Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Rituals to Honor a Loved One


My friend was talking to me about the upcoming anniversary of her mother's death and mentioning that it was always such a hard time of the year for her. She explained that she feels like she might want to enact some kind of ritual but doesn't really have the capacity to think about it. I volunteered to generate a list to share with her, and here's what I came up with. I would love any ideas you have to add!



  • Write a letter to your mom about the past year (alternatively, you could record yourself talking--or just talk to a picture without recording--if it would feel more natural and efficient to talk)
  • Host a call with multiple people who loved your mom; each person could go around and share one memory (alternatively, this could be done over e-mail if it's too painful to talk)
  • Take a relaxing, calm, and quiet bath and light a candle for each of the things you miss about your mom; state each one out loud as you light the candle. Then close your eyes and think about your mother.
  • Have a What Would Mom Do Day. Spend time doing the things your mom liked to do  and try to see them and enjoy them through your mother's eyes
  • Plant something new each year in honor of your mother and watch each plant or tree give life to the world each year on behalf of your mother. This could be an outdoor plant or an indoor one. 
  • Prepare or pick up a special meal or a food item that had special meaning to you and your mom. Prepare it and eat It by yourself, while thinking about your mother.
  • Coordinate an act of service in honor of your mother's gift to the world: prepare sack lunches and deliver them to homeless people, volunteer in a soup kitchen, purchase quality books from second-hand shops and deliver them to a school.
  • Purchase something new for your home that will remind you of your mother all year: a bird feeder, a beautiful frame, a vase, pretty refrigerator magnets, new cloth napkins, coasters, etc. This could be combined with Option 1 or 2 so that you get yourself thinking deeply about your mother and then decide what to add to your home to honor her.  



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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Casual Community


I've been much better at writing in my journal this year. For accountability purposes (I do better when I report out what I've been doing!), this is the frequency with which I've been writing in my journal: 

  • 2/15
  • 2/3
  • 1/31
  • 1/26
The other day I was writing about how grateful I am for my family and the life we have in our house (lots of time connected to each other, proximate to trees, space for the children to roam). But I also started thinking about the one dream I left behind: my dream of building a pocket neighborhood and to live more in community. 

Part of me still dreams of building something like that, but it would be so incredibly expensive to recreate everything we have been able to build at our house (which we were able to do relatively inexpensively because of luck), and I don't want to cut into our travel budget, which is a huge way in which we are trying to savor our children's childhoods. 

So then my mind goes to: Well, what exactly am I trying to have that I don't feel like I have right now? 

And I think my answer is: Casual Community. I would love the option to opt into community when we are feeling social (that's the beauty of a pocket neighborhood; everyone has their own personal space, but there are also lots of common spaces). 

I'm wondering how I can create that feeling where I am instead of building something new. 

Right now, we have monthly Saturday Suppers, which I love. I think those are a start. But what else? 
  • I'm wondering if we should try to facilitate monthly potlucks (on a school night, so community doesn't just feel like a weekend thing) with the neighbors on our cul-de-sac. They are such a diverse group. We are very connected to each of them individually, but we never do anything collectively (I think in part because we are all so very different from each other). But I honestly think it could be a lot of fun. 
  • I'm wondering if I should sometimes try to invite friends to our house after school, especially when the weather is nice. I could throw a quick meal in the Instant Pot (this Mexican beans and rice meal comes to mind), have chips and salsa on hand, and they could bring something or not. 
  • What if I built a text list of neighbors with families and sent more casual texts like: "We are jumping into the pool until 6pm. Come through the back gate if you want to join us!" Or "We are heading down to the creek if anyone wants to come play around with us!" 
  • Hmm...I wonder if I should create some kind of online directory of families in my neighborhood whose children are born within a certain range. I wonder what the best way to do that would be? Our neighborhood is already on Nextdoor, and it looks like I could create a private sub-group within my neighborhood. That might be awesome! I could do a range like two years older than Henry to two years younger than Tate? 
This feels like a good starting place! 



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Family Traditions


Oh, my. I am so in love with our new Valentine's tradition. Here's where we landed:

On Valentine's Day, we wake up early and make waffles for breakfast. We set up the waffle maker on the table with an extension cord, so we can make them while we are eating them. Each time one comes out, we split it into fourths so we each get a piece. This year, we also made our own whipped cream. It's so easy, fun, and tasty! 

During breakfast, we make a list of what we want to do to celebrate our "Family Day of Love" in the evening. This year, our list included:

  • Movie night (Henry's idea)
  • Eating candy (Henry)
  • Children's museum (my idea)
  • Drinking hot chocolate (Henry)
  • Game night (Henry)
  • Night walk (Tate's idea)
  • Camping in the backyard (Tate)
  • Ice cream at Lick (mine)
We each got three votes, so we could narrow down the choices. We then voted between movie night and game night. It was a unanimous win for game night! 

After school, we drove to Target to pick up two of my favorite games from when I was a child: Operation and Hungry, Hungry Hippo

We ordered pizza and played games on our back deck. 

