Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"Make These Today" Energy Balls

In my search for gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, peanut-free, and egg-free recipes (it's humorous just writing out that long list!), there have been some hits and some misses. These energy balls are definitely a hit! 

The ingredients are simple: chocolate chips (we get vegan ones that are delicious, in semi-sweet), fast cooking oats (we get gluten-free), flax meal (so healthy!), chia seeds (again, so healthy and you can't even taste them), almond butter, and maple syrup. The first time I made them (pictured above; I've gotten better with practice), we didn't have maple syrup so I used honey. I prefer the maple syrup, but honey works in a pinch. 

You mix everything together, form into balls, and then store in the refrigerator. Even I can do that! 

You can find the full recipe from Show Me the Yummy.


JOIN US! Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Parenthood course, which starts on February 6Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

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Monday, January 30, 2017

Holding Yourself to the Fire

I don't want to get to the end of the year and have to report back that I failed to meet my goal of being able to describe my life as "full of vitality" like I did last year. But, let's face it, most New Year's Resolutions are doomed to failure! Kelsey says this book is good for figuring out what kind of person you are when it comes to forging new habits. You can also take the online quiz here

I'm the kind of person who needs:

  • A really concrete goal
  • An extremely clear vision of the specific actions that will lead to the end goal
  • A plan for how and when to do the actions I need to do (so I can go on auto-pilot)
  • A system for tracking my actions toward the goal
  • A system for publicly sharing my progress (or lack thereof) on the actions
Last year I made a little notebook for my bathroom, so I could weigh myself each week and hold myself accountable for whether or not I was able to maintain my ideal weight. This year, I wanted to better track the specific actions that are aligned with my goal. My specific actions are aligned with trying to live an 80/20 lifestyle. (There's an old Chinese adage that you only have to eat healthy 80% of the time). So this tracker helps me pay attention to how many unhealthy meals I eat (it should stay at about four) and how many "extra" treats I eat during the week (like a donut or cookie at work). I'm trying to keep those at about one per week. I also want to run twice a week and go to yoga once a week. 

I complete the tracker from the previous week on Saturday and then text a picture of it to my mom, aunt, and cousins for that extra layer of accountability. I have asked them to please text me if I don't send it on Saturday! I will also report on it during my monthly "Reflection & Rejuvenation" posts.


JOIN US! Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Parenthood course, which starts on February 6Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Purging Your House from Top to Bottom (and Left to Right)

It's that time of year when I have high levels of motivation to purge and organize our house. This year was even more motivating because I had a full two weeks at home (instead of traveling somewhere for Christmas like we normally do).

I started by moving the boys into the same bedroom, so we could have a guest room/office. I finally realized that even if their sleep goes badly, I could move one of them back into the guest room just to sleep (without it turning back into a child's bedroom).

Matt and I decided to empty the room out entirely. Yes, entirely! Well, we did it in stages. First we emptied out the main part of the room (without touching the closet). We pulled out the shelf, desk, etc. We were able to clean really deeply, including washing the baseboards and cleaning the floor. I also thoroughly cleaned everything before bringing it back into the room--even the plant, which got refreshed with new dirt!

Once the main room was put back together, I tackled the closet. Again, I pulled everything out, so I could purge, clean, and then put back in in a more organized way.

Once that room was done, I was on a roll. I started listening to The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying on audiobook (downloaded from the public library for free using the OverDrive app). It's so inspirational (I know I'm behind the times on this one...). It affirmed what I already feel to be true for myself: when our physical spaces are more organized and beautiful, it creates space for us to focus our energies elsewhere in the world.

I shifted my focus to the guest room/office. Again, I pulled everything out of the closet, purged, cleaned, organized, and put it back in. Matt and I were able to say goodbye to a lot of things. We followed the ritual prescribed in the book, which included thanking the object for the role it played in our life and wishing it well on its next journey.

In the book, she says that we need to do an overall of our environments in "one fell swoop" so that we don't rebound. If we feel the benefits of a truly calm and organized environment, we will never go back.

