Thursday, February 14, 2019

Organizing Makes My Heart Sing

Linen Closet, Organized

I've long known that I like organizing.  My childhood self would be surprised to hear that because I was not the most organized child.  I very much remember my desk in my bedroom at home constantly overflowing with stuff.  I was also a bit of a hoarder back then, something that took work to break.   But once I got better at letting excess STUFF go and our house was no longer over burdened by keeping it all in place, I wanted things organized.

I think better when our house is regularly clean.  It brings me joy when the kitchen counters and the dining table are clear.  It really does.  I know I function better when spaces are organized and orderly.

I get excited when I figure out something new to organize or when I figure out a solution to a long nagging project (like the hooks I want put up in our stairs so Luke's backpack has a home).  My favorite part of every project is when I get to put things back in place, to give them a place.  Whether it's when the bathroom vanity and medicine cupboards were finally ready to be filled (a project I started at 11pm, the second Matt said they were ready, because I could. not. wait.) or my basement pantry shelves (not 11pm when I filled those), or all the cupboards once the paint was dry.

Painting Inside the Kitchen Dish Cupboard

It took me a long time to realize that not everyone feels the same joy that I do when it comes to organizing.  (Starting with my husband, I've excitedly exclaimed to him, more than once, "And now you get to do the organizing and that's the best part!" only to have him, politely, roll his eyes at me and, lovingly, tell me I'm a little bit crazy.)

Organizing isn't just about keeping track of all our belongings but also establishing good routines and rhythms.  It's about organizing our calendar, having solid routines for our pain points - like before school, right after school, etc.  I like not having to think about the mundane, recurring things so I have brain space for more important thinking.  I can not overstate how much I enjoy and appreciate a good routine (and the fact that we've had so many snow/ice days off school in the past month is messing with my head a little.  I'm already grouchy for all the school days he'll have in June when it's nice outside!)
Craft Shelved: Organized

I've spent this whole school year training Luke to take care of his backpack (getting out his folder, emptying all the papers he brought home, putting the folder back), put his lunch box next to the sink, and hang up his coat.  I don't want to tell him to do these things every day (even though I have for the last 100+ days of school) because I want him to, slowly, learn to do them himself (and we are getting there!).  Then we can move on without afternoon. 

Organizing even shows up in all the professional jobs I've had the last 14 years since I graduated college.  I spent 8 years working in public accounting before kids and have worked (very) part-time in bookkeeping in the (almost) 6 years since.  It took me almost that long to realize that the reason my brain seems to take to accounting is because it is basically organizing the numbers, making sure they all have a place and putting them there. 

Basement Pantry: Organized
All this to say, like reading, organizing is something I enjoy which is why those are some of my most frequent blog topics.  There aren't a lot of things I feel super qualified to discuss but those are two of them (I'd say I'm also fairly decent at homemade ice cream at this point.) 

One of things that has surprised me most in my 30s is how much better I feel like I know myself, at how much better I can understand myself and how I work.  It's a pretty nice upside to the whole growing older bit.  It makes it easier to work with myself, even when I drive myself a little bit crazy.  And figuring out I really like organizing, well that's just a piece of me but it's really helped me figure myself out a little bit better.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Quick Lit - February

Winter is prime time for reading, between parenting, doing school runs (although pick-up line is great reading time), and keeping our house mostly clean.  I'm on Goodreads here (updated frequently) and Instagram here (updated maybe less frequently).

A few other book posts I've written in the past month:

 18 winter picture books
 And now the rest!

Stretched Too Thing: How Working Moms Can Lose the Guilt, Work Smarter, and Thrive by Jessica N. Turner
I really enjoyed Jessica Turner's first book and listened to a couple podcast interviews she did before I actually read this one.  In one she mentioned that this book is for any Mom who earns money, from working full time to even just five hours a week.  I work three hours a week, didn't even get in her low point BUT I still found some useful information here.  I think this could be worthwhile reading for working Moms (who work more than I do) to help achieve that elusive balance.  It's never possible but this book had some good strategies for getting closer.  4 Stars

The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson
"The" Royal Wedding can be rather misleading, my initial thought is always Wills & Kate's but Harry & Meghan's was more recent.  This one is about the now Queen Elizabeth's wedding, particularly about the women who made her wedding gown.  It made me think of a British version of The Pink Suit, but with an even more famous woman wearing the finished product.  I've read a decent amount of World War II fiction (haven't we all??) but not many that take place after the war, as this one did.  It was a fun, mostly fictional but based on facts, look at what goes into making this sort of garment, that will be seen by millions but was made my very real women who had their own problems happening too.  3.5 Stars

