Wednesday, January 4, 2012

In with the New

Again, welcome 2012! What a year it is going to be!

Phew. Take a deep breath! On we go!

First up is that I have chosen to use the word LESS as my One Little Word. I had seriously thought I was going to use the word REFUSE but towards the end of November I was really feeling that it is more negative than I want to take on. Then I remembered that when I participated in the BPC Big Idea Festival, Peppermint Granberg presented an interesting layout featuring the word LESS. It resonated with me and I have continued to think of it off and on until now. Now I think that in many ways LESS will be an exciting word to explore for the year.

I am hoping to explore less in the following areas (subject to change of course)
· Less stuff (I still feel that I need to find closure with my 2010 word SIMPLIFY and we seriously have major things to purge)
· Less sitting - more action (increase my running and exercise) {might equal less weight!}
· Less plastic (here is where Refuse comes in – less plastic bags, less plastic purchases, less things we don’t need and more purchases of reused items)
· Less processed foods – more homemade – I began the journey of exploring eating more healthy last year and hope to continue to gain more insight into this
· Less foreign foods more local
· Less water (regarding tooth brushing – I really want to kick this habit!!!)
· Less yelling – more listening (always a good one)
· Less waste - more intention (be more sensible financially)
· Less junk in the evening
Less debt – more financial freedom (focus more on putting money on our debt and less on frivolous purchases)
As you can see, less also equals more. More goodness. We shall see.

How do I intend to tackle this? Given my past year of, shall we say that I may have an issue with follow-through? My 101 things in 1001 days is quickly coming to a close with, shall we say a huge bit of overachievement associated with it. That seems to becoming quite apparent in my life. Lots of lists. Lots of goals. Not so much accomplished. I have so many unfinished projects I can’t count them. Classes and videos purchased but no time to do them. Piles of books to read. To do lists galore. Classic. The few things that I did complete this last year were the three LOAD contests as well as my One Little Word Class. As I mentioned previously, I found that having regular reminders really helped keep these thoughts and goals at the forefront of my mind.

Sooo, I signed up again for One Little Word. I have also signed up for 2 other year long classes that will (hopefully) help with these goals. They are Twelve (sorry link is over) through BPC and Move More Eat Well through BPC. Twelve is for keeping scrapping memories doable and the other is for the healthy side of my goals. Here’s hoping. I also have regular emails coming in from a variety of sources that focus on health, movement, simplifying and happiness. All things I continue to strive for.

One other task that I would really like to work on is to revive my project 365. I thought about it off and on so many times last year but didn’t have a plan and my type A personality prevented me from just starting it wherever I was. I’m thinking that doing a digital template and uploading it weekly might be an easier format. Then I’ll also have templates that are easier to put into a printable book than a blog book. Last year I probably took a photo a day but with no plan it – just-fell-through. But I missed it. Again we shall see. I also like the 12 on the 12th plan. And the 52 weeks plan. (And the dilemma goes on LOL!) Less Alison Less!

In writing this it seems that I am far from LESS. I hope that this is not so. I am open to flexibility but I also know that I work better with concrete goals and plans. A lot of these are measurable goals and I work better with that. I also know from this past year that these ideas have been mulling around in my head and partly in action for a while now. Now it is time for action. The most important thing however, that I should probably focus on is LESS STRESS. What is done is done. I recognize that I can only do so much and I need to concentrate on what I feel is most important. And realize that what I feel is important at one point in time can change too. How’s that for a sermon? Enough said. Time to move on. Welcome to 2012. I’m excited as usual to see what the year brings. What changes will be introduced and to see how we as individuals and as a family will grow. Fun stuff. Onward and upward.

Out with the Old

Happy New Year!

Wow what a year.

Out with the old. The year has come to a close and it is time to recap how it went. I just found my goal and idea list for 2011. Hah! Here goes.

