Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Traveling with an Infant

My brother Dustin and I in 2005

Henry and I are heading to Florida for my brother's graduation!

Although little Henry traveled to more than 20 states in utero, this plane trip will be his first as a "big boy." Matt won't be going because tickets are simply too expensive and the timing is awkward.

I'm a little nervous about how it's all going to go down, but I'm excited. Here's how I plan to make the process as smooth as possible:
  • I booked only non-stop flights. Since it's only a 2-hour trip from Houston to Tampa, I figured it would be easier not to change planes.
  • I plan to minimize the amount of stuff I bring. I will only carry one traveler's backpack for our luggage, one diaper bag as my carry-on, and our car seat. We'll have Matt park at the airport and bring us in, so he can carry the car seat and my backpack and check them at the counter. We'll have to pay to check the bag, but the car seat is free. Then I will carry Henry in the Moby, with my diaper bag on my arm.
  • I will try to ask for a pat-down to get through security, so I can leave Henry in the Moby wrap (fingers crossed!).
  • To help save space in our luggage and to make the process easier, I will ask my mom to buy diapers for us, instead of using our cloth diapers.
  • When we arrive in Florida, my family can carry the car seat and my luggage, while I carry Henry in the Moby and my diaper bag.

Easier said than done!

Here's what I need to pack:
  • 10 outfits for Henry (we'll be gone 5 days; I can always do laundry if I need to)
  • Henry's swim diaper and rash guard
  • Our natural sunscreen
  • Henry's hat
  • A small but thick blanket for Henry to lay on when he's not being held
  • Clothes for me
  • My swimsuit
  • My sunglasses
  • Phone charger (I guess I'll leave my computer at home--hopefully I won't go into withdrawal!)
  • Soap/shampoo/conditioner/face wash/razor/comb/toothbrush/toothpaste/floss
  • Vitamins
  • Phone
  • Books to read
  • Shoes
  • Wallet
  • Diapers and wipes for the trip
  • Our portable changing pad cloth
  • My breast feeding cover
  • Henry's special soap
  • Pacifiers
  • Henry's nail clippers (yes, they will need to be cut during a 5-day span)
  • Henry's birth certificate (luckily I ordered a wallet-sized one in addition to the regular one)

I'll keep adding to this list until we depart!

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Book Club: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

So far, the fourth habit from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which is creating "Win/Win" solutions for everyone, is the habit I need to work on the most.

I can pinpoint some of my personal mindsets and experiences that lead me to struggle most with this habit. First, I tend to be a very black-and-white thinker. I have always struggled to see the gray, to see the third possibility (or fourth or fifth).

Secondly, I am very much plagued by what Covey calls the "Scarcity Mentality" or the belief that there is not enough (money, prestige, opportunity, etc.) to go around. For me, I think this paradigm comes partly from growing up in a single-parent household. We never had enough money to live in the kinds of houses that my friends lived in, and when my mom got married twice during my childhood, it felt like there wasn't enough love and time for me anymore.

I loved the matrix that implied that it takes high levels of courage and consideration to work toward Win/Win. If you have high levels of courage but low levels of consideration, the result is Win/Lose. On the other hand, low levels of courage and consideration lead toward Lose/Lose. Finally, low levels of courage plus high levels of consideration equal Lose/Win.

Because I am always looking out for myself, I tend to dwell too much in the Win/Lose category. This issue is something I have definitely been working on in my marriage. When I fight hard for a Win for me and a Lose for Matt, it usually ends up being a Lose for me, too, since it takes a huge withdrawal out of our Emotional Bank Account. Instead, I try to remind myself that we are a team that is working together. He is not my competitor.

I liked Covey's idea of combating society's scripts by exposing ourselves to models of "Win/Win." For example, I will add Chariots of Fire to my Netflix queue.

I was also very compelled by Covey's description of "Learner-Controlled Instruction." It's similar to what he was talking about in the earlier chapters: Gofer versus Steward Leadership. The idea, again, is that the manager and managee discuss the desired results (not methods!), guidelines, resources, accountability, and consequences. Then the managee is free to generate the outcomes in their own way. This kind of system is very aligned with Montessori education, but I still need to do a lot of work to incorporate this type of management into the very fiber of my being.

I truly appreciate how Covey shares specific anecdotes from his family life. For me, living a principled life means approaching my personal and professional life in very similar ways. I enjoyed reading about how he tries to create "Win/Win" situations with his family.

Finally, I was intrigued by the idea that we often want our employees to work together in "Win/Win" ways and yet we structure the working environment in very "Win/Lose" ways. As I work toward opening a public Montessori charter school in Austin, I'll need to think a lot about the salary structure and how it works, keeping that idea in mind.

