Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Our Day (weekdays): Feb 2012

This is an approximate run-down of what our days look like Monday through Thursday, when Zach's away.  Figure it's kinda nice to take note of these routines to see how they change and evolve over time.
  • 5:00am(ish)-- Wake up (either Quinn or Donovan will wake up about this time, give or take 30 mins. They're usually up at about the same time). Get dressed, breakfast, pack D's lunch, play.
  • 8:15/8:20am- drop D off at school.
  • 8:30am- come home, stopping at Target or the grocery store on the way if needed. Quinn takes a nap at some point (in the car, or inside while nursing. Occasionally sleeps on his bed). Nap lasts anywhere from 30mins-1.5hrs.  Play at home, maybe go out to the park or for a walk or something.
  • Noonish- lunch, Q might take another nap? Same deal as morning, he'll usually sleep on me though every once in a while I can set him down on his bed to sleep.
  • 3:00pm- Pick D up from school.
  • 4:00pm- BB (our nanny) arrives.  Occasionally I duck out to get some time alone or run errands, but often she'll hang out with Q and I take advantage of one-on-one time with D.
  • 5:30/6:00pm- Dinner.  If it's Tuesday, my friend Sasha comes over and cooks something delicious. Tuesdays are the best. =)
  • 6:30pm- Q's usually showing pretty clear signs of tiredness, so either BB or I will start his bath & get him ready for bed.  
  • 7:00/7:30pm- I nurse Q to sleep, takes 15 mins to 1 hour? Depends on the night.  Lately it's been on the shorter side.
  • 7:30/8:00pm- BB can usually get D into his PJs, but he'll then wait for me to read him his bedtime story and lay down with him.  BB might have time to clean a little then leaves at 8:00.
  • 8:00/8:30pm- D falls asleep.  This is my best chance at doing anything that requires the computer-- blogging, photos, "web errands" that are too annoying to do on my phone, etc.
  • 10:00pm- Bedtime for Mama.  Sometimes goes later, very rarely do I make it earlier (though by morning I always wish I would). Pray for no midnight wakings, start again in the morning.

Monday, February 27, 2012

family resemblance

A few years ago I blogged about finding an old photo of me that's the spitting image of Donovan.

Welp, I just came across one that looks just like Quinn.
Just came across this picture of me as a kid and holy cow does this not look like Q?!

For the sake of comparison:

So erm maybe some of Zach's genes will kick in as the boys get bigger? Because so far mine totally seem to have won out.  (though actually I do also have some other photos of Q where he's smiling in a particular way that look exactly like my mother-in-law!)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

New Montessori Post: Birthday Celebrations

A new post of mine is live over at, written after Zach and I got the chance to watch Donovan's birthday celebration at his school earlier this month.  I have always loved the Montessori birthday celebration ceremony, but it was about 100 times more awesome to see it performed for my own kid.

While you're there be sure to browse through the other posts and videos on the site, lots of really great content!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

There and back again-- Montessori Refresher 2012

So the trip was great-- refreshing, restful, inspiring.  I flew in one day early so I could spend some time with my sister and adorable nephew.  Did I mention he's adorable? Because he is.  He's almost cuter than my own kids.  Almost.
Precious boy
Friday night was the keynote speech, which Criss and I both attended, and then Saturday and Sunday were full days of lectures for me.  Criss attended the parent workshop which was just on Saturday, and given by Donna Bryant Goertz. I had the pleasure of meeting her Saturday afternoon which was really lovely, both because of our family ties to Austin Montessori School and her book which was what really pushed me to wanting to pursue Montessori as a career.

The theme for this year's refresher was Engaging the Human Personality which as you can imagine is quite a broad theme. Janet McDonell was the speaker and she talked a lot about how to set up the prepared environment of the classroom (both the physical aspects and our actions/attitudes) to best facilitate the children's learning and development.  Most of it was specific to the classroom, but several parts really spoke to me as a parent of a 3-6yr old child.  I have a full legal pad of notes (many of which I tweeted via the @MariaMontessori twitter account) which I need to review and possible write a few posts about.

Saturday evening we visited two schools in the DFW area, both of which blew me away.  It's a shame that it was dark and rainy when we visited as they both had what looked like gorgeous outdoor areas and I would have loved to see them in daylight.  Perhaps another time...

