Wednesday, December 17, 2014

See You Next Year!


School gets out on Friday and then I head into two glorious weeks of vacation (hooray for working in the field of education!). I will be taking time off from blogging in order to help minimize the stress of the holidays. The truth is I will probably still be writing blog posts (but scheduling them to run in the new year so I feel like I'm getting ahead). 

My mantra for this year was "Make a clearing." I knew I would need space in my life to accommodate such a huge undertaking of opening a school (while parenting two very young children). As much as I tried to proactively make a clearing in my life, I think my job kind of did it for itself.

I am eager to reflect officially on this year and set my intentions for next year. I am leaning toward a mantra of "balance," but we'll see if I change my mind when I complete my reflection form.

It's hard to believe that another year is coming to a close. We only have one wild and precious life! My wish for all of us is that we use it with intention. 



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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How to Host a Reflection & Rejuvenation Party



The new year is almost upon us! 

I don't mean to skip ahead--Christmas isn't even here yet--but I find that I have to stay one step ahead during this season in order to minimize my stress. Although I love Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, I especially love the new year. I love the fresh start, the opportunity to reflect on the past year and set intentions for the new year. 

I decided to host the Second Annual Reflect & Rejuvenate Get-Together. I invited some of my closest female friends as well as some people that I hope to get to know better this year. 

The process is simple:
  • We get together for two hours in the afternoon on New Year's Day (just us, no children).
  • I provide light snacks and drinks.
  • I make copies of different a reflection form for people to complete (electronic version, print version). I've also used Andrea's form in the past, and I really like it.
  • I provide old magazines, scissors, glue sticks, and card stock so people can make a visual collage of the kind of year they want to have this year. Here's what my looked like last year.
Last year, it was just three of us, but it was still a lot of fun. This year, it looks like there will be at least 9 of us, so I'm thinking about providing name tags and maybe doing a brief get-to-know-you activity. I just want people to have a chance to introduce themselves and start to feel connected with each other before they delve into such personal work alongside each other. Maybe we'll do the one where you select a penny and then share a major event from the year on the penny. 

I should also think about providing clipboards in case people want to move to the couch area. 

I'm excited! 



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Monday, December 15, 2014

DIY Pants for Kids


Henry's been having a big problem with his pants lately, either that they are too tight around the waist or too loose. We've tried elastic pants and zipper pants, as well as a belt, and our strategies just don't seem to be working. I finally gave in and decided that I want to sew five pairs of pants for Henry to wear to school. 

Our school has a uniform. It's very liberal--the youngest children choose from three different color polo shirts or a school t-shirt, and navy or khaki for bottoms. I decided to go with navy blue corduroy for his winter pants. I ordered five yards of this fabric.

I'm going to use my favorite pattern of all time (pictured above). I used it to sew seersucker pants for Henry a year and a half ago.

I'll let you know how it goes!




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Monday, December 8, 2014

No Time for Blogging


Just a quick post to say: "Sorry, I don't have time to blog this week!" 

Of course there's the usual stuff related to starting a school, but the more exhausting stuff has been:

  • Matt had to travel this past week, which meant I had to assume the role of Solo Parent (my heart goes out to those of you who have to deal with this regularly; it's so, so hard for me!)
  • I came down with a 24-hour bug on Friday afternoon, which left me incapacitated well into Saturday
  • Matt and Henry came down with the 24-hour bug on Sunday, so I had to go into Solo Parent mode again and take on Matt's share of house chores 
Even as I recount some of the hardships I faced this week, I am pushing myself to stay focused on the positive. I have so much to be grateful for. Two healthy children! An amazing life partner! Meaningful work! A supportive family! A healthy body! I am overwhelmed by everything that's going right in my world. It seems silly to waste time focused on the negative when I should instead cultivate gratitude. I'm working on this habit in my life right now. If I start to get annoyed or frustrated or whiny, I'm going to try to push myself to step back and focus--instead--on everything that's going right.

Anyway, I just wanted to check-in and say, "I'll miss you this week!" We are having so much fun with our Christmas Countdown activities each night, as well as our Christmas books. I'm getting started on my holiday cards and trying to finish up my shopping. Right after Thanksgiving, we went to a Christmas tree farm, took a hay ride out into the field, and then sawed down a tree from the field. 

See you next week!



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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

End of Year Purge


We still aren't fully settled into our house (a year and a half later...). But we're close! 

Last year, we took advantaged of the Container Store sale on their closet system. We also paid for them to install it. Even with the sale, it's still an investment, but I highly recommend it if you're working with a limited amount of space. Having closet systems maximizes every crevice, and the Elfa system is incredibly flexible and can adapt over time to meet your changing needs. 

[end of unpaid endorsement!]

