Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Montessori Weaning Table

Henry is officially eating solid foods!

I chickened out and couldn't give him juice drops when he was two months old like his Montessori guide recommended because of his dairy sensitivity and the pediatrician's recommendation to not give him anything before four months.

Around three months, Henry started watching us eat with so much focus and attention. At four months, he started grabbing our water glasses and bringing them to his mouth. We finally couldn't resist it anymore and decided to start following his lead. He took to it right away. He loves eating anything (rice cereal, avocado, sweet potatoes, banana) and he enjoys drinking out of his glass.

I ordered a "first table" for him from the Michael Olaf company. It was expensive, but I decided to invest in it for several reasons. It's heavier than a normal table to provide extra stability for the child who is just learning to sit. Further, it's the perfect height for the small child. Finally, I hope to use all of Henry's Montessori materials for a family resource room when I open a public, Montessori charter school in Austin, so I'm fine spending extra money to get authentic materials. I do believe you could easily get a table (like at IKEA), cut it down to size, and attach something to the underside to make it heavier. According to Henry's AMI-certified Montessori guide, the table is supposed to be 20"x20" and 13.5" high, for those of you who want to chop a cheaper one down to size.

We opted not to order the matching chair because Henry's Montessori guide (who also has a penchant for mid-century modern design) said we could opt for a booster chair from the 1950s/60s, so I ordered one from Ebay. I got the stool for free from our favorite antique store (she gave it to us as a "new baby" present).

Right now there's a plant on the table, while I keep looking for a simple bud vase instead. And the pine cone is there because I take it out of Henry's Discovery Basket when I'm not supervising him vigilantly. The wall art is a clipping from our Charlie Harper book inside an IKEA frame.

In a Montessori environment, children who are able to sit independently begin eating their meals at their own table, while the adult sits on a small stool. Child-sized materials help children develop their independence, confidence, and their sense of self.

Children use real glasses instead of sippy cups. I got Henry's glasses from Ross in a box of eight, but IKEA also sells them. Children who use real glass learn to develop care. If they throw the glass across the room, it will break. I use a small pitcher to pour a tiny bit of water into Henry's glass (no more than I'm comfortable with him spilling). Although I hold the cup and help tilt it to the right angle, Henry is mastering how to put his hands on the cup and swallow without spilling.

We also use child-sized silverware that looks just like adult silverware, only smaller. We don't use plastic silverware or spoons with plastic-coated tips.

Children sit at their small table for their meals when they are eating at different times from the rest of the family. Then they sit in a high chair (without a tray), pulled right up to the table, that they can climb into themselves (eventually) to socialize with the family while the rest of the family eats.

So far, I am absolutely loving the Montessori approach to weaning. It felt so natural to give him food because he was so interested in it. He really seems to enjoy sitting at his table, and he loves everything we offer him. So far, nothing has been a struggle. He has taken to using a real glass very easily. The work that we put into preparing the environment and helping Henry cultivate his independence feels very worth it.

If you want to read more about weaning, check out one of my favorite Montessori blogs or information from Michael Olaf.

REMINDER: Only a few days left to register for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on September 4. Register today!

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011



Rainbow Brite

A Picnic


A kindred spirit joined the Feeding the Soil community and started talking about her plans for a homemade Christmas. I loved the post very much (and was inspired by her ideas), but it made me realize, "Eek! I need to get the planning ball rolling for Halloween and Thanksgiving before I can start thinking about Christmas."

Last year, I was pregnant at this time and actively trying to keep my stress at bay. I started thinking about Halloween in August and Christmas in October, as a way to spread out my planning and work, since Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas come so close together.

This year, it wasn't even on my radar until Katharina mentioned it. I suppose I should record it in my calendar every year, so I don't forget to plan ahead.

So, Halloween talk it is!

I was all set to make a costume I've been thinking about for years: Twister! I was going to make a dress out of the plastic sheet that comes with the game and somehow turn the spinner into a hat. And then I did a quick google search and realized that Walmart sells a Twister Halloween costume for a mere $23. I can't stomach the thought of buying my Halloween costume from Walmart, nor can I stomach the thought of painstakingly making something that I could buy for $23.

So, no Twister costume for me.

I started brainstorming other everyday objects that could be sewn into dresses, and I remembered another costume I always wanted to make: a birthday party. You take a children's party tablecloth and sew it into a dress. Then you stick on napkins, cups, etc. and wear a birthday hat on your head (you can also just poke a hole in the tablecloth and wear it like a poncho if you don't want to make a dress).

While I was thinking about that idea, another idea hit me: I could turn our shower curtain into a dress, add cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, wear space shuttle or oil refinery earrings and be the state of Texas. Ye-haw! I think I'm going to go that route.

As for Henry, Matt wants to be the SNL version of Mr. Peepers and he wants Henry to be a mini-Mr. Peepers. I would prefer to dress Henry up like something he enjoys, such as Sophie the Giraffe (thanks, Valerie!) or Hoss.

I actually had a knitter develop a pattern from a picture of Hoss, so I could knit a little bloodhound hat for Henry. However, I'm simply not skilled enough with my knitting to follow the pattern. Are there any knitters out there who would be interested in knitting Henry a Hoss hat in exchange for a spot in the Purposeful Conception course or for free advertising on Feeding the Soil? I could ship the yarn to you. Just let me know!

What are you going to be for Halloween this year?

REMINDER: Only a few days left to register for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on September 4. Register today!

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Nursing Bra Recommendation

This is not a picture of me, obviously

I was going to title this post "Best Nursing Bra Ever," to go along with my posts about the best chocolate chip cookies ever and the best spaghetti ever, but I figured you all would start to get annoyed with me.

And rightfully so.

But the Bravado! Body Silk Seamless Nursing Soft Cup Bra is amazing.

Don't get me wrong; I didn't want to go the route of expensive nursing bras when I first started out. In fact, I headed straight to Target. Even though people warned me that Target nursing bras would not hold their weight (literally and figuratively), I opted for an inexpensive nursing bra anyway. I'm stubbornly frugal like that.

But then my breasts kept falling out (sorry for the mental movie). Seriously. Every time I would lie on my side to feed Henry on the bottom breast, the top breast would pop out.

So I ventured to Nurtured Family to buy a proper nursing bra. I was a little overwhelmed by all the options, so I simply said, "I would like something that doesn't have underwire, has padding so the outlines of my breast pads don't show through, and is comfortable." The sales associate gave me their most popular bra to try on. I was immediately sold! It's so comfortable and supportive. The padding is removable if you want. And the color selection is good.

I only bought one because they're expensive and I wanted to try it out before buying more. Finally, Matt got on my case enough times about wearing the same bra over and over (an even grosser mental movie!), so I broke down and bought two more.


REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on September 4. Register today!

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Friday, August 26, 2011

I Heart Montessori!

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Join the Conversation!

One of the most amazing things about sending words out into the ether day in and day out via blogging is that I sometimes--just sometimes--actually get to meet far-flung kindred spirits in person.

I got to host Krista and Steve at our house during their Amazing Adventure in a VW "Love Bus." I met Becca for brunch. Colleen got us free tickets to (and a backstage tour of!) Cirque du Soleil. Meghan cooked us the most delicious pizza ever. Therese ended up working at my school after I met her at Whole Earth Provision Company. Kelsey and I had an awesome walk around Town Lake in Austin. I went to Becky's wedding.

And then there are all of my e-mail friends that I haven't met yet but feel like I already know: Jennie, Maureen, Kelly of 100 Scarves, Valerie--the list goes on!

One day the idea hit me: I should try to facilitate connections among all of my amazing internet friends. Although we're too spread out to get together for a potluck (although I think I might host one when we're settled in Austin for anyone who can make it), we can at least connect in a virtual space.

That's when the Feeding the Soil communities were born. The concept is really simple. Once you join the online group, you can post topics for others to comment on and/or you can comment on other people's topics. For example, you might want recommendations for organic mattresses or you might want to share an awesome vegetarian recipe. The Feeding the Soil community is your place!

Here's how to join:
  1. Go to the group page on Big Tent to sign up.
  2. Once you're a member of Feeding the Soil (the general discussion group), you can also click on the "Subgroups" tab along the top to join any of the subgroups (e.g., Sewing Club, Health & Wellness Club).
  3. You can go to My Big Tent and click on E-mail Settings to set up your preferences. I recommend that you sign up to receive a "daily e-mail digest: topics and comments." That means you will receive one e-mail a day with everything that's been discussed that day. You can scroll through it and selectively read what appeals to you.
  4. You can click on the Forums tab to Start a Topic. Feel free to start a topic about anything you think would be interesting to the group or something you have a question about. It's a very organic and welcoming group.
  5. Also, if you're so inclined, please introduce yourself! You can search for "Introductions" in the forums area and add your introduction to that topic, or you can start a new one.

Hope to see you there!

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Q & A

Matt, Henry, and I have been trekking to the drive-in approximately every other week. As parents of a newborn, we are indebted to the drive-in. It fills so many needs for all of us. Henry loves being outside, he can fall asleep at his 8 o'clock bedtime, Matt and I get to have a picnic and play board games, plus we get to watch a movie without getting a babysitter. It's a win-win all around! For some reason, we can't seem to get any of our friends to come with us (my face-to-face friends: you are missing out!). On a logistical note, we bring the mattress from our pull-out couch and cover it with a quilt. So comfy!

So I'm not entirely sure what that introduction has to do with the rest of this post. You see, I get lots of e-mails from kindred spirits with various questions. I decided to start a page to capture all the questions and my answers. There are only a couple now, since I just started this process. Once the site redesign is complete, there will be a link to the page. For now, I'll just paste the questions and answers below...(the link to the first paragraph has something to do with the idea of conversations--like if my internet friends could come to the drive-in with us since my face-to-face friends won't, these are some of the things we might talk about).

Question: Recently my good friend and I have been talking about going to a yoga retreat together and we were wondering if you would know of anywhere that we could go?

My Two Cents: Why, yes, I do have a great yoga retreat to recommend! My best friend and I went to Kripalu in 2010 and had a fantastic time. We did their Retreat & Renewal Program, which includes delicious meals, dorm-style housing, and access to a wide variety of classes (we did yoga, yoga dance, cooking, kayaking, and hiking). The location is stunningly beautiful, and we found it to be reasonably priced.

Question: I saw that you went on your India trip a few years ago with the Intrepid Travel group. On their site, they have a quite a few different trip options. What was your experience with them like? What did you like best and least about it? Would you use them as a travel resource in the Indian subcontinent now if you were to travel there again? Would you recommend them to others or do you have any reservations about them?

My Two Cents: Back in 2005, I saved up my money and went on a self-subsidized sabbatical. I traveled up the East Coast visiting friends, did the work study program at the John C. Campbell Folk Art School, made hammocks and tofu at the Twin Oaks commune, and traveled to India with an Intrepid tour group. To answer your questions specifically, I had a wonderful time on the Intrepid tour. Our tour guide was from India, so he was able to introduce us to his country in a more authentic way. As a company, Intrepid is committed to more sustainable travel and to helping travelers immerse themselves in new cultures rather than just consume new cultures. I find that tours attract like-minded folks, so I had a great time getting to know new people. Our tour was 21 days, and we traveled through the northern part of India. It was an economy version of their trips, but I found the travel and accommodations to be perfectly satisfactory. I would definitely recommend Intrepid Travel to a friend. I just wish I would have made it to southern India, too!

Question: I'm curious, what are you doing about childcare, especially since you don't have family nearby? I know with your move things will shake up a little, but since I know you're also trying to achieve some career goals, I'm interested on your personal take on childcare, especially with infants.

My Two Cents: First, I wholeheartedly believe that every family has to figure out what works for them, regardless of what others are doing or think they should be doing. It's such a personal decision that is based on so many different factors.

For us, the timing worked out impeccably well. Henry was born at a time when I was ready to transition out of the classroom and into the next stage of my career. My goal is to start a public Montessori charter school, so I plan to work on that project from home while Henry is a young baby. I am intentionally stretching out the process, so that I can simultaneously be a present mother and take steps toward my professional goals. My current plan is to submit the charter in February 2013 and, if the license is awarded, open the school in the fall of 2014. Henry will be 3.5 and can enter the school's inaugural class.

I also work on other projects, such as running Purposeful Conception, writing a book about how to plan a meaningful and memorable wedding without losing your savings or sanity, running 2000 Dollar Wedding, co-authoring a book about how to do Montessori in the home, and providing educational consulting to schools.

Right now, I am in the very beginning stages of starting the school. As I get farther along, I will need to attend more meetings. At that point, I hope to work out some kind of childcare co-op with one or two other mothers. We could each take turns watching each other's children and alternatively having days to ourselves for professional work.

Also, once I started learning more about Montessori for young children, I realized that Montessorians actually believe that children are ready to enter communities with other children after they turn one. Once I heard that, Matt and I decided to get Henry on the waiting list for a private Montessori school in Austin. The timing would work out such that he could start that school when he's 18 months for one whole school year before enrolling at my school.

So, long story short, Henry will be home with me full-time until he turns one. At that point, I hope to do some kind of informal childcare swap with approximately two other families, so I have more time for professional work. At 18 months, he's starting Montessori school, either three or six hours a day.

