Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Talking with Our Children about Sex

It's important for me to try and raise Henry in a way that teaches him to be responsible with his sexuality and to feel proud of his body and himself. 

I found From Diapers to Dating: A Parent's Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Children early on, and it has been a valuable resource for me over the past four years. 

I've been implementing these strategies since Henry was born, and I'm happy with his knowledge level and his comfort in talking about things with me. He knows that boys have penises and girls have vaginas, and he knows that babies grow inside of women's uteruses. He loves hearing the story of how my body spent 45 hours trying to push him out because he was perfectly content hanging out in my uterus. 

It's clear that he is comfortable coming to me with questions--which I love and want to continue nurturing for the rest of his life. Sometimes his questions make me uncomfortable, but I plow through, trying to communicate with calm and equilibrium. The other day, he asked me where babies come from, and I reminded him about how the sperm from the man and the egg from the woman come together and the baby starts to grow in the uterus. 

But then he asked, "But how does the sperm get to the egg?"


I said, "The penis goes into the vagina."

I stopped there because I've learned to just answer a little at a time. Usually Henry is content with a little answer.

It was so interesting to monitor my own level of discomfort. It was SO HARD talking about sex and reproduction with my child. And he's only four! I can imagine how much harder it's going to get as he gets older. It seems counterintuitive because you might think the discomfort comes from how young he is, but I don't think that's it. I think the discomfort comes from the lack of practice I've had with talking about sexuality in open and honest ways.

That's why I want to start now with Henry. I want to practice how to answer his questions without making him uncomfortable. Because I want to encourage him to always come to me with his questions.

Here's what Debra Haffner, the author of From Diapers to Dating, has to say about it:

"Some parents have asked me why it is important to answer preschoolers' questions about where babies come from. After all, what could be wrong about saying, 'You're too young to know this; I'll tell you later'? It's true: Avoiding this question may get you off the hook for the moment, but it also gives your child the message that you don't want to talk to them about sexuality issues. Answering this question simply now lays the foundation for future conversations, and it tells your child that you will teach them about this important question." 

And here are her specific suggestions about how to do it:

First make sure you know what your child is really asking. You could start by asking, "Where do you think you came from?"

Start off with very simple answers, and watch to see if your child is interested in continuing the discussion.

"When two grown-ups love each other, they like to kiss and hug and touch each other in ways that feel good. Sometimes, the man and the woman place the man's penis into the woman's vagina. The man's penis releases sperm into the woman and sometimes a baby begins.

"The important thing at this age is to show your children that you are willing to answer their questions about birth and reproduction." 

Share |

Monday, April 27, 2015

Updating the Environment

There are certain people out in the world (like Kelly Rae) who love rearranging furniture or love spending time getting dressed in the morning. I am not one of these people! I am more of a "set it and forget it" kind of person. I want to find the best way to arrange furniture or decorate my house and then just leave it alone and enjoy it for all of eternity. I want to have a few solid pieces in my closet and then just grab and go in the morning. 

Having children really challenges my first preference. There's no way to "set it and forget it" when it comes to how our homes are arranged when there are young children involved. First they start pulling up on things and you need to make sure everything is appropriate for them to touch. Then they start walking and they can reach even higher. Then they fall in love with opening cabinets and drawers and all hell breaks lose. 

It goes on and on and on. And they grow fast! So readjusting the environment to meet their needs has to happen on a regular basis. 

The most recent adjustment I made to the environment was going through their closets. They outgrow clothing so quickly! I pulled out all of Henry's winter stuff and put it in a container in our "attic" and donated Tate's stuff that was too small. I pulled aside one or two cut baby/toddler things that I just couldn't bear to part with and added them to the boys' memorabilia Tupperware box. 

I find it difficult to make time for this kind of thing, and yet not making time for it can add stress to our lives on a daily basis. When there are two many clothes in the closet, it's harder to find things that actually fit or are actually appropriate for the weather. I'm also trying to be conscious of not letting the clutter accumulate year after year, since we plan to be in this house for a while! 

Share |

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My Clothes Are Getting Tight

Oy! It's uncomfortable to feel like you're squeezing into your clothes every day.

My mom's weight has fluctuated her entire life from thin to obese. I have a similar body type and a similar relationship to food (I over-eat if I'm bored or stressed or trying to fill a void in my life), so it's something I pay attention to. 

