Monday, November 17, 2014

The Planner to End All Planners!

Last month, I attended a mom's night event at the girls' school where the topic was, "Time Management: How to Find the 25th Hour." We watched a really great time management instructional video. The techniques were great, incorporating your long-term goals with a daily agenda & your to-do list. The strategy was to think of organizing time in the same manner that you would organize a closet. Pretty insightful, I think.

I am a tactile learner, so although I've tried my best to use my phone, tablet, email or other software to manage all these things, it never stuck. I would use it for a little bit, but then found it too cumbersome & quickly lost interest. To combat this, I decided to embrace my love of writing down to-do lists & bought a simple composition notebook. I filled in three days on each page & added enough dates to get to the end of November.

Overall, I've been pleased with using this method. I benefit from the ability to write things down & keep to-do items in the same locale as bigger picture goals. I knew I wanted to get a true-blue planner for 2015. Although I liked the one offered by the time management expert from the video, it was a bit pricey & I wasn't sure if I totally loved it (and would use it). So, I decided to start looking at planners when I go to Target, WalMart, etc.

Then, last week, a friend of mine posted a Kickstarter video for the Passion Planner. I couldn't help but fall in love with the simplicity & beauty of it! It encompasses everything I want in my new planner, the option to combine personal & professional goals with a daily agenda. This is exactly the type of planner I would design if I had to build one from scratch for myself. I have already supported the Kickstarter for their compact version & will be getting two compact versions in their next shipment (I ordered Jesse one since I want him to get organized in the new year).

If you are in the market for a new planner or are looking for a better way to accomplish your personal goals, consider getting a Passion Planner. If you don't have the financial means to buy the planner, you can download the pdf of the weekly layout. Also, between now & December 3rd, if you share their Kickstarter video, they will send you the pdf of the 2015 layout for free! I can't wait to get my planner & start using it. I'll be sure to post a review of my Passion Planner in 2015 once I've been routinely using it for a while. Happy planning!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Small Success Thursday: Little Engine That Could

Lately, I've been reminding myself of the Little Engine that could. You know...the one who keeps repeating, "I think I can, I think I can." It's a mantra I keep saying over & over this week. But, despite all of the hectic things going on, I have quite a few things to celebrate...

This week, I blogged every single day! That's more than I had in the last three months. I've realized that even if no one reads this, it gives me a place to jot down my thoughts. Someday, I might even be able to show it to my kids so they get a glimpse of what life was like when they were little.

My husband & I wrote a really awesome bulletin article for our parish. I wish we were able to do more of that. I'm praying God will allow us further opportunities to work in ministry together.

We are four weeks strong on our Tuesday night family nights! It draws us closer as a couple & gives us time to teach our children about the gospel. Tuesdays have become the highlight of my week! Be prepared for an entire post (or several) about it!

I found the planner of my dreams. I recently watched an excellent video about time management & began implementing some of the strategies. After our move, I really think this is going to be a huge lifesaver for me. Out of blue, I saw a planner that fits exactly what I need. Tune in tomorrow for details on the planner & how you can try it out for free.

The coming week brings a lot of craziness, but I'm hoping to not only survive it, but feel accomplished. I'll just keep praying & reminding myself, "I think I can, I think I can!"

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

House Hunting

Over the spring/summer, I really didn't blog as much as I intended. One of the obvious reasons was Francis' arrival. However, we were spending a significant amount of time looking at houses. One of my goals for 2014 was to begin house hunting. And what a hunt it has been. Since the beginning of the year, we've probably visited more than 50 homes. We put offers in on three of them, which for one reason or another did not pan out. So, to say it's been a bit stressful & time consuming is an understatement!

But, the search came to a halt when we laid our eyes on this beautiful brick home.


 Although it was a bit cluttered & had way too much furniture, it was obvious that this house had ample space & storage for our large family. By this point (this being our fourth offer on a home), I was not allowing my heart to get invested in any further properties. There were three homes before this that I really liked & had started getting excited about when negotiations ended. So, it was hard for me to judge if I really loved this home at all because I was not emotionally hanging on to it, in case this one also fell through. After praying & considering our options, we put an offer in on this home.

We ultimately came to an agreeable contract & set a date for closing. But even then, I would not allow myself to get my hopes up...just in case. Each time I visited the house or flipped through the pictures I took, I could feel myself getting more & more excited. It was hard to believe the entire thing was actually happening. Then, the closing date came & everything actually happened as planned. We signed on the dotted line (actually lots & lots of signing), agreed to a mortgage & became homeowners!

