Monday, March 31, 2014

Days #11-13: Priorities

Wow, this weekend was busy!  Staying unplugged wasn't too difficult, as I didn't have a lot of down time.  I had the opportunity to spend some much-needed time alone shopping and now feel like I'm a little more prepared for the warmer weather we hope is coming soon.  I tell ya, some new shoes and capri pants have made me much happier about the arrival of spring!

This week I am working very hard to sit down, both alone and with my husband, to really concentrate on priorities.  What is presently important in our lives and what activities or goals are taking up time and energy that we simply don't have right now?  It was so wonderful to sit down in peace and quiet last night to discuss some general short-term and long-term goals.

After reading Notes from a Blue Bike, I have really begun to understand that living intentionally takes planning.  We need to consider what is important, eliminate the activities that are taking up our valuable time, and ensure what we really value is present in our daily lives.  The book discussed six areas of which I found I could also relate to and would really like to thoughtfully consider:  food, education, work, travel, entertainment, and money.

This week I plan to devote my time to creating goals, develop a family purpose statement, and devise a plan.  I intend to spend some time each day on these specific areas and have some good discussions with my husband and kids as well.  I'm looking forward to this challenge!


Friday, March 28, 2014

Day #10: Listening

Okay, so I admit, I have not been perfect with my "unplugging" plan, but I have greatly reduced the time I've been sifting through my Facebook feed and turned to reading during those times where I feel like I just need to do something!  Quieting the noise is hard to do and I certainly don't expect to be able to accomplish it overnight.

Reading is probably my favorite hobby.  I used to only read fiction books, but have since switched to reading non-fiction 90% of the time.  I have a stack of books on my nightstand that I cannot wait to dive into.  I thought I'd switch my focus from time-sucking web surfing to reading....something useful, uplifting, encouraging.  I chose Notes From a Blue Bike:  The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider.  Couldn't be more perfect for the journey that I'm on!  I love it.  I have nearly completed it and love so many of the principles she writes about.  Makes me want to pursue some of the convictions that I hold dear to my heart and run with them like it's nobody's business.

Sometimes it is hard to comprehend how little time we truly have here on Earth.  Some days seem to drag on forever, but in the blink of an eye another year has passed.  I don't want to look back and wish I had gone after what was truly in my heart for fear of the unknown or what others would think.  What truly matters are the six people I am blessed to have in my family.  I often think of what our story will be:  our life experiences, the lessons we teach our children, and the legacy that we will leave behind.  This is something to truly pray about and trust what we are hearing.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Day #8: The Painful Realization

*My intent with this project is to not be all down and negative, but I think it's important to work through the ugly to get to the beautiful.  Parenting and growing as an individual is certainly not all rainbows and roses!

Today was not a calm, positive day in our home.  I have been doing my best to keep calm, not yell, and redirect my children in a positive manner, but today I broke.  When dealing with a child who is not sleeping well and, therefore, not able to control his actions coupled with a child who complains, pouts, and whines about nearly every decision that doesn't meet his approval, it is so difficult not to reach a breaking point and explode.  Explode I did...sigh.

I know it was ugly.  There was so much crying, yelling, and screaming I just couldn't take it anymore.  If this was more of an isolated incident and not a movie that seems to replay itself repeatedly day after day, then perhaps I would have been able to react more calmly.  Driving in the van at that moment, though, I just couldn't calmly react.  I couldn't hear, I couldn't think, and I had simply had enough.

I came to the realization that there are times I just want to close the door or walk away.  I want a break from the incessant fighting, whining, crying, and tantrums.  I need to schedule time away, if even for a few hours here and there.  It is not healthy for any of us to be around each other nearly every waking minute of every day.  I don't want to be the crabby mom who yells and scolds her children.  I want them to know they are loved unconditionally and that they are good kids, but it is hard to convey that when you have reached the breaking point.    

I have a hard time explaining this to my husband and an even harder time finding the time to make it happen.  Perhaps I think my family depends on me more than they really do.  I am sure they would all survive if I took off for a weekend and surely they would make it if I took a day to myself on the weekend.  It's getting past the guilt, I suppose.  Time to rip off the bandaid and give it a try.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Day #7: Unplugging

The internet, social media, and smartphones...all great technological advances we have experienced over the past few decades, however they have created the ultimate distraction:  the inability to disconnect.  Jobs used to have boundaries.  Work was an eight hour day rather than a limitless string of after hours phone calls, emails, and texts.  Reading books offered us the ability to escape in a good story or learn about topics we were curious about instead of online searches and blogs.  Phone calls or meeting with friends were our way of catching up instead of social media updates, tweets, texts, and emails.  All of these cause distractions in our families and ultimately suck up so much of our time.  

