Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Support Public Montessori

Dear Friends of Montessori For All,

The time has finally come for us to submit our application to the state of Texas to open the first public Montessori schools in Austin and San Antonio. We will turn in our application to the Texas Education Agency tomorrow, and we would greatly benefit from your support today.

By clicking on the link below, you can use a credit card or a PayPal account to donate money to Montessori For All. If you donate today or tomorrow, we can include your tax-deductible donation in our application and further demonstrate to the state that overwhelming support exists for the concept of Montessori For All.

The road to this point has been long, but we are honored and excited by the important task of making a high-quality education open to all families without a private school price-tag.

I have personally volunteered the past year of my life to work part-time as the Executive Director of Montessori For All. Over the course of a year, our team of committed volunteers (including board members, advisory board members, and parent/guardian volunteers) has been able to achieve the following:
  • Raised $400,000 in start-up funding and pledges from private donors and a plethora of local and national foundations, such as the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and the Webber Family Foundation. This kind of support for a start-up organization is rare, and it speaks to the uniqueness and timeliness of our model and mission. 
  • Connected with more than 450 families interested in enrolling in our schools in Austin and San Antonio.
  • Met with more than 50 community leaders, organizations, politicians, educators, and business owners to build momentum behind the idea of public Montessori and to lay the foundation for partnerships and future collaboration.
  • Built a diverse, resourceful, efficient, and effective Board of Directors and Advisory Board and received 501(c)(3) status.
We have done everything within our power to create the strongest possible application, so that we can bring public Montessori to Austin and San Antonio and beyond. We look forward to partnering with families to help children in diverse communities reach their extraordinary potential intellectually, emotionally, socially, creatively, and physically, so that they can pursue lives full of meaning and joy.

Thank you in advance for any help you are able to give. It truly takes a village.

With gratitude,

Sara Cotner
Founder & Executive Director, Montessori For All
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Cultivando los lĂ­deres del futuro

