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January 2018

Tea & Mitten Strings: Ch. 11, "Stories"

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Hello my friends and Happy Friday! I am so glad to be back here at the blog with you all! I know my posting has been quite slow these past few months, but I hope - as we move forward into this bright and beautiful new year - I will be able to pick up a little blogging steam. So to begin with ... how are things in your corner of the world? How is Old Man Winter treating you? Are you reading any wonderful stories these days? I'd love to hear how you are if you have a moment to say hi ...

I am so excited to sit down with a cup of tea and dive back into our Mitten Strings for God book study. We left off last autumn with the chapter on "Wants and Needs" and so that brings us to the eleventh chapter, "Stories" and I'm quite eager to hear what you think! (And just as eager to tell you what I think!)

(Note: for those just joining us, here is the MSfG archive. All are welcome to participate as we read (and in some cases, re-read) this lovely little gem of a book about mindful mothering, slowing down, savoring life, and nurturing our children's ever-widening world. Feel free to chime in at any time and on any chapter!)

I should warn you though, this was, perhaps, my favorite of all the chapters, so this here post is a little *ahem* wordy ... but before we get into the chapter itself, I'd like to talk a little about my tea shown above. (Longtime readers know I love to "serve tea" whenever possible alongside my post!) My tea today ("English Teatime Decaf" - one sugar, whole milk) is served in one of my BIG ol' sturdy kitchen mugs. I enjoyed it at my sunny kitchen table this morning with my Mum (her tea is the rather bracing "American Breakfast" - no sugar, low fat milk). And, as you can see, Archie was not to be left out. ;)

So here's the thing about this chapter ... when I first read it (back in the early 2000s) I had a whole different concept of "storytelling" in mind, though I do love how it re-shaped my ideas. You see, I grew up listening to family stories told by my maternal grandmother, usually around her kitchen table - or sitting in her den, or in the car, or on the screened porch. Actually, it didn't matter where we were, she was always sharing stories from her life ... and I just loved them. I loved hearing her talk about her eight brothers and sisters and her beloved parents -  one from Ireland, one from Scotland - and the way life was back in her day ...

The big old house near the train station and the cousins that lived all over town. The animals they raised and the visiting they did and the personalities of each sibling. School days, work days and even a few family tragedies which to this day still haunt me when I think on them. But I especially loved hearing about my grandmother's life as a young mother and housewife ...

I was enthralled by the simplest stories about how she managed her home back in her day: the mending and tending, the cooking and cleaning, the serving and preserving and the storing and saving, etc. My grandparents came through the depression and built their own home in the 40s - a house still owned by my family today -and I was intensely fascinated by the cost-saving methods she used and continued to use in present day. She was, without a doubt, the best home-keeper I've ever known and even when I was a young girl I savored these homey bits of wisdom. I felt privileged (and proud) that she shared them with me, her eldest granddaughter.

(To this day, I just relish books that are full of these kinds of domestic details. Admittedly, I could read a whole book about one woman's housekeeping through the year. I'd find it so soothing and fascinating! Wouldn't you?)

My Gram also introduced me to tea (along with my Grampa who was just a big a tea drinker as Gram, if not bigger!), so in my memory, all these family tales were spun at their kitchen table over cups of black tea served in Gram's best Irish china. (Grampa, of course, would take his tea in a giant porcelain mug.) I know this is where my fondness for tea drinking began - and to this day I connect my favorite beverage with comfort, love, inspiration, contentment ... and stories. ❤

But I'm getting wildly off-track and I think it's time I started in on the chapter at hand!

Stories for me as I've said were rooted in family and so that's where I began with my children. When I first read MSfG (a fortunate find through the Chinaberry catalog if I recall) I was so taken by many of Ms. Kenison's ideas. As new and fairly eclectic homeschoolers, I found Waldorf education appealed to me deeply, and much of the ideas Ms. Kenison describes in this book resonate with this methodology. (She even references Waldorf Education resources in her final notes to her readers.)

At this time my children were small - we had just a couple of boys at the time - which was kind of fun for me because the Kenisons also had two boys, though when I first read the book they were a bit older than my own small lads. But a big part of my enjoyment of this book back then was the sense of reading another "boy mom's" thoughts, and one who seemed to find the same things important that I did. A mom who was trying to gently shape her family's world in a way that made sense and felt right ... and who seemed to truly have it all - or mostly - together.

So when I first read that eleventh chapter, I immediately thought, YES - yes, of course! Stories! Our boys will grow up hearing stories. 

