Saturday, January 4, 2014

In Which I Refrain From Making New Year's Resolutions!

As I've mentioned in years past, I do my best not to make New Year's resolutions. Despite my best intentions, they inevitably fall by the wayside within, oh, twenty minutes or so. Two days later, I can't even remember my resolutions, let alone keep them.

But I always enjoy spending some time at the end of each year looking back to see what the year has held, and how far we've come - and what directions or goals I'd like to have for coming months.

Again, nothing formal. As Amy at Raising Arrows said so wisely this week,
"All I can do is walk. I have been given just a little light on my path.  I walk one step and wait.  I walk another and wait.  I know eventually there will be more light on the path, but even then, it won’t be much."
In other words, it's not possible to sit at one spot (January 1st) and know what the Lord has planned for us for an entire upcoming twelve months. Often we are given only enough light on our path to take the next step - not plan all the steps ahead for month upon month into the future.

In some ways, that's where we are right now. Our family too is in a state of limbo. Though we've been in this unemployment journey for an unbelievable fifteen months now, we are still not at the end of it. DH has created a business that he is greatly enjoying, but it is not yet producing enough income to provide for our family. We don't know if it will work out in time, or if he will be forced to take a corporate job in the end.

It's just not possible to plan too far in advance. School plans, travel plans, etc. - everything major is on hold until we reach a place of more stability. Thus, I won't be making a lot of long-term big plans for our family, our school, or our home. It's just not possible, so those type of plans will have to wait.

But despite the financial hardship - and this past year was financially disastrous for us! - 2013 was actually an awesome year. Sounds odd, but it's true. We have come so far, individually and as a family. I think it's been the most spiritually productive year that we've ever had in our decade-long marriage.

And to be honest, unemployment was a big part of that growth. We didn't want DH to lose his job - it was comfortable and met our needs, even though it wasn't particularly interesting - but the road that we've traveled spiritually this year would not have been possible without that motivating catastrophe. And having DH at home for an entire year has been absolutely awesome. It's been an entirely new way of doing family, and one that we want to continue. That's why DH has been plugging away at developing a home business instead of diving enthusiastically into corporate interviews - now that we've discovered how life can be when lived together, as opposed to "Dad at work" totally separated from "Mom with the kids at home," we definitely don't want to go back to the old way unless we absolutely have to. Life for us is just better with Dad home. 


I've gotten sidetracked!

Back to the point! The point of this whole post was simply to say that while I do try to avoid formal New Year's resolutions, I am working on many areas of our home and family life, as well as my own spiritual life - and I thought you all might like to see what those areas are!

Here we go, before I get side-tracked again!

Areas of improvement that I am currently working on (and hope to continue working on during the coming year) are....

Good stewardship of my time

As time presses on, I find that I have more, and more, and more responsibilities - but my time and energy stay constant! Thus, I must find more and more ways to use my time productively. Primarily, this means learning not to fritter my time away on useless internet browsing (can we say Facebook?). It's so easy for me to sit down "just to look up a quick recipe" and find, twenty minutes later, that I've automatically started wasting precious time surfing the web. This is NOT OKAY, and I mean for it to stop. I have already implemented a working system for this, which I hope to share for you soon. I've also deactivated my Facebook account, testing the waters to see if I can live without it - if so, I hope to end up deleting it. Why? Read the article here. As Cindy says so eloquently,
"I think we’ve been duped, homeschooling (and especially homeschool blogging) mamas. We’ve been tricked into thinking that we can simultaneously be with our children and not be with our children, or with our friends, or with our husbands. We think that because we’re in their physical presence, we’re doing what we ought to. But my children know better. They know when mommy is distracted by what some stupid stranger on Facebook said. They know when she’s cranky because someone who means nothing to her has said something horrible about her faith or her family or (Lord help me) her looks. They can tell when she has yet again turned her brain off to look at meaningless things that have nothing to do with her real work, her family."
That about sums it up. I'd like to quote more from the article, but I'd end up quoting the whole thing - so, again, if you didn't already click the link, go read it.

