Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Our First Real Chapter Book

Henry found a random chapter book in a Little Free Library, which was geared toward middle schoolers who are trying to overcome the habit of procrastination. Henry insisted that we read the whole thing.

After that, I decided to see if he was interested in reading another chapter book. We picked up Little House in the Big Woods from the library and loved reading it! I think we'll take a break and read some picture books (they are good for building background knowledge) but after that we might pick up the second book in the series!

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Cookbook Recommendation

I'm not one to buy books these days. The library is my friend. I love how it's free and it keeps clutter from piling up in my home. 

But I had to make an exception for this book. I know it seems weird to buy a cookbook in the age of Pinterest, but I've been searching high and low for clean recipes on the internet, and I'm not having much luck with finding things that appeal to me. 

The book Everyday Detox is awesome! I learned how to make a pizza crust out of cauliflower (the recipe involves thawing frozen cauliflower) and an easy and delicious frittata. I'm eager to try the Southwestern sweet potatoes, banana pancakes, salt and vinegar Brussels sprouts, and more. If I weren't a vegetarian, I would enjoy the maple-glazed salmon and the fish tacos (with a lettuce tortilla).  

Meanwhile I'm reading Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food. It's a personal narrative about eating only whole foods for an entire year. It's inspiring me to look more closely at the foods we eat as a family. I'm considering signing up for a local CSA to support neighborhood agriculture and keep money in our community. 

I'm also planning to make sure the boys' breakfasts and lunches are as whole and healthy as possible. Matt is in charge of breakfast, so the boys get a lot of instant oatmeal (with an unnecessary amount of sugar already in the packages). My colleague recommend the website, 100 Days of Real Food, and I'm eager to check it out!

Hooray for my year of "Health & Wellness!"

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Monday, January 25, 2016

21-Day Cleanse

I'm almost done! Three more days and I will have officially completed a 21-day cleanse. My mom did it, too! 

The regimen for the past 21 days has been a smoothie for breakfast, a healthy lunch (I typically eat something like brown rice with roasted vegetables and chickpeas), and a dairy-free soup for dinner. 

On the good side: I feel great. I've lost about eight pounds. I sleep better. I don't have weird shifts in my energy levels. I can exercise easily (run three miles or do yoga for an hour). I think I have broken my addition to sugar.

On the bad side: I miss food! I especially miss cheese and bread. Big time. I thought I would miss desserts the most, but I don't. It's the dairy and the carbs! And I never want to touch a bowl of soup again. 

When the cleanse ends, I'm not going to go crazy and start stuffing my face. I'm going to ease into a life of moderation. I'm going to work really hard to primarily eat for sustenance, and then for joy, and rarely to fill an emotional need. I'm going to continue to look for recipes with cleaner, more whole ingredients and reduce my intake in general (especially when we go out to dinner on Friday and Saturday night).

Mustering up the motivation to resist bread, quesadillas, queso, chips, macaroni and cheese, pizza--etc.--for 21 days was so, so hard! It helped when I would project myself into the future (specifically to the end of the cleanse) and to feel what it would feel like to get to the end. I knew I would feel proud if I got to the end.  

I don't necessarily recommend the process I went through, although it was a good jump start to a healthy new year. My mom and I have had a great time talking every day (sometimes several times a day) about how it has been going for us. I look forward to continuing to support her for the rest of the year as she strives to achieve her weight loss goal by Christmas 2016.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Woodworking with a 4 Year-Old

One of the things I love most about Montessori is the idea that children should do real work that involves real risk. For example, toddlers should be taught how to use knives, preschoolers should learn how to use needles, and elementary children should learn how to light matches. (You can read all about the philosophy here.)

The process of working with real tools that carry real risk conveys to children that they are capable of being careful. When they are trusted to be careful, they, in turn, learn to be careful. They also build their self-esteem and their sense of worth by receiving real trust and real respect from the adults around them. Henry once said, "You trust me to be careful, right Mama?"

