Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Benefits of Therapy

I've been working with an incredible leadership coach for about a year and a half. She has helped me immensely with how to stop myself from filling up my life with work. Before I started working with her, I was routinely working up until 10pm or 10:30pm at night. I was exhausted and utterly impatient with my husband and children. She helped me learn how to put self-care habits in place but also how to better prioritize what I take on in my work and life, so I have more time and space to focus on those things. 

From my work with her, I knew that I also wanted to start therapy. I had several different fits and starts, including working with an Internal Family Systems therapist, which was such an interesting concept and did help me in a profound way. 

It wasn't clear to me, however, exactly what I was trying to do in therapy. A friend of mine recommended that I try Therapeutic Assessment. Therapeutic Assessment is a time-bound type of therapy where you go in with a set of questions you are seeking to get answers to. The therapist then selects a battery of tests that align with the questions you are asking. The hope is that going over the results of the assessment together helps you deepen your understanding of yourself and the questions you seek to answer. 

Through my Therapeutic Assessment process, I learned that my experiences as a child were truly traumatic, and that I developed a couple of defense mechanisms to help me cope with the trauma. However, my defense mechanisms can serve to re-traumatize me, which has been happening for the past five years during the crazy start-up phase of both my family and my non-profit organization. 

The ultimate recommendation is that I need about a year of therapy to fully process my childhood trauma and the trauma from the past five years. 

I get the irony of going to therapy to hear that you need therapy, but it was actually a really eye-opening and clarifying process. I see how the coping mechanisms I developed as a child bring both negative and positive things into my life. I see how going deep and fully processing the trauma will help those coping mechanisms function more positively than negatively. I'm excited for the year ahead! 

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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Most Destructive Pattern of Behavior of Our Time

This quote/concept by Dhakshy Sooriyakumaran hits right in the gut and is such a powerful lens through which I need to analyze my actions and choices. 

I strive to learn as much as I can about race, gender, class, and oppression, and yet it's much, much harder to then translate those ideas into giving up space, power, platform, reputation, or position. 

We are urgently working to bring more diverse voices around the table within our organization, which I think is at least a step in the right direction toward addressing this pattern. 

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Our Children Are Watching

"Our kids are going to ask us, ‘When you had the chance to do something in 2018 when they were talking about walls and Muslim bans and the press is the enemy of the people, what did you guys do?’ And we’re going to tell them that we and the 28 million of Texas helped this country get back on track and in the right direction." -Beto O'Rourke
It feels so, so good to have concrete actions within my control to help undo the madness Trump has caused to descend upon our country. The Beto campaign makes it really easy to volunteer. This past Friday we hosted a debate watch party at our house. It was invigorating to open our home to [mostly] strangers so that we could gather and cheer on Beto together. (In the photo above, the boys were taping invitations to the doors of neighbors who had Beto signs in their yards).

I made this Mexican beans and rice recipe in the Instant Pot and paired it with queso and tortillas from a local restaurant. I then added additional optional sides like chopped tomatoes, cilantro, limes, shredded cheese, sour cream and guacamole. It was easy and relatively inexpensive for a big group!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Beto O'Rourke Quotes

My excitement for Beto O'Rourke continues. And he can actually win! I'm going to volunteer as much as I can in the final 50 days before November 6 to help mobilize voters to get to the polls. 

I signed up to manage a "Pop Up Office," where volunteers will gather to go block walking and phone banking. I also volunteered our house to be used as a Pop Up Office every day from 8am-3pm. 

When I went to the training, the facilitator suggested that we put a motivational quote on the walls. I decide to find some Beto quotes to post. However, my search didn't yield much, which is crazy because he's such an articulate public speaker! 

So here's my contribution to the inter webs: Beto Quotes

“We can get into name-calling and talk about why the other person is such an awful guy, or we can focus on the big things we want to do for the future of our country, for the generations that will succeed us...We can focus on the small, mean, petty stuff, or we can be big, bold, courageous, and confident.”—Beto O’Rourke on CNN

“Texas is one of the most gerrymandered states in the Union. It is also a non-voting state, and those two things are connected...There are some people who are not supposed to vote. There are some people’s voices that are not supposed to be heard. It’s on us to run a campaign that brings in everyone from every community—every community within every community—into this campaign to make sure that they are actually heard.”—Beto O’Rourke on Real Time with Bill Maher

