Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Henry Feeding the Dog: 16 Months

I promised one of Henry's great-grandmothers that I would send along a video of him feeding Hoss. I thought I should share it in this space, too.

I'm so thankful I found the Montessori approach to parenting and education. It makes so much sense to me. I can see Henry's confidence and sense of self growing every single day.

And did you see Meg's mention of our little book over at Sew Liberated? I'm tickled pink by her kind words. I'm a huge fan of hers.

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Recommendation: Bringing Up Bebe

I'm having so much fun reading Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. The truth is, I could probably read a critique of the book and agree with many of its points (the author is a bit self-centered, much of her evidence is anecdotal, etc.). But I still enjoy reading it! Many of the ideas (regardless of whether they're anecdotal or gross generalizations or whatever) resonate with me. 

For example, I'm intrigued by the idea of "The Pause," which is the phrase the author coins for a common strategy used by French parents to get their babies to sleep through the night--on average--much earlier than the average American parents.

Many of the ideas sound similar to the Montessori approach, such as establishing clear limits and then giving children immense freedom within those limits. 

While reading the book, I have several different responses:
  1. Wow! I'm already doing that! I'm going to keep it up!
  2. Ooh, that makes sense. I'm going to work on that.
  3. Ugh, I really don't want to raise my child that way.
Things that fall into the third category for me include the general French resistance to breastfeeding, and the speed with which French parents return to work after welcoming babies into their families.  

At every turn, I find myself analyzing my own parenting philosophy and generating next steps. I definitely recommend it! I added it to my list of recommended parenting books in the left-hand sidebar of this blog.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Installing a Safer Deadbolt

I belong to a couple different neighborhood list-servs, so I can get to know Austin better. On one of the list-servs, a woman talked about how her door had been kicked in (in the middle of the night while she and her children were sleeping). The thief was trying to grab the TV and run. Fortunately, her alarm (and her shouting) scared him off.

In response to the story, a fellow neighborhood mentioned a really effective deadbolt, called the Medeco Maxum 11WC60L. According to this article in Consumer Reports, it's one of the best. I find the price to be reasonable, too.  

I definitely plan to get this lock installed when we're getting our new house built. We're working with the architect to figure out how we can bring the cost down. Then we have to submit the budget to the bank for a construction loan. Hopefully it will all come together quickly and we can start building! 

REMINDER: The next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy starts July 30. Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Halloween in July

 Love this hat!

No doubt this post will make some of your eyes roll back in your head. But, for me, if I'm going to execute a handmade Halloween costume, I have to start planning it in July. And, for the record, it's almost August.

I'm eager for Henry to be able to communicate to us what he wants to be for Halloween. A friend of mine let her four year-old make a list of everything she wanted to be for several weeks (of course it kept changing), but she gave her a deadline. When the deadline came, she had to pick something off her list and stick with it. 

I did realize this is probably the last year we'll get to pick for Henry, so the thought passed through my mind that maybe we should make him dress up in something really cute that coordinates with a "family costume." But then I forced myself to remember that he's his own person and should get to let his own preferences and tastes dictate his costume. 

Matt and I spent approximately 30 seconds brainstorming responses to: "What is Henry's favorite thing?" We already did Hoss last year, so the second runner up was....

[insert drum roll....]


Yeah, I know it's not very climactic. It is what it is. The kid loves grapes. He stuffs them by the handful into those sweet cheeks of his. 

I know it would be much cheaper to go the balloon route, but it doesn't seem wise to put a toddler in a suit of balloons. I already traumatized the kid with a pinata on his first birthday; I don't need to ruin balloons for him, too. 

The only non-balloon costume I can find for inspiration is the one below:

It's not nearly as cute as the balloon versions. I wonder if I could make the grapes bigger and stuff them with stuffing. Do you think it would be too heavy for a 26-pound kid?

Or any other ideas?

REMINDER: The next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy starts July 30. Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Kind of Life We Want to Live

Building a family house is a big step for Matt and me. In order to recoup the money we're putting into it, we're going to have to live there as long as possible. We may possibly stay there for Henry's entire childhood. 

It's weird to think about our lives like that. It's weird to realize that Henry's entire childhood is going to fly by and, before we know it, he'll be an adult who is leaving the nest.