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Thoughts on Maternity Leave

Yael asked a really great question on a post a couple weeks ago, in response to my comment about a 3-month maternity leave. She said, "I may have missed a previous post on the topic, but are you only taking a three month leave with the new baby? I am in no way judging, I am just truly interested. As a mom of two (2.5 yrs and 10 mo), I find myself thinking a lot about giving equal opportunities to both children, without at the same time renouncing to my and my husband's plans and dreams."
I, too, think a lot about the importance of giving equal opportunities to both children. I also think that my being home with Henry was an important part of helping him develop a core of security and a solid foundation upon which to build the rest of his personality. With Henry, my initial plan was to stay home with him for three years. Then when my school opened, he would enter the inaugural class. At the time, Matt and I thought that we would only have one child, so devoting three developmental years to his care seemed doable. 
However, a couple things happened to change our thinking: 1) I started attending a Montessori mothering class (when Henry was five weeks-old), and the instructor explained that her training believes that children are ready to enter a part-time community when they are 12 months-old. 2) I quickly realized that I'm not an infant and toddler person. I can muster the energy, dedication, enthusiasm, and patience it takes to lovingly care for and meet the needs of an infant and toddler, but the key word is "muster." The process leaves me feeling drained and slightly unhappy on the inside.
Because of those two realizations, I worked to get Henry into Montessori communities in Austin. When he was about six weeks old, I put him on the waiting list for one of Austin's most pure and renowned Montessori schools. They don't start children until 18 months-old (due to the difficulty of state licensing stuff), so I started arranging for him to attend a daycare at a former Montessori teacher's home as soon as my part-time job started and we could afford it.
We moved to Austin when he was 11 months-old, and I quickly realized that I was immensely eager to start working on my school. I was trying to arrange babysitters so I could attend meetings. The Montessori home environment situation fell through for various reasons, so I began exploring daycare options (which was a nightmare because the waiting lists are so long and I wanted something immediately). If I'm remembering correctly, Henry honestly seemed ready to start in a community around 10 months. However, we didn't end up starting him until 14 months because that's when my part-time job started and we could afford care.
He attended a Montessori-inspired daycare from 14-18 months and then started at the official Montessori school.
If I had not had a miscarriage, I would have been able to stay home with our second baby for an entire year, just like I did with Henry. However, the miscarriage pushed back the timeline by about six months.
As it stands, the baby is due to arrive at the end of June. As soon as the baby arrives, I will resign from my part-time job and stay home full-time. I won't interview with the state about the charter until late August (I'll do all of the prep before the baby arrives), and we won't hear the results until early September.
At that point, the baby will three months-old, and I know that I will need to hit the ground running with part-time work. In an ideal world, I will be able to use the Baby Wise approach to get the baby on a schedule like I was able to do with Henry (I know the book is controversial among Attachment Parenting circles, but I loved using some of its strategies, and I credit it with helping me get Henry on a schedule that met both of our needs). I intentionally used the word "ideal" because I know that every baby is different, and I know it's naive and overly optimistic to think that I'll be able to get the second baby on a schedule like I did with Henry. But a girl can dream and plan, right?
If I'm able to get the baby on a nap schedule, then I'll be able to fit in a lot of work. With Henry, I was able to write a book and run e-courses during his naps. I was working part-time, while staying home full-time with Henry.
Henry will continue with his normal daycare/school routine, even after the baby arrives. Even though it's a financial stretch (tuition when up another $1,000 for next year!), it's better for Henry and it's better for my sanity to not have to take care of an infant and a toddler all day, every day. It will allow me to really focus on the new baby and meet his developmental needs without worrying about the conflicting developmental needs of a toddler.
Since I know I have no way of knowing what kind of napper I'm going to have on my hands, I'm going to do a ton of work in the coming months (March-June) to get ahead with laying the groundwork for the school (e.g., teacher recruitment, strategic planning, etc.).
In January, I'll likely need to start working full-time on the school. The baby will be six months old. I'm brainstorming various options for childcare that will most replicate a home environment. I'm also exploring ways to creatively adjust my schedule (for example, maybe I work one weekend day, which would be more convenient for families anyway, or I work in the evenings after the baby has gone to bed).
Long story short: I'm very committed to trying to give the second baby the same solid foundation that Henry had, but I also need to move forward with the school (I forgot to mention that the state of Texas only has six charters left before we reach the cap; it wouldn't be smart to wait one more year, since all of them are likely to be awarded this year). Also, I've been waiting to start this school for years now. I can't imagine postponing it one more year. I know that our family is a system and that part of creating a happy, healthy home is to start with happy, healthy parents.
I think a key piece in all of this is figuring out what we want for our family and then trying to figure out how to make it work. With Henry, for example, I knew that I wanted to stay home with him, so we figured out how to make the money piece work (even though it wasn't easy). Society works really hard (especially American society) to tell us that it has to be a certain way. The options are very black-and-white: you can stay home or you can go back to work and put your child in full-time daycare. I think we have to push on our employers (and ourselves) to generate new and innovative solutions that are better for us and our families. For example, my employer lets me come in at 6am, so I'm able to leave in time to take a nap (for baby #2) before picking up Henry from part-time school and spending the entire afternoon with him. This arrangement also ensures that Matt does plenty of the day-to-day parenting because he's responsible for getting Henry ready for school every morning.
I met a woman at the park who works in a call center for AT&T. She wants to go back to work part-time, but her manager says it's company policy not to allow part-time work in her position. The woman explained that her particular position is actually really well-suited for part-time work; she could easily share the position with another mom who also wants to work part-time.
These are the kinds of battles that are worth fighting. We only get "one wild and precious life," and we are responsible for how we live it. I honestly think we can be a lot more proactive when it comes to creating the kind of lives we want for ourselves; we first have to figure out what we want and then make a plan for getting there.
I'll keep you updated about how Matt and I continue to figure all of this out! None of it has been easy. The impact of living on one non-profit income has been very difficult for us (I really miss going on vacation!). And not being able to work full-time has also been difficult for my sensibilities and preferences. But all of it feels like a necessary investment in our family, and I'm proud of how we're making it work for ourselves. At the end of the day, that's the most important thing: Making sure that we follow the path that leaves us feeling proud of our choices and happy with the outcomes.

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

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pgymy Goats!

In preparation for Henry's birthday party walk to the local farm, he and I trekked to the feed store (Callahan's for all of you Austin folks) to purchase some goat feed to pass out as favors.

Going to feed stores is seriously a hobby of mine. I loved exploring Wabash when we lived in Houston, and now that I have a child, trips to the feed store are elevated to a whole new level. 

As soon as Henry and I walked in, we immediately spotted piglets. I seriously can't think of anything cuter than baby pigs with their mother. 

And next to them were two pygmy goats--also as cute as could be. Then we spotted some six-week old bunnies--definitely cute. 

While I was petting the goats, I struck up a conversation with the man next to me. I had wanted goats for a long time but then got convinced that they would be too difficult to keep as pets. My conversation with the man next to me, however, reignited my interested in keeping two pygmy goats as pets. 