· My One Little Word was Joy. I think that this was my most successful “goal” or intention in a long time. I found this word to be perfect for this year. What really helped this to be a success though was that I took Ali Edward’s OLW class. Each month we were presented with meaningful prompts which kept the word active in my life and at the forefront of my thinking. She prompted us to examine our word through definitions and thoughts, through the use of pictures, through music, through art and more. From these activities I was able to see that joy for me is closely related to getting exercise, getting enough sleep, meditating on scripture, doing things for me, seeing visual reminders of the word and receiving daily or periodic reminders of what joy is (ie emails with happiness quotes, reading discussions on happiness studies etc.).

Interestingly, Drew didn’t feel that I got a whole lot out of this year, as he pointed out that I A) still answer the phone in a less-than-pleasing tone and B) don’t necessarily seem any happier. This may seem true to him but it emphasizes to me that I need to continuously work at having and showing joy. It isn’t something that comes easy to me but I do know that it is something that I can obtain and want to. I therefore do not see this as a failure but as a definite positive learning experience. I’m glad that this word was used.

My other goals for the year were the following:
· Journal once a month using journal prompts [not done at all];
· Continue on 2010 goals. Again a laugh that my word was SIMPLIFY. I don’t feel like I got a handle on this. I was able to finish most of this list. In my TO READ category I still have a few to go. I was able to do 4 out of my 5 items under TO DO: declutter, eat at 5 new restaurants, a blog book, and slides to photos. I was able to do all of my items under TO CREATE (52 layouts in the year, 10 digital layouts and at least 5 started projects. Under TO LEARN, well I really need to take that Sillouette out of the box. That would be a good first step. I haven’t taken 2 digital classes but I have certainly excelled in this area. I don’t know that I have completed 2 online courses but I have certainly done lots of parts of some! And finally, I’m making slow progress in the camera/ photography department.
· Gotta do goals [ummmm – hopelessly behind. Total overachievement bit on my part. Since I have a few short weeks left to complete this list LOL I will follow up on this later]
· Make yogurt [nope, didn’t happen – I like too many flavours and it is too convenient. I would still like to try it some day though].
· My final goal was to research a CSA and join if possible [this didn’t end up being too important – I checked out a few local farms and the farmer’s market. I also grew my own garden. This seemed to be enough].

To sum up – it appears that I like to make lists. (Just noticed my November to do list too!)Hopeless lists that I can’t possibly accomplish. On the surface it looks like I should but as time goes on my priorities change and new lists gets made. I tend to be an overachiever. I also completely forgot what it is like to have an infant/ toddler around in the house. Oh well. I can’t say that I am disappointed in myself. I still feel like it was a great year. It was a happy year. A healthy year. I got to be home with my son. I had creative opportunities. I learned about and experienced great joy. I am ready to leave the past behind and move forward. I am blessed beyond measure.

Stay tuned for what is to come….

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Adventure of Christmas

A week or so before Christmas I was asked by my MOPS group to share how what our family does for Christmas. I thought I would share it here.

For our family, Christmas celebrations begin with advent. I just can’t bring myself to get decorations out any earlier. It is usually a scramble to grab the advent supplies on the applicable Sunday as it is! Thank goodness they are all stored together!

Our advent supplies consist of our candle wreath and the pocket calendar that my mother made us. It has pockets to hold something for up to 29 days depending on when advent falls. This year it was the longest it could be since Christmas fell on a Sunday.

A few years ago we decided to coincide our advent celebrations with the Jesse Tree. I found some links online that provide a picture of a symbol to colour as well as a scripture, a bible story, an application and a prayer for each day. It chronicles the biblical history from creation up to the birth of Jesus in a way that kids can understand. So far we have not ventured further than using the paper ornaments provided. Some people have looked for specific items that represent each symbol. Maybe one day. I now put one ornament in each pocket of the calendar and the kids hang the ornaments on a makeshift tree made out of branches.

I also incorporate one family activity to do each day of advent. These are usually activities that we would be doing at some point over the month anyway. Things like decorating, putting up the tree, baking cookies, having movie nights and wrapping presents together. We may make them more special by adding a scavenger hunt, a hangman, a puzzle or a word scramble to put together in order to find and carry out the activity.

I have gotten away from putting a daily candy treat into the advent calendar. We have enough candy as it is at this time of year. The kids do get to find a chocolate count down calendar on the first of December for them to then open each day as well as a LEGO calendar with a toy to put together.

