Thursday, May 29, 2014

The 10 Minute Summer

Summer is ALMOST here! My kids have one week of school left but my mind is already in summer-mode. We made it! Hallelujah, thank you, Jesus!

And this summer, I'm bringing back some of my favorite "10 minute" strategies. I thought I'd share them with y'all!

1. The 10 Minute Clean-Up: This is a modified version of the Fly Lady's 15 minute declutter. Our family rule is that we do movie nights on Friday nights but only if the kids' rooms are clean. They get a little overwhelmed on Friday afternoons when they see all they have to do to get ready! So we are implementing a 10 minute family clean-up time every night just before bedtime. In the summer, adding 10 minutes to our bedtime routine won't be a huge deal, and hopefully it will help all of us stay on top of summer clutter (me included!)

2. The 10 Minute Check-in: My husband and I used to do this regularly and have gotten out of the habit of it. So this summer I'm bringing it back! It's just a 10 minute check-in with your spouse/partner/significant other every night (or morning for you crazy morning-people). You can even set a timer if you have other stuff at night you know you need to get to. The important thing is making it happen regularly.  It doesn't mean you have to bear your soul every night; it's just a time you set aside to chat for 10 minutes.  It's amazing how much a little 10 minute connection every day can keep your marriage running smoothly, especially if you are touching or sitting close together while you chat. I don't know about y'all, but I can go a whole day without really connecting with my husband when our lives get crazy. Those little 10 minutes at night can be really precious.

3. The 10 Minute "Drop Everything" Password: I have a tendency to work on a craft or sewing project over the summer when the kids are around (or, ahem, get sucked into Facebook). Not that that's bad, but I hate ignoring the kids when they are home with me. I don't know how many more summers I have left when they'll want to hang out with me!  And I can always spare 10 minutes!  The kids and I are going to work on a code word they can use (they can each pick their own). When my child says his/her code word, I will drop what I'm doing, set the timer for 10 minutes, and give that child my undivided attention. They can use their word once a day! With three kids, I figure this will help me give each of them some quality time alone with me too! We might even do something cool like decorate a clothes pin or wooden circle they can hand to me instead of using a password. I'm still thinkin' on this one! Let me know if you have any great ideas!

4. The 10 Minute Jumping Jacks -  No worries, you don't do jumping jacks for 10 minutes! This is something our Tae Kwon Do Master taught us. For every 10 minutes of video game time, we stop the game and do 1 minute of jumping jacks.  Confession: I usually make only the kids do the jacks but my goal this summer is to join in. You'd be surprised how hard 60 seconds of jumping jacks can be!  We do this regularly and it helps in a couple ways: 1 - you get some physical activity in with video game time and 2 - it gives your kids a quick disconnect from the game. I think that disconnect minute is good for their little brains 'cause, you know, I really hate video games. There, I said it.

5. The 10 Minute Mommy Crown: I got this idea from my 1st grader's teacher this year. She has a workshop time during which she wears a crown. When she is wearing the crown, students are not allowed to interrupt her. That way she can work in small groups and give the children she's with her undivided attention.  I'm planning to modify this. I need to find a crown! But I'm going to tell the kids that if I'm wearing my crown, it means they may not interrupt me (except for emergencies). And I'll set the timer for 10 minutes so I don't get sucked into something like Facebook and waste my precious 10 minutes. :)  This strategy is to give me 10 minutes on days when I really need it. And just like my kids with their 10 Minute "Drop Everything" Password, I get to use my crown once a day.

What about y'all? Any 10 minute strategies you want to share?

Happy Summer, everyone! Oh I'm so happy!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

You matter... but not too much

Dear Sweet Children of Mine,

Can I tell y'all something? You matter. You matter a lot.

But at the same time, you don't matter MORE than others. You just don't. Your preferences, your ideas, your opinions - we promise to value them, to raise you to feel empowered to share them, to feel confident in them.  But we will never teach you that what YOU want, what YOU think is more important than what someone else wants or thinks.

My prayer is that you will grow up to learn that true joy is found when life is not all about you.

We live in a world where selfishness is a virtue: "Watch out for #1!" You will have friends whose parents do everything in their power to make life better for their child, regardless of the effect it will have on you and the rest of your friends.  Our culture's business practices are about making more money for the people at the top, even if it hurts the workers.  You will be celebrated: you'll probably get a trophy for every sport you participate in, you'll have graduations for all the steps along the way of your elementary school career, adults will tell you that you did a great job, even when you didn't.

Not all of those things are terrible. But when you add it all up, there are a lot of things in our culture that could give you the impression that you are more important than someone else. I want you to know how deeply you are loved, how much you matter, but we hope to never tip the balance so that you think you are better than your friends.  Jesus loves you deeply, just as he loves them deeply.

We want to teach you to grow up to be great.

