Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Free Reflection Worksheet

I'm taking a tiny little break from revising the acknowledgements segment of my book, and I came across this lovely reflection worksheet from Andrea over at Superhero Journal. I'm eager to sit down with it and immerse myself in introspection!

I hope your holiday season is unfolding joyfully...

Miss you!

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Vacation! (Or Putting This Blog to Sleep for a Short Nap)

Actually, that's a misnomer. It will feel like I'm vacation to those of you who frequent this here blog, but I'm actually going to be too busy to post. My book deadline (about how to plan a meaningful and memorable wedding without losing your savings or sanity) is January 1. Although I wrote 55,000+ words a couple years ago while I was looking for an agent, I still have to devote massive time and energy toward finishing the last 10,000 words and revising and reorganizing the whole thing.

Plus, we'll be traveling to see both families this year. We'll drive to Florida to see my family (in the Tampa and Orlando/DeLand area) and then fly to Indiana (Bloomington area) to see Matt's family.

I will try to pop in here and there to say hello and share interesting ideas, but I can't make any promises!

I do know that I'll be filling out my New Year's Reflection Form to reflect on the past year and set my intentions for the upcoming year.

I hope your next couple weeks are filled with joy, connection, rest, rejuvenation, and delicious food! I feel so thankful to have this community and this space in my life. Thank you for being here!

Be well,

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dwelling in Possibility: Updates!

Hmm...I want to spill my guts and update you about everything that's happening, but it seems kind of irresponsible to put the intimate details of a real estate transaction out there for the wide, wide world to see.

But it's killing me! I want to tell you everything!

I think I should wait. Yes, that would be the most prudent thing to do. But I want you to know that I am honestly taking wide steps toward my two major goals (to build a micro-pocket neighborhood and to start a public Montessori school in Austin). Even though I can't exactly talk about what those steps are at this very moment, I want you to know that it's hard work, scary work, insecure work, but I'm doing it anyway. That's the best we can do, right? Give it our very best shot? Even if we're scared that we'll fail? Even if others think we're a little loony? Even if there's a possibility that we will be severely disappointed?

I'm inspired by so many relentless, hopeful, optimistic women around me (well, via my computer) who are at various stages in their journeys toward imagining what's possible for their lives. There's Kelly Rae who uncovered her inner artist and launched a career for herself. There's Meg who just turned her book into an Amazon bestseller through hard, hard work. There's Kelly who's following-through on her creative commitment to herself and the community, one scarf at a time.

For me, it's a combination of dreaming big and creating a bite-sized to-do list. I try not to fill up every available free moment with Facebook or television. I try to give my mind a little space in those small windows of time to dwell in possibility. And then I carve out larger chunks of time to brainstorm, make lists, cross out ideas. And then I take the ideas that stand out and start breaking them down into things I can actually accomplish during one of Henry's naps.

And so this is what I'm doing. I'm finishing a book. Trying to purchase land, so we can build a house. Recruiting a board of directors, so I can start a non-profit school. Designing a website. Trying to sell our house.

One action item at a time. One nap at a time.

I will say, if you're interested in being our neighbors in our sooner-rather-than-later pocket neighborhood in East Austin, please e-mail me to let me know. Each lot will cost about $45,000, and we're going to have eco-friendly, modern homes built for about $140/square foot. If you want to buy a lot now and save up money for a house later, that could work, too. I know this stuff takes time.

Okay, back to work! Hopefully I'll be able to divulge more soon!

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

About Page

You may have noticed by now that I have some fancy new navigation buttons in my sidebar (courtesy of the wonderful and reliable Sebrina). Or you may never notice those links if you're using a blog reader....

I have links to the following:
  • Photos of our lives (with a focus on Henry, of course)
  • Notebooks: An overview of how I use a writer's notebook to collect and develop ideas
  • Pocket Neighborhood: Information about the little community I'm trying to pull together in Austin
  • Community: Directions about how to join the Feeding the Soil community (which is sadly quiet!)
  • Organization: I share my system for staying organized with my Life Binder.
  • Home Tour: Exactly what it sounds like!