I already knew of course they'd be surrounded by good books and that we'd work on our observation skills and staying connected with nature ... but the concept of telling stories - not just reading them - was fascinating to me! Eager to jump in (I was already looking up local storytelling groups I might join) I instead started small with familiar tales (of the folk and fairy kind), plentiful at the library but also firmly in memory. Then as I stretched my creative muscles I found I especially enjoyed creating nature stories - little tales that brought the world around us alive. Tales that marked the changes in weather, the flora and fauna in our surroundings, the sky and the earth and the four seasons themselves. Over the years I've told stories of all kinds and from all kinds of prompts, but nature stories still remain my very favorite. :)

Storytelling was going quite well for some time, but then our third son was born with special needs and one of his challenges was an intense dislike of being read or (worse) sung to. So fingerplays were out - as were puppets and most overtly imaginative play. I scaled back on the weekly group storytime and tried to slip in tiny bits of story magic where I could ... and leaving things open-ended seemed to appease him:

"Look! That crafty spider in the stone wall is peeking out of his home today ... I wonder what he's up to?"

"Hmmm, the apples are hanging very low on this tree ... who might come along and take a nibble?"

"The air smells a bit like woodsmoke today ... I wonder who's tending a fire?"

Sometimes these tiny prompts would garner a short answer or brief look-see - but sometimes they sparked some real interest and we were able to expand a bit on the theme. I had to watch how far I took it though - often I'd get a: "MAMA! That's enough!!!" 

And then, as life happens, the older boys got older and EB got older too, and less interested in hearing anything resembling a story. So we kind of put storytelling on hold ...

But then along came Little Bear ... ❤

So storytelling, I'm very happy to report has been revived in our family once again! And not just for LB (though at 4 yo, he's clearly my biggest fan) but for Earlybird, too. He's becoming less rigid and more open to listening activites - though I still have to do sing-songy things with LB when EB is out of the room. (I won't get into this too much right now, but blessedly three years ago we began a new and daily therapy routine with amazing caregivers who are working with EB to help him relax and allow for more creative experiences. But that's a post for another time!)

Storytelling for the older boys has continued through the years but in ways that are more similar to my own childhood experience - via family tales at the kitchen table. :) To this day supper is always a family affair though Earlybird is excused to eat in the other room because the sound of chewing is too much for him. So the older boys and Little Bear and Bill and myself gather at our kitchen nook table every night (and at lunchtime often too) and naturally we often find ourselves sharing stories. Shared memories, old memories, interesting tales we heard somewhere, sometime ...

I think for many families, storytelling seems easier when the children are younger and I agree that's true ... but I don't think stories have to go away once kids are old enough to own a phone or a computer. Once upon a time families gathered around the hearth to while away the evening hours - nowadays of course people are busy with activities that more often than not take them outside the home or pull their attention away from the family circle. But if your family is used to gathering together at recurring times of the day or week, it's relatively easy to begin sharing memories or reliving fun times. I think the family table makes for a comfortable storytelling space and the enticement of good food never hurts! I love the habit of Sunday dinner with the expectation that all who can make it will ... and with the promise of a delicious meal the audience will be even more receptive! Car rides, too, are a good opportunity for story-sharing as are neighborhood walks.

If storytelling appeals to you as much as it does to me, you might find this book a worthy read, as it expands on the ideas in this chapter and is just chock-full of storytelling inspiration!

Storytellingn with childrne

Storytelling with Children by Nancy Mellon is another one of those books I've had for many years and as you can see, it's quite battered - but beloved! (I share a few pics of the insides further down in this post.)

Now, I'm pretty sure I could quote this entire chapter, but I tried my best to narrow it down to a few favorites. ;-)

"Years ago, parents told stories to children both to entertain them and to teach them about the world's complexities. But we lost the art of storytelling when we lost that sort of open-ended time with our children, the reflecting, wondering, watching time that gives rise to stories." (71)

Speaking of wonder then, I had to snap a picture of Little Bear today in his rather fitting sweatshirt:

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"Never lose your sense of wonder." A cute and comfy Target find! Stories will percolate in your mind and trip off your tongue if you leave yourself open to wonder. That's the cool thing about wonder - the urge to share it is powerful! :)

(Little Bear's in mid-story himself here. Something about a Lego ship and a very stormy sea.)

As I read through this chapter, I was amazed by how easily storytelling seemed to come to Ms. Kenison - but then I realized she was intentionally opening herself up to the experience - by paying attention to the world around her, "observing the minute particulars of a season, a day, a moment ..." (p. 73)

She goes on to admit:

"... whenever I feel that my story well has run dry, it is only because I have not been paying enough attention to my life."' (p. 77)

I think this is a wonderful example of why this book has so many ideas that make sense for all of us - not just parents. Making time in our life to pay attention to the world around us - practicing mindfulness, connecting with others, reflecting - is something that tunes us all in to our inner voice. Children benefit from this certainly, but so might we all:

"And so for my own sake, as well as for my sons', I stop then, and breathe deeply and look more closely." (p. 77) 

Whether or not we go on to tell stories I think it's a worthy practice to cultivate: to slow down and be fully present with ourselves and our loved ones.