“Everything that they care about—everything that they’ve told their kids about—is on the line...Our kids are going to ask us, ‘When you had the chance to do something in 2018 when they were talking about walls and Muslin bans and the press is the enemy of the people, what did you guys do?’ And we’re going to tell them that we and the 28 million of Texas helped this country get back on track and in the right direction.”—Beto O’Rourke on Real Time with Bill Maher

“Folks will never have to wonder who it is I represent or who I’m voting for; it’s going to be the people of Texas every single time.”—Beto O’Rourke on Real Time with Bill Maher

“I hope, if nothing else, we’re able to give the people of Texas our honesty and have the courage of our convictions on the issues that matter most.”—Beto O’Rourke on Ellen

This moment will define us—I feel—forever. That’s what’s so thrilling about this moment. We will decide the future right now.”—Beto O’Rourke on Ellen

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Things I Need to Work on as a Parent

This transcript of a Janet Lansbury podcast resonated deeply with me about the importance of not disciplining with shame. 

It's been a hard five years for my parenting. Trying to launch a non-profit organization with a newborn and a two year-old stretched me in ways that made me unrecognizable to myself at times. There were so many compounding factors: Henry's struggle with self-regulation due to an MTHFR genetic mutation, unfathomable levels of work stress, my own sense of struggle and failure in my work. 

I've been too quick to get frustrated with my children's behavior. Here are the lines that resonated with me the most:
He’s in a defensive mode. He feels attacked. He feels judged. He feels misunderstood. And he probably has some shame inside, because that’s the result of feeling blamed and not understood.
Do this with confident momentum. Do this with acceptance of him, being on his side and being protective, caring about him, not angry with him.
This also comes from understanding that children don’t want to be doing this. They don’t want to be the bad kid doing bad things. We need to help save him from himself and not let him go there. And shaming him out of it will not work. It just creates more discomfort and, therefore, more uncomfortable behavior.
And then from his mom, she says she admits she loses her cool and she doesn’t respond with love and empathy. So those are the messages he’s gotten, You’re bad. There’s something wrong with you. I don’t like the way you’re behaving, slam the door.
We foster empathy by modeling and having empathy. That’s the simple answer to all of this, not necessarily a lot of empathy in those moments but having an overall view guided by empathy, by wanting to understand, wanting to relate to, be close to, open up to. 
This article gives me a clear sense of the kind of parent I want to be. I want to have high expectations and boundaries, but I really do want it to feel like it comes from being on their side. And I want mistakes to be expected and normal and to feel like genuine learning opportunities, not moments of shame.

Toward that end, I have to give myself grace for the five years. I did the best that I was capable of, and now I can do better. That's all we can ask of ourselves.

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Easy DIY Baby Quilt

I love when I have the opportunity to make gifts. It hasn't happened enough in the past seven years (since my first son's birth, to be exact). 

This incredibly simple baby quilt is one of my go-tos. I made one of these for Henry and loved it. This time, I used a super thick and soft fabric for the back, since the baby will be born at the start of winter. Also, the thickness will make this blanket useful as a cushion for putting the baby on the floor in various rooms of the house. 

Here's some specific directions about how to do it (and a picture of a quilt with more strips, which I'm realizing--in retrospect--looks better! Oh, well. It's the thought that counts!)

The trick for fitting this into my already full life was to start working on it far in advance! One day I went to the fabric store. Another day I washed the fabrics. Another day I ironed the fabric. Then I cut the strips. And finally I put everything together. 

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Recommended Articles

Here's what I've been reading this week as I continue to seek to deepen my understanding of inequity and racism:

  • This article about how white parents can help advocate for racial equity in our schools. 
  • This article about how income inequality is getting worse and yet fewer and fewer people are aware of it. 
  • This article about how well-intentioned white families can perpetuate racism. 

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Coming out of Hibernation: Beto for Senate

I think I've talked a little about what a pivotal summer this was for me in terms of feeling like I'm moving out of start-up phase with Montessori For All. For the past five years, it's been such a struggle to just keep my head above water as a CEO, mother, wife, and daughter (in addition to trying to be my own self who relaxes, reflects, reads, exercises, and pursues my creative interests). The Myth of CEO Work-Life Balance talks about the struggle well. 

I feel so fortunate that my career is aligned with working toward more equitable outcomes for all because there has been so little time outside of my job for activism. 

But, finally, I feel the clouds separating and I see a little space! This weekend I got inspired to figure out how to more actively support the Beto campaign for Senate. I went to a training about how to be a Pop Up Office manager and signed up our house to serve as a Pop Up Office in the final weeks of the campaign. I'm excited! We need politicians who can represent the interests of all people. 