The other thing I need to create is the "About" page. When I was in college, I loved whipping up quirky and eclectic bios of myself. I also enjoyed it during my early twenties when I was doing internet dating.

But now I'm not so keen on it. Not sure why. It just seems so impossible hard. Do I summarize myself by how I spend my time? Do I highlight things I've accomplished? Do I mention what I'm trying to develop in myself? What I collect? What irritates me?

Egad. The possibilities seem endless.

But alas. I need to write something for that page. Let me take a stab at it below.

I get a serious case of writer's block whenever I sit down to churn out a little bio of myself. I mean, where do I even start? Do I summarize myself by how I spend my time? Do I highlight things I've accomplished? Do I mention what I'm trying to develop in myself? What I collect? What irritates me?

  1. Whenever I start to get overwhelmed, I resort to bulleted lists. I guess that's the first thing to know about me.
  2. I was born in San Diego and spent 12 developmental years growing up there, dude.
  3. I collect vintage pottery of the sea foam green variety.
  4. My immediate family consists of my partner Matt, our bloodhound Hoss, our two chickens (who are also named in the Bonanza genre), and our son, Henry (born 2/28/11). (Editor's Note: They are listed in order of acquisition.)
  5. I spend my days running two blogs, facilitating an online course about preparing your mind, body, and life for pregnancy, writing a book about how to plan a meaningful and memorable wedding without losing your savings or sanity, starting a national network of Montessori charter schools, and volunteering as the Director of Operations and Compliance for Austin Achieve--but only during Henry's nap times. Thankfully, he's a good napper and goes to bed early.
  6. I used to be an over-achiever because my biological father never wanted anything to do with me and doing good work helped me garner the appreciation and love I so desperately wanted from him. Now I'm just an over-achiever because working on different things keeps me engaged and interested.
  7. I spend my free time playing board games that involve letter scrambling, reading, jogging, doing yoga, crafting, making templates, or planning adventures.
  8. I'm passionate about educational reform (first as an AmeriCorps member, then a Teach For America corps member, a KIPP teacher, independent consultant, public Montessori teacher, and now as the founder of Montessori For All, a national network of high-performing, authentic, public Montessori schools in diverse communities). I believe that the kind of world we create will depend on how we nurture our children.
  9. I've been a vegetarian since 2001 for environmental, ethical, and health reasons.
  10. I'm a staunch supporter of same-sex marriage and feel ashamed to live in a historical period that has such a huge example of blatant discrimination hanging over its head.
  11. I'm pretty terrible in the garden and the kitchen, yet I wholeheartedly want to be better in both areas.
  12. I'm not so sure about how to end this list. I was born in 1978, so I have a lot of years to pull material from.

I guess I'll end with one of my favorite expressions:


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Monday, December 12, 2011

Babies' Receptive Language

One of the things we talk a lot about in Montessori is that babies' receptive language (i.e., what they understand) is greater than what they can produce for a long time. For that reason, we spend a lot of time talking to babies. Kylie wrote a great post about how to talk to babies, which includes things like using real words (such as "pacificer" instead of "binky" or "toilet" instead of "potty"). We also spend a lot of time describing what we're doing (e.g., "Now I'm washing your left foot."). Further, we try to imitate the noises that Henry makes. We'll continue that practice until he really starts trying to produce actual words. At that point, we will stop mimicking him and instead reinforce the real vocabulary.

The other day, I realized that a major shift has taken place in Henry's receptive language. I could finally say "No" in a sufficiently serious voice and he would move away from the forbidden object.

As I've talked about around these parts, we try to create an environment of yes's. First, it's better for Henry's development to be in an environment that encourages and honors his need for movement and exploration. Second, it's good for my sanity not to have to chase my baby around all day long, trying to keep him from getting into stuff that he's not supposed to touch. It takes work on our part to keep our house de-cluttered and vacuumed and to pick up the dog bowls every day, but it's worth it to us.

However, there are a few things we simply can't change. For example, our security system has a couple things that plug into the wall and cannot be removed. I've been working around the annoyance by doing various things.

