Stone Soup for Five: June 2014

Weekly Review and Reflection with the Bullet Journal

I am just starting to really appreciate the power of reflection and figuring out how to make it work in my life.

I have never deliberately taken the time to reflect on my days and weeks.  Instead, I usually just reflected when a flash of something stupid I did popped up in my mind, or something that I should have done better bounces across my thoughts.  And then I'm usually crushed under guilt or terrible self-talk.

So instead, I'm trying to be more intentional and proactive and deal with the issues shortly after they come up, so I don't have to stress and feel awful when they pop up the other way... I just make myself feel awful intentionally and it's done.  Just kidding.  Kinda...
Also, reviewing my days and weeks help me plan better for the upcoming ones.

So how do I do that using the Bullet Journal?

My journal pages for the week.

After the week (usually on a Sunday or Monday morning) I look back over my checklists and see what I checked off and what I didn't.
Then I make a short note about what I accomplished, or not, for each section. If I didn't do well, I ask myself why. What was holding me back?  Usually it's lack of time management, lack of focus, or just plain procrastination.

Just the process of seeing how I did, 
and asking myself WHY has been SO valuable.

For years (well, all my life up until the last few months) I never evaluated myself on any area of life. I'd just get through the days, fall into bed feeling like a failure for not getting to everything I should have, and start over.  The process never improved, never gave hope or conviction, it was just an endless circle.

Reflection and review is a stepping off point for the circle.

Now I pause, evaluate, and come at the new week a little better armed for battle.  This week, I know my battlefield is mostly focused on making it a priority to get to personal development and transcribing Proverbs.  Had I not taken the time to review, I would have just started a new week's list and tried again, probably still lacking in that same area and being unbalanced.

That's how review and reflection works for me in my bullet journal.  I hope you make the time to review your past week and see where you did well (YAY!) and where you need to focus more intentionally (We can DO THIS!).

Have a great week and an awesome Independence Day!

For moms of tough teens.

Last night I was overwhelmingly blessed and humbled more than any other time in my life.  Because I got to see with my own eyes and my tiny, finite mind, how God will take a situation in your life and use it to bless you, even if you are fighting tooth and nail against Him in the process.

Three years ago we had a tough choice to make.

Our oldest son, T1,  had not done well in the private school we were attending, and lost his scholarship.  And since I refused to do his work for him to keep the scholarship, and we couldn't afford the school without it, we had to pull out.  That was one of the hardest days in my life.  We LOVED that school, loved the teachers, the principle, the schedule, everything.

I was mad.  

And HATED that we were put in a position of having to make an even harder choice of "now what".

We could put him in public school, but for him, there were lots of reasons why we didn't feel free to do that just yet.

Or, we could homeschool.




My husband and I both grew up in public schools.
We live a block away from the local high school.
I would have 6+ hours of free time.

But, with his personality, his struggles, and numerous other reasons, neither my husband nor I felt any sort of peace about sending him. 
In fact, I KNEW that it was the wrong place and the wrong time.  

So for weeks...
weeks and weeks...
I would beg and plead with God to give me another way.
I would go to bed crying.... some nights YELLING into my pillow.
This was NOT what I had planned!
This is NOT what I want!

But, with lots of friends to talk to, and great people who have gone before, eventually I calmed down and we settled into homeschooling.

It was rough at first, but gradually we grew into a routine, and it went okay.
There were days that I didn't want to do it, and LOTS of days when they didn't want to... but overall it began to smooth out, and eventually we started to even sorta like it... except for T1.  He tolerated it, and it showed by his attitude and lack of effort.  He still just tolerates it.

And it wears on me.

It exhausts me.

And I'm still confused as to how much longer we will be homeschooling... but don't feel like it's time to enroll him in public school yet either.

But last night, I started to see a bit of the bigger picture, and I am humbled and overwhelmed by God's goodness.

You see, if I hadn't gone into homeschool, EXACTLY when I did, T1 would have missed an amazing opportunity.
Through the co-op we joined I got to grow in relationship to lots of other homeschooling moms, and one mom in particular, Connie.  That year we got to attend Bible Study together, and eat lunch together.  And through those times, I learned about the Search and Rescue program her son was in and she gave me the website to look into it. 

(Since that year, our schedules have changed, and I rarely get to spend the time with Connie I would like to.  Had I not joined that year, I would have never had the time to visit and get to share with her like we did.)

Well, to make a long story shorter, 12 days ago T1 left for the Search and Rescue Training Academy.  And we watched him graduate last night.

And I am humbled.

This is so beautiful for him.  It couldn't be more perfect for his bent and abilities.  He held himself higher and straighter.  He did things he didn't think he could do and he did them well.  He stretched and grew and learned and I am SO PROUD of him.

I guess what I am trying to say through this big long blog post is 
Don't Give Up.  