Another quote that clicked for me:

"The stories that seemed most satisfying were often the simplest ones - they made us feel alive and part of things, they fed us and made us happy." (p. 73)

I have found this to be true. Sometimes I spend a good chunk of time crafting a potential storyline to go along with a seasonal theme - for example, it's "snow" week so I'm cobbling together snowflake tales - when in truth, the quick impromptu tale I spin as we notice something in the here and now delivers the most sincere and memorable lesson. I find this kind of storytelling more honestly connects us with the world around us at that moment, and what a feeling it is to be part of the here and the now!

In truth, this kind of storytelling takes very little time - I think sometimes we make things out to be a bigger production than they are - but time is such a hot commodity these days!

"Real stories take time. They require, first, that we lay our own concerns aside for a while and open ourselves to the present moment." (p. 71)

Another lovely lesson to take from this chapter - perhaps the best of all - is that in storytelling we are first and foremost, making time to be with our children. We are doing something specifically FOR them with nothing more than the efforts of our hearts and minds. (Finger puppets and story props notwithstanding.) I think most parents are well aware of the need to make time to be present with our children, but let's be honest. Even when we're not doing anything else but sitting alongside our children, our minds aren't totally turned off. Maybe they're just set on pause, perhaps unconsciously listening for that ping or that ring ... for any reason that we might be recalled to the "adult" world where serious things need to be done. These days we are all so mentally busy, concerning ourselves (sometimes overly so) with what we need to do, where we need to go, what to read, watch, and yes - even post on social media. Even when we're not doing any of those things, they're percolating there in the back of our minds. It can be a real challenge to just turn all that off and give our kids the kind of time we know would deeply benefit them.

 That's getting a little heavy though, so here's a lighter thought:  

"A candle helps create that ritual space; somehow, a flame invites inspiration while also reminding teller and listener alike of the sacred nature of this work." (p. 71)

This was the storytelling candle I bought EONS ago when my older boys were quite young ...

Candle for stories

I'm pretty sure I bought it at a local Waldorf School Holiday Faire. It's a heavy thing, made of solid beeswax and so very sweet-smelling! Just the whiff of it brings me right back to those early years with my older boys. I had always meant to decorate this with symbols of the four seasons, but never mustered up the courage to do it! (Modeling wax and me have never been the best of friends. It requires warm hands and a very patient nature!) Well, I brought this candle out of retirement recently after re-reading this chapter and then lit it late this afternoon just ... well, because. I was alone in the room as I cleaned up the worktable ... but as you can see, the sky was growing dark outside. The wind was picking up and tree limbs were shaking ... the hen light was on in the coop ...

Not surprisingly, I felt a story forming!

The use of a candle in storytelling is touched upon in the aforementioned Mellon book as well:

Candle for storytelling

I can't help but share a couple more pictures from her wonderfully illustrated book, this first was the page I was reading today, soaking up some wintertime inspiration ...

Winter stories

And this one shows how lovely the illustrations are in this book!

Aprons

This chapter was where years ago I got the inspiration to make this ...

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My storytelling apron. :)

I started with a plain (inexpensive) crafter's apron, and I thought to add some pretty iron on patches (representing nature) but I have yet to get around to that part! I use the pockets for the elements of my story - often finger puppets, but also, wooden toys, natural items such as acorns or feathers, or perhaps a painted story stone. I use cute wooden clips to attach extra things like the wooden snowflake and felt leaf shown here. Tucked inside the large pocket is some white woolen felt ... all these items were part of a story I formulated for this week's seasonal theme, "under the ice." I imagined a wintry pond and the creatures that live in, and around, it having to handle a particular harsh winter. (Of course, had we encountered mild temps this week I would have tweaked the plot to include a January thaw!) 

I love to come up with my own stories because I like to tap into our own home habitat, but I do find inspiration in lots of places! These books are longtime favorites:

Kindergarten books brighter

I bought these through a Waldorf education website, but you can easily find them at Amazon. They are filled with poems, verses, songs and stories for young children (kindergarten I believe is the target audience, but I think they work well with all ages). As you can see, they're organized by season and I find them invaluable when writing up lesson plans for our seasonal homeschooling.

Spring

Summer

Autumn

Winter

Here are some of my favorite storytelling prompts:

Story stones

Story stones - sometimes painted with words, or simply with pictures.

Wooden toys

Wooden toys - lots of animals, from all different kinds of habitats!

