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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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Inner Child Therapy

Did I already talk about my conversation with an inner child therapist? I don't think I did, but I apologize if this is redundant! 

The basic idea is that we all have these hurt inner children in us, and an important part of healing and growing is to acknowledge the hurt children, to try and understand the hurt, and to soothe it. 

My childhood could have been way worse, but there were things that caused me hurt: I never met my father; he didn't want anything to do with me after my mother got pregnant. We moved from city to city and I never got to spend very much time at the same school. There's a lot of judgment in my family--the feeling that you can't do anything right. 

The conversation with the therapist was really helpful. It illuminated how important it is to explicitly
connect with our inner children. I find it very calming and productive. 

The therapist also recommended that I read this book. My aunt and I decided to do a book club together. We are keeping it as low-stress as possible (see yesterday's post!) by only reading one short chapter a week. 

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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Back on Track: The Art of Tuning in and Not Doing Too Much


As I write this, it's a Saturday morning (I typically write my posts during the weekend and schedule them to run during the week). I just got back from my first run in a long time. I drank a smoothie. I listened to a Podcast while I showered (Friendlier), and all of my boys are out of the house together while I have a couple hours of free time. I'm sitting on our outdoor couch. It feels like Spring, and I can even hear the creek rambling. 

[insert contented sigh]

I've had to work really hard to get to this place. I had to start eating healthier food again. I had to start exercising again. Both of those things impact how I feel emotionally and mentally. I had to tell my leadership coach that I needed to slow down what we were working on. We were forging ahead on new goals, and I realized that I was losing my grip on the goal I had worked on and "accomplished" the previous year: living my life in a way that enabled me to sustain the energy I need to be a better leader, colleague, mother, friend. I put quotes around accomplished because I can be such a box-checker. And the most important goals aren't those that can just be checked off and left behind. They require consistent maintenance. I like the analogy of stretching every day to become a flexible person. Once you achieve the pinnacle of flexibility, you can't just stop stretching. 

I have a limited pipeline and only so much can fit in. I have to be incredibly intentional about what I let in (and be intentional about leaving space so that when something unexpected pops up, there's room to fit that in, too). 

So my leadership coach and I paused the other goals we were working on and starting focusing back on last year's goal. I really worked on stopping work by 8pm so I could relax for two hours before bed (I sound like a scratched CD talking about my 8pm goal, but it takes constant focus!). 

And so here I am feeling so much better. Phew! It's crazy how much I do need exercise and healthy food in my life to feel good. Well, it actually makes perfect sense. I guess the crazy part is how hard it is to try and fit in those things! 

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Monday, March 5, 2018

Reflection & Rejuvenation: March

I'm not sure where February went! Poof! Where did the time go? 

Matt and I had our monthly date night. Then I traveled to Phoenix for a work conference. Then it was Henry's birthday weekend. No wonder the month passed so quickly! 

March is shaping up to be even crazier. We are hosting so many people at our school for SXSWedu. Then it's two weeks of Spring Break, but Matt is working as a photographer for SXSW. Matt's family is also coming for a visit. It's going to be a busy month! 

What are my goals? 

I want to enjoy the month, not just survive it. I need to figure out what that looks like. I might take the boys on some kind of trip while Matt is working SXSW. Or I might plan adventures around town? Nothing is really resonating with me yet. I'm just sad that we aren't going on vacation together as a family like we normally do. But I need to get over it and turn it into something fun! 

I'll have to keep thinking....

In the meantime, my Monthly Summit was less of a thing this time around. I kind of forgot about it and played cards with Matt and then watched some Netflix before finally remembering and then sitting down to write four birthday cards and order one present. 

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Happy Birthday, Henry! (7 years-old)

Our Henry,

You are such a gift to our world! You make our lives better every single day.

This year you graduated from kindergarten and into 1st grade. You love the three older girls in your community: Stella, Frances, and Lila. On Lila’s birthday, you let her wear your airplane wings. You also lost your first tooth! And then three more!

This past year you stopped doing Aikido and started doing swimming at Nitro. You swam until December and then switched to ukulele with Ms. Lesley.

We went to San Diego for Spring Break. You loved learning to surf with our friend Andrew! We went to Stinson Beach for Fall Break and Florida for Thanksgiving Break. You learned to boogie board. You love the beach!

