Tuesday, January 31, 2012

11 Months: Happy Birthday, Henry!

Dearest Henry Jones,

You are growing so much! You are in the 90th percentile for height and the 60th percentile for weight. You gained two pounds of holiday weight. Your head is still small for a baby (around the 25th percentile).

We go to the park nearly every day now. You love to crawl right up to other kids and watch them. You also know how to go down the slide all by yourself. You crawl to the edge of the slide, kick your legs over, and slide down feet first on your stomach. You open your mouth wide to take in all the joy. We just signed a lease on a rental house in Austin. It's a little more than we wanted to spend, and there's not nearly enough natural light, but the backyard opens straight to a park (with a swimming pool!). We have a lot of fun times ahead of us.

Your best friend, Ellie Cate, came over to play and you watched her walk all around our house. After that, you got really interested in pushing your wooden walker wagon everywhere to practice walking. We have a small house, so I have to help you turn around a lot!

We go for walks every morning. When you start to get antsy, I give you a stick to look at. When you get bored with the stick, I give you a leaf.

You still love to eat. The doctor said 99% of children can regulate their eating. I think you might be in the 1%! This month you learned how to drink out of your glass all by yourself.

You make us laugh out loud on a daily basis, Henry Jones. Thank you for being a part of our family.

With love...

Today on 2000 Dollar Wedding: Brainstorming budget food ideas for Henry's 1st birthday.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Dear Houston:

You are one of the most underrated cities in America. Yes, you are full of ozone warnings, concrete, traffic, oil people, inordinate wealth juxtaposed with abject poverty, and aggressive drivers, but you have been an amazing home to me for nine years of my life.

And what a nine years those have been. I moved here to be part of the educational reform movement for economically disadvantaged children at KIPP, I met my husband at the Astrodome while we were tutoring evacuees from Hurricane Katrina, we bought our first home in the historic Heights just north of downtown, we harbored chickens illegally in our backyard, and we welcomed little Henry into the world.

And throughout those nine years, you have proven to be a magically eclectic and interesting city. You are an international city that welcomes people from all over the world (and you have the food to prove it). You are the city that has an international quilting festival one weekend and the international tatoo convention the next. You build eco-friendly parks and host free yoga classes, films on the lawn, and concerts on the hill. You have a burgeoning food truck culture, providing delicious and creative fare at random places. You have a country store store smack dab in the middle of the city that is part petting zoo, part garden, and part feed store. You have no zoning laws, which makes for an incredibly unpredictable and exciting landscape. There's an elementary school; there's Zone d'Erotica.

You host events like arts fundraisers that require everyone to dress up like clowns. You offer inexpensive boats to rent for parties on the bayou. Down there, you can't even tell you're in the city of concrete and traffic. You just see the banks of the bayou and bats. You also offer segway tours along the bayou paths and into downtown.

You provide year-round sunshine, and I can run around the 3-mile, tree-lined path at Memorial Park in shorts even in January. I can pretend I'm in the middle of the forest at the Arboretum. The museums are all free on Thursday nights, and I can always find an amazing place to eat.

I can easily get out of Houston on a non-stop flight or in a car-ride to the Hill Country, Galveston, or Louisiana.

You even have public Montessori options in your school district.

You are a glorious city, dear Houston. I will continue to be your enthusiastic advocate and supporter.

With gratitude,

Today on 2000 Dollar Wedding: Coming up with the budget for Henry's 1st birthday.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Updated Life Binder

New year, new life binder! Well, not entirely new; I needed a new binder and tabs, so I updated everything a little bit. Would you like a little tour? Here we go:

I use a 1-inch binder with a plastic cover, so I can insert old pages from my Nikki McClure calendar in there. I also need pockets on the inside to store random things (which I have to remind myself to clean out fairly frequently). My most organized friend ever recommends using a sturdy report cover instead of a binder.

Every time I open my binder, the first thing I see is my collage for the year. It's part of my New Year's Reflection Process. It visual represents the kind of year I want to create for myself.

On the back of my collage, I list out my intentions for the year, as well as my roles. Every month, when I do my Reflection & Rejuvenation posts and set my intentions for the upcoming month, I look at this list of yearly goals to figure out what I should tackle in the upcoming month. I also look at my list of roles to see if there's anything I should be doing as a mother, blogger, etc. The box on the right, bottom corner is actually a present from Matt. He gave me several coupons for things like massages, dates, etc. He said they are only valid when presented, so I have to be sure to keep them in a safe spot.

On the next page, I list out my goals for each month (the ones that come to mind at the beginning of the year). For example, I'm going to start working on my Christmas presents in October, so I'm not stressed at the last minute. I also reference this sheet when I sit down to create my goals for each month in the Reflection & Rejuvenation posts.