I'd like to use the winter break to really go through everything in our house, get it organize, and set up systems for everything to have a permanent spot. I'd like to:
  • Take every.single.thing out of Henry's closet and then purge, organize, and put it all back in
  • Take every.single.thing out of Tate's closet and then purge, organize, and put it all back in
  • Take every.single.thing out of our closet and then purge, organize, and put it all back in
  • Take every.single.thing out of the entryway bookshelf and then purge, organize, and put it all back in
  • Take every.single.thing out of the guest bathroom closet and then purge, organize, and put it all back in
  • Take every.single.thing out of the master bathroom closet and then purge, organize, and put it all back in
  • Take every.single.thing out of the guest bathroom cabinets and then purge, organize, and put it all back in
  • Take every.single.thing out of the master bathroom cabinets and then purge, organize, and put it all back in
  • Shred all the bills and receipts I've been saving unnecessarily
  • Take every.single.thing out of the kitchen pantry and then purge, organize, and put it all back in
  • Take every.single.thing out of the outdoor closet and then purge, organize, and put it all back in
  • Take every.single.thing out from under the kitchen sink and then purge, organize, and put it all back in
  • Reorganize our napkin drawer

There are also other tasks we need to ask others to take on:
  • Taking care of our wood siding
  • Painting our deck (Matt started the job, but didn't finish it)
And then there are the things I want to do to make our house more lived in:
  • Hang up more artwork
  • Finish decorating the guest bathroom
  • Decorate the master bedroom
  • Decorate our front porch
  • Purchase furniture for the backyard

Hmm...now that I've typed out that list, I'm not sure how I feel about devoting my winter break to executing on it. Home organizing is rewarding, but it is not relaxing for me at all. Last weekend I organized the cleaning closet and the refrigerator (not even the freezer!) and that was enough to leave me feeling exhausted. 

I'm also hesitant to take this on in the middle of the holidays, which come with their own kind of exhaustion.

I'm going to have to think about how to accomplish this list. The first step is to print it out and hang it on our whiteboard for increased accountability! 



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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Brainstorming: Writing & Art Center


I'm eager to turn the table in Henry's room into a writing and art center.

In order to best know how to organize the space, I need to think through everything it will contain.

Some of the things I would like to include:

  • Different types of paper: plain white, construction paper, story writing paper, water color paper
  • Envelopes
  • Scissors
  • Pencils
  • Colored pencils
  • Stickers
  • Glue
  • Water colors
  • Paint brushes
  • Stamps
  • Ink pad
  • Scotch tape
  • Washi tape
I've thought about trying to purchase some kind of storage unit to slide under the table. 
The downside of one of these storage units is that I think it would make the room feel more crowded because it would take up more floor space.

We could also go the peg board route.

Or just attach various things to the wall to hold various components, like this one.

Ideas for organizing paper:

I'm inspired by:
I haven't reached any conclusions about this. I need to keep brainstorming! 



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Monday, December 1, 2014

Holiday Countdown


We started a Holiday Countdown calendar a couple years ago, but now that we have young children, I want to add some additional activities that are more relevant to them (while also keeping it simple, since weeknights are already pretty hectic since we try to get everything done in time for a 6:30pm bedtime). Here are some things to add to our list:

  • Drink eggnog
  • Drink hot chocolate
  • Visit the Zilker Tree
  • Visit 37th Street lights
  • Visit Christmas house at 1912 Crystal Shores 
  • Go ice-skating (we won't do it this year, but I'll go ahead and make a tag for it for future years)
  • Attend the Cherrywood Art Festival
  • Making bagged lunches and delivering them to homeless people on the street
  • Make a gingerbread house
  • Write a letter as a family to reminisce about the year
Supplies we need:
  • Eggnog
  • Hot chocolate
  • Marshmallows
  • Paper bags
  • Bread 
  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly
  • Bags of chips
  • Water bottles
  • Bags of cookies
  • Graham crackers
  • Candy
I'm looking forward to it!

I'll pay close attention and make sure this stuff doesn't start to feel stressful. That would miss the point entirely! 



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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Henry and Tate's Christmas List


Every year my mom asks for a list of things for the boys. I thought I would share this year's list, in case you are trying to pull together something similar! 



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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Changes





I'm not exactly sure what prompted the change, but we did some major rearranging around our house this weekend. It might have been the fact that I noticed Tate's bed was getting too small for him. He's been sleeping on a mattress on the floor in his room since a couple months after his birth. We've followed the Montessori approach of using a floor bed and making the rest of the room as safe as a crib would be. It's worked really well for Tate (and worked well for Henry, too). 

But Tate is a big boy, and at 16 months, he is outgrowing his mattress. Our original plan was to put Henry and Tate in the same bedroom as soon as possible. We were going to go the bunk bed route (I've been itching to paint an IKEA bunk bed!). But sleep is just too tenuous around our house to consolidate the boys into the same room right now. Both of them sleep through the night regularly, but there always seems to be something that wakes up one or the other. Tate will be sick and his coughing will wake him up. Then he'll get better and Henry will get sick. And then they'll both be well and then there will be a loud thunderstorm that wakes up one of them and then the other. Or our dog will be snoring in the most distracting way. It's crazy! 

It means we are not ready to put them in the same room and increase the chances of waking. No way! 

But at the same time, we are eager to have a guest room. Right now we make our guests sleep on a futon mattress in the living room. Also, Matt has been hankering for a king-size bed for years. So, we decided on the following configuration:
  • Get a new king-size Malm bed from IKEA for our room
  • Move our queen-size Malm bed into Henry's room
  • Move Henry's twin-size mattress into Tate's room
It took some arranging and rearranging, but I'm really happy with the way Henry's room turned out. Although there is no longer a lot of floor space to play on, I love having the big bed for reading and wrestling. I also plan to turn his table into a writing and art center soon. There's plenty of floor space in the living room, entryway, or Tate's room. It's crazy to see little Henry sleeping on such a big bed (I didn't have anything bigger than a twin until I graduated from college!).

