Wednesday, January 18, 2017

My Happy Planner (and why it makes me happy)

I'll admit that I've been out of the planner loop for quite some time now.  Oh, right after Christmas every year I go in Marshalls and notice a few fun, new planners that catch my eye...but up till this year I hadn't succumbed to buying one.  After all, I've tried quite a few different systems.  The Confident Mom planner is free, and comes complete with a daily chore list (which admittedly I've never stuck with for longer than a month, at most), and I've tried that.  I've tried Flylady's "Control Journal" and that worked for a time.  Mostly what's worked best for me over the past few years is a simple spiral notebook, where I write a daily to-do list (if I remember).  Since Ari arrived, even my notebook use has been very sporadic.

This year I decided to change things up and I started researching planners online.  Apparently planners are all the rage nowadays!  Not only can you find fun printable planners (say that 10 times fast) online, but there is a whole sort of planner culture out there for creative (and organized?) souls to take part in.  In my browsing Pinterest, I found all kinds of neat stuff.  Bullet journals are cool (and popular), but my way could I find the time to come up with all THIS on my own.  I don't have the brain power at this point in my life, nor the creativity, nor the time.  I have the utmost admiration for those who do, though!!  Some people adore Erin Condren planners, but hello...pricey!! Then I saw the Happy Planner...ahhh, this is more my speed.  Only they're not exactly cheap, either.  I checked Marshalls in case they happened to have any...maybe they do on occasion, but not when I looked.  I priced them on Amazon, where they were around $18 apiece.  Still a little more than I wanted to spend.  Then I heard somewhere that they were on sale at Michael's for 50% off, the week before New Year's.  We didn't make it down to Michael's (an hour away) till December 31, and lo and behold that weekend they were actually 60% off!!  So, I got the "holiday planner kit" for $13.99, which included the planner plus some stickers and sticky notes, and a magnet.  They had all the Happy Planner accessories for 60% off, too, but I was a bit overwhelmed just looking at all the choices and decided to stick with the basics for now.  By this time next year, I should have a better idea if I want or need any other "extras."

So I've been using my Happy Planner for almost 3 weeks now and I've been having so much fun with it!  Obviously it's early in the year yet, so it remains to be seen if I stick with it for the long haul, but since I am really enjoying it, I can see myself using it consistently.  It comes with basic calendar for each month, then a 2 page spread for each week of the month.

 I love the unique disc system that makes pages easy to add or remove.  The only thing I wish I had is a special punch to use when I add free printable pages I've found online...but they are expensive, and I'm going to wait and make sure I really USE this thing over the year, and if I do, maybe I'll invest in one next year or when Michael's has a super sale again.  So far I've added pages like a health/fitness/weight loss tracker, a bills due page, food journaling pages, and I even went so far as to punch and insert these "best of my days" cards that my mom gave me, which I think will help me be much more faithful in actually remembering to record a highlight of each day!

 My kit also came with seasonal stickers, which I've been having fun with, and I found tons of free printable planner stickers on Pinterest, too.  Since I don't have a fancy Cricut machine, I print them onto sticker paper and then cut out by hand...which sounds like a lot of work, but I only do one or two at a time to put here and there on a page, and I find it fun and relaxing.  It's a small, simple way to get creative and personalize the planner, and it scratches that "crafty itch" to just do a little something to pretty things up!

I also really like the size of the planner.  One thing I've never liked too much about the printable planners I've used in past years is the big 3 ring binders I have to put them in...too bulky and it takes up a lot of space to leave them sitting open on the counter or table.  But this size, while not super small, is fairly compact (especially when folded in half), yet with plenty of room for writing a to-do list every day.  (Happy Planners come in other sizes as well--one larger and I think two smaller, so there are options for everyone!)

Last but not least, this planner makes me happy just because it's pretty...there are lots of different fun designs.  And I love the could a HAPPY planner not make you just want to smile?! :)

So these are a few reasons my Happy Planner is making me might sound weird, but it's been a fun highlight of my month.  And nope, I haven't used it every single day...but I've used it enough days that it's starting to become a habit, I think!  Do any of you use planners or journals? What's your current favorite?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Reading Plans for a New Year

Hello again!  Here we go with my second post in 2017...yay! :)  I thought today would be a good time to talk about reading goals and plans for this year.  While I really love to read, I'll admit that lately I have done a lot more book "collecting" than actual reading.  (cough*thriftbooks*cough)  Well, I DO read a lot with the kids...our Sonlight curriculum is centered around reading, so if you count that, I have read quite a few books over the past year.  But I didn't keep track of my own personal reading, and felt like I didn't end up consuming nearly as many books as I'd have liked.  I did have a really bad cold/flu in the summer and zipped through probably half a dozen books during those 2 or so weeks that I was out of commission...but I don't have the time to binge-read like that very often!