Thinking like this has definitely made me devote a few spare moments to brainstorming the kind of lives we want for our family. Here are some things that come to mind (this list includes Matt's ideas, too):
  • We want to have friends over for get-togethers a lot. We want to swim in the pool, hang out around the fire pit, and cook together around the giant kitchen island.
  • We want to have family rituals like pizza + movie night on Fridays (curled up on a gigantic sectional) and breakfast making on Saturday or Sunday morning. 
  • We want to take full advantage of Austin's nature: hiking, biking, kayaking, and swimming.
  • We want to honor our need for creativity: sewing, crafting, building, etc.
  • We also want to honor our need for quiet: reading, napping, writing, etc.
  • We want to do quick weekend trips to fun cities across the United States, so Matt can run races and the rest of the family can support him and take in the sights at a new place (we'll track these on our family map).
  • We want to go on an extended vacation every year.
  • And games! I can't forget games. We want to play lots of games.
Some of these ideas were included in our Family Mission Statement, but these things are more specific. I have to be careful not to spend so much time in the future that I'm not actually living life now. Some of these things will just be so much better when Henry is older. Plus, some of them require money that we just don't have right now. We'll be in a much better place when I'm working full-time again.

In the meantime, it's fun to think about!

REMINDER: The next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy starts July 30. Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

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Monday, July 23, 2012

An Easy Way to Help

How about a 30-second way to do a good deed today?

Step One: 
Step Two:
  • Find the Facebook "Like" button at the top
 Step Three:
  • Click it.
Voila! Good karma coming your way! 

(Fine Print: I apologize for stretching the concepts of "good deeds" and "karma" to fit this tiny little request. It really would mean a lot to me. Thank you in advance for your help!)

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A Call to Action

Did you already buy a copy of the book? If so, thank you! I am doing a little twirl and curtsy in your honor.

If you aren't able to buy the book (I understand the bane of budgets) but still want to help, please consider spreading the word among your networks. I'll take a stab at drafting some sample text to make it easier on you:

  • Check out this book my friend just published about cooking with young children to help them develop independence and confidence in a Montessori way. All proceeds go toward starting public Montessori schools in diverse communities nationwide. http://www.amazon.com/Kids-Kitchen-Independence-Confidence-Montessori/dp/1477542043/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1342926494&sr=8-1&keywords=kids+in+the+kitchen+montessori
  • Hi Friends, I hope this message finds you well! I just wanted to take a second to share an interesting book with you. My friend just published a step-by-step guide to cooking with young children to help them develop independence and confidence in a Montessori way. All proceeds go toward starting public Montessori schools in diverse communities nationwide via an organization called Montessori For All. 
  • http://www.amazon.com/Kids-Kitchen-Independence-Confidence-Montessori/dp/1477542043/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1342926494&sr=8-1&keywords=kids+in+the+kitchen+montessori
  • http://montessoriforall.org
With just five minutes of help, you could make a huge difference in this dream of mine. I look forward to returning the favor! 

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Setting Up a Kid-Friendly Kitchen

I was getting ready to purchase this tracking toy that helps indirectly prepare children for reading (since they follow the balls or cars from top to bottom, left to right--well, preparation for languages that follow that structure). But since Matt and I are desperately trying to save money for the house we're trying to build, I asked myself if Henry really, really needs it. 

I recently bought him several other wooden toys, and he definitely enjoys playing with them. However, he doesn't gravitate toward them, even though they are easily accessible on low shelves. Instead, he wants to interact with new things that he finds in the environment--a box, a magazine, our shoes, etc. He also enjoys spending time outside, just freely exploring the backyard (although the mosquitoes are preventing us from doing much of that lately). Further, he very much enjoys being asked to do things. We ask him to feed Hoss, put away Hoss's leash after walks, hang up his jackets (which he likes to pull off his child-sized coat rack), push his chair back under the weaning table. It's clear that our little boy is entering the Practical Life stage. 

So instead of getting him another new toy, I decided to start making our kitchen more kid-friendly. He already has a Learning Tower and a cabinet dedicated to his stuff, including a child-sized colander that I found on sale at one of those discount home goods store.

For ideas about what to do next, I went straight to a proof copy of the book Kylie and I recently published--Kids in the Kitchen: Simple Recipes That Build Independence and Confidence the Montessori Way. I needed to consult the section about How to Set Up the Kitchen (Kylie wrote it). The section includes a checklist of items with which to stock your kitchen. Since we can't afford to buy everything right now, I decided to flip to the Skills section to figure out the order in which I should introduce each activity (and see which equipment was required).

I decided to order a child-sized pitcher, spreader, mixing spoon, and tongs from Montessori Services. I'm eager for them to arrive so we can get busy!

