Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Graduation Gift

While skimming Facebook the other day, I came across two ideas that made me tear up with [anticipated] nostalgia. The first story was about a mom who had secretly collected everything that was left in her son's pockets from the time he was little. She amassed them all in a glass lamp and presented him with this amazing gift on his wedding day. He said she had basically encapsulated his childhood inside that lamp. 

Then I read about a dad who had asked every single one of his child's teachers to sign a copy of Oh, the Places You'll Go, and he presented it to his child on graduation day. 

It made me wish I would've sewn pockets into Henry's pants! I do think I'm going to implement the book idea. I just need to connect with the three teachers he's had already. 

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Batch Cooking

In my quest to "make a clearing" this year as I try to balance mothering an infant and a three year-old, starting a school and a national charter management organization, making time for health and wellness, and continuing to nurture my marriage/friendships/relationships with family/neighborly connections, I started experimenting with batch cooking. I start cooking early on Sunday afternoon. I try to cook our most difficult meal first. Otherwise, I'll avoid it all week long and make excuses. None of our meals are particularly difficult, but some are harder than others (like Lebanese soup, which has multiple steps). 

In between all the steps, I start the prep work for other meals. In some cases, I can make the entire meal and store it in the fridge (like Mexican Macaroni & Cheese). Other times, I just get the chopping out of the way (which helps a ton!) or make the rice or quinoa.

It's a small thing, but it adds up to big time savings! 

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Teaching the Names of Private Parts

I first saw the book Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts in a Montessori catalog a couple years ago and thought about getting the book for Henry's 2nd birthday. After reading the first couple chapters of From Diapers to Dating, I knew that we wanted to use real language to describe body parts around Henry. It feels like it helps children feel less shameful about their bodies, and I even read an article that made the argument that teaching children the real name for body parts is one component of helping to fight against child abuse. 

Fast forward a year later and we came across the book at the library. We added it to our basket (we check out 10 books at a time so it's always easy to remember how many we have). 

Overall, I think the book is great. It goes over the names of body parts (e.g., penis, scrotum, testicles, vagina, labia, uterus, ovaries), but the illustrations are the perfect combination of realistic and cartoonish. It includes illustrations of how a naked body looks in infancy, childhood, and adulthood. It also talks about sperm from a man joining together with an egg from the woman to make a baby.

The thing I don't like about the book is that it's hetero-normative. It only talks about a man and a woman loving each other and deciding to make a baby and doesn't mention that families can look different. 

Overall, I'm really happy that we are reading the book, and I wish we would have gotten it when he turned two. I find myself being a little embarrassed when I read the book. I wish that weren't the case, but it is. I know my discomfort comes from his level of consciousness, which is why I wish I would have started it when he was a little less aware. The more I read it, the more comfortable I get. 

I'm actually going to purchase it so we can return to it over the years. It also inspired me to purchase It's So Amazing: A Book About Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families. I'd like to start reaching it to Henry now before he gets older and I get more uncomfortable. 

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Chickens Revisited

It's been a while since I wrote about our chickens. I just wanted to chime in with an update (four years into owning our original two chickens) and let you know it's still amazing. It's actually even more amazing now that we have kids (as a side-benefit, I'm hoping that our little mini-farm helps them develop more resilient immune systems). 

We raised our girls from a really young age, and they have always been incredibly gentle, social, and fun. We originally acquired them to be egg-producers for our families, but they quickly proved themselves to be awesome pets. We feel so grateful that they have managed to thwart predators through the years. 

Our Eglu is still going strong (although it's faded), and it makes caring for the girls really easy. The worst part about owning hens is that they poop all over the deck. Henry and I just make it a habit to get out there about once a week to sweep it all off. 

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Montessori Moments

These "Montessori Moments" posts are meant to highlight some of the ways we implement the Montessori method in our home. Many of the activities that are featured--cooking, cleaning together, going out into nature, etc.--overlap with other parenting philosophies or might seem like things that parents just do with their children intuitively. I've still chosen to highlight them here because they are integral to the Montessori approach to parenting and education and fit within a comprehensive continuum of activities that support children as they undergo the important work of forming themselves. For more information about incorporating Montessori into the home, I recommend How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way for a basic overview. For more insight into Montessori as an educational philosophy, I recommend Montessori Today. When trying to implement Montessori with infants and toddlers, I recommend Montessori from the Start and Joyful Child, as well as my favorite resource, which is a DVD documentary of Montessori at home with a 20 month old called Edison's Day.

1) Cooking Eggs

I read Kylie's post about Caspar cooking eggs years ago. When Henry recently started showing signs of readiness, I figured we should give it a try. 