Some days, I absolutely wish I were back at work full-time because it is hard for me to play all day with a baby alone (even though we meet up with lots of different people and do lots of different interesting things). I miss being part of a professional community of people doing work that makes the world better. I miss the constant intellectual stimulation and the connections.

But then I stop and remind myself how grateful I am for this opportunity to help my son build the foundation upon which he will build the rest of his life. Montessorians (and lots of child development theorists) always talk about how important the first three years of life are. As self-aggrandizing as it sounds, I really believe that I'm the best person to provide him with that foundation right now. I also don't think I could adequately handle the demands of full-time work, pumping milk, being present for my son in the evenings, taking care of my body, and sleeping.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Breastfeeding and Sleeping

Big topics! Topics that I've been reluctant to talk about because there are so many different approaches and the issue is so personal. I've been afraid to share our approach because I don't want to be judged for it, nor do I want anyone to feel judged for their approach, simply because it's different from our approach.


But with parenting (and wedding planning and life), I personally believe that the best we can do is expose ourselves to lots of different options and then pick the ones that resonate with us. Once we make our choice and implement it, then we should continuously collect information about how it's going and make adjustments as necessary. In my teaching life, I call it Assess-->Analyze-->Act because I like alliteration.

So, here it goes. Here's our approach to eating and sleeping at our house with our little boy, Henry Jones.

But, first, a few caveats:
  1. There are a lot of different kinds of babies. We only have one baby, so we do what works for him. I have no idea how our approach will be similar or different if we have another child.
  2. I personally believe that it's important to balance the baby's needs with the family's needs. Yes, it's important for the family to recognize that babies are very needy and we need to sacrifice a lot of our wants in order to take care of them properly, but I don't believe we can compromise our needs entirely. If the parents aren't healthy, then it's going to be much, much harder for the baby to be healthy. I believe that the family is a system and you have to keep the various elements working optimally in order for the whole system to be healthy.
  3. I am--to my very core--a planner. Most of the time, I don't consider it a neurosis (but maybe I'm delusional?); I consider it my temperament, my preferred way to live, my hobby. So of course my approach reflects who I am.
  4. At the end of the day, the best measure of any approach is the baby and the overall health of your family. I think our approach works for us because a) Henry is healthy b) Henry is happy (unless he's hungry or tired) and c) we're doing well as a family, despite the incredible stress that Henry has introduced into our lives (I say "I think" because we have no idea how Henry will turn out in the long-run).

Okay, I'm finally ready to talk about our approach (I just want to state again, for the record, that our approach is not a judgement of your approach. We're just doing what feels right for us).

So, when Henry was born, our midwife encouraged me to breastfeed Henry right away. If he had been born at home like we planned, I would have breastfed him on and off for something like two to three hours while the placenta finished delivering blood to Henry. As it happened, the back-up physician at the hospital clamped and cut Henry's cord right away, the nurse took him to the warming station, and then we got to bond and breast feed.

After that, my midwife encouraged me to feed him whenever he wanted for the first two weeks, so that my milk supply would get well established. At that time, Henry was essentially only eating and sleeping. He would wake up, I would feed him, and he would fall back asleep. If he would start to fall asleep at the breast, I would touch his cheek or rub his back to encourage him to finish eating. My nipples were too sore for him to just hang out there, and I tried to soothe and comfort him in other ways.

For the first three weeks, I was still in healing mode, so I spent a lot of time on my bed. I would feed Henry there and he would sleep there. Since I didn't want him to stop breathing, I pretty much sat next to him through every nap. We shared our bed with Henry at night, too. He would root around my breast frequently in the night, but I would wait for him to let out a little cry before I would feed him. I have definitely read books that say crying is a late sign of hunger, but when I tried to respond to just his rooting, he would often be back asleep before I could even turn the bedside lamp on.

If Henry wouldn't go back to sleep in the middle of the night after a feeding, Matt or I would have to carry him around in the Moby or the Ergo with Infant Insert to get him back to sleep. And when he was asleep, it was a nightmare trying to transition him from the carrier to the bed without waking him up. Ugh!

After three weeks of healing, I was ready to get out and connect with other mamas. My first visit was to see a friend from my prenatal yoga class. She welcomed her second baby into her home two months before Henry, and she recommended that I read Baby Wise to learn about creating a rhythm to the day. At the time, I did not know that Baby Wise was extremely controversial or that it had been linked to "failure to thrive." I just knew that it was an approach that was recommended by my good friend. I borrowed the book and read the chapter called "Establishing Your Baby's Routine."

The chapter really resonated with me. It explained that the first week to ten days of your baby's life, you feed your baby whenever s/he wants but you try to ensure that they baby gets a full meal instead of just snacking. If you do that, it is highly likely that they baby will transition into a rhythm of needing the eat every 2.5 to 3 hours.

Without knowing it (by following my midwife's advice and my own desire not to have a baby sucking on my breast for soothing rather than nourishment), I had been following the author's advice, and he was right in Henry's case. Henry was on a pretty predictable rhythm of wanting to eat every 2.5-3 hours.

The author also recommended a simple rhythm of eating, playing, and then sleeping. When Henry woke up from a nap, I would feed him (which took a loooonnnng time!) and then he would have awake-time until he started to exhibit the signs of sleepiness.

At the time, I was reading another book (Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child, which was recommended to me by another dear friend). The author of that book explains that young babies usually become tired within one to two hours of wakefulness (which includes the time they spent breastfeeding). I also read (I think in the Baby Whisperer book) to watch for yawns. By the third yawn, it was time to put the baby to sleep.

For the first three months, Henry pretty much only sleep in the Moby, strapped to our chests. Although we were worried about creating bad habits and we are eager to help Henry cultivate his independence, there really wasn't anything we could do. If we tried to move him out of the Moby, he would wake up and cry himself back awake.

So at first, we would walk Henry in the Moby to put him asleep, which wasn't too bad. If we wanted to go out to eat, for example, I would feed Henry, we would drive in the car during his awake time, and then Matt would walk him around to get him to fall asleep while I would read in the car (since my midwife advised me not to walk until my bleeding stopped). Then we could go into the restaurant and have a glorious, peaceful meal.

If Henry started to stir before the 2.5 to 3-hour mark, we would try to soothe him back to sleep because our working hypothesis would be that he still needed to sleep. The vast majority of times, he would fall right back asleep. If he didn't, then we would feed him early, since he was clearly hungry.

I feel like the author of Baby Wise gets unfairly criticized by parents who "feed on demand." Yes, the author does argue that most young babies need to eat every 2.5-3 hours, but he clearly says, "The first rule of feeding states: Whenever your baby shows signs of hunger, feed her!" He agrees there are times when a baby will need to eat sooner than 2.5 hours.

