Get Adobe Flash player

Change

[Not] Having, or Doing it All

20150908_084456

Nora, on one of the first days of school this year. I’m grateful she gets to join us often for outside time.

It has been some time since my last post, and all of the previous year I found myself wanting to blog, but feeling the need to play catch up for those who have followed along with me for awhile. The past several years have been big and busy for me, with the growth of our (now officially complete) family and the birth of our community program turned small business. A lot has shifted in our lives, as is normal for a growing family finding their groove. Before I get back to sharing some of our world again, I want to talk a little about how we’ve been making things work over the past year or two, lest I leave familiar readers with the sense that I’m steering and keeping this crazy ship afloat on my own – something I have now realized would be entirely impossible for me.

As a review, or an introduction, depending on your familiarity with our story, my family moved to the Washington, DC area from the magical island of Guam about three and a half years ago. Back then it was me, my husband, two-year-old Annabelle, and the 33-week-old fetus that would soon grow into an adorable baby boy called Elliot. Before marriage and Annabelle, I had been a Montessori teacher, and when we got to our new home Annabelle was nearly the age of the children I had long worked with. I wanted her to have the Montessori early childhood experience, so I began looking for a school for her and quickly discovered that we’d be looking at either a daily commute and a very pretty penny for tuition, or waiting another year to apply for the lottery and dealing with the disappointment if she didn’t get one of the precious few spots. I decided to create another, more workable option, and I found some like-minded families in our cozy new neighborhood. By later that year (just over three years ago now) we had a little co-op going. Slowly that co-op grew and changed to meet the needs of the families involved, most of whom are still involved today. We bought a house that was perfectly suited to support it, and our little program is now a thriving home-based Montessori program for 3-6 year olds. It may not be a co-op any longer, but it wouldn’t continue to exist without the support of the families who helped bring it to life, and who I still can’t believe I’m lucky enough to know and call friends.

One of my goals in starting our program was to create a life for us that involved balance between work, family, and individual pursuits. I figured that working from home would allow me to be with my children as I had always desired to be while also maintaining a professional life in my field. Sticking close to home would keep the pace of our life slow enough that I could also take care of the needs of our house and continue to cook delicious vegan food from scratch. Perfect, right? It sounded that way, but my expectations were unrealistic.

Elliots firsts

Elliot’s first day of school this year

As Elliot grew, he was no longer content to hang out in his own space during our school day and do his own thing away from the preschool materials, but giving him free reign in a classroom not designed for his age group was both dangerous for him and frustrating for those it was intended for. Just as I was seeing that the environment could not continue to meet his needs as a toddler, our littlest, now 20 months old, came along. Nora gave me the motivation and a perfectly reasonable excuse to slow down and shut the doors of our school for a little while (luckily it also happened to be summer break, or close enough). By the time she was three months old and we were ready to open our classroom yet again, Elliot was that much older and more mature. He was a little over two, and I’m accustomed to folding children into the 3-6 classroom anytime between 2.5 and 3 years of age, so I decided that starting him a bit early would be no big deal. He would join the class, and Nora would take over his workspace. At the same time, a toddler room had opened at a nearby, reasonably priced Montessori school and they offered a two morning per week program. I enrolled Elliot and planned to send him there on Mondays and Tuesdays and have him with us for the rest of the week.

This.did.not.work. The work in a toddler environment and the work in a 3-6 classroom are simply different. Toddlers combine. Toddlers dump. Toddlers destroy. Preschoolers are different. Trying to work in both spaces within each week, especially while being young for our space, was stressful for Elliot, and trying to meet his needs was stressful for me. Nora may have been manageable on her own, but when Elliot was upset and needing my attention, she often needed the same, and there were a few mornings that school year when both of them were screaming at once and one of the 3-6 year olds would start covering their ears while trying to work. I had to face reality, so that October I hired a nanny. She took care of Elliot and Nora both on the three days that he did not go to his Montessori toddler room, and on the other two days Nora hung out in her own little corner of our classroom while Elliot was at school. This year Elliot is three, so he has outgrown the toddler room and is participating in our class full time and doing fine, but our beloved nanny still works full time, coming even on the mornings when Nora is in the Montessori toddler room Elliot once attended. She folds laundry and sweeps up while Nora is in class, and takes incredibly good care of our girl when she’s home. This allows Nora to be in an environment where she has what she needs, and it allows me to focus– and as a bonus, it prevents laundry mountain from growing and taking over our house, so it’s a win on all accounts.

