Have I mentioned that I love her?

I know it’s cheating to just post pictures, but words really aren’t coming easily (or with effort) these days.  What is coming easily is love for my daughters.  Even though they might kill me with the dumping out of all the Calico Critters and the pencil shavings and the blowing of the bubbles in the house.

After church this morning, the girls and I went for brunch and while we were waiting for our table to be ready, Beatrice wrote me a letter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She writes me letters all day every day, but I especially love this one.  Not only does it show awesome mastery of the comma, It’s happy evidence that her predisposition toward perfectionism is well balanced by her sense of humor.

I worry too much.

A tour of my Filofax (alternatively titled, “Lithium in Leather”)

I have always been passionate about office supplies.  Always.  Some of my favorite childhood memories involve sitting at the conference table in my grandmother’s office putting together files full of discarded documents.  She let me burn through all the staples, binder clips, White Out, manila folders, paper clips, Post-Its, and legal pads I wanted.  And then she let me use her notary seal!

I feel about Back-to-School season like others do about Black Friday. There are few things in life more satisfying than walking out with a cart full of $0.15 composition books, three ring binders, and laminating pouches.  I’ll be honest, this obsession is a significant motivating factor in my commitment to homeschool.

All fixation on the smell of the inside of a pencil box aside, this “interest” of mine has actually been extremely instrumental in the management of my mental health.  I’ve talked a lot about how embracing the paleo diet and allowing myself to fall head over heels in love with the barbell have impacted my brain chemistry.  Today I want to give you a little insight into my other secret weapon.

Now, here’s a little disclaimer before we dive in:  I wholeheartedly believe that consistently tracking and reviewing behavior can be critical to significant behavioral change and mental health management, but this is just MY way of doing it.  If it looks a little “crazy”, keep in mind that this method has kept me off of prescription medication and out of the mental hospital for over six years. I much prefer being crazy in the confines of fine vintage-look leather than the walls of the loony bin.

So here is a look inside one of my most precious notebooks, my Filofax.

RIP Personal Ochre Malden. You are always in my heart.

 

 

I use a purple A5 Malden as my primary planner.  I still mourn the loss of my personal size ochre Malden, which was viciously stolen from my car early in the fall.  It proved to be irreplaceable.

 

 

I have seven sections, some subdivided into categories.

Mountain — This is where I keep my prayer lists, scripture I’m memorizing, particularly impactful sermon notes, planning for liturgical seasons, etc.

Calendars — Annual, monthly, and weekly calendars.  This section is really the guts of my planner.  My monthly view is the landing pad for any appointment or event.  I transfer all of these to the weekly pages as I plan each week.

My weekly pages are my diary — I record actual events as they happen in this section. Every week has the time blocked appointments noted, but I also record:

  • sleep — hours and quality are noted at the top of the page.
  • mood — I generally only note when a day is particularly marked by a certain mood so that I can see patterns of mood swings.  I use star stickers for this.  Red = anxiety, Blue = depression, Green = change, growth, conversion.  This makes it really easy to flip through to see how things are connected.
  • food — I write down every thing I eat.  This isn’t necessarily to track calories or macros (although there are definitely seasons when that is helpful), but because I find very clear connections between my food and my mood, and therefore my behavior.  The more data I collect about how certain foods effect me, the better equipped I am to make choices about how to use them.
  • symptoms (fertility, hormone/thyroid issues, pregnancy, mental health, etc.) — This is pretty obvious, but making little notes throughout the day about any condition you’re monitoring is immensely helpful for detecting patterns.  This is especially helpful if you’re on an elimination diet, trying new medication/treatment, establishing a new habit, or tracking fertility.
  • exercise — I write out my training plan every week in advance (like an appointment) and then record the details in real time.  I give myself gold or silver stars to track my effort.  If I’m using my Fitbit, I record whatever data it has collected at the end of the day and tally all the numbers at the end of the week. Just like with food, this data tends to closely correlate with my mood and productivity, so watching for patterns is important to me.  Nothing motivates me more than hard data.
  • housework & errands — It has to be done.  Recording and highlighting it just makes me feel like a responsible adult.  I also really appreciate being able to look back over a week and see that, even if my house is a wreck and the fridge is empty, I DID put forth some effort.  Of course, it can also reveal when that effort wasn’t quite enough and illuminates an opportunity to improve.
  • homeschool lessons, activities, read alouds — While lesson plans are in a different section (I’ll show you this later), this is where I record what we actually do and WHEN.  It helps me keep a realistic view of how “school” actually works for our family, when and where my kids are learning best, and how I’m managing our time.
  • any other thing I might want to track — the dot stickers are a visual reminder for when I’ve written somewhere (yellow, with the location noted), recorded a note in my kids milestones pages (blue, with initials noted), spent time outside with the kids (green — too few of these is a depression trigger), or had a time sensitive appointment (red — too many of these is an anxiety trigger).