Under the "Lists" tab, I keep ongoing lists of important but not urgent things, broken down by the different roles in my life (and including a "Catch All") category. For example, I want to create a massive "Baby Guide" for this blog. Every week, when I'm sitting down to generate my weekly to-do list, I look back at these ideas to see if there's anything I want to tackle. These lists help me capture ideas without forgetting them or wasting energy re-remembering them all the time.

Under the "People" tab, I keep lists of things I want to talk about with people (instead of sending a gazillion separate e-mails, I can consolidate things into one meeting or one e-mail). For example, when I need to create an agenda for a Montessori For All board meeting, I can reference this page to see what we need to talk about. I also keep a list of gifts to buy and blog posts to write. I use sticky notes, since some of the categories fill up faster than others and I don't want to have to rewrite the whole sheet all the time.

Under the "Upcoming" tab, I keep things like agendas for upcoming meetings or admission tickets to conferences.

Behind that, I have my calendar pages.

I love reading about how others organize their lives, so I thought I would contribute to the dialogue with an update about my system!

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Healthiest Version of Myself

I need to buy a new pair of jeans. I'm the kind of person who hangs onto clothing for as long as possible because 1) it's better for the budget 2) it's better for the environment and 3) I don't really enjoy shopping.

But my jeans have a hole in them, so it's time to invest in a new pair. I'm at a crossroads, though, because I'm not sure what size to get. The jeans with a hole are my pre-pregnancy jeans. I couldn't fit into them for a long, long time after Henry was born, so I bought a pair that was two sizes bigger, so I had something to wear while my body adjusted.

Eventually, those larger jeans started getting loose and I could finally squeeze into my original jeans. Then, the holidays hit, the stress of trying to sell our house and move to a new city hit, my 65-000-word book deadline hit, and traveling for two weeks with a 10 month-old hit. Suddenly I couldn't comfortably squeeze into my original jeans any more.

I'm back to wearing the two-sizes-bigger jeans (with a belt). Clearly, I'm currently at the size in-between the original and the post-partum jeans. Yes, I could buy that size for my new pair of jeans, but I don't want to. I want to get back to my normal size--the size I am when I'm eating a healthy amount.

The thing is, this post isn't even about my jean size. My jean size is a mere symptom of something larger. When I'm stressed or bored or sad or scared, I turn to food for comfort. When I eat unhealthy foods or quantities, then I feel even worse physically. Once I'm eating unhealthy things in unhealthy quantities, I feel defeated and convince myself that I might as well continue doing it since I already started.

I understand why I feel stressed and uncertain right now. 2012 is the year of making dreams happen. It's scary. The ground is shifting and I'm trying to secure my footing.

I forgive myself for feeling the way I do; I can't control that. But I can control my response to those feelings. I can remind myself of my healthy intentions and re-commit to them:
  1. I am the kind of person who avoids drinking unnecessary calories. I save caloric drinks for special occasions and instead drink water on a daily basis (and lots of it!).
  2. I avoid processed foods and artificial sweeteners and instead opt for whole foods.
  3. I eat three smaller meals throughout the day and two healthy snacks. When I eat my snacks, I prepare a small serving--I don't eat something straight out of the bag.
  4. I avoid tempting (but disgusting) foods that pop up in social situations all the time (e.g., grocery store birthday cake, chips, candy, etc.).
  5. I routinely avoid fried foods and instead opt for salads or fruit as my sides when we go out to eat (and make an exception no more than once a week). I limit my intake of unhealthy restaurant food, such as chips and bread before the meal.
  6. I try to eat dessert only once or twice a week, and when I eat it, I eat a small portion, intentionally savoring each bite.
  7. I take Henry and Hoss for an hour-long walk at least five times a week.
  8. I go on one 3-mile jog and one 6-mile jog by myself every week.
  9. I go to yoga once a week.
I just started running again for the first time in almost two years. I stopped running when I got pregnant, and I haven't started up again since the birth (since my midwife said it was hard on the joints for women who breastfeed). I'll need to work my way back up to six miles.

I need to find a new place to do yoga in Austin. I just changed my Groupon city, so hopefully I'll come across a good deal.

I need to get back into the routine of healthy eating (e.g., green smoothie for breakfast, protein bar for morning snack, cheese stick and fruit for afternoon snack), so that I'm giving my body what it needs to sustain itself. My hope is that the routine of eating healthy foods and exercising becomes the thing that comforts me, rather than junk food.

As part of making healthy eating and exercising a habit, I need to schedule it in. When we move to Austin (literally any day now) and we have new schedules, I need to figure out when to fit in grocery shopping every week, running, walking, and yoga.

In terms of accountability, I'm going to use Joe's Goals to track my progress. (Robyn suggested it in the Feeding the Soil health and wellness forum.) Or I might just record it on my calendar. Either way, I want to have a tangible place to track how well I'm doing on my intentions.

