Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas Countdown: Activities!

I don't mean to be one of those annoying Pinterest-y mothers talking about the perfect Christmas activities, but we are having a lot of fun with our countdown calendar. 

The boys especially love the activities related to food, such as drinking eggnog, making gingerbread houses, and making hot chocolate. They are excited when we get home from school and select an activity.

Here's our full list of things we choose from:
  • Drink eggnog
  • Drink hot chocolate
  • Visit the Zilker Tree
  • Visit 37th Street lights
  • Visit Christmas house at 1912 Crystal Shores 
  • Go ice-skating 
  • Attend the Cherrywood Art Festival
  • Make bagged lunches and deliver them to homeless people on the street
  • Make a gingerbread house
  • Write a letter as a family to reminisce about the year
  • Make handmade holiday stamps
  • Make gift-tags and cards
  • Cut down an evergreen tree (or buy a potted one and plant it after Christmas)
  • Decorate the tree
  • Make origami paper cranes
  • Wrap presents
  • Write little notes to colleagues and neighbors
  • Make baked goods for colleagues and neighbors
  • Deliver baked goods and notes
  • Decorate the house
  • Write cards to family
  • Make felt balls
  • Watch a holiday movie
  • Have a pillow picnic under the tree
  • Ride bikes around the neighborhood to look at lights
  • Cut out snowflakes
  • Write a love letter
  • Collect branches and pine cones and spray paint them for decoration
  • Dance to holiday music
  • Read a book about Kwanzaa
  • Read a book about Hanukkah
  • Cover the house in candles
  • Hang mistletoe and kiss
  • Make a list of what we're thankful for
I reduce the stress by keeping a standard lift of Christmas ingredients I need within our Meal Plan document. Then I check that box and the ingredients automatically get added to my list!

JOIN US!: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on January 16Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

Share |

Monday, December 19, 2016

Dismantling Racism: Watch 13th!

The anti-bias, anti-racist committee at our school hosted a showing of the film, 13th. It's an in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation's history of racial inequality. 

I highly recommend it! Very difficult to watch, but incredibly important. 

Also, this post about white supremacy culture is a lot to take in. I'm still processing it (and will be for a while). 

JOIN US!: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on January 16Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

Share |

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

It Happened Again: 5-Minute Fix

Okay. This time it took more than five minutes, but the amount of time it took to fix (one trip to IKEA + ~10 minute of potting + ~10 minutes of arranging) pales in comparison to the amount of time I have spent feeling stressed about the entryway of our home. 

I wish I weren't someone who cared so much about the aesthetics of my surroundings, but I do. It's as if my mind is a permeable membrane that is absorbing the chaos (or the beauty) of whatever is around me. 

I just wish I were motivated to fix the areas that bug me instead of letting them stress me out for months (or even years). 

It happened here, here, and here.

Instead of berating myself, I should just ask, "So what's bothering you and what can you quickly fix?"
  1. Matt and I are actually in the middle of planning a big change; we are consolidating Henry and Tate into one room and then turning the extra room into a guess room and an office. 
  2. We need to reorganize our outdoor closet. 
  3. We need to use OxyClean on our outdoor cushions. 
Okay, I need to stop there before the list becomes stressful. I'm looking forward to Winter Break when I get get a lot of these projects done! 

Share |

Monday, December 12, 2016

Holiday Gift Ideas

Here are some of the things I've put out into the world. They might make unique gift if you are still looking for ideas!

For Friends or Family Who Are Engaged
  • A book about how to plan a meaningful and memorable wedding without losing your savings or your sanity

For Toddlers
  • A simple, step-by-step cookbook for the youngest child (and the families who want to learn how to set up the kitchen in a child-friendly way). You can pair it with this first knife! Be sure to read the reviews first--some people find it too simple and short.
For Young Children

For Women Who Are Preparing for Conception

For Parents Who Want to Reflect on Their Parenting

Share |

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Illness that Will Mark Our Era

“‘People are now constantly connected to computers and machines, and this is changing the way we think,’ he said. ‘People just cannot make sense of what is happening. There is no respite. The world is going to go faster and faster in this regard.’

