Friday, January 19, 2018

2018 Reading Challenge

Last year, I sat down to make some goals for 2017, and came across Modern Mrs. Darcy's blog. She had a really fun looking reading challenge and I felt excited to try it! But then... morning sickness. Reading, unfortunately, makes my first trimester nausea markedly worse. Boo. I could have picked up the challenge halfway through the year when I was feeling better, but life happened and I didn't. I did read more last year than I had the previous couple years, but not a ton, and not many books worth remembering.

This year though! This year, top of my goals list is to read more and read better quality books. Top of my daily habits I want to maintain for 2018 is reading daily. So I am super excited to really dive into Modern Mrs. Darcy's 2018 Reading Challenge! I've already chosen most of my books, but still have some empty spaces, so please feel free to chime in with appropriate recommendations friends! Here is the challenge from the blog:

And here are my selections so far:

A classic I've been meaning to read: Catcher in the Rye by: J.D. Salinger
Recommended by someone with great taste:
A book in translation: Shadow of the Wind by: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
A book nominated for a 2018 award:
A book of poetry: The Sun and Her Flowers by: Rupi Kaur
A book you can read in 1 day:
A book over 500 pages: Gone With the Wind by: Margaret Mitchell
A book by your favorite author: Open House by: Elizabeth Berg
A book by an author of a different race than me: The Bluest Eye by: Toni Morrison
A memoir: Night by: Elie Weisel
A book recommended by a librarian or indie bookseller: 
A banned book: The Handmaid's Tale by: Margaret Atwood

I would like to (roughly) read one of these each month, hopefully making reading enough of a habit that I can sprinkle in plenty of other books in between! I decided to start strong with my pick for a book over 500 pages and I'm on track to finish that before the end of the month!

Because tracking things on paper keeps me motivated and I love my bullet journal so much, I've made some pages in there to keep track of my progress. One is to keep track of all the books I read this year, one as a reference to remember the books I've chosen, and one (so far) to track my progress on a specific book (I most likely won't do this for every book, but for a particularly long book like Gone With the Wind, it has been motivating!)

I am so excited for this challenge and I will be sharing my progress as I go! Please let me know if any of you decide to take on this challenge yourself! I would love to hear what everybody is planning on reading this year! 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Setting Up My Bullet Journal

Sometime in the fall of 2016 I stumbled across a few 'bullet journaling' pins on Pinterest. As somebody who loves order and organization, but also likes a fair amount of flexibility, bullet journaling almost seemed to good to be true. But it also looked way too intriguing to pass up!

A Bullet Journal is basically a customized planner that you create yourself in a blank notebook. Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer from NY, first developed the bullet journaling system, but it has evolved and changed as people have adopted it and made it their own. (Read more about the original system here) The beauty of bullet journaling is that it can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be, it can change to fit your needs month to month or even day to day. Scrolling through bullet journaling pins on Pinterest or #bulletjournal on Instagram can be incredibly overwhelming, but when you remember that the main point of a bullet journal is to turn a blank notebook into whatever you need, it suddenly doesn't seem so bad!

I've shared some photos of my bullet journal "spreads" on social media and everybody always seems to want to know more! So I thought I'd show what setting up my bullet journal for 2018 looked like. Other comments I often get are that it looks like too much work, or that the blank pages are just too daunting for a perfectionist. The daunting pages? YES. I get that. I totally get that. I've been doing this bullet journaling thing for close to a year and a half now and blank pages still make me so nervous! But it's actually helping me honor the perfectionist in me, while also relaxing my standards a little bit. As far as it being a lot of work, it is a fair amount of work. It's work that I don't mind though, and I don't think it's quite as much work as it might seem. To hurry things along each month, I've made templates of my most used layouts, so I can just quickly trace them without having to measure them out again every time. And months that I am just incredibly busy and don't have a weekend naptime to devote to making that month's pages (that's all it takes), I super simplify my pages so they only take a few minutes to put together. The initial set up is probably the most work because I have a few trackers set up to track things that I do all year long. But those are done now! Those trackers are all set up for the whole year. If you have been intrigued by bullet journals before, but have been nervous about messing up or not having enough time, I encourage you to just try a few pages in any old notebook you have laying around! It might not be the right system for you, but you also might find just the kind of planner you've been needing (and gain a fun hobby too!)

