Wednesday, December 19, 2012

See You in the New Year!

As much as I like the festive Christmas spirit, I really, really like the new year. I like the natural cycle of reflection, planning, goal-setting, dreaming, and the renewed sense of energy I feel.

My friends and I have been filling out this New Year's Reflection form since I created it in 2005. Last year, I added Andrea's reflection into the mix, which is more holistic. We also make a collage to represent the kind of year we want to have. I like Andrea's idea of having a mantra for the year. This year, I want to make sure I incorporate my mantra into my collage.

My mantra for 2012 was "Make Dreams Happen." I've definitely done that in many ways, including finishing and publishing my book, growing the idea of Austin's first public Montessori school from a small seed into a sapling, selling our house without a realtor and moving to Austin, finding land/designing a house, collaborating with good friends to write and publish another book, getting pregnant (twice), and learning how to run a charter school by working at a new one. 

Wow. It's crazy to see everything listed all together like that. 

What does this next year have in store for me? Actually, that sounds really passive. I should ask, "What do I want to create/bring to fruition/make happen in 2013?"

I want the state to approve our charter so Magnolia Montessori For All can officially be born. I want to give birth to a happy and healthy little one. I want to continue to nurture Henry and help him build the foundation of his personality. I want to make our new house a home. I want to bring food forth from the earth. I want to build community in our new city. I want to practice Spanish to improve my ability to communicate with diverse families.

What lays ahead in each month?
  • January = Finalizing our charter application
  • February = Completing the final push for the charter school
  • March = Publicizing A Priceless Wedding; Getting a head start on the school
  • April = Publicizing A Priceless Wedding; Getting a head start on the school
  • May = Publicizing A Priceless Wedding; Getting a head start on the school
  • June = Moving into our new house and getting settled; building raised beds; preparing the soil for fall gardening
  • July = Relaxing with the new baby
  • August = Relaxing with the new baby; Interviewing with the state to secure a charter
  • September = Working on my school part-time while I stay home with the new baby
  • October = Working on my school part-time while I stay home with the new baby
  • November = Working on my school part-time while I stay home with the new baby
  • December = Working on my school part-time while I stay home with the new baby
I look forward to continuing this process of reflection and intention-setting. We're going to take a 21-hour roadtrip to see my family in Florida (and then fly to Indiana to see Matt's family), so I'll have lots of time to refine my thinking and position myself for the new year. 

I'll see you on January 7th! May your next couple of weeks brim to the top with love, contentment, and connection!

Share |

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dealing with Sadness

I've been experiencing sadness lately. I think part of it comes from all the pregnancy hormones. I think the other part of it comes from not getting all of my needs met. The last time I wrote out what I need on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis, here's what I came up with:

  • Eight hours of sleep (Still important! I'm basically getting this need met, plus a 1.5-hour nap every day)
  • Healthy meals (Yes, when my first-trimester stomach can handle it.)
  • Plenty of water (Sadly, no; I need to step up my game!)
  • Quality time with my family (Yes!)
  • Time outside (Yes!)
  • Meaningful and productive work with inspiring and engaging colleagues (Yes!)
  • Time on my computer (Yes!)
  • Exercise at least four times a week (Hm...not consistently. I have a plan; I just haven't been following through with it.)
  • Time to myself (Yes.)
  • Conversations with extended family and friends (Yes.)
  • Time to create something (I have not prioritized this one.)
  • A quirky and interesting event on our calendar (Not necessarily)
  • A date night with Matt (Nope)
  • A big vacation (Nope--can't afford it.)
  • A couple self-development endeavors (conferences, retreats, etc.) (Nope--also can't afford it.)
Going through that list was really helpful. It seems that I'm actually getting a lot of my smaller needs met on a daily and weekly basis; I'm just struggling with the bigger needs. I think it's the bigger things (creating something, doing interesting things, traveling places, going on dates, etc.) that help me feel most like myself.

So what is holding me back from doing the bigger things? How come I'm not crafting? Why aren't we seeking out interesting things? Why aren't Matt and I going on date nights? 

I know that I'm not going to conferences/retreats/etc. because of our budget limitations. That's also why we aren't planning fun and interesting vacations. 

