Productivity

I’ve always thought of myself as a fairly productive person, but I also have many moments (and days) that I fritter away mindlessly. A lot of the time it’s those pesky iPhone games. On more than one occasion, I’ve attempted to get rid of them. However, I rationalize keeping Candy Crush and Two Dots because deleting them would likely mean I’d need to start from scratch if I ever re-download. Other times, it’s random odd things that I do around the house. Like on Tuesday when I spent half an hour trying to put together an umbrella stand that only has 3 pieces. It really should not have taken that long.

I’ve always been enthralled by people who manage to do so much with so little time, and I tend to gravitate towards books like Laura Vanderkam’s I Know How She Does It when I peruse local bookstores. Anyways, with my imminent return to work, I’ve been thinking a lot more about what I can do to be more intentional with how I spend my time. Listening to this podcast episode of Cult of Pedagogy gave me a few great ideas, and I’m definitely considering signing up for Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club when it opens again in the summer.

In the meantime, here are three things that I’m implementing:

  1. Scheduling what I do during my “work time”
    Twice a week, I have a few hours during the day to get stuff done. This is my most productive time, as my evenings tend to disappear with twitter chats, going to the gym, and random chores around the house. At the start of each of these periods, I write down what needs to be done and assign everything to blocks of time. This helps me stay focused.
  2. Doing things right away, and keeping my to-do list in one place
    When to-dos arise, I sometimes have the ability/time to do it right away. But more often than not, I need to table it for a later time. This is where my moleskine planner comes in. I have it with me virtually all the time, so when I have things that need to get done, they are written down in my weekly to-do list. I refer to it often and squeeze things in every spare moment I have.
  3. Meal Planning
    This is one that I’m still working on. Prior to starting to meal plan, I was going to the grocery store virtually every day. This week, I haven’t gone since Sunday! This has probably saved me a few hours a week! It’s been so nice to not have to think about what we’re having, and it’s great having food prepped and ready to go in the fridge when dinner rolls around.

I am definitely open to more tips/advice if you have any. What do you do to maximize the time you have each day?

 

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42.

Andy is slowly getting back to his usual self. He has now traded his fever for a cold and his laboured breathing makes him sound like Darth Vader, but at least he is active and smiley once more. And he doesn’t cry when we put him on the ground. 

  
We are working on getting him to sleep through the night once more, so that has been its own beast. There have been multiple nights of some pretty wicked crying. In the last ten months, there have definitely been many moments in which I’ve been extremely frustrated and have turned to the Internet for help and solace, only to become more frustrated or confused. I looked up sleep schedules and they were all over the map. 

In other news, Andy now has 7 teeth, and when he bites you it hurts. Attempts have been made to get him to stop, but I think it is mostly exploratory right now so there isn’t much we can do. This also translates to him taking bites out of his food, which is really funny. Regardless of how small and item is already, he likes to take one bite first, just because he can. He has also made some progress in developing his fine motor skills in his right hand, especially when it comes to feeding himself. (But as you can see in the picture below, he still prefers his left hand…)

  
We’ve left the baby gate off his room more frequently since we are home and are watching him when he plays. The cutest thing is when he is playing in his room with me, hears Kelvin in our bedroom, then promptly crawls out of the room to find him. We may need to get some knee patches for his pants if this keeps up.  

On the home front, we took an Andy-less trip up to Ottawa for brunch and a visit to IKEA. We ate at Baker Street Cafe, which sadly we did not find as awesome as the hype made it out to be. I mean, there was a line for it. An out the door and onto the snowy Westboro streets line. We had a fairly successful time at IKEA, though, picking up a great new shelf that really changes the aesthetic of our main floor, a much-needed mirror for our front entrance, and a few other knick knacks. Kelvin also got around to treating our dining room table. 

  

All in all, it’s been a successful second week of the holidays. I’m looking forward to finishing some books and starting new ones, and to getting back into the groove of teaching by crafting a work plan for the remainder of the 2015/2016 school year.  

