Sunday, December 29, 2013

What's left to ponder?!

Throughout the year, I have intermittent thoughts concerning Christmas and how it will be here... eventually. And so, that's about 12 months of pondering opportunities. On the other hand, there is the seemingly sneaky New Year's Day, that is just around the corner. I usually embark this journey of self examination and deep introspection beginning around... December 26th. And so, as you can probably calculate if you have your iCalendar handy, that doesn't give me very many days to think about my New Year's Resolutions, now, does it? 

It's that time of year, once again, and I find myself in quite the same predicament. I have been known to wait until an hour before the ball drop to begin throwing out crazy ideas that I shall cling to for about the next 3 weeks, when I realize that this idea was really for the birds... Or rather, good in theory, but not yet in practice. 

Does anyone want to guess how many times I have started and quit my, "Reading the Bible in One Year, plan?" Maybe this will be THEE year. In the past, I have psyched myself up, that I am going to be disciplined and make this happen in a year. I am usually smooth sailing in my reading plan for Genesis, then Exodus, and start getting a little behind with Leviticus, and then snowballing to Numbers. By the time I reach Deuteronomy, I am a few weeks behind my timeline, and not very eager to pick back up where I left off. Then, I hang my head in shame, and I throw in the towel, feeling defeated. 

In this day in age, I really have no excuse. As you know, there is now the audible version of the Bible on most intelligent electronic devices, and so I may go that route with success. Victory will be mine! In the Lord, of course. ;) I will report to you, in approximately 365 days how the grand plan is coming along... 

As you may have noticed, I am a couple days ahead this year, of my usual track record. Thank you, thank you. And so, I thought I would share with you a few little golden battered resolution nuggets (gluten free) that I have discovered this evening. 

Ms. Mommy Poppins' High and Lofty New Year's Resolutions for 2014 are as follows: 

1.) Work out like a mad woman. Crossfit, Pilates, Post Baby Boot Camp for your Post Baby Body, Yoga, Hot Yoga, Karaoke Spinning, and don't' forget the handy Shake Weight. It's the perfect exercise tool to use while waiting for the light to turn green while driving your car. And run. A lot. 

2.) Stop inadvertently poisoning your children with food that is not beneficial to them. Strike out all fast food joints. Be sure to avoid the dyes Blue 1 and 2, Citrus Red 2, Green 3, Red 40, Yellow 5 and 6. And eat only organic. ONLY OR-GAN-IC. (Head nod). 

3.) Make Pinterest your new best friend. Incorporate a creative, yet healthy, and also desirable after school snack, and/or super cool craft that your children will love. Tattoo DIY onto your forearm, so you will remember that you too, can, "Do It Yourself," whether that is learning how to play the ukelele, go yarn bombing, or how to make your own wedding veil. In case you and your hubby decide to renew your wedding vows. In like 20 years. 

4.) Awaken the child prodigy that you know must be sleeping in their bunk beds. Violin, Mandarin, and Calculus should soon become part of your child's vocabulary. As well as computer programming. AKA programming. 

5.) Time management. You should have read this five minutes ago, and there is room for improvement. Tardiness is unacceptable in all scenarios. And procrastination is so last year. 

6.) Read the Bible in a Year. Because that is on my list, every year. See above. 

7.) Organize: Learn to organize. And demonstrate newly acquired organizational skills.  Junk drawers, bedroom closets, laundry room, craft bins, and even your make up bag with the cheek stain streaks in it. There is a lot of work to be done, and be done it shall. 

8.) Financial Freedom. Get your ... stuff... together. Credit card debt, mortgage, college savings, rainy day fund, sunny day fund, smoggy day fund. Shoot for the stars. Remember this old scenario? If someone you love asked you to help them to earn a million dollars so that they could get a new kidney and live, you could certainly earn that money by getting a little creative. You would somehow and someway make a million dollars. Or, at least you would have in 1989.  And so, my friend, use that sort of drive. Just think, "Kidney money." And say that over and over, and financial freedom will be within your grasp. 

9.) Two words: Date night. 

10.) Play more with your kids, and never say, "No," to a playing request. Get ready for Chutes and Ladders, Banana Grams, Ants in Your Pants, puzzles, more puzzles, and tea parties. Put your jersey on, because you must be the game master for your kids to truly love you. 

Ahh!!! It's a little stressful just to write these resolutions, let alone to follow through with them. 

Every one of these has morsels of truth that I would like to incorporate into 2014, but obviously not to the extreme listed above. 