I really hope I can incorporate the idea of "Win/Win" into my life on a daily basis. It's not enough to read about it on a theoretical level. I need to really work on this one, day in and day out!

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

DIY: Shirt Applique

While Henry was actively engaged in watching his butterfly mobile, I decided to squeeze in a little crafting time to work on my shirt.

Henry - Happy Friday! from SaraMattHossHop-singClemHenry on Vimeo

Step One:
  • I put on the shirt and figured out how I wanted to modify the sleeves by playing around with different folds. When I found something I liked, I pinned each sleeve in place.

And, um, that's all I was able to accomplish during my first work period. So sad!

Step Two:
  • Later in the day, during one of Henry's nap times, I hemmed the sleeves along the new lines.
  • I then used pinking shears to cut off the excess fabric.

Step Three:
  • I cut a small square of fabric and attached it to one of the sticky sides of Steam-a-Seam.
  • I printed the bird clip art and cut out the birds.
  • I traced each bird onto the paper side of the Steam-a-Seam that was already attached to the fabric.
  • I cut out each bird.

Step Four:
  • I peeled the paper back off of each bird and positioned them on the shirt.
  • I followed the Steam-a-Seam directions and ironed the birds on.
  • I sewed around the edges of each bird to make sure they stayed put.


REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on June 5. Register today!

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dwelling in Possibility: Progress Update

Last week, I attended a training in Austin about how to start a charter school. When I first heard about the training, I thought, "There's no way I can go. It's in the middle of May, and Henry won't even be three months yet. I won't be able to pump enough milk to leave him in Houston with a babysitter while I travel all the way to Austin and back. And if I did pump enough milk, where would I pump while I was at the training so my breasts don't get engorged?"

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I simply had to go. I want to be the kind of mother who follows her passions and is there for her son. I enlisted Matt's help with brainstorming different ideas to make it work.

Finally, I remembered that one of my dear friends from New Orleans had offered to travel to Houston after Henry's birth to help out. I asked her if she would be willing to trek with Henry and me to Austin and then take care of him while I attended the training (and bring him over to be breastfed when he needed it). She agreed to my audacious request!

The day before the training, I was really stressed about waking up at 4am, getting ready, feeding Henry, driving three hours to Austin, arriving during rush-hour traffic, feeding Henry again, and making it to the training early enough to look professional. I even thought, "What the heck was I thinking? This is too much!"

But somehow, the day went perfectly smoothly. Henry slept through the night until it was time to feed him that morning, we left the house on time, Henry talked animatedly for several minutes and then started sucking on his fingers and fell asleep, we didn't hit much traffic, and I was able to feed Henry in the parking garage.

My friend took Henry for walks around Austin and hung out at a coffee shop. She brought him back to me when I needed to feed him (I stepped out of the training and fed him in the car).

On the way home, Henry cried for about ten minutes and then fell asleep. He slept for our entire trip home.

I was so, so thankful that I didn't let myself talk myself out of going to the training. I'm glad I did whatever it took to take care of my needs and Henry's.

I just need to keep reminding myself of this the next time a challenging situation presents itself!

REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on June 5. Register today!

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Register Now: Purposeful Conception!

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

As Henry barrels toward the three-month mark, I am still so thankful that Matt and I spent time preparing our lives for a child before we conceived.

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. Over the course of five weeks from June 5 through July 8, 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!

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Book Club: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

I'm so glad we're moving into the habits of interdependence. The first three habits have done so much to help me increase my personal effectiveness; I'm eager to see how the last four will help me develop interdependence.

I love the anecdote about the guy who is frustrated by his wife's jealousy and then finally admits that she's jealous because he met her while cheating on his previous wife. Covey's response was awesome: "You can't talk your way out of problems you behave yourself into." That truth connects to an idea later in the chapter about living with integrity by being loyal to those who are not present (i.e., not gossiping!). It's definitely something that I struggle with. It's embarrassing to admit, but I like gossiping with people because it makes me feel closer to the person I'm talking to. But I can absolutely see how gossiping actually undermines that closeness because that person begins to wonder if I also gossip about them. I think the best thing to do is reserve my gossiping for my conversations with Matt.

The other big idea that really resonated with me in this chapter was the idea of the Emotional Bank Account. So, so true! Every interaction is either a debit or a deposit. I definitely see that in my own life and relationships. I want to keep this idea at the forefront of my mind always.

And this quote kind of shook me: "It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses." As I work toward starting a public Montessori charter school to help close the achievement gap in this country, I need to remember to prioritize my one-on-one relationships.

As a side note, I met a school principal and assistant principal from Austin who have clearly read and internalized the seven habits. And they were awesome! They seemed so full of integrity, sincerity, and humility. And, their school had a super-high staff retention rate--no wonder!