So what is in my circle of control? What can I specifically do to better meet my needs?
  • Use the babysitting co-op to go on dates with Matt. This piece is very important and woefully missing from our life.
  • Start planning a big vacation for 2014. We'll have two full-time incomes by then. For me, planning is half the fun, so getting started now might help lift my spirits. 
  • Plan to make something for the new baby.
  • Clean and organize our current space. Our current rental house feels cluttered to me, and clutter makes me feel stuck and unmotivated.
Have a few next steps makes me feel a ton better already!

Share |

Monday, December 17, 2012

Easy, High-Protein Breakfast

I'm still in the eat-whatever-will-sit-well-with-my-slightly-queasy-stomach phase of pregnancy, so I haven't been able to kick my healthy eating into high gear. Salads are just now starting to feel tolerable again. According to this online due date calculator, I am officially just beginning the second trimester. 

As a vegetarian, I want to make sure I eat plenty of protein. I can usually hit 60-70 grams if I eat a high-protein breakfast, dinner leftovers for lunch, dinner, and two high-protein snacks (including a protein bar recommended by my midwife).

I've had too many green smoothies lately, so I wanted to put a new option into the mix: an egg and cheese sandwich. My best friend taught me how to make these more than a decade ago, which is fitting because they are amazingly easy and would fit easily into any post-college lifestyle (which is perfect for a pregnant person who works two part-time jobs and tries to keep up with a toddler). 

  • One egg
  • Oil spray (I use olive oil in one of these bottles)
  • Whole wheat English muffin
  • Cheese (I use white cheddar cheese--ever since I read the ingredients and realized that orange cheddar cheese has added coloring for the orange effect--so weird!)
  1. Toast the English muffin
  2. Spray the bottom of a regular cereal-size bowl with olive oil or some other kind of non-sticking agent
  3. Crack an egg into the bowl
  4. Put the bowl in the microwave and cover with a light dishtowel (we try to be a paper-towel-free household)
  5. Microwave for 1 minute
  6. Cut up the cheese
  7. Assemble! (and add salt and pepper as preferred)
It's a seriously quick, easy, tasty, and protein-packed (about 20 grams!) breakfast. I'm not sure what I'll do when our house finally gets built (still waiting on the building permit from the Glorious City of Austin!) and we intentionally don't have a microwave. 

P.S. I just learned that the The Book Depository offers free shipping world-wide, so any international friends can easily order Kids in the Kitchen: Simple Recipes That Build Independence and Confidence the Montessori Way. And apparently A Priceless Wedding: Crafting a Meaningful, Memorable, and Affordable Celebration is also available; it's just currently out of stock.

Share |

Friday, December 14, 2012

Genetic Screening Update

I just want to acknowledge that writing this post was difficult. I've re-read it several times and have considered not publishing it. I don't feel proud of myself when I admit that one of the reasons we opted for genetic screening this time around is that having a second baby is going to push us to capacity.

But I can only be who I am. I am always striving to grow and evolve as a person, but I am who I am. As someone who publishes my thoughts in a public forum, I feel it is my obligation to share those thoughts honestly. 

Thank you, Dear Universe, for another opportunity to bring new life into this world. 

The results from our nuchal screening came back all clear!

As I signed in for my appointment, I asked clarifying questions about what our insurance would cover. She said, "Well, you have AMA, so the chances are good that it will be covered." I responded with, "I don't have AMA; I have Blue Cross Blue Shield." 

She clarified, "AMA means 'Advanced Maternal Age.'"

Oh. Then I remembered that the doctors count how old you'll be when you deliver the baby, not how old you are when you conceive. 

The risk for abnormalities skyrockets after the age of 35. I wish that weren't the case. I wish our minds could take the lead on when our best time for fertility is, based on where we are in life. Staring at the statistics with the genetic counselor was very, very frightening. 

With Henry, we opted not to do any testing. Even though I completely support a woman's right to choose, I didn't think I could bring myself to "choose" what kind of baby could live and what kind of baby could die (especially because our bodies are so good at deciding for us, which is why the rate of miscarriage is so high). 

A good friend of mine followed the same path. I remember hearing that she was getting screened with the second baby (when she hadn't for the first). I remember being struck my what felt like unfairness. Why was the first baby going to be accepted no matter what but the second baby had to be screened? 

And then I was in the same position. And I understood better.

