22 August 2014

(Full disclosure: major Filofax geekery ahead.)

There's something delightful about pens and paper. Kobos, iPads and laptops are amazing and convenient, but they lack a certain quality that can only really be captured with paper.

Over the years, I've used many different forms of agendas. In junior high, our school gave us each spiral-bound paper agendas customized to our school board. I loved being able to glance at a visual layout of my schedule and the things I needed to do. I think even more, I enjoyed looking back through my year and remembering events.

Since those days of the spiral-bound agendas, I've cycled through different tools. I've printed out blank calendars to keep in binders, I've lugged around gigantic Franklin Covey 7 Habits of Highly Effective People binders, and I've gone completely digital with my phone. Through it all I've always cherished having a great wall calendar where I could glance at a representation of my life, and which I could set out on the table each month to fill out.

I wasn't entirely dissatisfied with the calendar app I was using on my Android when I came across a picture of someone's Filofax set up and began to mentally salivate. I loved the concept of my own little book where I could keep track of not only my schedule but all sorts of things. The Filofax binders are beautiful and as I investigated further online I learned that their uses were as endless as people's creativity.

After much internal debate about if I was ready to make the leap back away from a virtual calendar, I settled on purchasing a personal sized Filofax in the Malden style. After much anticipation in parcel tracking (and maybe a few hours of perusing Pinterest and YouTube...), my Filofax arrived. I excitedly opened it up...and realized I'd ordered the wrong size. D'oh. Somewhere in my excitement, I'd clicked on a pocket sized Malden (81mm x 120 mm) instead of a personal sized Malden (95mm x 171mm).

Purple pocket Malden
Rather than going through the process of shipping it back and ordering another, I decided to make a go of it with the smaller size even though I was worried the pages would be just too small for fitting everything in. Fast forward a bit, and I admitted defeat over the size, Liam offered to use the Malden as his own organizer, and I purchased a different Filofax that was finally a personal size.

Plum personal Osterley
It's been almost exactly a year since I've been using my personal Osterley Filofax and I love it. Like, love love love it. I can easily keep track of appointments, classes, plans with friends, and other events in the calendar. I write out to do lists in my calendar to keep myself on track with housework, or list the stops I need to make when I'm running errands. I jot down the things I need to have with us when we're heading out the door, which is especially handy on days I've had to bring bags packed for back to back activities and could easily forget something that would throw a wrench into our plans. I also write down my workouts I've completed both to keep track of what I've done and to motivate myself to stick with it.

Because everything is better with paper ninjas and pink glitter tape.
I have different sections where I track things like work notes, grocery shopping lists, to do's, a journal of what/when I planted things for the garden, a food log, my progress with a correspondence course I'm taking, and the books I've read. My Filofax is instrumental to maintaining my sanity when we prepare for travel. I write down everything I can think of that needs to be done and packed, and I transfer these lists onto my calendar days so I can chip away at the work in manageable bits.
A travel week, with meal plans, to do lists, packing lists
For a while I've been contemplating adding a larger Filofax to my life. The A5 is 148mm x 210mm and I love the idea of having all that paper space to spread out on, but I'd shied away because I couldn't see myself carting something so heavy around in my purse (especially since I've actually been using the Malden again as my wallet and only sometimes keeping the Osterley in my purse when I go out).

Recently, I've been feeling the need to build in more structure in our home and work towards growing homeschool portfolios for the kids. And then I realized...my perfect reason for getting an A5! A homeschool/home-specific book would need a lot of space for writing, and I wouldn't have to lug it around everywhere with me.

And so, I'm now happily awaiting the arrival of a Finsbury A5, which is currently hanging out in Miami and really needs to get its butt en route to me. I've been collecting homeschool planner printables and narrowing down which pages I want to include in my planner. A lot of planners include pages that I don't need (like attendance records which are required by some states in the U.S.) or want (like test result records and report cards). My top priorities include an area to jot notes about daily happenings that can be recorded more formally in a portfolio, the actual portfolios, goals, book logs, completed curriculum, and daily routines.

I'm looking forward to getting my hands on my new pretty and seeing what fun things we can do!

21 August 2014

Today Liam and I celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. It's a bit surreal that such a chunk of time has whisked past since the day of our wedding, and yet at the same time Liam is such a central part of who I am that I feel like we've been together always.

I'm grateful for the circumstances that brought us together originally (two people who didn't drink meeting at a bar) and then back together a couple of years later (a last minute party invitation and a car accident that couldn't get in the way).

I'm grateful for how easily Liam and I knew that this was the real deal. We were talking marriage within a couple of weeks of dating and there's been no looking back since then.

I'm grateful for Liam's generous nature, his dedication to our family, and the way he makes me laugh.

I can't imagine a more perfect person to journey through life with. I feel inspired, respected, supported, and nurtured in our relationship, and I hope that I remember to appreciate that each day.

I love you Liam! Happy anniversary!

