March gratefulness challenge

Allow yourself to be proud of yourself and all of the progress you’ve made. Especially the progress no one else can see.

@tinybuddhaofficial via Instagram

We’re mid-way through March, and I realize I had not shared my March daily “gratitudes” I’m noting.

As I was choosing what to focus on daily, I wanted to give myself a little credit. I feel like I am trying to take on and focus on many different projects right now, in addition to the daily Mom gig. Today I was especially frazzled. Fridays are supposed to be Fantastic, Phenomenal, Fabulous. Not Frazzled. I had to readjust my lens more than once today.

The projects I have chosen to take on and the things I choose to do are for me. So if I am finding that I am losing my patience or becoming stressed, I need to take a step back, and give myself grace.

I feel like there is an abundance of information (both in my home library and online) and things I could fill my day with. I see, create, or plan ideas and activities, and when I can’t accomplish them or lose the purpose, I get super frustrated at myself. But I need to think about quality. And keeping my sanity. And giving myself the space and time and credit for all that I do accomplish daily.

So when I saw this quote, I thought…Yes. It should be all about this month. I should celebrate little successes and progress that I make. Last month I shared outwardly my gratitude for others, and this month I am taking some time to turn inward and give myself some credit.

I hope that you take some time to give yourself credit for all of your successes and progress whether it be mini or monumental.

Read more about last month’s gratefulness challenge:


Six lessons learned while beginning my Bullet Journal Journey

I was so excited to start my new bullet journal in October, and with the new freedom of a DIY format, and expecting Mon Amour at the end of October, I went ahead and mapped out my pages through the monthly view for December.  As I have been filling pages, I have learned different ways that I want to format the journal and organize my calendar and daily snapshots.  Below are six lessons I’ve learned while bullet journaling these past three months.

1. Plan just far enough ahead.  

I was so, so, so excited to begin bullet journaling, that I planned for a few months in advance.  Even though I didn’t change much, what I did change, changed drastically.  

Layout options for calendar views aren’t numerous, which is totally okay.  However, the weekly layout options as well as how I wanted to track and plan for my blog did end up evolving, and I could choose to either stick it out through the pages already designed, or get out the white-out and re-do the pages.  

I picked my battles – weekly layouts I stuck with (too much re-doing there), however I did change the one page layout for blog planning, and that has helped my planning. As I began January, I mapped out my monthly pages, and then decided to do the weekly spreads, well…weekly.  

A note on doing the layouts monthly – I did initially forget some of the monthly spreads – the kids’ milestones, and my daily gratitude, so I made a quick simple sticky to remind me of my monthly layouts and their order, and stuck that on the first monthly page for February.

Speaking of daily gratitudes, I love this idea, and yet I wanted to change it up for January.  I felt like I was being a little too serious and wanted to lighten up and laugh and smile more.  So for this month, my guiding quote is “A good laugh is sunshine in the house.” -William Makepeace Thackeray.  Each day I try to note one mini event that made me laugh or smile.  

2. Layouts matter. 

Be mindful of your spacing.  I am so glad I made a spacing key and counted and divided space for columns and rows in advance.  This is absolutely a time saver.  

I mentioned changing weekly layouts – I went from vertical columns for days to a horizontal day planner with a dedicated space for events, work schedules, three daily priority items, and a small memory I don’t want to forget (like when Chouchou gave me a spa day and said, “You deserve this.”).  

I like having the dedicated space for particular information, because then I know exactly where to look when planning for the day and what sort of tasks I can try to accomplish, given work schedules and planned events.

3. Keep it simple. 

I had started with a habit tracker…and decided that on top of trying to summarize milestones, memories, and gratitudes at the end of the day as well as lining up tomorrow’s tasks, the habit tracker was redundant.  Additionally, with the new blog layout, I was tracking publishing dates for the blog and my Instagram, which was one of the “habits” I was already tracking.  

Other habits?  Read thirty minutes a day? with a newborn? HA!  that was a habit I never started.  Meditation? with a newborn? HA! I chose sleep.

I do still have layouts where sometimes I feel I struggle or they overlap: the daily gratitudes, MC and MA’s milestones, and daily memories.  Sometimes I can’t think of something for each space, and after a few minutes of mentally rewinding through my day, if I can’t come up with a concrete memory for the day, I give myself the grace to just move on.  

