Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Marriage & Motherhood

I just love this reflection over at Kelly Rae Roberts about marriage after baby. She says, "Parenthood, like any other big transition in life (marriage, separation, moves, etc), throws you into major opportunity to grow into new versions of yourself and into new versions of partnership and marriage. They aren't kidding when they say it's life changing. I think it's self changing. Marriage changing. All the changing isn't easy, but there is wholeness and healing at every turn."

She goes on to say, "We're finding the pieces just don't fit together the way they used to in the marriage puzzle, the self puzzle, the community puzzle. The pieces have changed. And so have we. Our edges are in some cases, more sharp, and in others, more soft. In some cases where there used to be tenderness there is anger. Where there used to be anger is now tenderness. The triggers are different. The lessons are different."

I've been thinking a lot about my marriage lately. As cheesy as it sounds, it is my anchor. It grounds me and holds me when everything else feels tumultuous or when I'm feeling pulled. 

But I also feel myself starting to take its security for granted. I feel like I let myself pull harder on the rope because of its strength. 

I've been working so hard to be a good mother to Henry. Mothering raises so many questions about what is right and good and true. I try to forge my path in the direction that feels right to me. I want to feel proud of the way I interact with Henry and the relationship we build together. I want to go to sleep at night knowing that I was the best mother I could be.

But I can't lose sight of the way I interact with Matt and the relationship we continue to build together. I have to continue cultivating it with care, even as my passion for building Austin's first public Montessori school grows, even as we have another child, even as our lives get busier. 

It's definitely easier said than done, and it's definitely a work in progress. But work worth doing.



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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Natural Deodorant Saga Continues


Argh. How many more posts will I have to write before I settle on a final solution? 

The pursuit of more healthy deodorant is not something I want to give up on. I'm honestly nervous about the potential carcinogens lurking in the products we use day in and day out (I tried to stop using canned beans to avoid BPA, but I really can't get my act together to soak and cook them so far in advance; instead, I'm switching to Eden Organics, which uses BPA-free cans--and, by the way, seems to have some awesome, easy recipes on their website!).

As a recap of where I've been on this Natural Deodorant Journey:
  1. If you're okay splurging on deodorant, I highly recommend this one from Etsy. It smells amazing, and it works really, really well (I'm a sweaty person and I live in Central Texas, so you can trust me on this). It's a little annoying to apply your deodorant with your fingers every day, but it's worth it for the peace of mind (and the lovely smell).
  2. If you want to conserve money, I recommend that you make your own deodorant using this recipe. It's amazingly simple and it works really well. I wish this option worked for me.
  3. If--like me--you are allergic to baking soda, I recommend that you opt for mineral salts in spray form (like this one). It's inexpensive and it works surprisingly well. 
That's where I am now. Some days it seems like it doesn't work as well, but I honestly think it's because our washing machine doesn't work very well. I think it leaves behind a residue that makes me start the day at a disadvantage. I'm sure that's more than what you wanted to know about me.



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Monday, October 29, 2012

Calling All Kindred Spirits (Well, Kindred Spirits in the Contiguous U.S.)


My publishing company and I are beginning talks about how to publicize the book(!), and I'm toying with the idea of going on a book tour. The aforementioned book tour would have to be 2000 Dollar Wedding style: meticulously inexpensive, DIY, and community-minded. Here's the rough draft version of what I'm thinking:
  • Schlepping Matt and Henry with me (in January and February before Henry turns two and we have to start paying for a seat for him on the airplane)
  • Only going to cities where a kindred spirit is interested in hosting us* (I know it's a lot to ask--we are saving up all our money for a house and can't spend any money on hotels right now; but we don't mind sleeping on the floor--and we promise to return the favor once our new house is built--free housing for SXSW anyone?).
  • Hosting would also entail helping to coordinate the event (securing a location, coordinating donations of photography/treats/etc.) (I'm also looking for an Austin-based person to help with this!)
  • Doing more of a vision-setting and reflecting workshop rather than a traditional book talk
  • Going to cities where other kindred spirits would like to participate on a panel discussion to share their experiences with planning meaningful, memorable, and affordable weddings
Is this resonating with anyone? Anyone? Anyone? Do you have any interest in being a coordinator/host or even a wedding veteran on a panel discussion in your city?

I know I've gone overboard with the forms lately, but it really is the easiest way to collect responses in a neat and tidy Excel sheet.

So thank you in advance for participating!


* Remember when I read all those mean things about myself on the internet? Well, one of the not-so-nice things I read was that someone's friend met Matt and me in real life and thought we were "cuckoo." Just wanted to warn you before you think about inviting us into your home. References available upon request.



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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Let the [Construction] Games Begin


We closed on our construction loan! We are officially building a house! 