On some level, we've lost the personal connection.  While we're able to connect, or reconnect, with many more people, do we develop our relationships past the surface level?  We're all so "busy" that it's difficult to find time to meet up with friends, have dinner with our spouse, or simply sit down and play with our kids without interruption.  I am as guilty as the next on all counts and am going to set some personal boundaries for "unplugging."

Here are a few simple rules I intend to follow:

-Phones and the computer may not be on the table during meals.
-I will check social media twice daily:  a time in the morning and at night.
-While I love, love all of these uplifting, faith-filled blogs I have come across in the past few months, I will shift focus a bit and read their books instead.
-We will go out on a date once a month alone and gather with friends for a night out at least once a month as well.
-I will play with my children each day and give them my undivided attention:  no phone, no computer, no tv.

Whew, that seems like a hefty task at this point.  Breaking the cycle may be a challenge, but the fact that these are just not "givens" is a bit sad, too.  I'm going to do my best to enjoy the quiet in a noisy, distracting world.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Day #6: Separation of Life Stresses and the Children

I find it difficult to keep calm and parent in a positive way when I feel stress.  To say that life's stresses are high right now would be a tremendous understatement.  We are facing some difficult decisions and working through the process is creating a high state of stress and anxiety.  I am doing my best to remember that, in the end, all will be well, but it's hard to always stay positive in the moment.  I am doing my best to pray instead of worry and put it in His hands.

The challenge in the upcoming weeks is to separate life's stresses from my everyday life with the children.  When patience has worn thin and anxiety is high, it is so hard to control your emotions and reactions, especially when the kids are fighting, not listening, or simply being kids.  I am doing my best to remind myself to stay calm; they have nothing to do with the stress and anxiety I am feeling and (hopefully) soon our life will become less stressful.

In an attempt to create a calming environment and to remind myself to have faith during the obstacles life throws at us, I've been listening to K-Love.  I have had friends tell me how it has changed their lives and I, too, have felt more hopeful and encouraged since turning it on.  For the past several weeks we have been listening at home and in the car and I often find myself singing songs in my head when it's not even on.  I am so thankful for my friends for this suggestion!


Monday, March 24, 2014

Day #5: Personal Struggles

Today has not been the best day of the journey thus far.  I have been struggling with feelings of anxiety and for some reason I have found myself comparing aspects of my life to others, which is something I generally don't do.  I did my best to stop these thoughts and instead focus on the positives in our life, but it was a struggle most of the day.  I suppose we all hit bumps in the road and today was just that; a bump.

I believe this has more to do with my own personal insecurities and doubts than anything else.  Addressing some of my personal issues that have festered over the years is definitely an important part of this journey.  I do my best not to dwell on the past, but there are times where I feel like I'm in high school and college all over again trying to find the place where I "fit in" and feel accepted by those around me for who I am and not for who I think they want me to be.

Ultimately, my goal is to wake each day thankful for what I have, stand up for what I believe in, and be a model for my children:  to lead by example.  I suppose what others think should be the least of my concerns if I'm doing my best to live a life of service, following God's word as best I can, and caring for those I love.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Day #4: A Date Night...With Friends!

Part of this growing process is finding time for my husband and I to "escape" sans kids.  For as long as we've parents, this has been an area we've struggled with.  Before we moved, we had finally reached the point where we felt we could leave the kids in the hands of a sitter and enjoy our night without too much worry.  Fast-forward a few years: we've added another baby that is completely dependent on Mom, so we have spent very little time out of the house without the kids.  Time to escape!

Grandma and Grandpa agreed to babysit and we were able to enjoy a wonderful dinner with a few other couples.  Time seems to move so much faster when you're out with good company.  We soaked up three glorious hours of kid-free socializing.  Can't wait to do it again soon!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Day 3: Muffins with Mom

Today was intended to be a day where I took a little time for, "me," (I know, gasp), but it just didn't work out.  I had hoped to sneak off and get a pedicure, but it will have to wait for another day.  Instead, I took advantage of my husband's day off and made muffins with my middle kiddos.
This time I tried a new approach.  Since I planned to make multiple batches of muffins, I opted for a little one-on-one cooking lesson.  They each got to complete the whole process, from mixing it together to lining the pans with the papers, and were so excited when "their" batch of muffins was done.  We were not rushed (so, no "hurry ups" from my mouth!) and had time to talk about the measurements and ingredients.  It was a lot of fun!

All-in-all we made 6 dozen muffins.  It was a wonderful morning spent bonding over food and I think we ate our weight in muffins!


Friday, March 21, 2014

Day 2: The Stressful Transition

If I had to choose one transition we need to improve on, it would be getting ready to leave the house.  It is by far the most stressful, frustrating time of day, especially if we have to be somewhere at a specific time.  While I always feel that I have allowed enough time for this transition, it rarely is enough.  For some reason, they tend to pick this time to amp the silliness up and completely ignore the task at hand.  The end result?  I get frazzled and yell.  My anger and frustration typically carries over to the van and it takes me awhile to let it go.  I often sit there and wonder, "Why can they just not do 'x,y,z' so we can go?"

