Saturday, October 25, 2014

day 25: know your limits...

This post is a part of my ongoing series, 31 days to more order.  Click this link to read all the topics and posts.

This is the second post I wrote today.  The first one was a knee-jerk reaction to a recent experience where someone was rude to me and Grace in front of other people.  Because I am an internal processor, my response came days later after much stewing.  Then, I sat down and spewed it all over my keyboard.  Knowing full well that I would never post it.  But it felt awesome good to pretend the person was in front of me and I was able to deliver the perfect response to their rude comments.

Sometimes I think it would be great if you could hit a pause button like you see in commercials.  When I found myself in a situation like that I could pause the world, process my thoughts and reactions, formulate the perfect response and then re-start the world so I could deliver it.  The reality is the world isn't like that and truth be told, I'd probably still stew over a situation after I delivered my amazing response.

So, after I deleted that post, I decided to cover knowing your limits.  I'm going to give you another sports example.  Sorry.  But it is a great one to set up what I mean by knowing your limits.

One day when the kids were little, I got a lecture from another mother.  She was amazed and surprised to learn that John wasn't playing any team sports.  The fact that he did not get to play 3 or 4 year old t-ball, made her mad.  She stated that it wasn't fair to John and he was going to miss out on so much.  Huh?  She also stated that everyone else was playing sports at those ages, so he would be behind in skills.  She then proceeded to tell me that John would grow up to resent his sister (his disabled sister) because we didn't let him play sports at the young ages of 3 and 4.  Well, I've already told you I'm not great at comebacks in the heat of the moment.  My only response was to say that this was a decision that my family made and it worked for us.

Here's the back story as to why we didn't sign John up for little league until he was 5.

Can you stand the cuteness?  Oh my word!  Where did those little kids go...

This is actually a decision that Mark and I discussed at length.  We both grew up playing sports and feel there is a benefit to playing team sports.  We live in an area that has sports for kids as young as two and where travel or club teams are pushed at kids from a young age.  [As an aside, we were recently told that if John didn't play club or travel soccer at this age (10) he would never make his High School team because coaches didn't want players that hadn't been playing for years.]  So we discussed youth sports and decided that, for our family, we wouldn't sign John or Luke up for any sports until they reached 5.  We thoughtfully decided this.

Here's what when into our decision:

1.  We considered the fact that when John was 5, it would mean Luke was 3 and Grace was 2.  So signing him up for sports before that would mean I would have a 2 and a 1 year old at the field.  Keeping in mind our children's personalities and developmental capabilities at those ages, we decided our family couldn't do it.  John is super cautious and thoughtful, he needs to check a situation out before joining in.  At the age of 2, Luke was a climber / jumper who never met a stranger so he often would wander off in search of entertainment.  Well, he's still like that but at 2 it wasn't tempered by experience and reason.  Grace is also a total care special needs child, so it was difficult to take her out in public. 

2.  Mark works a lot of nights and weekends.  Which meant that, most likely, I would be the one taking all three kids to the ball fields by myself.  We decided it would be easier on the two that had to wait for hours by the side of the field, if they were older.

3.  We talked to our friends who have older children and they said that they wished they had waited because their children didn't like playing sports at the younger ages and they cried on the field.  We also didn't want John to make a decision that he didn't like a sport based on his experience at 3 or 4.  Keeping in mind numbers 1 & 2 above, we decided that we didn't want to even deal with this and so we waited.

All these reasons made this a decision that fit for our family.  Which is really the only family I'm making decisions for.  My decisions for my family shouldn't impact you and your decisions and vise versa.  So, we waited to put John in team sports until he was 5.  And guess what?  Not only were there other kids on his team that had never played t-ball, but based on the fact that John was picked for the All Star team at 7 by his coaches he wasn't behind the other kids.  As for him resenting his disabled sister, we give that to God.  We pray that God is shaping him into the man He God created John to be and that if John and Luke resent Grace, we hope they will talk with us about it.

My reason for this example is to encourage you to make thoughtful, reason-based decisions based on what is best for your family.  Do not allow yourself to be swayed based on someone else's perception of what you should be doing.  Knowing your limits allows you to make decisions based on what works, at that time, for your family.

If I had succumbed to the peer pressure from this other mother, I would have put my family out of balance.  It would have made a stressful time in our families life much, much more stressful.  Stress and order can't coexist in your life.

