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!

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!

Three things I’m thankful for this week

This week I am simply grateful for the cooler and rainy weather that has pushed in this weekend.  I am thankful for this change in weather for three reasons:

WTF? (Where’s The Freon?)

First, our air conditioning went on the fritz as of yesterday, so we’ve been running fans and opening all the windows in the house.  Since the storms came in last night, it brought in cooler weather and with keeping the curtains closed and windows open, the house has stayed cool, thankfully.

I hope it’s a simple fix, like adding some Freon, but we will find out tomorrow when I call our HVAC guy.

A Day Off…

Additionally, having the storms and the cooler weather has given me a day off of watering.  That may sound insignificant, however between Millie’s flower garden, our new vegetables and strawberries and the cold crop garden, it takes about two hours to water.  Two hours!

That’s a lot of time every day, but I know if I can get the flowers in Millie’s garden established, it will be worth it.  It’s just that every time I say I’m done planting for the season, Chouchou brings home another flower or a friend sends another plant.  

Her garden has become a collective place for our village to share and show their grief over our loss and their continued love and remembrance of Millie.  I love how it is coming together like this, with the love and support of many, and am especially grateful to those who have come and dug holes, filled holes, watered plants, and weeded the garden alongside our family.  The flipside to all the flowers and plants we’ve received, is the essential watering to help their roots get established.

We also just planted some asparagus and strawberry plants, that need constant watering in the recent heat, but once they are established, the asparagus will come back for up to another 20 years (!) and the strawberry plants could produce for up to three years.

Outdoor play

Lastly, we spend a lot of time outdoors, and we had a blast playing in the water table yesterday under the shade of a cedar tree in the 80 degree heat.  

Today was a nice change with the overcast sky, occasional breeze, and early seventy temps.  It was even a little cool and we had sweaters on this morning.  This is the spring weather I love!

Mon Cœur (MC) also has a new place to adventure – a log cabin playhouse.  It arrived yesterday evening right before bedtime, so we didn’t really have long to play and explore. We spent basically all day today in there, planning, decorating, playing, learning how to climb the loft ladder, and how to open the doors.  

Many times I wanted to (and probably did a couple of times) just open the door for her or hold my hands up for her to jump down from the loft, but I knew how important it would be for her to be independent and be able to do these things herself.  It required me to wait and be patient and find words to coach her through doing these things independently.

Instead of grabbing the door handle, I showed her once, and we practiced together.  The door is a little tricky, but after a few times saying, “Put your hand through the handle and your thumb on top.  Push your thumb down and push the door open,” she was able to open and close the door like a pro.  

She proceeded to entertain herself (and me for that matter) for the next ten minutes running in and out of the cabin, opening and shutting the doors and yelling, “Hello? Anybody home?” after knocking on the door outside, and “Hello! Come in!” from the window inside.

She scaled the ladder going up to the loft, and only a couple of times asked me to get her down.  I just spotted her and talked her through it, “Turn around, put your hand here, step down.  Move your other foot down.”  Once she got the rhythm, she was going up and down the ladder effortlessly, counting the rungs, plotting sleepovers, and telling stories.

This little log cabin will give us plenty of ways to get “outside” even if it is raining, and give us many projects to keep busy in the months to come!  I see painting, floor cushions, and curtains in our future, among other things.  

But first, we’ll trap some carpenter bees. For that, I am thankful first, to the industrious bee who showed himself this morning so I knew with certainty what wood devouring insect I was dealing with. Secondly to myfrugalhome.com for their informative post on building carpenter bee traps (I cheated and bought one of theirs instead of making one).

I hope that you have a wonderful week ahead and find many reasons to be grateful in the coming week. I can’t believe it’s almost Memorial Day, in some ways it’s like the year is flying by, even though the days seem like they will never end.

This week’s dash of gratefulness

Last week was a super productive week for us. We were so lucky to have my mother here all week to help out with projects, and we’ve accomplished a lot!

