Wednesday, May 28, 2014


For some people, having a child is like coming home. It's like feeling as if everything is finally in place, comfortable, normal--the way it's supposed to be. 

For myself, having children has been like traveling to the far reaches of the world. Exciting! Alluring! Novel! 

And then the reality hit: I don't speak this language, everything is confusing, nothing works the way I'm used to it working, and I'm tired and homesick. And during the first four months after Tate's birth, I found myself frequently folded over a toilet bowl (but instead of having giardia, I had a malfunctioning gallbladder). 

I try not to come to this whiny place often. When I feel myself getting homesick for my former life--the life where no one depended on me and I had complete jurisdiction over my time and space--I focus on the immense gratitude that I feel for having had the privilege of giving birth to two healthy boys. I am overwhelmed by that opportunity. I consider it nothing short of a miracle nearly every single day. 

But it's a battle for sure. The day-to-day can be so! darn! hard! I want to be reading or writing or running or doing yoga or sewing or making a template or producing a podcast or pulling together a birthday present for a friend or talking to my mom or planning our next vacation or sleeping in or watching a movie. And instead I am helping a three year-old look for his shoes because he took them off to play in his tent and forgot to put them in his basket by the door. Or I'm trying to wipe poop off a ten month-old's butt who clearly doesn't want to be undergoing that experience either. Or I'm fighting the urge to curl up in an exhausted ball on the bed instead of finishing the dishes.  

And the whole time I'm trying to project patience and positivity and calm and caring. And inside I'm not feeling any of those things! I'm feeling impatient and frustrated and selfish. 

I don't regret having children at all. Not even a little bit. And I don't regret deciding to have two, even though I know our lives would be so much easier with one right now. But I just need to take this moment to acknowledge how hard it is. To give myself permission to feel all the horrible things I feel on the inside and to celebrate how amazingly committed I am to channeling it into positive interactions with my children on the outside. 

And I'm saying it aloud in case any of you feel something similar. Parenting is frequently such a hard, thankless job. I'm looking forward to the time when Tate will regularly sleep through the night and when my boys' schedules and play preferences sync up a bit more. Maybe 16 months will bring a huge shift just like it did with Henry? 

In the meantime, I'm just going to have to vent from time to time and then fall back on my mantra: "Let's be grateful." 

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Still Dealing with Stress Eating

I know this topic is getting old, but it's something I'm still dealing with. And honestly, it's a process rather than a product anyway, so it makes sense that I'm back in this space to reflect and generate new strategies going forward.

I've been trying to exercise regularly and get my eating into a healthy pattern. Before I focus on what I'm not doing and what's not working, I should celebrate the progress I've made. I am now exercising an average of two times a week! (The exclamation mark is a forced attempt to celebrate something that feels very small). But this is not the time for self-judgement--I'm going to celebrate my two times a week! It's progress for sure.

And I still have a plan for fitting in that third day--I just need to schedule it on Sunday so I follow through with it.

And stretching before bed. I just need to do it. It needs to be a non-negotiable, like teeth-brushing (although I have to confess that I sometimes crash at 7:30pm after Tate goes to sleep and I skip my oral hygiene routine all together).

So when I brush and floss my teeth, I also need to stretch. Why do I struggle to fit this into my life right now? Because it hurts and it's not fun. But it is necessary, so I need to just make myself do it. It can be as short as a three-minute process.

And then there is the eating. Dealing with the surface issues is not enough. Trying to put routines in place to regulate my eating is not working. I still need to have those things, but I also need to approach it from an internal place.

