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Happy New Year! …and Setting Goals

This is me.  20 pounds lighter than I was last January 1st.  My house is just a little more organized and a little less cluttered (at least in theory–all the incoming Christmas presents make our house, once again, feel cluttered).  Our finances are a little more in order, and this blog is a little more populated with posts from the previous year.  And this is all because at the end of 2014, I set some goals for 2015, and though I didn’t achieve all of them 100%, I did enough of each one to know which I’d like to try again and which I’m done with…at least for this point in my life.

This enabled me to make some goals for 2016.  Some are health related and about developing and maintaining healthy habits (like drinking water, starting my day with yoga/pilates, getting enough sleep).  Some are spiritual.  Some are house and organization related.  (Yes, I’m going to do the declutter missions again!)  Some are business related (like adapting my business and helping Raf start his), and others are family and relationship related.  I actually have a lot of goals this year.  I don’t expect to achieve them all 100%, but I’ll do what I can do.  And I know from this past year that even doing all them of at least a little feels like a big accomplishment.

I’ll be completing challenges (usually 5- or 7-day ones) that I find online and elsewhere every few weeks to improve all these different areas, and then I’ll be blogging about them here afterwards so that you know if you want to give them a try.

For now, try setting some goals for 2016, even if they’re just a couple.  (My husband has 2 goals.) Write them down and hang them up so that you can look at them throughout the year.  It’s easy to remember them now, but in July, how likely will it be that you can remember exactly what you wanted to do?  (For me, not likely.)  Writing them down also allows you to check them off as you achieve them, which is satisfying and acts like receiving a reward, which in turn is motivating and encourages you to continue improving yourself and working toward becoming the you that you want to be.

So, Happy New Year!  If 2015 was good to you, I hope that 2016 is even better and that you will actively work towards making it your best year yet.  If 2015 was a difficult year for you, I pray that 2016 gives you rest and peace and that you give yourself permission to not take on so much.  Good luck this year, and God bless!



Create a Paper-Plate Skeleton for Halloween

Meet Ada and CJ’s paper-plate skeletons.   By the faces, you can probably tell which was done by the 2-year old and which one was done by the 7-year old.

It’s always nice when a good idea comes to me.  Of course, I don’t mean that I came up with this idea.  I’m rarely that creative.  By “come to me,” I mean found me.  I didn’t even go searching for it. It ended up on one of my feeds, probably Facebook, maybe Pinterest.  In the end, that doesn’t really matter, does it?  All that matters is that the kids had a great time making them and were really happy to see them come together and get hung on the wall.

You can find the directions and templates at Pickup Some Creativity.

Some tips from having done it already:

  1. When you trace and cut out the templates, don’t worry about drawing/cutting out all the jagged edges.  If you use the cheap paper plates, they have a crinkly edge that gives a similar effect without all the work.
  2. Since you have to cut out all the bones for the arms and legs, it’s easier to trace it onto the top plate of a pile of plates (3 or 4 at a time) and cut through the whole stack of plates instead of tracing and cutting one at a time.
  3. If you’re doing this with a small one that can’t trace and cut by themselves, it might be better to do most of the work beforehand and just save the tracing of the child’s hands and feet, the drawing of the face, and the assembling of the skeleton for them to help with. The tracing and cutting part is pretty boring when they can’t really help.
  4. The original directions call for string to tie the parts together.  We had metal fasteners, and it’s always CJ’s preference to use them.  I think they worked really well. The skeletons would be even taller if we had used string, so I think the fasteners worked out best for us.

So if you have young children in your house, why not try making a paper-plate skeleton for Halloween?  It’s fairly easy and fun.  And if you do end up trying it, take a picture and share in the comments.  I’d love to see them!

Making Lists and “Eating that Frog”

If you’re wondering what eating frogs has anything to do with making lists, then you obviously haven’t read Eat That Frog!  The book is basically about the importance of making lists  and putting the most difficult, most important thing you have to do at the top, i.e. eating the biggest, ugliest frog first.