As Stephen Covey says, "Accountability breeds responsibility." I want to have a healthy relationship with food. I want to make time for preparing good food and exercising. I want to be my healthiest version of myself.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Drinking from a Cup

When Henry started eating solid foods around four months, we immediately started giving him water from a real glass instead of a sippy cup. There are several reasons why this is common in a Montessori environment:
  1. Children who use real glass learn from a very young age that they have to be careful. They can't throw their glass on the ground without real consequences (i.e., the glass breaking).
  2. Children from 0-6 years-old are watching the world around them and trying to imitate it to the best of their abilities. They want to do what the adults around them are doing. If we drink from glasses, they want to drink from glasses, too.
  3. Children build their confidence and their self-worth when they master challenging tasks.

In the beginning, we gave Henry a lot of support. We only filled the glass with the tiniest bit of water, and we helped hold it. For the first time the other day (at 10.5 months). He picked up the glass and drank independently.

We're still working on setting the glass back down...

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Childcare Changes

Henry Jones is about to turn one. Can you believe it? He is almost an entire year old.


In the Montessori community, that means it's time for him to spend a couple hours a day in a community. By spending time with other children every day, Henry will learn how to contribute meaningful to a group (which will build his self-worth) and how to interact with others respectfully. He'll be inspired to continue to develop and grow by watching older children. And he'll have fun!

Although I am incredibly thankful that I was able to stay home with Henry for the first year of his life (mainly by tightening our spending) and wouldn't change that decision for anything, I have to say that I am elated to officially join the ranks of those who are employed outside the home. It's not that I haven't been working; I've actually been working a handful of jobs. It's just that all of my working has been squeezed into Henry's nap times, and it's basically been me, working alone on my bed (watching the video monitor for signs that my work time was about to come to an end).

Don't get me wrong: Henry and I get out of the house every day, and we connect with other moms and babies multiple times a week (through daily walks, baby time at the library, play dates, etc). But it doesn't leave me feeling sated and fully alive, which is why I'm looking forward to the next stage in Henry's development.

Once we move to Austin, Henry will start going to a former Montessori teacher's house three times a week for a couple hours. If Matt takes care of getting Henry ready and taking him there (just a few streets away!), then I can wake up at 5:30am and start working. Once Henry is weaned from his 7am feeding, then I can leave the house at 6am and be to the school where I'm working as the Director of Operations and Compliance at 6:30am. I can get in a full half-day of work before picking Henry up. Once we're home, I'm sure he'll need a nap, which means I'll have some time to blog. In the late afternoon/evening, Henry and I can make dinner together while Matt finishes up his work.

To cover the two days he won't be in childcare, I'm going to start looking for another parent with a child near Henry's age who is interested in a childcare swap. I could watch Henry + their child one morning and they could do it the other day. That would give me four solid days of working outside the home.

From my limited experience with this kind of stuff, this arrangement sounds ideal. Henry will get his developmental needs met, I will get to work part-time (which is good for my sanity/passion/bank account), and I'll still have quality time to be a good mom for Henry (every afternoon and evening).

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Green Smoothies!

I am so happy to be back in my green smoothie routine. I drank them every day of my 2nd and 3rd trimester, since I was trying to build up my iron stores without having to take an iron supplement (trying to avoid constipation...). Link
After the birth, Matt continued to make one for me every day (spinach/kale + frozen mango + 1/2 banana + 1 c yogurt) until Henry was diagnosed with a dairy sensitivity. Henry still seems to have a bit of a sensitivity (he has really dry skin, which has a 50% chance of coming from a food sensitivity), but we are getting back into the green smoothie routine. Drinking green smoothies is such an amazing way for someone like me (i.e., a person who doesn't like to cook greens for dinner) to get a daily dose of leafy greens. Well, Matt and I do eat a salad nearly every night, but we usually use spring mix.

It's highly likely that Henry will get pickier and pickier with his eating as he gets older, so I'm hopeful that green smoothies will continue to be a tasty way to fill him up with fruits and vegetables. It's better than drinking juice because it's the whole fruit (fiber and all). And even though I still haven't been able to splurge on the coveted Vitamix, I don't really have any problems making smoothies in a regular blender. In fact, after Henry broke our blender, I invested in a super-cheap, single serving blender (you twist off the blender from the base and it becomes a travel cup!) and it works fine, too.

This week I'm going to try to pair different fruits and veggies for variety...

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Thoughts on Dreaming Big and Making It Happen

I don't normally do Q&A on this blog, but I received a really thoughtful set of questions that I think has wide relevance. Here's what she shared:

I'm not proud to admit it, but I often feel that I don't live up to my potential. For example, I got my master's degree in social work at considerable emotional, intellectual, and financial difficulty. My plan was to become a psychotherapist and yet four years later, I am still working in a psychiatric hospital doing case management. I don't really like where my career is right now but am not sure how to change it. I love to read and write but often find myself surfing the net or watching TV to zone out after a stressful day or during down time. I find it difficult to find the internal drive/motivation that you seem to possess in great quantity to be more productive and live up to my true potential. I'm wondering what drives you to push yourself and reach extremely challenging goals like creating a school, creating a community, writing a book and how you have the energy to do it when you are also putting so much of yourself into raising your son. Secondly, I would also love to see a post on how you arrived at your specific goals. Being home with my daughter, I've had a lot of time to think about where I want my career, personal life, family, etc. to be in the future and am having a lot of trouble figuring out what I want out of life and articulating specific goals to strive towards. How did you come to your specific aspirations/life goals? Especially, is there anything that has inspired your to dream so big for yourself and your family? For example, how did you go from being a Montessori teacher and having an interest in the Montessori philosophy/way of life to wanting to open up your own Montessori charter school? Also, I would love to hear more about how you have handled the emotional aspect of all you have taken on. You have talked about the fear and anxiety you have experienced, but I would like to learn more about where you find the strength to manage these difficult emotions and whether you ever get time for yourself!

What challenging questions! Let me take them one by one:

What drives me? Several things. First of all, my biological father never wanted to have anything to do with me (he was older, he already had another family), and so I think he left a deep hole inside of me. From a very young age, I became an achiever to prove to myself and others that I am worthy of love, attention, and respect. If I couldn't get it from my father, then I tried to get it from everyone else through achievement. Further, either because of nurture or nature, achievement is ingrained into the fiber of my being. I actually get pleasure from planning things and then doing them. Finally, this Mary Oliver quote resonates with me so deeply: "What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" I'm driven to live my best possible life, while I'm here for this very short time. I am so thankful to all the people who came before me and positively impacted the world that I now live in, and I am eager to do the same for future generations.

How do I have the energy to do it while also raising my son? This answer is two-pronged: Doing things I love (i.e., pursuing my passion related to educational equity, building community, etc.) gives me energy. Most of the time. Sometimes it scares me. And sometimes I don't have the energy. On those days, I just take a nap or go to bed early.

How did I arrive at my big goals? That's such an important question. My college courses inspired me to actively want to make the world better. But I had several different passions that ignited my commitment to social justice: sex education, gay rights, and education. I started doing things in those areas: applying for a grant to study sex education, starting a gay rights group on campus, working in education as an AmeriCorps member. I tried to pay close attention to what made my heart sing. I continued to apply for opportunities that interested me (my mom has always told me that you should apply to everything and then make a decision about what you want to do rather than making the decision before you even apply). I applied for a Fullbright to study sexuality education in the Netherlands and I applied for Teach For America. I didn't get the Fullbright, and then I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to teach. I even applied for an extension on the deadline to matriculate (and then still replied late!). In that moment, I knew that choosing TFA would mean that I would be choosing education, and I wasn't ready to make that commitment.

But making that commitment has allowed me to focus. I get to infuse gay rights and sex education into the work I do with educational equity, but choosing a focus has allowed me to streamline my efforts.

I constantly apply the process of assess, analyze, act. I collect data about how it's going, reflect on my findings, generate "next steps," implement those next steps, and then start collecting data all over again. In other words, I'm constantly striving and seeking to improve myself and my situation. (Of course this approach has its downsides, as well. It's difficult for me to celebrate the positive sometimes, and I struggle to live in the moment.) Journaling helps me a lot, although I don't make nearly enough time for it. When I journal, I promise myself that absolutely no one else is allowed to read it. That way, it's just me talking to me. I find myself saying shockingly honest things. It's a great place to sort out what I really want versus what I think would impress other people. Making time for introspection has allowed me to craft a trajectory toward my goals. My work in college led me to AmeriCorps, which led me to KIPP, which led me to observe at a Montessori school, which led me to get trained in Montessori, which led me to teach, which led me to want to start a school that blends the best of all my experiences. In each experience, I paid attention to what was working and what wasn't and then made my next step accordingly.

As far as fear and anxiety go and where I find the strength to manage those emotions, I just make myself do it. It's really as simple (and as difficult) as that. I just take something scary (like "start a charter school") and break it down into the smallest chunks possible and write them on my to-do list. If anything on my to-do list is scary, I just give myself a little pep talk and remind myself that it's okay to be nervous on the inside, but I need to project confidence on the outside. If that doesn't work, I turn to my best friend or husband for help.

And, yes, I get time for myself! I'm with Henry 10 hours a day. He sleeps for about three of those hours. I use those three hours as strategically as possible. When Matt gets home, we share Henry-duty. Most of the time that means we co-parent. Sometimes, if I've had a really stressful day, Matt volunteers to take Henry somewhere so I can be alone (or lets me go off by myself). Henry goes to bed between 7 and 7:30, so I have several more hours every evening. Then on weekends, Matt and I divide the day up. He takes Henry for a shift, I take Henry for a shift, and then the rest of the time is Family Time. That way, both of us get free time.