When we do have guests, we can have Henry sleep in Tate's room for the night. We'll see how it goes!

In case you're interested:




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Monday, November 17, 2014

Vegetarian Crockpot Meals


I'm really struggling with cooking meals lately. My meal-planning system still works well, and I manage to go shopping each week, but I really, really don't want to cook once I get home from a long day at work. I'm sick of the meal-planning kits from Greenling, and I feel too guilty about eating frozen food all the time (although Indian night is really tasty!). 

My approach for this week was to prep everything on Sunday and then put it in the crockpot in the morning. Here's the website I followed in order to make the following meals:
  1. Stuffed peppers
  2. Mushroom, lentil and barley stew
  3. Spinach and artichoke casserole
  4. Vegetarian sloppy joes
I love how all of these meals can be thrown in the crockpot in the morning, and I especially love how they don't even require much prep time on the weekend! Hopefully they'll all taste good and I can add them to our permanent rotation. 



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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Habits



I picked up a copy of The Happiness Project from our Little Free Library at school. I read the first chapter and found it to be mostly annoying. I think it’s a classic case of not liking the narrator because she reminds me of what I don’t like about myself. 

I want to be the kind of person who finds the right balance between identifying the things I want to improve while simultaneously celebrating who I am and where I am in the moment. I do believe that striving and growing are worthwhile endeavors, but I don’t want to be so consumed with striving and growing (which is inherently deficit-based) that I lose site of how far I’ve come or how much gratitude I have for the present moment. 

The first chapter left me pretty overwhelmed since many of the things she decides to tackle are also things that I want to tackle in my life. I decided to go back to an approach I tried a couple years ago: I want to focus on one resolution at a time until that resolution becomes a habit. 

And I want to be really intentional about which goals I pick. I know that daily and weekly habits are an investment. And I’m already investing in so many things right now. Parenting! Work! My marriage!

I don’t want to pick something that isn’t really necessary. I want to pick things that will genuinely and sincerely make my life better for the rest of my life, if I do them religiously on a daily or weekly basis. 

There is a whole list of things I want to make habits. Drink enough water every day! Exercise regularly! Take my vitamins daily! Practice gratitude each night! 

I’m tempted to pick more than one thing. But I shouldn’t. I should isolate one thing and make it a habit before I add the next thing. 

For my first habit, I think I’m going to pick drinking enough water every day. My goal is to drink at least 80 ounces. I’ve chosen that amount because it’s what I personally need to feel hydrated. 

In practical terms, 80 ounces is two of my water bottles. What holds me back from drinking enough water each day? I’m good at bringing my water bottle to school, but I don’t necessarily fill it up. So the first step is to fill it up first thing in the morning. The next step is to make sure I take a couple sips every time I return to my desk. That would ensure that I’m getting through my bottles. 

And if I struggle to make time during the day, I need to prioritize it at night. I need to stop being lazy and actually fill up my water bottle and then drink it while I work in the evenings. 

In terms of accountability, I think I’m going to mark our big calendar each day that I complete this task. My goal is to make this a habit by doing it for at least 21 days straight.



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Monday, November 10, 2014

Thanksgiving Books!


Our new tradition of reading Halloween books in the weeks leading up to the holiday was a great success. Henry really enjoyed his holiday books, so much so that he wanted to dig into the Christmas books as soon as we book the Halloween ones away. 

As much as I love the holidays, I am not the kind of person who likes to start focusing on Christmas early. I like waiting until after Thanksgiving--one holiday at a time! 

I decided that it made sense to purchase some Thanksgiving books. Here's what we ordered:
It was hard to find the right kind of books for our family. As I've mentioned before, we try to stick to realistic fiction or non-fiction while Henry is a super concrete thinker and is trying to learn about the world through his five senses. We also don't want books that romanticize the relationship between white settlers and the indigenous people who were in North America first. 

So I have no idea how great these books will be, but we'll give them a try! I'll be sure to give you reviews and recommendations next year!  



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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Things I'm Working on as a Mother


It dawned on me the other day that Henry never seemed to have a hard time adjusting to life with his new brother Tate at the time of Tate's birth. I realized, however, that it's probably getting harder and harder for Henry, now that Tate is more of a presence in our lives. He interacts with us, he laughs with us, he cracks us up a lot more, he asks for things, he demands a lot of attention, and he elicits a lot of positive feedback because he's so stinkin' adorable now (in my opinion, 16 months is when kids start to get really fun). 