He explained that he kept his goats in the backyard just like dogs. When he would arrive home after work in the evening, they would run up to greet him. At night, he would just keep them in the backyard. They got along famously with his dog. He said the one thing you have to be careful of is keeping them away from your vehicles because they do love to climb. 

I was flooded with joy by the prospect of letting two pygmy goats (they like company) run free in the backyard with Hoss and the chickens. We love, love, love having chickens as pets in the backyard (they have so much personality!), and I'm guessing I will feel the same way about miniature goats. I also love the idea of Henry growing up around farm animals. He'll learn so much about responsibility, gentleness, compassion, and joy.

I'm going back to this book as well as the internet to do some more research! 

Our current vision is to build a fence all the way around our backyard and down into the creek area. It will be about a 1/2 acre, minus the 25-foot set-back of the house from the street and the house itself. The garden will be in the front yard, away from all the animals (if the positioning of the house doesn't block the sun too much). Now that we're thinking about goats in the backyard, we'll also have to keep the mini-orchard out of the fenced area. It will be on the side of the house.

We'll also have to think about how the pygmy goats will interact with the plants and trees in our backyard. They might just demolish everything! 

Like I said, there's still a lot of research to be done, but I'm excited to dwell in possibility!

REMINDER: The next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy starts March 3. Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Beach Vacation!

Oh, I'm so excited! We are going on a real vacation! 

Matt and I used to go on all sorts of real vacations. For our honeymoon, we trekked to Paris and then the Greek Isles (for a boat tour from island to island!), and have taken road trips up the California coast to Canada. Before Matt, I went on trips to Guatemala and Ecuador and Costa Rica and India. 

Our recent budget restrictions have nearly ended our fun vacations (although we have visited family and gone to weddings). 

That's why I'm particularly excited about our upcoming beach vacation to Galveston. Matt has a connection to a free condo for three nights (right on the beach!). And we get to bring Hoss, which means our only expenses will be gas for the four-hour drive and eating dinner out (we can cook breakfast and lunch on site). I seriously could not be more excited about this chance to get away. Plus, Henry loves the ocean. 

My main intentions for this vacation are to relax and connect with my family. My big charter application deadline will have come and gone, and I'll be in the middle of several months of enjoying our time together as a family of three humans before the baby makes his grand entrance at the end of June (or beginning of July if he's anywhere near 13 days late like Henry was). I want to spend my days:
  1. Playing with Henry and Matt in the ocean.
  2. Playing with Henry and Matt in the pool.
  3. Building sandcastles and digging with Henry and Matt. 
  4. Sitting in the shade and reading fiction books. 
  5. Napping.
  6. Taking long walks on the beach for exercise.
  7. Watching home improvement shows on HGTV.
I spent about two minutes dreaming about making a beach tent (inspired by the one I saw featured on Lovely Morning) and even found a tutorial at Lowe's. Then I came to my senses and realized that I should just borrow a shade structure from a friend because we do not need one very often. We can also try to borrow beach chairs and even beach toys, since our trips to the beach are basically non-existent (as is the storage space in our new house). 

I'll definitely need to return to my list of books to read this year and stock up for the trip. As a side note, I'm reading From Here to April right now, and it is so, so good!

I feel so rejuvenated and excited when I think about this trip, and it's a good reminder that I need to keep my needs in mind as I plan out how to spend my days, weeks, months, and years. The lack of vacations has been less about the introduction of Motherhood into my life and more about our budget restrictions.

REMINDER: The next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy starts March 3. Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

DIY Balance Beam: Henry's Birthday Presents

Since we're on a tight budget as I harped on earlier in the week, we wanted to be super-conscious about not spending too much on Henry's birthday presents. Honestly, this occasion is the first time I've felt truly compelled to commemorate a holiday with presents for Henry. We did make him a board book for his 1st birthday, but that was more for sentimental reasons rather than the fact that Henry actually appreciated or enjoyed opening a present on his birthday. 

But now he's clearly at a stage where he enjoys opening presents, and we wanted to give him the opportunity on his birthday. I thought long and hard about what would be a meaningful and memorable (as well as inexpensive!) present, and I came up with the idea to make him a balance beam for the backyard (inspired by the one our friends made for their daughter, Ruby). It felt perfect for so many reasons, including:
  1. Henry loves to try and balance on things (curbs, parking spot bumpers, etc.).
  2. Henry loves "practical life" experiences like cooking, cleaning, gardening, etc. I thought it would be cool to give him an entire experience for his birthday (i.e., going to Home Depot, picking out the wood, bringing it home, watching the saw, using a hammer to hit the nails, etc.).
  3. I imagined it would be cheap to buy a plank of wood, a base of wood, and some nails.
While it remains to be seen whether he will enjoy using it, reasons #2 and #3 are definitely true. Henry had so much fun at the home improvement store and participating in the creation of his backyard balance beam. Plus, it was even cheaper than I imagined. We bought a 2x4 piece of pressure treated decking for about $4. Then we looked around for really sturdy blocks of wood to raise the beam off the ground. We struggled to find anything that would work well, and then I spotted a piece of scrap wood in the trash can at Home Depot. Score! We spent another $4 on a box of long nails. 