(I'm going to post more about my Facebook exit - hopefully soon!)

Emotions and words with DH and the children

Have you heard about the rice experiment? Wowza. But even without the experimental data that comes from yelling mean things at a jar of rice every day, the truth is blaringly obvious - as a wife and mama, my words are incredibly powerful. I can bless - or hurt - my family very powerfully by how I choose to open my mouth. While I have come so far, I have so far yet to go. This is an area of my life that I am keeping in serious prayer as I attempt to make lots of improvement in this area. In other words, it's time to get in my Michelle Duggar groove. I don't know if I'll ever attain that level of sheer awesomeness, but I can try!

Decluttering and housekeeping

The decluttering bug bites me about once a year, and I am thankful that I am showing signs of the bug once again. Thank heavens! It frustrates me greatly that the only thing standing between me and my minimalist dream-lifestyle is me. Nothing else is stopping me! If only I could pound that into my head, we'd have a much simpler household. Of course, it doesn't help that I have the huge American Culture of Stuff working against me - no matter how much I shovel out the door, more seems to come in! But again, that's my fault. I'm the one letting it in and letting it stay. And I need to work on that.

I also need to work on streamlining my housekeeping. As our family grows and our home education program grows, my time for housekeeping shrinks. Anything that is optional needs to go, and anything that needs to happen must happen more quickly. Period. Now, to learn how to do that!

Chore systems

This is an area of major disaster and breakdown in our home. Current problems: (1) I have not assigned our children enough chores. This is a character issue - we have entitlement issues and lack of responsibility issues. (2) I don't check up on chores regularly enough. Translation - Chores are being done sloppily or not at all. I need to check consistently, and provide consequences for undone or badly done jobs. (3) We have attitude problems - reluctance, lack of diligence, entitlement, an unwillingness to help out with needed jobs.

All that to say - I need to work on chores. Chore charts, checking on chores, working and praying and training on attitudes - all of that needs to happen.

Developing a life of prayer

I grew up with a very anemic view of prayer. In other words, prayer is something that we do because we're supposed to, but it's merely a formality because it's not going to do any good. It's taken me a very long time to get over that unbiblical mindset (though I still have shreds of it hanging around my soul), and I now want very much to be a woman of prayer (rather than a woman of nagging or a woman of fretting, etc. etc.). It's a big change!

(This is also a continual struggle for me because I tend to be very uptight and focused on my to-do list. "Yes, I need to pray, but I also need to clean out the refrigerator!!" Staying in one place long enough to have a decent prayer life is a decided challenge.)

Working on FOOD

Oh, goodness. FOOD. Where to start? In any family, food takes up so many different facets of life. Here are just a few of them...

- I am working on learning to cook for a large family. "But," says the ever-sapient reader, "Why would you cook for a large family when you don't have a large family?" Good question! There are a couple of reasons!
  • Our family is growing. Not literally (at the moment), but there's always the possibility. Additionally, our children are getting bigger - and eating more! (And the 4yo has always eaten like a teenager anyway!)
  • I am working on a project suggested by a friend of mine - that is, cooking a huge meal every night and serving leftovers for lunch the next day. This is such a time-saver and a head-saver when I can make it work!! (And it's also a great way to work on the 7yo's picky eating! "Didn't like it? Great! Here it is AGAIN! Learn to love it, child!") But it requires thinking in much bigger terms with food preparation. 
  • I am working on meal planning, which is a big area of failure right now. I'm actually good at the planning bit, but thinking of what to make is a constant frustration, and I need to work into a better system on that end. 
- I am working on our food quality. Adding organic when we can (not often right now!), adding lacto-fermented foods, trying for fresh vegetables, etc. 

- I am working - always, always, always - on our food budget. This is a huge undertaking, and will probably continue for the rest of my life. Learning where - and when - to shop. Getting started with Azure Standard and local co-ops and super-market overload markets. Learning prices, learning to buy and store food in bulk, learning where is the best deal on individual items. (Coconut oil? Sam's Club! Oatmeal? Azure Standard! Produce? Market on the Move! Canned goods? Walmart! Grocery items? American Discount Foods!) You see? It's a monumental task, and I'm working to improve constantly. 

