The time has come. We are thisclose to rolling out of town and I am getting sad. It’s so easy to look forward to this day–graduation day & the end of a significant chapter–and then it hits. We’re leaving her nursery. & his nursery. & I will never rock a baby in them again. The home where we became a family will live on in our memories, but I will not walk the halls where my babies took their first steps for much longer. I will remove the last pictures from the walls. I will say goodbye to all the people that were my confidants, cheerleaders and support through a substantially challenging chapter of life.
Leaving this city is really freaking hard.
Don’t get me wrong, I will not miss the traffic and the heat, but I will miss my people. I have never found such a warm & loving community of mothers. I feel so blessed to have met some of the most amazing women I’ve ever known, here. I have been inspired and encouraged and consoled. How did I get so lucky? Investing my heart in these people has been one of the best experiences of my life. The worst part is leaving. I know we’re probably coming back in two short years, but life will never look the same. That’s tough to swallow sometimes. I feel like I am leaving babyhood here in San Antonio. And I am. This is the end of me mothering an infant. We are entering the school years. & as great as that feels, I am mourning a little bit too. I guess what I am trying to say is that I really have loved life here. Mostly because of the people, but those people have introduced me to places that have been the heart of our relationships. Our places of community.
So in an ‘ode to San Antonio, let me share my favorite local stops with you. We were regulars at any & all of these wonderful places!
- San Antonio Botanical Gardens: My favorite place in the city. They have fun events for kids–Halloween, spring break & Viva Botanics for Fiesta are our favorites! We adore the quiet, feeding the ducks back by the lake and splashing in the fountains. Especially when the rubber duckies are in it.
- Morgan’s Wonderland: Our second favorite place in the city. The cleanest, quietest, most engaging place for [littler] kids around. It is amazingly accommodating for those with special needs, but open to all families. We could not love it more.
- Little Gym of Helotes: What can I say about Little Gym and Ms. Cyndi, other than we love her and will be crying big ugly tears when we leave. My kids grew up at the gym and I owe a lot of their confidence to her. They adore her and the gym/dance classes. We have gone once a week since caroline could walk. It’s the single best kids activity we’re participated in regularly.
- Fiesta Farms: A happy little farm oasis! We love this place. Quiet & muddy/dusty. :)
- San Antonio Zoo: Not the best zoo, but a decent one. We always ride the train and head back to the Tot Spot, where it is quieter than the rest of the Zoo. The new carousel is pretty fun. & the train! The main attraction. We especially love the kitties on the other side of the tunnel.
- McKenna Children’s Museum: Worth the drive up I-35 to New Braunfels, especially if you have a daughter who is into babies–they have a full little NICU! Everett loves the giant outdoor water table and the shopping cart area. We will soon have a DO-seum on Broadway, which will replace the San Antonio Children’s Museum. The current museum in the city is not a favorite place of mine. I find it lacking, and avoid it, and its current location, at all costs. I am not comfortable going alone with my kids, for safety reasons.
- Ft. Sam Houston Quadrangle: How could I forget this one?! My profile picture up there was taken there–as was my last family session. The most dreamy light in all of the city is within the bright white stone walls of the beautiful, historic Quadrangle! There are also deer you can pet (!!), peacocks, ducks and some rowdy geese. Be sure to bring some carrots for the deer. I’m not sure if you can easily get on base as a non-military member, but even a quick bounce into the visitor center is worth it–we love the Quad! And there is the most incredible oak tree I have ever seen in my life in there. Insanely gorgeous. Now I wish we’d have gone one more time! Hopefully we’ll live right around the corner when we get back. :)
- Magik Theatre: A dynamic variety of great kids shows!
- Libraries we love: Igo & Landa. Both have great playgrounds! I think Igo has a better book selection, but you can request anything in the San Antonio system for delivery to your home branch. So nice!
- PeeWeeBees: A great place for littler kids to run off steam when it’s a hundred degrees out.
- The Painted Plate: some of my most treasured pottery/plates/Christmas ornaments were created here! I need to go pack them up for the trailer…
- The Twig: This is a locally owned book store, and storytime with Anastasia on Friday mornings is fantastic!
This was a little over a year ago at the Botanical Gardens. They were so little!
- The Discovery School: This is the most special place ever, ever in the history of ever. We adored our time at DS. Mrs. K & Ms. H were a huge source of joy & love for my caroline. I could not recommend them more. It’s a hybrid play/montessori-ish model. Lots of creativity. Lots of love. & the fairy garden is such a treasure!!
- Giant Steps: Caroline did her first year of school here. We had an excellent experience. I moved her because I was adamant about half days as a four year old, and that wasn’t an option here, but Mrs. G was incredible. & the playground is second to none!!
These are all snippets of our magical Discovery School experience. So much fun. E was an honorary student. :)
- Nowlin Roberts Salon: Sweet, sweet Nowlin. He is more than your hair guy. His talent with both rich color & the scissors in wonderful. I will miss him SO SO MUCH.
- Woodhouse Day Spa: A nice treat. I prefer the one at the RIM.
- Cheryl Nichols of ReMax The Premier Group: The hardest working realtor I know. She’s a full package–realtor/stager/photographer. Excellent accessibility & communication. We sold fast. Twice actually, when we had a fluke thing happen and our first deal was dead after both parties signed the closing papers. It happens. I’m proof. Six days later, back under contract. (Let’s hope this one sticks!!) Thank God for Cheryl.
- Best Coffee: Local (The Pearl is our favorite location & caramel latte is TDF. We also love the pastries, which are actually made by Bakery Lorraine!)
- Best Date Night: Il Sogno or Boiler House (soooo good!!)