It was wonderful to listen to the lectures and to catch up with old friends and meet a few new ones, but I also enjoyed getting time to myself. I ended up getting a hotel room by myself using Zach's reward points, and I'm really glad it turned out that way.  Maybe it sounds antisocial, but as an introvert who very rarely gets any time alone, let alone truly free time alone (meaning free of long to-do lists or guilt about how I should be sleeping instead) it was glorious to have even a bit of time each day all by myself in the room, or at breakfast, having no one else to answer to but myself.  I missed the boys, especially when I talked to them on the phone (on Sunday night D told me on the phone that he wanted me to come home "this night" and I almost cried, kids have such a great hold of our heartstrings), but maybe because I knew they were happy and well cared for I mainly enjoyed myself and this rare opportunity.
I flew home right after Monday's brief morning lecture and enjoyed my last 3 hours and 45 minutes of just sitting and reading without interruptions.  Zach and D came to the airport to greet me, and as soon as D saw me he let go of Zach's hands and took off running right to me as my heart melted into a puddle on the floor.  My mom was at home with Quinn, who when I picked him up just kinda looked at me and slowly smiled... then once inside the house he went right over to our usual nursing chair and banged on it while looking at me.
Zach took this pic right after D ran up to greet me at the airport on Monday. =)
Mom leaves today, and all goes back to life as usual.  It's good to be home, and I'm so very glad that I went.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mama's going on vacation (sort of)

This weekend I'm flying to Texas for an annual Montessori conference.  I went the two years after getting my certification, 2006 and 2007.  Then life (ie: and international move + baby) got in the way, and I planned to go in 2010, I think, but then weather got in the way (remember that winter, when an ice storm decided to take over the entire eastern half of the US? So the night before I was supposed to fly to Atlanta our flight got canceled).  Then another kid, and thus this is the first time I'll be going in, um, a few years.

Well, assuming another freak storm doesn't consume Texas or something between now and Thursday.

I'm pretty excited about this, for a few reasons.  I'm excited to go again for the first time in years, and be around other Montessorians and listen to awesome lectures on Montessori topics (it just occurred to me how un-Montessori the format of these conferences is, hah, joke's on us I guess ; ).  I'm hoping to catch up with a few colleagues I haven't really talked to in a while.  This will also be my first time to attend since I started writing for  Apparently a few people at well-known schools now recognize my name because of my posts, which is exciting and a little weird, and so I wonder if people will "recognize" me in person from that.

I'm also super excited because I get a few solid days of being something other than Mom To Donovan and Quinn.  I know I'll miss the kids, but it will be nice to get a break from them for a few days.  It's been kinda intense here lately, the kids just need me so intensely and maybe it's bad of me to leave them for almost 5 days in the midst of that but I also feel like I need it, on a few different levels.  Some breathing room.

I know this will sound a bit strange to anyone who hasn't traveled with kids much, but I'm SO EXCITED to fly BY MYSELF for the first time in four years.  I've flown many times since becoming a parent, and always accompanied by at least one small child.  I flew solo with Donovan several times when he was 1-3 years old.  Those trips always went pretty well considering, but it's still stressful to have to entertain a small child when they're confined to a small space for several hours.  I'm really looking forward to actually getting to pack stuff for myself, to read for several hours uninterrupted if I want to, to sip my soda at leisure without worrying about one of my children knocking it over onto our laps.  Oh, and SLEEP. Yeah.

Of course, I'm a bit nervous about it all, too.  For one thing, both of the other two times I went I was part of a group.  This time I'm going by myself.  My inner shy girl is kinda freaking out a wee bit about that part.  It also sucks that this trip means losing a precious weekend with Zach-- I'll only get to see him a few hours on Monday after I get back, before he has to leave for work again.

And as much as I look forward to getting away from the kids I'm also nervous about leaving them.  This is the longest I'll have ever been away from them.  I've been away from D for up to 3 days before, but only ever overnight for Q.  I'm a little nervous about how he'll do while I'm away-- he's still nursing, and a lot of that is for comfort.  I'm hoping it'll kinda be an out-of-sight-out-of-mind kinda thing where if I'm not around he won't miss nursing so much.... and same for Donovan, who's been on a major Mama-phase for well all his life but especially so these past few weeks.  Just tonight he had a major meltdown just waiting for me to be done getting Quinn down for bed.  So, I'm hoping that if I'm not even around at all they will be fine with Zach and my mom for everything (she's here Wednesday for a week to help out while I;'m gone).  Otherwise it might be a tough weekend for them all...