For the normal day-to-day stuff and probably in many lines of work, this makes a lot of sense, but I find that in application it doesn’t always work that way.  As a teacher, my biggest, ugliest frog is often grading that huge stack of essays.  However, the most immediate thing to do is plan for the next day’s class.  I need the plan before I need the graded papers in most cases, so I have to make that big frog wait.  It can’t possibly be first on my list, so for me, I’m more of an organize-by-time-and-due-date rather than by-difficulty-and-importance type of person (though perhaps we could argue that time=importance in this situation).

No matter how you do it, I do think it’s important to make lists.  At the beginning of the year, I made a list of goals.  I can go back and look at it every now and then and see that, “Oh, I’ve been focusing a lot on this one goal, but I totally forgot that I even had that other goal!”  I made a list of potential blog posts that I’ve been thinking about writing (this one was first on that list :), and then I can cross off and add to it throughout the year.  When I have a day at home alone, no husband and no kids, I generally make a gigantic list of all the things I want to get done, and even though there are things I never get to, it gives me great satisfaction when I cross off 3, 5, or even 10 items (like I did this past Friday)  that I completed.

I’ve heard it said that successful people make to-do lists first thing every day.  Admittedly, sometimes I’m lazy and don’t make lists, especially when my day is going to be pretty much the same routine as usual, but if I know the day has different required tasks, lists can be life/job-saving.  They help the memory (or lack thereof), and they help with motivation.

So I’m mostly a list person.  Are you?  Could you be?  Don’t worry–it doesn’t require actually eating any frogs!  Phew.

Keeping a gratitude jar

Someone on Facebook shared the idea of a grateful jar.  It’s not really a new idea to write down things that you’re grateful for each day, but I liked the idea of keeping them in a jar and reading them at the end of the year on New Year’s Eve.

I decided to give it a try, but instead of one jar, my son and I made a jar for me, for him, and for my husband.  CJ has been learning about “filling people’s buckets” in school, so this goes along nicely with that.  He will really be able to physically see how certain actions fill his jar, and hopefully, he learn what types of things he can do that would fill other people’s jars/buckets.

It was a pretty easy task.  I just took some small mason jars, since that’s what we had on hand, and I cut up colored pieces of paper into eighths.

I traced around the inside of the jar lid, and we cut out circles to write our names on and glue to the lid.


Then, we taped pieces of paper to the side that said, “What filled your bucket today?”

CJ and I practiced by writing the date on one side and then the thing that filled our bucket on the other side.  CJ wrote, “We went to the mall,” and I wrote, “CJ helped make the gratitude jars.”  We folded them up and put them in each of our respective jars.


I can’t wait to watch each of our jars fill up.  I think it will be a good reminder that even though the year will no doubt be filled with negative experiences, which are often the things we remember, we should be thankful for all the good experiences we’ve had.

Let’s keep track of those things throughout the year that make us happy and that “fill our buckets.”  Even if you don’t keep them on pieces of paper in a jar, write them down and keep them.  It will be fun at the end of the year and maybe even years later to read about all the blessings in your life from 2015.

Happy New Year!

Avoiding Regret

Fill in the blanks:

I wish I had ____________________________ this morning.

I wish I hadn’t ___________________________ yesterday.

I should have ___________________________this year.

I shouldn’t have __________________________all these years.

Some of your answers probably include little regrets like

I wish I had cleaned the house this morning (so that I wouldn’t have to do it tonight).

I shouldn’t have eaten that whole bag of cookies yesterday.

These are often soon forgotten and then repeated.  Yes, I regret eating the bag of cookies, but will I do it again?  Probably.

Then there are the slightly larger regrets:

I wish I hadn’t yelled at CJ like that.

I should’ve told my husband that I loved him before he left for work.

These, we try to do better on next time.  I will be more intentional about telling my husband what he means to me, and I will try alternatives to telling at my children.  I want to avoid feeling this same regret next time, and I can try to improve.

Finally, there are the big regrets:

I wish we had visited my mother-in-law in Puerto Rico.  We shouldn’t have let lack of money keep us from seeing her.