‘In the nineteenth century the biggest threat to humanity was pneumonia,’ he continued. ‘In the twentieth century it was cancer. The illness that will mark our era, and particularly the start of the twenty-first century, is insanity. Or, we can say, spiritual disease.’ He paused. ‘This next century is going to be especially turbulent. It has already begun. And when I say ‘insanity’ and ‘spiritual disease,’ I don’t only mean inside the minds of individuals. Politics, military, economics, education, culture, and medicine—all these will be affected.’”

This idea resonates with me even more these days. I feel bombarded with news and ideas, and it makes me shut down. It scares me because we are entering a time when we need to be more vigilant, not less vigilant, and yet I feel overloaded. I need to spend more time thinking about this.

Image courtesy my life partner

Share |

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A New Phase in Parenting: Travel Booster Seats

Our family is entering a new phase in our parenting: Instead of lugging our giant carseats around the airport (using our double stroller) and needing to stop and check them at the counter, we are now making the switch to using these inflatable booster seats for traveling. These things deflate and fit into a tiny bag that can be packed in the boys' carry-on luggage.

We are now a family with just carry-on luggage. What?!?

Don't get me wrong: I am all-too-aware of how fast our boys are going to grow up and how painful it's going to be when they leave the house. I try to savor every last moment as much as I can (but parenting is really, really hard!). But I'm not going to lie that it feels totally liberating to not have to schlep so much stuff to the airport for a vacation. 

Share |

Monday, December 5, 2016

What Do We Do Now?

I'm embarrassed that my last post--first thing in the morning on the day after the election--was about food sensitivity testing. That's not at all what I was thinking about at that time. I had written the post the weekend prior and scheduled it to run on Wednesday without connecting the dots about what day Wednesday was. 

I am feeling too many things. I don't even know how to process them all in this space. I've had o step away for a very long time to deal with my grief privately.

Sometimes bullet points help me when I'm feeling blocked:
  • I am ashamed that I had my head in the sand about what was coming. I live within an "echo chamber," in which I get my news from very like-minded people. I was blindsided.
  • Racism and xenophobia and misogyny and homophobia and ableism are even more pervasive in the U.S. than I thought. I knew it was bad, but I didn't think it was half-the-population bad.
  • After the fact, I now understand why some people voted for Trump. When your own basic needs are not being met, it's really hard to have empathy for others or to prioritize the needs of others above your own (even though the needs of others are ultimately connected to your own needs). 
  • But I also want to be clear that a vote for Trump was a vote that sanctioned and emboldened racism and xenophobia and misogyny and homophobia in this country. 
  • None of this is "politics as usual." It's not time to keep quiet about whom we voted for because of what etiquette says. This is not an example of republicans v. democrats or conservatives v. liberals. This is more evidence that our country is a "domination" society as opposed to a "partnership" society. People are legitimately scared and vulnerable in our country right now. 
So how do we move forward? What do we do? 

This is where I thank my lucky stars that I am a Montessorian and that my life's work is to help as many children and families as possible have access to Montessori schools. The Montessori method is literally designed as "education for peace" in so many ways. Montessori disrupts the conventional model that perpetuates the "dominator/dominated" relationship between adults and children. When children grow up in a "command and control" environment, they are likely to become dominators themselves as soon as they have a modicum of power. 

I am also so thankful that Montessori For All is intentionally committed to building racially, culturally, and socioeconomically diverse schools. We need our children to learn how to navigate and appreciate lines of difference and to become leaders in a multicultural world. 

But my life's work is the long-game. What do I do right now? I think I need to do more to be an ally to the people in Austin who are the most vulnerable. Acts of violence and white supremacist sentiments are anecdotally on the rise. I need to attend local meetings with social justice groups and continue the anti-racist, anti-bias work that we have going on at our school right now.