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Monday, September 10, 2018

Family Goals

We are more than halfway through the year!

We are doing well on our Family Goals for the year. We have already met our volunteering goals (but we will continue to volunteer throughout the rest of the year) and our goal for playing tennis. We are on track for our family vacations.

We haven't been going on day trips, so I advocated hard for one on Labor Day. We headed to San Antonio for a snack picnic at the free Japanese Tea Garden and soccer at Confluence Park. A good time was had by all--even the people who were more reluctant to go!

I'm really bad at the goal to see two performances per year. I'm not someone who gravitates toward performances for fun, but I do enjoy them when we go. I'm debating whether we should blow our entertainment budget for the month on this performance or take a trip to Wimberley for this performance, which is half the price. I'm leaning toward the latter as we tighten up our budget belt (and we could also cross off another day trip goal!).

I still need to get another camping trip scheduled.

Even though this sounds like a lot, our life actually doesn't feel too busy or over-scheduled. I'm paying close attention, since the Fall season starts to get crazy!

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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Foot Massages for Kids

Henry and I have started a little foot massage ritual with each other. Usually I give him foot massages before bed (it's the one time he truly relaxes!), but he has also started offering foot massages as a bet. For example, he bet me a foot massage that he could jump onto the raft without falling into the pool. He lost. I got a foot massage! 

I wanted to share the cream we use. I've used it for more than 15 years, ever since I took a massage class while I was living in rural Louisiana and they recommended it. Here's the magic cream! It glides really nicely and easily. 

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Serious Discount from Shutterfly

Okay, you all already know I'm a major nerd who starts Christmas shopping in August. 

Well, I just had to share that Shutterfly has a 50% off deal right now. It seems to be for nearly everything they sell. Seriously. 

I don't want to spoil the surprise in case my gift recipient is reading this post, but I will say that I was able to order exactly what I wanted for half off! The code is SAVE50. It's a Labor Day sale. 

Also, it seems like you might be able to get a free 8x8 photo book if you click on this link? They gave it to me after I placed my order. 

I've included photos of other stuff I like (if my friends/family are peeking, I did not get you any of these things!). 

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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Fun Things to Do at Work

We started a fun little tradition at work: a monthly event where the whole team gathers for 30 minutes to do something fun together. 

We've only done two so far. The first one was a popsicle party to celebrate the end of summer. We ate popsicles while we played a get-to-know-you game. We each wrote secret, random personal questions on slips of blank paper. We put them into a cup. Next, the first player rolled the dice and passed a stuffed animal around the circle that number of times. Whoever ended up with the animal would have to select a question and answer it. If anyone rolled a 6, the whole group answered the question. 

For this month's get together, we ate fondue together: chocolate with pound cake, strawberries, and bananas. So fun! 

Do you have any fun traditions at your workplace? 

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Monday, August 27, 2018

Budget Lockdown

I've lost count of how many times I have written this same post. In short, the story goes: Matt and I used to be the kind of people who paid our credit card bill in full every month. Then we had a rough year where several expenses piled up (voluntary and involuntary). Now we have a sizable chunk of credit card debt that we still haven't paid off, despite the fact that we have a budget plan that enables us to pay it off. We simply don't stick to our budget each month, mainly because we love eating out and buying things from Amazon and Target. 

This past week, I had another wave of motivation wash over me. We absolutely need to get out of debt. Sure we could transfer the balance to a 0% credit card for the first 20 months. Or we could do a home equity loan for a lower interest rate. But really we just need to tighten our belts and get the heck out of debt. 

I tried to get Matt to come up with a game plan with me about how to stick to our budget. He wasn't in the mood and wanted to postpone the conversation. It caused a bit of a kerfuffle because I felt so urgent about making a plan. He stormed off and I sat down to make the plan myself. 

Basically, it comes down to a couple areas: we need to absolutely stick to our individual allowances ($115/month). Matt spends his on junk food from the gas station. He then goes over by eating lunch out. We also hemorrhage money by eating out as a family. We budget to eat out on Friday and Saturday night (Matt and I both really hate cooking). However, we've been adding things to our meals (like drinks, appetizers, ice-cream after dinner) that have been causing us to go over our budget. 

Finally, we need to stop buying things just because we want it (like this book I recently ordered off of Amazon). 

When Matt finally cooled off, we decided that we would give him $115 in cash at the start of the month to help him stick to his budget. We also committed to talking to each other before we buy anything. Finally, I looked through our credit card bill to analyze which restaurants help us eat within budget. We also got the boys involved; they know that we have a certain budget for each meal out. If we come in under the amount, then the "extra" goes into a little fund that we can use for extra treats, like trips to the ice-cream store. 

