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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