I'm really glad I'm reading this book, although I am simultaneously asking myself: "What are the negative aspects of these habits? What is the downside of too much self control?"

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Shirt Applique

I am in a little bit of a pickle.

On the one hand, my pre-pregnancy clothes don't fit me right now, and I desperately need to get some that I can wear.

On the other hand, I'm trying to be really, really intentional about only bringing things into our house that I love, love, love. We have too much stuff and clutter as it is.

The problem is that it's hard for me to get out and put forth the effort it takes for me to find clothes that I love because a) I have a new baby who prefers the Moby to the stroller and makes it difficult to try on clothes and b) I don't like shopping that much.

I did manage to buy a pair of used jeans that are super-cute, but I have to confess that they, too, are too small. I should have admitted it to myself at the store, but they were adorable and cheap, so I bought them. Mistake!

So this past weekend I went out again (while Matt was on Henry duty). I was determined to get a pair of jeans that actually fit.

While I was at a consignment shop, I found a comfortable $10 shirt from the GAP. I decided it would be good for applique. Then I noticed it had a small hole in it (which is no big deal since I can applique right over it), so I managed to get a 50% discount. Hooray!

Now what to applique? I'm thinking birds. Let me do a quick google images search and see if I can come up with anything:

I like the way those birds look, but what kind are they? Seagulls? Hmmm...

I also need to do a little work on the sleeves. Currently, they aren't very flattering on me because they make my swimmer-shoulders look even wider than they already are. I'm thinking about just using a seam ripper or scissors to take them right off, especially because jersey doesn't fray. Or I might put some elastic in them to give them a little shape.

Now I just need to find some time for crafting...

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dwelling in Possibility: Part One

The other day I was looking through my old writers' notebooks in search of something and I came across this quote:

"Always in life an idea starts small; it is only a sapling idea, but the vines will come and they will try to choke your idea so it cannot grow and it will die and you will never know you had a big idea, an idea so big it could have grown thirty meters through the dark canopy of leaves and touched the face of the sky."--Bryce Courtenay

I want to touch the face of the sky. I want to take active, giant steps along the path of my big ideas.

I have two big ideas. I've mentioned both of them before, so I apologize if you've already heard them. The first is that I want to start a public Montessori charter school in a diverse community. I want to help provide all children with the kind of high-quality education that is often reserved for those who can afford private schools.

I want the school to be a research center where teachers work alongside each other to figure out how to make authentic approaches to education work for all children. We will commit to high expectations for all learners and high expectations for the for the kind of learning environment we create for them.

We will educate the whole child, with time in the schedule for rigorous academics, community building and peace education, play, practical life (e.g., taking care of animals, cooking, gardening, etc.), and enrichment (e.g., drama, sewing, sports, dance, fine arts, etc.). We will be a values-driven school that cultivates living with integrity, eagerly learning, acting courageously, demonstrating persistence, excelling, and respecting and helping others and the environment. We will ensure that all students are bilingual and biliterate in Spanish and English by the end of 8th grade. We will collaborate with families to ensure that all of our children are healthy, happy, and successful.

The work environment will emphasize personal responsibility and relentless pursuit, while simultaneously cultivating an atmosphere of sustainability. We can't make the world better if we make our own lives worse. I want it to be a place where we feel excited to come to work and feel like we are developing and growing year after year.

In short, the school will be a microcosm for the kind of world we hope the children go forth and create.

It seems like Austin, TX, is the ideal place to pursue this goal because there aren't currently any public Montessori options. Further, Austin is a place where Matt and I would like to live.

My second goal is to start an "intentional neighborhood." I would work with others 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.

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. There's also a green house, chicken coup, compost area, and playground.

It's too small to be part of the co-housing movement. After reading this post at Progressive Pioneer and investing in the book, I realized it's actually a "Pocket Neighborhood."

So, after having these dreams for many, many years and taking wobbly, toddler steps toward them, it's time to fully commit myself to them. I'm already 33! Also, Henry's arrival in our lives makes this moment a good time for transition. My vision is to open the charter school by the time Henry is three, so he can enroll as a student. I need to start the non-profit organization that will apply to the state for a charter and design a website. I'm also enrolled in a training session about how to start a charter school in Texas. Woo-hoo!

Our plan is to move to Austin this fall, assuming that a) Matt can find a job and b) we can sell our bungalow in Houston without losing money. I told my school that I will not be returning in the fall. Our plan is to rent a cheap, cheap house so we can cut back on our monthly expenses and start looking for land to purchase for our intentional neighborhood. I hope to generate income by doing some educational consulting again, working on some projects through the non-profit organization that I start, and continuing to run Purposeful Conception: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy. I might have to figure out how to start making a little money from this blog, since I pour so much time into it.

