Thursday, May 31, 2012

Reflection & Rejuvenation: June

Ah, summer has arrived in Texas. We've transitioned from hiking every weekend during our family time to swimming in fresh spring water. So fun! Austin, you're growing on me.

I'm officially a month and a half pregnant, which seems crazy. Adding on the two weeks before actual conception feels weird, but that's how it's done on the 40-week calendar, so I will officially be two months pregnant on June 14. 

I intentionally set light goals for the month of May because I wanted to honor my body's needs in the first trimester. I've definitely been more tired than usual, and I try to nap every day during Henry's afternoon nap. Let's see how I did.
  • Read books! I just renewed the library books that I didn't get to last month: I did! I read a fiction book and a bunch of decorating books. I like this book about designing a family home.
  • Attend the Positive Parenting Book Club Meeting: I decided not to attend this meeting because the book didn't really resonate with me at all.
  • Finish the book I'm writing with Kylie about cooking with children in a Montessori way: Almost! And you all, it's awesome! I'm so proud of our collaboration. So, so proud.
  • Take naps as needed: Yes! This was my most successful intention this month...
  • Work through Purposeful Conception to get my mind, body, and life ready for pregnancy: I've been reading the posts every day. Some posts require me to really think through them and put in a lot of work (like the Wheel of Conception Readiness), while other topics are still in pretty good shape since the first round with Henry.
  • Move forward with purchasing land and starting to build a house: Yes! We are officially land owners! We are going to meet with the architect on Thursday. It sounds, though, like there's going to be a real back-up with the building part. There are already seven houses in the queue to be built.
So, June, you are upon us. Let me look back at my goals for the year to see what I need to schedule into this month. I also want to think about more fun, summery goals, and I need to look at some of my to-do lists that don't get looked at on a regular basis (related to preparing for the sweet baby). 

And we're off! Here are my goals for the month of June:
  • Find a regular babysitter so we can start going on date nights.
  • Switch to a less expensive car insurance.
  • Make a gift for my friend who is having a baby this month. 
  • Get outside as much as possible.
  • Promote our new book, Kids in the Kitchen: Simple Recipes that Build Confidence and Independence the Montessori Way.
  • Go on a day trip out of town inspired by the Backroads of the Texas Hill Country.
It looks like I have another light and easy month ahead of me! That feels right, given the fact that I'm still in the first trimester and it's the start of summer!

Photo Courtesy of the Nikki McClure Calendar

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Natural Deodorant Recommendation

One of the recent Purposeful Conception topics--Detoxifying Our Lives--inspired me to once again focus on natural beauty products. I was doing well a while ago, but my deodorant stopped working (so I switched back to my go-to antiperspirant with aluminum in it), and we ran out of shampoo (so I just grabbed some Burt's Bees stuff off the shelf at the grocery store and later realized it's not actually very good for me, according to the Skin Deep database).

I worry a lot about antiperspirant with aluminum in it because of the links to Alzheimer's. I'm frustrated, though, because I sweat a lot and every natural deodorant I've ever tried has failed me. Then my friend recommended this product off Etsy. I think she's on to something! I've only used it for a few days, and so far, it's working well. It's easy to apply (not as easy as a stick, but still pretty easy), and I think it does absorb moisture. It's expensive, but it seems like a little goes a long way.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Backyard Dreaming and Scheming

During our meeting with the architect, we had the chance to look at how our house will be situated on the land. It helped me realize that we will actually have quite a bit of land. Even though it's a 1/2 acre, lots of that is in the creek, and the flat part of the lot looks pretty small. But based on the survey, I think we'll have a pretty good chunk of land to work with. Before I jump into the specifics of what to do with that land, I thought it might be better to "start with the end in mind" and focus on the vision piece:
  1. We want to develop the outdoor space in a way that aligns with our lifestyle: playing with kids, eating dinner outside, relaxing/reading, growing food, etc.
  2. We don't want to put a lot of time into maintaining the aesthetic parts of our yard.
  3. We want to cultivate our yard in environmentally- and geographically-responsible ways.
Here are some of the things I'd love to put in:
  • A large deck for eating, relaxing, reading, entertaining
  • A swimming pool for nearly seven months of water fun
  • Raised beds for growing food
  • Fruit trees
  • A chicken coop
  • An herb garden
  • A fire pit
  • A grassy area for playing
  • A large fence around the perimeter so Hoss and the kids can roam freely
  • A welcoming path to the front door (maybe with native grasses taking up the whole front yard?)
Two books have been particularly helpful in guiding my thinking:
  1. The Edible Front Yard
  2. The Backyard Homestead
Despite the great guidance in the book, I'd like to meet with a landscaping guru to develop a plan (that we can implement over time). A woman was recommended to me who charges $50 to develop a vision for the site. Hopefully I can meet with her this week to talk through some stuff. 

We recently had some friends from Houston stay with us, and it's awesome to imagine what it will be like when they come visit us in our new house. We can spend the afternoon in the pool. Cook dinner together around the large island in the kitchen. Eat outside on the deck. Watch a movie on our sectional couch. Then go out and cook some S'mores around a campfire late into the evening. 


