Things I'm Organizing In 2021 (+Video Chat)


Ah, January!  The month when we all suddenly get the urge to organize and plan our lives.

Really though, every January I make a plan to get things organized.  Sometimes my goals work out and I do make improvements, like the year I finally developed a morning routine.  Other times my best laid plans for...well, planning better, fall through.  Whatever happens, I will always love that fresh feeling that January brings.  In fact, I am probably even more motivated to get organized after a roller coaster of a year in 2020.

These are three things I'm planning on organizing better in 2021:


For the past couple years I have been printing up the year's worth of photos in December, including the best ones of each of my kids to put into a little album for their stockings - and I take a lot of photos each year.  It is a pretty huge project to sort through an entire year's worth of photos, get them printed, and get them into albums.  In fact, I didn't even finish the kid's albums in time this year.  

I'd like to handle photos differently in 2021 - my goal is to print up photos at the end of each month.  This would help spread out the cost, and also keep me on track with only choosing the very best photos to print. (In December, I found myself getting a little lazy in the 2020 photo sorting and selecting too many to print - I was just tired of staring at a screen and wanted it to be over!)

Home Management 

This year in my everlasting quest to find a planning system that actually works for me, I am attempting to organize my own home management binder.  One thing I hate about planners, and that has hindered me from finding a planner that works for me, is that I hate wasted pages.  I hate them so much that if I feel too many pages are being wasted in my planner, I end up throwing the whole system out.  I am hoping in printing up only the types of planning pages I'll actually use, I can create my own planner/organization system that works for me.  I am focusing on these areas:

-Cleaning Routines

-Meal Planning

-Budget Planning

-Address Organizing

-Blog Planning

I particularly wanted to focus on getting more organized with household chores and such, because I think I've been in a "survival mode" when it comes to homemaking for so many years (with all our babies and toddlers) that I have really become dysfunctionally disorganized in some areas.  

My kids are older now, and I'm realizing I don't have to be in survival mode anymore - I actually have the time and energy now to do homemaking well.  I want to do that for my family - I think it will make for a peaceful and more relaxing home environment for Derek and the kids, and it'll help me be a better servant to my family, which is something I feel the Lord is calling me to focus on in this stage of my life.

The Kids' Drawings

All these years I have been putting my kids best drawings in keepsake boxes that I have scattered around the house, but I have had no method of organizing their drawings at all.  I write the name of the child, and the date, on the back, stuff it in a box, and forget about it.  

I didn't even really think about there being another way until Christmas, when my grandmother gave me a keepsake binder with a lot of special papers she had collected over the years. It was a very special and sweet gift, and it also made me realize it doesn't matter if keepsake papers are put into a beautiful scrapbook, with decorations and photos.  They are just as special and beautiful when using a simple organization system like a binder with page protectors.  

So this year I am going to sort the kids' art into binders, and create a separate one where I can keep the notes and pictures they make for me.  It's a more compact way to store things, and this way those papers can be protected better while also creating a better way to actually look at them occasionally!

I am excited to have a plan for becoming a little better organized in these areas in 2021!  We shall see how it goes.  Are you focusing on any areas for improvement this year?


I also made a chatty video about everything I just wrote about, but I tacked on a little mini book haul at the end if you are interested in watching!

Books I Read In December 2020

This year I am hoping to do a monthly recap of what I'm reading, to be posted before the 15th of each month (at least that's my goal).   I haven't been tracking my books in Goodreads for a while, instead I had been writing notes about my books in my bullet journal, with intentions of sharing on my blog each season.  However, last year at the beginning of each quarter I'd find myself a little overwhelmed at the thought of writing about that many books, and I'd procrastinate and never share.  I am trying to be more organized about my reading in 2021, and part of that will be recording and sharing my books each month with all of you!

So, the first installment of my little series will actually look back on what I read in December.  Last year was not a great reading year for me, since I was too distracted by the news to keep on track with my reading.  In December I course-corrected a bit and finished a few books!


Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock - I read this on audio, and I have to say the audio was great.  The story is about a grumpy taxi driver who is roped into driving around an older lady with dementia who is trying to set up her granddaughter.  There is obviously a light bit of romance.  It's also Christian fiction, so there was a message about the taxi driver coming back to his faith, but it was pretty subtle.  The driver was meant to remind you of a character like Luke in Gilmore Girls, and I have to say I enjoyed it!  I love me a good grumpy character.  Content Note: Clean.