Even as I prepare to post this message, I'm feeling like it's so incomplete. But I can't not say anything. And I can't go on posting about the trivialities of my life if I haven't said at least something--no matter how incomplete my thoughts are.

Sending well wishes your way,


Share |

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Food Sensitivity Testing

We finished doing a neurobehavioral assessment with Henry, due to some of the self-regulation struggles he had been displaying for the past couple of years. Interestingly, during the several-month process, he seemed to start to regulate more and more. I'm not sure if it's from the counseling we've been going to weekly or the fact that his brain is continuing to develop as he gets older. In Montessori theory, we believe that children go through a huge developmental shift as they move from the first plane of development (0-6) to the second plane of development (6-12). As Henry gets closer and closer to 6, we (and his teacher) are seeing huge gains in his ability to self-regulate. Regardless, I'm continuing to follow-up with the recommended next steps, including food sensitivity testing. We have an amazing place in Austin called People's Pharmacy. They have a wellness clinic that focuses more on holistic health. I'm also going to get Tate tested because he has a lot of eczema on his arms. 

There's also an emerging science around genetic testing to see how the body processes various vitamins and minerals. I don't understand it fully, but Henry's therapist says that psychologists and psychiatrists are starting to see that supplements can significantly improve mental health and that genetic testing can help guide practitioners to know which supplements to recommend. I definitely have to do a lot more research about this, but I'm going to start by calling a doctor who was recommended by Henry's therapist. 

Matt and I are also going to start going to parenting classes. I'll keep you updated about what we learn! Also, I ordered this book to try out some of the activities with Henry. 

Phew! It's a lot, but all of these feel like solid next steps. 

Share |

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Healthy Eating for Kids

I believe that food is fuel, and I worry that Matt and I aren't optimizing our children's health through the food we offer them on a daily basis, specifically around breakfast. Matt handles the breakfast routine for us every.single.day (thank you, Matty!), and he usually defaults to peanut butter and jelly. I guess I wouldn't feel so bad about peanut butter and jelly if we made sure the ingredients were all healthy. As it is, Matt is picking up these items separately (from Target) instead of including them in our weekly Whole Foods trip. I realize that's what I'm struggling with. If we made sure the bread didn't have any nasty stuff in it and we used natural peanut butter and jelly, I'd feel better. I think the problem on the natural peanut butter front is that we need one of these so we can keep it mixed. That's why Matt reverts to unhealthy peanut butters. Maybe we could even get the boys to switch over to banana instead of jelly? I'm not sure how that would go at this point...

I also think I should start making green smoothie popsicles for the boys. I would love for them to get a daily dose of calcium (from plain yogurt) along with the vitamins and minerals from spinach and mango. I'm going to try these silicon push pop things to see if I like them. 

I also think it would be good to make some of these egg sandwiches in advance and store them in a freezer. This jumbo muffin tin will help. Henry loves egg sandwiches! 

I'd feel better if they took a multivitamin on a daily basis, too. I just did some quick research and landed on this one. The boys are going to love having four pieces of "candy" a day.

One final thing: I want them to eat more veggies at dinner. I really need to add more meals to my repertoire. I'm getting so bored with what we have day in and day out. I'm going to work on gathering more ideas right now! 

Share |

Monday, November 7, 2016

Another Halloween in the Books

Although I miss the fun that I used to have in my pre-children days when I had the time/space/energy to get really creative with my costumes, I will say that there is such magic and excitement that comes from being in the presence of children. 

First thing in the morning, Henry set out all the pieces of his costume, including his trick-or-treating basket and a flashlight. It was fun to pick up the boys from school with such a sense of anticipation. We got home and started putting our costumes on. We also set up our driveway for our neighborhood party. 

The trick-or-treating with a big group through our neighborhood was really fun. Tate is rapidly turning into a "three-nager" and is both sneaky and willful. Despite the fact that we asked him not to eat his candy while we were walking door to door, he started to. Matt asked, "Why are your lips blue?" He replied (without skipping a beat), "I fell down and it turned my lips blue."