 

I will often place a blank piece of note paper in the middle of the week to track daily to-dos or information that doesn’t fit in the daily space.  I fold these pages vertically so that I can get the weekly visual when flipping back through for review.

My calendar section is also home to my “Critcal Season” calendar.  Every fall, as my mood turns dark, I go to PDFcalendar.com and print out a calendar where I can list every single thing that will require my energy or attention.  I have found that having it all laid out for me in one big chunk is far less overwhelming than allowing it to roam menacingly in my head.  It also allows me to cross off every day, not unlike the days of a prison sentence.  This year’s chart was especially long and helpful because it included our kitchen renovation, the holidays, and my third trimester.

The rest of my Filofax is mostly dedicated to lists and record keeping:

School — This is where I keep the homeschool lesson plans and other information related to school.  It is divided into three sections:

  • Term — This is a print out of the Ambleside Online curriculum specific to the term we are in.  I check it off as we go for quick reference.

  • Week — This is where I break our school work out into weeks. I created this document myself, so it’s specific to our family.  On the outside of folded sheet I record specific activities or books the girls chose from the shelves in our school room or other notes that don’t quite fit in my boxes.   The post-it at the bottom reminds me of any work leftover from the previous week that I need to squeeze in somewhere to stay on schedule.  I keep four weeks in the Filofax at a time, then transfer the completed weeks into a separate 3 ring binder.
  • Lists — These are supply lists, book lists, ideas for montessori work lists, etc.

 

Family — This section holds Christmas and birthday wish lists, helpful medical information for each family member, and milestone records for each kid. The milestones are my favorite part.  They’re basically just running lists of things each of my kids does or says that I want to remember.  I also make note of stages of development, particular interests, weird and/or annoying behaviors for reference later down the road.  I’ve kept one for baby 3 since September, which includes all kinds of pregnancy symptoms, any notes from prenatal visits, etc.  It’s kind of a list maker’s baby book.  When I make a note on a milestone page, I put a little blue dot sticker on my weekly pages with that kids initials in it.

Household — This section is mostly just for reference.  It has my “master chore schedule”, basic household budget, contact for service providers, etc.

Progress —  This is where I keep logs for any activity/skill/hobby I’m specifically trying to improve with regular practice.  Right now it has piano, reading, and training.  In each category I note the date, time, skill practiced (or pages read), and any notes from that session.

Projects —  This is where I keep notes and to-do lists specific to ongoing projects, like our kitchen renovation.  And yes, there is a tab called “Filofax” where I wrestle with all my organizational dreams and plot how to better track/document/archive/and arrange all my data.

 

In addition to the tabbed sections, there’s the front and back pockets. The front holds my Frixion erasable pen and highlighters, the stickers I use throughout, and Jesus.

Tucked into the back pocket (that’s designed to hold a notepad), is my trusty Kindle.  The day I figured this out was one of the happiest days of my life.   Here you also see my favorite pens — a good old fashioned black ball point (I like the stolen ones the best), and a micron 01.

 

There you have it, folks.  The veil has been lifted.  Some of you are horrified, some are scandalized, but I have a feeling that few of you feel a little vindicated. Some of you are secret list makers and hoarders of highlighters.  And I love you.

 

Just can’t fight this feeling anymore.

There are two stories I am clearly avoiding:

  1. The part when my father left.
  2. My obsession with powerlifting.

I’m sure these topics have lots in common, but the most relevant thread is this blog.  I started this whole deal because I was interested in figuring out my story, looking at all the pieces, putting them in order, polishing up my testimony.  I thought the hardest parts were going to be the ones about being a very fat kid, a very crazy teenager, a very fat and very crazy young adult.  Turns out, those pieces came fast and easy.