Some of our favourite holiday activities are traditions that I have grown up with and others are ones that we continue to experiment with.

Since 1990 when our church was founded, the congregation has been celebrating Christmas Eve at an outdoor service together. At this service all of the children receive a Christmas ornament that tells the true meaning of Christmas. These have all been made by our dear friend Paula who has since passed away. She passed the torch on to Charlotte who has been doing a fabulous job carrying on the tradition. I have saved all of these ornaments and we spend one evening decorating our special “Paula’s Tree”.

December 22nd is Matthew’s birthday so we always make that day his special day. He gets his room decorated, a special breakfast and dinner and a party of his choice. We will have already decorated for Christmas but we make a point to bring out the things that would normally be out for the other kids birthday’s too. We also make a point to look back at photos over the years to celebrate his life.

Nativity scenes play an important role in our house as well. We have some that are for decoration only and a number of ones that the kids can play with. We usually make a few family activity days that involve finding all of the parts for each set.

In our house we have decided to not emphasize Santa Claus. We don’t deny him but we also don’t label toys from him, we don’t have a lot of decorations with Santa and we don’t warn the kids about Santa. A little wishy-washy perhaps but that is where we are. We do discuss Saint Nicholas, who he was and how his example has led to the current view of Santa Claus. We have thought about celebrating Saint Nicholas day for the past few years but for whatever reason it has not worked out.

In the past I have tried to take extra care and make special clues that colour coordinate and match certain themes. I have found that I do like to make them rhyme but the rest is just extra work. I now take out a calendar for the month, plug in the days I know specific things will be happening (ie church dinners, drama productions, parties etc) and then try to fill in the blanks. I have lots of extra activities that can work any day and I try to type up everything ahead of time so that it can be printed easily. A little planning helps a lot but so does keeping it simple. I like to try to document and photograph the activities in the hopes of one day doing a daily December scrapbook – the photos are there but the scrapbook remains to be seen!

For our family Christmas is about the birth of Christ and about family. It is very easy to get caught up in the hoopla of the season around us – and we certainly have our days. It is our hope to bring the season back to Christ by focusing on things that we can do as a family. If we can do things that have a deeper meaning than even better. One such way is to look at the meanings behind a lot of the symbols of Christmas. I have used the book the Adventure of Advent as well as the internet to create some activities that center around the everyday celebrations. Those like lighting the advent wreath, viewing the lights around the neighbourhood and eating candy canes all have meanings that are related to Christ! Of course sometimes an activity is just an activity but it is that much more important and memory provoking when we do it as a family. It is so easy to be bombarded with the commercialism of the holiday so I find for me that the easiest way to stay focused is to have a daily reminder of what the reason of the season is. For our family that is the advent calendar and the Jesse Tree. Simple yet meaningful.

Below are some options of activities to choose from:
Attend a holiday event
Go out to get a Christmas tree
Build and/or decorate gingerbread houses
Bake cookies together
Jingle neighbours with special goody treats
Make Christmas cards
Make Christmas tags
Movie night with Christmas movie
PJ day
Go for a ride and look at decorated houses
Celebrate St Nicholas night Dec 5/6 by putting out shoes with carrots and apples and later replacing with gift
Decorate tree
Make Christmas gifts
Service – salvation army kettle
Service – contribute to an angel tree
Service – host a CAS family
Red or green night – serve all food that is red or green and dress in those colours
Learn about other countries Christmas traditions
Have a slumber party by the tree
Host a family game night – bonus – make it Christmas themed
String popcorn
Paint holiday scenes on the windows
Have dinner by the tree picnic style

In reflection I think that this has been one of our best years yet. It was the first that the kids actually questioned Santa. We reiterated (awkardly) a bit about how we don't focus on Santa at our house - that gifts are given from us and family but that we celebrate the Spirit of Saint Nicholas. They were not behaved on the day that we were going to put out shoes for Saint Nicholas so that discussion was botched. We didn't put out cookies for Santa this year and it wasn't noticed. We were just too busy. We played a lot with our new nativity scenes and had a lot of fun doing the various family activities. Next year I would still like to work more service opportunities into the plan. All in all though I was very happy with the Christmas season (although we still have to REALLY work at cutting down on the gifts) but THAT is another story.