Tate's more pronounced presence in our lives makes me wonder how Henry feels. It's also inspired me to work on the following things as a mother:
  • Narrate the positive: I find myself doing lots of correcting and redirecting with Henry (who is 3.5), and yet I realize the real learning takes place when he's feeling positive. So when he is making good choices, I try to narrate what I see him doing and why it's a good choice. 
  • Default to redirection rather than correction: My natural inclination is to correct rather than redirect, but I find that Henry responds so much more positively to simply being redirected. I can still achieve my goal of stopping the behavior (and I can also narrate why the behavior isn't good), but I can avoid so many conflicts and struggles by simply redirecting him. 
  • Monitoring my own mood in his presence: My job is incredibly stressful right now, and I'm working on not carrying that stress into my interactions with my children. I try to save my venting or problem-solving for Matt (after the kids go to bed). This one is so hard for me! I really, really want to dissect my day with Matt during dinner. In fact, if I'm not analyzing my day, I have a hard time coming up with things to talk about! 
  • Being fully present when I'm with my children: I'm with Henry for about 2.5 hours each day and with Tate for 1.5 of those. I try to be full present during that short time. I also try to take full advantage of our weekends together. 
I know this time with my children is going to fly by (and then I'm going to be old!), so I'm trying to make the most of it.



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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Revitalized Spaces


There are spaces in my home that bug me every time I walk by them. The thing about those kind of spaces is that they typically only take about 15 minutes to transform. So I generally spend several hours (if you add up all the seconds I spend being bothered by them each day) thinking about corners that don't take very much time to fix. Oy! 

In this case, one area was really bothering me: the bookshelf in our bedroom. The thing about that bookshelf is that I see it for several hours each night as I work on my computer from my bed.

One night I decided to do something about it. I started by pulling off all the books that I thought we could donate. When I was in college, I started saving every book I owned (and even added books to my collection whenever people donated their old, outdated textbooks back to the bookstore). I had this idea that I wanted to have a library room in my house when I grew up.

I carted those books all around with me over the years. When I moved to rural Louisiana to teach with Teach For America, I remember only being able to take what I could fit in my car. There was no room for my boxes of books. So, at the last minute, my mom and I got the idea to start shoving individual books into the crevices of my car.

I moved a lot over the years! From Tampa to rural Louisiana. From rural Louisiana to Houston. And then I took a year off to go on a self-subsidized sabbatical (to folk art school in the mountain of North Carolina, a commune in Virginia, a trip to India, etc.). Then I moved back to Houston. And then to Denver. And then back to Houston. And then finally to Austin (to two different houses).

At some point, I started feeling like keeping my books was about impressing other people instead of fulfilling some real desire in myself. "Look at how cultured I am!" (even though I hadn't read all the books I was actually keeping on my shelves). I decided to donate books that I really wasn't going to return to.

But even as I type this, I do feel some sadness about giving away all my books. It would have been awesome for my sons to see all the books that helped shape who I am as a person.

But as I write that, it feels like a romantic and sentimental notion that may be somewhat true, but the possibility of my boys picking up a book that was fundamental to my life is way overshadowed by the burden of making space for so many books.

So anyway, we pared down our books again. Then I went about a trial-and-error process of arranging books and objects in different ways. These shelves are still not where I want them to be (I feel like the colors of the objects clash too much), but it's a definite step forward from the previous mess (sorry I don't have a "before" photo!). 



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Monday, October 27, 2014

Bye, Bye Pacifier


I remember the indecision and uncertainty I faced when deciding whether or not to introduce a pacifier into my first son's life. The Montessori philosophy recommends against the use of pacifiers (as do a whole host of books about helping your babies sleep well), but I really felt like my son needed the extra support to help soothe himself.

Around 14 months, he started daycare and his teacher helped us wean him off of it. We started by limiting its use just to nap time and bedtime. And then we just stopped using it all together.

We started the same thing with Tate when he hit the 14 month-mark. I worried that he would be really cranky around dinner time without a pacifier, but we stuck to the routine of just using it for naps and bedtime. It works fine! When he walks out of his room in the morning (he still uses a Montessori floor bed instead of a crib), he hands us his three pacifiers. It's the sweetest thing.

I imagine he'll only use it for naps and bedtime for another month or so (knock on wood!) and then it will hopefully be out of our lives forever. 



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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How We Spend Our Days


There's so much that shifts in your life when you have children! I feel like we are always having to change our home environment to accommodate my children's developmental stages. Just when I finally get around to moving things off the bottom shelf out of Tate's crawling reach, then he's walking and I have to do it all over again! 

There are also shifts in the kinds of activities we spend our days doing. I remember being so happy when Henry reached the age when he no longer put every.single.thing in his mouth and we could finally take him to the park to crawl around. 

Our family is in a new stage now: the one nap stage. We recently decided to make the switch, and it's awesome! Our schedule feels so much more wide-open on the weekends. Tate was napping at 9:30am and 2:30pm, which really truncated our options. Now we just need to be home by noon. We have a nice morning block and afternoon block for family time. 

I feel like I need to spend a couple minutes wrapping my brain around this shift. For example, last weekend we were able to go to church for the first time in more than a year (we go to a Unitarian Universalist Church, which is a very non-churchy church). 

