but you can find body only prices).

Note that the D60 cannot take video. You can do this with the new D90. If you want to know why I chose a nikon over a canon. There's this great saying about the essential difference between the design approach by the two companies:

Canon makes the best camera as designed by engineers.
Nikon makes the best camera as designed by photographers.

Not sure how true it is, but I've used both and they're both great, so don't fret over it too much.

Here are two of the lenses I got from Amazon:

Sigma 30mm f/1.4

This is the only lens of the ones listed here that will let you do decent low light photography without a flash. It's a great portrait lens and people do use it for multiple purpose stuff if you don't mind not needing zoom action (just walk up to your subject) and aren't going to be doing lots of landscape photography. It is the equivalent of a regular film 50mm fixed lens.

I use this for landscape, architecture and catching an entire room in a small space (also nice in cars). 10mm is as wide as you can get without resorting to a fisheye lens.

I also have a third zoom lens that I think is a Nikon 70mm-300mm.

For a memory card, I use this SDHC card.

Be sure to get a class 6 because that means it does the fastest kind of memory transfer.

However, if changing lenses isn't for you, this one is definitely the one to get.

I recommend this option to almost all of my friends that aren't as interested in getting hardcore right away but still want to get a wide variety of images. It is a bit expensive but it does go from relatively decent wide angel to a nice zoom and pretty much replaces using three different lenses. While the 18 - 55mm lenses you see most commonly packaged as a kit with the d60 is a mediocre lens, it won't be terrible.

If you're interested in a very easy to understand introduction to using a digital SLR, I highly recommend The Digital Photography Book.

After all that is said and done, there is a new type of camera that isn't as bulky as traditional SLR but still can use interchangeable lenses and do great video. For about the same cost, it can do some amazing stuff (low light images are amazing with their F1.7 lens and ridiculous ISO). Here's a great review done as a travelogue showcasing images from the camera.

I am actually considering getting this camera as a much lighter alternative to my Nikon when I'm on the go.
I've been stalking a few of my favorite blogger/photographers to see what they use (cakies, Lovely Morning, Superhero Journal, and fresh365). I definitely want to get a refurbished model of whatever we decide on, since that will be better on the budget and the earth...

Any recommendations from your experience?

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Backyard Beautifiation Part I

Our backyard fence is finally done! Woo-hoo! It has been a serious pain in the neck for the past two months. It actually only took a week to complete, but we've been trying to coordinate its creation for what feels like a long, long, time.

I am so relieved that the chickens can roam freely without hopping into the Rottweiler's yard next door (which happened to Little Joe--may she rest in peace).

Now it's time to create our backyard sanctuary. I just went back to my list to make sure I'm not getting ahead of myself...(oops, I need to hang our chalkboard mirror, get an ironing board cover, and add the chlorine filter to our shower).

I need to order our backyard furniture. Well, before we do that, Matt and I need to clean up our backyard! It's pretty trashy right now (for example, our chickens love grapefruit, so the old rinds are lying around everywhere). It would help to build our potting area at the same time, so we could get all our pots and dirt put away.

I'm so inspired by this project that Kristina found in Sunset magazine (see picture above). I think I could inexpensively cobble together something similar from my favorite antiques store. I'm going to try and go this weekend!

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Friday, April 16, 2010


Finally! Our precious chickens started laying eggs. Well, one of them has. We're not sure whether it's Clem or Hop Sing. We've had them for five months, and we have waited for this day with bated breath.

If any of you are thinking about getting chickens for eggs and pets, I highly recommend it! I didn't think I would like them as much as I do. I am seriously attached to them.

Whenever we open the door, they come running toward us (hoping to get some grapefruit). They are silky soft, and they try to come in our house whenever the weather is nice enough to leave the back door open.

Because we opted for the Eglu (expensive but worth it for urban chicken-raisers), they are very low maintenance. Matt moves it around the yard once a week, slides out the tray, and empties it out. (He's in charge of the chickens because I take on more responsibility related to our dog, Hoss).

We are so happy to have expanded our family from three to five!

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tracking My Menstrual Cycle

I've been trying to diligently track my menstrual cycle ever since I skimmed Taking Charge of Your Fertility last year. For some reason, however, I have yet to be very successful with it. Something always seems to get in the way: waking up at inconsistent times, traveling and changing time zones, getting bored in the middle of my really long cycles, using a thermometer that only went to the tenths place and learning that I should get one that goes all the way to the hundredths, trying to use a tracking system that is too complicated--blah, blah, blah.