- Best Vegetarian: Green (their nachos & ranch are incredible!)
- Best Pastries: Bakery Lorraine
- Best Cupcakes: Bird Bakery
- Best Burgers: BurgerFi
- Best Custard: Freddys
- Most gobbled up kids lunch: Cosi
Shopping, Unique to San Antonio Area
- Whole Earth Provision: My FAVORITE store here! Think REIish meets creative kids store. The most incredible children’s book/toy selection I have ever seen. We also love their shoe department. It’s amazing–for both kids and adults!! Military gets an extra discount off sale items, and they always have great sales!
- Go Baby Go: Cloth Diapering/Baby Wearing/Fun mama gear store. Tell Liz I sent you! She also offers a military discount.
- The Tiny Finch: A pinterest haven. Anthro-ish. But more home stuff.
- Nursery Couture: Owned by Katy, of Caden Lane. Posh mama one-stop-shop.
- Pottery Barn/Williams Sonoma/West Elm outlet in San Marcos: I cannot say enough about this place. I have so much gorgeous furniture that I got 50-80% off retail from here. It’s hit ans miss sometimes, but don’t forget the military discount! Yes, that is ON TOP of the ridiculously low prices already!
- Restoration Hardware Outlet in San Marcos: Still pricey, but much cheaper than the catalog!
- Architectural Antiques: A fun place for any of you restoration buffs.
Random Home Stuff
So there you have it! The Best of San Antonio, that we experienced. While we’re leaving with a lot of sadness in our hearts, we’re going to remember all the smiles on our faces over the years. This six years have been the best of my life. So much happy happened here in SA!! All signs point to us returning in a couple of years, so maybe we’ll run into you again soon! Happy Exploring!
SA mamas–what did I forget? I am sure I missed something…add to the list if you wish!! :)
I have thought a lot about what I want this article to say. Mostly, I have tried to figure out my point. & I think my goal is simple: to start a conversation. Pelvic Organ Prolapse (or Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, or Pelvic Floor Disorder) is not a topic you’ll see floating around the Internet unless you dig for it. It’s uncomfortable to talk about (for some) and if you are squeamish about medical stuff, then go ahead and just skip it now. I am going to share details that I longed to find discussed by a real person, or even on the internet–and they might make some blush. In our house, we talk about the body a lot. I see a lot of gross textbook pictures laying open on my coffee table. Nothing really fazes me anymore. So here is your warning: this is educational. I am not going to sugar coat stuff!
Pelvic prolapse is, what some will describe as, one of the last hush hush topics in gynecology. Seems like we can now talk freely about most anything with our girlfriends–and we do!!! But I have yet to have an educated conversation with a non-medical professional about a prolapse. And for a problem that affects as many as HALF of women, why is that? It’s not just an “old lady” problem. I’m in my early thirties. I have pelvic prolapse. And I think we need to have a discussion–and more importantly, talk about improving our chances of preventing it! My goal is simply to share my story–because you may have a similar one. I had NO IDEA that the symptoms I have been experiencing (some for years!) were a clue to my path to prolapse. I don’t want any of you to end up like me–formerly clueless, engaging in heavy physical activity, and then sidelined with a serious pelvic floor issue. It’s depressing and frustrating and it did not have to be this way. So let me tell you my story.
If you follow this blog, you know I have had two deliveries. Both were quick, once they got going. Both were tough on my body, for different reasons. I recovered from both slowly, gently. I never jumped right back into exercise, but I did get there eventually. After my first delivery, I had some incontinence issues, but nothing so bothersome, that I sought treatment. Back then, I was crossfitting in my own way, and my “should have seen it” clues were in my jumps. Burpees, Box Jumps, Jump Rope. All equaled leakage–but I thought, eh, consequence of having a baby. There is nothing I can do about it & I want another baby, so I’ll put it off until I “have my body back” for good. Mistake #1!! You can ALWAYS work on strengthening your pelvic floor–and this helps with incontinence!!
My second pregnancy came with a lot more discomfort than my first. I had some vaginal vein issues and my discomfort made me get off my feet for the first time in my life. It was not fun, and I assumed it would go away after delivery. Most of it did, but some of it did not. My second delivery was fast & furious, and while it was exactly what I wanted, it was really the start of this whole thing. At least that is what I think.
Fast forward about a year, and I got back into a regular and rigorous workout routine. I would do my yoga (like, drip sweat on your mat because it’s so hard yoga) twice a week. Then on Saturday I would lift really heavy (like out-lift most of the dudes in my class, heavy). It was mentally freeing. I take great pleasure and pride in getting and being strong. I feel best about myself when I am strong. Lifting myself and other heavy stuff is essential for my well-being, but it was damaging my body–not because I was doing it, but because of the way I was doing it. I went on, not knowing there was a problem for nearly a year. Until one day…something was different.
I had done two heavy barbell classes in a row. One Saturday we’d done some PR (personal record) lifting. I had my instructor help lift and rack my weight because I couldn’t rack it myself–that’s how heavy I’d gone. We did tons of squats. Tons of lunges. All really heavy, until failure. After unwinding in yoga on M/W, I went back for more. We lifted heavy again, but this time it was heavy deadlifts. We had to have done over a hundred deadlifts that day. I completed the class. Felt great. Then the next morning, I felt IT.
I felt like I had a tampon that was falling out. I did my own physical exam and wouldn’t you know–my cervix was like…right there. I used to have to work really hard to check my mirena threads in my cervix. You know, squat in the shower to reach them. Now it was like, RIGHT THERE–what was happening?!! I freaked out (something I normally don’t do) and consulted with my husband, who said I was likely experiencing prolapse. So I googled it (because I had no idea what that was!) & then I really lost it. This pretty much explains it.