So we'll start with your tools. When I first decided to try bullet journaling, I used a blank notebook I just happened to have laying around, and a plain pen. That's it. I didn't want to get too fancy until I knew it was going to work for me. After a few months of that, I knew I wanted to keep it going, so I splurged for a Leuchtturm notebook with dotted pages. I knew I wanted either dotted or grid pages, to make it easier to make little boxes and whatnot, and the dotted pages looked cleaner to me. I chose the Leuchtturm over other dotted page journals because it has an index and numbered pages already. I also got a set of Stabilo colored pens. But please, let me make this very clear, you do not need fancy pens or notebooks to bullet journal! A $1 spiral notebook from the drugstore and any pen you have lying around works just as well. I feel like I need to emphasize this because I initially got very caught up in having the "right" tools to do this, but while I'm very happy with my fancy-ish notebook and pens, I was just as happy with my drugstore notebook and Bic pen! It's also helpful to have a ruler or something similar to help make straight edges.

You can see my templates on the right of this photo. Super helpful once you've found layouts you like!

When I'm ready to set up a new bullet journal, I like to first make a list of what I need. I've tried daily pages before, but it was too much prep work for me, so I personally need a monthly calendar page and then weekly planner pages. I also do monthly meal planning (more about that here!) so I need a place to write all of that down. I follow a cleaning schedule and like having a way to track that, bill tracker, monthly budgets. Basically I just make a list of everything I want to track and keep in the same place. Then I scroll through Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration. Using some ideas I find and some of my own creativity based on my personal needs, I draw up some rough drafts to see if what's in my head translates to paper. This year I had some pages at the end of 2017's journal to sketch and plan in, but the previous year I just used scrap paper.

Once I have a good idea of what I need, I group them into yearly and monthly. I put all of the trackers that cover the whole year in the beginning of my journal, and then after that I group the monthly pages together and just do one month at a time. These are my yearly and monthly "collections". The first page I do is the key. Mine is loosely based off of the original bullet journaling approach that I referenced earlier in this post.

Something that I'm changing up this year is actually utilizing the index and numbered pages. I didn't keep up with that last year and I really wished I had!

I like my very first page, before any trackers or lists, to be the 'theme word' that I've chosen for the year. I came across this idea last year, choosing a theme word rather than making a lot of resolutions, and I've been a big fan! This year's word is 'joy'.

Then I get all of my trackers that cover the whole year, as well as a copy of my cleaning schedule. The cleaning schedule is just for reference, I use a tracker in my monthly collections to actually keep track of what is getting done. Covering the whole year I have monthly habits, bill tracking, birthdays, and a "year at a glance" calendar for reference. I also like to keep a running "waiting on" page to track what packages I have coming in (especially helpful around Christmas time!!) This year I put that in with the yearly collections, but I'll likely need a new one later on that I'll put wherever I am at that point.

2 Thursdays? Hmmm. Mistakes happen. That's what white out is for right? Although, to be honest, I haven't fixed this yet. I'm learning to let some things slide 😛

After my yearly collection was in, I went ahead and did my January collection. Monthly I do a cleaning tracker, daily habit tracker, budget, month calendar page, menu, grocery list for monthly shopping, and weekly spreads.

I think habit tracking might seem silly to some, but personally I am very motivated by things like this. I am more likely to run back upstairs to make my bed if I know I'll break a streak of neatly colored squares if I don't! I know I can't be alone in this. Right?!

We are Dave Ramsey groupies and this is the layout that works best for our income. Expenses are listed on the left and the dated columns are paydays. We assign every dollar of each paycheck to expenses.

This is not the grocery list I actually take shopping with me, but this is where I write out the ingredients I need for all of the dinners on the menu. I do the menu and list all at the same time while I have the cookbooks and recipe links in front of me. Then when I go to make my grocery list, this part is already done and I can just fill in what I need for our other meals and snacks.

My monthly spread is usually the same, but sometimes the left side changes up a bit depending on that month's needs. This current incarnation has been working for several months now.

My weekly spreads change often, but this is working for me right now. I fill in the top section with my tasks and appointments and use the bottom to journal a few lines about the day and write out at least one thing I'm grateful for.

This cleaning tracker is a new layout I'm trying. Jury is still out on this one. I think it might be too messy looking for me. 

So those are my main pages. At the end of each month I take a little time to put together the monthly collection for the next month. I promise it does not take long at all!! Each Sunday afternoon or evening I fill in my tasks and appointments for just that week. Big events I write in the monthly calendar and then put it on the weekly spread when that week rolls around. In between monthly collections, I put whatever I need. Some examples of other pages I do:

Packing lists for vacation
Planning pages/menus for parties
Notes for a book I'm reading or a speaker I hear at MOPS
A list of prayer requests to go over when I have some quiet time
A list of books I want to read and a list of books I've read (look for a blog post soon about a book challenge I'm super excited about doing this year!)
A tracking page for a workout plan that I'm following
Lists of areas to declutter
Big to do lists leading up to events (like Christmas)

Basically anything I need. Any list I need to make or anything I want to keep track of, goes in my bullet journal. Sometimes I make them really pretty with borders and little drawings, but sometimes it's just a list with nothing extra. The act of list making alone helps me calm my brain down when I have a lot going on, adding a little bit of doodling makes it even better! Sometimes after a particularly trying morning, I'll sit down with my journal after putting the kids down for naps/quiet time and I'll make a very random list or just doodle a page with scripture or even song lyrics. A lot of bullet journalers get into hand lettering and that's a goal of mine for this year! Writing and doodling is so soothing to me!

