Monthly and Weekly Planning

This year, my word is “balance.”  I always have a lot of great intentions.  I intend to work out, to eat at home, to get the laundry done, to organize that one drawer, to spend quality time with my kids, to find coupons for groceries, etc.  However, if I don’t have any intentionality behind my intentions, I end up feeling defeated or overwhelmed when it all seems to pile up at once or the time passes and it’s not done. In order to have more balance in my life while still getting stuff accomplished, I decided this year to make a flexible plan.  Here’s what that looks like for us in our home.

  1. On the 1st of each month, we fill out a monthly goal plan.  This includes our physical, spiritual, career/learning, financial, and project plans.  This is broad and it doesn’t get into the nitty gritty at all.  For example, a spiritual goal of mine in January was to read the book called Messy Grace and to read the book of Matthew in the Bible.  My physical goal was to complete the first 3 weeks of P90X3 Mass edition, and my financial goal was to save enough money for some car updates and repairs.  Here’s an example of what it looks like for us filled out.  I do this with my husband, but you could do this individually or with your kids too, depending on their ages.  For us and our family, my husband and I decided we can do this together.  One day, we will likely involve the kids in the preplanning, but we aren’t there yet.  This doesn’t take us long at all and it’s simple.  It narrows our focus and helps us to not get distracted by the other 3 million things we feel the need to work on or complete.  We can’t do 3 million things, but we can do a few things really well if we are intentional.img_2915
  2. From there, I just look 1 week at a time and map out my week.  I make little mini goals for each day of the week that will lead us to achieving our overall monthly goals we’ve set.  I don’t always have something written in for each section, but the opportunity is there to write it in if I need to do so.  Here’s an example of what that looks like for us.  On each day, I make some commitments that I track and discuss with Micah in order to help hold myself accountable.  Some of those commitments are harder for me to keep than others. If they were easy, I wouldn’t have to track them or even state them because they would already be in place.  I don’t have to track how often I brush my teeth because I already do it all the time and it doesn’t require any extra motivation or reminders for me to do so, (although flossing is a completely different story….  Whoops.)  My point is that I’m not going to waste time tracking stuff that I already do naturally.  That’s just busy work. img_2917
  3. As the week goes along, I track my behaviors and my commitments and I reflect on my success at the end of the week.  On that next Sunday, I look back over the week with my husband and we talk about how it went and if we are on track to meet those monthly goals we’ve set.

 

I can’t be perfect and neither can you.  I also can’t do it all, no matter how hard I try, so my goal is never perfection.  My goal is learning and growing, so what I pay most attention to is my progress.  At the end of the week AND at the end of the month, we are asking ourselves what celebrations we have.  Did we spend more intentional time with our kids?  If so, how did that impact our relationships with them?  Did I work out harder? If so, am I stronger?  What are some areas where I (or we) can improve?   Is there anything we need to stop, start, or continue doing?  This leads to us creating our next weekly plan and it’s how we lead into our next monthly goal plan.  If you have a google account, you can click on this link to get a free copy of the monthly sheet and weekly plan I made.  You can edit this to tailor it to your own liking.  Take off the stuff you won’t use and add in things you want on there.  Feel free to print it off and see if it helps you make progress toward your goals.  If you do, I’d love some feedback.  This sheet isn’t perfect and I’m thinking of new ways to customize it even further for my own liking, but it’s helped me get off to a great start this year and I’d love to know if you find it helpful too!

Kid Chore/Responsibility Chart

Do you ever remember doing chores as a kid?  Or do you ever remember feeling like taking a shower was a punishment from Satan himself?  How dare your parents require you to bathe.  You swam today, dangit.  Didn’t your parents know that chlorine kills all the germs and that evenings were for playing, TGIF, and not putting the dishes away?  Then, it happened.  You grew up.  You got a job, a home, and kids of your own and all of a sudden, you realized why your parents not only needed a little help (sorry, Mom), but that they were really trying to instill in you the importance of taking care of your home, each other, and learning important skills you would one day need when you didn’t have Mom or Dad there to hound you to do it all.