Henry and Tate both use hammers to practice hammering nails into logs, but it was fun to watch Henry actually build something. We used the pieces from this woodworking kit (received as a Christmas present) to build a toy train. I was a little disappointed that most of the work was gluing the pieces together, but there was still a little hammering for reinforcement. 

I'm looking forward to continuing to create these kinds of hands-on experiences for Henry and Tate as they get older and older.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Family Goal #1: Road Trip to Oklahoma!

I've been Facebook friends with a blog reader for years, and when I asked her for her address so I could send her a holiday card, she invited us to visit her in Oklahoma any time. I plugged their address into google maps and realized they are only 6.5 hours away. Totally a doable road trip! 

We added it to our list of Family goals for 2016. Since my trick for following through with my goals is to clearly articulate when, where, and how I'm going to follow-through on the goal, I got to work with the planning. I realized that it made the most sense to take the road trip over a three-day weekend. There aren't a ton of three-day weekends during the year. I could only think of MLK, President's Day, and Labor Day. Oh, and Memorial Day but that's always a super-busy time of year. 

Are there more I'm not thinking about? Oh, sometimes the 4th of July is a three-day weekend, but our summer is already packed.  

Anyway, we messaged back and forth and realized that MLK weekend would actually work for both of us. And so we started planning it! I created a detailed schedule (yes, I am a nerd, but I also feel like this kind of planning is necessary for helping me be able to spontaneous in a way that also maintains my sanity). Once the plan was in place, it was full steam ahead!

I bought a bunch of snacks (like Pirate's Booty and Annie's snack mix) and packed them into small ziplock baggies. These bags kept the boys pretty busy. Matt also bought a Lego kit at the last minute, and it kept the boys busy for HOURS. I brought the tops from two storage boxes, so each boy would have a flat surface upon which to build Legos. We also checked out two audio books from the library: Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and Double Fudge. Additionally, we listened to some Sparkle Stories.

On the first day, we ate breakfast and lunch in the car, in order to reduce the number of stops we had to make. We had a gallon jug of water that we used to refill our water bottles. We did make an unexpected stop once we crossed the Texas/Oklahoma border and it started snowing! 

My colleagues thought I was weird for planning a road trip to visit someone I had never met, but I knew that Anna and I would be kindred spirits. I knew she would be someone awesome to meet from the minute I read her guest post on 2000 Dollar Wedding almost four years ago.

And Anna did not disappoint! It was so great to connect with another family trying to balance it all: work, children, social justice. We had a lovely afternoon, evening, morning, and early afternoon together before it was time to make our way back to Texas.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

I'll Lose Money If I Don't Stick to My New Year's Resolutions

Phew! At the time of writing this, I am eight days into my cleanse and I'm feeling great. I've been spending this time reflecting on my intentions for the year and trying to figure out how to make them actually come to fruition. This quote from The Art of Simple really resonated with me:
Quite honestly, I’m kinda on the fence about making resolutions on January 1—I appreciate the sentiment, but I know how seldom those resolutions are actually resolved. Sometimes, they merely serve as a catalyst for frustration when January 7 rolls along, and you’re already back to your Dr. Pepper-drinking, staying-up-too-late ways.
But I am in to: fresh starts, and I relish the bright-eyed, clean-feeling-in-the-air about a new year. I’ll take any excuse to spend time mulling over thoughts with a mug in one hand and a pen in the other.
I want to go on a personal retreat this year (like I did last year, but I won't host it myself this time around), and July is a great time for me to step back for serious reflection again. It aligns with the academic year for me. I also want to push myself to reflect once a month (via a blog post) so that I am checking in with myself frequently (and even changing my goals if they no longer feel like the direction I want to head). 

I am serious about my year of "Health & Wellness." I have a clear, step-by-step plan for how to meet all my goals, and I have all the systems in place to make it happen. As I was getting everything set up, I googled, "Best fitness apps" and got reacquainted with the Pact app. I heard about it years ago but never did anything with it. 

