Tuesday, October 31, 2017

What is the right amount of activities for children?

It's a complicated question with a lot of different answers!

For me, I think I want to start with the end vision first. In our "Family Manifesto," Matt and I said things like:

  • "We are family that maintains a daily pace of life the allows us time to laugh together, express our love and appreciation for each other, and enjoy each other's company"
  • "We are a family that patiently supports and celebrates each other as we pursue our passions and individual interests." 
So to me that implies that we should absolutely be introducing our boys to new activities but not in a way that stresses us out or consumes our lives. It seems to easy to fill up our calendar too quickly and then to leave our family feeling stressed and/or rushed. The ideas in Simplicity Parenting really resonated with me (in fact, I need to read it again!)! I don't want to fall into the American trap of "more equals better."

The first activity we started was Aikido. Henry's teacher recommended it for him because of his issues with self-regulation. We kept him in it for about a year, but he ultimately didn't like it very much. We wanted to put him in a different activity where he could continue to practice listening to directions and following instructions, so we picked formal swimming stroke instruction. We now do this on Saturdays from 8:00am-8:30am for Tate and 8:30am-9:00am for Henry. This time works pretty well for us because it still leaves the whole day open. 

Now we have an opportunity to sign him up for ukulele lessons with one of his former teachers. It would be awesome to have her back in his life (he was SO connected to her). I'm wondering if she would let me join in the lessons, too! I would love to learn alongside Henry. Matt and I aren't very musical, so I want to make sure our children get exposed to it, despite our lack of experience/expertise.

But I want to continue to be really thoughtful and intentional about what we sign ourselves up for.

For updates in between blog posts, check out Instagram


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Monday, October 30, 2017

Family Adventure: Traveling Internationally with Kids

Our next big adventure is to Australia! We'll be going during Winter Break (which will be smack dab in the middle of summer there, which I'm excited about because I am way more a warm weather person than a cold weather one). We'll be heading to an old coffee plantation that has been renovated into a home in the hinterlands of Byron Bay. Then we'll be heading down to Brisbane. 

We are all so incredibly excited! 

I purchased some books to help us prepare for our adventure. 

As we read through them, we are going to make a list of everything we want to see there (kind of like a scavenger hunt that we can check off as we go). 

I've been trying to keep an ongoing list to double-check when we are packing. I'll have to modify it a bit for our first international trip with the boys! 

For updates in between blog posts, check out Instagram


JOIN US!: Registration is currently open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on January 8! Register now! We'd love to have you join us!

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Budget Preparation

Phew! I finished getting our budget ready for 2018. Here's my process:
  1. Look at our previous year's budget in Google sheets. (I have one column that specifies what the category is called in Mint.com, what the item is, how much it costs per month, and notes about how I arrived at that cost per month). 
  2. Cross check each line item by looking at the past several credit card statements. I need to make sure we are actually spending what we say we are spending. 
  3. Pepper Matt with questions about new charges that have been added to the budget over the year (like donations to the ACLU). 
  4. Update our income in the same budget document. 
  5. Make adjustments to our budget so that the total expenses (including money that goes into specific savings accounts) equals our total income. I budget for every single dollar that comes in. 
  6. Use Mint.com to set a budget for each item and each savings goal. This part is tedious if I'm committed to getting it 100% right. This year, I had to print out our budget and manually cross off each item as I checked it on Mint. 
It feels good to have this ready for the 2018 year. We did not do a good job of tracking our expenses this year, but maybe 2018 will be our year! (I don't mean to sound so noncommittal; I'm just trying to set lower expectations so I can exceed them.)

For updates in between blog posts, check out Instagram


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Monday, October 23, 2017

Traveling with Kids: San Francisco

One of the things that makes me anxious (there are many!) is thinking about how quickly my children are going to grow up. I'm friends with many of my former students and/or their families on Facebook, so I have watched children go from 3rd grade to high school in the blink of an eye. 

When Matt and I are falling asleep together and trying to talk about things that don't induce anxiety (no Trump talk!), I'll ask him questions like, "What can we do to make sure we truly savor this time with our children?" 

One of our answers is family vacations. During our most recent Fall Break, I had to participate on an education panel in San Francisco, so we turned it into a family trip. 

Oh, how we love California! 

Here's how we spent our days:

Day One (Sunday): 

We always try to give ourselves at least one normal weekend day before going on a trip so we can get everything done without feeling stressed. On Sunday we woke up at our normal time and headed to the airport. (As I've mentioned before, we are now traveling with these booster seats, which makes traveling a lot easier.)

One we arrived, we headed straight to Oakland to reconnect with friends. Our first stop was to visit some friends (who also happen to be awesome musical artists). We walked from their apartment to an Ethiopian restaurant. So fun to be in such a walkable city! (When my memory wants to cling to all the positive parts, I will start to forget that Tate was totally stressful in the restaurant. Gotta love 4 year-olds!)