A Marriage Carol by Chris Fabry - This book is not my usual style, but I was in a Christmas-y mood and decided to give it a try.  A couple is on their way to get a divorce, but they get in a car accident and the wife finds herself at a mysterious cabin exploring Christmases past, present, and future.  I don't usually enjoy reading books about people having marriage problems (I just find it depressing), but this one was cute overall, with a sweet ending. Content Note: One reference to a honeymoon activity, ahem, but overall clean.

Last Christmas In Paris by Hazel Gaynor - Listened to this on audio as well, and it was so wonderful.  Probably my favorite book from December.  This is an epistolary novel, in which a British girl writes letters to her brother and childhood friend as they head to the front lines of World War One, and the childhood friend writes back...and love blossoms, though neither one knows because of lost letters and other drama.  I loved it so much, and it had the added bonus of being a World War 1 book, which fits with my personal study project!  Content Note: Mild cursing.

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien - This was a re-read for me, one that I've been working on for months but finally finished in December.  The last quarter of the book is always the best, and I flew through it once the storyline switched back to Frodo and Sam.  

Red Queen by Vivtoria Aveyard - Interesting fantasy/dystopian book, in which society is divided into those who have red blood, and those who have silver blood accompanied by super-powers...until a red girl mysteriously discovers powers of her own.  Of course there is the obligatory love triangle.  I really enjoyed this book, but weirdly I also disliked the main character.  I thought she was judgmental and a little whiny - she almost felt entitled, which was ironic since I think the silvers were supposed to be the entitled ones.  I'll probably try the next book because this one was quick-paced with an interesting plot, but I'm not sure if I'll like how it turns out.  Content Note: A lot of violence, some kissing.

Deceived No More by Doreen Virtue - A great testimony book written by a women who was previously a best-selling New Age author, before Jesus saved her out of the New Age.  I find New Age testimonies really fascinating, and I thought the author did a great job of rooting this entire book in Scripture and pointing the reader back to Christ and what He has done to save us.  I loved it!

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl - I read this one aloud to the kids.  I had never read it before, and is so often the case, the book is much better than the movie!  A few rude names throughout, but since I was reading it to the kids I just committed those.  Good morals in this book about not cheating, not being rude and spoiled, etc.  My kids loved the book, and begged me to read another chapter every time I put it down.  That's how you know it's a winner!

Raising Men, Not Boys by Mike Fabarez - I am very picky about the parenting books I read and recommend.  I don't like many modern parenting books, because they seem to me to be an endless list of to-do's that leave me feeling like I'll never be an adequate parent.  This book offered practical parenting suggestions, but in a way that was based upon biblical parenting principles.  The book focused on the gospel and leading your kids to Christ, and then covered bigger concepts like a good work ethic, good money skills, discipline, etc.  It wasn't so much about a list of things to do as about refocusing as a parent, and I appreciate that.  I got a lot of good ideas from this book that don't feel burdensome, and I already have plans to implement some of it in the new year.

That's it for my December reads, and I'm already hard at work reading for January, so hopefully I'll have another good list to give you in a few weeks!  

Did you read anything good in December?

A Happy Review Of A Rough Year

This time last year, none of us knew how much of a roller coaster 2020 would be! Despite it being very stressful from a political and world events perspective, on a personal level there are still blessings to be found as I look back on it now.  I have written one of these yearly recaps every year for the last 12 years, and I will continue because it is an exercise in gratitude.  It's a way to count blessings that may not seem as obvious, because even in hard times, the Lord's grace to us is there when we look for it.


January was a relatively quiet month.  We started out the year with a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, and a horrid cold that last for 2-3 weeks for me and Derek (knowing what we know now...well, we wonder what that was, because we haven't gotten sick since).  Then we settled back into our school routine. At this time I was attempting to take a step back from our co-op, because it was turning out to be harder on our family than I thought.  We did squeeze in a trip to a local historical museum with one friend, and a hike with another, along with a date night for me and Derek!  We saw 1917, which inspired me to start my World War One personal study project.