Hope your first week of 2016 was great!

New year, new resolutions

Happy New Year!

I’ve always been one for goals and planning, so you can only imagine how invigorating the end of the year is for me. I get to step back and reflect on the year. But even better, I get to set out new challenges and plans for the year ahead. I’ve been thinking about one phrase to encapsulate my focus for the year, and to take a page from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project (which I am currently reading and enjoying quite a bit), been creating a list of actionable resolutions. Recently, I came across this simple idea for creating resolutions as a family, which was too awesome to pass up. I don’t know if Kelvin will indulge me by participating, and Andy is not yet able to express coherent words, but nonetheless, here are my resolutions!

THIS YEAR I WILL…

Start a new habit: drink at least a litre of water every day

Read a good book: Foster’s Celebration of Discipline (which I have been trying to get to forever) and The Third Teacher

Learn a new skill: Investing (and just general personal finance)

Go on a visit to: Upper Canada Village

Break a bad habit: sleeping late

Look forward to: attending this conference and this conference

Try something new: incorporate urban studies and design thinking into my teaching

The Best of 2015

After having read this post by a blogger I follow, I thought it fitting to follow suit and reflect on the top 15 things/moments/experiences of 2015. Some of these were huge things, others more mundane, but altogether these made my year.

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Our first visit to the Tett and the Isabel. These were actually two separate occasions, but they’re in the same complex and together make up Kingston’s newest creativity hub. We went to watch the KSO play at the Isabel in February, then attended the Tett grand opening this May. I still can’t believe we have such amazing spaces in our city.

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Andy’s birth this March. Hands down the biggest event of the year. This little guy has changed our life forever, and we could not be more thankful for him.

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Having my poem featured on GOODJust for fun, I participated in a little poetry challenge online. I wrote an acrostic poem on parenthood.

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Winning a ticket to the 21CLI conference in Hong Kong via #whatisschool. For the last year or so I’ve been really into twitter chats as part of my own professional development. I’m really excited to attend this conference in February 2016.

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Watching the Jays vs. the Astros at Minute Maid Park. Kelvin had a work meeting down in Houston this May, so we made it a family affair. How we came to actually attend this game was pretty random, but it was definitely one of the most memorable, electric experiences of the year.

The Live Sent sermon series. We are blessed with an amazing pastoral team at our church, and this sermon series really challenged us to think about the vision of our church and how we are to go about our daily lives missionally as people of faith.

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Witnessing the marriages of some of our good friends. It is a joy to share life with those around us, and it was an absolute honour for us to have had the opportunity this year to see so many of our friends commit to serving and loving each other for the rest of their lives. These weddings took us far and wide, from within Canada, to the States, and even to Spain.

Joining the KFPL board. I talk about our local library system a lot. I absolutely love what they’re doing. I’ve always enjoyed taking on new roles, and this is one that I’ve wanted to do for a while. It’s only been a few months and already I’m learning so much about governance and about the shifting role of libraries today.

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Moving into our new house. This August, we ventured to the edge of suburbia for a little more breathing room. It’s been an adjustment, but we are settling in nicely and really loving making the space our own.

Planning my very first Edcamp here in Kingston. Ever since attending my first edcamp in 2011, I’ve been wanting to host one here in town. With the time off from work, I was finally able to get it done! Hoping this will become a yearly event.

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Our trip to Europe. I could probably fill a top 15 list from this trip alone, but hands down this was one of our favourite vacations yet. There’s something other-worldly about Europe that is so hard to replicate here in North America. We spent time in Spain and in England, and though they couldn’t have been more different, we enjoyed them both.

Discovering podcasts. I know podcasts have been around for a long time, but I just started listening to them this fall. Now I can’t stop. I listen to them all the time. Here are some faves.

Reading Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavour. This book has really broadened my understanding of what it means to integrate faith and work. I’ve loved the discussions that have come out of this, and I cannot wait to finish it with our small group.