What a long road this process has been. We first met the builders more than two years ago to tour one of their houses and learn about their process (when we only had $84 in our account called "The Dream"). 

I had lots of trepidation about the crime rates in the area where we bought the land (I still get daily updates from SpotCrime), but everything about this move feels so right. I keep meeting more and more awesome families in the neighborhood, and I am over-the-moon excited that Henry will get to grow up on a 1/2-acre of land on a creek (even if the creek has been rumored to harbor some shady activity).

My dear friend recently linked to an article about "values-based spending," and building this house feels aligned with what kind of life Matt and I want to live. Of course it's not perfectly aligned with our values; it's not as eco-friendly to build new as it is to renovate, and if we could live in a co-housing community in Austin we would. But we'll continue to work toward those values as much as possible. For example, it's highly likely that we'll be able to produce as much energy as we consume, once we're able to afford solar panels. 

It's not the "building the house" part that is aligned with the kind of life Matt and I want to live. We want to live in a house that looks out over nature with tons of natural light with room for an orchard, exploration, garden, outdoor entertaining--in a neighborhood close to where we work and where Henry will go to school, with a mortgage that will allow us to drop down to one income if necessary. Building was the option that made all of that possible.

When I'm honest with myself about what I really want and what makes me happy, an aesthetically nurturing environment comes to the top of the list. I wish I weren't so sensitive to the low ceilings, wall-to-wall stained carpet, and window-scarcity of our current ranch rental, but I am. I miss the light and wood of our Houston bungalow, and I'm eager to be back in an environment that lifts my soul day in and day out. (But, Rental House, I am thankful that we found you and that you give us easy access to the park every single day. I don't mean to sound ungrateful. You have been a good house to us.)

And when I'm living in a home that makes me happy, I'm more motivated to invite others over and nurture connections and fun. It's not that an aesthetically pleasing space is a prerequisite for connection and fun (not at all!); I'm just being honest with myself about how I feel and what I want.

That's what this post is really about; it's about the idea of figuring out what we really want and then making it happens for ourselves and our families.  

I'm eager to create our little urban homestead (officially called "The Blackland Prairie House," since it's situated in the Texas Blackland Prairie--according to the GeoTech surveyor).

The founder/owner of the building company joined us at the closing, and he said he's expecting the house to only take six to eight months from start to finish (since they've already built the house two other times in Austin). If it gets built in that time frame, then it's highly likely that we'll be moved in before the baby arrives!

On the downside, we will only have a short amount of time to save up the money we're going to need for the permanent closing. We're continuing to live according to our very strict budget, and it's allowing us to bank my entire part-time salary every month. Hopefully I'll make some extra income when my wedding book is out. Not only do we have to save for the downpayment + closing costs for the permanent loan, we also have to save up for the appliances since we had to take those out of the budget to fit within our appraisal. 

But that's okay. We'll just have to work really hard to make it work. 

What are you making happen in your own lives? Or what are you thinking about making happen in your own lives? Please share! I'm rooting for you.



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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Healthy Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy


Okay, so today's the day I promised to discuss the embarrassing third reason I'm happy to be pregnant. First, let me tell a little of the back story. After my miscarriage, I worked really hard to get my body back in good shape to try and conceive again. I joined Weight Watchers to help me lose the last of my pregnancy weight and consistently exercised four times a week. I was feeling fantastic and very proud of myself. 

And then I was ovulating and we were trying to have a baby and I felt pregnant within one to two days. I mainly felt bloated and tired. It was hard to keep up my exercise routine. Once I let that slack off, it was even easier to abandon my healthy eating. I was also dealing with the psychological stress that comes from being pregnant for almost the entire first trimester, losing the baby, and then trying to conceive again. Whenever I feel stressed, I love to eat junk food. Also, in the back of my mind, I knew that if I were pregnant, I would need to start eating really healthy foods, and so I think I was indulging as much as possible just in case I was pregnant. For example, the day I found out I was pregnant (I didn't test until the evening), I ate two Krispy Kreme donuts, a grilled cheese sandwich, french fries, a pesto pasta dish, ciabatta bread, and gellato, and I was getting ready to eat some chocolate cake. As soon as I took the test and it was positive, I decided to let Matt eat all the cake. (As a parenthetical aside, I would like to point out that my in-laws were in town, so we were eating out for every meal.)

There are a whole host of reasons why good nutrition is so important during pregnancy (related to a healthier pregnancy, birth, and infant), but it's even more important for me because of the liver problems I had in my last pregnancy. Also, as a vegetarian, I need to ensure that I get adequate levels of protein and iron. So I'm back to my healthy regime. I understand that being so strict with my eating is what leads me to be more indulgent when I'm not being strict, but it's easier for me to cut out all unhealthy stuff. Honestly, it wasn't very hard for me to cut out refined sugar during my first pregnancy--I think because cutting it out entirely reduced most of my cravings. 