Pact is amazing! It allows me to create and track my goals in the app. I said that I am going to run two times a week (I have to wear my phone in a belt, so that the app can verify my movement) and that I am going to do yoga once a week (I have to "check-in" on my phone when I get to the YMCA and my GPS will verify that I stay for at least 30 minutes). If I complete my goals, I earn money! If I don't achieve my goals, I have to spend money. I decided to put $5/workout on the line. We are on a tight budget this year, so I definitely don't want to waste money by not exercising! 

When I actually made a financial commitment in the app (literally linking it to my PayPal account), it was like I entered a whole new level of seriousness about my goals. I realized, "I'm actually going to do this! I'm really going to exercise at least three times a week." It sucks that I needed the threat of a punishment to elevate myself to that level of seriousness, but I'm fine with it. I don't really have a problem with extrinsic motivation systems if people set them up for themselves. 

Even though my year will be focused on "Health & Wellness," I want to focus on it in a way that enables me to set up the habits and patterns that I want to maintain for ever after. I don't want to have some crazy intense fitness year and then go back to be a couch potato in 2017. I want to use this year to focus on my energy on figuring out what will work for me for the long term. 

I'm so excited for a [knock-on-wood] lifetime of health and wellness!

The picture is from our trip to Florida to visit family. The rental company let us choose any car parked in the "mid-size" aisle, so the boys gravitated toward this truck. I loved watching Henry give Tate a boost into the back. I feel like this app is going to give me the boost I need to stick to my goals!

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

5-Minute Home Improvement

You know you're a busy, full-time working, full-time mothering blogger when you write about something as simple as cutting a piece off your outdoor bushes and sticking it in a vase with water. 

But sometimes it's the little things! 

This easy, peasy strategy is an awesome way to add real greenery to a space without having to sustain a live houseplant. Even the darkest areas of a home can sustain this kind of green! 

And, sometimes, those of us who are busy full-time working and full-time mothering need some quick and easy solutions!

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Our Goals as a Family

Recently, one of my friends linked to a reflection form on her Facebook page, and I love it. It comes from a blog called The Art of Simple.

But it made me start freaking out. How am I supposed to set my own intentions for the year and set some with my partner and set some as a family?

It's something I totally want to do, but I can't cram it all into my New Year Reflection Time. It's too overwhelming.

And then I was suddenly so grateful that I'll be working through a Purposeful Parenthood course with others to set intentions about what kind of families we want to be and which specific actions will get us to that end goal. We'll have plenty of time to think about this stuff! It's better for reflection and intention-setting to happen over an extended period of time anyway; most people don't even stick to their New Year's resolutions.

I did ask my family what our goals should be as a family this year over dinner one night, and this is what we came up with:
  • Take a road trip to Oklahoma to make some new friends (people I've "known" since I was blogging about my wedding so long ago).
  • Take a road trip to Dallas to see old friends.
  • Read 3 chapter books to Henry.
  • Henry wants to read all the BOB books.
  • We want to go camping.
  • We want to take more day trips to small TX towns on Saturdays.
  • We want to hang out at a creek in the summer (just like going to the beach).
  • Volunteer at least two times as a family.
Of course I have lots more to think about in terms of what kind of family we want to be (such as how to make sure my children are eating more healthy foods), but this list was a cute place to start! 

Today is the first day of Purposeful Parenthood and the last day to register. We'd love to have you join us!

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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Stop the Emotional Eating Habit

I've been working through the cleanse outlined in the book Clean, while also working through the exercises detailed in Stop Eating Your Heart Out, which are designed to break the emotional eating habit. 

The book has been really helpful so far. I don't suffer from a huge overeating problem, but there are patterns of emotional eating that I want to change in my life. For example, I don't want to use food to deal with boredom or sadness or stress.