Today I vowed to do my best to stay calm when it was time to get ready to go.  For the most part, I was successful, but my stubborn, independent child did his best to set the alarms off in my brain.  I have realized this is an unpleasant, stressful time for us all, so I am going to test out a new system to see if we can make this transition more peaceful and less chaotic.

Here's my plan:

-20 minutes before it is time to go, I will start sending kids to the bathroom.
-I will only send one child to our back hallway at a time and ask them to get ready to go.
-Once they're ready, I will ask them to go out to the van and get buckled in.

I am going to give this a conscious effort for a week and pray for some improvement (and sanity!) during this difficult time of our day.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Day 1: 10 Minutes

My first day of Motherhood 180 was a success.  My goal was to give each of my children ten minutes of undivided attention.  Intentional living.  Seems like an easy feat, but in reality it's hard to not be interrupted or get sidetracked for ten minutes!  I took advantage of naps and the time before bed to make it happen.

Here is how I spent my ten minutes with each child:
-Filling out the NCAA brackets with my oldest son who is a die-hard sports fan.  We even snuck in some extra time reading a book from his new favorite series, The Ballpark Mysteries.  Definitely time well spent that we both enjoyed.
-Watching my younger son dance.  The boy just loves music and he was so thrilled that I actually sat down in the chair to watch him perform.  I've never noticed how serious his facial expressions are while dancing (and he's quite graceful, too!).  We also spent time together playing a matching letter game that he chose.  The baby was napping, so we were able to complete it without him screaming, "She's ruining it!"  Bonus!
-Reading with my oldest daughter.  She loves books and studies the pictures so carefully.  I caught her scanning through a few books several times and invited her to bring them over to share with me.  She was so excited about the new bedtime books I put out, she just HAD to share the funny parts with her brothers (of course the parts that include bathroom humor were the ones she chose first!).
-Playing ball and reading with the baby.  The pure joy that this little girl brings to our lives is indescribable.  Her eyes smile when she does and she just loves to throw the ball back when it's rolled to her.  Books with textures are also a big hit and she now has definite preferences and lets them be known!  Sweet moments spent on the floor and with her in my lap.  They certainly will pass by too quickly!

In spending those ten minutes focused on each child, I realized how I often miss the little things because I'm distracted, interrupted, or simply just not noticing.  What a great way to start out on this journey!  Hope your first day is a great one!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What is Motherhood 180?

Balance.  The act every mother struggles with.  I've been blessed to be a mother for seven years, but have struggled most of that time to find a balance between meeting the demands of everyday life staying at home raising our children, nurturing our marriage, and finding time to pursue my interests or to simply rest.  This has been a challenge for many years, but since having our fourth child it has become even more apparent.  Unfortunately, I feel that this struggle has adversely affected our home life.

Over the course of time, my ability to remain patient and calm has lessened.  The once fun and creative mom full of projects and ideas has been replaced with a tired and distracted one who can't seem to focus during the day.  Most days life seems to be disorganized and chaotic and for this Type A mom, it is hard to handle.  Ultimately, I'm often left feeling like I'm coming up short.  I'm tired of feeling frustrated and drained at day's end.  I want to sit down and be able to say, "Praise God.  Today was a good day" instead of "Dear God, please help me.  Today was rough."  It's time to make a change and improve everyday life both for myself and for my family.

I often feel like I've run the race, but never quite crossed the finish line.  Perhaps some of you can relate.  I believe I feel this way because I pull myself in too many directions to truly feel like I've given a solid effort in any area; I love to create lists and cross things off when they're complete.  It makes me feel productive, yet I have so many daily responsibilities that are ongoing or intangible they can't be crossed off of a list; or, I feel guilty because I wanted to do better in "x" area today and more than likely it just didn't happen.  Days are unpredictable they are centered around caring for four children seven and under.  There's illness, not enough sleep, temper tantrums, nap boycotts, school, appointments, activities, and on and on and on.  It's easy to feel like you're always running, but there's no clear destination in sight.

Several months ago I began to read encouraging, uplifting, "real" books by authors with strong faith and have begun to shift from beating myself up and worrying to praying on the days when I feel discouraged.  I feel motivated and understand I am not alone:  there is room for positive change.  Let's face it, there are always excuses, but it's time to put those aside and be proactive.  I am going to take the next 180 days and live life more intentionally.  I will purposefully focus on taking positive steps to enrich life for our family.  I AM going to do this.  And it starts today.

If you feel like you're swimming upstream, I hope you will consider taking a leap of faith and joining in on this journey.  One small change each day will yield big results in the end.  Soon our minds will be reprogrammed and healthy habits will develop.  We can do this with support, determination, and faith.  What do you say, there is never a better time than now!