Monday, June 22, 2015

A Maker Box

I try not to spend a fortune on toys that the boys are going to grow out of quickly. That's why I love the idea of a Maker Box! Here's how I did it:

  • Biggest plastic container I could find (our is 35 gallons)
  • Add inexpensive packing tape
  • Throw in a pair of scissors
  • Instead of recycling our trash, throw it in the Maker Box! (This includes things like toilet paper rolls, popsicle sticks, milk jugs, etc.)
The first thing Henry made was a "cup rattle." I have no idea what he put inside it because he somehow managed to tape up the whole thing very securely. 

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Pretzel Hamburger Buns!

I know, I know. This post is weird. But I am in love with these new pretzel buns. I only found them because I've been using Instacart to do my grocery shopping. And I'm so grateful I stumbled upon them, so I thought I would share them with you in case they might make you equally happy. Veggie burgers are delicious with these soft and chewy buns!  

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Why I'm Not a Stay-at-Home Mom

I went to great lengths to stay at home with Henry for the first year of his life. With Tate, I stayed at home with him for the first 5-6 months of his life and then worked at home for the remainder of his first year of life with the help of a nanny. I felt like it was really important to provide them with that kind of foundation. But now that I'm a working mom, I don't ever want to go back!

I sometimes get romantic notions about homeschooling my children. However, now that I've been home with them for one week of summer vacation (only one week!) I am quickly coming to my senses. Don't get me wrong--I am incredibly grateful that I get three weeks off this summer to be with my children. We are enjoying our time together and making memories.

But I am not cut out to be a stay-at-home mother. The job is not at my personal intersection of what fills my heart with gladness and meets the world's greatest needs. It was something I could temporarily do early on in their lives, but, for me, it was a sacrifice. And you can only sacrifice yourself for the goal of being a good mother for so long before you are no longer a good mother because you aren't sharing your authentic self or authentic happiness with your children.

I'm making the best out of our days. We spend the mornings going somewhere like the Nature and Science Center. Then we head home for lunch. Tate starts his nap around noon, while Henry and I do some reading and writing work. In reading, he reviews all his letter sounds and practices reading words (like pet, set, met, pen, den) and sentences (like "A fat cat sat on Dad."). In math, he practices counting objects and matching them to number cards. After that, he plays independently for 45 minutes (I set a timer) and then he gets to watch TV (like Bill Nye the Science Guy or Handy Manny) for the remainder of Tate's nap. In the afternoon, we usually visit a friend and swim in our pool.

I'm enjoying our long, leisurely summer days, but they are long! And they are hard! Corralling and coercing children all day long is draining!

I just need to be honest with myself about my authentic path. It's not being a stay-at-home mom. It's not homeschooling my kids (at least while they are young).

Each of us need to find our own paths without any kind of guilt. Those of us who are drawn to work outside of the home need to understand that fulfilling our needs outside of the home allows us to bring our best selves to our children when we do spend time with them. It really is about quality, not quantity.

And for those of you who are choosing to stay home or to homeschool, you shouldn't feel any kind of guilt or regret about not advancing in your "career" or not doing something as "prestigious" as some of your high school or college peers.

Once we identify our authentic paths, it's important to muster the courage to stay the course. We owe it to ourselves and those in our lives.

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Update on Toilet Training our 23 Month-Old

I'm so sorry I didn't post the winner of our contest last week! The winner of a free copy of Toilet Awareness by Sarah Moudry is....

Erika K. Thanks for this. I need a jumpstart for our 22 mo old!

Congratulations, Erika! Please e-mail me your address!

Toilet learning has been going really well with Tate at 23 months-old. He is so much less resistant than Henry was about sitting on the toilet frequently. Every hour or so, I say, "Tate, let's go put some pee in the toilet!" He is sometimes resistant to stop whatever he is doing, so I will often encourage him to bring it with him. If we go out, I just bring his little toilet with us.

If he has an accident in his underwear, it's only a little bit of urine because he's putting pee in the toilet nearly every hour.

When we're swimming, he can tell when he needs to go pee. He gets out of the water, walks over to the edge of the backyard, and pees.

So far, so good!

P.S. This photo isn't what his experience normally looks like. We did purchase this seat insert for the big toilet, but he still typically uses his little toilet.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Toilet Training in a Montessori Way: Win a Free Book!

The Montessori approach to toilet learning is very different from the conventional approach. First, we call it "learning" rather than "training," which sounds like semantics, but it actually highlights a conceptual difference. We don't use rewards to train children; we set up an environment that allows them to teach themselves how to use the toilet. 