I've gone back and forth a few times on whether it even makes sense for me to go this year.  The mom-guilt rears its head and I hear this voice saying, "Are you crazy leaving your kids for so long when they're so little?!"  But I know they'll be fine, and I so rarely get to do anything big for me, and who knows when will be the next chance to attend this conference (probably not till after Zach's done with business school, at least).  And, you know, by now the registration's paid for and tickets and hotel are booked and everything.  

And they'll be fine, and I deserve this.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Those small victories

"Mama, they fit PERFECTLY!" 

 I recently had one of those moments as a parent where I felt truly proud of myself, like I actually might have some clue of what I'm doing here.  These moments are rare-- in fact, I'm not sure I can recall any other moment that felt this clear to me.

Yes, in the grand scheme of things I think I'm a pretty ok parent.  Good, even.  But in the day-to-day dealings of tantrums and discipline and all those tiny decisions that feel so huge in the moment, I usually feel utterly clueless. I wish I had a crystal ball to show me whether a particular decision will work out or turn out disastrously.  And every time I feel like I'm figuring out my footing, the path changes.  And as it turns out, navigating through life with a four year old is different from a three year old, is different from a two year old, and even your first one year old from your second.  It feels like this constant game of making "educated guesses" as to what's the right thing to do when, and often second-guessing those guesses, and often not being able to see the true outcome of your choices for a long time yet.

So.  When I had this one moment of clarity and even pride in myself as a parent, I felt it was worth recording, if nothing else to remind myself that yes, they do exist, and who knows maybe over time I'll experience more of them.

I (more or less) practice a form of discipline that many people call "gentle discipline" or "non-punitive parenting." I know this can be a controversial topic, and I don't want this to become a discipline debate post.  Basically, I've never liked spanking, and even time-outs to me don't seem that appealing-- in part because I look at D and both our temperaments and I feel fairly certain that trying to force him to sit in a corner for a prescribed number of minutes would only escalate any conflict, while I'm often able to dissipate the situation using gentler methods and use simple, clear reasoning with him afterwards.  So far this has worked pretty well, honestly.  But every so often I'm faced with a problem where I wonder if I need to re-think all of this.

Last week D was in a needy, clingy, moody state a lot of the time.  As part of this, he was less able to deal with even minor irritations and so ended up hitting or pushing Quinn more than usual.  He never got close to seriously hurting him, but still it was alarming.  What made it worse is that each time he did it, I swear he immediately knew he'd done something he regretted, which made him feel bad and get defensive and just devolve into worse behavior.  He'd get mad at me for reminding him that hitting is not ok, when I could tell he was mad at both me for reminding him but also himself for doing it.

So after one particularly bad encounter where he and I both ended up yelling at each other and I told him to go upstairs and I felt so angry, and so lost.  I just didn't know what to do, how to handle this situation. I figured it was a phase, a mood that would pass, but still I needed some way to deal with it as it happened. Maybe I should use time-outs after all? (though, again, I'm pretty sure they just wouldn't work for us)  I wondered about asking for advice online, except I felt pretty sure I knew the advice I'd get back.  So I kept thinking, and wondering, and racking my brain trying to figure something out.

About 10 minutes later he came back down again, and I asked him to sit with me for a minute. At first he started to whine and fight me, but I said, "I'm not going to get mad and I'm not going to yell. I just want to talk to you." That calmed him down, and he willingly curled up in my lap as we talked.  I mentioned how annoying and frustrating little brothers can be.  He told me a few ways that Quinn upsets him.  We talked about how it's ok and normal to sometimes like your brother, and other times really dislike him, and to even get really angry with him.  How it probably feels good to hit him when you're mad, even if at the same time it also feels bad.

Then I said, "As your mom part of my job is to keep you safe.  And as Quinn's mom, part of my job is to keep Quinn safe. I just as I won't let others hit you or hurt you, I can't let you hurt Quinn.  It's ok to get mad at him, but it's not ok to hit him."  We also talked about what we can both do to help prevent the hitting-- how to help him not get to that point of anger, what to do instead of hitting, and I promised to be more watchful and step in more quickly when Donovan tries to voice his frustration or asks for some space.