Loving my Actual Life: An Experiment in Relishing What's Right in Front of Me by Alexandra Kuykendall
This was a reread and a fantastic one to read at the start of a year, even though her experiment doesn't start with January.  It's a fairly short book, just over 200 pages, but helped me adjust my perspective on our lives right now.  I wrote a whole post on it the last time I read it, when we were struggling through the adoption wait and while life is certainly different now (those waiting years were HARD), it's never perfect and there was still plenty of ways I could apply this to my life now.  3.75 Stars

The Wondering Years: How Pop Culture Helped me Answer Life's Biggest Questions by Knox McCoy
I've been listening to The Popcast with Knox & Jamie for almost three years (including while I was pulling pictures for this post this morning) and asked for this book for Christmas.  Knox and I are about the same age so we should have a lot of the same references but we didn't watch a lot of tv (unless it was on PBS) or movies (unless it was animated) when I was a kid so while I was slightly familiar with most of the 80s pop culture he mentioned, I didn't really know most of them.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed this book, how some times pop culture can help inform your faith life.  But you'd probably mostly be interested if you are a Popcast listener. 3.75 Stars

Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand
A reread, I mostly try to read seasonally - reading summer set books in the summer, but there is something about the dead of winter that feels right for being reminded that it WILL be warm again some day.  Follows a group of 4 teens and their families, one of them dies in a car accident that the other 3 teens are all in the car for.  How does that affect their families and the small Nantucket community?  I've read every one of her books, reading many of them more than once.  Always enjoyable, even though this dealt with a heavier topic than most. 3.5 Stars

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson
I initially added this book to my TBR because I was intrigued by the title: I am interested in every book that tells me I need less stuff and to get rid of it.  I then read it in January once I saw it was barely 100 pages and I knew I could knock it out fast.  It's a funny sort of book - written by a Swedish woman who, in her words, between the ages of eighty and one hundred.  The basic premise is: sort through your stuff now so your loved ones don't have to do it when you die and then resent you for the mess you've left them.  It wasn't hugely inspiring but I did glean some worthwhile bits, and again, barely 100 pages so it didn't take much time.  3 Stars

This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Philipps
I've mentioned a few times that I watched the 6th and final season of Cougar Town in January and I had heard good things about her book.  Seeing as she's on Cougar Town, it seemed like a perfect time to pick this up.  She is very honest and flat out mentioned by names many celebs that were rude to her.  We probably don't agree on much but her honesty and openness about many of her stories made it worth the read.   3 Stars

Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pierce
This book was very charming.  It takes place in London during the Blitz of World War II.  Emmaline got a new job at a magazine and also volunteers at the fire station, taking calls for all the fires that come from bombs being dropped on London regularly.  The magazine has an advice column written by her boss, the Mrs. Bird in the title, but Mrs. Bird doesn't want disagreeable letters to make it to the magazine so Emmy takes it upon herself to answer this letters, women with real problems looking for advice.  The horrors of the Blitz are very evident but Emmy keeps her spirits up and it made for a mostly fun read.  3.75 Stars

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl
This is the memoir of a woman who was, at one time, the food critic for the New York Times.  And when you have that job, restaurants are on the lookout for you.  This is about the disguises she came up with to get a real picture of how these restaurants were as well as LOTS of food.  It was a fun read, I am always up for reading about NYC and I generally like food stories too.  3.75 Stars

Chapter Books I Read With Luke:
A True Home and The Greatest Gift by Kallie George
One of my 19 in 2019 project/goals was to read 6 chapter books outloud to Luke.  We are 6 weeks into the year and we've finished 3.  After I only finished 5½ of my 18 in 2018 goals, it feels good that we're kinda killing this one so far.  These are the first two books in a four book series, each taking place in a different season.  It's about a group of animals who live and work at a forest hotel called The Heartwood Hotel.  They interact with guests, have celebrations, and prepare for skunk guests.  Luke really enjoyed these and I found them charming.   These are the fall and winter books; I told him we have to wait for spring to read the next one.  Fantastic starting point for reading chapter books aloud to him.  4 Stars

Toys Go Out: Being the Adventures of a Knowledgeable Stingray, a Toughy Little Buffalo, and Something Called Plastic by Emily Jenkins
I was first introduced to this trio in their standalone picture book (here) and thought that would be a good way to segue into this chapter book series.  It's mainly about three toys who live in a little girl's room and have adventures when she's gone at school or wherever.  I thought they were clever but Luke didn't seem to enjoy it as much as he did the Heartwood books.  I still plan to finish the three book series though.  3.5 Stars

What have YOU been reading lately?

Thursday, February 7, 2019

One Year with a Bullet Journal

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One of the items (that I actually did!) on my 18 in 2018 list was to start a bullet journal.  I had heard about them ALL OVER the place and it sounded like fun and a good place to keep track of the multiple lists I have going at any one time.  A lot of people seemed to use them for daily or weekly planning but I mostly wanted one for lists.

