Friday, December 31, 2010

Goals for 2011Continued . . .

Like I said, I'll break anything down into categories and sub-categories!  A few more musings and inspired ideas!

My Finances

I'd like to become more disciplined about making and keeping a budget.  The hardest part about budgeting for me is to track everything I spend.  I have the app "Budget Touch" for my iPad and I've totally let it slip this month.  So that's a goal for 2011.  Keep up with Budget Touch.

Additionally, I'd like to save more money than I am currently.  Starting a savings account would probably be a step in the right direction!  Beyond CTB and UCCB from the government, we have no regular income.  That's the way ranching is.  This makes it very hard to save because you tend to make do until the big check in the fall when the young animals are sold and then buy everything you need until the money runs out (seems like there's never enough!).  I think if I was frugal enough, I could put some money aside for emergency car and household repairs and the like if necessary.  I can certainly try!

I had a family cow all lined up to join us last September.  Three weeks before the day of arrival I got a call from her current owner.  My cow had broken into the grain room, bloated and died.  I was incredibly disappointed and hadn't the heart to search any further.  But I know I could make a nice sum of money selling milk from my own home as well as provide delicious, fresh and pure milk for my own family.  My sister and I were also going to be making cheese, butter, yogurt and so on with the extra.  Imagine the help for my grocery bill!  I really hope to accomplish this one in 2011.

Family: Remember to enjoy the journey!

I know I lack perspective when it comes to my kids.  I know that.  Somehow this should give me perspective, should make me realize that a sick kid is only sick for a few days, then the whining stops.  Just put the project aside (with grace) and cuddle the poor thing!  And while you're at it, amaze at the healing, soothing, restorative powers a mama has to her sick little one.  If you stop and think about it without being grumpy about supper not being cooked, you'll be amazed too (and serve them a can of beans if necessary.  I dare anyone to complain about supper being inadequate when a child is feeling truly yucky).  A baby is only so helpless she needs you to roll her over when she's bored for a very short time.  Put down your coffee for a minute and help her out!  Kids' lives are only completely centered around themselves right next to you for a few short years.  Why not enjoy it?  Heck, revel in it!

Everyone says this, tells us that.  But how many of us are able to let go of our own expectations of our day on a regular basis?  This is a goal for 2011.  Caring for my family is not a series of to-do lists.  It's not about what everything (and everyone) is once it's completed.  It's about how it got that way in the first place.  And I know that if I were to go about my family in this manner, chances are the results would be closer to what I pictured in the first place!

My Marriage

I've been married now for five and half years.  I've been with my husband since I was fourteen years old and we've been friends since I was nine.  I think it's safe to say that he is pivotal in my life and I in his.  So it seems odd that my marriage and our relationship isn't listed first in my musings, don't you think?  How is it that kids and home take over, squeezing such important people out of the main picture?  It certainly not intentional.  And that's my point.  My goal for 2011 is to be more intentional with my relationship with my husband.  One important thing I'd like to do is sit down with my husband after he's eaten for fifteen or twenty minutes each day with a cup of tea.  Send the kids off to play and just enjoy each other.  Talk to each other.  A date night, because of his hectic and unpredictable schedule, is usually not even a possibility and this used to really bother me.  Everyone else was going out on date nights, everyone else was making their marriage a priority.  Now, instead of focusing on the problem, I'm trying to come up with solutions and I think this one's a keeper. It's something I've been trying to do lately and it's been working.  It's not perfect, kids come and interrupt often, but they're getting the idea too and it's better than doing nothing at all.  Of course, I won't say no to a date now and again either!

Goals for 2011 - Home

I have so many things I'd like to do in the next year, so many plans and so many ideas.  Keep in mind these aren't really resolutions, just a few results from this week's reflection.  The more I think about it, the more I itch to get it all written down.  See now I'm a bit of geek.  If there's a way to break things down into categories and sub-categories, I'll do it.  That might explain what follows.

