Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Smiley Planner Review

I have been on the hunt for THE perfect planner for ME since November 2016 y'all!  Not even kidding. I didn't think my 'must have' list was too hard to find but apparently it is....

I wanted one planner to keep up with homeschool days/tasks/events, everyday life with appointments and extracurricular activities, and room for me to write and put a daily 2x3" picture from my HP Sprocket printer.

See? Shouldn't be a difficult task.

The first planner I picked up from Target just wasn't cutting it. No room for my daily picture. But I loved the tabs for each month and note taking room at the back.

The second planner I purchased was this Smiley planner from Amazon. I had high hopes. Those were crushed when it arrived. The cover felt cheap. The pages were see through while laid flat! No way writing on the pages wouldn't have bled through. The paper was very thin feeling, I felt I had to be careful not to tear the pages when flipping through it. The stickers it came with were plain looking. 

Overall, the planner left a lot to be desired in every area.
Looks cuter in the picture than in real life.

The boring stickers it came with.
I don't know why the picture is upside down.... But regardless, you can see the image on the other side of the paper while the diary is laying perfectly flat!
Again, not sure why the picture is upside down... This is the image that you could see through on the other side of the paper. Not even an image I put there but an additive from the creator of the planner.
I apologize for the upside down pictures. :-/ Again, pages laying flat and you can see the other sides images.
Ugh. Upside down still. This is what is on the other side. Cute but annoying to see it from the other side.
No tabs. Color coded months.
I'm going to have to fix this, somehow... Some cute images.
Note taking pages. Not doing any good though as I'm pretty confident whatever you wrote on one side would bleed through and thus use the back page unusable.

Personal-planner review

The quest for MY perfect planner led me to personal-planner.com! Charles couldn't believe the many hours and staying up way too late I did to find the Unicorn planner I was on the hunt for! I wanted a planner to keep track of our appointments, extracurricular activities, birthdays and anniversaries along with other miscellaneous life happenings that came up. I also wanted to use it for a daily diary of sorts where I could print my 2x3" HP Sprocket pictures and make notes of special memories from each day to keep forever. And then, also utilize it for record keeping for homeschooling and all that entails! I had a checklist that needed meeting but indeed felt like I was hunting Unicorns with how long it took for me to find one that met all my needs! While I was in sticker shock initially because I'm a cheapskate, I can hands down say it was worth every penny! The price seen includes shipping too which was nice, especially since it is coming from Sweden!

My disclaimer- I purchased the A4 size (8.2"x11.6") myself. After emailing back and forth in regards to specific questions I had, they ended up giving me a gift card to be used on a future purchase for my honest review.

So, the planner! The pages are thick, no bleeding through with the several different pens I've used so far! The full sheet of stickers it comes with are just fun! I love using them to brighten up the pages. The planner comes with a full size clear pocket you can place anywhere in your planner that you want. You can order additional pockets if desired. It also comes with a ruler, though it doesn't extend the length of the planner. Lastly, it comes with a strong stretchy decorative band to keep the planner closed.

One function that I really am missing- TABS! Tabs for each month at the very least would've been wonderful. Or as an add on option to buy would've been super convenient. I tried using the Smiley Planner monthly stickers at the start of each month to kinda make it easier to find each month quickly but that didn't do much either. I miss tabs.

I ended up using stock images for my cover and actually really like it. The hard plastic protective cover on front and back feels very sturdy. That wasn't what so important me to.... the inside was. Next one I will personalize the covers though, just for some added fun.

Inside, you have a ton of personalizing options! With my goals in mind, I went to personalizing. I started with January 2017. Regardless of which month you start your planner in, it will run for 12 months. For my January 2017 start, they give you the last week of 2016 and the first week of 2018 as well. I selected the block weekly layout. This spreads on two pages and provides a blank box to be used however you wish and each weekday box is large enough for me to put one or two of my HP Sprocket printer pictures in it and still have room to jot down notes from the day!

At the bottom of each week, you can customize task boxes or leave blank. I picked 'this week's dinner', blank colored lines with check boxes, 'to do this week' list with boxes to check, and blank lined section. It automatically comes with a month ahead preview and blank notes section. Lots of note taking places throughout the planner!

I also selected a monthly overview that is large and covers two pages to be spaced out before each weekly layout. This has plenty of room for me to keep track of appointments, birthdays, extracurricular activities, etc.