Phew! It's a lot to think about, and it's more than a little overwhelming. I'll just have to take it one day at a time.

Of course both of these audacious goals require collaboration and partnership. It takes a village! Perhaps one of you sees yourself participating in either of these endeavors? I'm crossing my fingers! Let me incorporate a little survey into this post, in case you want to express interest.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

An End to Co-Sleeping?

Matt and I knew from the very beginning that we wanted to co-sleep with Henry for a couple of reasons. First, we figured it would make breastfeeding in the night infinitely more easy if I could just roll over and satiate his appetite. Secondly, we wanted our child to feel safe, secure, and close to us after leaving the coziness of the womb. Finally, we wanted to be able to more closely monitor him and make sure he was okay through the night.

Since I wasn't sure what kind of co-sleeping or bed-sharing situation would work best for us and our queen-sized bed, I had two different systems ready to go before Henry was born. The first system was the Summer Infant Rest Assured Sleeper:

We figured it would work well on the floor next to our low platform bed.

Our next system was the Baby Delight Snuggle Nest (without the sleep positioners featured below):

We figured that system would be great if we wanted Henry to sleep in the bed with us.

We started with the Snuggle Nest because it became immediately apparent that we wanted to be as close to Henry as possible. However, the Snuggle Nest only lasted about a day for two reasons:
  1. We have a queen-sized bed, so there was no way to contain Matt, the Snuggle Nest, Henry, and me while breastfeeding. I had to move the Snuggle Nest every time, which quickly defeated the purpose of making my life easier with bed-sharing.
  2. Henry made it known early on that he was a very light sleeper and could not tolerate being moved. There was no way to breastfeed him and then transfer him to the Snuggle Nest without waking him up.

So we quickly ditched the Snuggle Nest and just let Henry fall asleep while breastfeeding and stay in that spot on the bed.

Here's what I love about bed-sharing:
  • I love, love, love being close to my son. It is so affirming to the very core of my being when I scoot over and he immediately scooches over to be closer to me.
  • I love staring at his sleeping face in the moonlight.
  • I love being able to monitor his breathing.
  • I love just rolling over to breastfeed. It makes falling back asleep much easier.

Here's what I don't love about bed sharing:
  • It scares the crap out of me having our son sleep on our soft mattress amongst a bunch of pillows and blankets, especially because Henry prefers to sleep on his side or stomach. I have had several mental movies of my sitting on the stand saying, "Yes, your Honor, I was well aware of the 'Back to Sleep' campaign and all the advice about how to make bed sharing safe. Yes, I willfully chose to disregard all of the warnings because I desperately wanted to sleep."
  • As I mentioned, we have a queen-sized bed, which means it is a tight fit for the three of us.
  • It's difficult to be super-quiet while breastfeeding (e.g., burping, etc.), and I feel bad about waking Matt up unnecessarily.
  • In an effort to keep the comforter away from Henry, I am only able to cover the bottom half of my body. My top half is always cold.
  • I don't sleep particularly soundly because my little piglet is often rooting around my breast in his sleep.
  • My arm is always uncomfortable because Henry is pressed up against my side and I have to keep my arm above my head or curved around him.
  • I miss the intimacy that comes from just sharing my bedroom with Matt.

At my Montessori class last week, I asked my teacher when she moved her children to their own room. She explained that she did it at eight weeks, since Montessorians believe that the "symbiotic period" lasts from six to eights weeks. That's the period when the mother and the infant are intensely bonding. After that time, the infant becomes more social and starts to turn outward toward the world.

Originally, Matt and I were thinking that we would move Henry to his own room at three months, since that marks the end of the fourth trimester, but we decided to try it out when he was nine weeks old. If it didn't work out, we would immediately revert to bed-sharing.

The awesome thing about having a Montessori floor bed is that I can still lie down while nursing Henry to sleep. In general, I start nursing at 10:30, and Henry falls asleep by 11:00. Our pediatrician said that Henry should be sleeping for at least one, six-hour stretch in the night, so if Henry wakes up before five or six hours (usually because his farts wake him up), then Matt goes in and soothes him back to sleep. If he isn't easily soothed back to sleep, then we assume he's hungry and I feed him.

The next time he wakes up, it's usually been about five hours since his last feeding, so I go in to feed him.

If he wakes up again (usually due to pooping his pants), then Matt goes in to help solve his problem. The next time he wakes up is usually between 7 and 8, so I wake up and we start our day with breastfeeding.

We intentionally transferred Henry to his own bed on a Thursday, since we were anticipating a really rough night. That way, we would only have one day of being tired at work and then we could rest more over the weekend. The first night was surprisingly smooth, although I did cry over the separation. Oh how I love my little piglet!