20 August 2014

Tonight as I snuggled Ollie to sleep in bed, I heard some noises over the sounds of the calming acoustics from Songza. I heard some peculiar squeaking-type noises coming from the deck side of the house, which were sort of familiar but which I couldn't quite peg.

Once Ollie was off to dreamland I slipped away and decided to go investigate. I went out onto the deck, carefully blocking the dogs inside so they didn't "help" me to find whatever creature was making the noises. (They, of course, kept their noses glued to the screen door in case I needed them.)

From on the deck I could hear scuffling noises and more of the squeaking. I crept around a little bit before deciding that the creature must be under the deck. I tiptoed softly over to the side where the stairs are so I could look under the deck from the lawn but then I stopped. The stairs are open-backed and I've seen too many horror movies to mess around with that shit. (Note, when I say "horror movies" I really probably mean "horror movie" or "half of a horror movie" or "a trailer for a horror movie". I can't hack the scary.)

I came back into the house through the screen door, where I used my feet to block the dogs who had more than picked up on the excitement at this point. I went through the house to the front door, where I repeated the foot conversation with the dogs, and went back outside.

I slowly walked across the section of lawn at the side of the house that passes under the apple trees while the scuffle squeak noises continued. When I came alongside the deck, I crouched down and peered underneath. Confirming my suspicions, I saw the spiky silhouette of a porcupine waddling about under our deck.

Sort of hard to see, but you can see his silhouette between the 2nd and 3rd steps..
I watched, fascinated and snapping pictures, as he made his way in my general direction. I was where the apples were, and judging by the dozens of chewed up apple cores I'd raked up yesterday porcupines have a love on for the sweet juicy things. The porcupine neared the steps and showed no sign of slowing down, so I walked back across the lawn to the front step. Part of me wanted to stay out of his way because I wanted to see him come out, but part of me also wanted to limit my experience with quills to that time I pulled them out of the dog's mouth.

I stood on the cement pad at the front door, camera ready to capture some adorable photos of this porcupine chomping on apples, when I realized the squeaking noises were happening in stereo. There was a big fat porcupine walking up behind me. I nearly crapped my pants. 

In what I'm sure was a totally dignified manner, I scrambled off the cement pad up onto the steps at the door and suppressed the screaming profanities that wanted to jump out of my mouth. There was one kid left in the house who was still trying to fall asleep, after all, and we were just outside her window.

A few seconds later, Mr. Way Too Stealthy For How Huge I Am popped out from beside my van.

Nothing to see here. Just hunting for apples.
As soon as my dogs saw this guy from their post at the window they lost their minds. Really helpful in the getting that last kid to sleep department, thanks guys.

This second porcupine spent some time near the pine tree, eyeing the apples and myself, before deciding he'd just go hang out at the edge of the lawn near the woods. I crept back towards the deck to see where the first guy was, but when the second guy saw that I was going near his squeak buddy he stood up on his hind legs to stare me down. I considered myself chastised and headed back inside.

It was soon too dark to see what kind of antics those two were getting up to out there. I'm going to assume they're having a fullout apple feast and squeak laughing about the jumpy human they chased back into her house.

19 August 2014

As part of my job as Mom of Children Who Never Sit Still and also as Mom of Teenage Boy, a fair bit of my focus on life is on food. Some weeks I feel as if 90% of my waking time is spent buying, preparing, serving, and cleaning up food. I'm grateful for the food I have access to and can afford, but sometimes I resent the amount of energy keeping our family fed takes up.

And then...there are days like today. Today was a day where food was about more than keeping bellies full. 

All three meals I ate today were in some part grown at our home. Crisp for breakfast has apples and rhubarb that were planted by people who lived here before us. Lunch included kale, green beans, and carrots from the garden. To round it out, supper was made with beets and carrots again from the garden. 

This is my second year growing a big garden and I'm getting a lot of joy from it. During crisp spring afternoons of tucking tiny seeds into pots of dirt I had the chance to dream about the lush green that would again fill the area that had sat as only a snowdrift for months. As the ground thawed, my garden gave me the perfect excuse to spend hours soaking up the sun. Now in late summer, I stand and marvel at all that has sprung up, from the trailing cucumber vines to the corn that towers above my head. Going out to water or pick from my garden feels like visiting a friend.

 When I eat from and feed my family from my garden, I feel like it's a celebration of the blessings at our home. Ollie, especially, is enthusiastic about coming out with me to pick. She'll joyfully bolt outside with a pair of scissors to collect various greens if she hears we're going to have salad, and she takes great delight in picking zucchinis and then cradling and cooing at them as if they're large green babies.

We also picked the apples from one of our trees today. It was probably due to be picked a week or two ago and we lost a lot that fell to the ground and were gnawed on by various friends from the forest, but the mosquitoes were too awful to get out there until today.

