Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Reflection & Rejuvenation: June

Wow. We are officially getting to the middle of the year. How did that happen? 

I'm feeling good about our summer plans. I'm looking forward to three weeks of vacation time with my boys! 

I'm not going to set any specific goals for the month, beyond just enjoying myself and my family! 

Here are my regular goals for the year:

  1. Run at least twice a week and do yoga at least once a week. I'm still consistently running, even though I still never want to. With regard to yoga, I'm going to try switching to doing two sun salutations a day. In the fall, I really do want to start going to a class.
  2. Eat in a balanced and healthy way. I'm doing much better! Salads for lunch! Smoothies for breakfast! However, I am back to eating too much junk food during the day. Mainly cookies! I need to get back to tracking my healthy eating goals. I can eat dessert on Saturday and Sunday and then once during the week. I need to track this every day instead of just weekly like I'm doing now. 
  3. Continue my daily meditation and gratitude practice. I'm continuing to do guided medication using the Insight Timer app. I love it! I do need to work on my gratitude practice. I think first thing in the morning in the shower would be my best time. 
  4. Stop working at 8pm to create two hours of free time for myself each evening. It's been really hard, but I'm stopping by at least 8:30pm most nights. This is a must!

Here were my specific goals for the month:
  • Make our deck much more comfortable and inviting for the summer. We are working on this as our savings allow! 
  • Build a cut flower garden, following the advice in this book. We got a quote for this and will move forward as our savings allow! 
  • Take Tate to get genetic testing to see if he needs a prescription of folic acid like Henry does. We took him; we are just waiting for the results! 
  • Plant non-invasive, clumping bamboo in our yard to create more privacy against the two-story house that is being built. Done! 

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A New Art Area

I'm always inspired by what Kylie sets up for her boys in their Montessori home, but I never feel like I have the time, space, or energy to follow suit!

But I have wanted to have a dedicated art area for a while. We do have a table in the boys' room, which is a good area for drawing and coloring, but I wanted them to have access to other supplies. However, I didn't necessarily want those supplies to be in their room (because they frequently play in there first thing in the morning unsupervised).

Kylie's recent post about having an art table in the main area made a ton of sense, but it doesn't match up with the layout of our house.

So I decided to turn one of our shelves into an art area by purchasing:

I raided my own craft closet and added:
  • A felting kit
And I added this from IKEA:
The shelf is right our dining room table, so I decided to order a fitted oil cloth tablecloth from this Easy seller. We will keep it in a basket on the shelf, so when we want to do art we can protect the dining room table and go from there! 

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Light Box for Children

I added a new light table work to Henry's art shelf. I bought this relatively inexpensive light box and then printed clipart that I thought would be easy to trace. I figured it would be a good way to improve his handwriting! 

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

How to Teach a Child to Swim Properly

Henry and Tate are such little water babies. We swim in our backyard nearly every single day after school and definitely every weekend (basically from March through October). I want to continue to support Henry's growth as a swimmer (as long as he wants to; there's no reason to push him during his free time). 

I did a little research to figure out how to best teach young children the freestyle stroke. I wasn't able to find one amazing, comprehensive resource, but was able to piece together a few things, and this will be my approach:

  1. Use a child-size kick board to teach him how to properly kick: long, extended legs and loose with fast kicks (being carefully not to bend his legs too much). Chin should be kept in the water. Here's a more thorough description. I can say things like "fast kicks" and "small and fast" to cue him about proper form. 
  2. Then I'll teach him the "arrow" pose for swimming across the width of the pool without taking a breath: hands extended above the head with arms over the ears.
  3. Then I'll teach "catch-up" arms. 
  4. Then add in the breathing! 
During my research, I came across the most amazing website that has free step-by-step lessons with videos and lesson plans. I highly recommend it!

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Monday, May 22, 2017

My New Favorite Sunscreen

Considering that my children are pretty much naked nearly all of the time while at home, we invest in a lot of sunscreen. 

I use the Environmental Working Group database to analyze how toxic sunscreens are because it has never made sense to me to try to protect your skin from cancer by slathering on known-carcinogens. 

And yet the more natural the sunscreen, the more impractical it tends to be. The healthiest kinds (those with a rating of 1) are so thick, so pasty, and so frustrating. Then you don't want to put on the sunscreen at all. And then you are back to the original cancer. 

So I've finally landed on a compromise. I use Sun Bum, which has an okay rating at 5. It's so light and easy to put on. It rubs in fairly well for less toxic kinds of sunscreen. Heads-up: It does smell of coconut, which may not appeal to some people. I tend to get put off by strong smells, but this one is really light to me. 

We feel ready for the summer! 

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

My Summer Hobbies

As I mentioned in my summer planning post, I want to do less running around this summer. I want the boys to have open, unstructured time to run around, invent things, build things, and just calm their little souls through play. 

