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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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Traveling with Kids: Australia


Where do I even begin when it comes to recapping a magical trip to Australia with my family for Winter Break? 

I guess I could pick a single word to encapsulate the experience. And I guess I already did in the sentence above! 

Magical.

It was simply magical. 

It's a magical continent, and it's magical to travel to a different hemisphere (especially to escape winter by heading into summer!) and it's magical to spend an extended amount of time with my family. 

We weren't very strategic about how we picked where to go on the world's largest island. I came across an incredible home in the hinterlands outside of Byron Bay (near a small town named Bangalow) on a house exchange site called Home Away. It seemed like a place where the boys could really immerse themselves in nature, and where Matt and I could bask in beauty and enjoy each other's company. I did some quick research and realized that Byron Bay and Brisbane seemed like interesting places to visit. So we booked flights!


The flight from Austin to LA to Brisbane was fine. We just let our children watch way more screen time than normal. They were mesmerized and pretty much catatonic!


We rented a car and drove into the hinterlands. We awoke in the morning to the most incredible views of rolling green countryside.





Matt and I were working for the first week we were there, so we balanced childcare and phone meetings. We quickly fell into a routine: work/hang out at the house until 10am, take an adventure from 10am-2pm, rest/work/let the boys watch Netflix from 2pm-4pm, start dinner and play games on the back porch from 4-5pm, put the boys to bed at 6:30pm, and work/rest/watch Netflix for the rest of the evening. 

In retrospect, it seems a little crazy that we only left the house for about four hours a day, but a) we are introverts and like hanging out at home b) our "home" was an incredible destination in and of itself and c) the slower pace helped everything feel more relaxing and less stressed. Since our children don't nap anymore, they can get overly tired and cranky if we try to push it all day long. 

Here were the adventures we went on in the hinterlands of Bangalow outside Byron Bay:
  1. The Farm: We ate brunch, walked around the farm, and sat on a blanket in the shade eating homemade ice-cream while the boys played (I always carry a large sheet with me for such occasions, along with a deck of cards for a game of gin rummy). 
  2. The Lighthouse: How cool to explore the eastern most point of Australia! The views were stunning. We hiked down to a remote beach to explore. 
  3. Crystal Castle: Totally creepy but really serene and fun to explore! 
  4. Trip to the rainforest (with a stop-off at an alpaca farm): Matt ran a marathon in the rainforest, so we spent the night in a screened in cabin-type thing. Eating meals at the top of the rainforest was breathtaking. I taught Henry how to play checkers! 
  5. Christmas Market in Federal with lunch at Doma. Federal is such a tiny town but has incredible food in an idyllic atmosphere. We listened to live music while the boys climbed in the tree (Henry quickly abandoned the concept of wearing shoes). 
  6. Minyon Falls: We hiked around and played in the creek. 
  7. Brunswick Heads: We spent one day swimming in the river and one day at Torakina Beach. 
  8. Macademia Castle: Totally kitchy but really off-the-beaten path and fun. We got to pet kangaroos! 
  9. Flat Rock: We explored the tide pools and then played at the beach.
  10. Byron Bay Beach
  11. Snorkeling: Henry and I went while Matt and Tate played at the beach. Henry and I saw a shark, bull ray, turtle, colorful fish, etc. 
Here were the adventures we went on in Brisbane: 
  1. D'Aguilar National Park: We ventured down to Rocky Hole. It was an incredibly idyllic swimming hole with deep and shallow areas. It was Christmas Day, so there was hardly anyone there. 
  2. City Botanic Gardens
  3. Pillar Project
  4. Lone Star Koala Sanctuary
  5. Took the river ferry to the South Bank public beach and pools






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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Instapot Bandwagon


I finally jumped on the Instapot bandwagon!

It's been recommended to me in the past, but I wasn't ready to hear about it. Then I heard about it on my friend's podcast, Friendlier. Then I was bombarded with articles, posts, and messages about it on Facebook from friends over the holidays.

In my 20s, I had an unhealthy obsession with appliances. I finally pared it down to the essentials (our relatively small kitchen forced us to!), so I am always wary about buying something new. 

Before I bought it, I wanted to make sure we would really use it. I went on Pinterest and pinned a bunch of recipes I would make. That's when I got incredibly excited about the possibilities. It seems to fit really well into our life. From my research, it seems like I can prep a bunch of things on the weekend (mainly chopping vegetables), throw it in when I get home from work, go off and do something else, and then dinner will be ready.

From the recipes I found, it seems like the Instapot will help us work more vegetables into our diet as well. 

The thing that pushed me over the edge was my sheer excitement about cooking with an Instapot. For those of you who have been around the past year, you know it's a struggle to feed my gluten-free, vegetarian family. And I already hate cooking! (For those of you who are wondering why I cook instead of my husband--he does the morning routine with the boys every single day, as well as all the laundry and yard work). 

I decided that we would get rid of our crockpot and use the Instapot instead (our crockpot was missing a handle anyway!). 

I can't wait to try it! 

Here's the one we got. I didn't spend too much time researching it, but I decided on the more expensive one because it seemed like the safety features were even more explicit. I purchased it before the new year started, so I deluded myself into thinking that it wasn't going to impact our new year budget. The truth is it's getting added to our credit card debt that we are working to bring down, but I really, really thought this would help us have a better 2018. 

Now that January is here, we are back on the budget bandwagon as well! If we are friends in real life, please text me every once in a while and ask me if I'm religiously updating Mint.com like I'm supposed to. Thank you!

