Meet My Happy Boxes: Planning that Works for Me

img_2700With each seasonal transition, I’ve seen tons of posts about fitness goals, healthy eating challenges, and planners. People ask for planner advice, but after years of hit-and-miss techniques I feel like there’s no straight answer. And the options are indeed overwhelming! Printables, bullet journals, Erin Condren, binders, monthly/weekly/daily, white boards, phone apps! There are a lot of factors for planner success such as age of kids, number of activities, what you want to plan. I’ll share what works for me, and maybe you can adapt it for your family.

I’ve been using this particular style of planner for two years, and I like that it has the option to go by the school year instead of the calendar year. This works much better for me as I can sit down in August with Hannah’s school schedule and fill everything in.

My favorite thing about this planner – the boxes. I labeled the boxes with the categories that I want to track:

  • Schedule – These are our daily activities. It includes scheduled events such as “parent-teacher conference 10am” as well as errands and to-do items such as “pick up Rx.”
  • School – First grade was a whole new world of responsibilities. This helps us keep track of the days’ specials (need gym shoes?), tests, homework due, library book due, guided reading book due, bring xyz for a science experiment, wear purple for the principal’s birthday, etc.
  • Food – Meal planning is huge for me. This helps me think ahead for smart shopping and coordinate meals with the day’s activities. For example, I’m not going to plan a slow cooker meal on a MOPS day because I won’t have time in the morning to prep it. I also star meals that are family favorites so I can remember to make them in the future.
  • Housework – I don’t have a cleaning schedule or a to-do list. Instead I have a “did” list. Usually I shoot for one thing per day. It could just be a load of laundry. But I write down what I DID, and it’s a documentation of productivity.
  • Memories – These are funny things the girls said or little things we did that I want to be able to look back on. It’s a very small journaling aspect.
  • Work – I don’t have work for a “job,” but this box includes my MOPS tasks, Kansas City Moms Blog schedule, and planning for this blog.

In the summer, I order the new planner and transfer anything from the previous year. (would stickers and color-coding jazz it up? yes, but I like the clean simplicity of pen and boxes) I go through the school calendar and fill in the new paper calendar as well as our Google calendar.

The Google calendar keeps Brett and I on the same page and provides a mobile version of our main activities. I only include appointments and scheduled activities on the Google calendar. There are a lot of schedule/calendar apps (I’ve heard rave reviews of Cozi for bigger kids!), so look around for what meets your needs.

The third form of calendar that I use is a white board in our eating area. This is for family reference – activities and dinner plans. Now that Hannah’s a reader, this is especially useful.

I keep my planner always open on my desk as part of my “mommy workstation.” It helps me keep an eye on things and easily jot down what I’m doing.

Maybe this seems overwhelming: the meal planning, the planner, the online calendar, the whiteboard, etc. But I didn’t start doing all that at once. If you’re jumping into better planning, pick one and add later.

I think the two most important aspects are meal planning and writing down commitments. Meal planning is huge for sanity and budget reasons. Writing down responsibilities for work or school or friends is also of great importance because we forget! Time gets away from us, and we can drop the ball and let people down if we lose track of our commitments.

So it takes three things to keep us on-track with our schedule. I’m still tweaking, such as now using pencil for my planner instead of pen, but this works well for us. Paper planner for me, mobile calendar app for us adults, and posted white board for the family.

I plan according to the school year not the calendar year, so I’ve ordered my next blank slate and can’t wait to fill in those boxes!

Clothes: Where I was, What I did, and What I’m doing next

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A little over a year ago, I was staring at my closet. My style and my sizes have fluctuated over the last few years, so I’ve had a pretty high turnover of fashion. I’ve gotten rid of a lot. It felt good. I feel like I’m finally finding my style. What I buy and how I buy have changed a lot in the last few years.

Looking over my closet, I noticed that about 70% of my clothes were purchased used. I’ve been a big fan of ThredUp.com (aff link) for years, and our house here is literally a mere 90 seconds away from a good consignment store (seriously, it’s dangerous) Clothes Mentor. So a challenge entered my head – if such a high percent of my clothes was already being purchased used, why not shoot for 100?