I also wanted to give him something to open, so I ordered two books about machines (he's fascinated, and I don't know the proper vocabulary words to help him name them in the real world), and I'm going to wrap up a book about butterflies that has been in the closet (we stop to look at the real butterflies in the flowers outside our house every time I pick up Henry from school in the stroller and we walk home). Altogether, the books cost about $12 (and I used our Discover Cashback bonus on Amazon). 

So for a total of $20, Henry got to build a balance beam for the backyard and add three books to his collection!

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Out of Our Control

As soon as the stakes were put in the ground to mark the corners of the house we're building, I realized we made a huge mistake: We are wasting a large amount of our yard by having a two-car driveway on the side of our house instead of in front. 

The next day, they started building the foundation and our mistake was permanent! 

Even though we technically have a half-acre of land, most of it is part of a steep drop-off that leads to the creek. Once the foundation was built, it was suddenly apparent that our house and deck take up most of our backyard. I was really disheartened by the thought of putting up a fence (which we need to keep our bloodhound and chickens corralled). It suddenly felt like our yard was going to be even smaller than when we lived on a regular city-sized lot in Houston. 

But then our neighbor gave us our tour of his backyard, and we realized that he went ahead and fenced in his yard all the way down to the creek. Suddenly, it felt like we had a way to make the best of our situation. Our plan now is fence in our entire lot. Although our neighbor's lot is more gradual than ours is, I still think we'll create a lot of usable space. Our neighbor explained that he cleared out a lot of the weeds and shrubs that had previously made his yard so unusable. Also, if the incline proves to be too steep, we can get a contractor to add some steps. 

I'm eager to get that part of the yard fenced in right away (if we can afford it). I'd love to spend some time every weekend getting it cleaned out (it's collected a lot of trash from the creek over the years). I'm also eager to see where exactly our property line is. 

The same day we realized our house/deck take up most of our flat lot area, we also learned that the lot next to us had been sold and someone was planning to build something there. 

There goes the beautiful view of trees out our large bedroom windows! 

Despite my disappointment, I'm excited about the possibility of more community on our little cul-de-sac. 

The other thing I'm trying to make the best of (since it's out of my control) is when the house is actually completed. The delay with the city permit pushed us back two whole months. I'm preparing myself for the fact that it probably won't be ready before the baby makes his grand entrance. In fact, I'm trying to identify all the "bright sides" of being in our old house. 

It's all a good reminder that even when we think things are in our control, they ultimately aren't! 

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Register Now: Purposeful Conception

With the charter application deadline on the immediate horizon (10 days!), I'm eager to gear up for another round of Purposeful Conception in March. I love having the daily community and conversation about healthy bodies, healthy minds, and healthy lives that nurture healthy babies. I honestly feel like I'm living my best life when I'm traveling the path of healthy living--physically, emotionally, and mentally--with other kindred spirits. 

Here's some feedback from the last course:
In response to a question about whether her life will be different after taking the course, Sasha said: "YES! In so many powerful positive ways. This course forced me to considered scary unknowns and gave me permission to focus on the very important task of taking care of this baby-making-machine that is my body. The course also provided a TON of useful, practical information about pre-natal health, mental wellness and overall preparedness."

"You obviously POURED your heart and soul into creating this. Thank you for having the guts and motivation and foresight to create such an amazing resource. Your efforts have and will continue to go a long way toward making the world a better, happier place. The practicality, sensitivity to all walks of life, and sheer level of knowledge contained in the course is truly priceless. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."
For those of you who are thinking about conception or are actively trying, this online course might be for you! From March 3 through March 29, a new lesson will be uploaded each weekday. The lessons will address a comprehensive range of topics, such as preparing your body through solid nutrition and exercise, finding balance between what you can and cannot control, making space in your life for pregnancy, deciding whether to track your cycle, building a solid partnership as a foundation for your future family, and much, much more. As a participant in the course, you'll receive information, tips, reflection exercises and prompts, and a community of like-minded kindred spirits who are on a journey similar to your own.