Here's a more "doable" New Year's Resolution list for me:

1.) I will take up running again, and figure out how to fit it into my schedule with three kids. I'll run a 5K race once every other month. If I'm feeling brave, I'll train for a half marathon. Oh yes, baby steps. Maybe I'll just stick with a 5K... for now!  

2.) I will feed my kids more healthily, and encourage them to make better choices, by putting good choices in front of them. I know it won't always be organic, but my motto always has been, "Everything in moderation!" And so that means, we can still have ice cream! 

3.) I will take up a few new hobbies or crafts this year, such as sewing. I don't know why I am so intimidated by a sewing machine, and I love most crafting things. So, I must conquer my fear of threading a bobbin! 

4.) I will strive to plug my kids into something they love. Even if it's just learning to play Kenny G. songs on the recorder.  My number two child is obsessed with puzzles right now, so that is my version of a child prodigy, and I love it! And him. :) 

5.) I will manage my time better in order to be on time to places and events. Three kids is a good excuse to be late, but it's not an excuse every time! I will learn to incorporate such tricks of the trade like setting clothes out the night before. Duh. 

6.) I will pursue a deeper relationship with the Lord through more consistent devotions, audio Bible readings, and application of the Bible studies I participate in throughout the year. I may not read all 66 books of the Bible in a year, but I know I can read past Deuteronomy! 

7.) I will be motivated to get organized in my household and schedule, and will ask for help when necessary. Be warned: I may have your number on speed dial, super organized friends!You know who you are. 

8.) I'll continue to pursue job leads for getting back to work as a professional outside the home. A few hours a week can be good for my sanity and our check book, without a doubt. 

9.) Two words: Date Night. Seriously, it's so easy to allow the hurdles you have to get through to make a date night actually occur, when you have young kids in the home. Reserving the babysitter, the funds for the aforementioned baby-sitter, all the stars aligning... it can get quite complicated. We have been bad about this one lately after PCSing away from our reliable sitters!  But, we can do better. Even if we just go get a Starbucks coffee while a neighbor watches the kids for an hour, that counts! 

10.) I will make a conscious effort to have a play session, one on one, with each child, even if it's just for a few minutes, each day. Whether it's checking out a fort that my boys found, or having a tea party, stopping to play at their level is important, and often the day gets away from me, and I have been hopelessly cleaning all day. It should result in more laughing, and less crying! From me, I mean, my kids. 

Join me in making your "doable" New Year's Resolutions, and maybe, just maybe, we can read past Deuteronomy together, this year! 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Great (Christmas) Expectations

It's the most wonderful time…of the year. The day after Thanksgiving, I am always alarmingly surprised when I hear the starting pistol go off at 7am. Ok, maybe it's only in my head, but I definitely hear it. And it is then accompanied by the rushing around song from Home Alone, when Kevin's parents frantically sit up in bed after realizing that they had overslept. 

Instead of visions of sugar plums dancing 'round my head, I have visions of to-do lists hanging o'er my head. Before you falsely accuse me of being quite the Scrooge McDuck, and ignoring the struggles of Tiny Tim, I do cherish this season.

Our family unit has some of the usual traditions such as driving around the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights while sipping hot cocoa. Our mischievous elf, Bing (White Christmas anyone?), delights us each morning with naughty tricks like making ginormous piles of pillows and blankets at the bottom of the stairs for the kids to jump onto. If only that tiny, tricky elf was more helpful in the clean up process.  A more unusual family tradition is attending a hotdog and bottled Coca Cola Christmas Eve supper, adopted from my brother-in-law's side of the family. What was once unusual, has become a tradition that we do not want to miss! 

During this season of cheer, it's so easy for me to feel defeated, discouraged, and pretty much like a failure. I guess it's a pretty bad sign when I have yet to actually put pen to paper to transfer my mental to-do list, onto a tangible piece of paper. Or onto a tablet. Or onto a napkin with a crayon, while eating at a restaurant with kids who would honestly rather play a game on my smart phone than be entertained with crayons. Sad, I know. 

I get quite a few things accomplished, but it's so easy to focus on what I did NOT accomplish, as Christmas day is quickly approaching. I told myself in July, to start working on a Christmas craft, for I discovered last year, that if you wait until December 1st to attempt a Christmas craft, it's pretty much too late. Or at least for me, because it takes a while for me to determine what I should make, then to go to Hobby Lobby, then to navigate the store, while a toddler is trying to knock off ribbons from  shelves. And then I forget some key supplies, since I was a wee bit distracted by a screeching sound in my ear, while carrying a child on my hip since my sweet, but sassy treasures are not keen on siting properly in the front of a cart. And fellow shopping patrons do not seem to enjoy the scene that plays out when I whip out the mommy card, and enforce such rules. 