Let me think about it from an external place first:
  1. Exercising one more time per week is likely to motivate me to eat better. It's a neat cycle once it's in play. The more I exercise, the healthier I want to eat and the healthier I eat the better I feel and the more I want to exercise. 
  2. Matt and I have done a really good job of cooking meals nearly every night (thanks to bulk prep on Sunday or food ingredients delivery on Monday). But there are those nights when we're both too stressed or tired to cook even an easy meal. It's so much more fun to walk to the restaurant in our neighborhood. I think on those nights it would help to have healthy frozen pizzas on hand. They are truly quick and easy and healthier than the food we eat when we go out. 
  3. State my intentions: I really, really need Matt's help on this front. I need him to stop suggesting that he go pick up dessert for us (oh how delicious ice cream tastes at the end of a stressful day!). I think it would also help for my colleagues to know my intentions. I might be more likely to hold myself accountable if I could talk about my progress with them every day. 
  4. Start with a healthy breakfast. I've been slipping into the routine of grabbing a protein bar rather than making a green smoothie. I need the vitamins and the fiber and the calcium.
  5. Commit to a morning snack. I'm hungry around 10am and I need to have an easy, go-to snack so I'm not setting myself up over eat at lunch. Maybe I'll do a cheese stick in the morning and fruit in the afternoon. 
  6. Find something healthy that also brings me joy. Matt and I have been trying to go out on a date lunch once a week. It is so tempting to go out for something and unhealthy. We need to find a spot that's healthy and fun. Maybe Eastside CafĂ©? Or sushi? Or sandwiches? 
  7. So that would cover breakfast, snacks, dinner, and dates. When else do I find myself overeating or gravitating toward something unhealthy? Lunchtime. I think we should just stocked up on inexpensive healthy frozen meals. I hate the packaging and processed nature but it feels like a necessary evil right now. 
Those are the primary things I can control externally. So what's going on internally? It feels like a whole other post? 

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Momma Strong Discount Code

So many of you have been recommending for so long now. I've resisted it because I really don't like exercise videos. But then Maureen (thanks, Maureen!) posted on Facebook about a special deal. If you enter "twostrong" in the promo code area, the $30 price drops to $2. And I've been looking for inspiration/motivation to reclaim my body, so I took the $2 plunge. I start today on the 30-day "Hook." Let me know if you want to join me! 

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Montessori Moments: 3 Year-Old & 10 Month-Old

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.

It's amazing watching a baby play with a simple ball and box toy. Babies are just amazing. I never had this Object Permanence Box (featured above) with Henry (I tried using this one from Amazon instead by pulling out the rubber and putting away the mallet), but my friend lent this one to me for Tate, and I love it. He is so engaged with this work. I highly recommend it. 

I love that baby stage when they start pulling up on everything and trying to use everything and anything as a walker. Take has been using his walker wagon like crazy these days! Rather than lead a child by their hands to "walk" them, in a Montessori environment we teach them how to pull up on their own and direct the walker wagon to walk themselves. They start to build their confidence and their sense of self through their interactions with the environment. It's amazing to watch. We purchased this walker wagon for Henry (and will donate it to the Nido environment at my school when we're done with it), but in retrospect I wish we would have purchased the Radio Flyer Walker Wagon. It serves the same function of being super sturdy so the youngest ones can pull themselves up, but it has the added benefit of being able to (comfortably) fit older children, so its use is extended a lot longer.   

Henry and I have been doing a lot of puzzles these days. Our favorites are:
  1. Farm puzzle
  2. Firetruck puzzle
  3. People of the world puzzle
I feel like Henry learns so many life lessons from such a simple activity. He learns persistence, patience, delayed gratification, the need to try different strategies when something isn't working, visual discrimination, hand-eye coordination, fine-motor skills--the list goes on! 

That's a little of what we've been up to around here! (And just hanging out outside.)

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Montessori Topponcino

I started this post a long time ago but never got around to finishing it during the newborn haze. Tate is now 10 months-old! Ten months ago, Henry was a toddler. He had the chubbiest cheeks and the sweetest toddler speak. Now he talks about astronauts and says things like "I'm up for the challenge" when I mention that he might want to switch his shoes to the proper feet. (As a side note I don't normally tell him to fix his shoes, but we were getting ready to do something that seemed safer with his shoes on the right way.)

But not too long ago, Tater was the tiniest infant (well, not so "tiny" at a whopping 10.3 pounds--but you get the point). During the first 6-8 weeks of his life, we used his Montessori topponcino all the time, and I meant to write a post to tell you about it. We never had one with Henry, but I definitely recommend it. The reason I decided to get it the second time around was that my Montessori-trained friend explained that it really helps younger children hold babies safely and comfortably. 

The idea behind the topponcino is that infants need to feel the most safe and secure during the first 6-8 weeks of their lives while they are first acclimating to the world outside the uterus. A topponcino helps provide that security as they get passed from person to person and get transferred from surface to surface. It always feels and smells the same. 

Although it has a relatively short lifespan in terms of "baby gear," it was immensely helpful during those first 6-8 weeks. I could breastfeed Tate on it and when he fell asleep I could transfer him to his bassinet more smoothly because he didn't experience any sort of change in temperature or texture. When it was play time, I would simply transfer it under his wooden arch. A friend of mine let me borrow several of her covers, so we would just change them out whenever he spit up (well, to be honest, we would first flip the spit up spot down toward his feet and then we would flip it over and do the same thing again, so that we could get four spit-ups out of one cover; we were tired parents acclimating to life with two--okay?).  