Well, it's time to get serious with my tracking because a) I'm going to need the information to share with my doctors/acupuncturist if I have fertility problems and b) I'm going to need the information to help Matt and me be strategic with our timing once we are trying to conceive.

I've tried using Fertility Friend (for free!), which I think is a really helpful tool (thank you, Julia, for suggesting it!). However, I find that it takes an extra step because I have to record the temperature first thing in the morning and then transfer it onto the website later in the day.

I tried just using a sticky note in the bathroom, but then I couldn't really see the pattern and the spike.

Finally, I copied a fertility chart (out of this book--but it's similar to all the other ones I've seen) and taped it to the inside of my bathroom cabinet (right below the list of two-letter Scrabble words I aspire to memorize while I brush my teeth--which, incidentally, I rarely look at!). I keep a pencil in there, too. So all I have to do is record the temperature while I'm waiting for the shower to heat up. Voila!

I'm hoping this new system will help me be more consistent!

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dreaming Big: The Course

If you decide to enroll in a Mondo Beyondo course, please click through from my website! I will earn $20 that will go straight into my Dreaming Savings Account (sorry for the shameless self-promotion!)

Last month, I enrolled in Mondo Beyondo, an online course about dreaming big. Unfortunately, a few things conspired to make my experience less than fruitful:

  1. I should have waited until my calendar cleared a bit before tackling a new and ambitious undertaking (in Mondo Beyondo speak, we call this "making a clearing."). March was frenetic and frazzled. I traveled four times and had something on my calendar every single day except Tuesday, March 23. Egad!
  2. One or two of the initial exercises didn't resonate with me, and I used that as an excuse to procrastinate. For example, it's not helpful for me to think back on my childhood dreams because I'm already living those dreams (being a teacher and a writer) and I'm still yearning for new landscapes. Also, I didn't do well with freewriting my Mondo Beyondo list. After twenty minutes of it, I was staring at a bunch of mumbo-jumbo.
  3. I didn't realize there was an online discussion area chock-full of incredibly inspiring and creative people until the very last week. Duh! I would have been much more motivated if I had been interacting with others all along.
The good news is that all is not lost! The incredible course creators will leave the materials up for a while, and the community discussion area will be open as long as it's being used. Plus, a bunch of us have decided to work through the course again together. Ya-hoo!

This time, my list is formulating in my mind already. This past weekend, I helped Matt formulate some big dreams for himself (related to photography and running), and we hammered out some shared goals: lots of vacation time, a summer cabin in the mountains, work that brings us meaning/joy and benefits the world, [to be continued].

My own goals have been difficult to formulate because I want to get them right. I only want to add things to my list that bring me closer to authenticity; I don't want to do things that merely impress others or earn me affirmation and affection.

I've also been struggling because my most immediate big goal is to have a healthy baby, and that's not something I can plan or coordinate. When I do get pregnant, I want to have time to nourish the baby, myself, and our family. I want the revolution to start at home. I don't want to be so engrossed or embroiled in other projects that I'm frantically running from thing to thing and not immersing myself in the joy of life.

On the other hand, I don't want to focus all my attention on the baby. I want to pursue other aspirations and interests. I've been trying to figure out how to balance my long-term goals (starting an infant to 8th-grade public Montessori charter school) with my more immediate baby goal (which may or may not be immediate, depending on how the conception process goes!).

I've been trying to identify other projects that align with my ultimate school goals without completely commandeering all my time/energy.


The one thing I am pretty sure about is my desire to work with other people to create a small neighborhood of 6-8 homes that balances independence with interdependence. We would own and live in individual homes, but we would share communal areas (like an organic garden, natural pool, art studio, ping-pong table, etc.). All of us would embrace and actively embody interdependence, health and wellness, environmental stewardship, conscious consumption, and kindness.

There's a four-foot fence around the entire property (so Hoss and his doggy friends can run freely), and the path around the outside is a gravel driveway and running trail. The big building in the center is a communal area. The bottom floor has a banquet size table (there will be one outside, too), which we will use for communal dinners once a week or so. Upstairs, there's a studio apartment for an artist-in-residence (who receives free housing in exchange for art lessons), and the other half of the upstairs is a shared studio space.