We went camping for the first time as a family. You loved it! You have the strong sense that you belong in nature. You even decided to camp in the backyard by yourself for two nights in a row (before it started to rain). The temperature was in the 30s. You slept with a shovel to protect yourself from wild animals.

You are still full of ideas and love making money. This year you participated in the Magnolia Makers Market. You painted wooden beads and made keychains. You made so much money and decided to donate some of it to the Elephant Sanctuary. You are incredibly generous with your money and frequently buy things for Tate.

For Winter Break, we went to Australia. What a magical experience! You found kale in the garden and made a salad. You found a lemon and made lemonade! You found a large lizard swimming in the pool, and you named it Lizzie.

On Valentine’s Day, you declared that we should start a family tradition. So now we make waffles in the morning, brainstorm a list of how to celebrate “Family Love Day” in the evening, and write love letters to each other (your idea). This year we had a Game Night and played Operation and Hungry, Hungry Hippos.

It was a wonderful year with you in our lives. You bring so much light into our family. We are so lucky to have you in our life!

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Little Cleansing

Oy. I have had the hardest time upholding the health and wellness prong of my life this year. It's such a predictable pattern in my life. Something happens and I stop running (this time it was our trip to Australia and then I threw out my back). When I'm not running, I start eating a lot more unhealthy things. Then I start gaining weight, my clothes don't fit, and I feel more sluggish/fatigued. 

Meanwhile, Tate has a parasite in his gut and an overgrowth of Candida. (We took him to a pediatric functional medicine doctor, and she ordered a stool analysis on him). So he needs to kill the Candida in his gut (which thrives on sugar). It made me realize it's the perfect time to healthify our eating habits a little (especially while he's taking the medicine to eradicate the Candida).

So for the next week or so I'm going to do the Clean program: smoothie for breakfast, veggies and grains for lunch, and soup for dinner. Here's a little more explanation. I roasted two trays of vegetables with chickpeas and made a big pot of quinoa. I'm excited!

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Monday, February 26, 2018

Video Recap: Year in Review

On the cusp of March, I just realized that I forgot to share our Year in Review videos! Matt tries to make one every year. I love them because seeing our children in action as younger versions of themselves helps me remember them better. I find that each successive age replaces my memories of their younger selves. It's hard for me to remember what three year-old Henry was like!

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Rituals to Honor a Loved One

My friend was talking to me about the upcoming anniversary of her mother's death and mentioning that it was always such a hard time of the year for her. She explained that she feels like she might want to enact some kind of ritual but doesn't really have the capacity to think about it. I volunteered to generate a list to share with her, and here's what I came up with. I would love any ideas you have to add!

  • Write a letter to your mom about the past year (alternatively, you could record yourself talking--or just talk to a picture without recording--if it would feel more natural and efficient to talk)
  • Host a call with multiple people who loved your mom; each person could go around and share one memory (alternatively, this could be done over e-mail if it's too painful to talk)
  • Take a relaxing, calm, and quiet bath and light a candle for each of the things you miss about your mom; state each one out loud as you light the candle. Then close your eyes and think about your mother.
  • Have a What Would Mom Do Day. Spend time doing the things your mom liked to do  and try to see them and enjoy them through your mother's eyes
  • Plant something new each year in honor of your mother and watch each plant or tree give life to the world each year on behalf of your mother. This could be an outdoor plant or an indoor one. 
  • Prepare or pick up a special meal or a food item that had special meaning to you and your mom. Prepare it and eat It by yourself, while thinking about your mother.
  • Coordinate an act of service in honor of your mother's gift to the world: prepare sack lunches and deliver them to homeless people, volunteer in a soup kitchen, purchase quality books from second-hand shops and deliver them to a school.
  • Purchase something new for your home that will remind you of your mother all year: a bird feeder, a beautiful frame, a vase, pretty refrigerator magnets, new cloth napkins, coasters, etc. This could be combined with Option 1 or 2 so that you get yourself thinking deeply about your mother and then decide what to add to your home to honor her.  

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Casual Community

I've been much better at writing in my journal this year. For accountability purposes (I do better when I report out what I've been doing!), this is the frequency with which I've been writing in my journal: 

  • 2/15
  • 2/3
  • 1/31
  • 1/26
The other day I was writing about how grateful I am for my family and the life we have in our house (lots of time connected to each other, proximate to trees, space for the children to roam). But I also started thinking about the one dream I left behind: my dream of building a pocket neighborhood and to live more in community. 