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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How to Prepare for Conception

I don't want this post to come off the wrong way. I'm going to share the things I did to get my body ready for conception, but the underlying message is NOT: "Do these things and you will get pregnant." Unfortunately, people could do all of these things and still not get pregnant, while other do none of these things and get pregnant right away. 

As someone who likes to plan and orchestrate things, I have to remind myself of this simple truth all the time: I can control the inputs, but not the outputs. 

But embracing that message doesn't stop me from working on the inputs. With Henry, there were about eight months between the time I picked up some free pregnancy and conception books at a public library sale to the time Matt and I decided we would start trying. I used that time to prepare my mind, body, and life for pregnancy. 

Here are some of the things I worked on:
  • Making sure my BMI was in the right range.
  • Scheduling a pre-conception physical with my general physician.
  • Eliminating harmful substances from my life: alcohol, medicine, caffeine, etc.
  • Eliminating toxic substances from my life: in cosmetics, cleaners, etc.
  • Learning how to track my cycle (by measuring temperature and monitoring cervical fluid) to ensure I was ovulating each month (I love this book and this book).
  • Meeting with midwives.
  • Increasing my exercise, water intake, and relaxation.
  • Eliminating unwanted commitments and stress from my life.
  • Taking prenatal vitamins religiously.
The left-hand sidebar includes a list of all the conception books I recommend.

In terms of preparing for Bambino #2, there were about two months between when I decided I was ready for a second and when we starting trying. I was in pretty good shape on my list above, except that I didn't feel physically strong. I did some running and exercising in those two months, but not as much as I would have liked. My plan is to walk for an hour every day during pregnancy and go to prenatal yoga once a week. I didn't start tracking my cycle again because I learned during my research that the best indicator of ovulation is cervical mucous. I pay attention to that indicator and can tell when I'm ovulating.

Definitely let me know if you have any questions!

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bye, Bye Pacifier

If you've been around a while, you might remember that I was torn about whether or not to introduce a pacifier into Henry's life when he was infant. The pure Montessori books recommend against it, but the only way to soothe Henry to sleep was walking (since I decided early on not to use breastfeeding to soothe, due to nipple soreness) and walking wasn't a good option for me because of my prolonged lochia. 

When he was four weeks-old, we took him to an outdoor silent film event at the park downtown, and a family near us had a son just four weeks older than Henry. While Matt wore Henry in the Moby and took laps around the park to get him to fall asleep, they gave their son a pacifier and he fell right to sleep. I was sold. We started using the pacifier at that point (since the likelihood of nipple confusion had already passed). 

When we started a "Mommy and Me" Montessori class, the teacher explained that some babies need extra sucking, and so she thinks pacifiers can be necessary and useful. Her guidance, however, was to try and limit their usage to when they're really necessary (i.e., not using them to placate a child who is bored, hungry, etc.).

When I saw two and three year-olds at Target with pacifiers, I panicked a little that we would get to that point with Henry. I worried that it would start to delay his speech, affect his mouth structure, and become an addiction. I decided that we would try to eliminate the pacifier using the techniques described in the No Cry Sleep Solution around six months. 

Ha! Six months came and went and Henry still very much needed his pacifier. We wanted to meet Henry's needs, but we did so with a very watchful eye. As much as possible, we limited its usage to naps and bedtime, and we stopped bringing it with us when we left the house. We tried to give him books or toys to keep him occupied in the car, rather than defaulting to the pacifier. 

This approach--Give the Child What S/he Needs but Look for Opportunities to Help the Child Grow into Independence--has been a common theme in our parenting. It's definitely the approach we took with sleeping and weaning. 

The hardest thing about this approach is remembering that children can change so much from day to day. It's hard to notice that they're ready for the next stage. I didn't realize that Henry was ready to stop using a pacifier. His daycare happened to mention that he had been falling asleep without using a pacifier. We stopped using it at home, and voila! Henry no longer uses a pacifier.

I'm thankful the transition was natural and happened at a young age.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Dwelling in Possibility Update: Meeting with the Architect

This morning, I suddenly re-remembered my mantra for the year: Make Dreams Happen

That's what I'm trying to do, one step at a time. With the school, we already have almost 200 families interested in enrolling their children in 2014. 

On the community front, we had to compromise our plan a little bit, but we are still forging ahead with building a house and connecting with and creating community. I put a hold request on Superbia: 31 Ways to Create Sustainable Neighborhoods. I also joined the neighborhood list-serv of our new neighborhood, and I proposed that we apply for a Keep Austin Beautiful grant to implement a community-building project in our neighborhood. I also got the e-mail address from one of the neighbors on our cul-de-sac (there are only four houses total, including our future house). The neighbor I met is a pianist, and his partner is a professor of music at UT. 

Matt and I met with the architect on Friday to talk about the modifications we want to make to the Luna plan. We are going to widen the living room/kitchen/bedroom mod by three feet. We need to hurry and find a sectional we want to buy, so we can give him the dimensions and we can make sure to design the house in a way that fits the furniture we want.