Jesus is the reason for the season. It is also a time for family. We are human though and it is easy to get caught up in the world around us. Overbuying. Overextended. TOOO MUCH. Bottom line is it is a time to reflect on the amazing gift of life that has been given to us. Prayerfully we can focus on this gift and how it relates to our family. We hope we all “get it”.

December 2011 Recap

It’s that time again! Another month has passed us by and it is time for a recap. So why do I do this? First of all my memory is terrible and often find myself wondering when such and such happened. Second of all I love lists and information. Third of all I believe I am a type A personality. Enough said.

Here's a look at our month:

Entertainment – what we’re looking at , listening to and going to!
Books, Magazines, Blogs read:
Toddler No Cry Sleep Solution
She Makes It Look Easy by Mary Beth Whalen
Creating Keepsakes
Usual blogs
TV, Movies, Live Entertainment:
Prince Caspian (DVD)
Family Man (Netflix)
Rudolph; Mickey Mouse Christmas Carol; Berenstain Bears; Home Alone;
Bedtime Stories (DVD)
Bones Season 3 (Netflix)
iCarly (Netflix)
Modern Family (Computer)
Night at the Museum (DVD)
Daily Happenings & Special Events:
Santa Shuffle 5k walk (3rd)
Kids church drama production
Family dinner for Family Home Program (8th)
Church Christmas dinner (10th)
Ellie’s Bday (11th) – kitchen centre
Boys to Leafs Hockey Game with Ben and Dan (13th)
Church staff/ council dinner (17th)
Matt 9th Bday; party at Retro Planet (23rd)
Parents to Sarah and John’s (23rd to 2nd)
Visit with Kelly and Phil (26th), ice skating
Visit with Tom and Dilys (27th)
Matt to Bens bday at movies (Chipwrecked) – gift card for Center Town
Resolution Run (31st)
Travel (1 hr plus): n/a
Financial/ changes to the house etc.:(gifts, renos, big purchases, household purchases):
Laundry room cupboards made and pantry shelves added; basement door changed
Drew changed cars – Honda Pilot
Health/Development/ Exercise/ Extra Curricular Activities:
Drew: basketball; running; Resolution Run
Alison: running, Resolution Run; eliptical
Cierra: bowling; Foot Dr;
Matt: hockey; Turned 9 this month. Weighs 65 lbs **** tall. He is doing well at school although initiative to do his best isn’t there. Has playdates regularly. Some issues with a few friends and jockeying for leadership roles. His interests include Montreal Canadians, hockey in general, reading (39 Clues, Big Nate, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Spiderwick Chronicles etc), playing Wii (VERY competitive, working on anger), movies etc. His favourite sayings are jinx, jeez, seriously. Love/hate relationship with siblings (except Mitchell), easily frustrated or “wronged”. Loves hugs, snuggles, bubble gum and generally having fun.
Marlee: art start Saturdays; tooth out (upper left 2nd from back) (7th); eye Dr(7th);
Mitchell: 21 months already! He is a total pleasure to be around. No increase in speech although we all understand him and are able to interpret. Sleep about the same although we are trying to increase his time in his own bed. It’s working slowly. Nursing during the day is decreasing as sippy cup is encouraged; introduced to Mighty Machines DVD – loves it!!! Also loves music, twirling and dancing when music is on. Food/ eating similar although skill is increasing. He eats well with a spoon and fork and is drinking independently out of a cup. He still likes to toss his food though. EC about the same – catches after sleep, a few poops; if we are with him we are able to notice signs for oncoming poop. Yey! Attempts to empty potty on own. Stays well with other caregivers as long as there are vehicles to play with (church, MOPS).
Accomplishments/ Disappointments (Goals - Gotta Do’s, Wanna do’s; OLW, projects):
Indian restaurant with RJ; Merry Days of Advent; Resolution Run
All Around Us/ Other (News, Trends, Births, Deaths, World Events, City News Etc): n/a