Since bulleted lists are my friend, I'll try to extrapolate some of the things I've done over the years to find and pursue my passions and keep my energy levels up:

  • Find what you really want to do, not what other people want you to do or what you think other people want you to do. When I was in high school, I read a memoir called An Unknown Woman. I haven't read it in about 15 years, so I don't remember it clearly. But I do remember realizing that we absolutely must live our lives for ourselves. We owe it to ourselves and the world to live our most authentic life possible.
  • Expose yourself to as many possibilities as possible (through blogs, magazines, TV, etc.). Think big. Think creatively.
  • Try out different things (new classes, new opportunities, etc.) to see what resonates with you
  • Eat a healthy diet, exercise, stay hydrated, and get enough sleep! These things impact our energy levels and our happiness.
  • Be really strategic about time management
  • Avoid piddling away time on Facebook, TV, internet surfing, etc. (of course it make sense to use those things intentionally for down time, but they can be major time-sucks if you let them fill up all your waking moments)
  • Put a process in place for helping yourself reflect (such as journaling every night, drinking tea on the back porch while staring into space, etc.)

There are also life coaching books and websites that can help with the process of introspection.

Wishing you the very best!


LinkToday on 2000 Dollar Wedding: Sebrina's plan for making over a 1980s wedding dress.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Birthday Planning

My birthday's coming up on February 9! (Just in case you're curious, I'm turning 34.)

It's time to start planning my birthday party. This year, I want to be one-step ahead in the planning department (hello Halloween costume designing in August...). Besides, before I know it, it's going to be time to start planning Henry's birthday (February 28).

So, this year poses a bit of a challenge. We are probably moving to Austin at the end of January. I have a couple friends in Austin, but the thought of throwing myself a birthday party and inviting a couple friends doesn't sound appealing (mainly because that's what I did last year).

We could plan a weekend getaway, but we're in money-conservation mode as we save up to build our dream house.

Hm...maybe we could all go to Portland so I could attend professional development for Montessori administrators? (Thanks for telling me about it, Carrie!) Perhaps I could convince Matt to let me use the revenue from the most recent Purposeful Conception class (which started yesterday, so you're welcome to join us!) to shlep everyone to Oregon (instead of putting the money into our general fund like I usually do).

Does anyone have a guest room in Portland for my little family of three so we could save on hotel costs?

Hmm...I'm thinking, thinking.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

10 Months: Happy Birthday, Henry!

Oh, dearest Henry, what shall I share about you this month?

Everyone you come into contact with exclaims, "He's such a happy baby!" And your relatives call you a "sweet, sweet" boy.

I think your number one favorite thing is food. You can't get enough of it! Your second favorite thing is dogs. They always bring a smile to your face, especially when they lick you in the face. Your third favorite thing is probably stairs. You love to climb higher and higher. You also know how to climb down stairs, although that process is much harder. First you test out the distance with your arm. When you sense that it's too far down, you turn around and let your feet hit first. You learned this from getting off our bed every morning. You also know how to get off of couches. It's adorable!

You still don't seem close to walking yet, even though you've been pulling up on everything and anything for months now. You do let go and reach for things, but only very small distances.

You have so many teeth! Your two on the bottom came first, then your two fangs, and finally your top middle teeth. But you hate showing them to anyone. I try to sneak peaks at them when you're laughing. When I try to feed you hummus off a chip, you bite the chip.

You like to give high-fives, and you crash your face into mine if I ask you for a kiss. You love to play hide-and-seek.

You are still an amazing sleeper. You pretty much sleep from 7:30pm-7am. You go to sleep all by yourself at night. Now that you're only taking two naps a day, you also go down for naps by yourself. We are very thankful!

Your favorite toys are cords. Oh, I almost forgot that we started to go to playgrounds this month! You still put stuff in your mouth, but it's not as constant as it was for the first nine months of your life. You like to crawl around in the mulch, pull yourself up on stuff, climb stairs, swing, and watch the other kids (you are very observant and curious and love to watch the world around you).

Thank you for being the sweet boy that you are.

All our love...

P.S. During this month's photo shoot you wanted to turn the flag every which way and look at it from different angles.

REMINDER: The next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy starts this weekend on January 15. Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Organization System for Motherhood

I have a big post coming (in response to a kindred spirit's big questions) about motivation and passion and goals. But I decided that I would start with something related yet simpler: my daily organization system.

I could write a sonnet to my daily organization system. It is the reason I'm able to accomplish anything.

In general, my organization system is a binder that includes my yearly goals, my monthly goals, and then my weekly to-do lists. I detail the whole system on the Organization page. (And I'd be remiss if I wrote a whole post about organization and didn't mention my mentor Maia and my favorite book about organization.)

Although my overarching system stays the same from year to year and job to job, my daily to-do list changes in response to the nature of my daily demands. Now that I'm staying home with Henry full-time, my system is simple, simple, simple: I combine my monthly calender with my daily to-do list.