Goals for my Home

In general, I'm feeling pretty good about how my home has been running.  Of course there's always room for improvement, but given the season of my life, it's not badl.  My main goal in this area is to continue to adhere to my daily routines and meal plans - they are my lifesaver!  This is the week where I don't really do that and I can't wait to get back to it.  I would like to stay on the wagon for longer periods of time.  It seems like I fall off every five or so weeks, for a length of time that varies from a few days to a few weeks.  Things start to get hectic, we don't eat as well, I'm grouchy, the house is a mess, we lose things.  Laundry piles up and the kids aren't getting to bed on time, then hey get grouchy. It snowballs and it's awful!

I'm learning that there are bare bones things that cannot be left undone (the kitchen needs to be cleaned every evening, one load of laundry must go from hamper to drawer each day and nap/bedtime is sacred) if I'm sick or run down, but the fact of the matter is, I get lazy sometimes.  I start to feel resentful or hard-done-by.  I'd really to avoid that entirely. Truthfully, I chose this career.  No one made me stay home.  I've wanted it my whole life and mostly I love it.  I need to take care of myself.  This is something that indirectly benefits my house and my family, as well as every other aspect of my life.  Maybe I should have listed this in a general category, but here it lies.  I will get to bed on time and shower regularly.  I will dress, do my hair and make up, each day and every day.  I will take time I need to get out with friends, to relax by myself.  The two former are not hard, it's the last one I struggle with. I'm not a really social person.  At the end of the day there's nothing I'd rather do than go to bed, really.  But on those rare occasions when I do go out for a drink and I'm gone for an hour or two, I come home renewed and energized.  It's amazing really and I think it's something I should keep in mind - perhaps an effort to go out twice a month with a friend would be a step in the right direction?

My vegetable garden is an area in which I'd love to make improvements.  Maybe now that my youngest will be two this summer, I'll actually be able to keep up with my weeding?  It was like Oliver was allergic to weeding last summer.  As soon as I began, he'd start to cry.  Without fail.  Nothing worked or helped but me leaving the garden.  It was ridiculous!  Maybe this year is my year?  Along with improving the garden goes the harvesting.  By the end of September I'm usually so let down and disheartened by my garden and my perceived failure that I don't even really want to venture in to harvest.  I need to get over that and put more food away for the winter.  This goal also includes canning more fruit bought in bulk through out the summer!

We're also planning to build our own home in the next year or two.  I've got some preliminary ideas and sketches, but I want to continue to work on this and get input from both my husband and my daughter.  Heck, Silas and Oliver may as well tell me what they want in their new house too, right?!  It would be great to have a finished plan to send off to the engineer by the end of the year.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Reflection Week

Aaaaah.  Christmas is over.  So sad.  It was anticipated for so long with such excitement and joy.  And yet such a relief too.  Normal life will commence again.  Well, as soon as I take the tree down and put all this stuff (fabulous gifts, mostly toys!) away it will.  

The last week of the year is always a year of reflection for me.  I think of the year gone by, and the year to come.  I love a fresh start, a reason to try harder, some way of announcing (to myself, of course - I'm not really into public announcements!) that from now on, things will be different.  Just like the weekend resets itself on Monday for another try, so does the year on New Year's Day.  What do I want to try this year?  What are my goals for this next section of life?  What do I want to see in my children?  My home?  My marriage?  Myself?

I never used to "do" New Year's Resolutions, believing them to be false and mostly forgotten.  I felt one should strive to do better all year, not just for the first few weeks and that goals could be set any time of the year.  And yet. . . I always found myself looking back at this time, and counting up accomplishments, failures, joys and sadness and then looking forward for new ways to get things done.  And so I now am a full fledged believer in New Year's Resolutions.  There's something exciting about starting out full of hope and optimism, plans and visions.

This year, I have quite ideas and goals.  More than likely they'll be trickling in to this blog as time goes by.  Some of them may become a big part of this blog.  I'm going to do a bit more research and planning before I share, though.  For now, I want to leave you with a few of my favorite Christmas photos.  After all, we planned a prepared for weeks, if not months, for that one special day.  It shouldn't be left behind quite so quickly, or easily!