Anyway, on to some thoughts about books and goals.  First of all, I'm setting myself a pretty manageable goal of reading two books a month.  I feel like I could end up reading more than that, but I wanted to keep my goal moderate so I wouldn't feel overwhelmed by it.  For January, my two books are:

I am really enjoying both of these.  I received Made for More for Christmas (along with Hannah's other book, Humble Roots), and I was able to snag How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind when it was on sale for Kindle early last week, for $1.99.  Love it when I can get something that's already on my wishlist for a super deal, and having it on Kindle is great because it doesn't add another book to our already full-to-bursting shelves.  Win-win!

As I've been thinking about reading goals for the year as a whole, I had considered following along with the reading challenge from Modern Mrs. Darcy, but now I think I've decided to do my own thing and read what I'm in the mood for...although just for fun, I'm going to see what might overlap with some of the categories on the reading challenge list.  Who knows, I might just end up reading a lot of things that qualify, anyway!  

Two areas that I want to really focus in on this year in my book choices are "home" and "education."  So while I'll read just for fun too, I want to make sure to include books in each of these themes.  This month's "home" choice is obvious :), but some of the others I want to read through the year are The Life Giving Home, Keeping House: the Litany of Everyday Life, I Used to Be So Organized, and Heart and Home.  In the theme of education, I haven't looked over all of what I already own yet, but I know for sure that Teaching From Rest and For the Children's Sake will be on this list.  

I've also been thinking lately of how much I enjoy re-reading old favorite books, but you know...there are SO MANY new books (i.e. books that I've bought, but not read), that sometimes I feel guilty taking time to read something that I've already read multiple times.  However...I've decided I'm going to banish that guilty feeling and hang out with some of those "old friends" again.  I've been seeing this idea of finding a "literary mentor" floating around in a couple of the bookish Facebook groups I'm in, and yesterday someone mentioned how they had taken a year and read through a bunch of LM Montgomery's books.  Perfect!!!  This resonated with me and I've decided to add my LMM favorites to my list for the year.  I'm not setting a specific goal of how many I want to read through, but I definitely want to revisit all of the Anne series, the Pat of Silver Bush series, Jane of Lantern Hill, and The Blue Castle.  I think I may read Jane to the kids, but the others will all just be personal reads for me to enjoy by myself.  I'd also like to get a biography of LMM and read that as part of my "Year of Montgomery."

Aside from the biography, I already own all of the books mentioned above, so I don't anticipate having to spend a bunch of money to fuel my reading habit this year.  Plus there's always the library...and freebies/cheapies on Kindle!  So here's to a wonderful year of "improving my mind by extensive reading" (to loosely quote Mr. Darcy).  Every day that I can (and when I'm not taking that time to write a blog post :)), I hope to grab a cup of tea and read for twenty minutes.  

What are you all reading these days?  Any reading plans for 2017?

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

January Ramblings

Well hello, blogging world!  Long time no post!  I've started out to write here several times over the past few months, and each time I got sidetracked before I had time to finish and actually post what I had written.  By the time I remembered and got back to it, the things I had written were no longer relevant in the context of the season.  It was (is!) a little frustrating to me that I am apparently so disorganized that I can't even get a thoughtful blog post written, and I've let 4 whole months go by with nary a word here in my little space.  I miss it.

So, one of my goals for 2017 is to post here once a week.  I'm going to try to actually carve out time for either a family-related post, random thoughts, something that's been a blessing to me, goals...or whatever comes to mind on that particular day.  I really love the fact that for over 10 years, I've kept a pretty decent record (at least up till more recent years) of our life here on our back road.  I just can't bear the thought of shutting down the blog or posting so infrequently, because I know one day I'll be kicking myself that there are such big gaps in our "history."  This is the only journal I keep at present, and looking back on memories here is such fun.  Maybe some weeks I'll manage to post more than once, but I figure if I can put up 52 posts a year, I'll be happy...and it'll be so much better than what I've done lately!

So here we go...some January ramblings.  (I do hope to put up another post in a few days with some pictures and thoughts from December, so I can record our Christmas memories and activities in one place, too.)

