Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The End of Toilet Paper?

Listening to Kelsey and Chris's podcast, Matrimoney, is introducing all sorts of new ideas and goals into my life around money. But it's also getting me interested in the idea of eliminating toilet paper from our master bathroom. 

Yes, seriously!

On the podcast, they talk about using the diaper sprayer attached to their toilet to clean their private areas before using a resusable baby wipe (the kind made out of fabric) to pat dry. Then they went on to get a bidet for their bathroom.

I am always looking for ways to reduce our environmental impact, and I'm interested in exploring this idea. Kelsey, what kind of bidet did you get? 

This article explains that bidets are actually gaining popularity in the U.S. So interesting!

I'm considering this $27 attachment. It sounds crazy--even to me--but it's worth exploring!

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

We Need to Save More Money

I know my topics keep repeating themselves:
  • We need to tighten up the reigns with our money.  
  • Motherhood is hard!
  • I need to recommit to healthier habits.
But that's the thing about life, right? It's always a work in progress. I find that in Western culture we tend to be very goal-oriented, and yet many of the most important things have nothing to do with achieving a goal and being done. 

Take muscle flexibility as an example. Being flexible is an important part of keeping our bodies in optimal health. And yet flexibility is not just something you can achieve and move on from. You have to maintain it. 

It's the same with money. 

I wrote this post about everything I needed to do (and I was really excited to do it!). And then I didn't do it. I made Halloween costumes. I made a baby blanket for my cousin's imminent baby. I went on vacation. 

And then we were barreling toward November and I was very far away from where I had hoped to be by the beginning of October. 

Luckily, I started listening to Podcasts. I'm not much of a Podcast person. My commute to work is 1.9 miles. When I'm cooking dinner, I am also usually playing with children or giving them instructions about how to help with dinner. When I do have time to relax in the evening, I would rather read something or watch something as opposed to just listen to it. 

Enter back pain. 

My physical therapy exercises now mean I have about 40 minutes a day of exercises that I need to do. I started listening to my friend's blog: Matrimoney. I talk a lot about Kelsey around these parts. Kelsey and I met because of this blog, and I am a regular reader of her blog. Now that I listen to her Podcast, I am convinced that I want to marry her (and her husband, Chris). They are hilarious and smart. And they inspire me to do more with our finances (as well as other things, like becoming a toilet paper-free household). 

So, I'm back on track! I took a couple hours to go back to our budget. I forced myself to go line by line to make adjustments. I checked our budget against our bank statement to make sure that we aren't projected to spend less than we actually spend on things that we have little control over. For example, the cost of our car insurance goes up every year, so I have to make sure to adjust it. 

I'm also horribly embarrassed to admit that I found a completely unnecessary recurring payment that was going to every month. Ugh! I canceled it right away.

Then I made sure that our income balanced out perfectly with our expenses + our savings goals. 

Then I went into and readjusted some of our budget goals. 

Then I sat down with Matt to get on the same page about how we are hemorrhaging money and what we should do about it (more on that later). 

I am feeling so good! 

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Monday, October 26, 2015

I Threaten My Children Too Much

I have to confess that I get nervous about parenting trends. I feel like every couple of decades the pendulum swings and a new way of raising children becomes popular. The problem is that we don't get any empirical data about the methods that are currently popular until decades later when children become adults. (Case in point: it was fascinating to read the background on Dr. Spock whose parenting philosophy was linked to the rebelliousness/permissiveness/activism of the sixties and seventies.)

We are now seeing that the helicopter parenting trend led to a generation of college students who hadn't developed the resilience they need to navigate the world in an optimal way. It's unclear what the long-term impact of attachment parenting will be.  

Despite my skepticism about parenting trends, I am constantly trying to figure out the right path for our family. I recently attended a parenting class at the Austin Children's Guidance Center about how to gain cooperation from our children. 

They started with an overview of parenting styles that really does resonate with me. It's about the spectrum from Authoritarian parenting on one side (demanding but not responsive) to Permissive Parenting on the other side (responsive but not demanding). Authoritative parenting is in the middle. It is both responsive and demanding. Here's how Wikipedia explains it:

Authoritative parenting is characterized by a child-centered approach that holds high expectations of maturity. Authoritative parents can understand how their children are feeling and teach them how to regulate their feelings. Even with high expectations of maturity, authoritative parents are usually forgiving of any possible shortcomings. [27] They often help their children to find appropriate outlets to solve problems. Authoritative parents encourage children to be independent but still place limits on their actions.[24] Extensive verbal give-and-take is not refused, and parents try to be warm and nurturing toward the child.[24] Authoritative parents are not usually as controlling as authoritarian parents, allowing the child to explore more freely, thus having them make their own decisions based upon their own reasoning. Often, authoritative parents produce children who are more independent and self-reliant.[28] An authoritative parenting style mainly results when there is high parental responsiveness and high parental demands.[29]