I saw my Gynecologist (who happens to be a pelvic floor specialist!!) and she confirmed with some measurements, that I had exactly what I thought I did. Except it was not only a uterine prolapse, everything was moving south. There were words like hysterectomy and pelvic sling and pessary on the table. Whaaat?? I am healthy. I take care of myself. I exercise. What went wrong? What happened here?
& the answer was simple: I neglected to strengthen my pelvic floor. & then I repeatedly did several exercises that are known to significantly increase pressure on the pelvic floor. & I did them with heavy weight on my back. So therein lies my recipe for disaster! No pelvic floor muscles + lots of intra-abdominal pressure = everything falls down. And this can happen to ANYONE, regardless of how they treat their body. While prolapse cannot be reversed (without surgery) you can sometimes improve the symptoms by strengthening the pelvic floor.
So I was referred to an amazing Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist (can you believe there is such a thing??) and learned a whole lot about my body. & I want to share some of that with you. Let’s start with the symptoms, because maybe you can relate.
My Prolapse “Clues”
- Posture: I noticed that after carrying Everett, my belly always stuck out a little more than my bust. This was not the case with Caroline. What I learned was that I had such weak abdominals (despite my exercise–I had been totally overcompensating with the other muscles!), that I was still carrying my body like I was pregnant–sticking out my bum a bit & rolling my hips toward the ground, slightly bearing down at all times. Try standing in the typical “hands on my back because I am so pregnant” stance–are you still doing this after delivery?? Time to strengthen those transverse abdominals!
- Bearing down: like you have to “push.” I was constantly bearing down–to lift, to walk, to breathe, to cough, to bathe my kids. This is a major sign of a weak pelvic floor.
- Breathing: I was a belly breather. I did not engage my diaphragm much. I would breathe down, not up into my diaphragm.
- Bracing to get out of a chair: My quads were very strong, but my hamstrings were weak and I couldn’t even get out of a chair without using my arm strength. Try sitting on a firm chair & without any assistance, using your legs to get up. Can you? I am still working at this. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it was another red flag that I am still working hard to correct.
- Incontinence: Inability to stop urinary flow. Always feel like you have to go to the bathroom. Leak, even after you think you have stopped the flow or urine. Trampolines & treadmills=bad news.
- Vagina “Farts”: are you laughing yet? This one is soooo embarrassing. I googled this for so many years, and NONE of the sites I found ever came up with prolapse as an explanation. So as mortifying as it is, let’s talk about it. So you’re in yoga. You go into down dog. You lift your leg to three legged dog, and then curl it into scorpion and then as you head back up, & back to mountain, OMG. Noise!! MORTIFYING. Well. If you have a prolapse, this is what happened: your uterus slipped from its prolapse into normal position while you were inverted, and created an awesome vacuum. Then, as you returned to your upright position, your uterus fell back down (thanks, gravity!!) and shoved all the extra air you accumulated right on down with it. & out it went. So there you have it, my four year long mystery, solved. Does this happen to anyone else?? No one ever talks about it, so maybe I am a minority? It was a very real problem for me–and actually kept me away from yoga for a time.
- Low, painful periods: After Everett, I had increasingly painful periods. Some of this is surely related to my endometriosis, but some of it was new because of the location of cramping. My periods were not painful in my abdomen anymore–they were painful much, much lower. As painful as those vaginal varicose veins during pregnancy. Makes sense, now that I know that my uterus is so much lower than it should be.
So then what? What happens if you do have prolapse? Is there any hope for improvement?
Let me encourage you–yes!! There is a lot of wishy washy info out there on google searches. I am currently going to Pelvic PT, where I have my progress & strength monitored under untrasound, so I can see just how to do things like kegels and the other strength exercises. I can tell you that in the last couple of months since I started Pelvic PT I have seen a major improvement in how I carry my body. I am still symptomatic, but I do my PT exercises every single day & I am adding in more yoga as the weeks pass & I can hold the poses while engaging my pelvic floor/abdomen correctly. This is a skill that has to be acquired & practiced, & my PT has helped me identify how to fire the muscles correctly. It is also encouraging to see, under ultrasound, how much more control I have over these muscles–and that I can actually fire them now. I could not even see my kegel on ultrasound when I started–that’s how weak mine was. I have also done vaginal e-stim–which is quite a strange experience. But it works! I am learning how to control the muscles that have completely lost function. There is so much work that can be done to improve the function of the pelvic floor muscles, but I will emphasize “work.” It takes dedication!
Is there a treatment? What are you doing long term?
I am still at the beginning of treating my prolapse. I am in no rush for a hysterectomy, though I am sure it is in my future. We are learning more about my body as the treatment goes on–and how much of my problem is muscle weakness vs. ligament damage. Ligament damage (which is a result of both pregnancy and childbirth) cannot be reversed. Ligament damage is permanent & I did have two significant tears with my deliveries, so there’s likely some damage. However, the muscle improvement is ongoing, and will never be considered done. Like any other muscles, I will need to work on them the rest of my life. Even after a hysterectomy, a woman needs a strong pelvic floor. No surgery can strengthen my muscles–so I will exercise them regularly!
I am also using a pessary, which has been great! My doctor calls them a “bra for your vagina” and that’s exactly what it is! It is a soft silicone device that you insert like a diaphragm. It comes in a bunch of shapes & sizes; yours is determined by your doctor during a fitting, based on your anatomical needs. It is tricky to get out sometimes, but after a while you get the hang of it.