What this meant for us was that Henry was on a very predictable rhythm: I would feed him, he would have awake time, he would exhibit signs of drowsiness, I would put him to sleep in a carrier. Around four weeks, we introduced the use of a pacifier because I was still bleeding and I couldn't walk him around to put him to sleep. With the pacifier, I could just swing him to sleep on the front porch swing. Then, eventually, I could just sit and type on my computer while he fell asleep. It was very easy to read his cues and respond accordingly with this rhythm in my mind. If he was playing for a while and started to get fussy, I didn't try to feed him because my first hypothesis was that he was getting tired. In this way, I feel like we had a hybrid approach. We did feed him "on demand," but only when the issue truly seemed like hunger. I didn't feed him if he was just tired or needed a diaper change (although feeding him would have stopped his crying, even in those cases).

We repeated the cycle all day long. He would even nap around 9:30pm, as part of the cycle! At night, around 10:30, I would feed Henry and he would fall asleep instead of having awake time. That's how we knew it was time to go to bed.

When we went in for our 2-month appointment with the pediatrician, he explained that Henry should be going approximately 3-4 hours between feedings (which lined up with what Baby Wise recommended for that age) and that he should go approximately six hours at night without eating. When Henry woke up in the night before six hours had passed, our first response was to give him the pacifier. Most of the time, that strategy worked. If Henry persisted in crying, then I fed him. Again, our strategy was always, "Let's try other things first; if those don't work, then we'll feed him."

We read in one of the books that "sleep begets sleep." The idea runs counter to intuition. Everyone always says, "Keep the baby up a lot, so s/he'll sleep at night!" But we agree with the book that the more rested the baby is, the easier it is for him/her to fall asleep when they're tired. If they're over-tired, they can be extremely ornery and difficult to soothe.

At some point, Henry stopped developing according to the Baby Wise plan. He simply wasn't sleeping through the night the way the book said he would. So we just kept doing what we were doing and stopped following the book. We moved his bedtime to an earlier feeding when he seemed ready for it. At three months, Henry was ready to start taking naps on a flat surface. Since he still woke up before the full cycle had passed, I let him sleep on the bed while I worked on my computer. That way, I could easily soothe him right back to sleep.

At four months, the doctor said he should be going 8-10 hours without eating at night, so we put him to bed at 8pm and use the pacifier to soothe him if he wakes up before 4am.

At five months, I transitioned him to sleeping in his own floor bed for naps. He sometimes wakes up early, and I go in to help soothe him back to sleep.

At every stage, we always keep independence at the forefront of our minds. Even when we had to carry him around for every nap when he was in the "fourth trimester," we carefully watched for the opportune time to move him to sleeping by himself. Then when he was sleeping on our bed for naps, we watched for the opportune time to move him to his bed. We try to give him just as much support as he needs but not more.

So now, at almost six months, this is what our day generally looks like:
  • 7-8am = Wake up and feeding
  • 8:15-9:30ish = Play time, cuddling, or walk
  • 9:30-11:00 = Nap
  • 11:00-11:15 = Eat
  • 11:15-12:30 = Play or excursion
  • 12:30-2:00 = Nap
  • 2:00-2:15 = Eat
  • 2:15-3:30 = Play or excursion
  • 3:30-5:00 = Nap
  • 5:00-5:30 = Eating solids and then breast milk
  • 5:30-7:00 = Play (sometimes a short little nap)
  • 7:00-7:30 = Walk (because Henry is seriously too cranky to do anything else at this point)
  • 7:30-7:45 = Bath
  • 7:45-8:00 = Stories
  • 8:00 = Feeding and sleeping

Our schedule is always evolving, based on what Henry needs. When he turned four months, I went back to read Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child (which, by the way, is much easier to understand once you hit the four-month mark). It recommended that he sleep at 9am, 1pm, and maybe once more in the afternoon. We tried that for a while, but Henry was just too tired. So now we're back to three, sometimes four, naps.

Also, Henry will no longer sleep in a carrier while we're sitting still. So no more peaceful restaurant meals! We either do take-out or invite our friends over after Henry has gone to bed or try to eat outside, since Henry is mesmerized by trees. I also try to be at home as often as possible when Henry needs to nap.

In other words, we've managed to find a rhythm that has provided us with some structure and predictability, while simultaneously adapting to meet Henry's needs.

Definitely let me know if you have any questions!

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Monday, August 22, 2011

DIY: Anniversary Card + Free Download

Our friend's parents (who are also our friends) just celebrated their 40th anniversary. I felt like a handmade card was in order, to accompany the CD of love songs Matt made for them.

I got the pop-up heart idea from Sherry's little butterfly project over at Young House Love. I was going to follow her lead and glue it down, but, sadly, the first three glue sources I pulled out were entirely useless. So I pulled out the trusty sewing machine instead.

Here's how I did it:
  1. I made the template in Microsoft Word. You can download it here, if you want! I printed page one on cardstock and then passed it through the printer again to print side two.
  2. I folded the cardstock into card shape and then cut it down to size. I designed the template to fit a card that is 4.5" x 6.5".
  3. I flipped through a magazine and ripped out a page I liked. I glued the image onto a scrap of cardstock to give it some weight (luckily, I was able to find a 4th source of glue).
  4. I folded the cardstock + image in half and cut out my heart.
  5. Then I sewed the heart onto the card, using a zig-zag stich.

Voila! That's it!

REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on September 4. Register today!

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Header Redesign Contest Winner---Squeel!

I want to thank (from the very bottom of my heart--would that be my right ventricle?) the two amazing designers who took the time and energy to enter the first ever Feeding the Soil header redesign contest. Both Sebrina and Olivia are super-talented, friendly, responsive, creative women, and I am so honored and flattered that they entered my little contest.

I felt bad after I learned that the design community frowns upon contests. Fortunately, Sebrina and Olivia each had their eye on a different prize, so I was able to reward them both for their effort. Additionally, while the winner gets free advertising as long as I'm using her header, the runner-up gets a free month of advertising as well.

So, without further ado, I would like to commend Sebrina for submitting the winning design!

Thank you, Sebrina, for applying your vision, creativity, aesthetic-sense, and time to crafting the perfect header for this blog! I'll be updating it very soon.

You can check out Sebrina's other work any time by clicking on her advertisement in the sidebar: Mismikado Creations.

Olivia is taking a rain check on her month of free advertising because her plate is full right now, but definitely feel free to take a sneak peak at her awesome work over at Olivia Ink Design.

And thank you to everyone in the Feeding the Soil community who made me feel like I might be able to barter for a new header. Your support expands my sense of what's possible. For that, I owe you big!