The second night was much more rough, with Henry waking up a lot more frequently (often a mere 15 minutes after we had soothed him back to sleep). The third night was easier again, and the fourth night was rougher. A lot of it has to do with what kind of day he has. We find that sleep begets sleep. In other words, the better he naps during the day, the better he sleeps at night.

Overall, I'm really happy that we spent two months bed-sharing and that we have now made the transition. It feels wonderful to have our space back, and I sleep so much better. I also love that Matt gets to share more of the nighttime parenting now. Further, in my Montessori class, we talk about attachment and separation. Montessorians believe that separation is a part of healthy attachment. Although the separation was hard for me, I think it will help our family be healthier in the end. Henry will learn that he can still get his needs met even when he is not right next to us, and we will be more rested (and therefore happier and more patient) parents.

Please let me know if you have any questions!

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Book Club: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Oh, how I heart Stephen R. Covey! It's not that I think he's a particularly good writer (I find the prose of most self-development books to be pretty mediocre). It's just that his ideas are so good!

As I've said over and over, I read the first three habits several years ago and have been trying to implement them ever since. The "Put first things first" habit of effective personal organization and time management is something I've been practicing a lot. I love it so much I've even presented workshops on some of these ideas.

First, I think the four quadrants are absolutely revolutionary. It's so easy to see that many of us spend our time in the urgent quadrants. I see this so much with things like e-mail. People tend to check their e-mail first thing in the morning and then use it to drive their to-do list for several hours. Then they check it frequently throughout the day, even while trying to focus and concentrate on other important work. I also find that things like Facebook and TV can really distract us from accomplishing all the things in our "Important but not urgent" category.

I am most proud of myself when I am working in that quadrant. (Oops, I just flipped over to check my e-mail, which then makes writing this post take longer because I have to take time to figure out where I was.) To me, the most interesting projects and my most ambitious dreams lie in that quadrant, as well as all the habits that help me develop as a person (like studying Spanish, making time to read self-development books, writing letters, etc.).

I'm not saying that we should work, work, work all the time, but I do think if we're working, we should be working effectively and efficiently. That way, we free up more time for leisure or the pursuit of other passions.

I loved to Goethe quote at the start of the chapter: "Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least." The four quadrants are a lens through which I try to evaluate everything I'm doing.

I also love Covey's system for personal organization and time management: Mission statement --> Roles --> Goals --> Plans

Every New Year's Eve, I list out all my roles and the things I want to accomplish within each of those roles. Then at the beginning of each month, I look at the list of goals and decide what I want to accomplish that month. Finally, at the beginning of each week, I look at my monthly goals and plot out when I'm going to do what.

I think it's amazing how Covey explains how the first three habits build off of each other. In Teach For America staff training, we complete an exercise called "The Compass Points." The idea is that there are four different types of leaders: North people want to get things done; West people want to focus on the details; East people focus on the vision (I may be mixing up east and west); and South people want to focus on relationships and people. Covey's so right when he explains that you have to have the vision (right-brain) and then you have to execute all the smaller steps aligned with the vision (left-brain). I think it can be challenging for one person to be skilled at both those things, but it's so, so important when it comes to personal effectiveness and being able to make a dream become a reality.

I also enjoyed reading the story about Covey's wife, Sandra, who unwittingly took on a committee chair position. It reminded me of how important it is to say no to things that are not directly aligned to our goals. The more we clutter our lives with those things, the less time and energy we have to pursue our passions.

Finally, I loved the distinction between "Gofer" and "Stewardship" delegation. I think that concept has huge implications for my leadership style. The story of his son taking care of the yard was the perfect anecdote to illustrate his point. I need to be conscious of focusing on results instead of methods when managing people. I hope to remember the components: desired results, guidelines, resources, accountability, consequences. And I absolutely agree with the idea that "trust is the highest form of motivation."

I have really enjoyed the first three habits, and I look forward to delving into the next chapter next week!

Next Steps:
  1. Clean out my Life Binder. It's getting too full!
  2. Make a conscious effort to say no to opportunities that are not directly aligned with my goals. This is going to be particularly hard because I'm on unpaid maternity leave, and I might start to get desperate for money. However, when I get too absorbed in other people's projects, I don't have enough time for my own. And my time is so precious and rare these days (and that's with Henry sleeping more than he ever will again!).

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Pediatrician Update

We recently took Henry to the pediatrician for his two-month check-up. It reminded me that I wanted to talk about two hot topics: vaccinations and circumcision.

