by Liz | Life Snapshot, The Backyard
We started the spring season out with our usual flurry of planning and making a few purchases to round out our once barren landscape. When we moved into our house, more than half the yard was overtaken with bamboo. For the survival of our house (and what was left of the native species) we had no choice but to remove it and very little other large vegetation survived. After planting almost 40 (itty bitty) trees on less than an acre, we were left with very few shade trees and almost no soil to speak of. In the past four (almost five) years, we’ve planted and tilled, mulched and brought in topsoil to help alleviate the situation. However, with some big expenses this past year…we’ve decided to dig in our heels and repurpose, reuse and rethink our garden plans with an eye to spending as little as possible (hopefully nothing other than a few cans of paint, tools, or other necessities that will be multi-purpose) for the remainder of the year.
Fortunately, we managed to make a few tree purchases at the beginning of April which meant…DISCOUNTS!
Fun fact, most garden stores and nurseries will give some amazing discounts early (or late) in the season. They want to offload last year’s stock (or avoid wintering stock on their grounds) so they can make room for the incoming products.
We were looking for a few things in particular, partly for their aesthetic, partly for their appeal to bees and partly for the value to home remedies (multi-purpose was the key). Once we’d purchased our hawthorn, witch hazel, apple, cherry and a few birches to screen our front yard…we realized we have a tree addiction. Oi. So, 44 trees later…
April showers bring…floods…
This past weekend, we got to work. The temptation was big but we buckled down and evaluated what we had to start with. We’ve had a runoff problem since the bamboo removal, and since reading Mary Reynolds’ amazing book, we finally had a plan to help correct it. We plan to cut in some swales (shallow trenches with a slight berm to help collect water so it seeps into the soil). Before we can do that, we needed to establish a path from the main section of our garden to the “farm”, which is the area we keep our chickens and will be home to the bees when they arrive.
The area leading up to it is one of the worst areas for runoff and drainage. With some leftover flagstones, we managed to sketch out a curved path that will eventually delineate some edible garden beds (we have future plans to move most of our vegetable garden in there). The stones are quite thick so they will leave us room to build up the soil with mulch and woodchips over the next few years so we’re ready for the veggies when the time comes. The best part is, the curve of the path will also create the outline of one or more of our swales. Multi-purpose for the win!
Refusing to spend means tackling abandoned projects.
To round out the weekend, we also managed to (finally) clean up our driveway which was bogged down with the remains of last year’s fall projects and some inside renovations. We sold off a few things and moved the rest so we can use our driveway for its intended purpose once again. This is a big win and something that has been bugging us for a while now.
Our ancient but still upright garage is in need of some TLC now that we have a bit of space again, so we are hoping to get that organized. We are so done buying random materials only to find we had the needed implement stored in the back corner of the garage somewhere.
The greenhouse is chock full and we are so close to moving things outside! Our last frost should be within a week or so and then it’s game time. We are hoping to stagger our seeds a bit better this year (succession planting) to help us preserve and use more of what comes out of the garden.
The list doesn’t seem to end, but we’re having fun tackling each project as it comes. With the kids a bit older, they have more staying power when we enlist their help and they love to see the changes happening as the plants grow. They’ll be picking snap peas in no time!
by Liz | Chaos Hacks, Life Snapshot
Parenting frustration is real and it’s here to stay. We can only work on how we cope with it. How many times have you gotten crazy frustrated with your kids lately? Have they asked the same question incessantly? Have they pushed your buttons one too many times? Are they poking and prodding endlessly about the same topic? Do you wonder how they forgot your instructions from 30 seconds before?
It’s a common story and a huge point of frustration in parenting, especially of small children. You are not alone! We love our kids, even at their most annoying. We are incredibly busy with work and home lives and just trying to get through the day unscathed can seem like a monumental task.
