Countdown to Christmas

Thanksgiving is over, the lingering leftovers are nearly cleared out of the fridge, the warm, mid-sixties November weather has blown away and lows of mid 20’s to 30’s are sweeping in. We’ve flipped the calendar to December and the tree is up, lit, and decorated. We’ve put on some Christmas vinyls and MC has danced with us around the living room floor.

MC gets so excited every time she sees the tree – “I’m so excited – it’s Christmas now!” and her energy is contagious. I know it’s all about the spirit of Christmas, because even though, “You spoil rotten me!” as MC says, we don’t do a lot of gifts.

Our gift giving mantra this year

I really loved a recent gift-giving post Ralphie from @simplyonpurpose shared. She gives her children something to read, something to play with, and something to experience. I love this idea, because we are big readers in this house, we like to play, although we are swimming in toys (more on this later), and we value family time and creating memories together through experiences.

Something to read

We have so many books already, and yet I feel like we can’t ever have “too much” good literature for MC. I really adore Lauren’s blog, Happily Ever Elephants, and she recently posted her top picks for Picture Books for 2020. She provides well researched lists of books full of intention and conversation starters. I appreciate all of her curated lists, and when I need a little help picking a book out, she’s my go-to gal.

Something to play with

As I choose new toys for Mon Cœur (MC), I am striving to find open-ended toys that will grow with her and that Mon Amour (MA) will also be able to play with as he grows and starts playing. We bought one of the wooden rainbow stacker toys recently and some magnet tiles, and these have been the best investment for MC. I have seen her imagination run wild, from using the rainbow colors to make phone calls to making skyscrapers and stables with the magnet tiles. She has really become more independent in her play recently, which I love to watch, and I want to continue cultivating this with simpler, more open toys.

Something to experience

For the experience, that will be a little trickier this year…MC has dropped several hints that she wants to go ice skating. She has also mentioned wanting to do ballet again, and continue swim lessons. So I have my research cut out for me to see what we can organize and what is available

Since we aren’t doing a lot of gifts…

I started a new Christmas tradition at the end of the holiday season last year. Since we don’t do a lot of gifts, but we all love celebrating the spirit of Christmas, I wrapped up 25 “gifts” (crafts, books, movies, etc) which we already owned, and I made a list of other ideas to do leading up to Christmas. Each day, MC will unwrap a gift and we will do that activity – be it a craft, making and sending cards, watching a movie, or reading a book.

As I took out the boxes that had the gifts pre-wrapped (and thank goodness I did that, or else this tradition wouldn’t be happening this year!), MC could not contain her curiosity – she kept wanting to pick out gifts and start unwrapping it. She truly thought that Christmas was here. Today.

I am looking forward to celebrating Christmas a little each day with her. Follow me to see what we do each day!

How do you countdown to Christmas? What are your advent traditions? Any tips to downsizing the toy population ?

A season to be thankful

I can’t believe that a month has already passed.  As I sit here drafting this post, I am at a loss for where to start, what to include, what to focus on.  Since we just celebrated Thanksgiving, and there is so much to give thanks for, I am going to let that be my guiding focus.

I have been noting daily gratitudes, and there are definitely common threads which reappear often:  family and friends, health, unseasonably warm weather, and my students who keep in touch and surprise me.

Additionally, the space and time away from the blog and social media has allowed me to really focus on what matters most to me – family. I have been practicing giving myself grace and not pushing myself too much. If the kids get fed, cleaned and dressed throughout the day, I have done my job. Maybe MC got a lot of screen time, maybe I didn’t go out and clean the yard on a beautiful day in November, and perhaps the laundry and dishes are piling up…But is the family fed and happy? Then it was a successful day and I can’t try to measure myself against anyone else and what they accomplished in a given day.

When others have come over and helped out, I have learned to let it be and be appreciative of the help. Towels not folded like I fold them? Who cares – they’re washed and put away. Silverware not organized like I would do it? Oh well, we’ll use it over time and it will get sorted out later.

Friends & Family  

For the past month, in the days leading up to our induction and after our homecoming with Mon Amour (MA), family and friends have been here for us – sending texts and well wishes, prayers, and good vibes, taking care of our house and Mon Cœur (MC) while we were at the hospital, sending cards and congratulations.  