What's going on in my own life? 
  1. I'm not eating a healthy lunch. I think the first thing I need to do is set aside time to actually eat lunch. I'm not doing this, and I need to. I get really busy during the day and run from thing to thing and stuff food into my mouth whenever I can. 
  2. I'm eating junk food that's lying around school. It's always easy to find unhealthy snacks laying around a school whenever I'm hungry, and I'm frequently hungry because I'm not eating a full lunch or a snack. I need to be intentional about bringing healthy snacks to work with me each day. 
  3. I'm having trouble drinking enough water. I'm going to set the intention of drinking a whole bottle before lunch time, filling up at lunch time, and drinking it throughout the rest of the day.
  4. I'm eating homemade cookies multiple times a week. Yes, Matt is now in the habit of making chocolate chip cookies every single week. It's terrible for me! I can muster up the willpower it takes to resist junk food at the grocery store, but I cannot resist homemade baked goods at my own house. 
On the positive side, I'm finally making more time for exercise! I'm going to the YMCA at least once a week and still trying to run at least once on the weekend. 

I'm also going to my dance class once a week this month! 

So I'm going to start by:
  • Trying to run for 30-40 minutes at least twice a week.
  • Bringing a healthy lunch and snacks to school each day so I can resist the junk food that's all around me.
  • Asking Matt to stop making homemade cookies so frequently. 
  • Drinking at least 80 ounces of water a day.
I'm feeling pretty good about those concrete next steps. We'll see how they go and what kind of impact they have on helping my clothes fit better! 

Share |

Monday, April 20, 2015

Preparing for the Summer

The other day I had to count the number of school days left for an HR reason, and I realized we were down to 35 days. What?!? There are a whole lot of feelings I have around finishing my first school year at the school I started, but this post is more about the impending summer.

It's almost here! 

There's a lot going on this summer. First, I'll have a three-week vacation at the beginning of June (I didn't take a single day off throughout the entire year, so I will have accumulated 15 days of vacation time). We'll be traveling to Tahoe with Matt's family for a week of it. 

Then I'll be attending the Reflection & Rejuvenation Retreat.

Then Matt and I will be traveling to Puerto Rico for a wedding. 


And before we know it school will be starting again. 

I don't want the summer season to slip away before I've been able to fully embrace it. 

What do I want our days to be like? 

When Matt is working and I'm not, he usually takes the boys for a few hours and then I have them for the rest of the day. So what would be the most fun and relaxing way to spend our days together? Probably swimming in the morning, then putting Tate down for a nap while Henry and I either do an activity together or watch a show (while I nap). And then we can spend the afternoon together:
  • Hiking
  • Inviting friends over for more swimming
  • Playing at the park
  • Going to the YMCA together
  • Playing in the garden
The traffic is going to be terrible, so we need to stay close to home. 

And what activities can Henry and I do together? I should really seize the opportunity to expand my own hobbies. 
  • I've already talked about canning the harvest from our garden. (I purchased this simple kit.)
  • It might be fun to sketch and watercolor with Henry. (This book looks interesting.)
  • Or clay! This book looks inspiring.
  • Or maybe I should get a head start on hand-making presents for people. I've been dying to make these teacup candles for a while.
I would love to simultaneously develop a hobby for myself and teach Henry something new. 

So much to think about!

Share |

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


The garden is blooming! So far, we have the following things planted:

  • Tomatoes
  • Figs (from last year)
  • Pomegranates (from last year)
  • Peaches (from last year)
  • Pears (from last year)
  • Plums (from last year)
  • Lemon grass (from last year)
  • Rosemary (from last year)
  • Bay leaf (from last year)
  • Blueberries (from last year)
I think one of my goals for this season is going to be to learn how to can. We definitely won't be able to eat all of the tomatoes we produce during the summer season. Since we eat homemade pizza about 3-4 times a month, I think it would be useful to learn how to can pizza sauce. Any recommendations? What's the easiest and cheapest way to get into canning? 

This recipe looks useful for making pizza sauce to can. But do I really need to peel the tomatoes? That sounds a little too much for me (actually, a lot too much for me).


REMINDER: The next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy starts April 20. Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

Share |

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Montessori Practical Life: Four Years-Old

This past weekend, I was in Boulder for a Montessori workshop. It was focused on the concept of "Child Study"--bringing teacher teams together to brainstorm strategies for children who are struggling. 

We practiced the process with a child who has autism. The presenting teacher talked about how much screen time the child gets at home and how it makes it more difficult to pull the child into reality during the school day. 

I definitely try to limit Henry's screen time. I only resort to it if I need to take a nap on the weekend (which, um, is often). I'll pull out the laptop and set him up to watch Caillou, Bob the Builder, or Handy Manny. 

Instead of screen time, I try to fill his days with experiences that let him exercise his five senses and have concrete interactions with the world, especially during this stage of development (from 0-6) when is mind is absorbing the environment and constructing itself significantly. 