Authoritative parents will set clear standards for their children, monitor the limits that they set, and also allow children to develop autonomy. They also expect mature, independent, and age-appropriate behavior of children. Punishments for misbehavior are measured and consistent, not arbitrary or violent. Often behaviors are not punished but the natural consequences of the child's actions are explored and discussed -allowing the child to see that the behavior is inappropriate and not to be repeated, rather than not repeated to merely avoid adverse consequences.[24] Authoritative parents set limits and demand maturity. They also tend to give more positive encouragement at the right places. [30] However, when punishing a child, the parent will explain his or her motive for their punishment. Children are more likely to respond to authoritative parenting punishment because it is reasonable and fair[citation needed]. A child knows why they are being punished because an authoritative parent makes the reasons known. As a result, children of authoritative parents are more likely to be successful, well liked by those around them, generous and capable of self-determination.[31]

The struggle I have is how to uphold high expectations and limits without slipping over to the Authoritarian side. During the workshop, she listed all the ineffective strategies we use in order to obtain cooperation from children, such as threatening them. She then listed out strategies that are more effective in the long-term, such as giving more information about why something is not acceptable, offering choices, turning the situation into something more playful, etc.

I have to confess that the list of effective strategies felt really wishy-washy to me and it felt like I could easily work through the whole list of them without achieving cooperation and instead leave my children with the impression that I was pleading with them to make a good choice (which is something the presented said was bad). 

However, I gave the strategies a try this weekend. Tate was in his room banging on the window, and I approached it by giving him information: "Tate, if we bang on the windows, they could break and cut our hands. The glass could make our hands bleed." It stopped him for a second, but then he continued. Matt came in and clarified what was going on. Tate had dumped out all his legos and Matt had "threatened" him by saying, "If you don't pick up your legos, you aren't going to be able to eat pancakes with us." Then Matt tried to get cooperation in our typical way by saying, "Tate, you need to pick up your legos." Tate simply responded with "No!" I tried some of my new strategies: "Tate, we need to pick up the legos so that Danger [the pig] doesn't eat them. Do you need a little help to get started?" Matt and I then started picking up the legos. Tate still wasn't helping. Then I said, "Let's make it a game." I started singing, "Lego! Lego! Plop!" as I tossed it into the box. Tate then got excited and proceeded to sing the song and pick up all the legos. 

Afterwards, it felt like a win-win for our family. The task was completed (so the high expectation was upheld) and the mood was positive. 

As I write all of this out, there's still a part of me that thinks, "If I ask my child to do something that needs to be done, they should just do it." But then I think about how quickly that can turn into threats and a power struggle. It becomes me exerting my power over them, which essentially just teaches them that if they want to get someone else to do something in the world, they should exert power over them. 

So I'm going to give these new strategies a try. I'm going to ensure 100% cooperation (high-expectations) but try to get there through more positive, fun, and matter-of-fact ways. 

The other thing I want to do is sit down with Matt and clarify what our expectations are. I think we need to be 100% insistent about what kind of boundaries we set around the house. We try to set as few boundaries as possible, but when we do have them, we need to both be on the same page about enforcing them. I'm looking forward to it!

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

My Health & Wellness Plan

After giving birth to my last child two years ago, I am ready to get my body back on track to support a lifetime of health. I've been doing well with my green smoothies for breakfast, salads for dinner, and finally scheduling appointments with a physical therapist to get my back on track. 

My next goal is to figure out healthier dinners. As a vegetarian, it's really easy to default to unhealthy foods: pasta, cheese, bread--oh, my! If I were a meat-eater, I would cook grilled chicken and a vegetable almost every night. As a vegetarian, I eat way too many carbs.

A quick search led to the concept of "clean" eating. It's a 21-day cleanse with a smoothie for breakfast, a gluten- and dairy-free meal for lunch, and a soup for dinner. I decided to see if the women in my family (my mom, my aunt, and my two cousins) would be interested in taking on this challenge with me. They all agreed! 

Right after Christmas (December 26, to be exact), we are going to start the cleanse together. We are also going to work through a series of exercises to uncover and address the roots of emotional eating from the book called: Stop Eating Your Heart Out

I'm really excited!

In the meantime, I am going to slowly start replacing our 30-or-so go-to meals with 30 clean recipes. This week, we are going to try:
  1. Budda bowls
  2. Sushi bowls
  3. Mexican salad
  4. Cauliflower and chickpeas
As a reminder, here's how I do my meal planning. If I can identify (slowly, over time) 30 new recipes that can be my go-to meals, my family and I will be on a pathway toward better health.

Looking forward to it! 