We should have made CJ stand in a picture with her when we visited her in New York over a year ago.

I shouldn’t have let my husband go so long without seeing her after we were married.

These are things that we can’t do anything about now.  This past Monday morning, my mother-in-law passed away, and both my husband and I are full of regrets.  Nothing can change that we didn’t visit her, that CJ will never get to see her again (even though he had been asking for months to see to her again), and that we will never have a picture of them together.  My heart aches for those things.  My husband’s heart aches for all the years when he didn’t visit and rarely called.  It hurts him to know that even though, recently, the calls were more frequent and the relationship was so much better, he won’t get to see her or talk to her again and that he never got to say goodbye.

How do we avoid this type of regret?  I’m certainly no expert, but I’ve spent many nights lying in bed thinking about it this week.

  1. When we are with people that we care about, we need to make the most of every moment with them.  We really don’t know if that will be the last time we see them.  If we had known August 2013 would be the only time CJ would see his abuela, then we would’ve made him stand for a picture with her.  We would’ve taken some video.  We would’ve preserved those precious memories.
  2. Love people, and show them that you love them. My husband loved his mother, but he didn’t always show it.  That’s where the feelings of regret are born.  We get so busy in our lives that we assume that people know that we love them, and really, I’m sure they do.  However, if we want to avoid regret once they’re gone, we need to tell them and show them the love.  It makes them feel good, and it will result in less regret later for us.  We know we did our best and showed our best.
  3. Listen.  Listen to the voices around you and in your head.  If you believe in God, in guardian angels, in the Holy Spirit, then listen to them.  They are guiding you toward the right path, and if you listen to them, you’ll feel no regret.  If you don’t believe in these things, listen to your conscience–that little voice in the back of your mind is surprisingly perceptive and often acts similarly to a guardian angel, nagging you about something that you’re missing, that you’ve forgotten, that is about to go awry.  If you have children in your life, listen to them.  They know how to really live.  They don’t understand the same constraints that often hold us adults back (time, money, complex relationship dynamics).  If a child wants to do it and the reason you give them for not doing it is any of these types of things, you might think about it again and ask yourself if not doing it might cause some big regret later.

If you look at articles about regret, generally they’re about relationships and how we wronged them or, at the least, didn’t try our best at them, or they’re about how we wasted our time doing less important things (instead of focusing on our relationships with people).  All we can do to avoid regret is to nourish our relationships–act purposefully towards others and love them–and when we mess up, the only thing left to do is forgive ourselves and hope that those who have moved on from this life realized how much we loved them.

As we head into the New Year, let’s resolve to make the most of the time that we’re given with the people we love, to show them we love them, and to listen and not let less important things get in the way of living.

How do you avoid regret?  How do you get over feelings of regret?  Please share in the comments below!

Pay with Cash

By this time next year, hopefully, Raf and I will be completely debt free.  We’re following Dave Ramsey’s baby steps, and by the time everything is all said and done, we’ll have been on baby step 2 (paying off all debt) for nearly 5 years. It’s a long time, but we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel!

Besides creating a budget, one of the things that has really helped us limit our spending and prepare for future expenses is the cash envelope system.   We take the money we budget for groceries and put it in the grocery envelope.  We take the money we budget to be set aside for the year’s gifts and put it in the gift envelope, etc.  The problem is that we’ve become a little sloppy with this.   We don’t always get to the bank or ATM to take out the cash, so we end up using the debit card instead.  If one envelope runs out, we might borrow from another envelope.  Obviously, this creates problems in the long run and basically makes the budget worthless, and the budget–well, sticking to the budget–is really what makes getting out of debt possible.

So let’s try using the cash envelope system as it is intended to be used.  No charging or debiting what can be paid for with cash.  No borrowing from other envelopes.  No spending in that category once the money in the envelope runs out.  Can we do it?  If we can, we’ll be that much closer to getting out of debt, saving for emergencies, a house, and/or college, investing towards retirement, and mostly important, I think, giving to those who are in need.  Leave a comment if you intend to give it try, or tell us about your successes and failures with the envelope system if you’ve used it before.

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