I'm happy I found a spot for almost everything before I went back to work!


JOIN US! Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Parenthood course, which starts on February 6Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

My New Meal Planning System

For those of you who know me, you know I have been through multiple iterations of figuring out the meal planning approach for my life. My last iteration was amazing for our family, until I stopped going to the grocery store and started using Instacart. Instacart is a godsend for us, given where we are in our lives right now. I actually spend less money (I guess because I'm not tempted by things that aren't on our list). 

My online meal planning system was kind of annoying because it meant that I had to go back and forth between tabs. It also meant that I no longer needed to organize my list by aisle of the grocery store. 

So instead, I now input my recipes into my Instacart account, using the "List" feature. I still keep the actual recipe in a binder (I hate cooking off of my phone or iPad, which constantly turns off), so I only input the ingredients. When I need to select meals for the week, I click on which meals we want and then select "Add All." All of the ingredients are automatically added to my cart. I also have a "Standard" list for our regular ingredients. Now meal planning and food ordering are completely integrated. Voila!


JOIN US! Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Parenthood course, which starts on February 6Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Join Us for Purposeful Parenthood!

The Purposeful Parenthood course starts soon! 

Are you striving to be the best possible parent that you can be? Would you benefit from asking and answering questions about what it means to be the kind of family you want to be while also practicing self-forgiveness and letting go of impossible and unhealthy expectations? Welcome to Purposeful Parenthood.

The Purposeful Parenthood Course is simply a space to step back from the day-to-day demands of parenting and reflect on the bigger questions of parenthood within a community of equally intentional and purposeful individuals.

Over the course of four weeks (starting February 6), we will explore four different themes: Vision, Space, Time, and Connection. At the start of the week, you will receive instructions about the Purposeful Parenthood Challenge for that week. For example, the challenge for the first week is to create a Family Mission Statement. The second week we will be selecting an area of our home to update in a family-friendly way. The third week we will be thinking about our ideal schedules and the kinds of rituals we want to incorporate into our lives. Finally, we will be focusing on our partnerships and how to strengthen them in ways that build a strong foundation for our families.

Each day, a new lesson will be uploaded that relates to completing the challenge for the week. Daily lessons include experiences like reflection prompts, templates to help you tease out your thoughts, inspiration, etc. You can connect with others in the online community forum on a daily basis for support, to share ideas, or to ask questions. The following Monday, we will share the results of our challenges from the previous week via the online community. On Tuesday, we will begin the process again for the new week's challenge. 

The idea is simple: raising children is both an overwhelming joy and a life-changing commitment. When we approach parenting with purpose, we take steps toward reaching our fullest potential as a family.

As a participant in the course, you'll receive information, tips, reflection exercises and prompts, inspiration, and a community of like-minded kindred spirits who are on a journey similar to your own.

Interested in learning more? Visit the Course Overview or About the Author. Spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis! The total cost is $99 USD. Register Now!

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

DIY: Oversized Desk

Matt and I have finally consolidated Henry and Tate into one room (more about that on another day). It now means we have a bonafide office and guest room! 

We wanted an extra long desk to accommodate both of us. Here's how we did it:

We ordered:
It actually worked out! Yes, I say that with a bit of surprise. We had trouble finding examples of this on Pinterest. I was looking for a step-by-step of which countertop to buy and which filing cabinets to use. I can usually find any project on Pinterest, but I couldn't find exactly what we wanted to do (I'm sure it's there--I just couldn't find it). 

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!

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

MTHFR Genetic Testing

On our journey to help our oldest son strengthen his self-regulation and impulse control, we met with a psychiatrist so she could test him for a genetic mutation that makes it difficult for the body to process folic acid. The gene is called MTHFR. If there's a mutation, the body's production of key hormones (like serotonin and dopamine) can be affected and can lead to anxiety, depression, ADHD symptoms, etc. 