But what if the evenings don’t have to come with nagging?  What if the activities leading up to bed put more ownership and responsibility on your kids and less stress on you after a busy day?  Well, it isn’t a perfect world, so I can’t guarantee your evenings will be stress free with a magical system, but I can tell you that coming up with a system has helped all of us in this house tremendously.  We aren’t perfect, and I still struggle inwardly when I look down the hallway and see my child playing with slime instead of brushing her hair, but I can tell you that I don’t yell at her for it anymore.  Instead, I let her fail.  She doesn’t beat her timer and then she’s a little down on herself.  That’s when we have a calm discussion – after the timer has gone off.  I go over her chart with her and I ask her to reflect on her behaviors.  It goes something like this:

Me: “Adia, I noticed you couldn’t circle your clock tonight.  What happened?”

Adia: “I don’t know.”

Me: “Let’s look at the behaviors you said you were going to try to commit to.  Were you silent?”

Adia: “Yes, but I played and it got me distracted, so I couldn’t beat my timer.”

Me: “How does that make you feel?”

Adia: “Sad.  I really wanted to beat my timer.”

Me: “What will you do next time so you can be happy when the timer goes off?”

Adia: “I’ll work harder during my chores so I can play later.”

I want my kids to see that their behaviors directly impact their success.  It’s a reflective habit that I want to help instill in them now, even with something as small as being efficient with a nightly routine.

The following were key for us:

  1. Know what your children are capable of.  They are capable of way more than what you’d think.  There are some things I KNOW they are capable of doing at these ages because I’ve modeled it for them, watched them do it correctly, and have given them praise for doing so.  For the things they have tried and haven’t done quite successfully yet, I still praise them for their effort and tell them we’ll keep working on some of those things together.  For example, Isla can’t vacuum on her own quite yet.  It’s still a little heavy for her and she struggles to work it correctly, so for now, we model it for her and let her have some tries each time we get it out.  For a list of some ideas to model with your kids, check out this link.
  2. Create a system that supports a no nagging policy.  When I made the chart below, I made it WITH Adia.  Prior to doing this, I set timers for my kids and they had a list of responsibilities to complete and check off, but they often times were not completing all of their responsibilities or we were constantly on them, which made it way more stressful for both us and them.  We decided to set a goal statement like this: “I will go from beating my night time timer on some nights to beating my night time timer every night.”  Then, we talked about behaviors that would help her meet her goal.  She named the behaviors below and we both agreed.  I told her when I gave her this chart that I would not give her any reminders (other than verbal time like, “10 minutes left”) and that I would not yell or raise my voice at all. I will be honest and say that this isn’t always easy, but it’s important.  I don’t want my kids to associate learning and hard work with feelings of inadequacy.

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*****Level 1 prizes are things such as stickers, glitter pens, glitter glue, fun pencils, etc.  Level 2 prizes are things like Dum Dum Suckers, a piece of gum, mints, small candies, etc.  Level 3 prizes are bath bombs, nail polish, my old makeup, lip glosses.  Star prizes are bigger things, but not necessarily expensive things.  They’re also things we often times do anyways, but it makes the kids feel pretty special to know they “earned” it…  stuff like making muffins with Mom, or Chick Fil a with Dad, or a spa day with me where I paint their nails and let them take bubble baths.  *****

3. Follow through.  If you show them that you value this process by reflecting on how they did with them each week and giving them the rewards they earn, AND you keep up with your end of the deal (no nagging, no reminders, etc.), they will learn to prioritize and value the system too.  Goals will be achieved when a successful system is in place.  If you have a goal that you aren’t achieving, whether it is with your kids or a personal goal of your own, you have to reflect on the system you’ve put in place.  If there isn’t a system, it likely won’t take off.  Systems require specific behaviors to take place, so we have to be willing to reflect on our actions.  For me, I view this responsibility chart as an opportunity to teach my kids about goal setting, learning from our mistakes, and trying to help them develop a growth mindset.  I don’t ever want them to feel like they aren’t good enough, but I do want them to celebrate their growth and always strive to keep growing.