Understanding your strengths, likes and dislikes and personality type really help with knowing your limits.  I have a friend who hates to cook, but she signs up every time someone sends out meals calendar.  This stresses her out and causes her to complain about it.  I have encouraged her to stop signing up to make meals and to find some other way to help the person in need.  Most likely, if someone needs meals they could also use help in other areas.  But she feels like she should because other people would know if she didn't sign up.  I told her that I love to cook and to make meals for others but even I don't sign up for every meal request.  I need to make sure that my schedule could handle the extra time, money and effort to provide another family with a meal.  Knowing my limits allows me to not put myself and therefore, my family out of balance.

I encourage you to know your limits, make decisions based on those limits and stick with them.  This one thing can bring order to your life by limiting or eliminating what causes you stress.  Remember, you are only responsible and accountable for your own family.  Know your limits...


Friday, October 24, 2014

day 24: set attainable goals...

I believe there are three keys to setting attainable goals.  In order to achieve a goal it needs to be; specific, measurable and you need to be accountable about your goal.  I'm going to walk you through one of my recent goals so you get the idea.

I am a runner.  I love to run.  But sometimes I lack motivation to do so.  So, a few years ago when I brainstorming for my yearly goals.   I wrote down that I wanted to run more.  Which sounds like a good goal but the problem with that goal is that there was no way to measure if I succeeded or not.  A goal like that leaves me asking 'more than what?'.  This is where being more specific in your goals comes in.  

 1.  Set Specific Goals.  The more specific you can be the better.  I sat with my goal for a while and thought about what I really meant when I said I wanted to run more.  Did I want to run a certain number of days a week or month?  Did I want to run a certain number of miles?   Did I want to train for a race? 

As it turns out, I decided my goal was to run a half marathon.  It had been 20 years (literally 20 years) since I ran a race that long and I really felt like I wanted to see if I could do it again.  As I was figuring this out, I got a post card in the mail from Team In Training, a running program for the Leukemia & Lymphoma society that will help you train for a race in exchange for fundraising dollars.  I looked at the races and one of them fit our family schedule perfectly.  So I signed up through this program.

2. Set Measurable Goals.  Make sure you can track your success.  This is why your goal needs to be specific, you need to be able to see whether or not you are on track to achieve your goal.  I was given a half marathon training schedule and was able to track my progress weekly by whether or not I ran the suggested mileage.  It was great to have a specific program to follow while training for this run. 

3. Find Someone to be Accountable to.  Tell other people your goal and have them help you by supporting you in your dream to achieve something new.   I knew that the training was going to be a big time commitment, so I talked it over with Mark and got his agreement that this was something our family could support me in doing.  I was also accountable to the team I was on and it was great to have that support.  My race was in April, so  I trained during the coldest months here in Pennsylvania and I am a total wimp, I hate being cold.  But it felt good to be able to say I had run in snow, ice and freezing temperatures in order to reach my goal.

My amazing big sister, who is a breast cancer survivor, was at the finish line to support me.  

Once you have achieved your goal, CELEBRATE!  It is so awesome to decide to do something, set a goal and then achieve it.  You need to allow yourself to recognize what you've done.

I would love to run a marathon.  It has been a goal of mine for a long time.  So I've recently decided that I want to run a marathon before my 50th birthday (which is WAY closer than I want it to be).

Now, I do realize that not everyone wants to set sports specific goals.  And truthfully most of my goals revolve around learning new skills or reorganizing my house.  One of my current goals, since my birthday was just last month all my goals are new, is to read 12 meaningful or impactful books in one year.  I'm busy determining what that criteria means in my life and find books to put on my to be read list.

So your goals can be as simple as clean out the hall or guest room closet.  You know the closet that seems to hold all the stuff you have no other home for?  Just make sure you can be specific about what you want to achieve, you can measure whether or not you did it and share your goal with someone.   

I encourage you to set goals that are specific and measurable and find someone to be accountable with.  As humans we thrive when we have something we are working towards.  Set goals, it will help you find more balance and order in your lives.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

day23: set some goals...

One way I've found to cultivate more order in my life is through the practice of goal setting.  I usually do this around my birthday, which is in September.  I know that many people use the end of one year and the start of a new one to set goals.  However, I like to reflect on my year and look forward towards accomplishing new things and my birthday seems to be a good time for me to do that. 