The course doesn't presume that doing x, y, and z will lead to pregnancy. Instead, the idea is to focus on the things we can control in order to create a solid foundation (e.g., nutrition, stress levels, relationships, finances, etc.) and to make peace with the things we cannot control about the process.
I want to be upfront that I am not a healthcare professional. I simply spent a very long time researching and preparing myself for conception. This course is a compilation of all that information in one convenient and concise place--alongside information I did not find in any of the books.

Interested in learning more? Visit the Course Overview or About the Author. The total cost is $99 USD. Register Now! Or e-mail me with more questions. Happy Conceiving!


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

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Budget Update

Image courtesy of Wexman Trading on Etsy

As I've discussed before, we've been living on a very tight budget since the middle of August. We try to live within Matt's salary, so we can save my entire part-time salary every month. Right now, our savings are going toward 1) the downpayment + closing costs on our permanent loan on the house we're building 2) midwife expenses 3) appliances/fence/furniture for our new home 4) Henry's tuition for one more year of private Montessori school before Austin's first public Montessori school opens (fingers crossed!) and 5) my three months of unpaid maternity leave before I hopefully start working part-time again (for three more months) and then full-time. 

Once October comes (if everything goes well with the charter school and I'm able to create a job for myself), our budget should get a lot less tight. The monthly mortgage payment on our new house (principle + interest) will be about $125 less than our current rent in one of the least expensive parts of Austin. We'll be able to start adding to our retirement accounts again, saving for our boys' college funds, adding things to our house, and going on vacation. 

The way we have been saving money is really pretty simple. Here are some of our strategies:
  • We keep our monthly bills to a minimum. We shopped around for the lowest car insurance possible, we shopped around for the cheapest internet plan, and we don't have cable (just Netflix for about $8 a month).
  • We limit the number of times we eat out each week. We officially decreased our eating out frequency from three times to two times per week, but we've also been really strict with ourselves about not eating out for breakfast or lunch. If we don't have leftovers for lunch, we have to forage in the pantry or spend our personal allowances to eat out. If we want to get breakfast tacos instead of eating food we have at home or go get dessert, we again use our personal allowances. Being forced to spend our personal allowances in this way makes us much more conscious about what we're spending and why.
  • We spend virtually nothing on extraneous things. We aren't buying new clothes right now (although I did have to buy two pairs of maternity pants), we never swing by places like Starbucks (if Matt does, he uses his personal allowance), we avoid places like coffee shops where we feel obligated to spend money, we only get books from the library, and we don't go to Target because we know it will tempt us into buying more and more things that we feel like we can't live without.
  • We only buy food we're actually going to eat. We still spend a lot of money buying organic groceries every week, but we plan out all of our meals, so we only buy things that we're actually going to use. Since we only eat out on Friday and Saturday night, all of our food gets used every week and we rarely ever have to compost or throw away something. We also try to avoid buying the nice-to-have items that aren't really necessary (like $5 goat cheese for our salads). 
At first, our restrictive budget caused a lot of fights, but now we're really used to it. In fact, I hope we keep up many aspects of it, even when our income stream strengthens. For example, I'd like to keep our eating out to a minimum. We'll definitely set up automatic transfers into various savings accounts (i.e., retirement, college savings, vacation, etc.) so we don't just see a lot of extra money sitting around in our bank account and get tempted to spend it. 

The other benefit of setting up automatic transfers is that we can save up for things before spending money on them. With vacations, for example, we might decide to set aside $200 a month. We can let that amount build over time and then splurge on a big trip, or we can use it for smaller trips. Either way, saving it and then spending it once we have it will allow us to be really conscious about how much we spend on vacations. If we're tempted to spend money that's not already in the account, we'll have to ask ourselves, "We're already spending $200/month on vacations. Do we really want to spend more than that?" 

The same goes for home beautification. There's a lot of stuff we want to add to our house (a pool, a hobby room in the backyard, landscaping, furniture for the deck, etc.). If we set aside a certain amount every month that can go toward those kinds of things, it will help us rein in our spending and force us to prioritize and save up before spending.

I love thinking about this stuff. I find that it's so easy to spend mindlessly if I'm not conscious about it, and spending frivolously makes me feel like we have a lot less money that we actually do. I like being able to buy things; I just want to do it consciously. I'm excited to design every inch of our house with purpose and aesthetic intention. And I'm also excited to start going on vacation again!

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Another Random Question

Are you (or do you know) an AMI-certified Assistant to Infancy who is looking for a job (starting January 2014) who either a) lives in Austin or b) wants to move to Austin?

