Monday, August 31, 2015

Focus on Being, Not Doing

I know I really needed to hear something when it brings tears to my eyes. Thank you.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Backyard Movie Night

Most of my posts are planning posts. I like to sit and write out my goals and ideas. It holds me more accountable for actually following-through. Writing about things after they happen is so much more boring for me! I'll just say that I am so glad I followed-through on hosting a movie night in our backyard. Matt and I had a mini-date night on a blanket on the grass with friends and neighbors. Hooray!

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Live the Life You've Always Imagined

I loved reading Kelsey's recent post at Rising*Shining (Kelsey, let's please plan another visit when you are in Austin!). She and Chris have decided to save like crazy for five years in order to pay off their mortgage. Once their mortgage is paid off, Chris will continue working his job, but Kelsey will be freed up to work for herself. 

I love examples of people deciding what kind of life they want to create for themselves and then building a plan to make it happen. [As a side note, our world is set up in very unfair ways that advantage certain people to be able to live this way (based on race, parents' education levels, etc.) But I believe all people should be able to live this way, which is why Montessori For All exists.]

Back to Kelsey and Chris. Her story made me go back to Matt for another conversation about the kind of life we want to build for ourselves. "Are you sure you don't want us to save up so you can work part-time?" We're sure that's not the path for us. 

Then this weekend we were invited out to a lake house in the Hill Country. It was stunning. As we passed through tiny Texas towns, several questions came up:
  • Should we move to a tiny town to build more intimate connections as a family?
  • Should we save up our money and buy a lake house retreat for weekends? 
Our answers are no and no. But the questions are worth asking. We only get one chance at this little life of ours.

I think our big goals right now are to keep investing in our house as a mini-sanctuary. We want to come home from work every day and feel like we can escape from everything together as a family with games, books, and swimming. We still have several things that we want to do on our house, such as adding umbrellas around our deck and pool. We want to feel like we are on vacation on the weekends, and we want to invite friends over frequently.

We also want to keep traveling. We've got a fall break, winter break, spring break, and summer break. I want to explore with my family and experience adventures together. Then there's the 6-month sabbatical I want to go on when our children are older.

And date nights! Our monthly date nights are expensive between the babysitter, Alamo tickets, and food! And we aren't even fancy food people. These feel like the right things for us to be prioritizing right now. 

When September rolls around, we need to get back on top of using to track our expenses. Our budget reflects all of our current priorities, but we need to make sure we stick to it. Easier said than done!

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

I Need More Friends

Traveling to my grandparents' 65th wedding anniversary party was a really profound experience on so many different levels. I'll probably write more blog posts reflecting on various aspects of the experience, but for now I want to talk about building more friendships. 

For the anniversary party, my mom and aunt put together an awesome video of excerpts of my grandparents' home movies. It's amazing how powerful video is. I want to be sure to capture as much as I can, since this time with my young family is fleeting. For example, I want to forever be able to hear the way Tate says "Henny" instead of Henry. 

Watching videos of my grandparents' lives revealed what an amazing group of friends they had, despite the fact that they moved several times during their family's early days. They had New Year's Eve parties (with fancy dresses!) and vacations and camping trips with large groups of friends. Their children grew up alongside each other. 

Watching the video really got me thinking about how to build that kind of support network in my life. I asked my grandparents how they did it, and they mentioned things like weekly bowling leagues and card games. 

I think, for me, the trick is just going to be to start doing more. I think our family is in a rut because our weeks are so busy. Matt and I are both introverted, so we recharge by being alone. When the weekend comes, we turn inward and just build a little cocoon with our little family. I think we simply need to get in the habit of inviting people over. 

So two things immediately come to mind:
  1. I need to get our movie nights going. Like this Saturday! I've been dragging my feet because I couldn't pick a movie. Let's just go with Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. If you are Austin-based and want to join us, just shoot me an e-mail introduction! 
  2. It might be fun to invite other families to a casual restaurant on Friday nights at 5pm. That's what our family is doing anyway, so it might be fun if we could get others to join us. 
I'm excited! 

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Travel Games for a 4 Year-Old

Henry and I took a quick trip to Florida to attend my grandparents' 65th wedding anniversary. I decided that I wanted to get some travel games for the plane. Here's what we got:

And although it's not a great game for the airplane, I also bought Hungry, Hungry Hippo because I loved playing that game as a child. 

It would be so easy to pacify Henry with a screen. He could literally watch some kind of show or movie for several hours in a nearly-comatose state. But I am so worried about all the things he wouldn't learn if he filled up his time that way. He wouldn't learn how to be a good sport, he wouldn't learn delayed gratification, he wouldn't cultivate patience, he wouldn't develop skills to handle frustration, he wouldn't practice problem-solving. It's hard not to take the easier road, but I'm hoping that it will be worth the investment in the long-run!

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Monday, August 17, 2015

West Texas Adventure

I've been trying to wrestle more free time into my life. I've been so out of practice with free time that I find myself wondering what to do with myself when I finally get it. My general answer is either: read, swim, or start dreaming and scheming (sometimes I combine the latter two). 

I've been reading some great escape fiction lately (and love this book that I'm currently reading). But I've also started planning (so much fun!). My recent plan involves a future vacation. Our school schedule gives us more than a week to travel in the fall, winter, and spring. We've got a trip to the Pacific Northwest sitting in our vacation queue, but I also started thinking about what it might look like to rent an RV and drive to West Texas (think Big Bend and Marfa). 