I'm excited to immerse myself more fully in the Mondo Beyondo course this time around!

What dreams are brewing in your head?

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Blood Work Results

I am so thankful to have a general physician who believes in yearly physicals and recommends blood tests to gain greater insight into her patients' overall health.

Here's what the results say from my recent test:

Your blood sugar, electrolytes, kidney, thyroid, liver, and blood counts are normal. Your iron studies are normal. Your lipid panel/cholesterol is normal. Your female hormone test (progesterone, FSH, LH, and estradiol) is normal and implies at time of testing you were in "follicular" phase of cycle. Pap smear is normal.
Phew! I'm especially relieved to know that have normal iron and protein levels. As a vegetarian, it's something I worry about. The delightful and insightful Kristina of Lovely Morning recommended that I try brewer's yeast as a way to inject more protein into my daily routine. How is it that I've been a vegetarian for nine years and have never even heard of it? Do any of you have experience with taking it?

Additionally, I really want to start making green smoothies to beef up my vegetable intake, but I honestly don't know how to begin. Do I have to purchase a fancy blender? From your comments, it sounds like the answer is yes. What's the cheapest fancy blender I can get away with? I have so many items on my to-buy list and Christmas is oh-so far away...

Kristina has also informed me that Vitamix blenders can be used to make baby food. That is a very compelling argument. (But they are so expensive!) Perhaps there will be one on Woot one of these days?

Once I have my fancy blender, I really want to buy the book: Green Smoothie Revolution. I really am such a fruit person; I would definitely benefit from eating more vegetables.

It's still not clear to me what the results say about my menstrual cycle. I was in Day 5 when the blood work was taken, so I'm not sure if those hormones are right or if the stage is on track.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Avoiding Home Improvement Overload

Pictures of our house from the real estate website

Taking on home improvement projects can be a bit daunting. And the truth is, Matt and I bought a 1930s bungalow that had recently been completely updated, so we didn't have as much to do as the average old-house homeowner might have.

Even still, our "to-do" list is long. Here's what we've already accomplished in the two years that we've been here:

  1. Refinished a mailbox and hung it
  2. Hung window coverings on every window
  3. Attached a hose to the side of our house
  4. Bought furniture for our front porch
  5. Made cushions for the front porch swing
  6. Closed off our house with a gate
  7. Had a chain-link fence removed and another fence completed
  8. Added a rain collection system (gutter + barrel)
  9. Bought a dining room table
  10. Installed a pole for growing tomatoes upside down
  11. Redesigned our front walkway
  12. Had a new backyard fence built (in process)
  13. Bought a chicken coop and chickens
  14. Added lattice to close off the bottom of our house
  15. Added insulation to attic
  16. Had a security system installed
  17. Added motion detector to side of house
I think one strategy for preventing complete home improvement overload is to keep an ongoing list and reprioritize it every time a new idea gets added. That way, we can tackle one project at a time, with full confidence that we're tackling the most important/relevant thing at a given time. With that strategy in mind, here is our current list:
  • Hang chalkboard mirror
  • Add chlorine filter to shower
  • Get a new ironing board cover
  • Purchase backyard furniture
  • Put together a potting area in our backyard
  • Landscape area around backyard tree
  • Organize closet
  • Get a new couch
  • Get a new coffee table
  • Get a new chair for the living room
  • Make new cushions for the front porch swing
  • Get ceiling fans
  • Redo driveway
One project at a time...

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Dry Hair (Ugh.)

Every time I go to a new hairdresser, s/he inevitably says, "What kind of products do you use on your hair? It's so dry!"

For some reason, it feels perpetually like pool hair (even though I stopped swimming competitively over ten years ago).

I was using Aveda's Be Curly shampoo, but my newest hair dresser (at an organic salon in Houston!) recommended an organic shampoo called Mop. I just started trying it (I waited for my other stuff to run out), so we'll see how it goes.

She also recommended that I get some Jojoba oil from oil foods and spread it into the ends of my hair when I get out of the shower.

Any other ideas for dealing with dry hair? Maybe I should be approaching it from the inside out, instead of the outside in...

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Thursday, April 8, 2010


In my Mondo Beyondo course, one of the dreams that is pushing its way to the top of my consciousness is my desire to live in a complete sanctuary, an oasis.