We are putting away the Halloween books and taking out the Thanksgiving books

Share |

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

I Went to Bulgaria--WHAT?!?

So, yes, I had the opportunity to go to Bulgaria last week. I couldn't believe it! Montessori For All was invited to present at the Teach For All international conference entitled, "Reimagining Learning." It's embarrassing to admit that I had to look up where Bulgaria was (it's near Greece). 

We flew from Austin to Toronto to Munich to Sofia and then took a shuttle another two hours to Blagoevgrad. On the way back, we left Blagoevgrad at 2:15am and flew from Sofia to Frankfurt to Houston to Austin. Something I unintentionally realized about international travel: it helps so much to plan your flights to arrive in the evening so you can arrive, get settled, and go to bed around 8pm. I accidentally scheduled my flights that way in both directions, and I experienced zero jet lag! 

The only issue we ran into was that one of our suitcases didn't make it to Bulgaria with us. It had 25% of the Montessori materials we brought for our session (we were supposed to create a hands-on learning experience for the participants), so we had to hurry and improvise at the last-minute. It seemed to work out okay, though. 

On one of the days, we connected with a friend of a friend who was born in Blagoevgrad and volunteered to give us a tour of her city. It was a delightful experience to drink freshly-squeezed fruit juice at one of the highest points in the city, shop for souvenirs at a little place off the beaten path along the river, stumble upon a prolific artist in the historic district who wanted to show us all her paintings, trek around the lake to see reindeers, rabbits, and deer, walk into a hand-built church from the 1800s, and hear stories about the rise and fall of communism in Bulgaria. Our tour guide's family had to be evacuated out of Bulgaria in the middle of the night in the late eighties to seek political asylum in the United States. 

I had never been to Eastern Europe before. Observing the remnants of communism was fascinating. And of course international travel is such a profound way to step out of one's daily experience and widen our sense of the world. 

I'm so grateful to be part of the Montessori movement, which is truly "education for peace." We need better educational opportunities for our children all across the world. As Maria Montessori says, "If help and salvation are to come, they can only come from the children, for the children are the makers of men [and women]."

Share |

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Reflection & Rejuvenation: November

Only two months left of the year. One of the things I like about my 5-year journal is that it gives me a sensorial experience every single night about how much of the year is left, since the thickness of the remaining pages dwindles each day.

October! What a month! Our Fall Break trip to Los Angeles and my work trip to Bulgaria (more about Bulgaria tomorrow)! There was also my big fundraising push to raise $150,000 more so we could get started on the first part of our permanent facility. And I've been shopping for Christmas presents (to reduce my stress this holiday season). And Matt and I started working on our holiday card. 

But I've really been dropping the ball on my big goal for the year: "Health & Wellness." I haven't been running twice a week or going to yoga because I've been too busy and too stressed. It's such a downward spiral for me. When I stop exercising, I feel more stress because my body isn't releasing its stress in a positive and productive way. And then I start coping with the stress I feel by eating unhealthy things. And then I start gaining weight. And then my clothes don't fit and I end up feeling really gross. 

Now that I'm back from Bulgaria, I really, really want to go to yoga again. And I have a new plan for how to fit in two runs a week: I'm going to see if both boys are ready to ride their bikes around the lake with me while a run. We'll see how it goes! 

I really, really want to end the year back at a healthy weight with my clothes fitting again and with an overall feeling of less stress and more health and wellness. 

I was nervous about reflecting on my goals for the year, but it looks like I'm not doing too badly!

  1. Start the year with the 21-day cleanse from Clean and work through a book about breaking the emotional eating habit. 
  2. Eat more salads with dinner. 
  3. Drink at least 80 ounces of water each day.
  4. Run once on the weekend and once during the week. 
  5. Go to yoga once a week. 
  6. Cultivate a daily meditation and gratitude practice.
  7. Publish five books. 
  8. Clean and organize our house before the boys go to bed each night. 
  9. Track our expenses in Mint.com daily so that we are able to hit our saving goals. 
  10. Invite friends over monthly. 
  11. Use my work time in the evening to clear out my inbox and do bigger-picture planning. Try to move all projects into slots during the work day.  
  12. Take a trip with Matt.
  13. Go on a retreat by myself.
  14. Reflect each month about how I'm doing toward these goals.