PURCHASE NOW: Today's our big push to increase our sales on Amazon. Please support educational reform by purchasing our book. All proceeds will be donated to Montessori For All to help more children in diverse communities nationwide have access to a public Montessori education.

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Dwelling in Possibility: Action Requested

I write a lot of posts about dreaming big and making it happen for a few different reasons:
  1. I love Mary Oliver's question: "What will you do with your one wild and precious life?" Life is too short to dread getting out of bed in the morning or to spend all your time complaining about all the things that are going wrong. Each day affords us the opportunity to uncover and move closer toward our most authentic selves. I hope that by sustaining a dialogue about dreaming, planning, and then doing I can help at least one other person make their dreams happen. 
  2. Writing about my goals and my processes in a public forum holds me more accountable. If I talk about doing stuff in a very public space, then I'm more likely to actually do it. 
  3. Sharing my dreams and action steps (and insecurities!) in this space helps me cultivate a community of support. I can turn to you for guidance, wisdom, commiseration--the list goes on! 
It is in that spirit that I turn to you now, my Community of Support. Our book is making its debut on Amazon, and I would be beyond the moon if you could support the nonprofit organization I'm starting (Montessori For All) by purchasing a copy. Kylie (co-author), Angie (designer), and I (co-author) volunteered countless hours, days, weeks, and months to this project. We wanted all of the proceeds from the book's sale to go directly to Montessori For All.

Even if you don't have young children (yet or ever), this book would make a great gift for birthdays, Christmas, Hanukkah, etc. Think about how far ahead you'll be if you start ordering presents now!

With just a few clicks, you can help education in our country focus more holistically on our children's minds, hearts, and bodies--rather than just their ability to bubble in answers on reading and math tests. 

Thank you--in advance--for your support and your belief in possibility. 

And check back all day long for related posts!

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Getting Healthy

I'm not the kind of person who believes "everything happens for a reason," but I do believe everything that happens eventually leads to good things as well as bad things. 

When I found out our baby was dead, I wracked my brain trying to think of some of the good things that might be in store for us because of this sad event. It was difficult to do. In all my thinking, all I could come up with is:
  • Suffering a miscarriage meant that I was no longer pregnant and could therefore eat junk food without worrying about cholestasis or my baby's healthy development during my two-week vacation. I ate lots and lots of ice-cream and French fries. 
  • If I'm able to get pregnant and sustain a pregnancy again, it will mean that Henry and the second baby are farther apart in age. The older Henry is, the more independent he will be and the easier it will be to welcome another child into our lives.
  • I won't have to go on maternity leave any time soon, which means we can save up more money for the house we're building.
That's all I've got for now! It was a difficult process, for sure.

After two weeks of eating junk food, I feel disgusting (although it was very comforting in the moment). Plus, I'm ready to look forward and put my energy into getting ready to try and conceive again. I'm eagerly awaiting the start of the next Purposeful Conception course. In the meantime, I'm going to do this two-day detox.

It's not one of the detox diets that makes you starve yourself so you can lose a whole bunch of weight really fast. It's legitimately a two-day cleanse that helps flush toxins out of your body and helps support the proper functioning of all the organs related to removing harmful substances from your body. 

I also signed up for three months of Weight Watchers for $57. I really like their approach to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. They help me develop a more accurate perspective about how much food I can eat to maintain or lose weight. They also help me figure out how much exercise translates into being able to increase my food intake. I think three months will be a good amount of time to help me recalibrate my eating habits. 

I'll let you know how it goes!

REMINDER: The next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy starts July 30. Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Henry and the Banana

Kylie wrote the nicest post about our book collaboration yesterday (well, I'm not really sure which day it was, since the time difference between the United States and Australia is pretty discombobulating to me).

Then in her most recent post, she linked to a video of Henry peeling a banana. Coincidentally, I had just filmed a new video of him peeling a banana. His independence is growing every day. It's the sweetest thing to watch. 

I took Henry out to lunch for some Ethiopian food with colleagues today. One of my friend's said, "Henry seems so independent and comfortable." I explained that it's probably because we implement Montessori in the home. Another friend said, "It's probably because of who his parents are." 