It's been particularly difficult to eat healthy lately, since my colleagues are always baking homemade treats and setting them on the table behind me. It will be much easier for me to eat healthy and nutritious foods if I avoid all of the food at school. 

It will also help if I have an idea in my mind about what I can eat for each meal and snack. I don't have to stick to the plan every day, but having the plan in place helps me eat healthy foods if I'm too busy to think of anything else. So here's what I'm thinking:
  • Green smoothie and a hard-boiled egg for breakfast (calcium, protein, fruit, and vegetable/iron)
  • Morning snack of a protein bar (recommended by my midwife)
  • Lunch = leftover dinner (protein + vegetable) + a piece of fruit
  • Afternoon snack = cheese stick + fruit
  • Dinner = protein + vegetable + salad (more leafy greens) with fruit in it
I just went back to the Vegetarian Pregnancy Nutrition Tracker I created based on the book What to Expect When You're Expecting (which many people hate). It looks like this basic sketch of a meal plan will fulfill most of the daily requirements.

Who knows how I'll feel throughout the first trimester. When I was pregnant with Henry, my midwife gave me permission to eat whatever I needed to in order to get through the first trimester. I'll heed that advice again if necessary, but I'll still try not to indulge in things that are bad for my liver.



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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Juggling and Balancing


I'm happy to pregnant for so many reasons. First and foremost, I am thrilled to expand our family and to welcome a new little personality into our home. It is such an honor to help Henry uncover and live into his unique being every day. As an aside, can I tell you the sweetest thing that happened with Henry (19 months) yesterday? We were at the park for our daily hour after school and snack. I was sitting on the ground letting him do his own thing. He was climbing up steps and sliding down the slide, picking up rocks, etc. Then he noticed a piece of trash on the ground. He walked over, picked it up, carried it all the way to the trash can, looked over the top of the can for a second or two, threw the trash in, and then resumed playing. 

That kid melts my heart. 

The other reason I am ecstatic to be pregnant right now is that there's still time to honor pregnancy and spend some time at home with the baby before my full-time job (i.e., running a school) kicks into gear. When we thought we only wanted one child, Matt and I timed it so I could be home with Henry for three years before my school opened. Once we changed our minds, we had to hurry to fit a second one into the pretty narrow window. Once the school is up and running, I really don't want to stop and take a maternity leave, especially in the early years of the school's development. 

It's not entirely clear how the state will run the charter school timeline next year. Last year, applicants interviewed in August and found out in September. Then they opened their schools the following August. This year, they aren't interviewing until November. I'm honestly not yet sure what will happen in my cycle. At the earliest, I would need to be doing part-time work around September. At the latest, it would be December (the baby is due at the end of June). It's going to be tricky to make sure I feel like I can sufficiently satisfy an infant's needs and be an effective leader. I'm not comfortable compromising on either of those fronts. Both of them are urgent priorities to me. 

If I'm able to get "Apple" on a schedule the way I was able to do for Henry, then I might have consistent stretches throughout the day when the baby is napping and I can work. I definitely won't count on anything like that, since I know that babies can be radically different. I'm brainstorming ideas about working at home to be with the baby but also hiring some help so that I could continue to get my work done as needed. 

It's a lot to juggle and balance, but I feel so fortunate to be in this place in history. Matt and I get to decide what kind of balance we want between our professional selves and our personal selves. I'm not automatically relegated to the home just because I'm a woman. I also don't feel pressure to "have it all" in order to prove myself in the workplace. I feel like I get to be in this very mindful place, deciding how to balance my needs with the needs of my family. 

It's definitely going to be a work in progress. Our plans will shift depending on what happens with the state and what kind of baby our new one is. 

The next reason why I'm happy to be pregnant right now is quite embarrassing, so I think I'll stop here for today and delve into it tomorrow...

Happy Tuesday,

s.



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Monday, October 22, 2012

Well, I'm Pregnant!



Yeah, I'm in disbelief, too. 

After a negative test at the doctor's office, I decided to wait until the 17-days-past-ovulation mark to try a home test.

If you've been following along, you know that I didn't go to the doctor for a pregnancy test; I went for a yearly check-up. Since the doctor was already testing my blood for other things, she offered to do a pregnancy test. I tried to explain that my cycle is really long and that she should trust me about when I say I ovulated instead of looking at the last date of my menstrual cycle, but she said we should test anyway.

My cycle is wonky and varies depending on the amount of stress in my life. It's also been crazy since my miscarriage in July. So I felt like waiting 17 days past ovulation would be a good goal. I had to use my mantra quite a few times to keep myself from dwelling on the unknowns. I also employed Kelly's advice about not making any sort of plans about when the baby would be due (if I were pregnant). 