She explained that Europe and Canada have been testing for this mutation for a lot longer than the U.S. (no surprise there), but that it was recently added to the list of genetic tests that get done at birth in the U.S. If there's a slight mutation, the treatment can be as simple as a prescription for extra folate. 

I was shocked to hear that there's potentially a biological reason for anxiety/depression/ADHD that is so easily addressed. I feel like I want to shout this information from the rooftops! The issue is genetic, so it's especially important for people to get tested if their families have any of these kinds of issues. Our family tree includes depression and addiction, so this issue is very relevant for us. 

The test was a simple finger prick, and the results will come back in a couple of weeks. I'll keep you updated about what we find out! 

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Building an Anti-Bias, Anti-Racist World

We have so much work to do to build a world that values and appreciates everyone, regardless of their differences.

On a day designated to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I want to also honor the countless other individuals who have demonstrated awe-inspiring courage and integrity to fight for a world where there is liberty, justice, and joy for all.  

A few ideas for all of us as we undertake this work together:
  1. I love the Racing Race Conscious Children website. It includes amazing resources, such as a list of 100 Race-Conscious Things You Can Say to Children to Advance Racial Justice
  2. Walking with the Wind by John Lewis is one of my top-three favorite books of all time. It's such an intimate portrayal of Lewis's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. 
  3. This website has a lot of implicit bias tests. I especially find the Race IAT interesting. 
My family and I will be heading to the MLK March in Austin. You can find us on Instagram if you want more up-to-date photos: @saracotner and @mattyrunrun.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Food Sensitivity Update: Oy!

So, it looks like we've got quite a lot of food sensitivities around here. I took Henry (age 5) and Tate (age 3) to the Wellness Clinic at People's Pharmacy to be tested. I wanted to test Henry because he has issues with self-regulation and calming, and I wanted to get Tate tested because he has eczema on his arms and face, and I didn't want to start applying steroid cream like his pediatrician recommended. 

It turns out that the test revealed food sensitivities that might be connected to the issues they are having. Henry needs to eliminate eggs, gluten, peanuts, and pineapple. A sensitivity to gluten in particular is very connected to the issues Henry is having. He needs to minimize dairy and soy.

Tate needs to eliminate citrus, milk/whey, and pineapples. He needs to minimize dairy (especially cheese), gluten, soy, and peanuts. The milk is most likely connected to his eczema. 

I'm not going to lie about the fact that these recommendations cause me heart palpitations, especially given the struggles I've been having to put meals on our table. Not to mention breakfast, snacks, and lunch! 

I honestly don't think I can remain a vegetarian in a gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free house. I've been a vegetarian for 16 years primarily because there was very little ethical production of meat happening 16 years ago. Now I still don't eat ethical meat because of its impact on the environment. 

I get teary-eyed thinking about the things that we should eliminate from our lives that have brought us much joy: donuts from our favorite neighborhood shop, milkshakes from various places all over Austin, Amy's Ice Cream, queso, homemade wheat bread from my favorite recipe, and veggie burgers with soft buns.

I kind of want to get Matt and me tested, but I also kind of don't want to know. 

Having a sensitivity doesn't mean we can't have it at all; but we should completely eliminate these things while Tate is trying to heal his eczema and Henry is trying to restore his gut, which is estimated to take 8-12 months. 

This is definitely a relatively small program in the scheme of the world's problems, but it's still making my heart a little sad right now. 

Photo courtesy of Hank + Tank Photography (it's Matt!)


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!

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

I Heart the Elfa Closet System

I've been a huge fan of the Container Store Elfa closet system for three years now. We splurged on it when we first moved into the house, taking advantage of their 30% of sale. Our house is 1,800 square feet for a family of four without a garage, so we try to maximize our space however and whenever we can. This closet system helps us use all the available area. 

I renewed my vows with the Elfa system this year when we consolidated Henry and Tate into the same room. The system is completely interchangeable, so we were able to reconfigure our closets to align with our current needs. It was amazing! We moved shelves up, down, and over, and we even moved one of the clothes rods from Tate's old room into his new room (along with one of the sliding drawers that comes with the system). It's so versatile, strong, and easy to use. 

