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?


The kissing ball

As we were packing away Christmas decorations earlier in the month, Chouchou lamented that the kissing ball was going away. All of December, our kissing ball gave us pause in our rushing through life.

We’d stop between the kitchen and the living room where it hung from the ceiling and we’d take a moment for ourselves. Or Mon Cœur (MC) would hang out under it and say, “Daddy, I under kissing ball!” and smile widely waiting for her kiss. We even had some spontaneous dance parties under it. It was a nice reminder to stop and enjoy just a moment together amid a go-go-go pace.

As I packed our kissing ball away, I realized what an effective visual it was and how it reminded us all to slow down and embrace those whom we love. It is so easy to be swept away in the daily grind that we forget to show compassion and tenderness to those we love, and so I could see how important this was to have a visual reminder to take a minute.

Although I packed away our Christmas ball, I had decided to make a project for myself: a new kissing ball that would stay up through Valentine’s Day.

The next time I was at the local art store, I checked their floral section and purchased a styrofoam ball and some bouquets. I started covering the styrofoam with flowers clipped and used some twill tape to secure a loop and hang it from the ceiling. I added some pink ribbon with a button for a little something different, and finally added a paper airplane.

The airplane is a nod to my new favorite tv drama, a Spanish series called Velvet. Alberto and Ana often exchange their love notes via paper airplanes. I love this idea – it’s romantic, youthful energy behind expressing your love to another. Every time I see the paper plane, I am reminded of that idea.

I recently watched their Valentine’s Day episode (S2, E12), where Ana says, “Every day is Valentine’s Day when you’re with the one you love.” Since I’ve never been keen on the holiday, I loved that quote.

You should celebrate your love every day and take time to appreciate each other every day. Which brings me back round to our kissing ball – we shouldn’t need to be under it to take a pause and show our affection. Sometimes in this hurry, hurry world, though, it helps to have a conspicuous reminder.

Christmas 2020

What? You’re done thinking about Christmas? Everything’s packed away and you’ve eaten your last Christmas bonbon, and vacuumed the last of the Christmas tree needles sprinkled around the floor? You don’t want to think about Christmas again until Halloween next year?

Hear me out – this post is a bit delayed, I know, but I am so excited about the idea behind it, and so is Mon Cœur (MC)!

I am surprised I was able to pack the wrapped packages away before she began unwrapping them. Yes, I wrapped packages before packing them away this year.

Why? The idea behind the wrapped packages is that each day from the first day of December until Christmas, MC will have something to unwrap, allowing her to enjoy the season and destruction of wrapping paper throughout December and not just on Christmas morning.

We have never gone overboard with gifts for her, however it’s always fun to unwrap a gift. I realized this this past Christmas as I was placing gifts for our family under the tree and MC was immediately grabbing it to open.

With MC starting to understand the holiday, we have begun to collect various Christmas accoutrements. Festive items such as advent calendars, nativity scenes, stockings, cookie cutters, movies, vinyls, books…

The idea is for MC to unwrap one package a day – most days she can choose any package, however there are certain days labeled. For example, I wrapped the advent calendar and labeled that to be unwrapped December first. Stockings will go up on Saint Nicholas Day, December 6, and we’ll unwrap and read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve.

Other items – jingle bell ornaments & The Polar Express, ornament kits and Christmas crafts, nativity scenes, Christmas dresses, and such will be chosen and unwrapped by MC throughout the Christmas season. It will give us something new to do each day and create a bit of novelty and anticipation for each day.

My hope by starting this tradition is that MC can experience the Christmas spirit throughout the season instead of the ritual cycle: set up tree and decorate December first; open everything Christmas; forget about it by the 26th; and then pack everything away until next year.

Mom always tells us it’s Christmas every day. I want MC to feel that, too. We should celebrate the spirit of giving, the cheer of the season, the anticipation and hope for new things to come every day.