For Christmas 2017 Matt got me this journal and these pens.  I was ready to start.  I meant to write about my first couple months bullet journaling but then we got a Sam and life was a little crazy.  The post kept getting pushed back but now here I am!  Talking about (slightly over) one year of bullet journaling.  Just in time for me to no longer here nobody else talking about them.  I am really good at being behind on trends.  #parenthood (Also, I don't always care.  I heard riding boots are "out" but you can pull mine from my dead, cold hands, thank you.)

So, what is a bullet journal?  The general consensus seems to be taking a mostly blank notebook and making it into some kind of perfect journal/planner for yourself.  The book I got has dotted pages which makes drawing straight lines and boxes MUCH easier.  I would probably never get out a ruler to do so and then everything would be wonky and crooked.

I didn't see much of a need to have a daily planner (THEN, see here).  We keep a family calendar in the kitchen and my brain seems to be good at remembering dates and plans.  Also, our lives are pretty simple.  Matt works weekdays, Luke goes to school.  I work about one morning every other week, which is very flexible.  We schedule play dates and doctor appointments and all that but I never found it difficult to keep track of on my paper calendar (at home) or on my phone (when out), which I could then put on the paper calendar when home. 

BUT I am a huge fan of lists.  I keep many, probably not as many as I do spreadsheets but multiple.  I liked the idea of having a place to put all my lists.  And that's what I could use a bullet journal for.  I think of it as sort of a manual to my life but it's more a place to dump all the lists that are rattling around in my brain.

The ones I do most often are my monthly book lists (wrote about those here) and my monthly to-do/project lists (wrote about here).  I've done those both every month for 14 months now.  I usually update them about once a week and I like having all my old lists handy.  It helps me remember the things I do, say every February.  So I guess I do use it a little bit as a planner.

Other lists I've added to mine are my 18 in 2018 list, my 19 in 2019 list, a list of things I wanted to do/watch/read/plan before our New York trip last year, a list of movies I want to see, and a list of things we needed to do to prep Luke for kindergarten last year (registering him, getting a shot, buying supplies, paying tuition, etc.).  

Part of "official" bullet journaling is not skipping or saving pages but using the index at the front of the book and page numbers on each page to keep track of where everything is.  Then there are symbols and arrows and things to draw as you are flipping pages to keep track of where a list might continue.  I do use the index but I don't do the rest of that.  None of my lists have ever overflowed one page for starters. 

I do skip some pages because I always want my book list and to-do list for the same month to be facing each other.  But then I go back in fill in the blank pages when I have something to put there.  So things get a little out of order but they all have a place, eventually.

I still have a blank page WAY back in the middle of last summer, where I've been intending to make a tracker for the summer, of how many hours I read each week, how many miles run...but here we are in February and it hasn't happened yet.  Maybe I'll do that for this summer and then catch up last summer.  (I DO have a spreadsheet where I have tracked how many hours I've spent reading every week for the last 21 months, thank you for asking.)

Maybe I don't use my bullet journal enough, maybe I should have tried using it also as a planner before I asked for one of those for Christmas.  MAYBE.  But after 13 months of fairly regular use, I am happy with what I've used it for.  I like having my lists together, I like being justified in keeping list, I like an excuse for a pretty journal and pens.  I feel slightly more on top of things, having these all in one place.  It has been a good exercise and certainly one I've stuck with longer than drinking green smoothies. 

If you are interested in starting, here are some resources I've found helpful:
The Lazy Genius Bullet Journals (podcast episode)
Modern Mrs. Darcy on My Favorite Tips and Tricks After 3 Months with the Bullet Journal

I'd recommend NOT starting with a Pinterest search because that's a good way to get very easily overwhelmed with how beautiful everyone else's journals seem to be. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Book Love: How to be a Happier Parent by KJ Dell'Antonia

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Of all the things in my life that cause me stress, parenting is probably at or near the top.  This is a wide variety of topics - from finding sitters, school related things, making sure the boys have a reasonably healthy diet, and, the biggie, discipline.  There is a lot that goes into parenting, it's at times way easier and so much harder than I ever expected.

When this book popped into my life, somehow, I have no idea where, I was immediately interested.  Parenting can bring me a lot of joy and happiness.  It can also not.

I've read a decent amount of parenting books, from getting your kids to eat anything to parenting with less to getting your kids to talk to you to navigating your marriage after kids.  I haven't read many on changes I can make to my parenting specifically to improve my experience with it (although, having a good relationship with my husband certainly affects my happiness, as well as having less junk around the house).