I hope this post has answered some questions (and I am more than happy to answer any more!) and I really hope it has presented bullet journaling as a very helpful and achievable thing to do! I know it seems like a lot. I know it seems like you couldn't possibly devote any time to something like this. I know it might even seem like a total waste! And for some people, it might be! Bullet journaling definitely isn't for everybody! But it is absolutely the right fit for me. 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Homeschooling Looks Like...

Sometimes homeschooling looks like little heads bent over papers at the dining room table. Writing, drawing, scribbling.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like reading a history book all snuggled up on the couch.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like bringing the mini globe out during lunch to help answer questions about continents and oceans.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like drawing in nature journals before breakfast, still in pjs, because there was a perfect spider's web just outside the window.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like practicing counting and simple addition with chocolate chips while making cookies.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like taking the books outside because the weather is too nice to stay in.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like a day at the museum.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like doing a lot of chores.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like practicing blending letter sounds using the signs in the produce section in the grocery store.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like frustration and irritation all morning.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like apologizing in the afternoon.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like setting your phone alarm for 15 minutes so you can close your eyes and try to recharge.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like questioning everything.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like worrying that you're failing them.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like throwing out a curriculum in the middle of the year and trying something different.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like giving up after breakfast and watching movies in your pajamas instead.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like saying, "No." to the field trips and get togethers so you can spend a few days at home with a little structure and sit down work.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like saying, "Yes!" to the field trips and get togethers and remembering that sit down work isn't the only way to learn.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like begging God for patience.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like asking God if you've made a mistake.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like praising God for this opportunity.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like realizing that the beauty of the whole thing is knowing that it can and will look different almost every single day.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Our Daily Routine

In all of the different Facebook groups I have ever seen, there's a common question. "What does your daily routine look like?" It comes up in homeschooling groups, minimalist/intentional parenting groups, fitness groups, cleaning groups, and just general parenting/birth month groups. It's my favorite question to answer and my favorite thread to read. It's so interesting to me to get a peek into other people's lives. I've gotten so many different ideas from these sort of posts. I also like to share our routine because it's really satisfying to me to see it all written out. It reminds me of a blog post I read once (I can't remember which blog, otherwise I'd be sure to link it here) that suggested making a 'reverse to do list' when you're having one of those days where it just feels like you've done nothing. Instead of dwelling on all of the items on your to do list that you haven't been able to cross off, you write down what you did do. For me, more often than not, it makes me feel so much better and more accomplished.

I'm going to go a step further than just leaving comments on routine questions in Facebook groups, and actually make a blog post about what our current routine is. It's something I'd like to do every year or so, to see how things change as time goes on and the kids get older (an idea I've stolen from a friend of mine who does this in her own blog 😉). So here we go. Here is what our routine looks like as of right now, in the fall of 2017. Sam age 6, Kate age 4, Henry age 2, and Anna 2.5 months.

I break our day up into blocks. I crave and thrive on routine, as do my kids for the most part, but homeschooling and raising 4 little ones requires flexibility. Breaking the day up in blocks honors both of those needs. I keep our waking, sleeping, and eating times the same and everything else just fits in between.

7am- Wake up. I'm a stickler about our wake up time. Sam and Kate watch for the 7 on their clock to know when to come out, and they read or play quietly together until then (except for bathroom breaks of course). Henry isn't old enough to really follow that rule yet, but before 7 I bring him some trucks and he's usually happy to wait until 7. Someday when I'm not waking up several times throughout the night, and when I don't have a baby in my bed by morning time, I'll be grateful for the chance to get up around 6 or so and have some quiet time to myself. For now though, I'll take any extra sleep I can get!

7-8:30am- A quiet, slow start to our day. Anna and Henry nurse and get their diapers changed. Sam and Kate play in their room or downstairs. I make my bed, wash my face, and get dressed. Anna is entertained in her crib upstairs or pack-n-play downstairs by watching what's going on around her or "talking" to a big sibling or two. I put away the clean dishes from the night before, get out everybody's clothes, possibly throw in a load of laundry depending on what day it is, and make breakfast. It sounds like a lot, but it's really a peaceful way to start the day.