Here's how I do it:
  • On my calendar page for the month, I put a sticky note for the week that lists out everything I need to do for the week. I add to this list throughout the week as things come up.
  • Then on each day, I block out chunks of time to tackle various things. My day with Henry generally looks like this: Awake time (7-9:30am), Nap time (9:30-11:00am), Awake (11am-2pm), Nap (2-4pm), Awake (4-7:30pm), Bed (I have time from 7:30-9:30pm). Of course there are days when he sleeps an hour rather than 1.5 hours in the morning, or he's so tired he has to nap before 2pm or gets overtired and skips a nap altogether. But, in general, he's pretty predictable from day to day.
I write the following abbreviations on every weekday to represent what my time with Henry looks like.

On Sunday, I look at my to-do list and plot tasks into each chunk of time. This weekly meeting with myself is very important. I use it to look at my calendar for the week, look back at my monthly goals to see what small piece I want to tackle this week, reference my lists of "Things I Want to Do Someday," etc.

Our first awake time is always breastfeeding, playing in bed, solid food breakfast, and a walk. During Henry's nap time, I plug in things like writing blog posts, working on Montessori For All, etc.

That way, when Henry goes down, I don't waste a second trying to scan a list and see what I should do (or, worse, scan my head). I just look at my plan and get started right away.

The trick to making this system work for me is making sure that I curb my optimism. I always think I can get more done than I actually can. I try to account for my inability to estimate correctly by purposefully overestimating. If I think it's going to take me three nap cycles to write all my blog posts for the week, I schedule set aside five nap cycles. That way, if a nap gets messed up or something else urgent and important comes up, I don't have to get frustrated. I just remind myself that I have a cushion. If I think I need time to decompress instead of cramming in work, I can schedule that, too.

This system works really well for me because it helps me get everything out of my head. I don't waste any time re-remembering things I have to do. (Sometimes I get sick of my system and refuse to write things down, but those mini-tantrums are temporary.) This system also helps me set goals for myself and then follow-through on all the action steps needed to make those goals happen.

A note about "scheduling" a baby: I don't make Henry follow my schedule. I pay close attention to his needs and then draft a daily rhythm that reflects and meets those needs. Our day together has changed many times as his awake time has grown longer and his naps have decreased down to two. Having a rhythm to our day helps both of us. It's easy for me to anticipate and meet his needs when I know where he is in a particular cycle, he can feel more secure because he knows what to expect, and I know when to schedule work time or phone meetings.

Again, the trick to all of this is being open to revision. My system changes depending on the demands of my job, and my work times vary in response to Henry's needs. When he is awake, I am fully present (although I do work on chores around the house to facilitate his independence). I put away my computer (unless something truly urgent and important comes up). When he's napping, I get right to work (after showering), so I'm able to pursue my passions and make progress toward my goals.


Today on 2000 Dollar Wedding: A shout out to a book about delineating your strengths.

REMINDER: The next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy starts this weekend on January 15. Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

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Monday, January 9, 2012

New Year's Intentions

I apologize for just now getting around to formulating and sharing my intentions for 2012. It's been a hectic holiday with a 16-hour road trip to Florida with a baby and a bloodhound, a plane ride to Indiana and back to Florida, a road trip to the other coast of Florida, a week of being on Henry duty 24-hours a day since Matt had to go back to work in Houston, a weekend with my bonus family (the in-laws) in Orlando for the Disney Marathon (Matt was running, not me), and then another plane trip back to Houston, all while talking with the Buyer's realtor about inspections and appraisals, communicating with the title company to ensure we're ready for closing, searching for a rental house in Austin, turning in my 65,000-word manuscript to my editor, and trying to do some work for Montessori For All.

So, here's to a new year! Woo-hoo!

I loved Andrea's idea of generating a phrase for the year. I like mantras. They are short, easy to remember, and powerful. My mantra for 2012 is:

This is the year to make dreams happen.

Whenever I set goals, I like to think about the accountability that goes along with them. How will I ensure that I follow-through with my intentions? What will be my process for checking in with myself and sustaining my motivation throughout the entire year? What is my process for moving from yearly goals to daily goals?

That reminds me. I've been reading one of my Christmas presents--Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow--and they feature Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach For America. She explains that she starts with yearly goals, breaks them down into monthly goals, then into weekly goals, and finally into daily goals. Awesomeness!

Here we go:

Montessori For All Executive Director:
  • Recruit a strong board of directors
  • Complete the charter application for the state of Texas
  • Generate significant, diverse community support (in the form of a long student waiting list, financial support, community partnerships)
  • Raise money (the specific amount is yet to be determined)
  • Read a leadership or curriculum book every month
  • Observe at three or more excellent Montessori schools around the country

Director of Operations and Compliance for Austin Achieve:

  • Be awesome at my new job (I've been volunteering, but it's going to turn into a part-time, paid position in April!)

Community Builder in Austin:
  • Purchase a piece of land
  • Convince three other families/people to purchase land next to us for our pocket neighborhood
  • Design and start building a house
  • Host a quirky party every month
  • Do something every month to build a support network in Austin (batch cooking party, craft date, etc.)