4. Take the time to reflect and grow.  

It’s nice daily, to take a chunk of time, and instead of getting lost online, take a moment to think about what I did that day, what we as a family did that day. Taking this time to recap the day and focus on the positive helps me keep a positive, grateful mindset.

I think this is so important. Also, I am investing the time daily to write down daily milestones, so it makes sense to go back and read through and make a short summary.  This will also be a huge time saver when we go to write their birthday letters and say what they did throughout the year.  

Taking time to focus on a monthly goal and action steps as well as weekly affirmations will help keep me focused and stay positive as life happens week by week and month by month.

5. Color helps organize – (see number 3, though).

I keep my journal mainly in black ink.  However, I have one color designated for work schedules, one for events, and one for birthdays.  By choosing colors for each of these bits of information, I can simply write a name in green (it’s his/her birthday) or write a time in mauve (that’s Chouchou’s work shift).  Event information (time/event) are jotted in purple.

The pops of color are nice and allow me to jot minimal information.  I also like to use these same colors to make other information stand out – whether it be in an inspirational quote, or a note for one of my daily milestones, gratitudes, or memories.

6. Brain dumps are more effective than habit trackers.  

Goodness gracious, habit trackers could be good for some people, I suppose.  I have concluded they are not good for me, though. I forgot about them mostly in the first month, then struggled to catch up, then dropped it.  They’re not for me, at least right now.  I like to have a dedicated page where I can just literally “dump” my thoughts at the beginning of the month.  Anyone else have a million thoughts swirling through their head right now?  It’s nice to give them the space on the page, and create a little mental space to breathe.

After my first bullet journal post, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from others how they had been inspired to start their own journals.  I was humbled and so excited to hear from you all!  

I would love to hear from you: what lesson have you learned since starting your journal?

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,, 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!

A greeting card book

I am feeling an overwhelming sense of accomplishment today, and I wanted to share. I didn’t do anything huge, or absolutely amazing, I just finally crossed a project off my list. One that has been on my list for a little under a year. One that I wanted to get done by the end of this month, but kept putting off because I wanted it to be perfect and I didn’t want to mess it up.

In a previous post, I shared that I can’t stand to throw away old cards. I’ve found ways to make banners, framed collage art, and wreaths. I’m a sucker for snail mail and the effort and love that goes into sending it, so I’d rather box them away until I figure a good repurposing project.

Why we repurposed

Last June through July we were inundated by an outpouring of love and shared sorrow over Millie. The card greetings and hand written sentiments mirrored our feelings, and I was comforted to read those cards. I still find comfort in revisiting and rereading them.

I knew I couldn’t throw them away, and I didn’t want to box them away. I also didn’t want to cut them like I had cut cards in previous projects. So online I searched for ways to assemble the cards into a collection that would be subtly displayed, and accessible for years to come.

The DIY greeting card book project I found

I stumbled across an Austin, Texas wedding photographer’s blog, with the most amazing idea and step-by-step tutorial on how to make a book of cards. She takes orders and will make the book for you – if I could have, I would have definitely entrusted her with these cards. She has a lot more practice with this endeavor, and I am sure she would have turned it around quicker than my personal procrastination timeline that I followed.

The project seemed daunting, labor intensive, and time consuming. I kept the cards in a stack in my sewing room and the link to the tutorial bookmarked on my phone. I waited and thought about it. I dragged my feet some more. I reread the directions. I said, “Tomorrow.”

This is not a time to deviate from directions!

Then I tried to get started and I cut a corner. A huge corner. A “what were you thinking?” corner. I decided to get out my Bernina one day and machine sew the cards to another piece of card stock.

“With my zipper foot I can make this work!,” I incorrectly assumed.

Also, I began the project without referring back to the directions first. HELLO? What was I thinking?! I wasn’t. I was in a hurry to get it done.

If you decide to do this project, just follow Emily’s directions. Seriously. They did seem daunting. It was labor intensive, but in a mindful, calming way when you focus on your art. It did take time. Because I procrastinated. A lot. I finally got all the cards sewn together correctly, as per the tutorial directions.

[One thing I did do differently: I took the canvas, marked the sewing lines, then I did machine baste the lines with colorful thread so that I could see the sewing line on either side of the canvas.]

I had cut the backboard pieces (I recycled heavy cardboard from a family pack of Wegman’s fruit cups). I had my paper to cover the book. And then I procrastinated some more. I bought the white card stock I needed for the end leafs. Then I realized I needed PVA glue. I ordered it. I received it. Then I procrastinated more, because I didn’t want to mess it up.