You moms with tough kids, 
doing things that you don't want to do,
wanting to give up and let them go,
trudging day after day through the ugly.
Don't give up.

When you are confused.
Fighting God and His will for you.
Ready to throw in the towel,
Don't give up.

We see SO LITTLE of the picture.
All I could see in those nights of ugly cry-fits on my bed was me, in jail, in purgatory, homeschooling until it killed me and them.

I HATED everything I thought it would be.

I had a terrible attitude.
I fought against God because His plan was SO VERY WRONG for me!

And through it all He lovingly wrapped His arms around me,
held me, flailing and kicking, tight in His arms,
and whispered, through my yelling, that He has this all planned.

 I look back and see that now.
But for three long years I didn't.

I warred.
I fought.
I calmed.
I settled.
I started trying.
I was humbled.
 I was being sanctified.
and I got to see the blessing, 
and now I fall to my knees.

Don't give up moms.
God has this.
You may not see it for years.
But there is a perfect plan for your hard teens.

Don't fight it,
Don't Give Up.

P.S. Eventually, we might feel led to have him go to public school. We are NOT against public schools, in fact, both of us grew up in public, but for him and at this time of his life, we aren't there yet.

Why You Should Read More, and How to Make the Time


Such an important thing to do, especially in this day of click, browse, scan, and click again.  Hopefully you're here because you know you should read more, but don't know how to work it into your day.

I've got great news for you!  I truly believe that with a plan, you can do just about anything.

In elementary school, 
(I read every single BEVERLY CLEARY book written!) 

and in high school, 
(Rebelling a little, I snuck Stephen King on the bus to school and scared myself to death more than once--Pennywise the clown? Shudder.)

I loved reading, but in college I stopped reading for pleasure, and after college, I only read occasionally.

And then after kids, my reading life pretty much ended except for the daily board books and early readers we would read aloud together.
(And let me just say, Sandra Boynton books during the tiny years were AWESOME!  
I love her sense of humor.)

But now that my boys are older
and I really have no excuses, 
I've taken up reading again and 
it has grown back into such an enjoyable habit.

Here are the steps I took:

1.  Read more than one type of book at a time. 

Really, this truly has helped me. I would be tired and night and not want to read non-fiction, or during the day I wouldn't want to get started into a good fiction book and not be able to finish, and another day would pass with no reading.  So I always have at least one fiction and one non-fiction book going at a time, minimum.  
(Okay, I usually have one biography, one non-fiction, one parenting and/or marriage and one fiction going, but I don't think that is normal... I think I have a problem.)

2.  Use sticky notes to mark your weekly goals.

When I started reading again with intention, I would set goals for myself like "read for 15 min a day" 
"read for 2 hours a week"
But, really, I share my life with boys.  
Therefore, my days rarely go as planned.
So instead of falling into bed in the evening and realizing, again, that I forgot to read, I started marking my books with a sticky note.
I'd count ahead 25 pages, and work on reading to that note by the end of the week.

Dog ears, sticky notes, and writing in my favorite books.  

It worked perfectly!

Not only did I know that if I missed a day it was no big deal,
but it was also a great excuse to put my feet up on the weekend to get my reading caught up.  

I needed the goal to allow myself the pleasure of putting my feet up and reading for a while.

Sticky notes in every book

3.  Increase your goals every week.

When I started with the sticky notes, I would usually never make it through the 25 pages a week.  But eventually it became easier and my mind started getting into the rhythm and discipline of reading, and I started increasing my goal by about 5 to 10 pages a week.

A Woman After God's Own Heart--one of my favorite non-fiction books.
I try to re-read it every year and still glean so much after each reading!

4.  Read in small pockets of time that would normally be wasted.

With the sticky notes system, I could tuck a book in my purse and take it with me to read while waiting in my car, or in lines, or even while waiting for water to boil, etc.  Instead of wasting time online or with an app or game, I was surprised at how much just reading for short periods made it easier to reach my sticky note goal.  

My empty shelf challenge for 2014 #emptyshelf on FB and Twitter

5.  Realize that reading is a skill you are building (or rebuilding).

Reading is a discipline. It's not always easy to focus your mind down to the task of making sense of words on a page, but it is possible... through lots and lots of practice.  I know from experience how the internet is fogging my brain, and reading sharpens and removes that fog.

Forcing myself to sit in a quiet place (or not so quiet) and read solid pages, without clicking over to some other link, or page, or social media is tough.

But the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Like with any new skill, it takes time, but stick with it, it WILL work!

6.  Be okay with not liking a book and not finishing.

I have a friend who is legally blind, with eyesight that continues to degenerate, and she told me something that has stuck with me ever since she wisely spoke it.  

"I never know which book will be the last one I can read, 
so I don't waste time on bad ones."

