It has been awhile since I have had the opportunity to blog about things I long to talk about. Ideas pop into my head from time to time, but finding time to sit down with them and type them out is elusive these days. Caring for six children is NO JOKE people. ;o) Honestly, I am not sure how much this old blog even gets read anymore, but I wanted to share some ideas for those of you who find December leaves you more stressed and frazzled then you would like.
So, everyone is busy . . . all of us in varying ways depending on what stage of life we are in. We can all agree on that. And another little secret: It's all hard. When you have tiny little ones depending upon you for everything, that is hard! The lack of sleep--hard! But as they get older, there are new kinds of hard. And then sometimes you find yourself dealing with the "hards" of having older ones and back in the "hards" of a tiny one--all at the same time!! Life stretches us at times.
Last year, December was utterly exhausting. For Josh, coaching wrestling is absolutely the craziest in December because he is juggling a junior high and a senior high team, all the subsequent meets, as well as all the normal teaching duties. The first weekend in December finds him with a meet on Friday, Saturday, and then another on Monday. His voice is nearly non-existent when that is over! Last year, I was trying to manage all the extra practices for our church orchestra due to Christmas concerts which made the schedule really packed and given the distance we live from church (an hour and 15 minutes . . .) it felt nearly unbearable. I was packing 6 kids for the weekend a lot, had a nursing baby, and I was still trying to keep things running smoothly at home . . . no fun. We couldn't do anything about the responsibilities we both had at that time--everything had to be done--but I began to lay plans for how our break could be great. Restful. Quiet. And last year we did have a very nice Christmas break--a wonderful reprieve from the busy-ness that had pervaded the whole month. This year I am planning for that same thing.
Here is what I am doing:
1. Wipe the calendar clean. This tends to happen fairly naturally for us--there are no music lessons, church activities, etc. scheduled anyway and Josh has a built-in vacation. But we even go a step further, like that last Sunday in December? We are already planning on staying home and streaming our church service that morning. The distance we travel is rather wearying. We find it worth it, but sometimes it is nice to give ourselves a travel break. The end of December seems perfect for that.
2. Brainstorm what your ideal break would look like. What would you like to accomplish? This year I made a little questionaire for my kids featuring these questions:
--What project would you like to work on?
--What would you like to read?
--What games would you like to play?
--What movies would you like to watch?
--What would you like to eat?
--What outside activities would be fun?
--What people would you like to visit?
This gives me an idea of what is important to my most important people. For instance, we plan a lot of fun foods during Christmas break . . . homemade runzas, our annual junk food night . . . But I also had a request from one child for steak and another for homemade pizza and another for fettucine alfredo. These are foods we don't have regularly scheduled in the menu, so it is nice to ditch our regularly planned meals and make stuff that the kids consider special.
3. Take those ideas and run with them! To make all those fun meals happen, I get a grocery list planned. Next weekend I will be laying in supplies for the Christmas break. By planning ahead to have everything bought I take away the mental work of having to plan meals over break. (Clears space in my head). I also buy things like cheese, summer sausage, crackers for when we need a quick little meal. If I get a ham, I will get a bag of 15 bean soup medley so we can turn the leftovers into ham/bean soup. You get the picture--think ahead. My goal is to not really have to do any grocery shopping during the break. Of course there will be little run-ins for something small, but overall, we should be set. This goes for any other project you might want to do over break--get the supplies for a craft you want to do or that game you want to play before the break has started.
4. Put holds on whatever books or movies you would like from the library now. If I want to read over break, I want to have a stack of books at the ready so I can pick one up and hunker down on the couch.
5. Wipe the rooms clean. By this I mean, if you know you are going to be using your school room for lots of family games nights, do a de-cluttering in that room. The last few days I have been slowly using bits of time to accomplish this. When we envision our "perfect break" we need to envision the places the break will happen in. We need a clean table surface for games. We need a living room full of blankets and pillow for the watching of all the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies. I have seen over and over again, for myself and for my kids, when we clean up a space and remove excess clutter it makes us happy--we feel somehow physically lighter. It is a good feeling, and a feeling I want in our house when we are trying to relax and recharge.
6. Be ready for snow! Should we happen to get a lovely amount of snow, I want to be sure everybody has the right gear so we can just go out and play and enjoy. My kids have grand plans if the snow comes. They have requested a family snowball fight, sledding at Pioneers Park, snow fort and snow tunnel building . . . Because we moved this year and my storage room is still a crazy mess I have begun the hunt for all gloves and hats and boots and pants. If I am missing something or need a new size I can take care of it now, before the snow comes.
7. Approach it all with an attitude of joy and service. What I have learned over the years: "a great break" (or great ANYTHING) doesn't just happen--somebody is behind the scenes, doing all the planning, gathering all the needed supplies, casually laying out this book or this game. I am setting a scene. I want to see my loved ones enjoying each other's company. I want to see them snuggled up on the couch with cozy blankets and a book. I want to see their faces all enraptured in a shared movie. There is work in this, yes. But this is how I minister to them and how I love them. I know my husband needs a lot of downtime to recover from December. I know my kids would be refreshed by a break from routine. This is my gift to them during this time of year.
Maybe that sounds like a lot of work, but it is not all drudgery--I reap some benefit too. ;o) Planning ahead clears "brain space" and I feel more relaxed. I feel like I can treat myself to a book or an afternoon of working on scrapbooks because I have already seen to all the little details. If we don't plan for space, it will NEVER happen. The end of the year just seems the perfect time to make some margin in your life and enjoy the people who are the most special to you. I am eagerly anticipating a slowed down life as we get ready to usher in a bright new year (and pack that schedule right back up again!). ;o)
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