But being the Type-A person that I am, I need something to do while they are playing around the house in a relaxed way. Here's what's on my docket:

  1. I am going to cross-stitch three microbes: Mono, ebola, and salmonella
  2. I'm going to crochet a pair of slippers for myself (like these, but using gray yarn for the base and sea foam green for the edging)
  3. I'm going to work through logic problems just for fun
  4. I'm going to finish making scarves and hats for the boys (I started this project years ago and only finished a scarf for Henry)
  5. I might try my hand at making little succulent planters from the directions in this book
I want the boys to be able to engage in craft projects if they are also interested:
  • I can set up felt, embroidery thread, buttons, and needles for Henry and Tate to use while I'm doing cross-stitch. 
  • I can get them each one of these knitting forks while I'm knitting or crocheting. 
  • I might buy some of this clay for the boys to play around with!

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Summer Is Around the Corner

Have you all watched Capitan Fantastic? It's my new favorite movie and my parenting inspiration. Unfortunately, Matt thought the dad was too strict (I thought he was awesome). Not sure what to make of that.

Anyway, I'm preparing to have a lot more time with my boys this summer, and I want to make sure I'm intentional with it. I'm self-conscious when I talk about being an "intentional" parent because I see that our generation of mothers is driving ourselves crazy with unrealistic and unhealthy expectations about how to "do mothering," and the worst part is that things like scheduled activities, doting, formulaic crafts from Pinterest, constant supervision, and anxiety over inane details related to clothes or party planning actual undermine the things I want to develop in my children: resilience, self-direction, independence, creativity, joy, a growth mindset, self-confidence, and contentment.

But because of the pressures we face culturally around doing motherhood right, it does seem like we have to be even more intentional about where we put our energy and how we spend our time (even if it means we end up deciding to put less energy and less time into it).

The ironic part is that I have to make a plan for open, unstructured time or else I feel unsettled. I'll have to write another post detailing what I'll do with my open, unstructured time while the boys are playing. 

In terms of what the boys and I are going to do, I took this list and calendared it out. I'm feeling ready and excited! 

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Operation: Visit All the Parks in Austin

On a recent weekend, Matt was out of town, so the boys and I came up with a fun idea: make a goal to visit all the parks in Austin (over time, not all in one weekend).

Here's how it has worked so far:

  • We were picking up food from a drive-through salad restaurant. We did a google search for the closest park and ended up eating our lunch at Wooten Park. Henry met an older girl to play with and reports that this was his favorite park yet. 
  • We ate Easter brunch at a restaurant and then did a google search for the closest park. It looked so tiny on the map that I wasn't sure it was going to have a playscape. It turns out it has the most amazing playscape with web-like things to climb! 
  • We drove to our favorite vegan bakery to pick up a treat for the boys because they had gone to a birthday party the day before and weren't able to eat the cupcakes. We searched for the closest park and tried it out. 
Once we return home, we pull out the map, fine the park we visited, and put a circle around it. It's fun to have a real map in our lives (we've found our house and our school), and I love the adventure of trying out places we've never been. 

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Gardening in the Front Yard

I apologize in advance for writing this post every year. Sometimes two times a year. It's just so fun to have a front-yard garden!

We planted our Spring/Summer garden over Spring Break. Here's what we have growing:

  • Cucumbers
  • Mint
  • Watermelon
  • Artichoke
  • Bell peppers
  • Beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Cantaloupe
  • Pomegranates
  • Figs
A front-yard garden is a lazy gardener's dream. I am forced to walk past it at least two times a day. It's very easy to weed when you are walking by and spot something. 

Walking by the garden at least twice a day ensures that we notice things as they progress. It's so fun to stop briefly to notice the tendrils of the bean plant reaching to climb up the cage or the tiniest bell pepper that's starting to form or the bean that's ready to be plucked. 

Having it in the front yard keeps it away from our dog (and chickens, when we have them). We don't seem to have a problem with other animals attacking it in the front. 

The trick to making the garden manageable is the automatic irrigation. It makes it possible to have a full-time job, a full family, and a garden. 

I love that our children get to experience the cycle of life through the garden. So fun! 

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Documenting Our Children's Lives

There's a lot I don't know about parenting (seriously, I wish there were more longitudinal studies about how to be an effective parent!). But there are two things I did know from the start:

  1. I wanted to document my children's lives for them in a way that would make them feel loved and cherished.
  2. I needed the easiest and least time-consuming way possible. 
Enter The Easy Peasy Scrapbook. 

I did not make this thing up. I think I may have gotten it from Amy over at Progressive Pioneer (when she was actively blogging). 

The idea is so stinking simple: one binder + white card stock + sheet protectors + double-sided tape. That's it! That's all I use to put together a scrapbook for each of my boys. 

I religiously printed photos during their first year of life (so easy to print from Instagram to Walgreens), and then just added stuff after that: class photos, letters on their birthdays, report cards, etc. Now that I started printing photos to celebrate their birthdays, I'm going to add photos from every year. The card stock makes it incredibly easy to jot down a few notes--an explanation, a date, an age, etc. 

The page featured on this post is literally the fanciest page I've ever made for one of their scrapbooks (see yesterday's post about how life is getting easier!). But even this took only five minutes. 