The exercises are really short each day. Some of the most helpful ones have been:
  • Reflecting on my food history and thinking about what my patterns of emotional eating are.
  • Thinking about the importance of building a support network. I've done this with my mom, aunt, and cousins! We have been e-mailing and texting about this process every day. 
  • Prioritizing self-care and changing the word "should" to "could" (instead of saying: "I should exercise more" I would say, "I could exercise more," which makes it a suggestions rather than shaming--which my friend already taught me, but I forgot). And using the phrase "choose to" instead of "have to" to reframe how we think about our life ("I choose to pick up the children from school today.").
  • Using a journal to facilitate an honest conversation with yourself about what you're thinking and feeling and how your life is going. I love this idea! And I want to make more time for it. Things come up in my journals that I didn't know were there, both in terms of problems I wasn't articulating for myself and even possible solutions. It's really powerful.  
I've been following the cleanse religiously since December 26: a smoothie for breakfast, a clean meal for lunch (which for me as a vegetarian is basically a vegan, gluten-free meal), and a soup for dinner. It actually hasn't been as hard as I thought it was going to be. I've been able to resist lots of temptation (we've gone out to a lot of dinners with family), and I've surprisingly not starving all the time. I'm definitely eager to get back to normal eating on January 16th, but I hope I will be more purposeful with the kinds of foods I use to fuel my body and with the ways in which I use food. Looking forward to it! 

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

How to Set Goals and Stick to Them

If you can trust yourself to do what you say you want to do, a whole world of possibilities opens itself up to you. You can set big goals and trust yourself to accomplish them. I know it sounds cheesy, but it's true! 

If I can stick to my New Year's Resolutions, I will feel so proud of myself at the end of the year, and I will feel more healthy. 

I find that I am most successful when I take my goals and break them down into "where," "when," and "how." If I can answer those specific details, then executing on my goals can become more automatic. If I say I want to run once on the weekend and once during the week, but I have no plan for where that's going to take place, exactly when it's going to happen, or what is going to be happening with the boys, then I create so many more barriers for myself that get in the way of getting it done. 

I will already face a barrier every time I go running. Most of the time, I won't want to do it (even though I feel great afterward). If it's overcast, I'll have even more excuses (i.e., barriers). "It might rain in the middle of it! I should just stay home." 

If I also have to figure out when I'm going running, where, and what the plan is for the boys, then I will never do it. That's too many barriers all piled up. 

However, if I decide that I am going to run on Sundays when we first wake up and that I will take Henry to ride his bike with me on the running trail and that Matt will take Tate to the dog park, then I reduce my barriers. The behavior can become more automatic. 

If I take it one step further and decide on a back-up plan, I reduce the barriers even further. For example, if Matt has an early morning soccer game, then we will go on Saturday. 

So what are the other barriers I can anticipate and solve for myself in order to set myself up for more success? Here are my goals again:
  1. Start the year with the 21-day cleanse from Clean and work through a book about breaking the emotional eating habit. I tried to set up a support network of people to work through this with me at the same time. I also selected all the recipes in advance. Then I ordered the groceries in advance. Having the food and the recipes in place takes away all the excuses. Then I just have to focus my energy on actually following through.
  2. Eat more salads with dinner. I need to identify salad ingredients that we like. Then I need to do as much prep as possible on the weekend.
  3. Drink at least 80 ounces of water each day. I need to have a water bottle at home and at school.
  4. Run once on the weekend and once during the week. See plan above....
  5. Go to yoga once a week. Find the specific class I want to go to at the YMCA and get it on the calendar. Invite a friend!
  6. Do 15 minutes of strength building once a week (either MommaStrong or my back exercises). I need a schedule for my exercise. Run on Sunday and Wednesday. Do yoga on Tuesday. Do my home exercises on Thursday. And I will need to do these right after I put Henry to bed. Otherwise, I will not do them! I also need a good podcast or book on tape to listen to.
  7. Cultivate a daily meditation and gratitude practice. I downloaded Insight Timer, and it is going to change everything! It makes it so easy to do a guided meditation every night (even just five minutes). I think we need to start a gratitude practice during dinner to highlight the positives from our day, and then I want to review my gratitude as I'm falling asleep at night.
  8. Publish five books. Hmmm...this one is a little overwhelming. I think I will need a whole separate project plan for that project.
  9. Clean and organize our house before the boys go to bed each night. I need to leave work on time so that I can cook dinner on time so that we have enough time before bed to get everything cleaned and put away.
  10. Track our expenses in daily so that we are able to hit our saving goals. We should do this while Matt is showering each evening. We have a little ledge in the bathtub that I can sit on so we can do it together.
  11. Invite friends over monthly. When I sit down to reflect on my goals each month, I can plan the next get together. I also want to keep a list of all of our acquaintances so I can be sure to rotate through different people.
  12. 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.  
  13. Reflect each month about how I'm doing toward these goals. 
I feel better prepared to actually execute on these goals!