In working on our food budget, I regularly encounter two conflicts, which are:
  • Money vs. Health - If I don't care what my family eats, then it is easy to feed them cheaply. Very easy. Of course, they'll end up with serious short-term and chronic health conditions, have horrible behavior problems (Red 40, anyone?), and be sick all the time - but at least it would be cheap! In all seriousness - there is a constant balancing act between trying to keep our budget down while trying to eat healthy foods. The unfortunate fact is that really bad food is really, really cheap - and good food costs more. 
  • Time vs. Health - Good food, besides requiring more money, also requires more time and work - especially in the areas of lacto-fermentations (yogurt, kombucha, kefir, lacto-fermented salsa, etc.) and produce-processing (washing, chopping, freezing, bagging, etc.). I'm willing to put in hard work - but there's also a balance between hard work and running myself ragged. I remember in particular one time last spring when I spent a weekend freezing bell peppers, putting up pickles (which later went bad), turning tomatoes into tomato sauce, boiling and pureeing squash, and freezing green beans - at the end of it, I was near tears. Yes, we saved a lot of money, which was great - but I also have to consider my sanity. It's a balance. 
What can I say? FOOD. It takes work, and it will continue to do so this year. 

And finally, I am working on...

The Smoothness of Our MORNINGS

Right now, I find our mornings (from when the children get up till after lunch) to be incredibly stressful. Usually I'm pretty much ready to wring necks before breakfast is over - sometimes before! A good deal of this can be contributed to my aforementioned failure in the area of chores (see above). Another bit can be attributed to having two babies and to having a great deal more to do with our morning hours than can possibly be done.

But I know that there are areas that I can improve, and I plan to be in serious prayer about this while I work on streamlining our mornings and making them more pleasant.

In Conclusion!

I have a lot going on around here! And really, it's just a continuous cycle. As one area of my life grows into better shape, another area shows up needing work. I have the feeling that that is just life-on-earth, rather than anything I'll ever mature out of.

But I want to do my best to put in the work to make our home, our family, our educational system, and my heart as good possible with the strength that I have.

This year I've seen something new-to-me going around - that is, choosing a theme word for the coming year.

Jacinda at Growing Home chose LOVE.

          Tristan at Our Busy Homeschool chose HOLINESS.

                               Heather at Raising Mighty Arrows chose INTENTIONAL.

I have decided that my word for 2014 is going to be STEWARDSHIP.

I have been given certain jurisdictions in this life o' mine. I am the STEWARD of my mind - I shouldn't be wasting my very-limited brain-space on endless Facebook trivia. I am the STEWARD of my time - I don't want to fritter it away on things that have no value. I am the STEWARD of my home - I want it to be decent-looking and livable. I am the STEWARD of our home education system - I want to do a good job and make sure that our children receive a first-class education to the best of my abilities. I am the STEWARD of our family's well-being - I need to make sure that I am treating my husband and children with love and doing a good job of looking after them.

I cannot afford to waste - to waste time, energy, emotional energy. I need to be the steward that God requires me to be.

And that is what I'm working on this year!

What can you expect from this blog this coming year?

Not much. That's the beauty of being a small-time blogger! I have no obligations, no promised post-schedules, no link-up parties, no webinars. I don't know where I'll be headed, and I don't know where this blog will be headed. But I do know that I love to write, and I hope to connect regularly with you all, bringing you along on the journey that this coming year will hold for our family.

I hope that you'll join me!

Dear readers, I would love to hear about what you are working on right now in your lives, hearts, and homes, and I'd love to hear any suggestions or input about what I've written! Please feel free to chime in!

Happy New Year from Arizona! 

Because every blog post about New Year's resolutions should end with a completely unrelated picture of a baby in a WWI army hat. 

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