Monday, November 23, 2015

You Need a Plan, Stan

I'm still in shock.  When you spend years talking and planning for something, the actual realization of it all sometimes sneaks up on you.  We are moving next month!  We didn't intend to until next year some time, but THE house that fit ALL the criteria for a reasonable price fell into our laps.  It was a fast, scary decision, but it was a good one.  We're really excited - except for J.  He wanted our next house to have an upstairs and the new one does not.  Sad story, but he'll get over it!  Anyway, we're really excited, except for the impromptu packing and planning right before the holidays.  We close in 3 weeks or so!  It is all so surreal that I sometimes take unnecessarily long pauses before I decide to do something because "wait, I'm moving in a month, should I bother with this?"  Still, getting to start anew with a better space for our family's needs and more outdoor space is pure joy!

The interesting thing that struck me was how valuable having a plan  or a goal has been and continues to be.  Some people scoff at the idea of a plan because 'things NEVER go as planned' and 'you CAN'T predict the future', right?  That really assumes that in having a plan I expect the plan to be exactly carried out.  There's a fun saying that goes something like "Shoot for the moon.  Even if you miss you'll land in the stars."  Sounds sweet, but that is the kind of planning I do.  Plan to lose 15 pounds.  Even if you only lose 10, you still lost 10 pounds!  We had a list of must haves for the new house and did not intend on making an offer on a new one until we were ready to put our current home on the market.  Since we had such specific guidelines, when the right house came along we knew it and jumped on it!  Technically things didn't go according to plan because our house isn't ready and even if it were, it's November.  But, see the stars we landed in? We found the perfect house with all of our important criteria and hit a major milestone in our little family.

When Jude was first born, I knew I wanted to try homeschooling.  Even when he was 6 months old I started planning for his next stage of development like a teacher.  Did I do everything perfectly and become super organized with every craft and developmental activity instinctively designed for his current needs? Nope.  But it was the beginning of my own shaping as a mother and teacher.  The idealistic plans that sometimes never even came close to reality got us in the ballpark and made me aware of what needed to come next.  Plans point us in a good direction and often give us a big push off the couch.  If you're off  the couch and moving, then you're lapping everyone on the couch, right?  Maybe you really desire a stress-free holiday or a holiday season where you save money rather than overspend.  Plan for those things.  Want a deeper relationship with your spouse or a de-cluttered house by next year.  Think ahead and schedule things toward that end.  Even if/when you don't stick to the plan perfectly or life happens, you'll still be better off.  When we plan, we think through the problems and possible solutions - something I often don't bother with until it's too late.

Since we're moving in the middle of the busiest month of the year, I'm still struggling to get a handle on a good plan for how to manage it all.  But see - at least I'm thinking about it all beforehand and not having a panic attack the week before because I hadn't considered any of it before.  There will still be panic attacks, I'm sure, but they won't be a surprise!  In most every case, something is better than nothing and starting with any kind of plan (even if it doesn't come close to reality) is far better than not having thought any of it through.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Taking Home With You {A Homespun Holidays Review}

This past week, my husband and I decided to buy a new house.  Though we have considered this move for years, the real life expectation was not for another 6 months at least and as a result, our entire household has erupted into a blind tizzy.  It has certainly pushed me into protective mama bear mode, looking for ways to draw us together in the midst of the biggest change my children have ever seen.  Days before all of this I had prepared to write a review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew considering the ebook Homespun Holidays:Fall and Winter from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and suddenly it became clear.  While the holidays would not be normal this year because we would be packing around Thanksgiving and moving right before Christmas, we especially needed to draw close to each other - not necessarily a house or location.  Whatever home has come to mean to us, we needed to find ways to take it with us outside of any walls.