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Letter to My Body

Dearest Body,

I have much to apologize for, and I hope that you will find it in your heart to forgive me.

I have taken so much from you in the past 4.5 years without giving much in return. Now that I am finally doing some strengthening exercises, I feel that this is exactly what you have needed all along. You needed me to rebuild my core after Henry and then again after Tate. I skipped straight to running (sporadically) instead. The most I did to strengthen my core was get a really good deal on Momma Strong and then proceed to get overwhelmed by the length of the postpartum sessions.

You helped me birth two healthy babies and you keep up with my demanding schedule. You have so few complaints.

I am so grateful for you and want to work hard not to take advantage of you again. Your capacity is limited, and I want to do my part to support and extend that capacity.

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Monday, October 19, 2015

Why Having Children (and a Full-Time Job) Ruins Your Life

I'm being cheeky, but it's kind of true. Going from one child to two (28 months apart) and going from part-time work to full-time work has been so, so hard. I get nostalgic for the person I used to be. I know lots of people who say, "Having kids doesn't have to change you!" For me, it's been easier said than done. 

I've been under so much stress that I've retreated into self-preservation mode. I'm less generous, less nurturing, less giving, less creative, less fun. 

Oy, it's painful to write all of that out! 

Of course I'm generous and nurturing and giving toward my children. That's part of why I'm in self-preservation mode. But even that isn't enough. I'm giving them my oxygen mask, but they see me suffocating. 

But it's not all doomsday around here! I'm on the upswing, which is why all of this feels so much clearer to me. 

Our Fall Break was really good for me. I had so much fun making our Halloween costumes and getting into crafting again. I used to make interesting things much more frequently, and it energizes me. I also found an awesome online parenting class that is giving me good insight into how to be more present for my children in order to help them feel more connected. I started physical therapy for my back, and I found a book focused on healthy eating that I want to try out in the next couple months.

I absolutely don't regret having two children, and I don't regret having them so close together. I just have to name out loud how hard it has been. I have absolute forgiveness for not being the best version of my self these past two years, and I'm grateful that I have a clear path for getting back on track!

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Plan for Holiday Cards

During our recent vacation, I watched the movie About Alex. It ignited in me a fierce commitment to stay better connected to the people who have formed the patchwork of my existence.

When I was in my twenties (and a much cooler person than I am now), I used to send out monthly Friends & Family updates via e-mail. I would share the highs and lows of what was going on in my life. They were a great way to stay connected with folks from all over the world.

Over time, I fell out of the habit of sending them. I was writing a lot about my life via this blog, and I was also using Facebook to update people. However, social media isn't the same. Sending out pithy updates (that may or may not show up in someone's news feed) doesn't really help me maintain a truly strong connection.

Although I'm not interested in returning to monthly updates, I do think a yearly update makes sense. Since it's going to be a yearly thing, I think it makes sense to send it out as a holiday card. I searched Etsy and found a variety of options:
The idea is that we would use instagram photos on the front and my letter would be on the back (those would be for my friends--Matt could send his own version to his friends). I'm going to have them printed via Costco in order to reduce the costs. I was compelled by reading this review of their service.

I'm not sure which one I'm going to choose yet (we'll definitely customize it to say Happy Holidays or Happy New Year rather than Merry Christmas out of respect for different people). As soon as our Halloween costumes are made, I'm going to start working on these cards. The last thing I want is more stress around the holidays!

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

DIY Easy Knit Kid's Winter Hat

I can't believe I'm finally feeling the urge to craft again! Hooray!

I really want to make the boys some hats and scarves for winter. I searched Pinterest and was lured by many amazing options (like the one featured below), but in the end, I decided to go with the easiest pattern available: this one

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Monday, October 12, 2015

Recap of Our Pacific Northwest Vacation


What a trip! My friend and I joke that when you travel with young children it's not a vacation--it's a "trip."

But it was fun nonetheless!

I'm so grateful that our school has a two-week Fall break. We left on Sunday afternoon and arrived in Seattle late that night. In retrospect, we should restrict our travel to within our boys' typical windows of awakeness. They are not much fun when they are tired!

We stayed in an inexpensive bungalow that we found on Airbnb. It's really nice to have separate bedrooms for each boy; it increases the likelihood that they will sleep (we bring a noise machine for each of them when we travel).

On Monday, we explored the amazing Arboretum, which I highly recommend. Then we headed over to Chihuly Garden and Glass. We had been reading a book about it in the weeks leading up to our visit, which really built our excitement about the experience. Then we couldn't resist going up in the Space Needle.

The next day, we connected with one of Matt's awesome life-long friends and took a ferry out to Kitsap Peninsula. The car ferry in and of itself was a grand adventure. Once on the island, we played at the beach (yes, Henry did end up completely naked and in the frigid water) and even spotted humpback whales frolicking in the water.