I don't have vision problems, but that rings so true for everyone.
We are never guaranteed to have the next day or even the next hour.
Life is too short to struggle through bad books.

In the book Lit! the author set a goal that I love.  He said he reads every book 100 pages in, minus his age, before he decides to put it aside.  So this year I read every book up to page 59 before I decide.  That means my boys have to read in at least 80-90 pages, and when I'm 100, I'll allow myself to judge a book by its cover!

How are you doing on reading? 
Do you have tricks you use to get more time in?

Weekly Bullet Journal and Summer Schedule

I thought I'd show you how I plan my week with the bullet journal.  I'm still loving it and have used almost half the pages in the journal this year.  The simplicity and the ease of having someplace central to jot notes and write down random things makes it really work well for me.

So, to do a weekly goal/checklist, first I make a grid.  This is an ever changing grid as I add things and remove things, but the basic categories are Meals, Spiritual, Family/Home, Personal, Work, and To Do.  I've also added a How Has God Worked column to jot down things I notice about God's work in my life this week, and I recently added a Prayer column, so it's always there in front of my mind.  Love that addition!

So after I write out the grid, I transfer over the items from last week's grid that didn't get completed and mark them as moved over (with an arrow through the empty check box), so I don't miss anything.  Then I add in anything else that is coming up that week, or any goals I might have.

*side note: I just finished setting up a file system based on Getting Things Done by David Allen.  I think this is going to work amazingly well with the Bullet Journal, but will post more on this later.


Now, after my grid is filled in, I start my list for Monday.  I try to not get more than 5 items listed in one day, but usually break my own rule and list more (like today), and if I don't finish them, they get rewritten onto Tuesday's list.  I rewrite them each day, so I make myself sick of seeing them there and DO SOMETHING ABOUT THEM.  Does it work?  Sometimes.


I also set up a loose schedule for the boys.  There are no times on here because the only time frame they go by is that they can't do things they want until the stuff on the list is done.  That way, there is no RUSHING or STRESS this summer, they just lock themselves up from friends/TV/Video games until they do the work.  Pretty low key, but works well for them and me.

The ETC chores at the bottom are chores I'll list for them to work on so they can earn more screen time.  They are usually things that need to get done around the house, or things from the Motivated Moms chore list that they can do.

I've been so convicted lately about my own use of time, and watching the boys sit around and wait for their video game time or fight and bicker makes me crazy.  I've found, over the years, if I keep a loose schedule for them over the summer, our days are much happier and there is a noticeable difference in the bickering level around here.

So that's how my week is shaping up.  How about you guys?  Has anyone jumped on board with the Bullet Journal? I'd love to see links or pics if you have them, and your ideas for summer routines!


Summer Reading List

This stack is a bit ambitious for me, 
but it would be so fun to read through them all this summer!  

A classic.
A memoir.
Self improvement
(that last one is thick and intimidating, but for $3.50 at Powell's, I couldn't pass it up!)

I might add in a candy fiction (something that is just pure fun to read) but haven't found it yet.  

Any good suggestions?

25 Summer Bucket List Goals

The boys and I have created our Summer goals for 2014!

I don't think there has been a year where we've completed all of our goals, but it is always a lot of fun trying.  Now that they are teens, our goals have changed a lot.  Less Zoo, more Food, etc.

We'll have fun trying to get all 25 done.



Summer 2014 Bucket List

1. Camp for a week
2. Go on a road trip
3.  Oldest two pass driver’s permit test
4.  Firepit party
5.  Parents play Minecraft with the boys
6.  Play through all our board games at least once
7.  Have a water fight
8.  Find at least 3 geocaches
9.  Have a blind taste test of a cheeseburger vs. hamburger and see if you can tell a difference
10. Waterproof a Minion and test it
11.  Build a retaining wall
12.  Plant a shade garden
13.  Do three random acts of kindness
14.  Volunteer for grandma or a neighbor on a project
15.  Make homemade ice cream
16.  Sprinkler jump on trampoline
17.  Each of the boys host, prepare & clean up one party
18.  Teach each boy how to sew
19.  Go on a guy hike
20.  Midnight Taco Bell run
21.  Go shooting with friends
22.  Learn a new card game
23.  Make a piece of art
24.  Make brown bag lunches for homeless and hand out

25.  Backyard campout

Bullet Journal--Setting up for a new week

New season, new month, new weekly plan in my bullet journal!

This week I added a center column on my weekly grid for 
"How have I seen God work this week?"

Also, thanks to another bullet Journaler, I've also added a June Daily Habits page where I can fill in the boxes when I've done the habit for the day.
I hope to see lots and lots of filled in boxes on June 30th!

Have you started a Bullet Journal?
You can see the original blog post about it here.
And my update post here.
It's still working for me and I still LOVE it!