We picked out the color of the bamboo floor (it's light), the color of our kitchen cabinets (birch), and the color of our countertops (gray). We still have to pick out the color and size of the tile on the backsplash. We're also going to enlarge the master bedroom/third bedroom mod by three feet, which will allow us to fit a king-sized bed. We are lengthening the closets in every room, so we have plenty of storage, and we are adding a built-in bookshelf in the corner I was talking about last week. The exterior of the house will look like the Ford model, although we are debating between stucco and hardi-plank. We're trying to figure out how to position the pool so we still have a nice large deck (with a trellis type cover for shade). The deck will probably have large, wide steps leading into a grassy play area and the pool. The orientation of our house on the lot will be perfect for solar panels. Woo-hoo! We want to get as close to net-zero as possible.

The architect is saying it will take two months to get through the design phase and nine months to build, so it doesn't look like we'll be able to move in before the baby is due, but that's okay. We'll still be able to drive by our rental house and say, "That's the house you were born in." I'm still hoping we can expedite the process a little (e.g., I don't really think it will take two months to modify the plans because we are pretty clear about what we want). But we'll see. I'm expecting this process to take longer and cost more than we think.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

The TV Dilemma

Growing up, I watched a lot of TV. From the time I let my latch-key kid self in to the time I went to bed, the TV was pretty much blaring in the background (oh, how I loved watching Gem and Three's Company!).

At some point (about a decade ago?) I realized that I didn't want the TV to be a distraction or a focal point in my life anymore. I stopped subscribing to cable and only kept the TV around for DVD movies. And then Hulu and Netflix streaming came along, and we found ourselves watching stuff on our computers. Now we watch about two hours of TV a week.

As we raise our family, I want to make sure we keep the TV on the sidelines. It's too easy for me to get sucked into the TV, even if nothing particularly interesting is on. As we prepare to build a house and move at the beginning of next year, I want to have a plan for how we're going to handle the TV situation. I definitely want a TV (or maybe a projector and a screen?) because it's uncomfortable to watch everything on a computer. But, at the same time, I don't want the TV to be the center of our living room. 

The picture above is from a Ma Modular living room that will be very similar to ours (without the stylish people, of course). We want to have a sectional couch that faces outward toward the views of the backyard. So where do we put a TV? We can't just put a giant armoire thing in front of the sliding glass doors (even though that would be a good option for closing the TV up and keeping it out of sight). What about putting the TV in a cabinet on wheels over on the right side and rolling it to the center whenever we want to watch TV? Or what about setting up a screen and a projector every time we want to watch TV? I love the idea of making it a little bit of a hassle to watch TV (to prevent us from doing it mindlessly), but this is also our lives we're talking about. I don't want to get annoyed every time it's Friday Movie Night. 

Do any of you regularly watch TV on a screen and projector? If so, how's the quality? It seems like it would pale in comparison to watching an HDTV. However, one benefit of the projector and screen would be that we could move it outside for neighborhood movie nights on the lawn (or pool!). 

But! Replacement bulbs are really expensive...

(Just for the record, I feel pretty silly contemplating these trivial problems out loud; I just wanted to hear your insight.)

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I'm Pregnant!

So it looks like it's true! I am ecstatic and over-the-moon grateful for our luck. My heart goes out to my dear friends and lovely acquaintances who are waiting patiently for a baby to come to them. I'm thinking about you and wishing you well. 

Matt and I went from wanting only one child to wanting two children (spaced years! apart) to wanting a second child as soon as possible. Honestly, I think having two young children to take care of will push me to the very edge of my patience and capacity for nurturing, but I hope to remind myself that the days are the foundation for the years. I am honored to have the opportunity to bring two distinct beings into the world and provide them with a nurturing environment that helps them unfold into their fullest potential. 

I know it's early to be sharing the news. I want to clarify that I'm not sharing from a position of arrogance. I know that early pregnancies are fragile, and that the rate of miscarriage is dishearteningly high (I see reports of 20-30%). I know that one tiny thing could go wrong now, or later in the pregnancy, or at birth. 

If something does go wrong, I will also share it with you. I think the more we talk about miscarriage, the less isolating and lonely it might feel (as much as that's possible). As I tell people, I'm conscious of how I will also tell them if something goes wrong. For example, I would tell many of my friends via e-mail, so that I wouldn't breakdown in front of them. And, depending upon how I feel about it, I might add something like, "Please don't try to talk with me in person about this right now. I'm not quite ready. Thank you for your understanding."

In terms of preparation, Matt and I would like to attempt another homebirth, despite the fact that we had to transfer to the hospital with Henry. We've scheduled visits with different midwives to find someone who makes us extremely comfortable with her demeanor, approach, and level of expertise. 

One of the midwives we met with explained that the second pregnancy often goes by in a blur and that families don't often attend birthing classes again or slow down to savor the pregnancy. I definitely hope to be as intentional with this pregnancy as I was with Henry's. As a participant in the Purposeful Conception class, I've been brainstorming some of my intentions for the second pregnancy:
  • I want to make a more concerted effort to hang out with girlfriends in the evening without Henry or Matt. I'm missing that connection in my life.
  • I want to sign up for a photography class, so I stop using my digital camera on automatic.
  • I want to start curating furniture for the house we're building. I want to scour garage sales and second-hand shops.
  • I want to learn how to meditate.
  • I want to make more crafts. I've really fallen out of the habit since Henry was born. 
  • I want to follow my own advice for the first trimester, second trimester, and third trimester, including daily walks and naps. 
  • I want to take a hypnobirthing class.
  • I want to find a prenatal yoga class near the neighborhood we're moving to and intentionally cultivate connections with the other women in the class. 
  • Visit with a nutritionist to make sure I actively avoid a recurrence of cholestasis
  • Start going to acupuncture to support my liver function (which is related to avoiding cholestasis this time around).
Hmm...this post is reminding me of my Pregnancy Project Plan with Henry. I'm fine with not having a specific project plan; my list of next steps is perfect.