I'll start with the easiest decision for us: circumcision. Although Matt is circumcised, neither of us could find a compelling reason to subject our son to having a piece of his skin cut off. When the time comes, we will teach him the importance of keeping it clean. If necessary, we will teach him how to have courage and self-pride, even if he doesn't look like everyone else.

A kindred spirit e-mailed me to say that she didn't want to circumcise her son but her husband did. She asked for advice about what to do in that situation. To that question, I would say, "Ask your partner to watch a youtube video of a circumcision."

The vaccination issue was much, much harder for me. First of all, I tend to have a general distrust when it comes to the U.S. government's responsibility to protect its citizens from harmful products. I once heard the generalization that in Europe, products aren't allowed on the market until they are proven safe. In the U.S., they are allowed on the market until they are proven unsafe.

So, frankly, I am scared about what's in vaccines because I don't trust that the government prioritizes my son's health and wellness above the interests of the pharmaceutical industry.

But on the other hand, I am a firm supporter of public health, and I am willing to do my part to keep our society as healthy as possible. I don't want my son to contract something that could jeopardize his fragile body, nor do I want to contribute to the comeback of certain diseases because I refused to get my son vaccinated. Please keep in mind, however, that I did little to no research on the topic. Although I did talk with several moms who were doing research, I couldn't bring myself to do any. It was so hard for me to find sources that I could trust to be objective.

The alternate vaccine scheduled featured in The Vaccine Book seemed like a good compromise. It spreads out the vaccinations, so that your child is only exposed to a little of the potentially harmful substances at a time. However, your child is still fully vaccinated by the end of the timeline.

In the final analysis, we decided to follow the normal recommended schedule because I didn't want to subject Henry to the trauma of more frequent shots, which is required by the alternative schedule. I also didn't want to bring him to the pediatrician's office more than necessary and risk exposing him to more pathogens.

We did opt out of the hepatitis vaccine at birth, simply because we wanted to spare him from more pricks and prods after all he went through to enter into the world, so he received the first in the series at his last appointment.

And in case you're interested, he's in the 80th percentile for weight, 90th percentile for height, and his head is in the 37the percentile. I think I might start calling him Parsnip Head.

And one last thing: the doctor happened to see a little bit of Henry's poop when he was taking off his diaper, and he said it was a too runny and watery. He diagnosed Henry with a dairy sensitivity and told me to stop eating dairy. Oy vey!

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe Ever

Image via Martha Stewart

Okay, I'm not really one for superlatives like "best ever" because obviously I haven't experienced all the chocolate chip cookie recipes out there. But this recipe is really darn good.

Two weekends ago, new friends of ours (from my prenatal yoga class) invited us to join them for the weekend at their family's lake house outside of Dallas. Not only did they treat us to homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast, they also made a gallon-sized bag of these chocolate chip cookies. Delicious--but not so good for my resolution to cultivate a healthier lifestyle!

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Babysitting Co-Op

Henry and his friend Ellie Cate, photo via my friend, Ben

I spend a lot of time bemoaning the fragmentation of modern American society into nuclear families. After all, I really do believe that it "takes a village" to raise a child (or at least it's a heck of a lot easier when you have help around).

I'm so glad I finally get to do something about it! Two of my new friends and I decided to start a babysitting co-op with the other women from our prenatal yoga class. Here's how it works:
  1. Everyone who wants to participate begins with three tokens. Each token is worth one hour of babysitting.
  2. You contact people in the co-op individually or through the list to find a babysitter
  3. You drop off your child at the agreed-upon time at the babysitter's house, and pick them up at the agreed-upon time as well.
  4. You agree to the following norms:
    -Babysitting can only be done in one-hour increments. 15 minutes or less can be rounded down, but 16 minutes and above must be rounded up and payor must pay an extra hour.
    -All babysitting is done at the babysitter's home.
    -The clock begins at the scheduled time of arrival, regardless of whether the child is dropped off late.
    -Babysitting appointments must be cancelled with 24 hours notice or else payment is still required.

For "tokens," we are simply printing out the norms on 2.5" x 1" cardstock. Then we are putting a piece of magnetic tape (from a roll) on the back. That way, people can keep their "tokens" on the refrigerator for safe keeping.

Our hope is that the co-op will be completely self-regulating, so we don't need an administrator.

I'm excited to see how it goes!

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Book Club: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Oh, how I love the idea of starting with the end in mind! This principle has truly revolutionized my life since I first read this chapter seven or so years ago. (As a side note, I only read the first three habits long ago, which all help one move toward independence. Maybe now I'll be ready for the last four habits and can move toward interdependence!).

For better and worse, I have integrated this idea deep into my very being. When I plan something, I habitually start with the end vision first, whether it's a birthday party, a wedding, an online course, or my life. Even if I plan a staff meeting, I think, "What do I want people to walk away thinking, feeling, or doing?" Further, Teach For America includes this idea as the first of their "Teaching As Leadership" pillars: Set big goals.