I purchased my topponcino from this Etsy shop.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

May: Reflection & Rejuvenation

Unfortunately May is already here and I'm behind on getting myself set up for the month! Oh well. It is what it is. [insert a large serving of self-forgiveness]

Let's see how I did this month: 
  • Run at least two times a week and stretch at least 3 times weekly. My running has been getting a lot better. I'm still not actually tracking it, but at least I'm running. 
  • Get a garden planted--so exciting! Yes! We did it. It is so awesome to have a garden between our front door and our cars. Seriously, it's so much easier to stay on top of the weeding, monitoring, and harvesting. We've already harvested a couple strawberries and cherry tomatoes. And we have a baby butternut squash growing! It's truly a miracle to watch. Life is absolutely mind-blowing. 
  • Organize Henry's and Tate's closets--get rid of baby stuff that we no longer need! I did this for Henry's closet. I purchased Tupperware so it would make it easier to see what toys he has and to rotate them out. I also purchased a large Tupperware container for Tate and Henry. I pared down all their baby stuff to a couple of items (I still can't believe I did it). I saved a couple of their sweet outfits, their first hats, and that's basically it. The goal is to constantly pare down their memorability to fit within one large Tupperware container each. Anyway else we want to "save" we can just document with photos. I know it's going to be hard, but I think it's better in the long-run to live with less clutter and fewer things stored away in closets. 
  • Update the guest bathroom: I was able to purchase a new shower curtain. That's it. I did spend some time working on this goal; I just couldn't find very much that I actually liked, and I figured it was better not to rush it. 
  • Host a get together with colleagues: Yes! Our IKEA deck furniture made it so fun to congregate out there. 
  • Update Tate's scrapbook: It was so simple to send my Instagram photos from my phone to our local Walgreens using my Printicular app, but I haven't picked up the photos yet. I tried but couldn't remember which Walgreens I sent them to. Yes, my brain is still fried from sleep-deprivation. 
What else do I want to celebrate from this month? The school is coming along well, and we open in fewer than 80 days! Also, Matt and I have been doing a good job of prepping food on the weekends, so that meal prep is a lot easier during the week. We're still wondering when this whole parenting-two-kids thing is going to get easier. It's mainly the sleep. Tate is finally learning to sleep through the night, but it feels like he gets sick nearly every other day. As soon as he has a stuffy nose and can't suck on his four pacifiers, he wants nothing to do with sleep. 

But let's stay focused on the positive. What do I want to bring into my life this month? 
  • Go to bed by 10:30pm every night
  • Clear out my e-mail inbox every day
  • Run at least three times a week
  • Do one yoga pose before bed each night
  • Drink two big water bottles of water each day
  • Add one new meal to our monthly rotation
  • Get our backyard finished 
  • Plan Tate's party
That seems about right, given that we're almost halfway through the month! 
Image from Nikki McClure's calendar 

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Monday, May 12, 2014

House Update

We're coming up on a year of being in our house. Because Matt and I had to save like crazy just to be able to build this house (not because it was expensive but more because I was only working part-time), we weren't able to afford things like landscaping for the front or back when we first moved in. 

We finally saved enough to have the front yard done, and we made the decision to go ahead and take out a loan in order to have the backyard done. Normally, we are save-first-and-then-spend kind of people, but we thought about it quite a bit and realized that we were okay with taking out a loan to build a pool and landscape the rest of our yard so we can enjoy it sooner and longer. 

Of course there's a huge part of me that feels guilty about even wanting a pool. Pools are ecologically irresponsible, financially irresponsible, and just one more indicator of economic disparity in our country. 

What I really wanted to do was build an intentional neighborhood with at least three other families. Then we would have shared a pool, a garden, lawn tools, occasional meals, etc. When that goal fell through, I realized that I didn't want to give up on having a pool. As a kid, I spent every summer in Florida with my grandparents and my aunt. Pools are common in Florida, and I loved everything about my summers there. Even when it was sweltering and the heat was oppressive, I was perfectly content to play outside in the pool. 