We have been showered with love, visits, and homemade meals from friends and family near and far.  We are well loved, that is for sure, and it’s always nice to feel loved and taken care of.

Chouchou

Chouchou has truly helped me navigate our new family dynamics with grace.  He has made sure there is a meal on the table, that I get my rest, and that MC is in bed on time.  He has helped me keep up with the laundry and dishes, and cooked a feast for Thanksgiving. 

I have enjoyed watching him bond with MC, cuddle with MA, and have appreciated his help with the housework.  

Mon Cœur

MC is a natural big sister.  She has been an amazing help with MA, fetching diapers, burp cloths, and wipes.  She loves him unconditionally, sings him songs when he starts to cry, and is so, so patient when we can’t get to her right away.

She has also become independent in many ways – clearing the table and putting her dishes in the dishwasher, playing independently, wanting to do everything “myself.” She no longer takes “naps,” instead we both have “recharge time” where she can read, play, or nap in her room for an hour, while I get a breather and recharge for an hour.

There was even a morning that we were going to do pancakes (ha- the ambition!).  I had all of the ingredients measured out to make pancakes together.  However, MA woke up and needed to be fed, so I left MC in the kitchen to mix the ingredients together.  She made the pancake batter and then waited….and waited…and waited for me to be free to cook them for us.

Mon Amour

MA has been a blessing, a renewed hope, and a reason to be grateful.  He’s our little miracle, and another raison d’être (reason to be), along with MC.  It’s hard to believe that he is one month today.  

His smiles, coos, and belly laughs while dreaming make me melt.  He has started to be alert more, showing us his fierce blue sapphire eyes, and I have enjoyed the tender snuggles, especially when he reaches out his hand to mine and grasps it.

Unseasonably warm weather

We have been taking advantage of the sunny, mild weather to get outside as much as possible for walks and to play.  I’m not sure what kind of winter we will have – we can always speculate and predict, but I’m just taking it one day at a time and enjoying all the rays of sunshine and beautiful weather that comes our way.  It’s unreal to think that it’s November and mid-60’s, but I’ll take it!

We have been able to take daily walks through Millie’s garden, which until the frost last week, we enjoyed the abundant Morning Glory blooms along a vines wall of green. The chrysanthemums were especially bountiful this year and provided beautiful fall colors of gold and burnt orange, and our camellias have just started to bloom as the days grow cooler and shorter. Surprisingly, our phlox continues to sprawl and even flower.

I always love walking through the garden because whenever I see a flower in bloom, I remember the friend who gave the plant to us and the love they have for us. It’s like getting a big old hug from them.

My students

Out of the blue, I heard from a student on Thanksgiving morning.  She had found my blog and emailed to thank me for teaching her French.  My jaw dropped and my heart swelled when I read her thank you email. It was totally unexpected, and although I think of my students often, I never expected to hear from them. That was the loveliest surprise and way to start off my day!

I’ve had many students (and parents) throughout my career that have expressed thanks, or that I keep in touch with and that keep me updated about them.  I really appreciate that – it’s these relationships and the gratitude of students that is fuel to this teacher’s soul. It’s these little things that I remember and that I miss most.


Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things. 

Robert Brault

Finding at least one specific thing, no matter how small, to be grateful about each day has helped me to see all the wonder in my life. Sure I could tell you about the sleepless nights, the moments when MC or I have lost patience with each other, the little things that have set me off…but choosing to focus on the positive little things that make me smile and make my heart sing cultivates a better mindset.

I have read many articles recently that discuss the merits of practicing gratitude, being content, and living in the now.  I look around the house and see so many projects that I want to accomplish, work that I want to do with MC, and blog posts that I want to write.  But at the end of the day, all that really matters is the little things, and living each little moment to the fullest.  I also know the specific details of these little things may be forgotten one day, so documenting it today will help me remember later.

I hope that in this season you are able to find joy and gratitude in your day to day!

Thank you!

Just jotting the quickest note ever here, to say…Hey – thank you! I am so grateful to you – for following my blog, for reaching out, for checking in.