First of all, I just wanted to say that this has been the best Christmas yet for us as a family.  My parents moved their Christmas dinner and gift opening to Boxing Day meaning we only had one "event" out of our homes on each day (Christmas Eve tea at my Oma's, Christmas Dinner at Scott's aunt's and then a second Christmas on Boxing Day).  It was wonderful!  Really, truly amazing!  I felt like we had so much time to enjoy it all!  Will definitely be pushing for this next year!  My kids were so much happier and well rested not to be rushed around - as you can see in the photo above.  Yay!

Love this!  Silas received a remote control car that drives in the water, as per his polite request to Santa as well as a remote control helicopter from his sister.  This is him flying his helicopter with his dad, who also received one.  Apparently they're a little tricky to learn to fly as Silas was clipped on the head a couple of times.  He turned to me after the second or third time, "Mama, I need my helmet."  I found his riding helmet and he wore it for the rest of the flying session.  Makes me giggle, but he was happy.  Look at him concentrating all cute and safe!

For me, Christmas is all about family.  Spending time with those special people in your life, whether you're related or not.  Here's part of that integral core of people in my life.

And here's another.  He's all dressed up in his Christmas best, thanks to his big sister!  I love the tie - makes him look like a used car salesman.

This is my sister's family.  Silas waited all day for them to finally arrive! Gracie's waiting "patiently" for the gift opening to begin.  Presents can be such fun when you're four, and the wait so torturous!

After gifts are opened comes the fun part - figuring all the new toys out!  Here's my other sister - auntie extraordinaire - helping my eight year old nephew figure out his new marble maze.  Not easy with a few preschoolers and a toddler running around!

I hope everyone had a fantastic day full of family and friends and joy!  Let's try and carry this on into 2011 and make some great things happen!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Nativity Advent Calendar

We're not a religious family.  So, what's with the Nativity Advent Calendar then?  Well, we may not be religious, but we do celebrate Christmas and we are a moral and honest family.  We approach it as a celebration of hope and peace, love and family, with beginnings a very, very long time ago.  I firmly believe that everyone should be aware of the real reason a holiday takes place, especially when it's over run with gimme, gimme, gimme!  So I wanted to look for a way to bring make the story of the first Christmas is a Special Story in our family, a way for Silas to really know it well, in a fun way.  At the same time I noticed many posts around the web for homemade nativity calendars, there was also a great sale on at the Fisher Price website.  I know, I know, here I am preaching about non-materialism (sort of, anyhow, in an indirect way) so I buy three different Christmas sets from Fisher Price?  But honestly, I sort of look at this as a special family tradition just beginning - I hope to use this set every December for the next twenty years!

Here's a peek at what we've been doing every night.

This is the simple little gizmo I put together on November 30th.  It's 20 pocket hanging shoe organizer.  Originally I was thinking I needed a 24 pocket shoe organizer, but realized there are pieces that are way too big to fit in the pockets anyhow.  Those pieces I put in gift bags, with their proper day affixed.  At the time I didn't know what in the heck I was going to do with them, but I ended up handing Silas a small picture on a paper, a clue.  For example, I drew a sock, he ran to his sock basket.  There he found a picture of a mitten, so ran to where his mitts are kept, and so on, until he found the gift bag.  He loved those days best of all!  
I tried to order all the pieces into similar to the order they appear in the story we read.  By the way, this is the version we read:

It has a linen cover and lots of gold, a simple, honest story and, most importantly, really beautiful, magical illustrations.  They almost seem to glow!  It really helps this story become a Special Story for us.  We read it each and every night.  If I'm extra tired, or Silas is extra tired, I try and skip little bits, but he knows it too well for that. He can even say frankincense now!