Bringing a second baby into our family is going to push us to the very edge of our capacity. Matt and I struggled for the first 16 months of Henry's life to get the joy the outweigh the difficulty. We are not kidding ourselves about how hard it will be the second time around. Of course some things will be easier (we won't second guess ourselves so much, we won't worry about as many things, etc.), but we'll have to meet the baby's needs alongside a toddler's needs (and our needs!). 

There is so much that is out of our control. Even thinking about all the possible things that could go wrong on a given day and change our lives forever overwhelms me. So this time around, screening felt like one piece that was in our control. 

We did not reach our decision lightly. It involved lots of conversations with lots of different friends and family members. It involved lots of research. 

I think it's one of those things we need to talk about more. We need to bring it out of the shadows. I know it's hard to do because the risk for judgement and condemnation is so high. 

But it's one of those major life decisions we face. The lack of conversation around it makes it even more isolating and lonely.

I am counting my lucky stars that we got the best possible outcome. We opted for the earliest screen (which can have false positives which leads to more worry/stress/weeks of waiting) and we got the best possible news. I am flooded with gratitude.

Still gift shopping? Check out this step-by-step guide for planning a meaningful, memorable, and affordable wedding! Or, for the parents of young children in your life, this comprehensive guide covers the basics of involving kids in cooking to build their independence and confidence. 

Share |

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Talking to the First Child About a Baby

The difference between talking with Henry about a baby when I was pregnant back in May and June (when he was ~17 months old) versus now (when he's 21 months old) is drastic. Back then, he gave no indication that he understand what we were talking about at all. Now, he initiates conversations about the baby and adds his own thoughts. 

The first thing he said about babies is that they "cry." He sings "The Wheels on the Bus" at school, so he knows that babies go "wah, wah, wah." He even does hand gestures to go with it. After a while, he added to the conversation that babies "poop." A few days later, he added that they "pee." Most recently, he's added that they are "hungry." 

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up, Sweet Henry.

We decided to start talking with Henry about the baby because it's already such a part of our lives. We also want to give him ample time to adjust to the idea that a baby is coming. So far, he's really excited about the idea. The other day we walked into a store, and he heard a baby crying. His eyes lit up and he started exclaiming, "Baby! Baby!" Oh, my sweet little boy. 

We also talk honestly with him about what's happening. For example, last week, he knew that we were going to the doctor to see if they baby was "okay" or "all gone." I know not every family would make the same decision to talk about these kinds of issues with such a young child, but if something had been wrong, I would have wanted Henry to know why we were so upset and crying.

I decided to frame our first ultrasound picture and put it in Henry's room. We had an extra IKEA frame left over from when we set up Henry's weaning table at our old house. I turned the paper insert around and put a few dabs of BINGO paint on it. Voila! 

We're going in for another ultrasound this week for nuchal translucency screening. We opted not to do any genetic testing when I was pregnant with Henry, but this time we want to. I'm trying to release any and all stress associated with the uncertainty and waiting. I'm employing my mantra a lot: "Let it go." 


P.S. My book--A Priceless Wedding: Crafting a Meaningful, Memorable, and Affordable Celebration--is now shipping from Amazon! Do you know someone who is getting married? Give the gift of wedding planning sanity this holiday season! 

Share |

Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Recommendation

I know I've recommended this book before, but I can't help it! It's designed to be read in stages--from diapers to dating--so I'll be coming back to it again and again as Henry grows. 

We've been following the book's advice to label the parts of the body using accurate terminology. Henry is particularly interested in learning new vocabulary, so it's felt like an easy and natural time to help him learn about the human body in a non-shameful way. 

Since Henry is rapidly approaching his 2nd birthday (at the end of February), I went ahead and read the chapter on "The Preschool Years: Ages 2 to 5." Lots of the content was too advanced for where we are, but a couple things stood out:
  • "During the preschool years, you will have many more opportunities to provide a beginning sexuality education to your children...Anticipating some of these potential teachable moments will allow you to give your messages about sexuality in a calm, relaxed way."
  • With regard to using accurate names for the body parts: "Try to be calm and matter of fact. You want to try to convey a message that all the parts of the body are good and special, and that all the parts of the body have their own names."
Also, the section on preschoolers recommended the following books when introducing a new baby into the family:
  1. How You Were Born by Joanna Cole
  2. How Was I Born by Lennart Nilson and Lena Katarina Swanberg
The books feel a little outdated, but they seem helpful nonetheless. I think it's really important to start the conversation about these topics while it's easy and comfortable. The longer we wait, the harder and more uncomfortable it's going to get.