Fairy tales

Fairy tale books such as these beautifully illustrated examples are wonderful storytelling resources! (Waldorf education has a whole schedule for which stories match up with which grade levels.) I also have many hardcover collections of traditional fairy tales: English, Russian, German, Scandinavian, etc. I just picked up a wonderful retelling of The Three Billy Goats Gruff at the library today, because we are studying Norway this month and this is a great example of that country's rich folktale tradition.

Speaking of this old tale, look who popped up in our learning room mailbox this week!

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This mailbox has been a fantastic tool for storytelling in our homeschool! I enjoy coming up with different prompts to match our weekly seasonal theme, but these goats went along with our library book this week. Often I tell stories while the boys are working on a craft of some kind ...

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:)

Other prompts I use: our nature shelf treasures, our backyard - bird feeders and gardens, the scribblings in my own nature journal, a large collection of finger- and hand- puppets (as I've shown you all many times before!). If you'd rather not paint stones as I do, you could write words on cards and use them to inspire your children's creativity. Or how about starting story ... and then asking your children to work on the next part? A fun activity with a collection of picture stones - sit around the fire on a soft summer's night and pass around a bag of story stones. Each storyteller takes a turn creating a new page in the tale! 

Well, as you can see, I have a real soft spot for this chapter, and if I could, I'd go on ... but I am going to stop now because I've kept you all here so very long! I hope you enjoyed my post and I hope you are enjoying this book if you are reading along! I'd LOVE to hear from you if you have a moment. Please share your thoughts on this chapter (or topic) or just pop into the comments to say - hey! It's always lovely to hear from you. :)

Before I go a final word about storytelling. I have found it to be one of the most rewarding activities I've done with my children. It has created for us so many tender moments, and for me, so many treasured memories. These are dear times when we are quiet together, the boys listening only to their mama's voice and their mama pushing herself outside her comfort zone ...

It's humbling to ask my young fellas to stop, listen and appreciate the words I'm offering ... the story I'm crafting. It's an honor to have such a rapt and sincere audience. Most of all, what I love about telling my children stories is that I'm sharing a glimpse into my own imagination and the great love I hold for this world. For in every story told the teller reveals a little (or perhaps a lot) of themselves. When my children remember our storytelling days, that's what I hope they best remember.

"Telling a story is really a way of  breathing deeply with our children. Taking that deep breath, exhaling, and putting ourselves at the mercy of something universal, we allow our own voices to become instruments of our souls." (p. 72)

I wish you all a lovely weekend! I'll be back again soon with a long-promised planner post and details on our next MSfG discussion!


Mitten Strings for God: Let's Get Back to It! ❤

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Hello, my friends and Happy Monday!

Well, the holidays are behind us and a long winter looms ahead ... so I'm here today to announce a return to our Mitten Strings book study! I hope you're all ready to get back into it! (Please see my MSfG archive for more information and all previous posts.)

I'm so looking forward to digging back in, but to give us all plenty of time to catch up, I'm scheduling our first chapter discussion for a week from this coming Friday:

FRIDAY, JANUARY 26th

* roundabouts teatime *

(aka 4 p.m. EST)

Now, to refresh our collective memory, we hit pause at chapter 10, "Stories" ... so that's where we shall begin! And what a perfect chapter for this time of year when telling stories around the hearth are, for many families, a cherished tradition. In our family we weave storytelling into our weekly homeschooling rhythm, and all our boys have enjoyed their Dad's funny bedtime stories for years. (Sea Monster and BooBoo were two favorite recurring characters.) Personally, I love making little crafts to go along with my stories - short tales usually connected with nature or the nuances of the seasons - but I'll get into more of that in my post on the 26th!

Before I go though, here is a chapter quote I found especially inspiring:

Stories quote

This is a picture I snapped one frosty morning, looking through Little Bear's bedroom window which faces east. I was marveling over the scrolls and feathers and "frost flowers," (not to mention the fiery glow of the rising sun behind them) and you can just imagine the storylines that popped into my head as I savored those quiet moments before the household got busy ... â¤

But again, I'm getting ahead of myself! As you can tell, I'll have much to say when we gather for our chapter discussion. :)

Going forward, I am thinking of continuing with a Friday teatime schedule. (Fridays are my "hearth and home" days, and a little tea break is most welcome come late afternoon!) I thought we might try a weekly post schedule, but if folks would like a little more time between chats, we could easily do an every-other-week format. Let me know in the comments below what you prefer ... I am completely flexible!

Well my friends, I'm off for now, but I hope this post finds everyone well. I hope to be back again later this week with a planner post, but in the meantime, please take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


My Homekeeping Planner Pagefinder

Hello again, my friends! I'm back today with another quick planning post - just a few things I've been sharing on Instagram as part of the #planneraddictpotd challenge. Yesterday's prompt was to show your planner "dashboard," and so, here is mine!