Putting all that aside for a moment, take a little journey with me. I’d say “close your eyes” but that would be problematic. Imagine for a few minutes, that you’re on vacation in a totally unfamiliar country where you don’t speak the language. You somehow got separated from the people you’re traveling with and find yourself in a part of the city you’ve never been before. It is amazing and beautiful and you are completely enamored. Walking onward, you try to keep your eyes open for something familiar as you explore, hoping to spot a restaurant or store where you could ask for a phone. Everything from the customs, the food, the clothing, the buildings are completely unfamiliar and you don’t even know where to begin. Hunger begins to make itself known as you walk onward, night is falling. Do you have that anxious feeling creeping into your belly? A stranger approaches and starts speaking rapidly to you, seemingly alarmed and anxious, gesticulating in an incomprehensible fashion. Looking around for assistance, you see only disapproving and unfriendly stares. You attempt to speak calmly and mime that you are lost and need help. But your every effort is met with more disapproval and confusion. You attempt all familiar ways to communicate but are rebuffed at every turn. Clearly, your efforts to be appeasing are only adding to the stranger’s negative view of you. That anxious feeling is quickly mounting into panic as the stranger begins to get angry and moves toward you. How do you feel now? Are you thinking clearly?
“If I could wish for one thing for my children, it’s patience.” – Tweet This!
Ok, I get that this is an extreme example but is it so different from how young children see the world? They are bombarded from all sides with new information, rules, experiences, and sensations that they are attempting to process. Even when they begin to find understanding, inevitably, the circumstances change or a new element forces them back to the beginning. As they grow and learn, we are imposing new layers of rules and expectations upon them. We are by nature, contrary and inconsistent. It stands to reason that we don’t always correct, encourage or guide our children in the exact same way every time. There are also hugely varied circumstances that can affect our interactions with our children, yet we often expect them to read between the lines or understand us to an exacting degree. The cues and expressions we rely upon as adults to assess a situation are completely foreign to our children. They haven’t yet built up their knowledge bank of clues that they can draw upon.
Can you think of a time when you were in unfamiliar territory and suddenly grasped something that made sense? What was your first instinct? Most likely, it was to repeat that action over and over and over again until something new clicked. Then we repeat the next action ad nauseum until we find something else that works. This should some incredibly familiar if you think about it in relation to your children’s actions.
There is no miracle method or proven strategy for moving this process along and creating better listeners who don’t annoy us so often. What we are witnessing is a miracle of self discovery and self worth. We are instrumental in shaping their view of this world and while completely overwhelming, that’s an awesome responsibility. I mean awesome in its true sense, not the overused off-hand way we usually apply it. These kids are getting up every day with a huge sense of optimism, hope, love and energy that they are just aching to send into the world. They fail thousands of times, every day. With barely a blink, they get back up ready to try another thousand times. Their capacity for learning is incredible and they are using every second of their existence to make an impression on their surrounding and the people around them.
“Children fail thousands of times, every day. With barely a blink, they get back up ready to try another thousand times.” Tweet This!
So while parents are frustrated and exhausted by the world in all its mundanity, I challenge you to try to walk a minute in your child’s shoes. Take even a few seconds to look at the world in wonder and awe. Remember that they’re still developing their bearings on EVERYTHING and while they are certainly learning to manipulate us, it doesn’t often come from a place of deliberate disobedience. More often than not, they’re simply looking for love, reassurance and structure. They want to know the rules to this game we’re all playing and they want to excel at it! I realize this is an idealistic expectation, but even if we can put this in action once in a day that’s a huge accomplishment! More often than not, we’ll still find ourselves in that place of frustration but it is worth the effort to invest in ourselves and in our children.
If I could wish for one thing for my children, it’s patience. Modern life has this way of pushing us along at a furious pace and our gut reaction is to race along without question. But what are we rushing toward? I see people all around me from various walks of life, varying ages and backgrounds. Is any one group happier than the next? Does any one person have all the answers? The more I learn and understand, the more I am certain that what matters most is today. THIS moment in time. THIS experience. I have friends of all income brackets with the exact same insecurities everyone else has. I see baby boomers FINALLY getting to retire and then wondering, what now? Their health isn’t the best or they’re so stuck in “work” mode that they can’t or won’t relearn how to just live and enjoy being present.