But honestly, who we are as parents can't be separated from the Montessori method. The Montessori principles shape our overarching approach to life with Henry. We know that we should try not to do things for him that he can do for himself, and we know that involving him in the practical life activities of our home is very important at this age. Just today, he put his diapers in the pail, carried his snack plate of grapes and cheese cubes to his weaning table (well, he made it halfway there before stopping to eat a grape), he helped Matt carry the compost bucket, he put away Hoss's leash after our evening walk, and he fed Hoss. He seems to love doing these things. I think it helps him develop in all the right ways (fine-motor skills, coordination, problem-solving, critical thinking, gross motor skills), and I think it helps him feel important and useful. It feels like we're helping him build the strongest possible foundation of confidence and self-worth. I am so eager for him to start attending an AMI-credentialed Montessori school in August.

In the meantime, I need to order some kid-sized kitchen equipment, so I can start teaching Henry the skills in our book.

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Dreaming Big: A Strategy for Starting Small

The other day, I created a Google Form to solicit information for our Staff Directory. I asked the basic questions (name, birthday, address, phone number, etc.) but then decided to include more personal questions, since we're all new to the organization. I asked "What's something no one would ever suspect about you?" (My answer involved something about thinking I had prostate cancer when I was in the 7th grade.). I also asked the standard, "What are three adjectives that describe you?" One of my adjectives was "willing to dream big and do something about it." 

It was interesting to me that my adjectives have changed over the years. In college, one of my adjectives was always "cerebral." Now I consider myself more practical than cerebral, although I am still over-analytical. 

Also, I feel like I've become a dreamer/doer just in the last decade. I think part of this can be attributed to learning more about setting and achieving big goals, primarily through my work with Teach For America, and the strategies I learned as a teacher using Understanding by Design. I also think I picked up a lot of time management and personal organization techniques over the years that have really helped me be more effective. 

It wasn't until I read a snippet in O Magazine the other week that I realized there might be another reason I now feel more and more comfortable dreaming big. The snippet talked about the importance of setting and achieving small goals, in order to increase your confidence. It's such a simple--yet revolutionary--strategy. When I look back on it, I realized that I totally practiced on smaller goals (for an entire decade!) before I felt comfortable undertaking larger goals, like starting Austin's first public Montessori school

For example, in 2004, I put together an elaborate superhero costume for Halloween. My friend Jamie and I made and passed out lunches for homeless people and then campaigned for a democratic congressman. We had so much fun planning and executing that experience!

Then in 2005, I planned a big birthday party for myself. It involved pulling together a planning committee (seriously!). I made an agenda for our meeting and everything. We had t-shirts printed, I made a Random Acts of Kindness scavenger hunt, we had two live bands play, and we passed out CDs with music related to kindness.

Later that year, I planned and saved for a year-long sabbatical, so I could travel to India, take classes at a folk art school, and learn how to make hammocks and tofu at an intentional community.

I'm realizing now that each of these goals helped me build my confidence. It helped me trust that I could set a goal for myself, backwards-plan all the smaller steps needed to reach the goal, and then work relentlessly to achieve the goal.

It's not magic at all. Like anything, it's practice, practice, practice.

P.S. Meghan, I'm still waiting to hear an update about your dreaming and scheming. With chart paper, no less!

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Declaring E-mail Bankruptcy

My dear friend Maia just published a book (can I toot my own horn and say I'm featured in it?) called The Together Teacher: Plan Ahead, Get Organized, and Save Time!. One of the things she talks about is e-mail management, and it reminded me that I am failing terribly with my e-mail management strategy these days (or lack thereof).

Here's my current strategy: 
  • Read e-mails (on my phone or computer)
  • Sometimes respond right away, sometimes not
  • Leave e-mails sitting in my inbox to wait for a response (even if they just need to be deleted)
Letting e-mails sit in my inbox waiting for a response (or waiting to be deleted) has resulted in an inbox with a whopping 6,593 e-mail messages (I just deleted one of them, so now I'm down to 6,592). 

Wow, that's embarrassing to admit. (And I'm really sorry if your message is one of them and I never got to it!). 

I need to reclaim my inbox once and for all. 

Step One: E-mail Bankruptcy
  • I am declaring what Maia refers to as "E-mail bankruptcy." But instead of deleting all the messages, I'm going to archive them in a folder called "Archive." That way, I can still search for something I need. (G-mail actually has a neat button for this, but I prefer Yahoo! because I can have several messages open at once and toggle between them.)
Step Two: Effective Inbox Management
  • I will still let myself read e-mail on my phone, but I will promise to delete it right away if it's not something I want. 
  • If it's an e-mail digest, I will move it right away to a folder entitled "To Read"  to help keep my inbox clear. I can go to that folder and read stuff when I have time.
  • If the message requires two minutes of action or less, I will take care of it as soon as I'm in front of my computer. 
  • If the message requires significant action, I will record it on my to-do list and move it to a folder entitled "Action Plan." That way, it's on my to-do list and won't just get buried under more recent messages.
Step Three: Daily Maintenance
  • At the end of every day, I should have an entirely empty e-mail inbox. I will have deleted messages I don't want, moved messages I can read at my own leisure to a folder, responded to quick messages, and made a note to follow-up on longer messages at a later date.
I'll let you know how it goes!