20150908_084322

Annabelle, my big kindergartner, at the start of the year

As our class grew, I decided I couldn’t handle the care of our little school alone either, so at the start of this school year, I hired a part-time assistant who helps me keep things in the classroom running smoothly. At this point, I’m still able to be around my children for a large portion of my day – Annabelle and Elliot for virtually all of it, and Nora for less than I’d ideally like, but still quite a lot. I’m still able to avoid dedicating time to a commute. I’m still able to enjoy a professional life, too, but much has fallen by the wayside. I can’t tell you the last time I made a loaf of sourdough bread from scratch. My starters both died, actually. Over a year ago. I sometimes hurriedly eat fig bars from Costco for breakfast, in contrast to the fresh, whole foods I once lovingly prepared. My kids eat a lot of cereal. I promise I buy the kinds with very little sugar, at least. Even with the help of our incredible nanny, our house is almost never clean. I have had to let a lot go, which I’m okay with in this season, and I have needed a lot of help. Thank goodness for help. It’s not just the nanny and the assistant teacher, either. It’s neighbors, friends who take a child or two when I need an extra hand or help me get my freezer stocked with home-cooked meals, and my husband who is truly a partner in caring for our household. I like to think I help them all, too, but some days I feel like I’m withdrawing more than I’m depositing to my relationship accounts. I’m grateful that no one has started charging me overdraft fees, and I’m shifting things around a little more still, by going to half day hours in our school next year, so I can start to pay some of that back and keep life even more in balance … perhaps. I suspect the craziness will continue  through the early childhood years, and very likely beyond, if in different ways, and I’m pretty okay with that.

Now, if you see me post pictures of our classroom or the from scratch meals I do get to make sometimes, you’ll know that they’re the wins in our wild, messy household, and I was only able to put work into them because I have so many people to lean on. Together, we make it all happen, and it’s nowhere near perfect, but I love it.

Sleep and Us: A Long Road

Annabelle has always disliked going to sleep, and she comes by this honestly. Staying up late was one of my favorite things to do as a child and, as much as I love feeling rested, I still have a hard time shutting down virtually every single night. There’s always so much I want to do! Parenthood has changed this slightly, making me value sleep much more and work a bit harder to get it. Still, I stay up longer than I probably should on a regular basis.

As a newborn, Annabelle almost always nursed to sleep. When she was a few months old, she started nursing almost to sleep, and then unlatching and letting out a wail before settling right in to sleep in my arms. It was almost as though she was saying, “I’m going to go to sleep now, but I’m not happy about it!” She always went to sleep somewhat late at night and slept in each morning, which was perfectly fine for me. Left to our own devices, the husband and I are both  natural night owls, and it seemed that she would be, too.  Continue reading

Preparing for a Second Child: Examining Routines

It seems that going from one to two children can rank among the most challenging transitions that many families will ever face. For Annabelle’s sake, as well as our own, we’re trying to prepare in a number of different ways and I’ll be sharing those with you as we go along in an informal series I’ll call Preparing for a Second Child. Continue reading

Pardon Our Mess

I’m thrilled to announce the completion of my brand new site: Vibrant Wanderings

When I started blogging at The New Mommy Files almost a year and a half ago, I chose a name hastily, thinking that my only readers would be family and a small handful of friends. I did not expect to find the incredible community that I have in blogging, and I did not expect to find myself so passionate about it. This is my creative outlet – it keeps me sane, and it helps me flesh things out. I love it, and I want the name and the look and feel to be something special, not just something I came up with at two am and decided was “good enough.”
And so we move. Many, many thanks to the lovely Lisa Chau who has worked tirelessly with me to create the new site and tweak it until it was just right. If you need help with a site design, she’s your gal. I toyed around with the idea of hiring a web designer for months, and even talked with a couple, but in the end realized I had no idea what I wanted or what to ask for, so I stayed put. Lisa offered to create a new design for me, and the only guidance I could offer was that I wanted something “nature inspired.” She answered my vague request with the most perfect site design I could have asked for, and I am so very grateful. She’s awesome. Plain and simple.
Anyway, I’m hoping the change is easy as pie and your subscriptions are uninterrupted, but if anything looks funky in the next day or two, forgive me and please don’t give up! Changing the name of a facebook page with more than 100 fans is not an option, so that is one difference. I’d be delighted if you joined me on the new facebook page!