There is much to be grateful for this week:

  • An opportunity to visit with friends and family;
  • New treasures from the Goodwill;
  • A new professional opportunity and the contagious positive and bubbly personality of the manager training me;
  • Gorgeous weather for walks and playing outside;
  • Mon Cœur’s (MC) wit and energetic spirit;
  • A weekend museum date with MC and Chouchou;
  • Seeing and discussing art through MC’s lens;
  • A little bit of recharge time for me; and
  • Organizing and meal prepping so that dinner this week will be a breeze!

What are you thankful about this week?

On new beginnings

A double rainbow earlier this week

Over the past couple of weeks between Christmas and New Year’s, I have had the opportunity to reflect upon the year, mull over my thoughts, celebrate, remember loved ones, visit family, and enjoy mild days outside.  

I’ve also been busy switching out our quotes around the house, cleaning up post-Christmas, and plotting new ways to organize the house.

This Christmas season was not an easy one for our family, and yet we came through strong. I continued Dad’s tradition of the Santa letter, and Mon Cœur’s (MC) enthusiasm for the holiday lit our hearts with joy, when they would have otherwise been hollow caves.

When I flipped my calendar to January it gave me such satisfaction to see a new beginning. I have been looking forward to 2020 since the passing of Millie – that was the icing on top of the cake for my year, and I think we were all really ready for a fresh start.  The calendar quote for January is:

“And then you realize there is an abundance of beauty to be had in new beginnings.”

This quote is so true – there is such promise in starting with a blank slate – a new calendar, a new journal, a new job…And yet I need to remember that every day is a new beginning, and every day is a fresh start.  

In the same vein of trying to have a positive mindset, we are finding things big and small to look forward to in the coming year.  Anything from having breakfast or an entire day together as a family, to family trips. 

There are many adventures to anticipate in 2020: 

Continuing my journey on this blog– it has given voice to my experiences and allowed me to process as I grow and continue to learn about myself and others, about life, about our stillbirth, about raising MC bilingually, about balancing family and work. 

It has provided a conversation starter to friends and family who may not know where to start. I’ve grown closer to others through this experience. I’ve met new people too, who are on journeys and adventures of their own, and through their shared stories I have learned more about the world and myself.

Continuing the garden– each time we visit a friend or family member, it seems someone has invested in us and in Millie’s garden by gifting us with a plant or tree.  

Although Chouchou is a little worried about the flow and cohesion, I have to remind him that each time we walk the garden and we see these plants and trees that we can remember not only our darling Millie, but those who gave us a tree and the love they have for us.  We now have two nice camellias, a dwarf butterfly bush, a gardenia, and a pincushion flower plant that are settling into the garden and spreading their roots.

Projects– opportunities to be creative and crafty by myself and with the family.  Creating decorations for the house, a crafty area for MC, creatively organizing our life in our cozy little home. More on these soon.

A trip to France  – Chouchou and I have been together for thirteen years and always wanted to take him to “my second home.”  I finally am, and with MC coming along for the adventure! We have an apartment we are renting that is literally around the corner from where I studied abroad and also right next to the Eiffel Tower, which is at the top of MC’s must see list for Paris. After Paris we will reconnect with family in other regions of France and are looking forward to this family adventure.

As we begin fresh with a new year and a new decade, every day I continue to work on my pace so that I can savor all the small moments MC, Chouchou, and I share together; my mindset and energy so that I can be a positive force for family and friends; and connecting with others because I have too often let this slide in priority to the bottom.

I’ll leave you with one of my new quotes I have strategically placed as a reminder, one that I found in a book and was moved by. Something else to strive for daily, and that I will need to work on, but is worth the effort.

Every memorable act in the history of the world is a triumph of enthusiasm. Nothing great was ever achieved without it because it gives any challenge or any occupation, no matter how frightening or difficult, a new meaning. Without enthusiasm you are doomed to a life of mediocrity, but with it you can accomplish miracles.

Og Mandino