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Order Now: Kids in the Kitchen Cookbook

It's here! It's finally here! 

As a former Montessori teacher and the founder of Montessori For All, I partnered with Kylie D'Alton--the brainchild behind the popular parenting blog: How We Montessori--to create the book we couldn't find in stores.

As I've mentioned before, it can be difficult to get your hands on specific and detailed resources that explain how to implement Montessori in the home, especially for young children. This book helps to fill that gap. It includes step-by-step directions (with checklists!) for setting up the kitchen in a kid-friendly way for children as young as 18 months. Then it explains how to prepare your young child to work in the kitchen by teaching them the foundational skills in a sequence that aligns with their development. Finally, it includes ten simple recipes that are illustrated with photographs, so children can follow along independently, even before they can read. 

I get chills when I think about what it means for a child's development when they participate in food preparation and then serve it to others. They learn focus, concentration, problem-solving, critical thinking, fine-motor skills, intrinsic motivation, and self-confidence. Plus, they learn grace, courtesy, and care for others. 

Are you looking for ideas about how to bring your children into the kitchen with you? Or do you know someone for whom this book would make the perfect gift? Colleagues? Neighbors? Family members? Friends? All proceeds will be donated to Montessori For All to help more children in diverse communities nationwide have access to a public Montessori education.

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

In Need of Wedding Photos

Do you want one of your wedding photos to be featured in a wedding book about how to plan a meaningful and memorable wedding without losing your savings or sanity? If you have high-resolution, royalty-free photos to share, please e-mail me. Thank you!

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Enroll Now: Purposeful Conception Online Course!

I'm hoping that the worst of my miscarriage is over. I woke up yesterday morning, and Matt and I decided to get out of the house with Henry. His parents' housekeepers were going to be in the house for several hours, and we didn't want to get in their way. I was sitting on the porch with Henry while we were getting ready to go, and I felt a sudden gush of warm blood. I ran to the restroom. Afterwards, I suggested that we go get a really good breakfast, so I could nourish my body. 

On the car ride there, I could feel more blood gushing. I'll spare you all the details, but I will say I had to go the restroom many times during breakfast, and at one point I even got a little blood on the floor (which I cleaned up). I probably would have freaked out about the amount of blood, except that I had watched The Help the day before, and there was a scene involving a normal miscarriage with a lot of blood.

I asked Matt to rush me home, and I spent about 45 minutes just sitting on the toilet (I'm sorry this post is getting so graphic). I passed a lot of tissue, and the cramping started to get uncomfortable. In total, I suppose the intense parts lasted a couple hours. After that, my bleeding slowed to a medium flow. I spent the day watching On Demand movies on the comfortable couch. 

I still have sad moments, and I cry when I need to, but I am also eager to move forward. I'm excited to work through the next Purposeful Conception course with a community of kindred spirits who are working through their own journeys. I want to get my body, mind, and life back into a place where I feel ready to nurture a new life again. 

For those of you who are thinking about conception or are actively trying, this online course will help you position your mind, body, and life for pregnancy. From July 30 through August 24, 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, 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. The total cost is $99 USD. Register Now! Or e-mail me with more questions. Happy Conceiving!


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

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Organizing Every Inch of Our House

Yesterday was a bit rough. I dragged Matt and a tired Henry to the doctor with me for my RhoGAM shot. It's hard going to a new doctor in a state you don't live in, especially for such a sensitive issue. Fortunately, Matt's mom helped us find a good place. I had to bring Matt with me because I was afraid I might break down and not be able to speak. 

I was able to make it through my standard speech with the intake nurse: "I would be at 13 weeks right now. The baby stopped developing around five or six weeks; we don't know exactly when. I've already had an ultrasound. I've already had my pregnancy hormones tested. I started bleeding Sunday morning. I'm A-negative; I need a shot of RhoGAM."

I made it through that part okay. Then they sent me to the lab to get my blood drawn. They wanted to make sure I was A-negative (which I still don't understand, since they gave me the shot right after I had my blood drawn, even though they won't get the results of my blood type until tomorrow). 