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Sponsor Introduction & Celebration

Happy Friday, Everyone!

I'm elated to introduce you to our first Feeding the Soil sponsor ever. Everyone, please meet MontessoriHouse, the Etsy shop that provides access to information about how to do Montessori in the home. MontessoriHouse, please meet some of the coolest and most insightful folks I know.

As a certified Montessori teacher for ages 6-9, I knew that I wanted to implement Montessori in the home. However, getting my hands on exactly how to do that has been so, so difficult. There's a book that shares how to set up your home for an infant, but it's very dense and not always as clear as possible. There's also a catalog that has some good information, this site is easy to understand, and there are lots of mom websites of Montessori in action to turn to. But, honestly, it's not enough.

That's why I thought about jumping out of my chair and doing a little happy dance when I learned that MontessoriHouse offers curriculum binders for various ages about how to do Montessori in the home. (The sleep-deprivation kept me firmly in my seat.) They created the albums based on what they learned during their Montessori trainings. The infants and young toddlers binder includes 90 pages of teaching projects and instructions. I just wish I would have known about this shop before Henry was born. They have albums through kindergarten. I can't wait to get my hands on them!

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

A New Chapter for Feeding the Soil

I've been blogging since 2007, but I've been reluctant to jump on the sponsorship bandwagon. So much of what I started blogging about over at 2000 Dollar Wedding was the importance of putting our time, energy, hearts, and minds into something other than the predominant consumer culture. And I very much support the ad-free blog movement.

But lately I've started taking a more honest look at our situation. We have been living on one income since February, so I can take care of Henry all day and take giant steps toward my goal of opening a public, Montessori charter school in Austin.

And just when we cut our income in half, we simultaneously committed our hearts and minds to buying land and building a pocket neighborhood, so we need to be saving more money than ever. Eep!

It's not that I want this blog to be a bona fide, major source of income; it's just that I'm starting to realize it would make sense to earn some money from an endeavor that takes so much of my time and energy each week.

I'm also starting to realize that there are ways to do it responsibly, like so many bloggers I respect (such as Meg and Amy). I can maintain my integrity (and the integrity of this blog), while also bringing in some extra money. I'm also realizing that it's a way to help me help other people pursue their dreams, such as my internet friends Kelly and Sebrina.

So I'm going to give sponsorships a whirl on Feeding the Soil and see how they feel. I'm going to place small ads in the left-hand sidebar, and then once a month I will do a sponsor round-up post. I'll save these posts for Friday (which is a day I usually don't post at all), so that the discussion of sponsors won't detract from the content I usually provide.

Does that sound okay?

I'm honestly super-excited to introduce you to our first sponsor tomorrow and then six more at the beginning of September.

If you have an independent business or project that you think would be a good fit for Feeding the Soil kindred spirits, please contact me for ad rates!

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Best Spaghetti Ever

Image courtesy of Bon Appetit

I said I don't like superlatives (like "best ever" chocolate chip cookies), but here I am again with another "best ever" recipe.

My friend, Allison, is preparing for a three-month journey around the world with her partner Jason before they start trying to build their family, so she needed to stay with us for a few days while working on her visa situation.

We sort of have a tradition with Allison. Whenever she stays over, she always cooks us a delicious meal. This time, she cooked a spaghetti recipe from Bon Appetit.

You know when you make spaghetti at home the sauce always globs together? But at a restaurant the sauce is evenly distributed and coats every noodle?

Well, this recipe has the secret (hint: you stop boiling the pasta two minutes early and then finish cooking it in the boiling sauce with a 1/2 cup of the starchy water).

It's not too difficult. It doesn't require too many ingredients. The leftovers are great. And it will make your whole home smell delicious.

I recommend using fettuccine noodles for a nice, thick pasta.


REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on September 4. Register today!

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Montessori Home

Since we're officially putting our home on the market right after Labor Day, we might be moving as early as October. Craziness!

Before we move, I want to come up with a plan for how to make space for Henry in our next home. We'll need to think about his developmental needs and craft the environment in a way that meets those needs. We want to help cultivate his independence as much as possible, and we want him to feel like a valued member of our family.

Perhaps I should go room by room:

Henry's Bedroom:
  • He'll need a floor bed. Right now he uses a crib mattress on the floor, but I want to upgrade to something bigger, since it's hard to breastfeed him and read books to him on a small mattress. I think I'm going to order an eco-friendly, latex sofa mattress. That way, it will be thinner and lower to the ground. I'll want to get a cute duvet cover or quilt and some pillows for his bed (that we can easily remove for naps and at night) because I think a big, bland mattress wouldn't be too aesthetically pleasing.
  • If we have wood floors again, I'll need to get a cushy rug to soften the transition from Henry's bed to the floor when he rolls or crawls off.
  • We'll keep Henry's low shelf, so he can access his toys.
  • He'll need a small laundry basket, so he can help with his laundry when he's old enough.
  • We'll need to figure out how to store most of his clothes and then make a few outfits accessible at a time, so he can pick for himself. I think this will depend on the type of closet he ends up with in his room.
  • Beautiful pictures hung at his level
  • Books

Bathroom (hopefully it will be big enough to fit this stuff!):
  • His toilet on a waterproof pad
  • A little stool so he can sit down to take his training pants off
  • A mirror with a little shelf (for a brush and some tissues), so he can take care of his nose and hair (this might have to go in his room, depending on space issues)
  • Maybe a station for hand-washing? I doubt I'll have room for this in the bathroom, but maybe in the hall? Or should I just use a tall stool so he can reach the sink with supervision?
  • A hand towel on a hook at Henry's level
  • A bath towel on a hook at Henry's level

  • I want each family member to have our own separate space to store our bags, shoes, umbrellas, and jackets. I'm not sure what I want this to look like, since I don't know what kind of space we'll be working with. I'll have to keep this in mind. I'll definitely check out Pinterest when I know what I'm looking for.

Living Room:
  • Henry's toys on the bottom row of all our bookshelves. Each toy with a separate spot (no big baskets full of toys).
  • Movement mat with mirror + a bar for Henry to pull up on when he's learning how to walk
  • Ottomans instead of a coffee table
  • A plant that Henry can help water
  • A betta fish, so Henry has another pet to take care of (I'll wait until he gets older to add this)

Dining Room:
  • A little table for Henry to eat his snacks and meals at (with a stool for me to sit on)
  • A high chair that Henry can independently climb into when he's ready

  • A low shelf with a basket with kitchen utensils that Henry can explore, a basket of spices and citrus that Henry can smell, a squash or other vegetable to explore, and a basket of books about food
  • A low cabinet dedicated to Henry's snacks so he can access them himself
  • A system so Henry can feed Hoss the right amount every morning and evening
  • A hook for aprons
  • A child-size broom and dust pan
  • A self-service water station (with a water dispenser, basin to catch water, and a place to put the glasses)
  • A basket with rags so Henry can clean up his messes (and another place for dirty rags)
  • A place for Henry's dishes, napkins, placemats, and glasses, so he can set his own place at his table
  • A place for Henry to clear his dishes to
  • A small table for cooking activities and doing dishes (I'll need some bins for water)
  • A shelf with gardening tools

Miscellaneous (i.e., wherever it will fit in the house!):

  • Art easel
  • A nature corner for Henry to set up the things he collects outside

Our Bedroom:

  • Nothing! This will be a space for Matt and me.