Extrinsic rewards like stickers, candy, and other special treats work like magic, but, if overused, they can create children who are dependent upon adults in order to make good decisions. I saw the effect of this when I was a first-year teacher. I worked at a school in rural Louisiana that had corporal punishment, so I worked very hard to never send children to the principal's office. Instead, I relied on all sorts of extrinsic motivation to get my children to make positive choices. And it worked! But then they would move on to 4th grade and all of the motivation dissipated because I was no longer there dolling out the rewards. 

Then I moved to a middle school that used the same kind of extrinsic motivation system of rewards and punishments. I thought it would work better because we were using the same system consistently for four years. However, once the children went onto high school, the same thing happened. They hadn't really internalized anything that we had been trying to teach through rewards and punishments.

When I found my way to Montessori, I learned all about how using extrinsic motivation can actually hinder the development of intrinsic motivation. At a workshop I attended, the speaker explained really clearly that using extrinsic motivation creates children who are dependent upon adults for affirmation. When those same children become middle-schoolers, they shift their dependence to their peers instead of their parents and are are more likely to make bad decisions in order to get affirmation from their peers. 

So the toilet learning process uses very natural consequences in order to enable children to learn how to use the toilet independently. Here's the process:
  1. Start very young. Montessorians tend to start the toilet learning process with children between 12 and 18 months. We started Henry at 18 months, but we have not yet started with Tate (who is 22 months). We are going to start wholeheartedly this summer.
  2. Set up the environment to support independence. Children need a comfortable toilet (like this one), a place to get fresh underwear, a basket to put dirty underwear, a stepping stool up to get up to the sink, access to soap, and a towel to dry their hands. 
After that, the process is really simple (and hard!). You simply help your child put on training underwear instead of diapers. I love the Hanna Anderson underwear because it is very absorbent and doesn't let pee splash out onto the floor, but it's also expensive so we use Target ones as well. About every hour, you tell them that it's time to use the toilet. They will inevitably have accidents. You simply help them change into new underwear and repeat. 

The most helpful book I've read on this topic is Toilet Awareness by Sarah Moudry. I'm thrilled that she offered to do a giveaway on Feeding the Soil! 

To enter to win a free copy of Toilet Awareness:
  • Leave a comment with your first name and the first letter of your last name
  • Enter by Friday, June 5th at 11:59pm EST
  • Only one entry per person (but you can ask your friends and family to enter on your behalf!)
I will announce the winner on Monday and ask that person to e-mail me their address. 

Happy Entering! 

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Monday, June 1, 2015

Don't Know What We Need Till We Get It

I keep singing "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone" but I'm realizing that, for me, I haven't been understanding what I need until I get it. 

It happened first when I accidentally picked up the book Little Bee from the Little Free Library in our neighborhood and realized how deprived I've been without fiction in my life. 

And then it happened this past weekend when my husband and our boys traveled to a wedding in Indiana and I stayed behind. Four whole days to myself? What a gift! Of course I miss my boys terribly and my life is most certainly better with them in it, but I needed a break. I needed a couple days where I could pick up the house and it would actually stay picked up. I needed to be able to call my neighbor to come over at 8:30pm and swim and chat together about our lives and how hard motherhood is. I needed long, uninterrupted (and guild-free!) time in front of my computer to do personal stuff (hello, Blog!) and professional stuff (hello, a million performance reviews that need to be written!). 

Every couple of years I like to step back and make a list of what I need on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis in order to fill fulfilled. The truth is, I'm scared to do it right now because I'm just not sure that I can actually accommodate what I need. Well, that's no reason not to do it! 

Let me take a stab at it: 

  • 8 hours of sleep
  • Time to really talk with my husband 
  • Relaxed quality time with my children
  • A healthy and home-cooked dinner as a family
  • Meaningful work that contributes to social justice
  • At least 1.5 hours to myself of free time (reading, designing e-courses, watching movies, etc.)
  • Stretching
  • A picked-up and de-cluttered environment
  • Running at least two times
  • Catching up with my mom
  • A relaxed weekend with lots of quality family time
  • Time in nature
  • Interesting get-togethers with friends and neighbors
  • A date night with my husband
  • Travel with my family
  • Travel by myself (like the Reflection & Rejuvenation Retreat!)
  • Time at home by myself with my family out of town
  • Travel with just my husband 
  • Time to reflect on the past year and set intentions for the upcoming year
Surprisingly, these aren't much different from what I said in 2010 and 2012.

The truth is, I'm not doing terrible on these things. The main thing I'm not doing is the 1.5 hours of free time each night, and that's making me feel like my whole life is off-kilter. That makes sense! 

Well, I'm just going to crawl my way toward summer vacation (literally because I really hurt my back last week). School ends on Friday! 


Join us for the First Annual Reflection & Rejuvenation Retreat in Austin, TX, July 10th to 12th!

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