Although I didn't actually complete the exercise, I cried when I thought about my own funeral and what I would want people to say about me. It's such a powerful way to think about one's life. I agree with Covey that "it's incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busy-ness of life, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover it's leaning against the wrong wall. It is possible to be busy--very busy--without being very effective."

The idea of "scripts" really resonated with me, too. I have had to work really hard to break free of the scripts handed to me by family and society. It's something I still struggle with, and it makes sense that they "rise out of our deep vulnerabilities, our deep dependency on others and our needs for acceptance and love, for belonging, for a sense of importance and worth, for a feeling that we matter."

I like the idea of writing a personal mission statement, so that our values and principles shape our actions instead of the scripts handed to us from places outside of ourselves. Of course our values and principles are shaped by the family from which we come and the society in which we live, but we have agency to choose which values and principles we want to align our lives with.

So now I need to revisit the mission statement I wrote a few years ago. It's something like: "I live to develop in myself and inspire in others environmental consciousness, honest and nurturing interpersonal interactions, and an active commitment to make the world more just for all." I'll save that for another post. In the meantime, here's the family mission statement that Matt and I came up with.

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Living a Healthy Lifestyle

I recently wrote a post for 2000 Dollar Wedding about how I want to get back into pre-baby shape simply by living a healthy lifestyle (instead of doing crazy things like 6am boot camp). I'm eager to fit back into my clothes. I thought I could wear some of my maternity clothes in the meantime, but they are designed to accentuate your belly! Not a good idea when you aren't actually pregnant...

And swimsuit season is upon us. Enough said.

Plus, I'm going to a wedding this summer where I will get to reconnect with people I haven't seen in years. I would like to look my healthy best.

But so far, my attempts to live a healthy lifestyle are not going well. I think part of the problem is that I didn't eat refined sugar during my pregnancy. I resisted temptation after temptation (from cookies to cupcakes to brownies to hot chocolate). And now I'm like that kid whose parents never let him watch TV, so when he sleeps over at a friend's house he's totally obsessed with gazing at the forbidden object.

In other words, I now eat cupcakes and ice-cream--literally one after another.

So I really need to put a stop to it. And it's not just about the physical appearance of my body (despite all those reasons above). It's also about living my healthiest life and feeling my best.

I need to revisit the intentions I set for myself:
  1. I am the kind of person who avoids drinking unnecessary calories. I save caloric drinks for special occasions and instead drink water on a daily basis (and lots of it!).
  2. I avoid processed foods and artificial sweeteners and instead opt for whole foods.
  3. I eat three smaller meals throughout the day and two healthy snacks. When I eat my snacks, I prepare a small serving--I don't eat something straight out of the bag.
  4. I avoid tempting (but disgusting) foods that pop up at work all the time (e.g., grocery store birthday cake, chips, candy, etc.).
  5. I routinely avoid fried foods and instead opt for salads or fruit as my sides when we go out to eat. I limit my intake of unhealthy restaurant food, such as chips and bread before the meal.
  6. I try to eat dessert only once or twice a week, and when I eat it, I eat a very small portion, intentionally savoring each bite.
  7. I take my son and dog for an hour-long walk at least five times a week.
  8. I go to yoga once a week.

I think my main problem has been the desserts. Oh, the desserts! I am seriously addicted to eating Amy's ice-cream and then heading over to Crave for a cupcake. Oh vey!

Since I'm breast feeding, I need to eat extra calories, but not that many extra calories!

Having a partner who loves to eat out doesn't help the situation. I need to ask Matt to help me follow through with my intentions. I also think it will help if I have a plan for my snacks. It's not good when I just head to the fridge looking for something to eat. Additionally, I should put stickers on my calendar to track my walking. It can be so easy to skip a day because it's too hot or I'm too tired. If I track my walking more closely, I'll have a better sense of how often I'm actually doing it.

Okay, I am re-inspired! It's a lifestyle, not a diet. I can do this...

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May: Reflection & Rejuvenation

I look forward to this monthly ritual of reflection. I am much more likely to follow-through with my intentions when I have this system in place for holding myself accountable.