January Goals and my Word for the Year

It's been a very long time since I set specific goals for a year or even a month.  This year I honestly haven't had time yet to set many goals, but I did choose a few, as well as my "one word" for 2017.  I will start with word is "Thrive."  I thought over several words such as "purpose" and "discipline" (both with the same idea, I guess) but then the word "thrive" came to me and I knew it was just right for this year.  You see, the past two years since Ari was born, I've pretty much felt like I was in survival mode.  I'm not blaming this completely on Miss Ari, and I hope it's abundantly clear on my blog and in real life, just how much of a blessing that little girl is to our family!!!  She's a sweet and precious gift from God, and we all can't imagine life without her now, even though she was not in *our* plans!  BUT...just being honest here...she's a lot of work.  She's our high-maintenance child, and it was definitely a change to go back to little sleep, working around naptimes, juggling school for older kids who still need a lot of Mom's time, paying bills, taking care of the home, etc.  We did a lot of "coasting" over the past two years and I let a lot of things go because a) I was so tired and b) I wasn't managing my time well (partly because of being so tired, partly because I'm a time-waster by nature...oh my, did I just admit that?!).  Anyway.  I know that some things need to change this year, and the word "thrive" hits the nail on the head for what I want my year to be like.  I want to thrive in the area of managing my home and taking care of my family, in my personal walk with God and prayer life, in my friendships with others, and in my health and fitness.  I want my kids to thrive too, in the rest of their school year.  This doesn't necessarily mean that I'll be going overboard trying to do "all the things" as I know that will just lead to burnout and more exhaustion...but it means that I'll be making a conscious effort to improve the way I manage my time (and theirs), determining what things to say yes or no to, and using tools that will strengthen me spiritually.  (More on those hopefully at a later date!)  I know that some of you can relate (and some MUCH more than I can, because you have larger families!) that it is so different to have both older kids and toddlers or babies.  In some ways it is easier...because the big kids can all take care of themselves for the most part, and they're a big help with the little one(s).  But in other ways, it makes Mom so much more stretched, I think.  I'm running the big kids around to activities (not a lot, but a few) while trying to make sure Ari still gets my time and attention (and naps), and homeschooling takes up a lot of our time.  It's so much different from when I was 34 and had a 6, 4, and 2 year that point we only had one kid in school and it took maybe 2 hours start to finish.  I was doing things like baking all our bread, always keeping goodies on hand, etc. and now I find it hard to fit those extra things in.  (I know I need to train the big kids to help with the baking and stuff like that, but sometimes it seems impossible to even fit that in!  We will get there, I just takes time.)

Boy, I really went on and on about that, didn't I?! :D  Thanks for listening to my rambles, whoever is still out there reading.  As for my other January goals, they are fairly simple:
  • Read 2 books
  • Lose 5 lbs (gotta get back to losing that baby weight, since my baby is actually a toddler now!!)
  • Have a daily quiet time
  • Blog 4 times
  • Use my new planner daily (I got a Happy Planner--yay!  So far I LOVE it.)
  • Drink 3 quarts of water daily
  • Exercise 20 times
And I think that I'll wrap this post up so I can actually, you know, get it posted before I get distracted!! :)  Happy New Year everyone, and may you THRIVE this year too!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Summer Recap

So, obviously my plan of sharing quick little tidbits of our life here on a daily basis didn't exactly pan out...surprise, surprise! ;)  And, I just discovered 3 comments waiting to be published...from my last post, back in June!!  Sorry, everyone!  I feel like such a blogging flop!! :(

I've been thinking for a while how I really want to get back to blogging on a regular basis.  I just don't seem to be organized enough to actually do it!  Today I was watching a live training seminar about how to launch a successful ebook (which is something I'd love to do someday!) and in a roundabout way it inspired me to "pick up my pen" (aka keyboard) and write something in this little neglected space.  Perhaps, just perhaps, I'll be able to make the time to post more regularly.  I miss it.

Anyway, to recap our's been a good one.  It's pretty much flown by (why does that always happen?!) and tomorrow is our first official day of school, although we are easing into it this year, just a little bit at a time.  So tomorrow won't actually be a full day.  I have a few fun plans up my sleeve, and then we'll do our morning time routine, maybe a little math, and call it good.  Although, Sam's math curric. hasn't actually arrived yet, so unless it comes today or tomorrow, he won't be starting that just yet!  I was a little slow on getting the last of my school stuff ordered this year.  And realized after I'd ordered everything else, that I'm not sure yet what I'm doing for Josiah's handwriting this year!  Good thing I didn't plan to be into a full school schedule for a couple weeks or so. ;)

We kept our summer pretty low-key and didn't make any big trips this year.  We made a couple visits to our local nature center:

We had chickadees raise a family in our birdhouse again: 

We visited Polar Caves for the first time as a family, along with some of our good friends (thanks to free passes from the library book sale):

We had four nights of VBS at church:

Julia spent a week at camp (and came home sick :( ...and then Josiah and I came down with it too, which meant we lost about 2 weeks of summer to sickness!) :

We enjoyed our annual July 4th church picnic:

And we spent a day at Story Land with much. fun!

Then there were the little spontaneous visits and playdates with friends, neighborhood soccer practices, a couple of beach days...

Ari continued to grow and grow and started really TALKING!

She got a big girl trundle bed under the Lego table in the boys' room:

She's discovered the delights of sweet corn. :)

And her hair grew, too.  Enough to finally make pigtails!!

Jim has been keeping pretty busy this summer, for which we're so grateful.  But he's not so busy that he doesn't have time to work and play with the kids here at home. :)
 blacksmithing with the boys
putting siding on our garage addition

Here are a few of the projects he's been working on: 
 new windows and door in an old house

 woodbox made for a friend
frame for a wedding gift 

We celebrated our 17th anniversary on August 7th...enjoyed dinner out at a favorite restaurant and then we went and played mini golf without kids!!!!  (Haven't done that in YEARS and it was a blast!!)

It was a FUN summer:

And we're SAD it's over! 
But we are looking forward to hopefully having a great fall. :)