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Now, I really don't have a true planner dashboard as I think it was meant for this challenge, but I figured my homekeeping binder page-finder kind of fit the bill! In this binder I keep information related to our household and my "job" as a homekeeper. So I guess one might call this my homekeeping planner.

What do I keep in this binder/planner then? Well I have three main sections:

1. My DOMESTIC JOURNAL, which is simply a place for jotting down any ideas re ~ our home, garden, the kids, weather, etc. Pretty much any random thoughts that pop into my head. (You could call it a brain dump I guess, but I'm not too fond of that term!) Anyhoo, I've blogged about this journal many times before so I won't go into great detail right now, but in addition to my handwritten notes, I also tape clippings here from various sources - mostly magazines and newspapers, but sometimes I print things out I find on Pinterest to add to my journal. (Which kind of defeats the purpose of "pinning" I guess, lol - but I am such a paper gal I find I prefer this kind of visual instead of just looking at something on my computer.) I keep the current month's papers in here and then archive them before a new month begins. As you can see on the left, my journal cover page is a piece of scrapbooking paper. This is the backside of the January design from Graphic 45, "Time to Flourish." I switch these up at the beginning of a new month as well.

2. My MONTHLY HOMEKEEPING CALENDARS, which sit behind the journal. Remember the master cleaning calendar I created a few years ago? I am in the process of transferring all those tasks to these handy monthly calendars. Yes, it's a bit of a chore (no pun intended!) but I like to see my tasks listed out in this way. Makes it easier for delegating, too!

3. My HOMEKEEPING TABS for storing information relating to what I like to call the domestic arts: routines, natural cleaners, home remedies, garden crafts, etc. I love these pretty pastel tabs made by Martha Stewart and found at Staples. (Amazon has them too but at a much higher price!) I haven't labeled my tabs yet because I want them to be super-neat and haven't decided if I should write directly on them, or perhaps use printable labels of some sort.

Ok, here's a closer look at my dashboard/page-finder:

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To make this I used some pretty scrapbooking paper with colorful pineapples (the Colonial American symbol of hospitality) and trimmed/punched it to fit my binder. I added an adhesive tab at the top ...

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To make the dash more useful, I added a printout of our weekly routine: homeschooling & housekeeping rhythms listed by day of the week. I then add little sticky notes to remind myself of current tasks to add to my housekeeping agenda.

Now, does all of this mean that I get ALL of it done and keep up with all those tasks every week?

 

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Well, no. But I do think this helps! I keep this binder open on my kitchen counter all day so I can easily jot/tape down a thought/clipping as I think/find them. So in that way this "dashboard" is very much a launchpad for my planning!

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Do you use a dashboard and/or page-finder in your planner (or binder as the case may be)? I'd love to hear about it - let me know below if you have a moment! :)

I'm still working on that "planners-in-action" post for - hopefully - later this week. I wasn't up to my usual planning the past week as we all succumbed to the stomach flu! Things seem to be getting back on track now though so I should have some fully utilized planner pages to share soon!

Hope all is well with you all! Enjoy your Tuesday, my friends ...

See you here again very soon!


My Planner Giveaway: We Have a Winner!

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Hello and Happy Monday, my friends! I hope you are all doing well ... :)

I am very sorry that I had to delay this announcement an extra day ... things have slowed down here a bit lately because we here are in the midst of ... stomach flu!

ARGH, yes. Ugh. Not fun. AT ALL. sigh ...

>> insert exhausted face here <<

Thankfully, though * knocks on wood * we seem to be pulling through the worst of it and a return to normalcy is on the horizon ... but boy, lemme tell you. New Year's really started out with a bang around here - what with the BLIZZARD and the Arctic weather that followed and then this wretched virus that settled in first with Earlybird early on New Year's morn ...

(We're pretty much hibernating for the rest of the winter, just FYI.)

ANYHOO!

We're all getting better, the temperatures are finally rising and now I have a winner to name! (Please remember this current giveaway is sponsored by dear reader - and previous planner winner - Lisa E. ❤ I am very grateful to Lisa for assisting me in another chance to share my planner!)

So without further ado ... the person who won my seasonal planner this time around is ...

BARBARA H.!

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Congratulations, Barbara!! I'm very happy for you and I hope you will be happy with the planner! I will be in touch soon to arrange mailing details. We can also talk about planner preferences like start dates and such ... :)

Now, before I go, I'd love to share a few more pics if I could ...

And to start with, here is my afternoon tea the other day, a delicious cup of white hot cocoa complete with a marshmallow snowflake!

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(Note: That snowflake was a fun treat in my Christmas stocking, but I have it on good authority Santa found it at Barnes & Noble.)