Years ago, many, many years ago before I was married or a mom, I did some reading on goal setting.  I was unhappy with my job and career and wanted to see how to change all of that.  Well, I didn't really change my career so much as fell into another opportunity that better suited me.  But I do remember reading that 3 is the perfect number of short term goals to be focusing on at one time. 

This is a practice I have continued, on and off, for the past 20 years.  I like to set short term goals that have a time limit of one month and then long term goals that take longer but can be accomplished in one year.  My husband and I even have some longer term goals to accomplish for our family.

Tomorrow, I'm going to go over how to achieve the goals you have set but for today we are going to brainstorm. 

What goals do you have?

Do you have goals?

Have you lost sight of the things that you wanted to accomplish due to the stage of life you are in?

I'd like to suggest that setting personal goals can help bring more order and balance into your life because you are actively perusing and doing things.  I encourage you to sit down and intentionally think about some things you'd like to accomplish.  Dream big, there are no right or wrong answers here.  Maybe you'd like to:

Run a marathon or half marathon
Clean out your sitting room
Read 12 quality books this year
Repaint your bathroom
Learn to knit
Learn to bake bread
Join a bookclub
Take better pictures of your family
Take a pottery or creative writing class
Make all your Christmas gifts this year

Grab a piece of paper and a cup of tea, or coffee or wine (if the kids are in bed) and start thinking of some goals that you would like to accomplish.  Don't limit yourself, just write down what comes to mind.  This exercise can and should be fun.  You may be tapping into something you haven't thought of for years.

What goals do you have?  Write them down...


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

day 22: be kind to yourself...

This may not really fit in a series on order, but I feel very strongly about sharing this today.  I think as women, we need to spend more time being kind to ourselves. 

So today, cut yourself some slack.  Stop comparing yourself to others.  Stop wishing your life was different and take some steps towards change.  Stop the negative self talk.

I forget where I first saw this saying but I love it.  It is so true.  Take a look in the mirror and say something nice to yourself today.  

If you can't think of any, here are some from me: You are beautiful, you are strong, you are lovable, you can do it, and you are a daughter of the King.  Rejoice today in who you are!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

day 21: cleaning...

One way I like to create order in my life is to develop systems or routines for everyday tasks.  I've already talked about my meal planning and morning routines, today I want to talk about my cleaning routine.

Like cooking dinner, cleaning is something that must be done daily.  I've experimented with all different ways to clean my house and have found what works best for me.  Which is really the point of this whole series, that you find what works best for you and then do it.

I like to do a little bit of cleaning everyday, instead of doing one big cleaning on the weekend.  I have found that if I break up my cleaning, I'm more likely to stay on top of it and therefore I have a cleaner house.  I have tried both ways, and doing something everyday just fits my personality and life.  I have used cleaning systems created by other bloggers whereby they assign a task to each day of the week.  So for example, Monday is for cleaning the bathrooms, Tuesday clean the floors, Wednesday...  You get the idea.  I like that concept but I never knew what do to if I didn't do Monday's task on Monday.  Should I do it Tuesday or wait a week?

The best way to describe my cleaning system now is that I divided each task into the number of times I perform it each week and then do it that many times.  So for example, I vacuum my rugs 2 times a week.  I typically vacuum on Tuesdays and Fridays.  But since the task is not assigned a day but rather a number of times a week to complete, I can vacuum on other days and not add stress to my life.

I also have given my children age appropriate cleaning chores and we do those both during the week and on the weekend.  Some of the things my boys are responsible are; cleaning their bathroom, their bedroom, dusting the bannisters on the stairs and some of the vacuuming.  They also help with setting and clearing the table but I don't see that as a chore but more of a responsibility since they are part of the family.

Somethings that help me with my cleaning are;

1. I buy high quality natural cleaning products.  I don't like the idea of a lot of harsh cleansers in my house so I did some research and use natural cleaning products.  This also allows me to know that the boys aren't going to get chemicals in their mouths or eyes when they use them.  Whatever you are using, make sure it works.

2. I have a bucket (like the one in the picture) and store all my cleaning supplies together.  This makes cleaning easier since all my supplies are right there.  If I'm cleaning the bathrooms that day, I just bring the bucket from bathroom to bathroom and have all my supplies on hand.  I also put my cleaning supplies back in the same place every time, so I know where they are and if I need to order more.