Then we headed to Berkeley to reconnect with another set of friends at Adventure Playground. So much fun! 

Then it was on to Stinson Beach where we stayed in a small cottage near the beach through AirBnB. 

That was the night the wildfires started. There was such intense wind, and we would smell the burning of trees. We didn't learn what was happening until the morning. 

Day Two (Monday): 

We drove down the hill into town for breakfast and to hang out at the beach. The boys are such beach creatures, even when the water is downright frigid. 

We then drove into Mill Valley (which I think is one of the most beautiful towns in America--except that it isn't very diverse) for lunch and a quick stop at one of the most beautiful playgrounds in America (which is nestled in some redwoods). Henry was thinking about the song "This Land is Your Land" and kept asking, "Is this the Redwood Forest?")

Then it was back to Stinson Beach to meet up with some friends from the city. We hung out on the beach and then headed to an amazing little restaurant right on the beach.

Day Three (Tuesday): 

Matt went for a long run, so I took the boys down to breakfast alone. Even though we sat at a large booth, they both cozied right up next to me. It's an adorable memory I'm going to hold close to me (and let it overshadow those other memories of my children being pull-your-hair-out frustrating!).

We then headed to the beach again. The boys managed to find disregarded beach toys to play with and they occupied themselves for a long time while I read and talked on the phone with my mom. 

That afternoon we headed back into Mill Valley to grab a picnic lunch from Whole Foods, and we ate beneath the redwoods back at our favorite park. 

We then made our way to Palo Alto for my education conference, and we ate at Stanford University in the dining hall. 

Day Four (Wednesday): 

On this day the boys went out for an adventure on their own (visiting a friend who works at the Opera House and connecting with friends at an amazing park in the Bay Area!).

Day Five (Thursday):

Matt went for another long run while the boys and I went back to Stanford University for breakfast in the dining hall. Then we drove back to the city for a touristy trip to Alcatraz (luckily my tendency to plan things in advance was more helpful than annoying and I purchased tickets for us in advance since they sell out so quickly). 

After lunch, we grabbed arepas at Pica Pica and ate them at the Mission Dolores Park. When we travel, I always bring a sheet to use as a picnic blanket and a deck of cards so Matt and I can play gin rummy while the boys play. 

That evening we reconnected with old friends for some Indian food. 

Day Six (Friday): 

We walked with our friends to breakfast and then headed to Pacifica to see their new office/house. We played at the beach again (the boys cannot get enough!), ate at a tiny taqueria, and then Henry requested to see a tide pool. Luckily, we were literally in the middle of low tide according to the internet, so we headed to the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve where we were able to see sea anemones and hermit crabs. 

After that, we headed back to the airport for a 5 o'clock flight. 

This was the first trip where Matt and I made a concerted effort to ask ourselves, "Who do we know in the city that we should try to spend time with?" It was so fun to see the city through our friends' eyes, and it was so fun to spend time with good people. With good friends, you can skip right over all the small talk and get straight to the meat of life. My conversations went from talking about how to dismantle white supremacy to how to start your own life coaching business. 

And as our children get older, these trips get more and more fun. We get to spend such concentrated amounts of time together. I love just soaking those boys in (and letting my mind erase all the hard parts)!

For updates in between blog posts, check out Instagram


JOIN US!: Registration is currently open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on January 8! Register now! We'd love to have you join us!

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Take Control of Your Health: Order Your Own Blood Work

For those of you who are new to this saga, here's the quick recap: Henry was struggling with self-regulation. We took him to therapy (and still do), had him tested by a neuro-behavioralist, had food sensitivity testing done (he should steer clear of gluten), and had a genetic test done by a child psychiatrist. His genetic testing reveals that he has MTHFR issues and his body doesn't process folic acid the way it's supposed to, which means he doesn't produce dopamine and serotonin the way he is supposed to (which means he can only self-regulate about 70% of the time). 

And since it's genetic, it means I have issues, too! MTHFR is connected to anxiety, depression, addiction, thyroid issues, and heart issues. So I had a 23andme report done and took it to the functional medicine doctor to have her decipher it. The functional medicine doctor wants me to make dietary changes and start on certain supplements, but I want to have baseline blood work done first so I can make sure that the changes she is recommending are really necessary. 

I tried to have blood work done back at my regular doctor's office, but she didn't think many of the tests were necessary. I didn't want to have them done through the functional medicine doctor because I worried they would be more expensive. 

So I discovered that you can order relatively inexpensive labs from the internet! I know it sounds crazy, but I tried it, had a great experience, and can now recommend it. 

I used Direct Labs to order a bunch of things that my functional medicine doctor wanted to see. For the celiac panel, the test kit was mailed to my house, I did a finger prick collect, and sent the sample back to the lab. For the other tests, I printed a requisition off the internet and then took it to my nearest Quest Diagnostic (which happened to be in a grocery store). Then the results show up in my dashboard online. 