I try to fit in as much practical life as possible. Honestly, Henry really only enjoys practical life that is connected to food, so I take what I can get. On Sunday he was hungry for eggs, so he got out the bowl, eggs, compost, whisk, and apron. It's amazing to see how independent he has become since starting in the kitchen around 18 months of age.

Watching him work just reiterated how important it is to build children's independence in the areas of self-care and practical life. The best form of self-confidence comes from feeling competent. 

These kinds of experiences teach so much: multi-step directions, focus, concentration, problem-solving, and critical-thinking. And they result in delicious food!  


REMINDER: The next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy starts April 20. Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

Share |

Monday, April 13, 2015

One-Pot Meals

I'm definitely on a one-pot meal kick. I'm always looking for simple and fast meals for weekday family dinners. 

I know one of you wasn't too impressed with this meal, but it was a big hit with our family. I added way more shredded Parmesan cheese than was recommended, and I think that helped increase the flavor. 

This week we are going to try:
Yeah, it's a lot of pasta in one week but it is what it is! 


REMINDER: The next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy starts April 20. Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

Share |

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Why We Stopped at Two Children

Deciding how many children to have--or whether to have children at all--is such a personal decision (and it's important to acknowledge that deciding whether to have children is entirely separate from actually being able to have them). 

Initially Matt and I were going to stop after one child. For me it was about freeing up space in my life to give birth to other things, like a network of public Montessori schools in diverse communities nationwide. I added books to my wishlist about raising an only child. 

But after Henry was born, I felt drawn to add another child to our family. I wanted to bring another independent being into the world. I felt like having another child would better allow me to parent according to Khalil Gibran's advice. I could let my children grow into who they wanted to be rather than put all of my hopes and expectations onto one child. 

We knew it would push us to the very edge of our capacity, but we moved forward anyway and welcomed Sweet Tate into our lives. 

And it did push us to the far reaches of our capacity. I can't even imagine what it would have been like for us if Tate had been born with medical issues or special needs.

Our midwife explained that she worked with many clients who came back to her with an accidental third pregnancy. Matt and I didn't want that to happen to us, and we were confident that two would be all we could handle. We opted for a vasectomy soon after Tate's birth.

A year and a half into life with our expanded family, things are finally starting to get easier. And, honestly, the things that called me to have a second child have started calling me to have a third. The thought of adding another independent being into our family dynamic sounds amazing. Fast forwarding into the future is even more appealing. I love the idea of three grown children coming home for the holidays. 

But we aren't going to have a third child for all of these reasons that make sense for us as a family:
  • It would be really hard for me to go through pregnancy a third time the way I would want to and move forward with my career, while being the kind of mother I would want to be for Tate and Henry. For example, with both pregnancies, I was able to nap every day (with Henry I napped after I got home from my full-time job; with Tate I napped after my part-time job before picking up Henry from school). I have so little time right now as it is. I definitely couldn't nap, and I don't think I could muster the patience that would be required to tolerate fatigue, potential nausea, a toddler, and a four year-old. I already feel like I'm balancing everything so precariously. I can't imagine adding another major demand on my time into the equation. I feel like I would need to sacrifice my career goals and the kind of mother I want to be for Henry and Tate. Again, this feeling is very personal. I can completely understand why other people wouldn't feel the same way on this issue. 
  • We are eager for parenting to get easier and easier. The infant stage is really hard for Matt and me. The sleepless nights, my postpartum gallbladder issues, needing to be home for multiple naps a day. Of course these difficulties last a relatively short time, and it feels really short-sighted to focus on them (that's the argument I make to myself in favor of having a third child!). But we would be adding almost three more years of difficulty onto our life, and that would mean that we would be experiencing that kind of difficulty until Henry was seven years-old. 
  • Adding another child would force us to change our financial goals. Matt and I aspire to pay for our children's college educations so that they don't have to bear the stress of student loan debt (while building responsibility by requiring them to have jobs and to pay for their own cars, if they live in an area without good mass transit). Taking on this challenge for three children would be immense. It would mean that we would have to change our financial priorities, which include traveling a lot with our children. 
  • Stopping at two children means that we are replacing ourselves and not contributing to population growth over time. 
Writing out these reasons has been good to help squelch my baby fever!


REMINDER: The next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy starts April 20. Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

Share |

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

April: Reflection & Rejuvenation

Spring is here! 

Austin generally has a pretty mild winter (with lots of sunny, warm, bright blue days thrown in), so the seasons tend to blend together. However, this winter has been particularly rough (in a relative way, of course). We've had lots of cold, wet, dark days. It seems fitting that I've had the toughest days of my life starting a school amid such conditions.

But Spring is here! All the trees are coming back to life. We're planting in the garden and even swimming in our backyard. What fun! 