Recently, I shared some about this on Instagram, which allowed some great questions to come my way.  I’ve decided to answer lots of those questions below.

Q: How old were they when they started their night time chores?

A: They have had night time chores for a couple of years and right now, they are 6 and 8, but we have only done it with this system for about the past 4-5 months.

Q: Does your son have any chores?

A: Our son is 3, and he does have some chores, but not like the girls.  He puts his dishes in the sink, trash from his meals in the trash can, carries his laundry upstairs, picks up his toys, etc. but he isn’t quite mature enough to do certain things on his own.

Q: How long do you set their timers?

A: Since part of the girls’ night time responsibilities includes showering, we set their timers for about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the volume of what they need to complete.

Q: Where did you come up with this?

A: I’m an educator, so I’ve done a ton with students with behavior charts, goal setting, and relationship building.  A lot of this comes from my teacher brain, trial and error, and some training on the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution, which is a great book all about how to achieve the goals you set.

Q: What if they beat the timer and the chores are not done well?

A: Prior to ever giving them this list, we modeled the chores for them, we did them together, and then we had them demonstrate the chore or responsibility for us.  I can’t expect them to do something to mastery if I’ve never taught them and allowed them to demonstrate their abilities to me (Hi there, Educator Mom).  For this reason, I know how to respond.  I know my daughter struggles to make her top bunk bed.  It’s hard to do.  Her level of ability (though not perfect at all) is ok.  I know she puts forth effort and I know how hard it is for me to make her bed, so I don’t expect it to look pristine.  However, I know she can clean off the kitchen table well.  There have been a couple of times when we’ve noticed that she didn’t clean it well or there were several crumbs left behind (even though we saw her wiping it off).  When she didn’t perform the task well, if the timer has not gone off and she tells us, “I beat my timer,” if we check and see that something is not done well or not completed, we will ask her to try again.  If she tries again successfully before the timer goes off, she can circle her timer on her chart.  If she doesn’t, or if we don’t notice until we check after the timer has gone off, we’ll ask her to clean it again and tell her she can’t circle her timer that night.

Q: What are their night time routines/chores?

A: Initially, we just made them a pictorial chart that we tucked inside of a page protector.  They would circle their chores as they did them with an Expo marker.  Eventually, it became so routine that they had them all memorized.  Our issue was just time and efficiency.  Here are their chores/routine:

  • Pick up all toys
  • Clean up their dishes after dinner
  • Clean the kitchen island and table
  • Help fold and put away all of their own laundry (including some of their bathroom towels)
  • Brush and floss teeth
  • Brush hair
  • Shower (every other night, but pretty much every night in the summer)
  • Put lotion on and get dressed
  • Clean the bathroom sink
  • Put dirty clothes in the hamper
  • Occasionally added: cleaning out ears, clipping nails, sweeping the kitchen floor, putting away dishes from the dishwasher, etc.

Multiply

It’s been so long since I’ve written on my blog that I feel almost as if I need to introduce myself again.  Instead of doing that, I’ll just say that I’m still here.  Today, I had a bit of a come to Jesus moment with myself while I was reading out of the Jesus Storybook Bible with my little 3 year old.

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I was reading the story about Jesus feeding the 5,000 with a little boy’s lunch.  I’ve read or heard this story about 5,000 times and I’ve known the moral of the message for a long time.  Basically, there wasn’t enough to feed the enormous crowd, so Jesus (being Jesus) took a little boy’s measly lunch and was able to multiply it for the masses to have plenty.  So, when it seems like we won’t have enough or when it seems as though we don’t know how we’re going to make it, God can provide.  He can take a little and make it much.

