Monday, January 28, 2013
Monday, January 21, 2013
I blame Chinese food. And Dairy Queen. And the bag of Christmas candy corn I found in my daughters toy box.
Because who can resist the siren song of stale, month-old candy?
Not me apparently. I devoured it like a junkie who happened upon a forgotten stash. It didn’t even taste good.
The only thing worse than stale, month-old Christmas candy corn is the guilt from eating stale, month-old Christmas candy corn.
So much for eating healthy this year.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all failure and embarrassing binges around here. Some days I win. But even then I have to watch myself. It’s stunning how quickly I can move from fatalistic self defeat to overconfident delusions of grandeur.
Case in point, the day I cleaned the house from top to bottom (withOUT eating anything I found along the way) and elypticalled myself to the moon and back. Feeling smug, I spent the rest of the day watching the Food Network while ignoring my children.
I don’t even like to cook.
So much for being a more attentive parent this year.
Soar or stumble – I can twist it into an excuse. To indulge. To give up. To sabotage myself. Time and again, it’s the one task at which I rarely fail.
This year I’m trying to change the game. I will focus only on TODAY.There is no tipping point. There is no pressure to be perfect. There is no tomorrow or next month or the rest of my life resting on what I do right now. There is only TODAY.
I seem to function better without the weight of all that still-to-come. I still fill in the calendar and keep track of “things to do” and make plans for our family. I’m still mindful of the things I need to do better. But I only hold myself responsible for what I can get done between “Mama… up” (boy-speak for: wake up and pay attention to my cuteness) and “…but I’m almost done this chapter” (preteen-speak for: none of my friends have a bedtime so lights out is lame and besides I’m not even tired yet).
Some days it works. Some days there are temptations and trials and I slip back into worry-pressure-procrastinate-medicate-with-food/tv/Internet-hate-myself-STRESS. But even that isn’t the end of the world.
Every day I am starting over.
It’s only been a few weeks. The jury’s still out on whether I’m doing better or worse at: eating healthy, staying active, decluttering, being spiritually mindful, attentive parenting or solving the problems of the universe via blogging. But I did clean out that one toy box…
What I can say for sure is that I’m enjoying the sweet, fleeting moments of life better. I’m enduring the tough stuff with less angst. And most of all, I’m liking Me a whole lot more.
This is what I chose to focus on for the creative writing DPChallenge on Starting Over.
I’m not Who-I-Will-Be.
I’m not Who-I-Expected.
With new insights, and new struggles, and new dreams.
With a best friend who loves Me (better yet, still likes Me) after all these years.
With a heart full of four little people who make Me crazy, and make Me laugh, and make Me a better Me.
Changing and growing and learning and becoming Me.
With a little extra Me around the edges.
And even though those parts are the hardest to accept,
They are part of Me too.
Whatever size or shape or new configuration, I’m still Me.
I’m not Martha Stewart. I’m not Hiedi Klum.
I’m not You. I’m not Who-You-Think-I-Should-Be.
I’m not perfect or easy and I’m not ready to concede.
I’m not finished yet.
But for now, TODAY, I’m content to be Me.
So here’s me. You know that rumor about bloggers being totally self-absorbed… ummm… ya…
Monday, January 14, 2013
That’s my answer. To that classic nerd conversation starter:If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Invisibility? Super Speed? Visions of the Future?
I can see how each one would enhance my parenting. Invisible Mom knows exactly who started it, and her children would be motivated to behave even when they are “alone.” Super Speed Homemaker gets more done in a few minutes than the rest of us in an entire day, and still has time to watch her favourite Food Network show. Psychic Mama can prevent the tantrum/fight/locking-keys-in-the-van/decorating-the-walls-with-sharpies BEFORE it even happens.
Sadly, none of these are my actual superpower.
That’s right. I have a special strength that allows me to perform beyond normal human parameters. It empowers the whole household to run smoothly (okay, smooth-er). It helps me endure when my strength is almost gone. It carries the weight of our whole family without breaking a sweat.
Routine is my superpower.
It’s not the sexiest, most exciting one out there. And it doesn’t require a cape or comic book inspired costume (though I’m not ruling that out). But I promise you, it packs a wallop!
I brush my teeth every morning. I don’t think about it. I don’t have to plan. I simply do the same thing, at the same time, every day. My lack of morning breath and significantly fewer cavities may not count as “saving a damsel in distress,” but a similar process also allows me to take daily medication and feed my children and keep my house (relatively) tidy and get our crazy family out the door each day. All these add up to a pretty heroic feat.
No matter what your age or stage or particular brand of dysfunction, you too can harness the power of routine! If you happen to have children, it can be a lifesaver. If you happen to have children with special needs, it’s an absolute necessity. Here’s why:
Routine frees up valuable time and energy.
Remember science class when you learned about levers and fulcrums and how they allow you to lift a heavy load with less effort? Routine is like that. As you shift behaviour from “intentional” into “something we do without even thinking about it,” you are able to do more, with less effort.
Get out the door in the morning. Keep the household mess from coming to life and eating us whole. Make bedtime and sleep time mean the same thing (we’re getting there).
I don’t know about you, but I need all the time and energy I can get my hands on. Trying to remember every little thing that needs doing, reacting to behavioural problems, and doing everything myself gets exhausting. Routines simplify life, prevent problems and empower children (and spouses, let’s be honest) to keep things going.
Routine makes life feel safe.