Instead, I worked on "cultivating myself beyond the conception process" (a topic we cover in Purposeful Conception) and focused on a big event for the school I'm working to create.

I decided on the 17-day mark because that's when I tested for Henry. I made it all the way to the 16-day mark and then couldn't resist anymore. I justified it by saying that my big event was on the 17th day and if I found out I were pregnant on that day, I wouldn't have time to write the new baby a letter like I did for Henry and the second baby.

The line immediately darkened, and a huge smile spread across my shocked face. 

I am ecstatic and counting my lucky stars. Matt is a lot more cautious now that we've had a miscarriage, but I'm trying to stay optimistic and focused on the positive. A miscarriage is always possible, as is some kind of pregnancy- or birth-related complication. I keep those possibilities in the back of my mind, but I choose not to focus on them. 

So our baby is due at the end of June! Henry already wants to name it Apple. Of course he doesn't really understand any of this, but he is quite obsessed with apples right now, so it's often the word that comes out of his mouth when you ask him a question.



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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Find and Follow Your Passion



This comment from One and Doll deserves to be pulled out and spotlighted. Simply lovely.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

-Pedro Arrupe, SJ
P.S. Thanks to Grandma Cotner for the early Christmas present so a little boy could follow his passion. We bought this bike and pulled all the stickers off. It works perfectly for short little ones!



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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Meal Planning Revisited

I'm currently reading An Everlasting Meal, which makes it sound very romantic and enviable to simply start a pot of boiling water and then decide what to make for dinner. That approach is far from my reality (although I'm loving the book). In my life, it makes much more sense to plan out my meals for the week. A) I'm a planner, so having a plan tends to make me feel more comfortable. B) We're trying to save as much money as possible, so we only buy what we absolutely need at the grocery store, and C) I'm not the kind of person who enjoys spending much time thinking about cooking (I wish I were more like Meghan!). Cooking--for the most part--is a very practical endeavor in our household. We cook because it's cheaper and healthier. 

If I don't think about our meals in advance, I usually find myself pulling tried-and-true recipes out of my memory as I walk around the grocery store: pizza, vegetarian chili, tomato/mozzarella/basil sandwiches, and black bean and yam quesadillas. And while those recipes are delicious, they lose their deliciousness when they make an appearance week after week. Plus, it takes me longer to get through the grocery store because I inevitably forget some piece of produce and have to go all the way back to the beginning of the store.

So meal planning definitely makes sense for me, but I don't enjoy sitting down each week and taking time to find recipes and make a list. And although I love Meals for a Year, I want to be able to pull from recipes that have been vetted by our family. 

Here's my new plan: Create four different, seasonal meal plans that we rotate through three times every three months. It sounds more anal that it actually is. Basically, we would eat something different every day of September, but then we would repeat that month's plan in October and November before switching to the next season's plan. Each recipe would get eaten once a month for three months in a row. I originally read about this idea on Sew Liberated or Progressive Pioneer a couple years ago. 

It seems like the perfect plan for our family because once I set up the lists and recipes, Matt and I won't have to put much more thought into shopping and cooking. In the next couple years, our lives are likely going to crescendo into busy-ness. Hopefully we'll welcome another baby into our family and my school will open. We'll be balancing a lot with our own full-time work schedules and the lives of two children. We'll still want to cook dinner and sit down together as a family each night, but it would be great if we could minimize the amount of thinking and planning that has to go into that process. 

That doesn't mean all of our cooking with be mechanized or rote. We'll still try out new recipes when we're inspired to do so and bask in the joy of cooking. But our day-to-day process will be simpler, faster, and cheaper. 

I plan to set up our meal plans in the same way we set them up on Meals for a Year. I'll make a list of the recipes and create a separate shopping list for each week. This will be a fun project to take on as we patiently wait to add another baby to our family.

I also want to read this book about simplifying family meals. It looks really good!



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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Survey Says: Not Pregnant

The nurse called to say that the results of my blood work indicate that I'm not pregnant. Honestly, I'm surprised. I feel pregnant again (even though you're not supposed to be able to feel anything). But I would also be surprised to get pregnant so easily. So who knows. I asked how early blood work can measure pregnancy, and she said ten days. It's been more like eight days, so I have no idea if that's affecting it or not. The internet said as early as 7 days. 

I don't know. Just wanted to keep you updated.

(Meanwhile, I'm trying to generate a whole list of reasons why it would be good not be be pregnant right now--you know, to make myself feel better: 1) I would have more time to save up more money for a maternity leave 2) we would have more time to get our house built and settled into before the baby comes.)