Part of me still dreams of building something like that, but it would be so incredibly expensive to recreate everything we have been able to build at our house (which we were able to do relatively inexpensively because of luck), and I don't want to cut into our travel budget, which is a huge way in which we are trying to savor our children's childhoods. 

So then my mind goes to: Well, what exactly am I trying to have that I don't feel like I have right now? 

And I think my answer is: Casual Community. I would love the option to opt into community when we are feeling social (that's the beauty of a pocket neighborhood; everyone has their own personal space, but there are also lots of common spaces). 

I'm wondering how I can create that feeling where I am instead of building something new. 

Right now, we have monthly Saturday Suppers, which I love. I think those are a start. But what else? 
  • I'm wondering if we should try to facilitate monthly potlucks (on a school night, so community doesn't just feel like a weekend thing) with the neighbors on our cul-de-sac. They are such a diverse group. We are very connected to each of them individually, but we never do anything collectively (I think in part because we are all so very different from each other). But I honestly think it could be a lot of fun. 
  • I'm wondering if I should sometimes try to invite friends to our house after school, especially when the weather is nice. I could throw a quick meal in the Instant Pot (this Mexican beans and rice meal comes to mind), have chips and salsa on hand, and they could bring something or not. 
  • What if I built a text list of neighbors with families and sent more casual texts like: "We are jumping into the pool until 6pm. Come through the back gate if you want to join us!" Or "We are heading down to the creek if anyone wants to come play around with us!" 
  • Hmm...I wonder if I should create some kind of online directory of families in my neighborhood whose children are born within a certain range. I wonder what the best way to do that would be? Our neighborhood is already on Nextdoor, and it looks like I could create a private sub-group within my neighborhood. That might be awesome! I could do a range like two years older than Henry to two years younger than Tate? 
This feels like a good starting place! 

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Family Traditions

Oh, my. I am so in love with our new Valentine's tradition. Here's where we landed:

On Valentine's Day, we wake up early and make waffles for breakfast. We set up the waffle maker on the table with an extension cord, so we can make them while we are eating them. Each time one comes out, we split it into fourths so we each get a piece. This year, we also made our own whipped cream. It's so easy, fun, and tasty! 

During breakfast, we make a list of what we want to do to celebrate our "Family Day of Love" in the evening. This year, our list included:

  • Movie night (Henry's idea)
  • Eating candy (Henry)
  • Children's museum (my idea)
  • Drinking hot chocolate (Henry)
  • Game night (Henry)
  • Night walk (Tate's idea)
  • Camping in the backyard (Tate)
  • Ice cream at Lick (mine)
We each got three votes, so we could narrow down the choices. We then voted between movie night and game night. It was a unanimous win for game night! 

After school, we drove to Target to pick up two of my favorite games from when I was a child: Operation and Hungry, Hungry Hippo

We ordered pizza and played games on our back deck. 

Then we filled in a love note template that I made. We each drew a name of one family member and filled it out for that person. My hope is that we do one every year. 

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine's Traditions

My sweet almost 7 year-old loves traditions and rituals even more than I do. He cracks me up. 

He's requesting some kind of tradition for Valentine's Day. Once we start something, he will never, ever forget it. So I feel some pressure to get it right the first year. 

The hard thing is that Valentine's Day is so close to my birthday and his birthday, so I don't want to do anything that overlaps with our birthday traditions. Henry suggested that we write love letters to each other, but I'll already be writing Henry a letter on his birthday. It might be fun to get a cake on Valentine's Day, but we already do that for our birthdays. 

His friends wake up to baskets of candy. I have no desire to put something like that together every year! Presence, not presents. 

Maybe a scavenger hunt that includes all the reasons I love them? 

Pizza and a movie on a school night? 

Pancakes for breakfast on a school morning? 

Maybe we make brownies and Valentine's cards for the neighbors? 

We could make Valentine's treats and deliver them to a nursing home? 

Maybe fill out a little template about each other, similar to this book?

Here's a sweet idea for a whole day of intenseness--too much for me! 