While getting my blood drawn with Henry and Matt in the room (we wanted Henry to see that he's not the only one in our family who gets poked with needles), the woman asked with a smile, "So, are you pregnant with your second?" 

Why, yes I was. Up until last week I was pregnant with our sweet little January baby. We were counting our lucky stars that we got pregnant on our first try (for the second time in a row), and I was counting down the days until I entered the second trimester. It was right around the corner! But then we didn't hear the heartbeat. We even have that part on video. Even then, I was optimistic that everything was okay. I was going to come back in a week and we were going to listen for the heartbeat again. But we decided to test my hormones and they came back not so great. And then, after more waiting, the ultrasound confirmed it. Now I'm just waiting to give birth to death.

Instead of saying all that, I said, "No, I'm having a miscarriage." I was able to state those five words and hold back the tears (until we got to the parking lot). 

But this isn't a post about miscarriage. We've had quite a few of those lately. I'll continue to share my thoughts about miscarriage as I need to, but this post is about home organization. 

[insert segue here]

While on vacation, I read an old Martha Stewart magazine that featured Martha's cleaning supply room (yes, she has a whole separate building dedicated to her cleaning supplies and tools and things). It is a model of impeccable organization. Every single thing has a logical, labeled spot, and it was easy to access. That's exactly what I want for our new house. I only want us to have things in our home that we use/need/want, and I want everything to have a place. I want our home to feel like our little bungalow did when we had it on the market (for sale by owner)--completely decluttered, orderly, organized, and calm. 

That's not to say I want to live in a museum. I want our home to be comfortable and family-friendly. But I want us to be conscious of what we buy and where we put it. I put a library hold on Martha Stewart's book about organizing for inspiration. 

In the meantime, I found this way to conveniently organize spices on the inside a cabinet door. Honestly, I can't believe we ever lived without it. Right now, our spices take up an entire cabinet shelf. When we want one, we have to lift up every single container and turn it so we can see the label. If it's toward the back, it's highly likely that we will knock something else over while trying to excavate it. 

Why do we live that way? I'm serious! Why do we live with unnecessary stresses that threaten to accumulate over a lifetime? The fix is such an easy an inexpensive one! 

The second organizational strategy I want to implement is a better system for trash and recycling. As I mentioned above, I'm the kind of person who wants to declutter and minimize the number of things sitting out (on the counter, on the floor, etc.). We do not space for a trash can on the ground (especially with bulky things like the Learning Tower taking up a lot of space), so instead we keep two paper Whole Foods bags under the sink: one for trash and one for recycling. I won't even go into all the reasons I don't really like this system. Instead, I will say that I'm going to talk to the architect about trading out two of our drawers so that we can install one of those sliding trash and recycling systems.

Is it strange that I get immense joy from figuring out ways to be more organized? It is what it is, I suppose.

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Miscarriage Update: The Bleeding Begins

Matt, Henry, and I are on vacation in Bloomington, Indiana, where Matt's family lives. This past weekend, Matt's family volunteered to watch Henry and treated us to a two-day solo-vacation on the coast of lake Michigan.

I feel like I'm doing well in terms of processing the miscarriage emotionally. Your support via the comments section and the personal e-mails meant so much to me. I apologize to each and every one of you that I wasn't able to respond individually; it was simply too painful. But I appreciated your words, kindness, and logistical recommendations so much. 

I still dwell in moments of sadness sometimes--like when I realized that having a miscarriage is like giving birth to death. But I'm getting to a place where I can look ahead and think about the cycle of healing my body and preparing to try and nurture life again.

My biggest worry has been about the actual process of miscarriage and my choice to try and let it happen naturally, despite the recommendations of my good friends who have been in this place before me.

A week ago, the midwife said it would likely happen in the next two weeks, but I didn't understand how she could say that with any certainty. The baby stopped developing approximately seven weeks ago. Why would the miscarriage happen now? 

Any time I feel anything at all in my body, I try to take in a deep breath and slowly let it out as I assure myself that it's time to let the baby go. When I read this post about miscarriage, I was able to put words to my choice to try and let the miscarriage happen naturally. My baby was already taken from me; I don't want to take it from my body. I want to give my body the space and time it needs to let the baby go. 

I woke up yesterday in the pale hours of the morning. I had the overwhelming urge to pee. I tried to roll over and go back to sleep, but I finally decided I would sleep better if I went to the bathroom. It was then that I realized the spotting had started. When I lay back in bed, I couldn't sleep. Instead, I watched the sunrise. The clouds kept shifting into new images. First, I saw the face of a man. I cried for the person our baby never had the chance to become. Then the clouds shifted into a chubby-cheeked baby staring into the horizon. Finally, I saw a seahorse. It didn't have any meaning to me, but it made me realize that I wasn't imagining the man or the baby. The shapes were what they were. 