Please send me an e-mail with any leads. Thank you!

And Happy Friday!

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Easy DIY Baby Quilt

I used to be good about honoring and celebrating the major life events of friends with handmade cards and gifts. It's definitely one of the things that Motherhood has pushed to the side. It's something I've been striving to get better about recently.

When I got invited to a friend's baby shower, I decided to make her a little baby quilt. I made one for Henry, and I honestly used it a ton. It was a great blanket to stuff in the diaper bag, bring on stroller walks, use during naps, etc. Even now, he uses it as his nap blanket at school.

Since there's a lot going on right now, I decided to make the design even simpler than Henry's. I also decided to make three at a time (two for friends and one for our June baby boy). First, I decided on the ultimate size of the blanket. Then I sketched out how the pieces would fit together and what size they would each need to be in order to fit into the overall size (making allowances for the seams).

Next I used my cutting mat, rotary cutter, and a metal ruler to cut the pieces into the right size. Those three things make this kind of project so much easier. When I needed to cut extra long strips that exceeded the size of my mat, I decided to fold the fabric in half which worked wonders.

Once I had the pieces for all three quilts cut, I started sewing the pieces together for the first quilt (I washed and ironed all of the fabric before getting to this stage). I ironed the seams flat after sewing each piece. Honestly, with the straight line design, the top of the quilt came together very simply and quickly (I didn't even have to change the thread to a complementary color, since it was only on the inside of the quilt). Then I cut up a blanket we had in our closet for the back. I put the two pieces right-side to right-side and sewed most of it shut. Then I flipped it right side out and sewed the last bit by hand (with a thread that actually kind of matched this time).

With a blanket this small, I didn't have to attach them any more than around the edges. As I mentioned, we've been using Henry's for two years now without any issues!

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Post-Partum Freezer Meals

At prenatal yoga last weekend, my friend mentioned that we should get together to make some freezer meals before our babies arrive. I had every intention of doing it before Henry arrived, but I could never seem to find inspiring recipes that would lend themselves well to freezing. Because we didn't cook anything in advance, we found ourselves getting take-out a lot.

This time around, it's absolutely imperative that we don't resort to take-out. We're still in intense saving mode as we prepare to close on the permanent loan for our house. We'll also be going back down to one income once the baby comes (for about three to four months), but during that time we'll need to pay for Henry's summer care, Henry's fall tuition, and any babysitters that I need to cover work obligations.

In addition to the financial benefits of eating at home, I'm also eager to capitalize on the health benefits. Matt and I tend to eat much healthier meals when we cook at home. After delivering the newest addition to our family, I'm going to want to focus on restoring my body to its pre-baby condition to the greatest extent possible.

Some ideas for easy freezer meals:
  • The book Fix, Freeze, Feast focuses on big trays of meat from warehouse stores, but I'm eager to check out the section on "meatless" meals. 
  • I've been dying to try out Kelsey's frozen burrito recommendation for ages now.
  • Lasagna would be really easy (and I could use this method to reduce the number of required dishes). 
  • Macaroni and cheese would probably work well.
  • We could easily keep the ingredients for vegetarian chili on hand.
  • I should search for a good enchilada recipe...

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Friends in San Antonio?

Hi, All!

Sorry for this random request, but you do you know anyone in San Antonio who has children ages four or younger?

If so, please consider sharing the information below with them:


San Antonio's First Authentic Public Montessori School: Fall 2016

Montessori For All endeavors to open San Antonio's first authentic public Montessori school in the fall of 2016. Redbud Montessori For All will be a free, dual-language Montessori charter school opening with preK-3 through 3rd grade and adding a grade level every year through 8th grade. You can learn more about our program at Interested families can fill out an information form at Everyone is invited to attend our Information Session on Saturday, February 16th at 10am at the San Antonio Area Foundation. You can RSVP here:  
Feel free to contact Sara Cotner at with more questions.

Thanks in advance for any help you're able to provide with spreading the word!

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On Turning 35

I turned 35 this past Saturday, and two thoughts passed through my mind:
  • "Hey, I'm old enough to run for the presidency!" (even though I would never want that position because I think my quality of life would be terrible)
  • "Hm, I'm half-way to 70." 
The fact that the second thought came and went without causing any sort of consternation struck me as a good sign. I'm content with where I've been in my life, where I am, and where I'm going. I'm trying to make the most of this "one wild and precious life." 