I know Henry won't be able to use a lot of this stuff for a while, but I want to plan for it now. It's easier to leave space for it while moving in than it is to rearrange and make space for it once we're already moved in.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on September 4. Register today!

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Container Gardening: Basil

Henry and I have decided that it's time to start gardening (well, I'd like to think that Henry is as excited as I am--humor me, okay?). On a recent trip to Whole Foods, we picked up a basil plant, grown at a local nursery.

My Little Herb Gardens book says that we should do the following:
  1. For five to six plants, choose a container about 18 inches in diameter and at least 12 inches deep.
  2. Make sure the container has a drainage hole.
  3. Cover the hole with a little gravel, a few small rocks, or bits of broken pottery.
  4. Fill a sink, bowl, or bucket with water and submerge the seedlings, still in their pots or trays.
  5. Leave them until no more air bubbles appear so that the potting mix is saturated.
  6. While the seedlings are soaking, fill the planting container with potting mix to within 1/2 inch of the rim. Soak the mix with water until it is thoroughly moist.
  7. Scoop out holes 4 inches apart for the seedlings.
  8. Put the seedlings and their root balls into the holes, packing potting mix around them.
  9. Pat down the surface.
  10. Water to fill in any air pockets.
  11. Keep the soil moist but not soggy.
  12. Fertilize every three weeks with liquid fertilizer.
  13. Cut back flowering stalks in order to continue leaf growth.

Sounds pretty easy!

I'm so excited to start gardening. I think gardening with children is important for so many reasons:
  • Children need more time in nature
  • Children need to see where food comes from
  • Gardening helps children develop their gross- and fine-motor skills
  • Gardening helps children develop respect for the Earth
  • Gardening helps children develop their independence and therefore their self-esteem
  • Children learn more about cause and effect from gardening
  • Children are more invested in eating healthy food if they grow and cook it themselves

I know five months is a little early to start gardening with Henry, but my goal is to make it a habit now.

REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on September 4. Register today!

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Book Recommendation: From Diapers to Dating

I belong to an online community of mothers in Austin (called Austin Mamas) and a mothers' group in my neighborhood (called The Heights' Kids Group). Someone on one of the lists recommended the book called From Diapers to Dating: A Parent's Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Children.

I immediately ordered the book from the library, but when it arrived, I was hesitant to read it. I felt like I wasn't prioritizing my parenting needs appropriately. I mean, surely there are more urgent and important things for me to be reading about as the mother of a 5-month old?

Boy, was I wrong!

I really believe that all parents should buy and read the first two chapters "The Basics" and "Infants and Toddlers, Birth to Age 2" before their babies arrive. I'm going to purchase the book and keep it on my shelf, so that I can read the remaining chapters "2-5," "5-8," and "9-12" as they become relevant to us. Even though I'm all about down-sizing my book collection and de-cluttering right now, I feel like this book will be a useful reference throughout the years.

Fortunately, much of what it says in the infants and toddlers section overlaps with things I've already thought about as a Women & Gender Studies minor in college, as well as approaches that I've learned through my Montessori training.

For example, here are some of the recommendations that I found very useful:
  • Talk with your partner to clarify what your values are related to sexuality; take the time to think about what you want to teach about sexuality
  • Find teachable moments
  • Remember that children want to talk with you about your values
  • Don't just wait for the questions
  • Reward your children's questions, so that you become an "askable parent"
  • It's okay if you don't know the answer
  • It's natural to feel uncomfortable
  • Listen to your children--when they ask a question, start by asking them what they already know.
  • Facts are not enough; you also need to share your feelings, attitudes, values, and beliefs
  • Educate both your sons and daughters
  • Use words and ideas that are appropriate for your child's level of development
  • It's okay to make a mistake; just admit it and apologize!
  • Remember that actions speak more loudly than words

In terms of the ideas and strategies that are most relevant for infants and toddlers:
  • Teach all the parts of the body, including genitalia and use accurate words. The idea is that if you use euphemisms only for the genitals, you are giving your child a message that these parts of the body are uncomfortable or different. You may, without meaning to or realizing it, even introduce a sense of shame or guilt about this part of the body.
  • Decide how you want to respond when your infant touches his/her genitalia and think about the potential ramifications of your approach.
  • Dissect gender roles and be aware of how they influence your children from the very beginning.
  • Think about what you want to teach your child about what it means to be a man or woman. Children internalize these messages from a very young age.
  • Whatever approach you decide on, be sure to communicate it to your child-care provider for as much consistency as possible.

I've added this book to my list of recommended parenting books, which you can access in the left-side column, if you're interested!

P.S. Don't forget to enter the Feeding the Soil header re-design contest! We already have four lovely entries from Olivia and one lovely entry from Sebrina.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Register Now! Purposeful Conception E-Course

Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy!

It's been more than a year since I hunkered down to consolidate everything I read, researched, discussed with experts, and worked through emotionally to prepare myself for conception into an e-course with an accompanying community. It's so rewarding to still be in contact with people from the very first course last August who have now welcomed precious babies into their lives.

And our little Henry is already not-so-little, and he has two teeth. Teeth! Craziness.

For those of you who are thinking about conception or are actively trying, this online course will help you position your mind, body, and life for pregnancy. From September 4 through September 30, a new lesson will be uploaded each weekday. The lessons will address a comprehensive range of topics, such as preparing your body through solid nutrition and exercise, finding balance between what you can and cannot control, making space in your life for pregnancy, deciding whether to track your cycle, building a solid partnership as a foundation for your future family, and much, much more. As a participant in the course, you'll receive information, tips, reflection exercises and prompts, access to interviews, and a community of like-minded kindred spirits who are on a journey similar to your own.

The course doesn't presume that doing x, y, and z will lead to pregnancy. Instead, the idea is to focus on the things we can control in order to create a solid foundation (e.g., nutrition, stress levels, relationships, finances, etc.) and to make peace with the things we cannot control about the process.

Interested in learning more? Visit the Course Overview or About the Author. Spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis and will be limited to the first 100 participants. The total cost is $99 USD. Register Now! Or e-mail me with more questions. Happy Conceiving!


