Operation Bring Friday Back

Happy happy Friday!

I hope you had a great week and have some fun plans for the weekend.  We are heading to Houston to take a class at my home church that we need to do before getting James baptized.  I’m also going wedding dress shopping for my sister…I could not be more excited!

For a long time, Friday was my favorite day of the week.  Everyone was in a little bit of a better mood.  Things seemed a bit more relaxed.  All of the anticipation for the weekend was there.

My husband and I would usually go out to dinner and watch a movie.  We were not big partiers even before the little guy 🙂

The thing about being a stay at home mom though, is that in a way every day is Friday and in a way Friday never comes.  For me anyway, all of the days can sort of run together sometimes.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, as for the most part, the days are very good.

I am still excited for the weekend of course because it means spending time with my husband.  But I want to bring back that relaxed, celebratory Friday feeling I used to have.  And I’ve got a plan.

1. Use James’s afternoon nap to do something fun

As all parents know, nap time is crucial for getting things done.  I usually have a plan going into each nap time for exactly what I want to accomplish so that I don’t waste any time thinking about it.  I want to celebrate the start of the weekend though by doing something relaxing.  Ideally, I want this to be something other than watching tv, something like sitting outside and listening to music, coloring, reading a book, or taking a bath.  Yes, nap time is important for getting things done, but James’s late afternoon naps are usually about 35 minutes long…I think I can spare 35 minutes for my happiness 🙂

2. Yoga

I’m pretty sure I haven’t done yoga since I was pregnant.  Now I was never a devoted yogi by any means, but I do feel better when I take the time stretch and breath and be still.  I particularly love Yoga by Adriene.  My best friend Ali turned me on to her.  She has a bunch of free yoga videos and she is funny and doesn’t take things too seriously.  I’m not going to be overly ambitious here, but I would like to do at least a short video every Friday, preferably first thing in the morning.

3. NO work Friday night

I’ve recently started doing some freelance writing work, which I’m excited about, but I’m still finding a balance with it.  I have limited and unpredictable amounts of time to get the work done.  Also, whatever the opposite of a procrastinator is, that is what I am.  I feel a ridiculous need to get the assignments done ASAP, even if I have several days until a deadline.  This has led to some unnecessary stress lately.  I want to SLOW down a little.  I’m going to make sure I set aside all work Friday evenings and just relax and spend time with my husband.

4. Get something easy / fun for dinner

I think the days of going out to dinner Friday nights are over for us for a while, and that is just fine.  It’s much easier and more relaxing to take our little buddy out to lunch.  He’s generally in a better mood earlier in the day and we’re not rushing to get home for bedtime or trying to keep him from falling asleep in the car.  I pretty much never feel like cooking dinner Friday night though.  I grocery shop Friday mornings, so I’m going to make sure to get something easy to make for dinner that night.  Or we could order takeout, but we pretty much never do that for some reason.

5. Have a fun drink

Yes, I’m bringing back happy hour!  Now this does not have to be alcoholic, it could just be kombucha or a fun mocktail, which I love.  It will probably be beer or wine though, preferably enjoyed out on the patio with snacks.  Nothing says the weekend is here to me more than a good, old fashioned happy hour 🙂

That is the plan!  We shall see how it goes.

Do you have any rituals to get you into the weekend spirit?

What is your favorite day of the week?

Any fun plans this weekend?

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How I Left the Corporate World for Montessori – Part 2

If you haven’t read part 1, you can find it here.

 

I was accepted to the UT MBA program (hook ‘em horns!) with a large scholarship.  I grew up loving Longhorn football and all things UT, so this was very exciting.

I left my job pretty much right away to take some time off before business school.  My husband works in IT and his company agreed to let him work remotely, so we decided to move to Wisconsin, where my husband is from, for six months before heading to Austin for school.

My husband’s family has a house on a lake a few hours northwest of Milwaukee and they graciously let us live there for a few months.  It was the best.

I fondly refer to this time in my life as my retirement.  We moved there at the beginning of February, which provided just enough winter to enchant this Texas girl.  I went sledding daily right outside the house.  We went for canoe rides where my hands were aching from the cold, but it was worth it to hear the slow drip of melting snow and see the animals deprived of their hiding places with no leaves on the bushes and trees.

We saw countless deer, sandhill cranes almost as tall as I am, foxes, river otters, raccoons, and so much more.  It was like my favorite kind of vacation, extended for six months.

I sat on the deck and read.  I experimented with cooking.  I wrote a book that will likely never be published, but that’s okay; that’s the sort of thing one does in retirement.