I've also made progress on the book I'm working on, so that's exciting. 

I think my goals for this month need to be simple:
  • Exercise
  • Eat well
  • Keep getting ahead of the holiday season
  • Keep picking up the house each night before bed
  • Keep trying to use my work time in the evening to clear out my inbox and try to move all my projects into slots during the day so I can close my computer by 9am each night. 
I'm looking forward to November! 

Share |

Monday, October 31, 2016

Update on Montessori For All

Those of you who have been around these parts for a while have heard me talk about my dream to start a non-profit organization that would open Austin's first public Montessori school and then open other public Montessori schools in diverse cities across the U.S. I wrote many posts about "dwelling in possibility." If you're interested, you can read all about it (along with other cool public Montessori stuff happening) in an article from One Day Magazine called: "How a Montessori Movement is Reinventing Public Schools." It's been a lot of years in the making and has required a lot of sacrifice, but I'm so honored to get to do this work. 

Share |

Monday, October 24, 2016

Montessori Books

Simone from The Montessori Notebook e-mailed me about a great new resource she just created. You can find a link to 100 Montessori books for children under four here. Thanks, Simone!

Share |

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How to Stop Siblings from Fighting

Life just keeps getting better and better as our boys get older (I am definitely not an infant/toddler person). 

During our last trip as an immediate family (during Spring Break to Flagstaff) before our Fall Break trip to Los Angeles, I had to start reading Siblings Without Rivalry because the bickering was so bad. Since that time, we have been working hard to teach our children not to fight with each other. Instead, we try to teach them to use their words to find solutions with each other. And it has helped so much! 

We flat out told them, "If you can't learn to stop fighting with each other, we won't be able to go on family vacations. It's not fun for us to go on vacation when you guys are fighting with each other, and if it's not fun, we won't want to do it." I have no idea if this was the right approach or not, but it seemed like a very logical and natural consequence. 

Every car trip since Spring Break has been a chance to practice how to talk through problems (versus whine, scream, hit, etc.). In the beginning, we had to pull over frequently. We tell them that it's not safe for us to drive if they are fighting and that we need to pull over to help them figure out how to find a solution in a better way. Once we even missed a movie because we had to pull over, which got us there late, and the IMAX theater wouldn't let us in. Now we can reference that event, and it helps the boy figure out how to find a solution before we have to pull over.

We try to teach them to use their words to say things like, "Please stop" or "I don't like it when...", as well as to come up with strategies, "How about if I take this and you take that?" or "What if we set a timer to take turns?"

This strategy works for us because the boys love vacation so much. Even Tate (3 years-old) will say, "Henry, stop fighting with me so we can go on vacation."

I have no idea if this is the best strategy or not. Parenting still feels like one big science experiment with no control group. But it's making our trips together more fun and it does seem like the boys are learning transferrable life skills. Fingers crossed! 

Share |

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Our Family Vacation: Los Angeles!

What a fun adventure!

We picked LA because of the beautiful weather and the plethora of things to do. It's funny how we keep gravitating toward the west coast for our vacations: San Diego, San Francisco, Portland/Seattle, and then the San Juan Islands.

We arrived early on Sunday morning and headed straight to the PCC Flea Market. What fun! We stuck to the outside vendors and enjoyed the sunshine. Then we headed to Dog Haus for delicious veggie dogs and then to Grant Park. I brought a big sheet with us on the trip, so Matt and I were able to relax in the shade and play Quiddler while the boys played independently on the playground. We headed back to our AirBnB early in the afternoon for swimming and hot tubbing. Matt's brother joined us (he lives in the area), and we ordered Chinese food for delivery. This was the first time I've ever used the delivery feature within Yelp, and I am hooked! It was so relaxing to be able to spend every afternoon at our rental house without having to pack everyone back into the car and sit for dinner. Instead, we had all kinds of food delivered (from pizza to Indian), and the biggest delivery fee was $2. We dined on the back patio every night and watched the sun set.