Every year, I try to plan the exact kind of birthday that will satiate my needs at the time. For a couple years in a row, I planned a Random Acts of Kindness Scavenger Hunt. For my 30th birthday, we went all out and rented a cabin in the mountains for a huge group of our friends (a couple of whom even flew in from different parts of the country!). 

This year, I simply wanted to go to a hotel by myself for an evening. I know it might sound depressing to some or worrisome to others, but it was exactly what I wanted as we come up on this new phase in our life. I feel like the tidal wave that Henry brought into our lives is subsiding (he turns two at the end of this month) and yet we are walking straight into the next one. I know I'm going to be overwhelmed with gratitude and love for our expanding family (I already am), but I am also anticipating that I will struggle with the year of breastfeeding, the baby's struggle with sleep, and the responsibility of needing to take care of another human being every second, minute, and hour of the day.

For this birthday, I simply wanted some sustained, uninterrupted time in a comfortable place. Since we are on a tight budget, I decided to pay for the hotel out of my personal allowance, which is why I opted for Air BNB. I was able to find a bedroom in a quaint little bungalow in East Austin for a total of $56. 

It was exactly what I needed: wood floors, natural light, solitude, quiet, focus, introspection, sleeping and waking on my own schedule, stretching out in bed. 

It wasn't so easy for Matt to support this idea. I broached the subject with him about a month in advance. At first he jokingly asked if this request was "a precursor to divorce." I tried to explain why I needed this time away, and he really seemed to understand. But when I actually booked the room earlier in the week, he started to feel sad and uneasy. 

I tried to explain again that being a mother who aims to breastfeed her baby for at least a year but chooses not to pump means that I will literally be tethered to our baby for at least 365 days straight. With Henry, I didn't have my first night away until he was a year and four months (Matt's parents watched him for us in Indiana and we escaped to Michigan for a weekend). I think it's difficult for Matt to empathize because a) he thinks he would choose to pump if he were a breastfeeding mom, which means he could have time to himself sooner and b) he gets more frequent time away when he travels for work (it's not often, but it's definitely more than I'm away).

The conversation led to a heated disagreement about equity in our relationship. Matt didn't think it was fair that he didn't get what he wanted on his birthday (which was to run 30 miles). I reminded him that he was the one who opted not to run 30 miles because our friends were in town from Florida, and I explained that he should have advocated for himself if he really wanted to do it at a later time (I even offered to let him do it in March, once I've submitted the charter application). 

The disagreement also unearthed other bitterness that Matt feels about having to take on more than his fair share. It's definitely true that he has taken on more lately. I struggled through my first trimester--miscarriage--first trimester period, and now that it's over, I'm consumed by getting the 200-page charter application done and raising $400,000 by February 28th. I was upset that Matt seems to willingly take on extra work but then lets his resentment build. I also try not to let him take on extra work unless I really have to.

We're committed to continuing to talk about these issues until we come to a place that we both feel good about. I have some specific next steps in mind about how to make better use of my free time, so that I can maximize it and not ask Matt for more. I also think things will naturally feel better in March, April, May, and June as the external stress from the charter deadline lifts and we can enjoy our little family of three even more before our sweet addition arrives.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Savoring Each Stage

I read somewhere that parents are quick to celebrate "the firsts" but that "the lasts" are just as important and can easily slip away unnoticed.

I'll be honest and say that mustering the patience it takes to parent Henry the way we want to is difficult. I say "the way we want to" because some of our personal choices make parenting more difficult. For example, we use cloth diapers, so we're constantly rinsing poop into the toilet instead of just throwing it away. We avoid screen time with Henry, so I can never just plop him down in front of a TV and have some time to myself. I also don't want him in full-time daycare at this age, which means I have to stop work earlier than I would like every day and spend 2.5 hours alone as his sole care giver before Matt gets home. 

I don't say all of this to complain. Several times a day I find myself thinking, "I am so lucky to have this healthy, happy child in my life." I am seriously overwhelmed with gratitude whenever I stop to think about Henry.

I say it because I think we need more honest dialogue about the challenges of parenting. I can go a full week and only come across blogs talking about the amazing art/sensory/nature activities they set up for their toddler. 

But my point with this post is to talk about the strategy of "savoring each stage." It can be too easy to focus on the negative/difficult/challenging/frustrating parts of parenting. But with the right mindset, it can be so rewarding to shift our focus to the positive and to remind ourselves that our time with our children is fleeting and we should embrace it while we have it. It's all about the idea in this video: "The days are long, but the years are short." 