I will have to be careful about keeping everything balanced (e.g., my part-time job, publishing two books, building a house, writing a 250-page application to start a school, etc.) and to minimize stress as much as possible. I'm feeling good. I'll reference this list of intentions whenever I set my monthly goals.

P.S. According to internet calculations, the baby is due on January 14, 2013. That's eight months away! It's crazy how you're already a month pregnant by the time you can do a pregnancy test...

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rug Shopping

Rug #1

One of the benefits of having a blog is that I can spend time on Pinterest and shopping sites like Overstock and call it researching (rather than just piddling away time on the internet). 

Matt and I want to spend the next seven months buying things for our new house before we move in, so that a) we can spread out the costs over more than half a year and b) we have everything ready and in place right when we move in (since we could conceivably be moving in two weeks before the baby is due). Fortunately, we have a garage and a spare bedroom in our rental, so we have plenty of extra space for storage. 

Here are our criteria for a rug:
  • Comfortable: Now that we're living in a house with carpet again, I'm re-remembering how nice it is to hang out on the floor. I want to recreate that feeling of comfort while having bamboo floors. A nice thick carpet is the way to do that.
  • Easy to Clean: I love the shaggy rug we bought for Henry's room, but that thing is no fun to vacuum. It's not very practical.
  • Beautiful: Rugs are often the first thing to capture my attention in a room (if they are colorful or have an interesting pattern).

Here are some rugs that caught my eye.
Rug #2

Rug #3

Rug #4

The more I look at rugs, the more I realize I don't have a clue about decorating. Perhaps I should spend some of this time learning decorating techniques? That would be seriously fun! Learning new things from books is one of my hobbies. Do you have any decorating book recommendations? Perhaps I should just go to the bookstore and browse (and then see if the library system has them). That's another one of my hobbies...

In addition to our big rug, we want to get a giant sectional couch. I've never had one, but I have visions of good quality family time spent around a huge, wraparound couch. I also want to get a big ottoman instead of a coffee table. Perhaps I got the idea from John and Sherry over at Young House Love? I'm essentially describing their living room...

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Monday, May 14, 2012

When I started last week's post about our next steps related to settling into a house, I was feeling uncertain and indecisive. As I got to the end of it, I was feeling a bit more sure that buying a 1/2 acre in the neighborhood where I want to start a school was a good decision. By the time I sifted through all the comments, I was even more convinced that we should take the giant leap. 

Many of the comments, however, were pretty critical, and I wanted to take some time to address them. I don't mean to try to convince you that we're making the right decision (because you are welcome to think whatever you want to think), but I do want to take a stab at clarifying and expounding upon my thoughts a bit more. 

From the Comments Section:
I personally think that safety is a super important feeling in everyday life. It doesn't mean we should live in golden cages but I would rather live in a smaller house in a nice area than in a huge house where I feel my family is not safe in the street (because of cars, bad behavior and violence, etc.). My second thought is you might not need a bamboo floor and big windows to feel "home" and to enjoy it. Home is where your heart can expend freely.

I agree that safety is important. We'll be moving to a higher-poverty area, but the main problem is burglary. There's a lot we can do to secure our home as much as possible, including getting a security system, installing an extra-strong door that is more difficult to kick down, getting sliding glass doors with "Charlie bars" and pins to make them more secure, always locking windows and doors, and getting to know our neighbors really well. There are a lot of families with young children in the area. The truth is, much of Austin is urban. Even the more expensive neighborhoods, like Hyde Park around the university, have higher crime rates.

And, of course, we don't need bamboo floor and big windows to feel home. In our family mission statement, we have a print from Esty that says, "Wherever we are together, that is home." I wholeheartedly believe that sentiment. I'm not saying we need a light-filled house with bamboo floors; I'm saying we want it. I'm an introverted person, and I turn to my home as a sanctuary for rejuvenation and reflection. If we can afford to build a relatively small house with bamboo floors and big windows while interest rates are really low, then I feel okay giving myself permission to  pursue that "want".

Every little decision, from the AC to the door locks to the faucets, requires checking out fifteen of them, and it will always cost a ton more. I don't think you're ready for that much stress. Multiply all your charts by ten, seriously. And that's just the parts that go right.

I'm just wildly speculating on your money situation, but I'm not sure you are financially ready, and that's OK. Most people don't get to build their dream home right out of the gate. If you don't have a serious buffer, and I mean a serious buffer, I wouldn't do it yet. It would bring too much stress to your family.

We're going to build with Ma Modular. It's a one-stop shop kind of process (they helped us find the land, the foundation engineer is on-site, we will have a design meeting with the architect, etc.). It's pre-fab, so it's faster, cheaper, and more eco-friendly than traditional building. It's also a streamlined process, so we will not have to compare fifteen faucets. They have standard finishes for most things; when we have a decision, it will be between two or three things (such as the color of our cabinet tops: white, black, or gray). We've been talking with Ma Modular for almost two years now. We've already picked out the model we want, and we'll just want to customize it a little bit.