This is nothing new or revolutionary. Many others have explained this more eloquently and more powerfully than I can. Yet, I think it too important to not repeat from my own perspective in hopes that it might strike a chord with someone. Even one person. Our children are embracing this very concept even as they race ahead into the school years, the teen years and soon adulthood. If we can’t enjoy life as much as possible in the now, then what’s the point?
“Find joy in the details.” – Tweet This!
Life is made to be lived, in all its mundane and boring detail. Find joy in the details.
by Liz | Life Snapshot
Being a parent is incredibly demanding work and our self worth is irrevocably tied to our measure of “success”. Success is a completely arbitrary measure! From the outside looking in, it’s so easy to think that someone “has it all together” or somehow manages to “do it all”. The simple truth though, is that most of us don’t even come close to this ideal…and that’s OK!
Excelling in one area, means that many other areas are taking a back seat. That mom who shows up with the beautifully made cupcakes and treats for every birthday or school event? Her mother is ailing and she bakes and crafts to keep her brain from considering the possibility of loss. That dad who volunteers for every work project and always seems one step ahead? Well, he is one step away from foreclosure and never makes it to his daughter’s soccer games. It is so easy to see a snapshot of someone’s life and believe that it encapsulates everything about them. However, it’s the story behind the smallest moments that are really worth learning about. There is no-one who “has it all”.
Rich or poor, sad or happy, engaging or shy, life of the party or withdrawn. These are all just small facets of who we are in any given moment. With the explosion of social media and the ease of communication, one would hope we would become more connected. Yet it seems that more than ever our society causes us to withdraw from one another and live our lives in isolation.
Despite the isolation, we are constantly competing with ourselves and others to chase an indiscernible goal post. The the constant urge to be better, richer, happier drives us to live frantically. It has become so commonplace that we rarely stop to ask why. Are there studies showing that our kids will be smarter if they have four activities a week plus music lessons? Will they lead more fulfilling lives because they’re always chasing the next best thing rather than enjoying life’s simple moments?
I see this every day when I’m interacting with my children. Often, I’ll find myself racing around the house, scrambling to get ready with three children in tow so we can all get to school and work on time. Inevitably, one or all of them will want something from me at the exact wrong moment and I’ll snap. Seconds later, it all becomes clear and I quickly understand they were trying to help in their own way. In the moment I was too frazzled and distracted to pay attention. The moment might be gone, but I still try to take the time later to show them that I appreciated their effort. I make a million mistakes a day and that will never change. But I will always strive to find meaning in those mistakes so that I can keep moving forward.
Are there days when you want to crawl back into bed and ignore the world? Do you have days when you wonder how the heck you got here? Has your self worth plummeted into a dark abyss? Do you have a list a mile long of all the things you feel you need to do, or need to learn? All those thoughts swirling around in your head? Yeah, I’ve got them too.
Often it feels paralyzing, like there’s no way forward.
Here are a few ways to take that first step:
1. No one is perfect. Everyone you think is acing it? They’ve got their own problems. Try to give yourself and others a bit of grace. Take a second to connect with someone.
2. What’s the hurdle immediately in front of you? What’s the one thing you can do RIGHT NOW to make it better? Then find the next thing, and the next.
3. Stand back and look at the big picture, remember how much worse things were a month, a week, a minute ago? You’ve got this.
4. REMEMBER! Somebody loves you madly, deeply, unconditionally.
5. Be strong, think strong and nothing will hold you back.
Take the time you need to wallow, take the time you need to breakdown, take the time you need to cry. Then get back up and do it all again.