I'm crossing my fingers that it works this time! 

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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Montessori Blueberry Muffin Recipe for Young Children

I finally got around to making a pictorial blueberry recipe for my boys (age 7 and age 5) to make independently. Independent baking from a young age is an integral part of Montessori because it builds so many crucial skills: self-confidence, the ability to follow multi-step directions, problem-solving, and focus and concentration. It also prepares them for independence in college and life!

I made sure everything they needed was within reach without help. I store the following things on their shelf: mixing bowl, muffin mix, whisk, bowl for cracking eggs, canola oil, muffin pan, the recipe, and measuring cups. Everything else is stored in our kitchen in a place that they can easily reach: eggs, milk, blueberries, compost bin, oven mitts, and dish towels. 

I gave them a "lesson" before they started. I explained that it requires a lot of maturity to be able to make blueberry muffins on your own. They would need to work together, not fight, and handle their freedom with responsibility. They would need to get everything out before they started and then put things away as they finished using them. Finally, they would need to wash the dishes and clean the counters. I explained that if they weren't able to do all of those things, they would lose their freedom to make muffins. We would put everything away and they would have a chance to try again when they were a little older. 

The process could not have gone more smoothly (which is rare around these parts!). They took the task very seriously. I overhead things like, "Tate, be sure to carry the bowl with two hands." 

We set boundaries around the muffins as well: one muffin per day, only after they are totally dressed (with shoes on). I have never seen my children dress so quickly! 

If you have younger children, you could do something simpler with this mix. The recipe I created uses this delicious mix

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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Books for Children with Tourette's Syndrome

At our school we have an anti-bias and anti-racist library where guides (teachers) can check out read aloud books that help promote understanding of and appreciation for differences.

We just added these two books, and they are great! 

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Monday, August 20, 2018

Parenting in the Middle: Not Too Strict, Not Too Lenient

Our society has a tendency to function like a pendulum that swings from one far end to the other. We've seen this happen in schools (we've swing from phonics all the way to whole-reading or we swing from progressive, open-classrooms to "drill and kill."). My work at Montessori For All is about  trying to stop the pendulum in the middle. There are things we need from both sides. 

I've been thinking a lot lately about how the pendulum concept applies to parenting. Past historical periods have seen harsher forms of parenting (like the idea of children being seen but not heard), while now it feels like we are on the way other side of becoming too permissive with our children. 