I agree that it's going to be a stressful process. There will be glitches along the way. The thing is, our lives aren't going to slow down in the foreseeable future. If we are pregnant, our family life will get crazier in the next nine months, and my work life will get crazier in the next 18 months. I would rather take on the stress now while I'm only working part-time and caring for one child. I would love to have everything in place by the time we have a second child.

As far as money goes, Matt and I made a really smart choice back in 2007 to plan a $2,000 wedding. We didn't realize at the time how much that decision would help us later on. It allowed us to hold onto (and continue to build) our savings. We primarily asked for cash gifts for wedding presents, and we deposited that money (along with a $12,000 gift from our immediate family) into the bank, and asked for a cashier's check to bring to our closing. Buying our 1,000 square-foot, 2-bedroom, 1-bath bungalow in Houston nearly wiped out all our savings. It cost $231,000, so we had to show up with a serious chunk of change to cover the down payment and the closing costs. We refinanced nearly right away to lower our interest rate from something like 6.75% to 4.75%, so our monthly payments ended up being about $900 (with about $300 more for insurance + property taxes). Paying $1,200 a month for our house ended up being equal to or less than what we would have paid in rent for a house with a yard in a centrally-located neighborhood in Houston.

We try to live pretty frugally. We don't buy a lot of shoes, clothes, books, music, new technology, etc. We continued saving money. Every time I ran a Purposeful Conception course or made money from Amazon for click-throughs from this blog, I transferred it directly into a savings account called "The Dream." When I went on maternity leave, we tried to be even more frugal, and I took on consulting jobs when I could. We had to dip into our savings a little to cover the year I stayed home with Henry. When we decided to move to Austin, we sold our house by owner, so we could save $7,000 in the seller realtor's fees. It was extra work on my part, but I considered it to be a "job" while I was on maternity leave.

Because we chose a desirable neighborhood in Houston and because the economy wasn't hit too hard in Houston, we were able to sell our house for $20,000 more than we paid for it 3.5 years earlier.

Building a new house will definitely stretch us. We've been talking with a mortgage person, and he has given us a detailed, conservative estimate of what we will need to pay for our lot loan, construction loan, and final mortgage payment. We're building a modest 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom, 1,600-square foot house. Based on his estimates, we have enough money in our savings to cover it, and our mortgage payments will eventually be $1,046 (not including insurance or property taxes). Again, this is less than we are paying in rent right now (and we live pretty far south of town, which is a less expensive area of Austin).

Once we get past the initial tight pinch, we be in a very good place to save up lots of money for vacations, retirement, a swimming pool, etc. If we ever go back down to one income (due to job loss, going back to school, etc.), we will be able to cover our mortgage payment and our living expenses (it will be tight, but definitely possible).

I share all of this for a couple reasons: 1) I think it's important to talk candidly about personal financial management (my inspiration is Kelsey!). 2) We've put a lot of thought into whether we can take on this financial challenge. I'm particularly motivated to do it now while the interest rates are so incredibly low.

Why do you have to have a new home and not re-model a pre-existing one? Isn't the latter far more environmentally sound? Doesn't it bring less gentrification? Is a really nice house in a less nice area a shiny beacon for crime?

Honestly, I am very overwhelmed by the remodeling process. I've watched bloggers I respect--like Kelly Rae and John and Sherry do it--and it doesn't appeal to me. If you're not living in the home while you're remodeling it, then you've got to pay two mortgage payments at once. If you are living there, then you've got to deal with the stress of the environment and the potential toxicity. Also, you've got to have good vision. You have to be able to walk into a home and sense whether or not it has "good bones." I am not good at seeing through wallpaper and walls to sense whether something has the potential to feel light and airy after a remodel.

I wish I wanted to remodel because it is more environmentally responsible; it's just not who I am and I have to be honest about that.

In terms of gentrification, it's definitely another thing that weighs on my heart. It's a major issue in East Austin. We're not just moving there because the land is cheaper; we've moving there because we both work on the east side, and we want to build community there.

Our house won't be a "really nice house in a less nice area." First, the neighborhood is well-established and kept up (even thought though there are pockets of poverty all around). Second, our house will have a modest exterior. It will kind of look the like a modern version of the other ranch houses in the neighborhood. And, actually, it will be one of the smaller houses in the neighborhood. Most of the houses are about 2,000+ square feet. 

Don't forget that the more time you spend focusing on the future, the less time your are living in the present.

I definitely need to work on being more present, and I'm in the process of signing up for meditation. But, at the same time, planning is one of my hobbies. I enjoy planning things and then experiencing them. It's like double pleasure for me.

I think the trick is that when things are right, your excitement about the current opportunity should overwhelm any fears and anxiety about what you are saying no to. When you became an educator, you said no to a lot of things, when you married Matt, you said no to the possibility of other people, when you had a baby, you said no to a different kind of life and, yet, hopefully, these decisions have for the most part brought you joy. I think if something is right, you will find excitement in the possibilities opening to you and that should be strong enough to cool the doubts about the doors that are closing. I hope you figure out what will bring you joy! And don't forget not to put too much pressure on it - there is very little in life that cannot be modified or changed down the road - and sometimes there is no absolute right or wrong choice, as long as you are at peace with it.