I spent hours walking the country roads and thinking.  I came to have a favorite cow, a favorite barn.  The kind people of Arkdale would stop and ask me if I needed a ride.  I guess they thought I was lost.  And I sort of was.

As much as I was enjoying my retirement, I began to feel a sense of dread.  It started small enough that I didn’t even recognize it.  Does that ever happen to you?  I often get a funny feeling, a shadow of uneasiness, before I realize what I’m anxious about, or even realize that the anxiety is there.

As the months went by, I started getting emails about orientation and new student trips.  All I felt was dread.

Now I am a worrier by nature, so at first I thought this was just a fear of change, a fear of being thrown in with a bunch of new people.  But there was no excitement to balance it out, not even a little bit.  This was not a good sign.

I began to doubt that I should go to business school, but I felt trapped.  I had no other skills, no other plans.  I had quit my job, spent a bunch of time and money applying to school, gotten my family excited about it, and moved us across the country.  It didn’t seem right to just say “uh, sorry guys, just kidding.”

But it also didn’t seem right to dig myself deeper into a career I knew in my heart wasn’t for me.  If I hadn’t had the luxury of those long days to think and reflect and pray, I know I would now be the proud recipient of an MBA, going to an office each day and trying not to question it.

But in those long hours, it just sort of came to me.  And it seemed so very obvious.  Of course this was what I should do.  I had always loved school, loved children, loved Montessori.  I had taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School with my mom and loved it.  Most importantly, it was something I believed in and knew could make a difference.

 

It was May by this point though and with schools letting out for summer, I had to act fast.  I quickly researched and contacted every Montessori school in Austin I could find.  We decided to still move to Austin, as we love the city and it’s near my family in Houston.  Plus, you know, Austin rocks.

We flew to Austin to look for apartments and I interviewed at two schools.  The first one was just not right and my heart sank a little bit.  I really had no backup plan.

I pulled up to the second school, Hawthorne Montessori, and knew immediately it was the kind of place I wanted to be.  The first thing I saw was a child peacefully painting at an easel outside among the trees.  Peeking through the window of the 3-6 classroom, it reminded me so much of my own wonderful days in an early childhood class.  The head of school was wonderful and I tried to remain calmly enthusiastic and not beg for a job.

She took a chance on me and for that I’m forever grateful.  I was an assistant in the toddler and 3-6 classroom for a year, took my training and interned, and then taught at this wonderful school.

I look forward to going back to teaching someday, but also feel so lucky to have had this experience before having my son.  I learned so much about myself, about children, and about the importance of giving yourself the gift of time to explore this beautiful world and find your place in it, the place that calls to you, the place you’re truly meant to be.

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How I Left the Corporate World for Montessori – Part 1

Inspired by my friend and mentor Natalie, I wanted to share how I came to Montessori.  This turned out to be quite long, so I’ve broken it into two parts.  Stay tuned for Part 2….

It all started 26 years ago…I’ll try to keep this part short.  Don’t worry, I’m not pulling a David Copperfield on you 🙂

I have a sister who is 15 months older than I am.  As a little girl, I of course wanted to do everything she did right when she did it.  I pretty much followed her around begging her to play with me, but that’s another story.

When she was five, my sister Kathleen started kindergarten at our local public school.  I begged to go too.  I was apparently so persistent (err, annoying) that my parents gave in.  Since I was too young for public school, they put me in a nearby private school for the year, School of the Woods Montessori.

As eager parents often do, my parents would ask us daily what we did in school.  My sister would say things like “we learned the letter J,” or “we sang a frog song”.  I would say things like “Pluto is the smallest planet and furthest from the Sun”.  Hmm….

The difference between the two schools quickly became pretty obvious.  I want to note that this is in no way a knock against public or traditional schools.  This was just not a good one.  They actually switched my sister into a class that was taught almost entirely in Spanish…no bueno.

My parents switched my sister to School of the Woods.  They had planned to send me there for a year, but we both stayed all the way through middle school.  I can’t tell you how fond my memories are of that school.

I have the clearest, most joyful memories of learning to read and of my first experiences with math.  I loved the little boxes of perfect miniatures used to match to written words.  I LOVED golden beads and the “bank game” (a hands-on material used to show the decimal system all the way through division).  I loved the handwashing work, where a child completes a very precise set of steps using beautiful materials to wash his hands, scrub his nails, apply lotion, etc.

Did I love every teacher I had through the years and want to go to school every day?  No.  But I did cry when I got the chicken pox and found out I had to stay home.

When I was in middle school, my mom, who was a lawyer in a previous life and then stayed home with us when we were little, decided she wanted to become a Montessori teacher.  I remember going with her to her training sometimes that summer.  I strangely remember two nice ladies in her training, both named Debbie.  The things we remember are strange….