Share |

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Our Baby Is Swimming Around!

Phew! What a huge relief. Everything looks great so far with our little Baby. I'm sorry to scare you yesterday. The whole scenario felt all too familiar: Go to the midwife at 11 weeks. Don't hear a heartbeat.

Last time that happened, I was hopeful that it was just too early. And then the miscarriage happened. 

This time, it wasn't so easy to stay optimistic. I turned off the comments yesterday because they get e-mailed to me, and I couldn't bear being reminded (even nicely!) while I was at work. As it was, I had to fight the tears a few times.

I was flooded with surprise when the ultrasound came on and I could see our tiny baby swimming around--little hands and feet and everything. So far, so good. Henry was very confused about seeing the baby on the screen but also trying to reconcile that with the fact that the baby is in my uterus. He kept looking back and forth between the two.

Share |

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sad News

The midwife wasn't able to hear the heartbeat with her doppler yesterday. She thinks it might just be too early (12 weeks). I'm less optimistic. I'm going in for a vaginal ultrasound this afternoon. I will keep you updated, Friends.

Share |

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Recipes with More Vegetables

Last week, I was inspired by a participant in this round of Purposeful Conception to watch the documentary Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. It's about a man who is overweight and seeks to cure a chronic disease by doing a juice fast for 60 days. After the 60 days, he continues with a healthy lifestyle that includes exercising, eating in moderation, and drinking juice daily. His quest inspires others to change their lives, too.

By the end of it, I was inspired to incorporate more vegetables into our meals. I then watched a 30-minute segment about The Engine 2 Diet, which relies heavily on vegetables. (As an interesting coincidence, the guy who authored it is a firefighter from Austin, and I actually know his wife really well.) I ordered the book from the library but also realized that they have some good recipes available on their website, such as this recipe for burritos. We scaled it way back (only one can of each type of beans). It was still delicious. I loved the brown rice inside the burritos, two different types of beans, and all the vegetables. Cooking them in the oven until crisp was a really nice touch at the end. 

Next time, I'll try to do some of the prep ahead of time when we're cooking other meals, such as making the rice. It was a lot of work (for us) for a single meal. But I look forward to making this recipe again and trying to squeeze as many vegetables as possible into our dinners (which we eat at leftovers nearly every day for lunch).

Share |

Monday, December 3, 2012

December: Reflection & Reflection

Oh, November, the Month of Gratitude. I should start by focusing on the positive, such as the fact that I am so thankful we had so many friends rotate through our home this month: Andy and Beth at Thanksgiving, Andrew and Libby, Matt's brother John, and the band Naytronix

But I struggled a lot this month, mainly with physical illness that wiped me out and opened up big, wide spaces in my emotional life for sadness and uncertainty to sweep in. First we got some kind of stomach bug, which, at one point, left me sitting on the bathroom floor at 3am, with my arm stretched up to hold Henry on top of the counter in the middle of a diaper change, calling for Matt because I was about to faint (he was in our bathroom dealing with his own gastrointestinal issues). Those intense days of sickness pushed Matt and me to the very edge of our parenting. With no grandparents in town, we had to cobble together what felt like "coverage" for Henry. I am so thankful Henry wasn't also sick. We already felt like we were at the edge of our capacity.

After that blew through, a different kind of sickness entered in a couple days later. Stuffy noses. Sore throats. Coughing. Those symptoms--coupled with setting the clocks back--threw Henry's 6:30pm-7am sleeping schedule off-kilter. I haven't taken medicine since I was preparing for Henry's conception (around Fall 2010). I've mainly be able to prevent illness proactively, but when I do get sick, I try to sleep it off and drink a lot of liquids.

With this sickness, I tried the same strategies, but they weren't working. After seven days and no signs of clearing up, I went to the doctor. In under five minutes he had already prescribed a litany of medicine for me, which was different than the litany of medicine Matt's doctor prescribed him at his 5-minute appointment. For example, apparently his watery/crusty eye was pink-eye; mine was sinus blockage. 