We find that five days works well for a family vacation (that's what we did for our trip to the Bay Area and our trip to San Diego), so here's what I'm thinking for a potential Wild West Adventure:

  • Hit the road at 7:30am
  • Stop somewhere fun for lunch
  • Stop somewhere fun for dinner
  • Settle into a Big Bend RV Park for the night
  • Hike, swim, go horseback riding
  • Nap
  • Hike or swim
  • Head to Marfa
  • Eat lunch out
  • Nap
  • Ride our bikes around town
  • Eat dinner out
  • Head to the Observatory at night
  • Eat breakfast in Marfa
  • Go to the art museum
  • Nap
  • Swim at the RV park
  • Eat dinner out
  • Head home

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Another Review of Instacart

A while back I confessed that I had resorted to doing my grocery shopping online because I was overwhelmed with work and parenting. At the time, the extra expense seemed worth it because I'm still trying to "make a clearing" in my life to fit in everything else. 

But the reality is it's actually not more expensive for me to use Instacart. I'm really not sure why. At first I thought they might be tricking me as a way to get me to come back again (since the prices on every item fluctuate). So I tried it again. And again. And again (basically every week since I wrote that last post). It might be because I'm not walking by unnecessary items and tossing them in the cart. That would make sense, except I'm not really that kind of grocery shopper. I go in with my list and pretty much stick to it. 

It might be because some of the items are actually less expensive on Instacart, especially store brands (which I buy as frequently as possible). Regardless of the reason, I am hooked. Spending ten minutes to order groceries from the comfort of my home is a real godsend right now. Parenting is so hard! Tate is two and Henry is 4.5. I know I don't have any right to whine about it. My mom was a single mom when I was Henry's age. I can't even imagine what that must have been like. Or what it would be like to have to parent and work two jobs or worry about having enough money to pay bills or put food on the table. 

But regardless, I'm eager to take things off my plate when I can. I've also been sticking to super-easy meals for our family (like penne pasta bake) and prepping as many ingredients as possible on Sunday. Sometimes I'll make a whole meal ahead of time and pop it in the fridge, or I'll just do all the chopping and shredding so that during the week I can simply toss it together. It's working out for us! 

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Yes, it's that time of year when I sound like a crazy person for planning Halloween so early. It takes me a lot of time to brainstorm ideas and then execute something! 

This year, we are replicating what we did last year: We let Henry pick his costume, and the rest of us plan around him. This year will be our last year of going down that path, since Tate will be three next year and will likely want to go his own way. 

I sat down with Henry and had him use his moveable alphabet to spell out his ideas. He immediately new what he wanted to be: a picnic basket. I'm thinking we'll make him a little romper out of a table cloth and glue a plate with some plastic food to his body. We can buy him tights and sew some ants crawling up his leg.

The possibilities for the rest of us are endless! I think we will reuse our homemade strawberry costume for Tate (he has already agreed to be a strawberry). I'm thinking about one of those balloon grape costumes for Matt. And I'm thinking about being a pineapple. So fun! 

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Monday, August 10, 2015

How to Teach Self-Discipline Instead of Just Discipline

I've been a progressive educator my entire life, despite the fact that I've spent many years working in schools that were far from progressive. At the first school I worked at in rural Louisiana, the principal kept a paddle on her wall and used it to beat the children. 

Through it all, I've struggled to find an approach to discipline that is simultaneously progressive and specific. As someone who has always worked in schools with high numbers of children who are impacted by poverty, I need lots of tools and strategies. 

I've read Positive Discipline, Love and Logic, Assertive Discipline, and Responsive Classroom, but nothing was as comprehensive and helpful as the new methodology I stumbled upon: Conscious Discipline

It includes so many compelling ideas and components, such as:
  • "Discipline isn't something you do to children; it's something you develop within them."--Dr. Becky Bailey
  • It's important to create a school family that helps children feel safe and connected. To create safety and predictability, we need clear and consistent routines. To create connection, we need rituals and structures that help children feel loved and give them authentic opportunities to practice self-regulation and kindness. 
  • Before we respond to discipline issues, we need to monitor our own brain states and make sure we are not in our safety brains (feeling threatened and incompetent) or in the feeling part of our brain (feeling annoyed). We have to use self-regulation (like breathing) to get ourselves back into our the executive thinking part of our brain. 
  • Once we are in the executive thinking part of our brain, we need to see misbehavior as an expression of an unmet need or an undeveloped skill. Then we have to coach the child to understand how to meet their needs or how to learn a new skill. 
It's so simple and yet so revolutionary. I'm so glad I'm learning more tools and strategies! 

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Henry's Lemonade Stand: 4 1/2 Years-Old

What fun! Henry had the idea to plan a lemonade stand. He used his moveable alphabet to write a letter to his teacher to invite her on a Saturday. Then he juiced most of the lemons using our electric juicer. Unfortunately we only had a dark natural sugar, so it ended up looking like a dehydrated urine sample. Oh, well!

We found a nice shady spot and got to work waving at all the cars that passed by. We met several new neighbors, and even sold lemonade to a family from our school who just happened to be driving by. Henry took the orders, filled the glasses with ice, and worked the dispenser. (I had to teach him not to drink out of the glass when it got too full.) 

In total, Henry made about $18. He set the price at $1/cup (I talked him out of $10/cup). He said he wanted to earn money for a gumball machine, a motorbike, college, and homeless people. 

We had fun counting his money afterwards (just one-to-one correspondence, not actually counting the denominations of coins) and then he divided it up into his money jars according to the sticker system that we use: 1 part for charity, 3 parts for a car, 2 parts for college, and 3 parts for saving up for a toy. 

It was a such a fun glimpse into what is going to come! I'm an elementary teacher at heart--infants and toddlers are hard, hard, hard. 

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