The boys already love looking through their scrapbooks. I love oohing and awwing over how cute they were as babies and how much they have grown. It's a really special time. 

All that focus on babies has left Tate wondering, "Who took care of the everyone when everyone in the world was a baby?"

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Setting and Tracking Family Goals

I am enjoying my family so much right now. I know that sounds weird to say. I have always loved my family, but we are getting into the stage of life when I really enjoy our time together. We are out of the breast feeding stage and the napping stage and the diaper-changing phase. We are in a phase when the tantrums are decreasing and the conversations are increasing. We generate ideas together and make plans. We play games and read and ride bikes and hike and do art. And swim. How could I forget that one?  Tate is now swimming completely independently so being around the pool is more fun and relaxing. 

Our Family Goals are taking on more meaning as Henry moves into what Maria Montessori calls the "second plane of development." He is building a reasoning mind. And he loves making plans and going on adventures! 

He's excited about and invested in our goals for this year:

  1. Host 10 Saturday Suppers to build community.
  2. Save up enough money for a hot tub and new deck railings to replace our temporary ones.
  3. Volunteer at least twice.
  4. Become a gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free family.
  5. Read three chapter books.
  6. Take three awesome vacations. 
  7. Hang out at the creek.
  8. Attend two theatrical productions. 
  9. Go camping. 
It's fun working toward these things! Last weekend we went to the theater. We also hosted our third Saturday Supper. Good times! 

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Hiring Help in the Kitchen

When we found out about all of our food sensitivities a couple months back, I immediately posted on our neighborhood list-serv to see if anyone was interested in coming over on Sundays and helping me do meal prep for the week. I was thinking it would take 1-2 hours per week (depending on whether we worked together or they worked alone). 

I was able to find the most amazing woman, but we weren't able to make the first couple weekends work with her schedule, and then I fell into a groove on my own. 

But then I went to my friend's house and learned that she also hires someone to help her prep meals for the week (which she explained as she served us the most delicious Indian meal!).

So I'm back to being eager to get help with meal prep. I think it will help us make more interesting meals. I can find more complicated recipes that can be made on Sundays and heated up throughout the week (such as recipes from this book!). 

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

My New Favorite Snack

Stocking our pantry with gluten-free, vegan, and dairy-free treats is no easy feat. It helps that we found Larabar: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Here are the ingredients: cashews, dates, chocolate chips, sea salt. 

It takes so indulgent! 

I'm probably one of the last people to discover these bars (I really shouldn't be a blogger--I'm not trendy at all!), but if there are any of you who haven't discovered them yet, I highly recommend them! 

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Reflection & Rejuvenation: May

This is the time of year when I just hang on to my seat for dear life with regard to my job. 

I'm realizing more and more than I have to maintain equilibrium in my life to 1) enjoy life 2) be a good mother and partner 3) be effective at my job. So I'm working really hard toward my goals for 2017 that relate to equilibrium:

  1. Run at least twice a week and do yoga at least once a week. I'm consistently running, even though I never want to...Yoga is still a struggle. 
  2. Eat in a balanced and healthy way. I'm doing much better! Salads for lunch! Smoothies for breakfast!   
  3. Continue my daily meditation and gratitude practice. I'm continuing to do guided medication using the Insight Timer app. I love it! I do need to work on my gratitude practice. I think first thing in the morning in the shower would be my best time. 
  4. Stop working at 8pm to create two hours of free time for myself each evening. It's been really hard, but I'm stopping by at least 8:30pm most nights. This is a must! 

As far as my other yearly goals go: 
  1. Attend therapy every other week and attend leadership coaching every other week. I thought I found a therapist on Breakthrough (I'm going to do it over the computer for more convenience), but she is all full! I'm still meeting with my leadership coach regularly, and I love it. 
  2. Take a pottery class. Later in the year...
  3. Host a Sunday Supper at least ten times this year. Hosted another one this month! Will get one scheduled for next month right now...oh, wait. We have to host a lot of other stuff this month: a swim party for a school raffle winner, one or two end-of-year class parties, and a party for the children I'm tutoring. Okay, that's enough hosting for May! 
  4. Religiously use to track our expenses. We are not doing this! I hate when we fall out of the habit. When I'm not doing something that I want to be doing, I try to make a plan for it by specifying the day and the time. I'm going to do this while I'm brushing my teeth each night instead of looking at Facebook. 
  5. Restore our house each night. Better! 
  6. Go on a retreat by myself. Later in the year...
  7. Go on a trip with Matt. Later in the year...

Things that weren't on my list but I did anyway:
  • Went camping with the Upper Elementary
In terms of May, let's see. 
  • Make our deck much more comfortable and inviting for the summer. 
  • Build a cut flower garden, following the advice in this book.
  • Take Tate to get genetic testing to see if he needs a prescription of folic acid like Henry does. 
  • Plant non-invasive, clumping bamboo in our yard to create more privacy against the two-story house that is being built. 
I'm going to stop there because I do not want to overwhelm myself. 

Wishing you a happy and healthy May! 

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