Also, if you’re curious about the name selection, you can read all about it: here.
Photo Credit: Antti Kaakinen

Journey to a Disposable Free Household

Welcome to the First Annual Freedom of Cloth Carnival

This post was written for inclusion in the Freedom of Cloth Carnival hosted at Natural Parents Network by Melissa of The New Mommy Files and Shannon of The Artful Mama. This year’s carnival will run from Sunday, July 3rd through Saturday, July 9th. Participants are sharing everything they know and love about cloth diapering, including how cloth has inspired them.

***

Photo Credit: Ray King
Used by Creative Commons License

I have been on a journey to be kinder and gentler to the environment since long before my daughter was born, but her birth and the decision to cloth diaper definitely gave me the extra push I needed to take that journey more seriously. I knew from the start that I would use cloth in combination with elimination communication, but as I researched my options and learned how easy it was to use cloth, I took things a bit further.

Using cloth caused me to think more about other single-use items in our home and I have slowly been replacing these with options we can use again and again. The most obvious switch was from disposable to cloth napkins, but later we moved away from our use of paper towels for cleaning. I was surprised to see how easy it was to use cotton cloths in their stead, even for things like mirrors and windows. Making one small change at a time has made the switch to cloth for all of our household needs an easy one. My most recent change has been away from disposable feminine products and it was quite easy thanks to my “Keeper Cup.”
As I gave more thought to the products I was using to wash our diapers, I also began to examine all of our household cleaning products and that has been instrumental in my switch to a chemical-free household. Not only is this safer for my family, but it has me buying fewer products in disposable containers. We do use a large amount of vinegar that comes in plastic gallon jugs, so my current eco conundrum is how to reduce those. The change in our choice of cleaning products in turn made me look at the products I use for my own self care: shampoos, soaps, and other cosmetics. I have slowly made changes in this area as well, switching to products that don’t contain harsh chemicals and that use less packaging and disposable containers.
By no means am I perfect, and I’m sure that my family is not making all of the “right” choices, but the point is – we’re thinking about it, and we’re making changes one at a time as we see a need. Cloth diapering has been a giant stepping stone in our journey toward awareness and conscious, mindful living in our environment. 

***

freedom of cloth carnivalVisit
Natural Parents Network
for the most up-to-date news on the Freedom of Cloth Carnival!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants on the following themes. Articles will go live on the scheduled theme day:

  • Sunday, July 3rd, 2011: Cloth Related Recipes — Writers share their best cloth-related recipes and tutorials.
  • Monday, July 4th, 2011: Choosing Your Cloth Style — Today’s posts discuss parents’ individual journeys to finding the cloth diapering “style” that best suits their families.
  • Tuesday, July 5th, 2011: Cloth Diapering Must Haves — Parents talk about the most important items in their diapering “stash” and why they love them.
  • Wednesday, July 6th, 2011: Wordless Wednesday, Inspired by Cloth — We asked parents to share their favorite cloth-related photo with us and turned them into a fluffy Wordless Wednesday photo montage on Natural Parents Network. Link up your own Wordless Wednesday post there!
  • Thursday, July 7th, 2011: Cloth Through the Stages: From Infancy to Potty Independence — Today’s participants explain how cloth diapering has served their families throughout one or more stages of their children’s lives.
  • Friday, July 8th, 2011: Cloth Troubleshooting and Laundry Day — Seasoned cloth diapering parents share their best tips and tricks for handling common cloth problems and tackling the diaper laundry.
  • Saturday, July 9th, 2011: Inspired by Cloth — For today’s theme, we’ve asked writers to explore the ways cloth diapering has inspired them to become “greener” overall.
Multicultural Kid Blogs
Shop Montessori Services

Categories

Archives

I participate in

Montessori Monday
BabyLinkUp500px