The girls and I cleaned off everything except one branch at the top that was out of reach. We used a highly scientific formula that involved a ladder, some buckets, some tree climbing, and a hoe. Ollie was mightily pleased with herself when she scampered up the branches to reach where I couldn't from my ladder.

Garden hoes, not just for the garden.
 I'm grateful for the food and the experiences that our home brings to our family, and I hope that days like this help to secure in my children an awareness of and appreciation for the things that grow in our world.

18 August 2014

It's that time of year. I can't read books by sunlight at 10 pm anymore. Our summer trips have come and gone. There are leaves littered across my driveway. The end of summer is near.

Now, I live in Canada so I don't want to think about the inevitable season of snow and frigid temperatures a moment before I have to, but there's something delicious about autumn. Maybe it's the death of the all the evil little mosquitoes. Maybe it's the spread of stationery aisles that have popped up in stores. Maybe it's the approaching fall fashion season where you can do things like wearing layers and cozy hoodies instead of just pulling out whatever will leave you the least soaked in summer sweat.

Whatever the reason - or wondrous combination of reasons - I'm rooting for an autumn that stretches on from August until November. (Hey, an Albertan can dream about a non-white Halloween can't she?)

Partly because of my excitement for fall, and partly because I'm avoiding the mosquito-pocalypse that is my yard right now, I've been getting prepped for our coming school year and getting our home more organized.

For our family, stepping into the school year looks a little bit different than it does for most. Because we homeschool, there's no school supply list and no shopping for back to school clothing. I actually sort of wish there was a homeschool supply list so I could justify buying all sorts of new books and papers each year. Ah, the pretties. (Yes, I do usually buy some new supplies even if we don't strictly need them. But I get to wait until everything is on sale so it's totally justified. Right? Right.)

As an unschooling mom, I also don't do the curriculum prep that many homeschooling parents do. Some families will head into the school year with their curriculum for the year mapped out before them. The part of me that loves organization and is in a serious relationship with her Filofax sort of wishes that our homeschooling approach lent itself to neat charts and predictable progress. I know, though, that my children learn best when they have the space to pursue their interests in the manner and depth that calls to them. (Let me tell you about the 20 or so Garfield books we have checked out from the library right now. I don't actually see my big kids' faces anymore. I see the backs of Garfield books.)

Our home is a very go with the flow type of place, but I'm starting to recognize that my stress level goes down when there is some level of predictability and routine. This year, all three kids are technically school-aged (I'm still a bit in denial about my baby being old enough for kindergarten so let's not dwell on this) so we're well out of the season of "Oh my God I can't plan anything because the baby ate my brain by not letting me sleep and wrecked my plans for the day by pooping on everything I own".

My goal this year is to build in more routine and structure, while delegating more personal and household responsibilities to the kids. All while respecting and supporting their endeavours in their educational journeys and fostering their development into well-rounded individuals. Because, hey, if you're going to pick a goal aim high right? I've got some tools I've started using to help me meet this goal and I'm working on getting some more in place in the upcoming weeks. But that, as they say, is a blog post for another night.

17 August 2014

Recently, my parents won an award for their impact on their community. The award came as a surprise to them, after friends and family secretly came together to nominate them for their years of quiet, tireless acts of giving.

It was an eye-opening experience, seeing all of the acts of service all presented together publicly. My parents don't brag about their volunteer work or trot out their accomplishments to build themselves up in front of others. In fact, my mother expressed disbelief that she'd even taken part in as many activities as were listed in her nomination.

Since the night of the award ceremony, I've been thinking of the way my parents live and the way that it's impacted the type of person I've become. My parents have set a consistently generous and humble example in my life and I think it's only recently that I've been able to truly appreciate this.

My parents have taught me that there is pride in hard work. They have taught me to step in when there is work to be done, to lend a hand when there is a person in need. They have taught me that titles like "friend" and "mother" are more significant than titles that can be earned through jobs. They've shown me that while earning a living is important, it's the lives you've impacted not the dollars in your bank account that really count. I've learned from my parents that no person is more or less deserving of respect or caring than anyone else.

I hope that in parenting and living I can make a similar impact on my children, that the home life Liam and I have created enables our kids to pick up on the positive traits we model.

16 August 2014

It's that time of year again, when Liam convinces a few of us that it's a good idea to write a blog post a day for 31 days straight. I've joined the Summer Blog Challenge some years and sat it out others, and it looks like I'm jumping in at the last minute this year.

I'm dusting off this long-neglected blog after stepping away from it three years ago. I need to get a few things straightened out and updated around here, but we'll pretend that my blog is like my house: it's might not be as tidy as I'd like, but it's tidy enough to have friends over.

So, uh, hi 2014 blog challenge. Nice to meet you. I hope you're kind to me. I promise I'll try to mostly write some entries that fall within the realm of insightful/interesting/humorous, and I'm very much looking forward to keeping up with all the other bloggers who will be plugging away with me!

A me, in my natural state of family chaos.


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