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:
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!

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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