But there's a catch. You see, Jesus changed the definition of "great."  He said, "the last shall be first."  After living a life of sacrifice, of serving others, he told his disciples that they will do even greater things than he did.  Jesus showed us how a life of serving, one that is not all about us, is the key to greatness. Want to become great? Live like Jesus did: serve, sacrifice, love others.

So that's why we will do weird things. You might find out we've requested that you be in the class with a child who doesn't always make the best choices instead of just your best friends. We'll require that you finish out your season of whatever sport or activity you committed to.  You probably won't be involved in every single activity that's offered to you.  Our financial budget won't have quite as much for extras because of our commitment to missionaries and organizations working for justice.  You'll be dragged out of bed early Sunday mornings to join us to serve breakfast to our homeless friends.  Your dad will probably always have a 2nd job because he is committed to pastor a church with a budget where half of all that comes in as tithes must go back out - our church will never spend more on ourselves than we do on serving others.

So, dear children, the world does not revolve around you. It just doesn't. But we promise you'll find joy if you seek it in that realization.

   Mom and Dad

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Dear Mamas Who Own Phones:

So, there was this powerful open letter to the "mom on the iPhone" and I totally identified. I've been that mom who has spent too much time on the computer and on my phone and I admit I've totally missed moments to cheer on my kids, to make them feel important. In fact, I'm reading Hands Free Mama along with two dear friends and it's been pretty awesome.

But now there is backlash: the open letter "dear mom telling me to get off my phone." It resonates with me too. Sometimes I need to check out of a situation to save my sanity. Or sometimes a family member is sick and I need to check my phone or I'm using my phone to check on a different child, one who isn't with me at the moment. Or, you know, texting my husband asking him to pick up milk because I forgot. Again. Someone watching me at the park could assume I've checked out and don't care about my kids and that's hurtful.

Can we stop it? Mamas, we have so many things against us already! Mommy-guilt waits for me around every corner and I can find it all by myself.  I need all you other mamas to build me up, to have my back when I'm struggling so that I have the strength to do the same for you.

So here's my letter:

Dear Mamas Who Own Phones (whether you are looking at them or have them zipped up tight in your purse):

You love those kids. I can tell by the way you look at them, even when you are exasperated. You wouldn't be upset by their behavior if you didn't care.  I also noticed you pushing your child for approximately 117 minutes on the swing.  You are doing a great job. Keep it up. I'm with you. We need to stick together. Need to check your phone for a minute for something important? I'll keep an eye on your kiddo for you. Need to check it for a moment of sanity? No problem. I have to do that too sometimes. And thanks for doing the same for me when I check my phone. I appreciate that time you didn't let my kid eat that rock.

Moms who stay home? Awesome. It is HARD. No adult conversation, you can't go to the bathroom by yourself. No sick days. Pouring yourself into your kids all day, every day. What a sacrifice. Whew. Rock on.

Moms who work? Awesome. It is HARD. You balance so much on your plate and on top of it all are providing your kids (and mine) with an amazing example of what women can do. What a sacrifice. No wonder you are tired. Rock on.

Organic, cloth-diaper, make-everything-yourself mama? Awesome. Thanks for keeping some chemicals out of our environment - that's better for all of us.  Thank you.

Buy everything from the store mama? Awesome. You are putting some money into our economy and that time you saved by not having to make everything yourself can be used in some awesome ways. Thank you. (and I bet you had more time to read to your kids on the day I was making laundry detergent.)

Room moms? Oh I'm so thankful for you. You were blessed with organizational skills and you keep the classroom afloat. Our teachers get appreciated because of you but you share the glory with all of us.  You make all of us look good.

Barely get your kids to school on time mom? Yup, it's hard. Sometimes success needs to be defined by making it through the day.  Rock on - you've got this. You got them to school. They had shoes and socks on. Consider that a win!

Mamas who got their bodies back? Rock that bikini, mama! You probably worked hard to get those abs back. We're all secretly jealous. Or maybe you didn't have to work that hard... now we are really jealous. Your workout regimen probably helps keep you sane, too! You go with your healthy self!

Mamas who didn't? Oh sisters, I've learned so much about what it means to be beautiful. The physical scars my body bears because I've had children are part of my story. Including that adoption-weight I gained during my late-night-adoption-blog-reading-junk-food-eating days.  Nope, I will not be rocking a bikini at the pool this summer. Or ever. Maybe we could work harder and get our bodies back but we don't want to. No excuses needed if right now, just for you, your time is better spent somewhere other than the gym. It's all good.

Our lives don't need to look the same for us to be great moms. What works for my kids isn't necessarily going to work for yours. And what helps me keep my sanity might not be what works to help you keep yours. But if we stick together, we don't have to waste our precious time on Mommy Wars. We don't have time for it anyway, right?