So I did it. And then I wrote about it. Of course, I’m a blogger. Read more of my reasons and what I did in a full post over on Kansas City Moms Blog. I detail the why and how of my year of buying used. And I never even set foot in a thrift store.

Here are a few examples of outfits purchased in the last year, just to show that a person can have a used wardrobe on a budget without looking frumpy and dumpy (I hope, haha). And buying used doesn’t just mean sketchy brands from thrift stores.

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Spring – Here is an Express shirt (ThredUp) paired with some 7 for All Mankind jeans (Clothes Mentor). Total outfit cost $28 for me. New would have been over $150.disney-shirts

Summer – This isn’t my favorite shirt, but this picture shows a money-saving tip from our Disney trip. I wanted us to all have Disney shirts to wear on the trip, so the girls could feel festive (without paying park gift shop prices, yikes!). So off to our local children’s consignment store I went. All our shirts above (Mickey, Minnie, and Cinderella) were found and purchased for about $4 each. I found two for myself by looking in the 14-16 size (girls) section.

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This one just makes me laugh. So fun to take Hannah on her first big roller coaster, even if she wouldn’t sit up front with me. :) This Minnie tank top is still in Disney parks gift shops for $34. Mine was $4 at Once Upon a Child. date-night-outfit

Date night! Gap shirt (Clothes Mentor) and distressed jeans (ThredUp).vest

Fall – Almost everything in this shot is used. Downeast tank, Lands End vest, and Steve Madden shoes were from ThredUp, and Old Navy maternity jeans were from Swap.com. I think my coffee cost more than my tank top. ;)

If 2016 was my year of buying used, what is 2017? 

I still plan to buy used as much as possible, but I want to branch out into supporting more small businesses. This is not as budget-friendly as buying used, but I think there are a lot of other economic advantages of supporting small businesses. Plus, cute and unique items. So Target has been permanently dethroned as my primary clothes source, though it is no longer completely off the table.

And I’m not one of those writers that takes on crazy personal challenges for the sole purpose of personal publicity. When 2016 began, I was in a nine-month blogging “break” and Kansas City Moms Blog was nowhere on my radar. So the clothes thing started just for me, but I’m excited to share it to encourage others to think about other shopping options.

So here’s to new adventures in 2017, and happy shopping!

The Year in Review: 2016

I’m squeaking in the last few moments of 2016, but I wanted to look back. This year I was able to be a little more active on the blog with 20 posts from June-December. Dead air for the nine months before that, though. Sorry.

So there were a lot of things that unfortunately haven’t been written about – Hannah’s kindergarten year, our trip to Disney with Brett’s family, lots of recipes, etc. – but I’ve enjoyed getting back in a bit of a writing routine. The increase in posting was prompted by my application to join the Kansas City Mom’s Blog contributor team. I remembered how much I enjoy writing and the value of documenting our little life stuff.

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In my 20 posts of 2016, I hit an all-time personal high after my post about what I buy at Aldi made its way around Facebook and I got close to 800 views in one day. Most of my new posts get about 40 (thank you, friends and family, for reading!!!), so that’s a significant difference! My second top post of the year was something I’d shared with my MOPS group during October for pregnancy loss awareness month. I talked about my faith maturing after our miscarriage and how I had to let go of my plans.

By the way, I was indeed added as a monthly contributor for the Kansas City Mom’s Blog, so you can check out some of my posts over there like The Bins and Experience Gifts in the Kansas City Area.

So I hope to be more faithful in blogging in 2017 by documenting more life things and having the guts to hit publish on some deeper thoughts that have been rattling around for a while. Cheers to 2017 – my 35th year of life, my 13th year of marriage, hopefully several dozen more posts published, and a new baby to add even more adventures along the way.

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The Summer Bucket List is Done

Yes, I said done. Not completed. There are some boxes left, but no one seems to care. It’s November, so I need to wrap this up.