On Monday we went bike riding in Santa Monica and then played at the beach. We grabbed tacos at Tacos Por Favor and cupcakes at Sprinkles (I definitely recommend them; they are right behind my absolutely favorite cupcakes from Crave in Houston). Then it was back to our "house hotel" for swimming, hot tubbing, reading, and dinner.

On Tuesday Matt dropped the boys and me off at the Los Angeles Zoo while he went for a two-hour run. Then we went to eat at UCLA (what an amazingly diverse student body!). Then it was back to the house for our evening ritual.

On Wednesday we took the ferry to Catalina Island. We rented a golf cart and drove around the entire island. We stopped at a park and then a beach (and had the most amazing pretzel rolls from this restaurant). That night, Matt's brother watched the boys so Matt and I could go on a date. We picked a rooftop showing of High Fidelity. So fun!

Thursday was a beach day and then Pepperdine University for lunch (we like taking our boys to eat at college campuses, so they develop a positive association with college; plus, it's just really fun!). Pepperdine has got to be one of the most beautiful campuses in the US. It sits atop a hill that overlooks the ocean.

On Friday we took a tour of our friend's kombucha factory, which was so awesome. Then we headed to Venice beach to check out the canals and Muscle Beach (and get organic Mexican food). We also grabbed amazing ice-cream before heading to the airport.

Although the traffic in LA was pretty much terrible all the time (and it's such a sprawling city, so we found ourselves needing to drive a lot), we had an awesome trip. The boys are so much fun, and it was relaxing to play games with Matt and read library books on my Kindle app.

I'm glad we're able to prioritize family vacations at this time in our lives. When we were saving up money to build our house, we didn't really travel. Now that both Matt and I are working full-time, we have a very reasonable mortgage, our cars are paid off, and we are able to prioritize vacations.

P.S. If you want real-time updates, check out @saracotner on Instagram!

Share |

Monday, October 17, 2016

Update on Teaching Cursive

Henry and I have started working on his writing before bedtime. It's a delicate balance because I both want to provide him with individualized attention that helps him make academic progress, but I also don't want to a) teach him something in a different way than he's learning it at school, b) teach him something before he's ready for it (in Montessori, concepts are intentionally very scaffolded and the children move from very concrete experiences to more abstract understanding), c) do too much and end up leaving him overly exhausted (I believe that children do a ton at school and should have ample time to decompress at night), d) squelch his love of learning by making work with me feel tedious, or e) strain our relationship in any way by introducing an unnecessary power dynamic. 

Wow, it's even more complicated than I realized!

I address problems A and B through communication with Henry's teacher. I make sure that I'm only working on things that she thinks make sense for Henry. 

As for C, D, and E, it's really about observation. I back off whenever I need to. For example, there was a long period of time when Henry didn't want to read at all. I didn't force him. Fortunately, now, he wants to read a BOB book every night before I start reading him a chapter book

Now that I want to work on writing with him, I'm trying to follow his lead as much as possible. He's very excited about writing out his Christmas list, and he understands that it has to be as legible as possible so that his grandparents understand what he wants! He's very motivated to practice the same letters over and over again to get them right. Right now he's working on the word "drone." 

As I'm working with him, I remembered a very helpful strategy from my former teacher days: If you first teach a child how to properly form the letter "c," you unlock a bunch of other letters for them because "c" is the basis of d, g, o, and q. It's five letters for the price of one! 

Share |

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Habit for Life

A while back, I wrote about purchasing a five-year diary. I've been using it pretty consistently since March. At first it was difficult for me to remember to write in it each evening, but then I moved it to the top of my nightstand, and now it's really easy to remember. The process literally only takes two minutes a night, but I love it. I already feel like the time with my boys is slipping by so fast, and I have a built-in way to reminisce each day. I loved bringing it on our recent vacation, so that I could capture our days.