Finally subscribing to Darling. This was one of my treats to myself on Black Friday. I fully support the mandate of Darling and I am so happy that  it now comes to my mailbox every 3 months. Pages and pages of goodness that truly feed my soul.

Netflix with Kelvin after Andy goes to sleep. One of my favourite times of day (other then going to sleep) is when Kelvin and I get to hang out, cook dinner, eat, and watch a show together. We’ve worked our way through lots, including Selling New York and Worst Cooks of America.

And there you have it – the Top 15 of 2015. Here’s to reflecting on an amazing year, and looking forward to the next one!

41.

Week 41. Not only did this week mark Andy’s first Christmas, but Andy, who was one week overdue, has officially been in the world longer than he was in the womb. Here’s a flashback to nine months ago!

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It was a bit of a tough week for us. We ventured down to Toronto again this week to spend time with some extended family. I mentioned in our last weekly update that Andy had a fever. It continued to get worse while we were away, spiking at over 40.5 degrees one night. That was scary. The heat came with a side of irritability and general discontentment, and we found ourselves not knowing what fussiness was due to him being sick and what fussiness was just him being naughty. That made responding to his cries and screams really tricky.

As we wrap up the year and start thinking about 2016, I find myself reflecting on the past nine and a half months, and how fortunate I am to be where I am.

Let me explain.

To the best of my knowledge, all working women in Canada, myself included, have access to paid parental leave. For me, the first eighteen days of this was spent resting at home, nesting, and getting ready for Andy’s impending arrival (I hadn’t counted on him being late). Following that, I have had the opportunity to spend time at home with my son, playing, eating, learning, and sleeping. Many of these days were physically and emotionally taxing, but what energy I did have, I was able to spend on taking care of my growing child.

If I were living south of the border, this would be a very different story.

I’ve had both friends and family expect their first child this year in the US, and the story they tell of their first year is vastly different. On forums and blogs, I’ve read a fair bit about what leave is like for working mothers in America. Then I watched this TED talk.

It is absurd to me that a global superpower like the US is not providing paid leave for parents, and that women – women who are trying to recover from the trauma of childbirth, learn how to care for an infant, and juggle a new emotional landscape – are feeling like they need to return to work before they are ready. For the sake of parents and children across America, something needs to change.

Merry Christmas

For the third year in a row, we find ourselves celebrating Christmas away from home. As much as it is nice to explore new (and some not so new) places, there’s really no place like home. Thinking we will spend Christmas 2016 in Kingston :)

 Over the last few days, we’ve wandered the Eaton Centre on more than one occasion, and it struck us just how stressful of a time this can be for so many. Amidst dinner obligations, presents, and blowout sales, we often forget that the first Christmas was rung in with very little fanfare. On a quiet night, with makeshift accommodation and the humble presence of few, our Saviour Jesus Christ was born. And he continued to live a life of humility despite all that happened around him. 

Kelvin and I find ourselves experiencing a similarly quiet evening tonight. Having enjoyed an early dinner with my extended family, and having put Andy to bed, we now have a few hours of downtime before we ourselves head to sleep. 

And so, from our family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas :)

Manhattan Unfurled

Quite a number of years ago, I discovered Manhattan Unfurled in our local independent book store. Created by Matteo Pericoli, it is an accordion book with a pen and ink drawn skyline of both the east side and west side of Manhattan. At the time, I couldn’t justify paying $45 for the book. As luck would have it, I found it available for a deep discount when I was perusing at Chapters the other day. 

 
Kelvin and I love New York, and I’ve always loved architecture and illustration. This book captures all of that. Paul Goldberger writes a wonderful essay that is included with the book, which really encapsulates the essence of the drawing and what it communicates. Above the product itself, what I am most amazed at is the painstaking effort it took Percoli to travel the length of that island, sketching the big and small details he saw along the shores. He has since undertaken other similar endeavours, and I’m definitely going to look into some of his other works!

  

39.