All right. I think we will have a Family Love Day: wake up early for waffles/pancakes, fill out an appreciation template about one person, brainstorm ideas about what to do when we get home from school (e.g., movie night, game night, making treats for neighbors, going to the children's museum, etc.). We will bookend the day with family time--talking about about we love about each other and spending time together. That sounds right! 

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Getting Our Budget Under Control

I've been sharing that Matt and I have some credit card debt that we want to actively pay down. As part of that, we have been trying to religiously use I've heard great things about You Need a Budget as well, but we are already all set up with, so we are sticking with it and trying to maximize our experience with it. 

One of the annoying things about is that it won't let you delete the budget categories that you aren't using. When it automatically assigns expenditures to categories, it frequently assigns them to categories that we aren't even using in our budget. When that happens, our budget looks like it's on track, but it isn't really.

While it's frustrating that I can't just delete the categories that we don't have budgets for, I did learn that you can click a button to generate a rule that always assigns certain stores into certain categories. For example, there's a popular restaurant here in Austin called P.Terry's. always categorizes it as "Fast Food" (it is fast food), but we don't use the Fast Food Budget. Instead, we code all of our eating out expenses as "Restaurants." I was able to go into Mint and tell it to always code P.Terry's as "Restaurants." 

While that will help with some of our recurring expenses, I came up with a hack to help us with the rest. I printed our list that correlates our Mint categories with which expenses are budgeted there (see an excerpt of the image above). For example, we spend money on parking so infrequently that it doesn't have its own budget category. Instead, we lump it into the Gas & Fuel category (along with tolls, which are also infrequent). Mint automatically codes parking as parking, so we have to reassign the category. It's hard to remember these infrequent things, so having a list for Matt and one for me should be helpful! 

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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

My Favorite New Thing

I know this is a dumb post, but I couldn't help but share my new favorite things: food covers

I am really, really trying not to buy things on Amazon, but I have been wanting these for more than a year. I saw them at a birthday party at the park, and they make so much sense in Texas! I regretted not having them all throughout last year whenever we hosted a party on our deck. I ended up trying to cover the food with dishtowels, which makes it very difficult to see what is available to eat!

I'm excited to try these out at Henry's birthday party! 

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Reflection & Rejuvenation: February

My first ever Monthly Self-Summit went well. 

I spent about 1.5 hours preparing for the upcoming month. I wrote three birthday cards, scheduled our monthly Saturday Supper (which happens to be Henry's birthday party!), and reflected on what I wanted to make true for the upcoming month. 

(As an aside, I don't want to live an overly rigid life, and I have to monitor myself closely so that I don't cross over the line (or so I can step back over, after I do cross it!). I really do love being intentional and purposeful--it's just so easy for those characteristics to become overly rigid.)

Celebrations first (I'm working on celebrating before I jump to the problem-solving; it's a perpetual problem):
  1. I feel like I'm working on a lot of substantial stuff with my leadership coach
  2. I'm maintaining a 2-hour window of free time for myself each night
  3. I'm periodically waking up early to journal
  4. I love being in my new office
  5. I'm being more patient with the boys and savoring our time together
  6. I had so much fun at our monthly Saturday Supper in January. The weather was perfect. We had both sliding doors wide open and gathered on the deck. The children played in our "adventure playground" area by building structures with bamboo sticks and string. Then they ventured down into the forest part of our land and started making pottery out of the dirt/clay. I just relaxed/chatted/ate.
Okay, now on to the problem-solving!

I threw out my back after doing so much moving of things to get our new school settled. It meant that I couldn't run at all, and I just started eating whatever I wanted to. Now my clothes don't fit and I feel so lethargic. But onward and upward! I've been doing my physical therapy exercises every night, and I'm going to get back to the trail this weekend. I'm excited! 

I also start therapy this month, which I'm excited about. I think it's going to be a good month!

For updates in between blog posts, check out Instagram

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Monday, February 5, 2018

Monthly Summit Idea

I was just listening to Kelsey and Chris's description of their annual financial summit, and it gave me the idea for a Monthly Summit.

On the 31st of each month, I'm going to spend two hours (~8pm-10pm) on the following activities:
  • Writing my Reflection & Rejuvenation post
  • Writing birthday cards for the upcoming month
  • Planning any goals for the upcoming month
I need to do this at work, too! I don't think I want to mix the personal with the professional on this one. I think I need to send time at work that day looking at the upcoming month and making plans. I think it would a really rejuvenating experience for me each month!