This book, How to be a Happier Parents: Raising a Family, Having a Life, and Loving (Almost) Every Minute by K.J. Dell'Antonia did that. 

She uses helpful, practical advice in nine categories to give ideas of what you, as a parent, can do to improve your own, and your kids' and spouses', quality of life.  She shares stories from her own parenting of 4 kids (including one adopted, which I always appreciate) as well as the lives of people she knows and surveyed for her book.  It's not just "this is how I do it and it's the best way" but giving different examples of what has worked for her or others.  Sometimes that's all I need to look at my own experience a little differently and brainstorm what makes sense for our family. 

She also references many experts and authors as well as various studies to back up what she's suggesting.  She's not telling me my kids needs to do these chores just like her kids, but that here are proven benefits to making your kids responsible and here's how some family tackle that.

The side benefit to interviewing so many author experts is that if you really like what those people have to say, you can go read their book on the subject.  I was especially convinced when she included multiple books I've already read and largely agreed with. 

The nine topics covered are:
  • Mornings
  • Chores
  • Siblings
  • Sports & Activities
  • Homework
  • Screens 
  • Discipline
  • Food, Fun, and Family Time
  • Free time, vacations, holidays, birthdays, and other on-demand "fun"
I feel like I got useful advice from every chapter, even if some don't apply to our family life right now (most of her advice on siblings doesn't work when one of them is 10 months old and Luke is involved with ZERO sports/activities, something we are in no rush to change.  Until he goes to wrestling camp next month.)

If want to raise my kids to be good adults (and I do) and all that groundwork needs laid now.   I immediately made changes to both our morning routine and in how Luke is assigned and does chores.  Both were small(ish) changes but are slowly building to bigger ones as he gets older (I cannot wait for the day Luke is old enough to make dinner once a week, something I very much want to implement) but we need to start now. 

There are many non-fiction books that I feel I should read every other year or so and this is one of them.  It helped me see the bigger picture to parenting, to start getting my kid(s) on the right track now, and ways to keep us all happier at home. 

This parenting thing is a journey, some days are good, some are not.  But I want my good to outweigh the bad and I think this book gave me some real ideas and advice.  I highly recommend to all parents.  Who doesn't want to be happier?

Goodreads | Amazon

Friday, February 1, 2019

Looking Back at January

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January might be the longest month.  We still had our Christmas tree up a month ago and that feels like FOREVER ago. 

I was pulling pictures for this post and almost every one features snow.  That is January in Indiana, I know.  It did give Luke HOURS of entertainment outside (even if he thought gloves were optional, THEY ARE NOT) and him 3 days off school.  We had wind chills around -40° this week and so it's been a lot of time at home which actually has been pretty nice.  Low expectations are KEY.

I'm in the midst of a whole house purge, I'm trying to document the progress on Instagram Stories but, you guys, those take A LOT of time.  As long as my house purging keeps up, even if the documenting may not.

Looking back:
1 year ago: Front Room Shelves

2 years ago: Non-Negotiables in House #2
3 years ago: Big Magic (also, why I think you should blog)
4 years ago: A Big Project - Photography Organizing (I still do this exactly as I describe here)

5 years ago: Office Renovations
6 years ago: It is a New Year, a New Beginning
8 years ago: The Carpet Has Landed!
10 years ago: First post!

1) Picture of me and the Christmas tree, courtesy of Luke.
2) Taking down Christmas!
3) SOMEONE knows how to open cupboard doors now! 
4) After reading this book, I was inspired to leave the shelves pretty empty and then slowly fill them.  It was surprisingly refreshing!
5) Snowing in the backyard!
6) Maybe I have a book problem.  This isn't nearly all I own.
7) Luke playing in the backyard, he LOVES playing in the snow (as long as it's not -40°).
8) Oh look, more snow.
9) Still more snow.
10) And more snow.
11) Snow on the playhouse!
12) Snow, paper snowflakes, and Christmas lights still up (and turning on) on the porch until Luke decided they needed ripped down.
13) Frost on the porch windows.
14) Looking longingly outside.  He doesn't know what we are saving him from (lots and lots of cold).
15) Working hard on some project after school.
16) Sunset and snow.

Books finished: 15 (I've decided I'm including chapter books I read to Luke, those do take awhile to get through!   So that's 2 of those.)

Miles ran: 0.00
Currently watching: Just finished season 6 of Cougar Town and I'm finally getting caught up on season 15 of Grey's Anatomy!  Next is getting caught up on This is Us (I've watched one episode of the current season). 
Most read post this month: {17} Books for a Fresh Start to a New Year
Luke's current favorite song: Awesome God
by Rich Mullins

Happy February!  We are getting closer to spring!  And my baby turning ONE.  How did that happen???