I have to say, the idea of using a pessary made me really sad for a long time. I thought about how much of a pain it would be to take it in & out every day. Was this my new normal? I need something to hold my insides up? I am too young for this!! & I was sweaty and in tears one night, at the beginning, when it got stuck. I swore I would never get it out. But I did. & you know–the internet has no tips for getting a pessary in & out. So while we’re talking about everything uncomfortable in this article, I will share that I’ve found it is easiest to remove in the shower (relaxed!!), standing. Squatting does not work for me. At all. I cannot get it in well sitting down, either; standing is best. It is so awkward at first, but for anyone who may be seeking encouragement here, you get the angles down eventually and it does become second nature. It isn’t ever “comfortable” but it gets easier. Just experiment with new angles until you find one that makes it easy.
The best part of the pessary? It works!!! I can’t feel it when it’s in. It relieves my symptoms (most of the incontinence too!) and I can even breeze right through that three legged dog hip opener–SILENTLY. That may be the greatest achievement of all. :) Yoga, with no noises! WINNER!
Exercise in the future is still up in the air. Many experts will tell women who have been diagnosed with prolapse that their exercise routine should include only exercises where you can keep at least one foot on the ground at all times. This means zero impact exercises. No running, no jumping. Nada. I can tell you that I will probably never be comfortable running again–just because I do fear making my prolapse worse and being forced to have surgery. Weights is something that will get introduced back into my regime over time. I don’t think I will ever lift as heavy as I used to, but with the right form & being really mindful of those pelvic floor muscles, I hope to get to a place where I can include at least light lifting again. For now, I am going to continue my yoga practice. I’ve bumped that to three times a week and hope to add even more. There is so much strength that can be gained from moving your own body around. & bonus, a new study even comments on the pelvic floor benefits of yoga. But as I have learned, you have to know how to properly engage your pelvic floor muscles or you could be doing it all wrong!!
So what can I do? What do I do??
If you show no signs of a prolapse and are looking to prevent it in the future, work on your kegels & pelvic floor strength! My doctors have always checked the strength of my kegel at my annual–which is a great place to start. Don’t ignore their advice, like I did!! squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. See if there are any local PTs that offer informational seminars in your area. There are also a bunch of resources on YouTube! Do an exercise search. Here is a search for pelvic floor exercises for women.
If you suspect something is up, see your gynecologist. Seek treatment from a specialist. I would find a Urogynecologist, board certified in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery. Bonus if they are affiliated with a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist. If I had the chance to rewind to right after Caroline’s birth, I would have sought the help of a Women’s Health Physical Therapist immediately. I think their work is incredibly valuable. Don’t put it off–seek expert help ASAP. & make sure they examine you standing up. This is important–as everything can move back when you are laying down!
Additionally, if you happen to live in San Antonio, lucky you!! My doctor and my Pelvic Physical Therapist are putting on a fun evening program this Friday night, open to the public, to discuss all things related to Pelvic Floor Health. This is an amazing opportunity to learn more from the experts. I cannot even begin to say enough good things about Dr. Dooley and Dr. Rodriguez. Go & learn from them! Ask your questions! They will have a q&a box if you are too uncomfortable to ask your questions in front of everyone. It is open to the public, not just military, even though it is on Ft. Sam Houston. Seriously, take advantage of this opportunity!
I have read the internet up, down and sideways. Here is a collection of the articles about the Pelvic Floor that you may find particularly useful. :)
- Find a nearby Urogynecologist HERE
- Find a Women’s Health/Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist HERE
- Take the Floor, The American Urogynecologic Society non-profit organization that supports all things PFD HERE
- The best article I found on Lifting Weights & Prolapse HERE
- A random source, but excellent overview of prolapse & symptoms & therapy HERE
- 12 Unsafe Abdominal Exercises for Prolapse HERE
- Pelvic Exercises (& a really great Pelvic Floor info website!!) HERE
- 7 Yoga Poses, safe for your pelvic floor HERE
- My favorite Pelvic Health Blog HERE
Did you make it this far? Holy smokes. That was more than I thought I would write. If you have anything more you wish to add, as always, let’s make this article a resource for women who may stumble upon it on a freaked-out google search. I’d love to hear how you’ve handled a diagnosis or what you are doing to rehab. Or even if you are part of the noisy yogis club. HAhaha. No, really. It’s not funny. But it is. Sort of. Not laughing about it yet? Maybe you need a pessary! ;)
Hellooooo!!! I have missed this little corner of my life!!! Let’s catch up!!
- I finally logged into my wordpress for the first time since I last wrote in January. I’m getting the itch to write again (that sometimes happens after a nice little happy hiatus!) but gosh, not turning my computer on but several times a week sure helped in the productivity department!!
- We are one month from our big move–happy & sad! Sad to leave, happy to go. :)
- Our house has SOLD! It took A day. WOAH for good staging, a great realtor and a happenin’ market! Oh, and a pretty awesome, well loved home! The best news of all, Caroline’s fancy nursery will be enjoyed by a sweet little girl who should be on her way into this world any day now…aaaaaand cue tears!
- Everett is TWO! How did that even happen? I realized I never got to blog his first birthday. His second was full of all things diggers & dump trucks, as he is OBSESSED. Thus, his formerly nautical big boy room is now going to be an industrial chic construction haven. & I am contemplating a big boy bed…eek!