I expressed my concern with taking any medication while in the first trimester, and I asked if it was absolutely necessary for me to take anything. He said he doesn't personally let himself suffer past one week, but if I wanted to go on longer, I could. I really just wanted to give the baby the same environment that Henry had had--one that was free from potentially dangerous chemicals. 

I waited another week and things started to look a little better, even though I was essentially still in sick mode: coughing, needing to rest constantly, and feeling generally awful. I started to realize that I was wreaking a different kind of havoc on our baby by subjecting my body to so much stress from illness for so long. I just kept thinking, "I've been sick so long and it feels like it's tapering; surely I'll be better any day now." 

But then my intense sore throat returned, and I decided it was time to try and wipe it out completely. I started antibiotics right away. Here we are in December and I am finally starting to feel better. In retrospect, I realize that I could have prevented a lot of suffering by taking the medicine earlier; I just didn't know that this sickness would persist in ways that others usually don't. 

The worst part about being physically tamped down was that it really affected my mental state. I wish I had mustered more optimism and focused on gratitude for what was going right, but I didn't. I worried a lot about whether this pregnancy is developing as it should or whether it's like the last one (which ended in miscarriage). In many ways, I still feel betrayed by my body for the miscarriage I had. I don't feel betrayed because the miscarriage happened; I trust that miscarriages are natural and happen for important reasons. I felt betrayed because it happened early in the pregnancy and I continued to feel very pregnant for many more weeks--almost to the end of the first trimester. 

So this month, as I struggled with some first trimester symptoms (but not with what seemed like enough), I had immense uncertainty about whether or not this pregnancy is progressing. I am going to the midwife tomorrow, and we should be able to hear the heartbeat if everything is going well. This spot was the exact one I was in last time when didn't hear the heartbeat and realized the miscarriage was happening. 

All sorts of other doubts swooped in this month, too. At one point late in the month, I was talking to my best friend about it and he said, "You know, you've gone through a lot of change in a really short amount of time." 

And that's when it all hit me. That's when I realized that my quest to "make dreams happen" with so much urgency--while exhilarating and empowering--is also completely exhausting. In less than two years, we gave birth to our first child, I wrote a book, sold our house without a realtor, moved to a new city, tried to get cohousing going, found land, started building a house, wrote and published another book, started a new job, worked on starting a new school, got pregnant again, had a miscarriage, and got pregnant again. 

No wonder I've been sick for a month. 

Although you may think I'm completely neurotic at this point in the post, may I at least try to explain myself? At the risk of sounding delusional? 

I just want the major elements of my life to fall into place relatively soon. I'm on the verge of turning 35. I've spent the past 15 years of my working life at various jobs that have inspired me to want to  start my own school. I'm ready to make this dream happen for myself (hence the need to sell our Houston house and move to Austin). I don't want to spend any more years working on other people's dreams. 

At the same time, I'd really like to grow our family to two children. It makes sense to do this before the school opens and it requires intense focus. It also makes sense to do this before my age potentially makes fertility more difficult. 

And the third piece--the house--is related to my intense need to feel settled. As a child, the longest I stayed in a single spot before high school was two years (for 5th and 6th grade). I want Henry to grow up in a single neighborhood. I want him to consider the park and the creek dear old friends. I want to celebrate birthday parties with the same families year after year. I want to plant a garden and return to it season after season. 

My best friend warned me, "Just make sure that once you've got everything in place that you actually feel content instead of feeling like you need to go and change everything again." 

I absolutely hear that concern. I think it's easy to become too goal-oriented. Pushing and striving can become the end rather than the means to an end. 

I'll definitely continue to be a pusher and a striver, but my hope is that those things happen within the context of the three big pieces in my life that will already be in place: work, family, and home. I hope that the job I create for myself will allow me to continuously take on new and exciting projects. I hope that my family and I take on new challenges like building a birdhouse and learning how to raise pygmy goats. I look forward to developing our homestead--getting it more organized, planting more fruit trees, meeting more neighbors.

I'm in a much better place as we head into December (and almost into the new year!). My intention for this month is to be more patient with this process of making dreams happen and to immerse myself in gratitude for what I have right now, even as I work urgently to create what I hope to add to our lives.

Photo Courtesy of the Nikki McClure Calendar

Share |

Related Posts with Thumbnails