Please consider spreading the word by sharing this post via the buttons at the bottom of the post (especially the Facebook "like" button) or by reposting the information on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Thank you so, so much for your support!

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dwelling in Possibility: Update #3

The East Side of Austin

Life has been pretty rough around here, friends.

First, Matt has been looking for a new job so we can move to Austin, while simultaneously talking with his current job about telecommuting from Austin. Everything in that department has been pretty uncertain for something like three months. Uncertain and stressful.

Then, to add to that stress, I have taken on way too many projects. I won't bore you by listing them all again; I'll just reiterate that it was too much to tackle in a calm manner, while trying to take care of Henry all day, every day.

Before I got pregnant, I did a really good job of learning to say no to external requests and making space in my life to take care of my developing baby and myself. I also did a good job of slowing everything down post-partum, so that I could get to know Henry and heal.

But then I started saying yes to different requests (like revising my friend's 65,000-word book manuscript--which was really good!--and agreeing to provide two full days of professional development for a school in Austin). Those major projects were in addition to all of my own projects and impending deadlines.

Matt has had to take on a lot of extra stuff around the house (Henry duty, laundry, cleaning, etc.), so that I could meet all my deadlines. We also haven't been sleeping well because Henry is teething and he wakes up constantly. We're all tired and cranky (and I feel bad about saddling Matt with so much extra work at home). So I'm tired, cranky, feeling guilty, and stressed.

But anyway, I don't want to dwell too much in the negative stuff. Well, I have a few more negative things to share.

While we were going through this rough patch, I kept wondering about my two big goals (to start a public Montessori charter school in Austin and to create an intentional neighborhood). Kelly Rae always talks about pursuing dreams that make your heart sing. And these two goals were definitely not making my heart sing. They were giving my heart laryngitis. I kept asking myself, "Do I feel so anxious about these goals because they're ambitious and I'm nervous or because they aren't really aligned with my authentic path?"

And then I got another response on the intentional neighborhood survey. She and her boyfriend already live in Austin. She researches climate systems (so cool!) and is an avid gardener. She comes from a family of DIYers and is striving to live simply and sustainably.

And here's the icing on the top: She would love to get married in her own backyard.

How amazing would it be to christen our little intentional neighborhood with a hand-crafted wedding? I'm getting weak in the knees! (and my heart is singing)

So I think these two, big goals are aligned with my authentic path. I think I'm just scared (of not knowing what to do, of failing, of taking on too much and not making enough time for family, etc.). I think my insecurity sometimes drowns out the song in my heart, but that's okay. I know it's there. I can handle the insecurity. I just need to make my lists and take it one action item at a time!

Now that some of my major commitments are wrapping up, I'm eager to take bigger steps toward my goals. I need to be extra careful not to take on too many projects for other people. It's difficult because we're subsisting on one income right now, while trying to save money to buy land and build a house. So part of me says yes to so many things because we need the money, but part of me always has another good reason (I try not to ever do things just for the money, if I can help it).

The school I was working with in Austin is on the east side, which is where we think we want to buy land and also where I want to start the public Montessori charter school. While I was driving to the school one morning, I stopped at a stoplight and took a moment to deeply inhale the smell of the east side. It smelled like the country, and it's only 15-20 minutes outside of Austin. Amazing!

So here's a little mini-list to brighten my day:
  • We're going to put our house on the market right after Labor Day. (Matt decided to keep his current job as the Director of Knowledge Management for KIPP Houston and telecommute to Austin).
  • I'm going to work on my book about meaningful and memorable weddings a little at a time, so I don't have a big crunch time right before a deadline again. Yuck!
  • I'm going to go back to using my strategic organizational system, so I always know exactly what I should be doing when Henry naps and I get some free time.

And, for all of you who are out there dwelling in your own possibilities, I just wanted to say that I don't believe we each have only one authentic path. I honestly believe I could have chosen multiple paths and still accomplished my personal intention to live a life of joy that makes the world a better place for all people. For example, the two other paths I considered were gay rights and sexuality education. In the end, I instead decided to join Teach For America, and my life's work became about helping all children have access to excellent education.

Of course I do all sorts of work that doesn't relate to the achievement gap, but I still choose to focus on one big goal, so I can accomplish more in that area. My long-winded point is: I have a lot of passions, so I just had to pick one of them to pursue. I call it my authentic path, but other paths would have been equally authentic.

In the same vein, there's an awesome article in this months Yoga Journal, called Soul's Desire: Uncover Your Personal Blueprint for Happiness and Let It Guide You to Bliss. (I get it for free since I went to this yoga retreat last year.)

P.S. Don't forget to enter the Feeding the Soil header re-design contest! We already have four lovely entries from Olivia and one lovely entry from Sebrina.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

For Sale by Owner

When I started thinking about selling our house, I asked the neighbors for realtor recommendations. One of them said, "Why not just do it yourself?"

Then my mom asked the same thing. Apparently, she sold our last house on her own.

I kept the idea in the back of my mind and met with a realtor. I explained to the realtor that we would be on vacation the first two weeks of July and wouldn't be putting our house on the market until we returned. She said, "Why not just let us sell it while you're gone?"

That sounded amazing! We could clean our house once and then leave! We wouldn't have to put away our toothbrushes every day, get Henry and Hoss out of the house for viewings, and figure out all the nuances of contracts and stuff.

But I kept thinking about how much money we could save by selling it on our own (approximately $8,000), and I also thought about how empowering it would be to learn about the whole process from scratch and then make it happen (or at least attempt to make it happen).

So I read a book about it, and now we're in the process of getting our house ready to sell. We're getting landscaping done, making the front porch look nicer, redoing some paint, etc. It kind of sucks to put so much work into a house that you're leaving, but that's how it goes.

I ordered some signs from Build a Sign. I figured we should try to look as professional as possible. I modified their templates a little, and I'm very happy with how the signs turned out. We're in the process of making a website (which is listed on the signs). We're also going to have color flyers in a plastic tube. Finally, we plan to hold open houses every Sunday. We need to give ourselves a timeline. I'm thinking if we don't sell it ourselves in one month then we should turn it over to a realtor.

We'll see how it goes. I've heard that the realtors in my neighborhood refuse to show houses that are for sale by owners. Eep!

P.S. Don't forget to enter the Feeding the Soil header re-design contest! We already have four lovely entries from Olivia.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Making Our Home Child-Friendly

Henry - Crawling? from SaraMattHossHop-singClemHenry on Vimeo.

Whoa, Nelly! Henry is essentially crawling!

I say "essentially" because--as you can see from the video--he's not officially crawling. But he is certainly able to get himself from Point A to Point B in a pretty quick fashion.