I still need to plant succulents in our new vase to give life to and commemorate our love for our lost baby, and I also need to write the baby a letter. 

I cry when I need to, but other than that, I face forward. I think about running another Purposeful Conception course soon to connect with others who are thinking about preparing their minds, bodies, and lives for pregnancy. I also spend a lot of time collaborating with Kylie and Angie on our book which is coming out any! day! I'm also busy getting ready for school. Professional development for teachers starts on July 23, and school starts on August 6--this is for my job as the Director of Operations and Compliance for a new charter school opening in Austin, not the Montessori school I'm trying to start.

Now that my bleeding has started, I need to get a shot of Rhogam. My blood type is A-negative. If the baby happens to be A-positive and its blood mixes with mine, then my body would produce antibodies that would be detrimental to any future baby that was A-positive.

One day at a time.

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Montessori Home: Teaching Responsibility

 According to Montessori from the Start, children are usually ready to start Practical Life activities around 15 months old. Henry is officially 16 months old, so we've been seizing any opportunity to involve him in our daily life. For example, we ask him to carry his breakfast (a bowl of plain, whole fat yogurt with blueberries) to his table every day, and then we ask him to carry it to the kitchen when he's done (he eats breakfast and snacks at his weaning table). I ask him to put his clothes in his laundry basket, turn on lights, close doors, etc.

After watching Edison's Day for the upteenth time (during a family education event for the school I'm trying to start), I decided it was time to teach Henry how to feed Hoss (in the video, Edison feeds the cat). I know it can be dangerous for children to feed dogs because dogs can be so unpredictable around food, but Hoss is a certified therapy dog and, frankly, he doesn't care that much about his dry dog food. 

Here are the steps I went through to facilitate Henry's independence and teach him responsibility:
  1. I brainstormed ways to change the environment to make the dog food accessible to him. I was contemplating purchasing a small shelf, but Matt had the idea that we should just use one of our existing cabinets. We have plenty of storage, so it wasn't a big deal to shuffle stuff around, and Henry can open and close the cabinets independently. We chose a lower cabinet that is at his height. 
  2. On a trip to IKEA (I was trying to take my mind off the miscarriage--although seeing tons of pregnant couples shopping for cribs didn't really help), I purchased a plastic silverware drawer to neatly separate out different items for Henry. Matt and I almost opted for the bamboo one, since natural materials are always superior to synthetic ones in a Montessori environment, but I couldn't justify the extra $10, since we'll be moving sooner rather than later and will have to prepare an entirely different environment for him. I also purchased a little tray, since having defined spaces for different activities helps children develop an orderly mind. 
  3. At Whole Foods, I purchased a container to hold the dog food. I was looking for a piece of Tupperware with a top that flipped open (so Henry could pour the food) and screwed off (so we could fill the food for Henry). Instead, I opted for a glass container with a top that Henry can remove independently.
  4. I set up the tray and the dog food in Henry's cabinet. This system will require Matt or me to fill the container every morning and night, but that's part of facilitating Henry's independence from a very early age. He needs us to scaffold the activity, so he can easily manage it by himself. Yes, it takes more work on our part, but doing Practical Life activities benefits him so much. They help him form his sense of self; we give him opportunities to be competent. They also help him develop his focus and concentration and his fine- and gross-motor skills. 
  5. I carefully thought through what the process should look like step-by-step. Breaking down processes into their smallest components is integral to teaching young children how to do something new: 1) Open the cabinet. 2) Remove the lid of the container and place it on the tray next to the container of dog food. 3) Remove the container. 4) Carefully carry it over to Hoss's bowl. 5) Set down the container. 6) Sit down. 7) Pick up the container and dump the food into Hoss's bowl. 8) Pick up any extra pieces that fell on the ground. 9) Stand up. 10) Pick up the container. 11) Walk the container to the shelf and place it on the tray. 12) Place the lid back on the container. 13) Close the cabinet door. 
  6. In the Montessori tradition, lessons such as this primarily happen through modeling rather than talking. When the lesson is quiet, it allows the child to focus on the guide's movements. I choose to give the lesson through words and actions because I'm trying to fill Henry's world with as much language as possible.
This kind of parenting takes more work up front, but my hypothesis is that it's going to be worth the invest. My hope is that we won't have to cajole Henry into doing chores by using sticker charts or weekly allowances. Instead, participating in the daily rhythm of our household will just be what we all do to contribute to our family. More importantly, I think this kind of work helps him develop intrinsic motivation and a strong core of self-confidence that is not dependent upon praise from others.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth of July!