Lately, I’ve been feeling like a little.  I don’t mean that I feel like I have little, I mean I. Feel. Little.  I feel like all I have to offer are a couple of little fish.  I feel spread too thin as a mom, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister in law, an aunt, a co-worker, a team player, a church goer, a blogger.  I feel too small to make an impact and I often times feel like the offering I have is just a small drop of water on a forest fire.   For a more realistic picture, it’s like I’m only folding 1 of Micah’s white t-shirts in a heap of laundry the height of Mt. Everest.  (Yes, laundry is a very, very real visual for me.)  So sometimes, I hear this voice that tells me things like, “Why are you trying?  You can’t do it.”  Or, “Do you even know if that’s making any type of difference anyways?  Just stop.”

Today, while I was reading that Bible story, the fish and the bread weren’t representative of my finances or my belongings.  The bread and the fish were me and what I have to give.  I felt like God was speaking straight to me on those illustrated little pages with the dimpled hands of my 3 year old pointing to the “fishies.”  Those little hands were pointing out that God can take me (a very small fish in a very huge sea), and multiply my impact.  He doesn’t want me to stop trying.  He wants me to give whatever I have – even if it feels small – and trust that He will multiply it, to spread it, to feed anyone who needs feeding.  I’m one 7 billionth of the world, but even if my words can somehow impact one of the other 7 billion people on this planet, then my words aren’t wasted and they were worth speaking (or typing… or writing…)

Basically, I stopped writing on here for a while because I got caught up in the lie that my story is old news and that my words probably don’t amount to much anyways.  I said I didn’t have time, but the truth is that I didn’t make it a priority, although I have felt for a long while like God was calling me to write (even though I often tell Him that I’m not a gifted writer, or that I am in no shape to be giving someone else any type of spiritual guidance….). However, just like the little boy who came out of the crowd with the lunch his mom had packed him, I can be bold enough to do the same and trust that God will somehow multiply my measly little offering.

In the same way, what do you have to give?  How are you going to let God multiply your impact? I’m going to start writing again and pray that whatever I have to say will somehow be in the view of someone who could benefit from this little fishy.  To you, your offering may seem small or insignificant, but God put you here for a purpose.  He can take your basket of fish (or in my case, my Tupperware of deli meat), and feed a crowd.  I’m taking a spiritual leap and trusting Him to spread my offering as far as it will go.

Forgiveness.

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I’ve heard it said before that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.  It’s always resonated with me and I’d be lying if I didn’t confess that I sometimes have to tell myself almost daily not to drink the poison.  Sometimes, I do really well and I temporarily avoid that poison altogether – especially when I go a long time without seeing someone who I’ve allowed to hurt me.  Other times, I drink the entire vial and it’s paralyzing.

The only thing that I can do is to do what feels the most unnatural for me to do, which is for me to pray blessings over the person(s) who I’m struggling to forgive.  I want so badly for them to come to the realization that what they said or did or the way they acted (or didn’t act at all when I needed them to act) was hurtful and I focus way more on justice than I do on mercy, which imprisons nobody but myself.  I think that if they only had the “a-ha” moment and understood how wrong they were that I could finally be released from the resentment I unnoticeably embrace.

Things that don’t make forgiveness magically happen:

  1. Avoiding the person
  2. Disassociating with them to teach them a lesson
  3. Gossiping
  4. Giving them a taste of their own medicine
  5. Trying to ignore the pain

It’s easier to forgive and release ourselves from that anger and resentment when it’s someone we hardly know.  A lady on her phone cut me off in a parking lot today.  It annoyed me at the time, but I know I won’t remember it years from now, nor will I care.  It’s different when it’s a family member or a friend that you trusted and loved enough to not only give of your time, but your acts of service, your money, your encouragement over the years, your own home when they needed a place to just be, your embrace when they were sad.  Hearing hurtful words about how they feel about you or statements questioning your character or integrity are moments you don’t forget.  They are moments that maybe only took a second to unfold, but they have been stinging you for months, years, or even decades.  These types of wounds are the hardest to heal, and it seems like no amount of care will cover the scars.