When I start to dread the monotony of getting Henry to get himself out of the car (he gets distracted by the buttons/switches/gadgets on the way down from his car seat), getting him to carry his school bag to the house (he wants to turn on the hose, pick up leaves, look at bugs), cajoling him to sit on the toilet (he wants to go directly to the refrigerator for snack), walking him through the steps of independently washing his hands, walking him through the steps of independently preparing his snack--I need to remind myself that "the days are long, but the years are short." There will come a time when Henry will no longer need my helping pulling his pants all the way up, when I won't feel the sweet clasp of his arms around my neck for support. There will come a time when we won't pause at the street to check for cars in each direction and make sure we're holding hands before we cross to the park. 

There will come a time when these things unceremoniously slip away and he just grows up. There is no time to waste feeling frustrated or bored or impatient with Henry as a toddler. I need to savor every moment. 

The same goes for what will likely be my last pregnancy. I'm trying to savor every piece of it. The first flutters, the miracle of a baby growing according to its own blueprint, my body's capacity to nurture another life--the list goes on. There's no time to focus on my difficulty sleeping or the fact that I have to eat in a meticulously healthy way and that my body doesn't feel like my own. 

Savoring each stage is a practice I need to continuously cultivate. We are heading into challenging times (two of my favorite bloggers nearly fell off the face of the Earth when they had their second children). 

But they are also beautiful times--times full of firsts and lasts. This will be the last time I give birth and the last time I breastfeed a child and the first time Henry and his brother meet.

Photo courtesy our friend, Renny

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Monday, February 4, 2013

February: Reflection & Rejuvenation

The new year is off to such a great start! I am so thankful to be through the first trimester. Although I still nap for about 1.5 hours every day, I find that I am able to be productive in the evenings after Henry goes to bed from about 6:30-9:30pm.

We are in the final month of preparing an application for the state of Texas to start a charter school. I'm looking forward to the final push throughout February and then some down time in March, April, and May before the baby arrives at the end of June. 

Last year my intention was to "Make Dreams Happen," and I feel like I'm reaping everything I worked so hard to plant last year (knock on wood!). After a miscarriage and two first trimesters, we'll hopefully be welcoming a new family member this year. 

Plus our building permit finally came through and construction has begun on our house. Although I'm incredibly excited about the natural light, wood floors, and open spaces, I'm even more excited about settling into a neighborhood. I hope we make friends with people within walking distance, and I hope trips to the park become opportunities to make lifelong friends.

And the school is starting to feel more and more real. We are getting close to raising $400,000 in start-up funding, and our waiting list is over 350 families long. 

So my intention for 2013 is to "Put Down Roots." This month I worked toward that intention by scheduling dinner parties with three different sets of friends. We've also been going to a Unitarian Universalist church regularly (which, if you aren't familiar with it, is a very non-churchy church; the mission statement is: "We gather in community to nourish souls, transform lives, and do justice."). Last year I realized that attending church wasn't enough to cultivate community. So this month I've intentionally been volunteering in the children's classes, and we're signed up to start taking a communications class every other Wednesday (built around the books Crucial Conversations and Emotional Intelligence 2.0). We'll get to join others for a meal before each class while Henry plays in the free childcare room. We also signed up to attend a monthly potluck for families with young children. 

My intention to put down roots has definitely given me the extra little push. Although all of these things are activities I want to do, I often find that it's easier not to do them. It's easier just to eat with Matt and Henry than it is to coordinate a dinner with friends. It's easier to stay at home than it is to shower, get dressed, get Henry dressed, and drive to church. Once I'm at church, it's easier to sit through the service than it is to volunteer in the child education classes. It's easier to read the church announcements about upcoming opportunities than it is to actually sign up for them.

But I find that the extra push is so worth it. It's helping me actualize my intention for this year. 

As far as my incremental, cumulative resolutions:
  1. Drink Enough Water: Yes! This one has been going extremely well. I make sure to fill up my 40-ounce water bottle twice during the day and finish it before bed.
  2. Read Before Bed: Womp. Womp. I did not enjoy the book I checked out from the library, plus I've been working on school stuff feverishly every night. I ordered some new books for this month from the library, but, honestly, I'm going to deprioritize this one for now. I only have 24 days until the charter application is due. Normally, I would say that life is always going to be busy and I should therefore work extra hard on this habit during busy times, but going through two first trimesters (sorry to keep harping on it!) really did slow me down last year. I need to play catch-up now.
So I'm adding a new resolution:
  • Practice Gratitude Every Night: As I'm falling asleep, I want to verbalize in my mind all the things I'm grateful for.
I'm looking forward to February!

Photo Courtesy of the Nikki McClure Calendar

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