It’s been a little over year since I began publicly sharing our journey…and well, our life, from many different angles. I have not had a chance to earnestly sit and reflect on the past year, although I hope to soon.

Tomorrow morning we’ll be preparing for Baby Boy’s entrance into this world. We’re so anxious to meet him- I can’t wait to check in at the hospital. For me that will be my “safe space.” My “if anything happens we are right here with all the professionals we need to help us get through” place.

I know that ultimately it’s out of my hands, and I’m not in control of the final outcome. I’m hopeful though, and I’ve packed much lighter for this trip, knowing that all I really need I am carrying with me.

On the blog, I have had spurts of productivity recently surrounded by great lulls of silence, where life has been happening, just not documented and published here. I imagine over the next few weeks to months we will be doing more living, transitioning, and bonding. I may not be documenting or publishing much on the blog or social media.

Please know that I appreciate your following me, and I will be back to share more stories of our journey, once we find our new family rhythm.

In the meantime, I have thought a lot about the blog and all that we document. I would love (seriously!) to hear from you. Leave me a comment below or email me (mamansmonde(at)gmail(dot)com) and let me know.

I’ve written about our grief over Millie, our butterfly garden, our pregnancy journey, the books and activities and adventures in bilingual parenting with Mon Cœur, among other things. What brings you here and what do you wish to see more of?

What themes or topics resonate with you on this blog? What would you like to read more about?

I am looking forward to reading your responses!

National Infant and Pregnancy Loss Day

October 15

Today, October 15, is National Infant and Pregnancy Loss Day. The whole month in fact is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness. I learned about this day last year, at a bereavement group meeting.  (See related blog post here.)  

Last year was different.  We were four months into living our new reality, missing Millie, and trying to continue on as a family with Mon Cœur (MC) propelling us forward.

This year, we are 16 months missing Millie, carrying on as a family with MC keeping us on our toes, and we are 14 days from an induction to meet our baby boy.  This year is harder in many ways than it was last year, perhaps precisely because we are expecting, and in just two weeks.  I believe it is the home-stretch anxiety, knowing how close we are, and also knowing that it could all slip between our fingers.

Throughout this pregnancy, we have had our ups and downs of emotions – excited, skeptical, hopeful, anxious, excited, scared.  We are all anticipating his arrival, and yet some severe anxiety clouds our joy.  We know the potential outcome.  We know we aren’t in control, and little things can trigger thoughts or feelings of “what if?”

Gifts and conflicting emotions

Our village exudes enthusiasm for us – they don’t see or feel the apprehensions that we do.  We have had more people shower us with gifts prior to baby boy’s arrival than Millie’s, which is confusing from my perspective. I hate to sound ungrateful or ungracious, I simply can not mentally process the gifts that have been given us…We are scared.

When it’s just us, and we aren’t putting on a face for others, we are in fact very aware of what could or couldn’t be. I have hid all of the gift bags away and out of sight until we are back home with baby in arms.  I would rather be exhausted, have my hands full, and have to process gifts and write thank yous once I know he is here instead of looking through them now, getting hopes up, and maybe not be able to put these gifts to use. Silly? Maybe. I am trying to be strong while also protecting our family from potential emotional anguish, and it’s a fine line to walk.

Every time we receive a gift, I flashback to the day that I received a gift from my sister, and then Chouchou came home that same afternoon and had forgotten a quilt at work which had been made by a co-worker.  “It’s no big deal, baby – you can get it tomorrow,” I told him.  

That day was the day before the morning I woke up and didn’t feel Millie, that I naïvely believed that although I wasn’t feeling any movement, since I felt contractions, everything was okay.  Everybody kept saying, “Babies move less and less right before labor.” “Okay, she’s ready then,” I incorrectly thought.

The morning I woke up and Chouchou was busy preparing a dinner feast in the kitchen, and MC was running around laughing.  The morning I planned on “just running up to the hospital for a quick check-in” while Chouchou felt much more ominous about the situation.  The morning we placed my hospital bag and the car seat in the car, expecting to come home with a baby bundle and at the doctor’s office learning that would not be the case.