For updates in between blog posts, check out Instagram

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Nightly Relaxation Ritual

I've been feeling a lot of anxiety at night (work-related stuff), and it's impacting my sleep. Simultaneously, we're working through a round of Purposeful Conception: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, and it's reminding me of what a conscious effort I made to relax and de-stress my life when I was pregnant with Henry. Every night I would shut down by a certain time, do yoga, and then relax. Here's what I said about it:
During my pre-conception phase, I developed a nightly Relaxation Ritual for myself. At 8:15 every night, I would spend 15 minutes picking up the clutter that had accumulated around our house during the day. Then I would do 15 minutes of yoga. Finally, I would read or chat with my husband before going to bed at 9:30 (so I could get eight hours of sleep before my 5:30am alarm).
I'm wondering if  I want to try something similar. I've been working so hard to shut my computer by 8pm. Then I could set it aside (versus opening it and starting on another computer-centered project), head into my bedroom, put on some soothing music and do yoga. It could be a nice transition into whatever I want to do with the rest of my time: ukulele, Netflix, games with Matt, reading, etc. 

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Simple Children's Birthdays

I am counting my lucky stars that we are still in a place where we can celebrate our children's birthdays in a simple way. 

Despite the fact that we have been to lots of birthdays at jump houses and gymnastics places, Henry is still okay with the idea of having a birthday party at a park or our house. I gave those two options to him, and he said, "Our house, of course." 

So there you have it! It will be a simple celebration planned by Henry. So far he has decided: 
  • Vegetable tray (this kid seriously cracks me up)
  • Gluten-free chocolate cake with mint icing and chocolate chips in the shape of a 7
  • Tater tots
  • A candy bar
  • PiƱata
  • Pizza
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Fruit
  • Streamers
  • Balloons
  • Baby pictures
  • Goodie bags with erasers, pencils, notepads, and a bouncy ball

Sounds good to me! 

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Monday, January 29, 2018

18 Summers

I recently read or heard a reminder that we only have 18 summers with our children. (Hopefully this isn't entirely true, since I still vacation with family in the summer. But it resonated with me nonetheless.) 

While that was percolating in my mind, Matt read something about a father who spent a month traveling with his children every summer, and we both agreed that that sounds so lovely! 

So I think we will try to go on a 3-week vacation every summer as a family. We will aim for 2019 so we have time to save up for another big international excursion. I have two weeks of vacation in the summer plus 6 sick days a year. I can try to save them up to make the third week! 

I'm thinking the French countryside? Or Portugal? Or Guatemala? Or Bali? Or Borneo? I think I need to get updates from one of those sites that lets you book inexpensive airline tickets...

Or maybe even in an RV around the U.S.? 

So many possibilities! 

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018


So, camping. I think it was mainly positive! (I'm still working through the calculations in my mind.)

We squeezed this trip into an already-crowded weekend because I wanted to be able to check off our camping goal for 2017. I got home from the Magnolia Makers Market around 2:45pm and then wanted to help Henry process everything. We put away everything, and then we used these manipulative to calculate how much of his money should go to college, his future car, the Elephant Sanctuary, and then to his own wallet. Then he wrote a letter to the Elephant Sanctuary. Next I had to respond to some emergency things related to work. Then we had to move everything into the car, drive to a friend's house to borrow an extra tent and some sleeping pads, stop by Whole Foods to look for gluten-free crescent rolls one last time to make this campfire recipe, and then head to Lake Tejas. 

The boys were so ridiculously excited that it made my heart swell. Tate was talking a mile-a-minute the whole way there. 

We got there right as the sun was setting and had to set up the tent, cook hot dogs, cook S'mores, and go for a hike all in the dark. 

We all went to bed at 8pm, but I woke up at 11pm with some anxiety related to work and couldn't go back to sleep. The dog also woke up (which woke up Matt) so we ended up talking for a while, which was nice. 

The rest of the night was a blur, mainly with the dog waking up multiple times and then Tate waking up. Tate woke up way too early in the morning, and I kept telling him that he needed to rest quietly or I was going to have to take him back home. He kept pushing it, so I finally followed-through on my word and drove him the 45 minutes home. Back at home, I showered and wrote 1.5 blog posts. Then we loaded back into the car and drove the 45 minutes back to pick up Henry, Matt, and Hoss. 