I just don’t want to talk about my dad.  But that’s what’s supposed to happen next.

I do want to talk about powerlifting.  But that’s weird.

Dilemma.

Here are my options:

  1. Quit writing altogether.
  2. Keep writing stupid filler posts about why I don’t write and what I’m not writing about until I get brave enough to look at the part about my dad and write that.
  3. Write about powerlifting.

Well then.  I guess it’s decided.

Happy New Year from my Jesus loving, formerly obese, bipolar, Paleo, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, homeschooling, POWERLIFTING, mommy blog!

And my guns.

 

Hello.

Hello, Internet.
Hello, friends.
Hello, strangers.
Hello, Switzerland.

I’m normally what you would call a curmudgeonly hermit antisocial type, but I’m coming out of a particularly wonderful Thanksgiving and anniversary celebration, and it’s the first Sunday of Advent, so I’m feeling uncharacteristically friendly.

Normally, this is where I’d apologize for not posting much lately, moan about being so behind, worry about “schooling” my kids, and, if you could read the blog that lives in my brain, meticulously recount every single macro and micro nutrient that has passed these lips over the last week. But not today. Today my friendliness extends even to myself.

And so, instead of beating myself up about being a writer who doesn’t write, I’ll be nice to both of us and tell you what I have been doing instead.

This time of year, my girls and I need every minute of the sun on our skin we can get. Picnics, playgrounds, nature walks, and the sandbox.

One of Bea’s favorite things lately is the “Driveway date”. Sometimes Leona just can’t stay awake the 5 minutes it takes to get from the gym to the house, so Bea and I go through the Starbucks drive-thru for black coffee and warm milk. We pull into the driveway at our house, get unbuckled, and sing along to the radio, tell imagination stories, or just talk until baby sister wakes up.

I spend a lot of time in the weight room at the Town Lake YMCA. It’s my Cheers. Sometimes you really wanna go where everybody knows your name, but everyone leaves you alone because you’ve got the Rocky IV soundtrack blaring in your headphones and you can squat a Volkswagen.

 

We spent a LOT of time getting ready for Thanksgiving. My thumbs have yet to recover from the chestnut peeling/shelling/torture. They were delicious, though. Beatrice perfectly, patiently, meticulously seeded a pumpkin. I swear, this took several days. It was absolutely worth it though, because then we made this.

Bea was an excellent sous chef this year.  She single handedly prepared my second favorite dish of the entire day, stuffed dates.  I swear to you, friends, these things taste EXACTLY like pecan pie.  They are like magic!

She also skillfully wrapped our pears with prosciutto and carefully arranged an assortment of olives. On any other day, I would be really irritated that she didn’t actually eat any of this food.

As with pretty much every meal, holiday or otherwise, our feast revolved around one key ingredient. See if you can spot it.

Here’s what that looked like a little earlier in the day.

And here’s the picture that I got when I asked Bryan to go take a picture of the finished bird while it was cooling.

Yeah, I don’t always get his art, either.

I’m still thinking about this cake, y’all. It was five days ago…but I can still taste it. Pretty impressive for something made of a mash of squash, nuts, and egg! Screw all the Christmas chocolate treats! I am counting the days till I get another pumpkin cake! More exclamation points! For emphasis!!

We also made these cookies. If you like macaroons (as in coconut, not macarons, as in almonds), these are for you. They satisfied everyone’s need for the “alternative to pumpkin”, and were spectacular toasted with a cup of coffee the next morning.

 

Leading up to Thanksgiving, the girls and I spent our school time memorizing “thankful” scripture and searching for “th” in all our books.My favorite part of this exercise is the fact that Bea can’t actually say “th”, it’s still all “f” when it comes out of her mouth. I love it. It reminds me that she is still such a new little person.

Bea working on Ephesians 5:19. Yes, that's God.

 

The Saturday after Thanksgiving was our sixth wedding anniversary. We all went out as a family to celebrate our family’s birthday.

We’re almost as pretty as that turkey!