I'm kind of scared to look back at my goals for last month because I didn't move them into my action plan and haven't been monitoring my progress toward them very carefully. 
  • Whip my organization system into shape and set it up each week and night. I like my OneNote system, but I need to use it better. I need to take things out that I'm really not going to do, and I need to move things to the next day if they didn't get accomplished. Not enough. This is really holding me back right now in my life. I think this is the number one thing I need to get control of. 
  • Run at least four times this month. Yes! I ran six times this month! We convinced the YMCA to start childcare a little earlier, so now we go twice a week afterschool to workout. I ran three times in one week in April, which might have been the first time I've done that in years!
  • Stretch at least three times a week. Oops. I've been letting this slip. Thanks for the reminder! 
  • Organize the baskets in our hallway closet. Yes!
  • Submit ideas to present at the 2016 American Montessori Society Conference. Yes!
  • Focus on staying positive with Henry. Working on it!
Some other things this month had in store for us:
  • We traveled to San Diego for our family Spring Break.
  • I traveled to Connecticut to observe at public Montessori schools and attend an educational reform conference.
  • We started our garden.
  • I traveled to San Antonio to start working on getting a school open there.
My goals for April? Let me look back at my yearly goals and my month-by-month plan...

You know what? I don't really want a list of things I have to accomplish this month. I feel overwhelmed enough with everything that is already on my to-do list. I need to reconnect with my mantra for the year: Balance

Is it possible for me to decrease the amount of time I spend working each night? What if I tried the following schedule:
  • 6:30 = Put the boys down for bed
  • 6:30-7:30 = Clean out e-mail inbox
  • 7:30-7:45 = Set action plan for the following day
  • 7:45-8:00 = Clean kitchen and pick up house with Matt
  • 8:00-9:00 = Work on something off to-do list
  • 9:00-10:00 = Relax
Yes, that feels like exactly what I need in my life right now! 

What is holding me back from implementing this schedule? 

There is a limited amount of time allocated to each of these things. What usually happens is I get off-track on one day, and then it needs to take a lot longer the next day. For example, if I skip a day of going through my e-mail, then it feels overwhelmingly impossible to get through it in an hour the next day. If I skip a day of cleaning one day, I can get through all the grime in only 15 minutes the next day.

So how can I both hold myself more tightly to the schedule so I don't get off a day and recover better when I do miss a day? 

I need to take the reins on my org system. Right now it's just a long list on every single day. I don't have specific time blocked off to tackle things on the list, and when I do have time to work, I don't feel like I can actually accomplish the things on the list. 

Okay, I need to go work on this RIGHT NOW! 


REMINDER: The next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy starts April 20. Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

Share |

Monday, April 6, 2015

Register Now: Purposeful Conception Course

Here are some thoughts from past 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!"
  • "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."
  • "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."
For those of you who are thinking about conception or are actively trying, this online course might be for you! From April 20 through May 15, 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!

Share |

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

My 20-Year Plan

I love plane rides (especially when I don’t have a toddler crawling across my lap!). They give me time and space to reflect and plane and knock out some tasks that require an extended period of focus and concentration. (And sometimes I just don’t do anything except watch Fixer Upper on HGTV).

I recently flew to Connecticut to meet with the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector, tour public Montessori schools, and attend the Yale School of Management education conference.

On the way back home, I opened my journal and filled a whole page with years: 2015, 2016, 2017… I realized that I had filled the page with 20 years. I then proceeded to brainstorm what direction I would like my work to take in the next 20 years. Next to the year, I also included my sons’ ages.

Y’all, it’s going to go so quickly! We only have this one chance with our wild and precious life.

I started by making a list of what my strengths are. I recently heard that we should spend 80-90% of our time on things we’re good at and 10-20% of our time on tasks that stretch us. I looked at what I think our organization will do over the next 20 years and my skills might be the most useful.

At the Yale School of Management conference, I ran into many former colleagues—one of them taught with me in rural South Louisiana back in 2003. It made me reflect on how old I’m getting (37 this year). My bio says that I have “more than a decade” in education reform, but it’s now been 16 years. I’m getting so old!

I’m glad I found my way to Montessori For All. I’m pretty sure my career is set for life (unless I get fired), but I know that my job will continue to evolve and look very different from year to year (our organization has a four-pronged theory of change, including opening public charter schools in diverse communities nationwide, codifying and disseminating our approach, creating a Montessori teacher training center, and then working as consultants for public districts who are interested in strengthening or creating Montessori programs.

As my work life becomes more sustainable, I look forward to freeing up more time for personal projects. I’ll figure out what those will be on a year-by-year basis. 

Share |

Related Posts with Thumbnails