February started off with a flurry of snow days, including one storm that dropped over a foot of snow on us.  In the middle of one of those storms, the girls went to a daddy/daughter event with our church, all bundled up in princess dresses and snow coats.  We also had the first of many car problems that would plague us in 2020 - a new transmission was installed, though we are not even sure if the transmission was truly the problem.  We also celebrated Wyatt's birthday, a very bittersweet one for me as I realized he is halfway through his childhood now.  We made valentines to give to our cousins and friends, and spotted a tiny bit of greenery poking through the dirt in town.  We enjoyed a family hike at a local state park. I also had a girl's night out with some friends, and we discussed the rumored virus.  I remember saying I didn't think it would be that big of deal...hadn't we made it through several other varieties of flu - bird, swine, etc - just fine?  Joke's on me I guess.


This month started out like every other March I ever remember - brown, muddy, a little boring.  We got out and enjoyed the warm weather, and saw our friends one day at a McDonald's play place, were I was informed that if I didn't want to run out of toilet paper, I might want to grab some, because it was selling out.  I was honestly shocked at this, very surprised at the level of panic.  A few days later we went to a train museum with my sister, and the next day we snuck in a trip to the library and stocked up on books. Our co-op was cancelled for the week (little did we know it would end up being cancelled the rest of the school year). The day after that almost everything was shut down, including our church.  We had the first "church at home" of what would end up being way more Sundays than I thought.  As our opportunities to get out of the house dwindled more and more, we worked on letters for our family and friends, and I learned how to make whipped coffee.  At the end of the month our governor issued stay-at-home orders, but I still went out for takeout scones in my car every Friday, and it was a much-needed outing.  We also made it a point to go on hikes as much as we could for exercise and fresh air.  People weren't meant to stay inside all the time. 


Finally in April I stopped obsessively checking the news for changes, and realized I just had to live my life. Derek started building a playhouse for the kids, and I continued with visits to our local coffee shop for takeout, found several fun projects for the kids, and enjoyed some unseasonably warm weather which we celebrated with going out for grocery-store popsicles - eaten in the car.  Easter came and went, and it's the first Easter ever that we didn't start the day by going to church. The kids were especially disappointed that we couldn't do our usual sunrise service, but we did still enjoy an egg hunt at Grandma's house.  We celebrated Clyde's birthday as he turned 6 years old!  I usually try not to rush the summer vibes, but this month I did.  In my mind, everything would be better in the summer.   Later in the month I organized a photo scavenger hunt for the kids that we did from our car, as well as weekly family movie nights and Sunday school "parties" through Zoom.  We all had cabin fever, but we tried to do little things to make the best of it.

On The Blog: Certainty


The weather started to warm up, and we enjoyed more days running around at parks and going on walks.  Mother's Day ended up being a favorite for me - we went on a nature walk with Derek's mom, had a picnic lunch overlooking the mountains for me, and then visited my mom in the afternoon.  We finished up the school year earlier than expected, thanks to having so many Saturdays at home with nothing to do but school.  I had the kids pick out some books for summer, and we finished the school year with donuts.  Derek installed a greenhouse on our porch and started growing various vegetables and flowers.  At the end of May the beaches in Texas reopened, and we took a road trip to spend a week in Galveston.  It was a perfect refresher for our family - I don't think I realized how stressed I was about all the pandemic stuff until we got away for a few days.  Though it was an eventful trip, with a problem with our beach house and an ear/throat infection that required an urgent care visit for antibiotics, we mostly just enjoyed the water and pool and restaurants.


We got back from vacation at the start of June, and I determined we were going to have a good summer even if it wasn't totally "normal".  But the parks opened, and our church reopened for in-person services, and just those two little things made a huge difference.  I made a big summer to-do list that included hikes, playing in creeks, craft projects, and lots of summery food.  We also planned an ocean-themed birthday party for the boys with our friends and family, after delaying it for several months! Derek and I got out for a date that involved mini golf and takeout, and we went fishing for my birthday.  We celebrated Derek on Father's Day.  And overall we just enjoyed the warmer weather and the break from school.