This is part of the set I bought.  Like I mentioned before, I bought them online during a sale.  There are actually three sets:  the Nativity Set, the Inn at Bethlehem, and the Three Wise Men.  I love that they have a goat and a black sheep.  Silas loves the cart for the donkey.  He sets the whole thing up every night after reading the story, adds the new piece, then walks them through the story.  Before going to bed, he makes sure everyone is cozy and comfortable for the night, stuffing animals and people alike into tents, the Inn and the Stable.  Here's an action shot I took tonight as he re-read the story to all the characters from the set:

And just before I go, I wanted to add that this isn't something I spent a long time on.  I printed out some snowflakes, wrote numbers on them and attached them to the shoe organizer with clothes pins.  Figuring out what order to put each item in probably took the longest  - but I'm a bit of geek that way and enjoyed that part!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Books That Shaped My Parenting

I'm not really much on creating a family mission statement, or a family mantra or a family agreed-upon-on constitution of basic rights to hang on our fridge and refer to every day.  While I do, in fact, enjoy creating daily routines and weekly rhythms and seasonal plans, anything more formal than that feels contrived and false.  I am a voracious reader, though, and books on parenting are always around, so I have ample opportunity to glean what I feel is right for my family.  I'm always looking for a better way to do things and I'm not afraid to pull something from this book, another thing from that friend, and a few more from dear old mom and put them all together.  Some people will follow one philosophy exclusively (attachment parenting comes to mind, or Montessori homeschooling for example) but I think I'm just a bit too lazy.  If something else works more effectively, why bother forcing something else to fit?  Obviously, following one person's idea of how a family should operate works for some people, and that's great - it would save a lot of research on the parents' part, wouldn't it?

 Of course, having said this, not all these books are going to work for your family, but I make a point of owning these books so I can reread them as often as I need (usually once or twice a year) in order to refresh my point of view and re-inspire my commitment.  As the needs of my family change, I go through the books again.  No only to pick up a few new ways to do something, but to recall the original reason I thought it was so good in the first place!  Parenting is a tough job.  We make so many decisions everyday that it's easy to lose sight of what we're doing.  Can't see the forest for the trees, so to speak.

I like to keep my end point in view, the finished product.  I enforce a limited TV time for a reason, I don't buy just anything for a reason, I allow my kids to play unsupervised for a reason and I put a lot of effort into planning certain activities for a reason.  What are my reasons?  Goodness, I don't always remember!  But at least I know where to look if I need to.  These books are my parenting map, on occasion, my lifeline.  It's nice to know that after a frustrating day, a stack of books my help me find a way to a better day tomorrow.

This is the list of books I re-read regularly (or a least skim on occasion!) for your own parenting journey - happy travels!

Bringing Up Geeks by Marybeth Hicks

Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry by Lenore Skenazy

Last Child in the Woods-Revised: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv

Living Simply with Children: A Voluntary Simplicity Guide for Moms, Dads, and Kids Who Want to Reclaim the Bliss of Childhood and the Joy of Parenting by Marie Sherlock

Family Virtues Guide by Linda Popov

100 Ways to Build Self-Esteem and Teach Values by Diana Loomis

The Unplugged Play Book: The Essential Parents Guide by Bobbi Conner

Good and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character…in You and Your Kids! by Scott Turansky

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth

That's a good chunk of the ones I use regularly.  I tend to look to a book for an answer to my problems, sometimes it works, other times I just get a new point of view or even just a little bit of inspiration to tackle the problem on my own way.  And you can see that they're not just for kids, some of them are for the moms, too!  Oooh, and there's one more I wanted to tell you about:  Steady Days.  It's written by a busy mom who also writes the Steady Mom blog (another great resource, by the way).  I don't actually own it, but I borrowed it from my library and it's on my to-buy list.  I was disappointed I missed her give away!  That's what happens, I suppose.

Any other recommendations?

Um . . . I needed a break?

So sorry for the dead silence over here. Once I missed one week, it was hard to resist the ugly little monster of procrastination.  I didn't do anything worth blogging about.  I didn't take pretty pictures.  I don't have time to assemble a really great post.  My boys are sick.  I'm sick.  Oliver's sick AGAIN!  I don't know what to say after being away for so long.  It's easy to let it slide and easy to justify, especially when life gets busy.  While I have been (sort of) following some of my favorite blogs, I just couldn't bring myself to post again.  Obviously I needed a break.  But I've been missing it!  I love getting my thoughts down, seeing my week on the screen, revisiting favorite moments and activities.  So I think I'm ready to come back now.  I have a few pictures I've taken with posts in mind, including a fun Nativity Advent Calendar.  Hopefully coming up!