Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Baby-Step Series: Creating a Usable Calendar

To preface: I am not posting this to say this is the only way or that you should do things my way, just that this is what works for me, and if it works for you then feel free to use it.

I hate when I can't find a calendar that I like that is small enough to fit in my purse, so I finally decided to get smart and make my own.

I began by folding a standard sheet of paper in half, then each side was folded in half towards the center. Next the paper was folded in thirds lengthwise.

I labeled each of the squares with their month on the front and back (the ones on the back read from right to left).

I'm still in the process of filling mine out, but thus far I have added holidays, birthdays and important deadlines (like our lease expiring). I plan to color code the months and highlight certain items once I'm finished (stay tuned for the update :) )

This project was really begun to try and help me organize my week to make home maintenance and outings more smooth. Generally, I just go with the flow and do things when I get to them, but recently I've tired of the crisis cleaning and grocery shopping right before dinner (which ends up pushed until 8 because there was no food in the house!)

So after I got a general idea of what my months were going to look like I sat down and began to look at my work schedule. Cameron works Sunday through Tuesday and Thursday through Friday so my weekends happen on a Wednesday and Saturday. My work schedule is a bit flexible and happens on the days he's at work already.

I borrowed FlyLady's idea of zones, but, considering our home has white carpeting and 4 occupants, I wanted to make sure each room was touched on once a week.

To make this I first folded a sheet of paper in half, then folded each side in half towards the center. Then it was folded in half lengthwise to create 8 squares.

I illustrated the first square to make it more fun (as FlyLady says "Make it fun, it will get done") then each subsequent square was labeled with a day of the week including Sunday.

Choosing which rooms to focus on each day was a little harder, but I tried to make sure the focus room was appropriate for the activity of the day. I'm sure it will be adjusted over time, but this is my starting point :)

To go along with this I also made two other half sheets depicting my daily tasks and biweekly tasks. No excuses here, if it's on the fridge, it needs to get done!

My little Home Center on the fridge for now

The Vernal Equinox is tomorrow and our family will be celebrating our first Mean Erraigh. We plan to use this as our refresher date, much like the New Year. Seems fitting since this celebration is about renewal of life, fields and home. Stay tuned for pictures of our new little garden, our holiday tree and decorated home :)

Love and light,

PS. Sorry about the poor quality pictures. Our home has only one window downstairs (aside from a sliding glass door) so the light is awful. These were also taken with my phone, hopefully someday I'll get an actual camera to use and love! Also, if you were wondering about my color coding, I try to keep it simple. I love bright colors so I picked the rainbow to use for my days of the week. Sunday is red, Monday is orange, etc. Seven colors for seven days. Works for me!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Learning to Think

One of the things Cameron and I have always agreed on is that when we have children someday, we want them to be thinkers.

It bothers me to no end that education these days is synonymous with regurgitation of facts. I can distinctly remember in ninth grade being failed on a history paper because I did not agree with the original article's author.

Does it not scare anyone else that we're raising a generation that cannot think for themselves? How can we possibly expect them to make good decisions when we have taken the critical thinking skills away from them?

Every day I read news articles about how some young person has been caught with illicit drugs, stealing or generally making a nuisance of themselves, I can't help but feel sorry for them and wonder at how society let them down. Not all families are blessed with the opportunity to have one parent at home with the children and only a fraction of families with two working parents can afford exceptional childcare. How amazing would it be if the government offered decent care that didn't include children being set in front of a TV with pizza snacks?

I was fortunate enough to grow up primarily being cared for by my mother. I can remember doing art projects, going on nature walks, reading and acting out stories. I also went to daycare occasionally, and my experience there, while wonderful, was more run by Sesame Street and Barney (I can actually remember getting in trouble once because I told my care provider I didn't want to watch Barney because he was boring lol).

Kindergartens in the US are one of the "grades" that bother me the most. The translation is "Child's garden" but why do our classrooms feel like anything but that? I have yet to walk into a classroom that didn't have an over abundance of toys or seem overpopulated. Frankly, the argument that class sizes are growing because of overpopulation in the US makes me want to laugh. More children were born after World War II than in any other time in US history, and the children born during that time are among the first to have families with only one or two children. So why on earth are there classrooms with 30 children in them???

Honestly, my public school experience is limited to K-3 and high school, but I feel this puts me in a unique position. As a homeschooled child, I was able to advance at my own pace and take sick days without being penalized. I had the full focus of a parent (or tutor) when I needed and could ask any questions I wanted. In high school, I actually had a teacher tell me that no, he would not answer my question because it was "stupid" and everyone else in the class already knew the answer (yes this was the same teacher that failed me for having my own opinion).