Let's see how I did last month:
  • Savor my time with my son, Henry, despite the difficult parts: Yes! We are having lots of fun. We have weekly play dates with friends and this month we are going to start swimming!
  • Send printed photos to the grandparents, like I promised to do every month for their Christmas presents last year: I'm going to go do this right now, and then come back to finish this post...okay, DONE!
  • Study Spanish for 20 minutes every weekday (I do this while breast feeding): I did a great job for most of the month, but I've been slacking off at the end. Must re-commit to this!
  • Attend a Montessori class twice a week with Henry and learn as much as I can: Yes!
  • Actively participate in the Purposeful Conception community: Yep.
  • Make a great dish and present for my good friend's Potluck Picnic Birthday Party: Yep.
  • Continue to strengthen my partnership with Matt through each interaction and passing day: Pretty good job!
  • Figure out how to pump and store breast milk: Yes!
  • Go on a date night with Matt: Oops. I forgot about this one...
  • Continue to meet up with other new mothers frequently: Yes! Every single week.
  • Take time to be by myself and go on outings: Yep!
  • Nap! Nap! Nap!: As much as I can...
  • Send birthday cards to my friends/family: For the most part...
  • Start going to yoga once a week and running twice a week (when my midwife clears me): I have signed up for a class that starts this week. As for the running, my midwife explained that running isn't so good on the joints while breast feeding. I'm fine sticking to walking for now.
  • Finalize my book outline: Hmm...I've made progress, but it's definitely not finished.

For this upcoming month, I'm feeling the need to be gentle with myself. I can feel my ambitions starting to overshadow my abilities at the moment. Being my child's first teacher is a huge job! Plus, I'm keeping two blogs going and running an online course. I should consider those among my intentions:
  • Be the best mother and teacher I can be for my son, Henry
  • Maintain consistent posting on my two blogs
  • Advertise for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy
  • Send printed photos to the grandparents, like I promised to do every month for their Christmas presents last year
  • Study Spanish for 20 minutes every weekday (I do this while breast feeding)
  • Attend a Montessori class twice a week with Henry and learn as much as I can
  • Plan a fun potluck picnic for the next silent film at Discovery Green
  • Plan a reunion for my childbirth class
  • Pump and store enough breast milk for a night away with Matt (while my bonus mom and bonus brother stay with Henry)
  • Send birthday cards to my friends/family
  • Walk frequently and go to yoga once a week
  • Finish my book outline!
  • Finish evaluating the charter applications for the state
  • Be patient and forgiving with myself

I think that's about all I can handle (and that may be too much!).

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Monday, May 2, 2011

Book Club: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

I'm so glad we have this little book club going on! It helps hold me accountable for actually reading the book. But that's part of the problem, right? The goal is to be internally motivated and to follow-through with the promises I make to myself. Hmph!

I loved Covey's point about keeping promises to ourselves and others as an essential component of living a life of integrity and proactivity. I think I do pretty well on that front, but there's definitely room for improvement. When we trust that we will follow-through on the goals we set for ourselves, then we feel more in control of our lives. We feel like anything is possible.

Some related quotes that resonated with me:
  • "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."--Aristotle
  • "Our character, basically, is a composite of our habits. 'Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny,' the maxim goes."

The first habit of proactivity empowers me. I believe what Covey says: "It means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions."

The idea that there is a space between a stimulus and my response helps me feel more in control of my own life. Although this idea has lots of implications for how I interact with other people, I find that I apply it to myself all the time. I admit that I can't control my immediate emotional response to things, but I can control my actions in response to those emotions.

I've been working hard to live a more proactive life ever since I read the first couple chapters of this book six or seven years ago. For example, if I'm in a team meeting at school and people start complaining about something, I usually interject with the comment, "So what are we going to do about it?" If there's nothing we can do (i.e., if it's only in our "Circle of Concern"), then there's no reason to waste time and energy complaining about it. If there is something we could do about it (i.e., if it's in our "Circle of Influence"), then we should stop complaining and start making an action plan.

I can definitely improve in this area, too. I find that it's hard for me to distinguish between cathartic venting to Matt and downright dwelling in my frustrations.

I also enjoyed reading the list of reactive versus proactive language. "There's nothing I can do" versus "Let's look at our alternatives." Or "He makes me so mad" versus "I control my own feelings."

Proactivity is definitely a value I hold near and dear, and it's something I want to continue to cultivate.

The one thing that bothered me about this chapter was the lack of discussion about the ways in which privilege affects the outcomes of proactivity. Our race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, etc. can affect what happens when we exert our proactivity. The whole "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" idea is very lovely except that it ignores the U.S.'s history of oppression and the barriers that still remain.

As far as my next steps go:
  • Pay attention to the commitments that I make to myself and others and work wholeheartedly to follow through on them.
  • Look at situations through the lens of my "Circle of Concern" versus my "Circle of Influence" and respond with as much proactivity as possible.
  • Continue to work in education so that all children--regardless of the ways in which they are disadvantaged in our society--are able to internalize and apply proactivity in their own lives.

For next Monday, let's pick up right where we left off with the Begin with the End in Mind chapter. By the way, it's never too late to join us!

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