And here is the January divider page, one of my favorites ...

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These vintage papers really make the planner for me, and that is one of the big sticking points in my quest to make this a product I might sell. I am trying to determine if I can sell a planner I've made using papers such as these. I think it's ok, but obviously I want to be absolutely sure it's legal before I move forward ...

You know, I've been using my planner for six months now and I am really enjoying it very much. In fact, after I make up Barbara's planner (and finish another for my friend who also has been patiently waiting) I am going to start right in on making my next planner which will begin with August 2018. Bill has been working on making the printing and assembling process more efficient so hopefully that will allow me to churn out planners in a more timely fashion. And since several of you have asked if I might sell this planner at some point - the answer is still yes, I hope so! We'll be looking into that possibility much more earnestly over the next few months. I'll share news on that front as I have it to share! 

(In the meantime, I've shared all of the planner pages in PDF form for free and you can find them in my Printables archive.)

Here are a few closer peeks ...

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Love using paper clips to keep the monthly spreads quickly accessible!

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These monthly tabs are no longer made by Avery which is a real bummer because I LOVE them and hoarded them for as long as I could. I'm looking for another style now, and did come across some made by Erin Condren last time I was at Staples that might work. I may even try my hand at crafting my own ...

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Last weekend I got my February calendar set up and as you can see (and as I have shared before), I treat this planner as a seasonal journal as much as I do a planning tool. As the months go along though, I've seen some things I'd like to improve - and I'm taking notes! - but for the most part I'm pretty happy with how this planner works for me!

Now, it clearly isn't for everyone - humble and all as it is - but I'm thrilled to hear that it appeals to others as well. So let me know if you have any suggestions ... I'd love to hear what YOU'd want to see in a seasonal planner! Drop me a comment below or send me an email at ...

---> drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

Next post will have a closer look at those primary planners I posted about last week and I will also be announcing our book study schedule SOON. I hope to be back here again before the end of the week!

For now though I'll wrap things up and let you go. But first I'd like to thank Lisa one more time and congratulate Barbara one more time - AND thank all of you for taking part in my "happy" planner giveaway. I loved reading all your thoughts and I thank you for those kind birthday wishes for my son! 

And now I'm going to head over to the couch where Little Bear is hoping for a little Wild Kratts and snuggling on the couch with his Mama ... but first I'll start the kettle for tea!

Wishing you all the best my friends, stay well and be at peace ...

I will see you here again very soon!


My Primary Planners for 2018

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Hello my friends, and Happy Wednesday! It is in fact a very happy day here because we have FINISHED with Crackerjack's college applications! Well - I'm done with my part, anyway. He still has one essay to finish, but other than that we're good! And so now, we wait ... :)

Well today I thought I'd share a little about the planners I'm using for 2018 - and as the picture above would suggest, there are quite a few! But really, there are three primary planners I use each week to keep on top of "what's what" in my life. And here they are here!

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My homemade seasonal planner is in the middle, and it is flanked by my two Day Designer planners. The one on the left is my original Day Designer, and on the right is a NEW planner I bought last month (also made by Day Designer). I hemmed and hawed over this one for quite a while because I really didn't want to add one more tool to my planning repertoire - but, I decided to give it a try because I think it will fulfill the one area of planning I was missing!

Ok, here are the three planners set up at my kitchen counter - aka command central:

Three planners

Now how about a closer look at each one?

First, my daily planner ...

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This is the 2017-2018 (mid-year) flagship Day Designer. It's my third DD in three years and I can honestly say it is my most valuable planner. I use it EVERY day without fail, and if you've seen my Instagram then you know I work the heck out of that spread!! This planner is filled with planning pages for every day of the year as well as monthly calendars. (Weekends are combined into one page, and while I wish they weren't, I understand this keeps the size of the planner manageable.)

I use my DD for keeping track of the nitty gritty of my daily life: Where am I going? What am I doing? What had I better not forget? I list the night's supper, the day's spending and our current seasonal homeschooling theme. I use my DD for managing those everyday household tasks I need to see to remember even though I could probably do them in my sleep (and wouldn't that be something?). I write these chores in the time slots where they're best to be done. Also in the time-slotted column, I list appointments, classes, therapy sessions, etc. and in this way I "see" my day in chunks of time when I look at that agenda all filled in. I wrote a very detailed post about using this page in this post here if you'd like to know more about how I've made the DD work best for me.

Next we have my newest planner, one that shows one week at-a-glance:

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This is a 2018 Day Designer for Blue Sky Weekly/Monthly Hardcover Planner (Black Stripe), and I found mine at Staples. But first, a quick word a about Staples ...