It was just a few minutes, but I could tell we both felt a lot better after that small chat.  He was happy and cooperative the rest of the evening.  And I felt like I had won a battle.  Except we had both won, there was no loser. I realize that's certainly not the end of that issue (though the hitting has been much better since then). As D gets older I'm seeing glimpses of issues we'll deal with in the future, ones that frighten me and will no doubt leave me questioning our whole parenting approach over and over again, as we try to figure out what's ok and what's not ok, what we can try to change and what we even have control over.

But I felt really proud of myself for coming up with an approach that I could feel good about, that felt good for both of us, even if it was just in that moment.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Happy Birthday, Big D!

Donovan is 4 years old today!  Well, technically thanks to international timezone weirdness his four-years-on-earth anniversary was yesterday at about 4:30pm California time (which was 1:30am the next morning in Switzerland).  But going by the calendar day, today's the Big Day.

So in four years we've gone from this:

To this:

I don't think I can express in words just how much I love this kid, so I won't even try.  Instead I'll just share his birthday slideshow.  I don't know how much longer I'll keep making these, probably for as long as he allows me to take photos of him.  I love making them, though, and I hope you enjoy watching.

Music: Loving You is Easy by Sarah McLachlan

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

some thoughts on marriage and "happily ever after"

#picturetheholidays All You Need Is Love 

The other day while in the car I started thinking about marriage and relationships.  Zach and I have been married 8 years now, and they've been 8 pretty great years.  Sure, we have fights and whatnot but if you were to ask at any point over those years if we're happy with our marriage, we'd each say yes without hesitation.  Even through the instability, job losses/changes, and the joyful-but-still-massive stress of kids, we've remained respectful and loving and understanding of each other, something I'm both proud of and grateful for.

As an aside, you know how people say your first year of marriage is the hardest? Total BS.  I'd say the first year after each child's birth is a much bigger test to your relationship.

So. Eight wonderful, happy years with only minor marital spats.  But while 8 years feels like a long time when you're 31, when you're talking about spending a lifetime together it's just a drop in the bucket.  Is it even rational to expect things to keep going so well forever?  If you plan to be with the same person for multiple decades, aren't you bound to go through at least one period in which one or both of you is unhappy with the relationship, even tempted to leave?

(And I'm not sure if "happy" or "unhappy" are the best words to use here, as you won't always be "happy" with each over 24/7, but I guess I mean loving each other, appreciating each other, feeling loved in return.  That the good parts outweigh any bad, and you don't question the relationship or wanting to be together.) 

I remember a college professor once leading a class discussion about relationships and marriage. She'd been married for 15 years, I think, before she and her ex-husband had split up.  Twelve of those years had been great, the last three not so much.  Looking back, she wondered if those bad three years were maybe just a rough spot that they could have gotten through if they'd stuck it out a bit longer, maybe they could have reached happy times again.  Sometimes the better comes after the worse.  I also remember a couple who after about 20 years of marriage came almost to the point of breaking, had even started telling close friends that they were going to divorce.  But then for whatever reason they gave it another go. That was many years ago and now you'd never guess they ever had trouble.

I wonder how many long-term couples have similar stories.  I wonder how many don't-- maybe some couples really do live their whole lives together without ever doubting.  I wonder what that breakdown is.

This was the first time I'd really thought about this, especially as this inevitable event that we'll probably face at some point, sooner or later.  And it's really friggin weird to think about.  People talk vaguely about how "marriage is hard" and "marriage takes work" but rarely do you ever hear anyone flat-out said, "You can probably expect that at some point(s) one or both of you won't want to be married anymore" and how to deal with that.  Sometimes there is no working through a particular problem and divorce really is the best option, but I wonder about our expectations of marriage and how little we talk about the challenges that can and do arise for so many couples.  It's strange to think about Zach, and about not feeling the affection I do for him now.  Then again, we've been there before-- we went through a lot of shit before we got married.  The fact that we got through it all, and stand here today in a much better place, gives me hope that we'll be able to weather any future storms that may come to pass.

I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with this, but just kinda putting thoughts out there.  I'd love to hear what others have to say-- just kinda open up a discussion about this and hear perspectives/thoughts/experiences of others whether you've been married a short time, or a long time, multiple times or not at all. (and feel free to comment anonymously if you prefer).

And of course with all of this, I use the term "marriage" but it applies equally to any long-term or life partnership, whether legally binding or not.  It's about people getting along and resolving differences and figuring out how to grow and change as individuals while staying connected as a couple.



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