- Meanwhile, the little miss and I are singing Let it Go on repeat, repeat, repeat. & we are planning the most awesome rainbow room for our new home–all her idea! We’re still negotiating about those purple walls she wants. I think we may be able to compromise on a plum-ish color like elsa’s north mountain cape for ONE wall…yowza. The girl knows what she wants…shocker. ;)
- We found a rental in St. Louis! I still haven’t seen in in person (yikes!) but for this season of life, it’s not worth the logistics of making a quick trip up. & we already signed the lease. Ha! This is a new journey for us, as we’ve been homeowners (twice!) for about ten years now. I anticipate some growing pains with the limitations of a rental, but overall, I am SO excited to be in a new city, and right in the heart of it. Maybe even some blogging about how to make a house that is not yours, a home. Until then, I am soaking up every last word of The Nesting Place, a very inspiring read.
- I’ve had a not-so-awesome female anatomy diagnosis…the P word…prolapse. As in, pelvic organ prolapse. Heard of it? Well you’re gonna. I am making it my new mission to build awareness about this, as it affects HALF of all women. HALF. Eh, I am healthy. YOUNG! Can’t happen to me. I work out!! HA. Then one day after setting some PRs in my weights class and heading into well over a hundred heavy, HEAVY deadlifts…it happened. (or shall I say, I finally felt it happening) I promise to educate you so you don’t end up in my shoes!
- Yoga is goooood. I swear, the more yoga, the happier mama.
- stylebabyLOG update–I still have about a dozen in inventory, and will be shutting the shop down until we get settled. They will likely not be available again until the fall. If you want one, grab it! I’ll give the BUY NOW link about another two weeks live, then I can’t promise you’ll get one any time soon!
- How awesome has the San Antonio winter/spring been?! Man, this place is tricking me into thinking the weather is tolerable.
- The Power of Habit. GREAT read. Life changing, for me–especially as it relates to parenting! :)
- We are thisclose to being done with residency!!!!!! I know what lies ahead is infinitely worse, but this is a major milestone for us, and I am so excited for the next chapter!
Whew. It’s been in insane four months. Pretty sure the next four are going to be equally as crazy–but hopefully the GOOD kind of crazy! Change is good. New places to explore are exciting. & I keep getting asked for a “Best of San Antonio” article and I PROMISE that I will get that going! Despite my love/hate relationship with this city, there really is a lot that I am going to miss. Wait, what? No really. There are some gems here and you absolutely, positively cannot beat the community of mothers. I don’t even want to think about what life would have been like raising two infants without my village. This is an awesome place to be a mom!! :)
It’s getting real. REALLY real. 2014 was always the number. It marked the end of residency. THE goal. The moment we could breathe. The year we could look forward to. I’m going to pretend (for just a moment) that there aren’t several even harder fellowship years right around the corner, and celebrate. Somehow, we made it. This six year Texas chapter is very close to being over. We MADE it. We grew roots. I grew two babies. I grew into my very own shoes. I am not the same person who set foot on this brand new foundation in 2008. & I never want to go back. These four walls we’ve loved in have brought the highest highs and lowest lows. Emotionally. Physically. Looking back, it seems like a volatile chapter, but somehow what I remember clearest, is the sunshine. Through the infertility & career struggles & challenges of being married to someone who just isn’t physically present & sleep deprivation beyond my most awful imagination…I still see the sunshine. The dark days have made me who I am, and the sunshine got brighter. & there was plenty of it. Literally and figuratively.
As I took down the Christmas decorations, I started the process of taking down everything personal in my home. Staging is right around the corner and that means that it’s time to purge & pack away. I am holding & lingering upon frames full of images that mean so much to me. They take me right back to the quiet of the first baby I brought home. The chaos of the second. The crazy that has been our lives in between.
With each passing year my outlook seems to shift just a little bit. When I built this house, I was in a dark place. The cabinets are dark. The paint colors were dark. The furnishings were/are dark. It’s lightened up over time, but I’m ready to move on to something different. I used to be a collector. I liked stuff. I still like a cozy & decorated space but at this point, where the overwhelming-ness of two small children and all the stuff that goes with them rears its very messy head, all I am looking for is negative space. I want less. Can we get by with just ONE plate for each? & just wash them often? ONE water bottle? Can we just please have an EMPTY room to play? The former me would have wanted rooms filled. Stat. Oh, how kids change you at your core.
As we prepare to move & downsize, my motto is very clear:
LESS furniture? MORE space to play. LESS stuff to clean? MORE time to do something fun. LESS toys? MORE imagination. LESS time on a screen? MORE time to engage face to face. LESS home? MORE intentional space planning. It seems like all my goals come down to having less right now. Pretty much the opposite mindset I’ve ever had before.
So that is the goal for the start of 2014. I recently read this article & the thing that stuck with me most (as it relates to paring stuff down) is asking yourself one simple question: “Would I buy this today?” If the answer is no, donate it! :) So I am on my fourth car full of stuff out the door. It’s so easy to purge using that mindset. SOOOO easy.
& at the strong urging of my read-a-holic husband, we’re starting a book club. Just the two of us. We’re reading a book together and using it to help each other grow & find stuff to talk about in our fairly narrowly focused lives. Our first book, which is absolutely fascinating, is The Power of Habit. I have several new habits that I am implementing (habits being the behaviors that we consistently do over time to achieve goals). I believe in them & they have already brought about a positive mental change. The simplest, but possibly most impactful so far, is making my bed. I’ve never been a bed maker, but it really seems to boost my productivity. (The book claims it does). So a small win for Shawna. I need all of them I can possibly get.