I promise I'm not making any money off of this post--I just love this system and highly recommend it!

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!

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Join Us for Purposeful Conception!

Hooray! I'm really excited to offer another round of Purposeful Conception: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy for those of you thinking about conception. I started preparing for conception eight months before starting to try. It's never to early to step back and think about how to better prepare your life to welcome new life into it.

Please share this info with any of your friends, colleagues, or family members who might be interested! You can find more information at http://purposefulconception.com

Happy Monday! 

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Our Family Video Recap of 2016

Here's our year in video form, if you're interested!

You can also get more immediate updates on Instagram: @saracotner

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Exciting New Dinner Options!

I'm about to confess something I'm not proud of: We've been trying out Sunbasket, one of those businesses that delivers meal ingredients with corresponding recipes every week. First, I'll tell you why I love and then I'll tell you why I hope we stop using it as soon as possible. 

Basically, we are in a big rut when it comes to cooking and eating at the Cotner-Bradford house. I do not have time to scour Pinterest for new recipes. When I do make time for it, it's a frustrating experience. I struggle to find vegetarian recipes that require few ingredients and are fast. 

I have about 30 recipes in our Meal Planning system, but I am so, so tired of them. When I buy the ingredients for them, I have to force myself to make them. 


Enter the convenience-based economy. Sunbasket delivers the recipes and ingredients for three different meals to my house each week. The meals take about 30 minutes, which is fine for our life right now (during pool season, I need much faster meals so I can get out there with the boys as soon as possible). There is still prep work to do (chopping vegetables, stirring things, cooking things, assembling things), but everything is already measured and laid out. And the quality of the recipes is delicious! They include all sorts of innovative spices and flavors. It has taken my culinary skills up one or two notches (that's not hard to do because I'm really not a good cook!). In short, I love how Sunbasket increases the quality of our life! 

But I cannot bear the environmental waste that it produces each week. There's a giant box, lots of insulation, two disposable ice-packs, and plastic bottles and containers for every.single.ingredient. I cannot justify all that waste just for my own convenience. 

In my ideal world, I would find four friends who would want to create our own little Sunbasket club. We would each pick one recipe and pull together five sets of the ingredients (in reusable tupperware). Then we would meet at a central place to exchange the ingredients. I think the likelihood of finding four other people who want this kind of commitment in their life (and it would have to be vegetarian, no less) is very, very low. I need to dedicate some time to figuring out a plan for the new year! 

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The New Year is Upon Us!

The new year is upon us! 

I hosted another Reflection & Rejuvenation party, and four friends came over for three hours of reflection, intention-setting, and connecting. I had a lot of fun! 

When I reflected on 2016, my three words (in this order) were busy, stressful, and beautiful.  

Although I had a lot to celebrate (publishing a book, breaking ground on our permanent school facility in East Austin, and an overall feeling like I'm doing the right work), I was disappointed by my inability to sustain the regular habits of health and wellness. There are so many other habits I want to incorporate into my life in order to be able to describe my life in the way I want. As such, here's what I'm committing to this year:

2017 Personal Goals
By the end of the year, I want to be able to say that I feel balanced, connected, full of vitality, and at peace. I want to keep my bucket full, so that I can interact with others from a place of patience, love, and joy.

Toward that end, I will:
  1. Run at least twice a week and do yoga at least once a week.
  2. Eat in a balanced and healthy way.
  3. Continue my daily meditation and gratitude practice.
  4. Stop working at 8pm to create two hours of free time for myself each evening.
  5. Attend therapy every other week and attend leadership coaching every other week.
  6. Take a pottery class.
  7. Host a Sunday Supper at least ten times this year.
  8. Religiously use Mint.com to track our expenses.
  9. Restore our house each night.
  10. Go on a retreat by myself.
  11. Go on a trip with Matt.

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