I’ve been hurt before, and the only way I healed was to pray – not to pray for justice or for the other person to realize what they’ve done….. not even for them to change.  Unconditional love means we don’t give up on people – even when they hurt us.  Years ago, I got hurt pretty heavily.  For months, I let it fester.  It ate at me.  As soon as I would start to pray about it, I found myself just venting in my head and justifying my thoughts.  I had to audibly tell myself to stop and I made myself write a prayer on my for that person.  My prayer was simply for that person to experience abundant blessings,  for that person to know who they are and WHOSE they are.  I prayed for this person to have a blessed family, a happy home, an incredible life.  In addition, I prayed very specific blessings over that person.  I prayed that prayer once a day for a while and I promised myself I would pray that prayer every time I started to feel like drinking that vial of poison again.  I can honestly say that I no longer have resentment, hurt, or even a smidge of bitterness toward this person.  I don’t think about the hurt I felt anymore.  I don’t hold onto it.  I’ve been released and it feels so good.  I also have a great relationship with that person now and I consider myself blessed to call this person my friend.  Trust took some time, but that’s ok.  Forgiveness and trust aren’t the same thing, but I’m happy to say that God restored my trust in this person as time went on too.

The point of this post is to encourage us (myself included) to stop replaying the hurt in our minds.  Who has hurt you?  Who do you struggle to forgive?  What name pops in your head?  Pull out your phone, a sheet of paper, write an email to yourself, do whatever you need to do to write down a prayer for this person.  Instead of asking God to change them, ask Him to bless them.  No alternate agenda, just blessings.  See what happens to your heart.

 

Rejection.

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It never feels good to be rejected.  I have often let the fear of rejection determine the road I take.  Some of the earliest memories I have of feeling rejected were in elementary school, and even at a very young age, I’d let that fear keep me from pursuing something I desired.  “What if I can’t?  What if it won’t work out?  What if people laugh at me when I try?”  We have a crazy amount of opportunities to either be accepted or rejected.

Ask yourself if you’ve ever experienced any of these scenarios below.  Did any of these scenarios ever lead to acceptance or rejection?

  • Asking a friend to play with you as a kid.
  • Trying out for an athletic team or musical ensemble.
  • Applying for a job.
  • Applying for college.
  • Applying for a scholarship.
  • Asking someone to be in a relationship with you.
  • Sharing something intimate about yourself to your family or friends.
  • Being in the “in crowd.”
  • Being a part of a community.
  • Sharing your ideas with your co-workers.
  • Asking for a raise.
  • Applying for a loan.
  • Asking someone to love you.
  • Trying to adopt a child you’ve longed for.

I could’ve continued that list, but if you have ever felt rejected in any of the above scenarios or any others, you aren’t alone.  What I find comforting is knowing that people I love and admire have often been rejected too, but it does not keep them from pursuing their passion.  If anything, it only motivates them to overcome.  If we let rejection define us, we may never reach our potential and we may never experience joy that could have been on the other side.  Sometimes, the answer is “No” and it needs to be no.  If that’s the case, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that we were pursuing something that would not have ultimately been fruitful and it’s time to start pursuing something that will be.  Other times, the answer might not be “No,” but it might be, “Not yet.”  It’s so hard to swallow the “not yet” when we feel like we know what would make us happy, but in reality, there’s maybe a better time or some other work in us that needs to happen before the “not yet” becomes a “yes.”

Recently, I was at a meeting for work when I heard someone say that we need to look at our obstacles as “opportunities.”  Maybe you were rejected from the job you wanted.  But, what if there is a reason…  What if there’s something better for you or a lesson you were supposed to learn in order to grow?  Does it mean you should stop searching for a job?  No.  Does it mean you should start searching for a different job?  Maybe.  Rejection shouldn’t put us to a stop.  Rejection should inspire reflection, which should motivate us to action instead of crippling us with fear. 