Don't get me wrong; I love the little 1930s bungalow we live in right now in historic Houston, and we are taking steps toward making it more of a sanctuary. But the truth is, I want to live among the trees. I want to live by water. I want to envelop myself in Nature's arms (cheesy, but true).

There's a picture in Amy Butler's book that gets to the heart of what I'm talking about. Her house seems to be above the treeline, and she can look out her window and let her eyes rest upon the tops of trees. Oh, how I wish that for myself and my family!

And I want to share the land with friends. Separate small houses but a shared orchard, organic garden, swimming pool, composting, and common spaces for dinner parties. We can generate our own electricity with solar panels and live off-the-grid.

I remembered a book about environmentally houses called Prefab Green (see photo above) that I saw at Whole Earth Provision Company. And then when I was in the line at Whole Foods, I saw an article in Dwell magazine about prefabricated houses.

Since pieces of prefab homes are made in a factory, they can be faster and cheaper than site-built homes. Of course it's way more eco-friendly to move into a home that already exists, but my vision may only be possible if we buy our own land and build on it.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Yearly Check-Up

Gosh, doctors' offices make me so nervous. It's been more than two years since I went for my yearly pap smear and well woman's exam (I'm ashamed to admit that to you!), so I trekked to the doctor for that exam, plus a whole host of other issues:

  1. Fear of not ovulating
  2. Pain in my shoulder (that I've had for more than a year)
  3. Concern about my heart
Luckily, she's the kind of doctor who believes in yearly physicals, and she sent me down to the lab for a whole host of tests (ranging from cholesterol to thyroid). She also let me convince her to test my iron levels (which is recommended in one of my favorite conception/pregnancy books--Body, Soul, and Baby)--and my hormone levels. She says she would have to send me down to the ob/gyn department to do a full fertility work-up (which she says they won't do until we've been trying to get pregnant for a while). I'm not sure how hard it is to figure out whether or not a woman ovulates, but it seems pretty futile to spend a year trying to get pregnant if I'm not even ovulating.

Oh well. I'm not going to fret about it (since stress is the thing that will most likely make it difficult for me to get pregnant). I'm just going to keep tracking my cycle (temperature, cervical mucus), peeing on ovulation test strips, exercising, eating healthy, and relaxing. If I continue to track my cycle and it really doesn't look like I ovulate, then I will go back to the acupuncturist for some help first.

As far as my heart is concerned, I worry about it because it beats really rapidly when I exercise, even though I run extremely slowly (like 12-minute miles), and I get out of breath just from saying the two pledges every morning (we say the Pledge of Allegiance and the Texas Pledge every day at school). The good doctor signed me up to wear a heart monitor from the cardiology division for a day, which I'm very excited about.

I feel silly even sharing all of this because it's probably just my hypochondria flaring up, but it's what's on my mind right now, and maybe some of you are going through something similar.

My experience reminded me that I would much rather give birth in a birthing center or at home. I hate clinical environments. Sitting in a cramped room with no windows, fluorescent lighting, and free pharmaceutical posters for "decoration" makes me so anxious. My "resting" heart-rate was 88, even though it's usually in the 70s. Ugh.

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fabric Store Finds

I posted a request for dress pattern suggestions on my Facebook page.

Julie suggested Colette Patterns, which has some super-cute designs. However, the strapless dress pattern doesn't align well with my goal to dance uninhibitedly. (I'm just insecure like that.) The other pattern I really like--Chantilly--would probably over-emphasize my breasts.

I searched around for some free dress patterns but couldn't find anything remotely interesting. I then decided to trek to the fabric store.

Searching through books of god-awful patterns was slightly depressing. Even when I tried to ignore the dreadful fabrics and just focus on the cut of the dress, I still didn't have much luck. However, I did find some cute vintage dresses that I would like to attempt when my sewing skills have improved.

I finally settled (yes, "settled") on an "easy" dress pattern from McCall's. It's slightly daunting to think about investing a lot of time and energy into a dress that may or may not look very good on my body. Oh well. It's an adventure. I'm going to make Dress A.

I had trouble picking out the fabric (I'm indecisive like that.) but finally settled on a moda fabric from Chloe's Closet. It kind of hurts my eyes, but I'm starting to love it. When I showed it to Matt, he said, "Hey, it kind of looks like the inside of the security envelopes you've been collecting."


If I like the way it turns out, I might think about applying some applique to spice it up a bit.