We found some fireworks to watch on the 4th of July, which I was so grateful for since so many shows were cancelled.  Then a week later, Derek surprised me with a weekend getaway to a Gaylord resort for our 12th anniversary!  We enjoyed the night away and getting to lay by the hotel's pools without worrying about anybody not being able to swim.  We also made the trek to our county fair, which included a free circus show and rodeo events.  I was so proud of our little county for continuing with the fair, since so many counties had cancelled theirs.  We had a couple hikes with friends and did more at-home summer activities like sidewalk paint, homemade play dough, and local sightseeing at historical sites and national monuments.

On The Blog: Homeschool Curriculum Chat Series - Science, Language Arts, History, Math, Bible


We started gearing up to restart the school year in August, but not before we sent off the summer with a little more fun - campfires (before wildfires got out of control and a ban was instituted), porch camping, and finally a trip to Arches National Park and Black Canyon Of The Gunnison! It was a beautiful trip, even though it was short.  It was a trip that felt truly energizing instead of just stress-relieving, as our vacation in May had been. Derek finished up the summer with getting the roof on the kids playhouse, while we had our first day back to school.  Wyatt started 4th grade, Gwen started 2nd, and Clyde started 1st.


We had some wild temperature swings in September, including a first snow!  But overall it was a fairly mild month, and we spent time outside studying plants as we learned more about botany for our homeschool science.  We also ended up taking a weekend trip to Nebraska for Derek's cousin's wedding.  It was lovely, and I read quite a lot of my World War One book in the car.  The kids started Awana at church, which gave them a regular outing, and gave Derek and me almost weekly date nights.  At the end of the month we celebrated Clarice's 5th birthday!  


October always brings a lot of fall fun with it, and this year we managed to squeeze in a trip to a corn maze, and a fall hikes at the peak of color.  I took our annual fall family pictures at my parent's house.  Derek started gearing up for hunting season, and I started teaching the kids how to embroider (we're still working on it).  We took a trip out to our friends' ranch and had a lovely visit with them, as always.  I also flew out to Montana with my mom for my cousin's wedding - it was a whirlwind trip, but I'm so glad we went!  At the end of the month we went target shooting, and I went deer hunting for the first time in about 8 years.  I got one on the first morning, thanks to my great hunting guide (Derek)!  We celebrated Georgiana's 3rd birthday at the end of October!  We also did our little Reformation Day activities that have become a tradition for us.


Derek spent several weekends hunting in November, so we didn't do too much at the beginning of the month.  We voted on November 3rd, and then I spent the rest of the month obsessively reading the news and being stressed about the dubious election results. We visited with friends, kept plugging away at schoolwork, and just enjoyed time at home.  On Thanksgiving we enjoyed seeing our family and thanking the Lord for getting us through a very unusual year.  Then we cooked a second Thanksgiving dinner for our own little family, just because.


Even though this December was just as busy for us as any December is, it somehow still felt more relaxed.  We enjoyed a trail of lights with my family, a Christmas party with my extended family, a Christmas party with our Sunday school class, a winter hike, and a trip to see my grandpa.  Even though restaurants were targeted for closing indoor dining this month, we still went out to eat on the patio or in outdoor tents during our Awana date nights. The kids and I decorated a "night tree" with dried fruits and popcorn for the deer, and we read a lot of Christmas picture books to go along with school.  We visited a train museum with friends on Christmas Eve eve, and it was so nice to have a field trip after having so few this year! We went stargazing in the mountains, the darkest place we could find, to see the "Christmas star", a connection of Jupiter and Saturn.  We somehow managed to squeeze visits with both sides of our family in on Christmas Eve, and then we enjoyed a quite Christmas Day at home, opening presents, playing games, and watching movies. In the week between Christmas and New Year's I became aware of some invasive privacy policy changes to Instagram, and after a year of censorship and activism on the part of the big tech giants, I'd had enough. I prepared to say goodbye to Instagram and Facebook, probably for good. (You can find me on Parler and MeWe now!) We celebrated Derek and Gwen's birthday after Christmas, with my girl turning 8 years old!  We finished off 2020 with a family movie night at home, which seemed an appropriate and comforting end to this crazy year.

Even though last year was a rough year, I am so thankful for the way the Lord has carried us through, and the way He has blessed our family this year with time together and fresh perspectives on what really matters.  I want to remember that as we head into 2021!

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