It's time to make sure our house is completely child-friendly. I like that phrase better than "child-proof." We want our house to be a welcoming place for every family member (except the chickens are not welcome unless they opt to wear diapers, which they would hate!).

We didn't do this earlier because we honestly thought we would be living in a new house by the time Henry could crawl.

Since we'll hopefully be in a new house by October, I don't need to make it perfect. Henry gets lots of supervision.

Here's what I'm thinking I need to do:
  • Put outlet covers in all the plugs
  • Get rid of the lamp on the desk in his room. He's very fascinated by the cord.
  • Remove some of the baskets in his shelf and replace them with trays that hold his toys. He can crawl to them on his own now, which will honor his need for independence!
  • Vacuum much more frequently to make sure we're not leaving anything little on the floor that Henry could choke on.
  • Keep our house very de-cluttered and clean in general.

I feel like that should do it for the crawling stage. He won't have the opportunity to get into cabinets right now.

What do you think? What am I missing?

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Join Us! Health & Wellness Internet Community

Before I start this post about health and wellness, I have to confess that I have eaten 4.5 large cupcakes, a piece of cake, a bag of donut holes, and countless homemade chocolate chip cookies (plus lots of dough, of course) in the past week. I eat when I'm stressed, tired, and/or bored--all of which I've been feeling a little of lately.

So when I read my internet friend Jennie's post about her health and wellness goals for August, I thought, "Yes! I need to jump on the health and wellness bandwagon!"

You see, I always believed the idea that it "takes nine months to put on baby weight," so it's perfectly acceptable to "spend nine months taking it off."

Before I talk about this issue, I want to state for the record that I am not an expert in any way, shape, or form. I've only done this once!

Okay, now onto my [potentially invalid and inaccurate] thoughts about this.

You see, I think a lot of us "eat for two" when we're pregnant. In other words, we use pregnancy as an excuse to eat way more calories than our baby-nurturing body actually needs (which, incidentally, is only about 300 extra calories in the second trimester and 450 in the third trimester).

If you use pregnancy as an excuse to eat whatever you want, then you put on extra weight in addition to your baby weight, and it can take a lot longer to return to your pre-pregnancy weight (hence the nine months argument).

I worked really hard not to gain any extra weight (mainly because I had a strict midwife who didn't want me to eat refined sugar, which meant no cupcakes, cake, ice-cream, or cookies for the vast majority of my pregnancy). The recommended weight gain range is 25-35 pounds. I think I gained about 28.

After I delivered Henry, my weight dropped dramatically. In fact, about a week or two after my pregnancy, I wasn't very far above my pre-pregnancy weight. I did have lots of extra skin around my abdomen, but I didn't have any extra fat elsewhere.

If I had continued eating really healthy foods like I had been doing during pregnancy, I am pretty convinced I would have returned to my pre-pregnancy state really quickly.

But that's not what I did. Ever since the night Henry was born, I've been eating cupcakes with abandon, which is not good on my wallet or my body. I'm not going to beat myself up about it; I know that I need to be patient with myself as I adjust to motherhood and my new identity (and prepare for a move to a new city). I also know that depriving myself of sweets for so many months makes me want them even more, now that I can have them.

But I'm also not going to keep making excuses about it. I want to live a healthy lifestyle. I don't want to follow my mom's path of emotional eating that has led her into obesity.

When I want to accomplish something in life, I usually start by making a list and then I try to institute some kind of accountability. I've already made my list of healthy lifestyle intentions. Now I need the accountability.

After I started a little sewing club and read Jennie's blog about her health goals, the idea dawned on me: I should start a community discussion area for kindred spirits who are pursuing their own healthy lifestyle changes and need a little extra accountability. The Health & Wellness Club within the Feeding the Soil community will be great for me. It will be a place for people to share their health and wellness goals, update the community about how they're progressing toward those goals, share motivational articles and links, post healthy recipes, etc.

So, if you want to join others in chatting about topics related to this blog, please Join the Feeding the Soil community discussion area!

Once you do that, you can opt to join any of the sub-groups, which are currently the Sewing Club and the Health & Wellness Club.

Hope to see you there!

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, Henry!

Dearest Henry,

You turned five months on July 28. Five months! I can't believe we're almost at half a year. I haven't written since June 12, so we have a lot to catch up on.

In June, you finally stopped taking naps in the Moby. Up until then, you were taking five naps a day in that thing! It drove your dad and me crazy at times, but we knew it would be short-lived, so we tried to savor our opportunity to be so close to you so consistently.

Your absolute favorite thing in the world right now is Hoss. He makes you smile and immediately commandeers your attention, no matter what else you're doing. We're teaching you how to use gentle hands with him. Right now you try to grab everything and pull it to your mouth, so Hoss isn't very fond of you. Your dad and I have started brainstorming Halloween costume ideas, and we want to dress you up as something you really, really like. Right now it's Hoss. We'll see if that changes before we start on your costume.

At the beginning of July, we went on a two-week vacation to New Mexico and Colorado. You were great on your third and fourth plane rides. You had so much fun dancing with your grandpa and smiling at your grandma. You also worked on your newest skills: sucking on your toes and kind of sitting up. You also love pulling water glasses to your mouth. We have given you a couple drops of watermelon juice (which you loved!) and let you drink a little water out of your Montessori glass.

When we took you for your 4 month visit to the pediatrician, you started to get a little antsy, so Dr. Injac gave your dad a tongue depressor to entertain you with. He held it up for you to grab, and Dr. Injac said, "Oh, he won't be able to grab that yet." Before he could even finish his sentence, you had grabbed it and pulled it to your mouth. I explained that we're doing Montessori in the home and that you get lots of practice with reaching and grabbing.

And you are quickly turning into a master scooter. Once you set your eyes on something, you can easily scooch your way toward it. You are very curious, interested, motivated, and ambitious. You are also very smiley and cuddly. You crack up when I say, "Where's the pudding?" and then pretend to chomp on your body. You smile at everyone so easily.

You're starting to get a little bored at home, so we're going on more outings. We carry you in the Ergo, and you love to gnaw on the sides the whole time. You are a very drooly and slimy baby! You turn your head from side to side so you can see everything.

You take most of your naps on our bed, while I work on my computer. In August, I'm going to try and transition you into your own bed for naps (which is where you sleep at night). You are so sweet when you sleep. I love when you reach out to touch my leg while you're sleeping.

We take you swimming quite a bit, and you are very happy to kick along and suck on your chlorinated fingers. You also love to go for walks and be outside. Trees are your favorite mobiles!

We are getting ready to move to Austin, and I am sad that we will be leaving your first house. It's a great little bungalow, and we will miss it dearly.

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