If you look at the wall beside Andy’s change pad, you will see a number of curved marks on the wall. No, Andy has not developed his fine motor to the point where he can draw on the wall. Rather, he has a tendency to drag small toys along the wall while getting his diaper changed. Why are we giving him toys while he is getting his diaper changed? It is one of the only ways to stop him from flipping over and sitting up when getting changed. Alternative solutions would be greatly appreciated…

So the motoring continues, and we’ve found that we are spending more and more time playing on the main floor.  We have zero gates up on the main floor and three step/flights of stairs for Andy to choose from. We also have a square teak coffee table. Search for an ottoman has commenced. 
  
Weather was pretty nice this week so we were able to get out and about on walks. Part of me is hoping for a white Christmas, but the larger part of me is hoping it stays mild. 

Near the end of the week, Kelvin had a work meeting in Miami so we drove out to Toronto with him and spent some time being tourists in the GTA. More on that in a later post. 

As we draw to the close of 2015, I find myself thinking more about the new year. This has always traditionally been my time to consider goals for the upcoming year, and I’m also pondering what single word to use to encapsulate my direction for 2016. I’m populating my 2016 moleskine agenda with more nitty gritty now, and am looking forward to transitioning over fully in two weeks!

Last but not least, first episode of season 2 of Serial is out. We listened to it. And then we spent a long time googling Bowe Bergdahl. Looking forward to next week. 

How not to hang art in your home

Kelvin and I love hanging art. We think it adds something personal to our home. We buy prints whenever we can on vacation. We have a weakness for local art. 

Last night, we decided to hang these prints, which I have talked about before. Normally we have no problem with hanging art. We frame whatever it is we have, wire it up, check for studs, and bring out the drill. We’ve hung a series of prints before, but this one was a little different, as we decided to position them heading up our staircase. 

  
We were pleased with the end result, but let me tell you – though there are three pictures up, there are definitely more than three holes in the wall. 

Here are some tips we should have heeded:

  1. After you mark out where you’ll be drilling, make sure you double check whether or not there is a stud. If you drill assuming that it’s drywall, you will find you have a hole much larger than is useful. 
  2. It is also helpful to use the right drill bit. I am seriously contemplating using nail polish to demarcate which bits are used for which nail sizes. 
  3. If you find yourself using a drywall screw, make sure that your nail corresponds with the right drywall screw. If you use too small of a nail, it’s not that big of a deal, just move up a size. But if you use too big of a nail, it gets caught and then your attempt to jam it into the drywall screw with brute force will result in a very large, almost shameful hole.

  
Thankfully, there was some room for error.  However, this would not be the case if we were doing something like a gallery wall. Thus, I am seriously reconsidering our idea of doing a gallery wall. 

Podcasts I love

I had never been one for podcasts or audiobooks, or AM radio. Perhaps it had something to do with my affinity for visual stimulation over auditory input. Friends kept raving about Serial and This American Life, but nothing really compelled me to give it podcasts a try.

However, that all changed when I stumbled upon Limetown earlier this year. I listened to the first episode and I was hooked.

From there, my love for podcasts has ballooned into something ridiculous. I share what I’ve been listening to constantly (probably to the dismay of many of my friends…) and every spare moment I get, I listen. The tedium of household chores – of folding laundry, cleaning the bathrooms, and washing dishes – becomes that much more bearable when I’ve got something interesting that I’m focusing on instead. I have podcasts playing whenever I’m in the car, and Andy and I have been going on some longer drives so that we can both enjoy more of the activities that we love (podcasts for me and nap time for him).

I’m still exploring the podcast world, but here are a few that I’ve been listening to regularly:

Limetown
The podcast that started it all. Something mysterious happened in Tennessee that involved the disappearance of a few hundred people. This podcast follows Lia Haddock as she uncovers the story of what happened.

The Lively Show
My favourite podcast. Jess Lively hosts this show which is all about “adding a little extra intention to your everyday”. She brings guests on to talk about values, life, business, and pretty much everything I love. I actually didn’t enjoy this show when I first started, but Jess has won me over! Plus I emailed her a little while ago and she is such a sweet person to correspond with.