Finally finished

Today, during Mon Cœur’s (MC) nap, I finally decided to finish this project. I grabbed the tutorial, saw what I needed to do with the card stock to make end leafs, and completed that step. MC was still asleep. Okay, I decided, let’s finish the cover.

So I got out the materials and I finished the cover. I was a little heavy handed with the PVA at first because a. I was scared the glue would dry too fast (it does dry fast, but not so fast that you have to throw it on quickly and carelessly), and b. I’d never worked with it, so I was figuring out the consistency of it. There are a few places where there are ripples.

That’s life, there are imperfections no matter how hard we try to make things perfect, and that’s what adds to the beauty of my book.

I am glad to have the weight of this project lifted off of my shoulders, and I have already flipped through and read through the cards again. I anticipate in this month I will be looking back on this a few more times at least, and I am glad that it is assembled nicely so that I may do so.

If I had one thing I would have changed about the final product, I would have custom made a page (somehow) from a sheet protector to create a “pocket” for those items we kept (such as cards from flower arrangements, etc) that were not sewn into the book. A quick fix to that would be to glue a paper envelope to the back inside cover.

Bottom line, I’d do this project again, in a shorter time frame, with more confidence, and according to the directions.

Words of comfort

I wanted to end this post by sharing just a few of the words that were helpful to me.

  • A quote from Anderson Cooper about his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt (passed on as a wish for me): “She was the strongest person I’d ever met but she wasn’t tough. She never developed a thick skin to protect her from hurt. She wanted to feel life’s pleasures, its pains as well.”
  • “Always remember that you have the love and concern of family and friends.”
  • On life: “[It] truly just does not make sense sometimes. The love, though, that you had for that little one, and the love you have for MC and with your husband always will remain and sustain.”
  • About Millie: “She will always be remembered and cherished even if our only introduction was while she was in your belly preparing to meet us.”
  • “Millie is such a beautiful name. It makes me think of warm summer evenings, fireflies, freckles, and daisies.”
  • For Chouchou and me: “I hope you will find a group of like minded souls who alone know what you are suffering”
  • “…are finding a way to begin to heal and I wish only the best as you find your way forward.”
  • On grief: “Grief never ends…but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness or a lack of faith…It is the price of love.”

Although these are personal and private exchanges from friends and family, I want to share them. At a moment like a stillbirth, I think most people are at a loss for words.

If for any reason you have found your way to this post and blog because you are experiencing the same loss, or you are looking to support a friend or family member grieving, perhaps something above speaks to your heart and helps you find the words of comfort you were looking for.

New Year, New Organization

As I cleaned up from Christmas and tucked away the last of the decorations, gears began spinning for new organization of old spaces. I have quite a few ideas for small pockets of space which are currently under utilized.

One such spot is in our kitchen area, where Mon Cœur (MC) currently has an activity table and bookshelf. I absolutely love the bookcase because I can use totes to stash toys, stuffed animals, and dolls and I can also keep some of her books.

Originally, I was just putting books wherever, with no organization method other than French books, top right. I hated that there wasn’t much organization and that I had separated the French books just because. As I thought more and more, I decided I wanted to group toys and books into themes.

5 Reasons I grouped books by theme:

  • By grouping books and toys by theme, it allows MC to build background knowledge through repeated exposure to the same vocabulary and similar illustrations of those themes
  • Exposure to and building of vocabulary is crucial and the more exposure that MC has to the same words in a variety of contexts the better
  • It’s easier to organize and rotate books and toys in and out
  • It provides a common theme for making crafts, reading stories, and play
  • Research shows that by reading widely about one topic greatly boosts one’s vocabulary

The idea is that by hearing … words in one context again and again, students will attach deeper meaning to them and be able to use them in other contexts.

So during naps for a couple of days I completely emptied the bookshelf and began organizing books by theme: ABCs, numbers, colors, gardening, seasons, miscellaneous life, farm, forest, and underwater animals. I boxed some books to bring out later, and I started restocking the shelves.

Then I found corresponding toys or stuffed animals that went with those themes and stuffed them in the totes.

So far, it’s been amazing to watch MC grab two or three of the same theme books and bring them to me to read. She is getting the repetition without me feeling like I’ve read the same book three times and without her getting bored, because they are all different while exploring the same idea.

It also gives me good ideas for corresponding craft ideas and play – more on this later!

How do you organize your bookshelf?