Secure children (and adults, FYI) know what to expect from their world. The stress of wondering what will happen next, and if I will-like-it/be-able-to-handle-it/am-entitled-to-watch-more-tv-right-now-instead, makes for grumpier children and parents. All children, even young toddlers, flourish when they can predict a first/then schedule and simple cause/effect.
For instance, when you get home from school you must sit on the potty, THEN you can have a snack. First comes pajamas, THEN music, rocking, cuddle and finally bed. If you throw your plate on the floor, THEN you lose it. If you do a cute dance and smile really big, THEN you get attention. If you do all your chores without complaining, THEN you can go out and play. If you do all the dishes and clean the kitchen, THEN your wife will be much more likely to give you a massage.
We’ve used pictures and symbols to reinforce routines with our children. B had a long strip of velcro on the wall; she had a picture of each morning task stuck up there (thank you Boardmaker software and Aunt Emily), and each time she finished a task she would put it in the “Finished” box at the bottom. We put new ones up for the afternoon and then a batch for before bed. She no longer needs such a detailed routine aid, but at the time, it gave her the sense of control she needed and made necessary transitions productive and less like a scene from the WWE.
Routine is inevitable.
Systems and structure aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. There are some
weirdospeople who prefer to wing it, to live reactively spontaneously. That may work for you in most areas, but everyone has some routines, whether we choose to or not. The unintentional, destructive ones often go by the name: bad habits.
I have just as many negative routines as positive. Sleeping until the last possible second, even though I know it’ll make our whole day much more rushed. The fight with C about proper outerwear on every rainy/cold/day-that-ends-in-y day. Eating a snack before bedtime, so it will be converted directly into fat. There is a dark side to every superpower: we are our own arch enemies.
The best way to conquer bad habits is to replace them. If you can figure out a positive routine which will supplant the destructive one, you are halfway there (you’ll have to read an article about willpower somewhere else, since it is NOT my superpower).
Routine is a servant, not a master.
This is where routine can get a bad rap. Especially from people who either a) don’t understand it or b) have an unnatural fear of change. When you are learning to cook you need to follow the recipe closely, but once you get the hang of it you can be creative, change things up, all while staying true to the spirit of the dish. In the same way, routines are not set in stone. Once they are established, they can be stretched, tweaked, negotiated and even temporarily suspended until they work for you.
Routines are a tool, not a destination. Make a plan. Try it out. Give it time to sink in. If it doesn’t make life easier, scrap it and start again.
So here’s me, saving the world one chore chart at a time!
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
It must exist. That magical combination of sounds and symbols which will inspire and motivate the new me.
not to mention hospitable, well-read, well-groomed, attentive…
DAILY: meditating on God’s Word, giving my husband massages, writing my blog and/or novel, doing speech therapy exercises, inspiring good behaviour in pre-teens, reading to and with littles, quizzing spelling words…
cavorting with unicorns, catching a leprechaun, giving up sugar…
the too-good-to-be-real 2013 me.
I was determined that this year’s One Word project would surpass last year. I combed through the words on other blogs and even cracked open the dictionary. I perused the many lists and goals and plans of attack I’d put together in years past. I kicked around words like: “Better” and “Higher” and “More.”
Glen laughed at my ideas of course. “That’s so YOU,” he says, and suggests I might as well pick “Should” or “Guilt” while I’m at it.
By the end of Day 1, I was deeply tired and discouraged. And I hadn’t even started yet!
I used to ride that wave of unrealistic New Year optimism for days, sometimes weeks.
This is the time of year I buy my pants two sizes smaller. I stock up on baskets/organizers/folders and hum contentedly at the thought that soon my life will be streamlined and clutter-free. I prepare my answers for the “your kids are so well-behaved… what’s your secret?” conversations that will inevitably follow our newest strategies. I float through January on a cloud of beautiful, beautiful expectations.
But this year the cold, hard grip of reality refuses to let me go.
The vast majority of my best intentions come to nothing in the end. I get overwhelmed juggling the needs of others, the tasks of basic survival and my self-improvement projects. Soon I am crushed under a mountain of my own expectations. I focus on me, me, me. I am angry that God doesn’t just swoop in and fix my life already. I am disillusioned.
I reread the purpose of One Word: “One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live.”
I do want to be better, to aim higher, to do more… but the harder I try, the worse I do. And I don’t have enough energy left to try even harder still. And I can’t fool myself any longer that the right plan or strategy or WORD will make all the difference. And I could so easily throw my hands in the air and give up: eat my weight in Christmas candy, scream at my kids until they shut up and stay in bed for the rest of the year.
God help me.
Then it came to me. I don’t need to conquer a lifetime of bad habits or wrestle a year’s worth of problems into submission; I only have to deal withTODAY.
I will live in the precious moments of TODAY. No wasting the now on what-should-be; live, enjoy, savour. No fighting the flow of turbulent, wonderful, imperfect reality. TODAY is enough.
I will handle the worries of TODAY. No beating myself up about yesterday’s faults and failures; TODAY is a new day. No fretting about tomorrow’s what-ifs and could-bes; I will trust God with my tomorrows. TODAY is enough.
I will do what I can get done TODAY. No pressure to be perfect; I will do my best, no more and no less. No expectation to be anything but what I am. TODAY I am enough.
Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now,
and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.
God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
Matthew 6:34 (MSG)
So here’s me, one day at a time.
Enough about me… what’s your word/resolution for 2013?