Henry has been cracking eggs for a while now, and he really enjoys doing all the prep work that goes into making scrambled eggs. He gets out the compost, whisk, and eggs. He cracks the eggs independently and whisks them. Around the time he turned 3, he started asking to help me cook them on the stove. I decided to skip the electric skillet because a) I didn't really want to purchase yet another appliance and b) Henry seems old enough to understand the severity of fire and heat (with close supervision). 

He pushes his learning tower over while I turn on the gas and butter the pan. I also pour the eggs into the pan. Then he uses his wooden spoon to push around the eggs until they are cooked. 

It reminds me of this article about why Montessorians introduce young children to needles, knives, and matches:

"All of this intention, attention, and precision gives the child knowledge of several things:
  • S/he is trusted by the adults in his/her life;
  • S/he is recognized by the adult as capable of keeping him/herself and others safe through his/her own self-discipline;
  • S/he is trusted to remember and persevere in taking great care with a dangerous tool;
  • The adult has confidence and faith in him/her;
  • S/he can trust that when the adult says no, there must be a very strong reason because the adult has show respect by giving him/her dangerous tools to be used with great care and shown him/her how to use them;
  • The adult will always do the very best to respect his/her desire to learn and do if it can possible be made safe;
  • S/he can use dangerous tools to carry out dangerous tasks because s/he has skill and intention."

2) Real Glass

As I mentioned in this post, Tate is eating food now and drinking out of a real glass. In Montessori, we avoid using sippy cups. As the Michael Olaf website explains, "A cup with a top that prevents spills interrupts the natural development of the child's control of movement, and the development of skills of observation and logical consequence." 

It's such a tiny thing that makes so much sense to me. Henry started using glass from the age of four months, and he quickly learned how to hold the glass for himself and take great care with real glass because it can spill and break. 

3) The Weaning Table

I wrote about setting up the weaning table for Henry several years ago. Now it's Tate's turn! He uses it for any meal that we're not eating together as a family. When we're eating together as a family, he pulls right up to the table in his Tripp-Trapp high chair

Although the learning tower, weaning table, and Tripp Trapp were all expensive investments, they have been so incredibly useful for several years. Further, all of them are holding up extremely well, and I imagine it will be easy to recoup much of our investment by reselling the learning tower and high chair on Craigslist when we no longer need them. 

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Monday, March 17, 2014

March: Reflection & Rejuvenation

March! Already? 

You were good to me, February. Thank you. 

We celebrated my birthday and Henry's birthday and we received 750 applications for only 300 spots at the school I'm working to build. 

On the downside, I was tired. all. the. time. Dear Tate has been struggling on the sleep front. We tried sleep training early on, but a series of colds (it has seriously been back-to-back-to-back-to-back) and teeth (already up to at least four--he doesn't like when I look in his mouth) have hindered progress. I had the realization the other day that I have literally not slept more than five consecutive hours in eight months. Is that legal? I mean, it feels like I should have my drivers' license revoked or something. My brain capacity has shrunk from 13% to 7% to 2% and right now it's hovering around 0%. 

But it's temporary. And I'm basking in gratitude for my life. I feel so lucky every single day. I try not to take it for granted, although it happens from time to time. 

As for my goals for this month! Here's what I set out to accomplish:
  • Run at least two times a week and do three sun salutations at least three times a week: I ran twice (the entire month) and did yoga 0 times. But! I have a plan for how to improve these stats in March.
  • Drink at least 80 ounces of water a day: Wow. It's disappointing that I have to make this a goal every month. It should just be automatic. It's so important! 
  • Incorporate more practical life into our schedule: Yes! 
  • Add at least one new meal to our weekly rotation: Yes! 
  • Get our front and back landscaping completed: Kind of. I did bring the landscaper back out to our house to talk about the backyard. He's in the process of planning it right now.
  • Plan my presentation for the American Montessori Society conference: Not yet! 
  • Completely finish our white board: Getting close...  
And as I move forward and set my goals for this month, first I need to revisit my yearly goals:

I want to strengthen my habits of health and wellness:  
  • run at least three times a week and go to yoga once 
  • drink at least 80 ounces of water a day 
  • add new meals to our weekly rotation 
I want to continue to put down roots and connect with those around me: 
  • attend church potlucks 
  • sign up to support people by delivering meals, etc. 
  • regularly invite people over  
  • send birthday cards 
  • completely organize our house 
  • finish our front- and backyard landscaping 
  • do service learning with Henry 
  • start a garden 
I want to create the kind of school I want to send my own children to. 