Don’t let the fear of rejection keep you from pursuing your dreams and goals.  Maybe  rejection isn’t your obstacle, but rather your opportunity for something greater.

Accomplishments vs. Relationships

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We’ve all seen the minivans with “My Child is an Honor Student,” listened to others talk about how their kid was a reader before Kindergarten, seen pictures of the neighbor’s kid winning beauty pageants, and watched our coworker’s child score the winning shot at the basketball game.  All of these things are good things and they truly are something to be excited about.  I just wonder, as parents, how much we focus on the accomplishments rather than the relationships.

We even do it to ourselves.  We’re always seeking more.  Whether we want to climb the corporate ladder or gain more “likes” on a social media post, we strive to keep accomplishing.  But when we prioritize accomplishments over relationships, I think we miss the point.

Think about it…  Who do you want to be around?  Do you want to be around someone who has more jewels in their crown, or do you want to be around someone who will listen when you’re struggling?  Would you prefer to work with someone who is always trying to surpass you, or someone who is working alongside of you?  Do you want to marry the guy who makes 6 figures and comes home and props his feet up, or the one who works hard all day making half of what he is worth, but who will give all of the kids baths, feed them dinner, and sing them to sleep while you have some much needed time out with your friends?

When you talk to your kids, is the focus on accomplishments, or is it on how to have great relationships with others?  We sign reading logs, we pay for tutors, we do all the lessons – swim, cheer, football, all of it and there’s nothing wrong with those things.  In fact, I encourage so many of them and there’s a lot to learn when we focus on these types of skills.  Determination, perseverance, grit, goal setting, reflection, and so much more all can come out of these types of intense focus.  It’s good for us and it’s good for our character.  But while we’re doing all of that, let’s also talk about how to listen.  Let’s talk about empathy.  Let’s talk about putting the needs of others before our own comforts and enjoyment.  Let’s talk about giving up our turn so someone else can have an extra turn. Let’s talk about conflict.  Let’s talk about how we respond when something doesn’t seem fair.

Let’s remember that accomplishments should never require us to sacrifice relationships.

I’ve taught a ton of kids.  I’ll never forget their faces and I could definitely write a book on all of the hilarious things they have said and done.  Some of the most impactful kids I have ever taught were not the kids on the honor roll…  They were the kids who worked well with others, who loved to play and pretend and be themselves with whoever wanted to join.  They were the kids who weren’t afraid to share their ideas, but were glad to change their way of attacking a problem or conducting a project when they heard a better idea.  I’ve taught kids who would give up their spot in line at special events so the students with special needs could see better, be closer, or get the treat first.  There aren’t a lot of bumper stickers for this kind of kid, but this kid will be happy and fulfilled.

Sometimes, I catch myself wondering what my kids will be like when they grow up.  I wonder what kind of job they will have, if and who they will marry.  I wonder if one of them will be a musician, or if one might be a runner or an engineer or a writer.  I have to retrain myself to think a bit differently.  I also want to focus more on what kinds of acts of love they might show towards others.  Instead of wondering if one of my girls will look like me, or become a teacher like me, or play the piano like me, I wonder if they might adopt a foster child that needs a home, or if they might be someone’s date to Jesus Prom. I wonder if my son will rub his wife’s shoulders when she has a hard day.  I wonder if he’ll help the elderly lady put groceries in her car and be able to make friends with the coworker twice his age.  I wonder if my kids will know how to work well with others and if they’ll put others before themselves.  I wonder if they’ll smile at the shy kid when they pass him in the hallway.  I wonder if they’ll choose the kid in gym who never gets chosen.  Instead of wondering so much about the accomplishments they might achieve, I want to wonder more about the character they will have and how their lives might impact the world around them.

What do you want to accomplish?  Goal set and do it.  But more importantly, what kind of relationships do you want to have and how will you leave a legacy for all who know you?