What are some of the things we want to fit into our weekends? 
  • Matt's run on Saturday (he takes the boys in the double-stroller, which is awesome); I use this time to blog
  • Picking up the house: I've been trying to get into the habit of doing this for 15 minutes each evening. I turn on the New Age Essentials station on Pandora and try to use it as a bit of a meditation experience. If I keep this up, then there won't be much that needs to get done on the weekend. 
  • My run: I can fit this in on Sunday morning while Matt takes the boys to the dog park
  • Church: We can go after my run (there's time to come home and shower before hand)
  • Tacos! We can pick up breakfast tacos on the way home from church.
  • Getting outdoors! We have lots of trails around, the Nature and Science Center, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, etc. 
  • Grocery shopping
  • Food prep for the week
  • Crafting: I'd like to get into the habit of doing a craft each week with Henry
  • More time outdoors: Our front-yard garden is a fun place to hang out, as is our backyard.
I know! I should make a list on our big whiteboard. Having a list will help me find the perfect blend of planning and spontaneity. When we have a big chunk of time and don't know what we want to do, we can consult the list for ideas. I have certain projects I want to do (like build a sandbox) and little holiday traditions (like carve pumpkins) and certain places I want to go (like back to the Austin Animal Sanctuary). 



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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

DIY Lion Costume




Halloween is around the corner. What fun! 

Henry's costume is done. Here's how it went down:
  • I ordered a white hoodie and tan dye from Amazon. In retrospect, I should have ordered two bottles to achieve the darker shade I was going for. But oh well! 
  • Henry and I followed the directions on the bottle to dye the sweatshirt. Easy!
  • I dug through my friend's yarn box of yard-to-be-donated and found three skeins of thick, brownish/tanish yarn. 
  • I followed this tutorial to make little pom-poms. I wrapped the yarn around the width of four of my fingers 20 times. Then I tied a separate piece of yarn around the middle of my loops. Then I cut the loops to make a pom-pom. 
  • I sewed each pom-pom around the edge of the hoodie.
  • To make the tail, I braided a bunch of strands together and then tied a pom-pom on the end. Then I sewed it to the hoodie. 
  • I purchased an eye-liner pencil to make a nose and whiskers. 
The sweet thing is that Henry loves his costume. I ordered a tiger costume from Amazon for Tate, and I get a little sad comparing the homemade costume to the store-bought costume. The store-bought costume is made with such cheap and flimsy fabric. I'm sorry, Tater! Next year I will hopefully have the capacity to hand-make your costume too. I love you, Buddy!

I had so much fun working on this costume. As a planner, I love the weeks of anticipation before the actual event. We have to be honest with ourselves about what brings us joy. I didn't make this costume for Henry because I felt pressured by the Pinterest Culture to be a crafty, perfect mother; I simply enjoy being crafty (when I have time, which is why I didn't make Tate's costume this year!). I also personally love the idea of spending time with my children making their costumes. But that's just me! We each have to find our own path. 

Happy Almost-Halloween!



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Monday, October 20, 2014

Christmas Books!



After making my list of books to read in the weeks leading up to Halloween, I decided to do the same thing for Christmas! Henry and I have been having a lot of fun reading our Halloween books together. 



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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Join Us!



We are getting ready to start the next round of Purposeful Conception: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy on Monday! 

Although I am on the other side of conception (I have a 15 month-old and a 3.5 year-old and my husband got a vasectomy), I still love talking about everything that surrounds conception, pregnancy, birth, and parenting.

Just yesterday, I was talking with a pregnant friend/colleague who was explaining that she doesn't feel like she's "supposed" to feel in terms of the proverbial "maternal instinct."

I connected with another friend/colleague last week who got accidentally pregnant and didn't know it until she had a miscarriage.

Last weekend I connected with an old friend who is 35 and gearing up to try and get pregnant (so I gave her my tips for when and how to have sex when you're trying to get pregnant--it's embarrassing to admit, but I love talking about cervical mucus because knowledge of it helped me get pregnant on the first try three times in a row!).

And today I am dropping off a meal for a friend who just had her second baby. So fun!


And selfishly, I want to work through the lessons in this course as a sort of "tune-up" for my life. I want to eat healthier, make time for exercise, drink enough water every day, think about my stress levels, reflect on my finances, examine my support network, etc. And talking about those kinds of changes and commitments is so much easier within a community of accountability.

Here is some feedback from former participants:
  • "I want to recommend the heck out of this!"
  • "I feel like I have a really solid reference point; all the journaling these activities inspired created a larger awareness for me of what we’re getting ourselves into. We both feel a lot more informed not only about some specifics of preparing for pregnancy, but also that we have a broader groundwork with which to do more research and a better understanding of what we think and feel about taking this step. I feel more careful about how I’m organizing my life, more intentional about my time and space; my husband has had a chance to work through many of his fears and is more eager than ever to start trying! I think previously I was ready just to dive in and figure it out as I went, now I am a lot more confident in my ability to handle this."   
  • "To be honest, I was hesitant at first to spend the money on a class about preparing for conception (rather than saving it towards actually having a baby!). However, both my husband and I have benefited SO much from this; it's been worth EVERY penny and more. Truly. It's been fantastic and I'm so glad I 'splurged.'"  
  • "This was an excellent course and a lot of thought, research, hard work, and love went into it - that is obvious. It was comforting to find a community of others who are really taking the time to plan for conception and parenthood, because I don't find that among my local community. Great job, Sara. Really and truly. This course was a big help to me and I will definitely recommend it to others!"
  • "I think that this course really shines in the lessons that require self-reflection. You brought up several issues that I hadn't really considered."
  • "Thanks to all the reflection, guided discussions, and useful advice from this course, [my] worry/fear has pretty much disappeared. My partner and I have figured out what 'ready' means to us, and it's not as hard as we thought it would be to get there. We have a short to-do list with achievable goals. I'm happy to be where I am right now in my life."
  • "Thanks for taking the time to put all of this information together and for sharing so much of yourself with us. I enjoyed the course."
  • "After working through the course I feel much more comfortable with the idea of having a child and much more prepared to expand my family."
  • "I was very ambivalent about having a child before taking this course. I now know that my husband and I are more prepared than I thought we were to have a child. For the areas in which we need some work, I now have concrete action steps to complete...It's wonderful to actually be excited about this next step instead of fearful or unsure."
  • "I have a long way to go, but I want to work on myself before having a baby. This course has helped me identify concrete areas that need work."
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!