On Being
For the intellectually and spiritually curious. I’ve had On Being on my RSS feed for a while but never listened to their podcasts until recently. Hosted by Krista Tippett, this is a podcast that looks at Big Picture topics and makes me think a little more about what life does and should look like.

TEDTalks (audio)
Ideas worth sharing. Because who doesn’t love TEDTalks? I like these shorter segments that range wildly in topic and that keep me current.

Timothy Keller Sermons Podcast
Continually challenging me to live a more gospel-centered life. We have had nothing but good experiences reading Tim Keller’s books and we make it a point to attend service at Redeemer whenever our visits to NYC fall on a Sunday.

The Simple Show
A glimpse into what life is like for some really awesome people. Most of these people are people I’ve never heard of, but I love the content and the spirit behind what it is Tsh is doing in her show.

Stuff Mom Never Told You
For women navigating the world. This is a hilarious but also informative podcast that dives into a plethora of things to do with living, loving, and learning as a woman. They touch on so many topics that resonate with me, with (not so) occasional tangents.

I also haven’t finished Serial yet, so I’m in the process of doing that.

I’m always looking for new podcasts that might be interesting, and I’m trying to broaden my horizons and learn about fields that I normally wouldn’t engage with much, so would love some recommendations!

My planner

I love tech. I am all for integrating it into the classroom, and I love what the cloud has been able to do for remote access. That being said, there is something about a pen and paper agenda that just trumps everything.

I’ve been using paper agendas all my life. In grade school, I was given a new one each year by my teacher (you know, the ones with the clear “today” ruler/bookmark and the holographic covers), and when I got to university, I stuck with the same day-at-a-glance agenda that I bought each August. When I graduated, I moved to using moleskine’s weekly planner. 

Then, shortly after Kelvin and I got married, we started using magneto cal to coordinate our schedules. It is no longer available, which makes me sad, because I might have actually stuck to it had that been an option. We moved over to a shared google calendar after that, but I was not thrilled with all the notifications and emails amongst other things. Yes I could have turned those off, but I just found myself disregarding most everything I put into it. 

When I knew I was going to be going on mat leave, I decided to bring the paper agenda back. I looked online for inspiration about how best to organize it, and after playing around with different options, blending a number of journal styles (like passion planner and bullet journal), and testing for the last few months, I’ve come up with what works best for me.  

  
I am still a huge fan of the moleskine weekly planner, and have already purchased my 2016 planner already. You’ll notice that this particular one is red – in an attempt to organize my agendas I will be using a red hard cover one for every year that is a multiple of 5 (e.g. 2015). 

On the left side is a weekly view starting on Monday. At the very top of the page I have room for my top 3 priorities. Now that I’m not working I don’t really have a lot of super pressing priorities, but I usually have one or two each week.

I divide the space allotted for each day in two. On the left I write down appointments and on the right I put day-specific notes and tasks. The weekend is usually not as nicely delineated because I have less space, but it’s fine. 

On the right, I have four main sections:

  1. MEMORIZE: when I come across verses in scripture that I want to commit to memory, I write it in the next available week so that I have a new verse each week. Then, every time I open my agenda that week I practice memorizing that verse.
  2. TO DO: I keep a running list of tasks that I need to do that week which are not day-specific, with a checkbox beside it. One strike through the middle means a task is in progress, a full my stricken box means I’ve completed the task, and an arrow means I’m referring to next week. 
  3. NOTES: This is a catch all section for things I come across or need to remember. Mostly these are bullet points, but I also have an icon code specifically for notes related to websites, blogs, eating, priority, ideas and books. 
  4. TRACKING: I keep track of whether or not I’ve done my daily devotions and also how many times I go to the gym. Sadly I only went once on this particular week.

There are other nuances to how I record daily life via my planner, but these are the essentials.