I am glad she was here with us to celebrate Mother’s Day. Our celebration entailed planting more flowers in the garden – a few peonies, some lilies, and some phlox – gifts from Chouchou for Mother’s Day.

Reflecting back on the previous week, here are five reasons I am grateful:

Mothers.

Thank you to my Mom and all the Moms that have adopted me – for their unconditional love, never ending patience, and undying support. They’ve shown me tough love, endless energy, optimism. They’ve given me ideas, answers, and strength.

To all my friends – amazing women and mothers who inspire me and give me strength. Who listen, share, and are there for me.

I love them all and am so thankful for them. I couldn’t have asked for a better tribe of women to walk with me through all of life’s adventures. 

To-do lists.

What? Yes. In the beginning of the stay-at-home quarantine, I had grand schemes of fail-proof schedules to get Mon Cœur (MC) and me through the day. Those were quickly tossed out the window. Then we had nothing.

Now we use to-do lists. Honestly, the only thing we have as a routine are meals, nap, and bed time. Everything else is flexible. Why should I drive myself crazy boxing things in to a time?

At breakfast every day, I make a list of things I have to do: laundry, vacuum, meal plan, blog, balance checking…

And MC makes a list, too. Sometimes she “writes” it, most of the time she dictates it to me: pillow fight, play Sneaky Snack Squirrel, check the strawberries, check eggs, chase ducks, nap, organize corner play area, thank you notes. Can you tell what I wrote on her list?

The to-do lists have been great- they help me stay on track with what I really need to get done, helped me delegate things for Mom to do every day, and for MC, it is a “reading activity” (we add pictures for her right now so she can see her list and mark off items as she completes them).

I’ve tried keeping my daily agenda, a bullet journal, making schedules, etc. But a plain old to-do list just plain gets the job done, and it’s made things a lot less complicated.

It also feels so good to strike through an item that’s been completed – done!

Our tribe.

I feel so ridiculously lucky for the tribe we have. Family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, former students. After the appointment last week, I asked Chouchou to do an announcement video with me. I knew I’d be announcing on the blog and on social media, but I wanted us to be the ones to personally tell friends and family – I didn’t want it to be a “discovery” the next time someone was scrolling through the blog or their feed.

So we made a quick video and sent it out before posting our news. The response has been overwhelming. Full of love, support, and “happy tears.” We knew people had shared in our grief, although I’m not sure I appreciated to what extent they had really grieved Millie with us and hoped for another pregnancy with us until we had received responses back. I felt waves of hugs and positive vibes from all over the world as we sent out our announcement.

Chouchou.

We’re both a little anxious right now, and yet, he lets me do my thing. I wanted to make the announcement video for family and friends and although that’s not really his thing, he did it with me, for me.

He wants to celebrate Millie’s memory on the date of her delivery. He asked me, “What do you want to do on the 30th?” We’ve decided on a day working in the garden as a family, maybe a little picnic in the garden.

When we first were coming to grips with what had happened to Millie, I was told by many people – including all of the delivery nurses, doctors, and the chaplain – that he and I would process our grief differently. That has been so very true, and yet I am so grateful that he continues to communicate his feelings and thoughts to me and we share together our grief even as we experience and process it differently.

Mon Cœur.

She is so stinking smart. She has a humor about her that keeps us laughing. Her imagination is vivid, and I love to just watch her. Sometimes she decides that she’s done playing Sneaky Snacky Squirrel, and she fills her log up with “candles” and sings happy birthday to herself and blows them out.

Sometimes she’s a rule follower and other times, she marches to her own beat. The other day, I set out dot stickers and started a pattern along a line – blue, green, blue, green, blue. Instead of following the pattern, she made her own – green the rest of the way down the line…I smiled at her interpretation. We haven’t really worked with patterns yet. Patterns are a concept they teach in Kindergarten in Virginia, so I am not overly worried. I was happy that all the stickers were on the line and spaced pretty evenly.

She’s independent – she wants to do it all herself – dig a hole for the flowers, climb a hill, check the mail, or sing happy birthday, “Don’t help me!,” as she puts her hand over my mouth.

