Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Three Years-Old: Happy Birthday, Tate!

Tate's birthday is around the corner (July 1). We're having a simple birthday party at home. I'll serve basic snacks and then use the cake recipe from The Art of Simple Food to make a birthday cake with a big 3 in blueberries. I honestly don't think we'll do anything else in terms of games or favors. I think we'll just play in the backyard! 

Another part of our birthday rituals is to write Tate a letter about his year. We print it and put it into his scrapbook. Here's his letter for this year:

Dearest Tate,

What a year! I can't believe you are now three. This fall you will be entering Children's House. You are so ready! You love to work. You are always busy tying cords up, putting books and toys in a bag to carry around, stacking things up, etc.

You also love wrestling. You ask us to wrestle you quite frequently, and you can very quickly shift your weight and pin us all down.

You also love to sing songs. You make up a lot of your own lyrics. This year you've started talking so much. One day you said to me, "Mama, your pants are lovely." If we ask you, "Do you know how much I love you?" You say, "360 trucks, firetrucks, police cars, and airplanes."

Henry continues to be your very favorite. Danger the Pig is a close second. You also love, love, love your teachers at school and your friends. You also like reciting lists of people who love you.

You are an incredibly empathetic person. You readily notice how others are feeling and respond with concern and care.

You are really strong riding your balance bike, and right now you are learning how to swim. You love jumping into us over and over again. 

You don't really wear bathing suits when you swim in the backyard, and you hate wearing underwear. You say, "It's too hot." 

I guess that's what happens when you are "Born a Horn" and live in Central Texas! 

Tate, you bring so much to our family, and we are so lucky to get to live this life with you. Thank you for bringing so much light into the world! 

With love,

Your family

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How to Create a Letter Writing Station

If you've been following my blog the past couple of months, you know I am completely swamped with work stuff and just trying to keep my head above water. (As a side note, I enjoyed reading this article, which included this quote: "We're expected to do our jobs as if we don't have children — and then raise our children as if we don't have jobs.")

But right before the big tsunami of work stuff hit, I had a period where I was actually able to attain some balance. During that [very brief] period, I cleaned out the drawers in my bedside table and created a letter writing station, so that I could easily get back into the habit of sending hand-written correspondence. 

Oh, how I used to be such a cool and interesting person before I had children! I used to write letters! And send quirky postcards! 

It will be quite a while before I can regain the glory of my old days, but I at least wanted to make it easier on myself to send an occasional hand-written correspondence. 

Our bedside tables are old filing cabinets (found on Craigslist) that Matt spray painted. They have two drawers and then a really deep drawer for hanging files. We went with this option so that we could easily hide away clutter. 

Once one of the drawers was cleaned out, I filled it with cards, postcards, and stationary. I also have a clipboard so I can write while sitting on my bed. I have a pen, my address stamper, and postage stamps. Everything I need is in one location! It's incredibly easy to complete the whole post-card writing process is less than five minutes. 

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Vacation Recap: San Juan Islands with Kids

Every year, we go on a vacation with our in-laws (Matt's mom, dad, and two brothers). This year we decided to go to the San Juan Islands off of Seattle. 

What a trip! 

We left Austin early on a Saturday morning, arrived in Seattle later that morning, met up with friends for lunch at a great restaurant, and then drove to catch the ferry at Anacortes. From there we took the ferry into Friday Harbor. 

It's a stunning part of the country. It seriously soothes my soul in ways that not all landscapes do (I'm not a huge fan of the desert or even the shrubby landscape that we have around Central Texas). 

Calm water + blue skies + refreshing air + tall green tress + mountains = Pure Happiness

We were there before the summer rush, so it was a very sleepy and calm town. So quaint! 

We talked with some locals on the ferry ride over and learned about Popeye the seal. She lives in the harbor by the seafood store. You can buy fish to feed her. What an amazing experience! 

We also rented kayaks to take around Roche Harbor. 

We hiked at American Park. 