Here's the breakdown of the cost:

  • Pattern = $7.98
  • Thread = $5.39
  • Fabric = $24.72
  • Elastic = $0.39
  • Interfacing = $2.18
TOTAL = $44.01

The fabric is in the washing machine right now. I can't wait to start!

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Ovulation and Such

So, it's pretty official: I did not ovulate last month.

I started my period last week. I counted backwards 14 days, and I definitely peed on an ovulation test strip that day (and it wasn't the day I was in the forest in 30-degree weather).

I also had very little discharge last month. Some months, I do get the stretchy, egg-white discharge that Taking Charge of Your Fertility describes. So perhaps I ovulate in some months but not others.

I should stop self-diagnosing. The last time I came up with my own diagnosis I thought I had a tumor in my stomach. I even went to the doctor for it. I sat on the table for a full five minutes describing my symptoms and answering his questions. When he finally came over to feel the tumor, he asked, "Are you sure this is what you're talking about?" I confirmed that he was, in fact, pressing in the exact spot. He said, "Well, this is just your rib."

As far as the anovulatory cycles go, I'm surprisingly not stressed out about it. Maybe it's because I think my issues are connected to stress, and I am taking serious steps to reduce my stress levels. Maybe it's because I'm already expecting conception to be a journey, and I'm okay with the fact that we are likely to face obstacles.

Regardless, I am going to the doctor tomorrow for my annual pap smear. I will explain my issues to her and hopefully get some tests done.

Wish me luck!

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Friday, April 2, 2010

It's Fun to Play at the Y-M-C-A

I've read a lot about the importance of exercising during pregnancy, but it also seems to me that it's equally important to exercise in preparation for pregnancy. Our bodies have to carry so much extra weight, and I imagine it would be easier if we had stronger core muscles. And what about stronger arm muscles for schlepping around a baby once it arrives?

Currently, my exercise regime consists of running (er, jogging) three to four times a week and doing 15 minutes of yoga three times a week. Now that my calendar is more clear, I'm wondering if I should join the YMCA and start taking classes (like Pilates and Nia), swimming, and doing some light weights.

The YMCA near my house offers the following appealing classes: Pilates, Nia, Hip Hop, Express Abs, and Spinning. I'll have to call and check out the rates. Working out at the Y might be a nice way to occupy some of my time this summer...

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

April: Reflection & Rejuvenation

Photo courtesy of Nikki McClure's 2010 Calendar

Is it just me or are the months of 2010 flying by?

Let's see what I'm most proud of in March:

  1. First, I managed to make it through a really stressful month pretty unscathed. Wow. Just looking back over my calendar makes my stomach clench. I had a film crew in my classroom for two days, I had to attend a very heart-wrenching family funeral, I had to speak at the school board meeting, I had to produce my neighborhood newsletter, I had to take a difficult ESL certification test, and I traveled to Indiana, West Texas, New York, and Boston.
  2. I also followed through on lots of my specific goals: eliminating at least two commitments in my life, as a way to make a clearing that allows me to pursue my life dream and make more time for relaxing, finished most my work before we left for spring break, exercised regularly, starting a nightly Relaxation Ritual that includes 15 minutes of yoga, started really tracking my cycle, planned a fun Bocce ball party for friends, went to an acupuncturist, and made serious progress on our fence project.
  3. Most importantly, I've managed to keep my calendar a lot more open and relaxed in April and May. Ya-hoo!
Speaking of April, here are my goals for the new month:
  1. Get our fence finished, buy backyard furniture, and create a potting area. Now is the best time to be outside in Houston!
  2. Start researching birth options in Houston (by getting recommendations from friends/acquaintances), start visiting birthing centers and hospitals, and start exploring the home birth option.
  3. Start practicing Spanish for at least 20 minutes every day after school.
  4. Try to increase the frequency of our sexual intimacy.
  5. Work with my friends to plan an awesome Teach For America 10-year reunion for the teachers who taught in South Louisiana in 2000.
  6. Start reading books about pregnancy (I'm pretty much finished with books about conception).
  7. Start a peer-observation program at my school.
  8. Maintain my Relaxation Ritual and stop adding things to my calendar.
  9. Start walking after dinner.
  10. Truly appreciate everything in my life and immerse myself in gratitude.
Goals to keep in mind for next month:
  • Beautify the area around one of the trees in our backyard

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