My mom came to teach at School of the Woods, and is still there today.

So after having such a wonderful experience, did I know in my heart that I was meant to be a Montessori teacher too?  No.  That would have been so simple.

You would think the countless days I spent play-teaching my little brother, or my ongoing childhood experiment of trying to teach my bunny rabbit English would have been clues.

But it’s so complicated for children today.  There is so much talk of money and success and so many confusing role models.

When I applied to colleges, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do.  I tried to imagine different careers, but everything was so vague and unfamiliar.  I really think high schools should have a class devoted to explaining different careers and having people from those careers some speak.  Did anyone’s school have something like this?

I applied to a business program because it seemed highly practical, but I really had no idea what a career in “business” would look like.  I think I’ve mentioned before my strong fear of failure.  Whatever “business” was, it sounded like something I could get a job with.  Wow, what a way to choose your life’s work.

I had the best time at Georgetown University (Hoya Saxa!).  I learned a ton, both from my excellent professors and from moving to a part of the country I had never so much as visited before freshman orientation.  I enjoyed exploring DC and all that it had to offer.  Upon graduating, I got a job in strategy and management consulting (sticking with the vague theme…) and loved it.  At first.

I was working with highly intelligent and motivated people to solve interesting problems.  We were working with federal government clients and I enjoyed the travel involved in my first project.  I think because of the novelty, the wonderful people, and how much I was learning, I really enjoyed this job for some time.

The thing is, I could never see where it was going.  I couldn’t picture myself going into an office every day for the next forty to fifty years.  I was restless.  Despite all of our hard work, I couldn’t really tell you anything meaningful we were accomplishing at the end of the day.  I most certainly couldn’t tell you that strategy and management consulting was my passion.

So did I quit in a heartbeat to follow my dreams?  No.  That is so not my personality.  I am a type A planner to the core.

I applied to business school.  That was the logical next step if I wanted to make a change.  Because hey, if an undergrad business degree hadn’t gotten me a career I cared about, a graduate degree was sure to, right?  I don’t regret applying to B. school for a second though because I know that it’s what I personally needed to do in order to quit my job.

I could not simply quit such a promising career with no plans for the future.  At the same time, I could not find the space I needed to figure things out while immersed in that world.

To be continued….

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The Gift of Nature

“There is no description, no image in any book capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all the life to be found around them in a real forest.” Maria Montessori

I am happiest outside.  Whether it’s going for a run, sitting on our patio with a glass of wine and a good book, or, perhaps my favorite, hiking in a national park, I would pretty much always rather be outside.

In addition to loving being out in nature, I believe strongly that it’s important for children.  Nothing sparks curiosity more than hearing the music of the birds in the morning or noticing a rustling in the bushes and standing completely still to see if you can discover the mystery behind it.

When teaching in the classroom, I saw fist hand the magic of giving children the gift of time outside.  We had an outdoor classroom where children could bring their work.  It was beautiful to see the concentration that happened when allowing them to do their work in the fresh air, rather than just catching occasional glimpses out the window.  For some children in particular, it made a remarkable difference.

Incorporating outside time into our routine with James has been easy.  A normal Saturday for us before he was born would often include hiking on Austin’s Greenbelt and then eating at Tacodeli at the picnic tables outside.  This is still what we do, just with an extra passenger in tow!

We go for walks every day.  Sometimes these are on a trail somewhere, but often just around our neighborhood.  I would like to get a membership to the nearby Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center soon and take some of our walks there.

We often spend some of his playtime on the back patio.  It’s so easy to bring a blanket out there and get some sunshine.  Sometimes we take playtime to a park too, or this week to Barton Springs, for some variety.

When playing inside, we’re almost always in front of either his mirror or a window, sometimes with the window open to feel the breeze and hear the outside sounds (which are sometimes just traffic noises….)

Bringing nature inside is something I really want to start doing more.  I am the WORST with plants.  I do not have a good track record with them.  I really want to have more plants in our house though.  I need to research some really easy ones instead of just wandering blindly around a plant nursery and picking something pretty.  Any ideas?