& the super fun part I’m dying to share…before I started transforming my home back into a house that someone else wants to buy, I insisted on having a very special kind of photo shoot. I begged Gina Zeidler to take a trip down here and do a “live in” session with me. I wanted to have her photograph every bit of this home where we became a family–& us living in it. & I was so blessed by her. She spent a few days with me and gave me the most incredible gift anyone could right now. You know all those little moments with your children that you have burned in your memory, but you just never have a picture of? THOSE moments. The little stubborn chin to shoulder move, that you’ll never catch on camera. That sweet nose nuzzle after a bath, that just never lives as anything but a memory? THAT. Sweet Gina. She just hung out while I did my regular ‘ol routine. & she had her camera. & every time I look at these precious images, I cry. Some of these include the tiniest important detail that only I notice. Facial expressions that I can hear loud and clear the moment I see them. The moments so intimate, the ones I never thought I’d ever be able to show my children, don’t just live in my memory anymore. These are such a gift. The epitome of real. So perfectly & casually, US. Gina, thank you. I could not share even half of them here, but these are some of my favorites. What treasures. :)
For more information about Gina’s incredible Live-In sessions, check out her website: Gina Zeidler. I cannot even begin to tell you how wonderful our experience with her was. & then the pictures. Oh, the pictures. This was a splurge for me, and one I know I will never regret. Priceless!! :)
& just a side note–I am very low on inventory. (yay! thank you!!) I will not have inventory again until some time this spring. We have a crazy seven months ahead with our upcoming move. If you NEED a stylebabyLOG anytime soon, I would suggest grabbing one, as I do not have a date that I can firmly say they’ll be available again, after they are gone.
Thank you for your tremendous support of my small business! Thanks to you, thousands of mamas around the WORLD are keeping better track of their sweet babies.
*Update 12/2–I have just a small bit of inventory left after the sale & I will leave the “add to cart” button up there until I am completely sold out. Thank you for your support!
I love education. I love reading. I love learning. I love school. I always have. But for some reason, I have a really hard time picturing my children in school. Weird, I know. Cut the cord already! But I have always considered myself their primary educator, and I take my job very seriously. We learn and read and do projects a lot. Some days more than others. Some days not at all. Some days, they are into everything I am doing, and we make it as much of a learning opportunity as we can. We are curious creatives. & I don’t ever want to stop doing what we do here.
I know what you are thinking…and I am not going to say what some of you probably want to hear me say…because I am just not a home schooler.
I believe in school–outside of my home. I want my children to learn to navigate a rich social environment. I want them to have access to more learning materials than I can provide for them. I want them to learn to listen with others, to others. I want them to learn how to collaborate. For these reasons, I believe in school outside of my home.
Now that doesn’t mean that I will stop teaching….It just means I need to find the right school!
What is the right school? Only you can answer that for you. (more on that in a minute.) But I think there is a perfect school for every family, based on wants, needs and values. I am looking for some specific things, and those specific things I cannot find in a public school. I am sure there are good public schools out there, but we are choosing to send our children to private school. This will be a very big sacrifice for us financially, but one we are willing to pinch pennies to make. There is little that is more important to me than the education of my children. I will happily wear Target clothes and drive my ten year old car if it means my kids can get the education that I feel is best for them.
Here in San Antonio, we do not have a lot of school options. Most of the options on my radar are a good 30-50 minutes from my home, which has significantly limited my pool (puddle?) of choices. We have had wonderful educational experiences during our last two years of school, but we are at a turning point because…we are moving. (!!!)
This summer we are relocating our family to St. Louis, which has the second highest number of private schools in the US, behind Boston. We just got back from a trip up there to tour our top choice school options and it was such a unique experience that weighed so heavily on me that I really feel that I have to share what I learned. It is not every day that you get to research dozens of schools, whittle that list down to a half dozen, and squish six school tours into two school days. It was a whirlwind. A super fun whirlwind. My anxiety over the whole thing quickly turned to excitement and gratitude. I have never seen schools like I did in St. Louis. I never even knew schools like these existed! & I am SO excited about the opportunities that lie in front of us.
The first thing I did was look at a variety of learning styles. I have read extensively about the Montessori and Reggio Emilia methods of education. These were atop my list of “search terms” for finding the right school. I really like what they have to offer young learners. I also look at, but am not limited to, certain certifications. NAEYC is a big one for me, but I also know that certification isn’t everything. Amongst Montessori schools, I looked at AMI & AMS certified programs. I also looked at Christian Schools. I am fond of the programs Handwriting Without Tears and Singapore Math, so those were two little curriculum boosters for me that were found in some of the Christian (and nonsecular) schools that I have looked at both here and in St. Louis. But regardless of the education method or certification, I looked for some very specific things on each tour. Making my decision was easy, when each of these was just right:
- What does my gut say? Do I want to bring my kids here every day? Does it feel like an inspiring place? How do I feel here? I know whether it feels right within the first five minutes at a new school.
- Are the children moving? I like to see self directed learning–children picking their tasks & moving through them. Bonus if they are collaborating with other children. I also look to see if any children look bored and how that is handled. I also really want to see them play, as I think that is a fundamental part of school.
- How does the teacher speak to his/her students? I think you can learn a lot from tone of voice. I like to observe the one on one interactions and see how much the teacher asserts authority vs. lets the child figure things out on their own. A school is only as good as MY child’s teacher.
- What does the classroom look like? Is it tidy and appropriately “lived in.” Is there a variety of materials accessible? What kind of work is displayed? This shows me the values–if there’s one version of the same craft, done by each student, I am not impressed. If there is child directed creativity–where no two look the same even though you can see they are essentially the same themed project, I am inspired. Is there an art studio? How much time is spent in the various corners of the room?
- Tell me about the average day. Start to finish. Is there a separate “motor skills” class or structured physical education component? Foreign language? Music class? Art class? Or is it woven into the curriculum? I want to know how the day is broken up.