We visited an alpaca farm. 

We took a day trip to Victoria, Canada. 

We went whale watching and spotted orcas! Seriously! 

My mother-and-law got massages at Afterglow Spa, and I highly, highly recommend Adam, the massage therapist. It was seriously the best massage of my entire life! 

On our way back, we spent the night in Seattle. We found a house on AirBnB that was close to the airport. 

A good time was had by all. Now we need a vacation from our vacation! 

P.S. If you want more live-action updates, feel free to follow me on Instagram @saracotner!

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Game of War

While we were on vacation outside of Seattle on San Juan Island, Henry and I started to play a game of War together. It has been a personal dream of mine to have children with whom to play board and card games. I love games! 

So far we've played Candy Land and some cooperative games like Hoot Owl Hoot. But it felt like a real turning point when we got to play a real game together. Hooray! My children are getting into elementary age, which is so much fun!

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Recap of Our Summer Adventures Thus Far

We've been sticking to our original plan: Adventure in the morning and play date in the afternoon. It's been so fun!

Here's a glimpse into what we've been doing.

 We went to the Rock-N'-River Aquatic Center in Round Rock. It was fun!

Then we went to the Dinosaur Park near Bastrop. Random but also fun! Then we found a restaurant inside a small-town library. Seriously. It was such an adventure! 

 We hung out at Bull Creek.
And we picked up a picnic lunch from Whole Foods and went to Deep Eddy pool. 

It was a fun week!  

I'll have two more days like this with my boys before I have to go back to work. Once I'm back at work, I'll try to get home by 4pm so we'll have the late afternoon to swim together. And then we'll still have our weekends together. Honestly, this is the perfect blend of work time and kid time for me. Each of us is different, and we have to find what works for us.

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Monday, June 13, 2016

Canning Pizza Sauce

I'm finally going to do it! I'm finally going to can something. 

I talked about it last year or the year before. But then life got in the way--per usual! 

I ordered this canning kit from Amazon and these jars. They are only one cup serving sizes because we don't need that much pizza sauce at once. I think the cup size will be the perfect amount. We eat easy homemade pizza once a week or once every other week. I simply smother pizza sauce on naan bread and add toppings like broccoli and mushrooms. #quickdinnersforworkingmoms

I found a recipe that does not require me to peel the tomatoes. I just couldn't bring myself to have to do that much work. #lazygirlcanning

Aside from the fact that this recipe will take a long time to cook (about 90 minutes), I don't think it's going to be too much work. Hopefully it's easy enough that I can do one batch at a time, as we harvest tomatoes out of the garden. I need to be sure to find an easy place to store the canning stuff (it all nests inside the big pot). There won't be a convenient spot in the kitchen--it would have to be stored up high and behind a lot of things. Maybe I'll store it in the bathroom closet for easier access!  

I'm finally getting closer to fulfilling the vision in Barbara Kingsolver's memoir about turning her home into a mini-farm--Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. By the way, Barbara apparently sent her children to Montessori school and had this to say about how it helped shift her parenting paradigm:
There’s something I have said so often to my children that now they chant it back to me: “You can do hard things.” I sent my kids to a Montessori preschool, and thank heavens I did, because most of what I learned about parenting came from those wonderful Montessori teachers.  They straightened me out about self-esteem.  There’s this myth that self-esteem comes from making everything easy for your children and making sure they never fail.  If they never encounter hardship or conflict, the logic goes, they’ll never feel bad about themselves. Well, that’s ridiculous.  That’s not even a human life.
Kids learn self-esteem from mastering difficult tasks.  It’s as simple as that. The Montessori teachers told me to put my two-year-old on a stool and give her the bread, give her the peanut butter, give her the knife — a blunt knife — and let her make that sandwich and get peanut butter all over the place, because when she’s done, she’ll feel like a million bucks.  I thought that was brilliant.  Raising children became mostly a matter of enabling them and standing back and watching.  When a task was difficult, that’s when I would tell them, “You can do hard things.”  Both of them have told me they still say to themselves, “I can do hard things.”  It helps them feel good about who they are, not just after they’ve finished, but while they’re engaged in the process.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Our Quasi-Updated Front Porch

We've lived in our house for three years, but there still feel like there are unfinished areas of our home. For example, our front deck has felt less than welcoming for a long time now. I've been mulling it over for so long. Do we want an outdoor couch? A rug? Some kind of storage for our garden tools? A swinging chair? 