I wish I would have started this when Henry was born! Maybe I'll start buying people this journal as part of their baby shower present. 

Share |

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Monday, October 10, 2016

How to Teach Cursive

The Montessori method is a little peculiar in that it starts with cursive as opposed to print. Henry has been working on cursive for the past two years in PK3 and PK4. He's never been particularly interested in a lot of fine motor activities, so his writing is coming along slowly. My hope is that he has a strong command of cursive writing by the start of 1st grade (but not at the expense of loving writing). 

Here are the things we are doing to support the development of his writing:
  1. We asked his teacher for lined paper so we can encourage him to continually add to the list of things he wants for Christmas and his birthday. Writing for authentic reasons is so motivating! 
  2. Try to see if he'll spend a little time each day practicing with this cursive dry erase board
  3. I'm thinking about getting him some more art activities (like stencils) to continue to develop his hand! 
In case you're interested, here's an article about why Montessori teachers cursive first.

P.S. Henry's story reads: "In the morning, we eat breakfast."

Share |

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Monthly Self-Care

I want to get in the habit of these self-care rituals monthly:

  1. Car wash
  2. Massage 
  3. Pedicure
Obviously, these expenses can add up quickly. To keep costs down, I go with the most basic and inexpensive car wash, I get massages as a massage school (the cost is $40 flat), and I try to get inexpensive pedicures. 

All of these things are indulgences, but they bring a lot of happiness into my life. At least I save money by rarely going to places like Starbucks, not buying alcohol, and not having cable! 

Share |

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Energy Audit

I've been feeling such a lack of energy lately! I hate this feeling, and I need to do some introspection to figure out what's causing it and what I can do to regain some energy.

  1. Matt and I are inconsistent about turing the lights out at 10pm. We really need to do this! Getting adequate sleep is integral to having higher levels of energy. 
  2. I need to regularly take my multivitamins. As a vegetarian, I think I need the extra little boost of iron.
  3. I need to pick up the clutter around our house. I'm someone who is very impacted by my surroundings, and disorder leaves me feeling unsettled. 
  4. I need to stop working by 9pm every night. I need that time to decompress before my 10 o'clock bedtime. Lately I haven't had any time to respond to e-mail during the day, so it's taking me several hours at night. Also, I love falling asleep with Henry, which is pushing back the start of my work time by about 30 minutes. And this little nap is terrible for me because it means I'm not tired by bedtime. I'll save this habit for the weekend! 
  5. I need to resume my exercise habit. I did such a good job for the first third of the year, and not I'm out of the habit. It's so interesting that exerting energy leaves me with more energy! 
That's a good list to start with! 

Share |

Monday, October 3, 2016

Fall Books

Fall is officially here. We don't have a whole lot of seasonal change in Austin, but I will say it was pretty awesome this year that the first day of Fall was noticeably cooler than it had been all summer. I guess we should call them Subtle Seasons here. 

We are gearing up for the Fall season! Our Halloween costumes are in progress. We sent out evites for our 4th Annual Halloween pizza and trick-or-treating party. Fall travel has been booked. 

And now it's time to pull out our Fall books! I love this tradition around our home. These are the books we pull out only during the Fall season:

Share |

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Things to Do in L.A. with Kids

We are heading to Los Angeles for Fall Break! Matt and I know that our time with our young boys is going to go by fast, and we try to think of ways to savor it as much as possible. For us, going on as many family vacations as possible is one of those ways. At my school, we have a Fall Break, Winter Break, Spring Break, and Summer Break every year. These vacations are a time to build so many memories.