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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Halloween Books


Halloween is around the corner! 

As my children get older, I think more and more about our seasonal traditions and rituals. Last year, we started a tradition of hosting a Halloween pizza party and then trick-or-treating with our neighbors. We definitely want to continue that tradition this year, but I also want to add in a new tradition: reading books about Halloween in the weeks leading up to the holiday! 

I pulled together a list of books that look interesting to me. Since Henry is only three and is still very much a concrete thinker who is trying to wrap his brain around the world, I gravitate more toward realistic fiction or non-fiction. However, you'll see that there is some fantasy fiction in the mix. 

I'm going to purchase some of these books and keep them on the top shelf of the closet. We can bring them down every October! 

I also think I'll throw in some books related to Fall:
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REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on October 20thRegister today! We'd love to have you join us!



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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New Hobbies!

Image courtesy The Purl Bee

So sorry I missed posting last week! It's for a good reason: I have hobbies again! 

I took a class at a local yarn shop to learn how to make this cowl

And I've been reading. 

And Matt and I have been playing speed Scrabble. We give ourselves one minute per turn. It's actually been a really fun way get in a quick game. It also makes the process feel more engaging because we aren't looking at our phones or doing something else during the other person's turn. The only way it doesn't completely stress me out is if I spend the first couple seconds coming up with any word (even if it's not worth very many points). That way, I'm not anxious about the timer going off too soon because I know I can play something. 

Life is good!

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REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on October 20thRegister today! We'd love to have you join us!



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Monday, October 13, 2014

Enroll Now: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy



I've been too busy to offer this course for the past year. Fortunately, my two-week Fall Break has opened up some time and space for me to prepare to offer it again. Even though Matt and I are not planning to have more children (Matt had a vasectomy to prevent any accidental pregnancies), I'm looking forward to participating. It's like a tune-up for my life. 

Last week I heard from one of the participants from the very first class. She is now on Baby #3 and was asking for a copy of one of the worksheets from the course. I feel so fortunate to still be connected with such amazing women! 

Here are the details:

For those of you who are thinking about conception or are actively trying, this online course might be for you! From October 20 through November 14, 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!



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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Thought for the Day


In my effort to insert a little more balance into my life, I started reading a "fluffy" book on my Kindle app. The part of myself that minored in English in college definitely expresses a little judgement whenever I gravitate toward "substandard literature--if you can even call it 'literature'" but I'm thankful that I can easily out-wrestle my inner-critic and read relaxing books anyway. 

I love the opening of the book and wanted to share it with you. It's exactly how I feel about my life--simultaneously overwhelmed with gratitude for how amazing it is and utterly terrified that something negative will happen to change it. 

Whenever I hear of someone else’s tragedy, I do not dwell on the accident or diagnosis, or even the initial shockwaves or aftermath of grief. Instead, I find myself reconstructing those final, ordinary moments. Moments that make up our lives. Moments that were blissfully taken for granted—and that likely would have been forgotten altogether but for what followed. The before snapshots.

I can so clearly envision the thirty-four-year-old woman in the shower one Saturday evening, reaching for her favorite apricot body scrub, contemplating what to wear to the party, hopeful that the cute guy from the coffee shop will make an appearance, when she suddenly happens upon the unmistakable lump in her left breast.

Or the devoted, young father, driving his daughter to buy her first-day-of-school Mary Janes, cranking up Here Comes the Sun on the radio, reminding her for the umpteenth time that the Beatles are “without a doubt the greatest band of all time,” as the teenaged boy, bleary-eyed from too many late-night Budweisers, runs the red light.

Or the brash high-school receiver, full of promise and pride, out on the sweltering practice field the day before the big football game, winking at his girlfriend from her usual post at the chain-link fence, just before leaping into the air to make the catch nobody else could have made—and then twisting, falling headfirst on that sickening, fluke angle.

I think about the thin, fragile line separating all of us from misfortune, almost as a way of putting a few coins in my own gratitude meter, of safeguarding against anafter happening to me. To us. Ruby and Frank, Nick and me. Our foursome—the source of both my greatest joys and most consuming worries.



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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My Mantra for Next Year


This year I've been focusing on "making a clearing" in order to steal myself against the onslaught of difficulties that come from opening a school and raising two young children. Honestly, the process of opening a school has been more difficult than I ever imagined. 

