Gretchen Rubin's "Happier" podcast. Of all the podcasts I listen to, this is the one that I have to hear immediately when it's posted every week. I love Gretchen Rubin because she explains research-based, tried and true ways to improve little areas of your life. She addresses how different personality types have different ways of successfully acheiving goals and she's full of real-life examples. I like listening to this podcast in the morning after the kids have left for the day and I'm cleaning in the kitchen. It's a positive start to my morning and gives me a lot to think about.
Board games. I've been waiting so long for my kids to get to the age where we can all sit down as a family and play a game together. I think playing games is just as important as reading for kids' brain development because they have to think ahead and strategize and learn things like taking turns and following rules and sportsmanship. We've had some "starter" games like Hi Ho Cherry-Oh, Chutes and Ladders, and Candyland for a long time, and those never really caught on. But for Christmas we got Pop-o-matic Trouble (love that little dice popper!), PayDay, Rummikub, and a new chess set, which are interesting enough for the adults in the house, too.
Probiotics. I never got a diagnosis of whatever was causing my tummy trouble for the first part of the year, although I had numorous doctor visits, tests, and tried some strict elimination diets. Right now I'm feeling a lot better, and I think one reason for that is that I've stepped up my intake of probiotics. I take capsules, but I also drink tons of kombucha (GT's Gingerade is my go-to flavor, but the green one with the spirulina is also good sometimes) and kefir. I'm not going to claim that probiotics cure everything, but I will say that my skin has been clearer than ever, I didn't have to take Claritan at all during allergy season, and I have been able to avoid the colds that the rest of my family have been suffering from lately.
"The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo. I have joined the cult and drunk the Kool-aid. This lady knows what she's talking about and her words, while a little silly at times, are so inspirational. After reading this book, I had a fire lit under me that made me purge, purge, purge the house to the point where there was a visual change. I'm not following directions to the letter, because the official Konmari method is to declutter your house all at once and never have to do it again, but I've maintained the energy to keep going in spurts. I can't wait to "thank" my socks as I fold them and see what "sparks joy" in the next year.
"Love and Mercy". OK, so I think this was the only grown-up movie I saw in the theater this year, so that's probably why it sticks out as being so phenomenal. We went to it on a rare date night, and we didn't even know what it was when we picked it. Everything about it was outstanding: the performances by some of my favorite actors (Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, and John Cusack), the dramatization of Brian Wilson writing and recording the Pet Sounds album, the heartbreaking story of Wilson's mental breakdown and manipulation by his doctor, the love story that happened after that. I left the theater thinking, this is what all movies should be like.
Amazon Prime. Here Amazon, take my money. To be able to order something with a few taps on my phone, and have it show up in 2 days with no shipping charge, is awesome. To also get movie and music streaming services on top of that, is the icing on the cake.
My job. I started working part-time at a group home at the end of February. I had never thought I'd go back to this line of work, but the hours were perfect for me and there was an immediate "click" when I first met with the awesome people I'd be working with. It's a fun job, with just enough "work" and problem-solving to keep me from being bored, but very little stress, overall. I did not expect the transition of going "back" to work would be this easy, so I'm very grateful this has worked out.
Our summer CSA box. After years of deliberating, we finally pulled the trigger and signed up for a CSA subscription last spring. Our farm, Sleepy Root Farm, provided us with plentiful tasty fresh veggies all summer, and we were challanged to figure out ways to eat all of them before they spoiled. The first few weeks we literally ate two giant salads, two times a day to get through all the greens. I remember my jaw actually hurting from all that chewing. But it worked out, and we felt good about it, and we found out that just-picked, local vegetables taste a million times better than anything you can buy at a store. We will definitely do it again.
Volunteering. This is the first year I have both kids in the same school all day, so that opens up my schedule for taking on some parent responsibilities at the school. We have such a huge volunteer turn-out at our school, and it's certainly not "expected" that all parents pitch in, but many do and I've been wanting to get in on the action. It turns out, it's a lot of fun for me to see and hear what goes on in my kids' classrooms and get to know their classmates. Plus, I'm in awe of what the teachers are able to accomplish and how hard they work. It's so satisfying to know that when my kids go off everyday, they are being taught, and cared for, by such amazing people. To know I'm helping out those teachers a little bit by coming in and working one-on-one with new readers and writers, or doing administrative stuff is a great feeling.
And for 2016, I plan to mostly keep doing what I'm doing with a few add-ons. I have a big birthday coming up, that I'd like to celebrate in a meaningful, original way. I want to de-clutter and streamline the house even more and figure out how to get the rest of my family on board. I'm going to do the Whole30 soon to break my sugar addiction. I want to get out and see a lot more local bands (we already have tickets to The Current's 11th Birthday Party and Cloud Cult). I want to read more fun fiction (not that how-to and self-help books aren't useful, but there's nothing like a good page-turner). I want to learn how to better use the apps on my iPhone and iPad so that I can completely transition away from my stupid, crashy laptop for good. And I'd like to do a little more community volunteering, not just at my kids' school. And that's about it. No huge resolutions- just some areas to focus on. I think it sounds like a fun year ahead!