Managing this pregnancy

Although I feel like we’ve managed well throughout this pregnancy, the one thing that we have refused to do is set up anything baby related or open any baby gifts.   We just can’t bring ourselves to do it.  Instead, I have begun a wish list of things for my mom to do when she comes up.  I am grateful for her help, support, and understanding. What gets done, gets done, and what doesn’t get done, we’ll figure out once we get home. Anything is better than coming home and having to break down a no-longer needed nursery, and reallocate no-longer needed gifts.

Everyone keeps saying that this time it will work out, this time will be different. While I want to believe them, I can’t help but know that it might not work out, it might not be different this time.  When I hear those phrases it makes me itch inside, like there’s a rash that can’t be soothed. When I hear that, I just want to hit fast forward to the day when we are reassured by his arrival, his cry and his physical, squirming presence.

Remembering Millie

Today especially I am reminded of Millie Bonheur, our darling who did not come home with us.  I think of her every day.  I remember her every day.  MC sees a butterfly and says, “Hello, Millie!” She is remarkable at her timing to notice Millie’s urn and ask to hold her or speak to her. Just this past Tuesday, she asked to hold Millie. She talked to her, held her, then we put her back.

Today I am remembering our Millie, and all the moms whose hearts ache for their baby angels.

To read more about our pregnancy journey, check out these previous blog posts:

On New Beginnings and Bullet Journaling

On new beginnings

I am so excited that it’s October! I feel like it’s the start of a new year, as I started a new bullet journal October 1.  I purchased the journal back in July, and researched many people’s layouts online, took notes, and began mapping out my journal for October 1-Dec 31, 2020 back in August…So it was super exciting and thrilling to be able to make my first notes in it beginning this week!  

What’s a bullet journal?  I’ll get to that in just a minute!

October first also marked our weekly prenatal appointment, where we had an excellent check-in with the Doctor and she said the Non Stress Test (NST) was picture perfect.  Baby Boy will be here in less than four weeks and although our anxiety may be heightened, our excitement to meet him is also mounting…

The past couple of weeks have been nice and cool. With the arrival of October, harvesting our pumpkin patch, apple picking at our favorite orchard, and watching the leaves changing color, I can truly feel like a new season is upon us.  

Buds are appearing on our camellias, our rudbeckia is in full bloom, genuflecting to us as we exit the house everyday, and the sun is later to rise.  I’ve finally dug out and begun wearing some cozy sweaters, made a batch of chili, and spent more time outdoors in this milder weather. 

So the bullet journal – what’s that?

My “bujourney” so far – previous journals at the top, and the newest one at the bottom.

For me, my bullet journal helps keep track of birthdays and celebrations, our family calendar, a daily gratitude, blog ideas and states of completeness, and I’m trying out habit tracking for the blog as well as self-care.  I also have found a way to hopefully streamline daily notes of memories and milestones for each child so when we go to write the annual birthday letter- I can go straight to a page each month instead of skimming every day for a note.

My daily notes for our kids’ milestones, along with a spot to summarize the month.

The Bullet Journal was created by Ryder Carroll.  I first heard about the concept in a “mom” magazine, and without much research, just the minimal information found in the article, I began bullet journaling.  

My first bullet journal – monthly view for events on left and to-dos and monthly quote on right.

It is a system for organizing your life – noting events, logging tasks and daily to-dos, looking forward, reflecting back, tracking habits and keeping notes (about whatever you like to keep notes on).  Compiling all of this information by theme, “collections” are created.

I love to share my bullet journal set up with family and friends who ask, “What’s that?” in response to my enthusiastic, “I’ve started a new bullet journal!”   I’ve shared it about three times with Chouchou…Every time I start by, “Have I shown you my new journal?” to which he responds with a patient smile…and I proceed to share it, page by page.

He equates bullet journaling to scrapbooking and I agree – I save all of my journals and agendas, since they are a neatly organized souvenir of each year.  Saving them has helped us to write our birthday letter to Mon Cœur (MC) every year, and it helped me with writing my birth plan as I looked back at notes I kept from my L&D with Millie.

Daily to-dos for work and home, meal planning, and memories I didn’t want to forget were all noted in my journal.