She is so full of love – we’ll be working on a puzzle, playing a game, or running around outside, and she’ll pause, pucker up, and lay one on me. “I love you, Mommy.”

As we push through to the middle of another week, I try to stay focused on reasons to be grateful and feel blessed. I know many followers like to read the grateful posts, so I will try to post them more regularly like I had been! I’d love to hear from you – please share in the comments: What’s made you feel grateful recently?

This week’s recap and dose of gratefulness

According to a 2005 article published online at Psychology Today, they list seven benefits of cultivating gratefulness. One that has significance for me right now is:

Gratitude increases mental strength. For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. … Recognizing all that you have to be thankful for —even during the worst times—fosters resilience.”

As we continue in this new pattern of life during the Coronavirus, I am trying to be especially mindful of scheduling my days to be intentional with activities for Mon Cœur (MC), productive projects for me and for the family.  We’ve got to keep busy, continue to be social, if even from a distance, and find those silver linings in our everyday lives.

Continuing with my weekly gratefulness practice, below are five reasons I’m grateful this week.

Five reasons I’m grateful this week:

  • Spring!  What a strange winter we’ve had. Although I missed the snow this year, I really enjoyed the warm, first day of spring where we spent virtually the entire day outside gardening and playing.  Our blueberries have woken up, slowly filling out their branches with green leaves.  Our almond tree has been in full bloom for the past couple of weeks, and our daffodils and hyacinths are really coming in bloom now. The promise of warmer weather and the uncertain times had us outside planting our seeds preparing our early spring garden.  We should have some salad greens, radish, and carrots ready starting in twenty days.
  • Technology.  Seriously.   MC and I have not left the house since…we took Chouchou to the doctor at the beginning of March.  We haven’t had visitors to the house, aside from a few family members passing though briefly.  In short, we have missed human interaction.  Fortunately, we have been able to keep in touch with family and friends near and far through video chat apps.
  • Our chickens.  They’ve kept us company out in the garden, helping weed and finding worms, and they’ve run around with MC close behind.  They’ve also been laying which has given us something to look forward to each day – going to gather eggs, and a fun activity of predicting how many will be in the coop (two, always two, MC’s favorite number) and a counting activity as we place the eggs in the basket to bring inside.
  • A cure for my sweet tooth.  I like to keep a cake or brownie mix stashed for those times when I get a sweet tooth, and this week, I got one bad.  I went to check what we had, and there was a brownie mix.  MC enjoyed helping me mix and making little brownie bites.  The smaller the brownies, the more we can have, right?
  • Newly found toddler blogs and resources.  These recent new blogs have helped to inspire me and give MC new, fun, educational activities to do.  While trying to fill my days with purpose for the whole family, these blogs have helped me to do just that.

What I’m reading:

How to Homeschool – a Beginner’s Guide

Brittany over at A Healthy Slice of Life answers her readers’ questions about homeschool and gives realistic tips such as setting a schedule.  She gives links to the best sites for worksheets, online resources for learning, games, and a list of helpful materials.

Virtual Learning Literacy and Enrichment Resources

Lauren blogs about books over at Happily Ever Elephants, and this past week she posted an article about virtual learning – literacy resources, learning and enrichment resources, and bloggers with activities to keep toddlers engaged.  

Inquiry based learning & Breakfast invitations

Beth from Days with Grey has two great posts I read this week, and I’ve already tried the breakfast invitations with great success this week with MC.  Read about that here.

What I’m listening to:

Side Hustle School

I’ve been binge listening to this podcast this week, since I’ve just discovered it.   They have really great episodes with inspiring stories to help people looking to create a side hustle. This week is about how to find time for your side hustle.

The host, Chris Guillebeau, gives great questions in the classroom episodes to help really fine tune the approach to one’s side hustle. A bonus, he gives homework each week, so this week I need to make a “stop-doing-list” and a “this matters” list.


What silver linings have you found this week? What have you read or listened to this week that has inspired you?