Finally I just spent an evening scrolling through chairs on Overstock and came across some chairs that looked cool and comfortable (they actually look uncomfortable, but they are similar to a chair featured on Young House Love a long time ago that they swore was comfortable). 

We added this side table and pillows from Target (also ordered online) and pulled a bowl with nature objects from one of our bookshelves. The are still doesn't feel 100% complete, but it feels so much better. I'm writing this post from the comfort of my front deck right now! 

It feels good to get areas of our house finished. 

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Laziest of the Lazy: Ordering Bras off the Internet

I'm pretty convinced that an intense dislike of shopping runs in my genes (I can't even find a category to put this post into!). That's why I was really hoping to find an online company from which to order bras. 

Because there are free returns, I didn't feel like I had anything to lose. I tried True Love and didn't love the style I ordered. 

This time I tried ThirdLove and had a great experience. They have half sizes, and I love the soft memory foam material. I went with what seemed like their most popular one: the 24/7 Classic T-shirt bra. It's really comfortable!  

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Montessori: Let Children Make Mistakes

I recently wrote this piece for our school newsletter and wanted to share it with you, since so many of you are parents, too! 


My oldest son is in PK4 at Magnolia Montessori For All. Recently, his teacher let me know that he got a little injury in class. He had purposefully been using a pin puncher incorrectly. 

A pin puncher is a slightly sharp object that is used to punch out a shape. It is designed to strengthen a child’s hand in preparation for writing. My son had gotten a warning from another child about how to use it properly, as well as from the teacher. Still, he insisted on using it improperly. He ended up accidentally sticking his finger. 

At this point, you are probably wondering, “Where is she going with this story? How is this possibly a positive thing to highlight about the school?” While this story seems like it’s about my son getting hurt, it’s actually about the importance of teaching our children that they are trusted, that they must be responsible with their freedom, and that there are real risks if they are not. 

One of the most important things to learn in life is how to handle freedom with responsibility. After all, life is full of choices—choices that will bring us up or bring us down. Once we are adults, no one can make those choices for us except ourselves. 

In Montessori, we do everything in our power to guide children to learn how to make responsible choices for themselves—choices that bring them up in life. We start this process very young because it takes a long time to teach children how to handle freedom well. If we want 16 year-olds to be able to drive a car on their own responsibly or an 18 year-old to wake themselves up and go to a 9am class in college, we have to give them real opportunities to be responsible for themselves and to be careful as they are growing up. 

Teaching responsibility is difficult because it means our children will sometimes fail, face disappointment, or even get hurt. But when we allow them to experience these things over an extended time in a gradual way, they build the confidence and resilience they need to be successful in college and the world beyond. 

Photos courtesy of Hank & Tank Photography (my husband!)

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Reading in a Montessori Way

It's been amazing to watch Henry's reading progression at Montessori school. He is finishing up PK4 and he loves trying to read everything around him in the world. 

Tate watches Henry intently and wants to follow along. It feels like the right time to start introducing him to the initial, pre-reading activities, including the "I Spy" game. 

In the "I Spy" game, you start by making sure that the child can name all the objects. Once they know the names of everything, then you can set out one object and say, "I spy with my little eye something that starts with __". Then you progress to two objects (with very different sounds) and then three objects, etc. while the child matches the sound to the object.

If I felt like I had any capacity in my life (I'm just barely hanging on, Friends!), I would go around and collect objects for the entire alphabet. Instead, I purchased this set from Montessori Services. I'm excited to play with Tater!

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