Highlights since my last update:

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We tackled the giant 24″ pizza from local Original Pizza. We decided not to take on the project alone and called in my sister and her family – polished it off! Even though the slices were so big they didn’t fit on the plates. :)

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Hannah got free Royals tickets as her Perfect Attendance Award, so we got to go to a game. Too bad they didn’t play as well this year, but it’s still a fun experience. Hannah polished off a giant hot dog, and Brett and I shared super nachos out of a helmet. Side note: big thumbs up for our new ear protection. Hannah can be sound-sensitive, so these really help. They also hopefully blocked out the foul-mouthed drunk people behind us.

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Since we included big and little summer adventures, root beer floats were checked off. Yum!

So we didn’t make it to Union Station, mini golf, or the marble factory, but that just gives us a head start on next summer’s list!

My Stories of the Week


Rare occurrence! Last weekend, the girls were with the grandmas and grandpas, and Brett and I had a night away. We stayed at Cedar Crest Lodge, south of Kansas City, and had a wonderful time (the food!!!).


On the drive down, we stopped at Dollar General for snacks and a restroom. It was pretty much the only option in the tiny town. Brett scanned the DVD display and snatched up this gem. Ramona and Beezus DVD/Blu-ray/Digital Copy combo for $2.97. We hadn’t seen the movie, but we couldn’t resist that deal. After all, it’s $14.79 on Amazon.

When we were back home, we decided to preview it before letting the girls watch it, and I was prepared to be severely disappointed. Classic children’s books are not always well done in newer movies (Cheaper by the Dozen, anyone?). But I was impressed! It was a sweet movie and stayed true to the characters. Since we have listened to almost all the Ramona audiobooks in the last year, I know the girls will be excited to see the stories they’ve enjoyed so much.


I picked up this book because I liked the title and I’d read another by the author. I have pretty much the same taste in stories as when I was four: no scary, no bad guys, happy ending. But I don’t want just fluff. This story involved a sister relationship as one was going through treatment for breast cancer. If you know some of my extended family, you understand this hit a little close to home.

With the prevalence of cancer, I think anyone would find a connection to the story. There were also recurring themes of cooking and Jane Austen, so obviously I was a fan.

So those are my weekend stories, and I recommend them all!

Summer Bucket List – 2/3 Through

How is this possible?!? I was going to do a bucket list check-in halfway through, and obviously I missed that.

Our board now looks like this:


That’s a lot of checks! We’ve been busy having fun, but haven’t done as well keeping up with the academic and spiritual sides. But we’ve got four weeks left!

Here are a few things we’ve tackled so far:

Lots of trips to the neighborhood pool.

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I only put one box for Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead, but we’ve been there several times. A special visit was with out-of-town cousins!

Brett likes to take a day off now and then to join us for big adventures. Like the zoo, with carousel rides, boat rides, and a picnic. And KOALAS!

And he couldn’t resist joining us for lunch at Fritz’s. It’s a super fun restaurant where your food is delivered by train. Yeah, pretty cool, and obviously a favorite for more than just kids. ;)

Yard pool! It’s fun to play on our own or invite neighbors over for a mini pool party. 

I didn’t want all our “goals” to be about personal entertainment. So I included “Gift Day.” We made bags of treats for a few neighbors and delivered them.

So that’s just a peek at our summer so far. Lots of fun times ahead… And almost time to start shopping for school supplies!

 

300!

This is my 300th post. If you’d told me 5 years ago that I’d be typing my 300th post on an iPhone app while sitting outside watching my three children play at our home in suburban Kansas City (far from Olive Street), I probably would have fallen over.

There have some big gaps between posts, mostly because of these small people who take my sleep and my brain power. But without them, I wouldn’t have much to write about. ;)

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But over the years, I’ve …

Walking around Breckenridge

I’ve documented family moments like…

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Looking on past posts, I see recipes I forgot about and now can’t wait to make again, like…

Chillin' at the hotel

And I’ve tackled some serious topics that really seemed to resonate with readers…

Milestones are fun to recognize the distance, and it’s been motivating for me to move forward. I’ve been reminded of what a fun legacy this is. I love looking back at the posts of adventures when Hannah was little. This is my scrapbook and my journal. And I also get to share deeper thoughts with friends and family and sometimes a few more. ;)

Thanks to y’all for sticking with me!