Join us for the upcoming Purposeful Parenthood course! We'll be reflecting on the kind of family we are and the kind of family we want to become. Learn more...Register now! We start on Monday!

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Monday, January 4, 2016

My New Year's Resolutions

The New Year is upon us. I love this time of year. As much as I love getting cozy and creative for Christmas, I am always eager to clear out the tree, take down the holiday decorations and have an uncluttered space both physically and emotionally. I love dwelling in possibility, planning, and being intentional about the kind of year I want to have. 

(Side note: I often think about how unpredictable and fragile life is, how everything could change in an instant and my life could be completely derailed, but I tap into the fear and the worry to find the energy to face forward and live the life I've always imagined while I have the opportunity to do so.)

I start the process of looking forward by actually look backward. Here were some of the highlights of 2015:
  • Hosting a Reflection & Rejuvenation Party for a group of wonderful women
  • Hosting a concert in our living room
  • Traveling to the AMI Montessori Refresher Course
  • Hosting a ton of visitors at our school for SXSWedu
  • Traveling to the AMS Montessori conference
  • Traveling to San Diego with my family for Spring Break
  • Traveling to the Yale School of Management education reform conference
  • Taking a Britney Spears dance class
  • Traveling to Lake Tahoe with family
  • Attending the Montessori Unconference
  • Hosting a Reflection & Rejuvenation Retreat
  • Traveling to Puerto Rico with just Matt
  • Traveling to Florida for my grandparents' anniversary party
  • Hosting two Backyard Movie Nights
  • Taking Henry on a canoe trip with our school to see bats under the bridge
  • Lots of date nights to the Alamo Draft House
  • Joining our school camping trip for the afternoon
  • Traveling to the Pacific Northwest for Fall Break
  • Hosting a Halloween Party
  • Finishing my Purposeful Parenthood Course
My goal for this year was "Balance." I definitely feel like I took major steps toward finding more balance in my life. My life is no longer just all work and mothering.

This year, I want to focus on "Health & Wellness." I want to get into the best shape of my life and figure out how to sustain it for the rest of my life. Here are my specific, measurable goals:
  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. Do 15 minutes of strength building once a week (either MommaStrong or my back exercises). 
  7. Cultivate a daily meditation and gratitude practice.
  8. Publish five books. 
  9. Clean and organize our house before the boys go to bed each night. 
  10. Track our expenses in daily so that we are able to hit our saving goals. 
  11. Invite friends over monthly. 
  12. 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.  
  13. Reflect each month about how I'm doing toward these goals.
I know the research shows that New Year's Resolutions last about five minutes, but I think it's incredibly powerful to set them anyway. I went back to my journal from eight years ago, and this is the vision I wrote for my future:
  1. We live in a beautiful house. It’s beautiful because it is surrounded by green and it is washed in natural light. And we have a very pleasing aesthetic sense. And it’s full of comfortable spots. Our home is our sanctuary and our inspiration and the center of our entertaining life.
  2. We have friends over for ugly sweater parties and scavenger hunts and fondue and Scrabble and dance parties. We entertain outside with Christmas lights.
  3. We have a garden. We grow food for ourselves. And lots of herbs.
  4. I have time for projects during the weekends. I am not consumed with work.
  5. I can work at home a few hours every day.
  6. I have significant time for vacation.
  7. I am passionate about my work. It does not feel like work. It feels like breathing.

The trick, I think, is to revisit these goals throughout the year. I want to get back into my monthly reflection posts. It helps me a lot!

Join us for the upcoming Purposeful Parenthood course! We'll be reflecting on the kind of family we are and the kind of family we want to become. Learn more...Register now! We start next Monday!

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