Staples is one of those places I find reasons to visit more often than is truly necessary, but such is my addiction to office supplies. Oh sure, we might only need more copy paper ... buuuuut ... I'll just see if they have any new post-it designs or maybe my favorite Frixion pens are on sale while I'm here.

Ahem.

To be honest though, I'd been wanting a weekly planner like this for a while. Though I've used other week-at-a-glance planners before (and my homemade seasonal planner does in fact have a day seven-day agenda as part of its weekly spread) none were in a vertical format like this. I like seeing the days lined up side by side with all the commitments laid out in a row. This view gives me a good feel for just how busy our week will be.

So long story short, I splurged and grabbed one of these nifty planners on one of my Staples runs ... and told Bill to knock one of my Christmas gifts off his list. 😉

I plan to use this one as seen above in a standing fashion, so that the whole family can see what's what for the week. I am tweaking how I use the boxes outside of the agenda columns because it would be very easy to repeat a LOT of the information I'm writing elsewhere in my other planners. So stay tuned on how I'm working all that out!

Ok, now for the last of my three top planners for 2018 ...

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My homemade seasonal planner! :)

This planner is divided by months and each month has its own planning calendar, menu calendar, overview and then four or five weekly spreads followed by a few event planning pages. At the beginning of the planner itself I have pages for mapping out annual homeschooling goals, housekeeping routines and seasonal brainstorming. This is the planner I grab when I'm jotting down a date to remember. I like a big monthly spread so I made mine span two pages! And I lined those large boxes so I'd be able to fit in a lot of writing and still keep my handwriting neat.

This is the planner I use over the weekend to get a grip on the week that's on its way. I like to get a feel for the week - not just how busy it will be, but where we are in the year, and how we're observing the season at that time. For example, this week's seasonal theme is "winter stars" and that is a nod to Epiphany as well as the clear bright skies at this time of year. I like to look at the feast days and choose favorite books to read and plan special meals to savor ... and of course, I love making plans for crafts and comforts that connect my family with the season in a meaningful way.

Now ...

Any one of these three planners could be used on their own, of course - and I've definitely given serious thought to doing just that. Despite all appearances, I really don't like to have too many tools in my planning mix! But for me this all seems to work. I don't mind juggling the planners, because for one thing, they're fun - but more importantly, each one is used in its own way and allows me to assess unique areas of my/our life. By keeping all these planners near one another I can easily switch planning modes - seasonal/monthly, weekly, daily - depending on what kind of information I'm seeking or recording.

I will say this ... I have been known to give up on planners when they stop working as well as I'd hoped. All you have to do is comb through my calendar/planner archive to revisit many planners and systems that have since fizzled! But my flagship Day Designer has truly proven its value over the past three years and I am as eager as ever to order my new planner during the March launch.

Psst ... the new covers will be revealed next month!

The DD weekly planner is new and a novelty right now but will it prove to be too repetitive? Will it serve my family well, keeping everyone in the loop? Will I come to rely on this planner as much as I do my flagship? Only time will tell ...

And as for my homemade planner, well ... that is a labor of love and something I just feel compelled to create. It gives me a platform for planning the kinds of thing one might not find the room for in a traditional planner. Much of this was done in a binder before I made up this planner but I really love having it all in a convenient spiral-bound book. And I keep just tweaking that planner! One day I'd love to get it to a point where I'd be confident in offering it for sale ... and I am getting closer to that. (I think!) Bill has been exploring options at Etsy and Amazon Handmade for me. I'm going to give it all some earnest thought this winter and see if I can't get something pulled together for a late spring/summertime offering. So here once again I find myself saying ... stay tuned! And look for a mailing list to go up sometime soon(ish) for those folks who might be interested in purchasing a seasonal planner such as this. :)

Ok, now let me wrap up ...

(Don't laugh but I had meant this to be a "quick" post - though I'm not sure there is such a thing here at my blog!) 

In my next post I'll share a spread from each of these planners all filled out. I would like to show you how I use each one in different ways and where I do find some overlap. And in other blog news, don't forget this Sunday I'll be brewing up a pot of midwinter's tea and announcing the winner of my Homemade Planner giveaway! (All the details on that can be found here.) And I haven't forgotten we have a book study to get back to! Our discussion of Mitten Strings for God will get back on track this month - I'll have some dates to share very soon. :)

Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday my friends ... see you here again very soon!

p.s. In case you're wondering what all the other planners are in that first picture - on the bottom is my gardening binder, resting on that is my home management binder and at the very top of the stack is a lovely notebook I'm trying out as a bullet journal. :)


Happy New Year! Now, Howsabout a Giveaway?!

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Hello my friends, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!! I'm popping in quickly to share a few fun things that I've been busting to tell you about. :)

First of all - I hope you all had a wonderful Advent and Christmas! I can hardly believe (as is true most years) that it's come and gone so fast. Well, we're still in the season of Christmas for another week or two, depending on which calendar you follow! But I'm sure you know what I mean ... it seems like it flies by more quickly every year!