Based on those yearly goals, what do I want to accomplish this month? (I'm also going to look back at the list of monthly goals I already started to create so that I'm planning things in advance throughout the year.)
  • Run at least two times a week and stretch at least 3 times weekly. I'm going to run on Sunday mornings at the lake while Matt takes Tate and Henry to the dog park. I'm going to run once during the week while Matt watches the boys after school. And I will also try to run on Saturdays while Matt takes Tate running in the stroller. With yoga, I need to move my mat to my bedroom closet. Hopefully it will be as simple as that. There was a really stressful summer in my life (when I was a school director for a TFA summer institute), and I did a sun salutation every night before bed. That one stretch did so much to release tension and keep me flexible! 
  • Turn the bottom of our kitchen island into a chalkboard. 
  • Purchase dining chairs for our back deck.  
  • Finish our white board for real this time!
Truthfully, it's already the middle of the month (I started this post a while ago, but it's obviously taken me awhile to finish). I kind of think I need to stop here. There's a lot going on with trying to enroll 300 families, preparing for the upcoming conference, finalizing the hiring of staff, etc.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Three Years: Happy Birthday, Henry!

Dearest Henry,

I can't believe how much you've changed in one short year. At the start of last year, you had just spoken your first sentence: "Hoss loves peanut butter." Now you get into lengthy and compelling debates with us that usually start with, "Well, actually..."

You are the most amazing little independent creature. You generate ideas ("How about if we put healthy candy in my birthday piƱata? or "Can we do research to see if I'm ready for a pedal bike?). You write your own jokes ("Poop on the floor!"). You dance. You cook eggs. You run. You build lots and lots and lots of "airplanes" with all of the blankets around the house. You are such a good big brother.

At this time last year, we lived in our rental house off Garrison Park and we were watching my belly grow with your little brother. We spent every afternoon at the park. As spring turned into summer, we spent every afternoon at the swimming pool. Tate was born in July at home. You slept through his birth and awoke to meet your new brother in the morning. We celebrated his birthday with cake and a present. Then we had lots of family in town. In August we moved into our new house.

The summer turned into Fall. For Halloween, you decided to dress up like your favorite animal: an elephant. We decided to build our family costume around yours, so we turned it into a circus theme. I dressed up like a clown, Tater was a little strongman, and your dad dressed up like popcorn.

Thanksgiving came and you declared, "Lions eat meat, and I eat meat." You loved eating turkey with Uncle Mike. At Christmas we traveled to Florida to see my family, and then your dad's family came to Austin to see us.

You love reading books, and picking up chickens. You are hankering for the world map lesson at school. You talk about the Atlantic Ocean and Asia. You moved from the Youngest Children's Community to the Primary class in November.

You display the most amazing emotional intelligence. I pick you up from school every afternoon and our conversation goes like this:

Me: "How was your day, Henry?"
You: "It was great! How was your day, Mom?"

You are able to articulate the way you feel ("Mom, I didn't like it when you snatched the ______ from me. That was mean."

Every morning, you wake up at 7 on the dot (we're still not sure how you do it) and you climb into bed with us. I love being close to you.

You are simply pure light. We are so fortunate that you are in our family.You brighten our lives every day. I look forward to another year of watching your true self unfold.

With gratitude, 

Your mama

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Eight Months: Happy Birthday, Tate!

Oh, Tater, what another great month with you! You continue to be so sweet. You chuckle at all of Henry's poop jokes. You are so alert and always watching what all of us are doing. 

This month you learned how to crawl on all fours. You get anywhere and everywhere--fast! 

And you continue to love eating. You are very opinionated about not wanting rice cereal and instead wanting whatever we're eating. You're convincing, too. This month you've tried and enjoyed miso soup, Lebanese soup, and rice and beans. 

And you're getting teeth left and right! I took you to the doctor because I thought an ear infection was making you cranky. She informed me that you were getting two teeth! After your bottom teeth came in, you got your outer top teeth. It's hilarously cute and it makes you do funny things with your mouth. 

You're just so sweet. There's really no other way to say it. You smile all the time. Your rolls grow rounder and rounder with each day. You love being in the middle of whatever is going on. You are a joy to be around. 

So lucky to be your mama!

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Meat for a Vegetarian

My and I are both vegetarians and have been for more than a decade now (we were vegetarians before meeting each other). 

But our son loves meat. He says, "Lions eat meat, and I eat meat." 

I very much subscribe to this poem about how our children come through us but not from us. He is his own person. Although we regulate things about his life according to our values and not necessary his preferences (i.e., virtually no screen time until he's older), there are other times when we honor what he wants and who he is, even if it's not what we wish he wanted. 

Like meat. Oh how I wish he didn't love meat! But he does, and it's his choice. We just limit his choices to meat that is ethically produced (since our main beef--har, har--with meat is how it's produced). 

Enter: pre-grilled, packaged meat from Applegate Farm. We can pack it in his lunch without actually cooking it or even dealing with it very much. It's a vegetarian parents' dream. 

"You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts."

"You may strive to be like them, 
but not seek to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday."

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