- How much learning takes place outside the classroom? Can I come on field trips? What kind of learning opportunities do these field trips present?
- How are parents included in the learning experience? I don’t necessarily want parents to be IN the classroom regularly, but I want to see a reasonable amount of parent involvement in extracurricular activities surrounding the school and fun seasonal events. I don’t want to see other parents teaching my children (I pay my tuition for extraordinary certified teachers!) but I like to find a sense of community amongst the parents at our school. I like school to be an extension of home, and I want to be part of the process, within appropriate limitations.
- What happens next year? So once this school year is over, do next year’s hours and days fit my family’s needs? How about when the second child starts school, do they arrive at the same time? Pickup at the same time? Is it just a preschool or is this the beginning of a complete early, elementary, middle and high school education? A cohesive education is important to me.
- What is the application process? While it may seem cumbersome and ridiculous that my four year old is “reviewed by committee” before acceptance into a program, I have learned to significantly value this step in the process. Knowing that a school takes a level of care and thoughtful examination of their applicants before constructing their classes is very encouraging to me. The more they ask about my child before acceptance, the more I can have faith in the matching of our values to the school’s values.
So all that being said, I am sure you’re wondering about what I chose & have chosen in the past. For the sake of safety, I always keep my children’s place of education private. I also don’t want to influence you and your decision making process, as I really am just a parent who reads a lot about education and happens to have a platform to share. This does not make me an expert on anything other than what I feel is the right education for my own children.
What I can tell you is that last year, I made the mistake of not paying attention to what happens the following academic year, and ended up switching Caroline to a different school (an NAEYC, high parent involvement school) for her second year of preschool. I was not ready to send my barely four year old to school from eight to three. She has done fine with the switch. She still goes just three half days per week, and that works great for us. She misses the Missouri Kindergarten cutoff by eight days, so she will be doing a THIRD year of “PreK,” which I am totally fine with. My challenge has been finding a place for her next year that will challenge her beyond where her reading/writing four year old self is right now. I have read so much about Montessori and while I agree with a lot of the principles on paper, I have not yet visited one that “felt right.” I don’t know how else to put it, but it’s just not the right choice for us right now. I love what it has to offer elementary students, but all the schools I have toured significantly lacked the “warm and fuzzy” feelings I need to experience for it to be the right fit for us. I love the Reggio Emilia style and have found a school that is an amazing example a joyful, meaningful, experiential learning environment. I really would love to go to school every day right along with my children if we get manage to get in!
If I can encourage you to do one thing, it is to go visit as many schools as you can. Watch the teachers. Talk to the parents. See what the school means to them and see if it is the kind of place that fits your family’s vision of education. We don’t all want the same thing, and the wonderful part of education is that we have choices. These choices come with sacrifices, but I know these sacrifices will not ever be something I regret. Education is everything to me–and cultivating a love of learning is my number one priority for my children.
Good luck on your search! & for those of you new to this, know that every community has different application deadlines and processes. I have found that most of the time, you want to be looking at schools by Fall (some have open houses, which is a great place to bounce questions off current school families) and come to your final decisions by January. Applications are usually due and reviewed in February and March. Happy school shopping!
Oh, and one last thing. Sir Ken Robinson is one of my favorite education researchers (I recommend watching every one of his TED talks!) & this is a talk that has influenced how I view education:
I’ve made a pact with myself that I am not going to start another blog post with an apology for the lack of a prior blog post. There is nothing to apologize for. I am still creating at about the same pace as I used to, I just choose to keep creating, instead of stopping to blog about it. I still haven’t figured out how to do it all and I have thoroughly embraced this season for what it is. The end of having my kids both home all day is way too close for my comfort and there is so much to be said for living this life, not talking about living life through a screen. Which brings me to my four month old project…that I love… :)
I’m in the thick of preparing my home for the market. (side note: should you, or someone you know, be looking for a home in San Antonio in June, mine will be turn-key ready!!) Staging my very personalized home is at the forefront of my mind. Given my own background in home staging, you’d think it’d be easy. But it’s still a struggle when it is your own space. That you love. With your babies faces smiling at you from every wall. :) I digress. But I do love pictures and they are all over!! I think the rule of thumb is, if they look like they belong in a magazine, leave them. If not, depersonalize, depersonalize, depersonalize. That being said, I am lightening and brightening everything. I am neutralizing. I am de-wrought-iron-ing (is that a word??) Regardless, early 2000′s wrought iron be gone. It’s not my style anymore and my bedroom (my, first furniture we ever purchased together, bedroom) needed a serious facelift. You may remember my old bedroom back when I talked about how to place a rug under a bed. Well, I physically could not look at the bed anymore. If I was doing it all over again, I’d NEVER buy a 5pc bedroom set. Never. The old me was matchy matchy. That was ten years ago. These days, the more imperfect, the more beautiful. But this darn furniture is so solid & such good quality that I just don’t have the heart to ditch it. Well, nor do I have the budget to replace it.
So I had to get creative.
I tossed around a ton of ideas as to how to cover up the space that was left empty after I removed the wrought iron (see 2nd picture below) & after consulting with my best design-y friends (thanks, Beth!!) trying a fabric covered panel, a wood panel, even a blank space, my bestie Nicole got my creative juices flowing. I have to give her credit. This was all her idea. I just executed. & gosh, I love it so much I kind of want to do a lighter, rustic, horizontal striped version for everett over an entire headboard! It was so easy. & so cheap. Here’s the scoop.
- 6- 12 packs of wood shims (that were $1.50/ea!)