My mother is now a high school English teacher, and I know from watching her that by law teachers are required to teach to the lowest denominator, in other words the child either having the most difficulty or moving at the slowest pace. In theory this sounds like a great idea and in theory the schools have it all figured out by offering different levels of the same grade (like honors and advanced classes as well as general or applied), however, I have been in many classes where I was either bored or completely confused and didn't have the teacher's attention in either situation.

I don't blame the teachers or the system. Human nature states that when we have a vested interest in something we will give it the most attention. That's why philosophies like Waldorf and Reggio Emilia state that "you are your child's first teacher". In Waldorf schools, teachers often stay with the same group of students from kindergarten through eighth grade and the class size is 10 or less. How amazing our educating system would be if public schools offered something like that! Teachers and students could develop a true bond and develop so many deeper interests simply because they know each other well and the class size wasn't astronomical.

(On a side note regarding class size: my math class my freshman year had 37 students in it. The classroom was built to handle a max class size of 25, although 30 could be squeezed in. We actually had students assigned to sit on the back counter for the first few weeks while the teacher moved around his supplies and desk. Despite the class size, he was actually one of the best teachers I had :) )

What bothers me most about public education (and I touched on this earlier) is that there is no room for deviation. The student is given a text book and expected to memorize the information presented to use on one standardized test or another. I personally remember truly enjoying learning Shakespeare and Latin as a child, but I hated it in high school. Why? The stories and language hadn't changed, what had changed was the method of teaching.

My mother encouraged us to understand the characters, to write personal stories for them, to dress up, to play act, to enjoy the plays. We wrote picture books for younger cousins, we saw the plays on stage, and even in our free time we pretended to be Sebastian and Viola. As for Latin, my brother and I once did a whole day of school writing in Latin, talk about having to think, algebra in Roman numerals was a challenge!

Will public schools ever offer opportunities like this? Not likely. The cost to change the machine would be too great. Of course, there are always those wonderful teachers that despite the system make learning wonderful. Like my freshman English teacher who taught us to waltz while studying Mozart (this same teacher also had the boys learn to write a Shakespearean love poem, a task they despised at the time, but their future wives will appreciate) or my chemistry teacher who let us bake cookies and popcorn (its a chemical reaction after all) and also let us blow up close to a hundred soda bottles with Mentos. If only all teachers were like these, if only education wasn't a race to keep up with the next student and a rush to college.

If only more teachers, parents, trusted adults asked children "How do you want to live?" "How do you want to get there?" and most importantly "Did you have fun today?"

In love and light,

PS. Of course all opinions are my own and you are welcome to yours. I'd love to hear what you think!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Beauty of Doing Nothing

This week, for the first time in at least a year, Cameron had two days in a row off.

I had grandeur plans of getting the house organized and clean and getting the car fixed. 

But when we woke up Tuesday morning, it was just too pretty of a day to be cleaning all day. So we played outside, went on a walk and then as a special treat Cameron bought us Stargate SG1 Season 1and Chinese food (both are favorites in this family).

Wednesday rolled around and a friend asked to visit with their children, so my "To Do" list stayed tacked to the fridge while I played princess and helped find a pet frog.

We both had to go back to work today, and my To Do list is still on the fridge, but that's exactly where it should be. Life is about living. Who cares if my house is messy when my family and friends love me? And besides, if I was cleaning, I'd miss moments like this...

Love and Light,

Monday, March 12, 2012

Today Changed Me...

I can remember exactly where I was four years ago today.

I was in a hospital bed, hooked to a million machines. I can still hear the soft whirring interrupted by loud beeps.

My son was born into this world at 4 pounds 4 ounces 30 weeks gestation. My little boy who was supposed to be Avery Marie, but surprised me and came as Rhodry Aidyn. Born with red hair and big blue eyes, he was perfect.

Every year on this day I'm reminded of how far I've come, how amazing it is that I survived today. I was 18 when I went into labor early due to a grand mal seizure. I was eclamptic but had not been diagnosed. The ambulance took almost 20 minutes to get to my location and then it was another 30 to the hospital. I remember being sick on the way there and crying realizing I may not get to say goodbye.

I was given Pitocin and told I needed to deliver immediately (this was 2 pm on March 11). I slipped in and out of consciousness as I was given an epidural and taken to the delivery wing. Mostly, I slept, a wonderful side effect of the seizure preventing drugs.

And then, at 6:15 Rhodry Aidyn was here. Safe, crying, perfect.

Both of us struggled. I was released 5 days later only to be rushed back to the ER when I passed out at a feeding in the NICU. About 2 weeks later I was re-released and a week and a half later Rhodry (also called Rady affectionately) was able to come home.

We had frequent visits to the hospital though. He struggled with eating, then caught a cold, and around 4 months developed Impetigo (a nasty skin infection, if you've never had it I pray you never do). After being released from the PICU from the Impetigo, there was progress. He was eating well, sitting up, beginning to thrive. But two months later he would pass away in his sleep.