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Am I Pregnant?


Oh, that question. The weeks between trying to conceive during ovulation and being able to take a home pregnancy test are difficult. I know I am not allowed many passes for complaining about the wait, since I've gotten pregnant twice during the first cycle of trying. The first try led to this wonderful guy, and the second time ended in miscarriage. Now we're on attempt number three.

I've been working through Purposeful Conception again, and as part of my next steps, I scheduled a yearly physical with my primary care physician. I wanted to get my annual pap smear and get some blood work done to see if I was in a good place to start trying to conceive again. I also wanted to confirm that my natural miscarriage was fully over and successful.

I wasn't able to get in to see the doctor for almost a month and a half. During that time, I had a regular menstrual cycle (my first one post-miscarriage), so Matt and I decided to try again.

The visit ended up looking very different than I originally anticipated. Instead of getting my hormone levels checked to confirm that the miscarriage was complete, I'm instead being tested to find out if I'm pregnant. And I get to find out today! 

Craziness. 

I will keep you updated!



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Monday, October 15, 2012

On Building Community


Inspired by Andrea's idea of having a mantra for the year, I deemed 2012 the year to "make dreams happen." We moved to Austin so I could work on starting the city's first public Montessori school, and we started building momentum for a co-housing community. We identified land (as well as an amazing family to live there with us!). I started attending events sponsored by the folks who had been trying to bring co-housing to Austin for about a decade. I formed a good relationship with one of the founders of that movement. 

The amazing, affordable land that we were going to buy turned out to be entirely in the flood plain (which is a major no-go in Austin development). The family with whom we were going to build a community bought their own house instead (they were in a hurry to settle in before their baby came). I started to realize that I wasn't going to be able to make the co-housing thing work within a timeline that would allow my family to settle in and put down roots in the Austin community fast enough (I want Henry to have the stable, connected childhood that I wasn't able to have). To make it work, we would have had to save up for years to purchase a large parcel of land ourselves and then save up more money to build on it and then sub-divide it and sell it off to people interested in community. The process would have taken years and would have been very lonely in the meantime.

While that was going on, I started doing home visits to meet families interested in sending their children to the school I'm working to start. I met with several families all within the same neighborhood in East Austin. All of the families were creative, welcoming, and interesting--exactly the kind of people I would love to raise Henry around. The neighborhood also happened to be within our target geographic region. We're trying to recruit families from seven neighborhoods, which range from some of the highest poverty areas in Austin to neighborhoods that are already gentrified. We want the school to be racially, culturally, and socio-economically diverse.

I asked my realtor to do a land search for me in the particular neighborhood (which is low- to middle-income), and she found a 1/2 acre for sale that backed up to a creek. Because the co-housing concept was going to require that we build a house, we had already started working with a pre-fab, modular company to figure out how to build a modern, eco-friendly, relatively inexpensive home. 

I worried a lot about the high level of crime in the area, but we ultimately decided that it would be utterly amazing to live within the same community where I want to build a school for diverse families. The house we're building + the land it's on is $4 per square foot less expensive than the average renovated home is selling for within a mile radius.  

So we're getting ready to start construction any day now. We're waiting for the final appraisal to go through (we had to remove the appliances and the fence from the construction budget to lower it). We're also waiting for a building permit from the city.

Now it's time to think about building community. I missed National Night Out this year. Because we're living in a rental in the south of Austin, I haven't wanted to make too many connections and put down too many roots. I'm eager, however, to start connecting with my soon-to-be-neighbors. 

First idea on the to-do list: 
  • Schedule a play date at the neighborhood park for families interested in the school. I would love to get to know the families better, answer questions, and begin to introduce Henry to the friends he will go to school with for 11 years (pre-K3 through 8th grade).
Okay, I'm going to go schedule it now...

----------------
Today on 2000 Dollar Wedding: Staying grounded with mantras



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Friday, October 12, 2012

Partner in Publishing


The other day, I received a lovely e-mail from a kindred spirit asking if I wanted a partner on my upcoming Purposeful Parenthood course. Since I already finished mapping out the entire course, the timing wasn't great to try and collaborate with someone else at this point. 

However, it got me thinking about how awesome it would be to partner with someone to keep 2000 Dollar Wedding up and running. The site is still really important to me because how we plan our weddings sets precedents for the kind of families we create. I want to continue to produce content related to planning a meaningful and memorable celebration without losing your sanity or savings.

Here's what I'm looking for:
  • A creative thought partner 
  • A kindred spirit whose wedding embodies the ethos of the site (even if it is/was more than $2,000)
  • An engaging writer who will reliably produce at least two posts per week
  • An organized manager who would find pleasure in coordinating giveaways, sponsorships, etc.
We can definitely talk more about what this would entail and how you could get compensated for your time/energy/creativity. Let me know if you're interested!