At the end of the year, I added a 2018 year overview that I'll use when making appointments, like the dentist, that runs into 2018.

Following this, I have some lined note pages and then starts my homeschool planner. 

I use the 2017 overview to keep track of what school day it is and what we are doing that day.
Next is their 'teacher planner add on'. Unfortunately you have to keep two pages that I don't need thus essentially two wasted pages. One is a student name list and the other is a student address list page. Both for 35 students. Seeing as we homeschool, I don't need these pages.

What I got next, the Mon-Fri planning pages is really what I was hoping to use for our school year but I couldn't include enough weeks to cover the 180 days of school on top of my monthly overviews and yearly overviews along with my note taking pages. Ideally, this Mon-Fri schedule would replace my 2017 overview and I could in one place keep up with which child did what, school day, field trips, extra notes for that particular week and whatever else happens to pop up in regards to schooling. Also, remove the time slots on the sides. Maybe offer washi tape with hours you can quickly roll down each column if you wanted them there.

If the required two Teacher Planner pages could have been deleted and I could have added like an extra 10 pages, maybe less, I'd have to double check- this would have been enough Mon-Fri schedule pages to get me through the school year and would have been perfect for my all in one planner I've been searching for! I'd have to give up a lot of my note taking pages but since little spaces are available throughout the planner, I don't think it would make that big of a difference.
Following this section, I end the planner with blank pages. I love some blank pages for notes and doodling!
Overall, I love that I only have one planner to keep up with and it has room for all my documentation but definitely a couple tweaks I'd do if I could. It feels very sturdy and I will definitely recommend them and do plan to order again! Maybe next time, try the smaller planner though I'm afraid it would be too small. A size between the A5 and A4 would be ideal! An A4.5 maybe?
I received the planner in a padded envelope, which was torn on the corner thanks to the USPS shoving it into our tiny mailbox. I'd recommend reinforcing the corners of the envelope so it isn't easily torn or label fragile in hopes the USPS reads it and takes better care. Larger mailboxes were available for delivery and had it been marked fragile, I'd like to hope it would have been cared for more. You can see the bottom is slightly bent from this. Thanks to its sturdy metal rings, we were able to bend it back to make the pages turn again though you can still see a slight difference in the rings compared to the others.
The planner, stickers, stretchy decorative band closure, rulers, and clear pocket are all that is included with the as is list price. You can order additional stickers, decorative band closures, rulers, and clear pockets if desired.
Full month layout. Large boxes that I have easily been able to keep up with appointments, extracurricular activities, and other miscellaneous necessities. Plenty of note taking lines on the side for each month.
Apparently I need to figure out how to turn pictures... Sorry! The weekly option- I chose blocks. I use this weekly layout for my diary and include a picture or two from my HP Sprocket that prints 2x3" pictures for each block and write down the special memories from the day to cherish forever and ever. Like when I cut Little Sister's hair and she turned around and said, "Well, that didn't hurt". I never want to forget these sweet moments.
No tabs. Tabs would put this planner over the top for me! They have color coded the sections in theory of making it easier to find the one you need. My brain doesn't have the space in it to remember what color is for what month though so it doesn't really help me. It is pretty to look at though.
I LOVE this section more than I thought I would! The space is actually pretty large and is a great place to keep up with next year (or two depending on what option you select!) appointments/vacations/birthdays/anniversaries.
I added several blank and lined pages for lots of note taking places! Both sides are actually usable as the paper is very thick and good quality. To be exact, 130g I was told.
This is where I do my record keeping for homeschool. Keeping up with the days, units, field trips, etc. Quick glance and I know exactly where we are and what we are doing.
This is the required two teacher planner pages. I'll probably use it for note taking or something since it is there but would have much preferred to have more weekly pages as seen in the next picture instead.
I hate this is sideways... This is what I wanted to utilize for all my homeschool record keeping but due to a maximum number of pages per planner allocated, I couldn't. I would have preferred no time on the sides as well for the option of further customization. While I appreciate not having a super heavy planner by having the ability to add an unlimited number of pages, I would have found this to work better for my homeschooling record keeping requirements by having the ability to include maybe 10 extra pages so I have enough to keep up with each day of school.
Blank note taking pages.
You have the option of including various countries holidays. The print is tiny so it is out of the way but there for reference.
You can include personalized printed dates such as birthdays and by including the year, it tells you age! LOVE that! Anniversaries, too. The print is tiny enough to be out of the way but there to be seen. It would have been nice to customize the icon before the name so I could personalize further.
While the weekly meal plan is nice in theory, the line seems extra small to me for some reason. I probably will skip adding any of these in future planners and just keep this space blank for using on the fly as needed.
The lines on the left I added, can be left blank. The calendars and note section on the right do not have the option to remove or customize in any way. It is a nice option to me though so no complaints there.
The personalized birthdays are printed not only in the monthly overview, weekly, but also in the yearly overviews if selected as an option.
How I have utilized the 2017 Overview for homeschool record keeping.
A preview of how I am using the blocks to keep a diary of sorts and include a picture overview of our day. I hope the girls look back and cherish this when they get older as much as I know we'll cherish remembering even these mundane memories that get lost in the brain as other, newer memories take place.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