 A few times a month we have to be out of the house first thing in the morning, so between 7 and 8 we are getting dressed and cleaned up, and having a little playtime. When we have morning activities I pack our breakfasts to be eaten in the car. The kids all do much better if they have a chance to play in the morning, rather than eating and then rushing out the door.

8:30-9:30am- This block of time is for breakfast, morning school readings, clean up, prep for the school day, and getting dressed. Anna is typically napping at this point and her first nap is the one that she's most likely to take without me holding her, so she's usually in her swing. We do our Bible reading, devotions, prayers, and poetry readings/recitations over breakfast. My post-meal rhythm is always the same (it's so much of a habit at this point that it doesn't even feel like work anymore). Sweep under the table, wipe down the table (sometimes Sam and Kate do these tasks), wash dishes. We have a dishwasher, but tried a few days without it last winter and haven't looked back since. I lay out all of the day's schoolbooks on the kitchen counter and help Henry (and sometimes Kate) get dressed. Sam gets dressed on his own and then goes and does his copywork in the dining room as Anna is waking up from her nap and I'm sitting down to nurse her.

9:30/10ish- 11/11:30ish- This is our school block. While I'm nursing Anna I sometimes do one of our daily readings and Sam narrates it back to me while I'm changing her and getting her dressed. Anna has some floor time to wiggle and work on her rolling (she won't stay on her belly for very long at all now that she's discovered rolling onto her back!) while we do our "good morning board". The good morning board is mostly for Kate at this point. Days of the week, seasons, weather, etc. After this we'll play a game to get out some energy before doing some sit down work. Red Light, Green Light is a favorite, or we do freeze dance with whatever folk song our curriculum has us learning for that month. I usually do another reading while we're in the playroom. Especially if we have Shakespeare on the schedule, since we use toys to keep all of the characters straight. Next we move to the dining room for math and language arts. Kate and Henry stay in the playroom, or they come in the dining room to color or play one of the fine motor activities I have. Kate has been asking for help writing some letters and now that she can write her name, she likes to just write it over and over again. This has been going really well and her handwriting is fairly neat for a 4 year old! If we have any readings left, Sam and I move to the couch after his other work is finished and do a reading while Anna falls asleep in my arms.

11/11:30ish-12:30- This block is different almost every day. If we have errands to run, this is when we go out and run them, or I send the big kids outside on their own, or we all go out, or they play in the playroom while Anna naps. If we're home and inside, I do some chores if Anna lets me lay her down or if she falls asleep while wrapped. Sometimes she just wants to snuggle on my lap and I take some time to sit and snuggle her while I read or something. She's going to be too big for naps in my lap too soon, I'm taking full advantage while I can!

12:30-1ish-  Lunch. I just have a snack while the kids eat. We practice French words during lunch, or do our art study, or do another reading if there's one left that day. Same rhythm for me afterwards. Sweep, wipe, dishes.

1-1:30- Clean up. Kids clean up the playroom (sometimes easily, sometimes with much arguing. Depends on the day. But the rest of the day goes a million times better when we clean up after lunch). I put school books away and get rid of any surface clutter that has accumulated throughout the morning.

1:30/2ish-3:45- Nap/quiet time. Kate stays in the playroom to play quietly on her own, Sam goes up to their room where he usually reads and/or builds with Legos, and Henry naps in his room. Once everybody is settled, I make my lunch and eat and watch a show while getting Anna to sleep. Sometimes she'll let me put her down and I'll workout, read, watch another show, or take a little nap myself. I try to keep this time chore free. If anything I sit and write a grocery list or menu. I need the time to rest before the late afternoon/evening gets going. Sam comes downstairs at 3 and he and Kate play together without Henry for a while. This is usually a good time to pull out messy things like paint or play doh, or like to make marble runs with a magnetic set we have. Not Henry friendly activities 😉 I wake up Henry between 3:30 and 3:45 (or bedtime is way too hard). He hates waking up from his nap and pretty much throws a fit at this point every day. I try to make it a very gentle wake up, but no matter what, it's a rough 15/20 minutes or so. He and Anna nurse. I usually have them go one after the other. Nursing them at the same time is just too much for me. I feel touched out enough as it is. On really difficult days, I just nurse them together though.

4- On Thursdays we get ready to go to ballet. Boys pack up toys in their backpacks and I pack coloring, stickers, and snacks. Anna nurses again and then I get Kate dressed and do her hair. We leave around 4:30 and get home around 6:15/6:30ish.