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Thursday, October 11, 2012

On Saving and Spending


I very much enjoyed reading Mr. Money Moustache's post earlier this week. As I've mentioned before, MMM is a married dad in his thirties who retired early. His post on Monday was all about the average middle class person's spending (which actually seems like upper middle class to me) versus his recommended spending amounts. He even includes a handy table, which contrasts the two types of spending side-by-side.

It was super-helpful to open up Matt's and my budget for a comparison. Matt and I have worked with a budget for the past four years. Our budget is always changing, depending on our job situations. When we were both working full-time, we were able to save a lot of extra money. We put some of it into the mortgage on our first house, saved some for vacations, put some away for house improvements and repairs, added to our retirement accounts, paid off one of our cars, and saved up for a baby. When I went on maternity leave for 14 months, we only went to visit family for vacations, stopped adding to our retirement accounts, and seriously reigned in our spending on things like entertainment, groceries, and eating out. Right now--as we get ready to start building the house we want to raise our children in--we are at the tightest point ever. I'm only working part-time, and we pay for Henry's part-time daycare. 

It's fun to look at MMM's list and think about what our budget will look like when we're both working full-time again. I hope that we can keep our frivolous spending down, instead of wasting money on groceries that we don't really need and eating out multiple times a week. If we're able to keep our spending low, then we'll be able to save for bigger and better things, like solar panels, a rain-water harvesting system, garden, orchard, pet pygmy goats, fun vacations, a swimming pool, and a projector and screen for weekly movie nights...

MMM used all of his extra income to retire early. Neither Matt nor I have any interest in retiring early, so it's fun to think all the ways we'll get to save (and spend) the extra money we have coming in (when it's finally coming in).

P.S. I love this post about spending time--rather than money--to be a good parent.



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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Henry's Health Binder


I am humbled by your kindness, Friends. Thank you for taking time out of your day to share some encouraging words with me yesterday. I promise my intent wasn't to make you feel sorry for me and say nice things to me (although maybe that was some kind of sub-conscious desire?). Regardless, your thoughtfulness was much-appreciated.  

We're getting ready to take Henry to his 18-month well-check appointment (I know; we're a month late). I've been wanting to create a centralized place to keep all of his health-related things. Right now we have a folder for everything, but folders never really feel organized to me. Also, not everything makes it into the folder. I have questions and notes from doctor's visits in various notebooks. Further, I haven't kept a record of the illnesses he's had that didn't require a doctor's visit. 

I figured a binder would be a simple solution. I made a sheet to track his doctors' visits, a sheet to track illnesses (with our without a doctors' visit so we can pay attention to patterns over time), and a sheet to track his vital stats. Matt pointed out that electronic records make this kind of binder obsolete, but Henry has already been to three different pediatricians in less than two years. I'm not even sure how well files have or have not been transferring.


I plan to use these sheets for myself, too. I might find them tedious and fall out of the habit of using them, but I'll give it a try and see if I like it. I think collecting this kind of information will help me identify patterns (like recurring sinus infections that correspond with particular times of the year). On second thought, it might make more sense to simply create a "Health" calendar in my Google calendar with quick notes about health-related things that I could turn off and on as necessary.

Our current doctor's office doesn't keep electronic shot records, so I put his shot record in a plastic sheet protector at the front of the binder.
I'm eager to have a centralized place for everything--no more notes on my phone, notes in a notebook, or notes on the back of an info sheet from the doctor.



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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How We Spend Our Days


There's an Annie Dillard quote that I hold close to my heart: "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." I am humbled by the profound wisdom in the idea that the choices we make on a day-to-day basis end up creating our lives. And while it's one thing to have a vision for my life, I have to acknowledge that it's my daily actions will ultimately define who I am and whom I become. 

I was wondering why there were so many negative comments around here lately, and a quick look at my blog's statistics revealed that a bunch of people have been heading over from another site that is specifically focused on criticizing other people's blogs. On that site, people read blogs that irritate and enrage them and then congregate in a forum to publicly commiserate about the blogs they hate. Apparently, 2000 Dollar Wedding and Feeding the Soil have plenty of haters. I got to read pretty disparaging things (primarily focused on how insufferable I am as a person). 

I won't lie; it definitely hurt to read those things. Some things hurt more than others (like when someone said that when my home birth didn't go as planned, I ended up being bitter toward Henry). For the record, the undercurrent of sadness in my post-partum posts had nothing to do with my transfer to the hospital and everything to do with my difficult transition into motherhood, which I wanted to publicly share to help comfort anyone else who felt something similar.

Many of the things they said were true. Yes, I am a compulsive planner whose "lists include lists." And, yes, I'm over-analytical.