This year, "making a clearing" has included different things. I've tried to make aspects of my life as easy as possible, so that I could invest more in two main areas: mothering and working. We've definitely made dinnertime easier by using Greenling some weeks or cooking frozen meals other weeks. We sometimes hire a housekeeper when it gets so dirty we can't stand it, but mainly we've just lowered our standards for domestic cleanliness. 

Mainly "making a clearing" has been about not letting myself get involved with dreaming and scheming about side projects. There is little time to focus on anything else but my two big priorities. I haven't set monthly goals for myself in a long time.

Fortunately, I can see the trajectory we're on and am optimistic that it's going to get more and more manageable. Last night I had the random thought: "What will my mantra be for next year?" And I immediately answered: "Balance." It's exactly what is needed in my life. I feel the negative effects of being so laser-like focused on two priorities and not having space or time for self-care, exercise, or much fun. 

My hope is that the most difficult parts of building this dream are behind us. Tate is now 15 months. With Henry, I distinctly remember 16 months being a turning point for me as a mother. 

At the same time, I want to savor every moment of where we are. I don't want to constantly be focused on "when it's going to get better." I cannot even fathom how quickly children grow up. Being connected to former students on Facebook has really illustrated how quickly time slips by. My first third graders are now grown adults. Even children I taught just a few years ago are already in middle school. 

And those are other people's children. I feel like I'm going to blink and my children will be teenagers who are gearing up to leave the house and venture out on their own. 

Yes, I am eager to savor every one of those baths I get to give and books I get to read. 



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Monday, September 29, 2014

Drumroll, Please


The winner of our contest to win a copy of my favorite Montessori documentary--Edison's Day--is: Kathryn Sp.

Congratulations, Kathryn! Please e-mail me your address to claim your prize. 

"Kathryn Sp

This sounds like a wonderful resource as I learn about Montessori practices with my infant son.

September 16, 2014 at 9:33 AM"



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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New Hobbies


The melancholy in Nichole's recent post resonated with me, and when I saw her list of ways to care for herself, I started to get excited. Knit a cowl? Great idea! I started looking into classes about how to knit a cowl. 

When I told Matt about it, he reminded me that I also wanted to get back into tennis. I had the idea that I could try to gather five or so folks from my neighborhood and hire a tennis coach to give us lessons once a week at the park in our neighborhood. 

I've been so focused on "making a clearing" in my life that I haven't made time for the kinds of things that excite me. What else might I like to learn/do in the coming months? Honestly, improving my tennis and knitting skills seem like the perfect goals for the fall. I don't want to take on too much. I want to take on just enough to give me something other than parenting and working to think about. 



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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Movie Recommendation


Matt and I finally(!) watched a movie together this Saturday night. Don't be too impressed; it wasn't a "date" or anything that exciting. It was just the two of us in our bed with Netflix, but, hey, when you work all the time, this kind of thing is a step forward!

I always have trouble finding good movies on Netflix for some reason. I clicked on a movie called Thanks for Sharing, and I almost stopped it five minutes into it. However, I'm so glad I persevered. It is a movie about sex addiction, and I appreciated it on so many different levels. First, I really liked the characters. They were the kind of people that stick in my mind for days. I cared deeply about what happened to them (to the point where I really want there to be a sequel). 

Second, I found the over-arching topic of addiction to be really interesting. Although I don't feel like I have any addictions that are true diseases, I do feel that internal pull between part of me that wants to do x, y, or z, and the other part of me that doesn't want to want to do x, y, or z. 

If you're looking for something good on Netflix, I highly recommend it! 

P.S. Please leave any recommendations in the comments. I seriously can't find any good movies on Netflix! 



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Monday, September 22, 2014

To All the Mamas


I had a chance to reconnect with an old friend this past weekend. She's a very special friend, indeed. We met during prenatal yoga. Our babies were due within a day of each other. We didn't really become good friends until after our babies were born (hers was early; mine was late), and another mom from our prenatal class suggested that we all get together. I remember that they had gone for a walk together, and then we all met at a coffee shop (I had to skip the walk because I was still bleeding too much). I soaked up every ounce of our conversation. I didn't even realize how desperately I needed what they had to offer--empathy, advice, and their own new-mama questions and uncertainties. By the end of our first meeting, I was begging for us to make a weekly ritual out of it. 

We kept it up for about three or four months. We would walk together, return to one of our houses, breastfeed our babies, give them some awake time together (we thought it was adorable to line them up on a blanket and watch them "play" together), and then put them in their wraps for a nap while we ate our lunches. 

To this day, I am so, so grateful for those days together. I'm quite certain I wouldn't have made it through that really hard phase without them. There was something magical about finding women who were going through the exact same thing at the exact same time. We were all sleep-deprived, we were all figuring out how to pump, and we were all wondering how to do this parenting thing. 

Reconnecting with one of the women this past weekend while she was in Austin brought back all the same feelings of gratitude and relief. We slipped easily into our old honest conversations. She now has a second child (who was also due within a day of my second child; she again gave birth early and I again gave birth late!). We talked about how hard it is. Yes, we are overwhelmed with gratitude for how lucky we are to have healthy children, but it's really hard. And sometimes we don't like hanging out with our children and yes, we need to find more time for self-care, and: Did we mention how hard this is? 