So it wasn't great, but it was still really sweet. It made me think Tate just isn't old enough for us to enjoy camping, and I was about ready to strike camping off our goals for this year, but then Matt had a hybrid idea: we can all head to a camping site (there's a cool one less than 30 minutes away), set up, spend the afternoon and evening in camping mode, and then Matt takes Tate home to sleep? Then they come back in the morning. It seemed like a good way to help Henry enjoy camping at an age when he's really ready for it and to make the experience more enjoyable all around!

We'll probably try the real way one more time, but use this alternate strategy if it still goes badly! 

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Meal Prep in 1-2 Hours a Week

You all know I hate cooking and yet value nightly family meals immensely. So I am always trying to hack my way through it! 

I feel like I am finally almost in a rhythm. Each Sunday, I start meal prep at 3:30pm (with the goal of being totally done by 5pm). It helped to give myself a specific time. Prior to that, I would sort of spend all day Sunday dreading the start of meal prep. Now--not so much! 

We cook five meals a week at home (and eat out on Friday and Saturday nights). This week we are having:

  1. Mac-n-cheese (homemade, not from a box)
  2. Enchiladas
  3. Crispy tacos (yes, we have to eat a lot of Mexican food for all the gluten-free and vegetarian restrictions around here)
  4. Indian curry in the Instant Pot
  5. Spaghetti with lentils
I get the boys started on their lunches while I start meal prep for the week. Tate has to do two components of the lunch, and Henry does the other three. We do things like hard-boiled eggs, cucumbers, freeze-dried fruit, applesauce, lunch meat, popcorn, pretzels, etc. 

Meanwhile, I get to work on meal prep for the week. This week, I made the entire mac-n-cheese meal + the enchiladas + the crispy tacos (for dinner that night). The other two meals will be super quick and easy during the week. 

It feels so great to head into the week with so much ready to go! 

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Monday, January 22, 2018


I'm excited to report that I'm starting therapy in February! It's something I've been wanting to do as part of my journey to be the best possible mother I can be. 

I've been doing leadership coaching for the past year, and I have loved it. It's like having a "running partner" to hold me accountable. I'm looking forward to therapy as well. 

Because my schedule feels absolutely crammed, I opted for sessions via Skype. I did end up with a local therapist (I searched for "inner child" therapy), but we are going to talk via Skype every other Saturday morning. 

A friend of mind also recently recommended Therapeutic Assessment. If I weren't already so far along the inner child pathway, I would have tried TA! (Now that I write that, I might actually switch to TA--more evidence that I need therapy?)

I'll let you know how it goes! 

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Template: Planning Vacations

This post is for BabyD! 

From the comments, it sounds like BabyD is stressing about vacation planning. 

I made a vacation-planning template for my leadership coach, so I thought I would share it here, in case it's helpful for others:

I love going on vacations with my family. I'm always so excited to see new things and go to new places. It makes me feel really present with my boys. 

Here are some of our recaps:

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

DIY: Marker on Porcelain Tray

Over the vacation, I spent a lot of time obsessing about my new office. I think I've already mentioned that this is the first time in my 40 years on Earth that I have ever had my own office at work, and it's the first time in 10 years that I have had my own space to decorate (since Matt and I always have to reach consensus about how we decorate our home). So I'm excited! 

Decorating doesn't come naturally to me, so I have to do a lot of screen captures (shift + control + command + four on a Mac) and then pasting into Google docs to see how things look together. 

I decided to go with a dining room table instead of a desk, so that I can host meetings in my office. Since I won't have storage drawers within immediate reach, I decided to arrange my most needed essentials on a tray: stapler, tape, binder clips, paper clips, pens, highlighter, scissors, and sticky notes. 

I struggled to find the right kind of tray. I didn't want it to be wood, since the table is wood. I thought about a white lacquered tray, but the sizes didn't seem right. Then I landed on this serving tray and fell in love:

However, with shipping, the total cost would have been $70. I decided to pass on it. 

Then, while walking through an Australian Target to take Tate to the restroom, I swung by the home goods section and found what seemed to be the perfect tray. It was a plan white porcelain serving tray for $7, and I decided to put dots on it myself. We swung by the craft store, and the woman recommended a Posca Marker.  

Four hours later, my $12 replica was complete! 

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