But the worst part about what all those people said about me was that I became focused on it; it pulled all my energy toward it and away from other things. As Matt and I were falling asleep, I kept saying, "And listen to what else they said..."And even now, I'm writing a whole post about it. And I have to confess that it will be tempting to check the site frequently to see what new mean things have been added.

As Annie Dillard reminds me, I have to be careful about how I spend my time. I don't want to spend my time focused on the negative--reacting to other people's meanness. That kind of reaction inhibits creation and innovation. It pulls me away from forward momentum. 

The best I can do is be who I am and whom I strive to be. I can't control how other people perceive me or whether or not they like me. The very act of trying to control that or even worrying about it keeps me separated from my authentic self. 

It is my hope that this post will be my final moment to dwell on the experience. As thoughts and insecurities flood my mind, I will try my best to push them to the side with a simple mantra: "Let it go."



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Monday, October 8, 2012

October: Reflection & Rejuvenation


Ah, October. I'm glad you're here. I'm sorry I haven't had time to greet you properly. 

I wanted to wait until I had time to sit down and reflect before I wrote this post about my goals for the upcoming month. 

So here I am, already into the second week of October.

Let me take a quick peek back at my September goals:
  • Work on Purposeful Parenthood (no pressure to finish it): Yes! I'm really excited about the course.
  • Get the bulk of Henry's Halloween costume finalized (I'm thrilled that I can re-use my costume from four years ago for myself): Yep! It's basically finished (although it seems unlikely that he will actually want to wear it on Halloween...).
  • Work really hard for Magnolia Montessori For All to plan an awesome "Meet & Greet" event: This event has taken a lot of time to plan, but I'm hoping it will be worth it.
  • Attend a parenting bookclub (we're reading Parenting from Your Heart): The book did not arrive in time from the library, so I did not attend.
  • Get some fiction books from the library to help with my process of decompressing before bed: Yes! I read two really easy escape fiction books. It was awesome to read them.
  • Enjoy the pop-up dinner party: I ended up canceling the pop-up dinner party. Four people couldn't come and two people canceled, including the person who was going to make the vegetarian enchiladas. 
What else did I accomplish that wasn't on my list?
  • I ran three times a week.
  • I attended three parent education events at Henry's school.
  • I actively participated in Purposeful Conception. 
  • I attended 14 meetings to help build Austin's first public Montessori school
I love the clean slate of each new month. What do I want to accomplish in October? The holidays are nearly upon us...
Hmmm...I feel like my focus is scattered among several big projects: A Priceless Wedding, Kids in the Kitchen, Magnolia Montessori For All, and Purposeful Parenthood. The only thing I could cross off the list would be Purposeful Parenthood, but I'm really excited about working on it. Dilemmas, dilemmas. 

There's also the unknown of when/if I'm going to get pregnant again. The last time I was pregnant (before the miscarriage), I was taking a nap every day, which knocked out a lot of my productive work time. We'll see what happens. 

Photo Courtesy of the Nikki McClure Calendar



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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Enter to Win


The lovely Kylie D'Alton of How We Montessori is hosting a giveaway of our book, Kids in the Kitchen: Simple Recipes That Build Independence and Confidence the Montessori Way. You can enter to win by leaving a comment on her blog.

Thanks, Kylie! And good luck to all (she's giving away two copies!)...



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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Guest Post: Surviving Cancer from Asbestos

 

I don't typically run guest posts around these parts, but when Heather contacted me about a message that she wanted to share with a wider audience, I was honored to share this space with her. I think a lot about environmental toxins--in our furniture, mattresses, Tupperware, pots and pans, paint, makeup--and it scares the daylights out of me. It scares me because asbestos was once considered to be a miracle product. Which of today's everyday materials will turn out to be a killer in a couple decades? Without further ado, here's Heather with her story:

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Triumph Over Tragedy 

When I heard those three dreadful words—“You have cancer”—talk about total devastation. My life was great prior to the heart-breaking diagnosis. I should have been enjoying the newness of being a mom to my three-and-a-half month old, but the pleasure was cut short after I had learned the worst. I was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, a type of cancer associated with exposure to asbestos.

“But I thought asbestos was banned” is what I hear frequently along with the puzzled looks on the faces of those who I share my story with. Following this statement is the question “Were you exposed to asbestos?” Yes, I was. Secondhand.

My father worked in construction. He performed primarily mudding, sanding and drywall taping jobs with materials that contained asbestos. His clothing, skin, hair and anything else with direct contact, absorbed the dust from those materials. Thus, I was exposed in different ways by physical contact from his jacket, clothes, car, etc. The white dust, just by appearance, seemed harmless though it contained millions of poisonous asbestos fibers that would later prove hazardous to not only him.