3. I have thought about how I run my house and how my family lives in it and adjusted things accordingly.  For example, I like to run my dishwasher at night.  This allows me to use energy at non-peak hours and to start the day with all clean dishes.  I empty the dishwasher as my kids are eating breakfast and all the new dirty dishes go right in.  This helps me start and end my day with a clean kitchen. 

I encourage you to spend some time figuring out how to clean your house or do your cleaning chores in a way that makes sense for the way you live.  Create more order, by developing a system for cleaning that works for you and your family.

What kind of cleaning system to you use?  How has it changed over the years?  I encourage you, spend some time thinking about it.  The more mindful you can be about how you clean, the more ordered your life can be.


Monday, October 20, 2014

day 20: developing a morning routine...

One way I've found to reduce the amount of stress in our days, and more specifically our mornings, is to write out a morning routine.  These are not complex schedules but rather the steps that the boys need to follow to get ready for school.  For example, the boys wrote up the following morning routine;

1. get up
2. get dressed
3. eat breakfast
4. brush teeth and comb hair
5. put on socks and shoes
6. pack school bag
7. play time

I type the lists up and post them in our kitchen on our pantry door.  When my kids were little, I took pictures of them performing each step in our routine and posted them on a piece of poster board.  I also wrote out the steps even though they couldn't read, since I think it's never too early to expose kids to learning letters and words.

I've been having my boys help me write out the steps of their morning routine for three years now and I like this practice for two main reasons, 

1) It helps them learn how to organize and plan their time.  This is something that is intuitive for some people and not for others.  So it is a really valuable skill to teach your children.  Also, as they get older I'm hoping will translate into their school work and other areas of their lives. 

2) I have found that it cuts down on my yelling in the morning and the boys whining if we have written routines of what they are supposed to do. Now all I have to do is say, 'What should you do next?' and they look at the sheet and do it.  They also know what time we need to be in the car to leave for school, so if they want play time they learn not to fool around and just get their tasks done.

I have also found a few other 'rules' helpful towards reducing stress in our mornings.

We also have an absolute rule of no screen time in the morning.  None.  At all.  This is not something they are thrilled with but they accept it.  In fact, we made a rule change this year and only allow screen time on the weekends for our boys.  No exceptions. 

We also have the kids pick out the clothes they want to wear to school the night before.  My boys are pretty easy in terms of clothes.  One cares a great deal and the other doesn't.  So for the one that cares, it helps to have him pick out his outfit so we know his first choice is clean.  I also check the calendar for spirit days and other days when they have to wear special clothing. You only have to miss pj day once to know that this is a mistake kids don't forget.

If you find yourself continually stressed in the morning trying to get yourself or kids out the door, try writing up a morning routine.  I think the discipline of doing this will add more order to your morning and thereby reduce your daily stress.

Even though this picture has nothing to do with this post, I had to show you Grace playing soccer with John.  This picture makes me smile for SO many reasons but mainly because Grace initiated the play and her brother stopped his game of soccer to help her kick the ball.  They played together for about 20 minutes.  He was so happy that she actually participated in something.  I've posted a video of her kicking the ball around our circle on my instagram account.  You can see it here.  

What do you do in the morning to help reduce the stress associated with getting out the door?  Do you have a morning routine?


Sunday, October 19, 2014

day 19: pause and give thanks...

This post is part of my 31 days to more order series.  To find all topics and posts, go here.

So far in this series we've looked at your space and your schedule.  I'd like you to take some time today, on the Sabbath, to pause and reflect.  The practice of giving thanks is one that I am trying to cultivate in our children.  We want them to have an attitude of gratitude.  Usually, when I'm talking about this with the kids it changes my attitude and brings me to a place of thankfulness too.

Most of us that have the privilege to live in America have so much more than we need.  Take some time today to think about what you are thankful for.  I'm guessing that on top of your list is going to be people not things.  It's okay to be thankful for things.  In the winter months I'm really thankful for central heating and warm clothes.  But at my core, the reason I do what I do is not for the things in my life but the people in my life.

It's important to pause from your typical routine and be still.  I've found that thinking about what I'm grateful for in my life, causes me to be more balanced.  When we focus on what we have, we tend to be less stressed about what we don't have.

On the top of my list of what I'm most thankful is that I get to be mom to these three cuties.

What are you most thankful for today?

I hope you have a blessed day.