For updates in between blog posts, check out Instagram

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Monday, January 8, 2018

DIY: Easy Napkin Rings



I'm still over here obsessing about my new office in my spare time. Ultimate nerd? Most definitely.

I'm making a special area for Tate and Henry that includes a couple of toys and some snacks. They'll be eating snacks on the floor, so I was trying to figure out a way to designate a specific area for eating (versus walking around and eating or spreading crumbs all over the place).

I purchased these placemats from IKEA and decided to make napkin rings to go with them.

I ordered these wooden napkin rings from Etsy (I got the single size).

Then I painted them (I recommend the gold strip part first and then the outside): teal mint, pure gold, terra coral, sea glass, and Christmas green.

Um, this hardly counts as a DIY tutorial. But that's the easiest kind of DIY project, right?

For updates in between blog posts, check out Instagram

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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Reflections on 40: Entering a New Decade


As my fortieth birthday approaches (beginning of February), I continue to reflect on where I've been and where I'm going. I realized that my life has played out in interesting ways across the decades:

In my 20s: 
I was figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I knew that I wanted to do non-profit work and wanted to be part of the solution to our world's problems, but I didn't know exactly what or how. Toward that end, I explored a lot of areas until I refined my focus into making the Montessori approach accessible to all children and implementing it in a way that ensures equitable outcomes for all:

  • AmeriCorps to recruit and train reading tutors for the public school system
  • Teach For America (where I solidified my focus on public education as a vehicle for social justice)
  • KIPP (where I learned that schools can address issues of poverty without waiting for poverty to be solved systemically)
  • A year-long sabbatical where I learned to lean into my penchant for planning, dreaming, and scheming
  • Montessori training
In my 30s: 
I knew what I wanted out of life, and I hunkered down to make it happen. Toward that end, I:
  • Got married
  • Had two children
  • Built our family house
  • Started Montessori For All
And so now what do my 40s have in store? I simply want to enjoy it and do it better. I don't want to take on anything new or accomplish anything else. I simply want to focus on what I have and continue to strengthen my self so that I'm a better wife, mother, daughter, leader, colleague, and friend. 

It is not lost on me that this is basically my only decade with my family at home. By the end of this decade, Henry will be 16 and Tate will be 14. I want to lean into my time with them and make the very most of it. 

Fortunately, these realizations align really nicely with the intentions I have in mind for 2018!

For updates in between blog posts, check out Instagram

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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Family Goals: 2018


I recently finished reading a book about the epidemic of over-parenting, and one of the things I'm majorly guilty of is approaching parenting like a project. 

I definitely don't want to over-parent. I believe in its ill effects. I am constantly trying to find the line between being intentional and thoughtful with this one life I have and approaching parenting like a project that negatively impacts my children. It's hard for me! 

So please chime in with your sincere feedback any time on any post! I mean it. I only ask that you say it with a kind tone (but the actual feedback can be straight to the point). 

But I digress...

In the spirit of being intentional with my one chance at parenthood, my family and I came up with our goals for 2018. There's lots of overlap from last year and a few goals are making appearances from previous years (you can find all of our goals here).

Henry wanted to increase our volunteer activities from two to three. Tate is worried about how we are going to plant 100 trees. 

I'm excited about these goals. They embody the kind of family we want to be: one that spends a lot of quality time together--experiencing new things, making the world better, and connecting with nature.

For updates in between blog posts, check out Instagram

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Monday, January 1, 2018

Hello, 2018!


Some of my friends were worried about me after receiving my somewhat depressing holiday card recap of 2017. I had to assure them that I was actually feeling a lot better by the time the year was coming to a close and I was gearing up for 2018. 

My theme for this year is Sustain & Strengthen. If I were going to use a yoga metaphor to explain, it would be that I'm not going to introduce any new poses into my repertoire; I'm simply going to keep practicing the ones I know so that I'm doing them with more strength, composure, and grace. 

It means that I cut things off my list (like I'm not going to start an Austin chapter of Navigators USA), and I'm not going to commit to learning the ukulele (I still might do it, but I'm not going to set it as a goal that I'm gunning for). 

I'm only adding two "new" things this year: journaling and therapy. Journaling is such a powerful tool in my life. It enables me to process what's going on, set goals, adjust them as necessary, hold myself accountable, work things out, and generally be a better person. I'm also looking forward to starting therapy for many of the same reasons. I'm going to add those two tools to my list of strategies that I want to maintain in the new year:
  • Exercising at least two times per week
  • Talking with a leadership coach every other week
  • Consistent routines: stopping work by 8pm, getting sufficient sleep, staying hydrated, not eating out too much, practicing gratitude and meditation
I essentially want to sustain and deepen the three core buckets in life (according to The Good Life Project): Contribution, Connection, and Vitality. 

I have specific ways that I want to be a better leader and colleague in the upcoming year (and once I accomplish my most immediate goals, I will use journaling and leadership coaching to start working on the next set). I also have specific ways that I want to be a better mother, wife, and family member. I want to generate ideas for deepening my friendships (and building new ones), and I want to maintain the vitality habits I already have. 

It sounds so vague when I try to describe it! Inside my journal, it's much clearer. I have a statement that I want to be true about this year, the ways I will be able to measure whether or not that statement is coming to fruition, and the strategies I'm going to employ to be successful. I'm going into it knowing that the strategies will evolve throughout the year through therapy, leadership coaching, and journaling. 

I'm excited about the year ahead! 

Sending lots of well wishes your way for an awesome new year,

Sara

For updates in between blog posts, check out Instagram

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