As the title suggests, this book is full of fall and winter holiday ideas and resources for your family.  The information has been separated into Fall and Winter sections and further divided into Fun or Food.  Even within that there are a variety of options like crafts, traditions, books, recipes, menus and even some advice for when not to cook!  This collection of ideas comes from several TOS staff members and includes their printable holiday recipes at the close of the book.  Since I will be emptying the contents of my current home in the midst of a usually house-focused and traditional time of the year, I decided to pay extra attention to the family-centered suggestions the book offered in an attempt to fill in the gaps my holiday season is likely to have.

One writer turned the annual burden of leaf raking into a working family tradition with a yummy reward in Family Leaf Raking Day.  With all of the packing and moving we have to do, I am turning the daunting task into another Tree House Adventure, where we are all participating and celebrating together. I see Gingerbread Pancakes or Peppermint Cocoa in our future!

As a homeschooling family, a new house is also a new school building.  Change is hard for everyone, but my 2 year old and 5 year old are especially vulnerable to confusion or difficult-to-communicate emotions.   Even as adults, when things are different, we tend to focus on what's bad or 'just not the same'. So, for the week of Thanksgiving, we are going to use the "I'm Thankful for You" Treat Bags idea (kind of like Valentine boxes) to appreciate each other and the blessings God has allowed us.

There were a few holiday traditions that were not new or revolutionary. Some things I already try to do,  like decorating the front porch for fall. Some activities I don't see as particularly valuable, like a few of the crafts are out-dated or just not that exciting.  Still, it is a neat compilation of many of the things that characterize this fun time of year!

When you choose to homeschool, there are many extra responsibilities you take on, whether you realize it or not.  Your home provides the main source of routine and consistency, even if it is inconsistent.  This packed little book has drawn my attention to all the ways holiday traditions can create consistency in the middle of changes.  We are creating a home - not just a house - that will go with us wherever we may be.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Healthy November Challenge

Whenever conversations drift to losing weight, saving money or any healthy habit, all hope is lost if it's around the holidays.  And it is true that from about October 15th to January 1st, there are a lot of delicious distractions and (can be) expensive traditions.  What I find in my life, though, is that there is always a good reason not to stick to the budget or continue my healthiest regime.  Every season, every semester, every holiday, every age brings something that makes it harder to treat my family with kind words and self-restraint or practice mercy and forgiveness especially when they don't deserve it.  Finding the right(write) balance to me looks like balancing out the excess, the busyness and the peer pressure with a premeditated plan of healthy choices I can make no matter what else I'm not able to completely control.  I can always control me.

So, the Healthy November Challenge is born.  Mr. Butler and I have selected a short list of things that we are prepared to commit to either until Thanksgiving or for the month of November.  Things like praying together twice a day and enforcing a stricter bedtime for ourselves.  We have a few food related ones, but not enforceable on Thanksgiving. ;)  This list is posted on our fridge, signed by us with the expressed reward of a dinner at Vast, a fancy shmancy restaurant at the top of Devon Tower here in Oklahoma City.  We've never been (for obvious reasons), but it's so hard thinking of rewards that aren't food based or money based.  So of course we chose both!

Honestly, though, one day - even one meal - does not ruin a healthy habit.  It comes down to that one day followed by the next and the next until you have no healthy habit, but an unhealthy habit with an occasional good choice.  That's what keeps you from a goal or success.  Thanksgiving or any holiday is one day.  Choosing to let plans for that one day or multiple parties determine whether you'll make wise choices is completely in your hands.

Finally, one of the biggest stumbling blocks to healthy success is feeling alone.  When every meal you eat around other people is flooded with poor options or no one in your circle of people thinks about how much things cost, life can get pretty discouraging.  Doing whatever is convenient then ultimately rules the day.  NEWSFLASH: The convenient thing is RARELY the wise thing.  So, why don't you join us in this challenge this month?  Let's encourage each other and be better off by December rather than regretting most of November!  Share your commitments, experiences or rewards with me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #healthynovember or in the comment section.  If there is enough participation, we'll do a couple of fun giveaways later this month!

Don't use the busyness of this month - or any month - as an excuse to make unhealthy choices!