It felt so good to say those things out loud to another mama and to hear another mama echo back similar thoughts and feelings. And that's why I wanted to say them out loud to you. Just in case you feel something similar and need to hear your own thoughts and feelings echoed back to you. 

This parenting thing is so hard for me. I love it and am so thankful we decided to expand our family, but it is so, so hard right now. It's hard to muster up the patience that is needed to get my three year-old to brush his teeth every night. It's hard to stay calm when my one year-old is screaming because he both doesn't and does want to be held. It's hard to muster the energy to scrub hardened food off the table all.the.time when my one year-old still doesn't reliably sleep through the night. 

Phew. I feel better just saying it. 

This weekend was a good reminder about the power of friendship and companionship. I need to make more time for it in my life! 



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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Backyard Complete!




Woo to the hoo-hoo! Our house is officially complete (well, for now). We have lived here more than a year, but we were finally able to finish the backyard landscaping. 

When we first moved in, we were scraping together every last penny to put a downpayment on the house (not because it was very expensive but because I was only working part-time and then not at all once Tate was born). Once we lived here for a while, we saved up our money again and were able to get the front yard professionally landscaped. After that, we continued to save up money and also take out a loan in order to build a pool and get the backyard landscaped. 

The yard has distinct areas. Area one is a play area for kids. Right now it's just mulch, but we hope to build a sandbox, bring in a hammock, add some rocks, etc.


Area two is a firepit. We're thinking about these chairs for the area.


Area three is the pool with a patch of grass off to the side. Eventually we'll get some adirondack chairs for that area.


Area four is a bocce ball court surrounded by 12(!) fruit trees. In about five years the trees will grow up and over the court and provide amazing shade.


Area five is forest that leads down to the creek. Once we save up money again we'll tackle that area. It just needs to be cleared out a bit and then it will be an amazing place to explore. 



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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Enter to Win: Montessori Documentary, Edison's Day


Friends, 

I am so happy to be able to offer a free copy of Edison's Day. It is my absolute favorite Montessori documentary. I have gushed about it many times. It's a 30-minute glimpse into the life of a Montessori family. Edison is 20 months-old in the documentary, and you follow him through the day. There are beautiful scenes of him pouring water for a friend during lunch, helping his dad wash the family car, and helping his mom make dinner. I was (and continue to be) blown away by what a 20 month-old can do when the environment is set up in a way that supports his or her needs. It is so easy to underestimate what children are capable of. This film is beautiful and inspiring. I have watched it countless times and gain new ideas every single time.

The mother in the film, Sarah Moudry, is a knowledgeable and amazing Montessorian. You could not believe my surprise when I found a Montessori "Mommy and Me" class in Houston and she was the instructor. I felt like I was meeting a celebrity! I enrolled Henry when he was just five weeks old and stayed late after every class to pepper her with questions. I now regularly read her blog

I am thrilled to be able to host a contest to give away a free copy of Edison's Day (valued at $45). 

To enter the contest:
  • Please leave a comment with your first name and first two letters of your last name. 
  • Enter by Friday, September 26, 2014 by 11:59pm CST. 
  • Only one entry per person, please (but feel free to have family members enter on your behalf!).
The winner will be announced the following Monday. I will wait to hear from the winner for one week. If I do not hear from him or her by then, I will draw another winner.

Happy Entering! 



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Monday, September 15, 2014

Keepsakes


In a recent article by Mr. Money Mustache about why it's okay to only have one child, I stumbled upon this quote: "In the thick of the bad times of raising a young child, you sometimes feel like your whole life has been one long screaming, screeching, smashing, crying argument." 

This stage in our lives is definitely a challenging one, with Henry being 3.5 and Tate being 1. My professional job is so demanding right now, as is my mothering job. 

So when I think about ways in which I want to keep tangible memories of this stage in our lives, I look for very simple, low-maintenance ways. I'm trying to "make a cleaning" and keep this year  as simple as possible. Here's what we have going on right now:
  • The boys each have a binder full of letters and photos from pregnancy through their first birthday. I will continue to use these binders to add letters each year on their birthdays, class photos, etc.
  • As a family, we've been keeping a scrapbook over the years. However, Matt recently had the idea to just print a family book each year with photos from our Instagram accounts via Blurb. We will continue to add things to the scrapbook (like our yearly anniversary letter), but we won't add photos to it. Instead, we'll make one book a year.  
  • I purchased copies of Oh, the Places You'll Go for Henry and Tate. We ask their teachers to write a note to them at the end of their time together, and we plan to give them these books at graduation. 
  • I got the idea to keep artifacts from their pockets (like the ones above) and turn it into a piece of art inside a shadowbox. I have a basket on a high shelf inside the bathroom closet. As I collect something, I slip it into a little baggie and use a Sharpie marker to label it with their name, date, and brief description of the object. I imagine I will present them with this when they are an adult, like at their weddings (if they get married) or as a housewarming present (if they buy a house).
  • We purchased a hanging ruler to keep track of our boys' heights as they grow. It's easy to roll up, so once we no longer want it hanging on the wall, we will roll it up and put it into one of their Tupperware containers. The boys each have one large container where we keep things for them (a couple of baby clothes, their first blankets, etc.).
All of these are actually really easy to maintain, and I think we'll be able to keep them up!




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