"New baby's" birth story!

Finally, 7 weeks and 2 days later I am writing out the amazingly perfect birth story that is "New baby's". :-) And editing it 3 months post birth when I have a bit more sleep under my eye lids.

Baby watch all began at 36 weeks when I suddenly began having bouts of prodromal labor off and on. I just had to make it to Christmas Day when I hit the 37 week mark and could deliver at the new Baby + Co Birth center! Of course, I googled prodromal labor and when Dr Google revealed it is often due to baby not being in the ideal exit position I sought chiropractors trained in Webster Technique and went several times, more walking/being vertical or horizontal, and lots of hands and knees time to get baby in the ideal exit position so these off and on bouts would stop dag gum it and when they would start again it'd be the real deal. So I wished anyways... When nothing was working to stop the prodromal labor and I saw 40 weeks come and go, one of my amazing midwives encouraged me to book a prenatal massage and just enjoy the weekend. It would, hopefully, be the last weekend with just my two big girls fighting for our attention. So, that's what I did. Well, I semi cooperated... I googled more food ways to kick start labor and figured since the girls like to help me in the kitchen why not make it beneficial bonding time and try some new foods to kick start labor? So we made and enjoyed "birthing brownies" and "jump start labor cookies". They were delicious!

"Jump Start Labor Cookies"
40w 5d I woke at 5am with a that-felt-different contraction. I had a couple contractions during the night that woke me but not enough to get me out of bed. I love my sleep too much to loose any for a silly ole contraction. Charles noticed I was up shortly after and decided to join me in the still dark and quiet morning. I told him not to get his hopes up but that I thought it was finally the real deal. I couldn't sit down during contractions nor between, not even on the birth ball which I loved in previous labors. So standing and leaning on the counter is where I remained. We debated on when to call my mom for her to head up since they had to battle Atlanta traffic coming to take over care of the proud big sisters and it was getting close to rush hour.
Sunrise on the morning of newbies birth day!
At 6:30am I made myself cheese eggs and made myself eat it all anticipating I would need the nourishment for labor, finally! I ended up calling mom to give her a heads up that this may or may not be the real deal. I would call back in an hour or so after we timed contractions and I showered to see if they phased out. The girls woke and wondered why mommy was walking and swaying and not talking for short time periods so we told them it looked like it was THE day! Although still waking up, they were so excited! While I was walking and swaying through contractions, I happened to look outside to see the sunrise and knew with it being as beautiful as it was that God was showing me this was indeed THE day we would meet our newbie! Biggest sister was reminding me of all the positions I could try during contractions that she learned from attending the childbirth refresher course with us and Little Sister was excited it meant Nana and Papa were coming and she could get all the barbies down from the closet to play with. Priorities. :-)

Not until 8am did I embrace today being it! We were meeting our third miracle baby, finally! Notified my mom between contractions to head on up but baby would be here before them! I called to cancel my pregnancy induction massage that was scheduled for 9am. I had my weekly routine prenatal appointment at 10:30am where we had discussed doing a sweep in hopes of turning the prodromal labor into the real deal. I was so excited none of that was needed now since I really wanted to stay away from interventions.