Afterwards, we swung by the University of Washington. It's one of our traditions to stop by colleges when we travel, so that Henry and Tate develop positive associations with it. Henry has decided he would rather attend a quieter university, but we had fun. We ended our night at an awesome pizza restaurant, dining next to their chickens.

On Wednesday, we drove to Portland and stayed at an amazing guesthouse on a family-run farm. We had a big adventure on Thursday, which included a visit to a neighborhood park, a bike ride around the city (we rented bikes from here), and a stop at food trucks for lunch. Yum! I also recommend this dinner place for delicious pot pies: Pacific Pies.

Even with direct flights both ways, it felt like we had to spend a lot of time traveling to and from the Pacific Northwest, in part because we squeezed in two cities that were three hours apart. The experience made us re-evaluate our plans to rent an RV and travel to Big Bend for Spring Break. I'm thinking we should go somewhere (warm!) that has more of a homebase camp kind of thing (amenities that are family-friendly?) with the opportunity for day trips. Any ideas?

We also made sure to pick up an ornament for our Christmas tree tradition!

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Finding Sanity Amidst Wedding Planning Craziness

A colleague of mine is getting married soon, and I volunteered to do something off of her to-do list in an attempt to help reduce her stress. She asked me to sew 10 gift bags for her guests. 

With any DIY project, the prospect of doing it seemed much easier than the reality. At the beginning of the project, I texted her and asked, "If I have leftover fabric, do you want me to make more than 10?" Thank goodness she said no. The project was so hard! 

She wanted the bags to be lined, which complicated the process. Also, I ran out of fabric when I was trying to make 20 straps, so we had to take a strip of leftover fabric to the store and hunt around for the same fabric. 

Then there was the part where I couldn't find a safety pin and had to get creative about how to turn 20 straps inside out. 

Then there was the fact that I wasn't following a pattern so when I got to the very last part I found myself trying to sew through things that were too thick. So I broke my sewing needle. Twice. And then the safety function kept engaging, which required me to use a screwdriver to pull apart my machine and put it back together. Every.Single.Time.

The experience reminded me of a couple sections from my wedding book: taking shortcuts on things that don't really matter and crossing off non-essential items from the to-do list. I went back to read them and found them helpful. I shared them above in case you or anyone in your life is going through the stress of wedding planning and needs a little dose of sanity. 

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The End of the Summer Gardening Season

On Saturday we ripped up all the watermelon, cucumber, and tomato plants from our front-yard garden. It's such a cathartic process to purge everything. 

We had a pretty good season. We didn't stake our tomatoes well and bought the really sprawling kind, so those didn't go as well as they could have. Our watermelon plants got aphids, but they continued to produce a ton of watermelons all summer long. Next year we'll be more intentional about which kind of tomato plants we buy, and we'll do some proactive organic stuff to head off the aphids. 

Last year, I was so spent from work that I had no energy for the fall growing season. This year I'm feeling much better. Once we get everything 100% cleared out, we'll add compost and some new soil and then plant some stuff for the fall. 

The front-yard garden is working out really well. The dogs, chickens, and pigs stay out of it. We haven't had any issues with neighborhood cats or other animals. The automatic irrigation is the best thing ever. I was really worried about installing a garden in our front yard because I was afraid that I would be overwhelmed with the work, everything would die, and our yard would look terrible. It's not much work at all (hallelujah!), we get food all season long (hooray!), and our yard looks fine even when there's nothing growing (phew!).

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Racially Integrated Schools

I'm embarrassed to say that I just now got around to listening to the This American Life episodes about the importance of racially integrating our schools called, "The Problem We All Live with" (Part One and Part Two).

Here's the synopsis:

Right now, all sorts of people are trying to rethink and reinvent education, to get poor minority kids performing as well as white kids. But there's one thing nobody tries anymore, despite lots of evidence that it works: desegregation. Nikole Hannah-Jones looks at a district that, not long ago, accidentally launched a desegregation program. First of a two-part series.

I started my career working with nearly 100% children from low-income backgrounds. At the time, I believed that the best way to bring about equity and social justice for all was to serve as many underserved children as possible. 

As I grew and evolved as an educator, however, I came to realize that homogenous schools--even high-performing ones--are a "separate but equal" strategy. And "separate but equal" can never truly be equal. 

I also realized that if we want to dismantle racism and bring about social and racial equity in our world, diverse children need to learn alongside each other. They need to learn to navigate lines of difference and to appreciate and celebrate their differences. That is why Magnolia Montessori For All is an incredibly diverse school. I feel so fortunate that my own sons get to learn from children and families that are different from our own. 

If you haven't already listened to the series (at least episode one) please do it! It's really, really good.

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