I want that same kind of active, fun lifestyle for my family, too. I want my boys to enjoy long summer days in and out of the pool. I wish that we were reducing the ecological and financial impact by sharing it with other families in a pocket neighborhood, but this is where we are right now. While we have a beautiful neighborhood pool just 0.8 miles away from us, it's only open for a very short season (because the lifeguards are mainly in high school). I've also heard from neighbors that it gets overrun with teenagers and isn't actually a fun place to take your family. We do swim at the YMCA sometimes, but they also close their family pool for most of the year and limit swimming to the lap pool (and they don't let you bring in any floats or toys). 

We will work hard to pay it off as quickly as we can. The only debt we want to carry is our mortgage. 

I'm so excited about getting even more settled in our home and our community. I'm brainstorming ways to create more of that "pocket neighborhood" feeling. One thing I want to start doing is sending out spontaneous invitations via text (like, "We're hanging out in the garden if anyone wants to come over!" or "We're jumping into the pool if anyone wants to come over for a swim!"). With families, the spontaneous is much more appealing than the planned. I really want to create the "Hawaiian life" I read about a couple years ago. I want people just to stop by and to stay awhile. 

It's starting to happen a little with our neighbors, which is really fun. One family stopped by to see if we wanted to go for a walk, and another family stopped by just to hang out in the garden. I'm excited to create the kind of backyard that welcomes and relaxes people.  

Overview of the landscaping plan:
  • Bocce ball court on the left (a really great way to take up a lot of space with crushed granite which reduces watering)
  • An orchard with 7 pear trees, 3 peach trees, and 4 plum trees
  • A firepit area
  • A mulched kids' play area 
  • Two small areas for playing on grass
  • The part you can't see on the plan is the hill that goes down to the creek. The landscaper is going to use the dirt from the pool excavation to make the hill less steep. I'm really excited about that part. 
When I was growing up, we moved every couple of years. Up until high school, the longest I stayed in one place was for 5th and 6th grade. It feels really good to settle into a place, knowing that we're going to be here for a long, long time. 

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Art Situation

Honestly, we don't do a lot of art at home with Henry. I really should work on rectifying that situation, but for now I'll focus on the topic of this post: dealing with art that comes home from school. 

There are so many things I feel all at once when Henry brings up a big pile of art from school:
  • Where can we hang this so Henry feels honored? 
  • Do we have to hang all of this?  
  • What do we do with it when it's done being hung? 
  • How am I simultaneously a nostalgic hoarder and a relentless purger? 
So here's the system we've been using lately that is working for us:
  1. Big pile comes home. 
  2. I put some of the pieces in these plastic frames on the fridge. The frames help it feel not too cluttered to me. 
  3. Other pieces I take photos of using the Artkive app and then recycle when Henry isn't looking. 
  4. When more piles come in, I repeat the process. I plan to keep one to two pieces a year in his scrapbook, but the rest will be scrapbooked electronically. I will print a book for him of all his art/work when I amass enough to make it interesting. I read this review of printing from the Artkive app to a book and it sounds really promising. 

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Monday, May 5, 2014

Happiest Birthday: 10 Months!

Happy Birthday, Joyful Tater!

You are a butterball of pure delight. You have grown so much personality this month. You know exactly what you want and you make it happen for yourself, whether that involves testing out all your pacifiers, pounding on a shut door to be let in, or throwing your napkin on the ground while you're eating.

You love pushing your walker wagon all around the house for loooong stretches of time. I have to follow you around and help you turn it around when you hit a dead-end. Otherwise, you can get quite distraught. You have the most adorable little waddle-walk.

You started (and basically never stopped) waving this month. You wave whenever you see us (with a huge smile on your face), and you wave at people at the park. You love going to the park to crawl all around and watch the other children. You have just started standing up and letting go. You shock yourself whenever it happens.

You grew one of your front teeth, so you no longer look like the cutest vampire ever.

You continue to eat everything. Your favorites are guacamole (even guacamole that is too spicy for Henry and me to enjoy) and queso. I broke down and gave you the tiniest bit of ice-cream this month; we were all eating it, and it felt so rude to deny you the taste that you so desperately wanted.

You love going for walks and being outside in general. You love, love, love when Henry doesn't have school and he gets to stay home with you all day. Henry makes you giggle constantly.

Another thing that makes you giggle is when I find that magic tickle spot on your knees. You know it's coming, and you crack up. You love reciprocating by blowing huge raspberries on my stomach. You love to play with us.

Our house is full of people every day right now (we're giving the school free rent), and you love all the people you get to see on a daily basis. You always want to know what's happening. I can never get enough of your smiles and waves!

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