Then we filled in a love note template that I made. We each drew a name of one family member and filled it out for that person. My hope is that we do one every year. 



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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine's Traditions


My sweet almost 7 year-old loves traditions and rituals even more than I do. He cracks me up. 

He's requesting some kind of tradition for Valentine's Day. Once we start something, he will never, ever forget it. So I feel some pressure to get it right the first year. 

The hard thing is that Valentine's Day is so close to my birthday and his birthday, so I don't want to do anything that overlaps with our birthday traditions. Henry suggested that we write love letters to each other, but I'll already be writing Henry a letter on his birthday. It might be fun to get a cake on Valentine's Day, but we already do that for our birthdays. 

His friends wake up to baskets of candy. I have no desire to put something like that together every year! Presence, not presents. 

Maybe a scavenger hunt that includes all the reasons I love them? 

Pizza and a movie on a school night? 

Pancakes for breakfast on a school morning? 

Maybe we make brownies and Valentine's cards for the neighbors? 

We could make Valentine's treats and deliver them to a nursing home? 

Maybe fill out a little template about each other, similar to this book?

Here's a sweet idea for a whole day of intenseness--too much for me! 

All right. I think we will have a Family Love Day: wake up early for waffles/pancakes, fill out an appreciation template about one person, brainstorm ideas about what to do when we get home from school (e.g., movie night, game night, making treats for neighbors, going to the children's museum, etc.). We will bookend the day with family time--talking about about we love about each other and spending time together. That sounds right! 




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Monday, February 12, 2018

Getting Our Budget Under Control


I've been sharing that Matt and I have some credit card debt that we want to actively pay down. As part of that, we have been trying to religiously use Mint.com. I've heard great things about You Need a Budget as well, but we are already all set up with Mint.com, so we are sticking with it and trying to maximize our experience with it. 

One of the annoying things about Mint.com is that it won't let you delete the budget categories that you aren't using. When it automatically assigns expenditures to categories, it frequently assigns them to categories that we aren't even using in our budget. When that happens, our budget looks like it's on track, but it isn't really.

While it's frustrating that I can't just delete the categories that we don't have budgets for, I did learn that you can click a button to generate a rule that always assigns certain stores into certain categories. For example, there's a popular restaurant here in Austin called P.Terry's. Mint.com always categorizes it as "Fast Food" (it is fast food), but we don't use the Fast Food Budget. Instead, we code all of our eating out expenses as "Restaurants." I was able to go into Mint and tell it to always code P.Terry's as "Restaurants." 

While that will help with some of our recurring expenses, I came up with a hack to help us with the rest. I printed our list that correlates our Mint categories with which expenses are budgeted there (see an excerpt of the image above). For example, we spend money on parking so infrequently that it doesn't have its own budget category. Instead, we lump it into the Gas & Fuel category (along with tolls, which are also infrequent). Mint automatically codes parking as parking, so we have to reassign the category. It's hard to remember these infrequent things, so having a list for Matt and one for me should be helpful! 



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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

My Favorite New Thing


I know this is a dumb post, but I couldn't help but share my new favorite things: food covers

I am really, really trying not to buy things on Amazon, but I have been wanting these for more than a year. I saw them at a birthday party at the park, and they make so much sense in Texas! I regretted not having them all throughout last year whenever we hosted a party on our deck. I ended up trying to cover the food with dishtowels, which makes it very difficult to see what is available to eat!

I'm excited to try these out at Henry's birthday party! 




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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Reflection & Rejuvenation: February


My first ever Monthly Self-Summit went well. 

I spent about 1.5 hours preparing for the upcoming month. I wrote three birthday cards, scheduled our monthly Saturday Supper (which happens to be Henry's birthday party!), and reflected on what I wanted to make true for the upcoming month. 

(As an aside, I don't want to live an overly rigid life, and I have to monitor myself closely so that I don't cross over the line (or so I can step back over, after I do cross it!). I really do love being intentional and purposeful--it's just so easy for those characteristics to become overly rigid.)

Celebrations first (I'm working on celebrating before I jump to the problem-solving; it's a perpetual problem):
  1. I feel like I'm working on a lot of substantial stuff with my leadership coach
  2. I'm maintaining a 2-hour window of free time for myself each night
  3. I'm periodically waking up early to journal
  4. I love being in my new office
  5. I'm being more patient with the boys and savoring our time together
  6. I had so much fun at our monthly Saturday Supper in January. The weather was perfect. We had both sliding doors wide open and gathered on the deck. The children played in our "adventure playground" area by building structures with bamboo sticks and string. Then they ventured down into the forest part of our land and started making pottery out of the dirt/clay. I just relaxed/chatted/ate.
Okay, now on to the problem-solving!

I threw out my back after doing so much moving of things to get our new school settled. It meant that I couldn't run at all, and I just started eating whatever I wanted to. Now my clothes don't fit and I feel so lethargic. But onward and upward! I've been doing my physical therapy exercises every night, and I'm going to get back to the trail this weekend. I'm excited! 

I also start therapy this month, which I'm excited about. I think it's going to be a good month!

For updates in between blog posts, check out Instagram








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