I was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma at 36 years old. The Mayo Clinic had only learned of one prior case of someone at my young age having this type of cancer.  Mesothelioma is typically believed to affect older tradesmen in the lines of heating, plumbing, mechanics, electricians and other construction-related fields. However, numbers of women have now begun falling ill as they were exposed to the fibers through doing their husbands’ laundry. Moreover, women who worked in schools that had asbestos tiles in them weren’t immune either.

The diagnosis among a younger generation—children of men and women exposed to asbestos—has been on the rise. Those schools that were built with contaminated materials put children at risk. The tiles and insulation of the attics these children played in or around contained the fibers of this deadly cancer. Children who greeted their fathers with hugs after a long day’s work were easily exposed to this monster in disguise. Children who wore their father’s polluted work jackets or tagged along with their dads because of the special feeling it gave them were innocently affected.

With time, I have grown to learn more about this monstrosity and how it has affected men and women of a younger generation in addition to the older generation; people who are newlyweds, have great jobs and families, who have to manage their life-threatening illness while maintaining their households and careers. Also with time has come the advancement of treatments. More people are surviving this cancer than ever.

To hear those three words is a devastating blow to anyone. My hope is fierce, and the support of a community of people who have been affected provides a cushion of support we all need. Sharing our experiences give us strength to endure, shoulders to cry on when we need them and allows for celebration of triumphs for those who have overcome.

I share my story to create awareness. I share my story to uplift. Without awareness there is no hope. At the end of the day if my story has shined a light at the end of a tunnel for anyone suffering from mesothelioma, I have made an impact.

Check out the video, What is Mesothelioma? for more information.



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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

House Update

I'm sorry for my lack of posting yesterday! When you see sporadic posting, it usually means I had a hectic weekend and I'm trying to play catch-up during the week.

On Saturday, I had a four-hour work meeting. On Sunday, I had a two-hour board meeting. I used all of my free time (Matt and I each take time to ourselves on the weekends) to prepare for the board meeting. I didn't even go into the week with a complete action plan ready to go. I hate that feeling. 

I owe you a long response to all the comments on the House Flipping post (and also a response to a long, thoughtful e-mail I received). In the meantime, I wanted to drop in to give you the update on our house: our appraisal came in $22,000 lower than we needed it to be. The appraiser looked at three "comparable" houses in East Austin. Two of them were very close to the central section of town, but they were a traditional style and on tiny lots. One of them was a modern home, but it was very far out of town, and it's in a development that's having financial problems and has to give back its remaining land to the bank. 

Our builder and relator are advocating for us. They sent an appeal to the bank/appraiser, citing the fact that renovated homes in our neighborhood are selling at a much higher cost per square foot than the comps that the appraiser looked at. Also, our builder recently got an appraisal for a home in East Austin that was $10 per square foot more expensive than our current home.

There's not much that we can take out of the construction budget without affecting the house. We could subtract the appliances, the fence, and one of the surveys (which we already paid for) and shave off $10,000. But that still leaves us with a $12,000 difference. I don't think we can afford the two downpayments plus two closing costs plus that extra chunk of change. 

So we're still in limbo. I'm not optimistic that the appraiser is going to budge. But we'll see. 



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Monday, October 1, 2012

Building a Home: The Waiting Game


Just to give you a quick update on the house front: We qualified for an 85% loan (we'll switch to an 80% loan for our permanent loan, once construction is complete). That wasn't really a surprise because we've been crunching the numbers for a long time, but it was still a relief. 

Next step: Wait to hear how the appraisal goes. In order to actually get the loan, the total cost of the house we're going to build (plus the land it sits on) has to be comparable to other houses in the neighborhood. This process can be difficult in gentrifying areas, since the sales prices of homes fluctuate wildly.

The realtor we've been working with ran the comps for our neighborhood and the next neighborhood over. According to her numbers, it looks like we're only $3/square foot over the average for the past six months (and under the highest by $23/square foot). 

Normally, if an appraisal comes in lower than the construction budget + land, the buyers simply pay the difference in cash. Matt and I are definitely not in a place to be able to pay the difference, so we're just over here crossing our fingers and toes that it's going to come through okay. 

Of course my planning brain is brainstorming what our next steps will be if the appraisal doesn't come through (it makes me feel better to have a contingency plan). We might be able to shave some of the total cost off (e.g., getting rid of the fence, not including the kitchen appliances in the budget, etc.), but we won't be able to reduce it by very much. If we have to wait any longer to build our house, all of our current bids will expire, and we'll be back at the beginning with the construction budget. 

So we're waiting! And hoping! (and still living as frugally as possible to save up money for the closing costs and down payment for our permanent loan).



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