Here's what we're thinking for L.A. (please chime in if you have other ideas!).
  • The Farmer's Market for lunch
  • Date night at the Hollywood Bowl to watch concert on a blanket under the stars? 
  • Horseback riding
  • Griffith Observatory
  • Hiking in Runyon Canyon
  • IMAX at the California Science Center
  • La Brea Tar Pits and Museum?
  • UCLA (Meteorite Gallery)
  • Yoga
  • University of Southern California
  • Bike riding
  • Hiking (Temescal Gateway Park)
  • Sailing
  • Running

Share |

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Preventing Holiday Stress: Holiday To-Do List

As I see it, there are two ways to reduce holiday stress:
  1. Lower our expectations--literally cross off the number of things on our to-do list.
  2. Get started earlier. 
My personal preference is a combination of both these strategies. Here's what I want to accomplish this year:

Make holiday cards like last year.
  • I need to draft the text for our holiday cards. 
  • Ask Matt to select the photos for our holiday card.
  • Get the card designed.
  • Get the card printed.
  • Pick up stamps. 
  • Get updated addresses from my friends and family.
  • Stuff all the envelopes.
  • And send! 
Purchase all my gifts and get them wrapped before Thanksgiving. 
  • Make a list of everyone we need to get gifts for. 
  • Brainstorm ideas.
  • Make purchases.
  • Figure out what we are going to do for wrapping paper this year.
  • Wrap our gifts! 
  • Make gift tags.
Decide which gifts I'm going to make. 
  • Make a list.
  • Brainstorm ideas.
  • Get supplies. 
  • Make the gifts! 
Get Matt's birthday present (end of November). 
  • Luckily I collect ideas all year.
  • Purchase gift.
We'll see which of these things I get started on versus which things just get crossed off the list! 

Share |

Monday, September 26, 2016


We are now entering into All-the-Holidays-Start-Coming-So-Fast territory. Halloween will be here next month. Then Thanksgiving. And then Christmas.

I need to have a yearly list of everything that needs to get done around this time. I'll save that for another post!

As for Halloween, it's one of my favorite holidays. I used to love it more before I had children. I know that sounds weird, but I loved spending a lot of time making an awesome costume for myself. Now that I'm responsible for 3-4 costumes, it's a lot less fun. I now do a combination of handmade + buy some stuff so I'm not so stressed out. 

I thought last year was going to be the end of our group costumes, since I knew Tate would have more opinions now that he's three. For the past two years, we've been letting Henry choose what he wants to be, and we create a whole theme around whatever he chooses:
  • Year 1 of Family Costume = Henry chose to be an elephant, so we made a circus theme. Tate (infant at the time) was a strongman. I was a clown. Matt was a box of popcorn.
  • Year 2 of the Family Costume = Henry chose to be a picnic, so I was a pineapple, Tate was a carrot, and Matt was a bunch of grapes. 
This year Henry chose to be Peter Pan (after reading the book at counseling) and he convinced Tate to be Captain Hook, so I'm going to be Wendy and Matt is going to be Tinkerbell. I'm inspired to make Henry's costume from scratch using this tutorial. For Tate, I bought this costume off of Amazon. For my Wendy costume, I bought this nightgown and I will dye it blue. Matt is going to use this tulle to make a Tinkerbell costume similar to this one. Should be a good time! 

Share |

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Book Recommendations

I am in love with the OverDrive app. It connects me to my city’s library and lets me download e-books into my Kindle app (on my phone) for free. It’s amazing! It enables me to save money and read a lot more than I otherwise would.

Here are some of the books I’ve read recently, all of which I recommend:

Gone Girl: I seriously could not put this book down. I even snuck downstairs during a party to read it in the bathroom (just a couple minutes). It’s engrossing. Surprising. Intriguing. Yes, I am clearly an introvert.

Secrets of a Charmed Life: I love historical fiction. This book was set during World War II, but it’s really a story about finding your passion and staying connected to family.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves: This book was my least favorite of all, but I still really enjoyed it and recommend it. I didn’t read what it was about before starting it, and I recommend that you do the same! It makes for a hugely interesting surprise.

It’s been fun to reconnect with the reader in me again. I feel like this phase of Parenting Two Young Children While Also Balancing a Demanding Career (and Sometimes Trying to Fit in Exercise, and, Oh Yeah, Friends) has just been so consuming. 

Share |

Related Posts with Thumbnails