Mom saw the year at a glance and all the writing I had to do upfront, and in her very Mom fashion said, “It’s too time consuming.”  She’s right, it does take time to set it up. The beauty is it can be as complicated or uncomplicated as you want to make it. Although there is some upfront work and a time commitment at the very beginning to get layouts on the page for the year and the month, to me it was very calming, almost like meditation with a ruler and pen.

Before setting up my most recent bullet journal, I did a lot of research looking at people’s shared bullet journal minimal set ups on YouTube.  I took notes, kept what I thought would work for me and trashed what seemed irrelevant.  

Since I’m starting in the fourth quarter of a year, I decided to plan out pages and collections just through the end of the year and then reevaluate at the end of the year to add or subtract any collections, layouts, or trackers that didn’t work for me.

I’m really glad that I’ve only mapped out three months, because I already have some ideas for changes….there are…so many ideas…out there, that I am finding more and more inspiration on how to better map my weekly spreads.

Set-up inspiration

I began a bullet journal a couple of years ago, in my last year of teaching.  I knew I wanted a place to keep tasks for myself, my job, our home, and keep little memories about MC and what she said or did on any particular day.  

Then when that ran out, I decided, I’ll just buy an agenda (Mom’s not wrong when she says it takes time to set up the bullet journal!).  I bought one, and although it was helpful to already have templates drawn out, I still had to label and number them and I just didn’t like the layouts as much…

So I was ecstatic to take on the bullet journal again, and this time actually purchased a dotted journal, instead of a lined one, so I could really make it my own.

There were two videos I watched and found informative when planning my bullet journal.  These videos had helpful, minimalistic set ups, and I found more things that I wanted to include instead of fluff to trash.

Pick Up Limes: This was the first and most helpful video for setting up my bullet journal. She gave a great walkthrough of her set up. I took many of her ideas, including the key set up, a monthly check in (emotional, physical, spiritual), and gratitudes.  I took the gratitudes a step further, with a milestone page for MC and Baby Boy.

Monthly check in, with a spot for words of affirmation and a monthly goal on the left; habit tracker on the right. “Exercise 10 min” was replaced by “Read thirty minutes” and I’m still not meeting that mark!

AmandaRachLee: Amanda shared some great ideas I will likely use at the beginning of the year – a new year page with goals, focus, dreams, and affirmations for the year.   

She uses a bill tracker as well, which I originally was going to include in my journal.  However, I decided that should be a monthly page that gets visibility for both Chouchou and me.  We are trying to budget better together while still keeping and using a credit card, so hiding it away in a page of my bullet journal just did not make sense for the teamwork effort we are putting in.

She had a page dedicated to ideas for her YouTube posts – I tweaked this to work with my blog and the three diverse areas that I blog under.  I took it a step further to add a key as to whether I had a draft, needed pictures, had scheduled the post, needed follow up on Instagram, etc. Again, I want to change this layout to be more fluid and easier to follow through the process from start to finish.

Blog idea brain dump on the left; daily gratitudes on the right!

How I keep up with my bullet journal

I take it with me everywhere – it’s small enough to fit in my purse, and heavy enough so I always feel its presence.  

At home during the day, it stays on the kitchen table or buffet, so I can reference my tasks, note gratitude, or little things MC says and I don’t want to forget.

At night, I reflect over the day, migrating or canceling tasks, adding the milestones and gratitudes if I haven’t already.  I also think about what I want to accomplish or a task I need to complete tomorrow or in the upcoming days.  I make sure to write it down before going to sleep so I can go to sleep, and I keep it on my nightstand.

In the morning, instead of checking my phone first thing, I grab my bullet journal from my nightstandand check in.  This helps keep me focused on my day, instead of falling down the IG or news feed rabbit hole.

Ryder Carroll

If you aren’t familiar with Bullet Journaling and want to get started, I do suggest starting with Ryder’s website, bulletjournal.com, which explains the process.  

There are many bullet journal enthusiasts out there, many with graceful calligraphy and images, stickers, washi tape and more.  I may not have a paying full time job, but my family, home, and marriage are all full time jobs and I have to prioritize practical over pretty.

Start with Ryder’s website, and then make it your own and discover other ideas that are out there.

Do you keep a bullet journal? Share your experience!