Thank you! 

I can tell you that the second child adds a SIGNIFICANT layer of complication. You will be on man-to-man defense; realistically, there is very little free time. And Henry will get more and more challenging and will test your patience in ways you can only now imagine. If you think you have little free time now, well, you have more than you WILL have.

I agree; that's why I want to get the housing piece out of the way before we have a second child. 

I'm sad to hear your blog won't be a place to turn to for updates on the extensive and difficult (but also collaborative, collective, and community-building) process that I imagine starting a pocket neighborhood would be. The real estate market is structured in a way where it incentives nuclear family-centered housing (as the challenges you faced in trying to start a pocket neighborhood can attest to). And yet it seems worth striving for alternative models that work against that, to expand how we think of "family", "community", and "neighbors". 

Yes, Nora, I'm sad, too. But I'm being realistic about what has happened to the co-housing movement in Austin. I am friends with a woman who has been working on it from the very beginning. They were so close to making it happen (they had the land, the plans, the people, etc.), and it still didn't work. She finally had to buy a house in a regular neighborhood because her trailer was breaking down and she just didn't see the group getting any traction in the foreseeable future.

It is extremely difficult to find people who a) want to live in community b) want to live in the same part of town c) have money to buy/build and d) have the exact same timeline. We found the most awesome family who met all those criteria, and we still couldn't make it work with them.

I'm not giving up the idea of community at all. We'll be living at the end of a little cul-de-sac, and I've already introduced myself to the two other houses there. Plus, there's a plot of land for sale right next to us. I'm just going to be building community in other ways.

At the end of the day, I want us to feel settled as a family and to put down serious roots. Our son is 14 months-old, and he has already lived in two houses. I don't want us to continue renting in South Austin, make a ton of connections here, and then move closer to our work in East Austin. I want to hurry and move into a sanctuary of a home and start building connections for the long haul. I'd like to be able to tell our second child: "This is the house you were born in."

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Final Thoughts on Weaning

We're officially done with breastfeeding! Henry just hit the 14-month mark and I decided it was time to close up shop. I decided to stop breastfeeding for a couple reasons:
  1. In the Montessori tradition, children typically wean themselves between 10 and 14 months, so I had that timeline in the back of my mind. Weaning is considered to be a hugely important transition into more independence.
  2. I might be pregnant, and, if I am, I feel like it would be too taxing on my body to grow a new being, make milk for another being, and sustain myself. I know women do it all the time; it's just not a choice I want to make for myself.
A friend of mine asked, "Don't you just want to let Henry decide for himself when he's done?" While I respect that philosophy and try to "follow the child" as much as I can, it felt like the right time for us (given the two reasons enumerated above). I've been cutting out feedings slowly over time. Since this post, we've gone from three feedings (morning, afternoon, night) to two (morning and night) to one (just morning). Now when we wake up, Matt takes Henry straight to the kitchen for his breakfast. I miss that sweet morning cuddle time in bed (especially because Henry isn't much of a cuddler otherwise). I miss the feeling of his chilled feet warming up between legs and his little hand curled around my thumb. That boy sure does love his mama's milk! 

We've decided not to give Henry straight cow's milk in a glass. He had trouble digesting milk protein early on (via my breastmilk), and it just doesn't seem necessary to subject his system to the harsher proteins when he can get the same fat and calcium from milk products like yogurt and cheese (whose proteins are broken down further). I have a list of dietary recommendations from our pediatrician, and it says he should get four servings daily of "whole milk and whole milk products" (4-6 ounces of milk/yogurt and 1/3 ounce of cheese). The kids loves to eat; I'm sure we can get enough nutrients into his system.

I don't want to veer too far down Practical Lane before stepping back and acknowledging what a wonderful, amazing, rewarding, and challenging experience breastfeeding has been for more than a year of my life. Perhaps a little letter is in order?

Dear Body and New Mother Self,

You did it! Remember when you weren't so sure you would make it to the year mark? Remember when you wished you enjoyed pumping so you could stock up and just feed him frozen milk for the last three months of the year? That's because breastfeeding was difficult. In those early days Henry wanted to eat for a total of five or more hours a day. Wow. Once he even ate for nine hours. You needed two hands to breastfeed, so you couldn't even read or click around on the internet. And you had to be there every three hours. And in the middle of the night, Matt could change his diaper, but you had to be there to nurture that little one. 

You faced searing pain, tears, engorgement, plugged ducts, endless lanolin applications, boxes of nursing pads, nipple tenderness, and discomfort.

I hope you fully acknowledge the sacrifices you made for Henry Jones (while simultaneously thanking the Universe for being given the opportunity to breastfeed him). You helped that little boy build up his body, his immunity, his attachment, and his trust in the world.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Waiting Game: Am I Pregnant?

The week before last, I felt totally pregnant. I felt just like I did right after we conceived Henry: bloated, weird flutter things, general crampiness--stuff like that. Last week and this week, not so much. I took a pregnancy test that we had lying around, and it was negative. I didn't expect it to be positive (even though I think I'm pregnant) because I took it so early. 