As part of the agreement, we agreed to wait two weeks after the close to take possession, allowing the previous owners time to move into their new home. That's the time period we're in now...waiting (anxiously!) until next week when we finally get keys! We've been packing like squirrels readying for winter & trying to get as much done ahead of the big move. But, as the days count down, I still can't believe it's really happening. We actually own this beautiful home! Looking back now, I realize we are exactly where God wanted us to be, but in order to get here, we had to go through the process of all those other homes & offers.

I will try to blog about the move as much as I can, but we're getting ready to head into a couple of crazy weeks, so I'm not sure how much free time I'll have. But, rest assured, I have some great posts planned & also want to try sharing some decorating posts as we get settled in our new digs.

As for me & my household, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Putting Family First!

This week, Jesse & I were asked to write the bulletin article since our priest is out of town. Here's what we came up with. I'm thinking we should figure out a way to make a living doing this!!



“We have to keep our kids busy with many activities so they stay out of trouble.”
“Let’s get through this month and we will take that family vacation…I promise.”
“Where did this week go?! I ran everywhere for everyone and I am exhausted.”

                 Life is zooming past us at such a hurried pace.  Time is our most precious asset, yet where & who are we spending it with? This week, we decided to show you some techniques that have worked for our family. Don’t think this means that we have it all together! Like many families, we struggle with all of the above scenarios, but wanted to share things that help us overcome it. We believe our culture has taken the family model & shattered its purpose. Society places a high value on entertainment & a fast-paced lifestyle. We are tricked into believing that if you aren’t busy, if you aren’t doing something, you aren’t creating value. Our value should be found in our relationship with God, not in how much we produce. God has led us out of slavery, yet often times we enslave ourselves to our work & other misguided priorities. Today, allow God to free you from those burdens! We need to reestablish the importance of our relationships & grow in faith as a family.

                Communication is essential!  We have to force ourselves to stop & reflect on what we did each day & share it with our families. Otherwise, we’ll just forget & just keep moving at 100mph. Part of prayer is reflection - it’s how we grow into better versions of ourselves. “What was your high today? What was your low today?” These are the two questions that each member of our family answers at the dinner table every evening. It’s a fun conversation starter & allows each person to tell us what they like & dislike about their day. As simple as this strategy is, it helps us to connect as a family. We believe that if we are able to talk about the small stuff every day, then it will make it easier for us to discuss the more challenging situations as they arise.

                Another key component of communication is honesty. Our children need to see us succeed in life, but they also need to see us fail…and learn from our failures. By being examples for our children & being honest with them, we are giving them a realistic example of what it means to be an adult, to be a parent. We need to forget about trying to be the “perfect” family & give thanks for our real family. Life is not perfect, in fact sometimes it is downright messy! But we need to embrace all of it, & show our children that loving each other through all of these situations is more important than how we look to others & is a key component in obtaining grace.

                Communication takes time. Right now you might not be able to fathom how you’re going to find quality time in your busy schedules, but trust us to say that you must make family time a priority! It has taken us many years with Jesse’s chaotic schedule to find this balance. But, with our children now in school, we knew family time had to take place. So, we began our Tuesday night family night. Every Tuesday, after school & work, we come home, prepare & eat dinner together & then spend our evening with the TV/phone turned off, spending quality time together. We’ve also begun to incorporate a weekly gospel reflection with questions & a video that lead us into discussion. This allows us to share our love for our faith with our children & teach them how they can learn from & interpret the weekly readings in their own lives. As parents & a married couple, this tool has also been beneficial as we now take time to read & reflect on the gospel & come to Mass prepared & engaged. If you are interested in joining us & doing the reflections as a family, go to http://massimpactus.blogspot.com/.

                When God called Elijah up the mountain, God was calling him to be present on the mountain. God understood that when Elijah climbed to the top, he was going to be thinking ahead to climbing down. The literal translation of what God said to Elijah means, “Be on the mountain.” Isn’t it human nature to be thinking ahead to the next thing, the next plans? When it comes to family & faith, we need to be present, be family. Don’t spend all your energy moving so fast, thinking forward to the next thing. Just be. Stop. Breathe. Enjoy the view of the mountains. Enjoy being together. Enjoy being a family.

                Please keep our family in your prayers, we are keeping you in ours as well. Let’s do this together! God bless, Jesse & Jessica

Monday, November 10, 2014

To the lady sitting behind me at Mass yesterday...

- Yes, I am aware of the stares I receive when I bring four children under age seven to Mass by myself.