- wood stain
- wood glue
- mounting whiteboard
- spray wax
- wood screws
- hand saw
- circular saw
HOW I DID IT:
- First, I measured the board to fit in the space. The precut wood was just shy of being tall enough to cover the open space, but perfect after I mounted in on another board. This made it nice & sturdy for mounting, too.
- Second, I laid the wood shims out in the pattern I wanted. Shims are thicker on one side than the other and have the most beautiful texture! Some pieces were broken or just poor quality, so I bought two extra packs to account for the duds. These are only meant to be functional, not pretty, so I had to be selective!
- Once I figured out how many I needed, I started to stain. I grouped them into thirds. Each set getting one, two or three coats of stain, so I could get a nice variation in color. I also stained the board I was mounting on, since I knew parts of it would show through.
- After the shims were stained, I laid them out and began securing them after I made sure they were perfectly centered and lined up top to bottom. The hardest part, for sure! I used a foam brush to paint on the glue, only because my bottle was plugged from the last time I used it!
- Once I got down to the little tiny corners, I used a hand saw to cut some smaller pieces to fit in. I tried to cut the shims with a shears, but they cracked. A little handsaw goes a long way. I did not cover the tiniest portion of the board. You can’t tell at all.
- Once the board was completely covered in my herringbone pattern, I watched a few youtube videos to finally conquer my fear of the circular saw. I knew this project wasn’t going to get done if I didn’t just do it myself, so it was time to learn! & I did it. In a dress, nonetheless. ;)
- Once it was trimmed, I applied a couple of coats of spray wax, let it air out for a good week, and then mounted it to the bed frame with my wood screws and I was done! (almost)
Part of my decision to keep this bed this color (I almost went crazy and painted all my furniture…thank goodness I didn’t) was how pretty the insert came out. I loved the texture & color variation that was missing from before. & who doesn’t love crisp, neutral bedding next to some pretty wood?!
The last step of this transformation was chopping off the foot board. I have this thing for foot boards. It’s my ultimate pet peeve to have bedding falling off the end of the bed & seeing as we only need a quilt a couple months out of the year, that duvet is mostly for decor. & I do love it, so it must stay. A foot board is a necessity. But, I wanted it to be a lower profile and I was SO surprised how hacking a foot off changed the entire feel of the room. It opened it up SO much! It complimented the bedding and diverted your eye. It drew you right to the headboard. I’m thrilled!
Now we have that darn couch that I refuse to get rid of because I know we’ll have the right place for it in our next home. For now, it lives there, but when we show the home, it will go into storage.
I made over this room on a major budget. I ended up getting a store credit for a massive Homegoods rug that fell apart and decided to do this whole thing using that gift card. Thus, beyond wood and paint, I was limiting myself to ONLY Homegoods for accents. I managed to grab the ikat pillows, sunburst mirror, six curtain panels (!!), lamps and new mirrors over the dresser for the value of the card. Score!!
I changed my “accent walls” (from this art, seen here) and framed out the window with a few mismatched frames I got several years ago for $6 on clearance at target. They were a fun size, but all different colors, so I greywashed them & put 5x7s in them. This one is actually an instagram that I blew up!
I replaced my “factory” dresser mirror a long time ago (you can see the “before” above in the IG images!) but after I painted, I needed something with more contrast since the paint was lighter. I found these amazing old “windows” turned mirrors at Homegoods, and there happened to be three, which was perfect! Eventually I want to replace the vase with sometthing made of reclaimed wood and some natural flowers. I’ll also replace the hardware on the dressers with some rustic pulls. I plan to remove the bottom drawer from each nightstand and replace it with a basket, to add some more visual appeal, too.
& speaking of paint color! I have seen this gorgeous chameleon of a color in several of my friends’ homes and absolutely loved it. If you aren’t yet acquainted with Restoration Hardware’s Silver Sage, then give her a look. Is she grey? green? blue? She can’t decide. She looks completely different on every wall. I specifically did not run any actions on these images because I wanted to show you how different Silver Sage looks on each wall in this room. The color is just as dynamic in person as in these images. I just LOVE that about it! It even feels like it gets lighter in the morning and darker in the evening. I’m doing everything in my power not to paint my whole downstairs Silver Sage before we move…!! I had it color matched at Lowe’s. It’s beeeeeautiful!
& something to note–I took a picture of the herringbone pattern from both angles, because the texture is different depending upon the side you view it. I love that. But just expect this if you do this pattern on something!
I really think you could go crazy with this technique. Tables. Trays. Full headboards. Shims come in several sizes, and the combination of wood stains is endless. I can’t wait to do it again, a little differently!
Hello friends! I have so many comments to moderate and so many things to share, but my little people sure do need me right now. I know that I am going to be sending them both out the door to school before I know it, thus, I am cherishing this time with them.
I know, I know. Same old story. It’s true. My real life is getting my energy. Not my Internet life. Happy. Sad. (but mostly happy.) :)
I just want to alert you to a new stylebabyLOG update. With all of our major life changes ahead, I am streamlining some of my business practices. One of the decisions is to suspend International shipping of the stylebabyLOG. This may not be forever, but for at least the next year, I will only be shipping stylebabyLOGs to Domestic United States and APO addresses. A trip to the post office and customs paperwork may not seem like a big deal, but it takes away valuable time from my kids (and stresses me out!) every week. During this season, it’s just something that I need to take off my full plate. Thank you for understanding.
Should you wish to place one last International order, you may purchase here until Noon CST on Thursday, October 10, 2013. I will be making one last trip to the post office this week.
Thank you, again, for your incredible support of my business. I wish all you organized mamas lots & lots of SLEEP!