8:17am the text I sent our birth photographer to try and time her arrival too! "They are coming closer together but are getting shorter in duration. Like 45-90sec. They were lasting about 2 min from start to peak but sporadic in timing be it every 2 min to 10 min." {We do Bradley Birth so timing of contractions is different than traditionally}

8:20 am Charles called the midwife on call and was told if we feel like we should come, then come. Keeping in mind my weekly appointment was at 10:30am, I was thinking of holding out until then.
9am ish Charles felt we should head to the birth center and I was still feeling like it was too soon. I reluctantly agreed telling myself we would just be early for my appointment. I text our birth photographer that we would be seeing her soon!
10am ish we arrived at the birth center and I was definitely glad to be there. I was choking back tears on the drive there just flooded with emotions. Excited to finally meet this baby after such a trying pregnancy. Excited that the birth I have dreamed about was very probable to actually happen. Anxious how the girls would do without my mom there to watch them. So.many.big.emotions that I couldn't deal with while focusing on contractions!
One of my awesome Midwives (she had her baby 3 days later!)
Upon arrival I made some chit chat between contractions and then taken back to the birthing suite! It is so incredibly beautiful! So refreshing and inviting. So calming and TUB! Oh the tub! But first, had to confirm baby was head down. Yep and a 6/7! And then I let myself truly focus on birthing this baby. I'm not really sure what was happening as I go in when in labor. Eyes closed and completely block out everyone and everything outside. I focus on breathing and swaying. I ended up having to move rooms but when I entered the new room, I heard music to my ears. The glorious sound of the tub filling with water! I had to choke back tears, again, as this was the birth I've dreamed about for years!
Swaying and rubbing baby belly
After being checked couldn't get up until ctx passed
Counter pressure is about as awesome as this lady is!
10:30am I entered the tub! Oh what relief! Being dubbed the midwives epidural is so true! It also had a sprayer and I'm pretty sure they tag teamed as the spray across my belly felt wonderful and only once, when the water got too warm and they had to cool it down, did I notice the pause in spraying. I definitely noticed that pause, it helped so much!

One time I opened my eyes and asked where the girls were. I could see them sitting in a chair watching a movie on the iPad and was told they were alright, that they were safe and cared for. The room was filled with support not only for myself but Charles and the girls too. If any one of us needed something, someone was more than willing to get it! It was after that moment that I truly felt myself relax knowing the girls were safe and taken care of, as was I.

I hardly even had to ask for water this time as my amazing support team was regularly offering water or as I found I liked even more, watermelon Honest Co juice boxes. (The last three weeks I was craving watermelon which is super expensive out of season as we came to find out.)
I mumbled about needing to hold and squeeze something so Charles gave me his hands. I was rocking back and forth in the tub, wiggling my toes, low tones, and strong deliberate breathing. It was my rhythm. I remember mumbling something about my lips feeling weird and was just told it's normal, you're breathing great.
I started getting little urges to give tiny pushes. I could feel baby moving down the birth canal. The neatest sensation! When I finally vocalized something, "ouch", no one jumped and apparently that's normal when it is during labor. Haha
10:51am {midwife notes} I vocalized I felt my water pop.
And then I felt baby kick me from the inside for the very last time. Little stinker kicked me in the left rib for good measure just before swimming to this side.
11:23am {midwife notes} head visible.
11:24 am {midwife notes} Three pushes and baby was swimming!

It took me a minute to finally open my eyes and meet this new baby who was laying on my chest! I could hear my awesome support Team telling me to open my eyes and meet my baby but I just couldn't. When I finally did, I was in love!

What was this new bundle? And then I hear Charles proudly announce "It is a girl!" Our third Princess! What would we name her? It took us a couple of days to decide but we did.... We affectionately refer to our 9lb 13.3oz 21" long Baby girl Kathryn as 'chunk of love'.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Top 10 phases

{I originally wrote this post 03/10/2015 and just now published it!}

Each phase, good and bad, is short lived. I have been in a mommy rut phase. Today, I have decided to push aside my dreams of getting a full time job to "escape" to adult conversations and stain free clothes. I chose to instead look at the moments I have taken for granted with the blessing I've been given, that is being their stay at home mama.

The current top 10 moments that are all just phases and boy am I glad I have not missed out on truly experiencing them! While it is a top 10 countdown, I truly can't rank these as I love each one equally!

 10. The temper tantrums! Yes, I am thankful for them. The stories I will be able to tell at their wedding.... :-) And they happen, often. Just today Little Sister threw the biggest tantrum yet in public. Embarrassing? Absolutely. Life? You betcha! Will it happen again? I'm not lucky enough of a person to say no. The girls have their individual styles of tantrums but none the less they both throw them. Little Miss' is more for independence and it is a reminder that she does deserve more. Little Sister's is more for me not taking the time to understand her. She doesn't communicate with words as much as actions so I really have to watch her. Literally.