I don't want to focus on his being gone today though, I was to talk about what he did while he was here.

He repaired the relationship I have with my mother

He brought my dad and I closer

He laughed (a huge feat for him after being on oxygen for so long)

He sat up

He held a bottle himself

He wore the right size (he was smaller than the preemie size when born, so when he made it to the 3-6 month size I was overjoyed)

He slept through the night

but most importantly,

He made me a mother.

I'm an Angel mother. Even though he's not here, I will always be a mother. Because of him I now know not only how to type one handed while bottle feeding with the other, but also what I truly value. Like how I'd rather treat the problem holistically if possible first (I still can't get over just how many antibiotics Rhodry was given in his short life time) and that spending time with those you care about is far more important than a TV show or concert. Rhodry taught me to celebrate life, each moment, every feat--no matter how small. He taught me to love unconditionally, and to have no judgement. He showed me just how lucky I am. I hope that if you knew him, you look back on today not with sadness, but with joy in the things he showed you and try to make tomorrow even better than today.

This year I have decided to do something different in honor of little Rady. In August I will be sponsoring a rising pre-k child, supporting him or her throughout the year. Please, if you get the opportunity to make a difference, take the opportunity. I may not be able to change the world, but I can change one child's life, just like my child changed mine.

This is the last photo I have of Rady, two days before he passed away.
Look at him go!

And his memorial picture taken by his lovely Aunt Leah

And a smile to go out on :)

In love and light,

PS Some of the dates on the photos are wrong, I know. I'm one of those technologically challenged people and could never figure out how to reset the date or time haha

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Abnormally 22

Yes I'm weird.

I don't like to drink.

I don't like to party.

I'm 22 years old and I've never been to a major party in my life. I've never been busted for under age drinking and I've actually never had a drink while under age (aside from what my parents allowed).

I prefer flowy skirts and peasant tops to booty shorts and crop tops.

I don't like bikinis or low cut shirts

While I do own them, you'll rarely see me in a bikini or shorts. Unless they're cut off's that I can control the length of. As for shirts, try to tell me that when you're wearing a low cut shirt you're not constantly checking to make sure it's covering your bra. I know you do, because I've done it too.

I'd rather stay home and play with my dog than go out late

I'm perfectly happy not going to the beach for spring break

I never participated in a Spring Break event, unless going to the beach with my cousins counts. Hanging out with them watching movies and playing Mario Kart was way more fun than I would ever have had doing a wet t-shirt contest.

I love babies and children

I love philosophy

On any given day, you can find me with my nose buried in a book or new article. And most of my weekends are taken up doing the Wiggle Dance with little ones. I bet I remember more of my weekend and had more fun than most.

I'm not perfect

Nor do I want to be

But in the morning when I wake up, I'm not hung over or foggy about last night's details. When I go to work I'm enthusiastic and prepared for the day. When I see my friends, the girls aren't worried about me stealing their boyfriends and the guys aren't looking at me as simply a sexual object. I do my very best to be loyal, loving and always learning. I've made thousands of mistakes and will likely keep making them, but I am proud to say that I am abnormally 22 :)

Baby-Step in the Kitchen

Yesterday I spent about 30 minutes unloading the dishwasher, reloading and subsequently scrubbing the counters and sink from all the dirty dishes that had been left on/in them.

It got me thinking...

So I sorted out one plate, flat bottomed bowl and small bowl per person (as well as a set for guests) along with one large cup, one juice cup and a mug.

The cupboard already looks cleaner, even with the extra dishes stacked up on the highest shelf (in case we need them for guests). Each family member will be responsible for cleaning his or her own dishes after every meal, no more stacking dishes in the sink or letting the clean dishwasher sit clean and unloaded until there are no clean dishes left. I'm considering downsizing the silverware as well, but I'll see how this babystep goes first.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Learning to Slow Down: Babystepping Series

I have habit of over planning and jumping into the deep end with both feet. Anyone can tell you the result of this, I get overwhelmed and the started project sits unfinished for at least weeks.

That being said, there are quite a few projects that are important to me that I really want to get started on and actually finish for once. So what's a planner to do? Simply put, plan :) The key, though, is to plan smarter.

For instance, I would love to eat organic, whole, homemade food/meals. And while I could just change my buying habits and go to Whole Foods all the time, that's not really getting to the root of the issue, nor would my family enjoy that. Honestly, Lunchables are abundant in our house along with Coco Puffs, chips and Chef Boyardee. It pains me to admit that, but you can see why it would be impractical to just change all the food. Instead, over the next few months I'll be changing a few things a little at a time.

As a part of this series I will be documenting our journey to whole foods meals, finding our rhythm, simplifying the house, budgeting and developing the family. I hope you'll read and enjoy :)

In love and light,