While we spend a lot of time outside already, I know there is so much more we could do.  Some things I would love to start including:

  • Nature Books: James has a book about National Parks and one about bugs, but I think those are really the only ones he has about nature.  I plan to go to the library soon and see if I can find some other good ones.  I also might make him one on Shutterfly using photos we’ve taken (my husband is a great photographer!)
  • Nature Photographs: James has nature photographs up in his room, but I’d love to print some more and laminate them so that I could prop them up for him to look at and switch out the images.
  • Outdoor Environment: While we often bring a blanket outside and play, I do not have any sort of real outdoor environment set up for him yet. I’d like to get a cabinet to hold outdoor play items like bubbles.  I would also like to get some sort of shade structure and a water table or small pool for the spring and summer.
  • Nature Box: I would love to have a box or basket of items from nature for James to look at, but I’m not quite sure how to go about this given his strong desire to put everything in his mouth right now. I’m thinking of looking for bigger things like large sea shells or fossils that aren’t a choking hazard.
  • Garden: I’m hesitant to even include this given my aforementioned history of killing plants, but I know gardening is such a rich experience for children. I’m thinking of starting with just a small vegetable garden and seeing if I can keep them alive.  Perhaps I will beg my mom to come help me….

I would love more ideas!

What is your favorite way to get outside? 

If you have children, how do you expose them to nature?

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James at Five Months

The last month has flown by!  Time in general seems to have acquired entirely new properties since our little guy was born, but this month in particular was FAST.  I wanted to document this very sweet time in our lives and share what’s new.

I have to say, this is my very favorite stage of development so far (yes, I think this at almost every stage…).  James is so engaged and interactive, but is not really mobile yet, which I know will bring new challenges.  He is such a happy little guy and is changing all of the time.

Gross Motor

James is determined.  He started rolling from tummy to back at three months and back to tummy at four months, but he really mastered rolling this month.  He also started desperately trying to crawl, but so far this mostly results in scooting backward or slowly rotating in a circle.

Funny story – half way through the month, he seemed to forget how to roll over!  I think once he mastered it, he didn’t care as much about practicing anymore and was likely focused on learning something new.  After constant rolling back and forth, he started trying to roll over, than flopping back down and giving up.  Has this happened to anyone else?

Once I realized this, I started putting toys / interesting objects diagonally above him so he could see them, but would need to roll onto his tummy to get a better look / grab them.  Within a day and a half or so of doing this, he was back to rolling regularly.  (I jokingly referred to this as rolling boot camp.)  Not being able to roll over was seriously impacting his naps, so I was happy when he was at it again!

James has also been practicing sitting and baring weight on his legs.  He can sometimes sit for a couple of minutes, with his hands on the floor for balance.  This seems to surprise him more than anything.

He also loves being held upright to practice standing.  He often collapses after a few seconds, but the last week or so he has started bouncing while doing this with a HUGE grin on his face.

Fine Motor

Last month was all about clasping his hands together and this month has been all about reaching for objects and bringing them to his mouth.  I so clearly remember when he couldn’t get his hand to his mouth at all as a newborn (and so desperately wanted to), and it is amazing to see him now, using his hands so deftly.

Sleep

James has made great strides with sleep this month and I must say, it’s made a huge difference in our family’s happiness!

He is not yet sleeping through the night regularly (he usually wakes up once in the middle of the night and once in the early morning), but I honestly don’t really care about that.  He goes back to sleep quickly and on his own after I feed him, so it’s just a 15-20 minute process.

The change this month, however, has been falling asleep independently.  This is something we’ve really been working on since he was three months or so, but saw significant progress in this month.  He’s been able to fall asleep on his own after night wakings for months, but just recently started doing so for most naps and at bedtime.  He used to cry and cry and need significant comforting, but I now just sing him one song and put him in his bed and he usually falls asleep.  I sometimes have to go back in to sing him another song and he sometimes needs more help with his late afternoon nap, but the days of lying next to him and rubbing his back or tummy while he cried seem to be mostly over (at least for now!)

He did have a strange 5-6 day string of very difficult bedtimes a couple of weeks ago.  I honestly have no idea why.  He started crying SO hard when we put him to bed; it was terrible.  After a few days though, he went back to normal and seems perfectly happy at bedtime most days.

Awareness

One of the biggest changes I’ve seen in James this month is his awareness.  He seems to be recognizing patterns and anticipating what will happen next.  For example, he gets super excited when I put him in his stroller to go for a walk.  He also gets a huge grin on his face when we start getting ready for bath time – one of his all-time favorite activities.  I actually wonder if this greater awareness is what caused his temporary bedtime rebellion – he would start crying as soon as the bedtime routine started.  Regardless, it is so fun to see this mental leap.

I honestly can’t believe that our little buddy is almost half a year old!  Six months seems like such a milestone to me and I just wish time would slow down.  I can only imagine what the next month will bring, but I’m trying not to look ahead too much, to focus on savoring these sweet days one at a time as they come.

Do you have children?  If so, what is something new they’re doing this month?

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