Anyhoo, let's talk about planners for a moment because I have some very exciting news to share!

So, you all might remember last Fall I held a giveaway with the winner receiving one of my homemade seasonal planners? Well, that winner was Lisa E. who kindly waited ever-so-long for me to get the planner printed and assembled and bound, and off in the mail to her before the New Year began! And she's allowed me to share a few pictures of her planner once it arrived ... (see top photo as well)!

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Gosh, do I love those vintage papers!! And Lisa, I really LOVE those color-coordinated paper clips! :)

Now, here's the really swell thing ... oh, I'm so happy to say this ... Lisa has very generously offered to sponsor another PLANNER GIVEAWAY! And what that means is, I'll be making up another one - just like mine and Lisa's - and sending it to someone else who might be blessed by such a planner!!

How incredibly generous of Lisa! How fun to create another "BS&C" planner and send it off to another mom to enjoy! I am dipping my toe ever-so deeper into the planner-making waters and hope to have more news to share on that front very soon ... :)

But for now, here's what we'll do, thanks to Lisa's kind offer. If you're interested in winning my homemade planner, please leave me a comment below, telling me something that makes you happy. It can be anything at all - a pack of gum you like or a person you love. Whatever you feel on your heart to share, please do. I'm all for filling up our new year with all kinds of HAPPY!

I'll announce a winner this Sunday, January 7th! That's in a little less than a week!

(And since the planner will probably go out near the end of the month - it takes me a bit of time to pull together - I can have the planner begin with January or February, or really, any month you'd like. Just let me know.)

Hope to hear from you, and thank you again, Lisa, for such a generous offer! I am so glad you are enjoying your planner so far - I truly love mine and find myself using it every day in partnership with the other planning tools I use. (Post to come soon on all that! Plus ... how about another Planner Party? Remember how much fun we had with that?!)

Now, before I let you go, here's my own HAPPY for today ... 

I wanted to share some pictures with you of something AMAZING that happened to us at the end of this year. Our Earlybird, who, as most of you know is autistic, celebrated his 16th birthday on December 14th. (Longtime readers might be wondering, like me, how on EARTH can this boy be SIXTEEN?) Well, as you can imagine he was pretty darn excited about, and anxious for, his birthday ... so we had a countdown going, and party lists of what to make, who might come, etc. Well, a dear friend of mine (someone I've known since my days at 4Real Forums and online ever since) decided to make EB's birthday even happier! After I mentioned that EB doesn't get much mail and that he doesn't really have many friends of his own, Maria asked me if she might send him a birthday card and perhaps a few from her kids. Of course I said, Yes! I knew it would make EB so happy. Then Maria turned to her homeschooling friends (and beyond) and mentioned EB's story ... and what started as a few cards coming his way ... turned into something truly amazing!

EB received over 200 cards!! â¤

So here's a little tour of the card project, starting with our boy at the table surrounded by a batch of cards that arrived on his actual birthday. (The cards came in every day for over a week!) I hung them all over the house!!

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Well, I could show you a few more corners of cards, but I think you probably get the gist! Isn't this just awesome?? :)

Not only did this project make our special boy's birthday even more special, but it reminded us - in the midst of a rather hectic and draining month - that there is SO MUCH good in the world. And that really, people are so happy to be given the chance to show kindness to someone else. So many of these cards have wonderful drawings (reflecting his love for trains and planets) and beautiful messages of friendship and encouragement ... a few kids even offered to be pen pals! These cards came from homeschooling families, and CCD classes and a men's choir and even an ENTIRE high school in New York. Oh my goodness, I wish I could hug each and every person who did this for EB! 

Well ... we'll never-ever forget this ... it filled us with so much support and encouragement. Every time I walk through my house and see all these cards I remember how many folks thought of our son and wished him well, perhaps said a prayer in his name. And going forward we'll make sure Earlybird (aka Riley as you can probably see from the cards) never EVER forgets how much he means to those who know him. He's a special boy and his beautiful light is meant to shine just as brightly as anyone else's. I'm so glad others can see that just as his own family can!

We may never be able to thank the folks who participated in this project enough ... but I hope that their participation blessed them as much as it did us. I certainly have asked God to bless these folks for their kindness!

Thanks for letting me share all of that, friends ... may I ask you to say a prayer for these dear folks who worked so hard to make our son feel so wonderful? What a beautiful world we live in ... and what a happy feeling to begin a brand new year feeling this way!

Wishing ALL of you the happiest and healthiest of New Years! Hope to hear from you - if you're interested in the planner or otherwise!

I will see you here again very soon ...