Finally, however, Henry has gotten to the point where he understands "No." The other morning, for example, he was crawling toward the security system plug. I said "Henry, no" in a very serious voice. He started laughing (perhaps because my face never looks that stern?) but he moved away from the plug. The next day, he started crawling toward it again. I refrained from saying anything. Before he got close enough to touch it, he veered to the right and crawled toward something else.

Now that we've started saying no, we really need to pay attention to our follow-through. If we say no about something, we need to mean it, and we need to follow-through if Henry doesn't listen. At this age, that will look like physically removing Henry from the situation if he doesn't listen to our "no."

I still hope to maximize the "yes's" in our house and minimize the "no's", but it's so cool to see his development.

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holiday Ideas

The most recent issue of Better Homes & Gardens had two brilliant holiday ideas.
  1. You can cut an inch off the bottom of your Christmas tree (which helps with absorption anyway) and use a marker or pen to write your names and the year. You can attach a piece of ribbon and create an ornament to commemorate every Christmas together.
  2. You can make a tabletop Christmas tree by poking sticks into foam in a planter, covering the foam with moss, and decorating the tree with small ornaments, pine cones, etc.

You could also make your own advent calendar, using these tutorials from Oh, Happy Day!

We've got our holiday countdown calendar hung to inspire us to slow down and focus on the season. Good times!

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gift Certificates: Purposeful Conception E-course

'Tis the season!

If you're looking for a gift to give a friend or relative, or if you're making your own list of what you want this season, consider a gift certificate to the e-course Purposeful Conception: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy!

There will be a session starting January 15 (although the gift certificate can be used on any course throughout the year).

You can purchase a gift certificate by registering for the course and including the name and e-mail of the gift recipient in the "Notes to Seller" section. I promise not to ruin the surprise by contacting the recipient before January.

Once you pay the registration fee, I will send you an e-mail with a gift certificate attached.

If you're interested in receiving notification about registration for the next course opens, you can sign up to receive an update!

Happy holidays....

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Nine Months: Happy Birthday, Henry!

Dearest Henry,

This month was the first time when I sat back and thought, "The time is going too quickly! Please slow down!"

In three short months you are going to be a year old. You are growing so much every day. It's clear that you understand more and more of what we say and do. If your dad blows raspberries on my stomach and then tells you to do it, you will crawl over, lift my shirt, and blow raspberries to make me laugh. You like to chase and be chased.

You are also good at communicating that you don't want to stop eating grapes and cheese in order to drink water. You love eating! You can eat for 30 minutes straight!

You have also grown into a fantastic sleeper. You go to bed at 7:30pm and wake up around 6:45am. After you've gone to bed, it's common for your dad and I to look at pictures of you and talk about what a sweet boy you are.

You are becoming more and more verbal with each passing day. Your dad and I parrot your noises back to you, and you are very good at taking turns in the conversation.

We constantly tell you that we love you and that you're so cute. We also can't stop kissing your fat cheeks.

You bring so many smiles and laughs into our lives. We are so thankful for you.

With love...

P.S. With this month's picture, you were very intent on separating the stick from the fabric flag. Once you did that, then you wanted to put it in your mouth.

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Reflection & Rejuvenation: December

The last month of the year! Egad!

I have officially started scrambling. I don't have much time left to accomplish my yearly goals before 2012 rolls around. My best friend tries to remind me that 2012 is just one day after 2011, but it's more than that. I have to trust that I can set and achieve goals for myself. There is so much about life that we can't control. But there is also so much that is in our control. I want to focus on the things I can influence and accomplish. I want to take responsibility for my life.

And so, December is going to be a big month of action. Oy! But I will temper that urgency and action, so that I continue to live a joyful life.