The framework that has been really helpful to me in thinking about this is Diane Baumrind's theory of the three types of parenting (excerpted below from Wikipedia):
Baumrind believed that parents should be neither punitive nor aloof. Rather, they should develop rules for their children and be affectionate with them, as an authoritative parent. 
Authoritative Parenting 
The parent is demanding and responsive. Authoritative parenting is characterized by a child-centered approach that holds high expectations of maturity. Authoritative parents can understand how their children are feeling and teach them how to regulate their feelings. Even with high expectations of maturity, authoritative parents are usually forgiving of any possible shortcomings. They often help their children to find appropriate outlets to solve problems. Authoritative parents encourage children to be independent but still place limits on their actions. Extensive verbal give-and-take is not refused, and parents try to be warm and nurturing toward the child. Authoritative parents are not usually as controlling as authoritarian parents, allowing the child to explore more freely, thus having them make their own decisions based upon their own reasoning. Often, authoritative parents produce children who are more independent and self-reliant. An authoritative parenting style mainly results when there is high parental responsiveness and high parental demands. 
Authoritative parents will set clear standards for their children, monitor the limits that they set, and also allow children to develop autonomy. They also expect mature, independent, and age-appropriate behavior of children. Punishments for misbehavior are measured and consistent, not arbitrary or violent. Often behaviors are not punished but the natural consequences of the child's actions are explored and discussed--allowing the child to see that the behavior is inappropriate and not to be repeated, rather than not repeated to merely avoid adverse consequences. Authoritative parents set limits and demand maturity. When punishing a child, the parent will explain his or her motive for their punishment. Children are more likely to respond to authoritative parenting punishment because it is reasonable and fair. A child knows why they are being punished because an authoritative parent makes the reasons known. As a result, children of authoritative parents are more likely to be successful, well liked by those around them, generous and capable of self-determination.
Authoritarian Parenting 
The parent is demanding but not responsive.
Authoritarian parenting is a restrictive, punishment-heavy parenting style in which parents make their children follow their directions with little to no explanation or feedback and focus on the child's and family's perception and status. Corporal punishment, such as spanking, and shouting are forms of discipline frequently preferred by authoritarian parents. The goal of this style, at least when well-intentioned, is to teach the child to behave, survive, and thrive as an adult in a harsh and unforgiving society by preparing the child for negative responses such as anger and aggression that the child will face if his/her behavior is inappropriate. In addition, advocates of this style often believe that the shock of aggression from someone from the outside world will be less for a child accustomed to enduring both acute and chronic stress imposed by parents.
Authoritarian parenting has distinctive effects on children: 
  • Children raised using this type of parenting may have less social competence because the parent generally tells the child what to do instead of allowing the child to choose by him or herself, making the child appear to excel in the short term but limiting development in ways that are increasingly revealed as supervision and opportunities for direct parental control decline. 
  • Children raised by authoritarian parents tend to be conformist, highly obedient, quiet, and not very happy.[33] These children often suffer from depression and self-blame.[33]
Permissive Parenting 
The parent is responsive but not demanding.
Indulgent parenting, also called permissivenon-directivelenient or libertarian, is characterized as having few behavioral expectations for the child. "Indulgent parenting is a style of parenting in which parents are very involved with their children but place few demands or controls on them". Parents are nurturing and accepting, and are responsive to the child's needs and wishes. Indulgent parents do not require children to regulate themselves or behave appropriately. As adults, children of indulgent parents will pay less attention to avoiding behaviors which cause aggression in others. 
Permissive parents try to be "friends" with their child, and do not play a parental role. The expectations of the child are very low, and there is little discipline. Permissive parents also allow children to make their own decisions, giving them advice as a friend would. This type of parenting is very lax, with few punishments or rules. Permissive parents also tend to give their children whatever they want and hope that they are appreciated for their accommodating style. Other permissive parents compensate for what they missed as children, and as a result give their children both the freedom and materials that they lacked in their childhood. Baumrind's research on pre-school children with permissive parents found that the children were immature, lacked impulsive control and were irresponsible.
Children of permissive parents may tend to be more impulsive and as adolescents may engage more in misconduct such as drug use. Children never learn to control their own behavior and always expect to get their way. But in the better cases they are emotionally secure, independent and are willing to learn and accept defeat. They mature quickly and are able to live life without the help of someone else.
I've been seeking concrete resources on Authoritative Parenting, and I finally found these books:
I'm eager to read more about it! 

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Read This Article: An Open Letter to Black Parents Whose Suns Have Been Pushed Out of Preschool

This article is such an important read for those of us working in schools. (Thank you to Roberto for sharing it!)
Looking back, you will mark this moment: when you wanted so much for him to be in that school, affiliated with Boston College and its reputation, that you took their side, and your child was wrong. Because you get star struck, a bit, thinking that these Ph.Ds in early childhood education who are supervising the teachers in its lab school will, surely, know what it means to “teach for social justice,” to have teachers who are “culturally competent.” Until, that is, you realize that they don’t.
If the school was a partner, there would be more children, faculty and staff that reflected the backgrounds of the children in the school, especially more children of African descent.

I work in a progressive school that strives to "teach for social justice" and hire teachers who are "culturally competent." And yet it can be so easy to continue to "do school" in a way that doesn't serve all children.
...who assured you that the tide was going to turn.
And it did, arriving in the form of a Black teacher, who, after spending one day with your sun summarized that “no one had taken the time to actually teach him what was expected,” and that she would.
I find that progressive schools can err too much on the side of "permissive" classroom management that doesn't set up all children to be successful. Reading this article has inspired me to read more about authoritative (versus permissive or authoritarian) parenting. And Parent-Child Interaction Therapy sounds amazing!

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

It's August: Time to Shop for Christmas!

I'm someone who really likes to get creative at Halloween and buy or make thoughtful Christmas gifts and yet I don't want those things to feel stressful. My solution is to start thinking about these things in August! 

I keep a running list all year long (inside my to-do list, which is kept in One Note) of gift ideas I have for people. That practice helps me have a head start. If I see something out in the world during the year, I go ahead and buy it. I have a tupperware container in my closet where I keep gifts that I buy early. 

Starting in August, I give myself time and space (instead of going on Facebook) to think through each person and think about what they might like. I draw webs in my notebook with different ideas (like Matt in the center with his interests around it: running, photography, doing puzzles, etc.). I can usually think of something good (or at least good enough!) if I make myself spend time thinking about it. 