- I did notice the not-so-nice glances you were directing towards my two-year old. What can I say, she's a wonderful little spirit! I don't tolerate highly disruptive behavior during Mass, but she was being a two-year old & doing the normal things they do. This includes babbling about people & things she sees, walking up & down the pew, etc. I won't force her to sit in complete silence, stuffing her with Cheerios or playing games on my phone because I use those chatty moments to teach her about Jesus & help her fall in love with the Mass.

- I am aware of our church's cry room, however I really only use it in emergencies. I prefer my kids sit where they are able to focus on the Mass & watch what is happening.

-Every time I was frustrated by your dirty glances, I repeated to myself what the lady at the grocery store said to me on Saturday. She was walking past me & my "push one cart, pull one cart" method of shopping with all the kids by myself & said in sweet & understanding way, "You have my undying admiration." It made my heart smile.

P.S. I offered up my frustrations for you & whatever is going on in your life. I hope the next time you see a mom with a bunch of kids in Mass, you are able to give them a kind eye...or at least look away & not stare.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Small Success Thursday: School & Home

The last two weeks have been so incredibly busy. I'm still trying to get my hands around it so we can settle in to a normal pattern. I'm looking forward to spending the next three days at home with the kids, getting the house in order & planning for the future. With that in mind, here are my successes of the past week.

- We had open house at the school last night. Sophie & Bella were very excited to take us into their classrooms & show us all the things they've been working on in school. We are very fortunate that both girls have fantastic teachers & their classrooms reflect that. I even got to meet one of Bella's classmates & exchange phone numbers with her mom. I am excited for my shy Bella to start having playdates & making friends.

- I don't want to celebrate yet, but all signs are pointing towards a successful house purchase! This has been a long process, several houses fell through at various steps in the process. Because of our past experiences, I'm not getting overly excited. I'll start that process after we get the keys & officially begin to move in. Right now, there are still too many hurdles to overcome before we are at that point. In the meantime, I will say that the house is amazing & would provide about twice the amount of space we are currently living in. If/when this house comes to fruition, you'll be hearing about it & I'll share lots more!

- My third grade religious ed class is off to a great start. This is the first time I'm teaching the same grade, as I've bounced around the last couple of years. So I'm looking forward to taking my curriculum & making a few adjustments based on my experience last year. The kids are attentive & excited. I also have a high school senior & recent Confirmand as my class helper. She's very excited to take a role in helping prepare these kids for their First Communion in the spring.

I hope everyone has a great weekend. I'm looking forward to finishing up a couple of blog posts I've been working on. Jesse is working at a retreat tomorrow & Sunday is religious ed, so we've blocked off Saturday as a family day. Yay!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Small Success Thursday: In the Chaos

This week has been incredibly hectic! I left the house at 7:30am & didn't get home until 9pm last night. After putting the kids down for bed, it was all I could do to stay awake to crawl into bed. So, Small Success Thursday is being posted on Friday.

Last week, when I looked ahead to this week's agenda, I knew it would be hectic & I would need lots of patience & prayers to get through it. My maternity leave ended (all too soon) & I returned to work on Monday. Our oldest started first grade & Jesse resumed teaching 8th grade theology. We have been working all week to get back into a routine & it hasn't been easy. But, I think we'll eventually work out the kinks & get back to some semblance of normal.

1) I found myself saying over & over, "We'll try again tomorrow." It's very handy & calming when circumstances changed & obstacles came up. Just imagine the possibilities...

"Mommy, I was tardy on my second day of school."
"We'll try again tomorrow."

"The baby fussed & cried for an hour until you got here."
"We'll try again tomorrow."

"The diaper bag doesn't have any burp clothes or a change of clothes for the toddler."
"We'll try again tomorrow."

2) I've always wanted to teach higher education. My dad was a college professor until he got sick & I always loved the college environment. I have been offered the opportunity to teach a freshman business course beginning in the spring 2015 semester at Gannon University (our alma mater!). I am shadowing the current professor of the course this fall & attended the first class yesterday. I had a lot of butterflies, but the longer I spent in the classroom, the better I felt about being able to teach this material. It was also very nostalgic to walk around the campus where Jesse & I met & fell in love. I have so many wonderful memories of my college years & I can't wait to be back more often!

3) The baby slept from 9pm-4am the other night. I woke up at 2am in a minor panic because he hadn't stirred yet. But when I reached my hand into the co-sleeper & felt his little chest going up & down, I quickly retreated back to dreamland. I'm thankful to the little guy for letting me get a few additional hours of uninterrupted sleep...goodness knows I need it this week!

4) This one hasn't happened yet, but I'm counting down the hours because for the first time in I don't know how long, neither Jesse or I have any commitments this weekend, so we are actually going to enjoy a full, three-day weekend as just the six of us. I can't wait!!