Making the choice to keep moving and find a better way? Those are the moments that will lead to unexpected joy. Find the joy.
by Liz | Chaos Hacks, Life Snapshot
Not going to lie, we have a LOT on our plates these days and I have a feeling we have less going on than most. Between work, daycare, family and friends, school events, extracurricular activities (we currently only have one!), house projects and day-to-day life, we always seem to have an overflowing todo list. Keeping a family organized, especially when three of them can’t take much responsibility, is a daunting task.
I have gone through SO MANY different methods trying to come up with one that works for all of us. There are tons of great task management apps (some even designed for family organization), calendars, websites, you name it. What I’ve finally settled on, at least for the moment, is a mashup of some of my favorites. I’ve learned through much trial and error, anything I hope to use MUST live on my phone. If it’s paper, it will be lost or destroyed. Probably at the bottom of the diaper bag and trust me, no one wants to find that mess. It must play nice with Siri. I’m almost always driving, juggling kids or hauling too many bags at the exact moment when I need to remember something. If I don’t make the note right then and there, it’s out of my brain in .2 seconds never to be heard from again. Lastly, it must be SIMPLE! There are many, many gorgeous and complicated apps out there that will try to redesign your entire life for you. They’re amazing, but they are not for me. I need simplicity. Multiple steps just won’t get completed, I don’t have the time or the energy. Not gonna lie. I am on a quest for simplification.
Must Haves for family organization:
1. task lists must live on my phone
2. accessible via Siri for jotting down tasks/thoughts
3. simple, simple, simple
Currently, my system consists of three components: iPhone reminders/calendar, Trello and IFTTT (If This Then That That). If you haven’t heard of or used the 2nd two, fear not. I was mostly using just the first one until recently.
You can do SO much with just your native iOS reminders and calendar. Seriously. I’m pretty sure my kids know how to do it at this point because they’ve listened to me talk at my phone so often.
– Add oatmeal to my groceries list
– Remind me to pay summer camp tuition next Tuesday
– What’s the weather tomorrow?
– Remind me to turn on the oven when I get home
The calendar is self explanatory and I always add any pertinent date specific items in there that are necessary to keep our family organized. Create a separate calendar for each family member, work, etc. and then share them with the appropriate people. You may also want to harass them endlessly until they are also in the habit of adding every event too. No pressure or anything.
In Reminders, I simply create a list for any group of tasks we typically have. I have a grocery list, a house list, a work list, etc. Anything and everything that pops into my head and needs to be accomplished, it goes on a list. I cannot be trusted to “remember” unless I get it out of my brain. I have plenty of things I do accomplish without needing to jot it down, but this system helps me keep on top of the big stuff.
The one main thing I felt was lacking with this system was prioritization. I also wanted a way to help organize larger, long-term projects so I set out to find a better way.
A few weeks ago I finally took a leap and explored Trello in depth. My world has shifted. I was looking for a way to organize certain projects for work and stumbled across a few templates and my brain exploded. In approximately 30 seconds (okay, maybe over the course of a few days), I downloaded my brain (and my previous to-do lists) into Trello and I haven’t looked back since. I’ll explore more in depth soon, but a few things I fell in love with are:
– drap and drop cards (just move them wherever you need them to be, no need to re-write.)
– checklists (the items don’t disappear so you can uncheck when they’re needed again, think grocery lists!)
– Linking cards between boards (you might have a home improvement board and want to assign a few tasks to your current week tasks, easy!)
– Pretty backgrounds (you can “steal” these even if you don’t have a paid account, more on that another day.)
To really throw you for a loop, you can then sync this all together using IFTTT (If This Then That) which is such a cool site/app. Essentially, you can make Trello (and many, many other apps/sites) sync information to your phone and vice versa.
Ok, so family organization in a nutshell? Find a simple system that you can do easily and stick with it! Try not to get distracted by all the pretty apps and sites that promise to make it easy. If you can find something that works in a similar way to your natural inclinations, that’s the way to go.
More to come on Trello and IFTTT.
What are your biggest todo list challenges? Do you have an effective strategy for your family organization?