So I've already got ideas for Matt's Christmas and birthday presents (they come so close together!), as well as my aunt and my step-father. It's a start! 

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Monday, August 13, 2018

My Job Nearly Crushed My Spirit

I wrote and deleted many different titles for this post. I landed on this one because it feels the least hyperbolic. 

When I finally had time to go to therapy this summer, my therapist literally said, "I hope the past five years have not crushed your spirit or your sense of self." 

Now that I'm through it, I can see what he's talking about. If someone said to me: "I have two children who are two years apart," I would say, "That's hard." If that same person added, "And I'm a full-time working mother," I might say, "Wow, that's really hard!" And if she then went on to say, "And I was the founder and CEO of a start-up during the first 5-7 years of my children's lives," I might respond with, "What?!?"

But that's exactly what I did. 

I underestimated how hard it was going to be, and I committed to doing too much, too fast, with too few staff members. 

Luckily, I'm still standing, with my spirit and my sense of self still in tact. Phew! And the school we have built is incredible. There is so much love, care, inclusiveness, passion, and commitment to children.

I have done regular work with a leadership coach for the past two years to understand how to better prioritize and streamline what I take on and when. I have also worked with her to develop routines and habits that help keep my bucket full so that I can show up better to do the hard work. 

I'm now making time and space for regular therapy so that I can process what the therapist calls the "trauma" of the past five years, as well as the trauma of my childhood. I put trauma in quotes because I see others going through much more significant trauma (that isn't self-inflicted) on a daily basis. I don't take the word lightly. But, at the same time, understanding my own experiences as trauma is part of what will help me heal from it. 

I'm so grateful for the journey I am on and am so happy to be back in this space with time to write about it! Connecting with each of you is such a gift. 

I hope you are doing well! 

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Monday, April 9, 2018

White Privilege

This piece (written by Tenaja Jordan and shared by my colleague Britt Hawthorne) is lingering in my mind. 
But all of you, truly all of you, are ignorant when it comes to understanding the depth and multifaceted nature of our pain as black people. We are not African, having been removed from the continent for generations. Our status as Americans was never truly conferred. And so the middle place, the chasm between African and American, is where blackness exists. I can’t be your friend right now because I’m fresh out of the magnanimity that such a friendship requires. I really don’t want to know how difficult it is for you to talk to racist family members while people like me are systematically being killed or otherwise erased. I don’t want to help you brainstorm ways to “use your privilege for good.” I’m not here to “wokify” you.
Every weekend I come to this blog and spend a little bit of time escaping from the atrocities of our world and country. On a daily basis I am thinking about inequity, disparities, systemic racism, oppression, domination, hatred, white supremacy, bias, and privilege and actively trying to do something to make the world better for all people through my work.

When I come here, I want to take a break by talking about frivolous things like meals I'm making, crafts I'm doing, and changes we are making to our house. 

I am constantly aware of how this space embodies my privilege. I have immense privilege to "take a break" from thinking about all the atrocities because I am white, live in economic comfort, am cis-gender and heterosexual, am able-bodied, live in a conventional marriage, etc. I am not in imminent danger like so many others are. And it feels icky. It feels icky to "take a break" here. And yet we all do need to take a break to restore our energy and ourselves so that we can go back out there.

I'm sitting with it. 

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

This Week's Healthy Lunch

My plan is to make a list of healthy meals that I can just rotate through so I can be on auto-pilot. It's the only way I'm able to fit in all the things I want in my life: time for exercise, time with family, healthy eating, downtime, adequate sleep, meaningful week, parenting, conversations with friends and family, time with Matt--the list seems endless! 

This week's lunch:

  • Bean dip (0 points)
  • 16 crackers (3 points)
  • 3 pieces of mozzarella cheese (3 points)
  • Baby carrots (0 points)
  • Bell pepper
  • Cucumbers
  • Snap peas
I'm really excited! I'll make five of these meals on Sunday and then eat them the whole week. Then the next week I will rotate through something else. Healthy variety without much thought! Sounds great! 

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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Weight Watchers: Week One Update

Week one is done! I lost two pounds and already feel a difference in my body. My clothes fit a tiny bit better, and running is easier because I'm not jiggling as much (sorry for the mental movie). 

Let's first rewind and talk about why the heck I'm even doing Weight Watchers. While listening to the Friendlier podcast this weekend, I heard Abby talking about how she wants to have a very body-positive approach to life and doesn't want to kowtow (okay, she did not use that word, but it seems to capture her sentiment) to warped societal pressures about what bodies are supposed to look like. 