So now we wait. We wait until it makes sense to take a pregnancy test again. On the one hand, I was so convinced I felt pregnant two weeks ago (and last week I wanted to take a nap nearly every afternoon). On the other hand, it would be out-of-this world unbelievable if we were able to get pregnant on our first try for two consecutive children. I'm not sure I can wrap my brain around just how crazy that would be.

The prospect of deciding to get pregnant, trying, and then getting pregnant quickly has given me a false sense of being able to control this process. I need to take this opportunity to remind myself that we cannot control getting pregnant, carrying the baby to term, safely delivering the baby, and growing the baby into a healthy adult. We can do our very best to control the inputs--we can do everything within our control to create the most nurturing environment for these things to happen--but we ultimately can't control whether or not they happen. Life is a fragile gift, and we must appreciate it deeply.

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Indecision & Uncertainty

Matt and I need to make a firm decision about the property/house situation. We've extended our option period three times (which means we would lose $200 if we backed out). We've also already paid about $1,300 for a soil sample. We're definitely on the path toward purchasing land and building a house, but I am overwhelmed with indecision. 

I think part of the problem is the relative permanence of this decision. We would essentially be building one of the most expensive houses in the neighborhood, which is never a good financial move. If anything happened (e.g., my school didn't receive permission from the state to open, the school location ends up not being in the neighborhood I thought it would be, we feel too unsafe in the neighborhood, etc.), then it would be pretty difficult to sell our house quickly without losing a significant amount of money. 

On the other hand, if we scrap this vision, I want to have a clear vision of what we're working toward. Are we going to spend a couple years renting and saving up money to purchase a more expensive house near the greenbelt or river trail? Would the daily commute up and down I-35 drive us mad?

Have we even been in Austin long enough to form an opinion about the best place for us to live in terms of building community, feeling safe, minimizing our commute to work, locating ourselves near our recreational preferences, and finding something we can afford?

Am I simply feeling insecure because this step would take so much courage? I would basically be saying: "I am starting a school here. I am putting down roots in this community. We are raising our family here. We are committed to this place and this community." 

Or am I insecure about the finances? A little life might be sprouting within me, which means we are looking at thousands of dollars in medical care (we want to do another home birth with midwife + doula), plus thousands of dollars in additional daycare fees for a second child, plus we just wrote a $10,900 check for Henry's ten months of Montessori school starting this August (which does not factor in his daycare fees for the rest of the summer or the fees for summer daycare the following summer). Oy vey. 

I try to engage Matt in this overwhelming decision, but he's growing weary of the round and round discussion of all the pros and cons. He says he's adaptable and amenable to pretty much any option. We spent some time this weekend exploring other options for ourselves. We found a 3.2-acre horse farm with a pre-existing house that backs up to a golf course and state park for only $230,000 (which includes two horses). That caught our attention, but I ultimately think we would feel lonely out there, unless we could subdivide the land and invite other people to build out there, too. We also scoured dozes of photos of houses closer in town, but we weren't impressed by much of what we saw (since we have our minds stuck on a wide, open house with lots of natural light). 

What's the story we want to be able to tell about our lives a year from now? 

We live in a modern, light-filled home with bamboo floors and glass everywhere that overlooks greenery. We have two chickens, a bloodhound, and two kids. We have a giant sectional couch, and we spend our time gathered around as a family. We're saving up money to build a small pool in our backyard. I'm opening a school in a year and a half, and it will be an 8-minute commute from our house. Matt is only 5.5 miles away from his office. Lots of families from the neighborhood are signed up to enroll in the school. We are friends with other young families. We are in the process of planning neighborhood events to build community and connection. We can walk to the park, which has tons of shade, tennis courts, and a creek running through it. On the weekends, it's a 20-minute car ride to the trails around the lake or to a greenbelt for hiking. We're only ten minutes away from downtown. 

There are other compelling stories we could write for our family, but I'm not sure if they would have all the requisite components. We could live in a safer neighborhood, but then we wouldn't be able to build our own home (the land would be too expensive), and we would have to commute farther to school and work every day. We could move to a cabin in Vermont, but then Henry wouldn't get the kind of public Montessori education we want him to have, and I would seriously suffer from Seasonally Affective Disorder.

I'm starting to realize that committing to a vision is hard because I am essentially saying no to all the alternate visions that I would also enjoy. By deciding to open a school in Austin, I am essentially saying no to all the other cities and countries out there. It also means that we are saying no to formal co-housing, which does not yet exist in Austin. By trying to minimize my commute, I am saying no to rural living. I am saying no to part-time work. I am saying no to working from home and enjoying a flexible schedule. I am saying no to relaxed evenings at home.

That's a lot to say no to!

But I have to remind myself that I am saying yes to meaningful and purposeful work. I am saying yes to committing to children for eleven years at a time (the school will be preK-3 through 8th grade). I am saying yes to building a team of smart, passionate educators. I am saying yes to creating a home that feels like a sanctuary in a neighborhood that has a lot of opportunity for connection and community. I am saying yes to three seasons outside (and one season in the pool). I am saying yes to weekend hikes and hidden creeks. I am saying yes to outdoor music concerts held at local farms. I am saying yes to an over-abundance of dog-friendly restaurants. 