As December the 25th approaches, I often begin to feel like a pretty crummy mom. Here are some mental samples:

"Wow. The other moms from the preschool had time to make adorable little angel ornaments, made with real bits of angel hair for their kids to hand out to their classmates. I barely know how many kids are in my child's class, let alone knowing all their classmates names, ages, birth weight, and allergies. Ugh. I better run to the dollar store pronto, for I surely don't want to be 'that mom,' again." 

"How does the credit card bill get so racked up this time of the year? And it doesn't even look like we really have that much to show for it, either. I really hope our kids don't feel like they are not as loved, since they will be getting a whole lot less than their buddies. Maybe we should just keep buying to catch up?!"

"Our snowman cookie jar has had a hungry belly this year, with not a treat in sight. And our imaginary gingerbread men are homeless, living under the overpass outside, since they are still waiting on their gingerbread house to be made.  And, to think, I just threw away our Halloween candy. The rock candy would have made a good kitchen backsplash. Dang it!" 

"Christmas cards. It would be so nice to have a precious family picture with our cheeks all aglow, that my closest friends and family could touch with their own two hands. But it takes an act of Congress to have all five of us dressed halfway decently, for this Christmas miracle to occur. And why do I always realize, five minutes after we change out of our church clothes, that I just missed the window of capturing our almost put- togetherness? But no one is around, and I can't seem to get the self timer to work. And, oh yes, the camera battery seems to be dead again. And the memory stick is full. And, I can't dump the old pics. Some error keeps popping up that is above my pay grade to figure out. I give up." 

The feelings of utter failure during the Christmas season go on, and on but I will spare you any more ugly details. (And no, I was not even invited to an ugly Christmas sweater party! Having enough friends to rate attending an ugly Christmas sweater party, FAIL. Sob, sob, sob… Well, not really, but almost.)

I think our expectations about the holidays get sky rocketed higher and higher every year. And I aim for the stars, and get disappointed when I land around the upper 3/4th of our Christmas tree, where the lights have mysteriously gone out. No joke. 

I have been pondering why I get so wrapped up with keeping these high expectations. I really don't "care" about keeping up with the seemingly perfect families. But, in my own efforts to blend in, I often lose sight of my own identity, in what MY Christmas season should look like. 

God created us all, with different talents and abilities. I will never be as good as my sister is, at decorating a home for Christmas. I must admit, that she can humbly make her home Southern Living magazine worthy. And after all of these years, thinking I am pretty useless, I have realized something. It's ok! She has a gift, that I simply do not. I take joy that she shares the final product of her amazing vision and skills to make things so beautiful, with so many of us. 

Maybe I didn't bake 3 dozen cookies for the Christmas bake sale, with the ingredients neatly labeled in festive red and green ink. But, I did read a library-on-wheels amount of Christmas books to my kids each night! That counts for something, right?! And baby Jesus made quite a few star appearances, trumping the Santa books, of course. 

Ok, so that's a whole lot of words spewed out, and what's the point again? (I ask myself…) Give yourself a break, already! You are pretty freggin' awesome. Can I say, freggin'? Your kids will (or should) be happy to have you there to celebrate with them on Christmas morning, no matter how many presents are under the tree. I know from experience, that even if you do buy out the Toys R Us, they very well, may ask, "Is that it?" So, why even worry about having "enough"?! 

Memories are being made, even if you are not realizing it or planning it. A detour to look at the lights around the neighborhood, counts in the Christmas spirit jar, even if you didn't have to pay $15 per car to drive through. 

No, this isn't really that deep. But it is something a lot of us struggle with, this time of the year. I encourage you, fellow mommy with tattered twist band in your hair, to just take a deep breath. You are doing fine. Christmas is not ruined. Just enjoy these moments, for they are only young once! I am learning this, day by day! And so, I shall sing, Mariah Carey songs, amongst the dirty dishes, and know that God created me exactly who He wanted me to be. And my kids will be just fine on Christmas morning, sitting under a tree with broken lights. 

Psalm 16:8-11
English Standard Version (ESV)
I have set the Lord always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being[a] rejoices;
    my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
    or let your holy one see corruption.[b]
You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.