For me, joining Weight Watchers isn't about a negative body image or conforming to societal expectations. It's literally just about my self and what feels good to me. I don't feel good when I'm carrying around an extra ten pounds. It makes it harder for me to exercise, and if exercise is harder, then I'm less likely to do it. And when I do it less, I'm not able to adequately release all my stress and foster all the good kinds of chemicals I want flowing through my body. I'm not self-critical when I gain extra weight. Instead, it's more of the Proactive Problem Solver who comes out. She asks kindly, "So what do you want to do about it?"

My general approach to maintaining my weight has been:

  • Always eat a healthy breakfast
  • Eat healthy lunches Monday-Friday
  • Eat healthy dinners Sunday-Thursday
  • Splurge at dinner on Friday and Saturday
  • Eat a moderately healthy lunch on Saturday and Sunday
  • Eat one treat during the week
  • Run two times a week for ~40 minutes around the lake
This worked for me for a long time. And then it wasn't working. Doing Weight Watchers this week has helped me understand why: I've recently started eating too much for lunch and dinner during my "healthy" meals. 

I've been eating frozen cheese enchiladas from Whole Foods (they are cheap and tasty!). But they are 10 out of my 23 daily points. For dinner I've been eating a very tiny Udi's gluten-free pizza (with thin crust!) once a week. Guess how many points that was? 22. For one meal! 

So following the Weight Watchers guidelines for a week has helped me understand what I need to do to lose my extra weight and then maintain my ideal weight. I need to identify lunches that are in the 6-point range, and I need to build a cadre of more healthy dinners. For example, I can still eat my super-easy Modern Meal pasta, but I can only eat a cup of it and I need to fill myself up by adding a ton of steamed broccoli to it. When I get home from work and am starving, I need to snack on bell peppers, strawberries, hard-boiled eggs, etc. (all of which are 0 points!). And I need to hold myself to my "one treat during the week rule." If I'm going to want to eat the dips, cupcakes, bundt cakes, and donuts that show up at school nearly every day, I'm going to have to pick only one or I'm going to have to limit myself to a bite of each. 

If it's going to be a crazy week (family in town, night-time meetings at restaurants, etc.), then I'll need to think about fitting in more exercise. 

All of that feels really doable! 

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Monday, April 2, 2018

Reflection & Rejuvenation: April

I knew March was going to be crazy, and it was! But it was also a lot of fun. 

I found myself getting into a depressed place by the end of it, and it was helpful to step back and realize the sadness was simply coming from the fact that I way over-extended myself during the month and didn't have anything to do with my actual life. So helpful! 

So, April, here we come! How is it that a fourth of the year is already gone? I'm grateful for this monthly practice of spending some quiet time by myself checking in and making sure I'm living the kind of life I want to live. 

My Monthly Summit idea has not been working. This month it fell on the same night as a date night. I decided to change it to recur on the 28th of every month, which means I'll have some leeway to move it by a couple days, if needed. 

So what is in store for this month? 

  • I just sent out the invite for our recurring Saturday Supper. I created a sub-group within our larger neighborhood Nextdoor group for families with children born between 2009-2015 (that's two years older and two years younger than my children). So I was able to invite those folks as well. It's really cute that Henry has been begging us to have a Saturday Supper. He loves having people over! I switched the format to potluck so I don't have to stress about how many people are coming and getting the food right. If more people come, then more food shows up! 
  • I scheduled my monthly self-care rituals: pedicure and cheap massage at the massage school. 
  • I am working on scheduling a tennis date with a friend from work. That will mean that I have one evening self-care thing a week, which sounds just right. 
  • The big thing that is happening this month is my 40th birthday Fantastic Family Fun Fest! We are going camping in Houston with friends. Can't wait! 
I don't want to forget about our Family Goals for the year:

    • Go on 4 day trips
    • Eliminate credit card debt and save up for a hot tub!
    • Go camping at least two times
    • Go to at least two performances
    • Play tennis at least six times
    • Host at least 10 gatherings
    • Plant at least 100 trees
    • Go on 3 awesome trips
    • Volunteer as a family at least three times

I don't want to have to cram them in at the end of the year like I did last year. We'll be going camping this month, having another gathering, and we volunteered and planted trees in March. Seems like we are doing okay! 

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

March Madness

What a whirlwind! There is such a pattern in my life: Whenever I get myself too busy, I end up feeling unhappy and less resilient. 