4-6:30ish- On any other day we go outside (but right now it's already starting to get dark, so outside doesn't last very long) or just play inside. This is when I'll work out if I didn't do it during naptime. Sometimes though (a lot of times lately) times gets away from me and my workout doesn't happen. Trying to work on that! A couple times a week I'll put a movie on, but I try not to do it every day. I'm finishing up that day's chores, starting dinner, doing any prep necessary for the next day (packing lunches and laying out clothes if we are going to be out of the house the next day). I fold laundry on the kitchen island and dining room table in the late afternoon sometimes. It forces me to finish and get it put away so we can eat! Anna nurses frequently throughout the evening, so I take a lot of breaks for that, not to mention all the "breaks" in my work to extract Henry from somewhere he isn't supposed to be. The house is too chaotic at this point for Anna to have any more solid naps, so she's cat napping off and on in her bouncer or in a wrap.

6:30- We eat. James' schedule is fairly inconsistent lately, but if we're lucky he's home by now and we eat together. If he's home he cleans up the kitchen and does the dishes for me because he's awesome like that. If he's not home I do it as quickly as I can, and leave dinner somewhere to keep warm for him.

6:50- I take a really deep breath and we start the process of cleaning up and getting ready for bed. I am really, really working on making it more peaceful, but currently it's rather chaotic and everybody is pretty whiny and argumentative. We're working on it. It'll get better. If James isn't home, I'm cleaning up the kitchen still while the kids get started on the playroom. When I'm finished, or while he does it if he's home, I clear any clutter from the living room and get everything ready for bedtime. Diapers on my nightstand for Anna, everybody's pjs and toothbrushes laid out. On bath nights I go bathe Anna first on her own. Once I have everything ready and Anna is bathed, if it's a bath night, I take Henry and Anna into Henry's room. Henry is more of a hindrance than a help during clean up, and I need to nurse Anna before everybody else needs me. So the little two and I have some quiet time in Henry's room while Sam and Kate finish up in the playroom and then pick up their room. On a bath night we then all go in the bathroom and get a bath. It's always a quick bath. I do not like giving baths. I would love it if the big 2 would shower, but right now it's not worth the screaming that ensues if I even mention the shower. Out of the bath, or just when everything is cleaned up, we do pjs and teeth and then everybody in Mama and Daddy's bed, or in Henry's room, for books. If attitudes have been less than stellar during clean up time, we will skip books. They love being read to, so that's a good incentive to behave and do their best cleaning up.

8- By now everybody and everything is clean and it's time to go to sleep. Sam and Kate get tucked in and kissed goodnight first and then it's Henry's turn. If James is home, this is his time with Anna while I nurse Henry and snuggle him on his own a bit. When James isn't home, Anna lays in her Moses basket on Henry's floor. By a quarter after/20 after 8, Henry is quiet enough to be left in his room to go to sleep and I take Anna to our room. James is usually home and showered by now, even on his long days, so we catch up with one another, read, or watch a show on my computer. In our current season of life, we are in our bed at 8:30 and are too tired to venture downstairs again.

9- Anna is ready for bed by now, so she gets changed, nursed, and snuggled until she's good and asleep. She starts out the night in her crib (in a corner of our room), and comes into our bed the first time she wakes up. Once she's down for the night, we usually are too! The first kid wake up (and James' alarm!) will come way too soon! Right now Henry is actually sleeping though the night about half of the time, the other half he's up once or twice. Kate is sometimes up once a couple times a week as well. Plus Anna of course. So my day continues on throughout the night.

Obviously this isn't what every single day looks like. Sometimes we scrap it all and go to Longwood Gardens instead (that's what we're doing tomorrow!), sometimes if we're out at MOPS or something all morning on a Thursday Sam and I will do schoolwork while we're at ballet that evening, sometimes we'll go run our errands during what is usually our "school block" and do schoolwork once we get home. The majority of our days go like this (or fairly close!) to this though. The kids behave so much better and are so much happier when they know what to expect next. There's less arguing (still arguing, just... less) when we're consistently cleaning up the toys right after lunch. Like I said about cleaning up after meals, it starts to just become a habit and doesn't feel like work.

I know our routine might seem way too structured for some people, and maybe nowhere near structured enough for others, but it works so well for us. Clutter and disorganization makes me feel very anxious, but with this current routine, I feel like I've struck a good balance that doesn't have me cleaning and tidying up all. day. long, but leaves me with a picked up house when we go to naps and when we go to bed.

And now I can't wait to make a routine post next fall! I'm sure SO much will have changed at that point! I hope you've all enjoyed this little peak into our life ❤