It's such an easy and empowering system, although I am a bit freaked out. One of the tests (CRP-hs) shows that I have elevated levels and am at increased risk for cardiac issues (which is definitely connected to MTHFR). I'm not going to let my hypochondriac brain get too out of control; I'll let you know what the functional medicine doctor says as soon as I hear!

For updates in between blog posts, check out Instagram


JOIN US!: Registration is currently open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on January 8! Register now! We'd love to have you join us!

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Goal Tracking App

I came across a great app for tracking goals: Streaks

It lets you input things you want to do (or things you want to stop doing) and the frequency with which you want to do them (either per day or per week). 

It's a really simple interface for day-to-day tracking. I was using it (and loving it) to track my two runs every week, nightly meditation, skipping dessert four times a week, and stopping work at 8pm. 

(The epilogue to this post is that I stopped using any type of tracking whatsoever because it started feeling oppressive. I usually love a good tracking system, but I was using it to feel more healthy and happy and it made me feel more neurotic than I already am.) But it's a great app if you need a good tracking system in your life!


JOIN US!: Registration is currently open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on January 8! Register now! We'd love to have you join us!

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Math Games for a 1st Grader

I'm eager to make sure that Henry (1st grade) builds a really strong foundation for math fluency while he's young. I feel like I memorized math rather than build a really deep, conceptual understanding of it. The Montessori math he does at school is WONDERFUL, but I also want to support him at home. 

I saw this game pack featured on Kickstarter and went ahead and purchased it. It finally arrived! So far, we are having fun playing the math games. They mainly build number sense and fluency.

For updates in between blog posts, check out Instagram

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Alternatives to Scouting?

After I graduated from college with a degree in American Studies with minors in English and Women & Gender Studies, one of my ideas for a career was to reimagine scouting to be more inclusive of all genders and sexualities. 

Now that I have children, I'm looking for that kind of option! I've been doing research about alternative organizations

Do any of you have any leads or experiences with inclusive scouting?

For updates in between blog posts, check out Instagram

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Monday, October 9, 2017

The Park Project

The boys and I are on a quest to visit every park in Austin. We purchased a real map, and we circle every park we visit. Sometimes we'll be out and about and we'll have some extra time, so I'll google the nearest park. Other times, we will intentionally bring out the map, look at it, and decide where to go. One day the boys decided they wanted to visit the "biggest park in Austin," so they selected Emma Long Metropolitan Park. It even has a beach! (The picture I have doesn't show the beach part.) It's such a sweet little ritual/tradition in our family. Living with children is so fun! 

For updates in between blog posts, check out Instagram

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Finding Balance: Reducing Holiday Stress

We are in the final quarter of the year, and I find myself wanting to have a plan. I like going into the new year refreshed and ready. 

Here are some of the things that are on my mind:

  • I want to go through our budget and refresh it for the upcoming year. We absolutely need to get better about sticking to the budget we have set for ourselves. Life is always changing and evolving, so we have to intentionally set aside time to update our budget to match our life and then track our spending against it. 
  • I want to go through our home to remove, recycle, and donate anything that we don't really need. It's so easy for stuff to accumulate that we don't really use, especially since the boys grow so quickly. (Living room, kitchen, boys' bathroom, boy's room, boys' closet, hallway, office closet, rest of office, master closet, master bedroom, master bathroom, outdoor closet, backyard). It feels like I need to carve out 13 different chunks of time to knock these off the list. 
  • Make our holiday card.
  • Make personalized gifts.
  • Finish our back deck. We are installing a shade sail and trying to create the feel of a little room on our deck. The project has been going on for way too long. I would love to get it finished! 
For updates in between blog posts, find me on Instagram

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Family Meeting Idea

I started reading The Secrets of Happy Families. So far I'm enjoying it! 

One of the first ideas is about a weekly family meeting. The idea is really simple and common (it also comes up in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families). The family gets together and discusses a set of things, such as: 

  1. What things went welling our family this week?
  2. What things could we improve in our family?
  3. What things will you commit to working on this week? 
I don't think we are quite ready for this weekly ritual yet, although I love the idea of it. Tate is only four right now. I think these kinds of reflective and self-aware exercises work better as children turn from five to six. 

I think it would be fun to pair it with another ritual like pancakes for dinner or a pizza night.

For updates in between blog posts, find me on Instagram

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Monday, October 2, 2017

Ideas for Holiday Gifts: 4 and 6 Year-Old Children

The holidays feel like they are upon us (despite the fact that we are still swimming all the time)! 

For Christmas and birthdays, our families typically like to have a list of things that the boys might be interested in. I thought I would share our list in case anyone else is looking for ideas for their own children! 

6 year-old

4 year-old

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