I knew March was going to be rough! 

But that’s okay. I want to look forward, not backward. And I want to celebrate the positive! Our Spring Break was truly packed with some awesome quality time together and some incredible memories. Here’s a video that highlights only the positive (just know there are always lots of negatives when it comes to parenting two young children!):

I’m eager to get back into our daily routines. And I want to take care of my core, so that I can take care of everything in the periphery. On a recent airplane ride (I literally had to fly to and from a city in one day for a recent work trip), I sketched out concentric circles. The inner circle (#1) is my self. The circles radiate out from the center, as follows:

2) Mother and wife
3) Daughter, family member, friend
4) Colleague and leader
5) National collaborator

I spent a little time brainstorming how I want to continue to take care of my core, so that I have more energy and capacity to do #2 and then #3 and then #4 and then #5. 

I’m being cautious not to add new things because there are already so many things I want to maintain. I want to continue to try to stop working by 8pm every night, eat healthy food, run at least twice a week, and get enough sleep. 

The main new thing I want to do in this area is start Weight Watchers. I’m carrying around an extra ten pounds that makes my clothes not fit and makes running more difficult/uncomfortable. I think it's time to increase the level of accountability and awareness by starting an external program. I did Weight Watchers once more than a decade ago, and I appreciated how it approaches food holistically (versus just counting calories) and helps re-calibrate your mind about how much food one should intake on a daily basis. I'll let you know how it goes! 

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Monday, March 26, 2018

A Montessori Home (Ages 7 and Almost 5)

During my Spring Break I spent some time reorganizing our house as part of Simone's online course about preparing a Montessori home. It's crazy how much new stuff sneaks in all.the.time.

Update 1: Boys’ Room

I find that it takes constant vigilance to keep up with growing and changing boys. Tate and Henry still share a room. I spent some time donating toys that they have grown out of, and making sure each thing in their room has a spot. They are constantly bringing new things into the house (mainly things they get from other people, such as goodies from birthday parties), and it’s a constant struggle to keep stuff organized. I want each thing to have a spot, so that they boys can take responsibility for restoring the environment each night. 

Update 2: Art Shelf

I put this shelf together a while ago, but I refreshed it and updated it over the break. Honestly, the boys barely use this area, but I’m still inclined to have these kinds of things available to them. Tate is definitely increasing his interest in art (Henry has never really been interested in it). 

Update 3: Living Room

I moved all of Tate’s costumes into our ottoman, which opened up an entire shelf. I moved the boys’ board games out of a high shelf in the bathroom onto the low shelf in the living room. We’ll see if this arrangement works out! 

Update 4: Adventure Playground

We already have an area of our yard dedicated to free play with bricks, pavers, planks of wood, metal buckets, etc. I added an outdoor storage unit from IKEA (we pulled off the bottom of the legs to lower it more to child-height) that includes nails and tools. 

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Have a Great Spring Break!

For the past couple months, I've been dreading Spring Break. Normally, we go on vacation together as a family, which I love. This year, however, Matt got offered a position as a photographer for SXSW. Of course I had to say yes to my taking on more child care, so that he could pursue his passion. He has done so much for my career these past seven years. Of course I can do whatever he needs me to do. I owe him a ton! 

But I was bummed about it. Not only were we losing our family vacation, I was going to be saddled with lots and lots of solo parenting. 

I am not a big fan of solo parenting. I love, love, love my children, but I am happiest when we are all together as a family. Small doses of alone time with them are fun and cozy; but large and repeated chunks of time? Not so much. 

I finally stopped feeling sorry for myself and decided to see what I could do to set myself up to enjoy that time. I thought about just jumping in the car and taking the boys on a road trip adventure to see friends in Colorado or family in Florida. I thought about taking them camping. 

When I really dug into it, I realized that with a little rearranging, it could actually turn into a pretty fun Spring Break. The trick was giving myself full permission to take my alone time whenever Matt was able to be with the boys. The other trick was to fill up my days with activities that I could look forward to. I found a cool, free SXSW event for families. I also sent out a Doodle poll to some of our friends to see who wanted to get together for play dates, so we now have something different scheduled for every day. Other friends are heading to Wimberly for a couple days, so the boys and I will join them for that (Matt will commute back and forth). 

I also realized that Matt was planning to take a couple days off of work to give me entire days of free time. Instead, I had him move those days to a different week so we could have a consolidated chunk of time together to actually take a quick trip to the Texas Coast. 

So now I'm excited about Spring Break! 

See you on the flip side....

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