9. Holding their little hands. Little Miss doesn't want to hold our hands as much anymore. She's definitely in the midst of the Miss Independent stage. Little Sister though, that's how she shows us what she wants. She takes our hands and takes us to sit on the bed and read her books, to the kitchen and points to the fridge/pantry for food, or to Princess Fiona to walk her. Their little hands in mine fit just perfectly. I love it.

8. Speaking of books, they both LOVE to read books. I love when the three of us are curled up together reading book after book after book. Little Sister has memorized several so she "reads" with me while Little Sister squeals at each picture as if she has seen it for the first time, every time. I hope they will forever find a love in reading books.

7. Music, especially the Frozen soundtrack. It has a pretty high success rate of stopping a tantrum mid tracks during a car ride the moment it is started. The way they sing their hearts outs, literally. The way they dance with every ounce of their souls. May their love for music, of all types, continue to grow. I am thankful they are currently at the stage that although mama can't carry a tune in a bucket, they love it when I sing to them. I know without a doubt, this is short lived so I savor the times I am asked to sing the same song on repeat.

6. Their love for animals. Dogs. Cats. Rabbits. Goats. Cows. Horses. Lizards. Birds. Squirrels. Monkeys. Elephants. Kangaroos. Alligators. You name it, when they see it we must learn more about it. Thank God for YouTube! Just today, a farm family I follow on Instagram posted a video of their newborn baby goats. The girls squealed and kept asking to see more! So we did! And we incorporated some age appropriate education into it too. :-)

5. The way they insist on helping, with everything. In our tiny apartment galley kitchen, their are more often than not two kitchen table chairs aligned right next to me so they can help with everything from cleaning to cooking! Then in front of the washer in the middle of the hallway, you will find two step stools that they stand on to help me load/unload the washing machine. Little Miss' "job" is to clean out the lint trap while Little Sister hands me clothes to fold. It is our system and I love it.

4. The way they want to be with me every second of every day. The moments mama-needs-to-pee-alone-for-once and instantly little fingers are seen under the bathroom door. Or when eating any meal, I always have one kid on each side of me. So our four seat oval table suddenly has three chairs on one side which means we could theoretically seat 8. I love it. I want them to always want me around.

3. The way Little Miss says, "Mommy, can I tell you something?" Yes baby, anything! Right now, these are usually things like "I know you want me to wear a closed toe shoe with socks but I want to wear my new pretty sandals Nana got me even though it is raining outside". One day, they will turn into more serious topics. I want her to never have a time in her life where I wasn't willing and able to listen to what she has to say.

2. The way they hold their arms out to me. The instinctive, arms out and mama picks up. No words needed. Be it in the midst of a temper tantrum and Little Sister can't find the words to say "hold you" or Little Miss is so upset she can't find the words to ask to be held, the universal arms up means mama holds you. I don't care if Little Miss is 37 pounds, I still carry her and will for as long as she wants me to or my back breaks. Whichever happens first. One day, she suddenly won't want to be carried anymore. One day, mama's arms won't be their "safe place" anymore.

1. The mutterings of "I wuv you" in their own glorious ways to the slobbery kisses to the chubby arm hugs wrapped tightly around my neck. To those that say they don't know what "I love you" truly means, I'll disagree. They know, by example. When they make a bad decision to throw toys, they are reminded that I love them despite their actions. When mama is having a bad day and is a grump, they instinctively cover my face in slobbery kisses and give me extra long hugs while chanting "I wuv you".

They are great teachers of forgiveness. I was asked to wash a specific article of clothing. I forgot to wash the purple sweater with rhinestones. Oh no! Life as we know it has ended! Although Little Miss is crushed, she forgives me and we find another sweater with rhinestones. Trivial to us adults but life shattering to a 4 year old who had her heart set on wearing it. We can truly learn so much from watching our kids. The Lord is the ultimate teacher of forgiveness though. He forgives us and washes our sins away with His blood so we can be white as snow. (Isaiah 1:18) I am so thankful and humbled that the Lord uses a 4 and 1 year old to reach me, a 30 year old.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

These two...

New outfits from Nana + warm start to the day = mama playing photographer!
I love how they love each other.
I love their smiles.
I love their eyes.
I love their individual little, err, BIG personalities!

Totally NOT apologizing for the picture overload either!