Let's see how I did on my intentions for last month:
  • Be the best mother and teacher I can be for my son, Henry. I have to remember that all the time and energy I put into parenting now is an investment in our future together. Is there anything I want to focus on in particular? Perhaps getting him to fall asleep independently for naps? (He goes to sleep by himself at night but, during the day, I have to lie next to him and apply pressure to his back so he doesn't crawl off his floor bed and start playing.) I tried a few times but he's not quite ready for this. I will keep trying.
  • Plan spring break. I'm working on it. Does anyone happen to have a free and interesting place we could stay?
  • Plan Montessori For All website. Yes! I'm partnering with an old friend from college to get it designed.
  • Make serious progress on my book about how to have a meaningful and memorable wedding without losing your savings or sanity. This is no joke. I really need to do this. Haven't done it. I have no choice but to do it this month. It's due January 1.
  • Get Christmas presents: All of them are planned. Now I just need to execute.
  • Plan and present a workshop for the Texas Charter Schools Association conference. Yes!
  • Help Matt plan an awesome birthday party (we're hosting a 1980s Slumber Party, complete with pizza, junk food, episodes of Saved by the Bell, facials, games, etc.). Yes!
  • Prepare a nice present for Matt's birthday. Yes!
  • Make something delicious to bring to my friend's house for Thanksgiving dinner. Yes!

Other things I managed to accomplish this month:

So now the final month of 2011 is upon us. Here are my intentions:
  • Be the best mother and teacher I can be for my son, Henry. I have to remember that all the time and energy I put into parenting now is an investment in our future together.
  • Finish my book about how to plan a meaningful and memorable wedding without losing your savings or sanity.
  • Publish consistently on Feeding the Soil.
  • Participate frequently in Purposeful Conception: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy.
  • Do a major reflection of this year and plan my intentions for the upcoming year.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dwelling in Possibility: Building Community

Friends, things are moving very fast on the Austin Pocket Neighborhood front. We modified our original vision of trying develop three acres of land and are instead seeking adjacent lots within a pre-existing neighborhood. That way, everyone can buy their own plot and build their own house, but we will still have shared communal space and an overarching intentionality to our little "neighborhood."

Things are moving quickly because we've found an appealing piece of property. I wasn't even going to start looking for land until we sold our house, but you know me. I love to plan. I really couldn't help myself.

So now we're trying to see if we can buy the land as soon as our house sells and start building a house (which would take approximately six months). In terms of next steps, I need to talk to a lender to find out what we could qualify for. We're also working with a realtor to put together an offer.

As for the "community" piece of it, we think that 3-4 of the 7 lots are buildable (due to set-backs from the road and creek bed, as well as flood plain issues). Matt, Henry, Hoss and I will take one of the lots, and we have one other committed person. If we can't find people to commit before it's time to buy the land, then Matt and I will have to buy 6 of the plots. If we do that, I'm not sure we'll be able to build right away (or afford rent, for that matter!).

There are a lot of moving pieces right now. The land might not actually be buildable at all due to flood plain issues. Matt and I might not qualify for the loan we need, since we only have one steady income. Someone else might put an offer on the land before we do.

But it's fun. I spend my day-dreaming time thinking about the kind of house we want to build.

Here are some of our thoughts right now. We want:
  • A completely open kitchen, dining area, and living room (like one big rectangle with the kitchen at one end, an island that faces a long dining table, which faces the couch and chairs in the living area)--with a whole wall of windows and sliding glass doors!
  • I want the kitchen to have an island with stools, but I only want it to be waist-high with no backsplash, so that the people working at the island (which will hopefully have a sink and a dishwasher--is that possible?) can easily see the people sitting on the stools and the people sitting at the dining room table.
  • A little flip-down drawer under the sink to hold a sponge
  • A beautiful piece of furniture that encloses the TV, so it's not the center of the living room (we have no TV right now, but we want to get one so we can institute a Friday night movie + pizza ritual when Henry is older)
  • A giant sectional couch (by the way, does Bitter Apple work to keep stubborn dogs off comfy couches?)
  • Geothermal heating and cooling + solar panels to make the house net zero
  • A convenient place in the kitchen to plug in cell phones inside a drawer so they are out of the way while charging
  • A whole-house stereo
  • Natural light in every room (including bathrooms)
  • An area for a slide-out trash can in the kitchen
  • Kitchen drawers that slide out to hold pots and pans
  • A built-in soap dispenser in the kitchen and a spray sink

Any thoughts about those wish items? Feel free to poke a hole in my fantasy balloon if one of my ideas is impractical.

Anything you would add if this were your list? Please, please share! This process is a little overwhelming.

The image is courtesy of ma modular, the builder we are considering

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