(to those of you who live in the United States)

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

It's Official: We're Having a Miscarriage

Matt and I went to the ultrasound appointment yesterday. I was surprisingly able to rein in my tears. All of my optimism from last week was gone, and I was completely expecting to hear that the pregnancy was no longer viable. I was worried, however, that the developing fetus would be somewhere it wasn't supposed to be, especially when the technician needed to do a transvaginal ultrasound in addition to the regular ultrasound. I was relieved to hear that the pregnancy stopped developing around five or six weeks, and that the fetus is relatively small. 

I've decided to wait and see if I can miscarry naturally. It was a hard decision to make because most of my friends who have miscarried recommend opting for the D&C instead. I would prefer to let my body do its work, but I'm fine getting a D&C if I need to. 

I'm still in a sad place. Reading many of your comments and personal e-mail messages brought tears to my eyes. But I'm also finding my way back to equilibrium. I trust my body and the natural processes of Nature. I also look forward to taking care of my body and nurturing it back into a healthy place so it's ready to sustain another life.

This past weekend, Matt and I bought a vase at Uncommon Objects. I think I will plant a succulent in it and dedicate it to our sweet baby who will always be in our hearts.

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Monday, July 2, 2012

Probable Miscarriage

Where do I start? I guess the easiest place would be to start chronologically.

On Friday, I had my hormone levels tested. I opted for the hormone test rather than an ultrasound because I personally think it's prudent to try and minimize the number of ultrasounds in a given pregnancy. I also had my bile acids level checked, to see if my liver was starting to malfunction.

On Saturday, the midwife called to say it's highly likely that I have suffered a miscarriage. My progesterone levels are half of what they should be at this point. I'm going in for a conclusive ultrasound on Monday.

I held it together for most of the conversation, but she kept talking and talking and I finally couldn't hold it together anymore. I told her I needed to go and hung up the phone.

So many different thoughts are running through my head. I think about our baby--the size of a lime or a fig--dead inside of me. I worry about the process of getting it out. I think about how perfect the timing would have been for this pregnancy and how it would not have interfered with the process of starting my school. I could have met the baby's needs for time with its mother during that first year and met my needs for growing professionally and impacting the world. And then I get frustrated with myself for thinking about logistics at a time like this. I remind myself that we can't control the most important things in life. I wonder whether it's good to break down in front of Henry so that he sees the range of emotions we all experience as humans or whether it's too frightening for a 16 month-old who smiles as he drags his rake across the carpet. I remind myself that the rate of miscarriage is remarkably high and that it's probably the body's way of producing a relatively high number of perfect, healthy babies. I am thankful for my body. I am also thankful that I already have a perfect, healthy, happy boy. It makes this loss so much easier, and I can't even begin to imagine what my friends and acquaintances must feel when they miscarry their first. I can already see how hard it is going to be for me to look at ultrasound pictures of my friends' developing babies on Facebook. It is clear that the grieving process will take a while and it is probably that I will feel this loss forever. I think about the letter I already wrote to our sweet baby. I contemplate destroying it but instead decide to preserve the history of our family's loss and talk openly with Henry (and our future child?) about it. I start brainstorming all the reasons it's good to not be pregnant right now: I can go to the dentist and get the crown I need, since there's no baby to hurt with Novacaine. We'll be able to put more money toward our house, since I won't have to go on maternity leave. Our new house will be ready by the time we do have another baby. Again, I start to get frustrated with myself for being so practical and logistics-minded. And I start to wonder if I will be able to sustain a pregnancy again. Were my hormone levels messed up because I weaned Henry right at the start of my pregnancy? I start thinking about all the things I can do to get my body in shape to try again. I get mad that I've trudged through 11 weeks of pregnancy (the first trimester is the worst!) and have nothing to show for it. And I get sad that I have such selfish thoughts. And then I tell myself to let myself feel whatever I feel, no judgment. Then I wonder who our baby might have been.

I cry and cry.

And now the process of spreading the word begins. I intentionally told people early on because I also wanted to talk openly about miscarriage if I had one. I don't regret that decision, but it will be hard to have this conversation over and over again. I'm going to use a lot of e-mail and text.

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