  • Read a parenting book every month
  • Be patient with Henry's need to do things for himself from 10-22 months
  • Set a specific goal each month, based on Henry's developmental needs

  • Publish consistently on Feeding the Soil (4x per week) and 2000 Dollar Wedding (3x per week)
  • Respond consistently to comments and develop more friendships with readers

  • Revise my book to make it as useful as possible
  • Work with Kylie to self-publish a book related to Montessori

Purposeful Conception E-course:
  • Consistently run courses
  • Find a partner to take the course to the next level


  • Read a fiction book every month
  • Run at least three times per week
  • Do one sun salutation before bed every night
  • Adopt the mantra "let it go," when I find myself complaining about something, being jealous of someone, getting unnecessarily frustrated, or being judgmental
  • Implement a Relaxation Ritual every night before bed (sun salutation, reading for fun, talking with Matt)
  • Make awesome Halloween costumes

Friend/Family Member:

  • Send birthday cards
  • Give thoughtful Christmas presents

Now it's time to break those yearly goals into monthly goals. Here's what I intend to accomplish in January:
  • Select at least three people for the Montessori For All Board of Directors.
  • Follow our project plan for getting our house ready for our move to Austin.
  • Find a good rental house in Austin.
  • Get unpacked and settled in Austin fast.
  • Read Strengths Based Leadership.
  • Read Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys.
  • Help Henry build his iron supplies with a green smoothie every day (he's slightly anemic).
  • Publish consistently on my two blogs.
  • Finish my sections for the Montessori book I'm working on with Kylie.
  • Participate daily in the Purposeful Conception e-course.
  • Read Love Medicine.
  • Run at least three times per week.
  • Do one sun salutation before bed every night.
  • Send birthday cards.
  • Plan my birthday party.
I have other ideas that I'd like to include in these lists (like a Feeding the Soil retreat!), but I don't want to overstretch myself. This is a lot. It's doable, but it's a lot. There's always next year.


Today on 2000 Dollar Wedding: My idea for a 5-year anniversary party in 2013.

REMINDER: The next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy starts this weekend on January 15. Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Register Now! Purposeful Conception E-Course

Yippee! I'm delighted to announce that registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception course, starting on January 15. I love the January course because this time of year is such fertile ground for reflection and intention. This course is an excellent way to help you take stock of your mind, body, and life, identify next steps, and continue to help your fullest potential reveal itself.

The course will start on January 15 and last until February 10. You will still be able to access the course materials for two weeks after the end date, so don't worry if you have a conflict during the class.

Please feel free to e-mail me if you have personal questions about your situation and whether or not the course would be useful to you.

I created this course more than a year ago, and now Henry is a chubby ten month-old with almost six teeth. I can't believe it! And I love that so many former Purposeful Conception participants have welcomed their own babies into their homes. Every day, I am so, so thankful for a healthy conception, pregnancy, and birth. There's so much uncertainty in the process; there's so much that can go wrong at any turn. The best we can do is put our focus, energy, and time toward the aspects of the process that we can control. It's not about being excessive planners trying to control everything about our lives. It's about acknowledging that raising a child is one of life's most significant undertakings, and it deserves our attention, thought, and mindfulness. When we approach conception in this way, we set ourselves up to approach pregnancy and then parenthood with the same thoughtfulness.

So exciting!

For more information, you can read the general description, the course overview, or the about the author page.

Hope to see you there!

LinkToday on 2000 Dollar Wedding: The $30,000 baby

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year's Reflection

I enjoyed using Andrea's form to reflect on the past year. In an effort to make myself more vulnerable, I thought I would share my reflections with you:

What did you create?
What challenges did you face with courage and strength?
  • New motherhood was definitely a challenge for me. It honestly took (and continues to take) all the strength I have. I am unbelievably grateful for my sweet boy and thank the universe on a daily basis for keeping him safe, but the identify shift has been difficult for me.
  • Trying to sell our house has been a difficult process that has filled me with insecurity and uncertainty.
  • I'm incredibly thankful that my two biggest challenges are not really very bad at all.
What promises did you keep?
  • I blogged regularly here.
  • I ran Purposeful Conception courses regularly.
  • I met my book deadline!
  • I mailed pictures to the grandparents and updated our scrapbook every month.
  • I mailed birthday cards throughout the year.
What brave choices did you make?
  • I attempted to give birth at home.
  • I'm attempting to sell our home FSBO.
What are you proud of?
  • See everything I created.
  • Working really hard to be the best mother I can be.
  • Following through on a lot of promises to myself.
  • Walking for almost an hour and a half almost every day.

What was disappointing?

  • Transferring to the hospital after forty hours of labor at home and requiring Pitocin.
  • Having a difficult time adjusting to new motherhood.
  • Watching my blog traffic decline.
  • Trying to partner with two different people to write a book about Montessori in the home and not having it work out.
  • Listening to myself complain and whine a lot.
  • Watching myself be jealous of other people's success.
  • Resorting to food whenever I felt stressed, anxious, bored, tired.