And there's still time for other visions to take shape, too. This might be the vision for the next 20 years and then it might be time to form a new vision (on a lake?).

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dwelling in Possibility: Tricking My Internal Critic

There are definitely moments when my big dreams feel overwhelming and nearly impossible (more than I care to admit!). My internal dialogue goes something like: "What do you think you're doing? Who do you think you are to [insert any one of my goals, such as write a book, start a school, or build a community]? You seriously think this will work?"

In those moments, I usually try to go to bed and hope to wake up feeling more refreshed in the morning, or, if it's way to early in the evening to go to bed without seeming seriously depressed, I watch some Hulu or read a book.

Once I wake up, I try to sit down and translate my big, hairy, audacious goals into bite-sized action items. "Go online to place a hold request on How to Form a Nonprofit Corporation" is a lot more manageable than "Start a nonprofit." I know I can go online and place a hold request. Even my internal critic knows that I can go online and place a hold request. The trick is to string together enough of these smaller, manageable action items so that I'm able to gain real momentum without making my Internal Critic take notice.

Once I've made serious headway along the path toward a particular goal, it starts to feel much more real and doable. It becomes increasingly easier to take even more steps along the path. I've just got to get over those initial hurdles and those initial doubts.

Photo from the Magnolia Montessori For All Earth Day booth (we are now up to 127 interested families!)

REMINDER: The last Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy starts May 7. Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

New Montessori Toy

Henry is finally walking! I will not lie; I was a little worried that he still wouldn't be walking by the 16-month mark and we would have to take him to occupational therapy (per our pediatrician's warning). He started at about 13 months and is now pretty steady at 14 months. 

We worked really hard to let him develop his movement naturally from birth. He spent a lot of time lying on his back or stomach on his movement mat, looking at mobiles, gazing at himself in the mirror, or looking at black-and-white books (instead of hanging out in infant seats or swings). He started rolling over both ways at three months, so that he could move around the room and it seemed like he was going to be advanced in his development. He started "army crawling" at five months, so that he could get to Hoss. But after that, he either hit the milestones on time or late. He had no interest in sitting up (he only wanted to reach for things, not sit and look at things), and he only recently started walking. He was much faster at crawling up on his hands and feet, so I don't think he was interested in the slow, laborious process of walking. 

I don't mean to sound like a crazy, alarmist mom; I'm just being honest about the worries I felt as Henry's younger peers starting walking before he did. In those moments, I tried to talk myself down from the ledge by reminding myself that Henry was advanced in other ways. I also reminded myself that a trained Montessori teacher once told me that Montessori babies tend to take longer to learn how to walk because the environment is designed so well to meet their needs that they have little incentive to learn how to walk.

And then I reminded myself that I was wasting valuable time worrying about such inane things. Kids advance at their own pace in their own time. (But I also have to confess that a friend and I recently made our babies watch this video to determine whether or not they have autism during a playdate.) 

Okay, I am officially a crazy mother.

On the bright side of Henry's delayed walking: it's meant that he's been using his expensive walker wagon for many, many, many months. I'm really glad we invested in such a sturdy, beautiful piece of equipment. He's been able to pull up on it independently from the beginning without it tipping over.

We also recently bought him a Wheely Bug. It's the most adorable thing. He loves playing with the antennae, flipping it over and spinning the wheels, pushing it all around the house, sitting on it, and now trying to lift it and carry it as he walks. I was delighted to see that my dear friend Kylie (all the way across the globe) also has one for her son Otis. There are many animals to choose from; it's difficult picking just one!

REMINDER: The last Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy starts May 7. Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Reflection & Rejuvenation: May

Oh, wow. I was honestly afraid to look back at my intentions for last month because I didn't do a good job of keeping them at the forefront of my attention this month. But it turns out it's not as terrible as I thought.
  • Read Good to Great as my professional development book this month: No.
  • Work on the book I'm writing with Kylie about cooking with children in a Montessori way: Yes!
  • Work on charter school application: Yes!
  • Participate in Austin Earth Day event: Yes!
  • Design marketing materials for Magnolia Montessori For All: I've been trying to meet with a graphic designer. We finally have a meeting this week.
  • Submit Form 1023 to become a tax-exempt nonprofit organization: Yes! This was huge!
  • Read either Every Last Cuckoo or Charms for the Easy Life. I need to start reading fiction again! Oops, no.
  • Organize the garage: Yes!
If I am pregnant, I'm really going to have to slow down in the first trimester. I'll have to find that balance of moving forward on key projects, while making space in my life to rest. I think I need to keep it to the bare minimum this month...
  • Read books! I just renewed the library books that I didn't get to last month
  • Attend the Positive Parenting Book Club Meeting
  • Finish the book I'm writing with Kylie about cooking with children in a Montessori way
  • Take naps as needed
  • Work through Purposeful Conception to get my mind, body, and life ready for pregnancy
  • Move forward with purchasing land and starting to build a house
As I sit here typing this reflection, I'm taking deep breaths all the way into my belly. I got into the habit when I was trying to prepare my body for conception before Henry (as a way to de-stress), but I've fallen out of the habit post-natal, since I'm conscious about my belly. It feels so good to be doing it again.

Photo Courtesy of the Nikki McClure Calendar

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