What was scary?

  • Getting diagnosed with cholestasis at the end of my pregnancy and having to decide between induction (because of the increased risk of stillbirth) and waiting.
  • Recruiting board members for Montessori For All.

What was hard?

  • Completely immersing myself in motherhood.

What can you forgive yourself for?

  • Not learning Spanish like I promised I would.
  • Procrastinating on my book.
  • Not yet filing for 501(c)(3) status for Montessori For All like I had hoped to.
  • Not reading as much fiction as I wanted to.

The next step is to say out loud, “I declare 2011 complete!”
How do you feel? If you don’t feel quite right, there might be one more thing to say…

2011, I just want to say that I am overwhelmed with gratitude for everything in my life. I have so much hope and optimism as I head into 2012 because of everything you brought into my life (and allowed me to bring into my life) in 2011.

The final step is to consider your primary focus for the year to come. What is your primary intention or theme for 2012?

2012 is the year to make dreams happen.

What is your primary intention or theme for 2012? I loved reading about Kelly's over at One Hundred Scarves.


Today on 2000 Dollar Wedding: A letter to my dear book manuscript. It's turned in!

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Moving Day To-Do List


Holy Moly, Matt and I got an offer on our house!

I will go into all the details once we officially seal the deal. We still have to get through the inspection period. In the meantime, it's time to start planning a move (which might happen as early as Jan. 26). I really want to purge and organize everything before it gets put into boxes. There's no reason to move stuff we don't use.

If you have your own desire to declutter and organize, you might find this calendar for the year helpful. Moxie shared it in the Feeding the Soil community, and it looks awesome.

Here's our crazy-crunch plan:

Mon. 1/9
  • Organize all the paperwork in our bedroom closet and revise our system for the future.
Tues. 1/10
  • Prepare the living room, purging and organizing everything, so that it is completely ready to go in boxes.
Wed. 1/11
  • Prepare the dining room, purging and organizing everything, so that it is completely ready to go in boxes.
Thurs. 1/12
  • Prepare the kitchen, purging and organizing everything, so that it is completely ready to go in boxes.
Fri. 1/13
  • Prepare Henry's room, purging and organizing everything, so that it is completely ready to go in boxes.
Sat. 1/14
  • Prepare the attic, purging and organizing everything, so that it is completely ready to go in boxes.
Sun. 1/15
  • Rest and catch up!
Mon. 1/16
  • Prepare the bathroom, purging and organizing everything, so that it is completely ready to go in boxes.
Tues. 1/17
  • Prepare the master bedroom, purging and organizing everything, so that it is completely ready to go in boxes.
Wed. 1/18
  • Pack the craft closet into boxes.
Thurs. 1/19
  • Pack the master bedroom closet into boxes.
Fri. 1/20
  • Pack the bathroom into boxes.
Sat. 1/21
  • Clean out the chicken coup and move the chickens to Austin.
Sun. 1/22
  • Pack the kitchen into boxes.
Mon. 1/23
  • Pack the master bedroom into boxes.
Tues. 1/24
  • Pack Henry's room, the dining room, and the living room into boxes. Wash all the rugs. Pull everything out of the attic.
Wed. 1/25
  • Host a moving party and invite friends over to help us pack up the truck. The last thing we will do is vacuum before packing the vacuum in the truck. That night, Matt and I will sleep on the mattress from the pull-out couch, Henry will sleep on his floor bed, and Hoss will sleep on his bed. We will have one suitcase, cleaning supplies, and the hand vacuum with us. That night, we will patch holes in the walls and clean absolutely everything one last time.
Thurs. 1/26
  • Closing day! Matt will drive the truck and I will drive one of our cars. We will leave our other car at a friend's house. We will come back for the other car soon. Alternatively, we will tow the car behind the truck, depending on cost options.


Today at 2000 Dollar Wedding: A conversation about courage and a link to my friend's new blog about doing something that scares you every week.

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Vegetarian Meal Plans for a Year

Happiest 20212!

I'm ecstatic to announce a new year's present to the Feeding the Soil community. Thirteen of us compiled an entire year's worth of delicious, healthy, fast, vegetarian recipes in a convenient, user-friendly, meal plan format: Meals for a Year.

What the resource includes:
  • An introduction that explains the guidelines we used to select the recipes
  • Bios of the women who painstakingly selected the recipes
  • A meal plan for each month of the year that includes 20 recipes
  • Shopping lists for each week that are organized a) by recipes (in case you want to make only one or two of the recipes) and b) by section of the grocery store.

It's still a work in progress, so definitely e-mail me if you come across some glitches.

I have to confess that I've already started using this amazing resource. I'm eager to try out new recipes all year long without having to devote time to meal planning every week.


Today on 2000 Dollar Wedding: Read about the Power of Partnership. I'm so thankful to Matt for all his support as I rushed to meet my book deadline.

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